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Vital Weekly 584

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So far there have been already two CDs of collaborations between Icelandic Stillupsteypa (being Sigtryggur Berg Sigmarsson and Helgi Thorsson) and BJ Nilsen, also known as Hazard. Here they come together again, in Stockholm, where Nilsen lives, to work together and invite a new friend, Hildur Ingveldardottir Gudnadottir. Who? She plays cello and did so for many of her own projects, playing Bulgarian and Balkan music, but also for Mum, Skuli Sverrisson, Angel and has a prominent feature on the recent Pan Sonic CD. The two previous releases dealt with the thematic approach of alcohol abuse, but here they sober up and start their second childhood, going back to the world of pure drone music. Gudnadottir's cello playing is at the core, and perhaps like a good mother she overseas the activities of her children play around with whatever she throws around. But they remain from the Nordic countries so they don't say much, so much of what these four people do is sparsely orchestrated. Pieces consist of sparse lit harmonium drones, which no doubt have underwent some computer processing. There is a more musical texture to these pieces than on the previous two releases, and that's mainly the cello to be accounted for. But it's another strong album, this one. Minimal pieces of drone music, dark and atmospheric, just the perfect music for a mid winter sit along at home in Scandinavia or a rain covered day in the Dutch summer. Another very fine work but of course I am sucker for this kind of more urgent drone music. (FdW)

GULLS - EATS AND OPUS (CD by Sonic Lozenge)
Jesse Munro Johnson is Gulls, and he is from that beautiful city, Portland, who is said to be a multi-instrumentalist, which, if he played all of this here, is very much true. We hear a trumpet, some bass, drums, xylophone and a stack of electronics. He improvises his music, but not as an end: as a means to create something else. All the work he does, is part of the larger work: the finished composition, the collage of sound that are the eight tracks (although some pieces cover more tracks) on this CD. The drums come largely out of a box, but on top he waves his trumpet, guitar, samples, field recordings and sticks the various pieces of tape together in his highly vivid piece of music. Ranging from hip hop (but louder and dirtier) to musique concrete, from sound collage to ambient glitch, Gulls covers many territories, which do not really bite eachother. You could have though it would, but it all makes great sense here. Gulls takes you out on a trip, a headtrip of space music. Spacious trumpet sounds, static crackles and heavy pounding drums: it all passes easily, and does it in a great way. Big city music with sometimes a country feel. (FdW) Address:

Solo music by RLW (Ralf Wehowsky) is a pretty rare thing. For RLW the act of music making lies in creating something with others, wether or not by meeting up or exchanging sounds by (e-)mail. 'Views', reviewed in Vital Weekly 413, was a rare instance of a solo work and now, quite some time and many collaborations later, 'The Pleasure Of Burning Down Churches' is a new solo work. The churches of the title hark back to meeting a US veteran in Vietnam who told RLW that he liked bombing churches because they were easy targets. Field recordings from Vietnam also form the input of 'More Churches'. It's hard to see this otherwise than as a political piece. Just as the guy who rants against an answer machine on 'Helplessly Friendly' - it's hard to decipher his German, but it's sure not very friendly. I don't think I had expected RLW to overtly political and he perhaps he isn't. But it seems to me as if RLW isn't using sounds just for it's sheer beauty. On these two pieces he wants to bring a message across. On the opening piece 'Towards A Decontamination Breakthrough' this is less obvious. Quite a drone like piece of music, quite unusual for RLW. Collage techniques are to be found in 'More Churches' and 'Helplessly Friendly', the first with quite a nice intro of car horns and the second has a scary feel to it, both through the voices and the spiraling sounds of 'paper string actions'. In 'Burning Pianos' things move into the abstract again, not political view, just the exploration of a piano. RLW's work moves on the edge of musique concrete, but never looses it's touch with industrial music on hand and with microsound on the other. But it defies these categories and can perhaps only be classified as RLW music. Great work, but perhaps you shouldn't believe me; I find much of his work great! (FdW) Address:

TOM HALL - FLEURE (CD by Nightrider Records)
Australia, I'm sure I noted this before, is from the outside a very vibrant country when it comes to experimental. Here is one Tom Hall, of whom we never heard before, but who got his CD sponsored by the Australian Government, mainly because he does something that relates directly to the country: his 'Fleure' CD contains sounds entirely using sounds from Story Bridge in Brisbane. The cars passing and the air that makes the bridge vibrate. Hall picks it up with a couple of microphones all over the construction of the bridge. It's a bit hard to tell what he does electronically, but I'm sure there is some extreme filtering going, and/or extensive use of computer plug ins, but it enables Hall to move away from the pure sonic landscapes and go into the world of music. If one compares this with say John Hudak 'Brooklyn Bridge', then one notices that whereas Hudak makes a highly minimal soundscape, whereas Hall, through his use of loops and electronics has something that gets close the Chain Reaction minimal techno sound. The industrial sounds of the motorway becoming a dance floor. Well, of course not really, but it's has the muffled, mechanical dance, however with a strong backbeat. Another major difference is that Hall produces nine quite different pieces of music, rather than one long sound scape, which makes this altogether quite a nice, conceptual release that is somehow roughly shaped, but those raw edges adds an extra flavor to it. (FdW) Address:

It is not every day you find DVDs among the list of reviews in Vital Weekly. But fortunately it is a growing phenomenon, since there is a nice connection between the expressions of sound arts and more visually based expressions from other art directions. In this case we have the beautiful link between pioneering industrial music and extreme performing arts of California-based artists Johanna Went who had her artistic climax around the late 70's / early 80's art scene of L.A. With much similarity to compatriot performer and legendary trash artist Paul McCarthy, who also took his starting point in the art scene of California, Johanna Went use a wide range of disciplines for her performances, from collage to painting, from sewing to gluing, resulting in shows that involves sex, fluids, liquids, meat to create extreme shows of filth, repulsion and destruction. Trashiness in its most beautiful form! Set against a background of very loud noise and rhythm textures, Johanna Went's show is more a furiously energetic trance-state than the performance of rational being. The sonic background of the performances is created by two of early industrial scenes strongest artists, Z'ev and Mark Wheaton, composing sound sculptures of noise and rhythmic complexity. Musical climax comes with the third chapter "New Wave Theater". Being the harshest contribution on the DVD the track is built on buzzing drones and screeching noises. The abrasive expression are assisted by some cool drum-patterns works of Brock Wheaton (brother of Mark Wheaton), impressively following the genuine performing sickness of Johanna Went. On the performing side the video peaks with the second chapter "The Box". Combinations of wild animal video recordings and the physical performances by Johanna Went make the artist seem like part of the intuitive and instinctive wild animal life. Absolutely amazing treatments of performances and manipulated videoclips. As top of the icing comes a bonus CD including the Hyena LP as well as tracks from their first 7"-vinyl, "Slave beyond the grave". For people, wanting to know more about the earliest stages of industrial culture this DVD-pack is a gem. Also for people seeking the extreme territories of art expression, sonically as well as visually, this video is a must-have. The highest praise for Soleilmoon Recordings for bringing these visually and sonically works of art back into daylight! For further readings about Johanna Went and her art collaborations with Z'ev and Mark Wheaton, check out the book "Industrial Culture Handbook" released by RE/Search Publications back in 1983; Another informative milestone in the history of early Industrial Music culture. (Niels Mark) Address:

GASTR DEL SOL - TWENTY SONGS LESS (7" by Minority Records)
POLVERE (10" by Minority Records)
Back in the day I was a big fan of Gastr Del Sol, the modus operandi of Jim O'Rourke and David Grubbs. For reasons that were never clear to me (admitting right away I don't read music press), the collaboration stopped and for long we believed that was it. 'Twenty Songs Less' has a long text, but nothing about the 7" itself. It lists Jim and David but also Bundy K. Brown and John McEntire as the bandmembers, but that is hardly unusual. The latter two were in Gastr Del Sol in its first incarnation, while Jim was in the second. But still nothing about this 7" with two pieces. Left on the cutting room floor? Newly recorded (that I don't believe). One side has a hectic piece of drums, people crying, guitar strumming and has quite an improvised feel to it. The second side is a more intimate played piece, revolving around an acoustic guitar which is quite to the foreground, but disappears in some tape treatment. This piece is the best of these two. Quite a mysterious record this one, but quite nice also.
Moving along similar lines as Gastr Del Sol are Polvere, a duo from Italy, with Mattia Coletti on acoustic and electric guitars, drums, percussion and voice and Xabier Iriondo on ukulelem taisho koto, zither, old '20 Japanese records and electronic treatments. They had some releases on Wallace Records. Their music is made through improvisation and is throughout minimal. They start strumming their strings and play probably with hand and feet to get all the sounds going. The six tracks where recorded following a tour in Japan and there are traces of Eastern tunings in the music. Intimate playing that sounds improvised, folk-like and even good old DDAA comes back to mind. It combines drone music along with musique concrete, tying post rock in. Great small music. (FdW) Address:

THE DOMESTIC FRONT - NIFLHEIM VEGETATION (CDR by Belsona Strategic Schallplatten)
Originally 'Niflheim Vegetation' was released in an edition of just seven copies (why, I wonder), and now re-released in an edition of 93 copies with a possibility of seeing it as a real CD, with extra material. Why, I ask again? Why not entirely release this as CD. The title piece is the centre piece of the release, with it's twenty-seven minute of duration, plus a much shorter piece as an introduction. Stylistically this continues his previous release 'Having Achieved Balance, You Cannot Be Moved... So You Rise', in which he shows himself as a capable electronic counterpart to Nurse With Wound. Whereas Stapleton incorporates acoustic sounds, instruments alongside electronics, The Domestic Front, a.k.a. Thom Bailey, a.k.a. Thomas Transparant, uses just electronic sounds, either made on real synthesizers or on digital versions thereof. His montage techniques of sounds is however quite similar. He let's sounds stay around for a while, but then in a sudden, abrupt move, he throws them around, or away, and replaces them with a different set of sounds. All in quite a vivid manner. Though not as known as Nurse With Wound or Irr.App {ext}, The Domestic Front would certainly earn a place among them, as this is a pretty strong work, again. (FdW)

One half of Sevkens, a duo from Sweden, Martin Herterich is also active as a solo musician, even when he started in 2003. He moves only partially away from the ambient glitch of Sevkens, but his solo work is built around the use of piano, a grand one even, with some electronics and field recordings. The four pieces have that slow, meditative piano playing alongside cracking sounds and rain running in the harbor. It fits the recent trend of 'piano and electronics', say Fennesz/Sakamoto, even when Herterich pushes his electronics a bit more to the background. The best piece is the longest one 'Asleep/Awake', in which the grand piano has the dominant role and the electronics are reduced to just hiss and loops are made of the playing. It has that William Basinski feel to it, even when the sound is a bit more present than his US compadre. Perhaps a bit short this one, but it's certainly an appealing release for anyone in moody glitch music. (FdW) Address:

Like many of the releases on Some Place Else, also this one has musical involvement of the boss himself, Niko Skorpio. It's been a while since we last heard Reptiljan ('The Hellbender Suite' was reviewed in Vital Weekly 480), but here he returns, moving away from the digital area, using bass guitar, contact microphones, fm radio and delay and distortion pedals. Musicwise this has less to do with the breakcore of the previous release, and altogether more with noise. His noise however is not the usual blend of distortion, but Skorpio knows how to balance things. Odd sounds like an alarm pops up, while seconds later it gets washed away in a blend of oceanic noise. Snippets from radio leak through this barrage of sound, but they add a nice extra flavor to it. Now while noise is not always on the daily platter, I must say that when it comes from the likes of Reptiljan it's quite alright. At least for a weekly digest.
Not on Some Place Else, in a deliberate attempt to create a bootleg, but who found a bunch of old 7" covers and decided to pack the CDR by Rajapinta in them. Rajapinta is/was the collaboration of Ibrahim Terzic and Some Place Else label boss Niko Skorpio. They worked together from 2001 to 2006 and created 'hundreds of hours of work and experiments'. Skorpio set forward the task to edit these recordings and on 'Bootleg Ephiphanies' are the best pieces. Although a lot of the matter is quite noise related, I thought it was a pretty interesting release. Rajapinta doesn't opt for the true all out wall of noise, but rather make a sharp combination of floating samples, letting them bounce up and down the scale, thus creating quite a lively set of music. Plus it's not all noise that rings around here. They know how to pull back and put on a softer tune. Heavy duty musique concrete, turntable madness and enough computer plug ins to create a hard disk crash, it all kind of makes great sense here. (FdW)

BEEQUEEN - WHITE BIKE (Businesscard CD-R by Moll)
FREIBAND - KAPOTTE MUZIEK BY (Businesscard CD-R by Moll)
Just a few weeks after the recently reviewed set of Freiband CD-Rs, there are four new releases on Frans de Waard's Moll imprint. Two of these - 'White Bike' and 'XI (for Christian Nijs)' - have a particularly personal character, albeit of a wholly different nature. Beequeen is Frans de Waard's long existing duo project with Freek Kinkelaar. 'White Bike' should have been on the upcoming Beequeen album 'Sanddancing', but Freek and Frans decided not to include it on the album and so it was released on Moll, along with the original demo sung by Freek and an excerpt from the recording session with an appearance of Frans' daughter Elise. These latter tracks add a nice, intimate touch to the release and beautifully match the song itself. It's a wonderful pop song, played on piano and balloons, with vocals sung by Eva Volmeijer. The melody sticks in your head immediately and its joyous and slightly naïve mode puts a smile on your face, making this a promising candidate for this summer's sweetest tune.
'XI' (for Christian Nijs) is dedicated to Frans' first musical partner with whom he recorded as Kapotte Muziek in the early 1980s and who committed suicide in 2002. Although this work is indexed as one track, it is clearly divided into several distinct passages. A slowly pulsating, pure electronic drone provides a well-chosen opening to the disc, which is followed by the rumble and crackling of various highly obscured field recordings that form the rest of the piece, together with some minimal electronic insertions. The use of short loops and the blending of field recordings and electronics as well as the lo-fi character bring to mind some early works of Kapotte Muziek here. In its overall solemn and sparse tone and its subtle personal references, 'XI' finds a quiet and unpretentious way to remember a person who chose to put an end to his life.
The limited playtime of just under 4 minutes, that the businesscard CDs offer, demands a precise and concentrated composition and Roel Meelkop's 'Business as Usual' delivers just that in a series of multilayered hissing and rumbling textures which are juxtaposed with moments of silence and passages hovering barely above the threshold of audibility. Complexity and tension are successfully translated in a miniature format here. The same goes for Freiband's contribution to the ongoing series of reworks of material by Kapotte Muziek. Dealing with tiny details and porous textures, this is one of the more austere Freiband works, roughly along the lines of 'Ice Field', one of the preceding releases on Moll, but substituting the harshness of the latter with fragility. It thus hints to Kapotte Muziek's use of amplified objects and largely maintains the characteristic feel of concrete sounds, transformed, however, into crackling digital detritus. (Magnus Schaefer) Address:

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