this review originally appeared in Thaumaturgy, a blog dedicated to new experimental and psychedelic music
axolotl | self-titled
Although I've seen them play, and can thus confirm that Axolotl's Karl Bauer and William Sabiston are, in fact, human beings, it's still hard for me to imagine actual people making this music. With this disc (their debut), Axolotl have taken the most humanistic qualities of musicthings like melody, harmony, the lyricand flayed them away, building seven pieces from what survives. "What survives" is mostly sonic material at its rawest: woozy electronic oscillations and ping, violin scrabblings, wordless murmuring, the unidentifiable sounds of things being scratched or ground against one another.
By voiding the easy techniques of self-expression, Bauer and Sabiston flirt with the inhuman, but without taking the (also easy) route of creating music that is mechanistic or robotic. Although these songs use electricity (most are positively thick with ozonic reek) they also feel distinctly organic. Like the amplified naturalism of Thuja, or the Sun Blindness Music of 1960s John Cale, Axolotl have unearthed things here that seem less like "songs" and more like natural artifacts, the byproducts of a world that teems with physical forces. And, as with any sampling of natural byproducts, we have some which are ugly and fearsome, and some which are beautiful and transcendent (the calm, crystalline drone which constitutes the album's final third being a good example of the latter).
All in all, another worthwhile album for fans of the New Electronic Sublime.