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VItal Weekly 541

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This one is a captivating and stirring record from beginning to the end. Mats Öberg and Morgan Agren make up the nucleus of this impressive swedish band. In the 80s these gentlemen, great admires of the music of Frank Zappa, developed themselves into very skilled musicians, that could play about anything from Zappa. Even Zappa himself was very impressed. So no doubts concerning their craftsmanship as musicians. In the 90s they started their own band, and they had to prove themselves as composers. With their Mats/Morgan Band they released six albums up till now on their own Ultimate Audio Entertainment label. Their latest album - 'Thanks For Flying With Us' - is released by Cuneiform Records. So at last their music will be better distributed.
We hear Öberg on keyboards, harmonica and vocals. Agren plays drums, keyboards and programming. All compositions carry the names of Öberg and Agren. The band is completed by Jimmy Agren (guitar, bass), Robert Elovsson (keyboards, clarinet, voice) and Tommy Tordsson (bass). They are assisted by several other guest musicians, especially some female singers. As this is my fist encounter with this band, I can't tell you anything about the development of this band, and whether their seventh album is a step forward or backward. At first hearing I was struck by the obvious 70s sound of this keyboard dominated band. It woke up old memories of Todd Rundgren's Initiation for example. The album sounds almost like an homage to this period. But this does not mean that we are dwelling in a retro atmosphere here. All fusion, progressive and other influences inspired them to a very coherent and massive whole of full-grown music. Also from this aspect it is impossible not to be impressed by these virtuosic speed devils. Happily they do not lose themselves into meaningless technical exercises, as their music remains very open and communicative.
The album is very well produced. In all it's complexity the music remains very transparent, so that you can enjoy every note from all the players. The bonus tracks offer some insight into how this band sounds live (in 1998 and 2002). Especially 'Live Neff' with Just Öberg on piano and Agren on drums has some great moments (Dolf Mulder). Address:

Each of these three players likes the blues, and each of them plays the blues in their own specific way. Ambarchi very slow, and packed together in a bunch of tones, Licht through a more noisy guitar and Akiyama through emptiness. In 2004 the three met in Wellington, New Zealand and at the Bomb The Space festival they played this intense piece of free form blues music. It has nothing to do with the blues and rhythm simply because there is no rhythm here. Just long, sustaining sounds of which the core is formed by Ambarchi, and on top the heart felt pain in the six strings of a howling guitar - or is that howling guitarist, playing the guitar? The blues that takes the listener apart, is here subject to dissection itself. Sliced apart and dished up again, this is empty, desolate music, which however never sounds empty: the sustains melt into each other and form a great, majestic piece. Almost nineteen minutes of sheer desolation. (FdW) Address:


"Trees, Chants and Hollers" combines a variety of aspects of home-made, folk-influenced music - from structured melodic pieces and dreamy free plucking to the sounds of string instruments gradually losing their acoustic contours and dissolving into blurred drones. The banjo plays a major role in the instrumentation, but there are also guitars, percussion, effects and some male and female voices. The voice usually stays in the background and rather than actual singing it is mostly wordless humming, which functions as an additional layer of sound.
To my ears things are most interesting when the drone aspects of the music prevails, such as on the long "An Acre of Stone (for Rachel Corrie)" with its bowed string instruments and soft clattering percussion. The music is of a dark nature throughout and sometimes gets really spooky. Although I'm aware that it is an all to dangerous readymade notion for this kind of folk-influenced music, I cannot help thinking of it as rural music, as is also suggested by the cover (a Richard Prince-like, blurred and green tinged photography of horses on a pasture) and the song titles. So sitting in the big city and watching the sky signaling the near end of summer I imagine these people in a hut, somewhere in the woods, it is autumn and dark outside and spooky things are happening between the trees. Ok, so probably that's just too much romantic daydreaming, but it still gives an idea of how the music sounds like. (Magnus Schaeffer) Address:

Last year in Greece I attended a long evening of difficult music. A nice evening but one that never seemed to end. I do remember a lot of the evening, except the concert by Hmute somehow disappeared from my mind. Which is of course a pity, now that I have the duty to listening to his first release. Hmute is one Yiorgis Sioros, who plays his music using a computer (that I do remember). On 'Mutable Tension' he plays five long pieces of computerized industrial music, occasionally with a touch of mechanized rhythms. Music appears to be coming from all directions - the good thing about digital means is that it has a lot more dynamics than the old industrial music that came on cassettes. Hmute knows and understand this well, and plays around with the dynamics, from a low end bass rumble to high pitches sounds that seem to fly about here and there. There are traces of the good ol' industrial music, but also Hmute seems to be influenced by Pan Sonic, especially in a piece like 'Linked To A Generic Pattern'. Perhaps some of the pieces are bit too long to hold the attention throughout, it's surely a well-made release. (FdW) Address:

One of the more professional CDR labels is Gears Of Sand. Their releases come close to the real thing of a real CD. Salvagesound is one Matthew Poulakakis, of whom we don't know anything else. On the cover he writes that the music is all constructed from 'audio sourced from other media', by which he means films (video, dvd) it seems, and which are then 'manipulated in a variety of ways' and 'the emphasis is more on texture and perceptual shift'. Horses gallop by, a man walks across a room and opens a bottle, a door closes: such are the sources used (as mentioned on the cover), and it's hard to recognize these as such, but the obscurity of such sounds lead to obscure music, and that is to understood in a positive way. It's hard to pin the music down to a specific style, as it bears relations to musique concrete, ambient and glitch music. Sampling is of course the main line of sound treatment, looping the sounds around and make multiple layers, which all play at the same time. Sometimes they are closely connected forming small clusters of sound, but at other times they are wide apart, and the uneasyness of the sounds make strangely shifting patterns. Sometimes highly cinematic music, but always staying highly abstract. The use of loops makes this being more pop music with a strong ambient touch, but the source material is of a highly musique concrete nature. A pretty strong release. (FdW)

PHROQ - ATTEMPTS TO REACH USA (CDR by Harsh Noise Records)
Behind the name Phroq is Francisco Meirino from Switzerland/Spain. His first releases, on cassette, date back to 1995, and since then he has created a large list of releases, mainly on cassette, CDR and some on real CDs, such as on Ground Fault. These two latest releases are on CDR. On both releases he notes that we should play them 'as one continuous session'; index points are only there for convenience. 'We Will Shiver With Fear' deals with psychosis as the underlying theme. On Phroq's website ( there is a lengthy medical explanation about psychosis. Music wise Phroq is known to be a lover of noise, but one of a more interesting kind. It's not volume to ten, distortion pedals pushed into the floor and let's bang. His music, computer generated, deals with field recordings and contact microphone objects, which are fed into the computer and then gets all sorts of processing. Changing the numbers in whatever program he is using, he creates at times a furious beast (or feast) of noise, but he manages to take things back down, and let the sound develop in a more natural way. As such it's not easy to compare with usual pack of noise makers, rather than perhaps a more noise related version of musique concrete. Although it seemed that this release had some more loud elements than some of his other work.
Phroq is also a world traveller, playing concerts everywhere. And just like many he made an attempt to reach the USA, and unlike others, he succeeded to reach the country. On the disc with the same name we find several pieces recorded at his 'west coast collapse tour' of september 2005 in California. Back home he edited the concerts into this release. The cover lists: macintosh, contact mics and beer cans. There are four longer cuts and six shorter interludes, which are all relatively soft. In the longer pieces (two of which are over twenty minutes) the music is hellish noise wise. Here he attempts to reach the Merzbow kind of noise, even when here too he knows how take back control and let things go smooth, if that is a term that might be close to what he does. Its all relative matter I guess. Listening to both in a row is a perhaps a bit much, but in a small dose, Phroq is certainly one of the more interesting noise makers. This one has a great professional cover also. (FdW)

A while ago, in Vital Weekly 509, we reviewed 'Capture/Create' by the Chicago trio Fessenden (being Joshua Convey on bass, Stephen Fiehn on CD players, guitar and Ipod and Steven Hess on drums and vibraphone), which had some great music that balanced improvised music, minimal music, field recordings and quietness. The band didn't keep quiet and here are two new releases. I'm not sure if 'Inside The ice Factory' was recorded in an ice factory (don't think so), but stylistically it contains 'Capture/Create', but it seems to be even more quiet and still. The release is just one piece that very slowly develops, half way through it finds it's peak and then slowly falls apart in some small particles. The drums and bass create somewhere a vague notion of rhythm, which works well. Contemplative music that combines the best of improvised music, real instruments and yet manages to sound so micro-sound. That may seem like an odd combination, but it works really well.
For 'Bleu: Résultat' they work together with british drone meister Keith Berry. He has two tracks here, one being a pure solo piece, then he does he rework of Fessenden stuff, and then there is Fessenden playing their music, using Berry's previous work of the CDR. That is: if I understand all of this well. In Berry's two pieces field recordings and feedback seem to be the main protagonists to develop into a nice piece of dark drones, along the lines of Paul Bradley. The second one is more present and louder, but also more single minded developping around one sound. Strangely enough but of the Berry tracks have a similar length. The Fessenden piece is twice as long and here the Berry drones sink away in slowly strummed guitar and scraping percussion. Repeating elements give even the idea of a 'song', but I'm sure that is not the intention. Both releases are great! (FdW)

Perhaps I noted it before, but noise music makes always more sense when you see it happening, especially when it's noise that comes out of an action. Old Fashioned Donkeys are Nicolas Malevitsis (the unsung hero of the Greek musiclife) and Panagiotis Spoulos of Phaseweb. His label released this CDR with two videos of them playing at the Masynergy III festival, held in Athens last year. Spoulos is the man who provides the psychedelic drones and feedback, while Malevitsis hammers his way, destroying turntables, records and CDs. This is not some autistic kid running a few distortion boxes, but we see the action happening and the noise makes all the more sense. Shot with a single camera that somehow takes something of the action away, it's of course not the same thing as witnessing the real thing (the action itself), it leaves enough impression to make a valid statement. And what a statement it is. (FdW) Address:

(businesscard CDR by Machinefabriek)
The ever so active Machinefabriek presents here something very short but highly beautiful: a two minute and eleven second remix of Soccer Committe, which is one Mariska Baars from Leiden, The Netherlands. She sings and plays guitar in a very silent way. I don't know the original, but I can imagine what it would sound like: perhaps a female Nick Drake. Machinefabriek gets the best out of it, by using the silence in between in the words and the playing and cranks that up, adds some of his wizardry on the computer and sound effects, and creates a way too short beauty of it. It's almost like a small whisper, rather than a full on track. There should be been more of this, perhaps a whole 3", expanding on the silence. Now you have to put it on repeat, like I did, for at least ten times and let the piece fully get to you. (FdW) Address:

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