Three-Peat is our feature spanning genres and labels to bring you three select releases from the past – whether the past month or the past year – that still deserve your attention. This edition we’ve selected three 2014 releases from British (off)beats label Astro:Dynamics. This isn’t a potted history of Ast:Dyn, however – for that see Scott Wilson’s lengthy primer and interview with label owndeOwen at Juno Plus. Instead we’re going to look at three of this year’s releases: from Alis (formerly Subeena), Nenado and Lord Skywave.
1. Alis – Things Next Door EP
Since adopting her Alis alias, Sabina Plamenova has been experimenting with sound on a variety of labels: from chuggy house and techno on Don’t Be Afraid to the even more dancefloor-focused Apache on Fifth Wall, she’s demonstrated an ability to assume different styles in different homes. The Things Next Door EP came about after she bought a loop pedal and brought it on a trip to Sofia. Alone in a foreign city, she sat down and got to grips with this new kit, playing around with her own vocals and fashioning music largely unlike anything she’d released before. The opening thud of “11” thumps as if Alis was recording through a stethoscope, not a loop pedal, and her repeated vocal utterances lend a paranoid urgency to the track’s droning patterns. “020” opens with a lighter touch, her gentle hummings swimming around each other before drowning in swathes of layers upon layers. “Leslape”, closer to Plamenova’s other releases, thudders and chugs along with staid determination. Ethereal whispers swirl about, however, lending a mystical air to what could otherwise be a pedestrian number. The title track, which closes the EP, is the most other-worldly track on display, a serenely open blast of ambient drone. While experimental affairs often lose sight of coherence or narrative, this release displays talent, innovation and ideas, never sacrificing heart in favour of technique.
2. Nenado – Your Sketch
Another artist taking to recording under a new name, Rasul Gafarov was the man behind the delightful Your Sketch tape as Nenado. Written over a period of years, it reflects its title in its scattered approach, adopting a breadth of modes while retaining a single vision. The opening track sets out this vision, with looped piano chords anchoring clicks and whirs that sit aside crunchy field recordings and deeply uttered vocal tics. There’s a moment towards the end of “Like Attracts Like” where the protagonist, recording or sitting, steps outside the moment and lights up a cigarette, a single percussive line maintained before dropping out all together. The beat kicks in again and then the track is over. While this moment is an isolated flash of distanciation, it is emblematic of Nenado’s tongue-in-cheek method of production. “We Turn Into Planets” sees a twisted reversed guitar line mourn over ominous clicks and Boards of Canada-esque childish moans, while similarly infantile groans are found on “Hari Hari”. This comparison is fleeting, however. The major reference point in recent years for this work would be Nicolas Jaar’s Space Is Only Noise, with similarly guttural vocals and openly expansive soundscapes. That’s not to say that Your Sketch is in any way derivative – the sounds Nenado crafts here fit perfectly within their own dusky milieu, a space at once welcoming and disturbing.
3. Lord Skywave – Cardamon Copy
You might know him as the who sang with Fake Blood in the Black Ghosts, you might know him from his collaborations with Nautiluss. For better or worse, you most definitely know him as the voice behind “We Are Your Friends”. Utilised as they are, Lord Skywave’s vocals are just one of many elements at play on Cardamon Copy, released this week. Like Alis, Simon Lord was dabbling around with machinery, in this case an old Tascam four-track recorder. Tapes are in vogue, and Ast:Dyn is certainly at the heart of that, but the sound that this recorder gave his tracks were what pushed Lord in the direction of this release. “Eggshells”, the second track, is a study in quiet, a track so low in the mix that you’ve got to crank it up to take in what’s on display. Reminiscent of Noah Lennox’s work as Panda Bear, Lord’s aquatic, multi-channelled vocals sit beneath synth lines that simultaneously shake with apprehension and sear with intent. “Severndroog” sees similarly buried vocals float through a time-signature-free rhythm build around distorted blobs of synth and bass. Right in the middle of Cardamon Copy, it’s juddering and jerky, and delightfully affecting. “Newt” follows with a more straightforward rhythmic pattern and a defiantly cheery riff that’s almost anthemic in its joyousness. Trying to contain and condense the truly diverse sounds presented across this track’s nine releases would be as futile as trying to define the Astro:Dynamics sound. Familiar yet unsettling, morose yet filled with hope; it’s not a label, it’s a mantra.
Stream: Lord Skywave – Newt (Astro:Dynamics)