September 2020 in Experimental Music

On my quarantine-sanctioned walk yesterday, I noticed that crunchy leaves coated the park’s rocky pavement. I hadn’t even observed that the trees had begun to turn yellow, their leaves browned and fell off before I even knew fall had arrived. I glanced at my phone. It was October. 

The sun hangs lower in the sky now, more distant from Earth. There’s less warmth against my skin, less radiance in the air. Fewer people swarm the park in groups searching for companionship in this time of isolation. But it’s been warm out, so warm that I couldn’t tell how much time had passed.

Isn’t it strange, how time moves so slowly and so quickly all at once? How fast summer’s gentle breezes transform into fall’s chilly winds. Yet, 30 days had passed. This year has been a blur, but an eternity. I can’t quite remember what it felt like at the last concert I went to, or what it was like to take my daily walks without a mask. But I did those things, and I did them not very long ago. 

Indeed, another month has passed in our increasingly surreal reality. I mark the passing of time with new releases, meticulously combing through press materials and articles and substacks to find new things to listen to. Music has always been and will always be my home, even as my sense of time waxes and wanes.

Here is a list of just 7 of the albums I particularly enjoyed this past month. Today is Bandcamp Friday, the day in which Bandcamp waives its share of revenue in order to support artists. If you will be purchasing music today, please consider using that platform. 

And, as always, happy listening.


Galya Bisengalieva, Aralkum (One Little Independent Records)

The Aralkum Desert was the Aral Sea, until all its water dried up. On Aralkum, violinist Galya Bisengalieva traces this climate disaster through music, mapping its story in three parts of lush, pulsating drones. Bisengalieva is perhaps most known for her work as the leader of the London Contemporary Orchestra, and her collaborations with artists like Frank Ocean, Moor Mother, and Radiohead. But here, she shines completely on her own, with a flair for the experimental: her rich, ominous atmospheres are made of intricate layers of field recordings, electronics, and violin noodling. Each carefully-chosen layer is symbolic, and together, they make a mesmerizing collection of sounds. This is a debut record you don’t want to miss.  

Judith Hamann, Peaks (Black Truffle)

Peaks is Judith Hamann’s debut album, and it’s her first foray into creating something meant to be recorded first and performed later. The cellist is most known for her live performances and collaborative work with artists like Charles Curtis and Sarah Hennies, but here, we get to listen to her practice as its own entity, recorded at a remote artist residency. On Peaks, her music is gradual and subtle, wavering through gentle pitches and radiant tones. Her music is delicate but powerful, finding its groove in its penchant for change and slow motion. 

Sarah Hennies, The Reinvention of Romance (Astral Spirits)

Sarah Hennies’ The Reinvention of Romance explores the meaning of cohabitation through sparse, gradually morphing sound. It is moving and transformative. It is also the first album I gave a 10 to this year. (my original, full review, alongside many others, can be found in Tone Glow).

iT Boy, Never Early EP
I first discovered iT Boy’s music earlier this year, with May’s The Nail House EP, a short and radiant collection of pieces. Never Early EP is much more extended; iT Boy’s psychedelic experimentations flow with ease between sounds, styles, and instruments. It’s the kind of record to get lost in, music that’s effortless but complex, and always immersive.

Brendon Randall-Myers, dynamics of vanishing bodies (New Focus Recordings)

dynamics of vanishing bodies sees composer and electric guitarist Brendon Randall-Myers build on his experience as a metal guitarist and conductor/member of the Glenn Branca Ensemble to create a new era for the electric guitar quartet. Composed for the New York-based quartet, Dither, the piece is off-kilter and sparse, harmonic and dense. But beyond all the sound, it finds resonance in its undercurrents of poignancy and introspection. Its mass eventually becomes all-consuming, until it dies down into the flames of its remaining resonance. 

Tasting Menu, Mueller Tunnel (Full Spectrum)

On Mueller Tunnel, Tasting Menu, a trio comprising Cassia Streb, Cody Putman, and Tim Feeney, explores the resonances of Southern California’s Mueller Tunnel through experimenting with ordinary sounds. The resulting music is sparse but resonant, uncovering the magic within the natural world. You can read my full review here.

Michi Wiancko, Planetary Candidate (New Amsterdam Records)

On Planetary Candidate, violinist and composer Michi Wiancko celebrates her instrument and the friends of hers that compose. Wiancko herself wears many hats—performing classical violin and composing experimental operas, for example—but here, the virtuosic exploration of her violin is the centerstage. Each piece illuminates a different aspect of the possibilities of the instrument: sweet melodies, reverberant sounds, fast-paced agitation. This album is a wonderful adventure into Wiancko’s practice and the world of modern violin playing itself. (a full review of this album is forthcoming)


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