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Vital Weekly 575

img  Tobias

It was quite a memorable evening, somewhere in March 2004 at the Dutch Earational festival. At their night at the rock oriented club a guy played that me, perhaps an insider of sorts, never heard of: Philipp Quehenberger. He had just one 12" to his credit, for Cheap Records, from 2002. He banged away on his keyboards and sang his songs. Added with a stage dance, by a small girl with a big knife (perhaps remembered here in 'Wives With knives'?). It looked and sounded great. Still Quehenberger never released anything beyond that 12", but now here is finally his debut CD. I am playing this and thinking about that great evening. But the CD isn't as convincing. Quehenberger loves a loud, gritty sound, up tempo electro/techno rhythms and his own voice. Although the latter not as much as he should do. His music works best as a cross-over between Suicide, Mister Quintron (both on the vocal side of the music) and Pan Sonic (in terms of rhythm and noise), and it works even better when he is singing. A slight cynical voice with lyrics that aren't easy to decipher. If Quehenberger goes instrumental he's best in bringing uptempo nasty, almost rock song like structured techno, but which not always work best when played at home. It's more like underground club music and at a much louder volume, a beer in one hand and a cigarette in the other, this should go down rather well. Throughout a great CD. (FdW)

Ah, wonderful wonderful Copenhagen! What is it in the Scandinavian air that makes alt-folk electronic pop groups like Efterklang flourish so well over there? In this hugely popular scene Efterklang are no exception to the rule. Their music, described as evocative and panoramic (whatever that may mean) is certainly remarkable. Conceived during a recent tour, the five songs of Under Giant Trees are a great listen. Ranging from the thick layered sound of Falling Horses to the Oval-like CD skipping of Himmelbjerget, their songs are laid-back and interesting enough to warrant repeated listening. Even though there is no sign of the 33 guest musicians of the first album (including a Greenlandic choir!), Efterklang's five core members are assisted here by two members of the Icelandic string quartet Amiina. Packed in a wonderful foldout digipack with four postcard inserts, this album is full of ideas and promises for the future. It is to be hoped that Efterklang will survive the competition of other groups who are active in this genre in Scandinavia. If they are able to develop their sound and grow, Efterklang could be big. (Freek Kinkelaar) Address:

PJUSK - SART (CD by 12K)
From our end of the telescope Norway may seem a
land of noise, but perhaps we are at the wrong end. Pjusk are a duo from Norway (Jostein Dahl Gjelsvik and Rune Sagevik) and being on 12K is still far away from noise. They started out in the techno scene about a decade ago and now turned into more contemplative music, as shown here. They were first introduced on the 'Blueprints' compilation (see Vital Weekly 550), where didn't leave the big impression. Their debut CD 'Sart' does similar. Pjusk built their pieces around 'electronics, dub, rhythm, found sounds', but that can apply to a lot these days. Pjusk to me are very much into the world microsound and glitch me thinks, and even when they occasionally hop into a rhythm, loaded with reverb and delay to guarantee that sense of 'dub and rhythm', it's all of the usual carefulness and intimate sound knitting. Warm like the mid-winter campfire. It's certainly not a bad CD, though perhaps a bit long for the amount of ideas that are thrown around. Thirteen pieces at some fifty-five minutes, is perhaps five pieces and fifteen minutes too long. Under the sun of 12K Pjusk isn't the big turn around, the paradigm of music, but it's a star that shines equally bright as so many others. (FdW) Address:

More and more Carl Micheal von Hauswolff is a man of drone music. Well, perhaps he always was? Whereas before he at times used rhythms to achieve his drone like result, on his new one, he turned purely to heavily layered drones. All of the pieces describe 'dystopical and distant contemporary geocivilian sites, such as an airfield, an oil field etc'. Not that it uses any field recordings. Hauswolff limits himself to using sine wave generators 'and other organic sources'. I even thought to recognize a heavily layered flute sound. In general Hauswolff knows how to create the dense drone piece, and they sound best as an organ in 'Delta Overview' or the flute like 'Distant Skyline'. Perhaps the resemblance of a real instrument makes it easier to connect to this. The more abstract (although all is abstract here to the untrained ear) sine wave generator pieces are to distant to feel closely related. All six pieces have similar lengths, around seven minutes. In that sense Hauswolff is close to the work of Niblock: not only in his choice of material and execution of his pieces, but also in choosing a similar length for all his pieces. But whereas Niblock creates moving images in his music, the one from Hauswolff remains more static, and less easy to access. (FdW) Address:

Since I gave up collecting Merzbow (couldn't get a second mortgage on my house) I must say I enjoy it better than before. Perhaps just because the obsessive need of collecting, blurring my mind as to what is what and not finding it possible to hear much twice or three times, the occasional Merzbow just suits me better. Like ever, it's pretty hard to know what an album is about, if there are no references to saving animals that is. 'Coma Berenices' is such an album. Five pieces of improvised noise - that is what Merzbow does and he does best. It seems as if he picked up a guitar in 'Earth Worms', feeding it to the many colored boxes one can get from the same guy who sells guitars. It's not an over the top noise piece - perhaps that is a change? 'Dark Stars' is more like the old Merzbow, heavy deconstructed noise. 'Alishan' is what follows and here it's mostly EMS synthi-A stuff, but do we detect also a small melody in there? Hard to believe, but true. The final two pieces (all clocking in at over ten minutes) are again more a like 'Dark Stars', with a dominant EMS on 'Revenge On Humanity'. Quite a varied CD in terms of what Merzbow usually does. It suits him well however. (FdW)

Things have been quite for Staalplaat and their Mort Aux Vaches series. It seems as Staalplaat moved to another building in Berlin and things are up and running again. Celebrated with a new release in the Mort Aux Vaches series, an ongoing series of CDs recorded at VPRO radio in Amsterdam, and by now with some fifty or more releases - a small encyclopedia of modern music. And oh: an encyclopedia of CD design. This new one comes with a sort of bathroom curtain plastic cover, that is partly transparent, but also makes a hallucignetic thing. The music is by Andrey Kiritchenko, our man on the laptop (and more!) from the Ukraine. Around when this was recorded I also saw him play a concert and besides a laptop, I believe he used an autoharp and a guitar. The laptop contains the 'usual' crackles, hiss, and processed field recordings, but Kiritchenko plays some rather nice warm ambient glitch music. Half way somewhere Fennesz and microsound, not yet really pop like, and cut in to one long piece, Kiritchenko plays rather moody, atmospheric music. Fortunately not too abstract with his ploinks on the guitars, or his drones from the autoharp. I remember back when attending the concert that Kiritchenko's music is quite nice, but perhaps better enjoyable at home then in a concert space with people standing around and talking (like the one I saw). Now that it is on CD, I can only applaud the fact: yes, it works much better. Another great addition to the series. (FdW) Address:

(CD by Split Records)
A few weeks ago I wrote about Benjamin Bondonneau and Fabrice Charles who seemed to have taken their instruments outside and made their recordings. Jim Denley, a saxophone player from Australia and improviser pur sang, took his instrument, camera, audio recorders, food and a solar charger in the Budawang Mountains on the east coast of Australia. This rough area inspired him to play music outside, whilst recording also birds, insects, wind and a helicopter. Captured on two devices they were later on synched together. Denley is a highly accomplished player of the saxophone, one who make the sound of the instrument sound like anything but a saxophone. Being on his own, in many ways, this leads to music that captures the loneliness quite well. Sustained tones, crackles, a buzzing insect: there is much going on, but perhaps Denley tries to beat the fact that he is alone, playing this music. To drive out the demons? This is a highly original approach to playing improvised music: the combination of techniques used, but also the recording technique itself. It all makes this into a great CD of improvised music. (FdW) Address:

Perhaps reviewing this 2CD package is something that can be done without listening to it. To describe the idea is probably sufficient. One CD has a sixty some tracks of clarinet sounds and the other CD thirty some tracks of cello playing. Any combination of playing these two CDs, at random or through thorough planning makes up a new composition. An idea that goes back to the dawn of recorded history (the electric history that is). Cage did this in all sorts of variations. But of course why not re-create an idea. Saunders composed small notes for both instruments, very much in an onkyo style - much silence throughout on these CDs - with high peeps and small, isolated notes. Nice work that gains from the possibility of combining the two, which might be a lot of work for some, but the more adventurous listeners, with spare time on their hands (needless to say: and a set up to do so), can create their own nice pieces. Whether or not this sort of action has been composed or improvised before. (FdW)

Following her 'Longtitude/Cratere' work on Komplott (see Vital Weekly 498) here is now her second CD for the same label. Hanna Hartman is a composer - full stop. Whereas the first CD was a work about sailing and a work about the volcano Etna, this new one has four separate pieces and it's a bit harder to tell what they are about. Hartman goes out with a tape recorder and a microphone and records sound. But unlike many of her peers recording natural events (birds, wind, rain), Hartman focusses on human activity. Sounds of the mouth in 'Wespen Vesper' - imitating a wasp, alongside other animal sounds, which are thoroughly edited in the studio. Hartman is a pure concrete composer. She hardly uses electronic sound processing, but almost entirely on focussing on concrete sound collages to craft her pieces of music. All around the world she has captured sounds of human doing something. Like a fence being strummed, voices, eating, but of course also birds in the harbor. Unlike some of the older garde in the musique concrete scene, she uses repetition to quite some extent, which connects her music to the world of 'pop' music, but the actual result has nothing to do with it. No doubt many hours of editing went into these four pieces, which are very soundtrack like. Perhaps a bit of short release, but the four pieces are great. Very impressive stuff here, once again. (FdW) Address:

CHEAPMACHINES - LOWLANDS (CDR by Authorized Version)
It's not easy to surpass a master work, and in the case of Cheapmachines, also known as Phil Julian, the masterwork was 'Fugue Cycle' (see Vital Weekly 563). Perhaps it will come. 'Lowlands' is a work that was recorded in 2004 and remastered by Bernard Günter for current release. 'Tracks were mainly recorded specifically for radio broadcast using short and longwave radio transmissions as the original sound source'. In the past years we have learned (and loved) as a noise band, but whose best works were outside of the sure confinement of noise. The drones of 'Fugue Cycle' or some of the earlier musique concrete works. In 'Fugue Cycle' shows us something of the current Cheapmachines sound, then perhaps 'Lowlands' should be seen as a work of change. Noise is not entirely gone, but drones have not arrived fully either. None of the long or shortwave sounds are there to be recognized as such, as everything is mangled inside the computer. Sometimes the usual loudness but, and more interesting, also with a forecast of some more quiet moments. It's here that I think Cheapmachines is really good, carefully constructing music out of hiss and static crackles. Obviously not far away from the microsound crowd, but with a strong voice of his own. Nice one, glad to see it released. (FdW)

It's been a long time since I reviewed something by ID M Theft Able, a.k.a. Skott Spear: 'Cl Amo/Ang Or/Er Use/E Etc' in Vital Weekly 415. I have no clue what he has been doing since, perhaps working on this new, again curious titled release 'And I Pulled The Word 'And' From My Beard'. When before they (back then it seemed a duo to me) they played an highly amplified form of musique concrete, here it seems to be more microphone and turntable abuse. Spear takes up the microphone and multi-layers his mouth making sounds very close to the microphone while spinning records of a rather unidentifiable nature on the turntable. Quite a release of chaos, but one of a highly captivating nature. Still quite noise related, as before, but this time I thought it was better to digest (maybe I have a more lucid moment right now?). It's all quite lo-fi, but it's also quite poetic, of a rather personal nature. The nine tracks that span again some fifty five minutes is of a rather exhausting nature, but it's worth hearing in it's entirety.
Pulse Emitter's daryl Groetsch is a busy man. He has released a great bunch of CDRs, some of which made it into these pages in recent weeks. If I'm right, much of his released material is generated through live improvisation on his modular synthesizer (take a look at for some pictures). On 'Deadly Space Missions' there are two pieces recorded live, from may 2006 and one from september 2005. Before I found his work in the areas of noise being intelligent, but these two pieces are indeed as 'space' as you can get. The synthesizers bubble around, bend over and down, up again, and it's sounds like a soundtrack to a science fiction movie - more space invaders and body snatchers than a space odysee. The second, roughly of similar length, is a more introspective drone affair, with sustaining synthesizer sounds that reminded me a bit of old Organum: it had a similar 'rusty' character. This is the best Pulse Emitter I heard so far. (FdW) Address:

Music by Helga Fassonaki was reviewed before, either solo or with Metal Rouge, her band with Andrew Scott. As Yek Koo she also plays solo, although I am not entirely sure why diverse from her own to a pseudonym. She plays santur (being some string instrument), drums, tabla, computer loop, voice and tape recorder. In her apartment she plays repetitive music on these instruments (sometimes a bit too loud for her landlord's taste as we hear on the first piece), strumming away ad infinitum. Drums and or tabla are not really to be heard. Fassonaki's recording techniques are a bit crude, covering mainly the high end of the spectrum, which is a pity. It makes the music rather without much depth. That's a pity since it could gain a bit from a better recording and be closer to traditional raga music. Lo-fi might be a good statement to make, but if it can be better why not. Otherwise for those who love the New Zealand music scene this is another one not to be missed. (FdW) Address:

Daniel Lopatin, the man behind Dania Shapes is someone new to me. He learned to play the piano, destroyed the presets of his father synthesizer, studied aesthetic philosophy and experimental music and plays music 'celebrating the potential of amateurishness, decadence and romance in the realm of digital arts' - wow. 'Soundsystem Pastoral' was already recorded in the winter of 2004, but recently remixed and released. Even by 2004 standards it sounds pretty dated. Lopatin likes glitch music, especially he shows to be a good student of the works of professor doctor C. Fennesz, lecturer of glitch music from the University of Vienna. The eight pieces uses small, repeating clicks and processed hum and bum in the background. At a neat thirty-two minutes, this is a most enjoyable release actually, if not really surprising at all. Oval, Fennesz and the other 5000 microsound artists proof all to be an inspiration, and Dania Shapes is just one of them.
Lopatin will soon work with Christophe Bailleau, who is an old  friend. In Vital Weekly 67 he was already present with his Glyth project, later turning into La Chiesa  and later on under his own name. His experience in many different music styles pays off here. The music on 'La Lude/La Sonde' was composed for a performance by Martine Vale. Bailleau is a man who likes acoustic sounds - they dominate this release, certainly in the first half. It's mainly guitar but also concrete sounds and everything that happens in terms of digital processing happens in the background. The second half is more a trip into ambient glitch land, but here too Bailleau has a much stronger voice of his own than Dania Shapes. Combining real instruments and digital processing thereof is of course not something new, but Bailleau does a really great job at it. Not the most original one - that is perhaps an illusion - but nevertheless a great job. (FdW) Address:

MACHINEFABRIEK - HUIS (3"CDR by Machinefabriek)
By now I must count Rutger Zuydervelt's Machinefabriek to be uncatchable. Just when I thought I could lump him in with the drone folk, he comes with 'Huis' ('home'), ten tracks spanning twenty minutes. He did the short piece approach before, but here he gets help from people playing such instruments as balalaika, cello, piano, voice, violin and a saw. In some pieces this leads to introspective singer song writer music, mostly however of an instrumental nature and in 'Droog Water' some of the Machinefabriek like sounds come in: careful crackles, hiss. Guitar plays a big role, not distorted, but plain strumming. Of course the pieces are short, what else would you expect from ten tracks in twenty minutes, and one has the idea that some of the pieces are sketches rather than completed songs. That is a pity since these pieces are easily to built into complete pieces, such as 'Schaduw' can be. But then, the new sound approach of Machinefabriek shows that he is still not finished searching his own sound and as such he constantly re-invents what he is doing, and that's something not many people can say. (FdW) Address:

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