Number 1361

KLEISTWAHR – COMMON VALUES (CD by Fourth Dimension) *
LECANOSCOPE – CULMINATE (CD by Metabolic Music) *
KASPER T. TOEPLITZ – ARCHE (CD by Zora Records) *
LUEENAS (CD by Barkhausen Recordings) *
CHRISTINA VANTZOU – NO. 5 (CD by Kranky) *
HANS TUTSCHKU – REMEMBERING JAPAN (CD by Empreintes Digitales) *
AKE PARMERUD – BRUIT NOIR (CD by Empreintes Digitales) *
NLC – THE GOLDEN AGE (OF NOTHING) (CDR by Attenuation Circuit) *
UIJF_NOTFOUND – HYPOGONADISM (cassette by I Shall Sing Until My Land Is Free) *
JEDRZEJ SIWEK – IN MEMORY OF ALVIN LUCIER (cassette by Out of Stock) *
DALI MURU & THE POLYPHONIC SWARM – QUARTER (cassette by Extratool) *
NOW DAT’S WHAT I CALL MUSIC label review; part 1
TIM OLIVE – STICKY SHED (15 minutes DAT) *


Gary Mundy might be best known as the man behind Ramleh (well, to the readers of these pages), but Ramleh is a group (I may have used this opening line before). Kleistwahr is his solo project, and after a short period of activity in the 80s, releasing four cassettes (all re-issued on vinyl), he started again in 2010, and it’s now the work he’s most active with. His current Kleistwahr doesn’t sound like the old incarnation, which was noisy and collage-like. The current Kleistwahr is noisy too, but a different kind of noise. Mundy uses a guitar, organ, synthesizers, and a plethora of sound effects and creates a multi-layered, orchestral sound. No doubt there is new technology available these days that allows him to use multiple layers in the music. As I noted before, Kleistwahr’s music is not here to cheer anyone up. It is dark and grim, as opposed to dark and pleasantly atmospheric. The soundtrack for harsh times, and luckily (?) we have plenty of those these days. I wonder what the ‘Common Values’ are, according to Mundy. The titles of the pieces are puzzling, anyway. There is ‘Time To Realise’, ‘Heaven Maybe Never’, ‘Toward A New Land’ or ‘In Blood Covered Land’, all of which don’t provide clues but leave much to guess (and, yes, it sounds grim) Kleistwahr’s music is not piercingly loud, but somehow pierces right into your brain. When vocals are used, they sound far away, like a cry for help or a howl of pain. Maybe the voice is that one thing that sounds like Ramleh. The harpsichord sound I heard before (Vital Weekly 1271) returns here and has that haunted house, shivers down the spine sound. The title track is the longest, and following the loudest start, the volume drops, and Kleistwahr is off to a collage of voices and suppressed sounds and is more a collage piece, as opposed to the others, which are layered and psychedelic noise pieces. An excellent album all around, and Kleistwahr goes from strength to strength. (FdW)
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Although Lecanoscope has been active since 1992, releasing sporadic recordings, as they call it. Six albums in thirty years are, indeed, quite sporadic. They are all released on the Metabolic Music label. Given the nature of the music, I thought it odd that I hadn’t heard them before. There are no names of band members or instruments—electronics for sure, and voices. I am unsure if the rhythms are all out of a box or if these are played in real-time. I admit I don’t know too much about that to judge this. For me, it could be either way. It is perhaps also not the most crucial question. There are seven pieces on this disc, one of which is short and the others between six and eight minutes. The group describes their music as ‘electronic tribal ambient’, which is spot on. Their rhythms are indeed tribal, with the whole ensemble of toms and other percussions (shakers, rain makers and so on), and the ambient backing is relatively spacious and free-flowing. It almost sounds like it was recorded in concert or during an extended jam session. Either it adds a delicate flavour to the music, which is already spacious, or it all becomes livelier than on your average ambient album. The rhythms reminded me at times of Muslimgauze, and overall, the music of Voice Of Eye; or, think of a wilder version of O Yuki Conjugate. Like Voice Of Eye, they, too, have that ‘let it go with the flow’ approach. While the music isn’t always too dark, there is, at times, a darker undercurrent here, such as in ‘Back To This’, with its flutes that certainly sounded like OYC. I believe that happens mostly when the rhythms are not used as extensively. Sadly the album is only forty-four minutes because I wouldn’t mind hearing a bit more. If you only do sporadic releases, then make sure to fill m to the max, I’d say, as this sounded great to my ears. (FdW)
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There is a lot of studying here, music, scores and video. The latter is only for the first release. Zinc & Copper is a trio of wind instruments; Elena Kakaliagou on French horn, Hilary Jeffrey on trombone and Robin Hayward on tuba. Toeplitz is the composer of the piece and plays live electronics. On his website, you can find the score for this piece (fifteen pages) and on YouTube (use the title of the work), a different recording from the premiere of the music in Berlin. It was interesting to view the score while playing the CD and seeing the concert clip. I am sure my review would have been much different had I only heard the CD.  Even with the knowledge of wind instruments being part of this, I would have to remark something about the noise element of the music. At times it is piercingly loud; in fact, a lot of times. We no longer recognise any of the instruments, even when, according to the score, I perhaps should hear them. When the noise is trimmed/cut/removed, we hear these instruments playing their long-sustaining sounds. In all its loudness and quietness, this is some intense music. From barely audible breathing to filtered white noise, the music seems to be moving from -40db to 0db, but with a lot of distortion. I recognised it from the CD only when I saw the music being performed. Here we have a more extensive section of wind instruments against a wall of distortion. On the CD, this is not always evidently clear. A very heavy work of modern composition and of a force that I seldom hear in this particular musical area. I wonder what real noise heads would make of this, and, of course, those who go to recitals of modern music. For both, it must be a strange affair.
    His other new release is a solo affair, music-wise, as it was commissioned by the dance company Loldanse. The recording on CD was recorded live on November 25, 2021, during one of the performances. This piece is for solo electric bass and, so I assume, electronics. Even when the score is in French, it is easier to follow, as Toeplitz made some notes concerning timing this time. Much of the piece doesn’t sound like electric bass and is more like a piece of processed recordings of whatever kind. I wouldn’t know what had I not known this is an electric bass. At seventy-one minutes, this is quite a long piece of music, and because of one heavy noise section (from the twenty-four to thirty-minute mark, not an easy-to-digest release. I admit that I skipped these sections a few times I played this piece. After thirty-five minutes, the high-frequency piece was also loud, but something that I enjoyed all the same. When it is dark, it is dark. Toeplitz once again proves that he is a fine master of radical music. Not that I needed more proof. Just like his disc with Zinc & Copper, the modern music version of Toeplitz is entirely different from many of his peers, and I wonder how such pieces are received. (FdW)
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LUEENAS (CD by Barkhausen Recordings)

Here we have an introduction; Lueenas is an “electrified string duo” from Denmark. Maria Jagd is on violin, viola and pedals, and Ida Dueland is on contrabass, pedals, Minitaur and Tanzmaus. Plus, the last track has the vocals of Emma Acs. That is the only track with vocals, as the rest is instrumental. The inspiration comes from Greek mythology, such as the titles ‘Hemera’ and ‘Nyx’ reveal, but they also reach for other ancient sacred practices, such as ancient Norse paganism and the Seeresses. The ten pieces are between four and six minutes, each displaying a melancholic, atmospheric piece of music. Lueenas isn’t shy of throwing in a bit of distortion to make a counterpoint with the elegant strumming and bowing. I read that the duo worked on several film and series soundtracks, and I can see this music working very well in any sort of set of moving images that is slow, atmospheric and intense. Lueenas maybe with two players, but the outcome is quite orchestral. Maybe they have loop stations among their pedals, allowing them to amass their music via scenic playing. The music sounds orchestral, but not as ‘modern classic’, but rather dramatic, in the classical sense of the word. They combine this with the best post-rock, using their distortion pedals. The label mentions, among others, that this is something for people who Godspeed You Black Emperor, and I can see that too. The big drama is never away; the music is atmospheric, yet not necessarily quiet. But Lueenas delivers music in a small dose, rather than Godspeed’s ominous lengthy works. Lueenas also work differently in structuring their compositions and have more variation to offer. This is not the kind of music I play, but occasionally I do, and Lueenas will be added to the repeat hearing when I’m in the mood for some orchestral post-rock. (FdW)
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What came first? The orchestra or the label? I no longer remember, as, over the years, Insub Records grew into quite a busy record label. They release music from its members, mainly from Switzerland, but also from projects from abroad. Now the orchestra releases ‘Acceleration’. It would be too much to list all the players. Still, it is important to mention the founders, Cyril Bondi and d’Incise, and “born from questionings on improvisation in a large group, the IMO built with time a strong collective and typical background where the individual gesture get lost in the production of global sonic states.”. This new piece is decided to the memory of Gérald Perera, and next to their instruments, everyone plays egg shakers, claves and sin tones (not sure if that should be sine tones). Bondi and d’Incise are the composers and the conductors of the piece. As always, I’d be curious to see the score/instructions the players have. The music has a somewhat slow and solemn atmosphere, and there is a mass of sound. Shaking the shakers at the beginning with flutes and strings playing long-form sounds. Mistakes, as they maybe are, are left in (a sudden thump of one thing or another). The music goes from audible to inaudible and then up again to something a bit louder. The solelm atmosphere lingers on throughout the piece. The egg shakers keep a slow rhythm, not in the entire work, but they play an essential role. Maybe I was waiting for that acceleration to come, but that didn’t seem to happen. It is quite an intense piece of music which works well at the crossroad of modern composition and improvisation. The meaning behind the music is a bit lost on me, to be honest, but I thought it worked well as a standalone piece. (FdW)
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‘No. 5’, which may not be rocket science, is the fifth album of Christiana Vantzou. I only heard her debut album, the remix versions and the film side. I can’t comment on her development as a composer. She works with electronics and (modular) synthesizers and has guest musicians playing piano, violins, voices, and wind instruments. Also, there is some room for field recordings. The album, also available on vinyl, is short, thirty-seven minutes and has eleven songs. Some of these pieces are sketch-like. The fact that some of the music is on the intimate side doesn’t help get that sketch-like notion out of the way. Throughout, the tone is of sadness (or, at least, perceived as such by me), with mucho reverb on the voice end of the music, and everything is sparse. Like a pencil drawing, but one that also without too much detail. I have no idea how this music was recorded, but something in the piece says that she uses various recordings from different locations. She sticks these together, adding effects, electronics and some sparse field recordings. It’s not bad at all, but sometimes it feels rushed or not entirely living up to expectations. The ideas are good, but something is missing in the final execution of the music. (FdW)
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Brian Eno’s ‘Discreet Music’ is the first album of what he termed ambient music. Laying in bed because of the accident, a friend brought a record, but the volume was very low, and he could not change it. Nevertheless, he liked what he heard, including the rain outside, and decided to make music that could be played at a low level and regarded as something beautiful or ignored. Simply have a few loops of different duration running, which will overlap differently. This is not something I recount because I think Keith Berry does something similar. He writes that this Eno-invented process is something that he wants to promote. I reviewed the two previous instalments in this series (Vital Weekly 1259 and 1278, so this fifth took some more time), and I mentioned Eno the first time. Keith Berry doesn’t inform us how these loops were made. I also find it hard to say something sensible in that direction. For all I know, Berry uses a laptop and software, but it could very well be a more complex set-up with bits of hardware. Berry’s music is not static, as one could, maybe, think when you think about loops. Listen closely, and you will hear that new sounds occasionally become part of the piece, and others disappear while the same patterns remain on the surface. The music we can undoubtedly call atmospherical, but it is never all too dark. Instead, Berry stays on the lighter side of music but avoids all too obvious new-age doodling. Sometimes with his light piano and bell sounds, he comes close, but a darker synthesizer sound always saves it. One of the terms Eno used, generative music, springs to mind here also. Unlike Eno, however, Keith Berry hasn’t, as far as I know, ventured into that area, but I think it could be exciting to have his music as part of an application. For now, we have to do with another excellent CD, which is fine too. (FdW)
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Laaps is one of the labels run by Mathias van Eecloo; he published photobooks with LPs/CDs under the banner of Ikki Books, and before that, he ran Eilean Records. The reason for telling you this bit of information is that Andy Cartwright, the man behind the name Seabuckthorn, now has releases on all three labels. He plays guitars, field recordings, clarinet, tongue drum, cymbals and effects. As with his previous releases, Cartwright recorded this new album at home in the French Southern Alps. I learned that he also plays concerts, and various songs were used in documentaries, films and contemporary dance. It is easy to see the attraction for that as Seabuckthorn plays atmospheric tunes most of the time. Occasionally he’s a bit louder, meaner and less ambient, but thus he created a delicate balance between his various interests. Stage central is the guitar, and he mostly plays it with a bow. It seems to be less on the fingerpicking and strumming of these eleven pieces. Interestingly, he keeps his pieces short, as he did on the other albums I heard of him (Vital Weekly 1189 and 1232), which gives the album a bit of a hurried feeling at times. Sure, there is variation all around, which is excellent, but sometimes I am right into a song that ends too soon. With the music of this dark atmospheric nature, one can play it all a bit longer, create more space, I think, and one doesn’t necessarily have to keep it brief. Unless there is a specific idea behind keeping these pieces brief that I am not aware of. I must admit I didn’t hear all the instruments mentioned, tongue drum and clarinet, only on a few occasions, but throughout, I enjoyed this release a lot. I especially enjoyed the fact that there is still plenty of room for more experimental sounds and that the delicacy is not the big idea here. (FdW)
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AKE PARMERUD – BRUIT NOIR (CD by Empreintes Digitales)

Now it’s time for a little confession. Last week I wrote about a new release by Vanessa Massera on Empreintes Digitales. This week I have two more on my plate. Late last year, I received five, and I handed these to one of our reviewers, who, so I believed, would be interested in the music. Since then, he has struggled with this task. Playing these two new releases, I realize that the problem, if there is one, is with the artistic choices of the label. Many, if not all, composers on this label (spanning more than thirty years of releases) work within the realm of serious computer music. They use granular synthesis to process whatever they have on the input side. Field recordings from Japan, for instance, in the case of Hans Tutschku. Or, sometimes, I don’t know what the input is, such as with Ake Parmerud. The music goes up and down in glissandi, stutters and stretches, cracks and glitches. I won’t say that they all use the same software, nor speculate what this software might be, but the outcome seems quite the same. At least, I don’t feel I am qualified to tell them apart. Maybe this is all due to my lack of understanding of the ideas, the composition or the technique involved. In fact, I believe that to be true. But I also think there is so much that I don’t know or understand but that I enjoy nonetheless. And that is not always the case with the releases from this label. In Tutschku’s case, I enjoyed what I heard, and I put that down to the fact that I think he left in some of the unprocessed recordings, which created an interesting balance with the output of the processed parts. Parmerud’s five-piece ‘Louder Than Life’, I found too much of the same, but in ‘Raw’, I hear some exciting bits and pieces of software running amok, adding a slightly noisier aspect to the music, which was nice but not great. As I said, I honestly don’t know. (FdW)
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Anthony Braxton and James Fei have performed for over 15 years now. ‘Composition 429’ is on the menu for this release by highly prolific composer Anthony Braxton. The concert where this piece premiered was the culminating performance of the 25th edition of the Other Minds festival, the first edition after the great pause of the covid pandemic. It’s a work for two musicians using different saxophones. Braxton played sopranino, soprano and alto saxophones and his partner in crime and frequent fellow musician James Fei, a composer in his own right, played sopranino, alto and baritone saxophones. There’s a third sound source: a computer-generated sound based on the input from the acoustic instruments, achieved by software programmed by Braxton. The whole piece is a long-form piece using a new system thought out by Braxton. During his career of 50-plus years, he devised several composing frameworks. And for me it’s a giant rabbit hole to fall into. This new system is called Lorraine and uses the software and electronics earlier used for Diamond Curtain Wall Music: SuperCollider. For the two musicians, there’s a traditionally notated score with 12 colour codes to choose from to make things interesting. I could go on about this and turn this into an essay using the program notes by James Fei. How does it sound? Well, it took some getting used to the sound world. It’s not traditional jazz, and it’s not fancy ‘let me show you what I can do with a saxophone’, although there are virtuoso improvised sections. The score and the system call for a steady slow beast throughout the composition and, in a few places, sidepaths to different pieces by Braxton that are incorporated in the score. Sometimes the two clash because the interval between the two saxophones is a minor or a major second. The third sound source adds a mystic layer to the grounded saxophone sounds. It’s not Manonfriendly music, but the attentive listener will be rewarded with a chance to dive into Braxton’s new sound system. As this might be all too vague a description: you can listen to all 42 minutes of it on YouTube. But then you miss the excellent liner notes. (MDS)
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NLC – THE GOLDEN AGE (OF NOTHING) (CDR by Attenuation Circuit)

Nouvelles Lectures Cosmopolites is what NLC stands for, and they have been around for a long time. I always thought it was the one-person operation of Julien Ash, but now I learn it is him and Alois L. ‘The Golden Age (Of Nothing)’ means there is, these days, nothing at its best. This doesn’t lead to all too depressing music. Sure, the music is dark and atmospheric but also mildly uplifting. The violin plays an important role next to electronics, synthesizers and samples. Maybe some of the other instruments I hear are samples? There is a guitar, a piano and who knows what else. Perhaps the most surprising new element in the music is the use of vocals. What starts with humming in “Learning To Fly (Cloudy Mix)’, becomes full-on songs further down the album. The music is melodic sometimes, and NLC plays some ‘real’ songs, head and tail, chapter and verse. I noted, at times, quite an orchestral approach (especially in pieces where the violin takes the lead), but the music is otherwise all over the place. From film music to techno to trip-hop, a bit of dark wave sounds very smooth. This music has some excellent production value, but I think it is perhaps a bit too slick for my taste. Or, maybe, that this kind of music is not entirely my cup of tea. Not too abstract, a bit on the pop music side, but weird enough not to make any waves on daytime radio. Music for an audience… of who? That’s the question I am thinking of here. There was a time when this kind of alt-pop was more my thing, but not so much these days. These men should offer their services to the film industry (one track is already called ‘Vertigo’, so there is a start), as I imagine there’d be some interest in these tunes. Still, all lovers of good quality weird yet poppy music should be attention. (FdW)
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UIJF_NOTFOUND – HYPOGONADISM (cassette by I Shall Sing Until My Land Is Free)

Sometimes writing a review is like learning new stuff, maybe popping up one day in a pub quiz. Let’s hear it for Wiki! “Hypogonadism means diminished functional activity of the gonads—the testes or the ovaries—that may result in diminished production of sex hormones. Low androgen (e.g., testosterone) levels are referred to as hypoandrogenism and low estrogen (e.g., estradiol) as hypoestrogenism. These are responsible for the observed signs and symptoms in both males and females”. Behind ujif_notfound is the Ukrainian musician Georgiy Potopalskiy, who describes his music/art as “main activity is the creation of multimedia systems based on the algorithm of the kinetic relationship between man and the program”. I reviewed his debut CD (Vital Weekly 998) and an earlier mini CD (Vital Weekly 907). He is connected to label boss Dmytro Fedorenko, then as now, and they share a love for deep beats and synthesizer tones, something that I sometimes describe as the children/followers of the sound of Pan Sonic. Never use the word copyists, as that doesn’t serve any of them. Each of these projects on the previous mothership Kvitnu (of which we can see this label as a sort of off-shoot; the political wing, if you will) has its distinct sound approach, and Pan Sonic elements are used but slightly differently. The heavy bass beat is also with ujif_notfound a strong presence, but ujif_notfound is stronger on the techno side of the music. At times it is also jumpier and more complex than Pan Sonic and less focused on the harsher tones. That is not to say that the music of ujif_notfound is easy; not even close. Beats, tones, and melodies appear top heavy, and throughout is an excellent release. The best piece is ‘Trembeat’, which had me headbanging throughout. Great release for a great cause. (FdW)
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Following ‘La Mer’, Siwek’s previous release (Vital Weekly 1345), he returns with a tribute to Alvin Lucier. The titles of his pieces inform us of the sound sources used, paper, pencil, looper, foghorn, morse code (all on side A), turntable, strings, bees and synth (side B). Before I played this tape, I was thinking about a tribute to Alvin Lucier and how that would sound. I would think something very minimal. Here we have a concept; now execute it. I am sure that is something that Siewek does here, unclear as we remain about the idea. Minimal it is not; not really. Unlike Lucier’s music, which may be long-form sustaining tones of strings and sine waves or the vibrating of a long string, Siwek’s music sees a bit more variation. This happens especially in ‘For Paper, Pencil, Looper, Foghorn and Morse Code. On Bandcamp, Siwek writes that this is a new version of ‘I’m Sitting In A Room’. As said, I am not sure how this particular concept works, but in this piece, he has repeating sounds of (I would) the foghorn, the soft rattling of pencil on paper and, at one point, he drops in the morse code. The pencil and paper are packed in a room, but where the process part of Lucier’s original fit in, I don’t know. I don’t think Lucier would ‘drop’ in a sound. ‘For Turntable, Strings, Bees & Synth’ is inspired by Lucier’s Disappearances’, and here Siwek works with a ‘virtual;l string quartet’ (by which, I think, he means a recording of a string quartet) and removed various frequencies. He also adds vinyl’s crackle and uses the turntable’s motor. This piece is more minimalist; there are no sudden drops. In terms of Lucier, this piece is more ‘it’, I think, even when Siwek has more changes than one hears in five Lucier pieces. While the concept may sometimes elude me, the music sounds quite good. (FdW)
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Prize winning for the longest title of a release in quite some time. Dave Clarkson is active with groups as Scissor Gun (with Alan Hempsall of Crispy Ambulance) and as Spectral Bazaar (with Ruth Davies). In his solo work, field recordings play an important role. He groups his recordings so there is a thematic approach, and it’s no rocket science to know the music here is from fairgrounds and seaside towns. In ye olden days the go to place for a small holiday for the less rich rich. There are sounds of pennies dropping, board rides, fairground organs, demolition noise, electrics and location ambience – I am quoting the information here. Off hand I don’t think I know anybody who works in the same way with field recordings as Clarkson. With him there is no pure documentation nor some delicate, lowercase, digital filtering and composing. Clarkson shapes and bends the material towards the world of electronic music, or, dare I call it, pop music. I admit I don’t always know if all sounds used in these pieces are from field recordings, as at times I would think he adds synthesizers and drum machines. But, who knows, maybe they are fairground rides, cut short to form a rhythm? I am very pleased with this approach. The field recordings are a mere start, to get the show on the road (pun intended) and at times, the music is being right in the middle of a fairground, as in ‘Sizzling Hot Dogs and Burnt Onions’, but maybe a creepy one also. Because of the repetition involved, it seems like a never ending nightmare. Clarkson offers quite a bit of variation, with a bit of ambient (‘Spectral Pier Ballroom’) next to a jolly up tempo piece (‘Penny Arcade In The Rain’). I like this odball combination of weird pop-like structures, ambience and field recordings, and the result being something unique. Certainly a route to explore further. (FdW)
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Following four 7″ records on Extratool (three of which made it to these pages, Vital Weekly 1263 and 1295), there are now two cassettes (of a total of three), also dealing with the same idea. Extratool is a program by Nijmegen-based Extrapool; hence the name, as the tools are instruments by Yuri Landman, which Extrapool has a few of in their small recording studio. These instruments are mostly string instruments with microtonal tuning. There is also a percussion instrument with bottles and a telephone which can be used as a microphone. I had not heard of Dali Maru & The Polyphonic Swarm. They have two pieces on their cassette, in total eight minutes. In ‘Well Preserved’, they work with the string instruments, which they play with a bow, but also in a more percussive way, along with some ritualistic singing – of sorts. I am not too sure. ‘No Servitude For The Sacrum’ places a female voice in the foreground, first with a minimal electronic backing but then with a rhythm plus delay, slowly growing in intensity. Two interesting for sure, but too short of having a fully formed opinion. I detect some things that could have been worked out a bit more in these songs, but for all I know, this is intentional.
    On the other cassette, we find Christina Vantzou (again!), now playing with John Also Bennett. He’s a flute player and composer, has a label called Editions Basilic, and works with the RVNG intl and Freedom To Spend labels. One part of their cassette is undoubtedly not recorded at Extrapool, and that is because there is no ARP 2500 in that studio (sadly!). They recorded that at Willem II in the nearby city of ‘s-Hertogenbosch. They added zither and percussion, and their cassette is ten minutes than the other, but sadly too short for my taste. I like their Arp drone a lot, and for the percussion, they used a gong, so there is an excellent sustain that blends very well with the drones. The zither provides a loose element to the music but fits right in with the solemn character of the music. Two pieces of music which could have easily been longer, I think. I can imagine these two pieces in a longer form would make one great LP. (FdW)
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NOW DAT’S WHAT I CALL MUSIC (label review; part 1)

One seldom gets a chance to review an entire label from beginning to end unless there is some kind of concept behind it. ‘Now DAT’s What I Call Music’ is a project that fits the project’s description and label. On November 1st Frans de Waard – yes, that Frans – dropped 16 DAT tapes filled by seventeen different artists (one is a split), each in an edition of seventeen copies, of which two were taken (one for the artist, one for the archives), so fifteen for sale. Rutger Zuydervelt meticulously executed the artwork, and That’s it.
    All DATs are recycled and reused because that’s what it’s all about. You don’t throw stuff out anymore. The carbon footprint these items generated in the past – when humanity probably didn’t even know what the word meant – is quite firm compared to, for example, a CD. So instead of throwing things away, it’s better to reuse them. Now THAT’s what I call a brilliant idea. If the 15 DATs are sold, the tangible part of this project is over. Now don’t be sad. There is always Bandcamp for us living in a digital reality where they will appear in full once a physical DAT sells out.
    This review is different than others because sixteen individual ones being as elaborate as usual would mean an extra Vital. I’ll keep all the reviews shorter then normal but yet still tell you enough about the artist and music to hopefully make you curious enough to check out this wonderful project and its content. This is the first part!


Number nine of the sixteen releases is by visual and audio artist Craig Stewart Johnson, who we see more regularly in vital as the man behind Invisible City Records and as 50% of the duo Liminal Haze. As an artist, both visual and auditive, Craig focuses on textures, and this piece shows that. I might be completely wrong here, but it seems that the four parts of “Aporia of the Veil” are created with heavily manipulated field recordings (FX, granular synthesis, convolution reverbs). They’re completed with less manipulated field recordings creating a living audio environment. And guess: I really, really like the result!
    The ninety minutes of this release are pretty in your face when you play them on a high volume. The textures of the additional sounds are most effective in this case, but the rest are so loud that your mind starts blocking them because you want to hear the finesses. On the other hand, you can play this release on a very low volume – say in the background while you’re working – and *bam* you’ve created a never dull, completely different sonic environment. High-quality ambient tapestry from another dimension. I’m gonna check out more of him these days.


We’ve all seen his name before, know a bit about him, and have recordings from him in our collection. Admit it. If it’s not under his own name, it’s as Hyware, Technoise or one of the many projects he is or was a member of.
    “Piece for Sixty Oscillators & Long String Instrument” was played and recorded live in the studio and used a modular system and the “Long String Instrument”. Both parts are mixed into a drone with a solid ground tone, but the composition is never without movement. There is a constant flow in and out of stasis through harmonics and waveforms—37 minutes of bliss.
    And that’s not all, because as an extra, the recording of a performance at Kernel Panic (a The Hague event) is added. Radboud performed on September 26th 2019, using a grand piano and E-Bow, a drone machine, modular, shortwave radio and various other electronics and here, too, the result is massive. F*ck How I wish I had been there. A live registration is always interesting to hear, but it sounds like you want to experience it in a room. Through deep listening, celebrating the moment. Massive.


Mark Poysden is the Square Root of Sub, and I admit, my knowledge is limited on Mark. On who he is and what he does, but I KNOW I have seen his name more often. So to suddenly see a massive 90-minute release with this quality. That only happens once every so many years. “Strophe Area 3” is subtitled ‘Unlost Tales of the Pseudosuchian Thecodonts’ while #4 got the subtitle ‘Gleefully Carousing in Morphospace’. This release will prove to be a mystical one.
    The source material for these recordings is from the nineties, and it took Mark until now to finish them. Recorded bass parts from Dicky Nordholt (a.o. Raggende Manne) and percussive sounds by Z’EV, who are both not amongst us any longer. As I understood from the notes, Radboud Mens did a great job restoring the sounds, so I’m left to say something about the sounds now. It is a review, after all, but the thing is: I can’t. I listen, and I listen again. And again. But sometimes music is so elusive or mind-bending that anything I would say about it would be just an interpretation of me. And would generate a setting you would approach the music with. These compositions should be listened to without expectation because this is music on a different level.


I think the fifteen minute ones were the shortest they would sell DAT tapes. And they were lying around, so there had to be one in this catalogue. The honour to fill it was given to Tim Olive, who comes from Canada but now lives in Kobe. “Sticky Shed” is almost 15 minutes of sounds of tuning forks and spring reverbs. And you might now think the same as I was thinking: “how can that be interesting?” Well, it is!
    First of all, tuning forks aren’t “only” available in one frequency (we all know the 440Hz from music lessons) but come in all sizes and materials. Because of its purpose, the sound of tuning forks is pure, so it generates a great starting point. Tim’s recordings are very well, and even though they touch the ‘pain’ point quite often, it never hurts. The combination with the raw edge of the spring emphasizes the purity of the forks. The digital version has an extra track which amazed me: way more subdued, lower frequencies, dronier and less experimental. So basically, don’t worry when the DAT is sold out … There’s Bandcamp 🙂


And as we saw before, DATs are also available in 120-minute tapes and here we have another one. Pool Pervert is Egbert van der Vliet from Haarlem, and this DAT holds almost 120 minutes with “an eclectic selection of released and unreleased stuff, selected by frans de waard”. ‘Fragments of Technology’, ‘Almost Sleep’ parts 1 & 2, ‘Color Scene’ parts 1 through 4 and ‘Ruhrgebiet’ parts 3 to 5 are all heavily manipulated field recordings with added drone sounds of unknown origin.
    The tracks are all between 8 and 18 minutes, and the fit the description of drones more than they would fit soundscape or ambient. However, there is a bit of all three in there. First, there are the beautiful slow movements one would like to hear in drones; The sounds depict a landscape in decay (especially in ‘Ruhrgebiet’), and they can be played to change the environment you’re in a while listening. Minimal but powerful stuff here.


Martijn Hohmann is a name you could have heard of before as a member of De Fabriek, the man behind Universaal Kunst or maybe a release under his own name. “Donkere Kamer” is a five-part soundscape based on field recordings made at several places in the Netherlands and Belgium with additional processing, (soft)synths and mixing done in 2022. “Donkere Kamer” (dark room) is a soundscape in the word’s most direct meaning. In this case, it’s dark, and the room gets even darker after about 10 minutes (which might be the second part).
    The composition has some bass notes which that are deep that higher frequencies are pushed aside. I don’t know if it’s meant to be like that, but Martijn seems to know exactly what he is doing and saying with this composition. The atmosphere of someone peeking in the dark room and everybody in there is quiet just so no one is found. And Martijn sits there, recording and composing with infrared goggles, only to be able to tell this story. Hide and seek in the audio domain. Well done.


At #15, we see a release from the for me unknown Jonathan Dease. Two pieces of just over 20 minutes entitled “Gently” and “Quietly” left me speechless. The theme of this release is “I’ve got a sine wave, and I’m gonna use it”. The tracks are quite alike and know a beautiful minimal play with tones and the interpolation of the purity, which is the sine wave. It reminded me a little bit of Alvin Lucier’s “Music for Piano with Slow Sweep Pure Wave Oscillators” in a completely different setting.
    “Gently” seems to follow what we know as notes, while “Quietly” follows the perspective of tones being notes a bit less. Hence the interference patterns created in “Quietly” are a bit less easy on the ear. Being exposed to the difference is quite confronting. You really need a solid system to get all the hidden beauty; headphones aren’t getting the subtlety: It needs space. You will not be disappointed if you like minimalism and confrontation. I mean: I wasn’t either.


The final catalogue number goes to Vertonen, who is Blake Edwards, and vice versa. The label owner from Ballast covers a full hour of a beautiful soundscape in four parts: ‘Absolution’, ‘Ascension’, ‘Adduction’ and ‘Absorption’ are situated in a scenic and open outdoor space. Sound-wise, is reminds me a bit of the descriptive nature you could expect from Robert Rich or Jorge Reyes, but Vertonen has a different approach to sound.
    Even though the composition has four parts, the good thing about a DAT is that you are obliged to listen to the whole thing. So you’re not skipping anything; hence, you get the entire story.
    “Collapsed Rivers” starts with the know whistling sound of a tube you circle over your head. It gives the track an instant Australian feel (not bad for someone who resides in Chicago). Human choral treatment and singing bowls are added and subtracted, creating a soundscape between an industrial environment and nature. The really slowly added manipulated voices & field recordings leave you in a different world. Gorgeous. (BW)
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