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Vital Weekly 552

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The first release by Feu Follet was reviewed in Vital Weekly 512 and the two lengthy pieces on 'Toi Et Le Son' were excursions into drone land. This new release sees Feu Follet still playing the mood music card, but in a totally different way. Subtle, flowing rhythms, spacious synthesizer sounds - no doubt coming from the computer - and subtle piano playing. All in minor chords. The pure drones of the previous release aren't there anymore, or at least not that extent. In the title track it ends in that territory, while the piano still plays a bunch of loose chords. The other two pieces also evolve/revolve around the piano, but have more percussive elements. Quite melodic and harmonious stuff going on here, in a sort of primitive ambient house manner that ruled the music world some time ago. But it's still fine music. (FdW) Address:

Despite being in existence since 1997, we first encountered the Pink Twins earlier this year, with their nicely titled 'Paint It Pink'. The brothers Juha and Vesa Vehvilainenreturn now with their fifth CD 'Intercontinental Catapult', also recorded live, but this time at one place: Teatro La Fenice, Venice, Italy, during the well-known Biennale Di Venezia, '49th International Festival Of Contemporary Music'. They call it 'free form computer music' and whereas on the previous release it was all a bit too free form for me, I must say I rather enjoyed this one. Chopped up into six pieces, the sound bounces around, free form and freed of any structure, liberated perhaps, vibrating through plug ins and maybe out-of-the computer electronica, the main improvement over the previous disc, lies in the fact that the two listen to each other and interact more to what they are doing. Was the previous mainly an exercise in noise, this is more along the lines of Mego, especially Fenn'o'berg springs to mind and is a major leap forward. And again without much pink on the cover. (FdW) Address:

PURE SOUND - YUKON (CD by Euphonium Records)
Behind Pure Sound is primarily one Vince Hunt, who is the bass player from A Witness, who gets help from Inca Babies singer and guitarplayer Harry Stafford and 'specialist' noise guitarist Colin Grimshaw. Pure Sound 'explores music, words and atmosphere'. Words here should not be understood as vocals or singing but the recitation of poetry, such as 'The Man Who Don't Fit In', as read by J. Frank Willis in 1962 and by Hunt himself. 'Happy Birthday From Texas' uses the singing of James Baker, Ernest Williams and Henry Truvilion. The music that is put against consists of detuned guitars, backwards spinning of vinyl and some rhythms. The press text reads about 'colossal bass lines, industrial rhythm tracks and an unsettling sonic backdrop' and 'Industrial soundcapes' and I even double checked if I had the right CD on, because those three features were hardly to be found here. That's however no problem, since the music that is hardly dealing with noise is quite sweet, but it fits perhaps much better to the poetry/readings here. It's quite cinematic in approach, with sounds coming in and out (perhaps lifted from sound effect records, rather than field recordings of one's own making). It's quite an interesting work, even when I can imagine that the talking part may be a bit tedious if played regularly, but it evokes a mid-western US prairie feeling of lonesomeness and tranquility. Quite nice indeed. (FdW)

LITHOPS - MOUND MAGNET (CD by Thrill Jockey)
Music by Jan St. Werner has never been reviewed in Vital Weekly, and the reason? I couldn't tell. The man has been active in Mouse On Mars, Microstoria and solo as Lithops, so there was reason enough. But somehow somewhere it's a black spot. Lithops has a had releases on Soniq Records, Static Caravan, Eat Raw and now on Thrill Jockey. His music is not easy to describe. In the nine pieces there is always some rhythm going on, perhaps even as such as techno rhythm, but there are also in every track strange sounds that are swirling around it. Not just one or two, Lithops' music is loaded with many layers of sound. I don't consider myself a connoisseur of this kind of music at all, but it sounded to me at times like Autechre, but in a more humorous way. Very lively music that is, in which a lot happens, on all sorts of levels. At times it seems randomly improvised around a given rhythm, which in itself are complex structures, but he always find the right end, and doesn't get lost inside the improvisations. Not really refined, even a bit noisy, but all with a mild sense. A great album, that is perhaps too lively: I felt kind of tired in the end!

As far as I know there has been an Oren Ambarchi and Keith Rowe collaborative disc before, or perhaps even more, or perhaps in combination with others. Ambarchi plays his guitar with two hands and some boxes on the floor, whereas Keith Rowe places the six stringed monster on the table and plays it with a lot of objects, combs, wires and even a radio. Both are highly skilled and both are highly imaginative in what they are doing. The work present on 'Squire' is already  a couple of years old, and is from the first time they were playing together. Starting very subtle, they move through various stages of their playing, but throughout they stage on a very gentle side of things. Objects don't clatter around, but are brought in with care and detail, whereas Ambarchi puts on his finest textured playing. A great work, where the listener can't go wrong: two masters at work.
The second new release on For4Ears is the first of five of various works by Jason Kahn, Tomas Korber, Norbert Möslang, Günter Müller and Christian Weber with others. On volume one it's Möslang, Müller and Kahn who during their spring 2006 tour in Japan recorded a session with Keiichiro Shibuya and Maria, both founders of the Atak label, at Tokyo University. Chopped into five pieces, this is an entirely different recording that the Ambarchi & Rowe one. All five plays electronics in whatever form (synthesizer, laptop, cracked everyday electronics, keyboard) and despite the fullness of such a line up they come up with something that is at times as sparse as the other two on their guitars, but also can be a thick thunderous cloud of sound, such as in the final piece. All is quite coherent, and there were times were I didn't had the impression of listening to a concert of improvised music, but rather a well-composed piece. The only thing which I didn't like was it's use of reverb, which at times was a bit annoying, but otherwise: hats off. (FdW) Address:

(CD by Cuneiform)
The work of Captain Beefheart is one of most eccentric and impressive musical statements that emerged from pop history since the late 60s. It is already some twenty years that the Captain resigned from the music business in order to concentrate on painting. This music is so personal and unique, that you couldn't imagine being it interpreted by other musicians, and in fact you weren't waiting for this moment. But since it was clear that a new Beefheart-album was most unlikely, I, from my perspective, became interested in Beefheart-inspired music. I remember a superfluous cover of "I'm gonna booglarize you Baby" by the German band Unknown Cases, Elliott Sharp's "Vliets Van" and the beefheartesque music of Henry Kaiser with Name, Kraldjursunstalten, etc. But in the last few years projects arise were musicians feel attracted to dive more deeply into the musical universe of Beefheart. The brass quintet Meridian Arts Ensemble did their try, as did The Philly Women with their 'Mama
Kangaroos'-project. Even the Magic Band is reunited. Another interesting example of this Beefheart-revival is the project that was started in 2001 by Gary Lucas and Philip Johnston. They intended to "to use the compositions of Don Van Vliet as a vehicle for improvisation and arranging", in order to make a live experience of this great music possible again (next friday they'll play at the Bimhuis in Amsterdam!). The numbers they selected span to the total career of Beefheart. From 'Abba Zabba' from his first album 'Safe as Milk', to 'Evening Bell', Gary's tour de force, from the last album 'Ice Cream for Crow'. Most tracks (5) however come what many consider as the most important album of Beefheart, 'Trout Mask Replica'. All tunes were perfectly arranged by Philip Johnston. No surprise if you remember him from the days of his Microscopic Septet. No doubt his arrangements are essential for the success of this album. He transposed the music for the following line-up: former Magic-band guitarist Gary Lucas, Jesse Krakow (bass), Richard Dworkin (drums), Rob Henke (trumpet), Philip Johnston (alto Sax), Joe Fiedler (trombone) and Dave Sewelson (baritone sax). A very diverse and high quality bunch of musicians with very different musical backgrounds and approaches (New York avant scene, latin, lo-fi , etc.). This all-instrumental combo does his utmost best to forget the vocals of Beefheart. Only "Pachuco Padaver" has a vocal intro, betraying were the expression "Fasten‚ Bulbous" comes from. There are a few moments on the album where everything sounds put together a little too well, too polished. Moments were the madness of this music fails to incarnate. But these moments are rare. Overall they do a great job and serve a deliciously cacophonic diner of Beefheart-music. Must be great fun to enjoy them live! (Dolf Mulder) Address:

Australia's Cajid label always takes us by surprise and always seems to be treating us with new musicians, and surprising many of them are female. Natasha Anderson hails from Melbourne and plays contrabass and garklein recorders, which is the smallest soprano recorder. She processes those on the computer. Besides she is a regular improviser with people such as Anthony Pateras, Robin Fox, Annette Krebs and others. One can imagine that her choice of instrument moves between the low and the high end of the sound spectrum. She plays the instruments with wood, plastic, metal, circuitry and saliva and the whole thing comes off a highly interesting form of electro-acoustic music that is most of the times highly vibrant and dynamic. Sometimes the sounds in all directions, bounces back to earth and shoots back into space, but at other times things are slow and peaceful, such as in the last section of title piece, entitled 'leach'. No doubt derived from many hours of improvisation, this is cut short to and collated into what is on this CD, which is a fine combination of onkyo and electro-acoustic music. Great stuff! Address:

OLIVIA BLOCK - HEAVE TO (CD by Sedimental)
Ever since her debut with 'Pure Gaze' I have been a big fan of Olivia Block. She uses field recordings, but then: who doesn't these days? That is however one aspect, as she uses also musical instruments played by a whole bunch of people. On 'Heave To', her fourth release (she doesn't release many CDs unfortunately), we find cello, trumpet, oboe, percussion, violin, trombone, clarinet, bass trombone, viola and bass clarinet: a small ensemble. They all play closely tight together, producing clusters of sound, which work in a very organic way with all the field recordings she has made. Sounds of objects rolling on the street during a heavy windy day, rain, metallic rumble and what else have you, they mix all very well with the instruments at hand. I have no idea whether this is all composed, as in written down in a score, or not, but it sounds like it's all sketched out. There are similarities to the old work of Jim O'Rourke, circa 'Disengage', and Block's work has a similar organic feel to it, minimalist but evocative, dense yet open. Strong work, once again. Block remains for me one of the most interesting composers.
The name Stefano Pilia didn't immediately ring any bell here, but a quick search learned that he is one third of 3/4Hadbeeneliminated, who released two great CDs (and a somewhat disappointing concert a while back). He has some more solo releases, which I didn't hear. He uses an electric guitar, field recordings, piano, tape noise, instruments played by wind, sine waves, pvc tubes, filters and Andrea Belfi plays a synthesizer. Pilia plays drone music. Period. Not too dissimilar to that of Block (although we didn't use the word drone there), but with one big difference: the orchestration for small ensemble. That puts Pilia in bad competition, since I played this right after Block's CD, and then it lacks the same quality. That wasn't clever of me, because what Pilia does here, is certainly not bad. He plays some interesting pieces, two of them, of drone music. Static crackle from Belfi's synth, clear field recordings (ducks, church bells) and sustained sounds, played on a bunch of guitars, effectively layered inside the computer. Like I said, different and perhaps lesser in quality than Block's release, but perhaps that's outer category and is Pilia just ordinarily good. (FdW)

More music that stems from the same tour as 'Signal To Noise Volume 1' (see elsewhere), as well as new disc with involvement of Keiichiro Shibuya and Maria, the two founders of the Atak label. They have a disc of improvised music with Yuji Takahashi, who plays piano, computer and voice. Takahashi is already an older gentleman, who released his electronic work (1963 - present) on Atak before (see Vital Weekly 489). Here the three team up, and Shibuya plays on his prophet 5 synthesizer works by himself, Joseph Hauer, Arnold Schoenberg and John Cage, to which Takahashi adds improvisations on his piano and computer and Maria also computer, and this is certainly one of the more stranger releases I encountered. When I started playing it, I took it out of the machine, to check if I was playing the right disc. It's a very strange marriage of classical music, electronic, analogue sounds and computerized bleeps - the latter coming from the world clicks and cuts (remember: Atak also brought Stillupsteypa and Goem for instance). Somehow I can imagine that reading this will raise an eyebrow: does this work? And yes, oddly enough it does work. Perhaps twenty tracks, clocking in at almost fifty six minutes is a bit long, but there is enough good stuff to be found here. Very odd mixture indeed.
The other release on Atak is recorded during the Swiss invasion of Japan. It must have been a busy time for the Swiss people with all these playing and improvising. This disc is a bit complicated: it contains seven tracks by all three, and then two by each solo, probably some rework of the original concert recordings - but perhaps not. In the trio-improvisations the computer, keyboard (Shibuya), cracked everyday electronics (Möslang) and guitar, mixing board and headphones (Nakamura) bounce together in a pretty violent fashion. Not really noise in the strictest sense of the word, but in a more crude manner than is usual in the world of improvisation (at least this world), but all three keep their ears open for what the others are doing and the clashes work well. Interesting enough all three like their solo work to focus on rhythmic particles. Nakamura splices them through the use of a no-input mixer, Möslang by creating loops out his own cracked everyday electronics and Shibuya makes them really short, ultra fast and ultra stereo to create a fine woven pattern of sound. I like the fact that these solo excursions are included, so we can our own math's and see who did what. Great release. Quite powerful. (FdW) Address:

(DVD by Empreintes Digitales)
Unlike the Takagi Masakatsu DVD reviewed elsewhere, this DVD has no images or film. The sole reason for putting it on a DVD is to make sure it can have 24 bit versions, in stead of the regular 16 bit found on a regular CD. Tremblay is a Canadian composer who moved to Britain, where he is these a composer at the University Of Huddersfield. He is also a member of [iks], a contemporary jazz ensemble, which he formed in 1996. On this DVD there are five pieces, the oldest from 1997 and the most recent from 2004. He certainly has a diverse style: in 'Binary (Virtual Rapper Remix)' he adds the processed of a rapper to a crazy blend of chopped up rhythms. That might be something new for the lovers of empreintes digitales! In his other pieces he offers more 'regular' music that we find usually on the releases of this label. Acousmatic music of processed sounds all sort, and normally I do not find this always to be highly interesting, because it's all rather academic in approach and it moves very much along strict patterns, but Tremblay seems to be adding something of his own, a bit more humor (as in the aforementioned 'Binary'), but also in his other pieces. It's hard to define what that is, exactly, but I very much enjoyed this release, as it all sounded quite fresh in an otherwise rigid world of it's own. (FdW) Address:

(7" Lathe Cut by A Binary Datum)
MICROCLIMATE - UNTITLED (7" Lathe Cut by A Binary Datum)
Lathe cut records are made in very small editions, starting I believe at twenty copies, so they rarely make it into these pages. Mark Sadgrove, who is originally from New Zealand (Auckland to be precise) and now living in Tokyo, was captured by the lathe cut virus, and started his own little lathe cut label, A Binary Datum', starting off with a series of records called 'Fixated', focussing on Auckland artists who use a very specific recording technique. The first release is by Sadgrove himself and his fascination for screeching metal on metal. The two sides were recorded with the ruler from his work. The a-side is recorded with a contact microphone and for the other the ruler is plugged through a 1 bit pre-amp. That side is the more noisier one, almost distorted from what can be heard on the a-side. That side is more quiet and sounds like early Organum, but recorded in a more much simpler way, and less the speed change and the reverb. Both pieces are executed with care and precision - like you can expect from a ruler.
The next one is by Microclimate, of whom I never heard. Their piece was recorded from the rattle of cymbals, being brought to motion by playing low frequency tones through an 18 inch loudspeaker. You don't hear the frequencies, just the rattle. They describe at length the recording and the process (like when the bass amplifier was made, if you should want to know), and my short description probably doesn't justify this very much. Each side was recorded during a longer session, but it has been compiled and edited for this release. Microclimate's music, although made for an installation and more likely automatic music, reminded me very much of the very first recordings I heard by z'ev, which were probably on cassette. Very vibrant and lively, but also with a rather low level sort of recording, which is here of course all to deliberate, but one that works well.
Helga Fassonaki uses 'five manipulated tape machines, each contained in polystyrene chilli bins' chucking out noise textures. Captured by contact microphones and tape heads on the inside and speakers on the outside, this is a highly strange affair. It's hard to tell what it looks like, but I'm sure it's fascinating. The music is too, but perhaps it has to do with description. If you wouldn't know what was going on, it would have perhaps all too easily described as unfocussed noisy textures (although not too loud), but now we know what is going - or at least: let our imagination run wild on that - we try and figure out what it is. It becomes strangely captivating music. All three releases have pictures of the events on the cover to enlighten our own ideas about it. Three great releases. (FdW) Address:

SOUND_00 - AMBIENCE (CDR by Dirty Demos)
A new label from the UK, with the rather silly name of Dirty Demos (suggesting to release something else), whose first three releases are nicely packaged, but why the paint on the CDR? There should be a law against that. The first release is by Toni Dimitrov, also known as Sound_00, Every Kid On Speed/Acid and known to run the Acid Fake label. He is a man who likes his noise, but of course with a title such as 'Ambience' we may think again. Of course he could pull a leg on us, and do play some noise, but no, he's staying on the quiet side of things. In one piece, that spans forty-one minute, he takes the listener on a more quiet and contemplative trip. Starting out with a deep rumble, there is also some vaguely rumbling metallic percussion that occasionally joins the ride and some out of sync synthesizer sounds. Firmly made inside the small box that is called a laptop, the main surprise lies for me in the fact that it's a more contemplative work for Sound_00 than in the actual musical content, which is ok, but not really the greatest musical innovation. But as said quite alright for what it is: a nice set of ambient like music.
Behind [Dead Wood] is Adam Baker, who is also the man behind the label. He too is a man of the laptop, feeding it with field recordings that of a somewhat obscure nature, all because of his strong love to process it heavily into slightly more rhythmic particles than is usually the case in the world of microsound. [Dead Wood]'s music is a bit more about noise and rhythm than many of his more silent peers, but never has the sheer size and volume of say somebody like Chefkirk. That makes his release into quite a nice feature. Nothing too long, perhaps here and there a bit thrown together and lacks a bit of structure, but the overall intention is pretty good.
Pinkeye is one Nick, and he gets vocal help by one Linda. Six tracks in only twelve minutes, but it's hardly punkrock here. Linda sings with quite a neat voice, and Nick produces rather experimental, even noisy sounds. That would perhaps be an uneasy marriage, but it works really well. Some of the music seems to be produced in the living room, with someone doing the dishes, but the whole thing is rather cleverly made, with double tracking of the voices, and slight processing of the voice. In 'Stay Awake Now!', Nick picks up the guitar and the two play a nice popsong. Quite a captivating release, in all its direct and weirdness. (FdW)

Somewhere along the lines I lost count of Machinefabriek 3" CDR releases, but my best guess it has been close to fifteen now. In the early not wanting to settle himself on any sort of musical style, safe perhaps for the fact that they were 'electronic' in one form of the other, in the last three or so however Machinefabriek moved towards a more quieter, textured music, usually for variations of guitarplaying. Here he does the same, except that he is creating violin sounds. In the first two pieces this is be recognized, but as the disc progresses the stutter, as announced in the title, takes over and computer land is entered, with a deep and low humming of drone sounds to end the proceedings in 'Wintervacht', a beautiful but vague humming of dark clouds during wintertime. Machinefabriek seems to have found his style, as started with his CD release 'Marijn' and explores that sound in various forms, and as such he does indeed a pretty fine job. (FdW) Address:

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

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