Finding new music is so much easier – and so much more challenging – now than it was when I was younger. While I miss the space and culture of record stores, I’ve found that without a curatorial framework, I’m compelled to look everywhere for something fresh. This can be a dizzying pursuit, but when you come across an artist or label that lights you up, the thrill of the encounter makes the time you put in feel unquestionably worthwhile.
Moving Furniture Records out of Amsterdam is a new discovery for me, though they’ve been putting out music since 2018. Once I began exploring their site I quickly realized that I’d been aware of much of their output over time but had never considered a context for any of it. Orphax, Machinefabriek (whom I’ve written about here), Gareth Davis, Merzbow, BJ Nilsen, and Kassel Jaeger are just a handful of the folks that have recorded for them. I can’t believe it took me this long to put it together.
What particularly snagged my attention was Cuspa Llullu, a new work by experimental musician Anla Courtis (of Reynols fame) and Daniel Menche, fellow experimental musician and a recent contributor to the Touch Isolation comp.
The first of Cuspa Llullu’s two tracks, “Sumaq T’ikraq” starts with a deeply satisfying springing sound – a struck metal string, presumably – that resonates and drones before morphing into beautiful overtones. More springing sounds are soon followed by insistent tapping and hammering on metal, undergirded by the sound of someone sifting stones or scraping the coils wrapped around a metal string. From this sparse, exploratory welter and its elemental character, a binding sort of spirit takes hold, and the piece begins to acquire momentum, accumulating depth and weight and dimension as it expands. About halfway through its twenty minutes it seems to detour to a trainyard where we hear the sounds of hydraulic steam blasts, the gong of distant bells, and the penetrating buzz of a drill heard through a floor or wall. Then the binding spirit returns and we resume our course, heading inexorably toward a clattering, throbbing, blistering totality that’s both soothing and mind-expanding. I’ve taken many trips through this piece already and I can’t get enough of it. You’ll want to use headphones for listening. And don’t be shy about the volume.
The second track, “Achka t’asla,” feels somewhat more focused in comparison though no less galvanizing. For the first half of its eighteen minutes, metallic strikes and thuds float restlessly on tumultuous waves of static that plunge and crest and writhe beneath a seamless, echoing dome of feedback. Courtis and Menche gradually cover that scene with a scrim of static and electrical confetti before folding in the unexpected but perfectly apt moans and howls of a squalling guitar in feedback hell. The piece fades to black, but the startling sounds and evocative atmosphere conjured up reverberates long after.
This is a fresh and visceral record, one that you feel as much as listen to. If you’ve got a taste for gritty atmospherics, check it out.
Hot on the heels of Cuspa Llullu, I came across Various Weights by Frans de Waard and Martijn Comes. While not a strictly collaborative effort, the album instead finds the two artists working independently yet providing each other with foundational sound material to create from: random synth and field recordings, a processed recording of a stylophone, and “recordings of the Web’s first Software-Defined Radio by the University of Twente.” From such seemingly low-key material, de Waard and Comes dig deep and come up with tracks that are vast and psychically enveloping.
De Waard’s “There Are No Two Pianos” is a thirty-two-minute trip through a psycho-geography of fuzzed sounds and rough, crumbling textures, found and manufactured, that swell and recede, fuse and evaporate. Disembodied voices emerge from the aether and pass, leaving no trace or contextual foothold. A round, chthonic drone rides alongside for a stretch like an inquisitive leviathan before peeling off to other depths. A monophonic chorus of high-pitched tones later adds a piercing sense of unease, but that too eventually fades. About two-thirds in, de Waard strips nearly everything away, leaving only the resonating aftershock of what used to be. From that breathtaking nullity, a warm shimmer rises up, like a sun-warmed cymbal being struck, and the trip continues. Though the track ends in a tangle of echoing voices as if one had arrived in a station – radio, train or otherwise – it’s clear that there’s never been any set destination to speak of. Something familiar and otherworldly courses through this piece, and it’s that unnameable yet distinctly present absence that gives it so much of its power and allure.
Where de Waard’s track conjures a liminal soundscape, Comes’ “Boundary of Intersections” is more like a moody avatar, an austere, alien presence, impressive in its single-mindedness yet mysterious for the same reasons. As it hovers and bobs in a glowing steady-state, it slowly reveals more of itself, opening out to release rays and waves of sound that bend and swell and appear to occupy tangible space while remaining diaphanous. As the piece progresses, subtle cricket-like textures occasionally ride the fringes, and a faltering morse code tone makes a sotto voce appearance here and there. But nothing disturbs the trance-like atmosphere. Around the halfway point, the monolithic nature of the piece is swept aside and an irregular series of rising tones begins, taking flight from a rumbling base before dissolving into the occluded atmosphere. With each flight, I feel those streaming sounds rising through me, and I feel part of myself going with them, wherever that may be, every time I listen. And as mysteriously as it began, the piece ends. Rare stuff, here.
If all this weren’t enough, Moving Furniture also has a compilation of shorter pieces available for perusal. I strongly recommend that you check it out as well as the rest of their catalogue. I know I’ll be busy for a while.