Hotham Sound (2xCS/DL)
COMPLEX COMPOSITION: Out of British Columbia comes a surprising (and sweetly designed) double tape set dedicated to inspirations of the work of Dutch artist (and theorist) Pieter Cornelis Mondriaan (1872-1944) on a cadre of electronic artists. The artist known for his “jazzy” minimalism as part of the De Stijl movement was influenced by music, so it’s a perfect return nod here. The Mondrians takes its subject quite seriously, in fact, each of the twenty soundworks is dedicated to a specific painting (dated between 1913-1942) as seen broken down here and further described here. Some lush play on line-making and materiality (Jamie Drouin‘s Composition with Double Line, 1934), others with mysteriously saturated abstract/minimalist nuances (Pulsewidth‘s Composition in Colour A, 1917), still others are concerned with parting drones and awkward silences made for the deep listener out there (TUAM‘s Broadway Boogie Woogie, 1942-43).
The tracks each run from under two to over eight minutes, each with smart complimenting atmospheric tones. Other notable tracks are the low-range static n’ tumble of Composition with Grid 8 – Checkerboard Composition with Dark Colours, 1919 by Benjamin Mauch, Alexandra Spence‘s tonal play on churchbells and chirps with blended pitch frequencies that play hide/seek on Composition with Double Line and Yellow and Grey – Composition B, 1932 and Benoit Pioulard‘s muted flourishes via the gauzy drones and pastel tones of Composition in Oval with Colour Planes II, 1914 which closes this incredible double set with a nod to modern art through the guise of contemporary composition.
Berghain 09: Compiled + Mixed by Vatican Shadow
Ostgut Ton (2×12″/DL)
As a free stream/download they don’t come any better than this, and from the hands and mind of Vatican Shadow (Dominick Fernow) no less. Mind you this is also available in collectable tape format and I’m here listening to the excerpted version of thirteen mostly short pieces by some of the world’s most accomplished underground artists from Merzbow to Genesis Breyer P-Orridge to JK Flesh (!) and back again to Ron Morelli and Prurient among other notable noisemakers. It’s a deft curated collection of snippets and dark passageways. From the hypnotic to the covertly beat-driven this comp has a plot, yet an unstructured course, which makes it all the more listenable. Tracks like El Culto De Los Angeles De La Muerte by Los Angeles Death Cult have a throw-back feel to the latter 90s when Underworld, KMFDM and The Orb reigned supreme, in other words, it’s got serrated teeth but can still dance.
The pulsations of acid-like post industrial electronica are everywhere here, and it’s a welcome return to this thumping funkified sound of empty warehouse caverns. The collab between Ugandan Methods/Prurient (Fernow’s other impressive noise moniker) is broadly unexpected and Venom Timetables is like some maniacal jackhammer-style techno with a hushed and mutated vocal treatment. And while Merzbow‘s successive Loop 1 through Loop 4 are, well, loopy lock-grooves, they alter and transfix the mood back to black in order to give P-Orridge the opportunity to close (after opening) this set with more glorious breathless whispers, repeating One Being, One Orientation, One Power over and over for three minutes. Whipsmart.
The Noise of Art/Works for Intonarumori (premiere recordings)
Sub Rosa (2xLP/CD/DL)
Herein a collection, based on the social/art movement of Futurism, containing seven dizzying compositions, created by the Opening Performance Orchestra, Blixa Bargeld, Luciano Chessa and Fred Möpert. All these pieces employ what was referred to as intonarumori, which are invented instruments (circa 1910-30) designed by the Italian Futurist artists sprung from Luigi Russolo‘s The Art of Noises – itself a response to Francesco Balilla Pratella‘s Manifesto of Futurist Musicians (1913).
“Today noise reigns supreme over human sensibility.”
Opening with The Noise of Art, the narrated phrase “in antiquity life was nothing but silence” and after a brief pregnant pause of silence, a buzzsaw metallic wonderment is unleashed. The industrial detritus, and its meta explanation (Bargeld) brings about a wry smile in its conceptual deadpan style. The same hazy, drunken phrases repeat on Trio n°3 (2017), Opening Performance Orchestra‘s excerpt of the previous piece of peculiarity. The early morning mechanization whirs and purrs on Luciano Chessa‘s Prilis Hlucna Samota (the Czech title of Hrabal’s “Too Loud a Loneliness”) which slowly comes together an breaks again with pauses between distant machinations. Perhaps it’s a motorbike, or a chainsaw, or someone having their way by retiring a cadre of band equipment with a weed whacker? Coming through, loud and clear, is an experimental drilling through an unseen surface.
Möpert‘s contribution is a motorized (and somewhat cosmic) frequency that builds and cascades like the bend in the chord of a theremin. Neue Horizonte drifts like fireworks while a background of industrial drone lingers like an oil slick. The speaker seems encapsulated within the track, but I’m not always fond of spoken word within the construct of a work of such dramatic and elusiveness, the story, however obtuse, loses a part of its presence. Blixa Bargeld‘s The Mantovani Machine, pt3 wastes no time in deconstructing its subject, likely a sausage-making ode to the Anglo-Italian conductor of the same name who brought the light orchestra stylings of cascading strings between the 1940s and 1960’s. I’m not sure, but I want to guess that this is some kind of pressure test on some old vinyl, circumnavigating the player altogether. However, or whatever, this most definitely strikes of the power of tonal grinding.
Under Starch Clouds: 30 Years of Electronic Misery in Aalst (1987-2017)
Wool-E Discs/ Dans Les Profondeurs (LP/DL)
Aalst is a Flemish province of East Flanders in Belgium mostly known for its textile industry and crossroads between Bruges and Cologne. This collection from Ghent-based Dans Les Profondeurs is three decades in the making, loaded with tracks you likely will have not been all too familiar with from the era of popular electronic music origins to the the present. The initial two tracks by Man Without World (Into Past Haze) and Neoprene GRT (CC Calamitous Callosity) blend the sound of an earlier time, simple chords like those diffused on the first OMD and Depeche Mode records, without the associated pop vocal. Elsewhere here (Salvation Through Self-Sacrifice) are documentary sound effect clips indicative of the era like those used on Paul Hardcastle’s 19, Time Zone’s World Destruction and Harold Faltermeyer’s Axel F. Many of the works heard here (many for the first time) came out of an underground pub series called The Yellow Lemonade – much of these were originally exchanged on readily available cassette tapes. Only 223 hand-numbered copies of this was pressed to wax.
Curated by Peter Vercauteren (Acts of Worship) this was released atthe very tail end of 2018 and got lost in the transition of the seasons. That said, it is an electro-lovers dream come true, with a pure dollop of angst on tracks like Interzone‘s Gott Mit Uns which cuts like any of the early Ministry or Meat Beat Manifesto singles. My personal favorite from this grouping has to be from Het Gesticht! and their Answers, which navigates the terrain like a snake, with embedded voices of cinema and industrial austerity.