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Vital Weekly 579

img  Tobias

Ideas. Ideas and concepts are the fundaments of the work of composer Gordon Monahen. In my book he's still best known for his excellent piece 'Speaker Swinging' and for collecting campy music. Other works I must admit I don't know that well, so this new CD comes as a surprise. Here on 'Theremin In The Rain', the concept is rather simple: have a bunch of sound producing sculptures and the resonant frequencies are picked up by a theremin. The computer part, the midi in the game, is set to trigger the sculptures rather than to process the outcome. This brings us a highly curious CD. On one hand there is the sound of objects playing sounds, such as water drops on steel plates, strings, motors playing strings but also the clear sound of the theremin, making it's sweeps and oscillations. These are not all heard together. In each piece a certain quality is investigated. Despite the hectic and nervous character of some of the pieces, such as 'When It Rains', the tone is overall minimal. Slow changes, despite all the hectic, are quite important. Monahen knows how to make a highly varied work of different moods and settings for his instruments. Partly musique concrete in approach (save for the fact that he doesn't use a load of different electronics), there is also an element of structured music in this work, with semi-ethnic like percussion popping up here and there. This makes this a highly fascinating work, and one could only imagine what it looks like. It would certainly make a great concert. Still a pioneer! (FdW)

FORMICATION - ICONS FOR A NEW RELIGION (CD by Lumberton Trading Company)
The previous releases by Formication came to us in the form of a CDR and MP3 (see Vital Weekly 537 and 560), but here Alec Bowman and Kingsley Ravenscroft present their first real CD, and also the first one they don't release themselves. It sees them however in a similar territory as before. They take their influences as far back as the seventies, Ash Ra Temple and Tangerine Dream, via Throbbing Gristle towards Coil and minimal dance beat music of say Porter Ricks and the ambience of Pete Namlook. All of what you can think of as trademark sounds for these bands are present in the music of Formication. It's not music that is crafted together to make a very coherent and well structured time based sound, but it's more music for a mood. A dark, atmospheric mood, with chanting like monks, pseudo tribal rhythms and deep ambient synthesizer patterns. At times too ritualistic for my taste, but that seems to me to be the most essential part of this music. I can enjoy the more musical outings of Formication, but they head for a world that is not my world. It's nice at times, but perhaps not too well spend on me. (FdW) Address:

Polish metal music (in the most literary sense of the word) musicians Hati have already released a bunch of CDRs and toured quite a bit, including various concerts with z'ev. On '100% Recycled Sound Installation' they do not necessarily present one or more pieces of music, but the results of a sound installation of some kind. It's been written in the booklet, but a visual component would have been nice, rather than the somewhat badly reproduced pictures in the booklet. These metallic constructions are played by hand or by mechanical objects. Only in the long 'Barrels III' we get the idea that things are played manually. In the other pieces things sound a bit more mechanical (perhaps I am entirely wrong here). The music is less based on electronic, if any at all, and the lack of reverb to create those artificial overtones is also not really present, which makes this into quite an enjoyable CD of atmospheric metal percussion music. Not with the similar power of some of the early z'ev work, but more on a meditative level, which works quite nice. (FdW) Address:

ALOG - AMATEUR (CD by Rune Grammofon)
Music by Alog have never ceased to amaze me. The duo of Espen Sommer Eide and Dag-Are Haugan have by now released a bunch of works on Melektronikk, Smalltown Supersound and En/Of, and here return with a strange CD, once again. Apparently 'it was recorded on various locations in the western and northern parts of Norway, often using instruments found or built for the sole purpose of this recording', which is something that is hard to believe. But 'these sessions were subsequently worked on in the studio to bring out the unique spirit of the 'Amateur'. In the post-production world of the studio anything is possible, I then think. To describe the music of Alog is not easy, but 'amateur' is a good description, in the most positive sense of the word. 'Childlike' and 'naive' are two others that fit the description quite well. There are hints of minimal music, microsound, folk and improvisation - and perhaps any category in between these that could be applied to the music of Alog. They play their instruments (whatever lost and found they might be) like children, not banging around but with a curious interest in seeing what a sound does. Carefully as not make too many sounds. Beautiful electronic sound scapes, with interesting electro-acoustic sounds here and there. Very nice. Once again. (FdW) Address:

KTL - 2 (CD by Editions Mego)
Of course I heard of KTL, the new union of Stephen O'Malley of Sunn 0))) and Peter Rehberg, but their first CD didn't make it into Vital Weekly. On the '2' they continue their work with recordings made in a former abattoir and a 16th century manor and some of the pieces were used for the theatre piece 'Kindertotenlieder' by Gisele Vienne and Dennis Cooper. Rehberg behind his laptop and O'Malley with his guitar - both are highly skilled musicians, who certainly know how to craft an interesting piece of music. Four long pieces of four different approaches to the word 'drone' I'd say. Held back in 'Game', whereas in 'Theme' they go full on open in a wall of sound approach, through a steaming mix of psychedelic guitar sound and sizzling electronics. Highly minimal, but also very effective. In 'Abattoir' things are taken a bit further through an even more extensive brick of feedback, which is all about fuzz and distortion, but it's the weakest brother of the four. In 'Snow' things fall to the floor - metaphorically speaking - with some highly charged electrical fuzz and a deeply haunting and spooky piece is the result - perhaps the strongest sister here. It's quite a tour de force this one - again. KTL is like a match made in heaven - but did we expect otherwise?

UNIT 21 - DISLOCATION (CD by Lagunamuch)
Lagunamuch is one of the interesting Russian labels, judging by the few releases I heard from them. Their artists don't dabble in industrial or gothic, which I guess to be a good thing. Unit 21 could, name-wise be mistaken for an industrial or gothic act,  is one Stanislav Vdovin, who plays music since 2003, mainly doing techno and house remixes, and later 'non dance solo albums'. For 'November' he uses 'looped micro samples from soviet vinyl records, home microphone recording, drum pattern and processed white noise'. Although this CD is indexed with seven tracks, which are all quite different from each other, it listens as one pleasant, mildly experimental piece of music. At the first the static crackles of vinyl skipping is perhaps just a bit too easy, but as the CD progresses, and the other sound sources are added, we are uplifted in a spiral form of rotating sounds, a swirling mass of static hiss, a bit too much reverb, but also drum machine patterns that aren't exactly groovy, but which work quite relaxing and field recordings of a highly obscure nature. Quite a nice CD, not a really big surprise but nevertheless very nice. Ambient glitch, might be the best description, but less based on the digital variation. (FdW) Address:

HEIZUNG RAUM 318 (CD by 1000 Füssler)
Perhaps the sensation of a low humming sound that is not annoying is something that many readers will recognize. I once slept next to a refrigerator, but was fascinated all night by all the sounds it produced. Room 318 is the name of a room in the building where Asmus Tietchens teaches sound at the University of Applied Science in Hamburg and 'heizung' is the German word for 'heating'. Except that it doesn't produce heat, but it makes a nice whistle. By turning the knobs of the radiator the whistle changes. Since the three persons (or took) classes with Asmus Tietchens have paid close attention to the old master, it's a small step of recording the radiator - actually, all three of them - and turn them into music, along of course with an excercise by the master himself. The original source material is at the end of the CD, and the crude whistling makes it hard to believe that it leads to the preceding seven sound pieces. It's easy too assume that all of these composers work with computers these days, and that one could also wrongly assume that their pieces would sound similar. This is not the case. Each of them approaches the source material in a different way, and this leads to quite interesting pieces of music. Asmus Tietchens delivers a piece of his trademark style processing: silent but loaded with small sounds and even a rhythm of some kind. Gregory Büttner applies the recent Tietchens methods (his 'Menge' series) into a well-crafted piece of sizzling electronics. But there is alson the more industrialized noise of Nicolai Stephan and Stefan Funk (especially in his last two versions; he has four in total), who take an entirely different route in their approach. Their music is closer to noise than to microsound, but they make a nice variation on the matter. Quite a nice compilation altogether. (FdW) Address:

MAEROR TRI - AMBIENT DREAMS (CD by Beta-lactam Ring Records)
If there is one band from the 80s and 90s that released their work on cassettes that is now truly famous it's no doubt Maeror Tri. I was amongst their first fans collecting from almost day one. While not playing cassettes as much as I did or should, I never got rid of the old Maeror Tri tapes. They are perhaps the only band in the world that have all of their tapes released as CDs - not CDRs. To be very honest, I don't recall 'Ambient Dreams' that well, but the fact that it had a real picture stuck onto it, sticked in my mind. All of the sounds 'originated from natural ambient sources' it says on the cover. It will remain a mystery how Maeror Tri conceived their music, even when I saw them play live a couple of times. An accordion, some junk for percussion and lots of sound effects - things were always that simple, but the proof is in the pudding, not the ingredients. Maeror Tri, certainly in 1988, didn't have access to a studio or refined recording techniques, but 'Ambient Dreams', almost twenty years later sounds still as fresh as it did. Mysterious clouds of sound pass by the listener and they create outer-worldly atmospheres. Ambient music but with a healthy doses of experimentalism - and all quite dark. We can only assume that it's this quality that appeals to some many latter day fans  of Maeror Tri and its successor Troum. A great work, still after all these years. And finally the tape can go to Ebay (anyone?) (FdW)

TARAB - WIND KEEPS EVEN DUST AWAY (CD by 23Five Incorporated)
TIM CAITLIN - RADIO GHOSTS (CD by 23Five Incorporated)
Releases on 23Five always look beautiful, with an extra carton cover around it, great design and great music. A collectable label. They are from Los Angeles, but have a special connection with Australia. Before they released a compilation with musicians from down under, and a retrospective 2CD of Gum, now it's time for Tim Caitlin and Tarab. Tarab is one Eamon Sprod and before he had a CD on Naturestrip called 'Surfacedrift' (see Vital Weekly 422). Now the meaning of the word Tarab is revealed: it means something like 'the ecstatic surrender one can experience when listening to music'. I can imagine the 'tarab' for Eamon when he was recording the sounds captured on 'Wind Keeps Even Dust Away', as he is one of the types to run around with a microphone to capture sounds. He is actively involved in bringing out the sounds, rather than an objective by stander capturing sound events. He rustles the leaves, bumps upon metal and such like. Rather than doing an electronic process the
microphone changes the sound. Location and position of the microphone is important. Unusual places with natural reverb have his special interest. Although his work is compared to Chris Watson, BJ Nilsson, Francisco Lopez and Toshiya Tsunoda, I think it comes closest to the work of Eric La Casa. It has the same poetic, collage like quality. It's a great CD, but perhaps not the most innovative in terms of sound scaping.
Something similar we can say of Tim Caitlin's 'Radio Ghosts'. He's also from down there and the only time his name popped in Vital Weekly (388) was when we discussed his 'Slow Twitch' CD on Dr Jim's Records (which is really run by a doctor). Much water has passed under the bridge, and here is the second CD by Caitlin (that we know of). Caitlin plays his guitars by using objects to get resonating sounds out of the strings. Small motor devices such as ventilators and e-bows are placed in such a way that overtones occur. Glenn Branca used a real ensemble to create this, Remko Scha ropes and wires and Keith Rowe already the ventilator. What Caitlin does is hardly to be called 'new', and the review of his previous CD ended with the suggestion that he should find new ways to create his music and not stick around with this, so perhaps it's a pity that he did stick around this sound. He could easily produce another ten or so of these kind of works, but it would be good to see some progression. Four or so years would be enough to get something moving, I'd say. But as such this CD is quite nice. The pieces he plays are done nice and executed with style and a keen ear for subtle changes. So in that aspect there is no let down. (FdW) Address:

Glitch goes pop: a slowly growing tradition in this area. While Fennesz showed the path, others take it further, by adding vocals. Six Twilights is a 'music and video project' of one Aaron Gerber from the Portland band A Weather. He recorded a bunch of songs involving acoustic guitars, male and female voices, and organ sounds on a hard disc and then played around with shuffle jog dial to make glitchy music. Then he edited the bits together and made this CD, which is released on a label from Luxembourg (and this might be the very first time a label from this country occurs in Vital Weekly). Sometimes the glitch is far away, such as in 'Tonight I'm Letting You Drive', and it shows as Six Twilights as quite an accomplished song writer. Dream pop with a touch of experimentalism. It's this combination of two different worlds which makes things quite nice and quite apart from the usual suspects. The DVD holds a film that is not the soundtrack to the separate tracks, but seems to me a further collage of the sounds along with images that we can expect in that direction: landscapes, twilight, sunrise, skies, nature, people, all in further dream like sequences. The visual material is nice, even when perhaps a bit too much of cliche, but it certainly fits the music quite nice. Altogether a very nice release, almost Japanese (Noble, Plop) in sort of curious way. (FdW) Address:

It's been a while since I last heard something by Steve Roden. Perhaps he was too busy with his sound installations, but then much of his work was made with that intention anyway. Here he has one installation piece called 'Dark Over Light Earth' which he made for an exhibition of Mark Rothko's painting at the Museum Of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles. And if we think 'Rothko + music' we think of course of Morty Feldman's 'Rothko Chapel', one of the contemporary highlights of modern classical music. For his piece, Roden divided the eight paintings in various color sections and thus made a score, playing harmonium and glockenspiel. He asked his friend Jake to play the Feldman piece on a pair headphones, while attempting to play the piece on his violin. Through layering and reorganizing Roden crafts a beautiful piece of music together, with a bare minimum of electronic sounds. Slowly changing, with the violin in a leading part, this piece moves in various directions, yet at the same time it doesn't seem to move at all. It has the same contemplative beauty as Rothko's paintings, as well as Feldman's original piece. Overwhelming quietness. Great work.
A conceptual approach is also done on a 7" by Roden, where he removes all the dialogue of a LP with the soundtrack of Robert Bresson's 'Process De Jeanne D'Arc', leaving only the incidental sounds, but through rough editing the beginnings and endings (transients as they are called in radio terms) of words can be heard. The only instrument, a horn, is sampled and used as the musical source here, and which forms a backdrop in the endresult. The two pieces on this 7" are similar pieces, with minor differences. The sampled horn is deformed into a dark drone, and on top we hear the crackling of the original record. An estranging affair of obscure sounds, again in an intimate way. A simple yet effective work. (FdW)

B12 - PRACTOPIA (12" by B12 Records)
(12" by B12 Records)
Somewhere covered with dust I must have the B12 CD that Warp released some fifteen years ago - I don't even recall the title. But for whatever reason I never parted from it. In 1996 B12 disappeared from the music scene when some 12"s never got beyond the stage of test pressings. Eleven years they return with two brand new 12"s and announced is a 12CD box set. The first 12" is the one from 1996 when they were not happy with test pressing but now totally remastered and with a bonus track. Big time dance music, with great keyboards lines and beat that hooks any non-dancer to the floor. Stuttery beats but they work fine. Detroit viva. Five sweet tracks of a highly varied nature.
'Slope' is a very fresh new release and it seems to be taking them in a more updated sound, with glitch like rhythms, but the acid synth is never far away. 'Slope' is a very uplifting piece of music, quite cheery. 'Static Glitch' on the flip is a bit darker and 'Magnetic Fields' falls somewhere in between. It makes perfect sense this record. Like they have never been away and yet easily bridge the gap. (FdW)

In Cohort Records' split series we once again stumble upon two people that are new to me. Embracing The Glass and Haslam. The idea of the split series is to bring together two artists from the world of drone music and each gets about half the release, a bit like doing a split c60 cassette in the old days. Like said I never heard of either artist. Embracing The Glass is a duo of Sean Carroll and Jeff Sampson, who are together since 2001. They play guitar-controlled instruments and voice controlled instruments. They start out nice, with guitar strumming (perhaps the first time in the series?), and some sort of heavenly vocals, but over the course of their piece, which is clearly divided in several parts, the move into the darker land even a bit further, through an amorph mass of sound, through which ethnic flutes and deep synths wash their way. Here I was reminded of the work of Steve Roach and Robert Rich, but Embracing The Glass do a well job here.
Haslam is one Byron Paladin who plays synthesizers and computers and he offers three pieces of more ambient material. He starts out in a true deep synthesizer mode, but over the course of his pieces he also introduces the vague humming of radiation and some rhythmical particles of say matches in a box with a firm dosis of delay. However his main course is to play deep washes of synthesizer sounds on his synths, which might as well be digital versions. Highly unoriginal music, I'd say, but Haslam plays it with care. All Eno and Hypnos fly by in this trip, but it's a nice trip anyway.

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