Ambient artist Volutes on a disco-tinged critique of neoliberalism | In Rotation | Chicago Reader

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Ambient artist Volutes on a disco-tinged critique of neoliberalism

Plus: Jason Shanley (aka Cinchel) on an immersive album from Chicago netlabel Pan y Rosas, Reader music editor Philip Montoro on meditating to war metal, and more

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A Reader staffer shares three musical obsessions, then asks someone (who asks someone else) to take a turn.

For the metal impaired, that says “Bestial Raids” at the top there.
  • For the metal impaired, that says “Bestial Raids” at the top there.

Philip Montoro, Reader music editor

Harvey Averne Barrio Band, "Cucaraca Macara" I don't even remember how this scorching 1971 Latin-funk number ended up in my overstuffed iTunes library, but every time the song pops up on shuffle it perks me up. The rhythms boil, swing, and slam, and every riff drills straight into your brain. Best of all, the exuberant and ridiculously catchy chanted chorus glows with the hovering tones of ostentatious vibraphone stings.

Repetitive drum-set drills When I saw drummer Jon Mueller speak as part of a live event that the Trap Set podcast held in Milwaukee in November, he mentioned casually that when he practices he often plays the same thing for an hour straight. Since then, I've been trying something similar. Though I can't yet get past ten minutes, I enjoy the oddly meditative aspect of attempting to repeat a full-kit pattern over and over, without variation or error, until my limbs burn out. It can feel almost like an out-of-body experience, as you gradually drift from playing the drums into listening to yourself play the drums.

Bestial Raids, Master Satan's Witchery The recent third album from this Polish war-­metal band handily illustrates how even the most furiously ugly music can end up sounding soothing. The insane speed of the blastbeats, the murky guitar tones, the stolid cycling of the primitive riffs, the cavernous reverb applied to the vocalists' howls and shrieks—it all helps this evil, assaultive noise feel almost ambient, like the buzzing and thumping of your tires on a nighttime highway drive.

Philip is curious what's in the rotation of . . .

Sardinian composer and multi-instrumentalist Stella Veloce - COURTESY THE ARTIST
  • Courtesy the artist
  • Sardinian composer and multi-instrumentalist Stella Veloce

Jason Shanley, solo performer as Cinchel and guitarist in the Mirror of Nature

Littlebow, Three I was drawn to this album for two reasons: 1.) practically everything that UK label Rural Colours releases is perfect, and 2.) I recently became a big fan of everything I've heard by flutist Katie English (mostly released under the name Isnaj Dui). On Three, she plays as part of instrumental trio Littlebow, who augment her flute with wonderful vocals, harp, guitar, percussion, and cello. It gives me the feeling of a sunny hillside somewhere by the sea. I listened to this almost constantly from August through November.

Foie Gras, Innermost Shrine, Heavily Gilded Foie Gras has been making haunting drone-folk albums for a few years now. It's hard to pick a favorite, but I gravitate toward this release from 2013 (maybe because it contains her excellent cover of Eno's "On Some Faraway Beach"). It's both soothing and sad, like a fog that obscures just enough to give you comfort but requires you to move carefully. I believe she's working on a new album, and she recently released the single "Devotee."

Stella Veloce, For a Flat I don't know much about cellist and multi-instrumentalist Stella Veloce or this group, but I discovered For a Flat because I've been following the many interesting and wonderful releases on Pan y Rosas Discos, a Chicago netlabel that specializes in abstract/noise/jazz music. The cover photo depicts a cello being recorded in a small bathroom full of plants, and the album invites a kind of close listening that really makes me feel like I'm hanging out in that room while music just happens around me.

Jason is curious what's in the rotation of . . .

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Christina Dennaoui, performs ambient electronic music as Volutes

Old Blood Noise Endeavors, Procession pedal To say I have an obsession with reverb pedals would be an understatement. The Procession pedal, however, is in a different league. It adds an unexpected, almost hallowed quality to every sound you run through it. Equal parts quirky and elegant, the pedal makes tinkering with soundscapes a pure joy. OBNE's technical demo of the Procession is as amusing as it is instructive.

Austra, Future Politics I've long admired Katie Stelmanis's ability to combine intelligent lyricism, operatic melodies, and electronic music. Her 2011 release Feel It Break has been a constant favorite over the past six years. With each new release, her writing and production grow more sophisticated and self-­assured. Future Politics manages to weave political idealism and criticism of neoliberalism into gorgeous, disco-­tinged jams. Future Politics will no doubt be among my favorite albums of 2017.

Haruki Murakami and Seiji Ozawa, Absolutely on Music I had no idea this book existed until I received it as a Christmas gift last year. Consisting of conversations between author Haruki Murakami and conductor Seiji Ozawa, the book explores their respective views on music, the creative process, and specific classical works. I often find it difficult to explain the esoteric alchemy that goes into making music: I'm often creating something from nothing. I look forward to borrowing from their words and wisdom wherever I can.

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