Number 1305

ASMUS TIETCHENS – ABRAUM ZWO (CD by Universal Exports) *
SRMEIXNER – A SILENT WAR (CD by Black Rose Recordings) *
JARL – SPECTRUM CONFUSION (CD by Reverse Alignment) *
ALLEN RAVENSTINE – NAUTILUS (CD by Waveshaper Media) *
COLIN POTTER – IT WAS (LP by Platform 23) *
SIMON LONGO – SAURUS IN NY (12″ by Modern Innovation)
SIMON LONGO SEX LINE (12″ by Modern Innovation)
CHAD M. CLARK – MUON DONS (CDR, private) *
VITAMIN MANIFEST/RADIO INTERCEPT – #1/WE ARE HERE (cassette by Personal Soundtracks) *
SHAUN ROBERT – SWAN SONG FOR TAPE RECORDER (cassette by Personal Soundtracks) *
JEFF SURAK – ERIS I DYSNOMIA (cassette by Eh?) *
BLEED AIR – TIME, FEROCIOUS (cassette by Superpolar Taips) *
LACUSTRE – VOTRE UTOPIE EST NOTRE DYSTOPIE (cassette by Da ! Heard It Records)


Hot on the heels of Dmytro Fedeorenko’s Variat LP (see Vital Weekly 1303), there is a new release on his imprint Prostir. This new release is by his duo Kateryna Zavoloka. The initial idea was to compose imaginary music soundtracks, but they turned to the book ‘Star Corsair’ by Ukrainian science fiction author, philosopher and dissident Oles’ Berdnyk. I had not heard of the man before, but, so I learned, he was into ‘true freedom and personal development. It is not easy to find information online in a language I understand (unless I am too quick and not looking in the right direction). But without the knowledge here, one can enjoy the music by itself. I already reviewed two previous releases (Vital Weekly 1104 and 1158) from them, and this new one is a stylistic continuation of those earlier releases. In much of their solo work, there is a strong love for sonic overload on both the rhythm and synthesizer side, and it is also something they bring to the table here, but there is certainly also room for some more toned down sounds. A cosmic music edge, if you will, and not just as an introduction or outro, but throughout an entire song. That means that overall, Cluster Lizard is on the move when it comes to playing their music. The heavy Pan Sonic inspired approach is never far away, but in the way Cluster Lizard adds, synthesizers expand on the minimalist rhythm end and add colour to the music. That is something I noted before in their music, but now it is even richer. ”The Drop Reflects The Ocean In Itself’ is a fine dark piece of ambient music, and the closing piece, ‘Eternity Code’, is just a spacious exploration and no rhythm insight. In most of the pieces, rhythm plays an important role and the industrial, repeating minimalism of the music gives it a powerful edge. I enjoyed this careful balancing act between the atmospherics and the industrial edge quite a lot. Play loud! (FdW)
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ASMUS TIETCHENS – ABRAUM ZWO (CD by Universal Exports)

On the day this new Asmus Tietchens CD arrived, I went to see the new James Bond movie, ‘No Time To Die’ (not bad, a bit long), so seeing the label being Universal Exports made me smile. Let’s hope the good relatives of Chubby Broccoli didn’t trademark the name. The front cover here doesn’t depict where a Bond baddie hides, but the harbour of Hamburg. This is the location where Tietchens goes for the field recordings on ‘Abraum Zwo’; that stands for ‘Rubble Two’. You can find the first instalment of this series in Vital Weekly 775. Tietchens didn’t return to the harbour to record new field recordings. That could have been an idea, as he says that the area changed quite a bit over the past twelve years, so that would have been interesting. He returned to the original field recordings of ‘Abraum’ and used (his words) “a totally different approach”. This time around, it is all about the atmosphere of the place. Or perhaps one could say the residue left of the area. The music as the fading memory of location now re-shaped. Some of this sounds very mysterious and vague, but I mean this is in the most positive sense of the word. The first ‘Abraum’ was full of sound (relatively, of course; this is post-2000 Tietchens), created with the most refined and most delicate musique concrète techniques. On this new release, everything that reverts to musique concrète is removed, and shimmering sounds is what remains. At times quite droney, but in the world of Asmus Tietchens, nothing is static. Much like the water in the harbour, everything is fluid. Tietchens traces the contour of sound without touching too much upon the sound itself. I am biased when it comes to the work of Tietchens. I know you know. I think ‘Abraum Zwo’ is outstandingly good work. That may not come as a surprise. In the last few days, this has been the album that was on rotation a lot. Maybe that says it all? (FdW)
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“Richard Carr has been some kind of musician for last forty-some-odd years.” I think I like that statement – it is somewhat humble. He has spent his artistic career as an improvisationalist and electronics musician. So Covid thoroughly disrupted his activities, upaon which he chose to write musical scores in the mean time. Out of twelve that he created, eight are presented on this release, played by a Quartet of specifically chosen musicians to whom Carr occasionally adds his own violin, especially in the four improvisational pieces, in which the musicians collectively developed the musical idea with Carr. Oddly, these are some of the shorter, but also more interesting pieces that are partly, unfortunately, phased out instead of collectively ended.
    The tracks are all relatively short (many 5 minutes, but some half that). They have a ‘rock music’ feel to them. Carr states that out of the many sketches he wrote he chose only a few and boiled them down to a few bars from which he then (re-)constructed the music to lead from a defined beginning to a composition-wise open ending, the music falling ‘over the ridge’ at the end. The result is a somewhat Kronos Quartet-like release. Many of the pieces build on repetitive, rythmic ostinato, intros that are then expanded. You might think of Philip Glass or Steve Reich. But in comparison, Carr is more melodic and takes more of a ‘song’ like approach that owes to American music of the 20th century, not contemporary classical music. A harmonious and smoothly flowing release that will certainly bring modern classical music closer to the pop and rock audience, less so the experimental listener.
    Trandafilovski is also a violinist – but that is about all that he has in common with Carr – apart from the record label. He is part of the Kreutzer Quartet from London, specialising in recording and performing modern string music (e.g. by Gloria Coates, Simon Bainbridge and others) but also classical composers such as Czech Anton Reicha. Again the theme of Covid: in 2020 Trandafilovski started recording a variety of ‘non standard’ (whatever you want to call ‘standard’, as he says himself) violin techniques via Zoom. At a later date cataloguing this material and adding improvisation, he discovered he could arrange all this into musical pieces, for the first time making use of a ‘studio’ environment with panning, echo and other sound manipulation.
    The result is an attractive CD of improvised sounding music. On ‘Steppe(s)’ Trandafilovski offers three tracks of solo violin. They all clock in at around 10 minutes and with the titles Orbit, Wave, Shore and a cover that implies a water surface (although I believe it is a CGI) bring the association of the play of water, an ebbing and flowing. The sound comes and goes and these pieces are a far cry from the constant rhythm accompanying some of Carr’s pieces. Trandafilovski uses echos and over-dubs to create a multi-faceted and multi-layered music. All pieces start from quiet beginnings, build to a tremendous climax and ebb off again into a partly near-silent ending. This CD is more fun to listen to, and will rather appeal to a jazz (rock) audience than Carr’s ‘song’ music, and might even put off the classical music listener due to its improvised character. But fine for me, I liked it. (RSW)
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Originally from Nijmegen, the Netherlands – the hometown of Vital Weekly – drummer Flin van Hemmen moved to New York in 2009 and quickly settled in the local downtown scene. He started working with Tony Malaby, Kris Davis, a.o. He started his trio – Casting Spells – with Todd Neufeld on acoustic guitar, Ervind Opsvik on double bass, and van Hemmen himself on drums and piano. He debuted in 2016 with ‘Drums of Days’ for Neither/Nor in collaboration with both musicians. In the same lineup, ‘Casting Spells & The Coves’ followed in 2019 again as a release for Neither/Nor. The same counts for this new effort, ‘You Can Know Where the Bombs Fell’. For this album, van Hemmen used many samples from ‘Casting the Spells & The Coves’. The studio is his main instrument this time. Originally a drummer and pianist, processing procedures are now at the centre of his interest, also illustrated by his collaboration with keyboard player Jozef Dumoulin (’Too Tall To sing’, 2020). Earlier recorded music functions as material for editing, mixing and other operations. This way, van Hemmen created a sequence of fascinating soundworks. The works are emptied of the unnecessary and make the impression of barren soundscapes. Long extended pieces of treated sounds, like the recognizable short drops of sound and patterns by piano or other instruments. Also, van Hemmen makes use of field recordings. Most works make the impression of stationary and cyclic sound works built from repetitive elements and looped sounds. Very controlled and subdued sound works that are not loaded with development and movement. This makes them very suggestive and imaginative. Lovely work! (DM)
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SRMEIXNER – A SILENT WAR (CD by Black Rose Recordings)

There must be something in the air. Two weeks ago, I reviewed three releases from Howard Stelzer. He worked with sound material fellow musicians mailed him, which in return was based on Stelzer’s primary sound material. I mentioned P16.D4’s ‘Distruct’ (Vital Weekly 863), from 1984, which worked along similar lines. The same record is mentioned on the cover here (though misspelt as ‘Destruct’), along with ‘Captured Music’, which also worked with the recycling of sound, more specific live recordings from a festival of the same name. Stephen Meixner, one-third of Contrastate, does have a similar approach here. He received sound material from his Contrastate buddies Jonathan Grieve and Stephen J Pomeroy and also from Ralf Wehowsky (one of the leading players of P16.D4), Steve Pittis (Band Of Pain), Leyden Jars, Adrian Morris, Lee Pomeroy and Simon Wray. I don’t know these last four. Meixner added the death of George Floyd as part of the narrative in the music, something that P16.D4 would not have done, staying away from overtly political messages. The message is not really in your face (whether good or bad, I leave it up to you). There is vocals/text in only a few pieces here, such as in a ‘cover’ of Nina Simone’s ‘Singing About Revolution’. Musicwise, Meixner doesn’t copy the musique concrète approach of P16.D4 too much, even when the studio-as-instrument’ method is present here. The results are pretty different for Meixner. The sounds are part of the overall composition, working from one idea and making it a ‘song’ rather than a cut-up or collage. Some sounds are used as guiding lights for a piece via sample/loop, and then Meixner spins the rest around. In ‘Unfinished Business’, this is indeed a more collage-like form, but n ‘We Demand Tomorrow (Or Business A Usual)’, the percussion is the glue that holds drones and electronics together. Meixner has an excellent ear to make the right connections between this disparate sound material. It makes a fine homogenous album with subtle variations. Most of the time, I had no idea this was from various unrelated sources, which I would think is a great thing. This is quite different from the recent Stelzer albums, with both of them using friends’ sounds as starting points. (FdW)
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JARL – SPECTRUM CONFUSION (CD by Reverse Alignment)

More and more, the territory for Vital Weekly is that of modern classical music, improvised music and such; the last resort of physical releases, perhaps? I am glad that there is also music from Erik Jarl dropping on my doorstep now and then. Just for the sake of hearing something else, also because I have been quite a fan of his music over the years. After all these years of reviewing his music, I still have not a clear picture of what Jarl does. Maybe I believed he was a man of computer technology for a while, but I think that the modular synthesiser is his instrument of choice in recent times. When I was playing this CD, I used some more volume to drown out the clarinet rehearsals taking place upstairs, and it occurs to me that there is a slightly more cosmic streak to his music this time around. I doubt the volume is a contributing factor to that thought. I had this realisation, and I thought there was a straight line from Conrad Schnitzler’s ‘non-keyboard electronics’ to the world of industrial music. Jarl’s sonic paintings are dark and bleak; they are slow and minimal. Yet, it is also music of hope and light. This music is not the dystopian cosmic journey of a spaceship returning to the destroyed earth, but rather, well, such as I hear this, a celebratory trip back home. The spacecraft is in slow motion returning from whatever it was doing in space anyway. The additional reverb sets some of the moods here. It bursts and bubbles along the edges of the massive drones. Maybe because Jarl adds a melodic touch to his electronics, it made me think of that. I took a peek at Vangelis’ recent tribute to Juno (the Jupiter moon, not the synthesiser), hailed in the daily, but I feel NASA missed out on Jarl’s music for this occasion. His soundtrack would fit Juno much better than Vangelis’ orchestral brushes. Alright, next time, Nasa, go to Sweden and talk to Jarl! (FdW)
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As I am playing the new release by Frederik Rasten, I am trying to catch up with something on my computer. I know it is never a good idea to do anything else than listening, but you know how these are. Plus, there is music that one can play and do something simultaneously. So it is time to sit back and listen. Rasten is a guitar player, and usually, it is the acoustic guitar. ‘Svening’ means ‘levitation’ in Norwegian, flying without effort.  Rasten says on the cover that it “also refers to interference or beating, the acoustic phenomenon that occurs when two tonal sounds differ in pitch only slightly”.  Rasten has two parts of ‘Svening’ here. Both are thirty-eight minutes, which makes the point more than evident, I should think. I would go as far as saying that playing both pieces in one go is not necessary. Even when the second is the more minimalist variation of the already austere first part, they are interchangeable. Having said that, the music is excellent. Rasten plucks his open strings at a slow pace, and the notes trickle down like a coffee machine in slow motion. You see the drips one by one, and it never becomes a stream. It is movement and nothing much else, and it fills your space in a meditative way. The music slowly evolves but in a very slow modus. The guitar sounds crisp and clear, and you hear the fingers over the fretboard and maybe even the breath of Rasten in total concentration to play these. Both pieces are great, but not in a row.
    The other new release by the Swiss label Insub Records is a bit mysterious for me. The cover clearly speaks of two compositions, one by D’Incise, also known as Laurent Peter, and one by Santiago Astaburuaga. These two are the first of six compositions performed by Cyril Bondi and Cristian Alvear; the other four by other composers. There is, however, only one piece on the CD, so where do one composition end and the second start? Maybe the music will tell us, as the instrumentation of the music is different. ‘Sigh (Carried Away)’ by D’Incise sees Bondi on four cymbals and Alvear on electric guitar and ‘Grado De Potencia #2’ for field recordings and percussion (Bondi) and field recordings, electric guitar (Alvear). Also curious is that both players recorded their part in their place and not together in one studio. There is a point at forty-three minutes, marking a distinct break, and after that, I would think we hear voices, sounds, percussion and guitar that this is the second piece. In the D’Incise composition, the two instruments move around, with or without electronics (the jury is not out on that), strumming, banging, creating rich overtones next to sparse, solo notes. Each of the players gets a fair share of all of that to do. Sometimes it works nicely, and at other times I had the impression it was a more a not yet complete improvisation. Astaburuaga’s piece has a similar fragmentation, using a wider variety of sounds and brutally cutting the material up. I am not sure who is responsible for that, but I very much enjoy that approach. This piece keeps moving along, with these voices, conversations cut short but doing something similar with the interaction of the instruments. Great one. (FdW)
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These four CDs arrived on the same day, in the same mailer, and they belong together, former ‘The Tyranny Of Fiction’. The first two came in 2020, and now there is the final two. Waveshaper Media calls these EPs, but one is forty-three minutes long, one around thirty-five, and two twenty-six, so not all hardly EPs. Maybe you recognize the name of Allen Ravestine as one of the members of Pere Ubu. He played keyboards in that band and owned the house they all lived in. Following Ubu, he became an airline pilot, and when he was interviewed for ‘I Dream Of Wires’ (a documentary on modular synthesizers), he started to play music again. On these EPs, he receives a lot of help from other people. They add flute, percussion, piano, double bass, trumpet, and grand piano. I must admit that I didn’t know I was listening to four connected EPs, nor could I tell from the distinctly different packaging. Unless, of course, diversity is the main objective here. It is tough to make head and tails out of this. There is jazz, smooth restaurant music, ambient, modern classical, not so much just electronic pieces, which I personally think is a pity. There is tacky new age music, sad piano music, chamber music, the list goes on. Many of these musical interests are great, but do they fit these days? That is hard to say. If Allen Ravestine wanted to show off what he is capable of and that his musical nets cast wide, he succeeded well. I can easily collect enough pieces to put on a single CD I enjoy and create a flowing narrative there. I can imagine many listeners could do the same, with lots of differences. And no doubt, some open-minded listeners take it all in. This was an exciting ride. I saw many different vistas; I enjoyed quite a few of them and thought not fit these pages. Allen Ravestine’s music is just too different. (FdW)
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COLIN POTTER – IT WAS (LP by Platform 23)

Ah! The Doctor Jekyll and Mister Hyde of the electronic music returns. The music Colin Potter produces these days is quite different from that of his ancient days. The latter is the subject of this new LP. This LP contains a selection of four songs from earlier releases, ‘Recent History Vol. 1’ and ‘Vol. 2’. This is the label making a selection. Both cassettes were initially released in 1989 and indicated the end of Potter releasing cassettes, and maybe also marking an end of his ‘pop’ phase. If, of course, that would be a term he’d be using. Or used in the past. Both cassettes were also part of ‘Ancient History’, 5CD box set (see Vital Weekly 819). Potter’s music in the 80s was heavy on the synthesizer and drum machine end, but he was no stranger to the bass and the guitar. Potter can be all spooky and mysterious in his pieces, such as in ‘Ships That Pass In The Night’, forecasting his later work in drone music. In ‘Nine Months’, he ups the drone with a rhythmical bass end. In Green Fields’, it is all about a pleasant synth piece and in ‘Saw’, rhythm machines run amok. The influence of Tangerine Dream is never far away in Potter’s music (‘Diary Of A Nobody’, for instance), but his pieces are shorter and more to the point. That you may call on the edge of pop music. It is, perhaps, a pity that this is a selection of both tapes, not the complete two tapes as a double LP. I remain, as ever, the purist in such matters. This release is for those who are purists when it comes to formats or for those who missed the CD re-issues many moons ago. (FdW)
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Let’s start with the end of this review: I don’t know. Playing both these records, though very different, I have no idea what I am hearing. I am completely lost here in terms of context, reference and history. Let’s start with Blanche Blanche Blanche, a duo of Zach Philips and Sarah Smith. ‘Seashells’ is the first album in six years and their tenth so far. I think I need not mention that I have not heard any of these records. They have over twenty short pieces here, recorded on a Tascam 242 over two years. Sarah sings, and Zach plays keyboards. I think electric piano primarily, but maybe some other instruments with keys could be possible. There is also a rhythm machine in some tracks. That sounds like it has been recorded with a microphone near the built-in speaker). I’m sure the lyrics mean something, but you know me and lyrics; I never pay attention. The music is intimate, a bit jazzy, maybe poppy. Perhaps this is outsider music; perhaps you trace this back to weirdo post-punk bands, such as The Homosexuals and their many off-shoots. But remember what I said: I don’t know. And that is something that I can extend to the music itself. After repeated playing, I still have no idea if I like this record or not. Indeed, some songs are great, and others I don’t seem to get my head around too. Some of this is a bit chaotic, and I am sure that’s the intention behind it, but not for me. I found this mysterious and fascinating. It is as if a door to another dimension opened.
    As much as I would love to say that I know all about Adorno, his music and his ideas, I don’t. I never studied any of it. So, much of the text on the back cover of this LP eludes me. This is what I understood. Cop Tears, a quartet of John Andrew Wilhite-Hannisdal (double bass), Derek Baron (flute), Cameron Kapoor (guitar), and John Welsh (guitar), sat down in the apartment when Derek and John were living in New York and recorded their interpretation of Adorno’s piano pieces. You can sometimes hear them speak, and I am (not) sure if that is in the original score. If you have no idea about Adorno’s music, how can you judge, you may quite rightly wonder. I can’t. As outlined above, I am wholly lost here in terms of context, reference and history. All of this boils down to: do I like what I am hearing? Oddly, I am arriving at the same conclusion as with the Blanche Blanche Blanche LP. I don’t know. Here too, we have something quite intimate. I am sitting in a room with these musicians, and they play their music for me; sometimes, so it seems, they stop and talk. Maybe they made a mistake? Or is it part of the music? I… well, you know now. Like with Blanche Blanche Blanche, I am fascinated by all of this. It sounds modern classical; it could be very well that this, but maybe another door opened to another dimension. I enjoyed both these records for being so different from what is usually on my plate. (FdW)
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SIMON LONGO – SAURUS IN NY (12″ by Modern Innovation)
SIMON LONGO SEX LINE (12″ by Modern Innovation)

As I had not heard of Simon Longp, I looked up his website and read that “in Simon’s AV performance sound is treated as paint on an invisible temporal canvas; the composition process involves the creation of cross-modal rhythms and patterns between the audio and the video; the cross-modal composition is always improvised during the performances.” The lengthy discography ends in 2012 (possibly under many aliases), but Discogs lists only four releases, from 1994, 2003 and these two. I am not sure how to rhyme this information with the music I am hearing. Also, one could think this is not really something for Vital Weekly. This is dance floor music, with fat lines, house music beats mixed with acid, and vocals. Not bad, I thought, when I was vacuuming and cleaning the kitchen. It is a bit of a darg to walk and turn the record over. ‘Sex Line’ and ‘I feel Myself’ arrive in two different mixes and ‘Saurus In NY’ in three mixes. It is all the most pleasant music for this dreary Monday morning, and had I the right age, it would bring on a longing for going to the clubs next weekend. That I no longer do, but records like these, so different from the usual music digest, I certainly enjoy. But it is not for us to judge them, methinks. (FdW)
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This is the third release by Chad M. Clark. I reviewed the two previous ones (VItal Weekly 1249 and 1275), and I enjoyed both. This one is a continuation of the previous ones and doesn’t disappoint either. The guitar is his primary instrument, and here he uses acoustic and electric guitars, and to that, he adds “jHorn, balloon, piano, old man’s cocktail shaker, snare, field recordings”. I must say the latter sort of passed me by, as I didn’t hear many of those. Clark has a very free approach to his instruments and also a straightforward way. His music is like that of a continuous torturing of the instruments. I can’t say ‘no instruments were damaged in the recording here’. Clark has no conventions; he slaps his object on the strings and moves them around with one hand while the other plucks and scratches the strings. All of this is recorded in a straightforward way, which means the music is loud and nearby. Still, I have no idea if Clark uses any form of multi-tracking or if this is all recorded in ‘one go’. As before, this is all complex music. Many things happen simultaneously, and it leans towards free jazz at times, but with all the use of objects, one could just as quickly say this is electro-acoustic music played in an improvised way. As before, I would be interested to hear how this would sound with like-minded improvisers using different instruments. I think this is great music like the two previous releases. Clark keeps his music to the point, and none of the tracks is too long. With eleven tracks in just over thirty minutes, this release leaves you behind, tired but satisfied. (FdW)
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VITAMIN MANIFEST/RADIO INTERCEPT – #1/WE ARE HERE (cassette by Personal Soundtracks)
SHAUN ROBERT – SWAN SONG FOR TAPE RECORDER (cassette by Personal Soundtracks)

Personal Soundtracks is a label by Richard Gallon, who works as Funkturm, and his label releases cassettes, books, DVD, CD and vinyl. Not all of their releases are available as a download. The first release I heard was a split by Radio Intercept and Vitamin Manifest. This release is called ‘Sounds Of Other Cities Volume One’, but I went for the alternative title. I had not heard of both musical projects before. Vitamin Manifest has four pieces, which all use street noises from Belgrade, and later these recordings were altered via the use of electronics. The original field recordings remain to be recognized in this slightly muddy take on music. Radio Intercept make their name come true and use radio waves picked up from the Kuiper Belt. They could have fooled me, to be honest. I must admit I don’t how radio waves from the Kuiper Belt sound, but in their approach, they arrive at a similar noisiness as Vitamin Manifest, or, perhaps, even a bit more noise when they use feedback. Both these projects have a slightly improvised character, which may seem strange regarding field recordings and electronics. Maybe the electronics they use are almost broken or half functioning, which reminded me of circuit bending. Musicians from that area share their love for chaotic noise interjections; Radio Intercept is closer to the originals than Vitamin Manifest.
    The other new release is by Shaun Robert, who is these days quite prolific. Various recent releases are, in fact, old ones, from the ’90s, when he worked as Factor X. I am not sure if these current releases would have been made as Factor X, or maybe were even released as such. ‘Swang Song For Tape Recorder’ is an hour-long work for ‘a battered and broken double tape machine’ and uses it in feedback (output to input) mode, along with metal objects and wire, “making a layered distortion by removing the erase head, and detaching the record-head to make it malleable to various positional adaptions effecting the stereo panning”. It is one long piece as such is my perception of this release, but Robert goes through various motions. On the first side, Robert works with many cut-up sounds, quickly shifting and moving these around. All of this reminded me of very early Etant Donnes releases. The other side works with both longer sounds and more rhythmical sounds, sitting next to each other or playing together. While both sides can easily be labelled as noise music, I would think that the second one is more a traditional noise piece, whereas, on the first, it is more the rawest form of musique concrète. Even when this is from 1997, it sounds like it could have been made ten years before that. It sounds as if this could have been a part of the worldwide cassette scene of the 80s. I wouldn’t go as far as to say that Robert’s work is a mere copy. His music is a reminder of good ol’ days of home taping and killing the music business. Cassettes these days look much better, though, certainly with this label. (FdW)
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JEFF SURAK – ERIS I DYSNOMIA (cassette by Eh?)

It was more than thirty years ago that I was first in contact with Jeff Surak. He had a solo musical project, 1348, a label (Watergate Tapes; he is from Washington DC after all), and a group New Carrolton. Surak was one of those active players in the worldwide cassette scene. Beyond that, I stayed in contact with Jeff on and off, though, fair enough, more off. At one point, he was the organiser of the Sonic Circuits Festival in his home town and still runs a label, Zeromoon. Many of the releases are digital-only but occasionally in a physical form. I heard only a fraction from his massive body of work, certainly when it comes to his more recent output. Likewise, I am also a bit in the dark about the sort of technology used by him. From my recollection, I would say Surak uses electronics, be it stompboxes or laptops, in combination with acoustic instruments. I remember a zither was one of them and judging by the music here. I can still see him using one. Surak’s music is a fine combination of both ends. The zither (and other acoustica at his disposal) sometimes played rather loosely, almost as if in an improvised manner. Picked up the laptop, Surak alters the scenery, and it all becomes coherent and together. He serves loops, rhythms, drones, usually in an intricate pattern. Although we no longer recognise them, I’m sure field recordings found their way into the music. Throughout, the mood of his music is on the dark side, but not exclusively; it isn’t all too bright either. Surak’s music is profound and sturdy. He doesn’t care too much for things being quiet and spaced out, even when ’16 Hours on Neptune’ suggests he likes that. ‘Parasite Lost’ covers the whole first side and is Surak’s at his most droniest and, at times, loud with piercing sounds. On the other side, there are four pieces, all quite different from each other. All of this makes up the perfect showcase for Surak’s many interests. (FdW)
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BLEED AIR – TIME, FEROCIOUS (cassette by Superpolar Taips)

My third encounter with the music of bleed Air (no capital bleed) (see also Vital Weekly 1252 and 1267). This new release is another exercise in working with machines on the verge of breaking down and modular electronics; however, these electronics might very well have some old effects pedals and not a super fancy set-up. It seems to me that bleed Air made some progress in defining his music. The use of rhythm from his earlier work is now almost gone. Loops came into their place, such as the Star City Tserkov’ Spasa Preobrazheniya church bells in ‘Raumzeit’. Time is the thematic approach here, by slowing down sounds on an old reel-to-reel machine, adding an extra filter onto the music. Bleed Air feeds all sorts of sounds into the electronics here, be it the Mbira, a Kalimba, an acoustic guitar, bass, human voice, or whatever residue is on the tapes. For instance, in ‘The Past (Part I)’, there is an orchestral sound from before but now almost erased. Part two of the piece ends with a collage of speeding up and slowing down tape, the machine finally giving in. Regardless of the input, bleed Air’s treatments result in fuzzy and hazy atmospheric music, sometimes erupting into a full-on noise blast (‘Clock Hypothesis’). We no longer recognise whatever goes into the machines, as bleed Air gives the material quite the push around. I very much enjoyed this release. It sits firmly in that field of musicians with lo-fi equipment and atmospheric electronics. As such, the music isn’t too different from what others do in this field, but I think bleed Air has a strong enough voice of his own to stand out in that field. (FdW)
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LACUSTRE – VOTRE UTOPIE EST NOTRE DYSTOPIE (cassette by Da ! Heard It Records)

This release is my introduction to the work of Johan Sebenne, who goes by the name Lacustre and the Parisian label Da Heard It Records. Sebenne’s other alias is Yo(busson), and he is a member of such groups as Altair Temple, Mohtra, Nexus Sun, Nexus Temple and Year Of No Light. On Discogs, I found a picture of him in front of big guitar amps and listened to music. I would think the guitar plays a vital role in his music. The cover also lists bass, synths, zoom, GRI & SuperCollider. The computer edge is also something I noticed because granular synthesis plays a role here as well. Your utopia is our dystopia, is the translation of the title. One could read a comment on the current sorry state of the world, in which diametrical oppositions fight each other with much hatred. He divided the cassette into a ‘Utopia’ and a ‘Dystopie’ side, but I did not hear much difference there. The closing piece, ‘Extension Du Monde Brilliant’, is a beautiful spacious drone piece, easily one of this release’s favourites; what’s up with dystopia there? Atmospheric music is what Lacustre plays here, and he does it well and with considerable variation and elegant style. It starts with the lighter side of things in ‘Télépathine’, but with ‘Edmund Hillary’, we have arrived already in a dark mode. The drones are all oppressive and loud, guitars mixed with computer processing, and it all becomes a wall of sound. The three short parts of ‘El Tren’ revolve around field recordings and electronics, bridging the drone pieces. An apparent reference would be the music of Fennesz, but I’d say that Lacustre adds something to make it his version and that something lies in the use of harsher drones at times. This is not for the sake of harshness, as it is the combination with softer/quieter pieces that make up the variation. Great one. (FdW)
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