Number 1253

JOHN WIESE – MAGNETIC STENCIL 1 (CD by Troniks/Helicopter) *
JOHN WIESE – MAGNETIC STENCIL 2 (CD by Troniks/Helicopter) *
JOOKLO TRIO -IT IS WHAT IT IS (CD by Relative Pitch Records)
THE CHERRY POINT – LIVE HELL (CD by Troniks/Helicopter) *
YANNICK GUÉDON – L’INSISTANCE DES POSSIBLES (CD by Edition Wandelweiser Records) *
IAN POWER – DILLIGENCE (CD by Edition Wandelweiser Records) *
ERIC WONG – COGNITIVE DISSONANCE (CD by Edition Wandelweiser Records) *
NATHAN MOODY – DE/STILL (CD by Flag Day Recordings) *
GRIM HUMOUR 198301987 (book by Fourth Dimension)
FIROZA – IN THE NOON OF ASHURA (LP by Frustration Jazz) *


The full title for this is “Opening Performance Orchestra plays Maurizio Bianchi – DAS TESTAMENT”. OPO I’ve reviewed before, a Czech group of 7 who collaborate in their “fraction music” – “no melody, no rhythm, no harmony”. Not only in their own compositions but in “reinterpretations of the works of composers with whom Opening Performance Orchestra feels a kindred spirit.”, here Maurizio Bianchi, “Italian pioneer of industrial music… inspired by the music of Tangerine Dream, Conrad Schnitzler and Throbbing Gristle.” Bianchi was in contact with Merzbow, GX Jupitter-Larsen, Nigel Ayers, William Bennett… So an eclectic mix of Industrial, Power Electronics and Harsh Noise. Das Testament was originally made by Bianchi in 83, with essays which appear to reference the Nazi death camps… released again subsequently 4 times. Defectum a Floppy Disk loop from 2012. Here OPO has “Das Testament – Fraction remix”, a wall of harsh static interspaced with pulses and oscillator warbles… and “Defectum 20 – creeping remix” a slow echoey fade in a drone with metallic echoes. The two tracks are dramatically different. Like the contradictions and counterclaims involved with Bennett, GPO et al as to the seriousness of the accompanying material are such that any finger-pointing can be denied. Add to that a strong suspicion that also the use of the ‘ironic’ ploy and the ideas of attacking the so-called establishment by references to its taboos which is at the same time now become part of that very establishment. Then the whole thing can be seen as D & G territorialization and reterritorialization. Sense is made by reference to Alice in Wonderland, and at my most pedantic this can be justified by reference to BwO, a body without organization, and so free. “When you will have made him a body without organs,- then you will have delivered him from all his automatic reactions -and restored him to his true freedom.” Antonin Artaud. Yet there is now the classic repetition which differentiates from deterritorialization to de-colonization and from schizoanalysis to lgbtq+ in which music as sound or noise is no longer relevant except for an avant-garde that has become the ancien régime? (jliat)
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JOHN WIESE – MAGNETIC STENCIL 1 (CD by Troniks/Helicopter)
JOHN WIESE – MAGNETIC STENCIL 2 (CD by Troniks/Helicopter)

Here are three new titles featuring the ever-restless John Wiese in-studio and live collaboration. Dude must never sleep, holy moly. The first two volumes of “Magnetic Stencil” are shades/variations of an idea he’s approached from different angles before: large-scale collaboration. With his group Sissy Spacek, he’s brought in large groups of artists for studio and live projects like “13-tet Oakland”, “15-tet Oakland” and “Duration Groups”. For the “Magnetic Stencil” project, which is slated to extend to five volumes, Weise asked an assortment of composers/performers to send him long tracks of sound with space it, which he intended to layer and compose exquisite-corpse style. The first volume incorporates sonic material from Charmaine Lee, Aaron Dilloway, James Fella, Masaya Nakahara (aka Hair Stylistics), C. Lavender, Lasse Marhaug, Katsura Mouri (of DOOG, formerly of Busratch), Aaron Hemphill (ex-Liars) and C. Spencer Yeh. The second has a smaller cast: Aaron Dilloway, Toshiji Mikawa (of Incapacitants), Joe Potts (LAFMS, Airway) and Robert Turman.
    Remarkably, “Magnetic Stencil 1” more closely resembles a live performance document than the studio creation it actually is. Wiese is careful to let each sonic element of his ensemble breathe and resonate off the others. Despite the sheer number of contributors, the music is never cluttered or diffuse. Both untitled pieces coalesce into phrasings and events that players might organically have gravitated towards if they were improvising together in real-time. The first track opens with Charmaine Lee’s voice is centre stage, bracketed by synthetic stuttering and record-skipping in vibrant stereo. As Lee’s voice retreats from recognizably human utterances into tiny pops and breath, the music morphs into a swirl of loopy tapes, rhythmic clomp and flurries of turntable scramble. A resonant bell-like tone surfaces on occasion to function as a sober, centring motif amid the electro-acoustic activity. The second track seems like a continuation of the first, sharing with it openness and deliberate pacing. The track starts with thunderous percussion, abrasive scrape and sombre piano upfront. The electronics are secondary to scraped cymbals and crashing piano keys, all of it seems to exist in the same acoustic space as if the players can hear and respond to one another… which is remarkable because, by design, they can’t. Volume two of “Magnetic Stencil” features fewer contributors, but it’s a denser piece of music. Unlike the episodic ebb and flow of “Magnetic Stencil 1”, “Magnetic Stencil 2” establishes a continuous, more vertical sound, a unified whooomph of soaring tones and clatter… which disintegrates after about six minutes, the drone replaced by convulsive tape-rewind stabs. Wiese takes his time here, passing through sections of instability while slowly building back to the piece’s initial heft. The second track leans on tape effects, voices elongated and pulverized but still (mostly) recognizably human-sourced. Towards the piece’s conclusion, musical fragments (from pop radio?) hiccup from inside a haze of dismal crawl.
    “Electronic Extension” features three of the artists from “Magnetic Stencil 2” in live performance: first is a duo of just Wiese and Dilloway, then they’re joined by Turman for the second piece. If Weise’s “Magnetic Stencil” albums impress for sounding as if they’re live when they are actually not, “Electronic Extension” is the opposite. The confident deployment of materials and textures unfolded in real-time in front of an audience but sounds as if it was carefully built in a studio. A section of resonant gong punctuated by slurred tapes and metal junk tumble is particularly effective; each element has sonic depth, each interjection purposefully sustaining the mood without seeming (as live improvised music often can) to impatiently search for the next zone. Wiese and Dilloway’s 25-minute duo track is atmospheric, the steady accumulation of breaking glass holding tension in place for long enough to let listeners notice how much is actually happening. On my third listen through, I could make out the slow-tape melodic fragment that pulls through the piece’s middle section. On my fourth listen, I’ll bet more details and complementary lines will jump out for me. The trio with Robert Turman is looser, more exploratory. Tape warble is the prominent sound component here (as it should be), slowly creeping along with the lower layers with controlled bursts of noise commentary, metallic scrape and haunted tones floating above a magnetic skeleton. (HS)
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Hervé Perez is an improviser, sound and visual artist integrating influences of improvisation, jazz, electroacoustic, contemporary experimental music, etc. By consequence, he is involved in very diverse collaborations and projects. His collaboration with Hegyesi is one of them. He is a Romanian artist based in Timișoara, who releases his solo work under the name of Shanyio. Their collaboration has a history. In 2010 they produced a first album –  ‘Winds of Change’ – released on the netlabel Electronic Musik. Their second effort ‘Garden of Secrets’ is again an electroacoustic work. Hervé’s electronic sounds are combined with a wide range of instruments played by Perez and his companion Hegyesi. Perez plays soprano saxophone, shakuhachi, Nepalese flute, caval, bodhrán, Tibetan bells and meditation bowls, field recordings, electronics and programming. Hegyesi plays bowed & plucked dulcimer, gusla, Bavarian zither, prepared chord-harp, psaltery, prepared cymbalum, wind bamboo chimes, shaman drum, rosewood claves, kokiriko. Perez is also responsible for composition, arrangements and sound design. They produce ambient-dominated music inspired by influences of world music. Music that almost by definition is not very demanding but of a laid-back comforting nature. Their textures and constructions are very multi-coloured due to the wide range of instruments used. They do not indulge in virtuosic playing but keep their eastern-flavoured, atmospheric pieces simple. ‘Slow March of the Pilgrim’ creates a meditative atmosphere. In contrast ‘Like milk and water’  is a jazzy improvisation based upon an up-tempo rhythmic base, breathing totally different in dynamics. ‘Bee’s Dance’ is a pseudo-ethnic dance. ‘Shaman’s Dream’ is a mesmerizing piece of flutes and little percussion with chanting in the background. ‘Garden of secrets’ keeps perfectly the middle between their spiritual ambient vehicles and the jazz-inspired improvisations performed by Perez. It is the most lengthy and the most balanced track on this record. (DM)
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JOOKLO TRIO -IT IS WHAT IT IS (CD by Relative Pitch Records)

Jooklo Trio is David Vanzan, Virginia Genta and Brandon Lopez. The core of this trio is Vanzan and Genta. Both are Italian musicians, who work together since 2003 creating their so-called Jooklo projects. Projects that have jazz, improvisation, noise and hardcore as the main ingredients. In collaboration with different guest musicians they did different numerous Jooklo-projects: Golden Jooklo Age, Jooklo Duo, Jooklo Finnish Quartet, Neokarma Jooklo Experience, working with  Takehisa Kosugi (Taj Mahal Travellers), Hartmut Geerken, Makoto Kawabata, Sonic Youth, Merce Cunningham Dance Company, etc. And now it is time for Jooklo Trio, with Brandon Lopez on electric bass as a participator. Lopez is a New York-based composer and bassist working in the contexts of jazz, free improvisation, noise, new music and anything in between. He worked with John Zorn, Ingrid Laubrock, Bill Nace, Tom Rainey, a.o.  He is perfectly at home on the battleground created by Venta and Vanzan, and fully integrated, what makes Jooklo Trio a very tight unit. Genta plays amplified sopranino and tenor sax. Drums and percussion by David Vanzan, and Lopez on electric bass. Opening track ‘Last Parasites’ starts with distorted and throbbing bass supported by the drums of Vanzan. When the amplified sax of Genta joins, it becomes clear what are dealing with. We are confronted with a very heavy blast of hardcore free jazz. Their ferocious energy is channelled through expressive and exciting improvisations. This tight unit bolds their explosive ideas in six concentrated improvisations, all six manifesting at the same high-energy level. Especially Genta attracts attention with her virtuosic and passionate playing. The sound of her amplified sax is sharp, mean and edgy. Together they permit no escape during this overwhelming trip, recorded August 30th, 2018 at GSI Studios, Manhattan, NY. Totally exciting! (DM)
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For as long as I can remember Daniel Vujanic has been releasing forward-thinking music either on his own or with cohorts under the guises of Stale, The Camping Group, Baja and Ixtar, to name a few. Now he has decided to realise an album on Esc. Rec under his own name. That album is ‘Prosopagnosia’ and it could be the most cohesive and enjoyable of his albums to date.
    On ‘Prosopagnosia’ Vujanic wanted to create a musical system through non-musical means. This involved taking synths, piano, guitar, cello and field recordings and trying to transform them into something else. On the most part, he succeeds as ‘Prosopagnosia’, loosely meaning face blindness, doesn’t really sound like a guitar, cello or piano has been anywhere near it. Claustrophobic motifs are the order of the day giving the album a minimal, beatless, techno vibe to the album. Of course, this doesn’t always work. Throughout ‘Moon Lagoon’ you can pick out cello and piano through the audio quagmire. These moments actually work in the album’s favour as they give it subtle moments of musicality with tangible, and recognisable, hooks instead of coagulated atmospherics.
    The most remarkable thing is how listenable it is. ‘Frost Im Refugium’ contains a glorious drone that just repeats on itself in such a way that part of your wishes it would never end. Writhing around, and through it, are snatches of melodies that pique your interest. Some a there for the briefest moment while others linger on fidgeting with each other.
    What Vujanic, and ‘Prosopagnosia’ for that, does really well is hid his original sound sources through manipulation. Once the samples no longer sounded as they originally did Vujanic layered them to create hypnotic swamps of sound. There are moments when Vujanic’s idea doesn’t really work and everything comes to an uninspiring halt, sections of ‘Plagegeister’ suffer from this sadly, but when the album works it sounds fresh, exciting and captivating. So, everything we’ve come to expect from Vujanic then.
    There something wonderfully lurid about Jeroen Diepenmaat and Twan Sallaerts’ new album ‘Sluimer’. Part of this is down to the idea that everything is cyclical. Especially when that comes to music. The pair begin creating improvisations around a tape recorder. Everything was recorded in one take. This gives the songs an immediacy. On a first listen you don’t know what is going to happen, or if what is happening was meant to happen.
    The real thrill of ‘Sluimer’ is when Diepenmaat and Sallaerts get locked in to groove and stay there. The duo appears to be that interested in trying things out and sticking with what they like. During ‘Terloops’ there is a wonderfully warming organ that welcomes us to the song. It gives off vibes of late-night roaring fireplaces. Mugs of steaming tea or cold beers. There are also some wonderful melodies deep down in the mix, like pennies at the back of a sofa. They add to the melodic tones of the organ and help ground those pleasant vibes. Behind this feeling of comfort and contentment, there is a repeating clicking noise. At first, it’s barely noticeable. As the song progresses it starts to become all-consuming until the organ fades into the warming ether and all your attention is on it. This is what ‘Sluimer’ does incredibly well. It gracefully moves your attention from one sound, or tone, to another. Without you realising it.
    It had been rumoured that Diepenmaat and Sallaerts had been creating for music under their own names together for years, but this is the first they have unveiled. Another rumour hints that there is plenty more where this came from. If so, let’s hope we don’t have too long to wait for the next instalment. (NR)
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THE CHERRY POINT – LIVE HELL (CD by Troniks/Helicopter)

Black Sand Desert is a name we haven’t seen in a while. An occasional project of Greh Holger (formerly of Detroit’s robust noise crew in the ‘00s, currently based in sunny Los Angeles), it hasn’t produced an album since 2006’s “Choking on Grave Soil”. In the intervening decade+, Holger has certainly kept himself busy with other projects. You may know him as one of the voices behind the Noisextra podcast, a program of enthusiastic conversation about noise and deep analytic dives into noteworthy albums with co-hosts Mike & Tara Connelly(aka Clay Rendering/The Haunting/Yellow Gas Flames). Greh also runs the excellent Chondritic Sound label and records as his main project, Hive Mind, which I’ve always kinda considered a punk take on Eliane Radigue… slow-motion minimal synthesizer excursions, but raw and negative. Hive Mind music can be evocative, meditative, certainly challenging but also potentially accessible beyond the underground heads. Black Sand Desert, on the other hand, is Greh’s outlet for nasty and defiantly filthy noise. The new album, “Painted Rope”, sounds gross… especially the opening cut, “Near Purgatory”, a twisting howl with interjections of too-intimate mouth sounds, grunts and saliva, closely-mic’d furtive things. The centrepiece track, “Coin Trick”, shares some recognizable Hive Mind DNA, but the electronics are dirtier and more dismal. The piece’s structure shifts scenes effectively: a passage of cold hum, a segue into stereo-action tumble, a section of fizzy energy and animalistic anguish ending with a flurry of static shotgun blasts. The final track, “Underdark”, folds back over itself multiple times. There are stretches of tumbling microphone feedback interrupted by falling boulders of ugh. In all of Greh’s work, a standout feature is his compositional sense; where some noise artists turn everything on and let the cathartic sparks fly, Greh sculpts his sounds for dramatic tension. Every moment seems to have a place and purpose, making the album very listenable. Still, it’s only for the converted sickos; Vangelis fans can sit this one out.
    Unsustainable Social Condition is Matt Purse, who runs the Oxen label in Los Angeles. His sound is a full-on burl, just a ball of squirming tension that barrels forward and obliterates everything in its path. Purse’s sound is remorseless churning, layers of object-jostling piled onto overheated electric sizzle. “Seductive Distress” is a set of five untitled pieces. It’s well recorded and legible despite almost uniform volume and density across nearly 50 minutes. The first two tracks remind me of Ryan Bloomer or Black Leather Jesus, muscular unremitting turbulence like balls of hot lava in a giant clothes dryer. At the midpoint of the album, Purse shows his hand a bit… turns out, it’s got a contact mic in it. He pulls back slightly for some feedback and quick breath, then it’s right back into the fray. Another avalanche of hot dirt roils unabated for the remainder of “Seductive”s runtime. The real beast is the fourth track, the loudest and ugliest of the set, a bit wilder in pacing and intensity than its four brothers. The final track has some surprising bass depth-charges… which highlight the relative dearth of lower frequencies that came before it but are still a nice detail. 
    The man behind the Troniks label, Phil Blankenship, takes centre stage (literally) as The Cherry Point for a CD reissue of “Live Hell”, which first appeared as a one-sided LP on Oxen in 2015. The CD version appends a live collaboration with The Rita from 2006. Blankenship’s noise is pure scorch, fiery obliteration at full power and top volume. I’ve been a fan of Phil’s noise since darn near the beginning when my old pal Jason Talbot started to buy John Wiese singles, a few of which were splits with TCB. That led me to discover Troniks and hear his early tapes of heaving combustion. I remember being so excited by the energy on those tapes and thinking, “damn, I’d love to hear this guy play live someday.” So far, I haven’t been able to do that… and chances are unless you live in Los Angeles, you haven’t either. But this live album is satisfying consolation. Unlike the intimacy of Black Sand Desert’s album or negative-vibes of Unsustainable Social Condition, “Live Hell” isn’t concerned with structure or atmosphere… it just wants to destroy. This is like listening to a hurricane… or cloud of mustard gas billowing to fill up a room. It’s a gale-force inhuman barrage, grabbing listeners by the throat and shaking with maniacally untethered glee in its eyes. The first track is especially malevolent, a coarse cascade of relentless flames. The shorter second track is just as fierce but more active. Several convulsive oomphs and some quick textural shifts (all of the massive and aggressive) remind listeners that somewhere within the onslaught is a human being (?) twisting knobs for maximum pain effect. These concerts must have been really something. The energy of the live performance is audible; I can imagine what it must have been like to stand in front of PA speakers (and, I’d hope, subwoofers) as this stuff tears into the space. The duo track with The Rita first seems like 15 glorious minutes of constantly roaring fireball. Some passages sound as if microphones are overloaded… and those moments count as “events” here. On my second listen, I noticed that something seems to be moving below the screaming surface. That every sound happens at the same volume makes the detail harder to discern, but it’s there. “Live Hell” is a pretty great reminder of how much fun a noise show could be. I sure hope they happen again someday. (HS)
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IAN POWER – DILLIGENCE (CD by Edition Wandelweiser Records)
ERIC WONG – COGNITIVE DISSONANCE (CD by Edition Wandelweiser Records)

Five new works from the starkly designed, epically attentive and always deeply inspired attuned-listening label Edition Wandelweiser Records. Works as varied as controlled composed nature and field recordings to fragile improvised ease, Ableton Live experimentation and close-mic’d string and woodwind performance. One might say these pieces are meditations on intimation of hearing and listening, of coming closer, maybe hesitant, but also insisting on being there – thoughts too on beginning or translating, telling the approach, remembrance, hiding even or crossing over. Wandelweiser explores and keeps open possibilities. At all times. At any volume.
    Public opinion might hold that Wandelweiser and its composers or performers be called ‘the silent/quiet bunch’. But there’s so much more to the label, group and aesthetic. Hearing involuntarily is transfixed and therewith transformed into a new form of listening. Not per se deep(er) as per Hennix of Oliveros. Rather widened, however granulated, however, conceptually spatialized the tones or sounds maybe. One could say some works of these recent five are droning, featuring long sustained tones with very little rhythmic or melodic change or development. But for these composers their work seems to be all about the possible merging of their tones with the ever-present background hum and hiss of spheres: not the virtually non-moving line then, au contraire – a whirlwind of activity on the most microscopic of levels, bringing forth massive scale differences, changes, switches, deviances at large. Or at least: the possibility (not even promise) thereof. With the gentlest of deft touches.
    On his debut release, Ian Power delivers slowly strung violoncello and subtle glissando’s on clarinet. Two pieces of medium length duration of close-up recording and granular texture, as if one dives into the instrument and in doing so, into the resolute urgencies of now. Timbral extremes fill these half hours into immersive depths and some lovingly droning movement, like pulses. Quite the charming introduction to Power’s works on record. The Ableton Live experimentation Eric Wong presents for Wandelweiser touches upon areas mined by for example Richard Chartier but doesn’t add too much to the well-known (and -worn) vocabulary of sine wave manipulation and hushed synthscaping. The woozy and slightly eerie washes of bending pitches project fogs of exactly that: woozy and slightness – a white-out in a landscape blanked out by sunlight on crisp freshly fallen snow.
    As a whole Wandelweiser never ceases to impress and move deeply. On their own, not all releases are the most brilliant specimen of the same high-quality impact power the group and label collectively bear witness of. James Tenney is – of course – the exception here. He holds the opinion tuning systems should be added to the musical fields of innovation, named by John Cage: sound/noise, consonance/dissonance, sound/silence, organisation of time. The piece ‘critical band’ is a masterstroke of revelation in opening up the ears of listener as much as a performer to the intricacies of micro-tonality, in the form of Tenney’s idiosyncratic ‘swell piece’, expanding in various terms, among which we find volume, number of notes, depth of texture. Tenney’s admirable handling of psychoacoustics and harmonic theory comes closest to the aforementioned idiomatic blueprint of Wandelweiser. The group effort by Andreas Nordheim, Ole Schmidt and Chris Weinheimer deviates markedly in a joint effort striving for balance/disbalance, joining/disjointing, repetition/deviance. And this is not your typical heady, conceptual, cerebral affair. The same goes for the far more poetic offering by Yannick Guédon in which the silences, pauses or breaks at first feel a bit forced (or conceptually adrift), a bit like cut-and-paste Wandelweiser stock-material even. However: the intense, sustained violoncello & violin duo touches upon deep-drone of exquisite force and impact – a work which might benefit from massive amplification as much as it enjoys listening at a volume just above the background noise of your every day and blending therein.
    Blink and you may lose it, miss it, just hear it pass, flapping by, out our earshot. And then the wait. And you hear your ears attuned to the silences in-between. Or: are those even silences? Doubt creeps in, doubts are being factored in – the not-knowing per se, per definition made to be possible in and of itself. What are they cooking up in there, in Haus Wandelweiser? Whatever the potent cocktail is made of, with these five work the label and group once again branch out: acoustic instruments, recorded sounds, voice, improv combo, electronics and voids of various length and depth all in tune and tuned to the signpost of change. Sitting still clearly is never enough: this is activated listening at its apex, changing wisely. (SSK)
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NATHAN MOODY – DE/STILL (CD by Flag Day Recordings)

If I understand it well, both of these releases deal with music and photography and TJ Norris has involvement on both. Nathan Moody created music to Norris’ photo series ‘Urban Juxtapositions’ and he wrote the liner notes for the Duplant release. Both of these releases deal with quite a bit of field recordings, which one could say are aural snapshots. I had not heard of Nathan Moody before who pulls out all the guns to produce his soundtrack; “Synthesizers, fiddles, dulcimer, strings, piano, field recording, digital glitch, and damaged analogue tape”. That is a lot, and he uses it all in a much-varied way here on ‘De/Still’. All of these pieces are cobbled together on the CD (separate in the download though) as one long, fifty-minute piece, and right from the start Moody dig in with field recordings with delay, dulcimers and low bass note. The field recordings reflect mostly urban life, I think and can consist of people talking, a faraway car or such like. On top of that, we find Moody in a very pleasant ambient style; melodic piano lines, rhythm, spacious synthesizers, bits that sound like a film soundtrack and nothing much is very abstract, which is something I enjoyed very much for a change. It is not necessarily very carefully constructed, this soundtrack, but like the city, it is a bit chaotic, vague, busy and in the back alleys, all quiet and creepy. Lovely stuff; quite a change for a while.
    Which can’t be said for Bruno Duplant’s ‘Quelques Usines Fantômes N°3’, in which he does what he does best and that is creating music with the most obscured field recordings and then add some likewise vague set of electronics to the menu (but I can easily believe that there is a clarinet or another wind instrument used here; whatever, it mixes fine with what I perceive to be sinewaves) and let those things simmer together for a while. Duplant, so we learn from the cover, is inspired by Luc Ferrari, but in his work goes for the all obscure; at least, most certainly on ‘Quelques Usines Fantômes N°3’, which translates as ‘some ghostly machines’. Spooky it all is, that much I know. While one expects nothing out of the ordinary to happen here (it is just a stream of sounds, field recordings, electronics, fading in, fading out; right?), you can’t be too sure. Maybe something wild leaps out of these nocturnal surroundings (a forest, I’d say), which scares the living daylights out of you. Spoiler alert, that doesn’t happen in these two pieces, which both last around twenty-six minutes. The first time I played this at a considerable low level (too lazy to get up and change that) and then, the next day, much louder. Interestingly enough I found the louder version to be almost like noise, like being captured inside an industrial complex and that I found scarier than walking through the woods. Another excellent release by Duplant! (FdW)
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Japan’s Ftarri label gets busier all the time and also seem to broaden their musical spectrum, as we will see. I started with something that is perhaps a release you would expect from this label. Apparently, Ftarri has a harmonium in their store/performance space and Masamichi Kinoshita set down on March 14, 2020 along with Hanako Nakamura (sho), Yumiko Kiyota (gaku-biwa) and Gaku Yamada (guitar) to perform three compositions composed by Kinoshita. The cover explains the somewhat conceptual nature of these compositions. The music isn’t very quiet as one may expect from Ftarri, but comes with spacing between the notes; not all the time, but in ‘Count To 11!’ (“while individually counting to 11, each musician sets down sounds in such a way that the sounds gradually increase”, is what the cover says about this piece). I found this music not easy to access, and the more I think about, the less I know why. Maybe it is the unusual harmonics of the various string instruments? As said, I don’t know. The piece I liked best is the longest, ’17 Melodies, 13 Sustained Sounds, 1 Silence’, which sounded very exotic with the harmonium playing mostly long, sustaining tones. It sounded improvised, it sounded planned, it sounded lively and introspective at the same time. A most strange release.
    The second one is one that is very much Ftarri. A trio of guitar players appear from “left to right in the stereo image”, Denis Sorokin, Taku Sugimoto and Frederik Rasten, all on acoustic guitar and Sorokin also on pitch pipes (two pieces) and bowed tuning forks on resonator box (on one piece). Over three days in March 2019, they recorded their pieces at the Petersburg Art Space in Berlin. These pieces are mostly improvised, or work along with some fixed ideas and in ten pieces, spanning some hundred minutes of music, they play mostly carefully constructed and above all quiet music. One could, perhaps, say that they play the same piece over and over again, save for one. ‘Duality’ is the one piece in which Sorokin plays his tuning forks, and the other two refrain from strumming notes and use fingers to touch upon surfaces of the guitar and strings. This gives the piece an interesting acoustic quality, almost as if objects are played here. In the other nine pieces it is, to put it bluntly, business as usual, which, he hastened to say, is a good thing, if not a bit long. But then, maybe discs like this should not be played in a row. The placing of the player in the stereo spectrum works quite nice and adds certainly an idea of spatial qualities to these pieces. This is music that we know from Sugimoto, but now performed with three acoustic guitars and it’s music that engages one to contemplate or sit back and simply enjoy the quietness of it all.
    No doubt it is mere coincidence that also the release by Per Oddvar Johansen (“snare drum, etc.”) and Seijiro Murayama (“snare drum, etc.”) uses the left/right division, Right is Johansen and left we find Murayama (and hopefully the set-up is connected properly!). They have six improvisations and two compositions on this disc, not that I could tell the difference. Which is not to say anything negative about the music, just how I perceive things. I guess, the ‘etc.’ part of the instrument description, in fact, is about a lot of things. I hear metal percussion, cymbals, toms, next to the snare drums. The music is a fine interaction, conversation if you will between the two players and one with great discipline at that. They don’t set out to set the place on fire with chaos and disruption, but with control and elegance. Things hit and roll with great majestic movements between the two. Action and reaction are not always what this is about, I think. In fact, so I was thinking, this is perhaps more planned than the two men are willing to let on? A fine disc for sure.
    The last one is a disc by Takuma Kuragaki, who started in the early 90s and whose work is quite a different thing. The “keywords ”bottomless” and ”blank”–aims to have listeners become ”users” who incorporate into their daily lives the experiences gained through the works. In contrast to conventional works of music, which stir up listeners’ emotions and provide each individual with their own unique experience, this album–in which radically curtailed minimal sounds are placed sometimes regularly and sometimes at unpredictable intervals–will likely bring listeners the reality of time segmentation.” He uses a bit of software called Renoise, which looks like an Excel sheet; “I place sounds on a grid that resembles the squares of a Go board. While thinking back on ”bottomless” and ”blank” experiences in my own daily life, I basically place the sounds in a way that will trigger these sorts of experiences in the listener. I might attempt to trace the physical rhythm of going up and downstairs, for example.” I don’t know about you, but how does this sound? I had no idea, but I didn’t expect the music on this album. This is an album of glitches, rhythmic at that. Think of early Ryoji Ikeda, and then a bit more conceptual; maybe Nerve Net Noise but much more enjoyable. It is, maybe, miles away from the world of Ftarri, which is about instruments, acoustics, spaces, or even a bit of field recordings; this fully electronic album with such a rigid concept is something quite different. I am not ‘there’ yet if I like this or not. (FdW)
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In Hamburg, Germany, there is a radio station called FSK and one of the program is Radio Gagarin. Here TBC, also known as Thomas Beck holds court and plays records and sometimes has friends over an in-house radio session. On a date not given their guest was Chris Sigdell, whom we otherwise know as B*Tong (but also Leaden Fumes and Bu.d.d.A) on electronics and the other side of the table we find TBC_Czepoks, being Seemann (bass, theremin, violin dulcimer), Rana Miss Ton (keyboards, sound objects) and TBC (tapes, electronics, live mix). Sigdell oversaw the edit and mix we now hear on the CD. As these things go in this particular end of the world, the result is an all-dark, heavily reliant on drone affair, with occasional leanings to the world of noise. In the opening piece, ‘Phainon’, we enter a world full of rusty machines, stashed in a big hall. Squeaking and vibrating, objects falling to the floor, this turns out to be the release at its heaviest. In other pieces, the four-piece settle for a more subdued drone sound. Slowly opening and closing all sorts of filters on a variety of electronics and amplified objects, they create an unsettling moody atmosphere; probably as black meets brown on the cover. In ‘Pyroeis’ a voice appears, reminding me of the earliest Current 93 records (which Is a big plus in my books). The two parts of ‘Phosphoros’ that end the proceedings are my favourite part of this release. This is quiet yet unsettling; this moody and sparse but with lots of tension underneath. Massive and spacious, like the unveiling of a black hole (is that possible?), with stuff already disappearing from the scenery. This is about one-third of the entire release, and it proofs that given enough time and acting out patience, brings out the best in improvisation. (FdW)
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GRIM HUMOUR 198301987 (book by Fourth Dimension)

Asmus Tietchens once remarked that we have to write our own history as nobody else will do it for us. I am not sure if that is true, but this particular book might be the case for it. Richard Johnson and friends started to publish Grim Humour in 1983 as a 17-year old music fan. They went to concerts, shopped for the independent labels, and eventually started one, Fourth Dimension (well, effectively took it over from Third Mind Records man Gary Levermore). And this year, thirty-odd years later, Richard Johnson is still active with his label, his music and now also his own history. Grim Humour was fanzine with a focus on post-punk, guitar noise, alternative ‘pop’, goth and less on electronic and experiment. It quickly appeared in an edition of 1500 copies and sometimes came with a Flexi disc. That sounds like a professional operation to me, but the tone is very much… punk, I guess, especially in the letters to the editor. There are various ways to approach this sort of archival releases. In the recently published Vital book (shameless self-plug; see advertisement below), it was chosen to run all the 44 issues as they were printed back then (1987-1995), but in defence, that was a fanzine of a few pages. Grim Humour had many more pages, so a selection was made. Another difference is that this book sees a combination of plain reprinted pages and retyped interviews. Maybe the magazines’ layout was too chaotic for current standards? (I think I first heard of it in the ’90s, and don’t recall seeing any of these first ten issues; a second book will cover the rest). It allows Johnson to reflect on the interviews, provide background on the band and the interviewer, to insert 2020 remarks on the current status of the musician (such as the death of Joey Ramone, who rants on the use of drugs) and a discography that stretches beyond the one that was (perhaps?) part of the original interview. It took me some time adjusting to that shifting back and forward; when exactly did [-ed] inserted that? But after a few pages in, it started to work quite well, and it provided this extra layer of historical information. Being the completist that I am, I wonder what we are missing here, but then: you can’t have it all. So what do we get? There are interviews with Death In June, Virgin Prunes, Killing Joke, Crass, The Fall, In The Nursery, The Fall, The Damned, Nick Cave, Portion Control, And Also The Trees, 400 Blows, The Leather Nun, The Ramones, Big Black, Alternative TV, plus live reviews from anything from New Order to The Cure to Ausgang and Rose Of Avalanche, showcasing the diverse approaches this magazine took. With The Cure, there is also a review from former bassist Lol Tolhurst’s autobiography from 2016, which shows that 30 years on the interest never waned. It is a book that made me want to play the old records, search for new oldies I never heard and by the time I am done with that (I am sure it will keep me busy until Christmas), I hope the next books from Fourth Dimension are here! We need to write our history indeed and it’s good to see people doing it. (FdW)
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With the amount of music to review every week, for some twenty-five years now, I gave up on the notion of ‘collecting’ music early on. Probably when I realized that reviewing weird music doesn’t buy you mansion of Xanadu proportion. However, from a few artists I kept their work over the years and occasionally spend a fine Sunday afternoon spinning their music; Illusion Of safety, Kozo Inada, Asmus Tietchens, Organum and Idea Fore Company spring to mind. Plus, of course, Mirror, the duo of Andrew Chalk and Christoph Heemann, sometimes with Viki Jackman and Timo van Luijk. I believed that Mirror ran its course since 2005 when they released ‘Viking Burial For A French Car’. Much to my pleasant surprise, I saw the announcement of ‘Some days It Rains All Night’, a new (?), old (?) LP by Mirror, in their guise as a quartet. Plus a new LP by In Camera, Timo van Luijk and Christoph Heemann together; what more would one need as a birthday present, so I purchased them both. The LP is new, the recordings, I have no idea when they were made. The group never shared much information on the covers of their releases. All we know it was recorded at The Loft in Cologne, no doubt Heemann’s studio, and as per usual we get two sidelong pieces of music, which, upon closer inspection might also be one long piece. It is a piece that slowly unfolds but is also from the start quite spacious. Empty space is suggested and then slowly, as from afar sounds arrive in that space; sometimes they stay in the background, sometimes they are more upfront. Instruments as such we don’t recognize; I would think there is a piano in there, maybe some of Van Luijk’s string objects along with synthesizers and mucho sound effects. Over forty minutes this unfolds and also folds back; a spacious trip that has a beginning and an end. It’s not their best work, but another fine trip.
    And maybe ‘a trip’ is a word that also applies to the music by In Camera. This duo of Van Luijk and Heemann exists since 2005, effectively longer than Mirror was active, but there have been only a handful of releases, some with great titles, such as ‘Rumours’ and ‘Frampton Comes Alive’; the name In Camera was also used in the early ’80s by post-punk Joy Division/PIL rip-off. The music may be serious but the rest maybe not; you may find it silly. This particular record is more outgoing than then Mirror one, seemingly a bit more heavy on the use of synthesizers and electronics. And this too is, as said, a trip into space, but this time I would think it harks back to something along the lines of kosmische music, but less any arpeggios. The spaceship is on a set trajectory, and we listen to the whirring and buzzing of engines and other machines on board. Is there life on this ship? Or is every one asleep, waiting to be woken upon arrival of some distant planet? It is interesting to hear the two quite different approaches here when it comes to the whole notion of drone music. The careful, vague approach of Mirror versus the more outgoing sounds of In Camera. It is mood music, both of them, but for different moods, I think.
    Heemann already released ‘Perception And Association’ in 2015 as a limited CDR, but this year, thanks to Robot Records, found its way to vinyl. A wise decision, so I think. This is yet a different kind of mood music. Rhythm plays a role on the first side; it is a slightly far away, yet exotic loop of drums or bass sounds and around that Heemann spins his electronics, hissing and buzzing, and it gave me the impression of being in a rain forest, but then with a slightly muffled sound, as if it sounds from afar, but throughout the piece, it comes closer and closer and it comes across some noisy cliffs. A trip too, but one with a bumpy road through the paths of the jungle (without this being drum-based jungle music, mind you!). On ‘The Trains’ one might easily believe he uses the sound of trains as part of the composition, with a variety of synthesizers performing the role of the engine. This is a vivid piece, straight up there, with some strong synthesizer parts intertwining and drifting apart. This is perhaps the modern electronic/musique concrète approach of Heemann’s work. From all three records, this is the one that is the loudest. This too is an excellent record.
    And I should briefly mention ‘Au-Dela’, a compilation record released by the Meakusma Festival in Belgium. I hear it is a good festival; I don’t know. Together with La Scie Doree they released this LP to showcase some artists on the label, and/or connected to the musicians on the label. We find here music by Af Ursin, Michael Ranta, Circaea, Raymond Dijkstra, Christoph Heemann, Nurse With Wound/James Worse, Bart de Paepe and Jacques Berrocal & Vincent Epplay. Good solid pieces, no standout pieces and a fine introduction in case you never heard of these musicians before. It happens! (FdW)
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FIROZA – IN THE NOON OF ASHURA (LP by Frustration Jazz)

You could think that with such a label name there is a jazz angle somewhere, but I don’t think that is the case, but, then, I haven’t heard the previous releases, which were on CDR. This is the label’s first LP and behind Firoza is one Steven Wright, who may or may not also be the owner of the label. He’s from Hobart, Australia and worked before as Polanyi, as well as his own name and the duo Bi-Hour. There are eight ‘pieces’ and eight ‘fragments’ on this LP. The fragments are field recordings Wright taped on his travels and while on the road he worked with into his portable keyboard and recording it with his mobile. That became the pieces of this record, to which he later added organ, clarinet, household percussion and voice. None of these pieces and fragments is very long in duration and that is a pity. ‘At The Tomb Of Hafez’ is now a mere two-and-a-half-minute long, but it’s sweet organ melody and piano sound have the promise of something that could continue for a bit longer. The record is at times quite busy, gasping for breath, but at the same time, I must say I quite enjoy what I hear. Wright certainly has plenty of ideas up his sleeve to pull off the variety of sounds, styles and methods here. From a lo-fi drone in ‘Islands Of The Gilf’ to the sweet melody of the aforementioned ‘At The Tomb Of Hafez’ or ‘A Moment In The Kaluts’; it all has to do with a trip to Iran in 2017, so you know, which accounts for the somewhat exotic sounds depicted on this record. The abstract character of the various ‘fragments’ versus the musical ‘pieces’, which in itself also bounce from pure tonal drone bliss to melodic pieces, one could easily think this is a compilation record. But no, it is just one person showing off what he is capable of. I wonder what road he will choose for his release; this trip had many choices. A very nice introduction to man and label! (FdW)
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Before I started to listen to Jeff Curtis’ new latest album ‘Summertime Stridulations’ I had no idea what clawhammer banjo meant. I knew what the words meant individually, but I’d never really heard them put together. Now knowing their true meaning I have to admit I’m a convert at the alter of clawhammer.
    Instead of playing a conventional up-picking of strings with the fingers and a down-picking with the thumb, clawhammer playing is primarily a down-picking with the hand looking like a claw. It’s the Ramones way of playing the banjo.
    The first thing I noticed after listening to ‘Summertime Stridulations’ was how droney it all was. I’d never really hard a banjo sound like that before. This is down to the clawhammer style. It allows the banjo to create more drone motifs. This is on display on opening track ‘Banjo Trio in Double C: 1. Kinzua’. Throughout Curtis creates constant murmurs over which he laces these gloriously lyrical solos and runs. At times ‘Kinzua’ sounds a bit like the theme from the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. You know the only good Eagles track ‘Journey of the Sorcerer’. As it swells there is a quirky cinematic vibe that shouldn’t work but does. ‘Birthday Raga’ and ‘Sweet Corn’ sound like they’re from straight out of the delta. The Nile delta. As well as making his banjo drone Curtis also gets some fantastic sitar vibes from it. What makes ‘Birthday Raga’ and ‘Sweet Corn’ so delightful is that after understated openings they just get locked in a groove and stays there, save for some runs and solos. It’s catchy, it’s heavy and it’s just so damn playable.
    I went into this album, and review, with a very limited idea about Curtis’ back catalogue. I’d heard his name before but couldn’t really put a song to it. When I read it was an album of banjo improvisational music, I hoped for the best but feared the worst. How wrong I was. ‘Summertime Stridulations’ is the kind of album I live for as a music fan and journalist. It’s totally floored me from the notes and held me captive like Terry Waite or John McCarthy. The beauty of the album is just how sparse it is. There are no superfluous notes. Everything is stripped down to its bare bones. At 26-minutes it doesn’t outstay its welcome and leaves you wanting more. A LOT more. If the album popped round for a tea or coffee, the drink would still be hot by the time it had to neck it to leave. ‘Summertime Stridulations’ could be one of the catechist things this year next to COVID! (NR)
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Last year I was walking along the seafront. The sun was shining. There were plenty of tourists and locals milling about. The smell of salt was slightly more powerful than meals being eaten in swanky restaurants, the smell emanating from the pubs and suntan lotion. Suddenly a big bubble starts floating towards me. It was about the size of a guitar amp. As it passed between me and the sun the translucent quality of the bubble was mesmerising. As the oily colours dances across its surface, I was totally entranced. As I walked towards it the bubble got lower, and lower, and lower until it contacted the pavement and POPPED! A few moments later there was another one, two and three more bubbles in the air. Then I found the source. There was a street performer with a converted fishing net on some sticks sending these bubbly behemoths airborne.
    While listening to the latest Guillaume Gargaud album ‘Strange Memories’ I’m reminded of this long-forgotten moment. The title alone helps dredge up old memories, but it’s his solo improvisations that remind me of that day the most. The music Garguad creates is airy and robust but there is a fragility to it, as at any moment it could all come to an end abruptly. A standout moment on the album is the run of songs ‘Stay Away’, ‘Strange Memories’ and ‘Glissando’. ‘Stay Away’ opens with mournful motifs as Garguad slowly builds a wall of longing through scratchy strings and deep chords. ‘Strange Memories’ continues these themes of longing as a slew of slow-moving notes are allowed to ring out. Here Garguad is thinking of specific moments in his past and drawing out the sadness one note at a time. Was it a heated conversation that ended in pain and resentment, or perhaps it’s about a frustrating end of a relationship? ‘Glissando’ is filled with positivity and joy. There is a playful bounce to his playing that was missing on the earlier part of the album. Like the previous improvisations, Gargaud is thinking about happier times and channelling that directly.  Of course, we’ll never know the events that inspired these songs, but what is evident is the experience helped Gargaud pull something deeply moving from his past to deliver a suite of songs that not only define the album but possibly his career to date.
    One of the main complaints about ‘Strange Memories’ is Gargaud doesn’t always know the endpoint of each song, so when he reaches the end of his musical train of thought the songs tend to just stop. Rather than ending. Of course, this can also a complaint of improvised music, but it does take the shine of a rather enjoyable piece of music when, sometimes, out of nowhere Garguad finishes mid-thought. That being said ‘Strange Memories’ is a delightful album that skews and winds along at a fair clip. There is also an unpredictability to ‘Strange Memories’. Throughout the album, we are unsure what Gargaud will play next as the playing is dextrous and brave. It cements Gargaud is not only an exciting player but one whose future releases should be cause for celebration. (NR)
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As I noted before and as I will no doubt repeat in the future some more, I do enjoy the work of Germany’s Günther Schlienz quite a bit, but I also feel some of it hoovers closely to the world of new-age. Sometimes more than at other instances. ‘Mutterkuchen’ is one that is surely ‘more’ towards new-age than less. In the information, Schlienz writes that this release is about his inspirations, being Cluster, Klaus Schulze, Tangerine Dream, but also, quite surprising, Johan Sebastian Bach. The first piece is called ‘Bach’; another one is ‘Kosmische Musik’. In the Bach piece, we hear a cello, which is no coincidence, I would think. Otherwise, this is an all-around synthesizer affair. Because I was curious (well, finally!), I looked up what kind of synthesizers Schlienz is using and it is mostly of the modular variety. I am not an expert, so it doesn’t mean much to me. All four pieces sound delicate, fragile and light. Cluster is one hell of influence here, save for the absence of any rhythm here, especially in ‘Spoonful Of Stars’, whereas in ‘Kosmische Musik’, Schlienz delves into the history of Tangerine Dream. Lovely mild music, of sustaining sounds and soft tinkling sounds; indeed something that is quite close to the world of new age, but the synths of ‘Kosmische Musik’, a bit darker and alien, so all ends well, I think. On a darker autumn day, this is the perfect mood-enhancing album. Great stuff once again! (FdW)
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