Sharp Veins made a spectacular mix for our Functions of the Now series back in 2014. It moved through ambient classics into bits and pieces of grime, filtered through an American noisenik’s ears. In the year that followed, he put out the immersive Inbox Island for Glacial Sound along with a CD for sendspaace.eu and a mixtape called The Earth Splashed. We haven’t heard much from him since, bar a gorgeous lilt of a track for Different Circles, plus a 12-minute quiet epic for a compilation on Wasabi Tapes. So his return on UNO NYC is most welcome. Titled bleeds colors and puddles, it’s a six-track EP that sees him refine his approach while spreading his strokes broader than ever. Opener “burnished purple” starts with droning fuzz and bouncing squelch, making room for square wave bleeps and vocal hums without ever approaching a beat. It finishes with a tiny flourish of melody that feels like William Selman or something, before rushing headlong into more digital affray. Occasional distorted claps lend a steady pulse, but in general it floats around like an angry cloud. “learn boxing miami” features coughed beats and horrifically mangled voices, a compressed wall of sound that might grate but for the neck-snapping groove. “bye” and “wave cut” follow similar paths, but the finale of “empty” returns to the sound heard briefly at the end of the opener. It’s blissful, though undercut by snarling fuzz and squawk. Describing the release, Sharp Veins expressed a feeling of “trying as hard as you can to sustain something while knowing it’s going to go away”. Given its short runtime and breathtaking pace, that’s a perfect encapsulation of the spirit of bleeds colors and puddles.
Every once in a while there’s a performance that sticks with you and permeates your musical perspective thereafter. I still think back to the state of awe I was in after seeing ex-múm cellist Gyða Valtýsdóttir’s on-stage magic with Brooklyn-based avant-jazz ensemble Zs at Unsound 2014, leading me to the works of the latter group’s saxophonist Sam Hillmer. Making music and DJing as Diamond Terrifier, co-founding Trans-Pecos and curating music at the Knockdown Center, there’s a collaborative, adventurous and wholly NYC spirit to Hillmer’s various endeavours. Eventually he would form the Diamond Terrifier Cipher, a “bandit crew” that includes Collapsing Scenery’s Don Devore, Miho Hatori (Cibo Matto / OG voice of Noodle from Gorillaz) and Michael Beharie (who recently contributed to fellow Zs member Greg Fox’s exceptional album on RVNG Intl. and – like Hillmer – to Laurel Halo’s phenomenal Dust.)
Chapel Master is the debut EP from the Diamond Terrifier Cipher, with the quartet spending two years on the circuit before recording these four pieces in Devore’s studio. Its title track saunters off into Hillmer’s sax fog as Beharie and Devore’s electronics and guitars seek to shape a path ahead from the ether. Hatori’s grainy vocals give “Chapel Master” its fascinating sense of simultaneous familiarity and uncertainty as she sings in warm, child-friendly melodies with a disjointed apprehensiveness that’s difficult to place. On the other end of that spectrum is “Action Fortress”, a grave, deliberate march that swaps fog for thick grey smoke, intense pulses, prickling textures and slow-burning echoes. “Not Lit” and “Art Is War” are both distinct, amorphous movements that collectively give every aspect of the Cipher a moment to show their true potential fused with both grounded and alien sonics. The core release is a mesmerising and graceful collection in its own right, and Chapel Master’s vinyl release will include remixes from PTP’s Geng, Dis Fig, Celestial Trax and Jackie. Buzz, delirium and finesse, out on Styles Upon Styles.
Earlier this year, Opal Tapes released a statement on their Facebook wearing their heart on their sleeve: “I get more demo submissions than orders now.” An honest admission with which came an insight into how the scene is operating at the moment. The show in demand for artists to appear on the label speaks volumes about how it has refined itself into one of the most formidable and imitable of platforms. Nevertheless, the Northeastern English label has stuck to its guns and maintained a steady stream of fire for its fans – the latest of which arriving by way of Leyla Records boss Chafik Chennouf.
Dual Aspect clocks in as Chennouf’s first full EP, though he’s proved himself no stranger to great music via his own label. Seeing the likes of Mondkopf, Lucy and Katsunori Sawa with remix responsibilities is most definitely a prospect to behold — and they do deliver — however it’s Chennouf’s ability to marry classical, ambience and noise in perfect harmony that leaves the most lasting impressions. Much like the earlier works of Venetian Snares, “Hanneton” draws emetic frequencies and sculpts them alongside uplifting pads satisfyingly placed above the undulation. The triad of remixers take on “Ferroequinologie” with their own characteristic stamps: Lucy transforms the piece into a straight-up, four-to-the-floor club weapon and Katsunori Sawa finds solace in the cinematics of the track, while Mondkopf’s rendition packs in all of the Frenchman’s flair with heavily sidechained kick drums leading the way for a very scary affair.
Words by Aidan Hanratty, Tayyab Amin and Jena Sivakuma.