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KLEISTWAHR - IN THE REIGN OF DYING EMBERS (CD by Fourth Dimension) *
CECIL TAYLOR & TONY OXLEY - ….BEING ASTRAL AND ALL REGISTERS – POWER OF TWO….(CD by Discus Music) *
QUEST - (AN) EXTERIOR (CD by Infraction Recordings) *
@C - GML VARIATIONS (CD by Cronica) *
JOS SMOLDERS - SUBMERGE - EMERGE (2CD by Cronica) *
JOS SMOLDERS - BAGATELLEN (cassette by Esc.Rec) *
KLAXON GUEULE - ENTIÈREMENT UNANIMES (CD by Ambiances Magnétiques) *
JOSH PETERSON - COLLECTED VOICE, TEXT AND TAPE WORKS (CD by Adhuman) *
FM EINHEIT - EXHIBITION OF A DREAM (2CD by Cold Spring) *
JEAN DEROME - SOUFFLES (CD by Ambiances Magnétiques) *
CHORALE JOKER - LES LUCIOLES (CD by Ambiances Magnétiques) *
GAGARIN - THE GREAT NORTH WOOD (CD by Geo Records) *
PANOS PANOPOULOS & YORGOS SAMANTAS - SOUNDSCAPES FROM PHILOTI, NAXOS (CD by Rekem) *
ANGELOS KYRIOU - AS VGEI KAPOU AYTO (7" by Rekem Records) *
DMNSZ - NOCTURNAL ANIMALS (CD by Antenna Non Grata) *
RADIO NOISE DUO - HOLOBIONT (CDR by Antenne Non Grata) *
JIM HAYNES - SHORTWAVE RADIO RECORDINGS ON MINIDISC (2001-2012) (cassette by Tapeworm) *
TAYLOR DEUPREE - MUR (LP by Dauw) *
NICOLAS JACQUOT - ORDERED ORDINARIES (LP by Paravision Music) *
PROCTER & POULSEN - PARALLEL PERSPECTIVES (CDR by Ojud Records) *
AWK WAH - MOON WATER (CDR, private) *
KLEISTWAHR - IN THE REIGN OF DYING EMBERS (CD by Fourth Dimension)
In the recent book about his 'other' (main?) project Ramleh, Gary Mundy also talks a bit about his solo project Kleistwahr and how, when he started his Broken Flag label, he wanted to add a few releases so he started Kleistwahr, named after the writer of 'The Marquise of O', a novella by Heinrich von Kleist "on the subject of forced seduction" and he added the word 'Wahr' (German for true) to it, just because it made such a nice word. When I was reading the Ramleh book, I played a lot of Ramleh music as well (luckily it was in a slower period for the weekly), so that is still ingrained in my memory, and it makes it easier for me to spot similarities and differences with Ramleh; I am talking about the 'noise' version of the group, not the 'rock' version, which is miles away from Kleistwahr. In both the 'noise' version of Ramleh and the music of Kleistwahr there is 'noise', but with subtle differences. For Ramleh the noise is a means, but for Kleistwahr it is a starting point if you will. Building on top of distorted tones, Mundy adds what sounds like a distorted harpsichord (in 'In Memory of Higher Times'), but also stabs on other keyboards, guitars, and orchestral samples and throughout a blast of reverb is added. Especially the voice is covered with that and reminded me of the vocals of early Ramleh. This is the sound of desolation and torment if you get my drift. 'Bleak psychedelica' is how Mundy describes Ramleh, but one could use the same terms for Kleistwahr, but from a more 'ambient' (and I use the word with some caution here) perspective. But, take, for instance, the bell-like sound of 'Requiem For The Fallen', with its soaring guitar sustaining, and this a very moody piece of music, just as 'A Rain Of Dying Embers'. This is all great stuff, ranging from these introspective pieces to a more wall-of-sound approach, with lots of layers of sound, working like tectonic plates bumping and moving. Throughout the mood is dark, but there is an interesting variety in approaches here. Throughout an excellent work. (FdW)
––– Address: https://fourthdimensionrecords.bigcartel.com/
CECIL TAYLOR & TONY OXLEY - ….BEING ASTRAL AND ALL REGISTERS – POWER OF TWO….(CD by Discus Music)
Recently Discus Music surprised with an interesting rerelease of an essential Oxley-album (’February Papers)’. This time they release a live-recording taken from the personal archive of Oxley. It is an unreleased recording of a meeting of Oxley and Taylor at the Ulrichsberg Festival, May 10th 2002. A meeting of two giants. Taylor – who died in 2018 - started his career in the 50s and was a true pioneer of the free jazz. Oxley is a very important exponent of British jazz since the 60s. Their first meeting dates from 1988 and led to the album ‘Leaf Palm Hand’ for FMP. In the 80s Taylor. In those days Taylor played with other drummers as well like Han Bennink, Günter ‘Baby’ Sommer and Paul Lovens. Concerning his collaboration with Oxley, more duo recordings would follow as well as other collaborations like trio recordings with bassist William Parker. ‘Birdland, Neuburg 2011’ was their last duo-effort released last year by Fundacja Słuchaj! In 2002 Cecil Taylor was already in his 70s and Oxley about ten years younger. But the energy they transmit in two long improvisations - ‘Being Astral And All Registers’ and ‘Power Of Two’ – is unbelievable. Taylor operates in his well-known percussive style. But listening to this album I also became aware of the influences of classical music he incorporates in his uncompromising style. Constantly feeding the interaction with new juxtapositions, turns and twists. Also, the changes in dynamics are remarkable. Near the end of the first improvisation, there is a section he where he plays very subtle in an almost romantic way. The communicative interactions between the two are highly dynamic and physical with Oxley using a very extensive drum set. I especially liked their interplay in the second improvisation. Very worthwhile to have this recording available! (DM)
––– Address: https://discusmusic.bandcamp.com/
QUEST - (AN) EXTERIOR (CD by Infraction Recordings)
There is a saying that if you are going to so something simply then it has to be perfect. There is no room for error. If you watch any competitive television shows you will know this to be true. Whenever you see a contestant trying to create something simple but with either a bold flavours/lines/design then you know they have to get it 100% right or they are going home. The same is true with music. There is nothing wrong with keeping things simple. Some of my favourite albums are when the musician just strips it all away and delivers something barebones. This is what Frans de Waard has done on his new Quest album ‘(An) Exterior’.
The album consists of undulating drones. The album opens with the track ‘A Day (out)’. A droning chord welcomes us. It is warming but with an underlying stark vibe to it. As the chord fades out, another one fades in. This happens again and again. It is very much like waves lapping up at the beach. It never seems to end. And this, for the most part, is ‘A Day (out)’. It’s all very elegant. But that’s it. There are some synths underneath it all, but the main event is the drone. It’s a brave move on Quest’s behalf. Keep it too simple and you lose your audience, make it too busy and you miss the point of keeping it simple. Throughout the album there is variation. Halfway through ‘Request (by)’ everything gets all twitchy and a gentle barrage of static breaks up the tones. When it’s finished, we are presented with a new drone. It’s as if Quest was retuning the radio from one station to another. This change in texture and tone works incredibly well. It adds some variation to the song and makes us refocus and pay attention. ‘Until (now)’ feels like a slow-moving raga, with Indian tinges tones.
The album was created using analogue synths along with app-based technology. It really feels like a mixing old and new school disciplines. This gives the album a retro and contemporary feel. And this is what ‘(An) Exterior’ is. It allowed Quest to create the kind of music that wouldn’t have been possible when he first emerged in the 90s. De Waard might have had a 15-year hiatus between 1999s ‘Recovered Files’ and 2014s ‘QRST 2014’, but since his return, he has been making some of the best music of his career. ‘(An) Exterior’ proves this, as it is a delicately thoughtful and serene album filled with tones and drones. (NR)
––– Address: https://www.infractionrecords.com/
@C - GML VARIATIONS (CD by Cronica)
JOS SMOLDERS - SUBMERGE - EMERGE (2CD by Cronica)
JOS SMOLDERS - BAGATELLEN (cassette by Esc.Rec)
The Robotic Gamelan of Casa de Musica is just as cool as you’d imagine it is. In fact, Google it right now. Check out some photos of the thing, then meet me back here… see, isn’t that a neat thing? Gamelans are cool… robots are cool… and so a robotic gamelan is very cool. Pedro Tudela and Miguel Carvalhais are the composers behind @c and the Cronica label. In 2018, they were commissioned to write a piece called “GML 123” for the Robotic Gamelan to play; their generative digital composition activated the gamelan and introduced new sounds into the space. This album includes that piece and also four studio-created variations (the title is quite literal) and a coda. Because this is, essentially, the same piece repeated a few times, I found that it works better listened to one track at a time rather than all in one sitting. The pace and density remain similar from start to finish, which suggested to me that “GML Variations” is better considered as a collection of individual pieces than an hour+ single experience. But gamelan music is just so lovely, listening to the ringing percussion steadily morph into elongated digital smearing tones is a lot of fun. The 4th variation is my favourite; it’s the most removed from its recognizable source, 30 minutes of slow liquid volleys with hints of ringing bells and reverberant acoustic space.
Jos Smolders was inspired to write “Submerge- Emerge” by a teenage encounter with an 1897 poem called “Un Coup de des Jamais N’Abolira le Hasard” by Stephane Mallarme. As art tends to do when a receptive kid encounters it for the first time, the poem stuck with Smolders for decades afterwards. He continued to think about it, wrestling with the poem’s meaning and the effect that it had on him. In 2016, he decided to write a piece of music based on the poem. Now, writing experimental-type music based on a poem is, generally speaking, a silly thing to do. You’ve no doubt heard endless academic pretentious tape-and-voice nonsense music based on poems. Smolders, though, has long used language as inspiration for his music, and always with a uniquely personal perspective. He’s also a thoughtful enough composer to not fall into any cliché traps. “Submerge - Emerge”, then, is one of the most exciting and beautiful albums of his career, one that I’ll keep returning to long after this review is written. The album is more about the poem’s themes and ideas than simply a sonic backing to recited text. There are long stretches with no words at all… just shimmering pools of synthesizer tones, cavernous drones and field recordings of boats, beaches, and water (an element reflected from the poem’s water imagery). The album is lovely and engaging… episodes (labelled as “interludes” and “plates”, implying parts of a book) seem to comment on one another, working both individually and as a flowing whole. There’s a lot to chew on here, whether one traces sonic elements and compositional choices back to Mallarme’s poem or not.
“Bagatellen” was, like “Submerge - Emerge”, inspired by another artist’s work in a different medium. Smolders purchased Jeroen Diepenmaat’s Xerox collage art book, “co//age co//py” and was immediately taken by it. He recorded “Bagatellen” quickly as a response to the visual artworks in the book. It is, by design, more raw and immediate than the novel-esque “Submerge - Emerge”, more of a gut response than the previous album’s complex tapestry. The 12 pieces that comprise “Bagatellen” (which, according to my quick online translator, means something trivial… but maybe the meaning is closer to “ephemeral” or “intuitive”) are mostly between two and five minutes long (one is shorter and one is longer), implying an in-the-moment reaction similar to the imperfect, fast-and-dirty quality of xerox art. But a quick take from Jos Smolders is still going to sound rich and sculpted. Several of these miniatures are sheets of percolating synthesizers, some open-window field recordings, piano minimalism and (of course) diced language. Some starkly melodic passages are situated amid beds of strange electronic environments and patient pauses. If “Submerge - Emerge” is a novel, then “Bagatellen” is a poem… sketches, reduced responses, hints and suggestions. (HS)
––– Address: https://cronica.bandcamp.com/
––– Address: https://escrec.bandcamp.com/
KLAXON GUEULE - ENTIÈREMENT UNANIMES (CD by Ambiances Magnétiques)
Since 1997 Michel F Côté, Bernard Falaise and Alexandre St-Onge have been releasing music under the moniker Klaxon Gueule. These albums take bits from noise, experimentalism, avant-garde, free improvisation, and jazz to create something forward-thinking. The group have now released their eighth album, ‘Entièrement Unanimes’, loosely translated to ‘Fully Unanimous’. Using the blueprints of the previous 24-years to create their strongest release to date. Which is no easy feat!
From the opening salvo, there is something wonderfully wonky about ‘Entièrement Unanimes’. Its charm comes from the giddy glee that seeps out of every pore. It reminds me of those early electronic albums where it was more about experimentation, and fun than what was actually created. That isn’t to say that Klaxon Gueule hasn’t crafted some wonderful music. ‘Non-lieu d’adieu’ is a fantastic piece of music that lurches around over ad-hoc percussion, whimsical synths, and delightful bleeps.
‘Toute la Glu’ is built around a fidgeting bassline which allows lyrical guitars and obtuse synths to create something that is both transfixing and repulsive. You are drawn to it and cannot look away, but there is something at its core that makes you want to flee. This juxtaposition is something that has been missing on their previous releases, but here is used to make our stay and lives up to its title of ‘All the Glue. ‘Entièrement Unanimes’ culminates on ‘Deux ouverts directement devant’. Here everything is pushed to it (ill)logical conclusion. From the psychedelic intro, gossamer guitars and xxx we are shown another side to the band. The previous 11 tracks have been atonal twitching things, but here Klaxon Gueule shows us they are capable of creating something beautiful and, dare I say, almost conventional. There are actual melodies and rhythms to latch on to, rather than writhing layers of server instrumentation. It is a fitting end for such a delightfully deviant album.
At its core, ‘Entièrement Unanimes’ is an incredibly fun album. There is a conviction to the album that is inspiring. It doesn’t take itself too seriously, but the playing is done with absolute seriousness. There is no messing about here. But this is part of the album’s charm. After a quarter to a century performing and recording Côté, Falaise and St-Onge know each other well. They can predict what they others will do and counterpoint it perfectly. After listening to ‘Entièrement Unanimes’ for longer than I should, I am unanimous in my decision that it is one of the finest albums of the past few years. This should be shouted from the rooftops. ‘Entièrement Unanimes’ should be on everyone’s end of the year list and if it isn’t then you need to take a hard look at yourself in a mirror. (NR)
––– Address: https://ambiances-magnetiques.bandcamp.com/
JOSH PETERSON - COLLECTED VOICE, TEXT AND TAPE WORKS (CD by Adhuman)
For the most part, Josh Peterson is thought of as a writer of crime novels. Peterson has also self-released five cassettes since 2018. The albums feature spoken word pieces back by distressed experimental soundscapes. They are captivating, abhorrent, and satisfying. These tapes have now been compiled for the album ‘Collected Voice, Text and Tape Works’.
The album opens with ‘Local Area Malady’ and the sound of footsteps. The pace is rigid. Almost like a metronome. After a few moments of this rain starts to fall all around. There is a vibe of a hardboiled crime novel to it. All we are missing was the scream of the victim and the thump when the body hits the floor. Two minutes in and it’s hard to know what is going on. Is this a work of audio fiction? Are we being told a story through sound, or is this all part of Peterson’s plan to set the scene before explaining what is going to happen? Then his voice kicks in. Peterson then tells us a colleague who was claiming more hours than he worked. While this might not be the crime of the century it is a crime, and a crime we can all relate to. A co-worker not pulling their weight. And this is what the album is about. Peterson tells us stories, and scandals, that might not make the national news but tap into our own experiences. Musically the backtrack is muted, featuring the muffled sounds of people talking and working. It sets up the album perfectly. This will be an unsettling listen but one that you will sympathise with.
As the album progresses, the stories stack up. ‘Stature of limitations’, ‘Classic Misapprehensions’, ‘DIY, Itching Sensation’ and ‘7471 Crosswood Blvd’ all feature Peterson talking about a missing person, car accidents, suspected murder plots and other nefarious stories. Sometimes Peterson speaks in his normal monotone. Other times his vocals have been manipulated, giving their meanings a distorted huw. When he whispers you feel he is doing so as his life may be in danger. All of this is underpinned by sparse soundscapes that pique intensity of each story that evokes. They are experimental and populated with non-music motifs. Field recordings of workspaces, rain, disused warehouses, samples of opera music and anything Peterson feels like using are layered to create some of the most wonderful sound collages. Even without his spoken-word sections, the tracks create a feeling of a world where the morally ambiguous do as they will regardless of the outcome. There is a dark humour to these stories filled with unsettling imagery and surreal twists.
I made a mistake when I started to listen to ‘Collected Voice, Text and Tape Works’. I started listening to it through speakers. About halfway along I had to switch to headphones. After I had done this it became a much more immersive experience. This didn’t come as a shock, as listening to something on headphones tends to give you a more personal experience. You feel that the artist is speaking directly to you, which may or may not be true. You also start to hear all the nuanced sounds on the tracks. After ‘Collected Voice, Text and Tape Works’ had finished I started from the beginning again but with the headphones on. It was like watching a DVD version of a favourite film that was taped off the TV in the 80s. Everything was sharper, and the sound quality was more intense.
At its heart ‘Collected Voice, Text and Tape Works’ feels like an American Splendor darker spin-off, but if Harvey Pekar was a true crime enthusiast. Everything about it is gritty. After listening to it for a matter of moments you can feel the dirty increasing under your fingernails. The stories feel like part eyewitness reports of crimes, part diary entries filled with the banalities of life and part the interior monologue of a voyeur looking at a squalid city laid down below. And this is what we all are. And this is why ‘Collected Voice, Text and Tape Works’ is a powerful collection of recordings as we are all trying to make sense of the sprawl outside out windows. (NR)
––– Address: https://adhuman.bandcamp.com/
FM EINHEIT - EXHIBITION OF A DREAM (2CD by Cold Spring)
I am one of those people who never really dream at night. And if/when I do, I never remember them the next day. I am always a bit sceptical of people who talk about incredibly vivid or outlandish dreams. Part of me thinks they are just making it up. I also might be a tad jealous, if what they are saying is true. Why can they have these widescreen technicolour night-time adventures while remembering nothing?
FM Einheit’s album ‘Exhibition of a Dream’ is based around 12 different dreams set to music. Each track is a different dream by Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Lee Ranaldo, Émilie Pitoiset, Susan Stenger, Susie Green, David Link, Pierre Paulin, Alexandre Estrela, Tim Etchells, Gabriel Abrantes, FM Einheit, and Genesis Breyer P-Orridge. Many of the dreamers also appear. The dreams range from light-hearted romps to sinister nightmares.
Musically. there is something incredibly, dare I say, poppy about portions of ‘Exhibition of a Dream’. As Lee Ranaldo describes the dream, ‘Alpine Traum’ has a delightful spring in its step. ‘Death Progression’ is light and airy. The music has a slightly lurid air to it. This goes along with the story about a journey from Charring Cross station. As the story gets a bit erotic the music still says bright and breezy. These upbeat tracks give the dreams an amusing and jocular feel. These aren’t bad dreams, that’s for sure. That comes later. ‘Dream, 17 February 2017’ is one of the faster-paced songs, with jazz motifs along with searing guitars. It feels like a chase sequence in an open world computer game. You are running to try and avoid your enemies. As the skittering drums get faster, they are getting closer. Eventually, you evade them. That was close. ‘The Dungeon’ is another darker track, filled with deep basslines, wonky synths and challenging guitars.
‘Exhibition of a Dream’ is an exquisite collection of stories backed with evocative music that really represents the themes of the dreams. When things are going well the music is light and with a gleam in its eye. However, when things take a turn the music is broody and filled with atmospheric motifs that really build tension. ‘FFW’ starts with haunting horns and stuttering basslines. As the feeling of malaise permeates the music, a dank feeling starts to creep over you. There is a Twin Peaks sort of feeling to ‘FFW’. You know something isn’t quite right, but you can’t quite put your finger on it. The room spins, the ground rumbles and your heartbeat go up, but you aren’t faced with the problem. Just hints of it. It’s clever stuff. But this is what we’ve come to expect from Einheit isn’t it? He’s been doing it for years. It’s why we look forward to his new releases in the same way we look forward to our beds after a long day. They comfort us and allow escaping the mundanity of life. This is an album to get lost in, especially as the gloaming turns into night and the Sandman starts to pay a visit. (NR)
––– Address: https://coldspring.co.uk/
JEAN DEROME - SOUFFLES (CD by Ambiances Magnétiques)
Given Derome’s legacy and standing in the field on the Canadian creative music scene ‘Souffles’ feels like a culmination of a lifetime crafting forward-thinking music and, at the same time, a misfire. At times music can be dynamic. Its motifs and refrains show a style of playing that has seen Derome receive plaudits from critics, his peers and live audiences alike. Yet, there are portions of the album when it doesn’t really work. ‘Cloudy’ sees Derome playing a wind instrument. Is it a penny whistle? A Piccolo? A child’s recorder? Ultimately it doesn’t matter. Its sound is in the middle of a Venn diagram featuring virtuoso reedist playing an unfamiliar instrument, toddler music group, nails down a blackboard and asthma attack. The phrases are played almost ad nauseum for its nearly five-minute duration. With each one, the tension gets more and more unbearable. When ‘Cloudy’ does end you let out a pleasing sigh of relief. Which is a shame when compared to ‘Esker- Zoo’. Here Derome delivers riff after glorious riff. The music soars. It dances all around you. It makes you feel alive and excited for the next barrage. He attacks his instrument. Playing it for all its worth, then gently caresses it and plays tenderly. It’s nothing short of wonderful. And makes the tracks like ‘Cloudy’ even more infuriating. Derome is clearly a gifted player. He has an exceptional ear for melody and contrasting tones, which makes the damp squib of ‘Cloudy’, ‘Castelet’ and ‘Cantus Firmus’ so dejecting.
If you are an existing fan of Derome’s work give his a-go, as you might find something I didn’t. If you don’t know Derome’s work, maybe try something else as this might be too overpowering on a first try. What is clear is that after all these years Derome isn’t running out of ideas, but much like the edible namesakes the album is named after, they need to cook to perfection. Many some of these tracks needed to come out of the cover a little soon and others needed a little more time before they were ready for public consumption. (NR)
––– Address: https://ambiances-magnetiques.bandcamp.com/
CHORALE JOKER - LES LUCIOLES (CD by Ambiances Magnétiques)
There is something primordial about ‘Les Lucioles’ by Chorale Joker. It’s a feeling you get deep down after listening to the album. The voices writhe, wail, and thrash about in an animalistic way. At times is it terrifying, but there is an order to the terror. But what did we expect? Joane Hétu, Jean Derome and Danielle Palardy Roger are leading the choir, which features 17 members of the Chorale Joker.
Portions of the album opener ‘Premieres lucioles; Haiku – errance’ feel like an alternative score to the primitive man sequence in ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’. As with that sequence, which ended in violence and destruction, ‘Haiku – errance’ feels no different. Sucking, and squelching sounds are made around a banshee-like din. Is this a sacrifice after a meal, with the Gods approving or the other members of the tribe showing both respect and impatience, for their time to eat? Either way, it is a visceral way to start an album.
‘Chaleur des lucioles; Chant des lucioles 1’ is probably the most captivating track on the album. It opens with a piece of piercing electronics. Under this breathy wind instruments are played. These are perforated by grunts and gasps. As ‘Chaleur des lucioles; Chant des lucioles 1’ progresses the vocalisations become more and more pronounced. Some of the full-on guttural shouts. Others are almost inaudible warbles. Around halfway, the voices come together and start to sound like a conventional choir. It’s striking and really helps hammer everything home. The song is loosely translated to ‘Heat of the Fireflies; Song of the Fireflies 1’. The voices sound like fireflies hovering in the night. They drift one way, then another before landing and remaining still and serene.
What ‘Les Lucioles’ really does is allow the listener to drift away from the shackles of conventional music, melodic hooks, chorus, rhythm, etc, etc and allow you to hear something that is pure ID. It is filled with drifting motifs and abstract instrumentation. The real key to the album is the interplay between those glorious voices in the choir. This is where all the dynamic fun happens. As they pull together and apart, we are invited to experience how these small insects interact with each other and their environment. It’s through this understanding that we get a better grasp of how and why we act as we do. (NR)
––– Address: https://ambiances-magnetiques.bandcamp.com/
GAGARIN - THE GREAT NORTH WOOD (CD by Geo Records)
Just like Eric Random last week, Graham "Dids" Dowdall has been around for a long time when it comes to playing music and oddly, I read his name in exactly the same issue of Dutch magazine Vinyl, in an article about Manchester bands on the New Hormones records label, Eric Random and Ludus. Dowdall was the drummer in the latter band. With Random, Dowdall played in Nico's band and later with Suns Of Arqua, Moontwist, Bill Pritchard and Faction and since 1995 he has a solo electronic music project by the name of Gagarin. 'The Great North Wood' is his eighth album (Discogs counting) and I reviewed some of these albums in the past, with the last one called 'Corvid', reviewed in Vital Weekly 1105. His electronic music is one that uses a lot of synthesizers (or emulations of synthesizers on the computer or iPad), samples and rhythms. Being a drummer, I would think some of these uses live percussion by Dowdall, but I am not sure. It is music that is full space and ambience but is never shy of a bunch of rhythms, even when the tempo of these pieces is too slow for dance music. That might also be the intention of Dowdall. I would think it is all about painting sonic pictures, similar to the trees and forest depicted on the cover; dense and somewhat, but also overwhelming. The last time I wrote "I can surely see myself walking outside, hills or no hills, with this music as a soundtrack to nature", and that's how I feel with this one; well, of course, when the weather isn't all cold and drizzle. There is in all these nine pieces a fine, trippy feel to be noted, one that reminded me of the best of ambient house; The lengthy, spacious wanderings of synthesizer tones and rhythms. Field recordings, this time, seem absent, or, perhaps, I failed to register them. Maybe that is one of the main differences that I spotted in this new release, comparing them with the old ones, but otherwise, this works great again. There is, maybe, not much in terms of change within the Gagarin field, but the quality remains high. I would be surprised if that would change. (FdW)
––– Address: http://gagarin.bandcamp.com
PANOS PANOPOULOS & YORGOS SAMANTAS - SOUNDSCAPES FROM PHILOTI, NAXOS (CD by Rekem)
ANGELOS KYRIOU - AS VGEI KAPOU AYTO (7" by Rekem Records)
Going on a holiday is not an option, I assume, for a lot of people. It might not be for some to come, and maybe these times will make us re-consider going on long-distance trips anyway. Every cloud, silver lining, environmental thing, you know. And maybe, you can reverse the holiday, let the resort come to you. Don't go to the village of Philoti, Naxos, instead, get this CD with field recordings and on a dreary Wednesday afternoon in January listen to these recordings. Well, maybe you regard that as a poor substitute? The field recordings are made by anthropologists Panos Panopoulos and Yorgos Samantas and they say that "the material compiled sketches an acoustic profile of the land, in a narrative that presents instances that focus both on the intricate terrain of the soundscape, and human sonic interventions, and the resonances and interactions of music with the sonic environment. Throughout this apparent sonic journey, its sounds and their reflections, lies the imprint of the lived experience of space, in all its levels of expression". Naxos is not a place I have visited, so I can't say if these fifteen pieces capture the place in any way. In fact, there is not much to say about this anyway, other than that I quite enjoyed this, but I am not much of a holiday/long travel man myself, so perhaps I am easy to please. One thing, though; the title is not what I listed here, but something in Greek, of which I don't think I could find an easy translation.
Apparently, one Angelos Kyriou started in 2008 with producing music and in 2020 there was a first release from “Agios Anthropos label (KLIMA)”, a compilation of music produced since the start and this 7” is a more a document where Kyriou stands today (Discogs lists a few other releases as well). I haven’t heard the compilation, so I can’t comment on the development he made. The music on this 7” was recorded on one of the last days of 2019 and leaves me mildly confused. Maybe because I have no idea about Kyriou or his background, I have not much of an idea what I am actually hearing. Here we have five pieces, some eleven minutes of music of plunderphonics, cut-ups, a singer-songwriter in a distorted meltdown (second song on the B-side), and extended found sound from the radio (some pop song I didn’t recognize by Savage Garden, which didn’t mean much to me). Maybe there is a lot to be understood if the Greek language isn’t a mystery to you. It is to me, so I am convinced there’s more here than meet’s the ear, but my ears remain closed, I guess. (FdW)
––– Address: http://rekemrecords.bandcamp.com
DMNSZ - NOCTURNAL ANIMALS (CD by Antenna Non Grata)
RADIO NOISE DUO - HOLOBIONT (CDR by Antenne Non Grata)
JIM HAYNES - SHORTWAVE RADIO RECORDINGS ON MINIDISC (2001-2012) (cassette by Tapeworm)
If ever you look for an instrument to play, the radio is, next to the voice, among one of the easiest and cheapest to find. I am not counting on free online music software of course. Here we have three releases, all dealing with the radio in some way. The Polish label Antenna Non Grata is wholly devoted to musicians working with radio sounds in whatever way. Some of these go out into the field of improvised music, while others stay on the more electro-acoustic side of things. The album by DMNSZ goes into another direction, which I hadn't heard on this label (but I admit I may have missed a few releases), and that is the genre of industrial music. Feed those radio signals into synthesizers, loop them, and to that he adds a bunch of other stuff; sounds from electricity, old cassettes, hum or 'a burnt speaker', and that may sound along with the likes of Joe Colley and Francisco Meirino, but it's the element of a loop that makes it all a bit less raw musique concrète and a bit more old school industrial music, which is a fine, different take on the hiss and crack of radio signals, especially in such pieces as 'Morendo' and 'Krucze', with that old school, short looped rhythms. There is a fine element of distortion here, but it never goes out into an overload of the sonic spectrum. All of this is lovely retro stuff for an old man like me.
Now, when I say that the radio is the cheapest to find, it is not the case for DMNSZ, for he (?) is adding all the other machines. Radio Noise Duo may put a bit more emphasis on the radio sounds they use, but Tomasz Misiak and Marcin Olejniczak also use 'electricity' and amplified everyday objects'. This CDR release contains a live recording from March 6 of last year and lasts twenty-four minutes, and it starts out with some eleven minutes of heavily layered radio noises, either from having a bunch of shortwave radios on stage or using them on playback from tapes. Having a few on stage means there is a bigger chance of instability and something tells me that is something up the alley of Radio Noise Duo, judging by the second half of their concert. Here they use a lot of feedback, crackles, broken cables and such noise generators that reminded me of good ol' Voice Crack, another duo with a strong love for cracked everyday electronics. Towards the end, I think there is also room again for radio noise, and it ends on that somewhat predictable noise crescendo that is the end of so many improvised electro-acoustic concerts. A fine document.
And lastly, Jim Haynes, who got his first short wave radio in 1998 or 1999 and whenever he was travelling he brought along his shortwave radio and mini disc to capture the local waves. Now, the short wave frequency was relatively free of interference, as opposed to these days, with everybody carrying cell phones (I am copying some text here, I have no idea if that is true) and also the mini disc is now a museum piece. There are twenty-five pieces of found sound, and it comes with a bit of documentation so you have some indication where all of this was recorded. There is a great website from the University of Twente, which allows you to scan AM/FM/SW/ and such waves, and you can dial into all sorts of strange conversations in any language, and obviously, you don't understand all of them, but that is the fascinating aspect. Haynes picked up a few interesting bits, such as a conspiracy on water fluorination, but sometimes there is no text and just scratches, hiss, static and rumble. There is even a bit of number station in there, from Andrews Air Force Base. Number stations were a big thing in the age of the Cold War when radio waves were used to spout random lines and numbers as instructions to agents. Listening to this tape is for me listening to the sort of radio I like; dialling around, picking up random stuff and listen to it for a while, a bit of exotic music, a bit of conversation and a bit of noise. I can do this for some time. Listening to the selections from Haynes is equally fine, or perhaps even better with all the suggested narrative, rather than a real narrative. This is what radio should be for me. (FdW)
––– Address: https://antennanongrata.bandcamp.com/
––– Address: http://www.tapeworm.org.uk/
TAYLOR DEUPREE - MUR (LP by Dauw)
This is the first 2021 release of American sound artist/graphic designer/mastering engineer/photographer Taylor "12k" Deupree. Deupree has been steadily building up a sizeable oeuvre since the 90s and while his own label has often proved a suitable outlet for his work, this time it is Ghent-based Belgian label Dauw that has the honour. 'Mur' will be released on 26th March as an LP in an edition of 300 pieces and has the signature light-toned Dauw design.
The title refers to the murmuring quality that Deupree's work often exhibits. The piano plays the lead role again on this album, and it is both served up as variations around a chord (e.g. in Mar) and as clouds of seemingly arbitrary notes within a scale (Mur). Next to that, there is the crispy rustling of noise and slow, drawn-out ambient pads that leisurely float around, going nowhere in particular. The music has a lingering quality to it, in the sense that it moves from place to place through a similar kind of atmosphere. Only at the very end, the music has elements that clearly break with the aforementioned murmuring characteristic.
Some will say that music often tells a story, but I like how Deupree's work transports one to a 'place', rather than manifesting a clear sonic narrative within the space it creates. There is no obvious movement directed towards any kind of destination, nor does it generate a need for that. It feels very much like taking some time out to sit down on a bench in a quiet garden, listening to the wind in the trees and slowing down your mind until it starts to undulate with the place itself, noticing every glistening dewdrop, every insect, the slow movement of the light. If you have had a similar experience you will probably know what I mean.
Now if you look at the album from that perspective and extend the metaphor for a bit, then the tracks themselves become different areas within the same garden. Every one of them offers a slight difference in flora, organic metre and ephemeral details that keeps the panorama from exuding a plastic sense of repetition. It's just that in the final 10 minutes a crow perches on a branch in one of the trees and adamantly gives its own little contribution to the acousmatic scenery - not in a jarring way though.
So yeah, obviously nothing new here really. But would we really want that anyway? Fans of Deupree / 12k will devour this without a second glance and also people who have enjoyed the other releases on Dauw will quite possibly like this album a lot.
The only thing that didn't do it for me was the hackneyed 2020 reference in the promo text. It doesn't feel like explicating something so obvious and omnipresent adds anything to the listening experience. And the personal stuff, sad as it is, did colour the listening somewhat for me, but mainly because the music itself has such a soothing quality to it, which made it hard to imagine that the album articulates the intensity of a demanding year - rather an escape from it. Still, all of that clearly is not a big deal and doesn't have anything to do with the work itself. Good, this one. (LW)
––– Address: https://dauw.bandcamp.com/
NICOLAS JACQUOT - ORDERED ORDINARIES (LP by Paravision Music)
This is my introduction to the music of French musician Nicolas Jacquot, whose main instrument is the electric guitar but also using a midi keyboard, voice and electronics. There is some help from others, such as Hervé Boghossian (acoustic guitar), Rita Görözdi (voice and recorder) and Axelle Terrier (“conception of Antimanifesto”, as it says on the record of the record, but is, in fact, only to be found in the online Bandcamp version). From what I gather from the description, the initial step was improvisation but in later stages, these recordings were used for further processing, editing and mixing. If that were the case, I would think the element of improvisation is well-preserved in the music here. For instance, in ‘Basil Of Salern’, the guitar plays in a rather improvised modus of some figures, set against a more steady form, played by the rhythm machine. Maybe, it is all a bit long. Pieces such as ‘Viki’, ‘Good Morning’ and the title piece, are, in contrary, short and use voice and may show little by way of ‘processing’. The longest piece is ‘happy Christmas’, with the acoustic guitar of Boghossian, and that is a mildly distorted affair of many layers of sound, cosy together, forming a muddy affair, but which over time gets stripped down and opened up. From the psychedelic pit of distortion to an open-ended strumming. That is the process that is taking care of, while the improvisational character of the duelling guitars remains clearly visible. That bonus piece is, according to the information, the most formed composed piece, for radio, but due to the French text, its meaning eludes me. In conclusion, a varied record that had some fine moments to offer, and some other instances that I found less interesting. (FdW)
––– Address: https://paravision.bandcamp.com/
PROCTER & POULSEN - PARALLEL PERSPECTIVES (CDR by Ojud Records)
Given whatever I know from the work of Dave Procter and Claus Poulsen, I expected some harsh noise collaboration. I know Poulsen operates in many sub-genres from the world of noise, ambient, electronics and improvisation, but Procter I only know from his noise project Legion Of Swine, which he performs on stage with a pig’s mask. In January 2020 Procter visited Poulsen in his Studio Skrat and brought relatively low stuff and couple with Poulsen's instruments in similar style; a Casio SK1 (the lowest form of sampling), tapes, vinyl, amplified objects, pedals, feedback and laptops to manipulate field recordings. The result is a single piece, lasting fifty-three minutes and there is very little noise to be spotted here; far from actually. These tones just wander about, slowly and majestically. It starts with more ubiquitous drones on the organ and vinyl crackles but slowly unfolds in a richer pattern of treated cymbal sounds, spacious drones, more crackles and seems to be getting the addition of guitar drones and in the second half unfolds a more ended playing between the two, with the drones now in a cascading form, coming and going like waves upon a shore. The vinyl crackles remain a thing throughout here, but they are used with such fine sparseness that it doesn't get into the way of the rest of the music. A constant change, both within instruments and sounds used, remains part of these excellent pieces. I zoned and droned out on this, sitting, flipping through pages, looking for mistakes, as part of something else. I didn't notice that it was on repeat and I must have played this 3 or 4 times in a row the first afternoon I got this. (FdW)
––– Address: http://ojudrecords.bandcamp.com
AWK WAH - MOON WATER (CDR, private)
Well, hang in there, didn't I review this? Indeed, I did, in Vital Weekly 1244. And because the music is on repeat, I also repeat the review; "On the cover, there was a handwritten note; "thanks for the opportunity!" Plus an e-mail address and the title as performed and arranged by Awk Wah. I was slightly confused; which opportunity. I wrote to the address and learned that we previously reviewed his work. That was 'Opera Box', all the way back in Vital Weekly 769. I didn't write that, but I learned from the review that behind Awk Wah is Shark Fung, member of the Amino Acid Orchestra, I\D and Engineered Beautiful Blood. I understand there has been quite some progress from 'Opera Box' to 'Moon Water'. No more drums are used in this piece, and maybe also there is no guitar; maybe it's all about guitars? I don't know. The music is drone-based, verging on the edge of distortion, mainly from the recording perspective and not so much within the actual. There is a continuous noisy loop that is altered in a very minimal way, but over the forty-two minutes it slowly grows in intensity, but, as said, all in a very minimal way and I found it not easy to keep attention to it. The slightly distorted edge, the really slow changes and the original (unknown) input; it all did very little to me." Now, the difference is that this new one is "professionally mixed and master mastered by some engineer. The previous one is a bit of rush". Granted, this new version is fuller and richer in sound, louder perhaps also but essentially the rest of it stays. The whole “continuous noisy loop that is altered in a very minimal way, but over the forty-two minutes it slowly grows in intensity, but, as said, all in a very minimal way and I found it not easy to keep attention to it. The slightly distorted edge, the really slow changes and the original (unknown) input; it all did very little to me”. (FdW)
––– Address: https://awkwah.bandcamp.com/releases