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Listed: Ilyas Ahmed + Wrekmeister Harmonies

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Dusted Features

Every Friday, Dusted Magazine publishes a series of music-related lists compiled by our favorite artists. This week: Portland guitarist Ilyas Ahmed and Chicago sound artist Wrekmeister Harmonies.

Listed: Ilyas Ahmed + Wrekmeister Harmonies

Ilyas Ahmed

"I was born in Karachi, Pakistan, placed in a bottle, thrown out to sea and washed up on the shores of ugly/beautiful North Jersey before I could figure out what was going on." This is how multi-instrumentalist Ilyas Ahmed describes his nomadic beginnings. His rise to notoriety, however, has been somewhat steadier. Starting with two self-released CD-Rs of spooked loner folk in 2005 (since re-released on Digitalis), and continuing on a string of well-received but hard-to-come-by self-releases, Ahmedís sound has gradually expanded, reaching an especially atmospheric peak with the drones, double reeds and propulsive acoustic guitar riffs of 2006ís The Vertigo of Dawn (on Time Lag). His latest release, Goner, takes the next step, as Ahmed transforms his broad-church psych vision into a rawer, more electric form. Ahmed currently resides in Portland, Oregon. Goner is set to be released on May 1,2009 on Root Strata.

1. Nijiumu - Era of Sad Wings (PSF)

I was lucky enough to to get ahold of this 12 years ago or so at the beginning of a major obsession with all things Haino, and it still stands as one of my favorite things heís done. I remember sitting in my apartment late at night staring out the window with THAT VOICE coming in and out of the drift of bowed strings/cymbals/whatever the fuck they using and wondering,"How could anyone make music that fits the night air so perfectly?". I still wonder the same thing.

2. Che Mukai - Kokyu Improvisation (PSF)
After becoming obsessed with Haino, I began to get obsessed with all things PSF. I got this used somewhere in Vermont, I think. It took a good 10-20 listens to begin to get my head around it, and it probably still isnít. Mukai is the leader of the completely awesome band Chť-Shizu and this is a solo recording for a Japanese instrument with, I believe, one string. But the thing is thereís all this other stuff going on that sounds like tape manipulation and weird percussion abuse. Along with her damaged, gorgeous vocals.The vibe of this record is right up there with my favorite Jandek sides for those lonely late-night celebrations when, uh, alone.

3. Marcia Bassett / Zaimph
Marcia was in one of my favorite bands ever, the criminally overlooked UN, along with the killer Double Leopards, GHQ (with super-jammer Steve Gunn), and a bunch of other bands ,but her solo turns as Zaimph stand alongside/above my favorites of her work. I was lucky enough to catch a solo set last autumn back east that left my jaw on the ground. Seriously. Complete mastery of the electric guitar as sound/action/thought...something like a mix of Neil Young/Kevin Shields covering Throbbing Gristle with breathtaking deep vocal chants on top. Iíve been rocking the "Bird of Prey/Inclination" 7" lately.

4. Angst Hase Pfeffer Nase - Beatings with Gimpy Flighted Wings Entrapped by Post-Fence of Garish Land (Menlo Park)
If I remember correctly the title is an anagram of something Iím not supposed to reveal. Magma/Steely Dan/minimal techno aficionado Chris Cooper (who also is "lead" guitarist of Fat Worm of Error) unleashed this masterpiece 7 years or so ago. Chris looks like the bastard child of Gallagher and David Crosby (pre-freebase era), but in reality is the bastard child of Mimaroglu, Dumitrescu, and UmmaGumma-era Pink Floyd, and is a total ruler of prepared guitar abuse. He created this monster on 1/2" 8-track tape. I never think of what he does as "noise", in the way I never think of Fahey as "folk" or Sun Ra as "jazz"...the fallacy of genre is way too restrictive. When I first heard this it was like watching the first few moments of a Herzog movie thatís going to make you very, very uncomfortable. And it still does! Check his "follow-up," which came out last year on Ultra-Eczema.

5. Farid El Atrache
Farid was a Syrian born actor/singer/composer/oud player who made tons of movies and records throughout his life. He was known as "King of the Oud" and rightfully so, though I love his singing just as much. I have a bunch of tapes of his I nicked off an aunt of mine years ago that are all in Arabic that are my favorites but I canít read the titles. However, there are available records on cd which run the gamut from solo oud runs to full on Egyptian-crooner mode, all of which kill. I could listen to nothing but him ,Shirley Collins, and Oum Kalthoum forever and be okay with that.

6. Pandit Manilal Nag/ Ustad Ali Ahmad Hussain Khan - Jugalbandi: A Sitar & Shehnai Duet (Rhyme)
This is a live recording [of the raga Desh] from 1998. Khan is a master shenai player and at times his playing sounds like the best feedback guitar solo ever. Amazing.

7. Collie Ryan - The Hour Is Now (Rainbow)
I obsessed over Ryanís track on that Ladies from the Canyon comp that came out a couple of years ago and itís graced many a mixtape Iíve made until this came out. Totally weird fingerpicking style that follows its own logic with a voice that sounds like smoky honey with a beautiful, subtle use of echo. For me this is one of those records you put on when itís kind of hard to separate the light from the dark, one of those records that clears out your eyes so you can see the whole fucking sky. Someone needs to reissue any/every/all the existant recordings.

8. Christina Carter- Lace Hearts (Many Breaths)
I got this a few summers ago while going through a fairly brutal period and didnít listen to anything else for three or four months. Christina is capable of coming up with deceptively simple guitar parts that will burrow into your subconscious while singing the most devastatingly accurate portraits of love and loss like, ever. "Itís my choice...to keep loving you"...destroys me every time. Look for a double lp reissue on Root Strata later in the year.

9. Andrew Hill - Compulsion (Blue Note)
Fortune smiled upon me when I stumbled across Point of Departure when I was fifteen or so. It was the perfect gateway to what came after (ESP-Disk, Actuel, etc.) and lately Iíve been coming back to Hillís records more and more. As a piano player heís a weird mix of Monk and Tatum, but with a totally distinctive voice, a disjointing use of space, and he straddled free/composed parts seemlessly rendering the distinctions meaningless like no one else for me besides Sun Ra or Bill Dixon. Compulsion totally kills with a mixture of repetitive tribal percussion, heavy existential vibe, and some of my favorite playing from John Gilmore. I was so bummed when Andrew died a couple of years ago...

10. John Frusciante - Niandra LaDes & Usually Just a T-Shirt (American)
Yeah, he was/is in a dumb band. Yeah, he was a drug addict. But forget all that shit. This record is so good itís ridiculous. With all the fuss about "psych" and "folk" Iím amazed how few people dig this. Total isolationist masterpiece. Like the all of the best records, this is covered in fingerprints that makes it inseparable from its creator. Tape manipulation, acoustic guitars, backwards guitar solos, impenetrable lyrics, a weird Elton John/David Bowie vibe, Marcel Duchamp cover art reference...itís all here.

Wrekmeister Harmonies

Based in Chicago, composer and sound artist J.R. Robinson works at the intersection of sound art and avant garde music. For the past three years, he has been recording what he calls "sonic templates" in museums across the United States and Europe, in cities such as Pittsburgh, New York, Los Angeles, Paris and Berlin. Robinson then took these recordings and utilized them in studio collaborations with a wide cast of musicians, including Ken Vandermark, David Yow (Jesus Lizard), Mark Shippy and Pat Samson (US Maple), Matt Carson, Nate McBride, Fred Lonberg Holm, John Herndon and Jeff Parker (Tortoise), and Azita. Wrekmeister Harmonies is the result of these collaborations, collecting the museum recordings as well as field recordings made at PS1 Contemporary Art Center and Joshua Tree National Park. Wrekmeister Harmonies will be released by Atavistic Records on April 7, 2009.

Here are ten very good records in no particular order that you might enjoy:

1. Folke Rabe - What?? (Dexterís Cigar)
In 1975, the scholar Robert Erikson described What?? this way: "an elegant touch, all possible timbral dimensions are manipulated: spectral envelope, including harmonic and inharmonic partials; time envelope phenomena, such as beats and tremolo; micropitch changes, both fast and slow.Ē Rabe is Swedish so this came very naturally to him.

2. Black Devil Disco - 28 After (Lo)
French producers Bernard Fevre and Jackie Giordano Ė who credited themselves (inexplicably) as Joachim Sherylee and Junior Claristidge Ė created this moogsterpiece in the 1970s as an homage to Giorgio Moroder. Or did they? Controversy surrounds this record Ė if you look it up on AllMusic itís listed as both ďscaryĒ and ďparty music,Ē which only further complicates matters.

3. Jackson C. Frank - Blues Run The Game (Castle)
You may have had a difficult childhood but surely you werenít horribly disfigured at age eleven by a fireball from an exploding furnace at school that killed fifteen of your classmates. Music is what pulled Frank through but it never saved him. The folk campground is littered with mental illness and suicide but thereís not a more lonely and beautiful tree than Jackson C. Frank.

4. Kevin Drumm - Sheer Hellish Miasma (Editions Mego)
A discourse on sonic depth and dimensions. Best described as an insurmountable wall or a bottomless white hole Ė this transcends categorization as a ďnoiseĒ recording. Exotic mood modifiers are fine, but this will completely clean your mindspace should the need arise.

5. Medio Mutante - Inestable (Cititrax)
Imagine if Human League were formed in Mexico City circa 1979. Mariana SaldaŮaís cool, calm delivery is in Spanish and dropped over a bed of jagged analog synth gear - stay up past an unreasonable hour and enjoy this one.

6. Arnold Schonberg - "Transfigured Night"

Dark forest on a moonlit night, a woman shares a secret with her new lover: Sheís going to have a strangers baby. Get the Czech Philharmonic version and just read the poem aloud to yourself. A string sextet in one piece by the master - if youíve ever found yourself enjoying music of any genre this might be worth looking into.

7. Ace Frehley - Ace Frehely (Casablanca)
Each member of Kiss put out a solo record and that was a huge mistake. Paul Stanleyís record is pretty good, but Ace really delivers . He recorded at his home studio with Anton Fig and Will Lee from David Lettermans band handling drums and bass. An enormously dumb and completely enjoyable listen from start to finish.

8. Peeesseye - Pestilence and Joy
Peeesseye are the next logical step for fans of This Heat, Yoko Ono or those who think John Carpenter never went far enough with the soundtracks he created for his films. Deep bass calls to the junkmanís office for primal scream therapy.

9. Mirror - Viking Burial For A French Car (Plinkity Plonk)
This is like listening to a glacier dissolve. Envision the biggest object youíve ever seen becoming completely undone cell by cell and youíll get an idea about what Christoph Heeman and company are accomplishing here.

10. Xasthur - Nortt / Xasthur (Southern Lord)
You may have a complicated relationship with black metal and thatís completely understandable. The three songs from Xasthur on this split deviate from the normal black metal subjects of satanism and violence and instead focus on the unique beauty of misery, loneliness and despair.

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