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Vital Weekly 536

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AARON SIEGEL - THE CABINET (CD by Longbox Recordings)
Releases by Longbox Recordings are usually heavily inside the world of improvised and these two aren't different. Aaron Siegel plays percussion, solo or sometimes with Anthony Braxton and is also a composer and sound artist. 'The Cabinet' is his debut solo CD and it has no less than twenty-one tracks, each lasting exactly two minutes. It's hard to listen to this, perceiving it as twenty-one different tracks. The first time I played it, I didn't notice the CD player, or read the text and thought it was one long solo of percussive sounds, played on a variety of instruments such as snare drums, cymbals and some such (the cover depicts them in pictures, rather than words). To understand the power behind each track one should play them as separate tracks, isolated from the rest, and that is of course something nobody does. So I rather opt for the possibility of listening to this as one long track and as such I must say that I am quite amazed by it's quality. Most of the times it doesn't sound all too improvised, or even percussive, but quiet and silent. But there is an intensity present in this music, that is present in all of these tracks that makes this a highly fine disc or a highly refined nature. Great work.
Labelboss Adam Sonderberg plays also percussion, in a trio called Civil War, together with Amy Cimini on viola and Katherine Young on Bassoon. 'The Brutality Of Fact' may sound, title wise that is, a bit too harsh and industrial, but the brutality of facts at work here are the fact that Civil War is an excellent trio for improvised music. They made their recordings in an abandoned grain silo, thus using the space as an extra instrument. Not that it resonates all the time, but it means also that they play less and less notes, letting the space 'breath' as it were. Towards the end, it seems as if silence as taken over the music. Quite an amazing effort this, reducing the music, adding the silence, slowing cross fading. Wow. (FdW) Address:

I'm still puzzled by the latest release of McDonas ("Chasing the sun/racing the sun") reviewed for Vital Weekly 526, where McDonas wove two solorecordings into one intriguing (non) whole with a minimal of manipulations. I like this cd it because it undermines my musical expectations as a listener, but at the same time it evokes an experience of great fascination and joy. So you can imagine I‚m really curious about his new one: what will he be up to this time? McDonas is in the company here of the italian reedplayer Edoardo Ricci. Ricci belongs to that extensive family of first generation european jazz musicians that started seeking their own voice in the end of 60s. He developed himself into one of the founding fathers of the italian free music scene. I don't know much about his musical whereabouts, but, as you can imagine, with some 40 years of experience it is evident that we have to deal here with an accomplished player. McDonas plays 'rickety piano', an old and out of tune piano, but in the hands of McDonas the piano turns out to be a perfectly 'prepared' tool for the musical meeting with Ricci. He is not absorbed in dealing with the limitations of the piano, but makes a fruitful use of the possibilities of this particular piano. Both gentlemen make sure that it is their intention to make the best within the given conditions and possibilities of their meeting, that took place on a cold december day in 2005 somewhere in Italy.
All improvisations on this CD proof this, as they dive with great spontaneity into their playing, although both gentlemen hardly knew each other. Throughout McDonas and Ricci are partners of an equal level. It is only in some of the faster parts, that Ricci seems not be able to keep up with McDonas. All his energy goes into keeping up the tempo of McDonas not being able to tame McDonas. But in the slower and more modest passages it becomes evident that Ricci is a very fine and expressive player, like in the first part of track 3. As is often the case with free improvised music, it has its strong and its weaker moments. And as in any other way of communicating degrees of togetherness vary during their playing. There are many very intense and sensitive moments, where an optimum musical celebration of the moment is reached. Besides their are a few moments where they are more into seeking - with unsatisfying result - then into finding each other. But in my view this is part of the charm of improvised music. So all in all this a very satisfying recording of improvised music. Free improvised music is heavily dependent on the vocabulary of the musicians involved. But with these two gentlemen this is not a problem. Also it is often said that in free improvised music their is no development. In general it sounds now the same as it sounded in the 70s. Apart from the fact that here a problematic modernist idea of development is in charge, I think this not what improvised music is about. I think it is about having the courage and love to be, to act, here and now. In that sense this album is of great 'actuality'. (Dolf Mulder) Address:


Work by Max Eastley is rarely reviewed in Vital Weekly. Not because we don't like it, but many of his works are sound installations. Micheal Prime is also not very often reviewed, but that's mainly because he doesn't release that much. Both artists use sounds from our environment, but rather than a recording of the environment, they use plants, water and such to generate sound, sometimes with a bit of electronics. The recordings on 'Hydrophony For Dagon' are already ten years old, but are certainly very worthwhile to release, also because of the special nature of the recordings. The sounds were produced under water, using a Hydroarc, tubing, fans, tapes, bubble machine, objects and motors and recorded with hydrophones. Unlike many of the releases on the Belgium Mystery Sea, which all play with the idea of sub aquatic sounds, this is of course the real thing. Slowly the two built up the almost forty minute piece, from sparsely orchestrated sounds towards a full blown symphony of aqua drones of fans and motors, with of course water sounds vaguely being part of the entire thing. Perhaps this is the sound of being in a submarine? Who knows (not me), but I certainly did think this a beautifully laid out piece. An excellent piece of drone music that sounds unlike much other drone works. Great stuff. (FdW) Address:

Japanese Noble Records have a known reputation for music that melodic, dramatic, warm and sometimes firmly rooted in the world of digital music. 'Secret Figure' by Yasushi Yoshida is not different, even when the acoustic instruments, such as piano, cello, violin and guitar. They are performed by various musicians, including Yoshida himself, who added field recordings, and some minimal, beat related samples, which are bit glitchy. But he successfully knows to incorporate these to such an extent that the emphasis lies on the acoustic instruments and all extra's are merely decoration. Every song is a world of it's own, or rather a soundtrack on it's own. Each of the nine tracks could easily fit any sort of dramatic sequence of film, with desolated buildings, empty deserts or sunsets. Highly subtle and minimal music, with chamber music like qualities. A bit like Penguin Cafe Orchestra, but then updated with electronics, even to a such a small scale level. Music to be played at late evenings when the sun has long gone. (FdW) Address:

FE-MAIL - BLIXTER TOAD (2CD by Asphodel)
In perhaps the earlier days of Fe-Mail I could keep up with their releases, but these days it's perhaps a bit too much. Fe-mail are surely female: it's a duo of Maja Ratkje and Hild Sofie Tafjord from Norway. They are also a member of Spunk, but expand their sound by the limitation of members. Fe-mail are best known as noise musicians. At least that's how I remember it from the early days. 'This two disc set is best described as the taxonomic designation of feminine conviction through gadgetry and acoustic archaeology', it says somewhat cryptically. Live sampling is the instrument of Fe-mail. Taking whatever sound is available, sampling it, and then messing about with it. If there is no sound, there is always a voice. The noise of Fe-mail has grown considerably since I last heard them. It has moved away from the Merzbowian noise of before, and into a field of electro-acoustic music. Loud, dirty and improvised for sure, but it has moments in which things take back control, perhaps even a moment of rest and peace (even when I don't mean this in any sort of ambient way), before matters go out of hand again. On the second disc there are two video's made while Fe-mail is improvising their way, but heavily processed by Masako Tanaka, into a heavy cut up style, with flickering colors and forms a perfect visualization of the music. We see them at work, but at the same manipulated visuals come in. Especially in 'It Becomes Her' this works extremely well. Perhaps two discs are a bit much but it's a truly fine work. (FdW) Address:

FREIBAND - LEISE (CD by Cronica Electronica)
Freiband is one of the musical projects by the ever-prolific Frans de Waard. With Frans being one half of Beequeen and me being the other half, it is a bit difficult to be fully objective about this CD. However, to me, Freiband is one of the most interesting projects Frans is involved in. The reason for this is that Freiband is the musical project that comes closest to the person of Frans de Waard. He likes his music as devoid as possible of emotions, but Freiband has proven to be an exception. Often, the music has a "warmer" side and appears to be made with more depth in composing and structure and, as a bonus (perhaps as a consequence), is more accessible than say Kapotte Muziek or Goem. On this album, Frans uses sounds created in 2002 by his then 5-year old daughter Elise. These sounds (sometimes on musical instruments, sometimes not) were reworked on the laptop, giving the music that typical „laptop-sound‰. Most of the tracks on this album have been groomed in several live performances. Opening with Elise blabbing out "Freiband!" this CD more or less follows those live sets. At times the origins of the sounds can be detected in the music (as in Vuur 'fire' and Storm), at times this is harder to recoup (as in Knippers ˆcutters- or Daisees). Personal favourites are 'Bij' and 'Daisees' with their slow pulses and keyboard sounds. Other pieces (like Rammel 'rattle' or De Kabale Brug 'the noise bridge') are slightly more fragmented. The title Leise ("quiet" in German) is a clever anagram of Elise‚s name. The "toot toot toot toots" at the end of the CD are charming little audio signatures of Elise and were previously also used to good effect in Beequeen performances. A review of this album would not be complete without a few words on the sleeve. This one is adorned by a gorgeous line drawing of Elise with cats in her arms by Rui Vitorino Santos. It is a charming, almost naïve portrait and surprisingly well-characterized. Interestingly enough, much like the music on this CD. (Freek Kinkelaar) Address:

DAVID LACEY & PAUL VOGEL & MARK WASTELL (CDR by Confront Performance Series)
KEITH ROWE & MARK WASTELL  (CDR by Confront Performance Series)
Perhaps its a matter of economics, with CD sales going down, but perhaps its just returning to the old idea of the world of cassettes: do a concert and release it right away. The Confront label has had some releases on CDs, but now they started the Confront Performance Series, releasing live recordings. Packed in a tin can, in an edition of 100 copies. A lovely idea, certainly in the world of improvised music, where concerts usually have an unique character, an one-off meeting. On the first release we find Mark Wastell, already a known improviser whose bio is like a who's who of improvised music. Here he plays ride cymbal, cd player and mixer, together with David Lacey on percussion and e-bowed monochord and Paul Vogel on computer and clarinet. The piece starts out with a high pitched tone, soft but presently clear. Slowly the other instruments come in and sounds start to develop from there. Carefully, slowly, but always with a present sound, this is quite electronically sounding, with the cymbal being the odd ball, ad-mist the percussion and computer treatments of the clarinet sounds. They built up but not entirely to a mighty crescendo: once it has reached the peak it stays there and starts developping from there, the intensity of the playing becomes richer and then works towards a fade out at the end - perhaps a bit abrupt. A fine, solid disc.
The second disc also contains music by Mark Wastell who plays here amplified textures and electronics and Keith Rowe, one of the true eminence grise of improvised music on guitar and electronics. This recording, made 31 march 2006, was their second concert together. Apparently Wastell changed his mode of playing this year, moving away from the careful textures sound into a more noise related territory. It shows on this recording. His textured sounds are no longer 'delicate' or 'careful', but delicate and loud, scratching the surface. In this piece, which lasts just under thirty minutes, it seems to me that Rowe his the man of carefulness, with his guitar humming about, slowly coming out of a bath of hiss and reduced noise, but the amplified textures are scratching about, like contact microphones hitting the carpet or wood. At times pretty mean and nasty, but it's hardly to be compared with say Merzbow: it drops to quiet parts and slowly builds up again from that. Another fine solid work. (FdW) Address:

Probably there is no such thing as summer lazyness in Norway? Five new releases made it to this sweat hut. The first is by a new name, Thom Bailey, who works as The Domestic Front. 'Constrictor' is based on his experiences as an asthmatic and if I understood well is entirely based on recordings of him breathing. That is of course something strange to realize when hearing this. The sound of illness being put to use as part of music. He feeds recordings of his breathing through a bunch of computer filters, looping them around, trying out various types of processing. It never goes into a quiet, Gunter-like mood of playing, but it stays pleasantly present (if one will allow me to use that phrase). Not every moment is great but as a whole it's certainly much enjoyable.
Martin Steinebach is a busy bee, working as Stillstand, Concientia Peccati, Monoid and Compest, each with a different musical angle. Much of his work made it to these pages. The previous Compest release was a bit of tribal, pseudo ethno affair, but this one is different: electro-acoustic sounds open up, perhaps some processed saxophone? Then darker layers of an unknown origin move in, while the saxophone sounds become nastier and nastier. It's only half way through that some rhythm starts kicking in, building slowly up, but staying also a bit in the back. It's a desolate piece of music, quite nice actually.
Anders Hana is a well known Norwegian improvisation guitarist, who has his own Moha! duo, but also plays with Ultralyd, Noxagt and much more. On this short CDR release, HOH, aka Helge Olav Oksendal, remixes some of his guitar playing. HOH (part of the collective known as Zang) adds rhythm machines and vocals to blocks of sampled guitars, removing them from the world of improvisation and making them into more structured pieces of music. The rhythm holds everything together, except perhaps in 'aHA 2' and 'Stuffing Kit-remix', which are more abstract collages of looped sounds. Quite a nice release.
Also new to me is Ozka, aka David Nizet from Belgium. He was already featured on Tib Prod's massive 'Catzenjammer' four CDR set compilation and some MP3s, but this is his first full length release. Although there is zero information for this, my best guess is that Ozka belongs to the world of musicians who record their environment, feed it through a bunch of computer processors and cook it up until a nice, warm, glitch meal is ready. Insect like at times, at other times water boiling. Each of the fourteen pieces stays firmly inside whatever was started and only change minimally. It's a bit long, and perhaps not all too new or innovative, but it was interesting enough throughout.
The final new one is from one Massimo Amato, aka Mono-Drone, from Italy. Also present on 'Catzenjammer' and various MP3 releases, but 'Autumn Leaves' is his second release, following one on his own FM Records label. Despite the name, the music has nothing to do with drones. It's rhythm electronic music, but hardly techno. Made with Korg Electribe, harmonium, synth, samples, software and field recordings, the music has rather a down beat tempo, melancholic synths (but not those along the lines of Expanding Records, see elsewhere), but it's rather simply made, a bit naive. The songs don't show too much development. It's all a bit too amateuristic for my taste. (FdW) Address:

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