Reviews: 8/28/2003

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Seth Nehil :: Umbra (Edition, CD)

In what seems to be a continuing series after Stria (Erewhon) and
Confluence (Intransitive), his recordings with J Grzinich, Seth Nehil
has set out on his own. His new sound ventures formally into what could
be structured field recordings, if there were such a thing. The
listener almost hears lines being drawn with some type of
mechanical/electronic pen on “Naos.” Reflective of the CD cover, which
uses Nehil’s Black Walnut Drawings made in 2002, the overall image
portrayed is one of connectivity, of a finite network of measurement
projected from an abundance of single cells. His patterns are organic
and freeform, though they pulsate and float, rise and fall. On “Mira”
the vibration is fertile and exhilarating, as if it were levitation
incarnate. Umbra has its mysterious crevices and eyebrow curling
curiosities, so much so that if you listen with headphones there may be
a tendency to look over your shoulder more than once. There is a
certain presence looming in the near distance; This presence is carried
out through “Situla,” the final track, though here a passage has been
made, a disembodied escape hatch. Nehil incorporates the
unrecognizable, phantom voice of Bethany Wright, recorders and reeds by
Bobin Eirth with assistance from Michael Northam. The drama builds with
the curve in the frequency and the timbre of its resulting sound. This
may be a lunar hangar for castaway orbs and other space missionaries.
In fact, the lightheadedness of the ride is just brief prior to a more
compact venture down a running stream that renders an intense sense of
calm. And just then, a swarm, a siren call, a warning is sent, as if
some chamber has been breached. The complex cadence is as haunting as
the echo of a bell’s hollow hazing. Overall there is a sense of
oneness in this inter-gravitational space, though you are never quite
alone.

  • Edition

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    Christian Renou :: 7 Kisses (EE Tapes, CD)

    In a very limited edition, Christian Renou (formerly Brume) returns to
    haunt the remaining 325 people who can find this disc. Its barrage of
    obscurity is ripe and feral. Composed utilizing defective, old
    computers he has retaliated the consumer market, exit stage left.
    Though Renou’s stage is one of some mastery, where only a trained set of
    ears could even begin to fathom the start/stop or mid points, the sound
    source used to generate such peculiariarity is an atonal wall of sound.
    But here we experience more than typical drone and a bunch of spare
    parts. Renou has cordoned off his particular, almost alchemist style of
    blending fabricated noise into a fine art. The menacing tone on track
    two has all the global impact of both the Blair Witch Project and a
    fearless tsunami. Crackling voices and howling winds meet and face
    the furor. Like sign language, SOS and sine waves, Renou speaks his own
    tongue (or lips) in 7 Kisses. How this man transforms old systems
    into the sounds of warp speed, organic life and space flight is beyond
    me. Each of these seven parts is like its own mini-electronic operetta,
    very spatial – only completely non-formulaic. This is like a trip down
    the corrosion of some mad professor’s memory lane. If static
    electricity were cloned into something living, this might be what it
    would sound like.

  • EE Tapes

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    The Fire This Time :: S/T (Hidden Art, 2xCD)

    The Fire This Time is a collective that has brought together a two-disc
    set combining a host of various artists from Aphex Twin (Black Lung
    remixing “Come to Daddy”) to Michael Stearns and fully narrated by Grant
    Wakefield. The disc relies on scripted samples and other Gulf War
    deconstructions of mass media propaganda. Disc two includes
    instrumental versions of the same tracks. It is an instant replay of
    news and lip-service re-scripted with less hype and clarity of real
    timelines and truths only clear many years hence. The impact of the
    politics as aurally illustrated by Higher Intelligence Agency (HIA),
    Orbital, Bola and Speedy J just make the chilling reality more
    horrifying. It also makes a great visualization to our current times
    where our (relative) leaders are recycling some of the same tactics and
    fighting wars that were never ignited in the present.

    This recording took a generous three years to produce and the result is so tight, the
    editing is miraculous, the beats mix righteously with the tales of
    appalling threats launched. It is a mirror universe. By using both
    European and US news service samples there is a ping pong of truth in
    reporting that is only echoed by the funky percussion by Barbed on
    “We’re Doing Well Now” and gnarly voicing of Pres. George Bush senior.
    “Church Bells” opens with what is an explosion vs. jet taking off.
    Speedy J (with Bass Communion and HIA) brings the hysteria down for a
    few minutes while numbers of American deaths are reported in a news
    conference, compared to the thousands of Iraqi deaths.

    With sound-bytes like we killed as many as we dared this numbers game is completely
    manipulative and menacing. The opposition of Saddam Hussein is unclear,
    the middle eastern perspective is obliterated, except for the realities
    of bombings and devastation. On “No News is Good News” a woman states
    It brought everything ugly to your imagination, this is the real war.
    This becomes one of the more emotional moments on this phenomenal
    recording with stringed ambience provided by Naseer Shamma and Bass
    Communion). Throughout we are reminded of a toll of shame that brought
    the mighty arm of governments into brute disparity, breaking down what
    could be united nations. The Fire This Time has revised our modern
    history lesson with the vibrant support of musicians whose work helps to
    shape an extremely visual component to this recording. Will there be a
    video…?

  • Hidden Art Recordings

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    The Modernist :: Kangmei (Wonder)

    Jörg Burger has been hiding out on us. But now that he’s back,
    Kangmei could possibly be crowned king, at least for a day. This is
    pop electro by one of Germany’s brightest stars to come out of the same
    scene that spawned Mike Ink, Thomas Brinkmann and Wolfgang Voight. On
    this third release The Modernist covers territories explored in rhythmic
    techniques by elders Tangerine Dream and even Giorgio Moroder. The
    textures are lively, the beats are muted and subdued, but there is a big
    old heart beating away on tracks like “Prozac Europe” (With the
    inclusion of vocals by Aquamarine) and “When We Were Golden” (the first
    single) the thoughts of remixing are endless.

    This is far more of a dance record, albeit a partially apprehensive one, than previous work on
    Explosion, and now as Burger sits at the helm of The Popular
    Organization he can conduct himself in a way that sees best fit. Using
    the guitar riffs of New Order, “When We Were Golden” does not rely on
    the adage of bass to get its funky appeal across, though that all
    changes on the title track, “Kangmei Pt. 1 & 2″ where the build up to
    what could be a big show-stopping, dance floor thumping bass romp never
    takes off, just teases. This is part of the appeal of the disc and what
    keeps it from preaching to the converted. Kangmei has a push/pull
    quality, one feels physically motivated to act and then once you are in
    the groove shift happens to encourage a closer listen. “Mickey Finn”
    starts with two layered tracks, one a warning thumping alarm, one a
    warbled marshmallow beat, until the smoky vocal starts referencing,
    perhaps in a tongue-in-cheek way, “the song remains the same.” This
    track is blissful even if the singer has “gone insane.” The light
    intro on “Magic Lantern” creates a mystical ambient passage that breaks
    the more upbeat pace and then builds back on the beat in a tempo that is
    just pure liquid.

  • Popular

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    vidnaObmana & David Lee Myers :: Tracers (Klanggalerie)

    As the dark tones loom Tracers is about pure spatial relationships of
    the how sounds effect the listener’s ear. Breaking new ground
    vidnaObmana teams up with David Lee Myers (who recent worked with vO
    collaborator Asmus Tietchens) to create a world of paranormal
    luminosity. The eight tracks here are separated into “sectors” finished
    with warm drones and varied organic impulses. The collaboration makes
    for one of the strongest works by either artist in the past few years,
    with such intense attention to finite and subtle details you might find
    yourself in what appears to be a live aural laboratory. This could also
    be a sacred lunar, in-flight guide to dreamy galactic systems travel.
    The uninterrupted mix has a range of found sound sources emulating
    bubbling brooks and various croaking water-based organisms. Harmonies
    range from exploratory upbeat to mysterious low-fi, transitioning slowly
    and seamlessly.

  • Klang Galerie

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    Vertonen :: The Ocean is Gone, the Ship is Next (Ground Fault)

    Vertonen (Blake Edwards) enters his second decade of recording with this
    five track, nearly hour-long set. The opening piece, “Untitled for Air
    Organ and Turntable Motor” was recorded live for radio in Chicago,
    sounding like the tinny insides of an aircraft motor being tuned up.
    The effect simulates a barren foreground, with a tonal shifting horizon.

    Ground Fault has done well to separate their series into three distinct
    sections, this disc falling into the Series II (medium) category,
    defined by adjectives like surreal, experimental and textural – all of
    which this recording could be described as. The sources in other tracks
    like “The Last Great Circus of Desperate Heritage” and the slightly more
    caustic “Four Chambers Plus their Various Liquids” use metals and other
    objects to placate the irrational ear. Through distortion and pace
    setting Vertonen defines some specific sound-making pleasures by risking
    the naked roots of improv and fashioning a voice that is both analytical
    and beatless. Edwards can also quash noise in a developing piece like
    “Soma Trio Study” which uses a quieter, more wave lapping vibe. Its
    vivid surface is a bit like a bed of clouds. Closing the disc is
    “Harbor Sufacant” which is a deconstructed western saloon on squeaky
    scratched vinyl. The repetitive murky beat is a clash between and a
    filthy, brainwashed hypnotism and ghostly drones.

  • Ground Fault

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    The Hafler Trio :: No Man Put Asunder / 7 Fruitful and Seamless Unions (Die Stadt, CD)

    Are we loitering through the catacombs yet? This burrowing,
    drone-based, hour-long set pops up on Real Player’s screen as “general
    religious” for genre. Not revealing the particular gods being
    worshipped herein, chances are the higher powers are Mr. Andrew McKenzie
    himself. After having cancelled their recent US tour, H30 is realizing
    much output this year, as this exceptional recording will attest,
    especially from a symphonic standpoint. Is this the breakdown of all
    which was once realized by Philip Glass, by taking a single key stroke
    and recycling its structure over and again?

    Like a harmonious swarm,
    this is pure ambience, by way of a very long-winded, run-on one-liner.
    Packaged in signature dressings by Die Stadt, including an exquisite
    booklet and slip case printed with metallic ink and frosted papers, only
    1000 of these will make it into the hands of the all-seeking. The
    booklet includes seven free verse pieces with sayings as circuitous as
    all here is at once a marker point for later reference, a firing of a
    gun, and a broken ribbon
    (from The Smell of a Land). This disc acts
    as part two of a trilogy which is a joint venture with Nextera Records
    who has already released disc one Cleave: 9 Great Openings and the
    forthcoming No More Twain, of the Flesh: 11 Unequivocal Obsecrations.

    At times the tones snowball with a forceful weight, only to come down
    and wash cleanly, with a honey-like finish. Faint metallic samples
    writhe keenly through the sinister bellows of what could perhaps only be
    a church organ, or digital clone. An icy cold breeze, a stimulating
    vision, a tone poem.

  • Die Stadt Musik

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    Marten de Wind :: T-E (Commando Cauldron)

    Marten Wind creates soft, ambient crunching and small tones. Enclosed
    in a foam packet with stitching, die-cut and handmade effects, the
    concept of sound art in its physical and ephemeral forms. Stepping into
    a world inhabited by the likes of Sogar, and Goem, Wind has prepared a
    definitive sound that is minimally startling in its micronics and
    deadpan tonal personality. While clocking in at just over 20 minutes,
    these six somber tracks are mixed into an amorphous EP with a much
    farther range. Tracing the roots of pulsing veins and outlining the
    silhouettes of minor organics, the tone is partly like a tuning fork,
    and partly shapeless. This is a pleasing listen, albeit too short and
    sweet.

  • Commando Cauldron

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    Asmus Tietchens :: Adventures in Sound/Nachtstücke (Die Stadt)

    Kicking off what will surely be an epic series, Die Stadt has committed
    to releasing eighteen of Asmus Tietchens earliest albums as remastered
    CD’s to include bonus material. These will be released every 4 months or
    so and if this first edition is any indication of what’s to come, we are
    in for some serious listening.

    On the first disc Adventures in Sound
    (1965-69) you can experience some of Tietchens earliest signs of
    greatness in a collaboration with Okko Bekker and Hans Dieter Wohlmann.
    The contents range from Asian melody treatments (“Gravy Graves”) to
    warbly comb singing (“Die Harfen von Ur”) to sped-up psychedelic prog
    art rock (“Drei Versionen von The Word”). Tietchens’ “Beginning with
    Beatles’ Ending” is a sighting for those influenced by the crock pot of
    pop music. Its handling of varying samples (assuming they are from
    Beatles records) is complex in its turntable play, yet subtle in its
    finish. There is a suspended sheen to the sound, an air of obsolescence
    about its subject.

    The 20 tracks here range from 32 seconds to almost 9
    minutes and they make each second count. “Sound Candles” scrapes
    feedback in lovely vibraphonic striations. What ensues could be the
    remnants of Ornette Coleman and his band warming up. The indefinite
    cross of jazz and rock dazzles with a playful, albeit drunk, percussion.
    The disc concludes with archived interviews done in their native German
    (circa 1968-69). This is surely what collectors have been asking for –
    and Die Stadt delivers (plus!). On Nachtstücke, which was originally
    released on the EGG/Barclay label in 1980, Tietchens developed an entire
    world of spatial, cold symmetry. A bottomless field of floating and
    boundless depth. We must keep in mind that this was the era of new
    wave, Logan’s Run and Tangerine Dream – and this record has ample
    renderings of some of that! The stalking pace of “Trekk” builds a
    precautionary guardrail, yet is still somewhat playful. There are hints
    of future Brian Eno. “Ultima Tundra” sounds like the soundtrack of a
    lost planet with a barren horizon in its dusty aftermath, crossing and
    blurring genres that strike me as both ballroom Wurlitzer and fantastic
    sci-fi. This version includes four bonus tracks totaling about 18
    minutes. A limited edition box to case the collection, for subscribers,
    is available through Die Stadt.

    Judging by Jochen Schwarz’s extreme
    attention to detail, this will surely be a lovely affair and an
    essential item for all completists and dust-collector junkies. It may
    not be easy listening, but I like it!

  • Die Stadt Musik
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