Martina Bertoni – “All the Ghosts Are Gone” (2020)

Born and raised in Italy, Berlin-based cellist Martina Bertoni spent much of her career collaborating with other musicians. Her first solo release wasn’t until 2018 and up to this point all of her solo work was digital. All the Ghosts Are Gone, on Iceland’s FALK label, is both her first solo full-length album and her first physical release, FALK producing an extremely limited run of 40 cassettes in addition to making it available for purchase via download.

While classically trained, Bertoni’s style is anything but classical. Blending somber cello with electronics she creates musical canvases that slowly stretch against their own frames, creating a tension that threatens to tear the surface and rip the entire thing apart. That’s not to imply that the songs are in any way frantic. In fact it’s just the opposite. The tension comes from an underlying stillness that is disturbed, gently at first but with steadily building pressure, the initial touch becoming firmer as spacetime stretches in response, membrane-like as it attempts to conform to Bertoni’s sonic exertions. If asked to recommend entry points into All the Ghosts Are Gone, I’d go with “Blu” on the more ambient end of the spectrum and “Invisible Cracks” as the most tense. “Notes At the End of the World”, the only composition with vocals, is tremendous in its flow and is one of the highlights of the album.

Cassette copies of All the Ghosts Are Gone, as well as downloads, are available on the FALK Bandcamp page HERE. I also recommend checking out Bertoni’s own Bandcamp page (HERE) so you can listen to and download some of her other solo material.

Milena Glowacka – “Radiance” Cassette (2019)

Let’s get something out of the way right up front. I have no idea how to write about Radiance. But I also feel compelled to write something about it, because it’s one of the best new releases I’ve heard in 2019.

There’s an undercurrent of ambient throughout Radiance, a slowly drifting foundation. But on top of that we’re provided a range of different sounds, from the spacey dripping-liquid-mercury of “Try Out On You” to the metronome-like thumping beat that opens “Lusty At The Touch”, seemingly disparate sonic elements that Glowacka somehow combines into a cohesive whole. “You Are Such A Disappointment” could be the soundtrack to every nightmare I’ve ever had, right down to the title itself, the high pitched buzz punctuated by low end mechanical beats creating feelings of both anxiety and existential dread.

Released digitally and on cassette by the Icelandic label FALK, Radiance is available for streaming on Bandcamp HERE. The cassette copy comes with a download, so spend a few extra Euro and get a tape for your Walkman while you’re at it. You’ll be the coolest kid on the block.

Dynkur – “Tschüssi” (2019)

The opening beats of Dynkur’s new release Tschüssi hit you head-on like the pounding of some kind of industrial press, a massive machine punching out widget after widget after widget in rapid, unending succession. Thump thump thump… even when the more more subtle, dreamier synths appear they are pounded into the background… thump thump thump… at least that is until it’s time to get funky, spacey electronics jumping to the fore and bouncing around like rubber super balls in a small room. Only then does the machine let up, though just for a bit because it comes back again with a vengeance. The beats are prevalent throughout Tschüssi, but on “Arecibo” they take on a different quality, less mechanical and more electric, buzzing with current and just a hint of interference on the back-end giving things a rawer, more powerful feel. It’s definitely the most aggressive track on the album, one that would be at home in a windowless basement, cut off from all natural light for decades… Things close with “Ocean Of Sound”, the first time Dynkur pulls vocal samples into his compositions, which he does to great (and creepy) effect. It’s a tremendous closing gesture, the record achieving maximum intensity as its final final statement.

Dynkur is Icelander Thordur Arnarson and those evil masterminds at FALK (Fuck Art Let’s Kill) are responsible for this gem making it onto vinyl. Tschüssi was released in a super-limited pressing of just 40 copies, so if you want one (and you know you do) you better get on it quick HERE, because at just €12 for 25 minute of bangers these are going to be gone before you know it.

AAIIEENN – “Spaces” (2018)

There’s a scene in the movie Rollerball when Jonathan E visits Mr. Bartholomew in his office meditation space. The room is blindingly white with just a little gray thrown in to offer a bit of contrast. There are pieces of glass hanging from the ceiling on string that are sensitive to the slightest movement in the room and will make a light tinkling noise if disturbed. They’ll also cut you, as Jonathan finds out when he touches one.

AAIIEENN’s newest album, Spaces, is like Mr. Bartholomew’s room – so bright you can barely stand it, everything perfectly arranged and white, still and sterile, but with just that hint of danger that just the lightest touch will cut you deep. But fear not, my friends, as tracks like “Calabi-Yau” slowly build to add more shapes and textures, softening those sharp edges to make the room much less dangerous and more welcoming. Color-wise Spaces stays white, bright and clear. “Euclidian” is a perfect example of this, placing more prominence on the synths and higher pitches while keeping the bass down on the floor, providing structure but in a more subtle way, acting more as a platform on which the electronics can shine. Movies generally provide us with two versions of the dystopian future. One is dirty and dark and dank and rundown and dangerous; the other is bright, clean, clear, and seemingly perfect on the surface, but equally dangerous. Spaces is the soundtrack to the latter.

Spaces is due out on August 31 as a limited edition vinyl release by Reykjavik’s FALK label. There are a couple of tracks available for listening currently online HERE, and I suspect others will go up next month. You can also buy it as a digital download if you don’t want a physical copy or just want to save a few bucks.

Asmus Odsat – “Ecstatic Half Truth EP” (2018)

The pace is set right up front, with the snappy electro-kick drums that open “Deal With It”, and it doesn’t let up for another 22+ minutes. “Deal With It” feels like the soundtrack to some type of horror-theme video game. Not something super gross, and nothing including zombies. More like something about the creatures of the night, that blend of beauty and malice, the shadows and the sheer gothicness of it all. But Odsat doesn’t do this in a smooth, ambient way. Oh, no. There are edges to the music, angles and pixelated shapes. It’s not chiptune, but something more advanced that doesn’t quite reach the modern day. It’s not an original Nintendo… more a Super Nintendo or even a N64. But, you know, with vampires.

“Insecurity Camera” brings edges to the record, not the blocky, structured type form “Deal With It” but instead something razor sharp and cutting. There’s a metallic tinge to high end reminiscent of that taste you get in your mouth when you’ve been injected with radioactive dye for a medical procedure (♠), like a mouthful of nickels. The drops come at unexpected times to keep you on your toes, the entire song leaving you on edge and toying with your amygdala.

Due out in mid-September, Ecstatic Half Truth EP is getting the limited edition (of 100) 12″ vinyl treatment from the Reykjavik-based label FALK. The first track, “Deal With It”, is available for streaming on FALK’s Bandcamp page HERE, so check it out.

(♠) I assume the taste is the same if you’ve been injected for other reasons, but I don’t know that for sure.