Michael Beach Dream Violence LP (Goner / Poison City)
So this guy comes up and asks me, he says “any plans to go to the beach this year?”, so I say to him, “yessir, I’m gonna spend plenty of time at the Michael Bea-” – actually you know what, scratch that, this newest album from Melbourne’s Michael Beach is too cool and serious for terrible jokes. I’ve been enjoying his music for nearly ten years now, and Dream Violence has gotta be his best yet. So much stylistic ground is covered, from brooding post-punk to loose-limbed psych to piano ballads and so on, but it’s the quality of the work that really stands out. In the past, Neil Young was the closest ancient white-guy rock-icon relation I would place upon Beach’s music, but this time it’s feeling closer to Lou Reed, specifically the disturbed, angrily-partially-queer, starting-to-age-out-of-relevance Lou Reed of The Blue Mask era. There’s a real downtown NYC paranoia to some of these songs, the dark side of blazer-sporting power-pop sorta vibe – listen to “Spring” and tell me you can’t hear the members of Television waking up from the natural sunlight in their roach-filled loft circa 1980. Beach has gotten deep into the mental state where madness inspires hope and vice versa, songs pumping hard with the blood of a wounded heart that refuses to stop beating no matter how many uppers and downers course through its aortas. A lot of rockers try to take you there, or at least want you to think they’re trying, but Michael Beach really takes you there, if you know what I mean.

Christos Chondropoulos Athenian Primitivism 2xLP (12th Isle)
My knowledge of Greek electronic artists is somewhat limited, but I tend to really love the ones I do know, like Jay Glass Dubs and Lena Platonos for instance. You can go ahead and add Christos Chondropoulos to that short list, a producer I had not previously known whose work I now feel a strong familiarity towards. A lot of ground is covered within these two LPs, most of which falls in that sort of vaguely new-agey analog house and dub style that’s quite popular these days. I’m reminded of the gauzy, esoteric grooves of Yu Su, the Mediterranean strut of Alek Lee and the semi-throwback digi-funk of Juju & Jordash, alongside a “home-recorder no one heard of in their time” feel that one might associate with the private pressings that Séance Centre and All Night Flight continue to unearth. Very enjoyable stuff, seemingly at no rush to fit in or please a certain constituency so much as channel the swirl of influences in Chondropoulos’s mind into musical form. Things get even wilder on the final side, where the vocals of Sofia Sarri take over (without the support of any synths or rhythms!), a fully avant deconstruction of the voice that has me thinking of a particularly inflamed Meredith Monk or Tamia’s 1978 self-titled head-scratcher. Sky’s the limit with Chondropoulos!

C.I.A. Débutante Pier 7″ (SDZ / Officine)
Here’s a charming three-track EP from France’s finest merchants of murk, C.I.A. Débutante. They’re the duo of chameleonic songsmith Nathan Roche and Paul Bonnet, and this record follows their Siltbreeze album nicely (among many low-quantity cassettes that I will almost certainly never hear). Rhythm boxes and errant noises seem to emanate from the basement beneath the basement, with occasional warped guitar tones and spoken vocals that are alarmingly slow and insubordinate. Their pal Nicolas Roggy adds bass-guitar to b-side “Kessler Syndrome”, but does so in a way that’s appropriately unmusical for the matter at hand. Remember when Breathmint Records would secretly record the noise groups that stayed at their pad and then release the sounds of them sleeping as tapes? Pier has me thinking of Sightings right before they completely nod out, devoid of aggression or feedback. Or maybe Mosquitoes covering Cabaret Voltaire with Graham Lambkin handling microphone placement? However you want to slice it, this is top-shelf avant-DIY on black 7″ vinyl.

CZN Luxury Variations 12″ (The Trilogy Tapes)
Valentina Magaletti is a London-based percussionist and composer, someone whom I had never heard of until just recently, at which point I’m seeing her name constantly. Kinda feeling like I should’ve known about her earlier, as she’s been making some incredible music over the past few years, in ensembles like Tomaga and UUUU and duos with Julian Sartorius and Marlene Ribeiro, all records I recommend you seek out immediately! Her newest work comes from CZN, a trio with João Pais Filipe and Leon Marks, and it’s a wonderfully dark, heady trip. Magaletti’s percussion binds it together, cyclical riffs of what sounds to be mostly hand percussion (though not entirely). Her rhythms are mesmerizing enough on their own, but with the rich bass tones and vaporous synths and electronics of Marks and Filipe, the whole thing turns into some sort of foreboding hypnosis, like industrial techno made with neither industry nor tech. “Brace Positions” in particular sounds better suited to the moniker “Rainforest Spiritual Enslavement” than the project it actually is, with tumbling percussion, creeping synths and an ominous bass pulse daring you to step foot into its murky waters. Recommended!

Dropdead Arms Race EP 7″ flexi Armageddon Label / Peterwalkee)
Alright, I’ll admit it: I’m a little scared to check out that new Dropdead album. They’re hardcore-grind royalty, one of those few groups who can somehow skate by on re-releasing the same twenty songs in various formats over multiple decades simply because it’s legitimately essential hardcore, firmly underground and unable (and unwilling) to be cashed in upon by scene leeches or the indie mainstream. They’ve already cemented their legendary status as far as I’m concerned, and I’ve heard that Bob Otis’s vocals have reclined from a high-pitched throat-shred into something less intense, so I dunno, can’t I be content with the self-titled LP, self-titled 11″ and splits with Crossed Out and Rupture? Perhaps this one-sided 7″ flexi featuring two hardcore covers is a reasonable way to dip my toes into modern Dropdead, even if it’s about as superfluous as a record can get in any band’s discography. They blow through BGK’s “Arms Race” and Poison Idea’s “Give It Up” in record time here, with Otis indeed singing less forcefully, albeit aided by gang vocals on the choruses. Wasn’t sure if blaster-master Brian Mastrobuono was going to try to grind-ify these songs at all, but nope, he sticks to a comfortable (if unchallenging) fast beat throughout. Regardless of the sonic necessity of this flexi, all proceeds are donated in support of immigrant youth, confirming that unlike Otis’s vocal cords, Dropdead’s righteous progressive politics have not dulled with age.

John Duncan And Stefano Pilia Try Again LP (Maple Death)
Perhaps one day John Duncan will give himself a break, but the confrontational noise artist has been ruffling feathers since the late ’70s without respite. Pretty fascinating guy if you’re not familiar, and although his more deviant works seem to be behind him, settling more into edge-of-perception field-recording / drone-work since the early ’00s, he’s always up to something intriguing. Try Again pairs his spoken-word with the fluttering bombast of Italian artist Stefano Pilia, whose synths and “processed recordings” resemble furious helicopter blades, the churning winds of a mountain’s peak, synthetic drones of the occult and, I dunno, Philip Glass interpreting a Hijokaidan composition? With the cover photo of a blurred astronaut mid-mission, one can’t help but think of vast emptiness, lonely technology and the smell of burning wires while listening. Duncan’s voice goes great over it, hoarse and weary and a little higher-pitched than I would’ve imagined him to sound today. If you told me he recorded his utterances on a doomed Russian spacecraft, presuming no one would ever hear, I’d say you’re being dramatic, but I’d do a Google search later just to make sure you were only kidding around.

Maxine Funke Seance LP (A Colourful Storm)
“The voice of Funke is a distinctive instrument”, says the press release for Maxine Funke’s fourth album. It rings truer with Seance than ever before, another tender song-suite from this fabulously reclusive New Zealander. If you’re not familiar, her work fits comfortably in the realm of acoustic-guitar singer-songwriters, but there’s a disarming casualness to her music, somehow harmoniously breezy and bracing. Unlike a similarly skilled folk singer such as Meg Baird, Funke’s songs tend to play out like private conversations, flowing at their own pace and without the firm boundaries of verse-chorus folk-song. Previous records might include a shocking blast of high-volume noise or lo-fi production values; it’s understandable when one considers her proximity to the lathe-cut noise scene even if her music is as far as it gets from labelmates like Taiwan Housing Project (Independent Woman) and Egg, Eggs (Feeding Tube). Obscure, domestic sounds of the minutiae find their way under her guitar here, often in rhythmic patterns (ie. the lustrous “Quiet Shore”), providing an intimacy of the mundane one might associate with the work of Graham Lambkin. Funke’s visionary approach certainly calls to mind Nico as well, and I can’t imagine a single Belle & Sebastian fan ever asking to turn the volume down on Seance, either. Considering myself lucky that such wonderfully private music as hers is continually offered up to us in the public sphere.

Gay Tastee Ex Machina Shook LP (no label)
Honestly, gimme one good reason why you shouldn’t name your band Gay Tastee Ex Machina! Never been a better time to make zero sense than right now, as this Albany-based trio seems to firmly grasp. Their sound is suitably kooky, but not in any sort of performative or trendy manner; rather, their loopy tunes recall The Flaming Lips and Meat Puppets at their most frizzle-fried, back when it seemed impossible to imagine that artists like that would ever find a foothold in the mainstream. How naive we were (or maybe it was just me). Vocalist “Steve” is constantly searching for the right note and he rarely finds it, but the charm is in the attempt – some people have terrible voices that are more enjoyable to listen to than “good” voices, and I’d rank him accordingly. The songs are casual and long, ending in the nearly fifteen minutes of “Space Ghost – Nagasaki Sky” which sounds like Doc Dart covering Neil Young for a Twisted Village release in 1993 alongside copious amounts of slide guitar. Trippy Americana for those that have long since aged out of worrying about looking cool, which may in fact be one of the coolest dispositions to have anyway.

Gemstones Novel Of Nothing 7″ (Celluloid Lunch)
The sound of Gemstones is really taking me back, in a nice way. This debut four-song EP has all the markings of something that would’ve shown up in a cardboard distro box at a VFW-hall punk show in 1996, back when the underground was bubbling with the success of Green Day, the failure of grunge and the ways in which they intersected. Gemstones are from Nova Scotia, but this rough recording (it must’ve been either from a four-track or a straight-up boombox) has me thinking of groups like Buglite and Sticks And Stones, moody pop-punk indebted to Gern Blandsten and Lookout! Records or, perhaps more accurately, the local bands that surrounded them who listened to Lookout! bands. Amazingly, Gemstones allegedly feature a member of Eric’s Trip, an unexpected stamp of credibility (not that these four plucky songs need any). A greater fidelity might eventually benefit the group, but as far as creating an out-of-time indie-punk nostalgia rush without directly aping any particular band or handful of bands, Gemstones don’t require clarity to shine.

Gravel Samwidge Complaints LP (Swashbuckling Hobo)
Brisbane trio Gravel Samwidge have a potent ’90s vibe going on, but not the aspects most likely to be emulated by today’s youth. I’m talking pixelated art on the front cover and a fish-eye lens shot on the back, and brooding, plodding grunge-punk riffs. It’s the sort of thing I would’ve expected to be played by people that seemed like old men back then (probably in their late 20s, early 30s?), released on Sympathy For The Record Industry or Amphetamine Reptile among dozens of other like-minded acts, and in spite of the lack of stand-out qualities or exceptional tunes, still sell 5,000 7″ picture discs. The glory days! Gravel Samwidge clearly aren’t going for any particular style – this music seems to be a precise representation of who they truly are, which means dirt-under-the-fingernails styled rock, though the group is content to menacingly pace in circles rather than rip out a traditional upbeat garage-rock riff or rhythm. These songs have titles like “Pink Eye”, “Hole In My Head”, “Waste My Weekend” and “Hangover”, and well, you can just tell they mean it.

Liquor Store Scumbag 7″ (Almost Ready)
Nice to see that NYC’s Liquor Store are still alive and kicking, as they’ve been purveyors of upper-crust (pizza pun intended) garage-punk for a number of years now, led by the irrepressible Sarim Al-Rawi. As I remember them, their sound was wild and crude party punk, but they’re demonstrating a more refined songwriting style on these two songs, even on a song called “Scumbag”. Moody and melodic, this one works both guitars in a downright respectable manner, reminding me of The Victims’s Real Wild Child record or something equally punk grounded in early glam-rock grooves. “We Buy Gold” is even more traditionally rock, the sort of thing I’d expect weathered Reigning Sound fans to request during music-hour at the Aging Punks Adult Resident Community wherein they reside. Not much in the way of wild energy or snottiness, “We Buy Gold” in particular is a mature sound more in line with The Replacements than Jay Reatard or even King Khan. Nice tunes, though I truly hope Liquor Store haven’t aged into polite gentlemen or, God forbid, gone sober.

LSDXOXO Dedicated 2 Disrespect 12″ (XL)
Probably an unpopular opinion, but I’ve always thought electroclash came and went too quickly. There were some hits in there! This new EP by the Philadelphia-bred, GHE20GOTH1K-raised, Berlin-based DJ/producer LSDXOXO has me thinking that it’s possible electroclash never really went away, or is due for a resurgence (in a different outfit and under any other name). LSDXOXO’s music is fiercely club-oriented, energetic and raunchy and fun. Clanging tech-house rhythms are abetted by chopped sex-moans and LSDXOXO’s lead vocals taunt and tease every ex-lover in the room. I’m imagining Mount Sims as remixed by Seth Troxler, though unlike the first wave of electroclash’s general hetero/cis-normativity, LSDXOXO is part of the TikTok generation that serves latex mini-skirts, bulging muscles, pigmented eyeshadow and bondage straps in equal measure. If it wasn’t implied, go listen to “Sick Bitch”, which opens with “I’m a sick bitch / I like freak sex” and goes on to rhyme “hurt” with “squirt”. For me personally, I enjoy some subtle innuendo, but LSDXOXO bludgeons their sexuality from center stage to the back row, and it works pretty marvelously all the same. Hard to listen to this and not get excited at the prospect of returning to in-person, non-digital clubbing!

Nick Melody Joyful Fantasy LP (SDZ / Officine)
If you’re gonna go with the name “Nick Melody”, you better be ready to either back it up or swing in an entirely different direction, putting out harsh-noise tapes or something instead. This Nick Melody backs it up completely, rocking out in a timeless fashion redolent of Big Star, The Apples In Stereo, The Shins, Teenage Fanclub, The Modern Lovers and so forth. His songs not being classically-established hits, however, has me thinking that he’s got the sound that those rare record collector guys who post little clips to their Instagrams favor so strongly. Only this isn’t a tax-scam pressing of a band that existed for six months in 1975, Nick Melody is alive and walking amongst us in Ypsilanti right now! Charming guitar leads, colorful bass-lines and harmonious vocals are in perfect working order, resulting in a sound that’s nostalgic without pretense. I don’t often find myself reaching for this style on purpose, and yet as I sit here listening to the charming chords of Joyful Fantasy as they spiral out of my speakers, it kind of feels like the greatest form of music to have ever existed on this planet. A Joyful Fantasy indeed!

Natural Information Society with Evan Parker descension (Out Of Our Constrictions) 2xLP (Eremite)
Say goodbye to your remaining stimulus dollars, there’s a new Natural Information Society double album! Their last one, the fabulous Mandatory Reality, was my favorite album of 2019, so I was eagerly awaiting this one. It’s a live recording from a Cafe OTO performance back in July of 2019 (not that you’d know from the pristine, warm audio quality), and it features British cyclically-breathing improv-sax legend Evan Parker out front. What a crew! There’s really only one musical concept happening here, a single seventy-five minute piece spread across four sides of 12″ vinyl, but like previous Natural Information Society pieces, it’s downright transcendent. Joshua Abrams plucks his guimbri merrily, Mikel Patrick Avery plots the time on drums, Jason Stein flutters and Evan Parker downright freaks throughout this long, unhurried journey. Parker’s minutes-long runs are absolutely hypnotizing, like a kaleidoscopic seagull calling out for world peace, but it might actually be the subtle churn of Lisa Alvarado’s harmonium that brings the whole thing together for me, filling in the cracks with those delightfully psychedelic tones. They bring it up and bring it back down throughout, and only until side D runs down and the (strangely edited) applause kicks in am I reminded that this music was somehow made by regular people, just like you and me.

Ostseetraum Ostseetraum LP (Adagi0830)
Sometimes I think it’s best if sullen German cold-wave was left to the Germans to write and perform. Case in point is Berlin’s Ostseetraum, who conjure the desperate artistic creativity that managed to grow in the cracks of the Berlin wall in the early ’80s. The Zickzack label certainly comes to mind, care of the throbbing bass pulses, rudimentary drum machines and gloomy vocals, though Ostseetraum don’t seem to have any day-glo new-wave sheen to them, not even ironically. I’m trying to pick out any signs at all that this is a band from today (nods to harsh noise, ambient or Weather Channel funk, maybe?), but this is by-the-books NDW, strikingly similar in fidelity and approach to groups that developed this sound decades ago like Sprung Aus Den Wolken and Kosmonautentraum. Ostseetraum’s songs are often tough and unfriendly – good luck shaking hands with the nerve-racking “Träume” for example, a frantic escape down unlit city streets. On first listen, it did feel like somewhat of a genre exercise, but on second listen, third listen and so on, these songs stand on their own two feet, distressed and tangled in aux cables though they may be.

Preening Dragged Through The Garden 12″ (Ever/Never)
The Bay Area’s Preening come correct with this new nine-song EP, the best tangentially-punk record with the word “garden” in its title since Pink Reason’s underrated Shit In The Garden. To be honest, I didn’t expect Preening to stick around as long as they have… they have an explosive quality, the sort of thing that’s normally short-lived, a band for a specific moment rather than a legacy. Maybe Preening are on their way to a legacy? This new EP is the first nine-song EP I’ve reviewed in a minute, and they do well with these succinct jolts of no-wave inspired guitarless punk-funk. The vocals seem to imitate the sound of the sax, and the sax imitates the vocals, while the bass and drums hold things together (albeit with a loose grip). It’s not the first time I thought of Minutemen and Impractical Cockpit and Mecca Normal while listening to Preening, but they seem particularly inspired this time around, or at least even more naturally comfortable with their unorthodox instrumentation. They are probably incapable of writing a normal song at this point, which is a good thing as far as I’m concerned – hell, if there’s one band out there right now I’d want a Ramones tribute album from, just because of how screwy and wrong it’d end up being, it’s these folks right here.

Sarushibai The Melancholy Of The Social Outcasts LP (SPHC / Japan Support)
For most people I know, one of the most attractive qualities of Japanese hardcore is its ability to tirelessly rage. Obviously there is as wide a prism of hardcore sounds out of Japan as anywhere else on the globe, but when I think of legends like Gauze and Confuse and Warhead and LSD, they seem to possess the same monumental will of spirit that’s found in Tour de France cyclists and professional free-climbers. Anyway, what Sarushibai’s new album seems to presuppose is… what if hardcore wasn’t actually that raging? They still play fast, and the vocals are still screamed and shouted, but even at their most frenetic moments, I can’t help but notice the lack of power exhibited. Even when I consider less-but-still-raging hardcore groups like Toast and Idol Punch, they’ve managed to find ways to innovate, or at least differentiate their sound to a positive effect. Could be a million reasons why (the recording, my personal prejudices, the songwriting, etc.) but Sarushibai’s music seems to exist in that murky middle territory between hardcore-punk, hard rock and indie-rock, and they don’t manage to strike gold in any of those configurations.

Schiach 2 LP (Phantom)
I decided to look up the English translation of German punk band Schiach’s name, having suspicions it translated to “Shock”, a suitable if not entirely creative moniker for their electro-punk sound. Turns out “Schiach” has no Google-understood meaning, and the German translation for “shock” is just “schock” anyway, which I suppose I should’ve seen coming. Contrary to the old adage, I don’t learn something new every day, but I did today. Anyway, this German group expound upon their sour electro-shocked punk sound here on 2, their (you guessed it) second album. Unlike many groups who use synths and drum machines alongside shouted vocals and buzzing guitars, Schiach take the tempo down a bit, kind of mechanically plodding through these songs in a manner close to Men’s Recovery Project or Danse Asshole. As astringent as their sound may be, most of these tunes favor rhythms suited for sloppy dance parties, not DEVO-styled discombobulations. Not a particularly fresh style, one could argue, but this isn’t a bakery, it’s a band, and they do throw some unexpected violin(?) in on “Zuagroasta”, so there! (I threw “Zuagroasta” into Google translate for the hell of it too, and that just came back as “Zuagroaste”, which seems to be a term referring to Bavarian immigrants. Turns out I actually learned two things!)

Shirese Three Going On Four LP (C/Site Recordings / Gnosisocial Progress)
I’ve gotten so accustomed to seeing the same usual suspects released by C/Site that it was surprising (and nice) to see an entirely different set of psych-damaged CT rockers receive their first vinyl LP care of the label. From what I’ve been able to uncover online, it seems that Shirese is the project of a guy named Matt Paolillo, joined on this record by five of his pals, presumably in different formations based on the varied stylings we’re hearing here. It’s a very American take on classic underground indie/rock/psych, bearing sonic resemblance to Sebadoh, Spacin’, Vermonster, Mordecai, and Headroom, though by no means an exact match for any of them. It’s more of a shared spirit, players who love guitars and all the usual guitar behavior, but write and record their music free from narrow genre confinements. A weepy ballad leads to a rapid-fire rocker reminiscent of Wishbone Ash, and the final track is something different entirely, a warped tape edit that does not seem to take the listener into consideration, like some hand-dubbed tape you received from the Blackbean & Placenta Tape Club alongside the Yak Brigade 12″ you sent five dollars (postage paid) to receive. The prices may have gone up, but the sentiment remains the same.

Paul Snell Come Monday / Dream 7″ (Altered States Tapes)
Limited to a scant thirty copies, this is a 7″ lathe of archival material from unknown-to-anyone Australian musician Paul Snell. Apparently an “old friend” of the parents of Altered States’ Cooper Bowman (or if not him, someone else directly related to Altered States’ affairs), this is as personal a release as it can come, complete with a lengthy interview in hand-assembled zine form, a wonderful accompaniment to these two songs. A breeze could easily knock over “Come Monday”, a lightweight strummer that saunters around soft as Egyptian cotton. “Dream” brings in some drums, bass and lead guitar, a very fragile take on later new-wave / proto-college rock, surprisingly not particularly Australian sounding, though I guess it’s not-not Australian sounding either. Plain enough of a sound that you could convince me it came from any predominantly Caucasian culture. If this record didn’t have the zine, I don’t think the memory of these songs would last more than five minutes in my busy little brain, but the overall package is tender and personal, successful by metrics that don’t include monthly playlist visibility or likes and shares.

The Stools Live At Outer Limits 12-28-19 LP (Big Neck)
Detroit delivers house and garage-rock with such passion and quantity that it’s hard not to get a little misty-eyed if I think about that city’s musical contributions over my lifetime. The Stools fall very much in the latter category, a newish garage-punk trio of whom I was previously unfamiliar that decided to release a live album as their second full-length. A corner stage with beer-soaked carpeting seems like the perfect environment to experience a group like this, and they perform these somewhat unexceptional songs with an exceptional vigor. I’m reminded of Supercharger, Bassholes and Teengenerate, but The Stools manage to flail through these tunes with a potent level of energy, really bringing some tried-and-true garage progressions to life. They must’ve either had a terrible Christmas and needed to blow off some steam or had an excellent Christmas and wanted to celebrate, but whatever the basis for their vigorous performance, only a true Scrooge could thumb their nose at the enduring glory of trashy drunken garage-rock and this fine example thereof.

Struggling Harsh Immortals 4 死 Death LP (Relapse)
One can only appreciate the recent Relapse reissues of G.I.S.M. and Zouo, but I’m particularly pleased that it also led to them releasing the sophomore album from Japan’s Struggling Harsh Immortals (aka S.H.I.). Featuring Cherry Nishida from Zouo (as well as other personnel from Zouo and Outo), S.H.I. refuse to pussyfoot on 4 死 Death. Pure hard-chugging industrial-metal relentlessness! I love L.O.T.I.O.N., and consider them to be the real deal when it comes to modern industrial-punk, but I wouldn’t blame them if they quietly sneaked out the back door when S.H.I. entered the room. Their music fuses modern WWE entrance themes with the moves of Ministry, Motörhead and Tetsu Arrey, the sound of a thousand motorcycles storming into Hell and whipping Satan’s pointy little tail. Live drums add the traditional hardcore-thrash power, but tracks like “Theme 2”, which favor piercing noise and electronic percussion, truly give the album the doomed techno-apocalypse vibe that I’m quite frankly living for these days. I’m completely behind the abolition of the police with one exception: the members of S.H.I. granted full punitive authority, armed with swords and allowed to wander the earth doling out justice as they see fit.

Fletcher Tucker Unlit Trail LP (Adagio830)
The crackling embers of a dying fire give way to keyboard drones, which eventually recede far enough that a sullen acoustic guitar and hushed vocals might emerge from the shadows. Fletcher Tucker’s music is heavily indebted to this well-established aesthetic, clearly in the shadow of Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Six Organs Of Admittance, Mount Eerie and the like, offering vague yet eerie portents in a natural / spiritual sense. If there’s a centuries-old instrument capable of droning, it appears Tucker got his hands on it, from singing bowls to dulcimers to leaf rattles (yes, leaf rattles). It makes for what must surely be a fun practice or recording space, but Tucker more or less does exactly what one would think a person would do with these instruments, sounding exactly as one might assume them to sound. If dark-folk was a bigger part of my life, I’d probably get a little more mileage out of Unlit Trail, but my dilettante ears find it to be mostly a surface-level experience, with all the aesthetic parts in place but lacking in creativity. That said, I did a little research, and can confirm that Tucker is no poseur: the man is a dedicated naturalist, and an actual teacher of trail-craft as per his bio on the webpage for Esalen, the Big Sur educational institute / nature retreat of which he is a faculty member. Maybe I’m simply too far gone as a decades-long grease-stained city-dweller to sufficiently connect with the whispers of the pines and babbling of the brooks? I sure hope not.