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AUTOCLAV1.1 - NOTHING OUTSIDE (CD by Audiophob) *
ERYCK ABECASSIS - SIAMOISES (CD by Fragment Factory) *
STARAYA DEREVNYA – INWARDS OPENED THE FLOOR (CD by Staraya Derevnya)
STARAYA DEREVNYA & HANS GRUSEL’S KRANKENKABINET – STILL LIFE WITH APPLES (cassette by Staraya Derevnya)
OMBAK TRIO – THROUGH EONS TO NOW (CD by Setola di Maiale) *
HENRY MARIC & BORIS JANIE & STEFANO GIUST – JARS (CD by Setola di Maiale) *
CCCC - LOUD SOUNDS DOPA (CD by Troniks/Helicopter) *
CCCC - PHANTASMAGORIA (CD by Troniks/Helicopter) *
INCAPACITANTS - OPERORUE (CD by Troniks/Helicopter) *
VALANCE DRAKES - FREEDOM IS ITS OWN KIND OF SALARY (CD by Laaps) *
THE NEW BLOCKADERS - SIMPHONIE IN X MAJOR (CD by Menstrual Recordings) *
NEBULO - PARALLAXES (LP by Le Cabanon Records) *
JULIA BÜNNAGEL - SOUNDS LIKE…VIENNA (12" by Gruenrekorder) *
BLUTWURST - ANABASI (LP by Kohlhaas) *
RICCARDO LA FORESTA - DRUMMOPHONE (LP by Kohlhaas) *
MEDHELAN - NOCTURNAL WANDERINGS (CDR by Lighten Up Sounds) *
COLD CLIMAX - BRUTE OF OPPORTUNITY (cassette by Angst)
MEYER HUTHWELKER - PURDUE GENERATOR (cassette by Cruel Nature Recordings) *
BALL GEOGRAPHIE - LIVE AT BUDOKAN (cassette by Superpolar Taips) *
BLEED AIR (cassette by Superpolar Taips) *
MARCUS MAEDER - CREPUSCULE (cassette by Domizil)
MARIANNE BAUDOUIN LIE - ATLANTIS, UTOPIA & ULVEDRØMMER (2CDR by Particular Recordings) *
LUCIANE CARDASSI - GOING NORTH (CD by Redshift Records) *
PEP - VOLUME 3 (CD by Redshift Records) *
BOW (CD by Sub Rosa) *
AUTOCLAV1.1 - NOTHING OUTSIDE (CD by Audiophob)
If you'd ask me to describe the music released by Germany's Audiophob label, I would probably say something along the lines of 'rhythmic, as in a cross-over between industrial music and techno, synth-heavy, dark and heavy. Tony Young, the man behind the oddly named Autoclav1.1 is the oddball on the label. Some boxes can be ticked, rhythmic, techno, check and check. Industrial, heavy and dark? Not really. Melodic? Yes, these ten pieces are quite melodic. Perhaps a bit odd but these pieces last between 3.16 and 3.58, all pop-song length. I have no idea if there is a concept behind that, but I enjoyed this a lot; it gave the idea of a modern synth-pop album. The rhythms borrowed from the world of techno music, the synthesizers are dusted from the '70s and Young uses the arpeggio's quite a bit. Groovy bass lines are employed here and the melodies are lovely. Melancholic, joyful, sad and abundant, it is the whole spectrum of emotions that are played on here. Apart from the many layers of synthesizer sounds and rhythms, the piano is the only instrument that leaps out of this. It is not used in all the songs, I think, but when Young uses it, it is the lead instrument of the song and usually in a slightly more melancholic and dramatic setting, such as in the downtempo closing piece, 'Everything Inside'. This is a great record with some excellent tunes, in a dazzling variety and with top-notch production. (FdW)
––– Address: http://www.audiophob.de
ERYCK ABECASSIS - SIAMOISES (CD by Fragment Factory)
Many of the releases that feature bass guitarist/composer Eryck Abecassis are with others, and of that Kasper T. Toeplitz is a very regular collaborator, in groups such as Kernel and Sleaze Art (although niot in the last five years, so perhaps not so regular). He also works with Lars Akerlund and Francisco Meirino, next to a whole bodywork for INA GRM, festivals and such like. 'Siamoises' is his third solo album, following 'Resonant Doom' (Vital Weekly 755) and 'Ilumen' (Vital Weekly 1002). Abecassis uses an Ibanez 2404 double neck e-bass/guitar in combination with a modular synthesizer. In much of the work with others, things are quite loud, but on the ten pieces on this new release, it is all rather quiet. Rather short pieces at that, average about three-and-half minutes. I am not sure if there is a concept behind that, such as Abecassis wanting to play pop songs. I doubt that. Each of these small pieces is a rather careful exploration of a few sound events; bending strings on the bass as well as bending tones on the modular, intertwining or opposing each other, just whatever the mood brings, I think. It all sounds rather introspective, even though not exclusively. Sometimes it can be mean and loud; the listener has very little room to move about. He will lose the finer details of the music, I think. Sometimes I am reminded of a record of improvised music and in other instances, it is thoroughly composed along the lines of musique concrète. Certainly, this is not easy music, but it is a release that slowly reveals. (FdW)
––– Address: https://fragmentfactory.bandcamp.com/
STARAYA DEREVNYA – INWARDS OPENED THE FLOOR (CD by Staraya Derevnya)
STARAYA DEREVNYA & HANS GRUSEL’S KRANKENKABINET – STILL LIFE WITH APPLES (cassette by Staraya Derevnya)
Two releases from two very obscure acts. Staraya Derevnya is a Russian/Israeli collective operating from London since the mid-90s. For the recording of their album ‘Inwards opened the Floor’ line up is as follows: Gosha Hniu (objects, toys, percussion, cries and whispers, marching band kazoo), Ran Nahmias (silent cello, theremin), Maya Pik (synths, melodica, rocking chair, flute), Grundik Kasyansky (feedback synthesizer, objects), and Amos Ungar (dulcimer, sampler). Plus in some of the eight tracks Tom Wheatley (double bass), Lior Lerman (cries and whispers), Maria Blatstein (piano), Andrea Serafino (drums), Yoni Silver (bass clarinet) and radio interference by Jonathan Shohet and Matthias Moos. A group of free spirits who deal in anarchic and psychedelic weirdness. Rooted in folk, krautrock (early Can) they develop hypnotic and free-form songs and grooves. Theatrical and experimental music that comes from a punky attitude. They operate in a musical no man’s land, beyond borders, assimilating many different influences. It is especially their convincing performance and original sound, their arrangements of instruments and other sound sources that make this a very charming release. In essence, however, the patterns they develop are very repetition-based and non-complex. ‘Chirik is heard from the Treetops’ works for example is a hypnotizing and grooving piece steady moving towards a climax. ‘Hogweed is done with Buckwheat’ is a likewise hypnotizing and almost ritualistic happening. ‘Flicked the ash in kefir’ is a subtle drone-like piece. Most of the eclectic ‘songs’ have lyrics sung in – I guess – Russian. They cultivate an image of obscurity, what also counts for the equally obscure Hans Grusel Krankenkabinett, a project of Hans Grusel, Gretel Grusel and Liz Albee, whatever their real names may be. Can’t tell you much about this unit either, if only that this group from California plays electronics and trumpet on this recording. The release contains the recording of two live sets played by both acts in a combined performance. Side 1 is a live recording from the Tusk Festival, October 15th, 2017, and side 2 live in Café OTO in London, October 13th, 2017. Part 1 is a pulse-driven noisy affair. Multi-layered electric and electronic sounds make up a thick substance of archaic and dark sounds. There is also some weirdness in their sound collages that made me think of early Residents and Caroliner. Which is especially the case for Part 2 that has a bluesy air. If ‘Inward opened the Floor’ is more or less song-oriented, in collaboration with Hans Gresel Krankenkabinet they improvise two long-extended pieces, that are surreal, out-of-the-box excursions. Captivating stuff! (DM)
––– Address: https://starayaderevnya.bandcamp.com/
OMBAK TRIO – THROUGH EONS TO NOW (CD by Setola di Maiale)
HENRY MARIC & BORIS JANIE & STEFANO GIUST – JARS (CD by Setola di Maiale)
Two trios that both have the involvement of drummer Stefano Giust. Originally from Suisse. He is based in Italy for a long time, working as a musician and also running the excellent Setola di Maiale-label. On ‘Jars’ we have Henry Marić (bass clarinet, clarinet, prepared electric guitar), Boris Janje (double bass) and Stefano Giust (drums, cymbals), A Croatian-Slovenian-Italian trio started by Marić practising free improvisation. In 50 minutes they give shape to 10 improvisations of a breakable and delicate nature. Space and colouring are important aspects of their music. Moving within a limited range of dynamics, they go into details, performing in a very relaxed and pleasant mode. There is a prominent role for the drummer who excels in inventive patterns with attractive playing by Janje on double bass. The job is finished by Marić who plays very to the point short motives on his clarinet in a modest and punctuated way. His performance has a strong presence. As a trio, they perform very concentrated and together, delivering a very warm and excellent set. A highlight for me this year so far. It was recorded on 16th and 17th of March 2019 in Pontiera, Istria (Croatia). A few months later, during September, the Ombak Trio recorded their session at Dobialab. Ombak Trio is Giovanni Maier (cello), Stefano Giust (drums) and Cene Resnik (tenor and soprano sax) All three of them we met before here, but this is the first time have them joined in one unit. This collaboration was initiated by Ljubljana-based Resnik who did his studies at the Conservatory in Klagenfurt, Austria. He is an important musician from the Slovenian scene and a dedicated practitioner of Buddhist meditation as well. A practice that influences his musicianship. Maier from Trieste, Italy started his career in the mid-80s, played with the Italian Instabile Orchestra, Marc Ribot, Chris Speed, etc,.etc. Compared with Jars the Ombak Trio operates within a wider range of dynamics. Their timbres and sound are a bit drier. But on the other hand, there is more tension and complexity in their improvisations, again with an attractive bass player in their midst and Giust proves again to be a very flexible drummer. The performance by Resnik is full of energy but at the same time very reflective and introverted. Very worthwhile (DM)
––– Address: https://www.setoladimaiale.net/
CCCC - LOUD SOUNDS DOPA (CD by Troniks/Helicopter)
CCCC - PHANTASMAGORIA (CD by Troniks/Helicopter)
Boy, it is sure great to hear “Loud Sounds Dopa” again. Yessir. So excited about this one. CCCC’s live album, comprised of recordings of performances the band did in Chicago and Oakland, first appeared in 1993 as a CD co-released by Mason Jones’ Charnel Music and the band’s own Endorphine Factory (an apt name for a label if there ever was one). It absolutely blew my mind when it appeared. I’m sure that lots of people had similar epiphanies when they heard it. To really comprehend how game-changing “Loud Sounds Dopa” was, think about how new the idea of “Japanese noise” was to American listeners in 1993. Sure, the style had existed since the late 1970s but didn’t yet have much of an American audience beyond already-clued-in tape-traders and deep-underground heads. This was long before the ubiquitous internet and fast access to tons of information. To have even heard of Japanese noise, you needed mail-order catalogues and fanzines and had to be enough of an antisocial weirdo to be reading those in the first place. Consider: in 1993, Merzbow’s “Pulse Demon” album (which exposed his noise to thousands of metalheads and suburban mall shoppers) was still several years away. So was the hugely influential “Japanese-American Noise Treaty” compilation. Boredoms’ “Pop Tatari” had just come out. Those freaks weren’t yet playing big Lollapalooza stages or Central Park. Masonna and Incapacitants had barely any recordings out (some tapes, a CD or two), certainly none that you could find in most record shops over here in the States. I remember reading some of these names in fanzines, then first being exposed to many of their work via Paul Lemos’ “Dry Lungs” series, in particular the relatively widely-available fifth instalment, which leaned heavily on Japanese artists. In this context, CCCC’s 1992 tour of America was a big deal. They covered a lot of ground, too… the northeast, midwest and west coast. That’s a feat for any band. The release of their live album a year later set even more brains ablaze than they were able to do in person. The group and the “Loud Sounds Dopa” album were, and remain, monumental. Which is a rather long walk (sorry) to get to the news that “Dopa” has been reissued collaboratively by Troniks and Helicopter, two labels run by American artists (Phil Blankeship and John Wiese) whose work was surely impacted by their encounters with CCCC.
Unlike many of their first-wave Japanese noise contemporaries, CCCC was an actual band, rather than one-person bedroom-production units. Theirs was a deep-listening group sound, producing an immersive noise as tightly focused as similarly-acronymic groups AMM or MEV, though of course much much louder. On “Loud Sounds Dopa”, one hears a quartet of musicians melding minds so seamlessly that they seem to pulse and throb as one. The sound is sleek and beautiful, cosmic and darkly hallucinatory. They didn’t set out to attack an audience, but to draw them into the maelstrom and envelope them like the La Brea tar pits. Both sets on this album launch with some nasty vocal tape garble tugging at the fabric of reality for a couple of minutes, then the group tears away the sky for a rush of a staring-straight-ahead squall. The band knew exactly what they were doing, there was no polite build-up or improvisatory feeling around in the dark until they located the sound. Peak intensity is reached quickly. Analogue synthesizers and electronics from Hiroshi Hasegawa (who currently records as Astro, and sometimes under his own name) and Fumio Kosakai (1/2 of Incapacitants and sometime member of Hijokaidan) add intimations of cosmic bliss, like Tangerine Dream with all the sweetness removed. Mayuko Hino would take centre stage during these performances to drip candle wax onto herself (which always seemed superfluous to me… and besides, the sonic images conjured by this stuff aren’t related to bondage/S&M snooze, at least not for me), but it's her soaring theremin that captivates attention on the recordings. Bassist Ryuchi Nagakubo is the band’s secret weapon. He provides the lurch of gut-punching, seasick low tones that hold everything together. These are long-form experiences, slow-moving on purpose, shifting almost-imperceptibly sideways with patient gestures made in unison by a telepathic quartet.
When I heard this album for the first time back in 1993, I remember that it sounded to me the way “wall noise” is described today; no events, and yet somehow compelling for reasons I couldn’t articulate. I kept returning to it, confused but fascinated, putting on headphones and sinking into these sounds in my college dorm room. I recall being unsure why I enjoyed “Loud Sounds Dopa”. A testament to this album’s greatness is how my perception of it has changed as I’ve revisited the music over the years. It’s not wall noise; the monotony is illusory. Deep headphone listening reveals squiggles of glorious colour, melodic synthesizer passages that surprise with their beauty and emotional heft, candy swirls of living electricity, ecstatic arpeggios careening into the air like sparks of hot slag, or the heaving convulsions towards the end of the second track that struck me as genuinely moving… and which I only noticed on my recent listens for this review, though I’ve been living with this album for more than twenty years. It’s no hyperbole to say that “Loud Sounds Dopa” is one of the greatest recorded achievements of “Japanese noise”, a classic that grows in depth as listeners grow with it. This is an album to sink into, to allow yourself to be absorbed by it, lose track of time and become immersed. If you’re going to buy only one noise album, this is it.
Troniks and Helicopter have also reissued CCCC’s “Phantasmagoria” cassette as a CD; an earlier reissue of this tape was included in No Fun Productions’ “Early Works” 4xCD boxset in 2007, but that’s long gone. It’s been freshly remastered by Hasegawa for this latest edition. “Phantasmagoria” is another live document from 1992, a single 47-minute howl recorded on CCCC’s home turf in Tokyo to a hometown crowd at Theater Poo. This was recorded in June, so a few months before their October overseas excursion. Like their American recordings, “Phantasmagoria” sounds confident and unhurried. There’s a slightly darker tone here, but it’s really a version of the same idea: simultaneously tight and expansive, a seemingly monotonous grind that develops into brilliant colours and psychedelic swirls when stared at for a while. “Phantasmagoria” is no “Loud Sounds Dopa”, but it’s unfair to expect it to be. It’s still damn solid. I’m grateful that this group’s live-action was recorded so well and is now available for a wider audience who’ve had years to appreciate the influence they’ve had on subsequent artists like The Rita, The Cherry Point, Hive Mind, Immaculate: Grotesque, to name just a few. And since people seem to be in a CCCC-reissuing mood these days, may I suggest their Pittsburgh recording from that 1992 tour, which came out as an LP on RRRecords? And their 7” singles? Come on, there’ve gotta be completists out there as nerdy as I am who wanna throw more cash at the CCCC machine. It’d be a mitzvah to everyone to just exhume the whole damn catalogue. You know I’m right. (HS)
––– Address: https://shop.iheartnoise.com/
––– Address: http://helicopter-la.com/
INCAPACITANTS - OPERORUE (CD by Troniks/Helicopter)
Initially released in 1995 as a CD on Kubitsuri Tapes, Incapacitants’ “Operorue” is a punishing experience on headphones. The upper frequencies are really merciless on this album, and that’s not a mastering error. It’s supposed to sound that way. The long-running noise duo of Toshiji Mikawa and Fumio Kosakai (who are also members of Hijokaidan and CCCC, respectively) is known for their energetic and intensely physical live performances where they bounce around like sweaty goons and yowl into scads of little electronic boxes. These guys clearly have a good time when they make this stuff. Their studio recordings, though, take different approaches than their live hyperactive audio-seizures. Some of their albums, like “Operurue”, go for effects other than lose-your-mind extended-explosion chaos (though “Operorue” does have some of that) or attempts to capture the live experience on record. This album is a blistering screech, but it’s also sinewy and lithe with long stretches of unexpectedly brittle space. The opening track, “Postal Savings & Postal Insurance”, is a perfect example of what I mean: for most of its 12-minute runtime, it’s a delicate whine of fibrous feedback surrounded by mystery clunks twittering in little bubbles. Only after a good soak in some cerebellum-flossing high tones do they bother to introduce some bass frequencies… but not much, and not for too long. When they appear, it’s like a half-hearted apology that they quickly retract. Then it’s off to the much longer scorch of “Appointment With My Friend”, which is fuller-sounding and monstrous, but still comprised of myriad itchy squiggles. The frenzied 30-minute finale, “A Walk In the Evening”, is a full-on levelling blast slathered in relentless feedback. On this track, one can discern the furious convulsing of human hands on raw electricity and almost feel the damp sweat of manual action on objects. (HS)
––– Address: https://shop.iheartnoise.com/
––– Address: http://helicopter-la.com/
VALANCE DRAKES - FREEDOM IS ITS OWN KIND OF SALARY (CD by Laaps)
The first time I reviewed something by Valance Drakes (in Vital Weekly 1207) I made the mistake to think it was a female artist, but I was corrected. It was also the only release I heard from him until now, even when there are quite a bit of releases by him. Again Drakes explores the use of rhythm and creates his beats with not just the standard drum samples, but more or less anything that he finds suitable for the job. That may include glitches, record abuse and acoustic objects, and who knows, whatever else. To this sometimes complex myriad of rhythms, Drakes adds some synthesizer sounds and effects, much in the department of delay and reverb. While rhythm plays a big role in the music of Valance Drakes, I don't think it's aimed at dancing. The beats are too complex and the sounds too weird. In some way, it reminded me of what was once called 'intelligent dance music', especially the spacious approach towards the use of melodies, but the level of abstraction is, I think, too big for Drakes. Because I am not too sure what the aim is here, makes it a bit difficult to appreciate it. Sometimes this is sort of rhythmic music will engage you to do something active (the dishes in the kitchen wait patiently for those releases), but in the music of Drakes, I found it hard. It's darker and melancholic sound didn't help either, and in the end it all failed to grab me. I can hear it is all very well-made, with some fine ear for detail, but it somehow left me untouched. (FdW)
––– Address: https://laaps-records.com/
THE NEW BLOCKADERS - SIMPHONIE IN X MAJOR (CD by Menstrual Recordings)
This CD contains 4 tracks, two from the original Vinyl LP of 1991 (recorded in 89) and cassette of 2011, and two from the 3 previous releases of Simphonie in O minor. All limited editions, as is this to 300 copies. Simphonie in X has two movements of harsh noise made using various metal devices and machines, whilst O has been described as (minimal) tape hiss, though with fades in and out. Examples of both, the second movement in each case, can be found at the address below, which should prevent the need for any detailed description. TNB is now rightly considered to be seminal noise artists, such that like The Rita and Merzbow they have become historic 'place holders' for a certain raw, non-electronic, non-laptop or field recordings of sharks et. al. type of noise, the origins of which are now nearly 40 years ago. And these two Simphonies, especially X, have rightly been singled out as important and radical noise works, to the extent that anyone interested at all in the genre should not overlook these. And TNB can not only be singled out as precursors but also more than these others mentioned above of having concerns regarding art and anti-art which they took up in manifestos, manifestos being perhaps in a more 'European' tradition, i.e. found in Futurism, Vorticism... Dada and Fluxus. On the TNB site, Moran Hutson points out the more performative, less sonic, origins of TNB, one which, he doesn't say, but could be related to Viennese Actionists. Whatever the origins of TNB they produced a soundscape that became one major element of noise together with the performative aspects of their live appearances. The TNB site has the following “They are bent almost as much on philosophy and literary ambitions, issuing manifestos and texts and referencing the likes of Debussy and Nietzsche.” whereas I failed to find any evidence of this, I do I believe to remember there being stuff like that out there but it seems to have evaporated. I managed to find this, the original manifesto from which various quotes have in the past been taken, https://noise2010.tumblr.com/post/23917666059/the-new-blockaders-manifesto-1982/amp. Here though the manifesto is titled the “T.I.C. Manifesto” and I'd really like to find out more about this history, but couldn't. That little remains regarding the above literary ambitions are understandable in two ways, the manifesto does set out an ambition, “Let us sever this parasite called history.” A kind of intentional fallacy that in what unfolded as the significance of TNB was not any texts, History is textual, and there is nothing new in old European traditions, of negative claims of anti-art from Dada et al. The originality of TNB was not their now lost texts, but their positive sonic originality. And also as stated in another manifesto aim, “let us be anonymous... “ they pioneered this in their live performances, as do others, The Haters, and subsequently Vomir... (jliat)
––– Address: http://www.menstrualrecordings.org/
NEBULO - PARALLAXES (LP by Le Cabanon Records)
Somehow the name Nebulo sounded familiar, but the only other time this name appeared in Vital Weekly was in 551 and I didn't write that review. Thomas Pujols is the man behind Nebulo, and he studied with Christian Eloy, but his music is not part of the academic scene. His releases can be found on such imprints as Hymen Records, Conditional, Stomoxine, Seagrave, Orange Milk, Phinery Tapes, and Fort Evil Fruit. Of note is also that he never plays live. For each new release he works with a new method of sounds, sometimes field recordings or sampling audio cassettes. For 'Parallaxes', he uses "synthesized timbres". I am not sure what those are and it's not really explained in the information that came along with the record. While Pujols may not be connected to the world of academic music and have had releases by labels that deal with 'beat oriented' music, this album is certainly not beat-oriented. Loops play a role in his music but it's not about beats. It is all very glitchy and harks back to the world of clicks 'n cuts from fifteen or more years ago. I predicted a return of that, which may not have happened yet. Nebulo plays short and strong pieces of music. It's an excellent combination of loud noisy blocks versus melodic glitches, dreamy synthesizers and stomping bass sound; all in combination and/or contradiction with each other. Short glitches versus sustaining tones, abstract sounds versus sweet of a half-formed song structure/melody. The record bounces all over the place and that is the beauty of it. It sounds as if Nebulo wants to show off all the ideas he had for this and drops it all on a platter, but it is also very well possible that he likes to continuously confuse the listener. I settle for that! (FdW)
––– Address: http://www.lecabanonrecords.com
JULIA BÜNNAGEL - SOUNDS LIKE…VIENNA (12" by Gruenrekorder)
How does a city sound? That is a question that occupies the people at Gruenrekorder, offering many releases that deal with field recordings. This new release is slightly different and wackier take upon the answer to that question. Julia Bünnagel is a DJ from Cologne who uses the surface of a city on a turntable. She casts surfaces from the pavement and streets and puts these on her turntable and on this 12" she has three examples of how Vienna sounds. I haven't been to Vienna since the early '80s, I think, and I'd love to go back. I don't think I will put my ear to the ground and listen to the pavement and streets. Not because I know what they sound like after hearing this record, far from it, but because I wouldn't be surprised if they all sound the same. Noisy that is. If you still have vinyl and you still play them (the second is not always a consequence of the first), then you know what vinyl with a lot of dust sounds like. That's how this record sounds, and I checked the stylus when I was in doubt. I remember playing the anti-records that RRRecords put out in the late '80s and using them as 'musical instruments'. This record by Bünnagel has a similar feeling except that this codified. The anti-records with their scissor made grooves skipped all over the place, and Bünnagel gives us finished compositions of noise music. Great concept, records looks great too, but how often will this find its way to the turntable? (FdW)
––– Address: http://www.gruenrekorder.de
BLUTWURST - ANABASI (LP by Kohlhaas)
RICCARDO LA FORESTA - DRUMMOPHONE (LP by Kohlhaas)
From Florence hails an ensemble with the German name Blutwurst. Seven musicians in total, playing viola, trumpet, double bass, accordion, piano, oscillators, cello, bass clarinet, harmonium, singing bowls and pipe organ. 'Anabasi' is the fourth record, but the first one I hear from them. [wiki:] "Anabasis (from Greek ana = "upward", bainein = "to step or march") is an expedition from a coastline up into the interior of a country." It is the title of the longest piece here, which had to be cut in two to fit on a record (that's why I like CDs; the complete, uncut piece is part of the download) and it is all for acoustic instruments, while the other piece is, 'Parva Lumina' is dedicated to Fluxus artist and composer Giuseppe Chiari, and based on his score for an audiovisual installation, La Luce. This one is for pipe organ and electronics. Both pieces are quite minimal, dark and atmospheric, but with some differences also. 'Parva Lumina' is, perhaps, of the two the least minimal, and has a slightly quicker succession of notes. With the pipe organ playing these changing chords and, what sounds like a recording made in a church, the mood is that of a slow mss in church. The electronics make a nice rumble at one point; although I could think this might very well the acoustic instruments. 'Anabasi' is at twenty-seven minutes something of a very slow-moving beast. Everybody plays their instruments at the slowest, with a big role for the string instruments and, in the second half, a bigger role for the wind instruments, giving it a majestic, slow burial. I was reminded of Iancu Dumitrescu in this piece and enjoyed 'Anabasi' a lot. The other one is good and solid, the title piece was the one that blows me away.
Of a different nature is the recorded by percussionist, composer and improviser Riccardo La Foresta, from Modena. He plays with all the usual suspects from that world. For his solo record, he had Lorenzo Abbatoir set up microphones in a former industrial hanger that now houses the Ovestlab cultural centre in Modena (one piece was recorded in the Museo Hermann Nitsch in Naples). All of this is part of La Foresta's interests in "psychoacoustic atmospheres in combination with a deep density of sound". In the six pieces on this record, there is indeed quite a deep sound to be noted. Not just because it is captured in a big space, but also the way La Foresta plays his drumkit. Part of that is done by hitting the skins, but he also extracts some piercing frequencies from the cymbals by playing them with a bow. I assume all of this is played live, perhaps save for some editing afterwards. This is some powerful music. La Foresta rattles the cages most carefully, but that allows the surrounding space to soak it all up. Adding objects onto the skins widens the sound palette at his disposal and sometimes I had no longer the idea that I was listening to a record created by a solo percussionist. One should see that as a compliment, I guess. It is almost a noise record at times, such is the sonic depths reached here. (FdW)
––– Address: https://kohlhaas.bandcamp.com/
MEDHELAN - NOCTURNAL WANDERINGS (CDR by Lighten Up Sounds)
Behind Medhelan is Matteo Brusa, and on Discogs, it is described as "Dungeon synth act founded in 2015". I didn't know that was a thing too. You grow up and learn. As for information, we are also told this by the composer: “What we can see is just a small part of reality... there's a whole invisible world existing along with our 'real' world, and there are places where the fine line between them becomes blurred until it dissolves." 'Nocturnal Wanderings' consists of two pieces that we released on cassette in 2015 (although recorded in 2009), re-edited in 2015, combined with two further pieces, composed and recorded between 2010 and 2015, re-edited last year. While I may not have heard of the term 'dungeon' synth, I can imagine what it is; something spooky with lots of reverb. If that is the case then Medhelan certainly does the job. I also imagined something quite abstract, with lots of deep drones synthesizer intertwining with each other. That is not the case here. In each of the four pieces, we find some shimmering melodies. No doubt played on a synthesizer as well, but sound like a piano or even a guitar. Medhelan then sticks the melody into a loop, while other sounds get additional treatments along the way. These might be from field recordings, heavily treated beyond recognition. In 'Soaring Above The Ashes Of Crumbling Towers', Medhelan uses a simple and effective rhythm to guide the drones around, but there is that soft bell/tinkle piano sound as well. It is dark music, let there be no doubt about that, but it is music with some hope, some light and not just despair and angst. It is all in all, most enjoyable music; not entirely new or innovative, but with some very delicate variety in approaches to his sound material, moving beyond a single tone drone from the basement. (FdW)
––– Address: https://lightenupsounds.bandcamp.com/
COLD CLIMAX - BRUTE OF OPPORTUNITY (cassette by Angst)
This is a release from late 2019 and while post can be slow these days, I don't think it is that slow. I am not sure what prompted sending this now (and with the mailer already rubbished, I also have no idea who sent it). There are, so telleth Discogs, two releases by Cold Climax, who is also using other aliases, such as Clement Young, Cranium (13), Goat Smegma, Psychward, Sick Boy (7), Tom Miller (9), Tommy Gun (11), and Trichotillomania. Looking at the black and white artwork it is not difficult to guess what's on the cassette, which is noise music. The thirty-something minutes are filled with a crude blast of synth noise, looped, distorted. Maybe some sort of radio noise is part of this as well? The use of voices in 'Turn Blue' and 'Evidence' seems to suggest that. While this is a noise release, it stays away from all too obvious harsh noise wall references, which is something I enjoyed. Rather, this is all a fine throwback to the 80s' power electronics scene, Ramleh, Consumer Electronics, The Grey Wolves (and all the off-shoots it produced, especially in the early days) and such like. For me, this is the sound of my late teens, of the halcyon days of tape trading. While Cold Climax may not necessarily shed new light on the whole notion of power electronics, I particularly enjoyed a reminder of those days and everything that came with on a sunny Monday morning. If you like a few old-fashioned power electronics by a new name, then this is a way in. (FdW)
––– Address: https://angstrecords.blogspot.com/
MEYER HUTHWELKER - PURDUE GENERATOR (cassette by Cruel Nature Recordings)
Your eyes, and ears, aren’t deceiving you. Helge Meyer and René Huthwelker have joined forces to create the ‘Purdue Generator’ cassette, released on Cruel Nature Records. Over its 26-minute duration, their modular synths create slow-moving drones and pulses that never really get us out of second gear but are exquisitely well crafted it doesn’t matter.
The first track, ‘Oxy’, is a fairly light and airy affair. Around the middle, it really starts to work out what it wants to do and just runs with it. The tones have 50s alien-themed Sci-Fi vibes about them. You could imagine this is the sound Ed Wood had in his head when he pictured UFO’s flying over LA. ‘Oxy’ has a strangely jocular vibe to it. While the synths are at a constant level, they aren’t oppressive or overwhelming, this comes later, but instead happily do their thing in the background while you do yours in the fore. The final three minutes are an excellent exercise in how to bring in a ‘dramatic’ change with grace.
If ‘Oxy’ sets up the album for a, slightly, relaxed, and meditative feel ‘Hundo’ is a more abrasive and fractured affair. Here the synths have more of a bit to them. This harder edge ideally complements ‘Oxy’ as it offers literally another side to the album. As ‘Hundo’ progresses some of the rougher edges fall away revealed cavernous melodies hidden beneath. They might move with glacial slowness, but they are as captivating as anything else I’ve heard all year. As with ‘Oxy’, the outro is a thing of beauty as it gracefully fades into the ether of which it first appeared.
Throughout ‘Purdue Generator’ the slow-moving modular synths allow Meyer and Huthwelker to create tension, and movement whilst not losing any of the impact. Whilst listening to the album I’m reminded of watching a video showing the movements of starfish at an aquarium. If you walked into the screening room watched for a few moments, then walked away and swung by for another look later on you wouldn’t have noticed much movement. However, if you paid attention to their movements, you’d notice plenty was going on. The same is true here. If you give ‘Purdue Generator’ the time, there is plenty to dig your teeth into. (NR)
––– Address: https://cruelnaturerecordings.bandcamp.com/
BALL GEOGRAPHIE - LIVE AT BUDOKAN (cassette by Superpolar Taips)
BLEED AIR (cassette by Superpolar Taips)
As I am playing both of these tapes, I am contemplating that quite a few cassette releases contain some form of alternative pop music, and that, perhaps, a bigger audience could be reached on a different medium. Here we have the inaugural releases from a label from Cologne, Superpolar Taips, and both are some clouded with mystery. Not much to go on by way of names and such. Ball Geopgraphie is from Cologne as well, loves his "Boss DR-550 and its HIQ sound, kalimbas, musical toys and Dictaphones too". Among all the dead serious music Vital Weekly receives, it is good to have something funny, and Ball Geographie is certainly funny, weird, different; pick a word. Sometimes they (well 'he' is more likely) sound like a genuine '80s disco band, but then the music leaps into more 8-bit breakbeats, to be followed by a full-on tearjerker 'Snyrk', with lots of sampled guitars and high-pitched voice (one of the few with 'vocals'). Then next on full-on retro '80s minimal synth sound. It is a bit all over the place, these thirty-five minutes, but the perfect antidote for an afternoon of all serious music.
Likewise, there is not a lot known of Bleed Air (or rather bleed Air, as the preferred spelling is), who use a lot of "analogue electronic gear, often of the cheaper and not exactly hip kind, and tape effects were used". Bleed Air also bounce all over the place with their (again I am not sure) sound, going from introspective and ambient, towards a more robotic, upbeat sound, of wacked out techno beats and then going towards minimal synth. The music here is not as quirky as Ball Geographie and it seems (I use that word with some caution) all a bit more serious. That is, perhaps, based on the more moody electronic pieces that are also on this cassette, in which bleed Air wants us to contemplate (maybe). I didn't quite understand this instruction: "It is recommended to listen to each side of the album in one piece. The single Digital release tracks are not mixed, but musically cut - and we've added the side A and B mixed files too", but anyway, all the music in some kind of mixed form and cut as one track per side is also part of this. This too is a lovely break from all too seriousness. (FdW)
––– Address: https://superpolar.bandcamp.com/
MARCUS MAEDER - CREPUSCULE (cassette by Domizil)
To see Marcus Maeder release music on a cassette is quite a surprise. Much of what he does in the realm of computer-based processing deals with the tiniest details of sound and as such the CD, I would think, is the best medium for his music. But maybe there has been a shift in his music that makes is suited for cassette? He writes that 'Crepuscule' deals with "motif of twilight. It occurs at the beginning and the end of a day - and in human cultures as well: Nietzsche, in his "Twilight of the Idols", referred to the idols of his time, whose downfall he saw coming up. Twilight is a period of transition; it occurs cyclically and therefore offers an analogy to times of social change" and that Maeder captures the zeitgeist and perhaps the zeitgeist also says 'cassettes are hot!'. 'Behold', said she, 'I am that which must ever surpass itself", quoted from Nietzche's 'Also Sprach Zarathustra' is the title of the first piece, followed by 'movement two' to 'movement 13'. As said, Maeder is a man for computer-based musique concrète, normally speaking, but here tries something different. You could call this ambient music, I guess, with long sustaining sounds, no doubt created from some sort of computer process. It seems as if once Maeder gets a piece on the road, it unfolds by itself. On the first side, we find mostly shorter pieces and on the other four longer ones. Even when not playing at the twilight times of the day, but just mid-afternoon, and no cloud in sight, I enjoyed this release quite a bit, perhaps because I am a sucker for all things dark ambient. This reminded me of some current work by Florian Wittenberg or some of the earliest works by Thomas Köner. Shimmering textures, endless delays, a fair bit of reverb, and we cross from day to night, and from night to day again. I have no idea what went into the computer, or if it even was a computer or modular electronics, the result was great. As I was fully emerged by some other task that required very little thought, I had this on repeat for quite a while, which at ninety minutes playing time, took up all of my afternoon and still I was taken by the music. Excellent cassette! (FdW)
––– Address: http://domizil.ch/
'Less than Vital – music [not] reviewed outside our box'
MARIANNE BAUDOUIN LIE - ATLANTIS, UTOPIA & ULVEDRØMMER (2CD by Particular Recordings)
LUCIANE CARDASSI - GOING NORTH (CD by Redshift Records)
PEP - VOLUME 3 (CD by Redshift Records)
BOW (CD by Sub Rosa)
This is, for this week, a corner of modern classical music. Sometimes it seems we receive more and more from that end of the musical spectrum. We may guess at the reasons for that. Maybe government-sponsored releases may be the only way to get a CD out (and, I hasten to say, I am not saying these four are!)? Be that as it may, Vital Weekly doesn't employ someone willing to look at these releases week in, week out, so for now, this task is here, with the editor/chief, and I see it as my job (also unemployed) to tell you what we got, and not perhaps so much as a review. First, there is the work by Marianne Baudouin Lie, who plays solo cello and voice, performing pieces by Maja Ratkje, Stine Sørlie, Eirik Hegdal, Lene Grenager and Ellen Lindquist. On the first disc, the pieces are slow and quite solemn. The second CD is all composed by Lene Grenager and hear the music is quite chaotic at times and seems to be using 'other' sounds as well. This is called 'a one-woman musical', and I quite enjoyed this 'wolf dreams' drama.
Also using voice but playing the piano is Luciane Cardassi, who is a Brazilian-Canadian pianist. She does that since 1998 when she released her first record. She performs works by Terri Hron, Jorge Villavicencio Grossman, Emilie LeBel, Alexandre Espinheira, Chantale Laplante, Darren Miller, Lis Sfoggia/Guilherme Bertissolo & Luciane Cardassi and Fernando Mattos. I had not heard of these composers before. There is quite a bit of spoken word, and extended piano techniques, but it all sounds very contemporary classical to these untrained ears.
On the same label a duet by PEP, which stands for Piano and Erhu Project. The first is played by Corey Hamm and Nicole Ge Li plays the Erhu, [wiki] "The erhu is a two-stringed bowed musical instrument, more specifically a spike fiddle, which may also be called a Southern Fiddle, and sometimes known in the Western world as the Chinese violin or a Chinese two-stringed fiddle." They perform compositions by Gao Ping, Marc Mellits, Somei Satoh, Lucas Oickle, Michael Finnissy, Stephen Chatman, Gabriel Prokofiev and Sergey Prokofiev (the latter being the well-known grandfather of Gabriel). I did hear of Sergey! At times quite romantic, this one, so it seems to these... you know the drill.
Sub Rosa always dabbled in contemporary classical music and here they have something one can see as an example of that, except they are not playing compositions but somewhere between notation and improvisation. Bow is Margaret Hermant (Echo Collective) and Benoit Leseure, both on violin, Jean-Francois Durdu on viola, Marine Horbaczewski on cello and Cyrille de Haes on double bass. The cover notes 'composed instantly by Bow'. I quite enjoyed this one, perhaps for its somewhat dark quality, especially when they hit upon a more drone-like soundscape, such in the majestic opening piece 'Bryanbaum'. Bow's music sounded definitely a bit more improvised but in all its slow majestic flow reminded me also of Arvo Pärt. That's all I could make of it. From these four releases, this would be the one to return to for repeated playing a few more times. (FdW)
––– Address: http://particularrecordings.com
––– Address: http://redshiftrecords.org
––– Address: http://www.subrosa.net
Vital - The Complete Collection 1987-1995
Before Vital Weekly there was Vital, a Xeroxed fanzine covering experimental, electronic andelectro-acoustic music; interviews, reviews, in-depth discussion articles, background. All 44 issues in one hardcover book; 580 pages. More information: http://kormplastics.nl/vtcc.html