Reviews: 8/2005

1081 image 1

>>> Key

  • . Frozen In Time (10 Below)
  • . . On Thin Ice (Playable)
  • . . . Icebreaker (Solid)
  • . . . . Sonic Ice (Repeat)
  • . . . . .Avalanche (Classic)


  • Jos Smolders :: Habitat
  • CDr :: and/OAR
  • . . .

    1081 image 2 :: A sideline symphony for the street. Sounds like cars whizzing by in the rain, lots of contemplation, space, space, space. Jos Smolders, a graduate of the collective known as THU20 (back to the mid 80s), reveals a softer, deeper side of his senses on Habitat, an acoustic outing. Become a passive outside listener to indoor goings-on, draw wisdom from the wind, and bear in mind that when Smolders is ready, he will take a most industrial turn, with a metallic varietal that he’s aged to perfection. A majority of the beginnings here, “Nacht 3:30AM” and “Zondag” just float gently. This is “lose yourself, headphone listening.” These vague field recordings of birds in the distance and car doors and engines are spliced and repeated giving the impression of a childhood history of open space and its man-made interruptions to the balance of nature. It’s damn subtle (until “Beton”). The assorted percussive noise actually sounds like a writhing, heavy-breathing organism. It’s more intricate and awkwardly self-aware than caustic noise for the sake of it. More like the choreography of electric friction, especially heard on “Arvika” which is a motorized spring-like doorstop that just rips and purrs and moves so organically. The track also boasts the howling of what could be boys in an old, cavernous school hallway. This is a complex listen and may take several sittings to pick up the delicate minutiae between the static and metallics.


  • Greg Kelley :: I Don’t Want to Live Forever
  • CD (Ltd. 500) :: Gameboy/Little Enjoyer
  • . . .

    1081 image 3 :: A steel junkyard battle as caught on cassette tape, for sure! This sounds in parts like two monster trucks fu*king. But with the dual simplicity of school yard recess and vibrant, sawing feedback Greg Kelley let’s go of something unlike a big ole bomb. Not like a stinker, but the real kind, noise-o-matic deluxe. There are many bends in this foiled plan, aerated madness as it stands. His crediting Tommy James in the liner notes and excerpting some royal-speak ala Leif Elggren don’t begin to whisper half the story here. In fact, I would call most of this quite demented, hard listening. Aboard he’s got his Beantown buds Mike Bullock, Jason Lascalleet, Vic Rawlings and others who contribute, er, de-assimilate and destruct maybe, most of this 36 minute frosty adventure. Hmmm, my guess is you won’t see many of these in the discount bin.


  • Rapoon :: My Life As A Ghost
  • CD :: Klanggalerie
  • . . . .

    1081 image 4 :: Robin Storey has evolved as Rapoon and vice-versa. My Life As A Ghost is something of a contemporary soundtrack for light travel. It’s full of beats and energy (“Adrift”), but alas, it leaves room for voice concepts and plenty of drama (“The sky was blue”), slightly dotted by the second wind of Laurie Anderson. In a moment we are transported from a late night rave into a steely subway. It’s quite haunting and elusive. The percussion is gassy and full of quirks on the gawky “Neyyatt” punctuating itself like a broken alarm clock with an attitude. It’s time to pay even more close attention to this once serious master of macabre world ambient and distinctive experimentalism. He’s making something palpably within the edge of techno, with the crispy heat of the KLF on “Terrain Sounds” and the bloated trippiness of “Silver Comp”. “BIG Land IN” sounds like Kraftwerk’s “Tour de France” redux, just the breaths, nothing else except some spare part beats. The final “Tell Charlene” starts off like a house night in some darkened leather club in Berlin, but Storey adds vocal cut-ups and buzzing interludes transforming it into an instant dichotomy of mixed styles that heats up and remains in the balance.


  • Bernhard Günter / Heribert Friedl :: Ataraxia
  • CD :: Trente Oiseaux
  • . . . .

    1081 image 5 :: The playing is something that puts you on the edgy end of your seat, like the moment when something peculiar is about to projectile towards you in a film thriller. This duo paces themselves on some instruments that may be partially designed and developed, but that most have never heard of as is Heribert Friedl’s cymbalon, and Bernhard Günter’s xiao and traverse shakuhachis, and the electric cellotar (cross between a cello and guitar?). One thing is for sure, the acoustics make for some orchestral drone that is harmonically twisted. The wind instrument brings a needed flare into the bass sound space of worked metal. This could be a harvest gathering of natives, it could be a hymn before slaughter. That it makes the listener wonder gives credence to its symbolic and conceptual scope. In the way the sound interacts with my own space I feel right there live, and we are peasants in the altogether. There is an improvised, yet controlled feel to the entire layout, and the fact that there are short pause/segues in between builds up short vignettes. As they paint the air like tribesmen, there’s something of a wild calling, something from an earth meets body perspective.


  • Barbez :: Insignificance
  • CD :: Important
  • . . . .

    1081 image 6 :: The tribal drum calling of the brief Russian folk song “As for the Little Grey Rabbit” opens Insignificance, the latest by the Brooklyn-based seven-piece Barbez. This ain’t your average outing either, it’s some magical cross pollination of Lene Lovich, Spiritualized and folk rock blended into a aural frappe. The overall orchestral sound of the entire group working together to churn out a track like “Strange” is hugely dimensional, almost arena style. Ksenia Vidyaykina’s vocals are Klaus Nomi opera, with a gentle warble that is akin to the new vaudeville of current players like Antony & the Johnsons, this is most certainly the edge of what rock music is all about. I am gonna call it beat-rock (as in beatnik, not BPM). In moments it’s a séance, others a funeral pyre reigning high, still at others (“Song of the Moldau”) the spirit of goth punk rises from the ashes but all the while, the flavor of the psychedelic 60′s (with the eerie fairy sounds of the theremin) is bred in a refined way. The aforementioned track welcomes The Lonesome Organist to the foray of players. ‘Insignificance’ is a massive crockpot of sacred, contemporary hymns that has much in common with everyone from Diamanda Galas and Siouxsie Sioux to Godspeed You Black Emperor and back again. These boys and girls are wise interpreters of an original spirit that has flown, and is about to set sail.


  • Nurse With Wound :: Echo Poeme: Sequence No. 2
  • CD :: United Jnana
  • . . . . 1/2

    1081 image 7 :: Modernity recreated in a hushed tongue. Amantine Dahan Steiner and Isabelle Gaborit’s voices are spoken and crooned in repetitive, woven whispers awakening nymph spirits and recalling like masters Meredith Monk and early Susanne Vega (poetry minus pop). It’s a forty-five minute breathy French lullaby that is sheer and fluid. Steven Stapleton elongates tones, like lips in the breeze, ephemerally fluttering about deconstruction and composition. The women drench our ears with hazy, singsong harmonies with a background of subtle raspy snake and insect-like recoil. This poem is light, airy, free and all about the stunting warmth of summertime. Glittery.


  • Lali Puna :: I thought I Was Over That
  • 2CD :: Morr Music
  • . . . .

    1081 image 8 :: Again, I just melt to Valerie Trebeljahr’s steamy vocals, there’s just something distant enough, shimmery and subtly coy that grooves my heart. This set is a compass of mixes and hard to find b-sides from a range of work from Y2K until yesterday, and it’s crisp, refreshing and bright. “40 Days” (from ’02) sounds like a sped down version of something out of Garbage’s stash or perhaps even Curve’s first disc, ethereal with a rock sharp edge. Bomb the Bass’ treatment of “Clear Cut” has a down tempo flavor and a spontaneous afterbite that cries as it flies high. This German quartet have all the savvy beats down pat, but as reflected through the ears of other like producers and artists they plant colorful fields of groundcover. The colors range from evocative drop-pop in the hands of Two Lone Swordsmen (“It’s not the worst I’ve looked”) to stingingly twee, acoustically broken down techno as featured in Boom Bip’s recreation of their EP “Micronomic.” Along the way lost pieces such as “Harrison Reverse” shows off their inner penchant to take a Stereolab-like approach even further, with muted washes of stretched vibes and 80′s retro percussion. Their cover of Phil Oakey and Giorgio Moroder’s classically cheeky “Together in Electric Dreams” (from the eponymous 80′s flick) is just distorted and trippy enough to make for a great late night naked elevator excursion in Vegas. “Grin and Bear” gets the muted effects of To Rococo Rot, bringing in lilting strings that dance and fade the vocal to a whisper so when she sings “you’ve been told” it’s a bit of a stretch of the lobe. This is a totally Summery disc that will spin for many hours to come.

  • Mlehst :: A Puritan Am I
  • CDr :: Mlehst Email
  • . . . .

    1104 image 2 :: After several years of (er) silence, Mlehst (aka All Brentnall) releases A Puritan Am I alongside other older works (Living without Feeling, Pedantic/Pessimistic, etc) to be newly distributed on his new Belief Recordings label. The title cut starts with a simple conversation between a stretched out guitar line, strumming away rather patiently, intently, with an occasional bit of crevassed feedback crunch. The new work extends his lengthy career of secluded sounds of phobia and fantasy at its most diabolical ever. In essence what we have here is something of a discourse in schizophrenia. An ambient drone-based disc with the fusion of noisy gestures that throw you for a loop once you’ve settled. “Dance Ye a Merrie Jig” is anything but dancehall or house, in fact, it may not have a sense of space at all. Within this is something of a course bout of filtered textural frenzy. It’s the pollination of a soda bottle factory at full speed and the echoes of a few dozen simultaneously itchy fingers chalking up a board. After a while the chaos cools and that’s when the grand sound of Mlehst rings truest, in its blatant loss of primordial self-centeredness. There’s a full-bodied balance between the dichotomy of horizons he’s built atop each other here. The bookend piece, “Black ‘n’ White Minstrels” mirrors the title track perfectly, making for a threesome of extended works that coax your ears into a conceptual space of oneness. (Read TJ’s Mlehst Profile)


  • Blir :: Raster Post #08
  • CD :: Raster-Noton
  • . . . 1/2

    1104 image 3 :: Nineteen untitled tracks by Blir (aka SND’s Mark Fell and Mat Steel) that meld clearly into the roster of Raster (Noton). Harkening back to their beginnings, actually. Here we have spacey and undulating digital pop’n cracks that build sequentially into a funky low-brow rhythm. I believe these are edits of lengthier ideas, but even as a teaser this is a full palette of sonic pleasure. There are floating parts that start to pulse like an aortic monitor through the bent ears, of say, David Cronenberg while wearing an electro-stim tens unit. The wide, blatant beat tunnels down a path of fused wirings that eek out a wavering charge of sine waves. This disc floats evenly in the background of the sunny skies of July, only tweaking you with some repetitive tonal lifts now and then. Some of the material is a little bit clunky and chunky, but overall it has an iron heart, or is it a steel trap?


  • Zavoloka :: Plavyna
  • CD :: Laton
  • . . . . .

    1104 image 4 :: Here we have a new emerging artist, a young IDM-based gal from the Ukraine named Katja Zavoloko in her debut, Plavyna (meaning silt). Though there is no grit here. It’s like you pulled the right lever in a casino – how spritefully refreshing and playful! I’m not sure if I would immediately charge the dancefloor, but I this certainly puts me in a mood filled with brightly colored geometrics and spent afterglow. Other than some Vert and Matmos, tracks like “Painted Berries” and “Mirror” puts this in a class unto itself. Swirly violations of fun pixie noise combines with something akin to miniature bagpipes and glassy percussion making for a crystal clear mix worthy of any electronic music-ophile. It’s noteworthy to mention that the mood flickers in and out of momentary hysteria and poppy bliss to haunting echoey trance and a variety of staccato, spine-tingling ripples. It’s like an icy breeze on your chest after you’ve dipped in water. Combining just the right amount of temperate experimentalism with birdlike rhythms this beat is most definitely “technotronic.”


  • Jason Forrest :: Shamelessly Exciting
  • CD :: Sonig
  • . . . . 1/2

    1104 image 5 :: Jason Forrest, the artist formerly known as donnasummer, drops the moniker to unleash the antithesis of his former self. Fully grasping the most essential nut meat of hard rock quips he had only formerly reached for, he offers a handful of blazing, and stylish slapped together “cock rock disco” anyone could stomach. But this bellyful is really funky fresh, soothingly clever, despite its blatant highs and lows, which it rides upon. Mouse on Mars’ Andi Toma mixes the whole enchilada which includes more samples from more places that are clearly recognizable, sort of his signature, but I am hearing Blondie in there (“New Wave Folk Austerity”) I think. He has his way with the big arena guitar finale moment as “My 36 Favorite Punk Songs” starts up alongside the Ramones, X Ray Spex clips et al. But, Forrest only seems to weave these samples more expertly than ever on the craft that is “Shamelessly Exciting.” And not only for himself. For a change he adds the apt vocal of Laura Cantrell on “Nightclothes and Headphones” which works well in his cut-up mode having her pretty voice resemble a waterfall alongside a jangle of perky percussion and wavering rhythms. Herein he collaborates with Timeblind on the loungy New Year’s Eve pop of “Dreaming and Remembering,” with David Grubbs on the high edge rock lead cut “The Walls of the City Shake” and Maja Ratkje’s “Evil Doesn’t Exist Anymore” that has the best damn broken record ending this side of Texas, ala Chic and nasty mosquito guitar lines. And I don’t have to tell you have apropos a track called “Dust Never Settles” fits right in here, in fact, it would have made a better title for the disc, or maybe for a future retrospective of work! It’s a gravely groovy mix of sonic guitars and hazy sediment. And that’s how it goes.


  • Lugosi :: Dawn
  • CD :: CMR
  • . . . .

    1104 image 6 :: CMR, Auckland’s growing electronic label releases its eighth full-length, a live recording (cira 1998) by the defunct guitar and keyboard trio Lugosi (including members of Birchville Cat Motel and Sunship). The guitar strings become tightropes, taut and shivering in mid air. Like radar their attuned to fixed vibrations and subtle movements. A yielding cross between the warmth of an orchestral pit meets Sun Ra outtakes, this is not your usual live fare. The closest live sounds I’ve heard came out of a show by E.A.R. several years ago, certainly untamed trance and full-on inebriation at its finest. Dawn brings to mind the open harbor where a boat is being launched early in the morning. The overall flow of these half dozen merging and morphing tracks is full of breath, like the hollow of your belly at a nosebleed altitude. In just under one hour, they bend guitar sounds that soar along the surface – something quite settling, yet raising the blood temp a few notches. For a moment I envision the wounded walking back from war, another I am falling asleep in front of TV snow… the images projected here could be endless.


  • Boy Robot :: Rotten Cocktails
  • CD :: City Centre Offices
  • . . . .

    1104 image 7 :: How could you not want to flip something on called Rotten Cocktails? How rotten could they be? Would they be an acquired taste, tepid, exotic, unfamiliar? This Boy Robot is actually a duo made up of Hans Moller and Michael Zorn. The music is startlingly quirky from the start, like a florescent sour fruit punch that was shaken to a froth. I think I like it. Though it makes me think about why. With a jangly Eastern rhythm here and a Daft Punk wannabe elixir there (“We Accept All Our Parents Credit Cards” and “Super Scorer”) these boys partially rip off everybody, but knowingly with a level of finesse. Highrise lounge sounds for happy peeps to shimmy to all Summer long. Yes, it’s wispy and filled with beats at the same time sustained by its pop heart and voluntarily lost consciousness. There’s a blazing molten funkiness encrypted in every Rotten Cocktails mixer. “Live in Vanilla” is a contemporary twist on the lightness of strings that just tiptoes like a levitating hippo. Gravity should be something any good robot would command without hesitation, and here Boy Robot most certainly testify to the variety of actions built-in to satisfy any master control. Special thanks, Will Robinson!


  • Koda :: Movements
  • CD :: Infraction
  • . . . . .

    1104 image 8 :: Movements is an instant lullaby. The oozing harmony goes right to the spine and launches throughout your entire physical network. Senses are ruled by the lush, melting ambient tones that pour ever so slowly from Koda’s scenic aural landscape. Quiet, unrestrained and wide in vision, M. Derrick seems to be creating something of a constellation where finer points are dotted at random encoded spots in a mass of air. It’s as poetically licensed as the liner notes that read “waiting for the shore, the tension was beautiful.” And with these movements, the sparkle of sunshine gently drifts to sea.


  • Floppy :: µ
  • CD3 :: Testing Ground
  • . . .

    1104 image 9 :: Four tracks by Andras Katai (aka Floppy) with the ghetto industrial kicker “Wonderful” that speaks volumes about liberty in its current state in the virtual toilet. The spoken work “fuck yous” familiar, its beats are riveted, spelled metallic. The regurged Front 242′ish “Bastardo” tries a bit too hard to be kin to its lost uncles, and ends up wading in luke-warm amateurity. It’s bubbly and all, but it repeats too much of the filler heard on car chase soundtracks with an abundance of cheapy Moroder-riffs. “Dt. Hacker,” from Hig Density is way on to something as it slithers with a seedy drum line and stretched synth vibes that are bent and unbroken at their strong ends. Even with the addition of an unnecessary bassy, military background voice the track still grooves while attempting to offer a political cum synthetically altered subliminal message. And “Dr. Alien” faces front of the class with a warbly theremin-likeness and crunchy twists. So, while this is a bit half and half, the good half breaks the other, er, in half.


  • Sovacusa :: Centrepoint
  • CD3 :: Expanding
  • . . . .

    1104 image 10 :: Steve Davis and Tim Martin are Sovacusa who have created something quite undulating and pixilated that pops-up with a host of surprises. It’s an animated, hallucinated, willowy ride of technolicious ambience. Tracks like “Kinjito” purr like untamed felines unfurling their tails with a fat purr as a stuttering crackle of beats is laden beneath its ferocious circuitry. “Jira” skims the surface of bobbly, staccato breaks and cuts, but does so without many highs and lows, it’s pretty even throughout, a leveling. The floating ambient that is “s269″ lingers like smoke rings, one after another, making for slight, polite pauses along the way. The tones are crisp and high, the bouncy premise is a winning format for Expanding Records which has the penchant for working with acts who create a playful sound that always entertains and isn’t something readily off the shelf. Centrepoint is blissful enough to get your body grooving, yet brainy enough to undermine your next move.


  • The Hafler Trio/Autechre :: aeo3 & 3hae
  • 2CD (Ltd. 1000) :: Die Stadt/Warp
  • . . . . .

    1104 image 11 :: In their second collaboration, this two disc set combines the circumference of
    disparate talents confronting sound space withsurprising results. Autechre, masters
    of the awkward beat and veiled, forward thinking experimentalism of The Hafler Trio
    make strange bed fellows indeed. Though this packaged very similarly to many of
    the former releases that are seemingly unauthorized by Phonometography(for
    non-payment of royalties) the sounds project a far greater depth on aeo3. Its
    sparse, cool ambient drone hovers remotely like the howling wind. It’s a
    horizon line of quaking, trembling low-rise tonal texture just blowing around the
    room. Because of the actual wind blowing through my apartment it was pleasantly
    disturbing to try and differentiate from where the winds were actually being
    passed. About half way in a tweaking, electrically charged static is introduced like a series of amped up vinyl pops and ticks. It’s a sputtering circle of gesticular
    bravado that never launches into pure noise, but scratches the surface and then some.

    On 3hae they pick up from where they left off though launch with a sort of free-fall, fairy tale ending and into a silent abyss before an almost miniature symphonic structure, with an awakening clang about five minutes in. What follows is prospectively more H30 than your normal smartly chopped up hi jinks of Autechre, though I can see how each of these artists have greatly influenced each
    other within this collab. There are big wide aural passages stunted by abrupt ends. On this second disc it’s as though they are exploring more elementals – here, fire and gases from the earth. There’s something deep seated, a frothing mass of boiling dirt and dust that oozes into thin air. It’s as though you are listening to a field
    recording of manholes being tested for explosives, it’s the testing, the plotting, the endurance of speculation that creeps all throughout this work. The miasma of tranquil vibrations are layered multiple times creating something of a warp speed shuttle launch pad. Calling all trons, bots and other digitizations… they come in piece(s)!

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