Reviews: 7/2005

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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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  • Mountains :: Mountains
  • CD :: Apestaartje
  • . . .

    1059 image 2 :: Brendon Anderegg and Koen Holtkamp make Mountains. Their four track debut is just over 1/2 hour and combines a bevy of field recordings with guitars and other acoustics. “Paper Windmill” sounds like a series of mono start-stop cassette loops of scraping wooden things and sucking wind. The piece breaks a few times to allow for a riveting volume of higher pitched rambling. It’s fidgety, irritating and edgy as the pedal hits the metal. Once the cacophony is circumvented a siphon-like gust of air is drawn openly. Since all the tracks are strewn together this may be where “Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass” begins and ends. It’s just a long power passage of found sound – or was that “Blown Glass Typewriter”? The live “Sunday 07.25.04 at Tonic” is obvious as the friction of live sound is much less introverted than the previous track(s). It’s a confetti storm of celebratory angst and feedback frenzy that cuts the air in two –more scraping cellos and synthetic randomness to balance the lonesome voids and cuts. Towards the conclusion it’s as if they are sawing their instruments in pieces, or flying them.

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  • David Kristian :: The Mariana Trench
  • CD :: Oral
  • . . . . .

    1059 image 3 :: David Kristian, who is rumored to be on his way to launching a career focusing on soundtrack work, serves himself well with this precursor on his latest The Mariana Trench. Recorded during the snowstorms of ’03 in Montreal, Kristian reprises much of his beloved ambient past through watery imagery and technology. As heard on “Pacifica” long sweeping drone-filled passages with gesticulating spikes of vivid growth blend unknowingly into “14 Islands”. It’s not until the dead zones of “The Abyssal Plain” that you start to get lost in the blatantly hypnotic qualities of this release. And once you submit, the senses are stolen leaving an inebriating effect that is quite generous and renders the body weak for the time being. Most of the rest is a big blur, a cerebral comet flying through the vortex of my vascular system via central brainwaves, the electrochemical abyss is something else! If this is the conclusion of the Kristian of yore, it’s imminently startling and a restless, brainwashing trip towards the future.

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  • Like A Stuntman :: Fresh Air is not the Worst Thing in Town
  • CD :: Highpoint Lowlife
  • . . 1/2

    1059 image 4 :: Germany’s Like A Stuntman offer the latest in the spawn of Beck filtered sound-alike built up through a rough mesh of screens, just add water. Mastered by Twerk (is this the same guy from Mille Plateaux?) the fuzzy and whispered vocals get a bit lost on both “Park the Trailer in the Park” and “I was Shocked and you were Shocked” making for a more intimate record overall. It’s a clash between indie-pop (ala the Breeders, Soul Coughing) and lazy electronica with an edge of funky percussion on “Kingkongs.” A combo of cute miniature forestry cover art, shy un-poised vocals, and an absence of overt superstar power offers a disc that screams “little” at every turn. This is both charming and disarming. Fresh Air is not the Worst Thing in Town is one of those rare recordings that has a sense of serious humor where you can predict that the follow-up could be more tailored and focused, if they get that far. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, no static, no fame (for now).

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  • Taylor Deupree + Kenneth Kirschner :: post_piano 2
  • CD :: 12K
  • . . . .

    1059 image 5 :: A dilemma from the start, building a collaborative piece with a built-in challenge, the overground subway sections of New York. Well, such is the case for the location of Kenneth Kirschner’s studio, where his very first piano that he learned from as a child still rests, though, just outside, the powerful acoustics of the ancient NY subway system reminds him of the velocity and pace the city moves at every five to ten minutes. Starting back in 2002 Kirschner and Taylor Deupree started the process of building post_piano with the intention of excerpting the acoustic experience of the studio, without the distractions. The end result heard on the minimalist composition “11.11.2003″ is paced in gridded quadrants and lonely keystrokes. The piece is something of a collection of short haikus for piano all strung together quite harmoniously. The balance becomes something quite ambient and luminous on “08.09.2004″ where a laptop keyboard has virtually erased any semblance of a piano keyboard. The brusque tonalities at the top of “01.09.2005″ lead way to splintered piano samples and metered exploration with a grey zone of funky nuances. “09.15.2004″ is Deupree’s blissful elongation of Kirschner’s playing as he sonicizes the very core of the actual gesture of stroking a key in ultra slow-mo, harkening back to the EM:T days of the mid 90s. Like bionic shreds flapping in a harbor breeze, the track hauntingly fades in and away.

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  • Monolake :: Polygon_Cities
  • CD :: Imbalance Computer Music
  • . . . .

    1059 image 6 :: Robert Henke has totally re-envisioned, and sumptuously repackaged his mission. Polygon_Cities is overtly futuristic dance music, not an area where Monolake has yet traveled, but only here it seems rectified by its simple purity of crystal clear sound and structural emphasis on the beat. It helps being a software guru who has to experiment less with the end product, and he most certainly shows off his wares on the funky opener “Pipeline.” These days Monolake is again touring as a duo with a new partner at the helm who goes by the moniker T++ and their live sound has more of a wide-bodied club appeal, as referenced heavily here on “CCTV” (guess touring Mutek and all things Canadian has staying power). When I first held the disc in my hand the glint of the super-gloss chemical structure against a matte coated black backdrop really caught my eye, it is by far the most ingenious cover design this year, as this polygon structure creates a highly optical map that pops and follows from front to back. “North” is a bit of a lazy track with some fade effects and repetitive percussion that are somewhat lost in the mix. The sounds of Henke’s Thunder Studies are hinted at towards the opening of what becomes the lab-induced dance-fest of “Invisible.” With handclaps and tribal beat rhythms that add new clever layers every 20 seconds or less, this makes something lucent yet dark. Henke is in control, shaping his cityscape.

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  • Mitchell Akiyama :: Small Explosions That Are Yours To Keep
  • CD :: Sub Rosa
  • . . . . 1/2

    1059 image 7 :: Montreal’s multi-instrumentalist Mitchell Akiyama sculpts something of a melancholy game on “Strategies for Combatting Invisibility” with its long strings and sea bells and bouncy things streaming into all forthcoming tracks. There are certain moments when this sounds like a lazy afternoon expanse of desert (“Your Distance Kept”) rendered as a beautiful reminder to lock yourself safely inside once in a while, to just dream of traveling circuses and tune-ups (listen closely to the title track from more details). The dripping percussion of “Contrapuntal Lung Apparatus” vs. the serene, indirectness of its lilting drone creates a lethargic space to crawl into. There is so much variety on this record, and the addition of saxophone by Vitaminsforyou is a great touch. What makes Small Explosions That Are Yours To Keep most intriguing is its launch from anything else going on in the world of electronica in the moment, it’s earthy and serious, even with false starts and fumbling improvisation, there is a direction in harmony and concept that is clear. Time is slowly dripping away in the closer “Ghost Storms” as birds brightly chirp a sleepy, discordant vibe comes to light. The overall pulsing android factor is mind numbing on what I would consider Akiyama’s most successfully rendered effort to date.

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  • Violet/Alexei Borisov/Michael Gendreau :: Bogatiri
  • CD :: Zeromoon
  • . . . .

    1059 image 8 :: Three live recordings made in December of ’03 in Russia by three different artists. Starting with Michael Gendreau’s recording “noceur” (live at DOM, Moscow) there’s a purring bass drone that shakes the floor and emits finite tones that cut through the air. The built tones then splay themselves outwardly to fill the immediate sound space in all their muted abrasiveness. The pitch revolves to reveal blunt and strapped signals. About fourteen minutes in the open air drone fuzzes out largely for a few moments until a silence is produced. Alexei Borisov’s “Extra-kt” relives some of the glory days of Cabaret Voltaire with his spoken dialogue in his native Russian alongside a quik-bred pitter-patter intense beat aligned with a motorized pressure chamber. Taken from a live set performed at the Jaroslavl Museum, Borisov slices and dices the bare space with reverberating groundedness and anxious girth. The track harkens to a time when darker music was invented in the making, rather than produced, and after seeing him live this year, I know he is capable of a whole lot more. Organic and sensual, raw and bent. Finally, Violet offers his “Demonstration of Decay @ GEZ-21″ originally heard at the Gallery of Experimental Sound in St. Petersburg. In what could only be described as rhythmic noise, this demo is evocative of the holiday season, quieted by the hush of reverence to others. Until he blends a staccato hiss into open air percussion play that flares and disappears.

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  • Yuichiro Fujimoto :: Kinoe
  • CD :: Audio Dregs
  • . . . .

    1059 image 9 :: Kinoe starts off as a quiet with guitar and a few objects, some feedback on “Drawing of Stars” and a few bells chime the launch of “Afterrain.” These lighter tones ostensibly act as a bubbly xylophone of sorts. The 22 year old Japanese artist has a cute website, where he presents photos, drawings and general background on his work. This second full-length disc for Fujimoto takes its sweet time, especially on the stretched out strings of “Morning Dance.” Kinoe shows off plenty of playful tinkering around with objects (toy piano), lil’ segues into slackerobics (brushing teeth, pencil drawing) and other meaningless generalities that add up to storytelling. There are some parts that seem to reference family in a romantic way (“Listen to Grandpa’s Youth” and “Kid Play, Mom Nap”) where the blog of his life is laid out in acoustics. Some basic references to traditional Japanese music are faded into “Harmony” while “An Octave of Shells” sounds like something reminiscent of a seagull hitched to a tracking device flying out of Coney Island. Speaking of which, his closer “Old Bird Tape” sets the listener somewhere by a lake for a lazy folktale with strings and harmonica. It’s pretty and vintage.

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  • Loren Chasse :: The Air in the Sand
  • CD :: Naturestrip
  • . . . . 1/2

    1059 image 10 :: Loren Chasse has traveled extensively to piece together this amazonic breath of free consciousness. The Air in the Sand includes six field recording collages, tracks recorded in multiple outdoor locations, along the ocean and through mountains, then remixed in the studio. It’s a calming brew with sprouts of grey areas throughout. The title track illustrates a meditational calm before the storm. Varietals of punctuated textures float in and out as layers build on both “Drawing Dirt” and “A Tree on the Sky.” Muted underwater sounds perturb and delight, as fate would have it. Chasse realigns and manipulate stactile elements, with a horizon line of crosshatching drips and contained echoes. Its heavy rain, or a roaring fire, or simple raking multiplied 10x on “The Air Inside the Rain.” The familiar sounds of chirping birds (a staple in the world of so many field recorders) do their own kinetic thing as it’s entwined here. Using air as a formula Chasse preoccupies our immediate surroundings, our private space. But he does it with the passionate power of listening, documenting and giving back excerpts of his private experience.

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  • jgrzinich :: Insular Regions
  • CD :: Sirr
  • . . . 1/2

    * PORTUGAL :: The domineering, eerie particles of sound on “.e 27 : n 58″ were recorded between 2003-04 in Estonia. John Grzinich inebriates the acoustic field with a sensual, subdued drone that is as mysterious as black ice, yet begs to be confronted. The minimalist one-tone lining builds with a fierce babbling brook of crackling tempered hatchings that scratch for the surface. The work is weighty and thick. The cover art shows dried flowers rising up through densely packed snow, looking more like scratchy lines on a blue-white canvas. “..second portal” is the other side of this diptych of the lengthy pieces here (44 mins). Deep, dark, grey ambient tones with a nearly invisible second layer of Pop-Rock(TM) sounding campfire snap-crackle-pop. But this is only ear candy for those suiting up for a funeral pyre, as it’s rather spare and gloomy. Through the impenetrable fortress of sinister hues the listener may feel as if they are getting sleepy, but at the same time the bass drone hits the pit of your G.I. system like lead. It’s a long trek through this vast forest, and I am not sure if granny would be awaiting anyone with pie of any kind.

 

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  • V/A :: Collection 1- Opening(2002)
  • CD :: Databloem1063 image 2 :: Databloem, another new label with a noble mission “dedicated to bringing you excellent contemporary intelligent electronica. The music is ambient, groove-ambient, down-tempo, experimental and related sonic creations.” Here we have five artists each with 15-minute tracks nourishing our ears with fine sounds from five continents. Opening with “The Circular Ruins” (APK’s Anthony Paul Kirby) whose “Aperture: A Lesson in Cosmology” is a safari, a search of unknown terrain. This Canadian band’s name was taken from a story by Argentinian writer Jorge Luis Borges. “Aperture” is a dreamy investigation, like taking a digital camcorder into a tropical bird sanctuary and lying motionless while the rapture of nature fascinates the senses. We are offered the spectral, kaleidoscopic results. Mutagene (Alexis Glass) offers “A Borrowed Skin,” which is music from Ironson, a documentary directed by Cousin Chang. Glass, an acoustic audio phenomena student in Fukuoka, Japan, has developed a calming piece that hovers and probes. Its fluorescence builds and stabilizes with an insightful use of modulating synths. Spheroid is a project of Kiel Germany’s J. Wolfgang Röttger, whose name means a subcutaneous calcification, but he spares us the gore in this soaring astral projection of sonic ambience. “Imbedded Neptune” is filled with fireworks and flying orbs. The track wavers a bit on the edge of new age, tipping into AOR territory, but bears enough hypnotic interlocking sequence to mark its muted Berlin-school approach. Kwookyworld is offered by Austrailian namesake Kwook whose peripheral sounds keep us above the surface. Kwook writes music for game software and Toyota uses the sounds he has created with another project, Wiggly, in car commercials in Japan. The final track on this disc is “Encounter (In An Unexplored Nebula)” by Sweden’s The Civilized Electrons (TCE). There is something of a chamber orchestra shrunk to the size of a music box here. TCE is Positron Alpha, a university student working in the electronic medium for about eight years with a wry sense of humor. The end result is anything but a laughing matter in this weaving piece of intense stillness. Collection 1- Openingis a rest stop on the electronic superhighway.

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  • V/A :: opensource.code(2002)
  • CD :: Source1063 image 3 :: Bring it on! Source Records is the new force behind post-glitch. Their new compilation opensource.code includes To Rococo Rot’s Robert Lippok, Thomas Brinkmann (Profan), Move D (Warp), Jan Jelinek (~scape), Monolake and Sutekh among others. Opening with a wonderfully funky “Synthaxis 2″ Montreal-based artist Marc Leclair a.k.a. Akufen (Force Inc) samples his way into our disco heart and busts the house with a strobe light of progressive ambient. On his heels German low-fi dub-techno whizkid Jelinek (Farben) is logged in on “Music to Interrogate By,” wired for micro-static subtle beats. S.E. Berlin offers the lounge-flavored dub house minimalism of “Toninas” with an offbeat hint of future islands. Berlin-based Lippok is a busy man, having just recently played at this year’s Lovebytes Festival, and in between strategies with mainstay band To Rococo Rot shows no signs of wavering. On “6 a.m.” Lippok is burning the candle of time, er the glow of his Powerbook, perhaps. The whir and buzz is so nice, so acidic, yet goes down smooth as silk. Bton (Jonas Grossman) proves that using muffled cornet (or an artifice thereof) can be effective. On “Nocturne” Deep Space Network’s Grossman shows us how to create an alter world where the wee hours are where you are just getting started.

    By far the funkiest track on this disc, its soul lies in its interpretation to make you recall impressions of bygone eras. Hailing from the Bay Area Sutekh (Seth Horvitz) has released a handful of reputable platters on Mille Plateaux, Plug Research and his own label Context. Having recently toured France, Poland and the US Horvitz presents us with the airtite “Asscr,” trancy techno with a funky finish. Leave it to Thomas Brinkmann (aka Soul Center) to serve us such a lacquered finish on “Momoklick,” complete with a sodered and unspecific organic edge. This is dance music without a floor. This is making something of the sediment that is suspended in its open-air construct. Cologne-based Brinkmann’s loops and altered beats are unprecedented in this field of micro-tech tunes. David Moufang, known as Move D (Compost/Fax), has worked with luminaries Pete Namlook and Deep Space Network. On “µst” we are into warbling vibes tick-ticking with a vibrant chill out ambience. Alex Cortex is recontextualized by Tom Thiel in this remix of “Laconic,” a dry reduction with open wires from the full-length of the same name. Studio Pankow (Kai Kroker, Moufang) closes the program with “Linienbusse,” a lovely meeting of sonics and piano. This mesmerizing avant minimal track is filled with light and purpose, plotting like a lullaby. This disc stays true to its title – in the way classic collections like Clicks + Cuts (Mille Plateaux) and Microscopic Sound (Caipirinha) – this seems to be a likely third installment in the world of micro-sound greatness.

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  • V/A :: Post Office(2002)
  • CD :: Logistic / Telegraph1063 image 4 :: From the very first funky note the bpms are getting me moving. This Parisian label also has one of the best websites I have seen in a while. Bringing together funky electro acts Post Office delivers! “Dawn” by Cabanne gleefully bounces the opening on this disc. Its squeaky appeal pops and drives its minimal house format. Ben Neville expands the minimal concept here a touch and adds shorted breath sample and light cymbal percussion on “Petid.” Unknown Mysterioso (Karat), a project by Ark, offers the bad-ass techno house pleaser “Taimz,” turning the disc into an instant party. Alter-ego Ark then plays “Pro-Blaim” with its deconstructed acid flavor and inferences to the cult classic “Liquid Sky” (listen closely). Label owner (7th City, Accelerate) Daniel Bell’s (Tresor/Klang) up-tempo glitch-house number “Rhodes 1″ steals the sky. Hailing from sunny California, Bell, who has collaborated with techno genius Ritchie Hawtin, spins us right round with enough propulsion to catch a second wind. In the totally distorted “Oral 3″ Afuken provides all the reptile beats and stunted vinyl antics. Warped fare for the X generation for sure. Interlude (Cabanne) offers the very short “Trex” which pokes its high-pitched sine waves and signs out. Drawing back from 1997′s Do The Dimbi is Germany’s Dimbiman (Perlon) sampling and fretting the bars of electronica, climbing higher and higher with an irresistible dance beat. Up next is Robert Hood’s (Axis, M-Plant) abrupt “Realm” taken from the Monobox EP. The track paces the center of the recording by this seasoned techno specialist. And then – BAM – in comes the total surprise cut by Ricardo Villalobos (Perlon/Playhouse). “My Life Without A Wife” is a pop techno wonder – with just the right spices: disco, abstractions, muted voice manipulation and enough beat to shake a stick at, or just plain shake. This is the fortune in this cookie – stop-starting with percussive fun, and a dash of Latin drums. This German spinster has a lengthy future ahead for our sake! Closing this shop down is Deperissement Progressif creating a street beat tick-tock sizzle and live feel to “Panic Patrol Blues” taken from their La Guerre aux Troussesrecording on Karat 5. The track seems to have parts. An all out tech attack and then smoothing out after a pause into a jazzy guitar short ending the disc on an expressive, yet hmmm note. This is a great comp for funky people who want something to spin on continuous play.

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  • Brendan Walls :: Cassia Fistula(2002)
  • CD :: Idea1063 image 5 :: Sydney-based Walls releases his debut solo disc Cassia Fistula, a work of electro-static energy and vibrancy. The disc is split into three sections, raging with stealth, soaring noise frequencies. Drawing from high pitch tones and angular drones, this newcomer is working with Oren Ambarchi (Ritornell, Staubgold) whose minimal compositions and collaboration work are evident on the mix work in sections one and three. Working with defective hi-fi equipment and homemade electronic devices, Walls has developed a trip-like exploration of deep, organic (cassia fistula – a 10 meter tree) sound-sphere, not for the passive listener. This is not for relaxation, this is not click/cut/glitch, this is not dark ambient. This is discovery, almost improvised, in unfolding beauty, its nature warns of the dark side of the power behind its ornamental exterior.

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  • Dan Warburton/Adam Sonderberg/Kevin Shea :: Folktales No. 3(2002)
  • CD :: Crouton1063 image 6 :: Folktales is Crouton’s 3×3″ exploratory limited edition (300 only) series of literary sound and performance. Hailing from Manchester, England, Dan Warburton’s 20012002 combines his violin as filtered through a variety of programming. This first of three discs was recorded by Eric La Casa in Paris. In its suppressed modulation I am inclined to image a mad doctor’s laboratory where a being clings to its life support. Awakened, midway, the action illuminates quite quickly and then falls completely silent. Back to the gasping asthmatic phrasing of free-standing breathing apparatus in its filters and fragility – we witness a 20 minute binocular tone poem. Given the impression of something more expected to be tucked into the soundtrack of one of Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s finer moments, we are cast in this fractured ode. Watch for his upcoming Basement Tapeson Durtro.

    Chicagoan Adam Sonderberg revives any expectations of how a guitar can be used in the outer space vibrance of “I Just Want To Make Sure That We Have The Context Correct Here.” Sine waves bloom like fractal weeds, grrrrrowing fervently and on contact. This concrete composition is a fateful gist of droneism to the nth degree. We are securing engines for take-off here. In a drumkit alarm the truth unfolds, and it’s a lovely cacophony, a tumbling avalanche that teases and halts. As the sonics lie quietly on the back burner there is a building tension that cannot be ignored, a low hum crackle like an alert amphibian stalking its dinner. The wait seems endless, but the precision needs to be this time-sensitive. Having worked alongside contemporaries Kevin Drumm and Ernesto Diaz-Infante there is a bright future ahead. Closing the trilogy is Kevin Shea (Touch and Go) who studied drumming at my hometown Boston’s Berklee College of Music. Spoken word and percussion are the fare here, discussing the evocative temptations of various exotic meats and bikini models. Between romping drum solos Shea speaks in cut up newsprint worthy extreme, bleeding from improvised journalism. Technicolor visual imagery with a certain inverted vision of a world through rose colored glasses. This is post-beat dada. Among the Ash-Heaps and Millionaires is a partially obscured haughty offering of being undermined in third person.

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  • Schneider TM :: Zoomer(2002)
  • CD :: Mute/City Slang1063 image 7 :: Kraftwerk goes folk, then toss in some Richard Norris reconstructing Cher and a bit of attitude and voila, a Reality Check it is! The latest from Schneider TM (Dirk Dresselhaus) whose been hiding out since his phenomenal debut, Moist, on Mute over 3 years ago, releases a fly disc with some delicious pop trappings. It is a curve ball from his debut, though Mr. Dresselhaus has not been resting his laurels, rather, he has been busy collaborating with diverse acts like the High Llamas and Pansonic. The ‘borg-like cover art crosses trains with Edgar Froese, Devo and all that 70s stuff. The lazy fun of the first single “Frogtoise” twists tongues and deformed hums in electronic delicacy. On “Abyss,” this German native makes the good times roll with more Beck inferences than maybe even Beck makes these days. A funky yet drooping, melodic ride through stunted beats and plasticity. And this recording is about lyrical content as caught on the urban “Turn On” where rapped we hear “eyes blink a rollin’ cup a hoopin peas that tickle the flute played by the cooling breeze jumping over the fields, jumping over the fields, for the feel of the diaphragm”. Huh? Recorded in Berlin, Schneider TM employs the apt vocal ramblings of Max Turner. Though I scratch my head in the face of the needless hip-hop appeal here. Saved by “Hunger,” a track that harkens back to the beloved Moist, I am curious about the filler addition of vocal/lyric content similar to that as seen by fellow artist Luke Slater’s recent release. Is this just a trend? I am perfectly satisfied by the hypnotic sensationalism of the instrumental work produced here, in all its kling-klang and static energy. Destined to be a club mix favorite, “999″ has sheer nerve, screechingly going boldly where others may avoid, into volume, velocity and distractions. The pops and clicks make this track a tunnel of fun. Upbeat electronics soar zoomingly with a solid bassline provided by Christopher Uhe. As we draw to a close “Cuba TM” recalls veiney harmonies laid out in Bjork’s Vespertineprovided by the thin, groovy layering of strings by Cati Aglibut. There is no hurry to dance in its dalliance, as this a late summer sleeper.

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  • Town and Country :: C’Mon(2002)
  • CD :: Mute/Thrill Jockey1063 image 8 :: Ben Vida’s moody guitar opens “Going to Kamakura” on the latest by Town and Country. C’Mon is the prodigal offspring of Thrill Jockey’s roster of talent. The tingling chimes of Liz Payne message the stars and satellites. This is a lovely mix of gentle arranged harmony with Josh Abrams’ solid bassline and the ethereal harmonium played by Jim Dorling. Like label mates Tortoise, these players are each multi-instrumentalists, switching musical gear from track to track. On the dizzying “I’m Appealing” the comparison to Philip Glass is too obvious, and oblivious. Vida and Payne duel with the acoustic strings in a continuous wash of layered, harp-like lilt. The reverie of “The Bells” is built around the symphonic wind instrumentation of Dorling’s bass clarinet and Vida’s cornet, staccato and searching. The minimal repetition is a true test in acoustic circular breathing. These windy city players have shortened their earlier lengthy tracks for a compact offering on C’Mon. “I am So Very Cold” has a light, Mr. Rogersesque frivolity. Payne’s bass is on the front line and carries the tracks from slipping into its thin cracks. This disc will appeal to fans of Kronos Quartet, the Hilliard Ensemble and other neo-classical acts that cross into other genres skillfully. Vida is clearly the standout player of the ensemble with his cornet at the helm. There is a subtle reminiscing with the themes of 60s cinema on Palms. Closing out the recording is the very upbeat “Bookmobile” complete with some mean marimba by Payne to the band’s syncopated background handclaps. File under easy listening.

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  • AMP :: L’Amour Invisible(2002)
  • CD :: Space Age1063 image 9 :: Following their Space Age Recordings debut live release Sain Cecilia Sinsemillia (2000), the reinvented AMP (Richard Amp and Corine c. Olivier Gauthier) picks up the delicate pieces and runs with them snugly tucked underarm. “Crazyhead” is a character biopic like a lazy haiku and opens this sultry set. This, their sixth studio recording, includes pop-friendly “Curious Smile” which blends Astrud Gilberto with Creatures overtones. “Where Was When” harkens the wary angels customarily found in the center of a stray Throwing Muses sleeper complete with stressed guitar work and above ground fretting vocal. There is a signature here, maybe profoundly conceptual, that links this band to the label that boasts such other players as Spectrum and Experimental Audio Research. The breathy “Glasshouse Jam” (co-penned with Jan Zert) pairs a Reich-like piano line as the last breath of half-dangling nymphs plead in tongues of lost nations. Keiko Sugiyama’s cover art for L’Amour Invisibleis a striking and textural miasma of microscopic highlights of frayed soft fabric landscapes. It is an insightful, immediate union with that which its package contains. The theremin sounding bellows of “Junkyard Blues” is a sad investigatory piece that uses sound to envelop a dark space, with chains, warble and a hint of Lost In Space. “Go” closes the disc, overcome with illusions of ambiance. This is a mysterious release by a band not egocentric enough to avoid their past collaboration with such electronic experimenters as Robert Hampson (Main). Nor are they too proud not to hide a secret unnamed track far into the finale here… I’ll let you hunt – but let’s just say its worth its overbearing weight. AMP are too cutting edge to be mid-career – so rest assured that you will be blessed further into the future by these pioneers of shallow rhythmics.

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  • Scott Arford / Randy H.Y. Yau :: Edit for Unconsciousness(2001)
  • CD :: Auscultare Research1063 image 10 :: Sound/video artist Scott Arford (7hz, Radiosconde) and audio artist/sound curator Randy H.Y. Yau (23five Incorporated) have collaborated on a wired recording of intense depth. The four tracks on Edit for Unconsciousness evidence a rambling range of sensibility with a hint of Tetuo Furudate here and a dollop of Kapotte Muziek there. Arford’s “Drift Counter” is a white wash of buzzer noise and open mic sizzle. At about 23 minutes the isolated energy of the mower-like sonics freeze my subconscious for a moment and stir-fry it back up again. Working in multimedia these gentlemen have collaborated on a work that uses mid-tones of feedback to inform, not shock and destroy. The title has film/video references as I could imagine this extended sound mirage as being integral to a performance piece including dance, light and the moving image (however slowly). Drops of threatening noise taunt in Yau’s long-player “Second Coming,” like a griddling of some type of hovering being that gets caught in the radiant glow of drone. The track climaxes to a gas-like explosion which melts all in its course to the din of reverberation. Edit for Unconsciousnessalso includes Arford’s barely grounded “Headworms,” originally released as part of a split mini-CD with the Haters. The piece has a molten core slow-roasting all in/outputs. Yau’s “Realia” opens this recording with a quick-cut-up cum slow perk approach. Its mild side is nothing if not an eerie message from a force outside of our realm. Suddenly the plug is pulled and wavers out in slow motion. The drama invigorates and has the ability to give you the shakes – play this one loud for full-on bravado!

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  • Kenneth Atchley :: Fountains(2002)
  • CD :: Auscultare Research1063 image 11 :: Ground Fault Recordings sub-label, Auscultare Research, introduces us to the world of Kenneth Atchley’s symphonic sculptures here on Fountains. This debut is certainly not easy listening, it is active listening. Like an oblique performance art piece, this disc blends field recordings with a long list of ingredients (natural and synthetic materials) accumulating sounds from sculptural fountains. Atchley’s academic approach meets where the senses do, sight and sound embedded outside of gallery confines. Fountains treats its listener to rushing floods and other spectacular water-based sources. These trickles, falls and geysers temper the minds consistency as the noise channels change in tones and drones. The recording documents three “fountains” (each approx. 20 minutes in length) dedicated to performers and creative luminaries, inspired by sounds and words, streets and liquids in a range of variables. “fountain_1999.20″ is a memorial to radical queer composer Phil Harmonic (Kenneth Werner) who performed with Boston’s Sonic Arts Union in the mid 60s and composer Jim Horton of the League of Automatic Music Composers. This first fountain plays delicately in its wet wisdom of serene and disjointed phrasing. At the center of this triptych is “fountain_1998.3,” an uninterrupted sonic waterfall in which the background noise becomes the foreground to a waning sequencer, barely audible over the din. Inside this barrage of Merzbow-esque tranquility there are lost slight voices and pitch tests leaking out. In closing “fountain_2001.5″ drips seductively through organic spaces between crystals and metal objects. Nature’s pounding is synthesized, re-manufactured and processed. A pleasant, contorted surprise – for the lil’ surfer in our minds eye!

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  • Balligomingo :: Beneath The Surface(2002)
  • CD :: BMI/RCA1063 image 12 :: Balligomingo (Garrett Schwarz) is a new face on the scene – Fans of Moby, Saint Etienne and even Pet Shop Boys will adapt to the bevy of rich female vocals all taking solo stage for a track or so on his debut Beneath The Surface. On the opening “Purify,” former Canadian theater chanteuse, Jody Quine, provides apt piercing talent. In “Escape” we are treated to the Cranberries-tinged vocal of Colleen Coadic. The haunting “Falling” presents Beverley Staunton’s dreamy vocalese accompanied by sensitive string arrangements by Graeme Coleman. Kinetic programming duties on “Wild Butterfly” harkens creative popular references to Sara McLachlan and Enigma. A smooth and subdued tempo illuminates wispy lyrics like “do you see the sun through the sea… through the sea I am home” on “Privilege.” On the standout track “Lost” Camille Miller wraps around a lush electro-global rhythm showcasing her finely tuned instrument. Her years playing in pop rock and r&b bands has payed off significantly here – though I could image her voice paired with a jazz outfit to a brilliant end. Balligomingo makes a fine debut with Beneath The Surface– though here’s looking forward to the depths to which he can travel.

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  • Frank Bretschneider & Taylor Deupree :: Balance(2002)
  • CD :: Mille Plateaux1063 image 13 :: A (super)natural duo of Berlin’s Bretschneider and the Big Apple’s 12K head honcho Taylor Deupree. This record is filled with lengthy sine wave passages in upright tribute to digital synthesis. Programmed like a charm, especially on “Vertical Indicator” where we take a trip through space and land on a forbidden planet. I must have played this disc at least 5 or 6 times in the last month and it gets better with each generation. Bretschneider (of the Raster-Noton gang) is somewhat of an improviser in his field of minimal cryptic noisemaking. His sound, always crisp and up-tempo, is devoid of anything analogue. He is righteously poised in a long line of fellow German artists who have made countless noteworthy contributions to the field of electronic music. Sharp static abounds and shuffles through “Moving Light” as it delves into alien territories of buzzing caricatures and beating aircrafts. Funky at its core, the dissonant reverberation and vital energy of “Half-Mute” make me at once focus and move. “Autodrive” is an update of Kraftwerk’s “Pocketcalculator” seen through the guise of the secret encoding on the mythological “Their Satanic Majesties Request.” Pairing up with the prolific curator of contemporary electronica, Taylor Deupree, this combo takes risks on their first time out. Thirty-two year old Deupree has amassed a great sounding (and looking) discography in a decade, unflinchingly establishing himself in a world not quite ready for small sounds. But, in doing so he pleases the ear of the aesthete among us – with a special nod to this release. This disc includes Quicktime visuals by Bretschneider which, unfortunately, I was unable to access. Mille Plateaux’s Balance will undoubtedly end up in my top ten list of this year.
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