ANTOINE BEUGER/CARL LUDWIG HÜBSCH/PIERRE-YVES MARTEL – DEDEKIND DUOS (CD by Inexhaustible Editions) *
ANNETTE KREBS & JEAN-LUC GUIONNET – POINTE SECHE (CD by Inexhaustible Editions) *
GERARD LEBIK & NOID – PSEPHITE (CD by Inexhaustible Editions) *
SEBI TRAMONTANA & GUILHERME RODRIGUES – HAN JIAE (CD by Inexhaustible Editions) *
MACHINEFABRIEK WITH BERLINDE DEMAN – LUCHTWEZEN (CD by Søvn Records) *
HERMIONE JOHNSON – TREMBLE (CD by Relative Pitch Records)
NICOLA DI CROCE – 47AD (CD by Unfathomless) *
BC – THE DAY AND THE NIGHT OF THE BODY (CD by Lumberton Trading Company) *
GIANLUCA FAVARON & ANACLETO VITOLO – OVERGROWTH (CD by Silentes) *
PHILLIP GREENLIEF – BELLINGHAM FOR DAVID IRELAND (CD by Edgetone Records) *
OTHERWORLD ENSEMBLE – RETURN FROM MANALA (CD by Edgetone Records) *
KOMARE – THE SENSE OF HEARING (LP by Penultimate Press) *
BEEQUEEN – WINTER (LP by A Colourful Storm) *
BROM &TOSHINORI KONDO – THE SEA IS ROUGH (12″ by Bocian Records)
RUISCH – SUBTERRANEAN CAMPFIRES (CDR by Erototox Decodings) *
D.D. DOBSON – RITUAL BATH (cassette by Hyster Tapes)
RICHARD FRANCIS & FRANS DE WAARD – RETIRED DILETTANTES (cassette by The Tapeworm) *
TECH RIDERS – FOR ETERNITY (cassette by Eh? Records) *
CLOSING – I (cassette by Modern Tapes) *
HUMAN ASPIC – THE TRUE HISTORY OF THE AMERICAN HUMAN SALVAGE PROGRAM (CD by Modern Tapes) *
CULVER & ROVELLASCA – RITUAL MEMORY (tape by Invisible City Records)
MODELBAU & MVK – THE HIDDEN ACCORD (tape by Invisible City Records) *
DEPLETION – COTARD DELUSION (tape by Invisible City Records) *
ROVELLASCA – EMPTY VITRINES (CDR by Kirigirisu Recordings)
ANTOINE BEUGER/CARL LUDWIG HÜBSCH/PIERRE-YVES MARTEL – DEDEKIND DUOS (CD by Inexhaustible Editions)
ANNETTE KREBS & JEAN-LUC GUIONNET – POINTE SECHE (CD by Inexhaustible Editions)
GERARD LEBIK & NOID – PSEPHITE (CD by Inexhaustible Editions)
SEBI TRAMONTANA & GUILHERME RODRIGUES – HAN JIAE (CD by Inexhaustible Editions)
As I am listening to this Antoine Beuger composition, performed by Carl Ludwig Hübsch on tuba and Pierre-Yves Martel on viola da gamba, I have the balcony doors open and sounds from outside mingle with the music. The music is very slow-paced with the two musicians playing their notes solemnly and with considerable pacing of silences in between. It is here where the music mingles with the sounds in my area; a car passing, an owl, people talking; none of those sounds are continuous and just like the music, they drift in and out. The title is a reference to [quote Wiki:] “Julius Wilhelm Richard Dedekind (6 October 1831 – 12 February 1916) was a German mathematician who made important contributions to abstract algebra (particularly ring theory), the axiomatic foundation for the natural numbers, algebraic number theory and the definition of the real numbers.” As I am no mathematician, I could say if there is some repeating pattern (or even more) within the music. That sort of analytical approach is not how I listen to music. I am more the sort of person to sit back, listen, take it in, and consider various possibilities; do I enjoy this, and why (or not, of course)? is it new, or confrontational, difficult, minimal etc. and why is it that I like this. The slow and repeating patterns played here have quite a calming effect on me, especially with those changing ‘extra’ sounds from outside; I can imagine some of this will be easily lost if you live in a noisy environment and it will be more difficult to enjoy the music. This is something to play at a moderate volume and, if you wish, do some meditation. Doing nothing worked also pretty well. Great CD.
Another duet, but this time in the realm of improvised music, is by Jean-Luc Guionnet on the church organ and Annette Krebs on ‘konstruktion #4’. Krebs creates her instruments and gives them numbers; #4 is a combination of objects from the previous three and includes “pieces of metal, strings, objects, microphones, tablets and sensors”. Find her on YouTube playing her instruments and you’ll get the idea. Recordings the two of them made in a church in Slovenia over two days in June 2018 are to be found in three lengthy pieces on this CD. While no-one has much idea of how Krebs ‘Konstruktion #4’ sounds like, the sound of a church organ is well-known, I should think. That makes it all the more difficult to figure out who does what here. There were moments in which I heard nothing else but a church organ, with Guionnet opening various registers and adding bass tones; there were some moments in which I didn’t hear him, but Krebs more electro-acoustic approach, but what about all these moments in which I thought I heard something that could be either Guionnet or Krebs? Or perhaps (surely, even) it was the two of them together. And what about the use of voices? Where did those come from? The music changes quite a lot; this isn’t one of those cases in which a few organ tones are held for a long time, but all the possibilities of both instruments, and in a wide range of volume changes. Sometimes as quiet as a church mouse (sorry, couldn’t help that) and sometimes filling up the whole space. There is a great interaction between these two players and there is also a fine dialogue with the space they use; sometimes it seems they use all of this and sometimes they just by-pass it, or so it seems.
The third duo is Gerard Lebik on sound objects and Noid on cello. I don’t think I had heard of Noid before; Lebik was part of VeNN Circles and worked with David Maranha (see Vital Weekly 974). The music on this disc, four pieces spanning some fifty minutes was already recorded in 2013, but for whatever reason, it took some time before it was released. If the two releases by Inexhaustible Records contained difficult music, then this is the next level. Quite a bit in these four pieces deals with silence, silent space and short controlled bursts; in those cases, the cello is played with some seemingly uncontrolled violence. It disappears as suddenly as it arrived. Then we feel fall back onto something very quiet, in which the cello becomes an object, moving across the floor, rubbing it. And then there are the mysterious ‘sound objects’ from Lebik, of which I have no idea what they do; sometimes they seem to be very acoustic and stumble around, fall on the floor, but there is an electronic component to these sounds, making loud beeps, feedback moves and such. This is not very easy to access, partly due to the differences in volume, which can be loud or very quiet. As I said, this is some radical music. It might be uneasy music but that doesn’t mean this is not enjoyable. I enjoyed this very much, but it took me some time to discover what I liked about.
Following which the fourth duo is something of a breath of fresh air. Sebi Tramontana on trombone and Guilherme Rodrigues on cello sat together in Berlin on February 20 of this year and recorded seven pieces of improvised music. There is no processing, no difficult acoustic approach, just an intense duet of just under thirty minutes, recorded directly to tape. You can even hear a bit of hiss when a piece is started and that adds to the intensity of the music. This direct approach gives a wonderfully vibrant character to the music. It bursts and it cracks under the pressure put on by both players. Sometimes it leans towards the world of free jazz, such as in ‘II’; I enjoyed it when it all was a bit abstracter and working the surfaces of the instruments, along with bending strings and clipping tones. Maybe all a bit too free improvisation/jazz for my taste, but following the three more serious releases, this felt like a fresh breeze at the end. (FdW)
––– Address: http://inexhaustible-editions.com/
MACHINEFABRIEK WITH BERLINDE DEMAN – LUCHTWEZEN (CD by Søvn Records)
Gilbert van Drunen is a music enthusiast who has a small in Rotterdam and access to the old church in his area, and he organizes events in this church with its beautiful church organ. In March or April of this year, Rutger Zuydervelt was to be a guest here along with Berlinde Deman, but the whole Covid-19 prevented him from playing a concert. He made recordings on the church organ and worked on it at home, with taped contributions from Deman. She plays ‘serpent and vocals’; I was mildly confused by ‘serpent’; a snake? [wiki:] “The serpent is a bass wind instrument, descended from the cornett, and a distant ancestor of the tuba, with a mouthpiece like a brass instrument but side holes like a woodwind. It is usually a long cone bent into a snakelike shape, hence the name”. It is an instrument with a low range. Of course, this is now a studio construction of what could have been a live concert and hopefully, there will be a possibility for Machinefabriek and Deman to perform this in the future in concert, and we can compare them. This being a studio piece means that Machinefabriek goes all out with the dynamics of the piece. Sometimes he brings it down and ends all the way up (well, staying clear from the world of the noise of course). The organ tones are processed and sit next to the unprocessed ones. Furthermore, Zuydervelt adds field recordings from the mechanics of the church organ to the proceedings and creates a very typical Machinefabriek piece of music. A collage-styled piece in which we find complex sounds cuddled together, sitting next to spacious open sounds, in which he carefully plays with the notion of silence and separation. Sometimes there are some individual notes on the organ playing a bit of melody, or the serpent by Deman. Ultimately it all comes together in the last seven or so minutes when they’re slowly building to a mighty crescendo. It is followed by a few seconds of silence and should have the CD on repeat you will then notice end and beginning are related by this short break and you just start over again. Very clever this! You will notice that this repeating of sounds is a regular feature in this piece, always in different configurations. Great CD! (FdW)
––– Address: http://sovnrecords.com
HERMIONE JOHNSON – TREMBLE (CD by Relative Pitch Records)
Hermione Johnson is a pianist and composer from Auckland, New Zealand. ‘Tremble’ is her latest solo-album of improvisation exclusively on the prepared piano. It is not her first solo-album on this instrument. The New Zealand label 4 Eyes released two earlier works by Johnson of solo prepared piano in 2012 and 2015. I don’t know much about her musical whereabouts. Some of her compositions have been premiered by The New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, Drorgan is her duo of drums and organ. She has an impro-trio named The Trembles with Jonny Marks and Isaac Smith. Ogadon, is her synthesizer project in collaboration with Stefan Neville. Besides prepared piano, she also plays the pipe organ, the electric organ and the violin. Often John Cage is mentioned as the inventor of the ‘prepared piano’, inspired by experiments by American composer Henry Cowell. He added different ordinary objects between the strings to alter the original sound of the strings, resulting in a wider range of sounds. I have no idea if the prepared piano nowadays is serial produced or that every player just adds his own selection of objects, following (or not) the instructions John Cage. Often the sound of an acoustic instrument is altered by electric or electronic means. The prepared piano is an example of an instrument that drastically changed the original sound by just acoustical and physical means. I see it regularly appear on records. It is far more than just a curious instrument from the past. More rare however is a full album of just prepared piano. This album by Hermione Johnson is a pleasant example. She is interested in researching extended techniques for prepared piano, focusing on timbral qualities. First six improvisations all move between four and nine minutes. In all these works she gives sounds, timbres and textures time to unfold and to manifest. Some sound very percussive, in others we hear the strings. Besides she uses other techniques, like in ‘Swallowed Hand’ where she not only uses the keyboard but manipulates the strings along with other means. ‘Chuck’ is a very dynamic and complex construction. In contrast ‘Papered Tigh’ is a slowly progressing work, almost meditative. Contrasting, diverging and converging sounds and patterns, resulting in expressive and convincing constructions. The title piece takes almost 28 minutes, taking time to develop motives. Especially near the end this work is impressive with a delicate and moving performance. Recorded on two different occasions live in 2019 in Auckland. (DM)
––– Address: http://www.relativepitchrecords.com/
NICOLA DI CROCE – 47AD (CD by Unfathomless)
This is the second physical release by Italian “architect, musician sound artist and scholar’ Nicola di Croce. The first one was a 12″ for Kohlkaas Records, which I didn’t hear. On his website https://nicoladicroce.cargo.site/ you can find examples of his writings, of which I immediately admit, I didn’t find the time to read them. His music piece here is rather short, just under thirty-two minutes and it was recorded in the ’47 Anno Domini” vineyard in Treviso, Italy. and the music was presented as part of an audio installation. It is a vineyard that dates back to the Roman Empire. Di Croce recorded his sounds right after harvest time and concentrated on the fermentation tanks. In this piece that seems quite clear. The metallic cling and clang in this piece run through it. Two more sounds have a prominent place and that the liquid that runs in these tanks and voices that are filtered and come from outside. Also, quite important, is some sort of mechanical, motorized sounds that we hear. Di Croce mentions that it is very little by way of processing and you hear what it is. It could almost be as if we are hearing a real-time process, but that is not the case. There are small changes in the music, going back and forth between the source material but ultimately also with a couple of changes. From the ten-minute break to the twenty-fifth, it stays pretty much the same and I must admit my attention started to drift. Maybe the overall quality of the piece i found less appealing simply because it stayed so much in one place. It has an interesting documentary feel to it, but for me didn’t work that well as a musical composition. Maybe the sounds remained too normal and tension or beauty were absent for me? I am not sure, but something was missing for me. (FdW)
––– Address: https://unfathomless.bandcamp.com/
BC – THE DAY AND THE NIGHT OF THE BODY (CD by Lumberton Trading Company)
The acronym stands for Brain Conniffe, who you may know for his work with Nurse With Wound or his LP with Suzanne Walsh and Diarmuld Mac Diarmada (see Vital Weekly 916). I have not heard that one, and somehow don’t remember the Nurse With Wound music he’s part of. Conniffe plays electronics and is responsible for production and mix. There is help from Gary Morrison (electronics) and Damien Donovan (modular synthesizer). On ‘Relentless’ there is a spoken word contribution from Simon Morris (Ceramic Hobbs), who took his own life late last year. I learned from the information that Conniffe is a member of synth-pop bands in Ireland, but this is something entirely different. The music was already recorded from 2007 to 2009 and, later on, used in films of two films directed by Michael Higgins. The first and longest piece, is all instrumental, all electronic, I would think and with a mysterious and quiet atmosphere. It is hard to say what it is we hear; a dense tapestry of sound, surely, of slow-moving clouds. It is quite ambient, which I guess is a bit of a surprise for this label. They refer to Labradford, Aube, John Duncan and The Hafler Trio, and I would mostly agree with the latter. Also, some of Jim Haynes’ recent work sprang to mind. It unfolds slowly from light and in the mid-high frequency range and then slowly goes down to the mid-low range, a descent into darkness. There is a slow but steady development in this piece, not staying too long in one place, but also not breaking this constant, almost gentle flow. This is a beautiful piece of music. In the second piece, ‘Relentless’, the text and voice of Morris play an important role. And, I said it before, I am not the man to analyse texts, so I am not sure what this is about, but judging by the delivery of the text, coupled with some reverb and the shimmering electronic tones around it, it is all intense and very personal, like a brutal, honest confession. The voice is very much upfront in the music, which is also not something that necessarily works for me very well. I do hear it is all very well-made, that much I know, but I prefer the longer instrumental ‘Prana’. (FdW)
––– Address: https://fourthdimensionrecords.bigcartel.com/products
GIANLUCA FAVARON & ANACLETO VITOLO – OVERGROWTH (CD by Silentes)
There I was thinking that the duo of Favaron and Vitolo is a most regular one and it turns out I reviewed their collaborative album ‘Zolfo’ back in Vital Weekly 1054 and that was it. A not so active duo then. This time around, Favaron gets credit for “tapes, objects, microphones, analogue and digital effects” and Vitolo for “live electronics, cymbals, laptop and objects”. Together they are tied into the Italian world of musicians working with the grand legacy of musique concrète and everything that followed the ’50s tradition; from tape manipulation to laptop processing, from analogue to digital electronics. Objects are manipulated with hands, shakers and movers and then fed into the line of processors. As noted before with this sort of collaborations, ‘rules’ (if such there are any) of composition does not apply; they use the material as they see fit, and as such, they do a great job. There is a great vibrancy in all of these pieces, reminding me of the best of glitch music from so many years ago, with excellent fragmentation of sounds, freely plundered from various sources or from crushing acoustic objects, organized into new pieces of music; with fierce bass sounds, brittle high-end and everything being on a constant shift and drift. It is both dense layered and et very open, thanks to the excellent production of the music there is a fine overall clarity in the music. This I thought was an excellent release, but I didn’t expect anything less. (FdW)
––– Address: http://store.silentes.it/store.htm
PHILLIP GREENLIEF – BELLINGHAM FOR DAVID IRELAND (CD by Edgetone Records)
OTHERWORLD ENSEMBLE – RETURN FROM MANALA (CD by Edgetone Records)
Phillip Greenlief isn’t just a musician/composer but he’s also a cartographer. Kind of. ‘Bellingham For David Ireland’ is one of 40(ish) map-works that Greenlief has created. Each map is constructed from cut-up and colour-copied make of Bellingham, just outside of Washington where Greenlief grew up. Instead of writing out the music for the performers to play, Greenlief instead writes down themes or suggestions. The bay is for resting and listening. The lavender street grid is meant for considering impositions on open space. The beige topography is for responding to nearby objects. The scale of the town’s hills is for emphasizing dynamics. The coal mine was included so the players could conjure the sounds that they imagine boring deep into the earth might sound like. The performance itself is just as wild as expected but restrained. The performers aren’t going hell for leather. Playing as loud and fast as they can. Instead, they are taking us on a meandering, and unsettling, a deep topographical tour through Greenleif’s memories and psyche.
As with everything, there is a story. When Rent Romus and Heikki Laitinen were touring a suite of music entitled ‘Manala’, that focused on the spiritual underworld of the Fino-Ugric, Romus and Laitinen decamped to The Cable Factory in Helsinki and recorded ‘Return from Manala’ with Teppo Hauta-aho and cello, double bass and percussion, Heikki “Mike” Kosikinen and tenor recorder and e-trumpet and Mikko Innanen on alto, sopranino, baritone saxophones and percussion. The album tells the tale of a shaman returning from the underworld with the knowledge to help their community. The recordings were based on written songs and improvised live with the tight crew Romus and Laitinen. These recordings have a playfulness to them that belies the serious nature of the music. Kosikinen’s records lightly float about as Hauta-aho’s bass keeps the songs driving forward. ‘Return from Manala’ is an album that demands repeat listens, offering melodic nooks and cranny’s to get lost in while finding your away out from the underworld. (NR)
––– Address: http://edgetonerecords.com/
KOMARE – THE SENSE OF HEARING (LP by Penultimate Press)
You may remember the 7″ by Komare, reviewed in Vital Weekly 1160 (well, maybe not) and I learned that the music of Dominic Goodman and Peter Blundell can be compared with that of Door And The Window and Storm Bugs/Snatch Tapes, which I agreed upon; Penultimate Press add more names in the press text that comes along with the debut LP of this duo; “Zweistein mixing a Robert Ashely Record”, “Shades of Monoton and Pyrolator”, which is something I found a bit harder to see in the music here. Well, Robert Ashley, I might agree upon. In their other project, Mosquitoes, they go out for a more deconstructed rock/jazz/musique concrète approach, but here it is all spooky and minimal. Voices play an important role, but mumbling, whispering and such create more an atmosphere than a recited text. It is sound poetry of a highly abstract nature. Next to that, there are synthesizer sounds; piercing white noise alike, a bit of slow rhythmic beeps and burps from the synthesizer, an LFO opened and closed, all of which happens without much variation. All of this creates an atmosphere which the German would unheimlich; ‘weird’ says Google translate, but that’s too broad. Unheimisch would mean that this place gives you the creeps. Komare’s music is not overly loud, but the menace is right there, just below the surface. You can hear Monoton’s rhythm but pushed away to the faraway background, and the synths more upfront; voices are ghostly affairs. They can be anywhere, everywhere and sounds like a lurking danger in the woods. Stay on the path and you will not be harmed. Divert from it and you are lost. This is some pretty radical music; you won’t notice it at first, but it is all there if you turn up the volume. Quite a strong debut! (FdW)
––– Address: https://penultimatepress.bandcamp.com/
BEEQUEEN – WINTER (LP by A Colourful Storm)
Has it been six years since Frans de Waard and Freek Kinkelaar put out Beequeen’s release ‘Around Midnight’? Sadly, it has. In that time, well, a lot of shit has gone down globally, the world is probably in a more precarious state but we don’t have time to go through here, but needless to say it’s been a long time since they last released something. However, Beequeen have returned with a new album ‘Winter’. As the title suggests this is an album about the winter months. A time when you have to pull the collar of your coat up tighter round your neck, yet the wind always manages to find a gap to send a chill down your spine. It’s the time of year when usually busy parks, and public spaces, are quieter and there is a heavy, earnest silence all around. And this is effectively what ‘Winter’ sounds like.
The album opens with ‘Early Winter’. There is a claustrophobic vibe from the opening, but there is a feeling of space. Like when you are stuck inside on a heavy snow day. You can see an expanse of white surrounding you, there is space to move around inside, but you are stuck inside, and the walls are getting closer. As ‘Early Winter’ builds it suddenly drops off and we are left with nothing but creaky sounds and space. As the creaking gets more pronounced a white noise hiss becomes louder and louder before strains of feedback started to come into the mix. This feels like walking through the park on the way to, or from, somewhere. Everything is silent. It’s all-consuming, but you are wrapped up in a cosy bubble so the biting weather can’t get to you. ‘Late Winter’ is more of the same, but the sounds and tone are colder. Opening with a stark tinkering loop that conjures up images of icicles. Despite being slightly shorter than ‘Early Winter’ it takes more time to build to its peaks. Throughout that feeling of claustrophobia permeates, giving the sense to dread to that ‘Early Winter’ was missing.
At its heart ‘Winter’ is a love letter to the season. Despite its stark nature, it is filled with longing and compassion. Whether that is a longing for the season to never end or to be able to go out and see people again is debatable. What isn’t up for argument is how ‘Winter’ is a fascinating listen that really has the power to get under your skin, regardless of the number of layers you have on.
––– Address: https://acolourfulstorm.com/
BROM &TOSHINORI KONDO – THE SEA IS ROUGH (12″ by Bocian Records)
Despite having someone who writes a lot about improvisation and free-jazz, some of it I did and while I may not get the genre completely, I occasionally enjoy what I hear. On this hot August day that is ‘The Sea Is Rough’ in which the trumpet of Toshinori Kondo meets Brom, a trio of Anton Ponomarev (alto sax), Dmitry Lapshin (bass guitar) and Yaroslav Kurilo (drums). The oddest thing about this record is that it is cut on 45 rpm, so it’s rather a 12″ maxi-single than an LP. It contains the two parts of ‘The Sea Is Rough’ and they are quite different. Both pieces were recorded in a single day in March 2019 in Moscow. The first one (I gather around ten minutes long) is, for the most part, a heavy free wailing blast with strong electronic undercurrents, but towards the end shifts back into a melodic touch. The other side also starts chaotic but throughout it seems there is a bit more organization here, and it is easier to follow individual instruments. There is a battle between trumpet and alto sax going on; bass and drums eventually roll out a majestic groove and the two wind instruments find routes through electronic mazes and reach for the sky. This too is probably around ten minutes and I think that is too short. I would not have minded all of this to be longer, or perhaps a different perspective or two and be a full-length album. On a hot day in August this is perhaps quite the drain of energy; or is it the extra kick. I should play it again and find out. (FdW)
––– Address: https://bocian.bandcamp.com/
RUISCH – SUBTERRANEAN CAMPFIRES (CDR by Erototox Decodings)
There is something so satisfying about listening to dirty basslines and massive clunking beats. It feels almost primal. It taps into our base urges. Its utter filth makes you smile. Yet, there is also an elegance to it.
The album opens with ‘No One’s Ever Died Before’. This is a massively dirty track that has proper Bug vibes about it. At any point you expect Warrior Queen to start spitting bars. Hulking basslines underpin he track leaving room for sinister synths and lumbering beats to fill the gaps.
to it. There is also a sense of paranoia that seeps from the speakers. ‘Charivari from the Powerless’ is a much more reserved affair, or more reserved than ‘No One’s Ever Died Before’. The pace has been slowed down and we are given some space to catch our breath. The beats and basslines are just a devastating but Ruisch has taken the intensity down a few notches. ‘Every Door Out is a Way in’ follows the same path and is a more serene dubby affair.
Throughout the album, the spectre of the first track stays with you. Nothing else on the album is that hefty, stark, or powerful. It is striking in its power. It reminds me of the beginning of the Coen Brother’s film ‘No Country for Old Men’. The film opens in such a violent way that it makes you think “If they opened with this what else are they going to throw at us?”. Luckily, for that film, that’s as gruesome as it gets. The same is true of ‘Subterranean Campfires’. After bombarding us with the heaviest music on the album, Ruisch has nothing left to prove and then delivers seven wonderfully crafted songs that hint at the opening tracks bombastic power, but never quite match it.
‘Subterranean Campfires’ is a fun album that reminds us why bass music has the power to take us out of our humdrum lives and make our pules race a little quick, put a bounce in our step and a smile on our face. It’s an album where for 50 minutes the worries of the world wash away and in their place are twitching melodies and dub sensibilities. Play loud. Play often. (NR)
––– Address: http://www.erototox.com/
D.D. DOBSON – RITUAL BATH (cassette by Hyster Tapes)
Hyster Tapes provide mystery on recycled cassettes. Here we have D.D. Dobson on one side and the other side Jim Goodall and Brad Laner. But is that they together or two individual pieces? Or is D.D. Dobson a duo of Jim and Brad? The label’s website might not provide that many clues but I think it’s the latter. As mysterious as the non-information on the cover, such is also the music on this cassette. It is not easy (read: impossible) to define instruments as such. I know Goodall is a noise/punk drummer, but are there any drums insight? I don’t know. On the first side, I was thinking there is some sort of saxophone present. But the way it is all recorded makes it vague and obscured. And yet, there is something highly captivating with this music. Through the haze, there is a shimmer of melody and rhythm but then re-recorded through three generations of cassette masters from the early 80s, through time and space, into the third millennium. Brush it up, re-master it and you might be surprised to learn there is a rhythm machine, synth and saxophone at play here. Play- and thoughtful music with quite a bit of experiment, some minimalist electronics and hazy melodies. I may not entirely understand the obscurity of it all, but it made me curious enough wanting to find out more about D.D. Dobson. (FdW)
––– Address: http://www.pcuf.fi/~plaa/hyster.html
RICHARD FRANCIS & FRANS DE WAARD – RETIRED DILETTANTES (cassette by The Tapeworm)
The story goes that the first time Richard Francis & Frans de Waard met they talked. The second time they danced and the third they created music. The music was crafted using Korg MS-20, computer, tapes and field recordings, all captured on multi-track tape. Then, like a lot of things, it sat in a box. After some time had passed, de Waard decided to try and put the recordings into some kind of order. After some more time was spent editing and mixing the recordings have not been released under the title ‘Retired Dilettantes’.
The Troggs once sang “There’s no beginning, there’ll be no end” and this is true of ‘Retired Dilettantes’. The album is made up to two 20-minute pieces of music. There are no titles. Hardly any breaks in the music and it feels like the album is intended to be played on a loop. Forever. The truly remarkable thing about ‘Retired Dilettantes’ is how it reflects your mood. If you are in a good place, then the productions feel light and airy. Play it on a bad day and everything has a dank and ominous vibe to it.
While listening to ‘Retired Dilettantes’ I’m reminded of the Jake “The Snake” Roberts quote “If a man has enough power, he can speak softly, and everyone will listen”. While Roberts was talking about wrestlers who shouted through their promos compared to his where he barely spoke above a whisper, it still works for ‘Retired Dilettantes’. The album is filled with hissing static, deep drones, electronic motifs and subtle noise but it isn’t a face melter. Its something far more subtle and refined. The electronics have a filigree quality to them which perfectly juxtaposes the darker drones. There are a few sections that don’t quite work as well. They slightly jar with the previous one. These experiences are mostly fleeting and pass quickly. At its best ‘Retired Dilettantes’ is a reflective listening experience where the worries and woes of the day vanish. (NR)
––– Address: https://the-tapeworm.bandcamp.com/
TECH RIDERS – FOR ETERNITY (cassette by Eh? Records)
There is a point halfway through the first side of ‘For Eternity’ where you sit up and take notice. Of course, this might be different for everyone, and for me, it isn’t always the same exact sport, but about the four-minute mark something happens, and I’m drawn in. It starts as the static grows but peeking out from under its girth is this delicate melody that skits around momentary before being swamped by a load of noise and confusion. This melody would be a blink and you miss it cameo by your favourite actor in an unexpected film, but it makes you sit up and pay attention. Will it come back? Will you notice it if it does? Whether it does or doesn’t is immaterial. The damage has been done. You have been drawn into this murky world.
‘The First The Last Eternity’ features a section where bird being to sing. This is the highwater mark of the album. As the birdsongs grow more frequent the music is at its most abrasive and obtuse. What the birds do it give you something tangible to latch onto. They allow you to become unfocused on the glorious drones and pay attention to something familiar. It’s this familiarity that really hammers home the track. It also grounds it in reality. We have all heard birds singing. We know what it sounds like. We have also heard birds singing while the surface noise of life takes place. This is the moment that that ‘For Eternity’ really gets you onside. If you weren’t already on board by this point you are now.
While listening to ‘For Eternity’ I am reminded of Carl Crack’s flawless debut solo album ‘Black Ark’. That album was a paranoid, dubby, concrete, claustrophobic affair filled with brutalist beats. At times it was too unrelenting and impregnable. ‘For Eternity’ feels like what ‘Black Ark’ would sound like if you removed all the beats and basslines. You’d be left with these twitching and writhing soundscapes. Of course, the two albums have nothing in common and by mentioning Crack’s work I am doing a disservice to Tech Riders. This isn’t about him. It’s about Sindre Bjerga and Frans de Waard’s intricate soundscapes.
When ‘For Eternity’ ends there is a moment of brief reflective contemplation. You are aware that you have listened to something singular. Something that feels timeless and also contemporary. It also makes you question eternity. If this is what eternity sounds, and feels like, I’m pretty happy with that. (NR)
––– Address: http://www.publiceyesore.com/ehcat.php
CLOSING – I (cassette by Modern Tapes)
HUMAN ASPIC – THE TRUE HISTORY OF THE AMERICAN HUMAN SALVAGE PROGRAM (CD by Modern Tapes)
For an hour closing. takes us on a slow-moving, but xxx, through the eye of a void. This is a journey where sustainability is the order of the day. There is little variation through the tracks. When it does happen, however, you take notice. After listening to ‘I’ it reminds me of when I would go on long car journey’s with my parents, either on holiday or day trips, I would tune my Walkmen’s radio to a certain station and just leave it for the whole journey and let stations come in and out of tune. When the vocals/chatter on appeared on ‘The Blood Flowed Faster’ it reminded me of this. At first, you can’t make out the words, only a change in the static, but as the signal gets stronger everything to become clean. Then as soon as you can work it out, everything starts to distort again and you are left with the deep drones of the void. This is an album that perplexes as much as it entertains. There are no quick insights into its deeper meaning. That is down to you.
From the opening peels of feedback, static and distortion ‘The True History Of The American Human Salvage Program’ is a rough ride. Over the album’s 30-minute duration it’s hard to discern what is actually happening below the initial layer surface noise. At times it feels like trying to watch a wrestling match from above while it happens underwater. You can make out shapes and forms but as to what is going on, it’s anyone’s guess really. This, of course, is a good thing. ‘The True History Of The American Human Salvage Program’ is bookended by two 10 minute+ beasts. The middle two tracks are much shorter. It’s on these tracks that HUMAN ASPIC really ramp things up. Instead of taking their time to get where they need to, they immediately get to the point and it’s a thing of visceral beauty. The album is unrelenting, paranoid, terrifying, it suffocates the air out the productions and leaves you gasping on the floor. Effectively HUMAN ASPIC has made a musical version of 2020.
‘I’ and ‘The True History Of The American Human Salvage Program’ feel like companion pieces to each other. ‘I’ is more sedate and glacial in hits delivery whereas ‘The True History Of The American Human Salvage Program’ is just rough and lairy from the outset. (NR)
––– Address: https://moderntapes.bandcamp.com/
CULVER & ROVELLASCA – RITUAL MEMORY (cassette by Invisible City Records)
MODELBAU & MVK – THE HIDDEN ACCORD (cassette by Invisible City Records)
DEPLETION – COTARD DELUSION (cassette by Invisible City Records)
ROVELLASCA – EMPTY VITRINES (CDR by Kirigirisu Recordings)
Invisible City Records is an excellent tape label from Gateshead, UK, which traffics in that overlapping area where soporific drone and abstract noise play. That happens to be one of my favourite aural zones in which to pass the time… though I don’t typically notice time passing while I’m in this music’s grasp. The label is run by one Craig Johnson, an audio/visual artist who records as Rovellasca. Johnson’s collaborative tape with Culver is, as you might expect from a pairing of these two artists, a fantastic swath of gritty drone. “Ritual Memory” is some warm gloop with shades of vibrating-strings and amplifier hum shimmering below a surface of zero-BPM oozing filth. The entire first side, “Forgotten Crossing”, is a half-hour of haze and fog… a liquid hum that glides along with all the urgency of the sun rising. The final track, “Otras Frost”, allows some harsher notes to subtly seep through, breaking the placid surface just enough to let you know that an undercurrent of danger has been in there all along.
Elsewhere on Invisible City is a split tape by Modelbau (aka Vital’s own Frans de Waard) and MVK (aka Matthijs Kouw), though it might also rightly be called a collaboration of sorts. Both artists began with the same source sounds but composed separate music with it. Modelbau’s side, “Paper Clip”, is a prime example of impossibly languorous music Frans has been producing under this banner recently and is among the best music he’s made in his career (so far). This track is a half-hour of a deep-bass cassette-tape crawl, impossibly patient and careful. He waits until the final five minutes of the piece to lift the clouds and allow a hint of sunlight in, a proper coda to the previous pulse-decelerating purr. This sort of stasis gets me excited for some headphones-on deep listening, but that craving action won’t find much here. I don’t need action, though… in fact, I wish “Paper Clip” was even slower and longer… which is fortunate, because Frans recorded an even slower and longer piece using the same material, which is not part of the cassette, but it’s available as a free download from the Invisible City Bandcamp page. MVK, aka Matthijs Kouw, breaks his half of the tape into three sections. The component sounds are recognizable from the previous side, but he takes them in a different direction. Kouw’s tracks emphasize the rawness of surface crackle, sixty-cycle-hum, feedback, other elements that imply instability. Where Modelbau’s side is an extended slide down a dark corridor, MVK’s drone seems poised to explode, the feedback likely to overtake the other sounds or the crackling to subsume the entire enterprise. That delicate balance adds a nervous edge of imminent collapse.
The final new ICR tape is by Martyn Reid, as Depletion, whose grey exhalations make me think of a dust-blown grey future landscape… synthesizers bleep and chatter while malevolent wind gusts through post-human empty city streets. Reid adds layers of chain rattling, haunted moans and abject feedback to his music. It’s a rougher and meaner take on industrial ambience. The entire second side of the tape is given over to “Trauma”, an aptly-named sixteen minutes of cardiac machines come to life and attempting a coup de tat in the hospital.
Rovellasca’s “Empty Vitrines”, released as a CDR by the Japanese label Kirigirisu, which is one of the most beautiful albums I’ve heard so far this year. It consists of two masterfully delicate mud-bath drones that sound like rotten, finely-ground tape-loops spinning slowly and decomposing. Johnson’s work has none of the emotive nostalgia of a William Basinski or the conventionally pleasing tones of Amulets; he’s got a tape-loop language all his own, a fresh take on tapes that I find exhilarating. This steadily thrumming cycle full of unsteady clicks seems to exist at the bottom of a roughly-dug ditch, caked in mud and wriggling to keep itself wet. “Empty Vitrines” is enthralling in its restraint and subtle depth. There’s a gorgeous rawness to these sounds, walking a tightrope between resolution and abjection, while the composer maintains a light touch, his hands rarely drawing attention to themselves. “Ancient Vitrines” seems to be a living thing, making its own choices, burrowing in the dirt because it wants to. (HS)
––– Address: https://kirigirisurecordings.bandcamp.com/
––– Address: https://rovellasca.bandcamp.com/
––– Address: https://invisiblecityrecords.bandcamp.com/