On his latest 3-track album Absorb/Fabric/Cascade, the Danish electronic instrumentalist Jonas Munk lives up to Brian Eno’s ideal for ambient music, creating pieces that are placid and soothing enough that they can be ignored, yet are detailed enough to be interesting listening for those who listen closely.
Munk is known for his prolific work under the moniker Manual on labels Morr Music and Darla and his collaborations with German musician Ulrich Schnauss, and has recently been releasing music under his own name, which should appeal to his Manual fanbase.
The first track, the 15-minute “Absorb,” uses gradually varying timbres to portray slight movement, then uses bouncing notes with a metallic ring to them; it goes through nuanced transitions with gentle pulses and a soft bubbling like aural tonic water.
Toward the end of the piece, shimmering chords emerge, resembling rays of light that penetrate parting clouds, giving the conclusion a sort of divine atmosphere to it.
“Fabric” uses simple patterns that are repeated in different placements along the left-to-right stereo channel spectrum. The patterns twist and turn on themselves, mapping out some labyrinthine design, and a shortcut to complexity is made through the use of repetition and layering, creating a lot from a little.
Within the strata are details such as the synthetic puffs of what sounds like a baby steam engine and muffled sheets of static; as the piece resolves itself, a piano brings a sort of human aspect to the otherwise artificial song, among modulating tones.
The third and final track “Cascade” lets single notes emerge and then dissipate; eventually, the isolated notes appear in congregation, over a low-frequency webbing. Only toward the piece’s last few minutes does its title become apparent, with the trickling sound of a figurative melting glacier turning into glistening mini-waterfalls.
Munk’s new album is satisfying, calming and good for listeners who want to mentally concentrate, on either an unrelated task or the subtle details of the music at hand.
Joanna Gruesome / Perfect Pussy
For those of us who still enjoy music on physical media and as a partially tactile experience, there’s the split 7-inch EP from punk bands Joanna Gruesome and Perfect Pussy packaged in the black-and-white comic book Astonishing Adventures! from Phil McAndrew; the fairly silly comic uses ridiculous stereotypes and stars the super-heroine Joanna Gruesome, battling an anonymous Internet troll who uses Photoshop for evil, from his parents’ basement.
After getting over its somewhat groan-worthy band name, this writer thoroughly enjoyed the Welsh outfit Joanna Gruesome’s 2013 album Weird Sister, with prickly kinetic energy and a spoonful of honey.
On side A, Joanna Gruesome starts things off on “Psykick Espionage” with a burst of simulated machine gun fire from drums and guitars, and vocalist Alanna McArdle alternates with the music between a confrontational delivery (think Kathleen Hanna) and a sweet, brisk indie-pop style.
The group’s second offering is a cover of a song by I Hate Myself, which keeps things concise and urgent with its 2/4 beat and creates chaos with squealing feedback in the background, and it’s over before you know it.
“Adult World (The Secret)” from the Syracuse band Perfect Pussy is a joyous romp, belying the pain in its lyrics, smooshed together in a giant ball of fuzz; one can discern chord changes and its pounding beats, but not much else, with lead singer Meredith Graves’ charged vocals melding into the aural mosh pit.
Perfect Pussy’s second track is a cover of “A Leash Called Love” originally by the Icelandic band The Sugarcubes (which featured Björk), and at first, it is a relatively straightforward cover. However, in its second act, it offers warped passages, resembling someone knob-twiddling on a digital delay pedal, then post-punk synthetic beats and minimal electronic notes and faint chipmunk vocals.
Overall, the EP offers a nice blast from each artist, but it just hints at their potential.