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MARC KELLAWAY - LATE SUMMER SEQUENCE (CD by The Cat Box Corp) *
PAUL SCHÜTZE - WITHOUT THOUGHT (CD by Auf Abwegen) *
ORPHAX - MIJMERINGEN (CD by Broken20) *
JEFF MORRIS – HEARING VOICES (CD by Ravello Records) *
THE MAKRO QUARKTET – THE COMPLETE NIGHT: LIVE AT THE STONE NYC (2CD by Out OF Your Head Records) *
TUNNELS OF ĀH - DEATHLESS MIND (CD by Cold Spring) *
PEPE WISMEER AND THIERRY MÜLLER – L’ÉCHO DES CHIENS DANS LE SANG DE LA TACTIQUE (2CD by Trace Label) *
JACQUES VAN ERVEN - TUNES & SCENERY (HARD TO WHISTLE) (LP by Futura Resistenza) *
VINKEPEEZER - ALL KINDS (LP by Kazemat) *
CHRISTIAN WOLFARTH & JASON KAHN - SPIRITS (LP by Editions) *
VITAL – MAGAZINE FOR ELECTRONIC AND ELECTROACOUSTIC MUSIC (THE COMPLETE COLLECTION 1987-1995) (book by Korm Plastics)
FRANS DE WAARD - EVERYTHING BUT THE REVIEWS (book by Korm Plastics)
CLUB SOUND WITCHES - #FREAKINMEOUT (CDR by Shame File Music) *
RYM NOUIOUA - SWARMING (3"CDR by Grubenwehr Freiburg) *
PALE WORLD & BLACKCLOUDSUMMONER (cassette by Outsider Art) *
MARC KELLAWAY - LATE SUMMER SEQUENCE (CD by The Cat Box Corp)
Only recently I reviewed 'Revisions', an LP by Exquisite Russian Brides (see Vital Weekly 1223) and now Marc Kellaway returns with a CD. This time without any project name and this being the first time he uses his Christian name on a release. The somewhat naive handwriting on the cover may suggest something else, but the music is all-ambient. It is that mixture of field recordings and long sustaining sounds on the synthesizers and organs. There is, according to the cover also a piano, a single string violin, a pocket sax and a sampler are used, all of which either very sparsely used or hard to recognize. That is one part of the music, the other part is the field recordings used. Taped, for instance, during the heatwave in Stockholm, a beach in Frederikssund, underneath a railroad bridge, by a lake and during a rainy day. Whereas the music on Kellaway's previous release found its roots in the world of cosmic and krautrock, here it is all about ambient music in the true meaning of the word. Long-form, spacious and something beautiful as well as something that can also be ignored. Just as Brian Eno would have liked it. There are no sharp edges and maybe at times getting close to the world of new age music, yet Kellaway knows how to keep it moody and dark; that hardly makes it all 'new age', I would think. The overtone working overtime in the background of 'September Sleep' is another lead out of the new age. The first three pieces are built from a minimal set of sounds, while in the last one, 'October Song', various instruments stick out, such as the piano. As I was tied up in some stuff that never seemed to end, people walking in and out, this was stuck on repeat for some time, and I zoned back in and out. I thought it was a great release, even though I didn't hear anything that I had not heard before in the vast amount of ambient releases over the many years the term is used. That's also not really of importance; one should do what one thinks is best to do and do it well. That's what Kellaway did. (FdW)
––– Address: https://thecatboxcorp.bandcamp.com/
PAUL SCHÜTZE - WITHOUT THOUGHT (CD by Auf Abwegen)
If my memory serves me well, one of the first CDs I ever got to review was 'Deus Ex Machina' by Paul Schütze, and don't go hunting the Vital Weekly archive as it was reviewed in Vital, a fanzine on paper. As I am re-reading the 1990 review, I am thinking I could (almost!) re-run it for this new CD. I am not sure if that is a good or bad thing. The basics are more or less the same; it is the soundtrack for installation, it's one piece (sixty-four minutes) and its ambient music. The installation is now described as "video projection / stereo sound/stereo fragrance". For a long time, I thought that Schütze gave up doing music and was only active in creating perfumes. But he still composes music, even when after the year 2000 there were only three releases, this one included. He writes in the press release that his sound work is anti-narrative, even when he also tells us that much of the video part is made of water and fragrance has 'earth' and 'sea' elements. I can imagine a package in which one hears, see and smell it all, but we make do with solely the music part. Schütze also writes that the music has no centre, which strangely enough doesn't mean it is all very strict left and right separated on the speakers. Headphones are not recommended (which I never use anyway when reviewing). There might be no narrative in the music and I would think that Schütze deliberately keeps the structure loose. There might (!) three sections, the first fifteen minutes, then thirty-five and the final section, dividing duties when it comes to the use of sounds, with the bookend parts being a bit louder than the long meandering middle section. The covers see the credit for guitars and treatments, electric cello and the Japanese Sho, and Schütze for electronics, and I would think these electronics are various layers of heavily processed sounds of these instruments as well as some in their more original habitat. As said, the word meandering is the major thing here. It goes on and on but never stays the same, always in slightly different configurations and with spacious yet very gentle drones. You don't sit down and listen closely to the music, but instead, you should this up as an environment for yourself, separate from the video and the fragrance, and let run on repeat for a while. I did that and drifted in and out most of the time, as good ambient should do. (FdW)
––– Address: http://www.aufabwegen.com
ORPHAX - MIJMERINGEN (CD by Broken20)
From Sietse van Erve I reviewed a lot so far. I also saw a fair bit of concerts by him, although I have no clue how many. You can gather from that there is quite some contact between him and this reviewer, and one of the things I learned that is his concerts are always planned, knowing what to do and how to execute composition. Usually, Orphax plays a few times the same piece and then settles down in the studio to record the final version, which is then committed to a release. That is the case with 'Mijmeringen', which you can translate as 'musings' or 'reveries', and it so happens that I the last bit of that we played in sunny Nijmegen in September 2018. In Vital Weekly 1149 I told about that particular experience; "As I was walking down the street last Thursday evening towards the restaurant De Klinker here in Nijmegen to watch at least a bit of Orphax' concert at the yearly pop pub crawl called De Popronde (120 pop bands playing sets in tons of places in one city on one evening), the street was deserted and from a great distance I could hear bells tinkling, growing in intensity as I neared the open doors. Towards the end of his set, the sound was a massive drone, like being locked in an aeroplane engine; I don't think I ever heard Orphax being this loud and I've seen quite a few of his concerts." Now that 'Mijmeringen' becomes available I am reminded of that walk down the street and hearing Orphax and also on CD, I am quite surprised about the massive noise aspect of the music. Maybe the title could lead one to think this would be some dreamy music, but such it is not. It quickly works towards a very powerful mid-drone bit and after about ten minutes the residue that remains behind is nothing short of piercing high-end tone, almost like a sine wave or two, fading in and out, like a very slow arpeggio (never knew I would use that word in an Orphax review; wonders it be!). Then, when the sound has almost died out, it starts building again and I realize this is the point when I heard the concert in 2018, the tinkling bells being high-end drone sounds, slowly morphing into that massive drone again, which on CD doesn't sound that low, I must admit. I reviewed a lot of Orphax, and I like a lot of them, this one included, and I am surprised about the diversity in drone approaches he has up his sleeve. This loud version is a great new addition. (FdW)
––– Address: https://store.broken20.com/
JEFF MORRIS – HEARING VOICES (CD by Ravello Records)
About two years ago we reviewed ‘Interfaces’ by this American composer and intermedia artist. It featured Karl Berger (vibraphone, piano) and Joe Hertenstein (drums, percussion) and live sampling by Morris. Last year he released his album ‘With strings: Live Sampling in Counterpoint’, a collaboration with Ulrich Maiß (electric cello) and Eric KM Clark (violin). With his third album ‘Hearing Voices’ - all on Ravello Records - Morris turns to the human voice. The cd presents seven works, recorded between 2014-2019 except for ‘Jabberwocky a timbre poem’ (1999), the first computer music composition by Morris. We hear the voices of Elisabeth Baar, Susanna Hood, Rodney Waschka II and Joseph Butch Royan. For what live sampling implies in the case of Morris he explains: “I perform with digital instruments I built that can only record and transform the sounds happening live in the moment. I give my instruments the ability to make some creative decisions on their own, and they each give me different ways to influence the performance as it goes without totally controlling it.” Not only the interaction with the vocals is in real-time, it is also highly improvised. No wonder the music is very lively and expressive. The vocalists produce nonverbal sounds or just speak isolated words and syllables. Sometimes short sentences. It is a play with language and the potency of becoming language, sounds that become words with meaning. For example in ‘Definition of A’ with Elisabeth Blair and Susann Hood, their vocals start with just producing sounds that gradually turn into words and speech. Performed melodically. In the improvisation with Rodney Waschka II, the interaction often has a humorous twist. In total, I enjoyed this successful release as a vivid and communicative meeting of vocals and live electronics. I like the balance between vocals and the electronic treatments (diverse glitches and other movements and accents), although I find it difficult to judge whether the vocals respond most of all to the electronic treatments, of the other way around. Whatever is the case, Morris and his collaborators offer an interesting exploration into extending the sound world of the human voice. A powerful and enjoyable statement! (DM)
––– Address: http://www.ravellorecords.com/
THE MAKRO QUARKTET – THE COMPLETE NIGHT: LIVE AT THE STONE NYC (2CD by Out OF Your Head Records)
So far Out of Your Head Records, a small Brooklyn-based label run by bassist Adam Hopkins, surprised with releases of relatively young and promising talents (Nick Dunston, Curt Sydnor, a.o.). For The Makro Quartket the situation is different. In this case, we are speaking of very experienced top musicians: Herb Robertson (trumpet, cornet, electric megaphone, mutes and attachments), Dave Ballou (trumpet, piccolo trumpet, flügelhorn, plastic hose, mutes), Drew Gress (acoustic bass, fan) and Tom Rainey (drums and cymbals). All four are very reputed performers with careers that go back to the 80s when a lot was going on in downtown N.Y.C. All of them were and are involved in many to mention collaborations. On June 30, 2007, they played their first gig at The Stone. In 2008 Herb Robertson released one set of this concert on his Ruby Flower Records label (‘Each part a Whole: live at the Stone NYC’). And now, twelve years later, Out Of Your head decides to make the complete concert available, remixed and remastered. Don’t know what Out Of Your Head Records made decide to prepare this particular release, as there are many more tapes with registrations of wonderful concerts waiting on the shelf. Whatever the reason may be, I’m very glad they did. It is very worthwhile if not necessary (re)release of a more than an excellent meeting. Ballou and Robertson are masters of their instruments and play inventive and inspired. But also the rhythm-section is very flexible and so to the point. They demonstrate a very effective and vibrant togetherness. Their interactions are challenging and experimental. But always their music is very warm and has emotional depth. Very human music that is completely fascinating and relevant. What more can one ask from improvised music?! (DM)
––– Address: https://www.outofyourheadrecords.com/
TUNNELS OF ĀH - DEATHLESS MIND (CD by Cold Spring)
Stephen Burroughs is at it again. Following Surgical Fires and Charnel Transmissions - both reviewed in earlier editions of Vital Weekly (1149 and 1069) - this is already the fifth album The Tunnels have out on Cold Spring since the first one that came out in 2013. Ever since listening to that very first one, I have a strange kind of liking for the project; it is somehow the kind of thing that I want to like. It feels like there is something different in there, something that sets it aside from seemingly similar kinds of projects, but also something that is somewhat difficult to grasp.
I can't say I have listened to it a lot, however; just every time a new one was released I had to listen to it at least once to just tumble down that rabbit tunnel for an hour. A reason for this abstinence is that albums like these are something that requires a specific kind of late-night mood. But finally being able to write something about one myself does help with taking the proper time for it again.
The focal point of this work is a stretch of abandoned railway that has seen a lot of tragedy over the years. Other than that we don't get a lot more background information to fodder our imagination with. Then again, the music itself gives enough input here. Much like the other albums, the tracks move from one sonic locus to the other and despite the aforementioned theme, there seems nothing emotional or transgressional about it. The places we get to visit through the tunnels are mostly dim carvernal and subterranean vistas. Moreover, all feels as if it is void of anything related to humans - save for the occasional noise radio communication, the moaning on Ritual for the New Dumb and the repetitive spoken word parts on Saint of Slaves.
Some textures, like for instance the ones on Ascetic are quite abrasive and granular, but never get harsh at any point. Which is a plus in this kind of music, even though I don't believe I've heard anything truly punishing on any of Burroughs' other albums. There is also a sense of locomotion to some tracks that sometimes seems to be loop-based in origin but then manages to alter course, or stagger slightly upon which other textural elements manage to surface ever so shortly. And that is also a thing I liked about the other Tunnel albums; that there is something structurally dynamic and diverse about them. The moments that I'm not overwhelmed by the sonic imagery I'm trying to imagine how this stuff was made, attempting to recognise patterns, but to no avail.
The only thing that did strike me as kind of odd is the way Sanatorium Lawns, the final track, fades out just at a point where it starts to build up again, which is a bit of a shame. Still, it really can't taint the perfect delivery on the rest of Deathless Mind.
It is somewhat funny that they still mention Burroughs' old band Head of David in the promotion text. Tunnels isn't anything like it, though there might be some HoD fans that could enjoy this kind of stuff as well. I'd say Tunnels of Āh very eloquently speaks for itself and doesn't require any stale past achievements to somehow prop up what it has to offer now. (LdW)
––– Address: http://coldspring.co.uk/
PEPE WISMEER AND THIERRY MÜLLER – L’ÉCHO DES CHIENS DANS LE SANG DE LA TACTIQUE (2CD by Trace Label)
I have trouble sleeping. This is not anything new. It is just one of those things. I am always up early. I have often wondered if I am up early because I cannot sleep, or can I not sleep as I am up early? I guess I will never really know. Ultimately it does not bother me, so it is not a problem. The real problem is what to listen. What should be my soundtrack for the weird hours before the day has fully begun? Luckily, this problem has been resolved very quickly with ‘L’écho des chiens dans le sang de la tactique’. The new album from Pepe Wismeer and Thierry Müller.
‘Et l’on fera venir les chiens’ opens with swirling synths creating gentle maelstroms around us. Under this is a catchy guitar run. The synths are tightly packed and as they spin tighter and tighter there is a feeling of claustrophobia, but the guitar adds much needed space. It also creates a jovial atmosphere. On their own the synths are dark and harrowing but coupled with the guitars everything takes on a slightly more laidback vibe. ‘The Ghost Ship in the Ocean of my Brain’ is probably the standout moment on the album. Again, ominous synths kick things off, but underpinning them are sounds of creaking and groaning. As the creaking continues there are motifs, and effects, that made us feel that we are submerged. The music gets muffled in places too, creating the feeling of listening to music while under water in the bath. What ‘The Ghost Ship in the Ocean of my Brain’ does incredible, well is to create a feeling of gently rocking from side to side, thus creating a feeling a nausea. This is not an unpleasant feeling, far from it, but throughout it is an unrelenting feeling of unease.
Where the album really comes into its own though it on the bonus disc ‘No Re Re Night Fever – Vol 7’. Effectively this is three live improvised recordings, Wismeer and Müller are looser than on the studio recordings. Due to the prolonged length of the tracks, both tracks are over 20 minutes long, they have room to breathe and evolve at their own pace. ‘No Re Re Night Fever (Part 1)’ is full of ethereal synths, and drones, that swirl around you transporting you to a ludic state. The same is true of ‘No Re Re Night Fever (Part 2)’ but around the halfway mark beats, and percussion, spring up from nowhere and the songs becomes something totally different. There is an immediacy that you did not realise was missing until it appeared. This is a motif throughout.
Overall ‘L’écho des chiens dans le sang de la tactique’ is a well-crafted, and enjoyable, album. The albums work best when Wismeer and Müller are working to create a specific sound, or tone, rather than going with the flow. Here they channel their experience in sound to create something compelling. You have to listen to the end of the song to find out what happens. Songs like ‘Unicyconic Icon’, with its steady 4/4 beat, ponderous synths and lyrics are fine, but next to the glorious ‘The Ghost Ship in the Ocean of my Brain’ they feel pedestrian. And this is not an album that should have anything pedestrian on it. Both Wismeer and Müller are far better than that. (NR)
––– Address: https://tracelab.com/
MEINRAD KNEER - VOCABULARIES (CD by Evil Rabbit Records)
MARCO COLONNA - FILI (CD by Niafunken)
With these CDs I'm entering the world of Dolf Mulder as both of these CDs contain freely improvised music; what ties them together is that one player performs the music. The instrument of choice differs; in the case of Kneer, this is the double bass. He plays thirteen pieces, all freely improvised and there are "no edits, overdubs, preparations and technical effects". In his playing it is not difficult to recognise the bass; it is what it is. Kneer is not using objects on the snares or the body of the instrument, just the bow and the snares but in the thirteen pieces, ranging from one minute to just fewer than seven, he shows an excellent variety in approaches on this instrument. There are rhythmically inspired pieces, plucking the strings, such as in the various pieces called 'Short Stories', or heavily bowed strings, dark at times, but, perhaps oddly, not always that deep; Kneer has at times a vicious strong bow that works on the high end of the spectrum; almost like pure acoustic noise. Sometimes the mood is dark and heavy ('Music For Bumble Bees' for instance), but it can be joyous and light, such as the previously mentioned short stories. All of these together give the listener an excellent idea of what Kneer does and I guess that is the purpose of releasing such solo records of improvised music.
From Italy hails Marco Colonna, who plays "clarinets and loop station". Colonna is most active in jazz music and has played with a bunch of people (Evan Parker, Alberto Novello, Patrizia Oliva and others). I assume there are overdubs here (by their very nature loop stations equals overdubs, in real-time) and that already makes this is a different album than the one by Kneer. The loops produced by the bass clarinet as well as the clarinet adds a whole different and (dare I say it?) musical element to the music. The rhythmically played keys of the clarinet are sampled and make interesting little rhythms to which Colonna plays the instruments in a rather pleasant way. You could call this jazz, but, and I readily admit I am not much of connoisseur when it comes to jazz music, it would be a different kind of jazz. Sure, in 'Pietra', it all seems fairly normal, but in 'Sos Berbos' the playing is sparse and the samples of voice/mouth add an interesting dimension to the music. The music here is not as extreme as on the Kneer album, and one could say this is the more 'musical' one of the two. But just as the Kneer CD this too is an album in which a musician shows the quality of his playing, a business card to hand out and a display of many talents. While both isn’t part and parcel of my daily routine, most enjoyable for sure. (FdW)
––– Address: http://www.evilrabbitrecords.de
JACQUES VAN ERVEN - TUNES & SCENERY (HARD TO WHISTLE) (LP by Futura Resistenza)
Also, for their second release (however intended to be the first, looking at the catalogue number), Futura Resistenza, a label from Rotterdam, return to the past, but this time a bit further tucked away in history. It is proof that the past is no longer a foreign land, a place to disappear, as sooner or later, everything will be unearthed. Jacques van Erven, you might rightfully ask, now who is that? From what I remember, he was a member of Signals, whose only claim to fame was a great Flexi disc with Dutch magazine Vinyl (and the mention of 12" on Torso, that sadly never materialized, as I loved those two tracks) and a little later as part of A Live Detail, who had a few tracks on a great compilation, 'One Hour For Spits' (now there's a great potential re-issue waiting) and this cassette for Eksakt. Today I see on Discogs that he did an LP for the same label in 1986, but that probably escaped my attention. I didn't hear his cassette back in the day, even when I saw the title around in catalogues. Maybe I thought of the label as too much improvisation or jazz? Be that as it may, I found this cassette online about a decade ago, no doubt like the kind of people who now put it out oldies such as this on vinyl. It is indeed a record that one needs to hear. The music was recorded on a four-track machine and Van Erven plays "analogue synthesizers, small Casio keyboards, a mouth harp, ukulele, marimba, and a variety of drums". It is especially heavy on the use of percussion instruments in fifteen short pieces and Van Erven goes all over the place. The drums of 'You Better Take Care Of Your Vocal Chords' reminded me of the funky A Live Detail, and funk is the game in 'Pigeons On The Roof', but now via guitars. There is charming naive improvisation next to a fully formed song, which is next to the exotic new wave of 'It's Not Always May' and all of this has some excellent energy. 'Krimi Mit C. Orff' for instance is a fine brutal post-punk piece, perhaps owing to the Neue Welle. The label says "'Ptôse, Niew Hip Stilen, Achwghâ Ney Wodei, Look de Bouk or Woo", and, as far as I know, these names, I would agree, and I would The Residents also to the menu, along with a dash of jazz and world music; the latter especially in his use of rhythm. There is a great drive to the music, gentle juggling with styles, ideas, instruments and executed with a great but also naive care. Van Erven is not set to play something strictly proficient but leaves in small mistakes and that adds to the quality of the music. The past is no longer a foreign land, and I am happy we have the map. Jacques van Erven’s music has very little to do with the world of minimal wave, still riding big on the re-issue market, nor is he a household name, but it’s that diamond waiting to be dug up. (FdW)
––– Address: https://futuraresistenza.bandcamp.com/
VINKEPEEZER - ALL KINDS (LP by Kazemat)
Behind Vinkepeezer is one Ivo Bol, and ten years he made his debut on a split LP with Morsanek. That was the inaugural release for Kazemat. This new LP by this label is graced with catalogue number 002, so not one of the most active record labels in the world. I am sure it wasn't ten years they spend on creating this, but the record is quite a beauty. It deals with the collection of a KLM pilot Lucas de Ruyter van Steveninck (that sounds like nobility!), who travelled the four corners of the world with his camera. The LP-sized booklet contains some fine examples of photographs he took in countries and his subjects are mostly humans; mostly happy, smiling people. He also bought cassettes and records with local music. "Kazemat has taken the initiative to digitalise part of this beautiful collection of 78-records", it says in the booklet. I can't imagine that from the '50 to the '80s there were many 78 rpm records produced, even in the more remote parts of the world (where cassettes remained a much-used medium for the distribution of music). These recordings become the working material for Bol, which works around with "using light sensors, human touch, gestures or brain waves"; judging by the picture of the equipment he uses, I would think he also a fair bit of modules to transform these sounds. I noted before that Bol likes the Oval techniques of using tiny fragments, and these as tiny segments leaping around; like a juggling act. However now with the difference that Bol also plays around with the rotating surfaces of records; in 'Nalana' for instance, the hiss and static repetitions of the vinyl are heavily amplified. It has that 'Ghosts On Magnetic Tape' feeling from the Bass Communion record, but perhaps it is also a bit too easy played out? I enjoyed the pieces in which Bol explores all of the possibilities; the hiss of vinyl, the skipping, bouncing of sounds and the cutting of voices in 'Cuyon Chaseno Kazhuca' creating these fine pieces of musique concrete and moving away from mere turntablism. Apart from that piece, in none of the other pieces, one easily recognizes anything 'exotic' and they could have been from any record... maybe this just 'one world' music? Bol does it all with great care for the smallest details and everything is quite smooth. Sharp edges and abrupt cuts are avoided and there is a pleasant mellowness in this music. Altogether, music and visual presentation, this is a great record. (FdW)
––– Address: http://kazemat.com/
CHRISTIAN WOLFARTH & JASON KAHN - SPIRITS (LP by Editions)
For a long time now we find Jason Kahn in these pages. Sometimes quite regularly, and sometimes the intervals are longer. He's been around playing the drums, analogue synthesizer and these days guitar and voice. With some people has an ongoing relationship, and one such musician is Christian Wolfarth, the percussionist from Switzerland. First, they were in a trio with Günter Müller, but since 2016 as a duo. First as a voice/drum duo, but after Wolfarth heard Kahn's playing of a lap slide resonator guitar, he suggested to have that part of it as well. Kahn plays the guitar lap steel style and Wolfarth has a reduced set-up that includes "an antique marching snare, one Chinese cymbal and some small objects on tour". The record is a studio recording in which various microphones were used and Kahn mixed them. There has been no editing in the sense of cutting and pasting or additional layers. Kahn's singing, so I noticed before, has not so much to do with sound poetry, but seems to be more reduced and with a title such as 'Spirits', I found it hard not think to this of spirituals or rituals. Especially on the first side, I thought that was the case. This is a chant, perhaps, but an abstract one at that. The playing is very free and there is some distance to the music. None of the instruments is recorded in very close proximity. With this distance they create space between them and us, I think. We are observers of a ritual, perhaps, between two musicians, who are heavily concentrated on playing their music. The second side seems to work out a bit differently for me, with more activity (even more, I should say), while it still has all the control in their playing. This is certainly not easy music. Much like a ritual that you can observe, but may not understand or which takes time to enjoy, before you realize what's going on. That is something that I think is also with this music. It takes time to enjoy it; maybe I will never understand it, but there is something quite captivating going on here. (FdW)
––– Address: http://jasonkahn.net/editions
VITAL – MAGAZINE FOR ELECTRONIC AND ELECTROACOUSTIC MUSIC (THE COMPLETE COLLECTION 1987-1995) (book by Korm Plastics)
FRANS DE WAARD - EVERYTHING BUT THE REVIEWS (book by Korm Plastics)
“As editorial are mostly boring, we will do an editorial for only once”. Thus opened the first-ever edition of Vital, now Vital Weekly, in 1987 and I have to say, to me this quote sums up the attitude of the magazine perfectly. If you are reading this review, you are a subscriber to Vital Weekly, the online magazine that grew from Vital, and well aware of its contents. But Vital’s beginnings, now 33 years ago! were more humble. Thus, at the risk of repeating stuff you already know, I present you Vital’s history in a nutshell, which, as faithful Vital Weekly subscriber you will know, has quite a few parallels with editor-in-chief Frans de Waard’s history. In 1985 De Waard, enthusiast of the then-omnipresent DIY-culture published Nul Nul magazine but found the time and money put into it not reflected in its sales. His search for alternatives to get as much result as possible with as little effort as possible led to what De Waard himself describes as an ‘epiphany’. Rather than spending time (and money) printing and stapling copies of Nul Nul and trying to sell them, why not print two double A4-sized papers and send these off to a few initial recipients ordering them to copy the magazine and spread it around to further recipients, ordering them to spread it around and so on ad infinitum? Boldly proclaiming “No copyright publication! Reprint now!” on the front cover, the concept proved an instant success. Concentrating on the alternative music scene, the ‘magazine’ followed a standard concept: an interview with a musician/band or label, record and tape reviews, a ‘labelspot’ detailing the activities and background of a record or tape label and a news section. The content, at times in a somewhat pidginised English (“we will do an editorial for only once”), was enthusiastically written up by De Waard himself with contributors such as Dolf Mulder, Peter Duimelinks and Jos Smolders. Soon the content was expanded and more conceptual essays on music, copyright issues, composing and composers began to appear in ‘supplements’, where the writing at times was as pedantic as the ideas it rallied against. The interviews, featuring the big names of the scene at the time, ranged from hilarious, via conceptual and mysterious, to meaningless, to intriguing, to utterly fascinating. Just like the music that was reviewed. You are now reading the digital version of Vital, now Vital Weekly and even though many things have changed (for the better I should add, as reviews are longer and more in-depth, the English language has improved and the tone of the magazine has become more ‘inclusive’), the concept of Vital still stands today: “No copyright publication! Reprint now!”. With over 1200 (!) issues now, Vital Magazine remains to be an important, nay vital communicator of all things out of the mainstream. And it is all here, in all its nearly 600 facsimile-printed pages of this publication. On paper, of course, as it was, as it should be. All 44 issues, including the supplements, ready for you to explore and enjoy. This complete collection comes at it was; reprinted, not rewritten, in its original layout. Enthusiastic, encouraging, informative, supportive, in-your-face and anarchistic. This collection comes hardbound and will give you hours of reading pleasure. Hopefully, it also encourages you to listen to the music on offer. Somewhere in my archive, I still have all my paper editions of Vital. Every once in a while, I wander through their content, even discovering things I had overlooked at the time, wondering about the people that were featured in its paper pages. Interestingly enough, most are still active on ‘the scene’, some have disappeared, and some have unfortunately passed away. Read about them in this book, we owe it to them. This is, excuse the pun, Vital reading at a price that is impossible to resist. So: “Vital publication! Order now!”
But wait, there is more! Simultaneously with Vital, Korm Plastics has published another tome: “Everything but the reviews – a collection of texts about music”. This book, at 88 pages of a more modest size than the Vital book, compiles all of De Waard’s writings that are not reviews but are about music. De Waard himself brands this a “self-indulgent publication” (to borrow the title of his newsletter from two decades ago) and he is right. De Waard has chosen not to edit the majority of these texts or correct much his English. This contributes to the texts at times being somewhat incoherent and the point De Waard is trying to make not always clear. As such, these brief texts about music, ranging from interviews to observations to obituaries to tour memories to liner notes to personal favourites, make for inconsistent but interesting reading. Again, beautifully presented as a hardbound book, this is still a worthy addition to the Korm Plastics publication canon. And, what makes the purchase of this book even more interesting is the combined deal Korm Plastics offers on buying both books in one go. With these two publications and De Waard’s previous and highly recommended book ‘This Is supposed To Be A Record Label’ about his years at Staalplaat records, Korm Plastics makes an intriguing move into the world of the printed word. (FK)
––– Address: http://www.kormplastics.nl
CLUB SOUND WITCHES - #FREAKINMEOUT (CDR by Shame File Music)
It has been a while since I last heard music from Matthew Earle, who, about ten years ago, popped in these pages with his Stasis Duo and solo as Muura. These days he has a duo with Nicola Morton as Club Sound Witches. His previous work is so long ago, that I would consider this to be a fresh start. There are no instruments listed here, and I have to guess by what I hear. In his previous (so I read in my old reviews!) Earle worked with glitches and maybe those have now expanded to the world of modular electronics in combination with improvisation. There are 'beats', as I think you could call them, of a highly stutter-like nature, clustered together, but none of these is something that you may recognize as a bass drum, snare or whatever else you find inside a drum machine. These are low-end bits of electronic sound that are on repetition. On top of that, there is a vague synthesizer melody lingering about. Two of the three pieces are studio recordings and one is a concert recording. The two studio pieces flow right into each other and over the course forty minutes there are some changes but all of that very subtle. If you listen superficially, then nothing much seems to change. The bumpy, the slightly off rhythm, the wavering melody, the hissy, static undercurrent and the occasional bubbling oscillators. Strange music, but there is something in there that I found very captivating. Maybe this is the new dance music? The live piece is along similar lines, but the rhythm is broken up and there is the addition of voice, all of which appear very sparsely, and here too, the static hiss basis is an ongoing feature. It is less ongoing and more broken up and all in all, this was a pretty strange release; a long one too, but I would think that is part of what I enjoyed about it. (FdW)
––– Address: http://www.shamefilemusic.com
RYM NOUIOUA - SWARMING (3"CDR by Grubenwehr Freiburg)
A couple of years ago I had the opportunity to borrow a bat recorder (or was it a detector?). I went out to a place where I knew there would be bats, settled down with this machine, headphones and a recording device and waited. I noticed them flying overhead but all my detector did was creating a loud buzz. Nothing was detected, ultrasonic or otherwise. Rym Nouioua has a better understanding of how such machines work although some sounds were lifted from a "free sounds archives". There is a lengthy text about bats and a sample of dropping is enclosed in the package. These sounds are treated with unmentioned equipment and it's hard to say what it is. The rough shape of the music made me think this some sort of analogue process, stompboxes such as delay pedals and loop stations, but just as well some sort of digital process is very possible. The roughness one should not translate as 'noise', for that this is not. It is more akin to loop-based musique concrète of high-pitched animal sounds as well as more obscure 'other' sounds. I would think they are all culled from nature, but I am not sure if they are all just based on the sounds of bats. Seven pieces, mainly short and to the point, with only one being longer. There is one in which we also a female voice explaining about bats, probably captured in a zoo-like environment. That one was a break in the animal noise and as such a pity in what I otherwise thought to be a great release. (FdW)
––– Address: https://grubenwehrfreiburg.bandcamp.com/
PALE WORLD & BLACKCLOUDSUMMONER (cassette by Outsider Art)
When I see there is a collaboration between musicians I like, I have a tendency to over blow it in my head. Even before I heard a note, I have constructed internal soundscapes of what I think it might sound like. Sadly, 90% of the time I am left disappointed with the results, as the finished album feels like one of them was in control, with the other being a passive back seat driver. However, this is not the case with the ‘Pale World and Blackcloudsummoner’ tape released on Outsider Art. Anyone familiar with the UK experimental scene will recognise the names and acknowledge the quality each has been releasing over the past few years.
From the opening swirls of feedback on ‘Claws (To Tear Down the Accumulation of Undue Power)’ it is hard to know where Pale World stops and Blackcloudsummoner (BCS) starts. As ‘Claws’ progresses you feel like you are in either a pressure cooker in a very busy kitchen. As sounds of steam escaping hiss around you, you can hear the noises of busy chefs tirelessly toiling in the background. Or are we in the underground society in Metropolis, where machinery clangs and bangs while the engineers work to keep the machines running for the ruing elite above their heads. Ultimately it does not matter as the results are the same. This is a claustrophobic, and slightly, paranoid affair. What is really impressive is how little space there is between the squeaks, drones, and guttural buzzes. ‘Dope Satori’ carries on the same feeling of unease that ‘Claws’ established. It is as unsettling as it is glorious! Throughout Side A you hear faint catches of melodies. These moments are fleeting, but it shows this this is not just an exercise in extremes. Underneath all this audio wreckage there is something beautiful.
The second side of the tape consists of the 20-minute behemoth ‘I Have Seen the Bones of the Universe’. If ‘Claws’, ‘Dope Satori’ and ‘Hostile Particle’ was an exercise in creating a feeling of unease through cacophony, then ‘I Have Seen…’ is the opposite. Billowing synths are used to create gentle zephyrs and the feeling of desolation. It feels like the soundtrack to end of a dystopian film, or novel for that matter, where the main character has escaped from the constraining society and is witnessing what lies beyond. Barren stretches of sun scared earth. Sand and dust being blown around while debris of past civilizations are swept along the floor and through the air. A third through that feeling of paranoid claustrophobia returns and remains until the glacial outro.
What ‘Pale World and Blackcloudsummoner’ does incredibly well is to showcase the talents of each artist in a way the compliments the other. Neither one is the dominate force here, yet neither is being passive. It is hard to dissect what each is doing, or bringing to the mix, but you can also spot motifs of each throughout. The only downside is that on parts of Side A the surface noise gets in the way of the delicate melodies buried beneath and layers noisy detritus. This is a devastating 40 minutes that works a hell of a lot better than it should, and I originally hoped for. Whether this will yield a PW x BCS Volume II will remain to be seen but given the strength of this release we can hope there might be one down the line. (NR)
––– Address: https://outsiderart.bandcamp.com/album/pale-world-blackcloudsummoner
Vital - The Complete Collection 1987-1995
Before Vital Weekly there was Vital, a Xeroxed fanzine covering experimental, electronic andelectro-acoustic music; interviews, reviews, in-depth discussion articles, background. All 44 issues in one hardcover book; 580 pages. More information: http://kormplastics.nl/vtcc.html