BLACK TO COMM – OOCYTE OIL & STOLEN ANDROGENS (CD by Thrill Jockey) *
BALLROGG – ROLLING BALL (CD by Cleanfeed Records) *
THE SEALED KNOT – TWENTY (CD by Confront Recordings) *
THE SEEN – FOR SAKE OF JOY OF STUDY OF ONESELF TOGETHER (CD by Confront Recordings) *
TAKU SUGIMOTO & TAKASHI MASUCHI – LIVE AT OTOOTO & PERMIAN (CD by Confront Recordings) *
JEAN-LUC GUIONNET & LE GGRIL – TATOUAGES MIROIR (CD by Circum Disc) *
MATTHIAS MÜLLER & ERIC NORMAND & PETR VRBA – TRICHE (CD by Circum Disc) *
NURSE WITH WOUND – BARREN (2CD by ICR) *
DENIS FRAJERMAN – MACAU PEPLUM (CD by Klanggalerie) *
VITOR JOAQUIM – THE CONSTRUCTION OF TIME (CD, private) *
THE TOUCHABLES – SVART/HVITT (CD by Conrad Sound) *
PÄR THÖRN & TR KIRSTEIN – SCORPIONIZER (CD by Topos Media) *
OORBEEK – KAVEL (LP by Blowpipe) *
OORBEEK – OH? DENNEBOOM/STILLENACHT X HEILIGENACHT (7″ by Blowpipe)
ALEXANDER SIGMAN – VURT CYCLE (CDR by New Focus Recordings) *
ROVAR17 VS. XPLDNGLKE – NIX UGRIBUGRI (CDR by Unsigned) *
NOISESCULPTOR – ORDINARY MIND DISORDERS (2CDR by Unsigned) *
CHRIS FRATESI – READ LEAD (CDR by Anathemaa Archive) *
TOM WHITE – SIDE DOWN (cassette by Anathemaa Archive) *
VOSP – PALE SHELTER (cassette by Anathemaa Archive) *
AMBASCE – DIG DIARIES (cassette by Love Earth Music)
BLACK TO COMM – OOCYTE OIL & STOLEN ANDROGENS (CD by Thrill Jockey)
My recent review of Marc Richter’s side project Mouchoir Etanche probably leads to receiving this CD by his main project, Black To Comm. I wrote (Vital Weekly 1254): “He acquired some fame with that, with releases on Thrill Jockey, Type and Dekorder, many of which didn’t make to these pages. I have no idea how Black To Comm developed and the last time I heard the music, was a great number of years ago. I do remember a particularly loud concert, but that too seems like a long time ago.” And, of course, I could repeat that here, reviewing his latest work as Black To Comm, as in the meantime I haven’t learned more from his development. From the information, I understand that the five pieces here are “new evolutions of pieces written for site-specific installations alongside original works”. It opens with the almost eighteen minutes of “Gustav Metzger as Erwin Piscator, Gera, January 1915”. The other four pieces are much shorter (I assume this all fits on an LP). The sound collage is still the preferred working method of Richter, sampling sounds left and right. Instruments, voices, sounds, fragments from ‘media sources’. It is good to hear Metzger’s voice again, bumping into him in the mid-90s in Amsterdam off and on (and if you have no idea who he is, go brush up your modern art history while playing The Who), sitting next to some harpsichord melody, the banging of metal music, flutes, ambient, film music, mandolin, covered with lots of effects. The first long piece seemed to be the most complex of the five pieces, where Richter crams in a lot of small sounds, movements and gestures, whereas in the other four it is all about relative simplicity. A few sounds are used to paint the scenery. In ‘Oocyte Oil’ it is the sound of water (or oil perhaps) with some sparse synth-based sounds and a bit of voice at the start; perhaps this was a bit too sparse, I thought. It was more the start of a piece, then a fully formed piece. Which one could think of all these four pieces, but to a varying degree. ‘Gepackte Zeit’ is a compact three-minute drone party that is just that. ‘Rataplan, Rataplan, Rataplan (Arms And Legs Flying In The Air)’ is the closing piece, which repeats the vocal used in the opening piece, but now stripped and guided with a drum beat. For me, the beauty is mostly in that complex opening piece, in which Richter moves along many high s and depths of sound processing and by combining so many sources there seems to be something new to hear all the time; this is easily a piece of music that you can have on repeat for a while and discover all distinct different movements in there. It is more than half of the release! The other four I would range from good to ‘unfinished’, so it’s not a bad score. (FdW)
––– Address: https://thrilljockey.com/index
BALLROGG – ROLLING BALL (CD by Cleanfeed records)
Ballrogg started life as a duo. Klaus Ellerhusen Holm and Roger Arntzen were joined by guitarist Ivar Grydeland. Now David Stackenäs has taken Grydeland’s place and this new trio have released their first album titled ‘Rolling Ball’. Forget everything you heard on their previous four albums. It doesn’t do you any good. This is a different beast entirely. That isn’t to say that ‘Ballrogg’, ‘Insomnia’, ‘Cabin Music’ or ‘Abaft the Beam’ isn’t great, they are, but ‘Rolling Ball’ is something different.
The title track feels like a score from a Gus Van Sant film in the 90s. There is a portentous whimsy to it that hints at a darker story lurking just below the surface. Yes, the visuals are all bright and full of pop-cultural references, which is echoes in the light and airy main refrain, but beneath this, there is a story about the sadness that haunts us. How, even at the best of times when everything is going right, there is that dark ember at the back of our mind reminding us of how futile things can be. This comes across in ‘Rolling Ball’. When the strings swell, they bring with them ominous clouds that could turn into a light shower or typhoon. ‘Miami Weekend’ is a post-punk masterstroke. The opening riff is catchy yet devastating. As soon as it starts playing it removes you out of what you are doing, and you have to pay it attention. It doesn’t matter what you are doing. Cooking, reading, commuting, shopping. As soon as it kicks in all you are doing is concentrating on it. ‘Nostalgic’ Idol’ follows on with another catchy, and cascading, opening riff. It isn’t as awe-inspiring as ‘Miami Weekend’, but it is still remarkable. The pace is quicker. It speeds past that it’s hard to get how technical it is on a first listen. And this is what ‘Rolling Ball’ does very well. It somehow manages to hide the proficiently of the players under ‘simple’ sounding riffs and motifs. Ellerhusen Holm’s bass clarinet is beautiful. Stackenäs guitar work is prodigious and Arntzen’s double bass grounds and prevents the other players from noodling too much and straying from what makes each song work.
‘Rolling Ball’ is an exquisite album that you want to savour. After each track, I felt like I wanted a break so I could take in everything that had happened, digest it and ready myself for the next song. I didn’t of course. Like the greedy listener I am, I just played ‘Rolling Ball’ on loop for hours. After five or six listens everything started to merge into one and I was lost in its brilliance, but around listen eight or nine, it all started to come together again. Forming something cohesive. Something I could latch onto and devour afresh. This is an album that is complex but not overly complicated. It is jazz, yet it’s not. It is post-punk, in places, yet it’s not. It is Americana but it not. I still can’t work out what it is other than fantastic. And this is part of its charm and hopefully longevity. (NR)
––– Address: https://cleanfeed-records.com/
THE SEALED KNOT – TWENTY (CD by Confront Recordings)
THE SEEN – FOR SAKE OF JOY OF STUDY OF ONESELF TOGETHER (CD by Confront Recordings)
TAKU SUGIMOTO & TAKASHI MASUCHI – LIVE AT OTOOTO & PERMIAN (CD by Confront Recordings)
Here we have a trio of new releases by UK’s Confront Recordings, showing they are going strong and getting stronger. It has been a while since I last reviewed work by The Sealed Knot was ‘And We Disappear’ (Vital Weekly 714), but slightly prophetic as I had not heard from them again after that, although there have been releases by this trio. It turns out that they have been together for twenty years and in March of this year, they celebrated this with a concert at Cafe Oto. Burkhard Beins (amplified percussion), Rhodri Davis (amplified lap harp) and Mark Wastell (dual 32-inch Paiste tam-tams, gongs and Nepalese singing bowls) and used here. According to the cover text, the three have changed their instruments over the years. Wastell from cello to double bass to the tam-tams and gongs, Beins from a regular to close miking and electronics of ‘esoteric percussion’ and Davies from a regular harp to tabletop electric harp. As I have heard only one of the various releases they did and not all of it, nor ever seeing a concert, I can’t say too much about their sound has developed over the years. However, re-reading my old review and listening to this new one, I must say there has been quite a development. I found their previous work to be good but perhaps too normal. On this new work, I am delighted by what I hear. The music slow in development and leans heavily on sustaining sound, either from bowing cymbals and gongs, or short attacks that ring through for some time. That creates a fine depth within this music and creates a drone-like tension of an acoustic nature, despite some of the amplification going on. They cleverly go through various highs and lows within the music, sometimes ringing loud and clear and sometimes it shines like the late sun over a meadow; mysterious and vague but beautiful. Also by using small and big sounds, they reach for that depth within the music and makes this an excellent release.
The Seen is another project from mark Wastell, in which he works with people what mood or environment he is in. Upon invitation by Trestle Records to work for one day as a band he went in with a couple of musicians, Douglas Benford, Jennifer Allum, Harry Broadbent, Bertrand Denzler, Phil Durrant, Phil Julian, Dominic Lash, Graham MacKeachan and Wastell himself with a special place for Stewart Lee, who did the narration. The text came from John Stevens who recited this in 1991 at a benefit gig for Terry Day and Wastell, who was present at that time, transcribed the text later and now uses it here. I am not sure if I could say what this text is about, my bad, but you know, me and texts. They recorded that day three versions, two of which are on this CD and one on the Trestle Records Bandcamp. I was thinking that doing a band session in one day is an easy thing for musicians from the world of improvisation. It is interesting to hear how the same text works out differently with both versions here. The musicians play an interesting variety of instruments such as violin, tenor saxophone, double bass and tam tam, but also modular synthesizer, electronics and objects and Broadbent on the Rhodes piano, which inclusion makes a nice difference. The piece, both versions, walk the interesting line between some radical strange sounds from the ‘non-instruments’ and the more regular ones, with the Rhodes providing that fine, slightly melancholic note every now and then. The music supports the words, but the words aren’t always there and, just in case you are not too fond of ‘words with music’, then you can happily note that the voice is just as sparse as some of the instruments. Nobody is ‘on’ for very long, I would think, so both versions are very varied. Of the two, I thought the first is slightly more extreme and in the second (in fact the third version, as the second is on the Trestle Bandcamp) the walk an introspective and melancholic part. Maybe fatigue set in by then? You can play both pieces in one go and you’d hardly notice, it’s two versions of the same thing. Great release.
And lastly, there is a new CD with excerpts from two concerts by Taku Sugimoto (electric guitar) and Takashi Masubuchi (acoustic guitar) from two different locations, Otooto and Permian, in Tokyo. Over the years I heard quite a bit of music from both players, more from Sugimoto than from Masubuchi, I think not of the two them together. Both players incorporate silence in their music, gentle and fragile tones, but what I notice here is a slightly harsher tone in their guitar sound. In ‘At Otooto 1’ one of them, and oddly enough I found it hard to figure out who that is, uses a bow on the strings, arriving at some higher-pitched bow sound and that makes is pleasantly difficult and different. In their other pieces it is the more common duet between two guitars, placing notes carefully around, but, so it seems to me, not as sparse as we are used to, especially from Sugimoto. The usual playing with lots of silence in between the notes doesn’t happen here and sound is continuous I would think. The music is from the second piece onwards gentle, except in ‘At Otooto III’, when the bow returns. It is also the final piece on this CD, which makes these noisy (well, what is noise in this context anyway?) bookends to three gentler pieces. It shows the various alternations possible with two guitars. A quiet release for a quiet Sunday (well, it’s Saturday, but you get my drift)
––– Address: https://confrontrecordings.bandcamp.com/
JEAN-LUC GUIONNET & LE GGRIL – TATOUAGES MIROIR (CD by Circum Disc)
MATTHIAS MÜLLER & ERIC NORMAND & PETR VRBA – TRICHE (CD by Circum Disc)
Le GGRIL is a small orchestra of musicians from Canada, and the instruments include an electric guitar, harp, trumpet, electric bass, violin, cello, trombone, diatonic accordion. bass clarinet and baritone saxophone. Its acronym stands for Grand Groupe Régional d’Improvisation Libérée. The only name I recognized was Eric Normand. They invited Jean-Luc Guionnet to compose a piece for them. He says that his writing is not to “use the score to ask others to play the music that I already play myself in other settings. Nor do I use it to disguise an improvisation. I use it to push the cork of the form as far as possible through writing in all its forms, including verbal”. I am not sure how that works out here, with ‘Tatouages Miroir’; is it is all written out or is there is room for improvisation, or perhaps for some planned freedom? I don’t know. The composer doesn’t join in on any instrument but is responsible for the editing, so I assume there have been various takes of this. It is quite a fascinating piece of music of something that is to these modestly trained ears a combination of modern classical music and improvised music. I would think there are passages of written notes when multiple instruments play the same thing; almost like a big band. There is some radical playing going on, loud versus quiet, melodic versus abstract, and instruments-as-instruments versus as-objects’. There are many outbursts of all of them playing together and then pulling back and let it be quieter for a small period. This is some intense forty minutes of music that I found both most entertaining and quite tiring. I refreshed by having a short walk outside in the cold November afternoon.
The other new release by Circum Disc is most definitely in the world of improvised music. Here we have the combined talents of Matthias Müller (trombone), Eric Normand (electric bass) and Petr Vrba (trumpet and electronics), who in the surroundings of Studio Amann recorded ten pieces on June 7, 2019. Or rather, they recorded music that ended up being ten pieces of music, released on compact disc. When I heard this for the first time, a few days ago, I wasn’t paying attention that much and just played it and after what seemed a long time I thought ‘what am I hearing and for how long?’. It seemed much longer than the 53-minutes this CD lasts; almost as if time stood still and music moved forward. When I returned to the disc a few days later that experience wasn’t repeated, so I don’t know what was wrong with me. There is nothing too different about the music on this disc, other than three gentlemen improvising in the studio and there is a small tendency to lean towards a more electro-acoustic playing, but not all the time and not everywhere. There are sometimes sounds that reminded me of field recordings made at a construction site, such as in ‘Der Kreis Der Vögel’, but throughout there is mostly a fine interaction between the more radical approaches of all three players when it comes to their instruments. Sometimes you recognize these, as God intended them one could say, but then, at other instances not at all. There is a strong dynamic between the players and the place they used to record their music. They cleverly use the distance between the instruments and the microphones, creating depth within the music, which is quite nice. They ride the highs and lows of volume and dynamic changes, from the very abstract to quite recognizable. It is a lengthy trip, perhaps a bit too long, but when served in small portions an excellent meal. (FdW)
––– Address: https://www.circum-disc.com/
NURSE WITH WOUND – BARREN (2CD by ICR)
Here we have a double CD by Nurse with Wound and each disc has a live recording. ‘Confluence’ was recorded in 2012 in Florence and ‘Transfiguration’ in 2013 at ZKM in Karlsruhe. Colin Potter and Steven Stapleton are present on both gigs, one Paul Beauchamp in 2012 and Andrew Liles in 2013; I was surprised by the absence of Liles on the 2012 recording as I assumed he’s a regular Nurse since many years. I am not sure why this was released now. Are these particular great concerts? Is this a Covid19 thing? Having time to go through the archives, searching for stuff to release in the absence of actual concerts? I have no idea, but the website says these “are judged to be amongst their most unusual performances.” I saw Nurse With Wound a live maybe twice (not counting the live rendition of ‘Salt Marie Celeste’ in 2004, which was the start of NWW as a live act), with Stapleton, Potter, Liles, Matt Waldron and once with Timo van Luijk. That time was the best one, with many thanks to Van Luijk, who is a very gifted improviser of small sounds, just as Potter is the force behind the group when it comes to the stage central mix of the music. Not always I am that impressed with the improvisational talents of Liles and Stapleton, both of whom are master of studio technology in sculpting compositions with unusual sounds. In a live context, it sometimes doesn’t work, and sometimes it does work, very much so. Take the first and second part of ‘Transfiguration’, slowly sculpted from a few sounds and electronics; there is tension, there is friction and it is wonderful. Slowly things arise and swell, guitar sounds are added, more space is created. The second and third part of ‘Confluence’sees the trio messing around, slightly distorted, no edge, no focus. In the third part of ‘Transfiguration’, the guitar is the most important instrument, spacing about in a fine krauty manner, and in the fourth part, they return to a quieter and intenser place but with more action than in the beginning. In ‘Confluence’ there is right from the start quite a bit of action and in the first and fourth part there is some control (I assume by Potter) but in the middle a lot less. I am not sure what counts as ‘unusual’ and what not when it comes to Nurse With Wound live recordings; ‘Confluence’ is 50% good, and 50% okay, while I found all good going to great; maybe I need to revise my opinion about the nurses and their ability to improvise. That works very well on ‘Transfiguration’. (FdW)
––– Address: https://icrdistribution.com/
DENIS FRAJERMAN – MACAU PEPLUM (CD by Klanggalerie)
Despite being around for a long time, I don’t know that many works by French composer Denis Frajerman. I reviewed his ‘Wastelands/Lawrence Of Arabia’ in Vital Weekly 1184, which was a sort-of introduction into his work. I don’t think I heard the band he started, Palo Alto. Oddly enough, ‘Macau Peplum’ is a re-issue of a CD from 1999 that was released by Noise Museum. Now, that is a label whose output I was very familiar with at that time. Maybe I heard it back then? I really can’t remember, but working in music distribution at the time meant I heard lots and lots of music. I am sure I didn’t review it, and this is a fresh look at this work. Or rather, works. ‘Macau peplum’ consists of seven pieces and a bonus there is ‘Le Voyeur’, which Frajerman made for Jerome Trinsoutrop. The music played by a small ensemble using alto saxophone, vocals, percussion, keyboards, violin, clarinet, zarb and Frajerman on keyboards, bass, percussions, drums, electro-acoustic, tapes, balalaika, rebab and choirs – I am not sure what some of that is. It is quite heavy on the use of percussion, as well as voices and electronics. The small ensemble plays wonderful music, full of live, melody, drama and it is somewhere, somehow a cross between modern classical music, avant-garde, rock in opposition, krautrock and studio-as-instrument. I was reminded of Nurse With Wound in ‘Zöl Forceps (Spartacus)’, which I thought was one of the highlights of this release. The music is throughout not really weird or abstract, but rather easy-going, despite some of the more furious, uptempo Frajerman uses in his music. It is pretty exciting. Having said that, I am not too sure about ‘Le Voyeur’; maybe it is the length of the piece or the fact that is created from various shorter bits and bobs, somewhat introspective at times. It just doesn’t have the same energy as the seven pieces of ‘Macau Peplum’. (FdW)
––– Address: http://klanggalerie.com
VITOR JOAQUIM – THE CONSTRUCTION OF TIME (CD, private)
Earlier this year Vitor Joaquim released ‘Nothingness’ (Vital Weekly 1219), which he now follows up with ‘The Construction Of Time’. This album, like its predecessors, “focuses on the questions of time, flow, interiority and breadth of perception that we create from the world in which each of us lives”, and much how we perceive time. I am never too sure what that means concerning the music I am hearing. In the six pieces, the trumpet played by Joao Silva plays an important role, as well as “random radio broadcasts and TV sounds captured during the invasions of Iraq, both of them. Joaquim samples the trumpet and voices and uses granular synth, piano, keyboards, electronics, hiss, humming and crackling to create his music. As before one easily recognizes the trumpet being part of this, in some way or another in all of these pieces, and yet there is, at the same time, a level of abstraction going, glitching, and scratching like in the best tradition of microsound and clicks ‘ cuts. In the short ‘End’ there is an element of dub music (I once wrote about the man that his music is ” “an electro-acoustic version of dub music”), so maybe this accounts for that? That piece is not the end of the release, but the end of a four-part suite (‘Beginning’, ‘Stem’, ‘Middle’ and ‘End’), followed by ‘No End’, which takes up the other half of the CD. I suspected that this is a sort of megamix of the four preceding tracks, in new configurations and granulations, in which voices and trumpets come back again, but maybe from a bit further away. There now seems to be an extra layer added to the music, some further distance created. Maybe this is what he means with the changing perspectives? There is a fine mellow, ambient texture in all of these pieces, which makes you forget time anyway and that might be another meaning of the music. You could also say that it is all pleasant as it is. (FdW)
––– Address: https://www.vitorjoaquim.pt/
THE TOUCHABLES – SVART/HVITT (CD by Conrad Sound)
You don’t need to be an expert in a language to realize the title means ‘black/white’ in English (unless, perhaps, English is your only language?) and it is the title of the second release by The Touchables. They started as a duo, Guro Skumsnes Moe on the Octobass and Ole-Henrik Moe playing the piccolo-violin. They are still the composers of the music but the ensemble is now extended with more players, on flute, bassoon, bass clarinet, contrabass, microtonal tuba, handbells, bass drum, cello, double bass. In total there are nine players and what they do is described by the group as ‘comprovisation’, “somewhere between composition and improvisation”, which I would think is what many such ensembles do. I called their first release an example of acoustic noise. I am not sure if that is what I also think of this new release. But make no mistake; this is not easy listening either. There are four lengthy pieces here, ranging from ten to seventeen minutes and in each of these pieces. In these pieces, there is depth and dynamics, making it, perhaps, less noise based, but this is a growth from the previous one. The Touchables can be very quiet, as they prove in the first piece (all four are untitled), which is something almost inaudible and sometimes piercing, but a common thread in these pieces is the love for minimalism. In each of these pieces, the movements are slow, carefully building tension by adding layer upon layer of sound. There is always one or more instrument running rampant with extreme frequencies, adding more tension to the acoustic drones the rest is producing. There is no hectic, no chaos, no electronics and still quite heavy on the music, but all acoustic. This is top-heavy music; very modern classic perhaps but of the kind that I enjoy very much. (FdW)
––– Address: http://conradsound.com
PÄR THÖRN & TR KIRSTEIN – SCORPIONIZER (CD by Topos Media)
This is a most curious release of some extreme excursions in the world of tonality. Tobias Kirstein is called a sound artist and writer and acts here also as a label boss, and he teams up with Pär Thörn, who had before a couple of releases on Firework Edition, Kning Disk, Diskret Förlag and such. There are no instruments mentioned on the cover or the website here, but it is easy to say this all deals with electronic sounds. We have high-pitched frequencies, sub-low bass, hissy textures and the lowest of low-resolution samples. Voices play a role too, but I have no idea if these are from either of the two composers or perhaps lifted from other sources. With some distortion going on, I could easily (and maybe wrongly) think these voices come from short wave radio. The final piece, of eight in total, is ‘No Radio Is Innocent’, lasting almost thirty-eight minutes and perhaps that title got me thinking. In ‘They Came In’, the channels are strictly separated; one side has the voice/narration, which seems like ‘scene of the crime’ sort of thing and a dirty mid-range rumble in the other channel. It is altogether quite grim this music. The extreme frequencies occasionally used versus the spoken word, even when it is hard to decipher what it is all about, made this a very pleasant yet very dark ride. It is like watching a horror film of which you are not sure is a horror film. It might all be very creepy and it very well might be something entirely different. This is one of those things that leaves everything wide open. (FdW)
––– Address: http://www.topos.media/
OORBEEK – KAVEL (LP by Blowpipe)
OORBEEK – OH? DENNEBOOM/STILLENACHT X HEILIGENACHT (7″ by Blowpipe)
The cover has a sticker that says “jazz, free improvisation, artrock, experimental, Holland Festival, John Cage”, so I thought I quickly check this out before passing it on to our resident reviewer of all things jazz, free improvisation and whatever else on the sticker. Oh hold on, I have no idea what Holland Festival means in this context, but perhaps Oorbeek has played there? And mister Cage could be right up my street of course. So quick check it is, and I quite enjoyed what I heard. Oorbeek (a made-up Dutch word combining the words ‘ear’ and ‘brook’ or ‘stream’) is a seven-piece band, of which none of the names rang any bell here (not the resident reviewer, after all) and all of them play a multitude of instruments. There are drums, percussion, trumpet, small instruments, bass, Jew harp, electric guitar, voice, overtone voice, non-western instruments (I didn’t know we still use the word ‘non-western’), kaoss pad, wind tambourine, toys instruments, banjo and vibraphone. ‘Kavel’ translates as ‘lot’, and some Dutch song titles are made-up words or dialect; the judge is not out on that. What the label says is all true. There is some very free improvisation going with all the chaos and energy it comes with. Instruments sound as intended yet rarely played not the way these girls and boys taught. But then, come already the second piece, ‘Tootboog’, there is quite a steady rhythm and there is an attempt to play a rather coherent song, almost dub-like and I guess this is the one song that made me decide to hear it all. There are Jaap Blonk-like vocal exercises, post-punk free improvisation (think Dislocation Dance or Ludus, or the Dutch Motobs and The Schismatics) but Oorbeek is less vocal-based), but also more jazzy pieces when the instruments play a bigger role, or the oddly rocky banjo song ‘Kilkeper’, slow and country & western and slightly torn apart as well. A lovely record that contains a bunch of bonus pieces in the download (including two short clips). Whatever track there is in the podcast, it is most likely not very representative.
At the same time, there is a Christmas 7″ by this band. As much as I don’t like Christmas, I love wacky Christmas songs. It seems Meeuw Muzak discontinued their series, but they could have done this one. ‘Oh? Denneboom!’ is a pun on ‘O Tannenbaum’ and ‘Stillenacht x Heiligenacht’ on ‘Silent Night’. The first has a bit of the original lyrics, in Dutch of course, but none of the original melody. The guitar is in a bit more distortion modus than on the LP and yet the whole is creepy and intense. Maybe Oorbeek aren’t fans of the festive either? Certainly ‘Stillenacht x Heilgenacht’ has nothing to do with the original any more, another creepy improvisation, in which everything is close together; the vocals without words, the instruments; it is like they are in a circle and don’t allow visitors in. This one goes straight to pile ‘to be opened come Christmas day’ for an alternative music playlist. (FdW)
––– Address: https://blowpipe.bandcamp.com/
ALEXANDER SIGMAN – VURT CYCLE (CDR by New Focus Recordings)
Concept albums appear to all the rage again. Part of me likes this. It’s good when an album isn’t just about the musician’s ‘feelings’. It shows that they have ideas of how songs can fit into a bigger picture or story. Alexander Sigman’s latest album, ‘VURT Cycle’, is loosely based around science fiction. Now before you get all worried, this isn’t an epic space opera. Oh no. What Sigman has done is base each song on a different novel. The title itself is inspired by Jeff Noon’s ‘Vurt’.
Through the use of live instruments, electronics, and samples Sigman creates a piece of music that works both as a companion piece to the original novels and something that stands alone. The standout track is ‘The Atrocity Exhibition’ taking its name from both a Joy Division song and the phenomenal JG Ballard book. By using electronic violin, guitars, piano, horns, and field recordings Sigman creates an agonisingly claustrophobic world, which mirrors Ballard’s original book. As with the book, there are surreal moments of light-hearted revelry. These motifs break up the tension and delivery of some of the albums most enjoyable moments. Even if they are fleeting.
There are parts of ‘VURT Cycle’ that sound like a pained whale ‘Le Jardin des Supplices’ in particular. The song is also inspired by an 1899 novel by Octave Mirbeau. These sections hammer home the finality of life. The rough translation of the song is ‘The Torture Garden’, so the pained sounds are very fitting. When these motifs appear, they are unsettling but also compelling. You cannot look away in case you miss something, but you also want the animal to be put out of its misery. This is the feeling of listening to ‘Le Jardin de Supplices’. You want it to end, but at the same time, there is a pleasure of listening to it and enforcing yourself to endure it.
What ‘VURT Cycle’ does really well is to create the slightly dystopic vibes from the original novels, ‘Atrocity Experiment’ especially, but it manages to deliver a dose of humanity that is sometimes missing. From listening to these songs, you don’t get an idea of their plots or stories, but of the kind of world those characters inhabit. It’s a world similar to our own, but also fundamentally different. (NR)
––– Address: https://www.newfocusrecordings.com/
ROVAR17 VS. XPLDNGLKE – NIX UGRIBUGRI (CDR by Unsigned)
NOISESCULPTOR – ORDINARY MIND DISORDERS (2CDR by Unsigned)
First things first: both of these releases re sported with a very pro-looking cover; the one by Noisesculptor with a pro-double digipack. And yet, both of these are also very limited. The first one contains live recordings from a tour by Rovar17 and Xpldnglke, earlier this year, just before the lockdown. They played concerts in the Czech Republic and the UK, which seems not quite logical. “Some sound collages are sampled from Erik Satie and Vistarr”, it says on the cover, plus the recommendation to play this at full volume, which is not something I easily do (neighbours and such). Also, I don’t think it is necessary to play this at full volume. The music is rooted in the world of noise, sure enough, but it contains quite a bit of variation and depth to explore that might be in full volume lost. I know the music from Rovar17 better than that by Xpldnglke and while I don’t know how these people create their music, instrument-wise, I would think that the computer is one of their important means. It is used to playback sounds and feed them through various plug-ins and perhaps also outside electronics. It is a sample-heavy festival, mostly beyond recognition, added to which is a crude click ‘n cuts approach and sometimes the odd bit of distortion, such as in the appropriately titled ‘Enter The Glitch’. In ‘The Illiberal Process Of Decay Part 2’ there is a bit of Pan Sonic inspired slow rhythm and in ‘Wet Drums Part 2’ they go an all-out noise approach at the end. But, just as I said, this harsh noise is not about a wall of distortion; it is there, off and on, but throughout a lot more is happening and it makes this a most enjoyable release.
And a name such as Noisesculptor may suggest that there is more noise ahead of me, this is also not the case. Unsigned says that this “massive psychedelic noise-ambient”, which is quite correct. Six new pieces by Noisesculptor and all six get a remix treatment. Here too I have no idea what is used as instruments, but I would think it is more towards keyboards and electronics and less in the computer; but as always, I might be wrong. Now, this is the sort of noise that I enjoy very much, mainly because it is not really noise and it’s not really ambient. It is somewhere in that border area between the two genres. It is moody stuff, dark, lots of greyish atmospheres (now that fits the general mood of the day!) but it doesn’t lull the listener to deep sleep, but it is at times piercing, distorted and cruel. A real horror show of a soundtrack for flicks with ghosts running rampant in desolated industrial areas. The psychedelic element lies in the fact that these compositions don’t go anywhere; they start, there is an end and for the rest, they hoover about. Somewhere between six and eight minutes, this lasts and the piece just floats about, like a vast space itself. Noisesculptor moves buttons around, minimally changing the sound. It never leaps into boredom or stasis, the mind keeps exploring.
I must admit I thought that was a great album and why do we need a remix treatment? The guilty ones are RibaStuka, Wst’d Signal, Rovar17, Andorkappen, Rauppwar and Xpldnglke. They add (in chronological order) beats and noisy samples, rhythm and lo-fi samples, the deep low-end sounds, noise, mid-range noise samples and more lo-fi samples to the atmospheres that already in place, or, in some other cases, generated from the originals. It is actually not bad, as each of the six remixers adds something to the original to make move away from the “massive psychedelic noise-ambient”, making it noisier, or more ambient. I would have loved just the Noisesculptor album but the remixes are a fine bonus. (FdW)
––– Address: https://havizaj.bandcamp.com/
CHRIS FRATESI – READ LEAD (CDR by Anathemaa Archive)
TOM WHITE – SIDE DOWN (cassette by Anathemaa Archive)
VOSP – PALE SHELTER (cassette by Anathemaa Archive)
The name Chris Fratesi is new to me. The only other release I see in existence is by Regional Bears, which is for “modified CD player and blank disc”. This CDR, ‘Read Lead’, is of similar conceptual approaches. Here we have ten short pieces, somewhere between one and three minutes of field recordings from our electronic environment; say the ATM, surveillance cameras, traffic lights and such, which at least, so I believe, he picks up with a special microphone/amplifier and thus makes the ugliness of the city audible. I imagine him (but that is just my romantical notion) walking the streets at night, armed with headphones and magnetic coil/antenna, picking up these sounds. I must admit that I have no idea if these sounds are then treated or processed or if they come to us as they are. Somehow I think it is the latter, but I couldn’t explain why I believe this to be. Ugly and intrusive as these sounds might be in real life, isolated from their environment, maybe chopped up, looped or otherwise edited, they become miniatures of radical sound art and that’s what we love here at Vital Weekly, radical sounds. Fratesi does a very consisted job and at twenty-seven minutes, it is also long enough to get a point across.
Not so easy to google is the name Tom White, so I am not entirely sure who and what. I have to go by what is listed on Bandcamp and that tells me that on the first side we find three parts of an installation piece, which he presented on March 3rd, 2020 at Cafe Oto because everything into lockdown, which might explain the second side here being ‘rehearsal’ music for a forthcoming dance production; but when can we see that? To start with the latter, ‘Behind The Face Of A Rock, Throwing Stones’ is almost seventeen minutes of minimal electronics and acoustic objects. It starts with what sounds like a mechanical failure and slowly a drone develops out of this and in the third section of slow stuttery electronics. According to the text the dance project consists of deaf and hearing artists, which would make an interesting dance performance. A similar mixture of musique concrète elements, field recordings and electronics can be found on ‘No Script On Set’, but here in a more collage-like form. Sounds don’t remain for very long in the place, but quickly find a transformation or two and then moved on. I can imagine this to be made with modular electronics to transform these sounds. The three parts are easily recognized here, and especially the last one dwells heavily on the use of field recordings from Italy. After hearing this I was quite curious to know what the rest of the installation looked like.
For VSOP there is even less information and too many who use the same name on Discogs. The text on Bandcamp is about active listening, ambient music and such like, which is right up my alley. I use that ‘active listening’ also quite a bit when it comes to distinguishing what is good ambient music and bad meditative music. Anything can be music, as long as you want to hear it in some way, opening up your ears and listen. It is, as such, no surprise that the music also is about field recordings, but no exclusively that. Electronic processing is certainly a major part of the deal here and ambient is not always what VSOP is about. A piece such as ‘Reality Group’ this processing amounts to quite some fierce noise-inspired piece. You can connect VSOP with the current wave of all those composers who use lo-fi means to create dense patterns of atmospheric sounds, processing field recordings and adding cheap electronics to play some intense mood music. A long time we would call such an uneasy marriage of ambient and industrial music ‘ambient industrial’ and for a very short period ‘isolationism’, and that is what VSOP does as well, and he does a great job. His (?) pieces are colourful, varied, intense, atmospherically and creepy. A great release and one that made me curious about his other work. (FdW)
––– Address: https://anathemarchive.bandcamp.com/
AMBASCE – DIG DIARIES (cassette by Love Earth Music)
Alberto Picchi is the man behind Ambasce, and ‘Dig Diaries’ is the second work I hear from him (see Vital Weekly 1089). On the cover, it is that ‘all sound recorded between 2019 and 2018 by Alberto Picchi only with digital equipment, the processed by CSound. The previous one I heard was all analogue (check also https://falt.bandcamp.com/music for a cassette released between that one and this one) For no particular reason I expected to hear something from the noise-end of the world of field recordings, but, in fact, it is not. The music is largely drones, quiet in ‘Passo Della Radici’ or loud(er) in ‘Particola In Bozen’ and the element of digital processing isn’t hidden but also not really that much distracting from the result. What helped in that respect that Ambasce cleverly waves in some original field recordings; a German voice in ‘Die Festung Von Thomas Bernhard’, birds, street sounds, or the knock-on a windowpane in ‘Passo Della Radici’, which for a moment I thought it was here in the house, rather than in the music. The tape is sadly not very long, about thirty minutes and I wouldn’t have minded it all to last a bit longer. Ambasce does a great job; perhaps not the most original voice in the world of microsound/laptop music/field recordings, but on this quiet Sunday afternoon I had it on repeat a couple of times and I kept enjoying it (and felt odd with that knock, again and again). (FdW)
––– Address: http://www.loveearthmusic.com/