Ssss, released back in March, is a record by VCMG (otherwise known as Vince Clarke of Erasure and Martin Gore of Depeche Mode). Alongside the ten tracks on the record (voted # 2 in The Quietus’ recent Albums of the Year So Far) are three wonderful EPs (Spock, Single Blip and the forthcoming Aftermaths). They, along with Mute, have employed some interesting artists to mix these including: Alva Noto, LFO (Mark Bell who produced DP’s Exciter record), Byetone and Mathew Jonson. Watch for Aftermaths to drop on 8/20.
CELER, originally a duo, is now the solo experimental sound project of Will Long, an American living in Japan and developing works that are an earful of quietude. With over fifty recordings released in only the past seven years this project is one of the most prolific around, especially for a young artist who has worked with numerous international labels. I had the opportunity to catch up with him at the crest of releasing nearly a dozen new projects this year alone.
TJ Norris: The title Lightness and Irresponsibility is intriguing in contrast to the quiet content on the record. Can you say some about the title, particularly the irresponsibility portion?
Will Long/Celer: The title is actual a lyric from a Fred Astaire song, I think. I picked it because it sounded interesting, and a little bit mismatched. It’s usually two things I’d never consider to be together. While it is the title, it doesn’t really have any significance to the way the music sounds, or the composition. Though, I think adopting a title for music in the end gives the music an entirely different definition than it had before. It adopts a new description, whether it’s relevant or not. I’ve had people comment on the album ‘Tightrope’ saying they don’t particularly like the album because it doesn’t remind them of a tight rope. Even if the title is vague, and even randomly picked, there’s still a reason, and identification.
TJN: Celer is the project duo (“the singular we”) by yourself and your dear departed Danielle Baquet (aka Chubby Wolf). In the short four years you worked together (2005-09) you created quite a prolific body of work. Are these what you may call, and pardon me for asking, posthumous works, or are you taking the project solo? If so, how is the creative process different?
WL: After she passed away in 2009, I didn’t really want to make music. I spent the 6 months after just releasing the music we had made. Though there was still a lot of unreleased music left after that (and there still is some now), I slowly began to want to make music again. I couldn’t stop being creative, but it took some time to come back after 2009. I moved away from California, and spent another 6 months at my home, where I continued to release the music, and was mastering all the Chubby Wolf works. I stayed creative, but worked mainly on photography when I wasn’t mastering or releasing, which took up most of the time I had. I’m not really sure when I started making things again, but it started to happen, and I decided it was the best thing to do. I tried breaking away from the Celer name at first, but it was difficult. Labels didn’t want to release things under my own name, but as Celer shows wanted to book me, the name was stronger, and it had more interest, or more people were aware of it. When I finally decided to continue on using the name, I realized that there wasn’t any way to change what happened in the past, but I had been one of the creators at the beginning with Danielle, and continuing it on leaves some part of that intact. Separating entirely from it seemed selfish, and trying to act like things that happened hadn’t happened.
Now I’m not sure how the creative process is so different. When we worked on music before, many times it wasn’t together, but at different times of the day. Now it’s the same for me, I’m just doing it all myself. Now I’m in more creative control, as before she titled most of the albums and did the photography for the most part as well, so I have to try to be more inventive and do everything myself. It’s fine though, as it’s a challenge, and I’m lucky to have come along as well as I have so far. I’m happy with the present, and content with the past.
TJN: In the past several months you have released A Couple of Swells (free @ Bandcamp!) in three parts online. Altogether its nearly four hours of cooly atmospheric drone that ripples and hides. In the development of such slow sound I could imagine these works easily paired with the art of butoh. Are you familiar with this form of movement and have you ever worked with performing artists in a live situation?
WL: I’ve played alongside dancers at exhibitions before, but it was usually just an accompaniment to the show and not about the work specifically. I think it could work really well for a performance though, and I hope an opportunity comes up in the future. The A Couple of Swells series works as a multi-room installation, as well.
TJN: I’d certainly like to immerse myself into that situation.
Recently you collaborated with Machinefabriek on something of a travelogue called Greetings From…, with pictures and postcards from various destinations. What is the significance of place in your work? Secondly, where are you physically located..and how might that effect your work?
WL: We had a 7-date tour of the Netherlands and Belgium together, and recorded all the shows. I took photos during the tour, so after we thought it would be nice to compile it all together for people to see and hear, and have a memento from the trip. I think location was important on the trip, but maybe we took the live shows into bizarre directions for no reason at all, it was just purely fun. There was one place where the crowd was a little bit awkward, so that show was a bit strange.
I’ve actually always wondered about location, and whether it affected my work. Myself, I can’t hear it, but others have told me they could. A friend of mine used to tell me when I lived in California that he could hear the ocean’s influence in the music. Obviously some records that have more apparent field recordings from India or Indonesia have locational importance, but now being located in Tokyo, I’m sure that being here has a vast influence on my music, I’m just not sure what exactly.
TJN: Well now that you mentioned you have been thinking about sense of place, which seems implied by many of your works. Growing up in Mississippi and now living and working in Tokyo seems like a huge stretch from your origins. Do the sounds of your surroundings, whether they be field recordings or the latter echoes of the familiar grounds that you call home, find their way into tracks you lay down…and if so how evident (or not) would you like that intimate experience to be expressed?
WL: I’ve always tried to trace those influences in everything I’ve done, but I still can’t pinpoint where things come from. The places where I grew up, and the place I live now are so different, yet I feel very at home in both. I try to put everything into every piece.. there are influences of everything, not just the sounds and environments, but things I see, memories that come back, and bits of culture from each place. It’s all just a giant collage of diaries of experiences, feelings, and each passing and future moment.
TJN: You continue to release some of your work on cassette tape. I find this mildly amusing as I look back on tape culture of yore. Though it does, in so many ways, puts limitations on your audience and access to your work. Does that at all concern you and could you say some about exclusive small editions like this?
WL: Yes, cassette tape. It is an old format, but I release it still for the same reason as many others.. I’m okay with any format, I just release on whatever format people offer me. I don’t try to only release CD, vinyl, or cassette, I just take what comes. Probably not surprisingly, releasing a large output makes it difficult to find labels to release your work frequently. It’s actually quite a lot of work trying to find the right labels, so sometimes cassette is the only format available. Digital is my least favorite format, but it’s useful for out of print physical releases, and archival material.
TJN: Ahhh, cassette culture strikes again (love it)!
You have developed a knack for lower end ambient sounds? Actually, do you even consider your work ambient?
WL: I actually do consider it ambient, but not so much in the style of directionless music that Eno describes it as. For me it does have direction, it isn’t just endlessly wandering. For me, ambient means thoughtful, and pure. I think it’s significantly different from drone, which my music is constantly labeled. Drone is something I always associate with deep, continuous sounds. I’m not sure exactly, but I’ve always thought of it as ambient, but maybe my own terms and ideas for it are different.
TJN: There are few of your contemporaries, like yourself, such as Christopher Bissonnette, Jamie Drouin and even Thomas Köner to some extent who help bring about this waking sleep effect when you let yourself loose to a deep listening experience. Are you familiar with Francisco Lopez’s sensory depriving blindfolded shows where the audience usually is laying on cushions — or — Steven Stapleton’s or Robert Rich’s ‘Sleep Concerts’? Could you imagine performing in this most interactive way? Thoughts….
WL: Strangely I’ve never intended to accompany my music to any kind of sleeping or meditative state. For me it’s about touching emotion and feelings. I think this kind of music can still be interactive in a live space though. It’s lazy music. I don’t mean it to be entrancing or meditative, but something you listen to sometimes, sometimes not, and interact with that way. It’s like hearing one part, and thinking about that moment for a while. When you come back around, and stop daydreaming, you find something else is already happening.
TJN: You have recorded for over a dozen labels, but have kept a consistent sound. Knowing that you’ve also independently self-produced quite a bit of material how do you feel working with an outside label helps in/form what you do or release? Do you have any good examples of how your creative direction may have been influenced as such?
WL: I do enjoy a lot working with labels, and working with new labels is always a good experience too. Sometimes labels have a large amount of influence in albums, but for the most part it’s only an influence in the artwork or presentation. I almost never change the original submissions to labels unless I do it by my own decision. Most labels never ask for any changes, or I’m already doing something to rework it myself. The artwork sometimes is heavily influenced by the label, but I think it just helps with uniformity for their label catalog, and at the same time, it’s really nice being part of a larger group in a catalog, like a series.
TJN: I’m curious about your musical influences and emergence. Were you in a high school band or do you play any traditional instruments? The low lying bass nodes make me wonder: were you into punk rock or heavy metal?
WL: I played drums in the school band for maybe 2 years in junior high, and quit after that. I wasn’t ever in any bands, but I did listen to all kinds of music. I liked grindcore a lot when I was in college, and in high school, mostly shoegazer and 80′s industrial. My father liked oldies and movie scores, and my mother broadway. Strangely those things still influence me a lot in different ways, too. Now I’m enjoying a lot of new wave and 70′s and 80′s film scores mostly.
TJN: The work of Celer seems custom made for the backdrop of a silent motion picture. Have you incorporated your work in other forms?
WL: Hardly ever. I’ve made a few installations, and have made music for some films, but largely it’s limited only to independent music. Hopefully I can develop that more in the future.
TJN: Thanks for being here.
WL: Thank you for listening, and being interested. I appreciate it a lot
## CELER SITE
A Duck in a Tree is a new weekly radio program brought to you by the minds behind the seminal :zoviet*france: to be broadcast by the net radio station, Basic.fm from Newcastle upon Tyne, featuring a 60-minute continuous mix of some of the best genre-refusing, zero bpm, hypnotropic and maximinimalist recordings that have grabbed my attention, and will be broadcast. Simply tune in to Basic.fm where you will locate links to connect via iTunes, Winamp or the Basic.fm iPhone app.
If for some reason in the universe you are not familiar with this long-running project please consult this live show:
Sundance (directed by Nils Helling) comes from Plankton’s latest record NEON now out on the Karaoke Kalk imprint.
Andrew Liles has been recording since the mid 80′s. His music, which is both eclectic and diverse, is often minimalist, surrealistic, experimental and hypnotic, and attempts to transcend any obvious style. Liles’ music has been described as “thoroughly chilling” with “incredible sonic depths of dark ambience.” and by industrial.org as “foreboding and at times [a] truly unsettling aural examination, a Rorschact rain cloud streaming out blurred images and tangled memories…”
Originally published in April 2004
Andrew Liles: Jolly old? Jolly Old England? Most people here are pretty miserable, I’m afraid…
TJN: When I read that, for you, “creating music is my way to unravel my own neuroses and general discontents… “ I was intrigued. Perspective is everything and sometimes helps the viewer/listener – the general audience – to get into the artist’s brain, even if briefly. Do you care to expound on that statement, maybe with regard to a recent project?
AL: I think anyone who creates ‘serious’ music is constructing a message, an image of themselves for themselves. It’s up to the listener to identify with it or reject it – it doesn’t really matter to me what people take away from it. I want people to like what I do, in fact I would like to see it stocked in every Walmart, the number one best seller in 39 countries, but the music I create is not for any given market per se. It is a platform for expression and emotions that can’t be realized in my ‘normal’ world, the real world.
I think with the general uneasy sounds I create there is an underlying malaise and obvious discontent with the world that comes across in my music – I think it reads quite easily – here is someone who doesn’t really glean a lot from the modern world. So the creation of these tracks is a way of airing my discontents and recordings such as Aviatophobia are methods of dealing with my fears and phobias – though I can’t say they have helped .
I think ‘experimental’ music does talk largely to outsiders, people who have alternative visions and philosophies, lonely people isolated emotionally or philosophically detached from the vast majority of ‘normal’ people. I think experimental music is a space in which people can unravel their minds, indulge their melancholia or develop a fantasy world in which to escape. Essentially, I think my music is my own little utopia, my little realm to exorcise my fear and loathing, a place formed of little worlds and spheres and orbs that reject the ‘real’ world – who wants to be of the real world anyway? People can take from the music what they like and I hope they do but I don’t regard myself as a messenger or a prophet in any way. It’s introspective and idiosyncratic, as I assume most of my listeners are.
TJN: Aural Anagram seems like a very serious project in that sense – to me, it was one of the more unusual projects of 2003. It had an incredible psychological context and shone a dramatic life into one of the most bizarre artists of the twentieth century, Hans Bellmer. How did you come up with the idea? Were you exposed much to his work in the past? What link(s) do you see between the visual and sound arts?
AL: I have loved Bellmer’s work for many years. It was extremely radical in its day and is executed with a precision that is amazing – perverse technical drawing, taboo and strange, an amazing imagination. I think Bellmer was such a proficient draftsman he could articulate his ideas and execute what was in his mind’s eye directly on to the page – a rare ability indeed.
I liked the idea that Bellmer saw the body as an anagram and tried to apply this notion to Aural – I started off cutting up the sentences read by various friends and acquaintances of mine in a style not too dissimilar to Burroughs’ ‘cut up’ theory – this didn’t work so I just left the random sentences. I think the album might have worked better if it was put to an exhibition of Bellmer’s work, I think people were listening to it as purely a piece of sound art and had limited knowledge of Bellmer’s work – it’s very hard to articulate what I wanted to achieve through sound alone – The pieces are about a series of over printed etchings by Bellmer and in general not the whole of his work. I think I naively expected that people would have a certain amount of knowledge about Bellmer already, so I don’t think you can link the visual arts to sound arts too easily.
There is talk of me playing Aural live to an exhibition of Bellmer’s work in France later this year – whether it comes to fruition remains to be seen. I think people don’t really want to mix both art forms as one distracts from the other – for me it works – but I think it’s very rare that the two worlds can work in a way that is successful, i.e., having a profound effect on the listener/viewer. I think people can only really concentrate on one thing at a time – they either go for the art or for the music – one form has a greater presence over the other.
TJN: Will the box set you have coming out soon be a collection of all your output to date? How did it come together?
AL: The box is a collection of CDRs that I have released since 1997 – it’s not the complete works – it’s the complete collection of CDRs that I released for various live shows and whims and follies. I thought I would release it all again because my ‘fan’ base has grown and a lot of people missed out the first time round. I think it has come out quite well with a lot of forgotten material that didn’t appear on the original CDRs. I think it’s a collection that should be heard and not forgotten, as it is unlikely that I will be making music in this way again or in the form of CDR. It’s a relatively cheap way of getting loads of music out to those who wanted the complete back catalogue. It would have been a shame to let some of this music just slide into oblivion and be forgotten, I think there are some really nice pieces hidden amongst the hours and hours of music here. It looks good and is a document of pretty much everything I have recorded since 1984.
TJN: That’s really almost a service to your audience and at the same time – a chance to hear material that may have been scrapped on the editing room floor – almost like a special behind-the-scenes director’s uncut version. Talk some about your feelings around self-produced work such as this, its freedoms, drawbacks, costs….
AL: I think a lot of people have the opportunity to create and release their own music now with the advance of consumer electronics getting cheaper and easier to use. It’s a good thing and a bad thing as it gives those a voice who wouldn’t have had one 10 years ago but it has flooded the market with a lot of mediocre output and cluttered the shelves with poor music, it’s hard to make a discerning choice on what to buy these days because there is far too much choice. I think there are too many people fighting for a really small market – in all honesty how many people are into ‘experimental’ music worldwide? – I guess about 10,000 people at the very most and at times it seems 9,000 of those are also ‘musicans’. I think a lot of music has become judged on how good the packaging is these days as well. Releasing your own music is tough, no two ways about it. It’s expensive and hard work. Distributors seldom want to know you and those that do seldom pay you. But if you are confident in what you do and genuinely passionate about what you are trying to say, it can be immensely rewarding. You meet some of the nicest people in the world who always stay in touch and look forward to what you are going to release next. I have only self released one ‘proper’ CD – Aural Anagram. The other two albums have been through Infraction. I have released all of the CDRs myself and they, rather surprisingly as most people seem to distrust or discredit the format, have always sold really well.
TJN: What are your primary sources of inspiration in music? And/or are there other incidentals that reaffirm your creativity, maybe even subconsciously, on a daily basis?
AL: Reading is probably the primary source of inspiration or finding found objects or images. Seldom, if ever, am I influenced by other people’s music and rarely do I watch any films. I will find a sentence in a book, or a strange phrase or witty line and adapt a song around that using the line or phrase as the title and inspiration for the song. I also find old Edwardian and Victorian postcards and photographs that inspire artwork or other song titles and create fictitious auditory tales that I find talk to me, manifest and emanate from these forgotten, out of time and place timeless images – every picture has a story.
I think I approach making music as a form of chance and improvisation. I seldom if ever can recreate the piece again and I suppose I create it at a subconscious level – but the message is blurred at times even for me who has created it. A lot of chance, random elements and luck go to making an Andrew Liles song. Each song is a one off in a way and could never be created again partly because I am not a proficient enough musician, partly because I would have forgotten how I made it and partly because what’s the point? I have deleted all the masters of the albums so there is no real chance of remixing or readapting the original – what’s done is done. I think it’s healthy to let things go.
TJN: Have you traveled much? Where have you been and when you have played live – are there certain international audiences or cities that stick out in your mind for some reason?
AL: Yes, I have been to quite a few places around the world. The next album for Infraction is about travel and anagrams (again), there are recordings that I made in assorted locations last year, a kind of auditory travelogue. For instance, I have mixed the sound of a pedestrian crossing from Prague against the sound of a pedestrian crossing in Gothenburg, likewise London underground with Prague metro, New York USA mixed with field recordings made in York, Yorkshire UK. I enjoy playing live abroad more so than the UK and find small, intimate audiences at universities or suchlike far more receptive than, say, rock venues.
TJN: Can you talk about the role that experimental music has in the larger sense of sound/music/noise as we know it in 2004? Do you feel part of this long legacy of sound art that has developed since Kurt Schwitters, John Cage, Iannis Xenakis and others? Do you feel in any way connected to your contemporary soundmaking peers in this light?
AL: I think it would undermine the great leaps and innovation set by the likes of Xenakis and Cage to say I was any part of that. The likes of Cage, etc., are true innovators that made a path I can safely say I have had no part in carving. In fact, pretty much everything that has evolved from Stockhausen, Cage, and Ligeti is generic and I think it will take something unimaginable to supercede what they have done. I wouldn’t consider myself a pioneer of any kind – then again there is nothing new under the sun.
TJN: I cracked up reading your top ten records – most were either hard rock or noisy, edgy works. I hear the attitude in your own work but the finished outcome is truly deeper, more cerebral, perhaps a filtration of some of these fused ideas? Nurse With Wound’s Soliloquy for Lilith would certainly make it to the top of my list of favorites for its depth, character, and haunting air of solitude. How do mysterious cults, paganism or secret societies play into your practice of making music if at all?
AL: I don’t think I like any noise music. I think it depends on how you define ‘noisy.’ But I do love metal; I think it’s great. It has an energy and honesty that avant-garde or experimental music can often lack with its often sedentary approach. I also think it’s healthy to have wide [-ranging] interests in music. I think to listen to experimental music all day can be dull, like reading philosophy all your life. I think everyone needs a little pulp fiction. I even approached Rob Halford of Judas Priest fame to sing on a track; obviously, I haven’t had a reply!
With regard to Soliloquy for Lilith, I also think it one of my all time favorite albums. When it was originally released, it came with a flyer saying something along the lines of ‘Music for meditation, relaxation, blah blah blah and breakfast’. I think it truly is a recording that has many, many functions, it can be listened to intently with headphones, listening out for every nuance and change, but it can be great for reading, relaxing in the bath, ironing, cooking and indeed breakfast. It really is a great recording; I don’t think I can think of an adequate analogy, maybe it is the aural equivalent of a Swiss army knife, a tool for every job. I love all those minimal recordings, it would be nice to have Coil’s Time Machines, Salt Marie Celeste, a few things by Eliane Radigue, Colin Potter and H3O just playing continually everywhere. I could never tire of them.
With regard to mysterious cults, I think in part early ‘industrial’ culture has steered a lot of artists down this well trodden path. In the twenty-first century the world of science and technology, hustle and bustle… people can easily become enthused with notions of the old gods and mystical beings because they are seeking a more earthy or simple existence, trying to escape mundane everyday life or the troubles and responsibilities they have. I guess all music stems from the primordial drum beater calling upon the gods, but I certainly don’t sit about in the studio with a copy of Magick in Theory and Practice trying to think of a way I could invoke Choronzon into people’s sitting rooms, in part because I don’t believe in the stuff and because I don’t think it’s possible. If my music can entertain someone and involve his or her attention for a given amount of time, that in itself, for me, is a magical act. I have dabbled with occult ideas and periphery ideas such as EVP because I find them fascinating, but as to engaging either myself or my music into esoterical equations or incorporating secret sigils – no. That aside, in a recent review I was described as ‘The last alchemist of experimental music…’ which was very nice – hahahahaha. Also, the latest B side of the 6” lathe cut record (titled after Marilyn Monroe’s vital statistics) was initially going to be called ‘The Kabalistic Properties of Marilyn Monroe’s Vital Statistics’… so maybe I do have more than a soft spot for these things.
TJN: How do you work? Do you sample sounds, use sequencers, laptop, tape machines…..what are your favorite tools in the studio?
AL: For the core of my music, I use two pretty beaten up cheap old synths, slowed down tapes, old records and my voice processed, pretty rudimentary stuff – nothing elaborate. I write the ‘songs’, record them live, tweaking as I go using an FX unit. Then [I] edit the mess through the computer adding anything and everything on the way really, live instrumentation, guitars, recorder, piano, field recordings, old pots and pans, anything that makes a nice click, fizz or hum then just alter those core sounds sometimes beyond recognition. I often wind up a million miles away from where I originally started and my initial concept.
I don’t know much about computers and haven’t really got the inclination to learn, and I don’t have a sampler, but [I] loop stuff either on tape or using the PC. I never use sequencers or a laptop. I think it’s important to have a range of ways of creating music and not to forget how versatile tape is and the complex, fractured warm sounds that can be created using old technology. I think computers lack the random possibilities of tape but do things better in different ways, it’s good to have both options and utilize both to their full advantage.
I wouldn’t ever limit myself [in] the way I work or what style of music I create – if I wanted to do a rock song or an acoustic number I would/ I wouldn’t consider myself a strict ‘electronic’ artist and I wouldn’t tie myself to any genre.
TJN: Are there any collaborators you have been interested in – or even in discussions with – to record with in the future?
AL: One of the next albums coming up has Aaron Moore and Nick Mott from Volcano the Bear, another album for Infraction has Freek Kinkelaar and Frans de Waard of Beequeen who appear on a collaborative track that was improvised at a show on the US tour last year. Yet another album that should be out this year has narration by a maverick, nonconformist and genuine aristocrat, Lord Bath. I recorded him in his penthouse at his estate – it’s a very English and distinctive album. Lord Bath’s name probably means very little in the US but he is practically a household name here in the UK, renowned not for only having one wife but many of what he calls wifelets. Also, Colin Potter and I should have something sorted before the year is through, what format this will take is as yet undecided. And Nigel Ayers from Nocturnal Emissions and myself should be working on a track or a piece about legendary performance artist John Fare.
TJN: What are your upcoming plans for touring live or presenting your work in other contexts? Do you create sound for installations? What do you think of this type of practice that seems to be evolving, opening up to new audiences….
AL: This year so far I have nothing planned as to live shows – I played quite a bit last year – and I am still unsure as to whether my music works live at all. I would love to do music for film or an installation. Going back to the Bellmer thing I’m not entirely sure if installations can break new audiences or if it has evolved – as I said before I think people can only really concentrate on one thing at a time. They either go for the art or for the music – one form has a greater presence over the other. On top of that I really don’t know enough about installation art/music to give an educated answer. As for tours I am always open to the right kind of offer.
TJN: I am going to play the wayward Barbara Walters for a moment, if you don’t mind….What are you reading these days? Do you cook? Have a favorite radio station or program or internet broadcast?
AL: Rather bizarrely, I can combine two questions at once. I am reading a biography about the cook Antonin Careme – Cooking for Kings: The Life of Antonin Careme – The First Celebrity Chef by Ian Kelly. It’s fascinating stuff, full of the most exotic and decadent recipes imaginable. And I’m a terrible cook.
Also, I have been reading several short books published by Shire Books, about the history of sweets and sweet shops and follies, I solemnly recommend you go to their website and discover some of the fascinating titles available –
What bookshelf could be complete without a copy of Betel Chewing Equipment of East New Guinea or Land Snails of the British Isles and Cassava and Chicha: Bread and Beer of the Amazonian Indians?! I never ever listen to the radio – ever.
For more information about Andrew Liles, visit his website: www.andrewliles.com
By TJ Norris
Top 10 ::
- Angel :: Hedonism (Editions Mego)
- Byetone :: Death of a Typographer (Raster-Noton)
- Machinefabriek + Stephen Vitiello :: Box Music (12K)
- Kamran Sadeghi :: Through Thickness (Dragon’s Eye)
- Ethan Rose :: Oaks (Holocene Music)
- DJ Olive :: Triage (Room40)
- Omit :: Interceptor (Helen Scarsdale Agency)
- Lawrence English :: Studies for Stradbroke (Winds Measure)
- Nadja/Netherworld :: Magma to Ice (Fario)
- Jos Smolders :: Gaussian Transient (Megaphone) (Nonvisualobjects)
Honorable Mentions ::
- Black Sun Productions :: The Milky Smell of Phantom Sperm (s/r)
- Monolake :: Hongkong Remastered (Imbalance Computer Music)
- Fennesz :: Black Sea(Touch)
Top 10 ::
- Throbbing Gristle :: Part Two: The Endless Not (Artecnico)
- Flint Glass + Telepherique :: Information Gigabyte (Angle.Rec)
- William Basinski :: El Camino Real (2062/Musex International)
- Beequeen :: Seltenturm: Beesides 1989-2000 (Plinkity Plonk/Korm Plastics)
- V/A :: Extract (nonvisualobjects)
- Fovea Hex :: Neither Speak Nor Remain Silent (Die Stadt)
- KK Null :: Fertile (Touch)
- Frank Bretschneider :: Rhythm (Raster-Noton)
- Christina Kubisch :: Five Electrical Works (Important)
- Black Sun Productions :: Chemism(Old Europa Cafe)Honorable Mentions ::
- Manning/Novak :: Pairings (Dragon’s Eye)
- Troum :: AIWS (Transgredient)
- Murmer :: We Share A Shadow (The Helen Scarsdale Agency)
(10.01.07) Third in this monthly review series by TJ Norris. The focus
is fixed on charged international releases that play on audio/visual
elements and experiments within the hybrid of multi genres. Like
particles in space, or ions, this type of charge can unknowingly
produce both positive and negative conductivity. Norris is also
continuing to curate a somewhat related a/v performance series,
soundbytes, in his native Portland, Oregon. In the past he has hosted
diverse acts as Twine, Illusion of Safety, Richard Francis and
vidnaObmana. If you are passing through please contact him for more
information, or read his
regular blog (or Myspace) to get it.
- Roscoe Mitchell :: Composition/Improvisation Nos. 1, 2 & 3 (2007)
- ECM, CD
The fourteen piece Transatlantic Art Ensemble, led by Roscoe Mitchell
on soprano sax make some fine noise. The highly lauded Mitchell is one
of the world’s foremost abstract jazz composers, and this selection of
nine interwoven works, recorded in 2004, tell his history. It tumbles,
rumbles and whispers, it wails and bellows. Composition/Improvisation
Nos. 1, 2 & 3 paints a wild, yet saavy picture of our striated sense
of universal change. The melodious notes he plays speak from worn lips
telling bittersweet stories, in fact, there’s a passionate melancholy
bolstered by a backing ensemble nimbly gyrate through Mitchell’s
shattered, scattered blowing, around wiggly projections and roads less
travelled. It’s something of a collected circus chaos that bleeds
delicately into a faded watercolor of the buried sea. [Purchase]
- Rafael Toral :: Space Solo 1 (2007)
- Quecksilber, CD
Portugese guitarist and electronic composer Rafael Toral delivers a
stuntifying new release based in space. To accomplish this he’s
employed filters, empty circuits and feedback, sparsely construed to
make for a minimalist collage that pops, hides away and squeaks as if
repelling a wooden floor in rubber soles. Toral is equipped with a
board full of effects that he then fashions like a clown twisting
balloons into poodles, though the result is far more contagious.
There’s something as sinister, but not as, er, clownish to these
bloated antics. By manipulating various gassy overtures, sliding and
stretching them into new sound shapes it becomes aural cinema. The
faster he works the more removed and expressionist the sounds of
‘Space Solo 1′ become. And yes he leaves room for open air white noise
that’s pretty hush. But not too much, as there’s a sense of antsy,
frictitious disorder at play. “Echo Feed” plays into the whole notion
that life may exist outside our perception with its nod to 50′s
b-movie elongated bleeps and warm vortex exterior, built for two. [Purchase]
- Low :: Drums and Guns (2007)
- Sub Pop, CD
Low are back. Drums and Guns has got the raw spirit one might expect
during wartime. While so many “Pretty People” are out there jazzingly
distracting us with their never-ending booty call stage antics this is
an uncertain quirky alarm call to arms. To hear something like this
from a longstanding threesome who actually have built a home in the
realm of the avant garde is uneasy these days. Mind you, this is
probably their most accessible record to date, and they sound great
here, and focus more on crafting songs with strings alongside
electronics. The bass is self-evident. “Breaker” recalls the rootsy
ramble in some early, less righteous, pre-MTV Peter Gabriel. They seem
straight-forward, caressing the wounded in acoustic caress, by
dispelling their personal maybes in a distillation of truths.
Harkening to the stance of a myriad of legendary drum and bugle corps,
they cleverly admit beats as well as smart lyricism. The band seems
poised to fall between the intersection driving forces like Bjork and
Spiritualized, without bells and buzz. The record is pretty stark and
elemental until track six of thirteen where “Always Fade” adds some
warm percussion and broken electronica which swirls around the vocals
of two singers. This makes for something a bit distinctive, and less
of another homage to age old Dylan-like anthemic stylings. The record
plays like a poker faced reality rich in the same tonal qualities once
heard from the 4AD label. Phrasing like “Always a whisper, worthless
and tender. Breaking my arm that won’t heal” prove their may still be
poetry in the arena of independent music. The disc comes housed with a
colorful picture book that illustrates the mood by Jimi Sides. [Purchase]
- Beequeen :: Seltenturm: Beesides 1989-2000 (2007)
- Plinkity Plonk/Korm Plastics, 2xCD
Nijmegen’s duo Beequeen (Frans de Waard and Freek Kinkelar) release a
compilation of 23 various works recorded since 1989. Certainly one of
the more notable experimental outfits of the last two decades, this
collection numbingly sets a certain tone (or atones) both to the past
and future. There’s a delicate balance of low chords breaking into
dark ambient space (“Does He Do As If He Is”) from their 1994
recording ‘Split’. You’re in the dark, someone is casting a vague echo
while slowly bowing a cello, you see a faint light. There is this
sense of passing figures, black on black shadowy movements hinted at
in your peripheral view. At points queasy, others like your spinning
in a Spanish villa for just a dazzling moment (“Fond II”). They firmly
use the guise of industrialisms to build the droning layers of works
like “Land Above Us” which has both a sense of open continuum and
repeat cycle that can, for many, become unnerving. Though, they do so
with a certain grace that kind of rounds the corners of chaos. The
final stage of production, so to speak. And the point is clear, these
two men have built a passionate body of work that is at once striking
for its qualities emulating the codec of film, secondly they have used
that motif to concoct music which is out of the personal body, told
from the vantage point of the other. And third, it takes you some
place you may have not dared, distinctively told with a fusion of
pace, timing, fore/background. Then there are these themes of
meditation, observation, then realization. When you sample tracks like
“Brasillian Fond” (1989), you are just barely eavesdropping by way of
the slight incorporated field recordings. Part mysterious travelogue,
part staging for how you might compose music to send to navigate the
hole in the ozone and then into the deep universe to cultivate answers
to its questions. The work of Beequeen simply trips the mind.
- Underworld :: Oblivion with Bells (2007)
- Side One Recordings, CD
Karl Hyde and Rick Smith are back after several years where they
toured and parted with their former label, V2. Here the duo continues
their fully produced wide-open dancefloor wash of warm rhythms and
beats galore. The lead in cut, “Crocodile” sounds like an immediate
hit, though with a few grungier and vocal dynamics in today’s mix how
will these gents compete? First, they have a world class sensibility
of what people are physically move to. They’ve proven themselves live
over and again, and this collection of bright tracks really captures
the spirit of how arms and hair and torsos dart between the sweat of
light and the darker chords of chillout. This is plain on “Good
Morning Cockerel” where the sweet tinkling piano plays to Hyde’s
unplugged, no-nonsense vocal. Back in June Smith was injured by
baseball bat wielding hoodlums during a concert at the Ejekt Festival
in Athens, though it sounds like these gents have made it back firmly
to their feet. A lot of what appears here is balanced by the
construction of song structures as opposed to the pure dance work of
some of their former work. This harkens to similar strategies made by
other electronic colleagues like Moby, Chemical Brothers and others in
the recent past. “Boy, Boy, Boy” sounds more like what you may hear in
a White Stripes pop song as opposed to late night in Ibiza. And then
there’s “Ring Road” which features the beloved Brit-rap they came to
fame on the wave of. It’s dressed down, almost spoken. Add some
skeletal percussion and the beat is basic, bridged by a beautifully
slightly vocoded chorus. It’s thick and in the trends set by
themselves, De La Soul, Soul Coughing and a handful of others
lip-serving the masses at one moment or another. The nice surprise
here is ‘Faxed Invitation’ built on the mechanical mutations of an old
machine that transmits messages. Their message is all kept on the warm
down-low. The funky dance hooks are in “Holding the Moth” though
they’ve hurdled some of their catchiest phrases for a larger focus on
the vocal throughout. For that look to “Beautiful Burnout.” The title
says it all in that which amply re-uses some of their classic flow,
and will surely be the dance single for what it’s worth, which is more
than two bits (or is that bytes)? [Purchase]
- Tuk :: Shallow Water Blackout (2007)
- (K-RAA-K)³, CD
Developed from a series of live shows over two years, Guillaume Graux
sorts out seven tracks that source the sounds from his laptop with
mastering by Yves De Mey. The result is dense, cryptic and punctuated
with clicks and pops encrusted with electronic noise and space as
heard on the rambunctious “Insomnia.” Elsewhere on Shallow Water
Blackout (a loss of consciousness caused by the lapse of breath)
there is hazy dulling set of harmonies, pale as a blue sky at high
noon, effectively in mid November when the chill has just set in full
on. The mix of assorted tones are intertwined on “Lady Jane.” Fingers
to strings like spider to web, a nervousness arises and dissipates,
leaving a warm stretched passage that meanders in speed and density.
Yet there’s still room for the branding of chunky noise on “Stillnox
Parties” which sounds like a factory in full production as interpreted
through teletype. Like a haphazard collision between Merzbow and Kim
Cascone, this recording jumps around a rock and a hard place. Solid in
fearless tracks like “Rock and Roll Dreams Come Through” which cranks
out a gyrating percussive beat that rolls and rocks, through colliding
distortion and a raspy undertone. Hard in its edgeless
experimentation. This is an impressive second full length challenge of
any basic formula.
- Einstürzende Neubauten :: Alles Wieder Offen (2007)
- Self-Released, CD
Well oiled, to a patina perhaps unlike any other avant band ever out
of Germany, Einstürzende Neubauten decided to release this latest
ten-track collection on their own accord. With lyrics by resident
spoken croonster Blixa Bargeld, the band offers a heavy piano on
opener “Die Wellen.” Building and building with their signature
percussion, things slowly come to a crescendo and close abruptly. It’s
dramatic, alive. The record continues with the clip-clop of “Nagorny
Karabach” which sounds like an intimate, dusty travelogue. Since the
early 80′s this quartet have offered a wide angled discography with
fiery experimentation that never seems to cut itself short from
beating its own drum(s). That outcome has provided amazing work like
the powerful tin beats as heard on “Weil Weil Weil” alongside a
spirited vocal by Bargeld and other electronics and a barrage of amped
samples. It’s probably the best “song” for them in years. It’s got a
contained structure. All sung in German, their sound, gutteral,
poker-faced and at times poking fun at itself, becomes another
instrument telling a story for any ears, bilingual or not. Elsewhere
on Alles Wieder Offen you’ll find field recordings mixed down as on
“Von Wegen” which is a cross between an acoustic folk rock number with
the vestiges of a operatic prelude. But when the percussive beat
blends in things become more uncalculated. And this is what these
gents are known for. Taking it way out. The title track starts like
something from 80s new wave, with a noir Nick Cave-like vocal. Rhyme
may have a reason. Most lovely here I must point out “Susej” which
something of an industrial love song. Posing in a bit of a whisper
over the clink of a repetitive beat that comes and goes with dramatic
- Fear Falls Burning & Nadja :: Self Titled (2007)
- Conspiracy, CD
This is an explosive barrage of droning guitars and percussion. It
cranks and careens and crashes and burns. There is a broad peripheral
soundscape here, something drown in amplification and its absorption
of everything in its path. Not loud for the sake of it either, there’s
more of a twisted containment of an abundance of noise junk, being
controlled and manipulated with a keen construction. The flailing
metallic jamboree of brass and small explosions breathe from inner
earth. This hour is split in near even quadrants, so it’s as if you
are listening to an aural play in part. The volume shifts, but there
is a beating that is constant, blurry at points then open and raw in
others. By part three they are in a quieter space, wider, more about
harmonies in the atmospheric strings, and the chamber music crated by
the din of the background. A pale sense of sadness in the air rides
towards the final track when things become nearer and clearer.
Actually, this is done with a stretched drone that is as balancing as
it is menacing. The long washes of guitar are mixed and filtered like
light fading into a distant valley. But that is edged out by the
clamor of heavy bass and distortion at midpoint which continues its
path until the very last minute where things settle with the sense of
a angered, mysterious cliffhanger. [Purchase]
- Valgeir Sigurdsson :: Ekvílibríum (2007)
- Bedroom Community, CD
Here’s a debut from an Icelandic producer who has worked with Bjork,
Sigur Rós, Coco Rosie, among others. The sounds are wafting delicacies
with strings and breezy buzz, music boxes all intertwined with guest
vocals and other sensitive arrangements. Symphonic strings with
breaks, recalling the soundtrack for Dancer in the Dark which he
worked on with Bjork are evident on the sauntering stop/start of
“Focal Point.” The harmonies are bright and flickery. “Baby Architect”
with J. Walker has a rambling, cut-up feel to it, like they are
humming along inside a machine that is slicing tiny portions and
feeding it back. There’s a warmth throughout the entire record that
spills softly. At times this sounds like a lost record from the 70′s
hidden rock opera vault as peaked at in tracks like “Winter Sleep”
with its Craig Armstrong-like overtures and ambient texturing. Dawn
McCarthy’s voice is a lovely addition that makes for something
brightly birdlike. As I listen the sounds fade away, on the
romanticized “Equilibrium is Restored.” It’s a passage to a small
gazebo in a forest, among nature, a recital with passing minstrels,
and light faire. Ekvílibríum is a floating and dreamy record that
suggests taking a much needed, contemplative pause from our
advertising saturated, overproduced daily speed culture. Charming. [Purchase]
- Ethan Rose :: Spinning Pieces (2007)
- Locust Music, CD
This tight threesome of tracks collects a piece each recorded in 2003,
04 and recently in 07 – each with the concept of sounds that are
cylindrical, emulating music boxes, player pianos or other motorized
sound machines. Ethan Rose has been busy at work recording film
soundtrack work with Gus Van Sant in between touring with his band
Small Sails, and when he has the wherewithall even creates sound-based
art installations. Here are some of the sounds that have not quite
fallen between the cracks. Starting with the tinkling ringing metallic
harmonics of “Singing Tower” which was recorded at Stanford University
and manipulated from an automated carillon. Rose is fascinated by the
potential of re-using these archaic instruments of yesteryear that
didn’t need a human to play them. He shows his penchant by taking
their sources throughout this recording and filtering, modifying and
otherwise completely reinventing their wheels. The results are powdery
washes of ambient drones, undulating rhythms that bend above and
around the listener. It’s quite mesmerizing and centering. On “…the
dot and the line…” he’s used a series of player pianos and subteley
coarse sound effects that carress the edges of the surface. The piano
is distant as though a lone player is practicing in the dulling divide
of another room. The earliest work here, “Miniature & Sea” sources
optical film readers as well as small music boxes to obtain a
figure-in-the-attic ghostly effect. There is a certain hollow that air
whistles through steadily like a police siren a few blocks away, or
the faded screech of roman candles in July. The pulse breaks the
cyclical frame of the piece nicely, and shifts to a meandering sound
haiku of sorts. The piece eventually roars like a passing train at a
nosehair away until things slowly degenerate into a clump of
- Psychic TV / PTV3 :: Hell is Invisible…Heaven Is Her/e (2007)
- Sweet Nothing/Cargo, CD
Kick it Genesis (and crew)! From the climbing opening righteous
rocker “Higher and Higher” to the wee notes of “Milk Baba” this really
explodes all over the place. A bit with the vengeance of 80′s bands
like Love & Rockets, Icicle Works and others who focused more on the
guitar than on the synthesizer. Jammed in here through smart samples
and sound effects are some real pop rock gems, without the trite
structure of bridge, chorus et al. For example, “In Thee Body” starts
like some industrial dirge that spins into a jamming guitar with a
spoken word vocal questioning the reality of the self in the body. It
meanders just long enough to bring about a streaming of consciousness
of the listener, then brings you back. It darkly rambles about, partly
unrecognizable lyrics, chantlike to a degree. A rock anthem or sacred
code? On “Maximum Swing” the bold tribal percussion is blurs the
buried, gutteral Tom Waits-style vocal which spouts “She could take
the poison from a bee sting…She can pull the feathers off a black
angel wing”. It’s high tone attitude, aha. “New York Story” is their
out loud, hazy-dazy nod to Velvet Underground, tamborine and all.
Serrated strings and shoegazer crooning mixes rightly with the
saltiness of it all in a similar style heard primarily from bands like
Spiritualized. And then there’s the near trance-like “Hooka Chalice”
which transgresses the whole variance of PTV stylings, from noir
visualizations to chamber music until it blows the roof off the mother
about a minute and a half in. Wow. Unexpected grinder totally nailed.
A riot in all senses of the word. [Purchase]
- Sawako :: Madoromi (2007)
- Anticipate, CD
Sawako has been making soft, atmospheric works for the last few years
and this is of the same ilk. Where things seem to grow is in the
overall sense of composition. The sounds are less ‘tiny’ sounding, and
roll around in space more fluidly. She’s managed to tour and play
live, and the spatial plane here has been effected by a growth in a
greater sense of spatial sound management. The whispers on “August
Neige” sound channeled like apparitions rather than a collaged
patchwork of added sounds in the mix, there is an overall sense of
fusion in the way she is now layering and laying it all down. The
ambience is perfectly mood setting, then building. There’s this sense
of an endless lagoon of sensuous, cool water rippling, a fine mist on
a hot day, and this sated feeling to the tips of your being. “Appled
Soapbox” is a warped piece with an indistinguishable voice sample that
repeats in and outside itself. Throughout Sawako hints generously at
the landscape of her native Japanese roots with themes of quietude and
(09.01.07) This is the second in this new monthly review series by TJ
Norris. The focus is fixed on charged international releases that play
on audio/visual elements and experiments within the hybrid of multi
genres. Like particles in space, or ions, this type of charge can
unknowingly produce both positive and negative conductivity. Norris is
also continuing to curate a somewhat related a/v performance series,
soundbytes, in his native Portland, Oregon. In the past he has hosted
diverse acts as Twine, Illusion of Safety, Richard Francis and
vidnaObmana. If you are passing through please contact him
- William Basinski :: El Camino Real (2007)
- 2062/Musex International, CD, Edition of 300
El Camino Real is William Basinki’s rebirth of ambient cool. Keeping
true to his growing discography of sensitively deconstructed sound
work, this was recorded from his signature tape loops in 2006. It’s as
if I were sitting upon the tarmac at LAX at dawn, watching the 747s
take flight, one by one, in slow motion. The hazy thick drone is
delivered en masse filling the ground with passing clouds of dusty
distortion, rolling as if you could almost touch its edges. The single
50-minute track rumbles in the eye of this low-fi sound storm, never
losing the bounty of its curvy, harmonious structure. In its
insistent, repetitive continuance Basinski retrofits the listener at
dawn, within a certain silence where few have survived the fallout of
an imaginary apocalypse. It’s fiery, yet desolate.
- Novi_sad :: Misguided Heart Pulses, A Hammer, And the Clock (2007)
- Tilt, CD, Limited Edition
The new disc by Novi_sad (Thanasis Kaproulias) on Greek label Tilt
Recordings is a categorically astonishing debut. From the start, this
nearly hour-long triptych of pieces is a multi-layered, expertly
edited collage of dramatic fluid and crunchy textures. In this light,
becoming a transcendent departure from your sense of space.
“Everything Looks Better Beside Water,” indeed. And if you simply
close your eyes while playing this you may envision haunting streams
of consciousness on the edge of clinical abduction. At times the low
end delivers indelible hypnotic vibrations, searing metallics and a
steady sense of the percussion of presence in the distance. The almost
inaudible high pitched sine waves of “O you sweet and spontaneous
Earth. You answered them only with spring” shift the velocity some.
That is until about four minutes in when a siege of encrusted razor
tones builds to a drone that obliterates most anything in its path.
It’s noisy, yet resilient, and Kaproulias smartly knows when enough is
enough, and as such mediates his own table of elements.
- Minibloc :: carton, micro, récréation (2006)
- Le-Son 666, CD
This is the first full-length by the Montreal duo Minibloc (Nicolas
Dion and Anne-Francoise Jacques). It runs the gamut from risky rough
micro-noise on “Examen: Monsieur Déboule L’escalier Jaune Longtemps”
to the shyly sparse feedback and roll-back-the-tape play of “Bingo
Crounch.” One thing’s for sure, these two are nothing if not
completely adventurously inventive. They sound as if they are on the
underside of their instruments on the quirky THX 1138 inspired
“Bourgeois Poison Ivy.” Very physical and raw, without any real
melody, Minibloc has concocted what sounds at times grating like an
overly anxious dog pawing at an open mic. When I saw them play live at
the Mutek Festival in ’05 I actually called them “cute” and this makes
me want to eat those words. Sure their name is Minibloc and the
players are each under 5’8″ – but the whole book/cover conundrum plays
hardball right back at you here. Sawing wood, jangling keys, twisting
and tightening gadgets – their playful experimentation continues
throughout. This is not at all music that you can dance to, more like
the sounds of a fix-it chop shop do-it-all repair center – especially
as heard on the muscularly breathing “Pink Duvet.” There’s ample
amplitude, and a sudden, almost naïvely curious sensibility.
- Yasujiro Ozu :: Hitokomakura (2007)
- and/OAR, 2xCD)
These thirty-one imaginary soundtracks combined in a deluxe two-pack
are based on the films of Yasujiro Ozu. A very diverse international
compilation that includes work by John Hudak, Roel Meelkop,
Steinbruchel, Steve Roden, Taku Sugimoto, Marc Behrens and many
others. They’ve each created their own visual/visceral sound
experience for the listener to explore with conceptually dramatic
sequencing throughout. In a combination of field recordings, samples
and electronic experimentation, most of what is contained herein is a
wash of drone and ambience – especially noted in the beautiful
three-minute piece “Ukigusa” by Alejandra & Aeron.
Doors creak in
syncopation, a stream flows quick and softly, with a light roar from
the mysterious outdoors. On Behrens’ “Samma No Aji” there’s a dramatic
shift between understanding the listening experience as sine waves or
the nature of crickets. The tone is sharp and postured like stalking
prey, while incidental chirping distracts the potential of the
situation. The work is dramatically dense and ordered, and not
necessarily through common sense, but the shared experience, the
happenstance of aural cinema perhaps. As you listen, read deeply into
the well-written liner notes from Masters of Cinema’s Doug Cummings,
who truly gives a quick, yet rounded historical interpretation of
Ozu’s film work and how it can possibly endure through recordings such
as this. The shaking feedback in Asuna’s short “From Scene 99 To The
End – Kohayagawa-Ke No Aki” alludes to the never-ending buzz of the
fixed machine age. It changes the continuum of energy here, but is
much needed grounding.
Kiyoshi Mizutani presents two pieces titled two
tables (1 and 2) where field recordings of domestic scene, watching
television in the kitchen are layered with exotic birds and the hiss
of a light rain. Part 1 sounds like the bass roar of a waterfall
combined with the delicate gathering of well water, or bathing. There
are voices and knocking (industrial or ‘peckers?). Rustling through
woods can be heard over a fine din of more rapturous rain, along with
vehicles whizzing by and a few cawing birds. It’s all quite noir,
really. “Tooi Soba” is Sawako’s unusual free-form ambient noise
contribution. Sauntering in slippers, perhaps prepping breakfast with
the clink of teacups, it’s definitely morning. There’s a frustrated
bit of pacing, and a few sparse words as familiar birds call. This is
the morning after (what though)? Dale Lloyd contributes one of the
few truly melodic pieces here called “Return To Me Who Sleeps” which
closes the set. Strumming on strings, with the echo of a gong-like
instrument, there’s a distinctly Japanese quality to the timing of his
playing as it fades softly.
- Tenniscoats :: Totemo Aimasho (2007)
- Room40, CD
The Tokyo duo of Saya and Takashi Ueno has released a record of range
from the delicate harmonies of the jazzy shoegazer “Cacoy” that turns
discordant towards the very end to the mysterious crooner “Rasen”
which plays on Bjork’s lonesome sweetness amidst the vibration of
organ drone. Totemo Aimasho makes several attempts to toy at
something pop, but never really goes there intentionally. The weary
“Jitsurei” is a good example of a languid soundtrack at half-speed. Of
the dozen tracks on the disc, three are under one minute, including
the would-be just-revving anthem “Midori,” the 44-second piano recital
opener “Hakka” and the micro-hiss and textural elements of “Broome”
that are more like a throat singing version of a chugging freight
train passing through. These are situational pauses, like haikus, that
balance the drama of the other stories like “Donna Donna” (sung like a
Japanese oompa loompa ditty, with a hint of Nick Cave). Though phrased
in quite a contemporary manner, parts here sound like one of those
lost folk records that slipped between the cracks decades ago, atop a
cracked rhythm box, both bright and mellow.
- Ellen Fullman + Sean Meehan :: untitled (2007)
- Cut, CD
Phases of open wired strings, like feedback caressing, then sending
distress signals, this live duo is immediately bold and distracting.
Fullman has developed her own long string instrument, percussionist
Sean Meehan helps fill out the sound with the brushed sizzle of his
cymbals. In the constant barrage of wavy vibrations grows a fuzzy glow
that fills the entire aural capacity of the room, or your head
(through earphones). It’s a pervasive, building dissonance cyclically
regenerating itself like sunflowers in August. And that’s just track
one of three. The break in the set is dramatic, necessary, before
diving back into the elongated pitch and echo created from these
untitled pieces. The screech in part two is a bit cumbersome and
grating, disconcerting and run-on. But things change some in the final
leg of this torso where the high-pitch is traded in for a mutable
drone approximating a dead old-fashioned analogue telephone line or
the low-hum whir of some assorted motor. At closure, the numbing
layers are like a flatline current, slowly softening into air.
- Jean-Francois Laporte :: Soundmatters (2007)
- 23five, CD
Soundmatters is a compilation of five works by Jean-Francois Laporte
that spans 1997-2005. The flap-like snore of “Plénitude du vide”
(2005) has a metallic edge that rumbles about with a to and fro
motion. The restless purr is a curious warning. In the distance a
hybrid air raid siren slowly moves to midground. The discordance is a
disturbing reminder of our times. The near 1/2 hour long “Mantra” (1997)
treats industrial field recordings like collage, ahhh, the familiar
pitch of generators spinning endlessly. Laporte has found a way to
harmonize the shape of the sound with his own layer of drone reverb,
which ominously cascades in and out. Incorporating PVC tubes to mute
some of the frequency, there’s a directional sense to the sound in a
sculptural sense. The track sandwiches gut-massaging lows that offset
the crisp high spatters. It’s funny how compositions that use the
manmade production machine can become somewhat meditative the more you
listen. The initial influx of noise is a bit dense and brusque, but in
no time, if you close your eyes you may see stars. “Boule qui
roule…” (1997), by comparison, is a bit of a test. It’s posture
seems to be much more micro intimate, with sine wave-like pitches that
are scratchy and neon bright. The work plays on sounds that remind us
of cartoon space gravities, lunar expeditions and hover craft. I’m
most certainly not in Kansas anymore.
- Esplendor Geometrico :: Trans-Version (2007)
- Artecnico, CD, limited edition
In a whirring, crunchy buzz-fest filled with discordant rhythm this
Madrid-based duo has been developing industrial sounds for nearly
three decades. This time out they’ve sent a lethal charge through a
wood chipper, well not really, but the music is muscular and suited
for well worn ears. The insistent shock waves made by “Raskin
Maquinista” are insistent and unforgiving, but again, they know how to
make noise experiential, and not just from the point of pain and
endurance. It’s a factory-like mechanized mix of full-bodied gyrating
repetition. “Control Dos” is the last cut on this four track long
player, an overtly physical recording, texturally grating, an
impractical, unnerving listen. It’s punctuated by pointillism and
brashly brazen. These two have virtually stumbled outside the
sensibility of building any semblance of traditional composition into
their own hands and pulled it inside-out.
- JPLS :: Twilite (2007)
- M_nus, CD)
Jeremy Jacobs is JPLS and this new disc is filled with refreshing
free-float, and syncopated dance tracks. His hooks are jangly and
elongated, tinny and spaced. But all the while he keeps you waiting
before adding a layer, a twist or break. It’s the tease of recycled,
regenerated loops. Happy loops nonetheless. And this is chill out
slow shimmy stuff, not the run out on to the dancefloor to shake and
romp variety. It’s a calculated affair, hence its title. But making
such clap-trap fodder you must circumvent the simplicity of the beats
with an undulating harmony, which is here and there on Twilite
though a bit too spare, except for on the very catchy “green 01
(skoozbot’s twilite remix).” It doesn’t save this recording from being
a bit dry and programmed sounding. From track to track there is just
too much that sounds similar, which overall makes for a bland batch.
Though I bet this stuff relaxes the masses into the wee hours, it
comes up short here. [Purchase]
- Matt Shoemaker :: Spots in the Sun (2007)
- The Helen Scarsdale Agency, CD, Edition of 400
If you could imagine flying high, into hyper space you could fashion
this trip in your mind. Seattle’s Matt Shoemaker has drawn from the
wide open space of fantasy science fiction. He has, as well, depicted
the intimacy of the hands touch of immediate objects dramatically
playing on the dichotomy of aural depth of field. With an intense
sense of pacing, and the breath between instrumentation Shoemaker has
generated something a bit akin to the lingering noir of the classic
soundtrack for Kubric’s 2001. It’s gassy drone, and moving airways,
the low-fi roar of something faintly mechanical, yet restrained, to
build up a mysterious set of passages that are inhabited by beings and
distant weather systems. Field recordings are folded into the
background delivering a sense of the remote. You get the feeling that
perhaps something much larger than you lurks out there, somewhere. It
harkens a sense of third person, of surveillance. And without any
specific action, the ambience of Spots in the Sun projects that a
lurking and suspenseful sense of the sinister is at large, and
- Jodi Cave :: For Myria (2007)
- 12K, CD
Opening in a gorgeously processed title track filled with wavering,
glowing tones and sparkly crackle Sheffield’s Jodi Cave makes a
stunning debut. Equal parts Kim Cascone and Nobukazu Takemura, the
blend is something freshly toothy to the touch, and bits of a lullaby.
Incorporating samples and field recordings she uses music boxes and
the meandering of a toothbrush(?) on “Rara.C” which sounds dreamy and
exploratory. There’s a train whizzing by atop a twinkling flash of
tiny clicks and a daydream harmony that is residual from “For Myria
(Two)” which is a sleepy piece that sounds a whole lot like labelmate
Skoltz_Kolgen. The “Unititled” tracks seems oddly different from the
rest here. Contemplative, drawn, paced like a gauzy funeral dirge.
Throughout Cave conducts a whole ritual of moving physical objects
about with the additions of peculiar birds, breath and other vestiges
emanating sound in her surroundings. For Myria is so full of
emotive, tones in a multitude of strange hues, dark and light, and
- Felix Kubin :: Axolotl Lullabies (2007)
- Oral, CD
This collection of compilation tracks, remixes and other short
oddities spans 1999-2006 and is a welcome relief to many who have
watched this man’s elusive career and random output. For he
uninitiated Felix Kubin is this slamdunk cross between the
ping-ca-chong tonalities found in Kraftwerk, the wry humor and pacing
of They Might Be Giants and his own poker-faced delivery. And here
tracks like “Ich Traeume Nur In Super-8″ fit the niche to a t. It’s a
rat-a-tat-tat throw-back to the gay old era of Liberace and Lawrence
Welk. On “Marche Telepathique” add the playful themes of Danny Elfman,
mix it all up by fellow frolicking sound boxers like People Like Us or
Analogue alchemist Asmus Tietchens – and voila – instant harmonious
pandemonium. This record brings together a whole slew of fun music,
handclaps, twang guitar, reverb and all into one place. ‘Axolotl
Lullabies’ is collected chaos at its best. There are moments when
things get a bit more off and dense as on the short “Rudi Gullit’s
Head” which harkens to some of Richard D. James “Come to Daddy” days,
which sequences into “Let’s Rock, Baby” perfectly. The cadence here is
amply messed around with, blending lunge and Wurlitzer like a set of
twins forced to wear their Garamimals (r). “Trauergonelparadies” is a
whole other world where Kubin collaborates with Tietchens. What
emerges is something of a grey area blending each of their sounds. If
you might imagine “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” but just a whole
lot more darkly psychedelic, with characters caught in the eye of the
storm, falling endlessly to their untimely death, you may see what I
see. And just when you thought it was safe to continue playing “Slides
From Yesterday” from the One Bomb Fits all compilation throws Grace
Jones, ESG and Slayer into the Blendit for fun. Its melancholy chords
vs. gravely rock stance is a frolicking match of pompous wit and pert
punctuated attitude. You have to sit this one out because they saved
the best for last, the anthemic “Russian Robot in N.Y… It’s his own
lushly noir-filled march of the robots combining the precision of the
stealthy futurism of Metropolis opposing the little people of
Munchkinlan. A complete romp!
- The Beautiful Schizophonic :: Musicamorosa (2007)
- Crónica, CD
It caresses the mind and careens forward, this Beautiful Schizophonic
(Jorge Mantas). Musicamorosa is a selection of passages, deep and
full-bodied in passionate drone. Music for the awakening of the soul,
no doubt. Much of this was influenced by the romantic sense of time,
and losing it, in the literary work of the great Proust (Valentin
Louis Georges Eugène Marcel Proust). The disc is most cavernous at
times (“Du Fond Du Sommeil Elle Remontait Les Derniers Degrés De
L’escalier Des Songes”), taking a surging river ride at others (“Les
Oiseaux Qui Dorment En L’air”). On “La Lectrice” (The Reader) he
employs multi-instrumentalist and composer Colleen (Cécile Schott)
reading without accompaniment from Proust while in Paris. It causes
for a linguistic pause before once again floating amid the luminous
“L’amour, C’est L’espace Et Le Temps Rendus Sensibles Au Coeur.” Chambers of translucent whispers and the elongated echo of whistling
carry the sense purported on “L’éternel Matin”. What Mantas, who
fancies himself a sound designer rather than a composer, ends up
harvesting here is randomly conceptual as a long player. It works in
sections, but perhaps it may be best left alone, to simply bathe into
the entirety of its length. And in conclusion, it does with the
thirteen minute gem “Soixante-Quatre (@C Pour T.B.S.)” which combines
all that is grande about electronica today, a glint of minimalism and
the subliminal power of the soundtrack. And while pre-empted by
hushed, fidgety goings-on the end straddles those moments in-between,
that time actually forgot. Which is to say the subtleties of
Musicamorosa will carry its secrets into the air like a swarm of
bees, vying on extinction, on a particularly humid day.