Number 1281

NICK ASHWOOD – UNFOLDING/OVERLAY (CD by Inexhaustible Editions) *
FERRAN FAGES & LLUÏSA ESPIGOLÉ (CD by Inexhaustible Editions) *
CRAIG SHEPARD – TRUMPET CITY (CD by Inexhaustible Editions) *
44 x 44 ORPHAX REWORKED (4CD compilation by Moving Furniture)
MEURS – BLOOZE, HAZARDS AND OFF KEYS (CD by Decimation Sociale) *
(AD)VANCE(D)/LICHT-UNG (split 10″ by Licht-ung)
LICHT-UNG – AUBE (cassette by Cipher Productions)
PHIRNIS – CULINARY DELIGHTS (cassette by Superpolar Taips) *
THE TUESDAY NIGHT MACHINES – CHONDRITE (cassette by Superpolar Taips) *
DE FABRIEK – HBBGVZ (cassette by Universaal Kunst) *
OPT OUT – SALT IN YER BLOOD (cassette by Moonside Space Tapes) *
CALM! – MUSIC FOR FULFILMENT CENTRES (cassette by Moonside Space Tapes) *


The Japanese label 845 Audio is the label by Tim Olive and use sit to release the musical collaborations he is involved in. All of this comes in a ‘hand-stamped recycled chipboard cover’, and so far there have been 18 releases, which make a small, distinctive series of improvised music. Olive is a man who travels a lot and always meets up with interesting people to record with it. Usually, these are sessions from a single day of recording, but with some extensive editing afterwards. That’s why some of these releases take some time. A good thing, as I assume there is no travelling for Olive in the last year. Here, we first have a three-way collaboration from two different sessions in Vancouver, September 2018 and June 2019, with Joda Clement (Korg MS-30, harmonium, glockenspiel, and feedback), Mathieu Ruhlmann (ukelin, cymbal, tapes, objects) and Olive (magnetic pickups, preamplifier, octave generators). While I am not sure if I heard all the releases by 845 Audio, I would think that by now there is a common thread to be noticed in many of these releases, and that is the throughout the carefully constructed approach to the electro-acoustic end of improvisation. There is quite a bit of amplification here, culminating in a bit of more hiss/white noise at the top end, but it never goes into feedback. That is what I mean by the level of control. Some instruments are not easily recognized in these pieces, save for the odd bow upon strings/cymbal/objects in the final piece. But in the opening piece, we hear a mass of dark sounds, and objects being carefully moved around upon an amplified surface, resulting in a similar yet different mysterious piece of music. This is quite far removed from the traditional world of improvised music, with hardly any ‘normal’ instruments and some excellent interaction between the three players, each the master of their domain, knowing what they are doing and reacting accordingly. Excellent music!
    The other new release was recorded in Olive’s home base in Kobe, Japan on March 24, 2019, which marks the first meeting of Olive and Sergey Kostyrko, from St. Petersburg, and no stranger in these pages either. He plays the synthesizer (I assume of the modular variety) and electronics, and Olive this time for magnetic pickups and analogue electronics, whatever those might be (I would think foot pedals used by guitar players?). If a quiet approach is what ties the four pieces of the first release together, then certain harshness is the approach here. Harsh but with careful consideration; as said, that is a common thread to most of Olive’s collaborations. I would think, and I might be wrong, Kostryrko guides Olive here in doing something louder and grittier. They, too, have four pieces, but at thirty-two minutes considerable shorter than the other ones, which is forty-three minutes long. Here too, textures are carefully constructed, but the results are somewhat louder and stranger music but with a similar level of control. Olive plays the surface below objects, crackling and rustling like plastic bags caught in the wind, and Kostyrko layering his synthesizers with both similar sounds, the imitation of Olive’s, and different sounds, to mark the ‘other’ in the process. This too I found a most enjoyable release and again, not the sort of traditional improvised music, but now the harsher end of electro-acoustic music. Let’s hope Olive can soon be on the road again for new collaborations! (FdW)
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NICK ASHWOOD – UNFOLDING/OVERLAY (CD by Inexhaustible Editions)
FERRAN FAGES & LLUÏSA ESPIGOLÉ (CD by Inexhaustible Editions)
CRAIG SHEPARD – TRUMPET CITY (CD by Inexhaustible Editions)

It has been quiet from the Slovenian label Inexhaustible Editions (although, it might very well be possible some releases got lost in the mail). So, now I am looking at this bundle of new releases (which I may not all do this week) and what strikes me that they all look the same, design-wise. White digipacks, black lettering, minimalist design. Before committing these words to the screen, I played various of these to get an impression of what I was in for, and, more or less, deciding upon order, and it struck me that all of these work, again, more or less, with scores by composers, performed by others (though not always) and somehow could be loosely labelled as modern classical music. I started my journey with the work ‘Noctures (3 études)’, composed by Bruno Duplant and performed on a Fender Rhodes piano by Frédéric Tentelier. One of the reasons to start with this one is that I always love the sound of the Fender Rhodes piano. This is an electric piano, without strings but with thin metal tines and has a warm, slightly metallic sound with a beautiful sustain. This work is the result of a year in which Duplant “studied transcribed, traced, translated, harmonized, composed, decomposed, recomposed the score”, which he did in close connection with Tentelier, who becomes the co-composer. The three pieces were recorded at nightfall (obviously!) and ooze a great tranquillity. There is quite a bit of silence between the notes, which arrive like mild raindrops. I am not sure if there are many repetitions in this piece; there seems to be individual notes and sometimes a few at a time, and very rarely forming a strict sequence or melody. It is all perfectly quiet music, the soundtrack before going to sleep, to contemplate the day that is now gone; or perhaps music to sleep by. The sustain of the sounds rings through in all three études and just before it cuts entirely a new note is played, which adds a most pleasurable continious listening experience to this album. Somehow, the word ‘melancholic’ sprang to mind.
    In my quick, first scan of these releases I made, I noticed the music of Nick Ashwood, of whom I only know he is a member of 180º (see Vital Weekly 1200). I saw on the cover he plays acoustic guitar but upon inspection, I couldn’t believe this was an acoustic guitar. Upon closer listen and reading the cover, I learned that this is all to do with using a bow to play the strings. Ashwood has two recordings, both ‘live to tape’, with no editing, and I gather from the text that he plays two guitars at the same time. So, joined on a single stereo track, this is quite the massive drone sound that you may have expected. And yet, it is at the same time quite delicate music as well. The guitar sounds like a harmonium, controlled by the feet to let air in, wheezing like an old rusty one, down at the derelict church. Throughout this single piece (just under forty minutes), the music changes minimally but noticeable. The waves are a bit longer, sometimes following in closer proximity, shifting and drifting from one place to the next. Starting carefully, building and building and then, at thirty or so minutes, it starts a slow ascend, not to be confused with a fade out. Spaces become wider, or, rather, slower, and then it ends, as abruptly as it started. This is not necessarily modern classical music, and yet, also not, strictly, improvised music. It is a most powerful release of great slow acoustic drone beauty.
    Something entirely different is the music by Ferran Fages and Lluïsa Espigolé. She gets the credit for playing the piano and as with the release by Duplant and Tentelier, I would think this is another fruitful interaction between composer and performer, with the latter becoming co-composer. The pieces are slow and minimal. Like Duplant/Tentelier, this is an album about space we find between the notes, as everything unfolds in a rather slow manner. Or, maybe it’s better to say it doesn’t unfold and the music doesn’t go anywhere. It is just there. The notes and the (almost blank) spaces between just exist, as dots on an otherwise blank canvas, or stars in the sky. Espigolé plays the piano with some sustain, and she too waits uses that sustain to great effect. Sometimes until it all died down, or overlapping some of these pieces with an extra note or two. It is not an album that is all about silence with just a few notes. It is all rather present; this isn’t silenced for the sake of silence, but to leave enough space in between and let the listener in a more contemplative mood. I like the way we hear the piano chair, very occasionally, allowing for a small crack and as such, that is perhaps a human element. It has not been cleaned up, but it makes for a rather private session, like being present while recording, trying to be silent, and you know that fails. And yet none of that disturbs the proceedings and note for note the music continues a wonderfully strange trajectory. Now, this is surely something modern classical.
    A group of four musicians is needed to perform the piece by Stefan Thut, who is one of the performers here, playing the cello. Felicie Bazelaire plays the double bass, Frederik Rasten the acoustic guitar and Leo Dupleix controls the sine waves. The cover describes the process behind these seven pieces, which is not easy to summarize in a few words, so I copy a longer bit: “The piece among is scored for three string players and sine waves which a fourth performer is responsible for. Aside from the usual purposes the three string instruments – in the present version a double bass, an acoustic guitar and a cello – also serve as resonating bodies for loudspeakers: the sine waves are sounding employing transducers attached to the three wooden boxes. The instrumentalists attune initially to their respective sine wave and then continue in ratios of imaginary odd-numbered partials up to the 17th. However, the frequencies of the three sine waves are multiples of either prime triplets or other prime numbers like for instance on page one – 23, 29 and 37. This kind of harmonic space is more obfuscating the process of tuning than making things harmonically comprehensible as a whole”. The sine waves do not seem to play a large role in the music, or are very low in volume, whereas the three string instruments play rather carefully on top of that. Music in slow motion could have been the subtitle for this. All of these pieces are subtle interactions with both the instruments and with each other. Each plays a small curve and these curves are different from each other so that all of these small cycles intertwine differently all the time, and maybe that is down to that thing described with the prime numbers? I don’t know. Like the previous, I would say this one is definitely in the world of modern classical music, minimal and yet also something from the world of improvised music. Odd but great!
    The biggest ensemble is to be found on the last release, ‘Trumpet City’, a composition by Craig Shepard. It is for forty or more trumpet players in a public space. On disc one this is Manhattan (“51st Street” and on the second disc Brooklyn (“Meeker Avenue between Lorimer and Leonard Streets”). These two discs are recorded on these locations, so we hear all the surrounding activities, cars honking, people talking, tires screeching and all such things. It is as much a field recording as it is a musical composition. It reminds me of Bill Fontana’s Fog Horns work but now set in a slightly more buzzing city surrounding it. I open up both pieces in an audio editor to see which fragment would work best in the podcast and out of curiosity I played both discs at the same time. That gave also a most interesting result, especially because I didn’t start them at the same time. In general, the Brooklyn disc has the trumpet sound at quite a distance, whereas on Manhattan these are closer to the microphone. I have no idea how any of this was captured. I must admit I wasn’t blown away (no pun intended) by this piece. Sure, there is an aspect here that is interesting, playing a lot of instruments on the streets, but I can imagine this is all a most exciting piece of music to witness as it plays in a public space. A Compact Disc is of course not an equivalent to that. (FdW)
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Two names I’m unfamiliar with. But an interesting musical world is hidden behind those names with a history that goes back to the late 80s when it all started in a garage in San José, California. Strangely enough information on the Internet is sparse. The names of Jason Berry and Michael de la Cuesta are the first we have to mention. For three decades these two multi-instrumentalists were the nucleus of Vacuum Tree Head, a collective that stopped their activity in 2019. In changing line-ups the loose collective produced many recordings that remained however in obscurity. A lot is available at their corner on Bandcamp. Berry himself worked with The Molecules, Ron Anderson, Moe!kestra, a.o. ‘Rhizomique’ marks the end of this long-lasting project. In this last line up, we meet Steve Adams (baritone sax), Jason Bellenkes (sax, clarinet, flute), Jason Berry (electronic sounds, additional instrumentation), Myles Boisen (lap steel and pedal steel guitars), Amanda Chaudhary (keyboards, synthesizers, electronics), Richard Corny (electric guitars), Michael de la Cuesta (vibraphone, sitar, percussion, guitars, synthesizers), Justin Markovits (drum kit), Joshua Marshall (tenor sax), Amy X Neuburg (vocals), Brett Warren (electric basses). The name of Myles Boisen may be the most well-known one (Fred Frith, John Zorn, Henry Kaiser, Splatter Trio, etc), if not Steve Adams who is known for his work with Rova. The album opens with a jazzy tune, ‘Hegemony Cricket’, arranged for a great number of instruments. Leading up to richly coloured music. The first characteristic of their music. ‘Bosses’ has vocals by classically trained vocalist Amy X Neuburg and reminded me of the Fibonaccis. Their arrangements go into detail as the short and funny sitar-interlude shows. ‘Nubdug’ has a very infectious intro and is a catchy song. Again vocals that bring memories to Fibonaccis and Dagmar Krause, etc. With ‘Mystic Chord’ they decide on something completely different. This is an open and abstract avant-garde texture of electronics sparsely instrumented with woodwinds and lap steel guitar. Very atmospheric and also leaning towards elements of film music. ‘Ems Deluxe’ is a grooving piece of music and maybe for this reason the longest track. The album closes with ‘Bubbleclaw’, which is another example of how many ideas they can put in an ultra-short track. Most of the nine tracks clock between 1 and around 3 minutes. The album takes about 20 minutes in total, but because of the richness of ideas, instrumentation, etc., I got the impression it took much time. This also counts for the debut album by the Nubdug Ensemble. This ensemble is in many aspects a continuation of the genre-crossing operations of Vacuum Tree Head. De la Cuesta is no longer member, and this may be a reason for starting with a new name. The new line up has Jason Bellenkes (saxophones, clarinet, flute), Jason Berry (programming, sound design, additional instrumentation), Myles Boisen (guitars), Amy X Neuburg (voice), Brett Warren (bass guitars), Amanda Chaudhary (synths, keyboards, electronics). New participators are Sheldon Brown (flutes, bass clarinet), John Ettinger (violin), Lucy Foley (voice), Paul Hanson (bassoon) and G Calvin Weston (drums, percussion) of Ornette Coleman-fame. Their debut album ‘The Machines of Zeno’ consists just like ‘Rhizomique’ of nine short compositions. The contrast between the different genres they exercise is even bigger now. ‘Bronze Puppet’ is a very speedy piece with a throbbing bass reminding of John Zorn’s Film Music projects.‘Spicey Mango’ is a very danceable Caribbean piece with nice guitar work by Boisen. ‘Logjammin’, their try for a piece of modern composed chamber music, follows it. ‘Trapelo 445’ is a jazzy tune like we know from ‘Rhizomique’. ‘Prelude to Alea Lacta Est’ is an ultra-short abstract avant-garde miniature, followed by ‘Alea Lacta Est’ is a very explicit knot to ‘Take Five by the Dave Brubeck Quartet. All the tracks are small entertaining pieces on their own. But interesting is the strategy by which the very different idioms are combined. For sure, they do this from a light-hearted and optimistic attitude what makes both releases very charming and enjoyable. (DM)
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44 x 44 ORPHAX REWORKED (4CD compilation by Moving Furniture)

In early 2019, Orphax (aka head furniture mover Sieste van Erve) released an album of short sketches called “44 x 44”. It had a strict formal construction, spelt out right there in the title: 44 tracks, each track 44 seconds long. The idea, if I understand correctly, was that these short tracks were not necessarily finished pieces of music. They were quick sketches of sounds and ideas that van Erve wanted to try out to perhaps use later as source material for new music. “44 x 44 Orphax Reworked” is a new four-disc compilation that extends and develops van Erve’s idea by imposing an equally formal construction. Eight artists were tasked with using those short tracks as source sound for new compositions. The compilation is set up with two artists per CD, each track around 32 minutes long. I’m not sure what the time constraint means concerning the concept. Maybe it doesn’t mean anything. But it’s so specific, it must serve some purpose. Maybe can Erve just wanted symmetry?
    In addition to being an extension of a compositional idea, “Orphax Reworked” is a showcase for the people whose work Moving Furniture supports. One could consider it to be a nice introduction for new listeners who might wish to explore the label further. However, at four hours long, it’s difficult to absorb in one sitting and might be too much of a commitment for newbies (“Moving Music: Sounds From the Rocking Chair” does the job more economically). I enjoy this stuff generally and like a lot of what the label does, but I couldn’t escape the feeling that four discs of 32-minute tracks felt forced. It seemed like artists were padding their tracks with drones, extending sections of their pieces to meet the pre-determined length. In reaching for that half-hour mark, similar pacing across the album sets in. Perhaps that was the intent! I’m not sure. But the feeling of near-uniform pacing tends to dilute the otherwise enjoyable music and obscures a commendably diverse group of composers. 
    Disc 1 contains tracks by Ruarish Law/TVO (The Village Orchestra) & Modelbau (aka Frans de Waard). Law’s opening track of generic digital processing clicks and drones didn’t do much for me, but I thought Modelbau’s “Werderkering” worked quite well. De Waard atomized the Orphax source sound into rough, raw bits of cassette grit. While it still has audible seeds of drone, the wrecked texture becomes a compelling whirlpool of filth. Disc 2 features percussive loops and bodiless drones by Machinefabriek that well overstay their welcome, but also a fantastic piece called “Mimesis” by Fani Konstantinidou, whose excellent “Winter Trilogy/The Big Fall” album remains one of my favourite releases of the Moving Furniture catalogue. Konstantinidou’s track sets up an aggressive tension with a high-pitched alarm slathered in waves of cascading feedback. Her piece seems coiled and ready to burst until it tumbles into a coda of impressive machine grind. Unlike Machinefabriek’s track, which sounds as if it’s drifting along on autopilot, “Memesis” has life and urgency. Jos Smolders & Elif Yalvac take up disc 3, and finally, Siavash Amini & Orphax himself occupy the fourth disc. “Rideaux” by Jos Smolders is by far the strongest piece of the album. It showcases tense dramatic episodes of instability and beating patterns, competing for atmospheres and dissimilar velocities jammed up next to one another, never allowing the listener to get too comfortable. It’s a thrill. Elif Yalvac’s “Toxic Cloud” pretty much gives away the game with the title; her piece is, as you might have guessed, an amorphous haze that hovers and throbs and sticks around for longer than is necessary. It would have been stronger if it were 1/3 as long (something that’s true of most of this collection). By the time the final disc came around, I felt well familiar with the outlines of the source materials. Having noticed recognizable elements crop up over the previous three hours, it started to seem like work to continue. Siavash Amini’s “Unfold/Fluster” underlines the more percussive elements of the source material, with a grinding noise climax and soft drone landing. Orphax’ own take on his sounds is similar to Amini’s. He begins with a drone, shifts to a hasher section, then lets the percussion (sounds like… cymbals?) flit about in a cloud of electric fluttering. Neither are bad, but again I felt that the concept was getting in the way of the music. 
    After several runs through the set, I was left with a few thoughts: maybe “Orphax Reworked” is better thought of as 8 separate albums that happen to be compiled together, rather than a massive four-hour single statement. Furthermore: I’ll bet if Orphax took all 8 of these pieces and composed his own 32-minute piece out of them, that would be good. Such a move would honour both his source material and the voices of each contributing composer. But I’m thinking about the album as what I might have wanted it to be and not what it is, which isn’t fair. “44 x 44 Orphax Reworked” is ambitious but imperfect. It’s worth hearing for sure. One nice side-effect is that it’s got me returning to “Winter Trilogy/The Big Fall” again, so I’m grateful for that. (HS)
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Here’s the new album of nasty rock-adjacent slorping n’ glorping by Romain Perrot’s gutter-psych “band”, Meurs. You probably know Perrot’s recordings as Vomir, for which he produces a dense and motionless vacuum roar at high volume and uniform density for a rather long time. He’s made countless albums of pretty much that exact same thing. But wall noise is not what “Blooze, Hazards and Off Keys” is. This album is structured as two medleys: the first is 20 minutes long and the second is half an hour. It’s a mess, but a ragged glorious and engaging one. The production quality swings wildly from the third-gen tape dub grime that subsumes much of the first track to entirely legible (if still ragged) cleanly-recorded improv blurt at the end. There’s an undercurrent of naked desperation (sadness? ecstasy? hard to say for sure) that grips the entire album.
    “Blooze….” begins with drum-machine plod behind a black-hole-blues guitar roar (I was reminded of Dead Raven Choir, Kengo Iuchi and especially Keiji Haino) and Perrot’s unhinged declamations from deep within the tunnel. For ten minutes, the listener is submerged into a maelstrom of pungent fog and hiss… but the drums recede and we get a stretch of songlike moves that can only be described as (wait for it…) beautiful. That’s not a typo! This degenerate-psychedelic blast is a heck of a thing, gripping and utterly lovely in its broken-down vulnerability. The second track returns to (relative) song form with a delicate ballad for drum machine, piano and tape hiss that recalls the emotionally exposed anti-fidelity folk/noise of People Skills or Armpit. After a stretch, the song is overtaken by recording artefacts and tape dropouts until there’s a neck-snapping shift in production quality. Just when you thought you knew what “Blooze, Hazards….” had in store for you, Perrot pulls out the rug and all the artfully-degraded sounds become clear and full, as if someone flipped on a light switch. A tape loop voice announces “I’m sickened to death of this world” a couple of times… sub-bass rumble creeps in to ensure that the listener feels a bit sickened as well, and suddenly… we’re at an improv gig?! Clearly recorded guitar and saxophone accompany Perrot’s voice… spoken at first, then bellowed. The effect is not PE macho or even black-metal “evil”… more like the uncomfortably exposed rawness, something made in private and overheard rather than intentionally sung into a recording for strangers to play in their homes. The final stretch of the album ramps up the feeling that we’ve invaded someone’s privacy. First, a song based around an unsteady synth drone and Perrot’s howl like a ferociously drunk Edward Graham Lewis. The album ends with Perrot’s wrenching hysteria bracketed by cascades of water and faraway lone tone. It’s so minimal and unpolished, one can’t help but be overcome with the humanity on uncomfortable display. (HS)
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There are sections of ‘Mitragyina Metro’ that work incredibly well. ‘The Mysterious Life and Death of Dr Ahad Ghost Sonic Ontologist’ has a glorious section, about a third in, where this harsh drone slowly gets merged with a softer sound. Instead of creating something brighter it actually comes out more oppressive. Can’t quite get my head around why that happens, but it does. The slightly skewed melodies drift in from behind the drone and give the song a woozy effect. However, some sections sound like Sőrés isn’t quite sure what to do next and lets everything run a little too long. The first two-thirds of ‘”Haecceities” – the Deleuze “Effect”’ feel like this. When Sőrés gets to the final third there is a glorious dynamic between the shifting sounds that are missing from the previous 20-minutes. Of course, this is always going to happen with improvised music. The musician doesn’t really know what will happen next so when things are in a rut it’s hard to get them out. Saying that ‘Mitragyina Metro’ really does cement Sőrés’ reputation as an innovative and experimental musician.
    When listening to ‘Attention Span Reset’ it’s hard to make the connection to Sőrés on ‘Mitragyina Metro’. That album felt rigid and slow-moving, but here everything is in constant flux and dynamic. This is down to Rudi Fischerlehner. Of course, both albums are totally different beasts and the way a musician interacts with another musician is different to a solo project, but the difference is immediate. In the first five minutes, the action doesn’t let up for a moment. We are bombarded with stringed instruments, junk tables, fuzzy bass throbs, searing electronics and, well, pretty much everything else they can grab and mic up. It all works so well at creating a disorienting environment. It really is dizzying. About a third in Sőrés and Fischerlehner really get locked into an idea and just run with it. At times it can be a bit overpowering, but this really works for the music. It’s funny as normally when something is experimental, or extreme, it means playing really fast and loud. On ‘Attention Span Reset’ Sőrés and Fischerlehner have something experimental and extreme but it doesn’t go in the red all the time and the listener is given time to catch out a breath before the next onslaught. This feels like an instant classic and is one of 2021’s essential albums. (NR)
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I really hate using this word, but there is something eerie about ‘GRIFF’. Saying this out loud makes me feels like an amateur but, try as I want, I can’t find a better word. Each piece of music that Ingrid Schmoliner, Adam Pultz Melbye and Emilio Gordoa create is defined by the interplay of the instruments, along with the pauses between the musicians. Instead of writing lavishly flowing scores, here, the trio takes each note as it comes. There is no rush between them. After striking the note, it is allowed to ring out until it fades into oblivion or another musician gets an itchy finger and adds their contribution.
    On the opening track ‘But Still’ there is not rushed to get to the crux and Schmoliner, Melbye and Gordoa gracefully meander for 15-minutes trying to outdo each other on the eerie, that word again, stakes. This isn’t eerie in an Addams Family way, or a conventional horror film score. Oh no. It’s eerie in a way that I can’t really explain but at times it sends a jolt down my spine that numbs my fingers. It’s a feeling of total unease, but also being totally into it. It’s the feeling you get when you either send the wrong email to the wrong person or know you can’t make it right. It’s the feeling of realising something is lost but knowing nothing you can try will make it better. It’s also the sound of three exceptional musicians doing what they do best. Schmoliner’s piano is delusory sombre. Melbye’s double bass is heavy but subtle and Gordoa is doing things with a vibraphone that I’ve not really heard before.
    The best is definitely saved for last. On the CD at least, which features a bonus, untitled, track. It is effective a series of piano notes, and chords played in unison and allowed to fade out before the next discordant notes are played. There is something harrowing about it, but there is a skewed beauty to it too. By allowing the notes to fade into the ether, rather than hitting us again and again repeatedly, we are allowed to savour the music. Take it for what it is, but without not knowing what to expect next. It’s like when you order something in a restaurant and instead of allowing the food to mix in your mouth, you eat everything independently. You get super specific flavours in your mouth. When they have gone you eat something else, but there is a trace of the previous mouthful still there, so you do get a slightly overlaying of taste. This is what happens on ‘Which Itch’, the name the musicians gave the piece of music. It works really well and ends the album on a night, whilst acting as a bookend to the way the album opens. However, using pianos instead of bass.
    Overall ‘GRIFF’ is a fascinating album that never really lets you know what the point is but gives you just enough to make an informed decision. It’s an album that really works well played in a darkened room around the gloaming. The light from outside is dimming but still bright enough to see, but the shadows in the room take on an eerie texture. (NR)
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Two weeks I sang the praise of people who do many styles and yet never change the name of their project. That was concerning the music of Richard Youngs and Doc Wör Mirran. Maybe I should Derek Piotr to that list. His last work (I heard!) was for Important Drone Records, a long-form drone work using voice, and voices always play an important role in his music. Other works were based on laptop processing, some more radio play like and on this new record, Piotr sings and play the guitar. Now, when I say I like the fact that people change and do different things under one name or pseudonym, it doesn’t mean that everything they do is something that has my strongest interest. Richard Youngs’ singer-songwriting is great and probably the most loved thing of his (commercially that is), but it is not my cup of tea, and Doc Wör Mirran isn’t the best noise act in the world, and some of their rock music is not for me. After all of these considerations, you can imagine where this is going, and that is that Piotr latest turn in music is not for me. It is quite alike folk music, playing the banjo, and guitar in Appalachian style, and heavily on the lyrics, and, again (no surprise, as I repeat this quite often), you know lyrics and me, I have no idea what these are about. This is all rather remote from the world of Vital Weekly and I can imagine that with this kind of music Derek Piotr can reach a bigger audience than with some of his other music, which is great. But it’s not something that we know much about and therefore very hard to say something sensible about it. But let all of this not distract you! If you liked what he did so far, and you call yourself to be an adventurous listener, then surely do give this a spin. (FdW)
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Here we have another example of what is apparently a necessary thing: write your own history, nobody will do it for you. And writing such history can be in different ways, be it in some autobiographical form or let sources speak for themselves. It is in the latter category we find a heavy book by Alan Rider, who published the Adventures In Reality fanzine in the 80s, roughly from 1981 to 1984, and slowly expanded into releasing cassettes and records. Rider by then was one-half of a duo named Stress and the final issue was as a Stress special; however, that issue came out in 2012, when Stress re-issued some material on Dark Entries Records. Twelve issues in the ’80s and as they don’t have too many pages, this booklet a complete reprint of all of them, plus a bunch of ‘spoof fanzines’ by Rider and pages with flyers, reprints of cassette covers and record sleeves. The only missing, so I mused, was a CD set with the complete recordings (some of this has been re-issued later or is otherwise too difficult to get the re-issue rights, I would think). It is interesting to follow the musical interests of Rider through these issues, from the schoolboy handwriting of the first issue, discussing other fanzines from Coventry (Riders’ hometown), some records and concerts (particularly negative about the Slits there) and over time the shift in musical interest. Early on it’s all punk, but also early on an ongoing interest in local bands that sounded different than your average punk, such as Eyeless In Gaza and later on Attrition. From the latter, the fanzine issued a Flexi disc (part of the hardcover edition book version of this book; softcover to be issued a bit later) with Issue J. Adventures In Reality experimented with sizes, which means some issues look strangely enlarged. Some issues also contained other stuff, badges and so on. When the fanzine grew in pages and musical interests, it connected with a wider network of cassette labels, which is something we find in the content here, with interviews with Audio Leter, Irre Tapes, or a piece on the music scene in Norway. Punk music never disappeared from the pages and you can still find loads of obscure names here. That is something I enjoy a lot from these reprinted fanzines, especially when they are complete; you can go through them with a tooth comb and see if you can find any of these online. A while ago somebody said to me, it would be great to have a book with all that was written about Nurse With Wound or SPK from fanzine such as AIR, (Flowmotion, Audio, Interchange), but that sounded extremely boring to me. Much of that part of history was already written; by others. Here we open up a vault and there is a lot to explore (I haven’t read it all yet; that is a process of many months and then going back to see what I missed).
    Each issue gets an introduction by Rider, informing the reader of whatever was he considering and doing when compiling the next issue, who helped him and whatever is of notice, which gives an interesting insight of how each issue was received and in what way Rider responded. One of the things I particularly enjoyed in this book was a chapter on how Rider made his fanzine, the technical side if you will. Using stamps, plastic stencils, handwriting, using a Xerox machine to enlarge and reduce text, and Letraset (which I found a nightmare to use) and Tippex. A far cry away from computers, photosho, Adobe or, god dammit, “blog templates”. I am sure I used a few words here that must sound like an alien language for some people, but reading that bit made me almost dug my box of stuff that I used back in the day and do a proper DIY styled fanzine, right now. If only! No, I’m just too distracted by this book, having dug out cassette rips of the great (lost!) two tapes by Irsol, the classic Last Super compilation (with SPK, Test Dept, Attrition, Bourbonese Qualk; when compilations were a wholly different thing) or the Something Stirs compilation (The Legendary Pink Dots, Attrition, Bourbonese Qualk and The Furious Apples; still on rotating at twice a year!). Next up, Attrition’s ‘Death House’. It’s Sunday afternoon, I could do some more ‘work’, but I keep digging in this book and the label’s catalogue. It’s still early! (FdW)
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(AD)VANCE(D)/LICHT-UNG (split 10″ by Licht-ung)
LICHT-UNG – AUBE (cassette by Cipher Productions)

Licht-ung is not just the name of the label; it is also the musical project of Milan Sandbleistift. There is a bunch of very limited lathe cut records on his label, many of which are split records with other artists, such as in this case with the Dutch musician (ad)Vance(d), also known as Mars Wellink, one half of Vance Orchestra. This was to be released fourteen years ago but with some delay, now available. It has been a while since I last heard music from Wellink, but his ‘Ubungspause’ is a quick reminder of his well-known ambient style. Loops are carefully structured and layered and form a fine rotating pattern, once everything is in full play mode. This is the classic ambient-industrial approach of his solo project, which was also a presence in the work of Vance Orchestra. The repeating patterns of mechanical objects, with a dash of delay and other sound effects. It is a great piece, not too quiet, not too loud, perfect classic drone stuff. ‘Lichtpause’ by Licht-ung is an entirely different beast then. This is an exercise in feedback and noise, chaotic and distorted but strictly linear, almost as if this is a live-in-studio recording. Following the careful approach of (ad)Vance(d), this is quite the contrast. I am not sure if that was the idea behind this project, to do highly contrasting pieces of music, and I am not sure if it worked well, for me that is. I would think that supplements would have been better, even though I enjoyed both sides, with a slight preference for (ad)Vance(d).
    In February 2005 Sandbleistift sat down with two Aube records (‘Redintegration’ and ‘Spatio Temporal Cluster’) and used these single sources to create new music, and over the years he kept mixing and remixing, but it was Daniel Menche who did the final remix in 2019. Licht-ung, the label, released this on LP, in an edition of 21 copies, and Cipher Productions in Australia did the cassette version, in an edition of 75 copies. I quite enjoyed the first few Aube releases, but at a certain point, I found many of his releases too similar. The two records that were used as source material here I never heard, nor were they easily found online (and I admit I didn’t look very hard). In the hands of Sandbleistift and Menche, these become sturdy concrete bricks of noise. Maybe the single sound sources of Aube play a role (Roland SH-2 on one side and Amdek PCK-100 on the other side), but for all I know, it doesn’t matter what the sound input was. It dispenses with what I would call the usual Aube built-up, one sound at the time, adding another and so on, until it is all there, full-force. These two pieces are full force noise manifestations from the word ‘go’. There is quite a lot of filtering of these sounds going on here, especially on the B-side, ‘Zeiger Sein Allerhand’, which I preferred over the ‘Ausschwingen In Luft’, which moved from static noise to crude cuts. In both of these pieces, the influence of Merzbow on the overall sound approach is a strong feature. This is a very fine blast! (FdW)
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Blake Edwards, the man behind Vertonen, is not someone who does things by half, as he proofs, once again, with three new releases. I am quite a fan of most of his work, except for some of his noise work. With such a body of work, you could think that much of it is in the similar musical territory, but then you are wrong. The approach Edwards has towards the world of drones has many faces and here he shows how that works out. ‘Shallows’ and ‘Shallows II” (not sure why he didn’t use a double CDR release in one package) are work in which he uses field recordings, drones, small objects and creates some very interesting sound collages with this material This time it is not all put together in one big mass of sound, but in a more linear approach. Vertonen explores a few sound events and then moves on. On ‘Shallows’ there are more or fewer breaks within the piece, whereas on ‘Shallows II’, they are cross-faded slowly. The cover details the various sections, and they all have track titles (which reminded me of track titles by Hands To), so why he didn’t go for cutting these into separate tracks, I don’t know. The differences, so I gather from the information, lie in what sounds are used. On ‘Shallows’ this is “raw and processed field recordings with a focuses on over air recordings from closed, resonant internal spaces (churches, ventilation systems) external spaces (fields, forests) and external transmissions (shortwave radio)” and on ‘Shallows II’ “small manipulated objects and machines (cassette and microcassette recorded direct, small wood and metal assemblages), and processed field recordings”, but it is not easy to distinguish that with the result found on these discs. On ‘Shallows II” there is a whole section that I would think is all ventilation systems. Which, perhaps, only means, what do I know? I very much enjoyed the quiet approach Vertonen has here, bringing a much-needed rest in the headspace here, following some turmoil of a few days. The linear approach as well as the collage-like style of using different elements to tell his story works wonderfully well. The covers are hand-painted gouaches and will disappear over time, depending on how you handle them. I love that idea.
    ‘Elettra’ is a somewhat different work, a bit louder and working with ‘raw and processed shortwave signals’. I love the use of shortwave signals a lot. It is, next to the human voice, one very easy instrument to play (although it needs practice and creativity; that goes without saying). I have no idea if Vertonen uses a real radio or uses the one from the University of Twente, which allows you to tap deep into all short, mid and long frequencies worldwide. Also, I don’t know what Edwards does with these radio waves in terms of the processing; analogue or digital or perhaps a combination. He does something, that I am sure of. I believe I hear in each of the six sections to hear a mix of various signals and a few additional sound effects. Throughout this album is all a bit louder than the other two, or rather more present in the overall sound approach, but at the same time, it is effectively music of a similar quiet approach and deep listening. This is closer to the more usual drone approach of Vertonen, and it has the usual intense and mysterious sound that I know and love so much from him. There are so many voices on this release, just radio waves in many layers, and coloured by the use of sound effects. Excellent release. It once again made me think that a book on the historical use of radio signals as instruments is something I would welcome a lot, providing people such as Vertonen will get a place in there too! (FdW)
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PHIRNIS – CULINARY DELIGHTS (cassette by Superpolar Taips)
THE TUESDAY NIGHT MACHINES – CHONDRITE (cassette by Superpolar Taips)

Here we have another trio of cassette singles, cassingles in short, from Germany’s Superpolar Taips. Each limited to fifteen copies and many of these containing musicians I had not heard of before. Emerging Industries Of Wuppertal, for instance, have close links to the Cologne-based Strategic Tape Reserve label. The two pieces “were originally composed as ceremonial music for industrial rituals performed at key points during a Kondratieff Cycle”, you know from your economy class, those “hypothesized cycle-like phenomena in the modern world economy. The phenomenon is closely connected with the Technology life cycle. It is stated that the period of a wave ranges from forty to sixty years, the cycles consist of alternating intervals of high sectoral growth and intervals of relatively slow growth.” I copied that from Wiki; I forgot. Two electro-pop music ditties here, within the title piece cold clinical rhythm and dark synth in mid-tempo, bending cycle like – I had to work that in. In ‘Decommissioning Rites’ on the other side, the electronic rhythms get an occasional dub-like treatment, with a melancholic synth touch on top. Lovely and way, way too short! Maybe Superpolar Taips should invite them (he? She?) for a full length; maybe I should check with Strategic Tape Reserve (which, come to think of it, also has an economic theory ring to the name).
            From Vienna hails Phirnis and Superpolar Taips says somewhat cryptically that the musical output of Phrinis “stands for a longtime tradition of “chill noise” (The Antidote Podcast), which is to noise music what yacht rock is to heavy metal.” I have no idea what that means. Likewise, I wouldn’t know if the music of Phirnis is something that could be called ‘chill noise’. The two pieces here are quite experimental, based upon distorted samples of unknown origin, even when we recognize the drums in the title piece, along with distorted voices. It rattles and bursts with energy and is quite nice. On the other side is ‘Landslide’, which is close to five minutes long and a dark affair of lo-fi electronics, broken cassettes, small synthesizers and so on, drifting and falling apart and then slowly building up again until the drones reach a mighty crescendo and a hard cut marks the end of it all. Quite a heavy load, this one, but it connects well with the current wave of lo-fi drone musicians, so that’s great.
            Although The Tuesday Night Machines have “wandered the modern music synthesizer planes for over a decade”, I had not heard of them/it/him/her. They have a somewhat more digital approach to music, using beats and tones from digital machines, and granular synthesis. In ‘Dust’, it takes a few ambient moments on the keyboards before the song starts, the rhythm slipping in through the backdoor and slowly unfolding its dark, dystopian slow dance quality. In ‘Crater’, the rhythm is all present and the granular machines are working overtime here. This is a likewise dark beast of spooky, haunting music for the current bleaker times, I would think. I think I prefer ‘Crater’ over ‘Dust’ to be honest, and with the cassingles being limited to only fifteen minutes, meaning this will slip away, and ‘Dust’ with to be revived on a compilation with all the a-sides in this series. (FdW)
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DE FABRIEK – HBBGVZ (cassette by Universaal Kunst)

This cassette is housed in what is by far the best package of this week: an oversized matchbox, with a spitfire on the front and a few matches inside, along with pieces of paper. There are also versions released by De Fabriek, in a fabric sample and a cigar box. This all reeks of the old days when cassette packaging dared to be different, and this is mostly lost with current releases. The title acronym stands for ‘Het Best Bewaarde Geheim Van Zwolle’ (Zwolle’s best kept secret), which relates to the hometown of De Fabriek director Richard van Dellen. No doubt, a title with some irony, as on the first De Fabriek cassette, which dates from 1977, there was a song called ‘Kein Spass In Zwolle’, (No fun in Zwolle), which they updated a few times, but not on this new one. The usual cast of rotating members got a firm twist as none of the names on this cassette, but I understand that Richard is still part of it, and many of these are nicknames of fellow citizen’s of Zwolle. While the cover lists a bunch of tracks per side, it is not easy to single these out to individual tracks. Every section floats right into the next, and nothing stays on for very long. Throughout the music is slightly more abstract, following their more rhythm-based CD releases of late. The cosmic music thread that always was a part of their work is something that lingers a bit stronger in this new release, along with elements of industrial music and collage-style cut-up, including a voice bit about Zwolle and the cry of an infant. These sixty minutes read like a good overview of the musical development of De Fabriek for the past 44 years, condensed to one tape. Not just a brilliant package, but excellent music as well! (FdW)
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OPT OUT – SALT IN YER BLOOD (cassette by Moonside Space Tapes)
CALM! – MUSIC FOR FULFILMENT CENTRES (cassette by Moonside Space Tapes)

Two highly obscure releases in great packages. No information on either tape, but at least Opt Out lists track titles on the cover (and, oddly enough, not on the Bandcamp version). Both of these releases deal with atmospheric music, but with some minor differences. Opt Out, so I think, is a musical project that deals with a combination of field recordings, electronics by way of synthesizers and sound effects in an excellent lo-fi manner. Not exactly in the noisy variety, some similar operators in the genre have to offer, but on a very delicate, vulnerable level of things. At times even bordering towards near silence. A certain amount of tape hiss is allowed in these recordings. Going from obscured field recordings to the repeating bells of ‘Clychau Aberdyfi’, the overall approach is rather wider than narrow. In ‘Jonah’ (not sure if that is where I am at on the second side of this tape), there is a repeating bass drum and much use of reverb, reminding me of zoviet*france, followed by the ghostly, nocturnal processed feedback of Azimuth Circle’. Forty minutes of sonic silence and spacious drifts.
    The name Calm! doesn’t appear on the cover, but the title does; above the word ambient and an arrow, of which I thought, ‘that looks familiar’ until I realized this was of course the logo from Amazon. Bandcamp says this as information for this release: “Around 800,000 square feet in size, sortable fulfilment centres can employ more than 1,500 full-time associates. In these buildings, Amazon employees pick, pack, and ship customer orders such as books, toys, and housewares. Thanks to the innovations of Amazon Robotics, associates often work alongside robots, allowing them to learn new skills and help create a more efficient process to meet customer demand”, and that made me think, judging the music here that these are field recordings from an Amazon site. I might very well be wrong, of course. The difference with Opt Out lies in the fact that this is all a bit more ‘industrial’ in approach. The obscured sound of a vast space, treated and mixed with musical bits, such as the synthesizer in ‘Tote Poem’. But those melodic additions are a minority on this release, it is all the more vaguely, darker drones culled from processed field recordings of ‘Smoking Area’ or ‘Communal Area/Lockers’. While this isn’t exactly calm music, I enjoyed the ambient industrial approach this music has, and oddly, that too is a bit soothing and relaxing. Rest in unrest? Whatever it is that you want this to be, I guess, and I quite enjoy it. (FdW)
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