Scorched earth, but make it a rave. That was the only way I could describe Summer in My Veins by I Am A Lake Of Burning Orchids to anyone who’d listen in 2011. What do you mean? Take bit-crushed synth-pop and ambient trance, then bum-rush everything with harsh noise and serrated screamo. Uh-huh. Something clicked in my brain: how does this even work? Is this what music becomes?
Music critics and bloggers (remember them?) hadn’t quite hopped on the “post-Internet” tag, yet, though the term had already been in the art-world ether for a few years. While I’m afraid to Google my own usage of the amorphous style modifier, there is something alluring about defining our consumption not just music but media — what sounds and sights spit out of an unceasing landscape and who does the spitting.
Sure, sure, around this time Sleigh Bells and Grimes made the case for maximalist pop music and Kanye straight-up pilfered Dälek’s signature noise-rap with Yeezus — extreme combinations always start underground and bubble to the surface either organically or by brute force. But even those examples feel like an echo of the ever-deafening cybersphere. When the blown-out trance synths pierced the smog of screams that smears I Am A Lake Of Burning Orchids’ “Garden of Light III: A Painted Bird,” it was half-formed, but felt like a reckless leap that no one was willing to take — not, yet, anyway.
“I feel like frying is my purpose,” Fire-Toolz’s Angel Marcloid tweeted in response to Drew Daniel (Matmos, The Soft Pink Truth) in a now-deleted thread. “I try to make cool shit out of the burnt remains.”
Angel Marcloid, at least in part, comes from the vaporwave aesthetic — an extremely post-Internet philosophy that, at its best, recombines browser-tab overdosage with plunderphonic glee and, at its worst, is just chopped-and-screwed muzak — but does not make vaporwave music. Her compositions are original and she performs all of the instruments herself; lately, she’s discarded samples in favor of sounds that Angel can create all her own (Eddie Vedder excepted). In three short years, Fire-Toolz has become an earnest expression of Being Extremely Online — there is humor, tenderness and empathy in this shredded fusion of metal, prog, New Age, industrial, noise and club music. In guitar solos and synths straight out of the neon ’80s, there is a wink, but also a hug.
If last year’s Field Whispers (In the Crystal Palace) leaned into the WTF with a master’s intuition, Rainbow Bridge takes an impressionistic step back from the post-whatever precipice and Photoshops a stairwell to infinity. Jittering Aphex Twin beats pulse under floating synths (“⌈Mego⌉ ≜ Maitrī”), synth-pop bubbles out of Whitney Houston’s prime in a brilliant clash with Steve Reich-ian patterns (“ᴍɪᴄʀᴏtubules”) and shredding melodrama takes on a Joni-Mitchell-jammin’-with-jazz-dudes doom (“Rainbow ∞ Bridge”). Out of context — here on the Internet and not in your ears — these descriptions can sound ridiculous. But in music that recombines the things that have been, Fire-Toolz thinks about the music that can be. — Lars Gotrich
(Note: Some of these albums can only be found on Bandcamp, so click the links to explore!)
Cryptic Shift, Visitations From Enceladus (Blood Harvest): Folks, we are living in a golden age of long-form cosmic metal. If the members of Blood Incantation are psychedelic alienologists blurrrghing through space with pin-point precise death-metal riffage, Cryptic Shift are the technical thrashtronauts throwing caution out the airlock. Wild, wild riffs that shapeshift at will with disorienting intent.
Matt Christensen, Mo Pussyfooting (self-released): Zelionople’s guitarist and singer puts out, like, an album every week — I should know, I subscribe to his Bandcamp! His tribute to Brian Eno and Robert Fripp’s tape-delay masterpiece is pure guitar bliss, warping time and states of mind as you stare through glass ceilings.
Infant Island, Beneath (self-released): Screamo scraped from the blackened and burnt chasm. The metallic chaos of Majority Rule and post-rock underpinnings of Envy are touchstones here, but noise overwhelms Infant Island’s ugly beauty in tracks that bleed tributaries into a rushing river.
Occlith, Gates, Doorways and Endings (Transylvanian Tapes): Now this is some graveyard hauntin’, ancient vine creepin’, fog crawlin’ doom metal. Not slow enough for a Mournful Congregation-style funeral, but turns over psychedelic overtones with booming melody and slow-motion sludge.
Fortunato Durutti Marinetti, Desire (self-released): Desire is that quietly cool kid who scribbled lyrics by Leonard Cohen, Franco Battiato and The Go-Betweens in his notebook and took cigarette breaks between class. You thought he was cool, but maybe too cool to approach. But by graduation, he took your yearbook and wrote something so deeply insightful and true of your character that the words resonate beyond the pages and years — he saw you even if you didn’t.
38 tracks. Psychedelic-doom metal masters Inter Arma have an absolute blast with Neil Young’s “Southern Man.” caroline somehow makes Velvet Underground emo; it’s really working for me. Kitty gifts us a roséwave banger with the effervescent “Baby Pink.” Threadbare’s “Silver Dollar” says, “Yob, but make it doom jazz.” Can one accidentally re-create slowcore? Because Fusilier, who seems to work in the weirdo R&B/funk-pop milieu, definitely does with the gorgeous “Upstream.”
What: @rosecutclothing (Instagram account)
Why: Nudie suits inspired by the Gun Club’s Fire of Love, overalls made from vintage bowling shirts, dice bolo ties that actually make me reconsider bolo ties as formal wear — these clothes pop off my iPhone screen and beg me to start a pastel-painted whisky bar in the middle of the desert.