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Vital Weekly 534

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JOHN DUNCAN (Book + CD by Errant Bodies Press)
The downside of reviewing is of course that within the small piece of text an artists has to be introduced and that doesn't always justify the artist's work. Take for instance John Duncan. Whenever he releases a new work, in such a few lines his whole body of work has to described, but if you are active in the world of experimental music, performance art and installations, and this for over thirty years, it doesn't nearly justify it. This book doesn't paint the complete picture either, but it gets close. His early performances were quite controversial, his work with pornography much rumored and as a musician of the more radical noise music, he was always way ahead of his time. In this book you'll find photo's, text and explanations of his work that will shed more light on his work, than this simple review could do. Apart from texts by various long time close relatives of Duncan, such as C.M. von Hauswolff, Brandon Labelle, Paul McCarthy, Giuliana Stefani also drawings by Leif Elggren and Tom Recchion.
On the CD five pieces, two from the early days, two from the nineties and one from the more recent years. It's interesting to see how the shortwave sounds, Duncan's prime instrument, had developed over the years. In 'Creed', it forms the backbone as well as a radio taped conversation between Duncan and talkshow host Dr. Toni Grant, to the more crude 'Riot' and the refined pieces of later date. Better microphones and means of storage, plus the addition of field recordings make these perhaps to a lesser 'extent' noise, certainly in 'Crucible', but it's certainly nice to hear this development, and which no doubt will continue to develop. Duncan is still a remarkable and still a highly controversial artist, who is one of the big shots in the 'scene'. You could wonder why it took so long to get this book? The only serious omission is that a complete list of work, or discography is not included in this book. (FdW)

Probably the name Carl Michael von Hauswolff doesn't need much introduction. His conceptually edged releases on labels as Sub Rosa, Touch and Raster Noton deal with such subjects as architecture and voices from beyond. Here 'The Wonderful World Of Male Intuition' is the subject. To shed some light on it, he uses sine wave oscillators, field recordings (sea, land, outer space) but also the voices of persons important as 'positive energies in a world that obviously is feasting on itself without knowing how to go to the toilet', being the Dalai Lama, Willem de Ridder, Gregory Bateson, Alvin Lucier, John C. Lilly, Albert Hofmann, Friedrich Jürgenon and Brion Gysin. Many of these voices are processed through the use of the sine waves, in some way or another, which makes the voices hard to understand, but of course that is not the intent anyway. Throughout the forty some minutes, I learned nothing much about the male intuition (if that exists at all), but purely as a work of sine waves and field recordings I must say that this is a particular strong work by Hauswolff. Not too overtly minimal, leaning on his sine waves, but it's the combination of all three components works quite well, the sine waves, field recordings and voices. It might perhaps even the best Hauswolff I ever heard (despite not having heard all, he admitted straight away). (FdW)


Inside the world of music, and not just in The Netherlands, the music of Danielle Lemaire is an odd one. Many of her projects are related to art presentations, although she also contributes to the world of improvised music. Her solo work could be classified as 'singer-songwriter', but in a strange way. Lemaire sings and plays keyboards, although sometimes it's more speaking than singing. Her keyboard sometimes sound like Nico's, but Lemaire doesn't have a similar voice. This twenty-one track collection has a lot of these tracks, but there is also strange casio tunes, and several spoken word/found sound tracks, the conversations mentioned in the title. This is highly intimate, outsider music. It doesn't refer to any scene or musical style, Danielle Lemaire does exactly what she wants, without caring about technique or production. Song writing skills are not that important, this is about getting something personal across. At that, Lemaire succeeds pretty well. The booklet continues the intimate style, with pictures of friends (of which some can be recognized, at least here at Vital HQ: hello Jos, Dennis and Peter!). Pleasantly personal. (FdW)

A couple of years ago, The Wire has a list (they love them) of '100 Records that set the world on fire (when no one was listening)' and the double Monoton LP ('Monotonprodukt 07') from 1982 was one of them. I remember that LP with it's striking minimal cover well from my early days, browsing through the weirdo section of the local record store, but never having the cash to buy it. In the words of The Wire this record 'is so alive with the pulses that triggered many Electronicas to come, from Techno through Trance to Mego's creeping music' and with it's monotone sequencers, synths and alien voices (plus the sparse use of violin, saxophone and even steeldrum), this is indeed a more than welcome re-issue. The re-issue from 2002 is not at discuss here, but we do mention that another pressing has become available (thank god), but today we have 'Blau' (meaning 'blue') a record from 1980 that is now released, along with three unreleased tracks from the archive. The tracks here see a continuation of 'Monotonprodukt 07', even when it predates that record. The rhythms are slow, much slower than any early techno this is said to influence, feeding through a simple delay and somewhere in the background there is a minimal throb of the sequencer, or scratch on the violin. 'Blau' is an even more raw diamond than 'Monotonprodukt 07', with more minimalism in the tracks. Usually a simple, single idea per track, which is worked over it's course. My favorite pieces are those that are based on a sequencer rather than a rhythm machine, reminding me of the urgency of Deutsch Amerikanische Freundschaft or Liason Dangereux, but in a less pop related way, and more in classical minimal music manner. Both Monoton records bridge gaps between pop and classical music, and as such they were indeed way ahead of their time, whereas today they still sound as fresh as then. (FdW)

(CD by Line)
There was a time that the arrival of a new Alva Noto CD was a big thing, to me. But over the years, it became harder and harder to keep with some of his releases, especially those made for special occasions. Perhaps he just did too many thing to keep it in control, at least for an average listener. This is now, partly, made easy with the release of 'For'. All of the nine tracks were created in the last four years and each of them is dedicated to someone ('specifically for someone or for a project that for one reason or another remainded open ended'), ranging from Nobel Prize winner Elfriede Jelinek, to John Cage, to Jhonn Balance, TV Pow and even Bert and Ernie. Now that I hear this collection I realize that is has been indeed a long time since I last heard his music. Over the last few years it has matured from the cold and clinical beeps and sine waves, into a more richer pattern of sound. The sine wave sounds, the deep bass sound: it's still a present feature in the music of Alva Noto, but he adds at times samples of acoustic instrumentation, such as the piano in 'Alva Noto.z1'. It's still a bit away from his work with Ryuichi Sakamoto, but it's half way there somewhere. The pieces are in general slow and solemnly played, highly digitally made but always warm and gentle. It's very good to be reacquainted.
Of course we never lost track of Taylor Deupree and Richard Chartier. Both artists are as prolific as Alva Noto, but usually find their way in Vital Weekly much more easily. It has been seven years since they played together on a release, 'Spec.' on 12K. Recently they were asked to play a piece 'inspired by the Seascape series of renowned Japanese photographer Hiroshi Sugimoto', whose photographic output looks like a score of the work of Deupree or Chartier: silent, quiet, still. That is not what we get here, at least not in its purest form. Since we are dealing here with a live recording, things are a bit more rougher edged. It seems as though sea or water like sounds formed the starting point for both, certainly at the start of the CD, but as the piece develops, things become more abstract, through the extensive opening of all sorts of audio filters and whatever current fashion in software wizardness. The final minutes are reserved for even a 'kind of' rhythmic piece, slow and peaceful of course, once more, the final coda, of a sea washing ashore. Less refined that some of their studio work, but another happy return. (FdW)

It's been a while since we last heard anything new from Robert Hampson. Our man of Loop, who has been working as Main, defining 'isolationist' music, but whose work in more recent years is better described as musique concrete. Here he works together with Steven Hess, who is a US percussion player and who has played with Pan American, Fessenden, On and Haptic. It's hard to say wether these two were actually in the studio, or that Hampson received the playing of Hess and added his own blend of electronics, and processing the received results. Perhaps the sat together. Either way, the end result is what matters and that is absolutely great. The drums/percussion are there in the middle of an electrical storm, waiting for it's elevation. More like hurricane, in which the drums will twist and spin with a 100 mile plus per hour rate, until drums and electronics dissolve. Electronics become drums, and vice versa. Strongly rhythmical forces are thrown together, but hardly the sort of drums you can tap your feet or nod your head too. The four pieces, which might be enjoyed as one piece actually as well, form a vivid web of sounds, a highly dynamic force. Great electro-acoustic music. More more more, please. (FdW)

On one of the nicer German CDR labels comes N.Strahl.N, of whom we know nothing. On 'Eingang', his first release which translates as 'entrance', good choice for title, four tracks, that are longer than the average miniCD but shorter than a full length, clocking in at twenty-nine minutes. The music is built of electronic devices, such as rhythm machines, reverb units and perhaps a synth here and there. Also some kind of field recordings can be detected, but it's hard to tell what it captured. In the end N.Strahl.N depicts an aural bleak, industrialized wasteland for us. Empty, desolated, while the wind sings through rusty metal doors, and water runs through likewise rusty pipes. Though it's all a bit too harsh to be ambient, it's certainly also not industrial. A fine combination of musique concrete, ambient and industrial, and as such perhaps nothing new under the sun, it's however finely made. (FdW)

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