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Vital Weekly 542

img  Tobias

Now this is really something, subtle laptop pranksters TV Pow are back after some time away with a new album for Chicago jazz label Southport. And it’s based mostly around the piano. A real one. For most of these tracks that means some unexpected prettiness, like a soft-focus AMM, interspersed with some delicate instrumentation. They each play the piano on different tracks, and the other ones are mainly credited for computer, but there’s nothing much digital to be found here. It’s all pretty serious quiet improv stuff. Things get started only on the last track, "Sweating Just Sitting Here“, on which there are no computers at all. Nor that ever-present piano that was so present in the first four tracks. The natural drones & scenes created by organs, bells, shakers and some other traditional instruments sounds like fellow Chicagoans/friends Town & Country recording for Erstwhile Records. Not a bad thing at all.
Television Power Electric is a name used for when the three TV Pow boys end up recording some stuff with other people, who are different for each recording. This time it’s Xabier Erkizia and Inigo Telletxea, two musicians from Spain where this was also recorded in Bera, october 2004. This stays much closer to home, with some typical digital short-circuit drone storytelling, even when the piano (though this time probably not the grand sort that they had in Chicago) pops up again at the end. It’s nice to hear this in connection with the Southport disc, as a sort of analog/digital differentiation of how this group approaches improv tactics. Personally, I got more excited by this disc then the piano-driven endeavor, but both show two great sides of one of the longest standing laptop ensembles. (Robert Meijer)

SETH - THE GREEN MORNING (CD by Digitalis Industries)
These two new releases by Digitalis Industries both deal with drone music, yet they sound quite wide apart. Of the two, the one by seht, also known as Stephen Clover, is the more traditional sounding. Hailing from New Zealand, and having more than a dozen releases on labels such as Last Visible Dog and Celebrate Psi-Phenomenon, this new one 'The Green Morning' is his third real CD. It's hard to say what seth uses, instrument wise, but we are promised this is a very minimal line up. Perhaps an organ and some effects, and perhaps some sort of computer processing? Who knows, maybe it's even less. The end result is of course that what matters here, and that is quite nice. Very much along the lines of the UK counterparts such as Mirror and Monos and with a strong nod towards William Basinski, mainly due the somewhat grainy sound he uses. Seth uses many layers of sound, which he peals off and show us during the course of the piece. He shows us a bit, then shows another bit, then the first bit again, slightly changed and then a third part and so on. Changes are of course minimal and sparse, but throughout it all sounds great. In terms of drone music perhaps nothing much news under the sun, but Seth created some very solid pieces of drone music.
I don't I ever reviewed the self-titled LP by John Clyde-Evans on Fisheye. Which is a pity since it's a great album. I can't remember when it was released, perhaps eight or so years ago, but it was an absolutely great album of acoustic drone music. Clyde-Evans also played with Hood but then stopped doing music for about seven years and turned to Sikhism, and changed his name to Tirath Singh Nirmala. When he received some free software from Neil Campbell (of Vibracathedral Orchestra fame) he started working again, and released a whole bunch of CDRs since then. 'Bluster, Cragg & Awe' is the first non CDR release, picking the best tracks of the CDRs. Like Seth Nirmale plays drone music, but as said of an entirely different nature. The computer allows Nirmale to staple clear sounds on top of each other and play them around, mixing them, allowing them to shift out of phase and such like. Nirmale chooses various instruments, such as guitars, percussion, flutes, violins but also voices to create music that is not as thickly layered as Seth's, but a much more open form of drone music, with ethnic influences, such as raga music. Sometimes more sparsely than any other in the field of drone music, such as in 'Sehaj', this opens windows to the progress of drone music, taking it further. Definitely a great CD and hopefully not the last one for another seven years of silence. (FdW) Address:

(CD by Staubgold)
Music by Rafael Toral didn't find its way into the pages of Vital Weekly that much, which is a great pity. His music was a fine combination of drone music, frequencies, sine waves and such like, which were woven together into beautiful strings of ambient music. A more musical version of Alvin Lucier, and along the lines of the work of Jim O'Rourke and Phill Niblock. But it struck Toral that he had been doing the same for the last fifteen years and it was time to change in a radical way. The new way is found in jazz and electronics. Not a fusion of jazz and electronics, but jazz played on electronics. In the last three years, Toral played his music on modified or custom built electronic devices, as part of his 'space' program: 'space elements', focussing each release on a certain instrument, while adding few others and featuring collaborations and 'solo series', a solo performance on various instruments. The album 'Space' doesn't belong to these series, but is a stand alone work. Of course it's easy to see the historical reference in this work: electronic music in the sixties was played to accompany science fiction films, such as 'Forbidden Planet'. In 'II' he uses a brass section, but it's a bit unclear wether these are recorded by others or by Toral. 'II', in three parts, is perhaps the most jazzy piece on 'Space', with it's freaky sounds on whatever electronics and the brass section, but perhaps it's a bit too freaky for me. The two others pieces seem to be for just electronics, and they are highly improvised too, but much tighter and indeed a bit referring to sci-fi soundtracks. Perhaps I'm not enough a lover of jazz, that i didn't welcome this album whole heartedly, but in terms of doing something new, I can only say 'yes yes yes', this is a great leap forward and a fine break with the past.
Haven't seen a new release on Quecksilber in some time, so perhaps Staubgold closed that sub-division, and hitherto decided to release the second Paul Wirkus CD on the main division. Who knows. 'Intelleto D'Amore' (see Vital Weekly 402) was Wirkus' first album as a minimal electronic composer' besides his old career as a jazz and improvisation drummer, still playing an excellent trio as September Collective with Stefan Schneider of Mapstation and Barbara Morgenstern, as well as a trio with Johannes Frisch and Mikolaj Trzaska, both of Kammerflimmer Kollektief. However armed with mini discs, sampler, sound effects and a mixer, he is on his own. Still maintaining to play live, as the ten tracks on 'Deformation Professionelle' were recorded live to DAT, without any overdubs. His first album was a manifestation of glitchy electronics, which were all minimal yet warm. For this new album the element of warmth is kept, but the minimal element has becomes a more melodic one. Again Wirkus strives to offer very different tracks, involving rhythm, drones, spliced up concrete sounds, feeding through most a delay machine, plus perhaps a reverb. For him it's important that tracks do not sound the same, which makes this perhaps an album that limps on more than one foot, but on the other hand the variety is the nice thing about the album. In stead of playing the same thing over and over again, with the same limited means, Wirkus opts for a wide palette of sounds, and that makes this into well made album. (FdW) Address:


(CD by Plinkity Plonk)
Some of the track titles of Ohne Titel, 1916 bear resemblance to those of F.S. Blumm’s 2001 release Mondkuchen. I’d guess that this is not just a coincidence and it does indeed give some idea of what Flim is up to. But where F.S. Blumm is all candy flavored, Flim’s music is full of deep sadness. The liner notes explain, that the music was composed as an attempt to cope with the loss of a child, trying to find a balance between hope and frustration. To create his music Flim makes use of piano, organ and thoughtful computer processing. Often just single notes are struck on the piano, they keep on resonating and then slowly fade before the next note is played. Rather than forming melodies these notes function as an irregular net of varying density. Other tracks are more drone-related, with the acoustic sounds stretched out into warm, hovering fields.
Quite by chance I played Nico’s The Marble Index right after listening to Flim. Without wanting to compare these two directly maybe it could be said that both share a characteristic insofar as they mark a point where pain and beauty converge in fragile and intimate music. As said, Flim’s music is full of sadness, but then again there is also a stretch of light on the horizon, a short dreamy melody to be discovered here and there just below the surface. (Magnus Schaefer) Address:

It took three years of playing together to finally record a debut album, in two days. Such, I guess, is the life of an improvising musician. Trio Vopá consists of Roland Spieth on trumpet, Cornelius Veit on guitar and Axel Haller on bass. They play as a trio, but sometimes also as a duo or just solo. Like with many of the releases on Schraum, the emphasis lies on more traditional lines of improvisation, even when Trio Vopá uses extended techniques to play their instruments, such as playing with paper, brushes, brackets and postcards. Of the fifteen pieces here, there is one that is really long, almost nineteen minutes, in which Trio Vopá plays a very dense cloud of sound, almost like a piece of drone music. In the other fourteen tracks, ranging time-wise from twenty seconds to four minutes, they display all their techniques via short, almost sketch like pieces, which rather than fourteen tracks, could better be seen as one long piece, then as separate pieces of music. Sometimes dense, but silent, almost in an audible way, but at other times, perhaps a bit too regular improvised. This disc seems to be jumping all over the place, with the long 'Dans' piece being the major tour de force. Nevertheless a most enjoyable album. (FdW) Address:

When I became aware of experimental music in the 1990s Peter Rehberg/Pita was among the first people whose work I strongly admired. But about three or four years ago I lost track of what he was doing. So when I received this new release and read, that Peter Rehberg had recently moved away from his trademark digital noise, I got really curious and played it immediately. As it is probably well known among the readers of Vital Weekly “Kapotte Muziek by…” is an ongoing series of recordings by Kapotte Muziek that are reworked by various artists. The material that Peter Rehberg presents here reveals that hazy quality of concrete sounds, which can be recognized as such, but whose origin cannot be traced back beyond that point. I don’t know if this is characteristic of Rehberg’s new approach or just due to Kapotte Muziek’s original sounds, but it came as a great surprise to me. The piece starts with a low, vaguely metallic rumble that stays present throughout most of the track, gradually undergoing various transformations. Other sounds drop in and out of the mix, and in general things move at a rather slow pace. At one point the tension is raised, but it stays on a micro level and instead of reaching a climax it just fades. Towards the end the dark rumble disappears and there are some moments of silence, interspersed with isolated throbs. Then a shimmering mid frequency drone sets in, accompanied by tinkling bells. All of a sudden this stops and the piece is over. There is a dark feeling in this music, however it is not the aggressive type of darkness, but rather the cozy one. With this exploration of concrete sound sources Rehberg enters a territory that is usually mapped by people like Michael Northam, and Rehberg does succeed well. Indeed this is a good occasion for giving his older works a listen again as well as a reason for keeping an eye on his new releases. (Magnus Schaefer) Address:

Dead Machines are John and Tovah Olson of Wolf Eyes and Wooden Wand respectively and, as the title indicates, these are live recordings. The album opens with a weird spoken comedy intro and audience reactions. Then the noise sets in and won’t stop until the end. Raw screeching electronics are joined by likewise raw saxophone playing and augmented by crude effects and manipulations. It’s all about loudness and intensity, with the saxophone playing sustained squeaking tones over and over again and the electronics in a continuous process of uproar and collapse into chaos. This pairing of high-energy playing, non-virtuosity (or rather the fact, that virtuosity is superfluous) and those quirky, flickering and shimmering sounds makes up for a releases that is as aggressive as it is beautiful, as nerve-wrecking as it is stimulating. It must have been some evenings of blissful sonic mayhem and lucky enough the LP makes the Dead Machines’ wonderful lo-fi wizardry also available to all of us who weren’t there. (Magnus Schaefer) Address:

Its been ages, it seems, that we last heard from Oren Ambarchi and Martin Ng. Their previous albums, 'Reconnaissance' (Vital Weekly 260) and 'Vigil' (Vital Weekly 398) were excellent, minimal sets of improvisations of sine wave like sounds, small static crackle and deep hum. When reviewing 'Vigil', we already noted the visual quality of the music, via two quicktime films by Tina Frank, the in house designer for all things Mego. I doubt wether that review stirred the events captured on this DVD (Asphodel's first, much to my surprise). If I understood correctly the video side of this DVD was recorded live by Tina Frank, but I am not sure if the music is also played live, which seems to be the case with the video made by Robin Fox. Both pieces last just over forty minutes and are excellent displays of all talent involved. Ambarchi and Ng are at the very best with slowly evolving drones, waves, hiss and static, in 'Vigilance' there seems to be more action than in '8 Seconds Of Weightlessness', which seems a bit more static. As far as the visual side matters, Tina Frank brings her cover artwork for Mego alive: lines that spread out, fold about and has a very spacious sense to it. The geometry of the sky, or rather: the universe. An abstract science fiction movie, which moves nicely along the various changes of the music. Robin Fox on the other hand keeps things much more down to earth, with more grainy textures and images that spiral around and that works with repeating elements, circles and such, to create an imagine that is not unlike the feedback quality of the music. Great stuff. For 'Vigilance' there is also a 5.1 version, which I haven't seen, but which should be worth checking out. (FdW)

FREIBAND - ALL IN A DAY'S WORK (Cassette by Pineapple Tapes)
In the historic year 2006 when large record companies decided to stop their production of pre-recorded cassettes, it is good to see that there are still independent labels out there willing to produce tapes. Lest we forget that before the advent of the compact disc and, worse still, the recordable compact disc the cassette was THE format for independent music and a very valid alternative to records. Swill Radio's Pineapple imprint presents 'All In A Day's Work' by Freiband (Frans de Waard). The cassette contains two long continuous pieces based upon live recordings by Idea Fire Company when they did a short tour in The Netherlands in March 2006. Frans de Waard accompanied Scott Faust and Karla Borecki on stage for this tour. In May 2006 De Waard re-mixed the live recordings for this cassette-release in one day (hence the title). The first piece Faster But Slower is a constant drone, which seems to be built in two frequencies; one higher, one lower. There are only very minimal changes, making this side a nice but also slightly long listen. The second side, A Solo Duo, is more interesting; here too, we are treated to one long drone piece, but this one has more slight, almost subliminal, changes and a few more abrasive bits mixed in making making this the better of the two tracks. The cassette comes in a high quality color cover and is well produced. As the edition is probably very limited, you better order while it is still available. As an aside: Swill Radio will release a live CD with recordings from the Idea Fire Company 2006 tour. (FK)

SWUNG - VOICE AND KEY (3"CDR by Pseudo Arcana)
This is my first encounter with Swung, also known as Zoe Drayton. Apparently she is the "chief archivist, promoter and all round lynchpin of the New Zealand 'new music' scene" but also playing her own music. The title 'Voice And Key' says it all, I guess. Drayton plays keyboards and sings, although that is kept to a minimum. All five tracks are short and at times sound like found sound, such as the piece 'Hik', with someone coughing and some sparse piano notes, and the microphone being put back in place, almost like a private sound picture. Her singing is more like humming and not really using words. The voice is a texture, just the piano or the accordion, which she uses. Folk noir with a touch of electronics. But a pretty interesting and varied bunch of pieces. Would have loved a bit more of this. (FdW) Address:

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