Better Corners

Continuous Miracles, Vol.2

Lockdown project featuring members of Tomaga, Talk Normal and It Hugs Back prove a compellingly psychedelic listen for Jakub Knera

Imagine an art-rock noise band playing a show at the Overlook Hotel from Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. That’s how I see Better Corners when I listen to Continous Miracles, vol. 2. The trio brings together musicians with expansive horizons and experience: Valentina Magaletti played in Tomaga, Holy Tongue, UUUU, and Vanishing Twin for years, Sarah Register formed Talk Normal in late 2000, and in recent years she has been involved in music mastering and engineering, and Matthew Simms was a member of It Hugs Back and later joined post-punk outfit Wire as well as working within several ensembles.

The band was born during the pandemic and made music remotely, which resulted in their debut, Modern Dance Gold, vol. 1, released a year ago, that would cross somewhere where industrial vibe meets intimate shoegaze in a way Grouper does. Continuous Miracles, vol. 2 is as much an album of intriguing compositional ideas as it is formal constructions.

It’s not easy to find a common point in Better Corners’ music – it leads you to look at the panorama of what you can find here. ‘Modulating De Niro’ takes as its starting point a song by a pop band, Bananarama, from which a piano excerpt provides a spacey oneiric composition. It’s not a catchy, distorted motif but rather a loose impression that, as quickly as it appears, runs through modular synth patches and FX chains until it becomes completely unrecognizable. The most melodic and song-like on the album, ‘Cremated Pets’, results from bowed treated guitars, hypnotic hand drums, water bowls, and bells, evolving into a warped version of dream-pop. Ambient backgrounds suggest Stars of the Lid and Sarah Register reminds me of how Claire Rousay uses her voice, but at one point, field recordings come to the fore.

‘Career Test’ is distinguished by an ambient background line, isolated bass parts, and noise, but the recorded voice seems foregrounded here. Then, against a hazy background of distorted vocals, a drum line appears, which, in a somewhat krautrock way, unleashes the band. Guitar crescendos grow, rasping wails until everything is lost in a bass twilight with metallic vagaries in the background. It is an unusual suite, a sound sculpture, which could work as an installation. That long formula is absorbing when heard alongside the next one, ‘My Second Rubber Home’, a dreamlike impression in a shoegaze background with slightly perceptible melodies. The voice can barely be heard, like those vague speakers on train stations, and is accompanied by roadside metallic swells with a city soundscape in the background. The prog rock lines on ‘Cher’s Autotune Lives with My Ex’ are reminiscent of Popol Vuh, whereas ‘Continous Miracles’ is based on a piano solo against a backdrop of swells.

In describing music, it usually doesn’t make sense to follow each track, but in this case, it is different. This plunderphonic trio experiments with sound sketches, vocal experiments, post-production, sound deformation, ambient landscapes, and noise interventions. The result lies somewhere between experimental rock, analog sound, noise tape experiments, and elements of field recording collages mixed with musique concrète. The whole album works as an unusual post-modern concept, a collage in which melodies are outlined indistinctly, textures creak, and analogue tools make the entire thing sound as if it were dusty, decaying. The unreal music closes capably with each passing minute, building up a broad panorama of 21st-century inspirations from trance-like variations, spoken word, melodic outlines, and psychedelic escapades. All are covered by a vigilantly controlled cloud of excellent post-production, which ensures that what first comes to the fore is not always the most important.

Better Corners are tricky: they contain the dynamic and the spectrum, making it necessary to look for the music inside, to delve deeper into what you hear in the foreground, saying: there is a lot hidden under, come and listen to it.

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