Number 1352

PHIL MAGUIRE – ZEESCHUIM (CD by Cloudchamber Recordings) *
SUN DOG – COL DES TEMPÈTES (CD by Cronica Electronica) *
NICK STORRING – MUSIC FROM W​É​I 成为 (CD by Orange Milk Records) *
STEPHEN BARBER – EARTH (CD by New Focus Recordings) *
SIMON WHETHAM – (II)NTOLERANCE (CD by Kohlhaas Records) *
ANTELOPER – PINK DOLPHINS (CD by International Anthem) *
HUNTER COMPLEX – AIRPORTS AND PORTS (LP by Burning Witches Records) *
+DOG+ – X7 (CDR by Love Earth Music) *
SMILJANA NIKOLIC – ARE YOU STILL THERE? (cassette by Gruebenwehr Freiburg) *
HEAVY CLOUD – PENTIMENTO (cassette, private) *

PHIL MAGUIRE – ZEESCHUIM (CD by Cloudchamber Recordings)

Here’s a musician with love for Dutch language titles. ‘Zeeschuim’ is the follow-up to ‘Zeemijl’. Both are sounds from the world of water. ‘Sea foam’ is the translation of the current work and ‘Nautical mile’ of the previous. These works are “sonic sculptures of the North Sea and the Irish Sea”. Located on an island means you sometimes have to cross the sea (although, Brexit and all, maybe the Brits are no longer that interested?). Maguire also writes: “zeeschuim considers what happens under the surface of these waters, and the chaos both above and below the surface. Emergence in the currents, emergence in the life above”. That I found an odd statement when listening to the music. In recent times, Maguire has worked with very long-form drone pieces, and this new one is shorter than the previous one but still a solid forty-three-minute run. There is no chaos here, not below or above the surface. If anything, these drones (or is this it, this drone?) is one utter minimalism, but as things should be with such music: there are subtle changes here. Especially in the first twenty-five minute, the uber-drone stays the same, and the variations are below the surface. Around that time frame, the music changes and something drops and the music changes to something a little, tiny bit opener. The drones float from far below the surface to just below the surface. That is the impression I got with this music, which had, for me, the tranquillity of the sea. This music is the tradition of Eliane Radigue, and Maguire does a fine job at that. Not the most original voice in this field, but I’d say that beating Radigue is very hard (and not necessary). However, Maguire does an excellent job and presents a powerful piece of music. (FdW)
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SUN DOG – COL DES TEMPÈTES (CD by Cronica Electronica)

Behind Sun Dog, we find the duo of Isabelle Duthoit (vocals) and ErikM (electronics). Of the latter, I heard before. He’s been around since the early 90s when he came on the improvised music scene armed with electronics, such as CDs, miniDisc and other electronics. He played with Luc Ferrari, Christian Marclay, Thurston Moore and others. From Isabelle Duthoit, I had not heard before. She had classical training and started an improvisation music festival in 1994. Besides voice, she also plays the clarinet (not on this release) and played concerts with Michel Doneda, Franz Hautzinger and others. The two climbed a mountain before landing in the village of Sault, where they recorded the fourteen pieces on this CD. Quite a surprising release for Cronica Electronica, I think. I know this label primarily for their releases that deal with technology, by which I mean laptop technology. Of course, ErikM uses electronics, which is also technology, but the result of this interaction with a voice makes this an unusual release for this label. And that is because the music is more part of the world of improvised music than the electro-acoustic and modern musique concrète it usually does. There are aspects of this duo that one might call electro-acoustic, with ErikM doing quite some radical stuff at times. Duthoit’s vocalisations fit the electronics pretty well. And times, one could say she imitates the electronics, which blends naturally, but there are also instances in which she tries to be as much contrast as she can be. They keep their musical interactions brief, two to four minutes, with a few exceptions, which dramatically benefits this release. Some of the album moments that are very much improvised and not so much up my alley are mixed with more abstract bursts of electronics, noisy and electro-acoustic doodling – very much up my street. There is some good energy with in this release to enjoy. (FdW)
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NICK STORRING – MUSIC FROM W​É​I 成为 (CD by Orange Milk Records)

Besides being a tireless promoter of new music, Nick Storring is also a composer of the same kind of music. Not always my cupper, but his eighth album caught my ear, and I was intrigued. Partly because the music uses grand and upright pianos and a Yamaha Disklavier. I only know one other player of the Disklavier, and that’s Storring’s fellow-countryman Jocelyn Robert (I am sure there are others I may not remember). This new work is a work for choreographer Yvonne Ng, and I hope the Chinese characters are readable. It is a different kind of work for Storring, who, so far, I know for blending various acoustic and electronic instruments into strange musical hybrids, merging jazz, improvised music, new music and musique concrète. Still, on this new CD, limited to one kind of instrument, this works out a bit differently. Throughout this release, Storring seems to be staying more in one musical area, new music, and playing the piano. Not my cupper, you’d expect, but I found the music quite captivating. These pieces have a fine sense of minimalism, with the Disklavier producing some lingering, light-hearted drones and some more orchestral approaches. The whole piece has eight parts, and towards the end, there is a more rhythmic approach going on, hectic and nervous (Disklavier, again?), which I can imagine works well with the choreography, and at times reminded me of Cage’s prepared piano (in ‘Part VI’, for instance). At times the music is closed off and intense, and then, with great ease, it meanders like a bird over an endless desert. I have no idea what this dance is about or if the music fits the scenery, but as a stand-alone work, it is the most satisfying music. (FdW)
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STEPHEN BARBER – EARTH (CD by New Focus Recordings)

Stephen Barber is a USAmerican composer who has over the years worked with a long list of composers/musicians across the whole range of musical styles, from film scores to Stevie Ray Vaughn, David Byrne, Ornette Coleman, Gilberto Gil… reading this, you do wonder what style of music this person represents?!? If Discogs is correct (but not sure in this case), he has also offered vocals on some rock tracks. Maybe …
    The answer, given by this release, is wrapped up into 13 pieces of solo piano music. Maybe not the answer as such, as this music is obviously a particular pick of Barber’s music. But the music and the choice of compositions might offer insight into the composer’s mindset. Acclaimed pianist Eric Huebner presents the pieces. They are not particularly ‘contemporary’ in any way. Also, I only rarely find the ‘film score’ type of music as often the case with classical USAmerican composers. However, it is present in the track with the most descriptive title, ‘Twilight in Tahiti’,which is a sort of weird Gershwin/Strawinsky hybrid.
    Apart from the atypical ‘Stop’ or ‘Circo Massimo’ (maybe composers should stop giving their compositions suggestive titles altogether), I locate the music somewhere between Debussy, Poulenc, and Prokofiev. As said, not ‘contemporary’ in any way, but ‘modern’. And sometimes, I find some strangely familiar phrases that remind me very much of Keith Emerson, of all people. But then, this is hardly surprising if you think that Emerson was inspired by Bartok, Debussy, Mussorgsky and the likes, which seems to fit Barber’s universe just fine.
    With all this eclectic mix of styles, you could suspect a lack of own character. Though I would not deny this for very few of the pieces presented here, the others do offer a fine selection of their own breed, with nods here and there, but presenting a nice collection of worthwhile tracks. (RSW)
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A very clever title for the follow-up to ‘Intolerance’ (Vital Weekly 1086), which was quite an unusual album with a political message about tolerance, with sounds recorded worldwide; sounds from fences and electromagnetic sources, cameras to control us, and such. That was back in 2017, five years and a lifetime ago. Despite the ongoing refugee problems that we still have (perhaps problem isn’t the right word), the pandemic came and changed our lives even further. Travelling has become more complex, if not impossible, and communication is primarily online. Furthermore, there has been a strong divide in what constitutes ‘truth’ these days, with changing narratives and perceptions. For the ‘response’ album, Whetham chose all newly recorded field recordings, assuring me he goes by plane and bus and hardly visits exotic places – the ultimate dilemma for any field recordist, I’d say. Back home, Whetham constructs a piece of music, a narrative, a story, or, unadorned, his truth with these recordings. Or, in this case, fourteen small pieces of music, which worked for me as one long piece. I often start to play a CD and don’t look at the CD display if a new piece starts. With this particular release, something odd happens. Each of these fourteen pieces consists of strange starts and stops, each of the parts broken up into smaller segments, with little bits of silence. Although I am not sure, Whetham uses sounds from mother earth (water, wind, soil and such) in combination with what I call ‘rusty sounds’; sounds from fences, gates, chains and locks. That, so I believe, is the political idea behind the music here. People on the run, seeking a better future somewhere, fenced in, locked up, going about, across the ground and over the sea. The music is a continuous story, spread over fourteen pieces and many smaller pieces, like a map, with many small countries and many ways to reach these—all in the best tradition of field recordings and musique concrète. You could choose to ignore the political context and still enjoy the music for the simple fact it is excellent music. (FdW)
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Here we have the fourth album by the trio of Magda Mayas (piano), Monica Brooks (accordion) and Laura Altman (clarinet and feedback). I reviewed their debut in Vital Weekly 792 and didn’t hear the second but third in Vital Weekly 1047. I have immensely enjoyed their music so far, and this new CD is along previous lines. If you know work by these ladies, then you know it is based in the world of improvised music. This trio has a personal trajectory in this musical field. Their instruments are recognized as such, even when Mayas occasionally used the body of the piano or a bow across the strings. The accordion and clarinet remain as they are, but the latter, in combination with feedback, has a somewhat estranged effect; it adds a different texture from time to time. Sustaining sounds are at the core of their music, mainly from the accordion and the clarinet, but every player also contributes to the swirl of small sounds around them, like bells, like snowflakes. There is, so I feel, a dream-like aspect within the music here. It meanders about, like a walk across the hills, off-track. That is the sustaining side of the music; the smaller sounds are their conservations. Sometimes there is very little of that, and suddenly, a topic comes on, and everybody has a story to tell. That they may sound at the same is of no importance. It is what it is. The music has some incredible slowness, just with their previous releases. I would think that is the trademark of this trio. That’s how I experience this music. I believe it is open to any other interpretation or no one at all. You can simply sit down and enjoy the musical interaction between three highly gifted musicians who deliver another excellent album. (FdW)
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ANTELOPER – PINK DOLPHINS (CD by International Anthem)

Anteloper is a duo of Jaimie Branch and Jason Nazary. This is their third release and likely their last since Jaimie died unexpectedly last August at the age of 39. I’ve met both musicians separately on several occasions, notably Jaimie on her first stay and performance in the Netherlands in 2017 at Sexyland Amsterdam. The concert began with an impressive solo set by Jaimie. She brought a new sound to the trumpet. I got to talk to her a bit about Stravinsky’s ‘Fire Bird’, pawning her trumpet to scrape money for rent, and how she got the Martin Committee (Miles Davis’s preferred brand of trumpet). A very nice person to hang out with. I met her on a few occasions after that. Jason Nazary I met the year before at De Ruimte, also in Amsterdam. He played a trio with Terrie Ex and Jasper Stadhouders. If you want to hear what that sounded like, go to DoekRAW’s Bandcamp page. That set is available there. To me, it opened up my ears to what improvised music can sound like. Nazary and Branch have a long history of playing together, as they met at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, where they both studied. Back to Antelopers’ Pink Dolphins. Produced by Jeff Parker of Tortoise fame (an influential group from Chicago with a highly regarded output), the record starts with an electronically transformed trumpet sound, going into to cosmic heights. Then drums come into the fold, tentatively at first, creating a steady groove, at some point, deep synth sounds add to the bass. Around two and a half minutes, Jaimie comes in with a fluttering series of notes ending in a grounded statement of a few notes. In the background are comments of phrases (trumpet and synths) and ending with repeated blips and blops. Quite the entry for what’s to follow. A spacious trip through all moods, blending all sorts of tropes of electronic music from the past (from Krautrock to Autechre) with improvised music and the blues. Blues? Yes, blues. Earthlings is a slow blues with lyrics written and sung by Jaimie. Not a first for her. On ‘Fly Or Die’, the second release, she wrote a prayer for amerikka. The basic material for Pink Dolphins consisted of several hours of improvisations, musical statements, and grooves. Jeff Parker sifted through these and came up with ideas, upon which Jason and Jaimie commented and worked, in a similar way Teo Macero did for Miles Davis in the late sixties and early seventies. Special mention for Chad Taylor, who contributed some prominent mbira sounds (an African thumb piano). And since Jeff Parker produced it, it has a sound design similar to Tortoise at some points in the release. The mix and mastering are excellent on this release as the music is sometimes quite dense, but it doesn’t sound muddy. This record is highly recommended for people interested in one possible way electronics and improvised music get together and produce a sound world out of this world with a grounded groove to nod your head to or believe it or not: dance. (MDS)
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Who are String Noise? Pauline Kim Harris and Conrad Harris are a married couple and, for ten years, performed as String Noise. Conrad is a member of the Flux Quartet, who I now know for an excellent rendition of Morton Feldman’s String Quartet no. 2, a single movement lasting six hours, seven minutes and seven seconds. Pauline Kim is a member of the International Contemporary Ensemble. They released Pulse/Quartet by Steve Reich, among others. Both violists are accomplished musicians and on the foreground of contemporary classical music. Who is John King, then? He’s the composer of all the pieces on this release. He wrote pieces commissioned by the Kronos Quartet and numerous ballet groups worldwide. I didn’t know his name, but after hearing the music on this disc, I definitely will dive into his works. The pieces are composed between 2014 and 2020. The first one (the title track) explores triple-stops. Three possible pitches that a violin is capable of producing at the same time. In a duo, that means six pitches simultaneously and the possibility to shift the harmonies. The triple-stops are not utilized the whole time the piece lasts, but it is an impressive feature, as if a whole string orchestra is playing instead of just two violins. As King states in the liner notes, both musicians go through a separate sequence of notes, but it doesn’t matter for the listener. The result is a gorgeous piece with contemplative moments and raggen (a Dutch word meaning ripping or raging) on the strings. The fact that this is a live recording only adds to the fierceness of these explosive moments. ‘Triple threat’ is more of the same but equally captivating with, in the last two minutes, a simultaneously played groove that gets mutated into the higher regions of the violin. Klepsydra is more subdued with long-held notes. Now for the last piece, the duo is playing with and against sound software designed by King that interjects their playing with setting the spatial placing of the sounds of the duo and sometimes processing and mutating or transforming the sounds of the violins. This sounds pretty run of the mill but the result is an engaging listen, preferably at high volume or in a quiet environment with good headphones. As a whole, this release adds to the repertoire of pieces for two violins, especially when two excellent musicians like String Noise play it. Furthermore, it’s a fun exercise to determine these pieces’ structure. (MDS)
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‘Sources’ is a fine meeting between Raymond Boni and Sakina Abdou, two French improvisers. Boni belongs to the first generation of French musicians who started to experiment with free jazz and improvisation. Among others, Andre Jaume and Joe McPhee became important partners during the years. Sakina Abdou is a young talent from Lille, where she participates in the Muzzix collective. She studied flute (early and contemporary music) and saxophone (classical and contemporary music, jazz). While studying, she joined various ensembles in Lille in the context of improvisation and contemporary music: La Pieuvre Orchestra led by Olivier Benoit; Le Marteau et le Marteau led by Guigou Chenevier (Etron Fou Leloublan); The Dedalus-ensemble interpreting works by Glass and Moondog, etc. In 2012 she started a duo with saxophonist Jean-Baptiste Rubin. In collaboration with Jean Luc Guionnet, they recorded their first album in 2016. Currently, she is a member of the improvisation trio Abdou Dang Orins and Julien Tortora’s sextet Phuisis. She first worked with veteran Raymond Boni in a quartet with Nicolas Mahieux and Pher Motury. In 2019 they did their first duo concert, and now they present their first release as a duo, recorded on three days in December 2020 in Lille by Peter Orins. Raymond Boni plays acoustic guitar and harmonica. Sakina Abdou plays saxophone and recorder. A remarkable meeting of two musicians with different backgrounds and histories. Their improvisations are of a poetic and intimate character. It is my first meeting with the playing by Abdou, and I’m impressed by her technique and remarkable tone and phrasing. A very original saxophonist using diverse extended techniques like, for example, in ‘Guerison inattendue’. Very enjoyable is also her playing of the flute. ‘Miroir aux alouettes’ and on ‘Ascendance de l’air’. Truly a great musician with a personal style and sound! But let us not forget Boni, who excels, for example with a dynamic solo in the powerful piece ‘Resurgences’. They realised an engaging and communicative interplay full of musical surprises. (DM)
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Among what seems an endless flood of improvised music, modern classical music and free jazz (by the time they form the majority of VW’s content, it’s time to end), music by Greece’s PS Stamps Back is more than welcome. I believe they are still a duo, and armed with “synths, sequencers, computer, drum machine, strings and recordings”, they record their music. With their previous release, ‘Au Bout De La Nuit’ (Vital Weekly 1274), I noticed a shift from their more techno-ish music of before towards a more reflective sound. One that is heavily based on the use of arpeggios. Not too fast, the elements of ‘dance’ are removed from the music. That doesn’t mean the rhythms disappeared from the equation. They are still there, but instead of leading the music, they support the music. Sequences and synthesizers now take the leading role, and more than on the previous PS Stamps Back, the music now lands in the world of cosmic music. They cleverly avoid overtly long pieces, and the music remains, as before, on the atmospheric dark side of the spectrum. However, it never becomes a cosmic trip, and it would undoubtedly be too dark for a chill-out room. That’s precisely why I enjoy this kind of music and the band. They never compromise or want to give the audience what it expects. They would rather mind their own business and change when they feel there is a need. All of which they offer with a certain grim design, which is another source (oddly, perhaps) of pleasure here. Again, going against the grain, I suppose.
    PS Stamps Back’s Iason P collaborated with Ruben T from France. He plays the violin and pedals, while P is behind synths, sequences and pedals. In early 2019, they recorded together in Athens, and the music was reworked and mixed in Nancy and Athens “during the beginning of the first lockdown, spring 2020”. According to Wiki, “Elugelab, or Elugelap, was an island, part of the Enewetak Atoll in the Marshall Islands. It was destroyed by the world’s first true hydrogen bomb test on 1 November 1952, a test which was codenamed shot “Mike” of Operation Ivy. Prior to being destroyed, the island was described as “just another small naked island of the atoll”. I am not sure about the small cover text, but let’s say the worldview here is equally grim as with PS Stamps Back (same sort of packaging also). A track title like ‘The Discreet Charm Of Carpet Bombing’ says it all. P only brings a small portion of his cosmic-inspired music to the table, but by and large, the music is much more experimental and abstract. Clearly, the music is the result of improvising together, which is still part of the result. Most of the time, the violin doesn’t sound like one, but more like an electric guitar. When P. opens up his sequencers a bit more, the violin is less in a free improvisation modus. The longest piece here, ‘(An Ode To) Pan Paniscus’, happens most dominantly, and the track didn’t do much for me. In the other pieces, the balance is equally divided between P.’s controlling sequence rolls and T.’s violin, which is heavily processed with effects and not very often sounding like a violin, works much better; without that long piece, the whole album would have been much more robust. (FdW)
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I Shall Sing Until My Land Is Free is a relatively new label with four releases. The first two are ‘Shekel Of Israeli Occupation’ and Chechnya Over Dub’ by Muslimgauze, clear statements as to the occupiers, and the third is ‘Peace For Animals’ by Merzbow, of which “all profits from this release will be donated to Ukrainian volunteer groups UAnimals and Save Pets Of Ukraine”. This label aims to ” support Ukrainian resistance against Russia by donating all profits to self-defence and humanitarian foundations”. As such, I hope this label will have a short lifespan and that Ukraine will be free soon. Ilpo Väisänen, you know, as one half of Pan Sonic, the duo he had with the sadly deceased Mika Vainio, is from Finland, another country in eternal fear of Russia’s power. There is no surprise that he has a record on this label, making another statement against Russia’s war (and if you feel it should read ‘special operations’, I recommend unsubscribing to Vital Weekly) in Ukraine. The title would translate as ‘The Fuzzy Emptiness of the Wednesday Moment’ if Google translate did a fine job. If you are looking for some Pan Sonic-inspired beats, then look somewhere else. In this relatively short record (twenty-two minutes), Väisänen explores the world of modular electronics in part;y abstract sketches (the opening of the second side, for instance) but also more dub-like, slow rhythm (end of side A). Drones, tones and rhythms, but none of that dance floor stuff. I like the briefness of the pieces, each around three minutes, but cut in such a way that it is on track, moving through various phases. Towards the end of ‘Part II’, some flute-like sounds form a most surprising ending to this way-too-short record. But throughout this record, Väisänen experiments with (samples?) of acoustic instruments and modular electronics, creating a bridge between the abstract and real instruments, electronics and a human touch. As such, it works very well as a dialogue. Not that it advocates dialogue between warmongers and victims. Hell no! An excellent record, and a great cause to fight for. (FdW)
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For me, a new release by Hunter Complex is a big thing. Since Lars Meijer, the Hunter Complex man released his debut album (Vital Weekly 717), I have been a big fan of his music. There are two significant influences in his music: the use of analogue synthesizers and music from the 80s. Well, maybe the 70s, come to think of it, with Giorgio Moroder’s influence too. But on this new album, Hunter Complex expands his musical horizon via the use of guest players. Synthesizers are still his primary instrument, but these acoustic instruments add a new set of sounds to the spectrum. In ‘New arrival On The Island’, the trumpet by Aquiles Navarro shines in a fine jazzy way, almost like a fifties nightclub atmosphere we know from black and white movies. And the soundtrack is another keyword in the world of Hunter Complex. Many, if not all, pieces you could stick onto a movie, with all the textures fulfilled. Music for a car chase, a nightclub, a joyous day at the beach, or a nightfall scene with lots of piano sounds (by Alexander Hawkins). Sampled field recordings groove along with the sequences, and at times I thought Meijer opened a whole box of orchestral instruments to sample (but that is not the case). The music moves away from the strict 80s synth-pop style and expands its horizon. The delicate arpeggios, sequences, and rhythms are still there but now play a different role. Perhaps they are more supportive of the other instruments here? Though that isn’t always clear, the outcome is certainly different. The jazzy nightclub atmosphere, I’m sure, is something that many people will like, but for me, it is a bit too much. I preferred the album’s more straightforward electronic pieces, dwelling on the older synth-pop sounds but now re-inforced with some more instruments, leaning towards new age and krautrock (so says the press release), delivering quite a diverse album; perhaps his most varied so far, and as said, (almost) each of these pieces could serve as a soundtrack. I wouldn’t be surprised if that is the course of Hunter Complex, scoring music for a big-time movie. He’s ready. (FdW)
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+DOG+ – X7 (CDR by Love Earth Music)

Not too many Vitals ago, we (Vital Weekly 1334) reviewed several releases from Love Earth Music by +DOG+, being (a.o.) Steve Davis, the brains of L.E.M. Last week, another batch of stuff from Steve hit the doormat: Happy Times at the main office.
    The first release to be listened to is “X7”. The concept starts to reveal itself so we have a CDR in a cardboard cover, glued/copied tracklist, “X” with a number and titles that are connected, but only Steve knows what the connection is between title, track, sounds, etc. but … Steve won’t tell.
In Vital 1334 I wrote ‘excellent release for summer evenings sitting on the porch drinking some beers with friends’ and what can you expect while sitting on the porch, staring over the pond or into the woods? “A Dragonfly”, “A Chipmunk”, “An Owl”, “A Squirrel”, or “A Bird” – Five tracks with a total playing time of a little over 30 minutes. Part drone-based, part it sounds like heavily processed field recordings, a bit of harsh noise, yet the whole seems soothing in a strange way.
    My favourite track is “A Chipmunk”, and in all honesty, I think Steve succeeded in making me curious about “X8”. No idea if it’s been recorded yet, but I will be getting it and trying to see if I can slowly get into his thinking, finding out what ‘the connection’ is. Or maybe finally admit that there isn’t any…
    The second +DOG+ is a beautiful piece of vinyl entitled “The Miracle Ending Is Laughter”. A picture of snowed upon pine trees is on the cover; it’s around 30 degrees Celcius outside, so the atmosphere is set to thoroughly examine it.
    Side A has three tracks and opens with “The Witness Tree”, which is a nice example of the harsher side of +DOG+ I’ve heard so far. “Time Is A Funny Thing”, which follows, is something I really can’t place that well – Rhythm ‘n Noise. I haven’t heard this side of +DOG+ before, and it might well be because of +DOG+ being a collective (Steve, Edward, Lob, Chuck, Ron, Mackenzie, Bobby and Jack). Maybe this track is based on material from a few members I haven’t heard before. But I do like the noise parts a lot 😉 This first side closes with a short but powerful dronish experiment.
The reverse side has a track count of 7, ranging from 1:17 to 4:25 minutes. Sound-wise a lot of variation, and with the relative shortness of the tracks, your mind goes all over the place when listening. At first, you are overwhelmed by a massive noise tapestry, the next moment, you’re thrown all over the panorama by contact mics and delays, or caught in the most picturesque scenery of ambience, or you’re having flashbacks of an acid trip you took earlier. These dynamics, combined with slow pulsating drones and harsh noise, make the B-side my favourite.
    Finally: If vinyl isn’t your thing, the digital version has an additional nine-minute track with the title “Quiet Night”, which didn’t turn out to be that quiet after all. Great dynamic release. (BW)
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That’s something I missed! Down south in The Netherlands is the city of Heerlen, and here it is where Mike Kramer has organised the (H)ear Festival, already for many years. Part of the fun is a CDR with music by the participants. The festoval was on september 3rd and saw concerts by Baudouin Oosterlynck, danile duchamP, Floris vanhoof, Jean D.L., Kris Vanderstraeten, Mike Kramer, P-Art and Mia Zabelka & IcosTech. Suppose you are familiar with some of these names (and you could be, as their work is sometimes on these pages). In that case, you know that there is a slightly bigger focus this year on the improvisational side of music, even when it comes from the side of the more electronic musicians, such as Vanhoof and duchamP. There is some darker drone by Jean D.L. and Kramer (who seems very much inspired by Thomas Köner in this particular piece) or the purely improvised music by Vanderstraeten, Oosterlynck, P-Art and Zabelka & IcosTech. Also, there is a more percussive element in various of these pieces, which I am sure must have brought some good visual aspects to the music. I have no idea if more copies are available, but I assume that some are left because I got a copy to review. (FdW)
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Behind TBC, we find Thomas Beck, a man active in the world of noise and electronic music since the early 80s. First as H64 and a fanzine called ‘Magazine’, and later on with a record label called Wachsender Prozess. That might be his most well-known activity. As a musician, he works as TBC and mainly in collaborations. On ‘Kermschmelze’, we find two pieces, ‘Fukushima’ and ‘Tschernobyl’, which explains the title, ‘Meltdown’. For this release, TBC uses one instrument, the ARP 2600 synthesizer, and TBC looked for sounds that would emulate the sound of a meltdown. At least, so I believe, it is likely that many readers have seen the mini-series ‘Chernobyl’ and heard Hildur Guðnadóttir’s music and sound design, which, in some ways, at least reminded me of when I played this release. However, TBC does something different here and goes for two twenty-minute pieces of slow evolving drone sounds, laced with oscillations reminiscent of what we think a nuclear meltdown could sound like. Dark, ominous tones, the sound of a catastrophe. I would think that TBC uses different recordings from the ARP and mixes these and that these two works aren’t the result of playing the instrument in a live concert set-up; I might be wrong, of course. TBC captures the mood quite well with disaster, machines going out of control, impending chaos, and faulty electricity, as we envisage it, assuming that (luckily) many readers don’t have a first-hand experience. Quite gripping music here, not at all like Guðnadóttir’s work, but quite an imaginative work after all. (FdW)
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SMILJANA NIKOLIC – ARE YOU STILL THERE? (cassette by Gruebenwehr Freiburg)

I left some of the other recent releases by this label in the capable noise hands of others and turned my head towards the debut cassette of Smiljana Nikolic. I know nothing about her. In the seven pieces on her ‘Are You Still There?’ cassette, she works with voice, flute, piano, guitar, bass and electronic devices. The results are pretty unusual. You could say they are rooted in the world of modern classical music. Still, there is a certain roughness in these pieces that made me think otherwise. Maybe there is an element of improvisation at work, in which Nikolic layers and mixes her recordings into a dialogue of music. The opening piece, Odi Et Amo’ is heavily on the voice side, but in the other pieces, she plays with electronics and instruments, and she’s not into obeying the laws of composition. The music is quite dark and mysterious, gothic at times (in my crooked little description of that word), but at the same time also experimental enough to hold my interest. Quite a mixed bag, this cassette, I’d say, a bit of everything, really, and the result is some hard-to-define music. That surely constitutes as ‘her own voice’. The final piece here is by La Poste Di Falcone, with Nikolic on flute and drums, Oscar Lewe on drums and Grodok on live electronics. They create something very much along the lines of Nikolic’s solo work but now with a ‘live’ perspective. This could grow into something entirely independent. (FdW)
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HEAVY CLOUD – PENTIMENTO (cassette, private)

I review many cassettes relatively short, thirty to forty minutes. The new album by Heavy Cloud is an exception; it is eighty-three minutes long. It is also my introduction to the work of this group/project. I don’t know who is behind it. ‘Pentimento’ was previously released as digitally albums, ‘Erasures’ on the first side, and ‘Omissions’ on the second. Both contain four pieces, and some of these are lengthy. The easiest way to describe Heavy Cloud is to say this is collage music. Perhaps in the best musique concrète tradition, but that is not covering it. Lo-fi ambient is more its area, with synthesizers, found sounds, loops, percussion, and ‘text-to-speech fiction and non-fiction. Especially the latter is something we don’t hear a lot in the world of lo-fi ambient music. Also, Heavy Cloud’s approach is opener than many of its peers, and it becomes, at times, more of a radio play. Some of these sounds don’t seem to ‘fit’ together, an uneasy marriage if you will, but it all works wonderfully well. Field recordings often appear unprocessed; most of the time, I have no idea where these are from. Rummaging in the backyard is my best guess. Apparently, texts are also a collage from Sylvia Plath, Baudrillard, Nick Cave, sound theory and the lives of Seymour Berstein and Maria Callas. Still, I wasn’t paying much attention to that side of the music. The voices are embedded within the music and do not appear too much over the music, so one can choose to enjoy the overall musical content as music and not necessarily as a narration. At times, surprisingly musical and melodic, which also doesn’t make this a standard sort of lo-fi ambient release. I immensely enjoyed this genre diversification, or perhaps we could say that Heavy Cloud has a rather personal and unique voice in the world of music. I am curious about their other work. (FdW)
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