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2021: The Year Vital Weekly...?
Back in Vital Weekly 1184, I ran an 'editorial' that read '2020: The Year Vital Weekly Ends', which some people didn't read and for a while I got messages, such as "do I still need to send a promo, now you are quitting Vital Weekly?" Well, no, we didn't end Vital Weekly in 2020, nor do we plan to give up in 2021. However, we want to do another pledge for a bit of cash, so that we can pay people who do the actual work, improve the design, maybe hire a professional text editor, review digital-only releases and donating review copies to an archive". Or that we have a better archive of our work ourselves, with a search engine. Stuff that needs to develop before it can be a reality.
Last time a few people signed up a monthly payment through PayPal, and there is the yearly donation from a well-known German composer, and a few spend some euro but nothing substantial in the long run. Nothing that would improve the current weekly (it probably pays the annual website space).
I opened up a Patreon page with currently one pledge, show the love for what we do. In the future I may add a few more, dealing with music we create, but maybe also with the option to do have a private conversation about your music; a private review, if you will call it that.
Thanks for your support!
LUSTMORD & NICOLAS HORVATH - THE FALL.DENNIS JOHNSON'S NOVEMBER (CD by Sub Rosa) *
PHIL MOULDYCLIFF - FOG MAPS (CD by ICR Distribution) *
TRONDHEIM VOICES - FOLKLORE (CD by Hubro) *
HIVE MIND - ELYSIAN ALARMS (CD by Difficult Interactions) *
BENEDICT TAYLOR & DANIEL THOMPSON - T’OTHER (2CD by Empty Birdcage Records) *
MATTHIAS ENGELKE – RESONANT DOWLAND (CD by Gruenrekorder) *
BO VAN DE GRAAF/MICHEL MULDER/CHRISTOPH MAC-CARTHY /DION NIJLAND/ANDRE GROEN – CYCLE JIN BREBLE CONCERT (CD by I Compani) *
ELNATH PROJECT - ~ (CDR by Focused Silence) *
THE BROKEN PENIS ORCHESTRA - PENILE REMNANTS (cassette by Nihilist Recordings) *
PANICSVILLE - ELECTROACOUSTIC UNDERGROUND (cassette by Bacteria Field) *
ANDY ORTMANN - CHRONOPOLIS (cassette/USB by Nihilist Recordings) *
SALVATORE MARTIRANO - LIVE ELECTRONICS (cassette/USB by Nihilist Recordings) *
HALI PALOMBO - LIMINAL (cassette/USB by Nihilist Recordings) *
ILLUSION OF SAFETY - TERRA FIRMA (cassette by Nihilist Recordings) *
AXIOM – AXIOM (cassette by Absurd Exposition) *
PHOCOMELUS - NO HUMANS INVOLVED (cassette by Absurd Exposition) *
GRIEFER - COMMUNICATION DENIAL (cassette by Absurd Exposition) *
QUALCHAN - BUMPER MUSIC FOR THE END TIMES (cassette by Superpolar Taips) *
GERMANY ARMY - WHAT BROUGHT YOU HERE (cassette by Superpolar Taips) *
MODUS PONY - SYSTEMMETRY (cassette by Superpolar Taips) *
WHETTMAN CHELMETS - AUTUMNAL COLORS (cassette by Superpolar Taips) *
NICHOLAS LANGLEY - BREAKAWAY (cassette by Superpolar Taips) *
BLEED AIR - OGEHIKO (cassette by Superpolar Taips) *
LUSTMORD & NICOLAS HORVATH - THE FALL.DENNIS JOHNSON'S NOVEMBER (CD by Sub Rosa)
It should hardly be a surprise, but my knowledge of modern classical music is rather minimal. I am sure I heard a bit of LaMonte Young's 'Well-Tuned Piano' in my life, but I didn't know that the piece was inspired by 'November' by Dennis Johnson, composed for solo piano in 1959. That piece was restored from a cassette and played again in recent years. Here, 'November' is the inspiration for French piano player Nicolas Horvath and electronic musician Lustmord, also known as Brian Williams. You can find the original 'November' on YouTube (like you can find almost anything there) and comparing that with 'The Fall', it is not difficult to see how it was a source of inspiration, but had this not been mentioned, and Horvath would have played a similar sequence of sparse notes, would that have made any difference? I am not sure there. Sparse notes as said, and I'm sure in some sort of structural order and around that Lustmord spins a vast, dense atmosphere of electronic sounds. Massive reverbs, I would think, creating resonate space in which the piano sounds very eerie moves; or doesn't move. Sometimes there are the sounds of birds coming through this vast space, as if the piano was in an open field, just as depicted on the cover. I assume 'The Fall', as a title has little to do with either the book or the band who took the name of the book, but with the season in which we find November, that damp, cold, rainy month of increasing darkness. If that is the case then these four pieces, some sixty-six minutes of music works very well. January is the same month as November, opposite ends of the festive month, and a grey and dark, at least today here in The Netherlands, so this is the perfect soundtrack for such a day. (FdW)
––– Address: https://subrosalabel.bandcamp.com/
PHIL MOULDYCLIFF - FOG MAPS (CD by ICR Distribution)
When I was playing this release, I was thinking I know very little about Phil Mouldycliff, other than the occasional release he does with Colin Potter. I understand from the liner notes here that this is his second solo release and that two of the pieces relate to his as yet unpublished novels. "These both incorporate the notion of leitmotifs, that is, short recurring musical phrases which represent a particular place, person or idea". One other piece is a reworking from a piece from his first album, 'Written On Water' (see Vital Weekly 595)sand two pieces relate to places and photos, the latter on exhibit in a gallery. He also says he's inspired by 20th-century classical music and field recordings and all of this comes to the listener with very slow development. The reworked piece is the shortest at three minutes and one of the two from the exhibition the longest, clocking in at over thirty minutes, yet all five are shorter versions of longer originals. I don't have an idea what Mouldycliff uses, instrument wise. In 'Strandlines And Chines' I believe to hear guitars and bells (which made me think, maybe 'Chines' is misspelt and should be 'chimes'?), but in the other pieces, all the sound is heavily transformed and morphed around, and the outcome is full-on drone music. Field recordings, such as water and birds in the opening of 'Drowned Angels', is no doubt an obvious point of departure for Mouldycliff and his music is in that great English tradition where we also find Colin Potter, Darren Tate, Andrew Chalk and Jonathan Coleclough, or each of these people working together as Monos, Ora or Mirror. Mouldycliff's music is very much along these lines but the element of modern classical music shines through, such as in the slow unfolding melodic lines of 'There... Because!' and throughout his music isn't as dark as that of his peers. I could easily believe Mouldycliff uses fragments of classical music, heavily changed and altered, but of course, I might be very wrong here. I enjoy this lighter touch and his classical instrument approach (without things becoming classical at all) because it puts it a bit aside of all those darker forces and yet Mouldycliff also stays connected with his peers. It never becomes light weighted as everything is played and constructed with the utmost serious intent. (FdW)
––– Address: https://www.icrdistribution.com/
TRONDHEIM VOICES - FOLKLORE (CD by Hubro)
Sometimes the sleeve notes of an album hide its themes in plain sight. This is true of the new Trondheim Voices album ‘Folklore’. The sleeve notes say: “What happens when two of Norway's foremost sound magicians use Trondheim Voices as a living instrument?” What indeed. The two sound magicians are Ståle Storløkken and Helge Sten and the answer are a collection of 13 songs that transcend genre and era. There is a timeless quality to the songs. It’s part jazz, chamber pop early classical and experimental. But what it mostly is, is brilliant.
While listening to ‘Folklore’ I’m reminded of how I felt when listening to the Bulgarian State Radio and Television Female Choir for the first time. The music felt otherworldly as it was totally opposite to everything else, I was either listening to or had heard, to that point. The vocals on ‘Folklore’ have an ethereal quality about them. This makes even their most simple harmonies sound breath-taking. Take ‘Aether I’ for example. The song is composed mostly of a series of elongated harmonies. These harmonies sound like a distant train whistle in a western film, electronic wails and, a series of vocalists locked into the frequency and just staying there. It’s incredibly moving, but without ever feeling the need to explain what you are being moved about. And this is what ‘Folklore’ and Trondheim Voices does so well. They present us with music that is 100% down to us to interrupt. They don’t really give any clues in the song titles and the vocals are using their voices like instruments than actually singing conventionally. This gives the recordings a timeless quality and harkens back to a time when it wasn’t what you sang but how you sang it. ‘Ascend’ and ‘Facing the Outerworld’ feels like a siren-songs. As they continue you are slowly being pulled deeper and deeper into them.
When ‘Folklore’ finishes you need some time to decompress and take in what you have experienced. While it isn’t the most abrasive album in recent times, it is one of the most overwhelming. At first, it’s hard to pinpoint what it was about the album that you exactly enjoyed. Yes, the vocals are subline and the use of electronics really elevates the recordings too. But on paper that’s all it is. Vocals and electronics but there is something about that combination in the hands of Storløkken and Sten that really takes things to another level. Ultimately ‘Folklore’ is the kind of album that it is easy to get lost in. The vocals are luscious, instrumentation sparse but strangely warming and you are left feeling like you’ve actually experienced something transcendental rather than being told you have. (NR)
––– Address: https://hubromusic.com/
HIVE MIND - ELYSIAN ALARMS (CD by Difficult Interactions)
It’s really funny how stray thoughts are triggered by listening to certain music. You can be listening to something and a long-forgotten memory drifts up from the abyss of your mind. It could be a conversation you had with the ex 25 years ago, or you think of the perfect retort to a boss as you are getting fired, or the second the starts you are transported back to the first time you heard it. While listening to ‘Elysian Alarms’ I’m reminded of that scene in Gattaca where Jude Law asks Ethan Hawke “What’s Titan like?” Hawke replies “Titan is like this”, then has a big old drag on his cigarette and blows the smoke into his wine glass. Smoke billows all over the shop. You can no longer see the wine in the glass. Then Hawke says “It's got a cloud around that's so thick, no one can tell what's underneath” “Maybe there's nothing there?” Law asks. “There's something there,” Hawk says before blowing the smoke out and having a drink. I think about this scene a lot while listening to the album.
This is both a good and a bad thing. It is good as Gattaca is a great film and I need to re-watch it between now and when I die. That scene is really important as it shows the distinction between the two characters. Hawke is an adventurer. He wants to go to Titan to find answers, regardless of what they are, whereas Law is more content to stay where he is, as the living is good and he’s effectively his own boss. On ‘Elysian Alarms’ Hive Mind has gone off to hitherto uncharted territory. He’s taking a risk because it excites him. The six songs that make up the album were created out of need, desire, and idle curiosity. This the exemplified on ‘Mars, Cloaked in Leather’. For 10-minutes Hive Mind has recreated that smoking wine glass. Synths billow about us, obscuring the basslines, siren-like main hook and god knows what else. It just sounds like that wine glass in Gattaca looks. The only downside is that with all this surface noise you can’t tell can’t really tell what is going on, as it's eclipsed by fugs of sound. Maybe there isn’t anything under the undulating drones, but maybe Hive Mind has crafted some flawless melodies that we can’t experience on a first listen. However, what we do have is a very clever piece of music that keeps us guessing, and when it’s finished, pressing play again to try and peel back the layers to find out what’s going on. Much like a pathologist trying to find the cause of death on a body. We are audio pathologists and ‘Elysian Alarms’ is our subject.
Overall ‘Elysian Alarms’ is a welcome addition to Hive Mind’s back catalogue. It’s a densely layered album that gets better with each listens. It opens with more musical songs than then starts to descent into more abstraction. It’s during these tracks, ‘The Roses in Bagatelle Gardens’, that we start to get a better idea of what the album is about. On the surface, it feels like a negative album. Dank drones permeate every track. Huge brooding basslines act like cudgels to the senses, but there are elements of hope. Throughout ‘House Without a Key’ there are flourishes of joy that remind us to celebrate to good times even when things are at its bleakest. This is the first Hive Mind album since 2012s ‘A Stagnant Plague Cast Through Shallow Earth’. Let’s hope we don’t have another eight years to wait for its follow up! (NR)
––– Address: https://difficultinteractions.bandcamp.com/
BENEDICT TAYLOR & DANIEL THOMPSON - T’OTHER (2CD by Empty Birdcage Records)
Benedict Taylor and Daniel have been releasing music together since 2012. Over these eight years, they have played with the likes of Alex Ward and Tom Jackson, as well as releasing solo albums and performing with legends like Evan Parker. In January 2019 they decamped to Café Oto and over two days recorded the improvisations that makeup ‘t’other’. The album features Benedict Taylor on viola and Daniel Thompson on acoustic guitar. This, of course, is business as usual for the pair. What isn’t usual is the glorious, cacophonous music they made. Somehow on ‘t’other’ they managed to surpass their previous recordings and delivered something chafe, tormented, and affecting.
The music has a wonderful scratchy quality to it. Thompson’s guitar work sounds distressed and, at times, eviscerated. There is a wonderful section around the halfway mark in ‘Third Improvisation’ that seems to sum up the whole album. Both Taylor and Thompson sound like they're trying to crawl out of their instruments from the inside in suits of armour, but the strings are hampering their bulky frames. As they manoeuvre themselves against the strings wonderfully harrowing sounds are created. At times it feels like an avant-garde score to a horror film if your thinking of ‘Under the Skin’ then you’re on the right tracks, but this is far more harrowing than anything Mica Levi came up with.
The album is the first release on Thompson’s Empty Birdcage Records. This is important for two reasons. Firstly, when launching a new musical venture like this, the inaugural released should be a statement of intent, after which everything should follow. This appears to be done achieved here. The music is uncompromising and visceral, and so should everything else Empty Birdcage release. I look forward to hearing from them in the future. Secondly, parts of the album do sound like an empty birdcage is being played.
Taylor and Thompson’s playing throughout is both subtle, elegant, agitated, and combative. Both know each other very well and they just go at it. The album works best when they are playing with each other, trying to anticipate each other’s next move. ‘Fifth Improvisation’ feels like this and benefits from it greatly. What is remarkable about ‘t’other’ is just how playable it is. After a few cursory plays that let you know what everything is all about, the album starts to take on a new light. ‘Fourth Improvisation’ is incredibly delicate in places. The playing is kind with a grace to it that initially takes you away. Gone are the maelstroms of lacerated sound, and in their place, we have something soothing and, dare I say, tranquil. These moments are of course fleeting, as the duo starts to wind the screw again, but it does show that you don’t have to make a racket to get your point across. Ultimately ‘t’other’ is a brave and enjoyable album. It showcases two musicians at the top of their game having a blast. And what’s better than that? (NR)
––– Address: https://emptybirdcagerecords.bandcamp.com/releases
MATTHIAS ENGELKE – RESONANT DOWLAND (CD by Gruenrekorder)
Matthias Engelke from Stuttgart, Germany studied biology and chemistry. Besides he studied piano (classical and jazz) and developed a strong interest in electronic music. He works mainly as a composer for theatre- and dance productions. In his compositions, he often shows an interest in integrating analogue sounds in the context of electronically generated music. For ‘Resonant Dowland’ Engelke selected songs from Renaissance composer, singer and lutenist John Dowland. He embedded and integrated these solo vocals works in an electronic environment. Not however in the sense of background. The album is subtitled: ‘Songs for tenor and electronics’. For this project, subtitled ‘Songs for tenor and electronics’ seeks for another between the two. He is not the first one to confront this old music with modern idioms and techniques. John Surman and Barry Guy a.o. made a jazz-oriented version of some of his songs. Also, French guitarist, David Chevalier did this on his album ‘Dowland – a game of mirrors’ (2014). Engelke’s project is rooted in his biography. He is familiar with Dowland since his youth when his mother (flute) performed songs of Dowland. Engelke’s fascination for these songs by Dowland never ceased since. I own one CD of songs of Dowland by the Consort of Musicke that I play regularly. Each time I’m struck how ‘complete’ these songs in themselves are. They do not need any extra dimension or supplementary arrangements. The power is their intrinsic unity of melody and text. So it is a very daring and exceptionable project that Engelke is offering here. He created an encounter of the old vocal music with modern abstract electronics. Leading up to interesting contrasts and combinations. He chose for a selection of eleven songs taken from various song cycles composed Dowland. All are sung by a male solo voice. In most of the tracks, the use of electronics is very sparse like in the opening track. In other songs, he goes a bit further. Adding pulse driven electronics and doing electronic treatment of the vocal-like in ‘Come Again’. But the original song structure never is completely out of sight. Sometimes flashes of acoustical instruments occur, like the lute. Often the electronics sound very autonomous in relation to the melody and offer a space or environment creating its very own atmosphere. But more than that one experiences a fascinating combination of very different worlds. Very interesting and overall satisfying and enjoyable too. (DM)
––– Address: https://www.gruenrekorder.de/
BO VAN DE GRAAF/MICHEL MULDER/CHRISTOPH MAC-CARTHY /DION NIJLAND/ANDRE GROEN – CYCLE JIN BREBLE CONCERT (CD by I Compani)
Nijmegen-based Bo van de Graaf is a veteran of the Dutch jazz scene. Especially with his ensemble, I Compani he was successful for 35 years. As a musician and organiser, he realized many multimedia and theatrical projects. This new release marks the end of the I Compani-phase and maybe the next chapter of his activity, as he explains in an enclosed interview. So no more Nino Rota film music but van de Graaf turning back to jazz and concentrating again on his musicianship as a saxophonist. Last September he was invited by Podium JIN in Nijmegen to organize a carte blanche concert. Van de Graaf invited Michel Mulder (bandoneon, keyboards), Dion Bijland (bass), Christoph Mac-Carthy (piano, keyboards), André Groen (drums, vibraphone). Van de Graaf (sopranino-, soprano-, alt- and tenor sax) invited old mates for this new effort. There was no substantial time for rehearsing. They made a few appointments and then just went for it. So what we hear is highly improvised. For this project, van de Graaf was inspired by the album ‘Circle Paris Concert’(1971) by Anthony Braxton, Chick Corea, David Holland and Barry Altschul. The opening track from this album, ‘Nefertiti’ composed by Wayne Shorter is interpreted by Bo van de Graaf and his friends. Besides the album has two compositions by Dion Nijland, two improvisations by the group, a composition by Gary Peacock (‘Vignete’) and two by Bo van de Graaf himself. I was most interested in both group improvisations that both last 4:33, which makes it inevitable to think of John Cage and his composition ‘4:33’. But there is no connection. Both improvisations weren’t as surprising as I hoped for. Overall their playing develops along well-known paths and idioms. But on the other hand, van de Graaf and his mates show their love for the jazz tradition. And there is some good musicianship and interplay to be enjoyed here by dedicated musicians who give an inspired and tight performance. (DM)
––– Address: http://www.icompani.nl/
ELNATH PROJECT - ~ (CDR by Focused Silence)
Behind the Elnath Project, we find one Alessandro Ciccarelli, who has some releases out, of which Discogs says that this one, '~', was released in 2019. It also says that he plays "horns and electronics". I am not sure if that is what he does here, as there is quite some information on each of the pieces, but hardly what he plays, instrument wise. I would think there are plenty of electronics at work here, but what and if anything else/more; I have no idea. Four of the six pieces are recorded live, and the text tells about "stochastic variables", "Gaussian distributions" and such like, but in my more mundane level, I'd say Elnath Project works with dark ambient music. Lots of electronics, quite some effects, and it's all quite down on the scales, so whatever it is, dark is the word that can't be avoided when this discussing this music. Development within a piece is minimal but present. It slowly evolves the same sound, and at the outcome, the end of the piece, it is never the same as when it started. And yes, some of that is indeed very minimal. In 'ED45', the text mentions that "field recordings and sound samples were used and that it is a tribute to filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky. With its shorter loop approach, it is a break with the four preceding pieces, but maybe it was time for a little change of the menu. This is all quite good in terms of ambient music, but, perhaps, also something that wasn't really a big surprise. Elnath Project has not decided upon a distinctive direction for himself, but this has all the signs it will come one day. (FdW)
––– Address: https://www.focusedsilence.com/
THE BROKEN PENIS ORCHESTRA - PENILE REMNANTS (cassette by Nihilist Recordings)
PANICSVILLE - ELECTROACOUSTIC UNDERGROUND (cassette by Bacteria Field)
ANDY ORTMANN - CHRONOPOLIS (cassette/USB by Nihilist Recordings)
SALVATORE MARTIRANO - LIVE ELECTRONICS (cassette/USB by Nihilist Recordings)
HALI PALOMBO - LIMINAL (cassette/USB by Nihilist Recordings)
ILLUSION OF SAFETY - TERRA FIRMA (cassette by Nihilist Recordings)
Here's a whole bundle of releases by Nihilist Recordings, a label from Chicago, who have been around for close to thirty years now. I started with The Broken Penis Orchestra, a project by Stan Reed, who calls himself Dick Flick here. I don't think I heard his music before, but I am not entirely sure here. I find the name sounding like an 80s noise act, but for no good reason. Maybe it is the music that made think that. It is music that is very much along the lines of early Negativland, People Like Us, but also Nurse With Wound/Sylvie & Babs or Mixed Band Philanthropist. There are lots of fragments with spoken words here, about cryonics, god, LSD or penis pumps, with a bit of jazz/lounge/rock music, the speeding of speeding up tapes, brutally loud, quick cut-ups, tape-loops. All of this crystal clear captured on... I would like to say that it is all captured on tape to keep in the spirit of the sources, but I doubt that. I would not be surprised if a great deal of this is composed using a computer for better/quicker/easier editing, and of course, there is nothing wrong with that. You could think with so much spoken word, I would be less interested in this, but the words are to be understood as music, and it is, perhaps, not so much as the meaning of the words. Also, there is still quite a bit of other sound and music within these six pieces (forty minutes), so it is most enjoyable for me. This is the noise I enjoy very much! Imaginative but not astounding or original, but also it is not a sound that I hear a lot, so I guess that's great.
The next one is also a cassette in a regular box, Panicsville, also known as the vehicle from Andy Ortmann, the label boss of duty here. He works, as we will see in a bit, also under his Christian name, and there are quite some differences between Panicsville and Ortmann. Panicsville, which came first, is a classic industrial music project. It has contributions from various people (Anthony Janas, Jeremiah Fisher, Michael Doskocil, Hanna Elliott, Weasel Walter, Christopher Farstad and Ka Baird, playing electronics, drums, guitar and such, whereas Ortman takes credit for 'everything else'. I may say 'industrial music', this is something more than just a lot of harsh music, packed with distortion and rhythm. In Ortmann's world, the whole notion of musique concrète is never far away, and so tape-montage and modern electronics are part of this. Cut-up collage versus some more 'song' structures such as 'Werewolf Section III' or 'Absurdus Maximus V: To Each His Own', with many of the additional players appearing in what is very a sort of Throbbing Gristle inspired stomper, including a howling voice of the classically tormented soul. But there are also more introspective moments, such as the strange composition with a flute leading, 'Absurdus Maximus IV: Psychotropic Picnic'.; there seems to be more of the 'quieter' (all is relative here!) on the second side of this cassette (also available on LP, with lock grooves!) but maybe I am slightly getting delusional. This is a tape with an excellent amount of variations.
The next three cassettes all arrived with a USB device with film material. Early 2020, Andy Ortmann was commissioned to score a film, and he chose 'Chronopolis' by Piotr Kamler from 1982. Friday, March 13, 2020, this was to premiere but cancelled due to Covid 19. Ortmann spent some 40 additional hours on editing the film down to the length of the music, and that film can be found on the USB drive. The original has music by Luc Ferrari, no easy steps to follow. The plot, sayeth [wiki], is easy "Chronopolis tells the story of a gargantuan city lurking in the sky colonized by powerful immortals who have become jaded and bored with eternal life, and thus have decided to manipulate elements of time. They play with atomic particles and electricity, and monotonously construct bizarre and unusual objects to assist in this, including a ball that communicates with higher technology, but in reality, they are waiting for the ultimate gift to arrive in their hands." Deliberately I didn't try and find the complete film or the Ferrari soundtrack and just stuck with this version as the only option; perhaps to keep a clear head about it. In his work as under his given name, Ortmann is much more serious than he, perhaps, is when doing stuff as Panicsville; that see seems at times a bit silly, but good. As Ortmann, he is serious and good. I have no idea what he uses here, in terms of instruments, but I reckon it is either a massive bank of modular electronics or laptop technology; or even a combination of both. In his music he harks back to the early composers of electronic music (whatever means he is handling), layering various long-form synthesizer elements together. He follows the images quite well, which is a true delight to watch. The music is a narrative as the film, even when some of it eludes me a bit. The music seems a very strict translation of the film, and I can imagine that for some this is a disappointment (showing is telling, or some such law of cinema that I am always confused about; or was it not showing is telling?). This is all very well-made, music and visual in harmony and both have that same retro-futurist touch. I can easily imagine that the film's aesthetic inspired the music. Excellent stuff!
Years and years ago, there was this sudden interest in 'L's Ga' by Salvatore Martirano. For some reasons I am no longer sure off, I thought he was from Argentina; wrong, as he was from the USA. It was, indeed, a great piece (I am sure you can find it somewhere online). It stands for 'Lincoln's Gettysburg Address' and was performed a lot in the 60s and 70s, when [wiki] "it became associated with the anti-Western movement". Martirano also developed the "SAL-Mar construction", [wiki again] "a hybrid system in which TTL logical circuits (small and medium scale integration) drive analogue modules, such as voltage-controlled oscillators, amplifiers and filters. The performer sits at a horizontal control panel of 291 lightable touch-sensitive switches (no moving parts)". Ortman studied at SAIC and found a box of old tapes labelled 'Sal Mar', which turned out to be a recording of Martirno performed/improvising on this machine. Ortman restored the sound and Sandin IP did a "video synth" of it, which you can find on the USB. This is a piece of music that should go down well with everybody who loves modular electronics, which, by today's standard is, no doubt, anyone who reads these pages (well, maybe not all of them). The video sees Martirano (I think), but it in basic, psychedelic colours behind his machines, and we hear the music. Nice to view once, but it is all about the music. Watching is distracting here (as opposed to 'Chronopolis'), I think and that is a pity. It is some powerful improvisation that is played here, best enjoyed when listened without distraction. Martirano plays things carefully, but direct; there are some beautiful passages of mild drones and careful crackling, but it is all with great confidence, most of the time. On a very few occasions he wavers, but that is understandable, I would think, controlling such machines. It is not on par with 'L's Ga' but it provides fine insight into the man's other work.
Following last week's 'Homer & Langley', here is another new work by Hali Palombo, and again it is a complete package, different and more abstract. This one is about slow-scan television, "the method of a broadcast of the images you are watching. It is the way that amateur radio operators broadcast pictures to each other over the radio. It is also known as "narrowband television". Regular TV transmits images at a rate generally 30 frames per second - SSTV displays one per minute!" and slow it is. I am currently watching a TV series, 'Halt And Catch Fire', about the early days of the personal computer and the slow way these images unfold is like watching an image coming from a 14 kbps modem; without the annoying dial-up sound. The images are from holidays and pets, and it says "nude women and pornography", none of the latter I saw in this forty-minute film. The music is small pieces of music, each about a minute-long, as long as it needs to unfold one image. All of these small pieces have a similar strange lo-fi quality. They don't unfold in the same as the images do, but are there from the start, but with any progress or change. I found all of this very captivating, I must say. It is a strange alien quality to it, these low resolution, almost glitchy images and the music sounding as if it has been taking from the ultra short wave channels. It sounds like a transmission from the past, coming to us from thirty-year travel through space.
Even when I would say that I am a big fan of Illusion Of Safety, I have no idea why we don't see many new releases by them (well, him, as it is mostly Dan Burke). Housed in a green pouch (limited to 25 copies), this cassette might be the first release by Illusion Of safety's 'Surrender' (Vital Weekly 935). These two pieces are recent recordings, and it is sadly quite short, each about twelve minutes. Both are distinctly different. As you should know (and if you don't, you really ought to), the music of Illusion Of Safety can be a lot of things; ambient, musique concrète, noise or even techno (well, the latter rarely) and in recent years drifting towards a combination of the first three but with the additional element of improvisation. I think we should see both pieces as an expression of that interest. The instrument of choice for the title track is the guitar, and it's various processed forms, right from the percussive start, and then quickly into the drifts of the six strings, opening up a wall of drones and then quickly moves into a creepier, abstract drone of controlled distortion. The other side has 'Ground Above', and here it is the modular synthesizer bleeping and droning away, before settling on more firm ground (above?) with a longer form drone sound. This is good solid Illusion Of Safety and I wish it would have been longer! (FdW)
––– Address: https://nihilistrecordings.bandcamp.com/
AXIOM – AXIOM (cassette by Absurd Exposition)
PHOCOMELUS - NO HUMANS INVOLVED (cassette by Absurd Exposition)
GRIEFER - COMMUNICATION DENIAL (cassette by Absurd Exposition)
I'm reviewing all of these three together not because of their being on the same label, which would be a fairly mundane reason to collectively review as such, in my opinion. They are significant together as they offer various strategies for dealing with making music, noise or anything other than electric and self driving cars, in the twenty first century. I will ignore vaccines, as its only the speed of development which is novel. Through the wonders of the internet you can hear these for yourself and judge for yourself the merits of each. The first - “a new Montreal duo taking sound and compositional cues from early 1980s noise (when it was still more broadly classified under the "industrial" banner).“ - the second “"A harsh noise construct of piercing form from PHOCOMELUS - the harshest moniker of Patrick O'Neil -Skin Crime..." and the last “Lyrics about surveillance culture, data mining, dark web endeavours and classic hacker exploits aimed at big tech are shouted over the signature looped barrages of clanging metal, sawing blades and resounding alarms...”. Of all 3 it's the last which takes a more novel approach within the fairly amorphous category of noise, not that this novelty in anyway in these days is a means for judgement. It uses IMO, the Power Electronics techniques of Noise (yes in this case metal not synth) and distorted vocals – the 'lyrics' as above are 'ethical' rather than sadistic or pornographic. If the old PE aimed to shock convention – these here in Communication Denial, would be considered ethical by many. It thus shifts itself from the a-political – anti-political to a very recognisable 21stC politics of social justice. This is more generally to be found in much of the Arts which consider themselves what was once called Avant Garde. Even the terms 'artist / 'musician' have been replaced by 'creative' and 'activist' and this social engagement – which had its origins back in the 70s in the work of Stephen Willats - Hans Haacke, and even Joseph Beuys... and visually today I suppose by the likes of Banksy, is now very pertinent. Mr O'Neil's work is again, as always, in my opinion very much in the genre of noise, sans much musicality, lacking anything ethical, whereas Axiom still has vestiges of musicality, rhythm, discernible structures – perhaps typical of 80s Industrial. Admittedly Industrial in the genre of TG was Dada / Fluxus / Music Concrete for the people, and Whitehouse sort to push this envelope of dissent and shock further, none of these three works can re-invent these wheels. And yet whereas in the past lack of novelty was a crime, it no longer is, in fact recycling is a 'good thing'. And of course the format, cassette is likewise retro. We fall back from the emptiness of space down to earth under the power of retro (rockets). (jliat)
––– Address: https://absurdexposition.bandcamp.com
QUALCHAN - BUMPER MUSIC FOR THE END TIMES (cassette by Superpolar Taips)
GERMANY ARMY - WHAT BROUGHT YOU HERE (cassette by Superpolar Taips)
MODUS PONY - SYSTEMMETRY (cassette by Superpolar Taips)
WHETTMAN CHELMETS - AUTUMNAL COLORS (cassette by Superpolar Taips)
NICHOLAS LANGLEY - BREAKAWAY (cassette by Superpolar Taips)
BLEED AIR - OGEHIKO (cassette by Superpolar Taips)
Germany's Superpolar Taips intends to release no less than 25 tapes, all five minutes each, in an edition of 10 copies. All the A-sides will be released on a compilation, the B-sides will be in the download. I reviewed the first three in Vital Weekly 1258, now it's time for the next six (although I may have missed a few). I recognized three names. The first one is Qualchan, a new name for me, who prefers to be as qulachan., so including the period in the end. Superpolar mentions that "qualchan. is a Native American multi-disciplinary artist residing deep in the heart of cascadia. They describe ..." I have no idea why it switches to plural. The music is two pieces of slowed-down rhythm, and on the title track comes with a fine laid back jazzy trumpet sample. An excellent piece of trip-hop, whereas the B-side, 'to fall in love at the end of the world' contains a slowed-down vocal over an equally slowed down rhythm and making an equally fine piece of trippy music.
The first name I recognized is German Army, having reviewed some of their work (Vital Weekly 906, 941, and 1020), but I know there is a lot more out by this duo from San Gabriel Valley, California. They move around with a fine electronic sound, inspired by the industrial music classics, more Cabaret Voltaire than Throbbing Gristle, but with a cleaner sound. There are quite synthesizers and electronics touched upon, along with a forward driving rhythm. Unlike their previous releases, these two short pieces are all instrumental. I am not sure if this is a new direction or just for the moment. Two fine short slabs of electro-punk without the overtly noisy tones.
Also, Modus Pony (or moduS ponY) was reviewed before (Vital Weekly 1176). Again the guitar is important here, but now in a free (jazz), improvisation role, set against modular electronics, running and bubbling around, and the two sides here are actually two variations on the same theme, but I am afraid I find it too bleepy and random for my taste. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't for me.
From the USA we have Whettham Chelmets, who composes music by writing scores but also using his guitar and computer. The music is recorded at home, waiting for the pandemic to end (ain't we all?). 'Autumnal Colors' is quite covered with a layer of hiss and high-end frequencies, with the guitar shimmering through, remote and distant. This is a most enjoyable piece of lo-fi noise, just as I like it. 'Changed My Mind' he wrote in 2006, after hearing too much Lindsay Buckingham and is less noisy and strange. It has watery sounds, a nice bell sound and lovely ambient guitar grooves. Is that a voice in there? It's a pity that both tracks end with a quick fade as if chopped from something bigger. Maybe the full version of both in a download somewhere?
From Brighton hails Nicholas Langley, who also runs Third Kind Records. He has been doing music since the early 1990s and works a lot with other people, including The Vitamin B12. Here he has two pieces of synth-pop slash techno music. The first is represented by the A-side, 'Breakaway', a mid-tempo melancholic melodic affair; think those early Intelligent dance Music compilations on Warp. 'Neil Tennant', on the other side, is heavier on the techno rhythms and synths, but this too could be on those compilations. Langley chooses an abrupt ending for both, suggesting both being longer, which is, perhaps, a pity. See the previous!
The last one is by bleed Air (what's with the spelling of these names, I wondered), who was reviewed in Vital Weekly 1252. He seemed to have moved from the bleepy sound and has two excellent pieces of found sound from left and right, stored on a four-track loop, which he plays around, slowly altering the speed of the machine. If I enjoyed the first piece by Whettham Chelmets for its lo-fi ambient quality, I liked these even better. It as that lo-fi quality, intense, dark, spacious and also a bit gritty. Bleed Air should do a long album with this kind of stuff! I sign up for one. (FdW)
––– Address: https://superpolar.bandcamp.com/