Vital Weekly, the webcast: we offer a weekly webcast, freely to download. This can be regarded as the audio-supplement to Vital Weekly. Presented as a radioprogramm with excerpts of just some of the releases reviewed. It will remain on the site for a limited period (most likely 2-4 weeks). Download the file to your MP3 player and enjoy!
complete tracklist here: http://www.vitalweekly.net/podcast.html
Listen to the podcast on Mixcloud
SONOLOGYST – SHORTWAVE SPECTRUM (2CD by Cold Spring Records) *
PHILIP SANDERSON – UNDERNEATH THE UNDERNEATH – A VIENNA SOUVENIR (CD by Klanggalerie) *
ORGANUM ELECTRONICS – QUIETUDE (CD by Die Stadt) *
ORGANUM ELECTRONICS – DARCKNESS (CD by Die Stadt) *
STEFAN ROIGK – DE-COMPOSED (book and CD by Errant Bodies Press) *
STEVE LEHMAN & ORCHESTRE NATIONAL DE JAZZ – EX MACHINA (CD, private) *
RENÉE VIVIEN/NURSE WITH WOUND – LE CHRIST (3″CD and book by Lenka Lente) *
HOMOGENIZED TERRESTRIALS – POWERS & PRINCIPALITIES (LP by Terrestrial Records) *
HOMOGENIZED TERRESTRIALS – THE DREAM CUBES (CDR by Terrestrial Records) *
HOMOGENIZED TERRESTRIALS – VIBRATIONS RECOVERED FROM TESLA’S APARTMENT (CDR by Somnimage) *
JANNE ERAKER – MOVEMENTS FOR LISTENING (2LP by Esc. Rec)
SOKUSHINBUTSU PROJECT – THE YŌKAI CODEX (cassette/CDR by Industrial Ölocaust Recordings) *
IAN WILLIAMS – SLOW-MOTION APOCALYPSE (CDR by Slaughterback) *
URTO – SONGS FOR KRAKEN (CD by Slowth Records) *
THE PHLOD-NAR – COLLECTION 1: LITE (CDR by Temonos) *
THE PHLOD-NAR – COLLECTION 2: NITE (CDR by Temonos) *
EMERALD SUSPICION – SOUNDS TO HEAR ALONE (CDR by Oscillation Productions) *
ENRIKE HURTADO – 20.20 (CDR by Reptidor) *
SLOW BLINK/STOMACHEACHE (split cassette, private) *
SONOLOGYST – SHORTWAVE SPECTRUM (2CD by Cold Spring Records)
Raffaele Pezzella’s musical project Sonologyst doesn’t need much introduction. I reviewed several of his works and liked it a lot. There is always an aspect of darkness that doesn’t appeal to me much, a particular ritualistic element, but on this new double CD, that element is heavily reduced. You can find an indication of the source material in the title, shortwave sounds, and, in particular, from what is called number stations. This takes us back to the days of the Cold War when secret services worldwide used radio transmissions to communicate with agents in the field—voices reading groups of numbers, Morse codes or otherwise random bleeps and hard to intercept and block. The Cold War may have ended, but the information notes that in recent years, Chinese, Korean and Indian Numbers Stations have been picked up, and I assume these are at the core of the music here and not the 4CD set released by Irdial in the 1990s. It would make a damn good book to describe the use of radio (waves) as a musical instrument and the history thereof, as I believe that, next to the mouth, the radio is one of easiest accessible instruments available for any would-be musicians (if you already wrote such a book, then let me know). That is not to say that it’s easy to play great music based on radio waves, but Sonologyst is a true master in crafting deep, dark, and highly ambient music with that ghostly atmosphere lingering in the background. Listening to this, I believe he sourced many of his sounds from something that is called websdr (Google that and look for the one of the University Of Twente, which is the biggest), allowing for scanning a lot of radio waves and whatever he does with this, he does it well. I have no idea if there is some additional processing, or maybe there is ‘just’ extensive layering and mixing of signals. As much as Number Stations are mysterious, so is this music. Oddly enough, maybe, there are six tracks on the first CD, somewhere between five and fifteen minutes, and the oddity is that these are more minimal than the forty-two-minute piece on the second CD. Each of these six stays in stasis and move within the given parameters. The long one, ‘Shortwaves’, is a piece that moves between many stations, picking up spoken word, classical music, pop music and whatever else along the way, against a backdrop of drones. Still, somehow, it is less spectacular than the first disc, but this is purely a personal preference for all drone-based minimalism. ‘Shortwaves’ is a piece with much more action, riding the shortwaves (pun intended) of the radio transmissions; I am sure many will disagree with me and prefer this faster-paced action. It shows that one can do many things with radio waves, which is why I’m still fascinated by it. (FdW)
––– Address: http://coldspring.co.uk
PHILIP SANDERSON – UNDERNEATH THE UNDERNEATH – A VIENNA SOUVENIR (CD by Klanggalerie)
I recently revisited Vienna, after thirty or so years, and, as before, I find this a charming city, with a lot of historical stuff to see and many places for coffee and cake. Judging by the musical content of this new Philip Sanderson CD, I am not the only one. In June 2023, he played at ‘Klang 30’, the annual (I believe) festival organised by Klanggalerie, a label that released more work by Sanderson and his previous Storm Bugs project. Three songs contain samples from the city, church bells, coffee cups, trams, and such. Three pieces were recorded during rehearsals, and “track 7 is a cabaret version of ‘Swing'”. I very much like his music, as it is a curious collision of styles; there is the musique concrète-like use of field recordings sitting next to rhythms, sequencers and vocals. I don’t think pop music is the right word, but it’s along those lines; a piece such as ‘Hodge (Revisited)’ could lean towards industrial music. When Sanderson sings, it is very accessible music, such in ‘Line D’; when not, it becomes a bit more abstract, such as the ‘Coffee House Calculations’, with its coffee house sounds. As before, Sanderson’s music isn’t upbeat, necessarily, and yet it is also not dour. It’s atmospheric and lighter than your usual dark drone music. The music is more instrumental than vocal, and once again reminded me of The Residents (in as much as I know of their recent work, which isn’t a lot). The cabaret version of ‘Swing’ is, I think, an ode to the twenties of a century again, and maybe also an ode to the somewhat conservative life in Vienna, where everything seems a bit more formal. It’s a fine CD, not his best, which accolade I reserve for his ‘On One Of Those Bends’ (Vital Weekly 1177), but a continuation of great music. (FdW)
––– Address: https://klanggalerie.com/
ORGANUM ELECTRONICS – QUIETUDE (CD by Die Stadt)
ORGANUM ELECTRONICS – DARCKNESS (CD by Die Stadt)
It’s never easy to review music by David Jackman, not work under his own name, or work as Organum, or as it is these days, Organum Electronics. He used the latter on five releases by Siren Records, and when they announced the fifth would be the last, I assumed (for no particular reason) that would be the end of that name. Maybe because Die Stadts hasn’t been too active with new releases, I didn’t realise they could release more work, as basically it’s the other go-to place for Jackman to release his music. They announced a series of seven works by Jackman, and their announcement didn’t say whether they’ll all be by Organum Electronics. The first two are. I didn’t return to the five previous albums, partly out of the usual lack of time and maybe because I thought of this as making a fresh start. Listening to these two new releases, I remember what the previous ones sounded like. Here also comes what I find ‘difficult’ about reviewing Jackman’s work, and that’s a lot of it is very similar, but then, if you see the cover, four panels with the band name and the title, and nothing else, you know the man likes repetition. And yet, most curious indeed, one is never too sure if the repeat is a one-on-one copy or a slight variation thereof. These two works may sound the same, but they aren’t. In ‘Darckness’, some field recordings pop up, church bells, among the dense mass of electronic sound, whereas ‘Quietude’ seems all electronic throughout. Both seem to have been cut from more extensive work, ending quite abruptly. The overall sound design is quite similar in both pieces, and they share a general grimness about these works, as with many of his works. Think of this as being locked up in a factory, with sounds buzzing everywhere, and reminding me of the early harshness of Organum, sans electronics: dense, minimal and dark. Can I finish with ‘another excellent work’? It’s most likely I have used that before in connection with Jackman’s work, and I will probably repeat that in the future. (FdW)
––– Address: http://diestadtmusik.de/
STEFAN ROIGK – DE-COMPOSED (book and CD by Errant Bodies Press)
In a plastic bag, we find the following: a softcover book, 21×26 centimetre, 144 pages, 2 A5 postcards and a double CD. All of this is by Stefan Roigk, a Berlin-based composer born in 1974. I mention that year because, much to my pleasant surprise, the first time his name popped up in Vital Weekly was in issue 109, which must have been around 1997, which started, also very funny, with “Can you believe that in today’s digitalized world there are still existing people who start a cassette-label?” Over the years, I reviewed his various releases, and his language, German, is essential to him. However, unlike some of his previous works, these two CDs aren’t all spoken word, which is excellent. More to enjoy if the language is a barrier. What I didn’t know, or perhaps I wasn’t as aware, is that Roigk is also a visual artist and that many of his music pieces come with installations, or vice versa. The book is a catalogue of these installation pieces, the oldest from around 2007. Even when these pages are stills and not the real thing (or, in the case of a DVD, a registration of the real thing), it gives an excellent overview of his work. Like his music, many installation pieces are also collages of everyday objects in a new context. Some pieces on these CDs have been released before, so one could say this is a greatest-hits package. The downside is that the order on the CD is different than in the book, so one goes back and forth, learning about the material used in these pieces. Roigk uses musique concrète techniques of superimposing elements, intricate cuts, montage and altering his sounds. Of course, over two hours of music is quite a stretch, but sitting back with the catalogue certainly works very well. I took away from it that Roigk creates a very coherent body of work in which music, visuals and text play a homogenous role. (FdW)
––– Address: https://errantbodies.org/catalogue
STEVE LEHMAN & ORCHESTRE NATIONAL DE JAZZ – EX MACHINA (CD, private)
Ex Machina is the result of a collaboration between Steve Lehman, the Orchestre National de Jazz, Fréderic Maurin, guitarist with the Orchestre and its artistic director, and IRCAM, the famous institute in Paris next to the Centre Pompidou. There’s an impressive list of composers who composed pieces at the IRCAM: Luciano Berio, John Cage, Pierre Boulez (he founded the institute in 1977 on invitation by then French president George Pompidou and remained director until 1992), Henri Pousseur and many others. Gérard Grisey and Tristan Murail need special mention because they are considered the inventors of spectral music, a term which they both came to encompass much more than just music with pitches based on certain sets of frequencies based on an instrument’s acoustic qualities. I oversimplify here. And you could write a thesis on the subject. Just a small piece: it’s about liminality (an intersection between spectral music and improvised music to create something wholly new). Lehman did, in fact, in 2012 as part of his doctoral degree in musical arts at Columbia University, New York. Murail was an instructor there, forming the basis for his interest in spectral music. Lehman incorporated elements of spectral music into jazz. In particular, I like his octet album Transformation, Travail, and Flow (Pi Recordings, 2009). In his own words: “I definitely use spectral harmonic concepts in my pieces on the album. Many of the harmonies employed what people call spectral techniques. Tunings are a little altered to create harmonies more connected to frequency relationships than the typical identification of notes as, say, C or C#. On many, possibly most, of my pieces, that concept of harmony is embedded into the sounds.”
‘Ex Machina’ takes it a step further: the people of IRCAM (Jérôme Nika and Dionysios Papanikolaou) have created a software system that allows it to act as an instrument, not only as a standalone instrument but also making sounds based on the context of the orchestra and based on prewritten scores. It’s a bit like processing input from an instrument but transforming it into something the player can react to or interact with. In that way, it’s reciprocal. For now, it’s one-on-one, but the future will bring multiple inputs and outputs, thus creating even more complex sound structures. A fascinating documentary can be found here. All this was done in an exploratory phase, coupling the software designers with instrumentalists to get acquainted with the possibilities of DYCI2. Because the orchestra is state-funded, there was no limit to the time spent for this phase or the rehearsals afterwards. The musicians get a salary. The Orchestra and Steve did a ten-date tour (including Roulette in Chicago) before spending four days in a recording studio in Germany. The result of all that work can be heard in ‘Ex Machina’, short for Deus Ex Machina (the divine intervention in plays but here the intervention of the software) and Tempus Ex Machina, a piece for orchestra by Gérard Grisey. And boy, oh boy, what a splendid record it is. Maurin and Lehman wrote scores for the orchestra five and six, respectively. And if you think the theory behind Ex Machina makes for a dull, abstract, detached listen, you’re gravely mistaken. It grooves, moves and swings. Visceral bass lines, not unlike Photek, would conjure up in his drum & bass tracks eerie atmospheres (Alchimie, for example) with otherworldy harmonies because of the spectral aspects of the harmonies, bound to earth by de base note in the bass, inspired solos by Steve and all members of the Orchestre National de Jazz. There’s so much going on in each movement: Los Angeles Imagery starts with an odd-metered rhythm and note pattern in the (grand) piano, augmented by an electronic counterpart, played simultaneously on a keyboard with a slightly different timbre than the original sound of the grand piano. The rhythm is kept throughout the piece, with added solos. The result is a sonic imagination of the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles.
Another example is ‘Jeux d’Anches’ (the reed stops on an organ): after an introduction, a unified rhythm and groove are going on, and the trumpet solos are unlike a normal big band piece. But near the end, you can hear textures added by the software. But in the end, it doesn’t matter if you can distinguish between the electronic part and the “normal” instruments. It’s about the impact of a piece. And for me, the whole record is a revelation. In Treize Soleils, the flute player solos and interacts with the software, the software is sounding like an alien organ (jeux d’anches). Listen to this on high volume and let the sounds and textures wash over you. Hell, you might even nod your head to the music. Or have a dance contest! I’d like to think this would be (one of the) directions Frank Zappa would have taken had he still been alive. For me, this record will be cherished for the years to come. And for those who don’t know what Steve has done in the past, check out his work with Sélébéyone, Wolof rap from Senegal (Sélébéyone means intersection), hip-hop and improvised music. Needless to say, ‘Ex Machina’ comes highly recommended. (MDS)
––– Address: https://stevelehman.bandcamp.com/
RENÉE VIVIEN/NURSE WITH WOUND – LE CHRIST (3″CD and book by Lenka Lente)
A new book by Lenka Lente almost always means something I can’t read, and I never properly mastered French; I w. And if I was a little bit better, then I may not have understood what it was about. That said, there is a lot to read. As Lenka Lente publishes obscure texts (I think) from authors from a long time ago, accessible in the public domain, I assume, from surrealists that I never heard, I find pleasure in looking at what they are about. Renée Vivien was born as Pauline Mary Tarn in 1877 and died in Paris in 1909 “who wrote in French, in the style of the Symbolistes and the Parnassiens”. I picked up from Wiki and clicked on many more links to learn more about stuff I was never aware of, always keen to learn something about ” sonnets, hendecasyllabic verse, and prose poetry”, for instance. Meanwhile, I had ‘Sappho 1900’ by Nurse With Wound, which comes as a 3″CD with this book on repeat. It’s a short piece, just under ten minutes and with a cast of unknown players, except that Diarmuid MacDiarmada is mentioned, and I assume it’s her vocals we hear at the end. It’s not a very typical NWW piece of recent times; this is more freak out on instruments, a bit of good old-school hippy doodling on violins, drums, and toys, slowly adding rhythm in this space-out jam session. I may never fully understand how it connects to the text by Vivien, but it’s a nice track, reminding me of some of Nurse’s mid-nineties records. Probably as free-spirited as Vivien seemed to have been in her short life. (FdW)
––– Address: https://www.lenkalente.com/
HOMOGENIZED TERRESTRIALS – POWERS & PRINCIPALITIES (LP by Terrestrial Records)
HOMOGENIZED TERRESTRIALS – THE DREAM CUBES (CDR by Terrestrial Records)
HOMOGENIZED TERRESTRIALS – VIBRATIONS RECOVERED FROM TESLA’S APARTMENT (CDR by Somnimage)
When it rains, it pours, goes the expression, and that’s certainly the case here (and not just because it’s pissing down today on end). All three releases from the last few months show three variations of the music by Homogenized Terrestrials. The LP was released in October and has one track per side of the record. I don’t know what kind of tools Phillip Klampe, the man behind Homogenized Terrestrials, uses (and this I could repeat for all three new releases), which, in the case of the LP, could be several modules connected, and they become very lively and seem to interact without human intervention. There is an ongoing change within the material, one sound building on the next, adding new context and contact. A lot of granular synthesis is going on, slowly transforming field recordings. As such, the music is a fine reminder of modern-day musique concrète but without the academic touch. It’s more old-school ambient industrial than new-school serious electronic composing, and that’s what I like best about this music. Very thoughtful and very dramatic (and not, at the same time, due to its more ‘drifting’ character). Think Illusion Of Safety, but here more long form, or The Hafler Trio, but perhaps livelier, i.e. more happening here. Beautifully intense music, and, as far as I know, this is the first time Klampe has played such long pieces. Excellent LP.
On CDR, we find ‘The Dream Cubes’, the first in a series of releases that will examine dreams, and “this edition considers the interpretation of dreams and how themes often recur from one dream into another, sometimes in a different context”. This is one of those things that is interesting to know but something that I couldn’t have figured out based on the music I hear, which is absolutely fine. Everybody loves a story—nine pieces of sonic bliss. Along the lines of the album, each of these pieces explores a smaller set of sounds with minimal development, and each is a well-rounded piece of music. But unlike the LP, this material doesn’t slowly morph into something else; it ends, and something new starts. Whereas the LP is more akin to musique concrète, the grainy, lo-fi sounds here remind me of low-resolution sampling and processing these with sound effects. Lots of hissy, spacious textures here, of sounds thorn apart, digging into the subconscious of the brain (I guess; trying to stick with the whole dream thing here). Music with ripples, crackles and mildly distorted ambience. Of the three new releases, this is the one that reminded me most of his older work, and it seems a fine continuation of that road.
The last was actually the first one, released in August of this year. This is a slightly different work than the others, as there are many similarities between the nine tracks. Klampe writes that “over a few decades, individuals have secretly entered Teslaʼs apartment and made recordings with a device referred to as the quantum envelope collector. This device is capable of extracting vibrations stored within objects and creating a representation of the events and sounds that remained and continue to remain long after Teslaʼs death.” And what does these sound represent? Maybe alien communication (even)? I have no idea how that “quantum envelope collector” looks like, or, who knows, it even exists. A quick search resulted in not much information. That’s no problem; there is now room for some more speculation. Although it’s not mentioned in as many words, I see this as another form of EVP, an electronic voice phenomena. It captures sounds that may or may not be in a space because it captures sounds from the past or another dimension. Again, believing this is an actual possibility does not interest me very much. Compared to the other two new releases, the music takes on a much more minimal approach here, but not without some variation. All of his music sounds mysterious, and this is not different, or particularly more mysterious than much else of his music, so the whole Tesla thing, much like the dream works, is not something one hears in this music. Not me, that is. The tracks are longer than on ‘The Dream Cubes’, and here, too, there is refined development within the music, even when it’s all a bit slower and darker. Of the three, this album is the darkest, and that is to say, they are all in various shades of darkness, but this is the darkest shade. (FdW)
––– Address: https://homogenizedterrestrials.bandcamp.com/
––– Address: https://somnimage.bandcamp.com/
JANNE ERAKER – MOVEMENTS FOR LISTENING (2LP by Esc. Rec)
We might have been thinking to have had it all here at Vital Weekly: records from sandpaper, wind, embers, deep marine creatures, heartbeats… and now the Deventer, The Netherlands-based label Esc. Rec manages to surprise even our weary ears with “a wild exploration of sound” through, hold your horses: tap dance. We are discussing breaking boundaries, crossing borders and thinking outside the box (all boxes)!
And for some genuine contemporary percussion, we always put on our most eager of listening ears, fans as we are of Karen Willems, Robyn Schulkowsky, Joey Barron, Les Percussions de Strasbourg or Chris Corsano and Claire Rousay. And yes, Janne Eraker’s approach to tap dance is percussive, using percussion with friends in various styles and genres.
One could put one head in the speaker to try and pinpoint what feet, shoes, and pedal to the metal are…. Still, Eraker manages to move beyond the merely ‘accepted’ or ‘accustomed’ sound(s) of tap, tap dance or dance, moving her talent and idiosyncratic musical approach into a realm one might call expanded tap or, better: expanded and exploding percussion.
In these ten recordings, we have nine duets and one trio featuring a host of stellar collaborators, both in the fields of composed and improvised music. All these recordings are also videotaped and released as ‘singles’, with the currently released 2LP serving as the collection and exclamation point. Watching the videos is warmly recommended as the tactile aspect of the performance of both the tap dance and the collaboration really adds to the works’ already rich and profoundly engaging nature.
From some kind of drip music to bubble wrap experiment or barefoot tapping… From pretty straightforward jazz guitar stylings to radical explorations of timbre and texture, Eraker and Co manage to blow to pieces the image one might hold of tap dance and jazz or improvised music, for that matter. In doing so, they provide a record of highly engaging musical interest far beyond expectations or conventions. The material would not be out of place at the Holland Festival or Gaudeamus Festival. Music too that stretches the physical and embraces the natural (check the reverb in the recording made at the immersive resonances of Emanuel Vigeland Museum!!) into uncharted territories of bliss and wonder (at time surpassing even the Cuts-series of Merzbow, Pándi & Gustafsson in brutal noise force). True movements for engaged deep listening. It is a record for the top spots of the Year List 2023 for sure. (SSK)
––– Address: https://escrec.com/
SOKUSHINBUTSU PROJECT – THE YŌKAI CODEX (cassette/CDR by Industrial Ölocaust Recordings)
I had never heard of any of the performers, the label or the project whatsoever. But I’m very pleasantly surprised once again from a musical perspective. The musicians and label all come from Italy, and the label is a DIY label that started in 1989, but it’s been silent for approximately between 1994 and 2016. The label is probably the brainchild of Mario Cardinale, or at least, that’s how I interpret the scarce information I can find. The Sokushinbutsu Project is a four people band with members Andrea Dicò on drums and percussion, Marco Casiraghi doing some weird Korean zither named the ajaeng, Enrico Ponzoni handling synths and a baritone guitar and Massimo Mascheroni who is running the synthesizers, samplers in a more general as well as droney way.
Conceptually, ‘The Yōkai Codex’ is about Japanese spiritualism. The original meaning of yōkai conveys a sense of mystery combined with fear, something that both attracts and terrifies and applies to everything that goes beyond the normality of events and enters the kingdom of the strange, the wonderful, the mysterious, the miraculous. According to the project, this musically translates into a mixture of massive noise layers of the drony kind, non-Western sounding rhythms, the before mentioned use of the ajaeng, but most importantly, the emotion concerning the tension between attraction and repulsion. The in-your-face “Winds”, the more luscious “Water”, the heavily guitar-driven “Countryside”, the somewhat erratic “Village and City”, “Home” with its slow pulsating rhythm and significant role for the ajaeng and finally “Epilogue: Yōkai Street” which is fully percussion driven for a haunting effect.
My personal favourite is “Water”, but this is an album that will not directly show all of its beauty. It will probably show more of its hidden structures when you play it in different settings, different locations and on different systems. You’ll have to peel the layers like an onion to get to the core. But that is probably also one of the results of it being a four-people project; There is so much being said at the same moment. (BW)
––– Address: https://cardinium.com/
IAN WILLIAMS – SLOW-MOTION APOCALYPSE (CDR by Slaughterback)
There is one bit of information that I mentioned in my previous review of Ian Williams (Vital Weekly 1283), and that was that he was a member of a band called Bushido and that their small discography is still not re-issued on CD. I’ll repeat that with every new review until it’s done. Their ‘Deliverance’ LP is a personal favourite. Williams was a solo member of the Beautiful Pea Green Boat, and his recent work is very orchestral, cinematic and connected to the world of dance music. In the information, the names Vangelis, Tangerine Dream and Jean-Michel Jarre are mentioned, and from all three, I didn’t keep up with their later works. Williams is big on using the orchestral sample pack (unless he sat down with a real orchestra), so there are many strings and wind instruments, which are borderline kitsch if you ask me, and he combines that with some heavy dance beats. There is a somewhat dark approach in his music, as before. Science fiction author JG Ballard inspired his previous work, and on this new release, there is a piece called ‘Chronopolis’, a short story by the man, so that’s still an inspiration. I can imagine that is the kind of music people in the film industry like. There is ts of drama here, well-packed (and hidden sometimes) in big-time dance music. But as I said, borderline kitsch also, with the choir in ‘After We’re Gone’, which is probably the ‘Carmina Burana’ reference in the press text. Maybe I don’t like too much drama when I play music? Maybe I am overwhelmed by the musicality that Williams offers. The one track I thoroughly enjoyed was ‘Magenta’, a quieter piece with dub influences. I honestly don’t know what to make of this; maybe this side of Williams is not much in our field of musical interest. (FdW)
––– Address: https://ianwilliams.bandcamp.com/
SONGS FOR KRAKEN – URTO (CDR by Slowth Records)
Before I read the information, I thought Urto was the band’s name, and the album had ‘Songs For Kraken’ as its title. But it’s vice versa and the brainchild of Antonio Ciaramella, guitarist, composer, and improviser from Bologna. He’s the co-founder of the Bologna Improvisation Group. He co-founded the Slow Nerve project and worked with avant/free jazz. The other member is Giovanni Simiele, an actor who plays voice and loop machine. No surprise, guitar and voice play an essential role on this album. I don’t know if Simiele uses actual, existing Italian words, but most of the time, it seems as if he’s making sounds with his voice.
Cut short, singing, breathing, sighing and adding guitar and synthesiser. The result is born out of improvisation, and, as far as I can judge, it stays within that field. But with the synthesiser playing some unusual sounds, also short and perhaps derived from the modular synthesiser, bleeping away. The voice is something that puts me off here. I find it not particularly engaging or exciting; maybe I can’t understand it, or perhaps there is nothing to understand. Maybe there this actor plays on the dramatic effect too much. The voice is also a bit too much in the way of the rest of the music. I would love to hear the music without the voice, as it sounded fascinating from what I could listen to. Maybe I am missing a point here? That may very well be possible. (FdW)
––– Address: https://www.slowthrecords.com/
THE PHLOD-NAR – COLLECTION 1: LITE (CDR by Temonos)
THE PHLOD-NAR – COLLECTION 2: NITE (CDR by Temonos)
It is a rare thing that I get a four-page biography from a musician. Nothing is the usual thing, maybe because musicians like to be mysterious. Not so Randolf Smeets, the man behind The Phlod-Nar. I reviewed an earlier cassette of his, ‘Morphogenesis,’ in Vital Weekly 1024 (but I forgot about it), which I found along the lines of Brain Eno. Smeets started in 1996, with electronic music and scores for solo instruments. Ever since, he experimented with many genres, all explained within the four pages, which I will not repeat. He has several releases on labels such as his own Temonos Productions, but also Camembert Electrique, MxH, Front & Follow, The Owl Rupper Recordings and such like, none of which I know except Attenuation Circuit, who release something from him in the future. These two releases are collections of older works, thematically organised. There is ‘Lite’ and ‘Nite’. When I think of ‘Nite’, I imagine something mellow and ambient, music to sleep by. But that’s not how this works. We must understand ‘Lite’ as more atmospheric music and ‘Nite’ as a collection of pieces of upbeat music, maybe even engaging in a bit of dance action. Both collections combine electronic sounds, synthesisers, and drum machines with real instruments like pianos, drums and acoustic guitars. There are quite some differences within each collection. In the ‘Lite’ collection, the music is melodic from the more melancholic and pleasant nature, with a touch of orchestral feeling. When Smeets uses a bit of additional field recordings, it becomes more abstract and ambient. Those are the boundaries of the music in this collection. When it’s abstract, it is more something for me, and some of his more orchestral pieces are not for me, a bit too much-cliched film score music; I can imagine that the world would love some of this stuff.
The ‘Nite’ album is more diverse, with Smeets trying many genres. There is a bit of drum ‘n bass, techno, jazz, and more ambient and rhythmic music that isn’t always suited for the dance floor, such as ‘Cibera’. I think This bag of tracks is too mixed unless you are looking for a collection of pieces that defines Smeets as a dance music producer and whatever he is capable of. That is a lot, and maybe the one thing missing is a piece that is very much a floor filler that Dutch dance producers are known for in the big world of dance music. Not every track blows me away here, but it’s an enjoyable and extended-release that plays fine music on a Sunday morning. (FdW)
––– Address: http://www.thephlodnar.com/
EMERALD SUSPICION – SOUNDS TO HEAR ALONE (CDR by Oscillation Productions)
Among the various t-shirts with band names that I wear is still the one by Emerald Suspension, and people still ask me, slightly confused, if it’s a Van Halen t-shirt (Vital Weekly 1222), although my daughter thinks it’s her initials. Some confusion that I enjoy. As always, I don’t know much about this project, except that Troy Curtis is behind it, and he deals with multimedia works. In the last two years, following his ‘Before ≤15’ release (Vital Weekly 1275, he worked on some forty short-form videos, three of which were developed specifically to promote music single releases, but the others “were created with audio integrated as part of multimedia works”. Some of this audio was further developed to be stand-alone pieces on ‘Sounds To Hear Alone’. The result is fifteen pieces of music, short ones, from a minute to two, with a few exceptions; one is almost eight. Emerald Suspicion plays strange music, music that is not easily categorized. It’s electronic, and I believe a lot of it is based on sampling all sorts of sounds, probably sounds created by Curtis, but for all I know, there might be a plunderphonic aspect to it. This album shows him in a particularly moody and atmospheric phase, with various shades of grey. Ambient music, one might call this, but not everything. Some of these pieces are harsher, louder, or broken-up acoustic sounds. Also, the shortness of the parts isn’t what we usually expect from ambient music. The result is quite a varied album, maybe too diverse at times, and one that isn’t get a grip on. One to play on rotation for a while. I did, but I decided to skip the longest one, ‘Sxgt’, a moody piece for saxophone and guitar; I found that one too long and engaging. Otherwise, this is a delightful and confusing release. (FdW)
––– Address: https://emeraldsuspension.com/
ENRIKE HURTADO – 20.20 (CDR by Reptidor)
On his new release, Basque composer Enrike Hurtado is very sparse with information on the cover; besides his name, the title of the album and the five pieces (all variations of 2020 plus two times two numbers) and the label’s name, nothing else. Although it seems a long time ago, COVId, the lockdown, the album is one of the things created during that year, 2020 and Hurtado found himself working with a digital feedback system on Supercollider. The titles refer to the dates on which these pieces were created, April 17, June 3 and so on. They don’t appear in chronological order, but I can imagine that on each of these days, he thought about the previous one and worked further along similar lines of granular synthesis, sine wave processing, or such things; I am not too sure. Knowing some of his previous work, I believe Hurtado works with computer technology, and the five pieces are variations of ambient and drones. It is not necessarily of a quieter variety, as these pieces are in a middle ground between loud and soft. That’s how I like my drones to be. Not to be dominantly present, not to be so delicate that they disappear. Drones that fill up space gently, slightly on edge, a ripple of distortion is never far away. Hurtado’s work reminds me of Kevin Drumm. There’s a similar dialogue here between the sublime, ‘easy’ drones and the noisy end of drones; whereas Drumm sometimes goes all the way, blasting into full noise modus, I don’t have encountered such works with Hurtado yet. His work has an edge, not a wall. My favourite is the last one, ‘2020 03 22’, which is the longest, taking the listener on a long ride, not too bumpy, not too pleasant, and the length of it works to its advantage. (FdW)
––– Address: https://repetidor-shop.bandcamp.com/
SLOW BLINK/STOMACHEACHE (split cassette, private)
I don’t think I heard of two musical projects from the USA, which is not something I know but believe. I don’t know anything about them. There are differences and similarities in their musical approaches. Both love a particular decay in sound, which is the result, I believe, of decaying technology, as in Walkman or reel-to-reel loops. The results are a bit different. While both have a relatively dense sound, Slow Blink, Amanda Haswell’s musical project, is somewhat more open, with recognisable instruments. Piano sounds are used, for instance, on a trusty rusty rel-to-reel machine, and the magnetic parts fall off, one by one, as the tapes keep spinning. There is also some pedal work in the form of delays applied, closing in on the sound as it keeps playing. It’s relatively minimal, but it works very well. It reminded me a bit of early zoviet*france, which is always a good thing.
Stomachache (which might be the musical project of Grant Richardson, who did the mastering; otherwise, no names are mentioned) has a similar approach to using tape loops but recording acoustic sounds rather than recording instruments. What these acoustics are, I don’t know; it’s something I couldn’t figure out. Here, too, everything is relatively minimal, and it works out to be a bit noisier than the other side, but not in a brutalist way. It’s more that the louder bits are at the start of the piece, which seems to be falling apart as things evolve. Towards the end, a voice pops up. I like both sides a lot, with a slight preference for the first side, and I wouldn’t mind hearing more work from both of them. (FdW)
––– Address: https://stomachache.bandcamp.com/