Last updated on January 6, 2022
Through an unusual, unexpected quirk of my listening patterns, the back half of the May Spotify playlist is populated entirely by albums with one-word titles. How odd. Anyway, here’s the list:
Bioluminescence – Teen Daze. See my “highly recommended” review here.
Ambitions – Prins Thomas. Prins Thomas has the unluckiness of being in my listening habits at the same time as a Teen Daze record; in any other month this would have been my prize find. Ambitions is a diverse electronic record that has no shortage of its titular element. Opener “Foreplay” includes birdsong prominently, grounding the record in an unusual natural vein. The slow-moving opener gives way to the moody “XSB,” which includes a rattlesnake rattling in its opening salvo. That rattlesnake rattle turns into a consistent shaker over a groove-heavy beat and rubbery bass line, and then the record is off to the races. Thomas includes what sounds like electric bass and electric guitar in the track, giving the record an organic, easily-relatable feel. Single “Feel the Love” is a straight-up nu-disco cut, changing up the mood entirely.
However, it’s the 12-minute title track and nearly-11-minute “Fra Miami til Chicago” that are the real heart of the record (as they should be, given that they take up almost half the run-time of the record). “Ambitions” turns a loping, uncertain bass line into an ostinato groove–it seems like he was challenging himself to make something out of this odd bass work. To turn this weird rhythm and strange melodic pattern into something, he stretches the track way out, layering sounds slowly to get the listener’s ear accustomed to everything as it arrives. The careful construction allows the each individual part of the track to shine instead of introducing them all together and losing the clarity of each individual bit. The oddly titled “Fra Miami til Chicago” is one of the least complex and most heavily moody tracks here. It’s a low-slung, dusky, spartan techno jam that would be a perfect comedown or outro track in a club. These two and the rest of Ambitions show Prins Thomas working at a very high level. Highly recommended.
Mush – Nikitch & Kuna Maze. This EP is a solid work of jazzy, sample-laden, beat-heavy lo-fi progressive house. There’s a honest-to-God flute solo in “Bruk.” There’s a spoken word sample about truth at the beginning of “JPS.” It’s pretty rad.
Bvrth – Bvrth. This electro album has a lot of different things going on: woozy psych (“Oblivian”), grumbling near-industrial (“Eye Gouger”), sleek techno (personal favorite “Warden”), spacy ambient (the beginning of “Stonesend”) and more. The mix is always very good: the sounds have room to breathe, but it’s pulled together in a way that makes it feel very tight and cohesive. It’s a fun, interesting album that fits in well with Prins Thomas, Nikitch & Kuna Maze, and Teen Daze.
Fireflies – Laura Masotto. I love music that uses looping pedals; I don’t know what part of my brain loves ostinato patterns, but whichever section covers that is well developed. Masotto’s violin works here are solo pieces, but they have the complexity, pattern, and dense layering that a looping pedal can provide. Masotto’s pieces are romantic and mysterious, full of big emotions; the looping pedal gives her room to set a frame and then deliver big payoffs over it (“Lisboa” does this well). If you’re interested in contemporary classical solo work, this is a great add to your collection.
Ströme – Martin Kohlstedt. Not to be confused with his earlier work Strom, Ströme is a work of high concept and execution. Writing primarily for choir (“SENIMB,” “TARLEH”) and piano (“AUHEJA”) with other instruments supporting, Kohlstedt has created a unique piece of composed music. The vocals are often used texturally, creating ambient drones and murmuring backdrops for the piano to pair with and proceed through (“SENIMB”, “NIODOM”). A few tracks break the mold: “TARLEH” is a beautiful, hectic chorale in a traditional vocal style; “JINGOL” is similar. Closer “AMSOMB” opens with a consistent digital beep before adding in elegant, rushing-water piano; the vocals whisper in before opening up into an adventurous bit of soaring. The whole work is fascinating, complex, and unqiue. Highly recommended.
Celeste – Lena Raine. Fans of NES/SNES games, chiptune, and video game soundtracks will find a treasure chest of sonic goodness in this instrumental video game soundtrack from 2018. It’s a high-drama affair that feels like it could support a game happening in outer space, a magical fantasy, or some weird far-future version of Castlevania. The soundtrack clocks in at 101 minutes, so there’s tons to explore here. The game itself is a Canadian/Brazilian platformer, so you may want to check that out as well.