J. Gräf: Os
At the moment, Os is the most disarmingly beautiful batch of local music to come out this year. The latest solo outing of sound/visual artist Jenny Gräf Sheppard--the former Bride of No No who has plied her considerable talents to Metalux (a duo with MV Carbon), Harrius (a duo with Chiara Giovando), and numerous social experiments--Os plunges the brain into a hallucinogenic environment of electronics collage, haunting voice, the occasional bowel-massaging low tone, and a gravitational pull into the sublime.
Over six tracks, Gräf layers mood upon texture upon idea until the sounds become a strange, breathing hybrid organism. A gurgling hum traces the terrain under the twinkling starlight bleeps in the slowly developing intro of "The Last Season," onto which Gräf adds bricks of fluttery fuzz and loops of static as if making trees out of raw materials and prehistoric DNA. Dancing water bugs of electronic plinks announce the wobbly pulse pushing opener "Perspectrum" along at a molten lava pace; it eventually becomes a woozy whorl that envelops the head like protective gauze when Gräf's vocals come in around the five and half minute mark.
By the time you get there you feel like you've wandered far past the dark woods where Hansel and Gretel came across that inviting gingerbread house and onto some other nether region, one just as visually chthonic but where nobody wants to eat you. It's a surprisingly welcoming place: What sounds like a single guitar note processed and resonated into a rippling soundwave opens "Black Leg," a four-minute seduction featuring Gräf's most hypnotic vocal performance here. This murky jolt of raga psych continues Os' odyssey into a great unknown while reassuring you that it's not all going to end in bared fangs and sharp claws. That suspicion is born out in "Trainsidual Native," a canoe ride of comforting strings and Gräf's voice, before ending in "Spark Me," a rhythmic brain massage that crawls along the ground a bit before aiming for the Wagnerian.
On the other hand, Peradam--Gräf's collaboration with Double Leopards' Marcia Bassett (formerly the mighty Un)--is out to scare you shitless. This three-track monster--out on the impeccably curated Utech Records--is out to hijack that space between the ears and hold it for ransom. Opener "Zero as Sky" sounds like the final, frantically disorienting 17 minutes of life before death by swarming bees. "Black Waters Glow" eases up a bit with a dip into just plain eerie folk, a romantic interlude for a date with dark forces by two women who don't fear Satan. Closer "Phantasmagorical Mapping," though, plunges you right back into the abyss, 15 minutes of falling deep into a humid, pitch black well you know you're never getting out of.