- . Frozen In Time (10 Below)
- . . On Thin Ice (Playable)
- . . . Icebreaker (Solid)
- . . . . Sonic Ice (Repeat)
- . . . . .Avalanche (Classic)
- DEATHPROD :: Deathprod Box
- 4xCD: Rune Grammofon
- . . . .
:: Deathprod (Helge Sten + co.) circa 1991-2001, ten years, four CD’s, all in stylish black. OK, I am not writing a commercial – just the lead-in to an overall epic collection of dark musing, austerely brooding, mind-noodling music from the genetically fertile grounds of Norway. Sten, once a member of indie-out jazz experimenters Supersilent, has kept tasking the mostly unreadable Deathprod project for over a decade. Here, in what would seem like an ultimate collection that delves into those many years, are four complete discs packed with an inebriating cranial fix that will keep you holed up for a while. Play this in its entirety, guaranteed to wear you thinner than any work out routine. It goes something like this….
- Morals and Dogma::
The latest release by Deathprod is packaged in this set, as well as available separately. Starting with the suspended drone of “Tron” it’s like looking infinitely east over the Pacific Ocean. This also serves as the soundtrack to a low point earthquake while high atop a towering building. The vague reverberation rumbles like a baby pea in your gut, you feel a break in the equilibrium of the moment, like an organic déjà vu. “Dead People’s Things” is a maudlin piece of thrilling cinema. Hauntingly mythical like a voyeuristic exploration in the plight of witnessing a decaying animal corpse behind the safety of a giant repelling windscreen, a nightmarish life after death experience. The growl of “Cloudchamber” is familiar, the aching wrath of an angry storm about to powerfully let go. Brilliantly stocky bass rides the curse of the clouds. Invisible at first, the raw (naked) eye of this storm are steered by Ole Henrik Moe’s seduction of the saw alongside Sten’s “audio virus.” The two kick up a bulky dust equivalent to something pretty real-time, live sounding. Winds inflict the shape of thin air and roar in and out of the shallow depth of field offered on “Morals and Dogma.” The higher power canvassed cautiously is a deity of many guises, one who can shade the whitest ray of light, and absorb its entire prismatic energy.
- Reference Frequencies(previously unreleased, rare and deleted tracks) ::
On this unreleased disc of rare tracks “Reference Frequencies #3″ initially places us on the sidelines of a speedway. The whiz of dramatic superlight zings by the way one of those Matthew Barney “Cremaster” films did. On “6:15″ a poet (Matt Burt?) is caught speaking of lovers, public transit and baby goop. The illusion of speaking of colors and domesticity reasons with this artists’ realities. His speech, somewhat stunted, contends with change of time, anti-depression meds and Nintendo. As he continues with his freeverse a smokey space theme plays as a steady backdrop, drifting, fleeting. At first I cringed with a big cheesy smile when the Hammond organ reared its suburban mall flanks on “Recording the Jürg Mager Trio: La Luna” but with the additional vibes, this “wake” is beyond the cheekiness of the Munsters. When Magnus Ryan takes hold of the organ and Bent Saether’s drumming is added the whole thing turns to a 60s drug-induced séance. This “shortcut to the stars” could be the playing of distant cousins of the Doors in their more acidic frame of mind. A broken Ferris wheel spins a half crescent as caged felines rage. As these reference frequencies continue radio waves sizzle and mutate, harmonic convergence is within reach, but there still remains a violent knot somewhere deeply embedded in the pit of its stomach. The utter despair poised by Moe’s strangulated strings on “Dora 3″ leave you wanting. Although the breath has left the sails by the end you may feel a bit wind-blown by the full excursion.
- Imaginary Songs From Tristan Da Cunha::
Recorded live in Oslo (1996), this long-deleted recording is like the second coming to all those who love experimental film soundtracks all originally recorded to phonograph cylinder. Emulating the romanticism of an old-fashioned creaky film projector, and the percussion of a garbage drummer on tin, “Imaginary Songs From Tristan Da Cunha” combines the right amount of noir with its more grounded aesthetics. Throughout “Stony Beach” and “Boatharbour Bay” filtered violin, thanks to Ole Henrik Moe subdues the mind holistically, bowing out of sight but right outside the inner ear and frontal lobe. The closing half hour in which a choir of seven play glass to Deathprod’s unearthly deconstruction of the theremin’s whim. Voices as spirits, drift like poltergeists in pained softhearted chant while Moe’s strings rip through the belly of this ship. These imaginary songs are like waking up in a Victorian dream, with winds blowing large lace curtains, people rushing in hallways in staggered motionlessness, like a broken film reel (a continued theme). The grave is open, spirits rising, freedom for the undead. Pretty spooky stuff.
- Treetop Drive::
From the start, the orchestral procession on this long absent 1994 recording is akin to the mystical illusory feeling one gets from witnessing the films of Peter Greenaway. Hans Magnus Ryan’s violin is gut wrenchingly passionate. The live “Treetop Drive 1-3″ come in repetitive, stretched out feedback tones that are aching for action, it’s like a turning point you relive over and over. The phrasing changes to remove the bow’s chalky edge, leaving a trebly drone that mellows with time. “You are getting sleepy,” Part 2 sounds like an air raid at sea, as if they contact mic’d one of the metal buzzers a wee too closer, the dialogue between the ‘warning’ and the bass release, in itself is like a trippy backlog of memory jogging, a blunt force brainwash. And so it goes for it near ten-minute stretch. Cryptically repellent. By the time Deathprod reached the final segment in this trio of treetops things have sedated to a whirring, filtered turntable lockgroove. The mumbly tone careens and remains pretty low to earth. Its flat appeal is a welcome gesture after the barrage of doldrums and discordant preface, even with the added voice samples discussing a pedestrian perception of the desensitization of death. The atmosphere is a locked cell where you can only perceive the flames of a lost city being fanned but cannot see a thing. With the dynamic existential playing by Sten, Magnus Ryan and Edvard Grieg, only a sixth sense drives the imagination. The eighteen-minute “Tugboat” docks perilously in a harbor of ambiguity. A lone captainless craft just teetering, communication systems down, with the slightest rumble of primeval risk in the scent of night.
- PEKKA AIRAKSINEN :: Madam I’m Adam
- 2xCD: N&B Research Digest
- . . . . .
*FINLAND :: Welcome to an adventure. Fifty-nine year old Pekka Airaksinen has been recording since the 1960′s and “Madam I’m Adam” is more of a homage to his endurance than a new recording. Though these two discs include tracks Airaksinen has recorded between 1968 and 2002, giving any first-timers a full flavor for the longevity of a brilliant light on the horizon of electronic music over these four decades. Also included is an entire disc of previously unreleased mixes by some really outstanding (and unusual) composers. 1974′s “Molybdene” comes from his pseudonym project Gandhi – Freud which originally was released on his “Vitamin” recording. It’s like a hustle-bustle sound illustration of one of Mondrian’s works. The tinny field of textural levels built and bent on “Pieni sienikonsertto – A Little Soup for Piano and Orchestra op 46,8″ is out there with the twang seasick allure of an industrial groundbreaking. A city is built as a man experiments with its cyclic resonance, gears, poles, all unearthed. Under the name Ajraxin his latest work keeps current with beats that are perpetual, and somehow not dulling or same-old. In fact, the guise of “No focus” from his 2002 “Hole in the Soul” CDR, is subtle enough to be background music, but beat-conscious enough to make its mysterious orchestration a bit of a necessary closer listen.
From his 1983 recording “Jewel Comet” the upright jazz drumming vs. Indian vibe of “”Suvarnabhasgarbha” is a bit of a lonely dog that has walked into a room full of Theremin’s at full prong. No animals or ancient electronics were harmed during this experiment (I think). His performance-art troupe The Sperm’s “Shh!” dates back to 1968 (originally on O Records and re-released on CD-R in 1998 by Dharmakustannus). Surreal capsule of sound thought with voice transmission samples and mind-obliterating organ drone – this pre-dated even early Scanner by a good few decades. From Ajraxin’s 2002 “Datta” recording, the composer loops cinematic warning signs, and other encoded electronic beats, TILT! There is a tiny bit o’ disco sampled. “Mykkä peili” is a livewire that just rips and zaps like of heated electrical current swiftly channeling through the veins of a major corporate networking system. The Sperm’s unreleased “Organ” is fully erect in this late 60′s barrage of party noise and voice (Mattijuhani Koponen). The guttural guitar is an outpouring of sonic angst for a Helsinki that would never be the same.
The remixes are true transformations of the originals, a companion disc that rolls, reels and just flies off the page. With artists who are downright strikingly offbeat whose aural stimulation may bring its listener to a point of exhaustion. Included here are a healthy roster from Anton Nikkila and Simon Wickham-Smith to Philipp Quehenberger, Curd Duca and Mira Calix. The surprising and fluidly serendipitous inclusion of Steven Stapleton’s Nurse with Wound caps off this set as a must in your hybrid collection of true sound art. The mixes are more enhancements, strays, and manipulations. But as Men without Hats once said “you can dance if you want to!” They also said, “you can leave your friends behind.” Ahem. This is a rarity of sound exploration, a look at a man who has been at it for nearly four decades –Pure, uncompromising, filthy artfulness.
- PAUL PANHUYSEN :: A Magic Square of 5 to Look at / A Magic Square of 5 to Listen to
- CD: Plinkity Plonk
- . . .
:: Made for installation, A Magic Square of 5 to Look at… is like a digital organ in and out of consciousness. Poland’s Septegenarian multimedia artist Paul Panhuysen who has been making sound art since the evolution of Fluxus in the 60s treats our ears to something virtual, something transfigured. Time-based sound structures made for an audience to interact, grids of sound and objects that deal in Hz rather than in thin air, the work deals with subtle frequency tonalities. What turns out like sounds from a spy thriller but in actuality are complex geometries that fill space and time. Squares dissected by numerals and letters and measurements all based on a software program – makes parts of “The Matrix” that much more realistic. This 1/2 hour piece has an inebriating effect, drawn-out passages that contain high altitudes and warmer bass drone making you imagine being at the edge of a large-scale vista somewhere in the Australian Outback.
- DES ESSEINTES / DISKREPANT :: Folie a Deux
- CD (Ltd. 500): Fin De Siecle Media
- . . 1/2
:: What would happen if you married Enigma and Sisters of Mercy and gave them all chainsaws instead of silver rattles? Yea, des Esseintes ain’t no trust fund baby! This split CD includes two enormously large sounding Swedish electro-gothic acts taking on some new territory. Their single track “Scrying/Closure” sounds like the theme from one of those two-season mini dramas on Fox, with a crowd of grunting gladiators, a mosque full of chanting men and a beat to boot. Not a quick read, and not my favorite sound in the world. Diskrepant takes a slightly different tact on “Variety Unknown” which incorporates a devilish vocal erasure with a varying hardline take on music concrete. The all to short to assess “Grand Mal” comes and goes unobtrusively and is followed by the barrage of feedback that is “..and the machines laughed at mankind.” I like the Metropolis-istic premise of this noisy, jilted rampage, but, ahem! A sudden loop of silence leads to a repeating futuristic Nasa-style voice checking the system interface and body chemistry. And back into the fire of metallic wreckage and glitch-core galore. This is a difficult listening experience no matter how they slice it.
- JGRZINICH :: Intimations
- CD: CMR
- . . . .
:: This is among the top most mind numbingly ethereal recordings I have ever heard in my life, ranking high up there with Nurse With Wound’s ‘Soliloquy for Lilith’. The ambient drone is something born out of hyperventilation and cascading emptiness. Jgrzinich’s Intimations are personal dark entries into the wondrous crossing between vapory industrial sound and delicate field recordings with experimental piano. His past work has included duo recordings with peer acousticians Seth Nehil and MNortham. The hushed ambience of these sounds is actually quite piercing, with just a paranormal presence, only a permeable sense of realism, providing a textural aura –Mute crackle, wispy crunch, still crumble. The track “Sun in Hand, Stone in Water” has a menacing circular tone that curls like chronic vertigo. Oblique mist that snakes as the disc closes with an organic leak of water that sounds as if it is falling atop a glass piano, causing a fountain.
- SCHNEIDER TM :: Reconfigures
- CD: Earsugar
- . . . 1/2
:: Dirk Dresselhaus takes the ball and runs with it. Here he remixes (er “Reconfigures”) works by several interesting co-conspirators in the electronica realm. His reshaping of Aesthetics collective pulse programming takes their “Suck or Run” from the very influential “Tulsa for One Second” and creates a completely new track where he’s retrofitted his own “hippyshit” vocal duties. Margo’s “Take Me” also appeared on her “catnaprmx – Peter I’m Flying” record. His attraction to the vocoder bleeds and blends her sultry vocal and incorporates some burpy synthetics that are retro-tasty. The previously unreleased mix of Lamb’s “Wonder” appeared originally on their “Between Darkness and Wonder” record that came out last year.
The Schneider TM treatment cradles the Zeena Parkins-styled harp melodies serving them like delicacies, Lou Robinson’s vocal is adorned by soft scraping percussion and reverse beats. The standout cut is the grungy Prince funk-encrypted “Ephe Kicks In, Feel Like Kevin” that has TM working with Mille Plateaux duo Rechenzentrum alongside Kpt Michigan and furthermore featuring Marc Marcovic. This steals the show with its “Flashdance” era drum beat and tweaky vocal that gives T.Raumschmiere a run for his antics – thanks for the staticalicious ending! Bang, boom, sis, boom, bah! The Faint’s “The Conductor (The Tractor Mix)” slips, falls, gets back up again in its rubbery and staccato vocoderific play on Todd Baechle’s fantastic singing instrument. Ruby’s “Grace – Space Mix” is a nod to James Brown, delish. I feel it – “butter, runnin’ over me.” This one is on target and got its groove on, you will too –it reminds me of the vibe in some chewing gum commercial I recently saw starring this cool guy with a big ole fro.
The mix of Lampchop’s “The New Cobweb Summer (Lanzarote Remix)” recalls some early Lloyd Cole, Kurt Wagner’s vocal and percussion often in sync. The sax mellows things with the languid flow of hushed backing coos – though this is far more Salsoul Orchestra than your average chill out room. Hailing from Tours France, Alc Levora’s “Noitare Def Cinos” is defined as a space race, a mad dash, with just the right elements of plink and bleep to keep it from meandering off the page, the final 30 seconds, where it comes undone, is the best part. Dresselhaus’ own “Switched on Boss Hog” click-cuts its way through tall urban grassy patches, while using samples from Boss Hog’s “Whiteout” CD. Also included are tracks by Turtle Bay Club, Philip Boa & the Voodoo Club and Turner (Keni Mok) – all worth checking out. Sometimes I like Schneider TM better as a mixer than a solo performer. He knows how to run the show, takes a separatist approach to the way sounds get broken down, minimalized and then funked up. A far cry from 1999′s infamous debut, “Moist” as Dresselhaus has simply upped-the ante on humor and his overall pop stance.
- KID SPATULA :: Meast
- 2CD: Planet-Mu
- . . . .
:: Mike Paradinas comes out of hiding with a massive double disc of new material. OK, I am one of those people who didn’t really get the whole µ-ziq phase – but I know I am in the vast minority. Though, as dopey as the new moniker sounds Kid Spatula has bright promise, and takes to task that whole 80s retro sound that has flip-flopped for all those eurotrash proto-Danceteria wannabe go-goa’holics. Only because “I’ve been there and have done that” can I make a valid sneer as the new guard who just recycle rather than build from the essence of foregone brilliance. Well, get your recipe books out, because this Spatula is whipping up a funny mock-up of all that and more.
After digging into his discography a bit I noticed electro-impresario Paradinas has amassed over 17 recordings in just a bit over a decade, pretty impressive. These recordings were dedicated to DAT somewhere between ’94 and ’98 (noticing that he recorded under this moniker for 1995′s Spatual Freak (Reflective). Though, this alter-persona includes bubbly, vivacious beats, toy synths, spoken samples, meandering spy-thriller themes, and catchy 80s riffs aplenty. Just take “Spacious Hallway” for instance – it sounds like he’s crossed the accordion of an Italian street musician with the strings of the Brodsky Quartet, but managed to make the illogical references remain non-academic, and quite hilarious, without intentional puns. He still references the road-runner styling of flip jungle percussion (“Further 2″) with its beyond beat box fat lips, but this is added for effect, and does not drive this vehicle – which is refreshing. “Tugboat” brings on da funk, and some eyebrow curling Jean-Michel Jarre meets John Foxx lapsing sequencers that are about to hurl.
The Gameboy intro to “Carrier” leads you into the pop crackle of an Indian chanteuse rephrasing the same line over dancing jazz brass and mixed drum claps. “It starts with bongos” does –and adds what may be the outtakes tracks from “The Love Boat” theme. This one is g-ROOVY! Someone snap it up and mix it sidewards, please. These tracks are like little themes, all quite visual and ripe for video. While a majority of the material on Meast is heartily uptempo, the ambient, simple vibe on “Bobby” proves the man can chill – I would love to hear a full release of this type of material. It’s intricate minor beats are all rubberized and edgeless, and the patterned rhythm just glides like melted butter on a raw skillet.
Flipping to disc two the drum-centric percussion of “Sub & Solid” fuses into a caged clown pop-off beat that is hilarious repartee. The mood shifts and chills and cracks again to this cartoonish chicken speak. “Upton” starts of in shades of bluish gray and turns into a mock new age piece that is lighter fare recalling some of the now blush-worthy tones used by Flock of Seagulls and Kajagoogoo to name a few. Every jumbo-sized record has its share of filler and “Lesque” is one of those tracks which seems to be searching for a place while it rambles on but its got no funk, no beat, no thrill – trying to catch up in its final minute to no avail. The title track is a fun electro ride, playing on mid 80s guitar signature lines and the cheap thrills of drum pads. Though, this juicy lil’tidbit doesn’t pull too far from the driveway, it is rendered with a fashionable sense of love incarnate. Yeah – I admit, Paradinas makes fun of what he is parodying though with a sense that he really appreciates his influences, even their misses. This is a hefty batch of 34 tracks that may keep you guessing what did I have for lunch yesterday – though this man lives to eat, not vice versa.
- THE ETERNALS :: Rawar Style
- CD: Aesthetics
- . . . 1/2
:: Take Medeski, Martin & Wood, mix a spoonful of 70s Sly Stone and whoop it up Y2K style and there it is. Damon Locks vocal has the bass dialect of John Foxx with a slight ragga edge. Other members of this Chicago-based trio include Wayne Montana and Tim Mulvenna, and among them they have played with Trenchmouth, the genius Vandermark 5, Peter Brotzman and a host of other jazz and rock n rollers. The keys are key here, slapstick funky rhythms with fly attitude, and just all full speed ahead, no hurdles, just out spirit. ‘Rawar Style’ is the group’s second full-length recording full of ska life (‘Space Dancehall’) where they reflect the era of both the Specials and B-52′s respectively. The kookie samplers and effects are cheesy-catchy and pumped full of gushing playfulness. The Eternals sound is sunny side up. Rawar Style has a certain timeless something, like being home again, but you’ve heard it long ago – though you couldn’t have, with its hip-hop flippancy minus the bling of golden fillings and tangled spandex thongs. One odd turn is the curiously off-putting Fiddler on the Roof phrasing that takes place on the otherwise tropical “Bewareness.” Listeners will be totally into the typewriter-on-speed beat that kicks off “This Here is Megaside.” But things change and derange in a jazzy pout of unconsciousness, a sort of underdressed male version of Chicks on Speed. The chant stops and poses like Peaches, but is half as creamy and nowhere as full frontal – but its illogical rants are pretty infections and not at all corny like the former can be perceived. The Beastie Boys slack is pulled up from behind on the wavering organ of the “Emperor’s New Break” – keeping the spirit of “On the Street” alive, miles and miles after the original embossed itself permanently in our pavement. Hit it boys!
- EKKEHARD EHLERS :: Politik Braucht Keinen Feind
- CD: Staubgold
- . . . . .
:: Bass clarinet (compliments of Burkhard Kunkel) never had it this good. Ekkehard Ehlers uses software and technology to shift and shape the gutteral, wooden sounds and with that erects a full-on symphonic work with a 1″ thick laptop. “Politik braucht keinen Feind” is nothing if not simply desperate, dry, organic and downright depressing at first. In high contrast to its cover and poster art images of clubkids, the tone is distinctly morose and stern. “Mander” is a pure pastiche of light with various play on gravity. Pale and forensic, this experiment shifts through doldrums to re-appear as a restless opus of imbalance and hypnotherapy. “Blind” on the other side of the mind, is multifaceted, four-part piece the strings up Anka Hirsch’s cello by its inside out. Call it stringed sci-fi, for sure the psychedelic effects will in turn bow the mind backwards. Eerie delirium. Reminds me somehow of the inverse of similar investigations taken on by say Albert Ayler or outtakes of Grant Green, just add water (and acid)! Ehlers paints the fictionalized night in shifting monotonal grays. Finally, the sinuous “Woolfe Phrase” descends. Used by the Frankfurt Ballet, this queasy, uneasy wash of melodic undertone drifts slowly, slowly, empathically from its invisible edges. “Politik braucht keinen Feind” in the end plays like a tragic soap opera, without the garish one-liners and turgid acting – this one is more of a torch song, a heartfelt drama with multiple personas, meandering in and out of the story when you least expect. The work is confrontational without being in your face, emotionally charged and tight lipped in its real startling conclusion – its caress is to smooth, and also a bit didactic to slip on its icy surfaces.
- EXPERIMENTAL AUDIO RESEARCH :: Exposition Stylus Re-Mixed
- CD: Ochre Records
- Additional Site: www.sonic-boom.info
- . . . 1/2
:: Zen static. Here we have Sir Sonic-Boom (Spacemen 3, Spectrum) establishing a giant remix (53 minutes worth) of, I am unsure what exactly, but I like what I hear. It’s as if he mic’d one of those toy plastic tubes that you spin around and they make this whirring noise. Havin seen E.A.R. perform a few years back in Spitalfields, I haven’t heard much new material since then, but Exposition Stylus Re-Mixed makes up for some lost miles in between. Not your traditional “remix” per se, this takes off with luminescent hum from the start and settles in mid air with a host of spacey sequencers, modulators and foreign speak (mutated Japanese). At times it sounds like a cranking engine in a lake, with an abridged fan belt, various rusty seat springs and a dirge to the lost souls of Atlantis. But Boom is an adventurous deep-sea diver herein as he’s not afraid to wiggle through the darker depths to uncover stones and other furtive crawlers way down under. By incorporating a vibrating drone that builds, backs-up, and just soaks through the whole span of sound space, “Exposition Stylus” illustrates themes of defiant exploration. This begs for a collaborative project with Andrew Lagowski as the two travel similarly to forbidden environments via their furtive (un)conscious. The woman’s voice, which appears and is obscured a few times throughout sounds if she is struggling to have the word “zero” pronounced correctly and thus conferring a message, a code, to the listener. The sounds become dense, faded, grayer and somewhat molted before our ears, tweaking our focal point to offbeat 60s sci-fi themed plutonium space junk sounds that just gravitate, and reshape themselves like bright fallout, and then dissipate, re-emerging as teeny-tiny pixels, and drift off without a trace. Warnings are set off to deter further entry by unknown predators and other alien beings. This whole pattern repeats, but shifts with a combination of multiple tremors and variable throbs. Dr. Who makes a house call.
- VARIOUS ARTISTS :: Avantoscore 2003
- CD: Avanto
- . . . .
*FINLAND :: This is a collection of work by composers and presenters at 2003′s Avanto Festival in Helsinki. Things kick-off with Curd Duca’s “Excerpt from the soundtrack of The Subversion Agency” which combines an authoritative voice discussing a corporate hire(?), vinyl crackle, a heavenly cooing woman and a car starting. It’s a bit of a false start, an illusory preface. Thrill Jockey trio Radian’s edit of “NAHFELD” uses a radical tonal scale and some contorted marble-like percussion. Their sound graduates into a sonic reverberating bliss of would be jazz-funk drumming that frequently punctuates itself with the edge of guitar feedback straying slightly.
Mira Calix (Warp) sprouts a seed of “Belonging” on a track that uses vivid vibes that sound like an advanced child playing intuitively. Fluttering percussion and some raw half moans and understated growling add to the puzzling double-speak drowned in lovely harmonics. “Spridda park” plays with flashback theory, ala the film Memento, reverse mix and depth of field just constantly readjusting focus. It’s Pekka Airaksinen, making the visualization a bit unnerving, like a funhouse ride mocking you as you stare into the funny mirrors and garish faded colors. The vast approaches to sound as art, sound as experimental, are vast on “Avantoscore 2003″ (I am only feeling left out that I did not attend). Newcomer, Bosnia’s Ibrahim Terzic, creates a wetscape on his boldly weird “Kvarni” a cut-n-paste piano meets sound effects meets tape rewind and a whole lot more kinda piece. Like so many others in thie vein, this is so playfully interesting you hardly have time to be trapped by its structure or technical aspects. Welcome back KK Null in a live portion of his revved up “Kosmik Engine.” Null is the world’s foremost living noise genius. To see him live is to experience something of live metamorphic pageantry. No glittery costumes, no combat boots (not even long hair, anymore). This man performs delicate procedures on sublimely vast caverns of fluorescent noise and sculpts it to pulp and then filters it back into something structured and compositional that correlates back into its original pod state, collapsing your breathing consciousness. Back to back with the Carpenters-esque “Muzak Decoding/Dream Machine/Pirates” piece by FM Einheit/Jon Caffery/Alexander v. Borsig the shift makes for a great polar pairing. The 1992 work uses a collapsing easy listening track with an overly amped water torture drip, seemingly easing into portions of this three-parter. A distant flying machine and dark ambient tonalities deconstruct the mix. Kari Peitsamo’s spoken word “cover “of “Rock ‘n’ Roll Will Never Die” parodies the ultimate adages of music supremacy by using a radio announcer on one end and a Japanese ESL wannabee on the other.
Leif Elggren’s addition, a detail of “My Mother’s Hair” is a heavy breathing dragon of a field recording or is it? His visual installation and other hybrid sound work make this something of an oddity in his continuous development. More like the unwanted anonymous caller on the other end of the line than an homage to something as abundantly textural as that which tops our skulls, it seems that I am missing some wires here. On the cheeky symphonic “Soon I Will Be Free” the unparalleled post-post Terre Thaemlitz (Comatonse, Mille Plateaux) rips the ass out of “grammy award winning” Chris Cross’ creepy permanent testament to the dangers of AOR by melting the vinyl, knowing that no one in their right mind would ever want to download that piece of histrionic toilet paper. Sometime member of the Helsinki Computer Orchestra, academic and well shaven Simon Wickham-Smith’s “Kivi-ihmisten laulu” is the unjarring of 100% pure ether filtered through a rough-cut cloth and then brought to the boiling point. If you have ever seen an indoor circus, this has the aura of its prelude. He plays with electronic fire starters here, but it’s just a small spark and play with light. “Once Upon a time in Berlin” is Geert-Jan Prins playing as his colossally fanciful German speaking from a Presidential address by his project “Staalplaat Soundsystem.” He uses a romantic public speech by Kennedy with an encoded set of staccato ordered industro-beats and ailing backdrop of Disney salon-styled orchestral animation. The duo of Ultra-red and Kanak Attak’s “Ghetto Express rmx” furthers the politico dialogue (as the collective are righteously known for). Asking for the right to be recognized, legalized, under oppression. The simple context of streaming the spoken two-way dialogue with the bouncy sandpaper feedback makes for a thematic document that speaks to those who better understand BPM than BBC. Pan Sonic’s Mika Vainio has the final word on “End Theme” taken from a film called A Monument for the Invisible. Its stunted life and supernatural timbre floats in and out rather quickly and effortlessly. It’s above our heads, through our senses, only perceptible, but not visible. The language of sound is the language of these distinct senses, illusory and raw –A provocative compilation.
- AIDAN BAKER :: Blauserk
- CD3 (Ltd to 200): The Locus of Assemblage
- . . . . 1/2
*SCOTLAND :: After recently appearing on Belgian label Mystery Sea Aidan Baker’s latest effort on The Locus of Assemblage furthers his mystical aural menagerie of lushly feathered ambience and layered electronics. The lengthy liquid passages are placid and patchier than foggy skies. In his development of an organic center to the work, a celestial cast interlaces the feng shui of my room like the holy shroud of a saintly halo. Crystal blues, grays shifting and assimilating like the cover art of Blauserk. A drifting chamber drone, billowing, so softly and iridescently. Subtle shifts in hushed tonalities with the demeanor of raw canvas flapping in the breeze, at its natural will.
- EARZUMBA :: Playback Emotivo
- CD3 (Ltd to 200): The Locus of Assemblage
- . . . . .
*SCOTLAND :: This is Little Richard’s acid trip as seen through a set of post-mortem great balls of fire. Barcelona’s Earzumba’s hip trip skips the hop and funks me in half. For a mini CD, Playback Emotivo ain’t no side dish – and when they grab hold of the ubiquitous “Für Elise” it becomes a version from which the MET may shriek in horror – but it takes its cues from Richard James and others who concoct a barren view of the popularity of risk taking noise-centric viewpoints. This is certainly a keen intro to an emerging artist who cuts up a fine techno rug with asymmetrical thinking by using guitars, penetrating percussion, just the right amount of voice inputs and some wacky synths. This is a sure find, something original for a change, and not out for shock value, but certainly in your face, and other parts. Broken into six short tracks, Earzumba pierces the stratosphere of static possibilities on the no-assembly-required, synthetically wired “La planta está conmigo.” It is a technician’s nightmare at full-throttle. Proving their versatility, they say adiós with a tease of Latin rhythm, but just a hint, and a little help from say, er, NASA? This is ripe for live performance – watch for these guys to explode in space, hopefully one near you.
- PATTERN IS MOVEMENT :: The (im)possibility of Longing
- CD: Pattern is Movement
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Philly’s new sound can be summed up by the parts that make the band Pattern is Movement. With the immediacy of their melodic vocal layering ala Stereolab, the Stephin Merritt sounding production has a bit rougher edge than those found on the Merge imprint, and these folks self-produced this sleepy guitar driven miasma that gives its listeners a bit of that old 4AD charm, cycling rhythm guitar and acoustic sensibilities, brought into the focus of the digital age. And then there’s “Gunsmith” with its intro rock chops, it then plays on some old Breeders riffs. Yeah, plenty of comparisons, but no real genuine imitation here, which keeps curious ears awake. I actually like when they rock, though it threatens their more undefined improv sound, but as “Julius” attests “the truth is all mine, all mine, all mine…” – and that, dear ladies and gentlemen, is the clause and effect of creative free expression. The (im)possibility of Longing has a conscience, a heart and a kick-ass penchant for mimicking without mocking many players in their dust, but the dust is thick as a brick (oh yeah). The drums are big and ballsy on the chord-driven “Pika Doun” becoming more noticeable when the background synth percussion slices through the field of dense pounding and you are left with wood winds that flow right into the short and abandoned “War Interlude.” When the “Albatross” flies in the curled lipped vocal and angst bass guitar straddles with the gleam of certain sized belt buckles and flippant pose. It screeches and booms to the end. These guys have listened to The White Album one too many times as indicative of the chord structure and They Might Be Giants-esue fun of “Icarus.” It pushes far enough, taking a prideful bite out of its own formidable simplicity. The “Postlude” must be an inside joke, but its brevity tops off an original, solid record.
- PILOT BALLOON :: Ghastly Good Cheer
- CD: 2.nd Rec
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:: Samples come alive on 2.nd Rec’s new release by Pilot Balloon on the opening cut “S-Channel Telemetry” which seamlessly intros the title cut “Ghastly Good Cheer.” In what appears to be a crustaceous in between of something of a classical/hip-hop hybrid with a batch of tongue-in-cheek news and tv clips, nothing overtly familiar, just the overall voicing of the CRT generation. They seem to use anything from harpsichord to averagely slung guitars and a bit of alterna-rock attitude. After only three cuts it’s already an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink sorta opus with vocals. The crazy collaged cover is sensitive to its contents. The graphic work of Sfaustina Design captured the mirage that is Pilot Balloon, with faded photographs, helium air travel in a sky of Beatles-esque squiggles and happy-go-lucky astro-pilots. Though, far from a pop record these guys took three years to concoct Ghastly Good Cheer like a record made for testing by MCs circa 2010 with a sense of humor and a pocketful of envious dreams. With a splash of Moby, the risk here seems inevitably minor with a great, clean production as clearly shot out on the almost ready for primetime “Pavane for Vinchy.” Its end something of a Willy Wonka candy calculator, running the week’s calorie calculations, sweet toothed vibe, indeed. Adding a twist of mock-up Bulgarian women’s choir of note, “Closet “Carpetbagger” shows their flare for combining influences that are at once familiar, with a clatter of percussion and dead on timing. As the close of “side a” comes too soon, the echoes of say, Mission of Burma, are heard on the foot tapping drum rhythm of “Testimonial March” something anthemic, something of a relic. Side b starts off with “A Throng with Sticks” which is something of a warm-up, not much really develops, its more of an overlap between things, the waiting, the thinking, brewing the next page, the irreverent formula with traces of a Donald Sutherland sound-alike. Some interesting rhymes, but nothing new in the tired inclusion of an MC who talks about hanging from your ankles and chatroom romances on “Hug Dusty.” In steps Stacks of Stamina (J. Karlberg, J. Gustafsson) exploring heavier vocals with the crackly shackled rhythm of “Throe Stasis.” In the 60s the hippy powers that came and stayed developed a recipe for what would become Pilot Balloon’s “Christian Strifry” with its lapsed drumbeat and slightly intoxicated lounge vibe. This is what some of those folks on Compost aspire to, and rarely state as clearly, or should I say, as realistically. These guys must have done their fair share of community service, no? “Vampire Tonic” is an elixir for the DIY arts crowd, magical and forthright, its brazen beat reinvigorates the sound of live drumming and buzzing vocal layering that washes cleanly away. Hiccup…
- LAWRENCE ENGLISH :: Ghost Towns
- CD: Room40
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:: Room40′s Lawrence English designs Ghost Towns around the percussive residues that are exclusively indicative of Australia’s plains. These field recordings are the center point of his development of the inter-organic nature of things in outlying regions, primordial silent spaces. The birds, the bees, and that in between the breeze. What sounds like tap dancing down the hardwood steps of a completely vacant house alongside a gong and prepared toy piano puts the human being in a formidably invisible landscape. But English does his best to treat the mix with a finish that will draw you in rather than instill the fear of emptiness. The scratchy sizzle of fuddled with leaves and things make Zen meditation nearly improbably, though the elements of soothing hollow metals being stuck counter the tiny frenzy. By layering wind, water, clicks, creaks and shuttling these sounds from ear to ear, English has captured the romance of rain, the fear of a feathered friend and the solitude of uncertain elements in just over eighteen minutes. The graphics superbly use an empty clear jewel box, an obi-type strip enclosed inside its back section that can be read through the spine, and painterly-like cd imprinting that can be seen through the clear part of the CD face. Room40 is highly recommended, watch for upcoming releases soon.
- YOSHIO MACHIDA :: Infinite Flowers
- CD: Amorfon
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:: Steelpan electronics has come of age and landed in Tokyo! Yoshio Machida livens the playing field that crosses what might be single-mindedly one of the few sounds indicative of the Jamaican islands by updating the sound with bubbly, velvet electronics and other assorted percussion and vocoded English speaking Japanese contortions and other hoot-like catcalls. Along with his collaborators Tetsuro Yasunaga (electronics) and Keiichi Sugimoto (guitar), Machida composes a heartfelt, warm record in his plantation of “Infinite Flowers.” The beats are offbeat, the tones are effervescent and veiney, the roots are soulful without overdone, superfluous eccentricities. In his hands the steel drum calms and relaxes, rather than invigorates and incites flailing limbs. Though this is not a casual listen and far from slack…its quite bright, with an intangible sensibility. It takes the sounds collected from other cultures and designs them to sound like traditional Japanese harmonies on “Namaqua.” This cross-breeding of turf makes for some curious and keen interculturalism that opens a pandora’s box of shared aural ancestry. At times dizzying, at times methodical and trancelike, Infinite Flowers flows like a craggy mountain stream catching small pebbles and loose branches in its wake.
- JOHN DUNCAN :: Da Sich Die Machtgier…
- CD: Die Stadt
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:: John Duncan’s composition with a title that loosely translates into something like “the desire for power” is based on the voice recordings of Asmus Tietchens reading from texts by E.M. Cioran. Originally intended as a collaboration, the tension and ownership of the sound work was something Tietchens felt was complete after a first go around when he had simply offered his voice and felt it was not sufficient enough to act as something he could artistically attribute to himself. Honorable as it is, the work has the edge of the New Blockaders on the opener “Freih zein hoern macht” that cannot be avoided in its machine gun, helicopter-style rapid percussion. It lifts, spins, and is propelled by processing offered by both gentlemen. At just under 20 minutes the piece is more than your average carburetor test, though you could find some of these sounds at your local mechanic for sure. With speculative predisposition Duncan careens his highly energized industrial machine through a warp of light/time/speed in a way that sounds as though he is vaporizing solids. I could imagine this gizmo being at the center of an installation – purring center stage, at the fine risk of seemingly maniacal it could be studied in the round, observed as a faction of fear. Fragments, static, lock grooves, basically the edges left behind, are revisited and toyed with in the foggy drone that is “Tauf sind mit andere nanen.” The vehicle is left rimless, and in its attempt to even rationalize a move of any kind its creator has come upon something futile and stops to breathe. A low-fi cracked hiss bares itself to the fluid mist and other meandering beings. Tietchens three minute, cut-up recitation of the Cioran text is repeated, stretched and bounced on “Das Ich macht.” The fore and background complement his smoothly spoken German voice. The voice has presence, respectful to its author and is manipulated subtly enough that you can appreciate what he is saying. The text is also imprinted in a clear overlay on the cover art, which depicts a spacey inner-lit futuristic bunker of sorts, image by Tietchens. If you need an English interpretation, one has been included in print, along with some additional liner notes from Duncan. The final half hour sounds like croaking toads when darkness falls, way off in the distance, and canvassed by a wall of front lobe focus and repetition. As it grows, the original source distorts as the volume increases a few levels, never really becoming full-scale noise, more like labor-intensive circular abrasion. The repetition is structured in a way that loses course a moment, adds deeper ridges and intensity until all the work gone into what is created seems like an auto erasure. Its own silences are hauntingly silencing, my breath slows, my lids close.
- PETER BRANDLMAYR :: Interaktionen
- CD: Durian
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*AUSTRIA :: Sectioned and muffled reverberation opens the latest work Interaktionen by Peter Brandlmayr, a work of austere mystery, fractured space and premeditated anxiety. Ostensibly, a work that crookedly hangs between your ears, operating on oxides and ancient gases that perfume the air with the spirit of inopportune, fearsome outcome. The wiry hiss of studio experimentation of “Relikt R89″ with its dusting metals, rubbery prepared stringed instruments recall recent work by Joseph Suchy, and the din of the inside-out effects of hearing something amplified so close to its source make this a completely tactile recording. Though, the closer you get the farther away your imagination may take you in imagining what planet the sounds actually come from. Brandlmayr pieces this together like an abstract collage, only revealing portions to the public ear, allotting for a perspective that fills in the blanks, even when narrated by the spoken word, the piece is most literally an experiment. The pauses on “O.T.” are void composites where breath is transposed over gesture, effectively excerpting bit components that are exclusively held in the mind of the listener – a sort of personal transference. This breath only further creates the extraction of velocity on “20 UHR 8″ as the blatant metallic percussion is all a clamor until the human breath literally exhumes the air out of the piece. A solid landing on interstellar soil seems to depict the essence of atmosphere created on the mind massage of “Dokument EK1.” Ambient work riddled with a collision of the elements, subtly bruising its foundations, tilting its bow, blowing its shutters apart. This takes a turn off a more earthy surface and takes to an amorphous body of water. Instruments click-clack as meters read warnings, the buzz of low-drum mechanics and the creak of what could be planks being tested by the axis of sea space. The navigators here whisper effectively, in the hushed tones of a lover in danger. Brandlymayr shapes original, contemporary sound like a withdrawn narrative that is downright peculiar and startlingly explorative.
- GEORGE LOPEZ :: Works for Ensemble
- CD: Durian
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*AUSTRIA :: In an hour plus made up of two suites of seven total tracks, George Lopez’s Works for Ensemble starts with a buzzsaw of violins and other random orchestration that is frightfully absorbent and thrilling. Not wasting a single second to pour dramatic curves into his “Das Auge Des Schweigens” this has the well versed latitude of a compelling film score, something between Hitchcock and Spielberg (as “Jaws” and “Fantasia” collide). Bass drums slam doors and ravage the scene with bullet shattering percussive rips as violins shave the edge of eerie drone. Vibes jangle with mystery. Slippery guided melody loops rise and levitate. Plotted and dissonant at times, an alarming passionate is constantly emitted by Lopez. Works for Ensemble is imbued with dense, undead spirits looming, entrapped. There’s a whole lot of gesture, tiptoeing and sneaking around corners awaiting a chance to bust a move. The breath in the work is astonishing, regenerative and the true bellows of a belly plump with constantly expelled air. As macho as it is pixielike, Lopez’s visionary “Blue Cliffs” eclipses as the sun rises and wanes with the moon.
- BARBARA ROMEN & GUNTER SCHNEIDER :: Disordered Systems
- CD: Durian
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*AUSTRIA :: Close range acoustic guitar strings, intimately amplified and strung high on Helmut Lachenmann’s opening four-part piece, “Salut Fuer Caudwell.” When the phonetic self-edited vocal is added, with male and female spoken word sing-song linguistics, there is an instant oompa-loompa beat feel. Every other word is stressed in their lip-speak style. Their vocal sounds like a tape cutting in and out, but the highly trained style is only accompanied by a simple percussion added by way of the percussion of the minimal background strings. The plucked strings channel back and forth from left to right, the mix is choreographed to perfection. The tightly wound instruments are comb like in their rigidity. By part three the dizzying saw-like effect could be an insomniac’s stunted dream, or a alcoholic’s daily reality. There is just something a bit nervously ill in the air. Squeaky frets slide and scrape, fumble like a floppy eared dog, sashay with a slightly funky rhythm, small gestures creating big shivers. The final track is Barbara Romen and Gunter Schneider’s half-hour long title cut “Disordered Systems.” In the mix are layered, quiet tonal shifts and flapping metallic code. At first it sounds like prepared guitar, though at closer listen, there are some electronics involved, taking on the task of infinite reverberation, just so slight in the distant, virtually innocuous, background. With two simultaneous actions the work reflects inversely on itself. These muted melodic subtleties make it a quite trance-inducing listen. Warm warp of cascading small illuminations waft gracefully through open space. The fading strings are much like the pristine, glassy top of a hazy mid-Summer lake.