Number 1270

ERIC RANDOM – NO-GO (CD by Klanggalerie) *
JAKAPI & PRAESTHOLM & SOO – BEEK! (CD by Improtest Records) *
SIGNE EMMELUTH – HI HELLO I’M SIGNE (CD by Relative Pitch Records)
SIMON WHETHAM – DRY (CD by Unfathomless) *
DAS TOTE KAPITAL & GERALD FIEBIG (CDR by Attenuation Circuit) *
JEANS BEAST & JULIUS MENARD (cassette, private) *
FOOD PEOPLE – COOLER THE AIR (CDR by Stairwell Editions) *

ERIC RANDOM – NO-GO (CD by Klanggalerie)

When I was very young, about 15 (1981), I read about Eric Random twice in a short period. The music he did sounded fascinating; making tapes and playing experimental guitar on top of that and none of that traditionally. As I had not much money, I bought mainly 7″ records, and I got two of his, ‘Dow Chemical Company’ and ’23 Skidoo/Subliminal’, and I thought they were great. They still are (re-issued on a double CD with other early works in 2005). Those records created a lifelong interest in weird music. You perhaps know all of this, because I wrote about that before, when I reviewed a re-issue of older work, along with something new (see Vital Weekly 961). Random did a few more records in the 80s before playing with Nico, travelling to India and not doing new music until 2014 and since he released a couple of albums. His current style is entirely different from ye olden days. No guitars, no prepared tapes, and not much of an experiment. Eric Random plays electronics; synthesizers and drum machines and, what is quite surprising, in a lot of the songs he sings, using a vocoder. His electronic songs are techno-inspired pop songs, tempo not always very fast, nor too slow, but it keeps up with pace all the time. This one continues, style-wise, the album I previously reviewed, but Random expands on the electronics further. The exotic influences are gone, and he’s all about straightforward electronic rhythms and I like it even more. It is excellent music to work by. I did household stuff, computer work and reading and in every circumstance, it worked well. I have this for about a week now, and I think I played it every day, delaying the review. Furthermore, I know I like it, why bother with the review? Oh yes, that’s correct, because I got a copy to review. It is great pop music and yes, perhaps not the kind of music of much Vital Weekly concerns, but who cares? Sometimes, you need something boldly different from your daily digest; well, I know I do. This album that reminded me of Cabaret Voltaire’s later phase, a bit of Kraftwerk, Sandoz and Wrangler, with that techno bleep sound, packaged as eleven great pop tunes. On a rainy Thursday afternoon, in cold January, this is the best remedy for winter depression. (FdW)
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JAKAPI/PRAESTHOLM/SOO – BEEK! (CD by Improtest Records)

Just after I’d left uni I was in my friend’s student film. The film was about idiocy and how it can spread like a virus. I had two roles. The first was as the editor of the film who was a pirate. My main role was to run around the town centre, and park, dressed up as a pirate, jumping out of bushes and scaring people. I enjoyed this immensely as it is something, I will never have an opportunity to do again. My second role was as a man who thought he was a bird and over the scene, he repeatedly says ‘Beak’ again and again. I did not enjoy this role as it required me to act, which is something I can’t really do. While listening to the opening track of Jakapi/Praestholm/Soo’s album ‘Beek!’ I am reminded of this experience.
    Fortunately for everyone involved ‘Beek!’ goes a lot better than my friend’s film. The music created by Roomet Jakapi, Niels Preastholm and Mart Soo are disjointed, absurd and enjoyable. The album opens with the word ‘Beek!’ repeated again and again. For a while, you wonder if this will be the case for the whole 10-minutes, but Preastholm’s bass and Soo’s guitar join the party and we’re off. It sets the scene perfectly. This will be an unconfrontational and unconventional album, where it’s more important to have a good time than worry about the compositions. ‘Pencils in Black’ is a wonderful piece of music that taps into Soo’s Estonian roots. It feels like he’s playing a mutated version of a traditional folk song, while a psychedelic soundscape swirl around him. As ‘Pencils in Black’ progresses the pace increases, but not to the point of incomprehension. The final third is the standout moment of the album.
    Throughout ‘Beek!’ the spirit of the Residents is felt. There is a giddy glee to the recordings that were into those early Residents releases but has been sadly missing of late. ‘Beek!’ is delighted that it exists, and that delight is infectious. It reminds you why you got into this kind of music in the first place. At no time during the album do I have any idea what to expect next. Just because Jakapi’s distorted vocals are my focal point doesn’t mean they will be in a few second’s time. Take ‘Make Cannibalism Great Again’ for example. Jakapi welcomes us in before Soo’s guitar gently rises from beneath it to take the spotlight light. However, a third of the way in Preastholm’s bass work starts to make advances to the fore and then it’s all you can focus on until Soo’s guitar makes a bolt for the spotlight with its flourishes of Snakefinger to them. This musical carousel is such a fun ride you are as disappointed when it ends as a three-year-old on a real one. Considering this the first time these three have played together the recordings are cohesive. Their three styles gel together incredibly well and make you hope for a follow-up.
    After I had finished filming my scenes and was walking home, I felt pangs of regret and wanting to do it all again. I feel the exact same feelings now after the album has finished. I long to listen to it again for the first time. I regret not paying as much attention to it from the start as I should have, and I can’t wait to listen to again. Which I am doing now. The ride may have ended but the carousel hasn’t stopped. (NR)
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I just can’t put my finger on it but there is something about Mart Soo’s guitar playing I find captivating. He’s developed a style all of his own, but one that borrows from other disciplines and genres to create this cacophony that is a delight to the sense. On ‘Beek!’ with Roomet Jakapi and Niels Preastholm his playing had a jocular vibe to it. It gave the songs a bounce they might not have had otherwise. On his album with Florina Walter, ‘The Golden and Other Ratios’, his playing is anything but facetious.
    On ‘The Pleasures of Liminality’ the combination of this wandering riffs and Walter’s hechtyphone is something to devour and then ask for more. A third in Walter blows a delightful note. It isn’t massively long, but it strikes the right tone. Somewhere between sinister and playful. It puts you on edge and sets up the rest of the song. As Soo playing becomes more erratic and with this an intensity builds. As the notes come thick and fast, so do the blasts from Walter. He’s just belting them out. You can hear his enjoyment coming through with his sustained note. It paints a picture in my mind of children dancing around a Maypole but getting the rhythms all wrong and bumping into one another and eventing having to be untangled. ‘Meery Go Round. Trespass’ is filled with groaning sounds and swirling guitar solos. It sounds like when the council was digging up the round outside my window and the wind picked up. The noise of the drills was muffled by the wind.
    What I adore about this album is just how ad-hoc it feels at the time. It’s so refreshing. Of course, Walter and Soo know each other. The recordings were spoken about before they entered the studio, but they do have a delicious feeling of two strangers meeting outside a studio walking in and just going at it. This comes across in the playing. The ideas feel so fresh. Even when Soo plays delicately layered riffs on ‘Quest’, while Walter delivers his finest droney performance on the album, it just has worked incredibly well. It makes you take stock for a few moments and smile. (NR)
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SIGNE EMMELUTH – HI HELLO I’M SIGNE (CD by Relative Pitch Records)

Signe Emmeluth is a Danish musician with her base in Oslo. No doubt she is a rising star in the European scene of improvised music. With her ensemble Emmeluth’s Amoeba she released to very interesting records in the last few years – ‘Polyp’ (2018) and ‘Chimaera’(2019). And not to forget her album with another ensemble of her Spacemusic Ensemble with ‘Is Okay Okay is Certified’ (2019). These releases show she is a remarkable and original composer. Now, with her first solo-album, we can concentrate on her work as a solo improviser on alto saxophone. It is a live recording dating from August last year. The CD contains one extensive solo improvisation taking 35 minutes of your time. It’s title ‘Action Painting en Vogue’ makes an obvious reference to the expressionistic painting art that appeared about halfway in the 20th century with Jackson Pollock as the most important exponent. It was about immediate and abstract expression. The title suggests this painting art inspired her improvising art that is also very expressive and abstract. She offers a very free and multi-faceted improvisation with lots a variation and diversity in dynamics, phrasing, timbres, sounds, colour, etc. At moments there are allusions of melody, sometimes she plays with a motive shaping it in diverse ways, for some sections she chooses for dissonant and grinding sounds. Emmeluth demonstrates a baffling technique and expression and delivers an improvisation that has substance and a strong presence. (DM)
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SIMON WHETHAM – DRY (CD by Unfathomless)

Quite hot on the heels of his previous two releases (see Vital Weekly 1264), there is another new album by Simon Whetham. On the cover, it is mentioned that the source recordings were made during two closely related projects, without being all too specific as to why they are related. The text on Bandcamp tells about “two bodies of water, contained in man-made channels and held back by barriers. Such is our desire and need to control nature, that we have used this resource to aid our industrious endeavours, often at the expense of the local area and environment”. So I assume water recordings are at the very foundation of all of this. Whetham also mentions that these recordings were played back in the tunnels and that this process was repeated several times. Think of as ‘I’m Sitting In A Room’ by Lucier, but now applied to water recordings and tunnels, as opposed to a voice in a room. If you have no idea what all of this means, look it up and try it yourself. It really has these results. There is no software-processing going on (no ‘dry’ or ‘wet’ effects!) and Whetham recommends speakers rather than headphones. Luckily that is something I always do when it comes to reviewing. There are three pieces on this release and there is most certainly that locked-in, hollow space quality to these pieces. Whetham mentions the word claustrophobic, and I very much agree with him there. He made some great recordings, in which one doesn’t find just water, but also the surfaces, the metallic clank that is part of such structures, which he incorporates within the drone-like masses of sound that he created with going over this again and again. Whetham uses the form of a collage, so sometimes the proceedings are roughly cut into a totally different segment. They are variations on the same theme, but there is quite some variation in these sounds, from various stages of the process and there is a great balance between a more careful approach and something more lively and present. It is dark and moody yet not all is lost! Towards the end of ‘Still Locked’, the last piece here, we hear birds outside and that lifts the somewhat heavy mood of the music. This is an excellent release. (FdW)
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Works by Luciano Maggiore always have a conceptual edge to it, which with his last CD that I reviewed worked well, with the objection being it was too long (see Vital Weekly 1027). I have no idea what the concept behind this new release is. The title is translated as ‘stone and object’, and from the brief liner notes, I gather this is about silence. But I didn’t reach to the bottom of this, so there is quite a lot of guessing to be done here. I would think this is all made with the silence between sound events, amplified quite a lot, so there appears a lot of hisses in this music, which, so I assume, is left in on purpose. Now, obviously one would want to know what these sound events are, and I have no idea. In the seventh track, I was thinking about a cow. In various others the human voice, and in the eight-track maybe electronic sounds. Maggiore might use loops of these, but I am not too sure about that. Maybe these are culled from real-time events? See, more questions than answers here, but it seems that is the goal of Maggiore and his music. Taken ‘as is’, I think there is more variation in this one than in the previous one, and even when I am pretty clueless what I am hearing, I quite enjoyed all of this, perhaps because I am a sucker for curiously obscure and vague sounds. Not sure whatever else there is to say about this? (FdW)
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And so it ends for the Aroma Club, adieu, so long and farewell. The fifth album by Hematic Sunsets, with such illustrious members as Hans Tim Cessteu, Assistent Meuch, Titus Mascheens, Suse Mittach sen and Asmus Tietchens. Or if you are clever, just Asmus Tietchens since all the other names are anagrams. Hematic Sunsets, check the anagram, is Tietchens’ love for cheesy electronic music, which resulted in five LPs and two Christmas songs. The organ plays an important and I would think one of those organs that people had in the ’70s. Well, my cousin had one, complete with a ton of ditto cheesy rhythms and chords and a big speaker below; the easy two-finger method of play. I seem to remember my cousin was pretty apt at it. I’d love to have one. Tietchens loves the sound of such organs as well as other machines that produce similar cheesy stuff. In the early days of his record releasing career, Tietchens did four albums for Sky Records, which had a more poppy electronic streak, and later he decided he enjoyed doing that stuff resulting in the fictitious Aroma Club, which, no doubt, in Tietchens mind was a place where you could drink coffee and smoke your cigarette. In the corner there would be such an organ and someone playing his take on lounge music, But, this is Tietchens, a man with quotes of Cioran on most of his record (replaced by Klopstock on Hematic Sunsets releases), so this Aroma Club is not necessarily full of colour and on second thought the lounge music is not so cheesy and lounge-like at all. It comes with a strange hook, a dark undercurrent, and on this fifth album it all seems a bit darker than before, maybe the dark times we experience and with all clubs closed (well, here in The Netherlands at least). This is, however, still great dark lounge music, with those minimal rhythms, and melodies, ranging from lightweight to almost industrial, showing the veracity of the music. Excellent album, once again.
    As a bonus, there is a one-sided LP which gives space to friends of Tietchens to say goodbye and bow their heads to the Aroma Club. There is Okko Bekker (owner of the studio in which Tietchens works), Felix Kubin, Michael Rother (early Kraftwerk member, and of Neu and Harmonia), Jetzmann, Heinz Funk, Ebinger, Chestnut Ameis, Maik Willing & Der Botox Lucas Chor and Unknown Singing Objects, who all have their take on Hematic Sunsets; spacious guitars, obviously, for Rother and Kubin with some fun pop song madness, or the super slick jazzy flutes of Ebinger. Maik Willing & Der Botox Lucas Chor tops it all with a schlager (look that up for yourself) going out of control. This is all a fitting tribute to the fun side of Tietchens. It could very well that you think it’s stupid, but I think it is great fun. (FdW)
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When I reviewed a cassette by Pay Dirt in Vital Weekly 1262, I was pleasantly surprised by the fact that Bryan Day was involved with a bit of noise. On the back of that, he wrote to me to tell me about some of his earlier experiences in the land of noise, when he was performing as Sistrum in the late 90s. He also worked with Takashi Aso and Brian Noring, from FDR Tapes label. In 2002, he moved to Omaha and joined Naturaliste. Some quick research I reviewed some of their music (Vital Weekly 318 and 359), but there haven’t been any new releases in fifteen years. Recently the group reconnected in Shanghai, of all places, and recorded music together on January 21, 2019, which was “mixed with individual improvised tracks recorded in Beijing, Oakland, Omaha, Pittsburgh and Shanghai, which I assume is where the various members work. These members are Bryan Day, Christopher Fischer, Charles LaReau and L. Eugene Mathe. The recordings were made in an instrument store, but it also saw them play “thrift store electronics, box fans, amplified phone books (being torn apart), garbage bags of broken wine bottles and a fair amount of audience provocation”. Whatever else was added later on, it all makes up a most curious record of many layers of mostly non-musical sound, no structures and chaos without noise. You may think I don’t like this, but, to be honest, I love it. Over there someone plays a few keys on the piano, in another corner someone is playing a bit of synth, or rolling a few objects over a floor, while someone opens the door to record the traffic outside. What makes the music more difficult to listen to, is the difference between close by and distant sounds, occurring at the same time. For me, that is something that makes this a great record. The sheer non-musicality, the chaos, the objects as instruments, the whole notion of various locations sounding at the same time, are all a guarantee that with every round of listening there is always something new to be discovered in this music. I played this one every day over the last week and I haven’t got to the bottom of it yet! Bryan Day’s Public Eyesore is one of the labels to release this, along with Almost Halloween Time (Italy), Gertrude Tapes (United States), and Unread Records (United States). (FdW)
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Following some forty CD releases on his imprint New Wave Of Jazz, Dirk Serries thinks the time is right to expand to the world of vinyl with these two LPs, of which the first one contains music by the man himself. He plays a 1957 Hoffner archtop guitar, and recorded with a single microphone, some 50 centimetres from the guitar and there has been no other audio processing. The liner notes, as always by Guy Peters, are on the front cover, and he uses the extra space the format allows him, to talk some more on the history of free jazz and connects that to punk and self-taught musicians, of which Serries is one. His direct approach to both the guitar and the recording (mono! Phil Spector would have been proud if still alive) makes that you sit up close to the music. It is almost as if Serries is in your living room, playing his guitar. As we know from his recent playing within the field of free improvisation, Serries is a skilful and varied player, not just within the context of playing with others, but also solo. The guitar is all ten of these improvisations easily recognized and yet nowhere it sounds like some conventional. Maybe it sounds to the uninitiated as if somebody plays it without any knowledge as to how to play the damn thing, but to the trained ear (and, hold on, I am not saying I am an expert in this field; not when it comes to guitar playing, nor when it comes to knowing something freely improvised music) of unusual music, I’d say, he knows what he is doing. He plays odd little motifs, but seemingly hitting just strings or notes, but sometimes he repeats them and makes little differences within these and here’s when you recognize someone clueless and someone who sure knows what has to be done. No bowing, no drones, no lengthy spacious journeys, all of his trademarks from his long career, but immediate, direct music.
    I am not sure if with the double bass there are various types, like with the guitar, but none is mentioned on the cover or the fact if this is a mono recording. The latter probably not. It was recorded in the spacious surrounding of the old church in Oud-Charlois, which is a part of Rotterdam and home to a few great concerts, some of these involving the church organ housed there. Goncalo Almeida stuck to his bass. We know him for his one-off collaboration with Rutger Zuydervelt (see Vital Weekly 1000) and various releases with the Spinifex Quartet. The liner notes inform me of a whole world I probably knew existed, but someone I don’t know much about. The world of free jazz, solo bass players and so on. It makes an interesting read, as it was done with Guy Peters, but after I was done with it, I didn’t return to it any more and decided to play the record again, no longer disturbed by historical information. I found the music quite refreshing. Almeida uses various techniques, the bow, plucking the strings, maybe a bit of the body of the instrument, but in all twelve of these pieces, the double bass remains a recognizable constant presence. It is within these pieces that he shows a great variety of approaches, from melodic, to abstract, from melancholically inclined to a menacing drone. From a very big sound (and I don’t mean spacious in the sense that the church plays a role in that; just a massive sound by itself, not too difficult one could think with this low humming instrument) to very small and delicate. It is never aggressive or noisy, Almeida remains a respectful player, with a fine ear for the smaller things happening between the notes, yet not overplaying the whole of silence. Far from it, actually. Like the Serries record, one of delicate beauty; a different kind of delicacy, however. (FdW)
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And now for something completely different… Sometimes an artist pops up who decides to do things in a completely different way. This is obviously the case with of Craig Scott who I didn’t know so far. Scott is a composer, improvising guitarist and sound artist from Leeds and his work focus on “the tension that exists between human and machine-made music”. He started as a guitarist playing jazz and improvised music and developed an interest in manipulating recorded improvised music, transforming it from instant live to manipulated artificial constructions. To realize this intention Scott learned a lot about technical procedures, analogue and digital, to realize these complicated procedures. He develops his work in three different directions: “1) Animating instruments and domestic objects in the absence of/in collaboration with improvising human performers; 2) Exploiting malfunction as artistic expression, harnessing the inherent instability of obsolete audio technologies through the precision digital control affords; 3) Acousmatic music in which live instrumental recordings are dissected, transformed and blended with synthetic sources and field recordings, blurring perceptions of the organic/artificial.” Results he releases since about 2013 on his Bandcamp-site. The album we will be discussing now is an example of the third category. For this album, he used pre-recorded acoustic musical material: improvised sets with his fellow musicians, playing: drums, congas, piano, clarinets, saxophones, violin, trombone, ukulele, trumpet, flute, guitar and also some field recordings. This material is cut up into very short fragments. In these short ‘quotes’ one can identify the different instruments and bits and pieces of the musical interaction they were part of. However, Scott uses them to construct new musical entities with different intentionality. The fragments function as building stones for a new musical work that has no relation to the work these fragments are taken from I suppose. At first hearing, this makes a dazzling and alienating effect. But if you surrender yourself to the music you soon discover it is in the end very accessible music of catchy melodies. The music misses the flow it would have if it were played in a normal way. It proceeds continuously jerky and bumpy, making a mechanistic impression. As heard this music is beyond human performing capabilities in some aspects. He plays a very fascinating and funny game with illusions. Scott worked about five years (!) on this radical project that reminded me of the work of artists like Vincent Bergeron and Noah Creshevsky. Musique mécanique extraordinaire! (DM)
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Once upon a long time ago, Boban Ristevski used to write for Vital Weekly and occasionally release some music (if memory serves me well), and then he stopped writing, but also his music wasn’t heard again. Maybe his releases were more to be found in the online world? Occupied Head hails from Hamburg and on this long-distance collaboration, with Ristevski being in Skopje, they take a look at “mystical traditions ‘coming from the ancient world’ as diverse as ‘the law of three’, which plays an important role in Wicca, and ‘the experience of Ba while awake’, which takes its cue from the ancient Egyptian cult of the dead where Ba is the name given to the mobility of the soul after death”; similar stuff as the Tibetan Book of The Dead that inspired by Pierre Henry and Eliane Radigue. Musically they might have taken a few leaves out of the books of Radigue and Henry, but there is a modern-day twist to their musique concrète. It might, of course, be their inspirational sources here, but (obviously, ‘d say), the music quite dark. It doesn’t concern itself with all the dark drone matter that it could also have but expands on the drone horizon with ‘other’ sounds. Maybe these are field recordings, or a drum machine in ‘The Experience Of Ba While Awake’, which remind us of their love for rhythmic music; a touch of ambient, not very house. There is a chill-out character to the music anyway, with some spacious synths, water dripping, a sparse beat/sequence and such like, but it all stays neatly on the more experimental side of things. If you decide to ignore the track titles, then it is just a damn fine album of experimental ambient music, nouveau concrete and a touch of cosmic magic (without the ‘k’ at the end).
    Gerald Fiebig is one of the few people behind the label, and he works as a composer of electro-acoustic music and here he teams up with Das Tote Kapital, a duo of Johannes Engstler (drums, dulcimer, bass, trombone, field recordings and samples) and Markus Jippich  (acoustic guitar). They have a background in punk and classical music. The three of them worked together for the first time in 2016, which is the sixth and longest piece here, while the other five were recorded in 2019. This started with Fiebig and Engstler improvising and Joppich later adding his guitar through overdubs. These five pieces are half the release, which is forty-three minutes in total. I quite enjoyed these first five pieces, which were rather brief and to the point, with an absolutely curious mixture of instruments in a rather free mode and a whole mix of electronics and field recordings. Think of this as recordings from P16.D4 before they ended up in a cut ‘n paste montage technique. The element of free improvisation is very much a presence on these recordings. The last piece, ‘Man Muss Die Strasse Machen’ was fine, but it loses its focus here and there and the editing is missed here, something which made the other five so nice. It is not a bad piece, but it could have been better, I guess.
    Fiebig teams up with another label boss of their enterprise, Emerge, with two live recordings from 2018. Well, two for Emerge that is. First, there is a recording from Paris where did a collaborative piece with Polish artist Limited Liability Sounds and the second from Bochum, six months label, a battle of the bosses. These pieces are stuck together because they cover a similar territory where ambient meets improvisation. In the piece with Limited Liability Sounds this results in an all-electronic piece, which owes, so it seems, quite a bit to the world of old school electronics, and throughout it is on the quiet, introspective side. It works wonderfully well, this improvisation, but, so I believe, they have been on tour together quite a bit, so they know each other’s work inside out. About twelve minutes longer is the piece Emerge recorded with Gerald Fiebig, and it seems to work around field recordings a bit more, all of which are being processed right there on stage. Here too it is introspective, bordering on the quieter side of the music. The two musicians space out their music quite a bit but go through more variations and the whole thing has a more collage-like approach, which makes it less ambient, I guess. I enjoyed both pieces quite a bit, with no preference for one or the other. (FdW)
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JEANS BEAST & JULIUS MENARD (cassette, private)

Econore is a German label, releasing cassettes, CDRs and booklets/fanzines. As far as the music, the label is not interested in one particular style, save perhaps for the vague notion that all of these have something of an experiment within them, resulting in quite different results. I had not heard of The Old Dream Of Symmetry before, which is a duo of Will Gresson & Felix-Florian Tödtloff. From both of them reviewed something before, but in Gresson’s case a long time ago (Vital Weekly 756); Tödtloff more recent, in Vital Weekly 1241. The guitar is an important instrument on this release, and I assume Gresson’s plays it, while Tödtloff provides the electronics here. The music veers between more recognizable and accessible strumming of the strings and slightly more abstract ambient pieces. A fine touch of distortion is applied whenever they think the time is right for it. Bandcamp says these are ‘songs’ and that’s how they feel to me, as ‘songs’, rather than ‘pieces’. This sounds as singer-songwriter material, but then without the words and in some cases more fully formed than in other instances. That means there is quite some variation with these nine pieces; song structures, abstractions, ambient and a bit of noise. Even when I am not a particular fan of vocals, I can imagine with this it would rather work.
    Something entirely different is the release by Matt Atkins. He creates, off and on, visual scores, collages really on musical notation paper, and was invited by Sam Enthoven to perform them, using players from the Mopomoso improvising workshop. No other names are mentioned on the package or instruments, and I assume Atkins played along with these musicians. String instruments can be heard and in the second piece, there is a dominant role for the saxophone. The booklet shows four scores, and there are four pieces on the CDR; hence I assume each piece is a score here (or vice versa of course). As always with such things as graphic scores, it all is within the imagination of the performers to do something the way they see fit. This gives the music is a somewhat different taste of Matt Atkins than we are used from him. Usually, he relies on small sounds of everyday objects and percussion, but here it leans towards free jazz, especially when the saxophone takes the lead. Whether the scores are performed ‘well’, seems not relevant to me, they are starting points to get the music going and that it does pretty well. The recording could have used some improvement, but this was in a church after all, so perhaps that’s what it is. The music is spacious, meandering about and without a specific focus on big or small sounds; all of that sitting next to each other in this forty-four-minute concert recording.
    I don’t think I heard of David Wallraf before. He’s a noise musician from Hamburg and on this double CDR set, we find five complete concert recordings. You can find one of this on YouTube, along with a few other concerts. You see the man in action with a small modular set-up, along with a keyboard of some kind, some tapes (field recordings no doubt) and a microphone, which he uses for screaming, even when that seems to be buried in the mix somewhere. His concerts are somewhere between thirteen and twenty-seven minutes, and in a typical approach, he goes from loud to very harsh noise and sometimes back again (even when going back after a bunch of noise isn’t the easiest thing, I know from some experience). The first three pieces, on disc one, are essentially variations on the noise theme. The second disc starts with a recording from March 2019, in Hamburg, he experimented with a more rhythmic approach, which was a fine change of approach and something I wouldn’t mind seeing him do more. It results in noise too, but not so much the pure near-noise wall approach,  some of his stuff also seems to take. The Berlin recording from February last year starts quite ambient, and I hoped for an all-ambient set, but it developed into noise too, but in the end, this was the winner in that respect. This comes in a slimline video case, along with a booklet, flyers and button in an envelope. The booklet details the places and other acts playing plus some cryptic messages.
    And finally a duel of the label bosses. Two men, two guitars, I assume. Econore sent CEO Jeans Beast and from Grisaille we welcome Julius Menard.  They couldn’t decide which of their labels was the best, so it is a release without a label. It is their first ‘proper’ recording and which they made according to the fine (well) social distancing principles of 2020. Each a bit at home, and then it was mixed by them, although I am not entirely sure how. This music of some desolation, of sadness, well, maybe it is the true soundtrack of the 2020 pandemic? They both employ quite a bit of reverb on the six strings, some other effects and some faraway voices. Maybe I am overthinking this a bit too much but to me, those distant voices are perhaps that thing we will remind most of last year (hell, maybe years to come!). Being locked up and the music is playing in another room, remote and alien. At twenty-minutes it is all a bit short; you’d wish the pandemic would last this long, but that sadly isn’t the case. (FdW)
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FOOD PEOPLE – COOLER THE AIR (CDR by Stairwell Editions)

Ah, more music by Food People! I love that. I believe I reviewed their work twice before (Vital Weekly 1207 and 1257) and on both occasions, I enjoyed their music. Now they double that with two new releases. Still a trio of Matthew Hamblin, Greg Thomas, and Lila Matsumoto and still there is no mentioning of instruments, but clearly there is a guitar, a flute, harmonium, plus electronics and voice. There are most likely also percussion, violin or field recordings in use. This time, on both releases, it seems that the voice has a bigger role than before, although the instrumental pieces are still in the majority. There is still that excellent free folk music character here, in combination with that pastoral feel. Think No Neck Blues Band in a barn on the English countryside. Doors open, so a bit outside makes it onto the recording (if not field recordings captured on tape), along with the rustling of acoustic objects. The lengthy ‘Broken Computer’ on ‘Cooler The Air’ is such a piece, with its continuous rhythm, including maracas, repeating guitar motif, a bit of violin, a strange collage of voices, making a very dense and delicate atmosphere altogether. In other pieces they go for a more open sound, keeping it deliberately vague. The lyrics work on a similar vague level, but you could say that’s the poetry of it all. Both of these releases are around forty minutes and there is no hierarchy here; it’s not that the CDR has the easier tunes and the cassette something more abstract. On both, there is a fine balance in both approaches here. The A-side of the cassette has throughout shorter pieces, but then the other side might have easily the longest of their pieces, which, like most of the longer Food People pieces, have an excellent psychedelic quality to it. Their music has many influences and as many results, and they are all great. Now, come a time when concerts are possible again, this is a band I’d love to see them play. I foresee a great future for this band. (FdW)
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After listening to ‘Splendor Falls on Everything Around’ its hard to believe this is a new ensemble. Noah Ophoven-Baldwin has created a quintet of cello, clarinet, cornet, guitar, and laptop to bring his compositions to life. The playing is so confident and precise it swaggers out of the speakers. I’m not implying that these recordings have the feeling of 20 somethings on a night out filled with cheap lager and doused in Lynx Africa, but it has an air that is not usually present on improvisational recordings.
    Musically the recordings are layered with polyphonic instrumentation and field recordings. This combination creates a mood that is delightful and compelling. The opening track ‘(8-30-19) Hemlock forest, birds’ lives up to its title. The sound of brush underfoot and birdsong fills your ears and transports you immediately to a tranquil forest. Near the end, horns make fleeting appearances, but they are blended into their surroundings and feel natural. This is immediately followed up by ‘Philosophy for the good times. The bird sounds briefly bleed into this track, but when the guitars, and horns, kick in with their ungainly dance the album begins proper. ‘(13-3-19) Bike to Andy and Flynn’s’ is that. The sounds of someone cycling from one house to another. As the bike creaks and the traffic passes by you are wrapped up in a sense of urgency. Will anything bad happen or will this just be another quick bike ride? Luckily, this isn’t an audio version of JG Ballad’s ‘Crash’ and the journey is short and sweet. What this track does is break up the album perfectly by grounding it 100% in the real world. These are sounds that we all know. We’ve all quickly gone to a friend for something but given how over the past year many of us haven’t had the luxury to do this, the sounds are exotic and captivating. It reminds up of a different time where freedom wasn’t taken for granted and we could just pop to a friend on a whim.
    ‘Splendor Falls on Everything Around’ is an intoxicating album that opens with field recordings and ends with the sound of sweeping and rain. This in itself isn’t the important bit. It’s what happens in between these points. The beauty of the album is that there are spaces between the phrases. Sometimes on improvisational recordings, the players feel the need to play as fast, and frenetic, as they can. Not allowing a moment’s pause. While these recordings give incredible energy, they sometimes overload the listener with information. On ‘Splendor Falls on Everything Around’ the players are taking their time to get their point across and allow spaces to naturally appear. Its these spaces, or moments of silence, where you really savour what has been played. They allow us to regain composure from what has just been played and allow the subtly of the phrases to take old. There is a section on ‘The Memory Reminds How All Earthly Joy Ends’ where Adam Zahller is playing a disjointed guitar part, while Ophoven-Baldwin’s cornet squeakily drones over it. This is underlaid by Patrick Marschke’s glitchy electronics. The combination of these three contrasting sounds is one of unbridled joy, or maybe joy dying, but joy is definitely in there somewhere. In those few moments, the whole album is summed up. It’s abstract, uncomfortable but totally captivating. (NR)
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Along with this release I got a note says that the cassettes were delayed, so Ilk Music sends me the second-best thing, which is a USB stick disguised as a cassette. It is attached to an A5 sized booklet with artwork by Jan Oksbol Callesen, of some great naive colourful artworks. As I was playing the music by Qarin Wikström, I was thinking that perhaps a USB device is a better choice for the music she plays. She uses “electronics, keys and voice’, and there is help from Herman Müntzing on “electronics, machines and keys”, and there is throughout a sort of glitch vibe to the music; mildly distorted and alike, but also at times warm and intimate. Wikström’s voice is not very much on top of the music but rather buried in the music. As I understand it, the music is the result of going back and forth with sounds and images, like the ping pong mentioned in the title. Ping pong sounds also return between the various pieces and that sound remains the same throughout these twelve pieces. That became a bit annoying at one point. Improvisation seems another starting point, which I can only partly hear within this music; it is not always that apparent, which I think is a good thing. At times spacious, droney, even a bit noisy and at times quite mellow. The aspect of the naivety of the music is translated to the images and vice versa, but again, not always, which adds to the variety of the music here. It’s joyful, sad, pleasant, annoying, strange and familiar. That’s a lot of moods these three artists cover, but it brings quite a coherent album all the same. (FdW)
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