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Vital Weekly 556

img  Tobias

Listening to Dead Letters Spell Out Dead Words has always been a hallucinatory endeavor with its ability to conjure imagery of wandering through the bowels of some ill-defined decaying urban atrocity. With "Old Ghosts, New Ghosts, All Ghosts" the landscape has changed, moving to the innards of a decaying heart. The inhabitants here are ghosts-ghosts of lost, attempted, and rejected love manifested in sound. The tracks are numbered yet not all are titled, as if one cannot name them or is too afraid to articulate their names. Such are the sounds that emanate: strange articulations of scratching, clicks, objects being dragged in the mud in one continuous flow. Sometimes a form takes shape and arises from the muck, repeating drones that raise our spirits then succumbs to its inherent flaws. Unlike a lot of what falls under the loose genre of microsound or digital musics this one is best played at maximum volume. (Jeff Surak) Address:

Two CDs by the young austrian (or swiss?) musician Christian Weber. Christian Weber, who did his musical studies in Graz and Linz, is active in several projects of improvised or composed music. Current projects include WAL (with Bruno Amstad & Joke Lanz), WWL (with Urs Leimgruber & Christian Wolfarth), Korber-Weber-Wolfarth, Wiesendanger-Weber-Ulrich and Space Madness (with Richard Koch and painter Zasd). Regular performances with ensembles for contemporary composed music (a.o. Collegium Novum, RSO Vienna...). With '3 Suits & a Violin' he presents his own ensemble and music. Accompanied by four musicians from Austria and Switzerland, they are exploring dynamics, sound and textures in Amm-like improvisations. From the last sentence you may conclude that we deal here with a typical european kind of improvisation or avant garde music with Amm as an important point of reference. A kind of music that fortunately still attracts younger musicians nowadays and audiences (I hope). The line up is: Koch (bass clarinet, saxophones, electronics), Moser (cello), Siewert (guitar, lap steel, electronics), Wolfahrt (drums) and Weber on doublebass. Moser and Siewert you may know from Polwechsel. The music for this CD arises from a open concept that Weber composed and that is worked out and giving shape by all five improvisors. All of them are equally involved in coloring these soundscapes. While listening to the music it is my experience that it has strong sense of direction and structure. Whether this is the result of the structuring quality of the underlying concept, or of the improvisational qualities of the players I am unable to judge. But the raw and subtile noises, are well-tempered and -balanced interwoven into a whole that succeeds to keep the attention of the listener. The recordings already date from 2002 and are now at last released by HatOLOGY. So I am not sure whether we are talking here of history, meaning that the ensemble does no longer exist. I don't hope so, because their improvisations are satisfying and imaginative. If not you may derive some comfort from the solo-recording by Weber. The privately released 'Osaka solo' captures 18 minutes of Weber in a solo concert on march 12, 2006 in Japan. A very concentrated and energetic piece, that proves Weber is also perfectly capable on his own feet in making exciting noise-oriented improvisation. It starts with deep growling noises in the lower regions. Then soft and silently, Weber makes a new start in the higher regions, playing gradually louder and with deeper drones and a rhythmic pattern. Nicely recorded by Jason Kahn (Dolf Mulder)

(CD by Hibari Music)
With intervals of two or three weeks, Mattin produces a new work, and more and more released on 'real' CDs. I am a bit unclear what his new work has to do with 'King Of Noise' by Hijokaidan, but besides using the title, he also uses the cover of that release. in 'Computer Music/Post-Fordism' he uses the sound of typing on a computer keyboard, which I thought was a great example of computer music. In the next three pieces, Mattin plays his more usual barrage of noise music. Lots of feedback, but in 'Attitude Fetishist' there is also a rhythm machine banging. That is a new feature, but also the fact that Mattin uses lyrics these days. He spits the words out like in a good ol' Steve Ignorant style type of singing. More than half the CD is taken up by 'Thesis On Noise', which is mainly silence, interrupted by a female voice reading the thesis (also printed on the cover). By itself a strong statement (and with a difference to text which I won't spoil here), but perhaps also not the newest thing to happen around noise and silence as a musical theme. And of course as a music piece a bit hard to listen to. But through Mattin makes a strong point in all five pieces. (FdW)

(CD by Ant-Zen)
Many musical territories have been crossed during the thirteen years of existence by French band Ultra Milkmaids. Starting back in 1993 as a hardcore punk band the project moved across experimental free jazz into a techno-based sound sphere until they decided to find themselves somewhere in the borderline between electronic and acoustic sound expression. On this latest release Ultra Milkmaids stylishly makes my thoughts go back to glory days of German krautrock. With the blend of experimental rock added some punk attitude and lots of free flying psychedelia, the expression turns my minds back into early 70's krautrock albums such as Neu's "Neu 2" and Faust's "Faust IV". This is cheerful music with a nice dose of pensiveness. There's not much electronic interruption here, just pure guitar-driven rock at its best. From the emotional track of true melancholy, "Why?", to the simple yet very effective tune "My star" with great vocals reminiscent of something in-between the guttersnipe-vocals of Mick Jagger and the distant and unpolished voice of Ian Curtis (Joy Division). "Pocket station" is a great album. Another great achievement by the band with the funny name! (Niels Mark Pedersen) Address:

(CD by Adaadat)
It has been a long, long time since I last heard something by Disinformation, also known as Joe Banks, who uses electrical phenomena of all kind to produce some highly charged electric and electronic music. I have no idea what he is up to these days, but here we find him working with Mark Pilkington, also known as Strange Attractor, of whom I know next to nothing, other than he also runs the Strange Attractor journal. On 'Circuit Bending' they use 'vintage, high-voltage electromedical apparatus to achieve an effect described by the artist and sound engineer Richard Brown, who reported accidentally using Tesla waves to trigger spontaneous music in a toy electronic keyboard'. To bend circuits you have to open an electric device and touch the electrical wires and knobs inside, or you can modify them yourself. It can open up a whole world of sound, if you know what you are doing. The twenty-seven minute work, spanning nine tracks here, are culled from six hour of performance recordings, and is surely a crazy work. Notes are seemingly randomly played, there is distortion and crackle and throughout there is a strange sense of hectic and nervousness about this music. Because of a power failure today, I was forced to listen this on headphones and a CD walkman, which made the overdose of hectic going straight into my brain, making me partly nervous and wanting to throw away the headphones. But there is something truly captivating about this release. All of the random patterns start making sense, a line is to be discovered, perhaps even a structure, how illogical at times it may sound. And some tracks are just plain sweet, such as the fourth one. The 'old' Disinformation sound is still in there, but it has opened to new fields of sound. (FdW) Address:

This is my first encounter with both Spectral House as well as Brent Fariss and Bill Thompson. The first plays 'prepared contrabass, electronics, field recordings' and Thompson plays 'electronics, amplified percussion and field recordings'. Both studied composition at Texas State University in the mid 90s, and they cross lines of modern composition, electronics, noise and free improvisation. As far as i understand both pieces on this release were commissioned by an arts organization to be played live but the result were thus nice that they decided to go into the studied to do a full, good studio recording of it. Rightly so, because this is music that deserves to be heard. In 'August' things start at the long drone end, with a wall of electronics, but gradually over the course of this piece, things move towards letting the instruments be heard as such and even ends with a desolate bowed string. The second piece, 'September' works along less well defined lines, and is more an open ended collage form piece of music, moving through various textures, both electronically and acoustically. Both pieces are great works from the world where composing and improvising meet up. No doubt we'll be hearing more from them. (FdW) Address:

BEN FROST - THEORY OF MACHINES (CD by Bedroom Community)
Like the previous release on Bedroom Community this one comes with extensive liner notes on the artist and the recording, almost in a modern classical way. Daniel Johnson tells us about Frost's fascination for the Swans, about films and about the pieces. I didn't want to spoil my fresh opinion about Frost, as this is the first time I hear his music (other than a remix on a Room40 compilation). Frost lives in Iceland, has had work released on Room40 and a release as School Of Emotional Engineering. His main instrument is the guitar and sound effects and to a lesser extent he uses drums. His main goal is to create a wall of sound. No exactly in a traditional noise manner, but perhaps in Swans like manner. Layers upon layers of (wether or not processed) guitars, with minor changed pitches form the massive body of this work. That can be loud but also soft such as the piece 'We Love You Michael Gira'. Drums don't play necessarily a good hook, but rather bang out a good groove, on end, without much variation. If they arrive at all. In each piece it seems to be taking a while to get there and they sound like they have been filtered through some computer plug in section. Pieces are long but never too long, as the changes aren't that minimal that they arrive unnoted. In every piece something changes rather quickly. Five tracks, just, no more, but with great, exhausting, power. One to leave you behind rather tired. (FdW)

(DVD-R by Moab Records)
PAUL DEVENS & 10:21 AM - LATITUDE (DVD-R by Moab Records)
From the southern part of The Netherlands hails Paul Devens of whom we reviewed 'Gunpop' in Vital Weekly 504. Here are two works that deal with video and audio - or audio and video, which you prefer first. For 'Testing Ground' it's best to play it a high volume and on a surround sound system. The first I can do, but not the second. There is a stereo mix. 'Testing Ground' deals with space and sound. Speakers play strict separated sounds, high and mid range on to speakers facing the ceiling, with the bass rhythm rumble bouncing around. It's a bit hard to describe and the way I played it, probably hardly justifies the real thing, but the video gives an impression of things looked like. The bass rhythm (which isn't in anyway a dance thing) provides a strong backdrop, on top of which the high end comes around in a vicious, dirty manner. Explosive work.
Together with someone who calls himself 10:21 AM, there is also another DVD-R release, but here no video, just a black screen for the first two-third of the work. Again the work is probably best heard in surround sound, but again no such thing. Over the course of almost eighteen minutes, the two merge rhythmic particles together in a very minimal way, but with great care and style. Minimalist changes and in quite a noisy and crude way. Perhaps influenced a bit by Pan Sonic, or rather Mika Vainio's solo work, this is an austere work. Once the video kicks in, things also change sound-wise: it becomes thicker, due to heavy layering of sounds. Like before, this review is only like listening to it with one ear. A surround sound as a present for christmas tree, is what I want! (FdW)

(CDR by Eter)
Quite recently Polish Hati did a small tour together with z'ev. No doubt Hati is one of those bands that use concerts to sell CDs and perhaps for that reason they released these three CDRs. Hati is a drone group who use a variety of instruments: animal horns, bamboo pipes, steel jingle bells, wooden pipe, plastic tubes, cymbal, steel lids, wood wind chimes, and much more and the outcome is both atmospheric and occasionally rhythmic. On 'Mantra 1: Prehistory Of Hati: Vol. 1' we are transported back to the past, to the very first sessions by Hati in 1997. Here they still use loops, guitar, effects, voice, found objects and a drum machine. Especially the drum machine makes a big mark on the music. It rambles on like there is no end. The entire sound spectrum is smeared with sound effects. Very trance like, but for the weak of mind, this can turn out to be a bad head trip. Sometimes a bit noisy, but such as in 'Suntan 1' a nice cross-over between the old zoviet*france and the more recent Troum.
We leap forward to 2006 and find 'Recycled Magick Soundsystem: Live'. I am not sure why people spell magic as magick, as I hoped it would have been over by now. It distracts me a bit of the music. Between 1997 and 2006 Hati has turned off their volume, worked on structure and balance of their sound and working with z'ev has influenced quite a bit. Their sound has softened and became more deeper, but it still uses extensively sound effects and synthesizers. Nice, but a bit too raw of a combination. But this is a live recording so it's also a bit more rough, at least more rough that the 'Recycled Magick Emissions', which is a 3" CDR where they reach the perfection of their sound. Densely layered, using reversed sounds, minimal changes and throughout mostly acoustic sounding. I must say I prefer the shorter recent studio recording over the longer live recordings. The all acoustic sound works quite well. It's drone related, but acoustic and highly atmospheric. Soon a 7" to come on Drone Records, apparently along similar lines. (FdW)

Derrida's  idea that the  "semantic horizon which habitually governs the notion of communication is exceeded or punctured by the intervention of writing."  which  "..does not give rise to a hermeneutic deciphering".. is key to understanding the difficulty of locating the 'drone' within the idea of music which is "western" - i.e. teleological, which is written contra the arguments given in S.E.C.  And though we have passed through such a teleological epoch we are only now in the light of post modernism reconsidering the alternatives, i.e. 'turtles all the way down'.. the eternal return of the same. and alternative mythologies - Buddhist, Jain, Hindu .. even Wagnerian prior to Parsifal... And so this 'music' is open to the critique of those who wish to enforce a teleology upon us. (And the usual ploy of leveling ethnocentric critiques on musics which are not part of this great tradition of the west! - and its teleological meta-narrative - i.e. Christian /  Jewish / Islamic / Marxist). This piece avoids the latter critique, its very Conrad-esq beginning locates it within modern western culture despite its use of the de-tuned string instrument.  Its development, and that's a very dangerous word to use here, is something subtle - it does not so much hide the development but  points towards a cyclic anti hermeneutic work - and this is perhaps my only 'valid' point of criticism of this otherwise excellent work, and maybe not that valid - but given a piece of music (normally) has to be temporally located this provides an obvious challenge to the drone work - (unless repeat play is used) - maybe via an mp3 disk this temporality could be extended but never breached, but this is not a significant philosophical challenge to the drone work as its not surprising that our technology supports the western idea of a teleological universe even though there is a likely alternative - eight track tape  as the anti-Christ! (jliat) Address

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