number 1340
week 24

Vital Weekly, the webcast: we offer a weekly webcast, freely to download. This can be regarded as the audio-supplement to Vital Weekly. Presented as a radioprogramm with excerpts of just some of the releases reviewed. It will remain on the site for a limited period (most likely 2-4 weeks). Download the file to your MP3 player and enjoy!
complete tracklist here:

Listen to the podcast on Mixcloud!

DJINN - APATIA (CD by Standa/Death In Venice Productions) *
TOM FLAHERTY - MIXED MESSAGES (CD on New Focus Recordings) *
AUTOMATISME & STEFAN PAULUS - GAP/VOID (CD by Constellation Records) *
JOYFULTALK - FAMILIAR SCIENE (CD by Constellation Records) *
CLARA ENGEL - THEIR INVSIBLE HANDS (CD by Elephant Shrew Editions) *
RE-DRUM & EMERGE / SVART1 & LEFTERNA (cassette by Attenuation Circuit)
SCHMITZ & NIEBUHR - THE GREATEST HITS (cassette by Superpolar Taips) *
SCHMITZ & NIEBUHR - DIE LEHRE VOM GROSSEN RAD (cassette by Strategic Tape Reserve) *
PHIRNIS - CHILL NOISE (cassette by Strategic Tape Reserve) *
GERMAN ARMY / HYACINTH. - A FRAGMENTED METROPOLIS (cassette by Strategic Tape Reserve) *
LETTERS FROM MOUSE - SLEEP TAPES (cassette by Superpolar Taips) *


If you Google the name of Frieda Bertelsohn Martholdys, the alleged late 19th century composers of the works performed by the Baldrian Quartet, two hits come up. I love a good story as much as I love a good mockumentary. Anything to drum up some interest. Baldrian Quartett does a great job of coming up with a story. It's a pity that we have Google to check, I guess. The story is all about a young, sensitive woman composing this in the last of the 19th century and how she made all this new, unheard music. The four-string quartets from here are performed by Gaudenz Badrutt (electronics), Kai Fagaschinski (clarinet), Jonas Kocher (accordion) and Christof Kurzmann (electronics); no strings on a piece of wood here. That, maybe, is also saying something. You could think of this as an exciting way to sell your improvised music. While that word is not part of the information, I think this music is firmly rooted in that world. Much of the work I heard from Fagaschinski I enjoyed very much. He plays the clarinet almost as if it were a sine wave machine. He works with the right people here, cooking up some more minimal approaches to improvised music. The balance of two instruments and twice electronics works very well here. Both Kocher and Fagaschinski have a comprehensive approach to their instruments, and there are times when it all becomes very abstract, and you don't recognise an accordion or a clarinet. The electronics peep and crack and make long-form sounds, and there is an excellent dialogue between all four. The music is quiet, most of the time, but also intense. It all appears in a rather collage-like form, moving from section to the next grade, but at times also with some force, as in a hard cut. The four pieces leap from surprise to surprise, such as the somewhat controlled opening of 'Ode Für Den Tod (Fragment)'. This is an excellent all-around release topped with a rip-off cover of classical music label Deutsche Grammophon. (FdW)
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DJINN - APATIA (CD by Standa/Death In Venice Productions)

Here we have a quartet of new releases by Standa/Silentes/13, the Italian powerhouse of new music. Much of this in moody electronics, but as we shall not exclusively. I started with 'Apatia' by Djinn, the musical project of Eugene Vintras. It is my introduction to a particular grim sound world that came to life in 2002. "Sounds reflecting into the vision of their creation of a world inhabited by his own assassins. The only solution to an already too widespread illness. Silence and loneliness are the only sources of survival. Suicide, the emergency door for few people", I read on Discogs, and this new work is to be considered "autobiographical". It conveys all that one associates with 'apathy'. The ten tracks on 'Apatia' capture that very well. The tone is dark, very dark, and quite noisy. Noise is not something one hears a lot of releases from this label, but this sure is one. At times power electronics noise, with screaming vocals and distorted electronics, such as in 'Unheard Voices Part 1' (and hardly unheard!). Deep, powerful synthesisers, strong feedback and none of this is the soundtrack for a sunny day in June. Unless sadness and despair are a thing for you on such a day, but not for this listener. I enjoyed it, all the same, to be honest.  The music is a firm reminder of the glory days of such music on hissy cassettes and badly Xeroxed covers. Oh, hold on, I feel some sadness coming up there!
    The next collaboration is between Corrado Altieri, whom you may also know as Uncodified, Candor Chasma, Monosonik, TH26 and Paolo L. Bandera, best known for his work with Sigillum S, SSHE Retina Stimulants, Iugula-Thor, Ensemble Sacrés Garçons and much more. They worked on the music for three years, using "electronics, sampling, atmospherics and FX" (Altieri) and "electronics, structuring, conceptualism and FX" (Bandera). Here, we also find music of quite a noisy variation, but different from Djinn. Here, the noise is not the result of expressing despair, I think, but rather the more consciously decision and love for the genre of noise music. They craft heavy blocks of piercing electronics. A true festival of sound effects galore. It is not easy to say if there is anything at all on the input side here. I mean, anything else than more electronics. I doubt there are any field recordings used here. From start to finish, this is an all-electronic massacre. The music is loud, sure, but not consistently and not always totally over the top. There is a dynamic range covered here, and moments of relative quietness are not left out. The noise history of both men is something that shows very well, and, unlike the somewhat primitive approach of Djinn, the machines at work here are crisp and modern. Well, so I at least assume that is the case. Eight pieces here, in total forty-two minutes, means they keep it concise and to the point.
    Because I know what the fourth release will be, I took the risk of playing Marco Bertoni first, anticipating an album of introspective music. Judging by the cover, that is, as I don't think I heard of him before. He has been a member of the Confusional Quartet since 1977 (of which I only vaguely heard before) and a composer of soundtracks and works with electronic music. The three pieces on 'Live In Trentville' don't use instruments, as do some of his other works (piano or voices), but field recordings and electronics. There are three pieces on this CD, and I am unsure if they are all live. I assume it is. In 'Variazioni Su Musica Da Camera Di Alberto Caprioli', Bertoni uses obscure recordings (field recordings? I don't know) and a rather vague sort of processing. What am I hearing? I must admit I have no idea. It is dark, moody, and indeed ambient in some way—a most enjoyable piece of music. In 'L'impercettibile (The Imperceptible)' the recordings of birds are used, and it is quite a louder piece of music. This seems to be recorded with microphones in a room/concert space and has a 'hollow' character. The final track is akin to the second but only one-third its length.  The second and third tracks were alright, but not too great, but I enjoyed the first one very much; that piece could have been longer and filled up the entire disc—file under computer music.
    Also, Eraldo Bernocchi is a member of Sigillum S but did so much more music in the last thirty-something years and with a wide variety of people. Masami Akita has been busy for over forty years as Merzbow and has a countless stream of releases. After being a devoted follower for years, I gave up collecting these a long time ago. I still play his music with great pleasure. The two men exchanged sound files, and were both interested in the "the phenomenon of urban wildlife where wild animals decide to relocate or establish a home in our cities", which is not something that I could have told you based on the two pieces here, in total forty minutes of music. I have no idea if and what kind of sounds they exchanged as the two pieces follow the classic (current) Merzbow over-the-top noise treatment. Anything goes, I guess, for the man, and Bernocchi doesn't mind. Loud, piercing electronics, one long stream of noise sounds. It keeps coming, crashing into the floor, something new arrives, and there is another line of noise to be followed, destroyed, distorted, and we have a classic Merzbow plus one album. Good or bad is an irrelevant notion here. Consistency is all. None of that shared phenomenon here, but maybe there is a clue in the artwork. A particular noisy release for this label, but looking at this recent lot, perhaps the times they are a-changing? (FdW)
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TOM FLAHERTY - MIXED MESSAGES (CD by New Focus Recordings)

Tom Flaherty has been around for many years, composing music for humans and electronics, though, as he says, he prefers humans. He is also a cellist who has played internationally, besides his daytime job as a professor at Pomona College in the USA. He has a long list of compositions, of which, unfortunately, only a few have been released as recordings - at least if Discogs can be trusted. The list goes back to 1974 - I guess when he was still studying - and only adds the electronic element from the 1980ies. The instrumentation causes curiosity as he mixes unusual sets, such as, '2 pianos, 16 hands, recorded electronics', 'viola, organ, electronics', violoncello & marimba etc.
    This release collects several compositions written over the last 20 years, combining electronics with acoustic instruments, mainly strings and a toy piano. This instrument crops up several times in his list of works. He seems fascinated with not the basic sound itself but the behaviour of the harmonics of this instrument which are, in fact, a bit weird. I believe all recordings on this release are 'firsts', though probably performed several times already. Something I have come across with many of the SEAMUS composers, too, for instance, sporting long lists of compositions but very few, if any, recordings. Lots of work ahead.
    The first track, 'Shepard's Pi' (a pun on the good old English pie, something you can actually eat in this country), is written for toy piano and consists of a long string of rising and receding scales, playing with the 'overtones' and mirroring the acoustic piano sounds in two different electronic processings. Not my favourite, though. 'Threnody', the second track, starts off the coming display of string music on this CD. The solo cello is no longer solo as the electronic processor plays back the sound, echoing, filtering, layering, and picking harmonics. I must say, this piece works better than the first, with the cello offering a better source for layering sound on sound and creating a space within which the music can develop and flow. 'Under the Weather' combines an organ with the cello (there is a distinct tendency towards the lower string scales here, but Flaherty is a cello player himself ...) into a very effective piece of music - electronic treatment (if any) is very sublime here. The three parts of 'Recess' have the Eclipse string quartet perform musical patterns that walk around the space, sparsely supported by live electronic processing (which eventually offers a continuous background) in a more expressionist than contemporary style. 'Violelation' does not address violence but violins ... in analogy to Bach's famous piece using the letters of his name, Flaherty uses here violinist Cindy Fogg's name to arrange and re-arrange notes of the solo viola. This might sound strenuous but actually works well, with a background growling drone made by processing the sounds (and yes, no i, n, y, or o). Again, the electronics allow the performer to play on several levels simultaneously, giving the music more breadth and the viola sound a variety of different characters, even breaking out into a Bartok-esque second half after pointillistic beginnings. 'Mixed Messages' is a duo of violin and piano, supported by a low growl of processed violin and a 'prepared piano' (?) sound reminding of Hania Rani. The final piece, 'Release', is a duo of strings with the electronics mostly limited to an echo track.
    All in all, I had expected to find a more 'electronic' sounding approach - judging from the title. What we see, though, is strings-dominated music that is more related to Debussy, Bartok, and Janacek than contemporary electroacoustic music (which this does not pretend to be). Maybe I should have paid more attention to Flaherty's flippant remark that he 'loves humans more', though he teaches electronic music. An enjoyable release that reminds us that electronic processing can be a support for musicians in broadening the spectrum of a performance and not only a means in itself. (RSW)
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What lovely work. The album opens with  ‘Re:Berth’, a beautiful miniature. An elegant improvisation that dances into my ears. A promising start of the third release by this quartet of Taylor Ho Bynum (cornet), Kyoko Kitamura (voice), Joe Morris (guitar) and Tomeka Reid (cello).  The quartet debuted in 2018 with the album 'Geometry of Caves’, followed one year later by ‘Geometry of Distance’, both released on Relative Pitch Records. This also counts for their latest statement, ‘Geometry of Trees’, which was recorded Jul7 17, 2021, at Firehouse 12 Studio in New Haven. Cellist Tomeka Reid is a prominent exponent of the Chicago scene and an original voice in the world of improvised music. I know her work from Swiss- Chicago collaborations initiated by Swiss saxophonist Christoph Erb. These are just some of the many collaborations she was engaged in. Just like Kitamura, she worked with Anthony Braxton, Roscoe Mitchell, and many others from the AACM scene.  In 2015 she debuted with her quartet. Self-taught guitarist Joe Morris recorded dozens of albums with many jazz and improvising musicians (John Zorn, Evan Parker, William Parker, Ken Vandermark, Marshall Allen, etc.) More recent Dominic Lash, Matthew Shipp were among his collaborators. Also, he recorded in a duo-effort with Tomeka Reid in 2020 (‘Combinations’). Taylor Ho Bynum is a composer, performer and teacher. Again a musician who worked with various musicians (Anthony Braxton, Cecil Taylor, Nate Wooley, Gerald Cleaver, a.o.) in varying projects. He is leading his own sextet and  bigband  Taylor Ho Bynum’s Plustet. Kitamura started as a journalist before she became a Brooklyn-based composer and improviser. She worked for a long time with Anthony Braxton. More recent, she started her ensemble Tidepool Fauna (featuring saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock, bassist Ken Filiano and drummer Dayeon Seok). She co-leads Geometry which is - I think - one of her prominent collaborations these days. So with 'Geometry' we have a combination of excellent musicians experienced in playing in diverse constellations. Listening to this one, one feels and hears the different styles, idioms and techniques these musicians have available. ‘Continuining Inexplicability’ has the pleasant voice of Kitamura in a prominent role. She starts with nice non-verbal movements that become a bit melodic near the end of the improvisation. Sparsely but effectively accompanied by instrumental gestures. ‘Imaginary Donuts’ has Morris playing in a clearly jazz-infused way in dialogue with whistling sounds, trumpet and cello. Gradually the interaction becomes more intense and dynamic. ‘Spotted lantern fly attacks at the water gap’ has strong intertwined communication evoking the effect of one dynamic flow of swirling and meandering movements. ‘Through the Shaft of Nothings We Drive Onward‘ opens with a great expressive solo by Ho Bynum, followed by a solo by Morris on the manipulated guitar. Reid introduces again short repetitive patterns that soon after dissolve and change into something else. No matter how small, every movement plays its role in these delicate and well-proportioned improvisations. They are communicative and inventive improvisations of a poetic nature. A Joy! (DM)
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In 2020 four musicians played a live soundtrack to a silent movie. I won't mention the name of the film. The film itself has a run time of 161 minutes. The music performed is spread across two discs, in total, nearly 136 minutes. I haven't seen the movie, so I can't comment on whether the music fits the moving images or vice versa. What I can say is that the music on this release is excellent. Moody, dark and intense in a spacious way, this isn't background music per se. And the visuals are not needed. The music is of high quality with its own merits. Javier Hagen provides vocals, mostly wordless, but in the end, poetry sails through the sonic landscape. Hans-Peter Pfammatter plays what sounds like a prepared piano. Marcel Papaux adds a percussion layer, but mostly on an impressionistic beatless level. And last but certainly not least, Manuel Mengis sprinkles trumpet in longer or shorter melodic lines into the mix. Electronic samples shift the mood into stellar-driven heights with more percussive looping 'beats'. Overall, this music will open the ears and mind to a more avant-garde way of creating alien-sounding landscapes, leaving room to create personal imagery for the listener. Highly recommended, although listening to this back to back might be a bit too much. Or not, that's up to the listener, of course. (MDS)
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AUTOMATISME & STEFAN PAULUS - GAP/VOID (CD by Constellation Records)
JOYFULTALK - FAMILIAR SCIENE (CD by Constellation Records)
CLARA ENGEL - THEIR INVSIBLE HANDS (CD by Elephant Shrew Editions)

Here we have three releases, unconnected, but there is a common thread here, and that is the question: is this music for Vital Weekly or not? I am least sure about that with the music of Canadian Automatisme (also known as William Jourdain) and Swiss field recordist, ambient musician, visual artist and writer/academic Stefan Paulus. They worked before together on releases for Mille Plateaux/Force Inc, which is something that is hardly a surprise playing 'Gap/Void' here. There are some beats here, which I assume arrive through the machines of Automatisme, and there are hazy, shimmering clouds of sound, which I suspect to be processed field recordings. You might think it is a hip sound, and perhaps it was, some years ago. I am less sure these days, but maybe I am not so convinced by the music. Perhaps it all sounded too easygoing for me? So, there you go, some beats, 4/4, some made of glitches, and in the background, there is this droney howl of wind of barren land. Once, this would have been exciting, but these days? Unless, of course, I missed the death of that sound, and this is the start of a resurrection.
    From Jay Crocker's musical project Joyfultalk, I reviewed 'Muuixx' before (Vital Weekly
) 'Familiar Science' is the third album. Crocker plays the guitar, bass, keyboards, drums, electronics, and voice and has guests on upright bass, drums, tenor sax, alto sax, and flute. Here the music spreads its wings wide, with influences from jazz, rock, big band and minimalism. It seems to me some parts might be looped, going on a bit too long perhaps, and live instruments. Maybe this is something for the more jazz-minded reviewers of Vital Weekly? I enjoyed the music, with its incredible drive and speed, but not precisely the sort of thing for here? It was joyful, I must say, and I had a great time.
    "I'm not writing the same song over and over so much as writing one long continuous song that will end when I die, says Clara Engel on Bandcamp. The instruments used were a voice, cigar box guitar, talharpa, shruti box, melodica, found percussion, tongue drum and chromonica. Thirteen songs of slow folk music, full of sadness and despair. A bit of a downer after Joyfultalk. I am unsure what the words are about; as before, an area is not for me. With all the use of reverb, delay, and some the unusual instruments, you could think this is something for us, but the judge was out on this pretty quickly. Clara Engel plays wonderfully weird country & western music, but we (the contributors to Vital Weekly) all lack the know-how to say something sensible about this. As always, we hope such words of 'I have no idea, so check this out yourself' work. (FdW)
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The first record is an all-around new name for me. Behind Matchess is Witney Jonson, who worked in 2016 as an installation assistant to La Monte Young and Marian Zazeela's Dream House. That changed a lot for her, which I can't corroborate as I have not heard her previous music. The two pieces on 'Sonescent' came here while she was at the Dhamma Vaddhana Meditation Center, just north Of Joshua Tree. Matchess scored the pieces and had a few musicians play the piece. The instrument is acoustic 12-string guitar, flute, strings, organ voice (the latter three by Johnson), bass, clarinet, and drums. Based on these instruments, I expected something different. Of course, I am no longer sure what I expected; perhaps some kind of improvised music? 'Almost Gone', the piece on the first side, doesn't sound like any of these instruments played it. How it sounds made me think of Eliane Radigue and her synth-based drones. The music is quiet and very slow in development, but at one point, the whole piece starts shifting upwards, and while remaining a drone, it all becomes louder. I can envisage this as a piece of music to meditate by, even if that is something I have little experience with. Maybe the instruments are used in work, but all the same, they are either densely layered or electronically altered. 'Through The Wall' on the other side is a similar drone-like beast, quiet and slowly evolving, but now the instruments are audible. They play slowly developing tones in small circles. This is set against some electronic sounds and strange acoustic rumbling. Sometimes the instruments are solo, sometimes the electronics and rumbling, and sometimes they intertwine. No section is the same here, which significantly adds to the piece's variety. If 'Almost Gone' is primarily a meditative piece of music, then this one is more a piece to listen to, conscious, if you will (and if you want to meditate, by all means, do it!). This is the big surprise of this week, as far as I am concerned, and the only downside is that it is an LP-only, which, for the delicate character of the music, is perhaps not the correct format.
    Something entirely different is the record by Dean Spunt and John Wiese. I know the latter to some extent, from his work with Spissy Spacek, his Helicopter label, and other collaborations. Spunt, however, is unknown to me. He has a music project called No Age and a Post Present Medium label. Spunt is a drummer, and Wiese is in his role as a man with the scissors and electronics. Cutting up tape, and I leave it up to everybody's imagination if that is real tape or cut 'n paste on a computer, with recordings of sounds is what he does pretty well. Go into the studio, create as much mayhem, noise, and chaos as possible, and then re-arrange the lot by changing tape speed, reversing, amplifying the quiet bits, loops, and whatever else springs to mind. Sounds that may not have been intended to be part of the music become part of it simply because they have been captured on tape. Feeding the sound collages through electronics results in even more sound material. The resulting two pieces (one per side) show the diverse character of this approach. It is all very wild and alien, over-the-top noise. Perhaps the sort of thing you'd expect from Wiese, but he also knows how to space out his collage; leave silence between the cracks, if you will. Sometimes the drums sound like drums, and sometimes not at all. The speed is high; it never remains very long in one place. That also makes that this is not an 'easy' record. Listen closely, and you'll be pretty tired at the end. Of course, that is great, I'd say; unless you are a reviewer of difficult music or if you set out to play record after a record. Then the next one is bound to be something more easygoing. (FdW)
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Even when David Grubbs and Werner St. Jan met in the mid-1990s, it took them until 2020 to work together. Grubbs was once a member of Gastr Del Sol and The Red Krayola and St. Werner in Mouse On Mars and Microstoria. Their paths crossed with record labels and concerts, I assume. In January 2020, Grubbs came to the Mouse On Mars studio in Berlin, carrying a poem and his guitar. The poem, 'Translation From Unpsecified', was a self-generated open-ended poem suggesting artificial intelligence, also an area of interest for St. Werner. The voice feeds into a computer and becomes a kind of pitched up/slowed down robot speak, constantly moving and changing; the voice also recites the poem, so it has this Robert Ashley-like quality to it. The poem has repetitions in the text, so it seems stuck in a phrase, but the music keeps changing, so you never know what is stuck or to what extent it changes. Quite a lovely piece that grows on me every time I play it. The other side is a piece for guitar and computer. You can recognise Grubbs' careful approach to the guitar, and the piece sees various glitches, scratches and bendings from St. Werner's computer. Together they stay on the safe side, I think. There is no sudden move, no abrupt change. It grows over twenty minutes in intensity as Grubbs adds more distortion to the guitar. Snippets of the poem pop up but play now a minor role. I thought the piece was quite alright; nothing too spectacular or different, but a good, solid improvisation. (FdW)
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In monster movies, whenever the sound design for the creature is pretty complicated. Mostly mixing several sounds into one, the old-fashioned way or digitally. What if you could make an instrument that does precisely that? Well, Sergio Fedele made one. Or maybe the other way around: first the instrument and after that an idea for the instrument: the ecatorf; combining Hecate, the Greek goddess who had the power to send poor souls back to the world to haunt the living and Orpheus, the tragic figure who wanted to be reunited with the love of his live by entering the netherworld. What does this have to do with monsters? Tifeo, or Typhon in English, was a giant man-like snake or a snake-like man. The music or, better yet sounds on this release are Sergios'idea of what that monster would have sounded like. No words, but earth-shuddering low notes, glissandos, high-pitched squeaks and everything in between. The ecatorf has been in the making for ten years after the design took three years of preparation. Like the Typhon, it's a hybrid instrument, merging a B-flat clarinet mouthpiece with the slide trombone, the bass version, or maybe a contrabass one. When you see pictures of the ecatorf it's hard to imagine what sounds it can produce. This is one monstrous beast of an instrument that sports three bells in various sizes and valves to alternate and combine the three bells. I guess it's the instrument with the broadest range ranging from the sub-bass spectrum to the altissimo and higher. This release documents the first live performance in front of an audience on the instrument. Since the instrument uses a reed to produce the sound and a nifty combination of valves, you can let it sound like a reed instrument. Still, by using the valves and using no tongue (how do I know this ? The clarinet has been my main instrument for nearly forty years now), while starting a sound, you can let it sound like a brass instrument because the rest of the instrument acts like a three-headed brass instrument, just like the merging of man and god(ess). It's a relatively short release, but I won't know how hard it is to play the instrument. I highly recommend this for people who want to hear the powerful sound of the lowest-sounding wind instrument in the world. But not only that: Sergio knows how to tell a story. Subtle, sweet-sounding at times, growling at others. And the timbres are often shifting ever so slightly. Bravissimo! And on another note, I want to try the instrument one day! (MDS)
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RE-DRUM & EMERGE / SVART1 & LEFTERNA (cassette by Attenuation Circuit)

Some introductions and some musicians whom I already know are what is on offer here with a trio of new releases by Attenuation Circuit. I started with the collaboration between Mike Benoit and Boban Ristevski, mainly based on the fact that I think much of the latter's recent work is very good. Mike Benoit is one of those introductions. He takes credit for "sound art & noise manipulation", which, frankly, isn't that 99% of the music reviewed in Vital Weekly? Ristevski plays "electronics", perhaps not much clearer? The seven pieces here have grim titles, about Chernobyl, the electric chair and the death of Marylin Monroe. The music is dark and atmospheric but not as ambient as some recent collaborations by Ristevski. It is more akin to a combination of moody electronics, which is the ambient side of the music but also laced with some ditto doomy loops of industrialised sound. More than some of that recent work, the music is perfect for any flick with a dystopian theme. The music sounds like nuclear rain, collapsed power plants, and melted Geiger teller residue. The survivors bang on a can to make contact with other survivors, but we're unsure if there are more as electrical currents buzz. Altogether an exciting departure for Ristevski from his recent work, and I am curious what the future will hold.
    Then we have two new names for me. Brainquake from Belgium and Sven Phalanx from Germany. They worked together before, this being their fourth release together but the first one for this label. 'Interior War' is the translation of the title, but one could read it also as 'internal struggle'. 'Das Leere Gehirn' kicks off this release via a slow path of dark synths, to which they add slow pounding drums. It becomes like a military march. The other six tracks are pretty different if you look at the rest of the releases from this label. The music is infused with solid electro beats and ominous synthesisers. I should think this is hard and driving rhythmic music, which is not aimed at the dancefloor, but maybe it is? What do I know about dance music? I would think, but I am going into a no-man's land here, that the music is inspired by the industrial rhythm-based electronica from the 90s from bands such as Front Line Assembly, Skinny Puppy and their peers on Nettwerk Records. I found this a most enjoyable release in all its grimness, even when it is a bit outside my comfort zone.
    Attenuation Circuit and Gruebenwehr Freiburg join in a new series of split cassettes, and the first has two collaborations. We find Attenuation Circuit boss Emerge and Russia's Re-drum on side A. They both have a solo piece of a few minutes together recording from a concert in Moscow in 2018. They toured together, which started with the sudden death of the tour organiser, Dmitry Vasilyev, so the show at the end of the tour was a tribute to him. The two solo pieces were previously released on the online tribute album 'Monochrome Visions' (named after Vasiljev's label). Since then, not many people have toured Russia, and these days it is impossible. Both solo tracks are very subdued pieces of music, contemplative and mournful. In their live piece, they work with processing acoustic sounds and adding organ-like drones to the matter. It is not easy to see this in the light of the events that happened a few days before, and these three a loving tribute to a much-missed man. On the other side, we find Raimondo Gaviano's Svart1 project, working with Lefterna, the project's name by Boban Ristevski. Not sure when he chooses to work as Lefterna or under his given name, as both seem to work from the dark ambient side of electronics. I assume their collaboration was made with the ripples of file exchange. The question of who did what here is not straightforward and indeed not interesting. They mix percussive, minimal and industrial loops with heavily processed field recordings. The resulting four-part dish is a lovely soundtrack noir for any of your darker thoughts or soundtracks to your spooky movies. No surprises here, but the execution is well-done. Again, here we see a lot of experience delivering the right goods. (FdW)
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SCHMITZ & NIEBUHR - THE GREATEST HITS (cassette by Superpolar Taips)
SCHMITZ & NIEBUHR - DIE LEHRE VOM GROSSEN RAD (cassette by Strategic Tape Reserve)
PHIRNIS - CHILL NOISE (cassette by Strategic Tape Reserve)
GERMAN ARMY / HYACINTH. - A FRAGMENTED METROPOLIS (cassette by Strategic Tape Reserve)
LETTERS FROM MOUSE - SLEEP TAPES (cassette by Superpolar Taips)

The first cassette here contains historical recordings by Wilfried "Willi" Schmitz and Klaus C. Nieburh, as the duo Schmitz & Niebuhr. I had not heard of them before, and it seems this release and the one by Strategic Tape Reserve are the first releases. The recordings for the first cassette they did 'mid-2000', which kept me wondering when that is. In the year 2000, or mid, as in between 2000 and 2022? They use a wide array of instruments in their music: "glockenspiel, field recordings, analogue phones, micro-cassette audio recorders, single-cassette answering machines, shortwave receivers", next to more traditional instruments, "saxophone, cello, clarinet, stylophone, kalimba and cross flute". Of course, there are also synthesisers, which I think make up a substantial portion of the music; they are easier to recognise than some of the "real" instruments, but sure, they are in here as well. There are thirteen pieces of music on this cassette, and they are all, one way or another, inspired by the world of pop music and techno, but they arrive at crossroads of that and meet some more abstract sounds. Spacious dream pop, if you will, but with a lot more happening in the rhythm department. Each song (I am sure they'd prefer that over 'piece') has a couple of lovely melodies and hooks, but also elements from the world of electro-acoustic, with goofy samples and loops. A most enjoyable release! The music is very laid back, and only 'Plukatan' has vocals. They give another dimension to the music; I imagine this sort of vocals would bring the music to a broader audience. It may not do that when it's all instrumental. But as someone who is never too fond of vocals, I love this all the same (and more!)
    The other new release by Schmitz & Nieburh is on Strategic Tape Reserve. The ties between this label and Superpolar Taips are very close, so I lump all of their latest releases together. There is no recording date for the music on 'Die Lehre Von Grossen Rad' as part of the 'Learning By Listening' series. I guess STR stumbled upon a bunch of old educational cassettes and gave these to musicians to work on, adding some music. Here the voice speaks German, a language I mastered to some degree but not enough to understand what this is about, not even when reading the German liner notes. This cassette has four lectures and an introduction. The voice speaks, and there are a few synth inserts. The meaning of all of this eludes me. It sounds like a radio play, and it probably is, or perhaps a satire thereof. Even when I didn't understand much about this, I enjoyed the consistent concept.
    Let's stick with this label and listen to 'Chill Noise' by Phirnis. I reviewed a cassette from him (?) before, in Vital Weekly 1281, on Superpolar Taips. The composer describes his music as 'chill noise', "which is to noise music what yacht rock is to heavy metal.” I still don't know what that means, but I think it sounds good. Back then, it was a short cassette single, this time, and it is a proper (short, thirty-three-minute) album. Can you chill to noise? I see no reason not to, even when I don't necessarily do it. In his music, Phirnis isn't particularly shy about using noise elements. There are loud, low, resolution rhythm sounds, monolithic and not to dance to, some rudimentary synthesisers graining away, yet none of this becomes over-the-top noise music. It also isn't ambient, not by a long stretch. I think Phirnis has a nice collection of small DIY synth gear, cheaper than your average modules, meaning they are also grittier and cruder. The music he creates with this gear is distorted and crudely to the point: all tracks are concise, one to two minutes and a bit. Only 'Heatwaves' is very long, filling up almost the entire B-side. Sometimes a rhythm rolls in, in good industrial fashion. Excellent wake-up call.
    We find two groups/projects reviewed before on the last cassette by this label. German Army has a ton of releases, of which only a few reached these pages. But what I heard of this US duo (members are pk and gt) I enjoyed. I don't know what these guys use, equipment-wise. I'd say there is a drum machine, sampling devices, and electronics but what else? I don't know. I never judge, of course, but I would think German Army used those old Casio sampling keyboards (SK1 and 5) for much of their music, adding a lo-fi character. The sound effects cover some of that short loop element up. But there are also more modern apparatus at work for us here, and they cook up a nice plate of ambient industrial music. Spacious, gritty, rhythmic and droney. Lovely stuff from a band I should indeed investigate more. I first heard Hyacinth. (with a full stop at the end) a few weeks ago (Vital Weekly 1336), his side of this cassette is a continuation of the idea he launched on the previous cassette. Each track is about a minute or two long and sampled from records. Lounge records, soft jazz, exotica, maybe trip-hop. Lovely stuff that one could re-shape into great music, adding a bass-line, more drums, a piano, and maybe Hyacinth. does that, but as before, every track ends on a fade-out. Just a great loop essentially and nothing more. It is a concept that is lost on me. Just like a few weeks ago. Nice sounds; where is the song?
    We end this excursion with the latest cassette single by Superpolar Taips with music from Letters From Mouse. Behind this name, we find one Steven Anderson from Edinburgh, Scotland. I had not heard of him, but his Bandcamp page has several releases. The two pieces he did are firmly locked in the world folktronica, a bit more crumbled than usual. Synthesisers play moody electronics, uneasy but floating, and on top, there is a bit of solo playing of notes. The first piece is '3 a.m.' and a slightly more upbeat character (well, without beat), and on the other side, we find '11 p.m.', in which some ghostly, nocturnal voices play a role. Both pieces are great, but not so much for a cassette single of which the total length is less than five minutes. I wouldn't have minded these to be a bit longer and more of these lovely suites. (FdW)
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