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Vital Weekly 521

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BRIAN UZNA - COMBAT SHOCK (CDR by Einzeleinheit)
These two new releases on Germany's Einzeleinheit both deal with rhythm, but both in a slightly different way. Behind Compest we find Martin Steinebach, who is also out man behind Stillstand, Monoid and Conscientia Peccati (although I never heard that one), and each had it's own sound characteristics. In Compest however he throws them all together, the ambience of Stillstand and the rhythms of Monoid and whatever from Conscientia Peccati and the result is pseudo ethnic/tribal percussive music, heavy loaded ambient synths and dark samples. It's has the influences of Rapoon, Muslimgauze, Internal Fusion or Desaccord Majeur, to mention a few which pop to mind right away. Sometimes Compest knows how turn it around to give it's own twist, but sometimes he is a too much of copycat. It surely appeals to the more daring lovers of Ant-Zen related music, or the dark ambient crowd that likes something rocking and banging, even when it's just occasionally.
Apparently Brian Uzna worked three years on his debut 'Combat Shock', combining his influences from classical music to glitch and everything in between (sounds like 500 years of music history). Originally he had two different album concepts, one experimental and one 'catchy' one. I am not sure why in the end it's one album, combining both, but surely there is a good reason for it. 'Combat Shock' is indeed a pretty varied album, leaning towards various sides of rhythm oriented music, and I must say I rather like the more experimental/ambient side of things, than the sometimes too straight forward techno inspired music of some of the other tracks. It's however a nice mixture of these styles, guaranting the listener not to get bored. Some people make think it's a bit too varied and that Uzna should make up his mind in which style to continue, but I don't think that necessary. It's nice enough as it is. (FdW)

Perhaps I said it before, but I am never too tired to repeat myself: I love minimal music. The classical minimal music. Ever since I was fifteen and first got hold of a 3LP set by Steve Reich, 'Drumming'. Around the same time I heard bits of Phill Niblock's music and was attracted to his even more minimal approach. 'Four Full Flutes', where he creates pieces of music played on flutes, by chopping out the breathing, and creates a vast, sustaining sound, was a highly influential work for me. Ever since I am a keen follower of his work, and this new 3CD set is just an overwhelming release. The idea is very simple, for each of the pieces on this CD. Recorded a few tones of one instrument, remove the breathing, leaving the decay and then change the pitch on some of the sounds. Then Niblock starts to layer these tracks, usually somewhere between 24 and 32 tracks. No other electronic processing was done to these recordings. Among the instruments used here we find cello, acoustic guitar with e-bow, recorders, alto/soprano/baritone saxophones, trumpet and viola. A typical Niblock piece lasts between 20 and 22 minutes. All clear, neat and simple? Then why release three CDs, nine tracks in total? They probably all sound the same anyway? Well, of course it less simple and of course it sounds different. The CD open with 'Sethwork' (check out Phill's website for the correct order of the tracks on CD one!), which is almost classical Phill Niblock: sustained tones, with hardly a pause and apparently played on 'acoustic, unamplified guitars with e-bow'. A continuos deep hissing (for the lack of a better word) sound. This is how Niblock sounded when I first heard his music, almost twenty-five years ago. Compared that with 'Harm', also on the first CD, which is a work for cello (which is one of Niblock's beloved instruments). Now here the sounds are highly sustained too, but in stead of one mighty block of sound, it almost sounds orchestral, with the sounds coming in and out of the mix. Two totally different approaches to the same technique. With a slight adjustment, leaving some space at the beginning and end of each sound, Niblock adds on 'Parker's Altered Mood, aka, Owed To Bird', the sound of inhaling breath (in order to play the alto saxophone), which add yet another dimension to this music. Maybe playing all three CDs in this set is a bit much, but I did it, and I must say time disappeared as this overwhelming unfolded little by little. Simply the best Niblock statement thus far, the most complete one. (FdW)

AFFLUX - BORDEAUX TNT (CD by Alluvial Recordings)
Your ear is an excellent microphone. Imagine to be in a crowded place, close your eyes and listen. You will pay attention to detailed sounds around you, simply because your mind allows you to ignore the surrounding sounds, those you don't want to hear. Afflux does something like that, except that they use real microphones and contact microphones in a location. TNT cultural centre in Bordeaux is apparently a big building with a bar/restaurant, offices, concert space and a top floor. Afflux attached many contact microphones to all of these places and they were connected to a 32 channel mixer and the resultant mix was played over eight speakers in the concert half. The whole concert lasted six hours. Afflux is the collaboration of Eric Cordier, Jean-Luc Guionnet and Eric La Casa, all three composers in their own right. From the six hours of recordings, Eric La Casa edited this fifty one minute CD, with just one piece. We hear sounds that we recognize, like people talking, the elevator, maybe the coffee machine, but they all appear to be far away, or embedded in a strange environment - maybe like we would hear this when we would inside such a big environment ourselves, but now the ears don't select: the selection has been made for us, by La Casa. Our ears are now focussed on this CD, and not the rain outside, or own coffee machine. This makes this into quite a strange listening affair, since we recognize the daily sounds that we would always recognize but also all these other sounds. It makes this however not an uneasy affair, but rather a fascinating one: what are these sounds, and where are they going to? It's a highly captivating soundscape that is captured here. Not so much with a 'story' or a 'composition', but ambient music in the true meaning of the word: music made of the ambience. Gorgeous music. (FdW)


(CD/DVD by Carpark)
The multi-media man. That is what Takagi Masakatsu is. He is a classically trained pianist, a multimedia documentarian and an art-gallery exhibiting jet-setter. For 'Journal For People' he travelled the world and recorded people's everyday lives and back home this is transformed into music and video, but with the addition of piano sounds, raw and processed. It's not difficult to guess that this falls inside the world glitchy ambient music. Tinkling, sometimes stutter piano sounds, a bit of birds, a small girl singing and the unclear sounds of whatever was recorded in the field - which is harder to guess since it's highly transformed. It's music that walks common paths for sure, but it's also really nice to hear. It's sweet with no sudden outburst, it's recognizable, i.e. there is not just abstract sound processing and it's delicate. Well produced, a true treat for tired ears. And tired eyes, probably, since it comes with a DVD that holds nine films to nine (out of thirteen) pieces of music on the CD. It works in pretty much the same way: Masakatsu films events of daily life and processes them, by color filtering and looping. Clouds, a luna park, water, people (roller-) skating, children jumping or sometimes simply too difficult to recognize. It's unclear wether the action we see is also what we hear, but it's of less importance. I watched bits without listening to the sound and than it may seem a bit too much of a flicker movie, but with sound things are much calmer and maintains the sweetness of music and movie much better. Quite relaxing. (FdW)

It's been three years since Barbara Morgenstern's last CD 'Nichts Muss', and our lady of electro-pop didn't spend this doing nothing. She worked with Robert Lippock and Stefan Schneider, but also did a world tour, hence the title 'The Grass Is Always Greener', meaning things seem always better somewhere else, and not at the place where one is. Some of the songs deal with life on the road, or impressions of cities and situations in other countries, but sometimes it's not related at all with anything doing with life on the road, like songs about growing old. Morgenstern sings with her usual warm voice and likewise warm synthesizer music. Morgenstern uses uptempo drum patterns, which is sometimes getting dam fine close to real pop-music, although it's a bit hard to see the top ten hit among this lot. However I wouldn't be surprised it a top ten hit lies in reach for Morgenstern in the near future. I like good pop-music, mainly older stuff, but in the case of Barbara Morgenstern: she the good exception that the pop-music I like is still made today and it sounds great. (FdW)

GREGORY BÜTTNER - EVERY (3"CDR by 1000Füssler)
The word 'every' in the title, and thus of the three pieces on this 3"CDR, relate to the Depeche Mode 'Everything Counts', one my favorite Depeche Mode pieces. Gregory Büttner hails from Hamburg where he is an active member on the local experimental music scene, as-well as running his 1000Füssler label and being one half of Für Diesen Abend. His previous solo release was reviewed in Vital Weekly 459. For this new release he uses just one source: a girl named Peggy singing the Depeche Mode piece. Play the first two pieces on this release without knowing this, and you couldn't tell. In the short final piece things become clear. That last one is a nice short piece of pure voice processing, whilst the original is there to be recognized, but none so in the first two pieces. Here a voice seems far away. Sounds flow nicely along in a simple, forward, but majestical way. The voice is probably fed through a whole bunch of plug ins, but the end result is what counts. In terms of micro-sound this is pretty neat affair, even when as such nothing much new seems to taken place in that area. A fine, solid work. (FdW)

Perhaps the name Mark McLaren doesn't say much, but he's the cofounder of the MP3/CDR label Sijis Records and released, as Mutton Deluxe, on his own label (not reviewed in Vital Weekly). After talking and discussing ideas with various people, including Francisco Lopez, Yannick Dauby and Chris Watson, he explores in this new work the relationship between songs and found sound. The starting point was a list of 'top ten' records from last year by one Jerilyn Jordan. 'Various processes were used to remove and obscure instrumental and vocal traces. These residues were then combined with concrete music, hertzian textures and sounds which can only be remembered but never recorded' it reads some cryptically on the website. 'Environmental sounds recorded in Portugal and Estonia'. A bit clueless here what the top ten list has to do with it, or where it comes in, but the piece is certainly a nice mixture of many layered field recordings and obscured processes of, well perhaps, music. Over the course of the piece, things move field recordings very gradually into the world of pure electronic sound processing. It's a nice piece of soundscaping meeting microsound and luckily not one of 'barely there' music, but quite direct in y'r face. Nice stuff. (FdW)

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