number 1304
week 40

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KONTINENT - STASIS (CD by Zoharum) *
TUNNELS OF ĀH - IRON SPEAKS (CD by Hypershape Records) *
CHAS SMITH -THREE (CD by Cold Blue Music) *
GIGALDI - AIRE (LP by Interstellar Records) *
STIRB - SEGREGATION (10" by Interstellar Records) *
SION ORGON - DUST (mini LP by Lumberton Trading Company) *
JOSEPH NECHVATAL - SELECTED SOUND WORKS (1981-2021) (cassette by Pentiments Records) *


Let me see if I can summarize the 'how' and 'why' here. In 2016 Swiss Radio commissed music by Thorsten Soltau. He used piano and electronics for the six resulting pieces. In November 2017, these recordings were then used by Sascha Stadlmeier, also known as Emerge, to further treatment, mix, or whatever you call it, and added field recordings and electronics. Then Ralf Wehowsky received the material and created a seventeen-minute collage out of all the material. For Wehowsky, this has been part of his work ever since working as P16.D4, and later on solo as RLW, working with sound material from others. Stadlmeier (also known as EMERGE) is of the next generation doing similar things and has an impressive list of collaborations. Over the years, Staldmeier's music matured and moved away from the all to obvious repeating samples, and noisy crescendo's into carefully built sound constructions. EMERGE has the first five pieces and the last one, while RLW is sixth. There are some interesting differences between the approaches of EMERGE and RLW. It seems to me as if EMERGE here goes for the method that is all sparse. Sure, he bends his sounds with electronics, staples a drone or two, adds some reverb to a solid bang on the piano, but all of this is finely dosed to precision. I already compared his work with that of Asmus Tietchens, and this is, even more, the case here. But it is not a one on one copy. EMERGE cleverly adds his personal touch to the original sound material and adds his sound material sparsely. RLW, on the other hand, has a slightly different approach, connecting more with a musique concrète approach, and throughout his piece, he moves through more sound material than EMERGE, or at least, so it seems. Maybe he likes it all so much that he wanted to use it a lot. RLW's piece is a collage of sounds, with full stops and starts, taking the piece to entirely different pastures. It is throughout a louder piece of music than the five by EMERGE, but I very much enjoyed this approach. All of this release reads 'classical collaboration spirit'.
    In the 80s, there was a small list of very hard to obtain records, records of the kind that everybody wanted. Among them was 'Seuchengebiete' by Asmus Tietchens, released by A-Mission Records. That label vanished quickly, and the records too. I am sure I traded some obscure Gerogerigegege LP for it, but it was worth the trade. I may have told this story when I reviewed the CD re-issue back in Vital Weekly 504. On 'Seuchengebiete', Tietchens explores the sound of water dripping in his studio sink. It was the first record on which Tietchens explored the quieter side of music. Later on, there were more volumes of this approach (although never called 'volume 2' etc.). The second volume was in 1991 (reviewed in Vital 23, when it was a paper fanzine; see advertisement elsewhere), and '3' was in Vital Weekly 121. I mentioned for the latter that I didn't get the design of the release, which is, maybe oddly, also the case here. As this CD arrived on Saturday, I took a whole Sunday off to play all four 'Seuchengebiete' instalments. Over the years, some things have changed in the music of Tietchens. It was the first 'Seuchengebiete', one of his first quiet works; these days, his music is soft. Many of his musical compositions contain sounds beyond recognition, but in this case, it is pretty clear what the source material is. The dripping of water can be recognized, but it is transformed in various ways, from delightful high-end splashes to low-end bass sounds; some of this sounds like it is changed with granular synthesis, but no doubt there is also another technology at work here. There is something profound about the music, slow, contemplative; maybe the music is a sign of the sorry state of our times. Perhaps it is the association I have with the water sounds here; that of leaky pipes in an abandoned industrial landscape. The soundtrack for a worse tomorrow? I am sure that is not what Tietchens put into his music, as I would think there is very little meaning put in by him, but it is all about the listener's associations. This time, Tietchens applies his current composing techniques to an older idea, working wonderfully well. (FdW)
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Of neither of these two Polish projects I had yet heard. Michal Kielbasa is the man behind "Nothing Has Changed". He is also a member of industrial metal band "Whalesong", which doesn't ring a bell either. While there is no metal in Nothing has Changed, industrial it definitely is. On top of that, this is the rhythmic variety of industrial music. Kielbasa's rhythms aren't organised along principles of danceability, but it strikes me as an impromptu recording out in the oil fields; you hear the drills droning together, so in a way it doesn't make too much sense, and at the same time it becomes a fascinating sound piece. Nothing Has Changed adds tons of feedback and distortion to these pounding rhythms and also the reverb button is within close reach, giving a slight metallic sheen to the compositions. Sound effects are running amok and somewhat oddly, this adds a mild dub flavour, but be warned: there won't be any dancing. The album as a whole is a quite an intense blast to the senses; the overall sound is pretty saturated and with ten of these jackhammering pieces covering thirty-eight minutes of mayhem it is not something you put on for a quick fill of fun. As ever, I have no idea if there is still a scene for this kind of stuff. I'd give this a spin, even if I weren't charged with the task of reviewing this release. But of the Polish scene from back in the 00s - Beast of Prey, War Office Propaganda etc. - only Zoharum seems to be in business still. At any rate, this is a proper soundtrack of death, doom and destruction, or perhaps the happy first notes of the post-apocalyptic world.
    Black and white cover, vague images, obscure titles ('It Burns It All Clean', 'Theft Of Fire', for instance), Kontinent with a 'K' and not a 'C'. It's time for an album of power electronics. Kontinent is one half of Kevlar, an project that apparently functions along similar 'electronic power lines'. This album, "Stasis", was already made available on LP back in 2017 and now there is a CD edition as well. The compositions tick all the customary boxes: There is a ton of distortion, feedback, some World War 2 documentary sample thing, coercive loops, crashing metal and garbled voices. There may or may not be lyrics - I really couldn't find out. As for influences, this clearly goes straight back to the early days of Whitehouse and especially Ramleh with its vocal delay galore, and serves up a fat big (if not slightly psychedelic) dystopian soundtrack. Possibly music for a bad LSD trip! Did I think this was an original take on the whole notion of power electronics? Nah, not at all. Did I like it? You should have seen me strutting about like wounded soldier, trying to crawl out the trenches. My cat thought I was dancing. Maybe I was. (LW)
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TUNNELS OF ĀH - IRON SPEAKS (CD by Hypershape Records)

As ever, we find the Head Of David reference for Stephen Āh Burroughs' musical project Tunnels Of Āh in the bio. However, this already being the sixth album under this moniker, one could argue Tunnels to be proper a career in its own right. I know, these musical biographies are rarely re-written, but perhaps in this case they should. Burroughs' solo project has a strong sonic signature - and is quite prolific at that - so I'm pretty sure by now it will be able to stand on its own six legs.
'Iron Speaks' is the follow-up to 'Deathless Mind' (see Vital Weekly 1237) but originally this was supposed to be the fifth album. Burroughs felt that the original album needed some reworking and so there its release was delayed. But I have to say that it was well worth the wait.
    The title is a reference "to the chapter in the Koran, which states that iron emerges from the heavens as a gift to mankind. It often graphically depicted as a blazing ball of molten fire approaching its earthly target". Let's keep that in mind when playing the music, which, quite fittingly, arrived in a neat metal box. As always, Tunnels Of Āh gives us ominous dark atmospheres and indeed there are some clear cosmic references here. No tinkling Tangerine Dream-like arpeggios, but the sound of colossal objects plummeting to earth at a slow but steady pace - a true maelstrom of sound, if you will. Transmissions from beyond the world we know; perhaps there is an instruction on how to use the aforementioned metal? The tracks sport no actual voices here, and yet the sound itself definitely 'speaks'. Maybe these are whispers from beyond, transmuted by the machines of Tunnels Of Āh. No inkling what kind of machines those could be though. Synthesizers, (physical?) tape-loops, and effects, but perhaps I'm thinking too easy.
    As before, I am still thinking about actual tunnels when I hear this music. Yeah, clearly the band name is a strong visual trigger there for me, but I do feel there is something strongly claustrophobic about the music. I have this odd idea of being locked up and the music comes from outside, piped through some kind of ventilation tunnel. This adds a sense of isolation; of being imprisoned. In the distance we hear the sounds of dark and complex devices, metal on metal (to quote Anvil), putting the fear of (possibly the islamic) god into the listener. There are six songs, all around eight minutes and, at times, maybe just a minute too long. Still, let's not take that as the grind of imprisonment, but as the sonic reveries of an apt musician who just doesn't want to part with his sound world. (LW)
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It has been a while since I heard some music from Thomas Park, also known as Mystified. Many of his works appear on limited CDRs and cassettes, but this time it is the good ol' CD. He collaborates here with Anthony Paul Kerby, and he goes under the banner of The Circular Ruins. He's from Ontario, works with synthesizers, field recordings and has a label of his own, DataObscura. Mystified worked with Rapoon, Artificial Memory Trace, and Nocturnal Emissions, among others. The sampler, so I believe, is his main instrument. The work's title pays homage to such writers as Jules Verne, H. G. Wells, Edgar Rice Burroughs, and this shows in the titles of the pieces; 'Twenty Thousand Leagues', 'The World Beneath', and 'Forbidden Planet'. This release is a re-issue of a CDR that Dataobscure released in 2013. It certainly deserves a new/broader audience. The best approach is to take any book from one of these authors of the shelf, sit back in the most comfortable way, and read and play this music. What the musicians are doing here is simply offering nothing less than the best soundtrack for such a thing. Even more so than if this would be the movie soundtrack. The music is quite full of sound events, which may not translate well to the big screen, but reading about Captain Nemo and his submarine at home. With the tones produced in the titular piece, you are below sea level, wondering about the colours below the sea, the rusty vessel and the quiet life below deck. “It was marvellous, a feast for the eyes, this complication of coloured tints, a perfect kaleidoscope of green, yellow, orange, violet, indigo, and blue; in a word, the whole palette of an enthusiastic colourist!” Field recordings are brought to life alter and age and die out again within the electronics these men have at their disposal. Sometimes they reach for a more cosmic note in their music; sweet tinkling bells, a bouncing synth, transformed voices (in 'Forbidden Planet'; in itself, of course, a massive legacy when it comes to electronic music). I found it very hard to peel myself out of that comfy chair and sit at the desk to commit words to this. I heard the music a couple of times earlier in the week, and now twice in a row; hard to stop reading and listening, but sadly so. Another round of this very soon, this weekend most likely. (FdW)
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CHAS SMITH -THREE (CD by Cold Blue Music)

It is not that because I have not heard of Jacob Cooper and Steven Bradshaw, that I started with Chas Smith's release. That decision is entirely based on the fact that I know Smith and always very keen to hear new music from him. Smith builts his instruments, rather than buying them in a store, and these instruments are made of metal. They have exotic names such as Que Lastas, Lockheed Towers, Sceptre and Bertoia (well, that isn't as cryptic, of course), while his steel guitars are called Guitarzilla, Jr. Blue and bass steel. On this new CD there are three compositions and in all of them he plays various instruments. His pieces aren't the result of playing them live, I assume. I might be wrong here of course, and maybe a set-up is possible to have various metallic objects sing at the same time. Because singing it is. Smith isn't the metal basher along the lines of Z'EV or Neubauten. I assume he uses bows to play these objects and that brings out some of the geatest overtone singing I heard in quite some time. Three pieces, each around sixteen minutes, it is, of gorgous slow music. Everything is on a peaceful dark drift. You could think that is is electronic, or reverb-heavy, but it is not. Objects are set in motion by Smith and sustain all by themselves. There is very little by way of human interaction it seems. It is as almost these sounds are made by machines. Just when I made this observation, I heard a bow sound over one of the instruments. Much to my surprise I read in the information that his instruments have been used by well Hollywood soundtrack composers (Mothersbaugh, Zimmer, Newman among others), and I realized, yes, totally obvious. These sounds can easily be used for more suspenseful passages in movies.
    The other one seems to me a very atypical release for Cold Blue Music. I know this label as a home for modern classical music. Sometimes that means that the name on the cover is the composer, and that the work is performed by others. That is not the case here. This a work of collaboration. The title comes from song from 1918-1920 Spanish influenza pandemic and is a song written by Ernest Seitz and Gene Lockhart.  Cooper and Bradshaw pay homage to the sound, use samples from early 20th-century recordings and Bradshaw supplies his voice. He sings, whispers, speaks, improvises and Cooper is the one who produced the piece. There is also guest players for the pino, violin and flute/piccolo. So, that is something out of the ordinary, but the result also is. The opening passage of this piece contains those whispers, a lot of them, and soon more vocals are added. It all has a rather improvised feeling, but most enjoyable. Then slowly it builds and I thinking of Thom Yorke's voice, but there is also guitars and electronics in play now, and it is a postrock feeling. That too is hardly Cold Blue style. The guitars slowly die out and are replaced by a piano motif that is, along with voice and guitar, the final of this great piece. At first I was thinking, what the hell is this, but I am completely won over by it. Short at thirty-two minutes, buta beauty it is. (FdW)
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VLF recordings are at the core of this new CD by Solar Return, a duo of Jenny Pickett and Julien Ottavi. On their previous CD (see Vital Weekly 1060), they also used some of that and other tools to capture 'inaudible sounds'. The VLF antenna is the sole instrument this time, and it "could catch electromagnetic storm from the stratosphere". The cover also mentions that "those recordings are part of the Open Recordings collection on Fibrr Records", and indeed there is a bunch from Solar Return and other people, captured in different places. There is an active community. I enjoy what I hear, but I have some questions too. What VLF recordings come down to is crackles of static noise. Sometimes there is a bit more high end in this; sometimes, it is not. You could think of this as a recording of something frying in a pan. Development happens, but not a lot. The recordings here come from 2014 to 2018, from Denmark and France. I have no idea if anything is 'done' with these recordings. Do I discuss this in terms of composition? Are they presented 'as is'? And if so, why release these pieces on a CD? What is the difference with those from the Open Recordings collection? Those are some of the questions I have with this. Twenty-five years I first heard about VLF recordings on the highly influential 'Electric Enigma: The VLF Recordings Of Stephen P. McGreevy', which was a blast back, and over the years, they off and on return to the musical spectrum of these pieces, though rarely so consistent as this one. As I said, I am enjoying myself playing this, even when I have some questions. All makes this quite an oddball release.(FdW)
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The common factor between all four CDs here is the presence of Jeff Kaiser. You are in for a surprise, no matter in which order you play them. My reasoning was as follows: let's start with the solo releases and then see how his music works in relation to working with others. Kaiser's main instruments are the trumpet and the flugelhorn, voice, pot lids, ball and chain, toy car and electronics. He has a thirty-minute piece of music on his two solo CDs, which are both not much along the lines of traditional improvisation. Kaiser playing the two wind instruments is only one part of the game, as much of this works with voices, weird sounds, and such, much of which the computer and electronics transform. Sampling of whatever comes his way is also a thing for Kaiser, even when not much sounds as easily crafted loops. In addition to all of this, noise plays an essential role in both pieces. And this time, noise is noise. Kaiser isn't too shy to add a healthy dose of distortion. At one point in 'Sitzfleisch I', it becomes almost Masonna's take on feedback, voice and rapid changing sounds. In both pieces, Kaiser has a similar ending, a milder take on things and traditionally using his wind instruments, but looped for atmospherical effect. I think this is all great stuff, highly varied and wondering how that works out when playing with other people.
    First, Kaiborg, a duo in which Jeff Kaiser plays quartertone trumpet and live computer processing and David Borgo, who plays "soprano saxophone, live computer processing, dudukophne, raj nplaim, double duct flute, skatchbox, chromatic tambin, futujara. The first two on all tracks, and the other instruments on one track (the first four of those in one track, 'Semioterial', the longest piece on this CD). They recorded the music in concert in February 2016, so it has been lying for a couple of years. Of course, to measure these improvisations with others with Kaiser's solo work does not justify the other player(s). It is not Kaiser solo plus guest. In Kaiborg, the noise element isn't as big as it is in solo work, but it is certainly a feature. Listening to their closing piece 'Heiranarchy', and you know what I mean. I like the balancing act they perform in their pieces, juggling between the 'real' instruments and the computer's real-time processing. It adds an electro-acoustic component to the music. Their not so ordinary playing expands with this processing. Sometimes it is all mellow (well, at least to a certain extent; in 'Deep-End-and-See' for instance) to very chaotic, with the computer taking control ('Materiotics'), from the melodic to the abstract, from quiet and contemplative to noise.
    Expanding Kaiborg with a drummer, Kjell Nordeson, they recorded two days in a studio in February 2020 and the day before that in concert. This time Borgo plays soprano saxophone, piccolo, futujara, Hne, Sneng, Double Whistle, Bamboo Saxophone, sylphyo with respiro and live computer processing. Kaiser, this time, plays the trumpet and live computer processing. Nordeson plays drums, percussion and vibraphone. With seventy minutes, this is the longest of the four releases and quite a stretch at that. I would think this is also the most traditional improvised music of these four releases. In the opening piece, 'Abductive', the saxophone sounds very much like a free jazz saxophone would sound like, and Nordeson's percussion follows suit. Not a bad piece of music, but not something for me. I think that the other three pieces are more interesting; more up my alley, as they say. Here, everything is a bit more abstract, at times sustaining and ambient; in other instances, wild and uncontrolled. In 'Noumenal', the music becomes introspective and quiet. Throughout, the three musicians are keen listeners, going for excellent interaction between each of them. The drums are not always wild, but Nordeson knows how to play sparsely, almost to the point of disappearing. I found playing the whole disc in one guy a bit too much, but in doing that in smaller parts a delightful release. (FdW)
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MSHR, Birch Cooper and Brennan Murphy have been experimenting with sound, sculpture, software, circuitry, and light for a decade. Their live shows are the stuff of legend, and their releases aren’t too shabby either. However, they are more immersive experiences than artefacts to listen to. There are times when I’ve played their music and enjoyed it but haven’t fully understood it until years later. Likewise, their latest album, ‘Liquid Conglomerate Presence Cycle’, feels like it could be another I enjoy now but don’t grasp what they’re on about until much later.
    The standout track is ‘Light Pulse Formation’. I’m taking back to being seven years or playing Arcadians on my Acorn Electron during it. Wave after wave of alien ships were coming for me. I have taken shelter under my bases, which got more and more decimated as the game went on. As the speed of the alien fleet increased, so did my pulse and their attacks. ‘Light Pulse Formation’ sounds like these games in real-time. Halfway through the track, I can feel the cramps start to form in my palm as I quickly more my ship from left to right, avoiding their shells and rapidly pressing fire for all I was worth. This is both nostalgic and nightmarish. I’m getting a good dose of “I loved being a kid” and “despite the lack of graphics, this game was intense AF!”. And this is what MSHR do. They present you with seemingly random sounds that trigger deep memories that you thought you’d forgotten and gotten over.
    At its heart, ‘Liquid Conglomerate Presence Cycle’ is an unapologetic album. The sounds, and tone, collected on it feel like they aren’t connected. It is just what happened to play when they were recording, but the music is much more than this. The songs are crafted in a way that makes sense once you have imparted your meaning to them, not theirs. It’s a brave album that gets better with each play. Finally, you find a difference in tone or which changes the reading of the music. Closing track ‘Liquid Map’ is unrelenting with its brutality. It punishes the listener with a barrage of noise and electronic bleeps after electronic bleeps. However, there is a fragility to it. Under the surface is are undulating melodies and calming tones. You just have to get past all the surface noise first. Once you do, you are listening to a very rewarding song and album. You just have to put the work in. Don’t try too hard, though, or you’ll get lost in the audio detritus. (NR)
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GIGALDI - AIRE (LP by Interstellar Records)
STIRB - SEGREGATION (10" by Interstellar Records)

From Austria's Interstellar Records, two new records and both are new names for me. Gigaldi is the solo project of Gigi Gratt. He plays guitar, bass, trumpet, flugelhorn, voice, piano, 'Preparations and electronic'. On one track, the side long 'Afrotopia', there are guestplayers, such as Magdalenka (vocals), Georg Schwantner (baritone sax), Bernhard Breur (drums, percussion), and Richie Herbst (synthesizer). The music here is a pleasant surprise, even when it is tough for me to make something sensible out of it. In the five songs on the A-side, he uses loops of instruments and his voice, which results in some crazy stuff. 'Freedom' has a great lyric, using the word 'free' in combination with something else 'fall', 'trade', 'willy' set against delicate dance beats. In 'ihom', he plays a moody piece, using guitar, and in the title piece, there are finely layered wind instruments - more on that in a bit. In 'Beding', there is a more rock-like atmosphere and radio drama that ends this strangely varied side. It is expressive music, pop maybe, in a weird way, but also poetic, especially in the way he delivers his lyrics. If that is a fire, then try 'Afrotopia', on the other side. An afrobeat goes on and on, straight for the close to seventeen minutes this piece lasts. Breur, who you may know from his work with Elektro Guzzi (a rock trio playing techno music), plays this steady rhythm as only he can do. On top of the rest of the group is in a rocky, funky free modus riffing about. Magadalenka inventing a new language, and it is the sax of Schwanter that steals the show here. He plays these majestic melodies supporting the vocals in a good call and response modus. There is a trance-like aspect to the music, and it is excellent. I would think it is also not something for these pages, but I played this piece on repeat four times in a row. What a fine musical blast at the end of a long day of difficult music.
    And on the format of doom, as someone once called the 10" record, we find music by Stirb, which is German for 'die!', the music project around Arnulf Rödler, the only constant member. He uses his music in art shows of his illustrative work. In 2018 Manes Duerr invited him to compose music for a short film 'The Ghost Of A Chance', for which Stirb used an amplified zither. He extended the two tracks for a separate release. Still, it took to early 2020 when he finally finished these pieces, which are now on 'Segregation'. Stirb also uses a highly distorted voice, field recording of slamming doors, leaden pipe organ, bass and "ultrasonic heartbeats". Interstellar Records describes Stirb's music as melting of harsh noise and ambient. Indeed, in the opening of 'Segregation I (Reporach)', a noise loop comes straight out of the noise playbook, but halfway through, guitars take over, and it all becomes gentle plucking ending on a slowed-down bass part. 'Segregation II (Disdain)' starts with a slow, steady beat (ultrasonic heartbeats?) in the best Pan Sonic tradition but milder. As the piece slowly unfolds, there is the slow unfolding of drone curtains. I would think these are the zither sounds melted into organ drones. It all ends in a heavily reverbed cascade of noise, with the heartbeat returning to make a final bow (blow?). I don't know about the filmic content here, but I'd say it is all pretty grim. (FdW)
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So far, the Dutch label Future Resistenza has unearthed some exciting releases from mainly, but not exclusively, electronic past (Tear Apart Tapes, Jacques van Erven or the more recent re-issue of Efrain Rozas). This time it is music from Belgium composer Fernard (not Ferdinand) Schirren. He was a composer, musician and rhythm teacher, playing music to silent films, and had never released a record in his life. This record has three soundtracks to short movies by Marc Lobet and Jean-Marie Buchet (who also provided liner notes), Benoit Lamy and Picha, and Edmond Bernhard. Images are missing here, and the text about 'Dimanche' is, at best, not entirely clear what this movie is about. That soundtrack takes up the entire first side of the record. All of this music is quite old (1963, 1959 and 1972), which shows how it sounds. Whoever did the re-master of these pieces didn't hide the fact that these are old tapes. The crackle and hiss of the old tape show through the music, and maybe that's why my first impression thought this was a record of musique concrète techniques. Upon closer listening, I realized this was a record about percussion, and Schirren doesn't use much in traditional rhythms/beats. In 'Dimanche', the percussion is played very atmospherically at the start and more dramatic as the piece evolves. Part of the music is what we now would call field recordings (maybe Schirren recorded outside?), with bird sounds. Schirren rattles kettles and cages towards the end, and by layering his sounds, it reaches a dramatic climax. In 'Masques', Schirren plays a more traditional drum set-up, and in the piece, the white noise is almost an additional voice. His playing is also more conventional, mainly using skins and no cymbals. In the two parts of 'Cartoon Circus', he plays the Jew harp, in itself also a rhythm instrument, and one could detect a cartoon-like play in these, even when I have no idea if the effect is meant to be similar to a circus. All of this made up quite an impressive record. (FdW)
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SION ORGON - DUST (mini LP by Lumberton Trading Company)

Ah, the long lost art of the mini-LP. Two or three songs per side, no longer a 12", not really an LP. I always loved that format in my youthful record buying years, as they were usually a bit cheaper than LPs. This one clocks in at almost the regular length of an LP; why not sell it like one? I reviewed two releases by Sion Orgon (Vital Weekly 859 and 993), which hardly makes me an expert on his music. He worked before with Thighpaulsandra, who is also on this record. Orgon is a multi-instrumentalist, playing various synth gear, drums, guitar, voices, piano, and bass guitar.  Next to that, Orgon has a few guests playing on his record. Tighpaulsanda is a prominent feature with electronics on three tracks, but also Claudio Gan (guitar, bass), Etien Hunter Davies (percussion, field recordings), Chey Orson Davies (synth, percussion) and label boss Richard Johnson appearing on vocals on the opening piece. I very much enjoyed the six songs on this mini-LP, but at the same time, I'm thinking: how close is it to the world Vital Weekly? Not really. Some of these songs are very catchy, such as 'Disintegration', with its hip hop rhythm (I am guessing here, by the way), with Orgon delivering some screaming vocals in the best early Meat Beat Manifesto tradition. Following that is the slow and dramatic spacious drones of 'The Mouth That Has No Face'. Opening here, 'Spat Out Like Dust' is one massive pile of rocks; big-time synths, layered voices, a drone and drums, picking up speed, following the synths. I can imagine fans of Coil might want to investigate this. Although knowing Orgon's connections with Coil, I am sure the diehard fans are already informed. This pop music of the darker variety, angst pop, might be a word you can apply to most of these pieces ('Head Bomb' is too much 'out there' to be called any pop music), and I am sure there is a market for this, way beyond the perhaps limited means of an independent label. I don't know if Sion Orgon is in the business of concerts, but he should be and get out there. I am sure it is a show that well I would want to see. (FdW)
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It is great to see some information on the cover of a record. It is a pity I can't read French, and retyping it in Google translate is a bit too much. Maybe the press text is a sort of translation? A split record without a clear A or B side. Both composers were asked to create instrumental music using "urban outdoor spaces". On one side, we find music by Sylvain Vanot, and I had not heard of him.  He made a stroll in the Butte Montmartre in Paris at dawn, armed with his portable recorder. Back home, he recorded musical improvisations on top of these field recordings. To that end, he uses guitar, e-bow, synthesizer and electronic percussion. He has five, quite different, field recordings, and that results in five quite different pieces. Two of these are pretty lengthy, 'Rue Ronsard' (no doubt with a fountain!) and 'Jardin Saint-Vincent'. He adds sparse guitar sounds, topped with a few electronics, and the latter receives a gorgeous organ sound. The other pieces are much shorter, and the music is of similar sparseness and improvisation. Much like a walk at dawn, I guess you have no idea what the day will bring and try out a few things. Mapping out the music is pretty much the same way as one would think about organising the coming day, slowly increasing activity. I loved the non-demanding character of this.
    On the other side, we find music by Pierre-Yves Macé, and from him I reviewed various works before, among which was 'Miniatures - Song Cycle' in Vital Weekly 857. The Ensemble Intercontemporain performs his works. His approach is different. His score is for trombone, horn, oboe and percussion and each of the performers play this at a different location in Paris. In the studio, these four recordings were mixed, and that allowed for some strange happenings. At least that's what the information says. Of course, even if you are a Parisian, you may not recognize that the percussion was recorded "sous la passerelle de la Défense". You hear the occasional ambulance or police car passing, but surprisingly there are not a lot of street sounds captured in recording these instruments. This could also be a piece of modern classical music, which uses occasional field recordings for all the innocent listener knows. None of this is easily defined as easy music, but I enjoyed it all the same, even when Vanot's side had my preference. (FdW)
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Here is another round of introductions. I had not heard of the label Greyfade before, nor of Jack Otto, the founder of the JACK Quartet. As a violinist, Otto performed works by Helmut Lachenmann, Georg Friedrich Haas, John Luther Adams, Philip Glass, and John Zorn. As a composer, he wants to connect mathematics with sound and uses Just Intonation because it is "the practice of tuning musical intervals to whole number ratios". I am quoting information from the label here, as the vocabulary of modern classical music is beyond me. One more lengthy quote, "Otto explains. “So in just intonation, an octave is a 2:1 ratio, rather than twelve half-steps as in standard twelve-tone equal temperament. Unlike irrational, equal-tempered intervals, these rational intervals, like 2:1 (octave) and 3:2 (pure fifth), create cycles that align periodically, which gives the intervals a feeling of stability and distinctiveness. The infinite number of intervals range from the simplest to the most complex.” The JACK Quartet performs the two parts of 'Rag'sma'. It does it three times, in which the third part is the 'live' part played along with the two previously recorded versions, and an understanding of the ideas behind it is not necessary to enjoy the music. At least, in my case, it isn't, as I enjoyed this a lot. One side is called 'Q1Q2Q3' and the other "Q1Q2', and I understand that the Q3 part is the part that they perform live over the pre-recorded parts, so that does that mean that the B-side of this record is one for adventurous string quartets to perform their version, but Otto feels it works just as well without Q3. Whatever the case, I immensely enjoyed these two pieces. The B-side is the stripped-down version of the A-side, but both pieces excel in drone music. The title of the piece is, I should think, an allusion to a raga, and these closely knit microtonal pieces form a great web of sound. The notes are close together and move at a slightly different speed, creating this hallucinatory effect on the listener. This music does not have the same massiveness as Phill Niblock, but I can see a resemblance with his composition 'Early Winter'. Slow and majestic, these overtones are slowly unveiled and covered up at the same time. This is a soundtrack for a quiet Sunday afternoon. (FdW)
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Another day, another record by Static Caravan, another introduction. Sometimes I wonder if a few musicians work together and crank out records under as many different names as they can think of behind the Static Caravan label. I can imagine someone saying, 'who's up for some psychedelic folk vibe from the 70s', but let's make it modern sounded with a few electronics?'. That is, of course, not the case, and Polyhymns is just a band/project which may have thought of that idea and recorded songs in that style. Two tracks on this heavy lathe cut record. 'Let Them Be Animals' has a lightweight rhythm and sunny electronics, with the vocals drenched with a bit of reverb, hazy and far away. I thought that this was the psychedelic element. On the flip is 'Down With The Kids', a more gentle guitar strumming set in a more rock group environment with bass and guitar and the voice receive much less of the good ol' reverb treatment. Electronics are cut as well but do not entirely disappear, so this is where the element of folk shines on. 'Down With The Kids', the title is repeated repeatedly towards the end, adding a hallucinatory effect to the music. Great one! Can I order an LP of this ray of sunlight? (FdW)
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While listening to ‘Fanfare for Tonsils’, you’d be forgiven for thinking it was a long lost Victor Banana album. Tim Hensley was the mastermind of that underrated, long-forgotten project from 1989-1993. Their brand of wonky pop about why surfing is easy, dance routines called the ‘Jalopy’ and riding on dinosaurs made their debut album ‘Split’ an absolute delight to some while being something very different to others. The same can be said for ‘Fanfare For Tonsils’.
    Opening with ‘In Frost Sandals’, the melodies just come at you. In waves. They are incredibly catchy. Vocally the band sounds like an upbeat David Thomas. ‘The Gulf Between Us’ has a classic soul bassline that the band whistle, croon, and generally try to distract us from. And this is the beauty of the album. It sometimes feels like Santa Sprees are so shocked by the beautiful basslines/melodies that they have to draw attention away from it but act like the class clown. This, of course, is why the album works so well. A conventional band would try and match the basslines/melodies with sincere lyrics and instrumentation. Santa Sprees are very capable of doing this, but for them, the fun comes from not. From subverting pop’s conventions and creating something far more interesting. ‘Know Your Place (In Hell)’ is just a cacophony of noise. Plinky-plonky piano, free jazz horns, atonal guitars and a falsetto vocal. It's jarring and removes us from the delightfully catchy opening. It reminds us that just because we know what Santa Sprees are about, we really don’t.
    ‘Fanfare for Tonsils’ sits in the middle of a Venn diagram featuring Pere Ubu, Victoria Banana, Beach Boys demos, a Grade 1 improvisation guitar lesson, The Cramps and a Casio keyboard on the demo setting. This, of course, is a good thing. The music is free in a way that makes you think of the best of outsider music. If this does turn out to be the last Santa Sprees album, then they’ve ended on a career-high. (NR)
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There is one big question to be answered here. If Vital Weekly only reviews material that is physical but sold out when I first heard about it, what is the point? I don't know. I know why I am reviewing this, and that is to say that it is good to hear some new music by Civyiu Kkliu. The last time his name popped in these pages was when I reviewed a work of his others (Scott Smallwood & Sawako & Seth Cluett & Ben Owen; see Vital Weekly 802). The last time I reviewed a solo work was in Vital Weekly 457. To be honest, I had not thought about him for a long time, but I reckon' such is life for a reviewer. I understand from Discogs that there has not been a new release for him in the intervening decade. He teams up with Matt Baczewski; I had not heard before and has no other releases than this one; again, according to Discogs.
    Back in the day, Civyiu Kkliu's sparse releases were both quiet and minimal. I would think that he uses white noise or perhaps amplified ultra magnetic sounds from resonant pick-ups. What Baczewski does, I have no idea. The cover gives no indication. I can imagine the sound being fed through a synthesizer. Maybe not. As said, there is very little development, but if you listen closely enough, you'll notice there is. You have plenty of time to figure that out, as the release is ninety minutes long. I believe such a long cassette is quite a rare thing for this label. I preferred the A-side, which is called 'TR 16 12 18') over the slightly more hiss covered B-side, 'TR 6 7 18 21'; I am sure that reflects the recording dates. The first side has a slow electronic edge, whereas the other side is the amplified field recording of a rusty object in some distant wind setting. All of this is very contemplative music; you can enjoy or ignore it, just as Brian Eno wanted ambient music to be. The music of Kkliu and Baczewski is quite the extreme version of that. (FdW)
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JOSEPH NECHVATAL - SELECTED SOUND WORKS (1981-2021) (cassette by Pentiments Records)

Now, here we have a name that has been around for forty years, and I am sure I heard some of his music back in the old cassette days, and I reviewed a CD of his in Vital Weekly 577). He is both a composer of computer music and a visual artist. As I say, I am sure I picked up some of his music from the odd compilation cassettes, but it is not enough to say something sensible about it. His work in computer programming leads in the nineties to the 'Computer Virus Projects', about "data manipulation, data corruption and cellular automata". This cassette is a selection of works, thirty-eighth spanning a good hour of music, from the past forty years. Because many of these pieces are short, it is tough to figure what is what; it is that one big disappointment of the cassette release. You quickly lose your way here. The only certainty you have is that the pieces are in chronological order. Nechvatal was most active in the 80s and didn't easily set upon a single sort of music. Much in the free spirit of those days, he tries out many different ideas and sounds. One thing that returns all the time is the recycling of voices, lifting this left and right from sources such as TV and radio, which gives many of these songs a plunderphonics feeling, along with sampled beats and shouts. Nechvatal mixes these pieces with more musical approaches of organ drones. What makes this anthology in chronological order is also interesting is that we get to follow his technological career. From experiments involving tape cut-ups and so on, there are slowly computerized voices, from their early days sounding not very human, and later on, gaining a delicate character. There are quite a few variations to be noted in Nechvatal's work and, certainly for myself, a much-needed introduction. (FdW)
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