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Vital Weekly 551

img  Tobias

Some weeks ago I visited an evening at Extrapool which I anticipated very much. 3/4Hadbeeneliminated played, together with Fear Falls Burning and Andrea Belfi. I very much looked forward to the first, but was disappointed by their loud volume which took away the tension of the music, the second was very consistent in his high quality but it was Belfi who blew me away. He closed the evening of loud music, with something that was the entire opposite. Playing drums and some ancient synthesizer it was as sparse as it was beautiful. You can imagine that I picked his CD out to play first from the three new releases on Häpna. How much I like the CD, it's not what I heard at the concert. Here he plays along with a lot of people, playing guitar, slide guitar, drums and various big band like sounds (wind instruments and such). It seems to me that the material is generated by methods of improvisation, but in the stage of mixing elements have been added or deleted, so that a less improvised sounding and more coherent, even composed record was made. It's not that I'm disappointed with this at all, it is just sounding so different from the concert. It took various rounds of playing this before it unfolded it's beauty. A lot of small things happen on this album. Explorations of one note, getting expanded upon. Acoustics and electronics mingle in a very delicate and gentle way, making it at times very hard to tell the difference between the two. In all a great release, fitting very well on the Häpna label and perhaps next time the real solo thing?
A Taste Of Ra return on Häpna with a second CD, called 'A Taster Of Ra'. It's the project of someone calling himself Nicolai Dunger, and is a strong continuation of the previous album. A man with his guitar, now with drums, occasional wind instruments, and still songs about god knows what. They are printed on the cover, but aren't that easy to read. Perhaps A Taste Of Ra is a joke? Perhaps an one-man version of No Neck Blues Band? I really couldn't tell, and again, like before, I am surely missing a point here. Maybe things will be clear when the third part of this trilogy is released.
And with the thirty-first release by Häpna they wave goodbye to the nice plastic bags and nice card board sleeves and do their first release in a rather ugly designed digipack. However what is pressed on the CD make up that. Hans Appelqvist is a highly talented music maker, who already impressed with his previous releases (see Vital Weekly, 321, 379 and 441). Like the previous release 'Bremort', he comes up with another story here. The album is about Naima, "an entity who in different ways is present to the persons on the album. Sometimes she interferes with their lives and speaks directly to them, sometimes her presence is only communicated through her musical theme, Naimamelodin (Naima's melody)". Appelqvist's music is clever blend of piano, vocals (male and female), violins, drums plus whatever else he can lay his hands on to sample. The whole thing is presented like a radioplay, a large sound collage, with weird elements thrown, seemingly random, but in the bigger picture  of the
story, making great sense altogether. A barrel organ. Sounds from the computer set to rhythm. Stuff like that make this is into quite a spectacle. If you don't want to follow what this is all about, it makes it a great pop record. Perhaps even a concept album, with the big C from the seventies, but updated to the present day. 'Bremort' won a prize and I wouldn't be surprised if this would win another. A great record. (FdW) Address:

It has been a while that I listened to some To Rococo Rot, in fact I might not even remember when. Ever since the old vinyl pieces, I guess and when they moved to labels such as Kitty-Yo and Domino I lost contact. Oh well. But the first pieces of vinyl on labels such as Fat Cat or City Slang were quite nice. I may even have some, but not all, and as such it's great to see a CD like this. All of the pieces are taken from slabs of vinyl which are hard to get - unfortunately for the die-hard collectors: keep on searching as this is far from complete, which is a great pity. To Rococo Rot's music, in case you are uninitiated, is the missing link between rock and dance music, but not the heavy New Order like stadium rock, but the gentle kind of post rock. Drums are coming out of a box, but also from the kit, there are nicely gliding synthesizer sounds, the bass is like the glue holding things together, and the guitar makes nicely sparse melodies. Eleven great tunes of mildly pop music. I have no idea why I didn't play To Rococo Rot in recent years, but it's about time to dig out all the old recordings and have a long, sweet To Rococo Rot evening. Despite being somewhat incomplete, it's great getting re-acquinted and to recent admirers a fine introduction of the past. (FdW) Address:

JOE TALIA - IN/EXTERIOR (CD by Holding Pattern)
From a country with about the some amount of people as The Netherlands, Australia seems to have, certainly seen from the outside, many people who are actively involved in creating experimental music. Joe Talia is a new star on the firmament. Born in 1980, he plays drums, guitar and laptop (not all at the same time, I think) in a wide variety of styles. From jazz, improvisation, rock, contemporary classical, hardcore and musique concrete - you name it, he does it. He has played with David Shea, rand And Holland and many others. 'In/Exterior' is his solo debut release. The title sounds like it is music for a sound installation, but I believe it's not. He uses gongs, bowed cymbals, washing machines, feedback, springs, noise and theremins. What he exactly does to them is hard to tell, but he creates an interesting combination of musique concrete, drone and is at times influenced by the old Organum sound. Shriecking sounds of bowed gongs and cymbals are fed through a wall of electronics. Talia's love to play a variety of styles works also in this solo work, perhaps not as broad as playing with other people, but the four pieces are a fascinating journey of vast empty spaces, with insects swirling around and all the other usual ingredients to sum up this kind of music. Very nice indeed. (FdW)

H5N1 (CD by Roggbif)
The third release by Roggbif in as many weeks. Don't get fooled by the low catalogue number (008) of this release, for it 'just' took a long time to complete it. You could wonder why Roggbif releases two compilations, shortly after each other, which, if you leave of one of the two Sten Ove Toft tracks, could have fitted on one CD? Perhaps it has to do with the more or less thematic approach of this one. 'H5N1' is the bird flu, suddenly erupting and spreading it wings (sorry for the pun) rapidly. In Sten Ove Toft twenty minute drone piece this is not the case. It's not erupting and expanding - it stays on the relatively soft side of things. What his title 'Petit Mal' has to do with bird flu, I don't know, but then I am not a doctor. The other half of Ryfylke is Stian Skagen. He opens the CD with a more computerized version of drone music. Software based, this highly kinetic music, moving forward as well as backward and has a vague machine hum. Quite an intense piece of drone music, not sounding anything like the usual drone music, which is of course always a good thing, if you look for something new to happen in the field. Sandwiched between these is Morten Norbye Halvorsen, or MNH in short, who worked with the boys from Ryfylke. He offers a most curious live piece that starts out with some rhythmic sounds feeding through an analogue synthesizer with a deep drone lurking in the background. Towards the end there is suddenly an outburst of noise. In a sloppy piece of music, but the curious thing is: it works rather well. Just like 'Penumbra Booming', quite a nice compilation again. (FdW) Address:

ROBERT HORTON - DIRT SPEAK (CD by Digitalis Industries)
Only three weeks ago we noticed the return of Robert Horton, whose work I first heard in the early 80s (see Vital Weekly 548). I noticed he had a whole bunch of recent releases on a whole bunch of labels. One of those labels is Digitalis Industries, who releases two CDs of his work. 'Dirt Speak' is a solo release, and apparently the first solo release under his own name and 'Steeljaguar For Rocket' is a release with Tom Carter of Charalambides. Horton uses a whole bunch of instruments, including something called boot, which is a four string home made instrument, guitars, casio, trumpet, bowed appalachian dulcimer, turntables, cds, khaen, air-pump trumpet and many more. 'Dirt Speak' is a collection of pieces he recorded over the last few years, the period in which he didn't release much. It relatively safe to state that Horton plays minimal music. Per piece he seems to be limiting himself to just a few sounds, usually picking up the ambience where it was played, such as in the backyard or near a campfire. The computer however plays some role. Not to transform the music beyond recognition, but to add a little extra flavor to the music, some extra layers, or some pitched up or pitched down material. His playing on guitar or the boot reminded me of some of the playing of Steffen Basho-Junghans, or even some John Fahey, but Horton plays very much his own tunes, since he is not limiting himself to the stringed instruments per se. Horton plays drone music, but one of a kind that is highly personal, away from the drone posse that have the delay machines on endless feedback and just fiddle with the equalization. A pretty strong release.
The release with Tom Carter starts out with the title piece and in a very beautiful drone manner. Perhaps even a bit like what I just slagged down, but it is a slowly unfolding piece of music of softly tinkling guitars, bowed guitars, boot and such like. Like a mass of softly humming violins. A long and beautiful track. The other two tracks are much shorter, and much more disturbing. They form the complete opposite: freely improvised and noisy to the core. Perhaps also drone music but of an entirely different order, shape and color. Here it hints towards the music of bands like Sunroof or Vibracathedral Orchestra, in a similar tour de force. I think I prefer the intimacy of the title track or Horton's solo disc, so there is more than one and half disc that is great and one half that is perhaps not my cup of tea, but that still is quite good. (FdW) Address:

Stephen Seto had his debut as S:Cage released on Ant-Zen Recordings back in 2004. The album titled 'Remote' was an impressive combination of harsh electronics and gently floating ambient-scapes. Now two years later Stephen Seto is ready with his follow-up titled 'Madness turns to glass'. It is a perfect title to the album that takes its starting point in the 'aggression meets fragility'-expression. Opening with the 13-minutes long track 'Madness', fragile tunes of sweet piano melodies walks hand in hand with spheres of distorted noises and broken beats. The beautiful opener is followed by another atmospheric piece: Being an  otherworldly exploration into neverland, 'Vapou' goes into deeper and more dreamlike territories with grandiose ambientscapes and distant voices. The latter represents the only signs of life from the real world. Third track titled 'Collapsing Breath' moves a step towards reality with more focus on rhythm texture, though the rhythms are kept in the lower levels of expression suppressed by floating ambient and tense samples of human breathing. Fourth track 'Gone (Undone)' is another piece of electronic art built on ambientscapes reminiscent of Aphex Twin from his "Selected ambient works"-period assisted by sharpcut yet distorted electro-beats. Final track on titled 'Glass' takes us back to the beautiful sounds of piano added atmospheric ambience and thus putting end to another great work by S:Cage! (Niels Mark Pedersen) Address:

NEBULO - KOLIA (Cd by Hymen records)
This is beautiful! French formerly visual artist, now composer Thomas P. uses a wide pallet of sound colors to express himself on this debut as Nebulo. With his background interest spawning from 20th century avantgarde classic to contemporary electronics, from sound design to concrete movie soundtrack, Thomas P. shows his various sonic approaches on his debut album titled 'Kolia' out on German label Hymen Records. Being a rather complex compositional work, the album picks elements from acoustic-based postrock, across clicking ambience, to abstract IDM-textures transformed into a surreal collage of sonic dreamscapes. And it certainly works! 'Kolia' is the type of album that deserves deeper listening to consume the multileveled work, even though it also works well as background listening thanks to the dominating use of acoustic instruments. The more you listen, the more your ears will be caught in the complex soup of sonic beauty. Highly recommended! (Niels Mark Pedersen) Address:

There was a time when the music of Muslimgauze belonged to my daily digest, not just because I thought it was o.k., but it was something that had to do with my work. Hearing so much Muslimgauze, or even being a self-proclaimed expert is leading to some fatigue, that for the last three and half years I didn't play a single Muslimgauze work; and I had a lot to chose from. The posthumous release party apparently dried up by now, since Staalplaat is now about to re-issue all nine discs from their 1999 release 'Box Of Silk And Dogs'. 'Ingaza' and 'Hafaz Al Assad' are the first and like with many of the Staalplaat releases: they look once again spectacular. No doubt that Staalplaat still didn't loose any of that touch. Triangle, hard cover cardboard cover, printed in silver, black and gold. Matters in Middle East didn't soften out, to make an understand, so that makes the music of Muslimgauze perhaps still relevant. I say perhaps, because Bryn Jones got all his information from the newspaper and TV (and despite Al-Jazeera existing ten years, I don't think Bryn ever watched that) and whereas his concerns about the Middle East were probably genuine, he could perhaps as easily taken another good cause (racism in South Africa, Tibet, Ireland) to make his somewhat provocative statement.
'Hafaz Al Assad' is the lesser albums of the two. It sounds like a Muslimgauze sketch book with many short tracks, hints towards what a piece could be, radio stations and 'field recordings' (not made by Jones on location however). Only a handful of tracks are worked out. As such 'Ingaza' is a much better CD, giving a much clearer picture of what Muslimgauze was all about. Sampled ethnic music set to an onslaught of minimal rhythms, spiced up with electronics, even a vague trace of techno music. The ambient side of things are largely absent here, and this is the harsher Muslimgauze material. After years of not hearing any Muslimgauze this was quite fun to hear, but perhaps for these two CDs. It doesn't want me grabbing the other hundred or so CDs that are also here somewhere. (FdW) Address:

Following a number of CDR releases, the L'innomable label now expands for the first time to the world of CDs, but at the same time they release a CDR too. Perhaps they found a little bag of money? Tilt is one Tao G. Vrhovec Sambolec who plays 'live electronics' and one Tomaz Grom who plays double bass. The seven cuts on their disc were recorded in Alicante (the first three) and in Ljubljana (the last four), all in 2004. It starts out quite soft, the Alicante recordings, and one could easily think this is another of those onkyo improvisation releases, but it is not. Quite soon there is a lot more happening and it seems to me that the live electronics don't play a separate role from the bass, but that he is processing the sounds produced by Grom. Especially the Alicante recording is very vibrant and offers lots of small changes and new insights. The Ljubljana recording is a bit more chaotic, less structured and overall a bit too simple in terms of processing. Throughout a very fine disc.
I never heard of Sabine Ercklentz, although her name did pop up in previous Vitals, in the announcement section. She plays trumpet and computer. Or rather, me thinks, that she first plays trumpet and then feeds it through the computer, since the cover says: 'all sounds on this CD originate from trumpet signals' - perhaps I am entirely wrong. Here things are very much 'the instrument as object'. Ercklentz blows into the trumpet, making small rhythmic sounds, which she cuts a bit shorter and puts on repeat, and which is later used as a backdrop for further playing. It seems again to me that she isn't really interested in all sorts of weird plug ins or real time max/msp (or what have you) kind of sound processing, but rather uses whatever she records to add to live playing, thus creating a richer, more layered kind of sound. Through this relatively short disc, she puts up some wonderful textures of music, which are rich in all its sparseness. (FdW) Address:

Perhaps I missed out on Bill Thompson somewhere along the line, but he has had releases on Spectral House, Bremsstrahlung and Autueach othermn Records, but yet this is my first encounter with his work. Originally Thompson was an aspiring jazz guitarist, but thought that composing was perhaps of more interest. He spends his time in Austin, Texas and Aberdeen, Scotland and in his work as an improviser he uses prepared guitar, CD mixers, laptop, radio, found objects and circuit-bent devices. On this release two pieces, but if you didn't know, it would hard to hear, since they fade over into each other and might as well be one single piece. The title piece was created in 2005 as part of the See/Hear event in Inverurie in Scotland starts out with a low end bass hum, and some pitched crackles, but as the piece evolves more mid range sounds come in like a swirling dervish and makes a very fine piece of microsound. Very lush and ambient but also quite engaging. In the second piece, 'Feb'23rd', Thompson composes a piece made out of small audio files made by the musicians of the Found Ensemble from Edinburgh. These pieces were traded over the web, and everybody altered whatever he or she thought was necessary. In the end Thompson created this piece of music, which is, as said, quite similar to the first piece, but much longer. Thompson stretches out the material to quite an extend, and lets all the sound in there 'breath'. They slowly shift back and forth, going out of sync and certainly in the second part of the piece things turn quite microsound-ambient-glitch (you don't need to call like that if the term shocks you) in the best Taylor Deupree tradition. (FdW)

Jeff Surak, also known as Violet (as well as a whole bunch of other things actually), was always closely connected to the area which we now identify as the former Soviet Union, traveling there since twenty or so years. He's also frequently visiting the Ukraine, and on the second of July 2005, he played at the A&T Trade Shop in Kyiv, a half hour solo piece of music. Violet plays his form of drone music that is not set to lull the listener to sleep, but keep him present and noting what is going on. Here he plays autoharp, effects and perhaps some field recordings, and the whole thing is rather loud and piercing, through the use of ever increasing feedback sounds. Half way through the piece collapses and towards the end things get more introspective, towards a more 'real' drone sound. It's altogether a pretty solid live concert, full of tension and excitement, good built-up and performed with great care. What more do you want? (FdW) Address:

On the US label Innova, who releases a lot of music of all sorts from American composers, we are introduced to Raven Chacon, a 'Navajo noise artist based in Los Angeles'. Otherwise the cover doesn't provide us with much useful information, but Chacon likes his noise, his feedback and his distortion. For the majority of the twelve songs, these pieces are loud and dirty. Occasionally there is a flute, or drum to be spotted, mainly on the first few pieces, but otherwise it's all highly in Arcane Device mode. As such these excercises in feedback are nothing new under the noise sun, but it's not bad either. Rather one of the things that happen and are there, like they were there ten years ago, or even twenty. Not exactly the good medicine to cure a headache, this one, but lovers of the more serious forms of noise should take notice. (FdW) Address:

From these three releases, I believe 'Six Impending Clouds' by Netherworld is somewhat older. Behind Netherworld is one Alessandra Tedeschi, who released 'Otherwordly Abyss' (see Vital Weekly 514), who plays voice, synths, field recordings and gong. Like before, I miss out the word 'reverb' in this list, since Tedeschi likes to drown his music in a bath of reverb, especially the deep drum like sounds. Quite dark, also once again, with the drum banging slow and solemn (like in a big cathedral we are supposed to think), with some crackles and weird sounds. The voice however is something that we didn't hear coming through. It's quite an ok release, not really much different than 'Otherwordly Abyss' really, but in it's kind not bad at all. For those who love such labels as Old Europa Cafe.
From the two releases by Ben Fleury-Steiner, he who is the boss of Gears Of Sand, I think 'Chroma' is the older one, but it's re-mastered and polished up. It is already mentioned in the review of Paradin's release on Mystery Sea (see Vital Weekly 472). Paradin was the name used by Fleury-Steiner before using his own name. Like his previous work, it is not told what sort of instruments he is using and the website is also quiet about this. 'Chroma' might be played on a bunch of guitars and an even bigger bunch of sound effects, whereas 'As A Means' might be more the work of a bunch of software synthesizers. But what would I know about these sort of things. I played both releases back to back and the thing that occurred to me was that the differences between both releases are quite small. Both play a great but traditional card of ambient music with a big A. 'As A Means' sounds a bit fuller, richer and perhaps a bit better worked, soundwise, than 'Chroma', but as said the differences are marginal. It's more ambient and less experimental than his Paradin moniker, but he does a fine job. (FdW) Address:

RAGLANI - OF SIRENS BORN (CDR by Gameboy Records)
Two familiar faces on Gameboy Records, one of my more favorite CDR labels. I sinned against all the recommendations on the Vertonen disc: 'headphones/sober/darkness/supine'. The only darkness around here is the grey deck of clouds if I look out of the window. The cover lists eight tracks, but there are placed as one long track (perhaps a mistake?). Over the years, Vertonen, nom de plume for Blake Edwards, has grown from a noise band using turntables into something that deals with drone music, but drone music of a much harsher and intense kind than say the UK counterparts. Some of the pieces here (and I wish I could tell which) are ear piercingly loud, using some nasty frequencies, but then there are moments in which Vertonen is contemplative and soft. It's this combination of the soft versus the loud that makes this into a very interesting release, breaking the rules of what is 'usual' in the field of drone music, yet it never bursts out into the realms of real noise.
The Eno like title for the third release by Scenic Railroads may contain a clue of what to expect. Scenic Railroads is a duo of Joe Panzner and Mike Shiflet, and indeed the title is a clue. Both to Eno for they operate in the world ambient glitch and to the two places in which this was recorded. The first piece was recorded during 'a layover between Columbus and Houston' at Dulles International Airport and the second at 'Casa Gameboy' - at home. I don't know how you would record at an airport, but alas, there is probably a way. Scenic Railroads continue what is already set forward on their previous releases: lengthy and spacious crackles, humming of fridges or heaters, and a bit of sinewave like material. It's all quite alright actually, but of course the question is: what next?
Raglani is a guy from St. Louis and he plays sine/square wave generator, analog modular synth, acoustic guitar, voice, melodica, bamboo flute and electronics. It's good to see such a listing since I would have all too easily mistaken this for another disc of computer type of sound processing. The five pieces here are a pretty varied bunch of music, which is not easy to describe. There are certainly elements of noise to be discovered, yet it's not his primary thing. There are bits of ambient, yet that too is not his goal. It sorts of moves between all things experimental, and that's perhaps the nicest thing about the release. Pieces are relatively long, but offer enough variation to hold the interest of the listener. Quite a curious and good release. Certainly a name to watch for the future. (FdW) Address:

Only recently Scott Taylor was featured in Vital Weekly (issue 537) with his beautiful collaboration with Srmeixner, but otherwise he takes his time to put out music. His previous release 'Castaway' was reviewed in Vital Weekly 457. It might have its reason, and perhaps it lies in the fact that he wants the best possible result, and it is needed that he endless shapes his music. Music that is largely, if not all, based on field recordings. Recordings that are at times recognizable, such as water (rain, sea) and sometimes not at all. All of these recordings are fed into the computer and processed accordingly. It is possible to place Taylor along people like Francisco Lopez, Richard Chartier or Roel Meelkop, but there are some important differences. Whereas Taylor's music is not loud at all, it is also never silent, below the threshold, like the others sometimes do. Also Taylor is not afraid of adding musical elements to his music. 'Something Simple For The Organ Grinder' is a somewhat bizarre title for a lovely playing on an organ, a gorgeous little melody. This is what truly sets him apart from his counterparts and brings him closer to Stephan Mathieu, but without the minimalism. Great work all together and something more exciting than the usual microsounding artists.
On the same label, in a different format though, a compilation of artists which have releases on Con-V or will have soon, and it's pretty much a showcase of talent in the world of microsound. Some names we have come across before, such as Tomas Korber, Esther Venrooy, Vitor Joaquim, Sabine Vogel or Fhievel. Not super well-known, but each having at least an album under his or her arm. For some strange reason I expected this to be all silent and crackling noise like, but it's not. In fact not at all. For the seventy-some minutes are as a varied as you can expect from such compilations. There is somewhat louder vocal explorations of Joaquim, the improvisations of Erratic & Lina, the Ron L. Hubbard spoken word in Venrooy's piece, the onkyo of Margarida Garcia or the sheer silence of Fhievel - that too is of course present in a compilation like this. It all ends with a rather non-microsound piece of guitar music, almost in a western mood, with a nice slide to it. There are indeed any new artists to be discovered. (FdW)

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