number 855
week 44


Vital Weekly, the webcast: we offering 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 CDs (no vinyl or MP3) 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: http://www.vitalweekly.net/podcast.html

before submitting material please read this carefully: http://www.vitalweekly.net/fga.html

Submitting material means you read this and approve of this.

help Vital Weekly to survive:

EXPE - EMERALDA (CD by Naturebliss) *
NELS - SPROUT (CD by Ensl) *
PORYA HATAMI - UNSTABLE (CD by Nephogram)  *
THE BIG OAKS - MONSTER TURD (LP by Distraction Records)
SMTVUZ - BEST OF (LP by Zesde Kolonne)
MACHINEFABRIEK - 15/15 (LP by Worm Records) *
ILLUSION OF SAFETY - SWEET DREAMS (10" by Substantia Innominata)

Back in Vital Weekly 809 I reviewed a CD by Roel Meelkop in collaboration with Japanese sound artist Takanobu Hoshino, who now started his own label. The release by Francisco Meirino we hope to review in the near future, but here's Roel Meelkop's 'Secret Garden' release. It started out as the soundtrack to a film of the same name by Marco Douma, with whom Meelkop worked before. An hour long movie, we are told by the liner notes (a rare thing for Meelkop) of 'letting go, in forgetting the goal and enjoying the ride'. The film existed before Meelkop did the music, but in honor to the film he decided to create his soundtrack, as an interpretation of the film. Both can be enjoyed together and independently. Like his CD with Hoshino we encounter a new Meelkop direction here, one that is perhaps getting more and more 'ambient'? Unlike his previous works which were heavily 'composed' with abrupt change-overs, heavy computer processing and such like, we have here a Meelkop that is also letting go. There is no doubt some form of computer processing in play here, but it all sounds more like unprocessed field recordings. One bit we recognize from his contribution to the 'Villa Fiasco' (see Vital Weekly 820) project, but for the rest of this more than an hour long CD we move from part to part. Each part seems to be sliced from one bit of field recording (just plain church bells in one part) or sound sources, like singing bowls (a recent interest from Meelkop) and it seems that it is presented almost 'as is', but surely isn't. It moves minimally around until fading into the next part, the next movement. This is Meelkop, I guess, at his most ambient. Not unlike that recent collaboration this is definitely the next step in a new direction. I haven't seen the film, but this soundtrack, if such it is, is great! (FdW)
Address: http://oto-jpn.narod.ru

EXPE - EMERALDA (CD by Naturebliss)
NELS - SPROUT (CD by Ensl)
Here's a whole bunch of Japanese releases, covering a wide field of musical interest, but lumped together for the sheer fact they are either Japanese artists and all on labels from that country. Following 'Earth' (see Vital Weekly 834), here's Hideyuki Hashimoto's second solo CD, 'Air', and it's also the other half of that small series, 'earth', 'air', I assume you get my drift. Again he sits behind the instrument with 88 keys, in black and white, better known as the piano. Recorded in a 'mysterious' concert hall, and taking his inspiration from anything following Erik Satie: from Claude Debussy to say Ryuichi Sakamoto on his recent albums. One hundred years (more!) of melodic, introspective piano playing. Partly composed and partly improvised, although one never hears the difference, I think, which I am sure we should see as a compliment. Minimalist, modern classical, and perhaps also Ambient, or even new agey by some standards, and perhaps perfect music for a quiet dark evening at home, with fine surroundings of wine and a book of sparse poetry. I am hardly surprised that JAL plays music from this great pianist on their flights. It makes flying a lot nicer, me thinks.
Atmospheric is a word that can easily be applied to Expe, also known as Yoshitake Expe, whom some may know as the guitarists from Boredoms and Para. His solo music is something he describes as 'New World Music', but it's mainly funky music. Expe plays on this album space guitar, acoustic guitar and other instruments, while receiving help on drums, cymbals, synthesizer, voice, pandeiro, caxixix, bendir and tama (percussion instruments). I am not sure what the element of world music is in here, as these percussion instruments have groovy yet mechanical drive to it. If anything this is more like a psychedelic jam session without the fuzz and distortion pedals, but with a lot of loop stations picking up the highly funky guitar of Expe. More ambient, and not fourth world, but cosmic, and not in as 'with a lot of synthesizers'. Although not entirely my cup of soup I thought this was quite a nice album. Just for what it is. 'Caleide', the longest piece, clocking in at twenty-some minute with the voice of Jarvis Earnshaw was the least favorite. His wordless chant didn't do much for me. The other five, instrumental pieces, were quite nice, joyous pieces of music that give the listener some energy.
More atmospheres, but of another dimension, can be found on the release by Park Avenue Music, which is a duo of husband and wife Wes Steed and Jeanette Faith. I never heard of them. They were at one point inspired by Slowdive and Saint Etienne, then Wendy Carlos and these days use software and homemade modular synthesizers to create intimate yet pop like tunes. 'Night music' is the term coined here by the label and quite rightly so. Obviously it's now noon and the sun is high at a cold, winter-like day, but thank god, I am inside and it's relatively warm, thanks to the heater and this music. They have six new pieces to offer here, followed by a short interlude and then the same six songs remixed by Aus, geskia!, Ametsub, Lorin Sylvester Strohm, Poplamb & Yoshinori Takezawa and Hior Chronik. That is a bit much, I thought, since the remixes stay quite close to the original pieces, save perhaps that the vocals are a bit pushed to the background or have entirely disappeared. The music is pleasant, entertaining, intimate, warm and nocturnal - stay safe inside the music. It's good, it's fun. And if you use this as pleasant background music, you wouldn't notice that it's the same album on one CD and it'll be thirteen nice pieces of music.
More remixes, but then just the remixes, are to be found on a rather short CD by Sylvain Chauveau. Seven in total, twenty-six minutes, even when he's been remixing other artists since 2001, to come up with these seven as his best. In all of these tracks Chauveau uses the original vocals, but replaced the entire music, in most of these cases. Three remixes are of his own music, two solo track and one with his band Arca; the others remixed are Agoria, Paul Duncan, At The Close Of Everyday and StretchAndRelax. That's the statistics side of this release. Here, obviously, it's a pity that I don't know the originals, even if only as a point of reference. But then, to be honest: I don't know that much about his own music anyway. Just his band On with Steven Hess, I know a bit and liked a lot. It's weird to discover a song in Dutch here (the remix of At The Close Of Everyday). I didn't think it was easy to make up my mind about this. I quite enjoyed this melancholy, the strings, the pathos even, while realizing at the same time, this might not be entirely my cup of tea, but it fits the whole atmospheric trip all of these Japanese releases are in. Nice, but perhaps more so for the true fans?
The last one is by a band called Nels, which I assume is a Japanese band. Here we have another musical style-invention, 'feelscape sound', which is another word for 'shoegazer, post rock, ambient'. Nels seems like a rock band of sorts, and indeed play shoegazing ambient fuzzy rock music, and I think they might do a fine job. But then, that's what I think, as to be honest: what do I know about the history and development of shoegazing music? That is, next to nothing. Do I like this? Sure, I do. I am not sure if I would play this more than once or twice, to concentrate on the necessary review, and it's music that feels alright. Maybe more something for a concert, lots'a smoke, flashy lights, drinks… you know the drill. (FdW)
Address: http://nlart.jp
Address: http://www.naturebliss.jp
Address: http://www.mu-nest.com
Address: http://www.flau.jp
Address: http://ensl.jp

I was first introduced to Ingenting Kollektiva in Vital Weekly 820, when I reviewed their LP 'Fragments Of Night' and here they return. It's collective of musicians and film makers, who work in various constellations. They are Johannes d'Eglise, Diane Granahan, Tarrl Lightowler and Matthew Swiezynski. The CD is by d'Eglise and Swiezynski, while the DVD has music by Swiezynski and Lightowler, and films by the both of them and Granahan. Complicated perhaps? "The kollektiva seeks to issue recordings that are meditations on the quality of light, sound and atmosphere created by Ingmar Bergman and Sven Nykvist" it still says on the website, and to that musical end we have here music being processed by Johann Sebastian Bach, Ingmar Bergman, Olivier Messiaen, Arthur de Eriomem and their own 'Fragments Of Night'. The nine pieces on the CD flow into each other in a most natural way, so that we indeed have one long piece, but also clearly divided into nine separate sections. Highly atmospheric music, using lots of time stretching (I assume), which are smeared out in thick layers over the canvas (that is the computer that is). All of it quite dark and heavily textured, perhaps not unlike their previous album. You won't recognize any of the sound sources, me thinks, and perhaps soundtrack music. And last time I wrote: "I wonder what their own films be like", so now I can head over to the DVD part of this. Now, I am not much of critique when it comes to art movies, certainly when they are of an abstract nature, and I feel I can only judge them in merely subjective views, i.e. I can tell you what I see and if I like it. To start with the latter: I do like it. Ingenting Kollektiva know quite well how to translate their music into film (although you never know what came first). Especially in the four films by Tarrl Lightowler we have a fine bombardment of visuals, multi-layered, swiftly moving about, like flicker movie. Perhaps too rapid if you are an epileptic, but I thought these were great. Images of birds, petals, and more abstract imagery work quite nice altogether. In the film 'My Heart, Delirious With Sound', the images are very reduced. Black background and abstract grey washes dropping by every now and then. It fits the sparse music of single processed flute quite well. Such sparseness is also present in 'I Can Feel The Sea Falling Over My Head', and these two longer films offer a totally different side of the coin of Ingenting Kollektiva. I liked the LP back then, but it's this package which completes the picture even better.
Maybe too late but there is a special highly limited and highly expensive edition which includes thirty more minutes of music, which may not shed more light on their music, but instead further explores the depths of their musical world. (FdW)
Address: http://www.invisiblebirds.org

Of these two Italian musicians, I only heard of Franz Rosati before, when he did a solo release for Ripples Recordings (see Vital Weekly 811). He's the man on the computer on this CD, working with his own custom build software and working around the guitar sounds of Saguto. He has a background in jazz, pop, experimental and contemporary music and has played with a bunch of people, although I didn't recognize a lot of them, mostly Italians. Together they recorded six tracks which have them both on distorted guitars,  but Saguto also on classic and prepared guitars and Rosati on electronics. It's not a very long album, clocking at thirty-three minutes, and what I hear here is good, but not always something that is a big surprise to me. It's more heavy on the sound of the guitar than on the electronics. The improvised parts on the guitar, dueling banjo's!, is the starting point of this, and then electronics color the overall sound a bit more. That works best in 'Shifting Threshold' I think which has intense interaction on both guitars to start with, adding subtle layers of guitars and slowly building a crescendo, ending in minimalist chaotic weirdness. The other tracks are fine, but not as well as this one, I thought. This is one of those releases that are alright, have some nice ideas, a fine production, but which is perhaps not enough to stand out of the rest. Sufficient mild noise/heavy ambient music.
The CD cover for Porya Hatami contains even less information: just the six track titles, and that all sounds, composition and mastering is done by the artist, but from the website we learn that Porya Hatami is from Sanandaj, Iran and that he is a computer musician working in the 'field of minimal and experimental ambient sonorities', using field recordings and acoustic and electronic sounds. He has five tracks on his album, and is just a bit shorter than the previous release on the same label. My objection would be that this, alike the Saguto/Rosati release, is, while actually a different kind of music, is alike so many other things out there. Don't get me wrong, I thought these five pieces were very nice. Glitchy, warm, static, crackling, all such things apply here, but it's the kind of approach that we found on such fine labels as 12K years ago, or in that wide legion of laptop musicians working with exactly the same sound approach. Hatami doesn't stand out of that pack and should find something to carve out his own niche in this world. Although perhaps all too obvious, but I'd say tape the instruments of Iran and use that as source material and see what surprising combinations that could bring. The fine thing about this, while being actually a great release (I'd like to say that!), is of course that he's from a country where we would probably hardly expect such music being produced. That's a niche for sure! (FdW)
Address: http://www.nephogram.net

The Anklung is an Indonesian instrument, percussive, with it's own tuning. Anne Boyd from Australia composed a piano piece using that tuning and it's that piece that which gave the name to a new label run by Robert McDougall, as well one piece on this LP. His instruments are piano and acoustic guitar, but both are heavily treated inside the computer. That may all seem regular for anyone who reads the pages, but the music of McDougall is actually quite good. It avoids the usual electro-acoustic composing fast blocks of sounds and rapid editing, but also the glitchy character of many of his peers. The four pieces here (somewhere between eight and twelve) minutes are quite distilled, slow moving pieces, of deep sine wave like drone matter that is not unlike the work of Eliane Radigue, say her 'Triptych'. McDougall sets forward a number of sounds, almost right from the start of a piece and then starts, in a very minimal way, to take all of these apart, either by filtering or mixing the sounds in all sorts of configurations together, and perhaps adding one or two extra sounds due process.. Music that is designed to be played a low volume, me thinks, which allows itself to float more freely around your space, as opposed to playing this very loud and making these delicate sine waves burst your eardrum. One of the interesting aspects is that 'Platter Study #2' is a piece which has the most anklung like sound to it. This is a great record, and excellent new discovery. If Stephan Mathieu is a household name for you, this is certainly one to check out. I know many people will think differently, but I rather had a CD release of this, as the crackles of the vinyl, even with the first time I played this. I know, I know, vinyl is superior, bla bla, but with such delicate music… I prefer a CD. But who knows, maybe this will be one of those timeless classics, and eventually be re-issued on CD. (FdW)
Address: http://angklungeditions.com

One of the more curious musicians from Norway these days is Nils Rostad. I reviewed a LP from him before (see Vital Weekly 795), as well as other releases, but he's one hell of a hard guy to pin down anywhere. It's improvised music for sure, and perhaps played on a whole bunch of 'real' instruments. Guitar is one that is obviously very present in all of these six pieces, but there is also voices, drums and perhaps a whole bunch of other, unnamed, instruments, as well as a bunch of sound contributions from Per Platou, J.M. Iversen, Onni and Sigrid Engelsen in one piece. Much like his previous record, this is another package of weird tunes. It hums, it sings and it plinks, but perhaps also a bit less random than the previous record. Maybe it seems as if Rostad is trying to play a half decent tune here and not always succeeds or fails. But I somehow think that's his whole raison d'etre of playing music. To give the listener that comfortable feeling and yet something seems wrong. Clear crisp sound, again (and again, no doubt thanks to the mastering qualities of Jos Smolders at Earlabs) and quite direct. Do I like it? Well, hell, yeah. This is weird, this is different, and this is top. Even if I don't know why exactly. Oh, and no doubt limited again. (FdW)
Address: <nilsros@c2i.net>

THE BIG OAKS - MONSTER TURD (LP by Distraction Records)
Every month a few friends and me get together to talk music, all according to a theme. Say 'vehicles' and then play great, stupid, weird, funny songs about all sorts of vehicles and then be surprised what everybody comes up and think 'oh yes, Scooter was a great hilarious band'. I sometimes (well, maybe always) like to be surprised. I never heard of The Big Oaks in the time they existed, from 1994 to March 2011, an odd bunch of lo-fi guitar musicians around the main song writer Simon 'John the Rat' Windsor, who passed away May 26 2011. In 2008 he recorded a bunch of songs for Distraction Records, which weren't released back then, but are now available on LP (and a pro-pressed CD for promotional purposes, which I got). This is a strange bunch of songs, twenty-eight in total in just over thirty-six minutes. The longest song is 4:34 and the shortest twenty-one second. The Big Oaks are like a punk band, and apparently this is all text heavy, with such pieces as 'Eric Cantona Is A Genius', 'Pancakes vs Omelettes' and 'Pimp On Petrol' and sometimes it reminded me of stripped down version of Crass, which in my book is always good. And sometimes there was an amount of weirdness going which is more than punk than real punk I think, more acoustic, and direct without any distortion. I have no idea what some of these texts are about, but they sound at least funny from time to time. Typically English I thought, both music and the way it is executed, as well as the funny lyrics. I had this on in the last couple of days, whenever at the end of the day I wanted to hear something as much as possible off Vital course. (FdW)
Address: http://www.distractionrecords.com

SMTVUZ - BEST OF (LP by Zesde Kolonne)
Two LPs from the city of lights, home of Philips and home of Zesde Kolonne: Eindhoven. They have been going for some thirty years now, releasing cassettes in the early 80s with such legendary bands as MTVS and Zombies Under Stress, and moving towards video in the 90s, but still with strong ties to the city of Eindhoven always opening new venues and art spaces. Their most recent place  is called Flipside, in the outskirts of the city, where they run their own art program providing they also do stuff for the neighborhood. Releasing LPs is one such activity. The first one is by sMTvUz - or best known as a collaboration between MTVS and Zombies Under Stress. Four men with small synths, voices and drums. Six of pieces of industrial music, which may or may not be the best of their recent years, but all of this was recorded in 2010/2011. Six pieces which are best described as a time machine, transporting you back to the year 1984, when they played exactly similar music. Noisy but always with that nice rhythmic touch to it. Distorted by detailed. This is not the 2012 wall of noise music but the 1984 children of Throbbing Gristle and early Cabaret Voltaire - grim, violent, grey, doomy and actionist. But also with a mask you can wear, so it's also not without a fine sense of humor.
The other LP is much more 'now'. Hiernaermaels - a word pun on 'life here after' and 'wicked' I guess - is a trio of Steve Hubback (harps, bodhran, percussion, voice), Edwin van Eck (kaospad, korg ms-10, voice and we know him as a primary zombie under stress) and Silke Blumberg (voice). Despite the multitude of these voices, I don't think lyrics are much in play here. As said, this record is more 'now', but perhaps I mean, 'not from the 80s', or 'industrial'. Wordless chant like vocalizations, melodic picking of the snare instruments, and lots of meandering sound effects which make this into a spacious record, which is, let's give it the benefit of the doubt, more ambient, but the voices may be alike a new age record at times. It's the percussion and some of the darker sound effects that make this, at least to these ears, nothing alike new age. Quite moody music, but it's not easy to put a tag on it (in case you would need to, of course). Improvised for sure, ambient surely, ethnic perhaps, but perhaps also a bit 'gothic' with that chanting, which I guess is not really my cup of tea. But without, I thought this was very good music, and interesting to see what an old industrial boy can also do, thirty years onwards.
Both LPs are highly limited - 200 copies only - and come on heavy vinyl and heavy card stock cover, with extra inserts. Art all around! (FdW)
Address: http://www.kolonne.nl

MACHINEFABRIEK - 15/15 (LP by Worm Records)
In the city of Rotterdam there is a, in the public space (Schouwburgplein should you be there one day), a sound installation called 'Soundpiece'. Late 2011 there was a new composed sound piece that went on a whole month on fixed timings. These three pieces of vinyl present those pieces, and I assume they are on the first side of each record. The other side is reserved for songs or versions. In Machinefabriek's case it's very clearly a version of what we hear on the first side. Both sides are clearly related, and sound like template Machinefabriek pieces. Very much build on just a few sustaining tones, which seem to be derived from a single bang that opens each of two pieces. This very relaxing music with a slow but steady development and of these three records also the one that I think is the closest towards what one should expect from such an installation in the public domain, open air. I can imagine these tones coming from under the ground rising up to the sky, but carried away by the windy city of Rotterdam. Fans of Machinefabriek know what to expect, and occasional listeners and other mildly interested would put this down as 'more of the same'. I quite enjoyed it.
Dyane Donck is a new name, at least for Vital Weekly, but earlier this year I saw her play with her band Daisy Bell. The a-side has her sound piece work and the other side has three pieces by Daisy Bell, with includes also Richard van Kruysdijk from Strange Attractor. I wasn't too impressed by their concert, which was an attempt at pop music, but not well rehearsed and a bit out of tune in the singing. And probably a bit too long. Her installation piece here is far from pop music, but not entirely cut off. It starts out with crackles of broken contact microphones, field recordings, until a heavy chopped off song kicks in, perhaps one of the poems promised in the title '2 Poems and 72 Sounds'. The whole piece is more a collage of impressions, voices, and sounds, perhaps a bit scattered, but certainly as piece on vinyl a nice one. The three songs on the flip by Daisy Bell are all with lyrics from the poems of William Blake, and move around singing and a heavy version of electronic folk music. The element of folk is perhaps best found in the way this is sung, but the electronic backing is quite heavy, such as can be noted in 'The Fly'. Much better than their concert, a pity that the third song is a reprise of the first. I would curious to hear a whole record by them.
Pierre Bastien I must admit I never understood. We always read about that record deal he has with that label which then gives him a lot of credit (which is good for him), but perhaps that certain label boss didn't look inside the scene for more interesting names and fell for a guy who seems to be doing the same a lot of the times: mecano constructions, small camera's, loops and trumpet. It's good, I think, but perhaps I've not seen enough variation in it over the years. If you never experienced a concert by Bastien: a must see. Once at least. But perhaps, so I was thinking, maybe I'm judging too hard, as perhaps I don't know his recorded output that well - and maybe that's clouding my judgement a bit. I am not sure if this record would help me in anyway. His installation piece is quite nice, singing insects, which sound at the beginning like a bunch of cicada's, but then effectively are being transformed into human trying to imitate the sounds of insects - it's all in the domain of pitching, transposing and granular synthesis. The other side has 'Instant Music' and here I am reminded of his concert pieces. Loops of sound, kinetic movements, rhythms, sounds and of course the trumpet and it's all orchestrated a bit loosely, like a flow of sounds, a stream of consciousness. Maybe his record contract with that other label doesn't allow him to put out studio pieces with third parties, I wondered, thinking why he would want to release a live piece. Again, if you never heard this, this sounds actually quite alright, but for me not more than once. (FdW)
Address: http://www.worm.org/

ILLUSION OF SAFETY - SWEET DREAMS (10" by Substantia Innominata)
There are various people who I think are geniuses, but never get the recognition they deserve. There's at least two in this week's issue, and Dan(iel) Burke is one of them. Since so many years he's the main man behind Illusion Of Safety and responsible for a fine body of work over all those years. One of those rare 'bands', where I can say I still have most of their releases. Here we have three pieces from 2010, all by Burke solo. In more recent times I noticed his music is less based on drones and a bit more on improvisation - one of the advantages of keeping all that music by certain artists - which makes the music a bit more open, I think. Here we have two tracks from 2010, and in the title piece (which made me think of Eurythmics all afternoon) the improvisation on a guitar is the basis, and also field recordings, bits of crackling. Very much like the recent sound of Illusion Of Safety. 'Unresolved', the other piece on the a-side, has improvised sounds, but perhaps it's not, and just some of the sounds used are bit loose. Here we have much more electronics and electro-acoustic sounds. On the b-side 'Always Somewhere Else' we have something entirely different. Here the guitar is sampled and brought into a bouncing mode, almost like a spacious floatation device, alike Manuel Gottsching. A remarkable 'light' piece of music, with a fine light drone to back it up. Towards the end more and more distortion leaps in, and here I was wondering if it was the pressing of the vinyl or the actual music. This is an oddly bright piece of music. It marks three quite distinctive pieces on this 10" record and shows once again the great craftmanship of Daniel Burke.
Sometimes I wish I had a day off and I could spend the entire day listening to old Illusion Of Safety releases. I already put them aside on the far end of my desk. You never know. (FdW)
Address: http://www.substantia-innominata.de

One of those bands that return to Vital Weekly every now and then is Hamilton Yarns from the UK. They have been around now since ten years and have released ten albums. I am not sure that includes this new release 'Calm Down Grandad' from this ever changing line up. Here now five persons, of which we have three female vocalists, an accordion and two players on Wurlitzer electric piano, guitars, percussion, voice, cornet, korg synthesizer and two male voices. This is outsider music with a nice folky background. Just as on 'Hello Sparkle', the previous album I heard from them (see Vital Weekly 764), there is a great mixture of this moody music, intimate with some odd field recordings, including people shouting at a demonstration and playing ping pong. Still, I have no idea what the lyrics are about, and some pieces are more complete than others. Especially the trio of pieces which open here are rounded songs. Yet it seems that the sketch like approach is a bit less here than on the previous one. I have no idea how these things work but with such delicate folky music with a strong twist of their own, experimental yet accessible, I think it should be possible to get a normal record deal and do great, real CDs? But it's no world of justice, I know. Until then we cherish stuff like this. The small rough diamonds. (FdW)
Address: http://www.hamiltonyarns.co.uk