Arca – “Xen”

There are few albums which can fully contain and express a figure of imagination, a picture, or story through each and every piece, each track adding another vital aspect and slant to the desired product. Though all music strives to be some form of human expression, few can accurately present a piece that accurately evokes emotion to similar to that of the human soul, even fewer the feelings and events that a person lives through.  With Arca’s first album “Xen” a persona is expressed so brilliantly you begin to feel as if you are listening to the motions and emotions of someone in your presense, rather than simply music itself. You might even catch yourself thinking you even understand this person, but quickly another level of confusion, another variant in life affects both the person and with it your perception of them. The inner demons and complexities of personalities add to many variances and changing atmospheres throughout the album. This soul is experienced and a cautious one too. “Xen” isn’t pretty, but for some reason attractive, with every tone drawing you closer and further along.

The ferocious and volatile beats which are commonfound in “Xen” command you to pay attention, and you will. You will listen to every “word” storied to you and every sentiment which underlines every story expressed. It’s easy to find yourself doing so multiple times, as I am writing this review very early in the morning after repeated attempts to understand “Xen” as I attempt to try and explain this phenomenally creative and wonderful release. The vicious synths, snapping drums, and wistful bass continuously hurtled at you will hit you repeatedly, as if to hammer in a notion that you simply will never comprehend, but have to at least try. Some will stick, others will bounce back as you watch them trail away. You won’t ever know what’s coming next, or when.  It’s this uncompromising and unpredictable nature of this album, that makes it’s so great, so genuine.

The few moments of calm in “Xen” are cold, for example in “Sad Bitch” and “Wound.” Sure they are warming sounds of strings, and basslines that will throb your heart, but it’s the feeling expressed which has yourself in a deep and dark confine which chill you to your bone.

Arca describes Xen as a genderless alter-ego he describes having spiritual ties to, and according to frequent collaborator Jesse Kanda in this very intimate and utterly fascinating Fader article, Arca, a.k.a Alejandro Ghersi, will often become Xen, a spiritual being embodying a more feminine side of Ghersi who rejuvenates herself through creativity and exploration.

Despite Kanda’s interpretation, Ghersi himself explains to the Guardian,

“Xen is a genderless being. It’s about resisting labels and integrating different sides of ourselves. The complicating of one and the other is very fertile, emotionally and creatively. I’ve been thinking a lot about Native American tribes who saw homosexuals within their tribe as those who could see things in two different ways. [Their sexuality] could have a practical use, spiritually.”

It’s a relatively messy album, with spontaneous and sporadic movements being the underlying attitude of the entire work, but it also works very well and in a shocking, but harrowingly beautiful way. In “Xen” the listener becomes the confidant.

– Nick


Helm – “The Hollow Organ”





Helm, the alias of London sound artist Luke Younger, has been releasing music since 2007. It wasn’t until 2012’s Impossible Symmetry that Helm was known to much wider audience. That release came out on Pan, and started a wonderful relationship with him and the label. Helm’s recent release, The Hollow Organ, is his third release on Pan.

For the uninitiated, Pan releases music from experimental artists. So on first listen you might be looking at yourself if what you’re listening to is really music, but trust me, here’s a label that specializes in sound. The Hollow Organ is just another fantastic piece from Helm. It opens with a light drone that gives way to thumping percussion and the sounds of what could be a Tesla coil firing straight into you brain. Ominous doesn’t seem to do opening song “Carrier” the justice it deserves. As the storm subsides, it takes you to a leaky boiler room that is possibly being visited by alien invaders.

“Analogues”, the second track is a paranoid race through the dark alleyways of a city that seem entirely too foreign for somewhere you’ve been before. Just when you thought you had finally settled yourself out, a gang of dudes sweep you off of your feet and throw you into a van, carrying you into “Spiteful Jester.”  It’s a mind scraping affair, and leaves you completely discombobulated. It doesn’t stop, as much as you keep forgetting it’s happening.

Closing track “The Hollow Organ” is far the greatest of the four tracks. Imagine after having your brain scrambled in the song before, you wake up and find yourself laying out on an examination chair in the middle of an empty room. You get the strange feeling that something isn’t right with you, and you vaguely remember something happening but you can’t quite place it. You head to the only exit, a large steel door that sits slightly open. Pushing the door open it’s obvious you’re in some underground location. Darkness surrounds you, save a couple of dim lights that flicker from the ceiling. The hallway in front of you extends for quite some distance. Doors are on your left and right, but most are locked, those that do open reveal rooms that have been caved in. Your footsteps echo in the most ominous of ways. You reach the end of the straight hallway with a daunting choice: Left or right? In the current haze you’re in, you choose left. As you go down the black hallyway, you eventually hear an organ being played above you. It’s very disorienting, but you push on regardless. The organ fades slightly, but you finally see light from around a corner. You head up the stairs from which this light is coming from and find yourself emerging in an alleyway. Next to you is an old warehouse you were apparently underneath.  The location is familiar. You pass the warehouse all the time on your way to work, but never pay any mind to it.  With the sound of the organ still faintly playing, you gather yourself and head home, not quite sure what just happened.

Sevendeaths – “Concreté Misery”


When I think of Glasgow and music, two things come to mind: post-rockers Mogwai who put out their eight studio album recently, and party starting LuckyMe, who probably ubiquitously predicted the trap movement. Mogwai is the long lasting post-rock group that as of recently have invited synthesizers into play. Menacing at times, and melancholy at others, Mogwai has proved to have lasting power in their almost twenty year career. In Contrast, LuckyMe has been around since 2008. The label started the career of Hudson Mohawke, and featured releases from Lunice, Rustie, Baauer, as well as the debut of TNGHT, and many more. So for two musical forces so vastly different, how do they come together? These two otherwise opposite forces come together on Sevendeaths’ Concreté Misery.

Concreté Misery combines the sensibilities of Mogwai along with Sunn O))) with sparkling synthesizers and just a dash of fear to create an amazing release. How does LuckyMe tie into this? Well, they released it. While it’s not that surprising to see a label try something new, it is definitely still unexpected. This album doesn’t amp listeners up with machine gun hi-hats, but rather sends rushes to the adrenaline by layering noise on top of noise. The paranoia builds and builds until you literally can’t take it anymore, and only then do the songs very politely come to a close.

Sevendeaths, aka Steven Shade, knows when to end it though. While drone can be fun in a punishing way, this album only lasts 34 minutes and is very nicely broken up into six songs. While we all love hour long drone records consisting of three 20 minute songs, Concreté Misery is very digestible. Unlike the type of art music the title takes after, elicits actual emotions and doesn’t feel like your run of the mill avant-gardish musique concrète. 

Drolle – “It’s raining in your room”


“These are the sounds of sitting alone in your bedroom late at night, rain dripping down just outside your window.”

I know that most of us can agree that falling asleep to the rain pitter-pattering outside is one of the most lovely, relaxing sounds to dose off to and it almost guarantees a restful night of sleep. We have gotten a little taste of stormy weather lately here in Pullman and I’m always hoping for more to come. Just as the title of this release sounds, “It’s raining in your room” does a fine job of recreating this wonderful feeling of calmness. This ambient drone music filled with stormy, rainy weather on top is the perfect soundtrack to those nights where you maybe think a just little too much if you know what I mean.

Drolle is a young artist from our neighbor state, Montana, and he wrote this during the very dry, hot summer while longing for rain. During the few times it did rain, he made sure to capture and record it which resulted in him using it in his music. As a personal album to him released at “the tail end of a difficult year” we as listeners are lucky to get to experience such emotions of someone we will probably never even have the pleasure of meeting… we just get to listen and experience for ourselves. He said that this album was heavily inspired by Ricky Eat Acid’s 2011 release April, and as a fan of his I knew that I would be interested in Drolle’s take on his work. The influence is there, but Drolle definitely has created something completely his own with the lo-fi and distorted, yet still soothing noise absorbing through your ears and into your brain.

Above you can stream this 5-track album for your listening pleasure. The first track features a poem that slides off into drone and rainy ambience for the reminder of the album. You can check out more of his stuff on his bandcamp and soundcloud.