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MICHEL BANABILA - ALL CONNECTED (CD by Stealth Records) *
MICHEL BANABILA & RADBOUD MENS & MARCO DOUMA - LIVE 2015 (CD by Stealth Records) *
ERIC LA CASA - INTERIEURS (CD by Swarming) *
LA BREICHE - LE RITE (CD by Cold Spring) *
WORSEL STRAUSS & SHANI WOLF - EIGENWERT (CD by Analog Musiq) *
NEPTUNIAN8 - PAREIDOLIA (CD by Formik Records) *
PATRYK ZAKROCKI - POST-PANDEMIC MUSIC (CD by Bolt Records) *
STRYCHARSKI & DRAZKOV - PLANTEA CARNOVORAE (CD by Bolt Records) *
DE FABRIEK - REMIX VOLUME 9 (CD by De Fabriek Records & Tapes) *
JEAN-JACQUES BIRGÉ – PERSPECTIVES FOR THE 22ND CENTURY (CD by MEG-AIMP/Word and Sound)
JOANNA MATTREY – VEILED (CD by Relative Pitch Records)
REIZEN - WORKS, 2020 (CD by Senufo Editions) *
MARK TEMPLETON - OCEAN FRONT PROPERTY (CD + photobook by Senufo Editions) *
RAPOON - VERNAL CROSSING (2LP by Abstrakce Records) *
RENATO GRIECO & FRANCESCO TIGNOLA - HIBERNACULA (CDR by Glistening Examples) *
SAVVAS METAXAS - DETACH (CDR by Glistening Examples) *
JASON LESCALLEET - THE FRECKLESS REAMER (CDR by Glistening Examples) *
SPIKES (CDR compilation by Econore)
GÜNTHER SCHLIENZ/JEANS BEAST (split cassette by Econore)
JEANS BEAST/FELIX-FLORIAN TÖDTLOFF (split cassette by Econore)
BENE GESSERIT & MAL - CONFINED (three cassettes by Insane Music) *
MICHEL BANABILA - ALL CONNECTED (CD by Stealth Records)
MICHEL BANABILA & RADBOUD MENS & MARCO DOUMA - LIVE 2015 (CD by Stealth Records)
Here we have a new label, Stealth Records, and I mistakenly thought this was a new enterprise by Michel Banabila, with releases from below the radar (hence the name), as both of these are limited to just 100 copies. Maybe it is the current forces of the market that will keep it all this limited and if so, that's a sad thing. The first release is not a new Michel Banabila as such, even when most of the releases have not been heard before, but it is rather a primer for what Banabila does. And that is a lot of different things. He has a lot of solo releases, which go all over the place, from straight ambient music to modern classical, rhythmic music (techno, world) and even a bit more brutal electronic music. Then there are also many collaborations he does, some of which can be found here. With electronic musicians such as Machinefabriek and Radboud Mens, but also with violinist Oene van Geel or Mayana Golovchenko. If Michel Banabila is a name you heard but not the music that he made, then this is a great place to start. It may move all over the place, from the slow-developing techno beat of the title piece to introspective violin in 'Amal' (with Salar Asid), strange organ stabs of 'Intermission' (inspired the Residents, perhaps?), voice improvisation with Golovchenko, the slow ambient rhythms he produces with Radboud Mens in a fine ambient house mode. One could think that Banabila touches upon many grounds and that it is perhaps too much. I would take a different position, however, in this case. If the musician wants to dip into so many styles, we simply have no alternative than to follow him and enjoy his many musical interests. It is not for the narrow-minded, I'd think, but for those people who are always open to experiencing something new. Just as Banabila is on a similar path of discovery. Sported by a lovely cover of Banabila's studio, re-created in cardboard by his daughter Nina.
Banabila worked with Radboud Mens occasionally, but as far as I know (in the vast catalogue of Banabila one can easily get lost) not much of that ever materialized into a release. On the disc 'Live 2015' we find two long pieces; they are both from 2015 and is by Banabila and Mens recorded as Le Guess Who and the other one at the Steim Summer Party and here Marco Douma also performed along with the duo. His contribution didn't make it to the disc as he's a video artist. His images are on the backside of the cover. I know the music of both gentlemen quite well, and I am quite surprised by what I hear. Sure, Radboud Mens made some great minimal techno records (for the long-lost Audio.NL label) and Banabila is also known to dabble with a fair share of rhythm, but in these two lengthy pieces they slowly construct a fine ambient house sound. You can hear the long building up of pieces, via a path of dark ambient sounds and little by little bits of the rhythm, are unveiled until you realize at a certain point it's all swinging back and forward; a full-formed ambient house track in progress. Mens brings his glitches to the table, but he expands them into a formal house beat, and the melodic touches might be Banabila's. Voices from deep space are used, just as the forefathers did of this music ages ago (well, all right, twenty-five years ago). There are lengthy passages between the beat pieces, the chill-out phases of the compositions and here both men show their talents as gifted improvisers. This is some sixty minutes of a pleasant trip down memory lane or just an early summer party. Hell, or both! Do you see what I mean? Lovely CDs, so why only 100 copies of both? (FdW)
––– Address: https://stealthrec.bandcamp.com/
ERIC LA CASA - INTERIEURS (CD by Swarming)
Eric La Casa introduces his new album with the prophetic text: “I spend more time inside than outside”. Of course, once Covid-19 hit, people all over the world suddenly/independently got the same idea that La Casa did and we all began examining our own indoor spaces. “Interieurs” was composed long before the pandemic, though, so it’s a mere coincidence that “Interieurs” is so timely right now. As the title makes clear, the album is built from recordings of inside spaces… though as can be expected from La Casa, he transforms seemingly prosaic ideas into sonic poetry and rich drama. He organizes the album by breaking “inside” into three sections: his apartment, work space, and gallery/museum space. This isn’t the first time that La Casa has created work that digs into interior urban environments: “Air.Ratio” captured the sounds of rushing air, “Metro Pre. St Gervais” explored a specific Paris subway station (aided by Dan Warburton and Eric Cordier), and so on. But this album is different in that it’s explicitly autobiographical, based on La Casa’s own “personal ecosystem”. The first and longest section is the most opaque of the three; La Casa narrates the piece by telling us where in his apartment he’s recording, then we hear some of the sounds captured there. It reminds of me tac’s “Objects”, which also had the artist speaking directly to the listener, telling us exactly what the source is of the sounds we’re about to hear, and then letting us hear them. La Casa is not interested in objects, though. What he captures is the acoustic properties of seemingly-silent spaces. He walks us around his apartment, giving the listener an audio tour of his urban home. The vestibule, kitchen, bedroom, the toilet and so on. The sounds here are minimal: aside from La Casa’s voice, we can hear open air, electric buzz, voices subtly bleeding in from adjacent apartments… and, most interestingly, the silences that change in different size rooms, different materials on the walls, perhaps different insulation or possible openings to other rooms. The section works best on headphones in a silent listening environment, as the subtleties get lost otherwise. Moving to the workspace, La Casa stops narrating and the music becomes more abstracted from its source elements with the artist taking a more hands-on compositional approach. Tumbling motion and different densities of sonic material are spliced rapidly against one another in dramatic jolts. Footfalls cut abruptly into the deep boom of a cavernous hallway, which slams against close-mic’d water bubbling. Compared to the linearity of the first piece, this one has vertical depth with layers of sounds in conversation with one another. Same for the museum/gallery sounds in the third piece, which buzzes with electricity and resonant hums. Of the three pieces, this is the most static… elements are allowed to linger for a few minutes, shifting sideways to develop rather than cutting away to a new texture so often. Chances are, you’ve heard a lot of experimental-type musicians making work that explores their inside spaces within the past several months, but Eric La Casa’s voice and sense of dramatic urgency is unique and worth experiencing. (HS)
––– Address: https://swarming.bandcamp.com/
LA BREICHE - LE RITE (CD by Cold Spring)
La Breiche is a project by Patrick Lafforgue (Hantaoma, Stille Volk) and Yan Arexis (Stille Volk and previously part of ritual icons Cober Ord). “Le Rite” is the successor to “Le Mal Des Ardents”, which was released in 2017, also by Cold Spring. I did get a chance to listen to the latter when it came out, so I’m curious to hear how their sound has developed since then, as that first album was one of a kind. I’m going to do a track-by-track review, also because it’s hard to give an overall idea of what these guys are doing without speaking in too general terms.
Opener “Incipit” is a slow ascent to the top of a hill where the ritual will take place. A two-part brass section incites the participants to continue upwards through the cold morning air. Subsequently, title track “Le Rite” is a melancholic post-rock dirge accompanied by moody reverberated lamentation that alternates with spoken word parts. Unlike a lot of post-rock tracks, Le Rite doesn’t work towards any resolving climax. It just lingers on until it ends, which is fine if, like me, you didn’t expect anything in particular to happen. “Démiurg Thaumathurge” starts with an ethereal dirge that suddenly plummets back to earth into the fire where its embers slowly burn, awaiting its inevitable phoenix-like return. However, quite unexpectedly, it dies out with a solemn voice slowly lamenting its demise. “Gaestebud”, the fourth track, does a Novy Svet kind of thing, albeit ever so briefly. “Exuvie” is another track that seems to head into one direction, only to take you aback and float up into the grey skies. It begins in a fashion that is reminiscent of Tortoise or even later Air tracks with a broken guitar chord and processed voices, to then u-turn into a Amesoeur kind of mid-tempo black metal-light with whispered vocals. The track has a pleasant atmosphere, but seems a little wonkily recorded and isn’t very memorable either. Then again, that may just have been the intention.
“Senta Méra” again does a similar kind of Tortoise thing but stays on track. The distant vocals give it a pleasant melancholic sting, but at one point the guitar seems to want to drown out the voice, which was an odd choice to me. Still, at the finish line, all ends peacefully. “Etter Regnet” sees the return of the brass section which gives the track a wonderfully subdued, misty feeling, which made me think of the work of Tor Lundvall a bit. Then it suddenly ploughs on with some vintage 8bit electronic percussion, which is another choice I didn’t really get. Which is to say; I do enjoy La Breiche’s experimentalism and Le Mal Des Ardents seemed very carefully crafted in that sense, however, this record shows some - to my ears - slightly jarring creative choices, as if we’re offered the album with its interwoven outtakes. Or perhaps that La Breiche tries to be profoundly atmospheric on the one hand, while at the same time can’t help themselves but offer unexpected experimental feints along the way that break that very atmosphere.
“Exorcisme Apocryphe” is another ethereal progressive piece, that borders on 00s post-rock but adds enough interesting sound choices to not merely be derivative of that. This track lingers on as well with its two-chord progression without taking an unexpected turn - which may be an odd thing to be critical about, just after stating that unexpected choices break the atmosphere, but I feel there was more to be discovered in the setup of this track, which didn’t come out. “Homélie Du Tréspassé” gets more interesting as it seems to meander between again Novy Svet-like cabaret noir and outright Prunes weirdness concerning the vocal delivery. “Monastery” gives us a polyphonic choir piece that flows across a slowly mechanical beat, which is well done. The track then continues with that beat but adds what seems like a lute loop with some bit-crushed echoes. The voices return briefly in a way that made me think of early C93 which was quite nice as well.
A vocal loop opens “Ekklesia”, which then segues into a chord drone ambient piece with Seven Pines-esque singing. Finally, “My Celestial Journey” gives us a guitar folk improvisation with stone percussion, until halfway through it dashes off into another direction with a vocal loop, but then changes its mind again and decides to continue with a lofi electronic percussion loop.
Just like the description of the album’s themes in the promo text, Le Rite feels more or less like a collection of loosely related ideas that aim to establish their atmospheric realms, rather than building something that is also musically powerful and to some extent uniform - which is what the title seems to suggest. Obviously, this by itself isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it very much comes down to how the atmospheres present themselves and the ideas and elements that establish them. Some of these ideas are original, fit well together or manage to surprise; others seem somewhat out of place or not developed enough to really impress, or stick. As a whole it has a consistent atmosphere for the most part, but - and this is more critical about the promo writing than the album itself - it lacks the strong song-writing of the bands that it is compared to by the promotional text (e.g. Sigur Rós, Wolves in the Throne Room). I’d say a band like Common Eider King Eider would be more fitting when it comes to comparable atmospheric experimental bands. All in all, it might also be that this is an album that could grow on me. Still, the debut album of La Breiche managed to convince me the first time around, which sadly hasn’t happened now. Perhaps check it out yourself if you liked the first one. (LdW)
––– Address: https://coldspring.co.uk/
WORSEL STRAUSS & SHANI WOLF - EIGENWERT (CD by Analog Musiq)
NEPTUNIAN8 - PAREIDOLIA (CD by Formik Records)
In the note along with this CD, I was reminded that on the previous occasion I heard music by Worsel Strauss (Vital Weekly 1036) I am reminded that I wasn't too enthusiastic about the result. Not too experimental, not too different or compelling, if I remember well. The new release sees Strauss working with Shani Wolf. They know each other since their teenage years and collaborated before. Their release is all about the rich heritage of German electronic music; hence the title, which translates as 'intrinsic value'. You can think about the electronic studios in Cologne, of Kraftwerk, of Krautrock and the duo uses vintage instruments; a list of instruments is provided on the inside of the sleeve, listing per track which apparatus is used. What was once new is now old, and they are aware of that and label their music 'retronica'. It no longer has the 'mainstream and experimental' thing attached to it, and this album is free-up from such pretensions, which is great. The element of krautrock is certainly a presence in these motorik, sequencer pieces ('Taking A New Town' is a great one), but above all, there is a fine element of pop music in these pieces, which I enjoyed very much. Thie melodies are great and the rhythms are mostly up-tempo, with just enough down-tempo songs to make a fine balance. A bit of this is techno-based, others dip in the song of minimal wave, Elektro and whatever else there is in the market of poppy electronic niches. With most of the tracks being three minutes long, there is further evidence that pop music was very much on these men's minds. On a hot, sunny day such as I am experiencing today, this is the perfect soundtrack to sit back, read a book and do nothing.
Although I don't like to lump these things together, it is easy to go straight into the release by Neptunian8, the musical project from S-Virus. Active in music since 1994, but using this particular name since 2005 for a project that has many influences; electronica, IDM, ambient, Illbient, XP, Nu-Jazz and film music (and a lot more). I reviewed his 'Scyphozoa' in Vital Weekly 813, which is about 8 years ago, so I'll be excused if I don't recall it. re-reading my old review, while listening to this new release is almost like reading something that could be re-used again. Words as 'dark and haunting', 'a tinkle on the piano', ' illbient/triphop/downtempo' and 'excellent production' easily apply to the ten pieces on this release. The new element is the use of vocals, from various female vocalists, adding a fine poppy touch the songs. It is certainly something that could be explored more, I think, even when the music then drifts further away from what we write about. Throughout Neptunian8 has more variety to offer than Strauss/Wolf, who keep all the tracks closer to home and here bounce over the place. From dream-pop of 'To Lve With You A Free Love' and the dramatic filmic excursion of 'Prosopagnosie 78' to the more straight forward techno-inspired 'Cold rain Around Black Eyes'. Although I enjoyed it, almost on a similar level as Strauss/Wolf (surrounding by books and coffee that is), I think it is also a step further away from ou usual digest, so I am also a bit clueless, to be honest. (FdW)
––– Address: http://amsq.de
––– Address: http://neptunian8.bandcamp.com
PATRYK ZAKROCKI - POST-PANDEMIC MUSIC (CD by Bolt Records)
STRYCHARSKI & DRAZKOV - PLANTEA CARNOVORAE (CD by Bolt Records)
As much as I would love to tell you that the release by Patryk Zakrochi is a response to the current pandemic situation, I can't find evidence it is. There are no recording dates on the website or the cover of the CD. There is a quote from Pessoa though about personal hygiene. Maybe this was all recorded and produced in the past few months? By now we know Bolt Records to be a label of mostly serious modern composition and improvised music (as we see in a bit), and as such this is no different, and yet, it is different. First, the music is played by one person, Patryk Zakrocki and the cover lists all the instruments he plays and in which of the five pieces. There is viola, chromatic mbira, vibraphone, chromatic bells, crotales, bells, metallophone, marimba, xylophone, various Moog synths, acoustic guitar, lap steel guitar, metal objects, typewriter, tuning forks and field recordings (the list is longer than this). The only thing he didn't do is the voice on the last track 'Le Corbusier's Shower', which is from Olga Myslowska. The way I hear these pieces of music, I would think Zakrocki pretty much sketched everything out, which instrument goes where, what notes to play, and then he sets himself to work, even when in the final bit, the mixing stage, there is room for last-minute changes and effects. In 'Ocean Tide', for instance, there is much room for the use of reverb. This one-man orchestra plays some very interesting music; it is somewhere in that strange borderland of modern composition, ambient, field recordings, drones and radio play. The overall feeling I got from all the pieces, not just the last one with the quotes from le Corbusier, is a strong dramatic feel. Maybe that is because Zakrocki has a fine balance between the abstract and the melodic, the big droney gestures versus the small melodic interjections. The typewriter-as-drum machine in Hint Of A Human' is a great idea (quite different than Satie's 'Socrate') and with its synth melody almost a great pop song. Oddly enough the piece with the quotes, the final one on the disc, was the one I least favoured.
The other new release is about carnivorous plants and there is a text in Latin on the site. The music is by Dominik Strycharski, who plays "recorders, vox, electronica" and Barbara Drazkov, responsible for "prepared upright piano". The music they play is also something we should expect from Bolt Records, just as with Zakrocki, and also, I think, again, it is just a bit something else. Here too we are in a borderland, but now without the musique concrète of the previous, and with a lot more jazz influences. Sure, the electronics play their part in adding strange textures but it is the improvisation on the recorders and piano that make pretty much all the music. The prepared piano sounds like a piano (obviously!), but with Drazkov using the inside as well, plucking the strings, playing the body, it becomes a string instrument and more percussive. On top, there is the flute of Strycharski, meditative, joyous, sad or downright abstract when there is more use of the electronics. In 'Droseraceae' the mood turns all smokey nightclub, with singing and barroom piano playing along with some stranger sounds, creating an alien atmosphere. In 'Ericales', on the other hand, it all seems to owe more to the world of modern classical music and with the electronics used, also to that of electro-acoustic music. All of that makes up for some excellent variation in the music and even someone as myself, not always too keen on jazz/improvisation, found this a most enjoyable album, playing it twice in a row. (FdW)
––– Address: http://boltrecords.pl/
DE FABRIEK - REMIX VOLUME 9 (CD by De Fabriek Records & Tapes)
Emerging from the 1980s cassette scene De Fabriek is still releasing subversive music. Recently De Fabriek, or constant member Richard van Dellen, has been releasing a series of 'Remix' albums. These albums are born out of the same spirit of those early cassette releases and collaboration. De Fabriek is now up the ninth instalment of the Remix series, with the latest being the strongest and most cohesive to date.
The concept is simple, van Dellen has a revolving door of friend, collaborators and conspirators who send him tracks, samples and sound material. Van Dellen then mixes it all into something that makes him smile. ‘And now for something completely different’ kicks the album off. After an ident for Nova FM, including some wayward guitar from Neil Young, and some radio patter the song gets underway with massive beats, hypnotic samples and (trip)Hip-hop vibes. It is one of my sedate tracks on the album. This gives away to ‘In Mijn Dromen Part One’ that opens with lullaby chime before a vocal sample about aliens. ‘Tomita and the Gremlins’ is one of the standout tracks. It traverses bass culture with skittering beats, glitchy vocal samples and the aforementioned basslines. In a way, it lives up to its name as the backing synths are as exquisite as a Tomita track and all the noise in the fore could very well be some gremlins having a catch-up. It also feels like peak Squarepusher, from his 90s abrasive output. ‘RamBam’ is full of delightful percussion riffs all stuttering over each other. The results are a hypnotic cacophonous deluge. As ‘RamBam’ progresses the skittering becomes more intense it reaches a peak, before mixing into the next track.
What ‘Remix Volume 9’ does incredibly well is that it offers a continuous wonky stream of musical consciousness for 73 minutes. As the songs flow into one another you are taken on a musical journey that incorporates cut and paste, bass culture, musique concrete, rock, and sound collages. The beauty of ‘Remix Volume 9’ is that you don’t actually know who is on each track. In all fairness that doesn’t matter as the music speaks for itself. It is everything we’ve come to expect from De Frabriek and quite possibly a little bit more too.
––– Address: https://defabriek.bandcamp.com/
JEAN-JACQUES BIRGÉ – PERSPECTIVES FOR THE 22ND CENTURY (CD by MEG-AIMP/Word and Sound)
A new album of veteran Jean-Jacques Birgé, best known for his pioneering work with French unit Un Drame Musical Instantané. This ensemble stopped activity near the end of the 90s, but Birgé didn’t, as a look on his website makes clear. He keeps surprising with engaging projects, like ‘The 100th Anniversary (1952-2052)’ that was released in 2018. For his latest work, he was commissioned by the Ethnographic Museum of Geneva (MEG). To introduce this work first some background information. This museum keeps The Archives Internationales de Musique Populaire (AIMP), founded by Romanian Constantin Brăiloiu in 1944. Over the years the museum expanded her collection of ethnomusicological sound documents that would grow over the years. Several years ago the MEG started a series of recordings “devoted to contemporary creations composed based on its sound archives”, by inviting artists to shed new light on these old recordings. This new album of Jean-Jacques Birgé is the fifth title in this series. Let’s have a closer look at his work. Along what procedures did he proceed? Birgé, who never worked before with recordings of traditional music, first selected recordings from the archive “corresponding to my narrative synopsis. I then placed them on the timeline of each piece. After adding the ambient sounds, mainly field recordings, I recorded my instrumental parts and worked on some effects, before inviting the musicians to my studio to fill in the structure.” So at the start, there was a fictional narrative: survivors of a global disaster in 2152, discover the archives. For the survivors, these recordings function as a frozen memory of the past. They start to play with these tapes using musical instruments that were also untouched by the disaster. So the music comes to us from an imagined future, circling recording that predates our present days by decades. He selected 31 sections from archives with recordings from very different countries and cultures all recorded between 1930 and 1952. Musicians involved are Jean-François Vrod (violon), Antonin-Tri Hoang (bass clarinet, alto sax), Nicolas Chedmail (cor), Sylvain Lemêtre (percussion), Elsa Birgé (vocals) and Jean-Jacques Birgé (keyboards, field recording, flute, percussion, etc.). Besides Birgé invited 18 persons for their voices and vocals. He is a master in intriguingly combining very different ingredients making the whole far more than the sum of its parts. His constructions make you feel dwelling inside a giant memory-world, floating on a constant stream of flashes of sound and music of very different origin, time and place. Intertwined with another following some hidden logic that makes sense. Let’s take for example the piece ‘Meg 2152’ which is a gorgeous piece, using old Swiss recording of ‘Cor des Alpes’ and vocal music. Using respectfully the sensitivity of the old recordings, he discloses new possibilities from and with this material. Birgé’s daughter and Vrod sing two very different lines, Lemêtre provides percussive underlining and Chedmail on French horn concentrates on melody. Birgé adds field recordings, crystal organ and some other additions. Due to the integrative force and vision of Birgé, these different ingredients constitute something new. And that counts for every track on this wonderful release. (DM)
––– Address: https://www.ville-ge.ch/meg/publications_cd.php
JOANNA MATTREY – VEILED (CD by Relative Pitch Records)
Joanna Mattrey is a young violist and composer active in contexts of both new music and improvised music. She started playing the violin in her youth and never stopped since. She worked with Marc Ribot and the Young Philadelphians, Mary Halvorson, John Zorn, Erik Friedlander, Nick Dunston, a.o. From this list, one can conclude that she has her base in New York City's Downtown scene. More recently she works with musicians from the Neither/Nor collective: she participates in the trio Ancient Enemies, with alto saxophonist Nathaniel Morgan and Carlo Costa on drums; and since 2015 she is in Sean Ali’s trio with cellist Leila Bordreuil, that released the album 'I used to sing so lyrical' last year for Astral Spirits Records. With ‘Veiled’ she presents her first solo statement performing on viola and Stroh violin. The Stroh violin needs some explanation. This instrument was invented by John Stroh in 1899. The strings are mechanically amplified by a metal resonator and horn attached to its body, I learned from Wikipedia. In recent years this curious instrument was used by Tom Waits and Carla Kihlstedt. No doubt Mattrey choose it for its possibilities to explore sound possibilities of the violin, as this is what her music is about. For the same reason, she uses preparations to alter the sound of the viola. In ten improvisations she sharpens her ideas. Using and playing with distortion, overtones, timbre, dynamics, she creates deep resonating textures. Often melodic elements are hidden in the noisy and rough textures like in the opening track ‘Ferver’. Also ‘For the Thrall’ has a lovely ‘tune’, delicate and unpolished. As in many improvisations, she repeats certain phrases while changing timbre, dynamics, creating a nuanced sound spectrum. Sounds are often dissonant and mutated, scratchy and penetrating. Not very comforting textures, but in her sonic explorations she surely succeeds in unveiling the beauty of this sound world. And make it a rewarding listening experience. My response to ‘this kind’ of music often goes in two directions. First and mainly, I search to come as close as possible to the concrete sound world, with nothing in between that divides this closeness. On the other hand, this music triggers fantasy and imagination. (DM)
––– Address: http://www.relativepitchrecords.com/
REIZEN - WORKS, 2020 (CD by Senufo Editions)
MARK TEMPLETON - OCEAN FRONT PROPERTY (CD + photobook by Senufo Editions)
Atsushi Reizen's “Works, 2020” is an inscrutable bastard of an album. The first track, “Different Speeds for Decay Instruments”, is an austere piece for electric piano that seems as if it could have been auto-generated… though the front cover is adorned with a score, so it’s possible (though not certain) that Reizen himself played the thing in real time. Imagine someone describing Morton Feldman’s music to a beginning piano student, and having that student play what they think Feldman sounds like without ever actually hearing any actual Feldman piano music… and this is what you might get. Actually, "Different Speeds..." has some compositional similarity to Steve Reich’s phase music, though the end result is quite different. The music is outwardly simple and stark. It consists of just a few notes hovering within a vacuum of alien silence, plonking at a rate one note every five or six seconds. Each plonk sustains a bit, then fades away into blankness before the next one appears. It seems as if the electric piano notes are on loops running at slightly different speeds (hence the title) which drift slowly out of phase while altering slightly in pitch. After five minutes, we get (big event shock!) two short notes in quick succession. Then some stereo plonks. Whoa! That’s what counts as action here. After fifteen minutes or so, the frequency of plonks increases a tiny amount… there’s even a surprise chord (!!!) after twenty-two minutes, which in this context is so exciting. That the piece lasts for nearly half an hour without any major change in density or pacing is heaven for those who love self-defeating sound as much as I do. And yet, there’s a careful beauty here that’s hard to describe without experiencing the piece in full a few times over. The second piece, “Music for Glass, Plastic and Rubber”, is similarly forbidding with a limited palette of thonks and taps encased in antiseptic non-ambience. However, this piece is slightly faster-paced than the first and has relatively more events. Again, a small collection of component sounds cycle for a long stretch… but here, the rubber and glass have richer frequency range than the electric piano, making it somewhat less off-putting. There’s a slow rhythm of irregularly tapped objects that coalesce into something like a backbone for the piece, which gets truly strange when a sound like a voice or maybe a rubbed surface shows up eight minutes in.
Pretty much the exact opposite of “Works, 2020” is Mark Templeton’s warm and lush “Ocean Front Property”. The Canadian photographer/composer’s latest is an album of short song-like snapshots that’s vaguely within the post-“Endless Summer”-lineage of nostalgic smeared digital daydream. The album’s standout track is “Controlling Centre”, which sounds like easy-listening flute loops slathered in surface noise and laptop stutter, but ends with a jarringly wet fanfare. Elsewhere are tastefully pleasing, almost vaporwave-esque soft focus ditties for languorous guitar backed by new age tape loops, birdsong and the hiss of open air. “Ocean Front Property” isn’t something to grab you by the shoulders and demand attention, but it’s enjoyably unobtrusive and well made. Fans of Andrew Tasselmyer or Ian Hawgood will like this one. (HS)
––– Address: https://senufoeditions.bandcamp.com/
RAPOON - VERNAL CROSSING (2LP by Abstrakce Records)
Reissue culture is a very large part of the music industry these days. For a while it felt that there was little point buying an album as a deluxe reissue would be out in a few weeks anyway. But there is a time and a place where reissues do make sense, especially is the album is long to of print. This is what is happening to Robin Storey’s 1993 Rapoon album ‘Vernal Crossing’.
Abstrakce Records are re-releasing ‘Vernal Crossing’ on vinyl for the first time. This new version sounds crisper than the original and you can hear the dynamics of each track in greater detail.
As with the original release, this is full of hypnotic melodies that pull you into its undulating centre. The first thing you notice is how measured the tablas are. They are the backbone of every track. Instead of drawing our attention to them, they are the engine of every track and lurk in the background. At times they come to the fore, but this is by design, rather than overpower the music.
The reissue sees the addition of the track ‘Total Crossing’. From the opening moments, it immediately has a different vibe. Everything is wound slightly tighter and the hypnotic drones have more urgency to them. This might be down to its duration. At four and a half minutes it is one of the shortest songs on the album. It doesn’t have as long to get its point across. So, it comes out of the traps at a faster pace. At times it feels like the flipside to the rest of the album. Long meditative ragas are the order of the day, but ‘Total Crossing’ feels like what happens if you spend too much time in your head. There are paranoid motifs that appear and reappear, like a ghost from the past. It shows that Storey is still capable of getting under our skin be it through chilled out, and slightly hectic, soundscapes.
At its heart, the album is still a joyous mix of swirling electronics with organic drumming and vocals. This mixture is as captivating as it ever was, resulting in an album that blurs the line between man and machine. Abstrakce’s reissue of ‘Vernal Crossing’ still sounds great and doesn’t lose any of its original charm, or mystique. Hopefully, a wider audience might start to find, and fall under the spell, of this sadly overlooked gem. (NR)
––– Address: https://abstrakce.bandcamp.com/
RENATO GRIECO & FRANCESCO TIGNOLA - HIBERNACULA (CDR by Glistening Examples)
SAVVAS METAXAS - DETACH (CDR by Glistening Examples)
JASON LESCALLEET - THE FRECKLESS REAMER (CDR by Glistening Examples)
The approach to review here, was to start with the two artists that were the most unknown quantities for me, even when I first wrote down the name Renato Grieco for the first time last week. Back then he played the double bass with Cyanobacteria from the arabian gulf, now he teams up with Francesco Tignola. This time there are no instruments mentioned, but Bandcamp mentioned that the four pieces were "based on tape savagery and burdensome digital treatments of field and instrumental recordings, the surreal sketches were chopped and assembled in post-production". The original recording took place in July 2019 and in September the tracks were mixed. Listening to the music it is a bit unclear what kind of instruments were used, even when I think there were some. Maybe there has been some percussion or stringed instruments and a bunch of field recordings, including duelling doorbells. All of this is cut together in a style of montage/collage. Sometimes everything is mixed together like watercolours, flowing together and making up one large sketch. Sometimes this duo goes for a more radical approach, the scissor approach of cutting it all up and making hard cuts within the material. One could say that is the musique concrète approach they apply. They do their job pretty well, adding (digital?) effects of software processing, making it all more 2020 than 1960, going for surprise elements and extensive fields with slower development, i.e. perhaps being a bit more ambient in approach. It's good, it's fine and it's perhaps not the most original thing in this field, but that's not a bad thing.
From Savvas Mataxas I reviewed music before, both from the time he called himself Inverz and under his given name. On this new release, he presents four pieces he recorded in April 2020, "the month of the unprecedented Covid-19 lockdown. This new and sudden social situation inspired me to play music in a way that is different from the music I normally record". This time the music is recorded with headphones and it is quieter than before. Metaxas says he enjoyed the quietness of the music in the way it mixed with the quiet street sounds outside. Luckily I live in a quiet neighbourhood all year round, which allows me to play quiet music and sometimes enjoy the way they interact with the sounds from outside (see also last week's Pool Pervert review). Metaxas uses "synthesizers/blank tapes"; I assume these synthesizers are modular, but I am not sure (not being very knowledgeable about such things). I like quiet music, especially when it is still audible and that is, luckily, the case here. Metaxas plays four lengthy (around 10-12 minutes each) of drone pieces, in which there is only subtle movement. It stays on the same level for a while and just as you think nothing is changing, it of course does. The shifts are subtle and it takes quite a bit of time before fades have been fully realized. I was reminded of some recent work by MvK, sharing a similarly subtle approach. However, don't play this too loud, I noticed; then the sound becomes seriously annoying. There is much room in the music to find your personal preferences.
Also Covid-19 related is the release by label boss Jason Lescalleet. Two of the three tracks you can download for free from Bandcamp and were recorded as part of the Erstwhile Records' "AMPLIFY 2020: quarantine" online festival; "This festival to provide moral and financial support for artists struggling to cope with the inability to travel or perform publicly." The CDR contains an extra track, of 19 minutes and 19 seconds; the other tracks are both 11:11. The two free pieces seem to be straight forward field recording pieces. The first one is 'The Salmon Falls River', in which Lescalleet sits next to a river and records the gentle stream (without row, row your boat) and in 'Under The Bridge' he hides away for torrential rain and thunder under a bridge, and that architecture provides a fine resonant quality to the music. These pieces are nothing special and it's good to see these available for free. 'Not Going Anywhere' is the CDR-only piece and is a great mellow piece of found sound at the beginning, going nowhere and out of that slowly starts building drones, radio waves and hiss into a dense piece of atmospheric tunes, which slowly dies out and it turns out, so I believe that what experienced is the sound of electrical works around the house; the man, alone (?) shuffling about until we walk outside the room. This is a fine piece, textbook Lescalleet; going from all quiet to quite loud and back again, using low-end audio means. (FdW)
––– Address: https://glisteningexamples.bandcamp.com/
SPIKES (CDR compilation by Econore)
GÜNTHER SCHLIENZ/JEANS BEAST (split cassette by Econore)
JEANS BEAST/FELIX-FLORIAN TÖDTLOFF (split cassette by Econore)
Being known as not the world's greatest lover of compilations, I am always looking for that special edge in them; is there, for instance, a thematic approach. This is not the case, I would think with 'Spikes', a five group/person compilation by Econore. Maybe the overall guiding principle is improvised music? That is something that is a presence in all of these pieces. We start with Zwanze, a four-piece improvisation from Belgium (baritone saxophone, Moog guitar, violin, tape recorder) with an excellent piece of controlled aggression. All the time it sounds as if things are about to explode, but (spoiler alert), it doesn't. Sindre Bjerga goes on a scavenger hunt (I read his title as 'Stavanger Hunt', the town where he lives), with a great voice/tapes/electronics improvisation, culminating is some fine controlled feedback (spikes!) and which turns to be the loudest piece out of five. Matt Atkins has a trademark piece of small sounds and percussion, which can also be said of the drum improvisation by Francesco Gregoretti - a trademark piece. There are some fine electronics buried underneath this piece. We end on a more conventional note with a rocky improvisation by Mozo Mozo, for bass, guitar, saxophone and drums, going slowly wild and ending in a full-on free jazz madness at the end. It is a fine compilation, even though I am a bit puzzled by the question 'why do we have this compilation?'
The other two new releases by Econore are split cassettes and both have one side of music by Jeans Beast. I started with the one that contained new music by Günter Schlienz, as in recent years I have grown to like his music a lot. His side is called 'Gig On The Roof', perhaps 'Get Back' inspired by The Beatles and sitting next to a playground, as sounds from there made it to the recording. Schlienz plays his usual modular set-up and strums a bit on a guitar and that results in a very elegant recording that starts with some drones and slowly adds the guitar. This is some very relaxing music but that is Schlienz' trademark. Jeans Beast just plays guitar and tape loops and keep his 'Riemen/Schleichen' in spirit with the Schlienz side; the guitar sounds very introspective and quiet, slowly building from what seems random plucking on strings and adding little by little drones to the background, but it never explodes into a mighty crescendo, which guitar loopists are sometimes known for. Jeans Beast lets his piece die out elegantly. Two sides of slow music and that's great on a quiet day.
On the other tape we start with Jeans Beast, now playing two pieces, 'Beyond' and 'Desires'. Here Jeans Beast, again with guitar and loops I should think, but now with a somewhat more shrill sound to the strings, yet at the same time also going for a similar drone feeling, as with the other cassette. Especially 'Desires' works pretty well. Also, in these two pieces there, not a dramatic build-up to be noted; when it arrives, it stays there, just as one would expect from fine drone music. I had not heard of Felix-Florian Tødtloff, who has one piece, 'Volta', recorded between August 2018 and January 2020 in Rotterdam Tafi Atomi and Berlin and with Amélie Legrand on cello. Here too, a might drone is set forward, to start with, mostly by the cello, but as the piece unfolds modular electronics are added, in a short sharp repetition. It sounds like it is stuck in a groove, but that adds to the psychedelic edge of the music. Fifteen minutes is not enough. (FdW)
––– Address: https://econore.bandcamp.com/
BENE GESSERIT & MAL - CONFINED (three cassettes by Insane Music)
More lockdown music, as noted before and elsewhere; these are the times when we see releases coming out that was recorded during the March/April/May lockdown; people having more time to work on music, and something different, not being able to go studios etc. Or, work together on music, via the internet. This is the case with these three cassettes by Bene Gesserit and MAL. The first being B. Ghola, also known as Alain Neffe (synthesizers, strings organ, rhythm box, virtual instruments, sonic surgery and final arrangements) and Benedict G (Nadine Bal) on vocals and words. They recorded in Seneffe, while MAL, a.k.a. Daniel Malempré played the guitars, bass guitar, synthesizers, rhythm box and virtual instruments. They used the lockdown to go through archives, looking for unfinished songs from the '80s onwards and recording new bits onto them, and then finishing them. And there were lots of skeletons in the cupboards as the total length of this is some two hours. I took m all in at once, being the Insane Music fanboy I am since many years. It contains all the hall and trademarks of what Bene Gesserit and MAL are about; it has the childlike voice of Bal, flexible, cabaret, dadaesque and Neffe's poppy synth and rhythm machine accompaniment to which MAL adds his spacey guitar doodles. The latter reminds me of The Durutti Column when Vini Reilly would have been a German hippie in the early '70s. There are in total 34 tracks here, not all are equally strong, but that is not the point I guess. It is the burst of creative energy that counts and there is some fine variation in here. From joyous bursts of laughter to sadness to craziness and back again. Sometimes the mood changes within a song, which I think one could call the Dada element in the music. When a song has MAL's guitar upfront, the music becomes spacier but that too adds to the element of variation of the music. This was another lovely bumpy space trip and another most enjoyable one. (FdW)
––– Address: firstname.lastname@example.org