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Vital Weekly 547

img  Tobias

There is probably a big misunderstanding between hertz and megahertz, but it's also the title of the surprising collaboration between two powers of improvisation music. Christof Kurzmann plays 'lloopp and pick up' and John Butcher plays tenor and soprano saxophones, feedback tenor on #4. Butcher's saxophones are difficult to recognize as such as he adopts the technique of approaching his instrument as an object rather than as saxophone. We hear him breath, hiss and make other mouth sounds through the instrument. To this Kurzmann adds a fine blend of electronic sounds, from sine wave like textures (of whatever hertz or megahertz), crackles, hiss and even something that is a consecutive amount of looped particles. I have no idea what it is or looks like that Kurzmann uses, but the end result is a very intense mixture of some of the more alienated saxophone playing I came across in combination with to the point electronics, building small yet intense textures of improvised music. Great gestures and exciting music. (FdW) Address:

Some people hate children, but frankly I never understand why. To hate children is to deny that you were young yourself once. I like children a lot. The kid that is object of music here, Maria-Amaryllis will be three next month. When she turned two, November 12th 2005, Un Caddie Renverse Dans L'Herbe embarked for a trip to Greece where this wonderful young girl lives (and believe me, I met her) and in the house of her grandparents played this concert that is now captured on CD in a gorgeous packaging. No doubt the title is suggested by Maria-Amaryllis in a great moment of imaginative thought that only very young children seem to have. Un Caddie uses for this his good ol' laptop, but feeds it with live generated sounds from toys and some vocals parts by Maria-Amaryllis. Processed xylophone sounds, bells, people talking, children voices: everything is in there in a gentle and intimate way. Whereas some microsound/laptop music is quiet and intimate too, it only appeals to adults. I played this CD for a very young man of sixteen months and he was flat on his belly watching the speakers before starting to play along on his toys. Funny, witty electronical music. (FdW) Address: <>

Our local heroes The Hitmachine is a free floating affair. They can be a rock band, they can be a DJ, or work in a multitude of guises, playing different tunes to fit the occasion. Two of them, still being The Hitmachine, made a CD as part of an exhibition called 'De Integratie Suite/Non Traditionele Harmonieen' (the integration suite/non traditional harmonics) in a dutch place called Hoorn. 'In The Dutch Mountains' is of course the famous (?) song by The Nits, named after a German visiting ancient Japan, in a time when only the dutch were allowed on Desima and when asked from which part his funny Dutch accent (of course he spoke German) was from, he answered 'the dutch mountains'. Speaking of integration... The Hitmachine's contribution consists of this CD, being a total plunderphonic work. They have an extensive collection of non-western music, which is used here. Music from all corners of the world are mixed together - the non-traditional harmonics, I guess - together with outsider music from the western world. Sun Ra is in there somewhere, but by and large I didn't recognize anything at all. Such is the luck of crate diggers, finding weird music for just 10 cents. It's a highly pleasant trip round the world (in less than eighty minutes), even if one, like me, is not a total addict to non-western music. Every track, there are nine in total, has it's own distinct feeling, making this into a highly varied album. However, my doubts made elsewhere in this issue about the DJ as creator, may certainly be accounted here too. (FdW) Address: <>

MICHEL CHION - TU (CD by Brocoli)
Music by Michel Chion never reached Vital Weekly that much, which is a pity, but perhaps not that much was available. If you can lay your hand on his 'Requiem', then do so. This religious work (Chion is a religious man) combines the classic death mass with electronic music that even makes this non-believer shiver. Chion also wrote many books, albeit in French, made short films and composes music. 'Tu' was already composed in 1977, but was reworked in 1996. Now in the Mozart year 2006 (born 260 years ago) it is released. Mozart? 'Tu' uses texts from Mozart's opera 'The Magic Flute' and texts from Robert Desnos. Texts are spoken by fifteen interpreters, but it's hard to say what the piece is about, let alone what it is: an opera, musique concrete, poetry? Chion refers to it as a 'concrete melodrama'. I am not sure if the text that Chion uses follows the two acts that the Mozart opera has, or wether the original story is the same, or that we are dealing with a more free adaption. The music is absolutely great: electronic, cold, abstract and concrete. Abrupt changes, piano chords, sounds falling but always intense. This is not the acousmatic music that comes so often from the likes of Chion, but there is only one Michel Chion. Voices speak, murmer, roar or a declaimed. Even without noting what the texts are all about it is a very intense listening piece of music that can easily meet his 'Requiem'. Great work, and packed in an absolutely great cover (though a bit hard to read!). (FdW) Address:

About a year ago, Intr_Version released 'More Than Tongue Can Tell', the debut album of Avia Gardner (see Vital Weekly 498), not one person, but a duo of Mitchell Akiyama, Canada's busy bee, and Jenna Robertson. The follow up was recorded in the country side of Massachusetts, locked in a room with just instruments: guitar, harmonium, autoharp, 'instruments borrowed from a baby brother' and of course some computer mystery. Not much extra guest players this time, this is Avia Gardner in it's most pure form. Despite whatever computer mystery they use, it's foremost a folk album. The intimate singing of Jenna is still Bert Hart meeting Tujiko Noriko, but the instruments are at times sparse, with guitars tinkling and birds singing. Yet it's not all just laid-back tunes, such as the more uptempo rhythm boxes of 'My Please' proof. Through the atmosphere of the record is one of being outside, on the land, in summer shine. Lazy, laidback, an occasional spur of activity and a holiday feeling. Those who love neo-folk, or folktronic should definetely check this out as it's simply gorgeous music. (FdW) Address:

Probably it was noted before, but let's do it again: Janek Schaefer is a busy bee. Ever since he surfaced with his tri-phonic turntable, he expanded his work into the world of sound art, installations and more conceptual approaches to playing around with vinyl, CDs and such like. His latest album, 'In The Last Hour' is to his own saying, his favorite album, and was made after years of 'developing his approach to installation concerts'. I am not sure what an installation concert is, but in this case it was an entirely dark room, and sound coming from all around. Schaefer uses to that end a mini chord organ, grand piano, bell, music box, clarinet, vinyl manipulations, town hall organ, as well as field recordings of his own making. The work is not improvised but strictly composed. And it's a great recording! Starting out in a very dark and deep, drone like manner, this quickly evolves into a fine work of blending the organ and clarinet (at first, the opening sequence) to a rich tapestry of sounds moving in and out, the careful crackling of old vinyl, people walking about, and a serene melody in the closing piece. Rich textured sound, a form of drone music in which something more happens than in some of the other works around in that area, and yes, one could say, this is indeed his best work.
Another busy bee is Richard Chartier. I am clueless as to how much music he released over the years, and in how many exhibitions he was involved, but 'countless' is the right word, I guess. Currently (pun intended) he is moving through australasia, playing concerts in Japan and Australia, and to this end he produced 'Current', a twenty minute work that is sold on tour (and perhaps also on mailorder). You have to crank up the volume quite a bit, as otherwise you won't hear much. The idea is that the music is linked to travel by airplane, aircurrents over oceanic currents. It's a highly atmospheric piece of music that Chartier offers here, with shimmering tones that slowly evolve into a monotonous rhythm. The dense, swamp like sound below is warm but the rhythm part is cold and clinical. Two world colliding together, but in a beautiful way. Highly microsound of course this work, but from somebody like Chartier that is hardly a surprise: he is one of the masters of the genre, and 'Current' is no different. Although it might be the time to reset the boundaries a bit. (FdW) Address:

How to set yourself apart as a label, a very good lesson: make a package that nobody has, and make it look good. Cathnor, a new UK label, does that. Their first two releases come in what looks like oversized digipacks, and will surely be a pest to both your collection and the shop displays. But they stick out of the majority and that is a great thing.
The first release is the first of a trilogy to come, by Herve Boghossian, who plays computer (on the cover in the beautiful french word 'ordinateur'). He asked John Tilbury of AMM piano fame and Mark Wastell on cello to play a composition he made (each solo) and which he would use in his computer processing to 'focus on the textural qualities'. In the first piece it is piano and computer, then cello and computer and in the final piece both together and computer. In the first piece it is clearly the piano, playing clustered and sustaining piano sounds, and the computer treatment seems far away. It may or may not add environmental/reverb like sounds, but it's done in a more or less secret way. In the Wastell piece this is different. The cello is heard, but arrives through a web of sustained sine wave sound/feedback like sound. It moves almost without any flaw into the third piece. I might be entirely wrong, but it seems that this piece is just a mix of the previous two pieces, including whatever was processed on the computer, but it's a quite nice, almost sinister atmosphere that hoovers around in this piece. Although I am not sure what is to follow in the next two parts of this trilogy, I have a keen ear to explore that. Meanwhile listeners are urged to create their own composition.
The second release is a real solo one, by Australian born, resident in France, percussion player Will Guthrie. When not on the road he is playing around in the studio of APO33 to refine his sound and make recordings. Thus I am not entirely sure whether the three pieces on this CD are improvisations that were directly recorded to tape, or whether they are collages of endless hours of improvisations, edited together. I think the latter is more likely. Percussive sounds of all nature find their place in here: from the more traditional drum kit to whatever objects are available. What makes this particularly interesting is the use of electronics. Although they don't play a big role, the play however an essential role. If one listens carefully, one hears things cracking and hissing. No doubt this is also originated from the use of drums or drumming on electrical wires, but they add a great texture to the music. Guthrie is mostly a player with other people, but on this solo CD he shows the best of his solo work and as such it's a great card he hands to the audience. (FdW) Address:

Both these releases deal with music, that is firmly rooted in folk traditions but is open for elements from noise and improvisation. Spires That in the Sunset Rise, an all-female quartet from Chicago, come up with heart-warming plucked and bowed strings of all sorts, eccentric, upfront singing and intense percussion. Unlike many other groups who are playing a free version of folk music, Spires That in the Sunset Rise don't go for the floating free-form thing, but rather opt for structured songs most of the time. They take these traditional structures as a loose framework and fill them up with a shimmering cosmos of all-acoustic rattle and hum and vocal excursions. The playing is controlled and precise and the music itself is as melancholic as it is full of oddly cheerful energy. At times medieval and tribal influences can be found, but they never get too obvious and are nicely woven into the whole of the music. The songs on "This is Fire" will certainly prove to be a good addition to this fall's mixtapes (well, probably people are rather doing podcasts these days…) and when the wailing harmonium, slightly dissonant guitar and elegiac singing of the final song "Desert Mind" set in I cannot help thinking of Nico once again.
Compared to Spires That in the Sunset Rise, Larkin Grimm's music is more along the lines of conventional folk music, with voice and guitar as the main ingredients, completed by various string instruments, percussion and some more obscure sound sources. Again there are traditional song structures to be found, but there is also ample room for vocal and instrumental improvisations. Grimm sings songs of love and lust and loneliness, evoking images of mysterious encounters in the woods and fields and the beauty of bright sunshine in the morning. As you can probably guess by now this is music of a highly expressive character, heavily charged with emotions. Actually, as often with this kind of music, the lyrics and the overall conception dwell a lot on obvious romantic notions, but after all I cannot really take offense at that here. With the songs nicely shifting back and forth between structured parts and free-form passages and the joyful hum-along melodies here and there this is a beautiful example of open-minded contemporary folk music. (Magnus Schaefer) Address:

For reasons I am not fully aware of, Christoph Heemann revived his Dom Bartwuchs label to release this LP by Brendan Walls, not to release it on Three Poplars or Streamline. Walls is perhaps one of the lesser known drone musicians, from Australia. His CD 'Cassiafistula' was released on Idea Records (see Vital Weekly 333) and after that things became quiet. I remember that CD vaguely and I believe I wasn't too impressed. How different with this LP, which I like a lot. It's drone music as it should be (with no changes in the format): a large cloud of sound, spread out over two sides of the record. It's hard to tell what Walls is using here: perhaps pure field recordings fed through a bunch of sound effects? Or maybe there is also some instrument to be detected here and there? That I found pretty hard to believe. It's more like a street recording at night that one can hear and see in a drunken haze, blurry, but non-static moving around you. Absolutely great drone music, absolutely nothing new under the sun, but absolutely for those who like their Monos, Ora or Mirror. (FdW) Address:

CHRONO.FIXION - 2006 (CDR, self released)
The advise for the '2006' release by Chrono.fixion is to listen to this in 'the dark using headphones', but sadly such is not always possible here in the Vital headquarters. Matthieu Ducheine, for it is him who creates as Chrono.fixion started playing music in 2000, and has so far released five CDRs on his own label, with a considerable gap between this and the previous one, due to hard disc crashing. It seems to me that his main interest lies in creating darker textured music, based on slowed down hip hop rhythms, loaded with samples of speeches and babies crying, a dubby bass, psychedelic guitars and a warm bed of ambient synthesizers. (DJ) Spooky music of a more freighting kind. Despite this darker side, I must I thought this was pleasant music to hear (even without headphones and in the broad daylight) and it is excellently produced with great care for detail.  All sorts of rhythm-based music genres are passing by here, but Chrono.fixion mixes them into something that is surely his own thing. Trip hop meets dark industrial (Cold Meat Industry) meets drone meets ambient. Very nice. Someone should be promoting this in a bigger way. (FdW)

METAL ROUGE (3"CDR by CLaudia)
The New Zealand based label CLaudia always surprises me with their releases. They always seem to bring new talent from their country and surprise the listener with their music. Muffin Seeks Sunship is a four piece band with Eve Gordon, Sam Hamilton, Mark Sadgrove and Andrew Scott - some of them we encountered on previous releases. This quartet went into 'concrete echoey spaces in the environment' armed with bowed strings and some percussion. It could as well be a cave for all I know. The environment in which they make their all acoustic recordings is pretty important and adds a natural reverb to the music. The six pieces are recorded on two different occasions, with five of them on one night in late 2005. The music is built largely from careful stroking whatever strings available and letting the acoustics do their bit. The music is not very outspoken, more held-back and controlled, like a private gathering of people not wanting to disturb anybody. Not anybody? Play the last piece and find out.
Behind Metal Rouge are one Helga Fassonaki on persian santur and Andrew Scott on guitar - both names are new to me. In the beginning of 2005 they started rehearsing in Auckland, but they have moved their activities to Los Angeles these days. It starts out, just like Muffin Seeks Sunship, very quietly and peaceful in the first two tracks, but later on this turns out to be just one side of the coin, because in the third track things explode and got really noisy. Very much the work of improvisation and 'outsider' creators, where I must say I like the more introspective moments better.
The final new release is by Tim Coster, the man behind the CLaudia label, but also a solo artist as well as a member of Plains. 'Rowboat/Blackberry' was already released as a lathe cut 7" on CMR last year, but luckily it's re-issued on a 3"CDR. How much I love lathe cut records, they aren't always easy to play. Perhaps I am all wrong but I wouldn't be too surprised to learn that the source material for 'Rowboat' was indeed recorded at such a vehicle. The water splattering against the sides recorded through the use of crackling contact microphones, set to a backdrop of humming tones. 'Blackberry' may then again not use blackberries, but how would I know? Here too humming tones, sine wave like, but also something that could reflect a melody played on a guitar. Careful tunes, both of them, and very microsound, but pretty strong stuff. And for audio freaks: good to see them in the digital domain. (FdW)

In the endless but successful guerilla tactics of Machinefabriek, comes 3" CDR number so many, a live recording made in Amsterdam on September 8th 2006. Rutger Zuydervelt took with him that night his electric guitar, e-bow, a file, an iron rod, a loop pedal, loads of effects and a mixing desk. Taking in account his last three releases, it may seem now that he settles for drone related ambient music. 'Allengskens' (which is Flemish for 'soon') is one piece of drone music, highly psychedelic with endless sustaining sounds, opening further and further those sustains, until it dies out. The music here is less refined that on 'Zucht' or 'Slaap' (see Vital Weekly 535), but we have to take in account that this is a live recording. A great live recording, far away from his older live recordings, in which he showed a firm interest in noise music. Machinefabriek is the fastest rising star on the firmament of Dutch experimental music. (FdW)

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

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