CHRISTOF MIGONE – WET WATER (LET’S DANCE) (2CD by Futura Resistenza) *
VARIAT & MERZBOW – UNINTENDED INTENTION (LP+7″/CD by I Shall Sing Until My Land Is Free) *
COLLIN J RAE/RED GNEIN SEXTET – PANDEMIA (CD by Neuma Records) *
JON CHRISTOPHER NELSON – THE PERSISTENCE OF TIME AND MEMORY (CD by Neuma Records) *
ALEX LUBET – SONGS IN TIME OF PLAGUE (CD by Neuma Records) *
COLIN POTTER – WE COULDN’T AGREE ON A TOTAL (CD by ICR Distribution) *
NURSE WITH WOUND – THE LITTLE DIPPER MINUS TWO PLUS (ECHO POEME SEQUENCES) (LP by ICR Distribution) *
THE GREEN KINGDOM – ETHER HYMNS (CD by Dronarivm) *
TRUE STOMACH OF A BIRD – ULF MENGERSEN, LINA ALLEMANO, KAMIL KOROLCZUK – COMPUTATION INTENSIVE SPONTANEOUSNESS (CD by Citystream) *
THOMAS REHNERT & ULF MENGERSEN – CONTENT: GXII (CD by Creative Sources Recordings) *
DIETRICHS – CATCH THE LEAVES (CD by Relative Pitch Records) *
MODUS PONY – FLEECED OF THEIR WARES (CD by Superpolar Taips) *
XQUI – ALL THE T-SHIRTS I WORE IN LOCKDOWN (cassette by Superpolar Taips) *
ANTHONY LAGUERRE & LES PERCUSSIONS DE STRASSBOURG – MYOTIS V (CD by Sérotonine Records) *
MAURIZIO BIANCHI & COALMINER + ALLIES – ANTIMATERIA (LP by Grubenwehr Freiburg) *
ALTERNATIVE TV – DIRECT ACTION (LP by Fourth Dimension)
YAN JUN – CONTRADICTIONS (PLAYS LU XUN, ZIZEK, BAUDRILLARD AND BECKETT) (LP by Reading Group) *
JEPH JERMAN & ERIC LUNDE – ANIMIST ARK + 2023 (7″ lathe cut & 3CDRs by Ballast) *
COSMIC DREAM CLUB – CELESTIAL VAULT (CDR by Cosmic Dream Records) *
GONZALEZ MCGEE – COLLABORATORY (CDR, private) *
CHRISTOF MIGONE – WET WATER (LET’S DANCE) (2CD by Futura Resistenza)
Work by Canada’s Christof Migone isn’t easily described in a few words. Joel Stern wrote the ‘press text’, which took on a more poetic, descriptive personal stance but did not necessarily write an informative text about the release. Much of Migone’s work is very conceptual, and some of this is ‘explained’ in the booklet, from which I took that many of the works deal with water and sounds generated with the human mouth. It’s more something that I read than what I heard, as these pieces are rather abstract and out there on an electronic level. There are more field recording-like works, with splashes of water (still including the body), such as ‘Empty (Bucket) 1’, drone-based voice pieces (‘Vegass’) and Portuguese neighbours fighting in ‘Fado’, along with feedback created during the recording. Disc one is quite diverse, with eleven pieces, ranging from a sneeze that is twelve seconds long and the aforementioned ‘Empty (Bucket) 1’, which is over twelve minutes.
The second disc contains four parts of ‘The Release (Into Motion)’, described as “a mouth holding a tomato frozen in a block of ice until both ice and tomato thaw and fall down”. If you know that, you may recognize some ‘mouth’ sounds, and I can’t unhear those now, but on the surface, the first part is a pleasant computer-based drone piece, full of lively action, and the second is a minimalist piece of bouncing computer sounds. The fourth part is the meaner version of the first, more chaotic and strange, lighter drones but disruptive. The third one is the darkest of the four, with an ongoing, more rhythmic approach.
As always with work by Christof Migone, I don’t always get what it is about, and I am unsure if a complete understanding is necessary to enjoy the music. I do a lot, most of the time, and wonder with some amazement. The music by Christof Migone is better off with an art critic, I suppose. (FdW)
––– Address: https://futuraresistenza.bandcamp.com/
VARIAT & MERZBOW – UNINTENDED INTENTION (LP+7″/CD by I Shall Sing Until My Land Is Free)
This CD came as a big surprise to me. I had not heard of the label before, so a few words on the background might be needed. ‘I Shall Sing Until My Land Is Free’ is a sublabel of Prostir, a label for the music of Cluster Lizard and related projects. Cluster Lizard is a project from Dmytro Fedorenko & Kateryna Zavoloka, originally from Ukraine but now Berlin-based. The sublabel and all generated profits are forwarded to support Ukrainian resistance against Russia, mainly self-defence and humanitarian foundations. So, even if the album I’m about to write about is not your thing, look at the URL to see if you can support the cause in another way.
Back to the release: Variát and Merzbow. The album is released in a few formats. Of course, you can just get a download, but this one is also available on CD and a red vinyl+blue one-sided 7″. So Merzcollectors, beware and get that vinyl version before it sells out. Furthermore, I will not say anything about Masami Akita. If you have been sleeping these last 44 years, it’s about time you wake up. Dmytro Fedorenko might need a little introduction, but I’ll stick to throwing names at you guys of things he runs or has been involved with in some way. Ready? Kvitnu, Kotra, Cluster Lizard, Critikal, Z.E.T., and, as said earlier, Prostir and Variát. The final name-calling is the fact that C-drik did a great job mastering this; the sound is very well-balanced.
I know the Merzbow sound, even though there is quite a broad spectrum where he is active. With the sound of Variát, I am less known, but when I heard “Unintended Intention” for the first time, I had some real problems thinking about who did what. Which made this album more fun to listen to somehow. The music is also not close to what I’m used to from Merzbow. So, the Variát influences are there. Overall, it’s slow-pounding drone-like structures. Massive brutalist buildings with lots of movement over the gigantic foundations. String instruments – isolated recordings of Masami’s homebuilt junk guitar? – rhythmic parts, noise eruptions and complete out-of-this-world dadaist incoherent sounds. But the general description of heavy brutalist fundaments dressed up with a cornucopia of sounds might be as fitting as it gets.
“Unintended Intention” is a complete surprise, and I am not easily surprised after so many years—compliments to everybody involved. Personal favourite? “Harmonics Of The Unknown” (BW)
––– Address: https://ishallsinguntilmylandisfree.bandcamp.com/
COLLIN J RAE/RED GNEIN SEXTET – PANDEMIA (CD by Neuma Records)
JON CHRISTOPHER NELSON – THE PERSISTENCE OF TIME AND MEMORY (CD by Neuma Records)
ALEX LUBET – SONGS IN TIME OF PLAGUE (CD by Neuma Records)
I think of the USA label Neuma Records as a place for serious modern composed music, so receiving a CD labelled “experimental, industrial, noise, electronic” made me a bit sceptical, especially in combination with the word “sextet”. Another modern ensemble playing along the lines of, say, Zeitkratzer. But this is not a sextet at all, as it is a single composer, also mentioned, Collin J Rae. I am not sure why there is that double name thing; maybe it’s all about confusion. Rae is/was also a member of Ultra Vivid Scene, Slug (who I once saw playing and thought were great), telium Group, Cauterizer and Sex After Death. Rae is also a photographer with photo books published by Taschen. The idea for this CD results from two books with photos from the pandemic, and the music here is also the result of isolation. Rae uses “custom and pre-made devices engineered by Tetsuji Masuda of my synths in Japan”, which, so a quick peek learned, are small gadgets. None are specified on the cover, and I have no idea which ones he uses here. The eight pieces are monolithic affairs of static sounds, a fat bubble and a burst of sound. Nothing reminds me of modern composition; everything is about intelligent noise music. As Red Gnein Sextet, Rae had a release on the Japanese G.R.O.S.S. label in the 1990s, so that should have been a clue. If anything, the music reminds me of C.C.C.C. and Astro because of the density of sound and the furiousness of the music. Topped with a slight flanging/phasing effect, there is also a psychedelic edge to the music, but unlike his Japanese counterparts, Rae keeps things under control, as his pieces are between five and eight minutes and don’t wail on too long. In each, he plays the whole minimalist notion but simultaneously creates enough variation; the end of a song is different from the opening. While ‘Pandemie’ screams ‘harsh noise wall’, it has way too much variation to be a noise wall, plus the length doesn’t match, but that all goes in favour of Rae. His noisy music is the one that I enjoy.
Much more conventional is the music by Jon Christopher Nelson. He’s been active in computer music for over forty years and contributed to twenty-five compilations, yet ‘The Persistence Of Time And Memory’ is his first solo release. He won a bunch of prestigious prizes, though. His computer music ticks all the boxes: processed field recordings, granulating instrumental sounds, and pure electronics packaged in a space-time theme. Many of the sounds have a science fiction feeling, flying around, going up and down, as in pitches and scales, but it’s easy to think about UFOs, space crafts and such things. The whole ‘big bang’, with something exploding and giving way to new life, new forms and so on, is the entire thing with this music. Musical objects move around, and suddenly, there is a bang; everything starts shifting, granulating and morphing, and something new arises. If you are familiar with the releases by Empreintes Digitales, you know what I’m talking about. This is musique concrète, the modern variation; although one could debate how new computer music is, let’s say it’s different from the days when people cut up analogue tape. It is a most enjoyable release, as Nelson knows what he does, has perfect control over his material, and is very much part of the tradition. Nelson doesn’t explore new roads or find fresh connections with other genres, such as noise, which is perhaps a pity.
I had also never heard of Alex Lubet, a steel guitar player, and his work “encompasses the worlds of Muddy Waters, musique concrète and Morton Feldman”. His playing techniques are indeed different. There are eighteen pieces in his ‘Songs In Time Of Plague”, seventeen of which are part of that plague and one, the opening is the eighteen-minute long ‘On The Seventh Hour’. The steel guitar, also called resonator guitar or dobro, has a metal case and metal strings, and Lubet plays it with sticks, beaters and mallets next to a metal slide, a bass bow and his fingers. The whole release is sixty-four minutes, which I found too much. What at first sounded great, especially the sparse percussive opening piece, with lots of reverb. It’s a long piece, but the other songs are shorter. As the album progresses, Lubet increasingly uses his fingerpicking methods, and the reverb stays for the ride. But then tension and attention faded here, as I found pieces sounding alike. If the album had been along the lines of a classic length of forty minutes, with various approaches on the steel guitar that he does very well, it would have been much stronger. (FdW)
––– Address: https://neumarecords.org/
COLIN POTTER – WE COULDN’T AGREE ON A TOTAL (CD by ICR Distribution)
NURSE WITH WOUND – THE LITTLE DIPPER MINUS TWO PLUS (ECHO POEME SEQUENCES) (LP by ICR Distribution)
In 1981, Colin Potter released a compilation LP, ‘We Couldn’t Agree on a Title’, the inaugural release on Integrated Circuit Records. ‘We Couldn’t Agree On A Total’ is the 100th release, but it’s not a compilation. To celebrate this milestone, Potter selected two live recordings from his concerts at Cafe Oto in 2018 and 2016 and one studio piece of something he played live a couple of times but never managed to get a great recording of. The cover shows Potter and a plethora of instruments; I am sure this photo is some construction of various images, but it’s an impressive display of gear. Next to playing as a musician, solo and with Nurse With Wound, Potter runs the ICR studio, so I am sure he knows all about gear, cobbling these together and making them sound simultaneously, with Captain Potter at the controls. The mixing board is the big audio canvas to paint sounds, add effects, change frequencies, and do whatever people do behind big mixing consoles to produce great music. In the April 2018 concert, Potter goes for a take on cosmic music, with arpeggios and rhythm in slow motion, and once that train leaves the station, it majestically rolls about. It has that cosmic Krautrock idea, and it works very well. In 2016, he did something similar, but the arpeggios come in later here, and it takes some time to get there. Potter needs some time to get his stuff brewing from below the surface, but it erupts like a volcano with clockwork precision. In the studio construction, none of these arpeggios are rolling about but a slow melodic touch over drone-like synthesiser tapestries. Maybe also a bit on the cosmic side, but less urgent and more ambient. To me, it seems Potter exercises more control in this piece, whereas in the live pieces, he’s wilder and lets things run wild. Two sides of the master, and while I slightly prefer the controlled constructions, it’s a great release.
Years ago, I gave up thinking about Nurse With Wound’s discography. I love the music, but to keep up with the various versions of their releases, no, sorry, not for me. I understand the love to release everything on LP; we’re old hippies anyway, but I love a good-quality CD. I don’t get the story about this LP. In 2005, Nuurse With Wound played two nights in Vienna, and 200 CDRs were given away for these shows. So far, so good, but “in 2023, ICR re-issued this on CD expanded to include two new tracks, adding an extra 54 minutes. These two tracks were constructed from the source material with some extra sounds & they have been edited to form the two sides of this record. The download includes the track that appeared on the original CDR edition.” So, on LP is then… wait… which version? It would help if you had a doctorate there. Nurse With Wound’s recycling of releases is attractive, but their recycling of sounds is even more. Any old sound can re-appear in a totally unrelated form. While both pieces have unrelated titles, the music has similarities. There is the use of voices, which is massive in both pieces. They whisper words, maybe, or sounds, also possible, and they are massively layered. In ‘The Little Dipper Minus Three’, extensive drone material may be generated from pushing these voices through effects, foremost this being reverb. Something similar happens in ‘Echo Poeme Sequence No. 3’, a text in French that goes through a delay line, and there is also humming. Both pieces have this excellent mysterious quality, and both sound very much like Nurse With Wound, adding that wonderful, unclassifiable extra that makes them the great wizards of the studio. (FdW)
––– Address: https://icrdistribution.bandcamp.com
THE GREEN KINGDOM – ETHER HYMNS (CD by Dronarivm)
These days, the former Russian label Dronarivm operates out of the Netherlands, so it’s easier to purchase their releases. Buying directly from Russia may get you in trouble, as I recently read somewhere; in that case, it was a release from this label. Michael Cottone is The Green Kingdom, and it’s the sixth album I hear from him. Ether, he says, “in the literary sense, can be defined as ‘the clear sky; the upper regions of air beyond the clouds.’, or more informally as ‘air regarded as a medium for radio'”, and I must say I was instead thinking about the informal sense, expecting, perhaps, some radio waves being processed, playing along with the atmospheric guitar music. That is not the case, but atmospheric it is. About his previous album, ‘Voyayer’, I wrote that the music is light, which is still the case. Unlike many ambient and drone composers, who keep their music all dark and moody, The Green Kingdom keeps it light and moody; or maybe melancholic is a better term—gently strumming away, looping a few sounds, adding reverb and the music drifting gently like the wind. The wind here is not a storm; there is a significant difference. I am not entirely sure of whatever Cottone adds to his guitar playing. Maybe nothing, save for many sound effects and a looper pedal. However, I can imagine there are also some synth pads used. I admit not being blown away by his choice of titles, ‘Etheric Tide’, ‘Gathering Clouds’ or ‘Sun Domes’, which sound a bit tacky to me, maybe too descriptive. This is some very pleasing music on a sun-like day as I experience today, a cold yet sunny Autumn day. It fits the season’s spirit, and the light outside shines in the music. Best to sit back, relax and enjoy. (FdW)
––– Address: https://dronarivm.bandcamp.com
TRUE STOMACH OF A BIRD – ULF MENGERSEN, LINA ALLEMANO, KAMIL KOROLCZUK – COMPUTATION INTENSIVE SPONTANEOUSNESS (CD by Citystream)
THOMAS REHNERT & ULF MENGERSEN – CONTENT: GXII (CD by Creative Sources Recordings)
My fill for the truly improvised music of this week is these two releases, both by Ulf Mengersen, a double bass player from Berlin. When I told him that Vital Weekly has much less space for improvised music (free jazz and contemporary), he responded that he sees music as experimental. Oddly enough, on his trio CD with a group called True Stomach Of A Bird (for some reason, on Bandcamp, it also lists the three players), the cover says, “improvising trio TRUE STOMACH OF A BIRD creates music that flows freely between gesture, melodic fragment and sonic poetry, at times creating the illusion of compositional elements that simmer just below the surface. The musicians approach their instruments by means of exploration, with an unusual fusion of rich acoustic instrumental sounds, manipulated analog cassette tapes, and modular synth, creating an aesthetic that is both unconventional and unclassifiable”. Manipulated analogue cassette tapes are my middle name, so I dived in immediately. Next to Mengerson, we have Lina Allemano on trumpet and Kamil Korolczuk on modular synth and tapes. The twelve pieces were recorded in 2019, mixed in 2021, and only recently released. Korolczuk’s tape manipulations use the fast forward button and play superfast small sounds, along with the oscillating and bubbling of tones. Also, reasonably conventional improvised playing on the bass and trumpet is a bit hectic and nervous, going up and down the fretboard, some strumming and toothing. The pieces are mostly short and to the point, which I immensely enjoyed. In each of them, they open a discussion together or put up a fight (who’s the most dominant player, maybe?), especially in their heaviest approach. I know I’m not the expert here, but “unconventional and unclassifiable” are words that I don’t think apply to this. I found it all entertaining enough.
The other new release is a duo of Mengersen and Thomas Rehnert, a modular synthesiser player. They recorded their ten pieces in August 2021 in Berlin. I admit I enjoy this over the other one. Maybe this is due to two musicians and not three; perhaps Rehnert is more dominant in playing the modular synthesiser. While this is firmly rooted in the world of improvised music, there is some satisfactory abstract level with the use of electronics. At the same time, Mengersen’s approach to the bass remains fairly conventional: lots of scraping and scratching, bowing and bending. The resultant interaction works very well, as there is a lot of tension between these players. They act and interact, call and respond, but occasionally are on their own, playing regardless of the other. They are hectic and nervous most of the time, but they also know how to tone down, be gentle and let notes take some time to develop into something else. The fifty-two minutes were a bit of a stretch, but taking various sessions worked quite well. (FdW)
––– Address: https://ulfmengersen.bandcamp.com/
DIETRICHS – CATCH THE LEAVES (CD by Relative Pitch Records)
This is the third release of this father (Don Dietrich on saxophone) and daughter (Camille on cello) duo, their second on Relative Pitch Records. Don Dietrich is a founding member of New York City’s Borbetomagus, which has been around since 1979. Mixing two saxophones (the other one is Jim Sauter) and noise (courtesy of Jim Miller’s electric guitar), they put out their ‘no holds barred’ musical output on many releases. And as the saying goes, an apple doesn’t fall far from its tree; Camille joins her father in the New Monuments (Ben Hall on trapset, C. Spencer Yeh on violin)’s fifth release: ‘Language is the Skin’. In almost 40 minutes, Don and Camille take us on a journey across all frequencies, in many distorted ways, and sometimes with delay added to the mix. The titles are tree-related (That Leaf, That Branch, That Tree, & That Stump). One could argue that with the wall of noise they generate, the leaves fall off the trees. Don lets his sax sound like an electronic mixer or drill (sometimes a dentist’s, sometimes for drilling stones). Camille is the steady force, allowing her cello to sound like an electric guitar or an electric violin. She is firmly grounding the sound with arpeggios and longer lines across the strings, and Don adds his details to the mix. This is not music for the faint-hearted, although there are quieter passages. And it’s not a concrete wall they put up. It’s instead the gates of Hell made by Rodin, but instead of bronze, we get concrete. A lot of detail can be seen on that gate, and we hear that in the music. The recording was made in front of an enthusiastic audience, and the one who did the recording, mixing and/or mastering (he/she/they aren’t listed in the credits) did an outstanding job. No doubt we’ll be hearing more of this dazzling, dynamic duo. (MDS)
––– Address: https://relativepitchrecords.bandcamp.com/
MODUS PONY – FLEECED OF THEIR WARES (CD by Superpolar Taips)
XQUI – ALL THE T-SHIRTS I WORE IN LOCKDOWN (cassette by Superpolar Taips)
Following some silence, Superpolar Taips return with their first (?) CD release, by moduS ponY. I reviewed two previous releases (Vital Weekly 1176 and 1267). This musical project hails from California, and guitars play a significant role. There is some kind of rock-like tinkering on their first release and in a more freely improvised style on the second. The new release returns to the first, which is all the better, as the improvisation didn’t blow me away. Having said that, I am also not too enthusiastic about this new one. The twelve songs are short, around two and half minutes, and the guitar is in the foreground, along with a bass, synthesizer, and a rhythm machine, put to good use. As before, there is a slightly jazzy aspect to the music, but at the same time, there is also something mechanical about it. The person behind moduS ponY is clearly a gifted musician, and the mood is sometimes pleasantly dark, but at the same time, the music is also without much threat or danger. The highly melodic pieces tick time away, quite pleasantly, I might add, but once the music is over, it is also easily forgotten, which, I can imagine, should not be the idea behind playing a new release.
Superpolar Taips ends their cassette single releases with the 35th and final release by Xqui, with the conceptual backing of Mat Smith. Like so many, he worked from home during lockdown, and because he did a lot of audio conference calls and not video, he was no longer wearing a suit and tie and wore the 55 t-shirts of bands he owned. He lists these on the track ‘All The T-Shirts I Wore In Lockdown’, one by one, along with a synthesizer doodle arpeggio, which is by Xqui, whose identity remains a mystery. Smith uses quite a bit of reverb in his voice, which gives the piece a bit of church-like character. Nice, but how often will you listen to a guy naming his 55 shirts? His music taste is varied; he wears his band shirts with pride. The other side is basically the same piece but instrumental. An arpeggio ditty, which now sounds fuller and more prominent, but the lack of composition is also clear. To persistently presently disregard as ambient music and too empty to enjoy on a purely musical level. I believe there will be a compilation cassette with all 35 songs (meaning all the A-sides of the cassette singles), so it would be interesting to know how the slighter lesser tracks will hold up. I am confident it will be an excellent compilation! (FdW)
––– Address: https://superpolar.bandcamp.com/
ANTHONY LAGUERRE & LES PERCUSSIONS DE STRASSBOURG – MYOTIS V (CD by Sérotonine Records)
Seven tracks, totalling 34 minutes, are on this CD. It’s a tad bit on the short side if you write it down like this, but because of the intensity of the music, it’s not really a problem. After 34 minutes, you either play it again because you’re puzzled about the stuff you just heard, or … You are so agitated by these compositions that you save the next spin after a cool-down session with deep ambient or minimal drones of your choice.
The album is a symbiosis of rhythm/percussion and electronic sounds. The tracks are merely numbered, so what I can do for you is take you on the journey I’m going through right now. (1) opens with a very minimal rhythmic structure, whereas (2) brings you to the English landscape created by rhythms not unlike the ones Test Dept did in their glory days. Then then, there is the flow of (3) and (4), which can only be described as a beautiful drone becoming pure noise. The combination is really beautiful, with an amazing progression of intensity.
The 55-second (5) is a little play with singular waves resulting in lovely modulation patterns, whereas (6) seems to experiment with looping non-percussive use of percussive instruments, also, with a fair dose of electronics, of course. The final part continues where the previous one left off. It’s the longest track on here, playing for a little over 14 minutes, so it’s almost half of the album. But ‘Oh My’ – insert a heavy George Takei voice here – this is such a beautiful track. The slow building up, including tribal, predominantly African rhythms and chanting manipulated voices/samples… If there ever was a track that could be in the encyclopedia as an explanation for ‘how music can get you into a trance’, The 7th part of “Myotis V” might well be one of the listed tracks. Too long for the podcast, sadly, and just a fragment of this track will not do it justice.
A final word on the label is that another album was released a year ago. That one has music by Anthony Laguerre combined with words by G.W. Sok, who we Dutchies know for being the singer for 30 years of a band called The Ex. Consider me intrigued! (BW)
––– Address: https://serotinerecords.bandcamp.com/
MAURIZIO BIANCHI & COALMINER + ALLIES – ANTIMATERIA (LP by Grubenwehr Freiburg)
First off, this album has six different vinyl versions, ranging from 10 copies in pristine white to 90 copies in red/brown flamed. Some are with additional CDs, some without, but Grubenwehr really put some effort into this release. I give compliments to you guys; your effort and energy paid off.
The two sides of this album are unrelated to each other. With this, I mean, it’s not artists remixing each other or collaborative work using each other’s sounds or so. It’s 20 minutes per artist, and I think I have never had a better opportunity to present two fully different definitions of noise music in the same review to you, the reader. First of all, Side A: Coalminer. A duo from Manilla. Philippines, on their four tracks, work together with friends from all over the world. How about (and it’s just half of them) Torturing Nurse, Richard Ramirez, Gnaw Their Tongues and Unsignified Death? And the music is so intense!!! I couldn’t tell you the content of the lyrics, but the titles kinda imply it. “Dissection”, “Gaping Crevice”, “Decomposition” and “Electrocution”. I mean … It’s probably all lullabies for the sick and twisted (pun intended).
The reverse side contains two 10-minute pieces by M.B., a.k .a. Maurizio Bianchi. M.B. started working on his art in 1979 using pre-recorded sounds and, in 1980, worked more with the generation of his own sounds. He is absolutely one of the pioneers of early industrial and noise, and on the two pieces presented here – “Gnayang” and “Yangnay” – he approaches the theme of “Antimateria” through sounds of luminescent and rushing keyboard clusters. How does that translate to sound? Two lengthy pieces in which not much happens but where a lot happens. It sounded like a combination of organs and vocoders and was never-ending, always moving. I had a few moments where I was drawn into the atmosphere of Wendy Carlos works, but then more of a static/non-static drone. IF M.B.’s interpretation of the subject was that while nothing happens, a lot happens, and at the same time, because a lot happens, nothing happens, then he succeeded cum laude. Beautiful works, but in all honesty, It’s an acquired taste. (BW)
––– Address: https://grubenwehrfreiburg.bandcamp.com/
ALTERNATIVE TV – DIRECT ACTION (LP by Fourth Dimension)
When I reviewed the ‘Lost In Room’ book (Vital Weekly 1393) about Mark Perry’s early years with his band Alternative TV, it was summertime, perhaps a bit slower than usual, and as I mentioned, his music is something that I didn’t hear at the time of its release, I decided to download some and try to fill that knowledge gap. I listened to a few, but far from all, time is the one thing I don’t have enough of. I believe Fourth Dimension released more Alternative TV than they sent for review, but I can imagine why they thought this one would be a good one to mail. The six pieces on this record show a slightly noisier side to ATV than we are used to. ATV here is Perry and Dave Morgan, who plays on all six pieces, but guests Gareth Matthews, Ruth Tidmarsh and Cos Chapman. Instruments aren’t mentioned, but there are guitars, percussion, electronics, loops, and samples, and throughout the music plays with the noisy side of improvisation, along with repeating patterns of sound and electronics—an uneasy yet pleasant marriage. In ‘Saudade’, there is a high piercing sound and a whirlwind of voices (no words; nowhere on this record), looped and treated, creating a pleasing, menacing sound—minimalist music with a maximalist effect. In ‘Cornelius C’ (Cardew, I wonder), they bang on metal percussion, as Merzbow did in the mid-1980s, but he did so without the accompaniment of the drone ATV has running in the background, while the title track is a bit of acoustic noise and freaky electronics on top. Freaking out is the primary motive of this record, and it made me very happy. It combines excellent noise (or rather what I think is incredible noise; my view might not be commonly accepted) with the best of improvisation, most of the time buried within the noise, and makes some satisfactory record. Once again, Alternative TV is not what it seems to be, and that’s the power of it all, at least from my limited knowledge of these matters. I could end with: I will try again to fill that gap, but I already know I will fail again. (FdW)
––– Address: https://fourthdimensionrecords.bigcartel.com/
YAN JUN – CONTRADICTIONS (PLAYS LU XUN, ZIZEK, BAUDRILLARD AND BECKETT) (LP by Reading Group)
Just as with the work of Christof Migone (or, not in this issue, Leif Elggren), the releases of Chinese musician Yan Jun have a solid conceptual edge. ‘Contradictions’ is no different; “Jun “plays 4 writers”––interpreting, across five pieces, the formal, conceptual, and linguistic challenges of literary and theoretical figures as constraints and guides for sound composition and experimental performance”. These four writers are Lu Xun (the only one I had not heard of; I haven’t read much by the other three. “Lu Xun was the early twentieth-century Chinese literary critic and associate of the League of Left-Wing Writers in the 1930s), Slavoj Žižek, Jean Baudrillard and Thomas Beckett. Lu Xun gets two tracks, both very empty and described as ‘behaviors [sic] in the environment’. I have no idea what these are about. But, spoiler alert, the same goes for the other three. There is some mechanical sound in ‘plays slavoj žižek’ “to interpret a provocation from post-Marxist theorists about the mechanization of sexuality and desire in expanding global capitalism, resulting in a noise sequence indexing the battery-operated commodification of eroticism”. If it seems that I am trying to write a longer review by using extensive quotes, you are probably right. But don’t get me wrong, I do like the music. The automated feedback of ‘plays jean baudrillard’ is lovely to hear, an audible presence on the fringe of music and non-music, a perfect backdrop to… read, maybe? In the final track, Yun reads ‘Text For Nothing’, and he only uses the “the enunciated floating signifier 我 (I, my, me)’, so there is a lot of silence here, too. What does it mean? If anything at all, of course. What’s the contradiction? Again, if anything. Jun’s music goes further than Migone’s in that Migone’s can be enjoyed without knowing or understanding too much of the concept. In contrast, with Jun, the music is more complicated to digest as a product of ‘music’. I think an art critic might be more qualified to review their work. (FdW)
––– Address: https://readinggroup.co/
JEPH JERMAN & ERIC LUNDE – ANIMIST ARK + 2023 (7″ lathe cut & 3CDRs by Ballast)
Even when I heard music from Jerman and Lunde for a long time, I was far from an expert on either. In all sorts of crooks and nannies, they have very limited edition releases, and I am not a completist. Animist Ark is just a thing I had never heard. Animist Orchestra was one of Jerman’s projects with other people, but Animist Ark is him and Lunde. In 2003, they released a double CDR in a hand-painted wooden box in an edition of seven copies. Later that year, they also released a CDR called Animist Motors, edition unknown. For both releases, not a lot is known. This new box contains a re-issue of all three CDRs along with a lathe cut 7″, in which each musician works with the raw material from 2003. All of this in an edition of 21 copies; as always, Ballast keeps things firmly off the radar (no Bandcamp either).
Of the original Animist Ark box, one CDR is called ‘Random’; each copy is a shuffled version, so no two copies are alike. The ‘Random’ disc is just that, sixty pieces of around one minute and contains pieces of them rambling with objects, marbles, sticks, toys, field recordings and such. It’s okay, but in terms of pure entertainment, it doesn’t work (which is a common thing with such randomised projects). You can play it along with the three long pieces of the CDR ‘Stable’, as the original insert suggested. That would take too much setting up here, so I played this one as it was. There is also a lot of acoustic object abuse here, but at times, I had the idea they were in a rowing boat. There is also an element of field recordings in this one, but it is heavily obscured by technology or in some other way. The final piece here is a disturbed piece of water recordings.
On ‘Animist Motors’, we find thirteen pieces of more obscured action, mostly around four minutes. I am thinking about motors and what the relation there is, but I don’t know, or I can’t hear. In musical terms, I like this CDR best. It’s obscure, but in the Jerman/Lunde world, I mean, come on, what’s obscure anyway, and there is a lot to imagine what this is about. After a few listens, I am still clueless but immensely enjoy it.
Lunde’s side of the 7″ is similar to cracked acoustic sounds, now very close to the microphone, which makes the piece very much a presence. Someone is talking in the background. Jerman’s piece is entirely different, and moving and changing the frequency range is the obscurity of a wholly different order. Maybe we could call this sound poetry, soundscaping or field recordings, and whatever it is, it sounds damn great. Six minutes only! I wish this were much longer. It is a most curious historical document of two more enigmatic musicians I know. (FdW)
––– Address: https://ballastnvp.blogspot.com/
COSMIC DREAM CLUB – CELESTIAL VAULT (CDR by Cosmic Dream Records)
Here is the third release from the local (as in Vital Weekly local) music project, Cosmic Dream Club. I reviewed the previous ‘Dream Dance’ in Vital Weekly 1381. I very much enjoyed his ambient music combined with a firm dose of rhythm. A name I didn’t mention last time, but I will now, is Pete Namlook. Next time I bump into Mister Cosmic Dream Club (Nijmegen isn’t a big city), I will ask him if Namlook is an influence. As before, the rhythms are sometimes straightforward 4/4 beats, but nothing here is aimed purely at the dance floor. Ambient house never is, I think. Small as these developments might be, I believe rhythm is now less of a presence here and replaced in favour of more synths, more slow arpeggios and more atmosphere. But the rhythm isn’t completely gone, as it ticks time away in ‘Drifting On Jupiter’s Gravitational Pull’. Yes, everything is still pointed to the celestial sphere, and throughout the music, it has that spacious drift. Apart from a short, two-minute piece, the other pieces are between five and thirty-three minutes, and Cosmic Dream Club can pull that off. It’s not easy to play this kind of minimal ambient synth and rhythm music and be entertaining for those who don’t drift into space but are actively hearing. Another name that sprang to mind is The Orb, especially in their earliest days. In the final piece, the longest, ‘Betelgeuse’, voices (from beyond?) mingle with synthesisers, and it seems the club is working towards a new direction. Space transmissions and deep synthesisers create a rusty sci-fi tune and one that would do well in any film of that nature. A long and satisfying space trip. (FdW)
––– Address: https://cosmicdreamclub.bandcamp.com/
GONZALEZ MCGEE – COLLABORATORY (CDR, private)
Behind this release, we find Rafael Gonzalez, of whom I think I had not heard before, and Hal McGee, the legendary (an overused word, but here used correctly) cassette activist. He’s been at it since the 1980s and never deviated from cassettes unless we count micro cassettes separately. During the whole month of September this year, they made no less than 445 dictaphone records and then “mixed the recordings together using an automated random chance shuffle procedure”; the spirit of John Cage is never far away. Also mentioned: “The listener completes the audio assemblage through active listening. Your mind will find patterns in the chaos. Have fun trying to figure it out!”. The sounds they recorded included synths, guitars, trumpets, plastic bags, paper, field recordings, two-string pink dumpster guitar, Hal’s dog Stanley (“of course!”) and much more. The result is five pieces of fifteen minutes. It’s quite a stretch to play all of this and stay focused, at least if you want to figure it out. I am unsure if that’s something I would like to figure out. Why not sit back and enjoy it as a stream of unconscious sounds? Embrace the chaos, don’t take it all in, not too much anyway, and you can have a different kind of amusement. The whole thing reminded me of Cage’s ‘Variations’, of which he had two LPs (later compiled on one CD), with random TV and radio recordings mixed, and I had the same notion as then. One piece is enough to get the idea across; you may not need all five. This goes to say, again, something for the notion not to overthink this, sit back and let it flow. (FdW)
––– Address: https://halmcgee.bandcamp.com/album/collaboratory