Number 1243

MANUEL ZURRIA – AGAIN & AGAIN (2CD by Ants Records) *
TOC – INDOOR (CD by Circum Disc) *
BENAUD TRIO – HOLY FOOLS (CD by De La Catessen) *
KRZYWDY – CZARY (CD by Zoharum) *
ARTUR RUMINSKI (CD by Zoharum) *
CLAIRE ROUSY – BOTH (LP by Second Editions) *
SKURR – GNISS (LP by Skurr Records)
PMT – BEAK (CDR by The Slightly Off Kilter Label) *
CHRUP/GEN 26-POST VIRAL MADNESS (split CDR by Terraformed Research Facilities)
ICE YACHT – PILLBOX (cassette by Snatch Tapes) *
PEDRO REBELO – LISTEN TO ME (cassette by Cronica Electronica) *
BAIN & MARIE – ALIVE IN THE FISHERY (cassette by Cretin Tapes)
KANTOOR 4 (cassette compilation by Hellend Vlak/Staaltape)


The catalogue of Ants Records, the flute has a special place, it seems. Following Werner Durand’s ‘Schwingende Luftsaulen 2’ (Vital Weekly 1179), there is now another release with flutes and operate in the world of minimalism. However, whereas Durand plays compositions he wrote, Zurria performs works from the mighty canon of early minimalism. Zurria performed pieces that were specially written for him by Giancarlo Cardini, Philip Corner, Noah Creshevsky, Bernhard Lang, Mary Jane Leach, James Saunders, Stefano Scodanibbio, Jacob TV and others. This double CD is the final part of a triptych about minimal music, of which I only heard ‘Loopsever’ (Vital Weekly 776) and not the preceding triple CD ‘Repeat’. Here, he plays pieces by Steve Reich, Terry Riley and Philip Glass, but also lesser-known composers László Sáry, Adrián Demoč or Rytis Mažulis . The point he wants to make, I guess, is the diversity of minimal music and compare the founding fathers with newbies. I assume, judging by the music that Zurria uses loop devices and pre-recorded sounds in addition to his real-time playing. I could voice an opinion on loop devices, and how probably Reich et al would not like them, but then, to each freedom to use whatever he seems fit. I am not the person to condemn certain apparatus, loopers for instance, or software (bashing Ableton Live as kids stuff); use what you feel conformable with. I very much enjoyed the pieces performed by Zurria. Sometimes he stays close the original, such as in ‘Dance #2’, originally for organ, composed by Philip Glass but in Steve Reich’s ‘Clapping Music’ we no longer recognize a flute and the instrument is now reduced to a percussion one. In Reich’s ‘Reed Phase’, Zurria adds toy percussion (which he does in a few other pieces too), which give a fine orchestral feel to the piece. Some Eastern European composers have a distinctly different take on minimal music. ‘Carduelis’ by Rytis Mažulis is quite a dissonant piece of music and Tibor Szemzö’s ‘Water-Wonder’ is a gentle flow. The ‘American’ pieces are rhythmically stronger and joyous, it seems, with the exception to James Tenny’s ‘Harmonium II’, an excellent drone piece with sine waves. All together this is about two and a half hours worth of music and that is a lot to take in. I did give it a listen in one go, and enjoyed it a lot; Zurria has a lot of variations to offer in how to approach a minimal composition and uses his time well to explore the pieces. (FdW)
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The landmark noise album “Total Slitting of Throats” was created by Sam McKinlay/The Rita. Though actually, now that I type those words, I’m not sure whether Sam is the composer of a piece of music or a curator who put together a strange compilation. I’m not even sure whether “Total Slitting of Throats” is more accurately the title of the piece or the name of the group that made it. Maybe better to describe what it is and let the ambiguity remain. “Total Slitting of Throats” consists of more than an hour of nearly-featureless sandblasting noise by Mania, Sewer Election, The Cherry Point, Treriksröset and McKinlay himself, all layered over one another so that the result can fairly be described as a wall of noise. The disc has had quite a life so far. It was first released by The Rita as a CDR in 2005, reissued on CD by Troniks in 2007 and then as a tape by Dod-ecophny in 2017 and now a reissued CD by Troniks again. Clearly, this is more than just another noise album; it became a jumping-off point for an entire sub-genre of harsh noise called “harsh noise wall”, or simply HNW. HNW was pioneered by McKinlay, a man who loves to get into nit-picky classifications to describe micro-nuances of noise music. He even adds his own description of the work to the inner sleeve, to let you know what you’re in for when you press play: “Powerful minimalist deconstruction of the harsh noise object”.
    There’s plenty to unpack there… “harsh noise” is plainly accurate, and “powerful” is a self-apparent descriptor. The sound of “Throats” is so massive that it seems easier to talk about it as sculpture than as music, which McKinlay opens the door to do by calling this album an “object”. That something as sonically huge as “Total Slitting….” can be “minimalist” is also more appropriate than it might at first seem… the composition is minimal to the point of seeming to be a single gesture lasting for a very long time; there is no build-up, no fade-out, no progress or resolution. It’s “minimalist” in the same way that Richard Serra, Frank Stella, Carl Andre or Donald Judd were minimalists. There’s a macho tinge to classic sculptural minimalism, a hyper-masculine refusal to emote while offering an aggressively simple yet violent display of pure power that takes over a space… very similar to how “Total Slitting…” takes over sonic space with an outward simplicity that transforms space by filling all of it. The violence is implied in the album’s title and image of… well, a shadowy figure with a knife. McKinlay’s use of the term “deconstruction” is a bit fuzzier to me. How is something that’s explicitly constructed from the work of five artists a “deconstruction”? Now, to call this a  “manifesto” gets more to the point: the term implies a statement that defines and exemplifies what ‘harsh noise wall’ is, what its aims are… maybe that “Total Slitting…” is intended to be held up as an ideal articulation of “harsh noise walls”. Which finally brings us to the question: so what is it? 
    That term “harsh noise wall” refers to noise that’s monolithic and seemingly unchanging… dense abrasive static without development or forward motion. Before I heard The Rita, I considered albums like CCCC’s “Loud Sounds Dopa” or Hijokaidan’s “Romance” to be harsh walls of noise. After listening to “Total Slitting of Throats”, those albums seem dynamic and even loose in comparison. Heard today with this as a reference point, “Loud Sounds Dopa” sounds positively psychedelic and “Romance” is clearly a group improvisation. But “Total Slitting of Throats” is a sound so single-mindedly dense that it creates its own field of gravity. There are no events here, almost nothing to cling to as the sound simply sucks up all oxygen for longer than is comfortable… but maybe I’m wrong about that, too, and it’s possible to find music like this very comfortable! Heard one way, this is a drone… an extremely loud drone, sure, but the structure is drone-like in its amorphousness. One can either let this blast and be overtaken by an hour+ gale-force noise storm, or choose to listen into it and attempt to locate details of crunch or subtle wavering amid the static. Such a listening would be like looking for images in clouds… apophenic illusions created by a brain searching for patterns where none exist. I can listen for ten minutes and think, “ah, okay… I get it” and don’t need to experience the full hour… which seems an arbitrary length anyway, ruled by the length of a CD and not the satisfying endpoint of a musical idea. If this were a ten-minute loop, it would sound basically the same. I’m glad that the audio equivalent of “Tilted Arc” exists, but don’t need to experience it more than once to mine the vast nothingness for jewels that aren’t there. Still, there’s historical importance to this album, certainly worth being made available again on a wide scale.
    The late David Gilden was a member of the Houston, TX noise scene centred around Richard Ramirez and friends in the 1990s. He was really only actively recording during that decade, but the tapes and CDRs he left behind made an impression on many people within the international noise tape-trading community. Luckily for us, several of those people run record labels now and are steadily making some of his lost classic available again. Gilden was prolific, but not ambitious… he made tapes, sent them to people, then stopped. “Temporary Sedation” was a 1996 cassette released by a Norwegian kid called Lasse Marhaug – perhaps you’ve heard of him –  on his TWR label. Marhaug writes in his introduction to this CD reissue that Gilden used to send him lots of tapes, many of which were lost over the years. Eventually, they fell out of contact amid rumours of Gilden’s drug addiction… which is likely what led to his early death in 2008. But Gilden’s skill and personal voice are hard to deny. Gilden’s noise is abject and filthy, establishing an atmosphere that evokes long-term illness, decay and rot. The first track on this disc, “Roached”, shows his talent as a composer; it begins with an atmospheric rumble and unpleasant low churn… muddled voices muttering from beneath cascading radio interference and roughly looping animal roars. The piece doesn’t build to a climax… it just congeals into noxious sludge. The second track, “Pisstest/Pisstest”, is a nasty spray of bowel-churning low frequencies. The loops arrive in relentless, overdriven chunks, concluding with a tumbling car-wreck crash. The final track, “How Many Fenders Can You Bend”, is the most athletic one here, a rush of microphone feedback yowl. “Temporary Sedation” is ugly, sloppy and personal… it sounds as if it was made with no aspiration to be heard by more people than the artist’s friends and a small circle of noise fanatics. Anyone excited by Skin Graft or classic Macronympha would do well to check this out. (HS)
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TOC – INDOOR (CD by Circum Disc)

Has it really been two years since French free jazz, post-rock, avant-garde group TOC released their last album? Sadly, the answer is yes. In the intervening years, the world has drastically changed. The way we interact and consume culture is vastly different. What isn’t different, however, is the quality of their music. TOC has returned to 2020 with not one album, but two. One is a collaboration with underrated hero Dave Rempis and the other is a solo TOC album.
    ‘Indoor’ feels like the ideal soundtrack for our times. Throughout its 41-minute duration, it runs a thin line better internal abstraction and cerebral bangers. ‘Outdoor’ is a phenomenal nine-and-a-half-minute monster. As it gracefully snakes and skews along, chugging guitars mutate into searing riffs that, coupled with synths dripping in foreboding, give everything a menacing and disquieting vibe. The song really taps into the paranoia that can grip you when outside. You look at everyone with a suspicious eye. Anyone not social distancing to your specifics gets a mental blackmark. The more you hear the more you want to play. At its heart ‘Indoor’ is a paranoid wonder that really echoes the confusing times we are living in. It is terrifying but, as with venturing outside for the essentials, there is something incredibly satisfying and liberating about it. It is also the strongest collection of songs TOC have released for some time. Possibly forever.
    If ‘Indoor’ was an exercise in stark paranoia, ‘Close for Safety Reason’ blows it out of the water. Even if all we were offered was the title-track, which luckily, we aren’t, TOC and Dave Rempis deliver a solid dose of twitchy claustrophobic free jazz. As the drums skitter about seemingly untethered the guitars cascade down like rays of neon while the horns shriek and wail more than a heel’s valet at a wrestling match. The most striking thing is how under all this noise and seemingly confusion the bass just rumbles along. Sometimes you notice it, other times it’s lost but it’s just there. Owning the track, and the album overall. Just over halfway though everything just falls away leaving the jingling sound of percussion before deliriously heartfelt horns emerge, giving the song, and album, a much-needed moment of tenderness. Opening track ‘No Sleep at La Zone’ lays down TOC and Rempis’ intentions perfectly. It opens mid-sprint. Imagine a chase sequence from a 70s cop show/exploitation film. The percussion is mimicking the running feet of the actors. The horns add tension and another sense of flux. The guitars give us some retro flavour and the synths, keys and bass just keep ratcheting up the intensity levels. A third in things start to loosen up a bit. It’s still abrasive but the levels of tension have come down a few notches. But not by much. It tells us that this isn’t going to be an easy listen, but we knew that before we pressed play. However, it is an incredibly enjoyable listen. Like ‘Indoor’ the idea comes thick and fast with most of them working. It’s an album that shows that TOC, on their day, can be as exciting, sensual and explosive as any free jazz group over the past 30 years.
    There was that famous advert in the 90s for Ferrero Rocher. It was set during an ambassador’s party. Everyone is dressed to the nines. You can see how lavish the director wanted it to be. It almost gets pulled off too. At one point the ambassador gives a cheeky wink to his butler who then comes out with a massive platter of the gold foiled sweets. After seeing this stack of Poundland’s finest chocolate one guest says ‘Ambassador, with these Rocher you are really spoiling us’. The line is iconic and much parodied. While listening to the two, yes two, new albums by TOC I am reminded of that line. With ‘Indoor’ and ‘Closed for Safety Reasons’ TOC are either really spoiling us or making up for a two-year absence. Either way, we have been spoilt. (NR)
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There was a time I played music by Flim, the project of Enrico Wuttke. I even worked on some releases by him and the gentle, somewhat sad tone of his music, especially following ‘Ohne Titel, 1916’. But, as these things go, moving on and daily distracted by new releases, I lost sight of Flim and just very occasionally heard new music; mostly online. But now there is a new CD, self-released by the artist in an edition of 100 copies. As before the piano is the main instrument here, but also as before, Flim uses computer treatments to refine/alter/change his playing. These treatments are very gentle and the piano comes first. Flim plays mood music, textures and atmospheres. There are not chords or structures as such, but sketchy watercolours like notes and sequences. The piano is picked up with a microphone, in what might be Wuttke’s living room, and that adds an intimate atmosphere to the music. Throughout these pieces are minimal, as is to be expected, not demanding and loosely repetitive. In ‘White Sneakers’, for instance, Flim repeats phrases in a rather quick sequence, but that is an exception. In a more ‘traditional’ Flim piece, there are few chords, few silences and few changes; ‘Solo’ and ‘How High The Moon’ (not sure if that one is to be regarded as a cover; it doesn’t sound like the Les Paul/Mary Ford version I heard in ye olden days) are fine examples of that approach. The electronics/computer/processing bit is very subdued. It results in a bit of echo, reverb or drone-like textures, all carefully placed as ornaments in the piano music when needed. Two pieces were not among the ones I liked; ‘On An Elevator’ with a repeated voice and the title track with its massive silence and alienated piano. Otherwise, a great release and hopefully something of a return to the world of physical releases. (FdW)
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Here’s a CD still from 2019 that is receiving a late review due to a copy getting lost in the post. Sometimes you get fooled by your preoccupations – especially the ones you thought you had avoided. Here is a CD released in the UK with free jazz that you would expect to originate from Europe, Russia or North America – but it has been recorded in the … Philipines. So the same way Punk is not all young angry white males, and Hip Hop is not all black ghetto kids, I have to acknowledge there is a large scene of jazz music that is NOT happening in the ‘Old World’. So, the Philipines host a large scene of jazz clubs, groups, and individuals working together in various matchings, with a history dating back to the 1920ies or, according to some sources, even the 1890ies (but that cannot have been labelled ‘jazz’ at the time).
Christian Bucher is a Swiss drummer who flies in for sessions and has been working on and off with the other two over the past five years. Simon Tan is a Philippino bass player and composer. Rick Countryman … wait, looks my age (well above 50) but has no releases pre-dating 2016. It turns out he was a Microsoft executive who dropped out years ago and now lives a life of jazz saxophone player in the Philippines. All three have many releases in a variety of combinations, the oldest release of the three together dating back to 2016. Countryman sticks to the principle of playing in trios, or even duos with drummers, giving the saxophone full exposure and achieving focused playing whilst allowing for both quiet passages and full rackets. His discography already lists 8 releases within the past 5 years, many with the Japanese jazz drummer legend Sabu Toyozumi.
So what about the music? It is fully blown free jazz of the 21st century. It has all the good bits of free improvisation whilst taking on board many elements of the past decades ranging from exploring sound in ‘The Snowman’ to full blast assaults in ‘Empathy’. And it has a groove! I would describe this as ‘talkative’ music as opposed to the sometimes strenuous European free sound experiments, listening to which you fall asleep between notes. Tan supplies a proper bass line in the title track, but also knows how to support his co-musicians in all-free pieces such as ‘Gray Inside Blues’ and to create interesting sounds in ‘The Struggle for Relevance’. Bucher manages to fill the space with percussion whilst Countryman can hover above the rhythm section, supplying anything between wild outbursts to thoughtful musings and little accentuations. This is fun to listen to as you follow Bucher and Tan developing groove elements in an otherwise typical free jazz piece. And it’s tight, excellent playing. (RSW)
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This is an Australian release I find difficult to identify the label of. It has been supported by many Arts Councils and the City of Adelaide (‘City of Music’) and UNESCO (!) – so expect something extraordinary. The packaging is exquisite, with engraving imagery from Don Quijote and an extensive liner note and photo booklet. Classic classic music presentation 🙂
The Benaud Trio (bothers Lachlan Bramble violin and Ewen Bramble cello, Amir Farid piano) play music by Luke Altmann. I cannot find much about them, on Discogs, it seems there is only one previous release from 2018, recorded by ABC, the Australian Broadcaster. But this only goes to show the ignorance towards music scenes outside the trodden path, since the trio was formed in Melbourne back in 2005 and has a list of 5 releases of classic music, leaning somewhat to pop and jazz influences. But not or hardly distributed outside the Australian and New Zealand circuit. Luke Altmann’s music presented here is a fresh mix of serialism, romanticism and rock/pop phrasing – if there is a difference to be made between late-romantic music and rock and folk piano music, that is.
The first track, ‘Prelude to New York’, shows that ‘3 chords and off you go’ does not only work for Punk music but also classical. It is more than three chords, varying the key, but a piece with three chords arranged in 3/4 is unusual in any current music style context and lends much from Serialists like Reich, Nyman or Glass. The sound, though, is fuller and will be more appealing to broader audiences, especially since the piece moves through many sound colours as it progresses, though effectively based on the same three notes throughout. Other pieces marry the romantic style of, say, Brahms or Mendelssohn, with the simplicity of Satie and the virtuosity feel of Keith Jarrett. So there. The approach is nearly always melodic – as opposed to contemporary classics embroiled in atonal settings – and sets the trio more in the context of ‘new piano music’ of the likes of Angelina Yershova, Klimperei or Ozymandias than John Cage or Irene Schweizer. They cite Arvo Pärt as an influence, but I don’t quite buy that – his music is much simpler and more effective in the simplicity of its means. This her is also very pensive music, listenable, but more conventional and will appeal to broader audiences than just the modern classical, whilst still offering a fresh take and in some tracks (specifically the first) pushing new boundaries. (RSW)
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When I woke up this morning I was looking forward to starting the day with this new Celer box that landed on my desk during my absence. For a week my days had started without ambient music (but the talking of a bunch of children; not ambient at all, not complaining either), so it would be good to have a slow day of ambient music and much-needed rest. To start with my disappointment; I had hoped these albums would be at least forty-five minutes long of the signature slow Celer music, but preferably a bit longer. Well, I got the signature sound, but these discs are quite short, thirty-two to forty minutes each. I understand why Celer wants to put these out as single discs and not a double CD with all four pieces (it would easily fit), giving each all the space it needs (and maybe allowing for some adventurous mixing, should you have the means to do so). Each of the pieces, so I am told, is created with tape loops containing digital and acoustic instruments, field recordings and foley sounds. A piece starts with all the layers playing, but throughout it, there are minimal changes, slowly altering colour, spacing and placing of the sounds. None of this seems to be in regular sequence, which I like very much. If you listen superficially these seem to be gentle drones, with a slight orchestral feel to it (especially ‘Nothing Will Change’), but upon closer inspection, these loops are a bit less regular and small shifts take place in the music. This is certainly the sort of ambient music that Brian Eno was thinking of when he coined the term and added ‘to be pleasurable and ignorable’ (or among such lines). As said, for me, all four of these pieces could have been much longer than this, even up to the full length of a CD (times four! Yummy!), but that is the only downside of this for me. Nothing will change is perhaps also what one can say about the music by Celer, but maybe you can say the same about the quality of the music. Nothing will change there either; excellent all around. (FdW)
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Now, here’s a name that I haven’t seen in awhile, Polwechsel. The group with Michael Moser (cello), Werner Dafeldecker (double bass), Burkhard Beins (cymbals, selected percussion) and Martin Brandlmayr (cymbals, selected percussion). Here they team up with Klaus Lang on the church organ on a recording made in a church in November 2018. It is not a live recording as it took place over a few days. Before I started playing this I (subconsciously probably) checked my expectations and I thought this would be very carefully played improvisations. Upon checking the cover I noticed that with each of the three pieces a name is listed as a composer, so maybe not so improvised? More likely, this is that grey area where composition offers some guidelines and the players are free to play as they see fit. This results in three quite different pieces. ‘Easter Wings’ (composed by Lang) is perhaps the one piece that has the most conventional approach, and I use the word ‘conventional’ not very easy. The instruments are recognized as such, even when they play not so conventional music. I could think there are some electronics at work, especially in the treatment of the church organ, but it’s not. In this piece, the five players already move through various distinct parts, ranging from chaotic to drone-like. In Moser’s ‘No Sai Cora-M Fui Endormitz’ the drone aspect of all five instruments is explored, with everybody bowing and scraping their instruments in a very careful manner. When it reaches it’s natural, it breaks down into smaller fragments.. ‘Redeem’ (Dafeldecker) uses a cymbal to bow piercing sounds, and the other three play majestic slow and dark drones at the beginning and also starts to fall apart but there are still quite orchestral passages within this piece. This is probably my favourite piece out of these three, but of course, I don’t need to choose; they are all great! (FdW)
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Ever since Francisco Lopez released ‘Warsawa Restaurant’ in the mid-90s, a work that at minus 40 DBS hoovered at no sound at all, people are still attracted at this very quiet sound. I am not among those who love that silent notion. I just fail to see the point. Of course, I am telling you this, because here we have an example of someone who took a leaf out of the Lopez/Bernard Günter (whatever happened to him?) book (of blank pages, no doubt) and has five tracks made with, according to the cover, “guitar, electronics, object, abstract voice with _ into environment”. At first, I thought the sound off, and then I realized the quietness and loaded all five pieces on to my computer made them 0db and listened. Some parts remain very quiet because only a selected number of sounds are ‘loud’. And within the already silent pieces, there are more than once bits that are still silent. You guessed it, this is not easy listening music. Maybe I lack the concentration or the Zen spirit for this kind of music, just as I did with the Trente Oiseaux catalogue twenty years ago; or maybe I lack the right playback equipment (and no, I don’t use computer speakers, as once a disgruntled musician commented on what he perceived as a bad review); just as I once heard Günter’s music in his studio, which I enjoyed then much more, I should visit Gerard in his workplace and hear it over there. So, I think he uses a bit of sine wave-like drones, a few guitar sounds (maybe altogether 5 minutes out of the forty-nine minutes this release lasts), a bit of ‘vocal’ here and there and throughout a similar drone (?) sort of thing in all five pieces. I am sure I miss the point here. (FdW)
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Because I reviewed ‘April Is The Cruellest Month’ by Masayuki Takayanagi New Direction Unit (Vital Weekly 1187), I also do this one and that is not a logical step. This is the world of very free jazz and that is not my field of expertise. On September 5, 1975, they played a concert at the Yasuda Seimei Hall, Tokyo, which were previously released as two individual LPs, with tracks in a different order, but now the pieces are complete and in chronological order. Again, we have the name-giver on guitar and Kenji Mori on multi reeds, Nobuyoshi Ino on bass and cello and Hiroshi Yamazaki on percussion. The six pieces are about 100 minutes of all-out free form jazz improvisation but there is quite some difference between the first three and last three pieces. In the first three the unit exercises control within their freedom, maybe some kind of introspection is going. There seems to be something that one can describe as a dialogue, especially in the first two where things are open, and people don’t play all the time; in the third each of the players gets their private role it seems, playing one after and another, with a big role for Yamazaki. In the next three pieces we enter something that we now, perhaps, would call ‘classic free jazz’; the dialogue is not there, or so it seems, and everybody plays in a seemingly random and chaotic manner, topped with quite some aggression and vigour. It is not to say that these three last pieces are all about a big blast, as here too there are moments of rest, control and everybody recharges. This is 100 minutes of pure energy blast. (FdW)
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KRZYWDY – CZARY (CD by Zoharum)

Here we have two new releases by the Polish Zoharum label and I have no idea about either musician/project. One of these has the sort of music I would expect from this label and the other perhaps not so much. Let me start with the first, a musical project named Krzywdy, Polish plural for noun for ‘harm’). On the cover, it says “composed, recorded, mixed and mastered by Mateusz Szymanski”, as well as “featuring artists OLS, Grzegorz Niedziela, Krzysztof Traczyk, Mateusz Szymanski”. No instruments are mentioned, but judging by the music, there is a whole stack of electronics, synthesizers, samplers and drum machines in combinations with voices. These voices are important, singing, mumbling, and sounding as Gregorian chants. In combination with the runes on the cover (or at least that’s how I perceive these to be), I would think this is all about religion or the occult (which might be the same thing to this non-believer). ‘Wichry Skalne’ opens with guitar strumming and lots of reverb, adding a neo-folk element to the music. Of course, I can be wrong, but I would think this all heavily inspired by Current 93, and from every bit of their vast repertoire. I know, I know, I should not be using the word Gothic too much, but it just fits this music so well. It is all dark, gloomy and serious. And there is me, in shorts, sweating away in July’s melting sun, listening to the sound of a black mass on a cold November’s evening (Thinking hard of a festive pagan day to insert. Failed.). Is anyone really surprised if I said this wasn’t my cup of tea.
   Artur Ruminski was reviewed before (Vital Weekly 882) and I forgot what it sounded like. I seemed to have enjoyed his release, with some fine drone music on it. He is also part of groups as Arrm, Thaw, Furia, Gruzja and Mentor. He still plays the guitar but no longer seems to be interested in drone music. In the seven pieces on this release, he plays his guitar in a more ‘traditional’ way, with lots of reverb on the amplifier. I gather this is to suggest space and atmosphere but I found it all a bit shrill for my taste. Maybe Ruminski has had a blues epiphany that suggested playing with these settings on the amplifier that seems to be the same in six of the seven tracks, with Ruminski play notes and phrases. The seventh piece is something entirely different. It sounds like cicadas and that’s about it. It can also be some other kind of electronic sound. Here too, I was thinking it is all supposed to dark and atmospheric, but the sun is now full-on. Somehow it all eluded me and if now I order for some coffee, you know what it means.
    Zoharum also re-released a CD by Vidna Obmana and David Lee Myers but didn’t send that one, now that would have been a right drink order. (FdW)
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The Spanish BFE Records label is connected to Abstrakce Records and I assumed the latter was for re-issues, but then ‘Dog Photos’ appears on BFE and is a re-issue as well, so I was a bit confused. I learned that BFE is a solo enterprise and Abstrakce a duo effort. Solved. When I recently got a new CD by Paul Schütze to review I was pleasantly surprised; I hadn’t heard his music in ages and on the back of that I dug out the CD ‘Ledge/Dog Photos’ by Laughing Hands and play that as well. Schütze being one of the original members. The band existed in the late ’70s, early ’80s and only has a handful of releases of which ‘Dog Photos’ is the second LP. I forget where, but I recently saw the band described as ‘proto ambient’, which is not something I agree with. However, I am also not sure how I would describe them. There is a bit of a lot of musical styles to be noted with this group and ambient is one. But there is room for improvisation, musique concrète inspired collage techniques a bit of rhythm machine, post-punk (when everybody picks up an instrument, guitar, bass, electronics, loops, and they play a song, ‘Four’ for instance) and some more tribalesque drumming. And yet, within these eleven songs/pieces, thirty-five minutes, you never have the idea of something being out of place. It is a coherent record by four people who love to experiment with instruments, styles and technology and coming up with this surprisingly weird and coherent record. I think if you would submit this in 2020 as a demo, there would not be many takers. I can easily imagine this would be too weird, too wide apart, not enough within one style. It is exactly all of those that I find attractive in this record (and in “Ledge’, their first record). I was recently (privately) moaning about re-issues, I know, and I said ‘I wish these things would not be limited, so they would be in print all the time and there would be no demand in re-issuing them’; OK, and this one is limited, which is understandable from a marketing perspective, but I wish it would be heard by more people. This is one of those records that deserves it. (FdW)
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CLAIRE ROUSY – BOTH (LP by Second Editions)

Despite her releases on such imprints as Falt, Already Dead, Never Anything Records, Astral Spirits, Mondoj and Anahuac Editions, I had not heard of Claire Rousy before. Perhaps because all of these were cassette releases and no doubt limited? Here, however, we have her first LP. Rousy’s work is all about “recording, collaging and composing become as acts of considering, remembering, giving”. Maybe sound art seems a bit of a strange choice for Second Editions, known for their more ‘instrumental’ (improvised, modern classical) releases. Each side has one long piece and both are quite different. The first side contains ‘Library’ and consists of sounds recorded at the halls of the Central Library in San Antonio, Texas and played back into the halls. She also used two sine tones, “pitched specifically to the building’s dimensions and resonant frequencies”. It starts with sheer silence for a while (annoying on a piece of vinyl) but slowly starts to develop and at ten minutes gets a bump up and has quite a presence. The building comes alive, with faint footsteps and elevator sounds and slowly the piece turns darker and darker like it is disappearing from planet earth; picked up like a spaceship. ‘Two Things’ on the other side is, as said, a different piece. Here we have multiple field recordings working together. Dogs barking, street sounds, a radio in a passing car, a lorry, leaves crackling and, towards the end, a clock ticking. It is not easy to figure what it all means, other than, maybe, a sense of disorientation and dislocation; maybe a dream state in which various unrelated scenes mix and the dreamer is confused. These are great recordings and Rousy places them together in an imaginative way; a fine piece of music with radiophonic proportions. Well, both of these pieces. Time to hear some more from her. (FdW)
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SKURR – GNISS (LP by Skurr Records)

Behind Skurr we find Øivind Idsø, who has been around for some twenty years doing music, going from “shimmering Detroit techno to off the grid electronics”. The music on this LP, my first encounter with Skurr has nothing to do with techno and all with tape manipulations. Or, as Skurr says, “to both respect and disrespect tape music, electro acoustics and those French electronic experimentalists we all (well, some of us) love”. Great way to start. Honour your masters but follow your path. Skurr means ‘buzz’ in Norwegian and buzzing it does. I have no idea what goes into the tape machines operated by Skurr. The music, as such, doesn’t give us many clues. It could be the use and abuse of acoustic objects but also guitars or synthesizers and even a voice; probably it is a combination of all of this. Skurr creates dense clouds of sound with this material in which a lot of small explosions occur. Dark clouds but none of this static in the sky; it moves around, with small details leaping out, ever-changing (maybe thanks to the multi-speed of the machines?). Without this being rhythmic at all, it gave me the idea of percussion being processed by analogue means. The influence of the old masters is audible, but in Skurr’s world there is a fine non-academic approach to be spotted; a bit too noisy at times, or too continuous or too muddy. All of that, however, works well, I think. I have no idea where you can order this record; nothing on the cover, info and nothing online. Maybe the first step into to obscurantism has been made! If you like Nurse With Wound and the children and grand-children thereof, then Skurr needs your attention as well. (FdW)
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PMT – BEAK (CDR by The Slightly Off Kilter Label)

It has been a very long time since I first (and last) heard PMT. That was back then when I was writing Vital Weekly 817. The acronym that is the name here is about the members, P plays the guitar, M bass and T drums. I have no idea why there has been an eight gap between these two releases. I got the deluxe edition here, in which the eleven tracks are cut into four, but no doubt that is part of the confusion PMT loves; the booklet that comes with this deluxe edition isn’t much help either. I would think that Paul Khimasia Morgan, the man behind the label, is somehow part of this. The first one I enjoyed, I guess, but found it also a bit tiring, especially the lo-fi quality of the recordings. In that respect, PMT made quite some improvements. The recording quality of the music sounds much better now, and it made me enjoy the music much more. PMT can still be found in the world of free rock, improvisation as well as krautrock. The drums occasionally sound like a metronome, but at other times it freely rattles the cages. But throughout there is quite some coherency in this music, adding sense and structure to the music, with just enough of extraterrestrial madness, especially with some vocals and spoken word. It makes a fine balance between sanity and chaos and PMT can sound like a ‘normal’ rock band with a moody tune, and then fiddle about with distortion and feedback. I’d say, way to go boys! Do not wait another eight years to come up with something again, make it much sooner. (FdW)
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CHRUP/GEN 26-POST VIRAL MADNESS (split CDR by Terraformed Research Facilities)

Since lockdown began we’ve all had to get creative to fend off cabin fever. Some have started podcasts, others wrote books. A friend of mine organised all his possessions by colours. Books, records, clothes, food, kids toys, etc, etc. Chrup and Gen 26 decided to record some music. The resulting album ‘Post Viral Madness’ is a brooding and slightly paranoid affair, but there are patches of joyful optimism.
    The tape opens with Chrup’s portion of the album. That is 90 seconds of a baby crying. As a parent, this is an uncomfortable sound. Whilst listening I had to pause it to see if my daughter had woken from a bad dream and was calling out. Each time there was silence. Suddenly, with no warning, a wall of noise explodes from the speakers. This wall is as brutal as anything built out of concrete in the 1960s. I paused it again this time checking to see if my daughter had woken but luckily there was silence. The remainder of ‘Crying’ is just blistering white noise, overloading bass and a general feeling of uncomfortable helplessness. That is the feeling you have when a child cries. You try all you can to comfort the child and find out what is wrong but ultimately you are left feeling helpless. The song closes with another 90 seconds of baby noises. But after the previous 14 minutes, you don’t feel as worried about hearing it. At times ‘Crying’ feels like it could have been trimmed a bit, or at least cut to the chase a bit more, but it’s fun to let it twist, skew and drone along.
    Gen 26 offers more of the same. After a minute-long burst of feedback and blips ‘Kolonija’ kicks off. It’s just wall to wall static noise. Underneath it, you can make out other noises, sounds and possibly voices in places, but they are buried so far in the mix that you’d need a diving bell to find them. The main problem with Gen 26’s side is the lack of variation. ‘Kolonija’ and ‘Regeneracijska Sonda’ are just 10 minutes of static. There is litter variation between the two pieces. Consistency is good, but it would have been great is something was being built to, or if there were a few lulls. To break up the static.
    The album was recorded during the lockdown and there is a definite feeling of being adrift and paranoia to the recordings. They show two artists trying hard not to lose their minds while stuck in an almost never-ending feeling of stasis. However, there does feel like a feeling of positivity permeating beneath the surface. At first, you don’t notice it, as there is so much surface noise knocking about, but it’s there. Buried deep down. Like a massive secret hiding in plain sight. The middle section of ‘Crying’ has some tender moments to it. The main problem with ‘Post Viral Madness’ is the lack of dynamics. It’s 40 minutes of the same tone and motifs. While there is something massively wrong with this, it does make the album feel rather 2D. Saying that if sheer noise is your bag, this is the album for you! (NR)
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ICE YACHT – PILLBOX (cassette by Snatch Tapes)

A few years ago I reviewed ‘Pole Of Cold’ by Ice Yacht, a musical project by former Storm Bug Philip Sanderson (Vital Weekly 981). Between then (2015) and now, Sanderson became more active and usually under his name. I am not sure why he pulled out the moniker Ice Yacht again unless it is to say that this is something quite different from his other work, which is quite electronic and at times ‘poppy’ (a term to be used carefully). As Ice Yacht we find him in a more abstract modus operandi. During the April lockdown he went out on the “Romney Marshes to capture ‘wild sound’, be it rusty gates, distant warehouse activity on the river Rother, or short wave radio signals”, which back home were moulded into four pieces of music. Sanderson calls it “badly treated and manipulated before being fed into feedback loops”, which may suggest something noisy and gruesome and that it surely is not. It is not necessarily very quiet and ambient. Rusty it surely is, and we can connect Ice Yacht to the many musicians working with similar strategies of lo-fi ambience based on field recordings taped onto old cassettes. It lacks Sanderson’s current electronic and ‘poppy’ edge and sees him returning to the loopy scratched records of Storm Bugs, but perhaps less loopy and scratched. Different techniques and more experience in crafting experimental music resulting in thirty minutes of fine sonic bliss and at that, I must say, all too short. I would have loved more of this today. Had I known where I kept the download of the previous one, I would have played that straight after this. Now, I settled for this twice and that also went down well. (FdW)
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PEDRO REBELO – LISTEN TO ME (cassette by Cronica Electronica)

This is the first work I hear by Pedro Rebelo, who studied in Edinburgh music and architecture. He did “participatory projects involving communities in Belfast, Mare, Rio de Janeiro, Portugal and Mozambique”, sound installations and concerts. For this work, he uses recordings he made at the International Iberian Nanotechnology Laboratory in Braga, Portugal. A place for research, where he followed those involved “working on a project in the area of food safety”. He recorded the sonic environment, which later resulted in a sound installation piece and a further exploration that is this cassette. I can’t say to what extent Rebelo uses sound processing or if all of this is perhaps just a collage of sounds tape on-site. Also, I have no idea how much of this uses repetition in the form of samples or loops. In both cases, I would think there are some processing and some use of loops. I might be wrong of course. To say this is a collage of sound is not far from the truth. And a great collage this surely is. There are lots of machines sounds here, whirring, buzzing, sawing off electrical charges all around; from a giant hall of machines into a small freezer. Rebelo takes both macro and micro shoots of the place (maybe even nano shoots), which in their combined state deliver a beautiful piece of electro-acoustic music. Some sounds are shifted around and return in other places, some only have a brief existence. This is industrial music without being very industrial I guess. The two pieces, together about thirty minutes, are well-made, changing throughout, never resting or overstaying their welcome; two fine slabs of concrete music. (FdW)
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BAIN & MARIE – ALIVE IN THE FISHERY (cassette by Cretin Tapes)

Here we have three tapes from down under, from the banner: ‘let’s keep things deliberately vague’. It is not always easy to decipher names of labels and thus it’s not easy to Google it. Jane Doe is a fairly common expression. Only one of these cassettes I found on Bandcamp, Jane Doe’s ‘Hysterical – Live At Maudi, 2019’, but here too there is very little information. ‘Hysterical II’ is recorded ‘Live At Budka, Tbilisi, 09.11.19′. No musicians are mentioned unless the scribble is some sort of line-up. The first cassette has four cuts, around twelve minutes of good ol’ fashioned power electronics and you could easily mistake this for a plethora of ’80s cassette noisemakers. Let’s say everybody who took their inspiration from the axis of Whitehouse/Ramleh/The Grey Wolves, in all their many guises. There is lots of feedback sparking about, some voices (radio, vocals? Your guess is as good as mine). It is loud, sure it is, but it’s not your never-ending wall of noise; it moves and changes and has very little to do with the world of harsh noise wall, that swept the noise world in the last decade. The second ‘Hysterical’ has a slightly odd sound quality, with one channel being considerable louder than the other (maybe it’s copying mistake just on my copy) and the sound less based on high-pitched feedback moves and more on tape manipulation of field manipulation, which, in turn, are fed through some effects and synthesizers. It has that fine, crude cassette manipulation that I once noticed with Sewer Election. There is also some voice material here, but this time I would say this is spoken by a Jane Doe, rather than air-lifted from TV. Maybe noise poetry is a term that fits this? Here too we certainly are dealing with something that we heard before but beyond hissy cassettes from the past, not much beyond.
And how does Bain & Marie fit in this, you ask? How would I know, I answer. It was in the same parcel with the two Jane Doe cassettes, but it might be a whole different thing; another label, that I decipher as ‘Cretin Tapes’. However, judging by the sound of Bain & Marie, I strongly believe there is a connection between the two bands/projects. Here too we are dealing with some fine power electronics, distortion and looped mayhem. Voices I didn’t detect on this one, but who knows, maybe they are covered by more smears of electronics. Here too we have that mighty ’80s feeling of black and white noise blasts, along the lines of those already mentioned and countless current peers. Maybe it’s a fact that this is on cassette and not CD(R) that made me enjoy this more. The sharp edges are sawed off and I have this warm, cosy nostalgic feel about it. Another Sunday of old noise memories coming up! (FdW)
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KANTOOR 4 (cassette compilation by Hellend Vlak/Staaltape)

Maybe I recounted this story before when reviewing the three previous instalments of ‘Kantoor’, a compilation that is all about found cassettes, but for years whenever I came across a cassette on the street that was tossed out of a car I wanted to pick up and salvage the tape. I never did and of course these days hardly anyone plays cassettes in public. The people involved in this project find their cassettes in thrift stores, on the street or by some other happy accident, and they keep the tapes for occasions like this. If I understand the liner notes well, some of this might be the case of cleaning out cupboards of all tapes and each of the artists’ details what we hear. But even then, not all of this is easy to be recognized when you hear the music. The word ‘music’ should be taking with a pinch of salt here, or in the widest (Cageian) sense of the word. The found sounds are glued together, from a spoken word in private, language instructions, or radio-play dialogue to acoustic objects being banged together and snippets of pop music. There has been some serious damage to some tapes, adding a fine element of ‘processing’ or ‘alienation’ (you pick) to the material. It is not something that one would hear as another music release, but rather as a ninety-minute collage of sounds, stuck together randomly and which are occasionally fascinating and irritating alike. Four people contributed and I assume each twenty-two minutes; Michele Mazzani, Marta Zapparoli, Alan Courtis and Wassily Bosch, plus textual and photo contributions by Rinus van Alebeek and Giada dalla Bonta. File under ‘sonic archaeology’. (FdW)
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