Number 1247

MAP71 – TURN BACK METROPOLIS (CD by Fourth Dimension Records/Foolproof Projects) *
THE SAND RAYS – REMBERED VOL. 2 (CD by Zhelezobeton) *
CYCLOTIMIA – REGNUM (CD by Zhelezobeton) *
DELPHIUM – A BEAUTIFUL DAY TO DIE (CDR by Aquese Recordings) *
MYTHICAL CREATURES – GROOVE (cassette by Old Gold) *
NOCKTERN – NOSTALGIA (cassette by Amek) *
KRĀLLĀR – BIG SAD (cassette by Amek) *


To be a young child these days, means (most likely) that your life is extremely well documented. The camera on your parents’ phone registers every new word and movement. I wish there was some moving image from my early days! Musicians with children tend to record them and use them in their recordings, Nocturnal Emissions ‘Mouth Of Babies’ being one example and Dominique Petitgand released a lot of work with children (I assume his kids) playing, talking etc. Most of these are short period snapshots. Simon Fischer Turner recorded his two children over a time frame of 13 years; they are now 15 and 17. He also has 68.000 pictures! To their talking, singing and playing Turner added electronics, piano and string sounds; sometimes, so I think, he samples the children and put that in a more musical context. I can easily imagine his children being not interested in all of this. This moves beyond the realm of pure kids recordings, as it is also about the music added by Turner. I am not sure if the tracks are in chronological order; somehow I think they are. I believe to hear the voices growing up and as the album progresses, the music seems to take over and the children are more in the background, or, perhaps, creating the noises that are used. Most pieces are brief, sketch-like, quick, charming, strange and funny, such as ‘Idiot Song’, listing other words for ‘idiot’. The longest piece, at twelve-minute an opus magnum, is ‘The Mighty Dinosaurs’, in which Isabelle Fisher Turner recites a story, which is not easy to follow, and to which Simon brings carefully string sounds. It is almost a radio play, unlike the other pieces, which are more songs and sketches. Sometimes his approach is very similar to that of Petitgand, in the way music is added to the voices, but perhaps also in the way the voices are used. If you like kids, good quality ambient music, with a dash of modern classical music, then this will surely also brighten up your day. (FdW)
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MAP71 – TURN BACK METROPOLIS (CD by Fourth Dimension Records/Foolproof Projects)

‘Turn Back Metropolis’ is third release for Map 71 for Fourth Dimension, following ‘Gloriosa’ (Vital Weekly 1121) and ‘Void Axis’ (Vital Weekly 1141). Map 71 is a duo of poet and artist Lisa Jayne and drummer Andy Pyne (Kellar, Medicine & Duty, Black Neck Band of the Common Loon, West Hill Blast Quartet). Their albums are generally not very long, the classic 30+ minutes, spanning eight tracks here. Whereas I called their previous work ‘lo-fi pop music’, I am these days not so sure why I did that. Something must have happened as it doesn’t sound as lo-fi any more. The recording and production is crispy clear and pop music? Everything is relative, I guess. The synth and drums provide a fine, strong background for Jaye to recite her texts. They are also printed in the booklet, but as always I am slightly clueless when it comes to texts and how to understand them. There is a certain fierceness in the way Jayne recites her texts, almost like spitting it out as a political statement. To that, the music sounds like a strong force as well. The musical genre I was thinking about here is ‘post-punk’ and again I am reminded of Anne Clark here. Not the music per se, which in Map 71’s hand seems to be more powerful, but in Jayne’s delivery. The fact that Clark had their most famous song with ‘Sleeper In Metropolis’ perhaps did help to think of her again. Maybe all of this is too much of a diversion into alternative pop music for this rag, but It is good to hear something different and enjoying it all the same. (FdW)
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Grimal is French saxophonist and composer. She did her studies in Finland, Paris and The Hague. Since 2009 she released several albums as a leader, working with very different musicians in varying line ups (Lee Konitz, Gary Peacock, Paul Motian, Todd Neufeld, Jozef Dumoulin, Marc Ducret, Benoît Delbecq, Giovanni Di Domenico, a.o.). Besides she was a member of the prestigious National Jazz Orchestra de France (2014 – 2018) led by Oliver Benoit, and also part of the Joëlle Léandre 10. This new release contains two different works. On the first disc, she presents nine solo improvisations on soprano sax. Without using extended techniques her improvisations have a strong sense for melody and are a bit lyrical in atmosphere. All improvisations are of a similar approach, which makes this selection too uniform and lacking contrasts for my ears. Very much in contrast however is this album compared with the second part of this release: ‘The Monkey in the Abstract Garden’. This album shows a very different aspect of her art. As an artist in residency in a art centre in Enghien-Les-Bains in 2020, she worked on her multimedia project ‘The Monkey In the Abstract Garden’ for voice (Grimal) and electronics (Benjamin Lévy) and visuals by Antonia Fritche and the landscape designer David Simonson. Lévy is educated as a cellist as well as in the field of computer technology combining both interests nowadays in his work at IRCAM as a computer music designer. France has a rich history of electro-acoustic music. And Lévy is a young exponent of this tradition. I couldn’t find much information on this multimedia-project of Grimal. What is it about? No idea. Central is the verbal (french, English) and nonverbal vocals by Grimal. In the first track, Lévy treats the vocals by Grimal, resulting in a cascade of fragments vocals evoking echoing effects. In the second track, Grimal sings nonverbally a melodic line, with sparse electronics in the background. Suggesting influences are eastern Europe music. And almost angelic in the atmosphere as are several other the songs on this disc. Other tracks have her vocals accompanied by crackling electronic sounds. Interesting and tasteful release showing different sides of this multi-disciplinary talented artist. (DM)
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Next month it will be two years ago that Dmitry Vasilyev died, the man behind the Monochrome Vision label and someone who brought a lot of the musicians you read about in these pages to play concerts in Russia. Someone missed by many. In Spring of 2018, he invited Italian musicians Enrico Coniglio and Giulio Aldinucci (see also last week) to do that and while in Moscow they found time to record the four pieces on this new CD. I understand that there was some help from other people, such as label boss Dmitry Taldykin. I would think the two musicians also picked up some field recordings along the way, such as what seems a choir in ‘It Will Not Snow Again’ or other sounds picked up in a cathedral. If you know the work of both these artists (regularly reviewed in these pages) then you what to expect as this is not the radical change in approach for either musician. The music is very ambient, but with an almost religious edge to it. Singing is stretched out in ‘With An Encrypted Travel Guide’ to sound like an angelic choir, or the church organ in ‘Until The End Of Remembrances’, all enhanced by the use of reverb. That is also a feature in each of the four pieces. Maybe I am not so much in the mood for an experimental church experience today, or perhaps like my ambient down to earth? I don’t know. The production is great, the music is great but somehow didn’t appeal to me. I play with it again soon, to remember that great guy we lost. (FdW)
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THE SAND RAYS – REMBERED VOL. 2 (CD by Zhelezobeton)
CYCLOTIMIA – REGNUM (CD by Zhelezobeton)

In Vital Weekly 1121, I reviewed the first Volume of The Sand Rays ‘Remembered’. It ended with this: “It’s great to see all of these things lumped together and it makes up a very fine disc. ‘Volume 1’, so I was thinking, seems a complete package of the releases so far; what will be on Volume 2, then?” Now we know. The Sand Rays, or Ray Sands or Sandray is the musical project of Jim DeJong, sometimes called Jim The Younger or Jim The Medium or Jim The Elder, releasing a bunch of 3″CDR, the highly unpopular format. Confusing? Of the eight pieces on this disc, the first two were released online and never made to these pages, the second two on a 3″CDR that never reached me, and the other four were reviewed. Lazy sod that I am I copy these two in full.
    From Vital Weekly 1044 about San Andreas — Old Men Dream In Reverse; “Here’s another one of those mildly confusing discs by the guy who once was The Infant Cycle, but since earlier this year goes by a plethora of names, all related, such as The Sand Rays, Ray Sands and Sandray, and now it’s San Andreas. It is produced by The Sand Rays, which ties it in with the previous release (see Vital Weekly 1030) and the first piece ‘Nobody’s Fault But Mine’ is crossed out on the cover and is seven seconds of silence; perhaps some conceptual joke (that I didn’t get)? The other piece is close to seventeen minutes and is called ‘Your Narrator Lies In The Middle Of The Street’, which made me think about A Clockwork Orange (and I was reminded that I bought a copy three years ago, but still didn’t get around reading it again) but I might be entirely wrong of course. Music-wise San Andreas expands on the musical journey from before and finds himself in another heavily treated world of acoustic sounds being bent and twisted by the use of overactive electronic circuits. The piece has three distinct parts; a long ambient opening, then a more electro-acoustic excursion from the frying pan and finally some darker set of drone material and mild glitches. This last part sounds quite obscure and ‘dirty’, with something that seems not to have been recording properly. All of this had quite a cinematic feel to it, and sums up a fine addition to what is probably a whole series of connected works.”
    And from Vital Weekly 1144 The Sand Rays ‘ Mysterious Disk’; “From the ever-expanding universe of… well, whoever is behind… erm… hold on… there is nothing on the cover and the letter that came with it says ‘a mysterious disc’, but also mentions The Sand Rays. It’s an ever-changing name, Sand Ray, Ray Sands, Sand Rays, unleashing 3″CDRs onto the world; occasionally a few were compiled into a proper CD (see Vital Weekly 1021). The website says this: “Poking at the deepening discographical badlands”, while mentioning name and title, so I guess it’s not that mysterious, but poking fun at completists and such. Music-wise this is all firmly rooted in the world of drone music. It is deeply atmospheric and usually made with samples of everyday objects, transformed into lengthy sustaining pieces of music. However, don’t expect this to be one long piece of drone music, but it’s not. The Sand Rays move through at least 4 different shades of a greyish sound world, even become silent at one point, and a firm break somewhere, before going through its final stage of vinyl abuse and radiophonic pick-up. Everything is on a constant change course, so nothing stays the same for very long. While I am not too sure about the mystery game of the poking fun business, I think this is something that more people should hear than the ones now. If you are proud of what you do, show it! The Sand Rays, or who-ever, should pick a steady name and be less obscure. Their music deserves it.”
    Then the four new pieces. This time there are no instruments mentioned on the cover but judging by the music Jim is still on the same course of transforming the same sources over and over again and listed last time was “bass guitar, shortwave, playout, field recordings, dehumidifier, birdcage, poly-800 and even cheaper keyboard, the camera”, so no doubt again here. There is another 8-second silent piece among these four, but the other three are again finely woven dark drone pieces of a highly atmospherical nature but always with that fine touch of musique concrète woven into the fabric of the drones. The two online pieces are unusually short The Sand Rays, two and seven minutes, of which the shortest, ‘Melodica’ is a somewhat louder affair. ‘Narrator’ has a more collage-like approach with three very distinct parts. All of this is highly enjoyable and I can image people no longer playing 3″CDR (or CDRs at all), so this is a good thing. Maybe Zhelezebeton should release some more Sand Rays straight on CD and not via 3″CDR’s first?
    And for now something completely different. The third album that I hear from Cyclothimia, a duo from Moscow. They had an album ‘Music For Stockmarkets’ (vital Weekly 668) and ”The Invisible Hand Of The Market’ (Vital Weekly 933) but now they seem to have left the world of finance behind and offer ‘Regnum’, the Latin word for Kingdom. The music is all synth-heavy again, poppy but with a fine dark touch to it. The titles show similar darkness, ‘Battlefield’, ‘Cntus Firmus’, ‘Nocturne’, ‘Dasein’, ‘Regnum’ and ‘Sinking Ships’ and an Edward Hopper nocturnal scene on the cover. The world is no pretty place; well, it probably never was, but we see much more of it these days. ‘Battlefield’ opens up and is an eighties synthwave tune in marching order. The other pieces have a similar retro feel to it. Lots of arpeggio’s, Linn drum sounds (I think), and fine melodies. If you had no idea, you could think this is also at times quite joyous, with sometimes a bit of moody passage, such as in ‘Dasein’. It would be an interesting experiment to play this music to someone and ask the unaware listener to name these pieces or describe the mood. I might be surprised if the same sort of thing came out of it. Regardless, I thought it was all great music, uplifting as well, in the land of drones and hums that is Vital Weekly. (FdW)
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This is the second release by Ian Power; the first one is also just released, by Edition Wandelweiser and might arrive also one day. Power hails from Rochester (NY) and lives in Baltimore, where works at the University. The three pieces are quite different; well, the first two and the last one. The first two are pieces for instruments. ‘For “Current” Resonance’ is for percussion and piano, and ‘aspirapolvere, sega, spettro, tenere, possedere’ (“which translates to a vacuum cleaner, saw, ghost, hold [as in keep], hold [as in possess]” is for accordion, saxophone and guitar, while ‘Bouy (After Laurence Crane’ is for electric organ and household appliances (“blender, mattress inflater, fan, vacuum, food processor, etc”). All of these pieces I see as dialogues, even when I am not entirely sure why. The first two pieces I would say are in the realm of modern classical music, with a strong minimal streak. However, not minimalism in the sense of Glass or Reich, but with repeating notes and tones that go on for some time and then are replaced with another set of repetitions. The piano uses the keys but also the frame and strings and becomes (well, remains of course) the percussion instrument it is, which makes an interesting dialogue with the ‘real’ percussion. This piece The trio piece is longer, sustaining notes, which seem to grow in intensity as the piece progresses. The final piece is an entirely different affair. Here Power wields the electric organ and a bunch of household appliances, which he controls with his feet, by switching the power off and on. Shakers and cream whipping devices; it reminded me of the early days of cassettes and a Dutch radio show playing tapes sent by listeners, which contained similar experiments. Of course, the music played by Power sounds much better recorded and has a strange character, with the organ playing a few chords in sustain mood and the appliances switching off and on. It sounds all so simple but there is something complex and fascinating about all of this, I think. A strange collage of sound, a homage to household life maybe and in these times it can be understood as a soundtrack for a lockdown. As it is with the other two pieces, this too sounds like a dialogue. (FdW)
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McMullen is an American trombonist with a long career as a studio musician and sideman working within a wide range of music: pop, latin, jazz, new music, etc., He made his contributions on records of Brian Setzer Orchestra, Motor Totemist Guild, Oingo Boingo, etc.   A very experienced musician who is at home in many different musical contexts. As a leader, he released an album of his trio with Alex Cline and Nick Rosen, released for PFMentum in 2018 (‘Boomerang’). An album that we reviewed here and that shows that within the idioms jazz and improvisation McMullen likes to make his musical statements.  Further proof of this is these two duo efforts he released with his companion Vinny Golia. Golia is a multi-woodwind performer and composer of music that moves between jazz and modern classical music. A very productive and creative force already for decades. McMullen is a long time member of The Vinny Golia Large Ensemble as well as the Vinny Golia Octet. So both veterans know one other already for a long time. In 2015 they took the occasion to record a session of duo-improvisations at Newzone Studios. No doubt celebrating their musical friendship that spans decades. They make their points in engaging and communicative dialogues, divided over 15 improvisations spanning more than 70 minutes. All spontaneously improvised by McMullen playing trombone and flute, and Golia playing bass clarinet, soprano, sopranino and baritone saxes and alto flute. One can hear they know one other well, and above all, still have many ideas to share. Their improvisations are very accurate and well-aimed. Rich and playful. Multi-coloured because of the different instruments used. A very engaging and rewarding experience. Touchin spontaneously g on many tempers and moods there is something in it for everybody. A very fruitful session. (DM)
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Like with Ian Holloway, it has been some time, since I last heard anything new from Jonathan Forde’s project that was so active in the early years of this century. Vital Weekly 402 might be the last time I reviewed a work by Delphium. There is no explanation for the absence (not necessary either), but the short text mentions that “having gone full circle with both previous albums, ‘Dead On The Inside’ and ‘Nowhere Left To Fall”, Delphium return to the ambient roots”. The latter album was the one reviewed in Vital Weekly 402, the other in 365. By then Delphium explored a lot of music via hard-hitting rhythms, taking samples from drum & bass. I was more attracted to his earlier work, which I thought connected him with that of the isolationist posse if anyone can remember what that was all about. The heavy drum samples are gone, but that is not to say that this is without rhythm; loops still play an important role here; it can be the sampled scream in ‘Why’, or the sampled slow drum menace of ‘Dead’ (the titles don’t show a lot of optimism, but then recorded June and July 2020; these are grim times) and along with that comes indeed brooding electronics; minimal yet menacing and sometimes piercing sounds, creating an unsettling atmosphere, such as the great machine hall sounds of ‘Mourning’. It is not as noisy as it could have been and that is the best thing about it. The intensity is controlled, rather than unleashed full-force. By controlling the intensity, Delphium controls the listener and manipulates him to go along with these nightmarish soundtracks. This is a great come-back album, that at eight songs/pieces in thirty-two minutes is rather on the short side. But hopefully, there will be more soon! If you can’t wait for that then do check out the Bandcamp mentioned below, as it contains a lot of Delphium’s old work. (FdW)
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MYTHICAL CREATURES – GROOVE (cassette by Old Gold)

Old God is a label that has been around for quite some time now but was in hibernation for quite some time. I remember the label as a place for improvisations within a rocky context, by the likes of Jad Fair, Eugene Chadbourne and Gang Wizard. This is the first new release and by the two guys who run the label, Ben Young and Marshall Avett, assisted by a bunch of unknown players. The ninety-minute cassette comes with a fine, old-style Xeroxed collage fanzine. Collages as in not a lot of information, as in none at all. No names, instruments, recording dates etc are mentioned, but hearing the twenty-one pieces (ranging from one to seven minutes) I envisaged a room full of instruments and objects, along with microphones and rainbow coloured pedals on the floor and two men playing all of them, whatever the mood brings them. It is all instrumental, as far as I can judge; microphones are used to amplify the objects and feed them through delay pedals. As the title implies, rhythm plays quite a role here, but do not mistake this groove for a dance groove. There is a more ritual aspect to the music, which reminded at times of early zoviet*france. But Mythical Creatures can also create a groove that is reminiscent of the best fierce post-punk traditions, sitting next to more tranquil moments (such as ‘Cover Me’, which places the guitar and spacious electronics) and on the other side getting all bit noisy in ‘Primal Funk’, a wild and chaotic affair. It is, all in all, varied affair, and given the length of this release that is a pretty good thing. There is one objection to be made and that is that the mastering has some room for improvement. The cassette started with a bunch of relatively quiet pieces but after some that much louder; a bit more balance would have been nice here. Otherwise, I enjoyed this wild party of percussive improvisations, spacious drones, carefully deconstructing objects and more to be most entertaining. Hopefully, this is the end of hibernation for them and the label. (FdW)
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NOCKTERN – NOSTALGIA (cassette by Amek)
KRĀLLĀR – BIG SAD (cassette by Amek)

Stoimen Stoyanov is the man behind Nocktern. He played his first concert last year during the “Amek Bummer Nights” and then in a single take ‘NoStalgia’ in February 2020. It is the last solo recording as Nocktern is now a duo. The single-sided cassette has one piece but with three distinct sections. The synthesizer is as much an instrument in these pieces. The first eight minutes are quite abstract and atmospherically, ending with some fine piano notes in an old ambient fashion. The second section has arpeggios, drum machines and a sightly cosmic edge to it, but much darker. It is almost a synth-wave song. In the last section, the white noise starts, but then gradually has a harp-like quality and it becomes almost a new age piece. It is, to be honest, the part I least liked. Altogether, ‘NoStalgia’ is a strange piece of music, so varied as it is, and with such a short length, it is very hard to write something objective about it. Maybe it’s a snapshot in time and being a duo will change the dynamic of it all?
    Also performing that night at “Amek Bummer Nights” in 2019 was Ivan Shentov, also known as krāllār and member of the Amek Drone Ensemble (see also Vital Weekly 1239). This is the first time I hear his music as krāllār. His music reminded me of the first time I heard releases from the Bulgarian label Amek Tapes. Fuzzy and droney and using the guitar as the primary instrument and of course the looper is one device not to be missed, along with a bunch of other devices. Distortion, chorus, delay and quite a bit of reverb. According to the information, there is also “tape collages, re-amping of found sounds, tape loops”, which I am sure there is, but through a hazy and fuzzy fog of the feedback, these aren’t always quite audible. The atmospherical part of the music is a chilled one, with the reverberations of metallic plates running galore. It is noise, but perhaps the not kind of noise one would expect to be atmospheric. I guess it all deals with sadness, these seven pieces, with rather depressing titles as ‘Blackest Swamp’, ‘Fuck The Light Of day’ or ‘Inefficient & Unmotivated’ and the noisy way krāllār uses his guitar and amplifier is certainly a fine instrument for this fierce sadness. I hear you, brother, I hear you. ‘Set Me Free From My Desire’; yes! (FdW)
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The band name means ‘eye of the ear’ in Maltese and Maghrebi Arabic and originally the band is from Malta, but these days based in Brussels. A duo of Kurt Buttigieg and Carla Said, armed with field recordings, amplified objects, voice, electronics, micro-cassettes and pitch-shifted vinyl. Which I found all most curious as to when I started to play this cassette, I was thinking Ayn II Widen’s music was more in the realm of laptop processing of field recordings. Gentle processes it happens to be, as the longest piece of the cassette opens with a gentle bouncing and mildly pulsating electronic sound. With just the right amount of reverb to suggest a bigger space, this the place where ambient meets musique concrète. The field recordings, so we are told, were made at a dormant volcano in Catalonia and hawker centre in Singapore, among others. It’s not that I recognized any of that. The other nine tracks are much shorter than the twelve-minute opening piece. Somewhere between less than a minute and three minutes, exploring a similar territory of highly fragmented field recordings that stumble and bounce around like atomic particles. Some of this reminded me of old ambient house compilation tracks, where there would always be one or two odd-ball pieces without any sequenced beats and Ayn II Winden could take that place. I sometimes had the idea that some of these pieces were a bit too brief and offer possibilities for a lengthier exploration than what we have now. Seeing much of the material was worked during the Covid-19 lockdown, I thought ‘there was plenty of time’. That said, maybe there were other considerations. Lovely tape, and would love to hear more of this duo. (FdW)
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This is no word of a lie. Grisaille is slowly becoming my new favourite record label. Look at their Bandcamp page. All the releases have a sleek uniformity to them. All the covers look they were taken from the same source image and to collect all the releases will reveal a hidden message. It conjures up images of elaborate puzzles that only make sense once you are elevated, like the X-Files episode Conduit where pages of binary are laid out on the floor to create the face of a missing girl. Of course, this is probably not true, and not as sinister, but seeing them all displayed online is a wonderful thing to behold. But what do we expect from a label that takes its name from a method of painting in monochrome?

Julius Ménard – Volta (GRISAILLE-01)

Julius Ménard has created something that is what I imagine heavy machinery sounds like underwater. There is a muffled, murky quality to the music. It is an exercise in hiding. Everything is hidden under layers of silt, but you can never get a decent look at it as every time you try a move and more gunk erupts from the surface. At one point during listening to ‘Volta’ my laptop froze. The music became a glitchy stutter for a few moments. This didn’t detract from the listening experience, in fact, it enhanced it. The caustic repetitions of ‘Volta’ are glorious. With each listen they reveal a little bit more, but you never really get a solid idea of what is actually going on. Fascinating stuff and a great debut release for the label.

Jeans Beast – Dans Le Village D’Or (GRISAILLE-02)

If ‘Volta’ was a musical version of a smokescreen, ‘Dans Le Village D’Or’ is an exercise of hiding in plain sight. At its heart ‘Dans Le Village D’Or’ is a collection of undulating drones that appear and reappear throughout. They are elegant. Some are as loud as a whisper other are hulking things that dominate. As they billow to and fro, there is a luminous, almost phosphorescent, quality to the music. Remember in nature documentaries about the deep sea, where the animals use their bioluminescence to attract makes, catch prey, or evade hunters, then vanishing into the dark depths below? The same is true of ‘Le Village D’Or’. As soon as you’ve made out a rippling drone it starts to recede into itself. What makes the album, so spellbinding is that if left on repeat you quickly get synched up with the oscillations and it becomes the ultimate soundtrack to your day.

Chemiefaserwerk – New Nacht Pop (GRISAILLE-03)

There is something about ‘New Nacht Pop’ that really gets under your skin. Musically it’s a glitchy, skittering affair. There are portions of the title track that feels like ants are walking up to your back and into your hair. It’s uncomfortable, but also weirdly satisfying. ‘If Played in Pairs’ is full of rolling, and shimmering, percussion. At times it sounds like wind chimes before a storm. Constantly moving, but with no set rhythm. At first, it is disorienting and nauseating, but after you get locked into its groove it is total pleasure to listen to. There is aren’t many peaks and troughs throughout the album. More gentle waves that inject some movement but allow everything to stay at the same uncomfortable level. This adds to a great listening experience as Chemiefaser is allowed more time to experiment with the gorgeous drones.

Stadlmeier/Kreysing/EMERGE (GRISAILLE-04)

Typically, when you have a collaborative piece of music the players/participants enforce their stamp on it. This sometimes gives a lopsided experience as you can spot who supplied what. On the self-titled Stadlmeier/Kreysing/EMERGE release it’s hard to gauge who did what and when. The album is two long-form live performances that have a lurid quality them. It’s the soundtrack of dreams, but dreams that exist on the cusp of delight and nightmare. And at times they are both. For wont of a better phrase, ‘Stadlmeier/Kreysing/EMERGE’ is the most ‘musical’ release Grisaille has put out so far. There are definite melodies hidden under the layers of melancholic synths and manipulated field recordings. Snippets of accordions drift around like fog on a moor. It’s also one of the most mesmerising releases in the series. There are elements from real-world sounds buried deep down in the mix, a light breeze, knives being sharpened, footsteps, When you hear them, it grounds the music in our reality, rather than the reality that Stadlmeier/Kreysing/EMERGE have created.

Nils Quak – Kamingespräche (GRISAILLE-05)

‘Kamingespräche’ is an album that lives up to its name. Loosely translated as a fireside chat, there is a friendly confessional quality to the music. The first side ‘I Was Never Here’ is quiet, punctuated with glitchy motifs and deep drones. During the second side ‘Are You Still Here?’ everything starts to get more distressed. Snatches of vocals come in and out of focus. At times they are crystal clear, other they are fuzzy and grotesque. It sounds like hearing a radio from another place, but the sounds are eroding before us. Quak has created 40 minutes of music that envelope the listening in a welcoming hug, while simultaneously whispering dark tales in their ear. It feels like when you were a kid and your Gran would tell you a slightly creepy bedtimes story. You loved the excitement of it while she was telling you about ghost, Queens, and goblins but when you were tucked up at night, the shadows took on sinister shapes. There was a perverse feeling of safety under the covers so you thought that while under them nothing could get you. The same is true of ‘Kamingespräche’. While it is playing the beasties can’t get to you, but as soon as it’s over you become fair game. Of course, this is nonsense, as were your Gran’s stories, but there is something about ‘Kamingespräche’ bubbling, crackling, drones, and fragmented vocals that linger with you long after it has finished.

Jeph Jerman – Albuquerque (GRISAILLE-06)

Now we come to the jewel in Grisaille’s crown. So far at least. Jeph Jerman’s ‘Albuquerque’ tape. Recorded at the centre for peace and justice Albuquerque New Mexico in March 2018. Jerman used a baby monitor, feathers, stones, shells, small harp, and tapes to create an incredibly singular piece of music. A glorious trait of Jerman’s music is that he only uses natural found objects stones, shells, bones, driftwood, pinecones, and anything else he finds on his daily travels. As with the Stadlmeier/Kreysing/EMERGE tape this ground his music, and performances, in reality as he presents you with familiar sounds in an unfamiliar way. The beauty of ‘Albuquerque’ comes from listening to it. This might sound idiotic, but ‘Albuquerque’ is an album you have to listen to, rather than just play. Jerman has said that he has a “growing interest in listening and what happens when one listens”. It also helps if you can crack the volume as loud as you can as parts are incredible quite and some of the delicate interplays gets lost at lower volumes. ‘Albuquerque’ is an album that you could listen to a lot and still never truly get to the bottom of.

Aiden Baker – Strung (GRISAILLE-07)

The opening of Aiden Baker’s ‘Strung’ album comes as a shock. This is partly because the previous six Grisaille were all fairly abstract and ethereal. The musician’s got their point across by using found objects, field recordings and synths to created layered soundscapes. On ‘Strung’ Aiden Baker used guitars. This gives you something tangible to latch onto. You can get locked into a rhythm, or melody, and stay with it until the song finishes. The album really comes live on the third track ‘Concussed/Percussed One’. Not only is the main riff captivating, but the use of backwards effects gives ‘Concussed/Percussed One’ a hypnotic psychedelic feel that grabs hold of you and really pulls you into the songs. Much like how Sigourney Weaver gets pulled into her fridge in Ghostbusters. On ‘Concussed/Percussed Two’ Baker makes it guitar sound like a junk orchestra. Throughout Baker demonstrates why, for over 20 years, he has become guitar player known to coax sounds, and melodies, out of his guitars almost like no other. But there are moments of simple beauty on the album too. Opening track ‘Precipitative’ is pedestrian compared to other tracks, ‘Dirge One’ for example. However, it is in its simplicity that we really get to hear Baker’s dexterous playing in all its glory. ‘Strung’ is Baker’s strongest album in a while and on that offers no clues where he’ll go to next.

Doc Wör Mirran – Kraut Mask Replica (GRISAILLE-08)

Of all the albums Grisaille has put out so far ‘Kraut Mask Replica’ by Doc Wör Mirran might the most immediately enjoyable. As soon as the opening track, ‘Kraut Mask Replica’, starts we’re off to the races. Adrian Gormley’s saxophone shrieks and wails with delight. Ralf Lexis’ guitar reminds me of trying to keep up with the sporty kids during 1,500m race at school and getting annoyed and breaking off at my own pace regardless of my overall position. Stefan Schweiger’s drums are a thing of beauty and Joseph B. Raimond’s bass has a wonderfully ungainly bounce to it. As far as opening tracks go, this has to be up there with the greats. The Don Van Vliet jokes aren’t just kept for the title. There is an even better one near the end of the album. ‘Captain Bee Fart’ is a more sedate affair, with the band getting locked in a groove and just seeing where it goes, rather than trying to break out of it. The final track ‘8-6-13’ is a 20-minute beast that sprawls and spews all over the shop and ends with the album as it began. A sublime cacophony. At times Doc Wör Mirran feels like a band pulls away from each other rather than trying to keep together and the album really benefits from it. Which a glorious, collapsing mess.

Francisco López – 1983 (GRISAILLE-09)

After a couple of more musical releases, Grisaille goes back to doing what they do best. Creating drama and flux through atmospherics. Francisco López originally recorded this in 1983, hence the title. After listening to it in conjunction with the previous eight releases there is something very modern about ‘1983’. The first side of the tape is the longest, just shy of 30 minutes. Throughout stuttering electronics or a malfunctioning droid in Star Wars, punctuate subtle drones and static hiss. Sometimes it feels like ‘Side A’ is made up of recordings of number stations, then gracefully slides into a prolonged static drone. López’ use of hiss, glitchy electronics and muffled percussion on ‘Side B’ feels very contemporary and makes him right at home among the other Grisaille alumni. ‘1983’ is an exercise in minimal electroacoustic soundscapes composition. The album doesn’t do a great deal, it doesn’t have to. However, every time López does change the tone, add some new motifs, it feels important and enhances the listening experience. López isn’t just showing off what his kit can do or adding a new texture he can. At its heart ‘1983’ feels like the proto Grisaille album.

Julius Ménard – L’Enfer C’Est Moi (GRISAILLE-10)

And we are back where we began. With a luxurious album from Julius Ménard. ‘Volta’ was filled with aggression, piss, and vinegar, but ‘L’Enfer C’Est Moi’ (loosely translated ‘Hell is Me’) is a much more melodic and sombre affair. It is the kind of album to play while looking at the calm sea and following the waves all the way to the shore. As the sea shimmers in the sun it becomes otherworldly. The same can be said for ‘L’Enfer C’Est Moi’. Ménard’s drones gently undulate against each other until they are spent and gracefully fade out. Despite its shorter tracks, ‘L’Enfer C’Est Moi’ doesn’t rush to get to the end, it takes its time. At times it feels like ‘Volta’ and ‘L’Enfer C’Est Moi’ were made by different people. They are almost the polar opposite of each other, but that also means they are very similar. Both use slow repetitions to get their point across. One does it with maelstroms synths enveloping the melodies, the other strips that all away and lets us bask in their diaphanous beauty.
    At times Grisaille releases feel like a bruise. There is the constant ache, burning from within, but there is also that strangely euphoric feeling from pushing yourself and almost achieving your goals. These are a collection of releases that have the prospect to get better with age. At the time of writing all of them are in danger of being out of print, for the time being, so buy them now or forever hold your piece. Rumour has it more releases are coming in the next few weeks and months that have the promise to eclipse what has already come before. Given what we know about Grisaille the future has a bright, grey sheen to it. (NR)
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