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PSEUDO CODE - POTLATCH MUSIC VOL. 1 & 2 (2CD by Exklageto) *
MICHAEL RANTA - TAIWAN YEARS (CD by Metaphon) *
VIDNA OBMANA & SERGE DEVADDER - THE SHAPE OF SOLITUDE (CD by Zoharum) *
GELBER FLIEDER – ÖLBAUMGEWÄCHSE (CD by Creative Sources Recordings) *
KEITH TIPPETT – THE MONK WATCHES THE EAGLE (CD by Discus Music) *
SPASTIC COLON (CD by Troniks) *
TRANCE - ANCIENT HISTORY (CD by Troniks) *
THE HATERS - FUTURE CHEERS (CD by Troniks) *
SKULL SKÜLL – COUNT TO ONE (CD by Troniks) *
JEAN D.L. & RUTGER ZUYDERVELT - SCRAMBLINGS (CD by Inexhaustible Editions) *
SCOTT THOMSON - MURRAY (CD by Tour de Bras) *
MARIBOR - CROSS (CD by Standa) *
RICHARD B. LEWIS - INTROSPECT (CD by Standa) *
TEATRO SATANICO - LE NOYÉ (CD by Standa) *
ADRIANO ZANNI - SONG TO THE SIRENS (CD by Standa) *
JOEL GILARDINI & KK NULL - PSYCHIC DRONES (CD by Standa) *
ARNOLD DE BOER - MINIMAL GUITAR (CD by Makkum Records) *
EWA LIEBCHEN - GOODNIGHT MR GĶRECKI (CD by Bolt Records) *
SASKIA - EEUWIG OP REIS (7" by Stroom TV) *
BETTY ARDEN/SASKIA (split 7" by Stroom TV)
SOON - EXTRATOOL 1 (7” by Extratool) *
MANIFESTATION 8 (CDR by Awefull Records)
ANGELO VICENTE JR & CALINECZKALIFE IS NOTHING BUT A SEXUALLY TRANSMITTED TERMINAL DISEASE (cassette by Steepgloss) *
LAUGHING GEAR - FREAK LEMONS (cassette, private) *
ANGELO BIGNAMINI - ZIMBATŌ (cassette by Lal Lal Lal) *
CARNIVOROUS PLANTS - BLACKBERRIES (cassette by Aphelion Editions) *
SELECTED APHELION WORKS VOL. 1 & 2 (double cassette compilation by Aphelion Editions)
PSEUDO CODE - POTLATCH MUSIC VOL. 1 & 2 (2CD by Exklageto)
Sometime before there was such a thing as 'Discogs' I sat down with my collection of Pseudo Code records and cassettes, which I believed was complete, save for the compilations they appeared on and tried to make a calculation how many CDs it would take to release the complete works by Pseudo Code. I was the fanboy who wanted to realize that. It never happened, obviously, over the years there have been several re-issues of their work and when I opened the mailer for this one, I thought, hang on, wasn't this already re-issued? I was confused with 'Remains To Be Heard' (Vital Weekly 1004). It's been a while since I last heard these releases and yet playing them, it all sounds so familiar. I am sure I played these quite a bit in the 80s. It is no secret, at least, if you have been reading the pages for some time, that of all the bands of Alain Neffe and his Insane Music label, I enjoy Pseudo Code best. The rhythm machine given clinical pulses, the spacious, psychedelic and chaotic playing of keyboards by Guy Marc Hinant and Alain Neffe, while Xavier S sings, moans, whispers and sounds at times plain desperate. Sometimes Neffe plays the electric piano or the saxophone and Hinant the guitar. Melodies are sparse, but they are unmistakably there and sometimes even a pop music sensibility. This shines through all the songs on the (former) A side of the cassettes, where the songs are shortish. The former B-side of each cassette is now placed at the end of each CD (before that are two per CD bonus tracks) and are different notions altogether. On 'Potlatch Music Vol. 1' it is a thirty-minute street recording, the streets of Brussels outside the window of Neffe at seven in the morning, and on 'Potlatch Vol. 2' is the spacious almost all-instrumental 'Surrounding' for such an electric piano and some very minimal effects. Or a bit of flute. It is ambient, away from the chaos, improvisation or pop notions Pseudo Code also has and is better known for. A most welcome re-issue, not just for passionate fanboys such as I am, but for anyone with an interest in minimal synth, coldwave and damn fine electronic music from the 80s. The only disappointment I had was with the package, rather minimal and all the track titles on the CD only (including a minor spelling mistake; the live tracks are recorded in 'Paard van Troje', and not Troye as the info says about this venue from Den Haag). (FdW)
––– Address: firstname.lastname@example.org
MICHAEL RANTA - TAIWAN YEARS (CD by Metaphon)
Up until now, I assumed Michael Ranta was a German musician (for no particular reason), but I admit I didn't do much research the one previous time I reviewed his music in Vital Weekly (766), which was work with Mike Lewis and Conny Plank. That was a release by Metaphon, who now release a new CD with three lengthy pieces Ranta recorded when living in Taiwan between 1973 and 1979. This time around I studied some more on his background and learned that he was born in Duluth, Minnesota in 1942 and that he studied percussion and composition. He moved to Germany in 1967 and worked with Mauricio Kagel, Jean-Claude Eloy and Stockhausen among others. The latter took him to Japan to perform concerts and while doing his Tai Chi Chuan exercises, he was advised to do that in China, where it originates. When in Taiwan he was invited by the NHK Radio in Tokyo (where Stockhausen recorded his 'Telemusik') to produce some more music, which resulted in two pieces, and one was recorded in Taipei. I knew Ranta was a percussion player, but I didn't know of him as a composer of electronic music. Therefore, I had not many expectations when I started to play this, and I was pleasantly surprised. The CD opens with 'Kagaku Henka' from 1971, in which Ranta recorded improvisations for percussion onto the first two of the given eight tracks and then added on further tracks while listening to the first two tracks. Upon completing them, the sound was modulation with the technology available at the time and it results in a very fine work of musique concrčte, carefully balancing the between the original percussion and the electronics. In 'China Filch' (1975) he does something similar but also adds field recordings, from his Tai-Chi Chuen teacher, temples and marching groups, next to short wave sounds. This expands the possibilities considerable and it is quite a wild piece, this one, going from outside to inside, from 'regular' percussion to something very abstract. 'A Night' (1978) is the piece from Taipei and inspired by Harry Partch, with whom he worked in the early sixties. This piece has a rather introspective character with sounds placed one after each other, given space to it all, come time. That's the end of a truly great CD. Hopefully, Metaphon will release more of the man's music! (FdW)
––– Address: http://www.metaphon.be
VIDNA OBMANA & SERGE DEVADDER - THE SHAPE OF SOLITUDE (CD by Zoharum)
With a back catalogue as long as the one from Dirk Serries, there is always something to re-issue. I don't keep track as such when it comes to what is out there and what should be coming, but sometimes there is something and I think, oh yeah, I remember that. 'The Shape Of Solitude' is such an album. It was first released in 1999 by the Swedish Multimood Records label, and I happened to oversee that release as Multimood outsourced all the dirty work, such as pressing CDs and distributing them. I honestly don't recall how well it did or what I thought at the time of the music. I didn't write the review in Vital Weekly 263: "Ah, how Swede... erm... suite it is... Sound that often appears on the "Hearts of Space" broadcast (recently sacked from Los Angeles airwaves in favour of something called "classical music") manifests itself now. But what atmospheres do they mean? The sweatsoaked haze deciding carnal explosives? A dreamstated journey down a warm corridor of gold eaten by worms? A session of sexual exploration seen through eyes leaking ejaculate? That's right, folks - more fuck music. The sound sparkles like sunset through abandoned mansion windows. Guitar bows and pigeon coos and where is the lowest level of fondness and longing and sorrow in a house? How deeply steeped are the timbers in living time - in human time? What's the true shape of solitude when there's no one around the shape of it? These are the things you cannot tell your loved ones - encapsulated in these lows that shiver and shimmer - the tightness of the chest and stopping of the throat. A spiral of solitude that is absolute and unappreciated - and it takes so long to fade out...(DC)" Not words I would use. Dirk Serries, then still firmly connected to his Vidna Obmana moniker, is credited for "atmospheres, loops, effects, recycling, abstract enhancements and harmonic electric guitar on "Leaving This Place Again". Serge Devadder of whom I had not heard then and not since just plays "electric guitars". I am not sure how this was recorded, either as a duet in the studio or that Serries transformed Devadder's playing but I wouldn't be surprised if it is a combination of both. So at the core the two musicians sitting together and jamming and playing these highly textured tunes and in the next stage, Serries extracting bits and pieces sculpting these textures and atmospheres a bit further. Devadder's playing is not necessarily abstract, playing notes and chords, with a firm amount of reverb, delay and space between them and Serries adding even more space to it. Sometimes Devadder relies on the use of an E-bow, such in 'The Plain Truth', which makes it all slightly more abstract. That's the two sides of this album, the more recognizable and the more abstract guitar drones. A massive piece of dark atmosphere for the grey, cold and short days of December. (FdW)
––– Address: https://zoharum.bandcamp.com/
GELBER FLIEDER – ÖLBAUMGEWÄCHSE (CD by Creative Sources Recordings)
Gelber Flieder is an electro-acoustic trio of Yves Arques (objects, electronics), João Camões (viola) and Luise Volkmann (saxophone). With ‘Ölbaumgewächse’ they present a live session recorded in Paris on December 7th, 2016. A few lines on their backgrounds first. Both Arques and Camões are members of Pareidolia a trio complemented by Gabrielle Lemaire, who ‘Selon le Vent’ last year. Camões worked intensely with Jean-Marc Foussat several years, gaining experience with working in an electro-acoustic setting. Luise Volkmann is a young saxophonist and composer based in Cologne. She performed with Sylvain Kassap, Steve Beresford, Mia Zabelka, Robert Landfermann, a.o. During a three year stay in Paris, she took part in projects as Umlaut, COAX, Tricolectif and Collectif LOO. On ‘Ölbaumgewächse’ they perform one 31-minute improvisation. They open surprisingly with a children’s song ‘Auf der blauen Donau schwimmt ein Krokodil’, that is sung a capella. A look at their Bandcamp-site learns that they released an album last year, titled ‘Kinderlieder’ with improvisations on themes of children’s songs for an audience of children! Gradually the singing disappears in the background and a sound-based texture takes over. Their improvisation is much about timbre. The perform modestly with a sense for detail and subtle changes. They don’t play so much with dynamics or contrast but develop their interaction in a drone-like atmosphere. (DM)
––– Address: http://creativesourcesrec.com/
KEITH TIPPETT – THE MONK WATCHES THE EAGLE (CD by Discus Music)
June 14th this year pianist and composer Keith Tippett passed away. He was an important and influential innovator in the British jazz scene for many decades and made his mark also in the contexts of progressive rock and modern composed music, as a performer, composer, improviser, etc. Last year Discus Music did a rerelease of an early remarkable solo album: ’Raindancer’ (1980). This time the label surprises with a work Tippett wrote for the 2004 Norwich and Norfolk Festival “where it received its premiere (and to date only) performance, together with a broadcast by BBC Radio 3”. This previously unissued recording is now released under licence by Discus Music. Tippett’s oeuvre is immense and I do not pretend to have an overview of it. So I cannot tell whether this large choral work is an exception in his work. But exceptional it is. Julie Tippetts wrote the text for this composition that is about a monk reflecting on “his final hours before passing over from this present incarnation”, Julie Tippets explains. Keith Tippett dedicated the work to his father. And now in 2020, this work is released, in the same year as Keith Tippett’s passing, which gives extra personal meaning to this release. The work is performed by Julie Tippetts (solo voice, text), a saxophone ensemble and improvising soloists of Paul Dunmall (soprano), Kevin Figes (alto), Ben Waghorn (tenor) and Chris Biscoe (baritone), the Apollo Saxophone Quartet: Tim Redpath (soprano), Rob Buckland (alto), Andy Scott (tenor) and David Roach (baritone) and The BBC Singers. A choral work referring to traditions of western classical choir music, it also integrates aspects of jazz and improvisation. Whereas the powerful voice of Julie Tippetts evokes sometimes Balkanesque atmospheres. Composed (choir) and improvised parts (saxophones, solo voice) converge into one thorough unity. For sure a strong musical statement. A work with real depth and significance. (DM)
––– Address: https://discusmusic.bandcamp.com/
SPASTIC COLON (CD by Troniks)
TRANCE - ANCIENT HISTORY (CD by Troniks)
THE HATERS - FUTURE CHEERS (CD by Troniks)
SKULL SKÜLL – COUNT TO ONE (CD by Troniks)
For some reason I was thinking that Spastic Colon was a name from some considerable time ago; I placed it in the mid-'90s. A look on Discogs proved me right, but then the cover of this new CD says that all tracks were recorded in 2007. So, maybe Spastic Colon was a concern that went on a bit longer than those few releases from the mid to late nineties? Spastic Colon is a duo of Jorge Martin (pedals, oscillators and gadgets) and Erik Hoffman (sampler, turntable and echoplex). The latter we also know from his labels Pinch A Loaf and Ground Fault Recordings. This being on Troniks means that I carefully check the volume setting before hitting the play button, as many releases deal with very harsh noise. This is not the case here. Sure, Spastic Colon may use the occasional high-pitched frequency, but that is very occasional. Throughout these six pieces, I would think that the word 'delicate' could be applied to what I am hearing. This duo uses the form of sound collage in their work and that is mostly the 'slow' way. Gradually tones and textures change. Sometimes it stays a bit too long in one place, such as in 'Severe Abdominal Pain', which is centred on the malfunction of a recording device. Loops, via both the sampler and the turntable, play quite an important role in these pieces, but it's not always easy to recognize what is sampled (frequencies is my best guess) and the turntable doesn't sound as such, most of the time. And that I enjoy very much; normally I think most turntablists aren't that interesting. Sometimes the music is downright ambient, such as the opening, 'Anatomy Of The Colon', followed by the noise 'To Cleanse Or Not To Cleanse' (no doubt dusty oscillators or stylus?). There is quite some variation to be enjoyed here. Apart from the one piece that was a bit too much of the same thing, this was a great release.
For me, there was no doubt that the name Trance belonged to the '90s, even when it started a bit earlier. It was the solo project of Mason Jones, who released a bunch of cassettes and some CDs. He played guitar, electronics and sampling. In 1991 he started playing live and to "ensure a sufficiently robust sound", he enlisted the help of Elden M, who had his Allegory Chapel LTD project at that time. Jones played guitar and percussion, and Elden M sampler, keyboards and percussion. On this 'Ancient History', we find three live recordings from 1991 and 1991, including the very first concert from March 28, 1991, which is the longest piece here. The cover of this release reminded me of the G.R.O.S.S. label but I couldn't any evidence that this is, in fact, a re-issue. It has been a while since I last heard music by Trance (they gave up using the name when it was mostly used for "bad electronic music”). I don't seem to be able to quickly find any old reviews in the Vital Weekly archive. Yet, playing these three live pieces I am reminded of what it sounded like, but in concert. That means it is all a bit rough; or, perhaps, I should say rougher? Trance wasn't necessarily a noise act but what they did was a bit of edged towards noise. As far as I can remember that is. These live pieces revolve around massive walls of distortion, phasing, flanging and such like, and in the first concert, the percussion plays a firm, if sometimes somewhat modest role. In October 1992, Jones is solely on guitar and it all becomes much more guitar noise, with Elden M playing samples, but having trouble to keep with Jones. The shortest piece is the third, recorded in July 1991, when Mason and Elden received guest players Jojo (guitar) and Junko (voice), along with Harvey on "firecrackers". This is the one piece that is the strictest noise piece, firmly based in the Japnoise tradition. I am sure I no longer have the old Trance releases but this ancient history made curious to dig that out again.
I always assumed that G.X. Jupitter-Larsen, also known as The Haters, wasn't particularly interested in re-issuing old material but then it is already more than ten years since he re-issued his first (and classic!) LP, 'In The Shade Of The Fire' (Vital Weekly 698). Maybe there have been others over the years but I may have missed them. "Future Cheers' is a re-issue, originally a release by Sound Of Pig Music in 1986 (oh, and LP in 2016 by Urashima; I completely missed that). I used to have the original cassette, or perhaps I still do, in a box somewhere and right from the word 'go', this is a feast of recognition. In those days The Haters were using loops of the sound of stuff being destroyed. Superficially listening to these loops sounded the same, from tape to tape (providing the tapes were not live recordings; then it would be a different sound), but also within a piece itself. That's what I liked best, or, so I thought in my more youthful enthusiasm. The music I am hearing now (and I hadn't heard 'Future Cheers' in a long time), this sounds far from minimal and non-changing. The music is on a constant repeat mission of changes. It sounds like The Haters use a lot of loops and have individual control over them. Sometimes the tempo might be changed and it comes back differently a bit further down the line. There is some great clarity in this smashing of bottles and recordings of car crashes and it is a wonderfully fascinating release. Jon Wiese's mastering worked wonders. His remix is good, but doesn't add much to what GX already said. Bring on the rest of it! (FdW)
In 2009 Aaron Hemphill and Jarrett Silberman released a four-track album called ‘Count to One’ under the name of Skull Sküll on Presshus Moments. It was an uncompromising and austere listen, filled with huge swaths of noise, feedback and confusion. It was also an incredible listen. Either to use a musical palate cleanser or to just get lost in. Now it’s finally been re-release on Helicopter and Troniks.
When something is reissued you first have to ask yourself “Does this warrant a re-issue?” In this case, yes. YES, it does! What is so impressive about the album is that in the 11-years since it was released it still sounds are fresh, and remarkable, as it did then. ‘Chanel No.5’ kicks things off with just that. A kick. Throughout ‘Chanel No.5’ is an unrelenting monster. While listening to the music I start to think about the title. Is this what Hemphill and Silberman think a bottle of Chanel No.5 smells like or is this song their knee-jerk reaction to how they feel when they see it advertised or smell it? Ultimately, we’ll never know but hopefully, it’ll be somewhere between the two. ’96 Tears’ is another one that makes you think. Is this a cover of the ? and the Mysterians classic, or a cover of The Stranglers, Inspiral Carpets or anyone else who has covered it? Listening to Skull Sküll’s version it feels like a homage in name only. What is clear, however, is how powerful and explosive this song is. It just comes at you from the very beginning like a frenzied backyard fighter, not stopping for a moment until you are pummelled and down. Then it just stands over you, preventing you from rising while it taunts you incessantly.
‘Count to One’ is an uncompromising album. For 77-minutes it just slowly carves its way through you. Like a glacier forging a new landscape. That isn’t to say that the music is slow, it’s not, but it is very long and very heavy. The final track ‘One Day at a Time’ is just shy of an hour and really demonstrates how good Skull Sküll can be. Here Hemphill and Silberman just take their time crafting a gloriously desolate soundscape consisting of fuzzy drones and undulating feedback. For the hour it doesn’t really deviate from this, but its consistency is its masterstroke. There was a point, around the 20-minute mark, where it became all-consuming. While I was listening to the album I was going through my work inbox. Moving emails to the correct folders, sending replies and archiving what I didn’t need any more. It then occurred to me that I had stopped doing this and was rereading the same three sentences over and over again. Their meaning totally lost on me. I tried to work out what had happened. Then it occurred to me. The music had pulled me totally into its myriad of concave labyrinths. Once I realized this the spell was broken and the email had meaning again. Until 15-minutes later it happened again. And this is the one thing about the album you can count on. It will pull you every way throughout. (NR)
––– Address: http://www.iheartnoise.com/
JEAN D.L. & RUTGER ZUYDERVELT - SCRAMBLINGS (CD by Inexhaustible Editions)
By now the list of musicians working With Rutger Zuydervelt, also known as Machinefabriek, is as long as my arm, well maybe even two arms. Over the years he introduced me to many new names, and this time it is Jean D.L., which stands for Jean de Lacoste, who is from Ghent, Belgium, and he plays electric and acoustic guitars and field recordings. Zuydervelt plays electronics, field recordings and autoharp and Francesco Guerri play the cello on one piece. I assume the music was made via exchanging sound files; it was made between March and July 2020, not a period for easy travel to home studios. This release is both on common ground and a new one. It starts with the hisses, rumbling of objects, a slow strum on the guitar; delicate tension slowly built, that kind of thing. That is something one may expect from Zuydervelt and as such he doesn't disappoint, nor does he innovate. I realized that, perhaps, for this label, this is a somewhat unusual release. Many of the releases I heard from this label are duos or trios playing improvised or modern classical music, many of which were recorded 'together', as in 'one-room'. This exchange of sound material leaves room shaping the material, editing and weeding out 'mistakes', or re-arranging notes. That is not a complaint, just an observation. The music is all very introspective and quiet, and as such it does connect with the other releases by this label. Other odd features are the voices in 'Scrambling 4', which sounds like from mission control, and the arpeggio keyboards in 'Scrambling 6'. That one broke the mood that was carefully constructed so far but it is easy to argue that it is also a fine change of scenery. It is, so I believe, this combination of expectations and surprises that make this into a most wonderful record, familiar and slightly strange, but also strongly coherent. (FdW)
––– Address: http://inexhaustible-editions.com/
SCOTT THOMSON - MURRAY (CD by Tour de Bras)
From Montreal, we have here trombone player Scott Thomson. He works with the Ratchet Orchestra, Woody Epp's Togetherness and Ensemble SuperMusique and organizes concerts. Here, however, he is solo and has two lengthy pieces, 'For Andrew Mackelvie' and 'For Lorenzo Belli'. The CD comes with a few cards with paintings by John Heward, who died in 2019. He was a painter and drummer, working in the Murray street building, Montreal. It is here that Thomson recorded the two pieces, as this was also the 'venue' where he organized thirty-minute concerts since 2014. The trombone sounds a bit far away, but it is my understanding that this is a big place. While the music is entirely improvised, I stuck to it. I am not sure why as this seems more the area of expertise of our improvised music crew, but I found it all quite captivating. Thomson plays with great style, going from something very quiet to something very loud. His playing is conventional in such a way that we recognize the trombone as the trombone; it is not so much an object to extract sounds from that happens to be a trombone, at least most of the time. I wouldn't vouch for it to be not that for the entire time. Yet, he in his playing he shows us a wide variety of approaches and while the instrument at times sounds like a wet fart (sorry), it is the variation between the short attacks versus the long, sustaining sounds and the occasional rattle he also produces, but, as said, this is kept to a minimum. This is some highly imaginative music that is played here; one that captivated me for the full hour it lasted. (FdW)
––– Address: https://tourdebras.bandcamp.com/
MARIBOR - CROSS (CD by Standa)
RICHARD B. LEWIS - INTROSPECT (CD by Standa)
TEATRO SATANICO - LE NOYÉ (CD by Standa)
ADRIANO ZANNI - SONG TO THE SIRENS (CD by Standa)
JOEL GILARDINI AND KK NULL - PSYCHIC DRONES (CD by Standa)
This is the final release by Maribor, a group that exists on a distance. People sending in sound material and Stefano Gentile putting it all together. The players are all luminaries from the Italian world of electronic experimental music; Giuseppe Verticchio (Nimh / Hall Of Mirrors), Andrea Marutti (Amon / Hall Of Mirrors), Gianluca Favaron (Under The Snow / Zbeen), Maurizio Bianchi and Pierpaolo Zoppo (Mauthausen Orchestra). The latter passed away in 2012 and this final release is dedicated to his memory. Part of this CD was already released on 'X', a series of cassettes by Collezione Del Silenzio (see Vital Weekly 789), of which at the time I had not much clue, so I wrote: Maribor is likewise unknown to me, and his (her?) release is more upfront, even moves into a louder, at times mildly distorted landscape. I think here we have a bunch of guitars, effects and some keyboards. Dealing less with the notion of 'silence' (although I think that is not a necessary thing for releases per se in this series), this is a more 'present' release, but not always for the best. I think some ideas are a bit too easy and could have been worked out better." There are no instruments mentioned on the cover, but synthesizers, mucho electronics and guitar are the main ingredients here. The album is well balanced and at the same time, it is not. Let me explain. The two bookend pieces are quite similar; lots of ambient guitar sounds, lots of synthesizers and some great music. After the first and before the last, there is the original cassette, which are murky affairs of electronics, seemingly without much organization and in the middle, there is a short piece, 'Interlude', a bridge between the two halves of this record, and musically connecting with the first and fifth piece of music. I liked those three ambient pieces quite a lot.
I don't think I heard of Richard B. Lewis before, but then I am not too familiar with the Italian punk rock scene, nor do I know bands as Black Dolls, Anarcotici, In my June. Since 2016 he has a solo career to pursue his interest in "folk and psychedelic rock sounds". I honestly had no idea what to expect here. I had images of a man with an acoustic guitar, strumming campfire songs about pagan rituals. That is not the case. There is, however, some strumming and some singing, but there is also quite a bit of noise guitar, in 'The X Storm'. Besides the guitar, I think he uses a few electronics and field recordings, and this is where it gets interesting for me. 'Anecoic Part 1' is a piece that could be on a cassette by one of those lo-fi ambient people working with cassettes. Some repeating heartbeat, some reverbed guitar and some vague field recordings. In the second part of that song, Lewis plays a synth, along with some bell/gong sounds. More synthesizers, but now with a wee bit of dark voice, we find in 'No Dimension', the longest piece that closes this release. It is all quite varied stuff and most enjoyable. It shatters my expectations and that is a good thing. I wasn't blown away by 'Acid Rain', which is the neo-folk noir guitar and vocals (complete with acid rain sounds) until that disappears and some abstract field recordings remain. Otherwise, I loved the overall sense of experimentalism here.
More expectations ahead when I see a name such as Teatrico Satanico. This is a trio of Roberto Kalamun Pasini (vocals, clarinet and graphic designing), Mauro Martinuz (percussions and glockenspiel) and Devis Granziera (vocals, synths, drum-machines, ocean drum, steel tongue drum, field-recordings, production and mastering), with as a special guest Davide Tozzoli, mellotron on "Those Are Pearls". Two songs take words from Granziera, and the other two are "Those Are Pearls" words by T.S. Eliot and "Le Noyé" words by J. Prevert. I found it a bit difficult to make heads and tails out of this. The shortest piece was five minutes, the longest over thirty-six. The music is dedicated to Dmitry Vasilyev, the former boss of Monochrome Vision and organizer of concerts from Western bands in Russia in 2018. He organized the first concerts by Teatrico Satanico earlier in 2018. They call it " two post-pop songs and these two ambient-noise suites". In the first two, reverb on everything plays an important role, including the voice from beyond by Granziera. They are not exactly pop music, of course, but rather dark, heavy-weighted drama pieces, slowly and solemn. A slow rhythm, bells, voice. It is dream-pop but then with a firm dark mood. The two ambient pieces sound rather improvised, but on a bunch of electronic devices, with everybody slowly adding sounds, or removing them from the equity. The rhythm patterns are now just sampled acoustic sounds and not really a drum machine (unless heavily processed). Elements from their 'pop' songs are used, melodic phrases, bell sounds and such, which may account for the ambient character of these lengthy pieces. Voices get a bit lost in here. Sometimes it is all a bit too loose in the organization and it comes across as a free form jam session, 'now one in a more ambient style', but it is devoid of long sustaining drone passages. They move from idea to idea, adding sound upon sound, and it sounds quite alright. I liked these longer pieces better than the shorter ones; if that is the way to continue, I am all for it.
Standa/Silentes also do a lot with photography and one of these new releases is a 7" inch-sized book with photographs by Adriano Zanni, who also plays the music. It is an ode to the sea, where once the sirens sung to guide ships; not that anyone can remember. 'Song To The Siren' is a song by Tim Buckley but, perhaps, better known from the 1983 version by This Mortal Coil, sung by Elisabeth Fraser of Cocteau Twins. That song is merely something to give the release name, an indication of the sea sounds used. Zanni is a man who loves the sea, and while in lockdown, the sea seemed far away, so as a reminder he started listening to his archive of field recordings of the waves breaking the shore, but also the activity around that, such as the children in 'Tutti Contro Tutti'. To this, he adds a fine blend of electronic sounds. I assume all of this from synthesizers, but maybe also from processing his field recordings. He crafted eight lengthy pieces of music, each with a fine pace of their own, nothing rushed, and nothing being there for too long. What I like about it is that the water sounds and the electronic sounds are on an equal level present in the music. Sometimes one is a bit louder, sometimes the other, but usually it is on the same level. The water recordings are quite varied, far away, very close by ('Forse Era Un Sogno') and the use of electronic sounds is mysterious as well as thoughtful. It reminded me of 'Blanket Level Approach' by the Hafler Trio (from 'The Fight is On' compilation), but Zanni sounds not as dark as that piece. The photography has a similar balance between a bit abstract and more recognizable seaside images, all in black and white. A very fine gesamtkunstwerk. (FdW)
When you are onto a good idea, things happen quickly. ‘Psychic Drones’ is one of those times. In Spring 2020 Joel Gilardini and KK NULL, AKA Kazuyuki Kishino, decided to collaborate on a new project. Gilardini worked on sound sketches, which Kishino then torn apart, manipulated, and decomposed. After two months of file sharing between Switzerland and Japan the material was assembled into ‘Psychic Drones’.
It is an album about the darkness or the human psyche. However, that doesn’t mean the album is a doom fest. Far from it. As Leonard Cohen said, “There Is a Crack in Everything, That's How the Light Gets In”. ‘Psychic Drones’ is a balanced album of swaths of darkness interspersed with motifs of light. ‘Disillusion’ is probably the darkest track on the album. It totally sums up what it feels like to believe in something and have that slowly change over time. There are moments that sound slightly cliché, dark synths, guttural loops, but they work so well you don’t dwell on them. Underpinning this are motifs of hope and redemption. Yes, this time you were let down, but next time it might be different. ‘Desire for Transcendence’ carries this on. Brooding bass lines and electronics that feel like they were lifted from the Blade Runner score gently envelop us. It sets a calming, almost graceful, scenes like watching smoke rising from an ashtray or freshly blown-out candle. Then it just loses it around the halfway point. It sounds like what I thought Jungle was as I read about it as a teenager before actually hearing it. The beats are fast and frantic yet there is an order to it. There is a free jazz element to it that is intoxicating. This is underpinned by what sounds like decomposing synths. With each blast of percussive energy, the synths become more and more eroded. It’s nothing short of fantastic. It reminds you, if you needed it, how exciting collaborative albums can be.
This is the kind of album for anyone who thought that the recent Autechre albums were too serene and polished. This is the kind of music that has dirt and detritus under its nails. It’s harsh and caustic but with flourishes or hope. Yes, it’s very stark in places, but these are stark times, and this is the fairground mirror to it. Some themes are grotesque, others make you smile at their simplicity, but everything about ‘Psychic Drones’ works. ‘Drifting Dreams in Stratosphere’ is a low-key track filled with rumbling bass lines and sketchy electronics. It doesn’t do a great deal, but it lingers with you long after it petters out. That is also true of the album. Long after it finishes you can feel its hooks in you, like a Cenobite in Hellraiser. (NR)
––– Address: http://store.silentes.it/
ARNOLD DE BOER - MINIMAL GUITAR (CD by Makkum Records)
This name may have not popped up before in these pages mainly because much of his work seems to be outside the world of Vital Weekly and in the world of alternative rock music; more or less. De Boer is known from his solo project Zea, which he calls a "one-man break pop band' and since 2009 he is the singer of The Ex, The Netherlands' one-and-only true innovative punk band. Next to their band work, all the members of the Ex all dabble in stuff that is very well suited for these pages. We have reviewed work by Terrie Ex, usually hardcore improvisations with friends, and Andy Moor and his Unsounds label (although, come to think of it, not in some time). The inspiration for this album was a walk De Boer did around Amsterdam, trying to stay as close as possible to the highway that rings the city. It took him eleven days, every time going a bit. Back home he picked up his acoustic guitar and recorded these eight minimal guitar pieces. I find it hard to see the relation between the story of his walk around Amsterdam and the music. He sure made a few nice pictures that grace the cover; a photobook would have been a great idea also. One of the reasons I don't 'get' the relation between the story and the music, is that the music is very quiet and introspective; I imagine walking close to a highway is not exactly quiet and introspective; I am told it is a very quiet place, oddly enough. Maybe we should see the music as a reaction to that and as such De Boer succeeds very well. I very much enjoyed these eight vulnerable pieces of music. De Boer plays them thoughtfully, with sometimes repeating small phrases, so it has a hint, a trace of melody and not a fully abstract form of improvised music. I can imagine this is the kind of music that appeals also to people who normally wouldn't touch improvised music. This album of careful, improvised tunes sets him aside from his Ex colleagues, yet operating in a similar world. Great stuff. (FdW)
––– Address: http://www.makkumrecords.nl
EWA LIEBCHEN - GOODNIGHT MR GĶRECKI (CD by Bolt Records)
Of course, I know Gķrecki's Third Symphony, the Symphony Of Sorrowful Songs, and it has been a while since I last heard but it is a strong piece. That does make me an expert on the work by this man. Here Ewa Liebchen plays flute and alto flute and together with Emilia Sitarz - on piano and Barbara Kinga Majewska (soprano) and Hubert Zemler (percussion) (both of them only on the last pieces) she performs three Gķrecki pieces, 'Valentine Piece', 'For You, Ann-Lill' and 'Good Night' and as a bonus, there is a short composition by Zemler at the end, 'Good Luck'. Modern classical music of this kind is something that I find hard to review, mainly because I lack the proper lingo for it. I quite enjoyed it, but I am sure that is not a review? (FdW)
––– Address: http://www.boltrecords.pl/1,new-music/175,gorecki,en.html
SASKIA - EEUWIG OP REIS (7" by Stroom TV)
BETTY ARDEN/SASKIA (split 7" by Stroom TV)
This week's Christmas entry starts with another release. A while ago Stroom, a Belgium enterprise for electronic music, mostly old but also new, released a 7" by Saskia; no last name back then. Just Saskia who released one cassette, 'Eeuwig Op Reis' (Eternal Journey), which the label found as a shoddy mp3 in blogosphere, but an extensive search did drum Saskia Vingerhoeds and a 24-bit transfer of the cassette, of which Stroom TV lifted two songs for a 7" release. The original release was recorded in the 80s in a primitive studio in Rotterdam and distributed in an edition of ten copies. 'You Left Your Soul Behind' is a dreamy ambient piece of soft floating synthesizers/electronics, with a spacious guitar doodling away and 'My Lips Get Hot' has Saskia singing sensuously, backed by more ambient electronics and a minimal drum machine ticking time away. It is all sweet and introspective, almost a Christmas song without any Christmas reference.
For the true Christmas atmosphere, we head over to the split 7". 'Funny Bells' is a song by Betty Arden that was first released on 'Is That You Santa Claus?', compiled by Oscar Smit, the man with, so I believe most knowledgeable about Christmas songs and who compiled three lovely alternative Christmas compilation cassettes in the mid '80s. Arden only released one cassette in 1985 and this Christmas song, which is a slightly dramatic, and beautifully sung song, with drums, bells, guitar, spacious and yet not all too dreamy, with words as 'angels' and 'bells' giving that Christmas vibe. On the other side 'Sloopy' by Saskia from that only cassette. Maybe she accidentally opened that cassette with a Christmas song? I don't know, but what lucky coincidence that is following the previous 7" and now this one connecting to the seasonal holiday. It starts a bit messy, with various electronics going about but once the voice arrives, the bell-like keyboard sounds, this is an even more introspective song than the previous two. This is lovely stuff and surely on repeat for a couple of times in the dark weeks ahead. Both of these 7"! (FdW)
––– Address: https://stroomtv.bandcamp.com/
SOON - EXTRATOOL 1 (7” by Extratool)
Located at the heart of Nijmegen, the long-running Extrapool organization is a strong part of the Dutch city’s thriving arts community. The building is home to a performance venue, a print studio, a music recording studio, several artists live/work spaces and probably other things as well. Over the Spring, Extrapool began a residency project called Extratool, in which they invited a pair of artists to use its recording studio to collaborate on two new compositions using string and percussion instruments designed and built by Yuri Landman. The first duo to take part in the project was Soon, aka Liu Mottes and Jochem van Tol, and the results of their Extartool residency are now released on a 7” single. Mottes’ involvement in rock bands (Blue Crime and Slow Worries) comes through in the melodic core of both songs. Despite the unique instruments used to make them, these aren’t abstract “sound art”, but skeletal pop-adjacent tunes with a conventional structure. The unusual tonalities from Landman’s unique instruments provide gamelan-like percussion, not unlike Harry Partch or the Residents. Both sides are beautifully recorded, the stark arrangements emphasized by sonic depth and clarity. But it’s a pity that this is only a 7”. The format only allows for brief tastes, when I think Soon’s music demands more extended exploration and breathing space. The music begins to establish an atmosphere… but then the side ends. As an introduction to Landman’s instruments and Soon’s music, this is enjoyable enough… I just hope they have a deeper dive planned for later. (HS)
––– Address: https://extratool.bandcamp.com/
MANIFESTATION 8 (CDR by Awefull Records)
Since the 90s Tim Sternat has been putting out the Manifestation compilations. These albums have featured with the music of Black Leather Jesus, Pleasure Centre, Crawl Unit, Stinkerbell, Pain Teens and Matahari, to name a few. Sternat has now released the eighth volume in the series with ‘Manifestation VII’ being released 25-years ago. The concept of Manifestation is simple. A music magazine that you can hear. Each ‘issue’ is effectively a compilation where each band not only gets a track, or two, but they also get some space to create some art that compliments the music. The idea is pretty solid, and the execution is pretty great too.
The problem with an album like this is that if a song, or artwork, doesn’t connect with you then it feels like a bit of a misstep. The majority of the songs work well and the diversity in sounds is all down to Sternat’s eye to great music. Overall, I enjoyed ‘Manifestation 8’ but there were parts that dragged in places. Sections of Future Blondes ‘E1’ could have either been tighter or more dynamic. Another artist might have worked better too. The annoying thing is I have enjoyed Future Blondes albums in the past. ‘Angele L’ was great, but here it just feels a bit flat. However, the overall feel of the piece is good. It just takes too long to do something and when it does its doesn’t reach the highs of Cyclops Joint of Deconstruction Crew. ‘Mr. Phister’, the first Deconstruction Crew track featured, has a delightful psych-pop glee to it. The bassline is catchy. The loops are fun and wonky, but the real lynchpin on ‘Mr. Phister’ is those delirious melodies that bored down into you.
Another standout track is, unsurprisingly, Richard Ramirez’ ‘No Apologies’. There is a simplicity to opening with billowing clouds of noise. While listening I remember footage of the great depression. All you can see is miles and miles of nothing. The wind blows up the dust as farmers strap everything to a rickety truck and drive off. It also slowed down footage of the Bikini Atoll nuclear bomb blasts. The dust clouds are moving at such a violent speed it destroys everything it comes in contact with but slowed down there is a strange beauty to it. These swaths of noise are interspersed with haunting saxophones, spoken word samples and rhythmic loops. It really does feel totally unapologetic. At times I wonder if Ramirez was genuinely trying to create something so desolate and bleak. Then I realise that this thought is folly. Of course, he was. The fact I think it sounds so simple means it really isn’t. To create something like this takes time and effort and is a reminder as to why Ramirez has been so highly rated for so long.
What I enjoyed about ‘Manifestation 8’ the most was how I didn’t actually know what was going to be coming next. There was no way on guessing what the next song would sound like based on the one you were listening to. Even if it was by the same artist. This was great. It reminded me of buying magazines as a teenager and not knowing anyone on it and just letting it all wash over me with eyes wide open and mouth ajar. It reminded me why I love mixtapes from friends and making them too. It reminded me that sometimes you just need to trust someone’s tastes and get swept along with it. I haven’t heard a covermount this good since the days of Yeti Magazine. And that is high praise indeed! Let’s just hope that ‘Manifestation 9’ isn’t released in 2045. Actually, that would be super interesting. Don’t listen to me Tim, release #9 when you want. I’ll be waiting. (NR)
––– Address: http://www.awefull.net/
ANGELO VICENTE JR & CALINECZKALIFE IS NOTHING BUT A SEXUALLY TRANSMITTED TERMINAL DISEASE (cassette by Steepgloss)
A while ago, Calineczka informed me that Angelo Vicente Jr was ready to stop doing music. I am not sure if this work was recorded before or after that decision. Under this funny title, they offer two very long pieces, forty-minutes each, and they are called '1984-12-26' and '1985-01-31', which I assume are the birthdays of these gentlemen, or perhaps the 'result of a sexually transmitted terminal disease' is a phrase they used to celebrate the occasion. I know both of them, to various degrees, as masters of the drone trade. That is what they do here, but mind you, these aren't two long monolithic pieces of drone music, far from it. Both sides consist of various parts, the first side more than the second. Much to my surprise the first segment on the first side, up to twelve minutes, is a remarkable musical piece, with almost a melodic touch and sounds dropping in and out, like a telephone exchange. After that, we arrive in more familiar territory with a few slow-moving drone fields, sometimes with a more industrial undercurrent and sometimes just very deep bass sounds. On the second side, three main parts that go straight into each other, and that one gave the impression of being recorded in one go, whereas the other side seemed to be a few shorter (well..) pieces stuck together to make various narratives. Although this lives up to its expectations, it also opens new doors, which in the case of Vicente JR remain closed. Unless of course, he reconsiders? (FdW)
––– Address: https://steepgloss.bandcamp.com/
LAUGHING GEAR - FREAK LEMONS (cassette, private)
'Freak Lemons' is the debut cassette by Melbourne based trio Laughing Gear; Bryce Sweatman (synths, drum machines and vocals), Jared Styles (synths), and Fergus Sinclair (guitar). The cover says that Styles recorded his parts "throughout 2019" and that the guitar and vocals were recorded throughout December 2019 to March 2020, which sounds most peculiar given the nature of the music here, which is a sort of post-punk approach to synth-based music. The drum machine sounds very retro, the synthesizers bleep and stammer, the guitar wails, screams and distorts and the voice is pleasantly angry. It reminded me of early Portion Control, before they started using what seemed expensive in better studios; it has those angry young men (plural) approach to music (lyric sheet enclosed), society and life itself and while not exactly super catchy songs, it is no doubt part of something quite musical. The tempos used in these songs are from slow to mid, and never superfast. This is a great release that made me all nostalgic, about the days gone so long now, when you would discover music like this on cassette releases with the same charm, naivety and aesthetic. Sometimes bands disappeared after one release back then, but let's hope Laughing Gear will stick around for some time. (FdW)
––– Address: https://laughinggear.bandcamp.com/releases
ANGELO BIGNAMINI - ZIMBATŌ (cassette by Lal Lal Lal)
More work by Italy's Angelo Bignamini, with not a lot of information to spare, both on Bandcamp and on the cover. I have not much idea as to what Bignamini is doing here. I would think he has found some way to play improvised music on a guitar, some percussion, field recordings and shortwave radio, while at the same time he can play around with these recordings, sort of doubling of the speed. Maybe it is something he does afterwards? I don't know. Both sides are about nineteen minutes of all sorts of sound fragments stuck together. One could call this electro-acoustic improvisation but I found it all a bit too chaotic and without much focus. It is as if Bignamini found a bunch of bits of tape lying on the cutting room floor and stuck them together in the best John Cage/random approach. The best bit was towards the second half on the second side when he used a bit of drone, processed bird recording and assorted other acoustic sounds. That I enjoyed quite a bit, the rest of the tape I heard with interest, but it wasn't enough to make me quickly return to it. (FdW)
––– Address: https://lallallal.bandcamp.com/
CARNIVOROUS PLANTS - BLACKBERRIES (cassette by Aphelion Editions)
SELECTED APHELION WORKS VOL. 1 & 2 (double cassette compilation by Aphelion Editions)
As far as I know, Aphelion Editions is one of the very few labels who release the same thing on both on CDR and cassette; there is some true love for the underground there. And underground knows underground as behind Carnivorous Plants we find Owen Chambers, who runs the Liquid Library label himself. This is my first introduction to his work. On Bandcamp page from his label, you will find lots more. Owens is a man with a love for the guitar, the complete package with amps and distortion. According to the information, there is also clarinet and vocals, from which he constructed loops. On this forty-minute cassette, you will find five pieces, of which 'Ruby' is at fifteen minutes the longest. The other four are around four to six minutes. The whole release is quite a beast, top-heavy from the first to the last second. It is not the variation of noise that screams down the tube all the way, not a wall of noise, but in all its distortion there is detail and, also quite important, there is variation. Each of the pieces is a minimal set of variations; once the ball rolls it is one way until it ends, but within that, there is some variation. Some very fine guitar noise at work here refined I'd say, but I could understand that's not the word everybody would use.
Ah, and there's the ubiquitous cassette compilation that I wasn't waiting for to review. I should hope that my opinion about label samplers is well known and also how much I am not looking forward to getting them for review. Everything I said so far and what is to come, I said a lot of times. I understand the need for compilations, I do. Even when it is more from a historical point of view. Before the Internet and before Soundcloud/Bandcamp, compilations were a way to find about new groups, via the presence of those few you knew. Had it Merzbow, Nurse With Wound or The Legendary Pink Dots, then you knew it was probably a good one, or at least you had one good song. These days, I would think, you put this sort of thing for free on Bandcamp and send tons of free codes out on social media. But, coming back to that underground feeling, then there are these words from Aphelion, "For me, personally, it's something of a love letter to the network of talented, generous and compassionate people that exists and thrives within the vital musical underground that runs throughout Europe, the UK and well beyond, and that has helped and continues to help this label to find and develop its own sense of purpose and identity" and as such this is a loving tribute to that very same underground. Fuck those reviewers. So here we have Ar_Lem, Marlo Eggplant, Viridian Ensemble, Félon, Nodolby, Tetkov/Lord, Emei, Cheval Scintillantes, Claus Poulsen, Ellen Southern: Site Singing, Silver Stairs Of Ketchikan, Félon, Zoom Around Rainbow, Domo Doge & Microdeform, Brown Ward, Adi, Autotistika, and Microdeform. It is an interesting bunch, of which highlights were the post-punk improvisation of Tetkov/Lord, the drum machine improvisation by Brown Ward, the hissy classical music loops by Cheval Scintillantes, Ellen Southern's singing, Silver Stairs Of Ketchikan's guitar strumming, ambient house (well...) by Zoom Around Rainbow, and Adi's found sound in 'Bars'. The overall range is from noise to ambient, with the first seemingly having the upper hand, I would think. (FdW)
––– Address: https://aphelioneditions.bandcamp.com/