Amulets creates an unfurling world of rebirth on Flenser debut, Blooming

Photo Courtesy of The Flenser

By the time Randall Taylor, who records under the name Amulets, reveals a whispered voice speaking on “Whirl,” the closing song of his new album Blooming, a full sonic narrative focused on the cyclical nature of life has already unfolded without a single lyric being sung.

An audio/visual artist based out of Portland, Taylor fills his Flenser debut with reverb-soaked guitar melodies and distorted production techniques to build up compositions that channel the natural forces that are quietly at work around us everyday such as rebirth, growth and human adaptability. Continue reading Amulets creates an unfurling world of rebirth on Flenser debut, Blooming

Real Numbers returns with a handful of extra-polished pop tunes

Photo Courtesy of Slumberland Records

Minneapolis indie pop outfit Real Numbers is back with its first new music in nearly four years.

Brighter Then, the band’s new EP on Slumberland Records, consists of five songs that showcase the group’s evolving production and musical dynamic. Now expanded to a five-piece with the addition of keyboard player Sophie Durbin, Real Numbers has never sounded more fully textured and cleverly detailed than here. Continue reading Real Numbers returns with a handful of extra-polished pop tunes

Dan Barrett returns to cathartic electronic experiments on Black Wing’s sophomore LP, No Moon

Photo Courtesy of The Flenser

Any musical work helmed by Connecticut musician Dan Barrett is certain to feature well-executed songs that span fathoms of sonic depth. But, exactly how one of those songs will sound depends entirely on which of his musical monikers it is released under.

Having already created several cult rock classics as Giles Corey and half of the duo Have A Nice Life, Barrett seized the downtime that quarantine brought him over the past year to revive his solo electronic project, Black Wing, and release its long-awaited sophomore effort, No Moon.

Barrett started Black Wing halfway through the last decade as a counterpart to his acoustic project Giles Corey, and No Moon marks Barrett’s first new music under the name since its 2015 debut, …Is Doomed.

During its nearly 60-minute runtime, No Moon presents bleak yet lush landscapes teeming with leisurely synth loops, crunchy drums and meditative mantra-like lyrics that complement the music but never overshadow it. Like the best ambient music, the record succeeds in lulling listeners into a vulnerable state right before jarring them out of it with a 180 degree turn.

For instance, the record’s shortest song, “Always Hurt,” sedates the senses with narcotic instrumentals swells and buried vocals only to be unexpectedly struck by the loud, staticky synths of “Vulnerable.” “Vulnerable,” which sounds like it was made with a cheap, blaring synth, presents the only challenging moment on No Moon. But, beneath its cacophony, there exists hints of a calming beauty.

Another worthwhile element of No Moon is its sampling. Drawing from Have A Nice Life, Barrett continues to incorporate spoken samples to beef up the record’s instrumental parts. None are as awesome as “Destinos” or as creepy as “Cropsey,” but tracks here such as “Vulnerable” and “Choir of Assholes / You Think It’ll Make You Happy but It Won’t” feature noteworthy background chatter. “Choir of Assholes,” the faux-triumphant centerpiece of the album, especially relies on an existential soliloquy that adds a kind of meaning to the song’s dense, moody atmosphere.

Throughout the nine songs that make up No Moon, Barrett threads themes of isolation, longing and loneliness: an apt musical impression of the past year. “Bollywood Apologetics,” the album’s opener and lead single, begins with the relatable lyrics, “I got time to myself but I don’t want it,” a perfect distillation for the age of quarantine. The hazy, quantized track sets the contradictory big-but-insular mood of the album.

But, while many of No Moon’s lyrics evoke existential and experiential laments — see “Is This Real, Jesus Christ” — its songs are musically structured and executed in pop, rock and experimental forms. Tracks such as “Ominous 80s,” “Sleep Amneac” and the 13-minute closer, “Twinkling” possess pop undercurrents with each track using bright, distorted textures and upbeat progressions. It’s a surprising change from Barrett’s past work, which skews to darker tones.

Although Dan Barrett is not primarily known for his electronic works, Black Wing’s No Moon is an essential album in understanding its creator’s full scope of expression. Acoustic or remixable, Barrett delivers songs that reel back the anxieties of our time and suggest the remedy of cosmic introspection.


Chicago experimental jazz creatives Jason Stein & Adam Shead join forces on challenging but rewarding new album, Synaptic Atlas

Courtesy of Ears & Eyes Records

Envelope-pushing bass clarinetist Jason Stein is no stranger in contributing to spellbinding jazz albums. His impactful playing on Chicago trio Threadbare’s debut earlier this year propelled the record to the cutting edge of contemporary jazz.

And now, unfinished with releasing music in 2020, Stein partners with Chicago journeyman drummer, Adam Shead, to create a new harmonious and chaotic collaboration titled Synaptic Atlas. The eight-track, 43-minute experimental romp is full of background chatter, exclamations and sounds of objects crashing to the ground, giving the impression that the playing of the duo is so powerful that it knocks over everything in its radius. Continue reading Chicago experimental jazz creatives Jason Stein & Adam Shead join forces on challenging but rewarding new album, Synaptic Atlas

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