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Vital Weekly 530

img  Tobias

Recorded at Extrapool in the Summer of '04 'Fflux' begins as a warm wash of punctuated beats, layered under the radar. It's repetitively funky and subtle at the same time. The two blend a sense of microstatic. This is just shy of ambivalent dance music. "Fix" has a crunchy echo and hiss that sort of trips over itself clumsily, but where it goes, in its drunken state is actually fascinating to listen to. You can't help sticking with it - with its basic tactility and sparseness.  It's like a lost cart weaving its way down a hill. Lots of raspy, reedy goings-on meld especially well on "Fax" in something almost tribally minimal and built on beats. Then the dub comes as "Prax" prances with gyrating croaking and vague steely rhythms that play spin like a wheel in and out of the aural foreground.  And then there is the propeller-like staccato creeping through "Lux". This disc is chock-full of very pointed, moving sounds, out of time, it's marching and robotic one moment and something to mellow out to in the next, but remains very physical music throughout. (TJ Norris)

Coming full circle, in for a landing, once again, is the enhanced re-issue of the classic Hafler Trio 'Seven Hours Sleep'. Recorded in Belgium back in 1985 (on the L.A.Y.L.A.H. imprint) Andrew McKenzie sheds a mixture of sinister sound space with layers of reverent zen antidotes. Between the chant of a street crowd perhaps trapped behind a metal fence, then the rustling through an airport, we are then transported to the vortex of nature by way of wide open whispers. Stirring murmurs and low-fi grunting are superimposed in a dance of hypnotic sense-a-round. These hours we sleep, are filled with aching dreams of falling, deeper and deeper through galaxies. In just under one hour this longplay tale is told in shortened, dronish vignettes that deal in a series of tactile percussion and vibration. The voices are peculiar, some angry and others gagged through blur and distortion. The definitive farm animals are the call of the wild through a mysterious psychedelic haze, warped into a variant of musicality.    Over and through this seems like randomly sewn together recordings of various events caught on tape by a roving audio voyeur (planes, circus, farm...). For this reason the overture is quite dada in context. When silences creep into the work there are suddenly bellowing creeks and distant bells, subtle and flatulent, the air is clear again. For slumber, this is a pretty restless night of bent dreams, peppered with a rumbling cacophony of raw vision. The kettle whistles like an aircraft, children play like angry tribesmen. Still there are the seductive moments we've grown accustomed to in other collaborative pieces with Annie Sprinkle and others,  but someone's let the gases free, and they are filling up this chamber causing blindspots and mayhem. 'Seven Hours Sleep' plays like a parenthetical excerpt of several sci-fi soundtracks played backwards in slow motion, but at times you can only hear the mechanics, rather than the actual content. A test for the active listener in all of us. This rendition is lusciously packaged with images made by Ben Ponton, a poster, embedded PDF files. A brilliant re-mastering by Korm Plastics undoing the wrongs previously made by the house of Mute (and lovingly dedicated to Tony Jackson). (TJ Norris)

(CD by Soul On Rice)
TOM DJLL - SMUDGE (CD by Soul On Rice)
If there is one trumpetplayer of whom it is fair to say he makes use of extended techniques, it is Tom Djll. For the last twenty years he explicitly worked on developing and extending the possibilities of the trumpet, in acoustic but also in electro-acoustic directions. Consequently he acquired a great vocabulary on this instrument, and is able to derive a wide array of sounds and noises coming from the trumpet for his compositions. No surprise that both solo cds are evidence of this. Djll never seemed to be in a hurry in making known his research to the public. But now the time has come. "Bellerophone" and "Smudge" are his first solo albums. Both are culmination's of his long time work. But first a few words Djll himself. He (trumpet, electronics, composer) is one those numerous artists that work in the San Francisco Bay Area. He did his studies at Berkley School of Music, Mills College, and other places. His collaborations and projects are many, but his presence on vinyl and cd seems to be limited. Vital Readers may remember the review of Moe! Staiano's MOE!KESTRA! - "Two Forms of Multitudes: Conducted Improvisations" (Pax/Edgetone). Plus the fantastic 'Signs of Life' album by Jack Wright, Matt Ingalls, Bhob Rainey and Tom Djll (Spring Garden Music).
For both solo cds Djll grouped his work into two sections. "Bellerophone" has trumpet and (non electronic) preparations. On "Smudge" on the other hand, Djill makes use of analog synthesizer (track 2, 3, 4) and digital processing (track 1, 5,6,7). Tracks 2, 3 and 4 were completed in the years 1988-1991. The other pieces were recorded in 2005-2006. In these years Djill also made recordings for "Bellerophone". "Smudge" contains trumpet-driven experimental electronic pieces. At moments the use of trumpet has to be believed, and cannot be heard. The charming composition "Covalents" may be exception here. In a piece like "Patima" that starts like an electronic drone piece of krautrock allure, the trumpet is mutated beyond recognition. But maybe the trumpet is not the soundsource in all cases. In earlier pieces like "Exfoliate" recorded around 1990, the old-fashionedness of the electronic sounds is striking, although this does not influence the works negatively. In "Split" electronics and trumpet are intertwined in a way that reminded me of what Pauline Oliveros did with accordeon and electronics (long extended notes). Improvisations on "Bellerophone" are very colorful and detailed, but they reveal their beauty only during concentrated listening. Whistling, growling, blustering, etc. Djll blows his abstract sound poems into our ears. If you are not very fond of solo albums "Road Signs" may be the thing for you. In two different trio line ups we hear Tom Djll (trumpet and preparations) and Jack Wright (saxophones) together with Bhob Rainey (soprano saxophone) in two tracks, and with Tim Feeney (percussion & amplifications) in one other recording. Recordings were made during two different tours in 2002 and 2005. These high quality improvisations are more close to modern chamber music then to jazzmusic. In each improvisation the musicians take their time to develop slowly their research into sound and texture. With their concentrated playing they create a solemn and restrained atmosphere. So, at the end of these lines I make a bow for these gentlemen: great music! (Dolf Mulder)


(CD by Deafborn)
Without wanting to place Deafborn Records in one particular corner of the musical spectrum, 'dark' and 'atmospheric' are certainly two key-words. I never heard of Melanchoholics, which is a three piece group of Benedikt on guitars, Philip on bass and Lutz on electronics. Their previous interests lie in Death/Grind/Heavy metal and industrial and noise, but none of these influences are shown on 'A Single Act Of Carelessness', which is their second CD, after the self-titled, self-released CD from 2003. In 2001 they got together, discussing 'dark and solitudous sound atmospheres' and started jamming around. They probably do that a lot, since this CD shows a mature sound. The alienated, desolated soundscape of a post nuclear landscape is what is unfolded before our very eyes. Empty industrial sites, dark clouds, a thunder - the fine ingredients of a good nightmare or perhaps the storyboard of a b-movie entitled 'the last man on earth and his wanderings' (sorry that didn't sound very hollywood like). The guitar is plucked, a dark wall of synths and feedback hoover in the background and we hear the sound of highly polluted water running down the drainpipes. The album doesn't very hopeful, nor any where near melancholic. What would they long for? The cross-over between ambient and industrial has been made before, by many (Illusion Of Safety's during the late 80s period spring to mind here), but Melanchoholics translate the sound pretty well to a new millennium. (FdW)

Even when Steve Roach and Loren Nerell met in Los Angeles in 1981, 'Terraform' is the first collaboration between the two. For Nerell is the newer name of the two, even when his name popped up in the early days of Vital Weekly. 'Taksu' (Vital Weekly 386) was my first proper introduction to him. Steve Roach on the other never was properly introduced by a solo recording in Vital Weekly, for reasons I don't know, but he came as we reviewed CDs on such labels as Hypnos, Side Effects and with artists such as Jorge Reyes and Vidna Obmana. When I opened the package and saw the names of the musicians, I thought I was going for an ambient head trip for the next sixty or so minutes. But it was not, much to my surprise. At least not in the sense that I thought it would be. It's spacious, it's lenghty, but also much more experimental than I would have anticipated, most certainly in the somewhat atonal 'Ecopoiesis', in which a lot of similar but different layers move about in a slightly
disharmonious way. But 'Texture Wall', which lasts nearly thirty minutes, brings back the wall of sound ambience, with chirping insects (or perhaps they are just another batch of analogue synths), which is darker than life, but wanderings through spacious themes. This daring combination of 'real' ambient vs 'a bit more experimental' works quite well on this CD. It doesn't necessarily mean that the world of ambient music is changed over with this, as what Roach and Nerell does so finely on this CD, is also done by others and they move on similar grounds altogether, but these masters do a more than excellent job here. With the weather today at least being as hot as an average day in Arizona (where Roach lives), one can do nothing but lie back and let this mass of sound flow uninterrupted. (FdW)

On the day the newspaper tells me Gyorgi Ligeti is dead, I see him referenced in the press message for the CD by Alan Sparhawk. It made me think to play Ligeti again. Just a wild guess: I don't think that any other solo instrument got more CDs than the guitar. It's just a guess. The press blurb says its 'in the vein of underground stars like Aarktica & Reynols as well as guitar heroes like Eddie van Halen (incidentally hailing from the very same town as Vital Weekly). Alan Sparhawk, of Low fame (to some, not here, ever since I heard their cover of Joy Division's 'Transmission'), plays guitar in an improvised manner and adds a high dose of reverb to the sound, 'allowing a greater immediacy'. But the reverb is used simply too much, making it very high end like, and creating an artificial depth, rather than a bass depth. I must say the reverb builds to large walls of sound, but it also ruins the music, which could have perhaps been 'warm' and 'intimate', if the choice of sound effects would have been more delicate. Van Halen returns in 'Eruption by Eddie van Halen', but instead of the original super fast, Sparhawk slows it down, letting each note die out, before turning an engine on. A bit like Low did to 'Transmission'. Next time a real solo guitar, please, and not a duet of reverb and guitar.
Of much more interest is Vlor. It started out in 1992 by Brian John Mitchell (of Remora) and Russel Halasz, playing acoustic guitars and releasing two EPs. They separated in 1998 when Halasz moved to Florida. In 2005 Mitchell was compiling a 'best of rare material' and thought he missed doing music as Vlor. So he recorded ninety minutes of guitar riffs and sent it to six different friends, asking them to complete them as songs. These six are Jon DeRosa (of Aarktica), Mike vanPortfleet of Lycia, Nathan Amundsun (Rivulets), Jessica Bailiff, Jesse Edwards (of Red Morning Chorus) and Paolo Messere (6 P.M.). Each of these players added a trademark of their own, such as violin, vocals, keyboards, more guitars and harmonium. You could think that this would lead to a very diverse bunch of tracks, that holds somewhere in between a remix and a rework, but there is a strong coherency among the twelve pieces. Firmly rooted in the more experimental corner of postrock, melancholy is lurking about in every track. Sometimes it stays close to the original minimal playing of Mitchell, but things work best when they are expanded into the format of a real song, with extended instrumentation. Though post rock is by itself a dead end, music wise, the Vlor is more than well crafted, a labour of love and friendship. (FdW)

A while ago I was going through a box of old cassettes, seeing which ones I really liked still, and which ones I could transfer to MP3 for podplaying. I picked out, among others, a short tape by Holger Hiller and Thomas Fehlmann. I bought this tape in 1981 or 1982 and it didn't play too well after all these years. That was a pity, since I really liked it and would have loved to pod it. It's short, twelve minutes only (six per side) and it deals with a music piece written by Paul Hindemith in 1930 as a music piece for children. Like many artists (music and visual) Hindemith liked doing 'new art' for children and in this piece the children were at the central. The children build a city, one becomes a dentist, another one the butcher, people arrive with the dog or parrot. People arrive by car, train or walking in the new city and it's about stuff happening at school. A piece deals with hygiene, washing cloths. In the end thieves arrive, to steal watches and even young dogs, but they get caught and thrown into prison. Ten tracks in total, all very short and to the point. I don't know which instruments are mentioned in the original score of Hindemith, but Fehlmann and Hiller (who knew each-other back then from the Hamburg art academy, they were present on 'Das Ist Schönheit' 2LP, before forming Palais Schaumburg) replace all the instruments by synthesizers and vocals. And still, after twenty five years, it sounds great. Electro-like but in a very childish manner, simple melodies, lovely lyrics (unfortunately for some, not me, in German), very down to earth, but there is a sense of futurism in the original work, that probably comes out much better now with the synthesizers and vocoded voices. It hasn't aged a single bit. We have to bow to Gagarin for releasing this on LP, for me the best re-issue so far this year. Still not easy to convert to MP3, but let's hope for CD release in the future. (FdW)

BASS COMMUNION - LOSS (LP by Soleilmoon Records)
No trouble was left out to make this LP into a truly lovely thing: printing on beautiful paper, a small booklet that looks like small photo album, with photo's separately glued in, and held together with a cord. It looks all 'old', even when of course it's fake old. And it's scented, unfortunately for this delicate nose. Steven Wilson is perhaps to the readers mostly well-known as Bass Communion, in the 'real' world he is mostly known as the main man behind Porcupine Tree, to some the band that sounds like Pink Floyd, the way they should sound in these days. I didn't keep up with all of the Bass Communion releases (which also spans various collaborations, such as with Vidna Obmana, Jonathan Coleclough, Colin Potter and Muslimgauze), so somewhere along the lines I missed 'Ghosts On Magnetic Tape', his album about Electronic Voice Phenomena, or the way the dead communicate with the living through recorded media. 'Loss' is an extension of that, creating a ghost-like soundtrack. Steven Wilson uses an upright piano, a vibraphone and old 78 RPM records and no synthesizers or electronics, which is hard to believe. The a-side is mainly centered around the piano playing, with the crackles of the old shellac/vinyl leaking through but also a backdrop of drone like sounds, that in my book would stem from electronics. But who knows: its probably the layered recordings of the vibraphone. The b-side opens with a slowed down piano and sounds of stuff tumbling down the rabbit hole, going into oblivion. If the previous side was just spooky, this is frightening. What is going to happen? It indeed sounds like voices from above and beyond, arriving from this solemn march of ghosts. A haunting record or a haunted one? Certainly not a pleasant trip. A look at pictures of dead babies in the booklet says it all. (FdW)

Although Kikapu advertises as a net-label I understand that their 'Circle' series is going to be a 3"CDR adventure. Each release will be packed in a circular tin in an edition of forty copies only. Musicwise the series will focus on ambient and minimal music. Jason Sloan is the first one and I never heard of him. His twenty minute piece was entirely made with electric guitar, and is not far away from the likes of Fear Falls Burning. Long sustained guitar sounds, wandering about in a free fall, locked inside the closed system of sound effects. Majestically waving at least two foot above the floor, this is how ambient music should sound. And as such that is my main point of critique: there isn't much news under the ambient sun. That music genre seems to be closed off for new directions, which is a pity, but that's just unfortunate. Sloan does a nice job at what he does. (FdW)

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