Aemae - Maw (Isounderscore CD)
Good to be feeling better thanks, and thanks to anyone and everyone who well-wished during my, uh, painful convalescence? No it wasn't that bad, nothing that listening to music and writing about it on the internet can't cure! Really though. No idea how I came into contact with Aemae's new one but I'm pretty glad I did. Aemae is the nom de plume of San Francisco native Brandon Nickell and is the follow-up to 2005's "The Helical Word", also on Isounderscore. Information's kinda tough to come by or maybe I'm just a lunkhead...in fact, the packaging the disc comes in is pretty minimalist too, one of those single-sleeve white-on-white jobs where you spend half your time tilting it against the light to try and illuminate the text properly. But hey if the shoe fits. They don't all have to be ridiculous 32-panel stained glass fold outs. How would you store em if they did? Practical thinking, please!
Brandon Nickell's niche is that of a sound sculptor or, if you prefer, a modulation maestro (or how about harmony honcho?) whose set-up must include laptops, synthesizers, effects pedals, keyboards, reel to reels, microphones and anything else capable of capturing and regurgitating a note. I can't really tell you the specifics because Nickell does a good job of congealing everything into one big formless gob of computerized sound. I'd heard about the Nurse with Wound/Hafler Trio tilt to Aemae but that didn't exactly come through right away on the noisy mish-mash of opening track "PDE" - a whole slew of electronic buzzing, whirring, flushing and humming whizzes back and forth between the speakers like musique concrete gone breakcore, with sounds occasionally slapping together and pulling apart like robot zombies tearing into flesh. Robot zombies! Can't make that stuff up, I'll bet it's a field recording. "Confound Me" is a longer, more drawn-out piece that reassures the NWW references but is it just me or does the first half of it sound like that electric undercurrent running through Pink Floyd's "Welcome to the Machine"? Then the other half gets downright spectral touching on all kinds of white noise/EVP/Conet Project feels that just give me the willies. "Spectral Psychosis" sounds like a rescued Pandit Pran Nath voice/tambura recording corrupted by the digital era, "Bad Entity" weaves a dream-like drone through the use of dark electronic tones in Radiguian fashion and "The Bell Contour Memory" darts in and out of shadows with gasps and jolts like Einsturzende Neubauten or Ground Zero's jump-cutting. If it sounds a little impersonal well that's because it is, though I'm not so sure Nickell would have it any other way. I heard a lot of heavy praise for "The Helical Word" and I can see why; there's definitely a lot of thought and composition going into these pieces. You should already know by now if it sounds like your bag or not but I'd throw in a recommendation too. "The band is just fantastic that is really what I think"...wait, wrong song. Right album, wrong song.