Help End Police Brutality & May 2020 in Experimental Music

Black Lives Matter. I stand with all those calling for justice, justice for George Floyd, for Breonna Taylor, for Ahmaud Arbory, for Tony McDade, for the countless other Black people murdered by police. It is far past time to defund the police and it is far past time for action against systemic racism in the United States.

The work doesn’t end with social media posts nor words declaring solidarity. Here are some places where you can get more involved with the movement toward justice and educate yourself on the effects of systemic racism:

Paper Magazine lists places to contribute by location

National Bail Fund Network (look up any bail funds near you)

Split Your Bail Fund Donation 40 Ways

Master Twitter Thread of Places to Donate (Updated Continuously)

Justice for George Floyd Petition

More ways you can get involved

Anti-Racism Resources for White People

Reclaim The Block’s List of Organizations to Fund in Minneapolis

For New York City & Brooklyn-based readers:

Brooklyn Community Bail Fund

Write Your Representatives to End Police Secrecy in New York

Brooklyn Movement Center

Equality for Flatbush

Sign the NYC Black Mutual Aid Network Statement (they are not accepting donations as of publishing this post)

Black-owned Restaurants and Bars in NYC

Black Owned Brooklyn


Here’s a list of experimental albums from May 2020 that I particularly enjoyed. Bandcamp is holding two fundraisers in June. The first is on June 5, where they’ll waive their revenue share, and the second is on June 19, where they’ll donate their revenue share to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. Please consider supporting any of these artists, or those reviewed on this site, at those times. 

Fire-Toolz, Rainbow Bridge (Hausu Mountain)

Rainbow Bridge is a record that glistens with a fast-paced beat; it’s perhaps the perfect combination of metal-influenced rage and sparkling computer sounds. Fire-Toolz is a project of Angel Marcloid, and it’s a constantly shapeshifting endeavor. Rainbow Bridge is another example of continual change, bursting with a hybrid of styles and emerging as one explosive album.

Craig Kupka, Crystals: New Music for Relaxation 2 (Folkways, Reissue)

Profiting in the name of self care is an ever-common phenomenon of a late capitalist society that demands endless work for low wages and endless products for you to spend your money on. I was initially uncertain of a record with a title seemingly made for The Algorithm’s “relaxation playlist,” until I remembered music in this vein existed long before anyone decided they needed to profit off of it. Craig Kupka released this record in 1982; it’s a stunning series of drones moving in delightful harmony. The meditative ebb and flow of his horns is transportive and enlightening, providing calm in their sheer beauty. You can buy an overpriced healing crystal or listen to Kupka’s transcendent compositions. The choice is clear.

Okkyung Lee, Yeo-Nun

Yeo-Nun sees Okkyung Lee into new territory: that of conventional forms with subtle hints of raucous experimentation. The album shines most where it melds placid ambience with extended techniques, providing one example of just how wide Lee’s artistic range really is. You can read my thoughts on the album, along with a bunch of other brilliant writers, in Tone Glow.

Bill Nace, Both (Drag City)

Bill Nace’s free improvisation is dark and hypnotic on Both. The guitarist is perhaps most known for his work in Body/Head, a duo he’s in with Kim Gordon, but his meandering solo improvisations are incredibly easy to get lost in. Both rumbles with both the chaos of maximal sound and the uncertainty of sparse echoes. This one’s for all the lovers of ‘80s avant-garde electric guitar noise — its reminiscence suits it well.

ONO, Red Summer (American Dreams Records)

ONO is at once experimental, funk, noise, and dance-worthy, blending the angularity of harsh sound with the inherent fun of a catchy beat. Red Summer delves into the history of race-driven violence during 1919, often referred to as the Red Summer, with particular attention paid to their hometown of Chicago. It’s an electric, futuristic exploration of these events and their aftermath. As a whole, the record takes fully-formed musical and ideological ideas and launches them into one defiant, explosive sound.

Jim O’Rourke, Shutting Down Here (Portraits GRM)

It’s no secret that Jim O’Rourke is a man of many musical tricks. Shutting Down sees him in a contemplative state; the music moves through eerie sparseness and futuristic computer noise, mournful trumpet solos and static drones. Each section of the longform piece is different. The instrumentations vary, the textures vary, the volume varies, and the tonality is never possible to pin down. The result is continually intriguing.

Powers/Rolin Duo, St (Feeding Tube Records)

Powers/Rolin Duo radiates a constant sense of warmth and forward motion on their new record, St. Perhaps fittingly, the cover is a sun rising over the rolling mountains; it feels like a visual depiction of the music you hear as you listen. The Columbus-based duo, comprising Jen Powers on hammered dulcimer and Matthew Rolin on 12-string guitar, blend strands of improvisation and folk traditions into their winding instrumentals. Their music is intricate and transportive, finding transcendence in detailed texture and vibrant harmony. 

I should disclose that the Powers/Rolin Duo are friends of my boyfriend, but rest assured, I would not put a record on this list that I didn’t love.

TALSounds, Acquiesce (NNA Tapes)

TALSounds, the stage name of Chicago-based artist Natalie Chami, makes music that is a reverberant celebration of delicately repeating synth sounds. On Acquiesce, the result is glorious. Listening to the album is like walking through clouds, or gazing at the sky’s sunset. Its atmosphere envelopes you, wrapping you into a world made of subtly intricate harmony.

Various Artists, String Layers (7K!)

String Layers is a captivating collection of new works that feel romantic and lush. The pieces prominently feature string instruments, and many are reminiscent of sweeping film scores and melodic drones. Featuring composers from all over the world, String Layers provides a broad swath of captivating neoclassical music.

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