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TOÀN - VOLTA BO VENTO (CD by Iikki) *
HERMANN NITSCH - ORGELKONZERT (CD by I Disci Di Angelica) *
MEAGHAN BURKE AND THE RHYTHM METHOD – A FEW CONCERNS (CD by Gold Bolus Recordings)
KAROLINE WALLACE – STIKLINGER (CD by Ora Fonogram) *
PRINS & SIMONIS - MOTHERS OF EXIT (CD by Z6 Records) *
HIDEKI UMEZAWA & SHOHEI AMIMORI - CRITICAL GARDEN (CD by Ftarri) *
MASAHIDE TOKUNAGA - WHILE YOUR MASTER IS SLEEPING (CD by Ftarri) *
KRISHNAMURTI - THOUGHT IS THE ENEMY (CD by Ftarri) *
AKI ONDA / NAO NISHIHARA - KOUYA-E-TO (CD by Ftarri) *
FORESTEPPE - ODEYALO (CD by Laaps) *
SMELL & QUIM - CUNTYBUBBLES (LP by Cheeses International) *
LUCIO CAPECE & BEN VIDA - UMWELT (LP by Bocian Records)
PIDE AYUDA - INUBIS/BASTET (7" by Wondercap Records)
HOTEL NEON - MOMENTS (CDR by Sound In Silence) *
JULIAN ROSS - FADEAWAY (CDR by Sound In Silence) *
TED MOORE - BRUIT (CDR by Carrier Records) *
BLOOD RHYTHMS - ROTE (CDR by No Part Of It) *
SASHASH ULZ - PINGVINIA (CDR by No Part Of It) *
O [BLANK TAPE COMPILATION VOL.2] (cassette by Steepgloss)
STEPHAN BARRETT AND MATT ATKINS - STILL (cassette by Steepgloss) *
FERAL COPSE (cassette by Spleen Coffin) *
ANTOINE GILLOIRE/TANGUY CLERC (split cassette by Alcove)
TOÀN - VOLTA BO VENTO (CD by Iikki)
It has been a while since I last saw a new release by the French publishing house Iikki, who produce books with photographs and along with that music on either vinyl or CD; you choose. These are very much a work of collaboration and here Anthony Elfort, also known as Toàn, works with Gilles Roudière, who "is a French photographer, born in 1976, who lives in Tours and Berlin". This is Toàn's second release, following 'Histos Lusis' (see Vital Weekly 1093). That first one seemed to be a work on a more plunderponics nature, but for this new one, I am not so sure if it is that. If it is, he sure knows how to erase unwanted vinyl crackle from his music. I'd rather believe that Toàn now samples a lot of instruments, strings mostly, but also small percussion (bells notably), piano and combines these with synthesizers, hiss-based textures from old cassettes, samples of a bow upon a cymbal or string into some delicate ambient landscapes. What remained from his previous release is that it still sounds 'old' and 'rusty', like music captured on an old reel-to-reel. That was something I heard on his previous release as well. There are some curious sounds in here, such as in 'Tortue', in which you hear a cassette being slipped in a machine (or something similar). Field recordings are present through the usual water and frog sounds. The whole thing meanders slowly about in this vaguely modern classical direction, but nothing much is very tightly structured. That is something I enjoy very much; those loosely knitted sounds, the warm feel of ambience. Rather than walking in a spring/summer breeze, this is music that you listen inside, near the fireplace (if only I have one), and watch the rain drip, drip, while looking out over a misty field and a forest afar. That kind of mood is what this music depicts for me. (FdW)
––– Address: https://www.iikki-books.com/
HERMANN NITSCH - ORGELKONZERT (CD by I Disci Di Angelica)
This was a bit of a challenge, I must admit. I only have some vague notion about Hermann Nitsch and his work. Mainly because, to be blunt, I am not too big on 'performance art', especially when it comes to blood spattering, cutting, number 2 and 3, masturbation or sex on stage. It usually boils down to "I was caught masturbating as a kid, so now you can all watch me do it". I heard of an event where someone cut himself, just a bit too deep, cried for help and everybody was chin rubbing 'great performance', instead of calling an ambulance. Perhaps I am too much a music guy, and I am just showing my ignorance here. The challenge is this; will I start with listening to the music before going to the liner notes and Wikipedia, or do the serious background checking first? As said, ever the music man, I decided to go against the grain and play the music, write first impressions and then, well, the rest. Four pieces played on a church organ in the Basilica Do Santa Maria Dei Servi in Bologna. Nitsch is playing, and it's one heavy blast. Keys are pressed down and pipes are all open (if you have no idea what that means, Google 'how to play to a church organ', I guess). The booklet points out that Nitsch is better known for his performance work, usually involving a lot of blood and dead cows (or, as a friend of mine once said 'I went to Nitsch' barbecue') and he's less known as a composer but in his performances music plays an important role. This organ concert is a work without blood and such and Nitsch performs it on an organ with approximately 5000 pipes with the help of two assistants. Together they play massive clusters of sound, by placing blocks upon the keys and the sound is coming through many pipes It is a massive sound, and quite rightly it mentions the name of Anton Bruckner in the booklet. This 19th-century fellow countryman was a composer of massive symphonies, like a massive wall of sound. This is the case here with this organ concert, which also has four movements, just like a traditional classical symphony and that is probably the only traditional thing about. If you don't like drone music, it is best to stay away from this, but if drones are your cup of tea then I am sure you will like this pure church organ fest a lot. (FdW)
––– Address: https://www.aaa-angelica.com/aaa/
QUEST - (AN) EXTERIOR (CD by Infraction Recordings)
There is a saying that if you are going to so something simply then it has to be perfect. There is no room for error. If you watch any competitive television shows you will know this to be true. Whenever you see a contestant trying to create something simple but with either a bold flavours/lines/design then you know they have to get it 100% right or they are going home. The same is true with music. There is nothing wrong with keeping things simple. Some of my favourite albums are when the musician just strips it all away and delivers something barebones. This is what
Frans de Waard has done on his new Quest album ‘(An) Exterior’.
The album consists of undulating drones. The album opens with the track ‘A Day (out)’. A droning chord welcomes us. It is warming but with an underlying stark vibe to it. As the chord fades out, another one fades in. This happens again and again. It is very much like waves lapping up at the beach. It never seems to end. And this, for the most part, is ‘A Day (out)’. It’s all very elegant. But that’s it. There are some synths underneath it all, but the main event is the drone. It’s a brave move on Quest’s behalf. Keep it too simple and you lose your audience, make it too busy and you miss the point of keeping it simple. Throughout the album there is variation. Halfway through ‘Request (by)’ everything gets all twitchy and a gentle barrage of static breaks up the tones. When it’s finished, we are presented with a new drone. It’s as if Quest was retuning the radio from one station to another. This change in texture and tone works incredibly well. It adds some variation to the song and makes us refocus and pay attention. ‘Until (now)’ feels like a slow-moving raga, with Indian tinges tones.
The album was created using analogue synths along with app-based technology. It really feels like a mixing old and new school disciplines. This gives the album a retro and contemporary feel. And this is what ‘(An) Exterior’ is. It allowed Quest to create the kind of music that wouldn’t have been possible when he first emerged in the 90s. De Waard might have had a 15-year hiatus between 1999s ‘Recovered Files’ and 2014s ‘QRST 2014’, but since his return, he has been making some of the best music of his career. ‘(An) Exterior’ proves this, as it is a delicately thoughtful and serene album filled with tones and drones. (NR)
––– Address: https://www.infractionrecords.com/
MEAGHAN BURKE AND THE RHYTHM METHOD – A FEW CONCERNS (CD by Gold Bolus Recordings)
It was on a day that I happened to be listening to the great Arthur Russell that a release by another cellist and singer from New York dropped on the doormat. A new release by the Brooklyn-based label Gold Bolus Recordings of cellist, singer and songwriter Meaghan Burke. So far she has two self-released albums out: ‘Other People’s Ghosts’(2010) and ‘Creature Comforts’(2017). Her albums appear with considerable time intervals. This new album she prepared in collaboration with her string quartet The Rhythm Method: Leah Asher (violin, vocals, objects), Marina Kifferstein (violin, vocals, things), Wendy Richman (viola, vocals, stuff) and Meaghan Burke herself on cello, vocals and guitar. With this string quartet, she strives for renewing this format from a feminist perspective. As an engaged artist she is concerned on all kind of developments, and musically moving between contemporary composed music, improvisation and songwriting. On her new album, she practises above all her songwriting talents, integrating elements of composed music and improvisation. Resulting in a fine collection of songs that are somewhere between chamber music and pop song. In her texts, she shares her concerns with living in the US during the presidency that just came to an end. With a dry sensual and cool voice, she sings about what it is to be living in a so-called superpower. One might think that the strings play a serving role, underlining the vocals by Meaghan. But that is absolutely not the case and does no justice to the beautiful interplay and the search for new perspectives. Their interactions are carefully shaped and they put their soul in their performance. Sensitive and emotional they play with great skill well-proportioned motives and gestures. The airy ‘(Shh)’ and ‘(Krk)’ are examples of very short and subtle improvised in-betweens. It is fine delicate instrumental acoustic interludes. In all this is a very positive and uplifting statement. This ís hope! (DM)
––– Address: http://goldbolus.com/
KAROLINE WALLACE – STIKLINGER (CD by Ora Fonogram)
‘Stiklinger’ is the second album by singer and composer Karoline Wallace, a Norwegian musician who studied composing and music performance at the Rhythmic Music Academy in Copenhagen, followed by several supplementary studies like jazz music performance in Bergen and Stockholm. Like her debut album, the well-received ‘Lang Vinter’(2019) this one is released by Ora Fonogram. It was the winter that served as a source for inspiration on her first album. This time it is the garden of her grandma: "Grandma's garden may seem like a normal garden, but it is in fact full of magic. Just about every plant that grows there comes from cuttings she has collected throughout her life. From experiences, travels, and meaningful encounters. You will find plants that originate from my mom's bridal bouquet, bushes from her childhood home in Lofoten and cacti she stuffed in her purse when on vacation in Gambia with Grandpa. I have been inspired by the way Grandma's cuttings grow and become a part of something bigger, and I have collected my own cuttings.“ She blends orchestral chamber music, song, jazz and soundscape into open structured compositions. The music comes to us like dream-like sequences that are interconnected with another according to a logic that is possible only in dreams and memory. Like on the debut recording she works again with an extended line-up. This time she is joined by Jonas Engel (alto saxophone, clarinet), Ida Nørby (cello), Erik Kimestad (trumpet), Thibault Gomez (prepared piano), Petter Asbjørnsen (double bass), Szymon Pimpon (drums), Kristian Tangvik (cassettes). In clever arrangements, they give colour to the evocative and elegant constructions. Opening track ‘Rosehus’ starts in a hammering way before it continues in a jazzy style with intimate singing by Wallace. ‘Tri Loopar’ is built from very dynamic and cacophonic instrumental sections that are alternated by more subtle sections of spoken word and diverse sounds. Also ‘Om du e.1.60 hay“ is a song but interspersed with collage-like sections of manipulated old tapes of spoken word in an electronic environment. ‘Plis Rosalin’ starts with a friendly melody sung by Wallace accompanied by sparse strings. Halfway a beat set ins and Engel plays a penetrating emotional solo on his saxophone producing a remarkable sound. Wallace is an inventive and original spirit, bringing together very different ingredients united by very personal inspiration and musical vision. (DM)
––– Address: http://www.orafonogram.no
PRINS & SIMONIS - MOTHERS OF EXIT (CD by Z6 Records)
As far as I know, Gert-Jan Prins isn't particularly interested in releasing records. He's been around since the early 80s and was the drummer for Y Create, later Gorgonzola Legs but when he started playing solo he used a brand of cracked everyday electronics and in which he showed his love of rhythm. Much of his work is presented on stage rather than record. Yet to see a release with his name is not strange, his return to playing 'drums and cymbals', next to radio electronics and microphones is. In the studio of Worm, he met up with Lukas Simonis, a man of the same generation but with a discography as long as your arm. Much of his work is within improvisation, but also with bands such as Dull Schicksal and Trespassers W. He plays the guitar (his original weapon of choice), effects, modular synth and blippoo box. It is an interesting work they offer here. The drums and guitar play a role, sure, but not exclusively. I would think Simonis use his guitar a more than Prins plays the drums, but when they do, there is a fine crude rock element to their noise music to be noted, tortured and demented, not some consistent rock approach. However, much of their other work is on the same noise trail but then electronic. The rhythmic element we know from Prins' solo work is present here, touching upon broken cables and connections, where's Simonis adds bleeps and blips from the synthesizer and, maybe, a bit of guitar, such as in shaky 'Shadows And Tall Seconds'. While much of the music in these seven pieces and fifty-one seconds, is noisy, it is never the sort of conventional noise music which all screams and shrieks. There is some sense of this madness and I wouldn't have expected this anywhere from these elderly statesmen of improvisation. Not every moment is great, and occasional a tad too long, but I enjoyed the sparkling energy of this duet a lot. (FdW)
––– Address: https://z6records.bandcamp.com/
HIDEKI UMEZAWA & SHOHEI AMIMORI - CRITICAL GARDEN (CD by Ftarri)
MASAHIDE TOKUNAGA - WHILE YOUR MASTER IS SLEEPING (CD by Ftarri)
KRISHNAMURTI - THOUGHT IS THE ENEMY
AKI ONDA / NAO NISHIHARA - KOUYA-E-TO
As I am looking at these four new releases by Ftarri, I see a familiar name (Aki Onda) and new names. I don't know where to start, so I picked the one with the nicest cover, a sort of hand-printed one. It is the collaboration between Hideki Umezawa, born in 1986 and who performed at INA-GRM and did a residency at EMS and in Vital Weekly 1218, I reviewed 're/ports', his CD with Yoichi Kamimura. Here, however, he teams up with Shohei Amimori (1990), a composer of contemporary music. This is one strange CD; well, or rather, this is one strange CD for Ftarri. Amimori plays the piano in the two bookend pieces, quite formal, kitschy piano music, which could be from a TV advert (at nine minutes, long adverts). The five pieces in between are way more interesting and collages of musique concrète elements (found sound, field recordings, electronics) and piano music. Here there is some elegance to the sounds used, even when the piano is, at times, in a similar new age modus. Some of this seems Umezawa's solo work and I think these are the most interesting pieces on this CD. All in all, this left me in a state of mild confusion. Some of this I liked, some not at all, and it all seemed far away from Ftarri's normal program of improvised music.
Now that's more like it, I thought when I played the CD by Masahide Tokunaga (1982), a saxophone player from Tokyo. Here he plays two compositions by Taku Sugimoto, who also provided the liner notes. Sugimoto, you might be aware, is a guitarist, but other instruments can, of course, play what he writes. The two lengthy compositions, sixty-one minutes in total, were recorded at Ftarri, without an audience, but with the composer present, as well as Hiroyuki Ura, who provided sine waves. This is very intimate music, almost as if one sitting next to the saxophone player. His breathing, the keys are sometimes audible as he carefully plays the notes here. The liner notes I glanced over but its technical talk of scales went way over my head. This is some delicate music and, perhaps a little surprise, not all that quiet, as there always seems something to be heard around here. It took me a few turns to this CD before I realized what Ura's contribution was (if I am correct); only very occasionally a sine wave is produced along with the saxophone, but it is done in such a way that one could think it is another saxophone tone; it's only in the doubling of the tones that I realized this must be the sine wave. I played this one a couple of times and each time I found its Zen-like quietness a wealth of rest, which I much need, from time to time.
As said, I recognized the name Aki Onda, although I am not that familiar with all of his work, having heard only some. In his solo work, he uses field recordings, stored on cassettes and which he uses in concert with portable machines and electronics. He has worked with several collaborators, with Annea Lockwood, David Toop or the sadly never released one with Lionel Marchetti (which is one I saw twice in concert, about a decade ago) and here he works with Nao Nishihara, who not widely known outside Japan. He worked with performances, installations and exhibitions, "combining sound-making objects and bodily movement". They started to work together in 2015 and in November 2016 they performed at the Issue Project Room. This time, Onda uses "tapes, feedback, amps, bells, cymbals and found objects" and "Nishihara used bells, Chinese cymbals, bird and animal calls, wood and metal pieces, a self-made bowing instrument and more". These objects were placed around the performance space, so sounds are close by and coming from afar. All of this is picked out of the air by a couple of microphones. That adds an interesting vibrancy to the recording, almost as if one is present at this concert, standing (sitting) in one corner and hearing these sounds from seemingly all sorts of directions. There is throughout quite a rhythmic aspect to these pieces, especially in 'Buriki-No-Tokage', with its repeating woodblock sound and larger metallic objects. I assume these rhythms are played live and perhaps are looped, as to free up a few hands for 'other sounds', Walkman interjections and such. Occasionally it all reminded me of an occult ritualistic performance and the repeating sounds of percussion are also not something one easily finds in the Ftarri catalogue. I thought this was a great release.
The final release is by Krishnamurti; not the spiritual teacher of the same name, but the duo of Giovanni Lami and Lorenzo Abattoir. I guess they choose that name because their aim is "to create a new type of soundscape using the Indian drone instrument called the shruti box". This is the only new Ftarri release to have no liner notes. I reviewed solo works by both of them, but not of this moniker, which might be a new project. The four pieces were recorded in September 2019, and I must admit I had a hard time hearing the shruti box in here. I assume this duo use a variety of process possibilities, which rendered the instrument pretty much beyond recognition. The element of drone music is most certainly present here, and yes, let's assume that is the shruti box, then it must be going through a vast stream of analogue and/or digital process machines. I couldn't say which is the favourite tool here. I must say I quite enjoyed the musical content here, and again, I'd say this is not really the field in which you would find Ftarri to operate in. The music is dark and atmospheric and one could say this is 'ambient industrial', to a certain extent at least, with some strange 'hands-on' sound approach in there, like the rattling of small objects. That could account for the element of improvisation here? I could also think these are a bunch of field recordings... it is hard to say. The only thing I am certain of is that enjoyed this quite a lot. (FdW)
––– Address: https://ftarri.com/
FORESTEPPE - ODEYALO (CD by Laaps)
Egor Klochikhin is the man behind Forsteppe, hailing from Russia, where he is an artist and history teacher. I reviewed his 'Mæta' in Vital Weekly 1141, where he uses the looped sounds of "acoustic guitar, piano, metallophone, whistle, melodica, mandolin and percussion" onto a bunch of old cassettes, which is a process he repeats here. It all has to do with such themes as "nostalgia and trauma", which is not something I am entirely sure to hear in the music here. There are two pieces here, twenty-one and sixteen minutes, and whereas I found the previous too long, the same can be said of 'Odeyalo'. This is a Russian word, meaning 'blanket' ("This blanket is made from many rags. It's hard to tell where one ends and the other begins, but the main thing is that you can cover yourself with this blanket"). According to the information, the music has been played with ten cassette machines and 'several dozens of cassette tape loops', between June and September 2019, in various cities. Each of the two parts can be subdivided in small bits, so in total there are twelve pieces here (according to the way it says on the cover). The element of random play is quite strong on this album, and it does only work out to be successful in a few places. In other places, it is just a bit boring; just some random sounds playing together with not much interaction. Maybe that is all down to the fact that this is a live recording and/or a deliberate choice to pick up randomly tapes from a stack that is shuffled every day. You need your own bit of audio software to stitch together the good bits, I am afraid. Alternatively, I can imagine this being a great challenge for some kind of remix project. (FdW)
––– Address: https://laaps-records.com/
SMELL & QUIM - CUNTYBUBBLES (LP by Cheeses International)
As I am playing this new record by Smell & Quim, I am thinking about the group and what I know about them, and when I first heard of them. It must have been in the very late 80s or the very early 90s that I first heard their music, and it was a time that I began to be less interested in noise music, I think. As such, I don't think I never gave them a fair chance, and perhaps I never heard too much of their music when it comes to reviewing. Maybe I am surprised that they are still around, but a similar surprise goes for the re-birth of Cheeses International, a label that started by Steve Fricker in 1990 to release music by his musical vehicle, Onomatopoeia. There have been ten releases until 2003, and now, catalogue CI15 (oddly, but true), is a new LP by Smell & Quim, and of course, my uber-correct spellchecker will run bonkers over the title of the thing, or 'Mouth Crop Gullet Bladder Bowel Vagina' and 'Wank Engine' (you realize this is an offensive word, my checker will remind me). Smell & Quim is here Milovan Srdenovic, Stewart Keith, Michael Gillham, Kate Fear and Simon Morris, who passed away late 2019. Somehow, so I thought, the music sounded strangely familiar, which made me think that I heard or remembered their music better than I thought. Smell & Quim's noise is built from very different elements; lots of electronics, crude tape loops (perhaps from tapes, or maybe vinyl), and spoken word. Not all at the same time, but sitting neatly next to each other. There can be a strong power electronics piece or a more introspective spot in which a spoken word tells a story, along with animal noises, proper singing and an overall radio play-like character ('The Wicker Thing'). I find this a very fine contrast that works very well. What works not so well, is their use of tape loops. 'Old Spunker' is such a piece that is a bit too long and which stays too long within the same looped frame before any interesting move is made. There is that industrial music aspect about sex, pornography, masturbation that one may find outdated, silly or stupid (or interesting, brilliant, provoking: it is a free world, you choose), with looped moaning, and talk about genitalia, that is not really my thing, but I enjoy the consistent approach of Smell & Quim. They are going at it, so you got to give it to them. The world of noisemakers isn't about chance, it's about consistency, and Smell & Quim did a great record. (FdW)
––– Address: https://irimsik-xaliqaraliq.blogspot.com/
LUCIO CAPECE & BEN VIDA - UMWELT (LP by Bocian Records)
Over a time span of four years (2016-2020) and in three locations (Brussels, Berlin, New York), Lucio Capece (bass clarinet, slide saxophone, cardboard tubes, analogue synthesizer and filter) and Ben Vida (synthesis, sampling and digital arranging) recorded this album. I have learned to love Capece radical approach to the saxophone and Vida as a guitarist early on, and in his later work switching to electronics, not as radical but solid electronic music. In the four pieces they recorded (a year per piece?), they go for that improvised approach that does sound a bit different. When Capece decides to play his wind instruments in a more 'traditional' fashion, it may sound a bit more like regular improvisation, albeit in his usual quiet approach. But as soon as he touches his other instruments and Vida plays along, their music drifts towards a subtler musique concrète/electro-acoustic approach, which, again, is on the quiet side. Quiet but as in silent; there is always something to be heard here. There is a fine, delicate tension to be found in these four pieces, especially in the final one, 'Sighten', which is a beautiful interaction between sine wave like sounds from both players. In all of these pieces, the interaction between both players is great here. In the near title piece, 'Umwelten', they arrive at some very dark drone in the pieces, after circling for some time. In 'The Three Graces' there seems to be a more modular electronics feel to the piece, and a more improvised feeling, with long and shorter tones, carefully intertwining. Here we have four different pieces, all connected, yet with an excellent amount of variation. Great record! (FdW)
––– Address: https://bocian.bandcamp.com/
PIDE AYUDA - INUBIS/BASTET (7" by Wondercap Records)
Here we have a duo, both playing synths, and one is called The Sir and the other The Lady. They started in 2017 when The Sir invited The Lady to record some noise and the father of The Sir have them two synths. They did some recordings, leading to a six months residency at Greenpoint, "Brooklyn's Film Noir Cinema', where they provided soundtracks to films. Furthermore, they handed out some tracks to compilations and now Wondercap Records release their first 7inch record, on yellow vinyl. 'Inubus' is a slow affair of two synths interacting together, with an equally slow pound of a drum machine. It has that fine basement recording quality of early synth-punk records (which never came in a glossy cover like this one). The music is a meeting of high and low sounds of both synthesizers, in and out of tune with each other, with a strangely nagging motif on repeat. A bit long, perhaps? 'Bastet', on the other side, is a more uptempo affair. Not because of excessive use of rhythm machines, but sequences triggering synth notes and this leads to a song of some urgency. There is some aggressive, synth-punk undertow in this piece. Just as 'Inubus' this is quite a long song and again, I am not entirely convinced by this length and the various element that make up this song. I think it could be shorter. In this case, however, I can see that when this is played on a stage, the length is actually the strong part of the piece. I'd be curious to hear more by them and see what they would come up. (FdW)
––– Address: http://www.wondercaprecords.com/
HOTEL NEON - MOMENTS (CDR by Sound In Silence)
JULIAN ROSS - FADEAWAY (CDR by Sound In Silence)
Whenever Sound In Silence sends me new stuff, always in pairs, they add an extensive biographical note on the musicians, from which I sometimes quote. I am sure I said this before, but this label knows how to surprise me with a steady stream of new names, and reading all of these bios made me realize there is a whole world of musicians and labels that I don't know about. For instance, Hotel Neon, a new name, have toured with "the likes of Benoit Pioulard, Lowercase Noises, Slow Meadow, Loscil, The Sight Below, Marcus Fischer, Christopher Tignore' and have releases on labels such as Home Normal, Fluid Audio, Past Inside The Present and Archives. I recognized a few names there but not all. Hotel Neon is a trio of twin brothers Andrew and Michael Tasselmyer and Steven Kemner. Hard to say what they all play, but there is no doubt quite a few guitars used here, plus, no doubt loopers, but maybe also synthesizers and a piano. There is a fine delicate white noise sort of sound, a layer of hiss if you will, in this music which gives it a kind of 'ancient' sound; not all the time, but used with great sparseness. Couple that with the orchestral sound Hotel Neon have, and it sounds like a rusty old orchestral music gramophone, a 78-rpm record slowed down and looped around. Sound In Silence compares this with, forgive my ignorance, with unknown bands as Hammock and A Winged Victory For The Sullen and Stars Of The Lid. The latter I do know, and I can easily agree with that connection. Hotel Neon covers a similar territory of lush orchestral drone music played by anything else than an orchestra. I'd add the name of William Basinski to that small list. Small ensemble music of a truly refined nature. Seven tracks, thirty-seven minutes of sonic bliss. That should have been longer!
Despite what you could easily think, as I did, that Julian Ross is not the name of one person, but it is a duo, of Ettore di Roberto, someone you could know as the co-founder of Port Royal and Andrea Comotto, "former bassist in a local blues band". They started in 2016 and 'Fadeaway' is their second album, following on the Silent Flow netlabel. As always there are no instruments mentioned anywhere, but I would say that the bass guitar is certainly a presence here, along with a whole set of other 'usual suspects' from the world of ambient music; acoustic guitars, synthesizers, field recordings and quite some several harder to define sounds (voices, glitches, grainy samples). However, strings seem to be the starting point of each of the five pieces (total length is thirty-five minutes), which add a bit of post-rock vibe to the music. Well, post-post-rock probably, because of the highly ambient nature of the music. Sound In Silence compares this Tim Hecker, Fennesz and Labradford, all three I happen to know, and I would think Julian Ross comes closest to the latter, but perhaps in an even more stripped-down version. In 'Death' there is a fine delicate gritty organ sound arising from the droney fields, with voices buried (pun intended) in there. In 'Do' (the five pieces are called 'Till Death Do Us Part') there is the faint thumb of rhythm, which gives a bit of variation to the music, which works quite well. The carefully constructed mood is never broken, but these minor variations give the whole album quite a bit of extra depth. Here too, just as with Hotel Neon, the only downside is that I think the album is too short. It must be the rainy day of slow January that made me want to have some more of this greyish music. (FdW)
––– Address: https://soundinsilencerecords.bandcamp.com/
TED MOORE - BRUIT (CDR by Carrier Records)
'Bruit', in case you don't know, is the French word for 'noise' and this contains six pieces of noise. Each of them is improvised and each has Ted Moore on "eurorack modular synthesizers and his custom improvisation software". Also, in each track, he plays with another person, or two (in one case). These are Jenna Lyle (electronics, voice), Ben Roidl-Ward (bassoon), Yung-Tuan Ku (percussion), Emerson Hunton (drums), Eric Krouse (piano; the latter two on one piece), Anne La Berge (flute and electronics) and Tom Weeks (saxophones). This lives up to the idea of noise, even when the context screams 'improvisation' all over. The noise played here has very little to do with the idea to with the more conservative notion of noise as usually reviewed by the esteemed Jliat. That's two reasons why I enjoyed this a lot. It is noise, sure, but a different kind of noise and 'different' is a word I like. This one crosses the borders of both and might have upset a few listeners; not all are live recordings. Some of these players are well-matched with Ted Moore, some a bit less. My least favourite piece is also the longest here, the one with Weeks. I am just not so enamoured by his freestyle wailing on the saxophone, I think. Others, however, are a perfect match. The duet with Lyle is a pure beauty of uncontrolled noise from both; I had no clue who did what here. Roidl-Ward's bassoon gets the full treatment in an intense interaction, while Ku's percussion is more traditional and Moore adjusted to a similar open form of playing. The drums/piano/electronics trio is a very powerful one, which sounds like a metal band with a piano player lost in the middle of them, and it is followed by a very intimate flute, played by La Berge, with beautiful sparse electronics from both. Had the piece with Weeks been cut down to ten minutes or less, it would have been a more than a great CD. Now it is simply great, but twenty minutes too long. It is a fine lesson on the notion of noise and what it can all contain. (FdW)
––– Address: https://carrierrecords.com/
BLOOD RHYTHMS - ROTE (CDR by No Part Of It)
SASHASH ULZ - PINGVINIA (CDR by No Part Of It)
“Oh yeah, it isn’t lyrics that are important, it’s the tone of the songs” a friend once said to me. We were having a late-night conversation about whether music or word was more important to him. His argument was that words get in the way of music at times. After listening to ‘ROTE’ but Blood Rhythms I’m tempted to try and track him down again and send him this album.
A reason is that it’s instrumental. There are no words to get in the way of delirious music. ‘ROTE’ is an unwavering swath of noise. For 73-minutes Blood Rhythms contorts and confronts the senses in a way that is unlike a lot of what I’ve heard in the past 12 months. Opening track ‘Seven Stairs’ sounds like a swarm of bees are trying to get out of the speakers. As the song progresses the sound gets more and more frantic. Underneath this static buzz, there is a deep drone. At first, you don’t notice it but over its nine-minute duration, it pulls you in until you aren’t really paying attention to the buzzing and the deep, lapping drone. It reminds me of being on the beach in bad weather. At first, I am only able to hear the wind and waves crashing but after my ears attune themselves, I start to pick up the sound of the waves raking the pebbles across one another. The deep pull of the sea as it is drained from the beach before another wave thunders onto the beach.
The standout track on the album is ‘A Void of the Infinite Possibility’. This is the shortest track on the album, clocking in just over two minutes. Despite this, it puts the other tracks to shame considering how much it crams in. The main rhythm sounds like layers of W. Heath Robinson contraptions running at different speeds. The rhythms this creates are captivating. It takes a few listens to work out what is actually going on. After playing it half a dozen times, back-to-back, I still have no idea but as soon as it finishes, I am compelled to press play again. ‘A Void of the Infinite Possibility’ segues into ‘Jagged Antimony’. This is an effectively a longer version of ‘A Void of the Infinite Possibility’. It follows the same rules. The sound of ramshackle machinery is layered and looped to create a calamitous cacophony. Around the halfway mark it feels like a marching band is being mangled somehow and then looped over itself. This is about as good as it, or anything gets, but as soon as it starts it switches and the sound starts to sound aquatic and we’re off down another avenue.
‘ROTE’ is an album that is hard to get to the bottom of but it’s fun trying. The titles give us slight ideas about what to expect, but ‘A Metallic Cloud Cast a Black Shadow’ can only give away so much. There is something wonderfully refreshing about how unrelenting and caustic it is. Throughout its duration, you are pummelled, prodded, cajoled, harangued, and generally crushed by wave after wave of destructive rhythms. However, there are elements of positivity and hope secreted in the writhing noise. ‘A Metallic Cloud Cast a Black Shadow’ features a recurring tone buried deep in its core. It is piecing and reminds me of stories of yore when the hero was saved by a mythic beast calling out to him. By following the noise, they escaped and were able to fight another day. This is what this tone is and if part what the album is.
Sometimes you are given something that you had previously missed. There are moments when the ego takes over and you feel “If it was that great, how come I never heard of it before?” Sadly, this is human nature. Luckily after a few minutes listening to the Sashash Ulz compilation ‘PINGVINIA’ you don’t care about your ego and are glad you can experience the music. And experience it is you do. But before I get to that who, or what is Sashash Ulz. Simply put it is the alter ego of Sasha Mishkin who was based in Petrozavodsk, Karelia. This is an area of Russia bordering on Finland. In a four-year period, Mishkin released over 20 albums, singles EPs. ‘PINGVINIA’ distils this work into on 70-minute compilation that works as an introduction, best off and a time capsule of that body of work. Though the project was put to rest in 2015, this music feels timeless. Like it was either created today or 20+ years ago.
The album is broken up into different types of music. There are the drones. The noise pieces. The wonky pop and the dreamy shoegaze stuff. ‘Hermit’ reminds me of a washed-out version of Bob Brady & The Conchords’ ‘Everybody's Going to Love In’. There are pangs of Dig! era Dandy Warhols/BJM to it, along with Broadcast at their wonky best. It’s utterly transfixing, like all of the album is in all fairness, but ‘Hermit’ just pulls you in with its velvet melodies that smother the sound as much as it allows it to breathe. ‘Bétula’ is the catchiest track on the album. The zither, or dulcimer, has a haunting quality to it. Each note is allowed to drift off into the ether. It snaps you out of your humdrum and whisks you away to another place. It truly is remarkable how simplistic is all sounds. But as we know when something sounds simple it really isn’t. ‘Uprising’ is just one long glorious drone. Throughout the drone doesn’t do a lot, in fairness it doesn’t need to, but what it does do is let you get swept up with every graceful undulation. The album closes with the ‘Cánnabis’. This is the longest track on the album. It lives up to its title in the creating a relaxing and heady atmosphere where it sounds like someone breathing in and exhaling, while pleasantly eerie melodies dance underneath. Ending the album on this vibe works well. We are sent home happy and blissed out, rather than twitching and wanting something else.
What ‘PINGVINIA’ demonstrates is that Mishkin really knew how to create an atmosphere and run with it. Each track is an exercise in genre and control. Mishkin never pushing things as far as you’d expect, or want, but instead takes you as far as he can, whilst staying in control. On ‘Hendriks’ and ‘Pered Balom’, the noisiest tracks on the album, Mishkin still exhibits control over the recordings. They never descend into the guttural noise you might expect, given their build-ups. Instead, he skates along that knife edge and delivers something far more interesting and measured instead. And this is what ‘PINGVINIA’ is. A well-measured album of a project who only existed for a short amount of time but who released some truly exceptional music. If this is your first introduction to Sashash Ulz you are in for a treat. If you are a seasoned fan this is the album you always wanted but never knew you needed. (NR)
––– Address: https://nopartofit.bandcamp.com/
O [BLANK TAPE COMPILATION VOL.2] (cassette by Steepgloss)
STEPHAN BARRETT AND MATT ATKINS - STILL (cassette by Steepgloss)
Have you ever been awake when the snow has fallen at night? The room gets colder and you can faintly hear it falling on the ground and window ledge. It’s a faint constant sound, but heavy at the same time. It’s also very pleasing. There you are warm in bed and you know that a few inches away it is incredibly cold, silent and when you wake the world will feel slightly muted. There are parts of ‘O [Blank Tape Compilation Vol. 2]’ from Steep Gloss that feel like this.
The first tape was released in June 2020 and featured Turmeric Acid, Matt Atkins, Modelbau, Chemiefaserwerk, Andrew Sharpley, Dinurnal Burdens, Georges Concrete, Richard Garet, Rovellasca and Phil Maguire all submitting four-minute audio pieces that utilised blank cassettes. The second volume has the same premise and sees Grant Evans, Territorial Gobbing, S. Grey, Ivy Nostrum, Giblet Gusset, Elenaor Cully, Ambasce, Howard Stelzer, Anne-F Jacques and Carnivorous Plants taking up the mantle.
As with the original, it subverts the trope of submitting the listener to a barrage of unrelenting noise. Here this feels inverted. Instead, we are given the absence of noise. These swaths of silence feel deafening at times, making the music far more devastating. These recordings are incredibly textured. Some tracks are effectively contain nothing. Just amplified and slightly manipulated. Others feel like recordings or a tape being fast-forwarded or rewound, then layered to create a soundscape that is constantly moving but never getting to its destination. But it is this movement that is key to these recordings.
When I reviewed the first album, I described it as: “Some pieces are just tape hiss, others are glitchy drones, others feel like a hangover, some sounds like machinery being recorded from a distance, others might be the sound of a car engine cooling down on a driveway, but all of them have a claustrophobic vibe that gets under your skin”. These recordings make us question our relationship with sound, along with what noise, and avant-garde, music is really about. Is it about the musician making a statement or trying to get us to connect with a certain feeling or emotion? The answer to this is what you conclude. The artist has done their bit. It’s down to us to make sense of it.
As I’m writing this review it is 04:30 am. I can’t sleep so I’m up. And as I’m up I might as well be productive. This is the kind of album that suits this time of night, and mental state. I’m somewhere between being awake and sleep. The same is true of the album. It occupies a place between worlds. It belongs in neither yet both will claim it as theirs. When I read this back tomorrow, I’ll have no memory of it but I’m glad I experienced it. This is how I feel about ‘O [Blank Tape Compilation Vol. 2]’. After I finished playing it I know I enjoyed it immensely yet have no memories to back this up. And I’m very content with that.
In recent months Steep Gloss has been on a roll. Pretty much everything I’ve heard from the label has either impressed me or made me sit up and take notice. So it was with great excitement that I pressed play on ‘Still’ the debut release from pianist Stephen Barrett and electronic manipulator Matt Atkins.
After listening to it once I was slightly unsure of what I had heard. This isn’t anything new, so I pressed play again. After that listen I was taken aback by the scope of their sonic experiments. The three tracks span 40-minutes of glacial synths and oppressive piano and create a feeling of merciless atmospherics. In places it truly is impressive. The music is gut-wrenching at times. It surrounds you with sombre barrenness. There are few hooks to initially grab on it. When the austere piano emerges from fugs of desolate synths you latch on to it immediately. They transport you to a place where caustic melodies are the order of the day and things lurk in the shadows. Again, it’s truly impressive.
The downside with ‘Still’ is that the lack of variation can be a bit slightly tedious at times. There is nothing wrong with the album. Throughout Barrett and Atkins create an ominous mood, filled with stark piano and gaseous synths. At times it sounds like the score to a sequence in a computer game. You enter a new room/section. The mood changes. The music is sinister. There is a boss to defeat around here somewhere, but where! As you explore the area the tension mounts until it is unbearable. Well, that’s how I found it anyway. This is not an album to play if you want dynamic melodies and searing sounds. Instead, when something changes you immediately pick up on, but the changes are fleeting.
‘Still’ is an album full of desolate crevasses and grim musicality. It’s an album that feels fitting for these times. This isn’t an album to play if you want to cheer up or to bring a smile to your face. It does however make you feel alive. It makes you realise that as bleak as things might seem, they can get bleaker. As I dive in for another listen I try and let go of my thoughts and let myself get wrapped up with these warped soundscapes. It might be a hard listen, but it can be a rewarding one, but only if you are willing to let go and enjoy the desolate ride. (NR)
––– Address: https://steepgloss.bandcamp.com/
FERAL COPSE (cassette by Spleen Coffin)
This is the debut cassette of a new trio, formed by Chandor Glöomy (also known as Hairs Abyss, Cromlech Shadow, The MK Ultraterrestrials and of the Coma Kultur label), Paul Harrison (Expose Your Eyes, Egone, Smell & Quim, Hairs Abyss and the Fiend Recordings label) and Andy Jarvis (of Vile Plumage, Saboteuse, Sculptress, Dirty Swords and Cromlech Shadow). I am not sure if they meet up in person, as I believe Jarvis and Harrison might be based in the UK, and Glöomy in the Netherlands, and I might be wrong. There are not any instruments mentioned on the cover of this tape (a very fine screen-printed affair by the way) and judging by the music is not easy, I think. I believe to hear filed recordings, electronics (I would think those lovely monotron synthesizers), Walkman and Dictaphone abuse, tape-loops and someone, somewhere there is the production of rhythm sounds; they could as easily have been generated from loops as well, although on the opening piece of side 2 (both have one title, but I would think are made up to be various sections) could also be a drum machine. That section is also different because there is also the use of guitars, which makes it some highly demented form of rock music. Otherwise, this tape is rather a more lo-fi ambient/noise/drone affair, with some crude approach to the use of loops, making this neatly rough around the edges. Yet, the musical side of this is not completely gone, I would think, with those guitars and the occasional bass guitar and trumpet torment (towards the end of 'The Crack In The Sky Was The Signal We Had Waited For'), also show. This is a most promising first release. Give us more of this! (FdW)
––– Address: https://spleencoffin.com/
ANTOINE GILLOIRE/TANGUY CLERC (split cassette by Alcove)
Following my introduction to this label, some weeks ago, with a split release by the well-known Simon Whetham and ớt, of whom I had not heard, there is now another split cassette, and this time I had not heard of either musician. It is interesting to see this new Alcove release as a sort of continuation of the previous release, perhaps like the creation of a label sound? Maybe it is just coincidence, but there would seem to be some sort of similarities in approaches here. No instruments are mentioned, and with Antoine Gilliore, I would certainly believe he is working with a laptop, treating field recordings, spoken word, electronic sounds (I am widely guessing here) and melting them down into a fine brand of warm glitchy sounds. Just like ớt previously, I am reminded here of Oval's ambient phase, especially in the first piece, 'Prémices'. His second piece (both are around ten minutes) is called 'Sustain' and works with pure electronic sounds, loops no doubt, of similar sounds and form a very delicate web of, indeed, sustaining sounds. This is even more ambient than the slightly chaotic first piece. On the other side, we find Tanguy Clerc, and he has one piece of music, little over eighteen minutes. Here, I would think the use of field recordings is much clearer, but maybe also it is fed through the use of a modular synth/filters, crafting some delicate sounds together, which are in the first half on the verge of silence. In the second half, the insects have multiplied and now form some busier patterns, yet still, it all remains on the quiet side. Only if you turn up the volume, things become detailed. Two musicians, two sides and two different approaches, one lovely tape. (FdW)
––– Address: https://labelalcove.bandcamp.com/