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LUCIO CAPECE - EPIMORIC TIDE (CD by Entr'acte) *
YAN JUN & ZHU WENBO - FOOTPRINTS (CD by Ftarri) *
CHIHO OKA - MANIPULATING AUTOMATED MANIPULATED AUTOMATION (CD by Ftarri) *
ARVIND GANGA & RICCARDO MAROGNA - BALLADS FROM THE WRECKED SHIP (CD by A New Wave Of Jazz) *
PIERRE GERARD - PIECES OF APPARATUS (CD by A New Wave Of Jazz) *
ALAN WILKINSON & DIRK SERRIES - ONE IN THE EYE (2CD by A New Wave Of Jazz) *
INSUB META ORCHESTRA - TEN/SYNC (CD by Insub Records) *
HEIMITO KÜNST (CD by Dissipatio) *
EVP. SOUNDS IN THE DISTANCE (CD compilation by Antenna Non Grata)
SCOTT THOMSON - PAL O'ALTO (CD by Ambiances Magnetiques) *
VERTICAL SQUIRRELS & GARY DIGGINS & DONG-WON KIM - LE GOUFFRE/THE CHASM (CD by Ambiances Magnetiques) *
NINA DE HENEY &SŁAWEK JANICKI - BASS TO BASS (CD by Bocian Records) *
NINA DE HENEY & SŁAWEK JANICKI - BASS TO BASS (CONDUCTED VERSION) (5" by Bocian Records)
NORDVARGR - PYRRHULA (LP by Cold Spring Records) *
INTERSYSTEMS - IV (LP by Waveshaper Media) *
RICHARD YOUNGS - METAL RIVER (LP by Fourth Dimension) *
SICKER MAN - DIALOG (LP by Blank Records)
MICHAEL VLATKOVICH - WITH YOU JAZZ CAT (CD by Pfmentum) *
SLOW MAN TOFU - TREMBLING ASPEN (CDR, private) *
OBSERVATORIES - FLOWERS BLOOM, BUTTERFLIES COME (CDR by Iikki) *
HAPPY HALLOWEEN - TURNTABLE TAPES (cassette by Natural Sciences) *
DOC WÖR MIRRAN - DOGS W/O MASTERS (cassette by Tribe Tapes) *
DE FABRIEK & M. NOMIZED - LINES (cassette by Tribe Tapes) *
KING EBU - INSTRUMENTALS (cassette by Tribe Tapes) *
LUCIO CAPECE - EPIMORIC TIDE (CD by Entr'acte)
A strange label, former UK's, now Belgium based Entr'acte. Sometimes I receive a promo, sometimes even two, to be followed by a long time of silence. Maybe they have long gaps in releasing music these days? Maybe there is another reason, but whatever here's a new CD by Lucio Capece. On Entr'acte's website, there is a rather cryptic description, which I copy in full: ”Epimoric Tide is the result of my research into the phenomenological acoustic possibilities that some specific types of repetitive rhythmic structures may offer. The analogue electronics setup — synth, sequencer, ring modulator, filter, equalizer feedback, delay — is augmented by a slide saxophone that’s processed slightly looped throughout. The title of the piece is derived from Superparticular: the ratio of two consecutive integer numbers, one containing the other plus one. This very basic ratio suggests to me the idea of movement, of combination in movement that occurs in the most immediate way.” I have no idea what that means, to be honest. The piece (thirty-seven minutes) starts with rhythm, which could have been a drum machine being filtered by a modular set-up, and throughout there is a drone-like sound running through it, sometimes seemingly doubling it. What starts as an insect buzzing around, slowly becomes something very hypnotic, especially when the doubling continues and sounds drift apart. After about twenty-two minutes the rhythm disappears and does the drones from the mid-high frequency range. The remainder of the piece starts with a very low-end drone, almost inaudible (but very much with a lot of presence), but here too tones start to double and ends with a high piercing sound, effectively now covering the entire sound spectrum. Altogether, this is a strange piece; almost like two different ones cobbled together. The second half I thought was good but not surprising while the first half I believed to be very nice; a rather unusual combination of rhythm (not techno-ish, but something that will cause your head to nod/feet to tap) and some intense drone music. As I said, a strange release, perhaps, but at the same time also with some excellent music. (FdW)
––– Address: https://www.entracte.co.uk/
YAN JUN & ZHU WENBO - FOOTPRINTS (CD by Ftarri)
CHIHO OKA - MANIPULATING AUTOMATED MANIPULATED AUTOMATION (CD by Ftarri)
Wrongly I expected some improvisation disc from China's Zhu Wenbo and Yan Jun, both playing a toy piano, but from the liner notes that it is a composition by Wenbo, that he composed using the guitar and that it is a short melody, but whoever is playing it is free to play in any speed or octave, note by note. The first part is the real thing and parts two and three are variations based on that. Wen Wenbo visited Yan Jun's studio he saw a toy piano, and then it was decided to perform the composition on two toy pianos. Wenbo had to put the names of the notes on the toy piano for Yan Jun as he had no idea about it. Otherwise, so he says, it is a piece that needs no skills, other than pressing the keys. I quite enjoyed this composition for its simplicity and, perhaps, for its non-skilled approach. The two players go at the same time, not knowing what the other will play and how much space there will be between the notes. It is hard to hear any melody in this, but it is rather a piece that has a silence between the notes, and sometimes hitting a few very close to each other. Also, there are minor variations in dynamics, even when the attacks are quite loud at times. Someone with a bit of time could sample all the individual attacks and use them again. Curiously enough, there are also a few 'other' sounds in here that I could not identify, and which sounds like intentionally left in sounds from the recording session. Quite fascinating slowness here.
The other one is even stranger, which is described as "a recorded document of games that Chiho Oka devised around the act of "using a computer" and it goes on to describe that in much detail, but it all flies over my head. Maybe because the text uses words from the game industry (and I never played a computer game in my life, so that's a serious set back) and computer coding (which I also never been involved in). Chiho Oka lists the equipment and digital stuff used; SuperNoteClub EX, SuperCollider, TidalCycles, ManjaroLinux, MacOS, Digitone and Volca Drum. I know some of this! Let's say he works with sounds from the machines and software, but also re-uses the processes that go on with these when playing games and that movements of the cursor, mouse and so on are used to trigger software such as SuperCollider. While I didn't get the process behind the music, I believe to understand the music as something that we would once call laptop music, in the broadest sense of noise meeting electro 'pop' in the widest definition; from all fragmented to clustered segments. All of this comes with a certain joyfulness, which I found both a delight and odd, especially for a more serious imprint that I think Ftarri is. The computer treatment seems in any case, not something that we hear a lot on this label, but I like the fact that they are expanding beyond their usual scope of improvised sounds with this rather crazy game inspired bunch. (FdW)
––– Address: https://ftarri.com/
ARVIND GANGA & RICCARDO MAROGNA - BALLADS FROM THE WRECKED SHIP (CD by A New Wave Of Jazz)
PIERRE GERARD - PIECES OF APPARATUS (CD by A New Wave Of Jazz)
ALAN WILKINSON & DIRK SERRIES - ONE IN THE EYE (2CD by A New Wave Of Jazz)
Keeping things small this time, with only three new releases by A New Wave Of Jazz from Belgium and on the first one, there is electric guitar player Arvind Ganga, of whom I heard before and Riccardo Marogna, on tenor saxophone, bass clarinet and electronics. He is one half of Sho Shin Duo (Vital Weekly 1019), but I didn't review that one. I do vaguely remember being present at an event where Ganga and Marogna were also playing, but did I see that? I honestly don't remember. They are from the city of The Hague and have been active in the city's improvised music scene with some occasional release. They have seven tracks here, recorded in The Hague in 2018, use T.S. Eliot's 'The Waste Land' as a "touchstone", whatever that may constitute, and the interaction between both players is great. While the music is all improvised, and there is no escaping that fact, there is an interaction between them that results, at times, in some mysterious music. In 'Oed' und leer das Meer' ("a phrase borrowed by Eliot from Wagner's 'Tristan Und Isolde'") there are a few of these moments, and that's just opening tracks. The electronics used doesn't take the sound of the instruments into something entirely different, but add another layer of sound to the existing sound. Both players aren't afraid to employ a more traditional tune, chord or melody in their work together and, right next to uses metallic brushes upon snares and pieces of tin foil rattling against the wind instruments. It is that mixture of what we know and the venture into the unknown that makes this a very fine release.
My first encounter with the music of Pierre Gerard wasn't something I enjoyed very much (see Vital Weekly 1243), as I have very little interest in the super silent approach to music (Lopez' early work, Bernard Günther et al), so I was a little reluctant to play his latest work. I am not sure, but this might be the first time that a release by this label doesn't mention any instruments. The previous one used "guitar, electronics, object, abstract voice with _ into environment", so who knows, maybe here too? There are five pieces here, of which four are over eleven minutes and the longest fifteen, with in the middle a brief piece of three and a half minute. The role of silence on this release is a lot smaller than on the first one I heard (Gerard has more releases, but mostly in very small editions). Also, I would think he just plays acoustic guitar here. Gerard plays what I would call 'small music'. Up close to the microphone, he plays the strings individually, most of the time and very occasionally there is a small strum. This is music that is akin to that of Taku Sugimoto, but, oddly enough, with less silence (!) between the notes and fits what could be perceived as Wandelweiser music. Small, individual sounds, seemingly randomly played on the guitar, without any hurry, without much drama, and very minimal, without being repetitive. I have no idea if Gerard plays his music with some Zen-like notion, even when the silent approach of before seemed to hint at such a thing, this release too is best be enjoyed with the mind being as empty as possible, sit back and let it all just happen, not in the ambient sense, full-immersive drone sound, but as quiet events taking place and enjoy this with a general sense of quietness.
And something completely different is the double CD by label boss Dirk Serries on acoustic guitar and Alan Wilkinson on bass clarinet, baritone & alto saxophones and voice. The latter just a bit. This is from these three releases the one that is the most firmly based in free improvisation/free jazz, even more than the one by Ganga and Marogna, which seems to have a level of control and discussion. Here the discussion is the music between two players. It is quite a radical release, with things being very acoustic but with some distance, unlike Gerard's music, which seems very close and intimate. The first contains eight studio recordings and the second a live recording from January 2020 in London. There seems to be some difference between the studio and the live approach of the duo. In the studio there is some control, some reservation perhaps and in the live situation they find it easier to go all the way, especially Wilkinson has an expressive voice here, and Serries has, at times, problems to keep up; no doubt, also because of the different volume levels that both instruments can produce. Maybe in the studio, the balance can artificially be corrected? Comparing both discs, I am slightly in favour of the studio disc, and precisely for that reason of being able to hear both instruments on a more equal level, but also because of the variation in approaches here, ranging from wild to intimate and chaotic to almost structured, with both players having excellent control over their respective instruments. (FdW)
––– Address: https://newwaveofjazz.bandcamp.com/
INSUB META ORCHESTRA - TEN/SYNC (CD by Insub Records)
It is too much to list all the members of the orchestra, as it's thirty-three members in total. The instruments are from all over the orchestra, from wind instruments (flute, saxophone, bassoon), to strings (cello, violin, guitar) and drums, spinet, organ, but also electronics, analogue synthesizer and voice. In September 2020, Cyril Bondi and d'Incise, who are behind the orchestra as well as the label, recorded three pieces, with the orchestra split into three parts at three different times and then mixed the music. Of course, if I was told they all play together at the same time, I would have believed that as well. The cover says that Bondi and D'incise did the 'pieces and direction', so I assume there is at some level a score at work here, but knowing their previous work and the background of all of it, I assume there is also a big role for the players to add their part to the composition. There is indeed something orchestral going on here, especially in the first two pieces, with some excellent clustered tones, and what seems to be field recordings (but, so I thought in 'Tutti-soli' (all solo?), this could just as well be the instruments doing imitations of field recordings), while in 'Sparge' there is a slow drama being played, in what sounds that could also be a funeral march. The last and longest piece is 'A La Denzler', which starts with a hi-hat sound and throughout the piece, various groups of instruments fading in and out of the mix, while the steady tick on various parts of the drum kit remains. This creates an odd atmosphere of a real-time collage of instruments in a start/stop motion fashion, which is both loose and fascinating to hear. Whatever the concept is behind these three compositions, or even if they share a common ground, the music is very good. This is sort of modern classical music I enjoy quite a lot. (FdW)
––– Address: https://insub.bandcamp.com/
HEIMITO KÜNST (CD by Dissipatio)
This is an odd one for sure. First, I have no idea if Heimito Künst is a real name or not, and secondly, the first track is also called Heimito Künst. That, I thought was a bit peculiar, as if Paul McCartney would do a song called Paul McCartney; but, sure, why not? Then there is the music, further riddling me with some head and chin-scratching. Künst operates a variety of instruments, "voice, electronics, synthesizers, percussions and cymbals, Farfisa, bass guitar, prepared violin, magnetic tapes, field recordings, contact microphones", and the results aren't easy to classify (which is what reviewers do?). I understand that the music was recorded between 2016 and 2019, in his private studio, "live with environmental microphones" and each of the pieces/songs flows into the next. So, then, what is the music like, you wonder? It is an odd (that word, again) mixture of textures, voices, acoustic sounds but with an overlay of song structures, through the use of very slow rhythms/loops/samples and while the label mentions "disturbing kraut sound and experimental sequence", I may not agree with the first that much, but yes, some experimental sequence is in here. There is some cold sound to be noted in this music, maybe gothic with some of the more sorrowful uses of the voice, and yet, the more I play this, the more I like what Künst does. My initial reaction was 'weird gothic, not my cup of tea', but upon closer inspection I enjoyed all the weird little details in here, the acoustic objects being cracked, the organ-drone sound in the basement, and the odd loops or rhythm here and there, and that strange, dramatic voice with not much lyrics (I think). This is either something heavily serious or something to the contrary! I love that sort of confusion). (FdW)
––– Address: https://dissipatio.bandcamp.com/
EVP. SOUNDS IN THE DISTANCE (CD compilation by Antenna Non Grata)
Allow me, for once, not to complain about compilations and simply because I love the fact that this one is about Electronic Voice Phenomena, EVP in short. These are, simply put, voices from beyond the grave, unexplained voices captured on tape. It is no surprise that a label such as Antenna Non Grata comes up with such a compilation, as they do all sorts of releases in which radio transmissions are the focal point and again it also no surprise that Michael Esposito opens this compilation, as he is one of those musicians who in all of his work deals with EVP material, and who has released a string of Flexi discs with those. One of these was with Carl Michael von Hauswolff, and together they did a concert in Oslo in 2019, which is the first track here. EVP sound material doesn't necessarily mean it is a voice you can recognize, which is, I think, the beauty of it. It has the suggestion of voice, rather than something one recognizes as a voice. In Zenial's closing piece, we hear some voices at the start, but much of the rest is just a recording of an empty room, with birds twittering outside and it suggests a voice. In the Esposito/Hauswolff piece something similar is suggested, but now with loops of the sound material, along with other field recordings. Ludomir Franczak also uses the 'empty' approach of mere suggestion, while Esposito, in a solo piece, uses voice material in a rather musical setting, of loops of rhythmic sounds and a bass guitar with shimmering keyboards. Tomasz Misiak and Marcin Olejniczak on the other hand go to the noisiest approach here with ten minutes of loud static crackle from radio transmissions; maybe to keep any unwanted voices away? These five pieces make clear what EVP sound material can sound like and what fine sound material they are for further use. See, I love compilations. At times. (FdW)
––– Address: https://antennanongrata.bandcamp.com/
SCOTT THOMSON - PAL O'ALTO (CD by Ambiances Magnetiques)
There is something glorious about ‘Pal o'Alto’. What I can’t work out is what it is. The album possesses that rare quality of featuring five players at the top of their game. This gives the album a feeling that is seldom felt and even harder to explain. Bob Dylan used to claim that his best music has “That thin, wild mercury sound” to it. It is unquantifiable, but when you hear a particular song you know whether it’s there or not. While ‘Pal o'Alto’ sounds nothing like Dylan, or his “thin, wild mercury sound”, something is exciting about these four songs.
Each track is named after the players Thomson worked with. The most satisfying tracks are the ones where the styles gel and we are given a cohesive sound. Of course, this happens in all tracks, as does the opposite, but it is during ‘Karen Ng’ where everything just clicks. Opening with shrill blasts and guttural rumbles ‘Karen Ng’ meanders along. It doesn’t rush to get going because it has nowhere to do. It feels like the musical version of going out for a stroll in the afternoon, with no fixed destination. Just following your feet, and the pavement, and seeing where you end up. I listened to ‘Karen Ng’ while I meandered back from the shops, taking an unexpected detour via the park and some back streets. As I leisurely made my way home Ng and Thomson traded lugubrious and curving blasts. There was a part around the halfway mark when Ng delivered a deep, long bass note. Over this Thomson was playing a lyrical motif. It really struck a chord and made my walk home in the bright, and oddly warm, spring afternoon incredible pleasurable.
At its heart ‘Pal o’Alto’ is a tribute to Lee Konitz, who died in 2020 during the pandemic, but at the same time, it isn’t. Throughout you can feel Konitz’ presence but the songs aren’t inspired by him. They are in fact five friends playing together out of the love of playing. The music here has no real agenda, other than it was what was played that day. And this is what you get. Four performances were captured live by friends and lovers of music. This comes across in all the tracks and makes it hard to switch off after you’ve pressed play. So why don’t you sit back and get comfortable for 45-minutes and enjoy music made for the love of playing? (NR)
––– Address: https://ambiances-magnetiques.bandcamp.com/
VERTICAL SQUIRRELS & GARY DIGGINS & DONG-WON KIM - LE GOUFFRE/THE CHASM (CD by Ambiances Magnetiques)
There is something about Vertical Squirrels that is hard to ignore. The music they produce is instantly memorable, regardless of whether it fits your tastes or not. The playing is always tight, and nothing is ever wasted. They just know the right notes to play at the right time. On their latest album ‘Le Gouffre\/The Chasm’ this trend carries on, again, despite whether the music works as well as it should.
‘Le Gouffre/The Chasm’ was recorded 23rd October 2019 at Silence in Ontario. It was recorded as part of the You Are ∴ I Am series. Vertical Squirrels had a residency and invited anyone and everyone to come and improvise with them. ‘Le Gouffre\The Chasm’ is the result of that. Throughout the album, especially on ‘A Dewdrop on the Tip of a Blade of Grass in the Setting Sun’, there is tenderness on display. The songs gently drift along. There are few moments of abrasive abstraction. Instead, the album is filled with wistful compositions that billow about like washing on the line. The playing is fluid. It isn’t rigid or brittle. Take ‘All the World in Confusion’. There is a blistering solo that lasts pretty much the duration of the song. It borrows so many cliché tropes from rock, but it doesn’t feel cliché. It feels the opposite. Vibrant and exciting. The solo is underpinned by elegant piano, sparse percussion, and throbbing bass, amongst other things. Eventually, the solo runs out of steam and gracefully drifts away. This is when the song comes into its own, as the backing instruments suddenly have a moment to shine. And shine they do.
What ‘Le Gouffre/The Chasm’ does really well is entertaining. It isn’t trying to show off how clever it can be. It isn’t trying to show how well proficient the musicians are. It isn’t trying to these and a slew of other things. At its core ‘Le Gouffre\The Chasm’ is just trying to entertain and it does that. Repeatedly. (NR)
––– Address: https://ambiances-magnetiques.bandcamp.com/
NINA DE HENEY &SŁAWEK JANICKI - BASS TO BASS (CD by Bocian Records)
NINA DE HENEY & SŁAWEK JANICKI - BASS TO BASS (CONDUCTED VERSION) (5" by Bocian Records)
There is something about live improvisational albums that can be hit and miss. The positives are that it was recorded live and there is the danger of it not quite working and falling over under its own weighty ideas. When the music is teetering on that edge it’s brilliant. The downside is that everything sounds like a mess. The interplays don’t work, and the players come off as too clever. They are playing to show how good they are rather than making great music. Nina de Heney and Sławek Janicki’s album ‘Bass to Bass’ is filled with some great ideas, interactions and adaptable playing that makes it joy, even if parts of it are too dense for their own good.
Throughout there is an immediacy that makes the two songs work. At no point are you sure what will happen next. About halfway through ‘First Touch’ the music has been building towards something for a while. You expect it to break. A wall of noise zerupts, but it doesn’t. Instead, de Heney and Janicki start to take things down a bit before, a few minutes later, start building them up again. The fact it never quite breaks is a masterstroke, as it keeps us wanting more. The final moments of ‘First Touch’ are probably the strongest on the album. The interplay between both musicians is great. There are some great little touches, and flourishes, in there and it ends everything on a massive optimistic high.
‘Bass to Bass’ is an album that needs a few listens to grasp what is going on. At times it can be all over the shop. There is a confrontational vibe to de Heney and Janicki’s playing. It’s like they're sizing each other up, but more out of respect than aggression. It reminds me of my old school. When we were 13 another school merged into ours. I don’t know why this didn’t happen at 11 like all the other schools but it. For a few weeks after we all merged there was a weird air about. You felt it could all descend into chaos at any moment. Ultimately nothing happened, apart from a few kids squaring off against each other at breaks and some harder than usual tackles whilst playing football at lunch, but there was an odd vibe in the air. This is on ‘Bass to Bass’. At any moment, de Heney and Janicki could just go at it. For all their worth. And this tension is what makes ‘Bass to Bass’ an exciting listen.
On a 5" lathe cut rcord (that is the size of a CD in case you weren't aware), you will find two one-minute a bit pieces of music that complement the CD pretty nicely. 'Contra Punk' is the hectic and nervous explosion, like aggro-impro-punk, while in 'Contra Pizz' the nervousness is controlled and less aggressive and less spikey. Here they go again, for all of it. (NR)
––– Address: http://www.bocianrecords.com
NORDVARGR - PYRRHULA (LP by Cold Spring Records)
There is a line in Spinal Tap when Nigel Tufnel says, whilst discussing the artwork for their latest album: “It's like, how much more black could this be and the answer is none. None blacker.” This isn’t just a joke about rock music artwork, but the nature of music. How each metal/hard rock band wants to be the darkest or hardest band out there. The line also works very well in describing ‘Pyrrhula’ from NORDVARGR. Originally released in 2008 this album is the work of Swedish experimental musician Henrik Nordvargr Björkk which has just received a fancy vinyl re-issue on Cold Spring.
For those who aren’t familiar with this cult classic, ‘Pyrrhula’ is Björkk’s take on a Swedish folktale about a bullfinch that carries death and bad news in its beak. Prior knowledge of the story isn’t essential to enjoying the album. Knowing this does give the music a deeper context, as it could be acknowledged that each track is another journey the bullfinch goes on to deliver its bad news.
‘Stripped of All but My Loyalty I Serve’ features motifs that could be taken to be the sound of flying wings. From start to finish there is no real let up. It’s simply different textures and shade or unrelenting oppression. There is no silver lining to this album. No chinks of light emerging from the gloom. What is most remarkable about ‘Pyhrrhula’ is given how unrelenting it is, it is an easy album to listen to. There are some pretty great melodies hidden in there. There are few points when skipping forward, or turning it off, every felt like an option. Yes, it is uncomfortable and uncompromising at times, but overall, it is an enjoyable listen. Title track ‘Pyrrhula’ opens with a writhing drone that just builds and builds and builds until it is all-consuming until a third in it starts to drop down until some Nazgûl vocals kick in. Then that glorious drone kicks in again. The outro is more atmospheric. Björkk’s guttural vocals are layered over the sound of a life support machine, a rhythmic banging, akin to a hand on a heavy gong, and layers of fizzy and fuzzing guitars. It’s a wonderful piece of mood music and, possibly, the standout moment on the album.
At its heart ‘Pyrrhula’ is an odyssey through the darkness to, well, more darkness. If ‘Pyrrhula’ was colour it would be vantablack, or more correctly the spectrum of darkness, and black, ending in vantablack. It’s an album that feels like it sucks the air out of the room. It makes you sit still and take notice, but most importantly, it still sounds as epic and devastating as it did 13 years ago. (NR)
––– Address: https://coldspring.co.uk/
INTERSYSTEMS - IV (LP by Waveshaper Media)
When Streamline in the mid-90s re-issued two of the three records by Intersystems, 'Free Psychedelic Poster Inside' was the first to come out. It was the last to be released from the original records, in 1968. In 1994, I had not heard of this group and this CD was quite a radical thing; high-pitched tones and a voice reciting the text, sounding like recorded from a radio. It was just before there was such as the Internet, for me that is, so I had very few references. I reviewed that CD in Vital, the paper forerunner of Vital Weekly (see advertisement below!); "This is some daring music, that will irritate quite a few people in 1995 also. I wish some info were given here. An exciting album". When 'Peachy' was released, there was such a thing as Vital Weekly and I reviewed it in issue 50. Not that I had much idea about the background of the group and this new one seemed a little less radical ("A short one, but what strange thing: a lot of the sound is collaged sounds from sped-up tapes on reel to reel machines with a voice narrating a text. The montage techniques used are hectic. Play loud to discover the fine parts. Musique concrète in a non-academic context long before Nurse With Wound started. Great stuff which doesn't sound outdated at all." I missed out Alga Marghen's three-CD box set of all the groups' output (released in 2015), so I never heard 'Number One' (although I found it online) and also back then missed out on the extensive book that came with the box set. All three are from the 60s, and nothing new was released since so much to my surprise there is now 'IV' and we now know (thanks to the box set book that I also had an opportunity to read) that Intersystems was a group with an architect Dik zander, light sculptor Michael Hayden, poet Blake Parker and musician John Mills-Cockell, with the latter responsible for the music here, adding the voice of Parker, who died in 2007, so I assume for archival recordings. The group, hailing from Toronto, was one of the first to use a Moog synthesizer, bought directly from Robert Moog, and electronic equipment still plays a role in these new recordings. It is no longer the same radical music as 'Free Psychedelic Poster Inside', with equipment more refined these days and, no doubt, also easier ways to mix complex music. And yet, all the six pieces sound like Intersystems. No doubt, the voice of Parker plays a very big role in that, but also the electronics of Mills-Cockell, very modern electronics at times, quite musical at other times, it is that unique combination of poetry and electronic music that works so well. Like I always mention, you know me and text (a foreign land), I have no idea what these are about, but as an additional instrument, it works very well. Like there was no fifty-year gap! The biggest surprise of this week. (FdW)
––– Address: https://waveshapermedia.bandcamp.com/
RICHARD YOUNGS - METAL RIVER (LP by Fourth Dimension)
Oddly enough I mention the name of Richard Youngs elsewhere in this issue, in a review of a Doc Wör Mirran cassette, and after I wrote that 'Metal River' arrived, so I can say the same time here "I only very few groups/persons who have a wildly different sound from release to release, while still operating under one name. Richard Youngs springs to mind, Doc Wör Mirran is another." For one reason or another, I thought 'Metal River' was a re-issue, but it's not. It is always a surprise to hear a new Richard Youngs record, seeing which direction he now is taking. The cover lists the following instruments: "drum machine, feedback, oboe, ring modulator, shakuhachi, shortwave and voice, with Norifumi Shimogawa on cello on the title track. This is another record to surprise the fans of Youngs, and I am one of them. Although I respect Youngs' work as a singer-songwriter, I prefer it if he keeps his music within the field of sonic extremism and that is where we find 'Metal River' as the music on this record is not very delicate, with notes being stabbed, seemingly at random, with feedback like drones in the background (well, that, or this is the cello of Shimogawa, as this is the title track) and. This is the distorted sound from space messages, or a near defect modular synthesizer. The drum machine ticks slowly in 'Rainy Day Static Caravan', which might be seen as a point of entry into an otherwise strange set of sounds, something to hang to. In all four pieces (three on the first ide and one on the second) there is this seemingly random approach, perhaps an element of improvisation even, or the music is just loosely played. However, one could just as easily argue that Youngs' is here playing his take on power electronics or industrial music, say a 2021 version of MB's earliest work If there is one constant in Youngs' work, then I'd say that is his directness in his approach. Not necessarily because everything sounds like it was recorded live, in a room, with a microphone, but as usual there aren't a lot of ornaments in this music, not much in terms of delay and reverb, just a damn fine set of electronics working overtime. I am still wondering where the oboe and shakuhachi are, though. They might be in the music, but I have yet to discover them. (FdW)
––– Address: https://fourthdimensionrecords.bigcartel.com/products
SICKER MAN - DIALOG (LP by Blank Records)
Behind the name Dicker Man, we find Berlin-based composer and cello player Tobias Vethake. He is also one half of Mini Pops Junior, an "electronic-jazz duo". As Sicker Man he plays the electric cello and sound effects. On this record, he has a dialogue with others, of which I name-checked Aidan Baker, Joao Orecchia and Schneider TM, but not Manuel Klotz, Lip Smh, Angela Munoz Martinez, Jörg Maria Zeger, and Kiki Bohemia. The instruments they play range from guitar to electronics, from drums to a modular system. Perhaps wrongly I suspected this to be something of a wild mixture of sounds and songs, with, I don't know, strong egos playing up, but that doesn't seem to be the case. The cello does in most cases not sound like a cello, at least not a traditional one, but, due to all the effects applied I should think, a more electronic instrument, producing drones, waves and shapes and in combination with the eight different players, working out to be quite a musical coherent picture. The result remains far away from the traditional world of improvised music. In these pieces, each of the duos tries to work out a more song-like structure within the period of a song. There are no lengthy excursions, no distractions, just execute the idea they had for their piece. At least that is what I think based on what I hear. A dialogue not just through music, but also as a starting point. Let's first discuss what we want to do, and then do that. I would think that accounts for the coherency of the record. Not that all of these sounds the same; whatever the musicians bring to the table is something different from the others, obviously I hasten to say, but throughout there is a clear vision of what the result of all of this had to be. And that result is very good, almost like a collective dialogue in which everybody is heard. (FdW)
––– Address: https://blankrecordsberlin.blogspot.com/
MICHAEL VLATKOVICH - WITH YOU JAZZ CAT (CD by Pfmentum)
Vlatkovich is an American trombonist, composer and arranger. But also a leader and initiator of many combinations and projects. Based in Los Angeles since the 70s, he released many works. The number of releases increases since 2000 and in the last few years, most of his work appears on Pfmentum. On his latest release 'With you jazz cat' he is joined by Greg Zilboorg and Louis Lopez on trumpets, Bill Plake (tenor sax), Andrew Pask (saxes), Wayne Peet (keyboards), Dominic Genova (bass) and Ken Park (percussion). All of them - except Lopez? - played earlier with Vlatkovich. They perform ten new works by Vlatkovich. Compositions that no doubt leave room for improvisation, although they sound framed to a high extent by Vlatkovich's ideas. He is not a composer of very avant-garde material, but of solid idiomatic jazz works. This time with a set of laid back and relaxed works. Nicely arranged, offering beautiful harmonies, like in 'Friends'. 'Don't know what you have lost until it has gone' has strange keyboards(-like ) sounds on the background in the first section, and maybe the most eccentric composition on this cd. The performance is very skilful and inspired. A very entertaining recording with inspired solos from the blowers, like in 'Bob, the fish that discovered water'. (DM)
––– Address: https://pfmentum.com/
SLOW MAN TOFU - TREMBLING ASPEN (CDR, private)
While hand painting covers and CDRs might be fun to do, giving the buyer a unique item, the paint can also be a bit too much. This CDR caused my player to produce some extra noise layer, which didn't match up with the music and that was a sad thing. David Parker is the man behind Slow Man Tofu, and he plays classical guitar and upright bass. Since 2017 he's been working on techniques, and he sees "improvisation as one of the most magical acts that I can do. It's like I'm an audience member and the performer at the same time." I enjoyed the nine pieces on this rather short album quite a bit. Slow Man Tofu has a very pleasant 'light' style in playing. It is very fluid and comes with a small amount of delay upon the strings, which at first I thought was something he did while playing until it became more obvious in his music. One piece is called 'Backwards Tape', which is indeed just that. The guitar is played on seven pieces and bass on two. Parker strums the guitar mostly in his delightful manner, like a very experimental Durutti Column, without too many chord progressions and just open strings being repeatedly. In two pieces with the double bass, he uses a bow across the strings, for instance in the title track, which becomes a tad darker. These two pieces are quite the contrast with the others and may seem a break from the mood so far, but it still works well. (FdW)
––– Address: https://slowmantofu.bandcamp.com/
OBSERVATORIES - FLOWERS BLOOM, BUTTERFLIES COME (CDR by Iikki)
This is number 14 by the Iikki label, producing books with photography and a choice of CD or LP with music. I always receive just the CD, which, in most cases, suits me fine as many of these releases contain delicate music and this new one is no different. The photographic component here is by Miho Kajioka, who uses her own "elaborate, alternative printing methods" in the darkroom and she regardless herself a painter/drawer than a photographer. The music here is by Observatories, which is, for me, a new name, but behind this duo, we find two men, whose work I do know. Ian Hagwood is best known for his Home Normal label, mastering expertise and music that involved reel-to-reel machines with a beautiful decaying sound of percussion, field recordings and the piano. Craig Tattersall was a member of The Remote Viewer and is still a member of The Boats, and solo as The Humble Bee. His label is called Cotton Goods. This pairing doesn't offer much new insight into their work, as both of these stay close to their homes and do what you expect them to do. And by saying that I don't say anything about the quality of the music. I love how it sounds. The pastoral ambient sounds, the piano, the crumbling tape loops, the odd voices here and there (in 'Saying And Doing Are Two Different Things"; it sounds like announcements at the train station), drones and tones from a synthesizer and sounds picked up with a contact microphone. I look up from a big book (soon to be discussed in these pages), to glance outside on a very cold Easter Sunday; no sun and grey clouds. It matches the music, which sounds like standing on a beach on a similar cold and grey day. But you could argue at the same time that this is the perfect stay home/keep warm music, with sombre yet warm piano notes and cosy drones. Excellent! (FdW)
––– Address: https://www.iikki-books.com/
HAPPY HALLOWEEN - TURNTABLE TAPES (cassette by Natural Sciences)
Here's a couple of things I noted before; when blogs started to dig up old music from cassette releases from the 1980s in 2006-2007, it became the start of a few entrepreneurial minds to re-issue this on LP or CD, and some people build up quite some fame. Some were re-discovered and started again. Oddly enough there are still quite a few releases from the 80s that remain covered with dust but for which I think is still a market. Happy Halloween is such a thing where I wondered before that nobody picked this up (I keep any other names a secret; I don't want to do some unpaid A&R work any more), and it is worth doing an LP from, the best of or a CD, the complete works. I know there was interest before but that never materialized, but now there is this cassette with the complete works. It is also not too difficult to find the man who created this music, as it's Roel Meelkop, well known for his solo music under his name (and briefly as Mailcop), or his work with THU20, Kapotte Muziek, Goem, Zebra/Wieman and collaborations with Rutger Zuydervelt and Marco Douma. Indeed, someone who I know for a long time, and back when I first got to know him (in 1986), he gave me the three cassettes he released as Happy Halloween on his Turntable imprint. I always enjoyed these tapes (each of these a twenty-minute affair), even when it has nothing to do with much of his later work, save perhaps for Zebra/Wieman, sharing a wicked in pop music. As Happy Halloween, Meelkop plays bass, guitar, rhythm machine, lots of effects and a Casio VL-tone 1. There is a recipe for home recording enclosed, explaining the nature of ping-pong recording and that's how Meelkop played his electronic 'pop' music from the darker end. In another text enclosed, Meelkop tells us about the music he liked at that moment in time, Wire, The Cure, The Fall, A Certain Ratio and especially the first LP by Mark Stewart & The Maffia (I agree there with his ever-lasting enthusiasm) and you can hear influences in these somewhat naive electronic ditties, heavy on rhythm and bass and sometimes a bit of vocal. In some later songs, there is an interest in using feedback as an additional layer of sound that comes to the foreground and perhaps forecasting his later interest in abstract music. It is all a bit towards darkwave and as such, it would not have been out of place in the catalogue of, say, a label such as Dark Entries. Maybe with the next round of re-issues? (FdW)
––– Address: https://naturalsciences.bandcamp.com/
DOC WÖR MIRRAN - DOGS W/O MASTERS (cassette by Tribe Tapes)
DE FABRIEK & M. NOMIZED - LINES (cassette by Tribe Tapes)
KING EBU - INSTRUMENTALS (cassette by Tribe Tapes)
Here we have a trio of (not so recent) releases USA's Tribe Tapes, a showcase of their vision of underground music with a great scope of diversity. I only very few groups/persons who have a wildly different sound from release to release, while still operating under one name. The name of Richard Youngs springs to mind and Doc Wör Mirran is another. From the latter I heard noise, ambient, industrial, krautrock, improvisation, drones, rock and punk, but not in equal quantities. There is not a lot of punk, but this cassette is certainly one. Here Doc Wör Mirran is a trio, Ralf Lexis (guitar, vocals), Stefan Schweiger (drums, teremine, background vocals) and Joseph B. Raimond (bass, background vocals). On December 7, 2019, they played at The Kopf Und Kragen in Fürth and deliver a five-piece set that kicks in with 'Paint It Black', which sounds like the original, albeit on speed. It is followed by the psychedelic intro of 'Paul Ist Tot', before it explodes in a mid-tempo/fast tempo rocker of a krauty length (10 minutes). The other three pieces are again a cover, 'Macht Kaputt', 'Schizophrenia' (together in one song, the latter one almost a heavy metal song), 'Verpiss Dich' and 'Song Of Steel Death', in all of which there is that punky aggression. This is lovely stuff, loaded with energy. I got a kick out of it, even when it is far away from the Vital world.
Old gentlemen from the world of cassettes are De Fabriek and M. Nomized, who was once the nucleus behind No Unauthorized. De Fabriek is a group of a varying line-up of 'workers' as they call it, and still an active force to be reckoned with. From M. Nomized I don't hear as much these days. That is not to say there isn't much new music from him; it is just that not much reach me. On 'Lines' the two work together, via mail exchange and De Fabriek gets credit for "electronics, rhythms, basetracks, synthesizers", while M.Nomized, for "synthesizers, electronics, loops, dronescapes, treatments. With the final mix being made by M. Nomized, I would think he has fina word over it. It is a very conceptual release. There are six tracks, all five minutes (or a few seconds more) and sonically they are each other brothers or sisters. These are drone scapes, somewhere in the mid-high frequency and sound like leaking gas out of pipes. In each of these pieces, there is very little room for change, and it is all very minimal. It is quite a challenging release, this one, from the world of industrial/power electronics, and has little to do with the rhythmic electronics I know both also do, especially M. Nomized. It is very retro!
King Ebu, also known as Carsten Olbrich, is also an old survivor from the cassette days that also brought us the three previous names, but with a release schedule less frantic than the others. I am not sure why. His instrumentals were already released in 1990 and now with two bonus tracks re-issued. Following the leaky gas pipes of De Fabriek and M. Nomized and the punk aggression of Doc Wör Mirran, these thirteen pieces are an oasis of rest and peaceful delight. King Ebu plays easygoing keyboard music, with a drum machine ticking time away, some guitar sounds (or perhaps a keytar?) and just pleasantness all around. There is a cosmic touch in some of these pieces, a motorik drive in others, and some are devastating easy pieces. The sun is shining bright outside, no time for difficult music and King Ebu has the perfect soundtrack.
Three tapes, three tribes and three sounds. (FdW)
––– Address: https://tribetapes.bandcamp.com/