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JOCELYN ROBERT - L'ILE NOIRE (CD by Merles) *
JOCELYN ROBERT - L'ILE ROUGE (CD by Merles) *
JOCELYN ROBERT - REQUIEM (CD by Merles) *
JUDITH HAMANN - MUSIC FOR CELLO AND HUMMING (CD by Blank Forms) *
JUDITH HAMANN - SHAKING STUDIES (LP by Blank Forms) *
CONTRASTATE - RECORDED EVIDENCE II (CD by Black Rose Recordings) *
COLIN WEBSTER & ANDREW LISLE - NEW INVENTION (CD by New Wave Of Jazz) *
RUSSEL & KEUNE & VANDERSTRATEN - ON SUNDAY (CD by New Wave Of Jazz) *
WARD & VERHOEVEN & SERRIES & ROBERTS - IMAGINARY JUNCTION (CD by New Wave Of Jazz) *
RUBICON QUARTET- CROSSCURRENTS (CD by New Wave Of Jazz) *
MASSIMO RICCI - TRACEY FEELS WORSE (CD by Elevator Bath) *
NIELS LYHNNE LOKKEGAARD – MUSIC FOR KRÜGERRAND (LP by Topos) *
ALEX MACKAY - TARGAZER (CDR by Forwind) *
EXPEDIENT SELF - THE PRESENT (CDR, private) *
MONICKER - LIBR’AERIE (CDR by Bug Incision) *
COLLATERAL - COLLATERAL (CDR by Bug Incision) *
CRYINGSNICE - ALL GREASED UP FOR NOTHIN’ (CDR by Bug Incision) *
EMILY DAVIS\CHRISTOPHER RIGGS\GEORGE ROMAINE - EXTINCTION BURST (CDR by Bug Incision) *
DOC WÖR MIRRAN - BEARDO WEIRDO (miniCDR by Handmade) *
JOSEPH B. RAIMOND - BROKEN (book by Mirran Thought)
ABIGAIL SMITH - INDOCHINA SOUNDSCRAPS (cassette by Eh?) *
TIGER VILLAGE - CASSINGLE #1 (cassette by Superpolar Tapes) *
THE MASTER MUSICIANS OF DYFFRYN MOOR - CASSINGLE #2 (cassette by Superpolar Tapes) *
HAROLD SACK ZIEGLER - CASSINGLE #3 (cassette by Superpolar Tapes) *
GINTAS K – SOUND AND SPACES (cassette by Powdered Hearts) *
BARDO TODOL - MUSIC 4 STRINGS, SINTETIZADOR, UNA FLAUTA, AGUA Y ELECTRÓNIKA (cassette by Coherent States) *
FLESHTONE AURA - A "THEREFORE" BETWEEN TWO NON-SEQUITURS (cassette by Coherent States) *
COSTIS DRYGIANAKIS & MATT ATKINS - LATE APRIL (cassette by Coherent States) *
MIKEL R. NIETO - HOPELESSNESS (download/paper/host) *
JOCELYN ROBERT - L'ILE NOIRE (CD by Merles)
JOCELYN ROBERT - L'ILE ROUGE (CD by Merles)
JOCELYN ROBERT - REQUIEM (CD by Merles)
These three releases are the result of being locked down for a long time. Just lots and lots of time to do music, I guess. Of these three new albums, 'L'Ile Rouge' and 'L'Ile Noire' can be seen a double act, although I am not sure why Robert didn't release these as a double album; 'Requiem' is something altogether different. Thirty years ago, Joycelyn Robert made his first record, for ReR and I am not sure if I heard it back then, but he says now that there wasn't much of a concept behind the record; "mainly trying to create a sound landscape that would resemble, somehow, the way I hear the world when I listen to it". Over the years he kept recording more of these pieces, more or less of wanting to do counter his later more abstract and conceptual pieces. These are indeed to some extent very 'free' pieces of music. And I don't mean this to be improvised music, but a free approach to using sound and sounds in a musique concrète manner. The sampler plays a big role and in there Robert has whatever pleases him. Guitar, piano, field recordings, voices, the sound of the busy city, acoustic objects, and he plays with them around a lot. It goes all over the place; from busy constructions to stripped-down pieces; from almost orchestral to free jazz, from noise to ambient music; sometimes even within the space of a single piece, such as in 'Statues de Sable'. Strange combinations at times, but you can hear the sheer fun he had when composing these pieces. "Now what will happen if I add this to that and then mix it up with the same material at half the speed?". That sort of considerations. A double album would have made great sense.
Of an entirely different nature is 'Requiem', the mass for the death; for us good catholic folk that is. I have no idea if Robert is a religious person, but his album is inspired by the death toll of the 2020 pandemic and therefore an album of quiet music. It is Robert at the piano and nothing else. He doesn't take the titles of the original mass (you know 'Kyrie Eleison', 'Libera Me' or 'Angus Dei'), but from his family history, streets and places. By the time I got to play this CD, towards the end of the day, it poured outside, the street lights were on and the evening was about to start. Is that the right time of the day to play some sad music? You could wonder about that of course; I did. The music didn't elevate the sombre mood I had, for no particular reason (I had just heard two great playful releases by Robert), but it's that time of the year blues, I guess. All five pieces are mostly slow, introspective, quiet and full of mourning, I think. But there is also a bit more up-tempo piano in 'Rue Chalifoux'. There are very little extras in terms of sound. The piano is captured in a fine space and played without much use of the sustain pedal, perhaps somewhat to my surprise. It all sounds very classical, and for once it is the kind of classical music I can relate to; that of Erik Satie and Claude Debussy. And now onto the long night! (FdW)
––– Address: http://merles.ca/
JUDITH HAMANN - MUSIC FOR CELLO AND HUMMING (CD by Blank Forms)
JUDITH HAMANN - SHAKING STUDIES (LP by Blank Forms)
There is some trust from Blank Forms in Judith Hamann, releasing a LP and CD at the same time, with different material. Hamann is a cellist from Australia and I understand that the LP has four compositions of her hand, while CD contains eight, six of which she composed, and one by Anthony Pateras and one by Sarah Hennies. With the CD clocking in at 80 minutes and the LP at forty-one, this is quite a lot of music. I had no idea what to expect with a title such as 'Music For Cello And Humming', yet I feared it was some sort of hippie/Fluxus event. That it is, luckily, not. The humming is not even always audible, or it is to such an extent that it is very close to the sound of the cello. This is a very long CD, eighty minutes and these eight pieces are not always very easy. All of these have a minimalist ground, of slow-changing notes and tones, repeat upon repeat and not easily discernable variations. The humming is there, I think, but you need to listen very carefully to notice it. Throughout the music is very minimal and intimate, especially on the CD. In the 'Humming Suite: Etudes for Cello and Humming', I believe to recognize some traditional influences from the world of classical music, but I easily admit not knowing too much about it. The voice here is indeed a separate element to the music. Sara Hennies' composition 'Loss' for humming cellist and electronics is the one that comes closest to the world of Fluxus, I thought and 'Down To Dust', the Antony Pateras composition here moves hardly but sounds like a heavily amplified environment and is for me the highlight of the CD. These eight pieces show an interesting variety of approaches to the cello and humming, closely knit together or with some distance. Fascinating!
'Shaking' is the common ground for the four compositions on 'Shaking Studies'; "In addition to an arsenal of techniques for registrable shaking, Hamann’s conception of the term emphasizes micro and macro pulsing, including tremors, vibrato, wolf tones, and complex partial activity", so we read and not being trained on this (or any other) instruments I am not sure what it all means, but Hamann plays the cello with a bow across the strings, in the two parts of 'Pulse Study', even when I am not entirely sure how this 'shaking of the cello' works. I did enjoy the music though, that I am sure of. It is some wonderful slow and perhaps sad music. However, in 'A Reading' I can hear the shaking of the bow and the cello working out into some strange, nervous action; something that seems to resemble the sawing of the cello in half. The closing piece 'The Tender Interval' opens with what seems to be some contact microphone stuff, slowly taken over by more sad and slow cello music, but this piece also has some fascinating 'other' quality. Almost as if Hamann added field recordings to the proceedings; but it may very well be amplified cello being shaken around. This is all fascinating music; I played this a few times over the last week and everything I noted something different in the music, which in my books is a good thing. (FdW)
––– Address: https://blankforms.org/
CONTRASTATE - RECORDED EVIDENCE II (CD by Black Rose Recordings)
Over the years I must have recounted many a time my love-hate relationship with Contrastate, having liked the first two records a lot, and then when they became a trio and vocals went to the foreground I was less of a fan (and 'hate' is a too strong word). But I have been following their work over all these years with much interest. This new CD is actually not a new work, but a collection of "rare and unreleased" bits. You would think this the follow0up to 'Recorded Evidence I', but I can't find evidence of its existence. The tracks span a period of some twenty-seven years, from their 1993 7" by Dying Earth Europe to 2019, a track they did for a compilation cassette by Fourth Dimension (see Vital Weekly 1214). This is a fine showcase of what this band is all about. If it is the name you heard but have no idea about the music, then this could serve as a very good introduction. It covers the many musical grounds this group walks upon. The ambient and drone atmospheres, the spoken word pieces (or rather the music pieces of which spoken word is a part), the melodic touches and the esoteric ritual side this music also has. And none of this is very strict, everything blurs together; a piece can start out in a drone/ambient fashion and then evolve into something that is a collage of sound, spoken word and a bit ritualistic drumming. 'Revolution Sera La Nom De La Civilisation' is such a piece. Some of this is a bit too much over the top for my taste, but then, so I was thinking, this might very well be something that Contrastate loves doing. Playing out the theatrics of it all, to be different than all the others in this crowded musical field. To be serious silly at the same time as serious and contemplating. Great stuff! (FdW)
––– Address: <email@example.com>
COLIN WEBSTER & ANDREW LISLE - NEW INVENTION (CD by New Wave Of Jazz)
RUSSEL & KEUNE & VANDERSTRATEN - ON SUNDAY (CD by New Wave Of Jazz)
WARD & VERHOEVEN & SERRIES & ROBERTS - IMAGINARY JUNCTION (CD by New Wave Of Jazz)
RUBICON QUARTET- CROSSCURRENTS (CD by New Wave Of Jazz)
As I am looking at these four new releases, I had no idea where to start. For no particular reason, I picked up the one by Colin Webster (alto saxophone) and Andrew Lisle (drums), with a recording they made on 24th Ma, 2019 in a London studio. Not sure if I mentioned this before, but all releases by this Belgium label (not totalling close to forty releases) have liner notes by Guy Peters and here he talks about punk and their lack of respect for rules. I understand what he says, even if the music here is hardly punk. Hardly? Not at all, at least not in the sense people use the word 'punk' conventionally. This is a free jazz release with an incredible amount of energy, vibrancy and speed in their tracks (which is to be understood as in 'pieces' but also the road they travel together). As I was playing this CD I was thinking that one thing was very much non-punk and that is the clear musicianship of the two players (and yes, I know in the classic punk tradition many were great players); there is little doubt there. Apart from one quieter piece, 'Kuggar', the remainder of this release is all heavy-duty free improvised/jazz improvisation and one that leaves you sufficiently tired afterwards. For me, the untrained and casual listener of this kind of music, something I enjoyed very much (occasionally) but I took a short walk outside before returning to the task of hearing new music.
Free improvisation is also a thing for John Russell (acoustic amplified guitar), Stefan Keune (alto saxophone) and Kris Vanderstraeten (percussion, drums). Together they played a concert at Bar L'Archiduc in Brussels on January 31st, 2019. According to the liner notes an intimate setting and the musicians take whatever time they need to do play the music. I am sure they are experienced players and it's no surprise they play two long pieces, altogether some seventy-one minutes. While this is also free music, and at times pretty chaotic, especially the saxophone from Keune is aa wild bird here, this is altogether of a different dynamic than the Webster/Lisle angle. This trio lacks the energy/punk spirit and that is a great thing. I am not sure if such an explosion of power had worked over such a long time frame. You'd never know but too much is too much. In keeping their chaos under control, chaos-wise, energy-wise and volume-wise, the trio of Keune, Russell and Vanderstraeten have something different to offer, taking the listener on a bumpy trip with many highs and many lows - in volume, exploring the smallest details and the biggest gestures. They play together, listening and interacting and altogether that brings some wonderful music.
Label boss Dirk Serries is on acoustic guitar in a quartet recording with Cath Robers (baritone saxophone and objects), Martine Verhoeven (piano) and Tom Ward (flute, clarinet and bass clarinet). The surrounding of the recording is different than on any other release by New Wave Of jazz, as far as I can remember, and that is because of the whole Covid thing. Verhoeven and Serries in Sint-Lennarts (Belgium), Ward and Roberts in Brockley (UK), with the possibility of hearing each other via internet hook-up ("at studio quality") and then playing together. That of course is also a possibility these days. Two long pieces, altogether sixty-one minutes, of some free improvisation of a very acoustic kind. Tones swirl like snowflakes, especially the flute and the piano, whereas the Roberts tends to play longer notes and Serries is in the usual short attack on the strings. 'Part One' is the more introspective part and 'Part Two' is at times the chaotic counterpart. As fascinating as it sounded most of the time, I had the impression that some editing would strengthen the music here, as it sometimes seemed to meander too much and I lost some of my attention there.
And finally the Rubicon Quartet. Whenever musicians choose names for their ensemble and no longer 'name & name', they mean serious business; this is something beyond a one-off, I should think. In this quartet, we find Serries and Verhoeven again, at their usual instruments and Patrick de Groote on trumpet and flügelhorn and Cel Overberghe on alto saxophone. Like the previous release, there is quite the emphasis on the use of wind instruments, but now in shorter pieces of music and perhaps also a bit more melodic, especially on the part of De Groote and Overberghe, whereas Serries plays his usual abstract tones and Verhoeven is a bit on the background, except in the closing piece 'Caught A Flying Ghost'. This is the most jazz-based release of this lot, but perhaps also in the catalogue of this label. Free jazz, of course, but with the various melodic parts also the most accessible of these four. There is the 'usual' chaos, but sometimes this chaos is controlled and 'small' or intimate, which adds to the variety of the pieces. I can see that this one in particular popular with a wider audience as it is less radical even when for me that is not so attractive. On that sometimes gentler note, this marked the end of a fine afternoon of free improvisation for me. (FdW)
––– Address: https://newwaveofjazz.bandcamp.com/
MASSIMO RICCI - TRACEY FEELS WORSE (CD by Elevator Bath)
Ah, a colleague here! Massimo Ricci is best known for his Touching Extremes blog where he pens brief reports on various of the albums also covered by Vital Weekly, but not as many. I believe he is more selective, whereas we would like to think no postage is wasted. I was surprised to see a CD by him as I didn't know he was involved in the creation of music. According to the information he calls himself a 'composer using words as the main instrument" but "in the meantime Ricci keeps researching, dissecting and altering sounds, something he has been doing since the late '60s". I quickly checked Discogs to see what his releases were, but 'Tracey Feels Love' is his first. Recordings started in 1984 and "were radically rearranged and reformed" and is now in its final state. It is a single piece on this compact disc, thirty-five minutes long. Those thirty-five years of processing sounds resulted in a mass of sound in which we no longer recognize anything. It could be the slowed-down voice, a choir singing in church or anything such like but with a lot of reverb. The work simply fades in at the beginning and out at the end, being on its peak halfway through. It is called 'the palindromic construction' in the press text. That also says that, according to the composer, "'Tracey Feels Worse' may be interpreted as a threnody for the risible irrationality of the human theories about creation and afterlife. Typically, fabricated by minds anxious to satisfy the needs of the self, they’re pitifully inadequate for the egoless infinity of sound and silence", and seemed in contrast with what I read earlier in the information "The work does not contain hidden meanings or esoteric implications, nor does it want to symbolize unprovable "truths." Ricci says he's "an atheist lone wolf who despises the opportunistic traits of false spirituality", but the whole piece reeks of a mass in church. It is not bad, not great either; it left me untouched. (FdW)
––– Address: http://www.elevatorbath.com
NIELS LYHNNE LOKKEGAARD – MUSIC FOR KRÜGERRAND (LP by Topos)
A new work of conceptual composed music / sound art by the stunning Danish composer Niels Lyhnne Løkkegaard is always something to be very very excited about. He has brought us the SOUND X SOUND series of 7”-s of intensely minimal layered work yielding maximum saturation pretty early on in his career. He also literally wrote (in words) a symphony composed for the inner ear (for the listener to read) and works in sometimes more, sometimes a little less conceptual visual arts related to sound and aural experiences too.
In terms of context for his latest work, which is gloriously presented in a staggering art release by Copenhagen label Topos (run by Løkkegaard together with Jacob Kirkegaard and Tobias R. Kirstein), I hereby quote from the composer's notes:
“Løkkegaard's Music for Krügerrand is a quartet piece written for eight gold bullion coins and eight oscillators, in which the materiality of bullion gold coins and the sonic properties of gold are investigated. The quartet piece was commissioned by the G((o))ng Tomorrow Festival and was premiered at Copenhagen Contemporary on November 7th, 2018. […] The following gold bullion coins were used: Krügerrand, 1 oz. (1978, 1980, 1981, 1983) American Eagle, 1 oz. (2017) 100 Corona (1915, 1915) 50 Pesos Centenario (1947).”
So much for the factual matter. But there's more. Like there's always a lot more 'happening' within Løkkegaard's works. And therein also lies his power: there's a physical aural component, a triggering of the ear or setting in motion of resonances, there's a musical part, always in play. And then there are conceptual, historical, philosophical notions, tangents, threads touched upon, brought into play, cut off or embraced.
With 'Music for Krügerrand', it is also important to note: “The purity of a gold coin can be determined by the sound emitted when the gold coin is struck with another gold coin. The sound generated is a high-frequency tone with a very long sustain, and depending on the diameter, thickness and alloy of the gold coin, a tone with a specific pitch and timbre is given.”
“Music for Krügerrand –Quartet for gold bullion coins studies the materiality and the sonic properties of gold, and moreover it deals with man's age-old fascination with the precious metal; what could be described as the psychology of gold.”
“In nature, gold occurs in very small quantities, and when refined gold is unaffected by the ravages of time. Thus, gold appears as a constant - a very concrete symbol of something desirable and unbreakable; a constant material of great gravity representing a continuum of stability. Due to these properties, gold has been given great value - caused numerous tragedies and conflicts - and is today the subject of dreams of wealth and acts as an anxiety barometer measuring the status of the world.”
“Thus, the price of gold usually increases in times when the future seems uncertain, whereas the price of gold often drops when we enjoy a more positive view of the future.”
"The political implications of gold throughout history are countless, and as for the Krügerrand coin itself, the historical load is a heavy and dark one - being a direct result of the South African apartheid regime.”
Already the SOUND X SOUND series provided the listener with a glimpse into a composed and measured aural universe or realm which was rational, rationalist, matter-of-factly, but also wavering, experimental, searching, unstable, rhizomatic and maybe even alchemical. And it's exactly that alchemical nature of Løkkegaard's pieces and other works which is underlined and extrapolated with Music for Krügerrand.
The work is of piercing simplicity. An elegance so beguiling it's almost utterly deceptive. But the eerie, slow-moving shimmering droning resonances evoke all material and immaterial notions mentioned above in little jarring micro-tonal beatings or glorious harmonic co-resonances.
The twinklings are precious in and of themselves, like unstable soap bubbles a child might try to catch, one would like to keep these from falling apart – keep these tones alive, but maybe they don't die out, after all. Maybe they keep on resonating, picking up pace when another golden ratio frequency is struck.
Timbre is brought into deep focus. Materiality takes centre stage. Not in the least part the record artefact itself. The analogue carrier, a speck of dust in the groove, the groove wearing out with time. The playing of the record in and of itself a re-performance of the pieces. A recoining of the notion and meaning of performance and performativity, of stability and the unstable, also. A material transportation touching on alchemical vistas too, perhaps.
'Music for Krügerrand' is one of the most engaging and thought-provoking conceptual works of music and sound art in quite some time. This too may very well be on course to be one of the best records of 2020. (SSK)
––– Address: https://nielslokkegaard.bandcamp.com/
ALEX MACKAY - TARGAZER (CDR by Forwind)
This a debut album for someone of whom we are told is a "Mogwai live team member". I don't follow Mogwai, nor do I much about them (not for any particular reason). I have no idea what a live team member is; I would think sound technician or such but I read on the information that the "four pieces originated in sessions between tours with Mogwai in late 2018/early 2019, in which Alex's onstage setup of electric guitars, synthesizers, effects pedals and amplifiers was augmented with experimental computer processing, sampling techniques and manipulated string textures", so I assume he's on stage with Mogwai. Now, I am sure it would be great if I know more about Mogwai, so I could compare Mackay's solo music. Well, perhaps not. The four pieces are loud, there is little doubt about, and it is not easy to say how these were made, but sure enough, I believe to hear guitars, electronics, computers and all of that in a high tension charge of electrical bursts. It's loud but not without detail, which I thought was most interesting and enjoyable. The opening 'God Monitor/Screen Burn' reminded me of Oval on steroids and 'Synthetic Disaster' as a fine reminder that noise and shoegazing can easily meet in a world of zeroes and ones. The third track "Permanent Twilight' is a breath of relief after this violence, and Mackay pushes the bow across the strings of the guitar while opening various folders of electronics to stretch those movements into longer drones, flirting with the ancient Organum sound. The final piece, 'Hex Negative', starts quiet, and thus you may think that this album has two loud pieces and two quiet(-er) ones, but that's not how this piece unfolds; it is, perhaps, the loudest piece in the end with some stuttering beat buried below the surface of guitar violence. This is a top-heavy release of some great beauty! (FdW)
––– Address: https://www.forwind.net/
EXPEDIENT SELF - THE PRESENT (CDR, private)
It is not always easy to follow reasons for doing things; or, perhaps, not doing them. Here a one-piece band from Brighton, England, presents the first release and has a fine digipack printed. Other than the title, band name, and "recorded between May and September 2020", plus an e-mail address, nothing else, whereas the Bandcamp link below shows us tittles for each of the songs. Also, it seems that on the CDR the first track is, in fact, the first two on Bandcamp (maybe a reproduction error). Strange is also a word that applies to music. As no instruments are mentioned, I go by what I believe to hear, which guitars, field recordings and few electronics. I am not sure what to make of this. The guitar is quite the dominant feature on this release, where it is played rather regular, forming figures on the fretboard, feeding it through a looper and it stays there. This certainly happens in 'Cancer', 'Skinner Box' and The Old Normal'. It has that vaguely rocky feel it, but for a solo guitar. Sometimes there are some voices added, such as in 'Hands For Heroes', also an in looped modus. Only 'The End Of History' seems to be entirely made of field recordings, from a restaurant or bar. I am not sure what to make of all of these twenty-five minutes. It is not great, it is all right, or, perhaps not my cup of tea. (FdW)
––– Address: https://expedientself.bandcamp.com/releases
MONICKER - LIBR’AERIE (CDR by Bug Incision)
COLLATERAL - COLLATERAL (CDR by Bug Incision)
CRYINGSNICE - ALL GREASED UP FOR NOTHIN’ (CDR by Bug Incision)
EMILY DAVIS\CHRISTOPHER RIGGS\GEORGE ROMAINE - EXTINCTION BURST (CDR by Bug Incision)
Expectations were high for this one. The reason was twofold. Firstly, it is released on Bug Incision Records. For well over a decade Bug Incision have put some glorious releases. Anyone who hasn’t heard as least one Bent Spoon releases needs to rectify this at ones. Secondly, the quality of the players is second to one. When you have Arthur Bull on guitar, Scott Thomson on trombone and Roger Turner on percussion you know it’s going to be good! And ‘Lib’aerie’ is good. ‘Books’ starts the album with 20-minutes of playful motifs, joyous melodies and loads of ramshackle charm. It is definitely the way I’d like to start each morning. Near the end of ‘Books’ Thomson’s trombone starts to sound like the adults in Charlie Brown cartoons. This is probably unintentional, but it does have a very amusing/comforting feel to it. It also continues the playful nature of the opening. Throughout ‘More Books’ and ‘Books More’ that playfulness is evident but never a pronounced as on the opening track. ‘Books More’ has a delightful woozy outro that sounds like an animated house jazz band in a Disney cartoon that has had too much to drunk but doesn’t care as they’re having fun. And this is the vibe of ‘Lib’aerie’.
There are portions of ‘Piece 1’ that feel like an Ennio Morricone score he rejected because it was too avant-garde for the images of cowboys he was watching when he wrote it. The rhythms are disjointed and there is an underlying feeling of malaise. As Collateral, Sam Shalabi on oud and guitar, Norman Adams and cello and Tim Crofts on piano with, and against, each other the wall of sound grows and grows. The final third of ‘Piece 1’ is utterly captivating. Shalabi’s guitar work is filled with aggression but also tenderness. It’s the tenderness that makes it stand out. As Crofts tinkles on the ivory, he adds a layer of psychotic malice to everything. It’s unsettling but also captivating. You can’t take your ear off it. It draws you in. At times it reminds me of watching a boxing match and seeing the stronger of the two stalking around the ring. Not going in for that knockout blow but playing with their opponent. Giving them hope that they can win, or at least, not get knocked out. As Crofts stalks over his piano he is letting us know that he is in control. We are mere passive players here. He can take end it at any time, but he chooses not to. Next to ‘Piece 1’ ‘Piece 2’ feels like a pop song. It is 40-minutes shorter than the opener. However, it doesn’t have any less of the impact. From the start, everything is more direct. Opening with haunting strings that feel more scratched than played Collateral tells us exactly what this is going to be. On ‘Piece 1’ they slowly built up to the song’s zeniths but here, BAM, they hit us straight in the gut. The scratching strings and rickety percussion just keeps being built up, dropped down, built up, dropped down until ‘Piece 2’ ends. ‘Collateral’ is an incredibly textured piece of music that has the power to get under your skin whilst making you smile like a child on Christmas Day. Essential listening!
It’s hard to believe that ‘All Greased Up for Nothin’ is the first recorded output from Cryingsnice, AKA Chris Dadge and Eric Hamelin. The pair have been playing together, in one guise or another, for several years but this is their debut release. It is a mixture of thing you’d expect, plus some things you wouldn’t. The most unexpected is that this is the first time Dadge has played a full set solely on the violin. Given how he distorts and contorts the sound out of it you’d be forgiven for thinking it was his weapon of choice. Part of the eases is that he knows that Hamelin has got his back. Regardless of that he does, or doesn’t, play. Hamelin’s percussion is flawless throughout. Sounding like organised chaos Hamelin managed to get the most out of his odds and ends kit. At times it sounds like a kitchen cupboard if falling on to the hard=slate floor, others it is incredibly tender. Filled with inventive flourishes. Opening track ‘Weird Length’ starts slowly but gradually builds into a hypnotic, and claustrophobic, thing of beauty. The final three minutes could quite possibly my favourite of the year, so far. It feels like Jimi Hendrix playing Miles Davis’ seminal ‘On the Corner’ on a strummed violin. ‘Deep in the Loaf’ feels like a direct continuation of ‘Weird Length’. Can you remember when I said the end of ‘Weird Length’ was my favourite piece of music this year? Well, the beginning ‘Deep in the Loaf’ is instead. The violin is wailing for all its worth, like an electric guitar, while the percussion recoils around. There are sections when bass drones start to emerge. This gives ‘All Greased Up for Nothin’ another layer of texture. ‘All Greased Up for Nothin’ is a dynamic and exhilarating album that showcases two heroes of improvisational music firing on all cylinders and taking risks. What more could you ask for?
There is something incredibly unsettling about ‘Extinction Burst’ by Emily Davis, Christopher Riggs, and George Romaine. Maybe it’s the skittering nature of Davis’ drums or the haunting nature of Romaine’s piano or the unrelenting squeals of Riggs’ guitar work, but it creates a feeling of unease. I’m not saying that it makes you want to lock all your doors, draw the curtains/lower the blinds, get into bed and turn all the lights off, but it is just loaded with existential dread. I do honestly believe that if you played this at the wrong time it could seriously do you wrong. Luckily, I’m in a fairly upbeat, or as upbeat as you can be in 2020, whilst listening to it and I’m savouring every moment. In all fairness, I don’t want it to end as I’m really getting into it all. There isn’t a lot of variation. When the hour-long track gets going that’s pretty much it for the duration. It never deviates from its core. Much like the evil T-1000 in Terminator 2. It will stop at nothing to end John Connor. Here Davis, Riggs and Romaine also won’t stop. They’ll keep playing until someone yells “STOP!” or the tape runs out. At times it feels like all three players recorded in isolation of the others work and the three were layered on top of one another. If this is true, which it probably isn’t, the results are striking. The drums, piano and guitar parts of equally in, and out, of step with each other. They both compliment and insult each other in equal measure. What they don’t do, however, if fail to entertain and delight. Yes, there are moments when you are scratching your head wondering what is going on, but while this is happening you are also wondering how you lived this long without this album. (NR)
––– Address: http://bugincision.com/
DOC WÖR MIRRAN - BEARDO WEIRDO (miniCDR by Handmade)
JOSEPH B. RAIMOND - BROKEN (book by Mirran Thought)
Bands that aren't often found on stage tend to release everything do on a stage. Doc Wör Mirran is a fine example of that. Here they have a sixteen-minute recording from July 29th, 2018 at Bardentreffen Festival in Nurnberg, Germany. The line-up that day was Michael Wurzer on a keyboard, Stefan Schweiger on drums and Joseph B. Raimond on guitar. The music is dedicated to Ginger Baker, the wild drummer (the documentary 'Beware Of Mister Baker' is highly recommended, even if you hate rock music), who died last year. I have no idea why it is dedicated to him, as it has very little to do with rock music or jazz, or tribal drumming. In fact, what it is, is the big question here. Or, or that matter, how it was recorded. It sounds like it has been taped off-stage by a handheld recorder, without protection from the wind, through which the music resonates in some distorted way. It sounds strange and any 'normal' band would have erased the recording, but not so the Mirrans, who take this as new music to their heart. It doesn't mean that you hear some polished documentation of music played that day, in July 2018, but it becomes something new, crumbled and crumpled and perhaps Doc Wör Mirran is just teasing us with our obsession to hear it, every snippet of sound, every concert recording. Is that what you want? Then this is what you get!
Joseph B. Raimond also produced another book of poetry and drawings. Lovely stuff, but as you may well be aware, I am not the expert reviewer of poetry and drawing. I love to read, but don't how to write about it! (FdW)
––– Address: http://www.dwmirran.de/
ABIGAIL SMITH - INDOCHINA SOUNDSCRAPS (cassette by Eh?)
Maybe, just maybe this is the future of travelling? We no longer go to places, see the sites, hear the sounds and smell the food, but instead listen to cassettes of places? Or, perhaps, that is what we already set out to do? I have not been down Indochina, so i can't relate easily to the sounds captured by Abigail Smith in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam while travelling these counties in November and December 2016. In 2019, these recordings were mixed by Juston Rhody 9formerly of Friends & relatives label). As the title indicates, the recordings are as raw as they come, scraps. Mainly these are from music and a bit of spoken word. On the first side mostly shorter bits and bobs and the second side also longer. I had no idea what I was hearing. Music from an exotic place, but without much context as such. This could be pure entertainment, religious music, street artists, folklore or whatever. It sounded great though. It didn't make me go online and find out the current travel situation in these countries, nor purchasing a plane ticket to these places, but as I said, as an alternative for a holiday (an activity not necessarily up my street anyway): why not? (FdW)
––– Address: http://www.publiceyesore.com/ehcat.php
TIGER VILLAGE - CASSINGLE #1 (cassette by Superpolar Tapes)
THE MASTER MUSICIANS OF DYFFRYN MOOR - CASSINGLE #2 (cassette by Superpolar Tapes)
HAROLD SACK ZIEGLER - CASSINGLE #3 (cassette by Superpolar Tapes)
The cassingle never caught on, back in the '80s when the cassette scene was big (well, bigger than today, I should think). Too short perhaps, although very well suited for a real pop song. Superpolar Tapes will release no less than twenty-five cassette singles of which all the A-sides will be collected on a compilation. The B-sides are all exclusive and there will be only ten copies per release. Here we have two introductions and one familiar face.
Tiger Village Tim Thornton who has his own label, Suite 309, and he's from Cleveland. His idea is to create music that sounds like aliens trying to mimic human music. You can't go wrong there, of course, because: who knows how that would sound? Of the two pieces, his A-side 'The Inverted Amblyopiac' is the melodic one, with a strange stumbling rhythm and some chords being played until it all falls apart. 'Two Tubs (Tubes II)' has the sound of tubes and here too, the tempo is under constant revision but gently, not disturbing or alien (pun intended) with some of the melodic stuff torn apart even a bit further. Odd stuff.
The Master Musicians Of Dyffryn Moor are from North Wales and one of the many projects of Simon Proffitt. I don't think I heard of him before, but I am told that he does "often concept-driven music and non-music for over 15 years". Other names he uses as Cahn Ingold Prelog, Carnedd Aur, The Incidental Crack and "non-idiomatic improvisations" under his own name. His two pieces are rhythmic affairs of sampled sounds in a very sequenced sort of song-based structure. In 'Blessing Of The Hand-Sanitizer', this is along with a real drum machine, but 'Blessing Of The Spam Filters" he uses ping pong balls amongst others, less easy to recognize sounds. The latter is a bit too much of one loop really.
Lastly, Harold Sack Ziegler, who has been around since many years (the early '90s, if I am not mistaken) is quite well-known for his solo work, but also music with FS Blumm Mouse On Mars and so on. He has that wacky German humour and plays odd-pop music in which the French horn usually plays a dominant role. Certainly, it does in 'Ahornschraube' (meaning 'maple screw'), which drifts nicely in quite a psychedelic setting, with some spacious effects. A winner! 'Blechriff' on the other side (which the label translates as 'brass riff', but I think means 'sheet metal riff') is a slightly more distorted work of looped voices and guitar, which is all right, but nothing great. The sad truth of the B-side?
All in all, a most promising start! (FdW)
––– Address: https://superpolar.bandcamp.com/
GINTAS K – SOUND AND SPACES (cassette by Powder Hearts)
Following quite some massive, deeply impressive and intense releases this year (a.o. Amnesia and the sure Year's Best List highlight variations in a-moll for a granular synthesis) composer and sound artist Gintas K is back with the equally captivating new work for cassette: Sound and Spaces. All material on this tape was recorded, live, on the fly, on the go, at once. No overdubs. Only using the computer, MIDI keyboard and controller. But one would be forgiven to think there'd be more than a passing element of veritable musique concrète-ishness in the mix here; brutalist recordings from the fields of everyday or production line assembly factories. On Sound and Spaces Gintas K – again, but also more so than ever before – dives into the aural intensity of his works to arrive at a sound stage of composition (in the sense of Kandinsky) that is both deeply active and all-over energetic like for example Jackson Pollock and also, very much so at the same time, saturated beyond known factors of colour depth and frequencies resonance – think Klein's IKB, the brownish-blacks from Soulages, the deepest blue-blach by Reinhardt or the sfumato washes of layered intensities Mark Rothko deployed. Sound and Spaces sucks you in, like more than a fleeting instant spent with Cathedra by Barnett Newman for example. Your ears scurry around the sonic canvas, trying to make sense, find a common or red thread, grasp something to call 'home'. But all too often – in the best of senses – you find yourself all alone, in the midst of the deepest of your isolation dealing with the barrage of impressions. Standing at the bottom of the staircase in Berghain also comes to mind, hearing pounding basses, fragmented squeaks and spikes, jarring clashing glitches coming from above – as if you're preparing yourself to face the strange of a KTL-meets-Yasunao Tone-gig gone madly off the rails, to jubilous jeers from a packed audience, hugging the massive quadraphonic PA in glee and transporting abandon. Play loud this formidable work of cassette tape madness.
––– Address: https://powderedheartsrecords.bandcamp.com/
BARDO TODOL - MUSIC 4 STRINGS, SINTETIZADOR, UNA FLAUTA, AGUA Y ELECTRÓNIKA (cassette by Coherent States)
FLESHTONE AURA - A "THEREFORE" BETWEEN TWO NON-SEQUITURS (cassette by Coherent States)
COSTIS DRYGIANAKIS & MATT ATKINS - LATE APRIL (cassette by Coherent States)
The first of the three new releases is the one with the most colourful cover, a painting by Frank Vega. It is by Bardo Todol, a duo of two brothers, Pablo and Nico Picco from Argentina. The title of their release translates as music for/four strings, synthesizer, one flute, water and electronics, and on the cover they declare that they want to "recreate the aquos environments that surround our lovely Salsipuedes town"., which explains for the various sounds of water. There is no easy way to describe what this music is about, as it goes off in various directions. On one hand, there is the field recordings and electronics, carefully intertwining in the more conventional drone/ambient way, but also with a distinct lo-fi approach. On the other hand, there is something that goes out into a more improvised sound, loosely played and constructed from the other instruments, in a rather freestyle, and mostly introspective, which works well with the other pieces, the drone/field recording. Sometimes the ends almost meet up (you realize I am just speculating about the process, right?), such as in the long opening piece of side A, which is a mildly distorted affair. Some of this reminded me of fellow countryman Alan Courtis, in which experimental electronics are coupled with the most unusual extractions of guitar sounds. Whatever the flute remained, also after repeated listening a small mystery to me. But maybe there was a transformation round or two that have rendered the sound beyond recognition? It is both rough and gentle, hand in hand and altogether this is an excellent release.
Fleshtone Aura is also a new name for me and behind it, we find Andrew Zukerman from Toronto. It "rose from the ashes of the surrealistic duo Gastric Female Reflex" and he had a label called Beniffer Editions. Zukerman is a man with a tape machine. Well, maybe more than one. He uses these to tape sounds and creates compositions with these sounds. Sometimes these sounds are acoustic in origin and sometimes electronic. Oh, that's wrong. The cover says he uses "synthesizers, samplers & tapes". Whatever! What Zukerman does, with whatever means he is using, is composing some genuine, good old-fashioned musique concrète. Sounds are manipulated, slowed down, reversed, sped up and whatever else and then it all is put together in a fine bunch of sound collages. Some field recordings are thrown in, such as in 'Only The Underpainting Is Left', but mostly the sound material is from around the kitchen, banging on pots and pans. And while that may sound like I'm taking the piss out of this, you're wrong; I love this approach. In the nine pieces presented here, Zuckerman offers a variety of approaches here, from something wild to something with full-on tension quietness, such as in 'No (…) Too (…)'. Lovely stuff, especially if you are into the Nurse With Wound approach to sound collage; it shares, I think, a similar wicked sense of humour ('A Pissoir To A Smock Edged With Felt' could have been an NWW title!)
And finally, a cassette by the omnipresent Matt Atkins and less present Costis Drygianakis, with collaboration through the mail. Drygianakis every once in a while delights is with some fine musique concrète meets the world of rock and classical music into dense collages of sound, while Atkins is best known for his work with small sounds, percussion, loops and hiss. They traded back and forth sound material and in the end, each did a bunch of mixes, four by each, spanning each an entire side of the cassette. Drygianakis is responsible for the 'C' side and Atkins for the 'M' side. I must admit I didn't notice that at first (I was thinking that 'C' side meant I missed out on 'A' and 'B' side), as on the first round of listening to it all sounded pretty coherent. But upon closer inspection it turned out that on the first side, Drygianakis musique concrète details play an important role; there are many layers of sounds and effects to treat them, offering the big fields of sustaining sounds and a multitude of smaller events, such below and above the surface. In the Atkins approach, I would think it is all clearer and open-ended. Here the details are revealed because it is all sparser but by no means any less. Both sides seem to be in opposition to each other and show how the same material can be used to achieve different results. Well-done! (FdW)
––– Address: https://coherentstates.bandcamp.com/
MIKEL R. NIETO - HOPELESSNESS (download/paper/host)
As Nieto is a composer of a more conceptual kind, I have some large quotes to inform you what we have here. "HOPELESSNESS was made for "Legítimo / Rezo", a dance piece conceived by Jone San Martín, Josh Johnson & William Forsythe. In 2004 Jone San Martín was invited with other choreographers and dancers to make a lecture about choreographic notation at Théâtre de la Ville in Paris (France). Her answer to the question of how to use notation in William Forsythe dance works was to dance her explanation. In this moment, she released the best way to communicate and explain dance is to dance it. Also, during the lecture, Jone San Martin talks about the choreographic material which is vanishing with the dancers who dance the choreography. Once the choreographic material is danced, it disappears."
I assume Nieto did the music part of it and these are "seventeen musical compositions for non-danced choreographic situations published by Я – Archives (2020) as a host (Sacramental bread) and downloadable album. 5 different paper colours & 6 different sacred signs." My host is a bit damaged. The price for this paper/host construction is 6,66 euro, but on the actual download page, it says 'Thank you for your listening. God bless you." Sometimes I don't understand these things. I have no idea what this is all about, or what I am hearing. There are four chants, of which the first should be heard as background music, two and three 'should be mixed randomly during listening. "Don't listen to them separately" and the fourth "should never be heard. Play it in an empty space" ('III" and 'IV' were recorded in a church, without effects"). To spice things up, 'Chant II' was made from a selection of sound extracts from ISIS mass media communications". It all sounds fascinating, I must say that. Both the text 'explaining' this and the 'music'; empty churches, the sound of car crashes, and decapitations, and Bach's music from a scratchy record. I have no idea what it all was, but I loved it. (FdW)
––– Address: https://mikelrnieto.net/en