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BILL FONTANA - LANDSCAPE SCULPTURE WITH FOG HORNS (CD by Other Minds Records) *
MAGNUS GRANBERG - COME DOWN TO EARTH WHERE SORROW DWELLETH (CD by Ftarri) *
KOEN NUTTERS - INTERVALS, TIME AND SPACE BETWEEN (2CD by Ftarri) *
ERIS 136199: HAN-EARL PARK & CATHERINE SIKORA & NICK DIDKOVSKY - PECULIAR VELOCITIES (CD by Buster And Friends) *
MARCIA BASSETT & MARGARIDA GARCIA &MANUAL MOTA - SURVIVAL OF LAMENTS (CD by Headlights) *
THANOS CHRYSAKIS - ΕΛΥΤΡΑ (CD by Auf Abwegen) *
JETZMANN - USE THE AIR (LP by Auf Abwegen) *
ORCHESTRA OF THE UPPER ATMOSPHERE – 05 (CD by Discus Music) *
TONUS - INTERMEDIATE OBSCURITIES III (CD by Spontaneous Music Live Series) *
2020 (CD compilation by Edition Degem) *
PANDEMIC RESPONSE DIVISION (USB compilation by Spectral Electric)
STEVE RODEN/SMALL CRUEL PARTY - STRATÉGIES OBLIQUES Ø (LP by Ferns) *
ELLIOTT SHARP – FOLIAGE (LP by Moving Furniture Records) *
FERGUS KELLY - UNSOUND FRICTIONS (CDR by Room Temperature) *
DEATH DEDICATION/NECROECCLESIA – EXPERIMENT TO DESTRUCT (CDR by Head Tapes) *
YIORGIS SAKELLARIOU - AUKA (3"CDR by Taalem) *
FREDRIK MATHIAS JOSEFSON - AS ABOVE SO BELOW (3"CDR by Taalem) *
BEN FLEURY-STEINER - VENTUS (3"CDR by Taalem) *
LORENZO GOMEZ OVIEDO & BARDO TODOL - TU CARA ESTIRADA POR EL EXTASIS (cassette by Kirigirisu Recordings) *
GEEKER-NATSUMI - HELOCTORO (cassette by Kirigirisu Recordings) *
NON PHOTO BLUE - DÉPAYSEMENT (cassette by Amek) *
NATT - THE WAY YOU WERE MADE (cassette by Amek) *
BILL FONTANA - LANDSCAPE SCULPTURE WITH FOG HORNS (CD by Other Minds Records)
This is the sound from the past. Not just because this is a re-issue of a record from 1982 and now out of print, but also because the sounds used here are gone. The foghorn was used in the 19th and 20th century to guide ships through the fog and that is something that is no longer done. Bill Fontana, born in 1947, works his whole life with sounds from sites, formed and transformed by the landscape. On this record, he had eight foghorns from around the San Francisco bay in a live feed to Port Mason where they sounded at the same time. Foghorns are distinguished by the fact that each has their own signal; "2 blasts every 30 seconds; a 2-second blast, followed by a 2-second silence, followed by a 2-second blast, followed by 24-second silence". But as these things have varying distances and with different atmospheric conditions, tones may vary. That's where the small differences come in. On the original LP, there is an 'installation' version and a 'concert' version. In the latter, we have a person playing along with the installation, which is Stuart Dempster on trombone, didgeridoo, garden hose and conch shell. Added to this is a thirty-eight-minute installation version from 2018. Ever since I got this CD a week ago, I have been playing this is every day at least once, which is not bad for the amount things to play every day and the length of this. But the music I find highly fascinating in all its minimalism. Whether it is the old or the new installation version, which is very slow and on the verge of no-change. Just these long-form foghorn tones and a bit of pause between them; if you crank up the volume you will notice the sea behind it; or is that just hiss from amplification? Less, it seems, on the 2018 version. In the concert version, the additions by Dempster appear so gradually and so naturally that I first assumed it was the same piece but then it turned that Dempster's instruments are close to the foghorn, making subtle but definitive changes. He keeps it close the foghorns yet also distinctly different. This is very likely a CD to end up in my top whatever of this year! (FdW)
––– Address: http://otherminds.org
MAGNUS GRANBERG - COME DOWN TO EARTH WHERE SORROW DWELLETH (CD by Ftarri)
KOEN NUTTERS - INTERVALS, TIME AND SPACE BETWEEN (2CD by Ftarri)
Here we have two foreign composers on Japan's Ftarri label, of which Magnus Granberg is quickly returning one. Hey, wasn't that last one also 'Come Down to Earth Where Sorrow Dwelleth' (Vital Weekly 1244)? Yes, it was! But Ordinary Affects, a group with a violin, cello, electric guitar and vibraphone, performed that and this new version is with Miki Maruta (20-string koto), Ko Ishikawa (sho) and Toshimaru Nakamura (no-input mixing board), with the composer behind the prepared piano. This version was recorded a year ago in Tokyo. Granberg worked with, next to Ordinary Affects, with Ensemble Grizzana and Insub Meta Orchestra, and has had various releases available. This new version is a much more radical adaption of the first version. I would think much of that comes down to the no-input mixer from Nakamura. He delivers quite some radical textures to the music, which removes it from the somewhat more solemn approach that Ordinary Affects had. I felt myself zoning in and out with that version, whereas this version keeps me all ears, all attention and sometimes even reaching for the remote control, to adjust the volume setting a bit. The other three players keep within the spirit of the previous performance and form an interesting, opposite sound to that of Nakamura. The sho provides fine delicate sustaining tones, which sometimes supplement and sometimes contrast the frequencies from Nakamura, whereas the koto is plucked and the piano is played in a more quiet and isolated fashion. This hair-raising version was pretty radical but it worked very well for me. Koen Nutters I met a few times and it always seems in Berlin, but I believe he is based in Amsterdam. I must admit I don't know much about his work, and I gather that is because much of his work is for performance, rather than to be released. Ftarri writes that he is mostly in "the field of experimental music, using text-scores, structured improvisation and more conceptual operations to create a wide variety of different music, performances, texts and events" and that he is a member of The Pitch (see Vital Weekly 1142), And/In, Ensemble Post-music and DNK Ensemble. This double CD contains one-piece, 'Intervals, time and space between', recorded with three different groups in three different cities. It is no rocket science to predict that the result is three times very different. Take a look at the various instruments used across these performances. In 'Berlin Version', there is voice, piano, bass clarinet, Frisbee, flute, inaudible objects (not sure how well they were captured on the recording), sine tones, movement and various 'recording and playback devices', so I assume that plays a role in this version, whereas in the 'Solothurn version', we have voices, concertina, upright bass, sine tones, cello and all four performers taking credit for movement. In the 'Amsterdam version,' there is a concertina, voice, guitar, otamatone, and cello (no movement). Nutters is the only one to perform in all three versions. As before with such matters as 'text-based' or 'graphic' scores, I would be curious to see these scores; what do they look like and what are the instructions and what is the freedom allowed for the players? Maybe such matters as 'movement' would also make a bit more sense. The only thing we now know is that 'the score of this composition is quite open and functions as a construction kit for each player to build their own version of the piece and to combine this material with the other players' findings. The score features roughly prescribed actions and forms, open instrumentation, and flexible yet systematic pitch material.' Yes, the three versions are different but in one thing they are all the same, and that is that they are all quiet. You could think this is a very free piece from the world of Wandelweiser, with people moving around, voices and action, but the way it sounds is all very quiet. That, and the fact that I have very little idea how it looks and works, makes that I have the impression that I might be missing out on something. Something is going on, but I don't know what it is. Sometimes I seem to like and sometimes I don't. (FdW)
––– Address: https://ftarri.com/
ERIS 136199: HAN-EARL PARK & CATHERINE SIKORA & NICK DIDKOVSKY - PECULIAR VELOCITIES (CD by Buster And Friends)
For the past eight years Han-earl Park, Catherine Sikora and Nick Didkovsky have performed under the Eris 136199 moniker. Their hybrid of No Wave noise, free jazz sensibilities and shronk fun. It’s captivating to hear, and I’d imagine, exhilarating to witness live.
On their latest album ‘Peculiar Velocities’ everything feels pushed as far is it can go. There is a fuzzy abstraction to these recordings. Opening track ‘Ballad of Tensegrity I’ is just that for the first few minutes. Abrasive fuzzy noises punctuated by Sikora’s saxophone. Then the curtain drops, and tender saxophone appears. Under this is wonky, and scratchy, guitar work is allowed to make a bed of thorns. Intricately woven and spikey. The title tracks ‘Peculiar Velocities I & II’ start with more free jazz vibe, before the almost impressionistic duelling guitars, kick in. Here Sikora keeps things grounded so Park and Didkovsky can do battle in the ether. These are two of the strongest and most enjoyable tracks on the album.
The standout track on the album, however, is ‘Sleeping Dragon’. Here Park, Sikora and Didkovsky really show what they’re made of. After opening with what sounds like either radio static or the Clangers having a raging argument, a dense soundscape is created where all the players overlap and layer themselves on each other creating ferocious swaths of sound. There is a section near the end that seems to sum up the track, and album. Sikora plays elegant note after note, only then to play short sharp violent bursts before playing more sonorous notes again. This feels like what the album is about. Short sharp doses of violent noise followed by elegant musicality.
There are parts of ‘Eris 136199: Peculiarr Velocities’ that sound like what rock music could, and possibly should, have sounded like it if musicians like Ornette Coleman became the norm. There is a freeness to the playing that is astounding, but there is also organisation. During sections, the guitars work together to give Sikora something tangible to stand on. When this happens ‘Eris 136199: Peculiar Velocities’ becomes something very special indeed. ‘Polytely I’ sees the guitars constantly churning to create vortex-esque soundscapes why Sikora’s light and airy saxophone wafts above it. Like stream on a freshly brewed tea. This is an album that reminds you of how good it is when musicians don’t care about the rules and just play. (NR)
––– Address: http://busterandfriends.com
MARCIA BASSETT & MARGARIDA GARCIA &MANUAL MOTA - SURVIVAL OF LAMENTS (CD by Headlights)
The two pieces on this CD were recorded at the Janskerk in Utrecht, The Netherlands, on August 24th 2018 by Marcia Bassett (guitar), Margarida Garcia (bass) and Manuel Mota (guitar). I don't think I ever visited this church, built in medieval times and not destroyed during the reformation, but stripped of its Roman Catholic ornaments. The cover text connects the lament of the place with lamenting in general and that music is an "art form that lives through constant drying or dying out" and as such is the music played by this trio well suited for such places as a church. There is a constant long sustaining howl present in these pieces of both guitars (and, who knows, also the bass), perhaps generated with the use of an e-bow upon the strings and with the microphones in a position not too close to the amplifiers, but it is all captured from such a distance that we hear the sounds travel through this place, bouncing against the high ceiling, back to front, front to back and with enough time between the notes to live on and not die. The bass is sometimes played with a bow and provides the occasional deep wail below. It is not always too careful and introspective, but, so I was thinking, maybe it is quite introspective, but in a loud way; the singing of sorrowful tunes, yet rather loudly. It is all a bit without heads or tails, but there seem to be recurring themes/approaches within these pieces to which they return now and then. This is a work that sometimes cuts right through the soul, because of the volume (yet it is devoid of true noise) and intensity of the playing; it is, indeed, a lament. Well, two laments I would think and it is forty-one minutes of howls and shrieks. In a year that for many people is different, darker than ever before, I can imagine this is the right soundtrack for such dark contemplations and laments. (FdW)
––– Address: https://headlightsrecordings.blogspot.com/
THANOS CHRYSAKIS - ΕΛΥΤΡΑ (CD by Auf Abwegen)
JETZMANN - USE THE AIR (LP by Auf Abwegen) T
he last time I reviewed a CD by Greek composer Thanos Chrysakis, in Vital Weekly 828, I wrote: "It has been a while since I last heard music from Thanos Chrysakis - Vital Weekly 620", so I am a bit lost what I should right now. When I looked on Discogs to see what I missed I was quite surprised to see I missed out on a lot of his releases, mostly released through his imprint Aural Terrains. Many of these are collaborations with others, such as Tim Hodgkinson, Vincent Royer, Chris Cundy, Yoni Silver, Lori Freedman, Jason Alder, William Lang, Wilfrido Terrazas, Philippe Brunet, Wade Matthews, Ernesto Rodrigues, Abdul Moimême, Zsolt Sőrés, Ove Volquartz and others. On his label, he also released work by Kim Cascone, Dan Warburton, Jeff Gburek, wade Matthews and others. The Greek translates as 'elytra', which I had no clue what that was, but [wiki] says "An elytron (/ˈɛlaɪtrɒn/; from Greek ἔλυτρον "sheath, cover"; plural: elytra /-trə/) is a modified, hardened forewing of certain insect orders, notably beetles (Coleoptera) and a few of the true bugs (Hemiptera) such as the family Schizopteridae; in most true bugs, the forewings are instead called hemelytra (sometimes alternatively spelled as "hemielytra"), as only the basal half is thickened while the apex is membranous. An elytron is sometimes also referred to as a shard." Chrysakis writes: " Everyone has heard the marvellous sound of crickets in the summer especially in the countryside. The sound is produced by raising and scraping against each of their protective fore-wings of the elytra. Their burrow act as a resonator bringing at times a transcendent quality to the place. The music on this album with myriads of sounds, regular and irregular pulses, unfolds a similar transforming quality." That is a nicely ambiguous way of saying that the sounds might be from the elytra, but then, maybe not. I have no idea. If it is, then Chrysakis is a master of processing. In 'Tortoise Pilgrimage' there are quite a few of bell-like sounds, which made think differently about the use of elytra sounds, or the piano sounds at the end of 'A Shadow's Dream' In other pieces, sure, that can be the case, along with some treatments to create more drone-like structures, like a carpet for the other, smaller sounds to move in around. Chrysakis works with the material from the world of musique concrète from the perspective of 21st-century composers, armed with a laptop and multi pieces of software to transform the sound. He does this carefully and meticulous, and creates a fine a balance between 'loud' and 'quiet', 'abstract' and 'ambient' and in the fifty-two minutes of this release some delicate, intelligent computer music with considerable warmth.
Sadly, for many, the liner notes for 'Use The Air' by Jetzmann are in German, by the ever so lovely Asmus Tietchens. He tells us about Jetzmann's previous work with the noise rock band Die Erde, his work with CV Liquidski and his development in the world of electro-acoustic music and that this 'F-Musik', as opposed to 'E' and 'U', 'ernste' and 'unterhaltung'. F-musik, funktionale musik is music with a purpose, for instance in an advertisement or, in the case of Jetzmann, music for dance productions. Ten of the twelve pieces are made for choreography and while we don't see the dance, the music gives a pretty good impression of what it is. These are vibrant pieces of sound transformation, which doesn't mean there is always happening a lot. Some of these pieces are quite reduced, such as 'Largo', but it has fine returning sound, which easily suggests movement. In his work, I would think that Jetzmann is inspired by the work of Tietchens, using only the most necessary of sounds and put these together in a composition. Whatever is at the core of these sounds, I have no idea. These could easily be instruments, electronics or acoustic sounds, but being worked over and over, they no longer sound like anything you'd recognize, save perhaps for the piano in 'Jenny' and 'Papierpiano' (but the title may have helped). Most pieces are short and that adds a playful character to the music, which is unlike Tietchens, who is, usually, a bit longer and a bit more serious. There are some excellent variations to be heard here, or even on the outer-outer fringes of techno music, but more as a start and never as a fully developed piece, such as in 'Prozession'. This is, from start to end, all lovely stuff! (FdW)
––– Address: https://aufabwegen.bandcamp.com/
ORCHESTRA OF THE UPPER ATMOSPHERE – 05 (CD by Discus Music)
Sheffield-based Orchestra of the Upper Atmosphere delivers its fifth album. We are talking of a project with a focus on improvising rock that was started by multi-sided musician Martin Archer around 2012. For this occasion the band is expanded up to eight musicians: Martin Archer (saxophones, clarinet, flute, organ, mellotron, software instruments, voices), Steve Dinsdale (drums, synths), Lorin Halsall (double bass, electric upright bass, electronics), Yvonna Magda (violin, electronics), Andy Peake (Rhodes, synths), Walt Shaw (percussion, electronics), Jan Todd (vocals, voices, lyrics, harps, electronics, laptop, midi keys, bowed acoustic bass guitar (on Obsidian), glockenspiel, 12-string guitar, Korg wave drum, Idiopan) and Terry Todd (electric bass guitar, acoustic 12-string guitar). The CD consists of four tracks. Opening track ‘Obsidian’ is a richly textured soundscape, preluding and indicating in seven minutes the spaceways being travelled this time. Following is the 20-minute track ‘Changeling’ starts from a slow groove with mellotron in the forefront. After a few minutes, the beat-driven music accelerates with jazzy motives introduced by the blowers. Halfway violin and other strings introduce a new chapter. Nearing the end keyboards take the lead. ‘Pillared Space’ is an oversized 42-minute journey. This one feels very improvised. Constantly progressing in a searching and hinting mode. Halfway appears a song with beautiful vocals by Jan Todd. I’m old enough to have nostalgic feelings listening to this album and also feel sympathy for their undertaking that departs from 70s-based musical forms: electronic, fusion, Canterbury, progressive rock, improvisation. It was this decade that recording long spun-out music became common praxis due to the possibilities of the lp-format. The spun-out explorations by Archer and his mates have fine arrangements and colouring in. Surely it is not a pure retro-motivated trip, but they are also not very eager to discover new territories. Nevertheless, a solid statement of dedicated musicians sharing the same dream. The live improvised session was recorded on two days in October 2019 in the studio. Afterwards, the material was reworked, etc. (DM)
––– Address: https://discus-music.co.uk/
TONUS - INTERMEDIATE OBSCURITIES III (CD by Spontaneous Music Live Series)
On October 5th, 2019 Dirk Serries performed with his Tonus-project in Poland at the Spontaneous Music Festival. This time Tonus had the following line up: Pawel Doskocz (acoustic guitar), Andrew Lisle (percussion), Ostap Mańko (violin), Witold Oleszak (piano), Dirk Serries (acoustic guitar), Anna Szmatola (cello), Benedict Taylor (viola) and Colin Webster (alto sax). So on the one hand English musicians Serries already used to play with, joined by three Polish musicians who are new in this Tonus-constellation. Tonus is a project started in 2017 by Dirk Serries. From what I understand ‘Tonus’ refers as well to a graphic score by Serries, as to an open ensemble-format performing in different line ups. The title ‘Intermediate Obscurities III’ suggests the existence of other versions of this collective improvisation. And yes there is an album titled ‘Intermediate Obscurities I +IV’, released on his own A New Wave of Jazz-label. This album has two different versions performed by two different Tonus-line ups. I suppose these improvisations start from an identical idea what makes them a series. As I don’t know this album I can’t judge about any (dis)continuity being the case here. So let us turn to ‘Intermediate Obscurities III’. This is one long extended improvisation departing from a very reduced approach. I’m not sure if it is appropriate to say, but Serries we know all from his ambient-background, and now moves again toward ambient territories albeit in the context of free improvised music. That’s interesting. Does it give a new perspective for improvised music, for ambient music or both? Whatever with ‘Intermediate Obscurities III’ we witness an interaction that consequently works from a very minimalistic approach from start to finish. The music moves on slowly and quietly. Pointillistic and static, it is constantly very close to silence. And that is where they prefer to stay throughout this extended meditation. Expect no eruptions or strongly contrasting movements. That’s not where this music is about. Everything ‘happens’ on a microlevel. And it is fascinating how they really maximize what is in it, staying within this frame. (DM)
––– Address: http://www.multikulti.com/
2020 (CD compilation by Edition Degem)
PANDEMIC RESPONSE DIVISION (USB compilation by Spectral Electric)
When the pandemic started to hit hard, March and April earlier this year, many people started initiatives to 'do something', as concerts were no longer possible. Degem, which stands for Deutsche Gesellschaft Fur Elektroakustische Musik release annually a compilation around a theme and this year the theme is '2020' (by which they don't mean the 'vision'), which was easy I guess, with the pandemic and all that. As always there is a booklet with information about the individual pieces, but I decided to have a look at that when I would be playing the CD for a second time; you know, have a fresh approach. Throughout I would think that these composers use the laptop/computer to create their pieces and looking at the titles, listening to the music, I am not sure what the message is, or how I should feel; more in particular, of course, about this year. Privately I have mixed feelings anyway about this year (not bad actually), but I realize my life isn't a regular one anyway. The music was, save for some minor differences, very much alike. Thoughtful collages of heavily processed sounds most of the time, all dealing (I think) with field recordings or electronic sounds (or even an old modem in Peter Kiefer's 'Data Flow web 1.0/4.0'). Sometimes a very classic approach (Ralf Hoyer), but also working with the lo-fi drone and ambient sounds (Gerald Fiebig). The only one that was very much different was by Maximilian Marcoll, 'Our Daily Bread I: "Beautiful Dirty Rich" - Lady Gaga', which was a cut-up collage of said song by Lady Gaga, and this was the first I looked up to see what that was all about and which I can’t repeat in a few words. Which is something that can be said of many of these pieces. Some of these make perfect sense, given the concept, and some just seem to elude me, even when it was a particularly interesting read.
Something entirely different but also a result of the pandemic was organized by Michael Esposito, who should be best known for recording Electronic Voice Phenomena, also sometimes known as voices from the 'other side'. To everybody who asked he mailed a bunch and asked it to incorporate into new music. Sometimes this is very clear, and sometimes not at all. That resulted into an album of 109 tracks, with various people delivering a few pieces; the nine tracks by Earthmonkey (some with guests) is almost an album by itself. So, here we have almost 100 artists and that results into eleven hours, twenty-seven minutes and fifty-eight seconds of music, with the shortest being fifty-seven seconds and the longest a still modest twenty-one minutes and forty-nine seconds. Many of the artists are from the world of electronic music, be it ambient, dance, microsound, glitch but a small section also with guitars and drums (Earthmonkey again, but also The Closets) and some crazy drum computer and even crazier guitar solos (Pronoia). Over the past months, as tracks come in and were posted on Bandcamp, I heard a few already and I very much enjoy the many approaches, but after the many ambient/microsound/drone variations, I enjoyed mostly the ones that offered a lot of extra sounds, rhythms (Adi Netwon, TeZ, Ruisch, Carsten Aniksdal, for instance), the fine Fender Rhodes piano of Rapoon or something very different altogether (Tony Wakeford, Earthmonkey, Kristof Hahn, Pronoia). It is a who's who in the world of experimental music, and there are lots to discover. Comes with hand sanitizer and a patch! The ultimate gift for Christmas. (FdW)
––– Address: https://aufabwegen.com/
––– Address: https://spectralelectric.bandcamp.com/
STEVE RODEN/SMALL CRUEL PARTY - STRATÉGIES OBLIQUES Ø (LP by Ferns)
In case you have never heard of Oblique Strategies (subtitled Over One Hundred Worthwhile Dilemmas) then let me quote [wiki] for you: "...is a card-based method for promoting creativity jointly created by musician/artist Brian Eno and multimedia artist Peter Schmidt, first published in 1975. Physically, it takes the form of a deck of 7-by-9-centimetre (2.8 in × 3.5 in) printed cards in a black box. Each card offers a challenging constraint intended to help artists (particularly musicians) break creative blocks by encouraging lateral thinking." I once obtained a copy and showed it to a fellow musician, who had never heard of it. "What's that, some family game, like Pictionary" and after I explained the idea to him, he was even less interested. Oh, the curious minds of musicians. It has some great thoughts that can help the artist; 'try faking it", "use an old idea" or "repetition is a form of change". On this split LP by Small Cruel Party and Steve Roden, they use these constraints as a title, and so, I think, also as a starting point for a composition. Small Cruel Party, after a long hiatus, seems to be back, and I am told the three pieces are all new material. Steve Roden is, these days at least, so it seems, in and out of the music business, but maybe he's just not so active when it comes to releasing records. He gets help from Steve Peters, who is responsible for "recording, editing, processing, assembling, and mixing", whereas Roden himself "modular synthesizer, instruments and objects, and voice". He has five, relatively short pieces of music. From what I mostly remember of his older work is that he worked a lot with long loops that met at irregular intervals, thus always sounding the same and different. Maybe that's the case still here, but I am not sure. These pieces are quite small and intimate, created from just a few sounds and yes, some might be looped, such as the rhythm of 'Do Something Boring, Are There Sections Consider Transitions' (he might actually do a cut-up of the original instructions, unlike Small Cruel Party). Roden kept the smallness of his earlier work, looped harmonica, strings, bows and such, but now reduces them to short pieces. His 'Ghost Echoes, Towards The Insignificant', has a humming voice that is reminiscent Brian Eno's 'Music For Airports', but now with the small rumbling of contact microphones upon surfaces. Small Cruel Party also uses harmonica in 'Breathe Moore Deeply'; what other instruments he uses in the other two pieces, I don't know. After all these years, Small Cruel Party is still interested in the minimal development of sound. With a few sources, and some sound effects he creates a shadow play of sound. Clouded by effects, it is all obscure and vague, and yet also very fascinating. Only towards the end of 'Do Something Boring', the delay effect derails and the tension is broken; otherwise: great pieces. Good to see new music from this American in exile. (FdW)
––– Address: https://fernsrecordings.bandcamp.com/
ELLIOTT SHARP – FOLIAGE (LP by Moving Furniture Records)
Sharp is classically trained as a pianist and clarinettist, but also played the guitar from an early age what brought him into contact with jazz, blues, rock, etc. After settling in New York he became a prominent musician, organizer, etc. in the downtown scene since the end of the 70s. He is also an example of the phenomenon of musicians working within avant rock, etc., started to profile themselves as composers of new music. Think of Nick Didkovsky, Fred Frith, etc. His work ‘Foliage’ belongs in this category. For this composition’ Sharp worked with graphic notation, a method that became practised since the 50s in the contexts of experimental and avant-garde music (John Cage, a.o.). Graphic notation was used to notate what could not otherwise be notated. Or on the other hand, to allow more freedom for the interpreting musicians, creating room for their own interventions and improvisation. In this last sense, it was meant by Sharp who explains that ‘Foliage’ is “a graphic score open to interpretation and realization by any instrumentalist or ensemble of any size… [it] is a piece of retinal art as much as it is an instruction set for sound, form and function interlocked.” The work was s composed by Sharp in 2012. Musicians perform from prints or from a 30-minute film made from these prints. It was performed by the Sirius String Quartet, Dither Guitar Quartet, and by many other ensembles and musicians as well. Performed quite often, it has not been recorded for release earlier. And for sure not in the instrumentation, we find on this new release by Moving Furniture. Listed as performers are Dario Calderone (double bass), Gareth Davis (bass clarinet), Pepe Garcia (percussion) and Koen Kaptijn (trombone). But listening through it is soon evident that not all we hear is of acoustic origin. I’m not sure how they exactly proceeded. And whether some electronic treatment is done in real-time or only afterwards. For sure Rutger Zuydervelt who is listed for post-production had considerable influence on the final recording and sound. And what is most important in the end, the procedures followed led to some exciting and surprising music. Full of dynamics and unexpected viable movements. The work is built from eight parts, all taking 1 up to 9 minutes. ‘Foliage I’ has a great section of deep sonorities on double bass. ‘Foliage II’ the shortest part of all, is dominated by a little percussion. ‘Foliage III’ has characteristics of an electronic ambient soundscape and obviously resulted from a heavy treatment by Zuydervelt. ‘Foliage IV’ is built around a curious beat. ‘Foliage V’ starts with bass clarinet and soon unfolds in a dynamic interplay with the other players. Again the subtle treatments by Zuydervelt enrich the music. Truly a fascinating work in an intriguing performance. (DM)
––– Address: http://www.movingfurniturerecords.com/
FERGUS KELLY - UNSOUND FRICTIONS (CDR by Room Temperature)
The last time I wrote about a release from Fergus Kelly, I remarked that "Kelly has a new album almost every year in the last decade" and it was a year since the last one. Now it's been only nine weeks. I am not sure if this is one of that Covid-19 lockdown flurry of activities. Some of the recordings here are already from 2018 and 2019, so maybe it's a thing of cleaning up archives? Kelly is a man who uses a lot of metal-based objects as percussion, stuff that finds on the streets, but also plastic objects, car strings, the inside of a piano and field recordings. He says that the latter is from close-miked recordings of railings, gates and poles. His music is, however, not straightforward documentation of an in-situ performance, I think, but rather the result of layering various sounds together and creating a conversation between the sounds. His previous album I found to be rather melodic, almost like a jazz record, but this one is a lot less melodic, which is, of course, no problem, as this time Kelly plays the mood card, and he that very well. Each of the seven pieces is carefully mapped out with a few sounds interacting together and creating a wonderful subdued atmosphere, reaching a low-end hum at the end in 'Crypsis', the quietest piece here, using large plastic water canisters. A great finale. Before that, we travelled the city with slow rhythmic twangs on fences, water drops and sometimes I thought of dear old Z'EV locked in a leaky room, such as 'From Floor Creaks Secrets Look'; contemplative and investigative. It is all quite introspective music and beautifully put together. The perfect music for a dark day. (FdW)
––– Address: https://roomtemperature.bandcamp.com/
DEATH DEDICATION/NECROECCLESIA – EXPERIMENT TO DESTRUCT (CDR by Head Tapes)
‘Experiment to Destruct’ is an exercise in excess. Everything that Death Dedication and Necroecclesia create is just ramped up way into the red. And it sounds amazing because of it. There are extended sections of Death Dedication’s ‘Do You Still Party’ where all you can hear is rumbling, distorted white noise. You know where something is happening below it, but you can’t make it out over the unrelenting noise. Sometimes it sounds like a roaring fire. Other parts sound like a neighbour using a belt sander to remove old paint before applying a new coat. Another part sounds like a rock song that has been mixed in a way that everything is just distorting so nothing is audible. Three minutes from the end the clouds being to clear, and you can start to make out sounds that might be voices. What they are saying isn’t decipherable, but you know that they are there. Much like when you are walking through a park at night. You can see people moving on the path ahead of you, and in the trees around you, but you can’t really make them out. ‘Evil Sleep’ is 20-minutes of the same. However, Necroecclesia somehow managed to imbibe the same haunted quality to their music that Death Dedication did but it sounds more abrasive and glorious. The whole track rumbles and judders with what feels like absolute pain and anguish. The title gives hints that this is the sound of nightmares from the deepest darkest recesses of your mind. Each moment is another wave of terror-inducing hallucinations.
Despite ‘Experiment to Destruct’ being 50-minutes of white noise, bubbling feedback, and over-saturated sounds it is incredibly enjoyable. Given the length of the tracks, it moves along as a good clip and never feels turgid. The combinations of sounds are mesmerising. The way Death Dedication and Necroecclesia manage to create something utterly compelling out of searing noise and gushing soundscapes makes this a must listen to release. There is something about ‘Experiment to Destruct’ that makes it hard to turn off. This year I have listened to music far more audible that gave me less pleasure. Hidden deep in ‘Experiment to Destruct’ there are wonderful melodies. They are filagree and fill you with joy. These are buried under 50 feet of concrete, barbwire, radioactive material, used nappies and the bins from a McDonald’s after the post-club rush. From time to time both Death Dedication and Necroecclesia let their guard down and allow us to hear a few seconds of them. These sections offer a brief respite to the unrelenting music and allow us to see that beneath everything there is a different world if only we could penetrate its exterior shell. What ‘Experiment to Destruct’ does deliver is one of the best noise releases this year. (NR)
––– Address: https://head-records.bandcamp.com/
YIORGIS SAKELLARIOU - AUKA (3"CDR by Taalem)
FREDRIK MATHIAS JOSEFSON - AS ABOVE SO BELOW (3"CDR by Taalem)
BEN FLEURY-STEINER - VENTUS (3"CDR by Taalem)
While the label says they explore the various ways of ambient music they proof here with the release by Yiorgis Sakellariou they don't mind going an extra mile; or two. Sakellariou is a composer of music created with the use of field recordings. You might know this from my previous reviews of his work. On 'Auka' (inspired by a painting by m. k. Ciurlionis, and Auka meaning 'sacrifice') he uses field recordings from Vilnius, Kaunas, Elektrėnai and Druskininkai, all cities in Lithuania. Using field recordings, I would think, is nothing unusual in the world of Taalem, but Sakellariou uses his field recordings as they are, and does not apply any sort of manipulation to it (save, perhaps, for some equalization). He uses these sounds as they are and it is in the combination of these sounds to create the composition. A lot of the time one has no idea what these sounds are; crackling of leaves, branches, static electricity, metal staircases; that is the sort thing believe to hear. Another very un-Taalem thing is that Sakellariou uses a lot of dynamics in his music, and this piece is not different. There are two distinct loud passages in this piece but also some very quiet, near-silent passages. This is not your standard ambient music, but rather a musique concrète work and Sakellariou is a refined composer in that field. Perhaps, this work will be something of a shock for some people but I love it. It is a powerful work full of the near-by and far away sounds, unusual spaces to record them in and an intense listening experience.
Frederik Mathias Josefson, formerly known as Moljebka Pvlse, or perhaps still known as such? I am altogether not sure what makes Josefson decide for one name or the other. 'As Above So Below', one of those alchemical things, but the title might also reflect the fact that it was a multimedia installation in Hamburg, 2019. I would like to think (I might be wrong of course), that Josefson uses quite a bit of field recordings but also various stringed objects (by which I don't necessarily mean guitars, although I also don't exclude them), but now it all comes with some heavy treatment and these days I have no idea what is the preferred method applied by Josefson. I would think that he uses quite a bit of analogue sound effects and/or synthesizers and with these, he spins a solid web of sounds. Now, this is more what one (probably) expects from Taalem, I would think and Josefon delivers the goods. It is a massive work, right from the start, until the very end, save for one small lapse in volume, following which the piece sets off in a slightly different course and more string sounds become apparent, adding, oddly enough, a more organ-like ring to it. This is quite some powerful drone music.
Which ends with, I guess, a variation on that theme of powerful drone music by Ben Fleury-Steiner, someone whose music I hadn't heard in some time. About the title, he writes that the "Latin word ventus comes from Proto-Indo-European *h₂weh₁-, and later proto-Indo-European *h₂wéh₁n̥ts ((as substantive) that which blows; the wind, air. blowing.)." On the cover he takes credit for "synthesizers, samples, mixing and mastering", so I assume no wind recordings have been used in this work. While this is also a dense work, it is not as heavy as the one I just heard by Josefson. Perhaps it is the slightly quieter in volume of this. It is a work that starts and ends, after twenty-one minutes, and in between just moves. Maybe like wind, it moves, going round and round, sounds rising a bit above the mix, a bit below, moving about. Like long loops that repeat in various ways, but without much repetition, nothing is overlayed in the same way twice. One could say that this makes the music a bit directionless, just moving about, like dark clouds, for this is some dark and atmospherically music. For all, I know this could be an out take of a much, much longer work. (FdW)
––– Address: https://taalem.bandcamp.com/
LORENZO GOMEZ OVIEDO & BARDO TODOL - TU CARA ESTIRADA POR EL EXTASIS (cassette by Kirigirisu Recordings)
GEEKER-NATSUMI - HELOCTORO (cassette by Kirigirisu Recordings)
My introduction to the Japanese Kirigirisu Recordings comes via these two cassettes, from a catalogue of some 26 titles. I recognized some names and from these two (well, three) names I reviewed a cassette by Bardo Todol only last week. These two releases are quite different. First, there is a cassette by Bardo Todol, of whom I reviewed a cassette-only last week. Then I wrote this was a duo of Pablo and Nico Picco, for this new one, this label seems to suggest that it is only Pablo Picco. Born in the same city (Salsipuedes in Córdoba) as him, is Lorenzo Gomez Oviedo and Picco never met until 2017. They found they had a shared love for sound and did a "jam session" outdoors, on a sort of camping trip, and they taped 'noisy tapes, crying violins, percussive rivers, running shoe marches, distant field recordings, night harmonium screams". All the material they recorded went into the sound collage on this cassette, although we're also told that "they later added some secret ingredients into the soup: Lorenzo’s hidden and avant-garde pianos and his visionary poetry texts cut up into a surrealistic excursion of words and expressions", which, then hardly is a secret, I'd say. There are four pieces, each around ten to eleven minutes and it is connected to my first encounter with the music of Bardo Todol. I believe both Bardo Todol did two mixes and two are from Oviedo. It is extensive on the use of drones, generated from strumming guitars and bowing of violin strings, with the far-away cries of field recordings, indeed a bit of piano (especially, of course, in the first piece 'Pianolento (para Lorenzo Gomez Oviedo)'), Dictaphone/tape abuse and again I thought of the music of Alan Courtis. There is a rock-like edge to it, however far you should stretch the word 'rock' here. I loved the overall approaches here, the densely layered 'other' sounds versus the more ended improvisations on the instruments and the overall at times lo-fi approach. Great one!
And then there is the music from Geeker Natsumi "(pronounced Gay-Car Na-Too-Mee), as it says on Bandcamp". This is her second album, following 'Retire To Refire' from three years ago, pulls the words 'hero' and 'electro' together, because, so says the label, these are "10 heroic electro-pop songs spun while spending heroic days playing concerts, working and living life." That must have been some time ago before the word lockdown was used daily. Also, according to the label, Geeker Natsumi uses a Casiotone and looped drum in her concerts, but on this new release none of that, and she only uses GarageBand and the build-in microphone from her Macbook. The first track has the word 'Garageband' mixed with some Japanese sign, so there you go. I am not sure if I would call this heroic music, as maybe I have little notion of what heroic music is. It starts with that 'Garageband' song and that is a nice up-tempo piece indeed of electro rhythms and some quirky synthesizers and various layers of her voice. This sets the tone for the rest of the songs, in various degrees of speed and colours. Not all of this is super energetic, speedy or such, but also it is more downtempo, such as in 'Shinigami's Watchin' Me', which is very close to the world of hip hop (hey, as far as I can judge these matters). It is not entirely my cup of Monday afternoon tea, but I can hear it is all done with fine care for detail. Also worth mentioning are the covers of both releases, which is anything but your usual standard plastic boxes. (FdW)
––– Address: https://kirigirisurecordings.bandcamp.com/
NON PHOTO BLUE - DÉPAYSEMENT (cassette by Amek)
NATT - THE WAY YOU WERE MADE (cassette by Amek)
Daniel Donchov is best known, at least to me, as Leaver, for his releases on Amek, but he also has a project called Non Photo Blue and 'Depaysement' is his second release for Amek as such. I don't think I heard the first one. The music is all about a solitary trip Donchov made to the USA in the autumn of 2019, and I am told that he uses synthesizers here; the guitar is his instrument of choice for Leaver (as far as I know). I first assumed the guitar also played a part here, as it sounded as such in '3-58 AM', but come to the fifth track, 'Power And Light', I realized it is indeed synths galore. In the first few tracks there are some field recordings, train station announcements for instance, which then disappear in the third (maybe!), fourth and fifth piece, and return to the final piece, 'Where There's Nothing'. I quite enjoyed those field recordings added to the music, knowing the album is a trip to America and it's pity he didn't add more of them in the other pieces. Those recordings gave the music that bit of extra to make it different. Throughout Donchov plays some very warm textures, big synth pads and some piano-like sounds and throughout some very nice ambient music. Maybe the album has something of desolation, a sense of being alone on the road. Somehow, some kind of sadness rings through it, I thought but throughout I found it all most enjoyable. I enjoyed this work by Donchov more than I did Leaver or Raeppen, which were good but not perhaps not my taste that much.
From the Polish project Natt (I believe he prefers NATT) I reviewed 'A Better Place' before (Vital Weekly 1226). He's one half of Dren and the first release was kind of rhythmic in a vague sort of Arabic way, a slow Muslimgauze I thought, and on this new release he continues those interests on the eight tracks of 'The Way You Were Made'. Well, it is even less Arabic now, but the rhythm is a presence in each of these pieces. Not necessarily constructed from traditional drum machines or samples of percussion, but rather from obscure fragmented sounds being sampled and looped around. That is quite nice. Around that, he spins his synthesizers to play drones, hisses, textures and such like but the melodic component is not lost, which is great. Natt's music is atmospherically but not necessarily all abstract, which makes a pleasant change for once. Add to these hard-to-define field recordings and the whole thing has quite filmic proportions; something with a dystopian character, no doubt, but with a slightly happy ending. Something that is bleak and dark and yet things turning grey in the end. This to account for the also present lighter tones Natt also produces. Some nice stuff. Both of these two new releases by Amek cover similar territory and work well when played after each other. I have no preference for either of them, they are on equal par. (FdW)
––– Address: https://amekcollective.bandcamp.com/