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Vital Weekly 545

img  Tobias

For me the composer Tom Johnson is not well-known as a composer, but as an author, of the book: 'The Voice Of New Music', a collection of pieces he wrote for The Village Voice in New York from 1972 to 1982. Writings about new music, from Steve Reich to Charlemagne Palestine to LaMonte Young. It's a book I still consult if I want to know something about Minimal Music, or just re-read for fun (and it's now free to download from But as said Johnson is also a composer, since 1983 living in Paris. He has written a couple of Operas, an Oratorium and pieces for ensembles and solo performers. These two releases deal with the latter. Roger Heaton on clarinet performs both 'Rational Melodies' and 'Bedtime Stories'. It's probably no surprise with Johnson's writing about minimalism, that his own music may sound alike. But there is a big difference: Johnson doesn't play on sustaining notes, working the overtones that so many old and new minimalists do, but each note is there, alone and naked without sort of process happening. In 'Rational Melodies', the clarinet plays short wonderful pieces, twenty-one in total, mostly sounding a bit desolate, but no doubt that has to do with the character of the instrument. 'Bedtime Stories' have, as the title implies, stories, which are sometimes very funny, read by Tom Johnson. The clarinet makes perhaps too much sound to sleep too, but it's very fine: short swirling melodies, often apart from the voice.
For 'Symmetries' Johnson used a music typewriter, a rare machine to type notes, which he used to make typewriter drawings, without caring too much how to perform them, but later the made a version to be played by piano four hands. Here too the pieces are very short, each depicting a specific mood, sometimes highly rhythmic and sometimes very melodic and sparse. Each of the typewriter drawings is shown in the booklet, which makes it for the listener all the more engaging to follow the interpretations. Very nice, both of these CDs, showing an unique voice in minimal music. (FdW)

(CD compilation by Sonic Arts Network)
When Junko Wada was asked by the Sonic Arts Network to curate a CD of music, she decided to compile a CD of music she would like to dance to. Nothing strange there, since dancing is her main line of work. Therefore she asked a whole bunch of musicians to create a piece of music for her, which, if I understood correctly, all got a treatment in dance by Wada already. The beautiful booklet shows pictures of this, rather treated than pure documentary. As such as DVD release would perhaps be a better place, but the audio CD is a good alternative. Not exactly music that makes the listener dancing around rather freaking out, this is more music to contemplate with, and that actually stands quite well on it's own. Much of the music is on the minimal side of things, slowly developing ideas and movements that work well on the music side and are probably great to dance too. Of the pieces that stand out is the one by Christina Kubisch for flute and tape delay, with is quite silent and serene and the rhythmic piece by one Arno P. Jiri Kraehahn, which has a both curious folk like character trapped inside the computer. Also included are pieces by Akio Suzuki, Hans Peter Kuhn, Rolf Julius, Werner Durand, Gordan Monahan and Arnold Dreyblatt. Beautiful release, both music and package wise. (FdW)


NOEXIT - ONE STEP (CD by 1000+1 Tilt Recordings)
Behind Noexit is one Joseph Fruiscante, of whom I never heard, and on 'One Step' he plays, according to the cover 'sax and bamboo string', while on one song one Myriam Boucris sings. Those are the facts about this CD, while we are kept in the dark about other information. In thirty minutes, Fruiscante plays some powerful music, clearly recognizable on his saxophone and less clearly on his string bamboo. What the cover doesn't tell us, is the fact that studio treatments play an equally important role here, especially delay and reverb are two important features (or perhaps I am wrong, and we don't have a studio here, but is the whole thing recorded in a tunnel). Fruiscante's music is minimal, even a bit drone related, but at the same time, and perhaps strangely enough it is also forcefully present, even a bit distorted in the deeper bass end of the release. An odd combination of mood music and some more distorted elements, Fruiscante moves here with outside any regular movements or rigid paths of improvisations, ambient, drone or noise. And that is, in my book, very fine.
On the same label, different format though, is Like Defeated Soldiers Of A Long Forgotten War, an impromptu recording made by Michi, Pille and Iason in Basel in April 2005. A three session inside a studio packed with analogue synthesizers. The three hours are trimmed down to seventy-four minutes on this release. In all it's a minimal affair slowly developing synth music, arpeggio's and small, minimalist rhythms - a stripped down version of Pan Sonic, but expanded in length, as each track easily takes up ten to fifteen minutes. It works very trance and ambient like, even despite some of the harsher tones mixed in here and there. Quite some intense music that is loosely improvised but hold together in some 'sample/hold' mode of the machines. Captivating stuff that one should undergo that really careful listen. (FdW) Address:

In Vital Weekly 487 we reviewed a LP called The New Heat and Obscured By Light. Two bands with twice the same people: Nina Canell and Robin Watkins. Two names for two different kinds of musics. The new LP, on the same label, now credited as Canell & Watkins, seems to be blending both their styles together. One on hand there is the acoustic guitar, singing and drones in a folk style, but tracks seems to fade into more noisy outings of that were previous known as by Obscured By Light. These sounds may seem computer treatments, but I do believe they are tapeloops. I must admit I don't like the singing as such, which is perhaps something odd for me. But what I do like about it is the odd mixture of both the folk like playing in combination with the more experimental sounds, which gives the listener the idea of bouncing back and forth between the ordinary and the unusual. Herein lies the big power of the record, the gesamtkunstwerk and not the individual elements that make the record. And at that it is quite captivating. (FdW) Address:

GRANNITTIN (2CDR compilation by Esc.Rec)
The launch of Esc Rec brought us some years ago a most odd double compilation CDR called 'J'ee-haw' (see Vital Weekly 387), based around the call 'j'ee-haw', now they return with something likewise odd. Robert Witt did a performance in which the sound of knitting was fed through a bunch of plug ins and granular synthesis and that became the basis of this double compilation, of course neatly packed in a knitted sock. Many of the remixers take one knit from the performance, and create a loop and tons of variations around that to built a piece of music that is highly techno related, with Radboud Mens as the most commercial actor on the scene. His piece is thick, fat and highly minimal and highly danceable. Phako, Xaf, slo-fi, Timvankessel, Goem all to the same. The odd balls here are those who create a non-linear piece, such as the careful deconstruction by Staplerfahrer, Robert Witt's own ambient variations and Jos Smolders outing in the field of musique concrete and Igor Krutogolov (the only non Dutch musician as far as I can judge) doing a bit of rhythm and noise. Transfolmer is the only one who adds another instrument: a quite horrible guitar solo. Also present are Marius, Gluid, Toxic Chicken, Lukas Simonis and Maga.
Maga is also present on 'Grannittin', and with 'The Speechless' he offers his third release for Esc.Rec. Originally Marc Fien, the man behind Maga, was a drummer for various bands playing all sorts of music. But solo he plays around with electronics, acid and techno to be more precise. He does a really fine job at that actually. Raw and intense the beats thunder around in a straight four to the floor fashion, with fat synths bubbling underneath. Dark, intense but sure to be a good spin at your underground party. Great stuff. (FdW)

Kazuya Ishigami is the man behind the Neus318 label (many more releases to be reviewed soon) and much of music deals with more noise related areas of music. However on 'Jun Yin 1 Yu Wang - Pilgrimage Of Sound 1' he deals with something different. It's a series of three tracks with 'deep sounds express "desire" of plant, human and machine'. All three tracks display a great sense of silence. The sound is buried underneath the deepest drones possible, and on top (even when such notion means also barely audible) there are some loosely connected sounds. It's very hard to trace back the origin of these sounds: they might be from plants, humans or machines, but it might be as well something entirely different. The music is slightly to be traced back to the likes of Richard Chartier, Roel Meelkop or Bernard Günter, but it's also a bit more mechanical and colder than those. The warmth is mainly in the deeper drone end part of this release, whereas the other sounds have, perhaps due to the somewhat over enthusiastic use of reverb, this more mechanical feel to it. Throughout it's quite emotive music. (FdW) Address:

This short release is a taster for a forthcoming full length release by Kotra and Zavoloka. Both are from the Ukraine and over the last couple of years they have played together a lot, both live and in the studio. For this release, Kotra returned to playing the bass, 'clanged and creaked'. Zavoloka 'has nurtured it and killed it', it says on the rather beautiful cover. Whatever nurturing and killing may be, it's hard to trace any sound back to the bass in these five pieces. Five pieces of chilling computerized glitch, with a good ear for a bass sound (that seems to be coming from anything deep end in the plug in section, rather than from a wooden box with four thick strings). Sounds crash like hard drives here, with fierce high end pitches among the deeper end music. Not danceable, hardly 'warm', but a truly noise related attack on the senses. Good for the fact that it defies any relation to microsound and clicks 'n cuts, trying really to melt down all the various influences together and be something new. Makes great expectations for the full length. (FdW) Address:

AUDIOPHILE DATENVERARBEITUNG (cassette by Reduktive Musiken)
The German Reduktive Musiken (reductive music) have a nice way of packing their releases, and even release formats that are curiously odd, like a cassette. The release by Izanami's Labour Pains, Audible Pain and Mundkrach comes in a nice box. Izanami's Labour Pains is from Japan and Mundkrach is one Theo-Ohm of Ohmkill and as the name implies, the music is made with the use of the voice. Audible Pain is the 'band behind the label'. Together they traded sound samples to create this work. The first five tracks are by Izanami's Labour Pains playing around with samples from Mundkrach, although the voice is hard to be recognized. It's a harsh noise affair of distortion and more distortion on the samples. However things are not as loud as on the three Mundkrach tracks, who uses samples from Izanami's Labour Pains, to take them on a trip to feedback land. Quite Merzbow like, and sometimes as good. The final track, perhaps as a bonus, is short and by Audible Pain, using both other bands' sounds and making it distorted and noisy. Quite nice too, but perhaps a bit too short.
The man behind Audible Pain is M. Stabenow, running the label and also active under the name Pollo. Under his own name he releases a work that roughly translates as 'patients are dangerous criminals' and the overall theme is the reform in the health service in Germany, and no doubt Stabenow is no fan of that. No noise here, but electronic music made out of sine waves, chopped up to form small rhythms and some computer treatments. And then among all of this there cut ups from radio texts in German about patients and diseases. Perhaps some of the political connotations of this release will be lost on the none German speakers, but somehow Stabenow gets his point across. And fans of Asmus Tietchens should be on the look for this: he reads the text for the last piece.
It may seem weird to release an audio cassette these days, but in the concept of Audiophile Datenverarbeitung it makes sense. It's one E. Weber who made this, and he uses 'analogue measuring instruments of the domain of medical technology, electronical engineering or wireless communication'; old stuff so to say and therefore the release on cassette makes sense. He creates his tracks live with these machines to create patterns of rhythms and sound waves. His sound is not unlike a very stripped down version of Pan Sonic, but far less complex, and much more raw in approach. Both rhythmic pulses and sinewaves are kept to a bare minimum and somehow doesn't have the same urgency as Pan Sonic (or similar minimlist beatings), but it makes a good point in using ancient machines for more artistic means. Quite nice stuff. (FdW) Address:

The complete "Vital Weekly" is available at: Vital Weekly

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