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Vital Weekly 553

img  Tobias

Some two months I was in Greece to visit a baptizing party and part of the trip went to the a Greek Orthodox Church up in some mountain. It was sunny and crowdy, but today, in grey The Netherlands I play this new work by Francisco Lopez and Ilios, which deals with field recordings they made together at various monasteries in Greece and at Mount Athos and the rocky hills of Katounakia. I wonder if we needed to know this (for me it's ok, because I remember that lovely sunny day in September), because what do we actually know in relation to what we hear? Much of Lopez' work deals with absolute sound, and there is no information to be found on many of his releases, so that the listener is free to make up his own mind. But even now we know, I strongly wonder what it helps. Both artists went home with these sound sources and started creating each a piece of music out of it. With highly processed large chunks of wind there is something austere and stale about these recordings. I have no clue at all how these people work with what they do, but in both pieces it all sounds highly fascinating. Ilios is the man of some subtle and some abrupt changes, in which get turned around and are put upside down, whereas Lopez makes a straight forward, slowly building to a mighty crescendo piece (perhaps that should be called 'the classic Lopez composition technique') until it collapses and remains silent for some time. Both are masters of their trade, and this is no different (in various aspects really) and shouldn't missed in any collection of a diehard. (FdW) Address:

CONTRASTATE - HANDBAGS & DADA (CD by Fin de Siecle Media)
Already the third release by Contrastate on Fin de Siecle, and again much of it is a re-issue. During their lifetime (1987-2000) Contrastate releases a bunch of records, some CDs and played a handful of concerts, of which only one was released during their lifetime: their VPRO recording as part of Staalplaat's Mort Aux Vaches series. From the thirteen other concerts, two were released as part of packages on Tesco, on limited vinyl and cassette. The three different concerts on this release, are from three different phases of the band. The first is a recording of the first duo line up of Jonathan Grieve and Stephen Meixner, and perhaps my favorite Contrastate line up. Analogue synths, the rumbling of low resolution samples, some feedback guitars and a deep dark howling voices. Much of these ingredients turn up in the next phase, but it's more refined and, perhaps a bit to my sadness, the voice turned a bit more pathetic (shouting slogans it seems), but in other tracks more quiet. A better vocal range here, and the music is worked out more. This is the mid-area round about their CD for Staalplaat. It's also the only concert represented with more than one track. In the third phase they were a four piece, and it's also the time which I least remember. The live piece here is the last live concert, in April 2000, and sees them harking back to the analogue synth days, but with a more complex humming of vocals and more emphasizing percussive elements, but still with the dark ambient industrial undercurrent. The differences in the various phases of Contrastate lie in the smaller details. I must admit that in the later years I was a bit put off by the vocals used by various people in Contrastate, adding a slight pathetic feel to the music, but the music part was quite alright. Contrastate combined the right amount gothic, experimentalism and electronica to be one of the more unique bands of their times. I wonder what will be re-issued next. (FdW) Address:

Following their 'Songs Of Maldoror' (see Vital Weekly 477), there is now 'Eugenix' by Amsterdam's Anti-Delusion Mechanism. Here the vocals are done by Vilbjørg Skrot (before it was one Hodja Hog) and Dead Fish Fuck on synths and processing. On the previous releases he played roots, trees and synths. The music on 'Songs Of Maldoror' was pretty much alright, but I wasn't too blown by the voice of Hog, who sounded a bit too much like Diamanda Galas meeting Chrystal Belle Scrod. This has now changed. Skrot may sound like something similar in the opening piece of this release, but in many of the other pieces she sounds like something. At times a whole bunch of buzzing insects, where her voice is used to stir up a few sounds in the synthesizer (somehow I think they are triggered by the voice). The texts aren't easy to follow, but they are dealing with 'current scientific and commercial texts of genetics in combination with historical and newer ideas of eugenics', but they are printed on the otherwise nicely printed cover (by Knust). The whole work is a major step forward from the previous release. Produced with great care, the music is highly emotive and experimental, with lots of small things happening on various levels. An electronic version of Nurse With Wound is what leaps to mind here. The first time I fully satisfied by a release by this collective. (FdW)

The name Claudio Parodi has come up in Vital Weekly a lot of times, but only in the announcement section (or so I believe), so this CD is our first encounter. It's the first of seven releases to come on Extreme, all in dedication to someone. Now it's Alvin Lucier, to come are Charles Hayward, Yasunao Tone and Alvin Curran. The choice for Lucier is remarkable, or perhaps not. Lucier makes wonderful concepts on how to work with sound and space, but in general Lucier only makes one composition per concept. Find out how he made 'I'm Sitting In A Room' for instance, and apply that to sounds of your own. You'll be amazed how it is easy it is to process music, without computers. Parodi's homage is partly based on this Lucier composition, as well as the use of reasonators: objects moving because of the sound. The starting point here is a composition by Tiziano Milani (omitted here) and twelve subsequent processing stages. Parodi uses a whole bunch of percussive instruments as resonators, as well as various amplifiers and various diffusers. In each new stage the sound is stretched until a point when the computer couldn't cope anymore and from then on it is only smaller portions. In the final stage, all twelve parts were crossfaded for a continuos listening. Perhaps it sounds a bit complicated, but it's all relatively easy to do yourself (and highly recommended). Milani's original piece is omitted as said, but in the early stages it can be recognized as something to do with percussive sounds and flutes, but before the ten minute mark, it's clear that this evolves into a piece of drone music. Over the next forty minutes matters move through various stages, until it reaches it loud conclusion. There is certainly more happening than in an average Lucier piece (nothing wrong with that actually) and it's certainly more in pure musical areas than an average Lucier piece, which makes this into a well-enjoyable  release that crosses the lines of drone and ambient. A very fine release. Released with the consent of mister Lucier himself. (FdW)

COINCIDENZA (CD by Zufall3177)
This new Italian label wants to promote musical improvisation. To this end their first release is 'Coincidenza', a CD which is not a compilation and not one band. It is a bunch of musical pieces recorded by no less than twenty four musicians from Rome, and a quick survey learned that there wasn't a single one I heard of before. There are flutes, piano, rock line ups, live electronics, wind instruments: the whole lot. The improvisation can range from introspective and quiet, duets for piano and flutes to free rocking loud, post punk with saxophones. Throughout these tracks are quite short, all from a minute to four minutes, which makes the whole thing quite vivid and lively, and it sounds more than the label probably want like a compilation, but perhaps that has also to do with the organisation of the pieces. The improvisations themselves are alright, but they stay also on the safe side of improvisation music. Very few musicians go out of their standard routine of playing the instruments and such it's a bit of a conservative release. But not bad at all and quite entertaining. Like a radio station spinning all sorts of improvised music. (FdW) Address:

DIALING IN - COWS IN LYE (CD by Pseudo Arcana)
The iterative process of recording a sound source, playing it back and re-recording the playback has been explored from various perspectives by such different artists and projects as Alvin Lucier, Die tödliche Doris and Loren Chasse. It also plays a central role in the work of Seattle-based sound artist Reita Piecuch aka Dialing In. For her album Cows in Lye Seattle-based she uses field recordings from a trip to India, piano and a "Shruti Box" (electronic Tamboura) as sound sources, that she repeatedly plays back and re-records in various reverberant spaces such as caves and bunkers. However, I only gathered this latter information from the press release, since she weaves the resulting sounds into gritty tapestries of high density that are not so much reminiscent of the Deep Listening Band as of the ambient industrial sound of, say, Maeror Tri and the likes. The natural acoustics of the spaces and the process of recording itself produce a muddy mass of distortion and lo-fi hiss, that transforms the sound sources and results in an amorphous spatial quality. There is an extraordinary fuzziness to these multilayered sounds, that gives the music a highly mesmerizing character. Played loud it fills the whole room with a giant ecstatic rumble, a delirious stream of multicolored haze, completed by occasional far-away acoustic reminiscences of India and a pleasantly weird vocal contribution from (as the press text says) avant-crooner 'Herb Diamante' on the second track. (MSS) Address:

EMANUELE ERRANTE - MIGRATIONS (CD by Apegenine Recordings)
On the small Canadian label Apegenine Recordings we get one Emanuele Errante, of whom I never heard. This is the first release in the Chapitre series which will deal with electronic ambient music. As such Errante succeeds well. His music seems to me made of guitars and synthesizers, of which he creates bigger and smaller loops, which is fed through Ableton Live (I think I recognized some of effects in that program) and each of the eight pieces is a nice flow. Not too deep, certainly not very dark but also not too bright. Errante makes easy music, and perhaps the easy way. Easy listening music, that occasionally goes into the direction of New Age music, but it never crosses the line. Errante creates wonderful, beautiful risk free ambient music that stands firmly in the tradition of Brian Eno and everything that has come our way in the field of ambient music since then. (FdW) Address:

Although I'm not familiar with the entire body of work put out by Matthias Grassow, I must say what I heard was not bad at all. Ambient with the big A, but always with a slight touch of experimentalism, keeping it away from the dreaded new age posse. Here he teams up with one Thomas Weiss, of whom I know nothing, but he thanks 'God for his immense love and kindness'. The four piece on this CD sound exactly I would expect this to sound (which in itself is a pity since a surprise is always nice). Deep washes of synthesizers, with sparse, slow melodies and in the ornament side some far away, alienated sounds. Ambient with the A, as I said. It's not an album where big or new things happen, but Grassow and Weiss walk a well-known path: through a misty forest on an early sunday morning, with a touch of sunlight. One where even the firmest non-believer could think God exists. The cover tells us that the music doesn't want to entertain us, but 'give you a view inside your 'self''. Perhaps I am just too much a non-believer and merely want to enjoy the music and the spiritual side is a bit beyond me. (FdW) Address:

Following 'At The Landgate', a limited edition mini CDR (see Vital Weekly 486), there is now a full length CD by Twelve Thousand Days, the group of Martyn Bates (formerly of Eyeless In Gaza) and Alan Trench of Orchis and Temple Music. Guitars play a big role, but there is also whistles, karimba, percussion, tibetan bells, dulcimer, recorder, keyboards, and of course the ever present voice of Bates, which can be recognized quite easily. Like I was pleasantly surprised by the EP, which I thought was a bit too short, and again I'm surprised, although now I think it's a bit long. Forty minutes would be the right size, I think. The music of Twelve Thousand Days is not my usual thing. The voice of Bates is drenched with spleen, the music of soft tinkling guitars, mediaeval flutes and dulcimers, the reverb on the voice: all the ingredients of music that I would normally not like, but it is quite captivating. The best track here is 'Cries Distant Calling', with a strong melody, nice slide guitars, and a tune that sticks right in your head. Despite the fact that it is so different, or perhaps because of that, this is a damn fine release.
The mastering of the Twelve Thousand Days CD was done by Paul Bradley, who present his latest solo work 'Pastandpresentcollide' (what is that a lot of things are written as one word these days?). Bradley is one of the more active drone meisters, with many releases on his own Twenty Hertz label and his various collaborative releases, such as with Darren Tate, makes him the fastest rising star on the firmament. Although not in league with say Merzbow, release-wise, there is a certain risk of over production. In itself drone music, and certainly the area in which we find Bradley, is already a bit of a dead end, so it would not be a bad idea to broaden the horizon. On the previous Bradley release 'Memorias Extranjeras' (see Vital Weekly 523) he already had some unprocessed field recordings as part of his soundscape, so it might be expanding slowly. Throughout this new piece (like per usual, Bradley offers one piece per release), there is faint trace of children singing, but that's about the extent as where we hear the 'real' field recordings. But for perhaps 95% this is all in the deep underworld of drone music. Slowly humming about, with deep bass sounds, and a bit organ like sounds towards the end, this is an absolutely beautiful piece. Let there be no mistake about it. However, at the same time, we should also note that is doesn't differ that much from his previous work, which is a pity, since there is already quite some work available from him. If this would be your first encounter, you could easily think that's great, but as a diehard fan, you could probably do with a slight change in the menu. (FdW) Address:

GEIR JENSSEN - CHO OYU 8201M (CD by Ash International)
Of these three new releases out of the Touch imperium (although Ash International should be seen as a separate entity, the ties are pretty strong), two of them deal with field recordings. Of all field recordings that are to be made 'out there' that storms and rain are the ones that are most 'easy', since they produce a lot of sound. Not entirely true, this somewhat bold statement, because it takes some to make a good recording of a nice storm, that sounds like a storm and not a bunch of tape hiss. If you leave the microphones to people such as Chris Watson or BJ Nilsen, you know there are in good hands. They both love a good storm, and have gathered a bunch of interesting recordings in that area. One storm was followed by Watson (in Newcastle) and Nilsen (on Öland and Gotland) and became a collaborate piece of music. Also each of them has a solo piece, composed out of storm sounds. In Watson's solo piece there is a heavy storm, lots of seagulls (probably other birds as well, but I'm not the ornithologist at hand), which goes through various stages, using the different acoustics of the various places which were used to make the recordings. In their collaborative piece things are rather more subdued and calm, strangely enough and only towards the end things get louder and meaner. In BJ Nilsen's solo piece, various recordings from various places are melted together, in order to make a strong piece of storm sounds. All three piece may sound relatively 'easily made', but there are not. They are highly imaginative pieces of natural sounds, and should appeal to fans of Eric LaCasa as well as others who use recordings like this to create powerful music, again like this.
On Ash International we find a CD by Geir Jenssen, mostly known as Biosphere (and as such with releases on Touch), but since we are dealing here with a strict project of field recordings, it is released under his own name. In September and October 2001 he undertook a trip into Tibet, climbing the Cho Oyu, the sixth highest mountain of the world. Whereas others would probably take a camera, Jenssen is more the kind of guy to take a minidisc and a microphone to make a sonic diary. He also took a world band receiver so that he could listen to the news (and thus heard about 9/11 high in the mountains). Mentioning the shortwave is important, since unlike Watson/Nilsen, Jenssen records some sounds of that in the environment he is, and they ended up on the CD. That marks already one big difference between this and the previous CD. Some of the tracks use these shortwave sounds in addition to the field recordings. Another difference is the fact that Jenssen's twelve tracks are more pure recordings of events and situations, and the previous is a musical collage of various recordings at the same time. Throughout these pieces are minimal, but are clearly defined. Each is a snapshot of a particular part of the journey. Although Vital Weekly didn't review 'Dropsonde', it's easy to see why some of this was used as source material on that particular Biosphere CD. In terms of music, this is unmistakably the more musical one of the two that deal with field recordings. The release comes with an extensive booklet, also a diary, but then of words, of which the last entry reads: "I'm not sure I'd ever undertake a similar journey. Once was enough"
A little over two years ago, Rosy Parlane, made his debut on Touch with 'Iris', following solo releases on Sigma, and a membership of such bands as Thela and Parmetier. Three tracks back then, and on 'Jessamine' again three tracks. Rosy plays here electric and acoustic guitars, piano, melodica, accordion, violin, trombone, snare drum, shimsaw (an instrument designed by Marcel Bear), bowed metal, household objects, field recordings, radio, computer and contact microphone, and if that isn't enough there is also help from a whole bunch of people who played guitar. The first track starts out in common territory: ambient glitch made with bowed guitars, violins, but Parlane's music is more angular. It has a sharper edge, already in this first piece. Even a bit of old Organum could be traced in these scraping and bowing sounds. It's hard to say if all the instruments mentioned on the cover are also there, but guitars are definitely there. In the loudest part, 'Part Three' things become orgasmic loud, almost in a Merzbow manner, but Parlane keeps things nicely under control. Overall, Parlane has a richer sound than on 'Iris', there is more happening and he is stepping out of the more safer microsound glitch. Quite a leap forward! (FdW)

SEFA - PEACH A HEART/MANO A MANO (7" by Static Caravan)
On the website of Static Caravan the catalogue of this 7" is given to someone else, so I couldn't retrieve any information on Sefa. They have a 7" on that lovely label, for whom the 7" is the most desired format. A female voice, two guitars: these are the main ingredients, plus something that is not easy to describe, but somehow I don't think this electronics, but maybe an accordion. The voice (sometimes double tracked) is a sweet one, the songs are sweet, and especially 'Mano A Mano' is gorgeous folk tronic song - well, perhaps just a folk song, since the electronics are more or less absent. Sweet music. What more could you possibly want? (FdW) Address:

On the cover it says: 'Trypanosoma is a two person act on vocals, clarinet, tenor saxophone, groove box and breakable objects'. They are helped by Kostas Stergiou and Hedwige Hurtel. I can imagine that the fans of Echo Music will raise an eyebrow here. The six tracks were all recorded in a single take in the studio and is a really odd combination of improvised music meeting popmusic, albeit of a more weirder kind. There is rhythm that holds the pieces together, but the wind instruments blow in a rather form. Stergiou's fender rhodes piano plinks sometimes away and Hurtel chants a bit, but without getting really to sing. This release moves away from the previous Echo Music releases because it's no longer the very serious approach to electronic and computer music, but more a free form post punk popmusic played on a bunch of electronic instruments with the addition of wind instruments. Quite a curious release. (FdW) Address:

These days it's probably no longer known, but Das Synthetische Mischgewebe was a band, and not the project of Hübner, which it is since some time. Before people like Yref, Chazev, T.O.W. Richter, Isabelle Chemin and Jean Rene Lasalle were member at one point or another. The recordings on this double pack are in more than one way historical. They are old, twenty years to be precise, but they were also made in the then divided Berlin, in a place you can't find anymore. Das Synthetische Mischgewebe used an old tunnel and a subway station going from East to West Berlin to rehearse for concerts that were later held. Abandoned industrial areas, in which they could easily find material to play their music on. Everything you hear on this double pack is recorded on the spot, using what ever is available there. Industrial tools, scraping metals, obscure objects which we can't visualize and such like. But they are played like musical objects and rather than trying out what the sound possibilities are, the actors in Das Synthetische Mischgewebe want to play a piece of music with those objects, so they carefully move about and create pieces of improvised music with these objects. Battery run amplifiers and a walkman to record the whole thing onto give this a slightly rough edge, although I must say that the sound quality is more than excellent. Cut into sessions of thirty minutes, this can't be engaging to hear from beginning to end without leaping into a moment of boredom, but throughout I thought this was a very fine release. Not loud or heavy industrial as some of the early work was (or perhaps that's just a wrong memory? Apparently Vinyl On Demand is releasing some LPs with older work),  but rather pre-dates a lot of the onkyo type improvisation of the last few years and a very fine work of electro-acoustic music. Topped off with a nice presentation and a most enjoyable set of personal liner notes. Great archival release. (FdW) Address:

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