Number 1280

CHRISTOF MIGONE – RECORD RELEASE (CD by Ambiances Magnetiques) *
ORBAIN UNIT – XERAI (CD by Gnowot Records) *
MONTE ESPINA – PA (CD by Elevator Bath) *
MICHAEL & PETER FORMANEK – DYADS (CD by Out Of Your Head Records)
HOLLAND HOPSON – TELL A GOSSIP (CDR by Tape Drift Records) *
COAGULANT – THE TYPHONIAN EXPERIMENTS (cassette by Veinte 33 Records) *
MENDACITY MOGUL (compilation cassette by Basayev Inductions)
ŌTONN – TWO CRUMBLING SHAPES (cassette by Esc.Rec) *

CHRISTOF MIGONE – RECORD RELEASE (CD by Ambiances Magnetiques)

The work of Christof Migone has found its way to these pages quite a lot over a very long period and in almost all of them, there is a conceptual edge. There is also a whole body of work that didn’t make it to these pages, such as a series of seven 7inch records that he released between 2015 and 2019. This double CD contains a selection of those records, twenty-two tracks in total, out of thirty-five to be found on the original records. A quick look at the times for some of these pieces, going way over eight minutes, which is what normally fits on a 7″ record, struck me as rather odd. These pieces, eleven in total, are re-edited for this compilation. On the website of Squint Press (Migone’s label), you can find a description for this project: “Normally, a record release celebrates the culmination of a recording project. Like a book launch, it marks the moment where a work leaves the artist’s hands and seeks an audience. Record Release is a project that reverses that process and includes the act of releasing as part of the recording process itself. Record Release involves using the raw material used to manufacture vinyl records which comes in small pellets. These lentil-sized bits of petroleum product come in this form because they are easily transportable and manipulable before they get melted and stamped with grooves of sound. This is a sound project which focuses on one of the standard physical support materials of sound and utilizes these tiny units of potential sound in a gestural manner to produce not only audio material but also images, video content and a slew of data related to the process of dissemination involved.” The blank record becomes the sound material and looking for a description of each of the seven records, you can read and see how it all worked; Migone’s website is pretty extensive in that respect. And two CDs filled with music to the maximum length is also something extensive. Migone works a lot with loops and repetitions of his sound material, which aren’t always to trace; at least, not from just playing them. His take on the whole notion of improvisation, musique concrète and electro-acoustics. While I found some of these pieces very good, or perhaps, the majority of them, I must admit that at one point I was pretty loaded with this kind of sonic information, with pieces becoming a blur; shorter pieces or one CD would have been sufficient for me, no matter how much I enjoy the music. (FdW)
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While I am pretty sure I had not heard of Duck Baker before, I can’t say the same for Mike Cooper. Maybe I did review some of his work, but if so, I no longer remember. In Cooper’s kitchen in Rome, these two men sat down with a Zoom recorder in 2010 and recorded this unusual duet on two Spanish guitars and in case, you have no idea, these come with nylon strings, which has a distinctly harsher sound. Both men already met towards the end of the 70s and Cooper didn’t know Baker played free music but was set straight when the latter showed him a record he did with, among others, Eugene Chadbourne and Henry Kaiser. It took a while before this duet happened, and they captured nine pieces on ‘Cumino in Mia Cucina’, hence the kitchen reference. This is quite some intimate music; almost as if one sits along with them in the kitchen, and they play for you. Not an audience of many, but an audience of one. They play their guitars in such a way that the instruments remain to be recognized at all time and combine chords with loosely played sounds, open strumming and short, coordinated attacks. At the same time, these pieces sound oddly coherent and organized. Of course, any in-between talk between the musicians we don’t hear, so we are not privy to whatever they agreed (or not) upon when recording this music, but I could think there is some sort of (silent?) agreement here; “now you play more melodic, or some chords and I add some more loose attacks, just reverse of what we just did with the previous recording”. And I am not saying this is what happened, but it could very well something that was done by these players. This is very free in approach, but not s nervous or chaotic as one might expect such things to be; again, such as the level of control here. No doubt this is also many years of playing free music and the experience gathered along the way, and it is a wonderful disc of acoustic improvisation.
    The other release is by two musicians whose work is reviewed on several occasions by Vital Weekly and on October 23, 2018, they recorded four pieces in a studio in London, and it is, sadly, only twenty minutes of music. Abrahams plays “bluthner grand piano, circa 1905”, which surely is something special and which significance eludes me, and Wastel plays a “32” Paiste tam tam and cymbals”. The four pieces are titled so there is a short sentence, ” A Thousand Sacred Steps”, and it opens with the beautiful lush piano sounds of “A’ and Wastell playing his instruments in a rather loosely organized way. The next two are rather short, with “Thousand” being very obscure and in “Sacred” again mysteriously, with everything picking up in ‘Steps” again, again with Abrahams playing a rolling, melodic piece of music, quite introspective and Wastell going quite wildly at the cymbals. Of notice here, is the fact that there is quite some reverb applied to Wastell’s plying. I am not sure if this is something natural or added later on, but it adds to the somewhat majestic atmosphere of the music, almost as if the music is part of a sacred ritual. It works, however, quite well, and the only downside is the fact that this way too short. It was recorded when Abrahams was in London for some concerts and did this in between. Why not stay some longer period and give us a longer record? (FdW)
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Over the past year, the lockdown has affected people in different ways. Some have become productive machines. Setting their sights on project after project and using this unprecedented free time to tackle those projects they’ve always wanted to but never had the time to before. It’s inspiring. As I watch my feed fill up with people running, painting, learning a new skill and generally making the best of a bad situation it makes me want to try new things too. Sadly, though, there are just as many people who have had a bad time. Not seeing anyone for days and only communicating through technology takes its toll. Three people who wanted to convey these feelings into music were Mauro Gargano, Alessandro Sgobbio and Christophe Marguet. Their album ‘Feed’ is full of these emotions.
    ‘Feed’ has a classic feel to it. The music is elegant, with melodies flying out of the speakers. ‘Keep Distance’ reminds me of the joy I experienced when I found Bill Evans for the first time. It immediately felt familiar, despite never hearing it before. This is down to Sgobbio’s versatile bass work. It also made me smile. In a world of hard metaphors and biting criticism but smiling while listening to a piece of music feels slightly reactionary. It might not be the coolest thing I’ve ever written but it is also one of the truest. Despite ‘Keep Distance’ delivering some classic jazz vibes the rest of the album doesn’t always follow. ‘Look Beyond the Window’ is a melting pot of fusion, prog, and free jazz motifs. It works incredibly well. Yes, it can feel jarring after ‘Keep Distance’, but it all works so well this feeling is fleeting. ‘Lost Wishes’ feels more abstract, especially Marguet’s percussion, but it is grounded in delicate piano runs that ooze killer melodies and counterpoints.
    What ‘Feed’ does really well is evoke the feeling of isolation that we have all been living with for the past year. It is filled with despair when things aren’t going well, but also that jubilant feeling when you get to do something out of your routine. This could be walking to a different shop for the weekly shop. Managing to run a personal best around the park or bumping into someone unexpectedly you haven’t seen for months and actually talking to a human being in person. It’s all on ‘Feed’ as it is on your feed. (NR)
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ORBAIN UNIT – XERAI (CD by Gnowot Records)

What makes you happy? Go on think about it. Is it something conventional? A good home-cooked meal. Putting on slippers as soon as you get in. Following the instructions and brewing a tea for the correct amount of time. Or maybe it’s something else entirely. For Orbain Unit it’s playing music together. This time the band is made up of Iker Arrazola on drums, Txemi Artigas on electric bass, Joxean Rivason drums, electronics and vocals, Fernando Ulzión on sax and Mikel Vega: guitar and effects. On their second album ‘Xeria’ they’ve thrown caution to the wind and have just gone for it. Parts of the album work better than others, but even when it does the music is captivating, which in itself makes up for any personal shortcomings.
    The album opens with squeaky horns and rumbling basslines. Over this cascading percussion offer fine detailing while Vega’s guitar work fills in the gaps with massive brushstrokes of sound. ‘Ljoom’ proceeds cautiously. Never rushing. Always taking steady steps. This pace works well, as it welcomes us into their wonky world. At times, the band get lost in what they are doing individually and forget about the bigger picture, but this is forgivable as the music has such a joyous bounce to it. There are times with improvised music to be dour and serious, but Orbain Unit delivers music filled with jocularity. It makes you want to listen on to see what they do next, regardless of whether you are enjoying the specific passage.
    What ‘Xerai’ does really well is create an incredibly unsettling mood. Take ‘Powerhouse’ for example. The tones that Ulzión gets out of his sax wouldn’t be out of place in a David Lynch film. They are haunting but lean towards terrifying. At any moment you expect them to descend into pure horror. They never do, but the intention is there. Rivas and Arrazola’s drumming is sparse but it does enough to stop you from getting too comfortable. Vega’s guitar work is the standout moment here. It’s precise but also all over the shop. I don’t mean it’s sloppy. Oh no, but it feels like this is what organised chaos sounds like. In a nutshell, this is what ‘Xerai’ is. Organised chaos. At times everything feels like it’s pulling against each other, rather than with, but this is where the joy of the album comes from. The final four minutes is just one massive swirling mass of cacophonous noise. At first, it’s disorienting trying to make sense of it. However, after a few listens you start to latch into motifs and melodies, and it all starts to make sense. This is what rock music should be sounding like in 2021. Ultimately though, Orbain Unit are really enjoying themselves throughout this album. Despite how atonal the music is at times you get that they’re having a proper blast. Which means we are too when we listen to it. (NR)
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MONTE ESPINA – PA (CD by Elevator Bath)

Behind Monte Espina, we find two Venezuelan-born men who are now based in the north part of Texas, Ernesto Montiel and Miguel Espinel. ‘Pa’ is their second release, following the unheard ‘Y Culebra’ from 2019 on Marginal Frequencies. The music was recorded on March 21, 2020, “one day before the pandemic quarantine took effect”, and one day after the death of Montiel’s father in Venezuela, and, because of the lockdown, whose funeral could not be attended. Oddly enough, ‘Pa’ in Dutch is ‘dad’. The duo comes together every week to record and decided to do that too on the 21st of March and this is the result; it was also the last time for many months to come. I am not sure if there has been any editing for the music; none such is mentioned on the cover, just as there is no mentioning of any instruments. They refer to their music as “free improvisation”, but then without any instruments, and using acoustic objects and electronics, perhaps with the additional use of a laptop, maybe for the playback of field recordings. And, as always, there might be instruments used, and I just didn’t recognize them. There were a few instances in this hour-long piece of music where I believed to hear guitars. As I am playing this, I keep wondering if it is all recorded in one take or perhaps various takes stuck together. There is something to say for either. Monte Espina goes elegantly through their material, with quite some dynamic range, although not really all too quiet. From the eardrum pressing drones and acoustic rumble. Halfway through the rumble remains, objects being pushed around a table, or some such and from there on, things pick again, via recordings of machines, field recordings and electronics. Things rattle and roll, and throughout it all works very fine, and this fits the long axis of AMM, Morphogenesis, Kapotte Muziek, Kontakta, and such mixers of the acoustic, electro-acoustic, electronic and musique concrète.
    On vinyl, I find the second encounter with the music of Rrill Bell (see also Vital Weekly 1194), the musical project of Jim Campbell. He is from the USA and lives in Berlin, and central to his work is the four-track cassette machine and a pile of cassettes, which he mixes live, altering speed and direction. There is a somewhat random approach to this, at least, so I understand from the information, but there is very little evidence on this LP. I understand there have been various stages of this material, recording and re-recording bits and pieces, so it all became more and more abstract, and it also takes, in this finished form, a more collage-like approach. Events don’t exist together but appear one after another. Within each of these sections, there is quite some sound activity to be noted. Speeding up and slowing down of tapes, amassed electronic sounds, clustered but not very often drones, and quite a bit of electronic processing upon all the acoustic sounds and field recordings. The analogue tape processes he uses constantly buzz through two sides. I enjoyed the first release by Rrill Bell, but this one, I think, is even better. This record is packed with lots of small sounds, with Rrill Bell having much control for the smallest detail, and he makes sure all of these can be heard in a precise mix, and all of this with a highly dynamic approach. On vinyl, I must admit, some smaller details are a bit lost, against the louder fragments, compared to the download. Just because vinyl is the ‘hip medium’, doesn’t mean all music is suited for it. The musique concrète from Rrill Bell might be better off on a CD, I think, even when the cover and transparent vinyl looks good. Altogether, this is a high-quality product. (FdW)
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MICHAEL & PETER FORMANEK – DYADS (CD by Out Of Your Head Records)

Here we have an album by father and son Formanek. The career of Michael Formanek started in the 80s when he worked with Freddie Hubbard, Dave Liebman, etc. He debuted in 1990 with ‘Wide Open Spaces’ and worked frequently with Tim Berne and Jeff Hirsfield. He did a lot of session work for Uri Caine, Lee Konitz, etc, etc. By consequence his son, Peter grew up in an environment where music and musicians were constantly around. He became a musician himself playing saxophone, clarinet, flute and graduated from the University of Michigan in 2017. That same year they both decided to start working as a duo. In 2019 a tour followed. And now there is this first release, with Michael playing double bass and Peter tenor sax and clarinet. Recorded December 30, 2019. Near the end of their tour, I guess, when they were optimal attuned to another. First, it was the tone and depth of Michael’s bass that impressed me. But there is much more. The compositions are of a pleasant and balanced structure, inviting them for very communicative and inspired interplay. Peter composed two of them, Michael four and seven are by both. It is difficult not to get involved in their mature interactions that are carefully and accurately performed. Father and son must have a good relationship. (DM)
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This is the first time we review a release from the legendary ICP-collective in these columns. Not one however with the full orchestra line up. Cellist Tristan Honsinger, sax player Tobias Delius and trumpeter Thomas Heberer don’t participate for reasons that are not mentioned. That makes the line-up as follows: Ab Baars (tenor sax, clarinet, shakuhachi), Marry Oliver (violin, viola), Wolter Wierbos (trombone), Michael Moore (alto sax, clarinet), Ernst Glerum (bass, piano), Guus Janssen  (piano, pianola) and Han Bennink (snare drums, cymbal, horse shoe, cajon, jeu de boules), with Joris Roelofs (bass clarinet) and Terrie Ex (guitar) as guests. All of them are great and outspoken performers, known from uncountable projects and collaborations that over the years shaped the Dutch improvisation scene. Recordings took place on two days in October last year at Le Brocope Gallery, situated in a small village up in the north of the Netherlands. Walking and playing through the different rooms of this historical location, space makes part of the recording. Also, a few environmental sounds are integrated with their music. Like a dog barking at the ‘right’ moment. But from the attitude, they play any moment could be the right moment. They can be embrace everything in their open-minded attitude that is in playful contact with the environment. The opening track ‘Lucht’ sounds like an airy invocation, with penetrating playing by Baars, opening a provocative series of very different improvisations and compositions, touching on Ellington, old style jazz, free improvisation, etc. What made me wonder is how one piece ends and another begins, how one idiom is changed for another in a seemingly random way. The way they are loosely connected makes you dwell through many times and places. Like in the totally charming ‘Pianola Potpourri’ that offers a fascinating and entertaining coming and going of different styles with pianist Guus Janssen in a prominent role. And also the editing process was important for this one I guess. ‘Kroket’, composed by ICP co-founder Misha Mengelberg, dates from the early 90s. It is a breakable and minimalistic miniature built from subtle gestures. An ironic twist is also never far away like in ‘Sound of Music’. The ‘Komen en Gaan’-series of four free improvised excursions that distributed over the CD, containing 16 tracks, have many excellent contributions by Ex and Roelofs who join in perfectly in the dynamic interactions of the ICP-crew. This is pure joy and very uplifting and fresh music. (DM)
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Hot on the heels of a re-issue of his ‘Ship 2020’ LP, Sigtryggur Berg Sigmarsson releases another new LP, this time with his regular collaborator BJ Nilsen and one Ragnar Jonsson. The latter is a new name for me and Sigmarsson met him last year. He’s a cellist from Iceland, who lives in Mannheim, from where he works with many people. He has a classical background, yet open to working with some more experimental music and the proof to that is this LP. As these things are, most of the time with Sigmarsson, there is not a lot of information here. Besides the title, the three names, credits for mastering (Jeff Carey), cover art (BJ Nilsen) and layout (Jeroen Wille), it only says ‘recorded and mixed in Hannover, Mannheim and Amsterdam, the places where these people live and November 2020. There are no individual track titles here and both sides have one long piece, moving from one section to the next. I have no idea how such things work in terms of ‘composition’ or ‘final mix’, nor is it easy to define what each of the players brought in; at various times I believe to hear a cello, so that’s “clear”, but for the rest? I wouldn’t know. In some of their previous work, Sigmarsson and Nilsen use a more collage-like approach, with silences between various sections of heavily processed field recordings. On this record, they go for a slightly different approach and here the various sections are crossfaded, so a more or less continuous tone poem occurs. It starts, on the first side, with collage amplified cello, slowly disintegrating and then only remain in a single drone, that slowly expands into a collage of sea waves, reminded me of The Hafler Trio’s ‘Blanket Level Approach’. This is expanded until it abruptly cuts out at the end. The other side has some abrupt breaks between sections, hard cuts as they call it the world of film editing, but with the same thematic approach to the music. The last ten minutes of this piece, all stay close together, with some far, far away piano sounds embedded in a beautiful piece of shimmering drone music, with some excellent ringing sound to it. This too is cut abruptly towards the end; this is a break from the usual fade-out ending that occurs with a lot of pieces of drone music. Both sides contain some excellent music, high-quality music that is the trademark of Sigmarsson and Nilsen, now also with Jonsson. (FdW)
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Peter Jensen is a Danish composer, arranger, producer, musician, etc He is known for his experimental jazz-oriented works. For ‘Light through Leaves‘ Jensen concentrates on the work of Carl Nielsen (1865-1931). Jensen was commissioned to create a tribute to this famous Danish composer who had in 2015 his 150th birthday. He was a composer of symphonies, chamber and piano music, operas, etc. Jensen selected fragments from six symphonies by Nielsen and brings them in a context that using characteristics of these samples combined with other ingredients. Giving a new transformed life and a new context to elements for Nielsen’s work. This effort no doubt makes more sense if you are familiar with the work of Nielsen so that one can experience better how Jensen operated. Nevertheless, the album is very worthwhile listening on its own. The work is very much the result of the collaboration between Peter Jensen and Morten Büchert who both sign for composition and concept.
    The composition is performed by Morten Büchert (samples and electronics) and The Danish Radio Big Band. Apparently, the project came into being in two phases, as some recordings date from 2015 and others 2020. The opening track ‘Like through Leaves’ starts like an oceanic ambient piece where the sound texture gradually changes into a sample of Nielsen’s music. A journey starts where jazzy parts played by the Big Band or soloists, samples Nielsen, treated and non-treated are combined with electronic operations into a genre-transcending piece of music. The ‘The Woodpecker and the Larvae’ starts with a rhythm-dominated sample. This is first continued and transformed with electronic means, manipulating samples, and followed by a captivating acoustic episode with a fine solo on trombone by Vincent Nilsson. The team created a richly textured work full of drama that is best enjoyed in its totality. It is not only Nielsen’s work interwoven in a new contemporary context; it also puts the big band in a new constellation of options. (DM)
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The odd name Holland Hopson sounded like a new one to me, but his banjo and the computer played a role in the Gates Ensemble, reviewed back in Vital Weekly 509. I didn’t hear any of his other solo work, and ‘tell A Gossip is his sixth solo record. Here too he plays the banjo, but now in a new hybrid with a custom build an electric guitar, which Jefferson Pitcher of Pitcher Guitars created especially for him. Along with that Hopson uses max/MSP software in a chain of delays, and he made it all himself, so each delay can be controlled separately from the rest, give it a natural effect, and not the mechanical loop that guitarists often use. Hopson has seven pieces here of rather intimate electric guitar playing, in which everything blurs. In various o these pieces I found it hard to say what was the loop and what was the playing of the instrument, and I guess that is the whole idea of this. Also, I found it both amusing and odd, that some of this did indeed sound a bit mechanical, such as in ‘Gravity Clocks’, but in ‘Bluestone’, for instance, there is a delicate overtone going on, and in ‘Texarcana’, a bit of folksy improvisation with overlapping tones getting in a swirl together. And, then sometimes, it has an oddly computerized texture of it, such s in ‘Parallax Prism’. There isn’t a single approach here, as Holland Hopson has many tricks up his sleeve, and he wants to show them all. You could argue that this record is too varied, but I find it not to be. It is exactly this variation that makes this a remarkable fine record. Variation can work against a record, but in this case, I think, it becomes a great showcase of what this is all about. (FdW)
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COAGULANT – THE TYPHONIAN EXPERIMENTS (cassette by Veinte 33 Records)

Something I noted before: not many cassettes are long these days; it is usually anything up to 46 minutes but rarely longer. This one is close to ninety minutes. I played on a quiet day after Easter, in the morning when there is no newspaper, not much email or post, tucked away in my conformable chair reading a book. Occasionally I looked up, to see… well nothing, in particular, to be honest and mumbled to myself… very nice music. The one previous time Coagulant made to these pages was when I didn’t write it, so this is my proper introduction. “Coagulant is a conceptual sound art project devised by Fkdrone in 1998, and led by Allen K Trimble” and “all sounds sources from microphones, soundscapes, cut-up and feedbacks.” The music here is dedicated to Kenneth Grant, Andrei A. Tarkovski and Allen H. Greenfield. Also mentioned is that this has to do with the development of electronic manipulation, through cutup, environmental soundscape, audio-feedback editing, musique concrète, and the structuring of oblique frequencies, rests on hypnotic drones, and, yes, I very much agree with that hypnotic drones bit. The tones created by Coagulant are dark, deep and yet also a bit shrill, working as overtones. This is combined with field recordings picked up in an underpass, with some fine natural reverb to transform rain, footsteps and talk; or wind blowing downpipes on the beach. As an alternative soundtrack to ‘Stalker’, this would no doubt work well. The development of these pieces is slow, but it never gets to a complete standstill; there is always some movement to be spotted in this. Slow but definite drifts of sound. This fits entirely the current craze (?) of lo-fi drones, cassette hiss, and such minimal techniques. I came across several excellent projects in this field, and Coagulant goes straight to that list! Now it’s time for further inspection. (FdW)
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MENDACITY MOGUL (compilation cassette by Basayev Inductions)

Thanks to one of the bands, present on this compilation, who sent this to me, so that I can review it; many thanks Kuttekop (I wonder what my spellchecker makes of that). I think the only other name here that I recognized was Mindvoid, but none of the others, Reforester, Mourmamsk 150, Abesta, 886VG, Capgras, Sewage, You-Sheng Zhang, PMNT, and Deficit. This is noise music but not necessarily your strict harsh noise wall types. This is sixty minutes of full-on chaotic treatments. Kuttekop’s three tracks (their debut) is a perfect example of what is to be expected here. Very chaotic percussion, distorted voices, guitars, lots of effects, almost like breakcore, and perhaps it is its even more demented form of it. The A-side starts with a bundle of ‘songs’ by Reforester in a similar band line-up (at least so I think) melting noise, rock, chaos and improvisation/. It is after their five pieces that I am completely at a loss, so whose track is that with the people screaming and domestic violence? My best guess is 886VG’s ‘Fuck Slave Life (Street Noise Energy Pt2). I lost my way on this side of the cassette, there was a nice psychedelic noise bit I enjoyed (maybe Mourmansk 1509?). The same thing happened on the other side (opening with Kuttekop), but I think Abesta is the more traditional noise and mayhem, sticking random bits of tapes together and stomping on foot pedals. Others are more inclined towards ominous drone beast (PMNT, I think), or the dark ambient drone with feedback voices of either Deficit or Mindvoid (I admit a Bandcamp version would come in handy, but, so I am told, doesn’t fit the policy of the label). It is a most pleasurable compilation of noise music, old style and new style, traditional and far more improvised and ‘weird’ (that, somehow, doesn’t seem the right word in this context). All of this, In a way, this is all very punk, much more than your average noise release, and it comes with a fine full-colour cover and small inserts, also full colour. And yes, I know, that might not be very punk-minded, but it looks good. Here too, the idea of chaos extends; it is hard to make sense of all the little bits of paper the box contains! (FdW)
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ŌTONN – TWO CRUMBLING SHAPES (cassette by Esc.Rec)

ŌTONN consists of singer Andrea Silvia Giordano and drummer Nicholas Remondino. Their music is electro-acoustic, but with subtle nods to contemporary electronic music that makes them stand out from their peers. On their debut album ‘Two Crumbling Shapes’ they present the listener with layers of manipulated improvisational jams that sound like everything and nothing else I’ve heard recently. Which in itself means the album is interesting, but there is more to it than that. If that wasn’t enough, ŌTONN also features Pierre Bastien, E-cor Ensemble, Gianluca Verlingieri, Maria Dybbroe and Torstein Lavik Larsen. Again, this makes the album remarkably interesting indeed.
    While listening to ‘Two Crumbling Shapes’ I am reminded of an old building not far from where I live. Each time I pass it something is a little different. The local fauna has reclaimed another inch of its hulking shape. Another area that has been targeted in an ongoing game of graffiti tag. Kids have climbed the fence and had a party around it. But at the centre is the building itself. At its core ‘Two Crumbling Shapes’ is about disintegration. The disintegration of ideas, speech, culture, and music. Throughout its 36-minutes ‘Two Crumbling Shapes’ sounds like its gradually eroding from within. There is pleasure in this. As the album progresses the songs become more and more fractured. At times Remondino’s beats sound like rumble falling from on high. Giordano’s vocals are used more like an instrument than to tell a story. Her vocal range goes from tender whispers to guttural bellows. Underneath all, there are wonky synths and hulking basslines. All of this combined gives the music a unique take on musique concrete. Yes, I know that this isn’t musique concrete, but the backing tracks have that slightly unsettling feeling that you can’t quite explain, or comprehend, but is utterly compelling to listen to.
    Throughout ŌTONN ask us to reconsider how we feel about disintegration. Do we enjoy how the music is broken down into just a series of sounds and blips? ‘Sprout’ is a prime example of this. At times it is just the sound of glitching and machines dying. This is a sound we know all too well, but here there is an elegant beauty to the technological death throes. It makes us question our need for having the newest phone or tablet and what this means to the world we live in. Its poses questions about an isolated society where everything is conveyed through a phone, or screen, instead of face to face and what happens when those devices cease working. Of course, ŌTONN don’t have the answers, nor do we really, but by making us think about these issues ‘Two Crumbling Shapes’ becomes something else than just six songs on a cassette. (NR)
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When I learned that the three members remaining of Joy Division never paid much attention as to what their lead singer was singing and didn’t know the extent of his depression, I knew I was quite ‘safe’ when I say lyrics and I do not match very well. I just never pay much attention and see the voice as just one of the instruments. When the spoken word is applied and that spoken word is ‘above’ music then those feelings amplified; I prefer them on an equal level. All of this to tell you that here we have musician Alexander Holm and poet Miriam Kongstad, who recites her text ‘Chimera’ on the first side of this cassette. Let me just quote what the label says about this text, ” the listener is guided through a landscape, slippery, which juxtaposes body, architecture, and metaphysics. Inspired by guided meditations, game structures and cynical magic”, while the music consists of samples of the harmonica. Effectively Kongstad can only be heard on the first track, ‘Chimera’, while ‘Homeostasis’ is Holm solo (though nothing as such is credited). Both pieces share a common thread and that is slowness. Even when not paying too much attention to the voice of Kongstad, the slowness of her delivery fits the slow pace of the cascading waves of the harmonica samples. Also, I would think there is something they’d done with the voice, maybe taping in different rooms, or Kongstad moving around or such, which results in a sort of strange field recordings, especially towards the end. It also means that this piece moves through various distinctly different sections. That can’t be said of the music on ‘Homeostasis’, which is a sort of loops that goes through various stages of electronic processing, changing and evolving all the time, but always ending up in the same shape, slowly bouncing forward. This is a very ambient piece, oddly enough this piece reminded me of De Muziekkamer or some of the early releases on the Dutch Kubus Kassettes label. I like this sort of slow music, with minimal human interference; very good to read your own stories over them. (FdW)
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While I have reviewed a couple of releases by Leo Okagawa, I had not heard of Ayami Suzuki. She has been playing Celtic ballads in Tokyo since 2014 and lived in Ireland from 2016 to 2019, and now she’s back in Tokyo, playing the guitar and looping her voice, which is influenced by folk music. In that sense, her collaboration with Leo Okagawa is, perhaps, a surprising one. He works mostly within the world of experimental and electronic music. This cassette contains two live recordings, both in Tokyo, one at Permian on November 26, 2020, and at Ftarri on October 3, 2020. When I started to play this tape, my first impression was that this to be a modern classical vocal thing and perhaps not something for me. However, early on, I noticed some high piercing tone, and I am sure that is what kept me listening to this. Ayama loops her voice and from then on the sound expand and deepens, becoming a swirling mass of voices, angelic perhaps and no doubt quite ambient, but it is Okagawa’s role to add something to the music that keeps the listener from falling asleep or drifting away. His piercing tones arrive in abundant variety, adding a wholly different colour to the music. When Ayama’s voice comes to us unprocessed, it indeed has that folky, pure quality, but she uses it in these two duets in a more improvised way, which is a fine addition to all of that is happening. I have no idea to what extent all of this improvised and what they have planned; it could go either way, I should think. Maybe this duo planned it all, or maybe it all just organically occurred as they were performing and either way is great. The final result is what counts here. Of the two I have a slight preference for the concert at Ftarri, which is a bit stranger, abstracter, varied and going through a dynamic range of emotions; high and low, while the Permian recording seems to have a more single-minded approach, but also sounds quite good. (FdW)
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Vital – The Complete Collection 1987-1995
Before Vital Weekly there was Vital, a Xeroxed fanzine covering experimental, electronic andelectro-acoustic music; interviews, reviews, in-depth discussion articles, background. All 44 issues in one hardcover book; 580 pages. More information:

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