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VLADIMIR HIRSCH - KATAGENESIS (CD by Zoharum) *
TEHÔM - PHOBOS (CD by Zoharum) *
ATE & NOWA ZIEMIA - SUBSTRATE (CD by Zoharum) *
ARNAU SALA SAEZ - ATENCIÓ ATTENTION (CD by Anathema Archive) *
AGOSTINO DI SCIPIO & DARIO SANFILIPPO - MACHINE MILIEU (CD by Toxo Records) *
UMPIO - INSEKTIO (CD by Zhelezobeton) *
GUDELNAYA POLYANA - SOLAR SYSTO TOGATHERING 2020 (3CD compilation by Zhelezobeton)
ASTASIE-ABASIE - MOLECULAR GAMELAN (CD by Shame File Music) *
CLINTON GREEN - RELATIVITY/ONLY (LP by Shame File Music)
MMBC – TERMA (CD, private) *
BIANCO BRACKENBURY – RISING UP (CD by Discus Music) *
ALEX WARD – GATED (CD by Discus Music) *
JOE COLLEY - TRYING TO PLAY NOTHING (7" by Meeuw Muzak)
L'ECLIPSE NUE - FACES FROM DREAMS (CDR by Love Earth Music) *
+DOG+ - AD INFINITUM (CDR by Love Earth Music) *
+DOG+ - Blooming Power Vol. 1 (CDR by Love Earth Music) *
+DOG+ - X5 (CDR by Love Earth Music) *
LOVE IS A GHOST - SIREN EP (CDR by Hessian Claw Records) *
JEROEN DIEPENMAAT/WOUTER VAN VELDHOVEN - STRUIN/STOP (split cassette by ESC Rec)
MATT ATKINS - COLLAPSING FRAGMENTS (cassette by Anticipating Nowhere Records) *
PIETER KOCK - FLOCKS & MURDERS OF ENTITLED SPIRITS cassette by Musikki) *
SPACESHIP AIRGUITARS/KAZUYA ISHIGAMI (split cassette by Neus-318)
VLADIMIR HIRSCH - KATAGENESIS (CD by Zoharum)
TEHÔM - PHOBOS (CD by Zoharum)
ATE & NOWA ZIEMIA - SUBSTRATE (CD by Zoharum)
Here we have a trio of new releases from the Polish Zoharum label, and in all cases, these are new names for me. I started with Vladimir Hirsch who is called a "veteran of the Czech industrial scene. Member (and/or founder) of projects like Aghiatrias, Skrol and Czech Integrated Ensemble to name a few", which means I know very little of the Czech industrial scene. With 'Katagenesis', he presents a long CD, close to 80 minutes and he is armed with synthesizers, electronic keyboards, piano's, electro-acoustic, analogue and digital techniques, and field recordings. There is a strong classical music undercurrent in the music and I would think that to that end he uses a massive pack of samples of orchestral instruments. I am not too well-versed in modern classical music, but I did see 'The Shining' and know that the score contains compositions by Penderescki, so that is one frame of reference for me and not much else. But I recognize some of that in the music of Hirsch here. There are two symphonies on this CD plus a piece called 'Hymn' so that link with the world of classical music is also made. There are many cascading and crashing ways of the orchestra, crashing with electronic glissandi, into massive blocks of orchestral noise. It is noise, but not as we know it (well, not as I know it). The orchestral parts and they are here in abundance, has nothing to with say the bombast of Laibach, or the looped samples of Autopsia, but much more traditional modern (that sounds like a contradiction) music. Hirsch' music is full of drama, rich in horror and maybe the only downside is the overall length of the CD. After about fifty or so minutes of such nightmarish music, a sense of normalcy comes in; yeah, I heard it by now, this is more spooky music. The fact that there can be 80 minutes of music on a CD, doesn't mean it is necessary to use all that time.
From Croatia hails Miljenko Rajakovic, also known as Tehôm. He released music on Twilight Command, Cyclic Law and Zazen Sounds. This new CD contains a recording made on March 16, 2019, in Sophienkirche, in Wuppertal, during the Phobos festival. No instruments are mentioned on the cover, but I hear a lot of percussion of whatever kind, drums or metal, along with wind instruments of a ritualistic nature and a voice wordless chanting and reciting a text now and then, but it is hard to decipher that one. Magick! This is one of those CDs that, in another life, I would have called 'gothic' (but I learned to be careful), or 'ritualistic, and a soundtrack to a ritual of which we can't comprehend what it is. Maybe it is out there, buried deep in a foggy forest, some sacrificial thing, the rite of winter perhaps. I don't have a clue. In the greyish afternoon of a Dutch summer that is, luckily for me, not really summer, this dark soundtrack of autumnal perspectives works quite well, even when not tucked away, deep in the woods, but safely at home. Not my cup of tea, but in whatever small doses, I can enjoy this quite a bit.
The final new release is by Artur Krychowiak , also known as Nowa Ziemia and Petar Petkov, wh works as Ate. They are from the city of Ttricity in Poland. Petkow had two releases on Amek before, which I am not entirely sure I heard. With thirty-five minutes, this is the shortest release on Zoahrum this time, and music-wise also the most mellow one. This is of the three the one I enjoyed most, but purely for personal reasons; I am a sucker for drone music of this kind. Guitars play the lead part in these two pieces, along with loop pedals, field recordings and some additional recordings. Halfway through Substrate A, I thought someone was playing his car stereo very loud aside, but it turned out to be in the music of this duo. The thread upon common ground with their spacious guitar drones, mildly howling in the wind. Echoes of drones are repeated as new echoes, loop upon loop on an endless sustain. I guess you know the drill. Where they differ is what they add. The field recordings of an underpass, with water drops, people passing, all from a considerable difference, and some alienating electronics that are harder to define, more setting an atmosphere than adding melodic content, bring out a slightly unsettling yet beautiful quality to the music. The perfect chill-out after two albums of heavy music. (FdW)
––– Address: http://www.zoharum.com
ARNAU SALA SAEZ - ATENCIÓ ATTENTION (CD by Anathema Archive)
This is a short CD, twenty-two minutes, so I heard this already five times, twice in a row just now, and I still haven't read the cover properly. Partly because it is blue lettering on a dark blue background, so not easy to read, and I keep hearing the music, so there is already some opinion there. Not an easy situation for the reviewer. The writing goes a bit over my head, to be honest. I quote a bit from the start of it: "The sound pieces presented here mark the beginning of a study around the creative potentials of distraction as a tool for self-knowledge and active listening. In these exercises, I use some of the characteristics of attention defined by psychology (amplitude, intensity, oscillation, control) as well as the factors that influence it as reference points to help me manoeuvre, organise and manipulate sound samples. In this case, I used external distractive determinants and the theories of Social Facilitation and the Conflict of Distraction of Gordon Allport and Sanders, Baron and Moore" and a bit further down, "This research also allows me to outline some first questions in a more political dimension which wonder about how different conditions such as ADHD are defined as dysfunctional within a capitalist framework or how the management of attention in a period defined by information overload and new forms of communication which are based on constant and immediate stimuli affect us, thus questioning the idea of success or failure in a social context focused on production." I am completely lost. Can I just listen to the music and say something about just that? Without having a firm grasp on the, no doubt, interesting ideas behind this? The music, which is four pieces, but also (maybe) is one piece (as the text indicates a premiere for the piece) consists of a lot of field recordings, manipulated and 'dry', which comes to the listener in the form of audio collages in the best musique concrète style. It sounds great! The music is vibrant and energetic, swinging back and forth between chirpy crickets, rattling kitchen utensils, electronic bleeps, conversations from afar, drones and all of this via heavily chopped up sounds, jump cuts. Great music with no need for an explanation. (FdW)
––– Address: http://www.anathema.me/
AGOSTINO DI SCIPIO & DARIO SANFILIPPO - MACHINE MILIEU (CD by Toxo Records)
There is a lengthy text on the cover of this CD, about "two autonomous dynamical systems, independently developed and designed to interact between them through the shared sonic environment", which I think is all about two computers connected, recordings sound on one, processing on the other, with roles reversing between the two musicians. I have reviewed music by both, but not a lot so I have very little of what they are doing. Di Scipio takes credits for 'audio programming, DSP, microphones, miniature microphones, piezo discs, speakers, mixers, carton pieces, mouth and glottis", whereas Sanfilippo uses similar but less, "audio programming, DSP, microphones, speaker, mixer and carton pipes". Sounds are taken right from the areas in which the two are situated, with mucho amplification but it doesn't explode in a barrage of feedback. It is, so I believe, essentially about small sounds, trying to rise and ultimately fall, but not fail. All the music is on the quiet side as well, and one needs to turn up the volume quite a bit, but there is a wealth of sound to be detected in this music. The various processing methods they have (and, I have no idea which ones they actually use) brings out some very delicate musique concrete versus noise improvisations. Noise, but the elegant version of it, as things don't revolve around too many loud noises, endless streams of distortion. It is the noise music that owes to the laptop improvisations once set in motion by Farmers Manual and the late Peter Rehberg. They keep their material to the point, never overstaying their welcome, and exploring what needs to be explored with one piece. It is about small sounds, reworked to warm glitches, sturdy crackles and the occasional feedback drone. They do this most elegantly, within the boundaries of civilized computer noise music. (FdW)
––– Address: http://www.toxorecords.com/
UMPIO - INSEKTIO (CD by Zhelezobeton)
GUDELNAYA POLYANA - SOLAR SYSTO TOGATHERING 2020 (3CD compilation by Zhelezobeton)
Behind Umpio we find Pentti Dassum. You may know him from SM/DP, of whom I reviewed work in Vital Weekly 1290 or his "noise grind" project Romutus; or, maybe, his banging on metal objects. As Umpio he worked with Irr.App (ext.) (see Vital Weekly 918) and he had a release before on Zhelezebeton, where he now returns with 'Insektio'. Umpio uses a wide variety of sound devices in his work, according to the information, without being all too specific about what these are. This too leads to noise music, but it is the kind of noise that I like. It is not the loud noise, for the sake of putting on a racket, but in these electronic pieces there, Umpio uses complex combinations of sound sources, struggling for your attention and are set against continuous drones from small synthesizers. That leads to nine strong compositions, which all have a psychedelic quality to them. Maybe it is the busy, ever-changing character of the music, the rainbow coloured electronics that made me think of this. It is a trip, but pleasant unpleasant one, if you catch my drift. This music is the soundtrack to the apocalypse, or whatever comes next. Buzzing, whirring and charging, faulty electricity and gas leaking out of rusty pipes. You know the drill. With radio waves, modular synthesizers, field recordings and such (I am merely guessing here), Umpio offer an excellent variety in approaches here. Play it loud and notice the details, some are quite hidden. Loud music, for sure, but one can do without the walls of screaming feedback.
The other new release by this label is a massive compilation, twenty-eight artists, with recordings of a Gudelnaya Polyana, which is Russian for 'droning glade', and it is the experimental stage f the Solar Systo Togathering Festival. This is held in the woods of the Leningrad region (do they still call it like that? I didn't know) as a long on-going thing, despite rain and sun, cold or warmth. I am not sure what is the bigger surprise; the fact that I don't know so many of the names, or that the world of ambient/drone artists is so infinite bigger. I recognized Kryptogen Rundfunk, Lunar Abyss, and Noises Of Russia, as the only names I reviewed before. That means that the other twenty-five is all new for me. Apparently, there is an ensemble of "12-year-old experimenters here. The tracks are divided not in chronological order, but in thematic. The first disc is one long ambient trip, the second has the more abstract end of ambient music and the third disc is a day-trip, from dawn to dusk. How does one approach such things? A difficult question! A blind test would be best, I think. Not look at the cover, names that don't mean much (although I was curious to check out the Drone Liberation Front) anyway, and then say, oh disc two, track four, now that stood out! (all alright, I looked at the cover, Andrew Sprrw & Nika, with a weird live piece; not sure if it is great or weird). Or, perhaps, conclude that there isn't much difference here in approaches and that it sounds very homogeneous. It is the latter. There are very few pieces that stood out here, or that made a difference. That is not to say it is all weak and mediocre; far from it. The quality is of the music is great. All the variations of ambient pass by, except ambient with much rhythm. It is all dark, atmospheric, ritualistic, obscure, abstract and everybody uses all the right tools; from laptops to synthesizers and field recordings. The only downside is that tracks are cross-faded which may add to the unified idea of this, but adds, for me, too much to the idea of sameness. Great music and a who's who of ambient music in Russia. (FdW)
––– Address: http://zhb.radionoise.ru
ASTASIE-ABASIE - MOLECULAR GAMELAN (CD by Shame File Music)
CLINTON GREEN - RELATIVITY/ONLY (LP by Shame File Music)
Behind Astasie-Abasie we find Ian Andrews, whom we also know (may know) as such early underground as an act from Australia as The Horse He's Sick, Kurt Volentine, and as Atasie-abasie he explores small sounds from small metal objects such as washers. He worked before on this with Garry Bradbury (erstwhile of Severed Heads) and out those performances grew this. Modified and prepared turntables are used to play these objects, along with hand drills, film winders and motorized drills/screwdrivers and throughout there is a random aspect to all of this. With all the mechanics at play here one might think this is some heavy industrial music, but it is not. Far from it, actually. Think of wind chimes, waving gently in the summer wind on your porch and you have something more like what I hear here. However, there is more to enjoy, as I would think (and might be wrong) there are also delicate electronics at work here. It sounds as if some of this is recorded on some very unstable piece of tape loop, feeding as random back into the mix. There is no such thing mentioned anywhere, so I might be entirely wrong of course. In 'Steam Room In Buitenzorg' for instance, these electronics blend with field recordings and the metal objects take the backseat. In the ten pieces on this album, there is a natural progression, a continuous exploration of the same sounds in various constructions, so it is the same thing over and over in a totally different way. The pieces have titles, but just as easily this is enjoyed as a forty-four-minute piece of music. I found all beautiful, the Zen-like music, the stylish execution and it all made one great CD.
The label boss here is Clinton Green, who presents a new LP and again the turntables play an important role, like in much of his recent work. Interestingly his work is close to that of Atasie-Abasie and the approach to the use of turntable is as much as it is fresh as well as the same. Unlike in the work of many other musicians with the same apparatus, it too is here to hit upon objects around it. In Green's case, this is mostly percussion objects, drums, and bells. The cover has a better wording for this process; "beaters and objects suspended from an overhead swaying horizontal pole strike percussive objects on three rotating turntables". I assume Green moving around these turntables, placing new objects, removing old and keep the music vibrant and energetic. The one thing this is not is static. One may suspect that the rotation of the turntable leads to a steady rhythm, which Thomas Brinkman once cleverly turned into dance music, but none such is the case here. On this LP we find four pieces, two on each side. It is difficult to tell the two per side apart; on the first side everything is fast and on the other side everything is slow. That is an interesting choice, I think but it works very well. Side A is a wild ride, chaotic mostly, from moving and removing all these objects around the three turntables, a hybrid of sound, ants crawling around sort of thing. The two on the other side are meditative touches, scratches upon a surface and is of delicate sparseness. Here too nothing stays the same for very long, or, maybe not at all. It shares, however, the same love for the chaos as on the other side, which curiously ties both ends together. This is another most enjoyable record from Green, and like the Astasie-Abasie record, a fine example of the sort of turntable usage I enjoy very much. (FdW)
––– Address: https://shamefilemusic.com/
MMBC – TERMA (Self Produced CD)
MMBC is Michael Bisio (bass), Michael Monhart (tenor sax) and Ben Chadabe (drums). Not sure these names found their way to Vital Weekly earlier. I guess not. So a few words on their backgrounds first. Bisio worked a lot with Joe McPhee and later with Matthew Shipp. As well as with Fred Lonberg-Holm, Thollem McDonas. Michael Monhart is a saxophonist and composer of electronic music, who just like Bisio comes from Seattle and is nowadays based in New York. With Tom Baker and Greg Campbell he is a member of Triptet that is focused on combining electronics and jazz. Both Bisio and Monhart work already some thirty years together. Third member Ben Chadabe plays the drums since his early youth and works within many multidisciplinary projects. Son of electronic composer Joel Chadabe. Their excellent trio-effort was recorded July 9, 2007, at Bender Studios and is now finally released. No idea why it is released now and not earlier. Anyway, it is a very worthwhile release! These three musicians make a very good match and are very complementing in the atmosphere they want to create with their improvised music. Very remarkable is the sensitive phrasing by Monhart, like for example in ‘Mmbc 2’ where the phrasing is a prominent element. Overall makes the music and meditative and even spiritual impression. Reaching moments of extreme intensity like in ‘Mmbc 7’ with eastern motives of a hypnotizing quality. Bisio impresses with the timbres he evokes like for example in ‘Mmbc 3’ in a beautiful solo section. Also ‘Mmbc 8’ has an impressive and dissonant solo by Bisio. Drummer Chadabe excels in polyrhythmic drumming like in ‘Mmbc 5’ using a set of small percussion. Together they created music that has depth and a story to tell. (DM)
––– Address: https://michaelbisio.bandcamp.com/album/mmbc-terma
BIANCO BRACKENBURY – RISING UP (CD by Discus Music)
‘Rising Up’ is a duo-work by Tony Bianco and Faith Brackenbury. Bianco is a composer and drummer from New York who worked with David Liebmann, Alex von Schlippenbach, Elton Dean, Keith Tippett, John Edwards and many other giant improvisers. Faith Brackenbury is of a younger generation with a very different musical background. She studied classical violin but absorbed influences of jazz, improvisation, folk and rock as well. Played with Irish folk band Slainte and Hot Club-style bands. During 2015-2016 she was part Martin Speake’s band Mafarowi. In 2019 she released her album ‘Knife Angel Suite’, folk and jazz-influenced four-part suite performed by Martin Speake (alto sax), Rob Luft (guitar), Alex Maguire (piano) and Will Glaser (drums) and Brackenbury on violin. No idea how both met, and how their collaboration came about. From what I can trace, they started their work in August last year. The more remarkable it is how exceptional the interplay between the two is. The cd gives room to three of their extended improvisations moving between 15 and 31minutes. On Bandcamp, one more improvisation is added. Opening improvisation ‘Rising Up’ is a 31-minute exercise of Bianco playing the percussion in a way that makes the impression of a constant flow. For Brackenbury an ideal companion for delivering some intense soloing. Bass is added later. The dynamics of their performance are at a constant intensity level with melodic improvisations by Brackenbury. Throughout she succeeds in exploring the melodic material in a captivating way. ‘Gypsy Softbread’ starts with sparse percussive gestures, with Brackenbury playing motives on the viola pizzicato and later with a bow. With the influences of folk music, the music moves on an abstract level. In the second phase, there is a very captivating battle between the two with answer-response type passages. In all this a very fruitful first meeting with very expressive and inspired playing. In all three improvisations, they keep the tension from start to finish! (DM)
––– Address: https://discusmusic.bandcamp.com/
ALEX WARD – GATED (CD by Discus Music)
Alex Ward is a multi-sided musician from Oxford, working as a composer, improviser playing primarily clarinet and guitar. As a free improviser, his experience started around 1986 after meeting Derek Bailey. Initially mainly performing on clarinet, since 2000 the electric guitar became more and more important in his improvising activity. In the 90s his work as a composer took flight. First in his work with Benjamin Hervé with rock band Camp Foot. First, he preferred the song format, later he started to compose instrumental music, performed by the numerous ensembles he initiated over the years. Also, he was a member of ensembles led by Chadbourne and by Simon H.Fell (died in 2020 and Ward dedicated the album to him. His discography contains dozens of albums of Ward as an improviser on clarinet or guitar, or as a composer and (co-)leader. Overviewing it, his latest solo work ‘Gated’ seems to be something different. If only for the many instruments Ward plays here: clarinets, saxophones, keyboards, drums, electric bass, guitars and software instruments. Performing his own ten highly composed works that take you on a breathtaking journey of 74 minutes. Every track has idiomatic characteristics of either math rock, avant rock, hardcore, RIO, free improvisation, chamber music, etc. Overall a rock-induced approach dominates, leading up to a journey that bursts of energy and drive. Although sometimes a bit too stereotypical for me, it absolutely convinces me because of the sense of urgency that radiates from these tracks that are best listened to in one go. The stylistic diversity is evident but the energy that vibrates in these pieces is a strong unifying factor. Opening track ‘Heat Patch’ is a bolded piece in R.I.O.-tradition. In ‘The Celebrated Restriction’ Ward integrates influences of hardcore and speed metal. Likewise in ‘Buyout’, with guitar and bass in the centre. In contrast ‘Let’ is a work that moves along lines of modern composed music with touches of jazz with wind instruments in a prominent role. With 18 minutes ‘Hewn’ is the most lengthy piece, starting with a free rock battle of bass and guitars. Followed by a section of very speedy and repetition-based rock. Pushing things more to the extreme we enter a zone of multi-layered heavy and noisy sounds. With still other phases to go in this intriguing work. With ‘Stilled’ we are in the centre of this tornado. Overall a quiet ambient-like work built from extended sounds with a pulse in the background, alternating with spacy and meandering woodwinds. ‘Cushoined’ with clarinet in the front is a very jumpy work of composing chamber music with fine intertwined movements. Ward did not only compose and perform everything, but he did also the recording and producing for eight months in 2020-2021. An impressive statement! A true breathtaking monster! (DM)
––– Address: https://discusmusic.bandcamp.com/
JOE COLLEY - TRYING TO PLAY NOTHING (7" by Meeuw Muzak)
The title is here the program. "A recording of Samuel Beckett’s ‘Text for Nothing #8’ read by Jack McGowan 1958 (used without permission) is burned to a CD-R with 99 index points. A Sony Discman in shuffle mode attempts to play the disc. Electromagnetic signals of struggling CD player mechanics are recorded, edited and collaged into two extracts." Both Meeuw Muzak and Joe Colley are highly irregular when it comes to releases. I guess Meeuw Muzak patiently awaits what comes his way and I have no idea why I never see many releases from Colley. I find his work always fascinating and the two pieces on this 45rpm record are further proof of that. As describes on the box (the text is printed on the cover), there is this voice, reading slowly and not following the original lines, so phrases just pop up, sometimes repeat, and around it there is a machine glitching and spinning, buzzing and whirring, and altogether makes an excellent version of machine sound poetry, if such a thing exists (well, and if it doesn't, it should). Two short pieces of musique concrete, one idea, two executions and that's it. That's Joe Colley at his best, no bullshit, straight to the point. No doubt there is more that can be read into this, the faulty machines and Beckett's text and the relation between the two, but I am not too clever for that sort of thing. I enjoy such things at face value, and that's more than enough for me. (FdW)
––– Address: http://www.meeuwmuzak.net/
L'ECLIPSE NUE - FACES FROM DREAMS (CDR by Love Earth Music)
In a little over a decade L’eclipse Nue, AKA Daniel Sine, has amassed a back catalogue to rival, pretty much, anyone else in the noise/industrial field. His releases are filled with huge acerbic soundscapes, that borrow as much from noise and industrial as they do from sound art and avant-garde composition. There is humanity going on with them. They speak about the darker side of our psyche. Where things aren’t what they first appear.
‘Faces from Dreams’ lives up to its name. It is familiar, yet totally unknown. Very much like faces in a dream. You recognise them, yet they have different personalities. The same is true here. These are sounds you’ve heard before. Searing feedback. Guttural vocals. Slabs of white noise, but it sounds totally fresh. Exciting. What really makes the album work is the interplay between the severe noise and the moments of, well, less severe noise. Take ‘The Descending Anchor of a Deformed Linage’. It opens with a barrage of noise, then its scales if back a bit, giving us chance to catch our breath. Ominous synths appear. They have a slightly celestial drone to them, then BAM, the harsh noise comes from nowhere. It isn’t as all-consuming as you were expecting. Those glorious celestial motifs are still audible. This gives the song a wonderful mixture of emotions. On one hand, it’s like being wonky and in the front row at a gig. Everything is happening too fast around you. It's all too loud and confusing, but there is an element of serenity. You feel at one with your surroundings. You are moving in unison with the crowd behind you, yet your eyes are fixed at one single point in front of you. This is happening here. As ‘The Descending Anchor of a Deformed Linage’ progresses there is more and more downtime from the feedback. Those wonderful drones are allowed to grow at their own pace. They ripple and swell. The noise comes back. More powerful than before, until the end when it all fades out and we’re left with silence.
In a nutshell ‘Faces from Dreams’ is everything I want from a noise album. It is loud. Scornful. Destructive. Biting. Vitriolic. Delightful and incredibly playable. From the opening ‘To You Whom I Have Only See in Dreams’ to the closing of ‘By the Time I Reach California, The Sun Will Already Be Going Down’ you are ushered into a world of harsh noise. What more could you ask for really? (NR)
––– Address: http://www.loveearthmusic.com/
+DOG+ - AD INFINITUM (CDR by Love Earth Music)
+DOG+ - Blooming Power Vol. 1 (CDR by Love Earth Music)
+DOG+ - X5 (CDR by Love Earth Music)
From the opening moments, ‘Ad Infinium’ presents you with a world on fire. All around us are sounds of noise and confusion. ‘Sometimes They Seem to Close’ is a glorious example of this. For eight minutes +DOG+ just got for it. Guttural vocals. Layer upon layer of feedback. The occasional bassline, emerging only to be covered in a deluge of effects again. ‘Help Me Fix my Broken Hearth’ carries on straight after, with no break, or respite, for us. This is a gusty move. A less confident musician might have decided to knock those themes, and ideas, on the head and start with something different, but not +DOG+. There are tonal changes. More electronic static along with bleeps that almost act as melodies. By the time we get to ‘North of Here’ things are slightly subdued. But not much. It sounds like everything is underwater and muted. The bass is in the red, which works incredibly well. This piques our attention and then it's back to a normal level +DOG+ has moved onto a new skittering pattern. As the album reaches its climax ‘General Ruin’ and ‘Dirges in the Dark’ take us back to the beginning and create a cycle. At over two hours long you definitely get value for money for ‘Ad Infinitum’ but there is a lot that could have been trimmed. Saying that ‘Ad Infinitum’ is a fun ride, if you have the stomach for it.
After the onslaught of ‘Ad Infinium', the power of ‘Blooming Power Vol. 1’ came as no surprise. ‘Her Tree’ and ‘Unexpected Peace 1’ are just searing slabs of noise. It's overwhelming at times. Which, of course, is awesome. Some many times I’ve listened to something labelled as noise and it's been nothing more than a heavy drone or something nonsequential. This is not the case with ‘Blooming Power Vol. 1’. Here we have a powerful explosion of feedback and static crackles. It's glorious. Then the title track started and I was generally taken back. The song is just a loop of the line “I was a blooming flower blossoming from the sea”. It is layered, delayered and generally tinkered with. The results are startling. Given the opening, I was expecting another wall of noise and destruction. It works very well. Giving us a moment to catch out-breath. Straighten our hair and prepare for the next bombardment. Luckily we don’t have long to wait. ‘Unexpected Peace 2’ takes us back to what we’re used to. Sonic warfare. The rest of the album is more of the same, but as each song ends you wonder if the next will be another vocal round. The inclusion of the title track is a masterstroke as you are second-guessing the album from that moment on. You never feel disappointed that the vocals don’t return, but if they had it might not have had the same impact as on ‘Blooming Power Vol. 1’.
Every track on ‘X5’ is named after a different genre of music. ‘Powerpop’, ‘Punkrock’ ‘Emo’ ‘Gothic Rock’ and ‘Industrial Music’. At no point do the songs actually sound like the genres mentioned. So this leads to several questions. Is the album named because this is what +DOG+ think these genres sound like? Do +DOG+ think it's funny to try and trick us into what we are about to hear? Or did they need five song titles and this was the easiest way to name them? Ultimately I don’t care as the music is fun. It is not as overpowering as ‘Ad Infinitum’ or ‘Blooming Power Vol. 1’, instead of it's more subdued. Not a great deal happens, but it doesn’t really have to. ‘Powerpop’ and ‘Punkrock’ effectively sound like explosions in the distance. Or the laboured breaths of a dying monster in a fantasy film. Either way, it's haunting but comfortingly rhythmic. ‘Emo’ and ‘Gothic Rock’ is when the tape comes to life. Dynamic static burst flow from the speakers. It's jarring next to the opening two tracks but not as unpleasant as it might sound. The album closed with ‘Industrial Music’. Here +DOG+ incorporate everything we’ve heard so far to create a 13-minute dystopic soundscape. What ‘X5’ does well is create an ominous feeling then, gradually, try and ramp it up to something else entirely. (NR)
––– Address: http://www.loveearthmusic.com/
LOVE IS A GHOST - SIREN EP (CDR by Hessian Claw Records)
Let me start by saying that I have no idea if this is a commercially available CDR, or if it is something to promote a digital release. There is no website/Bandcamp/E-mail anywhere on the cover or in the letter Tim Newman wrote. The cover mentions that this is their first release and 'Each song from their forthcoming debut album will be released as a separate EP with multiple deconstructions of the original work", which is the kind of information one normally finds on a promotional item. Love Is A Ghost is a trio with Craig Tattersal (formerly of Hood, The Boats, The Remote Viewer) on tapes and dust, Char on vocals, and Newman (formerly of Vibrafzz, see Vital Weekly 768, and collaborator of David J from Bauhaus) on guitar, piano, edits and arrangements. It is hard to see the eight parts of 'Siren Abstract' as constructions of the original 'Siren', which opens up the release here, as, yes, they are all different indeed, and perhaps they are all alike. Let me try to explain. The songs are constructed carefully, remote sounds, from the guitar or piano, somehow treated (through whatever that makes it grainy and weird), and on top Char speaks her words, like poetry, but not necessarily to be understood, and sometimes she sings. Elements return in some pieces, and on other occasions may be used once. It is all very carefully played, and no doubt some reviewer will label this dream pop, of 'Lynchian' (though that isn't guaranteed for an appearance in 'Twin Peaks'; never knew Nine Inch Nails were dreampop), however much this is not pop music. In a parallel universe, this could be something that would have been of interest for 4AD when Ivo was at the helmet, or maybe not. I enjoyed all nine pieces, although maybe not always the most Vital Weekly music and I enjoyed 'Siren Abstract 7' best with its repeating piano motif, which made it almost Steve Reichian. Quite a curious release! Maybe you are luckier in finding out how to obtain a copy. (FdW)
––– Address: none given
JEROEN DIEPENMAAT/WOUTER VAN VELDHOVEN - STRUIN/STOP (split cassette by ESC Rec)
Here we have a split cassette by two Dutch sound artists whose work I appreciate quite a bit. I know Van Veldhoven a bit longer than Diepenmaat, but by now both of them have released an impressive amount of work. Both artists can be seen as an inventor, tinkering with machines. First, we have Van Diepenmaat with 'Struin', a work for modular synthesizer and two CV controlled turntables, that Diepenmaat made in conjunction with the field kit, a creation from Koma Elektronik. Van Veldhoven has 74 reel-to-reel recorders at home (at least when I visited him some time ago), and creates constructions with these machines, with loops that can also be CV controlled. The results are quite different. Van Diepenmaat's 'Struin' (which meander 'wander' in English) opens up with what seems to be the sound of insects or frogs, but quickly you'll learn that these are electronic sounds. There is a pulse also, that goes along with the imitation of animal sounds (or, maybe, these are from a record that Van Diepenmaat is playing at any speed, backwards as well as forwards), but slowly it all moves towards a more electronic field, with occasional sharp tones. The piece has a somewhat improvised feeling and remains open towards the end. On the other side, there is 'Stop' (which is Dutch for 'Stop') by Wouter van Veldhoven, who works with the rhythmic structures by Jean-Claude Risset, which open up here. The music is on a repeat mission, but slowing down over a few minutes, and yet it never gets to a final standstill. At two-third new sound elements are added on rather worn out tape (so says the label), apparently violin and voice, but it is hard to say if it is just that. Van Veldhoven's piece is not as Empty as Van Diepenmaat but shares a similar 'free' approach to composing or improvising here (there is a thin line, I would say). Comes in a nice riso-printed carton sleeve. (FdW)
––– Address: https://escrec.bandcamp.com/album/struin-stop
MATT ATKINS - COLLAPSING FRAGMENTS (cassette by Anticipating Nowhere Records)
When I first got to hear music by Matt Atkins, he had a project called Platform for music that was electronic and rhythmic and as Matthew Atkins for all things experimental and improvised. The latter is something he expanded most in recent years and it seemed he left behind the minimalist, technoid works as Platform. Much to my surprise he now returns with an album of exactly that kind of work, but no longer as Platform, but as Matt Atkins, which is the name he's now using for all his work, so it seems. From the 808 he samples sounds (or perhaps a sample pack) and puts these in a looped form together, to create minimalist blocks of rhythm that are not really meant to be danced to. Around these loops Atkins waves sound that colour the pieces; washes of sustained rhythm sounds, so I expect, which had eerie atmospheres to the music. The rhythm is a jackhammer, te drones the nuclear landscape in which this hammer operates. It is not happy-clappy music, or at least not to my ears. It is a dystopian head-nod soundtrack. It owes to the world of early Raster Noton, Pan Sonic and Goem, but Atkins' music is different, I think. Less 4/4 based than Pan Sonic, and with much more variation than Goem ever had, and, despite the dark atmospheres, there is also a playful aspect to be noted in the music, such as in the broken beats of 'Passive Implosion'. It all ends with 'Afterglow', where the ambient drones have taken over, and the beats are merely flickering glitches, a residue of a burned-out 808 machine. I enjoyed this little detour from his normal routine and maybe this will prompt him back into this action? (FdW)
––– Address: https://label.anticipatingnowhere.com/album/collapsing-fragments
PIETER KOCK - FLOCKS & MURDERS OF ENTITLED SPIRITS cassette by Musikki)
Now, here's a name that might sound many alarms, but Pieter Kock has some track history on these pages. When he was based in the same sunny city as Vital Weekly, he had a group, The Hitmachine, who released a couple of mildly bizarre records and crazy gigs, mainly local, at places long gone and indicating easier times for weird music. He also ran Ole Records, responsible for bands such as The Hitmachine, Zebra and the all-time classic 'Videorecorder' by Bertin. Kock moved to Berlin to open a bar, 'O Tannebaum', where you can raise a glass of Belgium beer, apparently a special treat in the land of the Reinheitsgebot. He used to the pandemic to sort out some 200 tracks he recorded over the years, which involve the sampling on Youtube synth and rhythm box demonstration, online synths and talk shows. All of these cut to the right length, EQ-ing, looping, dubbing in Traktor, and with one piece having extra guitar and bass. Think of this as plunderphonics and you're halfway there. What Kock is not so much interested in, is delivering socio-political commentary, unlike other plunderpirates, but in stealing left and right a good hook, a fine melody and putting these to good use in a real song. In all twelve pieces, this is the case. From quirky uptempo tunes to more moody tunes, some with a voice, but also in favour of the song. All these pieces have an extensive layered approach, allowing Kock to work with minimal means and still come up with plenty of variation. This is the updated, hi-tech (?) approach to what the Germans called 'minimal electronic'. Little pop ditties, that what these are, and they are great. Music for a not too hot day in the sun, sipping, oh, there you go, a fine Belgium beer (not further advertising brands, but I know a place in Berlin... etc.). See you later. (FdW)
––– Address: https://musikii.bandcamp.com/
SPACESHIP AIRGUITARS/KAZUYA ISHIGAMI (split cassette by Neus-318)
This is another super limited cassette release from Neus-318 Records out of Osaka; 12 copies, this time around. On the B-side, we find the label boss, Kazuya Ishigama and on the first side Spaceship Airguitars (although they prefer an all-lowercase spelling) I had not heard from them. They started in 2008 and use "self-made metal instruments and many electronics", and the label describes them as "old-style industrial and dark ambient". I can sense why people would call so, and it is true. It also has that somewhat unfinished touch that the old school industrialists also had; an excess of devices but not always the clearest idea when it comes to composing with the material they had. So it drags on a bit too much, or it makes illogical choices when it plays out the music. There is a fair share of noise generators in a battle with the percussive slabs on the oil barrel. It is nice enough for sure, but I enjoyed the B-side better. This is a very 'now' piece of music, in which Ishigami works with computer technology to process sounds; I assume that on the input side there are a bunch of field recordings and on the output side there are drones, lots of them and all over the frequencies, from the (not really too) low end to higher regions, and along with that bubbles, ripples in the texture of this sonic fabric. It all drifts away, up and onwards and ending on a mild touch when the music seems to vanish beyond the horizon. This is some excellent piece of computer music and at fifteen minutes way too short and perhaps not suited too well for the medium of a cassette. Maybe do a longer version and put that on a CD(R)? (FdW)
––– Address: https://neus318.bandcamp.com/