PREOCCUPATIONS - CONTINENTAL SHELF (released under Viet Cong, by Jagjaguwar, 2015)
Get haunted by Canadian band Preoccupations (previously Women, then Viet Cong). Glacially vast, ghostly, and bright, "Continental Shelf" washes out a vividly psychedelic vista in postapocalyptic grayscale. Lyrical derangement gives way to barked dirge, only to return to the ghost-choir chorus.
GOST FEAT. KRIISTAL ANN - ARISE (Blood Music, 2016)
From the skeletal fingertips of Michigan-based synthwave scion GosT, "Arise" seems to take its opening sample to heart, deep synth creeping in like the beginning of a horror movie. Then the bass revs up, and Czech song-priestess Kriistal Ann punches in with the snare, proving that this song isn't postapocalyptic; the "dismal confrontation", God's casting-out of Lucifer and his disciples, is taking place around us. The sheer tension of the intro is sure to hook ears, but pixel artist Valenberg's incredible visual accompaniment is treat to the track's trick.
VENETIAN SNARES - KOONUT-KALIFFEE (Planet Mu, 2008)
Hailing from Canada's own "Frozen Shithole," Aaron Funk's Venetian Snares project brought to broad interest the breakcore genre, absolutely assaulting the ear with tight-wound drum samples, stretching time back and forth like silly-putty. On "Koonut-Kaliffee," the electronic fist of breakcore is sheathed in the dark wisdom of Vulcan tradition, where the will to mate is doomed to escalate into full-blown Blood Fever.
KING GIZZARD & THE LIZARD WIZARD - THE KILLING GROUND (Flightless, 2013)
King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard have been cranking out highly-conceptualized rock records about twice a year since 2012. Early on in their canon of rattles and twangs, they adapted the fictional stylings of their synth-player's father into a 30-minute tribute to legendary composer Ennio Morricone. British-born and Oz-raised, writer & narrator Broderick Smith literally speaks in the language of the Wild West (and is oddly reminiscent of Dennis Hopper's cameo on Demon Days). The imagery of raw jackrabbit, eyes like the sky, and dead white people ("maybe a half-dozen of 'em") is brought to life by the scary guitars, howling coyotes, and desolate whistling throughout.
COLIN STETSON - THE STARS IN HIS HEAD (DARK LIGHTS REMIX) (Constellation Records, 2011)
Born in Michigan, Colin Stetson is a savant-saxophonist whose solo work outshines his contributions as sideman for The Arcade Fire. The New History Warfare trilogy is wildly disorienting. Nearly every sound on each record is derived from small microphones placed all over and inside of Stetson's sax: taken from near the reed, banshee wails; from the bell, sonorous tones; from the buttons and clasps, built-in percussion. Stetson's mastery of his craft would humble even without this technical gimmick, but with it, I find it hard not to feel swallowed whole by such terrible beauty.
GODSPEED YOU! BLACK EMPEROR - DEAD FLAG BLUES (Kranky, 1997)
URMAS SISASK (composer) - DOMINUS VOBISCUM (recording released by Hearts of Space Records, 2007)
"Dominus vobiscum" ("The Lord be with you") is a traditional Roman Catholic salutation, responded with "Et cum spiritu tuo" ("And with your spirit"). For a "What's up?"/"Nothing much", this choral adaptation sure makes me feel the approximate entirety of the vastness of space-time, and my insignificance within it. It is fashionable to belittle and ignore religious observance in our godlessly modern world, but when I hear an Orthodox chant, I can't help but feel like there is a great need in our world now going unmet.
GEINOH YAMASHIROGUMI - KANEDA (INVITATION, 1990)
More a social movement than a performance act, Geinoh Yamashirogumi self-identifies as ordinary people recreating folk music from around the world. Writer and director Katsuhiro Otomo commissioned them directly to score the film adaptation of his postapocalyptic manga AKIRA. Just as in real-world Japan, new technology and old religion clash and commingle, and the rasping, galloping drum-choir in "Kaneda" runs like ancient blood through the glass-and-steel veins of Neo-Tokyo.
BALINESE DANCERS - THE MONKEY DANCE (from Baraka, 1993)
I first became acquainted with 'kecak trance, also known as the Ramayana Monkey Dance, through the final track of Mr. Bungle's final album. Even for such a fervently experimental band, there is something deeply alarming about the chant that sets it apart from Mr. Bungle's other strangeness. It wouldn't be till years later, when watching art-photography film Baraka, that I would realize 'kecak chanting included an elaborate ritual dance. The bodies, voices, and probably minds of the performers become a cohesive whole, single voices sparking sudden shifts in the torrent, the riot, of coordinated sound and movement on display, in this reenactment of epic battle against the demon king Ravana.
DEATH GRIPS - INANIMATE SENSATION (Harvest Records, 2015)
Abrasive, guttural, and genuinely frightening, California's Death Grips brings musical violence to a cosmic level. This is gangster rap, on DMT, surfing the deep web. "Inanimate Sensation" comes to us from what look like a smashed Space-Jam Jumbotron, hacked by some kind of malfunctioning meme-AI. The whole track reels with anger and pride, almost mocking the listener with its endless, winding rise, only to draw you into the payoff of lurching, lyric-dense verse work.