Number 1312

DAVE RUDER – NOT GREAT (CD by Gold Bolus) *
GINTAS K – NERVUS VAGUS (CD by Gk Records) *
DAVID LEON – AIRE DAGUA (CD by Out Of Your Head Records)
ROBBIE LEE – PRISMATIST (CD by Relative Pitch Records) *
CLOUDFISH – BUT IS IT ART? (CD by Trytone) *
JON DOE ONE – SOL INVICTUS (LP by esc.rec) *
DRONE-MIND/MIND-DRONE VOL. 8 (LP compilation by Drone Records)
ATONAL VOL 2 – ENCYCLOPEDIA OF OBSCURE AURAL WONDERS – 80´S​/​90´S (cassette compilation by SPH Music) *
SMYLEX ATTACK/ARDOR – AETHER / FLUX (split cassette by Strategic Tape Reserve) *


This is quite a surprise. It has been a while since I heard of Adam Pacione, but I remember reviewing some of his work. There was a full-length release for Infraction Records (Vital Weekly 596) and one for Elevator Bath (Vital Weekly 497), but some came as CDREPs. The surprise is that this box collected all his releases that were part of the ‘Still Life’ series, and I never knew that many. I should know because I reviewed number 14 in the series, ‘End Titles’ (Vital Weekly 721), the last piece on disc four. Originally these discs were presented in a subscription series, somewhere in the year 2009. I wrote about the last one “Maybe just a little bit too long to be interesting for the full eighteen minutes, but I think I am listening in the wrong way: rather than listening, one should just undergo the music, have it on as a tonal background thing.” Now that we have the complete set, plus two bonus pieces, I could easily write the same thing, but I like the new context of the box set. The volume of the work, more than four hours, changes the perception I have of the music. I admit I haven’t heard much from Pacione in quite a while, so I consider this box set as a way of reacquainting with his ambient work. I am told that he uses a small multi-track cassette player, tape loop experiments, synthesisers, samples and processed field recordings, say the elements that many use in the field of lo-fi music-making. I think you can certainly call the music of Adam Pacione an early example of that. His ambient music isn’t always the smoothest; it is ragged at the edges. He emphasises that nasty frequency, the mild distortion that is deliberately left in and throughout that sense of decay. In some ways, some of this reminds me of William Basinski’s work, but without the smoothness, which is something I enjoy a lot. You can’t recognise any of the field recordings, and at times his synthesisers have an excellent eerie organ-like quality, and in every piece, the built-up is slow. However, none of these pieces is static; Pacione’s music moves slow but moving it does, which brings me back to what I wrote about ‘End-Titles’. Some of these pieces are too long, but now there is more of them, fourteen, the perception changes for me. Listen to this as one long piece of music on a long quiet afternoon. Maybe the upcoming holidays provide the perfect occasion for such an experience?
    The four CDs come in a carton box and a booklet with Pacione’s photography. Many of these musical pieces served as a soundtrack in exhibitions of his visual work, and they are wonderfully colourful pieces of landscape photography. Just like the music, these are also treated and have an excellent psychedelic quality. A coffee-table sized photobook and CD would be the most logical next step for a release. (FdW)
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While listening to the album not Great by Dave Ruder I felt soaked into it. It starts with ‘Biggest Lobster’ is a very playful start for the songs that follow. The combination reminds me almost directly to some songs of Nick Cave but with a sunny happy tone instead of the dark and melancholic tones we know from Nick. ‘Applied Brontology’, takes the mood of the first song forward and is a great bridge between the intro and the third song with cello in sustain and stachatto combined with Rhodes. A very totally different scheme in lyrics is applied. In all three songs the lyrics are sung and spoken which adds a great dynamic experience.
    The title piece switches to another dimension with the instruments used for the album. It’s mainly vocal driven with a straight forward more in the face tone and flow. Some guitar plucks and strings decorate the spectrum wisely and precisely.
    ‘This Is What Passes For Culture’ is more rhythm driven than the previous lot. With stiff programmed electronic drums a beat with a notable snare is the fundament of swinging basslines, plucks and vocals playful as in the songs before it takes you more forward on the musical trip of the album. It is followed by ‘To Stay Alive’, which sets a whole different tone from the start. A minor followed from the more happy sounds of the song before takes the listener into more depths of the album. Guitars play an important role in this song. The vocal viola and violin parts are a bit drastic but still down to earth. The lyrics are also more on a sad tone.
    The variation lingers with the rest of the album, going from one with a fuzzing electric guitar playing slow chords combined with Rhodes and strings, vocals that start very late which takes the listener first into a story by the instruments to one that is slow and deep. Guitar strummings with repeating vocal lines up on a rhodes without any drums make it more intimate, but not too. At the end it’s taking the listener slowly to the end of the album with two more songs left. Sometimes a song didn’t hit the right snare on me, such as ‘Lisa Sushi’. As the song is a great variation in the album storyline it simply wants me to skip it because I am curious for the next and last song. ‘Potato Party’ is the cherry on the cake. Energetic fast cello and viola playing combined with an almost double speeded vocal rhythm moving on and from to more slow parts in the song which add nice dynamics.
    All in all I think the album ‘Not Great’ is a great story of everyday life with both laughter and tears. It’s happy, sad, uplifting and deep. A pleasure to listen. (MR)
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Gintas Kraptavičius was born in 1969 in Lithuania. That makes him look young in my eyes, but in fact, he is already over fifty now. He was the core of the first Lithuanian industrial band ‘Modus’, but in 1999 took an interest in purely electronic music. Since then, he has published over 60 releases, across all formats, according to Discogs.
    His main interest is in ‘granular synthesis’, the use of micro-sounds (fractions of a note), inherently the dynamic bits of a sound, that are tweaked, treated, slowed/speeded up, and layered, to produce completely new sounds, sometimes reminding of, or even the substance of, Glitch. This is an ongoing trend, maybe even coming to a close, and many electronic artists have been using this method over the past decades.
    Since following his work, I have found a lot of it completely abstract and not necessarily enjoyable to listen to. It is, actually, much more fun to watch him produce it, as he does quite a number of live performances of his work. Although granular synthesis does not exclude melodies, these are again small bits of melodies and you do feel you long for some strain of notes, sounds to cling to, or simply an arc of tension that would build and subside to create a ‘piece’. Gintas is best, in my eyes at least, when he combines computer-based electronic work with field recordings and other sounds.
    This is the case here, where abstract sound droplets intertwine with other electronic sounds and spoken word bits. Not the ‘dramatic’, impact seeking razzle-dazzle I have bashed in the past weeks, but voices whose words you cannot understand if you do not know Lithuanian become a textural part of the work. I am told, the voice of a child tells a funny fairy tale. Other stories are about death, the consequences of WW2, or the deportation to Siberia. You can pick a bit of the mood from the sound of the voice, and the rest is left to imagination. The music contains all I lamented was missing from other work: slight melodies, tension, continuity. Not all tracks contain voices, or least not recognisably, which adds to the more dreamy and remote, i.e. sightly sad impression the music makes. As we go along, we start with a ‘laughing’ track, move into some abstract pieces including more or less voices, add layers (I have the impression) until the culminating crescendo of ‘+All we are’, and end with a child laughing and a toy playing music. There is a beautiful tension in this release. (RSW)
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It’s those times when you despair because the English of the press release is so confused you have to try to think what they wanted to say to grasp the content. This is the second duo-release by Zach and Rabbia – both percussionists. Zach is from Norway, Rabbia from Italy, the former more an ensemble musician, the other solo. The first impulse being this is certainly a free jazz racket. But the title does imply something else – something Daniel Menche-like – which I also have not really found in the recordings … Now what?
    Think of a mixture of Lustmord, Rapoon, and Beefcake. With a very interesting edge to it, actually (surprise) the sound of percussion. But let’s return to the press release. It seems that the two are not limiting themselves to percussion but also add a good bit of electronics. They play their percussion instruments (obviously not their bodies) using all possible techniques percussionists master today, giving us a wide range of sounds from broom-on-snare to deep resonating ambient sounds. Unfortunately, we learn nothing about how the recordings were made – in dialogue in a studio? by mail under Covid restrictions? at least they make no reference to Covid, which is a nice change, currently.
    Track 1 ‘Proprioception’ starts off with an electronic snarl/feedback, joined by a broom hitting a snare, quite conventionally. Then electronic percussion adds a more leftfield D’n’B-like edge, makings things a little hectic. A variety of percussion sounds fill the back whilst the feedback sustains and the piece grows into a very short climax of layered sound, to then die into single sound drops. The second track is more ‘traditional’ percussion (recognisable sounds) with less electronically treated and feedback sounds. The third is a nearly pure electronic drone. And so we go on a ride between ambient/drone, electronic and acoustic percussion. Although the D’n’B element is absent from the other tracks (although I did like it very much), the music still holds its ground, even offers joyful moments (one track actually called ‘Joy’, although that is more a drone piece), giving us an inventive and enjoyable new mixture of sounds. (RSW)
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DAVID LEON – AIRE DAGUA (CD by Out Of Your Head Records)

A real surprise this one. A release by Out Of Your Head Records label that often introduces albums by young promising talents. For sure this is one! Not only the name of David Leon (alto saxophone) is new to me, this also counts for the names of his companions: Sonya Belaya (piano), Florian Herzog (bass) and Stephen Boegehold (drums). Leon is a Cuban-American saxophonist who grew up in Florida. He studied jazz at the New World School of the Arts. In 2017 he won the Herb Alpert Young Jazz Composer’s Award and debuted with his quartet at the Newport Jazz Festival. Belaya is a Russian-American pianist, singer, composer and improviser, dividing her time between Michigan and New York. One of her activities is the project Dacha; she seeks to give new life to music from the Russian folk tradition. Herzog is a German bassist, composer and bandleader based in New York after working in Cologne and the Netherlands. He worked with people like Theo Bleckmann and Jim Black and with upcoming musicians like Nick Dunston, who also has an album out on Out Of Your Head Records. Finally, Stephen Boegehold is a drummer, composer and bandleader based in New York City and released several albums that investigate aspects of composition and improvisation. Together they deliver a great jazz album of intelligent and sparkling music centred around the compositions by Leon. ‘Horrible, Horrible Service’ is a swinging piece. ‘Pina’, referring to Pina Bausch, is a more open, subtle improvised work focusing on timbre.
    ‘First you must learn the grip’ starts as a bop-influenced energizer before moving into more open improvisation. ‘A Hug at Day’ is an introverted and poetic piece for piano, bass and piano. Also, ‘Expressive Jargon II’ starts very quiet with sax and piano playing with a small motive in an answer-response way with percussive interludes. A very intimate conversation.
    Especially Leon demonstrates many sides of his techniques in the varied musical constructions that he composed. Together they develop a warm and lively sound and interaction. All of this is a very remarkable and promising first statement by David Leon and his impressive quartet. (DM)
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The musical collaboration between Archer and Jasnoch has a long history and goes back to the early 80s when both participated in Bass Tone Trap, producing jazz-punk like music. Jasnoch started with playing bluegrass and country but turned to improvisation near the end of the 70s and became a member of Sheffield Free Music Group. After their Bass Tone Trap experience, Archer and Jasnoch played together as a duo from time to time, or they met in other collaborations. After their last concert in 2019, they decided for doing more shows in 2020. Then the virus came, and instead, they chose a studio recording halfway this year. Both play a wide range of instruments on this recording: Martin Archer (sopranino, saxello, alto, tenor & baritone saxophones, flute, bass harmonica) and John Jasnoch (electric guitar, acoustic 12 string guitar, lap steel guitar, mandolin, banjo, oud, ukulele). Archer is known for the many different contexts of his musical activity. Practising many different styles and approaches: progressive, jazz, ambient-induced music, etc. Not often do we meet him in a free improvisation project moving away from jazz and other idioms. This is the case with this duo work of often non-idiomatic improvisation. Because of the variety of instruments, their dialogues evoke very different atmospheres and moods. Many colours and many techniques are used to create distinguished improvisations. Always on a high communicative level, they invite us into many sides of their very personal and rich musical partnership. (DM)
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Quantum is quite a big word, especially concerning the galaxy. But hey, we’re talking here about sounds generated by a Quantum Oscillator, although the press release really likes to link bigger, not to say cosmic matters.  Not that strange, actually, since this is all about Mia Zabelka (1963, Vienna), also known as the queen of the noise violin. She turned the violin into a sound machine from her classical education, continuing with it on this release together with Canadian electroacoustic improviser Glen Hall. Various exceptional computer programs were used to create new worlds for the four-stringed instrument, from which sounds are sometimes hard to recognize out of all overwhelming manipulations. With the names of all the programs, we could fill the whole review. Still, it’s good to know there were treatments done to the violin by IRCAM’s artificial intelligence software OMax. They worked hard to ‘quantize’ the violin’s sound into the microsound sphere using IRCAM’s CataRT. Zabelka’s playing (and the things done to that) often sounds over-energetic, freaked and nervous, barely in control – but of course, she’s mastering the whole thing very well. Sometimes, it comes to a harsh noise outbreak, where the violin can still be heard but behind a wall of sound. Quite energetic and full of power, restlessly seeking new horizons and possibilities. The album ends with a dramatic, dark ambient track, possibly just to thank you for listening to our benevolent madness. (AVS)
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Vital Weekly mentioned the name Francesco di Cristofaro once before when I reviewed a release by Degora, a trio of which he is a member. Di Cristofaro plays string and wind instruments in that group, such as duduk, bansuri, nay, bagpipes, accordion; instruments from China, India, and Armenia. On his solo album, he adds the zurna, baglamas, bouzouki, dizi, bawu, rabel, stylophone, field recordings and electronics. Like the Degoya release, this too is a way too brief release, especially as De Cristofaro shows us various possibilities he likes to explore. On the one hand, there is microtonal playing of the instruments (or a selection there), and I found it hard to recognize which ones were. I am sure that not being all too familiar with some of these instruments didn’t help. The two most extended pieces bookend this release are both examples of this microtonal approach. The last one also has the most field recordings (or perhaps the sort of field recordings we recognize as field recordings). On the other hand, there are pieces in which the string instruments are strummed and plucked, perhaps receiving a more open-ended treatment. The electronics added create, at times, an eerie atmosphere. Di Cristofaro has two of those, track two and four, of which in ‘0.III’ the accordion plays a vital role and reminds me of Pauline Oliveros. In the middle, we find  ‘O.II’, the solo piece, not repeated in any way, and which sounded like wolves tearing up an animal, and this piece sound spooky and haunted. And, at thirty-four minutes, that’s it, and that is a pity. I would have minded hearing some more of those microtonal pieces, as those two sounded lovely. It will be interesting to see in which direction his next release will be. (FdW)
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Bo van de Graaf is most famously known as the founder of I Compani, an ensemble that started out 35 years ago playing music composed by Nino Rota. Before that he played in various ensembles in and around the Nijmegen improvised music scene, in which he played a very important role. This disc collects several historic recordings of pieces, mostly composed by Bo in the last two decades. First off, there is ‘Too Much Wind’ for large ensemble -3 pianos and 25 wind players-, a sound impression of the mistral, a forceful wind in the south eastern parts of France. Included are quotes from Gershwin, tangos by Piazzola and Balcarce and a very nice solo by Bo. An invigorating piece of music clocking in at nearly 20 minutes and to these ears the most conventional sounding piece on this CD. This doesn’t mean it’s boring, au contraire. Next up is an abridged recording of a 2015 concert for 25 car horns called “Kakafonissimo” performed by the owners of their cars and conducted by Bo. There’s a soprano sax in there as well, but the liner notes don’t state the player. Interesting piece, especially because each claxon has it’s own timbre and pitch and some nice and playful combinations can be heard. Bo writes in the liner notes that he began with these kind of pieces in 1993.
    ‘Shukri; is a recording of a piece for trio Appelation Controlée with an instrumentation of two hurdy-gurdies and accordion. The timbres of the hurdy-gurdy and accordion fit really well. The melodies all three instruments play are mysterious and might well be a soundtrack for a movie. Next up is “The Freejazz Karaoke_SMS in Concert”, a recording of a large ensemble that reacts on orders on a silverscreen by the audience. As there is only audio, we can only imagine what the orders were on that screen. As a whole the piece is very intriguing. “I don’t have a record player” is the next track. A haunting violin solo with accompaniment of female voices, taken from movie quotes and recorded off of a telephone. This collage works very well and is well worth the time for deep listening. “Wanderers Nachtlied & altsax impro” concludes the disc. Alexander Voormolens 1949 setting of Goethes Wanderers Nachtlied for a cappela mixed choir combined with alt sax and leading into a highly inspired solo by Bo and back to the a capella mixed choir again. This track is absolutely wonderful. There’s a bonus track : “Howling at the Campfire”. Beginning with a soprano sax solo the music turns into turmoil and gets into a quiet coda featuring the melody on bandoneon. A fitting end to a disc containing a small sample of the sound world Bo has created in the last 20 years.
    Highly recommended for people that are not afraid to listen to adventurous and sometimes even eccentric music. (MDS)
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ROBBIE LEE – PRISMATIST (CD by Relative Pitch Records)

Robbie Lee is a multi-instrumentalist based in Brooklyn, with a focus on improvised music. He uses historical and early music instruments such as a gemshorn, a chalumeau – a predecessor of the clarinet – and a great bass recorder. On the other side of the spectrum are modern modular electronics, guitar and various keyboards. Besides being a musician, he is an audio engineer, mixer and producer. Furthermore, he’s on the advisory board of the Institute for Music and Brain Science.
He plays solely on the sopranino, the smallest saxophone readily available for purchase in a store on this particular release.
    This isn’t the first record documenting a musician playing solo saxophone. The first one was Anthony Braxton’s For Alto, recorded in 1969 and released in 1971 on Delmark. Then, a few years later – 1973 to be exact – followed by Roscoe Mitchell, a longtime member of the Art Ensemble of Chicago. And even before that, there were tracks featuring musicians solo on a saxophone: Eric Dolphy, Coleman Hawkins & Gene Sedric, among others.
    Clocking in at almost 37 minutes and 14 tracks, this release beckons for deep listening as a whole. Why? Lee uses extended techniques (multiphonics, flatterzunge & microtones, to name a few) to construct lyrical sounds, patterns and melodies.
    He uses drones in the traditional folk sense of the word in some tracks: long notes electronically altered and topped by a melancholy melody. Robbie Lee uses his virtuosity on the sopranino to create a new musical language, extending the vocabulary & dialects made available by Anthony Braxton, Roscoe Mitchell, Eric Dolphy & Steve Lacy on their respective records. He doesn’t show off his substantial skills for the sake of showing off. The sopranino saxophone is a notoriously hard instrument to play. The solo sax tracks are interspersed with tracks using (ancient) tuning forks combined with electronics. These have a more ambient quality and serve as a counterpart to the rapid patterns heard in some solo sax tracks.
    This is a revelatory release and will be a mainstay on my playlist if not to discover the track titles and their relation to the music presented by Robbie Lee. (MDS)
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Cloudfish is made up of violinist Jasper le Clercq and vocalist Hartog Eysman. The music they make is theatrical, whimsical, punishing, delightful, tortuous, and fun. Their album ‘But Is It Art?’ is made from a rich tapestry of melody, rhythm, and thoughtful vocals. In a short period, they manage to tape into something that leaves you pondering the album long after it’s finished.
    ‘Forgive’ feels like a cover of a Jon and Vangelis number. Strong yet fragile, vocals drift over le Clercq’s graceful soundscapes. At anymore you feel it could all collapse under the sudden weight of a melody. It doesn’t. Instead, we get one of the strongest tracks on the moment when the duo is at their most vulnerable. Sometimes this doesn’t work as well. ‘Patience is a Liar’ isn’t quite the event it should be. It is hard to put your finger on why it doesn’t work as well as some of the other tracks, but it doesn’t. Maybe after the one-two punch of ‘Berlin’ and ‘A Light Inside’, we are expecting something to follow their ilk, but it doesn’t quite come off, which is a shame as its one of the rare instances of the album not quite living up to the member’s hype.
    A few times, Eysman’s vocals get in the way of le Clercq’s incredible soundscapes. This is no slight on Eysman. His stories of love, loss, and redemption are engaging, clever and moving, but there are times when you just want to hear and to try and work out, what le Clercq is doing. His playing is virtuosic. Sometimes he just goes for it and renders you unable to move due to the emotional impact of the music. Other times he’s playful and being jocular, but there is always a point. At no point does he ever just play for the sake of it. And this is the point of ‘But is it, Art?’
    Despite all its protests, ‘But Is It Art?’ is a delicate album, filled with tender melodies, thoughtful lyrics and a sense of longing that is hard it ignores. Even the scratchy instrumental ‘Kraaak,’ with all its awkward sounds and terse rhythms, quickly draws you into its world before displacing us again. The album asks a big question about art, what is art and what should be art. It tries to answer it, as I have tried to explain why the album works, but we both fail. Defining why art works is, to quote the film Dogma, “is the most exhausting activity one can engage in, next to soccer.” After experiencing art, you immediately know whether you like it or not. I can categorically say that I enjoyed this album. It touched me in a way I wasn’t expecting, but it might not be something I return to very often, if at all. (For very different reasons) Much like the film ‘Requiem for a Dream’. I’m glad I saw the film. It will stay with me forever, but I never need to see it again. The same is true here. I will carry what I have learned and gleaned from the album, but it won’t be getting regular airings. So, without going into much more detail than I already have. Is this art? Yes. Yes, it is. (NR)
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There is manic energy that explodes from the speakers when you start ‘Spinifex Beats the Plague’. It is consuming. Once ‘Nillepez’ starts, it feels almost impossible to focus your attention anywhere else. The main event is Tobias Klein, Bart Maris, and John Dikeman’s horn section. At times it totally overpowers the rest of the band. This isn’t a band thing. There is nothing more exciting than listening to a jazz album and feeling the music rather than listening to it.
    ‘The Voice of Dust and Trash’ starts with distressed guitar strings. Imagine someone playing flamenco on an unplugged, untunes, electric guitar, and you are close. During the opening third, you are expecting the band to suddenly jump in from nowhere and for the song to come to life as violently as ‘Nillepez’. It their credit this doesn’t happen. Instead, slowly the band members start to make their presence known. Drawn out, horns start to emerge. Philipp Moser’s muted drums start to make themselves out in the gloaming of the track. Around the halfway mark, the band have started to play in unison. Jasper Stadhouders’ guitar is plugged in, and he’s threading off solo after solo. Now we’re starting to get that power that we felt, not listened to, felt on ‘Nillepez’. It’s shronky in places, but it works incredibly well as there is the immediacy of punk but with the elongated melodies of jazz. ‘Fuck the Pest’ is only 49-seconds long, but it is more emotionally charged than anything else on the album. This is punk-jazz at its best!
    What ‘Spinifex Beats the Plague’ does incredibly well is focus the frustration of the past few years into musical form. The title screams this from the rooftops. If they could, Spinifex would end the pandemic now, but they can’t. Hence their frustration. The frustration of not being able to see family and friends. The frustration of trying to work from home. The frustration of not being able to play live, and rehearse, with your band. The frustration of not being able to go out as you once could. ‘Zoowiezoo’ is a prime example of this. It tries to capture the magic of going out and is inspired by a memorable night at the Berlin venue Sowieso. It almost works in its aim but falls short as only the band knows what happened that night. It’s like someone trying to explain why a certain photo is their favourite. You get the idea, but a lot of the detail is lost on you because you were there. Overall, this is a wonderful album that gets better with each play. You notice the nuances of the playing and their overall message. Yes, at times, everything becomes one seething slab of noise, ‘Bageshri’ does this a tad too often. Everything gets lost in the moment, and it is hard to work out what’s going on, but there is a pleasure in this that should be embraced. Play loud. Play often. (NR)
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Sorry folks that were expecting a review of a new release by Tony Wakeford’s neofolk outfit. That Sol Invictus this ain’t. To quote from an interview by Joeri Bruyninckx in Psychedelic Baby Magazine: “Did you have a certain direction or idea in mind for this record? Hannes d’Hoine: I didn’t start with a certain sound in mind. I started with the idea of making a solo record, this time to reflect the isolation and loneliness I saw all around me. But I soon realized that I wanted to make a record that looked forward instead of looking back. I noticed I was getting a bit gloomy by the ongoing lockdowns and insecurity of when it would end. I realized that it could only get better and decided to focus on that thought. That decision had a couple of implications: I had to invite some other people instead of making this music all on my own. I also thought about which instruments could embody hope, strength, power and tranquillity at the same time. I didn’t feel like making a high energy record. I needed a breath of fresh air. So I quite literally chose woodwinds. Hanne De Backer on baritone saxophone and bass clarinet. And Berlinde Deman on serpent.”
    Quoting Jon Doe One-lead musician goes to show in a couple of lines only the self-contained aural world of Sol Invictus, for this LP ticks the boxes of: gloom, insecurity, isolation, hope, tranquillity, no high energy. And above all: breath and breathing.
    Machinefabriek has made records called With Drums and With Voices. Aube worked with only fire on one record (one amongst many experiments with sole source material). Hazard produced a record focusing on wind. Sol Invictus is not made with sounds of breath only. Nor with only wind instruments. But somewhere in the suspended winterly animation of this record, breath and breathing takes a chokehold on all proceedings. Both are always near, close and up-close and personal.
    This breathing goes without saying. But it is never taken for granted as the constituent factor per se for these epic, languid, long melodic lines. Here: breath and breathing, too, both, elements that are severely implicated in terms of gestural musical impact, but – of course – also took centre stage in the deadly respiratory pandemic and airborne catastrophe we find ourselves in. This record then, also, like an affirmation of the adage: to breath is to be alive.
    Sol Invictus touches the extremes of our current life and times: personal, local, and grander scales. Slowly plucking away the double bass is a somewhat reassuring presence, comforting though hardly less melancholic in its voicings. And yet. But still. From the stillness and darkness comes a sense of forwarding motion and a notion of ‘vooruit’, of on with it, of moving ahead and pushing through. Sol Invictus then also as a ritual of cleansing, leaving behind, shedding skin, moving on.
    Slowly composition folds into improvisation as cut-up loops merge with close-mic’d bass clarinet as if the listener is inside the instrument. These tracks are imbued with masterly detail and the most subtle of presences. Therewith notions of ambient are kept at bay, precisely because attention is constantly jolted into heightened states of awareness, without the use of scare tactics – no: these long lines ebb and flow in sparse fields overgrown with the aesthetics of Another Timbre or Touch and mellowed, hallowed echoes of or reverberations in the innermost workings of elemental industrial. A cathartic celebration out of time, of all times, through these (dark) ages. (SSK)
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This LP is the third LP by Wendingen 1918. Band member Raymond Dijkstra released the two previous LPs were released on his Des Astres d’Or. As with many of the releases on that particular enterprise, these are highly limited (25-40 copies) and usually don’t make it to these pages. Of this new LP, 300 were made, so my first introduction to their music; may also be the case for more people. The other two members are Bart de Paepe and Frederique Bruyas. The latter is a regular collaborator of Dijkstra, and I must admit I don’t know too much about De Paepe, other than he worked with Timo van Luijk as Ilta Hämärä (see Vital Weekly 1137). Wendingen 1918 refers to a Dutch magazine for architects and designers, and the first issue is from 1918. [wiki:] “Wendingen initially was an important platform for Dutch expressionism, also known as the Amsterdam School, and later endorsed the New Objectivity.” As with much of the music I heard from Dijkstra (solo and others), this is another improvisation work. The four pieces are quite different. ‘Je M’abandonne à la Fièvre Des Rêves’ opens up here and a play of strings and percussion, rambling and rattling, and it comes with a bunch of delay and reverb, so it has a bit of a distant sound. ‘Recherche Dans Le Rêve’ (at seventeen minutes the most extended piece; this side of the record is over twenty-four minutes) reminded me of Nurse With Wound, with similar studio improvisations. Lots of drums rolling about, lots of cymbals, Bruyas’ voice and the studio used as an additional instrument. It cuts random bits of sound in and out of the mix. The shortest piece is ‘My Days Have Been a Dream’ is also the quietest piece here, with slow violin moves, doubling and drifting away. This piece could have been a solo piece. Following the quietest is the loudest piece, ‘Façons D’éveillé’, which is a Korg Monotron synthesizer manifestation. The first few minutes are subtle, with some piano notes, but it’s there alright when it starts. The piano and, later, string instruments stay there as well, but the biting sine waves of the synthesizer leave a strong imprint. Do not expect the sort of noise that Jliat would review, but it is louder than the three previous pieces. I must say it is also not the sort of improvisation that I thought was that great. Everything that happened in the background sounded of more interest to me but was too distant to reach. Despite that, I thought this was a very good record, full of exciting improvisations. (FdW)
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DRONE-MIND/MIND-DRONE VOL. 8 (LP compilation by Drone Records)

Maybe I mentioned this before, but following Drone Records hundred 7′ releases, forming an aural encyclopedia of drone musicians, their current project does a similar thing. This new instalment of ‘Drone Mind/Mind Drone’ is the eighth in a series. Each volume contains four musicians/projects/groups (or whatever you like to call them). So far, I learned a few names and this time, it is only one new name, plus one I don’t know too much about, and two I’m pretty familiar with. Those two are on the first side of this record. Kazuya Ishigami opens up here with a piece that sounds very familiar to me. In much of his work (found on his label Neus 318 and, sometimes, as Daruin), he uses electronics and field recordings, and I wouldn’t call much of his work drone music but a modern version of musique concrète; the laptop variation. In his piece, there are repetitions, heavily processed field recordings (semishigure perhaps?), and maybe because it is for Drone Records, there are lengthy, sustaining waves of that. Scott Jenerik’s Aume project (Vital Weekly 1157, 1081, 1045) also isn’t too modest when it comes to volume and power. He sets forward a fine set of dark percussion at the start, along with some heavy synth work, but slowly it all dies out, and field recordings take over, along with a rhythm loop of another dimension.
    Flipping the record over, I am introduced to the music of Hiroshimabend, initially from Austin but based in Vienna. Many of his releases are on his Opiumdenpluto imprint, none of which I heard before. He also works with rhythm, in a similar dark fashion as Aume here, along with more defined synthesizer tones, going for a slightly more gothic approach once the piece is in full swing, but I love the austere quality of the work. There is something beautifully austere about this piece. The oddball here is Johannes Schebler’s project Baldruin, offering three pieces. Many of the musicians in this series keep it to one long piece, but some have more. It shows some variety, for sure. Baldruin is the one I heard once before (Vital Weekly 1245). Baldruin’s music comes closer to the world of pop music but with a strong, sad undercurrent. He uses electronics, but the lead in ‘Die Katacomben Von Tesco’ is a wind instrument (not sure which one). This piece is beautiful. The other two are a bit shorter and use fine keyboard melodies and found voices (which sound Dutch in ‘Verstecken’). ‘Klima Und Psyche’ has a mediaeval feeling, yet all electronic. Perhaps this is not a drone, but they make a light ending to excellent, top-heavy mood music. (FdW)
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Over the years, there has been a lot of digging in the archives of modern composers, working with electronics and some interesting music saw the light of day. Especially of interest is the work from more exotic locations such as South America. Mesias Maiguashca is such a discovery for me. Born in 1938 in Ecuador, he received training at the local conservatorium and worked in the USA and Europe. He now lives in Freiburg (Germany) since 1996. This 2LP set is the first in a series to document his work. The five pieces here were composed between 1967 and 1989 and go by what is known as ‘music for instruments and tape’ in modern music circles. Two pieces are exclusively for magnetic tape, one for five percussionists, one for string quartet and one for organ and tape. I understand that his work is a combination of Western and non-Western concepts, techniques and timbres, which, for the untrained ear, is not a thing I could easily hear. However, what I do hear on these two LPs is some pretty interesting music. ‘Nemos Orgel’, for instance, the most recent piece, is a massive affair of drones, synthesizers and oscillators running amok. Quite a blast of noise music. A pure electronic composition, such as ‘El Mundo En Que Vivimos’, the oldest, is almost a piece of science fiction music; perhaps a more retro, black and white film, I’d say. Maybe it has that 60s optimism about space travel and electronic music? In ‘Ayayayay’, from 1971, we hear field recordings from Ecuador, and the busy place is translated into a buzzing sound conveying many images, almost like a flickering movie. It was certainly interesting to hear this piece, next to Paula Schopf’s piece from last week, that uses modern-day field recordings from Chile.
    I think ‘The Wings Of Perception’ is fairly conventional of the two pieces with instruments. The string quartet plays fairly traditional music and on tape to my ears, so I understand there is a more metallic approach to the violin captured, but had I not read this, I would not have known. In the piece for six percussionists and magnetic tape, the electronic side plays a more distinct role, and the percussionists also have distinctly different instruments (toms, gongs, cymbals, bells), so it all becomes quite orchestral, with the electronics in similar ranges of intensity as some of the percussive outbursts. I thought that this piece was also the most musical piece, with its repeating melodic phrases. Altogether this is an interesting introduction to this composer, quite varied and surely something to look out for more of his output. (FdW)
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There is a hand written noye here, which may or may not be part of the package. It lists ’13/40′, so maybe it is. I had not heard of Bearhug before. Bearhug recorded the music on a 4-track, using guitar and voice. I have no idea why Bearhug thinks Vital Weekly is a platform to write about his music, as we are not. We have here seven songs, thirteen minutes in total. The man (?) plays guitar, acoustic, and sings. Via overdubs come the drums and bass. This is a sort of rock music, singer-songwriter sort of thing. I don’t know. Not our thing. Google shows up with a Bandcamp link for this, but that seems to have disappeared if you click on it. Oh well… (FdW)
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ATONAL VOL 2 – ENCYCLOPEDIA OF OBSCURE AURAL WONDERS – 80´S​/​90´S (cassette compialtion by SPH Music)

Confined to the more obscure corners of electronic music, sub-section ambient and industrial, is Another Headache. This is the musical project of David Bourgoin, who had a label (Work In Progress) and a fanzine (Progress Report); ‘is’ as, after many years of silence, he returns with new music as Another Headache. He started the project in 1989, inspired by Zoviet France, Throbbing Gristle, early Sonic Youth, and using elements from krautrock and minimalism. In the nineties, there were a handful of releases, of which the split 7″ with Drome is one you still see a lot of copies. ‘Still Nothing Definite’, initially released in 1992 by the Portuguese label SPH Music, is now expanded with a few extra tracks, marking the thirtieth birthday of the label (and launch of a Bandcamp page with more oldies and newbies), and before releasing new music, the perfect introduction to what Another Headache was/is about. The music revolves around the pulsating rhythm of a synthesiser, not just a sequence or a drum machine, but the demanding pulse sounds cut short and looped. On top of that, Another Headache plays more synthesisers, now in a somewhat free modus and some wailing of the guitar. The krautrock inspiration is indeed never far off, as the pieces are long, minimal and pulsating. Oh, and at times a bit freaky. It doesn’t share much common ground with the word ‘rock’; that’s where industrial and ambient elements come in, bleeping and oscillating away. While I enjoy this release quite a bit, being a sucker for all things industrial and ambient from that late 80s, I also see room for improvement here. Some of these pieces are a bit too long for what they contain or become a slightly muddled affair. What I enjoy most is the hardly heard combination of pulsating synthesisers and layers of distorted guitars. That is the industrial pyschedelica that works best for me. Some of this is an old hat, so I am curious what the new one will sound like.
    The relaunch of SPH is further celebrated with a compilation of which the title is the program, althugh not really an encyclopedia, this cassette contains household names from the world of cassetes from the 80s and 90s. At least, to me they are household names (save for Enkidada). I am not sure if these are new recordings by these musicians, or something that SPH had in their cupboard for all these years. I couldn’t say from the music, to be honest. All of these pieces sounded as if they were made 25 years ago, which perhaps they were. I was thinking that if these were made recently, then maybe some of these musical projects didn’t have much development over the years. Who knows? This compilation is a lovely sample pack of the wide territory of musical interests from those years. The poppy sound of Mr Ebu versus the noise of Astro, and everything in between. As such this compilation does exactly what I wanted from a compilation back then. Hear some of my favourite musicians doing new music (Randy Greif, PBK, La Sonorite Jaune, Comando Bruno) and discover some new names; well, oke, in that sense this didn’t work this time, as said, because Enkidada was the only new name, but this compilation gave me that warm nostalgic feeling of olden days, pouring over such releases. The two catalogues SPH mailed, Xeroxed and all, enhanced that feeling strongly. (FdW)
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SMYLEX ATTACK/ARDOR – AETHER / FLUX (split cassette by Strategic Tape Reserve)

The two musical projects on this cassette might be new names for me; the four musicians involved here are also active in other projects. First, there is Smylex Attack, a duo of Mike Haley (Wether, Tabs Out) & Jamie Orlando (Zigra, Tabs Out), whereas Ardor. (or ardor. as it spelt on the cover) is Ryan Durfee (hyacinth. / qualchan.) & Alex Brooks (residual energy boss). If I understand correctly, both projects recorded the music via “remote collaboration”. Although not mentioned, I would think that both projects work with synthesizers, modular, no doubt, but maybe of any other type as well. There are some differences. Both projects have one thirty-five minute piece, and within that, there is quite a bit happening. For Smylex Attack, a synthesizer is a machine to bend tones, work out strange melodics, and throughout this, it sounds like two men, completely at ease with their machines, improvising all along. You could say doodling, as the material shoots in many directions. It never stays too long in the same place. For Ardor, that is what they love most; staying in a similar place, as their approach seems more towards the use of sustained, droning music. As I am more the sort of ‘sit back and enjoy’ listener, this side is more to my liking. The gritty, lo-fi ambient sound, cooked up with just a few synthesizers set to endless sustain, with a minimal set of samples floating about as ‘percussion’. With Ardor. you could identify some pieces, whereas Smylex Attack might be one; or lots. Smylex Attack makes you sit up and listen, Ardor. makes you sit back and relax.
    More new names then, with Antonello Perfetto & Gregory Nieuwsma . They were a member of a band called Sawak, and after a renovation of their rehearsal space, they decided to change their approach. Loopers play an important role in their music. One musician plays an instrument, and the other put it through many loopers; the first loops the instrument, the others the subsequent transformations. They recorded six pieces in a concert setting, and they are quite different. One of the two long pieces are quite long, and the rotating effect of a looper shows here a bit too dominant. Oddly enough, when they have a fuller sound, using drums and guitar, this looping effect is less dominantly present. As such, the longest (closing) piece, ‘ Φ1-Φ2=ΔΦ’, is fine krauty spacerocker, but borrowing a lot from the world of improvised music, and also adds elements from previous tracks on this release; various piano sounds from ‘Ir(x)=cos2(kxsinα)’ seems to arrive in a re-sampled form. I like their approach to all things fuller, such as in the dense bouncer ‘y(x,t)=Asin(kx−ωt+’, layering upon layering fo sound, or the post-rock drums of ‘yR(x,t)=y1(x,t)+y2’. The other pieces are straightforward in structuring a few sounds, but that works against them. Too many are just loops, I’d say.
    And finally, bleed Air, who is no stranger in these pages. He presents volume four of a series called ‘Learning By Listening’, which we have to take with a pinch of salt. I think the idea here is to source a recording of voices and set these to music. The subject here is the story of Adam & Eve, the thing about a rib from a man, well, you know the drill. This time around, bleed Air isn’t in his usual abstract modus of hazy electronics but samples drums and bass into a fine laidback jazzy atmosphere, along with smokey electronics. At times, I was reminded of DJ T-1-11, who did one excellent record of dance and plunderphonics, and while bleed Air leans more to the atmospheric side of music here, especially on ‘Postdiluvian Linguistics’, the b-side, bending voices  (tower of Babel, anyone?). Still, on the other side, he offers a broader variation in terms of music. See this as a hörspiel, I’d say. At sixteen minutes, a rather short release, sadly enough. (FdW)
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