Reviews: 9/2005

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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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  • B.J. Nilsen & Stilluppsteypa :: Víkinga Brennivín
  • CD :: The Helen Scarsdale Agency
  • . . . .

    USA :: The drone is eerie, the tone is deep grey, the collaboration is on. Leave it to new kid on the block, Helen and Co. to bring together such esteemed players. Throbbing tones tilt like the seas tip ships. I love the way the CD plays with my own personal open environment, the sound of the streetcar and the distant highway tunnel, the variety of pitch and crackle are ample on “Heilir, thorn eirs hlyddu (Lycklige de, som lyssnat)” – I hope that’s Scandanavian for “plant trees everywhere, while questioning the powers that be” – but I can’t be sure. Though this is a disc of lovely curiosities. Native tongues speak all languages here, the tonal values are tightened to less then six million shades of the aforementioned grey, Ansel Adams would blush. The last (hidden) track is completely inebriating. It sways in gentle Zen circles, while still acting to ward away broken energies. The hand-screened sparkly copper cover art is exquisite too. There’s something like Tibetan bells ringing in my ears, and then suddenly silence, and a bit of rumbling distant percussion appears and persists calmly until it fades asleep.

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  • T.Raumschmiere :: Blitzkrieg Pop
  • CD :: Novamute/Shitkatapult
  • . . . 1/2

    USA/GERMANY/UK :: He’s now got his shit together. After seeing this dude perform twice in the past few years I thought aberration over-the-top flash-in-the-pan, hmmm. No longer doubt yourself. With cocky, militaristic appeal and the edition of T.R. on “Sick Like Me” something is fishily nine inches, if size mattered that is. The edge is his penchant for pop rock, and playing on label sister acts like Goldfrapp’s sound on “All Systems Go!”. By keeping only the hooks of “Black Cherry” this makes for an exciting second full-length on Novamute venture for monsieur Raumschmiere (Marco Haas). The choice of singers here is quite electrifying actually with the dream-funky Ellen Allien (“Diving in Whiskey”), the Garbage meets Alison Goldfrapp attitude of Sandra Nasic (“A Very Loud Lullaby”) and the fire-edgy Quasimodo Jones (“A Mess”) in between shorter experimental bits like “Rumplekammer” and “Untitled” make this a cool long-player. Though where ‘Blitzkrieg Pop’ gains points it has the curious overtone of some big old studio production, and aside from the surge for the stars, I hope Haas can keep his saavy pants on while the studio machine yanks ‘em (actually, during his live shows his trousers kept falling down, part of the act or not, maybe record sales will afford this slender fellow a new wardrobe!). The title track, which appears as finale here, is a head-bopping nightmare with T.R. reprising his guttural wale, hey I lost my trucker cap! OK, it kicks ass (albeit a skinny one) and at just under 40 minutes it’s tight too!

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  • Taylor Deupree + Eisi :: Every Still Day
  • CD :: Noble
  • . . .

    JAPAN :: A new outing for these two venerable electronic meet acoustic artists, New York’s Taylor Deupree (12K) and the Japanese trio Eisi (Mujika Easel, Tsutomu Koburi, Masaaki Moita). Deupree mostly re/de-constructs the overall premise of this unplugged, very live sounding affair of voice, bass and guitar squiggles by Bay Area’s lauded Christopher Willits. “Note 1 (variation)” skips its beats and adds the filtered Bjork-esque linguistics of Easel’s spoken vocalese –quite pleasantly distant and not at all star-struck. Elongated wiry static and intermittent horns are like a faded movie soundtrack that cascades fortuitously. The scene is sketchy (on purpose), spare and a bit forlorn. Parts orchestral download, parts digitized sketchbook upload, ‘Every Still Day’ is a bit of a mirage, the haze of something barely existing, with tweaked strings and sandy-scapes that are plain barren.

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  • Organum and Z’ev :: Tocsin -6 thru +2
  • CD :: Die Stadt
  • . . . .

    GERMANY :: Continued collaborations by two charismatically enigmatic composers who always seem on the outermost edge. Made from constructed instruments and formed compositions, the two work symbiotically together. The atmosphere is stingingly industrial in its razor sharp precision. ‘Tocsin’ is a suite of nine pieces that phase into each other like a long concept work. Not as ominous and dissonant as either of their solo work, the sound is crystal crisp and straddles the siren call of a train pulling into a large depot –a passion play with decibels. And then comes the mostly solo grand piano on “Tocsin +1,” which is just lovely at once. The pace slowly shifts and cools and the anxious energy built just releases like rain slowly falling. It’s romantically jolting. And for the finale both players intersect and work from the insides out, reverberating off delicate energies, pulsating from the center with a wavering gesture. It’s like a magic force field surrounding a sole piano player on a stage, playing to an empty house. A faded glory, a dream broken by fear.

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  • Andrew Peckler :: Strings + Feedback
  • CD :: Staubgold
  • . . . .

    GERMANY :: Dissonant pastels, tones both bright and forcibly jammed in and out of place are just part of the ingredients sewn together on ‘Strings + Feedback’. Informed by contemporary classical composition as well as experimental electronica, the patterning on this release by Berlin-based Andrew Peckler is quite plotted, like an operatic ballet. You can almost imagine this being some sort of darker version of the Nutcracker, haunted forest and all, add some sci-fi and a bit of cool fog machines and voila. “Mirrorise” peels itself back from the psychedelia of noir horror ala “Rosemary’s Baby” and other campy, twisted flicks of the era. Its inherent drama is a bit eyebrow curling to say the least. The best thing about this disc, aside from its unclassifiable characteristics, is its disconnect from most of what you might come to expect from an emerging artist with the broader scope of electronica. Peckler seems well versed in the voice of cinema, and has the grasp of an old pro who might refresh our tainted minds with the allure of silent film days. Referenced on “Cygnus,” a strikingly stirring miasma of a palette painted in umpteen shades of grey that just takes its sweet time to tell a reinterpreted tall tale.

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  • TU M’ :: Just One Night
  • CD :: Dekorder
  • . . . . .

    GERMANY :: Tu m’ is the Italian duo who bring us the well curated Mr. Mutt collection as well as amassing their own catalogue of electronic gems. ‘Just One Night’ is one of the highlights of their career thus far and is delivered like a day at the fair, serene and playful, jumbled collected chaos that all seems spacey, yet reacts like a well trained pug. It’s a slice of interpretive Butoh, managing to be both methodically reflective and yet awkwardly bright. I’m reminded of an automobile manufacturing plant in the hands of a surgeon performing a precise incision on “The Moon on the Sea.” Mastered by sound crafter Marcus Schmickler, this has an overall orchestral feel, more so than their previous work, tuning and resizing their composition with a wide-open live feel especially prominent on “Rain in the Streets”. Just One Night is like a ghostly carousel ride, with weary-eyed colorful lighted spots and whimsical diametric handling. Hinted at are traditional Italian and Mediterranean folk music rhythms (“Strange Sleep”), but throughout this night there’s a continuous wiggly warmth that causes anything but commotion, just a laid back, lazy siesta.

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  • vidnaObmana :: Noise/Drone Anthology (1984-1989)
  • CD :: Ikon/Projeckt
  • . . . .

    USA :: As this well anointed survey of his career re-launches the cassette age of the 80s, reborn as the searing edge of “Sin, believe and religion” (1986) shape shifts its way into being. vidnaObmana has long been a staple in the realm of experimental ambient soundscapes, at times veering on the new age side of the spectrum, though on Noise/Drone Anthology (1984-1989) has definitely certified himself a place in the shadowy hinterlands of compositional ecstasy. One glaring example is “Sediment” his live collaboration with noise master PBK, a puzzling and haunting track that renders itself to cool undertones rather than an all out noise assault. Quixotic, raw and unfettered by the pop electronica of that era, vidnaObmana sets out on a course similar to that of Cabaret Voltaire, drinking in the darker side of mysterious, uncharted territories. “Techno-toxic Embryo Pt 1″ (1986), a collaboration with Kapotte Muziek, is your quintessential nails-on-chalkboard homage to the love of feedback and its distant cousins. It just claws its way with the numbing resilience of barbed wire lattice work braided daintily by a chain gain on a mission. The chilly ambience, flecked by suspicious retreat, draws on its use of sound weight and density. This is a broad survey into the deep past, 20 years for most of this work, one that beckons a full reinvestigation.

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  • Safety Scissors :: Tainted Lunch
  • CD :: ~scape
  • . . .

    GERMANY :: Safety Scissors (Matthew Patterson Curry) is a one-man band of half funky quips and other absurdo-electro. His work, “Parts Water” with respected label Plug Research drove a hard bargain for a debut. Though the story has changed somewhat now under the guise of ~scape with mixing duties in the hands of Vladislav Delay. Mr. Scissors humorous lyrics are pretty much by the book at times, almost “for dummies” styled with a punky flavor and nasty 80ish house/soul groove. The cover art is pure post Kraftwerk combined with the nod to Marc Almond, though the combination of food and detritus is a tad off-putting, though I had it to ~scape for attempting to actually make “cover art” (which seems like a dying art) as of late. I really like the nya-nya-nya recess attitude of “Fly in my Soup” which immediately reminds me of something of a re-patterning of Vanity 6 vs. X Ray Spex. The addition of female vocals on “After Disaster” (a great title) adds an edgy interface counterbalancing Curry’s flat line queerisms, The hint of bayou-based Jamaican rhythms bode well in the midst of jangly guitar lines. The purposefully cheap sounding effects are in keeping with his live show, where Curry often appears as a flamboyant caricature built into a Steven Wright-like performance, flat with a cutting underbelly of ulterior intentions to make you think and act accordingly, even if the delayed response makes you second guess. Though spots where he has taken the appropriate steps to add Stereo Total’s Francoise Cactus indelible vocal it has a much weaker impact than it would on one of her own releases, even though the pop ramp is fully erect. Suffering from overeating, there are obviously too many influential cooks in this kitchen, though folded into the recipe is some sweetness and a dash of coy new wave spice.

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  • Caroline :: Where’s My Love
  • CD5 :: Temporary Residence
  • . . .

    USA :: Temporary Residence has taken downtown residence in Brooklyn, moving all the way from Portland (OR). With the move they release a CD single by artist Caroline (Lufkin) that is an immediate pop lullaby. It’s gentle, bright and plays on some of the sparser electronica currents of Lali Puna, and yesterday’s Altered Images with an angelic voice that beams. Hinting at eras-old Bonnie Tyler’s production work by Jim Steinman (actually concocted by Swedish producer Andreas Bjorck) on the included “Where’s My Love (Magical Mix)” it just barely samples her vocal, but uses the piano taglines to run its course, though thankfully never becomes a pure house experience. Subdued and breezy Caroline’s girly range on “Time Swells” is heartwarmingly appropriate in this 3-track single. A great teaser.

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  • Bretschneider and Steinbrüchel :: Status
  • CD5 :: 12K
  • . . . . 1/2

    USA :: Two emerging contemporary electronic artists meet head on in a world where open wires imaginarily cross with shallow bodies of liquid. The combination of Raster-Noton’s Frank Bretschneider and his signature, heated microgrooves with Zurich-based (Ralph) Steinbrüchel’s ambient undertones, just pacing, is something of a brilliantly plugged pairing. The tingly pinging of miniature sine tones brought together on “Phase” makes you move as they pop and fade. Trembling open-air pong ticks replace gravity on “Basis” to become a vibrating quilt of percussion. Like a hard swallow, or maybe a psychedelic, guided tour of the inner meaning of hexa-decimal color charts, the track gets lost in a circular field. Crackle and hiss has been developed to a fine art that wraps itself in and around and upside down anything inanimate in its midst as attested to on “Position”. And like a good radio frequency gone awry, the steel tones of “Impuls” are flatly funky and wired up tightly. Status has left its tonal tendrils out in the rain and the sprouts have made a groundcover so vast, so vibrant, it organically outgrows itself.

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  • Kapotte Muziek :: Praag/Rotterdam
  • CD5 :: Chondritic Sound/Pacrec
  • . . . 1/2

    USA :: The trio of Roel Meelkop, Peter Duimelinks and Frans de Waard have been long at it, and back in 1995 their live performance of “Alternitiva” in Prague was captured. Still drone leads as layered in are some circular sounds, searching for surfaces, textured and tethered. The bass grows and flows into the space like oozing cement, slowly covering all surfaces and into the farthest corners. The scraping ends and the pulsating bubble capsizes with the addition of crunchy, awkward overlays and a spinning background of chaotic noise that is muzzled. Three years later the triad perform another set in Rotterdam entitled “I Rip You, You Rip Me” which kicks off sounding like the act of tearing objects in two, or would that be in three? One thing is for sure; it’s something of an improvised and introverted racket. But like a steel wheel, it keeps turning, churning, and adding blazing high-pitched elements along the way. The rest is blissfully rendered in a masterful hissing and fully wired cacophony, not safe for most human consumption.

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  • Troum :: Objectlessness
  • CDR (Ltd. 100) :: Mystery Sea
  • . . . .

    BELGIUM :: Softly purring, whirring, barely audible drone smoldering while tainting the edges of its path with iridescence brighter than naked light. Losing itself in the rush of Objectlessness collaged filters whose depths are like forbidden histories open up like a broken dam of dark secrets. And inside its bell curve there is a radiant network of animated vessels tightening the entire course. The prolific German duo (formerly Maeror Tri) who run Drone Records and have collaborated with Ultra Milkmaids, Vance Orchestra, Christian Renou and most recently with Autopoeisis have recorded for such diverse labels as Staalplaat, EE Tapes and Transgredient Records. They present stream of consciousness sounds that fully hydrate the senses, and leave you limp on tracks like “(Pre)Symbolism.” You are in a hot air balloon high above some enchanting Bavarian village, from 100 plus feet you can hear what sounds like a celebration, but your ears are only playing tricks on you. This is adrift on “Echoes of a Boundless Existence.” The atmosphere grows faintly ill at ease, as if a faded film being played in reverse is presented while you are strapped in, watching every moment elapse, but the memories are not yours. The scene devolves into greyer areas until finally fading from sight.

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  • Asmus Tietchens :: Formen Letzter Hausmusik
  • CD :: Die Stadt
  • . . . . .

    GERMANY :: Originally from the aural art house of United Dairies (1984), Formen Letzter Hausmusik is certainly one of the most anticipated re-releases in the ongoing Die Stadt reissue series (this is number six, with the spine falling under the letter “S”, completing his first name). The liner notes depict the original ingenious cover art by Steven Stapleton (and accompanying ecstatic letter from him to Tietchens upon hearing this treasure for the first time), black and white photograph montages that play with imagery ala Minor White (by Kim Suprare) and other masters, while opposing a stark mountainous landscape aside a woman sunbathing in a solarized contrast. Get one thing straight, don’t futz the title, this ain’t no “house” music, it’s more like that served at Tietchens’ haus. With resonant nods to all things gothic, compositions like “Hydrophonie 1″ are downright idyllic. I guess it does actually sound like something crossed between an industrial symphony and a big swimming hole. The original tapes make this out to sound radiantly hollow, with tinny edges at times, adding to its haunting appeal. This is what drone is made of, mastered to an anal degree, speculative and courageous for the time. If a film studio wanted a soundtrack where machines take over, look no further. Even the jazzy hints with strings and things on “Hitch” seem somehow right at home in the mix, yet a radical addition to the otherwise complex mix of handmade sounds. Of course, Tietchens was using tape devices and a bevy of archival electronic equipment long before the advent of the home computer, giving the whole recording a dissonant reach. Elongated scraping patterns and human coughing along with playing glass objects on “Studie for Glasspiel” feels intimately live from a small studio space. The instantly hypnotic take on “Studie über B-A-C-H” has a lost sense of gravitational humor about it, it’s simultaneously suspended and suspenseful –a genuine de-composition. One of the highlights of this series are the additional bonus tracks, and here three works from the same era are culled for this collection. “Hitch 2″ extends from where the other left off, adding a simulated freight train blowing down the track along with it’s curious playful cut-up, jazz-laden keys. A must have in any collection of distinctly unclassifiable experimental electronics.

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  • Keiji Haino :: Black Blues
  • CD :: DSA
  • . . .

    FRANCE :: From the opening gutteral, gravelly throat singing on “Black Petal” the noise legend of Japanese guitar has more in common with Diamada Galas than he has with himself. Evidently the Black Blues disc has been released in two formats simultaneously, and both titled exactly the same, even the cover art is the same (just reversed image). One is more ambient acoustic, and one more chaos compartmentalized with a tweaked-out, scorched vocal. You can guess which one I got. It’s not your average night at the opera, that’s for sure. His guitar reminisces without any particular poise, just his own signature, improvised tangle of timing and ferocity. Black Blues at times is an eastern noise version of the American western. As he blurts out in his native language seemingly cut-short rock haikus, it’s something of a funeral dirge. A goodbye anthem (“Town in Black Fog”) that just won’t let go. In some ways this free-playing is just so open to organic interpretation, while grasping it’s internals to show them to an unsuspecting crowd, but anyone who knows this mans music should know by now that you should always plan on only the unsuspected.

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  • Lasse Marhaug :: Carnival of Souls
  • CD :: Thisco/Fonoteca
  • . . .

    PORTUGAL :: Talk about ambient minimalism. This single piece is based on a drone composition made for Tom LØberg’s short film The Letter. I haven’t seen the film, but the track just drifts along like the hum of wind on a beach. With the occasional vague rumble it simply goes for distance until the build-up boils a bit. Then some kind of masked feedback lurches forth, blunt at first it snowballs onward. The reeling cacophony renders the former meditative space into complete obliteration as it careens onward like the center of an open-mic’d forest fire –only to keep the steam and let go some gentle trickling water in its wrath. I have to see the film, the suspense Marhaug has built is killing me.

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  • Christopher Bissonnette :: Periphery
  • CD :: Kranky
  • . . . . .

    USA :: A find for Kranky, and the rest of us; Canadian Christopher Bissonnette has not only been a long-standing member of the Thinkbox Collective, he was one of the stand-out performers at Mutek’04. Periphery proves that, and then some. It’s an elegantly drifting work that rides coolly, incorporates a reasonable amount of concentrated microstatic, and is probably the best ambient record of 2005 thus far. These seven lengthy pieces are fully integrated into a long player that will prolong your attention enough to render you sleepless. Or at least on the edge of dreams, even the hiss glides. There’s something about “Comfortable Expectations” that just embodies a quietly deranged organ sermon. It’s subtle, but it’s there. Something lurking, hybrid subliminalisms. This is of the ilk accustomed to from well-oiled practitioners like Biosphere and Troum, with a fresh dash of micro-operetta built right in. You will not find vocals, though the width of the work is endless, bottomless, managing to keep your senses deftly massaged. This will only fall on open ears, as it fades in and out, over and over, with “Substrata” in excess.

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  • Various Artists :: Kning Disk
  • CD :: Kning Disk
  • . . . .

    SWEDEN :: Sweden’s sound keeps developing, with nods to some of the constantly at it folks collected herein, as well as its international guests. Kning Disk is a collection of limited editions of sound-art works from the 60′s to the present (into the future) are presented together, many of which will be made available 500 copies or less. Included in the series are etched lathes, vinyl and other visual work. Ake Hodell’s “General Bussig” is an exhausting range of repetitive voice only phrases that buzzes and bellows and generally couldn’t lose its message, but gets purposefully lost in itself. David Grubbs offers his disturbing “Yellow Sky” to this collection. With its cinematic spoken cut-up samples, the guy yelling “I need a drink” sounds as if it were pulled directly from a stage production about the inebriating loss in the intoxicated self. All of a sudden the silences are annihilated upon the noise-shaping swoosh “shortwave:feed” of Henrik Rylander. It’s a scratchy, textural mélange of ballsy suffocation, like a hornet’s nest whacked with a mallet. Sub-Pop’s Wolf Eyes make a curious appearance on an untitled track that is somewhat introspective for these ultra-thrashy performers. It’s a breathy piece that incorporates a bit of clown-like twisting and churning of objects at their disposal.

    “The Most Powerful Woman in the World” has Leif Elggren playing with tape hiss and poetic lip-speak. The play with the echo box revels in its cheap modality, and has the flavor of romanticizing old technologies, bending the voice ala Laurie Anderson. And who cannot help but love the rubbery treatment of taking a big band record for a ride as Folke Rabe and Jan Bark does on “Ach Chamberlin”? By far the standout track on this collection, by using samples inventively, the swing of it all is instantly questioned, the outsiders’ perspective. It’s a twee inventive mesh of fiddling around with music history in a way that amplifies a bygone era by poking fun at its overt gaiety in a dark round about manner. Augusto de Campos’ uber-short “Eis os amantes” is a playful language lesson in the conquest of the sexes. Kning Disk plays a bit on the intellectual side of the fence, for the art-house listener.

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  • Dale Lloyd and Various Artists :: Amalgam
  • CD :: CONV
  • . . . .

    USA/CANADA :: Canadian team Nathan and Darcy McNinch play on glass objects accompanying Seattle-based composer Dale Lloyd’s sound processing on “412.1413″ sounding like beach chimes in the ocean breeze. The radio-like hiss is a warm warning. The brisk micro-scratching including Omnid is something left-field of Raster-Noton, minus the funk, plus a certain tension. Some of ‘Amalgam’ is custom-made for minimalism purists as parts are barely audible, you may want to choose an outside noise-canceling set of headphones, or simply allow some of the subtleties wash through your own personal space, combined with exteriors, making for your own personalized improv. A standout collaboration comes when Lloyd works with Ben Owen, incorporating wind chimes and various creaky found objects that crunch and spin. It’s slightly menacing, yet plays at a shy distance. The two should venture more extensively. With a softly spoken yet wired-up sensibility in tow, Jon Tulchin brings a sense of vulnerable power electronics to the (turn)table on “412.1920″ keeping all circuit freshly open. Elsewhere the mechanical hiss of machines sounds like the summer buzz of late-night crickets and the revving of large motors, just the hum, mind you. With Heribert Friedl on Hack Brett (some stringed instrument?) there’s an eerie, echoing feedback that is cavernous laying way to a passage of darkness and peculiar pops. “Something wicked, this way comes” (for sure). The drone gurgle of blowing through bamboo startles the senses with a bit of unrest.

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  • Renato Rinaldi :: Hoarse Frenzy
  • CD :: Last Visible Dog
  • . . . 1/2

    USA :: With the door open to my balcony I had to adjust my 7am ears on what I was hearing, real or Memorex, er, I mean, field recordings of morning birds. Renato Rinaldi adds Giuseppe Ielasi into the intro section playing sparse guitar. Rinaldi leaves everything in, the ringing phone, the peaceful strumming of strings, like an abridged folk festival with the interwoven continuous drone of harmonium. Recorded throughout Italy in 2003 it has the inert feel of a traveling show, with some texts spoken from a book by Giorgio Manganelli called “Destarsi” – but, though credited as “underwords” it’s a blurry mumble, added for symbolism I take it. Creaking like that on a ship could, in fact, also be produced by a game or even a rocking chair, but it’s the mystery of not knowing that creates the warmth of the unknown here. The piano is spare and romantic, like a sunny reflection with a light breeze, reminding me of the past. The fact that Hoarse Frenzy uses so many unplugged instruments yet sounds so freshly contemporary with moments of feedback and investigation of smaller objectives is deserving of all the attention it gets. With the multi-tiered mix he has created something that at a point even tears a minor chord page from the book of Aerosmith. Funny but true, though it’s not really funny, there’s a sense of sorrow built into this knowing phrase, which stops abruptly making way for whispers and percussive fuss. Another twist adds a raging organ with a more confident vocal that hedges around what some might hear as polka. But it’s the Earthy qualities that make this such an interesting listen, an inherent playfulness with an otherwise serious overtone to guide it.

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  • Monos :: Landscapes
  • CD :: Twenty-Hertz
  • . . . .

    UK :: Monos (Darren Tate, Paul Bradley, Colin Potter) envelop and shape the particles of sound space they play in with a rich drone that opens like a morning glory. Brisk washes in phased streaks of hushed tones command a presence. Landscapes that are at once as vastly cavernous as they are governed by variants of invisibility. “Entering” (with Robin Barnes) is an ice-cold journey, wrapping around crevices, suspended with an induced sense of vulnerability. It’s an abyss of anticipation. With a moment to exhale, “Surface Form” buzzes into the space, assertively co-owning it. The vibration created is magnified industrial, like what a bulldozer produces at full hertz. And you want to play this “quiet” music nearing top volume to truly appreciate its intimacies as it lifts higher, adds pressure, builds itself to a mass crescendo. With it comes a surround-sound twist of steel structure cavorting in something of a simulated wind tunnel on cue. The mass of sound produced just sits there, like a vibrating ball, twenty or more feet tall. Then all you can imagine is that its been dropped and what Monos has caught is its velocity as it plunges stories below. This would be an apropos soundtrack for film work by installation artist Matthew Barney. Landscapes will play with the cognition of your inner ear if you let it.

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  • Kim Cascone/Domenico Scianjo :: A Book of Standard Equinoxes
  • CD (Ltd. 500) :: (1.8)sec. Records
  • . . .

    CANADA :: This live improvisational document was recorded in Italy and Spain and brings together two seasoned collaborators, Palermo’s Domenico Scianjo and the Bay Area’s Kim Cascone. What exactly is a “standard equinox” you may ask. Certainly celestial, but somehow not your average same-old, these two have created a non-stop hour-long work that drizzles over the senses very subtlety. If you were to imagine yourself flying through the solar system, looking back on Earth, as it becomes a shadowy speck, you probably have opened to the right page in this book, with all the obstacles and various stellar detritus within range. It glistens with the dance of these space particles. Once the duo has landed the familiarity with the buzz of insects keeps their ship grounded, but fueled for flight. This intersection brings about a discourse between beings speaking without any particular tonal recognition, but stating their piece.

    After about forty minutes the layers of sonic build-up churn in diameter, like steel wool on a hard surface, always within aural reach, never flying decibels above our capacity. In the final ten minutes Scianjo and Cascone develop more of a culminated industrial assemblage playing with pitch and texture, even some bubbly water sound effects. Until the whole work plunges into the depths alongside higher pitched tones that are more fit for a climax than a curtain call. In conclusion, however, Cascone’s signature microsound leaves only bits of spacedust to count by hand.

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  • Aidan Baker/Ultra Milkmaids :: At Home With…
  • CD :: Infraction
  • . . . .

    USA :: In three parts Toronto’s Aidan Baker joins the Nantes, France-based duo Ultra Milkmaids (who’ve been at it since 1993). “Part 1 (In the Cube)” is a stinging, reverberating piece with two distinct high and low layers of melancholy drone and unyielding tone. It’s this yin-yang dichotomy that feeds the fire of longevity here, casting a fierce air of nauticalisms. The coy chamber of strings on “Stretched Guitars Lie Slo” don a sense of hallowed hollows, through thick forest, and blown back by a chilly November wind. The chords are low-riders, baring only a repetitive tonal curvature a bit on the shy side as other sound samples are etched to the background like a dusty 8MM filmloop. On the title track the rain-like white noise hiss is the base for a lovely range of rhythms that dangle freely as they experiment with washes of chimes, pops and other fades. Other playful toying around accompanies a haunting whistle, which is distantly friendly, making the listener feel at home, so to speak.

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  • Contagious Orgasm + Zyrtax :: At Home With…
  • CD :: SSSM
  • . . . . 1/2

    JAPAN :: The goings-on here, these loops, are like the infamous chicken/egg conundrum – delicate like tiptoeing through a field of eggshells, while funky chicken undertones menace with the force of its own nature on “Plot Reminder.” Contagious Orgasm who has been churning out counter-sound est. late 80s teams with Zyrtax for something a bit more contemplative than his usual faire. The astonishing apocalyptic sleeve design alone (by artist Yasutoshi Yoshida) is worth the purchase in yen, pounds or otherwise. And the containment of a whole host of sound choreography goes not one less step to impress. The noir percussive renderings on “Plunder Control” are a soundtrack for the Japanese underground. There is a quirky resemblance to the suspicion that Godzilla isn’t too far off on “The Stench of Lies” no matter how tongue-in-cheek that may seem. A tribute to both topsy-turvy population explosion with homage to b-horror flicks it’s paced intentionally full of a building angst. Someone once said, “the sky is out”. Cars, guitars, Mars (?) this record has everything from feedback to riveting warble to inverted quantified sonic suction. Daffy Duck seemingly makes a twee appearance on “Touch Me” or some animated semblance thereof. It’s most certainly whacky (not spelled slapstick), but that’s a big part of the allure of ‘DNA Loops’. The pitter-patter tiny percussion over a howling, almost yodel on And Alone…” is something that has one foot in video gaming and the other indulging in the spirit of microsound. The bells and whistles continually go off, but they don’t make us suffer through one boring repetitive riff after another, even when re-introducing some of the same samples, it’s all done exquisitely with a sense of collage artistry. On “The Stairway Continues” the team seems submerged in a watery tunnel. It’s got a Morse Code thing going on, and a drip-drip-drip beat, without invoking anything bodily except natural curiosity.

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  • Adam Sonderberg :: Anoxia (mix by Paul Bradley)
  • CD :: Twenty-Hertz / Longbox
  • . . . 1/2

    UK/USA :: An intimate, almost private recording by Adam Sonderberg with a micro-ambient opening, a bare tone with some extremely minimal, yet intent gestures. Vague washes of finite textural surface noise grows quite organically with the phasing of field recordings and meditative drone. The bell tolls as the vibrating plane it sits on shifts like tectonic plates. Combining these elements forms a hypnotic state of being for the listener, a cold shot to the blood pressure. The mix buzzsaws its way to greater heights, pouring different and finer surface noise that could be a filtered river or even a sandstorm, but most likely Sonderberg is up to studio mischief, dragging and documenting his motions.

    ::..:::…..:..::….:::::..:::..:::::::……:::…::.:::….::::..:..:::…::…….::::

  • Current 93 :: How I Devoured Apocalypse Balloon
  • 2CD :: United Jnana
  • . . . .

    CANADA :: In another gothic fairytale, this time live with audience in an Anglican Church, David Tibet, Simon Finn, John Contreras and others performed as Current 93. Some enchanted evening was shared by the sound of it. Stringed instruments, uprights and other classical instruments breed melodies, refined and sweet to the people of Toronto. David speaks in a Colonial poetic tone of blood, death and eternity, the atmosphere is not as dark as usual, quite enlightened actually. Their quirky tales have the feel of contemporary folky gothica, with a quietude that wallows low in transcendent tones. Singing about the “durth that covers Earth” has such apocalyptic connotations, wastelands of mossy covered spaces once inhabited, fallen into decay and debauchery. The emotional vision of “How I Devoured Apocalypse Balloon” is moody, shifting nervously from song to song. At times parading, masquerading like in procession, discussing topics of aging and its ability to crack the powers of all men. The audience, obviously enraptured, patiently wait for the very last note before showing their appreciation with majesty.

    Disc two opens with a foggy, almost snoring drone and melancholy rhythms that are perturbed and lonely. Something of a story about classic lost souls –a sorrowful account in this man’s voice when “even death is better than this useless life.” For a moment I am overwhelmed by the alliteration of it all, but they build up the theatrics momentarily long enough only to break its back in one swoop. There are tender moments in the Sun here, through the court of death and worry, when Tibet sings of waving soft landscapes and comets, “when we were so young”. If you listen as if it’s the last voice you will ever hear, you will not hear anything at all – however listen very closely and the story will invert your senses for a while.

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  • The Hafler Trio :: Being A Firefighter Isn’t Just About Squirting Water
  • CD :: Important
  • . . .

    USA :: This is part of the ongoing series of CD EPs put out by Important. All presented in nicely hand printed silver and black sleeves with simple designs and a special numbered edition with a photo inside. This one has a lil’ blond boy by the ocean side from the back looking down into a pool of rocks with a crystal blue sky ahead. Peaceful and distant. Being A Firefighter Isn’t Just About Squirting Water finds H30 in a full ambient drone. A mind-meld massage in one part. This part of the series, that is. It’s like a fluorescent light in the distance. High pitched, braided patterns float effortlessly towards the end of this 20 minute miracle.

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