Number 1226

UP AND OUT (CD by Amirani Records)
WAKO – WAKO (CD by Ora Fonogram) *
  Magnétiques) *
HAARVOL – RIDGE OF HUMMING SPOILS (CD by Moving Furniture Records) *
  Shhpuma) *
MR. CONCEPT – TIME (CDR by Klappstuhl) *
SUSJE RISTCH – ANA DEO (CDR by Improshit) *
DEREK PIOTR – A-D SENDING (cassette by Important Drone Records) *
MVK – METASTABILITIES (cassette by Important Drone Records) *
KAMIL KOWALCZYK – TRANS MISJA (cassette by Important Drone Records) *
  boxset by Bluesanct) *


Following last week’s issue, I had a small discussion about the word Gothic I used in one
of the reviews. Of course, I know the word gothic music means a limited set of music, Sisters
Of Mercy and all that, but I use it in a much wider sense and with a highly personal meaning.
For me, the word Gothic can be anything latched onto the music that has not necessarily
 anything to with the actual music. Music is music, and the rest is, well, the rest. Runes,
occult, rituals, gothic font, campfires, do what thou wilt, sects, religion, witches, well, you
get my drift. When I first wrote about NNHMN (Vital Weekly 1203) I wrote that “NNMHN,
who are interested in putting ‘ceremony, liturgy and ritual influences at the forefront
combining it with dark synth music which has a strong experimental approach and raw
Gothic flavour’, which surely screams that it is not for me. But actually, I enjoyed it quite
a bit.” Now, there is a follow-up, seven songs (cover and press text talk about six songs,
but there are really seven on the cover), just over half an hour of music and they take their
synth-based music further into the realm of darkwave music. Now complete with female
vocals, courtesy of Lee (no last name required; hell, maybe not even a first name!). The
music is heavily based on the dark pounding rhythm machine, arpeggio bass chords in
minor and voice with a strong dose of reverb. I was thinking of Dutch synth act Nine
Circles, poetess Anne Clark and Attrition, but I readily admit not knowing too much about
the genre. I don’t attend many darkwave parties, but I can imagine music like this would go
down easily at such places. It’s that right mix of minimal synth, dramatic singing, strong
techno-inspired rhythm and “gothic undertones”, (not my words, but of Zoharum). We
dance alone these days, but we dance.
           “CDEP released in a fixed amount of 100, hand-numbered CDs, packed in a metal
box with few collectables”, it says on the press release, but this is a white cardboard sleeve.
Time for a fresh look at review submission guidelines, mister Zoharum. But, yes, difficult
times, let’s support the scene, etc. Natt is one half of the duo Dren (see Vital Weekly 1180).
There are four pieces on this twenty-three-minute EP. It is my introduction to his solo music.
I have no idea what kind of instruments Natt is using, but I would easily believe this is a
combination of percussion instruments, electronics, sampling and maybe a few field
recordings. From the four pieces, I understand that all of this leads to a combination of
slow and heavy percussion music. Think Muslimgauze, but not as fast and not as Middle
Eastern. Natt’s music is rather solemn, like the soundtrack for some dark forest ritual to be
executed. However, there are also some trace elements from the world of rock music in
here, with some far away distorted guitar sounds. The final track, the shortest just over two
minutes, is a soundscape, devoid of any rhythm. I thought it was all pretty interesting, but
perhaps too short to get a too clear idea about the music. (FdW)
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After a week of ‘isolation’ (which for this reviewer is hardly a break in routine), the whole
‘we live in strange times’ is already tired cliché. And yet we have no idea what we are facing
anyway. Maybe less mail will arrive at the VWHQ and then what will do? Go to a bi-weekly?
Do smaller issues every week? Now, in a busier week, I would make my life easy. I know
Pan Sonic’s ‘Oksastus’ is a re-issue and I know I reviewed it before. But, because it seems
less busy, I decided not to go and look for the old review, quote a large chunk of that, add
a few words and be done with it. I decided to treat this as a fresh release. Maybe, also,
because something has changed in the meantime. One half of Pan Sonic, Mika Vainio, is
no longer with us and the group no longer exists. The impact of od the duo that consisted
of Mika Vainio and Ilpo Vaisanen has been enormous. Pan Sonic, I rank among the most
influential bands. Their combination of noise and techno music was loud, forceful but also
very danceable. I saw them a couple of times in concert and every time it was a blast; these
two stoically men and their arcane technology, operated with great precision to much
enthusiasm of the audience. Active from 1993 to 2015, with various points of inactivity, they
left a great body of work. There are various live recordings out there, including one concert
from Rapa Nui when they toured the whole world. ‘Oksastus’ is a live recording from 2009
from Ukraine and it shows they still had that relentless power; in fact, I would think this is
even noisier than some of the earlier live recordings I heard; quite brutal, but with the fine
strict beat material to go along. This is industrial music as it could also be, or perhaps, as
it should have been. No wonder Pan Sonic performed alongside Throbbing Gristle when
the latter re-united. Now that we may some more time on our hands, it would great to re-
visit the complete catalogue this great band. Another name to put on the list to slip out of
boredom. (FdW)
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UP AND OUT (CD by Amirani Records)

Recently I reviewed an impressive duo-effort of Harri Sjöström and Guilherme Rodrigues
(‘The Treasures Are’). It was my first encounter with improviser Sjöström and I’m happy
some of his other recent work dropped in here. Up And Out is a project initiated by
Sjöström in 2009, a quintet of different line-ups over the years. This time it has a very
international line up of Philipp Wachsmann (violin, live electronics), Emilio Gordoa
(vibraphone), Matthias Bauer (double bass), Dag Magnus Narvesen (drums) and
Sjöström himself (soprano & sopranino sax, selected mutes). Wachsmann is a musical
companion of Sjöström since decades. Both recorded already at the end of the 80s
as members of the Quintet Moderne. Mexican Emilio Gordoa is a much younger musician
based in Berlin since 2012 as a composer, vibraphonist and percussionist. Of the same
generation is Narvesen, a Norwegian drummer who participates in several Berlin-based
ensemble and projects. Bauer is of an older generation who worked with his brothers
Conrad and Johannes in Bauer 4, with Sven-Ake Johanssons and was also part of Robert
Rutman’s Steel Cello Ensemble. More recent is his participation in Brüggemann’s Berlin
Art Quartet. Their debut was recently reviewed here. Now we are again speaking of a
debut release, containing a live recording from January 23, 2018, at Galerie Nord in
Berlin. Three group improvisations. The improvisations are very playful and have a
remarkable role for drummer Narvesen. In very fluent, subtle and to the point interactions
they compose their narrative in this “Present-Time-Composing project” as Sjöström calls it.
Their communicative dialogues go from very quiet and intimate to passages where the
music culminates in dramatic and dynamic outbursts. Always keeping a good balance
with room for all participators. The closing title, ‘Three Draft Pistons’ is a frame composed
by Wachsmann for “improvising musicians, pre-recorded electronic sounds and projection
onto the sculpture. This work recreates aspects of improvisation in the UK in the 80s” as
liner notes tell. The Italian Amirani label, run by saxophonist Gianni Mimmo, releases the
album. He recorded with Sjöström a duo recording earlier for the same label (‘Live at
Bauchhund Berlin 2010’).  We find all members of the Up and Out-project participating
in a far more extended project that took also place in 2018 and has recently been released
by the legendary Leo Records. We are speaking of the Soundscapes + Soundportraits
Festival, Helsinki, 2018, a festival that was initiated for the first time in 2013 by Sjöström.
In the editions that followed this festival expanded in the sense that more and more
improvisers from many different countries and scenes were invited. For the 2018-edition
the members of Up and Out shared the stage with Teppo Hauta-Aho (double bass), Veli
Kujala (microtone accordion), Paul Lovens (drums, selected cymbals), Libero Mureddu
(piano), Evan Parker (saxophones), Sebastiano Tramontana (trombone). Plus Lena
Czerniawska doing a live drawing, what made this to a multi-disciplinary affair. With all t
hese musicians from all over Europe and of different generations this is a tribute to
European improvised music and at the same time an excellent manifestation of it.
    Improvisation is a very lively musical practice where borders between countries and
generations do not count. On the contrary, they contribute to the promise of inspiring
meetings. This double CD offers 13 of their improvisations, lasting some 135 minutes.
The first and last improvisations have the complete ensemble performing. In between,
we hear them in different sections from a duo up to quintet-format. One quartet-combination
is identical with the Up and Out line-up without Wachsmann. On another one we have
the quintet-format but with Evan Parker instead of Gordoa. The opening track, a collective
improvisation, starts very poetic, built from short gestures from the performers. The
improvisation by Gordoa, Hauta-aho, Narvesen and Parker illustrates the subtle and
accurate interaction that is practised here. Italian trombonist Tramontana (Italian Instabile
Orchestra, etc.) and Italian pianist Mureddu inject more dynamics and temperament in
their meeting with veteran Paul Lovens. There are several also duets on the album. Two
are by the young Kujala, who impresses with his microtone accordion in dialogues with
Parker and Sjöstrom. Kujala is the biggest surprise for me. Because of his unusual
instrument and also his distinct style. Both Parker and Wachsmann excel in a vibrant
duo meeting. Hauta-aho, Kujala, Lovens and Mureddu create concentrated textures with
nice percussion by Lovens. And so I could go on. In all, we witness here a charming and
engaging meeting, showing reciprocal understanding and musical communication. This
is an excellent addition to the catalogue of Leo Records that is celebrating its 40th
anniversary. (DM)
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WAKO – WAKO (CD by Ora Fonogram)

This is the fourth album by this excellent Norwegian quartet of Martin Myhre Olsen
(saxophone), Bárður Reinert Polusen (double bass), Simon Olderskog Albertsen (drums)
and Kjetil André Mulelid (piano, synthesizer). They debuted in 2015 and toured all over
Europe. Meanwhile, these players make their contributions in other collaborations
(Trondheim Jazz Orchestra, Espen Berg Trio, Kjetil Mulelid Trio, Megalodon Collective,
a.o.). Of all thirteen tracks on this new statement, Martin Myhre Olsen composed nine
and Kjetil André Mulelid the others. All of them enriched with the ideas of the other
members while searching for their optimal shape. Every composition is a solid structure
packed with ideas, with a multitude of intertwined lines, surprising details and clever
arrangements. They combine attractive jazzy melodies with engaging explorations in
a superb and inspired performance. For instance, the well-chosen sonic underlining by
the synthesizers and samplers add extra colour. In most of the compositions, there is a
guest appearance by one of the ten musicians that were invited to participate. We hear
Arve Henriksen (trumpet), Kyre Laastad (vibraphone) and Adrian Loseth Waade (violin),
 to name a few. This sparkling album, simply titled ‘Wako’, has much to offer. With each
listening one discovers new details; thought-over and creative music from a full-grown
quartet. (DM)
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Gabriel Dharmoo is a young composer, vocalist, improviser and researcher from
Montréal, where he completed his studies in composition and analysis. He studied
also Carnatic music and has an interest in cross-cultural and multi-traditional musical
projects; a broad-minded and multi-talented performer and composer. He travelled the
globe performing on many different festivals and also many of his compositions have
been performed on most continents. He is “interested in the ambiguous space between
reality and fiction, imagining the music of invented cultures”. On this debut solo album,
we learn more about him as a composer, improviser and vocalist. The album entails
seven works, composed between 2009 and 2019. All works are pure abstract non-verbal
works, except ‘Futile Spells’ that has partly bi-lingual vocals (French and English). This
is the central and most lengthy piece on the album sung by a choir of nine vocalists
(with some handclapping). This is a very dramatic work that illustrates his focus that I
just quoted. One hears allusions of other vocal traditions from all over the globe, condensed
in convincing and intelligent constructions that suggest some kind of fictional world music.
This counts for all works on this release. The closing work. ‘Vaai Irandu’ for example
is a very Indian-flavored melodic work. ‘Notre Meute’ also echoes many cultural influences
in an intriguing performance by the experimental voice ensemble Phth using a variety of
techniques. The improvised works, ‘Duo de Moogeon’ is a very intense duo of Dharmoo
with Elizabeth Lima. ‘Trompe de Cataimaans’ is a fantastic solo improvisation by Dharmoo.
This is experimental on the one hand, but also very physical and human music. A fantastic
album that brings joy! (DM)
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HAARVOL – RIDGE OF HUMMING SPOILS (CD by Moving Furniture Records)

“Ridge of Humming Spoils” is Haarvöl’s third album for Moving Furniture, and it’s a pleasant
background ambience. The Portuguese trio considers their Moving Furniture albums to be
a trilogy, starting in a somewhat more primal place with “Bombinate” and “Peripherad
Debris”, now concluding with the light, an airy hour of gently undulating electronic breeze
that is “Ridge…”. Clean, warm tones are brought forth like soap bubbles floating around
without particular direction or tension. The first track, “Unstable Disposessions (Precarious)”
concludes with a volley of feedback and the second, “The Uneven Trajectory of a Deviant
Thought” opens with some potentially enervating high tones, but even these elements don’t
shake the album’s overall benign tone. In grim times like the ones we currently live in, there’s
a place for music like this. Perhaps you don’t wish to get drawn into music that demands
emotional catharsis or heavy conceptual weightlifting. If not, then this album will steady
your nerves like a bowl of soup and some crusty bread. “Ridge…” shares some sonic lineage
with Benoit Poillard, Hakobune, Hotel Neon and the Eliane Rec. catalogue of amiably
melodic electronics that have just enough grit to keep them interesting but remain breezy
and natural-seeming, like a brook on a Spring afternoon. I noticed while listening that
“Ridge…” had a calming effect on me. The band describes this work in terms of psycho-
analysis; there is some conceptual component here, but it’s not necessary to pay attention
to that to get something from the music’s lovely directness. (HS)
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A while ago I reviewed three releases that included the work of Frederik Rasten, who
is a composer and guitarist with an album on Wandelweiser Records. Then it was quiet;
now there is a new album with one Egil Kalman, whose work was reviewed before in
these pages but not by me. Normally, so I understand, he is an active force on the double
bass, but here is occupied with wielding the modular synthesizer; Rasten is on acoustic
guitar and voice on the first piece, and acoustic and an electric guitar on the second
piece. It sold as “can experimental electro-acoustic music have a folkish sensibility?” I
would “why not”, to be honest. An acoustic guitar, in this case with steel strings, easily
transports that folkishy feeling, I would think and stuck on the drone-like excursions
performed by Kalman offers a remarkably interesting set of music. It is all recorded in
one take, which is not easy to believe when it comes to the second piece here, in which
Rasten plays two guitars; but for all I know, he might be able to play two at the same time.
The guitar plays fine small motifs that Rasten keeps repeating and slightly alters them
and Kalman is on a great response mission. He doesn’t change with every move Rasten
makes, but lets his sounds sustain a bit longer and when he changes it is alongside the
music. There is a fine immediate quality to the recordings here, a ‘live’ one if you will, and
throughout it is quite ‘loud’; if your volume is up a bit more their synthesizers will become
a delicate presence on the ears. I enjoyed both pieces, but the second, ‘Droplets In Air’,
is my favourite. I very much enjoyed the repetition in there, the commanding tone of the
guitar and the slow response of the synthesizer. In all, I thought this is an excellent release.
           True story here; the day after I wrote about this CD by Kalman and Rasten, I received
an LP from Kalman, this time with Zoe Efstathiou. I had not heard of her or her prepared
piano and I have no idea else she has done. This is like the ‘other side of the coin’ release
to the one with Rasten. If that one is a crowded house, this is an empty field. That may
sound like there is not much happening on this LP, and that is not the case. It is hardly
a ‘quiet’ release, but it surely all happens in a very spacious way. I have no idea how this
is recorded, but I would think it is done with an extended microphone set-up to capture
the space of the recording. The electronics and piano sound estranged, far away, intimate,
close-by, abstract and common. Most of the times one has no idea one is listening to a
modular synthesizer, as Kalman produces most of the time sparse tonal sounds, unlike
the drones and waves on his work with Rasten. I would think Efstathiou uses objects to
play the strings of the piano, the body and at various times we hear no piano, such as
in ‘Phos’. Her extended techniques reminded me of Reinhold Friedl (see also elsewhere),
but she doesn’t use a similar attack technique. She is gentler, caring for the construction
that is the piano. The interaction is great here; most of the time I didn’t think of interaction
here, or of improvised music. For all, I know this could have been well mapped out release,
five compositions for piano and electronics. It is fragile music and a great counterpart, if
you will, for the release Egil Kalman did with Frederik Rasten. Play both and you experience
the boundaries of his playing. s(FdW)
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MR. CONCEPT – TIME (CDR by Klappstuhl)

Back in Vital Weekly 1076, I wrote about Mr Concept and his ‘XXXVII’ release. He had
some release on Cordelia Records, apparently sought after these days and a bunch of
highly obscure cassettes. Then he went on a hiatus and since some time works on
presenting his legacy have been released. Or not? In the download version, there is a
24-page booklet to had and should you hope it would shed a light, however small,
flickering, on motivations and/or intentions, then, I am afraid, you have bad luck. That
booklet isn’t doing any such thing. It probably makes it all a bigger mystery. What is all
about, mister reviewer? I would think that the music on this release is from a later date
than the previous stuff. I base this on the fact that there is a lot of sampling going on here.
An endless amount of sound sources have been plundered, tons and tons of spoken
word, lounge music, disco, exotica, Daleks and still have very little idea what this all
about. Just more confusion I suspect. There are four pieces here; three of them over
eighteen minutes and one of almost nine. I understand from the booklet that each of the
pieces is the sum of multiple parts (that part I gather to be true, judging by what I hear). It
is best to be classified as plunderphonics in the best tradition of The Tape-beatles,
Negativland, Barbed, People Like Us and the like. Forty-six minutes of this I thought was
a bit much to take in at once; I guess there is only so much plunderphonic one take at
once. There is a limit to all the big band music, spoken word, exotic tunes and 1000
strings. It would have been great if two of these pieces went on a bit of vinyl. I can imagine
adventurous DJs would find this exciting stuff to mix along with their tunes. (FdW)
––– Address:


There are a few curious remarks on the cover here; “Improvised/recorded/edited B-I-W
 spring/summer 1979-2019″, which seems a bit of a long stretch for such a work. The
other thing was that Chalmers, besides his usual tools of percussion, effects, tape sampler
and electronics, also plays ‘prepared swarmandal’ and I had to look that one up; “The
swarmandalor Indian harp is a zither, originating from the Indian subcontinent, similar to
the qanun that is today most commonly used as an accompanying instrument for vocal
Indian classical music. The name combines swara (notes) and mandal (group), representing
its ability to produce many notes; it is also known popularly as surmandal.” It is also used
on ‘Strawberry Fields’. This is quite an interesting release from Chalmers. We know him for
his constructions with cassettes, electronics and creating little radiophonic dramatic pieces
with these but here he explores a more percussive approach. On Bandcamp there is a list of
musicians/bands mentioned who inspired this, ranging from 23 Skidoo to Davies’ ‘Bitches
Brew’ and Z’EV ’50 Gates’ and it is not difficult to see that. In the first few pieces, this is all a
bit chaotic at times; too freaky, too improvised. But come to the fourth tracks, ‘Instinct 3’, there
is a fine rhythmic drift going, minimal and forceful, no doubt thanks to the sound effects used.
In ‘Instinct 9’ the ghost of 23 Skidoo is not far away, whereas on ‘Instinct 6’ it is more like
Konono No.1 (not listed as an influence though). In that piece and ‘Instinct 3’, Chalmers
takes quite some time but that’s well worth it. I gather he samples his rhythmic playing and
then works with sounds around it. This, I thought, was not just a surprising release; it is an
absolute great release, one of the best Chalmers did so far. It is different and yet it fits his
work so far quite well. (FdW)
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“Improshit rec – started 2007 – release limited edition records on a mail art Fluxus spirit”. I
guess that includes sticking a CDR in a printed mailer and I should/must assume that is the
cover? I never heard of Susje Ristch, who was born in 1980, in Milan and now works in
Marseille and New York. “His artistic and music works are related to codes/languages
researches of lost civilizations” and ‘na deo’ was the “name used by the Bage population
of Flores Island in Indonesia to define a pair of statues of human appearances. They were
 used to symbolize the spirits of the ancestors and other supernatural beings and create a
connection with them”. Interesting as that is, I don’t see the relation with the piano
improvisations that make up the five pieces on this album. For this, he used a “Yamaha B1
vertical piano and Roland MC-303″. Do not expect some crazy dance/piano album.
Whatever the Roland MC-303 is doing here, it isn’t producing hardcore beat stuff. I would
think what I seem to detect as hiss/sizzles are from that machine. The piano part is most
melodic and minimal, in a sort of melancholic way. Ristch plays clusters of sound, maybe
with a bit of delay on the pedals, and some fragmented notes, but the sound keeps going.
For once it’s nothing like Satie, which is for obvious reasons a good thing. It brings out a
fine ambient ring to the music, which in the final track sounds like it has a fine metallic ring
to it, almost like xylophone-like. Maybe it is because of the somewhat lo-fi production quality
that we have all these additional sounds coming in with the piano sound that adds an extra
dimension to the music. Maybe a super clean production would have taken some of that
away? Of course, I don’t know this now, but throughout I quite enjoyed this release in all its
modest approach. (FdW)
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DEREK PIOTR – A-D SENDING (cassette by Important Drone Records)
MVK – METASTABILITIES (cassette by Important Drone Records)
KAMIL KOWALCZYK – TRANS MISJA (cassette by Important Drone Records)

Just like the one-sided LP, I think the one-sided cassette is a job half done. Why not come
up with something for the other side? That said, maybe Piotr has his reasons for doing so.
We mainly know Piotr from his work with voice and digital manipulation via a string of self-
released albums as well as a few releases by other labels. I am not sure if I heard them all
(probably not), but I would think this is the first time he tried his hands on a very long work;
‘A-D Sending’ lasts forty-one minutes and is a single piece. I don’t know for sure, but it
would be a surprise if ‘A-D’ didn’t stand for ‘analogue’ and ‘digital’. And to add to the guessing
game, I would think that there is some form of voice manipulation that works both in a digital
as well as an analogue way. One possible scenario would be that Piotr took a voice sample
and stretched it out as a starting point and then fed that stretched out sample through various
digital and analogue ways of processing. It has that sharp digital edge, but also that warm(-er)
drone feel. The Important Drone Records label is known for their lengthy releases of drone
music of whatever making; it’s not limited to, say, modular electronics or laptop technology,
and Piotr proofs that a combination of interests can lead to great results as well. Halfway
through something that resembles an angelic choir came on, but the bookends of this piece
were chilling and cold. If such a thing would exist, I’d say this is Dystopian Drone Music.
           Of MVK, also known as Mathijs Kouw, I wrote two weeks ago that he is slowly picking
up speed. This cassette proofs me right and what’s more important is that he spreads his
wings with releases for other labels. That is, I would think, the way to get your music out to
new audiences. Like Piotr, MVK is a man to use various techniques, analogue and digital,
even when that is not clear from the title. It is also not clear from playing the music and
certainly not from the four pieces (exactly 22.30 minutes each) on this new release. MVK
has his take on the word ‘drone’; I can (again!) merely guess what it is that he is doing here.
I would think his approach is that first collects a multitude of sound sources that think will fit
together in some construction and that these sounds can be moved around with that
constellation; sometimes one goes up, the other goes down, and all of that in a very minimal
way; there are no sudden drastic moves to be noted here. When he has what he needs, I
imagine MVK sits down and starts playing around with them, until he found a construction
that works. Maybe he is recording all of these sessions and picks the best; it might also be
that he waits until he has the best one laid out and then records it straight through. It could
be either way, and it’s of course not important. The result is great, I think. In each of these
four pieces, the shifts are slow and minimal, the sound remains dark and ‘heavy’, but
throughout there is enough variation to be noted in these pieces; there is not a complete
 standstill. My favourite is the last one; it has, perhaps the most changing bits and allows
for some odd musical undercurrent; the other three employ a more monochrome/
abstract stance.
           The final new release by Important Drone Records is by Kamil Kowalczyk, of whom
I reviewed some work before (Vital Weekly 1091867 and 770) but who has also a bunch
more releases in the digital domain. Curiously enough one of the previous releases was
called ‘Transmisja’ and the tracks were numbered, ‘Transmisja 1’, ‘Transmisja 2’ etc. This
new one is called ‘Trans Misja’ and has three pieces, ‘Trans Misja 1’ and so on. One could
assume there is a connection; maybe there is none? The previous release had shorter
pieces but the sounds covered in the music was all from radio waves being transformed
into low humming drones and that is something that is happening on this new cassette as
well, except now the pieces are way longer and way more minimal. However, of the three
new releases by Important Drone Records, I would think this is one that is the least minimal,
especially the two ‘shorter’ pieces on the first side (20 and 26 minutes each). In both these
pieces, the sounds are sustaining and dark, but not exclusively dark. There are small
movements in the way these pieces develop. In the thirty-three minutes of ‘Trans Misja 3’,
there is much less developed and it sounds it is stuck in stasis. This is the pure drone
experience and best enjoyed in a dark room and/or eyes closed. All three pieces are fine
works of drone music; nothing spectacular or new, but what’s new in drone music
anyway? (FdW)
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  boxset by Bluesanct)

It’s a hell of a thing to be confronted with half a day’s worth of music all at once by an artist
I hadn’t heard of two weeks ago. Of course, maybe I’m just out of touch and Lightning White
Bison (aka Adam Parks) is a name every clued-in listener already knows and now I look
like some old nobody (which I surely am, regardless) by admitting my ignorance of his output
here in public. Doesn’t bother me, I guess. If I cared about other people thinking I was cool,
I would have made lots of different life choices a long time ago. So here we are. “Open
Body: A Complete Discography” contains something like 9+ hours of music and 1.5 hours
of videos intended to be viewed while listening. The USB drive has the videos on it (duh…
it’d be technically challenging, though not impossible, to put videos onto a cassette tape…)
and also all 12 albums that LWB released over the past decade or so. The tape contains
“Otevřenétělo”, LWB’s most recent and (to these ears) best album. Even if you have all the
previous LWB albums, “Otevřenétělo” is worth the price of this set. But I’m getting ahead of
myself… I’ll start at the beginning.
    The name of the project refers to an animal considered sacred by many Native American
tribes. A mood of reverent reflection is on Adam Parks’ mind as an implacable aura of
sacred music permeates most of the Lightning White Bison catalogue. The earliest LWB
album, recorded in 2008 out on Long Island (and, as it happens, quite near to where I grew
up. It’s a lovely area!), is self-titled. It’s the crudest-sounding of the set but has some
components that will remain consistent: meditative cycling clusters of sound, repetitive
melancholic melodies caked with grime, distortion, tape flutter and nasty hiss. The
juxtaposition of deep introspection and anaemic materials creates an atmosphere similar
to that of People Skills or Armpit. Organs and harmonium, key components to the LWB
sound, dominate the first album. Each untitled track finds that organ wheezing a cycle of
three or four notes, letting the inconsistent imperfections of the recording process (tape
saturation, hiss etc) colour in between the lines.
    The second album, “III” (not “II”?), is more conventional than the previous album’s
elongated dirges. Strummed guitar and rickety drum box define these hushed nocturnal
instrumental songs. If Labradford, Low or Stars of the Lid are your preferred flavour of
codeine, LWB “III” will pleasantly knock you out for the evening. Of all the LWB albums,
”III” has the most in common with Parks’ Timber Rattle project, which uses similar elements
but shapes them into melodic, zero-bpm songs instead of abstract textures. The 3rd album,
“Approaches For….”, was recorded a couple of years later in several locations: upstate NY,
California and Hawaii. Right away, LWB’s syrupy haze is recognizable, but these three long
pieces depart from the second album’s song form and instead pursue a raga-like drone.
The reverberant guitar weaves between gloops of a smeared piano with a loose rhythm
that sounds to me like a kid hitting a cardboard box while watching television like he keeps
getting distracted but remembers to smack the box a few times when a commercial comes
on. Even more, time passed between “Approaches For..” and LWB’s fourth album, “Mescal
Psalms”. The tracks became longer and the production significantly improved. Only two
extended drones on this one, both of them displaying a boost in confidence, fidelity and
range. “Kyrie” and “Gloria” are slow-motion monoliths made from unidentifiable instruments.
A funereal mood persists on this album; lush and inward-looking. I’m reminded of choral
music or hymns, though this music is more melancholy than tranquil. The 5th album,
“Orbis/Aurum”, continues where the previous album left off, but bridges the older song-like
form with the newer loop-based drones. We again get two extended tracks. They are not the
sonic slabs of “Mescal Psalms” however; these tracks have sections and transitions,
passages of steady pulses and others of ethereal calm. It even concludes with chanting
voices, more directly recalling hymns but with the singing slathered in saturated tape and
electronic grit.
    LWB recorded two albums in 2017, both of them in California. The harmonium returns
(hooray!). By this time, Parks has his sound nailed down. The appropriately titled
“Somniferum” is of particular interest, not because it’s a surprise or a departure (it’s not
either), but because it does the artist’s signature lugubrious wallow so well. This music
doesn’t seem to want to get your attention; it wants to live in the shadows and seep into
your consciousness, gaining power by waiting until you succumb to its sombre mood. The
titles say all you need to know: “Sleep Unfolds….” and “… Is Death Unfolding”. If 2017 was
a productive year for Parks, 2018 was an explosion. He recorded and released four LWB
albums in that one year: “Masha In the Garden”, “Unburned Numbers” and “The Song Silent
Heat” were all recorded in the summer, then “Chrysoprase” in winter of 2018. Of these,
“Unburned Numbers” is the most open-sounding of the lot. Minimal percussive loops and
single organ tones that stretch on and on and on. “The Song Silent Heat” brings back the
guitar figures, an introverted sound that might have been recorded outdoors. Fans of Low
might gravitate to these whispered, private-sounding meditations.
    All of the preceding is just a warm-up to the most recent two albums, which are easily
the best things here. “Oak Rounds”, from 2019, is a single 37-minute volley that’s entirely
successful at incorporating elements present throughout the previous 11 albums. An
opening section of the sand-blasted tape loop is as thick and dark as buckwheat honey.
 In the middle section, the drone dissipates into minimal guitar strum with chirping birds
(or is that backwards tape?) and cardboard drum box. After spending some time staring
at the wall, the music morphs into an uplifting organ and tape mantra that sticks around
long enough for a listener to get lost in. It’s excellent, but “Otevřenétělo” is even better.
The newest LWB (which features Michael Anderson/Drekka on optigan) is comprised of
two untitled sides of thick analogue porridge, piling chanting voices on top of one another
in massive chunks, then running them through… what? Lesley speakers? It’s hard to tell
what’s going on here, just a mass of swirling gunk. It has a mood of prayer, somehow…
record surface noise and skipping voices with literal meaning obscured but immense
emotion very clear. In its final moments, a choir is accompanied by reverent, muted guitar
and busy rustling of indeterminate origin. The videos, if you choose to watch them as you
listen, contain natural images of things like leaves, water, layered rural/pastoral landscapes.
Nothing to break a listener out of the music’s hypnotic reverie. For all of us currently stuck
indoors while a virus ravages the planet, simple lightly-processed images of nature can
be a comfort. (HS)
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