♫ Listen: Endurance – We Can Sleep Now

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I know what you’re thinking: “More Endurance?” I didn’t think there was any way that Japan-based ambient musician Joshua Stefane, the artist behind the Endurance brand (and also the superb Muzan Editions tape label), had any more tricks up his sleeve. He’s just … has really put out a lot of music.

You might say that Stefane has “endured” over the years.

(Pun definitely intended!)

We Can Sleep Now (Unifactor) is his latest masterpiece, and if the title is any indication, you’re in for the tranquil ride of your life. Channeling a spirit of isolation, Stefane wrangles synths and tape samples, layering them until they’re like a blanket of dark matter enveloping perception. But like a warm, snuggly blanket of dark matter that you can curl in beside a fireplace while the winter wind howls outside and frigid waves swirl against the face of the rocky coastline.

Close your eyes, imagine that, and with the help of We Can Sleep Now, you’re there.

Stefane’s permission is definitely a desperately needed directive for us to finally rest in the midst of this natural upheaval, to close our eyes and slumber and recuperate and unconsciously process and block out the noise and static of the world. “Yes,” says Stefane, “truly, We Can Sleep Now.”

“Wait a minute,” you say, “you’re just telling us the title of your album, not presenting us with a directive. I can hear the italics in your voice.”

“Shh, shh,” says Stefane. “WE CAN SLEEP NOW.”

Huh. And so we can.

We Can Sleep Now by Endurance

♫ Listen: Curved Light – Airs of Modality

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I just got new glasses, and of course my prescription changed, ever so slightly, so that it seems as if my peripheral vision, just the edges of it, is warping just a teensy bit. It’s as if the light making its way through my retina is curving as it passes through my lenses.

Get it?

Of course you do, you’re smart. And to be clear, this isn’t about me or my declining eyesight, it’s about Peter Tran, who once again appears to us as, ahem, “Curved Light,” as if in a dream, drifting through modular synthesizer half-corporeality. Airs of Modality (Unifactor) sounds like clouds billow, pastel and melodic and buoyant and light.

But let’s drop some heavy isotopes in the middle of all this bubbling delight. Airs of Modality is a “live rescoring” of the “Hoichi the Earless” section of Japanese horror anthology Kwaidan, which I haven’t seen because I’m squeamish just thinking about that scene in Beetlejuice where Geena Davis rips off her own face. Let’s just say I’m coming in cold to this one.

If it’s a creeped-out soundtrack of hovering tension that you’re looking for, you’re not really gonna get it with Airs, at least not for a while. That whole pleasant cloud thing is totally true, and I imagine it works as a delightful counterpoint to the visuals. It doesn’t really get “horror-y” until about (maybe just over) halfway through, when “Hidden Ritual, Pt. 2 / Revelation” takes on a more somber tone that continues through the end of the tape. And that tone is a tough one to shake — nightmares for days from Hoichi, and Curved Air, and “The Invocation / Final Encounter”!

But it’s a great ride. My vision distorts with pleasure.

Airs of Modality by Curved Light

♫ Listen: Kyle Landstra – Bloom Lake

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Kyle Landstra moved from Chicago to the Pacific Northwest, two places I’ve never been, so I don’t really have an opinion one way or the other. I imagine they’re pretty different. As of this writing, Chicago is experiencing temperatures that are colder than those found in the Antarctic! As it happens, my brother is in Chicago for this polar blast; I had to warn him not to go outside or he’d get frostbite after five minutes. (He heeded my warning and scrapped a run he was planning to take.)

None of this has any bearing on Bloom Lake (Unifactor), Landstra’s first recording in his new environs. “Love in a Mist” is a rendition of optimism across fifteen minutes of improvised synthesizer, as if the distance traveled and the life upheaved were worth the effort. “Bloom Lake” on the B-side drifts contemplatively as that new environment is taken in, mulled over, examined closely, and found to be satisfactory in the end.

All told, the move seems to have been a good one for Landstra.

And not a moment too soon, it turns out, with that whole Chicago-is-the-coldest-place-on-the-planet thing.

Bloom Lake by Kyle Landstra

♫ Listen: High aura’d – If I’m Walking in the Dark, I’m Whispering

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Halloween may be over, but I love laying awake at 2 a.m., zoning some spine-tingling jams from Cleveland, Ohio’s High aura’d (John Kolodij). TMT was fortunate to catch up with John a year ago, where he talked about his passion for scoring films, cooking, and fly fishing in Ohio. He has a new release, If I’m Walking in the Dark, I’m Whispering , which encapsulates what we’ve come to know and love from this project: sprawling Americana/drone hybrids via acoustic guitar, piano, and various effects. Split between two sides of a cassette, If I’m Walking… is a surprising, haunting autumnal sonic journey best experienced the whole way through. With the shorter daylight hours, High aura’d provides a cold yet comforting soundtrack for barren trees in the forest, snow beginning to trickle out of the sky, and the trudging bleakness that is winter.

If I’m Walking in the Dark, I’m Whispering is available now through Unifactor, in cassette and digital formats, and also as part of a batch that includes similar autumnal acoustic sorcery from New Hard Folk and Shells.

If I’m Walking in the Dark, I’m Whispering by High Aura’d

♫ Listen: Headband – Magnetic Earth

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My first-grade son’s report card has a “study of magnets” entry for which he received no grade, so I assume he’ll tackle those bad boys in marking period 4. The timing’s not great — I could’ve really used his input on this one, Headband’s Magnetic Earth (Unifactor). I can never remember how magnets work — something about positive attracts positive, because like attributes should hang out together? I could probably google it. C Monster would certainly approve of me taking more online initiative. (Hi, C!)

But I have no time to google at the moment, because I’ve stuck my noggin into Headband’s proton exhaust manifold and come away with a shimmering galactic space dome for my troubles. Physics warp all around Duncan Moore’s synthesizers — he’s the captain of this crazy ship after all — as if everything we do and do not know about Earth is fair game out in the vastness of space, liable to be rendered insignificant when faced with wider universal truths. For example: magnets — do they work like we expect them to? (To be fair, my expectations are more confused than anything.) Another example: will this beard that I’m growing continue to flourish out here in zero G?

Whether or not you can make sense of this crazy science foray is less important than hurling yourself unprepared into Headband’s void here. Knowledge of anything is secondary — the only prerequisite is allowing your mind the capacity to expand as far as it goes and in whatever shape it goes in. Maybe the oscillations and textures are messages. Maybe they’re catalysts intended to fire up the parts of our brains we don’t consciously use. Either way, I got nothing useful beyond my eternal prattlings. Nothing but a shimmering galactic space dome now. For my troubles.

Magnetic Earth by Headband

Watch: MSHR – “Wave Guide Edifice”

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My brother-in-law’s a sculptor. He’s into Rodin. There’s just something about Rodin that he gets, something that speaks to him. He’s got this thing for The Burghers of Calais — he’s just wild about that one. Perhaps he feels the deep sense of self-sacrifice inherent in the piece, the heroism in the face of almost certain death. Perhaps he’s confused by this display of bravery following humiliating defeat, and his attempts to process that conflict within himself has led him down a path of artistic expression.

But he’s also super into H. R. Giger, so of course most of his work looks like biomechanical superwomen or xenomorphs. Inner turmoil obliterated by a chestburster.

Birch Cooper and Brenna Murphy, the duo MSHR, are digital sculptors, fashioning pixelated monuments in code and sonic formations in circuitry. The video for “Wave Guide Edifice,” the lead track from their forthcoming (4/20!) tape Phased Trance Constructions on Unifactor, combines, seemingly effortlessly, the interplay between sight and sound. But what the hell am I looking at here? These glowing, ahem, edifices, these undulating waveforms, these bright structures, all triumphs of imagination, all projections of extraordinary insight.

All these things, born of the process of personal discovery, supernova’d outward in dense manifestation of intricate detail — no single idea is wasted, none is omitted. The noise and the form rage within MSHR, striving to connect! Or maybe that’s just whatever narcotic cocktail they’ve decided to ingest, who’s to say. Still, the synthesized soundscapes form the basis, the backbone, of the psychotropic workbench, undulating and pulsing with otherworldly energy. And again I ask: what the hell am I looking at here?

This isn’t Rodin. Or Giger.

These are abstract monuments to soundwaves, terraforming cassette players via magnetic tape interference.

Don’t you just want to be a part of that? You can. You will. There’s no reason not to. Use your imagination. Sculpt all kinds of crazy stuff in there. Phased Trance Constructions is your navigational matrix.

♫ Listen: Liz Roberts & Henry Ross – Death Knell

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i run the rough with thick – right
Up and down the thoroughfare
Like a parade,   apprecia

  still as a soaked rock
If you think I’m pretty upright
  look down forever
with it pretty glass
Spent eternity my loss
  in the bad one