Number 1440

Week 21

MARC BEHRENS – CLOULD (CD by Cronica Electronica) *
ALEX KELLER – SLEEP ROOM (CD by Elevator Bath) *
ELOINE – MOLDY CUSHIONS (CD by Flag Day Recordings) *
MARIA BERTEL – MONOPHONIC (CD by Relative Pitch Records) *
SOFÍA SALVO – ROTAROTA (CD by Relative Pitch Records) *
DOTTIE DOPPLER – DOTTIE DOPPLER PLAYS (LP by fréquences critiques)
MODELBAU – MYTHS OF THE NEAR FUTURE (cassette by Econore) *


Among the many music books I read, there has been a fair share of the German underground music scene, and, as always, I investigate what I read about. I am sure I heard the legendary anarchist band Ton Steine Scherben at one point, but I wasn’t too impressed, so I have no recollection of it. Wolfgang Seidel was the drummer in this band but was already enthralled by electronic music via Louis and Bebe Barron’s ‘Forbidden Planet’ soundtrack. In the booklet, he describes that electronic music these days is regarded as a dystopian soundtrack, but in those early years, electronic music was the sound of the future. In the late 1960s, Seidel met with Conrad Schnitzler, who became a good friend of his, and they recorded some albums, with Seidel credited as Wolf Sequenza. One such collaboration was the LP ‘Consequenz’, all instrumental music and a call out to record your vocals to it and send a cassette to the musicians; an offer De Fabriek took up. In the meantime, Seidel continued playing the drums, wrote books about his former band and recorded more electronic music. The 18 pieces on ‘Friendly Electrons’ are works from his archive. In the liner notes, Seidel recounts how Schnitzler used cassettes (later CDRs) with small blocks of sound and combined these in concert in ever-changing configurations and how he applies the same method. That’s not where the influence ends as Seidel’s music has strong similarities to the music of Schnitzler. It’s the old ‘electronic without keyboards’ approach, so without much melody and owing a lot to the origins of electronic music. Seidel layers various electronic components together until a dialogue appears that he deems interesting, sometimes adding drum machines or samples from the orchestral pack; again, not unlike Schnitzler. And much like the overproductive German master, it works most of the time and sometimes not at all; for me, these include the pieces with a range of free jazz drumming and orchestral, favouring those pieces of a sole electronic nature. None of these pieces are very long, on average between three and five minutes; therefore, a piece that’s not great gives a quick way for something of more interest. The last piece on the CD lasts 4:33 but isn’t a John Cage cover. (The CD and the version on Bandcamp don’t match up; they have different lengths for the same titles – something went wrong there). Throughout an excellent release, and if there’s more work in the archive, let it come, but not in the same abundance as Schniztler! (FdW)
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MARC BEHRENS – CLOULD (CD by Cronica Electronica)

Marc Behrens was more active with releases a long time ago, the first decade of this century and the last half of the decade before that, but these days may have shifted his work into sound installations – who knows? Maybe he releases his music online mostly. There is a ‘preamble’ release for ‘Clould’, called ‘Aiear’, also for Cronica Electronica and both deal with “airborne mass transport that propels large groups of human beings – passive by force – through a space that once belonged to mythological beings and energies”. Behrens made recordings inside aeroplanes, from the in-flight announcements, check-in luggage, electromagnetic sensors and whatever else you can catch soundwise on the 24-hour-a-day entertainment centres that are airports and aeroplanes.
To be honest, I (BW) have checked my collection, and all I can find from Marc is two tracks on samplers, and that’s it. So, everything I’m hearing is a first for me. And even though I’m always looking for concepts behind releases – and lots of people thankfully send them when they send us their stuff – this is an example of an idea where I can only place the concept on sound creation of composing techniques. I can’t really place this album in the perspective of what the album is about. According to the notes, “as the Clould cycle is based on an English language understanding, a libretto-style transcription of the final 5th Movement reveals English words and onomatopoetic exclamations. This dedicated system very loosely refers to the concept of bījamantra (or bījāks . ara: seed syllable) used in Tantric Hinduism and Buddhist Mysticism, in which certain syllables, like “om .” for example, contain sonic essences that make manifestations of a certain element, entity, or deity.”
But then there is the actual product: a CD with 74 minutes of pure sonic poetry. Five movements – two about six minutes, two about 12 minutes and a long 37-minute final movement – create a lovely atmosphere of faded voices, building drones, and slight noisescapes… But most of all, this CD hits surrealistically. And in that perspective I give you men’s dream of flying. Stories of Icarus, who flew towards the sun when the wax melted through the heat, and he lost his wings. As well as the flying machines of the Middle Ages, men probably dreamt about flying ever since a cave dweller saw an ancient bird and thought about catching and eating it. And it only took so many thousands of years and now we can whenever we want, depending on whether we have the money to pay for it. If you would have told that to a cave dweller … That’s the surrealism I’m talking about. (BW/FdW)
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Freek Kinkelaar reviewed the previous album by Laurent Saïet and guests (Vital Weekly 1294), but this duty now lies on me as these things go. The guests come in two categories: singers and players. In the first, we find Theo Hakola, Melanie Menu, Mika Pussem, Ben Ritter and Damien van Lede, all from other groups and projects, but none of which names sound familiar. Instruments are played by Quentin Rollet (among others of Nurse With Wound, and a name I know), Paul Percheron and Thierry Müller (among others of Ilitch). Saïet plays mellotron, guitars, bass, keyboards, programmed percussion, strings and electronic instruments, leaving guitars, drums and saxophones to his guests. This new album has 12 tracks in 62 minutes longer than the previous one. As Kinkelaar noticed before, Saïet’s music is all over the place: jazzy, rock-like, pop-like, psychedelic, interspersed with a bit of ambient and post-rock (which I sometimes think is another department of jazz anyway), even a bit of hip/trip-hop (in ‘Far From The Sun’) and vocals play a primary role in each of these tracks. Even when I am at times reminded of The Legendary Pink Dots (Edward Ka-spel being a guest vocalist on the previous album), but with a real drummer instead of programmed ones, I am unsure if this is something that fits these pages, as I also found it at times too poppy. Sure, there might be a darker atmosphere throughout these songs (to avoid the dreaded word ‘gothic’), but it remains worlds away from the world of Vital Weekly, drone, noise, electro-acoustics or ambient music. If you were looking for something alternative yet still very accessible and recognisable, something that one point you could sing along to, the music of Laurent Saïet won’t disappoint you. Hey, it doesn’t do that for me, and I found it most enjoyable, just a tad out of place here. (FdW)
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From the three musicians behind this release, I heard of the duo phoanøgramma, being Angelo Panebianco (synths & loops) and Matteo Mariano (synths & tapes), as I reviewed their ‘The Void On A Distant Sun’ (Vital Weekly 1400). On 9 December 2023 they reamed at the Macrogamma Studio and recorded four lengthy electronic improvisations with pme Luca Ferro on synths and acoustic sounds. Their collaboration is a testament to their skill and creativity, a sonic journey through the depths of memory and liminal abandonment. Drawing inspiration from the transient and fallible nature of memory, the music presented in this album tells stories of vast spaces and impossible, almost alien architectures, embracing the disoriented acceptance of memory’s impermanence in contrast to eternity. This is a concept that may not be immediately clear when listening to the music, but it’s a testament to their artistic vision. Despite the presence of a lot of ‘synths’ and ‘tapes’, the music has a rather improvised nature to it, and a strong loop-like character. In The opening piece, ‘Veiled Riddle’, one particular loop is very present and seems not to be changing, and thus becomes a bit annoying; especially when this piece is 18 minutes long. This sort of looped sounds, be it from synths or acoustic sources, is a vital presence in all four pieces here and maybe I expected something different based on their use of machines, and the music is a rather loosely organised collection of sounds, loops and ideas. It’s always if expectations aren’t met. Something I didn’t expect is that they captured the acoustic and standalone amplified instruments with a single microphone perhaps causing a bit of difficulty in editing these pieces into more structured pieces. All the same, maybe they intended the music to have this stream-of-consciousness approach it has now. Sometimes they loose me in their music, rather than me being lost in music. The looseness of the music doesn’t always work for me, especially when loops are played a bit too long, without many changes, or there isn’t even progress in the music. I do like the darker quality of the music and the fact that it’s a different than your usual synth/drone release. My favourite piece is ‘Eidetic Secrets’, for it’s use of piano and melodica, embedded in a tight bed of synth sounds. (FdW)
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ALEX KELLER – SLEEP ROOM (CD by Elevator Bath)

I heard work by Alex Keller twice before, once solo (Vital Weekly 1014) and once with Sean O’Neill (Vital Weekly 1107). Long before that, he was a member of The Phonographers Union. In his recent solo work, he works with “multiple generations of transducers”, finding “new ways to interact with the electromagnetic spectrum”. It’s about the sound you usually don’t hear, picked up and translated by machines. The information lists them as “decommissioned computer server, vintage ECG POTS, modem/network router, non-functioning laptop, UV light insect trap, LED lights, power supplies, urban bus, commuter trains, homemade electromagnetic oscillators, stun gun, homemade Jacob’s ladder, and vintage vacuum cleaner.” Of course, a vintage vacuum cleaner sounds interesting; mine, I can always hear! Keller takes these sources into the studio and works with them in real time, except in the title track. I assume there is an element of trial and error in how he works, and what we hear is not 47 minutes of work carried out. I envisage finding the right connections (pun intended) within the possibilities at hand before capturing any of these to tape. The music is a noise album and a musique concrète one, collaging various elements into one thing. There are seven pieces, all quite loud but never in the realm of harsh noise. Keller has no interest in straightforward noise walls but rather a bumpy ride of not staying too long in the same place. I wonder about the performance aspect of this if there is any? Does Keller play these machines on stage? I’d be curious to see him in action. His music connects to that of Voice Crack/Möslang & Guhl, Zbigniew Karkowski and, more recently, people like Joe Colley and Francisco Meirino, all about cracked everyday electronics and the near-end of machine life, the death rattle of electrical apparatus. I also heard influences of Arcane Device, perhaps strangely enough. I found this a most enjoyable noise album, as it is noisy but listenable; it has a concept, and yet one could choose to hear without overthinking about the concept and enjoy the sheer noisiness of the music. Keller’s dynamics reach for the ultimate depth of the bass and some piercingly high-frequencies. My noise highlight of the week! (FdW)
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ELOINE – MOLDY CUSHIONS (CD by Flag Day Recordings)

For no reason, I assumed Flag Day Recordings to be a record label with a strong, if not sole, interest in all things modular electronics. This CD by Eloine proves me wrong. Behind this name is Bryan Day, an inventor of instruments, boxes with springs, bits of metal and wood, but also using broken electronics, “vintage computer synthesisers,” and field recordings. He’s also the man behind the Public Eyesore and Eh? labels and someone who works a lot with improvisation. That is certainly also the case in his solo work, and even though this is the first solo release since 2016,’ Bizarre Flight’ by Gertrude Tapes (not reviewed), he also uses the name Eloine when working with others. Day recorded the music in his studio in San Pablo, California, and on the road during residencies in Brazil and India. Some of the instruments he plays were commissioned pieces and he gave them away to people he worked with. I understand that these nine pieces are not the result of recording one improvisation but the results of editing various recordings into small, coherent pieces of music. As such, the improvisation is the mere start, gathering the bricks to layer a composition. Yet these pieces still retain some of that improvised feeling, which brings a certain amount of freshness to the music. Using various bricks, the music also has some density, maybe not be achieved when playing everything in real time. Sometimes drones come into play, adding that modular quality to the otherwise electro-acoustic quality of the music. Eloine’s approaches are diverse, from dark and brooding to outgoing and joyous. There is a genuine love for his inventions and a want to extract as many different sounds as possible, and this doesn’t result in an album that collapses with the many varieties but still sounds very coherent. If you are interested in electro-acoustic improvisation, I strongly recommend this album, and also when improvisation is not your cup of tea, then you should investigate this one. (FdW)
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Writing reviews for Vital Weekly feels like creating a work of minimalism. I often repeat the same things, sometimes using different words, sometimes not. One of those repetitions concerns free jazz and improvisation. Some years ago it came through the backdoor and these days takes up a big corner, but it’s not where Vital Weekly’s heart is. These days, there’s only one dedicated reviewer and one, me, with a mild interest and absolutely no knowledge at all. In my reviews about this music no references to other musicians in the same genre; I don’t know any. As I always play any release before deciding if this goes to someone else, I kept listening to this duet between Giorgio Pacorig on the pianoforte and label boss Stefano Giust on the drums. Two instruments I always enjoy and the two take the listener on a wild ride, 66 minutes. That’s long, and, spoiler alert, too long for me (and yes, I know, I don’t need to play a CD in its entire form; let’s say that’s a rusty habit that never dies). This duo approaches their instruments in such a way that these can be recognised as piano and drums; they hardly ever apply other techniques or objects to play them; only at the start of ‘Radici Per le Foglie, Ferro’ does it seem that Giust uses a bow across the cymbals. In that sense, I think this is a relatively traditional work of free jazz/free improvisation; I don’t know the finer differences when something is free jazz or free improvisation, and I think in the way Pacorig approaches his piano it sounds quite jazz-like; but not all the time. When it came to jazzy, I was not as much interested, but when the two took a more abstract approach, I was quite excited. As with this kind of thing, and, say, noise, when it’s served in a small dose, one or two a week, I can manage them. (FdW)
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MARIA BERTEL – MONOPHONIC (CD by Relative Pitch Records)

In the long line of electronic instruments, or more precisely, the development of instruments via electronics, there was a route ideal to make the electronically produced sounds as if it were a genuine acoustic instrument, culminating in synths like the Fairlight CMI or the Synclavier. Maria Bertel does the opposite: making an acoustic instrument sound like an electronic instrument or machine. Her instrument is the (slide) trombone. Through what I believe are primary effects in the arsenal of a rock guitarist (distortion, overdrive) and maybe a loop pedal. Why a loop pedal? Some pieces on this release on Relative Pitch Records have a continuous sound with no breathing moments. Ten pieces of music that explore the possibilities of a monophonic instrument (well, you can do multiphonics on a trombone, but the player has to sing the note; you can’t do multiphonics any other way) through effects and a stack of amps. The result is fantastic. ‘Rotundity’ has the sound quality of a fuzz bass in overdrive mode and the audible moments of inhaling oxygen to make a sound. She makes a rhythm worthy of the most memorable stoner rock band or even a sludge metal band. Nine pieces are on the heavy side of things; the closing track goes into full drone mode (not that a drone couldn’t be heavy, of course). But it’s more laidback, less distorted, and with a more direct recognizable trombone sound with feedback moments: Imagine the instrument’s bell (and microphone) being moved in front of the speaker of the amps. Opener Sci-fi is the longest and sets the tone for the rest of the pieces. Go seek this one out; it’s incredible and definitely not Manon-friendly. Best heard on volume eleven! (MDS)
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SOFÍA SALVO – ROTAROTA (CD by Relative Pitch Records)

Sofía Salvo, born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and now based in Berlin, plays the baritone saxophone, the lowest saxophone that is widely used. Remember Morphine? The saxophone Dana Colley played was, for the most part, a baritone sax. Taken from the website of Ausland: Salvo has been a resident of Berlin since 2019 and is active in projects such as Revuelta de Ave with Lorena Izquierdo; seriously? Wow, with Margaret Unknown and Kido Gohn, and SSS,sss?S!!, with dancer Siri Salminen. Also, a recent project, CATARAT, with Claire Nico, Helli Nova and Marta Masternak. She’s also part of Fallen Crooner with Robert Lucaciu, Pascal Klewer, Shannon Barnett, Moritz Baumgärtner and Laura Totenhagen, and Christian Kuhn’s “Kuhn Fu”. As the alternative Berlin scene is essential to her life, she also co-curates “Revuelta Series” with Lorena Izquierdo, a mainly FLINTA* oriented concert series. Here, we have Salvo doing eight improvised pieces. ROTAROTA (rotating in Spanish) is released on the on-going series of solo albums with just one instrument. Studies in sound, the boundaries of notes, putting notes into overdrive, multiphonics: it’s all here. She has a beautiful sound and doesn’t use her ample technique to show off. It’s all in service of the music she makes instead of trying to impress the listener. Using minimal material like in ‘Flores fluor’, she uses the material to vary the sound, vary the rhythm and sound, and increase the volume. It’s the longest piece on the release. ‘Garufa Duerme’ evokes a snoring and sleeping person after a drinking binge (garufa is slang for a drinking spree, also known as a carousal, and that fits with the title: rota rota means rotating). All in all a very nice release. (MDS)
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Housed in a beautiful silk-screened, black and white cover comes ‘Twittering Machines’ by Kathy Hinde, a Bristol-based artist/composer. She won an Ivor Novello award in 2020 for this piece, which premiered in 2019 at the Mutek festival. In 1924, Beatrice Harrison’s broadcast of a wild nightingale singing with her cello drew attention to the bird’s already declining population, and this is in the inspired Hinde, and the record has a strong ecological stance. The nightingale plays an essential role in this piece, for instance, in the Morse code of John Keats’ poem Ode to a Nightingale, but also in environmental sounds and electronic manipulations thereof. At one point, the voice of “distinguished British ornithologist Peter Holden MBE” is talking about the chaffinch, a bird imitated by Bavarian bird imitator Helmut Wolfertstetter. Hinde uses various recordings cut to a dubplate and uses those again in the overall composition. There are also toys, singing bowls, gongs and synths.
A lot of elements, all of which make this quite a dense piece of music. One could say this is a piece of musique concrète, leaning heavily on the use of field recordings and mixing of sounds and not as much on the extensive treatments of sound, but these are nevertheless parts of the piece. What I like about these two parts of ‘Twittering Machines’ is their incredible vibrancy and energy, not staying for very long in the same place and using a variety of sounds and approaches to keep the piece moving. It also never becomes very abstract (mainly on the second side for a while); birds remain birds, and she stays close to the theme of the climate crisis. Hinde doesn’t force her opinion onto the world; you mightn’t notice by listening to the music. Lastly, I also enjoyed that music never becomes too delicate, silent or fragile. Like nature should be, a colour mass of events, sounds, smell and all that, this music is too. At 45rpm, or 27 minutes, this is a short record with a great impact. (FdW)
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It’s been a while since I last heard from Japanese guitarist Chihei Hatakeyama, who, some years ago, was very active with guitar-based ambient music. He now turns up with “jazz drummer-in-demand” (press info) Shun Ishiwaka, who collaborated with the likes of “Ai Kuwabara, Hiroki Chiba, Kei Matsumaru, Gen Hoshino, Terumasa Hino, Tony Allen, and countless others, Shun Ishiwaka is one of Japan’s most prolific modern jazz drummers.” This double LP is my first encounter with his music. Oddly enough, I am thinking of last week’s double LP by The Void Of Expansion, a.k.a. Dirk Serries and Tomas Järmyr, a guitar and drum duo, and a double LP with improvised ambient music. I wrote, “Improvised ambient is not something I have heard a lot about”, and lo and behold, here’s something along similar lines. Be warned, ‘along’ and not ‘similar’. Hatakeyama’s guitar sounds very different from Serries’, and maybe there’s an overlap in the use of drums; I think Ishiwaka’s drums sound opener fits the more spacious approach of Hatakeyama’s guitar sounds. Whereas Serries’ playing is atmospheric, it’s also denser and darker. Hatakeyama’s guitar doodling drifts away on a cloud of echo and chorus into the big unknown. The label says that “both musicians drew on their love of Free Jazz and Spiritual Jazz and in particular the works of Alice Coltrane and later period Sun Ra”, but I have no idea here, no point of reference. I think the guitar sounds at times like Vini Reilly’s (but I happen to read a book about him, so maybe that doesn’t help), but at times, The Durutti Column sounded pretty jazz-like as well. One piece contains voice, by Hatis Noit, the sort of wordless intimate vocalisations known from more Japanese musicians. It’s not something I am particularly enamoured by, but it’s on one track only (albeit they are all long). At one point, I realised much of this sounds alike, not something strange, seeing titles as ‘M0’ or ‘M1.1’, and me making the mistake of flipping a record over, thinking I hadn’t heard this side before, and then I had to go onto the next, which, confusingly, I thought I had heard. Sometimes, such things aren’t easy, I guess. Despite my odd ways of flipping records and the somewhat uniform approach, I greatly enjoyed this record. Indeed jazzier than The Void Of Expansion last week but weird enough for the non-jazz-lover. Another form of ambient improvisation! (FdW)
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It’s been a while since I last wrote about Michel Banabila. I don’t know why; there might be various reasons, and not releasing new music is not one of them. Maybe they are digital or too limited as a release for promotion. In 2021, he released an LP, ‘Echo Transformations’ on the Dutch Knekelhuis label, and as such, the new one, ‘Unspeakable Visions’, is the sister album. I don’t know why I didn’t review the previous one, as I enjoy the music of Banabila. I came in contact with him because I wrote in a review about the Fourth World character of his music, that curious mix of world music and electronics. He told me differently, so I am surprised to read Knekelhuis’ description of this new album, “Fourth World Sound, but with an exciting pop-influenced twist.” But listening to this album, it’s not easy to deny the influence of world music, coming to us via samples, voices and instruments, with Banabila adding an excellent blend of electronics, bass and percussion in ‘Your Worlds Against Mine’ there is even a very subtle use of vinyl manipulation. The pop-twist is probably more in the concise length of the pieces than in the actual music. Sure, it’s melodic, rhythmic and delightful, but it’s also very ambient, very atmospheric, dark at times, and not something I would call pop music (but what do I know about pop music, anyway). Banabila’s music is richly textured with sounds; there’s always something going, moving from one part of the world to another, worlds connecting, Stockhausen’s ‘Telemusik’ meeting Byrne/Eno ‘My Life In The Bush In Ghosts’ if you get my drift. It could reflect the city he lives in, Rotterdam, with its many cultures meeting that inspire the music here. ‘Unspeakable Visions’ feels like a walk through a city like Rotterdam, with music from all over the world coming to you from every window you pass. Languages you don’t understand bounce along the ride and a wonderful journey is had. Another excellent record, but that’s no surprise; the man has a consistent, high-quality music catalogue, and if the name is new to you, well worth investigating if you are into melodic and rhythmic atmospheric music. (FdW)
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DOTTIE DOPPLER – DOTTIE DOPPLER PLAYS (LP by fréquences critiques)

This is an introduction to a label from France and a new group: the curiously named Dottie Doppler, plus the recurring Leandro Barzabal.
You could think that Dottie Doppler has something to do with the Doppler effect (“The Doppler effect (also Doppler shift) is the change in the frequency of a wave about an observer who is moving relative to the source of the wave”), but it’s not. If I understood correctly, this is a trio of modular synthesiser wranglers. Its members come from such groups as Blason, Napalm Jazz, as well as A/N/T/I/O/P/E, Ero Babaa, Blase of 69, Oïmiakon, or Bison Skull Mountain, none of which means a lot to me. Their approach to music is far from careful, as they have a wild take on their instruments. At first, I thought of a mix of Pan Sonic and Nerve Net Noise, but it lacks the solid beats and (luckily) the nerve-wracking frequencies. There is a brutal take on the modular synth, noisy but also not without a sense of rhythm or melody, whoever crude they might be. On the LP, we find six pieces of music; in each, we find a certain amount of organisation. The music isn’t a randomised attack, the straightforward plink-plonk approach which is sometimes the case in this scene. On the surface, it may seem as if Dottie Doppler has a punky approach to their instruments, but digging deeper, I am inclined to think differently. But hold your horses; there is also a CD inside the sleeve, containing their first concert plated at Le Non_Jazz on 6 January 2023. If the LP includes their music in a more organised form, this is less the case in concert. There’s no way of knowing this is intentional, perhaps because it is their first concert, a learning/experience of some kind. However, it is also very well possible this is how the group plays live, diversifying from their studio. It makes up quite an interesting difference. The live work is looser, more improvised, noisier perhaps, and the studio is more controlled and less noisy; my preference lies in their organisation, but I can imagine it wouldn’t work as well in concert.
From Argentina-born, Paris-based composer Leandro Barzabal. I reviewed some music before; some of that a long time ago, and more in the realm of improvised music, but more recently in a more noise-oriented world and I wasn’t too convinced about his last cassette (see Vital Weekly 1328). Now he returns with an LP and uses a “noise generator, sound-processing software (Argeîphontes Lyre), vinyl discs and field recorder”, the latter more precious sea recordings. It is always great to see Argeîphontes Lyre mentioned, which I find extraordinary and difficult to use, at least for my non-Math head. I believe the music deals with erosion and decay. The insert mentions Ludwig Van’s ‘Symphony No. 7″, second movement, and FransSchubert’s ‘Serenade’, as recorded in 1924 by Sergei Rachmaninov and reworked using Argeîphontes Lyre. The music on this record is pretty exciting and marks a massive step forward. Maybe the highly unpredictable character of Argeîphontes Lyre adds a surprise aspect to the music. From the time I tried using it, I knew the results could be pretty noisy, or nothing changes at all following a lengthy period of ‘processing’. The Schubert piece, closing this album, is a fine example. It has the ‘old’ feeling of a 78 rpm record, but everything is mildly broken up. That is something that is all over this record, starting with the cut-up digital drones of ‘Carte Générale de Référence’. ‘Détérioration Temporelle Intérieure’, the second piece, begins with a high-pitched tone, making me reach for the volume control. Still, later in this 12-minute, I had to put up the volume again, as it beautifully unfolded into gentle drones. That was when I mumbled something like ‘oh nice’ or something to that effect. I haven’t thought about ‘laptop music’ for some time, and even when Barzabal also uses other sound sources, it sounds like laptop music. I realise this is a container term for many things, and while Barzabal’s music doesn’t have that careful approach, I think it fits well in that area. His deconstructions are noisily, but they work like charm. Mid-range frequencies, broken up and reconstructed drones, with two parts of classical music (discounting the short ‘()’, which is too soft to notice), one evolving out of the sea sounds and forming a gentle diversion of the rest. Throughout an excellent record, full of surprises. One of the highlights of this week. (FdW)
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One name very well known, and one entirely new for me. And this release is a collaboration, I can not say who does what or in what way this collaboration started or developed. So yeah, difficult to review for sure… Matt Atkins is the one I had never heard of before, and his projects don’t ring any bell or alarm clocks. Therefore, it’s hard to use any material as a reference as to what his collaborative contribution is. Discogs states he is a sound and visual artist and drummer and has been releasing under his own name since 2010. So, quite some time already. Whitelabrecs, Grisaille and Invisible City Records are amongst the labels, which is a little indication of where to think sonic-wise. But because I don’t know what Matt typically sounds like, I can’t tell what the input (or output, if you so wish) of Modelbau is in this project, even though I’m quite familiar with many of his previous releases. The label on which this 40-minute cassette is released is the UK-based Moonside Tapes, run by James Wilson, whose name I recently came across is ‘Opt Out’ on the ‘False Depictions’ release on Kringloop Cassettes. It’s a small world, after all, right?
‘The Deconstruction Sequence”‘ is one big hypnotizing experience. In six parts something gets deconstructed and reconstructed. And it’s done beautifully. If you were thinking it: No, this is not the drone stuff with reverb-induced sounds and tapestries flowing into an ambient flow. You know, the stuff I’m fond of 😉 The deconstruction really fits as it’s all small sounds – though not as small as grains in a granular setup – that is creating something again. What is the source? Who knows! What is the result? Mesmerizing structures of microsounds. Like a big castle built of Lego bricks or something like that. And no, not all walls are made of bricks of the same colour: That’s the beauty of it! There are dynamics all over the place; it’s wild recordings, it’s micro sounds, it’s digital and analogue at the same time. It’s a sonic landscape of unknown origin, where you think you’ve been before but don’t recognize anything.
Final words I’ll be saying: It’s a tape limited to 25 copies, and there are only so many left. So, if you’re a tape collector, you probably should act. I’m reviewing this from a digital source, but I would love to hear what the tape as medium adds to this one. For all others, the Bandcamp version is available as ‘Name your price’, and I expect to see many of your names there soon. (BW)
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This week, Modelbau released another weird cassette single. It consists of two short tracks of five minutes each, and if you are not a musician, let me tell you: It’s really hard if you normally make long tracks to dedicate yourself to a limited timeframe and create something with a certain goal of meaning. Most things I know of Modelbau are those longer, meandering minimalist ambient compositions. And here, it’s all done within five minutes. That is weird.
‘Memories Of The Space Age’ has a bit of a meandering feeling, but it also has rhythm … Yes, you read that right, it’s got rhythm. Tribal basses and nothing from Midi channel 10, but those opening moments make you think… Just for a moment, though, because with the first pads and swooshing sounds, you know it’ll be alright. ‘Myths Of The Near Future’ seems a bit more based on field recordings and ultra-heavy manipulation of those. Combined with some ambient sounds which could be generated from just about any source, this is how we know Modelbau. After two minutes, you’re in the mood, and the atmosphere is set, continuing for the remaining time …
What I think I noticed is the difference in clarity between the two tracks, just as if the ‘memories’-track is created in a DAW while the rumbling and small artefacts in the ‘myths’-track kinda feel like they’re generated from tape loops – or at least built on that luscious tape compression, sometimes on the verge of being ‘too’ saturated … All and all two short ones from Uncle Frans that do not disappoint. And if there was any complaint, it’s the fact that it is way too short. But since I started the review with some thoughts about the length of drones, I’ll now shut up and play it again… (BW)
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