Number 1239

OMIS PRENDIN – CLEAR MEMORY (CD by Mental Experience) *
JD ZAZIE – MEMORY LOSS (CD by Carapax) *
S.E.T.I. – THE SPHERE OF DENSITY (2CD by Zoharum) *
YANNICK CHAYER – GEBILDE (CD by Small Scale Music) *
WAYS + SIMON TOLDAM – FORTUNES (CD by Lorna Records) *
SONORIA – LOVE IN PISA (CD by Evil Rabbit Records) *
DANNY CLAY – OCEAN PARK (CD by Laaps Records) *
AMEK DRONE ENSEMBLE – OP. 1 (cassette by Amek) *
VALERINNE – A GHOST YEAR (cassette by Amek) *
SJOERD LEIJTEN – MINNOWAHAW (cassette by Oggy Records) *

BOMIS PRENDIN – CLEAR MEMORY (CD by Mental Experience)

True story coming up: when I reviewed something by Bomis Prendin in Vital Weekly 813 I wrote: “I was playing some old Metabolist record the other day, and this came close to that”. The day before receiving the CD, I played the one LP Metabolist ever did. There must be serendipity in the air. Although the band existed for a long, and there is a massive amount of recordings, their ‘peak’ was in the late ’70s and early ’80s and best remembered for the two Flexi discs they released back then. They were included on the Nurse With Wound list; if you have no idea what this is, then use Google to tell you, but I assume many readers know what that means. Bomis Prendin was one of those bands who loved to experiment, within as well as without the format of a rock band. People messing with drums, guitars and voices on equal par with electronics, cassettes and reel-to-reel machines. Think The Residents or Faust, but Bomis Prendin never reached the same legendary status as a band. I only heard very few pieces by them back then, and not the legendary Flexi discs or ‘Clear Memory’, the cassette they released in an edition of 50 in 1984 and which is the subject of this re-issue. For one reason or another, I always assume they were more of a real rock band, but for no good reason. Quite a bit of their sound is built around the use of keyboards (the infamous Casio VL-tone, the Casiotone 202 bass), rhythm machine (the Roland DR-55), and extensive use of effects, delay pedals such as the legendary Memory Man. There is also quite a bit of guitar used, and no real drums; plus, there is a bit of vocal. It’s more akin to the works by Cluster, but with a rather naive look on it. In retrospective, one could say it is all a bit more psychedelic ’70s inspired underground music, but with a healthy dose of modern technology (well, in 1984 that is), bring into an electronic pop element to the music, but a rather weird one. Maybe there is not much head or tail to this music; these people had no deliberate plan to carry out; they just did whatever they wanted. The joy of playing weird music is clear on this disc. If they have such a backlog of unreleased material, they should immediately open up a Bandcamp page and unleash it all! (FdW)
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On the cover, there is the text that would normally be part of the press information and it says that JD Zazie is “an Italian sound artist, experimental turntablist, improviser and DJ resident in Berlin”, plus the various projects she has been involved in so far. There is even more text about the music on ‘Memory Loss’, which is a “composition in four-movements for playback devices built around electromagnetic sound recordings from hard drives, corrupted audio data and field recordings.” The rest of the text is also on the Bandcamp page, so I am not to repeat too much of that. I am not sure what I was expecting, but ‘DJ’ and ‘turntablist’ certainly made me think in one direction but hat is not the case here; no rotating surfaces or such like loop sounds. JD Zazie uses DJ equipment to work with the stuff she has picked up with electromagnetic means and then re-assembles this into four pieces of musique concrète, of the modern variety. Had I not known the DJ background of JD Zazie I would have said she builds on a tradition of twenty years (more or less) tradition of laptop music, of people such as Roel Meelkop, Marc Behrens, Helena Gough or Kaffe Matthews. Especially in ‘Fratte’, with it’s piercing tones I was reminded of Matthews’ work. At times the music is very fragile, with a beep here, a scratch there, slowly fading in of a sine wave-like sound, but it can also be very brutal when everything seems to be heavily amplified and happening simultaneously. The four movements are quite varied and yet still fit together very well. It goes from very controlled and quiet, enters some heavy bumpy road and then it’s into a quiet surrounding again. It is, altogether, a great release; I would add ‘another sign of the return of the laptop’, except, of course, this isn’t, even when it has all the makings of it. (FdW)
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At times record labels can be confusing things. Why are certain acts on labels with others? Look at Pure (RRRecords sub-label). What links the artists that have been released on there? What links The Haters, Criswell Predicts!, Zone Nord and Pain Jerk? You couldn’t say they sound the same. What links them is aesthetic. They all have a latent disregard for convention. But what connects them, and makes the label feel cohesive, is that Ron Lessard heard something in all of them that he liked and wanted to put out. The same can be said the for Future Music Records (FMR).
    Two of their recent releases by Dinner Party and The Runcible Quintet feel like companion pieces. Neither was made with the other in mind, but they share similar motifs, and tones, that make playing them back-to-back almost required.
    The title track, ‘Wednesday Afternoon’, is filled with delicate piano and soaring horns. Sometimes the horns explode from the speakers, other times they are melodious and calm. But they always grab your attention. ‘Open Your Eyes’ has a playful Basil Kirchin vibe about it. It feels like something that would soundtrack a dinner party. Album closer ‘Silent Friend’ is more abrasive and might be something to play if you wanted your guests to leave early.
    If you were to make a playlist ‘One’ but The Runcible Quartet would follow on seamlessly from ‘Silent Friend’ so well that you’d assume it’s from the same album. ‘One’ is a monster clocking in at 30 mins. Here the group take their time and explore every logical, and illogical, motifs to its conclusion. Throughout Adrian Northover’s saxophone work is second to none and Neil Metcalfe’s flute is intoxicating. How it flits between gentle birdcalls to full-on rasps in a single breath is exhilarating. ‘Two’ and ‘Three’ are shorter pieces, but no less mesmerising.
    ‘The Dial’ is effectively an exercise in confusion. Both ‘Dial Tone I’ and ‘Dial Tone II’ are the musical equivalent of being in a whirlwind or at least the waltzers at the fair when a bit pissed. The music swings you this way and that, creating disorienting maelstroms. As the players appear to be playing at will you have no sense of what any of this means. However, after a few listening, you start to realise that there is an order to this frenzied chaos. Lynch’s saxophone is brutally tender in places. Crushing you, then picking and dusting you down after. Dave Fowler’s percussion is fraught, confused and totally captivating. Dawid Frydryk flugelhorn goes from sounds like its blowing its final notes, to get a second wind of life the next, but it’s John Edwards’ double bass that does the real damage. Lurking in the murky depths only appearing to take you down, like a hungry shark in the ocean. Overall this is an exhilarating album that you never know what it will throw at you.
    What ‘The Dial’, ‘Three’ and ‘Wednesday Afternoon’ show is that FMR is dedicated, as it always has been, to finding the best new music. Dinner Party and The Runcible Quintet create music that challenges and entertains. Whereas Lynch/Frydryk/Fowler/Edwards just pummel you for 50 mins. The songs are filled with clever ideas and inventive motifs Sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t. But this doesn’t matter, as they all weave themselves into a rich tapestry that smoothers you from start to finish. There is a reason why FMR is still going since emerging in 1987. They have keen ears and a keener idea as to what they are about. Other labels should take notice. (NR)
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There are sections of ‘Stilleben’ that feel like it was made just for my enjoyment. The way it skews the vibes of Vangelis, Geinoh Yamashirogumi, Angelo Badalamenti and a slew of other avant-garde composers creates an unsettling, but hugely enjoyable experience. After listening to a few tracks, it becomes apparent that Anders Filipsen has a vision and is going to follow it to its conclusion. The way ‘Waiting in C’ builds with a steadfast determination is flawless and sets up the rest of the album. On ‘Pleasure in Shame’ how the water/steam/noise slowly comes to the fore is a masterstroke and the drumming on ‘Never Ever’ always surprises but in the best possible way. This is an album where it appears nothing is left to chance, and everything has been measured. But that is the joy of listening to a composer work with a tight 10-piece improvisational ensemble.
    Where ‘Stilleben’ really excels is through its use of repetition. Which each reoccurrence the phrase builds insignificance and takes on a different meaning. It gives you time to think about what meaning Filipsen is trying to get across. Where ‘Stilleben’ really excels is through its use of repetition. Which each reoccurrence the phrase builds insignificance and takes on a different meaning. It gives you time to think about what meaning Filipsen is trying to get across. Where ‘Stilleben’ really excels is through its use of repetition. Which each reoccurrence the phrase builds insignificance and takes on a different meaning. It gives you time to think about what meaning Filipsen is trying to get across. Filipsen is in no rush either. At times there is a glacial slowness to the progression of each song. As they gently build and swell, you are swept away. The way ‘Always Alice’ gracefully undulate under cascading synths before the beat kicks in is worth the admission price alone. There are places where ‘Stilleben’ gets lost. Given the nature of the music, there are moments when you’d Filipsen to stop dawdling and get to the payoff a bit quicker, but this overall point. The music is meandering on purpose. It doesn’t feel the need to rush. This isn’t The Resident ‘Commercial Album’ after all.  What ‘Stilleben’ does incredibly well is creating music that initially feels like it has a warm welcome, but after a while, you realise things aren’t as pleasant as you initially thought. It’s like being invited to a friend for dinner and the sudden realisation that you are in a David Lynch film. (NR)
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Live albums generally don’t work. There are a few occasions when they are sublime and showcase the artist/band at their best. Miles Davis-Dark Magus, 65daysofstatic-Escape From New York, Tom Waits-Nighthawks and Neil Young-Rust Never Sleeps are four that come to mind immediately. But I could list a dozen that don’t work and were either vanity projects or released to fulfil an album clause in a contract.
    Two albums that can join the former are the new releases from El Pricto & Alex Reviriego and Luís Vicente/Olie Brice/Mark Sanders. Both were recorded while on tour and feel incredibly vibrant. The audience has largely been removed from both, always a bonus, that they feel like elongated jam/improvisational track. In truth, this is what they are. Due to each group playing night after night the performers could sense what the others were going to do next, so is a fluidity to the performances.
    El Pricto & Alex Reviriego’s ‘Caverna’ was recorded in a post-industrial cement room, with a cavernous reverberating sound, somewhere outside Barcelona. I only mention this as the recordings sound massive. During opening track ‘Zospeum’ there are these industrial sounds/motifs that underpin everything. The sound of feet on gravel, something that sounds like rumbling machinery and saxophone that sounds like a horn indicating the end of a shift, all help to create a feeling of industrial production. ‘Paiva’, the final track played by Luís Vicente/Olie Brice/Mark Sanders, is brutal. The percussion is frenetic, the trumpet rasps with sheer aggression and the double bass appear to be played at breakneck speed in places. Listening to it in my lounge is breathtaking, so I can only imagine how exhilarating it must have been live.
    And this is what these albums do. They give you a snapshot of a band playing to their limits speed and precision yet nailing everything they play. At times, the playing is verbose, but there is a giddy excitement to it that makes this overplaying easily forgivable. When lost in the moment the impulse is to overdo it. It isn’t like they have gone on autopilot, it almost feels the opposite, but they are playing on instinct and pre-empting what the others will do. These are two albums that could rekindle your love of live albums, if like me you are bored of crowd noises, muddy sound, and singers shouting “C’mon!” every five minutes. (NR)
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I was thinking of when I got first acquainted with the work of self-taught artist Jaap Blonk. I remember discussing with Frans the release of ‘Ursonate’ somewhere in the mid-80s for BV Haast. That was an unlucky start as soon after its release it was prohibited by the family of Kurt Schwitters. Nevertheless, many releases would follow, since the 90s often on his own Kontrans label, documenting the many aspects of Blonk’s art. Blonk worked a lot in duo and trio combinations of free improvisation with musicians like Mats Gustafsson, Michael Zerang, Maja Ratkje, Terrie Ex, Claus van Bebber, Carl Ludwig Hübsch and many others. Another line of work is his performances a vocal works from (dada) artists like Hugo Ball, Tristan Tzara, Schwitters, etc. Later he also developed an interest in electronics and used it often in combination with vocals. Splinks was his extended ensemble that performed his compositions. Braaxtaal a trio of drums, electronics and voice, was his most long-lasting collaboration, operating from 1987 to 2005. That, in short, some of the main ingredients of his activity over the years. And now turning 65 Blonk thought by himself “why not start a new band”, and here it is. A new quartet working their way through a bunch of new compositions, often referring to diverse aspects of his earlier work. For his new band, he surrounded himself with three younger musicians: Jasper Stadhouders (guitar, bass), Miguel Petruccelli (bass, guitar), Frank Rosaly (drums) and Blonk himself (voice, electronics, compositions). I’m not sure whether he worked with them in other projects earlier. I only know of Frank Rosaly, a drummer from the Chicago-scene but based in Amsterdam since a few years. Miguel Petruccelli from Uruguay studied in Groningen and finds his way in the Amsterdam-scene, member of Native Aliens Ensemble. Just like Jasper Stadhouders he plays the guitar as well as bass guitar. Recordings for this release took place on two days in December last year, in an Antwerp studio. No lack of material, the double bill counts 20 compositions: 14 by Blonk, one by Stadhouders and one by Leonard Bernstein (‘Somewhere’), plus four group improvisations. The release starts with the title piece ‘New Start’. Unison sections of voice and instruments, with complex rhythm, change for sections where they drop rhythm and go of route. The second piece ‘Talking Drums’ opens with a fine dialogue of voice and drums, before and guitar and bass join in with intertwined melodic lines. On the third track, ‘Wob Hape’ one immediately hears this is collective improvisation. There is a different intensity. Great piece. Listening to the other improvisations I wished they did more of this. ‘What the President will say and do’ is performed in two versions and is built from a repeated sentence that is shortened and replaced by bolded non-verbal and instrumental eruptions. In ‘My First Nightmares’ Blonk tells a narrative and works with speech harmonization. ‘Kterg’ is a pure sound poetry piece and sounds as if Blonk speaks in an imaginative language. Fascinating. In ‘Measure the Night’ Stadhouders surprises with delicate lines on the African kologo, embedded in a sparse and abstract sound environment of alienating electronics by Blonk. ‘Somewhere’ is a quirky version of a song by Bernstein. In all ‘New Start’ offers a very diverse collection of inventive and absurdist compositions. Very enjoying although I sometimes felt a bit ambivalent, especially when twists and procedures passed by that one may know too well from Blonk. (DM)
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Following Andrew Lagowski’s beat-oriented album ‘Secrets Of Numbers’ (see Vital Weekly 1234), he now returns to his ambient moniker S.E.T.I., which stands for the Search Of Extraterrestrial Intelligence. Lagowski also has similar ambient/drone music under his real name, and recently released ‘Strictly Drone’, a four-part album of long-form drone pieces, which would/could also have been released as S.E.T.I. I am not sure what separates one from the other, but if anything I would think that the S.E.T.I. material is a bit more synthesizer oriented and the Lagowski material more lo-fi, hiss inspired, reworkings of field recordings. As always, I might be wrong; or maybe things are a little more fluid than that (actually, I am sure it is). Here we have five lengthy excursions into the studio world of S.E.T.I. and on the second disc, there is a live recording from the 18th Wroclaw Industrial Festival. In the five pieces there is a delicate display of being aboard of a spaceship, moving along a crowded space sky; I know such things don’t exist and the celestial sky is mostly empty but in the world of SE.T.I. that seems very well possible as it a world of science fiction, here inspired by the vision of Alexander Petrovich Kazantsev, a science fiction, about space travel. S.E.T.I. has lengthy sustaining passages and cuts that with short loops of synthesized sounds and dialogue from space control (I think; maybe it’s from a film; I am not being that well-versed into that world). I am told that the live piece is from the same period, but it works out quite differently in concert. Maybe it is just the fact that this is a live concert that the delicacy is now replaced by a heavier set of ambient sound, the stretching of sounds and maybe a more industrial music approach. Halfway S.E.T.I. adds a bit of rhythm, slow and not engaging to dance. The whole piece sounds as if a rusty spaceship is going towards the big rusty spaceship graveyard in the sky. It is altogether a bit dirtier and grittier than the studio. It is therefore good to see both of these together in one package.
    With the release of the double CD by Moan, Zoharum releases the 200th release and for that, they decided to release a twenty-year-old CDR by Moan, called ‘Isolate’ and ‘Desolate’. ‘Mutate’ was compiled between 2003 and 2006 with remixes of the original but never released. Behind Moan, we find Rafal Sadej, of whom we first heard in Vital Weekly 1106, and his collaboration with Genetic Transmission. This, then, is the first time I hear Moan, even when it’s twenty years old. There is no explanation about instruments being used, but judging by the ten pieces here, I would think there are lots of electronics in use, be it synthesizers, stompboxes or effects, along with some metallic percussion, but the results aren’t that noise-based and more ambient. Also, radio signals are freely lifted off the air and fed into the mix (in ‘Work Report #356’ for instance, which brings out a slightly noisier unease to the music). There is a chilled, remote effect to this music, perhaps due to the use of reverb in the music. For the seven pieces that makeup ‘isolate’ there is a flow that goes from one piece to the next, and the same goes for the three that is ‘Desolate’ (which was a much shorter release back in the day). It is all sturdy ambient music with a firm industrial touch, or, perhaps, vice versa, a toned-down industrial music saga. The remixes are by Dead Factory, Maciek Szmczuk, Amon, Genetic Transmission, Job Karma, Synat[EX]error, Joanna & Another One, C.H. District, and Blare For A. You know me and remixes; a difficult marriage. Love tinkering with any sound, don’t love writing about remixes, especially when they operate in the very same end as the originals. Here, we have some interesting exceptions. This being the early days of laptop technology, with glitch and cut arriving on the scene, such in Szymczuk’s remixes (he has two of them; quite techno-like in the second one), the dark and slow rhythms of Job Karma, the technoid of Synat[EX]error (with a dark background drop) and C.H. District, the alt-pop of Joanna & Another One, the short rhythm ‘n noise of Blare For A. All the others walk a similar path as the original. It means that throughout there are quite some interesting variations to be noted here, bringing the original into something musical light and that is what remixes should be about. Well, my two cents about remixes say it should.
    Little over a year ago, Zoharum released ‘Enormous Components Of Motor Unit Vol. 1’ (see Vital Weekly 1176), which was the third album for Marek Marchoff’ under the banner of Different State. For this particular musical project, he coined the phrase “alchembient”, which is his blend of illbient, ambient music, psychedelic music and krautrock. On the second volume of ‘Enormous Components Of Motor Unit’ it seems as he left that “alchembient” behind and now goes for a more industrialized form of ambient music. The synthesizers are noisy and gritty, along with some dirty clanging on metallic objects and a bit of vocal here and there, with that gothic touch we know from Marchoff’s other band, 23Threads, which as always, don’t blow me away. Gone is the jazzy element in the music, the smoky basement samples and the darkness here is firmly ‘gothic’ (in my personal, very loose definition of that term). It is a brave move to make an album that is so different from the previous and still calling it ‘Vol. 2’ (and linked via the hexagonal cover). Surely, there are also common features. The darkness in the music, the use of rhythm, although a bit different, the slightly psychedelic edge to the music and yet working out, overall, quite differently. These two albums are twins, but dizygotic (yes, I had to look that up too) ones. That, I found, was what made me think this was a particularly interesting album. (FdW)
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YANNICK CHAYER – GEBILDE (CD by Small Scale Music)

Here we have two releases by solo improvisers and on both, it is the saxophone. First, there is Yves Charuest. He’s been active on the Canadian jazz since the 1980s and played with the Peter Kowald Trio, but also with Now And then, and in combination Sam Shalabi, Le Quan Nin, Nate Wooley and many others. His solo work is all about free improvisation and on ‘Le Territoire de L’anche’ we find fifteen examples of that. It is usually not the kind of music I play a lot but in recent times a bit more. It seems as if in the world of free-improvisation and free-jazz the act of physical releasing music is more alive than in many other genres. While I certainly enjoy the music on this release, I must say that I think one hour is a bit much. And yes, I know, I don’t have to take it all in at once, but I guess that’s the nature of the beast. What I like about Charuest’s music is that he keeps his pieces small and together. He looks for some phrases and then repeats these in small yet significantly different ways. From these fragments of sound, he then creates his piece. Sometimes he expands on something a bit further, bigger and the saxophone leaps up a bit more but that is not always the case. I very much enjoyed this approach to free jazz.
    From Yannick Chayer I had not heard before. He is from Montreal and has an experimental music label, Rara Avis. He, too, plays the saxophone but feeds that through a synthesizer, effects and there is also a mention of percussion, but that was a bit more complicated to hear. I read that his pieces are impulse compositions and that he uses short samples and plays on top of that, as in a dialogue. These samples should not be understood as something very rhythmic or strict loop-based. It is rather something more alienating, finding its origins within the sound of the saxophone, but transformed by the synthesizer, morphing into broken up textures and atmospheres. On top, we find the saxophone of Chayer freely wailing about. This is not the saxophone-as-object approach, but the saxophone-as-saxophone, short, hectic, furious, introspective, sustaining and everything else in between. It is whatever fits the textures and atmospheres. At times reminding me of electro-acoustic music, the ‘tape composition with saxophone’ approach, but at other times all the freer and jazz-like. It is exactly this variation in approaches and musical interests that make this a most wonderful release, even if free improvisation might not tickle your fancy. (FdW)
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Ways is a Toronto-based duo of Brodie West (alto sax) and Evan Cartwright (drums). They started in 2012 and now they release their first album which happens to be a collaboration with Danish pianist Simon Toldam. Toldam is one of the leading forces of the Scandinavian scene, leader and co-leader of many ensembles and projects. West leads his “Avant-calypso” unit Eucalyptus as well as his quintet. He is part of the Lina Allemano 4. And just like Toldam, he performed with Han Bennink and also with The Ex, to concentrate on the Dutch connection. And — not to forget — he studied composition with Misha Mengelberg. Cartwright is a longtime companion and member of his quintet and Eucalyptus. The opening track ‘Fame’ starts with a unison section of piano and sax, interspersed with short silences of percussive interludes. ‘Love’ is a fine example of their almost pointillistic approach. Short discrete gestures are like dots that make up a picture. They practice a very specific and original idiom that is difficult to describe. Their music is very hygienic and minimalistic. Very modest and subdued, performed in a very disciplined and controlled way. Energy and dynamics stay more or less on an even and uniform level. The performance is very precise and sincere. One may think the music might sound very clean and dry, but that is not so. Therefore, their movements are much too spirited and warm. They respond to one other in a surprising and inventive way, evoking much more than they play. Less is more is the device. I guess Misha would have liked it. (DM)
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SONORIA – LOVE IN PISA (CD by Evil Rabbit Records)

It is some time ago I last heard from Evil Rabbit Records, that small but exquisite label of improvised music, run by Meinrad Kneer. Their last release – ‘Sketches for violin and vinyl’ by Ayumi Paul and Achim Mohné – dates from early 2019. But now we can welcome two new releases. Meinrad Kneer’s first solo album recently reviewed here by Frans and ‘Love in Pisa’ by Sonoria. An Italian quartet with following participators: Cosimo Fiaschi (soprano saxophone), Alessandro Giachero (piano, prepared piano), Emanuele Guadagno (electric guitar) and Nicholas Remondino (drums, live electronics). Giachero made his mark with his trio T.R.E. On the international scene he operated as a member of the Anthony Braxton Quartet and the William Parker Resonance Quartet. I’m not sure but I think Sonoria is his initiative. Fiaschi has his base in Copenhagen, working in the contexts of improvised and experimental music like Ensemble Ektós. Both Guadagno and Remondino are young musicians from Sienna. Together as Sonoria, they practice a form of group improvisation, limiting themselves to the specific domain of sound improvisation. Abstracting from many musical elements they investigate and play with colour, timbre and dynamics. That’s their well-defined playground. This may sound as if their playground is very reduced away, but in the hands of these musicians they take you on a musically rich and fascinating trip. In two improvisations, ‘Forisportam Church Suite’(38:07) and ‘Elements’ (13:15), they create a sensible world of their own, recorded live April 28, 2019, in Pisa, Italy. Their style of interacting let the improvisations evolve attentively and delicately. Especially in the first long extend improvisation dynamics gradually increase. With a strong sense for detail, they communicate most of the time through short motives and gestures that interlock organically with one other and make a unity that is strong and subtle at the same time. At other moments repetitive percussive patterns dominate with Fiaschi playing concentrated movements on his sax. Also, there are sections where they create textures that are multi-layered and mysteriously deep. Near the end of ‘Forisportam Church Suite’ undefined electronic sounds make the improvisation disappear in space. Great work! (DM)
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DANNY CLAY – OCEAN PARK (CD by Laaps Records)

The three previous reviews that were about Danny Clay and his music were all collaborations with others; Greg Corlen (Vital Weekly 1072), Stijn Hüwels (Vital Weekly 1083) and Matt Atkins (Vital Weekly 1217), so this is the first time I hear his solo work. From the information I gather he also collaborates with the likes of “Kronos Quartet, Eighth Blackbird, Third Coast Percussion, Volti, the San Francisco Girls Chorus, Wu Man, Sarah Cahill, Phyllis Chen, and printmaker Jon Fischer” and his work is performed by International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE), the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players (SFCMP), Ensemble Dal Niente, which made me think he is, perhaps, maybe something of a modern composer. And hearing the three pieces on ‘Ocean Park’ I think there is indeed some sort of modern classical thread woven into this. Of course, the signs are too clear when you look at the cover and you will see the music performed by Ian Scarfe (harmonium), Philip Brezina (violin), Christina Simpson (viola) and James Jaffe (cello). In the long second part of the title track, they wave together a very gentle atmosphere, of slow-moving tones, like waves breaking gently upon a shoreline. It reminded me of Bryars ‘Sinking Of The Titanic’. Danny Clay is the man to add the atmospheres, textures and, maybe, also some disruptions. His credit is for voice, music box, combs, turntables, electronics. Turntables, for instance, in the last track are the odd sound event that lingers on somewhere, essentially stirring this piece a bit away from the modern classical touch. In the first part this is also done, but with a much more lingering feel on the use of strings, which makes it all the more dramatic. Whatever Clay does in this piece of music is kept to a strict minimum. There is also a short prologue, in which we everything being introduced, but it didn’t anything different, so I am not sure why it was there. All in all, however, this is a great release. The modern classical approach combined with elements from the world of ambient and microsound is perhaps not an entirely new one, but Clay does a great job, in both of the title pieces. (FdW)
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AMEK DRONE ENSEMBLE – OP. 1 (cassette by Amek)
VALERINNE – A GHOST YEAR (cassette by Amek)

There is such a thing as ‘Sofia Drone Day’, held in the capital of Bulgaria and usually in May. This year’s edition was cancelled and because of that the label responsible for the organization releases this document from last year. There was an ad hoc (well, maybe not) ensemble called Amek Drone Ensemble, consisting of Linus Schrab (V I C I M), Angel Simitchiev (Mytrip), Margarit Aleksiev (OOHS!), Ivan Shentov (krällär) and Maxim Mokdad (OOHS!). Not all of these are people I heard of before. The recording they made at the Fabrika Avtonomia on May 25, 2019, lasts almost thirty minutes and the program is repeated on the second side. That is a pity, I think; weren’t there any other recordings to share from that day? Be that as it may, what is on offer is quite a fine recording of improvised drone music in which the various players operate “hardware synthesizers, samplers, lap steel guitar and tape loops. I would think they don’t all sound at the same time and there is a fine flow in the music. It is not a case of pressing down a few keys on a keyboard and watch the night drone away. The use of the lap steel guitar, for instance, adds an interesting dynamic to the electronic music here; you hear the drift of the steel snares bouncing off against the electronic sounds. Perhaps drone is not the right word for such an enterprise of electronic (well, mostly anyway) improvisation, even when it’s mainly dark and moody. It meanders about and I guess that’s one of those qualities that define drone music and it does so firmly, here.
You could think that Valerinne is a female musician but it is not. It is a Romanian noise rock trio, of whom I never heard. In March of this year, they released ‘A Ghost Year’ as a digital-only release, but Amek liked it so much that they decided to put it out on cassette, including two exclusive new tracks. That means that the original had three tracks only, a more extended play, I think. Maybe the title is about this year, as it also says that the music was “recorded in isolation between March and April 2020”. If I hear the words “noise rock trio”, I have a certain idea, and that proved to be wrong in this case. I expected some heavy drums and loud guitars that would make up for some heavy ambient drones, but the five pieces here are very fine spacial drifts. No drums, as far as the eye can see. Ice, glaciers and snow: that we can see in this ghostly world. I am not an expert, but I would think that the guitars used by Valerinne are fed through a long line effect pedals before it reaches the ethereal stages it reaches. I checked their full-length album ‘Desire’, which is mentioned in the information and that sounds exactly how a noise rock trio should sound (well, whatever I imagine it should be) and it’s hard to believe this is the same band who did this (and what is the drummer doing on these recordings? On holiday?). Only in the final piece, ‘Sunrays’, there seems to be some reaching out to the band’s noisier day-job. This is an excellent, spacious music trip. (FdW)
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SJOERD LEIJTEN – MINNOWAHAW (cassette by Oggy Records)

Musicians come and go and the same goes for labels. I must admit I gave up some time ago thinking about reasons why people would move on, nor thinking too much about which labels or musicians I haven’t seen for a while. Oggy might be one of those labels that disappeared out of sight. Well, and out of mind, which is perhaps odd since it started in my home town, years ago, so someone I crossed paths with. Moving from Nijmegen to Gent (Belgium) and Berlin (Germany), it now shows up again with a release by one Sjoerd Leijten, “producer, music technologist, field recordist and sound designer”. ‘Minnowahaw’ is his solo debut release and while nowhere explicitly mentioned, I think Leijten is a man to operate such machinery as a laptop. The liner notes are lengthy and mention the use of supercollider some of the tracks. Whereas Oggy Records usually dabbles in more (heavily alternative versions of) techno, electro and ‘pop’, the music by Leijten is quite abstract. The five pieces ranging from three to seventeen minutes. The latter being an improvisation based on a found 8mm film about a Thai holiday, but it’s stretched out the few ideas for a bit too long I think. Off and on something is engaging in ‘Thai Vacation’, but all of these interesting bits could have been a few shorter pieces. The other pieces I found more interesting as they were concise and to the point. All of these heavily abstract in a fine interplay of tones and drones, peeps and pops, and with a fine unsettling ambient feeling to it. It owes as much to ambient music as it does to the world of modern musique concrète; especially his treatment of recorder playing in ‘Play Sharp To Me’ worked extremely well in the latter respect. Perhaps I received this with mixed feeling but overall I thought it was a neat debut release. (FdW)
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Vital – The Complete Collection 1987-1995
Before Vital Weekly there was Vital, a Xeroxed fanzine covering experimental, electronic andelectro-acoustic music; interviews, reviews, in-depth discussion articles, background. All 44 issues in one hardcover book; 580 pages. More information: