When not delivering lectures on tone-clusters to beehives and ghosts, April Larson made some of the year’s most beautiful music. Here is a selection of the music she enjoyed in 2013.
BEDLAM — Soundtrack to a Film that Hasn’t Been Made Based on a Novel that Hasn’t Been Written, by Dirty Knobs http://zacbentz.bandcamp.com/album/bedlam-soundtrack-to-a-film-that-hasn-t-been-made-based-on-a-novel-that-hasn-t-been-written
BEDLAM is at times hauntingly beautiful, smothered in foggy, echoing notes (“Library / Starting to Stink,” “Dream 2 / A Baby / A Bathtub”) and at others so drowned in layers of throaty drones and the faintest tinnitus tinklings (“History / The Lion 0,” “Broken Analogues / End Credits”) that surely you’d be forgiven for losing yourself completely in the dream maze. There’s a narrative here, less sinister than his better known Field Recordings from the Edge of Hell album, but still unsettling and difficult to pull yourself away from. An alternate soundtrack to a version of The Shining as directed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa, from the perspective of the Overlook’s otherworldly denizens, or The Haunting’s Hill House as occupied by a tired Dr. Phibes, his organ full of cobwebs and dust.
Suffer A Witch To Live, by Medroxy Progesterone Acetate http://delexnos.bandcamp.com/album/suffer-a-witch-to-live
All the flickering, squealing, buzzing, howling static expected in the basement hallways of a long-abandoned sanitorium. Broadcasts from times and people forgotten (Sewage Priests and revitalization technicians and the black-thighed witch, to name a few). The wailings of evil children, interrupted by heavy metallic breathing and voices that all but come right out and say, “You’ve been warned.”
The Revenant Sea, by The Revenant Sea http://auditoryfieldtheory.bandcamp.com/album/the-revenant-sea
Containing one of my favorite tracks of the year, “It’s Been Following the Plane Since Moscow,” perhaps the theme to a long lost Twilight Zone episode set during a bleak Soviet Union war, starring Red Army soldiers who have yet to figure out that they are dead, stuck in a perpetual limbo with unseen forces tugging gently but relentlessly at the tatters of their minds. The remaining tracks conjure terrible militaristic urban legends such as The Philadelphia Experiment or Area 51, blipping and beating at unforgiving metal and cold surgical gloves, rusted alarms and historical mysteries that may be too terrible to ever solve.
Cults, by The Implicit Order http://theimplicitorder.bandcamp.com/album/cults
I had just seen Sound of My Voice and Martha Marcy May Marlene (both films with a touch of cult behavior, the former being the better of them) right before I heard this album, and I believe in a kind of Jungian synchronicity. Cults is soaring, wheeling with clips of voices both semi-warning and chanting. It can very much be imagined as a documentary, the sounds of a distant compound populated by people whose eyes are just a little glazed with stars and doomsday.
Travels, by Crows Labyrinth http://crowslabyrinth.bandcamp.com/album/travels
Long stretches of droning soundscapes that bring to mind the frozen, desolate Arctic, the sort that Frankenstein’s monster might have wandered in search of his maker. Ghostly echoes from bass guitars morph into spectral shapes with plaintive vocalizations.
Holy Ring Of Chalk, by Lost Trail http://losttraildrone.bandcamp.com/album/holy-ring-of-chalk
Snapping winds elicit grey memories of Whistle and I’ll Come to You scenery. Electronics are given a softness, a childlike wonderment at decayed places overgrown and reclaimed by nature. Moments of gentle country breeziness interspersed with eerie ham radio-esque transmissions.
Un Coeur, Deux Coeurs, Un Coeur, Sans Coeur, by Orphax http://store.broken20.com/album/un-coeur-deux-coeurs-un-coeur-sans-coeur
Slow, gentle waves, produced by your body floating on Epsom salt in a sensory deprivation chamber. Airy layers arise gradually until they solidify, become louder, somewhat calm but insistent. A rare find, seamlessly blending harmony and disharmony in a long, meditative state.
The House In The Woods, by OH/EX/OH http://ohexoh.bandcamp.com/album/the-house-in-the-woods
A perfect horror soundtrack to a film that begs to be made. It would be a well paced throwback á la The House of the Devil. All the classic elements are there, but they’ve been reshaped by expert hands, and they’re terrifying, because your imagination is given free rein. You can hear the cicadas, for fuck’s sake, and the exact moment when the full horror dawns.
Cabrillo, by The Echelon Effect http://theecheloneffect.bandcamp.com/album/cabrillo
Lovely, hopeful, like a message in a bottle bobbing in the waves on an endless horizon, timeless.
The Great American Disaster, by Transmission 13 http://transmission-13.bandcamp.com/album/the-great-american-disaster
American history of revolution and industrialization from a Manchesterite who gets it. It’s a nation whose pride is perhaps misplaced given its history, but the halcyon notes, even amidst news of the assassination of President Kennedy, invite a sense of hope and peace for the future.