Number 1231

SETT – FIRST AND SECOND (CD by A New Wave Of Jazz) *
FAR BOUNDARIES (compilation LP by Stroom TV)
K. LEIMER / MARC BARRECA – CHAINS OF BEING (LP by Abstrakce Records) *
NURSE WITH WOUND – ROCK ‘N ROLL STATION (2LP by Abstrakce Records) *
KATSA.THEO – FROST (cassette by Ressonus)
MARKUS MEHR – BRIEF CONVERSATIONS (cassette by Hidden Shoal Recordings)


For a while Mathias Josefson changed from the band moniker to his name and now seemed to have switched back; unless there are other motivations at play that I may not understand. Here he has a double CD, which contains one disc with three long pieces with the overall title ‘Heaven’s Great Dome’ and the second contains six remixes/transformations/deconstructions by others, called ‘Discourse On Deconstruction’. For his three-piece suite, he got help from Hara Alonso (piano) and Isabel Fogelklou (singing bowls), while Josefson takes the credit for ‘tapes and drones’. If I would have heard that somebody is wielding a church organ here, I would have also believed it. It is not easy to hear the bowls and piano in here, but surely they are there, sometimes on a different level, remotely present and maybe they too have been treated beyond recognition. On “Places Of Memory’ they are surely present, not embedded entirely by the world of drones but in the other two pieces not easily heard. ‘Remarks On Rural Scenery’ is the one in which at one point the mighty church organ rings out loud and clear and on the title, there is room for some more field recordings from the Swedish countryside. In both three pieces, all twenty to twenty-six minutes, there is an urgency to be noticed; this is not just some gentle drone music, but rather a force to be reckoned with. This is some pretty strong music.
           The second disc is, as said, called ‘Discourse On Deconstruction’, which is another word for a remix, rework or recycling. The latter is the word we used in the 80s when musicians send each other tapes with basic sounds and ‘distant structures’ (to borrow P16.D4’s phrase from their second LP ‘Distruct’) would arise. The artists here all received a bunch of sounds from Josefson from the material used on ‘Heaven’s Great Dome’ and ‘Discourse On Lightness’, with the liberty to do whatever they wanted. I should think that Josefson chose artists close to his heart and not some opposed ones; no stomping floor filler here. These are artists who work with electronics, drone and field recordings, each in their way and with some overlaps in approaches, but that seems hard to avoid. The musicians are Troum, Phil Knight (also known as The Silverman from The Legendary Pink Dots), Daniel Menche and Colin Potter as, perhaps, the more usual suspects but Isabel Fogelklou also makes a return (adding singing bowls, I wonder?) and there is a contribution by Marja-Leena Sillanpaa. Elements from the original pieces return in these remixes, take on a different shape and morphed into something else. The details that make up the differences include Knight opening the window of his apartment and adding street and bird calls to the mix in a very subdued piece of music, whereas Menche emphasis the gentle harshness of the stringed drones via a complex web of sounds and Sillanpaa creates a curious mix of single tones intertwining. The other three are more traditional blocks of drone music, which is reflected by the fact that these are longer than the other three. It all makes a finely balanced release, not just the recycled versions, but also in combination with the three originals. (FdW)
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SETT – FIRST AND SECOND (CD by A New Wave Of Jazz)

We continue where we left off last week with this label and as promised all five involve Dirk Serries, who is also the man behind the label. I started with the biggest one when it comes to a lineup. SETT is Serries on acoustic guitars (in fact, he is playing that on all of these releases here), John Edwards (double bass), Benedict Taylor (viola) and Daniel Thompson (acoustic guitar); other than Edwards, people with whom Serries works regularly. A work of improvised music for four string instruments; it is not as unusual as the liner notes suggest. There is quite a difference in how these instruments sound and that is what brings the variety to the two pieces, each around twenty-five minutes. All of the instruments can be recognized as such especially the violin and bass, and the two guitars are maltreated, yet none of this leads to playing the instruments as objects. Also, not much of this is very carefully played, but rather with some pleasant aggression and attack. This results in two seemingly endless streams of sounds, cut notes, sustaining tones and broken up short cuts. It is not always heavy or loud, as they allow themselves to be ‘quiet’ and ‘introspective’. Despite the apparent chaos that exudes from this, there is quite a bit of control and interaction going on here. This is very much the result of listening and responding (or keeping quiet; whatever is required, really) by the four musicians, resulting in an excellent disc.
           I am not sure why on the next the cover mentions Serries/Taylor and Verhoeven on the next line; on all the other releases they are listed by one line per name. Surely this is all not something significant. Taylor plays the viola again, and the first two sets are Serries and Taylor, while on the two parts of ‘Set 2’, Martina Verhoeven joins them on the piano. I am not sure why I think this is, but the addition of Verhoeven brings another dynamic in the playing of Serries and Taylor. Here in the first two parts of the first (duo) set, it is very much a duet of two instruments, solid playing, fine interaction, a bit chaotic but mostly controlled. Verhoeven, playing in the first part mostly on the inside of the piano, brings out an entirely different sound world to the table and forms long scratches on the strings, plucks it, like Taylor and Serries are, and there are more chaos, more sparks and less control. A lot of the time it is uncontrolled but here too the three players allow for something peaceful to slip in and allowing the listener for some room to breath. But then the wildness returns and the roller coaster continued. It is quite a hefty trip, this one.
           The other release is by Serries and Verhoeven and another one of their regular contributors, Colin Webster on alto saxophone. The seven pieces here were recorded in a single day in December 2018 and there is an interesting shift in the dynamic here. It seems to me that they decided to play something with much control, or even, with some prior agreement, before the tapes were rolling. Of course, I might be wrong. It is almost as if they set out to play these concise pieces, even when they range between five and seven minutes. Within these time frames, they explore something, be it repeating, silence, chaos, interaction or such like, and that’s where I think the agreement bits come in. ‘Let’s do this’, ‘let’s do that’ and then the set out to record what they planned. Of note is also the shorter attack approach by Serries and Verhoeven, like a somewhat more rhythmic playing, whereas Webster plays more sustaining tones, waving them through as patterns and textures. All of this happens in a very delicate way. Whenever it becomes chaotic, it is still carefully played out, almost intimate and when things go quiet it becomes very introspective and subdued. It is a work of improvisation, there is no doubt at that, but it is almost bordering on more a modern classical approach here. This, I thought, was an excellent release.
           The recording of the duet by Dirk Serries and Colin Webster took place nine months after the previous one was recorded and this time we find them in. a more direct approach to their instruments. Like the release by Andrew Cheetham and Alan Wilkinson from last week, this is a release that brings us home to the world of free jazz more than some of the others. It is all a matter of semantics, no doubt, what is free jazz and what is improvisation, but there is something in the way Webster treats his instrument, with short phrases, jumping about, all over the place and Serries’ more controlled abuse of the guitar, not playing chords, phrases or such, going up and down the fretboard with his bands, hardly using the sustain, etc. This brings some vibrant music, controlled (Serries more that Webster) and chaotic (vice versa). It is not as chaotic and far out as the Cheetham and Wilkinson, but here too we find some very wild energy but in quite some different ways.
           And then there is the meeting of Dirk Serries with drummer Tom Malmendier, who is part of the Liege based l”Oeil Kollectif. Out of eight new releases, only two contain drums/percussion, which is an interesting score. I have to believe the cover when it says ‘acoustic’ guitar but I could bet there is some amplification here, which makes the guitar sound a bit different than on the other releases. Maybe amplification was necessary, so Serries could hear his playing? It’s not that Malmendier is a very violent drummer, but the acoustics of a kit is on a different level than many of the other instruments that Serries teams up with. The amplification also brings a different vibe to the music; something grittier, dirtier perhaps? Or maybe even a rock-like aspect? There are times when I was thinking of Terrie Ex’ guitar treatments here, and Serries going to a slightly similar approach on his guitar. Malmemdier rattles his cages with great style, being all over the place, with his sticks and brushes (I assume) and uses a lot of small percussions attached to the kit (bells, shakers, woodblocks) and he too goes for that slightly punkier playing the drums. This too is all quite energetic and free; no rules necessary, just play together, listening, (inter-)acting and keeping the energy levels up. This is another fine disc. (FdW)
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With Nick Storring we are in the company of  a Toronto-based composer and musician. Since 2011 he released several solo albums on small labels like Entr’acte, Notice Recordings and Scissor Tail. After ‘Endless Conjecture’ (2014) this is his second one for Orange Milk Records and my fist meeting with his work. The album took many years of preparation and is an homage to soul singer Roberta Flack. All titles are taken from her song lyrics. But don’t expect a soul album with vocals. It is an all instrumental album of accessible music of a strange timeless quality. Can’t tell you anything on the musical relationship as I don’t know the work of this famous soul singer  of many hits (‘Killing Me Softly’, etc) that well. As on earlier releases Storring is playing everything by himself using a wide range of instruments, electric and acoustic (Fender Rhodes, Hohner Clavinet D6, Hohner Pianet T, Yamaha CP60M, Yamaha Venova, acoustic cello, NS Designs NXT4 electric cello, electric bass, electric mandola, flutes and recorders, pan pipes, hulosi, xaphoon, Nuvo DooD Clarinet, glockenspiel, toy gamelan, harmonicas, melodica, drums and percussion, acoustic guitar, voice. Also Storring did the recording and mixing using very little electronic processing. Storring created melodic and very harmonious sounding music, not afraid of using conventional phrases. Sometimes the gentle sound reminded me a bit of  good old Jade Warrior. Wavy music that breaths a lush and laid-back atmosphere. In each track of this multi-layered music many different sounds and colours are used, resulting in a very detailed and rich sound spectrum. The compositions move between quasi-orchestral textures and ambient soundscapes. ‘What a made Mind can do’ starts very experimental before it turns halfway into a grooving funky tune. Near the end it returns it returns to its weird beginning. ‘Pretending You and I’ has drone-like sections. Overall the music is of a romantic nature but always with some weird and eccentric characteristics nearby. A very personal musical universe, created by a composer who follows his own track. (DM)
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Two units from Toronto that have in common that both are led by the bass player and present their first album. Bassist Clutton provided his trio of Karen NG (alto sax) and Nick Fraser (drums), a new set of compositions. See Through 4 is led  by bassist Pete Johnston and have again Karen Ng (sax) and Nick Fraser (drums) plus Marilyn Lerner on piano. Johnston wrote all the material reflecting his influences of Bley, Coleman and Giuffre. Nick Fraser is an omnipresent drummer in the Toronto scene and played with many other Canadian musicians (Michael Snow, John Oswald, Lori Freedman, Jean Derome, etc).Of course he has also his own projects going on like his trio with Tony Malaby and Kris Davis. Also Toronto-based musician Karen Ng is a very active force in Canada and worked a lot with guitarist Kenneth Grant Aldcroft who passed away in 2016. Pianist Marilyn Lerner is the one with most international experience and played with Steve Lacy, Tito Puente, Michael Vatcher, Ig Henneman and Gerry Hemingway to name a few. The name of Rob Clutton first appeared in Vital Weekly last year with his duo work with Tony Malaby. Clutton is a Toronto-based composer and performer who has several projects going. This trio is one of them. Another is his quartet The Cluttertones, who  Lisa Allemano as a participator, we spoke of very recently. The music Clutton  composed for his trio is of a sober and moderate nature. He leaves all unnecessary ornaments behind in his compositions, and reduces them to their essence. This gives them more strength and evocative power. Also because they are given a very inspired performance by his trio. Just listen to sax player Karen Ng in ‘Old Nick’ for example. Together they give these well-structured compositions maximum content. Excellent work! Pete Johnston, leader of See Through 4, studied composition and ethnomusicology, followed by studies with Barre Philips and Gary Peacock. He played in numerous ensembles in the Toronto-area. Nowadays he works mainly as a teacher in the context of music. Composing and performing come next. For his project See Through 4 he composed a set of intelligent and refined contrapuntal compositions that offer opportunities for concentrated improvised interaction between the performers. ‘Another Word for Science’ starts with swing before Lerner in a quirky piano solo breaks the barriers of this format. In ‘Battling in Extra Ends’ drums and bass start with playing strong and short gestures, with Lerner and Ng zigzagging their melodic lines in between. Throughout Lerner provides many inventive moves and patterns – sometimes inspired by classical music – to expand possibilities that often start from jazzy motives and swing, like in ‘Not a Half Stepper’ that starts with piano and sax in unison. Also rhythmic complexity is an important part of the music Johnston delivered. In the closing track ‘An Ocean to Forget’ they show their most lyrical side in an inspiring ballad. This convincing debut album was recorded in November last year and released on All-Set Editions, a label run by Pete Johnston and Mike Smith. (DM)
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Here, I find myself at crossroads. On the one hand, this is all very much the work of modern classical music, very melodic even when slow and quiet. One could also say this is an album of ambient music, but just as well one could also say that this is an album of almost new-age like proportions. Julius Aglinskas played in a rock band, worked for pop and electronic music festivals and these days occupies himself with composing music. This piece s performed by an ensemble from London, Apartment House. It is all very sweet and easygoing music but never becomes overtly clichéd or kitschy. It is dreamy music that could easily fit behind a nature documentary, I would think. It’s perhaps contemplative music, but not so much in the sense that the darker mind of Vital Weekly would love that to see. Think Brian Eno and Harold Budd, but then for an ensemble, but perhaps at times also quite new age-like. On the information, it says, “play this album and stare out of the window”, which is, of course, something you could with all music, but in these homebound days, we might be a bit more vulnerable for some introspective music? That said, to be honest, I would not think this is the kind of music for Vital Weekly. (FdW)
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A while ago, in Vital Weekly 838, I wrote about my love for Factory Records. A love that still lingers on and keeps me returning to it; reading the books, seeing the movie and hearing the music. I wrote about a 7″ I still love dearly, ‘Sex Machine’ by Crawling Chaos. It took me several years before hearing anything else by this band, quickly sidelined to Factory Benelux and later doing their releases on their private imprint. It was a band with something mysterious and the history books aren’t very gentle about them, calling them ‘crusties from Tyneside’ and when the first two albums were re-issued (over a decade ago, already) that lead some more break-up and animosity in the band, as far as I understood. There is now quite an informative website for the band. ‘The Big C’ was their LP, released by Foetus Productions (their label) in 1984 and it continues the music they have been playing on the first two albums. There is no easy tag for Crawling Chaos, except that the word chaos mentioned in the band name is very much true. Not in their playing, but in their willingness to create one song in one style, and then another song being something entirely different. Think heavy synth ballads with ditto heavy guitars, multiple voices singing, followed by freak out guitars jams, hippie doodles, space rock, doom and krautrock; all played with that great naivety of a punk band down in the rehearsal space, but at the same time also with fine additions on synthesizers and organ sounds jarring away. The vocals shouty and punky at times and this in every conceivable combination. Punky voice latched on a pisstake of a prog-rock song, bittersweet hippie guitars against a wall of synthesizers and so on. There is no easy way of describing the sound of Crawling Chaos and I can see why they would never amount to big fame (despite even being a Factory Records band for a short while); they are too different, all over the place, not one specific style. It’s music made by people who have a wide musical taste for a ditto audience. Let’s be honest, not many people are that open to anything. Crawling Chaos is a hidden gem in a world inundated with re-issues and I wonder who will pick it up. If you do, you’ll be one of the hundred lucky ones to get a copy, so act swiftly. (FdW)
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FAR BOUNDARIES (compilation LP by Stroom TV)

At the age of 15, I discovered a revolutionary radio show and it wasn’t John Peel. It was ‘Radiola Improvisatie Salon’, from Willem de Ridder and the premise was that everybody could send in a cassette and without any pre-listening five minutes would be played on air. It was unprecedented and attracted may home-tapers, as they were called. People, such as me, with one microphone and one recorder but also people as Hessel Veldman, who had a ‘complete recording studio at home’, as De Ridder declared. Veldman was in favour with De Ridder, who expanded to releasing cassettes, which one could order from the radio station (the VPRO, if you must know, who later on released the ‘Radionome’ LP, another one of those Dutch electronic landmarks) and Veldman was the first. By then he started his Exart label and worked under different names. One being his given name, but also as Y Create, which was sometimes a solo project and sometimes with others, such as drummer Gert-Jan Prins, who much later made name for himself. In all the recent re-issues of the last decade, it is quite a surprise that the catalogue of Veldman was overlooked. In Vital Weekly 1200 there was the first sign of change when Stroom TV released a split 7″ of Veldman and Enno Velthuys, and a forecast of more to come, as I wrote back then, now ‘Eigen Boezem’ (which means ‘own bosom’, but in Dutch it means ‘taking responsibility one’s actions’, i.e. ‘hand in eigen boezem steken’) fills that void with a bunch of songs from the rather vast catalogue Some of these pieces were released as Y Create, others as Hessel Veldman and one as Forbidden Photographs, which was a new name for me. Back then you would think all of this was compartmentalized, Y Create being something entirely than Veldman, but playing the fourteen pieces from this LP one sees a rather continuous interest in working with synthesizers, drum machines, vocoder voices and a bit of funky bass and guitar. The differences are in the details, with things a bit more industrial here (‘The Tattooed Fetus’ by Forbidden Photographs, for instance, one of the few songs in which rhythm is less dominant), but just as easily it can be something poppier and even funky, such as the short and funny ‘Je Ne Pas Le Pain’. Of course, it also has that air of early 80s musical freedom, where a lot was possible, and technical proficiency or compositional clearness wasn’t at the top of the list and the music still sounds as weird and as fresh as when I first heard the original cassettes. I am sure I am a bit biased there.
           And while I am at it, Stroom TV has also a three-way compilation called ‘Far Boundaries’, which I had sitting here for a while. I am not sure why but the music by Ron Boots has escaped me over the years, but I do remember seeing his name on musical lists that circulated and as part of KLEM, the Dutch magazine for all things, to put it bluntly, akin to Klaus Schulze and Tangerine Dream. I am not sure what prompted Stroom TV to put two of his pieces alongside one each by Jo Bogaert and Morten Søndergaard, both of whom I had not heard before (although Bogaert was one-half Technotronic and ‘Pump Up The Jam’; that song I do know!). All four pieces were composed in the early 1990s and previously released. It is interesting to notice the shift in production from Veldman to this lot, as this sounds so much polished/professional. Especially in the two pieces by Boots, the longest on the album, this is very clear. The polished sequencers, rhythm and synthesizers show a love for the work of German ancestors, especially in ‘Lachrymation’, while ‘Far Boundaries’ is a much denser piece of droney synthesizers and few rhythms and arpeggios. Bogaert’s piece is also dark and comes with a German voice, Klaus Kinsky no doubt, as the piece is called ‘Ambient Kinsky’, while Søndergaard also uses voice, Danish and is throughout lighter in tone, and showing an early interest in what was by the mid 90’s ambient house. As said, I am not sure why these four ended up on an LP, but it is surely fine early 90s synthesizer music. (FdW)
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Hot on the heels of the re-issue of ‘Into Dark Water’ (see Vital Weekly 1221), there is now ‘Peyote’, originally released in 1991 by the Swedish Multimood label. Back in the day, I think, I missed the original release, but a little later on I worked for a record company that helped Multimood out pressing more copies of this. That is not to say that we played this all day, or for that matter, there was anything that was on constant rotation. But hearing it back then and already familiar with their earlier work, made me realize that somehow, somewhere O Yuki Conjugate had drifted off into something that was even more rhythmic than before and perhaps ventured further into something that is mislabelled as ‘exotic’ or ‘fourth world music and even ‘tribal’. Also, the use of voices is something that seemed new to me. In 1991 it was too early to speak about what we call ambient house, although the first signs where already there (‘The KLF’s ‘Chill Out’ released a year before). The group, still in their four-person line-up of C. Eliott, T. Horberry and still mainstays (in 2020) R. Horberry and A. Hulme. The cover lists a bunch of instruments, starting with the percussion first; “tongue drums, roto drums, bongos, congas, big bean found percussion, drum machine, wind chimes, loops, frying pan, samples, keyboard, fractal, e-bow, flutes, chants, radio and wildlife”, which, I guess, says something about the importance of rhythm on this record. However much rhythm is used, there is a dreamy, ambient atmosphere here. Take for instance ‘Dusk, Dead Heart’, opening with a flute, wildlife sounds and percussion and you can easily imagine being in some sort jungle/rain forest setting. What can also be noticed is that the production is top-notch here, with much care for the detailed sound. Maybe the older stuff had a fine grittiness to the music, but it is here all crisp and clear. If you remember my previous praise for this band, it won’t be a shock if I say that I think this is a masterpiece. The big question is; next up for re-issue is ‘Equator’, the landmark release at the height of ambient house music and who will release that one?
           And while I am it, I overlooked the split LP by K. Leimer and Marc Barreca that was released by a sub-division of B.F.E. Records, Abstrakce Records and yes, I have no idea what decides what goes where in terms of artists and repertoire. Leimer and Barreca together on a split record are, as far as I know, not done before and come to think of it, why not? They know each other for a long time and both release their music on Leimer’s Palace Of Lights label. Also music-wise there are similarities, as both are from the world of ambient music. Here, they have three tracks each. Leimer opens up on the first side with a French voice taped from radio or film and adds loose watercolours in sound; a bit of synthesizer and a stringed instrument. In the notes to this record, Leimer writes that the works of Sainte-Colombe, Marin Marais and John Dowland, all living spanning a period of great musical innovation and change from 1563 to 1728, inspired him. But it is more being inspired than working their music in. I couldn’t tell, as the works of these early composers are something I have not heard of. These three pieces have all the makings of great Leimer music; it is highly atmospheric, a delicate combination of instruments (violin, piano) and electronics and perhaps a bit more synthesizer-based than some of his recent work. Synthesizers are also in use by Marc Barreca. I am not sure but I guess that the only other instrument is the violin, playing a wonderful tune in ‘The Cult Of Remembrance’ or percussive sounds in ‘The Cult Of Saint Jerome’. These instruments are heavily processed and yet also retained some of their original sounds. Like Leimer, Barreca plays highly atmospheric music of the best quality around. Smooth and delicate but always with a fine edge to it; it never becomes new age-like. Great music, all around.
           And finally, a re-issue by good ol’ Nurse With Wound. Originally ‘Rock N Roll Station’ was a CD from 1994, about twelve years after that released on CD and double LP by Beta-Lactam Ring Records and now again as a double LP. This one comes with an OBI in letterpress print and same for the insert. Back then, ‘Rock ‘N Roll Station’ was quite a shock. We knew the nUrses spread their music wide but the 4/4/ beat of the title track was quite a surprise. ‘I made a house record’, head nurse Stapleton said, but of course, not all with a 4/4 beat is a house record. The reciting text and sounds swirling in and out of the mix doesn’t exactly shuffle feet across the floor. But the whole use of rhythm on this album is surely something that is inspired by dance music. The tribalistic drumming in ‘Two Golden Microphones’ for instance, along with didgeridoo is quite hypnotic; the voice of Chrystal Belle Scrodd is the reminder that this is indeed Nurse With Wound. In ‘The Self Sufficient Sexual Shoe’ there is even a drum machine, which I guess is something of a rarity in the world of Nurse With Wound. Overall, the use of rhythm works quite well here; it hammers away, exotic, minimal, strange, ‘house’ (you don’t have to call it that) and within the studio band that Nurse With Wound is, there is a lot of room to add all these little sounds and effects. It is easier to say this is a dub record than a house record, if you catch my drift. The space they create is filled with echo, reverb, and lots of other treatments of sounds, voices, guitars, best exemplified on ‘A Silhouette And A Thumbtack (Dance in Hyperspace)’. It makes this very much a Nurse With Wound record, the studio-as-instrument approach works once again like clockwork. This re-issue contains one track, a different version of ‘ Subterranean Zappa Blues (Alternate Mix)’, so completists should take notice. (FdW)
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What was I thinking when I complained about short tapes recently? Now I have this massive double tape in front of me by Edward Paul Quist, which spans close to three hours of music. As for a first introduction, this is probably the right place. He was born in 1976 in Brooklyn and is a “director, writer, producer, composer, sound designer, photographer and documentarian” and while not mentioned I would think modular synthesis is his domain. For each of the seventeen tracks, there is also a film, which I haven’t seen. The album is “partially inspired by the seven bowls or goals of the book of Revelation”, it says. While the shortest piece is just under four minutes, eight pieces are well over ten minutes, one even nineteen minutes. While using quite a bit of modular synthesizers, rhythm is something that seems to be quite important for Quist. In all of these pieces there is a rhythm of some kind, but mostly minimal. Sometimes it takes the shape of a loop, sometimes of a more beat-pattern kind of thing. In the latter’s case, this can be of the Pan Sonic minimalist techno/industrial variety, but there a few pieces in which it is all a bit more exotic, with faint traces of early Muslimgauze, such as in ‘Neptune’. It is, however, the industrial variety that prevails here. It runs heavy and mighty and around it, Quist waves more factory sounds, picked from a bit further away, so they become fine washes of synth drones, industrial soundscapes or whatever else you can think of that is a bit grim. So far so good. There are however two things that I want to note as well. The first is that I think some of these pieces are a bit too long for what they are. They tend to meander too wildly about and seem to be losing some of their edges. If they were trimmed down, some of that power would have been left in there. The second thing is that due to the overwhelming length of this I noticed there is some lack in variation in this material. Maybe this is just one of those things that shouldn’t be consumed all at once? Maybe that’s where it went ‘wrong’ for me. Most enjoyable, I’d say, when consumed in smaller portions. (FdW)
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KATSA.THEO – FROST (cassette by Ressonus)

Here we have a short, twenty-or-so minute tape by Katsa.Theo, the musical project by Jiří Tilgner, of whom I reviewed ‘Porto’ (Vital Weekly 723) and ‘Bauhausmuzak’ (Vital Weekly 1031). That means there is quite some time in between releases. These four are stylistically quite together as opposed to the previous releases and now involve some heavy beats, ditto on the synthesizers and some gnarled vocals, beyond recognition but I would think not beyond meaning. Dirty music if you ask me, darkwave for a dark rave. Uptempo, brash and danceable. Maybe this is from the same sort of angst pop world in which I would locate Dutch band Distel, but Katsa.Theo is less the refinement, I would think. Nothing wrong with a bit less refinement, I’d say. ‘Porce’ even leans towards some fast gabber beats. I guess this is what people mean when they ‘this is some heavy fucked up shit, ma’n’. This is certainly something that deserves a wider audience than would or could be reached via a cassette release. (FdW)
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MARKUS MEHR – BRIEF CONVERSATIONS (cassette by Hidden Shoal Recordings)

In Vital Weekly 1159, I first wrote about the music of Markus Mehr, when I reviewed his ‘Liquid Empires’ release. Now there is a new release, ‘Brief Conversations’, and once again comes with not a lot of additional information. Probably even less. Last time, I knew he was using water sounds acquired from the digital domain, but this time I have not much idea. I would think that processing field recordings are the one thing that is still the case. However, by what means I am less sure. This could either be modular synthesizers or laptop technology. Your guess is as good as mine (or even better). The level of transformations he applies here is to such an extent that we no longer recognize the original sounds. What I think might be the sound a fence rattling in the wind, might surely be something entirely different. In some of these pieces, such as ‘Mount Devil’, there is a nice shimmering melodic texture attached to the field recordings. It means it is now outside the world of pure sound art, musique concrete or electro-acoustic music and slips in the world of ambient music. In other tracks, he opts for a slightly more abstract approach, but there is a fine element of drama in these pieces. The rhythms he used on the previous release are now no longer present and everything works as a soundscape. Quiet and spaced, and something with a strong presence. It is as vague as it is detailed. It is best enjoyed as one long piece, I think, moving from one space to the next in what is a fascinating audio journey. (FdW)
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Here are two men who are working very often together; in fact, I was thinking they could have chosen a band name by now. I am a big fan of their work, either in collaboration or solo. Playing drone-based music is what they do, perhaps, but it is so much more. Beyond their names on the cover and the somewhat odd title, there is not much else mentioned. I am probably biased but this is another release. It seems to me there is a somewhat different approach here. There is now a more collage-like approach, with sounds fading in and out, and some interesting cuts and moves. I would think that much of this is made with the processing of field recordings and, perhaps, voices, it hisses, bursts and crackles on all sides. All of this happens with great pacing; it can be silent for some time, which, perhaps given the fact that this is a cassette release may seem odd (or adds another layer). This is very much a work that was created with digital means and holds firmly the flag for laptop music. That’s either a rare example these days or the (careful) return to that whole work, with its peak more than a decade ago. The way Sigmarsson and Nilsen montage their sounds is very filmic; very long and spacious, such as towards the end of the last side, or going with rapid movements and brisk cuts. Oddly enough one of the names that sprung to mind here was The Hafler Trio, and especially the early, collage work. I thought it was a very delicate work that may lose a bit on the format of a cassette, and should quickly be re-issued on a CD. With such fame-names that should surely be no problem.
           Of a rather more puzzling nature is a rather short cassette (ten minutes only) called ‘Vocal Studies #4’ (the label has a few more of these short studies by others). The first side contains ‘I looked Like All Over For You’ and is a rather quiet piece. Sigmarsson is known for his voice only performances and this could have been taped at one, but perhaps he did a bit of transformation on it. His singing, thin voice becomes like stale wind over barren land. A lot more happens on ‘Take A Look Out All Over My Face And Head’, in which he uses plenty of transformations of what I believe is on the first side (I might be wrong) and a likewise chilling feeling; some ghostly narration or impending doom is about to happen. The first piece builds up until it cuts out at the end, while the second piece is ongoing from start to finish and also cutting put rather abruptly. I sure would have loved both pieces to be twice as long! (FdW)
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