Number 1324

LISA ULLEN / ELSA BERGMAN / ANNA LUND – SPACE (CD on Relative Pitch Records) *
BJ NILSEN – IRREAL (CD by Editions Mego) *
DRAPE – FORAGE/PRESENCE (2LP by Infraction Records) *
DOC WÖR MIRRAN – PROGRESSIVE PUNK PUNK 1-4 (four mini CDR by Marginal Talent) *
SALIS/SANNA/VENITUCCI – VATA (CDR by Minimal Resource Manipulation) *
ALFA00_AAAAZINE (2) (CDR, private) *
R4 – UNTITLED (BLUE/RED) (3″ CDR by Fusion Audio Recordings) *
TARAB – MATERIAL STUDIES #2 (3″ CDR by Taalem) *
SVÆR – Л​.​Λ​.​ハ (3″ CDR by Taalem) *
LANDFORMS – SLOUGH (3″ CDR by Hymns) *
MATT ATKINS – LEAF SKELETON (cassette by Minimal Resource Manipulation) *

LISA ULLEN / ELSA BERGMAN / ANNA LUND – SPACE (CD on Relative Pitch Records)

These three ladies are from Sweden and recorded their first release (indicating there will be more in this configuration?) at Fylklingen during the global Covid break. All three first met when playing with the Anna Hoegberg Attack, a Swedish free jazz sextet.
    Their style is clearly free jazz improv – whether or not much was composed beforehand neither artists nor label discloses (at this point). However, both Ullen and Bergman are well-known composers so that a composer battle could have been well on hand. What sticks out is that the classical format of a piano trio essentially assigns clear roles: the melody/lead in the piano, bass and percussion as the rhythm group. Although there has always been inherent controversy and competition between piano and bass, as the piano does not need an extra bass, it has the bass keys itself. The piano, therefore, can both accompany and lead.
    We nevertheless find a tightly knit trio that can give all three instruments sufficient space. Besides clearly reacting to each other and developing lines and patterns together, rather than in dialogue, the music uses all three instruments – maybe not at equal level, too different are the potential contributions of piano and percussion – to build tension. Moreover, the instruments are used in various ways to produce sound, i.e. using the full spectrum available to (acoustic) musicians today. This gives the music an interesting edge in interplay and the design of the sound. If I am not mistaken, some ‘prepared piano’ may have also been involved.
    The grip and cohesion of the trio are astonishing. Across the five tracks, they can keep attention high and deliver a range of different moods and sounds, ranging from expressive, full-blown free jazz attacks to explorations of sound, especially making use of the many sound possibilities percussion and bass offer. (RSW)
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This is a piano duo. Of Emil Karlsen, a young drummer from London also involved in the London Improvisers Orchestra, and Matthew Bourne, also from London, a seasoned pianist with a long list of collaborations, featuring Tony Bevan , Gilad Atzmon, and even Keith Tippett. As noted somewhere else recently, not all instruments go together too well, and especially the percussive character of percussion may or may not work well with more continuous noise from strings or wind instruments. At least it requires some composer- and musicianship to make them blend in ways that are a pleasure to listen to.
    Now, the piano could also be considered ‘percussive’ in a way. John Cage showed some of the way with the ‘prepared piano’ pieces, and the simple fact that a tone is struck and then dies away is similar enough to other percussive sounds. Bourne explores this to a high degree in these recordings, using a broad range of ways to influence the piano sound by obviously damping strings, playing them by hand or simply gripping them and modifying the sound. Six pieces evolve around tight interplay between Bourne and Karlsen, edging each other on, duetting in the best sense, and delivering an intense free jazz – or should I say contemporary classical set of music.
    The recordings were made in 2020 during a single session at which the musicians met a first time in a studio. Everything is improvised and albeit the novelty in the meeting, sports a dense, fresh and to-the-point mood. I mentioned classical music as some parts remind of twelve-tone passages that Keith Emerson used, as he lifted them from modern classical composers. Or fleeting phrases of jazzy play. But a lot is rather more ‘free music’ that changes between delicate melodic fragments up to the racket of ‘The Fool’s ending, that could be a Merzbow cover played by Zeitkratzer. Effectively one of the best contemporary jazz recordings I have heard lately.
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From two busy bees another work, their second release together. Rutger Zuydervelt (also known as Machienfabriek) and Bruno Duplant. The first was ‘L’Incertitude’, a cassette by Cronica Electronica (Vital Weekly 1232). That review ended with the hope that the two of them would work together. They did! There is one long piece of music on this new release, fifty minutes in total, with duties thus divided: Duplant on organ and Zuydervelt on electronics. That, in itself, doesn’t say too much. What was the agreement, the starting point, where were any restrictions, who did the mix, or perhaps did this together? If some sort of agreement were made between the two, I’d say that they set on doing a tidal wave composition, rocking back and forth. Each section takes a few minutes, comes and goes with a slow fade, and then the next wave arrives. Except for the final twelve or so minutes, which is one long piece, one could see that as a bunch of small waves. Each wave is different from the previous or the next; sometimes, these differences are more prominent than on the other, while others are closer together. I would think, but I am not sure, that Zuydervelt both manipulates Duplant’s organ sound as well as adds a brand of electronics of his own making to it. Sometimes these additions are barely noticeable, but there is some amplified rattling going in a more extended middle section. Zuydervelt feeds the organ through a small speaker and amplifies the rattling of the conus. Indeed, this is all part of the world of drone music, and there is no doubt there. You could say, ‘nothing new under the sun’, but you could say of many of the releases on these pages. Instead, you could also enjoy the music, take or leave it. I took it and enjoyed it quite a bit. (FdW)
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A real beauty this one and for sure one of my highlights for this year! ‘The Gift of Silence’ is the first and extraordinary solo album by Ireland-born Michael Bardon playing double bass and cello. Michael Bardon graduated from Leeds College of Music in 2010 and has worked as a professional musician since. He worked, for example, with Paul Hession, Tipping Point, Craig Scott’s Lobotomy (!), Nat Birchall Quintet, a.o. He was a founding member of adventurous quintet Shatner’s Bassoon. Recorded in July 2020, this album is another example of a solo album that came about under and because of the lockdown conditions, as it decided several musicians to explore their instruments. This is what Bardon did, and it led to an album with impressive results. All pieces came into being through improvising and experimenting “with extended techniques / prepared bass, microtonality and Harry Partch’s 11-Limit tonality diamond tuning system, overdubbing and long formless melodies”. Opening track ‘Realignment’ takes you into deep and dark sound territories and ends like an overwhelming Ouverture. ‘F# C# A# D’ starts and ends in a delicate mode with melody echoes. In between, there is a repetition-dominated chapter that is more dynamic and rough. As the title, ‘Partched’, suggest, not only in the title evokes a strong influence of Partch. Stretched-out massive and rich sound patterns, with sparse undefined sounds in the background. ‘Dormancy’ and other tracks also show Bardon’s sensitivity to the physicality of sound. ‘Etude’ is a compelling and wild improvisation with sounds popping up similar to a crying baby. An album of breath-taking and engaging sound structures. Overall, dark and strange atmospheres dominate; however, the music is also very uplifting created by a compassionate and open-minded musician with a strong vision. (DM)
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The Austrian Klanggalerie-label takes time for its rerelease-program of the catalogue by the enigmatic French combo Un Drame Musical Instanané. With long pauses, they add a rerelease to their catalogue. So far ‘Rideau!’(2017), ‘À Travail Égal Salaire Égal’(2017) and ‘L’homme A La Caméra’(2020) were reissued, all containing relevant bonus-tracks. Klangalert does not proceed in a chronological order. With ‘Carnage’ they release their sixth album dating from 1986. Un Drame Musical Instantané were an important and unique French trio of Bernard Vitet, Frances Gorgé and Jean-Jacques Birgé. Gorgé and Birgé came from a rock background, Vitet came from free jazz. They started around 1976 and absorbed many influences of modern composed music, movies, electronic – acoustic music, multimedia, etc. In their early years improvisation was dominant. In the 80s they started working with an extended orchestra, and it is during this phase ‘Carnage’ came into being. The album was released on their own GRRR-label that they started with the release of their debut-album ‘Trop d’Adrénaline Nuit’ in 1979. Almost all their albums would see the light through this albel, until the end of the 90s when they stopped. Line up on ‘Carnage’is as follows: Bernard Vitet (trumpets, vocals, violin, flute, reed), Francis Gorgé (electric guitar, synthesizer, vocals, percussion, flute, brake), Jean-Jacques Birgé (synthesizer, vocals, piano, brass, flute, reeds, percussion) with Youval Micenmacher (percussion), Jean Querlier (oboe, English horn, flute, sax), Youenn Le Berre (flutes, bassoon), Patrice Petitdidier (French horn), Michèle Buirette (accordion), Geneviève Cabannes (double bass) and the Ensemble Instrumental du Nouvel Orchestre Philharmonique directed by Yves Prin. The album is a perfect example of their unique approach. Their narrative and inventive music still impresses 35 years later and sounds fresh and lively. Take, for example, the track ‘Le Telephone Muet’. It has spoken word, dialogue, environmental sounds, abstract electronics, acoustic group playing. No matter the sound source – a cough by a person, an orchestral passage, a weird electronic generated sound – it is all assembled in a very well structured musical whole a narrative character. Sometimes the tracks are closer to audio play – like ‘Passage á l’Acte’, sometimes more closely to music, but always the various ingredients are connected very organic and convincing following a musical logic and pulling you into their impressive constructions. Great stuff! (DM)
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When reviewing new releases, questions go around my head almost always. Sometimes these are very specific and deal with the release at hand, but sometimes it concerns broader issues. One of these is field recordings and how they arrive onto a disc and subsequently on my desk in the form of a promo copy. For instance, Stéphane Marin, and his trio to Columbia and Peru. For me, one of those standard things to add is ‘not places I have been to before’. That makes it hard to relate the music, I think. I also never know if composers of such works feel about the absence of the listener of such importance. Or is it, perhaps, ‘sit down and listen to the sounds of this place, that I composed into a piece of music’? You can learn two things (at least?) from my remarks; I am prone to doubt, and I have not learned much about the theory of field recordings or the history of field recordings being part of the music. But then again, I have not delved deep into much more things that I write about. Marin takes us through the whole world of these countries, from the opening minutes with animal calls, towards the end of the busy sounds of a city (unspecified which one; it might be a highway crossing the rainforest). Marin has some pretty loud sections, cut with some tranquil ones, thus creating some great dynamics within his piece. As always, I feel somewhat distant from the whole thing, while at the same time, I can also enjoy the sounds, as the sounds they are and the composition they make. (FdW)
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BJ NILSEN – IRREAL (CD by Editions Mego)

This came out some time ago, but via via landed on my desk. I have known BJ Nilsen’s work for a long time now, from his earlier monikers to the significant bulk under his given name and his many collaborations with Sigtryggur Berg Sigmarsson. Perhaps it has to do with a discussion with a former reviewer for Vital Weekly about reviewing work from people you know well. Easier is certainly not a word that comes up; instead, more complicated. But then, I may know so many people whose work I review. I am sure much of what Nilsen does appears out of sight for me, in the form of concerts and installation pieces, so only a tiny portion ends up as a release. For ‘Irreal’, not real, Nilsen uses field recordings from Austria, Russia, South Korea and the Benelux; this man is going places! The door opens in ‘Short Circuit Of The Conscious Thought’, and the music starts. Maybe a door in the conscious thought? Much of that piece deals with drones, a recurring theme in all three but with some exciting variations. In the most extended piece, ‘Beyond Pebbels, Rubble And Dust’, there might be some kind of long string instrument, an aeolian harp, to stay within the area of field recordings. It slowly morphs into a more majestic drone, which one could remind of big washes of synthesizer sounds, but right at the edge of distortion. In ‘Motif Mekanik’, maybe the title gives it away; this is, for the most part, mechanized drones, right in the middle of industrial decay. The already mentioned ‘Short Circuit Of The Conscious Thought’ holds the middle ground there. While drones may be an important feature in all three pieces, they are not exclusively about them. Small sound events, also picked up in situ, play the role of the solo instrument, coming and going as they please. Sometimes buried with the depth of the drone, sometimes demanding all your attention. None of this material is very easy or quiet, but rather outspoken and loud, verging on the edge of noise (at times!), which is a great thing. From what I know from BJ Nilsen, he now works with analogue techniques reel-to-reel machines, among others, so maybe that accounts for the harsher approach? Either way, this is a delicate variation of a territory already well explored by Nilsen. (FdW)
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Imagine you could go back in time, let’s say the year 1518, somewhere in what’s now called France, and you could see all these people dancing frantically. What imaginary music would they be hearing? That’s exactly what this release tries to do.
    Apparently, in the summer of 1518, there was a dancing plague in Strasbourg. One hypothesis is that this was caused by ergotamine, a psychoactive substance produced by fungi and chemically related to LSD. This release is packed with infectious grooves, heavily influenced by early industrial music. It offers a lot from the opening statement in the first track with what sounds like a vedel, adorned with small detailed sounds that come and go to the slowly dissonant sounds later on in the same track. Also present is a manipulated soprano sax sounding like a crumhorn. In another track, the tenor sax plays a similar role. Three tracks feature lyrics. Taken as a whole, this is a fine release and by no means background music. There’s too much going on.
    Kakofonikt hail from Poland and are a loose collective with a core of three persons: Patryk Lichota, Hubert Wińczyk and Michał Joniec. This is their tenth release in fifteen years, following releases by Fourth Dimension, BDTA, Requiem Records and Axis Cactus Records. Well worth checking out! (MDS)
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Let me tell you that it’s pretty difficult to review the recording of someone sitting in a car in a storm while you’re sitting in a storm yourself. It is as well a mindfuck as well as a soundfuck… Luckily my circumstances were a lot better (comfortable at home), but still. Anyway, that car storm is, of course, not all that can be heard on the debut album of Konstantin Samolovov from Saint Petersburg. Astute readers may know this drummer from bands like Mars-96, Wozzeck, Ilia/Konstantin&Me and Dogs Bite Back, or as co-founder of the cassette label Spinalrec. ‘Routes And Stops’ contain three tracks, two of just under twenty minutes and one of six minutes. Samolovov experienced the storm sounds in the car as a very strong feeling, while the wind was seething outside and branches fell on the roof. Anyway, then the car was stationary, on ‘Routes’ it is on its way, and that gives a lot more intense noises. The engine, pouring rain, music, and conversation fragments predominate and mixed together like a sonic road movie. The CD is a limited edition made by the family band 231, consisting of Zoya, Anfisa, Sasha and Kostya. In short, a beautiful and small-scale sign of life from Russia that deserves appreciation.
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A string quartet in a contemporary, feminist context – you can’t hear, but the intentions are good. Since 2014, The Rhythm Method has consisted of Marina Kifferstein, Leah Asher, Carrie Frey, and Meaghan Burke. The group, operating from New York, consists of the classical arrangement of two violins, viola and cello, and often their voices are added to that. And that arrangement may be of a classic cut, but the members do everything they can to stretch the boundaries. They manage to do that just fine. The shrill sounds, dissonant melodies, screeching outbursts and nerve-racking repetitions will not be for everyone. Despite all the years they’ve been working together, their music has always appeared on other people’s albums, making this their debut album. The seven tracks feature compositions by all four musicians, with plenty of room for improvisation – and so everyone’s input is done justice. There are many fascinating sounds, which in turn are amplified by the input of the others. Melodic parts are also not shunned, although most of the music on this album is radically modern. And oh yes, about the mission statement: ‘our programming and collaborative efforts seek to highlight artistry that represents the beautiful spectrum of gender, race, sexuality, age, ability, and all other lines of identity’. (AVS)
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DRAPE – FORAGE/PRESENCE (2LP by Infraction Records)

Spencer Williams and Ryan Gacey, working together as Drape, return with their third release for Infraction Records, following ‘Let There WaterWater Air’. This new double LP is a re-issue of their 2016 cassette ‘Forage’ on the first LP and ‘Presence’ on the second. I could try and go for a blind test to hear what is old and recent. Instead, I looked it up. Throughout, the group has a folk-like element. It comes via acoustic instruments, such as guitars, flutes, small percussion, and voices humming wordless sounds, all of which are packed in with some delicate electronic treatment. Obviously, reverb is one such thing to suggest space, which this duo uses quite a bit. They don’t over-use it, which is a good thing. Throughout everything they do, the instruments shine crystal clear. There is quite a clear distinction between the ‘old’ and the ‘new’ here, quite audible. I didn’t look that up, and if I hadn’t, I’d probably write, ‘halfway through the end, there seems to be much more dynamics in play’, or words to such effect. If ‘Forage’ keeps things ‘small’, close together and intimate, the ‘Presence’ is the big production work. There is more detail within the various instruments, and there is, so it seems, less abundant use of reverb, but instead, a wider field of sound effects used. Guitars rattle, percussion looped, voices hum from above and beyond, and each gets a well-deserved place in the mix so that nothing gets lost. Maybe this is the experience they picked up along the road, maybe there is a helping hand, but I immensely enjoyed this new, big band sound approach. It was already quite good before that, but it was also a bit tame; now, it all shines beautifully like a polished diamond. This is where small ambient knows how to sound big. It takes a leaf or two out of the book of old 4AD Records and shows a whole new way in. Infraction Records is taking off where 4AD once left you! (FdW)
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Along with this record came a small note asking me not to translate the band’s name. A literal translation doesn’t quite constitute the meaning it carries in Dutch as a swearword. I came across this band before, on the ‘Mendacity Mogul’ compilation cassette (Vital Weekly 1280), and I saw a YouTube clip. Kuttekop is a Dutch trio, of Dennis van Geldrop (voice, bass), Sjak Van Bussel (noise), and Kikanju Baku (drums). I only know Van Bussel, and I have known him for 40 years – nobody in music with whom I go back further. He’s a member of THU20, Lewd, DMDN, Bunkur and now one-third of Kuttekop. It’s not something you can compare with any of his musical projects, and perhaps you can. Let me explain. Noise is an interest Van Bussel has had for a long time, be it of the power electronics variety (DMDN) or the metal end (Bunker). Now he’s a third variation with Kuttekop, the grindcore, noisecore variation. I like the way expectations are shattered here. There is noise, a hell of a lot of it, in fact, and bass and drums are not always easily recognized, as sometimes it all disappears in a wall of noise, but sometimes they appear, rattling cages and kettles, like an infinite storm. The voice is all garbled, and these lyrics are about anything; their meaning is entirely lost upon the listener. That it owes to the world of grindcore, I guess. In the world of ‘traditional’ noise, musical pieces tend to be overlong, well beyond their exciting point. Kuttekop has sixteen tracks, which are around two minutes on average per piece, so it all has the energy of a speed metal punk band in full overdrive, feedback mode. While you could quickly think that none of this is my cup of tea, I immensely enjoyed this LP. Part, as said, because it goes beyond expectations and because it wrecks notions as grindcore, noisecore and noise; at least that’s the impact it had on me. Maybe there are examples of people who do similar things, but I may not have come across them. The best noise of this week and the past few weeks. HNW merchants eat your heart out. (FdW)
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DOC WÖR MIRRAN – PROGRESSIVE PUNK PUNK 1-4 (four mini CDRs by Marginal Talent)

Two new releases by Doc Wör Mirran, or, rather, one-and-a-half. Where to start? With the known quantity of DWM or with The Residents? Hey, mister, The Residents are perhaps an even well-more known quantity! Yes, you are right, of course, to some people; they surely are, however, not for me. The Residents is a cult group, even when I was growing up and never could afford their records. That made me miss out on the lot, save, I think, for ‘Eskimo’, which the music library carried. I liked it from what I heard before, and shortly after that, I gave up. That was around the first volume of the American Composer Series, but I have not much interest in 1984 in either George Gershwin or James Brown. On the other hand, I know dedicated Residents fans, who go to every concert and know, obviously, a lot more than I do; for instance, what The Residents are ‘like’ these days. From a good source, I believe that ‘Holy Kiss Of Flesh’, the side-long Residents piece here, is from ‘God In Three Persons’ (1988). I enjoyed this somewhat psychedelic megamix a lot, having only just heard the original, bringing out the instrumental parts, emphasising the melody and the rock elements, and less on the vocals. Doc Wör Mirran has the centre stage reserved for saxophone player Adrian Gormley, so this means another fine laidback jazzy outing for the group. If you will, a film noir setting, but with some curious samples thrown in from pre World War Two documentaries about Hitler and art. “Love Art Hate Fascism” is the band’s motto, so I can’t argue there. The record is on marbled pink vinyl comes with a 3D picture and a bag of candies that look like eyeballs; that looked like a scary thing to set my teeth in, but it tops a most remarkable record.
    And then there is the ‘Progressive Punk’ series – DWM release #187-190, so they are regarded as individual releases. The story here is that they recorded the material between 2016 and 2020, but not as an album, but simply a lot of material and choose the best for an LP or a double LP. But the members (and I assume that we are talking about the core members here; Raimond, Gormley, Svchweiger. and Wurzer) couldn’t agree on what was to be chosen, so in the end, there were no less than twelve ‘sides’ for an LP. These four mini CDRs are four of those twelve, each about twenty minutes, so together, this has the length of a double LP. There is no such thing as ‘progressive punk’, but Andy Martin (of the Apostles) coined it as a phrase to describe Doc Wör Mirran, and why not? It sounds like a great musical genre. Perhaps it covers what they do; playing weirdly progressive music with a rock context, but is not prog rock or punk. The Docs have punk energy, the solos of rock, the beats of kraut and the sort of weirdness that I like a lot but maybe have no name, no genre. The Mirrans are everywhere and nowhere. These four releases show them in a rockier phase than some of their other music; melodic, quiet, loud, spacious, complex, and odd. At times I said, no no, “this won’t do, this is too rocky for my taste”, but then something weird happens, and we’re right back on track. Few musical projects can pull that off and always attract my attention, but Doc Wör Mirran is certainly one of those rainbow coloured bands who can do no wrong, even if I don’t like it. On ‘Progressive Punk’, some songs are not for me, but I enjoyed it all the same. (FdW)
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The title ‘Kompisitioner’ seems a bit strange, but if you know that ‘kompis’ in Swedish means friends, you quickly understand the pun and the joke. A thing like this is not so strange with the Swedish artists Kajsa Magnarsson and Marta Forsberg, especially because Magnarsson’s work is very playful, on the border between humour and seriousness or reality and fiction. The two have been friends for some time, but they sent music back and forth between Stockholm and Berlin for this album. Both have completed a study in composition, one in Gothenburg and the other in Stockholm, and have extensive experience with various collaborations. For Kompisitioner they made thirteen small compositions from homey things, sound cuttings and crazy ideas that are more than once entertaining but also beautiful, compelling or very penetrating. The tracks don’t sound complicated, but everything is fine and balanced with plenty of space for small stories in various languages, aliens and their sound, and thick synthesizer tunes. The album is available digitally but also issued as a double 7”. The Last fact to mention is that the colourful, comic-like artwork of the couple Elin Hjulström Lord and Gustaf Lord goes perfectly together with the music. (AVS)
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Five works for mainly piccolo, but also flute, glissando flute combined with assorted objects and electronics. The first two were commissioned by Laura Cocks. All pieces are the result of a long-term collaborative relationship with the composers. In the symphonic world, the smallest and highest sounding wind instrument, seldom used in the jazz world (Anthony Braxton, Marshall Allen and Hubert Laws spring to mind). Atoll is for piccolo and 29 spatialized piccolos. They sometimes sound like a piccolo accordion or the mixtura in a church organ. Massive sound blocks that come and go mixed with descending glissandi. Quite powerful. Oxygen Reality is for piccolo, electronics, balloons, and hardware. It is a totally different concept with the rhythmic sounds of fiercely blowing into the mouthpiece, blowing up a balloon, scratching them, and making visceral what oxygen and breathing means. Spiritus evokes a slow mantra as Cocks hums and plays single notes on the flute. As if a ghost speaks through the flute.  ‘You’ll see me return to the city of fury’ by Diana M. Rodriguez for glissando flute and electronics dramatically expands on this by using electronics. A glissando flute is a standard flute with a special headjoint to increase the sonic possibilities. The last and longest track is Joan Arnau Pàmies’s ‘Produktionsmittel I’ for amplified flute, aluminium foil, glass bottle, and fixed media takes all the techniques used and blends them in a soundscape of nearly a half-hour long. This release is highly recommended for anyone interested in what’s possible with the smallest symphonic wind instrument. Laura Cocks delivers all pieces with brilliant virtuosity and intensity. (MDS)
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SALIS/SANNA/VENITUCCI – VATA (CDR by Minimal Resource Manipulation)

Giacomo Salis, Paolo Sanna and Luca Venitucci are three Italian improvisers. The first two play as a percussion duo, and Venitucci plays the accordion in Ossatura, an electro-acoustic ensemble he co-founded. Adventurous music this is, starting with high pitched accordion, I think (correct me if I’m wrong, might even be an old-fashioned tea kettle, it’s that high of a frequency)
    The pitches go down a bit, and a growling sound is added (stick on the drum, I think) as if a monster has been awaked and is annoyed by the high pitched sounds. Then an incessantly knocking sound erupts out of nowhere (like that Duracell rabbit on its drum, except it’s a woodblock). Described like this, it may sound silly, but it isn’t. Just be sure to play this on a good sound system. Otherwise, the neighbour’s dog will howl at the high pitched sounds. The second track has more percussive sounds.
    Guessing from a picture, the melodic sound stems from rubbing a stick on two cardboards stuck between the accordion’s bellows. Quite intriguing this track. The last one contains somewhat probing sounds on the accordion and sounds the most traditional if that can be said in this instance. All three have a keen ear for what each is doing. This is anything but kids trying out instruments. There’s intent and purpose, combining sounds, pitches and timbres creating textures. By the way: this is released on the label curated by Matt Atkins. These three men should invite Laura Cocks to play the flute (see elsewhere). That would make an interesting venture of like-minded musicians. (MDS)
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Music by Ernie Althoff found its way to these pages before (Vital Weekly 1145 and 1250, for instance), and I quite enjoy what this man does; creating installations with motor-driven machinery swirling around small wires with sheets and objects, hitting other small objects. They are mentioned on the cover of this release; “elastic-bands instrument, Japanese lacquered box, plastic bottles kinetic machine, tiny percussion (alarm-clock bells, metal rattles, small food tins, wooden boxes, house keys etc.)”. Maybe it is all a bit smaller than before, but then  I assume that Althoff’s playing of these involves changing the objects and the motors’ speed. An element of nervousness is certainly part of this music, and I can imagine that some listeners would find that too much. Previously I wrote about one of his releases that sixty-three minutes was a bit long, but even at fifty minutes, the length here, I wouldn’t classify this as easy listening. Maybe this is because there is an element of repetition throughout these pieces, going from slowish to faster, from sparse to massive, but essentially variations on a theme. What I miss here is the interaction. I can imagine Althoff’s set-up would be great in combination with another player. On the other hand, it is something that he did before; Clinton Green, for instance. Maybe that is something to explore?
    I am sure I missed out on a few ‘Surface Noise’ volumes; this time, it’s number 10. Each of these discs is a split release, and usually (at least that’s what I think), these are live recordings. Usually from the realm of improvised music, and this is also where we find the music of Clinton Green and Barnaby Oliver, and their recording made at Long Play in 2019. Shame File Music, run by Green, describes as a “lower case acoustic drone (bowed metal bowls, violin and piano)”. They worked together before (Vital Weekly 1250). In the first half this is certainly something the most appt description. The bowing is all around, from longer forms on the bowls and small gestures on the violin, wandering around each other like two lovers not being able to find each other. In the second part of their concert, the bowing is now on the violin and bowls, but the piano plays open chords, with a small amount of sustain, adding to the quiet, majestic atmosphere of the music.
    The second piece is by one Peter James, of whom I had not heard before, or maybe if I did, I can’t find any evidence of that. James is the man behind Iceage Productions, and that’s a label I heard of before. He recorded his piece at the Make It Up Club in 2012, which contrasts with the duo piece I just heard.  It is about eleven minutes shorter, and we have James on a bunch of synthesizers, which could be boxed inside in a laptop, but for all I know, he’s on stage with a few keyboards to play this piece. This piece is from the department of heavy synthesizer drones. Depp space? You bet, but rather than ‘we’re floating in space, enjoy this trip’, James depicts being sucked into a black hole and staying there, spinning round and round, until you’re all dizzy and confused. Repetitions are abundant, but at the same time, there are also minor variations, so it remains interesting throughout. Great piece. (FdW)
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ALFA00_AAAAZINE (2) (CDR, private)

To be honest: this becomes too meta for me. Along with this CDR came a Xerox referring to a previous review I wrote in Vital Weekly 1293, which referenced an earlier, in 1289. The review is not quoted in full. The text on this new release comes with a question for me. Or possibly two questions. I let these go unanswered. And yes, I am aware that the previous review ended with “Will this provoke another reaction? I’ll let you know in a month or so” – six months, so I must admit I feel out of the loop. Please address me straight away if something is unclear, not six months later, with another cryptic note and another release. Which, come to think of it, is this for review at all? Years ago, pranksters thought it funny to send me cryptic releases, no information, no text, and oh boy, let’s see what FdW comes up now. Vital Weekly, at one point, carried a note, saying we couldn’t be bothered with jokes. That is not to say this is a joke, far from it. The music on this CDR contains two pieces of real-time processing of outdoor sound events. It all spans another 80 minutes of music, which you can use to contemplate the text on the cover; it is also on Bandcamp. I decided to ignore all the discussion, if ever there was one, ignore my headache thinking about all the metatalk, the communication via the cover of a CD, just enjoy the music while reading a book. If this raises more questions, please email me at and via another piece of music to review. (FdW)
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R4 – UNTITLED (BLUE/RED) (3″ CDR by Fusion Audio Recordings)

A 3″ CD or CDR is like a 10″ vinyl record. It holds about 20 minutes of music – split into two pieces on vinyl – and has all kinds of positive and negative quirks. If it’s a nice piece of music, 20 minutes is just enough to get aroused, but all you can do is long for a ‘part 2′. If it’s not to your taste, it’s long enough to get bored and think it’s too long of a production. And then when it comes to vinyl, you have to turn it in after 10 minutes already! So, 3″s as well as 10″s are typical of the “love ’em or hate ’em” formats in the music industry… And with all their quirkiness, I am someone who loves them **
    So at this moment, I’m playing new material from Barry D. Scheffel a.k.a. R4. Who? R4! He was active between 1998 and 2002 and had Fusion Audio Research label. Beautiful acts like Cornucopia (= Jorge Castro), Stolen Light, Ovum and Suspicion Breeds Confidence on his label. When the internet became really big, all of us ambient-noise freaks read the tumour list, and this was just everyday listening material. That period in time is the reason why there are now labels like Oxidation ( – it’s to keep that music alive because it DID make a difference back then.
    It was Oxidation who rereleased R4’s “The Logic Bomb” in 2019 and several other F.A.R. releases, for that matter. Then it took a little while and R4 sent a track to Zaftig Research’s Christmas Compilation of 2021 and now Barry released a 3″ CDR on F.A.R. after 20 years. There is a handpainted cover, an edition of 36 copies, and 20 minutes of a gorgeous crossover between minimal noise and some heavy drone ambient. It doesn’t sound dated at all or whatever weird things people could think of someone getting back after 20 years of absence. It’s just really nice to think layered sonic material… But only twenty minutes… Damn, now I’m aroused… (BW)
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SVÆR – Л​.​Λ​.​ハ (3″ CDR by Taalem)

In a strange twist at the end of the story, Taalem announcement that they’d stop producing 3″CDRs came with the end of their supply of boxes to put them in. So these last six arrived here in plastic sleeves, with the usual printed CDR and the small text sticker on the back. I put them in the order of the catalogue number for this review.
It has been a long time since I last reviewed music by Pierre Julliard; Vital Weekly 863, a collaborative work with Frederique Bruyas; before that, a 3″CDR on the Kaon label, Vital Weekly 811). Taalem calls him a “French naturalist exploring different sound territories, with different collaborators, from field recordings, sound poetry to free improvisation. His solo output is mainly focused on field recordings”. The recordings for ‘Haga’ were made near Cherbourg, France. This is a harbour town with a long history, and Julliard found sounds near the sea, with sea waves, bird sounds, the beach, but also, so it seems near the fortress. Pointing his microphones in various corners of buildings, the resonances of the natural world come to us in a slightly different way. I would think that Juillard restricts his music to natural recordings and not to processing his sounds in any way. Various events flow right into each other or are mixed, so a vivid picture of the place arises. A fine work of pure field recordings.
    And serendipity it is this week. Two days ago, I wrote I never heard of Peter James (see elsewhere), and there he is again. Or is he not? Taalem says that he’s a British artist, based in Scotland and that he was a member of 48cameras, whereas the ‘other’ Peter James runs the Australian Iceage Productions. What is furthermore confusing is the strong similarity between this one and the other one when it comes to synthesizers and the resulting drones. Taalem was (past tense now for this 3″ series) a label concerned with all sorts of ambient music, and Peter James’ music is entirely different from that of Pierre Julliard. James has a massive drone going for twenty-two minutes, which, following a quick fade-in, just goes up and up in volume and intensity. All dark from the start and allows for some mid-range frequencies, adding to the intensity.  A solid piece, sure, but also not a very surprising piece in the world of massive ambient drones.
    Tarab was already present with a new release last week, and now Eamon Sprod returns with another work, part of his “small series of explorations of working with simple materials, started with 2019’s ms#1 released on hemisphäreの空虚” (see Vital Weekly 1222). He also writes that “this work pares back and further refines this process, using minimal discarded everyday materials introduced to the artificial movement of air, via an air-conditioning unit. This work is not intended as a document of this interaction. Still, it is the result of working with this situation and the resulting recordings as material, to see and hear what might emerge from that process”. This release is another proof of how far and wide Taalem’s interpretation was of the word ambient music. No fat drones, no carefully constructed collage of field recordings, or lush computer-processed sounds, but rubbing of objects near the microphone. You don’t recognize any of these materials, and if you didn’t know better, one could think someone is rummaging through his tool shed. Upon closer listening, one hears the minor differences in the work, at one point in the middle, almost disappearing again. Towards the end, there is a dramatic build-up until it cuts out at the end. Again, this is not a work that uses a lot of computer processing or electronics, but there has been a fair amount of editing to make it a composition, rather than going through the toolbox with a handheld microphone.
    The [Law-Rah] Collective started as the solo project of Bauke van der Wal and later became a duo, with the addition of Martijn Pieck (also known as Cinema Perdu). ‘Tess’, however, “is a kind of special release” by Van der Wal solo. Now, when I think of Taalem releases, over 140 of them (and not sure how many I heard, but a lot surely), this would be the sound to describe the label. The music here is dark, sad, electronic, and thoughtful. It doesn’t stay in one place but is on a constant shift. These shifts are minimal, but they all happen at the right moment. I have no idea how Van der Wal works (somehow, I think I may not have seen a live concert by him/them), whether this is modular electronics or computer-generated music, but it has a great warm feeling. From the opening drone, the pieces move on, paces the drones and slowly adds a metallic percussion in the background. Metallic and mechanic, I should think, like machines at work on a construction site or a life support system in the hospital. A sombre piece, but maybe that’s also because of the ‘special release’ and ‘forever in our hearts’ note that comes with this. An excellent release, this one, very moving.
    From the various projects that James P. Keeler has, as Keeler Designs, or in groups such Amputation Theory, Astronomy, Hedorah, Human As Disease, Maggotapplewonderland, Minotaur, The Leg, The Oak Trio, and Wilt, only the latter made it to these pages, albeit a long time ago. This is his second release for Taalem, following ‘5 Shades For A Grey Room’, in 2002. Keeler uses field recordings, object manipulation, samples and synthesizers. Here we arrive at the more noisy end of ambient music. And, perhaps, also a more ritualistic aspect attached by Keeler. I am not sure why I am thinking of this, but the chirping of insects and wandering along the coast, along with the occasional slow thud, just make it sound like a ritual. The three pieces here drift on the edge of noise and lacks the delicacy of many other releases by Taalem. I found all of this a bit without focus, but at the same time, I am not sure why I am thinking this.
    And finally, there is svær, from France, but currently residing in Brussels. In 2020 he released his debut, ‘Muted People’ and his three pieces are for deceased dogs, ‘Laika’, ‘Loukanikos’ and ‘Hachikō’. All dogs go to heaven, svær says (What happens to cats? Or people who are afraid of dogs? I know a few of the latter). I understand that svær plays the guitar and undoubtedly uses many sound effects to arrive at that gritty guitar sound that was popular once upon some time ago. Taalem learned about svær when he opened for Tim Hecker; perhaps that may serve as a pointer? Especially in ‘Loukanikos’ the digital processing plays a very big part. On either side of ‘Loukanikos’, the other two offer a much more mellow ambient tapestry of long spun sounds on the guitar, lo-fi electronics and sadly too short. (FdW)
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“Slough” is the first release by the project Landforms on the Florida based label Hymns. We’ve seen more releases of Hymns in the past. They have a high standard of maintaining the DIY etiquette; CDRs in several formats, cassettes and even a DVDR and following the low-profile DIY standards, this 3″ CDR is housed in a folded cardboard sleeve. It simply has a label containing information glued into it. That’s all the info we got and where we go from.
So no, after a lot of searching (please include a bit more info for us reviewers the next time. It’s really a lot easier to write about your project and help you promote things if we get a bit more info) it turns out that Landforms is Greg Hudalla. The tracks were recorded live on September 8 of last year, and for this, the Lyra-8, a Werkstatt, tape loops, and granular sampling were used … Also, this 3″ will be released at the Action Research #218 show on Saturday, February 26, 2022, at 4th Ave. Food Park in Gainesville, FL.
    Two nameless tracks of around 10 minutes can be found on “Slough”, which are actually quite lovely. Slow evolving soundscapes with a noisy undertone, feedback sounds that generate a string/pad feeling in the background giving the whole a harmonic sense. More to the foreground throbbing layers manipulating each other (the Lyra?).
    This release is actually quite interesting … It makes me long for attending live performances again. Even while “Slough” is a great listen and can be played any time of the day, experiments and live jams like this should be heard on proper sound systems where you not only hear the music but also feel the unheard psychoacoustics of it all. Compliments! (BW)
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MATT ATKINS – LEAF SKELETON (cassette by Minimal Resource Manipulation)

Matt Atkins is a drummer, plays in a few bands and owns a DIY label (Minimal Resource Manipulation). His work was reviewed many times before in Vital Weekly, but for me this is the first time I heara it. This release is on the Toneburst tape label in Belfast. Unfortunately, the cassette is sold out and only available digitally on Bandcamp. Imagine a time-lapse movie zooming in on the wildlife of the humus layer of a forest. Insects are crawling, laying eggs on and in cadavers, eggs hatching and the larvae munching away on the meat. Decaying leaves (the faster-decaying ones like willow and poplar). You get the picture. The music on this tape is like a soundtrack to such a movie. Crunching sounds, shards of melodic drones, fragments of melodies, mostly organic sounds, some sped up through manipulation. The longest one is six and a half minutes long in relatively short tracks. Atkins creates a sound world that is well worth your attention. Overlapping metallic sounds and a deeper tom like sound generate a kind of rhythm, different textures in sound come and go and are emphasized in the lively sound image. Worth seeking out on Bandcamp! (MDS)
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