The Thomas Top Five: 2/29/16
Our Editor-in-Chief listens to upwards of 50 albums per week, so why not let him share the five, presented alphabetically by artist, he thinks are the best for you to hear on this week’s installment of the Thomas Top Five?
Апорєа – На рєкахъ Вавл҃нскыхъ
Genre: Byzantine Chant, Church Music
Favorite Tracks: “Ѕвѣздо, ѩвлѩющаѩ Солнцє,” “Мѵръ прєждє Рождєства”
You read (or didn’t read, rather) that right, folks, I DID just recommend you an out-of-print 20-minute demo from the furthest reaches of Yugoslavia. This is by far some of the most mysterious, arcane music I’ve come across, and although the hymns contained within are presumably genuine in their spiritual nature, the pervasive atmosphere is one of stumbling across rituals of the darkest intent. Sonorous voices from a reality we’re not privy to fade in and out over sparse, disturbed instrumentation, seemingly arbitrary rhythms, and aggressive lo-fi tape hiss. Every band that has ever tried to create an ominous and profound milieu has failed miserably in comparison to Апорєа, who were never heard from again. This is spiritual music in the sense that you can bet your sweet ass you’ll be checking over your shoulder for the titular entities while listening to it.
Henry Flynt – YOU ARE MY EVERLOVIN’ / CELESTIAL POWER
Genre: Drone, Minimalism
Favorite Tracks: “You Are My Everlovin’”
Admittedly, I’m reaching pretty far into the back catalog here, but the music blogosphere exists to shine light on obscure, miniscule treasures such as these. An equally prolific thinker dedicated to the anti-art movement, Flynt’s self-designed concept of “cognitive nihilism” (a refutation of logic and formalism) bled over into his work as a composer. Having its roots in the avant-garde, YOU ARE MY EVERLOVIN’ / CELESTIAL POWER offers a beguiling blend of modern classical composition, Country Blues technicality, the hypnotic repetition of minimalism, and a Hindustani-tinged backbone of drone. As his philosophical leanings would suggest, structure and form are amorphous at their most cemented, but that’s what makes this release so special. Consistently moving but never going anywhere, Flynt’s soundscapes eddy back and forth, soothing the listener into the most meditative of states. The absence of any type of foci on “Celestial Power” makes it the more challenging side of the record, but “You Are My Everlovin’” should instantly win the hearts of anyone who wants to be transported to a time and place immemorial.
Incapacitants – AS LOUD AS POSSIBLE
Genre: Harsh Noise
Favorite Tracks: “Necrosis,” “Live 950401”
Having had the unique opportunity of seeing half of Incapacitants (T. Mikawa) perform while in Japan (in addition to the unofficial performance I was privy to wherein he drunkenly sang Japanese show tunes into an empty beer can), I had been looking forward to cracking open AS LOUD AS POSSIBLE ever since, and I wasn’t disappointed in the slightest. Enjoyment of this type of music derives from the wide-eyed wonder experienced by being entirely ripped from your moorings and left stranded in an unforgiving sonic sea. However, whereas other popular noise artists lean entirely into the more visceral interpretation of this kind of music, Incapacitants have the maturity and technical proficiency to construct a steadily increasing, all-encompassing behemoth of sound that slowly progresses forward like a Titan of Olympus. Although “Apoptosis” starts things off fairly recreationally, by the time “Live 950401” comes around, you’ll find yourself entirely powerless in an aural vice grip, unable to move through the extremely textured mire. Positive reception of noise relies on a certain masochistic contract of pleasure, and I think AS LOUD AS POSSIBLE is one of the better texts to do business with .
Midori Takada – THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS
Genre: Ambient, Minimalism
Favorite Tracks: “Mr. Henri Rousseau’s Dream,” “Catastrophe Σ”
An endlessly delicate and delightful album through and through. Opener “Mr. Henri Rousseau’s Dream” puts the listener right into the realm that the cover art would suggest; lush, pastoral, and possessing a hefty dose of fantasy. THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS is a bit like slowly waltzing through a tropical dream, whether it be the scant brushes of mystic flute amidst a raucous jungle backdrop (“Mr. Henri Rousseau’s Dream,” “Trompe-L’oeil”), bright and boisterous marimba acrobatics (“Crossing”), or a hallucinogenic tribal fever (“Catastrophe Σ”). This is the second time minimalism has appeared on this week’s installment, so it’s worth pointing out that the genre thrives on repetition of melodically simple structures. As Midori Takada demonstrates, this allows the listener to slowly unpack the density of each motif, allowing for a more full realization of structure and composition during each cycle. Best listened to with eyes closed.
キャラメル – ｳｯｰｳｯｰｳﾏｳﾏ(ﾟ∀ﾟ)
Genre: Bubblegum Dance
Favorite Tracks: (N/A, Single)
Alright, I’m going off format here since this is alphabetically incorrect AND a single, but I wanted to save this for last since it is sure to be an anomaly in the historical annals of the Thomas Top Five. I typically despise the notion of commentary on singles instead of albums since anyone can have a flash in the pan, but sometimes that flash is so bright that it’s blinding. I can’t defend this on a technical or artistic level and can only really make it sound worthwhile if I put my most pretentious of fedoras on (yeah, don’t you think I’m gonna pass up an opportunity to use the phrase “abjection through hermeneutic euphoria”), but all I can say for certain is that after having listened to this 23 times in one day as of the time of this writing, all I want in this world is to be an animated Japanese girl of questionable pubescent predilection dancing on an eternal loop to this song in a castle in the sky. Also, this is actually by a Swedish band who then fully embraced and marketed themselves on faux-Japanese aesthetics once their song became an internet sensation, so that bares consideration in its own right.