Number 1442

Week 23

CLUB OF ROME – GROSSE STATIK (CD by Klanggalerie) *
EKOTONIKA – TO GET LOST (CD by Antenna Non Grata) *
BLOK NUMER 35: PSYCHOSZUM (CD by Antenna Non Grata) *
CHLOË SOBEK & TIM BERNE – BURNING UP (CD by Relative Pitch Records) *
WERKBUND – SKALPAFLOI (LP by Walter Ulbricht Schallfolien)
FELIX HESS – FROGS (A Selection of Field Recordings) (LP by Dead Mind Records) *
EMERGE – MAZE (CDR by Attenuation Circuit) *
VARIOUS – R|E (2024) (CDR by Attenuation Circuit) *
GEORGIA DENHAM – WITH LOVE (CDR by Sawyer Editions) *
RYAN SEWARD – WEATHERING (CDR by Sawyer Editions) *


The original Club Of Rome was founded in “1968 by intellectuals and business leaders whose goal is a critical discussion of pressing global issues.” They are known for the limits to growth in every sense of the word, because we won’t survice. Of course, we keep growing in population and pollution, which leads to a more extensive dark message; the fact that we are still ‘here’ fuels those who deny any problems the earth has. In the Asmus Tietchens catalogue, the Club Of Rome cassette released by ADN Tapes in 1985 is an oddball. Unlike his Hematic Sunsets LPs, which see Tietchens going off in a much different musical direction, as Club Of Rome, he is close to his musical interests in the mid-1980s. He chose the Club of Rome moniker for his industrial music project, fitting with the original Club and their apocalyptic message. That’s not to say the music is very industrial. Tietchens is on synthesisers and loops, but hardly rhythms as such, and the four pieces (well, three, as the one is a short opening spoken word piece) are ice-cold soundscapes, the perfect soundtrack for a world limping towards its end. In some ways, it shares the nihilistic approaches of early Maurizio Bianchi, but Tietchens’ music is less crude and shows more refinement. ‘Faircomp 1F’ is all synthesiser in a sequenced mode while ‘P=m.b’ (what’s in a name?) has synth pulses firing irregularly to the listener, or maybe they are regular but because of their massive presence not working as such. The shortish ‘Medienlandschaft 5’ comes straight from the machine room with what seems like a processed engine: bleak music, all four pieces, but quite lovely stuff. Compared to the power electronics and noise musicians of the day, it is not the kind of industrial music one would expect. Tietchens uses equipment beyond the imagination of those working at home on a four-track cassette machine and a single synthesiser, and the results from Tietchens are, in all its iciness, just more refined and delicate. It’s another exciting work from his past that now comes to life again. Who would have thought in these dark days? (FdW)
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Even though the history of Pierre Jolivet’s Pacific 231 goes back to the mid-1980s and is still alive today, you may not find his name very often mentioned on these pages. There are enough releases, yet not many find my way. Jolivet was from France but has been in Ireland for a long time now, and his background was in noise music and cassette releases. Noise and cassettes may have been left behind in favour of CDs and electronics of a more exciting nature. I believe it’s all about computers and software these days. Jet engines are at the core of his new work, the machine of sound and war. For every positive aspect of a technological invention, there’s also a negative (you may wonder if being unable to fly is something you would miss in your life). Machines always have Jolivet’s interest, as he named his project after a composition by French composer Arthur Honegger from 1923, one of the most famous ones in the world of classical music, commonly thought of as depicting a steam locomotive. I don’t recall off hand if Jolivert ever made a work with train sounds. I don’t know if he uses field recordings as part of the music here; it could be, but it also couldn’t.
I know the Aussaat label as a noise label, but what Pacific 231 does here is far from noise; at least, it’s a different kind of noise. Six of the seven pieces last precisely nine minutes, and the last ten minutes and two seconds. Each piece goes seamlessly into the next, and the first few have a rather dark ambient approach. These might indeed be jet engines or electronic imitations of jet engines, and either way, they sound fine. Each of these pieces shows a slow and minimal process, altering the frequency range of the sounds from low to mid to high end and as the album evolves, so does the music. The music becomes noisier and meanier, yet sometimes returns to a more ambient form. There is that constant swinging back and forth of the music. Curiously, each piece seems to be named after a jet engine, such as the F-104, A-10 or the Hydra 70, but that doesn’t mean the sounds are derived from said engines (and, again, they might be). Whatever software Pacific 231 uses works very well to create this engine-like quality. Even if one disregards the whole engine and war machine concept and takes a more musical interest, this is a great CD. Not one I associate with this label (but maybe there’s the connection of years ago), but a refined and distinct different take on noise and one I enjoy very much. (FdW)
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There have been previous releases by Japanese musician Masaya Ozaki on earlier incarnations of the Laaps label. Still, I only reviewed his LP for Iikki books (Vital Weekly 1126), a collaboration with Kaito Nakahori. Ozaki was born in Niigata, Japan and spends his time in New York and Iceland, and the latter country is the inspiration for the music on ‘Mizukara’. “This Album is a reflection of my current life in Iceland. Where does the self begin, and where does it end?‘’ He has several guest players, such as Stijn Brinkman (violin and field recordings, Eyrún Úa (flute and objects), Lindy Lin (voice, poem, and electronics), Asalaus (guitar, voice and electronics) and Guðmundur Arnalds electronics (Skerpla). If Laaps has, as a label, any particular sound, then this release would be a perfect example of that sound. The music is tranquil and introverted: lots of piano sounds, a few chords here and there, some field recordings, there is always that additional layer of cassette hiss, deliberate home recording quality, some rusty field recordings and some voices. The latter didn’t do much for me, as I am not particularly charmed by this sort of low, wordless-hummed singing. It is very ambient and also very musical, as not many of the Laaps releases deal with pure drone-like, amorphous sounds, and at the same time, it also wants to defy anything that would drag this into the world of a new age. There is an experimental layer in any of these five pieces to guarantee this is not your standard, easy-listening music. The music has a fine and delicate quality: that slow Sunday afternoon feeling of being home alone and spending some quality time. This is an excellent, well-produced release, even when not the most original voice for the kind of music (and I am sure being on a label with like-minded musicians doesn’t make things easier).
The Laaps template is and isn’t part of the release by Dalton Alexander. I had not heard of him before. He is from Whitehorse in Yukon, Canada and plays guitars and synthesiser, to which he adds field recordings. In that sense, nothing out of the ordinary. Many pieces are short and to the point and (apparently) recorded in forests, fields, backyards, streets, and rooms in the presence of natural elements, animals and children. What sets him apart is the briefness of the pieces, five being below one minute and only three being over four, the longest even nine minutes. There is that intimacy we find on many of the Laaps releases. Still, because these pieces are so brief, there is also a very broken-up character to these pieces, scattering musical interests a bit far, from pure acoustic guitar to a synth piece, some in which the field recordings play an all-important role. I am not convinced this all works too well; it is scattered around the place, and the listener is too distracted to enjoy the relaxing music. Unless, of course, you are looking for a place in which Laaps diversifies from their ‘regular’ program, in which case this works like a charm. (FdW)
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EKOTONIKA – TO GET LOST (CD by Antenna Non Grata)
BLOK NUMER 35: PSYCHOSZUM (CD by Antenna Non Grata)

The Polish Antenna Non Grata label started with a fine mix of musicians working with radio sounds and some more improvised releases from musicians from their home country and abroad. Still, recently, there has been a shift towards more improvised music and emphasising musicians from Poland. First, there is Ecotonika, a project by Mat Barski (electric guitar, sampler) and Marcin Karczewsk (digital synths, double bass, stomp boxes), who, so I am told, travel a lot between London, Krakow, Tricity and Łódź, between living and playing together. Their background is in experimental music, ambient, and improvisation. This is reflected within the five pieces on this album; it is neither one nor the other thing. The element of drone music is strongly present in these pieces, creating a foundation for different sounds to move freely. That’s not to say this music is chaotic or nervous, but the approach to the guitar playing sparse and sometimes unconnected notes creates a feeling of improvised music. For example, using acoustic objects and electronics in ‘Down With The Pebbles’ is a piece. Overall, I enjoyed this work because of their bold approach in tackling some musical genres that might, on paper at least, not yell quickly but surprisingly do pretty well. My preference for their approach is when they lean more on the drone aspect of the music and a little less on the improvisational elements, but throughout; they have an outstanding balance between the two. The result is very atmospheric, all dark and darker. This is a most enjoyable release.
Also from Poland is Block Number 35, a quartet with Chinka (synthesisers, samples, voice), Misha (noise, voice), Marta (voice), and Jędrek (guitar, voice), started by Misha and Jędrek. They something spoke into the microphone ad recorded two albums. Then Chinka came along with a keyboard, and finally, Marta, telling stories and something playing the accordion. The label calls the band “a nihilistic joke on the rotten reality that surrounds us” and says it’s “Noise noises, stoner riffs, apocalypse and psychedelia.” To ram the nihilistic message home, they say, “Even if we strive for extinction, let’s not take our lives too seriously.” It’s not easy to put this music in a category (the thing reviewers love to do), and the music has an improvised feeling but unmistakably also taps into the world of noise (without being all too harsh or wall-like). The musical element is never left behind by this quartet. With some of their darker beats and samples, you might think they are an EBM sort of band with whacked-out guitars. That’s one part of the music. There are also more reflective moments, crazy samples (KLF meet Kylie), demented pop music and much more. It’s a rather eclectic mix of music, and I wonder if it’s a bit too much anyway. You can’t pin this group to a single sound, which is probably significant and hard to define, but maybe it’s too much in the diversity department. Maybe creating chaos is their ultimate goal, and I’d say they succeeded very well, but something slightly more coherent would be more up my alley, if not only for pure listening pleasure (not wanting to work the volume button that much). (FdW)
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Up next is a dup recording of Samara Lubelski and Maria Bassett. Their first performance as a duo was in 2009, improvising musical scores to films by Michael Snow and Hollis Frampton at X-Initiative, Next Years Model series at DIA. Since their initial collaboration, Bassett and Lubelski have continued to draw from their like-minded approach to improvisational music; creating personal interplay with the environmental surroundings to expand on abstraction, chromatic noise, and long form drone. Both Bassett and Lubelski have extensive backgrounds in the East Coast /NYC sub-underground. Bassett has performed in experimental music projects for over twenty years including Un, GHQ, Hototogisu, Double Leopards and her solo project Zaïmph. Lubelski is best known as a solo artist with eight full-length releases, but she has also been involved in various art-music provocations, Hall of Fame, Tower Recordings, as a member of Thurston Moore’s band, and in her associations with the long-standing German collective Metabolismus. This is their fifth duo release. Amplified violin and electric guitar. Two tracks, aptly named for the concerts from which the recordings are made, with more than two years separating the two performances. The timbre of the violin is heard throughout but blends at some points pretty well with the electric guitar. Long washed-out sounds coupled with the frenetically bowed violin makes for a trance-inducing listening session. The second track has a more direct sound to it, in part because it’s a different venue than Rhizome, the latter being a house and the former a gallery with a huigh ceiling, thus creating a natural reverb. That doesn’t mean that the second track is less enveloping. There’s a more minimal quality to it. A kind of condensation of the first track. It’s also the shortest on with a bit over fifteen minutes. This is powerful drone music, with a menacing tone and amazing turns with each track. Around the 10 minute mark of the first piece there’s a short breathing pause, but then the brutal assault starts again. And I do mean assault. The textures shift over time, and the timbres of both instruments intertwine tone wise (same pitch) and make for an extraordinary listening experience. Seek this one out, it comes highly recommended. (MDS)
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CHLOË SOBEK & TIM BERNE – BURNING UP (CD by Relative Pitch Records)

Chamber improvised music of the highest order, quite literally as this was recorded in the house of Tim Berne in New York City. Tim Berne is a veteran of the improvised music, playing and recording with a myriad of musicians, including John Zorn, Julius Hemphill and Mark Dresser, but is only name dropped on these pages. Here he plays the alto saxophone. Chloë Sobek lives in Australia and plays the violone, a precursor of the double bass. And I could write about each track. Five of ‘em on this release, all completely improvised. I’ll keep it short : get this one. It’s exciting music and rewards repeated listening sessions. And it says something about the musical capabilities of both musicians : this was their first meeting. There’s a minimalistic approach to melodies and grooves. Sobek uses here instrument sometimes as a percussion instrument in an engaging and thoughtful way. Berne comes up with mostly tonal melodies and licks from all kinds of musical traditions. This comes highly recommended. And while you’re at it : take a deep delve into their respective discographies.
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WERKBUND – SKALPAFLOI (LP by Walter Ulbricht Schallfolien)

One mystery still holds, and that’s Werkbund. Ever since the release of the first LP, ‘Skagerrak’, in 1987, nobody knows who is behind this allegedly German group from Hamburg. In my days working for Staalplaat, there was an address from the group in New York (honest story), but no doubt a re-direct to the big North German city. There are a few famous musicians from Hamburg and one of them also says he’s not part of Werkbund, but maybe Felix Knoth/Kubin is? Since 1987, including this new one, there have been only nine records by Werkbund, all by Walter Ulbricht Schallfolien, the label once part of the Unterm Durchschnitt record shop, and known for their releases of Throbbing Grstle, SPK, Laibach, The Hafler Trio and Asmus Tietchens. The record boss here, Uli Rehberg, is behind Werkbund and some allies from the big experimental Hamburger scene. Rehberg also works as Ditterich von Euler-Donnersperg (more later) and someone who knows how to spin a story. There is always a maritime connection to the music; Hamburg has a large harbour.
The back cover shows us Ludwig von Reuter (1869-1943), a German admiral “who commanded the High Seas Fleet when it was interned at Scapa Flow in the north of Scotland at the end of World War I. On 21 June 1919, he ordered the scuttling of the German fleet in Scapa Flow to prevent the UK from seizing the ships”, thanks Wiki. The sound is very recognisable Werkbund. Reverb plays a significant role, suggesting a vast open space and a sub-aquatic feeling. I hadn’t had the pleasure of moving on a submarine, but from various movies I saw with submarines, I imagine they sound like this. Eerie sounds in big spaces. It was very ambient, but at the time, also quite unnerving. The music has much sparseness, not unlike Tietchens in recent years, but without his refinement. There is always some industrial texture to Werkbund’s music, locked inside a submarine or below the deck of a war vessel. At one point some voices are singing, like a soldier’s song – I might be wrong. One gets a very hermetically closed feeling from this music, and the title and cover provide not many clues. I may need to learn more about Germany’s war history. Or leave the mystery, very much like Werkbund’s membership, intact. As before, I love this music and everything that comes with it.
The LP by Ditterich von Euler-Donnersperg is not as recent, but it may provide some insight about Werbund, comparing how they work and his solo work. Spoiler alert: they are pretty different. As I wrote about Werkbund’s not always being the most refined sound, refinement is undoubtedly part of von Euler-Donnersperg’s music. Spoken word always plays a significant role in the music, and this time he uses voices from his various children because, as the title says, Wisdom from the child’s mouth always tells us the truth. This may remind you of Nocturnal Emissions ‘Mouth Of Babes’ LP, but the von Euler-Donnersperg kids are a bit older and tell the strangest stories with the weirdest logic. Not because daddy is a composer of weird music, but simply because this is what kids do; in my experience, once they get going, there is, sometimes, no stopping them. Rehberg’s children speak German, so there might be a barrier there, but if you don’t understand what they are about, it will become a more abstract radio play. I am reminded of Dominique Petitgand, his home recordings, and his kids speak French, so I don’t understand. There is a difference between von Euler-Donnersperg and Petitgand because the first uses much more music, and I understand these to be heavily processed sounds, maybe from the living room, kitchen and garden, going through all sorts of digital processes and reminding me of Roel Meelkop and Marc Behrens. There is more of a musical aspect here, and there isn’t much of that in the work of Petitgand, at least not to this extent. And not at all like the music of Werkbund, for that matter. I do understand a bit of German, and maybe it’s easier for me to enjoy this because of that, but I do like the overall musical radio drama aspect of the music, coupled with the refinement of the music and the innocent children’s voices, this is both intimate and powerful music. (FdW)
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FELIX HESS – FROGS (A Selection of Field Recordings) (LP by Dead Mind Records)

I don’t know where to start here. So many thoughts and emotions are going through my head, and I’m looking for the right way to start. I had never heard of Felix Hess before Frans told me he worked on a project restoring old recordings from someone. Those recordings were released as five releases (4 tapes and one vinyl) released between 1982 and 1991 by Felix Hess, entitled ‘Frogs’ 1 to 5. All those releases contain sounds of, yes, frogs (with maybe a toad impersonating a frog here and there). Don’t stop reading; give this a chance because you will not be disappointed here.
Those five releases contained field recordings from frogs from all over the world. Felix was intrigued by the sounds and the way of communication that was audible in the recordings. So, not only the sound but also the coherence of sounds. And with that, the difference between both ‘form’ and ‘function’ of the sounds frogs made. Imagine a man with a recorder recording frogs for almost all his life because, yes, with everything he released, there was only one recording unrelated to frogs. So it’s safe to say that Felix dedicated his life as an artist to these creatures, and the choice of 6 tracks totalling 45 minutes out of those five early releases reflects the reason why.
The complexity of sounds and the almost rhythm that develops in the chaos is exactly why I love listening to experimental music and harsh noise. I listen to turmoil and try to find the Lorentz attractors as I like calling them. The hidden LFO or modulation pattern gives the listener a bit of graspable coherence, layers of sounds added to the mix with their minimal or maximal impact in the sound panorama. And here, it’s all done by frogs in nature, as captured by Felix Hess in Mexico, Australia and Japan.
With his lifelong journey/research – sadly Felix passed away in 2022, aged 81 – he not only listened to frogs but, based on what I wrote earlier, he created devices which he named ‘sound-critters’. Here starts a whole different chapter on Felix’s life, being a physicist and how he incorporated his artistic views and knowledge into his field of work. There are a few good links online, and you’re invited to Google for Felix Hess’s Lecture because YouTube is your friend here.
Many thanks to Johnny van de Koolwijk (a.k.a. Zyrtax) from Dead Mind Records for releasing this album and everyone involved in creating it. And no, don’t look at this release being a testament or obituary; it’s a piece of art that travels beyond time. Because long after mankind is extinct, frogs will probably still roam the earth. (BW)
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For another review this week, I started with the words “I don’t know where to start here”, and well, for this release, it’s a bit different. The artists didn’t know where to start, so they chose the impossible task of “Counting Backwards from Infinity”, but where is infinity? Right, it’s non-existent. So, where do things start? And where does this release start? There’s a lot of metaphysical thinking to be done, and at that moment, you haven’t heard a single note yet. Because If you start at a non-existent point and take it from there, where do you end up? At zero? Or still at Infinity? Or is that a different infinity? Does infinity plus 1 exist? Does infinity minus 1 exist? Minus 2? Minus 3? Does this release exist? It’s so lovely to have a brain like mine … Always on the road …
In 2013, Sindre Bjerga and Fabio Orsi came to Nijmegen, where they had a BromBrom residency at Geluidswerkplaats Extrapool. On October 10th, they met up with Frans de Waard, who is from Nijmegen (and back then, curator of the Brombron project), and they worked on a few pieces. Well, those pieces, recorded 11 years ago, are now available to the public, and it’s this release through Attenuation Circuit. Three pieces (11, 12 and 21 minutes) ‘are simply’ titled “Infinity” minus the tracking number and as paradoxical to what is written before, here, Infinity minus 1 (or 2 or 3) does exist.
The title refers to the concept of this album, which has a lot to do with changing the perception of time. And drone / minimal noise mostly does that to me. When at a concert, closing your eyes, feeling like an eternity and realizing the set only took 20 minutes. Playing a CD with a 70-minute drone and thinking only half an hour has since pressing play … That’s the kind of time stretching I’m referring to. And no use denying it; I KNOW at least some of you feel the same. And if you don’t know what I’m talking about? Try listening to Eliane Radigue’s ‘Trilogie de la Mort’, but don’t do anything else while listening. No working, no reading, no smartphone close-by … Just deep-listening.
And this album, even though it’s a different style than the ultra-minimal drone, enables the same time shift. As well as a sound shift. The longer you listen, the more the sounds change, and you start the journey where you don’t know if you’re going forwards or backward. But that’s because infinity plus one and infinity minus one are both still infinity. And you’re still in a trance-like state on the couch, grabbing your head around the concept of infinity. (BW)
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EMERGE – MAZE (CDR by Attenuation Circuit)

Sascha Stadlmeier is behind the project Emerge and the Attenuation Circuit label, and “Maze” is a re-release from a 2018 cassette on the now defunct Required Rate of Return label. The release has two tracks from around 18 minutes with the title “Maze”, and even with over 200 releases and contributions, this is the very first full release I have heard from Emerge, except for a few tracks on samplers. There, I’ve said it. I hope I’m forgiven because the experimental scene is just too much to keep track of everything.
Sascha started recording his experiments around Y2K under Dependenz, after which he switched to his Emerge moniker. How he does things and how he works is unknown to me. And that’s part puzzling but also the fun thing at the same time. Take this release. As it says on the cover: Maze 1, Contributions by: elektrojudas, Niku Senpuki, Danijel Zambo, Prinzip Nemesis and Maze 2, contributions by: Deep, Prinzip Nemesis, Niku Senpuki. Sascha was given source material by the other artists to work from, and he created the Maze with these sounds. More artists are working this way, for example, +DOG+, who is always mentioning several artists, even though it’s a one-person project basically.
So where does “Maze” stand musically? It’s a minimal-noise drone with a maximum impact. It’s definitely very dark and ‘unheimlich’ like in the true meaning of that beautiful German word. It’s too massive to be used as the soundtrack for a Horror Movie, but – especially the first half of part 2 – would fit as a layer under a 30’s or 40’s disaster clip found footage from Even though there are a lot of contributors of sounds, Sasha manages to make a proper coherent story of everything, making the walk through the Maze not impossible but instead a well spend time of reflection and a bit of soul-searching. Because of the dynamics and open atmosphere, the first part is my favourite, but the second part emphasises the Maze theme. (BW)
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For Germany’s Aalfang Mit Pferdekopf (Eel Fishing With Horse Head), Mirko Uhlig’s musical project has been quiet. I don’t know when he decides to use that name and to what extent it differs from the music he creates under his name. I always found Aalfang Mit Pferdekopf, a band name like Hirsche Nichts Auf Sofa, that German absurdist/dadaist/surrealist feeling. I am sure I haven’t heard all the output by Uhlig, but from what I heard, I indeed liked it. Drones play a massive role in music, but not exclusively. There is room for rhythms (via loops or machines, I don’t know), field recordings and voices. There is plenty of the latter, which gives the music a radiophonic character. Most of the time, these texts are in German, so there is a barrier there, but it also adds to the mystery of the music.
In recent times, Uhlig added a few works to his Bandcamp, and this CDR contains two pieces from recent releases, two previously unreleased pieces and a previously unreleased mix of an otherwise available piece. Despite the extensive use of drones, Uhlig applies collage-like techniques in his compositions, primarily through long crossfades but sometimes through a hard cut. The surrealist path he walks reminds me from time to time of Nurse With Wound, maybe of ‘Spiral Insana’. Perhaps not as complex, but certainly, the way he chooses his cuts adds something peculiar to the mix, such as pop music (acoustic guitars, people singing – very hippie-style), in ‘Dinge Auf Der Schwelle’, which adds a very alien feeling to the music (that is, of course, if you don’t think that all his music is alien and this is actual music because it refers to your traditional approach to music). In ‘Schwinge Auf Der Delle’, the use of rhythm prevails via some heavy-duty rock drums; there are also some scratchy rock guitars in this piece, further enhancing the idea of taking cues from Nurse With Wound and HNAS. But that doesn’t mean Aalfang Mit Pferdekopf is a pure copycat; Uhlig does a great job here and has his unique musical storytelling. Drones may form the backbone of the music, but by adding all of the weird surprises, this is an incredible journey. It’s time I delved into the recent history of this musical and see what else I missed. (FdW)
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VARIOUS – R|E (2024) (CDR by Attenuation Circuit)

From 2016 to 2021, Attenuation Circuit organized a festival in their hometown, Augsburg, and a CD compilation release accompanied each festival. The concept was to have people work together and create a track and, at the festival, do a performance together. I have never been there, but it sounds like a friendly get-together and a socializing event. The name of these festivals was “r|e” so we now have a link on what to expect here: Duo’s or – in this case – threesomes creating music together when they had never worked together. I would question whether this was done with papers in a hat and a grab or if the combinations were carefully chosen. Because the first would add to the originality, the second would somehow guide or predict the outcome. “r|e” has five tracks, four of which are around the 12-minute mark, and one smuggles in an extra 4 minutes. The website states: File under sound art and ambient so let’s listen to see if it fits.
The first track is a collaboration by fourthousandblackbirds, Chelidon Frame and Terbeschikkingstelling entitled “Non au dégriffage, Atarassia, Bombardonmentsouplesse”. I don’t know if it’s meant to be some triptych, but there are three distinct parts, like an exquisite corpse track. I said that this is I.m.o. the best part of the CD. Even though the unity may not be what it was meant to be, the three parts form a solid piece with a continuous atmosphere.
Track two is a layer of heavily FX-ed field recordings alongside an occasional jazzy rhythm with a wind instrument improvising in the background. And if you read more of my reviews over the past years, you know how fond I am of wind instruments and jazz 😉 Track three sounds like it’s based on the sounds of woodblocks, delay and reverb in combination with jungle sounds and a toy instrument. And even though the track is spacious, it’s all too incoherent for my taste to become interesting. The fourth track is sadly the same, it sounds ok at the beginning, but it never really evolves into a stable composition. I have no doubt whatsoever that if the artists would work together a few times more something gorgeous would be created, but at this moment – because it’s all a matter of taste – it’s just not there.
The final track is by the only duo: Wilfried Hanrath & Jacob Audrey Taves. “20th Century Throw-Up” experiments with beats, noise and general weirdness. Here, too, the track is at moments incoherent, but with this sound palette, the incoherence adds to the atmosphere of the track. It’s a weird release if listened to at once. It may need a festival to work, with a little break in between and a couple of beers. (BW)
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The musical polyglot Richard Youngs is always there where we least expect him to be unless you have no expectations and you assume to be surprised. His work is all over the musical spectrum, and for his work with Howard Stelzer, no doubt carried out through email/file exchange, he’s in a corner where I like him best. As much as I love his diverse approach to music, I have favourites and some that interest me less. I greatly enjoy Young’s experimental approach to sound, using acoustic objects, loops and primitive organ sounds. To match up with cassette manipulator Howard Stelzer is a good thing; perhaps something that was already in the stars but finally happened. They recorded three pieces, one of three minutes and two being 14 and 18, so the short one is an interlude between the longer ones. This release is one of those things one no longer has any clue who did what, which is not to say that both musicians are interchangeable; instead, they have an excellent blend of their interests. There is the rattling of a rhythm machine in the title piece, a layered mass of chaotic tones, and the shaking of maracas. Slowly, the piece morphs into something quieter, and now individual tones play an essential role, lifted from the busy opening sequence. The interlude, ‘Weightless Freight,’ is a piece of single drone sounds, bridging the two long pieces via a dark passage. In ‘The Nylon Antennae, ‘ I believe to hear Stelzer’s manipulated field recordings, to which slowly organ sounds and guitar are added, and towards the end, maybe even voice. I am unsure of the latter, but it could be. There is some powerful music on this disc. Massively layered, dark atmospheres are a perfect showcase for musicians and their versatile approach to music. (FdW)
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Regrettably, we receive much music from the world of improvised music, contemporary music, free jazz, and free improvisation, which, and I know I write these words every week, I feel is not why I started Vital Weekly and not where my expertise lies. Here are five further proofs from a label called Sawyer Editions, “a contemporary classical music” label. Don’t expect a well-informed review; we are not a contemporary classical music review journal.
Sarah Hennies was the only name of two I recognised, but it’s been a while since I last heard her music, which I believed was something she performed solo on percussion. On her ‘Bodies Of Water’ disc, we find two pieces. ‘Lake is for Duo Refracto (piano and drums and Ilana Waniuk on violin, and the other is ‘Abscission’, performed by the Arcane New Music Ensemble (consisting of violin, cello and guitar). As I remember from her solo work, Hennies is interested in minimal music, which is also shown in these two works. Not the traditional variation (Reich, Glass), but explorations of similar tones, going out of phase (well, a bit of Reich then, anyway). Sustained strummings and bowing, along with minimalist repeating percussion in ‘Lake’, like the irregular dripping of water. In ‘Abscission’, the same kind of minimalism is used, steady and ‘dry’ tones, next to sustaining bowing passages. Despite this being a trio of string instruments, the music has a rather percussive feel on these pieces, very tranquil most of the time and almost meditative-like.
The second release contains three compositions by Eden Lonsdale, also acting as a performer on the cello and electornics. Red Panel (or red panel) performs one, a duo of Cara Dawson on lever harp and Patrick Hegarty on percussion; Dawson also plays on the other two pieces, and Hegarty on one. Two pieces also include Forrest Moody on harmonium. All of these are new names for me. There are more minimal approaches here, but without any of the percussive elements used by Hennies. The music here is all about sustain and long-form sounds. The opening piece, ‘Falling Asleep On An Airplane’, is the only one where the composer uses electronics, which I immensely enjoyed. Whatever he does, the music gets spookier, lifting it up from earth and adding an airy touch. In the title piece, the music slowly works towards an almost noisy crescendo with an orchestral feeling. The last one is the most extended piece, ‘Cycles/Emptiness’, and here the harp plays a cycle, rests and plays another one, while the cello and the harmonium play drone-like music, but on the threshold of hearing; I assume this is where we have to think of emptiness; it never becomes all too empty it seems. Here, too, there is that mild orchestral feeling to the music.
Paolo Griffin also has three compositions on his release, which, at close to 79 minutes, is the longest release. His pieces are also quite diverse. The first is for alto saxophone and electronics, the second for violin and percussion (performed by Duo Holz) and the last for countertenor and electronics. Maybe Griffin wanted the variation because this is his debut album. The electronics going along with the alto saxophone are mainly loop devices, as the piece quickly amasses a few different lines of shorter and longer saxophone sounds. Even when the instrument goes from attack to beyond its decay, thus interrupting the flow of the sounds, there is that Niblock-like minimalism in the piece, but gentler perhaps. The duo piece is called ‘Alone, Together’, providing an insight into how this piece works; sometimes we hear either instrument solo or together. The music has a mild reverb, reminding me of Arvo Pärt or, perhaps, ECM records (of which I heard only very few), so there is an atmospherical quality to the music, maybe even a bit of religious aspect, even when I am not sure why I think this. The third piece was recorded in a church in Finland and lists one performer, so judging the choir-like quality of the music, I would think David Hckston also uses loop devices. More minimalism, more Niblock-like inspired music, and yet also of an interesting different variety than Niblock. All three pieces don’t work towards something; there is no mighty crescendo, no crashing end, but each piece drifts endlessly through space without beginning or end, at least no obvious ones.
We find five chamber music pieces on Georga Denham’s ‘With Love’ disc, the shortest of the lot. These pieces are for a variation of violins, viola, cello and piano, and she recorded these pieces with friends during her studies in Birmingham, The Hague and Cambridge; oddly, in very few of the compositions, the composers double as performers on these releases. There is more quiet music here, more reflective playing. I found these five pieces similar, perhaps to the extent that I thought these were interchangeable or five variations or parts of the same composition. Not bad, but I have a hard time keeping my attention on this one.
Music by Ryan Seward was reviewed in Vital Weekly 1438, but none was as a solo artist. On ‘Weathering’, he plays the reed organ, or, instead, a “decrepit reed organ found in a woodpile”. Seward fixed the machine but left the reeds tuned as they were. Now, with this release, we enter Vital Weekly land. It’s acoustic, sure, but it’s also drone music, and that’s what we like at Vital Weekly. Lengthy minimal stabs at the organ, and improvised as it may seem, the loud and brash sounds work wonders. Not that is what this is all about, far from it. Seward plays around with the dynamics a lot. A large portion of ‘Weathering (2)’ is tranquil and uses silence as an additional instrument. There is a significant variation in his approaches and a lovely approach to the whole notion of improvisation/composition here, being a bit of both, I guess, and with the acoustic instrument being at times so piercingly penetrating, present is a great thing. The release lasts 58 minutes, and while the musical content is heavy, it’s not a burden. I’d be happy to hear more if Swayer has more along these lines. (FdW)
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