October 2020 in Experimental Music

As I took my third lap around the perimeter of Maria Hernandez Park, I heard the crunches of my feet walking on top of dried out plant matter. The sun was distant, no longer warming my skin the way it once did. I’ve always been sensitive to seasonal changes, but the way that time passes in quarantine makes it feel like I’m drifting along without structure; I barely realized it was October in the first place. This year has felt like one extended day, yet somehow the leaves of trees still knew to turn red and yellow last month; nature is omnipresent and transcendant. 

My creativity dwindled with the shortening days. I watched the sunset, yellow light glimmering out over the silhouette of One World Trade as cold air rushed around me, and I didn’t feel the rays of hope that usually stream from wide open skies. I cancelled a trip to help stop the spread and I wrote a bunch of stories, but my imagination was stilted, trying to push through a cloud that was forming at the front of my brain, a fog so thick it couldn’t dissipate over night.

Creativity is a magical intangible — a force that sometimes bleeds itself dry and sometimes overflows at the brim. I feel most at home when my imagination is vibrant, bright colors streaming through my mind’s eye, bursting with fantastical images and music. It’s impossible to feel that way every day, but when I do, I feel like I can accomplish anything. I felt that spirit rush through me yesterday once again, so strong I could almost hold it in my hands, glinting like the stars in the sky, lightyears away.

The weight of the world is heavy, but I find that art makes it lighter. I hope this list of October 2020 releases sparks your curiosity and gives you inspiration. I’ve posted with brief, whimsical commentary to maximize the starry-eyed feeling of this post.


Oliver Coates, skins n slime (RVNG Intl.)
Rejuvenating metallic cello sounds for the contemplative moments.

Wendy Eisenberg, Auto (Ba Da Bing Records)
A collection of surrealist miniature songs that find their groove in layers of subtly surprising twists and turns.

Ash Fure, Something to Hunt (Sound American)
Gritty, visceral sound of all kinds that captures the essence of storytelling through the drama of tension and release. (Read my full profile on Fure’s music here).

Devin Gray & Gerald Cleaver, 27 Licks (Rataplan Records)
Irresistible beats and intricate patterns, subtle but full—a vital exploration of the possibilities of improvisation on percussion.

Judith Hamann, Shaking Studies and Music for Cello and Humming (Blank Forms)
Gentle explorations of the interaction between and unification of body and instrument.

Sarah Hennies, Spectral Malsconcities (New World Records)
Bearthoven and Bent Duo perform the slowly unfolding, rhythmic music of composer Sarah Hennies on this hypnotic album of stripped-down, uneasy sound.

J. Pavone String Ensemble, Lost and Found (Astral Spirits)
Soft chamber music that speaks to the soul, content to patiently hang in stasis to glean every sentiment from each transient note.

Kaki King, Modern Yesterdays (Cantaloupe Music)
Rolling, powerful guitar that burrows, unforgettably, into the brain.

John Kolodij, First Fire • At Dawn (Astral Editions)
Drones that gradually grow into swarming masses of sound that mesmerize with hints of melodies layered between the looming atmospheres; the first is ominous, the second glimmers with the shining veneer of hope.

George Lewis, Rainbow Family (Carrier Records)
An always surprising, delightfully sparse recording from 1984 of George Lewis’s “virtual orchestra.”

Mary Lattimore, Silver Ladders (Ghostly International)
Mystical harp for those whose heads are in the stars.

Longform Editions October Batch
Four releases that traverse a range of sonic expressions: the strife of a breakup funneled through the sounds of memory, gentle streams of billowy electronics, suspended drones that seem to transcend time.

Adrianne Munden-Dixon, Patterns and Cycles (Self-released)
Bright, colorful violin improvisations, each a compact vision that traverses everything from catchy, danceable melodies to scratchy cacophony.

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