Number 1359

BEKAH SIMMS – BESTIARIES (CD by Centredisques/Centrediscs) *
JAIRUS SHARIF – WATER & TOOLS (CD by Telephone Explosion Records) *
THE BLORP ESETTE GAZETTE VOLUMES & FOUR (2CD compialtion by Gilgongo Records)
MICRO_PENIS – SÜRA WALD (CDR by Chocolate Monk) *
LUER – CONSTANT (CDR by Oxidation) *
CONTAGIOUS ORGASM + Θ – ISLAND (cassette by Oxidation)
CHESTNUT – LADDER MATCH (cassette, private) *
LICHT-UNG – INDIENTAPE (cassette by Grisaille) *
FELIX-FLORIAN TÖDTLOFF – ALTO (cassette by Grisaille) *
EUPHOTIC – CONJUGATE REGIONS (cassette by Ikuisuus) *
JÜRGEN ECKLOFF – DIESE, NICHTS & SOLCHE (cassette by Fragment Factory)
RAOUL VAN HERPEN – FIRE RING (cassette by Tone Burst) *


With the release of ‘Wildness’, Organum Electronics completes the series of harsh electronic releases. They were all released by Japanese Siren Records; ‘Fearceness’ (Vital Weekly 1323), ‘Solitude’ (Vital Weekly 1289), ‘Organum Electronics’ (Vital Weekly 1316), and the not reviewed ‘Stillness’. Put all five together and see a very consistent cover design. There is an overlap with Organum (without ‘Electronics’) work in the design department, with four repeating images/texts. I always think of this as a Warholian/pop art approach. Like the minimal approach to the music, there is also a minimal approach to the music. And that is also that ties Organum and Organum Electronics together. Whereas with Organum, it is sometimes seemingly the same pieces repeated on a release, as with Organum Electronics, the minimal approach lies in the single long-form piece of electronic sounds. David Jackman, the man behind Organum/Electronics, is never too forthcoming when sharing techniques, instruments and other such trivia that would make the reviewer’s life easier. My best guess is that Jackman somehow had access to a modular electronics set-up for a while and worked out a way to be quite extreme. A monolithic sound approach occurs, sounds the same as before, and sounds different again. That’s the beauty of this music. Five noise exercises were great, but I don’t mind a return to the ‘other’ Organum sound. (FdW)
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[wiki:] “In physical geography, a steppe is an ecoregion characterized by grassland plains without trees apart from those near rivers and lakes”. In Eastern Europe and Central Asia, you’ll find lots of those; in Argentina, the Patagonia area is well known. There are more locations, but Ukraine and Argentina are the important ones for our story. It’s the place where Edward Sol and Anla Courtis made their field recordings. Sol writes that “both are unusual places to get some interesting field recordings”, but here ‘Patagonia Winds” by Francisco Lopez sprang to mind. These places are empty, in which the wind has free reign. In the south of Ukraine there is the last spot of the European virginal steppe known as “Askania Nova”, which lend the title to this release. Two pieces, less than thirteen minutes each. Do I need to spell out that this makes me most unhappy? Especially given the excellent quality of the music here. Anla Courtis is pretty straightforward regarding drones, field recordings and building things up. Going from not too quiet but reasonably spaced out, building to a mighty fine, well-expanded drone piece, in which we detect animals, wind, the crackling of wood and much wind over a barren plain. Edward Sol’s music (I am not entirely sure to what extent they worked on each other sounds, I’m going by the respective credits on the CD) is more of a mystery for me. His sounds are obscured once more, taken a bit further, transformed a little bit more, and their impact is even more significant. When the first half dies out, we are left in desolation, and slowly the music is as quiet as a campfire. The wind howls around, and the flames lick the wood. Now here’s quite some suspense going on. Both pieces are great, but it is Edward Sol’s piece that is the winner here. Spooky and unearthly stuff is going in here. This released also has great cover art. Support this release and this label and end the war in Ukraine. (FdW)
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BEKAH SIMMS – BESTIARIES (CD by Centredisques/Centrediscs)

As you can tell from the bilingual label name, this is a Canadian release, which leads me to believe that there is something in Canada that gives rise to astounding, fresh and novel music. Like the Jairus Sharif release also reviewed in this Vital. The blend of cultures? The somewhat ‘Europe-ness’ of the country (at least the East)? This release presents modern contemporary music but with a noise edge and a symphonic feel. Go figure.
    Somehow this reminds me of Zeitkratzer, who also uses other means to create contemporary music, using a contemporary classical orchestra to produce other music. We find three long pieces here that – always using the ‘orchestral’ feel of brass cum piano cum strings – to create music combining classical, improvisational, jazz and rock elements to highly interesting music that weaves in and out of moods. I would not say the ‘rock’ prevails in any way, but there is a drum set that is used as such, not for making ‘strange noises’ … though this passage is relatively short. Imagine the mood building with low, hissing sounds, then adding an improvisational bit of chaos, having a piano and percussion give this some ‘structure’ to then draw it out into a long, pensive layering of sounds, strings over cymbals, with some piano strewn in – ending with a snarling – not quite sure what it is (double bass?) – final chord.
    The second piece, ‘From void’, is more restrained – based on a track of ‘noises’, clicks and hisses, the orchestral instruments only signal their existence very sparsely at the beginning, being more prominent later. The ‘orchestra’ only makes itself noticed through the various instruments being played. The third, ‘Bestiaries I & II’ is the most openly ‘orchestral’, though adding a soprano voice. The instruments hold a quiet but forceful tension above which the voice can operate, not in the often-found fanciful fashion of showing off virtuosity but in a measured way that makes musical sense.
    We should now spend a little time on Bekah Simms as a composer, too. She has been around for a while, which Discogs hardly recognise – but I often find North American composers having been active for a long time, with a reasonable work output being performed but no recordings. Maybe that is how the classic music business works over there; after all, she has already been awarded 30 awards. She hails from New Foundland, worked in Toronto, but is now a lecturer in Glasgow. It seems Simms has a background in sampling, but here it can be watched taking a completely different turn in citing music but not sampling it. She uses electronics on two pieces here, but in a very restrained manner that can hardly be noticed. Together with the cellist Amahl Arulanandam she sustains an interest in metal, black metal and nu metal; hence, if you read back, the ‘rock’ and symphonic elements.
    All in all, a new turn in contemporary classical music towards a fuller orchestral sound that has the overall beauty of the composition in mind. (RSW)
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JAIRUS SHARIF – WATER & TOOLS (CD by Telephone Explosion Records)

Calgary-based autodidact Jairus Sharif is somewhat of a musical loner, not really attached to any musical direction or crowd. So when Covid lockdown hit, he was left to his own devices, with a saxophone he had recently bought by chance. With a (quite large) number of keyboards, some leftover bits of drum kits pals had left at his home pre-pandemic, and guitars, he installed his very own recording studio, as shown on the back of this CD. Sharif has a history of creating ‘outsider’, ‘cosmic’, ‘spiritual’ free jazz – whatever that exactly means.
    When you listen to the recordings, you might find some common elements with Sun Ra, the prevalence of supposed ‘dilettantism’. So yes, Sarif had never played the saxophone, but on these recordings, you only rarely notice, as he does explore the instrument to very good effect. The pieces have a feel of their own, nearly always somewhere on the verge of a ‘rock’ sound with a groove, though this may wobble and leave at times as it is not considered essential by the musician, merely a useful addition. You get the feeling that someone has emptied their soul here – nevertheless, not necessarily letting the listener in on what it was about, the song titles only give little: ‘Humiliy’, Ra Comm’, ‘Earth Ill’.
    ‘Humility’ kicks off with a somewhat Black Sabbath-ish take at mixing a deep synth growl (which could also have been a guitar) with a flurry of noise and found sound – and the saxophone, of course. After five minutes, the idea goes a bit flat, but the Sharif cleverly realises this and turns it into a harmonious, three-declining-chords piece. You wait for the drum set to REALLY come in, but it remains restrained – as said, not given the role of a driving force. Interestingly, the saxophone weaves in and out, apparently (live), coming from different angles and distances. ‘Ra Comm 43’ has a more archaic approach, a free jazz jam with irregular percussion, saxophone wails and deep synth sounds, continuing into ‘Surfacing’, of similar nature. ‘9-5 Silver’ (alluding to a daytime job?), in contrast, is a bit boring, a luckily short (3 minutes) exploration into the cheesier synth sounds. Interspersed with a few shorter pieces, ‘Earth Ill’, presents a study in noise (very fittingly), which could be considered somewhat akin to earlier Legendary Pink Dots, whilst the title track ‘Water & Tools’ is an extended, pensive meditation accompanied by percussion improvisation.
    This is surprising music, quite innovative in its choice of instruments and means, and astonishingly effective – not at all rock, some free jazz, some unattributable synths, and overall maybe something to be called ‘space jam jazz’? (RSW)
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In the seventies, The Los Angeles Free Music Society was a collective of groups and musicians working together, with members being part of various groups. Groups such as Smegma, Doo-Dooettes and Le Forte Four, but as a label, there was also room for musicians to release solo works. RRRecords released a 10CD box set in the mid-90s, which already collected the labels’ hard-to-find records. Compilations formed a large portion of their output, and in 1977 there was the first volume of the Blorp Esette, and in 1980 a second volume. Later the two were released on a 4CD with Volum 3 and 4. In 2013 Transparency label released the first two volumes of ‘The Blorp Esette Gazette’, continuing the LAFMS ideas of weird music – to put it mildly – as a series but halted when the label owner passed away. Now Gilgongo Records picks it up again, with ‘Volume 3 & 4’, a double CD with music that partly deals with the old LAFMS posse but also contains new names. You’ll find here a piece recorded from 1972 by Ace & Duce, but also more recent. Most tracks don’t have a recording date, judging these to be from a more recent date. The music is in various places, but generally, a free aspect runs through these pieces. Dr. Amazon, in which we find Dr. Id, from Smegma fame, doing a very loose rendition of ‘White Rabbit’, there is guitar noise by Donkey Flybye, James Dewey, and Eric Zann, Ace Farren Ford (who compiled this thing with Ju Suk Reet Meate), doing a contact microphone improv with GX Jupitter-Larsen, spoken word by Lynn Carey and Erica Rawlings, tape-loop experiments by Lee Rockey or radical free rock music by Control Unit, tape-recorder madness of Sissy Spacek and a weird singer-songwriter named Mr. Foon with a track from his 1977, as yet unreleased, LP. Folk is taking the piss out by Electric Bill Robinson, and Threed might do the same with improvised music. This compilation reads like a gazette, a fine mix of news, oldies, and weird stories, and there are lots to explore. Absolutely great compilation. (FdW)
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René Lussier is a veteran and crucial exponent of the Quebec scene, one of the founding members of the Ambiances Magnétiques-collective in the early 80s, etc. I used to follow his career for many years. He has engaged in many international collaborations, travelling the globe, and practising improvised and experimental music with Fred Frith as an essential musical partner (Keep the Dog, Fred Frith Guitar Quartet). But somewhere – about two decades ago – he changed his way of life and work. Since then, he has lived in an isolated area in his homeland, in the middle of nowhere. ‘Le Trésor de la langue’ (1989) is probably his most important work. It was re-released in 2007 as a three-CD reissue, including lots of unreleased material from this project. For this album, he introduced working with the concept of ‘speech melody’ in a way that was not done before. The phenomenon of integrating natural speech into a musical composition has a long history with Pierre Schaeffer and Pierre Henry, Harry Partch, Steve Reich, Robert Ashley, etc. It is not often practised. French composer Christophe Chassol is an example. Lussier continued with transposing speech into music and also on this new record. In 2018 Lussier surprised us with ‘Quintette’, presenting his quintet performing his Avant-rock based compositions. On ‘Au Diable Vert’, he works with the same musicians again: Luzio Altobelli (accordion, marimba), Julie Houle (tuba, euphonium), Robbie Kuster (drums, saw), Marton Maderspach (drums) and guest appearances by Guillaume Bourque (clarinet), Alain Trudel (trombone), Koichi Makigami (voice), Takashi Harada (Ondes Martenot) and Chris Cutler (voice). Lussier plays guitars, bass and percussion. He recorded the voices of his companions and transposed fragments into music, integrating them in his thought-over compositions full of abrupt changes and breaks, resulting in sequences of sections that vary in instrumentation and arrangement. A tribute, as it were, for the poetic Quebecian dialect. It is difficult to put a label on this music. Avant-rock is a good start, I think, somewhere and somehow rooted in traditions of folk music and many more. A very imaginative and solid work! (DM)
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With ‘Counterfeit Mars’, Laubrock and Rainey present their fourth duo release for Relative Pitch Records, recorded in Brooklyn on August 12, 2021. Rainey has been based in New York since 1979 after completing his studies at Berklee College of Music. He worked for many years as a sideman with Mark Feldman, David Torn, Nels Cline and above all, Tim Berne. In 2010 he debuted with ‘Pool School’ for Clean Feed with a trio recording of Ingrid Laubrock (saxes), and Mary Halvorson (guitar). German-born Laubrock debuted with ‘Sleepthief’ in 2008 in a trio with Liam Noble (piano) and Tom Rainey (drums). Laubrock, of German origin, first settled in London, where her duo work with pianist Liam Noble was one of her collaborations. In 2008 she changed London to New York, where she has been based since. How did they make their way through the pandemic? “Early in 2020, as the pandemic was forcing us to isolate ourselves from our friends and performing concerts, we began a weekly series of duets called “Stir Crazy”. For over a year, we offered these home recordings free of charge on Bandcamp to stay connected to our supporters and continue developing new music. After sixty episodes we retired the series to begin preparing for our next studio recording, “Counterfeit Mars”. Of the 13 works on this release Laubrock (soprano and tenor saxophones) composed five and Rainey (drums) one. The rest are duo improvisations. Their performance is very disciplined and to the point., stripped down to the essence. Laubrock produces a very warm sound, and in their interplay, there is a certain unstirred calmness and togetherness, whatever their movements are. They surprise and impress us with many ideas with their communicative power and charm. Wonderful work! (DM)
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Here we have a double LP with some clever ideas behind it all. Some consideration went into this, from both a musical perspective and the presentation. Austin Larkin plays violin solo, and he sees his work as part of the tradition in which we also find La Monte Young’s ‘Well Tuned Piano’, Pauline Oliveros ‘Accordion & Voice’ and Eliane Radigue’s pieces for the ARP2500. Minimal music for a single instrument. The presentation of this record, silkscreened black ink on white paper, has the aura of private pressing from years ago. Like the outset of the concept, the execution is very consistent. There are four sides to these two LPs, and each side has two tracks. In each of the pieces, Larkin plays his violin. I assume these pieces are composed and not improvised. How exactly composing in this case works, I don’t know. I can imagine that Larkin wrote a few phrases and that he repeats these a couple of times and that within each piece, there are various layers. I might be wrong about this working method, but that’s how I see this music. A passer-by who interrupted the playing of this record remarked that one (I forgot which) piece sounded like an irritating buzzing insect. I’m afraid I have to disagree. There is, at times, a beautiful, sad tone in these pieces. There is also hecticness, nervousness, tranquillity and sparseness. Occasionally there seems to be a doubling of ideas spread over tracks, but I found the consistency of the execution rather fascinating. If this record will be hailed in the same as some of the albums that inspired Larkin, I can’t and won’t say. Maybe it will. Perhaps it will be lost in the avalanche of releases. That would be sad, as I think it is an excellent record that people should hear, and they should listen to it now, not as a resurrected lost item from the past somewhere in the distant future. (FdW)
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Music by London-based guitarist James O’Sullivan was reviewed before in Vital Weekly, from his duo with Dan Powell, called Muster (Vital Weekly 1272). Both Powell and O’Sullivan are also into releasing solo releases next to playing with other people. O’Sullivan also has a duo with Paul May (percussion, a trio called Found Drowned and various releases on the Aural Terrains label. ‘Lovely Error’ is O’Sullivan’s third solo record; I haven’t heard the other two. The recordings on this disc came about by accident, as there was a planned quartet recording and three of the players didn’t show up. O’Sullivan spend three hours playing his guitar, a Telecaster if you should ask, and edited these down to five pieces on ‘Lovely Error’. The sixth piece is from improvisations on holiday in the south of France two years ago. In this piece, he uses an amplified archtop semi-acoustic; I am sure string slingers know what this means. Amplification plays an important role in his music, and O’Sullivan isn’t a man shy of leaving some feedback in. The music is all improvised, as that’s the area of expertise here. The guitar remains to be recognized throughout these pieces, but none of this is too much standard improv. O’Sullivan tortures his strings with his fingers, but maybe, also with objects. Using distortion and feedback, he adds a wholly different world of sound to the music and something that is not all too common or, perhaps, not something I hear a lot. The additional layer of feedback, distortion and noise, sitting next to objects upon strings, plucking and bowing, create a multi-layered and multi-coloured sound world that works very well. At least, for me, it did, as someone who isn’t that much into the world of pure improvisation. The fact that O’Sullivan isn’t all about noise but also knows how to pull out, open up a register of more reflective sounds, and thus add variation in approaching the guitar won me over. (FdW)
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MICRO_PENIS – SÜRA WALD (CDR by Chocolate Monk)

It is not difficult for me to admit that I know nothing about the history of free improvisation. In 1977 Han Bennink and Peter Brötzmann recorded their ‘Schwarzwaldfahrt’ LP in the Blackforest in Germany, near Aufen and at the Schwarzenbachtalsperre lake). In April 2010, the four members of Micro_penis (Heyer, Kittel, Ogrob and Spenlehauer) went to the same place to record their ‘Süra Wald’ album. An open-air recording, as shown in the various photographs in the booklet. Micro_penis might be known for their weird take on the world of improvisation in which farting and burping never seem far away, but the eighth pieces on ‘Süra Wald’ are actually beautifully constrained. The group brought some instruments, a tuba, some sort of battery-powered organ, hoses to get the lake to bubble, and trees, branches and leaves as bits and bobs of a more percussive nature. This rather short album sees the various interests of the group well displayed. The burping, as mentioned earlier, and farting combined with throwing up (or what sounds like it), radical free improvisation but also some very reflective pieces that wouldn’t be out of place on an album of field recordings. Maybe they toned down a bit? I doubt that is the case here, and I put it down to a mere coincidence that we find them also (not exclusively) in a quieter fashion. The country air agreed with them, and so that the occasional cow that was captured along the lines. An excellent release. (FdW)
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LUER – CONSTANT (CDR by Oxidation)
CONTAGIOUS ORGASM + Θ – ISLAND (cassette by Oxidation)

My third encounter with the music of Matt Taggart, who goes by the name of Luer (see also Vital Weekly 1334 and 1246). The cover simply says ‘modular synth and pedals’. On the previous occasion, when I heard his music, I wasn’t all too sure about his set-up, believing Luer was a laptop project yet, but I didn’t rule out anything analogue. Luer is a man who isn’t shy of some good ol’ noise music. Unlike, perhaps, some of his fellow modular musicians, Luer takes it all one step further. A bit louder and a bit meaner than some of his comrades. Into his machines, Luer feeds field recordings and acoustic rumble (the kling klang of metallic objects, for instance), but they disappear in Luer’s twisting and turning of knobs. Yet, as also previously noted, Luer isn’t your usual noise project. Like before, I believe there is quite some extensive editing in this music, where he combines various sessions and layers and mixes these sessions into a more consistent composition. They are very much like they do in the world of musique concrète but with considerable force. Luer’s music certainly isn’t easygoing and requires your attention. You only notice the many layers, edits and cuts, which gives the ringing and buzzing more sense. Well, at least for me, it did.
    The legacy of Stanley Keith Bowsza (1951-2010) is in great hands with Phillip B. Klingler (PBK), who has the complete archive of Minoy, as was the name used by Bowsza to release music. PBK restores Minoy’s music and maintains his Bandcamp; occasionally, there is a re-issue. The cover of this new double CDR doesn’t tell us much about the provenance of the music when it was recorded, for instance, or whether these were released before; for the latter, I somehow don’t think they were. As with many of his cassette releases, and surely the two pieces per disc were intended for a cassette release, Minoy goes for long-form pieces of music. Synthesizers, sound effects (at times quite a bit of reverb, especially on ‘Rules Of The Game’), radio sounds, maybe a guitar played with a bow to create ambient-like textures and such. All of this goes into the blender, and the music is more like a stream of consciousness. Every action in sound leads to another one, seemingly logical (and perhaps it is), but something irrational, like a hasty flick at the radio dial changing the station. ‘Flavor Of Acid On Ice’ is more of a synth piece, monotonously piercing into your brain, like Minoy had a monotron before they were available. There is a rusty, broken character to this piece, like the machines don’t properly connect. Buzzing like insects around your, keeping you wide awake. ‘New Generation of Postmodern Brats’ is also a minimal piece (essentially all Minoy works are minimal) of looped voices murmuring and repeating modulations with some sounds thrown. It takes a while before there are any changes take place. ‘Rules Of The Game Part One’ is a mixed media piece, with radio sounds coming alive at one point, whereas the second part is more of an ambient industrial tour de force. Here we find a chilling piece of electronic sounds, cold and cutting and ripping like iron machines. This piece is Minoy at his most ambient meets industrial, another line of interest. In all four of these pieces, there is that stream-of-consciousness approach; let it all happen and care about the results later. Another fine work and a fine introduction for those who have never heard of Minoy.
    For whatever reason, I never seem to know much about Contagious Orgasm. Somehow I lump him in with Japnoise people, but I might very well be wrong. Here he teams up with Θ, the musical project of Themistoklis Altintzoglou, which sounds very Greek, but the music is recorded in Tromsø, all the way North in Norway. One side is Contagious Orgasm + Θ, and on the other side, the roles are reversed. Two pieces per side, and curiously, on both sides, you’ll find a piece called ‘Island’. In the Contagious Orgasm + Θ version of that piece, there is a great sense of power electronics running rampant on the source material we can no longer recognize. ‘The Itch’ is a different piece, with string instruments, sampled percussion and thunder. Dark, ominous and very much the soundtrack to a horrorshow. In Θ’s version of the title piece, there are also power electronics that meet industrial noise but with a slightly more musical aspect. The violin and field recordings are not entirely lost in the music’s brutality. In ‘Temperature Difference’, rhythm shows up, samples and throughout a dark ambient atmosphere. Alarm clocks go off unexpectedly, making this a piece of soundtrack-like proportions. Obviously, a top-heavy horror movie, and if you are not a fan of that film genre but a lover of all things dark and rich, there is much to enjoy here. Quite a cryptic release, going into various musical areas, all dark, all heavy, but nevertheless with some distinct differences. (FdW)
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CHESTNUT – LADDER MATCH (cassette, private)

From the city of angels hails a duo called Chestnut. They started as an ambient project in 2014, but with every new release, they change their sound, “moving from harsh noise to downright danceable tracks of this forthcoming record”. I can’t vouch for that changing of tunes, as I have not heard their music before. The ambiguity of ‘this forthcoming record’ was something I was thinking about when I played these fourteen relatively brief pieces of music. Harsh noise this music is not, and danceable? There are a few rock drums in some of these tracks, and I was thinking (wrongly, as it turned out) about 4/4 beats. Some of this is more like free-form, ritualistic music, such as ‘Larry’s Nightmare’ and free folk in ‘Ron and Sammi Will Always Have The Shore’. Chestnut uses guitar, drums, keyboards, and vocals. The latter is more courtesy of Daniel Watkins than Christina Santa Cruz. Some of these songs are way too brief for my taste, and given the variety of musical styles, I found this album difficult to get around. Their folky side is not well-spend on me, but I enjoy it when they bang their cans or do sound collages. I wish there would be more of that side of this duo. I could end this review by saying, ‘maybe more of that next time’, but who knows what they think of next? (FdW)
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LICHT-UNG – INDIENTAPE (cassette by Grisaille)
FELIX-FLORIAN TÖDTLOFF – ALTO (cassette by Grisaille)

As I have been enjoying Boban Ristevski’s latest batch of releases, which are almost all collaborations, it was a no-brainer to start with his release from this newest batch of Grissaile releases. He teams up here with Philip Sulidae, from Australia, and is also no stranger to these pages. As with many recent collaborations with Ristevski, I have no idea how these pieces are made. Usually, they have some heavily processed drones in combination with densely layered shorter loops. The four pieces on this release evolve more around the use of field recordings, which is what I know best from Sulidae. My best guess would be that he is the man who supplied a lot of these field recordings, and Ristiveski takes them to another level. He is not doing the total abstraction side of things, but he keeps it more within the realm of what we know. I would think the field recordings are to be recognized as such, even when it’s unclear what precisely these are. I can imagine Sulidae uses a lot of hydrophones and magnetic pick-ups, scanning the city for hidden electric lines. In the music, there are repetitions, but none all too obvious, thus creating a more collage-like approach in the music. In that respect, this Ristevski release is a bit different than his other recent releases, and I needed some adjusting to this approach, but it worked very well. The music is ambient and alien, with all these heavily obscured sounds. Excellent stuff.
    Licht-ung, both a label and a music project, is not your ordinary music project. Master-minded by Joi, I believe the membership is more open than closed. On March 11, 2018, Licht-ung played between 6 and 8 pm in Garden Space, JNU in New Delhi. Two recordings by Andrew, Prashant, Prabhav, Krishna, Sarvesh and Jonny can be found on this cassette, along with one by Jonny solo. Whereas older music from Licht-ung was more akin to the world of drone and guitar noise, these pieces are a curious mix of acoustic guitar strumming, violin and voice. There are some electronics, especially in the build of the side-long ‘Farben Aus Dem Gesicht’, before landing in what could have been an obscure Current 93 track. Also, on the two other tracks, something similar happens, in which there is a slightly exotic sound, loops and free folk playing. These pieces undoubtedly have a trance-like element, sitting firmly next to all things lo-fi. Jonny’s solo ‘eine Landung genau bei Dir’ has a more noisy result, in which he does quite a power electronics work. Out of place? I didn’t think so. I found this working together well, but perhaps the lo-fi ness of all three pieces made me see that connection.
    The other two new cassettes are rather short. First, there is the guitar (well, no evidence to support that) and drone music from Felix-Florian Tödtloff. I reviewed a split cassette with Jeans Beast before (Vital Weekly 1241), which was also a relatively short release. Tödtloff recorded the music in Berlin but with the mountains on his mind. I wasn’t particularly thinking about mountains when I first heard the music (and had not yet read the mountains reference) or any landscapes. Still, the calm way the music unfolds (or rather, doesn’t unfold all the way), there is certainly a reference to a landscape to be made. Mountains? Sure, but I also envisage more desolate, open landscapes, a desert, for instance. In ‘Alto’, the music rises up and fades away in slow, repetitive moves. In ‘Serpentines’, on the other side, something similar happens but is now less obvious. Here it is all more of a long-form drone piece. Two outstanding pieces of music, and for both, I would easily have enjoyed a more extended version or a release in which Tödtloff presents some more music. That is the downside of his release.
    Also, twenty minutes is the collaboration between Lärmschutz and Sergei Tumanov. I don’t think I heard of the latter before, but he’s from Australia and plays violin and effects. Lärmschutz used to be a very active trio of musicians from The Netherlands, but on this cassette, only RVD is present with electronics and effects. Does the group no longer exist, or is it now a solo enterprise? I don’t know. I am never all too sure what Grisaille likes to release, but somehow I would think it is in the domain of drone, experiment and noise. Hence, the somewhat more improvised sounds of this cassette are something that I didn’t hear all often on this label (and I admit not having listened to all 60+ releases). The violin is being scraped and bent, and electronics swirl around that. It is, by all means, a fine work of improvised music that is a bit chaotic and a bit noisy. (FdW)
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EUPHOTIC – CONJUGATE REGIONS (cassette by Ikuisuus)

‘Conjugate Regions’ is my second encounter with the music of Euphotic, a trio of Cheryl E. Leonard (natural objects), Tom Djll (trumpet, electronics), and Bryan Day (invented instruments). The first was ‘Isopleths’ (Vital Weekly 1257), which I immensely enjoyed. What I like about the music here is that it is more than improvisation. Sure, the trumpet is perhaps the instrument that delivers the more significant portion of improvisation, but the other two do that, even when their contribution is within the realm of electro-acoustic sounds. I guess that’s where for me, the attraction lies here. The metallic sounds of Day’s wooden boxes with strings, played with sticks, bows, and fingers, set against the shaking and moving of natural objects by Leonard, make a very natural electro-acoustic sound. When Djil connects more with his electronics (I believe some modular set-up), such as in ‘Terella’, it all becomes very interesting. Without knowing as much, I would think there isn’t a lot of editing going on, and much of what we hear is a ‘live’ concert, maybe cleaned up and trimmed around the edges. I like this freeform approach quite a bit, especially with the increasing amounts of improvisation music that lands on my desk these days. This trio plays their music and sounds with great mutual respect; no one is the boss here, everybody has a place, demands and gets one, and there is great interaction all around here. Euphotic plays lengthy pieces, but they remain to hold one’s attention throughout their length. There always seem to be lots of small things happening below the surface. (FdW)
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Even for someone like myself, who sat almost front-row seat in the 80s in the world of cassette labels, there are (still!) names that sound familiar but whose music I never adequately heard. Solomonoff & Von Hoffmannstahl is such a duo; Carola von Hoffmannstahl and David Solomonoff. They didn’t have many releases back in the day and were mostly self-released. ‘The Element That Defies Description’ was the only tape released by another label, Al Margolis’ Sound Of Pig.  Now it’s Tribe Tapes turn to re-issue this work from 1986. I understand that this duo was part of the cassette network overlapping the mail art network. Just as people send their artwork, people send sounds around, which could end up in a wild orgy/collage of sound. The list of participants here reads like a who’s who of the time (GX Jupitter-Larsen, Amy Denio, Al Margolis, Psychodrama, No Unauthorized). Still, new names there didn’t mean much to me, such as Mary Horn, Valeria Haller, Seiei Jack Nakahara or Wally Shoup. The music is quite a crude copy, cut, paste and overlap of sounds without, most of the time, an idea for a composition. Not as extreme as Mixed Band Philanthropist, yet not as refined as P16.D4s ‘Distruct’. However, this is a great release as a document of its time. Certainly, for a former front-row spectator/participant, this is a great reminder of those care-free days. Alright, there was a cold war nuclear threat, but in our nihilistic optimism, we’d still be mixing tapes and shouting, ‘drop the bomb, now’. Perhaps some of us would still say the same thing. Be careful what you wish for! Great reminder of the past, this cassette. (FdW)
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JÜRGEN ECKLOFF – DIESE, NICHTS & SOLCHE (cassette by Fragment Factory)

Over the years, I reviewed various works by Column One, which sometimes led to amazement, confusion and agreement. Do I know what this group (disbanded in 2016) was about? I don’t think so. René Lamp was one member, Jürgen Eckloff the other. He also runs the 90% Wasser label, another slightly mysterious enterprise, with more confusion and satisfaction. In a solo guise, Eckloff doesn’t have too many releases, the first from 2000 and now about twelve down the line, in different formats. Eckloff also creates films, and it is said that his “audio works often deal with the deconstruction of language and the mechanisms of communication. The press information says this new cassette has three tracks but no titles on the cover, while Bandcamp has two untitled pieces, one per side. Also, it says that the music is at the “intersection of concrete music, language and field recordings, subtly accentuating the sheer absurdity of our times”. The latter I would like to leave at the discretion of the label, as it’s not something that was all too clear for me playing this music. Three, or more, or less, pieces, the number is irrelevant here, as I take the music as one stream of sounds of the subconsciousness; such is the nature of a cassette release. Cutting, editing, pasting, overlaying but also removing and erasing that’s what Eckloff does best. Is there a narrative? I don’t know (and yes, even when I agree with the absurdity of our times, or even of all times) if there is narrative. At times. Eckloff cuts his sounds really short, reminding me of the musicians attached to Schimpfluch. It is quite a fascinating ride, these collages from Eckloff. Maybe the absurdity lies in broken communication between humans and animals (our fucked up relation with the animal world, for instance) or in animals laughing at us? Maybe more context would have been excellent, as it all stays too much on the abstract side of things right now. The story gets a bit lost. Maybe the cutting is too heavy here? (FdW)
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RAOUL VAN HERPEN – FIRE RING (cassette by Tone Burst)

First, respect for the effective and great cover art here. Simple yet very elegant. Raoul van Herpen’s music I heard before (Vital Weekly 1295), but I don’t know too much about this Dutch composer. His latest cassette has four pieces, and from Bandcamp, I understand that he uses ‘Ciat-lonbarde DIY instruments, Wurlitzer piano, Arp Axxe synthesizer, guitar, and tape echo/loops’. All of this he recorded in one take, straight to tape and did minor editing later. This music has an element of improvisation, which sometimes works well, but not always. My favourite piece of this release is the last one, ‘Wood’. Here Van Herpen has a fine drone going and around. He plays with the irregularities of tape machines and delays. Moody and shimmering, but with a light touch also. Right before this piece, there is ‘Spark’ where he goes all Cecil Taylor on the piano, along with nervous electronics. This piece is my least favourite. On the other side of the cassette, we find ‘Flint’, also a moody piece, with the piano not as nervous but elegantly and faintly jazz-like. I was reminded of A Tent, the group with one LP on Cherry Red for a long time. ‘Amadou’ is the one piece which seems to me the one that is all electronic, with just minor chords on the electric piano. These two pieces are also excellent. With a score of three out of four, not bad. I’d say that the free jazz mix with electronics is not something he does very well, and let’s hope h continues with what he does best, playing moody, free electronic music with a bit of piano. (FdW)
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