Faten Kanaan – Afterpoem
This may be wide of the mark in terms of musical theory, but despite its minimal compositions and electronic textures, Faten Kanaan’s Afterpoem feels like a work of capital R Romanticism. Its songs hint at hidden worlds and strange presences, haunted like a landscape, where the word connotes enchantment and mystery and just a hint of danger.
The world of Afterpoem is foggy and elusive, its songs coalescing and dissipating, only occasionally lasting more than a minute or two. That’s usually more than enough time to make an impression, but the songs that linger also tend to be more memorable, like “Votive” and its minor-key melody and eery major resolution, or the swell of distortion in the otherwise somber “Ard Diar.”
In the album notes, Kanaan says she “find[s] pleasure in music as a language that nudges and hints” and that’s exactly what Afterpoem does. It is oblique and indirect, and all the more intriguing for it.
Khotin – Release Spirit
I’ve been enjoying this album since it was released two weeks ago, but listening to it today on an afternoon walk as the city edged its way out of a deep freeze, sunshine warming my face, it fully clicked. The Edmonton producer’s third album for Ghostly International is the soundtrack to a good day—not the forced “best night of our lives” from a pop anthem, but the kind where you catch yourself smiling for no particular reason and take a moment to just bask in that feeling.
Highlights change with every listen, but on this most recent spin it’s the quietest moments that hit: the ambient “Life Mask” is one of Release Spirit’s most immersive moments, a spa day in a fantasy forest, refreshing and subtly otherworldly; or the vocal samples in “3 pz” that slowly drift from reassuring to surreal. The more propulsive tracks are nothing to brush off, either—Tess Roby’s vocalas are right at home in the eddying undercurrents of “Fountain, Growth,” and “Lovely”, “Computer Break – Late Mix” and “Unlimited <3” are all pure downtempo bliss. It’s unflashy and unpretentious, but damn is this nice.
Yves Malone – A Hello to a Goodbye
For an album rooted in horror-synth sounds and inspired by the paranoid early days of the COVID pandemic, you’d expect A Hello to a Goodbye to be a more bleak listen. It’s certainly laced through with tension, minor key melodies, and the crystaline harmonies and buzz-saw bass of a John Carpenter score, but in spite of all that (and a write-up that describes it as “isolated paranoid landscape is mined with what-ifs and never-mores, a profound distrust of fellow humans,”) I’d swear it has a more optimistic core than it’s letting on.
Take album centrepiece “In Desperate Nights They Flee Towards Anything Safer” — the title tries to pass it off as an illusory hope, but there’s nothing half-hearted about its triumphant synthwave sounds. Along with “Smoke and Ash, Hand in Hand” and “ambiguous closer “No Matter How I Try, the Road Leads Away From You” it provides plenty of breathing room and even hopefulness. Other tracks embody the anxiety more fully: openers “A Splash of Palm Razors Across the Sky” and “Stiff Starter” are all frenzy and confusion, and while “Object Concern” starts on a more placid note, a mid-point plot twist cranks up the tension.
Calling it a plot twist feels appropriate, as Malone’s music has enough narrative thrust to justify the term. He’s an expert at crafting unexpected turns and building momentum through the album’s ups and downs, but like any good thriller, it’s the glimmer of hope that keeps you tuned in.
Edena Gardens – “Sombra del Mar”
Edena Gardens’ self-titled debut last year was a high point even for consistently fantastic label El Paraiso, fusing psych, jazz, and post-rock into a mind-expanding melange. So it’s a pleasant surprise to see the trio already releasing new music in 2023. “Sombra del Mar” doesn’t stray from their established sound, but it doesn’t need to—the contemplative pace, meandering melodies, and spiraling chord progression is as inviting as anything on the debut. Fans of Gunn-Truscinski Duo or Do Make Say Think’s more folk-leaning moments will find plenty to enjoy here.
Jeremiah Chiu & Marta Sofia Honer – Leaving Grass Mountain
Longform Editions’ releases are always worth visiting, but this latest single is a true standout. Like the label name implies, the point here is to give artists a chance to stretch out, and Chiu and Honer take advantage of every minute, using stuttering rhythms, modular synths, ambient interludes, and Honer’s luscious viola to craft a compelling narrative piece. Full without being busy, varied without losing coherence, it’s a masterclass in extended experimental songwriting.