Another year of our favorites in Top Album Cover Artwork, and once again, we interview musicians and artists on the often-underappreciated work that goes into creating a product that not only tickles your ears, but speaks to your eyes and hearts. Album artwork, though often...

No one seems to be able to stop talking about Kendrick Lamar this year, and while we are no different from the rest in that regard, we've naturally made the effort, as usual, to put together an Albums of the Year list that is typically...

Platform, the second full-length from San Francisco musician, producer, and conceptual artist Holly Herndon, tackles the many confusing, conflicted layers of modern living, in the form of a poppy, accessible dancefloor sound sculpture. ...

Hypnotic new tracks from Stellar OM Source's latest RVNG Intl release, Nite-Glo, plus a track premiere for "Big Metal" by Portland's HITS (featuring members of the now-defunct Explode Into Colors and !!!, who crafted their record at Andrea Zittel's A-Z West compound in Joshua Tree....

The origins of Craig Leon's Nommos/Visiting lie in the ancient art of the Dogon tribe from Mali, who worshipped a race of amphibious extraterrestrials, known as the “Nommos”, who were said to come from the distant star supposedly known as Sirius B. The strange thing about Sirius B is that it is invisible to the naked eye, and science only verified its existence in the 20th century, long after the Dogon tribe had already established a deep mythology around it. This intersection of science and spirituality, of the ancient and the modern, lies at the heart of this stunning collection from RVNG Intl., packaged with the usual lavish care and attention to detail, in which Craig Leon simulates a soundtrack for interstellar travel for the Nommos, using a battalion of cutting-edge-at-the-time synthesizers and drum machines. Craig Leon - Nommos/Visiting Album Review Craig Leon is not some undiscovered private press new age genius. Rather, he is best known for production duties on some of the '70s most adventurous records, from some of New York's arthouse elite, including Suicide, Television, The Ramones, and Blondie, which places "Nommos/Visiting" at the intersection of punk rock and new wave, industrial music, early hip-hop, and world music. This is no slice of musical soma; this is a transmission from the crossroads.

 

When asked about the influence of late '70s and early '80s electronic music on his own record, A Period of Review, Seattle ambient pioneer and head of the Palace Of Lights label Kerry Leimer told The Ransom Note:
What interests me most about "A Period of Review" is the sense that it really is that period now in review. So many years on, in the constant rush and search for something "new" there's plenty of evidence that alot can be overlooked and never fully comprehended. Especially now, when more work is published than any one individual could ever hope to have even a passing familiarity with, it's always helpful to at least understand the way ideas and aesthetics about expression originate and evolve."
A Period In Review (Original Recordings 1975-1983), a lavishly packaged document for RVNG Intl.'s stunning archival series, rewinds the clock to investigate this period through the works of the under-known/under-appreciated luminary, K. Leimer.

At certain times in the lives of those who listen, dreams, both in wake and at rest, can serve as a rich breeding ground of inspiration. Tapping into our subconscious can bring about flurries of sonic or visual cues from which to further develop ideas, and for artist-musicians like Christelle Gualdi of the solo electronic project Stellar OM Source, such a practice might even be the initial spark of a music video to a song you'd written. In describing the vision in her mind's eye, Gualdi explains:
"While waking up one morning, an image of a Japanese girl dressed in a kimono and walking along the edge of a swimming pool surrounded by fog appeared to me. This image became the inspiration point for "Polarity". I developed the abstract narrative arc from this conscious dreaming: the women, the kimonos, the water choreography and the reflective play of light. "As we shot, the pieces fell right into place. The set felt like an animated fashion shoot, exaggerated details in the exchange between the beautiful women of the water. A feel of mystery and expectation initiates the sequences. I needed a central character to direct the energy flow, and the girl in blue face became this. When she submerges underwater, we understand her role. The flashbacks explain more before the ballet begins. The object of their dance is revealed in the end: polarity as an exchange of beauty."
Gualdi's physical interpretation of this vision utilizes underwater cameras and minimal but rich abstractions, as if to capture the qualities of the subconscious in symbolic form. In the Q&A below, she further expands on this music video, both with regards to its concept, inspiration, and execution.

 

At this moment, your mind is receiving stimuli that defines the space around you. Infinite waves of molecular interactions are coursing through your body, separating isness from notness, being from perception, object from space; determining the contours of your physical and mental limits while daring you to shatter them. Space is your space, the loop from your mind to subject and back. There is room for much confusion here due to latency -- the time it takes to complete the loop -- but there is also room for exploration, for realization, and for creation. How we fill the space is up to us. The opportunity a wonderful gift which can be made even more powerful when we share it with other people -- when we bottle the loop so that others can trace its orbit. We do this through every creative act, and yet, some are more obvious than others. Architecture, for example, or sculpture, but what about words? What about music? There are sounds that define and create spaces that feel more real than those confirmed by visual or physical cues. These are the sounds that characterize the music of both Sun Araw, M. Geddes Gengras, and The Congos. All three artists are prone to constructing material hallucinations from sonic vibrations. And now, in 2012, we have Icon Give Thank, a record combining Sun Araw's desert acid zones with The Congos' Kingston temples into one heroic dose. Cameron Stallones of Sun Araw, Geddes Gengras, Ashanti Roy of The Congos, and director Tony Lowe all chime in on this interview, to offer a glimpse into the divergent cultural and creative worlds that intersected in the creation of a final record and short film product.

Sun Araw

"Crete" from Ancient Romans

M. Geddes Gengras

April 2012 Tour Set

The Congos

"Fisherman" From Heart Of The Congos