Los Angeles-based Dinzu Artefacts has been belching out exquisitely enigmatic sound products since 2016. The label’s reach is global – I first came across them when they issued the brilliant Reasons For Balloons by the UK’s Me, Claudius, and other artists on the roster include Italy’s Giovanni Lami and Montreal’s Ann-F Jacques. A Dinzu Artefacts release may deploy tapes, field recordings, broken electronics and the like, complemented by unrecognisable snippets of more conventional instrumentation and usually resulting in a kind of abstract weirdness. These are chilly, often unsettling works that nevertheless often pack an emotional as well as an intellectual punch.
This trio of recent releases appeared just before the summer holiday season, their mysterious vibrations adding to my general discombobulation throughout the dog days and continuing to resonate well into the late August cooldown. Enjoy, and purchase without prejudice.
Billy Gomberg: Beginners
‘Beginners’, from San Francisco’s Billy Gomberg, is prime Dinzu. An artist who draws from different experimental and underground musicking practices – ambient drift, electroacoustic composition, improvisation, and so on – Gomberg has amassed a pretty decent-sized discography over the past few years, with releases on Another Timbre, Strange Rules, Marginal Frequency and others (the muted clonks of 2016’s ‘Slight At That Contact’ are a favourite round these parts). This is Gomberg’s second outing for Dinzu Artefacts, following on from last year’s ‘Transition’, and it amps up the fusty, fuzzy eerieness this time around to produce a creeped-out soundscape that’s up there with Jandek’s ‘Ready For The House’ in terms of skin-prickling spookiness. Here, muffled clunks and bangs merge with queasy, sustained tones, with ambient hum and tape hiss providing an uncomfortable translucent sheen. Everything sounds disconcertingly out of phase, as if bleeding through from a parallel dimension, the everyday life of ghosts captured accidentally by a hapless field recorder. EVP via the Tascam DR-40. Sonic ectoplasm in the Zoom. Most eye-popping of all is ‘Seeing The Sequel First’, where a plangent chorus of clangs plays out against a backdrop of subdued growls and murmurs, like some wraith gamelan playing lullabies for the beasts of the abyss.
Riccardo Bandi: Shores
If Gomberg is all about atmosphere, Riccardo Band’s ‘Shores’ doubles down on texture, corralling a heap of varied sound sources into buzzing and whirring polyphony. Objects, tapes, fucked-up electronics and the like are par for the course for anyone with more than a passing interest in unconventional sounds, but Bandi synthesises some pretty arresting shapes from all this source material, arriving at a place not dissimilar to some of Louie Rice’s voltaic burble. If Bandi is slightly more relaxed than Rice about letting his compositions build into layers of scrape and bustle, well that’s ok – it ain’t exactly prog-rock maximalism, after all. And there’s a compositional sense at work here that raises it above the usual electroacoustic improv fare, with form and structure becoming clearer on each successive listen. Glass-eyed drones create a sense of forward movement, sweeping across mashed up fields of electroid blarts and drill-whine chirrups. Generator heaves cut abruptly, like a brownout in the gravel pit, as clockwork crows nuzzle torn plastic bags. It’s subtle, astringent stuff. If you dig the kind of bleary, grating rumble of outfits like Spoils and Relics, you’ll be into this. I do. And I am.
NUM: Memory Machine
The opening minutes of NUM’s ‘Memory Machine’ suggest that we’re in for a fairly standard drone-noise odyssey. The ominous, undulating roars and splattered machine crackles are all present and correct. Nice enough, if somewhat familiar. Gradually, however, there’s a shift into something much more engaging. Those crackles morph into a gravelly, kinetic rumble before handing over to a hypnotic percussion motif transmitted from the ocean floor. Doomy, haunted moans segue into gleaming foghorn sweeps. Things get frosty, man, as thin monochrome layers build a sparse and beautiful tundra, punctuated only by furry squeaks and guttural munches. Side B is tougher – blips jitter like beetles in a skillet, and pastoral swashes are replaced by a gripey tempest. We get into a decent old slurry around the halfway mark, with slow-moving chords foregrounding a burping, abrasive grind. Finally, a proto-industrial wig out kicks off, the stern beats clattering with the saucy abandon of a vaporwave whiplash. It could run and run, but all too soon the frisson evaporates into a swarm of erotic molecules. Bye-bye, baby.