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Dylan Weschler "After Ideas, Vol. 2"

Dylan Weschler has released a series of ambient albums over the last two months including today's, December 18th, After Ideas, Vol. 2. Weschler, the guitarist for Varsity, has utilized tape loops, synths, field recordings and guitars to create a beautifully peaceful, meditative five song moment of bliss.

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Son Lux comes out with "Tomorrows II"

It’s not easy to make a synthesizer or a sampler weep, or to make programmed/processed drums shudder in fright, but Son Lux has mastered these tricks alongside others--able to make their machines and their instruments breath and gasp and pant and sob. To be sure they also coax ecstasy, calm, and even hope (see "Prophesy" below) out of their gear, both electronic and organic, and from Ryan Lott’s choked-with-emotion voice. Son Lux may tend towards the melancholic but just as often these and other emotional colors are blended together to create new unnamed hues.

Maybe here it would help to consider the etymology of the word “emotion” (just nod along!) which is a combination of the Latin for “to move” and the Latin for “out.” Put these syllables together and it refers to “moving outside” or “going beyond” one’s normal boundaries, that is, transcendence. In the musical realm what better way to transcend this plane of existence and to "move beyond" than by entering a synthesized reality--a world we can more readily control (in theory, anyhow) and shape to mirror our own interior landscapes. One must wonder then where the popular notion comes from that regards electronic music as being automatically robotic, anti-human, and anti-emotional? Maybe Ted Nugent?

All the ways that Son Lux finds to weave together electronic and organic sounds--bringing distinctly human rhythms to the former, while frequently making the latter sound foreign in the true sense of the word--harkens back to what was arguably a golden age for these kinds of organic/synthetic synthesis as developed in the late 20th/early 21st century by artists like Bjork, Massive Attack and Radiohead.

Around a decade ago Son Lux took up this torch, or one of the torches at least, and hasn't dropped it since. Currently they're in the midst of releasing their most ambitious work to date: a trilogy of works starting with Tomorrows I put out earlier this year; continuing with Tomorrows II released a few days ago; and continuing soon with Tomorrows III. Or at least I assume that'll be the title unless there’s a serious misdirection at work here. Below you can check out a couple of more tracks from Tomorrows II, just try not to get too emotional. (Jason Lee)

photo credit: Lisa Wassmann

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Choke. "Tension"

Dark Wave duo Choke. has released their debut single "Tension". This is the new collaboration between Garrett Vernon of Replicant and DJ/Producer Patrixia.

The track is dark, haunting, but also slightly nostalgic as it pulls in elements of classic techno, industrial, and post punk music.

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Liturgy gets operatic with "Origin of the Alimonies"

If Freidrich Nietzsche were somehow alive today he would conceivably be the biggest metalhead in your local university’s philosophy department for there is no other musical genre in existence that so clearly and ably illustrates his theory of the Apollonian and the Dionysian. When it comes to the latter, heavy metal has long been notorious for its Dionysian side due to popular associations with primordial urges, raw power, and a fixation on subjects like madness and sex and unbound chaos. But equally true, if less acknowledged, is that metalheads are often unabashedly nerdy--enter the Apollonian side of the equation--and just as fixated on control and mastery and order as on sheer anarchic energy with said control expressed through disciplined instrumental and vocal mastery, elaborate lyrical conceits and album concepts, and a tendency to adhere to established conventions whether in death/doom/black/thrash/glam/power/prog metal at least until the next musical leap forward.

Speaking of philosophical concepts and musical leaps forward is perhaps as good way as any to introduce Liturgy’s latest release, a literal “rock opera” titled Origin of the Alimonies. Led by Hunter Hunt-Hendrix, Liturgy established themselves out of the gate with their 2008 debut LP Renihilation (the title a neologism for the countervailing and balancing force to “annihilation”). By the time their widely lauded but also widely debated follow-up Aesthethica was released in 2011, Hunt-Hendrix had composed an elaborate manifesto on "Transcendental Black Metal" written for an academic symposium, granted one held in a nightclub and bar. This intellectualized approach to metal ruffled more than a few feathers, while the band itself stood accused of being “Brooklyn hipsters" by many in the ruffled-feathers contingent. So yeah there were some big words and big ideas in effect, and a sculpted beard or two in evidence, but does it really stop the rock? The music they put out and live footage from the time strongly indicates otherwise.

Fast forward nearly ten years and Liturgy has doubled down, maybe more like quintupled down, on their ambitious approach by releasing an album that comes accompanied with multiple YouTube lectures covering an assortment of musical, philosophical, and cosmogonical concepts relating to their new music with the promise of an accompanying full-on opera soon to follow. Building on their surprise 2019 release H.A.Q.Q., Origin of the Alimonies features a chamber ensemble playing strings and woodwinds, church organ and harp, that's just as heavily featured as the musicians in Liturgy. 

The notion of a religiously-themed opera couched in Lacanian psychoanalysis and Deleuzian philosophical concepts being released by a band that's in any way associated with black metal will come as a surprise to your average man on the street (gender choice deliberate) who likely associates the genre with church burnings and the physical desecration of deceased bandmates. The book Lords of Chaos has a lot to do with the familiarity of these images, based on some undeniably sensational real-life events, which have since sedimented into stereotype. But for a smaller group of initiates the music of Liturgy is in keeping with a New Wave of Experimental Heavy Metal (a clever play on NWOBHM) and the queering of metal and its boundaries advocated by Hunt-Hendrix and some others. 


Whatever one's perspective it's hard to deny that the music of Origin of the Alimonies effectively balances out its Apollonian conceptual grounding with some seriously Dionysian furor--as much in the quiet bits as in the guttural howling and seismic burst-beats which are Liturgy's version of blast beats. In its overture section Origin starts off not unlike that other staged musical work that got a riot going on with its depiction of "primitive" human origins, namely Stravinsky's Rite of Spring. Both these works open with a vulnerable sounding solo woodwind (flute for Origin, bassoon for Rite) that's soothing for about a second but quickly becomes uneasy with its sense of lonely, aimless wondering. And then more unnerving still as more instruments enter the picture adding layers of tension-generating dissonance and you can just tell something "wicked" this way comes. 

And indeed it does when Liturgy enters the fray and by the beginning of the third track “Lonely OIOION” (you’ll have to watch those YouTube videos if you want to understand the titles, or just wait for the debut of the opera itself) we’re off to the races. Again this feels like a parallel to The Rite and the "Augurs of Spring" section in particular where likewise a few minutes into the ballet the whole thing gets blown wide open, and it does actually sound like an early 20th-century orchestral equivalent to blast beats. This is where the Parisians started really losing their shit supposedly and it didn't help that the dancers were stomping around like rabid orgy goers forming an ballerino/ballerina mosh pit on stage.


 

By the time the dust settles on Origin of the Alimonies you’ll have heard everything from violins played with screwdrivers to a very angry demon baby playing a piano (admittedly I'm taking some stabs in the dark here) to a trap music beat to a free-jazzy-ish interlude to a glitching CD player (neat trick since there’s no CD player in sight) to a fourteen-minute piano-and-metal-band adaptation of a work written for cathedral organ by French composer Olivier Messiaen in 1932 (talk about literal heavy metal heh-heh-heh, sorry). In other words this opera is a great deal of fun despite the seriousness. And I figure God up in Heaven is grateful He’s finally got something new and kick-ass to listen to meaning that He can finally get rid of that Stryper cassette that's been stuck in His Walkman for the past several decades. 

One final note regarding the quite striking cover image to Origin of the Alimonies (strategically cropped in the YouTube video above) which is in keeping with the theme of binaries and their subversion in heavy metal and in life in general. This is best expressed in the words of Hunter Hunt-Hendrix herself as taken from a recent Instagram post alongside the uncensored album image in which she addresses the process of actualizing and ultimately presenting as transgender: “I came to terms with my gender over the past five years in part through the somewhat torturous development of this piece, and I was only able to turn it into an album and put vocals on it upon deciding I could play the role of the female protagonist. That’s the importance of having exposed breasts on the cover.” 

When one considers that the music of Alimonies is only one element of the overall Gesamtkunstwerk still to be unveiled, you had better prepare to have your mind blown all over again... (Jason Lee)

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Cordoba "Specter"

Cordoba recently channeled the scariest parts of 2020 into a spooky new album, Specter, which dropped the day before Halloween. The sextet uses their signature left of center jazz fusion grooves as a bed for lyrics that touch on topics like gentrification, police brutality, and escalating social unrest.

The group's lead singer Brianna Tong was on the most recent episode of the wonderful podcast Music Therapy with Jessica Risker discussing the new album, it's themes, and how to stay creative in these times.

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