Number 1295

EAT – MOVING OBJECTS (cassette by Zazen Tapes)
ALTARS (LP by Cloudchamber Recordings) *
KIDBUG – KIDBUG (7” by Extratool) *
NEW STATE OF FLUX (2CD compilation by Reverse Alignment)
NXCX – HUMAN SHIELD (CDR by Love Earth Music) *
HARVEY SHARMAN-DUNN – HANDS OF DRONE (CDR by Minimal Resource Manipulation) *
ERRANT SPACE – SLOW WAVE (CDR by Love Earth Music) *
MIKEL R. NIETO – DEMO (CDR, private) *
TERRIE EX & JAAP BLONK – OZO BONN (cassette by Eh?) *
CHARLES LAREAU – FLUXION (cassette by Gertrude Tapes) *
BRYAN DAY & SEYMOUR GLASS – CROOKED DOPPLER (cassette by Tanz Procesz) *
RRILL BELL – BLADE’S RETURN (card by Klappkart) *


As I am picking up the CD by Reinier van Houdt to play it again, I am thinking about the fact that I don’t know much about the man. I met him once or twice, but that is not to say I know him. He is a piano player, performing modern classic composers, is a member of Current 93, and plays with Nick Cave as well as many others. Also, he works as a composer, and unlike what you may think, the piano plays a smaller role in this new work, but I have to admit I had not heard his work before. The cover mentions that this work is composed “in resonance with Orlando di Lasso’s Prophetiae Sibyallarum (circa 1555-60)” and there is a quote from the French author Maurice Blanchot. Di Lasso, so I learned, was one of the most active composers of all time, and Blanchot influenced Deleuze, Foucault and Derrida. You could also just not think too much about that and enjoy the music. One of the things one first notices is that the pieces are relatively short, from one to ten minutes, but usually between three and five. Another interesting thing is the variation in sound sources and instruments here. Some pieces are pure piano pieces, something layered, sometimes with a bit of electronic treatment, or in duet with a guitar (in ‘Ignore The Path’ for instance). Van Houdt also has pieces with pure field recordings, pure electronics (such as ‘Presocratic Grid’), or a combination of all of these, although I think that doesn’t happen a lot here. It means that the CD is all over the place, and it does that rather elegantly, I think. There is a lot of variation here, and yet it also sounds (strangely?) coherent. There is a certain slowness in this music, regardless of what Van Houdt does, connecting pieces like dots on a grid, and even when the pieces have different titles, you might just as well enjoy this as one long piece. That approach worked best for me. Every time I heard this, I seem to be discovering something new, unveiling new things. An excellent release! (FdW)
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Here we have more music by Bob Bellerue, following last week’s collaboration with Christian Rønn. Bellerue is a percussion player playing Suling Gambuh (a Balinese flute), metal, percussion, electronics and feedback. Of the six pieces on this double CD, there are two solo pieces, and the other four in collaboration with others; one is with Jessica Pavone (organ), and the remaining three also include a larger ensemble of Brandon Lopez (double bass), Luke Stewart (double bass), Gabby Fluke-Mogul (violin), Ed Bear (baritone sax) and Bellerue in various roles in these pieces, with only his solo ‘Metal Gambuh’ playing them all. The recordings were made in July last year over two days at the First Unitarian Church of Brooklyn-Heights, with all these people playing together and with additional mixing later on, which included, “re-amping recordings (pumping sound into speakers on timpani, snare drums, and metal objects)”. Here at Vital Weekly, we receive more and more improvised music, and it’s not always easy to find a reviewer for such music, unless, of course, one is enthusiastic about it. That is the case with these discs here. Sure, this is improvised music, but it is also something else. The element of drone, for instance, is something not to be missed here, but also the factor of noise is of importance. The amplification of instruments, as well as the role of feedback, makes these pieces massive blasts. Overtones, generated acoustically, start a new life in this space and with this amplification. And so, yes, this is improvised music, but then of a variety, I dig a lot. The music is intense on every level, and there is a great underlying tension in these pieces, a mysterious force if you will. At times, I was reminded of Organum in his heaviest phase (not the recent electronic version) or Phill Niblock, but then in a more improvised manner., as it is not always about drones and standing waves, but also about shorter, broken sounds; perhaps such as the ones, we would expect from improvised music. Also, the Zeitkratzer Ensemble should be mentioned (and perhaps that also says something about my frame of reference here?); I hope you get my drift here. It is a long ride, over two hours of music, and maybe not something to be enjoyed in one long take. It is too massive for that, I think, but the power remains unbroken when served in smaller doses. (FdW)
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It took me a while to commit words to this. I tried to flog the duty of review writing to someone at Vital Weekly who has a small child, just like Andy Moor, hoping the review would say something about writing reviews with toddlers running around. My days in that respect are behind me, and grandchildren have not arrived yet. It is also because it would save me to say something about the concept of this. Andy Moor is a guitarist, best known for many years for his work with The Ex, but also for his work with improvisation, and together with his partner Vanetina Campora, who is a choreographer, they have a small child and this project is about “dancing with a baby”. I never understood the world of choreography, but I admit right away I may not have studied it at all (there goes my career in scoring music for dance!). So, I can’t comment on the film (scan the QR code on the cover) and only about the music. This is Andy Moor improvising on the guitar, along with the movements by the two dancers. Sometimes we hear them in the background, which adds an interesting additional layer to the music. It is also slightly fascinating to compare this album with the solo guitar album of the other Ex member, Arnold de Boer (Vital Weekly 1263). With him, it was all acoustic and quiet, while with Moor it is louder, well mostly, and electric. The guitar is something that remains recognizable in all of this (just like with De Boer), with Moor something tinkering on the strings with his version of the melody, which sometimes can grow into a real one, but sometimes remains firmly on the abstract side. And at other times, Moor uses the space as an additional tool to generate sound; the guitar being scraped on the surface of the space in which these intimate performances took place. Throughout, the pieces are mostly short and to the point, with Moor operating with various techniques and thus keeping the variation within the material wide open. (FdW)
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Do these two heavyweights need an introduction? Can I assume the whole world knows Jim O’Rourke? And that Jos Smolders is perhaps not known to the whole world, but at least to more than a few readers of this rag? Less known, perhaps, is that O’Rourke holds the second LP by Smolders, ‘No Is A Monocle’ from 1990 in very high regard and ranks it in his all-time top 20. It should be no surprise that these gentlemen worked together. I am a bit in the dark as to the actual proceedings behind this, but maybe there is some playful obscurity here?  Smolders is an advocate of all things modular for a couple of years, and I have no clue what O’Rourke prefers as a working method. I believe I heard pretty much all the works he released on his Bandcamp page, and enjoy them all and yet, I have no idea what it is that he does, but I would believe he too is a man of modular work. Field recordings are something that they also have in abundance. Birds, traffic and people talking pop up at various moments on this forty-minute piece. Like I wrote, I have no idea who did what here, the end mix, or how the roles were divided. This is a piece of musique concrète; sounds are treated with electronic means, and in any instance, we hear them together or divided. These are placed on a timeline and organized so that, as a listener, one keeps listening. That is the act of composing. It is, to be honest, that simple. The listener is taken by the hand and invited for a journey through sound; space and time. You are never too long in the same spot, as things move with quite a steady pace; nothing hurried, nothing slow. Sometimes the music is nearby, sometimes far away. It is like leaving through a picture book; there are familiar pictures, of things you recognize and there are abstract images, new pastures to discover. All of this happens in this piece, which I had playing on repeat for a while, and each time I heard something new happening in here. This is an excellent piece, but perhaps you knew that this was coming at the end of the review. I am a big fan of both composers, so it can’t be a surprise. (FdW)
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EAT – MOVING OBJECTS (cassette by Zazen Tapes)

Here we have two works with the work of Raoul van Herpen, a, for me, new Dutch composer. On CD, we have his solo work, and on cassette his work with EAT; more on that later. His solo CD is short, twenty-seven minutes and has six pieces that show his interest in serialism, microtonality and noise, and especially the maths of Leonardo of Pisa, the Fibonacci thing. However, without all too much knowledge about these things, one can enjoy the music all the same.  I am sure a barbarian when I say I don’t hear the Fibonacci sequence in music. The first piece is the longest one and is called ‘Composition For Two Oscillators and Two tape-Recorders’, which I think is a most adequate description of what we hear. I am not sure if all of his music uses tape machines or if there is, maybe, a digital or modular component to his music. Spoiler alert, this is the noisiest piece on the CD, with its high piercing tones doing their rounds on unsteady tape material, which currently is a private obsession of mine as well. A different piece is ‘Eert Uw Vader En Uw Moeder” (honour your father and mother), using an old Mongolian recording of the biblical text with the same and Van Herpen adds sparse organ-like sounds to it, but works cleverly with silence between the cracks and thus creates a simple yet highly dramatic piece of music. Going back to manipulation of electronic sounds is in ‘Hooray For Today’, but this time (perhaps) without the use of tape recorders and a collage of sound in the best early electronics tradition is the result. That continues with the remainder of the CD, the three parts of the title track, but whereas ‘Hooray For Today’ is spaced out, these three pieces are all complex pieces of connecting sounds; or perhaps sounds that fails to make a connection. This one reminded me of the work of Gintas K, and hence me thinking that this might be a laptop thing. All in all, I am quite pleased with this debut album, of which the only downside is it is briefness. I would like a bit more where that came from.
    EAT stands for Electro Acoustic Trio, which is Van Herpen along with Timo van Ruiswijk and Tobias Kerkhoven. There is nothing mentioned in terms of instruments and judging by the music it is also not very easy to say something sensible, other than modular electronics, lots of ‘sounds’, a rhythm machine, some acoustic objects. It all sounds improvised, but for one track Van Ruiswijk takes the credits as a composer, so, who knows, they might be all composed by the trio. It is interesting to note that this trio doesn’t connect to the ‘old’ world of electro-acoustic improvisations in a group form (say AMM, Morphogenesis, BMB con or Kapotte Muziek), but explore their sound world via deliberate shorter pieces, somewhere between one and five minutes, usually around two and three minutes. Also, they don’t thrive too much on a careful approach, going in from the word start and in each piece, they seem to wash everything from previously pieces away and replace that with something new. Instruments, such as cymbal and gong, are played rhythmically and that too is a sign of difference. This is all quite good in as much as it is all different, culminating in ‘Te Laat’, a piece of rhythm machine and a loop, which almost sounds like pop music. How do you pull this off in concert, should, of course, they play any? I am curious! (FdW)
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ALTARS (LP by Cloudchamber Recordings)

From my perspective, Cloudchamber Recordings was quiet for a while, and I assumed they cased their business. They didn’t and much to my surprise there is a new release and, if I am not mistaken, the first one on vinyl, following a bunch of cassette releases. Behind Altars, we find Primož Bončina, who is also head honcho here. At his disposal, he has guitars, synthesizers, electronics, and machinations. I have no idea what the latter is. This is a new project for Bončina, name-wise, but musically I think he continues his previous efforts of creating massive, but now firmly rooted within the world of guitars, amplification and above sound effects. Be it loop stations, flangers, chorus, phasers or whatever else, Bončina crafted five parts of Alter; or three, as the opening is called ‘Alter IN (Aurorean)’ and ‘Altar OUT (Endlessness), but it all belongs to the same forceful field of music. At one point, somebody coined ambient metal or doom ambient, I am not sure who and which is correct, but it connected two opposites in music, combining the soundscapes of ambient with the noise of metal music, and usually, such music is played with guitars. As such, Altars is part of that music scene. Endless and massive walls are erected with this music. Phil Spector could not have imagined this wall of sound approach when he coined the phrase. This is the soundtrack of desolation, of pain, of angst, of weltschmerz, of staring into the abyss. I am merely speculating about these things, as I have no clue. This music is something to be played very loud, as it makes not much sense otherwise. Also, you will notice the finer details better, so I believe. The organ-like sounds, for instance, the slow rhythmic thump, and in the sparse moments of a more introspective moment, buried drones and distortions that are remnants of the stompboxes sweating and working overtime. This is a massive dark cloud and I love it. (FdW)
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KIDBUG – KIDBUG (7” by Extratool)

I consider 7” singles to be a good format for either a pop song or, in the case of more abstract music, a small something that leaves listeners wanting more. The two newest releases from Extratool are one of each. One of these is better suited for the kind of music Vital covers, the other is much more in line with the label’s debut release of mainstream-adjacent rock. The label’s mission is to invite collaborators to Nijmegen, the Netherlands, to work on two new compositions at their studio. The collaborative music makes use of string and percussion instruments built by a guy called Yuri Landman. Albert Van Abbe & David Von Bahr’s untitled single provides a taste of what, if these guys enjoyed the recording they made as much as I enjoyed listening to it, really ought to be a full-length album. In two four-minute chunks, the bowed strings and metallic clunks create a Bertoia-ish atmosphere, punctuated on the B side by under-stated drum-machine clunks. It’s the sort of music that ought to last for an hour. Each untitled track is immersive, slowly enveloping… and over way too quickly. Kidbug, on the other hand, is more similar to Extratool’s previous single by SOON in that it’s a straightforward pop/rock recording. The group (whose members have played in bands like Polar Goldie Cats, The For Carnation, Swans, Angels of Light, Xiu Xiu) play dream-pop of the type one used to hear on labels like Projekt or 4AD. Guitar-driven mid-tempo tunes with lead vocals buried in the mix so that one hears vocal sounds rather than discernible words. I imagine that Kidbug are fans of My Bloody Valentine and other bands of that style. The A-side, “Cloudbursting”, is certainly that. On the flip side, “Endless Waves”, the “shoegaze” mood and relaxed tempo remain, but the sounds from Yuri Landman’s instruments and recordings of ocean waves add some colour. (HS)
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NEW STATE OF FLUX (2CD compilation by Reverse Alignment)

I love a 2xCD compilation. Big compilations are a lot of fun, especially comps that exist to spotlight a particular label’s aesthetic, which is what “New State of Flux” is. (A quick aside: when I first read the title, I’d hoped that “New State of Flux” was a double-disc survey of 1980s Massachusetts cassette label A State of Flux… but no, it’s not. Someone should still do a reissue or comp of A State of Flux one day, though). This album was compiled by Raffaele Pezzella, who runs the Unexplained Sounds Group. A network consisting of several labels under one umbrella. There’s USG itself, which has put out important surveys of experimental music from Iran, Lebanon, the Balkans, China and more… and then Eighth Tower and ZeroK. This comp exists to spotlight USG’s newest partnership with the Swedish dark-ambient label Reverse Alignment, effectively now being run from Italy by Pezzella. The intent is to introduce Reverse Alignment to new listeners, which it certainly does.
    Evidence of the label’s clear curatorial vision is that all 20 of the pieces on this compilation are of a similar mood and seem to run into one another. It’s hard to tell one artist/track from the next. For me, that’s one of the album’s strengths, especially since most of the artists’ names are unfamiliar to me; I was able to put on my headphones, press play, then close my eyes and soak it all in as if “New State of Flux” were a single thought by a single person. The album opens with a track by Jarl (aka Swedish artist Erik Jarl of IRM, Skin Area, & Sharon’s Last Party), one of the names I knew going in. His piece “Chemical Mirror” is a sombre, subtly psilocybic drone with echo-laden sci-fi bloops that hint at a sinister something below the surface. Taphephobia’s “A Journey to the Outside World” leans worryingly towards Hearts of Space territory, but recovers well enough. Another highlight comes from VelgeNaturlig, whose “Raga in Height Dimensions” consists of an insistent electric tone that grows somewhat more abrasive and unnerving, eventually breaking into a passage of delay-saturated instruments. One might be a sitar, but It’s hard to tell. RNGMNN’s piece is another strong entry, a lugubrious slather of percussion and ghostly moaning. Some other names that stuck out to me are B*Tong (whose foreboding piece features the voice of NASA controller, informing someone of something distressing about to happen…), Freiband (aka Vital editor Frans de Waard/Modelbau), SITKA (a tape-delay lullaby), Ajna (classic post-Lustmord dark ambient) and Equal Stones (whose lighter, heavenly-choir sound is a welcome change of colour). In all, a solid and enjoyable listen and a fine introduction to the label for anyone who likes this sort of sound. (HS)
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Here’s one busy bee: Dave Clarkson. Hot on the heels of his excellent ‘A Pocket Guide To Wilderness” (Vital Weekly 1286; in Vital Weekly 1289 I also reviewed work from him with the duo Scissorgun), there is already a new release, ‘Magic Garden’. Maybe not the most exciting title, but, who knows, Clarkson went looking for a title that fitted the music and seeing on guitar, piano, synths, electronics, bells, chimes, garden and weather recordings, this results in here is something slightly different for him. In the work I heard so far, field recordings played an important role and that result was all a bit more abstract, but never losing a melodic touch out of sight. Unlike many others working in the field of music with field recordings, Clarkson’s great strength is to add a melody and on ‘Magic Garden’ this comes via the use of instruments, rather than field recordings, even when various pieces have bird recordings mixed into the music. There are looped piano, guitar and percussion sounds, playing melodic phrases, which do not always make a full turn into a song but stay on the ambient side of melody; suggesting mood and atmospheres. This is most noteworthy in the title track, which, at thirteen minutes, is also the longest piece here, but also a bit too much a repeated action of piano and bird sounds. The latter figure on several pieces and without too much variation, which is a pity. Those are the only two objections I have to make about the music here, as otherwise, the soft, soothing, melodic touches work very well on this quiet, not so summery day without a (magic) garden. The fact that Clarkson made some interesting sonic decisions, and remaining loyal to his sound world, is the best thing here. I wonder if this is something he will continue to do. (FdW)
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Not much is known about Threes and Will, apart from they are a one-man band from Estonia. For the time being that’s enough for me. In the past, I have found out too much about a band/project and lost what made it special. The mystery. I won’t be making the same mistake here, but given the quality of the music, I don’t feel the need to do much other than listening.
    The beauty of ‘Black Chamber’ is that it’s very simple. This isn’t to say it’s basic, far from it, but it isn’t an overly complex listen. From the opening drone of ‘Black Chamber,’ you know what you are in for. As the drone repeats and repeats, there are seething glitches underneath. At first, your attention is on the drone. It’s a huge hulking thing that draws you towards it. Then your attention moves and these slightly intricate, caustic sounding, motifs take more and more focus. Before you know the five and a half minutes have passed and you are confronted with ‘Boqueron’. While it isn’t the harshest thing I’ve ever heard, never to the melodic drone of ‘Black Chamber’ it’s quite jarring.
    ‘Boqueron’ follows the same pattern as the opener. It creates a mood through abrasive sounds and just sticks with it. The only difference here is that the sounds, hidden beneath the almost impenetrable drone, feels more like someone tuning a radio really slowly. You can hear more definitions, maybe snatches of vocals but, totally inaudible. It’s pretty fun. As ‘Black Chamber’ progresses the music gets more corrosive. The details become less defined. More shadow-like. You can slightly work them out, but at the same time, they are eclipsed by mordant drones.
    Listening to ‘Black Chamber’ I’m not entirely sure what its point is. Other than creating acrid soundscapes that feel like you are in a, well, black chamber. Or maybe that is the point and I’ve got totally what Threes and Will were after? The music is rich and dense but is not well defined. It reminds me of seeing a painting at a local fair years ago. The painter used massive sweeping brush strokes to cover up intricate drawings. At places, you could see the original work coming through, but mostly it was lost under wide arcs of colours. This wasn’t a disappointing as it sounds. What was disappointing was how I didn’t buy it. Instead of using my money to buy awful churros, but the memory of the painting remains.
    The ‘Black Chamber’ is an album that needs your undivided attention but also requires none too. The more you focus the less your see, but the less you pay attention the more you hear. I’m puzzled how Threes and Will have managed this too, but this is what happened and it is all the better for it. (NR)
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NXCX – HUMAN SHIELD (CDR by Love Earth Music)

There is something quite touching about ‘Human Shield’. That, in itself, should be a reason to commend the album. At its heart ‘Human Shield’ is a homage to synth albums from the 70s. You know the ones. The back cover would feature the musician surrounded by keyboards plugged into walls of knobs and dials. It looks like there is no way in, or out, of this prison, apart from rearranging the equipment. The look on the musician’s face is one of terror and pleasure. They love the world they have created for themselves but also don’t really have any idea how it all works together.
    All this is true of ‘Human Shield’. The album feels like it was created on bits of equipment that NxCx knew how it worked individually, but not collectively. Each track is constructed around a series of electronic motifs. These range from proper melodies and basslines to abstract noises and what sounds, and feels, like field recordings manipulated to an inch of their lives. Throughout there are flourishes of noise. These are delightful and add an extra level of texture to the proceedings, but instead of being abrasive, they impart an oddly tender feeling. I know. It doesn’t make sense to me either, but it is true. On ‘Lrad Hijack’ there are hinted at from the beginning. Dark drones give way to synths wobbles and glitches, but they are always present. They remind us about the fragility of life. At any given moment the happy moments can abruptly end, and the stuff of nightmares can start. But these motifs also tell us to make the most of whatever is happening to us, as life is short.
    ‘Human Shield’ might not be the most dynamic album I’ve heard this year but is it one that I’ve thought about a lot after it ended. The combination of what sounds like, organic samples, synths loops and hulking dark drones creates a slightly claustrophobic atmosphere. It reminds me of visiting local caves while on holiday. While you are on the tour, you can’t make much out. You are a bit cold and damp. Moving through the slightly damp caves isn’t unpleasant, but you are aware of your surroundings and how a wrong move could end in disaster. Once you emerge outside your senses are flooded with colours, heat, and smells. ‘Human Shield’ is like that moment when you are between worlds. You are apprehensive to leave its cavernous, dank world for something more familiar, but in the cave, your distractions, and worries, disappear and you can focus on things with a clarity that you haven’t experienced for a while. (NR)
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HARVEY SHARMAN-DUNN – HANDS OF DRONE (CDR by Minimal Resource Manipulation)

Much to my shame, I must admit I forgot about the two releases Harvey Sharman-Dunn did with the label boss, Matt Atkins (see Vital Weekly 1052 and 1108), so I also forgot his background (“a composer, filmmaker, producer and lecturer in visual media, and who is a member of Echolocation; he was a member of Chomsky, Bocca and half of Swiss Guards, all of which are names I vaguely recall seeing somewhere, but without hearing the music. Atkins is playing electronic music but also handles the drum kit for Crumbling Ghost, NEWST, Slowgun, Smallgang and Russell And The Wolf Choir.”). In his solo release, he explores the world of drones, as indicated by the title. I understand that in each of the five pieces he uses different approaches and technology; “from digital and analogue creation to found- sounds; from time-stretch and modular synthesis to long and short delays.” I could have sworn he’s also using instruments, maybe a cello, violin or guitar. Especially in the longest piece that opens up, this is the case, but also the guitar-like sounds of ‘Brother’. In the other three pieces, I would say this is clearly more electronic (I don’t bet my life on this). Here we find a mixture of digital and analogue techniques, time-stretching versus modular electronics, and no doubt in combination with each other. The music is slowly meandering about, a gentle yet steady stream of drones, with only ‘Brother’ being less straightforward drone music, with the guitar lovingly tinkered on. This is not the place to look for anything new, in terms of musical innovation, but Sharmann-Dunn does a great job at exploring the world of drone music and he does so with some great care for detail; it all sounds excellent. If you are looking for new names in this particular universe, then Sharmann-Dunn needs checking out. (FdW)
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ERRANT SPACE – SLOW WAVE (CDR by Love Earth Music)

Lover Earth Music is a strange label. They sent me a pile of CDs, which were inspected and handed out to those more capable of handling noise than I am, and while going through them I heard the one with music by one Craig Chin, who goes by the name Errant Space. I had not heard of him before, but he’s a guitarist, who writes about his music that “Its goal is spatio-temporal dilation through sound”, and that his music is site-specific. Look for his website and check out the podcast he’s doing if you are into ambient music. So, this is among a pile of noise, the moment of quietness. Errant Space plays his guitar via sustaining tones, lots of stompboxes and, no doubt, a few of these are loop devices. Chin carefully constructed his notes, first the longer drone approach and then slowly adding sparse isolated notes, as slow falling raindrops out of the sky. That approach is typical for the eleven pieces on this release, but each with a slightly different approach. Sometimes things are a bit more straightforward loop-based, a bit more on the arpeggio (which in ‘Into The Black Volt’ sounds The Orb’s ‘A Huge, Ever Pulsating Brain’, but sans Ripperton), a dash of extra drones. It is all the fine spirit of everything that Brian Eno push forward as ambient music all those moons ago. It is a wonderful album of slow and quiet music, which works wonders, slap bang in the middle of the summer when everything seems to have a different pace anyway. The perfect chill-out soundtrack of this week. (FdW)
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MIKEL R. NIETO – DEMO (CDR, private)

More conceptual work from Mikel R. Nieto. ‘Demo’ is part of his ‘Not For Sale’ series (see also Vital Weekly 1289), and about ‘Demo’, he writes that “some software or audio plugins, in their free version, include a random white noise to discourage users from continuing to use them and ending up buying them. “The demo licence has expired. The plugin will occasionally produce noise”, they say. This release, with 75 tracks of one minute each, gathers together over an hour of that unwanted random white noise with large spaces for silence.” As is usually the case with such conceptual releases, the explanation is so clear that there is very little add. Nieto does what he says, and that is 75 one-minute pieces of white noise with lots of silence. When playing this, there are of course many questions to be answered; well, raising them is probably enough. There is the always obvious question, is it music? Who listens to this? Is it meant to be listened to anyway? Is it a statement of some kind? An exercise, perhaps? I don’t know. I listened for a while, didn’t get the point, or perhaps I did and moved on. (FdW)
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TERRIE EX & JAAP BLONK – OZO BONN (cassette by Eh?)

A few years ago I reviewed a CD by guitarist Terrie Ex and voice artist Jaap Blonk (Vital Weekly 1116). Both are heavyweights when it comes to playing improvised music, anywhere and with anyone. I enjoyed their CD quite a bit, having heard both of these musicians for a very long time, but not together (although Blonk was once part of the ‘orchestra’ that celebrated 25 years of The Ex). As I don’t look that often at what’s playing, I have no idea if these two men followed up their joint release with a tour, but, as this cassette shows, there have been some concerts. On July 27, 2020, they played at OZOLand in Hunsel (The Netherlands) and on March 13, 2020, they were in St. Helena in Bonn (Germany). That explains the title of this cassette. Besides using his voice, Blonk has electronics at his disposal (for several years now). As I am listening to these recordings, which are split into various ‘songs’ or ‘pieces’, rather than being one long recording, I am thinking about the whole nature of improvisation and releases containing these improvisations. Their CD was, as far as I know, a studio recording, but there is very little difference in approaching the ‘studio’ and the ‘stage’ I would think. I am sure musicians have an off-day but they would not find their way onto a record or such, but maybe all the rest can be released as well? Surely, I can likewise think there are other factors in play (for instance a not so great recording), but it would be interesting to compare recordings and approaches to the instruments on a microscopic level. I am writing all of this to express that I think these are great recordings and capture the exceptional qualities of these musicians very well. Upon closer inspection, they do play songs, with a start and stop and explore within the space of a song (be it long or short), a set of sounds, ideas and approaches, continuing the listener to surprise. (FdW)
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CHARLES LAREAU – FLUXION (cassette by Gertrude Tapes)

This might be my introduction to Charles Lareau, the musician who is a member of Naturaliste, of whom I reviewed a great LP in Vital Weekly 1270. It is interesting to see that the Bandcamp image for this release is a full-colour image, but the actual cassette is all lovingly lo-fi black and white Xeroxed with “film stills from Eisenstein’s ‘Strike”‘; not that one could tell. It is also the only bit of information, next to ‘recorded and mixed February/March 2020’. Much like the cover is a reminder of the cassette network of the ’80s, so is the music. There is something to say that the current wave of lo-fi drone meisters, working small synthesizers, a bunch of effects and crumbled cassettes, is not much different from the toned down power electronics of thirty years ago, when we thought it was ambient industrial (before naming it, for a brief moment, isolationism), but Lareau goes back another ten years and found inspiration from the last works of Mauricio Bianchi, before going into hibernation. Lareau’s music has a similar non-direction styled manipulation of sound sources of an unknown origin, taped on an ancient tape, with not a lot of Ferro on it, and plays it through a space echo. Unsettling ambient music is the result, especially on side A, ‘A1’, as it is called. On ‘B1’ we hear the leaky nuclear power plant from up-close, and inside the turbine hall is ‘B2’. Maybe these two pieces are less MB and more today’s take on heavy field recording manipulations. I liked the whole thing, but with a preference for the first side, with its eerie soundtrack for Armageddon. (FdW)
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From Seymour Glass, I heard an excellent cassette as Glands Of External Secretion, his duo with Barbara Manning (Vital Weekly 1075). I know he has a long career in weird music, but I am not all too aware of the ins and outs here. Bryan Day 8is someone who builds his instruments from old electronics, wood, metal and other stuff people would put in the trash. What Glass does, come to think of it, I have not an image off, but I would think it involves all sorts of magnetic tape (reel-to-reel, cassettes and Dictaphones). In the autumn of last year, they spend time together to record the six pieces on this release, and maybe for some reason or another, all of these pieces are around eight minutes. The music in which this results can be classified as something that holds the middle ground between improvised music and electro-acoustic music. It is a lot of both really, with Glass picking up sounds from Day, feeding them back and Day being in a constant struggle to keep up with the sparks of tapes flying about, hitting, scratching, touching, rambling, shaking his amplified objects. I almost added, ‘beyond control’, but that it is not. If proof is needed at all, then it is that these gentlemen exercise great control over their instruments. As gifted improvisers, they also know how to do a great job, which is all (so I believe with my limited knowledge of improvised music) action and reaction, a call and response play of sounds. The conversation might be chaotic here, but that is something that I find the great thing about it. The quick shift between sound constellations, chaotic and organized at the same time, all adds to the enjoyment for me. (FdW)
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RRILL BELL – BLADE’S RETURN (card by Klappkart)

Klappkart is a new label from Berlin and the inaugural release is by Rrill Bell, an American in Berlin, for two decades, and whose work has been reviewed before (Vital Weekly 1280 for instance). Up until now, I believe his work was mostly about randomness, taking cassettes to four-track machines and mix them without pre-auditing what was on there. For this new cassette, things are a bit different. Rrill Bell, also known as Jim Campbell, had a residency in the woods of Saxon Switzerland, on the Czech/German border, in the summer of 2020. He went out with his Walkman and Dictaphone machines to record the village atmosphere, the national park and in addition, also he plays the guitar, in a rather informal way. Another instrument that has a dominant feature is the singing saw, which also found its way into the title of the cassette. There is a story behind all this, as Rrill Bell made it up while recording this, “a story started to materialize before me, revolving around a protagonist, Blade, a saw, a veteran of the timber biz, who one day, long weary of cutting, quit the game, renounced, got out, and withdrew to solitude. Now years later, he had returned to the forest where he gave up cutting, to sing a song of regret, to unburden himself.” There are lots more in the lengthy explanation I received along with this, but I am not repeating all of that. Each piece is introduced by a short spoken-word explanation (by Rrill Bell I assume). As said, I found the element of randomness to be a less dominant thing here, but never mind, it is still a fascinating release. There is a radio play-like aspect to these multi-layered sounds of field recordings, guitar sounds and the way Rrill Bell uses these together. I had the impression that there is playback in nature for some of these recordings. This was especially the case with ‘Part II: Lament’, with its many layers of feedback and distortion on bowed tones and bird calls. ‘Part III: Atonement’ is then a further process in vanishining sounds and strongly reminded me of early Hafler Trio. Maybe there is an element of randomness in these pieces, so I thought, in such a way that Rrill Bell plays a lot of similar sounds at the same time and there is a sort of self-organizing principle to it. Quite a lovely release! (FdW)
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