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Vital Weekly 559

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BRENDAN MURRAY - WONDERS NEVER CEASE (CD by Intransitive Recordings)
SEHT & STELZER - EXACTLY WHAT YOU LOST (CD by Intransitive Recordings)
THE STUMPS - SPLIT FLEET DODGE (LP by Palinedrone/Intransitive)
The very last concert I saw in 2006, was on new year's eve, and by Brendan Murray, the unknown hero of experimental music. Due to some technical problems, it wasn't the grand finale of a great night, but he worked himself cleverly around the problems and did a more than suitable ending. Murray has a new CD to present, 'Wonders Never Cease' and I lost count a little bit, but it's perhaps his fourth or fifth solo release, and hopefully this will put him on the map for good, as he is ready for it (well, actually since his first CD, but that label disappeared all too quick). Murray plays around with the notion of drones in a clever way. The opening piece 'Hymn One' starts out as a loud beast, almost in a violent way, but when Murray pulls back the volume, things develop in a beautiful way. Heavily layered, with throughout changing patterns, which especially in 'Seas' works quite well, almost in a Steve Reich like manner, it is hard to believe that this actually a live album, even when bits and pieces were reworked in the studio. It's a clever drone album, since it by-passes the Mirror et al as Murray's music is much more upfront and present, and that very same quality makes it also anything far from ambient music. 'Wonders Never Cease' is Murray's finest album to date and hopefully puts him on the map of great experimental composers.
Seht is one Stephen Clover from New Zealand who teams up with Howard Stelzer, cassette manipulator, improviser and head honcho of Intransitive Recordings. Even when Stelzer loves to improvise, the material on 'Exactly What You Lost' was cooked up during the exchange of tapes through post. There isn't a clear plan or concept behind this, so it's a mutual love of sound. It's hard to say, but apparently there is a lot of processed field recordings, which are processed to the limit, that is: beyond the point of recognition. Long stretched drone material is created from this, interrupted by some of Stelzer's finer cassette manipulations. At times, certainly with the highly processed field recordings, I was reminded of some of the older Hafler Trio works, but throughout this is a little more raw than that, but at the same time also with great intensity. A more than great collaboration of highly composed (as opposed to improvised) music, with great menacing drone music, field recordings and manipulated cassettes.
The same Stephen Clover is also a member of The Stumps, a band with him on bass and synthesizer, but also with Antony Milton, James Kirk, Kieran Monaghan and Campbell Kneale playing a guest role. Although this is more traditional rock oriented music, it still goes down as prototypical New Zealand free rock/noise. Perhaps altogether a little bit more psychedelic than say Sandoz Lab Technicians (still an all time favorite of mine here), the name The Stumps has been well chosen as the work somewhere along the lines of old krautrock ideas, but in a more nineties noise rock jacket. Quite nice. (FdW)

With the regular ticking of a clock, Australia's Department produces CDs. 'Bombs In High Places' is their fifth CD, following 'Shape Decay' (see Vital Weekly 495) and 'The Turncoat Sessions 97-03' (see Vital Weekly 453) and two older ones (see Vital Weekly 306). Although they are a duo, of Delov and Gatz, they manage to sound like a band. A real rocking band. More than before it seems, they are playing around with rock music. Either played by themselves, or sampled from other sources, the eight pieces are a highly varied bunch of musics, with distorted guitars, pounding drums and vocals. Moving away from the more cinematographic approach of the older material, they now offer a bunch of 'real' songs, that is varied, but still makes a coherent unity. The title track, with the chorus sung by a bunch of kids, is not exactly 'Another Brick In The Wall', but it makes a very streetwise piece of music. Again, a great CD, moving in a slightly different direction, Department is always in for a nice surprise. (FdW)

New solo album from one of the most interesting noise musicians around, apart from being one of the instigators of a whole scene with his No Fun Fest, held every year in Brooklyn, and No Fun Productions label. This is the first CD for that label after seven great LPs, and not only is it a departure for format, it is also a slight departure concerning the music. Where his recent work (with "Welcome Home", his last album on Important, being one of the best in the genre) specialized in highly detailed digital noise constructions that sounded like some sort of John Wiese but with more compositional talent and more sense of contrast & volume, his new album is all made with analog synths. Some sort of reverse Merzbow? Maybe, but to be honest the sound itself hasn't maybe changed so much as could be expected. It is more what he does what it. Its five morphing drone pieces meander like a bulldozer lost in a thick fog, staying in place but slowly shifting form. Gone is the frenzy and overabundance of his recent records, but also a certain sound richness that I personally found totally addictive is lost. But getting lost can be fun, and it's certainly a great place to be which he carved out here. (Robert Meijer) Address:

MIKE SHIFLET - ICHINOMIYA 5.3.6 (CD by Little Enjoyer)
If I am not mistaken (I usually am), this is the first 'real' CD for Mike Shiflet, the man behind the lovely Gameboy Records, as well as a member of Scenic Railroads and a solo artist in the realms of noise. Loud noise that is, but it's also of the more interesting kind.  Here he doesn't opt for  the true harsh noise, but plays around with a violent, motor like piece of drone music. Present on all levels in the dynamic spectrum, from the low end hum to the high end piercing sound, this moves only slowly around, with subtle changes that occur with regular intervals. Although minimal and conceptual in approach, Shiflet produced a work, one track only, that never leaps into boredom or repetition. It's a work that can be played loud or soft, that can be a menace but also a work that can be regarded as a beautiful drone. Exactly this makes Shiflet one of the more interesting noise artists, adding something new to the genre in which so many copycats dwell. A great work.
More noise and of likewise intelligent kind is on the duo disc of Tim Barnes and Mattin. Mattin plays his usual computer feedback and Barnes on "prepared drum & effect pedals, analog feedback, gong". This is not for the weak of heart, but the two play an interesting bunch of music. It's not entirely noise cum feedback for the full length of the disc. There is actually a lot more happening than that. They move from the true loud noise into areas of quietness (?) and stillness (??), and as such this is more a sound collage of their tour together, than an actual reflection of the tour. Well, I assume so. It's a furious release, but a great one. The cover is really great too. It is printed on paper that was left in the streets of New York and by passers painted on them, before they were printed. Very streetwise release! (FdW) Address:

On the always excellent Entr'acte label we are always welcomed by new artists, such as Helena Gough. She is from Birmingham, and trained as violinist and composer at the Royal Academy of Music. Her main interest lies in 'the collection and manipulation of 'real-world' sound material and the exploration of its abstract properties. Each new sound piece is created by taking everything possible from the tiniest element - working to create something from nearly nothing." Which is perhaps not something new to those who read Vital weekly regularly. 'With What Remains' is of course a more than obvious title for her debut album. Taking field recordings apart and transforming them. The origin of the field recording is no longer known, or to be traced back. It could be anything, but me thinks it's a whole bunch of sounds recorded around the house. In each of the seven pieces, she crafts a highly intelligent, but not always surprising form of microsound. Working along the likes of Marc Behrens and Roel Meelkop, she proofs to do music that is similar but in no way less than her peers. Thoughtful, varied, microsounding. Crackles, hiss, static and moving around of objects. It's all there and it's executed with great care. (FdW) Address:

Ever since my first visit to the world of Brian Eno in the late 70's, ambient music has had a very special place in my heart. Especially three albums has brought me to a world beyond: Pioneering ambient composer Brian Eno's inner fictive soundtrack to the Apollo 11 moon landing in 1969 titled "Apollo" (1983), Biosphere's beautiful ode to the Norwegian nature "Substrata" (1997), and Welsh composer Lustmord's incredibly dark and deep spacey album "The place where the black stars hang" - originally released back in 1994. A few years ago important American label Soleilmoon Recordings re-issued two great works by Lustmord, "Paradise disowned" and "The monstrous soul". Meanwhile Brian Williams' (aka Lustmord) greatest achievement, "The place where the black stars hang", slowly faded out of print. Having been a strongly requested item among ambient listeners worldwide for several years, Soleilmoon Recordings has brought this treasure of dark ambience back to life. "The place where the black stars hang" separates from the two aforementioned albums by Brian Eno and Biosphere in its pure darkness and extreme minimalism. The album focuses on textural atmospheres rather than expressional variation. With a division into five chapters and a total running time of 75+ minutes, the art of the album is its extremely minimal approach to ambient music. Imagine yourself isolated in a space shuttle far away from any living creature. As the shuttle drifts through space you can see how things gets darker and darker but there is no escape. Slowly you fly into the blowing winds of satanically dark drones and eerie synth washes. The first three chapters (approx. 45 minutes) focus on cynic and cold but extremely atmospheric sound textures. As the fourth chapter titled "Metastatic resonance" takes over the first sign of human emotion penetrates with warm and solemn drones of beauty that washes into the mind of the listener. There is a reason why this album reached very high second hand prices on web-places like eBay and <> This is a truly unique work of sci-fi blackness. The original release was one single track. This new edition, beautifully re-mastered, also separates from the original release with its distinction into five actual sections giving the listener the opportunity to skip between the five chapters. A good service for the listener but practically unnecessary since it is absolutely impossible to escape! As soon as you have started the trip to the black stars you will not leave until the last sign of sonic pulse has left the listening space. Essential album! (Niels Mark Pedersen) Address:

Neatly packed in a tin case comes the CD by Elisabeth Flunger 'Songs'. It's subtitled '24 Solos For Metal Trash Instruments'. Although she was born in Italy, she lives in Vienna since 1979 where she studied musical science and ethnology and percussion and composition. Since 1987 she works as a percussion player, mainly in contemporary music. On 'Songs' she plays on various trash metals, as indicated. The cover only vaguely gives an idea what they look like. The CD is slit up into a very section, like nine pieces called 'Grosse Kreis', three are called 'Mikado', etc. I believe in each she explores specific possibilities of specific pieces of metal. She does this mainly in a rhythmical fashion, although it's far away from say Test Dept or Neubauten or even z'ev. Highly dry recordings this is, which is great. No reverb, artificial or natural is used. Recorded direct in your face. Each of the pieces is a sketch like composition of various movements that are possible in this area, before moving on to the next piece. These pieces are nice to hear, but with twenty-four it gets a bit much. I am not sure if it is intended to be heard all at once, or that we perhaps should consume bits and pieces every now and then. I know that I like it that way better then eating the whole lot at once. And it's probably excellent material to play around with for the more adventurous DJ using the the 'A-B' function on his CD player. (FdW)

AEMAE - MAW (CD by Isounderscore)
'Maw' is the follow-up to 'The Helical World' (see Vital Weekly 490) and is by Aemae, one Brandon Nickell from Oakland. It's hard to say what it is that Aemae does, or rather uses. It might computer treatments, pure sound effects, analogue feedback experiments or perhaps, and most likely, a combination thereof. Nickell calls it 'within intersections of modern electronic music composition, noise and experimental music utilizing synthesis to construct new sounds'. Like before I hear traces of the old Arcane Device music, well treated slabs of feedback, bouncing back and forth in large hall. Here the reverb is used to juxtapose the sound and not as a wholly independent layer of sound, which some people do. Throughout the music is quite dark, but not atmospherical in the traditional dark ambient sense. As such his own description is quite appropriate. Not too noisy, not too academic or even too experimental, but Aemae treats a fine line between well defined genres and creates something that is indeed his own and that is these days quite an achievement. (FdW) Address:

A disc of serious compositions and serious executions of scores. Rhodri Davies plays harp and Ko Ishikawa plays the sho, a reed instrument consisting of 17 slender bamboo pipes. Four contemporary composers were asked to create a piece of music for these two instruments, of which only two were known to me, Toshiya Tsunoda and Taku Sugimoto. The latter offers a piece that is very much like him: quiet with only a few notes played here and there, although it's not silent throughout. Not silent at all is the piece by Toshiya Tsunoda, who has of course a much more conceptual approach to both instruments, using them parallel to sine waves. A harsh sound occurs and the original instruments are hard to recognize. It harks back to the early days the WRK collective, in their highly conceptual approaches to sound. Two composers are new to me, which is Antoine Beuger and Masahiko Okura. In both their pieces silence plays an important role too, but in both cases the instruments are to be recognized as such. Not many notes, but the instruments do sound like a harp and a sho. In the end it's a great CD. Four pieces, four entirely different perspectives on the instruments, even when in the end only Tsunoda seems to be wider apart than the other three. Excellent work. (FdW)

A celebration calls for a party and then you invite friends. Perlonex, the German trio of Ignaz Schick on turntables, objects and electronics, Jörg Maria Zeger on electric guitar and Burkhard Beins on percussion and objects exist for five years (in 2004 that was, next celebration coming soon) and they invited Charlemagne Palestine and Keith Rowe to play with them. Perlonex is known for their careful improvisation built around their instruments, and with Keith Rowe, it is like having a fourth member. On the first disc we find the four in carefull mood, and no instrument is the boss. Each plays it's own role and the only tension to be found is in the music itself. A free form play of sound, in which all of the possibilities is explored through their respective instruments. With Charlemagne it is a bit different. His keyboards lay down a brick work, the fundament over which the improvisation follows. Palestine strums his piano and Perlonex as a trio is in more sustaining mood than with Rowe. Perhaps lesser known to be an improviser, he guides Perlonex. However in both sets Perlonex show that they are capable of handling any situation. Two great concerts, a celebration to remember.
On the same label, but in a totally different area of music is the long awaited - well, at least by some - collaboration of Kotra and Zavoloka. They already had a teaser EP, but here is the full twenty-four track CD. They play their music using "bass guitar, empty vinyl player, blank cd matrixes, voice and other machines" - by the latter I assume they mean the extensive use of computers. As said twenty-four tracks, which means that none of the tracks are very long. This sketch like approach works well. Some tracks are rhythmic, almost in a swing like mood, but throughout they add a strange element to the tracks, to add something unusual to the music. Of course there are also some more abstract pieces. It all makes the music very vivid. Combining the best of microsound, electro-pop and serious composition, this is a highly enjoyable CD, which comes in a cover that made me think they have money to burn. (FdW) Address:

Ekumen is small net/CDR label from Montreal, city of many beautiful things as I recently experienced once again, and music is just one. There are three releases by Milliseconde Topographie, which, if understood correctly, all deal with three posters created by Urban9, which were spread over the city of Montreal. These posters can be bought along with a soundtrack by Milliseconde Topographie. I will discuss them here as a unit, since the musical divisions among them is not wide apart. It seems to me that Milliseconde Topographie deal with processed acoustic music, somewhere in the digital domain. Piano and guitar sounds play an important role. That sounds off and on in a natural, unprocessed way, but also occasionally in a less regular way. Cracks, cuts and hiss leap in. On 'Poster No.1' this explodes half way through into a melancholic interplay of accordion, piano and guitar, in quite a nice way. Though not every piece is a standout, throughout Milliseconde Topographie play an alright tune. I would like to suggest they take the best pieces of all three and make a proper, easier release on their label. The posters look nice, but I'm sure are not easy to send around.
On the same label there is also a compilation available in MP3 format, which collects all the current musicians on Ekumen. Although it's advertised as a varied bunch of music, I couldn't help noticing that the seven pieces are strongly linked together. One may use a little bit more rhythm such as Jacques Poulin-Denis and Nicolas Bernier, or more ambient influences (Urban9), the computer still plays a big role and brings in an unity in this release. It's a good point to start your journey in Montreal. (FdW)

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

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