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SHERIFFS OF NOTHINGNESS - AN AUTUMN NIGHT AT THE CROOKED FOREST, FOUR FIREPLACES (IN REALITY ONLY ONE) (CD by Sofa Music) *
LEMUR & REINHOLD FRIEDL - ALLOY (CD by Sofa Music) *
MARTIN TAXT - FIRST ROOM (CD by Sofa Music) *
THE USE OF ASHES - BURNING GNOME (CD by Tonefloat) *
PHILIP GAYLE – REFECT.DEFECT (CD by Yabyum) *
CRAIG GREEN – LOVE NOTES IN BINARY CODE (CD by Discus Music) *
POPEBAMA – NATION BUILDING (CD by Gold Bolus Recordings)
MYTRIP - KEEPER (LP by Amek) *
FANT^MS - ROOMTONES (LP and CD by MMLI) *
DEISON - SUBSTRATA (10" by Substantia Innomonata/Drone Records)
JEREMIE MATHES - ARKHAIOS (10" by Substantia Innomonata/Drone Records)
CHAD M. CLARK - TIME TIDAL DISRUPTION (CDR, private) *
THIRTEEN HURTS - THRESHOLD (CDR by No Part Of It) *
BLOOD RHYTHMS - ZERRISSENHEIT (CDR by No Part Of It) *
TROU - GRJĎTHAUGR (CDR by No Part Of It) *
CREDO IN DEUM - BLOOD SOAKED SAND (CDR by No Part Of It) *
NITAL ETCH - SIMULACRUM (CDR by No Part Of It) *
MAITRII ORBOREAL CEREMONY - PRISMIC PASSAGEWAYS (cassette by Moonside Tapes) *
MHVA - CLOSING IN (cassette by Moonside Tapes) *
STUART CHALMERS & ALAN COURTIS - RTUALS OF CMMON LNGUAGE (cassette by Steepgloss) *
OOOOOOO - ADVENTO REFRACT┴RIO (cassette by New Approach Records)
OOOOOOO - ONOMATOPEIA MONOL═TICA (cassette by New Approach Records)
SHERIFFS OF NOTHINGNESS - AN AUTUMN NIGHT AT THE CROOKED FOREST, FOUR FIREPLACES (IN REALITY ONLY ONE) (CD by Sofa Music)
LEMUR & REINHOLD FRIEDL - ALLOY (CD by Sofa Music)
MARTIN TAXT - FIRST ROOM (CD by Sofa Music)
This round of three new releases by Norwegian's Sofa Music starts with the Sheriffs Of Nothingness, a duo of Kari R°nnekleiv (violin) and Ole-Henrik Moe (viola). They pay homage to the "oldest and most traditional place for afterthoughts, meditation and reflection: the fireplace" [...] the place for people to gather, to tell stories, to share thoughts, or, to just be". Each piece is named after a different type of firewood. The four pieces were improvised, and they are all quite long, between fifteen and almost twenty minutes. An actual fireplace is part of the recordings. The music is very minimal and sometimes inviting contemplation, but I would think not all the time. Certainly, in the first piece, with its lengthy and sustaining tones, there is a sort of relaxing atmosphere, but in 'Muted Birch-Logs' and especially 'Great Spruce-Log' the short and fragmented tones are maybe not as easy to engage when in a meditative mood. I was reminded of the early works of Agencement. In the final piece, 'Under-Ash-Embers, With Hints Of Green Light In Spectrum', they return to a more 'relaxed' sound in which the bows hardly seem to touch upon the strings and here crackling of the fire can sometimes be heard. While I am not entirely convinced about the soothing character of the music, I must say I quite enjoy the variety of approaches for these two instruments. If the fireplace is a place for dialogue then these four pieces are conversations that worked pretty well.
Reinhold Friedl is the busiest man in modern classical music, I would think. When not leading the Zeitkratzer ensemble, he records solo records and works with other people. Here he teams up with Lemur, a Norwegian quartet of Bj°nar Habbestad (flutes), Hild Sofie Tafjord (French horn), Lene Grenager (cello) and Micheal Francis Duch (double bass). From Lemur, I reviewed work in Vital Weekly 649 and 748. The recordings we hear on this disc were made in 2015 and, as I understand this, it is both the five of them playing together but also solo, duo, trio and quartet format. All of this was then combined in the editing and mixing process that resulted in the seven pieces on this disc. I thought that was a pretty interesting approach, moving away, perhaps, from the world of improvised music, which I would think is clear in the background of Lemur, and also from Friedl to some extent, and take that into the realm of the 'studio as instrument'. All of the players use a lot of different techniques to approach their instrument so that a lot of times it is very hard to recognize the flute, horn, cello and so, but then suddenly a flute etc pops up from this abstract mass of sound. And then, all of a sudden, all five instruments sound as intended by their makers. It is evident that at the foundation there is improvisation and this can be chaotic, dramatic, introspective and so on, and is a wild party. However, by applying organizational methods using editing and mixing, by layering various events there is a fine narrative added to the music, composition if you will, bringing tension and attention to the table and some great pieces of music. I was reminded of Mnemonists and Biota, who used the 'studio as instrument' in a similar way in an attempt to deconstruct the rock band format. Lemur and Friedl do the same from the angle of free improvised music. Great one!
We end on a more contemplative note with the debut solo CD by Martin Taxt, who we know as a "microtonal tuba player and composer". From what I heard from him is usually in combination with other players and as such, this is also the case. 'Fist Room' is a work that is "a tribute to the Japanese tearoom and that tatami mat. The floor plan as shown on the cover has been used as a foundation for the musical score" and Taxt plays his microtonal tuba and Inga Margrethe Aas plays viola da gamba and double bass. They played together in the same room for two days and it is a mix of studio recording and concert. The whole piece is thirty-five minutes long and has two distinct parts, with a small break in the middle of sheer silence. In the first part of the piece, it is all about the tuba and the double bass, producing some beautiful low-end tones; within this part, things move and shake with Taxt playing shorter notes and longer sustaining ones. In the second half, Aas plays the viola and this brings out the duality between the low end of the tuba and the high end of the violin in a very slow changing and meandering piece of music. It is, altogether, a piece of music with a more meditative character than the music by Sheriffs Of Nothingness. (FdW)
––– Address: http://sofamusic.bandcamp.com
THE USE OF ASHES - BURNING GNOME (CD by Tonefloat)
A long, long time ago there was Mekanik Kommando, a Nijmegen based group at the forefront of very modern pop music, independent at the start and signed to EMI. Within two or three years they fell from grace and were dubbed 'Pink Floyd of modern electronic music', which wasn't very nice. The band split up, and Peter and Simon van Vliet started The Use of Ashes, named after a record by Pearls Before Swine, confirming perhaps they were hippies. I loved Mekanik Kommando, but it took me some years to appreciate The Use Of Ashes. Some two years I saw them in concert, not for the first time, but this time something seemed to have shifted. They played mostly shorter and poppier songs, perhaps akin to the old Mekanik Kommando sound, but also with that psychedelic music edge. On this new CD, the first in a few years (Mekanik Kommando did a revival tour in between) and it's great to see that the brief song structure is continued here. The twelve pieces are somewhere between two and five minutes, but mostly two and three minutes. Yes, that also means this is a short album, but I enjoy it. It has that rawness of a punk album, with short and rough edges, with things being a bit out place and yet with all the vocoder on the voice of Peter van Vliet, which is a Use Of Ashes trademark, making this also very much that sixties psychedelic feel. And that feeling is enhanced by the presence of a cover of 'Tomorrow Never Knows', which doesn't surpass the original (and how could it be?), and without the tape loop finale of the original. Fuzzy guitars, hazy keyboards and drums play an important role this time, and the record is neatly loud mixed. Perhaps that is a bit too much at times, so maybe at thirty-five minutes, this is exactly the right length. This is not at all music for Vital Weekly, I realize this very well, and yet I love it very much! (FdW)
––– Address: https://tonefloat.com/
PHILIP GAYLE – REFECT.DEFECT (CD by Yabyum)
In 2018, I reviewed ‘Berp’ of Philip Gayle, released on his own Yabyum label. It contained recordings dating from 2001 with Ernesto Diaz-Infante, Barbara Rose Lange and Ben Lind. I remember being struck by their strange improvisations leaving me a bit baffled. Years passed, and now out of the blue, there is ‘Refect.Defect’, again on his own label. Of some improvisers and musicians, you find releases on many labels. Philip Gayle is of another category. Most of his work is released by himself on his Yabyum records. Only Public Eyesore (‘Babanšo Total’, 2011) and Family Vineyard released some stuff of him. So there is not much around of this solitary (?) artist who divides his time between Japan and the USA. His new album has him performing on guitars, mandolins, waterphone, etc, On several of the tracks, he is assisted – in different combinations - by Loren Connors (guitar), Michael Evans (of Holy Ghost Spermic Brotherhood) on percussion, Shelley Hirsch (voice), Stephanie Griffin (viola), Charles Waters (Gold Sparkle Band) on bass clarinet and Emilie-Anne Jendron (violin). The recordings make clear that Gayle is a very wayward musician, practising an uncompromising and unique style of improvisation. Opening improvisation ‘Earth Whole’ is a multi-tracked work with Gayle playing out of tune guitars, playing with textural and timbral aspects of sound. Most of his solo pieces are multi-layered and overdubbed, increasing the disorienting and eccentric effect of his music. ‘Gowanus Spittoon’ is improvised but could be composed as well. It sounds like one. Strange and alienating movements. A completely fascinating richly textured work of slow and long extended movements, with vocals by Shelley Hirsch. ‘No comment Death’ is again a sparkling multi-tracked solo piece. Difficult to compare. Chadbourne may come most close to his universe. The music progresses in a strange flow. Multi-tracked with many details. In the second part everything seems to synchronize into what almost sounds like a melody for a short moment. This one works. ‘Gotham Spleen’ is the longest track, an exciting duet with Loren Connors where both get lost in a very desolate sound-blues. ‘Third doctor miracle box’ has again a rare appearance of Shelly Hirsch telling a story in what sometimes sounds like a demented blues. But how absurd and weird these works may sound, they are very thought-over and hitting something. Hope we don’t have to wait years for Gayle’s next step who recorded ‘Reject.Defect’ early this year in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, NY. (DM)
––– Address: http://www.philipgayle.com/
CRAIG GREEN – LOVE NOTES IN BINARY CODE (CD by Discus Music)
Most releases by Discus Music concern recordings from musicians based in the Sheffield-area. Not however this one. Craig Green is from New Orleans, where he grew up under the influence of many musical idioms. It became a characteristic of his musicianship, communicating in and with very different idioms of jazz, avant-garde, world music, rock, etc.
Besides his work as a performer and improviser, he produces music for film and ballet, composes chamber music for small ensembles, etc. So far he released several solo albums and collaborations. Among them are two albums with drummer David King from the Bad Plus and Happy Apple for Long Song Records. I suppose he likes the combination of drums and guitar, as this new release is again one with a drummer. For this occasion, it is Clive Deamer who worked with Radiohead, Robert Plant, Hawkwind and Portishead to name a few. Together they perform four duets for classical guitar and drums and percussion. The music is improvised but born out of ideas that were conceived in the days before recording. In this case, improvised doesn’t mean abstract far out improvisation leaving melody, rhythm etc, behind. The opposite is the case here. Green loves melody and makes knots to many musical styles. The title track has an atmosphere that reminded me of work of Durutti Column, spacey acoustic guitar with confined echoing effects. But Green is a technically far more advanced player. His playing reflects the influences of African music a.o. He has a beautiful dark-coloured tone. For sure a fantastic guitarist, who developed definitively his own voice.
Overall the music moves on in a groovy way, laid-back and comfortable. With tasty and functional drums by Deamer. But don’t be mistaken, it is full of ingenious twists and licks like the opening for instance of ‘Self Portrait in 3 Filters’. Great record. (DM)
––– Address: https://discus-music.co.uk/
POPEBAMA – NATION BUILDING (CD by Gold Bolus Recordings)
New York-based experimental duo Popebama – contamination of pope and Obama? – are Erin Rogers (saxophone, vocals, electronics) and Dennis Sullivan (percussion, vocals, electronics). Erin Rogers we know from her impressive solo album ‘Dawntreader’ released last year by Relative Pitch Records and recorded by Dennis Sullivan. She is member of the thingNY-collective, Hypercube and New Thread Quartet. Dennis Sullivan is new to me. He is a percussionist and composer originating from Ohio and based in Queens NY. Focused on contemporary music he is very active as a solo performer. Besides Popebama he is one half of Radical 2, a duo he started with percussionist/electronics engineer, Levy Lorenzo. Since their start in 2016 Popebama performed at many festivals and other occasions. With ‘Nation building’ they present their first CD, containing four of their unconventional compositions: ‘Shedding Waste’ and ‘Gamma Chamber’ by Dennis Sullivan, and ‘Wormhole’ and ‘Light-on-Light’ by Erin Rogers. Very transparent compositions, in the sense that it is easy – and rewarding - to follow all of their detailed movements, actions. The CD opens with ‘Shedding waste’, a dramatic piece, built from short and pointed gestures by both players on sax, percussion and vocals. Small and subtle sounds are in an energetic interchange with theatrical allure. Experimental on one side, but also very entertaining and witty. ‘Wormhole’ is more reduced and minimalistic in its approach, with rigid and distinct movements and patterns. ‘Gamma Chamber’ starts very quietly, near silence with deep sonorities. It is the most experimental work on the album, full of abstract noisy textures combined with sax. And again as all works on the album, it is constructed as if it is telling a story full of drama. Closing work ‘Light on Light’ is a very playful and uplifting piece. Even humorous. All works demonstrate that Rogers and Sullivan make up a great duo, a strong unit. Crossing many musical borders they are driven by a very pronounced vision of what to present and deliver it in a spirited performance. Exciting work! (DM)
––– Address: http://goldbolus.com/
MYTRIP - KEEPER (LP by Amek)
Angel Simitchiev is the man behind Mytrip and also acting as the label boss here and as such we know him as a man who loves mood music of the somewhat darker variety. It has been a while since I last heard a full-length work by Mytrip (Vital Weekly 1059 I believe) and I wrote that he "no doubt plays guitar, electronics and field recordings", but that was based on nothing, to be honest. There is a picture of Mytrip on the insert, just second before he starts performing and there is no guitar in sight. A laptop, some 'gear' and that's all. Maybe there has been a shift towards different instruments in recent years that I am not aware of. In the music, this shift is quite clear. The music was written for a show in Studio 1 of the Bulgarian National Radio and later on, some fragments were dropped and others expanded upon. The dark mood from field recordings tuned and turned in drones is a still a presence but rhythm also plays a role now. Not stomping around, but carefully placed when needed, and omitted on other occasions. In 'Upheavel' the "rhythm" sounded like a Muslimgauze sample from the 'Azzazin' era. There is a warm glitch effect to most of the music here, which makes a nice effect for a change. It is perhaps a reminder of the warm days of laptop glitch from a long time ago, but Mytrip cleverly combines this with the best of processed drones and spacious dark ambient music, stringing together another hybrid of what ambient can be. Not something that is entirely new but with the addition of rhythm samples coming up with six fine slabs of dark mood music, which, strange as it may seem, never is the sound of despair, but of light and hope. Maybe I am all wrong but that's how it all sounded to me. Great record, all together. (FdW)
––– Address: https://amekcollective.bandcamp.com/
FANT^MS - ROOMTONES (LP and CD by MMLI)
In 2014 three men got together in Grenoble. They share a love for field recordings, microphones, and acoustic, mechanical, electrical and electronic phenomena. These men are Lee Patterson 9springs, motors & chemical reactions), Frederic Nogray (quartz singing bowls and objects) and Pali Mersault (fluorescent tubes, radio & electronics). These are not exactly top-notch instruments. They met a couple of times, and one such occasion was a multiple day residency in Brussels at the end of 2017 and that resulted in this LP and that resulted in the LP and CD, which are now released. The LP contains the shorter pieces and the CD two long pieces (I gather from the LP length of a CD they would have loved this also on LP). There are some differences between the LP and CD and similarities. The action within this trio is in exploring the room as another instrument. By producing sounds and letting these float around in that space, finding transformations as they bounce around. Overtones play quite an important role, more so, it seems on the CD than on LP. On the various pieces of the LP, there is room for shorter sounds, strokes on the bowls for instance, and other, harder to decipher, shorter sounds, whereas on the two pieces of the CD it is all about the longitude of the material. On both the LP and the CD the playing is very careful like everybody is on their toes not trip over something and maybe sometimes a bit too careful, I was thinking. But on 'Witch/Switch' there is a bit of noise exploration, and they show that they can break cover and go all out. I very much enjoyed all of this. The combination of acoustic instruments and discarded electronics, playing ever-changing duets in conversation with space it was recorded in (at least, so I assume) make this a great release. One part is more of electro-acoustic music (LP) and one is akin to the world of drone music (CD). These are some fine explorations. (FdW)
––– Address: https://mmli.bandcamp.com/album/roomtones
DEISON - SUBSTRATA (10" by Substantia Innomonata/Drone Records)
JEREMIE MATHES - ARKHAIOS (10" by Substantia Innomonata/Drone Records)
Maybe I wrote this before, and as I am too lazy to look it up, I may repeat myself. Substantia Innomonata is a series of 10" records, released by Drone Records, and now there is number 27 and 28, and the whole series is a wonderful collection of related music, but always with some differences. The general concept behind the label is something that Unnameable, Unspeakable, Unthinkable and Unidentifiable, and so on. Music for the mind rather than the ratio. I started with Cristiano Deison's 'Substrata' release and his three pieces (side A has two parts) is a collection of recordings from outside and inside in various locations, using prepared tapes, metals, strings, wires and electronics. It works out in two different ways; on the first, the two parts of 'Terra Firma' it is all about these transparent drones of what could be a bow upon Tibetan bells, singing overtones and such like. This piece is a slow builder, starting from the depths of the earth, rising to a massive drone, with loads of rumbling of acoustic sounds, left, right, above and beyond. 'Prima Materia', the long piece on the second side is much more obscure. Here we find a lingering drone, pushed to the background, but always being a presence in the music. Upfront there are small sounds, the cracking of stones, shells, the stumbling upon a wooden floor, or door that squeaks. It is an intense piece of music; I was half-half expecting something extreme to happen (as in a horror film) but it didn't and instead, it was all about the subtle movement and displacing of sound. 'In Vacuo Momentum' is a short afterthought of just a single dark drone and some acoustic sounds. All of this sounds pretty mysterious and spooky, and I love it very much.
Jeremie Mathes is someone who I mostly know through his releases on Unfathomless (of which he has three!), Mystery Sea and Basses Frequences. He is based in Cambodja these days and for the recordings that ended up on 'Arkhaios', he went to an abandoned factory site with various ancient Khmer instruments ("Tro u, Khim"), but all of them highly processed. I assume he used the space to transform these sounds and those transformations are extensive. Both sides of the record have one long piece of music, and they both start with small drones and small acoustic sounds; a bit as Deison does, but maybe Mathes keeps it all together a bit more. These are then slowly expanded to more and bigger drones and both of these pieces are great pieces of drone music. In Mathes' piece, the 'extra' sounds seem to be derived from further processing his acoustic sources and played back in this cavernous space of the old factory. As always, reverb plays an important in this music and I'm not sure if in the case of Mathes this is from the natural space or perhaps from added reverb in mixing the various recordings at home.
I enjoyed both records a lot and I may have a slight preference for the Deison record. There seems to be a bit more variation in the pieces and it all sounded more intense and scary. However, both records fit the umbrella of what Substantia Innomonata is all about with their releases. (FdW)
––– Address: http://www.dronerecords.de
CHAD M. CLARK - TIME TIDAL DISRUPTION (CDR, private)
This might very well be the first release by Chad M. Clark, a composer and guitarist from Chicago, who has plated alongside "Viv Corringham, Jamie Davis, Norman W. Long, Todd A. Carter, Aaron Zarzutzki, Alex Mincek, Ausberto (Oz) Acevedo, Eric Leondardson, Christopher Preissing, Julian Kirshner, Tim Daisey, and Lindsey Gorry"; I only recognized a few names, but I reckon they are all part of the world of improvised music. Along with his guitar, a pre-WWII archtop Epiphone guitar, he uses wool, balloon, hairpin, glass slide, microtonal harmonica, rods, mixing bowl, and split shot fishing sinkers and in thirty-one minutes he offers a fine range of some very dynamic playing. It is all very direct and in your face, but picked with some great microphones, so there is a lot of clarity in this music. The guitar one easily recognizes in the music and yet none of the playings is regular. Clark hits the strings with his objects, using his fingers to play a few strings and then, in a split second, it seems as f he picked up another object and plays that. Also, I couldn't figure out if this was all recorded in one take or, perhaps, this is the result of multitracking. You kind of except an improviser to stay away from multi-tracking and let it all exist at the moment, but in Clark's music there is, at times, a complexity that made me reconsider this statement. And, of course, why not? There are no rules, I should think and one should do whatever it takes to achieve to get the results one wants. With ten tracks in thirty-one minutes, Clark's release has the right length, I think, to be fully appreciated; longer could probably lead to repeating ideas too much. This is a very fine introduction. (FdW)
––– Address: https://chadclark.bandcamp.com/releases
THIRTEEN HURTS - THRESHOLD (CDR by No Part Of It)
BLOOD RHYTHMS - ZERRISSENHEIT (CDR by No Part Of It)
TROU - GRJĎTHAUGR (CDR by No Part Of It)
CREDO IN DEUM - BLOOD SOAKED SAND (CDR by No Part Of It)
NITAL ETCH - SIMULACRUM (CDR by No Part Of It)
‘Threshold’ is an apt title. At various parts through Thirteen Hurts’ new album you reach yours, or maybe he reaches his. It is unclear. What is clear however is that ‘Threshold’ is a brutal listen that feels more like a war of attrition. The standout track is the album’s closer ‘Transmission/Reception’. For 25 minutes Thirteen Hurts layers feedback, wonky synths, grappling basslines, the occasional drums until it is a seething mass struggling to breathe under its own mass. You remember at the end of Akira, spoiler alert when Tetsuo just keeps mutating and mutating, getting larger, and larger until he explodes? ‘Transmission/Reception’ is a bit like that, expect a bit nastier. About a third of the way in everything slows down a bit. All the layers are removed and there we have the heart of the tracks. Searing white noise and electric hums. Eventually, Thirteen Hurts can’t help himself and everything slowly gets built up again until it’s an all-consuming melee.
Where I grew up had a strong tradition for motorsports. Speedway and powerboat racing mostly. That and traction engines at village fairs. I can remember being six or seven and there was a speedway demonstration going on in town in the afternoon. We were half a mile away, but the noise those engines made was intoxicating. For short sharp bursts, the town rocked to the sound of these monstrous machines. I wasn’t sure whether to be exhilarated or spooked. While listening to ‘Zerrissenheit’ by Blood Rhythms I’m reminded of that moment. The album hinges on the fourth track, none of the tracks have names. Effectively it’s a piano loop that builds in intensity with each repetition. It works the same as Sideshow Bob’s rake joke in the Cape Fear episode of The Simpsons. When the loop starts its brilliant then after a while you get to the point where it’s a boring noise. Right after this point, it starts to take on a life of its own. You wonder how many more there can be. You kind of hope it doesn’t it end. What ‘Zerrissenheit’ demonstrates is that Blood Rhythms understand completely when something works, doesn’t, and most importantly how to make it work again. The album is based around simple loops either being looped ad nauseum or run through an array of filters, pedals, manipulated or run in juxtaposition to one another. This is what we’ve come to expect from Blood Rhythms and an album named conflict for that matter.
On the surface ‘Grj˛thaugr’ but Trou doesn’t do a great deal. Each of the three tracks opens with a loop. The same loop carries on for the duration, somewhere between 15-34 mins, and then it stops. That’s effectively it. But trying to explain the album like this is the same as describing a life. Born. Live for a seemingly undetermined time. Die. It misses all the interesting bits in the middle. Was the person good at maths? Did they get fired for sending a drunk email after a staff party? Did they score the winning goal in a cup final? What music really moved them, regardless of their mood. You know, the important things. The beginning, and end, of ‘No Above, No Within, No Below’, ‘Herbspalast’ and ‘Onwards, to M˙spellsheimr’ isn’t that important, it’s the between points where all the fun happens. ‘Onwards, to M˙spellsheimr’ is the standout track on the album. The loop is more dynamic and has more urgency to it. It sounds like a few seconds of keyboards, or maybe horns have been layered with some feedback to create something that is both welcoming and disengaged. As ‘Onwards, to M˙spellsheimr’ carries on you start to notice other sounds buried deep in its hypnotic depths. Now, this is the fun part. Whether those noises are actually there or a result of listening to the same loop for over 30-minutes and your mind playing tricks on you is the real question. The beauty of ‘Grj˛thaugr’ is that it’s always different and always the same. Listen to this angry and you start to pick out the aggressive elements of the track. Listen to it in a happy mood and you latch onto the playing motifs.
Out of all the releases I’ve played so far, ‘Blood Soaked Sand’ is the most musical and probably the most debased. Throughout the album there are long sections where everything is built around a melody, ‘Jetavana’ and ‘The Accuser’ being the most pronounced, with the nosier sections working as punctuation. It shows that Robert LaBarge, AKA Credo in Deum, isn’t just capable of releasing a face-melting sonic attacks. That being said one of the most satisfying tracks on the album is ‘The Myth of Human Execution 5’. Here LaBarge unleashes his most devastating stack on the album. It might not be the loudest but there is something incredibly unsettling about the unrelenting waves of static and feedback. The beauty here isn’t in the space between the waves. There is none. It’s between the way the waves overlap and create new destructive sounds. ‘Sodomized with Spikes’ is the most playful track on ‘Blood Soaked Sand’. Wonky synth lines dance about over what sounds like distressed field recordings or skittering loops. After the skewed synths of ‘Sodomized with Spikes,’ the LaBarge goes back to something more tormenting and oppressive. ‘Blood Soaked Sand’ is just under nine minutes of searing feedback and agitated noise. Once you weather the storm of the surface noise, there is plenty to get your teeth into. Vexing motifs appear and reappear throughout. Some vanish almost immediately, while others keep coming back, again and again, have to go. The eagle eyed of you will recognise LaBarge as the mastermind behind Buddhist on Fire. Having put out literally hundreds of recordings under than name, and converting from Buddhism to Catholicism, LeBarge has changed his creative name to Credo in Deum. Ultimately this name change doesn’t matter as the music is still as hypnotic, captivating and gut-wrenchingly powerful as his original moniker.
My hometown was once a desired tourist destination. Weirdly before my parents moved there for work, it was a place they went to on holiday. The best beach in the country was easily accessible by car. By the time, my friends and I were old enough to go out without parental supervision the paint was well on its way to being stripped again by the salty spray and humid summers. As of late teenagers, we’d go on late-night drives either to secluded bays or deep into the abandoned countryside to escape the drudgery of our futures. ‘Simulacrum’ would have been an ideal soundtrack to those drives. There is something bleak, yet comforting, about this album. As the guitar drones over skittering percussion, you are reminded of what happens when the fun stops. That moment when the joke isn’t funny anymore or when the house lights come up at a club and for a few seconds no one can see, and then everything comes into stark focus. You can see the cracks in the walls, the sticky puddle on the dancefloor wasn’t a WKD Blue but the residue of vomit from the toilets and how everyone’s face is now a grimace of desperation and sweat. All of this, and more, comes across on ‘Simulacrum’. Kevin Lewis has crafted songs that a rammed filled with beguiling melodies. They ooze from the speakers. But they are also lackadaisical. Lewis is playing the exact amount he needs to and no more. ‘You Poor Thing’ is a prime example of this. At times you get the impression that he regrets starting it as he’ll have to finish it, but this is the charm of it. ‘Barbara’ opens with a PSA sample, then goes into devastating noisy motifs before a psychedelic outro. ‘Miles of Nothing, Forever Fleeting’ is sombre but it has a heart. There is compassion there. The way the cello, I think it’s a cello, builds and swells are the highlights on the album. It would have been the perfect soundtrack to parking up either by the sea or on a rise, putting the headlights on full beam and watching them disappear into the darkness. ‘Simulacrum’ is an apt title. Is it representing Lewis existing in a state of solitude? Or is it how he sees the world around him? Only Lewis knows that and he’s letting his music do the talking. (NR)
––– Address: https://nopartofit.bandcamp.com/
MAITRII ORBOREAL CEREMONY - PRISMIC PASSAGEWAYS (cassette by Moonside Tapes)
MHVA - CLOSING IN (cassette by Moonside Tapes)
You may think that I am all prejudiced with me reading words as Maitrii Orboreal Ceremony, Prismic Passageways and one side 'Trance' and one side 'Meditation' and concluding this all new age music. But I am also surprised this is not the case; or, to be more precise, not at all. I have not much idea as to who is responsible for the music. Maitrii might be a place of fiction ("Little is known of Maitrii and its inhabitants, save for what remains in the notebooks and recordings of anthropologist Dr August Maynard, found partially intact by villagers on the shores of Easter Island. Though described in Maynard’s notebooks as being an island approximately the size of Malta, later anthropologists have theorized that the Maitrii Maynard discovered may have been the last remnant of the sunken continent Aninomola, believed to have perished by flooding some five millennia before the birth of the first known civilizations of Mesopotamia") and the music is made of the "newly restored audio recordings taken by Maynard of the Maitrii people’s music". Good one, as it allows for some quasi occult, part exotic ritual music. Take a blender and put a part of zoviet*france, some Jorge Reyes, some Sigillum S 'Bardo Thos-Grol', lots of O Yuki Conjugate and mix it all up. There is quite a bit of room for delay, reverb and other studio trickery. On the 'trance' side we find five distinctly different pieces of part rhythmic and part drone-based sounds, all quite dense. On the meditation side, the pieces are open and spacious. Slowly drifting synth tones in 'Sun eater' or kalimbas in 'Healer', all on a wide-open course. It's topped off with a fair bunch of hiss to lend it some authenticity (or ethnicity?). I loved it all, even the story.
No story at all is received about mhva, as the spelling is preferred. There are ten tracks on this fifty-minute cassette and eight are on the first side and two lengthy ones on the other side. The piano is the main instrument, even when it not always sounds like a most regular one. It might be an electric piano, it might be something that has been processed to some extent. I couldn't tell you. There is more happening here, mild elements of distortion are scattered around, crumbled voices in the background, a fair bit of reverb to suggest space and modular electronics for some additional ornament to the music. Like Maitrii Orboreal Ceremony this is not new age music at all, and mhva certainly belongs to the more experimental edges of ambient and drone music. There is something elegantly soothing in this music, there is no question about that, but always with a mildly spicy undercurrent; a bit of distortion, some oddly placed sounds, a delay pedal a bit out of control, that sort of thing. The shorter pieces show a more playful side of his/her music, even in its more melancholic wanderings, whereas the two lengthier pieces are serious, massive and psychedelic; here we space out and wander of. This was very nice too! (FdW)
––– Address: https://moonsidetapes.bandcamp.com/
STUART CHALMERS & ALAN COURTIS - RTUALS OF CMMON LNGUAGE (cassette by Steepgloss)
With mister Courtis hailing from Argentina and Chalmers from the UK, I would think this is one of the 'music by mail' collaborations and Steepgloss is a label exclusively devoted to releasing collaborations. Courtis takes credit for guitar, field recordings, objects etc. and Chalmers for tape, fx pedals, field recordings, samples and swarmandal. Both of them are quite active when it comes to having releases available, and so it is not difficult to find what common ground they have in creating these four pieces. A lot of this is about the use of field recordings being made part of drones created with guitar (Courtis) and effect pedals and sampler (Chalmers). It is a combination that can't go wrong, I would think and it doesn't disappoint. Maybe if you'd be looking for something out of the ordinary, seeing these two men doing something entirely different, then, yes, this is a disappointment but that's not how I look at these things. I like change, sure, but at the same time, I realize this is not always what musicians want. I can imagine in the case of Courtis and Chalmers that they are conformable with the way they do their music and for each, there is the fun of working with like-minded people. Each of the four pieces is a slow builder, adding sounds, making minimal changes and then slowly uncovers this majestic drone piece of a variety of sounds and once 'there', it all slowly goes into a descent. In the fourth piece (no titles), they choose for a slightly more open approach with fragmented guitar and percussive bits on the swarmandal, adding a more percussive element to the menu. It is something that they could have done more here, diversifying the drones but it is what it is and that is some fine release altogether. (FdW)
––– Address: http://steepgloss.bandcamp.com
OOOOOOO - ADVENTO REFRACT┴RIO (cassette by New Approach Records)
OOOOOOO - ONOMATOPEIA MONOL═TICA (cassette by New Approach Records)
The correct spelling is oooOooo, who is described as "a surrealistic and organic sonic expression, based on layers of sound with recited poetry in sonic solve et coagula operation". The acronym NGH stands for Nekro Goat Heresy; the Bandcamp page is all black and hard to read, so you know we are not dealing with a bunch smiley, happy people here. These two tapes are released together in a hessian bag and seeing the total duration, some fifty minutes, you could wonder why not all on a single tape? The hurdy-gurdy plays a big role in the music, along with hand-made instruments and, at least, so I assume, also quite a bit of electronics to transform that hurdy-gurdy and the vocals. Vocals which arrive the dark hole, deep black forest or whatever gothic association you may have. Or folk noir, or "Ritualistic Folk", as the group calls it. It is pitch black music (just take a look at the label's Bandcamp page and you get my drift), cold and distant. It is not unlike watching a ritual from some distance and you have no idea what's going on. I enjoyed the two longer tracks of 'Onomatopeia MonolÝtica' better than the ix tracks of the other. In those six, oooOooo is a bit more traditional with drones, noise, percussive (sparse) and the hurdy-gurdy process as part of the graveyard voice, but in the longer tracks the balance is restored and here we have a more experimental form of ritual music. It reminded me of the first Current 93 records, which I still very much to this very day, so I am not averse to this kind of music. The voice is buried (pun intended) a bit more or used sparsely in a diverse bed of electronics, radio noise, hurdy-gurdy and maybe field recordings. This is one for the coming autumnal season. (FdW)
––– Address: https://nekrogoatheresyproductions.bandcamp.com/
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