Austin, Texas has long had a world-class music scene, the sort more often associated with global centres than with cities home to fewer than a million souls. While it may be best known for country and other roots-based music, there’s a good deal more under the surface.
Colin Andrew Sheffield, chief proprietor of the Elevator Bath label in Austin, reached out last week to tell me about two striking new releases set for a July 7th release. Alex Keller and Sean O’Neill have produced Kruos. And Sheffield himself has partnered with James Eck Rippie on Essential Anatomies. He was also kind enough to send along a third album, released in December, by Jim Haynes called Flammable Materials From Foreign Lands.
Podcast listeners heard me feature pieces from Kruos and Essential Anatomies on last weekend’s edition. They’re representative of what Sheffield’s imprint focuses on: intelligent, thought-provoking and often difficult electronic recordings.
A few words on each of the releases.
Alex Keller and Sean O’Neill – Kruos
Two pieces available on clear vinyl and as a digital download. This one’s all about manipulated field recordings. It’s spacious and more than a little evocative. There’s nothing overtly musical here, and it works beautifully.
Colin Andrew Sheffield and James Eck Rippie – Essential Anatomies
This one features Rippie on turntables and both artists on samples and processing. It’s been more than 13 years since the duo recorded together. These four pieces are made up exclusively of samples. Not that you’ll recognize anything here – the source material is pushed and pulled beyond recognition. It’s available as a digital download. No surprise that the cassette version has already sold out on Bandcamp.
Jim Haynes – Flammable Materials From Foreign Lands
The album’s major work is the 20-plus-minute “Electric Speech: Nadiya.” It is the closest thing to unforgettable I’ve heard this year. In fact, it’s one of the most difficult recordings I’ve ever heard. Throughout the piece, we hear snippets of a woman speaking in what appears to be a European language. I can’t tell which one because we hear her in stabs that last about a second each. The thoroughly jarring effect is reinforced by a wall of noise and distortion. Prepare yourself.