SOFT EYESJohn Duncan
LP released by iDEAL with cover image by Gary Jo Gardenhire and design by Philip Marshall.
Quietly stunning, sensitive songcraft by boundary-pushing avant gardist John Duncan on a starkly haunting and timelessly beautiful new album of observations on society and intimacy, featuring Eiko Ishibashi, Stefano Pilia and friends, and highly recommended if yr feeling Scott Walker, Keiji Haino, Jandek, Tom Waits, Mark Lanegan, David Thomas & Two Pale Boys.
In pursuit of the haunted muse that's informed Duncan's boundary-pushing work since the late '70s, and which has lit up the iDEAL catalogue over the past half decade, 'Soft Eyes' renders Duncan's oblique reading of the psychic zeitgeist in subtly contrasting sides of furtively rhythm-driven and richly atmospheric songcraft. In keeping with his reputation as a sort of avant garde shaman or psychopomp, there's something unfathomably timeless and ineffably eternal about his work on 'Soft Eyes', which follows the course of his modern classics such as the songbook of wizened covers 'Bitter Earth' (2016), and last year's 'Red Sky' 2CD, without feeling like he's retreading old ground, and still sounding vitally unusual.
The record's first half centres on Duncan's thoughts on social energy and failure, from crowds to tribal gatherings, in a low-key but extraordinary style. Chamber wind meets a metallic pulse somewhere between dembow and Yemeni folk to underline his achingly hoarse vocals on 'The Rabid Position', while the lurking vox of 'Say No' smartly reaffirms his counter-cultural cache, and the queered ambience of 'Homecoming' sees him slip into a sort of curdled tribal reverie.
On the other hand, the B-side dwells in a starker, more intimate half light, with songs stripped to a spectral quintessence between the petal-fall keys and prickly sax of 'Foreplay', a face freezing, ASMR-triggering beauty titled 'Frenzy' (featuring synth and mixing from Eiko Ishibashi), and an unmissable, abyss-hovering vision 'Resolve', and pooling into the miasmic folk strings and stygian glyde of 'The Beautiful Attempt.'
BACKFIRE OF JOYPhew, John Duncan, Kondo Tatsuo recorded live at Hosei University, Tokyo.
LP released by Black Truffle with cover photo and design by Lasse Marhaug.
Black Truffle is thrilled to announce Backfire of Joy, a previously unheard recording from Phew, John Duncan and Kondo Tatsuo, documenting a concert at Tokyo's Hosei University in 1982. Though the fertile exchange of 'zines, tapes and records between the Japanese underground and the Los Angeles Free Music Society meant the artists were familiar with each other's work, this performance (occurring on Duncan's first visit to Japan) was their first meeting and only performance as a trio.
Duncan is heard on his signature shortwave radio set-up, while Kondo performs on synth, tape loops and echo-drenched piano, providing a spacious backdrop for Phew's astonishing performance of spontaneous, free-associative song moving between Japanese and English. A testament to the unhinged exploration of the 1980s experimental underground, the trio careen wildly between crashing percussive tape loops, deluges of shortwave noise, insistent piano figures and playful synth melodies. On the B side, we are treated to a remarkable ten minute sequence moving organically from spaced-out synth and radio textures to a stunning finale of improvised balladry centred on piano and voice, unexpectedly broken up by electronic interjections. Beautifully recorded in crunchy vintage fidelity, Backfire of Joy arrives accompanied by archival photographs and newly authored liner notes from all three participants.
TRY AGAINJohn Duncan and Stefano Pilia
LP released by Maple Death
Photos and text by Matilde Piazzi
400 copies in black vinyl
100 copies in purple vinyl
20 copies with unique artwork by Duncan
US podcast: CvltNation
Italian podcast: Sentireascoltare
Distorted classical choral recordings, synths, processed guitar… The exquisitely complex human-machine interface experiments conducted by Stefano Pilia are kept in a delicate balance by John Duncan's lyrics and the soulful quality of his vocals, for an album of electroacoustic songs that are a unique blend for both artists. Seeds and memories from the past are re-actualized in the present through a machine electroacoustic compositional process creating a dark, gloomy and terrifying image of the future. Duncan's lyrics offer a counterpointing liberation to the machine processes in action here, poetically revealing the dark and intimate struggle between the human soul and its rapport with the machine.
These recordings are a point of departure for Matilde Piazzi's inspired liner notes and photos, that take this release to another level entirely, becoming a metaphor for contemporary efforts to reach the limits of knowledge and discovery, their heroic nature and their inevitable failure.
Both artists worked on their respective sections in isolation, Pilia in an industrial area of central Bologna, Duncan in the wilderness several kilometers south of the urban sprawl. Together, their recordings developed an almost magnetic attraction that seemed to meld effortlessly.
The experience of listening quickly takes on a cinematic quality, exquisitely moving from an oceanic uplifting (Try Again) to the depths of apocalyptic, unsettling vocals (Fare Forward), constantly maintaining a lush, richly complex tapestry. The linear understanding of time is suddenly gone, dominated by a crushing machine-defined present, with Duncan's lyrics and vocals becoming a shamanic portal to a possible future.
AMERICAN CANNIBALISMEdward Paul Quist
Video produced and directed by Quist featuring Duncan as the cannibal.