Zságer Balázs

Aqua Obscura

Just the other day, in my OUT TODAY column, I briefly mentioned the new album by Zságer Balázs, a Hungarian electronic musician, a FREE SEQUENCE label owner, and the leader of the band Žagar, with writing credits in more than a few albums and soundtracks, yet somehow new to my ears. I kept coming back to this solo debut, and after numerous listens, I decided to share it with you in this ⟪ REW | FF ⟫ column, where I quickly rewind the music I missed and fast forward to the music released in the future. I frequently get pitches that start with the line, “This album will be a perfect fit for you…” but more often than not, they are the complete opposite – improvisational jazz, GarageBand soft rock, or a children’s choir [please, stop!], but this time, it was indeed very different [finally!]. Darkness descends from my speakers at night, sounds of the bubbling cauldron, mysterious rituals, synthesized folklore of pagan descent. This is more like it! This I can dig! On Aqua Obscura, each track “serves as a vessel, guiding listeners through the seven seas and hazy forest lakes, where the boundaries between reality and imagination blur.” Some tracks, such as “Pagana Rito”, remind me of RaimeDemdike Stare, and Silent Servant. Less percussive but more textural, this music weaves a rich tapestry of classic analogue synthesizers [like the ARP 2600] and the latest modular innovations, painting a modern cinematic journey of occult ceremonies and otherworldly myths. Recommended to fans of the above-mentioned acts and followers of the uncomfortable sonics. You can find this on Bandcamp or a limited edition compact cassette.



I’ve been a loyal follower of Zach Frizzell‘s meditations as zakè ever since the launch of his Past Inside The Present label in 2018. I think the first record I covered on these pages was the 2019 Orchestral Tape Studies, in which he paid homage to minimalist symphonic composers by using fragmented orchestral loops woven with oscillating repetitive strands of textural ambient drone. His label is now more or less the staple sound of contemporary electronic and ambient music – and yes, even I had the pleasure of joining the family with my 2023 album Sacred Tonalities [plug!]. Last week, this “healing sound propagandist” returned with a brand new 4-piece long-playing album, once again incorporating droning loops revolving around Gorecki’s Symphony No. 3, this time released on his Zakè Drone Recordings offshoot, reserved for his solo and collaborative works. “In the narrative of the album, we get the sense of conscious thought ceasing as we crest a hill, discover a long-abandoned home, and wander amid its debris and forgotten mementoes.” This is an all-absorbing slow-burner, best left to wake you into the present moment and to lull you for the night. I truly appreciate all of the complex layering on this album because it invites me to return to the storyline and hear new, exquisite elements. If you’re just discovering this prolific Indianapolis-based American artist, you’re in for a treat, and you can traverse his vast catalogue with nearly a dozen releases each year! Between that and running the label, I don’t know where he finds the time! And if you’re keeping up, get ready for his new album Dolere, out via Joachim Spieth‘s Affin on June 7th. Gorgeous!

Josh Varnedore

the thunder might save us

As promised with the title of this column, this last entry is a projection into the future, where I will tell you about a fantastic upcoming album, and you’ll just have to wait. Don’t you love anticipation versus instant gratification with everything so readily accessible in our lives these days? In this case, I’ve got an album by Josh Varnedore, whom I only heard of before from Dynamophone Records. This time, he appears on the venerable Hammock Music imprint, which is usually reserved for the Nashville-based Hammock output. Except that Varnedore has appeared there before, for his collaboration with Amman Abbasi (yes, of The Abbasi Brothers), back in 2018 as Amman / Josh. “Delving into cavernous darkness and emerging with glimmering light, Josh Varnedore’s ambient soundscapes reverberate with an ancient, earthen warmth. Reverent and immersed in the natural world, the Ohio-based multimedia artist finds inspiration and more in the hills of Ohio and Arkansas, where he prospects for crystals and natural objects of wood and bone to incorporate into his music and art.” Fans of heavily textured, slightly dark, elemental and organic ambience, brought carefully into the light by the mastering touch of Taylor Deupree, will find themselves right at home here [I could also almost imagine this album appearing on the Lost Tribe Sound label]. The first single from the album, “spill through the clouds like a river of light”, along with a video, can be streamed directly from Hammock Music’s Bandcamp, and I would also urge you to invest in that handmade compact disc edition (there are two versions) before it sells out!