Vacationing from Metal with Crowhurst, Gavin Bryars & Stern
Two hot new releases containing 0% harsh vocals, blastbeats or riffs.
1. CROWHURST AND GAVIN BRYARS — INCOHERENT AMERICAN NARRATIVE
Most regular readers of this blog should recognize the name Crowhurst from reviews, other reviews, guest articles by project head Jay Gambit and podcast appearances by the very same. Gavin Bryars may not be so familiar. He is an English composer of the experimental and minimalist persuasion who has written operas, worked with Brian Eno, and had his music remixed by Aphex Twin. Incoherent American Narrative is the not-exactly-likely result of Mr. Gambit taking an unknown number of Mr. Bryars’s recordings—some of them unreleased—and reworking them into three lengthy collages of ambient drone.
The orchestral source material gives these pieces a robust organic feel as opposed to the synth-driven fare that dominates the worlds of ambient and drone music. The precise instruments responsible for producing each tone are mostly obfuscated by the layering process, except for the clanging bells or human voices which emerge intact from the miasma now and then. The color palette is in constant flux, the moods obscure yet unmistakably pessimistic or paranoid. Given Crowhurst’s prior success with the ambient drone albums Haldol and Black Funeral Atmospheres, it is no surprise that Incoherent American Narrative achieves such delicious depths of phantasmagoria. The dynamic breadth of each collage speaks not of a specific place or scene but of a whole world, each of its constituent cells and atoms frozen in the midst of a scream. This music does not portend some imminent disaster, nor does it describe a disaster unfolding in real time; the disaster has already occurred, cannot be prevented or undone, and now all there is to do about it is sit down in the rubble and cry.
Incoherent American Narrative will be released by Prophecy Productions on January 24th, 2020.
2. STERN — SUNDER HAWK
Whereas the previous feature provided the soundtrack for collective tragedy, Sunder Hawk is the soundtrack to a very localized and personal freakout. A low-key, slow-motion freakout, yet a freakout all the same. This is the seventh release by Stern, the mostly solo project of Chuck Stern (although some previous albums featured a full band including members of Psalm Zero and Kayo Dot). I’ve never known what to say about a Stern album. They’re all spooky and uncomfortable and insane, sometimes flirting with a damaged misunderstanding of pop music, at others plummeting into the depths of the formless avant-garde. Mr. Stern refers to Sunder Hawk as “high-brow, lo-fi dream pop of the prog variety”. Fair enough.
The primary instruments are voice, synths and drum machine, with the occasional guitar scratching out deranged deconstructions of rock riffs. The morose and half-tuneless vocals and chintzy beats, when combined with the warm analogue texture of the synths, evoke a sort of melting cold wave. Unease, cognitive dissonance; a mind lost in the drama of solipsism; memories of a functioning life collapsed into two dimensions and projected onto the charred carapace of a burnt-down high school gymnasium. Go ahead and dance if you want to. No one is watching. (They all hate you.)
Sunder Hawk was released independently on January 10th, 2020.