James Kopf

James Kopf is a PhD student in German literature & culture at Penn State University; his dissertation will focus on the philosophy of music. He has presented papers at professional conferences on topics such as Adorno & phenomenology, Sun Ra’s philosophy, and ontology & black metal. Most of the time, you can find him listening to or thinking about music, but he’ll gladly talk your ear off about the occult and non-representational art, too. La Monte Young’s “The Well-Tuned Piano” is both his favorite album and his prized possession.

Articles by James Kopf

Altopalo – frozenthere

It’s progressive in the best possible way, which is to say, complex, beautiful, and devoid of masturbatory self-indulgence. Pop but not pop. Slow but short. Deconstruction without coldness.

Tooth Decay & GALL – P R O C E S S

This is the New Age revival at its most diabolical, a meditation on broken souls, polluted water, and the fractured, paranoid ego of the modern era. In a word: unheimlich.

Jako Maron – The electro Maloya experiments of Jako Maron

Spread across 11 tracks, Maron plays his stripped-down version of Réunion’s native maloya music seemingly on the drumhead of history, reducing the music to its barest elements and recreating them on modular synths to echo both forward and backward simultaneously. It can have a stunning effect.

Green Altar – Heavy Side of the River

Hailing from the hinterlands of South Dakota, Green Altar deliver up an excellent slab of sludge with their second album ‘Heavy Side of the River’.

Andrew Liles – Colossus (Part One: 1969-1993)

I’m only on track 2 of this album, and I’m going to assert that this is one of the most important albums that will come out this year. Let me explain.

Inhumankind – Self-Extinction (Review + Exclusive Track Stream)

If so much music associated with “ritual” is unnecessarily baroque, Inhumankind serves as a sort of corrective. The music here is not overwhelming, it doesn’t foist modern melodies onto an imagined past, and you won’t find bizarre odes to pagan ancestors.

Lumnos – Ancient Shadows of Saturn

This music is drawn out, roomy, and spacious. It’s certainly not the type of black metal you put on when you’re in a blastbeat sort of mood. But it is an elevating, elegiac performance.

Ungfell – Mythen, Mären, Pestilenz

In this sense, they follow a long lineage of Swiss intellectual culture; in this album, with its festive folk meanderings, its lauding of tradition, while simultaneously breaking with it in a sometimes violent way, Ungfell travels the same path as (the perennially ignored) Jeremias Gotthelf and Robert Walser.

STAHV – STAHV

This album occupies a neat little niche between post-rock, desert rock, and an Ennio Morricone soundtrack, with wide open spaces that nevertheless allow you to feel the claustrophobia of an old growth forest.

Gura – Caligura

This is the jazz album that you play for your friends who are really into Om, and this is the metal album that you play for your friends who are really into Bill Evans.

Bible Black Tyrant – Regret Beyond Death

There are so many great ideas at play, so many moments of genius, which seem truly special and really sets this band apart from the rest of the scene that they are clearly being lumped in with.

Neraterræ – The NHART Demo[n]s

I’m just coming off watching Blade Runner 2049, so reviewing this album makes perfect sense. The songs here on Neraterræ’s The NHART Demo[n]s soundtrack the vacant listlessness of the various empty and lost spaces and people that one encounters in that sort of futurist dystopia.

Sourdure – Mantras

This is truly a symphony for patience. It won’t hold your hand or soundtrack your yoga studio, and it doesn’t have any patience for your impatience. This is slow and long and methodical and beautiful.

Æsthetica – Sonorous Æon

I don’t want to write this album off based on a single song, but, in this instance, it’s hard. I can’t see a way of making this forgivable. I don’t want to hear ‘Todesfuge’ being read by Celan over lilting guitars. I don’t want to hear it after a solo. I don’t want to hear it transition into a guitar-driven piece. None of that makes any sense to me.

Lüüp – Canticles of the Holy Scythe

You’re in the realm of Crowley, then, but does the music itself sustain the sort of excess that the occult seems to call for? The short answer is no.

Norilsk – Le Passage des Glaciers

We can understand certain works of music as engaging in a relationship with nature, a relationship that is both mimetic and complementary. ‘Le Passage des Glaciers’ is one of those pieces.

The Clearing Path – Watershed Between Firmament And The Realm Of Hyperborea (Review + Exclusive Track Premiere)

This album is not just a playing with tropes, though, but a tropology unto itself, studying the various traces of movement, paths taken and paths forgotten.

Echoes Of The Past: Monoliths and (One) Dimension: Enslaved’s Yggdrasill demo

This album is not just interesting as an historical document or a great example of lo-fi black metal, but it can and should also be appreciated as a philosophical statement – even if Enslaved did not intend it as such.

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