number 1315
week 51

Vital Weekly, the webcast: we offer a weekly webcast, freely to download. This can be regarded as the audio-supplement to Vital Weekly. Presented as a radioprogramm with excerpts of just some of the releases reviewed. It will remain on the site for a limited period (most likely 2-4 weeks). Download the file to your MP3 player and enjoy!
complete tracklist here:

Listen to the podcast on Mixcloud!

RLW - TUNNEL (CD by Sonoris) *
MATTHIJS KOUW & PHIL MAGUIRE - ISOMETRY (2CD by Verz Imprint/Clinamen) *
MANUEL MOTA - CIRRUS (CD by Headlights) *
XFNX - EX NIHILIO (CDR by Attenuation Circuit) *
WARM HOLIDAY WISHES (CDR compilation by Zaftig Research)
FORMALDEHYDRA - VOLUME 5 (CDR by Love Earth Music) *
LE CHIEN NU – II (CDR by Love Earth Music) *
DANIEL CRAIG - MEMORY GARDEN (cassette by Econore) *
BRUNO DUPLANT + JULIEN HERAUD - D’EUX (cassette by Grisaille) *
MONOLOGUE - MOVIMENTO (cassette by Grisaille) *
MOT - STIGMA (cassette by Grisaille) *
LICHT-UNG - YELLOW YELLOW WEATHER (cassette by Grisaille) *

RLW - TUNNEL (CD by Sonoris)

It may seem like Ralf Wehowsky, also known as RLW, is not as active these days for reasons I am not fully aware of, but now and then, there is a new release. For 'Tunnel', he uses sound material supplied by Annette Krebs. We know her for her work as a composer, instrument builder and guitarist, but none of that she does here. All that Krebs uses here is her voice. Throughout the fifty two-minutes, this release lasts, almost none of that can be recognised as such. Well, maybe some of it, that's only after one studied the cover, but these voice fragments will be apparent if you close enough. Two pieces, the first and the last, only use electronic transformations of her voice, two juxtapose instrumental sounds, and in the middle, we find a combination of all of this. Ever since splitting from P16.D4, RLW's highly influential group in the 80s, he explores the roads of musique concrète from a strictly non-academic perspective. Or, perhaps, we could say that he set his rules when it comes to composition by now. In RLW's music, the computer plays a big role, and 'Tunnel' is not different. It is not only a tool to process sounds via plugins, but it starts already with organising sounds. Where to place them, how to cut them, what arrangements to be made. This start offers many possibilities, and then the rest has to start. The manipulations, the treatments, further arranging and balancing. I am sure I am not telling anything new (believing many readers dabble in music), but I am saying this to express my amazement at the work of RLW. He's a master in this field. His musical approach is to create a collage of sound, short and longer events, fading slowly or rapidly, whatever goes, but in each of these five pieces, there is a story told, and each story is most enjoyable. At times, the music is quiet and reminds me of the current silent approach taken by Asmus Tietchens. RLW's music throughout is wilder, with more changes and the occasional loud approach, bruitiste indeed. Throughout an excellent CD! (FdW)
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RICHTER SCALE - A Ripple on the Richter Scale Parts 1 & 2 (2CD by Ultra Mail Prod.)

RS is a side project of the Legendary Pink Dots. The two mainstays are Edward Ka'Spel (of course) and Michel Leroy, a Chilean musician who has built an impressive track record over the past twenty years. Here he mainly plays the piano with Ka'Spel adding the soundscapes and only occasional voice. Part one of this release is a re-release of a live recording made in Chile in Nov. 2008 and released via Leroy's own label, Templo Sagital, and Beta-Lactam Ring as a cassette in 2014. Also playing are The Silverman and Stret Majest, along with two other musicians formerly of Leroy's main group, Un Festin Sagital. The result is a more chaotic and soundscape-based version of the Dots, practically minus all vocals.
    The second part (CD) finds us with Leroy and Ka'Spel alone. Four pieces mainly based on the piano, adding Ka'Spel's electronics, and some voice sound-bites (fittingly, an 'I am going mad' loop ...), this is a more tender and atmospheric version of what we heard on the first CD.
With 46 + 33 minutes, this is a rather short release for a double CD. Definitely, it adds to the LPD universe and the 'Chilean branch' brings in new sounds and approaches, taking us back to the sonic mayhem of some of the early LPD cassette releases. It's nice to see that the original was released on MC, too, very appropriate. But that also limits/limited its spread. A wider re-release was well justified, although this one also only yields 120 copies. (RSW)
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So far, it has been a quiet year for Matthijs Kouw, with, I believe, two releases. Many of the releases by Phil Maguire and his Verz Imprint label don't seem to make it to these pages. Maguire and Kouw worked together on long-form pieces of drone music, and both take credit for the use of 'synthesizer', by which I believe we should understand a modular one and not some digital keyboard thing. I have no idea how they recorded these pieces. I am pretty sure that they didn't sit together to do this. However, the odd thing is that it sounds like it could have been they did. Whatever the point of departure, the music sounds very organic. Much like the images on the cover by architect Herman Hertzberger, the music here deals with space. At least that's how I hear the music. It seems as if the door to the synthesizer is wide open, and the room is empty, but the modules capture the emptiness, and it becomes a different life. Imagine listening to a vacant building with all the machines on. There is no human interaction whatsoever, yet the air is tangible of change. Throughout these pieces, nothing stays the same, but it all follows a prolonged curve. Such is the nature of much of either gentleman's work, but they perfected this trade over the years. Each of the four pieces paints a picture of one colour changing into the same colour but then slightly different shades, textures, or surfaces. This is best exemplified in the 'Instituut', which is the longest at forty-two minutes and with the most variation. Imagine all of these pieces having such a length, and what effect would they have on your perception of time and space. The music is a bit distant here, filling up space and moods if you want, and for me, that works perfectly well. (FdW)
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Claudio Milano is the mastermind behind this project, which was recorded over five years from Summer 2014 to Summer 2019. It is an album about 'overcoming anger'. A voyage through a huge variety of musical styles to tell a story of fear and aggression. "I wanted to express the alteration of perception that an individual can have of sound while a truck hits him".
    I am not sure I find this in the music, but it certainly is a bold statement. I do not know much Italian, and - as the lyrics are in Italian - a lot of the intention is lost on me. There seems to be a translation available, though. The story, it is said, is about the fragility of human life in view of a multitude of threats, the homeless fearing for theft of their bare necessities, refugees fearing for their lives on the Mediterranean etc. Maybe the 'Leitmotiv' refers to overcoming the anger about these (pointless) things? I am not sure. So what would you turn it into?
    A 'rock opera'? This might be a bit too short. Instead, we go on an epic journey through sound that reminds us of Dario Fo, of Italian prog-rock and jazz-rock bands, of Legendary Pink Dots, and in places develops into a theatre play. Milano has involved many musicians and actors (the credit list is a full page) and spent no second thinking in any musical categories. Though 'rock opera' might suit best, 'rock' hardly surfaces at all. The music cites all kinds of influences, from a capella and chanson to jazz improvisations and classical instrumentation, to field recordings and ambient electric drones. Maybe this is not the typical Vital release, but the variety of musical styles and the crazy mixture make it a really enjoyable listen. (RSW)
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MANUEL MOTA - CIRRUS (CD by Headlights)

Headlights is a label run by Manual Mota, the Portuguese guitar player. Many of his releases contain his music, but there is always attention for other guitar players. Oddly enough, as far as I know, the releases are always around thirty-five minutes in duration. Ernesto Diaz-Infante is no stranger to these pages, and he played his electric guitar "Next Door To The Jefferson Airplane Studios" in San Francisco, which, I think, is a great name for a studio. If not just his private recording place! Except for the last piece, which is over six minutes, the majority is three minutes long, and Diaz-Infante plays carefully constructed tunes. The music calls for contemplation, so I believe, but that doesn't mean it is all quiet and silent. He adds a bit of reverb to the guitar in some of these pieces, making them sound brighter and sharper, but moody it still is. Most of the time, the guitar sounds like the guitar, but Diz-Infante also has a few tricks up his sleeve when it comes to playing something different, such as the beautiful drone-like sounds in 'V'. That piece could (no! should) last longer than the three minutes and twenty-two seconds. He has a more conventional strum going in other pieces, opting for a microtonal approach, ringing and sustaining. These nine pieces of improvised guitar music act as a showcase of the man's great talent for playing improvised music. From the more conventional improvisation to the use of objects and a fine, almost psychedelic use of effects (must be the inspiration from the neighbours), of delay, chorus, flangers, phasers and whatnot, he uses to great effect (pun intended). They are not 'on' all the time, but they colour the music nicely.
    Manual Mota's new release has five pieces for electric guitar. No titles, not even numbers. The way Mota handles the guitar is quite different from Diaz-Infante. Mota plays introspective music, but his version is quiet, leaving small spaces between the notes. I think I might have called Mota's music 'blues' before, and if not, then I say it now. Mota's music to me is blues music, at least what I think blues music is. Music of desolation and solitude. Music that goes straight to the soul. The guitar gets a gentle treatment, and notes are played with a light touch. It is almost as if Mota doesn't want to play the guitar. Plucking a string, let it hang for a bit, and then another one. The reverb is the only effect Mota uses, and that too adds to the somewhat dark and moody atmosphere of the music. It fills up the space the guitar notes leave behind, but it also details the desolate character of the music further. Unlike Diaz-Infante, Mota keeps his material together, and as such, this CD is not a display of various talents or techniques but one picture of one strong talent. Manual Mota does his thing, and he does a great job. This new CD is not his best, but it is in a long line of excellent releases. (FdW)
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Let me start with a point of critique; two of three new releases from Belgium's New wave Of Jazz are too long. One is seventy and the other close to eighty minutes. I am aware that there is no need to play a CD in its entirety, and one can play a piece a day and return another day for another. That is, however, not how I listen to music. Old-school as I am, I play an album in one go, and with difficult music, such as this label releases, this is no easy fate. First off, there is a duo of Tom Jackson )clarinet) and Colin Webster (alto and baritone saxophones). The six pieces (this is the seventy-minute disc!) were recorded in a single day in February of this year. Their respective approaches to their instruments make them recognizable as clarinet and saxophones (the liner notes tell us about extended techniques, but maybe I have a different idea about those?). There are no other techniques than blowing wind down pipes, which I don't mean in any defamatory way. The music here is from the world of die-hard improvisation, which I occasionally like and sometimes not at all. The interaction between these players is great, and most of the time, there seems to be a call and response game between the two. Sometimes there is no dialogue, and it turns into a 'fighting' match, with crazy, hectic bending of instruments, stumbling and falling. I enjoyed this disc, but in all honesty, I must admit this is a review I didn't write after one long listening session. After the first three pieces (half the disc), I went away from it and returned later for the last three. Even in finalizing the thoughts about this, I had this duality of enjoying but only in a small dose.
    'Melancholia' is, perhaps, a somewhat misleading title for the duet of John Edward (double bass) and label boss Dirk Serries (acoustic guitar). One might expect some sad music, a soft thud on the bass, a few strums on the acoustic guitar, but it is clear that these men deal with a different kind of melancholia right from the start. In the two pieces (forty-four minutes), I think there is a mutual agreement between the two to work along dynamic lines. They cut out the middle ground, it seems. The music is loud or quiet, explosive or controlled. Maybe, not 'or' buy 'and'. In their explosiveness, the music seems to have control anyway, almost as if they agreed upon certain things, and I am (also?) sure they didn't do this. There is chaos, nervousness, and hecticness throughout, even in the quietest of moments. The liner notes (again!) mention 'playfulness', which is not something I took from the music. Unrest and immediacy would be my keywords to the music. Maybe it is playful, but it might be different playing. There is an interesting tension between these players, which one hears in the music (well, I do), and that tension works for me very well. Certainly, some of this has to do with the music being very upfront and direct (just as with Jackson/Webster release), which makes an escape not really possible. You can only sit back and listen and don't do much else. I guess that's what good music should do (and yes, I know music can be used in many different ways also)
    The final release is the longest one and also the most abstract one. Thanks to Anton Mobin and his 'prepared chamber', a wooden box with strings, objects, and amplification. An instrument not unlike Tore H. Boe's 'acoustic laptop'. It is also an instrument for which we don't know what it will sound like, unlike the piano, played by Martina Verhoeven, even when she plays the piano less traditionally; techniques that go back to John Cage and his prepared piano. Verhoeven divides her attention to both the keys and the inside of the piano. In the prepared chamber of Mobin, all sorts of sounds are possible. Strings plucked, bowed or thumbed, and maybe there is also a bit of vinyl that he hand spins. Combining these two instruments brings out some wonderful music all over the place. Improvisation is, of course, one thing, a fixed point for departure, but the two also show, at times, some form of repetition that see them repeatedly bang their instruments for a while. That might seem das verboten in the world of free improvisation, but it works well within their 'anything goes' approach. For minutes on end, there is a total abstraction going on, but Verhoeven returns to the keyboard and reminds us that this is the piano. Within those wide apart boundaries, this music happens. There are two pieces here, 'Cure' and 'Mound', of which the first is almost forty-seven minutes. I thought that was more than enough, as in that time frame, they explored so many ideas that it seemed complicated to top that. And as such, 'Mound' seems a continuation of ideas for them, a further exploration of what we already know, and this indeed is one of the discs that is the best split in two different listening sessions. Each piece is great, that much is sure, but together is too big of a plate to eat at once. (FdW)
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XFNX - EX NIHILIO (CDR by Attenuation Circuit)

These days may seem to have a flurry of Doc Wör Mirran releases going on, for reasons I may not be fully aware of. Another thing I was wondering about is that sometimes these releases say 'feat Sascha Stadlmeier', and now it says 'feat EMERGE', which is the music project of Stadlmeier. Why the distinction, I wondered. From the music this may not be that clear. Working with sounds from other people, not physically present in the Two Car Garage Studios, is something Doc Wör Mirran has done for a long time, and sounds are recycled all the time. So to see them release something with music provided by Conrad Schnitzler, who passed away ten years ago, is not a strange thing. The rest of the cast is small. Founder Joseph B. Raimond is, as always, present, and Michael Wurzer, Stefan Schweiger and Ralf Lexis. The latter being a trio of keyboards, drums and guitar (if I remember correctly from that one afternoon in the Garage). This new album one can see as the extension/recycling of 'Diasper Part 1 To 12' (Vital Weekly 1293), using the old material, adding and substracting sounds, making new configurations. The music has a more electronic feeling than some other music by this hybrid band. Still, there is quite an amount of variation within that massive realm of electronics to be noted. From the light sounding opening piece to the dark closing piece, the mood keeps changing here all around, dark and minimalist to abundant, trippy, at times slightly over the top. All of the latter in good krautrock spirit, of course. I enjoyed the previous release a lot. This new one is, quality-wise, on par with that one.
    Who is behind XFnX? I don't know! I am not sure if it is supposed to be a mystery, but there is no name. The was a tour in 2018, titled 'Loosing Shelter', and in 2019 the 'Alchemical Mystery Tour'. Recordings from those tours found their way into 'Ex Nihilio' music. That title seems to imply that the music comes 'out of nothing', but that is not true then, isn't it? A "pedal tweaked analogue drum machine", and a "bass guitar tweaked analogue synth"; that is the set-up here. Sometimes I believe Vital Weekly will be more and more a place for improvisation and modern composition, which I would very much regret if that happens, but a release such as things makes me think differently. It is not that I am a massive fan of this kind of music, but the bluntness of the music here is quite refreshing. The beats are harsh and loud, the bass is muddy and dark, hoovering closely over the earth's surface, while the beats are like torrential rain. Or like a whip cracking. Industrial music, department harsh sounds. XFnX's music sounds like a direction that Esplendor Geometrico didn't take, especially the addition of bass guitar seems like an interesting addition. The music is very minimal, relentless, and best enjoyed at full volume throughout. Sometimes the music goes off the rails completely, and a rather straightforward noise remains, but somehow NFnX reloads his guns while going full speed ahead and starts firing properly again. Techno meets industrial meets postpunk. (FdW)
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'Personality Chrysler' is sort of a split/collaboration between Toshiji Mikawa (who needs no introduction) and Victoria Shen (Sound Artist who currently teaches at Harvard University and the School of Visual Arts NY.) The collaboration has two opening tracks of solo work,  Mikawa and Shen respectively, followed by three collaboration tracks. Mikawa's 'Won't Go Home During Bon Vacation Because Of Ascite' is a garbled mix of sounds that sounds much like ambient sounds of a city at low volume. On closer listening amidst the ambient rumble are high pitch noises, whistles almost. This sound texture of rumble and squeak is uniform across the eight minutes. 'Arbeiter Ll' follows, again eight minutes (& 41 seconds). It begins with another rumble with added artefacts of static glitches. Here, the piece transforms these sound textures. Unlike the former, it is sonically and in terms of volume more dynamic, sections having buzzing rhythms and throbs. The overall 'pace' of both these tracks being moderate makes them more akin to 'experimental music', which pre-dates the violence of noise, or similar to stuff of the 1980s?  'Duo, Live At Club Goodman Tokyo 2019' has similarities with both throbbing sounds and what could be free jazz sax. (The whole piece could be extreme free jazz) Between 11 and 12 minutes, the volume increases briefly for about 12 seconds is a bass feedback drone that obscures the improv electronics, but after the 12 seconds, the piece returns more or less to what it was before. 'It Should Be Renamed' is a complete change, begins with a monolithic of high pitched repeating glitches giving a definite beat. Distorted stabs of electronics... the pace slow and rhythmic, with occasional louder lowish oscillator sounds. Halfway, the beat becomes less prominent at about four minutes as the distortion – already heavy at the beginning intensifies, with more rapid oscillator sounds. And this is continuous in intensity until the end such that the last-minute brings the speed and intensity associated with 'classic' harsh noise. 'Lick Of Sense' uses reverb and metallic rattlings and synth bursts, again more intense than the more muddy first three tracks. Although this is nowhere as intense as the last minute of 'It Should Be Renamed', it is modulated, so the sound is sometimes very 'soft'. Spoken audio at 3 minutes, “more”, “more”, “more”... The website of Victoria Shen ( mentions an interest in sexuality, violence... though related to video, here is an attempt at sonic equivalent. For me, the literalism of voice and metallic noise is far too literal. The problem in and with noise from some 40 years on is not a novelty, and it is more to “sticking to one's guns”. Noise is gestural, violent, violent sound, noise, distortion, over loudness, speed, and chaos, which is more visceral than intellectual. One doesn't listen to the noise and is subjected to its shock. To ignore this is like subjecting abstract expressionist techniques in painting to painting by numbers. The human psyche does get bored of repetitions, but never of being shocked by the loudness of a thunderstorm or explosion, as these affect the human and animal at a precognitive, pre musical level.  Unfortunately, we only had about a minute of this noise qua noise in this release, obviously in my opinion. (jliat)
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WARM HOLIDAY WISHES (CDR compilation by Zaftig Research)

The older I get, the quicker days pass. No matter how much music I play every day or how many words I commit to them, whoops, another year passed. Maybe an anchor point in that respect are things to do this time of the year; putting out the Christmas tree, sending the cards for the organisation I volunteer and, oh, waiting for another Zaftig compilation. I am not sure if Zaftig does other releases; I only hear from them this time of the year. I am not really a  family man, nor especially a Christmas sort of person. I can treat it like any other day with no newspaper in the morning. However, I may play one alternative Christmas related album, usually the compilation from Les Disques Du Crepuscule. Although I love compilations such as this, I may not play them on Christmas day. I tend to make that the day without Vital Weekly. I love the fact that a label puts out a very alternative Christmas compilation, even when many of the pieces are not festive. Well, not that obvious. Orange shakes the bells and recites a poem/text. It is usually more rooted in the title of a piece, such as 'Lovecraft's Chrismastide', 'Workin' For Scrooge In The Time If Covid-19' (computer voices from the supermarket? Is it a comment on consumerism?), or just 'Jingle Bells'. Some of these are quite the noise pieces, certainly towards the end. But the music is a bit more varied, but not as much as the previous one if I remember correctly. This compilation also introduces a few names, also a positive thing for a compilation. Music is served by Praying For Oblivion, Wilt, C/A/T/, Conure, Narishkeyt, Orange, Various Artists, Platonoff, Stolen Light, This Is What I Hear When You Talk (best name in some time!), Mickey SOMAus, Goose and Fial, who has the best song title, 'I'm Sorry But I Refuse To Participate In This Compilation Until I Get A Full Report Outlining Santa's Political Affiliations And Leanings'. I was wondering about that too! (FdW)
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FORMALDEHYDRA - VOLUME 5 (CDR by Love Earth Music)
LE CHIEN NU – II (CDR by Love Earth Music)

Almost zero information on these two releases and those responsible for them. Formaldehydra has a Bandcamp page, and a mention in Discogs, but even here nothing other than release material. Le Chien Nu gives less information than Formaldehydra, Formaldehydra gives information about Formaldehyde,  Le Chien Nu lots of pages in French with pictures of dogs. Once releases came with information, or web pages or even blogs. But now and not here, the context of who, why, what and how are guesswork. Formaldehydra's tracks are '6319', 'Pre-INC Lumpytunes 2020 (live On WSLR)', '200112_0404', 'Live At Nullis Pretii'. (I guess WSLR is a local radio station, and from fishing around, it seems from Sarasota – a city in Florida?) Meanwhile, the new dog's tracks are 'Isolation Era Psychic Tectonics', 'A Dream On Self-Immolation', 'Plasma Field Recalcification' and 'Flames Lick The Tears From My Face'. '6319' four plus minutes of continuous drone with some overtones @ 1 minute created from what I guess is two oscillators phasing in and out of sync. 'Pre-INC Lumpytunes 2020' is ten and a  half minutes - sounds of explosive roars of white noise with reverb? There are some random variations in the occurrences of explosives and frequencies, the roars rise and fall suggesting some 'natural' source. ' 2 or more glitches @ 5 minutes? But apart from that fairly consistent rumble crash and roar. '200112_0404' appears to be a cousin of 'Pre-INC...’ but with less boom and roar, the sounds now shrouded in echo. A slight beat appears just over a minute in, and muffled speech? And a harsher bit of static. Halfway at 4 minutes higher static – almost pitched, some stuttering static and then it's over. 'Live At Nullis Pretii' we have an oscillator drone, and what appears some metal bashing, a vocal? Metal scrapping... reverb and echo at times, one pictures a dark space with strobe lights and figures fumbling in the dark, whilst others, the audience, are glimpsed in shadows holding beer bottles and/or iphones. Like the other tracks, this is S L O W if not evolving, then changing percussion noises. Halfway at seven minutes the drone has gone; there is a high pitched sound and lots of fumbling, which is echoed or more likely looped. At ten minutes is someone speaking about trivial pursuits – from some broadcast though this only for a minute or so, and some plucking and scrapping, some horn music? Fairground – film music, so a sampler or radio. Then some more shuffling? And pop music completes the piece. So? what to make of this, without context – nothing. There seems no theme other than a superficial avant-gardism of 40 – 50 years ago. 'Isolation Era Psychic Tectonics', first from the new dog, is a bricolage of noises and vocalisms, shuddering electronica. The sounds rise and fall of staccato blips and white noise from this beginning. 'A Dream On Self-Immolation' begins with a very deep rumble – echo and reverb and a high-pitched whistle. The rumble groans and distant moans and stutters, with what appears vocal moaning, all very cinematic kitsch soaked in reverb. Given the title, I’d say, far too obvious. 'Plasma Field Recalcification' begins with violent feedback, a chop up similar to the first track, if not a little more animated. A fair amount of vocal screaming and electronic multi-textured stuttering make for interesting listening. Screaming feedback at 7 minutes, a few high pitched sequels, then back to the former motif, the whole piece ends in feedback and mayhem. 'Flames Lick The Tears From My Face' begins with deep drones and rumbles, statics and maybe vocals. The heavy reverb and echo have a smoothing effect not found in the previous piece and so generally lacks the feeing of speed, aggression and even fear in the original performances of the likes of Hanatarash, and that is what these pieces – if we are to be honest – must have as originating genius. Just what to do with such references for the contemporary artist working with noise is obviously difficult, but the problem remains. It is almost as if too much thought and maybe, heaven forbid planning and aims, is now what separates these works from their progenitors. (jliat)
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When listening to the start of ‘The Pigs Everywhere,’ a smile crept across my face. It's pretty harsh in places but not unlistenable. Under the skittering white noise, there is a deep melody. It isn’t technically a baseline; however, I’m considering it one in this instance. Around half what Pain Chain’s vocals emerge from the gloaming. They are reverb-heavy and almost undecipherable but add a nice next texture to the song. ‘Breath of My Breath / Blood of My Blood’ follows in the same mould. The music is more disconcerting though. Something twitching is going on under the surface that makes it slightly uncomfortable.
    If Pain Chain was all about textures and tone, Idol Brain is all about melody and rhythm. ‘Apophenia Waves’ consists of a series of melodies, and a baseline, that repeat throughout. It's surprisingly catchy, in a way I wasn’t expecting. It's also very 1980s sounding. ‘Upside Down Pyramid Head’ features vocals. These are mostly the title and falsetto. It doesn’t really go with the dank electro backing track. Which is a shame as the music is really fun, and an instrumental would have been great.
    Overall, ‘Soul on Fire’ is a success. The music is clever but not overly intricate. The styles of music complement each other. There are enough differences, so it doesn’t all sound the same, but a theme runs through everything that means neither artist is jarring against the other. The downside to ‘Soul on Fire’ is that there are only two Pain Chain tracks. I would have loved another one or two, but less is more. And in this case, I definitely want more. I would also have liked the ‘Soul on Fire’ to have ended with a collaborative track. On a recent Knifedoutofexistence and Cremation Lily split the whole of the cassette’s second side was a piece of music that Knifed and Lily wrote together. It’s incredible and shows how each artist’s style is adaptable. It would have been nice to have seen something similar here. I have no real idea what a Pain Chain and Idol Brain song would sound like, which makes me want it more. (NR)
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The title says it all, but not quite. Jacken recorded the sound of making her own mountain banjo in the winter of 2019/2020.  The mountain banjo has no metal elements other than perhaps the tuning pegs. This means that the sound of a mountain banjo has a more rounded, 'sottovoce' quality. After making field recordings in the garden during breaks, she mixed the two different sound sources and added electronic effects to lay a foundation for a record. She then got familiar with her banjo, trying several techniques, including bowing the strings. She only recorded improvisations while listening to the basic tracks she made beforehand. And two traditionals are thrown in to showcase the folkloristic history of the instrument. This record is a fine example of what's possible combining the sounds of manufacturing an instrument and playing the said instrument from start to finish. There's a nice flow in each track and a build-up. Tentative strumming in the first track, strings are picked, no chords are formed in the beginning, later on, there are chords, but only fleetingly. The second one has chords but is probingly underlined with sawing sounds and electronically altered mutations of them - or bowed strings? but my guess would be the former -. Field recordings that fade in and fade out at the end of the track bookend the beginning of a picked melody. Next up is the first traditional. The second half has the same build-up but with extended techniques such as bowing on the strings. The field recordings are a bit more heavily manipulated. This is relaxing music with attention to detail: the stereo image of all the different sound sources is well-thought-out. Quite the journey from the set up mixed with the soothing sounds of Jackens improvisational playing coupled with the two traditionals. (MDS)
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DANIEL CRAIG - MEMORY GARDEN (cassette by Econore)

Of course, I should dispense with any jokes about the name of this musician, whose work is new to me. He only had one previous release on Germany's Econore label, which I didn't hear. The eighteen tracks here span some thirty-seven minutes, and it got a somewhat cryptic description on Bandcamp: "A collection of fragmentary pieces that attempt to allude to the wax and wane of memory. The half-forgotten traces that blossom into entirely new plants.The dead memories that return to the soil, joining once more those who cease to be remembered." You could go anywhere with that, I suppose. You might not be surprised to learn that there are no instruments or sound sources mentioned anywhere, and the music doesn't give that many clues. I am bound to go with the usual suspects of field recordings, lo-fi electronics, near-broken tape recordings or Dictaphones, plundering sounds from TV and radio. Also, I think turntables play an important role. The result stays out of the areas of drone music or anything sustaining. Craig's compositions are more likely from the world of musique concrète, but then from a much more lo-fi approach. The music here is not dense or complex, nor does it jump around between various sources or manipulations, but in each of these pieces, there are a few sounds, and unconnected events now find a connection. With some TV in the background, the rumble of acoustic objects records being handspun, or cassette loops hand-manipulated. It is all non-invasive but at the same time not very ambient either, which I thought made it sound like a faded photo from a long time ago. I found this quite a lovely, original take on the whole notion of lo-fi music, now working from a slightly different angle. (FdW)
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BRUNO DUPLANT + JULIEN HERAUD - D’EUX (cassette by Grisaille)
Gertrude Stein! From long ago, almost forgotten, but there are still people who keep her memory alive. Such as Bruno Duplant and Julien Heraud, who released two songs on cassette, each about fifteen minutes long, brought together on the album D'eux. First a refresher: Gertrude Stein was an American writer who lived in Paris from 1903 until she died in 1946 and was important to the art and literature of her time, not only through her own work but also through an artistic, literary salon. A high-profile centrepiece for the avant-garde, so to speak. At D'eux texts by Gertrude Stein are read in French, with in the background something like an audience chattering with each other at the opening of an exhibition and shuffling with chairs and the like. It could be a statement. Something similar is more or less repeated in the second track, but Duplant and Heraud go over it with dark sounding drones and all kinds of apparently haphazardly chosen sounds. At number 1, the spoken word dominates. At number 2 the electronics do. Very artistic and also quite meditative, on the Grisaille label with a sleek and always recognizable design of the cassette. (AvS)
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The history of millions of years can simply be seen in your surroundings. Like many of us, Cole Peters went for a walk during the lockdowns, but he went into that a little more deeply than most people who just walk around. He got into deep time, which describes the history and processes of the earth at geologic timescales. And then you're not talking about a hundred years or so, but millions, even billions. And we are somewhere in between, less than a grain of sand or a minuscule speck of dust. Something like this shows how small you are; it humbles you and makes you feel the magnificence of our environment deep down in your fibres. Peters became more aware of the trees, rocks and industry around him and started recording the sounds that he encountered. The six masterly tracks do full justice to what surrounds us, and that for many centuries. Sure, it sounds like industrial noises, but you can also imagine that these are the sounds of enormous natural processes that have always taken place spread over the time that the earth has existed. That such a thing doesn't necessarily have to lead to much sonic violence is shown by the fifth track, which is almost inaudible at first and gradually gets populated by insects. After all, those creatures have been here for a while... Music to think about, perhaps this cassette should be included with every vaccination. (AvS)
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MONOLOGUE - MOVIMENTO (cassette by Grisaille)
MOT - STIGMA (cassette by Grisaille)
LICHT-UNG - YELLOW YELLOW WEATHER (cassette by Grisaille)

For this trio of new releases by Germany's Grisaille label, it is a matter of all new names, which might seem strange in the case of Licht-ung. I know Licht-ung primarily as a label of the same name, and I may have heard some of his music, but it is all buried deep in my memory. Let's start with music by MonoLogue, "aka Marie Rose aka Moon RA aka Marie e le Rose", who recorded the two twelve-minute tracks at PynkLab StudioS and AmanitaConceptualResearch Labs. There are no instruments listed, but I would think MonoLogue uses a fair bit of modular synthesizers and also some voice material, which she, at one point, uses quite extensively (the last four minutes of 'MOVIMENTO I'). That part is also one of the few moments in which the sound is continuously present, as in the rest of the music she works mainly in a more collage-like approach. I would think she feeds sounds into these machines, and we no longer recognize these sounds, cut short as they are. They might be field recordings, and they might be instruments. The music is an excellent example of musique concrète. The way these compositions are crafted shows a refined sense of composition, working with silence and placing sound and silence against each other, creating an excellent interaction there. Some of this reminded me of the earliest works of Jos Smolders, with crackles, statics, hums, and samples resulting in pieces that would not be out of place in the world of serious composing. At twenty-five minutes, this is way too short! Let's hope there will be more of this from her real soon.
    On the other side of the musical spectrum, we find MOT, also known as Paul van Trigt. Bandcamp says, "Recorded January 2021 in Victoria 2021, BC by Paul van Trigt", which I am not sure if that means he is from Victoria, BC? Oddly enough, his music is mono! Of the music, we learn that Van Trigt uses "Improvised tape loops, amplified objects, vessel flute, voice and broken electronics". Also one piece per side, now just under ten minutes. The loop aspect of the music plays the central here. MOT uses primarily short ones, and for the vessel flute and voice, we have to take his word for it that these are used; I couldn't hear it. But surely objects amplified and electronics are broken, that much I would think is sure here. Whereas MonoLogue is all about refinement and composition, improvisation and action with MOT. The music here is from the world of amplified acoustic noise, yet not exploding into an over the top blast of noise. What worked against the release for me, was the briefness of the loops, which, once in action, didn't seem to change that much, going on for just a bit too long. There is room for improvement, me thinks.
    If MOT wants the name to be all uppercase, licht-ung likes it lowercase. I mostly know their work as a label these days with many lathe cut vinyl releases. Licht-ung as a music project I am sure I heard some before, but due time and the vast amounts of music being played all day, I have not much idea of it all sounded. The guitar is one of the main instruments was something that I remembered. The two pieces (sixteen minutes each) are a wacky bunch. In 'Yellow Yellow' on side A, the guitar gets a bow across the strings, but the sound gets all distorted very soon. There is distortion and distortion. The traditional one is the harsh noise wall approach, which this is not. Here there seems to be a sonic overload on a cheap recording device, which at ten minutes becomes feedback. As if feedback is part of the process behind all this. I find this piece very hard to hear. 'Weather', on the other side, starts out very quiet. Maybe also playing with a bow and guitar strings, there is a gentle sort of sound here, which I enjoy a lot, especially after the first side. It all builds and builds, and towards the end, it is pretty loud, but now in a much more enjoyable form. Wacky stuff indeed. (FdW)
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