Various Artists – Singles and EPs

Too moderately paced to really signify as dance music, the opening track of this EP is, nevertheless, hella heavy. Building on accumulating layers of atmosphere, when its brutalist bass hook and simple kick pattern enter, it hits with an ominous compulsion as dark and deep as doom metal. It’s not all darkness though: the track shifts into funkier uplands, still slow, admirably so, but with the kind of rhythm that hooks you bodily and pulls you with it. Similar strategies are in evidence throughout the Rauthaz EP: it’s not a matter of slowness and darkness, but of the creative exploitation and framing of potentially limitless digital resources …

Heidi Harris – All Fall Down (freak folk)

The way this album is presented, you’d think it was a more or less random bundle of artistic detritus, a set of oddments that didn’t fit anywhere else, of interest mainly to hardcore fans and completists. ‘Collaborations, new recordings, song sketches and 2 videos’ is the promise made on the Bandcamp page. Why then does it sound so creatively coherent? Either Harris is being deliberately disingenuous (or perhaps just excessively diffident), or she works with such a degree of creative and aesthetic clarity that her every artistic gesture, however casual, bears her unmistakeable imprimatur. I would guess that the truth lies somewhere between the two …

Olds Sleeper – New Year’s Poem (avant-country/ noise-folk)

This is a recording with a self-consciously ‘lo-fi’ sound, but there’s a whole sonic ideology wrapped up in an idea like ‘lo-fi’. What does it even mean? Low fidelity; and fidelity means truth. I would guess though, that it’s a primary concern of Olds Sleeper’s to get the truth quotient of his music right up there near the top of the dial. The whole duality of high- and low-fidelity has its roots in the early days of recording, a time when verisimilitude, a resemblance to actuality, was a technical challenge to be met, like pulling focus on a cine camera.

Various Artists – Singles and EPs

A thin-sounding electric guitar (maybe a Telecaster), an electric piano, filtered through the glitchy sound of dusty vinyl, and looped in incomplete gestures that sound like a needle jumping. It’s the sound of nostalgia, the sound of distance from a desired space that the imagination is better equipped to apprehend than the senses. The uppercut combinations of the kick, when it enters, are located firmly in the here and now. That’s the heartbeat of the subject, the locus of the act of remembering. Such a simple psychodrama between so few musical elements seems a shaky scaffold to hang anything off, but when the female voice enters…

Creature Breath – I Am Creature Breath (avant-folk)

There’s a simple poetry to this album, an economy of orchestration, of ornament and of lyrical statement. Given that the lyrical themes are of an overtly devotional nature, expressing a sense of rootedness and connection to the ‘Mother’, to the natural world conceived as a person, I find that economy something of a relief. Not that there is any particular reason why Shawn Marie Westendorf, sole author of I Am Creature Breath, should conform to my prejudices on this, but my experience of ‘neo-pagan’ art is that it tends toward the trite and sentimental, the uncritical valorization of the ‘old’, ‘natural’ and ‘traditional’, and in song lyrics towards the obvious and redundant. Fortunately, Westendorf’s writing is neither sentimental nor obvious.

olds sleeper – plainspoken (folk/ Americana)

I get a lot of visual clichés when I listen to this album. I get sunset, Mr. sleeper’s weatherbeaten face, eyes hidden by the brim of his hat, battered boots on the rail of the porch as he plays, wonky rows of telegraph poles marching off across a flat, parched landscape. I get dust: dust in the air; dust on the pots; dust on the needle. It’s all rubbish. The Pennsylvania landscape of olds sleeper’s patrimony is probably pretty similar to the green, rolling Suffolk I walk the dog in every day.