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ALEJANDRO FRANOV - BAOBABS (CD by Panai) *
WERNER DURAND - SCHWINGENDE LUFTS─ULEN 3 (CD by Ants Records) *
JOHN WHITE - ELECTRIC MUSIC (2CD by Ants) *
WANG LU – AN ATLAS OF TIME (CD by New Focus Recordings) *
THE REMOTE VIEWERS – LET THE CITY SLEEP (CD by Remote Viewers) *
IG HENNEMAN – SOLO SONGS FOR INSTRUMENTS (CD by Wig) *
HARNESS - ENCASED IN MARBLE/WRAPPED IN ROOTS (CD by Throne Heap) *
SEBASTIAN STRINNING & JULIAN KIRSHNER - DIPPING THE EYE (CD by Jaki Records) *
SIGTRYGGUR BERG SIGMARSSON/FLORIS HOORELBEKE - SPLIT (CDR, private) *
ARIES MOND - GAPS AND SHORTCUTS (CDR, private) *
HALI PALOMBO - HOMER & LANGLEY (cassette/USB by Ballast) *
BLAKE EDWARDS - BORIS EINHOF SUICIDE MEDITATIONS 1951-2001 (CDR/book by Ballast) *
VERTONEN - HOT AIR (cassette by Helen Scarsdale Agency) *
JO├O ORECCHIA & SICKER MAN - PLUTON/NEPTUNE (cassette by Other Electricities)
THE JOY OF ISOLATION (cassette compilation by Aural Detritus)
ALEJANDRO FRANOV - BAOBABS (CD by Panai)
By now I lost count of how many releases Alejandro Franov has in Japan. I am also too lazy to find out. Franov is from Argentina, and I am not entirely sure, but many of the releases I review from him are released by Japanese Panai label, so there is for certain a market for his music over there. Franov himself is still based in Buenos Aires and plays the accordion, guitar, citar, percussion and "even vocals", as the information mentions. Central on this new album is the Mbira, [wiki]: " traditional to the Shona people of Zimbabwe. They consist of a wooden board (often fitted with a resonator) with attached staggered metal tines, played by holding the instrument in the hands and plucking the tines with the thumbs (at minimum), the right forefinger (most mbira), and sometimes the left forefinger." I assume Franov plays these both in real time as well as sampling them, and he adds a bit of other instruments. A bit of guitar here and there, maybe, shakers, flutes and, indeed, he may sing somewhere along here. Throughout there is a very gentle atmosphere, and from the sparse liner notes, we know this is something dear to Franov; about 'Un Pueblo Cercano" he writes, "It is evocative, evokes a village and its murmur is heard from far away. I feel a special shine in this song, as a guide". To a certain degree you could say Franov is a bit of a new age musician, playing exotic instruments and I am not sure why he is so popular in Japan. What he does, he does pretty well, reminded me, occasionally of the dear departed Jorge Reyes, with that selfsame exotic sound, beat, rhythm and a very melodic touch. Nice but quite sweet. I was playing Aries Mond right after this (see elsewhere), and I favoured that one over this, simply because it had more edge. But in short dark days this is a fine small ray of light blizz. (FdW)
––– Address: http://www.naturebliss.jp
WERNER DURAND - SCHWINGENDE LUFTS─ULEN 3 (CD by Ants Records)
JOHN WHITE - ELECTRIC MUSIC (2CD by Ants)
As you may have guessed from the title, this is the third instalment of 'Schwingende Luftsaulen' by Werner Durand (see also Vital Weekly 1117 and 1179), which is no surprise, as it was announced when Ants did the second release. Again Durand plays the Pan-Ney flute and digital delays as the sole instrument on four pieces, and on the fifth there is Marika Falk playing the talking drum. I very much enjoyed the first two releases, the second even more than the first. This new one is on par with the second, but not better. That is, of course, not necessary. Durand is someone who composes his pieces, rather than just blowing a few notes and sending them off through his delays (only for one it is mentioned that this a Max/MSP patch. As before it is easy o see the connections between the music of early minimalists, such as Glass or, especially, Steve Reich. With the latter he shares the phasing and shifting of notes, keep it very minimal. Compared this to, say, 'Violin Phase', would mean that that one is a very busy piece, and these are 'calm'. Except for the piece, 'Pearldivers', which has the talking drum. It is placed in the middle of the CD and as such is a break between the other four pieces, but for me it also broke the carefully constructed mood until that point. It is a matter of choice, of course. Otherwise his is a most enjoyable release with two lovely driving pieces, ;Still Another Ocean' and 'Another Still Ocean', and the slightly atonal 'The Krems Five' and the slightly chaotic, yet gentle, 'M-Ocean'. All together, five excellent pieces and topping off a great trilogy.
While listening to the double CD by John White I pulled a box of the shelf here in which I keep a ton of cuttings from Dutch music paper 'Muziekkrant Oor', from 1979 to 1985. Whenever I read something that tickled my interest I would cut it out (or xerox it from the copy in the library) and keep that; maybe one day I would hear the record or musician. I knew there was a cutting about a concert by John White in Amsterdam's Stedelijk Museum. As much I would love to say that it took me thirty-seven years (the article is not dated, but it sya White is 47, and wiki tells me he is born in 1936, so it must be from 1983) before hearing his music, that is not true. I did hear his contribution to Eno's Obscure Records series. Years later I bought a cheap CD with piano works by Erik satie, performed by John White, which I always assumed was the same musician. Oddly, now that I am re-reading this concert review it mentions that White's concert was apparently something that Satie would be proud, as White said the audience could walk around and ignore him, but of course they didn't. It says his music was played on "two casio's, a synthesizer, a syntheizer-computer and a cassette player", which no doubt made me regret not seeing this concert. On the cover of this CD, it said that most of these pieces from 1984-6, when White was doing pieces for theatre and dance, and it was more economic to play electronic music. All of this music was recorded onto cassettes and these are lovingly remastered. Obviously, I have no idea if this is the music he played that afternoon, but i doubt that. The review says it was quite diverse, and that is what is happening here as well, but none of this really 'ambient' in the Satie way, nor the Eno way. White's electronic music is actually quite quirky, up-tempo and rhythmic. Pop music it is not, but it could have been a small step from here, I think. His tunes are joyful at times, such as the various parts of 'Nintentions' (the only five from 1993) or 'Idleburger Salsa' but it can also be moody and a bit more introspective, such as the science fiction like 'Fluter's Tango'. Also in the longest piece, '11th Symphony', he maintains that somewhat Kraftwerkian synthesizer sound, but then quirkier. In some of this a love for minimalism shines through, which I am sure goes well with this being for dance and theatre productions. This is a most enjoyable ride, over two hours long! (FdW)
––– Address: http://antsrecords.com
WANG LU – AN ATLAS OF TIME (CD by New Focus Recordings)
In 2018 we reviewed her album ‘Urban Inventory’ (New Focus Recordings). This album presented five compositions written by her between 2008 and 2016. Also her new album consists of five compositions. Opening title work ‘An Atlas of Time’ is a work in five parts, commissioned by Frankfurt-based Ensemble Modern and performed here by the Boston Modern Orchestra Project. Also the closing composition ‘Siren Song’ is performed by the same ensemble. In between we find three works for smaller line ups: ‘Ryan and Dan’, performed Ryan and Dan Ryan Muncy (saxophones) and Daniel Lippel (electric guitar); ‘Double Trance’ performed Momenta Quartet; ‘Unbreathable Colors’, a solo violin piece performed Miranda Cuckson. Wang Lu comes from a musical family in family in China. She grew up with Chinese opera on the one hand and western classical music on the other hand. From early on she is at home in two very different musical worlds. This became a motive in her work as a composer after she settled in the US, teaching at Brown University. This is illustrated by this new collection of her latest compositions. Although we hear aspects of western as well Chinese music, fusing or blending them into one homogenous world is not what she aims for. Nor integrating elements into one dominant language. Instead she found her own way and style of composing intriguing hybrid compositions that are sometimes a bit collage-like. Absorbing different cultural influences that lead to multi-sided and compositions. ‘An Atlas of Time’ for example bursts from ideas. For this composition Wang Lu takes inspiration from particular musical moments that are carved in her memory and shaped her perception of time. ‘Unbreathable Colors’ is an evocation of the intense smog in – not only – Chinese cities. Inhabitants are exposed to it continuously. The work plays with silence, pizzicato technique and gliding movements for solo violin performed by Miranda Cuckson. ‘Double Trance’ for string quartet is a meditation on a spiritual experience of Wang in Rome visiting the Santa Cecilia Basilica in Rome. The closing work ‘Siren Song’ is a very dramatic and vibrant work inspired on Chinese opera. Richly coloured and very engaging. For sure Wang Lu is a very interesting and inventive composer offering new and engaging perspectives embodied in very vivid and colourful works. (DM)
––– Address: https://newfocusrecordings.bandcamp.com/
THE REMOTE VIEWERS – LET THE CITY SLEEP (CD by Remote Viewers)
The Remote Viewers are a regular guest in the columns of Vital Weekly. Since the end of the nineties they consequently built on their distinct and characteristic oeuvre and many of their releases were discussed here. ’Let the city sleep’ is their latest statement. And although it is evident from an instant with whom we dealing here, this one sounds different compared with their earlier work. Normally David Petts writes most of the material. After rehearsals and some concerts they made their recording for the cd. Not however this time. Due to corona things went different. Instead Edwards took “the original scores as a starting point, rework them using computer and electronic based sounds and arrive at different musical conclusions.” So John Edwards, who I know as bassist, followed different procedures here, doing rigorous treatments on the written material by Petts. From what I understand the acoustical solo contributions by Caroline Kraabel (alto saxophone), Sue Lynch (tenor saxophone), Adrian Northover (soprano saxophone), David Petts (tenor saxophone) and John Edwards (double bass), were recorded later and are interspersed with the electronic sections. The double bass improvisation by Edwards, halfway the album, is dominated by deep sonorities from which a breakable melody arises near the end. Here the contrast with the heavily treated electronic constructions is most extreme. His electronic operations are without borders and very radical, using melodic elements combined with qualities of pure noise. This leads to engaging and even humorous sections like the opening part of ‘The Moviegoer’. Also the extreme exercise ‘Falling Beams’ convinces and show a side of Edwards’ musicianship I wasn’t aware of. (DM)
––– Address: http://www.theremoteviewers.com
IG HENNEMAN – SOLO SONGS FOR INSTRUMENTS (CD by Wig)
Classically-educated violinist Ig Henneman is a composer and improviser, long-time member of the Dutch scene of new and improvised music. Starting with a rock band (new wave and punk) in the 70’s, she became more and more involved with free improvisation. Later composing became more dominant and she developed her own style of modern composed new music. Lot of her work is documented on her self-run WIG-label. Since the 90s poetry is often a source of inspiration for her work, and this also counts for this new recording ‘Solo Songs for Instruments’ where poems by Emily Dickinson, Ingeborg Bachmann, Anneke Brassinga, Sarah Lawson and Nanao Sakaki served as source of inspiration. The poems are included in the enclosed booklet. The cd contains five solo song for five different instruments and performers. For each composition Henneman indicates what poem served as source of inspiration. The poem is also recited and integrated in the composition. Alas not always clearly audible. All compositions take between 10 and 13 minutes, and where composed between 2014 and 2019. They are performed by strong and expressive players: Lidy Blijdorp (cello), Diamanda Laberge Dramm (violin), Anna voor de Wind (bassclarinet), Elisabeth Smalt (viola) and Dana Jessen (bassoon). Individually they give way to convincing and moving performances. The powerful compositions keep things simple and clear in a way that it makes you focus on her use of timbres, abrasive sounds, changes in dynamics and speed. Expect no exuberance of movements and gestures. Everything is very reduced in a way that every movement fulfils its necessary and optimal role. At one occasion I listened to this album just after listening to the latest album the Remote Viewers (‘Let the City Sleep’) I experienced some continuity between the two. Music that is characterised by a certain baldness and tightness that increases the dramatic impact. Great work! (DM)
––– Address: http://www.stichtingwig.com
HARNESS - ENCASED IN MARBLE/WRAPPED IN ROOTS (CD by Throne Heap)
After listening to ‘Encased in Marble/Wrapped in Roots’ it’s hard to believe this is Harness’ debut album. “What took them so long?” you think during its 40-minute duration. The short answer to that question is being busy. Harness is made up of Luke Tandy and Shane Church and since they released their first tape in 2014 Tandy has been busy with Heat Signature, MP5 and Orgasmic Response Unit and Church with Crooked Necks and Glass Half. The fact they managed to record, and release, a Harness album is testament to their scheduling skills as much as it is to their musical prowess.
“So, what is Encased in Marble/Wrapped in Roots like?” I can hear you say under your breath as you read my opening paragraph. In short. Very good. It’s everything you’d hope a Harness album would sound like, but not exactly as you’d expect. Given Tandy and Church’s calibre for harsh noise ‘Encased in Marble/Wrapped in Roots’ isn’t the searing experience you’d expect. Instead of an impenetrable wall of noise what we are given is something measured and composed. Yes, there are moments when Harness just let’s rip, but these outbursts are used sparingly, like punctuation, to emphasise their points. ‘Mind as Stone and Water’ is probably the standout track on the album, whilst being one of the most measured. The rumbling bass grows in intensity as the song progresses. With each guttural bubble it becomes more and more overpowering. Below the sonic surges wonky field recordings and skittering electronics grow and swell, like cephalopod swimming through murky water. Given how the album starts though, this shouldn’t really be a surprise. ‘Pry Open the Lid of the Third Eye’ opens with the noises of someone rummaging around a junk table while deep bass drones vibrate around it sporadically. It immediately tells us this will be a textured affair with organic sounds interacting with electronic ones. This is nothing new of course, but Harness manage to make it sound fresh and vibrant. For those of you wanting something torturous and penetrating ‘Travelling Along the Knife’s Edge’ is for you. Opening with what sounds like a garden strimmer being abused, layers of noise, feedback and general confusion comes into the mix. As ‘Travelling Along the Knife’s Edge’ continues everything gets more and more abrasive. Around the halfway mark it all falls away showing the skittering skeleton of the track.
‘Encased in Marble/Wrapped in Roots’ is a dark and brooding album. It never quite comes out and says what’s on its mind. Instead, it stalks about in the shadows pacing. Sometimes Harness make a lunge at us, coming into the light and revealing themselves fully. Other times we are given brief glimpses. This is fine though. The album isn’t about revealing everything. It’s about delivering something textured and balanced that hits all those high spots we expect from Tandy and Church while delivering something unexpected which Harness releases always do. What is evident however, is that Tandy and Church have harnessed their collective strengths to create one of the most singular, and enjoyable, albums in recent years. (NR)
––– Address: http://www.throneheap.com/
SEBASTIAN STRINNING & JULIAN KIRSHNER - DIPPING THE EYE (CD by Jaki Records)
I’ll be honest. After a first listen I didn’t really like ‘Dipping the Eye’. It wasn’t Sebastian Strinning and Julian Kirshner’s fault, but to be honest, I just wasn’t into it. This is probably because I was listening to it half-heartedly waiting for midnight to strike on NYE whilst doing some little jobs. Mostly adding new radio idents to my weekly show. What I should have been doing was paying attention, rather than making sure that I met the station’s guidelines. If I had, I would have spent an enjoyable 47-minutes being swept away with Kirshner’s drumming and Strinning’s saxophone/clarinet attacks, instead of 47-minutes being stressed it was taking too long and slightly annoyed by music I wasn’t giving the time to win me over.
All this has been readdressed and I now hear ‘Dipping the Eye’ for what it is. A glorious collection of songs that effortlessly jump from being organised and structured to stuttering free freak-outs and then back again. ‘Flooded Skiff’ is one of the most abstract tracks on the album. It opens with wheezy horns and the lightest dusting of percussion. Nothing gets above a whisper really. It asks, no, demands you to lean in as you listen. Trying to make sense of inaudible horns. The percussion feels almost translucent, or that its make of smoke and you could pass through it. In the final third things become more rigid. There are runs of notes that you can actually hear properly. They are breathy and fun, but also all over the shop. And this is the song’s charm. Making you think there is nothing there when in fact it’s a richly woven soundscape that showcases Strinning and Kirshner at the top of their game.
The ‘Dipping the Eye’ really comes into its own is when you just go with it. Personally, this was after a few listens. I knew what to expect, kind of, and I was in the right frame of mind to listen to it. My concentration was focused on it and I wasn’t rushing to get something sorted in a short timeframe. I was allowed to go off on mental tangents as their furious playing did the same. Before I knew what has happened the album was over, and I was reaching to press play again. After each listen, I know what I took from the album, but I don’t know what the album is really about. The titles give vague hints but vague is all we’re getting. ‘Sternpicker’ could be named after a fishing trip, watching a fishing boat at sea or just because they liked the way the words worked together. For me it is an interesting dissection about how musicians, and instruments, interact with each other. How at times they are both playing off and against each other. It’s fascinating. And this is what ‘Dipping the Eye’ feels to be about. Two friends swept up in the music and trying to get the best out of themselves and each other. (NR)
––– Address: https://www.facebook.com/jakirecords/
SIGTRYGGUR BERG SIGMARSSON/FLORIS HOORELBEKE - SPLIT (CDR, private)
Here we have a split disc by Stilluppsteypa's own Sigtryggur Berg Sigmarsson, known to us for many years as someone who delivers constitent good quality music and one Floris Hoorelbeke, of whom I had not heard. The disc opens with a forty-one minute piece by Sigmarsson, who uses guitar sounds by Anla Courtis and Hoorelbeke on organ. For his 'Late Night Home Recording Accidentally Washed Out My Memory', Sigmarsson takes a for him slightly unusual long form drone apporach for pretty much a long time in this piece; about of the piece is used to slowly build and destroy a drone, until its flame died out. In the second half we hear Courtis' guitar playing and this part is wide-open, almost as if this a live recording; or Courtis playing his guitar in a shopping mall. It made think that the organ, played by Hoorelbeke, might be part of the first half, but I am not sure. It seems like two pieces being cobbled together, but the differences between both work actually quite well.
For the piece by Hoorelbeke, 'Flabbergasted Young Men Waiting For Waves To Become Flames On The Shore' there is are no other people involved. The cover tells us nothing about any instruments, and for the thirty minutes this piece last we have to take a wild guess. It seems almost certain there is a guitar being played, and there are some field recordings to be noted, children's playground or such. The same organ as the one he recorded for Sigmarsson is played. That seem to be the ingredients and just like his compadre, Hoorelbeke likes his stuff to be minimal. Crumbled sounds are looped and fed through some lo-fi effects, maybe stuck on a cassette, as to account for some of the white noise apparent on this piece, and there is an overall theme that seems to revolve throughout this piece, coming to you in different configurations. This too is a very fine piece. On the first day of a new year, quiet as always, this is a very fine soundtrack. (FdW)
––– Address: https://sigtryggurbergsigmarssonflorishoorelbeke-split.bandcamp.com/releases
ARIES MOND - GAPS AND SHORTCUTS (CDR, private)
This is the third release by Boris Billier, better knwon as Aries Mond, following 'Come On Let's Wait' (Vital Weekly 1124) and 'Cut Off' (Vital Weekly 1177). This time he does the release himself and he produced nine pieces of music, using a variety of acoustic instruments, strings (cello, guitar), wind instruments, piano and quite a bit of electronics, among which we find the loop pedal. He also uses quite a bit of field recordings, some of which are in an actual field, with wind blowing, cow bells and such. Over time, Aries Mond expanded the somewhat minimalist approach and allows for a bigger variety in sounds and compositions and yet within each of the compositions it all stats on the minimal side still. A few chords on the piano, in 'Tame', along with some field recordings and an electronic sound to go along makes up quite a pointilistic piece of music. Like before the intimacy is still here, but now played with more instruments and a wider palette of sounds. I said before that it reminded me of Dominique Petitgand, which it still does, even when Aries Mond has, this time, less home-made recordings of children playing. Oddly enough I played this right after the Alejandro Franov CD (see elsewhere), and I found it hard to separate the two. The intimacy, the musicality, the delicacy is apparent in both of these releases. So, with a little luck Aries Mond can be as big as Franov in Japan with this kind of music, you would think. Let's hope so, and that his music reaches more people that the edition of 100 copies of this release, his music surely deserves it. (FdW)
––– Address: https://ariesmond.bandcamp.com/album/come-on-lets-wait
HALI PALOMBO - HOMER & LANGLEY (cassette/USB by Ballast)
BLAKE EDWARDS - BORIS EINHOF SUICIDE MEDITATIONS 1951-2001 (CDR/book by Ballast)
Some albums seem to go on for too long. I think I’ve made a few of those. But there are others that I want to play several consecutive times so that I can continue living in and experiencing their world. Hali Palombo’s “Homer & Langley” is the latter. I could complain that this album is too short, but that's just me being greedy. The album is about the tragic true story of the eccentric Collyer brothers, who in early 20th century New York became one of the first well-known examples of what today we call hoarders. The piece is just as moving and evocative and mysterious on my 6th or 7th time though (I've lost track) as it was on the 1st.
There are two editions of “Homer & Langley”; one is a 20-minute cassette, the other includes the tape plus a flash drive with audio/visual materials to supplement the music. If you hear just the tape, you get a dream-haze collage of crackly old records, slowed-down hymns, a cascading slow-motion avalanche of choirs, clocks and trains. The Collyers grew increasingly eccentric and hermetic until they essentially blockaded themselves in their Manhattan mansion. New Yorkers assumed that they must be hiding some treasure and sometimes tried to break into the house, only to be met with nearly insurmountable piles of trash and elaborate booby traps. Palombo’s music is mournful and somber, particularly with the affecting “Amazing Grace” that opens side 2, its melody and lyrics recognizable but gradually reduced to just echoing tones and memories. Palombo’s sounds have real physicality to them; distinctive textures of moribund media, from the subtle warble of a gloriously imperfect radio transmissions. This music might be from a century ago or from last week (or both at the same time).
The sub-edition is even better. In addition to the tape, it includes a flash drive containing contemporary press clippings about the reclusive brothers and what became of their home after their death. These are incredible photos from inside the Collyers’ house, the auction of their salvageable belongings, and of the park in Harlem that memorializes them today. Best of all is the 16-minute sound piece in which Palombo narrates the Collyers’ story over ancient-sounding chamber and ghosts of early popular music records. Her empathy for the doomed brothers is clear, communicated by her deceptively matter-of-fact tone and judicial use of music as subtle emotional cues. Hali’s voice is one that belongs on public radio; if she made a regular podcast about whatever interested her, I’d listen to that.
The other new release on Ballast is “Boris Einhof Suicide Meditations 1951-2001”, which is better thought of as a book with audio accompaniment than as music with a text component. The first thing I did while listening through to the CDR was to Google Einhof’s name… which yielded no relevant information. I should have known better and started with the information provided in the book. It’s subtitle, “In Conversation with Boris Einhof, February 2001, Tate Modern (Turbine Hall)”, seems to plainly describe what this album is… and yet, because Blake Edwards is involved, it’s better to not take it at face value. What follows purports to be a transcribed conversation between curator David Dierman and German artist Boris Einhof in front of an audience at the opening of a show of Einhof’s “Suicide Meditations” work at the Tate in London. We are further informed that Einhof passed away in 2004, though his children and the Tate staff took part in making this document public. The final lines of the booklet state plainly: “All text and audio created by B. Edwards, March-Sept 2020.” Aha! There it is. The deception, then, is part of the work… so what is this all about?
The text assumes that Boris Einhof is already well-known enough to get a retrospective at Tate Modern and is speaking to a roomful of people who have a context that we (the actual audience) do not. However, the nature of Einhof’s work changes as his talk goes on. “Suicide Meditations” documents the artist placing a loaded gun into his mouth every year on his birthday and leaving it inside for as many seconds as he is years old that day. The action is filmed each time. The accompanying CDR purports to contain audio of each of these actions… a gun is cocked for between 36 and 91 seconds. That’s all. The sound is both repetitive and, given our knowledge of the (supposed) source of the sounds, harrowing. Einhof explains to the Tate crowd that he never wanted to kill himself and further demurs that he’s more likely to die by illness or accident than from mistakenly pulling the trigger during an art piece. At the start, he justifies his piece as being a ritual about facing death, about marking time passing each year by staring directly at his own mortality. Einhof explains that “the concept of someone taking their own life is so difficult for most people to understand, and without a sense of “why” there’s little, for lack of a better word, satisfaction”. If this was the entire piece, it would certainly be something to discuss. A document of a provocative, long term, private action about aging and death. Unfortunately, Einhof’s motivations become more problematic as he describes subsequent versions of this piece.
“Obviously, I wanted to be recognized as an artist,” Einhof says, “and one who seeks recognition must do something to warrant that recognition, to stand out.” He begins to describe how his Suicide Meditations became influenced by the commercial need to show art in a gallery. He tells the audience that he had no intention at first to give his Suicide Meditations any further context than a document of exactly what he did in private. But he needed to invent a new context in order to be considered for an art show with the theme of “transgression”. Einhof’s subsequent narrative inventions (a German overwhelmed by crimes he supposedly committed in WW2, a man who kidnaps and maybe murders children, and so on) seek to explain why he had these documents of himself with a gun in his mouth. The work’s shift from personal, powerful, simple gesture to prurient, derivative post-Aktionists/Chris Burden installation art is a condemnation of the attention-grabbing need to “shock”. Ironically, a man alone with a gun in his mouth at the same date every year for decades is infinitely more upsetting and moving than a fictional lurid story attempting to rationalize (in the most banal exploitative true-crime manner) why someone might be distraught enough to commit suicide. It’s telling that Einhof’s narrative frames are never about depression, mental illness, poverty or his own aging and mortality… his limited imagination about the causes of suicide seem to come from movies, as if he’s avoiding the very questions that his art asks. His initial artistic statement is powerful because it has no explanation… later narrative frames invite outrage, but not reflection on death. As Einhof’s talk goes on, he seems to relish his role as provocateur. He laughs about police involvement when his artwork seems to contain confessions of crimes while the initial purpose of his rituals becomes more and more lost. And now, here he is at the Tate Modern, the apex of the commercial art system.
The punch line of all of this is the CDR itself. Even after reading the interview and considering how the “artist” devalued his own work while being rewarded for it with a show at a major museum, the audio demonstrates the power of his original idea. It’s undeniably upsetting to listen to an hour of (supposedly) a gun clicking over and over again. One can imagine the gun in a man’s mouth while listening… or not, since Einhof doesn’t exist and I doubt that Blake put a gun into his own mouth just to make recordings for a limited-edition CDR. One can hear the album as conceptual sound art documenting events that never happened… or it can simply be appreciated as minimal anti-music, separate from the concept. Several questions linger: what other artists followed trajectories similar to Boris Einhof’s? Who started out with a sincere, difficult statement and ended up cheerfully joining the gallery system in a quest for recognition? Who is the actual target here? (HS)
––– Address: http://ballastnvp.blogspot.com/
VERTONEN - HOT AIR (cassette by Helen Scarsdale Agency)
Many of the releases by Blake Edwards' Vertonen project are released by the imprint he runs, Ballast NVP, but here he goes to California's Helen Scarsdale Agency for a sixty-minute cassette that is inspired by "both oulipo founder Raymond Queneau and butoh icon Kazuo Ohno as profound influences to the construction of broken air, in edwards' own words "to explore the boundaries between the limited and unlimited capabilities of 'communication' in its broadest definition", s it says on Bandcamp. He uses "outdated and damaged equipment" and thus connects with people Simon Whetham (see two weeks ago), joe Colley and Francesco Meirino. The musical field in which Vertonen operates is wide open. While a great number of releases deal with drone music, there is also harsh noise and turntable abuse, next to analogue and digital processing of sound. He always manages to find a new angle and this new one is not different. This is not the work of some harsh noise going beserk, but it is also not really the deep, all-immersive drones he also does. In the middle ground we hear the rattling static of an old radio, contact microphones being scraped across raw surfaces and heavily obscured textured recordings of... well, I wish I knew. Loops from turntables might be in use here as well, and I was thinking this might very well be on of the first releases in which Vertonen uses his various tricks and incorporates all these into the two long pieces (although clearly broken up in various sections) by way of a long collage of sound. Aalogue and digital processing are applied, rough edged near death machines but also very delicate drones such as 'Vent Exit', which blows the cassette like a candle in the wind (with a massive delay!), all in a fine interaction of loud and soft passages. It is never too loud for too long and never to soft to go unnoticed. As I said, Vertonen always seems to invite a new, fresh take on his sound, and here he works with the notion of 'what happens if I throw all my interests and equipment together and let's see what happens'. Well, something great happened! You could also call this further shaping and maturing of his sound world. This is easily one of his best releases!(FdW)
––– Address: https://helenscarsdale.bandcamp.com/
JO├O ORECCHIA & SICKER MAN - PLUTON/NEPTUNE (cassette by Other Electricities)
Sometimes a press release has a column next to the basic information that says something along the lines of 'for fans of'. I usually ignore that (unless lost for words of course), but for this cassette it says "Tangerine Dream, Puce Mary, Drew McDowall and Aki Onda", which made me think that this casting nets very wide. I don't think I heard of Joao Orecchio and Sicker Man, the name chosen by Tobias Vethake, before. They met in the early 2000s in Berlin and they played in small clubs over thre. Don't go looking for these, they are not there anymore. They use such instruments as a guitar, a cello, toy pianos, kazoos and melodica. After relocating to Johannesburg in 2005, Orecchio kept in contact with Sicker Man and whenever the latter was around, they would record together. The two side long pieces here were recorded in February 2019 (in Berlin) and while the two titles may suggest something cosmic, perhaps along the lines of Tangerine Dream, this it is not. I may not be all too-well versed with the four 'for fans' suggestions, but Orecchio and Sicker Man certainly have something interesting to hear for us. Improvisation is certainly a starting point, but nothing in a very conventional way, especially due to their use of electronics. They know how to bend the strings of the guitar and the cello, feed it through electronics and some fine atmospheric tune pops up. But that's is not the ultimate goal of the music. 'Neptune' opens up with a fiery bit of noise (the Puce Mary side of their music), and that puts some fine balance in the music; it is something that is scattered all over the musical spectrum. That is ceryainly one of the finer things about this cassette for me. The sheer variety of approach here and none of this too long in the same place. This is almost as if one is listening to the world receiver for alternative music. (FdW)
––– Address: https://other-electricities.bandcamp.com/
THE JOY OF ISOLATION (cassette compilation by Aural Detritus)
As someone who, when it is not necessary, doesn't like to leave the house (draussen ist fiendlich) and working from home since about 17 years, the whole 2020/lockdown due to the pandemic made very little change to it, although I didn't see a lot of concerts, so I can see a bit of joy in isolation, already used to it. This is also the title of a compilation curated by The Ceramic House in Brighton when they asked: "audio artists to produce works as part of the JOY exhibition at The Ceramic House in Brighton, November - December 2020". We have here the music of Embia Quickbeam, Blanca Regina & Pierre Bouvier-Patron, Joseph Young and Paul Khimasia Morgan. Quickbeam is the name used by Rowan Forestier, using field recordings and small sounds, which translates here into a very delicate piece of water bubbles and spacious electronics with quite a bit of silence thrown in. The only duo piece is an improvisation for guitars and bass, and a bunch of pedals. It is supposed to be spacious, but I lost concentration after a while; it is all a bit too loose. Young has an all-electronic piece of music around the word 'splendid', being mentioned a couple of times, along with electronics, a drum 'n bass inspired rhythm but also chopping everything up quite a lot, so it never sticks in a groove. Morgan (the only name I immediately recognized) has a piece of music that is full of homely atmospheres and some pretty obscure music, but all of it has a fine tension beneath the surface. Isolation can be creepy! It is a pity that nothing of the actual exhibition is part of this. (FdW)
––– Address: https://auraldetritus.bandcamp.com