Reviews: 4/2004

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>>> Key

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

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  • VARIOUS ARTISTS :: Ai Records Compilation
  • CD: Ai Records
  • . . .

    678 image 2 :: Chris Cousin, Michael Manning, Simon Harding and a cast of others invigorate our senses with bright electronica. Poppy chords with multicolored vibes open with Sofalofa’s “Block N Oar” which could be the head-on collision of Boards of Canada with the Soft Pink Truth – its all like a fluffy, puffy laid back lounge sofa. Sinner DC’s “Alice” with its vocodered texts and darker tones make this something you may expect from perhaps the *69 camp, but with feet firmly planted in a slightly more experimental realm, screechy synths and all. Simon Harding’s Yellotone says yo-yo-yo with his triggered dub and crusty sound infringements on the coyly titled “Dubbly More.” 214 (Chris Roman)’s micro-techno “From The Outside” has some strange flares and brittle glitches but remains pretty low key and submissive. Tin-Tole Lata’s “Hue Song” is a funky ditty, swaying under the influence. With the flow of a tape being spun backwards, and toy synths, this is as happy-go-lucky as it gets. “Home to an Empty House” features a bit of the same aesthetic, though, a bit murky, reminding me of a mixed remix of a Depeche Mode instrumental. Subside (Nathan Phillips) has a flare for drama, and probably has repeated many of the tracks from Grace Jones’ “Slave to the Rhythm” one too many times – definitely anchored somewhere in the mid 80s. Michael Manning’s creepy “Overcast” is this set’s stand-out track for dramatic delivery, stuffed with a filling of staccato snaps and bent sequencers. It builds up nicely, and has few enough BPMs that you aren’t feeling totally uncoordinated. Normal (Steve Hyland)’s “Welk” is neither The Normal nor Lawrence Welk – though if you combined them simultaneously backwards and stripped them of vocal and schmaltz you may have a framework for this obtuse track. Cawing crows and creaky wooden drawbridges mute the moment until a flat-funk beat pours through the tunnel. The fairylike drifting headspace of Intonamori’s “Fairly Tall Tales” might not be rated for all audiences but its all about the high. A feather-lite, pert track that sounds too good to be really true, created by Jon Anstee. There is some lighter fare stuck in here for good measure, but most is pretty well sifted into the final recipe.

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  • VARIOUS ARTISTS :: Tape / Operette: Opera Remixes
  • CD: Cubicfabric
  • . . . . 1/2

    678 image 3 :: By taking works from Swedish trio Tape’s (Andreas Berthling, Johan
    Berthling, and Tomas Hallonsten) first recording, the electro-folk “Opera” ten artists have made related works that build on patterns of the originals. David Grubbs melancholic “Radio Baroque” elongates strings and mysterious concave verandas. Tomlabs’ Japanese duo Fonica (Keiich Sugimoto and Cheason) make “crossing longitude” like a breezy flight on the expired Concorde. The light phrasing and restrained rewind play keeps the rough organic nature of Tape’s original intact but adds a seamless glow of ambiguity. BJ Nilsen as Hazard adds some pretty stunted microbeats to his climbing “Noises from a Hill.” Unyielding, though a slight bit boring until it starts to fall apart in its final minute where the craggy edges meet the beats head on and the match just starts, but at only 4 and a half minutes a bit too late in the mix, however. Entering from the Netherlands is Rechord (Andreas Tilliander) who patterns its theme song perhaps on the match-up “taperechorder.” This is just plain upright and over – with a slight archival quality of an old jazz record through an 8-track splicer. Juicy stuff.

    The recently prolific sightings of Oren Ambarchi doesn’t at all effect his brilliant reworking of “Summa Afrique” – in fact this in many ways has what I felt the original lacked, a fluffy, but determined dreamlike quality. It is as if he took their rendition out into the rain and exorcized it from its weather beaten limp frame, cleaned, powdered and dressed it all up for a hovering night on the town. “HBR 64507 mix” is Pita’s deconstruction. This gives Peter Rehberg the opportunity to hone in on the finer nuances of his often-caustic edge; Surprisingly ambient with a flare or two, and lots of crisp glitch. Japanese electro-acoustic quartet Minamo (apestaartje, 360 Records) delivers an existential chamber drone on “perse.” With a limited flow of quiet harmony they incorporate curves in tonal frequencies with intermittent muffled wind-up gadgets that are glossed over with a breath of air. “Perfume” drifts, perches, and pulsates throughout my head, triggering my senses to imagine that Town & Country’s Josh Abrams (Thrill Jockey, Lucky Kitchen) keeps developing his craft in astonishing ways. There is a dissonant message of turmoil in this idiomatic essence filling the air – a virally potent. (Brendon) Anderegg makes “Bee Song” sound like a toy lullaby. Its semi-sweet sing-song harmony is a welcome treat, with a lighter-than-airiness style – pure, smooth, curvaceous. “a bell made of bones” is the final cut on a close to superb collection. Here, multidimensional sound artist Stephan Mathieu (Fallt, Orthlong, etc.) designs the space inside and out of Tape’s original “Bell Mountain” where it just floats by and away. The track becomes a languid fairyland spun deftly through a floral field – an illusion of puffy building clouds, and early warning signs of Spring.

    Surely the task for these artists was a challenge to take the originals apart from their many surprising spatial pockets and resonant sphere. Almost everyone here truly zoomed in on the ultra-fine sensibilities of the trio’s deranged folk intent.

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  • BIRCHVILLE CAT MOTEL :: With Maples Ablaze
  • CD: Scarcelight Recordings
  • . . . . .

    678 image 4 :: This modern evolving electronic ensemble is a large cast of over 25 characters including Richard Francis, Rosy Parlane, Tetuzi Akiyama, Jonathan Coleclough, John Weise, Ralf Wehowsky and Reynols among many other talented musicians and composers. This is veritable acoustics vs. electronics big band. Over ten blended, untitled tracks, the blatant minimalism baffles with such a cast of sound aestheticians in the house. I’m not quite sure how they put all this together but can attest that the outcome is formally plotted, well balanced and sparsely furnished. From warped clanging metals and shovels hitting cement to deeply enforced drones and open-air field recordings, this is a truly experimental listen. Besides for candid moments found in selected Crawl Unit material and some of what Stilluppsteypa is doing, there isn’t much else to compare this jangly jamboree to. You may think that when a mass exodus of people wielding instruments such as boiling water, broken amps, diseased CDRs, fire, baby monitors and a whole stack of acoustic strings and thing, not to mention all the electronic gizmos you could fit in an amphitheatre, that it could be an immense chaos of the sound stratosphere. This is absolutely not the case on With Maples Ablaze – quite contrary, the atmosphere is quite calming, with a harmonious drone, and the combo of organic sound meets industry at every turn. From spaceflight to crash and burn, this is one of those recordings that is so purely rooted in its layers of weightless atmosphere you may have a hard time imagining your own personal space – so it is recommended to play this in a comfy nook with low light. There are crackling recordings of rough wooded brush, metal on metal and the capture of incidental daily sounds that make you feel like you are right there in the moment. As a subway train passes by, rivets are soldered, and certain sounds of industry produce double meanings. Then there giddy outsider sounds of what could be bluegrass spun backwards, resulting in something that could be described as Bulgarian chipmunks playing gamelan. The percussion is intermittently something resembling a marching band warm-up routine to that of a reverie call. Streaming waters mix with bowed guitar interpreting a form of salvation in the midst of implied malevolence. It is pretty impossible to isolate what artist is playing where on this disc, but this isn’t USA for Africa or even Alexander’s Ragtime Band! No, Birchville Cat Motel is a physical ensemble that uses its passionate interconnectedness to ring out cold case untold truths with a proclivity for virtual trance.

    With Maples Ablaze gets a huge nod for its superb production, editing, conducting as it is obvious that the artists involved truly worked together in a mystical way to complement each other rather than stand out like soloists – Birchville Cat Motel is a real amalgamation of co-op sound power!

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  • VARIOUS ARTISTS :: Split Series 9-16
  • CD: FatCat
  • . . . . .

    678 image 5 :: Coming immediately alive with the wobbly technotronic “Furry Bicycle” by Duplo_Remote, the newest Split Series is underway. DAT Politics returns to form with Et Hop, where the head on literal collision of clicks/cuts meets funky hip-hop scratchin’ (circa early 80s). The “vs.” effect tries old school on for size in a leaner electronic body. There seems like a lot of extra hot air for some reason. Christoph De Babalon takes on a jungle theme in the totally discardable porno themed “Cum On (Feel This)” – not a highlight here. It’s been done a million times before and frankly; we’re bored (and YES I mean the “royal” we). And then Com.A’s “Raider” tries out for the same referential styling but makes the attempt to contemporize the sound by using a variable pitch to tone scale and it could be 300BPMs for all I know – it sounds fast and furious! “Flutter” is Kid606′s contribution – and for what it’s worth – beyond his saturation in the field – this is yet, another brilliant example of his talent for splicing key vocal adlibs and branding them with style. Process, one of my favorite acts of the last 4 years or so has a typically standout track with “Popbeat” – a sort of hip tap-dance with a funky percussive heart. The woody beat is right up front and crystal clear amid a wavering and stunted orchestral styled background.

    This 17-track collection also includes the mentionable additions by Fennesz, Ultra Red, David Grubbs and others. Main’s signature drone becomes a nuclear speedway on ice. There actually seems to be two separate tracks going at once – one inaudibly high-speed and one just levitating. It’s a smoke screen for sure. Avey Tare’s “Crumbling Land” is like a batch of grade school kids grabbing a Ronco Record player and doing ill justice to St. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band – singing something about a werewolf – its weird, believe me. A surprise addition here is Matmos’ totally micronized digital disco (ala Daft Punk) on their lil’ ditty called “Freak N’ You.” Taking some soul record and just cutting a rug in half. They must have won the lottery – it’s THAT up! Oh my, I can’t stop talking about this record because Ultra Red has offered their syncopated “A16 (edit)” and unlike the regular political hyjinx, this one has all the cadence of a street-based Double Dutch hopscotch, and a beat-bustin’ chant repeating “We Say No!” or “We Say Now!” – or something like that. QT?s “qqq” is forty-eight second trip through Willy Wonka’s factory tunnel, only backwards and blindfolded while coved in a bath of sticky marshmallow. And Lucky Kitchen’s Alejandra & Aeron’s aptly titled “Kitchen (edit)” is like a musical fairy box that exploded glitter vastly over a city on fire, the flames grow higher and more colorful and the city ends up covered in a molten layer of metallic. To conclude a Catalonian woman sings lovingly as the sizzling kitchen perfects the melding of all its ingredients. I only can say I want the extended version rather than the edit, or at least the recipe. It’s one of the most danceable things I have ever heard them indulge in.

    The fat cat is bustin’ out.

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  • SIX AND MORE :: Way Out
  • CD: Archegon
  • . . . .

    678 image 6 :: Six and More is just that, an ensemble of about 40 sound makers playing double that instrumentation from radio and scanner to groove box and cello and just about everything that makes noise under the sun. This live recording contains no overdubs, and is instantly startling because what could be a big chaos orchestral mish-mash turns out to be quite a theatrical design that sounds sparsely composed. From pictures it appears that the musicians sat around a big rectangular table arrangement in a concrete and brick warehouse somewhere off one of Rotterdam’s less beaten country roads, in Munich and elsewhere. The players are in full harmony, pacing percussion and electronics, voices and strings in observant overtures that gain from the dissonant resident space on “Abflug aus der Fahrradwerkstatt.” Deep synths mirror the belly of the contrabass while others tweak knobs and tease with unsympathetic feedback frequencies. To counter the plasticity, the organic crunchy grooves from vinyl become somewhat romantic in the same way old family films fade in and out of memory. “Way Out” could infer the flavors of “out” jazz, but its atonality makes labels virtually invisible on this one, its pure experimental on all ends. I hear chirping birds, horse hooves hitting gravel, but I know its just a mirage, a mélange of many obscure sounds collaged in a way that fools the way the ear perceives sound – requiring several listens to catch something new each time. So is it a puzzle or just a subliminal ploy? As “Vegetative Elemente unter Tage” unveils itself, probably a little bit of each. But just as sweaty as you get from a good long mountain hike, this is a truly physical recording that has a similar angle (pun intended). There are fleeting moments when Six and More play with the vestiges of contemporary electronica as witnessed on the zim-zoom radio waves and crackling wooden percussion on “Wir covern auf keinen Fall Australien” – but this seems quite beside their point. Not that the “point” is matter of fact – it’s more a purposeful, illusive approach to the genre.

    Way Out displays the possibilities of what it would be like if Marcel Duchamp had a marching (err sitting) band. With the cautionary flaws included, this big band made it to this final stage in four concerts, excerpted here. Towards the end they invert the possibilities of just warming up, like a symphony orchestra in a big concert hall, the beginning of the end!

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  • VARIOUS ARTISTS :: Voice Crack Remixes
  • CD: Ambush
  • . . .

    678 image 7 :: St. Gallen Switzerland’s Voice Crack (Andy Guhl and Norbert Möslang) have been playing with sound together dating back to the 70s, dedicated to exclusive broken up and down electronics since the early 80s. For this new compilation of remixes they instantly take on take on the ever sprite and whacky Hrvatski (Keith Fullerton Whitman). On “Cracked Everyday Electronics Home Repair Course” at first there is no real distinction between this or Squarepusher. Upon the prelude’s completion where an ill-ease full-on warped distortion of droned blurry guitars and birdie type calls takes center spotlight; Silence is infested by teeny static invaders on Jim O’Rourke’s nearly incandescent, “Mandatory Plastic Cup.” The hide-n-seek, pop-up beats of Aphasic’s “Hyperion” show the rockier side of all that be deemed “clicks n’ cuts.” Matmos’ turn on the twisted “Rainbow Sound File for Voice Crack” is a caffeine shot to the ear, meandering from left to right, fast-paced and brimming with a batch of their unusual hybrid of bouncing, bleeped soundscape. Bleeding right into the mix is Möslang‘s own rebuild of his “Without Blue Mix”. In six minutes the machine gun staccatto vs. ambient bass lines shifts frequently like an anxious feline. At over seven minutes (Russell) Haswell & (Florian) Hecker draw the blinds on the outside world to predispose themselves to raw noise carnage. On the titled challenged “Orange-Time-Shock-Formant-Wave-Re-Composition” it’s as though they’ve taken the whole digital means straight to turntablist antics. The glitch is totally freaked out and by all accounts a raucous meant to be force fed Clockwork Orange style. I think it lopped away a portion of my eardrum. The “Final [k]” here is a treated percussion track by Toby Reynolds aka DJ Skud (and Ambush head honcho), saving the uncertain best for last. This pure frequency-based anomaly is a straight-ahead jitterthon. Its ripe noise has gothica written all over it – sonic elements that make other acts like Mlhest and Wolf Eyes so promising.

    In all, these seven tracks blend to make a quirky collection that will drain your bad pop toxins for days.

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  • VARIOUS ARTISTS :: Colliding Frequencies
  • CD: Frozen Empire Media
  • . . 1/2

    678 image 8 :: Compiled by Joe Abrescia in 2001, Colliding Frequencies has been on the back burner until now, so is it worth its wait? To start things off Moonsanto’s “Our Statistics: Sixty Percent” has been aptly mixed by Starlink to create a burp/buzz sine tone meets Cabaret Voltaire minimalist overture. The lashing out of Converter’s “EHS” is a bit more standard fare sounding like they’ve taken the Chemical Brothers by the hair and just pulled too hard; It’s acid-washed sandpaper to the vinyl of the aforementioned. “Blind, Deaf and Mute” is a recycled jungle blitz by Manufactura. Hmmm, why does the Pet Shop Boys’ “Being Boring” instantly come to mind upon the first listen to Exclipsect’s “Aparture”? The track then becomes a caustic degradation on its initial intriguing tones. The tiny tapping of Tarmvred’s “Insekter” with its impending, inhalated layer of dark doom, and eyebrow curling drama stays insular without ever truly imploding. This technique actually builds intrigue, and when the percussive overlayer kicks in its done like an elegantly collapsed house of cards, playing with your aural channeling. This 18-track comp has a multitude of new names and an edge of minimal post-gothic polarities, some filler and rehashing of the lessons taught by their forefathers from the house of Wax Trax. But among them are interesting new takes on these forgotten elegies such as the riveting percussion of Idyl’s “Being Human” and a very welcome appearance by Klangstabil who’s “Dash” is the condensation of static electricity and flippant raw percussion. The whip-crack industrial buzz is slightly funkier than you’d expect from this invisible band, but proves that there is life after a few classic records on Ant-Zen and Hymen. Radial’s “Reflections” is one of the standout tracks on this collection, comprised of two forged layers of machine crunch and floating synth drone that is whistle-like even as shots ring out repeatedly to a tenuous beat. This type of work takes apart atonalism to create a flow that is choppy yet makes some uncertain sense. An appearance by Ultra Milkmaids has the subtlety of the spin of an auto ignition, muted and pulsing atop a playful oompa loop song played side-wards. The ‘maids play hide-n-seek with the multiple layers of acoustic data crunching. “Play – So Sorry” is by far the most profound work here and hangs like a Picasso from the batch, making it only awkwardly belong here, but based on the collection’s title this live piece is the dose of distraction you are illing for. Following on these heels comes the fiery boil of Q-Drik’s “La Compotte Crapotte” which sounds like a super-amplification of some of the darker nights on the desert playa of Burning Man.

    To conclude, Red Reflection takes to the piano to sooth the chasms created along the edges of “Colliding Frequencies” with a dusting of faded glory for good measure. The sequencers are those made for film soundtracks and its orchestral emphasis is higher than thou. The ending is certainly out of place, but there was no township fully erected on this fragmented mix of durable ingredients in the first place. It will probably go down as well as a swig of wheat grass guts, and glory.

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  • VARIOUS ARTISTS :: Electric Gypsyland
  • CD: Six Degress Records
  • . . . 1/2

    678 image 9 :: OK, you now know nothing is “sacred” when it comes to remixing and recontextualizing a genre. From Gregorian Chant to Dub, some of the worlds most unexpected sounds have come from the fusion of electronic reinterpretations of world music, and this collection is no different. Electric Gypsyland has a range of international artists from a variety of synthetic to jazz-acoustic circles taking on the often celebratory sound-making of gypsies. By collapsing any impression of what this might be about you will be in for a wild ride, as most actually sticks to the original scope of the hilarity and joyous nature warranted by communities in constant flight, without a home base. Though the wonderfully creative imagination of Senor Coconut may have seen their last live performance, and what a performance it was, at last year’s Mutek, they contribute to the Kocani Orkestar’s instrumental “Usti, Usti Baba” with barking pups and all – though minus their signature narration. The uplifting beat of this full-bodied music is all mixed overlapping right into DJ Dolores’ “Dumbala Dumba” as she vs. Taraf de Haidouks and repeated from track to track throughout. And so it goes, with the bellowing vocals on Juryman’s take on “Cind Eram la ’48″ there is an air of rapid percussion, happy horns and accordion right into Gaetano Fabri’s “Siki, Siki Baba.” The atmosphere is up and lively, warm as the sun of the equator and silly as a minstrel show. It is a certain circus mentality, with bellowing, large scale vocals here and there. Bigga Bush vs. Kocani Orkestar sounds like a deep dub “Slave to the Rhythm” era Grace Jones. Modern Quartet take on “Fantasia for Clarinet” and bring electronic beats to the flouncy, charming clarinet into a mix of myriad flavors and tonalities. “Mugar Mugurel” is rescripted by Arto Lindsay and Melvin Gibbs to a bundle of vibrating clap tracks and open/close punctuated beats. And just when you had your hips in a tizzy comes an additional two bonus tracks that break open the doors to the house. Cop & Thief’s “A La Turk” mix that sounds like something that might come from the folks at the Moonshine imprint.

    So, throw on some golden medallions and dance the night away, leave your own tradition behind and lose it!

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  • VARIOUS ARTISTS :: Another Kind of Language: Dedicated to Andrei Tarkovsky
  • CD: and/OAR
  • . . . . 1/2

    678 image 10 :: It was only a few months ago that I reviewed In Memoriam Tarkovsky (on Russian label IVB) another homage to the influential filmmaker who passed in 1986. Several interesting artists pack this two-disc set, packaged in a cinematic DVD-style case with 14 long playing tracks. Opening the set is Mnortham’s inclement “When Inaccessible”. At over fifteen minutes the field recordings of steep rainfall meet the atypical sine drone of a tuning fork (or so it sounds). The hush wind tone of Jon Tulchin’s “Mneumonic Cartography” uses a collection of sparse sound samples of nature: the crackle of a campfire (or is it the sizzle of bacon?), the top wind on the ocean’s edge, and the eerie void of the midnight air with a moon halo. He stops to take breathy pauses as metal is towed and muffled timbre cascades with sluggish pace. Yannick Dauby’s “Bruissements (for Solaris: Tarkovsky/Lem)” reminds me of some of his previous work with crackling embers and other experiments in gently stirring sound demographics. The theme continues with “Smoldering Ardor” by and/OAR label maestro Dale Lloyd. The tactile environment is steely as stubbly miniature clicks drag our ears through the dirty hum of a convincing whispery world. Towards the end what could be a stampede of horses is a windswept distortion of open flames. Birds whistle and call “In the Dream” of John Hudak. Subtitled “Tarkovski’s Sacrifice” the normally resplendent chirp-chirp has a somewhat menacing edge on this 21+ minute piece. He’s tuned these feathered friends into something of a channeled set of harmonic scales, almost as if they are pets on command. Left to right, simultaneous, and fore/background – these sing-song short calls for attention balance a calm and unnerving energy. Kiyoshi Mizutani’s unscripted percussive chant, “Nicholai” sounds like a group of monks in a subway. He portions out parts of this track – the first with street sounds vs. some passing airborne calling birds (the theme is alive and well). Next are some gravel-like pouring from left to right channel, add an open canvas of rain, a random singing choir and it becomes a bit like r.e.m. to me – and I don’t mean the band.

    This is an illusory open-air bath for the sensual pleasures of the wild. Towards its conclusion a plane takes flight, above and away.

    Disc two opens with Sweden’s Rsundin whose “Spegeln” is a sudden clap of thunder and roaring lightning, and we are in a surround-sound live storm with a sweet robin calling to its family. The lapping waves and gulls envision a shore after the eye of the storm has firmly closed, some remnants left aside. “At the end of the Rope” is Magali Babin’s fuzzy contribution. Crumbling stagecoaches, rattling teeth and the bass of pain/pleasure moaning from a headless figure in the deep background. Canadian artist S. Arden Hill, otherwise known as duul_drv breaks the sound barrier with a popping glass bulb and various metallic, industrial bric-a-brac. His harmonies are woven texturally and sequenced like fine layers of Egyptian silks. Josh Russell spends 18 minutes forming his “Objects” with space light and secret lasers (I made that part up – but that’s what it sounds like). It’s as if you are dealing with sensitive infrared technology, everything is so mute with a layer of impending challenge to the risky material. 24-year-old Tokyo-based Sawako (Kato) develops her sound from small fragments, amplified and then processed, the equivalent of refried beans in electronics. The process of reduction makes her “Mirror” reflect only the residue of nature’s work. Its like an organic inversion, simply shrunk and mixed with floating physical manifestations of sound particles, moving about, kicking along a metallic perimeter.

    Included are liner notes with various quips and statements by Arvo Part Ingrid Bergman and Kim Cascone’s apropos “Viral Space: the Cinema of Atmosphere”. With additional tracks by Logoplasm, Philip Pietruschka and V.V. this is essential listening for any lover of cinema and various experiments with sounds that are born in the wild.

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  • VARIOUS ARTISTS :: lib. Fabric Compilation
  • CD: Fabric
  • . . . . 1/2

    678 image 11 :: A great roster of the new guard in experimental minimalism. From the top Italians z_e_l_l_e (Maurizio Martusciello and Nicola Catalano), whose debut on Line was filled with chilling tonalities, and here on lib. They break it down further. In these shake 3 and a half minutes we are looking into a kaleidoscope of higher shades of whiteness, a shifting set of sine tones that is as clear and sharp as a fine blade. Japan’s Minamo’s live piece (recorded at Michael Schumaker’s Diapason Gallery, NYC) is the delicate, wobbly intersection between harmonious improvised jazz and the static crackle of click/cut electronica. Here Keiichi Sugimoto takes us through his dense atmosphere of “Listening”, real slowly. The piece sounds a bit like an orchestral breakdown of the soundtrack for Kubrick’s 2001. Motion (Chris Coode) has recorded his latest full-length for 12K. His “Been and Gone” has all the distinct poise that brought Pole to fame on his first two records, although Coode brings the depth lower than sublevel. It’s an undulating recipe. “Watching Your Shoes” is the addition from Italian artist and Mr. Mutt label gurus tu m’. This is a glitchy recycle, similar to some of the work heard on Noto’s “Kerne.” The track bounces and then reverberates in place with a playful interdimensionality. Toshimaru Nakamura’s Pre”Preset #01 (nimb#22)” is a live piece based on internal feedback. Filtered, tonal shifting and a ball of meandering warm noise, this piece leaves your ears in a silo. Without using mixing board input he has almost channeled this improvised found sound concrete and added a wonderful layer of throbbing ambience. Bass clarinetist Masahiko Okura’s “False Surfer Style” was recorded live at Pink Sky. With its percussive stutter, this piece certainly is one of the most unique prepared renderings of the instrument I have heard to date. Now I am just imagining him and Tom Heasley working together!

    The sudden gamelan style of Yoshio Machida’s “Rain Exposure” pops while playing his amorphone (which is a steel pan). It has a certain traditional Japanese sound appeal with beautiful harmonies and scales. “As Is” is the pulsating flutter created by Apestaartje label’s Aero (Koen Holtkamp). After starting out centered and masked to fit, its bold wide symmetry then bleeds clear from normal spatial dimensions and winds up floating perilously. Kuchiroro’s Kazumi Namba presents the orchestral ambient “Our Hands.” There’s a bit of this that sounds like some type of sacred ritual, and then again it may just be the presets on a playschool toy need to be tuned or his batteries have been partially de-juiced. The folky twang of guitar of “Puppies, Grandma and Juanita” takes us to conclusion with Lucky Kitchen’s Alejandra and Aeron. The way they take simple sounds and deliver such an esoteric appropriation of many things is impressive. The yearning sound of a baby puppy, electronic ocean waves, and other samples of everyday life create a warm, almost organic tapestry of optimism. And so it goes…

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  • VARIOUS ARTISTS :: Insight: Xing-Wu Compilation
  • 2xCD: Xing-Wu
  • . . . . 1/2

    678 image 12 :: Here is a new Chinese label producing an amazing debut the delves heavily into the art of field recordings that is also a true tribute of some of the finest collective talent in today’s electronic music scene. As disc one opens with Seattle’s Climax Golden Twins’ “Relinquish” the air is spotted with high-wire tones and muted pastel drones. A big nod for the inclusion of the redolent reverb of Argentinian outsider quartet Reynols who always sound a bit like they are on the edge of singing the lounge favorite “Volare.” Miguel Tomasin’s elongated bellows on “Rasoyo Jisos Repuliom Alfazado” makes his voicebox more of a true instrument as the actual context of his words is twisted into the feedback of guitar and percussion. Toshimaru Nakamura’s “Preset #4 (nimb#28)” is part of an ongoing collection of tracks where the use of feedback is predominant. Here he uses the luxury of silent space as a breeding ground for new life from static. This is more of a Cy Twombly drawing than a Jackson Pollock, and when he adds a layer of swelling tonality it just flows lusciously through my head. Zai De’s high-pitched frequency on “Ni-Be” counters the bass scraping underpinnings of atonal percussion. This one actually hurts my eardrums. Another refreshing appearance comes from the anonymity of World Serpent’s Volcano the Bear and their circus-like trumpeting, hollow Philip Glassish strings and grumbly beasties on “Clayslaps.” This is pre-jazz, post-evolution; a sarcastic deja-vu of a muted Tiny Tim at the fair in some really dark film. Thuja’s “Untitled” track has the pedestrian percussion of an industrial kitchen, chop-chop, klang, bang with the subtle whir of a fan motor and a tribal simplicity. Carl Stone is back with the postmodern war-torn density of “Swad.” The bombs bursting in air are scattered in a screechy high-pitch mix that sounds like the intersection of east (illuminated dance ceremony) / west (a gunslinger’s desolation). “Copula” is Tham Kar Mun’s low-rise eternal morning buzz. He scrapes softly, and harsely – sounding like the documentary of a painter at work. Gongs cling, percussive paper shifts randomly, and crack a doodle doo. The piece is very live sounding with leanings toward bringing the textural qualities of his materials to life. The foghorn that leans in on Oren Ambarchi’s contribution “Freeze Out” is fat and bloated. Listen as this intro becomes a laser light of unconventional protection. Part one is completed by Sorbonne grad Eric la Casa’s “S’ombre Part 3.” His dedication to field recordings of nature’s bird calls; the contained brittle warp of branches or other organic matter offsets bees and a single water droplet.

    Arizonian Jeph Jerman kicks off disc two of Insight with a cacophony of birds and wildlife on “Grackles.” From an installation presented in the desert, this becomes a maze-like patchwork collage estuary. “Script Lichen” is Bay Area sound teacher Loren Chasse’s (23Five) inclusion. He has worked with Brandon LaBelle and Tuja among others. Wind, and the elements are at its center, creaky doors and light rain – making this an outdoor/indoor soundtrack. When the sky opens he captures the percussive tiny pellets hitting the ground as if minute glitch work is woven in, but this sounds like it may only be strictly open mic. La Casa (mics) returns with partners Dan Warburton (violin) and Jean-Luc Guionnet (sax) on a live recording performed in the Paris Metro. Warburton’s eerie strings instill a luring, sneering fear, while perfectly complemented by Guionnet’s elongated playing. The edge of the platform and passing trains roll on through along a constant buzz of something electric, like a broken neon sign, or the reverb made from a fluorescent bulb. “Bells 2″ is a test in silence by Taku Sugimoto. The infrequent toll of a muffled bell keeps a patterned offbeat time signature, making this a perfect respite after some work that has been less than constant. In six minutes Tokyo’s guitar improviser Sugimoto (Bottrop-Boy, A Bruit Secret, etc) creates something of a dada haiku that falls in its own place, and acts like a chant. Yin Pin’s “Psalm 3:4″ uses the edges of instruments to create a halo effect that is at once startling and distorted. The pitch is left channeled is top heavy, the boom-bang percussion is playfully desperate but brazenly serious. Heavy breathing is characterized with the calm of a dentist’s aerator on Berlin-based trumpeter Axel Dorner’s perforated “Marchlai.” This sounds like he is blowing hot glass, but he is circular breathing through is instrument without mixing or overdubs. It’s as if his lips and lungs were linked to a hot air balloon! And the way its edited sounds like a formatted tone scale that is a puzzle pulled apart and randomly pieced back into place, some lines connecting and some pleasantly not.

    Janek Schaefer steps in with Maison A Bordeaux, something of a haywire molting guitar. The strings are warped and mistuned. Abundant in surrealistic possibilities, an atrophied Alfred Hitchcock through an hourglass comes to mind. Hamburg’s Andrea Neumann has a penchant for minor feedback and gentle electricity as she meanders inside a piano, with the utmost nuclear-scale glitch herein. Seattle’s Matt Shoemaker takes apart something of a forensic discussion that becomes a nonsensical radio play crossing MIT and some cheesy Frankenstein remake. The shear humor of “Pantai Ayu” reminds me of Hank & Slim and is quite startling, actually, especially when it adds some Western banjo theme. It all breaks up in thin air soon thereafter – a daydream? The watery perimeter of mnortham’s “epidermal filigree” could be the final hours of a long fishing day off the coast of Iceland. It could be many things – but by weaving a haunted drone that goes right through the centerpiece of this track, something extraterrestrial is undoubtedly formed, from thin air, from nothing really. The hopeless sequence in Mystic River when the bad guys have Tim Robbins pleading for his life comes to mind. In the end it is Lee Kwang whose “Stormy Weather” drains the sky one last time. His straight ahead recording of a fierce distant downpour captures the rapture and fury or the often feared, and misinterpreted weather system. Also included in this 25-track collection here are tracks by Yandsen, Tetuzi Akiyama, Yannick Dauby, Anthony Pateras & David Brown.

    This recording is seemingly endless, and will curl the toes of anyone who places faith in those with the ability to brave the elements to mix it up.

  • ISAN :: Meet Next Life
  • CD: Morr Music
  • . . . . .

    688 image 2 :: London and Reading-based Robin Saville and Antony Ryan have been recording as Isan since 1996. Meet Next Life simply glows. Glowing a spiritual levitating light. “First Date – Jumble Sale” is a whimsical and poppy microtonal flight that uses short-order melodic percussion. This may be the first true instrumental micropop record of 2004 as “One man Abandon” spits teeny tiny shreds of understated clicks amid its glossy layer of pre-pubescent Depeche Mode synthetic toy licks. Isan creates atmosphere, lighter than thin air. And then there is “Gurnard” – something of melodramatic implication and charismatic splendor. The slow moving purr uses the foundations of baby clicks and cuts and breeds the sweetest feminisms with a metered harmonic tenacity. It has a hint of cartoonish fare, but nothing of the ilk of Spike & Mike – more influenced by fluffier, childlike Japanimation. I’m reminded of a caffeinenated Brothers Quay. If post-traumatic stress disorder were a pre-existing condition for rehab through sound therapy – this would be the stuff! “Meet Next Life” is like Stereolab without vocal, if the melancholy were upgraded a few stages, finely apparent on the tonally syllabic “Iron Eyes.” The completely lethargic pace of “Snowdrops and Phlox” uses post-Cocteau Twins styled phrasing, emitting a glazed over intoxicating space age cocktail for the senses to indulge and freefall. Filled with pure mischief, and good-natured play, Isan takes us on an aural vacation. Vibrant, effervescent – a perfectly crafted electronic recording.

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  • KK NULL / OVO
  • CD3: Bar La Muerte Records
  • . . .

    688 image 3 :: This is a split 3″ starring , the prolific Mr. Null who is back in his 200th (?) recording with two new tracks, remixed by miniwagonwheel by the masked duo Ovo (Stefania Pedretti and Italian Bar La Muerte’s bossman Bruno Dorella). Fortysomething Null’s 4-minute single piece “Protostar” is bubbly electronica, which he spins off once in a while with lively precision. Blips, pitter-patter percussion and frequency shifts make this an interesting listen over a distorted sequencer. Ovo’s catastro-rock creeps like a menacing fat cat who can smell lunch from 500 yards away and will climb heights to get it on the aptly titled “Claws.” These “non-musicians” kick up a fuss on the randomly guitar hysteria of the back end of said cat on “Tails” and its anyone’s guess where this laughing gas will lead. Is this a rude and cruel takeover? Is this gothic Godzilla grunge? I do not get the connection between the two artists on this disc though; completely separate sensibilities, especially given that Null is a bit extended from his more radical hardcore noise shell here. At less than eight minutes this is a brief exposure to a potential work in progress -a collaboration? If the missing animated limbs on the cover were to attest someone is keeping a big secret here…but it sounds like they are having a LOT of fun. Since they are set on touring – a suggested great double bill with Reynols, triple with the Haters!

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  • STEVE BRAND :: The Quiver of Dreams
  • CD: XZF
  • . . . . .

    688 image 4 :: Using his own name after output as Augur, Steve Brand is one of those true artists, without gloss and flicker, who makes dreamlike ambient music with a jagged edge. The Quiver of Dreams, recorded in 2002 uses an assortment of field recordings, handmade and found studio sounds that sound more like ceremonial rituals than songs. The title track is something like an altered set of chimes, the edges are not refined and smooth, more like an organically prepared music box. Brand’s sound has a visual impact that is illustrative of work by Hans Bellmer or Francis Bacon. The Quiver of Dreams is like the frenetic pressure anxiously conserved in the moments prior to the pounce of a wired jack-in-the-box, animating its still life. This is dramatically subconscious on a number of levels, and on “No Music” it could hardly be called silence, more like a few agitated babies playing with toy blocks under the table at a formal tea ceremony caught on cassette tape, but chaotically disrupted by the push-pull of its player, filled with skips and fragments and crooked frequencies all the way through. Completely unexpected, as usual.

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  • STEVE BARSOTTI :: Say “tin-tah-pee-mick”
  • CD: Mimeograph
  • . . . 1/2

    688 image 5 :: Sound sculptor, Steve Barsotti, takes field recordings from everyday occurrences, a can opener, chair, heat source and uses a range of reduction practices to amplify their debunked state. He developed the sounds with fellow artists Olivia Block and Tod Szeczyk. What he ends up with is assorted white noise and variable residue minutiae. By playing with the tones of open electricity on “Noise Reduction on Back Porch” he would unnerve any chirping sparrow or cricket into other neighborhoods, it makes my hair stand on end. This random segment lasts for about 1/5 of the piece, but when it ceases it opens new worlds of drone, and relaxes your ability to listen. It’s interactive listening, forcing you to endure the good, bad and ugly. If you try to rationalize this you may think Barsotti were visiting a wild boar farm to record veterinarians brushing the hog’s teeth. The bristling music concrete drudges up some powdery drone and quietude, landing back in a field as wide as an ocean. “Tintapemic” is made to be a 5.1 Surround Sound piece that extends way out from my headphones, though you can instantly recognize how Barsotti has sculpted an aural experience, rather than straight sound. The scraping, fragmented frequency and other cut-up samples make this disc a stand out track.

    Say “tin-tah-pee-mick is an impassioned sound experiment with Jackson Pollock-like random improv and sonic atmosphere for days. You are in the middle of an air raid at a car dealership, and the only place to hide is within yourself. The piece uniquely crosses ambience with tonal latitude alongside a mix of creaking madness. For the last few minutes it just smolders. Also here are two live performances recorded at Seattle’s Polestar Music Gallery, a luminary somewhat new spot in the Pacific Northwest. The pieces both titled “Hey” (well, one is called “HEY”) are excerpts from the Threshold of Hearing/Threshold of Pain series curated by Alex Keller, a music educator interested in the silences of sound technology. The first of the two pieces is quite; all but some extremely fine static electricity are audible. This was without a doubt a chilling challenge to the audience. On “HEY” you can hear the rustling of some very fine objects in the background, silence and then, THUD, static reverb and voila – ignition! The feedback throbs and releases and gives it another go around. This is a contained construction site with an envy of machine guns, but more like those you would find on Xbox than in real time war zones. There’s a delectable messiness about this record that is instinctively remote but that can’t stop him.

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  • SCOTT TAYLOR :: Leaving Eden
  • CDR: Sijis
  • . . . . .

    688 image 6 :: Listening to many new discs that incorporate field recordings I notice some very frequent repeating elements, birds, water and wood taken by fire or trodden upon. In 43 minutes Scott Taylor’s Leaving Eden examines these and other found around sounds very copiously. He samples the sounds of the goings-on in Notre Dame Cathedral (choirs, organs) and through his capture of divisions of light in many European cities. The title track is provocatively delicate as he manipulates and layers these varied sounds to create something akin to the solitude of his very own peaceful Japanese rock garden. Echoing baby voices, the sails of a small boat at sea, the tender whistle of the wind all meld in accord. This is surround-sound filled with the keys in the pocket of a passerby, heeled feet in the rain, and a continuous re-emergence of a grandiose fountain pouring reflective H2O. Leaving Eden is meditational. On the nearly 20-minute “Plumes of Static and Smoke” Taylor opens with the pacing of a man’s feet on a wooden floor, shuffling somewhat anxiously. Once his feet become still a static storm rolls in to the curve of a barely audible pixie-like wooden whistle, drown in and out by the overlapping sounds that dangerously cross water and electricity, the clap of thunder turns to an ocean wave and then into a few piddly raindrops all within less than 30 seconds, edited perfectly together to sound like a stream of consciousness. The sounds of a hacksaw, industry, the imaginary sweat from the workers’ faces, take you through large outdoor spaces to internal fumbling with your desktop mouse. Taylor has truly captured the live sounds in such a way that the brain follows its point of view, playing frequently with the aural depth of field.

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  • WILL GUTHRIE :: Building Blocks
  • CD: Antboy
  • . . . .

    688 image 7 :: Using homemade percussive instruments and electronics in conjunction with traditional drums and cymbals, Will Guthrie designs a sound atmosphere that is lit by the cast of an ambitious dark ambient drone. The solemn bell tones and metallic chiming and other repetitive clanging illustrates a haunted place on the disc opener “Blanket.” Guthrie captures a fusion of fear and unknown with a base tribal stillness and micro percussion. The result is quite startling. On “Eleven” an austere cavity is developed in the randomness of clinkering objects that remind me somewhat of jazz drummer Matt Wilson’s work. Though Guthrie has his own sound personality, his own space – dedicated to a sort of imperfect precision. This dichotomy is further explored on the drowsy beginning of “Westspace”. More like an air stream through a dank alley, this piece has the sobering quality of an inclement, lethargic Sunday morning with a constant uneven water leak from outside. The chattering percussion, along with a cool bellhop ching gives Building Blocks both an Asian bicycle melody with a built-in urban alert. Guthrie has created a record with extreme attention to the higher principles of living through Feng Shui while containing something of a soundtrack for an alternate universe.

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  • Dronæment :: Ezoterick Soundzscapes
  • CDR: Mystery Sea
  • . . . 1/2

    688 image 8 :: Drone as ornament, vibrant as crystal, cool as ice. Marcus Obst as Dronæment creates an imaginary sound amphitheater of the grotesque and divine. There are flying craft buzzing and earthy crunching on the opening “Moon Drone.” Ezoterick Soundzscapes harvests lost memories. Obst’s industrial environment with random flowing waters, is some type of inter-dimensional space wasteland on the compelling “PSW1.” By referencing a hydroelectric power station his sound comes alive in dappled animation like watercolor to paper. Mystery Sea continues to develop their enhanced handmade packaging with rich amber and tones of rust, which wholly illustrate the composition. “PSW2″ starts up resembling a continuous psychedelic buzz saw and pauses for air, a crisp downpour and a dubious respite. Towards the finale Obst adds a flavor of Indian circular percussion that is its tribal climax. In some famous words “you might ask yourself, how did I get here?”

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  • VAUXHAUL 44 :: Sub-I
  • CD: Inflatabl Labl
  • . . . . 1/2

    688 image 9 :: Tokyo electronic kid Vauxhaul 44 (Yuki Kiba) makes minimal techno, with a focus on keeping a groove on while distorting playful, errata. This is the stripped down inversion of what a deprogrammed guitar could possibly do, and then some. “KEYTH” encourages even the fickle to boogie to its bubble beats. This debut record is up-up-up – kind of an all night spin. What I like about Sub-I is its very youthful spirit – like he’s captured an amusement park in full swing – just hold on for the ride of your life, bumpy or not! On “YKNLS” Kiba factures his askew beats with an arrangement that sounds like a toxically induced dizzy spell. Vauxhaul 44′s preoccupation with tonal play is what keeps this thrills rather than frills – and his watery mix of “MIW” attests to his love for the fool in us all. On “KLIAR” he builds in funky introspection and reflective clicks and other electronic space sounds for good measure. This is quite good!

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  • WE’RE BREAKING UP :: Here and Above
  • CD: TwoThousandAnd
  • . . . .

    688 image 10 :: The buzz is here and it is stinging sharply. Memphis-bred, London-based We’re Breaking Up (Michael Rodgers) takes a slew of random wires in his bare hands and shoots off a rainbow of sparks. Maybe not literally, but Here and Above proves that this man can make some noise, albeit fermenting and caged – you feel the building white noise pressure. His name alone, referring to the technical difficulties experienced in the many forms of communication, space or otherwise, helps you to imagine a mission – as do the titles like “Cold Vapours,” “Listen Monolithic” and “Gaping Skyward.” You can only imagine the less ethical side of the inferences here – the vaporization of the body outside of gravity, the fade of glory of several unsuccessful attempts to meet other worlds head-on in space, and so on. Through a veil of atonal static and mechanical electronics this sort of conceptually tells me a tale of the final hours of a team of galaxy travelers whose uncharted link in hyperspace is way off course. Now, all sci-fi aside, Here and Above is comprised of two lengthy tracks clocking in at just about an hour. Rodgers takes the improvisation of electronics to a barren wasteland, it glows and flashes and fizzes to the end.

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  • PAU TORRES :: My Wrong Mood
  • CD: Testing Ground
  • . . . . 1/2

    688 image 11 :: Opening with a rendition of Ornette Coleman’s “Sadness” I wasn’t really sure what to expect from my first opportunity to hear Pau Torres and collaborators. The poignant piece is in fact a great, tin-pan alley-style piece with a meandering horn and some brewing glitchy electronica that is quite restrained. The percussion is way down low, the crunchy prepared piano and other toys just make this a rollicking affair without at all being slaphappy. Actually, there are some quite eerie moments here, especially on the “Nouvelle Couisine” which could be an Italian feast played backwards through the rain viewed through an oscilloscope. The passing voices of Brit-lipped men and women chattering as if in a smoky jazz club among revelers plays well against the snake that is the clarinet that plays throughout My Wrong Mood. This is a dramatic, postmodern re-enactment of the very roots of jazz, with some Spanish guitar on the vivacious “Lot Old Radio” which delves into cricket-like electronics and static withdrawal. A pan to catch leaking rain, that consumes the air with its melodic echo only to become a domino effect of other percussive micro-currents on the effective (but too short) “Fragments” (well, I guess that’s what I get). The fragile radio transmissions of “Untitled” lead way to an atmosphere of drawn out bossa nova and seasick tropicalisms. Torres brings his record to a cool and definitive climax with a Godspeed You Black Emperor meets Stars of the Lid bare, essential luminescence on “Sqawmp Banjo.” My Wrong Mood is a formidably challenging piece of sound art that casts a hue of out jazz drama while remaining essential electronic music.

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  • JASON KAHN and JON MUELLER :: Papercuts
  • CD: Crouton
  • . . . .

    688 image 12 :: Paper creates an ambient texture as Jason Kahn and Jon Mueller explore on Papercuts. At its most minimal stages as a source for percussion the use of such a genuinely common daily product to document its surface and function is fascinating. Sure, paper has been for almost every purpose, and even to prepare other instruments to alter their traditional abilities. What appears here, though, is something much more sonorous and almost mythical. Kahn and Mueller mutate the molecular structures that pattern the pulp, you can almost imagine the hands touch along a rough ragged edge as pages turn and micro-fine crackling hums like a low riding fire. In fact, this eighteen-minute piece elegy to the source that brings us both the good and the bad news daily is formatted as a means to an end. Slowly the crescendo of crackling, filtered rumbling and other process noise continues to recycle upon itself like a snake chasing its tail until it’s built a less random structure. Peacefully paced, reminding me of “Tropos” an installation work by artist Ann Hamilton (1993). Paper comes from wood, fire obliterates wood, and paper cannot be formed from ash. Ashes to ashes…

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  • KAPOTTE MUZIEK :: Curing Without Killing
  • CDR: Fencing Flatwork Recordings
  • . . . . 1/2

    688 image 13 :: After a few years absent Frans de Waard re-emerges with the final work by Kapotte Muziek, at it since 1984. The newest full-length Curing Without Killing may wake the dead with its staccato drone and linear, twisting core. His sounds vibrate with a precision of something like a microfine saw of some kind delivering something that seems like a creaky door that’s been muted and mixed and layered. In a straight-shot 43-minutes Kapotte Muziek defies normal conventions, whatever may remain, and test our ability to accept buzzing tone that draws with light for instance. Hard wired. Dedicated to Cefas Van Rossem and Andrew McKenzie the breathy and ambient to atonal, unsympathetic storyline follows the unnerving discovery that the body is truly not under when going through medical operations. de Waard wonderfully terms this “operating theater” since the body can still sense acoustics in this state of un/consciousness. The final 20 minutes here could induce some form of industrial slumber, though its demeanor is lax, there is an alluring intuition for things feared, yet unseen, just chilling. The apparatus is in motion; it’s like a taffy machine twisting chaotically wrapping and spindling, rubbery and apprehensive. With this in mind, and all of the truly fantastic sound recycling that has been created over almost two decades, will Kapotte Muziek, really, ever put itself to rest?

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  • ADVENTURE TIME :: Dreams of Water Themes
  • CD: Plug Research
  • . . .

    688 image 14 :: Daedelus and Frosty make up the duo that are Adventure Time. This is one of those fun-to-discover records like Cornershop, Filter, PM Dawn, Crystal Method, and a host of folks with their own sound. Funky hip-hop lipstylin’, nervous whistling, the essence of Billie Holiday and assorted sound effects make them sound at first like a modern day De La Soul meeting say, Malcolm McClaren for the first time. This adventure busts a move to sea, upstream, back paddling over currents of mainstream electronica and out of the blue hints of twangy rubber banjo (“Eel Sand Witch”), Baltimore dancehall (“General Midi vs. Rusty 4eyes”) and ballroom orchestral mambo (“Sent from Sandy Shores”) with accompaniment from the spoken word of Saul Williams and Sacajawea’s bassy broad croon. This is a completely fictitious experiment with lil’ snippets for stories and chanting African kids on the lopsided post-edited “Girl of the Well.” The short passages between tracks (“Water Plop,” “My Musical Friend,” “Hypnotized Arms”) are narrated by 1950′s styled commercial, well coiffed banter is all so Jiffy Pop. The made-for-PBS mode of the closer “Rusty Anchors Wrestling Waves” toys with field recording sound effects with e terrific backbeat, but it defies any feet to dance linearly – its more a test of your listening sensibilities. Are those church chimes…a busted buoy –yo-da-lay-hee-who?

  • WILT :: As Giants Watch Over Us
  • CD: Ad Noiseam
  • . . . .

    694 image 2 :: Wilt is James P. Keeler and As Giants Watch Over Us is his third and most provocatively strange work yet on Ad Noiseam after formerly issuing material on Mystery Sea and Crionic Mind. Some of the captured sound sources here were contributed by Miles Tilmann and Steve Brand (formerly Augur). The dark balance is metered by a lush scape of ecstatic superimpositions that blend a noir atmosphere with twinkling luminosity as unfurled in the timeless “The Mystery of Iniquity.” Are people still using the term “illbient”? Well, I will just have to call this non-conformist, because it is more a radio play than a recording containing thirteen distinct tracks. It most certainly abbreviates a subtly different tale for each listener. “The Fiddler and the Fool,” while a bit maniacally industrial sounding towards its end, plays between contorted cassette voices, a sweeping Orwellian soundtrack and curious percussion. Once again, through a gauzy haze, Keeler has created a bizarrely psychedelic view of the world. Vignettes of experimental noise like this do not come around often enough, and when you listen to this you will see the intricacies of an impending doom – not just the big rush of static havoc. This is seeded in his “Media Labyrinth” – a field of changing tonalities that is not at all casual. Clunking radio transmissions and watery lines draw cave drawings and stick figures in my head. The buzz drone on the god speak of “Engineering Eternity” hosts a turnkey of abrupt percussion glitches that find Keeler tinkering away, taking risks by composing instantly and live, then going back to master, mix and otherwise “decompose” the final work.

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  • JOSEPH SUCHY :: Calibi.Yau
  • CD: Staubgold
  • . . . . .

    694 image 3 :: We are adrift in special gases unknown on the latest by Cologne-based sound artist, guitar man Joseph Suchy. Calibi.Yau opens new passages to further recreation in unknown, intangible space. Creating a virtual environment, he stresses pure atmosphere on this recording. His radical tonal structures are haunted with partially excerpted stories. Leagues below the surface of the highest seas, bubbly jingles are lengthened as Suchy appeases with his stringed instrument. With ancient bells and sorcerer-like gongs “su-um” is more like a late night walk through a village in Indonesia than a concert in a stuffy room. These nine tracks blend into one with reverse mixing techniques and other random filters and effects to give the overall sincere tone of the work. Stephan Barnickle’s use of various chimes and other percussion only compliments the synthesis between acoustic and digital on “ka-asam” and “uum-u.” Taking a meditative tact on “moo-ay” Suchy centers the soul, and massages the mind. The track is like a tiny brook somewhere in the middle of the backwoods of Vermont, untouched by industry, flowing for centuries, uninterrupted….only by the multiplying angelic vocal by Stephanie Tiersch in the final thirty seconds. The melodic strings recipe keeps the whole recording pretty central to Suchy’s sensitivities to his core environment, playing, musing, and daydreaming aloud. This is a great example where you can shoot out into deepest space and return to earth seemingly unmodified on the surface, while pushing several human buttons.

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  • APT213 :: Dive
  • CD: Samsa Records
  • . . . .

    694 image 4 :: OK – this is the ultimate (and most preposterous) postmodern remix of Barbra Streisand’s album Wet. As source material for their new recording Dive Apt213 (Jared Butler and Cory Thrall – now known as E Yard) volley any natural interpretation of its original. This sketchy 43-minute anthem in two parts just takes the diva and folds her into a paper airplane gently tossing her from a helicopter orbiting war cells in Iraq. Dive is the converse to all pop music and rivals some of the frequencies allowed humans, even in mating season. The only semblance of Wet is the static wall of marginalized rain they create by scraping the shell of Bab’s digital highs and lows. The rockets red glare, the mayhem, bombs bursting in air makes this Dive a haunted diva’s undoing. Apt213 have created a naked portrait of frenetic decoding, but don’t believe the hype, just follow the dots.

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  • FRANS DE WAARD :: Eight Lines
  • CDR3 (Ltd. to 50): Zeromoon
  • . . . 1/2

    694 image 5 :: I like the premise for this, as Frans de Waard took office voice mail audio files that were given to him and mixed ‘em up some. The files were supposed to be empty, but there are traces of murky voices in the high-end static. In this age of identity theft, spam and file corruption in communication technologies, this is a ripe look at the per-chance mistaken invisibility of information, or at least art of the picture. Can’t really tell if he slowed it all down, or if its technical difficulties have left blurs in these lo-fi transfers. And that’s what they sound like, with answering machine beeps and all. More like the essence of something else – like the process of transferring a Polaroid to another surface material. You get “part” of the story, the way a copy machine degrades an image with every pass. This is the phraseology of something that once was, the ghost imprint of its birth state. There is a blank-stare humor to the way that it’s almost a lock groove for unanswered messages. It just continues to degrade into the abyss.

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  • STENDEC :: A Study of ‘And’
  • CD: Expanding Records
  • . . . . 1/2

    694 image 6 :: Ben Edwards (Benge) and Paul Merritt (Expanding Records) combine elements that have taken four years to complete in a compendium of works, some previously released only on 7″ singles off Static Caravan, Expanding Records and other compilations. “Descent” and “Black State Special” are deep, deep space out music. Oxygenated ambient melodies blend with humming percussion tracks, popping brusquely. “Raine” is like a timer in the head of a cardiovascular-minded being in mid metamorphosis. The tap-tracking “Tour de France” clicks keep the meter pumping. And throughout there are steps into the worlds of Angelo Badalementi (“Carbonek”) and even the Orb on the buoyant technopop “Auchinek.” But where Stendek earns its most strident original sound is when the fuse of influences mixes to a multidimensional fluidity as heard on “Tremearne” and the atmosphere wins over. The track starts like a yoga routine, warming, centering, and then gets the entire form aligned with structured beats and soft edges. This is electronica at its most compositional, formatted for your pleasure. Clunky echoing beats skip over and above a sequencer of layered windy melody and 70s guitar sounds on the cavernous “Pyat” that could be a solo dream game of Battleship just floating in your left brain all day. Using the static of disconnected batteries and wires just serves the overall digital conflict of the track. Then comes “Drexler” which is a moody, thriller-styled piece, with a tuned-up organ synth that makes this a piece of soft aural cinema. The rhythm patterns get a bit funky, like contemporary dance, and then quickly change back to a more dreamlike state. And that is further examined on the temporal “Incluse” ticking like an over wound Timex on steroids. The tension between the soft melody and the anxious beat is perfectly balanced. The softened finish of “Ubik” is the perfect elixir to bring A Study of ‘And’ to a warm finishing point.

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  • IAN EPPS :: Find the4yearoldchild Courtside Volume 1
  • CD: Softl Music
  • . . . .

    694 image 7 :: Brooklyn-based Brit Ian Epps is a multimedia artist whose “audio portrait” is meant to interpret the way a child may filter everyday interaction. Through his sound work on “Find the4yearoldchild Courtside Volume 1″ pixel-sized sounds are organically synthesized into this fully digitized sound experiment. Epps captures the echo of hollowness on the unusually off-center “mailingclipping” that’s more like a toy player piano caught while sinking under water with its innards hitting craggy rocks and other debris as it drops in slow motion. Each of the twelve tracks here has its own unique mark, some sparse, some a bit more playful and yet distant. “ifnoon” certainly qualifies as the latter, with muffled monitors and other gauge-sounding apparatus it’s what one may imagine as a joy ride on a submarine through the depths of an Icelandic lava flow. As hauntingly scenic as some of Scanner’s best work, Epps’ “symptomsofarquarterback” incorporates a similar attention to the textural effects and hyperbolic sensitivity of the final mix. Please welcome Softl Music to the table, bringing with them the ability to recognize the important impact of the influx of sound art that falls beyond traditional borders that define artistic paradigms.

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  • JET JAGUAR :: Think About It Later
  • CD: Capital Recordings
  • . . . . .

    694 image 8 :: Ouch…This record is on fire! Funkified for real, and it just got started with the opening tracks “”European Funk Standard (featuring Tony Nairdei)” and “Stonecat Stone Tail.” This is micro-electronica rhythm n’ blues with a soulful heart. Wellington-based Capital Recordings have outdone themselves on this ripe, inventive record that combines all the essential elements of obscure, marginalized pop alongside a true lounge atmosphere – boy, they got it right with Jet Jaguar (aka Mike Upton) mixing it up. Recording since 1996, Jet Jaguar is a house name in his homeland, but what a taste sensation to discover his work nearing a decade later. His work shows a highly attuned style for what he has certainly learned by his expertise in remixing. The title cut is pure computerized digifunk with a bit of rock n roll percussion. It’s like I woke up in 2015 and this was what you would hear on subway platforms and in high rise elevators. “Think About It Later” gets the balance right, just enough humor (“EBO”), minimalist glitch-beat soundscaping (“Juicy”) and sampledelic cut-up flavor (“Falsetto Yeah Time”) that you can shake a handclap at. Boogie fever is alive and well at the fortified funk-laden hands of Upton. “Taking A Little Liberty” is what you get when you toast Madonna’s “True Blue” and add whipped cream, ooo laa laa! It’s got those hip-rounded jams, and bent licks galore. Ending this set, Jet Jaguar deals a Xela-like tune of genuine luminous ambience. Though Think About It Later has been on the shelves nearly a year, don’t take its advice and wait, surf on to snatch this one up as you slather on the first layer of SPF for your well-equipped Spring Break!

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  • ALEX KELLER and MERI VON KLEINSMID :: Searching for The Inverse Square
  • CD: Mimeograph
  • . . .

    694 image 9 :: And they’re off with the familiar start for “Phar Lap.” Recorded live at Vital 5 Gallery in Seattle, musician/educator/curator Alex Keller and composer Meri von KleinSmid team up to create something eloquent and off-putting. By modifying electronic toys, these two have truly affected the sound effects of a racetrack circa 2010, when all live action will be replaced by free-form animation. With the radio dial spinning, a family is caught while playing hide-n-seek in and around a Seattle gas tank. These unintended collaborators make for a foil to the serious toll of AM radio preaching of illiteracy, AIDS and all things Driving Miss Daisy. DATs and mics gone wild! Actually, this is quite grounded, but the radio broadcasts do get to me, even as a creative AM (ab)user myself. But in these nineteen minutes the family’s laughter just winds through frugally as the echoes of the static frequencies serve as the base. I recommend that Keller and KleinSmid attend a Negativland show near them, they are “almost” there on this track, it just lacks the inherent humor in the tongue-in-cheek self-appointed authoritarian language of the media. More like a radio-thon, “The Best Station Is No Station” certainly makes it point self-evident. The knob-centric “Focused on the Conflict at Hand” finds them in the basement of a local Community College sampling the resident Ataris. So let the games begin as the track captures the tempo of excitement. It’s great to hear these old-fashioned gaming sounds, where you would certainly mistake them for perhaps the warp of say, a Theremin. “Message from Bunker 23″ is aided in part by its outdoor surroundings with geese and other flying craft, mixed with found cassette starts and stops atop Magnuson Park in Seattle. The voiceovers discussing prostate cancer prevention and disease are contorted through crude physical manipulations. A dada threat is made loud, and unclear. In its ambiguity, the end result of “”Searching for the Inverse Square” is something that would make Kurt Schwitters smile a mile.

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  • BRIDGES :: Bridges
  • CD: Antboy
  • . . . .

    694 image 10 :: Bridges are Aussie trio Matthew Earle (electronics), Will Guthrie (percussion) and Adam Sussmann (guitars/electronics). In three tracks running at about 37 minutes the three have taken to preparing their instruments to crunch, fade, blare, meander and otherwise produce unsettling feedback and curiosity. The percussion is like a card in the spokes of a fanning bike tire while the strangulating sinetones are above air. The guitar’s amped growl chews away and partially absconds with any semblance of real rhythm. Bridges is complex, uneasy listening and these musicians are finely tuned to distorting our knowledge of their immediate gear. Bridges sound is something you may find in a large warehouse when multiple actions are taking place, playing with scale and depth of field quite fluidly. The industrial percussive scraping is near kin to something out of Z’ev’s den. And when it comes alive, out from the dank drone minefield, it’s like a glowing box of secrets. This is something that would be a bit of a spectacle played live; it may spook your sensibilities depending on the physical space and acoustic density. Bridges’ manipulation of atonal feedback is fully wired.

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  • THEE SILVER MOUNTAIN REVERIES :: The Pretty Little Lightning Paw
  • CDEP: Constellation
  • . . .

    694 image 11 :: A collective of six or so players jam on violin, bas and piano. With the bold, big sound custom-styled by the people at Montreal’s Constellation imprint, this one has a bit in common with the live sound heard on Spiritualized’s “Let It Come Down” tour especially on disc opener “More Action! Less Tears!” With the impassioned pre-announcement by Aimee yelling they were to start, you know you are in for a bit of a cross between rock and performance art. But what comes out is an elusive, trippy romping rant that really grooves. The Niagra Falls soaked ill vocal of “Microphones in the Trees” has a choir the is eventually lost to the orb of Efrim’s spacey feedback. Part Ozzy Osbourne, part distorted Pink Floyd, this is unmistakably original and queasily profane in its own way. The title track’s vocal plays like early Peter Gabriel is built around a somewhat chaotic Asian theme, with repetitious, programmed acoustic percussion and desperate piano keying while the whole choir again chimes in singing “there is a reason, and beauty in life.” Finally Efrim takes on all musical duties on “There’s A River in the Valley of Melting Snow.” His drunken voice is masked as he bellows about the landscape and his body. “I’ve grown tired of the struggle, I’ve grown tired of making plans” is the sleepy end to a courageous record reporting fear among the faithful.

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  • BASTARD NOISE :: Sound Engine
  • CD: Pacrec
  • . . . 1/2

    694 image 12 :: Update, Hollywood, noise-o-rama, ooo laa laa. Here we have the latest from Bastard Noise (aka John Wiese and Eric Wood) called Sound Engine. One of the best things I have heard from these guys in a long haul, on the live “A Pedestal to Support the Invaders” they methodically take apart some industrialisms and put them to test. Collaborating with Jesus Philben in San Francisco, their tweaky drone purrs with motorcycle withdrawal and ashcan dreams. Maniacal. The best title ever is “Killing Stick Men”! And this is a laser fight to the death, for sure, with a high-pitched avalanche huge screech and chaotic kaleidoscope of distortion that sound like 2000 seagulls caged at the aquarium. I’m in for the long haul of pauses, dips and the entire rollercoaster enchilada. “Human Denial” is a mail-based collab’ with Japan’s Guilty Connector. I’m suddenly in a big old warehouse with a barking caveman with a busted bladder and a chirping evil alien muttering ruptured screams, then accompanied by the deluge of a high-powered crushing ball of metallic noise. Ouch – it’s all quite combustible, it is. Saving the rest for last, their nearly half-hour live radio broadcast of “Seeding Interstellar Space” recorded back in ’01 is a warning siren, with a sky of descending missiles, cross-current like fine fireworks, staggering.

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  • ELUVIUM :: An Accidental Memory in the Case of Death
  • CD: Temporary Residence Ltd
  • . . . 1/2

    694 image 13 :: There’s a bold melancholy running throughout An Accidental Memory in the Case of Death the latest solo piano recording by Eluvium (Matthew Cooper). The startling bare bones quality to Cooper’s pure playing is poised and harmonic, distraught at times and sprite in the right places. Eluvium is creating an acoustic story, with lilting passages of pastels, vague shadowy imagery and a sensitivity to develop his own signature, ambient sense of lightness. This is clearly heard on the Love Story-esque “Perfect Neglect in a Field of Statues.” Call it neoclassical if you will, but no mistaking that Cooper is a virtuosic player in a line of work where many only shuffle pre-programming and expect musicality. His tonalities recall dramatic movie scores mingling with a free-floating balladic kind of motion. This seven-track recording has the esoteric heartbeat similar to projects like Antony & the Johnsons or Max Richter’s “Blue Notebooks.” If I closed my eyes I envision some of the finest piano recitals once witnessed at either Boston University or the Longy School of Music – although his passionate playing on “The Well-Meaning Professor” both pokes fun at this type of assessment and attests that this completely live recording (without overdubs or mixing) will be sought out for future cinema – did you see “The Pianist”? Fluid, feeling, as it touches a raw nerve without ruffling any feathers.

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  • THE MYSTERIOUS POUFS :: WNRTTROTMPR
  • CD: Banazan Records
  • . . 1/2

    694 image 14 :: Besides the anagram (?) of a title, The Mysterious Poufs have released a record with too much in common with flunky fads like Larry Tee’s New York electroclash and other vague lounge and acid jazz and the like. These Montrealers will certainly catch on with partygoers – but like say, The Waitresses and the Romantics and even the Stray Cats – the act is over if the curtain isn’t wide enough for your egos. Mind you, there is a lot of great experimental music coming out of their region, from artists like Deadbeat and Tim Hecker and labels like Intr_Version. WNRTTROTMPR tries too hard to be something it isn’t – something really original from the 1980s electronic scene that had both innovative rhythms and good lyrics and some weird make-up. But this approach just doesn’t sell anymore – and I don’t necessarily mean from the “selling units” perspective – I mean with a sense of credibility. The vocal does have some semblance to Lush (RIP) but that “4AD phase” has evaporated too. I think these poufs should look elsewhere to find a sense of inspiration that doesn’t seem as fabricated and plagiaristic; perhaps its all a big ass joke?

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  • FABRIQUEDECOULEURS :: Imite Moi
  • CD: Dorodine
  • . . .

    694 image 15 :: Parisian label Dorodine inaugurates alongside the debut from Fabriquedecouleurs (Emmanuel Allard). In a fantastic low-rise breather in the likeness and ilk of Ultra Milkmaids and Stilluppsteypa, Monsieur Allard has reshaped charged tonality and tamed aggressive feedback. On “Benjor” you can swear you hear the reshaping of static electricity, or some such fodder. Recorded in New York, Rio and France Imite Moi is like being in a moving van while driving through an Imax film of an avalanche. “Hajime” contains the chaos of Godspeed You Black Emperor or Massimo while pausing for silent bits that display a formidable grandeur. Corrupted, formless and stretched to the limit Fabriquedecouleurs experiments with the illogical strains of impossible micro-noise. An icy, fire-pitched shriek lashes out from “To Cut A Long Goodbye Short” that quickly drowns in an effortless transition that sounds like the cracks in the door of a fighter jet, locked in on the edge. Not necessarily what would account for the comforts of home. But there are voices in these feedback mutations, something hidden, partially encrypted messages. “Crapaudin” is the finishing touch, a cradling toy chest of twinkling music boxes and dynamic angel dust. Rattle me timbers and shiver me nerves.

 

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