Reviews: 8/2007

 

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(08.17.07) This is the debut of a new monthly review column by TJ
Norris
. The focus will be fixated on charged international releases
that play on audio/visual elements and experiments within the hybrid
of multi genres. Like ions this type of charge can unknowingly produce
both positive and negative effects. Norris is also continuing to
curate a somewhat related a/v performance series, soundbytes, in his
native Portland, Oregon. In the past he has hosted diverse acts as
Twine, Illusion of Safety, Richard Francis and vidnaObmana. If you are
passing through please contact him for more information, or read his
regular blog
to get the double-dipped flavor of the month.

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  • Bernhard Günter / Heribert Friedl :: TRANS~ (2006)
  • NonVisual Objects, CD, Edition of 300

    By using field recordings and incorporating dulcimer and other
    percussive steel instruments, these two collaborators have woven an
    off-putting montage of high pitch and low tone. Most of what is heard
    here is not at all in the realm of the minimalism and ambience
    customarily found in the discographies of these artists. Bernhard
    Günter and Heribert Friedl create a creaking, dragging sensibility
    with this heavily embellished forty-four minute blend of coarse drones
    and fingers-to-chalkboard effected shrieks. The uneasy listening
    experience has a deep suspense that infers cinema and yet remains
    withdrawn. Embedded is the synthesis of conundrum between a would-be
    symphony and real-time cacophony.

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  • Haswell & Hecker :: Blackest Ever Black (2007)
  • Warner Classics, CD & 2xLP

    The debut recording from the duo of Russell Haswell and Florian Hecker
    is a rift on the UPIC sound system conceived by composer Iannis
    Xenakis. These multimedia artists employ visual drawing tablet tools
    to develop their compositions, which delve into a cursive, buzzing
    template of craggy noise editing, forming abstract pieces that hiss
    and shake. With the technology at hand, these former recipients of the
    prestigious Prix Ars Electronica, follow in the footsteps of filmmaker
    Oskar Fischinger and futurist Leopold Survage, among other historical
    practitioners in the craft of visual music and soundscaping color
    theory. Haswell & Hecker, though billed as being on the fringe of
    contemporary classical music, really fit more snuggly into the world
    of experimental electronica. The sounds they have developed are not
    quite traditional signatures, and yet, not really improvised. Theirs
    is a colored, buzzing racket. Then it’s an impairing range of tonal
    values that can be as sharp as they are bloated. Some resonate like
    special effects while others are quite textural and toothy. One thing
    is certain – though extremely far from pop music of any kind, this
    type of categorically dislocated phrasing will appeal to our ADD
    generation of gamers and the like. [Purchase]

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  • Githead :: Art Pop (2007)
  • Swim~, CD

    Super group in the making has many years under its belt. The quartet
    known as Githead is made up of Swim label guru Malka Spigel, drummer
    Max Franken, inventive sound-sculptor Robin Rimbaud (Scanner) and the
    legendary Colin Newman of Wire fame. This follow-up to their 2005
    debut Profile covers some interesting new territory in comparison, but
    remains postured in a world of bleary, leary melancholia (Lifeloops)
    with a pinch of squeaky pop rock. They remain irreverent to typical
    norms in most of contemporary faire, however, by keeping a punky,
    grating blur in the attitude of lyrics as heard in a song like Drive
    By.

    When they sing: “Pop-noodle culture, post-modem vulture
    Personality politics, broadband skin flicks
    Drugged on attention, starved of invention
    Pornographic cuisine, demographic sardine”
    it is like listening to cut n’ prepared lip-speak that won’t quit, a
    wap on rap and corporate culture. The record meanders in style a bit
    though, which talks about these folks’ years making music. Its funky
    in spots (Space Life), distorted in others (Darkest Star) and that’s
    what gives credibility to its diversity without its spinning into a
    devolved schizophrenia of styles. They each bring something
    sophisticated to this project that blends knowns without compromising
    newness. They somehow pick up where Sonic Youth left off with ’92′s
    Dirty on the opener On Your Own and don’t let go of the groove until
    the last note of the drunk chords of Live in Your Head. Silence may be
    golden, but what a lovely patina seeps from records like Art Pop. [Purchase]

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  • Throbbing Gristle :: Part Two: The Endless Not
  • Artecnico, CD, Edition of 1300, other Mute editions available

    Here is the Japanese version of Throbbing Gristle’s first release in
    three years, after many more in dormancy from their legendary project.
    And any fan is doing backbends in celebration, or probably yoga if
    they’ve stuck with this band through its many years in between, having
    formed in the 70s. Part Two: The Endless Not has now been released by
    Artecnico, a newly surfaced label specializing in rare editioned
    recordings by established undergrounders like Muslimgauze, Robert Görl
    and Esplendor Geometrico. The general first-run US/UK version of this
    release (of 4000) comes with a spine-packaged 5″ ‘Totemic Gift’ item
    (made from wood, ivory, brass and even a rare edition of 2(?) in 24
    carat gold), only here in stainless steel. The true bonus here, is the
    eight-minute mystery extension to the tail end of the disc’s
    disquieting final track “After The Fall.” This ends up being a
    murderer’s confessional followed by a blurry topical collage of
    fate-accepting, proto-industrial punk.

    Throughout we see TG at full
    throttle strength, which is to say, churning demons through chilled
    electronic experimentation and the well-aged, throaty vocal
    incantation of Genesis Breyer P. Orridge. No need to scream your
    truths anymore as the biggest surprise here is the hard jazz mix of
    piano and syncopation of Rabbit Snare. The flatly soft-spoken, almost
    come-hither vocal plays on fear and timing. The noir of the track
    plays on a dare to love and lure asking “Is this insidious, is this
    inside of us?” Chris Carter and Cosi Fanni Tutti offer an oiled
    sensibility for harkening, striated electronica alongside former Coil
    frontman Peter “Sleazy” Christopherson. They paint the grande staging
    upon which Genesis walks, crawls, wretches and speaks in purgatorial
    bass tones.

    The grind of Part Two is a welcome unconditioning of much
    of what’s going on in music today as chartered in the passionate sense
    of post-cynical loss in Almost A Kiss. Letting go to a phrase like
    “someone else’s history” portends of fate having its way with the
    self, and perhaps how re-invention is only a mirror of repetitious
    reality repackaged. But this is not your average warmed over soup,
    instead you are being served a definitive work of dense sound art
    meant for a wide audience of both the converted as well as the
    apathetic couch surfer. The sophisticated sound of TG is a certain
    wake-up call. [Purchase]

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  • Rothko :: Eleven Stages of Intervention (2007)
  • BiP_HOp, CD

    This Rothko paints a bleary picture with sound. It is the type with
    jello harmonies and a thick pastiche of blended electronica and folky
    jazz. Mark Beazley’s longterm project this time around includes the
    melodramatic chords of Ben Page’s harmonium always filling a room with
    bold bearings alongside his brother Tom’s sensitive percussion. The
    stretched and worn rumble of bass from Michael Donnelly rounds out
    this four piece set this go around. Eleven Stages of Intervention in
    ten tracks sets a course for going way deep and darkly into a
    privately haunted psyche. This is partly due to the choice of
    instrumentation, but its application is thick and resolute. The track
    “Watch the Black Sun Fade” alone is like some form of ancient Midwestern
    excorcism crossed over invisible faultlines. These tracks conjure up
    the drifting, faded outer limits of an endless desert and otherwise
    surface like the pale complexion of winter. So, in effect the
    soundtracks here are like smaller vignettes of torch and twang that
    tear and taunt you. What results is something of a concept album that
    provides a vintage stage upon which the actors are scare, or scared,
    hiding within themselves. Here the circumstances are sketchy, and
    shadows are endless. [Purchase]

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  • Signal :: Robotron (2007)
  • Raster-Noton, CD

    This new collection of works by the trio (Frank Bretschneider, Olaf
    Bender, Carsten Nicolai) that founded the contemporary
    micro-electronic label Raster-Noton is to be reckoned with. The hyper
    pitter-patter of Malimo is most certainly derived from some sacred
    mathematics. Both clinical and serenely funky, the beat never goes out
    of bounds, staying tightly wrapped around a wavering center. What
    makes their sound is an attention to strict details. And consistently
    blending layers of sound patterns in time, as if they were quite
    physically geometric somehow. “Ermafa” creates this repetitious and
    floating sensibility, with an adequate pulsing reductivism throughout.
    In many ways you can look at the music on Robotron perhaps as visual
    music, like animation using tonal light, in fine strands, somehow
    optical, meandering just left of center. “Sporett” is one of four bonus
    tracks that has a curiously insistent gauging signal that is super
    light in effect compared to the blunt title track. Recorded between
    2001-06, Robotron steps in time, repeating itself with a thick
    calculating percussion and minimally scratchy backtracks. It
    cyclically loops until adding a layer of pitched, spotty bleeps that
    add the sense of a machine-like guise to the whole mechanism of the
    track. This is a common motif for the sound, textural and raw, yet one
    step outside the elementals of a mere mortal.

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  • The Field :: From Here We Go Sublime (2007)
  • Kompakt, CD

    Like something out of left field this disc hit my spine like a jolt
    light years in the making. From Here We Go Sublime instantly lays down
    a premise from the hook-laden opener “Over the Ice.” This is layered
    minimal techno meets a brooding, dark electro pop music film
    soundtrack. The Field is Stockholm’s Alex Willner and this is his
    grande debut. They market this type of music under labels like
    ‘progressive house’ but it is really just a strong blend of smart new
    techno with ambient filters and the tracking sense of a patent
    technician. The low-rise “Good Things End” simply whirs along under a
    drone of grey noise, and above a moulting warm set of beats. This
    just picks up as the next track “The Little Heart Beats So Fast” spells
    out in syncopated tonal moans. A perfectly infectious Summer elixir
    which melts in your ears on the aptly titled “Sun & Ice.” It’s the curve
    in the evening when you need to breathe deeply outside of a cathartic
    dance state, that moment when your body finds its own self cooling
    system. While still ecstatic, the wavy harmony somehow chills that
    curiously frenetic pulsating path between your body and nirvana. From
    here we, indeed, go sublime. [Purchase]

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  • Hauschka :: Versions of the prepared Piano (2007)
  • Karaoke Kalk, CD

    Volker Bertelmann is Dusseldorf’s brightest prepared pianist. This is
    a collection of abstract distractions where he’s worked with artists
    ranging from Nobukazu Takemura on the disc’s stand-out static track
    called Assembler’s Mix (Kein Wort) to Mira Calix’s undoing of “Without
    Morning Mix (Morning).” Calix has a sensitive, sparse reading of this
    lovely and warped piece of melodic deconstruction, with addled bits
    of hiss and crackle. The lilt of the hazy female vocal plays on a
    balmy ocean wave elapsing into the stillness of sunlight. The heavy
    purr of Frank Bretschneider’s take on Stumm (Kein Wort) bounces in a
    path of echoes like the din of a concerto’s final note before the
    audience wrapts the room in adulation. Heard are just a random single
    note here or there, otherwise Bretschneider has obliterated any
    semblance of the original structure, a parody on the nature of
    expectation. “Vert” has re-built “Rocket Man (Traffic)” into a
    broken-down, dirty electro-funk anthem paralleling something ala
    Propellerheads. However, it’s a fistful of cash to the latter’s now
    two cents in exchange. In conclusion, Tarwater takes to “World of
    Things to Touch (Two Stones)” which sounds like the rebirth of the
    angst of The Wolfgang Press, all piss and vinegar – all to a tinking,
    jangly rhythm. It’s hard and soft, and a little bit of the old post
    midnight red eye. Pull down the shades, baby, and rest in peace. [Purchase]

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  • Flint Glass + Telepherique :: Information Gigabyte (2007)
  • Angle.Rec, CD, Edition of 404

    Information Gigabyte is hot-wired to multiple channels and layers of
    dark techno electronica, not really preset on beats. Its noir feel is
    based on dialing into its sci-fi goth German and English voiceovers
    and other blurred coordinates. Like a lot of what you might hear on
    the Ant-Zen imprint, this is a viable futuristic set of tracks that
    gears you for deep space travel. Together Flint Glass (Gwenn
    Tremorin)+ Telepherique (Klaus Jochim) sample retro, futuristic sounds
    that whiz by like an electro-tabulating oscillating generator. The duo
    collaborate for the first time arriving with tinkling machines and
    surprise percussion as on “Internet Collapse.” Reminiscent of 70s
    soundtracks or symbolism in say, “Logan’s Run” or “Space: 1999,” these two
    manage to find a space of some tension, and not just a throwback to a
    faded sense of being lost outside the parameters of our galaxy. But
    this record relies heavily on the intersection and specious
    understanding of b-movies.

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