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BILL THOMPSON - OCEAN INTO LIGHT (CD by Burning Harpsichord Records) *
WARPED DREAMER - LIVE AT BIMHUIS (CD by Consouling Sounds) *
BARBARA ELLISON - CYBERSONGS (CD by Unsounds) *
BERTRAND GAUGUET & JOHN TILBURY - CONTRE-COURBES (2CD by Akousis Records) *
AB BAARS/IG HENNEMAN/GEORGE DUMITRIU/PAU SOLA MASAFRETS – AFORISMEN AFORISME AFORISMES (CD by Evil Rabbitt) *
ION - SOUNDSCAPES VOL. 1 (CD by Same Difference Music) *
HAIRETIS HARPER - DRAFT (LP by Same Difference Music) *
KERKVILLE - DAYS (LP by Same Difference Music) *
PERIFERIYA - BOUNDARY SCAN (2LP by Mikroton) *
MKM - BANGALORE (LP by Mikroton) *
BURKHARD STANGL & CHIRSTOF KURZMANN (LP by Mikroton) *
NIMITTA – POLYPTYQUE (LP by Bocian Records)
FREEK KINKELAAR - WONDERSOUND (book by Korm Plastics)
FRANS DE WAARD - DE NEDRLANDSE CASSETTE CATALOGUS 1983-1987 (book by Korm Plastics)
AMORAIM - LUNARSHIFT (CDR by MicroDot) *
AMORAIM - SURVIVORS 2 (CDR by MicroDot/Harsh Reality) *
TAK ENSEMBLE & TAYLOR BROOK - STAR MAKER FRAGMENTS (CDR by Tak Editions) *
SNOWFLAKE ORCHESTRA (cassette by Cosmic Winnetou) *
SCHWEBEN - TREES (cassette by Cosmic Winnetou) *
COPS - ENERGY TRAP (cassette by Cosmic Winnetou) *
PREFIX SUFFIX - IT'S ALL NOISE (cassette by Noise World Organisation) *
FIRE MOSS/THINK OF A NAME - CRUCIAL GENESIS OUTFITS (NO WORDS FOR THESE KINDS OF BIRDS (split cassette by Vacancy Recs) *
DEL STEPHEN/DEL KEN SIN - TRYING TO MAKE SENSE (OF THE WORLD) / SUNNYSIDE [AGOSTO 2018] (split cassette by Vacancy Recs) *
DEL STEPHEN - IMAGINATION FEVER (cassette by Vacancy Recs) *
BILL THOMPSON - OCEAN INTO LIGHT (CD by Burning Harpsichord Records)
Seeing this is catalogue number BHR006, I would think I missed out on a few releases by Bill Thompson (see also Vital Weekly 1206, 1175 and 1151), but maybe something is coming. Originally, Thompson is from Texas, but residing in the UK for many years now, and he plays a Moog guitar and electronics, next to creating sound installations. He also composes for other instruments (and, therefore, so I assume, for other people) pieces for voice, guitar, contrabass, bagpipe, percussion, organ, string quartet mixed ensembles and live electronics. Besides, he has ongoing collaborations with Phil Durrant, Phil Maguire and Richard Sanderson, as well as others. In the compositions, he performs, 'drones' play an important role; lengthy, sustaining sounds, and usually he has a few of those going at the same time, and throughout a piece, he constantly combines and changes this material in a very subtle way. Sometimes there is a tendency towards some slightly distorted guitar sound, the rock-end of the six strings if you will, but just as easily Thompson shapes his guitar and electronics in such a way that you have no idea that this a guitar. The overall colour of his music is dark and some heavy, as is to be expected, and I can imagine that in a concert situation the experience is quite overwhelming. At home, the listener has some form of control, and I like to play music such as Thompson's at a more mid-range volume. Loud enough to hear all the music and the nuances it contains, but not so loud that escape is not possible. I like this sort of drone music to fill space more naturally, that it has a presence but not dominance. As such, Bill Thompson's music works wonders for me. It is sustaining but never stays too long in the same place, it has a variety of approaches and quite a lively feel to it, almost like a live concert but with the listener in control. (FdW)
––– Address: https://burningharpsichordrecords.com/
WARPED DREAMER - LIVE AT BIMHUIS (CD by Consouling Sounds)
Improvised music is one of the most exciting things to see live. You are unsure where the performers are going to go. Will they play in unison or will one member suddenly decided to go off in another direction, leaving the rest of the players to either go down this new avenue or to continue as they were. It’s awe-inspiring. One such group is Warped Dreamer.
Following on from their 2015 debut album ‘Lomahongva’ Warped Dreamer have returned. Again consisting of Arve Henriksen on trumpet, voice and electronics, Stian Westerhus on guitar, voice and electronics, Jozef Dumoulin on Fender Rhodes and electronics and Teun Verbruggen on drums and electronics, this quartet put themselves, and us, through our paces. There is a fluidity to the playing that was established on ‘Lomahongva’, but is now a well-oiled and throbbing machine. Opening track ‘Ixwele’ is the more serene on the album and only really hints at what is to come. As it starts graceful horns, percussion and electronics, lull us away to a place of gentle contemplation. The playing is tranquil as it ebbs and flows along. Warper Dreamer knows where they want to get to but aren’t rushing the journey. Around the final third, the tone changes and the pace quickens. The change is subtle and spread out over time so it isn’t jarring. ‘Golden Geek Award’ starts gently but rapidly becomes more and more frantic. It isn’t disconcerting, but the manic energy sometimes overpowers what they are trying to evoke. ‘Lights Out – Darkness’ really takes the energy of ‘Golden Geek Award’ and pushes it as far as Warper Dreamer can go. It’s brave, confusing, rapid and intoxicating.
While listening to ‘Live at Bimhuis’ we are reminded about the power, and pleasure, of watching improvised music live. Some of the songs don’t work, or more accurately, don’t connect with me. ‘Lights Out – Darkness’ has sublime portions but others that don’t. And this is the joy of improvised music. You can hear the risks Warped Dreamer are taking throughout the album. It’s exciting, even if the music created isn’t. All the music here makes your heart beat a bit fasters and, at times, you are on the edge of your seat. When it works, it feels like the easiest thing in the world and when it doesn’t, we are reminded of the fragility of taste. (NR)
––– Address: https://consouling.be/
BARBARA ELLISON - CYBERSONGS (CD by Unsounds)
Something is captivating, in a disorienting and hypnotic kind of way about Barbara Ellison’s new album ‘CyberSongs’. At its heart, the album is a transhuman song cycle consisting of human-like computer voices. As the sounds rocket from the speakers, the vocals throughout are jumbled and garbled. Some of the words are in English. Others Dutch. You pick out something, but it has no real meaning. At times it feels like listening to multiple townspeople on Age of Empire II talking. All at once. Over each other. In broken English and Dutch.
‘CyberSongs’ opens with a vocal loop. Under the distorted cacophony, a delicate musical motif plays again and again. It is playful, classical, and slightly psychotic. As the vocals glitch and warp, the music carries on undeterred and effected. This sets up the rest of the album. We have been told that the music will consist of short loops while the vocals are more long form and rambling. ‘Peridoemesh’ is effectively the same vocal sample, looped ad nauseum. With each repetition, the words take on their own rhythm. This then starts to form the backbone of the songs. Wisps of synths fly about in the background, adding texture, but all the heavy lifting is done by the loop. As it progresses the loop starts to sound like other words “Helios”, “your dick”, “chest”, “lady chance” and “let’s dance” all appear. Of course, this could just be how I’m hearing them. When the vocals finally subside, everything skews into a minimal techno track for a few moments before the vocals make a reappearance. ‘Knullaleague’ is the most musical track on the album, featuring ad-hoc time signatures, distressed pianos and a delightful off-kilter jazz-pop vibe that permeates everything. Here the lyrics are used to enunciate the music, rather than the other way round. The standout track is ‘Posted By’. After a series of dates when something was posted ‘Posted By’ is a series of tongue twisters. Usually, the drama in tongue twisters is whether the speaker will be able to complete it in one go. Here, this has been removed. We are left with a series of perfectly spoken rhymes. Under all this ‘Posted By’ is back by what sounds like a single harpsichord note looped. It’s short. Sharp. Succinct and totally playable.
On the whole, the album works well. The vocals loops/samples are clever, inventive and after a few loops give the original phase a new meaning. When it works well this is a fascinating examination of language and offers hints as to how we might communicate with each other in the future. The downside is that some of the transitions are a bit clunky and jarring and offer little more than repetitive loops that go nowhere. What ‘CyberSongs’ does really well is shake up what contemporary music could and should be without resulting in hackneyed troupes and cliches. At it’s best it is a forward-thinking album that demands you to play it again where you will undoubtedly hear something new each time. (NR)
––– Address: https://unsounds.com/
BERTRAND GAUGUET & JOHN TILBURY - CONTRE-COURBES (2CD by Akousis Records)
The second release for this label sees the return of Bertrand Gauguet (alto saxophone; see also Vital Weekly 1234), but this time with two concert recordings he did with John Tilbury on the piano. On the first CD, this is a recording from April 2016 in Merz and the second was recorded in November 2019 in Le Mans. Tilbury you may know as a performer of modern classical compositions (Cage, Feldman, Wolf, Cardew and so on), or from his work with AMM and other improvisations. Gauguet is someone who is connected to the world of improvisation, having worked with Insub Meta Orchestra, Thomas Lehn, Michel Doneda, Thomas Korber and many others. Both concerts are between forty and fifty minutes and the first time I made the 'mistake' to play both of them in a row. That was a bit too much. The music played by these two gentlemen requires quite some attention, as it is both 'slow' and 'low'. Notes are played with great care, the occasional few piano tones here, and some saxophone over there. Both leave gaps, but it never becomes very quiet, or for a very long time. Gauguet seems to have a penchant for longer, sustaining notes and most of the time these are eerie and sine-wave like. Tilbury stays on the keyboard, most of the time (and as far as I can judge) and his isolated notes have great depth when played in the lower range, and a bell-like quality in the higher range. On very few occasions the two play something else, Gauget shorter blasts on the horn and Tilbury... your guess is as good as mine. It is there where the album gets another mysterious level, where you don't have this idea of listening to a saxophone and piano record, but a duet of new instruments and sounds. Especially this seems to be happening on the second disc; or perhaps it appears here for a longer period, the main second part of their concert, slowly returning to their 'normal' playing. Both of these pieces are intense listening pieces, requiring a lot of the listener, but once you are all open up to the experience, some great beauty will unfold. You need to take your time with this one! (FdW)
––– Address: https://akousis.bandcamp.com/
AB BAARS/IG HENNEMAN/GEORGE DUMITRIU/PAU SOLA MASAFRETS – AFORISMEN AFORISME AFORISMES (CD by Evil Rabbitt)
On ‘Aforismen Aforisme Aforismes’ we have Ab Baars Baars (clarinet, shakuhachi), and Ig Henneman (viola) - who need no further introduction - in a collaboration with two young Amsterdam-based musicians, namely George Dumitriu (violin, viola) and Pau Sola Masafrets (cello). When I think of other recent releases, I’m inclined to think that more than in the past new young musicians from all over find their way to Amsterdam, attracted to the lively impro-scene over there. Dumitriu is a violinist and guitarist from Romania. He continued studies in Holland and New York (jazz guitar, live electronics), and is nowadays based in Amsterdam. Here he founded his own ensemble DUMItRIO and did his solo program Monk on viola. Pau Solo Masafrets comes from Barcelona and works in several projects and collaborations in the context of classical music, improvisation, theatre, etc. Initially, this collaboration started as a trio of three string players, but Baars soon joined and an interesting exchange blossomed up. Recording of this session took place on the initiative of Dumitriu and Masafrets on June 30, 2019, at the Bernard Haitink Hall of the Amsterdam Conservatory. It is a meeting of two different generations and one of the different cultural backgrounds. No doubt it leans on the long experience Henneman and Baars have as a musical duo, but the inspired interplay by all four is evident. Titles of the eleven improvisations refer to types of soil found in the three countries they come from. I suppose also the title of the album is aphorism spelt in these three languages. Having solved that problem let’s turn to what they are about. ‘Paarse Hei’ has a childlike innocence and freshness playing with friendly motives, pizzicato playing, at one moment almost taking the form of dance. ‘Arena’ is a very dynamic and concentrated piece, starting from bolded movements by Baars, in an intense dialogue with intertwined playing by the string players. The following piece ‘Laagveen’ is a play with long-stretched notes evoking a very different, drone-like effect. Also, the closing piece ‘Cernoziom’ is built mainly from long-stretched movements. In ‘Estepa’ swirling movements by the strings dominate with fine interactions by Baars on shakuhachi. ‘Dune’ is a subtle conversation dominated by short gestures and movements, giving room to silence. Throughout everything sounds as it is meant to be. ‘Instantly composed’ and far from arbitrary, with interventions by Baars that are as accurate and well-aimed as ever. A very enjoyable and successful, inspired meeting of poetic improvisations. (DM)
––– Address: https://evilrabbitrecords.eu/
ION - SOUNDSCAPES VOL. 1 (CD by Same Difference Music)
HAIRETIS HARPER - DRAFT (LP by Same Difference Music)
KERKVILLE - DAYS (LP by Same Difference Music)
While I was playing this CD for the first time, I already noted that the tracks on this CD are quite short, but when I played it for a second time, and now paying more attention, it turned out all of these tracks have the same length, two minutes and twenty-two seconds. That I didn't notice this when I was playing this the first time, and now that I know, it doesn't come back as an annoyance. These are just twenty short tracks. Behind Ion, we find Greek composer Giannis Papaioannou, who recorded this album in the summer of 2020. The cover lists his tools, such as Korg DSS-1, Poly-800, MS20, Yamaha DX 7, MT-100, Boss RE-20, Casio DA1, shortwave radio, tv static and tapes and throughout this is pleasant and yet also a bit dark ambient music. I always tend to think the latter comes with the territory of ambient and drone music. I was also thinking that the combination 'summer' and 'Greece' could perhaps have resulted in something a bit more uplifting, but then '2020' might be a give away for a more sombre mood. The closer I zoomed in on this album, the more I am not too sure about the brief character of the pieces as many are just too nice to let go after such a period moment in time. There is much room for exploration, for depth and such, which is now sadly missed. The label says something about that these pieces "may also function in a loop-mode as an acoustic beacon or as a pattern of concentric circles surrounding the listener like transparent curtains, in many layers that extend beyond the urban environment", and granted, good idea, but who is willing to do so these days? This is a great album, full of fine ideas and with much room to explore further in the future.
We move to the turntable for the next two releases, also by unknown musicians for me. You could think Hairetis Harper is the name of one person but it is a duo, harpist Maria-Christina Harper and lute player Yiagos Hairetis. Not the most frequent instruments in the world of Vital Weekly, I would imagine. They divide their time between London and Crete, and I am told that there is a link to Cretan tradition in this music, but due to me not being familiar with that tradition, I can't say much about it. I also understand from the information and from what I hear there is some kind of improvisation at the basis of these pieces. There is surely also an element of folk music here, especially in those few moments when Hairetis sings, 'in 'Bells' for instance. The music is meandering about slowly, like in a slow free folk sort of way. This is perhaps not the sort of music I play a lot, perhaps it all being a bit too dark and folky for my taste, but I enjoyed it all the same, perhaps because it seemed so far from my daily digest of all things Vital Weekly. This sounds like emotional music to me, and it works very well. Both players know their instruments inside out and the production is crisp and clear. It is, so I thought, almost like a touch of mediaeval music, but with a slightly modern feel to it.
I reviewed music from Michalis Moschoutis before, on both occasions under that name (Vital Weekly 1008 and 1075). I didn't know that he also worked as Kerkville, which is an odd name. Ville is the French word for city and Kerk Dutch for a church. I knew Moschoutis was a guitar player but in a slightly different from what I knew from his other work. As Kerkville, he plays his guitar in a more song-oriented mood. This is all instrumental music, but nevertheless in a more song modus. Don't get distracted by the Oval-esque intro of the opening song 'Red Dust' you pretty soon as in a melancholic land of spacious guitar wanderings. Some chords, some strumming (or do you get chords from strumming. I know very little about the mystery of the guitar), some drones, and it all works very well. Same Difference Music mentions Fennesz, Michael Gira, Matt Elliott and Godspeed and as far as I know music by these people, I can see the references, even when it seems to me that Moschoutis keeps his sound 'smaller'. He uses classical, acoustic, electric, lap steel, pedal steel guitars and I assume some set of electronics, but he thrives to make each piece different from the other, which is a great thing. Sometimes it is 'small' in a way that he seems to be using one instrument and few to none electronics, and sometimes he puts on some distortion and that makes the sound bigger, even he (most likely) plays one instrument as well. It is this variety that makes me enjoy the album even more as it has this idea of a journey, moving through various countryside sceneries as it were, each distinctly different from the other, but nevertheless also forming a most coherent totality. This is the perfect soundtrack for a cloudy day! (FdW)
––– Address: https://ionmusik.bandcamp.com/
PERIFERIYA - BOUNDARY SCAN (2LP by Mikroton)
MKM - BANGALORE (LP by Mikroton)
BURKHRD STANGL & CHIRSTOF KURZMANN (LP by Mikroton)
If I am correct, Mikroton changed a bit about its mission when it comes to releasing music. Before, I think, it was all about 'electroacoustic music', some of which seemed to be improvised (a word not favoured by the label). These days, their Bandcamp page says; 'TON releases LPs, CDs and cassettes, focusing on electronic music. Ambient, electronica, techno". Let's see how that works out with these three new releases. I started with what seemed to be a new name, Periferiya. This is a sextet partly from Russia, Boris Shershenkov (St. Petersburg on phonotrone), Kurt Liedwart and Mikhail Myasoedov (Moscow; modular synthesizer, electronics, ppooll and modular synthesizer, electronics respectively) and from Switzerland, Christian Kobi (soprano saxophone), Tomas Korber (guitar, electronics, ppooll) and Christian Müller (clarinet, electronics). The Swiss part of this are people I know, along with Liedwart, and mostly from the world of improvised music. They locked themselves away in a small village on the French-Swiss border and recorded the pieces on this 2LP. From my perspective, I would say this is indeed electronic music, with all those toys with knows and so on, but ambient or techno it is not. Not at least in the classic meaning of these words. However, the music reminded me very much of what I know Mikroton to do and that is that fine cross-section of musique concrète, electro-acoustic music, minimal electronics, and yes, generated employing improvisation and, no doubt, with some extensive editing and mixing afterwards, the compositional aspect if you will, to re-arrange and organize the recordings, taking it away from the pure documentation of the improvisation. Sure, some of this is quiet enough to be called 'ambient', but beats as in the ones used on techno records, are absent. Regardless of that, I thought this was a great record with some excellent interaction between all players, with everybody on their toes to keep up and move along in this superb set of pieces.
The acronym MKM stands for Günter Müller, Jason Kahn and Norbert Möslang, who have been going as a trio for some now; this is their fifth release for Mikroton. They also work with other people in all sorts of configurations. Müller plays iPods and electronics, Kahn modular synthesizer, mixer and radio and Möslang 'cracked everyday electronics. The album is named after the city in which the music was recorded, Bangalore in India, which, perhaps, is not the likeliest place to play strange electronic music, I would think, but from the extensive liner notes, I understand there is a connection to David Tudor here, who brought the modular synthesizer to India. There is a whole story about that on the insert, and a much longer about the trip to India, the workshops this trio did and about the concerts. Much about the nature of concerts, improvisation and the use of electronics. Now, the music presented here isn't either ambient or techno in those conventional terms, but with so e of clicks used by this trio, I can see a more outré techno world influence. Where Pan Sonic used real beats and lots of deep bass or high piercing electronics, this trio uses the selfsame elements, but the beat stripped to a pulse, a click or just a wave of noise. They move around in stasis; things stay the same and yet, perhaps, they don't. There is a strong sense of minimalism in these pieces, more than I seem to remember from their previous releases and there is also a great sense of repetition, and again, more than before, I would think. This music needs to be played with some considerable volume, I think, to feel the intenser vibrations of the sound, but also the rainbow-coloured layers in this music. The material ranges from chaotic and abstract to organized, to some extended organized blocks of fine magic; and back again, swinging like a pendulum.
The biggest surprise is found on the last of this trio of new releases, which contains four more or less live pieces by Burkhard Stangl (guitars, tapes) and Christof Kurzmann (lloopp, vocals, rubberbands). Two pieces were recorded during a soundcheck before a concert in Kaliningrad, whereas the whole second side is a recording of that concert. 'World' was recorded a few days, during a concert in Moscow. These two musicians we know for quite some time, with their delicate approach to guitars and electronics and this new album is no different; well, only that there is some a prominent role for vocals, I guess and Kurzmann's delivery is half-singing/half spoken word, and they fit the tranquil character of the music quite well. There is a fine tension in this music, underlined, for instance, but the drums in 'Time', which has a very fine post-rock feeling to it, which is about 'this is the time', with somewhat confusing lyrics (but I am not good at interpreting poetry). The three short and individual showcase a particular side of their work, distinctly different, but with that ambient, post-rock and improvised feeling. It all comes together in the concert recording, in which they freely combine and re-combine instruments and sounds, spoken word, singing and a curious amalgam of acoustic sounds, which, I assume, is the rubberband listed on the cover. Occasionally there is this leap into noise, halfway through, and it is there where the improvisation is most noted; and then, just seemingly as easy, they pull back to start again, quiet, with just a few sounds, slowly building another slow curve of delicate guitars, scratchy electronics and some finer, deeper drones, with, a bit of voice again. Quite powerful music! (FdW)
––– Address: https://toneditions.bandcamp.com/
NIMITTA – POLYPTYQUE (LP by Bocian Records)
Nimitta is a Swiss duo of Massimo Pinca (double bass) and Christophe Berthelet (soprano sax). Both play together since 2012 in Fanfafeduloup, a Geneva-based collective of improvisers and composers that exists since 1978 with many members over the years. Pinca started on electric bass and changed to double bass later. He performs classical music from baroque to new music and everything in between and plays also in contexts of world music jazz and improvisation. He worked for example with an ensemble of William Parker, teaches at the Geneva University of Music and leads his own Tarka Ensemble since 2015. Christophe Berthet worked a lot with Cyril Bondi (Insub Meta Orchestra, Diatribes) and released a solo album on Creative Sources Recordings in 2012. As a duo, they exist already about eight years, but this is their first album recorded in July 2017 in a Geneva studio. In nine improvisations they present their ideas in dialogical improvisations. Poetic chamber music is what comes first to my mind. Sometimes strongly leaning on jazz idiom, but above all sounding like chamber music, moving between exuberant and – most of the time – modest interaction. Both performers play inspired and with dedication. And it was especially Berthet’s phrasing that I liked. Fine intimate duos, released by the Polish Bocian label. (DM)
––– Address: https://bocian.bandcamp.com/
FREEK KINKELAAR - WONDERSOUND (book by Korm Plastics)
FRANS DE WAARD - DE NEDRLANDSE CASSETTE CATALOGUS 1983-1987 (book by Korm Plastics)
In the early part of the century, I was a commuter, going by train and to kill time I had a subscription to Dutch magazine Aloha. Not the legendary one of the old days (Willem de Ridder's fame), but a magazine for rock music, covering anything from the (again) resurrected Yes to The Cure to Tom Petty. It was 95% of the music I would never hear, heard or cared about. But it was the stories that I liked and the lists; the top 5 best Cure records was one that actually did interest me. I gave up my subscription after three years and with that reading paper magazines. Well, not entirely true. When I am in the bookstore I look at music magazines and would buy Mojo's special issue on Kate Bush or Joy Division, or the issue with the cover-mounted CD with covers of the entire 'Power, Corruption & Lies' by New Order, solely based on Biosphere's 'Blue Monday'. Occasionally I picked up The Record Collector, even when collecting records is no particular interest, and I would never look at the prices at the end of each article. Music needs to be heard, not collected, and as such, I don't mind the form it comes in. Vinyl, CD, cassette or download, it's all the same for me. Not so for Freek Kinkelaar, a passionate collector of records and cassettes and a man with an eclectic taste. His 'Wondersound' is about that passion, but he doesn't write as a fanboy. He writes for this rag, occasionally, just as for The Record Collector and other publications. I like it when a book (or magazine) can surprise me with things I never heard of, or heard of but never heard, and unlike those Aloha days, we now live in an age where anything is a mouseclick away and that's where this book comes in particular handy. Collectors come in all sizes and shapes, and usually beyond my modest wallet, but I keenly explore things that sound great on paper but not straight away buy the real thing. I am happy to look for a version elsewhere. Almost everything is on YouTube these days (well, or with a little luck to be found on the remains of blogosphere 2.0). I would sincerely doubt there is a book or magazine in the world in which you can find an in-depth article on the history of Whitehouse/Come Organisation as well as a review of a Rita Reys record (Dutch jazz singer; I am sure I don't need to explain who Whitehouse is). The book has a few of these longer articles (Come, Throbbing Gristle, artist records, noise, Gary Wilson, Rozz Williams, Vagina Dentata Organ; well, I sense a thing there), a whole lot (50? 60?) shorter columns in which he discusses one record (or even one song) by an artist and a few liner notes he wrote for re-issues, plus an essay about meeting the Residents and recording their Boy In Love for a tribute record. That song you get as a download, a bookmark and a signature if you buy the book with 12 pages of full-colour images; I could do without that and settled for the black and white version. Kinkelaar's style is informative and personal. He will give you the basic facts behind a record, always good to know, and why he's attracted to it, and in a very pleasant (and sometimes a bit pompous), that already made me put aside the book and look up the record in question. If a book (or magazine) does that, then the mission succeeded.
And for something completely different, there is Frans de Waard's new book. Let’s do some background first; you may be familiar with the name Korm Plastics as Frans de Waard’s label. Over the past few decennia he has released a humungous body of work, ranging from the industrial, ambient and general weirdness to, indeed, pop (as in popular) music. Since a year or so he is also publishing books - written or compiled by himself, such as the Vital compendium (Vital before Weekly), a book on his adventures at Staalplaat (which I haven't read) and a brand new one about cassettes, ‘De Nederlandse Cassette Catalogus - 1983-1987’ (‘The Dutch Cassette Catalogue – 1983-1987’). As a teenager in the early 1980s, De Waard was obsessed with cassettes; the then-popular format for music. Cassettes were not only produced by the major record companies as a very valid and portable alternative for records, but also by a growing number of independent bands, musicians and labels for whom records were simply too expensive to produce. Besides, the whole idea of DIY, of anarchism, of being independent from large commercial companies was very appealing – this was straight after the first wave of punk remember. In my home country Belgium we had a very healthy punk scene and a lot of independent records and cassettes – The Netherlands was no exception. De Waard decided that in this chaos of labels, bands and musicians, some order was needed and started to compile a list of as many cassette releases/labels in The Netherlands as possible, spending hours and lots of guilders on writing letters and phone calls in that precious pre-internet era. Borrowing the money from his parents he subsequently published the first cassette catalogue in 1983. Four more volumes would follow, before De Waard’s interest waned and other horizons loomed. This book compiles the four volumes of the Dutch Cassette Catalogue and is, much as the title suggests, in Dutch. This is a pre for me, as Belgium is a two-languaged country, where both French and Dutch is spoken. That much of this is in Dutch is no doubt some hindrance, the book is exactly what it says on the tin – it simply lists cassette-releases and labels in alphabetical order, so even when you don’t speak the lingo, the book will make perfect sense to you. Having said that, the fact that it has an English ‘how to use this book’ definitely helps. You may wonder where the fun in reading a book of lists lies. Well, for one in the hilarious names of bands, tapes and labels (I am not going to spoil the fun here, you have to buy your own copy and use Google Translate!), a reprint of a Dutch cassette brochure and some cassette reviews in ‘larger’ magazines and, best of all, the appendix of replies De Waard received from said bands and labels on his request for information - including one of the funniest vitriolic replies ever, which De Waard has cathartically published in a translated version. ‘Blue willy’ indeed. The cover of the book might look familiar to you as its design copies/tributes the ‘International Discography of The New Wave 1982-1983’ as compiled by George Martha DeFoe in 1982. Said book, a bible to some (including De Waard), compiled in nearly 750 pages a list of internationally independent wave/punk releases; I am yoo young to ever seen one in reallife. Like 'Wondersound' there is much to explore and, again, many of these obscure releases made it to YouTube The book does not read as a novel, but more as a reference book that you can pick up, put down and continue to read whenever you please. It can provide a guideline when hunting for those obscure cassettes, even though it should be noted that the editions of these cassettes were often frustratingly low, and this catalogue may even include a ‘made-up/conceptual’ release or two. The book was printed using scans of the original booklets which explains the at times somewhat blurred and greyish print. It comes in a hardcover and that is a bit luxurous and over the top, but the design by Alfred Boland looks great (on both of these new books). It is another fine 'archive' release, but 'Wondersound' shows it is time to explore new ground as well. (LW)
––– Address: http://www.kormplastics.nl
AMORAIM - LUNARSHIFT (CDR by MicroDot)
AMORAIM - SURVIVORS 2 (CDR by MicroDot/Harsh Reality)
Here's a true story: some weeks ago the name Jay Scott came up in the section "where is he now", in one of those conversations about the network of cassette labels from the past. Maybe five days later Jay Scott emailed me asking if I still had one of his cassettes that I reviewed in the paper version of Vital before the Weekly; I didn't. Scott is from South Africa and has been around since the late 80s with the production of ambient and techno music on his Network77 label, which he later renamed into Microdot. A little research that followed all this, told me I had reviewed one of his releases in Vital Weekly 1077, so he was never "off the map" anyway. That one was under the name of Kraftreaktor and more along the lines of dance music. As Amoraim, he explores the ambient music that was big in the 90s, the one we called chill out or ambient house, even when in the case of Amoraim there is very little house. Certainly not on ‘Lunarshift' with its quiet synthscapes, vast, atmospheric drones, field recordings of birds and water and a very mild touch upon the percussion. The latter seems to disappear as the album unfolds and when we come to the fourth piece, 'Sleep I', things are so quiet, and it almost disappears. This is the perfect release for a chill-out room; get away from the dancing and partying, lie down, relax and listen. Within these fifty-two minutes, Amoraim takes you on a trip, starting with something quite present (not loud of course) and 'there', and slowly going down to 'Sleep I', but that one is followed by 'Enlightenment', which is the wake-up call. The synthesizers are on a long sustain and on top there are the birds in the morning, a bit of water and the first light that shines upon you.
Also, true fact is that I am playing both of these Amoriam releases on a Sunday morning with the balcony doors wide open, as it is the first day of spring. Exactly one week it was minus 7 and there was snow. Maybe I should have started with 'Survivors 2'? Perhaps not. This is the party in reverse. 'Survivors 2' is another angle on that chill out theme. Maybe you remember when all of that big-time news? The KLF, The Orb, Aphex Twin and so on? Amoriam can be best compared to the music by The Orb on 'Survivors 2' (and maybe Aphex Twin's 'Selected Ambient Works Part 2'0 for 'Lunarshift, although I would think much of the catalogue from Silent Records comes close as well). There is lots of live sampling going on here, ranging from drum loops to lots of spoken words, synthesizer scapes and such like and unlike the Orb, all of this is not as much around dance beats as they would do, with Amoraim operating a much looser strategy in the organization of their music. By all accounts, I could think this more a DJ set than a concert, but with the addition of synthesizers and sampling devices to thrown in at any moment, they feel there is a need. All of this results in a wild an eclectic mix of spacious fields of music, krautrock bits with long solos on the guitar and some straight forward techno bits and bobs. This is the kind of thing you listen to before spacing out to "Lunarshift', but I couldn't wake up to this, on this lovely Sunday morning, so I reversed it. Time for a little stroll outside! (FdW)
––– Address: http://microdotrecords.bandcamp.com/
TAK ENSEMBLE & TAYLOR BROOK - STAR MAKER FRAGMENTS (CDR by Tak Editions)
If there is one thing I love, it’s a musical representation, or interpretation, of a book. On their latest album, the TAK ensemble has done just this. Joined by Taylor Brook on electronics this ensemble is taking one of the great science fiction novels. Olaf Stapledoin’s 1937 novel ‘Star Maker’. As with all the best science fiction, Stapledon tackled racism, classism, religion, warfare, life, death, and our understanding of the universe. In the book, the protagonist is transported out of his body and can explore the universe. During his journeys, his mind merges with the people, and things, he meets, and they travel together. Eventually, they meet the Star Maker. The maker of the universe. Here the Earthly traveller sees the early universes, on was composed of music with no spatial dimension, our own is from his middle period, before being shown is more advanced universes. The books end with the traveller is returning to Earth to continue his life there.
‘Star Maker Fragments’ is made up of two tracks. The first is the 43-minute title track, with the other is shorter only lasting 10-minutes, only he says…, ‘Star Maker Postlude’. The opening track is a 43-minute of music that features seven sections. These are part audiobook, part interpretation and part contemporary classical album. Throughout Charlotte Mundy recites passages of the book as the other members of the ensemble create music features sections of awe-inspiring classical as well as crushing avant-garde workouts. The song takes us through sections of the book whilst trying to both create and evoke the world’s and universes explained in the book. Some are ethereal. Others dark and broody, but they are always captivating. During the final third of ‘Star Maker Fragments’, we hear the musical universe explained. The music is light and airy, but as Mundy explains more universes the music gets harsher and abrasive. After this, we get the shorter track ‘Star Maker Postlude’. There is no dialogue here, just music. Here we a sort of musical Cliff Notes version of the book. It’s more concise and to the point. Where ‘Star Maker Fragments’ could take its time going round the houses, and universes, to make its point, here everything sped up. That isn’t to say that the song feels rushed but ‘Star Maker Fragments’ elongated sections work better. The album works best when the TAK ensemble just goes for it. They make their music as free as the subject matter it is based on.
At its heart ‘Star Maker Fragments’ is an album about space, but just interstellar. It’s about how the music fits with each other to create these lurid soundscapes that seamlessly flow into one another. It’s also about how the music fits into your environment. Whilst listening to this album for this review I listened to it on a stereo, though my computer’s speakers and on headphones while shopping. Each time the music sounded different, yet it fitted in with my actions perfectly. On my stereo, I drifted away with it to unknown universes. On my laptop, the music was given a compression to make it sound incredibly immediate and on headphones, it was my own private walking tour of the psyche. Each sounded totally enjoyable, accessible, and densely packed. Much like the source material. (NR)
––– Address: http://www.takensemble.com/home
SNOWFLAKE ORCHESTRA (cassette by Cosmic Winnetou)
SCHWEBEN - TREES (cassette by Cosmic Winnetou)
COPS - ENERGY TRAP (cassette by Cosmic Winnetou)
We start this little trip around the Cosmic Winnetou label with a bit of the involvement of its label boss, Günter Schlienz, who teams up with Joachim Henn. Him we know from his LP as Perrache (Vital Weekly 1203) and his involvement with Trikorder23 and Frood Of The Loop. He plays guitar and electronics and Schlienz on his trusted modular machines. These nine improvisations were recorded, following a string of work helping each other with concerts and releases. Their Snowflake Orchestra more or less happened by accident when they stepped into an open support gig and enjoyed the experience so much to extend to these pieces. By now I heard quite some music by Schlienz to have an impression of what he does in terms of playing moody music of a varied nature; sometimes very quiet and introspective, but also music with a rougher take on the notion of ambient music. It is in that latter field we find his work with Snowflake Orchestra. I admit I don't know all of Henn's music, but I enjoyed his cosmic take as Perrache, and here he extends that with some more improvisational guitar playing. Tinkling soft tones, looping bowed drones and extensive use of delay gives the music quite rich freedom. Schlienz adds his side of drones to the dish, sustaining, long chords, small bubbles and oscillations and so on and there is, most of the time, this mild experimental edge to it. I was thinking Cluster without much of their smooth approach; maybe a Cluster out-take that didn't make the final cut and that I found most enjoyable.
I don't think I heard of Philipp Hagers before, who works as Schweben, who has two older releases including the funnily titled 'Sketches Of Pains'. He has some interesting variations at his disposal in these five pieces, showing an interest in drone music but with a variety of sounds. Some sort of organ plays long tones but what happens on top of that is different. In the lengthy 'Major Oak' these drones come with some refined crackles, courtesy of either a fireplace or vinyl in place and in 'Lone Cypress', the soft bounce of an arpeggio tune. The three other pieces are more experimental, with 'Arbol Del Tule' and 'Baobab' with some strange random stabs on a keyboard and in the first instance some forceful drone. 'Tree Of Life' is the shortest piece and is a short experiment with voice, which, although it comes early in the release, makes a fine counterpoint with the rest and shows, perhaps, a more humorous side of it all.
Cops are a duo Niklas Dommaschk (Phantom Horse/Shapes) and Oliver Koch (Melfi/Terbijn), also new names for me, and they represent the most experimental side of these three new releases by Cosmic Winnetou. We're told they meet up every few years to record for a couple of days "in a remote house in the wilderness" and this is the result of their work from autumn 2017. They, too, have nine pieces but are throughout a bit more concise than the Snowflake Orchestra. With a little imagination, one could say this is something that moves at the outer edges of techno music. In each of these pieces, there is some form of organization, through loops and repetitions. A sequence, a rhythm, a loop and usually of a more electronic origin. However, none of that results in music that is made to dance to, far from, I would think. I was reminded of the music of Conrad Schnitzler at times; neat and compact electronic pieces that involve a bit of rhythm as well as a hint of melody. The result is somewhat cold and clinical, which I always appreciated in Schnitzler's music as well. Here too, a certain sense of wacky humour can't be ignored; "don't take this too serious; we're only in it for the joy of making music", is what it says, but then, maybe 'Astratempel was a bit of a giveaway. Very nice, not so ambient, for a change. (FdW)
––– Address: https://cosmicwinnetou.bandcamp.com/
PREFIX SUFFIX - IT'S ALL NOISE (cassette by Noise World Organisation)
Alias for Danish noise musician Joakim Wölm - a member of Gravhund... which is I think a fairly loose collection of 'Noise' artists – or makers – un-makers based in Denmark. Little information was given to me for this review, but somehow I came across an interview with Joakim about his projects, the only problem it all was in Danish, and being English I am only familiar with this language, and even then my grammar and spelling is often a cause of concern to others. But Google Translate, or was in Edge, translated the interview, e.g. ”The home studio is equipped with instruments, an analogue mixer, coil tape recorder and sound-dampening foam rubber on the walls.” Those faster off the block unlike me will have spotted that a “coil tape recorder” is a reel to reel tape recorder. I say this as in the interview Joakim is referred to as Scrooge? “Scrooge's music is noise - and he lives and breathes for it” we also learn that “The name Prefix Suffix translates to "First Name Last Name".”... “When I notice a pattern in the music, I change direction.” … “Wölm has just graduated from MGK in Kolding. The musical education stands a little in contrast to his favourite music genre...- Noise-music can almost be called anti-music, or at least a showdown with music theory. Theories don't dictate what I want, he says, showing a tattoo of a note with a cross-over.” (A logo associated with Gravhund and shitcore) And anyone (is anyone?) reading this might be surprised that I completely agree with the last comment. I'm of the opinion that all art – or at least some should not just illustrate the theory, even if the theory is just that. If art cannot escape theory it becomes as Tom Woolfe said - a 'painted word'. That's the whole point of Art – actually – to create without recourse to theory... and it's not my idea but Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling's and his mates. I mean you probably know for Arthur (Schopenhauer) art could access THE THING IN ITSELF - Via Platonic forms, except MUSIC, which had direct access. How noise relates to music is a theoretical problem, but one which anyone can simply ignore. The first track “the prefix of prefix is pre” would be for some HNW – but there are artefacts suggestive of a more constructed process, the other track is slightly denser for me, but again Harsh Noise very close to HNW. The effect of this is to render certain minimalism, though in this case, I'd say more synthetic than analytic. And I think this is important as analysis famously can lead to paralysis, i.e. nothing but a wall, whereas synthesis can be potentially infinite. Think of a piece of paper, at its minimal it is just that – at its final analysis – where HNW and silence are both undefined, and in both a limit. What else is there, Origami, from ori meaning "folding", and kami meaning "paper"... literally a synthetic process of potentially unlimited objects. Or Schizoanalysis in Deleuze and Guattari, but more IMO Schizosynthesis. A chaosmos. (jliat)
––– Address: https://fknfk.bandcamp.com
FIRE MOSS/THINK OF A NAME - CRUCIAL GENESIS OUTFITS (NO WORDS FOR THESE KINDS OF BIRDS (split cassette by Vacancy Recs)
DEL STEPHEN/DEL KEN SIN - TRYING TO MAKE SENSE (OF THE WORLD) / SUNNYSIDE [AGOSTO 2018] (split cassette by Vacancy Recs)
DEL STEPHEN - IMAGINATION FEVER (cassette by Vacancy Recs)
There are a few things that make me like Vacancy Recs from Toronto/Niagara; they are quite obscure (Discogs lists only a handful of their releases) and the presentation is lo-fi and handmade, sometimes recycling old tapes. And yet they are totally serious about what they do (and yes, obscure doesn't exclude that, I know). The first cassette I heard from this new lot is a split between Think of A Name, who I reviewed before and Fore Moss from Kingston, Ontario. This is a duo of David Parker, who is also a member of Slow Man ToFu, Heart Structure Quartet, on double bass and electronics and K.L. Sealegs behind the synthesizer and pedals. In the first piece, Sealegs' synthesizer has the feeling of an electric piano and with a bit of reverb sounds quite ambient, with the bass in a modest role. In other pieces (there are four in total) the balance is more on equal parts and less ambient in character, while the piano sounds returns in 'Departures And Returns'. Their playing is intense most of the time, and they stay close together in this intensity and something tells me they have been going together for quite some time.
Think Of Name has a recording from 2016 in the basement of a used record and audio equipment store in Welland, Ontario. This is a bigger band, of Julian Anderson, Adrian D'Avirro, Ken Brennan, Stephen Del Duca, Avery Mikolic-O'Rourke, Jeffrey Sinibaldi, and Bram Tebutt on a multitude of instruments, and not always easy to hear them. I had some vague notion about them plundering the upstairs store, hauling stuff down to the basement whatever they could find, but maybe they didn't. There is percussion, keyboards, guitar, maybe objects and a bit of effect going on here and maybe that cluttered the music a bit. Not that it mattered as they do whatever they do and that they produced improvised music as an endless stream of sound. There is, so it seems, no beginning, no ending and no development. As one long stream it all goes by, nobody leaps out and all stay on a similar trajectory.
I had a similar vision with the stream of consciousness with the music by Del Stephen on his split cassette with The Del Ken Sin Trio. His side is called a "one-shot synth workout" and an "ode to these lock downed, confusing, aimless times", which other people call 'the new normal'. Whatever I'd say, this synth works out pretty well. It is all improvised around a few sounds and lots of knob twitching, I would think, but he keeps this well under control. In the same apartment, the trio of which Del is one third, they recorded a set in mid-August 2018 (The good ol' days. My words). The other members are Ken Brennan and Jeffrey Sinibaldi. The latter plays tapes, contact mics, objects, effects, Del Stephen on synthesizer, keyboards, sampler, effects and Ken Brennan on keyboards, recorder, effects. This is in a similar stream of sounds, perhaps, but now with an expanded set of instruments, even when heavily relying on the keyboards but also some percussive sounds. There is, however, so I would think, a lighter touch to this improvisation, not as dark as the Del Stephen side. Things swirl and change, percussion is on a rumble and not necessarily coherent rhythms, all in the freestyle I know best from this label. Both sides are long, forty-five minutes maybe, but nowhere is there any standstill. This is not your drone music that sees a few keys glued with some sellotape and on an endless sustain. Despite the grim times: people still do great music.
And there is one solo release by Del Stephen, who is also a member of Our Way To Fall, Heartstructure Quartet, Think Of A Name but in solo modus does something different. It is described as "restless intimate elevator music for claustrophobic times" and it is the fourth release of 2020. He plays keyboards here and adds a bit of rhythm. He recorded ten songs, around two to four minutes and they are funny, quirky little tunes, reminding me of the Finnish group Avikoo or Felix Kubin, but Del Stephen's operates in a more lo-fi manner, I should think and isn't always the uptempo, happy-clappy music, but from the three releases out of this new batch, this is certainly the one with the most joy and fun, at least from the perspective of this listener. I found this neither elevator music, nor the soundtrack for claustrophobic times, but I realize everybody will have another idea about it. But, common, 'Nature Grooves', is a lovely up-tempo song, fine melodic touch, and poppy as hell, which can also be said of 'Bella Discoteca', a fine Italo disco song in the old style, 'Return To Drift' is a more melancholic piece in the style of 90s' IDM. Del Stephen moves cleverly back and forth between styles, ideas, sketches and completed pieces on an album that only has one problem and that is that it is way too short! (FdW)
––– Address: https://vacancyniagara.bandcamp.com/
––– Address: https://delstephen.bandcamp.com/