number 1242
week 29


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JUNJI HIROSE - SSI-7 (CD by Ftarri) *
TIPPLE – CARTOON HEART (CD by Relative Pitch Records)
DAS RAD – ADIOS AL FUTURO (CD by Discus Music) *
PISAURA - ASTERACAE (CD by Sedimental) *
RESPONSES 2 (CDR compilation by Minimal Resource Manipulation)
LLARKS - COME AND CLOSE YOUR EYES (cassette by Lamour) *
NORDBECK - FÖLJARE (cassette by Lamour) *
ZEBULARIN - STRANGLED CURIOSITY (cassette by Steep Gloss) *
H A I R S A B Y S S (cassette by Steep Gloss) *
GARBAGE PAIL KIDS (cassette by Steep Gloss) *
 __________ (cassette by Steep Gloss)


In Vital 1208 I discussed a release by the Farwest Mandolinistic Orchestra; now, one of its members, Sotiris Debonos, releases a solo CD. In the Orchestra (a three-piece group), he plays the guitar, live looping and live electronics; on his solo release his credits are classical guitar, synths samples, bass, idiophone percussion and sound editing and one Giorgis Kitsios plays violin, viola and bowed percussion. Debonos already had a bunch of solo records, but none after 2013. He also composes music for theatre and film, and this new one is the soundtrack to a film by Minos Nikolakakis, called "Entwined', his first feature film. It is an "enchanting, mystical debut [that] tells the story of Panos, a doctor from the city who relocates to a remote village where he meets a spirit who will change his life forever." The trailer on YouTube looks good. The music... I don't know. I have been playing this quite a bit in the last week, but somehow find it difficult to make up my mind or form an opinion about. The 'problem' with soundtracks acts up again. Can the music survive by itself? I am not entirely convinced by Debonos music. I am sure it will fit perfectly well with the moving images, the modern classical tunes, smooth, elegant and, perhaps, at times creepy ones, but without the images, they remain short and without a point to make for themselves. The brief character of the pieces is another thing with soundtrack albums; it seems as often not much more music is required and the more sketch-like pieces end up on the soundtrack album. It is clear that Debonos has many skills at creating some interesting music, using a variety of 'real' instruments and electronics, but as a whole, I am not entirely convinced by the music. I think I would love to know more about the film first in this case. (FdW)
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JUNJI HIROSE - SSI-7 (CD by Ftarri)

For this batch of new releases, I started with the one that had a new name for me, Heather Frasch. On her CD with Ryoko Akama, we find three pieces, 'For Heather's Day', composed by Akama and two versions of 'A Moment In mY Day' by Frasch. The Akama piece is performed by Frasch using field recordings, objects and electronics, while her composition is performed by Brice Catherin (cello & objects), Eleanor Cully (voice & objects), Ryoko Akama (organ & objects). I assume this trio performs on both versions (actually called 'Take 1' and 'Take 3'). The two 'takes' take up as much as time as Akama's piece, forty minutes per composer; that is one long release. The title 'Linking' refers, no doubt, to the fact that both women composed pieces which then the other performs. There is not much linking in the actual music, even when both pieces can throughout be classified as 'quiet music'. In Frasch' piece there is a dialogue between players, instruments and objects, slowing moving about, from sound to instrument, from player to player, and it has quite the modern classical feeling of slow-moving, Morton Feldman-like music, but with a greater lover for objects. In Akama's piece, the electronics play an important role, creating a vast space of drone-like sounds, and on top, there is the rattling of objects. I would think that the field recordings are used to set these drones in motion and there is a fine lo-fi sense to the music, but because it's is all not loud, it also owes a bit more to the world of modern classical music. Only if you turn up the sound, you hear the lo-fi drones shimmer through and you could easily think this is one of those cassette composers that are so active these days.
    Following some releases that saw percussionist Seijiro Murayama work with field recordings and creating collages with that (Vital Weekly 1118 and 1164), he's now 'back' at the drum stool and his kit to present us eight pieces of percussion music and occasional voice. The shortest piece is three minutes and the longest twenty-one, with a total length of seventy-three minutes. That is quite long (and yes, I know, you don't have to play it all at once). Luckily Murayama has an extended drum kit, in which there is space for what I think is more conventional drums but also metallic objects such as 'In-Tai 1' and 'In-Tai 3', and even then there is a vast variety of approaches. Loud, rhythmic, chaotic, introspective, meditative or with what I perceive all aggressive and outgoing. Some of this is recorded in very close proximity and has a very tactile feeling, whereas other pieces sound distant and aloof. Maybe some of these pieces could have been a bit shorter for my taste, but, so I thought, I wasn't in the right state of mind today. When I returned to this CD, later on, I understood more of the length of some of these pieces.
    Junji Hirose continues his exploration of a 'self-made sound instrument' in the seventh volume of this work (see also Vital Weekly 1103, 1038, 993). There are no images here of what this instrument looks like, but the Ftarri website gives a description: "Balls and other small objects are placed on a large, shallow, round metal plate. These objects are covered with a metal plate of the same type and size which is placed and secured in such a way that it seems to be subtly floating. With the use of an air compressor, blasts of air hit the instrument from various angles. The compressed air streaming between the two metal plates causes the objects in between to move around dynamically. The noise of the air compressor, the sound of the compressed air hitting the metal plates, and the sounds produced by small objects moving around and hitting the metal plates all combine to produce a complex and dazzling conglomeration of sound." In the four pieces, different small objects are used, except in the last track when we just hear the compressed air on the plate. Here too we deal with minimalism, perhaps of the most extreme kind of these three new releases by Ftarri, with what seems the rotation of sounds with minimal interaction of which it is not easy to detect any kind of regularity. No doubt one could say this too is a form of improvised music, but it sounds distinctly different from your usual release with improvised music. There is a much more industrial feeling to the music, electronic, louder, noisier. In 'C.W.T.B.', Hirose has that scratching acoustic sound that we know so well from Organum. This is the release that could appeal to a wider audience, more into (ambient) noise and drone music. It is, once again, a very fine release. (FdW)
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TIPPLE – CARTOON HEART (CD by Relative Pitch Records)

Recently I reviewed the new album by Frode Gjerstand Trio with drummer Paal Nilssen-Love and bassist Øyvind Storesund. A very long-lasting work unit of Frode Gjerstad. With Tipple, we have Gjerstad, playing saxophones, clarinets, flutes, in another trio combination. This time with Kevin Norton (percussion, vibes) and David Watson (guitar and Scottish small pipes). This trio is around since about 2009 when they debuted on FMR Records. ‘Tipple’ is their fifth album. So again we are talking of a stable unit with a history. David Watson was part of the improv music scene of New Zealand before he settled in downtown New York where he works since. Drummer and composer Kevin Norton are also working in New York and well-known for his many collaborations with for example Anthony Braxton, Fred Frith, Joèlle Léandre, and many more. Compared with Frode Gjerstad Trio, Tipple turns things even more radically upside down. With a strong sense for adventure and experiment they choose for very different angles and starting points for their improvisations. This does not necessarily mean I like all results, but that is something else. In 15 improvisations — some just around one minute and none of them more than 5 minutes — they make their point very decisive and without any ado. Never choosing the easy way, they excel in many eccentric and surprising movements in this collective effort. In an improvisation like ‘Cracked Open’, they keep things quiet and reflective. ‘Ghost Ship’ has Watson on small pipes, producing long-extended drones, with Watson and Gjerstad swirling around with percussive accents, and eerie melodic phrases on flute by Gjerstad. In some improvisations, Gjerstad uses alienating reverb like in the short sketch ‘Tool Box’. In improvisations like ‘Incinerator’ – with a mean electric guitar by Watson – they go for a very dynamic and chaotic exchange. ‘Hope Springs’ has the percussion by Norton in the forefront with Gjerstad in the distance, and Watson on acoustic guitar in between. By result this a very hot album full of contrasts and diversity. Great work! (DM)
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DAS RAD – ADIOS AL FUTURO (CD by Discus Music)

Das Rad is an English trio of Nick Robinson (guitars, keyboards, electronics), Martin Archer (woodwind, keyboards, synth bass, electronics) and Steve Dinsdale (drums, keyboards, electronics),. They define themselves as a band “informed by progressive and krautrock esthetics”. To use a German name as an English Trio is almost a statement in these Brexit-times. Even more, because they choose a Spanish title meaning ‘Goodbye future!’ Nevertheless, they do not seem very upset by this situation as their music is a relaxed and comfortable trip. They released their first one in 2018 on Archer’s Discus Music. This Sheffield based label is an outlet for many local projects of jazz, improvisation and experimental rock. From the catalogue of this label, the picture arises of a strong and lively local scene, crowded with musicians who do their own thing even when things seem to be a bit out of step of the time. This suggestion counts for Das Rad if you ask me. With their spaced out and lengthy excursions, they practice an idiom that is not often met any more in our times to my knowledge. They excel in spun out and laid back spacey jams. They use echoing and cascading effects like in the uptempo ‘Buzz Line’. Their creations often have e a slightly psychedelic and sweltering atmosphere. Keeping the middle between rock and jazz they brew their version of improv rock. Opening track ‘Inside Reverse’ has a pleasant groove with great solo work by Robinson on guitar. A track like ‘Rothko Strobe/Another Place’ is close to soundscaping. It is more about creating an atmosphere than building a musical form. And that’s my problem with this one. Their open structures have a straight forward rhythmic base, offering a good starting point for meandering excursions. For sure a very sympathetic unit, but I missed substance and urgency. (DM)
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PISAURA - ASTERACAE (CD by Sedimental)

Pisaura is a trio consisting of Amber Wolfe Rounds, Michael Pisaro-Liu and Jarrod Fowler. In case you don’t know these folks: Pisaro-Liu is a member of the Wandelweiser Composers Ensemble and director of the Experimental Music Workshop at Calarts. Rounds and Fowler perform as a duo called Zizia. I used to know Jarrod ages ago when we both lived in Boston… over the time that we were friends, his music went from percussion-and-samples and “Donuts”-influenced instrumental hip-hop to forbiddingly obscure near-silence with a formal organization based on things like the index of a particular field guide to New England plants or the structure of a specific book about rhythm. Today, Jarrod is an entomologist and horticulturist, so it makes sense that his art gravitated towards natural systems and scientific classification. I wasn’t sure what to make of Fowler’s sound work at that time, so I approached this collaborative album, which does come with enough footnotes to potentially seem like off-putting grad school homework, with some hesitation… but holy hell, it's wonderful. Fans of Giancarlo Toniutti, Enrico Piva, Lethe/Kuwayama Kiyoharu, Organum would love this thing. I love this thing. Damn.
    The group’s collaborative album comes with some heavy conceptual framework to wrestle with: sounds for “Asteracae” were recorded at various locations around Los Angeles (with some detours to Florida, Maryland and New Hampshire), with locations chosen and compositional decisions made by overlaying an astrological map (Wolfe Rounds is an astrologer) and a map of the city. I suspect that the more you know about astrology, the more you’ll get out of the group’s explanation for how their rigorous compositional and sonic decisions were made. Here’s part of the notes offered by the group: “Pisaura gave site-specific performances, made field recordings, and took collections of natural objects at each planetary location from December 2018 to February 2019. Planetary rulership determined the day of the week or time of the month that Pisaura visited each site. For example, the Sun location would be visited either on a Sunday or when the Moon was located in Leo, the sign ruled by the Sun. Our multi-composite chart, therefore, provided a structure for us to create music in harmony with celestial rhythms.” Zizia’s website provides scads of information, such as the exact locations where sounds were made and the planet correlated to each one via astrology. They also provide an extensive list of sources (using I think, Chicago Manual of Style citation… holy shit, right?) and instruments used… though, as on previous Zizia recordings (yet unheard by me), these tools are referred to as “collaborators” as if they’re considered as equal partners to the human artists. Those “collaborators” include everything from electronic effects and software to plants (referred to by their Latin scientific names, naturally) and carbon dioxide. A listener might, if one so chooses, glean more depth from this quasi-academic wallop… or decide to take it, at least in part, as very dry humour. For me, it's some combination of the two.
    Now, if astrological terms like ‘planetary rulership’ and “Ascending” mean nothing to you, that’s fine. Plenty of deep weeds are provided, should you be the sort of listener who enjoys diving into them. But none of the data deluge matters if the music doesn’t stand on its own. Thankfully, it does. “Asteracae” is a lovely, absorbing and occasionally thrilling piece of music. In fact, despite the term-paper-level citations and confounding detail of “collaborators”, it’s damn hard (and possibly irrelevant) to identify any sound sources at all. For me, that information overload obscures more often than it illuminates… which is a good thing! Across twenty-four mysterious tracks ranging from just a few seconds to a little more than nine minutes, the experience of “Asteracae” seems like listening to the breath of a living organism. Airy, spacious sounds drift a few feet over the strange ground but hardly seem to begin or end… flute-like tones jut up against forceful wind blasts, disintegrating textures, radio interference, sub-bass dives, confidently undulating metallic overtones and the occasional surprise appearance of discernible location recordings… but only for a moment. Gestures appear though it’s unclear when or how they began. They're simply... present and then not, like ghosts. The sudden crumpling conclusion to “ht7 °9 suirauqA sraM” is startling. Some thunderous percussive clatter churning beneath woodwind-coloured exhalations is absorbing, the squeal and backwards clutter that steels “ht5 °81 suirattigaS nrutaS” is thrilling.
    An album created with such a mathematical rigour and chance-prone structure might have ended up sounding arid, but every wonderfully sculpted piece of “Asteracae” is alive and enthralling. None of it sounds as if it was recorded in a major city… or, for that matter, on Earth. I wanted some shorter pieces to last longer so that I could linger within their soundworld… even the sensuously buzzing dark throb of “Mars Aquarius 9° 7th” (which concludes with a shocking hiss and segues effectively into a sparkling nest of broken-glass wasps) to continue past its nine-minute mark… but isn’t it better to encourage return visits rather than let a moment become too familiar and risk losing its impact? “Asteracae” might seem daunting at seventy-two minutes with its potentially-impenetrable supplementary material, but the time flies by. (HS)
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Oh, holy heck! This is one ferocious beast of an album, a non-stop convulsion of nine concise blammo noise attacks that’s exactly as fierce as one might want/imagine a Marvel Team-Up of John Wiese and Wyatt Howland/Skin Graft to be. Straight out of the gate from its opening volley, this pummels… there’s so much constant motion and so many simultaneous competing lines of noise that it demands deep attention to keep up with the barrage of simultaneous explosions. A glass-shattering cascade will fire in several directions with different shades of crunch, stutter for half a second, then reconfigure and blast again with machine-gun scatter, glassine feedback and synthesizer spraying new colours/shapes. “Accessible World” attacks at top velocity for its short duration… which is just long enough to cram in enough energy to fuel a dozen lesser noise albums. On “Melpomene”, for example, the track’s five minutes contain a whirl of competing elements that twist, implode, then erupt over and over. A lesser album might have been expanded from this piece alone, but Weise favours brevity… his discography (both solo and with his group Sissy Spacek) features a surprising number of one-sided seven inches and half-hour-or-less CDs. I suppose he likes to get to the point and leave ‘em breathlessly wanting more… which he does! So while it shouldn’t be a surprise that these nine tracks last just over half an hour, he packs plenty of information to warrant return visits, allowing listeners to change focus and hear the ultra-dense and ultra-active music differently. The quick inhalations between tracks are the only pause that a listener gets, and they aren’t much respite… “Accessible World” is restless noise, ceaseless high-density sound in perpetual furiously-breathless motion, recorded at a level of clarity to encourage/reward concentrated listening if that’s what you want to do with it. Or, you can play “Accessible World” loud and not overthink it… (HS)
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From this trio of new releases by the Polish Bocian Records label, there was one thing that stuck out straight away and which decided me to start there. On the cover of the Norbert Möslang record, there are six instruments and six musicians mentioned; sopranino sax, oboe, clarinet, trumpet, trombone and tuba. What happened to the cracked everyday electronics, I wondered. I assume they are locked away, while Möslang set down to write the score of 'Patterns'; at least, I assume there is a score here. I wasn't aware that Möslang also worked as a composer of modern classical music, but for all, I know I may have missed out on something. Reviewing modern classical music is not my forte, to be honest. I am listening to 'Patterns' and I try to discover the patterns in the four parts, but of course, I am not that clever. I *think* these pieces are all about playing short, repeating, sustaining bits of sound by various of these instruments and other instruments play short ones without much sustain, and these start to interact as patterns. Changes are usually arriving with great slowness like the pieces are morphing from one phase to the next. There is no dramatic climax going on here, even when not all of it stays on a similar level, volume-wise either. Also, within each of the four patterns, things can shift quite a bit; a full-on silence and another set of patterns to follow. Also, I noticed that over the four sides the music grew in intensity; starting quietly in 'Patterns_1' and ending on a somewhat fiercer note in 'Patterns_4'. This new work, I thought, was a great surprise, a leap in Möslang's career and the result is four beautiful pieces of music.
    If a record says 'Live At Ambient Festival', you may think this might be ambient music. That is not the case on the LP by Andrzej Karalow (grand piano, electric guitar, guitar effects) and Jerzy Przezdziecki (Buchla Music Ease, Eurorack system). The sound is crystal clear and has a slightly free jazz approach, slow, elegant and spacious. Karalow is mostly on the piano, playing sparse chords and notes, while the modular electronics make way for small sounds to fly about, in a similar elegant fashion. The guitar is touched upon also, and while not easy to be recognized it is there. There is a fine drift in this music that reminded me of The Necks, without any drums. That is not to say there are no drum sounds here; the modular synthesizers occasionally bleep in a repeating way, so it seems there is some rhythm. It is not your regular slow ambient music, so I was thinking, but it is also not difficult to recognize the atmosphere in here. The way all of it plays out might be owing to the world of free music, but also to that of a very lively chill out space. Lovely stuff!
    Along similar lines is the duo record by Katarzyna Podpora (piano preparation, accordion, violin, Moog theremin, various objects) and Max Kohyt (piano, double bass, bass clarinet, ukulele, electronics). I had not heard of either of these musicians. Their work is also very much in the realm of improvisation, but this time in the subsection 'everything careful'. I am not sure if I think vinyl is the best choice for music like this; surface noise immediately starts to play a role in the music, which I think is a pity. What these two men do is engaging in a conversation, that perhaps one could call 'an elegant whisper'. The music is very quiet (or perhaps the pressing?) and contains quite a bit of preparing the instruments with objects and with the addition of the modular synthesizer the music is throughout mostly electro-acoustic, with occasional tinkle on the keyboard or the strings. All of this means that the music is very abstract in approach and it requires all your concentration to see where it is all going here. But if you do that, use your ears and do nothing else, all of it unfolds greatly. Save for the last two or so minutes in which the synthesizer start coughing up a silly melody. It is to be applauded that is left in, show your mistakes and all that, but I would cut that. Otherwise, a very fine record, of which I suspect would have sounded better on CD. (FdW)
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This is not a newbie for Vital Weekly as throughout the years I reviewed quite a bit of his work, solo or in combination with others, such as Jason Kahn, Hans Koch, Evan Parker, Burkhard Beins and with ensembles such as Ensemble Phoenix and Funkloch Ensemble. Hiddenbell is a label of his that specializes in drum music. From the liner notes penned by fellow drummer Jon Mueller, I learned that in recent years Wolfarth's drumset up has been heavily reduced. No longer he uses a full kit (bass, snare, tom, hi-hat), but one item only. On this new solo record, he plays on the A-side an old marching drum and the reverse a cymbal. Of course, all of this was recorded live and there have been no overdubs. He uses a variety of objects, as depicted on the insert, and the results are remarkable. There is a great variety between both sides. The old military drum side shows a variety of approach, rattling various objects upon the surface and has various parts/movements in this piece; rolling about but also slowly exploring the skin on the drum. This time it's not so much about the ringing of overtones that goes on here, but minimalism that is further reduced to the instrument itself. Overtones are more happening on the other side but I'd say that comes with the territory of the instrument. Interestingly, Wolfarth for this instrument choose one option to play and that is with two sticks on the cymbal, slowly changing the place where to hit and thus creates minimal shifts in the music, while staying on a similar volume throughout the piece. Towards the end it slowly dissolves in space; it's, perhaps, twenty minutes long but I wouldn't have minded a version that is twice as long. Which also goes for the other side, these smaller explorations should have been longer! But the time limitations of vinyl prohibit that, sadly! (FdW)
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To start with a quote from the Bandcamp page for this release: "Objects, noise, broken electronics / Methods for disclosing a different psychological state / My inability to communicate with words". I am not sure what to think of such a statement. I enjoy the bit about 'objects, noise, broken electronics', as this gives the reviewer some pointers for a review, but the other two remarks are highly private, and I am not sure what a response could or should be. If I don't hear the 'Methods for disclosing a different psychological state' in these seven pieces, do I miss out on something? What is this state anyway? Is it, in other words, something that I would like to know? As it often happens with things such as this, there is no way 'back'; I read it and therefore I know it. As always I try to enjoy it on what I perceive this to be and that is something quite good. There is a great rough edge to this music, without it becoming something very noisy. Abattoir is someone who doesn't use many ongoing sound events but keeps it short and to the point. It sounds as if he has a pair of scissors and a whole stack of magnetic tape, and he cuts his way through it, sticking bits and ends together and sculpts his pieces from that. A lot of the objects he uses are recorded in close distance of the microphone and without much use of sound effects, which gives the material quite the direct feel; in the background there is a constant shifting of electrical sounds, buzzing and whirring about and you could think of these as drones; it marks a very interesting release of electro-acoustic music from the noise end of the musical spectrum, without being a strong statement of noise. It has a pleasant presence and is a strong collage/composition of 'unwanted' sounds. (FdW)
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RESPONSES 2 (CDR compilation by Minimal Resource Manipulation)

Back in Vital Weekly 1207 I reviewed 'Responses', a cassette compilation by Matthew Atkins, and I repeat the lengthy quote, as it is still relevant for this new release; "In the winter of 2018, I was thinking about the role of control in creating a piece of art or music and wanted to explore what would happen if that control was in some relinquished. I hit upon a process that I wanted to use to create several pieces that would come into fruition without my hearing them until they were finished. I recorded the sounds of eight different objects (run-of-the-mill household items) and used these single sound sources as the basis for each piece. I employed the same process with each recording: The sound was pitched down, the result was then pitched down a second time creating three layers of the same recording. Each layer was then randomly cut up using software and rearranged across the screen. Some cut-up portions were then erased. I only listened to the results once all the above processes had been followed for each one and would then judge whether it had been a success". For this one Atkins send "each artist was sent a two to three minute sound file (everyone received a different one) and were given the proviso to respond to it in whichever way they chose", and here we have the result, as composed by Philip Sulidae, Chemiefaserwerk, Paolo Sanna, Moon RA, Graham Dunning, En Creux, Rovellasca, Giacomo Salis, Costis Drygianakis, Yifeat Ziv, Francesco Covarino and Alexandra Spence. There are quite a bit of new names in this release and I have no idea what these people 'normally' do, although, judging by the musical content it would not surprise me if they are active in the world of improvised music. It is not always easy to tell the sounds apart, and I am not sure if I think that is a good or bad thing. No doubt this adds to the coherency of the material, making it all very much improvised music, but it's the pieces that sound different that gather most interest. Graham Dunning's looped rhythm experiment, for instance, Rovellasca's drones, the addition of voice material from Ziv and Spence, although both have not a very similar approach. The other pieces work on the same improvised music level and that also works well for me, even when there is not a lot of difference to be noted. (FdW)
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While I had some hesitation to Google 'Baritone Nude Guitars', it turns to be safe for work; it's a brand of handmade guitars. Joel Gilardini plays one, along with something that is only labelled as "Digitakt, Insect N#1", which is, apparently, a drum machine and some sort of sound effects. The first time I came across the name Gilardini was when I reviewed the release by Mulo Moto & Meanwhile.In.Texas & Skag Arcade (Vital Weekly 1217); he is one half of Mulo Moto. This is a solo release from him, and we should see it as a soundtrack for abandoned places. There is no drum machine in any of the eight pieces on this release, but maybe he has treated to it such an extent that we no longer recognize it. You could say something about the guitar sound here. There is very little traditional guitar playing on this release; sometimes, though, one recognizes the guitar, being all crumbled and distorted, such as in 'Duga-3'. Using his guitar, drum machines and effects, Gilardini creates mostly a massive drone-scape; a rich sound, going from the lower depths to the high mountain top. His pieces are somewhere between three and nine minutes. The shortest, 'Concrete Ghosts' Mausoleum' is the oddball in this collection, and as far as I am concerned it could have been left out. It's broken up collage-style sound is perhaps the drum machine taking a turn, but for me, it breaks the atmospheric modes I got into in the first four pieces. It is not necessarily a quiet album, as Gilardini plays his stuff with vigour and strength. That is another thing that made me enjoy this quite a bit, the heavy force that came from the music. I am not the sort of person to say if this is indeed music for abandoned places, but sure, I can see some desolation here. Great one! (FdW)
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LLARKS - COME AND CLOSE YOUR EYES (cassette by Lamour)
NORDBECK - FÖLJARE (cassette by Lamour)

'Come And Close Your Eyes' is already the third album by Llarks for the Swedish Lamour label. Chris Jeely is still going strong with this particular project, as I am sure that I didn't hear all of his work. I am also convinced that I wrote before that I have no idea how Jeely creates his music. From his previous incarnations as Accelera Deck and September Plateau (he used more moniker's but I have no heard them all) the guitar is a very likely instrument as clearly heard in 'Lullachime' and 'Virga Blue' on this cassette. Sound effects have a prominent place as well and, here I am not sure, I would think there is a fair amount of laptop processing as well. In 'Imagine', the opening song here, the sound is stretched out, into a fine ambient piece. In the title piece, the guitar sound is all crumpled up and hardly recognized as such. The trademark sound of Llarks, the shoegazing side of ambient music, is present in these pieces and the interesting is that it doesn't matter if Llarks plays a very moody piece, 'Ghost Lake Acrobat' for instance or a very upfront one, 'Squallflowers' it is always there, shimmering in the quieter ones and also screaming in the louder pieces, with the one I mentioned being the most extreme. Another excellent tape.
    There is not much information on the NordBeck cassette, just the band name, titles and track titles, which is just the title of the cassette with the addition of '1', '2' etc. From the information, we learn that at the basis of this there was a bunch of recordings made at the old school piano from Pauliskolan in Malmö, which is the hometown for NordBeck. He's active since the early 90s, both with concerts and releases. These piano recordings have been processed in the studio and NordBeck added a bunch of field recordings. The piano is not easily recognized in the four pieces (each about eleven minutes) on this cassette and yet it is also not completely gone. It has been slowed down, reversed, transposed, pitched, altered or whatever else can be done on the computer (as I believe this to be a processor of choice here). Piano and processing thereof keep each other in balance. Only in the first piece, it seems all to be in favour of the electronics, but in the other three it shines through. The piano is a mere trigger to set the events in motion and NordBeck created some excellent pieces. It is all very atmospheric, with quite a bit of dark drones, lots of hisses/white noise, slow crackles and the occasional bang here and there. In 'Följare 2' the piano is heard, playing some moody chords over another hissy backdrop. It is all very ambient and organic. On this rainy day, the perfect soundtrack.
    Alderholmens Futuristika is a trio of Lehnberg, Olle Oljud and Viktor Zeidner; I assume men armed with laptops. I might be wrong. I had not heard from them before. 'Barn Baran' is their third album and with 83 minutes the longest of this batch of cassettes. Four pieces are well over ten minutes and I think it is a bit long at times. Playing this music and thinking about how it was made, it occurs to me that this is probably through improvisation. It is atmospheric at times but rhythm plays an important role too. Not necessarily this is all about dance beats, but a more minimal, hypnotic rhythm. In a way, the music reminded me of zovie*france, with the similar use of rhythm set against a wall of ambient sounds and moods. It works well when it is a bit more concise I think, and for me a bit less when they use more time. It meanders about too much, especially in 'Det förlorade paradisets psykologmottagning', the longest of all piece. Throughout I found it all quite enjoyable and some of it just too long. Some more weeding would have made a stronger release. (FdW)
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H A I R S A B Y S S (cassette by Steep Gloss)
GARBAGE PAIL KIDS (cassette by Steep Gloss)
 __________ (cassette by Steep Gloss)

Wigan’s Steep Gloss hasn’t been around for that long. Their first release was in December 2019. At the time of writing this, they have put out 16 releases. Each one has its sound and flavour, but they all fit into the rich aesthetic that the label creates. Their recent slew of releases taps into the rich vein of what feels like negative noise. Instead of assaulting the sense with wave upon wave of feedback, junk pedals and white noise the artists in question use silence, deafening silence in places, as a form of noise to get their point across.
    The pleasure of ‘Strangled Curiosity’ is that you don’t know how each of the tracks will progress. Each of the band’s member comes from different discipline of music, jazz, noise, freeform electronics, classical, ambient and postrock so the album is a hodgepodge of styles and sounds. In a good way of course. ‘Deixis’ is the track that epitomises this the most. From the opening crunches, it conveys the feeling of walking across a vast snowy landscape. Glacial synths lurk in the background as we make our weary way across the tundra. As ‘Deixis’ progresses the terrain gets steeper and a whiteout happens, and our sense of direction goes. Here it feels that the members of Zebularin are acting both independently and in unison with each other. It’s an album that yields more and more with each listen. You’ll want to play it about five times to start getting the full effect. The first time I played it I thought it was about the fear of missing out, but now I think it’s more about growing to be content. I’m looking forward to what I think it’s about next time I play it. This is great. It truly is. Paul Harrison and Chandor Glöomy have crafted 20 minutes of music that is filled with harrowing tones and classical loops that get right under your skin, but there is also a playful feeling of whimsy to it. It’s like when you watch a good/bad horror film. You are scared as, well, that’s the point of the horror genre, but you can also see how bad the plot, and sets, are that you aren’t worried about the characters. Their poor decision-making, along with dialogue, means they never stood a chance.
    The same could be said for ‘H A I R S A B Y S S’. The music is tightly wound around claustrophobic loops that just constrict you more and more with each moment. However, they are underpinned with delicate melodies that at first are unnoticeable, but with each relisten become the most intrinsic part of the release. But what did we expect from members of Smell + Quim and Cromlech Shadow? There is something incredibly fresh about this Garbage Pail Kids tape. The sounds contained on sound familiar, but they aren’t. There are snatches of melodies from long-forgotten songs. Conversations that you thought weren’t being recorded. The sound of walking into a booming club after being in the cold, and quiet, of the queue outside. And a slew of other sounds you haven’t quite deciphered yet. But of course, how could this be? Of course, it isn’t, but listening to the Garbage Pail Kids gets those dusty synapses firing. What is evident is how this audio bricolage is breath-taking. A third of the way into ‘Bjerg Bichaels’ it sounds like some chickens aren’t having a great time on a creaky pirate ship while the local informal jazz group warms up in the background. This is both welcoming and disorienting. And this is what the album does so well. It creates these polarising feelings in you, so you don’t actually know how you feel about it until much later on. Presently I’m leaning toward this being a massive four de force, but who knows how I’ll feel tomorrow.
     ‘__________’ lives up to its name. This isn’t an album of musicians playing John Cale’s ‘4:33’, but instead an exercise in audio minimalism. The album was created by 10 artists submitting four-minute audio piece utilising black cassettes. These pieces were combined to create ‘__________’. Usually, noise/experimental albums bombard you with white noise and feedback, but here the silences are searing. The absence of the usual motifs means you have to pay attention to the nothingness, which creates its own all-consuming noise. Some pieces are just tape hiss, others are glitchy drones, others feel like a hangover, some sounds like machinery being recorded from a distance, others might be the sound of a car engine cooling down on a driveway, but all of them have a claustrophobic vibe that gets under your skin. The downside to the album is that the original idea is probably better executed than the finished product. But this is fun with experimental and avant-garde music. It isn’t really about the finished article more about the thought process that leads there. The pieces work well together and you can feel subtle shifts in the pieces. When something dramatically changes, like the opening of ‘Side B’, it is genuinely exciting. This is an album that probably won’t get a lot of plays, but when it does it will consume my sense like no other release.
    One of the first things you notice about Miguel A. Garcia and Frans de Waard’s ‘Interior Sounding’ is that it does things at its own pace. It doesn’t rush to get its point across. This is great. Too many releases, especially in experimental music, don’t take their time in world-building. Instead of blasting us with massive drones, falls of searing feedback or any other manner of caustic sounds, they gradually bring us in. Through subtle changes and glacial shifts in tone, ‘Interior Sounding’ moves from phase to phase without breaking a sweat and you batting an eye. And this is what Garcia and de Waard do in ‘Interior Sounding’. They take the time to establish the rules of their atonal world before they start to change things up a bit. Much like Zone Nord ‘Salbutanol’, before you realise what’s happening everything that changed, and you are left question why this happened while you were engrossed with the album. But what did you expect from Garcia and de Waard? Both have spent an incredible amount of time honing their craft and immersing themselves in experimental culture. They know the rules. They know how to get their ideas across effectively. They know what works and this works. (NR)
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“Memento Mori” is the latest industrial brain-sander by Culver & Fordell Research Unit. It’s clear that these two mammoths of the UK underground have worked together before; their perspectives mesh seamlessly. Both artists create weighty drone music, though Fordell’s tend to be more pacific and Lee Stokoe’s work as Culver can be aggressive and noisy at times. “Memento Mori” begins with suggestions of doom rock, a slow detuned guitar churn pushing the static crumble along like one drunk attempting to walk another drunk home from the pub, both leaning heavily on each others’ shoulders and struggling to remain upright. Eventually, both succumb to gravity and the album becomes gelatinous, slipping inexorably into a warm fuzz of supremely saturated thrum. A feedback haze hovers around the edges of every piece, causing the entire tape to seem unbearably loud even when it’s played quietly. The second piece, “Mortsafe”, is somewhat lighter in tone, gliding along for a few minutes’ respites… before it all crashes down with “The Watchhouse”, which sounds like the agonized inner thoughts of a piano being buried alive. Same with “Sunken Soil”, a far-off threat lumbering towards you and slowly coming into focus… until the grand finale, “The Dead and the Countess” an airless vertical slab, monumentally and near-effortlessly heavy, a staggering drone that immediately takes in all the air in the room and alters your perception of time. I was shocked to note that the track is only 12 minutes long; I was sure it was a few hours, at least. (HS)
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