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Vital Weekly 590

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MAWJA - STUDIO ONE (CD by Al Maslakh)
Release number six and seven from the small Al Maslakh label from Lebanon. In the past we reviewed three other releases from this interesting label: albums by Gene Coleman and Raed Yassin, Peter Brötzmann and Michael Zerang, and another one by Tom Chant and Sharif Sehnaqui. The Al Maslakh label is closely associated with the Irtijal Festival of Improvised Music in Beirut. This festival emerged in 2000 and was a first sign of the appearance of a new generation of musicians from Lebanon that are interested in adventurous music. In order to document this new scene the Al Maslakh label was established. An interesting label not only because of the quality of its releases, but also because it is a label from Libanon, a corner in the world where you don't expect improvised music to come from. So it is a pleasure that we can introduce now two new releases. Like earlier releases it has Lebanese musicians in a meeting with western improvisors. Chicago-based Michael Zerang changed the States for the second time for Beirut, for a series of duo concerts with local improvisors. The CD 'Cedarhead' documents seven of these meetings. It has has Michael Zerang (drums, darbuka, percussion) playing duos with Sharif Sehnaoui (electric guitar), Mazen Kerbaj (trumpet), Raed Yassin (tapes & electronics), Christine Sehnaoui (alto sax), Charbel Haber (electric guitar), Jassem Hindi (electronics) and Bechir Saadé (nay). Recordings were made in april this year at the Grand Music Room of the Bustros Palace in Beirut. The duets differ in many respects. Two of them have Zerang playing in the company of the electric guitar by respectively, Sharif Sehnaoui and Charbel Haber. Both players make use of extended techniques. Also the playing of Mazen Kerbaj on trumpet is far from usual, whereas Christine Sehnaoui stays more close to the common sound coming from the alto sax. In general, all these musicians have a high standard concerning their technical abilities. Between Raed Yassin (tapes & electronics) and Zerang grows a lengthy improvisation with deformed soundmaterial from radio broadcasts and eastern rhythms played on the darbuka. In the duet with Jassem Hindi a noisy treatment of sounds is in battle with subtle sounds from Zerang's percussion. Totally different in character is the closing piece with Bechir Saade on nay and Zerang again on darbuka. An improvisation moving from or towards middle eastern music?! Most pieces on this cd could also come from Europe or America, as they move within the patterns, etc. that were developed within this kind of improvised music. And also because these improvisations deal a lot about sound. Only the last track is overtly grounded in eastern traditions, not only in the way the instruments are played but also concerning the musical structure along which they improvise.
With Mawja something different is going on. It is a trio of Michael Bullock (contrabass, feedback), Mazen Kerbaj (trumpet) and Vic Rawlings (cello, surface electronics). Recordings date from 2005 and were made in New York. Bullock and Rawlings are two american improvisors who play together already for some years and have some very good CDs out. 'Studio One' is a true melting pot of acoustic playing, and using electronic and electro-acoustic means. A very radical treatment, investigating sound and textures, especially in their going together as acoustic and electro-acoustic soundmaterial. Most of the time it is very difficult saying who is playing what. They paint very abstract music, built around slow movements and changes, but dotted with all kinds of little details. (Dolf Mulder) Address:

ERIC CORDIER - OSOREZAN (CD by Herbal Records)
Eric Cordier we may know from his work with the hurdy gurdy or with improvisers, but to my surprise this new CD contains just field recordings. Likewise to my surprise this is released by Herbal Records, whom we so far know from very limited CDR releases, and low quality packaging. The field recordings by Cordier span from 1993 to 2006, and we either made in Japan or in France. Some of these pieces were 'edited an reorganized', where as other pieces are presented as is. However, I believe no sound transformation was used. This is quite detailed recording, and with the useful descriptions in the booklet it's all easy to follow. The gas filled water of Japan, or the unloading of cars; the bonfire and the lazy afternoon. It's all there. Perhaps one could argue that this is hardly music, but I was listening with true fascination to these sounds. Cut of reality, they become music, simply because Cordier pressed them on a CD and we listen to it, rather than going out and listen for ourselves - we could do that later on, if we want to, but it's raining (also a nice sound event), so I prefer to stay inside and listen again to the Cordier CD. Such richness captured in such elegant and smooth way: a true treat for the ears. (FdW)

Recorded during six months of isolation in Detroit and it's 'an epic soundtrack to the industrial depression of the city'. I always thought it was exaggerated, until I was there and happy to stay in Livonia. I think I can understand how Mammal feels about Detroit. Play the first track really loud, with it's slow drum computer pattern, dry as hell, with a load of heavy guitar drones and you get the drift too. Yet, this is not noise, but heavy, top heavy blues. However the first piece sets the tone for the CD, it doesn't mean that the other pieces are alike. Mammal uses voices, clearly audible, as he strums his guitar. In other pieces he uses feedback, loose tones, more words, and things look grim. But today is a clouded, rainy day, almost autumn like, so the utter depressive music of Mammal fits the scene quite well. There isn't a single spark of sunlight allowed in the womb of this Mammal and 'Cremation', 'Incinerator Ballad' and 'Repulsion' proof that. However I thought it was quite amazing music. But I needed something light afterwards. (FdW) Address:

CHRISTIAN RENOU - EX-VOTO (CD by Elsie & Jack Recordings)
A new approach needs a new name. When Brume switched of the analogue machines and turned on the computer, Brume adopted is christian name, Christian Renou. You all know this of course, since music by Renou under his own name has been reviewed before. But I gather from the delivered notes that Renou wasn't too pleased with the results so far, although he doesn't tell us what exactly was wrong with them; we thought they sounded fine. But listening to his new release, there are indeed some interesting differences to be spotted. The basic material was recorded in 2002 in a church, with Ilda von Gerart interpreting 'Amazing Grace' on the violin. The violin is processed through the use of computers, and additional sounds from the church are taken in consideration. Sometimes the electronics prevails and we are in total abstract landscape, but as soon as Renou allows the violin to join, things are getting... musical. Very musical indeed. To an extend which we haven't heard from him in ages, or perhaps even never. The sorrowing tune of 'Amazing Grace' hacked together with sometimes crude, sometimes rhythmic processings thereof, making this a rather musical outing for monsieur Renou, and it's seems to these ears the right move and a line to be explored. (FdW) Address:

Small Sails is a young, hip four-piece out of Portland, Oregon that has been tapped by the soul of visual and melodic harmonies. No clearer is this than on the cut Aftershocks and Afterthoughts appearing on this official debut full-length recording. Infectiously repetitious with vocal modulations akin to the subtleties found in works by Sigur Ros and the faded touches of Tortoise. Their sound finds its home away from home tip-toeing through between the fields of folk-electronica and jazzy acoustic pop. Though each track is just short of five minutes or so, they're instrumental songs of a generation. Not since Pulseprogramming's flawless '03 release Tulsa for One Second have we experienced such a combination of upbeat bright hues and mellow hooks. Small Sails do something simultaneously familiar and foreign by layering the cadence of pleasing vocalese with playful percussion. (TJNorris)

Normally releases by Pax Records land on the desk of Dolf Mulder, but for whatever reason this arrived at HQ, and was investigated by fresh ears. Sabrina Siegel is, despite her appearance on fifteen CDs a new name to me. She lives in Eugene, Oregon and she plays guitar and cello, although her background is classical voice and flute. Her pieces are from the field of improvised music, but she certainly has her own edge to it. She plays 'situations' rather than 'pieces'. Placing a bunch of rocks on the strings and then slowly move the guitar - that sort of thing. However the outcome is much more musical, and much less 'fluxus' than my inapt description may sound. Sometimes she does play a real song like thing, with singing and all that, but oddly enough I must admit that these pieces work less for me. I prefer the more abstract sound exploring she does. Sat in a room with a wooden floor, the ambience is of equal importance as the actual playing is. Quite intense music, with a lot of things happening, yet at the same time it seems a lot less that is going on. In these pieces tension is felt, between the player, the instrument and the environment in which things happen. It makes this quite a remarkable release of improvised music. (FdW)

With large intervals we are exposed to the music of Ginger Leigh from the USA (Vital Weekly 443 and 513), and here is a new one. Absolutely not my type of music, and yet there is something about it, which I really like. The sampler is the core of the music of Ginger Leigh. In here all disappears and when it comes out, it's a dark and haunting tune, but always with a light touch and bit of humor. There is cheesy lounge music in there, or carnival like hummings, but Leigh always knows how to bend his stuff into more creepy alleys. Classical music, ethnic, bombast. All the previous elements are still there, but it seems also to me there is a sense of progression. It's not all dark and doom ringing the bell here, but it seems to be more worked out, more varied in approaches, and in general another damn fine CDR. Kitsch perhaps, and did I already say, absolutely not my thing, but that's the very thing I like about this. But I am not widely known for my correct taste. Yet, it's entirely unclear why Leigh hasn't found himself a proper CD label to bring out this into the open more. Record company bosses should take notice. (FdW) Address:

The grass is always greener on the other side, and from this side Montreal looks like a very vibrant city with lots of interesting musicians and labels. The Brise Cul Records is already active since 2001 and has released a whole string of releases from all sorts of people. Monday Morning Erection is a trio of guitarist Ghislain Roy and David Lafrance and Jean-Francois Lauda, both on turntables, although the latter is not on this new record. Apparently this music is dark and louder than their usual work, which I haven't heard. True, and one could add, pretty chaotic too. Pretty rough noise based improvisations for both instruments, which hardly plays a consistent tune. Things crash, scratch and beep all over the place, and makes a pretty dense pattern. Yet it seems to me that these boys know what they are doing, as opposed to just fool around. Not the easiest music around, but in terms of noise a pretty cool release.
A new duo are the Yellowknives, also from Montreal, and they are described as 'a digital drone geek and a dubstep activist' and are called 'Montreal's answer to Pan Sonic', which is understandable. Monotonous blocks of rhythm, with the hissing of synthesizers to go along the trail. It doesn't quite capture the grooves of Pan Sonic, to which people can be spotted dancing, whereas the monolithic bass beat here is hardly a groove, but more a bass tump - like the head nod music I wrote about earlier on. Creepy stuff this is, with mean sounds, flying low over like a cruise missile on a mission of certain destruction. Quite underground and not the dance thing that it could have been, but I believe that was never the aim anyway. (FdW)

To wake up with a four hour CDR set of Opaque. Is that a sensible thing to do? Perhaps not but I did it. The band, a duo actually, exists ten years by now, and like any good band they have a box. A box of unreleased material, which in Opaque's case is actually a whole bunch of live recordings, recorded mostly in the UK, also some in The Netherlands (and boys, it's Nijmegen not Nijmegin, your weekly hometown - thank you) and Germany. Four hours of heavy feedback guitar music, drone rock taken to it's logical extreme. I sit back, pick up today's newspaper, drink coffee, meanwhile I let Opaque do the soundtrack. The large chuncks, such as 'Beneath The Awareness Of Mother Culture', are sometimes a bit much, and I prefer the shorter, noise pieces. When almost four hours later the coffee is done, paper is finished, and the music stops, I know one thing very sure: I am awake.
Which is cool, so I can switch over right away to Kylie Minoise, who pay homage to Napalm Death's debut album. I remember that album. My radio colleague at the local radio pirate came in one day, in 1987, with that album, announcing that this album was to end all music as we had previously known. He was always doing bold statements, but that day he was right. Now, twenty years later, we have seen some crazy music coming our way, but that album still stands. Although I never play it. Kylie Minoise do a cover of 'You Suffer', extending it to just over sixty minutes. It's one monolithic block of solid noise, with hardly any change, or so it seems, that is nowhere close in the same power range as Napalm Death. This drags on and on without much urgency. Or perhaps I miss a conceptual point entirely. (FdW)

SOG.TAE - TOPOGRAPHY OF (CDR by Taeter Records)
SOG.TAE - THE LUNGS (CDR by Taeter Records)
Taeter Records is a new label, although with three releases by the labelboss, you could wonder what the label aspect is. Sog.tae (no doubt that should be lowercase) lives and works in Frankfurt and he is concerned with 'time-microscopy, time-deformation', which very short said, is all about time stretching and pitch shifting. On all three releases he is using short sound samples from Evan Parker's 'The Topography Of The Lungs', which he stretches out and changes the pitch. As lowercase as the name is written, so is the music. 'Topography Of' is very quiet, and 'The Lungs' is louder, like he has found the normalization button. Otherwise it seems to me to be quite similar music, one louder than the other. I wonder why he didn't combine these two on one release and make thus radical shifts between soft and loud. 'Found Elsewhere' is something different feeding all the stretched particles through a bunch of plug ins on the computer. Perhaps if this was also combined with the material of the other releases, it would have made a pretty varied release, which however would not a big difference to what is out there in this field already. (FdW) Address:

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