HAAi "Baby, We’re Ascending"
There’s rarely a dull moment in HAAi’s high-octane techno because Teneil Throssell is a master of the quick cut. Sometimes she attacks her music with surgical precision, carving out breathtaking pockets of silence before slamming the beat back. At others, she works with a field medic’s intensity, slashing diagonally across mangled breakbeats, then suturing the wound with an overdriven blast of bass. But for all its frequent change-ups, HAAi’s music never suffers from a short attention span. Channeling the hypnotic, tunnel-vision effects of classic Underworld, vintage drum’n’bass, and the early-’00s output of labels like Border Community and Kompakt, it’s a sound as heady as it is physical. Throssell works like a film editor, piecing together stray threads into a form that is cinematic in scope; her cuts always contribute to an overarching sense of continuity.
Born in Australia and based in London, HAAi has been developing her brand of peak-time drama on singles and EPs over the past five years, but her debut album is her most ambitious attempt yet to spin the energy of the rave into something bigger, something that transcends the club without turning its back on it. Pocked with interruptions, trap doors, and fractals, the maze-like shape that it assumes over the course of its hour-long running time replicates the labyrinthine dimensions of an unfamiliar nightclub—its corridors and cul-de-sacs and darkrooms, its moments of exhilaration interlaced with descents into doubt or panic.
Throssell cut her teeth making bangers, and Baby, We’re Ascending hardly lacks for moments of intensity. The very first track is a kitchen blender overflowing with liquefied bits of industrial-strength techno. “Pigeon Barron,” which follows, evokes fellow Mute affiliate Daniel Avery’s dystopian euphoria in concussive drums and vertiginous synth glissandi. And “Purple Jelly Disc” is a white-knuckled rollercoaster that leads from a cavernous techno dungeon to a sunrise beach rave.
But the prevailing mood is ambivalent, the atmospheres frequently murky. The epic “Biggest Mood Ever” uses the voice of Hot Chip’s Alexis Taylor to wonderfully contrasting effect, distorted breakbeats tearing through pastel dream pop like shrapnel through a field of daisies. “I’ve Been Thinking a Lot Lately” drapes pitched-down breaks in gloomy piano reminiscent of the Cure’s Seventeen Seconds, an enveloping fusion that recalls an all too short-lived strain of depressive drum’n’bass that emerged toward the end of the 1990s. And “FM,” a highlight, covers a sullen techno rhythm in Burialesque grit and fog; with a mixdown that tilts dangerously toward the bassy end of the spectrum, it’s boomy yet weirdly distant, like a heaving dancefloor heard through warehouse walls.
More than any individual standout tracks, what’s most compelling is the album’s journey. Beginning with the sound of a tape being slotted into a cassette deck, Baby, We’re Ascending unrolls like a unified suite, and the interstitials—like “Louder Always Better,” a minute-long stretch of elastic sound design followed by 40 seconds of punishing techno—are often as gripping as the anthems. The way individual songs morph makes them often feel like passages snipped out of a DJ mix. There’s a knowing sense of humor to these twists and turns, too: “This concludes Side 1,” intones a robotic voice at the album’s midpoint.
Vocals play a prominent role in roughly half of the album’s songs, and while they sometimes work—UK trans activist Kai-Isaiah Jamal’s spoken-word poetry cuts powerfully through the moody “Human Sound”—they sometimes feel like Throssell is straining slightly for gravitas, pasting emotion on top of tracks that communicate plenty of it on their own. On “Bodies of Water,” her voice doesn’t quite gel with the woozy synths surrounding her; she’s more convincing on the title track, a Jon Hopkins collaboration that replicates the heart-in-mouth feel of raving at its most ecstatic. She’s good on the closing “Tardigrade,” too: The lyrics don’t necessarily scan very meaningfully, but the sound of her voice adds a Beach House-like airiness to the song, which balances gauzy dream pop with Yeezus-grade industrial drums. That mix of opposites is textbook HAAi, and so is the twist that follows: In the song’s final seconds, a gentle fade-out gives way to a three-second burst of drums that’s completely unconnected from anything that has come before, and ends as abruptly as it appeared. In this most cinematic of records, it seems only fitting that Throssell should leave us with a cliffhanger.
Mono "My Story, The Buraku Story (An Original Soundtrack) (Rough Trade Publishing)"
My Story, The Buraku Story is a new feature-length documentary film that explores the discrimination against a group of people – commonly called “the burakumin” – who were classed into lowly groups and segregated from the rest of Japanese society. This discrimination is not by race or ethnicity, but rather by place of residence and bloodline, and has existed for centuries – albeit very rarely acknowledged or discussed in Japan. When director Yusaku Mitsuwaka imagined the exemplary score for such a culturally sensitive and significant subject, he idealized MONO to help tell this story through their legendarily cinematic music.
Following their recent experiments with electronic textures infused into their trademark dynamic rock compositions, My Story, The Buraku Story finds MONO at their most understated and elegiac. The songs that make up My Story, The Buraku Story are largely built around piano, strings, synths, and choral vocal loops. As one might expect from MONO, the arrangements are masterworks of understated execution with oversized emotional resonance. By far MONO’s most delicate album, it is a fitting document of the band’s first-ever full-length film soundtrack.
Cathedral Ceilings "Summer of Misguided Dynamite"
There’s something magical about the way music can make you feel. Certain styles and bands are what I call funk-proof. No matter where my mind, body, or soul are, I am ready and willing to escape into whatever they are willing to provide. Cathedral Ceilings are at the top of that list now due to their excellent (and wonderfully titled) Summer of Misguided Dynamite. They honestly sound like a Jersey punk band trying their hand at DC post-hardcore and California pop-punk at the same time, which makes for a record overflowing with great hooks and guitarwork. It also helps immensely that Summer of Misguided Dynamite feels like a band of best friends having one or two (too many) and shooting the shit about the state of the world.
Ralphie Malanga guitarist and vocalist expands on that notion:
“I think you can make an argument that almost every record is a plea to stay sane in crazy times! Priorities have definitely changed in my life, and I’m sure in (the rest of the bands’) lives as well. None of us are in our 20s or 30s anymore. Those problems seem trivial now. There are a couple of politically themed songs on this record, but it was impossible not to get political, as the January 6 insurrection was happening when I was writing the lyrics. At the same time, the whimsical nature of rock ‘n’ roll took its course, balancing out any heavy lamenting with self-deprecation and silly word stew. Turn on, tune in, drop out. Veni,vidi,vici. I got 99 problems, but the band’s not one.”
New Noise Magazine
Plankton Wat "Hidden Paths"
The music of Dewey Mahood is steadfast in its pursuit of transcendence. For the past two decades as Plankton Wat, Mahood has contoured his melodic guitar playing into wholly transfiguring pieces. His fluid compositions apply ethereal, elastic textures to grounded rhythmic grooves that recall the cosmic and the earthly in equal measure. Hidden Path is an album built on reflection and discovery, turning the thrill of exploring obscured passages into inward revelations. Originally presented as a limited cassette in 2017, and now presented on vinyl for the first time, remastered by Amy Dragon, Hidden Path is a distillation of Mahood’s musical practice as a way of life, a patient celebration of the unexpected, unhurried and exhilarating.
The seeds of Hidden Path were planted when Mahood was completing his 2013 album Drifter’s Temple. Title track “Hidden Path” was composed alongside that album, but stood out from the rest as a new starting point. “I was thinking of escape, and finding calm,” says Mahood. “But after working on the new album for a while the title Hidden Path took on a new meaning for me. It became about my life, and the path that I’d chosen for myself.” Having grown up immersed in the communities of underground music, Hidden Path became a personal affirmation. “It’s about knowing yourself and following your heart and passion,” adds Mahood. “It is a political album in the sense of saying it’s okay to opt out of everything mainstream, you don’t need a great job, or much money at all to be happy and feel satisfaction in your life. My music and art are about rejecting anything that seems normal or status quo or of the modern capitalist world. This music is about life outside of all that.”
The process for building out the album’s sound world is mirrored in the pieces themselves. Mahood instilled his relaxed pace into the pieces which flower into moments of joyful surprise and release. The feel of each piece is effortless, but maintains subtle tension that Mahood masterfully compounds with repetition until washes of elation take hold. The cadence of album opener “The Inward Reflection” dissolves into a crest of roiling wails. A forest of percussive rustles, folk-driven 12-string, meandering bass and billowing wisps of flute grows dense and murky before opening out into a welcoming meadow on “Dream Cascade.” Oozing guitar textures on “The Everflowing Stream” sift and smolder as a steady pulse carries the drift deeper into the unknown. “Hidden Path” wades through primordial synthesizers and Ash Dybvig’s trickling flute, driven by longtime collaborator Dustin Dybvig’s hip-hop inspired drums. Whether playing with an ensemble in the same room or layering his own overdubs, Mahood harnesses improvisation to revel in curiosity and connection.
Hidden Path is an expedition into the unknowable. Mahood’s lush compositions guide one from dreamy verdence to pensive ragas with the jubilence of walking a new path for the first time. The searching pieces are layered with a sense of mystery that reveals new details on each trek through their winding routes. Plankton Wat’s Hidden Path embodies the bliss in remaining inquisitive about worlds both exterior and interior to divine unearthed wonders.