Number 1289

STEVE NOBLE – SOLO (CD by Empty Birdcage Records) *
JFK – NGANGA (CD by Fourth Dimension) *
SCISSORGUN – ALL LOVE IS NEED (CD by Aural Assault Records) *
ELEKTRA – FREQUENCY (CD by Blowpipe) *
CHRISTIAN F. SCHILLER – HOHNOR (miniCD by Records & Other Stuff) *
BAND OF PAIN/SRMEIXNER (split 10″ by Dirter Promotions) *
ALFA00 – (2)0)2(0_ (CDR, private) *
SENSITIVE CHAOS – CLOSER TO HOME (2CDR by Subsequent Records) *
MIKEL R. NIETO – BLUE MAGIC (miniCDR by R Archives) *
NICK DAN – YZYLSTNYNJZZ (cassette by Chemical Imbalance) *
T.D. – STANDING WATER (cassette by More Mars) *
MATTHIJS KOUW – WHO GOES THERE (double cassette by Barreuh Records) *
ERICH GRUNEWALD – VARIATIONER (cassette by Die Brücke)
ROBIN BARNICK – SUNDELIC (cassette by Superpolar Taips) *

STEVE NOBLE – SOLO (CD by Empty Birdcage Records)

Over the years, I have reviewed releases that involved Steve Noble on drums. I never knew until now that he played in the 80s with Rip Rig and Panic, Bow Gamelan Ensemble, and Brion Gysin and from there on played with many other improvising musicians. This is the first time I hear a solo release from him. He plays here snare drum, cymbals and percussion in a forty-one-minute-long improvisation, which is called ‘Solo’. While percussion is something that we recognize in this piece, it is also more than just that. Already in the opening minutes, Noble manages to sound like he picked up a saw and is busy sawing his kit in two. This work, a live recording made on the 6th of December 2020 at the Hundred Years Gallery, sees him moving from section to section and in each of these, he explores a few aspects of his drum part. Playing superfast rolls, playing the cymbals with a bow, going from sparse and intimate playing to a thunderstorm of fast consecutive notes and almost piercing noise, and all of this with the same gentle approach. It all makes perfect sense, and it all sounds quite natural in terms of how all of this envelops. A true beauty, this one. (FdW)
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Archer has a wide range of musical interests that are reflected in many of his projects. His interest in the AACM-music scene of Chicago is a very important one for him. No wonder several of his releases focus on this scene of black avant-garde jazz music. For his latest project ‘Hi Res Heart’ he had the trio of trumpeter Leo Smith in mind. A trio that operated in the 70s was completed by Dwight Andrews (reeds) and Bobby Naughton (vibraphone, percussion). Charlotte Keeffe (trumpet, flugelhorn) and Martin Pyne (vibraphone, drums, percussion, toy piano) who were invited by Archer for this project, introduced their own inspirations for this collective enterprise that has Archer playing sopranino, soprano, alto, tenor and baritone saxophones, clarinet, bass clarinet, bass harmonica, flute and electronics. The result is a very remarkable album in more than one sense. First because of how it came into being under the Covid-conditions. Secondly because of the musical quality. And one may feel triggered to ask if it is despite or thanks to the procedure they followed. “Each member of the trio wrote an initial idea for four pieces, recording their own part first. Sometimes multitracked. The other two players arranged and recorded their own parts in response” in a subsequent order that is indicated in the booklet. The sequence is indicated in the booklet for each track. Implying that the full intensity of reciprocal movements was not possible due to the circumstances it is surprising and wondering how tight and together this recording sounds. So corona was no obstacle in the end. In twelve compositions they offer us a varied journey with loose and entertaining works like ‘Looking for Gene’. While others like the most extensive work from this release, ‘Song for Bobby Naughton’ are of a more abstract and free atmosphere. ‘Earth Memory’ has an eastern flavour. ‘The story in the Mirror is a fun miniature that almost swings. ‘Sleep Uneasy’ is a very open and free excursion. Each composition has its own differing characteristics. The playing by all three is very dedicated and concentrated, and I especially liked the trumpet playing by Keeffe. Also, I prefer Archer in small jazz-oriented lineups like this one instead of his larger ensembles of prog-oriented music. (DM)
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JFK – NGANGA (CD by Fourth Dimension)

Anthony DiFranco’s ‘Nganga’, first released as an LP in 2017 by Chondtritic Sound, gets a well-deserved CD reissue treatment from Fourth Dimension. You may know DiFranco’s work as part of unpredictable we-do-whatever-we-want-and-expect-you-to-catch-up band Ramleh (for sure the most consistently challenging and interesting group to come out of UK “power electronics”), or as his solo projects Ax or Ethnic Acid. Under the JFK flag, DiFranco makes remarkable rhythmic industrial noise, and I do mean “industrial” in the classic sense. This is the sound of malevolent machines pounding relentlessly… aggressive, assertive, heavy as heck without pause. The opening track, “The Scythe”, gets right to the point… a minute of electric filigree, then blammo: machine-gun snare scatter and ultra-heavy pounding bass. “Star-Killer” (great name, eh?) follows with a more anthemic take, then it’s back into the pitch-dark pummel. The title track flirts with breakbeat confusion, throwing all sorts of beats into the air to jarring effect… DiFranco cranks the emotion up even further with the next track, a heroic anthem called “Zarathustra”. A striking feature of the JFK sound is the way that individual sonic components are lush and room-filling while the compositions remain uncluttered… complex competing rhythmic details amid ice-cold synth daggers and controlled malevolence. Fans of Esplendor Geometrico or Scorn would love this. “Nganga” is the soundtrack for your summertime noise pool party; play it loud. This CD version appends two tracks that first came out as a lathe-cut 7” with some copies of the 2017 LP. (HS)
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SCISSORGUN – ALL LOVE IS NEED (CD by Aural Assault Records)

Sometimes I am repeating biographical information about a musician, and I get curious about an aspect. In recent years I wrote a few times about Dave Clarkson (just recently a great cassette with some original take on field recordings; Vital Weekly 1286) and a few times it came up that Clarkson has a duo with Alan Hempsall, called Scissorgun. Hempsall’s other band needed no introduction, as Crispy Ambulance I already came across when they had their 10″ on Factory Records in 1981, and their ‘Live On A Hot August Night’ is an ever-lasting favourite, especially ‘Concorde Square’, with that strange long ending that I always played on 33rpm, and not the recommended 45 rpm. Scissorgun was a later album by Crispy Ambulance, which I started to follow again when, post-2000, all things Factory Records started to interest me again. In the duo here, Clarkson plays synths, keyboards, electronic drums, household items, field recordings and Hempsall vocals, words, guitar, effects and treatments. This has more to do with Crispy Ambulance’s music than what I know from Clarkson. This is the most sturdy electronic pop music with a mild experimental edge. Hempsall’s voice is very much recognizable here and the music veers between the up-tempo, almost aggressive tune to very laid back electronics, in ‘Dark Routines’ for instance. Some of this is very dancefloor minded, but in a sort of 80s way and others are the mood and depression from the same age, but all of this doesn’t mean that this is all very retro-minded. The Crispy element of krautrock and psychedelic music, which is something I always fond to be a part of their music as well, is also something that lingers here, with that spicey guitar that Hempsall waves through some pieces; other pieces seem entirely electronic. Like the Elektra CD reviewed elsewhere, this might be too pop-minded for these pages, but I enjoyed (both) all the same, with a slight preference for Scissorgun. (FdW)
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Blowpipe is one of my favourite Dutch labels when it comes to all things alternative music. Unlike other favourites, such as Moving Furniture Records and Barreuh Records, Blowpipe’s choice for music is wider and reaches easily the outer limits of pop music, with acts as Big Hare, Harald Austbø and Elektra. Behind the latter, we find Elektra Dekker, who has various releases on this label, of which we only reviewed one 7″ (Vital Weekly 893). Her music might not even be outer limits pop, but already firmly inside real pop music. Electronic pop that is, via strong pulsating rhythms and sequences, and on top of that she sings with mucho gusto, drama, aggression and also introvert and full of emotion. Heavy on the lyrics, and I have no idea what these are about; ‘Fat, Sugar & Cream’, ‘Soldier’, ‘DareBeDoll’. I understand from the information it is about “love, lust, murder, child abuse, isolation, aliens and alienation, attraction though molecular resonance”. Her rhythms are influenced by the world of breakbeats, rather than straightforward ones. At times the music is pretty oppressive, such as the crying of a baby in ‘Freedom Train’, which has quite a depressive tone. It is also one of those pieces without much rhythm. Like I noted last time, there is something creepy about the music from Elektra, and that is something that is also a continuing on this CD, but in the execution, there is always the pop element; short songs, melodies, rhythms and while, maybe, not a sing along pieces, I found this most enjoyable, even when it is just outside our normal range of music. (FdW)
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On all occasions so far that I reviewed music by Stijn Hüwels it was in collaboration with another musician, and this new one is no different. Here the Belgium musician meets up with Tomoyoshi Date, also no stranger to these pages, who works as Opitope (with Chihei Hatakeyama), among others. I assume the meet-up was not physical but digital, which is not something you can hear. Just as well, this new release might be by two people in the same room, playing music together, but who knows? Their first album was a release for Home Normal and recorder together in Tokyo. The title of this new album is a poem by Tadahito Ichinoseko, who recites it on the final piece of the album. Hüwels plays the guitar and pedals, and Date plays piano, harmonium, synths and field recordings. If I had any expectations (I think I had not), and I was asked to map out what kind of music these two musicians create, I would surely come up with something they actually did. This ticks all the boxes, ‘ambient’, ‘quiet’, ‘careful’, ‘slow’, ‘meandering’, ‘spacious’ and ‘minimal’. This applies to each of the five pieces. In every one of them, they carefully explore textures with a limited set of means. In ‘A Big Tree With A Bump That Is Older Than Me’, for instance, there are some sorts of field recordings at work that sounds like percussion and to which real percussion is added, along with piano and subtle drones. The latter are, I’d say obviously, something that is present in every track here, again there is the word carefully, constructed from harmonium and guitar. I assume the latter has a double role, laying down drones and occasional placing loose notes in the overall composition. In the musical field in which they operate, these two are masters of the trade and this is one example of how these things work best. (FdW)
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In Vital Weekly 1216, HS reviewed ‘Electronics’ by Organum, which was quite the change for Organum’s David Jackman. In the last decade or so, Jackman used quite a lot of real instruments to construct a bizarre composition that may or may not be the same. After that came ‘Stillness’, not reviewed on these pages, and the name was changed to Organum Electronics, which is also the banner for ‘Solitude’, a thirty-six-minute piece of harsh electronics. Oddly enough, the artwork didn’t change and is still similar to the artwork of his ‘quieter’ phase and which I think is pop art without the images. I have no idea if David Jackman acquired a set of modular electronics to do this, or if this is something he always had but not used a lot. The loud character of the music brings back memories of the very first record I heard from Organum, ‘In Extremis’. I always thought that was made with acoustic instruments played with mechanical objects and slowed down, and I might be wrong. It had that density of ringing sounds that I enjoyed a lot back then and still do; Organum is one of the three or four musicians of whom I own a lot of records. That sort of density I also find in ‘Solitude’, even when it might be all electronics. It sounds like being trapped in the machine room of a large ship. The more you concentrate, the more little nuances appear in the music, an odd sense of movement in a standstill notion. The music might be loud, but it has not the similar aggression I find in some noise records. There is, odd as it may sound, a soothing aspect to the music. I am a fanboy, I admit that, and that means Organum can’t do wrong. It was a bold move to change the style of music for David Jackman, but most enjoyable! (FdW)
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CHRISTIAN F. SCHILLER – HOHNOR (miniCD by Records & Other Stuff)

This is a whole section with releases that arrived within the space of one week, and which, at least I think so, can be called modern classical music. It is not my area of expertise, as we will see. Let me start on common territory, and that is the two new releases by California Cold Blue label and the release by John Luther Adams. I reviewed some of his previous releases before, the last time in Vital Weekly 1250. This new one also explores his interest in Aeolian harps, as first heard on the tundra. This new work uses for string players (violin, viola, cello, and double bass), and four singers (two soprano, alto and bass), plus three layers of digital delay, which increases the mass of sound considerable at times. The texts are based on names of Arctic places, plants, weather, birds, and seasons in the languages of various peoples of Alaska. If I had not known that, I would guess something religious, but they sound as eerie as the Arctic winds these voices sound. The strings played similarly, brushing the strings, creating overtones when fed through the digital delay (well, I am not sure, but that is what we are made to think of course). Like in his previous work, ‘Lines Made By Walking’, the Nordic feel is apparent in this music. Like a polar wind over barren land, this floats and floats, something gaining strength, occasionally losing it, like natural forces. In ‘One That Stays All Winter’, all eight players resemble the sound of snowflakes falling. At times, I was thinking there were some more electronics heavily at work, especially in the dark and droney opening piece, ‘The lace Where You Go To Listen’, and I enjoyed this hallucinatory play of the mind; electronic sounding and not electronic generated. Great one.
    Also, Peter Garland is no stranger to these pages, and especially his ‘Moon Viewing Music’ (Vital Weekly 1117) is one I remember most fondly. That one was for three large gongs and a large tam-tam. This new CD contains piano music, the three-part ‘Three Dawns’ and nine parts making up ‘Bush Radio Calling’. The first is “loosely based on poems by Jean-Joseph Raberivelo”, and the second was “written for the experimental music-theatre work ‘Just Them Walking’ by New Zealand’s avant-garde theatre company Red Mole”. The title of the latter refers to a network of Aboriginal radio stations, operating in the Australian outback. There is a story behind this, which is too big to repeat. I am sure you can find it online. Not seeing the theatre at work is, I think, something unfortunate, as the piano by itself doesn’t tell us much about the story. Both pieces and all the parts they contain are excellent pieces of piano music; the instrument sounds traditional, even when I read that ‘Three dawns’ isn’t an easy to play piece; see, and here’s what I call my lack of expertise: I have no idea how to play the piano. I couldn’t have told you if it was difficult (or easy). The music isn’t along the lines of Erik Satie or Claude Debussy, doesn’t seem too modern, or minimal and yet, curiously also not too traditional. It had something captivating that I discovered after repeating listening, especially some of the forceful repeated notes and chords in some parts of ‘Bush Radio Calling’, such as the first, “Ringatu (Variations On A Chord By Dane Rudhyar) For Alan Brunton”. This one was for me a slow-growing beauty.
    ‘Who is Blue Gene Tyranny?’, I asked myself and when I looked it up, I had to rephrase ‘is’ to ‘was’ as he died on December 12, 2020. His real name was Robert Sheff, and he performed pieces by John Cage, played with Carla Bley, Iggy & The Stooges, Laurie Anderson, David Behrman and was a composer. I expressed my (pleasant) confusion about his work before, and that state of mind returns with this six-CD set. This is some strange music, be it when he plays the piano solo, or synthesizers, computer treatment, chamber orchestra or in bigger ensembles, such as Peter Gordon & Love Of Life Orchestra playing his composition ‘Tango For Band’. As much as I thoroughly enjoyed some pieces, ‘Spirit For Piano’, the Peter Gordon piece (almost a jazzy big band piece), ‘Meditation For Trio And Chamber Orchestra’, I also didn’t enjoy some others. ‘The Driver’s Son’ for instance, spanning one and a half CD is a sort of chamber opera for vocal, piano, synthesizer, and percussion. Some pieces I found particularly kitschy, almost new age, but oddly enough some were also interesting to hear (the three parts of ‘Dreamtime’ for instance). Some pieces sound like commercial jobs that one would perhaps hideaway from a serious anthology, but if one thing is clear from this box set, is that the man had a lot of humour (barn sounds in ‘Barn Fever’), as well as being serious and that he made no distinction between high and low art. High-class compositions next to a loungy jazz piece, or a country ‘n western piece, performed by The Ned Sublette Band. I was shaking my head (‘you can’t do this) and nodding in affirmation (‘right on, bro!’), as I leapfrogged from surprise to surprise. Indeed, ‘Blue’ Gene Tyranny found a lot of degrees of freedom, worthy of a book explaining in more detail what all of this was about. The booklet details a lot of information on the actual tracks, but not much about the composer and his life, which is the only downside here.
    And from the longest release, we hop over to the shortest, just under nineteen minutes. ‘Hohner’ by composer Christian F. Schiller, performed by soloists Doris Nicoletti and Viola Falb and Studio Dan also appearing. ‘Hohner’ is a brand of harmonicas (I believe it is the brand of which one was stolen by John Lennon in Arnhem, in 1960), and they are the two solo instruments here. The (small) ensemble has furthermore a violin, cello, double bass, slide trumpet, trombone and drums. Now, this is the most serious piece, top-heavy under the lengthy sustaining tones played by all. The harmonica is never out of sight as I would think, flowing in like cascading waves, and the other instruments follow suit, even the rattling of the percussion in the background. While I have no idea if this work is about ‘anything’ in particular, I very much enjoyed the sustaining character of the music, reminding me of Iancu Dumitrescu, who has the same intensity in some of his compositions. It is much too short, as I would not have minded this to go for some more; or hear another composition by Schiller for that matter. (FdW)
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Here’s another surprise record from Jason Kahn. Like so many musicians he was locked up for most of 2020 and during the first lockdown, he rode his bicycle through the streets of his hometown Zürich, on his way to Kunstraum Walcheturm, where he recorded many times before. The streets were empty, most shops closed and people inside. In the studio, there was also nobody and Kahn picked up a guitar, set up a few microphones and started to sing and play the guitar. He played for two hours, giving his voice rest after each song and tuning the guitar. Then he went home and didn’t revisit the recordings for six months, not thinking about a release. In the lengthy liner notes, he describes this process and then about the various titles for these pieces. There has been editing of mixing in these pieces, things are as they were recorded on April 9, 2020. This record has five pieces, of which three spans an entire LP side. I heard a lot of music from Jason Kahn, and it is fair to say this is among his most radical works in sound. The guitar is not played in any way that is requiring three chords, hell, one chord, but open-ended plucking of strings, making up things as he moves along, and in his singing, it is not about words but sounds he creates with his mouth. Gurgling, whispering non-words, screaming and everything else that is humanly possible to do with the voice. It is intimate and at the same time very expressive. It is about control of both instruments, sometimes repeating certain fragments and phrases, but it is also about chaos and madness, a cry for freedom if you want; a man captured in solitude, letting it all out (and mind you, I don’t think a lockdown because of COVID-19 equals losing freedom; I have no idea how Kahn feels about this). This is a very subtle exercise in weirdness. At least that’s what I think. (FdW)
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BAND OF PAIN/SRMEIXNER (split 10″ by Dirter Promotions)

While, no doubt, the people that started Record Store had the best of intentions, I can’t help thinking the initiative has been hi-jacked by the industry moguls to sell us the same record, again and again. What? You don’t have a 240 half-speed re-mastering on yellow marbled vinyl of ‘The Return Of Durutti Column’ with an obi, numbered to 7500 copies? I am a sceptical old bastard. I would have hoped that the labels I write about stay clear from such blunt marketing techniques, but, no surprise (otherwise this wouldn’t have come up), here’s one label that didn’t get my mission statement. It is, of course, about the music! It took me some time to figure out that this was as a split 10″ (well, it said so on the sticker) and Band Of Pain is responsible for ‘Priti Vacunt’ and Contrastate SRMeixncer for ‘Deceit/The End Result’. There might be a COVID-19 related theme for this, but I have no idea what positions are taken here, if any at all, of course. I haven’t heard much new music of Band Of Pain in a long time, so I am not entirely how to fit this in with whatever Steve Pittis, the one-man Band Of Pain, is up to in recent years. Here, voices are mangled; no doubt with COVID-19 related content, along with a set of dark and obscure electronics, more sounds of madness and solitude, perhaps. It has very little to do with the Sex Pistols’ original of a slightly different title. Somewhere a rhythm machine is switched on, bringing some more order to the slightly chaotic first half, but it remains a mildly muddled affair. SRMeixner starts with rhythm and a preacher tape about vaccination (I bet that means no good). I quite enjoyed the forceful approach here, full of buried aggression. In ‘The End Result’ there is more voice manipulation, and it takes the whole thing in a different direction; that of scattered and broken musique concrète, with a lot of failed machines. Another comment, perhaps? (FdW)
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ALFA00 – (2)0)2(0_ (CDR, private)

This may seem a new name, but behind is Slavek Kwi, who we otherwise know as Artificial Memory Trace. I didn’t know this new project, but his Bandcamp is filled to the brim with music. This particular CDR is part of a much larger work, 298 hours and 31 minutes long, and is a large study in kwatarese recorded during the whole year 2020. Kwatarese is an “abstract multi-dimensional meta-language resemblant to the human concept of “music” using the surrounding audio-environment as an interface (WSi = weather-sensitive installation) of connection in between transmitting and intercepting parties simultaneously. “Kwatarese” is more focused on sharing the experience rather than information, looking for creating an irrational sense of balance and resonance in between participating elements.” Sounds great, even if I have only a faint idea of what it does. The first five minutes are the loudest bit of the 79-minute piece and can be used to adjust the volume to one’s liking, the rest is then at the same level of comfort. Is this a field recording? Is this a computer playing variables according to the weather? It sounds like one of those meditation apps, which you set to automatic play at various intervals. This sounds better, more human, moving from section to section, more than these apps would do. There are instrument-like recordings, percussion, Aeolian harps or fences, rain sounds, drones and so on, and everything moves at a slow but steady pace. It is very ambient music, but it avoids the well-weathered paths of standard drones and synthesizers, and it takes field recordings in an entirely new direction, or so at least I think. As much as I loved this and wanted to hear more: when will find time to listen to 298 hours and 31 minutes of this? That was a bit of a downer, but otherwise, I think this is an excellent release. (FdW)
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Of course one should not have prejudices, but when I opened the package of the eleventh Sensitive Chaos release and saw photos of band members playing violin, saxophones and guitars, my first thought was ‘this might be a case of sending the wrong medium’. The booklet describes the music as “ambient, world, electronic, jazz, found-sound, and downtempo chillout”, which could be up to our alley, right? I think their sound is closer to the friendlier version of progressive rock, due to the band’s line-up, and while I know one musician who is labelled prog-rock, much to his regret, I have not much idea about the music, despite liking a few oldies, but otherwise: no clue. I played this double CD with much interest, never afraid to experience something I don’t know, and I enjoyed various bits and pieces here and some I found terrible, especially those with smooth jazzy saxophone parts and there were a few of those. When the music veered towards a more electronic sound, maybe laced with a few field recordings, then I found it pretty good. The band contains some highly skilled musicians, and much attention has been paid to the production. I understand that Jim Combs, the keyboard player here, is the main man here. I would be interested if the man did solo work that is more experimental. The extensive booklet (a fine read about how this album was made) seems to hint at that. A great album arrived at the wrong place. (FdW)
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MIKEL R. NIETO – BLUE MAGIC (miniCDR by R Archives)

These five mini CDR releases are re-is§sues of old works by Mikel R. Nieto, which, so he says, were re-pressed due to interest shown by some people. In total, ten copies are made of this second edition. They are not in a box, but in separate jewel cases with a banderole and artist name, title and numbering. I started with ”Untitled (For Juan Miro)’, which is one raw recording from 2009 made at the Joan Miro park in that city. A very quiet recording as it turns out, almost inaudible. It sounds like white noise and a bit of wind plus (turn up the volume quite a bit for that) some sort of electronic sound, maybe from aa ventillation system. That’s it. Unless there is a conceptual edge that I am missing here, I didn’t find this one particularly interesting. On the other end of the volume spectrum, we find ‘Blue Magic’, a work he recorded at the Elektronmusik Studion in Stockholm. They have lots of analogue gear, but I am not sure if that is what Nieto uses here, as it all sounds very digital. Digital noise that is, and very loud at that. Unlike many other noisemakers, Nieto created something very chaotic and changing, nothing too static. Towards the end, Nieto shifted towards a more rhythmic pulsating layer, all still very loud. Quite good, said the man who heard enough noise not to hear many again. Underwater recordings can be heard on ‘Exciting Moments From The Dicovery Of Sound In The Sea’, pulses from “several unknown underwater insects”, slowed down one hundred times and the result is a very deep bass rumble. You need to crank up the volume quite a bit to hear this (or maybe I turned it down when I was playing ‘Blue Magic’?). I would not have minded a more listenable version as it sounded pretty interesting. There is a stereo separation that I can see when I opened the soundfile but that I don’t perceive by hearing. This is an interesting conceptual work. Another ‘Untitled’ is for Francisco Lopez who gave a workshop in Madrid in 2007 and Nieto was one of the participants. For each of the 14 participants, he created a track, using “No Input Mixing Board Digital”, which is fourteen variations on computer noise. All pieces last one minute and eleven seconds, and they consist of static noise, no changes at all. Some sound pretty much alike, but there are also some differences. ‘Printing Pattern’ is the sound of a printing machine, at least that’s how it sounds at the start, switched and put into motion. When it is in motion you hear the sound of a machine, which might be printing something, but it hasn’t that classical print rhythm noise. It is more being inside a machine room, which makes this all quite heavy. This is a short (under ten minutes) piece and quite powerful.
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NICK DAN – YZYLSTNYNJZZ (cassette by Chemical Imbalance)

Here we have two releases with music by Nick Dan, who plays the drums on the first and ‘pure modular synth’ on his solo release. XNOBBQX is a duo of him and Matt Earle on guitar. On Easter Sunday this year they played outdoors in “a state forest on a concrete spillway, next to a stream and sandwiched in between two techno DJs”; not if the latter has any bearing on the music. Spillway and stream are not heard on this recording, but that might also because the music is quite loud and noisy. This is a matter of very free improvisation with no prisoners taken. There are two lengthy cuts here, sixteen and eighteen minutes long, in which they trash their instruments. These remain recognizable as drums and guitar, but not of the playing is very conventional. Having said that, one could think of the guitar here as somewhat inclined to the world of noise rock, which you can’t say of the drums here. I reminded of the Dutch duo Donne & Desiree, who I think is no longer working as such, and their punky attitude towards improvisation. This is one to play annoyingly loud.
    As said, on his solo release, Nick Dan plays modular synthesizer, and he has nine pieces, lasting one hour. In this, he displays a similar approach to this instrument as he does to the drums, and that is spikey noisy improvisations. He’s not alone in that specific field, of course. I must say that I like what I heard, but at the same time, I wasn’t convinced either. Maybe it has to do with the whole thing about modular synthesizers; they engage to improvise and that is great, but it does not always work as a solo instrument for me. Nick Dan certainly has control over his instrument, playing around with minimal changes in a louder context, but I couldn’t help thinking some of this goes on a bit too long, without any significant changes. I’d love to hear work from him on the modular synthesizer within the context of a duo/group improvisation. (FdW)
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T.D. – STANDING WATER (cassette by More Mars)

While I heard the Alexandra Spence and MP Hopkins release twice in a row, I noticed some annoyance here; with myself. I wasn’t able to concentrate properly on the music. I switched it off and decided to return another day. In a better frame of mind, I realized that the music is very quiet most of the time. Both musicians are from Sydney, Australia and from MP Hopkins I reviewed work before, and from Spence, I may not have heard before. I understand that they use “foil, flutes, tuning forks, tones, tapes, tiny bananas, stones, mouths + more” and that they explore “the spatial and sculptural elements of a practice in experimental sound”. This is their debut release, taped in a room with a pair of microphones around the tables with these objects, and “additionally, Spence and Hopkins shared a pair of in-ear binaural microphones that they roamed the room with, taking turns to inspect up close, and from afar, each other’s sonic activity”, which I think is a nice touch. I imagine these seven pieces are in some way edited from these recordings, so we hear various recordings together. There is a constant verge of feedback in these pieces, which adds an interesting texture to the rummaging of objects, which also goes on here. Feedback, in whatever stage it appears here, is even the glue that holds this together. Upon closer inspection, I realized this is not ‘easy’ music at all. You need to sit down, open up the volume quite a bit, and then immersive yourself in this, and then you realize this is some great stuff
    Behind T.D. we find Thomas DeAngelo, from Philadelphia, USA, who recorded the two side-long compositions between 2016 and 2019, and the label description is “Sound collages, field recordings, improvisation, noise”. Side A contains ‘For Cy (1988)’, and I have no idea where there is a date mentioned there and on the other side, there is “Melk Extracts” for which he received sound material from Jim Strong, Allen Mozek & Stew Skinner. Noise is the operative word here, but it is the noise of the variety with some thought out into it. The first side is a collage of noises, loud and quiet, lifted from random sources, mostly radio I would think, at times a bit on the chaotic side, mainly when it comes to using cracked contact microphones upon uneven acoustic objects. The other side sees T.D. working on a noisier set of sounds, with quite a bit of distortion throughout these twenty-four minutes. Sporadically the proceedings stop and re-start with seemingly every time louder result. It is all pretty straightforward stuff. I enjoyed the collage approach to noise best about this release. Nowhere it is for too long and that is another big plus. (FdW)
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MATTHIJS KOUW – WHO GOES THERE (double cassette by Barreuh Records)

Maybe it is a bold claim, but whenever I see an announcement for a sleep concert, they end at 3 a.m. Then you have to get up and leave. That is not my sleeping routine. Nijmegen based arts collective Extrapool came up with a program called ‘Nachtploeg’, (i.e. nightshift) and the idea was to start at 11 at night and go on all night until 8 in the morning, wake everybody up and have breakfast. Covid-19 was a spoiler, so the two events so far resulted in an online presentation and a truncated concert, Matthijs Kouw, also known as MvK, but going by his full name here was the first and now Barreuh Records released his composition ‘Who Goes There?’ as a double sixty-minutes cassette. The title is asked to the potential audience of such a concert but is “In homage to Thomas Ligotti, this piece is titled after a section from his book “The Conspiracy Against the Human Race”. In this book, Ligotti dives into the philosophy of pessimism and its implications for humanity. Thought attempts to take distance from sources of dread – only to circle back to them. Our bodies and the discomfort they may cause us. The uncanny and the surrounding mysteries we cannot seem to grasp.” Kouw relates this to the experiences of listening to long-form drone pieces, so maybe it is a question about the audience. I was in the small audience at the presentation and Matthijs Kouw played it quite loud, but on the cover, he writes ‘listen on repeat at low volume’. This piece, exactly two hours, is on cassette, obviously, broken into four sides, which is a pity (here a DAT release would have been handy! Providing someone has a DAT machine, obviously), but it keeps you awake, I guess. Alternatively, you can use the Bandcamp version for such uninterrupted listening. Try both, if you have the time, and compare them. I enjoy this kind of super slow music a lot. It reminded me of Calineczka and releases on Important Drone Records. This is not something to experience ‘as is’, but rather undergo as a presence in your space. I didn’t shut off my air conditioner, nor did I close the balcony doors and decided to make all part of the Kouw composition, but I also tried to add very little else, but this drone piece, going slowly from one place to the next, along with the motorized air ventilation and the birds outside, with the occasional car passing. This is something that I will certainly repeat with a few other sound sources. Will I play this in the bedroom?  That is a question I yet have no answer for. (FdW)
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This duo has been around for thirteen years but in recent years a lot less active. Distance between both musicians might be one reason (The Hague/Tilburg and Berlin), but also other occupations. In the case of Wouter Jaspers (also known as Franz Fjodor, and part of Odd Narrative and Ezdanitoff), his work with the development of musical toys as Koma Elektronik (a company he left late last year) kept him off music for quite some time. The other half is Steffan Turck (also known as Staplerfahrer, part of A Vibrant Struggle, and Hexeneiche). They still get together occasionally, pop open a bottle of wine, light a cigarette and then start to play around with their toys; synthesizers, electronics, electromagnetic waves, and loops. I enjoyed their previous release, ‘You Are The Universe’ (released by Moving Furniture Records, Vital Weekly 1141), which had an odd yet great take on the notion of cosmic music, here they continue and expand that notion. However, on this tape there is more improvised music feeling to the music, sometimes going a bit too long, such as the music on ‘Across The Floor’, but the synths that open ‘The House Next Door’, sound fat and tasty. The second part of that piece has a broken loop of sounds, slowly going out of control, including a voice buried in the mix (or perhaps, from the house next door). The last part of ‘Across The Floor’ has a powerful drone laced with field recordings from one of Berlin’s construction sites. It is all a bit shaky, but throughout, an excellent cassette. (FdW)
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ERICH GRUNEWALD – VARIATIONER (cassette by Die Brücke)

When I grew up, in the seventies, my father used to play on Sunday afternoon classical music at full volume. Antonin Dvorak was one of his favourites, but also the symphonies by Anton Brückner were played. Massive blocks of classical music and those family gatherings with such music turned out to be enough classical music for my lifetime (with Dvorak’s ninth symphony as an exception; there might be a few others). Erich Grunewald is a composer from Berlin. He’s also a member of Mount Fog and Ape Finger Of The Stars. On this new cassette, you will find “a set of variations on the opening phrase in the slow movement of Anton Bruckner’s 7th Symphony.” I don’t remember that one. Other names dropped here are Richard Wagner (“It is a blend of the slower and more meditative parts”), Phil Niblock, Alvin Curran, Pauline Oliveros or more recently Kali Malone; can’t say I recognized all of that in here. The music is performed on synthesizers, saxophones, guitar, accordion, harpsichord and organ, “among others”. For this, he received some help from others. This is a most strange release, and I am not sure what to make of it. Some of this sounds indeed very classical and dramatic, and great, such as the opening ‘Preludium’, with a fine dark drone from samples strings and timpani and other percussion towards the end. ‘Fantasi’, the next track, is a guitar piece, almost baroque like, which I think (no expert on all things baroque) goes also for ‘Kanon, Ton och Interludium’.  ‘En Flämtning’ is a similar piece, but now with more sampled instruments and effectively a more modern classical composition with strange harmonies. The final piece, ‘Det nya året, hundarnas år’, is also the longest here and again one that I enjoyed; strange acoustic sounds set against music that I think is akin to Curran/Oliveros, along with field recordings and a major role for the harmonium. Now here I find some tension that I didn’t encounter in some of the other pieces. As said, a strange cassette indeed; I found it pretty interesting, partly good and partly not really my cup of tea. (FdW)
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ROBIN BARNICK – SUNDELIC (cassette by Superpolar Taips)

From Robin Barnick, I reviewed a longer cassette before (Vital Weekly 1271) and now he’s part of the Superpolar Taips family of cassette singles. Like before this is a display of his love “aged digital synths”, and this time it is the JD800, “a digital synthesizer built by Japanese company Roland from 1991 to 1996 and which, different to the DX-7 Barnick worked with on SFM, has a lot of knobs and sliders”, used on the first side while the second side uses “a portable granular synth workstation”, but I guess it takes a proper synth nerd to hear what this is all about. In both of these synth-heavy pieces, Barnick goes for the ambience of the melody, the melodic touch of the cosmos; it has that spacious big rounded sounds, nothing too careful or smooth but a joyous, glory trip to the stars. ‘Integral, the B-side here is a bit darker, but as full of sound and as lively as ‘Sundelic’, but this is where the sun starts to set and dusk begins. Next time around, another full length by mister Barnick, please! (FdW)
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