Friday Five: Night Office, Shells, Dr. Pete Larson, Benoît Pioulard, Kai West
Friday Five highlights music by Washtenaw County-associated artists and labels.
This week features an ambient-autumn theme with Night Office, Shells, Dr. Pete Larson, Benoît Pioulard, and Kai West soundtracking fireside chats and haunted nights. Immerse yourself.
Night Office, Harmonize
Chien-An Yuan describes the latest release on his Ann Arbor label 1473 as "the lovechild of Plaid, Thomas Bangalter's score to Irreversible, Tangerine Dream's Exit, Vangelis, and Boards of Canada"—and all I can say is, thank you for doing my job because those ambient-music and electronic-composer touchstones are dead-on. Chicago-based Night Office is Jon Monteverde and Chris Sherman, and their Harmonize is a terrific album on headphones—and any other way you listen to it—because there's a lot of space in the soundfield despite being very detailed music. This kind of mix allows your brain to key in on all the clicks, whirrs, and whumps coming out of the speakers, giving you a fuller picture of Night Office's textured tunes. Five stars, three thumbs up, and one hallelujah for Harmonize.
This four-song EP doesn't come out until November 18, but the first single, "Falling Leaves," is out now and definitely fits our theme this week. Shells is the solo project of Shelley Salant—and if you don't know that name, check out this 2018 Pulp article on this Michigan music MVP. An Ann Arbor-Detroit mainstay, Salant's Shells project is where she explores solo guitar sounds, weaving repeating arpeggios into a ringing hypnotic mass.
Dr. Pete Larson, Field Drift 1
In recent years, Ann Arbor's Dr. Pete Larson has explored nyatiti jams that meld Western psychedelic rock with Kenyan folk music. (My fellow elderlies will also know him as the guitarist in Couch and 25 Suaves among many other bands.) But Field Drift 1 is just the good doctor alone with his guitars, effects pedals, and synthesizers creating menacing ambient textures with the occasional techno kick drum submerged in the mix or a hi-hat ticking away on top. All 10 tracks were recorded live with no overdubs, but despite those limitations, Field Drift 1 still projects an immersive—and haunting—world of sound.
Viul & Benoît Pioulard, Konec
Benoît Pioulard & Jogging House, Communiqué
Michigan native and former Ann Arbor resident Benoît Pioulard (Thomas Meluch) is so prolific and his work so universally lovely that it's hard to speak on each release as an individual statement. You're either all in with Pioulard's hazy ambient universe or it will never come into focus for you. (I'm all in.) The 12-track Konec is Pioulard's collaboration with Viul (Luke Entelis), built on the latter's short synth sketches. Pioulard's Communiqué with Jogging House features four drawn-out and droney pieces that clock in at 14 to 15 minutes each. It's all amazing, soothing music to cuddle with throughout the chilly fall nights and cold winter mornings.
Kai West, Spontaneous Organisms
I would like to thank Ann Arbor's Kai West for not only making a beautiful debut record, Spontaneous Organisms, but also for providing a succinct description of it and allowing me to end this column the same way it started—by cribbing words from someone else: "A collection of ambient pieces that explore the macrocosmic and microcosmic elements of different worlds. Made using electric guitars and effects pedal processing and recorded in single takes directly onto 1/4" tape."
Christopher Porter is a library technician and the editor of Pulp.