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Vital Weekly 581

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MARCUS SCHMICKLER/HAYDEN CHISHOLM - AMAZING DAZE (CD by Häpna)
HANS APPELQVIST - SIFANTIN OCH MÖRKRET (CD by Häpna)
By now Marcus Schmickler should be a man of high reputation - at least in my book he is. His rock work with Pluramon, improvising matters with Mimeo (as well as with various project with separate members), but also composing in his own right, such as his excellent work 'Demos' (see Vital Weekly 543) - he can do it all, with great ease. Here he works with Hayden Chisholm, who plays saxophone and who has worked with Rebecca Horn and with jazz and contemporary music. On 'Amazing Daze' he plays bagpipes and sho. The title piece is for Phil Niblock, while 'Infinity On The Shape Of A Poodle' is for Björk Gudmundsdottir. The title piece is much a like a Niblock piece: a wall of sound drone of sustaining sounds. But there is a main difference: whereas Niblock cuts out the actual breathing of the player, Schmickler leaves it in, but not every time it is necessary to blow the bagpipes, but with regular intervals. What Schmickler does, credited with computer and electronics, is mainly, I guess, in the amplification of the instruments, the recording (layering the sound sources) and mixing. 'Amazing Daze' is powerful piece of music. 'Infinity On The Shape Of A Poodle' is much lighter of tone, played on the higher end of the musical scale, and probably the piece played with the sho. It sounds more like a reflective piece of music, less like a treat like the previous piece does, where the sounds get so much knitted together that it could almost be like a church organ or even, as the piece progresses, piercing feedback like sounds. It works not as well as the first piece, but throughout this is an excellent Schmickler work.
When Hans Appelqvist released 'Naima' I was quite amazed: the combination of sounds, field recordings, 'real' music and the story made great sense. I must admit I was a bit disappointed with his concert which I saw a while after that. Not only did reproduce the CD with quite some accuracy, which for me is not necessary if I go to a concert, but also the guitar sounded very retro - it was at times if I was listening to Mike Oldfield, solo again but armed with a sampler for some weird injections. This new album (well, twelve tracks in twenty five minutes. Is that an album or a mini album) is therefor met with some reluctancy. Again, I like Hans' daring combination of musique concrete, mediaeval music and radio plays, but somewhere in the back of my head, I still see him at the concert: much pre-programmed on his computer, sweet melodies on the guitar. Perhaps it would be better to entirely (try to) forget that and enjoy the radio qualities of this music. Appelqvist certainly has great style and care and plays his material with a lot of humor. As such 'Sifantin Och Mörket' is another fine album. (FdW)
Address: http://www.hapna.com


Z'EV - FORWAARD (CD by Korm Plastics)
While Z'EV gained a lot of attention through his percussive music in the 1980s, the focus of his interest has shifted towards the manipulation of field recordings in recent years. 'Forwaard' is based on recordings provided by Frans de Waard. Sounds of rain and running water keep recurring throughout the piece, and the static, yet internally richly structured quality of these sounds is indeed an overall characteristic of this work. Avoiding a dramatic build-up or noisy peaks, Z'EV weaves a dense organic composition from obscured field recordings and meandering metallic overtones. Everything is moving at a slow pace, but there is constant movement and over the course of some 40 minutes a richly varied tapestry of drones unfolds, evoking a calm late-night atmosphere, in which objects appear only as silhouettes and gain a delicate, soothing presence, albeit not devoid of some dark undercurrents. Finally it should be noted that the Korm Plastics label always pays great attention to the visual aspects of their releases (just think of the wonderfully packed 'Brombron'-series or the recent Hafler Trio 7") and this CD, which comes in a slightly oversized cover, with two screenprinted photographs by Frans de Waard, continues the label's visual policy in a tasteful manner. (Magnus Schaefer) Address: http://www.kormplastics.nl


MOHA! - NORWEGIANISM (CD by Rune Grammofon)
Following their 'Raus Aus Stavanger' (see Vital Weekly 514) MoHa!, short for Anders Hana on guitar, casio and drum machine and Morton Olson on drums and super collider 3, there is now the same full blown 'Norwegianism'. They are still young of age, 24 and 25 and have an experience of ten years behind their names already. Unlike the previous release, this one is recorded in a studio and later on mixed. It doesn't however change their sound dramatically. The bang like before, even there are moments of silence, but they work in pretty much the same way as the noise. They play their instruments with a furious force, but they remain 100% in control of what they do. To make noise is easy, to make noise and still know what you do, is difficult. MoHa! plays noise and improvise on their instruments, but in their briefness - both in length of their tracks and the total length of the CD - they show a rarely seen quality. MoHa! combines the best of many worlds - improvisation, noise, computer music. Listen and learn, I'd say. These boys will be big one day. (FdW)
Address: http://www.runegrammofon.com


TASOS STAMOU - INFANT (CD by Editions_zero)
DEAD TRAVELLER - OUTSIDE MY WINDOW (CDR by Editions_zero)
PANAGIOTIS SPOULOS - LOOPS FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST (CDR by Editions_zero)
All of these three new releases on Editions_zero, the name currently used by Absurd are from people from Greece. It's my first encounter with somebody named Tasos Stamou, who delivers eight pieces on his CD (as Absurd still puts these out too). Packed in a piece of hard cloth, this is a strange release. Five tracks appear to be recorded live and three are studio pieces. Stamou plays a variety of instruments, guitars, melodica and electronics and perhaps some toy instruments - titles as 'Toys Coming', 'Toy-waltz' and 'Toy-rock' certainly hint in that direction. The music can best be compared with that of Klimperei, even when Stamou plays it all a bit more dark and edgier. It's all quite sparse material, and it's all highly obscure. What he does and why he does things this way. The material is played in a playful, almost childlike manner, hence, perhaps the title. Certainly the strangest release of this week, and easily an outsider of any kind.
Whoever the Dead Traveller is, I also don't know, but a traveller travels, so much is clear. The four pieces on his CDR are field recordings - unprocessed. The title tells us no tale: outside my window I hear this sound. Which can be machine like drones in 'The Drone', the town square in 'The March' and children and birds in the park in 'The park'. Nice as straight forward recordings but it could have used some editing. 'Under The Bridge', the fourth track of this lot incorporates the far away playing of PS Stamps Back, which add an interesting musical texture to the recording and shows something of interest can be done using field recordings in a strange way.
Panagiotis Spoulos is best known for his own releases on his own Phaseweb label, here however guesting on Editons_zero. Spoulos is a man who likes a bit of noise, playing his guitar and feeding the sounds through his bunch of feedbacks, waiting for feedback to occur. The loops mentioned in the title are not really a present feature on this release. The noise element here is however kept to a minimum. It's there, one feels it lurking around the corner, this is all a bit held back and more creepy noise release, save for the last two pieces which are more noisy and break with the previous six pieces. But throughout I thought this was a most enjoyable release, perhaps even the best I heard from this guy so far. (FdW) Address: http://www.void.gr/absurd



STEFAN FUNK/TBC (LP by Wachsender Prozess)
For many years now Wachsender Prozess is one of the more eccentric labels from Germany. Handmade covers, various types of releases, including LPs, CDRs but also cassettes and a total 'no planned strategy' behind it. One always has to wait and see. TBC is a name that returns a lot and that's hardly a surprise, it's the man that is behind the label. Many of the LPs take the form of a split LP, with TBC on one side, and somebody else on the other side. Here it's Stefan Funk, one of the Tietchens followers from Hamburg (recently present on 'Heizung Raum 318' - see Vital Weekly 579) and one half of Für Diesen Abend, who had some releases on 1000 Füssler. His side here is filled with just one long piece of deep end bass drones and apparently field recordings of a railroad - or perhaps he depicts one. Every now and then a high pitched sound comes in, like the cracking of a contact microphone under the iron wheels of a train. For whatever reason I was reminded of Jonathan Coleclough's 'Windlass' (which should be re-issued me thinks!): a similar dark cloud that covered the whole pieces with some unnerving and unsettling interruptions. TBC is a man who loves the low end quality of sound. I don't think (I am not entirely sure here), that TBC has updated his technical things in more than fifteen years. Some low end sampler, sound effects and a mixing board - to that extent he goes. For the pieces on his side he uses the sound of stones, sampled and treated. Relatively short pieces of high minimal density going on here. They are sampled in the casio SK 1 sampler and feed through a bunch of delay pedals. Things bump and collide in a pretty neat fashion. TBC is an outsider in the insider field to me. A strange monomaniac maniac, doing whatever suits him best, and not caring about the past, the present, the future or others.
At the same there is also a new issue of Odradek, a fanzine compiled by TBC and he's probably the only one who writes for it (sounded familiar). If you are man enough to read German, then it's worthwhile to pick up a copy. Half the magazine is filled with reviews, covering similar water as Vital Weekly, and the other half has small print lengthy pieces on Wäldchengarten, Flying Luttenbachers, Brume, Jerome Noetinger, Etat Brut and a piece on noise and, in a good punk fashion, a scene report from Ecuador. This is the moment when I'm happy that I was such a good boy in school and learned by German Grammer. Like said, everything from the house of TBC is totally unplanned, unhip and never fashionable. Perhaps the only good to reason to invest this. (FdW) Address: http://www.hoerbar-ev.de/?Mitglieder:tbc


MATHIAS GRASSOW & THOMAS WEISS - INSIGHTS (CDR by Databloem)
DANNY KREUTZFELDT - NUMBERGROUND (CDR by Databloem)
Work by Mathias Grassow is around plenty, yet it doesn't always reach the pages. Perhaps this is due to the fact that it's released on more ambient labels that don't reach out for Vital Weekly. Interesting enough from the little that is reviewed of his work, this is the second release he did with one Thomas Weiss, following the somewhat religious inspired 'Conscience' on Nextera (see Vital Weekly 553). Wether this new release is also inspired by God, I don't know, but somehow I think it is. Right from the opening track 'In', with it's choir like chanting, it's in a heavenly mode. From then on it's in full spirit (excuse le mot): tracks run into eachother and a more rhythmically then on 'Consience'. Long sustaining sounds played on synthesizers, backed with a driving rhythm in 'Circles', following by the deep end drones of 'Whole Pulse' (without a pulse really) and going through phases of slow chimes in 'Language Of Silence' to end with chirping insect like sounds of 'Sights', although they are probably more electronically induced than true field recordings. This is another big A ambient album that is even better than 'Conscience' partly because the five pieces nicely flow into eachother, yet each with a different character. More like a seventies conceptual album, but even when the concept may not directly appeal to me, it's still makes great late night atmospheric music.
Like Grassow, Danny Kreutzfeldt is a busy man. Here too, I believe I review not all of his work, but most likely more than of Grassow. On 'Numberground' he has six tracks, of which four are quite long and two are short. Also unlike Grassow, Kreutzfeldt moves in various musical areas. He has given us noise, ambient and even techno like music, but here he returns to the noisy variations of ambient music. Unfortunately he does that through the extensive use of reverb, which is something I am not particular fond of. It's a big of a cheap drug to create 'atmosphere' just by putting the reverb to 20 miliseconds - everything will sound great as such. Adding some delay effects, and the whole thing is smeared together in this cloud of sound. Rhythmic particles fly about in this big 'hall'. The tracks are too long to hold the interest, and there is simply not enough interesting developments happening. Backed with some of the pieces being mixed in a rather noise/overdrive mode, doesn't make me very satisfied about this release. I heard him do better before. (FdW) Address: http://www.databloem.com


FREIBAND/VARIOUS ARTISTS - FREIBAND RMX (CD-R by Sijis)
Freiband is of course one of Frans de Waard's several aliases. In 2004 Sijis released Freiband's re-interpretation of the label's back catalogue under the title 'sijis_rmx' which is re-released in an extended version now, not only including two versions of Frans de Waard's 'original' (whatever that means in this context), but also re-interpretations of his piece by artists from Sijis' program, namely Sluggo, Scott Taylor, J Torrance, Srmeixner (formerly from Contrastate) and Mutton Deluxe. Freiband's 15-minute track opens the disc and presents the original material in a state that is probably best described as gaseous - a shimmering, soft cloud of sounds. Starting out in a light mood, the minimal textures only stirred by almost imperceptible undulations, the piece gradually turns darker and culminates in a restrained, yet surprisingly powerful crescendo. With its exploration of stasis, repetition and changing moods this is a particularly strong Freiband work. The alternative mix, which closes the release doesn't differ too much from the original mix, so the other artist's contributions are of more interest here. They stay within the aesthetic parameters set out by Freiband, but extensively tweak and twist the values to add their own flavor. While, for example, J Torrance accentuates the shimmering atmospheric warmth of the first part of Freiband's track, Srmeixner incorporates some sampled acoustic instruments. Each of the contributions succeeds in giving its own statement on the 'original' and in total they all form an aesthetic unity. Thus, thinking about what might be criteria for a good compilation, this collection of tracks might indeed yield one possible answer. (Magnus Schaefer) Address: http://www.sijis.com



AIDAN BAKER - CONVS W/MYSELF (CDR by Evelyn Records)
PILOTRAM - LEAVE BEFORE IT BURNS (CDR by Evelyn Records)
SHIFTS - VERTONEN 14 (CDR by Evelyn Records)
PINK EYE SORE - LITTLE DRONES (CDR by Evelyn Records)
SIGNALS - SONUR (CDR by Evelyn Records)
Things have been quiet for Evelyn Records, mainly due to website problems. But here they release their seventh series of five CDRs, some of them which were recorded a while ago, like Aidan Baker's 'Convs w/ Myself'. Recently Baker worked our musical senses with his Nadja duo and collaboration, but here it's presented in a way that I enjoy much better. Baker on the electric guitar in 'Convs w/o Myself' and an acoustic one in 'Convs w/i Myself'. Baker's procedure is relatively easy: take a four track recording device and fill each of the four tracks with a bunch of improvised sounds, either strumming, with an e-bow, plucking or scraping. Later he sees how to mix these four tracks into a whole, unified piece of music, which especially in the first piece works really well. A calm tone is pushed forward, ambient in approach, with sounds popping in and out of the mix. In the acoustic piece things are a little bit more hectic, with a wider variety of sounds and methods to play the guitar, but with making a somewhat less coherent piece of music. But both pieces have an overall calm and relaxing sound.
Pilotram is a new name for me and it's one Duane Pitre. He has two pieces, the short 'Le Lune De Divergence' and the longer 'Collapsed Architecture'. The first is a soft, not too outspoken of gliding guitar with e-bow tones, while the second piece evolves around long washes of synthesizer sounds that depict long waves washing ashore, rather than anything collapsing or architecture. It makes two beautiful pieces of ambient music, which aren't new by any standard, but it's played with great care and skill. Especially the first piece is quite nice.
Frans de Waard's Shifts project has been going on for about twelve years now, and in the past few years he's been reworking his own material, in a series of compositions called 'Vertonen'. One piece of about twenty-six minutes of heavily processed guitar music, all arriving from the digital domain. Also in the field of drone music, but perhaps a bit more from an isolationist angle, this is a dark and closed piece of music. Slightly similar to church organs or a mass of hum, this fits well alongside his other pieces from the same series and as such may not be a real surprise. Also not one of the most innovative drone pieces per se. But if you love the genre, you may dig this.
Pink Eye Sore is another new name for me. It's a duo of Nick Davidson (of Pink Eye/Dead Eye) and Ian Masters (from Pale Saints and I'm Sore). They deliver the shortest of these five releases, but with the most songs, five in total, 'Drone One', 'Drone Two' and such like. Yet the music is not entirely drone based. They are minimalist pieces for sure, but also seem to evolve around small rhythm particles, which may or may not come from the infamous casio SK 1. They feed through a couple of sound effects and that's it. But they do a nice job at these little drones. Each of the five pieces is indeed a small drone, but more sketch like thing: a few strokes with a pencil, then a worked out Mark Rothko if you get my drift. Charmingely lo-fi drone music which increases in tension throughout these five pieces.
Signals is a collaboration between Phil Julian of Cheapmachines and Chris Gowers of Karina ESP and the owner of Evelyn Records. They already had a release on Julian's Authorized Version label, see Vital Weekly 513, and here they return with another twenty minute plus a bit piece that sees them further exploring bowed guitar, remote control, tone generator, oscillators and tape. I'm not sure if they still want you to play it on headphones, but the deep end bass rumble causes a lot of pressure to the ears. One piece of drone music that is as effective as can be. Slowly evolving tones, field recordings leak through (even when not mentioned on the cover), this is sturdy piece of minimal drone music, that holds no real surprises, but it's a nice tour into a land well explored already. (FdW) Address: http://www.evelynrecords.connectfree.co.uk


FREIBAND - SPAARZAM (3" CD-R by My Own Little Label)
FREIBAND - ICE FIELD (3" CD-R by My Own Little Label)
FREIBAND - UNTITLED DRONE WORK (3" CD-R by My Own Little Label)
The ever-active Frans de Waard has started a new label, which goes by the name of 'Moll'. 'Moll' not only means 'minor key' in Dutch, but, standing for 'My Own Little Label', it is also a highly sympathetic tongue-in-cheek commentary on DIY-creativity. 'Moll' is releasing CD-Rs, featuring music by Frans de Waard's diverse projects and cover artwork by Rutger Zuydervelt (Machinefabriek). The first entry in the catalogue came as a surprise to me, as it finds Freiband taking a direction which I had not encountered before in his work. As it can be learned from the label's website, this recently recorded 17-minute piece is a remix of "Dagpauwoog, the local sad song trio which stopped their activities." Incorporating sparse, looped vocals, a simple melody on the guitar and a basic drum pattern into his signature drone style, Freiband adds an unexpected, pop-fueled emotional character to his music. One might justly object that the melancholic potential of digital drone music has been explored extensively in recent years. But after all the music on 'Spaarzam' is sweet and moody, especially the second part, which embeds the original instrumentation in restrained drones.
The music on 'Ice Field' is not exactly what you would expect from Freiband either, but contrary to 'Spaarzam' it's the grittiness that comes as a surprise here. Partly recorded in 2005 for a planned release on Ideal, which never materialized, and partly recorded in May 2007, the rather short tracks span the whole range of digital austerity, from insistent pulses to exercises in crackle and hiss. They are of a sketch-like character, each one exploring a small set of sounds and variations. Not everything works equally well, but there is enough tension throughout and the first and the last track stand out in particular as strikingly focused and intense.
'Untitled Drone piece' is the only re-release in this series of Freiband CD-Rs (originally issued on 'Twenty Hertz' in 2005). The atmosphere is equally austere as that on 'Ice Field', but instead of the sketch-like approach Freiband presents one 20-minute track again, a format that seems most appropriate to his drone aesthetic. He works with flickering, high-pitched sounds here, which are accompanied by a dark drone underneath. The compositional structure might seem to be devoid of any internal development, but concentrated listening reveals rich microstructural variations, as the various layers move out of sync and new sounds subtly surface in the mix. It's nice that this material is available again now, and the lovely cover photography should of course get an extra cheer. (Magnus Schaefer) Address: http://www.kormplastics.nl/moll.html


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

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