- . Frozen In Time (10 Below)
- . . On Thin Ice (Playable)
- . . . Icebreaker (Solid)
- . . . . Sonic Ice (Repeat)
- . . . . .Avalanche (Classic)::..:::…..:..::….:::::..:::..:::::::……:::…::.:::….::::..:..:::…::…….::::
- MURMER :: They Were Dreaming They Were Stones
- CD: Ground Fault
- . . . >> My ears were tricked. There are times while I am listening with headphones and I think that peripheral ambience creeps into my ears and mixes with a recording – but this time, the outdoor sounds – those of tires on highways – were part of the work. The audio quality in the recording is so strangely mixed, it’s almost like experiencing some type of movie theater surround sound. This chugs away filled with vast atonality and an inebriating buzzing drone. There are familiar windy sounds of coastal drifts and wind chimes, creaking woods and variant echoes. But just when you’re sitting tight, basking in the romanticism of all the natural organics of the outdoors, the high pitched white noise mix sheds the top layer revealing a more precocious reality. Are we living on a heap of nuclearized uranium? The metal detecting counters seem to be going mythically wild here on Murmer’s (Patrick McGinley) latest release. This is a serious player in the world of sound research who has been quietly working at it for several years. The mood is queasy and cautious, recognizing that the actual source recordings from these sessions (1999-2003) came from a 600 gallon tank of water, Turkish football and elevator shafts among other peculiar spaces.
- ANDREW DUKE :: Take Nothing For Granted
- CD: Cognition Audioworks
- . . . . >> In eighteen short tracks Andrew Duke renews my faith in the world of slow-mo techno with a foot (and a half) in sounds less understood. Duke takes apart beats to the umpteenth degree on tracks like the poker-faced “Mortal” and the chirpingly shrill “2fwd1bwd.” This is like a micronized, haunted dancehall record, filled with passion for phantom static in all its inherent warm nostalgia. The rampantly channeled “Fuel” zips fleetingly from ear to ear. One might venture to deem this a personal recording, in its depth it goes off course every now and then, seeming more journal-based than a straight shot of pure sound for someone else’s ears. Though this makes for an interesting guide into the mind of a mad genius in the making. Take Nothing for Granted invites its audience into secret spaces harboring some real, raw fixtures upon which are built some incredible decibels.
- TROUM :: Tjukurrpa (Part Three: Rhythms and Pulsations)
- CD: Transgredient Records
- . . . . . >> Troum have truly developed this series like fine art. Tjukurrpa is the equivalent of an aural locomotive in one ear, while acting as a psychedelic elixir in the other. How can the power of sound be designed to be disturbingly curious and larger than life? Ask Glit[S]ch and Baraka[H] who after disbanding their legendary industrial/ambient project Maeror Tri in 1996 have since branched out into a significant niche, a sound territory of their own. The recording is deftly wide in scope and dark in every corner, almost tribally spiritual, having more in common with Gamelan than Black Sabbath, but there is a furious (if not totally understated) nod to the latter’s “Iron Man” on the bass boom of “Orphne.” This is one of those rare records that only rolls around once a decade and is worshipped by too few, misunderstood, and out of its era to some. One thing is for sure; when a disc simulates the physical manifestations of a Cecil Taylor live concert something is perfectly trembling in my soul.
- BEANFIELD :: Seek
- CD: Compost Records
- . . 1/2 >> The duo known as Beanfield invites multiple featured vocalists on their latest Seek. On “Tides” the Morcheeba-like Bajka croons as light, flamenco rhythms piece together this moderately languid, latinesque lounge piece. The tracks “Chosen,” “Close to You,” and “Someone Like You” include watered down vocals by Ernesto, only given credence when background vocals are applied – but besides being eerily reminiscent of “wanna-be” singers on shows like American Idol there is not much weight to his limp soul searching. Though when he plays more like part of the background as on “Kiss” he appeals as part of the greater flow of this intentional bubblegum, contemporary slacker pop. The instrumental “Mr. Park” could be defined as dreaming on a brightly colored merry-go-round in broad daylight while listening to Miles Davis’ early 70s records on your iPod. It is just that joyful – almost Hallmark card unrealistic in its pastel washes of guitar-based rhapsody. The restrained funk becoming a trademark of German label Compost is clearly decadent on the crisp and catchy “Home” (again with Bajka). By far, the standout track on Seek is the percussive “Welcome” which utilizes the harmonic crooning of Marzenka to great effect. Not only is the tune totally funky, its use of chilling down the tones and minimal vocal sampling is quite, well, welcome!
- NELS CLINE and DEVIN SARNO :: Buried On Bunker Hill
- CD: Ground Fault
- . . . 1/2 >> Cold and enigmatic textures like a fog rolling in at the cusp of a shadow, so goes the opening track, “Swinging London.” Big sound from a duo that paints pictures contorted between the worlds of Pink Floyd and High Rise (I am sure they could also be likely compared to contemporaries E.A.R. or Godspeed! You Black Emperor) – in other words, monster guitars. This is the Godzilla-like younger brother mutation of these references, however. Big bass blur with a cobra-like slither and a sonic drone core. From wall of noise to distinctive sad distortions Buried on Bunker Hill (hey, that’s my old neighborhood guys!) is a pure atmospheric outing, almost in the classic sense of how noise gets developed in various segments. The final “Only Peace” is the pale ambient, unpredictable one in the batch, but makes a great escape. There’s a lot of revving here from a duo who have been playing live and experimenting since ’94. Fan the flames!
- TEAM DOYOBI :: Choose Your Own Adventure
- CD: Skam
- . . . >> Squeaky, off-kilter rambling funky fun jittery beats might start to describe Leeds-based duo and mixers Team Doyobi (Chris Gladwin, Alex Peverett). There are skittering slapstick moments when it sounds like someone has stepped on an animated cat’s tail, and others when you may imagine an Iron Maiden record being spun backwards. Nonetheless, these cats rip it up, but this is a standard in IDM, no new ground is broken. So what you say! To cut a long story short, yeah, I guess if you want to get your groove on this may be the meal ticket, nourishing your well so(u)led feet. Broken up into units of beats and measures Choose Your Own Adventure is paste-up heaven – just remember to dry clean your wings first. Mid way through, the disc offers a theatrical intermission with truncated thriller soundtracks and reflections of lowercase chords. From thereon the snap-to-grid tactics turn to stone. Suddenly a buzz of synthetic tones steer their penchant to digitize atonal frequencies with lopsided unconsciousness. Until of course we take a micro-hip-hop ride on track 7, and so it goes until the toy synths crash and burn to the bitter end, but that may be another story. Phew.
- KAMMERFLIMMER KOLLEKTIEF :: Cicadidae
- CD: Temporary Residence Ltd.
- . . . . >> Six-piece German collective Kammerflimmer Kollektief are on to something life-size on Cicadidae, their third full-length blending orchestral harmonies, guitars and countless electronic techniques to this lush recording. If you were to merge and filter Tricky, the Freight Elevator Quartet and contemporary bluegrass you may start to feel the vibe. Liquid rhythm saturated in Wim Wenders-like cinematic austerity. The six men behind this operation of blistering syncopation are Heike Aumuller, Christopher Brunner, Dietrich Foth, Johannes Frisch, Thoman Weber and Heinke Wendelin. The percussion is based in jazz, and couldn’t sound better against its tapestry of crisp electronics, wind instruments and an assortment of tonal shifts as heard on “…denn Nacht ist jetzt schon bald!” There are moments on the effectively pop “Eiderdaunen (gerupft)” where the tempo harkens the arrival of a crooning mysterio like Dave Gahan, but no one ever shows up to the mic. With a sound that owes much to properties of improvisation, Cicadidae manages to remain exceptionally focused on the finer elements of its cadence rather than its chance resonance.
- DON RAINWATER :: Boucher EP
- CDR/Unreleased: email@example.com (Management)
- . . . >> This is an unusual find, a pre-release of an unsigned artist and disc that is already circulating. I guess it’s a privilege to be one of the first people on the block to have access to something like this. The Boucher EP is a collection of twelve electronic tracks, each shorter than 5 minutes in length. Rainwater, who is also a DJ, has a few previous credits, including two tracks on a Toshoklabs compilation and soundtrack work for an award winning Sundance Festival film called Bullet in the Brain (2000), which also included partial scores by James Plotkin and Calla. The atmosphere is meticulously spatial and uses both industrial and tribal/urban sounds. He even threw in a marching band and voiceovers from some big ‘ole train depot. As this is not the final production, my copy has some weird glitches, but what is apparent is his sensitivity for combining incidental voice happenings and systematic beat passages. Here’s looking forward to the finished product!
- MEM :: It Was A Very Good Year
- CD: Alluvial Recordings
- . . . 1/2 >> By using the sole sound source of Elvin Drake’s song of the same name, Mem (Kamil Antosiewicz) takes It Was A Very Good Year to a sublime level. This is the ultimate post-modernization of icon Frank Sinatra’s famed classic. Though, except for some basic chord lines, the original is initially transparent from Mem’s subversion of the brooding hit record. You might imagine a psychedelic Phantom of the Opera using his upright as a medium to bore a void for a transcontinental underground tunnel. This is a really challenging listen, more academic than playful. Though the liner card does include the original lyrics, it still doesn’t make you feel like humming along. Antosiewicz calls it “an essence of the essence,” and to that I say touché! An unnerving and thought-provoking hour of manipulated surrealism.
- V/A :: Levitate
- CD: N-Rec
- . . . . 1/2 >> Digital visionary Pep (Pep Karsten) not only does design services for this release, he also cracks the seal of N-Rec’s Levitate with “A New Place.” The piece uses sounds that simulate bells and telephones to chilling effect, in the way Andrew Lagowski’s S.E.T.I. project does. German-born, Parisian-based Sogar (Jürgen Heckel ) joins Sebastien Rioux for a romp they call “Californiabouncing.” As you count sheep, here we have a multi-tiered and dizzying recycle to last night’s castles in the sky – patterned and fluffy, like Monet’s cathedrals through another layer of gauze. Russian COH’s twelve-minute “Sleepair (Board 737 Brussels-Sthlm, 28.01.01 17:41)” is more a documentary travelogue that is channel-mixed and laden with the bass of jet fuel. “Formerself” by label head Cylens is a collection of teeny sine tones (ala Bernard Gunther, Richard Chartier, Noto). Its restricted dragging and embryonic examination make each miniscule sound pop like an arsenal of undersized marbles. Main (Robert Hampson) makes “Interspace,” an instant jettison into a vast universe. The cabin pressure is arid; the atmosphere is plagued with finite debris from pure obscurity; the tones are mellow drones and the static is active. Also includes minimalist electric sketches by Plimplim, Frederic Nogray, E-DI and Mokira. Though Fabriquedecouleurs’ “Coeur Des Paons” steals the greatest moment here while he assists the landing of this levitating craft with a spirited work that glistens like gems, messing with high scale micro-tones and Pita vs. Vert playfulness. Levitate is, hands-down, the most coherent and truly eclectic, micro-electronics compilation I’ve heard in the last year.
- STEVE ROACH :: Texture Maps
- CD: Timeroom Editions
- . . . 1/2 >> Texture Maps is the latest Steve Roach dream-layered, ambient effort with scores of drifting harmonics and tranquil voids. Somehow the track “Gray and Purple” illuminates and illustrates its title radiantly, a 21-minute piece of long and sultry gradations in drowsy acoustics. This is a pure sci-fi soundtrack, deserts on Mars, rings of stratosphere, elemental shifts, lost satellites and the like of life out there. For best use try “Time Maps” with a side of astral hypnotism and interplanetary massage for a true transcendental experience.
- STEPHAN MATHIEU AND DOUGLAS BENFORD :: [Reciprocess: +/Vs.] Vol. 2
- CD: BiP_HOp
- . . . . :: As part two of a collaborative curatorial effort by Philippe Petit (BiP-HOp) and Christopher Murphy (Fällt) this new release by Stephan Mathieu (Fällt, Orthlorng, Bottrop-Boy) as Full Swing and Douglas Benford (BiP-HOp, Sprawl, Suburbs of Hell) as Si-cut.db sets standards high for collaborative work in the contemporary electronic milieu. Seven of the thirteen tracks here were written collaboratively as fine tuned reconstructions of each other’s original work. On tracks like “Flurry.Gardening” the approach is slow and stirring, a bit anxious. The base drone crosses between a church organ and a still aircraft prior to takeoff. The effort presents an inquisitive approach to how experimental composers can examine and/or mirror their own micro techniques. By using random deduction they have fused a formula that acts as a spin-off to their solo work. As two young composers, both currently at a pinnacle of creativity, this often might be more a “vs.” than a natural pairing. Don’t miss Fehler’s optical cover art graphics, to be read interactively from multiple angles. Though hungry ears may want to chew slowly on this, savor the minute eccentricities that lay deeply in the dubby statics and bright microbeats on “Cond.Verge.” [Reciprocess: +/vs.] Vol. 2 lays down some heady rhythms that initially defy categorization but have lots in common with the process of listening and influence. One might hear references to turntablism (“Adorable.Capitolism”), dub, film soundtracks (“Divpops.Stage”) and even plain old pop music. One thing is constant, casual atmosphere, almost a soundtrack to a sparse, empty room, wired for sound, with open electricity and a window cracked ever so slightly, circulating wind and filtering various inclement weather; An ambitious alliance that will hopefully spawn into future projects.
- PAUL WIRKUS :: Intelleto D’Amore
- CD: Quecksilber
- . . . . . :: On his eighth release, I finally catch up with Polish improv jazz drummer, Paul Wirkus, on his first release for Cologne-based imprint Quecksilber. Don’t let the drumming moniker fool you though; this is a pure fusion of contemporary electronica that at once reminded me of a distorted redux of Fischerspooner of all things. Wirkus has been around the block having performed in an 80s punk band (Karcer) to an intellectual post-rock project with the lauded Mapa. Aside from Wirkus’ abundant discography that I failed to notice the first time around, he has certainly gained my immediate attention with his insightful Intelleto D’Amore. The polymorphous harmonies are so different from anything else heard in minimal electronic records in recent memory; Wirkus will be the composer to watch! This can partly be attributed to his unique use of sampled traditional strings and piano as sent through tremelo effects and multiple MiniDisc recorders for live mixing. Tracks like “Facsimile,” with its roaming hollow ball effect and pleasant Benge vs. Steve Roden styled rhythms brings about a shift that I could only venture to call microambient. Tonally precise and metrically sound, this is my favorite record of the year – paving a yet, long and uncharted road ahead.
- Ehlers/Suchy/Hautzinger :: Sound Chambers
- CD: Staubgold
- . . . 1/2 :: Reported to be the “supertrio of broken pop ambient” Ekkehard Ehlers, Joseph Suchy and Franz Hautzinger vie for a title that I am sure no others are necessarily ponying-up for. That aside, the combination of laptop (Ehlers), guitar (Suchy) and trumpet (Hautzinger) do have a power and cadence of improvisatory free jazz minus the collective conscience of the unconsciousness of the genre. Here, three disparate sound makers remain almost distanced but layered rather strategically. Each musician uniquely fashions passages with their own instrument which is expertly edited and/or mixed to form a neat mix that is often dissonant, but never far from recurring eclectic harmonies. Ehlers’ crackle, hum and elegant computer tones lay the pipes for Suchy’s totally breathtaking post-guitar ambience only to be incorporated timelessly with the inclusion of Hautzinger’s manipulated trumpet. At times it sounds like a warm up session at a cacophonous symphony hall, and just when you are seated upright in the plush velveteen, a storm of static plays musical chairs with your mind. And a possible funeral procession drifts through, led by the weary brass element taking its melodramatic turn somewhere midway through these illustrious Sound Chambers. Though, not at all characterized by the phrase “noise” the wash of clicks, warble and frothy filters form a healthy sound barrier, almost like an architectural model of sorts.
- Rob Mazurek :: Sweet And Vicious Like Frankenstein
- CD: Mego
- . . . . :: The windy city would be a bit less mysterious without Rob Mazurek (Black Goat Ensemble) who has worked with everyone from Stereolab to Tortoise. His quirky titled, hour-long debut recording for Mego is some sort of post-partum with Mary Shelley’s childhood myth of horror, love and first right of refusal. Set adrift in an abundance of delicate Pantonal colors, Mazurek composes as if he were re-writing the fairytale as a lullaby for the X-Y and Z generations. Abstract electronics bare weight on the wraithlike aural canvas he’s spread. The soon to be beating heart at the center is a phantasmagorical transformed creature conceived by a sinister doctor with a time machine of his genius, yet unrealized invention. The mastering duties went to Jim O’Rourke, and so it goes. The timing of what sounds like a chamber organ produces a dark soundtrack that eloquently hints at the film noir of its muse. With its apt breaks and silences, “Body Parts (Spectral White)” is set off in a style of opaque vignettes. The much more aggressive white noise-based “Electric Eels (In Half Light)” counters the first half of the recording with frenetic pulse, soon tamed and toyed with further. What happens in the final fifteen minutes is just sheer mystery. Sweet and Vicious Like Frankenstein is a far cry from the formerly cornet-laden hands of Mazurek who has been influenced by the dual end of the spectrum jazz greats Ornette Coleman and Lee Morgan, but proves that his instrumental style is based on the multi-linguistic intensity of improvisation.
- Loop Orchestra :: Not Overtly Orchestral
- CD: Quecksilber
- . . . :: Not Overtly Orchestral, the third recording by Sydney’s Loop Orchestra, starts with a squeaky-wheel repetitive action fused with a distorted nails-on-a-chalkboard dividing line. There is plenty of back-catalogue homework for you to catch up on about this phantom act who have been through fires, reel-to-reel tape machines and Severed Heads. In about 45 minutes we are cajoled by lopsided electronic caws (“Radiophony”), summoned to a fiery hillside where animals rustle and the court jester is gagged (“Profiles”) all while facing the fate of water torture and/or the heavens opening up as nature calls. These samples are of course, looped, and layered, collaged and sculpted – like an intricate matrix. A constant toy laugh is paired up with a breathy gasp and multilayered sighs and cries as Not Overtly Orchestral comes to a swelling finale. It’s more than a bit disturbing. After 22 working years together, let’s hope The Loop Orchestra has a good long life ahead.
- Chefkirk :: (38-40CM)
- CDr: Simple Logic Records
- . . . :: A scrap heap of crazy noise, muted distortions of clicks and cuts, brought to life with guts and sincerity. Though this is not a K2 or Daniel Menche record, it is in like territory. Chefkirk pays homage to the importance of silence in this otherwise glitch-induced mire of interesting microphonics. Achim Wollscheid would be proud. Originally from the shores of North Carolina, Chefkirk has established a fully beat unconscious sensibility that is crowned by a basic love of static charges and peeling paint. His approach to subliminal electro-acoustics has water on the brain, and is only eclipsed by the haiku-like mechanics of the finished sound construction.
- Old Bombs :: Audios
- CD: Soft Abuse
- . . . . :: Carlos Giffoni (Monotract), Vanessa Payes and Dino Felipe are Old Bombs. This chattering machine called Audios is a full-on, rapid sound collage that steers into the eyes of People Like Us, only to play on the caustic fission of Mego’s General Magic. But where other cut-n-paste audiographers play on our encyclopedic “name that tune” perceptions, Old Bombs embeds these slices of sound with instantaneous originality. The stunning editing credits here go to Payes and Felipe. When listened to loudly, Audios creates an artificial wall between the ear and the immediate environment, almost encapsulating you inside your headphones. The brusque tones use stuttering slang to extreme, not cussin’ but fortified funk, abbreviated glimpses into beat redux. At one moment the marriage of some entity that could only be a haphazard collision between say, Missy Elliott and Wolf Eyes gets filtered into the finale of a Japanese B-movie. Get me a towel!
- Dead Letters Spell Out Dead Words :: 11 Instances of Dead Letters + Words
- CD: Ideal Recordings
- . . . . 1/2 :: These dead letters spell something phonetically challenging to the mind’s ear. Dead Letters (multimedia artist Thomas Ekelund) takes found sound recorded in his native Sweden and drives his operation to a superhighway of fine distortions. This is not about noise, it’s more about the differential between noise and the improvisation of the streets. Though the dark side to this 25 year old’s work is based in his interest in the foundry of punk rock. The end result can be described more as the luminescence of influences. Sounding like an old pro, with much in common with Nocturnal Emissions and hints of H3O, this kid is off to a great future. The drone is dense, the beats, if you could call them that, are illogical and discordant. Ekelund’s manipulations confront a smattering of sideline, negligible sounds. He tweaks small objects making them sound like they are caught adrift in a 50MPH wind upon a craggy rock garden or snow tires on open pavement. Encrusted with a startling combination of ambient science.
- Komet :: Arc, Live @ SWR Freiburg
- CD (ltd 500): Fallt
- . . . . 1/2 :: Komet (Frank Bretschneider) keeps his nominal beats muted, quiet, yet alive with pop. From the moment the laser hit the beautifully designed disc (credits to Fehler) the atmosphere is decidedly crisp and punctuated with variable, colorful tones. “Rausch”‘s structured patterns built from only sine waves and white noise, are almost like an aural drawing, keeping you following their path. Then, the layered “Band” crescendos to mere soft percussive silences after gradations driving the sound curve upward. The luminosity of Bretschneider’s beats are beholden only to his individual style for making each individual sound like a droplet of liquid energy. After having been recorded nearly four years ago, the performance ends in a well behaved round of applause that takes you from the completely digital soundboard to an earthy radio station space in Freiburg – distinguishing clearly that the music makes a complete atmosphere, outside of physical ourselves. In twenty-two minutes this could be the final course to a fattening feast of the finest microsound around.
- Hard Sleeper :: Land, Live @ Rausch
- CD (ltd 500): Fallt
- . . . . :: Dublin’s sound composer/designer Peter Maybury is Hard Sleeper (Sub Rosa, Static Caravan). The single-track performance is cast adrift in particle subtones, thawing the winter freeze. In what could be the soundtrack to an elusive underworld, Hard Sleeper takes to a new “Land” – one mirroring our earthly thumbprint, but teetering along its fine lines, curves and loops. The uninterrupted bass beat sets the coordinates for layers of thinly laced ambient rhythms, faint as can be. By extending some keynotes, Maybury is able to compose a carefree passage that glides and hums over what seems like an endless base of prolonged reverb. These grains of sound make a composite sketch of an emerging artist.
- Christopher Willits :: Pollen
- CD: Fallt
- . . . 1/2 :: Pollen is populated with an encrusted bed of warm guitar intonations. Like blips on a map of stars, the points of light here have hazy, bright edges. The Bay Area’s Christopher Willits follows his last Folding, and the Tea (12K) and a collaborative recording with Taylor Deupree (AudioSphere) with a sensually sensitive electronic pixellation. There are moments on “Stomata” that make the world seem just a little top-heavy, lopsided. There is an ill-at-ease presence in this carbonated atmosphere. It’s like a house of cards about to implode, but due to the structure it stays intact. Maybe Willits’ urban Richter scale plays a role in the ongoing vernacular here? Pollen has a gauzy filter that has a sense of containment as under glass, separate somehow. When the variegated parts overlap a dreamy lullaby of sorts, it emerges on the intangible “Evergreen.” This work may find its permanent residence in an installation context. Pollen is nothing to sneeze at.
- Seti :: Sentient
- CD (ltd 100): Self-Produced
- . . . . . :: Talk about exclusives! By the time this review hits, the 100 copies may be gone – but there will be 200 happy ears in the universe. Mr. (Andrew) Lagowski miraculously shape-shifts a myriad of pilot data transmissions and various satellite verbiage to keep his catalogue (dating back to ’87) as vital as ever. This technique of sampling, layering, filtering and mixing garners the presence of cosmic communications with higher forms of life. Even the artwork (by Si_COMM) is downloadable, giving the audience the opportunity to link up to interact directly with the creator. The tones hover and levitate; the drone is lightweight and free roaming. In what might be referred to his follow-up to the classic 1995 Knowledge (Ash International), Lagowski has brought new life to the extra terrestrial soundtrack, with a new sense of timelessness. His use of vocal samplers unpredictably digitize the voice into mumbled tones that are more like a child’s broken Casio than another homage to Kraftwerk. The distance between Sentient and earthlings may never be known in scientific terms, but research has proven that SETI’s quest for capturing unknown intelligence is one of virtuous discourse and unbridled exploration. Sentient will surely become one of this decade’s first true ambient master works.
- STUART DODMAN :: You Fill Me
- CD: And/Oar
- . . . . :: Ambience has a new name on this release by Stuart Dodman called You Fill Me. The sine wave frequencies here are taken from architectural spaces. The muted hum purrs mildly and shifts dramatically if you are adorning headphones. Its reverberation creates this channeling of waves that is like getting an inner ear massage. Brighton-based (UK) Dodman has worked as a visual installation artist for over a decade and I believe this 9-track disc is his solo debut. With a firm nod to alums of Raster-Noton, You Fill Me traces around the high pitch beams of sound to create a sort of dot matrix composition. My favorite track, “BN”, is like a filtered fine mist slow-motion drone, deep roar with a sublime top-of-the-scale tonal ending. Filled with a certain youthful angst that I can’t really pin down – but that is what makes it so interesting to try and catch.
- SCANNER :: Double Fold
- CD: RX:TX
- . . . . :: From Ljubljana’s newest (only?) experimental label, RX:TX was launched as a Slovenian collective label back in 2002 and its fourth offering, the 128BPM Double Fold, is from Scanner (Robin Rimbaud). Based on lauded Canadian writer Nicholson Baker’s book of the same name the eight tracks here merge as one extended techno-mix. Rimbaud’s usual tape samples (from 22 years of source tapes!) of disjointed voices appear straightaway on the title track – but less elusive as usual, more per the uptempo mix as part of the instrumentation per se. He keeps the rhythms tight and the elasticity of the beats are in high check. This is a fun record for him, it’s basically a funky dance record with rhythmic limbo and tempo plots. There are similar loops here that could be attributed to similar complexities found in Plastikman’s work. Though Scanner is in a class all his own, probably the busiest (and most well traveled) living solo “underground” electronic musician – but minus any titles and genres, as he is constantly breaking them in half. This is a pre-Summer indulgence.
- ORGANUM / Z’EV :: Tinnitus Vu
- CD: Touch
- . . . . . :: Organum (David Jackman) and Z’ev (Stefan Weisser) are two of the most elusive and enigmatic characters in all of the contemporary experimental music circles. Therefore, it is a pleasure to find that they have joined forces of discontent and dissonant folly on Tinnitus Vu. After meeting back in 1999, they harmonized their minds and chords and compositional detritus in 2003. The result is a ghostly ep that runs for a too short, but bliss, fifteen and a half minutes. But when you got it you GOT it! And they have. This moves like a freaking apparition, a translucent drone and sandpapery mist behind which lurk some grueling, wild beasties atop which an occasional piano stroke appears and echoes. This is a sorcerer’s stone cracked open wide to glean the gutted random, peculiar contents. My only complaint is the skimpy length of material – this is a harmonious union of like minds, and I could sit easily for an additional hour taking in the peculiar scapes created by these true artists. By far, one of the most highly effective CD tray cards by Jon Wozencroft yet, the lackluster x-ray of skeletal coils and winter scene are foreign, distant, removed emulating its innards.
- ASMUS TIETCHENS / DAVID LEE MYERS :: 60:00
- CD (Ltd. 500): Line
- www.tietchens.de, www.pulsewidth.com
- . . . . 1/2 :: Scratchy residues emerge slowly and surely on the newest collaboration from Asmus Tietchens and David Lee Myers disc 60:00 (which incidentally clocks in at 59:59), broken into six distinct ten-minute vignettes. The mellow looping of analogue equipment as put through layered sound source edits cause the Spartan material to glint resiliently. Comedic pauses and elongated echoes illustrate that serious composition can grimace back at any listener on tenterhooks. Feedback frequency is used as an atonal charting device dividing the ears from right to left brain and vice-versa. I call it scrap rhythm for no reason other than it sounds like someone bowing away on various width pieces of metals and recycled what not in a local junkyard. There is a value in the discovery of improvised sound that comes from an unknown place, even from mistakes. On 60:00 this sense of exploration is incalculable, its almost about the chance of its minimal components assimilating as if through a will of divine providence. This is not all-pleasant listening, quite to the contrary; its aesthetic is quite dense, for a disciplined ear. Though Tietchens’ and Myers’ combined sparks crunch and delight in there informalities, the overall impact is an invasive experiment on our rational sense of space. Try a blindfold; you may trip into the vortex of the hour.
- EVOL :: Punani Shell
- CD: Scarcelight Recordings
- . . . . :: If you tried you wouldn’t possibly be able to illustrate
the sounds on Evol’s (Roc and Anna) newest Punani Shell
more precisely as Scott Draves’ 1993 “Fire” – a completely fractalized ice
spike floating in the dark which becomes the disc’s cover art. Taking their
love for computer sciences to the nth degree Evol, who have previously
recorded for the cerebral imprints Mego, Fals.ch, Alku use the rubbery
faculties of bouncy noise to encrypt Punani Shell with a razor sharp
atonalism that follows its own sense of abandoned humor. Whether they are
referencing Close Encounters or freebasing the innards of some of the best
work by Squarepusher, it is a given that this record is a downright serious
22-minute interpretation of experimental molecular-sized galaxies. When what
you hear sounds like a stampede of GameBoy characters who’ve jumped from the
flat realm to that of the fourth dimension and attempting to pierce through
a series of talc dusted dental dams, you know Evol’s inherent philosophy is
dedicated to the field of imaginative psychedelia. Get lost!
- PIMMON :: Mort Aux Vaches
- CD (Ltd. 700): Staalplaat/Mort Aux Vaches
- . . . . :: Beginning with what sounds like a micro-forklift continues with a wash of purely hypnotizing ragged drone. Label-bouncing Pimmon (Tigerbeat6, Sirr-ecords, Meme, etc.) otherwise known as Australia’s Paul Gough has traveled a bit to make his sound varietals available to all nations. Here he has teamed up with Staalplaat for a limited edition that is a sort of leftfield record. Mort Aux Vaches is more an experimental venture that is drained from his more pop leanings. There is a curious Pink Panther mystique (“Hip Suplex”) on the seasick wiggly waters (“Any Atom of Fear”) that don’t necessarily make you feel at home. But if I wanted to stay at home I wouldn’t venture into this wicked world of buoy beats and uncertain static. I think Pimmon is what you get when you roll Jack Dangers inside-out and spin him around counter-clockwise. Pretty complex microtonalities brushed and layered to a gauzy finish.
- J. TORRANCE :: The Archduke of the Furrycats
- CDr: Sijis
- . . . 1/2 :: Detroit rock city’s J. Torrance sounds like the awkward stepsister of the latest Kompakt release. On “Yard of Ale” the distant background can’t contain the levitating voice (ala Opus III) that floats while the funky BPMs build some blur, fuzz and casual sizzle. On the hilariously titled “Gweynth Paltrow Butt Naked (Now that’s what I call Coldplay)” is like a half-hearted jazzscape with interruptive beats over a piano sample. It pokes fun at what could be assumed as the center of contemporary jazz from Thirsty Ear, DJ Spooky, Compost, K2 and a whole slew of divergent free expressionists. It toys with miniaturizing itself, but is appropriately edited to be real short – almost like a haiku comment on where jazz has gone in Y2K4. “Coney Island Dogbiscuit” is a a succession of overstuffed beats in their most organic regurgitated state of being. Part Chicks on Speek, parts Wolfgang Voight, it definitely has a certain German clubhouse sound goin’ on. At the finish we are met with a “Bucket of Blood”. Its mimeo graphic agility tumbles over and over in a percussive rhythm with a magical time-machine melody skipping in the background. What starts out as sounds to get you out on your feet end up futon flat – but this is only in counterbalance balance to the Japanese cut-up discussion between two friends that punctuates the last-call.
- ELIZABETH ANKA VAJAGIC :: Stand With the Stillness of This Day
- CD: Constellation
- . . . 1/2 :: Montreal-based indie folk singer/guitarist Elizabeth Anka Vajagic sings in tongues, guttaral, dramatic, defiant, subdued – and all at once. With a cast of backing musicians from bands Crackpot and Silver Mt. Zion among others, she wriggles and wrangles through ashy cuts that conjure a gothic cosmos where dreams are bought and sold. A voice like a chanteuse with the freedom to grumble and stare into the darkness as well as light, she paves her own destiny. These songs have vague prayer-like confinement without the vestiges of typical singer-songrwriter issues, this ain’t pop music. A “death in your face” (to coin one of her lines) looks at the rough-edged world we really live in. The upright bass on track 4 is as deep as the impassioned vocal. Vajagic isn’t trapped by either her peers’ trends or her influences standards, and she could probably be compared to many, but in my humble opinion she is a bright flavor of her own design.
- OPAQUE :: New Ways To Criticise
- CD (Ltd. 500): Consume / 8M
- . . . 1/2
:: Fictitious fare from a duo blending as much Hendrix’esque voice-styled guitar lines and crashing feedback as you can cram on to something this small. This is the edge of avant-garde noise composition. The cut-n-past cardboard sleeve is a cheerful f*ck-off to pop packaging in its black-n-white simplicity with bawdy titles like “He should change his name to fucking Santa Claus” and “Three hours of torment at the grubby paws”. Part tongue-in-cheek though when it comes to the music we are planted in the center of a chaotic swarm of freaked out toy-piano strings and guitars gone insane. While maintaining a certain composure its hard not to imagine this looking like a wildly fun mess on stage. It’s got the hrmphof a frat brawl while being a sophisticated blend of solid reverberating power.::..:::…..:..::….:::::..:::..:::::::……:::…::.:::….::::..:..:::…::…….::::
- THE DIGITAL INTERVENTION :: Capture
- CD: 0101 Music
- . . . :: From France’s 0101 Music’s Parallel Series comes Capture from The Digital Intervention (Paul Kendall and Olivia Louvel). Sensual vocals and manipulated tape recorders sounding like the buzzer at a barbershop make this a fairy tale come to life like an animated soundtrack. It’s a bit of a wiry world created by this duo’s debut effort, something evocative of a true artistic pairing. A hazy mix of poetics and offbeat music concrete akin to a bizarre clash between the worlds of say, Patti Smith’s spoken word attitude, Bjork’s vocal posturing and the distortions of THU20. They are not ashamed to show the ugly and profane, even if they are shaded in layers of frequencies and a jilted climb towards the pop realm. There is a moment or two when the impersonation of Diamanda Galas is righteously atoned, but that doesn’t stop this record from flying. And the comparisons don’t end there as you could connect the dots of Louvel’s voice to Beth Gibbons, Garbage, Sneaker Pimps and even Alison Goldfrapp. So, yeah, she is in good company, and they play accordion and croon in a wonderful French tongue – so they can’t be all that bad, eh? Let’s hope these two continue to unravel future embellished and informed mysteries. A lush life begets a complex mix of unfamiliar terrain.
- EINSTÜRZENDE NEUBAUTEN :: Perpetuum Mobile
- CD: Mute
- . . . 1/2 :: Blixa Bargeld + co. bring their circus back to town and this time it’s a bit more acoustic, and relaxed. These gents have been at it forever and their sound has been circumventedly reinvented with each effort. This is their first record since 2000, and the mechanical percussion is more sparse and cryptic, while their sound concept is all based on the wind. On the nearly fourteen-minute title cut the emphasis is on all things in motion, motorized baggage carts, escalators, taxis, etc – via a scripted rattling off of such mobiles. They add some trademarked drumming on metal and other rubbery sounds of helium release. The skilled patience and pacing here is down to a science. “Ein leichtes leises Säuseln” is German spoken word to a pastoral backdrop. By all unconventional means this offbase quintet of poet/artist cling-clangers have taught many lessons in linguistics. Einsturzende Neubauten in total is a legend in almost 2 and a half decades in the making – on Perpetuum Mobile performing what some may see as kodo haikus in their native Deutchland tongue. This is the most focused work I have heard of theirs, more proverb, less angst as on “Ein seltener Vogel” where the sounds come from a deeper consciousness – from drawings and reverb, from experience and myth.
Coming from someone who has been easily annoyed by some of their output in the past 8 or so years, this proves that these bad boys on the periphery have done their fair share of penance, making up for their make-up. “Ozean und Brandung” is a studio interpretation, or recreation of a savage windstorm as heard through electronic means, silhouetted by a cast of radiant light and barricaded from the unthinkable damaging possibilities. It’s the essence of the force of wind, through perhaps the sounds of the cover’s depicted airbrush nozzle? These feisty baby boomers maintain their sophistication for the unexpected by taking their studio online as this recording was done live while fans could communicate during the creative process. The digipak inner packaging includes dizzying photos (the cover art, a postmodern fabrication of the Rolling Stones’ Let It Bleed), drawings, scribbles and scratches all making up the patchwork to a phantom band who has in many ways influenced everyone from Sigor Ros to Radiohead (well, you might not think that’s a stretch – but the proof is in the aura these bands create). And it’s not all packaging.
- CHIB :: Moco
- CD: Fat-Cat
- . . . . :: Tokyo’s Chib is Yukiko Chiba. Her debut solo release on Fat-Cat is a sleeper balancing act between outright up-pop and compartmentalized minimal beats. She makes melody part of the mix of sequencers, while renewing our sensibilities for slower, simpler structures and elongated enjoyment of playful electronica. If you could imagine walking through FAO Schwartz blindfolded wearing a bear costume with headphones you may have a first impression. Moco is a startling debut for an emerging artist! The ever-popular reconstruction of cut/paste voice samples make their way to “+” as do fireworks, clinking glasses like vibes and a drunk bass hum that hangs above throughout. Chib recycles vocals industrially by projecting them on the background with hints of a kind of 16MM memoir. Traditional Japanese bells are coded into the feathery track “Hon”. Each track has its own distinct character, which is always a good sign when an artist is experimenting with possibilities. Often this strategy just falls flat, but Chib takes it on full frontal! In the end her “Long” track leaves a bit for contemplation, with folky-slow guitars and gameboy blips all the way home.
- BJ NILSEN :: Live at Konzerthaus
- CD: Touch
- . . . :: Stockholm’s twentysomething BJ Nilsen (Hazard) has the latest release on Touch’s live Generator series curated by Christian Fennesz. The series has also included work by S.E.T.I., Philip Jeck, Raphael Toral and Fennesz. “Hazard” was recorded in Vienna in June of 2003 and is a 38-minute calm before the storm that wakes, sinks and meanders through its watery depths. IN his fourth proper release, the first outside of the Hazard moniker, this proves to be an aesthetically ambient journey through the core of an isolated countryside, bare to the elements. The few hints of menacing mosquitoes are few and far between, but the purity of realism makes one wonder how he makes a laptop do that. I won’t get into the nitty-gritty nerdy hack of it all, as I am completely disinterested – though his union with the machine has a flavor of brooks and streams and creepy crawlers. This single track has an excess of cinematic flare with organ pipes bringing it to an exhalant conclusion. His upcoming work with like field recording whiz Chris Watson will be another welcome indulgence for the weary city dweller among us.
- CHEFKIRK :: 3
- CD3: Samsa Records
- . . . :: At about eighteen minutes Chefkirk’s 3 is a rugged noise adventure.
The opening “Eyebase (Remix)” is a short-run frequency bend – like a hosefull of water over a dying battery. The scorching march of
“8minois” takes time to cozy up to, but within five or so minutes you
are forced to endure the terms of endearing rattle n’ hum of it all.
Unlike the recent (38-40cm) disc on Simple Logic, here this East Coast
noise addict keeps the palette within 100 or so shades of grey, building
a pretty dense and crumbly drone. His aesthetic has a very
weather-beaten, motorized quality, more of industrial science than
formal sound structure. But for all its concrete qualities, tracks like
“U” just drain my energy nucleous, rendering me a bit jello-like.
Chefkirk has captured the elements of wind and earth through a barbed
wire fence and recontorted its natural properties by filtering out the
good stuff. The second “Eyebase (Remix)” is the final and most animated
track on 3 that starts off with tones that pliably twist and turn like
a critter in a 70′s ‘B’ horror flick, switch off to make some rambunctious
noise and retreat into its wash of recycled microns – Godzilla vs.
Chefkirk in the battle of the sound barrier.
- AMBARCHI/MÜLLER/SAMARTZIS :: Strange Love
- CD: Four4ears Records
- . . . . :: Going on 15 years, Swiss imprint Four 4 Ears Records has been releasing a constant body of quality, edgy, experimental sound that counters the mainstream diligently. This release is no different. This brings together three very disparate thinking and venerable composers: Oren Ambarchi (guitar and electronics), Günter Müller (Percussion, Electronics) and Philip Samartzis (Electronics and Field Recordings). The disc is broken into two lengthy tracks, “Cooler” and “Warmer” – both recorded in Melbourne. Part one is actually quite warm, given its foundation of low-fi white noise sound waves. With the cover art consisting of wacky neon-eyed vermin, some of the pitch-play may speak volumes to such creatures. If that were the case, the humor would be almost cartoonish, but the recording is far from any joke. In fact, these teeny collected noises make quite a dissonant field of microwave sound-alikes. I feel like a refugee in a lost rainforest, covered only by a tenuous cowhide tarp before a monsoon is about to search and destroy. So, yeah, “Strange Love” has a penetrable built-in atmosphere. Track one, however, shorts quite abruptly about 23 minutes through and continues with a whirring fan-belt sounding motor and panting sounds of leashed dogs and children roaring through a field of reeds as if searching for something terrifyingly lost. “Warmer” is set in the snug fit of a low burning campfire. A changing drone envelops like a cascading sphere of smoke and ash. What ensues is a pulsating surge of curiously psychedelic, elongated sine tones that phase into silence after about five minutes. Returning to the streets and fields, murmuring children, sparse construction and perhaps some ocean waves are overlapped in a cursory passage and then back to brighter high frequencies that veer dizzyingly from left to right. This is one of those collaborative projects that gets in your head and stays there.
- JOSHUA TREBLE :: Five Points Fincastle
- CD: Intr_Version
- . . . :: Joshua Treble is the alter-persona of Ohio’s Tony Boggs and Five Points Fincastle is his sophomore effort for Montreal-based Intr_Version after recording for Pitchcadet. Airy and choppy, drone-based and choral-bitten this is part hangover and part yet to be told. “Distance Between Us in KM” is like Philip Jeck on speed; with a heaping portion of titillated lockgroove hooks. Through bold voids Joshua Treble inverts his worn guitar into something of a halo, catching every ray of light in its reflection, forming a projectile warning that is agitated and coarse. Wielding some fine pure white noise and the repetitive rings of multi-strike beats “A Serious House on Serious Earth” emerges from the horizon, somewhere on higher ground. Treble intangibly channels the ambience of Gas’ (Wolfgang Voigt) “Zauberberg,” the decelerated pace and transfixed, streaky tones play hide and seek, but the object of the action has stubbornly vanished. When he mutates his guitar strings alongside Jenna Robertson’s lovely vocal they wrap in synchronization like a tattered papoose whose strips are bare, with sensually durable contents. “The Hour Is Like The Room” keeps you captive like a fish being poked at behind in its filtered tank walls. The vibrations are wavy and jittery but the slow-mo settle shifts everything to slightly unrecognizable; A micro earthquake inside my head.
- T. RAUMSCHMIERE :: Radio Blackout
- CD: NovaMute, Shitkatapult
- . . . . :: That’s entertainment! After an extreme wild ride of a live show where his pants were falling down and he just plain rocked the house at Mutek, T. Raumschmiere releases his electro-rock fury on the welcome Radio Blackout. Sure, “Monstertruckdriver” has all the pastiche of a major release by one of the artists you might see slapped on the covers of all the glossy mags, but righteously so in this case, this just bounces and fills the room with uptempo edgy energy. Radio Blackout is a street corner, crackhouse view of superstardom. This Berliner’s tweaks and breaks make it a comical and feisty recording that relies more on its humor and topicality than its innards and concepts. I don’t really know why, but this recalls the quirky art house film Repo Man for me – it’s sort of a nya nya to the music industry attitude keeps its rebel conscience on the surface. He is much more exciting live with this material – but you get that from spinning this. Like Jamie Lidell, Raumschmiere (a name lifted from something penned by William Burroughs) has stage charisma that gets the party started with attitude and determination. He doesn’t care if he makes a fool of himself – as long as the right sounds comes out of his laptop and other samplers. As on “The Game Is Not Over” adding Miss Kittin to the mix is only appropriate given that she is cut from the same cloth. There is a punk venom that has mutated through these slick, smart newbies to the scene that is all about the “f*ck you” posturing that artists like Chicks on Speed and Peaches and even Ladytron have already become famous for. So, in many ways I have perceived this approach to be exclusively female driven – until now. The chaotic horns and hard percussion drive the Chemical Brothers meets Romeo Void Rabaukendisko. There’s a bit of clowning throughout ebbing here with a full-on intensity that makes it dance while you bang your head worthy. Love it or hate it, this is one of those rare records that sticks out for a variety of reasons that are yet unknown – but in a few years it will be referred to as pioneering something. It must be the beats. “Hot big drums and Hot voodoo rhythm!” Ahem.
- AGF :: Language Is The Most
- CD: Quecksilber
- . . . . :: Berlin’s Quecksilber is on a role! By collaborating with Ars Electronica/Klangpark some mighty fusion takes place. AGF (Antye Greie) is an artist, singer and producer who alters her own voice as a stuttering, immobilizing instrument. Her technique melds a moodiness to the otherwise uninterrupted balance of the final mix. This is pure contemporary ambient, recalling the EM:T label of yore with overriding hints of the AudioSphere of today, quite fitting for either of those series actually. Slurping, bizarre blips and timid percussion drive parts of the aptly titled “White Flip Flops.” On “Burning Fraquencies,” the combination of multilingual samples, static and background vocal acts as a bugged memory chip. It is a chilly cut that is part oratorio, part plunder-microphonics, and part nightmare. All nine tracks are sort of blended together with bare tonal shifts. There will hopefully soon be a sequel. “Language is the Most” is a revelation in symbiotic syllables, a revelation in voice meets microsound acoustics.
- JOHN MASSONI :: Stillborn Dreams
- CD: Space Age Recordings
- . . . 1/2 :: John Massoni uses a variety of cassette tape-based methodologies alongside keyboard to generate an epic, storytelling atmosphere. On “Happy Days” with the assistance of Rich Hinklin, a collection of cut-up, repetitive vocal samples take things out of context nicely. Massoni’s keys are anxiously teetering on the edge on “Fireflies” sounding like something in between a funeral dirge and some sort of far-off star galaxy. The tones have an uneasy austerity that looms like a curly gray cloud tumbling over the city skyline engulfing everything in its way on “Thornbush” where Massoni wields a guitar to throb and synch in. Sonic Boom has taken on the mix mastering of “Spirits” and like his predicted mentor, Phil Spector, his own drone-based wall of sound is more than just hinted at herein! The romantic inclusion of a noir 50′s romantic film score with its sampled string orchestra makes for a dazzling effect as sandwiched between more mechanical sounds and cut-n-paste lip service. At moments Stillborn Dreams is quite lightheaded and frankly trippy, the type of recording that taunts with the equivalent impact of being stung by a swarm of bees and thus taking flight. Buzzzzzzzzzzz.
- GÜNTER SCHROTH :: Barcode Music
- CD: Archegon
- . . . .
- GERMANY :: Talk about innovative – imagine taking something from industry, used commonly in everyday transactions and making music with it? That’s what’s taking place on Gunter Schroth’s Barcode Music where he takes the magic wand of consumerism to task for its abilities in a completely left/right brain test. Between 1995 and 2000 these mostly live recordings are a completely distorted conception about the device that catalogues almost everything we purchase. Shifting zips and sha-zzaamms, twinkling tones and an assortment of rubbed and masked harmonics dominate these performances. As an instrument the barcode reader is truly on par with the human in/output of the laptop or synthesizer, it would seem to me to be just a bit more of something defined in improv, though these sounds are quite controlled and patterned. At times I am reminded of the cheesy sound effects from the 70′s kids sci-fi spoof Land of the Lost– though even the Sleestaks couldn’t induce the pitches and grunts of Schroth’s divine intervention with this infrared wand of wonder. What makes this all more curious is exactly what is he reading to create these sounds? Are these the barcodes for packaged meats, cosmetics, book jackets or perhaps even music? One wonders what Stevie Wonder’s “Original Musiquariam Vol. 1″ may sound like through this method or perhaps a rendition of Frédéric Chopin’s “Polonaise” by Maurizio Pollini. On “Vinyl-Scan” Claus van Bebber adds a second layer of the painstakingly annotated crispness coming from his turntable. Vinyl at its most uncontaminated – slowed down, reversed and all that its edges provide. On “Voice-Scan” vocalist Franziska Quandt speaks in tongues that battle the depths of the angelic to the inner cavewoman bass in cadences that just rise above and float behind the percussive structure of digitized pen work by Schroth. There is an analytical mystery to the process, but the output is riveting and crosses into the world of micro-noise.::..:::…..:..::….:::::..:::..:::::::……:::…::.:::….::::..:..:::…::…….::::
- SLUGGO :: Phases
- CDR: Sijis
- . . . :: At just over 36 minutes the new recording from resident artist Sluggo shows his Phases in two parts. First is the 22-minute glowing, growing “Shekinah.” The track simply throbs in your head. The computer eats the software and this is its bloated digestive cavity. Actually, it is right on that edge of interesting and irritating, with some stunning dub and drone. Though there is a sense of warning, a sort of feeling of danger that doesn’t settle well. I am casually reminded of one of the post stylistically gruesome scene finales in the film The Hunger when blood is slowly gurgling down the drain, the deep red color in stark contrast to the pure white porcelain. It’s the motion, the pace, and the overall texture to the sound. Though three-quarters through a sudden glitch changes the sound to something more tinny and filled with production line conveyor belting. The hollowed acoustics are quite dizzying. On “Henge” what sounds like low-fi feedback from an active infrared beam originates a glow-in-the-dark reverberation that channels upward.
- MAX RICHTER :: The Blue Notebooks
- CD: Fat-Cat
- . . . 1/2
- UNITED KINGDOM :: Pianist Max Richter brings together a cast of six additional classical musicians and one noted British actress, Tilda Swinton (The Deep End, many Derek Jarman films) in a beautiful soundtrack opus, The Blue Notebooks based on texts from Kafka’s The Blue Octavo Notebooks and Hymn of the Pearl and Unattainable Earth both by Czeslaw Milosz. The romantic and strained melancholy of the stringed instruments makes for a complete dramatic listen. Richter’s arrangements have something in common with both traditional, formulaic piano recitals and the booming rise in acoustic choralisms designed by Sigur Ros, Craig Armstrong and even Mum. Swinton’s passionately sincere delivery gives a broad presence to the narrative, producing an all-encompassing poetic rather than a staid docudrama. The magical harp-like viola is steep in the realm of fantasy. One can imagine a choir of lost angels circling as “Iconography” envelopes your fourth dimension. Richter, himself, plays the piano with an open tenseness that is cautious and … The typewriter rhythm mimics Swinton’s spilling syllables, in the same way they were illustrated in Steven Soderbergh’s 1991 hallucinogenic biopic Kafka. With its subtle references to Jarman’s last film, Blue (1993), The Blue Notebooksis the distillation of a contemporary radio play, with all the emotional and mechanical elements in place.::..:::…..:..::….:::::..:::..:::::::……:::…::.:::….::::..:..:::…::…….::::
- XIU XIU :: Fabulous Muscles
- CD: 5RC
- . . . :: One part Momus, two parts Spacemen 3, a dash of revving guitars and the mirage of Lux Interior’s croon somewhere in the back of Jamie Stewart’s gravely, impaled throat – especially popping out on the gutsy “I Luv the Valley, OH!” With the pacing of an antsy case of jock itch, Xiu Xiu, is a 7 to 10 member collective give or take a few depending on the time you catch up with them, but that time may be now as Fabulous Muscles just bulges sweetly with the split ends of its past and the emperor’s new clothes of the future. Through April they will tour all over the US and stir things up. The sound here is between murky and gray to succinct and dead in your face. There is a mix of clank and roll, gritty attitude here, not usually my cup o’ tea, but something works, be it the feedback and quickie ff tape loops on the war sneer “Support Our Troops OH! (Black Angels OH!),” or the helium bloated topsy-turvy spin of “Brian the Vampire” – these folks have fun through their top-surface angst.
- GAL :: Hinaus: In Den, Wald
- CD (ltd 500): Klanggalerie, Bernhard Gal
- . . . . 1/2 :: Headphone listening in darkness recommended! as the liner notes suggest, indeed! In over an hour Austrian composer Gal (Bernhard Gal) takes apart poetic readings from Swiss ethnopoet and artist Adolf Wölfli’s (1864-1930) work. The distinct marching through dry brush permeates the alternating fore and background. The repetition of consonant phonetics is hollow and disturbing. Singsong children’s voices speak in multiple languages as if memorizing the long poetic passages. Tracks with titles like “Dgiigara” and “Gigrlana” are phrases regularly repeated and at times used as an added rhythm structure. Gal muffles the human voice over footsteps and filtered heavy breath, making for a bold illustration of an outsider artist’s impact, almost a century hence, in the same way that Andrew Liles recently hypothesized about the “twisted” sexual appetite of artist Hans Bellmer (1902-1975) on “Aural Anagram”. Both composers dare to deconstruct the fancy of artists who followed their mind’s eye, whatever the state of that mind. Gal repeats the dark “Uiuiui” phrase using an authoritarian male voice of helium and fire patterned over the other hesitant boys and girls speaking “Zittringim”. For all the whispers and hums, it is no secret that Hinaus: In den, Wald has an eerie Fluxus presence that grabs your unconscious.
- PAUL HOOD :: Cplastsics
- CD: TwoThousandAnd
- . . . :: White noise, raw vinyl and feedback all lead into the latest release on London’s handmade TwoThousandAnd imprint. The brittle turntablism and forgotten microphones with their absentee GP3 DJ is forensically manipulated, testing their conduit energies and other power components. Paul Hood’s punk past is analogous in this series of playful noise experiments. Having worked with other faculty of turntable academy, Martin Tetrault, Otomo Yoshide, Martin Ng, Hood is breaking new ground by vamping motors and every element of his instrument. His improvised live work here was recorded in London and Copenhagen. Cplastsics is amped to the nth degree, though it vends unexpected nuances at every turn. At one point on “Primitive Style” it sounds like he is strumming away on an upright bass – though it could be channeled Tupperware given his penchant for found object sounds. As Hood’s first wide-release solo effort this will aptly land in the collections of those who enjoy the output of Ground Fault and 23Five. He scrapes objects to sound like the bloated snore of a sleep apnea sufferer. Though, be forewarned, even though its not all bedlam, unless you can take the heat of Merzbow and some Daniel Menche, this may be for those used to donning fluorescent earplugs.
- ACCELERA DECK :: Sunstrings EP
- CD: Scarcelight Recordings
- . . . 1/2
- UNITED STATES :: After 2003′s Ipsissima Vox (Scarcelight Recordings) Accelera Deck (Chris Jeely) once again takes to his most unconventional guitar work to crash land his new SunstringsEP. Opening with the contained chaos of a scribbly seventeen-minute “Dross,” Jeely’s goal is to fully emasculate the untamed inherent power of his instrument by oscillating it into submission. This effect has developed harmonious possibilities, probably some quite haphazard. The end result is a fully elongated sense of dancing lines and dots that pixelate and draw in finite synchronicities. At almost 50 minutes this is lengthy for any ordinary EP, but no complaints here – only an urgency for more of the same please. The title track takes what one could imagine to be a Spiritualized jam, process it finely in La Machine and cross breed it with a level of screened filtration techniques that leave only an abyss of random micro-tonalities amid the in your face drone. “777″ is less than a minute of nothing but a few single reverberations, a sound out and a big open space as a prelude to the final untitled track which takes paced cricket-like spikes and brings them closer together as the fifteen and a half minutes bleed, blend and ultimately become structured, lined-up beats to be reckoned with. It’s click, click, blip, shree, click, crunch, pah start off quite easy to watch as the sounds, like popcorn jut into the empty void, but if you are wearing headphones be forewarned that this eventually becomes quite ear-popping about half way through – it’s a welcome unrest.::..:::…..:..::….:::::..:::..:::::::……:::…::.:::….::::..:..:::…::…….::::
- VELMA :: Barcelona
- CD3: Testing Ground
- . . . . :: Velma is a Lausanne-based multimedia collective who release this splendid headrush called Barcelona. A big wash of cloudy drone is taunted and teased by the fractioned backdrop percussion and tweaked out guitar. The melody piles and erodes to the tap of cymbals on the title track. In just over 21 minutes they use every millimeter of these three inches to fill my ears with obscure pleasantries, as calming as a London fog on Twin Peaks. “Circunflex” shows their taut electronic muscle and penchant for the edge of micronic techno, glitch-click dreaming on a Winter’s day. The enigmatic vocal repeats something about “this place is looking fine” over the half beat, recycled pitch and tone shift. The They Might Be Giantsesque “Stupid” has a nerdy college dude sounding vocal at its center with the bleached fingering of guitars wavering all over the place, and its ending is too abrupt – making it more an excerpt. This is a bit out of place, but show the range of possibilities yet to come from Velma. Granted this release came forth in 2002, but it sounds just as loud and clear (and original) in ’04!
- FREEFORM :: Wildcat EP
- CD: Skam
- . . . . . :: As this new Freeform (Simon Pyke) tale opens to the public “Gone & Left the City” has the vestiges of Nick Cave either/or Tom Waits with its bass unreadable vocal about a character who’s “gotta go”. Going on ten years recording, Londoner Freeform has released on the reputable Sub Rosa, Worm Interface, Warp, Nonplace, Quartermass and Skam among others. At nearly 50 minutes this 6-track EP is almost a full-length. “Nothing to Say” is a symphony of playfulness, bubbly synthetic sounds and wind up toy hiccups. The more cautious “Wildcat” is a sitting slacker perched on a corner with multiple width rubber bands, phats and slims – the perfect compliment to “Skim and Skiffle” with its school yard handclaps taunting rasply. The fuzzy-edged vibes purr in echo. The patterns are African, tribal and warmer than the sun. Lighting his long match on “Quadrumble” Pyke blends a near east, (near perfect) facet to this “Wildcat;” it breaths as if through a filter, the small beaded percussion and funky low-end dub mixes smoothly to make this a sexy and unsheltered dance rhythm. With an over-layer of chanted harmonies that are half spoken, half broken the force is with Freeform. In conclusion the croak of “don’t throw me down the hole, don’t throw me in a bowl” speaks from a frog or other endangered voice obviously objecting to its feared objectified domination. Adding a comic relief, the flim-flam animation of “Don’t Put Me In…” just wraps it all up, tighter than any California Roll I’ve bitten into.
- DUUL_DRV :: Fade With Consequence
- CD: and/OAR
- . . . . 1/2 :: Winnepeg’s Duul_Drv (S. Arden Hill) has refreshed the screen of microtones and brought a garden-fresh variety to the contemporary minimal electronics composition forum. Fade with Consequence contains the natural sounds many take for granted, those under our feet and in the air, true organic happenstance. Dedicating this to the loving memory of a relative, there is the sense of conjuring an elegy to the elements in their honor. Also a painter, Hill’s editing play is surely in union with any brush he wields. I liked his work with Aperstaatje and 12K/line – but this has a quintessential intimacy – as if I am right there in the space, maybe even making the noise myself. Fade with Consequence is, to say simply, rapturous. Dedicated to perhaps some of Hill’s influences and proto-peers is the vibrantly invisible “Blue on Day (for Chartier, Günter and Roden)”. As I listen closely I am recalling experiences of listening to the field recordings of both jfrede and Seth Nehil. But Duul_Drv makes the spoken tongues of the earth, air and various growths a digital transfer, leaving only the outer shavings of the original outdoor scene behind and replicating it in the studio. This is like a tapestry of static electricity that tries hard to remain inaudible, a bit challenging, but effective enough to keep the ears pricked for its 40 plus minutes.
- LAURENT PERNICE / JACQUES BARBERI :: Drosophiles Et Doryphores
- CD: RX:TX
- . . :: Oo la la! This is a very French record. Is that OK to say? After the opening Philip Glass meets “On the Corner” era Miles Davis, Pernice and Barberi flicker like two crazy birds of different feathers flying against a the cylindrical forcefield of wind. But, unfortunately after an interesting, reaching start the scmaltz of contemporary jazz lite rears its hideous head. This is should I say, le “jazzy”. It’s sort of pageant jazz, (smooth, lite or whatever its current marketing moniker is). But its not JUST that. Drosophiles et Doryphores suffers from a genre collision, rather than a bent. Sure, the playing is fine, and the saxophone is particularly harmonic and sexy – but it’s the arrangements that seem misguided, lapsing in creativity along some more formulaic commercial end, especially on the sappy “Octave Moins Un.” This is mood music, and in another application, say film score perhaps, it may work well. Here I feel it’s a catalyst for my early high school memories of walking into a local mall and being assaulted by the man behind the “legendary” Wurlitzer organ! So, you see, it scares me. This just isn’t a style of music that is in my interest; A bit too on par with elements of regional new age and other outsider folk. This may appeal to lovers of Sade (sans vocal) and (even though it hurts to even print the name but I have to make the reference) Kenny G.
- FREIBAND :: Sijis Rmx
- CDR: Sijis Records
- . . . 1/2 :: To coin an important phrase, what you have here is music with “no commercial potential” and I think all involved would like to keep it that way. London-based (“anti-label”) Sijis.com (“the home of music with limited appeal”) has taken on the latest project from Freiband (Frans de Waard) in this unlikely remix that sounds like de Waard has interpreted a beautiful ambient drone and added an effect that gives it the sound of an old cassette tape. The editing process has left Freiband with a sound akin to a ghostly shoreline with a repetitive sound that emulates a creaky rocking chair sick cat purring as if its being tended to. In these 15 1/2 minutes the tonal shift is minimal but the volume cascades gently as does the addition of some vague statics, towards the end becoming more of a penetrating vibration.
- DEADBEAT :: Something Borrowed, Something Blue
- CD: ~scape
- . . . 1/2 :: Scott Monteith (aka Deadbeat) dominated at last year’s Sonar and Mutek festivals. It was great to see a young guy in progress, and great to see him releasing this new disc on Stefan Betke’s Berlin-based imprint. Something Borrowed, Something Blue was recorded between 2002-03 and is a giant leap from his last release Wild Life Documentaries (~scape). As the “sequel” to that former recording, Monteith’s “deep dub” sound has been somewhat elongated and the BPMs have increased, and there belies a more overall romantic texture to his sound. The classical literary title reference establishes the perhaps striving for a more formal, poetic approach to his material. “White Out” combines the ball-bearing animation of a combustible spray paint can with a dub meets click energy that causes an uncontrollable head and shoulder groove. The body absorbs the sound and the sound instructs the body’s movement. “Requiem” is sort of an extension off “White Out” adding, slowly, a bit more scattered and apprehensive percussion. Though the track doesn’t go far enough, it becomes too repetitive and minimal that it gets somewhat lost, until a pop dub comes out from behind the base haze and makes amends. Throughout, a scratchy hue continues on most tracks, acting as an intro/precursor to what pops out. This truth is self-evident on “Fixed Elections” where Deadbeat takes charge on a completely overdubbed voice sample that is fully mutated; in essence completely obliterating what is being said. Given that this disc is a document of the nine moths that concluded in his marriage might partially explain a certain emotional connectedness to the material as my standout track, “A Joyful Noise (Part 1)”, attests. In its 7+ minutes it mesmerizes with a right-left, left-right channeling of sandy beats, culminating in the equivalent of aural hypnotism. Watch for this guy playing Europe all this month!
- FUNKSTÖRUNG :: Disconnected
- CD: !K7
- . . .*GERMANY / UNITED STATES :: Granted, this duo have been touring and bringing in some lingually interesting MC’s in every town they land in, though this is somewhat of an image restructure. In their first album in four years Disconnected takes Funkstörung to a new place filled with pop dreams. The time off has allowed them to occupy their talents by remixing a host of mostly hits and some misfires, but their live show has gone undaunted and has kept their sound fresher than a stainless steel crisper could manage. Oh my, what’s this song called “Chopping Heads”? It’s street-level Prince meets Apollo Creed in a ghetto funk death crush. Slice it, dice it, it’s all that. And the core of what these two skinny and high experimenters have learned in their last half dozen years has been altered in what they may term “kung-fu funk.” Yeah, that pretty much sums this up and its extension “Habitual Citizens.” The title track plays on a rhythm coined first by Portishead, but with a rougher, more dub inflected rendition in the lips of vocalist Enik.
Working with a host of singers, beatboxes and other manipulators of the human tongue, Funkstörung brings the funk, albeit melancholic here at the disc’s center. Lou Rhodes from Lamb offers her wonderfully youthful, pure voice on “Sleeping Beauty.” Like candy. This is one of the more standard pop vehicles these boys have plated to wax, and it sounds real good, but is missing the important edge of most of what we have anticipated from great records like Appetite for Disctruction. They say they’ve gotten bored of instrumental music and want to incorporate hip-hop and classical. Well that’s too bad for the rest of us – some of this ends up sounding a bit too much like a car commercial and Enik’s best Sting impression on “Like A Poet” over a sappy High Llamas backing track just punctuates this. New York’s Tes plays the real sh*t with their “Fat Camp Feva” and this is uplifting “hydrolic” hip-hop pop of the finest rep, meeting DJ Krush and OutKast. They may be doing something healthy by deconstructing glossy, American hip-hop, so nods to them. In many ways the flaws on Disconnected are made up throughout, the filler is filler and all will see that for what it is, as again witnessed on the disposable “Mr. Important” with typical rhymes by Rob Sonic but as the curtain closes Massive Attack vocalist Sarah Jay’s birdsong “Captured in Tones.” The lyrics are interesting and soulful; the percussion tracks surrounded her and help her small voice project.
But there is something essential missing that I can’t quite tap into, maybe the addition of vocals have become such an essential counter-balance to the fusion of interesting sounds from nowhere, and this relies heavily on star power. So, yes, Funkstörung is growing by leaps and bounds and haven’t quite sold out yet. I have the feeling their next effort may be a jazz record with strings…who knows.
- JEAN-PIERRE SACCOMANI :: Voyage Intersideral en Nimbus
- CD: MCP Productions
- . . 1/2 :: Jean-Pierre Saccomani creates contemporary electronic music that has a dizzying fusion of sensibilities previously exposed by Steve Roach, Pink Floyd and Tangerine Dream. It’s not quite new age, and not quite psychedelic, but it’s got enough of a realistic darker side that has the worthiness of a second spin. Sure, the passages are harmoniously sculpted with sequencers and Fairlight precision, though Saccomani’s compositions may be best benefited from television mini-series and other soundtrack-related subject matter. The standout track here is the special “Nimbus Cosmique” which could illustrate Samuel R. Delany’ “Babel 17″ quite fittingly. So, yes, it does feel a bit like a retrofit “Space 1999.” These are long and totally digital passages that require a soundstage, almost too dramatic for CD format. “A l’approche d’un trou noir” starts off as if you were inside an airtight chamber and after plunging your way out have discovered anew euphoric underworld lit in very precise coloration to meet your senses, but something curious lurks below. Sci-fi lovers will eat this up. Others may define this as background noise. And for someone who thanks everyone from Stravinsky to Styx in the liner notes you may have a clue early on.
- SC.ALL :: Live @ Silk City in Philadelphia, PA 09.23.03
- CD (Ltd to 95): Scarecelight Recordings
- . . . :: Video and sound artist Scott Allison’s live performance in Philadelphia as sc.all is a decelerated foggy drone. In this small, hand-silk screened edition, what’s left is the excess fuel burning off from the edges of a hot rocket. There is very little outside the repetitive cycle here, a muted siren pulsates glowingly until getting eaten up by the fuzzy static.
- CLAUDIO ROCCHETTI :: The Work Called Kitano
- CD: Bar La Muerte Records
- . . 1/2 :: Squeaky wheels keep on churnin’ Claudio keeps on burnin’…..OK, in what could only be described as a clown jazz quartet jammed heavy into a tight squeeze fun house with little air pressure, so goes The Work Called Kitano. Rocchetti has employed the addition of Manuela Bennetton (Apple and voice), Dario Neri (piano) and Thomas Benetello (stairs and voice) as he plunks away at his doublebass and toyes with the rest of the electronic gears. If you were drunk the notes would all blend together, perhaps forming a classic Coltrane number, but here it is imminently impossible to get there through the growingly engorged balloons and percussive turmoil. In fact, it sounds like they’ve taken multiple practice tune-up sessions and re-spliced them back together into a textured collage of sound, a patchwork. On “Burned” what would be violin, is most likely a Philip Glass lockgroove sliced and diced over and above by frictitious banging and deconstructive surgeries. Neri’s lovely piano on “My Love Was Sitting On the Mortician’s Knees” recalls some of Current 93′s more sadomasochistic moments in repose. This has all the right elements of People Like Us without the constant, instantaneous reminders of pop iconography. It’s like an orchestra on crack – it bathes in its own deterioration. The layers are endless, and so are the samples – this must have taken an eternity to edit. Rocchetti gives us a broad-minded and warped introduction into the mind of a challenging new experimenter.
- THE FREQUENCY :: self-titled
- CD: Noreaster Failed Industries
- . . :: Sebastian Thomson (Trams AM) has broken out into “new” ground. “The Frequency” deals its debut self-titled disc that crosses 1980′s attitude electro-rock (ala the Cars, etc.) with some of the generally weird antics learned in his years in the front seat of the retro-electro Trans AM. This one barely hits the mark, though this trio or quartet has a hell of a time while making catchy hooks like those on the funk of the Shriekback-ish “Stop It.” Certainly a homage to a few decades when pop was truly Technicolor though in Y2K its faded glories are a bit far-fetched. The guitars grumble like those heard on “The Crow” soundtrack, Filter, God Lives Underwater and a barrelful of monkeys from the mid 90s, remember that sound? (Alright, I forgive you). What is just not so refreshing here is the vocal awkwardness, sounding appropriately like a debut but still soulless. In the age of other slacker lipped heavies like Beck and Schneider TM, when you hear “Erasing Myself” you almost wish they would. OK, I admit I like the slapstick poppy synths of “Zapatos Blancos” but the rest is pretty lackluster and doesn’t save this one from sinking. Guitars and drums, ahem. Maybe it’s me.
- JON MUELLER / BHOB RAINEY / JIM SCHOENECKER
- CD: Crouton
- . . . :: The trio that could opens “Shredded Paper, But” with a screechy metal wheel and some random flute-like whistle off in the shaded background. Bhob Rainey’s treated sax is more of a percussive tunnel than the trad tool in your average marching band. My favorite part of this recording is the free-percussion packing tape roll as heard on “Here Teething Moths Have Passed.” While the titles could be anagrams for unrest, the offbeat synthesis of consciousness has flown right out the window to lead the way to new sound canvases. Even Jon Mueller’s quirky toaster with halo drawing cover art is a tongue in cheek via a jab in the ribs. On “Holes” Mueller leaves only a few stones unturned in the world of what thumping, popping, badoom-baddom possibilities exist remembering to use the ultimate crash of cymbals and the flutter of other attention getting noise gear. Someone sounds like they are heaving or lifting heavy objects. Taking this out is the hawk-caught-in-the machine croaking call as “Too Tattered to Read” brings this short story to its end.
- ULTRA MILKMAIDS :: Pop Pressing
- CD: Ant-Zen
- . . . . :: Since incorporating in 1993 the duo (since 1997) Ultra Milkmaids have taken their former identity blending punk rock and noise into a far more radical pigmentation of tonal luminosity, as the listener will eyewitness on their latest, Pop Pressing. A blend of jangly drone percussion meets eccentric atmosphere. By using guitar feedback and self editing processes to remove portions of what goes in and out of the left and right channels you may at first think this is another deteriorated CDR, but, its not. Listen closely to the way they overlap the drumming and sax to catch the parts unplugged, only to excerpt its edge, developing a fine tension line. The ‘maids use filter processing, extracting elements from the original recording, layering and composting – and generally making Pop Pressing quite matter-of-factly anti-pop. Take the track “Never” for instance – it may take the place of a river running slowly upstream filled with all the chaos theory ’0s and 1s” of electronic garbage that have been meaningfully dumped. Incorporating some flighty field recordings and folk rock guitar on “Pop Star” brings a dash of street performance an outsider artist perspective into the mix. Part of the record are sounds that dream about the underground while bleeding into half-hearted “Pornography” era Cure meets 70′s style industrial Cabaret Voltaire. Tasty and fragile.
- ALEXEI BORISOV & KK NULL :: Xenoglossia
- CD: Insofar Vapor Bulk Records
- . . . . . :: This is a wise pairing. Two completely versatile and experienced electronic manipulators with a huge range coming together on the original Xenoglossia. There are a host of totally warped sounds that have never come from either KK Null or Alexei Borsov’s catalogue before, or at least nothing I have heard. So they are taking risks in their collaboration. Some fast paced bleeping with syncopated percussion that tracks back to MARRS’ anthemic “Pump Up The Volume.” Crossing Russian and Japanese noise cultures is not often au courante, however, Insofar Vapor Bulk Recordings have now been at it (finding links between art and sound) for a few years, and this testament is the base layer of icing for their big cake. Sticky electronic pitter-patter leads way to tinkling sine tones and cryptic foreign terrain. When they integrate some guy mumbling, it truly sends me back to the seminal sound of lost souls that became Throbbing Gristle. But this is not all-dark cerebral jargon, there is a lighter, almost frustrated techno lurking just below the surface. From nonconforming static to dizzying sick ward alarm calls Xenoglossia‘s thirteen untitled tracks form an hour long field of sound possibility.
- ANDREW DUKE :: Environmental Politics
- CD3: and/OAR
- . . . . 1/2 :: Halifax’s Andrew Duke has released a brilliant mini nineteen minute three-track for Seattle’s and/OAR. It’s watery, ebullient, austerity drifts in a shallow depth of field on “Boil Order.” The microtonal silent roar of the nearly fourteen-minute “Industrial Itch” is a drone, based on a one second clip, as other tracks here, it is derived from field recordings and other sound samples from cities in Ontario and Nova Scotia. The mythic fade and placid ebb of faint bubbly cracks in the surface are pale among the din drawl of the invisible wake here. Subtle as a fly caress, while undulating throughout the room, deeper than a San Francisco fog atop Twin Peaks.
- SKYPHONE :: Fabula
- CD: Rune Grammofon
- . . . . :: Mads Bodker, Thomas Holst and Keld Dam Schmidt make up the Danish trio Skyphone. Forming in Copenhagen circa 1999, these three have a background in rock, and despite their former use of saxophone and guitar, they incorporate their learnings into the multilayered usage of modular synthesizers that create a hybrid microjazz with a techno edge. In fact, the landscape here is powdered with finely casual guitar acoustically strung by Schmidt while his colleagues construct effects out of gauze and spinning clicks. At moments Fabula is a bit sentimental, like a hard rock band who build an acoustic number as on “Airtight Golem” to come up for air from the heavy haze and daze of adrenaline. It’s atypical music for an after party chill out zone. Though the interesting way they build a lightheaded mix with repetitive strings atop electric raindrops and other raw bass lines can prescribe an instant dose of the shivers. The sound is sweet, please repeat.
- STRATEGY :: Drumsolo’s Delight
- CD: Kranky
- . . . . :: Drumsolo’s Delight is the second formal full-release after his debut Strut (Outward Music) by Portland, Oregon’s DJ and multi-instrumentalist Strategy (Paul Dickow). Dickow has also been a member of the electronic ensemble Nudge, the ethereal Fontanelle and the punk band Emergency. This is a sudden left turn for Dickow who has made a fluid stream of layered passages on the illuminating “Super Shewolf Inna City.” Complete with mini beeps that glisten like the tiniest Xmas lights, this is a passionate sinuous track. The contents might seem a bit at odds, the sounds are serious, the titles are slacker terms. The tempo builds upward on the title track but only a slight tempo shift, leaving an elegant trail of ambience. How this guy lives in my hometown and I haven’t taken notice is a radical shame – on “Jazzy’s Dilemma” his playing is similar to Stephan Betke’s with a smooth range of dub underpinnings. Tracks like “Final Super Zen” and “Walkingtime” (featuring CARO on muted background vocal) are what “chill” is all about. At 12-minutes “The Jazzy Drumsolo” offers a rain-drenched ending, a certain Pacific Northwest theme that seems like a formal ending. The track is emotionally bottomless casting an almost flawless ambient afterglow. Save this one for August!
- BINRAY :: Hyena Ventilator EP
- CD: Zod Records
- . . . :: Bristol’s BinRay builds big brazen body beats! Hyena Ventilator EP is a fresh cross section of familiar territories paved by Squarepusher and Autechre – though BinRay loosens some of the formula and adds a heaping load of electronic caterwauling slapstick. The themes are familiar, not formula and his use of eeriesamples counteracts the unnerving, rapid-fire assault. In the mix you hear a girls choir, telephone signals and other bips of civilization as the percussion takes full throttle control. There’s pitch, volume, and even edges to the work – so its not a big ole sloppy mix mess – it truly has a composition – in the same sense as a dazed and confused pinball bearing. There are moments where the pacing seems more like one of those Underworld instrumental epics as heard on the “Born Slippy”ish “Czars.” But it’s really not a serious comparison – more a quick glance. This disc is sort of like that , with its BPMs ahead of the horse in a cavalcade of dismantled tonal components held together by the skins of its beats.