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
your MP3 player and enjoy!
ËMILIE GIRARD-CHAREST – INTIMITÉS (CD by Ambiances Magnétiques) *
BERGAMOT QUARTET - IN THE BRINK (CD New Focus Recordings) *
STRING NOISE - WAY (CD New Focus Recordings) *
FLOROS FLORIDIS & YORGOS DIMITRIADIS - TONE SEQUENCE EVALUATORS (CD on Evil Rabbit Records) *
MFR100 (2CD compilation by Moving Furniture Records)
ARCHITEK - SIX CHANGES (CD, private) *
AN LAURENCE - ALMOST TOUCHING (CD by People Places Records) *
INDIA GAILEY - TO YOU THROUGH (CD by Red Shift Records) *
STELZER/MURRAY - COMMIT (LP by Helen Scarsdale Agency) *
JEFF SURAK - ALL THOSE BORN MUST DIE (cassette by Helen Scarsdale Agency) *
BILL SEAMAN & STEPHEN SPERA - ARCHITECTURES OF LIGHT (CDR by Handstichted*) *
MATTER - REPFRATTARIO (cassette by Subsidence) *
ELLENDE - ST. TROPEZ (cassette by Smeerlap) *
RE#SISTER - RESISTANT BODIES (Wearable USB, self-released) *
ËMILIE GIRARD-CHAREST – INTIMITÉS (CD by Ambiances Magnétiques)
Émilie Girard-Charest is a rising star from the Montréal-scene. So far, this Canadian cellist, composer and improviser is most known for her work as a performer, being a member of various ensembles, and being involved in the premiere of many new compositions from diverse composers. Her compositions have been performed by ensembles like Zukan trio, Thin Edge New Music Collective, SuperMusique, a.o. Also she has several albums out. All of them are collaborations with artists like Violeta Garcia (‘Impermanence’), Sergio Castrillón (‘Enthousiasme viscéral’), a.o. ‘Intimités’ is the first album with compositions solely by Ëmilie Girard-Charest. Four works are presented here: ‘Asyndètes’(2017), ‘Épanchements’(2014), ‘Heurts’(2019) and ‘Initmités‘ (2018). Asyndètes’(2017), is written for a quartet, performed here by violinists Lyne Allard , Geneviève Liboiron and Jean René, plus Girard-Charest herself on cello. An interaction of short attacks and movements with changing dynamics gives a constant suggestion of discontinuity. ‘Épanchements’(2014) is written for a trio lineup. Again we hear Liboiron and Girard-Charest joined by pianist Daniel Anez. Often the music is close to silence here, interrupted by high-pitched and long-stretched noisy sounds. ‘Heurts’ is a work of more joyful and playful movements for violin and cello accompanied by piano (Daniel Anez) and percussion (Noam Bierstone). ‘Initmités‘ (2018) is written for an ensemble performed here by the Montréal chamber ensemble Novarumori. This microtonal work has penetrating dissonant passages resulting from slow evolving movements. Her strings-dominated works are accessible and stripped down in a way. Girard-Charest seems to work from a limited set of ideas and with a clear focus. On the other hand, the works aren’t accessible at all and need careful attention before they reveal why they are there. Interesting work! (DM)
––– Address: https://www.actuellecd.com
BERGAMOT QUARTET - IN THE BRINK (CD New Focus Recordings)
STRING NOISE - WAY (CD New Focus Recordings)
What would a punk version of a string quartet sound like? Not that I would expect this not to have been addressed somewhere, sometime already (and I am not speaking of Nigel Kennedy). String quartets are slightly more relaxed, as chamber music tends to be quieter (for a good reason) and not create symphonic rackets.
Well, Bergamot Quartet makes a good attempt. The first track of their first-ever release, 'In the Brink', the piece 'Ode on a broken loom', takes a full tempo blast until it slacks off into something more subtle in the third quarter of the composition, only to take it up again, contrasting some romantic phrases with dissonant counterparts. A great piece to start a release with and displays wit that is often lacking in music today.
All pieces on this release were composed by the young U.S.American composers, the last one, in fact, by one of the two violinists in this ensemble. All contributors, including the whole quartet and three out of four composers, are female. I would not want to draw on this fact too much in saying that it is an exciting and rewarding release to listen to. After all, the first piece, the Ode, was composed by a male. But it does strike me that many (not all) of the female-dominated ensembles seem to produce music that is less eclectic and intellectual (and structuralistic in that it is more interested in form than sound) and more musical and even fun to consume. Such as, the Crush ensemble discussed some issues back in Vital Weekly 1322.
Esencia, the second piece, is a masterly combination of flowing lines ('agua'? = water) and pizzicato passages. The composer, Tania Leon, mixes in elements of Middle American folklore - which again resonates with Debussy or Bartok elements. In 'Undecim' by Suzanne Farrin, the four instruments 'talk' with each other as in a group discussion, joining into powerful entire ensemble passages. But in the final piece, 'In the brink' by Leah Finck, the ensemble opens up completely new perspectives on what a string quartet is supposed and meant to do. Firstly, they add a drummer. Secondly, they... use their voices. The first movement takes off with the strings taking a stroll until, in the last third, two instrumentalists start singing and declaiming. Movement 2 is a bit like a drum solo with a single viola and the other players shouting and whispering until the piece falls apart into a single string and percussive notes, whispering and shouts, then taking up the vocal declamations again. Movement 3 uses all kinds of sounds, probably created by percussion or percussive use of the strings, until four intertwined musical lines appear between the strings. Nevertheless, with a constant percussive backdrop, this now sounds more like a 'rock' song. And finally, Movement 4 takes off with all strings together, sounding like a harmonium. When this ends, hand claps, pizzicato and percussion start re-building a totally different piece, changing into a barbershop choir and ending with a passage that could be called 'post rock'.
Surprising and fun to listen to, especially the final piece. Certainly, music that does not bother about the line between classical and 'rock' music indicates 'song' structures, use of rhythm, and new and exciting ways of creating music. None of the musicians seems to have more than a handful of recordings under their belt, and as an ensemble, this is their first. I hope there will be more to come.
As it happens, String Noise officially declare themselves 'a punk violin duo'. Conrad Harris and Pauline Kim (now Pauline Kim Harris) started off in 2011 and have a (low) number of releases, 'Way' being their second on New Focus. They display three commissioned works from young composers. The title track shows the thin line between 'new music', 'industrial', 'drone' and classical music. It reminds me of some early 1980ies cassette releases, though none or only a few of those could have been labelled 'classical' (although I do remember Monochrome Bleu's great take on La Traviata).
'Way' takes 28 minutes to unfold. It uses some sort of background noise (it does not seem to be a field recording as it is bound to the instrument sounds, maybe some sort of electronic processing - it sounds like wind noise, rather than strings). Overall the use of continuous layered notes creates a sense of drone and even sometimes recalls power electronics. The second piece, 'Field', has five movements that unfold in a more conventional 'contemporary classical' way, although again, there is this background hissing and breathing. The five movements develop along similar lines with only two instruments, layering notes most of the time, with few passages that have a more energetic touch.
The final piece '(in) tone' again uses layering - maybe with more of a focus on dissonance than the others. The instruments sound like angry wasps throughout the first part until they relax into harmonics that slowly build on each other. Altogether a much 'slower' release than 'In the brink' but nonetheless equally 'different' from the contemporary music scene. (RSW)
––– Address: https://www.newfocusrecordings.com/
FLOROS FLORIDIS & YORGOS DIMITRIADIS - TONE SEQUENCE EVALUATORS (CD on Evil Rabbit Records)
TSE are Floros Floridis and Yorgos Dimitriadis. Floridis is THE man who single-handedly (not quite, together with Sakis Papadimitriou) created the Greek free jazz scene with the first Greek-produced improvised music recording in 1979. Originally he studied Physics and Mathematics, but when he finished turned to study the clarinet and finally moved into the realm of jazz. Dimitriadis is younger and a Greek percussionist based in Berlin.
Together, they develop music between acoustic (various reeds and percussion) and electronics. The electronics apparently being processing of each other's (?) or own instruments. In this way, they can layer sounds that can become difficult with a duo (as remarked elsewhere - unless you use strings). The percussion sets off with a somewhat hectic free jazz feel, whereas the reeds create more relaxed foreground melodies. The electronics appear as a backdrop, adding an exciting element to the compositions that makes a continuum on which the two instruments can better develop.
The six pieces take turns using the free jazz continuously nervous percussion as a backing for the wind instruments taking a more drawn out approach, and three pieces in which both instruments are more restrained and work more with a sparse mingling of acoustic sounds with the electronic background they play on. By using the electronics to create a continuous backing (reminding of a basso continuo in some ways), the instruments are free to play around their respective lines and sounds while keeping the pieces concise and compact. In the past, I have remarked on duos in free music and the issues that are created when the cohesion of music pieces is lost. Here, we find a duo that has navigated its way around this problem in an appealing way. (RSW)
––– Address: https://meinradkneer.eu/projects/
MFR100 (2CD compilation by Moving Furniture Records)
Does the Moving Furniture label need to be introduced to you guys & girls? Probably not, but in short: it's a label from Amsterdam, The Netherlands, and it's been around for quite some time. There are releases in several different series ("normal" ones, contemporary series and the Eliane tapes), and the founder is the man we also know as Orphax. The names on MFR are sometimes very well known and respected longtime artists and sometimes artists with hardly any previous releases but who are simply amazing. It's very definitely a label showing guts, but also with an excellent and massive catalogue.
So Sietse came closer and closer to his 100th release, and it had to be something special. And special it is... He got together a list of artists that previously released something on MFR, maybe with a few people he "just" admires and with those people (50), he made 25 couples. Those 25 couples were asked to make a track together of exactly 4 minutes and those 25 tracks found their way on this double CD. Imagine the logistics of a project like that. For example, the effort that has gone into making this all sound as perfect as it does (organization, production, mastering by the amazing Jos Smolders, etc). Because yes, it *is* that good.
A final remark which shows how beautiful Sietse is as a person, is that ALL PROFITS from this release will be donated to the Dutch Suicide Prevention organization. And if that wasn't enough, 15% of any order that includes this release will be donated. Some could translate that into: "Hey, I want to donate something to that organization. I'll buy a beautiful 2CD and support an important cause."
Of the fifty couples, one decided it needed a third person, and that's the track that opens the first CD; Martijn Pieck, Martijn Comes and Dante Boon. Their track knows a very subtle build-up, but it hits hard when after 4:00 exactly, it abruptly ends. Because yes, that is what this album is about. And because it's the first track, it's so confronting ... Some of the duos that worked together on this release are worth mentioning. How about Wouter Jaspers and Radboud Mens? Or Reinier van Houdt and Anla Courtis, Jan Kleefstra and Lasse Marhaug, or Alfredo Costa Monteiro and Mattias Petersson? You will think about most of those combinations: "How does that combination work out? How does it sound?" All reasons to buy this album.
I'm not going to go through all of the 25 tracks and describe them to you. It's experimental, drone, minimal, spoken word, ambient, soundscape, and still it's all very close together in the aspect of its unity. Fifty-one artists who made some incredible art. Two CDs that support a really good cause. One label is making a difference. Go! Buy! Now!
––– Address: https://www.movingfurniturerecords.com/
––– Address: https://movingfurniturerecords.bandcamp.com/
ARCHITEK - SIX CHANGES (CD, private)
Based out of Montreal and founded in 2012, Architek Percussion utilises percussion and electronically produced sounds to create intricate patterns and timbres. The first two releases were performances of other people's compositions. On this release, they perform six pieces composed by member Ben Duinker. They are all connected, both sound and style-wise. Tapping from the experimental rock scene (did I say post-rock? no !) means more complex rhythms than the average rock band and instrumental. In general, there's an opening statement, and layers of patterns in vibraphone and glockenspiel or crotales are added, all the while leaving room to bob your head, well, my head in this case, to the suggested primary time signature. Later on, ostinato in the bass is added, adding brick by brick to the wall of sound. And then it stops. Or not. Patterns of triplets against longer duplets and bouncing repeated thirty-second (or semidemisemiquaver) notes from left to right in the stereo image all add to a playful and well-executed release. If there were a score of all the pieces, it would make a fine modern art piece. I caught myself putting this on repeat. Check this one out. If this is too normal for you, check the other two releases, they are available as a free download on Bandcamp. One thing keeps bugging me: is that last song's name referencing the comics publisher? Or a nod to the Kate Perry song? (MDS)
––– Address: http://architekpercussion.bandcamp.com
AN LAURENCE - ALMOST TOUCHING (CD by People Places Records)
Sut alors, this is difficult for me. How to describe something so out there and yet so familiar at times. An-Laurence Higgins delivers five new pieces around guitar, electronics and voice.
I will not go into details here. Safe to say that all the pieces are extraordinary. Whether on acoustic guitar or distorted through electronics. The most extended piece is the hour-long Chants d'Amour. Wow, what a tune. I can't put my finger on it. But this is quite a remarkable achievement. Eleven movements ranging from classical guitar playing to sudden interjections of wild and distorted electronics scare the shit out of the listener. Furthermore there are two tracks with only poetry. And French poetry sounds so much better than poetry in Dutch. Listen to this release with open ears and let yourself be transported to darker worlds, worlds where electronics, guitar and voice merge into five distinct and inventive centres where breathing is heard, gentle but sometimes quite atonal acoustic guitar, and fierce outburst of electronics. Immerse yourself into these sounds and expect the unexpected. And this might sound vague but I just can't get the right words to describe this music on the two discs. Hearing is believing. And no, this isn't backgrounded music. It demands to be in the foreground. To a great extent because of the intent and absolute attention-grabbing performance by An-Laurence Higgins. This release deserves a broad audience. (MDS)
––– Address: http://peopleplaces.bandcamp.com
INDIA GAILEY - TO YOU THROUGH (CD by Red Shift Records)
A cello solo album with six pieces that come and go in just under 40 minutes. Five works by other composers: Fjóla Evans, Philip Glass, Yaz Lancaster, Michael Gordon and Anne Leilehua Lanzilotti. Now I could describe each piece here in detail or give a short description of each piece. I choose the latter. The first piece ('Augun' by Fjóla Evans) starts tentatively with several pre-recorded cello voices, six of them. The basic melody is taken from an Icelandic lullaby. Percussive sounds made with the bow are added, and slowly the harmonics change into a rich, complex sound world, sometimes dissonant and sometimes consonant. It's an excellent, suspenseful opener, growing in intensity as time goes by, as implied by the many voices. The second piece is composed by India Gailey herself, aptly called Ghosts. Apart from cello, we hear her vocalizing a melody. Cinematic in structure and progress, this piece again grows in intensity, using the whole bow and beyond to get a gritty sound, followed by an angelic voice vocalizing a contemplative melody gently accompanied by the cello. Again a beautiful piece of music. 'Orbits' by Philip Glass is next. A solo line of broken chords is then accompanied by added notes as if two players are playing. It is orbiting around a central point and attracting other notes by sheer force of gravity — a great piece and beautifully played. 'Diepenveen' by Yaz Lancaster has lyrics, and To you through is taken from these lyrics as the title for the release. Again a bit with a songlike structure and an interlude. Michael Gordon's 'Light' is Calling opens with pulsing electronics that continue throughout the piece but get drowned by the cello playing, and everything falls apart, ending on a consonant. The melody is a continuous one, leaping through octaves or strings. Quite impressive. There's a story behind the decaying sound involving a film on acetate and recording the last viewing of the film before it burned up in the projector. Lastly, there's 'koʻu inoa' by Anne Leilehua Lanzilotti. The Hawaiian anthem "Hawai'i Aloha" is transformed using repeated patterns with different pitches and added vocalizing by Gailey. Again a wonderful piece and an excellent closer. The whole release is beautifully recorded and mastered by John D.S. Adams brings closeness to the instrument and creates an intimate setting. Well worth seeking out. (MDS)
––– Address: https://redshiftrecords.org/
STELZER/MURRAY - COMMIT (LP by Helen Scarsdale Agency)
JEFF SURAK - ALL THOSE BORN MUST DIE (cassette by Helen Scarsdale Agency)
As I listen to the latest collaboration (number three) between Howard Stelzer and Brendam Murray, I am contemplating the similarities and differences between both men. I met both of them years ago, Stelzer more often, and think of them as serious men with a great sense of humour. Murray is a composer who we find mostly behind the laptop, and Stelzer is the man with the Walkman, and his battered, old cassettes. Two distinct approaches when it comes to producing music with sound. Murray's results are far from the world of carefully constructed crackles and silence; he likes his drones big and fat. And that is a similarity he shares with Stelzer, who does the same thing with the sonic overload of captured field recordings. We find three pieces of music on this new album, and it fi=ounds its inspiration in the "almost forgotten period of music from the late '80s and early '90s. Think cranioclast, arcane device, Phauss, small cruel party, organum, and everything from the quiet artworks label" - not forgotten by me, though. There is a lengthy text by Stelzer on the Bandcamp page that starts with "I don’t think what I have to say would be terribly illuminating", but he has a lot of words (serious vs humour). It's about how they have no clue what they are doing or if there is a compositional idea behind this. It is all part of the subconscious world, their music-making process. For the listener, I think this is all not so relevant. What is the result like, and do I appreciate it? I believe to hear their inspirations, the good old ambient industrial drones, when ambient heated up and industrial music cooled down. Although, I must say that in this case, the music is pretty 'hot'. Maybe the current technology enables musicians to make it sound fat and dirty and, oddly perhaps, also detailed and clean. I want to think that Stelzer and Murray work back and forth so that Murray's laptop processing ends up on cassettes from Stelzer and vice versa. Thus the processes will be obscured further. It all happens in an endless free-fall of music and sound, sometimes loosely painted. Sounds appear and disappear as if they have free will, while others form the hard as a rock foundation the music is built upon. In the side-long 'The House Is Coming From Inside The Call', the music opens up, scattered sounds fly out of the window, and the dystopian feel is complete. The soundtrack for a nuclear meltdown. Excellent.
Also, Jeff Surak, I could call an old friend, even when that is further down the historical lines. I first heard of him when he had a musical project called 1348, a group named New Carrollton and a label called Watergate Tapes; he's from Washington DC. We stayed in contact all those years, and off and on, I followed his subsequent musical ventures. Sometimes nothing on a long stretch, and sometimes I tune back in. This, I guess, is one of those occasions. Surak is a musician who combines laptop technology with 'real' instruments and old synthesizers. In his work, he reaches for the ultimate high in volume (the opening feedback salvo's of 'Western Sunrise') to very quiet synth and field recordings. It is not uncommon that this happens within the space of one track. Even when Surak may use lo-fi equipment (small synthesizers, old vinyl, contact microphones attached to junk), he goes for the maximum result. By breaking up his pieces into distinct fragmented pieces, he connects his work with the world of musique concrete. The musical collage is a form that suits him well. I would think there is no story, just the beauty of sculpting with sound, and Surak does an excellent job here. There is tension, there is a mystery, and there is a beautiful uneasiness below the surface of it all. The label mentions Conrad Schnitzler, and I can see that in the rhythmical pieces, such as 'Smaller Than A Pack Of Cigarettes', which connects Surak with the world of non-keyboard electronics and through that with the erosion of musique concrete! Surak's music bounces all over the place as if it never wants to stay in one place, and yet that makes a very coherent album. (FdW)
––– Address: https://helenscarsdale.bandcamp.com/album/commit
BILL SEAMAN & STEPHEN SPERA - ARCHITECTURES OF LIGHT (CDR by Handstichted*)
A release in an edition of 58 copies, with an original handpainted cover, mounted on vintage book covers, so the package is already a beauty. It has been a while since I last heard the name of Stephen Spera; disguised as Spirit Radio (a duo with Tamalyn Miller), I reviewed a CDR of him in Vital Weekly 1128. Bill Seaman is a more recent discovery for me. Both gentlemen are active in the vast pool of music that we call ambient music. They didn't sit together to record this music but used the internet to post music, go back and forth with ideas and sounds, and in the end, there was a finished mix. Spera plays the synth, tape deck, devices, keyboards and field recordings and Seaman on piano, DX7, non-location recordings and digital percussion. There are some voices here and there. This album is well-packed with fourteen pieces of music, spanning some seventy-four minutes of music. That is quite a lot of music, and since it is all quite in a similar place, one can get a bit lost here. But that may happen when one looks at the album track by track. That is not how I approached this album this afternoon. It's Sunday afternoon, and what better time than sitting back, reading a book, sipping some tea, and playing quiet and undemanding music? Right, there is no better day of the week or time of the day. Spera and Seaman's music is highly atmospheric and ambient, with that darkish touch good ambient music has. Their piano appears here and there; there is some reverb to emphasize the mood. Voices come as transmissions from far. There is the gentle rustling of leaves in the wind. Of course, I could take a walk outside and experience the real thing, but there'd be no tea and no book. At the same time, the material is pretty much 'together'. This duo knows how to work with variations within the material. The field recordings work up a bit of unsteady rhythm; sometimes, the piano takes a leading role, or the music remains on the drone end. None of the pieces stands out, and none stays behind. I am not sure if that is good or bad, but it is all very functional and enjoyable. The CD was on repeat play, and it took me quite some time before it was replaced by something else. (FdW)
––– Address: https://handstitched.bandcamp.com/
MATTER - REPFRATTARIO (cassette by Subsidence)
It should be no secret that I like rhythmical music, especially when it comes out of a rhythm machine. I am a big fan of Pan Sonic, and I make no secret that copycats are okay. You don't need to be an original in my book. Do what you want to do and do the best you can. I don't think I had yet heard of Matter, the musical project of Fabrizio Matrone. He had a CDR on Kvitnu, but I don't seem to have reviewed it. Matter also had releases on Ant-Zen, Black Chrysalis Archive, Le Petit Machiniste and Soviet Media Kontrol. This release is my first encounter with his music, and I quite enjoy this. There are eight pieces on 'Repfrattario', all with one-word titles, to underline the immediate power of the music. Loudness and darkness are the two keywords here. Matter's synthesizers are tuned down and offer nothing less than some clouds of dark drones, slowly changing in their blackness. On top of that, there is this relentless rhythm, jackhammering away. Maybe these rhythms may trigger some synthesizers so that everything moves in line. Like a military march indeed. The inspiration of Pan Sonic is not far away, and yet Matter gives the material a personal twist. I'd say that the difference lies in the fact that Pan Sonic's music had a strong background in techno music, whereas, for Matter, the roots might be in the world of industrial music, with a side interest in techno. Also, even if only used very sparsely, a voice in 'Monotone' is a distinct difference. Some of Matter's rhythms are slow, again not a sign that this is for a dancefloor. I enjoyed this version of the Pan Sonic template very much. I was doing some manual labour and found this the perfect soundtrack. Crank up the volume and feel crushed. (FdW)
––– Address: https://subsidence.bandcamp.com/
ELLENDE - ST. TROPEZ (cassette by Smeerlap)
With band members in South Africa, England and Japan, Ellende is truly an international group. In non-Covid times, they work together when travelling, but each band member recorded in their home studio for this new release and somehow put it together. The three members have mainly electronic machines to work with, such as a Casio VL-tone, Eurorack, Arp Solina, Wurlitzer, Juno 6, Rhodes MKI and MkII, Roland MKS20, mellotron and a piano. You'd think that 'St Tropez' is a release with some sunny, happy-clappy music, dancing poolside and sipping cocktails, but that is not the case. It is all hazy, fuzzy and melancholic. The holiday in St Tropez took place in 1974 and is now fondly remembered through the music. Music to remember the past, or maybe try to go back in time, something I would like to do. That is the idea here, and sadly, it is all too brief. Four pieces of music, in total, sixteen minutes of music. Boohoo, what a misery (to stay with the translation of the word Ellende). Each of these four pieces is a beautiful piece of synthesizer music, softly, flowing, but with a sharpish edge, as if it is saying: remember, you can't go back to the past. Sure, a sharp edge, but the music stays firmly in ambient land and the noise borders aren't crossed. Melancholy is in heavy rotation in these sounds, smeared thickly on this baguette. Ellende uses quite a bit of reverb to suggest space and time as a tool to indicate the past can't be reached but can be remembered. As highly nostalgic about the past, I can relate to this very much. This is an excellent release, just as I enjoyed the previous works, but sixteen minutes? Please, gives the full length album with the complete photobook of the St Tropez holiday in 1974. (FdW)
––– Address: https://ellende1.bandcamp.com/
RE#SISTER - RESISTANT BODIES (Wearable USB, self-released)
Yes, indeed, and in fact: wearable, as in a release you can wear. Of course, one can carry most releases - from the shop (or gig) home. This is something wholly different, however. A signal of intent too. I remember a Modelbau t-shirt, also a release to be worn, but that was a somewhat understated black t-shirt carrier for the download codes, more or less. With this digital gem, one wears the actual release on the body. As a piece of jewellery for the GOGBOT generation, so to speak: a handmade USB stick and stainless steel wire necklace designed by Johana Molina in bright neon colors in the shape of an oversized resistor. An often not seen element of electronic circuitry made centre stage spotlight visible per se, proudly and defiantly worn, to manifest. Proudly colourful and proudly in your face and a bit loud.
The title of this gem is RESISTANT BODIES, released by, made by, performed and compiled by RE#SISTER: a collective and community of women and non-binary people revolving around the electronic music studio of WORM Rotterdam. Now counting some 35 members, in their own words: "the open character of the group and its great variety in talents, ideas, expertise and solidarity continue to result in a dynamic output." RESISTANT BODIES is their first album. And - of course - the resistor as an electronic component is an obvious choice for RE#SISTER: they are about sisterhood and resistance, a protest against power mechanisms in the music industry.
In an interview, RE#SISTER member Mariëtte Groot elaborates: "RE#SISTER is an open space for female and non-binary people. You don’t have to pay to be a member, and no previous experience is required. The most important component is an interest in exploring electronic music, field recordings, or any experimental sound. Due to the stereotypes, many females believe that electronic music is too complicated for them and that technology is mainly a men’s thing. So it is very important to encourage them not to be intimidated to discover electronic music, even though it is a male-dominated industry, and provide them with a safe space. People have to feel free to have no high expectations about their abilities, even if they have never touched a synthesizer. The good thing is WORM really championed this and supported the ideas of RE#SISTER, and named it as one of its important projects. […]
RE#SISTER is all about a unique approach to events and meetings. For example, one person knows about cassette tapes, so she made a workshop about making cassette loops, which later resulted in a performance in WORM S/ash Gallery. Another member is totally crazy about a certain software and offers to teach others about it. RE#SISTER also does radio. Five people, including me, are doing live radio on Radio WORM and Lukas Simonis, who coordinates WORM Studio and sometimes offers commissions for RE#SISTER members to make a radio play for a national radio platform.”
And to quote Groot once more: “One person I often bring up as a pioneer, she is already in her 80s now, is Eliane Radigue. She started out as an assistant of Pierre Schaeffer and Pierre Henry, who were electro-acoustic composers, but at some point decided to follow her own path, travelled to the USA, and became a virtuoso on a certain very complicated modular synthesizer called ARP. She really refined her sound, was clear in her mind about what she wanted, so she tweaked and sculpted the sound until it was how she liked it.
Another pioneer one of the founders of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. The studio that made all of the sound effects for the radios and movies. Her name was Daphne Oram. She didn’t really feel in the right place, so she set up her own business and invented many groundbreaking technologies in translating images into sound.
Those are two people from the past. If we talk about these days, a Dutch composer is Esther Venrooy. She has also explored the ARP synthesizer but also made other types of compositions. She goes deep into what sound is and how sound functions in space.
And another person who not only makes electronic music but is a sound artist – Cathy Van Eck. She also teaches and makes sound installations from different objects and materials – paper, strings, wood, etc. She is very much about the crossroad between visual, installation art, and sound.”
Make no mistake about it: taking the title of the stellar documentary Sisters with Transistors one defiant step further, this is a collective of active resistance.
The debut RE#SISTER album is not only this uniquely shaped gem-like object itself, but also a treasure trove of artistic materials. To start with, we have an album featuring 12 tracks, totally around 2 hours of music. And then there's a load of images from the making of and graphic artworks and 13 cards of printed matter joining the digital file(s).
Zooming in on the audio aspects only first we hear a plethora of music-making from solo's to group works, composed and improvised, conceptual or far from. A display of control and lack thereof or disregard therefore. A blast of layered hellish miasmas or bleep punk. Eerie drone and future folk. Cut-up industrial noises paired with a deep dark cinema scope soundtrack song. RESISTANT BODIES defies easy categorization and plays a horn of plenty in terms of genres, styles and forms.
What is evident - on full-frontal display even, a bright neon flash, not unlike the gem itself - is the not holding back character of the mission intent, since most works on this album clock in at pretty decent times, not shy of extending beyond 8 minutes. Therewith the collective eschews the standards pop format, or the punk blast of shock and awe and gives ample room of exposure to the artists at work. A form of resistance to the norm and enshrined formats in and of itself. And one that works a treat at that, because we not only hear new and exciting emerging voices, we also hear these without formal or institutional constraints or limitations. Especially in the compilation format giving time to each work feels like a breath of fresh air when compared to the often zap-a-thon-ish nature of various artist collections.
Also, we must acknowledge the fact that we are dealing here with quite a lot of performers. The makers were: Lucija Gregov, Mariëtte Groot, Ginger Haasbroek, Tig Harutyunyan, Tisa Neža Herlec, Suzana Lașcu, Johana Molina, Johanna Monk, Vanita Monk, Linda Nijboer, Marty Ydema and Mojca Zupančič. Still above and beyond these individuals on RESISTANT BODIES, the RE#SISTER benchmark of quality control holds strong. Which means the album works as such as a collective and collected collection and doesn't feel like a random or haphazard mash-up. On the contrary: RE#SISTER - for all intents and purposes - is a massive force to be reckoned with because of an overarching sense of togetherness and belonging next to and with each other on this release, not only in mission statement, but also in terms of musical and productional brilliance.
RESISTANT BODIES is an overtly political release too. As evidenced with the title, in the artwork and pictures and several statements found in the liner notes. Renew and revive, try and make mistakes and better oneself, make choices, resist and remember - some keywords I took away from the mission statement slogan-like missives found in the package. The body as an entity. An individual but also a collective. A network of bodies or a system of parallel structures. And resistance as a force, IN electronic systems, but also, a force AGAINST systems. In defiance of the status quo, a revolutionary call to arms, a protest in practice.
Which might seem like a massive rage against the male chauvinist pig machine. Which in and of itself would be totally fine and viable, but might miss a very important point, because RE#SISTER and this album are not about the rage or revolution or resistance aspects per se as in: only. One strongly feels these strong individuals, even stronger collectively, act as role models and great examples for females in the electronic music scene. Are in fact a prime example.
Groot: “The basic advice is not to think that things will be too complicated for you. These days people can start making electronic music from their bedrooms, download software, and start composing. Don’t just assume that you won’t be good enough. Don’t be afraid of technology.” The best exemplary evidence of the more than good enough on proud and loud display can be found on RESISTANCE BODIES. (SSK)
--- Address: https://re-sister.bandcamp.com/