Freeform :: Condensed (CD on Nonplace)
Freeform (Simon Pyke) continuously evolves its sound base. From its former funkier roots this has resonance and at times delivers purely ambient washes. This time around his work is given treatments by Burnt Friedman on the Nonplace imprint. These pieces have lift, kick and aura. A batch of quirky, jerky percussion and other assorted sounds blend with a certain Nintendo sensibility. Though this is not strictly the gaming sounds from beyond, Pyke has created an alternate space for introspection and cursory dalliance. His antics on “Phu Qouc” and throughout allot for eastern Asian influences with West Coast edges. This is great music to download for long walks on alien terrain. In what could seemingly be the decoding of language, the balance of lingual vs. beat is not forgotten. Freeform has planted a fine (and unearthly) seed.
Instruction Shuttle :: Open Sad Circuit (CD on Zenapolae)
Philly-based Instruction Shuttle (Todd Christopher) creates waves of sound information interpolated and bred in silencing tanks. This is a haunting experimental record. Open Sad Circuit has hints of Biosphere’s melodies and Lustmord’s dark chamber of secrets. Here, 13 individual tracks are layed out in a pattern. While this could have easily been one long mix, the production lends something to the individual segments. Titles like “Kevlar Family Album” and “Dustbunny” add a welcome sense of humor to an otherwise heady repertoire. Christopher creates a dilute world of watery mechanizations that veer and stray. This is not pop music, this is surreal surround sound for sophomores. The overall strength of this disc is that it just keeps spinning, testing noise language in leisurely paced movements.
Jan Jelinek avec The Exposures :: La Nouvelle Pauvreté (CD on ~Scape)
“Music to Interrogate By” is a finely tuned static tap dance, self-assured by its lyrical ambi-funk. La Nouvelle Pauvreté is a rich blend of so many things that make micro-electronic sound so sensual and approachable. Less glitchy and mellow, more upbeat yet subdued. “Facelift” is Jelinek’s prescription for patient alien bodies everywhere. Its airy, amorphous voices are vocoder-based entities stop-starting and cryptic. This is a wholly digital experience leading into a track illustratively titled “There Are Other Worlds (they have not told you of)”. Here Jelinek uses a humming male wordless vocal with a hint of Big Ben accompanied by a delicious distortion. Adding frilly melodramatics and a funky wit on “If’s, And’s and But’s,” the ear is treated to a stippled treat. One of the best yet from Monsieur Jelinek’s growing oeuvre.
- Scape Music
Moonbuggy :: Planet Lupo (CD on Doxa)
Dresden-based Doxa Records’ latest testament to “slacker electronics” is a psychedelic treasure hunt. Moonbuggy are a duo who use funky street beats, silly bloated horns and peculiar reverb. This is up-up-up music. Fun for the whole family! Though these guys know how to pace themselves – it is not all about jumping on to the dance floor to flail freakishly – they seem highly concerned about giving up few secrets while maintaining a quality buzz. This is present on “Dubby”, which functions like a crawling toddler toy, highlighted by its sensitivity to meter and time. There is an overriding jazz-based sensibility on “Wiesel”, with its Astrud Gilberto era lounge instrumentation. Still there are hints of Bauhausian complexity in the mix. “Rolla” is a cartoon’ish hyper play with dazzling squeaks and turns. My favorite track herein is undoubtedly the low-fi, funkified “Rodrow 7.1″. Planet Lupo has me dancing in my office chair to its off-center electro-pop melodies and accents of candy colored analogue synths. “Moonbuggy” (Karsten Genz and Mario Mensch) will travel far in this distant terrain.
Sten Hanson :: Text-Sound (Gems & Trinkets) (CD on Firework Editions)
These verbal slices of life range from Hanson’s trek from mid 60′s basement recordings to Y2K music festivals. Swede Sten Hanson was born in Klövsjö in 1936 and has been making art and sound since the early 60′s. While weaving sampled conversation and poetics Gems & Trinkets is about moments, glances, gestures…as Cartier Bresson attempted to capture the “perfect moment” as does Hanson in these short clips – though his approach has a less matter of fact outcome. At 73 minutes this 25 track disc is a welcomed addition to anyone’s collection of phonetics and to the larger world sound library.
These are excerpts from a much larger body of work, a retrospective of hints and traces – documentary proof of an experimental take on life. By using the spoken word as instrument, through repetition, layering voice on voice, and many other cleverly disguised techniques, Hanson emphasizes micro-tonality at every opportunity. He uses the voice of Che Guevara in a riveing short chant to his namesake, a commentary on his murder in 1967. “La Destruction de Votre Code Genetique par Drogues,” “Toxins et Irradiation” plays on lots of oral/lingual gymnastics and contractions thereof. This track, originally a painstakingly analogue tape splice piece dating back to 1969 was given a digital makeover in this version from 2001. One of Hanson’s 1983 ‘shamanistic’ performance pieces, “The New York Lament”, sounds like a tribe of pygmies learning the language of the new world, its sounds like a collection of curious critters and was originally performed in Vienna. “That Jackson is My Favorite Poet” is a phonetic play on line verse, repeating each word in different order over and over as an homage to Jackson McLow for his 75th birthday in 1977. I just love “Pronto, Pronto” with its flippant lip service and Chihuahua-like male voice fading from gruff to cheery in seconds.
Firework Editions does its very best to help chronicle this unique collection, and like, say, Jaap Blonk, there is no real pomp, but plenty of circumstance.
- Firework Editions
Meanest Man Contest :: Merit (CD on Plug Research)
Hmmmm. This isn’t at all the sorta…well…what is happening here? Hybrid rhythms and funky beats ‘tween maybe something you might come to expect from say, DJ Spooky crossed with the wires of Constellation Records and a lil’ jazzy hip-hop as the cherry on top. That’s Meanest Man Contest for ya. This concoction of bloated beats and awkward street smarts has enough guts to keep this reviewer stalled for a while. With so much of this contemporary penchant for genre -bending so splintered, it is no wonder this player takes on hooks from far and wide – I even heard some Siouxie and the Banshees in there – is that possible? I think producer Quarterbar is just playing with me. “I Have Changed My Plans” stands out by sampling dope nerdy voices with clever slacker syncopation and a truly sweet pop riff. Pack the plastic dinnerware and take this one out for a ride in the convertible (or perhaps even elevator sex). It has the subtle disjointed quality, life on the urban range never sounded like “Knock Knock”, rustlin’ up some low-fi grooves. Who’s this Eriksolo making an appearance on “The Most Intrusive Places”, dissing commerce (hey, a like-minded rapper – who knew?). The whole lot closes its doors with a lofty and introspective piece called “So Glad” which tempers the whole lot and makes it quite a neat little package. This might not be for diehards of any of the aforementioned lifestyle music categories – but it is worth a detour because it takes some chances.
- Plug Research
Duul_drv / Nibo / Vend :: Clean (CD by Line/12K)
Line is 12K’s even quieter imprint which releases microsounds that are, well, sort of the Ellsworth Kelly’s of the sound world we now live in. Clean is comprised of three parts by artists from different countries. First up are three tracks from duul_drv (S. Arden Hill) from Canada which have a spare, luminosity – almost unnoticeable, in moments by the naked ear. There is a crisp and washed out blend of white noise and found sound about these pieces. At once biomorphic Hill grows these incidental tones into extensions of a smaller, earthier, subatomic space. Tokyo’s Nibo is an audio-visual installation artist who has created three tracks that have a bare sine wave and distant pulsation. This 25 year old artist has been known to collaborate rightly with Carsten Nicolai. “Clean 3″ is evidence of life in distant uni-spheres, though it is only trace evidence. Cleverly this finite recording ducks and hides from the headphoned ear, only to evasively peek to be acknowledged. Barely audible and certainly to be relished by those turned on by other releases by Bernard Gunter and like composers. The third artist showcased here is the UK duo known as Vend (Alex Peverett and Joe Gilmore). “Squat”, fissure-sized sounds so faint you will be hellbent on anticipating each peak. I am breathing in light and breathing out frequencies. I become physically involved by Clean‘s sheer pitch and other headphonics. Staying true to their overview of contemporary minimal music, 12K makes an impeccable connection between these three artists, in a world the size of a pinhead.
Pulseprogramming :: Tulsa for One Second (CD on Aesthetics)
Hush now. Joel Kriske and Marc Hellner started Pulseprogramming, a collective of sound and visual artists, in Portland, OR and relocated to Chicago where they added filmmakers, artists and poets. In ways they may fill the vacancy left behind by formerly like-minded Icelandians gusgus. On Tulsa for One Second we are treated to a dreamlike surrealism of sweet voice and the pure intermix of digital and analogue. This disc is a blend of pleasing harmonics and good intuition. Like a beautiful, sensuous light, this recording envelops your senses and has just the right level of mysterious chemistry. “Laregely Long-Distance Loves” is a track to play all night long to incite sound dreams, it has the feeling of a primetime commercial in the spirit of Dirty Vegas or Moby, without the stadium tour or beer spillage. Light pulsations, chromatic, shiny and driven. At times I feel like I am listening to an updated, sedated Orchestral Maneuvers in the Dark.
Tu m’ :: Pop Involved (CD on Fallt/Ferric)
Italian sound artists Tu m’ are up to something. Something quite clever indeed. This full-length disc incorporates 14 tracks, all quite plotted and somehow free sounding. These somewhat prolific artists have been known to dabble in single sound sources like glass, though here they take their blend of microelectronics to a much layered place, sounds of comic industry, airy blips and incidental beats. This release just plain floats and drifts at times and then uses a series of complex manipulated filters and gadgets to create unique atmospheres that do not rip off other like-minded artists – this is a dedicated new voice on the horizon. There is a wise blend of trad-Japanese strings that get channeled into the glitch in a ‘look mom no hands’ way. Sounds like a harmonium in an opium den. There are some fleeting circus antics and other alternate effects and maybe even some artificial intelligence. This is evolved sound for the post Logan’s Run generation, like the way we once envisioned things that became, say, the microwave oven, the G4Cube or even the Segue. The whirring zip of choppy resonant bursts pave the way for a brighter patterned repetitive mix. The closing track, with its dizzying Steve Reich-like delay/repeat, leaves the listener wondering about a sequel.
Fallt is building a curio cabinet of curated sound, a finer selection for those with advanced aural taste in those things which are minute and sculpted, finite and organic, digital and informed. Pop Involved is one of those rare limited edition releases that is a must for any fan of Daniel Menche to Goem to Zoviet France to Kim Cascone.
Various Artists :: Nowe:le (CD on Vivo Records)
The tag line on the back of this disc reads “the psyhedelica ambience to the coldness of computers into ethnical ex-perimetronics via the Texan desert”. On this compilation Poland’s Vivo Records brings together artists from Japan, the US and Poland in what sounds like a pretty promising set to base other like collections in the future. Opening with Maciek Szymczuk’s track “Uruk,” the listener is immediately bathed in a vibration of quiet, sensitive harmony with just the right amount of hiss and crackle. Japanese soundsters Filmfilter and Atsuo Kumagai offer their unpredictable “Nonstopfilm” which sounds like a muted, contorted remix of Squarepusher, with some aural two-stepping The beat is, the beat is, the beat is furious and flavorful. At about midpoint the track shifts to include moan and groan grinding and tinkly bells and offbeat meandering. Let’s do the time warp again. The first of three tracks by US-based Yume is “Born In Spring” which is a very, very quiet lullaby, almost an aphorism. Their track “C4″ is a haunted, winding soundtrack to perhaps a lost forest. It crawls and creeps with the subtle essence of a music box in the background. This could have been sound editing scrapped from the Blair Witch Project, it has an assumed horror. Poland’s Zenial / Palsecam vs. Maciek Szymczuk offer “There’s No Way”, in the class of those on imprints such as ~scape, Mille Plateaux and Raster-Noton. It’s uplifting presence is warm and glowing and filled with all sorts of microsoundscapes. Phasmid offers two tracks here.. “Mehr Licht” is a slow boiling ambient wash meets sleepy lounge beat rhythm. The collection also includes warped tracks by Shapethrower and Alphabet1.
Kk Null :: Erg Per Galaxy (CD by Opposite Records)
Suffern NY’s Opposite Records has released the latest from the ever-morphing world of Kazuyuki K. Null. Recorded between 2001-02 this ten-track is like spacetime continuum. Breaking sound barriers, traveling at light speed, you name it. This is a filtering stretch of contained and somehow harmonious white noise. The metallic tones have screechy blurred edges but sound like some prototype for a future flotation technology. This is science fiction. This is Pink Floyd and Dr. Who meeting in the Land of the Lost. I am grinning listening to this. Circular rhythms seemingly at their outermost edge, a blast-off, hoses out of control, damn broken and watery destruction ensuing. Am I reading too much into this or is this a modern day sound drama minus the actors? And that’s just track one. To me this disc represents newly discovered territory for Null, though the man has been at it an awfully long time, this is a breakthrough – a channeling of complex timbre and sub-harmonic exploration. He may be our modern day Sun Ra or maybe he has just evolved to a higher interplanetary system where his fingers are sensing the voices from the residual dusts of alien static. The steady pitter patter of an engine becomes a multi-channeled communication device and is short circuited suddenly by warbling, technological jargon gone haywire – still maintaining the clear direction of its leader. With full respect to recent rockets in spaces never flown, this is never crash ‘n’ burn. Null has warped and transcended himself in a brilliant light on ERG per Galaxy.
Rework :: Fall Right Now (CD by Playhouse)
Rework is a French/German/Hungarian quartet. This outfit reminds me of a contemporary Liquid Liquid with its vibes and repetitive androgyny. They sing (or hint) of love, and its endless contentions. They use old scratchy record samples and sing of Sharon Tate on the catchy Not Quite Like Any Other which has singer Laetitia sounding like a modern-day Velvet Underground-era Nico. Having taken Chris and Cosey’s October Love Song and reprocessed it, it’s now a Frenglish’ 80s glossy pop hit with essence au dub haus on a hot tin roof. This record is a lazy day clash of the sensibilities previously brought forth by likely candidates Stereo Total and Ladytron with a finite gusto and exhilaration, in a pop-trip package take on modern melody. “I Think You Think” reminds me of something you might have heard live by Lene Lovich or Romeo Void circa 1983, but add an edge of perhaps X Ray Spex for good measure. These people have a great sensibility for musics that had impact and will gain them a long shelf life ahead. Fall Right Now is almost a dance record but keeps a safe distance from being too accessible, coming closest to dance floor rhythmics on “Loin de Moi” with its penchant for pulsations. Boppy, trippy fun disc filled with something to please a crowd of frowny faces. This is a great pre-Summer record, serve chilled – but make no mistake buddy, this ain’t no appetizer – this is a full-course spin
Nobukazu Takemura :: Songbook (CD by Bubblecore Records)
Bubblecore has found a new spirit that is Nobukazu Takemura. Here the seasoned veteran plays with strings, child-like humming, jazzy horns and percussion. In interesting contrast to Scope (Thrill Jockey) this dischas a more irreverent operatic feel. There are toy vibes and pianos and playful carnival themes illustrated by amateurish Japanese sing-song awkwardness. In a more pedestrian approach Takemura blends Stereolab-styled comfort with the academic stiffness of a third year Julliard cellist. “The Spirit of Songbook” is the theoretical collision of found-sound, recycled vocals and classical meets jazz string arrangements, with a touch of distant attitude. This new found fascination has only been hinted at in his former recordings, however, on this disc he lets too much in the open, the mystery gets lost surviving in brief passages and on the stand out track “Palabra of the Inky Black Manteau”. This fusion of Herb Alpert meets David Byrne’s Knee Plays vs Sesame Street might play well in Williamsburg or even on Berwick Street, but here there is a tepid imbalance of expectation to be open to anything goes.
I think this is the typical fate of the biting-more-than-you-can-chew-syndrome – however, if you listen closely you will hear the core intricacies of Takemura’s former self. Mind you, Takemura is a talented, bright performer. Having seen his work live twice I have witnessed some form of magic on stage – some mystical balance between an icy presentation and a molten outcome. This is not a bad record – to the contrary – it is just a major left turn of sorts. It’s almost as though he had wanted to re-invent those unfamiliar worlds similar to say The Grassy Knoll who have successfully created funky and distorted jazzy phrasings with the best knob twiddled intentions. Still I see some deeper-rooted jazz being growing. Perhaps Takemura needs a dual residency with Ornette Coleman. There are some weird similarities, and some scary ones. This disc is worth a second spin, even while wearing a second skin. Good luck if you can crack the nut inside.
Tape 10 (CD by Ware Records)
This is the type of disc that steals my consciousness. The melding between the visual and sound arts is central to my nervous system. Based on photographic work these ten soundsters create a lot of atmosphere. Markthalle by Markus Güntner responds to a eerily green, late night and empty parking lot in a photographic work by Adrian Bischoff. The sounds are bass filled and like long steps, droopy and slow. Benjamin Brunn developed Propeller, his perky lounge track after a work by Frank Hülsbömer. In the image we witness a neo-Bauhausian apartment/hotel-like complex with a five-pronged streetlight that could be a Suessian helicopter (or even a palm tree). It is back to static clicks and cut, pops and crackles, and it all sounds good. Laub’s tinkering track, Bangkok, has a weightless and somewhat agitated feel. The gentle nervous rocking, the rain and impending storm make “Decomposed Subsonic’s Aqua” a real live set, almost a sound stage. Jeremy P. Caulfield’s “OK” is based on a C-Print by Kai Peters which depicts a sandy camping outpost and the casual candid backs of a family headed in for a rest perhaps. The need for this convergence of visual fine arts and sounds finds delight in only a few fully realized forums these days, but Ware has put together an audio-visual language, or as they say in their booklet “music plus image equals atmosphere”.
Mathias Schaffhäuser responds to a juicy green homey image of jarred dill pickles on a similarly colored checkered table. “Gurken” is at once a stark reverberation and toys with the playful guise visualized by photographer Karsten Handke. How sweet the sound. To have a fuller experience you can visit their virtual gallery at Tape 10.
- Tape 10
Veer :: Lideskape (CD on Source Records)
A light purring, whirring distant static storm intros this new Source Records release. Veer is Ole Schulte who has created some subtle reverb, some paced and washed out slacker rhythms. The overall feel is congruous to a night of endless creative insomnia. This is what contemporary sound is about. There is a quiet distance, nothing offensive or inclusive. One cannot really immerse themselves in this, nor is it intended to be witnessed as a spectacle. It is something you can sense, plain and simply a traveling sound source. At times the beat is contemplative and at once upbeat, though the overall emphasis here is on continuum, the road ahead. This is my first exposure to the work of Veer and hopefully not my last. Great sounds for reclining and staring through space.
Edward Ka-Spel :: O’er A Shalabast’r Tyde Strolt Ay (CD on Beta-Lactam
The subtlety of ambience and its new dawn in works such as this by
Legendary Pink Dots crooner/experimentalist Ka-spel has drained the
final pool of piloted fancy. This man has traveled to and from places
that only those in Orwellian detox ever go in this orchestrated
soundplay. The tinkling keys of a toy piano, the rapture of a
swirly-grinning haberdasher, the illumination of a brilliantly
distracted menace – all these faded dancers build the awkward musings on
the multi-part opening, “An Ill Wind.” The piece goes from Close
Encounters to Treasure Island to the deepest congo in simple
transitional passages. There are samples of and/or real acoustic
instrumentation alongside tv/radio broadcasts, synth washes and pretty
piano minuets. Ka-Spel curiously narrates some on this 23 minute track
as if he were an ancient captain at high sea. “O’Riley’s Comet” is a more
contemporary cut-up post techno swirl of bits and pieces. This piece
simmers down in a cauldron of filtered buzz and muffled voices. The
consecration is imparted on “Safer Than The Open”, a quiet, atmospheric
piece with hushed sequencers. More of an open ended treatment of space
than a strict indulgence. This recording has raised my eyebrows to this
artist after having been scorched and shredded on previous releases.
This is almost a fleeting exodus to some of his earlier work. Though
the edge remains intact while he tries new styles an experiments. O’er
A Shalabast’r.. is an active recording, it will keep you listening through
its full 46 minutes, a three-track cluster of resonant spirits flying,
peaking and fading softly into the abyss.
- Beta-Lactam Ring
Scanner :: Publicphono (CD by Mr.Mutt Records)
In a short edition of only 200 copies the first release on Mr.Mutt
Records is what will certainly become an incredible live cdr series put
out by Italian composers known as tu m’. Recorded live at Prix Italia’s
After Radio events in Rimini Italy in late 2000, Scanner (Robin Rimbaud)
was commissioned to create this piece to be broadcast on their public
speaker system. His use of sampling radio broadcasts beckoned back to
the establishment of the 52 year old organization. An obvious complement
to the festive occasion had Scanner presenting the work for which he has
been grown best known for – combining sounds and voice scans and
electronics to be heard in a public forum.
A re-processing of older spoken word recordings taken from their
original source and now born as a horizon line for the cross section
between documentarian technique and aesthetic fare. Rimbaud has prepared
a new colloquialism, a merge of vocabularies. This particular piece was
broadcast on the beach to anyone in earshot, out into the sea. The sheer
fact that the broadcast took place in a natural environment further
deconstructs its initial context. There is a blend of sultry Italian
tongues and steely Kraftwerkian voiceboxes (minus the funk). This is a
very serious, almost clinical, recording that is bathed in a dramatic
soundscape of light vibes and tactile vibrations, filters and the
Scanner has become synonymous as a creator of recordings
derived from man-made technology sound sources and their junction with
the human voice. On Publicphono he has truly used the spirit of silence
to great effect. At times the illusion takes me on a trip from NASA to
an Italian airport to archaic newsreels. In other moments this recalls
some of the best work from the early/mid 90s EM:T label. This is a pure
exploration of the nuances of contemporary electronics as chamber music.
There is a uniquely passionate and disjointed symphonic quality about
one half hour into this 40 minute single track which travels in an out
of private and public space. Rimbaud has inaugurated a new era in
genre-bending with his Y2K recording.