number 1291
week 26

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GREGORY TAYLOR - DIVAGATE (CD by Palace Of Lights) *
CELER - MALARIA (2CD by Two Acorns) *
KNURL - CRYOCARBAZINE (CD by Rural Isolation Project) *
NEIL CHANEY - AURA (CD by Cold Spring Records) *
7x7 VOL. 2 (double 7" by Spleen Coffin)
7x7 VOL. 3 (double 7" by Spleen Coffin)
MODELBAU - AETHER ALEATORICA (cassette by Superpolar Taips) *
WASM - TWEE (CDR by Attenuation Circuit) *
SICK DAYS (cassette by Hyster)


Following last weeks' Proximity Effects release, there is already a new release by K. Leimer's Palace Of Light label. The label has only a small roster, but all the artists seem fairly active. 'Divagate' is the seventh album by Gregory Taylor, who once part of the cassette network in the 80s and the late 90s he returned as an improviser. He studied Javanese Gamelan and electro-acoustic music and, so I believe, lives in The Netherlands (or lived!). He works for Cycling '74, the company responsible for Max/MSP, and I am sure Taylor is using that a lot in his work. Taylor's previous work is still fresh (Vital Weekly 1276) and maybe 'Divagate' is something of a sister album? Again, the Javanese Gamelan plays an important role in the music, but there are so many more sources here. The information talks about "5-tone pedal steel guitars and percolating synths", which might very well be true, of course, but it's not always easy to recognize. I assume (wrongly, perhaps) that the MAX/MSP software transforms all of this to quite some extent and that all of these blends together and within this blender, it is just not easy to recognize much.  In a piece such as 'Deserted Pavilion (Menantikan)', there are a few sparse notes, droplets, piano sounds and some reverb, reminding me of the late Harold Budd (maybe the word 'pavilion' was a hint?), but in the three other pieces, there is, in general, more layering going on. Rhythms, voices (in 'A Terraced Hillside (Menghinggapi)'), drones, field recordings all going at their own slow pace, moving along and going up and down at the same slow pace in the volume. There is an inert feeling about this music, like one is sitting outside in a very hot, tropical country and sounds drift from afar. This happens especially in 'Abandoned Vestments (Kambali)', with its wind chimes and drones. It's getting late, and it's kinda spooky as well. I was least convinced by the longest (and opening) piece 'On Detours and Return (Akhir Haji)', which went in different directions and perhaps suffered from too many layers of sound; or perhaps too many sound effects working overtime here. Still a fine piece, and together with the other three an excellent release; again! (FdW)
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A new release by René Lussier is always a special moment. He is one of the first generation of musicians of the Ambiances Magnétiques scene. Starting in the early 80s he worked with Jean Derome, Andre Duchesne, a.o. He became a very innovative musician and composer in the scene of Quebec. And also on the international scene as a member of for example The Fred Frith Guitar Quartet, Keep the Dog, State or War, etc., he made his contributions. In the last few years, releases by him become rarer, but always they are very relevant. He is a restless and creative musician, always seeking experiment and innovation. Over the years he recorded several solo albums, such as one for electric guitar in 2000, and in that same year another one for acoustic guitar. His most remarkable solo album is no doubt ‘Tresor de langue’(1989) a project on harmonization of taped speech with instruments. Let’s look at what his new solo album ‘Completement Marteau’ has to offer. It has Lussier playing electric guitars, contrabass, Hans Reichels’ daxophone plus a great many tools and objects. The compositions on this new solo album were composed for very different occasions over a period of some 20 years. ‘Pour modifier vos options personnelles appuyez sur l’étoile’ (quartet for guitars and electric toothbrushes, 2019) and ‘Le clou’ (double bass quartet, 1999), are the lengthiest works. They have been performed live by different ensembles, but were never recorded before. ’Pour, modifier...’ is beyond description. An incredibly complex structure, that opens with what sounds from an electric toothbrush with the mouth ‘playing’ it. A great find. The piece is built however from multi-tracked guitars mainly, with a few passages of speech harmonization. Sometimes touching on blues and rock aesthetics, but it is above all a very experimental structure that is beyond the known musical idioms, and an excellent example of Lussier’s very idiosyncratic and personal style. This also counts for ‘Le clou’ (1999), which is written for a double bass quartet. This piece of chamber music is made up of short gestures and diverse patterns, playing with discontinuity and continuity. The other five titles on this cd are more accessible and less heavy and have been produced for a clown theatre production. Still, they are again very experimental and make you ask how many hours Lussier spent in the studio to construct all this. Many different sounds and noises pass by, in very outspoken and well-defined structures. Again, Lussier integrates fragments of speech harmonization. Absolutely very surprising and impressive music that is full of drama and life! (DM)
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This is a very international lineup of Amsterdam-based musicians who started their collaboration in early 2019. Canadian bassist Aaron Lumley worked in the scenes of Toronto and Montréal before moving to Amsterdam. Pianist Marta Warelis is from Poland and settled in Holland in 2010 and is an active exponent of the Amsterdam scene for several years now. Frank Rosaly originates from Puerto Rico and travels between Chicago, New York and Amsterdam. John Dikeman from Wyoming worked in Boston and New York before settling in Amsterdam in 2008. He is a very active musician for many years now in the Dutch scene, involved in many collaborations. More than ever, Amsterdam seems to be an attractive place for musicians from abroad.  The four are engaged in four lengthy improvisations that sound very spirited and sometimes even have a spiritual feel. All four of them are strong profiled performers, so there is a lot to enjoy. It is a great pleasure to listen to the playful and quirky manoeuvres played by Warelis, who was so far unknown to me. Lumley is a powerful player and makes a strong presence. The playing by Dikeman is very pronounced and dynamic, as we know it. Often with lyrical touches, like in the second part of ‘Lake Perfidy’. Rosaly surprises with inventive drumming. In their balanced group improvisations, all four take an equal part in their free jazz-inspired improvisation. Very communicative. All four have their solo moments, but always serving the group process. Hope they will continue their collaboration in this lineup as they have good chemistry. The set was recorded live at the Doek Festival on August 2, 2020, at De Ruimte in Amsterdam. (DM)
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Before we get started let’s discuss the elephant in the room. ‘Strung out Threads’ is a long album. It is not one of the longest albums ever, Flaming Lips we’re looking at you here, but at 93 minutes it's longer than most releases this year. This is a double-edged sword. My dad would love it, in principle, as you are getting value for money. On the other hand, how often are you going to sit and play a 93-minute album from start to finish? Or am I being outdated but assuming modern listeners play albums in full, front to back, every time, instead of selecting their favourites? Ultimately this is just a preamble that doesn’t have much impact on my enjoyment of the album but should probably be put out front now.
    So on with the review.
    What is striking about ‘Strung out Threads’ is how immediate it is. From the opening salvo of ‘Starts’, one of my most unironic titles of the year so far, you know what you are getting into. It just blasts you in the fact with all it has. It is twitchy, scratchy and very uncomfortable. However, this works in the songs favour. Everything is laid out and there are no surprises later on. That might not be technically true. Throughout the album goes places you don’t expect, which is a joy, but it doesn’t deviate from ‘Starts’ shrill blueprint.
    A reason why the album works so well is the players. Ivo Perelman, on tenor sax, has selected his players well. Phil Wachsmann on violin, Benedict Taylor on viola, Marcio Mattos on cello and Pascal Marzan on ten-string guitar each bring their A-game whilst showing a willingness to cooperate. This is evident on ‘Strips’. Marzan is the hero here. On a first listen his playing is almost inaudible as everyone else drowns him out, but on repeat listens you realise that his adhoc playing is actually the grounding element that gives the others room, and space, to do their thing. The whole track is wonderful and worth 7:47 minutes of your time.
    The downside to the album is its length. Some moments could be trimmed down and tracks could be omitted to give a more cohesive listening experience. But this isn’t what we really want. What we get is 93-minutes of vibrant, and brave, playing. Even when it doesn’t work it's exciting to try and work out the thought process that leads to this moment. Around the halfway mark of ‘Strolls’ everything goes off the rails and doesn’t really manage to get back on track by the end, but this is great to hear. It shows a dedication to the cause that is seldom heard these days. This might not be an album that you play very often, but when you do you are totally lost in the skewed works Perelman creates.(NR)
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CELER - MALARIA (2CD by Two Acorns)

From the ever productive house of Will Long, also known as Celer, a double album that he recorded in 2018, and for which the inspiration were "the journals, letters, and photographs of James Jenkins, 1942-1943 from Luzon, Philippines". I assume some words were used in the titles of these pieces, and photographs grace the inside of the cover. Apparently he was (1923-2014) stationed during the war in the Far East and participated in various battles, and lived around the world. I have no idea Will Long get hold of his letters and journals. The music has very little to do with the sound of war, but using tapes, four-track, Uher (a reel-to-reel machine), field recordings, Sony tape recorder, found sounds, Lexicon PCM42 and a pipe reverb, Long creates some very Celer-like music here. Disc two has one, fifty-two minute, piece 'Uselessness Of The Caused', whereas on disc one there are six pieces, from one-and-a-half minute to fourteen minutes. These pieces use long loops of quiet, evolving sounds. As (almost) always, Celer erects a firm yet the delicate wall of sound of drone music, from sounds that we no longer recognize, layer upon layered, erasing all previous stages of this process, leaving a hazy, dronal residue. As always, I might be wrong, of course. The music is slow and minimal, lingering majestically. This is especially the case of 'Uselessness Of The Caused', which is over fifty minutes long and fills up the entire second disc. On the first disc there are a few short pieces, interludes almost, of radio waves or old 78rpms caught, delivering a sound message from many decades ago; from a quieter world I'd say, but then the year and place may not indicate that much quietness. This is all quite rich music for a quiet day in which everything seems to happen at a ditto quiet pace. This is not something new by Celer, but another fine work all the same.
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Now, here's quite a rare thing: a solo release by Tim Olive. His previous solo release is from 2008. Maybe it is the pandemic thing that forced him to do this work? In normal circumstances, he would travel to, say, Europe and tour with a partner. At home, so it seems, Tim Olive uses more instruments than on tour. At his disposal here there are magnetic pickups, metal plates, wire, tuning forks, electromagnets, bow, breath, dental floss, envelope generator, fuzz, spring reverb and preamplifier. There are five pieces here, and Olive says that these pieces are "mainly the multiple layering of varyingly similar and dissimilar solo tracks", which is a process that I enjoy very much. Stick a load of sounds on various tracks in your DAW and start scratching away what is in the way of good dialogue between the various sounds. In the five pieces here, Olive shows that he's quite good at using the most abstract sounds, scratching real surfaces as it were, and finding a dialogue, abstract as it may is, between these sounds. Although much of his work deals with improvised music, I would think that this more in the world of electro-acoustic music or musique concrète, but from a slightly more noisy perspective, which, for instance, in the second track leads to some powerful drone music, but just as well to concentrated scraping of surfaces and more mellow drones. A touch of industrial music, one could say, is also never far away for Olive. In these pieces, Olive has some excellent variation on his music, the whole dynamic of loud versus quiet, dense versus sparse and acoustic versus electric. Listening to this, I have no idea why Olive doesn't do more of this solo work. Unless, of course, he finds a different dialogue, one between musicians, of more interest and this is rather his forced work due to circumstances beyond his control. Whatever the case, this is a great job. (FdW)
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Both players, whom I may not have heard before, are credited with 'sonorous bodies', which I am not sure what they are. Lenoci also plays the piano and Degrassi live electronics. They sat together in the summer of 2019 and recorded two long improvisations ("piano and various sonorous bodies") and "electroacoustic devices, classical and contact microphones, which sometimes also picked up sounds outside the studio and a composer for the real-time processing of some piano sounds taken from an old Giannu album)", which Degrassi in 2020 "edited [...] limiting to suppressing some redundancy without affecting the nature of the document of the materials". I am not sure what that means; perhaps, he edited out some of the sounds he felt he didn't want to be part of the end of the result? On each CD there is one long piece. It is a complete document, but one could also say over complete. There is not much difference between both discs. The music is most enjoyable, so why not two hours of this, indeed? Somewhere on that long line of modern classical music, improvisation, graphic scores and electro-acoustic music are where one find this music. Sometimes the piano takes a lead, but in general, this is all about the interaction between the piano and the live electronics and Lenoci's piano playing is not always traditional, using the strings and the body of the instruments, which adds to the electro-acoustic character of the music. Sometimes it seems as if people are running through the space in which the recording takes place, and I was thinking these might the 'sonorous bodies'. I found this best enjoyed in one long stream of sound; sometimes you take notice, and sometimes not at all. You could also sit down and be fully concentrated on the music, but that didn't work too much for me; I am not sure why. The full-on subconscious stream of sound just worked better, certainly at this length. (FdW)
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KNURL - CRYOCARBAZINE (CD by Rural Isolation Project)

I think in a review the emotional, psychological, philosophical even, state of the reviewer is generally considered verboten. I'm waking these days feeling low, if not depressed, with no particular reason in mind. The recent history and media responses, that every issue has a group of protestors, even the tiresome slowness of this computer opening up... I check the BBC site for news, which is negative, the newspapers attempting to make a crisis out of a crisis, or obsessed with Harry and Megan or Euro 2020... And the alternatives of 'alternative' music, black, grey, death, doom... metals et al. The general flogging of a horse which has been well dead by the 2000s - which no longer has even the smell of decay. This depression of 'everything' including nothing. (For Heidegger this should give one the authentic experience of 'Being' – metaphysical transcendence, or as King Solomon said “All is Vanity” - and said it long before Pascal passed it off as his own – 'sigh') Well for some weeks now I've been visiting some woods I last walked in 30 years ago. They seemed different until in my stupidity I realized unlike me, they had grown considerably taller. And here is the point, what did I get from this particular experience was again 'nothing'. But a different nothing. Which was peace. I've been thinking about this, why? Maybe because the world is full of people 'wanting'. What drives the musician, to play better? To achieve a goal. Want of freedom, hate, equality, gain, success… power, change... every protest group has its opposites or those who just want a quiet life... Human wants, not needs. (As Mr Jagger sang) Yet the world is not a want, an Absolute creator cannot want (for anything more or different- is complete). But a world created from nothing cannot want, has no desire, is unthinking, (as is evolution and *even* this virus, despite the press and experts – has no goal or purpose.) The trees do not want, some look splendid to me, others not, but there is no deliberation on their part. They simply are. Now to this review, why is, for me, these two releases not like those trees, but widentical is because they want nothing. They do not want. They do not even want anything. No goals or aims, not musical, not provocational, not experimental... they simply are sounds, noises. In this, those sounds, the makers have (for me) achieved the holy grail of art, to not mimic or copy nature but to be nature. As was said, they are beyond good and evil, and all the other goals and attributes, desires, wishes and wants that humanity has demonstrated, and still does at ever ridiculous levels. This is my very personal review of these works. You can listen to them, extracts them on Bandcamp, read bios on Discogs, discuss on Facebook or Twitter. But for me, in listening, strangely, to something called 'noise' I get something called 'peace'. (jliat)
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NEIL CHANEY - AURA (CD by Cold Spring Records)

Maybe I noted this before, but reviewing soundtracks to films is a bit of a problematic thing. Usually, I haven't seen the film in question, nor are there chances I will see it. Also, so I noted occasionally that this soundtrack releases that tracks are something snippets. Once you get into a piece, it is already over. Here we have the soundtrack to 'Aura', a film by Steve Lawson, in which "a couple discover Kirlian Photography apparatus in their new house. Intrigued by the concept of photographing peoples' auras they unwittingly release an ancient evil. Only the local psychic can help, and she knows far more than she reveals". The trailer on YouTube looks pretty scary, and the few bits of music in here sound now familiar, having heard the CD first. Neil Chaney once one half of Satori, has been composing soundtracks since 2009 and on this forty-one-minute album, there are fifteen pieces of music used in 'Aura'. It is not difficult to hear in this the music of a scary film, I think. There are some strong orchestral passages, the true scary music I'd say  ('Nightmare' for instance), but also lovely, quiet music of piano melodies and strings, the sort of thing just before some impending doom is going to happen. There is also some fine dark ambient, but here it such a pity pieces last only a minute, or two. All of these tracks could easily be expanded into much, much longer pieces of music, and Chaney could have done a great double CD with that material. So, while I think this is a most lovely album, I have a feeling of missing out on a lot of things here. Like, we see only part of the picture; a promise of a great one, but incomplete. I admit I have no clue how the film soundtrack industry works and why such releases do not contain longer versions. (FdW)
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Over the last 25 or so years, I reviewed a lot of music by Francisco Lopez, although probably more in the first half than in the second half. I have no idea why that is, as I don't keep a tally of what people actually release versus what I review. Maybe his releases do no longer reach my desk, or maybe they are not always in physical form. What I noticed that in recent years Lopez' work turned more electronic, or perhaps to be more accurate, more obviously electronic than before. It is also more audible than his earlier/the earliest work. The one thing that remains is that Lopez' work is never easy, and that is the subject of discussion. At least it does with me. When he released 'Warszawa Restaurant' in 1996 I was not a supporter. The music hovered at -30db (which, to put it bluntly, hardly audible) and I wrote (Vital Weekly 24) "I really don't get. Even if you crank up the volume to 10, listen intensely, it is hard to say what it is. Low hi-fi background hiss, where nothing seems to happen. Maybe I am missing a point here?" But later I learned that one is more or less free to fiddle with the sound system and boost or neglect frequency range, and one could create a version one thought was most satisfying to hear. If the music had been very loud, that would have been troublesome. As said, these days the music is louder and uses, I think, such things as max/MSP or Pure Data. Lopez is the man to use field recordings, so I would think these are part of his music, but these are transformed to no end. I am guessing here, but maybe the title 'Animast' is related to 'animist', "a person who believes all-natural things, such as plants, animals, rocks, and thunder, have spirits and can influence human events". Two sides, two compositions, 'Untitled #369' and 'Untitled #365', created in various cities over various years. When it says 'mobile messor', I assume that to be Lopez' laptop, and at home in Loosduinen, which happens to be near the sea in The Netherlands. In 'Untitled #369', Lopez uses loops of short sounds (origin unknown) and places small variations of these next to each other, making miniature shifts within the material, without losing sight of the overall composition. This takes twenty or so minutes.  'Untitled #365' is four minutes shorter and is in the higher frequency range. Unlike the other side, which is one continuous piece of music, this one opens with twelve short pieces of varying lengths of different loops shifting back and forth, again the origin is so far removed from whatever it was, that I won't even try to guess. The six minutes go without any interruption. This is a nerve-wracking piece of music, with these ultra-short loops trembling. In the last six minutes, and undefined low-end becomes part of the music. Both of these pieces are quite abrasive and noisy; Lopez is still not aiming to please the listener. Do I like it? That is not an easy question. I found it 'easy' as well as 'fascinating'. I found, once again, the music of Lopez one that causes controversy. (FdW)
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7x7 VOL. 2 (double 7" by Spleen Coffin)
7x7 VOL. 3 (double 7" by Spleen Coffin)

Back in Vital Weekly 1264 I very much enjoyed the first instalment of 7x7, a double set of 7"s records with four artists, and a booklet in a "reclaimed" audio reel box. Now thee is Volume 3 and in the meantime, obviously, volume 2 appeared, so it's time to have a good look and listen to both of these. The presentation is similar to the first volume and again reminding me of these 7" boxsets RRRecords released in the late 80s and early 90s. The booklets provide a bit of information (not always) and the music is a guide into the underground music scene. There are names I know (Alan Courtis, Jeff Carey) and new ones. Let's start with volume two, and the two pieces by Theoreme, which are sample-heavy affairs, within 'Les Giftes Du Parietal' also a female voice. This has quite a fine post-punk experiment edge to it like it was already more than thirty years old. Courtis has a piece he recorded at EMS in Stockholm, using Serge modular synthesizer, spring unit and contact microphone and creates with these a highly concentrated and condensed piece of lo-fi electro-acoustic music on the breakdown to noise. Street Rat sounds like the name of a dirty noise act, but in reality is a lovely construction of more lo-fi electronics, loops and this does end in noise. Going back to the post-punk is the trio named Saboteuse, who's 'Kitchen (Two Dobasticles)' is a slow, pounding rhythm and noise rock sound, slowly collapsing under its weight.
    Andrea Pensado opens up the third volume with 'Sol En Fuga Menor', which is a work for voice and synthesizer, in which the latter transforms the first along with the sound of spring reverb. It all becomes an unrefined but great piece of sound poetry, something akin to the work of Henri Chopin. Comfort Link has two pieces (the only other next to Theoreme to have two), which are called "constructions for tape, organ, guitar, and voice", and in a way, yes, also a form of sound poetry, even when the voice plays a much smaller role than with Pensado. It is also something much quieter than Pensado, despite the bit of feedback at the beginning of 'Slack Rash'. Rubber (() Cement are responsible for the longest track, graced with the longest title 'Hulkoalkysulfanyl Submissive Chain Fight/ Oligo-tetraphenylporphryn Aftermath!!/ Axis Grooming of Robot Rising'; maybe it's more than one piece? This is quite a noisy outing, of spliced together noise bits, distorted electronics and garbled voices. Jeff Carey, our man for computer music with a heavy twist, close the proceedings with 'View Of Field 0620', a classic Carey piece of heavy transformations with the small box that we call a laptop. Deep bass sounds, high ends and throughout a burst of energetic noise music. No post-punk band on this third volume, which would have added an interesting variation here, but the quality is invariably high here. (FdW)
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Two new releases by Blake Edwards' Ballast NVP label, usually involving Edwards and compadre Eric Lunde, both present here. From Lunde, there is a 7" here, where he reads his text 'Dressage'. Next to being a musician, Lunde is an author, ever since he published 'LLND', in 1986 (still on the shelf here, but I am not sure when I last opened it).  Lunde reads the text that is also printed on the inside and there is a sort of repeating sounds to it. No transformations, other than layering the voice, so it is not easy to follow. Reading from paper doesn't make life easier. I guess it has that cut-up quality of repeating phrases and words, which allows the listener to listen without grasping the meaning (at least that's what I hope; I am sure I spent some time spilling words on the fact that I am not someone to judge poetry and novels? Oh, and lots more, of course, that I have no idea about). I enjoyed this 7" for its more conceptual approach, and its lovely handmade package, of which I understand only 19 are available for commercial use. There is an email, which you write and leave your address, and you will receive mail art from Lunde.
    As a double CDR, we get the new release by Blake Edwards' Vertonen, and here it deals with “audio processed from three records of music composed by Rebekah Harkness" and the title refers "literally and metaphorically, as viewed through the lens of Rebekah Harkness's life". I had no idea who she was, but thanks to our friend [wiki] I know now that she "was an American composer, sculptor, dance patron, and philanthropist who founded the Harkness Ballet". There is also a song from Taylor Swift about her, which is also part of the inspiration. I have no idea how these records sound that Harkness made and what Vertonen did to these, but the music is the classic Vertonen sound, and that means drones galore. In his work, Vertonen can move in various ways to play out his drone music, and in this case, it is a more traditional approach of what I think is analogue treatments and ditto effects. Slowing down sounds on end, and adding reverb to these, and the result is long-form drone pieces. Both discs have one piece but are clearly divided into various longer segments on the first disc, whereas the second has one long piece. There is a slightly industrial edge towards these pieces, a metallic roughness if you will; it might be the extended use of reverb, of course, that is responsible for that. I must look into the original records that were the source of this. Providing I have some more time to do so. (FdW)
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Until recently Fergus Kelly had an annual release, but since a year (or so), there has been a few and 'Plate Spinning' is his third release in less than a year (see also Vital Weekly 1251 and 1260). No doubt being in lockdown made him more productive (it's not all bad, I think). Kelly is a percussion player using metal, plates, drums, gongs, cymbals, samples and bass. With these releases of the last year, it seems as if Kelly turned a page in his career. His pieces are short and to the point. In less than an hour, he plays seventeen. Also, there is a musical element in his music, that wasn't there to the same extent as before, when it was all more abstract and sound art. Bass and percussion are the main ingredients in the music, while samples appear in a supporting role. Kelly writes that he first laid down the bass lines and then the rhythms, whereas one could, perhaps, think it would have been vice versa. Elements of jazz, of industrial music, of improvised music and of post-punk are all part of this. Throughout the pieces are atmospheric and moody, maybe another reflection of the lockdown, with downtempo rhythms and minor chords being used. In that respect, this album builds on the previous two albums, which had a similar moody and mostly (not always) downtempo beat. There are some exceptions, such as 'Ludic Limbo' or 'Bit Rot Foxtrot', the latter even to be labelled as 'funny'. The samples are mostly orchestral (in 'Deluxe Bebris') and add a different quality to the music; a sense of cut-up and musique concrète. This is another fine album indeed, spacious, melodic, atmospheric and executed with great care. These are made by someone who has a creative mind, not afraid to jump across musical boundaries to achieve the best results. (FdW)
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MODELBAU - AETHER ALEATORICA (cassette by Superpolar Taips)
WASM - TWEE (CDR by Attenuation Circuit)

Here are two new titles featuring the J. Jonah Jameson of Vital Weekly: Frans de Waard. As readers are well aware, de Waard frequently changes the name of his solo projects to signify a different musical style or approach. His most recent and prolific name, Modelbau, is his outlet for music created with lots of analogue gear, most notably radios, cassette tapes and field recordings. The Modelbau sound tends toward gritty, long-form drones and the design for nearly every release shares some visual elements: orange, white and grey colour scheme… the project name printed in the same font… so that the myriad Modelbau emissions appear as a related group of recordings. But here comes “Aether Aleatorica”, which is still definitely a Modelbau album but stands apart from all the others. The cover image is a colourful painting taken from a 1935 magazine for shortwave radio enthusiasts rather than typical Modelbau stark geometry. Instead of an extended noisy drone, this is an album of 20 succinct songs. So is it still Modelbau? I suppose if Frans says it’s Modelbau, then it’s Modelbau. But there’s also a concept to “Aether Aleatorica”. Frans scanned the dial on a shortwave radio until he found broadcasts of people talking, mostly in languages that he did not understand. He then recorded music to accompany the voices, sculpting them into abstract radio-play-like vignettes. Despite what the title implies, these tracks aren’t random… the voices were chosen because some musical sound of the spoken language appealed to de Waard, so each track has a distinct mood. The music is not quite background to the voices, the way that a radio play might use sound effects or music to establish an atmosphere that foregrounds the text. Instead, sounds are sometimes mixed to have an equal presence as the actors or announcers or whoever is talking. There are moments of only voices (with no music) and other moments of only music (with no voices). Perhaps this can be thought of as de Waard’s “My Life in the Bush of Ghosts”, his ghostly fog of hiss and shortwave bloops accompanied by an implied drama of professional actors and amateur broadcasters from around the world. The sonorous French intonation of “Asfaltstelegrafen” is one of my favourites; the voice is given a subtle echo effect, making the speaker seem particularly full of mysterious portent. “Carilon Wellbeing Radio” is built around what seems to be a British radio drama blurred by the delay but with the emotional tone somehow intact. For anyone new to de Waard’s world, “Aether Aleatorica” is an accessible entry point. The only section that didn’t work for me was the thudding Trump impression of “Laser Hot Hits”,  which already hasn’t aged too well. I’ve heard so many of those ostensibly comic impressions for the past five years and have lived through finding the man ridiculous, then infuriating, then terrifying/enervating… and so jokes about how he eats junk food, cheats at golf and can’t remember the name of his youngest daughter are just too specific and too tired to elicit more than an eye-roll from me. But the rest of the album is fascinating. I hope that de Waard continues experiments along these lines and further explores the potential for found-voices-and-sound that “Aether Aleatorica” introduces.
    WaSm is the duo of Frans de Waard and Jos Smolders. “Twee” is (of course) their 2nd album under this name, and it’s a good one. The sound is sombre and meditative, molten and flowing with impeccable attention to space that makes headphone listening to a must. Some elements remind me of piano strings expanded into glutenous drones or bowed metallic shear that ricochets off distant stone cave walls. The introspective mood is a little too event-driven and active to fade into the background as ambience, though it leans in an ambient/drone direction. Sounds resonate and hover with empty space hanging between repeating electro-acoustic acoustic gestures. The fourth track, built around tuned percussion and electronic static punctuation like a gamelan played at 1/10 speed, is an interesting intermission… but the album returns to its initial sobriety for the duration. “Twee” is a wonderfully rich and detailed recording, each element tactile and alive as if a listener was sitting in the same room as the musicians. (HS)
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SICK DAYS (cassette by Hyster)

As far as I know, the releases by Canada's Sick Days that I reviewed were released by Vacancy Records, a label from Canada who recycles old tapes and put new music on them. More labels do that, and one of these is Hyster, from Finland. It should be no surprise that Sick Days have a release on this label. Behind Sick Days is Jeffrey Sinibaldi and from his previous releases I know he uses synthesizers, field recordings and sound effects upon an acoustic object, or as the credit goes for this new release, "tapes, drones, field recordings, loops etc." On this cassette we find two pieces, one being thirty minutes and one is thirteen. This new cassette sees sick days moving away from his rougher approach to the world of ambient music and going from something altogether more refined and quieter. In 'Cold Tones', the longest piece, there is some interesting exploration of a drone and miniature variations that are no doubt made up on the spot, and it sounds wonderful. The music is kept 'small', with a bit of white noise from using no noise reduction, which adds to the atmosphere of the music. It sounds as if Sick Days took some inspiration from Eliane Radigue. In 'Point Abino' (if I read that correctly), the synthesizer is playing along with the recordings of rain and is quite a different piece of music. This is quite loud, certainly compared to the other one, and yet moves along similar lines, in terms of development, which is minimal. A fierce rainfall, deciding upon the contours of the piece. I thought this was a great release, a major leap forward for Sick Days. (FdW)
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