According to the notes accompanying Toxic City Music, the eighth album released by Evan Caminiti under his own name marks the experimental artist’s return to using electric guitar after a stretch of concentrating on electronic sounds. But as that commentary also rightly points out, without knowing that, there’s no real way to tell that anything on this bracing, charged LP came from a six-string. Every note within, whether created using said guitar or, as he did on the hypnotic “Toxic Tape (Love Canal),” with samples of noises coming from his kitchen sink, has been bent and processed out of recognition.
What bubbles to the surface of this soup is a mood that is entirely unsettling. Caminiti posits all 10 tracks as a reflection of our particularly harrowing present, a period when capitalism and cronyism are threatening our global well-being. He does so by making these songs swampy and, at times, coarse. “French Cocoon (Mutagen)” moves like a Disintegration Loops remix unspooling off a projector, clicking and groaning and releasing small bursts of beauty as it goes. The two pieces named “Acid Shadow” bow under the weight of the dystopic images that their robotic drones and wails call to mind before dissipating into a breeze of what could be distant shortwave communication.
As with the last few months of being virtually waterboarded with bad news, surviving Toxic City Music is possible by grasping at small moments of beauty and respite. Here they take the form of brief gossamer textures swimming through the murk. “Irradiation Halo” jangles with soothing porcelain-type tones, and “Joaquin,” his collaboration with Jefre Cantu-Ledesma, melts an arpeggiated dreamscape away to reveal its fuzzy, inviting core.
Knowing the time and circumstances under which this music was created—the album title and the names of a few songs on it refer to his current hometown of New York City—certainly heightens its overall effect. But divested of those markers, Toxic City Music still leaves its mark, if only by reinforcing on listeners how sharp Caminiti’s musical mind is and how he applies it judiciously to work that heaves and menaces like grey storm clouds.