Agua VivaMoving gently away from ambient instrumental soundscapes but still staying in outer space, here’s some top-drawer “Pop misterioso y tropical”  from Beunos Aires, Argentina. Hard to pick one song from this but the opening track “Menino do Rio” is as appropriate a place as any:

The mysterious and tropical pop of Agua Viva’s album “Piece of Water” is almost entirely performed by Josi Arias who plays guitar, keyboards, electronic drums and sings.

“Menino do Rio” (river boy in Portuguese) here is vaguely reminiscent of the kind of dreamlike woozy psychedelia explored on Connan Mockasin’s “Forever Dolphin Love”

This opening track is not fully representative of the whole album so give the whole sequence of songs a listen as there’s some fine noisy psychedelia throughout – like this Paisley Pop standout “Hardly Move” –

[Thanks to The Autumn Roses music blog for the discovery!]


Dalot Sound AwakenerContinuing the instrumental theme with another atmospheric track, this time from a new album “Little Things” which is a collaboration between Vietnamese sound artist Nhung Nguyen (Sound Awakener) and Greek sound artist Maria Papadomanolaki (Dalot). Here’s “Inside”:

The album combines field recordings from cities and natural surroundings with synths and almost infinite reverb and delays at times to create 10 different and fascinating experimental soundscapes.

“Inside” here rides on a throbbing low frequency, arpeggiated synths bustling among found sounds. That combination of the artificial machine-world with the more organic sounds and textures of nature and human city-scapes is at the heart of “Little Things” and it delivers something exotic and also evocative of alternative realities.

coverContinuing the instrumental music theme stumbled into during January, here’s “45#1” from an EP called “45” and billed as “45 minutes of slowness”:

We all need “45 minutes of slowness”. This three track EP by Graham Lee is a tasteful slice of sonic ambience from the one-time pedal steel player for The Triffids, when he was better known as “Evil” Graham Lee.

It’s an intriguing piece, combining synth washes with guitar harmonics, picked guitar notes, pedal steel guitar and loads of reverb and delay. I’ve always loved pedal steel in instrumental music, which may explain why I have so many Friends of Dean Martinez albums. This is considerably more abstract and ambient but no less haunting and effective.

Evil Graham Lee

Still from the video to The Triffids “Wide Open Road”

residue nzContinuing the instrumental guitar music theme from a few days ago, here’s something new from the darkest corners of Dunedin’s noise underground. This 5 track album – “Rotting In The Stomach of Melancholy” – by Residue is a dark, wordless masterpiece and our introduction is the symphonic melodic minimalism of the first track “You Are Missed”

“You Are Missed” is sombre and majestic with a heavy and dark grace. Guitar notes washed in cathedral reverb swell and fade and gentle waves of white noise ebb and flow. “Commit Your Body to Dust” is an even sparser but equally beautiful atmospheric drone before “You Are Mist” completes the mood by enveloping those swelling guitars in a sonic mist of white noise.

After this relative calm all hell breaks loose on the final two tracks and sonic metallurgists will rejoice. Dense layers of distorted guitars and feedback create two saturated epics. The final track – the album’s title track – is a churning, fiery monster, several atmospheres heavier than Fripp and Eno’s “An Index of Metals”, and fine material for readjusting the atomic structure of your brain via headphones.

It’s a self-contained sonic world that may not be for everyone, but is likely to appeal to fans of atmospheric sound explorers like Labradford and Stars of the Lid, and worth a visit by the adventurous, the curious and the brave.

ITLM psych squarePhiladelphia instrumental 4 piece I Think Like Midnight have a new album out in a few weeks. “This Land is Your Mind” is jam-packed with shimmering and often deliciously psychedelic guitar-driven soundtracks to road-trips way out West of Weirdsville – real or imagined. Here’s “Acolyte”:

The album takes in many moods from surf twang to motorik psychedelia and even instrumental power pop. It often travels similar cosmic trails to the instrumentals of New Zealand’s David Kilgour & The Heavy Eights, and also Australian guitarist Cam Butler. So, if you like those artists or if you like what’s on offer here on “Acolyte”, take the plunge and get the album. You won’t be disappointed.

The recording and sound is rich and colourful, and the ensemble playing by the band balances technical skill with feeling, bringing the arrangements alive. And sometimes those arrangements provide imaginative surprises from additional instruments – keyboards and vibraphone – to add even more layers to the sonic variety and atmosphere.

Here’s another song, called “Tuned Mass Damper”, in video form:

EYE_EP_synths“Yellow Density” is the opening track from a 4 song EP by French electronic musician Laurène Exposito under the name EYE.

Those familiar with the early work of Chris and Cosey (formerly of Throbbing Gristle) will find plenty here to enjoy. Pulsing synths, synthetic rhythms, combine repetition and unexpected melodic and tonal shifts. While dark and industrial, it also somehow adds saturated sonic colour and human touches. Laurène’s vocals – more of a spoken narration really – are delivered mostly in French through a fog of grainy reverb, adding layers of ambiguity, mystery and dislocation.

Other tracks go the stranger regions of the minimal synth-wave universe or add a harsh synth-punk noise element similar to Dunedin’s Élan Vital while maintaining a well-constructed balance of sounds across the 4 tracks.

EYE’s “Cocktail Mexico” EP this track is from is available as a 10″ release. Sadly the postage calculation – usually reasonable from the EU – was substantially more than the cost of the 10″ itself so looks like it will be digital download for the time being.

For those interested in delving further into labyrinthine rabbit holes of minimal synth/ electronic music check the releases on Waving Hands a label established by Exposito in 2014 to “to promote fresh new artists from the scene and dig out older ones.”

[Thanks to the excellent WhiteLight//WhiteHeat synth/ electronic music website for the discovery.]

Carla Dal Forno Album coverFirst PopLib post for 2018 or last post for 2017 – depending on where in the world you are at this moment – is “We Shouldn’t Have to Wait”, the opening track from Carla Dal Forno‘s October 2017 EP “The Garden”.

Dal Forno’s 2016 debut album “You Know What It’s Like” was on many ‘best of 2016’ lists. But somehow it avoided the PopLib radar until late on 31 December 2017. It’s wonderful, but the subsequent EP this track is from is even better. The album was a grand exploration of psychedelic folk built around minimal lo-fi experimental electronic sounds, the EP is more focused and a kind of minimal electronic pop – slow, moody, damaged, melancholic.

What struck me on first listen to the EP was it was the first thing I’ve heard to remind me of local sonic explorers Death And The Maiden. The Dunedin trio also take an oblique approach to decelerated melancholic minimal post-punk slow-dance music, with lyrics that dwell on the dislocation of life and existence.

As with the EP, a refreshing feature here is how Dal Forno’s DIY approach to experimental electronic music creation is turned to approachable pop-craft ends. So weird industrial noises and distorted deconstructed wave-forms are incorporated into song arrangements in musical ways that they are in service to the melody and rhythm and the song itself.

Here’s the 2016 album to explore too.