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Aesthetics on High: Opal Tapes/Black Opal Set to Drop Two Gorgeous New Releases of Desolate Spiritual Drone and Hazy Emotive Techno

It’s both a blessing and a curse that there are so many boutique labels in post-industrial music and other assorted dark electronic genres today. While it’s fantastic that the tsunami of new releases every year have adequate representation, an assortment of absolute gems remain hidden from even those of us that are actually tasked with covering the underground. A recent burst of fascination with Twitter has now unveiled two to me personally:  First there was Ratskin Records and their roster of some of experimental music’s most diverse and talented artists including SPELLLING, Maya Songbird, Beast Nest, and the incredible enviro-power electronics of Styrofoam Sanchez. A more recent revelation was the work being done by British producer and respected mind behind Basic House, Stephen Bishop. His Opal Tapes and vinyl-loaded subsidiary Black Opal imprints have been carrying one of underground music’s most dedicated eyes for aesthetics since 2012 and have never hinted at letting off the accelerator. So, while I’m somewhat embarrassed to have overlooked Bishop’s curatorial work for this long, new releases from Patricia and David Terry & Eye Spirit, detailed below, have certainly locked some focus in his direction.

Patricia – Heavy Merging (12″ EP / Digital)

Heavy Merging

Monochromatic printed sleeve, printed on raw card stock. 140g black vinyl. Artwork by Alexander Binder.

Since debuting on Opal Tapes back in 2013 with Body Issues, Max Ravitz has been consistently prolific under a number of guises in a plethora of places. With his primary focus as Patricia, the Chicago-born, Brooklyn-based producer has delivered an album and supporting EPs to Spectral Sound, as well as additional transmissions for Sleeperhold Publications, Nona Records, and other compilation drops. Meanwhile, he’s formed Black Mold with Lumigraph, DSR.MR with Cloudface, Inhalants with Jahiliyya Fields, Masks with ARP, and Pulpo with Bookworms. These collaborations with equally celebrated practitioners spell out the furtive corner of contemporary techno which Ravitz orbits, where hardware classicism gets channeled towards new plains of atmospheric expression. As well-worn as the tools undoubtedly are, the results are consistently compelling. On this new EP for Black Opal, Ravitz presents four distinct tracks that further establish his gift for evocative techno loaded with feeling and cloaked in the seductive haze of a grainy signal chain.

“Heavy Merge” already feels emotionally weighted as it swoons with the lilting pitch of its pads and the fuzzy bite of a 303, but then “Balance Acid” pushes its own billowing veil of tape-warped melody further up in the mix for a particularly dewy-eyed excursion. In contrast to the grounded, humanistic verve of the A side, “No One Needs Nothing” has a sense of futurism that aims skywards, even with the same ingredients of dusty acid lines, woozy synths and frosty drums powering the sound. “Too Many Takes” runs with this theme, strapping the sonics to an electro framework and fusing dubwise spatial awareness with a limber dance metre led by the blip of the Roland bassline generator.

David Terry & Eye Spirit – The White Horse of the Sun (2xCassette / Digital)

The White Horse of the Sun

Evolving the long-form, doom-laden prophetics of his debut Sorrow, David Terry and accordion are joined by Eye Spirit‘s voice and cello for four nearly half-hour expressions of desolate spiritual drone. The music is caressed by voice and strings, sometimes seemingly plain in approach, just two instruments, two microphones, and a room with a 4-track, but beatific and glorious in execution. The White Horse of the Sun ascends its form into moments of ecstasy struck through a landscape of the bleakly grandiose and opiated.

Released on limited-edition double cassette alongside a reissue of Terry’s Sorrow album from 2018.

Both albums are slated for release on Friday, February 22nd, and will begin shipping on March 1st.

Opal Tapes / Black Opal