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
your MP3 player and enjoy!
DAVID VÉLEZ - BETA VULGARIS (CD by Sublime Retreat) *
OPEN TO THE SEA - TALES FROM AN UNDERGROUND RIVER (CD by ADN Records/13) *
LAU NAU - PUUTARHASSA (CD by Akti Records) *
PASSED FUTURIST - LOST NATURIST (cassette by Akti Records)
BERTRAND DENZLER & JASON KAHN - TRANSLATIONS (CD by Potlatch) *
JASON KAHN - SOUNDINGS (CDR & book by Editions) *
LILLY JOEL PLAYS THE ORGAN - SIBYL OF THE RHINE (CD by Sub Rosa) *
TOMAS HALLONSTEN - MONOLOG (CD by Thanathosis Produktion) *
SAKINA ABDOU – GOODBYE GROUND (CD by Relative Pitch Records) *
DON MALFON – MUTABLE (CD by Relative Pitch Records) *
CHARUEST & RATTÉ & KOWALD - MONTREAL 1985 (CD by Tour De Bras) *
DIONNÉE - ATTRAPE MOUCHES (CD by Tour De Bras) *
SANTO SILVA & NEBBIA & ALONSO BERGMAN QUARTET - RITUAL PARA ACERCARSE (CD by Tour De Bras) *
THE LONEY BELL - KINGDOMS OF THE DEEP (CDR by Shady Ridge Records) *
FACTOR X - 34 (CDR by Otcrah Records) *
FACTOR X - TUBEWAY ARMY (CDR by Otcrah Records) *
SHAUN ROBERT - COMPLETE WORKS (CDR, private) *
+DOG+ - X8 (CDR by Love Earth Music) *
LACKTHROW - DIFFICULT TO MAINTAIN (CDR by Love Earth Music) *
ABRASION ADDICT - BRUTALIST DETRITUS (CDR by Love Earth Music) *
CHEFKIRK & CRANK STURGEON - NICE TO ERR WITH YOU (2CDR by Love Earth Music) *
MICHAEL RIDGE - MORE MICROCASSETTE SESSIONS (CDR by Quagga Curious Sounds) *
CORRADO MARIA DE SANTIS - RUINS (cassette by Midira Records)
JOSEPH BLANE - THE SPIDER ROOM (cassette by Submarine Broadcasting Company)
COMFORT LINK - CEMENT MUSIC (cassette by Spleen Coffin) *
BAO NGUYEN - ASCENT AND DECENT (cassette by Spleen Coffin) *
P'DERRIGERREO - LIVE IN (A) BASEMENT (cassette by Spleen Coffin) *
ISHMAEL REED - THE HANDS OF GRACE (CDR by Reading Group)
DAVID VÉLEZ - BETA VULGARIS (CD by Sublime Retreat)
The Latin title is the common beetroot. You can find a lengthy story on the cover about the plant and its positive effect on your health. The most important thing to know is that David Vélez composed music to stimulate growth and that, following private tests, he reports that they grew big, beautiful, healthy and delicious. I have no garden, no plants in the house, or beetroots, so I can't replicate the experiment. I believe the man. I couldn't find an explanation detailing which sounds work best. I know that computer technology may play an essential role in his music. There is a strong love for the use of sine wave recordings in the five pieces here, and they arrive from both the bottom and the high end of the sound spectrum. These come as vital drone lines, but due to the number of lines and their varying length, there is a constant sense of change in the material. From the third part onwards, there is the additional organic sound - or, that's how I think of these. As if Vélez is dinging in the ground with a contact microphone. Of course, this can be something else altogether, but it is a welcome addition to the sine wave material. At thirty-two minutes, this is a rather short release, and I wouldn't have minded this to be longer, but I also admit that at a higher volume, I found the music's presence at times a bit too much. I wondered what the average volume is that you need to play this to stimulate plants. At a more modest volume, the album has a much different effect on me, and it becomes an interestingly ambient music-based work, which shaped up the living room pretty well. (FdW)
––– Address: https://sublimeretreat.bandcamp.com/
OPEN TO THE SEA - TALES FROM AN UNDERGROUND RIVER (CD by ADN Records/13)
Looking at the title and the cover, my initial response is, 'I Wonder what this has to do with Yes' 'Tales From Topographic Oceans'? It turns out very little. If that is good or bad, I leave it to the listener. There is an earlier album by Enrico Congligio and Mattea Uggeri called 'Open To Sea', released. by Dronvarium, that I didn't review. Maybe this is an ongoing collaboration which required them to choose a band name. The story behind the music goes back to 2019 when Enrico Coniglio recorded two long and multi-layered sets of improvised music with a guitar, piano and synthesizers. He sent these to Matteo Uggeri, who had the freedom to edit these recordings, erasing bits but adding his material, using violin, drums, trumpet, cello and so on). His kids provided the lengthy titles. The last track is the first track they recorded as a trio, adding Saverio Rosi. As for influence, the group mentions 4AD Records, and in particular This Mortal Coil and the "quietest ECM Records". Certainly, influences are easy to hear in the music. A specific jazz aspect is never far away in this music, jazz noir, with those trademark brush strokes and muted trumpet. A bit of a cliche sound if you ask me, having heard enough of that by now. When that isn't the case, the piano usually takes the lead. The material played is very reflective when the guitar tinkles away, strings are added, and the drums are rock-like; the music is most certainly a post-rock aspect. As promised by the musicians, this is all atmospheric music, and many of the instruments are acoustic. Electronics are used very sparsely to add layers in the background, like an ornament. Jazz-like at times, post-rock at other times, even the improvisational aspect is never far away, makes this not your typical ambient record, which is something I enjoyed; well, not so much the jazz aspect, but the fact that it is atypical is good. Overall, positive feelings about this release. (FdW)
––– Address: http://store.silentes.it/
LAU NAU - PUUTARHASSA (CD by Akti Records)
PASSED FUTURIST - LOST NATURIST (cassette by Akti Records)
'Puutarhassa', meaning 'in the garden', is the first release I heard by Finnish composer Lau Nau, short for Laura Naukkarinen. According to wiki, "She also plays under the moniker Subatlantti, in IAX, a band formed with Kuupuu and Tsembla and is a visiting member of The Matti Bye Ensemble. She was also a member of free improv and psychedelic folk bands Kiila, Päivänsäde, the Anaksimandros, Avarus, Maailma, and the trio Hertta Lussu Ässä formed by fellow acid folk singer-songwriters Islaja and Kuupuu". All of which is news to me. She uses field recordings, objects and analogue synthesizers. The title we should literally, as part of this was recorded in a garden. To that end she uses a "a little transportable wagon that fits a modular synth, a miniature recording studio and a sound system, and created a concept for the performance where she made field recordings in the garden while playing the synth". Part of this material is from a performance in Munich and partly recorded on an island on the Western coast of Finland. Birds and insects chirp away, which makes me think this is a nice summer's day, and Lau Nau plays slow melodic drones in 'Punahattu'. In 'Kosmospyörät', she uses the garden fence (my imagination) and a bleepy arpeggio synth, which takes the music away from the world of ambient music. Still, she returns to that in 'Lasihuone', which leans heavily on field recordings and only very minimal, atmospheric synthesizer sounds. In the final piece, 'Ahvenkallio', Lau Nau also uses choral-like singing, giving the material an ethereal ring. This is a rather short album at thirty-three minutes, which is a pity. Because of the diversity of the pieces, I didn't find it all too easy to figure out what Lau Nau does. Sure, these four pieces are great as they are. Still, they left me a bit unsatisfied without being able to pinpoint that to something specific, other than being able to play some exciting and great moody pieces of music and within that with quite some variation. I wouldn't have minded a slightly longer album offering more of this delicious music.
And for something completely different, we switched the music of Passed Futurist - a great name. This Finnish duo of Heikki Hautala (guitar) and Touko Santamaa (drums) present their debut release; three tracks and twenty minutes of music. Whereas with Lau Nau, everything is meticulous and, at times, quiet, these two words do not apply to the music of Passed Futurist. Think free jazz meets loud rock music, and you're almost there. The label talks about Chris Corsano and Bill Orcutt and if that means something to you. However, this duo also knows how to exercise control. In 'Droning In', they slow down and play a massive drone piece on the guitar with the pounding of drums. Slow and majestical, with no chaos. You could also think of this music as blues music, from actual pain and distress, with the guitar ripping through your heart and the drums being the heartbeat. With some more studio trickery, this could all shine a bit more, as it sounds like a basement recording. There is a charm to that, perhaps intended, but I imagine the music could reach further with some magic sound tricks. Three pieces, about twenty minutes of music, is more than enough for me. I enjoy the wild energy here, but it is not where my musical head is, most of the time, anyway. (FdW)
––– Address: https://aktirecords.bandcamp.com/
BERTRAND DENZLER & JASON KAHN - TRANSLATIONS (CD by Potlatch)
JASON KAHN - SOUNDINGS (CDR & book by Editions)
A release with a duet of improvisation; somehow, it occurs to me that in recent years there haven't been many of those with the music of Jason Kahn. Over the years, he played with many musicians. Kahn used various instruments over the years, and in a duet with Bertrand Denzler, who plays tenor saxophone), Kahn takes credit for electronics. Whatever these are, we aren't told. I can imagine this to be an analogue synthesizer, used by him before, but also a modular set-up of some kind. They recorded their music on December 10, 2021, and there is a single piece on the CD, so perhaps the music is the entire thing recorded that day. Firmly located in the world of improvised, especially on the side of Denzler, the music also remains quite extreme. Kahn's electronics scratch and peep most of the time, mainly creating sharp piercing sounds, mild distortions and short-circuit feedback. Denzler keeps up with this and likes to keep his sounds short and to the point, only occasionally leaping into sustained tones. Yet, his saxophone remains recognizable, at least most of the time. The music is as radical as intense and not something one sticks to for 'fun'; at least, not me. The music requires quite some effort on the part of the listener, who is willing to concentrate and actively listen to the music; otherwise, I think the listener may have a hard time. But if the listener is ready to make an effort, then there is quite some beauty in this radical and, at times, noisy release.
In his solo work, Kahn reaches for more conceptual work, and 'Soundings' is such a thing. This release comes with a 165-page book, slightly bigger than a CD. The recordings came first. In the first lockdown, Kahn noticed how quiet the city became. He made recordings in his hometown, Zürich, now allowing for sound usually not heard. Birds, bells, wind and so on. All of this turned out to be an audio diary of some kind, a memorial for the city, and a document of the man's private life. We hear Kahn in a shop or on the bus, sometimes talking to his (small children), and so on (great German accent there!). When listening to these recordings later on, he found his memory triggered and started writing the book's texts. About the Covid time, his own childhood days, and so on. Though not intended, Kahn nevertheless remarks that the listener may think about similar memories of train stations, ordering food, or childhood memories (in this case, when my daughter was at a similar age). A certain element of sadness is indeed involved; well, for me, at least, when I think (once again, too much) about the passing of time, especially as the older I am, the faster it seems to go. The tracks on the CD are short, about one minute or less each, and not always something one may recognize, which, again, for me, added to the beauty of the project. There is a lot of food for thought in there. (FdW)
––– Address: http://www.potlatch.fr/
––– Address: https://jasonkahn.net/
LILLY JOEL PLAYS THE ORGAN - SIBYL OF THE RHINE (CD by Sub Rosa)
I confess straight away that I know nothing about Hildegard von Bingem, the 12th century mystic. She is the inspiration here for the duo of Lynn Cassiers and Jozef Dumoulin. They have been working togther for twenty years; I believe this is my first encounter with their work as Lilly Joel. Now, I thought that was a funny name, like calling yourself Kylie Minoise. The music, however, is a serious affair. Dumoulin plays an ancient church organ and Cassiers sings. Apparently Von Bingen's music was very monodic, performed by a voice and maybe one fixed pedal note of an instrument, so the information tells me. Maybe that accounts for the minimalist approach in these compositions/improvisations. It is all quiet and all angelic, but, lest not forget, we are in church here. I can imagine that a lot of people would like this very much, for it's quietness and solemn singing. I am not as thrilled, however. The whole thing sounds too new age-like for my taste, coupled with religious overtones. The church organ takes an too quiet role for my liking, and whatever happens, is so obscure that even at high volume, I can't figure out what it is. Some obscured action in the church, is all I could think of. Some pieces are real songs, such as 'Der Nussbaum', others pure improvisation. Interesting, all of this, but not my cup of (herbal) tea at all. (FdW)
––– Address: http://subrosalabel.bandcamp.com
TOMAS HALLONSTEN - MONOLOG (CD by Thanathosis Produktion)
As I hear 'Monolog' by Tomas Hallonsten, I think, 'well, alright. It's certainly not bad. It is all electronic and instrumental, a bit jazzy, a bit loungy, but is this something that Vital Weekly is about?' I still don't know. According to the information, the original idea was to do an album of Mark Hollis-influenced music, but this is something entirely different. Hallonsten was a member of Exploding Customer, Tape, and Time Is A Mountain, along with many other improvisation projects. He uses drum machines and synthesizers and likes Klaus Wunderlich, Mamman Sani and Alice Coltrane. I am sure all of these are influences in his music. His six pieces are all gentle and relaxed, laid-back electronic music, at times way too cheesy for my taste ('Vals Antifon', for instance), but fun to play. Maybe the music is rooted too much in a musical world that I have little knowledge of. That might also be very well possible, of course. I simply have no idea. (FdW)
––– Address: https://thanatosis.org/
SAKINA ABDOU – GOODBYE GROUND (CD by Relative Pitch Records)
DON MALFON – MUTABLE (CD by Relative Pitch Records)
Two sublime solo saxophone releases by Relative Pitch Records, a label with an acceptable noise for innovatively improvised music. Both are very different but very exciting in their own way. Abdou recently caught my attention when reviewing her album with Raymond Boni. An album that proved that this performer is a remarkable new talent. Her releases are few so far, but no doubt she did perform a lot. Anyway, with ‘Goodbye Ground’, she is a very experienced performer with a story to tell and ready for a first solo statement. Abdou is living and working in Lille (France), the city where she studied flute and saxophone at the Music Academy, playing early and contemporary composed music and jazz. She is a member of the Lille-based Muzzix-collective. She recorded at home the improvisations that make up this album for two months. We witness very intense and inventive solo explorations from an impressive player. The recording proves she has developed her style and sound. Radical but controlled, she designs improvisations that are both abstract as well as warm and sensitive. Her technical skills of bending, phrasing, modulating, etc., serve her expressive and imaginative power—fantastic work from a great voice.
This also counts for the solo album by Don Malfon. He is a saxophonist from Barcelona and a true explorer of his instrument. Malfon played with musicians like Barry Guy, John Dikeman, Vasco Trilla, Dag Magnus Narvesen, Emilio Gordoa and many others. You find his name on dozens of CDs. In 2020 he impressed with his first solo album ‘Resonance’. Now with ‘Mutable’, he is making his second album. Again an awe-inspiring statement. Malfon is into acoustic research, exploring the sound worlds that can be created on alto and bass saxophones using extended techniques. Maybe he uses some objects as well but in any case great extended techniques and much imagination.
Always when one thinks about what more sounds can be produced from the saxophone, there is a player who pushes the limits. For sure, that is what Malfon is doing here. His muted sounds are integrated into improvised, sometimes mechanistic-sounding structures—a very radical undertaking.
Both performers create their own intimate but complex and unusual universe. Very rewarding if you are open to their fascinating manoeuvres. (DM)
––– Address: https://relativepitchrecords.bandcamp.com/
CHARUEST & RATTÉ & KOWALD - MONTREAL 1985 (CD by Tour De Bras)
DIONNÉE - ATTRAPE MOUCHES (CD by Tour De Bras)
SANTO SILVA & NEBBIA & ALONSO BERGMAN QUARTET - RITUAL PARA ACERCARSE (CD by Tour De Bras)
Recorded on June 30 1985, and released after 37 years, this record documents the meeting of double bassist Peter Kowald with the then-young musicians Yves Charuest on saxophone (who would become a member of the Peter Kowald Trio) and Michel Ratté on drums (and piano on Tout paradis n’est pas perdu). In short: this is of the three releases from Tour de Bras in this week’s Vital Weekly, the most accessible one. Solid performances by all three. Peter Kowald was a member of Globe Unity, played with Fred Anderson and unfortunately died in 2002, so unfortunately, he can’t hear the music on this record for a second time. And maybe there was more material, but only one cassette contained material that was useful to work with. Nevertheless, this is free jazz in a powerful yet accessible form. The relentless bass playing of Kowald, the inventive drumming of Ratté and the confident performance of 25-year-old Charuest. Listen to this one, a historically significant document, a meeting of an established performer with two young ones at the start of their musical career. And what a career they would have after this.
Named after a quarterly French-language periodical and the official publication of Association Francophone des Amateurs de Plantes Carnivores, a carnivorous plant society based in France, the title is the French word for venus flytrap, a carnivorous plant indigenous to North and South Carolina. It’s even more complicated since attrape-mouche is the French word for Dionée, well, to be exact, one species: the venus flytrap. Enough botanical brouhaha. The trio members are Clarisse Bériault a multidisciplinary artist working mainly in music, stage lighting, poetry and visual arts; here she plays the oboe, acoustic double bass and electronics; Robin Servant on accordion and electronics and last but not least Éric Normand on electric bass and electronics. I had a hard time getting into the music of this release. It took several times listening to the seven pieces to get a grasp of what was going on. This isn’t bad per sé; not all music should and is directly accessible. Five pieces are named after insects: the food of the venus fly-trap. The music is quite visceral, with short bursts of melodic content, atonal, use of extended techniques and relatively subtle use of the electronics, for example, in ‘Bombyle’. Imagine what it would sound like to be an insect trapped in a venus flytrap. That’s the kind of music we hear in this release. Not as a novelty but a real struggle between life and death. Quite powerful music. Demoiselle aux yeux d’or sounds like a science-fiction movie soundtrack. Impressive stuff on this release.
The final release is a live recording of the first concert by a new quartet formed by Camila Nebbia, an Argentinian sax player based in Berlin. The other members are Hara Alonso on piano, from Spain and based in Stockholm; Elsa Bergman on double bass, also based in Stockholm but from Sweden and trumpet player Susanna Santos Silva from Portugal and based in Stockholm as well. The venue where their debut performance took place is Fylkingen, an artist-run venue in Stockholm. I’ve only heard Susanna Santos Silva before, in one of the first concerts of Lama, a trio led by Gonçalo Almeida, in 2011. I haven’t heard the others yet, but after listening to this release, I will also explore their output. Three tracks, two long ones, both nearing the twenty-minute mark, and in between a shorter one of two minutes. The first one starts tantalizingly, testing the waters if you will, and soon the double bass plucks confidently while the trumpet offers bold statements while the sax comments on them, and/or vice-versa. The agreement is accomplished between the two, and the mood goes to music's darker and moodier side. Extensive bowing in the double bass, multiphonics in the sax, striking the piano strings set the fragile. The self trying to find self-respect? The techniques go into the even wilder territory. Not in volume but in intensity in a lower volume. Not chaos but playing with intent for music’s sake instead of showing off. This ends with nice chords on the piano and echoes of a trumpet line in the double bass. And that’s only halfway through the piece. Impressive stuff. The short piece showcases the four playings seemingly independently, as if making up their minds ending in silence. Then the arguments continue and end in what? A low flutter in the trumpet. Has she won the dispute on what to decide? (Decisions is the name of the piece). The third one continues in a similar vein as the first one, with a lot to enjoy and discover.
The interaction between the musicians is extraordinary, and there are no ego battles. As I said earlier, everything is for the music's sake (and the performance). It’s a refreshing take on what improvised music can be.
This release comes highly recommended for anyone with interest in improvised music. (MDS)
––– Address: http://tourdebras.bandcamp.com
THE LONEY BELL - KINGDOMS OF THE DEEP (CDR by Shady Ridge Records)
Behind The Lonely Bell we find, from Scotland, Ali Murray. He has a bunch of albums on his Bandcamp, but 'Kingdoms Of The Deep' is my introduction to his work. I must admit that the title is not something I am particularly fond of; a bit too new agey. Luckily the cover promises some much-needed darkness. Murray uses "various synthesizers, guitars, and oceanic organic sound recordings, " so it all sounds recorded somewhere in the ocean's depth. I quite enjoy what I hear. I was deeply immersed (pun intended) in reading something on my computer, requiring my full attention, and I wasn't paying too much attention to The Lonely Bell, but these textures were rolling around in my workspace. Once I finished my little job, the music was over, and without hesitation, I played it again. This time I sank back into my comfy chair, reread the long letter from Murray and concentrated more on the music. The whole "ambient music should be ignorable and pleasurable" is a lesson well spent on Murray. His music just did that very well for me. Listening closer, I noticed the smaller details much better, and I particularly enjoyed his more musical side. Each of the seven pieces has a melodic undercurrent (damn, these oceanic references in this review), mainly from the guitar. The drones are massive and deep, but there is always room for that bit of guitar, tinkering some notes away, or a bit of piano. This means there is less abstraction here than usual in the world of ambient music, which is something of a rarity. Carefully constructed pieces of darkness, like swimming in the ocean and your eyes slowly adjusting to the light below the surface; there is more colour than you expected. (FdW)
––– Address: https://thelonelybell.bandcamp.com/
FACTOR X - 34 (CDR by Otcrah Records)
FACTOR X - TUBEWAY ARMY (CDR by Otcrah Records)
SHAUN ROBERT - COMPLETE WORKS (CDR, private)
Let's review these in chronological order. In the late 80s, Shaun Robert worked in the late 1908s as factor X (preferred spelling), and '34' was released as a cassette in an edition of 15 copies back then. In the earliest days of his music career, Robert worked with four cassette players, a Casio SK-1, with field recordings and found sound. Possibly also a reel-to-reel machine, as he mentions removing the eraser head, using sound on sound (a technique not easily available for cassettes). Now re-issued by a label from Mexico, the album has fifteen pieces of music, filling up the entire length of a CDR. Factor X is one of those typical late 80s experimental music projects without formal training in composition or technology, yet happily working their way using musique concrète techniques to alter sounds and superimpose them to create a narrative. Not that every piece works very well, but I would say that's not the point. The act of making music is something that I believe is more important here. I think the influence of early Nurse With Wound is never far away, and we should see these pieces as surrealist sound collages. But they arrive from a more naive world. No fancy studio's or expensive microphones, this is more of punky direction concerning musique concrète. Plus, also important, this already is quite a bit removed from the world of noise music.
As such, maybe 'Tubeway Army', from 1993, is a bit of a drawback to the world of noise music. I admit I played this one first, hoping to detect some Tubeway Army within this, but it's lost in butchered vinyl of Donna Summer, Queen, Captain Paul & His Crewmen, UB40 and Laurie Anderson. Using a cheap turntable and two cassette players, these records are stuck in a groove, and from then on, an endless repeat, layered together, forms an anonymous mass of music. End grooves or start grooves, without music but with massive crackles. I am a bit wary about vinyl as the sound of music, but of course, we must consider that this work is thirty years old. I was blown away when I saw Christian Marclay doing this in concert a few years before Robert created this release. Later on, and here I am talking about wide into the 21st century, I felt the whole idea of turntable music is quite outdated and stuck at a dead end. That makes listening to this particular release, not an easy task. I hear with all my knowledge about this music, but I must remind myself that this is much older. Factor X uses a lot of layers of sound, so it's never easy to hear any artist in this but not a narrative. It all revolves very much around the abstract side of the music here.
The title 'Complete Works' is somewhat misleading, I think. It is by far the complete works by Robert, as his Bandcamp will show you. However, one could believe that 'complete works' could also mean getting a complete idea of the man's works. Maybe a kind of best-of, a sampler of his works. The music here was recorded between 2013-2015, so not very recent. Music had progressed considerably from when he called himself factor X. Sure, noise and collage are still steady interests. Still, with advancing technology, Robert has more possibilities at his disposal to cut, edit and alter his sound material. Still banging on all sorts of objects and instruments, there is also the addition of (software-) synthesizers. I like to believe that Robert still uses reel-to-reel machines, but here I would not be surprised to learn these are software variations. There is some mighty fine stuff there. In that sense, Robert's current music (is music from ten years ago still current? I let that question slip for a moment) is closer to the original ideas of musique concrète than in the earlier days of factor X. New technology allows Robert to work with dynamics a lot more, so there is also room for silence, at times. Or, have one or two sounds going and let these work together for a while. The twelve pieces on this seventy-seven-minute disc aren't easy, but when you take a few t a time, this is a great showcase. (FdW)
––– Address: https://www.facebook.com/OTCRAH.Records
––– Address: https://shaunrobert.bandcamp.com/
+DOG+ - X8 (CDR by Love Earth Music)
LACKTHROW - DIFFICULT TO MAINTAIN (CDR by Love Earth Music)
ABRASION ADDICT - BRUTALIST DETRITUS (CDR by Love Earth Music)
CHEFKIRK & CRANK STURGEON - NICE TO ERR WITH YOU (2CDR by Love Earth Music)
There are labels with low output, and there are labels with high output ... And then there is Love Earth Music. Based in Massachusetts, US, LEM is the brainchild of Steve Davis. Next to releases from himself and several recurrent names, it's also a label where you can expect stuff you didn't know you would like. That is: If you want noise, abrasive sounds, drones, depth and confrontation. Guess what: I do.
The first release of this batch is Steve himself with his +DOG+ project. "X8" is the eighth in the X-series, as I started to call it. From what I learned, there is not really a conceptual approach to these releases, although, in the titles, there is always 'something' to connect the tracks, so this time it's trees. Six tracks range from 3 to 26 minutes, and trees range from a "Palm" to "Eucalyptus". Before you ask: The eucalyptus can be a shrubbery and a tree, so we're good in the conceptual part.
"Pine" is a noisescape of 25 minutes and, as a pine, is based on a solid trunk reaching into the sky. "Oak" is a bit more erratic, with branches all over the place. I even hear the processionary caterpillar infestation there, I think. "Birch" is a bit bleaker in its sound, but with the massiveness of the previous tracks, that's a good buildup to "Maple", which is an almost ambient exercise. "Eucalyptus" starts with a heavy analogue vibe, slowly generating something very minimal, and "Palm" is a sturdy heavy trunky piece of noise. These 'X'-files by +DOG+ are a joy to listen to each time again.
The second CDr in this batch is "Difficult To Maintain" by Lackthrow. A new name for me, so I have no idea what to expect. The man behind Lackthrow is Andrew Powell, and he's active and has been active in quite some projects, of which Lackthrow seems to be the most productive. He's had releases on snip-snip, RRR, ShitNoise, ThrashFuck and two years ago, even one on Oxidation: a split with Government Alpha. So this gives us a direction towards what to expect, and well, yep, you're right.
"Difficult To Maintain" is a full CD - 79 minutes - of abrasive in-your-face harsh noise cut-up sample-based madness with only an occasional moment to recuperate and continue your journey. Please note that this should not be considered HNW because, in contradiction to a conversation I had earlier this week, there is a vast difference between harsh noise and HNW. And this is no HNW: There is far too much happening. This album should fit fans of japnoise and cut-up noise, and for me - a bit more of a droner - this also provides as there are enough phrases in here to get 'into' a particular sound or structure. Those phrases could have been longer, but as I said: That's personal. Well done!
Again a new name, being Abrasion Addict. I've googled my butt off and can't get much more info than the location of origin is the UK, and he or she or they released several things in 2022. The sound on "Brutalist Detritus" is a bit of a crossover between harsh noise and industrial and experimental influences. The total playing time is under 40 minutes, divided into six tracks. And there, we have a nice difference with the previously reviewed album. Because of the division into six tracks, it's much more decided upon what the sonic journey of each track is about, creating longer phrases in a certain setting and therefore creating a particular ambience or maybe atmosphere in which you can drown/suffocate/enjoy yourself.
The title track has a post-industrial, almost death-industrial feel in the background over which abrasive noises are layered. "Death Throes" and "Metallic Enslavement" are comparable to the harsher parts of the first track, while "Flesh And Steel As One" also uses more feedback and filtering. The final two tracks are a separate story: "Purgatory" follows the title track in 'harsh layers upon an old school background', but the choice for both is very nicely done. The track creates a sort of vacuum in comparison to the other tracks, even when it's just as abrasive. The final track, "Release", is a beauty. Lots of cut-ups, proper use of silence and reverb between the separate sounds. I wouldn't mind hearing more in this style.
The final one of this LEM Batch is a 2CDR and a collaboration between Chefkirk and Crank Sturgeon. And yes, these are very well-known names, and I shamefully admit I hardly know anything about them. < insert some silence for research time >
That was some well-spent time. These guys know very well what they're doing. Both are active in the same(ish) music regions, yet how they get there is entirely different. They are both active in working with small sounds, which can be samples, through contact mics or synthesized, but... Most sounds are short staccato; the composition is either made up of those sounds or manipulated looped versions of micro compositions. It's a part of the experimental scene I don't often visit, so it's nice to learn something new.
The two CDs are filled with experiments and, although intriguing, are also kind of tiring to listen to in one session. You're constantly thrown from sound to sound and can't focus. I mean: This is not music for when you're working. But as said, they know what they're doing exactly, resulting in the (for example) almost danceable "Very Capable Fatherly Figurine Correction". Another highlight of the first disc is "Fascination Aspiration Repudiation", with the whispering vocals of (I think) Crank. As a whole, I am drawn towards disc two a bit more because that's where there is more use of the longer sounds or before mentioned 'looped structures', resulting in a more atmospheric approach. (BW)
––– Address: http://www.loveearthmusic.com/
MICHAEL RIDGE - MORE MICROCASSETTE SESSIONS (CDR by Quagga Curious Sounds)
In the same week that I recieve the factor X/Shaun Robert CDRs, there is also Michael Ridge's 'More Microcassette Sessions'. There is a wholly big scene of people working with microcassettes, mainly as instruments, although I believe thre are also labels. Ridge clearly belongs to the first and he works with found microcassettes from answering machines and recorded also some field recordings. The music he recorded on a Sanyo TRC-530M Talk-Book. Luckily the release is on a CDR, which is easier to enjoy. I have no idea how many machines Ridge uses to create these recordings, but it's either quite a few, or he constantly overlays his recordings. Four pieces are relatively short, between two and five minutes, and have that found sound quality. Especially the trumpet in the shower improvisation along with an answering machine recording ('Trumpet Shower', is a well-chosen title), which is more a random sound approach. However, the longest of the pieces is 'Untitled', clocking in at seventeen minutes, which is an interesting 'down in the basement drone session, captured on a microcassette, instruments unknown', sort of thing. It might involve some guitar work, amplifiers, and feedback, and certainly has that excellent New Zealand underground quality. Not extremly loud, but one that works very well if you like your drones to be lo-fi, mildly distorted and utterly obscure; I am a fan of this. Also the final piece, 'Reversed Extended Loop', being exactly that , with voices, is a similar low drone affair, and works very well; too brief, sadly. A bit short, this release, but very enjoyable. (FdW)
––– Address: https://quaggacurious.wordpress.com/
CORRADO MARIA DE SANTIS - RUINS (cassette by Midira Records)
I am sure I only heard a handful of releases by Midira Records, a German record label. I am not sure, but this is my first encounter with the music of Corrado Maria de Santis from Italy. He plays "improvised guitar with electronically generated sounds, creating soundscapes and drones broken by glitches". Many of the releases on Midira Records deal with some guitar music; usually looped ad Infinitum, covered in a warm bath of reverb. As such, I believe this release is only partly along such lines. The wall of sound approach, created by an abundance of guitars, building into one big orchestral blast is indeed one approach that more musicians take on this label, but alongside De Santis uses stretches of sound, digital glitches blow up, perhaps, that may be more unusual in this field. De Santis likes his music to be forcefully present; there is hardly any escape here. The music is brutal in some ways, but not storming up a big noise. The overall themes are 'city' and 'ruins', and as such, that's easy to see. Think of destruction, war, decay and time in general, and the ruins lay bare at your feet. The digital glitches are part of that remains, sparkles of dust flying around in this orchestral madness. Despite the darkness and the desolation of the music, I enjoyed this excellent combination of massive guitar drones and computer-processed sounds. I am not all too knowledgeable about the guitar-slingers of this world, but I think De Santis' combining of the two is not something I heard a lot. (FdW)
––– Address: https://midirarecords.bandcamp.com/
JOSEPH BLANE - THE SPIDER ROOM (cassette by Submarine Broadcasting Company)
A new name here, Joseph Blane, who one day went into an old, derelict school one night, armed with an electric guitar and a cheap Sony recorder. In the music room he found some smelly rotten old music instruments (his words, not mine), like a piano, violin, a filthy Iirsh flute, a smelly harmonica, a cracked glockenspiel and a percussive egg. The latter plays the lead on the second side. So, what was intended to be a solo thing on guitar turned into something layered. I assume that Blane recorded some of these instruments and back home he cut and pasted these into the two compositions on this cassette. Which is a bit contrary to his notion that "this debut album is entirely improvised, recorded in one take". Going wild at times, sure, but throughout there is quite a bit of control. Espeically on the first side, 'Beneath The Dust', there are loops of sound that pop in and out; two notes on the piano here, a tinkle of the glockenspiel, and some more scratching on the violin and guitar. Blane calls this "free-form avant-garde noise jazz". That jazz aspect we find more on the second side, with deals less with organisation using loops. The first side is one I enjoyed best, exactly for that reason of organisation. On 'Above The Dust', the egg ticks away time, very organised, but the instruments around are loosely played and, especially, the guitar is a bit too jazzy for my taste. All in all, quite a nice debut. (FdW)
––– Address: https://submarinebroadcastingco.bandcamp.com/
COMFORT LINK - CEMENT MUSIC (cassette by Spleen Coffin)
BAO NGUYEN - ASCENT AND DECENT (cassette by Spleen Coffin)
P'DERRIGERREO - LIVE IN (A) BASEMENT (cassette by Spleen Coffin)
Spleen Coffin is one of those record labels that releases music that is very much (usually) up our alley, and yet also seems to be introducing a lot of new names. This round means three introductions, but not always with a lot of information. Alright, I'm laying; I reviewed two tracks of Comfort Link before, on the 7x7: Vol. 3 compilation (Vital Weekly 1291), but now we have a proper introduction. For instance, abut Comfort Link we learn nothing, except that reel-to-reel tape manipulation is at the very basis of the music. On these tapes we find voices, guitars, bass or organ, along with radio static and feedback; yes, I am copying the label's info here. I am not sure if I would have 'guessed' the reel-to-reel thing by listening to the music. Sure, the broken loop is something that is an indeed a feature in some of these pieces, but throughout it is all not as abstract as it could have been. Comfort Link has an interesting edge towards classic industrial music. Be it, the slow Throbbing Gristle inspired bass thump and electronics of 'Transparant Framing', or synth dirge of 'Piping'. Sometimes this results in more harsher noise, from the world of power electronics. The element of decay, when the tapes start to loose their magnetics, is something that only plays a smaller role here. To what extent other techniques (splicing, editing, reversing etc) are used, I am not sure, but I very much enjoyed the results here. It's noisy, it's finished pieces of music, rather than lengthy soundscapes and there is some great variation in these pieces.
The name Bao Nguyen suggests a musician from Vietnam, but it's also the (sparse!) information here, saaying that "the songs on Ascent & Descent interpolate a series of Vietnamese Buddhist and Catholic Prayers". And yet, of course, that can be someone from an different country. A long cassette here, ninety minutes with eigth pieces of music. This is some radical music. I know nothing about Buddhist prauers, or even Catholic ones (as a good Catholic boy, I don't care, repent on my last day and go straight to heaven; no need for prayers), so I have no frame of reference here. The opening piece, 'Here And Now' is a true chant. Layered singing, recorded in what could be a church or temple (but, all the same, could be something with a lot of reverb). 'Day And Night' is, perhaps, the same piece but then slowed down a couple of pitches and it becomes a beautiful piece of drone music. So far, so good. In other pieces there is no continious singing, or not to the same extent anyway and mixed with field recordings (or simply standing outside in the rain while recording), makes some of these pieces more sound poetry, which I didn't always very easy to listen too. Maybe theremis that underlining ritual aspect that is lost on the listener, cut off in time and place. Maybe I need to be a more spiritual person to 'get' this music? I admit I am a happy outsider, and I judge this on aesthetics rather than inside knowledge. I enjoyed most of the music and some I found a bit trubling but with the amount of music here that's hardly a problem.
Much shorter is the release by the oddly named P'derrigerreo. Again no names of members or lists of instruments. Or an address for the basement where they taped their madness. A bunch of microphones to sing, or record a sxophone or accordion. Sometimes they use a rhythm machine. The reel-to-reel machine might never be far away. We're dealing with some true madness here. No tracks are alike. The first side has four pieces, which opens with 'Corpulent Ether', which is a dark and rusty piece of tape manipulation in the best mid-80 tape tradition. This is followed by a stomping piece on guitar and rhythm, multi-layered vocals, which reminded me of Renaldo & The Loaf; wacky pop-like music, which is also at the basis of 'What Am I Saying'. Chaotic, vague and funny. 'Morning Clouds' closes the first side and here the saxophone player is on the roof, the microphone in the basement and a solemnly played piece of music is the result. 'The Endless House' takes up the entire B-side and here we return to that 80s cassette-vibe. Dark and minimalist synthesizer tones, voices from TV (I imagine), and there is a creepy vibe in this piece. Slowly all of this morphs into a collage of unsteady sounds, like record played at various speeds (or somebody fiddling with pitch control on the recorder) and it still has that haunted house quality. Weird doesn't describe this cassette, but I though the variety of music was great. (FdW)
––– Address: https://spleencoffin.com/
ISHMAEL REED - THE HANDS OF GRACE (CDR by Reading Group)
As the self-proclaimed chief of VW, let me take this opportunity to say that I think we receive too much jazz music. And writing about one brings in another, and then two more. And then, suddenly, it's too many. Whereas jazz music is not why I started Vital Weekly in the first place. It is a mild side interest for some of our writers. Maybe Reading Group thought VW is a fine source for jazz music reviews, but we're not. Especially not the kind of jazz that is on offer by Ishmael Reed. I won't repeat what's in the booklet about the composer and his works. This is very smooth jazz music and nothing for Vital Weekly. Please don't send us this kind of jazz, please. Please! (FdW)
––– Address: https://readinggroup.co/