Floating in Space

We’re already over halfway through 2011. I wanted to highlight a few fine records I’ve gotten into so far. I wrote up a list of my favorite Iowa City releases for Little Village Magazine already, so I won’t be rehashing that, I’ll just single out some stellar releases and unnecessarily pigeon-hole and qualify them cause, why not?

Peaking Lights
Not Not Fun

Madison, Wisconsin’s Peaking Lights became a reggae band so gradually, I hardly even noticed. But now that they make the coolest, lemonade-sippin’, flip-flop-wearing drone music in the Western Hemisphere, you just have to have this thing spinning when things get chill, the sun starts going down and you begin to ironically roast vegan marshmallows–yeah I laid it on thick there, sorry. (more…)


(Screen capture from “All The Sun That Shines” video)
One of the coolest collaborations Iowa City ever produced was the shifting collective known as Cuticle. Originally the brain child of Brenden O’Keefe (Nimby) and Daren Ho (ex-Raccoo-oo-oon, Driphouse), Cuticle has also been a trio with the added clout of Jeff Witscher (Rene Hell, Marble Sky, etc). Recently, most of the work has been done Witscher and O’Keefe (Ho will occassionaly Skype-in from NYC). Regardless of the construction, the results are usually pretty sweet. (more…)

Fabio Orsi is wasting no time in following up his wonderful Stand Before Me, Oh My Soul from earlier this year. And there’s ample reason that his latest album, Wo Ist Behle? wasn’t just packaged with it’s predecessor. First and foremost, this is a whole different aural experience. Where Stand Before Me. His first release from 2011 was an angular, loop-heavy post-punk, no-wave, post-rock workout. On the other hand, Wo Ist Behle relishes in the subtle difference between silence and sound. Album opener, the 12-minute long “Loipe1,” takes–depending on how high you have the volume cranked and how good your hearing is after years of going to concerts–up to three or four minutes to become audible beyond faint notions of  a drone (like when the TV’s on mute but you swear you can ever so faintly hear the voices). (more…)

Jeff Witscher, how do you do it? After 12 (!) releases of varying size, scope, and packaging in 2010–including a full-length, post-apocalyptic dream of a soundtrack, Porceleain Opera, Witscher’s latest moniker, Rene Hell, is possibly his most prolific. We’ve just eclipsed the half-way point of March, and Rene Hell is back with another LP, The Terminal Symphony, and it marks a distinctly different direction for this highly prolific composer. (more…)

I took this one, okay.

Iowa City ambient duo, Cocoon, has a few dates scattered across the Midwest in the coming weeks including a set tomorrow night at Panchos Bar, here in Chicago.
Since I last blogged about Ian MacMillian and Zach “Avery” Dowling (a/k/a Goldwater Marmalaid), they’ve finally played more shows than Cocoon has releases. And they have a few with Zodiac and Hugs Unlimited over the next few days. If you’re in the Midwest, all the shows are pretty inexpensive, so if you’re feeling like getting some fine Iowa ambiant, this should be your jam. (more…)

Colin Stetson is responsible for almost every single note, skronk, clack, and squeal on one of my favorite album of this young year, New History Warfare vol. II: Judges. The music is gorgeous, rich, textured, and expertly composed, but really appreciating Stetson’s work is to see the physical talent involved in making all those sounds.
Thanks to La Blogotheque, that’s possible. And beyond just seeing the Montrealer wail on his sax, the production quality is, as it always is with LB, absolutely beautiful. Check out Stetson at work on two standouts from Judges, “Awake on Foreign Shores” and the title track below.

You can bounce on over to La Blogotheque to check the second video which features Stetson performing “Red Horse (Judges II)” and “In Love and In Justice” here.

The twin towers of dubbed-out, spaced, warm sci-fi noise, Daren Ho and Jeff Witscher are once again collaborating. The former Trash Dog bandmates are dropping the feedback-worshiping, sweat-drenched scuzz of their late-Aughts, Iowa City punk project for blissed-out burbles and slinky synths. Ho (Driphouse, ex-Raccoo-oo-oon) and Witscher (Rene Hell, Marble Sky, Impregnable, etc) have adopted the handle Mandelbrot & Skyy for this self-titled, four-song set on Foxy Digitalis.
Like any good collaboration, Mandelbrot & Skyy brings all the otherworldly audio you’d expect from either of these artists’ latest output. But, like any great collaboration, Ho and Witscher have so wonderfully synthesized their similar, yet unique talents that Mandelbrot & Skyy seems less like a meeting of the minds and more like a new being unto itself. (more…)

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