Number 736

Its been almost nine years since I last reviewed something by Anemone Tube (see Vital Weekly 281). There has been the odd contribution to a compilation, but otherwise things have been silent for all those years. Now on Belgium’s Silken Tofu there is a limited CD (300 copies) or if you are fast a CD and DVD (200 copies). Like before Anemone Tube dabbles in the world of noise. The title and the package may suggest a more ambient direction, but that’s not the case. Its hard to say what the input is (guitars perhaps? synthesizers? Might also be the case), save for some taped radio sounds. There is a sufficient amount of reverb applied to the music, perhaps a little too much. The five pieces, spanning just under 24 minutes, are a vibrant wall of sound.
The DVD has a fifteen minute film by Gustavo de Lacerda and it was made in Rotterdam, where Anemone Tube also lives (from time to time). The sound consists solely of field recordings made in Nanjing and Shanghai. Now this is the type of field recordings which you don’t get a lot. The microphone is used to capture the most heavy sounds available. Rusty wheels on iron rails type of noise, closely miked ventilation shafts and such like. It fits the noise based approach of the CD release, but it comes less the reverb. Quite some powerful music I’d say. The image side is something I don’t understand very much. Vague images, maybe reflections of reflections, as soon through a mirror. It might as easily had an ambient soundtrack, me thinks. Its not bad actually, but somehow don’t seem to fit very much. Either side has its own quality though. (FdW)

Chromatic Mysteries is a collection of soundtracks of moviemaker Arthur Cantrill from Australia. It is a overview of tracks from 1963 till now. Arthur Cantrill has been making movies with his partner Corinne for more than 50 years. The CD is released with a 16 page booklet with a lot of information about the music of Arthur Cantrill. Arthur Cantrill himself writes about how he creates his music and his development into music. He uses fieldrecordings, voice, radio, music instruments and tape recorders to compose his beautiful music. This CD is really a feast for the ears. The sounds are pure, not dated in a specific period and varied. Lots of his compositions are filled with the sound of birds and other nature sounds. Other compositions are made by radiosounds, piano and a female singing voice. Most of the sounds are generated by equalizers, computer, tape-recorders, playing with speed and playback. I can spend a lot of words to this release, but I will not do it, because every word is too much. Chromatic Mysteries is highly recommended and one of the best CDs of this year so far. (JKH)

CRANC – COPPER FIELDS (CD by Organized Music From Thessaloniki/Absurd)
The previous CD by Cranc was called ‘All Angels’ and released by Edo in 1999. We didn’t review that CD. Cranc is a trio of Angharad Davies on violin, Rhodri Davies on electric harp and Nikos Veliotis on cello. They don’t perform very frequently (hey, second CD after eleven years is pretty infrequent indeed) but stay always in touch. In 2008 they were guests of Q02 in Brussels, where they recorded this work. No doubt all generated through improvisation, but then in multiple sessions and using a variety of multi track recording, so that there was a lot to mix down in the final process. With the background and instruments of these three in mind, its hardly a surprise that they operate from the improvised drone background. Long sustained notes played with various bows and e-bows, ranging from the delicate softness to the more present loudness (although never ‘noise’ based). Its hardly a surprise this release, these finely woven patterns, in terms of ‘drone’ and ‘improvised’ music, but that is hardly the point of this release, I guess. I don’t think Cranc set out to create something that has been tagged as Avant-garde, but rather set out to play something that is beautiful, to transport the listener to another place and an altered state. In that respect they have succeeded pretty well. This is an absolute great disc of atmospheric music, that for once doesn’t seem to stem from an electric or electronic source, nor a field recording, but from acoustic sources. That at least is also great. A work in four quite distinct parts, each with its own specific character, each with its own captivating beauty. (FdW)

D_RRADIO – PARTS (CD by Distraction Records)
So far I have been a keen listener to the work of a trio from South Shields called D_rradio (which I now learn should be pronounced as ‘dee-arr-radio’). Especially the early rhythm based 7″ were highly appealing. Since then a lot of water has passed under the bridge and D-rradio have expanded their music quite a bit, which is a great thing. I doubt wether a novice would think, upon hearing ‘Parts’, this would be the same band as say their first 7″ (see Vital Weekly 510). This new album is a work of ambient music, which starts out as a work about mellow synthesizers and such like and one could easily think ‘oh well, nice, mmmm, yeah… its the kind of thing I heard before, but definetly a nice one’, but as the album progresses, it becomes strangely more and more neo classical. Long stretched bows on violins, endless sustain, a bit of soft pizzicato and that sort of thing alike. It becomes like listening to an old 78rpm record, but then without the crackles and hisses and a bit slowed down. Ballroom music but without any elements of whatever dance music. Music that is highly cinematic, atmospheric and simply great. This has nothing to do with the old D-rradio, no bouncing rhythm, no intelligent dance music, but lush long string quartet like music, divided over no less than nineteen miniature tracks, making the entire album just over thirty-five minutes. Great late night music. (FdW)

JOY AS A TOY – VALPARAISO (CD by Cheap Satanism)
So far this has been a quiet week from a reviewer’s perspective, which leaves me enough time to think about Joy As A Toy. Maybe in more busy times, I would have put this too easily aside as unVital music. A trio of Gilles Mortio, Clement Nourry and Jean-Philippe de Gheest from Brussels, and they have guitars, bass, vocals and drums and receive some help from pianist and vibraphone player. Its a CD that I played with some interest, but perhaps also because I don’t get it. This is a kind of music that is perhaps too far away from what I what I like, in popmusic. Joy As A Toy call their music ‘vampire rock’ and ‘tennis pop’, but translated to the more common terms of music, its psychedelic music, with large portions of improvised rock in a strong mathematical way. In a way, then, perhaps more rock than is usual in Vital Weekly, but on the other hand music also not far away from Vital Weekly. With one leg in the world of popmusic, and one shifting towards improvisation, but in a heavy rock like way, this is indeed music that will make heads burn: what is it about? Joy As A Toy is a band to watch live I thought. See what they do on the stage and how their sound can stand that test. If they are around, I’m surely heading out to watch. (FdW)

Elsewhere I write about David Wells and how it took him a long time to come up with a new work. In that list of the UK drone minds one name is missing, Keith Berry, and perhaps its because, alike Wells, he hasn’t released much lately. He too makes up this omission with the release of a picture disc on Elevator Bath, which grows into a nice series of releases by now. As said Berry is also on one of the UK drone heads, but unlike his many peers, he doesn’t opt for a single track per side, but one side has two tracks and one has three. Its hard to say what the input is for these compositions, which is the usual case with drone music I guess, but my best guess is that Berry uses some kind of heavily processed field recordings to tell his five stories. Unfortunately there is not much difference between those pieces, so perhaps we should regard them as different parts of the same piece. Each of the five pieces is a strong monolithic block of sound, with very little to no movement. The perfect guide to absolute drone music. Majestic, slow, humming, atmospheric. And nothing much new under in that area, sadly to some. Perfect late night music.
The other record is by Matt Shoemaker, who seems to be always present, with his regular releases on labels as Ferns and The Helen Scarsdale Agency. His work recently shifted a bit more towards that of working with field recordings, but on this LP it all seems to be electronic again. I have no idea wether these are the result computers working overtime or meters and meters of cable connecting one synthesizer to another, and once connected start playing themselves, almost, as it were. Shoemaker layers the results of whatever process he applies on a multitude of tracks and does some highly creative mixing with those sounds. Highy atmospheric (obviously! I’d say) of course, but Shoemaker’s work is also a bit more experimental than the usual drone minds (UK, USA, otherwise). Shoemaker knows how to put in a strange angle in his work, that makes it just a bit different than the ordinary drone record. Partly based in the seventies cosmic tradition, partly drone and partly serious avant-garde, but with a long, stretched time signature. Great record. (FdW)

DAVID WELLS – ROJO (CDR by Siridisc)
It has been quiet for David Wells for some time. The last time we reviewed something was back in Vital Weekly 503. I have no idea what caused this silence. I guess sometimes that’s the way these things go. Maybe he lost interest in music? But apparently not, as here is a new work, which says on the cover ‘all materials march 2008-2010. No instruments are mentioned on the cover, but a save bet would be to say these are all guitar sounds, and lots of electronics. Like before, Wells comes from the same background as Paul Bradley and is part of that great UK scene of drone composers (Jonathan Coleclough, Colin Potter, Ora, Mirror, Paul Bradley, Ian Holloway and such like), but unfortunately, also like before, the music hasn’t changed much of this period of silence. That is a pity. Like I wrote last week about Alan Licht and Loren Connors, there are two ways to approach this. Either, the objective reviewer could say, ‘I like it a lot, but I heard the genre is too well explored by now’, or simply ‘I like that a lot’. Again, also like last week, I must say the subjective of this listener goes out to the latter. I simply quite enjoy drone music like this. These thirty eight minutes have a great captivating beauty. Its as simple as that. If you can’t get enough of drone music, then the return of David Wells deserves some applause. (FdW)

The name Rod Cooper, from Australia, sounds like a new one to me. He writes as a press text on the label’s website: “The landscape is not a new theme in the arts and music is no exception. No matter what themes an artist uses to draw attention to their work and ideas to the audience, the dominant message is still about the artist.” I gather from this that he is someone to work with field recordings and that, perhaps, his music should tell something about himself. There are sounds here recorded in an empty factory shell, his back yard, workshop and studios, his beach house (a well to-do person, I thought) and his approach to sounds is like that of a sculptor, using styrofoam which acts like a resonator. The music he generates from his objects and situations (which are all described with great detail on the cover of the release, and a a business card CDR provides you with some images) is actually nice, since it hardly sounds like the usual field recording artist. There are lots of looped phrases, industrial and mechanical sounds. Hardly the sort of ‘careful’ playing of a bunch of rain sounds, or watching the sea wash ashore. Cooper does something else, which leaves more for the listener to imagine. The rumbling of objects, falling to the surface of an empty building, with a strange background noise of other activities happening somewhere in the back of a large empty hall. Cooper seems to be combining the sound of sculptors he made and plays manually with the sound and resonances of large buildings and outdoor spaces (chirping insect backgrounds). Quite an excellent release this one. Lots of imaginative music, making something very much of his own, but also standing in a long term tradition of visual artists making music. Cooper does a refined job and sounds a like a name to watch out for in the future. (FdW)

TRIO WPB3 – POVERB (CDR by Herbal International)
The 3 in Trio WPB3 stands for the fact that this is a trio, but then so does the word trio, so, a bit too much? The Trio WPB3 is Mathias Pontevia on horizontal drums, Nusch Werchowska on piano and objects and Heddy Boubaker on alto and bass saxophones. The world of improvisation as recorded on November 21 2008 in the Christianskirche Church, Hambourg [sic]. This concert, in two parts (one being the encore, perhaps?), is a lengthy affair of slowly changing sounds. The instruments aren’t always easily to be recognized, although at other times they are. The horizontal drums perhaps the best, occasionally the piano, whereas the saxophone with its lengthy and sustained tones is perhaps the most ‘difficult’ one to recognize as such. Trio WPB3 move from the quiet moments to the very loud notions and makes some very intense listening music, which requires full concentration from the listener, before it unfolds its beauty. But when you decide to open up for this music, you won’t be disappointed. Very intense music, beautifully recorded. (FdW)

SMALL CRUEL PARTY – LALA (cassette by Incubator)
As noted a few weeks ago, the Incubator is back on track as a label and mainly as a cassette label. There is a whole bunch of old music from the earlier version of the label waiting to be released. Here for instance 1990 tapes recorded by Small Cruel Party, the long disappeared project of (now) cook Key Ransone. In the late 80s and early 90s Small Cruel Party was one of the more interesting musicians playing around with a highly personal version of improvisation, electronics, and even a bit of noise music. Private sound poetry, but then without words, usually with a great, strong visual esthetic. A sort of esthetic we also find on this new package. Handwritten and not always giving the right clues as to who and what. So, I think, this is a Small Cruel Party tape, recorded in 1990, using voice, effects, and electronics. One side is called ‘Lala’ and has seven pieces, where as the other side is called ‘Ka Jengbarsi Wolinje’ and has four tracks. It bears also the mysterious ‘from Retching Wretch’, but what it means?). I haven’t heard any music from Small Cruel Party in quite some time, but its all coming back to me. The minimalist music of Small Cruel Party is from the out-sight an affair of simple tape-loops of voice and electronics, woven together in a great simple yet hallucinative way, maybe even in a ritualistic way. Ransone sets a few sounds in motion and over the course of the pieces (which are ideally somewhere between four and twenty-three minutes), they grow in complexity, like living, growing organism. These days it would be hard to say wether this is ambient music, or a very soft variation of industrial music, or music concrete, but whatever you choose to call it (and I refuse to call it anything), this is still some great captivating music. Its a long tape, clocking at some ninety-five minutes, which is best played at a low volume and preferable on repeat all night. Time to dig out his old releases and have a re-listen session soon, in those quiet summer days. (FdW)
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ZEBRA MU – ODD-TOED UNGULATE SUPERORDER (cassette by Crumbling Peak Records)
Normally I would leave such noise odds to the capable and mysterious hands of Jliat, but there is something captivating about this. First of all, its very short. Three tracks that span about ten minutes. Zebra Mu (not to be confused with the other Zebra reviewed recently here) is Michael Ridge on circuit bed and custom electronics, pedals and junk metal. The whole thing was recorded on a Tascam 4-track PortaStudio and Sony TCM 150 cassette recorder. The cover is a plain xerox on red paper. Now if that doesn’t sound 80s to you, I am lost. The music is also very 80s noise inspired. Low fidelity, brutal noise, acoustic sounds blown up to the top and brutal in your face. But as said, this is short, and therefore to the point. That’s what I thought was particular attractive about this release. If it would have been longer, say over thirty minutes, a lot of its power would be lost. (FdW)