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Vital Weekly 519

img  Tobias

These two new releases on the Cold Blue label arrive on what might be the very first day of spring, at least here in The Netherlands. It's the perfect day for it: cold and blue, with lots of sunny. Looking from the inside out, it seems perhaps a bit like San Francisco, where Cold Blue and many of their composers hail from. The first release is a new work by Chas Smith, a composer to invent his own instruments and plays his works on them. I discovered him years ago trough a sale on some of his early records, which I thought were beautiful examples of minimal music, played on guitars, using reverb and such like, working their way on the overtones. Later on I thought some of his works were a bit less interesting, but this new work 'Descent' is certainly quite nice again. Still far away from his old work, these three pieces use such instruments as a stainless steel sheet, Copper Box, steel guitar, jet planes and flutes. All knitted together by Chas Smith, merging all of these sounds together in a highly ambient work, which I must say sounds surprisingly darker than most of the releases on Cold Blue. Sunshine is not very present here, except in the lighter final piece 'False Clarity' (but who knows: that might be a prophetic title), but these a grim times anyway. Quite a powerful release.
The other new release is a re-issue of a LP that was released by Cold Blue in the 1984 (the first incarnation of the label) and is by Daniel Lentz, who still releases music on the label. The opening piece sounds very classical in 2006: it's a vocal (with the addition of keyboards) piece along the lines of Micheal Nyman or Steve Reich, slowly drifting and shifting apart from each-other. The next piece is for no less than twenty-five wine-glasses, which is slowly drifting piece of resonating sounds, and it will later turn out the highlight of the album. The highly romantic title cut is, despite it's conceptual side not well spend on me. So is the more lively 'Wolf Is Dead', which is better, but not great either. Both lack the surprise of the first piece. The sad final piece 'Requiem' is also perhaps a bit too much of a romantic cliche, sounding a bit like Enya, but it's short and to the point (and doesn't have the same structure as real requiem). So apart from the first two pieces, I must say I have rather a mixed feeling about it. A five out of ten rating, I'd say.

The name Reinhold Friedl might not be well-known as such, but if you know that he is the founder of the Zeitkratzer Ensemble, performing works by Lou Reed, Francisco Lopez and Merzbow, to name but a few and also the many records he released himself, than a few bells may ring. He plays piano on this new release, which he recorded together with Micheal Vorfeld, a percussion player as-well as a builder of string instruments, whose work is more along the lines of electro-acoustic music, than anything improvisation. A piano has strings too on the inside, so together they decided to explore the world inside the piano and the vibrations of the percussion. In the opening piece, 'Pech', they sound very much like Organum circa 'In Extremis'. Beautiful drones, almost piercingly loud, and working with a rich and changing variety of overtones. This is what they also do in the final track, in an even more 'just not' rightly piercing way. In between these tracks we find the more rhythmical 'Keks' piece, which has the sound of sparkles being set of (or so it seems) and playing the cymbals. Overtones are played here too, but I found in a somewhat less interesting way. The first and third track would have made up a great record, me thinks, and whereas the second piece is not bad at all, it seems a bit out of place. But throughout a strong release. (FdW)

Although Matthew Florianz' work was reviewed before, it was part of a group work, and a long time ago; and not by me. So these two albums are introductions to his work. I assume he is Dutch of Belgium, looking at his titles, even when his name doesn't sound too Dutch. He plays ambient with the big A, and his music was used by various 'airline in-flight entertainment programmes... also been successfully licensed or corporate clients, including US Healtcare firm Remodulin' - yuck me thinks. Must be dreadful music, but 'GrijsGebied' ('grey area') a re-issue of a 2001 album is actually much better than aural wallpaper. A dark wall of synthesizer, feeding and looping through a bunch of sound effects, with an occasional tinkle on the piano. Nicely dark this album, thus defying the whole new age thing that we would find in elevators. Florianz' latest album is 'Niemandsland' (nowhere land), and maybe things changed? They did, but not for the worse. Apparently Florianz is now incorporating field recordings in his music, which are hard to recognize as such (although the cover indicates them as streets), but the music is throughout a fine example of dark ambient music, with here and there quite a chilling moment, like the processed sound of a rusty wheel. But it's all embedded in this vast amount of truly dark music. Tracks flow into each-other and tell a story, the story of going to the nowhere land and back. Between each track there is the sound of traffic, transporting the listener to a new place. A nice album, again. For those who love their ambient a bit more daring and exciting, this is one to check out. (FdW)

Yeah, right, a album of ballads by these two renowned noise artists? Hegre, member of Jazzkammer and The Golden Serenades among others and Ratkje of Fe-Mail as-well as a bunch of improvised music projects, doing an album of ballads? Yes, it's true and it's great. They carefully play acoustic objects and hardly use any electronics. Sometimes the elements are looped, forming a block of repetitive sound, sometimes there is a far away sound of sound processing. But that is far away, almost hidden in the mix. Soft electro-acoustic music, crafted into songs, rather than lengthy improvisations. It's already beautiful material, but the best is saved to the end: 'Hammock Moods' has a looped guitar, loose sounds but every once in a while there is a soft melody in the background, which even might be called romantic. An almost epic piece, which alone would be the reason to get this album. This is noise with the big N, and this is the future of noise music. Excellent! (FdW)

(CD by Komplott)
It's been about a year without a new Ronnie Sundin CD, whereas in the past he produced many new works. I have no idea why this is, although the information gives some indication: 'a nomadic lifestyle of moving to a new flat every second year, about deeding children and getting lost in occult references and religious doubts, about growing a beard'. Perhaps Sundin has different interests and occupations these days? I also read something about using the recording of ones own voice, so perhaps this album contains just the sound of Sundin's voice, or perhaps voices of others. Like so many of his works, 'The Amateur Hermetic' is just one track, just over forty minutes, and like the previous 'Hagring' (see Vital Weekly 461), this isn't exactly a work of silence and careful crackling, none of the glitch material. But Sundin goes a step further. 'Hagring' had silence in between the various parts of the work, but here he plays an extended piece of drone related material, that is however always forcefully present, but it never gets to the point of complete 'noise'. Sundin builds a clever work, all based on highly processed voice material, which can hardly be recognized as such. Sometimes operating as a dark cloud, sometimes the various elements sparkle of into the wild, but a moment of silence, in the micro-sound sense of the word, is not to be found in here. Although this work might be easier to be accessed as 'Hagring', it's also quite difficult to say what he wants. The listener is shut outside and has to make up his own story to the material. It's hermetically closed. That is however not a problem at all. It leaves much room for suggestion by the listener to find in here whatever he or she thinks is right. Quite strange, but captivating. Sundin once again pulled a new trick out of his hat. (FdW)

SPIELEREI - PUBLIX (CD by Databloem)
Just two weeks ago we reviewed a whole bunch of new CDR releases on Databloem, which is now followed by a new CD by Spielerei. I must admit I am bit clueless as to why Databloem releases Grassow on CDR and Spielerei on CD, but perhaps it has to do with the fact that Spielerei is Dennis Knopper, he who controls the label. Whatever, me thinks. I remember meeting Knopper ages ago, being a serious young man interested in things synthesizer. Over the years he developed his interests from old masters such as Klaus Schulze and Tangerine Dream, via Pete Namlook and (old) Biosphere to the more recent ambient techno of Pub, Waki and Vir Unis. All of these influences, spanning thirty years of melodic and rhythmic synthesizer music, are used by him in his work 'Publix'. And it's surely a fine work indeed, leaning more towards Schulze to Biosphere than to the latter ambient techno. Synthesizers with the arpeggio buttons working over time is what we get here. Highly atmospheric music in the best cosmic tradition, which means nothing new under the sun, but nevertheless this is well executed. (FdW)

IVERSEN/SOUND_00 (7" by Dirty Demos)
Late last month and early this month the Norwegian duo of Bjerga and Iversen were on tour in the low countries, but sadly I missed them (even when I am probably one of the few people to hear their music around here) due to other commitments. Special for this tour they released a tour benefit CDR, which is a collection of various shorter bits and pieces they had lying around. Normally Bjerga/Iversen play much longer tracks, so it's interesting to see what they do when things are much shorter, see if it works too. It does. Taking a quicker curve to built tracks in their usual psychedelic noise fashion works well. The guitars are played with ebows or violin bows, fed through half-broken sound effects, producing a sound that is alike fire, and sometimes some distortion, but throughout they maintain their trademark sound. Very nice, once again.
From the same Iversen, Jan-M, there is a collection of tracks that he released as MP3s in the past, as-well as a few previously unreleased tracks. It's almost eighty minutes long, but Iversen suggests to put this on your computer and put the tracks you like in a play-list and forget about the rest. Of course, naive as I am, I played this from beginning to end. Iversen is a man to produce much music, perhaps too much, and of a varying quality. Sometimes noise related, but only on a few spots. Iversen's usual interest lies in more ambient territories, albeit of a darker and more experimental kind. Sometimes tracks are without much structure or idea and drag on too much, but sometimes he's witty and to the point. The liner notes are surely fun to read.
On a different label, Iversen releases I believe his first piece of vinyl, a collaboration with Sound_00, aka Toni Dimitrov, aka Every Kid On Speed/Acid. They exchanged sound files back and forth and the first four results are on this 7" (other pieces to come on a compilation by Dirty Demos and on their website). Sound_00 provided some loud, gritty, laptop based music in the past, but perhaps it's the Iversen influence that keeps the noise reduced here. The four pieces are excellent displays of microsound of a rather darker than dark nature, with occasional rhythmic elements and likewise bits of repeating noise. Quite strong material.
And the onto the non-Iversen releases, as Tib Prod is a busy label, producing many items. They do mainly CDRs and MP3 releases, but in the past they released a real 3" CD by Tore Honore Boe and Emmanuel Mieville (see Vital Weekly 468). The same Emmanuel Mieville now releases a new CDR release on Tib Prod, but for whatever reasons unclear to me his previous piece of the 3"CD is also included here. Lack of new pieces? Mieville studied with Phillippe Mion and Jacques Lejeune, and is in general the more serious composer. Like before (hard to avoid if tracks double), his material moves alongside the more serious electro-acoustic, acousmatiq composers, usually lurking about in the INA/GRM studios and releasing their works on Empreintes Digitalis. Before I wrote that I would needed to hear more to form a better judgement, but now that I heard some more I must say that it's something rather too normal, too sterile for me. It's by no means bad, but like with so many other examples of this music, it is also too distant, too cold.
Behind Deadwood is Adam Baker, not to be confused with Aidan Baker. This Baker is from the UK and he runs the Dirty Demos label. His 3" CDR release has five tracks of computerized music. Long live the age of plug-ins. Baker puts in whatever sound, and then keeps on treating them until he has something that he likes. He puts all of these sounds together into something that is quite a nice form of collated music, but throughout misses out to have something of it's own. Or perhaps, better, at least a bit of something that he calls his own. Now it sounds too much like so many other things in this already overcrowded musical arena. (FdW)

The complete "Vital Weekly" is available at: Vital Weekly

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