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BAD GROUPY - THE LAST PIECE OF GRAPHITE (CD by Zeromoon) *
ERIKM & HANATSUMIROIR ENSEMBLE - ECHOPLASME (Book and CD on Bisou Records) *
MAX JOHNSON - WHEN THE STREETS WERE QUIET (CD on New Focus Recordings) *
DELI KUVVETI - IN THE SUMMER DUSK (CD by Sublime Retreat) *
SONOLOGYST - ELECTRONS (CD by Unexplained Sounds Group) *
TERRY FOX - LABYRINTH OF THE INNER EAR (CD by Auf Abwegen) *
FABIO ORSI - CINQUE MOVIMENTI PER A. (CD by 13/Silentes/Standa) *
ROD MODELL & TAKA NODA - GLOW WORLD (CD by 13/Silentes/Standa) *
EDLEY ODOWD - F(OUR)-WARD (CD by 13/Silentes/Standa) *
LHAM - THEY CAST NO SHADOWS (CD by 13/Silentes/Standa) *
RDW - I (CD by Mazagran) *
ANTHONY TAN - SUSURRUS (CD by Gengseng Records) *
BARTC - GHOSTS (CDR by ICR Distribution) *
MIKE HOVANCSEK - TEXTURE STUDIES (cassette by Sloow Tapes) *
GINTAS K - RESONANCES (cssette by Sloow Tapes) *
ALEK NOVAK - POD VODOM (cssette by Sloow Tapes) *
THE DUKE OF ZUKE - WEDDING SONGS (cassette by Tombed Visions)
LUNUS - THE MOON SPIT (cassette by Tribe Tapes)
ARGIOPE - ORIGINAL WATERS (cassette by Tribe Tapes)
HAND & KNEE - SONG OF THE SIRENs (cassette by Tribe Tapes)
GOLGOTHA TOLL - TAKE UP A LAMENT (cassette by Tribe Tapes)
BAD GROUPY - THE LAST PIECE OF GRAPHITE (CD by Zeromoon)
Jeff Surak is one of those solid and reliable forces in the world of experimental music, and yet not a name that appears a lot in Vital Weekly. In the mid-80s, he started solo as 1348, and had a group New Carrollton, and various labels, including Watergate Tapes. Later, he worked under his own name and organized the Sonic Circuits Festival. Zeromoon is his label. I hadn't heard of Kris Kuldkepp, a Hamburg-based Estonian free improviser. She plays the double bass, bass guitar and electronics. I would think mainly the latter in her work with Surak. 'The Last Piece of Graphite' is their debut album. According to the information, they used "analogue electronics, prepared objects, bass, double bass, guitar, and tapes" and recorded "in the studio, in the woods, and on river banks", which gives an interesting perspective. While the four pieces, starting with the shortest (three minutes) and ending with the longest (twenty), have an unmistakable feeling of improvised music, there is another overall sensibility of something more lo-fi and experimental. This music is more akin to a collage, played in a concert setting (but maybe with some alternative takes and editing thrown in?) than a straightforward work of purely improvised music. At times loud and very much present, this isn't the type of music to escape from; or to play as a piece of an ambient backdrop. Full-on listening is required, and it's rewarded. There is quite a bit happening here, most of the time. In each of the pieces, there is a very dynamic set of sounds going on. There is delicate electro-acoustic sound processing next to sharpish sine waves, crackles and rattles of electronic sound. I didn't hear much by way of the musicians sitting outside, but I admit it looks good on the information. There is a lo-fi aspect to the music, which combines with more noise and improvisation pretty well. I think this is a pretty amazing debut release, and I would be curious to see them in concert. (FdW)
––– Address: https://zeromoon.com/
ERIKM & HANATSUMIROIR ENSEMBLE - ECHOPLASME (Book and CD on Bisou Records)
Unfortunately, I did not get to see the book accompanying this release. It seems to contain several drawings/paintings/graphics by eRikm, using ink on paper and maybe on other materials - the description is a bit cryptic and vague. And this it is meant to be: work commissioned by the ensemble and written and arranged by eRikm. Echoplasme refers to the word 'ectoplasm', used in the context of ghosts and supernatural phenomena. I am unsure whether this was the starting point (as the promotional flyer suggests), established itself as the work progressed, emanating from the recording space used, or just summarising the atmosphere the pieces on the CD create.
HANATSUmiroir is a duo of Ayako Okubo, playing the contrabass flute, and Olivier Maurel on percussion and electronics. eRikm has created an eerie atmosphere using small sound elements - 'small' in the sense of a limited spectrum of sound bits. The hissing of letting the breath flow through the flute, a small percussive sound bouncing around the aural space. All this contributes to the performance's dream-like and surreal character, supported by eRikm and Maurel's electronic sounds. The music is, at the same time, intense and subliminal. It flows without much dramatic development, sometimes not even having a discernable beginning and end.
The use of text narrated over the music brings in the 'spooky' bit, though. Whether or not the texts relate to the ghost stories described in the flyer - they are all in Japanese - I can't tell. It doesn't matter, either, as the whole point of the exercise is the creation of a ghost-like atmosphere - it all exists in the ear of the listener. The stories cited are kind of vague, with threats (if there are any) voiced in uncertain terms. Typically Japanese, you could say, but immensely powerful in that it is irrelevant whether the threat exists as long as you believe in it. It could be 'this', but it could also be 'that' or something entirely different. A wolf that will devour you if you fall but whom you thank for the company when you have safely completed your journey through the forest. A ghost, after all. Four different voices narrate the texts, rarely electronically processed, more often repeated in variations, hovering above the music and dominating it in a way, as you would try to understand any spoken text that meets your ear, which is all too human.
As the words will only be understandable to a few Japanese listeners, the voices attain a more aural than lyrical role. Therefore the texts themselves have more of a symbolic character. They merge with the music and sound to create a wonderfully spooky whole. This is a beautiful release, using minimal elements to maximum effect. (RSW)
––– Address: https://bisourecords.bandcamp.com/
MAX JOHNSON - WHEN THE STREETS WERE QUIET (CD on New Focus Recordings)
'Streets' brings us four chamber music pieces composed by USAmerican bassist and composer Max Johnson. 'Chamber', in this case, indicates quartets and trios. At 33, Johnson seems to have already delivered 2,000 concerts and played on 50 releases - making him (to my knowledge) one of the few USAmercian composer-musicians who does NOT hold a university lecturing position. No time, no time. He is lead in several trios and quartets of his own making, plays in a large number of ensembles and bands, ranging from new music to bluegrass, has contributed to film scores (e.g. award winning BlacKkKlansman), seems to keep a challenging touring schedule, and has accompanied the likes of John Zorn and Anthony Braxton, not leaving out performances at Lollapalooza, Rockygrass, and Bern Jazz Festival, to name but a few.
Having said this, the music does follow a somewhat trodden path of contemporary, small-ensemble composing. Melodic lines bounce around, testing the skills of the players. Nevertheless, there is an unusual element to be detected here. Although the first piece, 'Minerva', has the four instruments, clarinet, violin, cello, and piano, jump around in relative unison for about 3 minutes, the tone then changes into something more continuous and ... well, 'lyrical'? This summarises the feel that the other three pieces on this CD mainly sustain: a sense of melodious development hidden in the otherwise (sometimes) dissonant playing. I would neither be able to identify any influence of jazz nor bluegrass. Still, certainly, someone is used to a more 'musical' approach than constructing pieces off an abstract and constructivist background or 'graphic score'. Johnson is not afraid of setting the trio and quartet playing in contrast to solo lines of the piano and violin - a solo violin line ending 'Minerva', for example. 'Echos of a memory' delicately sets the piano accompanying drawn-out tones from the violin and clarinet. In the 'String Trio', the three instruments weave around each other, with a single instrument taking a temporary lead, then joined by the other two. All this in a strangely 'classical' way, save for the Bartok-esque dis-harmonies.
In its 'song' character, this release captures influences from outside the classical, contemporary circuit to best effect, without having to revert to any 'hybrid' form - so, no bluegrass here, which is very welcome, and some well-crafted and lyrical modern music. (RSW)
––– Address: https://www.newfocusrecordings.com/
DELI KUVVETI - IN THE SUMMER DUSK (CD by Sublime Retreat)
The Polish Sublime Retreat label quickly expands into an excellent home for experimental and electronic music, with a strong interest in all things dark, lo-fi and highly atmospheric. To top it off, Rutger Zuydervelt's design always looks good, and within the label's idea for the same design, it always looks fittingly different. There are some familiar names on the label and introductions, such as Seattle-based, Turkish-born Deli Kuvveti. I see on Discogs he has two digital releases (and more found on his Bandcamp) and that 'In The Summer Dusk' is his first physical release. Spoiler alert: I have some trouble with this CD being only thirty-one minutes long. It's your debut release! It's great music! Why not give us some more? There is no information regarding instruments, sound sources and technology; the music only hints at a few places. Most of all, I think that granular synthesis plays a big role in his music, and no doubt, many field recordings go into the machines. The music is quite dense, with many small, textured sounds moving and hovering around, creating a delicate web of patterns. Perhaps the lo-fi aesthetics aren't that important for Kuvveti, as I think his music is cleaner and clearer than some of his peers. It all morphs together very gently, and it has quite a relaxing feel to it. I have no idea if that is the purpose of this music, to make it all ambient and gentle, but if it was his intention, he succeeds quite well. In 'A Radiant Aurora Of What's Left', Kuvveti has a non-directional sound, moving around without aim. That may sound negative, but it isn't. I love the way it develops and becomes another thing. It has a psychedelic quality to it. At one point, the title piece, the shortest of the two, becomes almost like a modern classical piece of music, with the soft rattling of percussive sounds. Two beautiful pieces of music, both a bit different, so what else does Kuvveti has up his sleeve? I hope to hear more about this interesting composer soon. (FdW)
––– Address: https://sublimeretreat.bandcamp.com/
SONOLOGYST - ELECTRONS (CD by Unexplained Sounds Group)
Raffaele Pezzella returns as Sonologyst with an album already available in 2016, albeit only in the digital domain. It is a celebration of ten years of working under this banner. The music he recorded using analogue synthesizers, which, I believe, he no longer has. He found inspiration in the world of electrons, including an excerpt from a book, 'What Should Philosophers Of Science Learn From The History Of The Electron?'. However, one is free to enjoy the album on a more fundamental level, taking the music as pure as it is. Over the years, I reviewed various of his works (Vital Weekly 1274, 1225, 1194, 1134, and 1038), and overall I enjoy his work a lot. There might be an element of ritual music that I fail to understand, but luckily, that is not present on this disc that much. His music is very much in the realm of experimental electronics, in which we find traces of pure drone music, early electronics and on 'Electrons' also a bit of noise. The latter he keeps to a minimum, and it works more in the background, adding weight to some of the more upfront delicacies. Even if I take a more romantic notion of electrons, I see this as a work of buzzing and whirring electronics cobbled together and forming a web of its own. Not a straightforward thing, this web, though. You see a general pattern, but there are smaller threads, making new connections that only become apparent later on. There might be a retro feeling here; I am thinking of an old science fiction movie in black and white and Sonologyst providing the rusty soundtrack of it. Dark and reflective, but no doubt, space music. A man shrunk to an invisible size and walked down machines where everything cable and knob was alive. More than the previous works from Sonologyst, field recording seem to play no role, and it is all pure electronics. A slightly different outcome than what we usually hear from him, and a damn fine album at that. (FdW)
––– Address: https://unexplainedsoundsgroup.bandcamp.com/
TERRY FOX - LABYRINTH OF THE INNER EAR (CD by Auf Abwegen)
The name Terry Fox always sounds familiar, but upon till now, I must admit I have never heard his music that much. I heard his LP 'Berlin/Rallentando' long ago, but none of his other work. Fox was an American sound artist, or, as Auf Abwegen puts it, "one of the leading pioneers of American Body Art and Conceptual art." In the seventies, he did performances but later on shifted his interest to working with sound. He created works with long strings and field recordings. Much of his work is presented through installations. He passed away in 2008. I am unsure what prompted Auf Abwegen to release this work that Fox created for the Berlin Sonambiente Festival in 2006. But, alas, there is not always reason necessary. We have a sonic stroll here, through Berlin,m as heard through the ears of a blind person, Siegfried Aaerberg. He walks through Berlin, ending at the former Polish Embassy, where the installation was presented. We hear him 'tapping' his way through the city and occasionally taking a rest when he hears something of interest. Of course, I should have taken the same walk when I visited Berlin the other week, but sadly, I didn't think to do this. The whole walk is seventy minutes, and, to be honest, I don't know what to make of this. Of all the recent releases by this label, this is the one that I had the most difficulty with. It is a work of pure field recording and, this time, from a location I visited before, so all is good in that direction. At the same time, I am thinking, 'so what?'. I didn't find it easy to relate to the sightless person navigating through the urban landscape, even when, effectively, I am one, too, when I am playing this release. I can't see a thing of the place (although, I am sure, other senses are tickled by the stroller, which makes Berlin, at times, also a fascinating place. I found this work quite interesting but not necessarily a great piece of music. I imagine that aesthetics may not play a big role in this work. But as I said, the sounds are exciting and the idea fascinating, so maybe that's enough? (FdW)
––– Address: https://aufabwegen.bandcamp.com/
FABIO ORSI - CINQUE MOVIMENTI PER A. (CD by 13/Silentes/Standa)
ROD MODELL & TAKA NODA - GLOW WORLD (CD by 13/Silentes/Standa)
EDLEY ODOWD - F(OUR)-WARD (CD by 13/Silentes/Standa)
LHAM - THEY CAST NO SHADOWS (CD by 13/Silentes/Standa)
From this bunch of new releases, it was easy to start with a new release by Fabio Orsi. His recent works I ranked highly, so a no-brainer here. Just when I think I had a pretty great idea about what kind of music Orsi does these days, there is this interesting twist to his material. There are five pieces of music here, called 'movimento', movements, with before that, in Italian, first, second etc. The tracks cross-fade into each other. I don't think Orsi switched to other technological means to create his music, so there are still synthesizers, sequencers and iPad-controlled electronics, in combination with field recordings, usually to go from one movement to the next. What changed here was the choice of sound material. Right from the start, it all sounds much more orchestral. Violins being plucked play an essential role in the first movement, a jazzy bass in other pieces, and a bit of piano somewhere else. The traditional synthesizer plays a role too, but it is no longer rolling and bouncing but sweetly sustaining and supporting in the background. Rhythm plays a minor yet vital role, and nowhere sounds like a strict drum machine; again a bit orchestral and also a bit more exotic. In 'Quarto Moviemento', the rhythm reminded me of Rapoon. Throughout, the mood is darkish, but not too much; rather melancholic and meandering about, which I found quite entertaining. Orsi plays ambient music for sure, but through his choice of sounds, it is a somewhat sweeter version than what we usually have and, as such, something that could appeal to a broader audience. Or be used in a more film-like context as a soundtrack, even when I couldn't say what type of movie is suited for such a thing. A most enjoyable album and a sign of Orsi walking a new path and perhaps going into another phase of his career.
A new name can be found on the next album: Taka Noda. I had not heard of him or his alias Mystica Tribe. On the other hand, Rod Modell is a composer whose music I heard quite a bit of before, although, I am sure, not everything he released. His work is firmly based in the world of ambient music, and that's where we also find 'Glow World'. There is no indication towards sound sources, but I think it is fairly safe to say that synthesizers play a significant role. As always, with such things, I have no idea if these synthesizers are digital, analogue or software-based. These two musicians play a combination of long-form synthesizer sounds in combination with sections of shorter, looped sounds. Sometimes a mere heartbeat, sometimes a bit of a rhythm. One might expect this to be turning into an abstract electronic ambient album, but it is not. Au contraire! Throughout these ten pieces, there is a strong musical element. Mostly of a more desolated nature, with tones plucked out of the air and sequenced into slow melodies, but unmistakenly, melodies. Field recordings add to the experience here, mostly rain drops and water waves, but also, so I assume, heavily processed sounds from the urban environment. The rhythmic aspect is also slow but has a strong presence, and it is a bit of slow head-nod music. At times reminding me of Wolfgang Voigt's Gas project. This music reminded me of releases by Silent Records and Hypnos from twenty years ago, which I greatly enjoyed. As such, anyone looking for something new to happen, you won't find that here. If you want high-quality ambient music, then this is the place.
For me, the name Edley Odowd is new. He worked with people as diverse as Genesis P-Orridge, Deborah Harry, Lene Lovich (not a name one reads in Vital Weekly, but a personal favourite here), Tony Conrad, and Shilpa Ray. He was a Toilet Boys, Psychic TV, Kylesa member and "his brand-new death rock band Scorpion Tea". 'F(our) Ward' was already available on cassette by Flesh Prison/DeathBed Tapes and now gets a re-issue, including three bonus songs. We left ambient land here and enter... what exactly? There are quite a few ways here; there is a bit of noise, loud drones, vocals, and rhythms. The music is dramatic, especially on the side of the vocals/voice snippets lifted from movies. I believe Odowd uses electronics a lot, but also guitars and drums (or drum machines), and there is plenty of sampling going on. If 13 as a label is down in your books to be an ambient label, then this release might be quite a surprise, but I find it a pleasant one. The music is dark, perhaps in a dystopian sense. An aural nightmare, or, maybe, the music that keeps you up all night, scared of some impending doom to arrive. There is very little I can refer to here, as diverse as the album is, and perhaps my lack of knowledge in that respect. A certain element of gothic is never far away, so it seems, but never too prominent, luckily.
A year after reviewing their first CD, 'Leaving Hardly A Mark' (Vital Weekly 1327), there is now a second CD by Bruno de Angelis (Mana ERG) and Giuseppe Verticchio (also known as Nimh, Hall of Mirrors, Twist of Fate). With LHAM we return to the known territory of ambient music. I believe (but I am unsure) that they use a lot of guitar and sound effects. Perhaps there are also other electronics in use here. LHAM has nine pieces of music on this disc; the shortest is four minutes, and the longest is just over eight. It's the correct length for these musicians to explore their music. It moves slowly with a few sounds carefully placed, tones lingering on for a while, to disappear and be replaced by small variations. There is an element of post-rock here but very much from the ambient side. There is a feeling of melancholy here, and the unrest and unsettling at times. Like the Orsi release, this also has great cinematic quality. While not precisely horror music, this music could fit any dark movie, in which not a lot happens, but a lot is suggested. The music works on a similar level; through all its sparseness, there is a lot more suggestion, and that's not saying these musicians are lazy or do an easy job. In their more Zen-like playing, I assume they put a lot of concentration. A question of not doing anything when nothing more is required. (FdW)
––– Address: http://store.silentes.it/
RDW - I (CD by Mazagran)
RDW stands for Riccardo Dillon Wanke, and we reviewed a few of his works over the past few years, sometimes from his duo Amuleto (with his brother Francesco) but also solo work (see, for instance, Vital Weekly 1030). This new album is quite a break from the previous work I heard, which was a bit atmospheric and drone-like. Wanke writes about this new album, “this record comes from the need to process a sad family event. I decided to narrow down my sound as much as possible, letting a shadow emerge behind the notes, a shadow of a memory, a warmth of silence. It is a supposedly unfunny thing I’ll never do again”. There are eighteen pieces of music here, and he uses a Horner pianet T, a Fender Rhodes mkII, modular synths and electronics. There are five pieces on this CD, two of which have only one part, and three have multiple parts. Clocking in at thirty-nine minutes, knowing that these tracks are brief, is not rocket science. And at their brevity, they are also relatively sparsely orchestrated. Many consist of one or two sounds being played. Simple tones and a few sound effects suggest weight and space. Sometimes there is a bit of improvisational aspect to the music when Wanke works some knobs on his machines. Despite what he notes about this release and the sadness, I think the music is not gloomy, mournful or sad. That is not to say it is uplifting, either. The music works more as an invitation for contemplation, I think. It is a strange album. The music is kept 'small', never moving a lot, but sometimes these modulars process the keyboards in a weird, crumbled way. Even after repeated listens, I can't get my head around it. Sometimes I fail to hear it completely; sometimes, the music locks me in. Quite a curious one, this RDW release. (FdW)
––– Address: https://mazagran.org/
ANTHONY TAN - SUSURRUS (CD by Gengseng Records)
A not-so-interesting aside is that Riparian Media is a company pushing new music. I keep reading all their information, but mostly ignore them in more recent times to move away from more modern classical, free jazz and free improvised music. I saw the references ("::zoviet*france:, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Henry Cowell, Robert Normandeau, Tim Hecker, Andy Stott), not all I could easily place, connecting the dots, but even then, it took some time to get my head around the music. It wasn't the extra announcement of Anthony Tan being a 2023 Juno nominee, as I have no idea what that is, as, honestly, I couldn't care less about awards (of course, I never won one). Tan is a composer and piano player, and 'Susurrus' is a two-track mini album. In both pieces, he plays the piano and live electronics. I can hear the :zoviet*france: and Sakamato references and the differences. With the first, I rarely hear an instrument so clearly, and with the second, I think Tan misses the refinement. Granulating the piano on the spot makes it all a bit more Tim Hecker, perhaps, or Normandeau. One could think of the music as ambient but strongly combined with the world of electro-acoustics. The repeating sounds, perhaps, keep this music away from labels such as Empreintes Digitales. In 'Sublime Subliminal Sublimate', there is also a bit more of an improvised music feel to it, more so than in 'Endlessnessnessness', which disappears slowly behind the horizon. What makes the music less ambient is the constant moving around and dramatic keyboard work, which keeps the listener on his toes and does not find an all-too-relaxing place. Which, of course, is satisfactory as it is. Two fine pieces, and usually, I would rant about the briefness of the release, but for now, I thought this made a solid impression; a fine introduction to the man's work. I'd be curious to hear something more ambient and less electro-acoustic and see what he would offer in that respect. (FdW)
––– Address: https://anthonytan.bandcamp.com/
BARTC - GHOSTS (CDR by ICR Distribution)
'Ghosts' is the follow-up to ‘Insubstantial As Ghosts’ by Jason Barton, also known BArTc (see also Vital Weekly 1301). The word 'Ghosts' appears in both titles, and maybe because there are two pieces from the debut album in different mixes here and label boss Colin Potter does a remix of a track from the first one. Five other pieces are all new creations. Once again, BaRTc creates music using field recordings and electronics. We now learn that electronics are analogue synthesisers. There is not a massive difference from his previous release. The music is again on the dark side. BaRTc creates massive walls of music, which one could label as ambient industrial at the time. For instance, the wind in 'Wind' is more like a storm, tormenting the seashore. While noise surely plays a big role in the music of BaRTc, it is exclusively about that, not at all. While much of this is forcefully present, there is also a strong sense of dark ambient music. Not exactly relaxing music, but throughout, there is somewhat quiet unfolding in this music. As before, the music has a psychedelic quality, but one that may cause paranoia or anxiety. Handle with care! I enjoy this kind of louder drone music, the sound of a dystopian nightmare ringing loud and clear. The music is a melting pot of dark ambient, industrial music, musique concrète techniques and forty-five minutes of sonic bliss. As said, not for the weak of the heart. (FdW)
––– Address: https://icrdistribution.com/
MIKE HOVANCSEK - TEXTURE STUDIES (cassette by Sloow Tapes)
GINTAS K - RESONANCES (cssette by Sloow Tapes)
ALEK NOVAK - POD VODOM (cssette by Sloow Tapes)
Sloow Tapes have been around since 2005 and released about 180 different releases, yet only one made to these pages before (Vital Weekly 1312). They released many musicians I have not heard of, and two examples are from these cassettes. Mike Hovancsek, for instance, of which Discogs tells us that he is a "veteran visual artist, writer and musician from the USA". He has releases on Pointless Music (and he was a member of the Pointless Orchestra) as early as 1991, and Infinite Number Of Sounds Recording Company, and yet this is his seventh release only. The four lengthy pieces receive some liner notes in which he mentions that he plays all the instruments but doesn't specify these. There are some guest players, such as Lydia Schneider on the shakuhachi and shamisen and Mohonbeena Soumalaya Mukherjee on slide guitar. The first side is all acoustic, and the second is electronic. What ties these sides together is Hovancsek's rather free approach to sound. On the electronic side, with two versions of a piece called 'Anthroposcene', the music is all about modular synthesizers, resembling all things living on this planet but under attack by humans. The sound changes constantly and sounds like a swarm of bees (or ants, but is that a swarm?) and a great piece. The two pieces, on the other side, are quite different. While also constructed freely, from many recordings stuck together, especially in the title piece, the music has a relatively reflective mood and the most in 'Aea - Espiral'. There is a raga-like drone machine, and on top, we hear what seems to be the processed sounds of the wind instruments. With the slide guitar, this free-style, hippie-like element gets more confirmation in the title piece. Maybe a bit too much on the incense side for my taste, but there is a fine touch of experimentalism to each piece, which saved it in the end.
Gintas K has been on these pages a lot of times. I must admit that, despite not knowing Sloow Tapes all too well, I am a bit surprised to see his work. I always think of him as a serious operator of laptop music, which seems not to be the home at Sloow Tapes. He creates ten pieces of music using his computer, midi keyboard and controller, but as this is a cassette (the label has no Bandcamp), I found it hard to tell where a track starts and stops. This cassette could very well contain one track per side. Oddly, perhaps, there is also an element of free play in Gintas K's music. Other than what I think is his stricter approach to composing, these pieces arrive in a free-flowing modus. Sounds drop in, quite uneventful, but are just 'there' and change in form, may grow, or reduce or simply, as unexpectedly disappear again. Yet there is never silence because there are many sounds, each fighting for our attention. It never becomes chaotic, as Gintas K manages to control the proceedings, which he does quite well. A certain psychedelic, ambient quality is part of this music, and I can see why Sloow Tapes found this to be an interesting addition to their catalogue.
Which is not something I can all too easily see with the music of Serbian musician Alek Novak. I am the first to admit that I don't know much about the operation of Sloow Tapes, and maybe there is something quite natural about adding Novak to the catalogue. He is a bedroom musician, and his music is described as "dystopian". Still, the information also says, "Poetic lyrics (so I've been told, I don't speak Serbian) over a psychedelic rock/noise sauce makes perfect listening while walking through shady corners of Belgrade, tasting the last drops of your bottle rakia". However, the listener doesn't walk the streets of Belgrade but sits, at home, in quiet Nijmegen, without rakia. I think it's not without risk to release something of which one doesn't know the lyric content. The freedom of the other musicians I just heard from Sloow Tapes can also be found in the music of Novak, playing his drum machines, keyboards and guitars, but it all sounds either too much like rock music to me, or as somebody who is trying to play the outsider card. Not really my cupper, but I could also say that this might be really good, but it's from a world that Vital Weekly doesn't cover. (FdW)
––– Address: https://sloowtapes.blogspot.com/
THE DUKE OF ZUKE - WEDDING SONGS (cassette by Tombed Visions)
Now there's a title that could do many ways. James Last or Lennon/Ono? I have no idea of The Duke Of Zuke, the musical project of Clint Trofa, from London. The main question might (!) be, how serious are we about taking this a bunch of wedding songs? The music is instrumental, so there is no lovey-dovey cheesy lyrical content, luckily. Guitars play a role in this music, described as "with the patience of an auteur director, each piece of mise-en-scene delicately placed, unfolding with the grace, subtlety and emotional resonance of a European art-house film." It mentions directors such as Claire Denis, Michael Haneke and Paolo Sorrentino, which sets the bar high; of course, if one knows these directors (one might find this surprising, but I am not among them. I have a very mundane taste in movies). So, there are a lot of guitars, electronics and a bit of drums, synthesizers and the music is quite pleasant to hear. At a wedding? I am not sure of that, but this is one of the easy-listening releases in the world of Vital Weekly. When the music took a jazzy tour in 'Rambo Waltz', I got up quickly and fast-forwarded the cassette to the next song; this was too cheesy. Luckily this is the only time that happened. I found that jazz thing a sort of break with the other pieces, which were all a bit more mellow, laidback and sweet. The whole film connection may have flown right over my head, but that's my loss. Some of these pieces are brief and quick, which is a pity as they remain a bit of a skeleton or sketch. There is, within the overall length of the album, some variation, and that makes this a most enjoyable release for Sunday morning with coffee-sipping activities. A delicate soundtrack before darker music is on the menu again. (FdW)
––– Address: https://thedukeofzuke.bandcamp.com/
LUNUS - THE MOON SPIT (cassette by Tribe Tapes)
ARGIOPE - ORIGINAL WATERS (cassette by Tribe Tapes)
HAND & KNEE - SONG OF THE SIRENs (cassette by Tribe Tapes)
GOLGOTHA TOLL - TAKE UP A LAMENT (cassette by Tribe Tapes)
A new batch from Tribe Tapes, this time four actual cassettes again - As it 'should be' on a label with the word Tapes in it. The first is a C42 by Lunus, a side project by Devis Granziera, better known as Teatro Satanico. I don't know much about Teatro Satanico besides the name and them being from Italy. Every backstory I could have written ends here, and I'm focussing on this tape because, as a matter of fact: It's a really proper good release.
"The Moon Spit" is a re-release from 1996 (Allegorical Tapes), and during this time, Lunus - then still written as Lvnvs - was Devis together with Stefano Barban. Who I also never heard of, by the way. The eight tracks are based on heavily tribal beats with loads of distortion and compression. The first side allows us to get used to the sound of the beats - or maybe better: the beat-oriented layer - and the combination with the other layers of sound. Side two, however, opens with "Cipher, " which surprised me. It's almost like an underground version of the amalgam of Swans and Godflesh. Beautiful!
And from that moment on, the release gets out of control. In "Dead II", the noise is pushed to the front, and the rhythms are reduced to structures in the background. "Das Loch" sounds like a weird looped broken record player with a pure oscillator sound that could have been from an Atrax Morgue release. The final track, "Naked", is the first track where the rhythms actually sound like rhythms. As said, it's a really nice one, and for a 27-year-old release, it stood the test of time perfectly.
Another re-release from the mid 90's on Tribe Tapes is "original Waters" by Argiope, a side project from Deca / Federico De Caroli. Only four releases in the mid 90's of which two - including this one - were released on Marco Corbelli's Slaughter Productions. The playing time is 46 minutes, divided over six tracks roughly between 5 and 9 minutes in length. The sound here is maybe a bit dated from what we could expect of production nowadays, but it is a beauty when only looking at the composition.
Rhythmic structures that never strike a techno-ish pattern and which keep on evolving. Deep layers of pads and drones and, of course, a sturdy amount of reverb. But "Original Waters" proves that standard ingredients in the sound palette do not automatically mean a standard sound or composition. My favourite tracks are "Mastigamoeba" because it's so dynamic and, on the B-side "Xenopsylla Cheopis" because of its f*cked-up use of rhythms and loops and such.
While listening, I had a few moments where I had a bit of a '80s horror movie'-vibes. Is that because I think of Italian horror too much? Or is there a connection between Italian underground music and what we all watched in those days? Or is it because this release - in comparison to the Lunus one - sounds a bit more dated because of the choice of sounds? I don't know, but having said that, I love a good Italian horror.
Hand & Knee is John Grimaldi of Submersive Productions. "Song Of The Sirens" is, with its 32 minutes, a short one even though it counts the most tracks (9). The timing ranges from 30 seconds to almost 8 minutes; style-wise, it's experimental minimalistic noise. As influences, they mention Mlehst and early Prurient, neither of which I am incredibly familiar with, so, as I did earlier, I'm going with what I hear.
The shorter tracks seem to be experiments or exercises in sound design, which are quite interesting. They somehow give a little insight on how the 'paint' is being made of, which in the longer tracks the painting is being made. Because of this, the longer tracks are far more interesting, in my opinion, because they depict a story; They follow the conceptual story behind the release. Spacious open waters with rock formations hiding those evil nasty creatures.
The two things I thought were a bit of a shame were that some of the smaller tracks become interesting and then end. Sure, it's probably something that was intended, but for example, track 'IV' created a really nice atmosphere and then: Click. And that's also the second remark: If the release had a bit more post-production and a bit more flow - few fades, no abrupt endings - the whole would be much more interesting as a soundscape. It would have added to the tension. But having written that: Interesting for sure.
The final tape of the batch is "Take Up A Lament" by Golgotha Toll. These tracks were recorded on January 19 and 20, 1992, and they've been hidden ever since. RSW weaves scrap metal, radio signals, and electronic composition into a fraught web of basement noise assemblage. Restored from its 4-track masters by Grant Richardson.
"How Art Thou Fallen" is a whole side on this C30 cassette and is a collage of noise samples where scrap metal doesn't sound like scrap metal. I've read the promo text, and it should be there, but it's very well manipulated. It's building and building up to the 6-minute marker where a guitar (?) enters the mix and sounds from what seems to be a merry-go-round. The atmosphere is gorgeous here! An amusement park where noise heads can even enjoy themselves! And at the end of the day, we cool down with a minimal approach to the ambience, which initially appears slightly dissonant, but everything falls into its place.
The reverse side has two tracks and opens with "That Ancient Serpent". This could be labelled as a 'song', opening with a harsh bass sound, loose beats - no rhythm to speak of and then what I can only describe as a gothy/psycho/surf guitar like someone is peeking into Bela Lugosi's coffin. I imagine hearing this on a goth dancefloor where minds will be blown. The final track, "Lightning From Heaven", is again an exercise in building ambience. Slow higher pitched sounds form a ground layer, and towards the end, a loud, dissonant dark sound takes over.
The world would have been different if this had been released in 1992 when the tracks were created. A better place? That depends on who you ask, but I think 'yes'. (BW)
––– Address: https://tribetapes.bandcamp.com/