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Vital Weekly 594

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This is already the fourth CD for Touch by Australian sound artist Oren Ambarchi, who is known for his high quality ambient soundscapes. On the three instrumental tracks on this album Ambarchi explores the possibilities of the guitar even further than on his previous albums. Apart from the guitar, he incorporates glass harmonica, strings, bells, piano and percussion. These ingredients (with extended post-production) give the music a strong meditative, tranquil feeling. Opener Fever A Warm Poison features slow, deep pulses to which guitar patterns have been added. The second track Inamorata almost seamlessly continues this theme. After a while strings by Veren Grigorov set in, creating a beautiful mournful song. The closing track, Trailing Moss In Mystic Glow features more prominent guitar plucking to a similar backing. Given the close resemblance of these pieces, it would perhaps have been better if all tracks were mixed in to one long ambient experience, but that is just nit picking really. In The Pendulum's Embrace is a fine and worthy addition to the already extensive catalogue of Oren Ambarchi CDs. (Freek Kinkelaar)
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The name should be pronounced as Wet Hearts, but written as Wzt Hearts. We don't know why. It's a four piece band with the odd line up of Mike Haleta on 'circuit bend guitar pedals, laptop, guitar, tapes', Jeff Donaldson on 'commodore 64, bi-tone guitar, mixer', Jason Urick on laptop and Shaun Flynn on drums and vocals. That is an odd combination. Whatever vocals it might, they are surely well transformed beyond belief. What to think of the music? It's surely a combination that is unlikely if you see it written: microsound meets krautrock, anyone? But more microsound than krautrock. Laptop rock? Psychedelic microsound? The element of improv, of surprise is important for Wzt Hearts, but it surely could have used a bit more editing. At times it seemed to me they were searching a bit too much for a sound and things went on too much. But then on other moments they were more spot on, direct and even funny at times. I must admit that despite some flaws in the music, the odd combination of drums, guitar, 'vocals' on one hand and the electronica on the other which makes this curious meeting quite a nice one. (FdW) Address:

It's possible to go straight to the music here: BJ Nilsen is quite known in these pages for his long standing work inside experimental music, so we can cut the introductionary notes short. From his previous 'Fade To White' (see Vital Weekly 452) to 'The Short Night' is, I think a small step. Nilsen is still concerned with the recording of outdoor sounds, and has a bunch of old synthesizers and a computer. And he likes his music to be dark. As dark as night, be it short or long. All of his basic material goes into the computer and inside Nilsen gives the material a twist and cooks up his music. The outcome is usually dark, atmospheric music, drone/organ based, but if there is an important shift from 'Fade To White' to 'The Short Night', is that it seems at times a bit more noise based - of course not Merzbow styled noise, but it's louder, more present, forceful, or even a bit more distorted at times. Which makes quite a nice balance I must say with the ambient textures patterns that some of these pieces have. It keeps this album safely out of the hands of anything even vaguely new age. It's perhaps a small step in Nilsen's career, but it's nevertheless an important one. 'The Short Night' is not always a refreshing new look on the word 'ambient', but like it's noted before, That would be something, but it's a mighty fine CD in the genre of dark ambient. (FdW)

SIGNAL - ROBOTRON (CD by Raster-Noton)
There has been a serious gap in reviewing Raster Noton, but we should get back on track. I must admit that I have no idea what they have been up to in these recent years, but oddly enough Signal didn't progress or at least it wasn't shown in releases. 'Robotron' is their second release and their being of course the nucleus trio behind the label: Frank Bretschneider, Olaf Bender and Carsten Nicolai. Apart they have busy careers but they always find time to play together. It has been ages since I last played their first release from, oh, perhaps 1999, but I was quite amazed by this new one. Minimalist, robotronic beats built from those small particles of static hum, a scratch, a click, but sometimes even just an ordinary beat, which feeds through all three laptops at hand, and each of the players have their own methods of operation to process this. It results in groovy music, full of sound, moving about all the time. It reminded me a bit of the good ol' Pan Sonic, although perhaps less analogue. One thing though has changed and that is that this music is now much more a common place, and that novelty of a decade ago is a bit gone. More people have followed this path, as good as this one for sure, but having said that, this is still a great work.
Reduce Signal with a third and you have Frank Bretschneider? Hell, no, that's not the way these things work. Bretschneider's music deals, as always since many moons, with rhythm, so perhaps it's only natural to come up with a work that is called 'Rhythm'. The rhythms that Bretschneider works with are all digital, which could lead to thinking that it's a cold and clinical affair. However that is not the case. A simple rhythm pattern is set forward, with breaks mind you, which feeds through what seems endless filters, plug ins, faders and whatever the computer offers for possibilities. Things are hot and groovy, because Bretschneider has got the swing, I think. Perhaps his music is a bit cleaner in approach than that of Signal, but this is surely music that goes down on the dance floor quite well, as this is highly funky music. (FdW)

A close friend of mine always mutters about Fennesz and 'Endless Summer'. His claim is that 'Endless Summer' is a fine album no doubt and one of the classics in it's kind, but that the true Fennesz master work, way ahead of its time, is his debut album 'Hotel Paral.lel'. Every time he makes this claim, I know I should be playing that again, but always something comes up. No escape today as Editions Mego just re-issued a remastered version of this 1997 album. We pan back to the past, Vital Weekly 96 of 1997, when we first reviewed this album: "Another highly acclaimed cult label, this time from Austria, is Mego. They present that truly exciting mix of techno and industrial music (although they would say it is not one nor the other). Fennesz had a 12" before and now present a full length CD. Before this he played guitar in a largely ignored Austrian rock band and made movie soundtracks. This CD is a fine showcase of what Mego stands for. The opening track (sorry I have no titles here) is a damn noisy one, followed by a nice moody computer piece. The fourth track is built of loops of guitar playing, but sped up and sauced with rhythms which turns out in a digitalized distortion dance track. The track after that is more distorted rhythms with an industrial edge to it. And so forth. A varied album that will never hit the dance floor obviously,
but who cares about that?" Usually I am wrong, but right there. Little did we know that Fennesz would become the lover boy of the whole glitch movement, but it's still a review that describes this album best. Quite crude at times without the refinement of the future Fennesz, but quite adventurous and sometimes even just very funny. Good to see this out again. (FdW) Address:

For whatever reasons no longer clear to anyone, the two previous collaborations from Antimatter, a.k.a. Xopher Davidson from San Francisco and Zbigniew Karkowski from Tokyo have not been reviewed in Vital Weekly. 'Divide By Zero' is the third part in this trilogy. Although we know Karkowski as a man of the laptop, the main apparatus at work on this release is analogue, "custom built synthesizer module Krohn Hite 1200A sweep generators and Wavetek 148 modulation generators", whatever those may be. There are four small picture on the inside cover of this CD of what seems to be power plants. Before checking the information on this CD I thought this would be built from sounds of power plants, since soundwise it gave me that impression. Heavy, thick layered what could be airpipes driven by motors. Drones but heavy, topheavy even. But so it's analogue synthesizers with a bit of computing. It's dark ambient work with bass heavy undercurrents. I must say I quite liked it, even when it seemed nothing new under the horizon. But on an autumn afternoon, with rain this sombre work fits the tone of the day. Fine, solid, good work. (FdW) Address:

ELFFRIEDE/SOUNDRAWING (CD/Book by Transacoustic Research)
The musical pieces, all 34 on the CD, were inspired by the drawings made by Austrian Elffriede, a visual artist. Her drawings are in a simple style, almost cartoon/comic like, but with words, in German and Dutch (the 7" sized booklet was printed by Knust/Extrapool in lovely Nijmegen), which have a poetic character. There is, I think, quite an uniform character among the drawings/text, which is important to keep in mind when we listen to the music. Elffriede asked 34 musicians to make a musical piece, inspired by her drawings. These pieces are by a wide variety of musicians, operating in many styles. From Phill Niblock, Murmer, Jgrzinich to Incite, Jörg Piringer to Wohnzimmer, Zemmler which means from pure soundscape and serious composition to click/beat to naive lo-fi songs on cheap keyboards and acoustic instruments. It's a bit hard to like them all, I think, but I thought of it as a radio program: you switch it on and start listening to whatever comes, and things may not always have a relation. Elffriede's book may serve as the program guide, which you can flip through when playing the CD, or simply put aside when you are done with it, and continue to enjoy the music, picking it up every now and then. (FdW)

MWVM - ROTATIONS (CD by Silber Records)
LYCIA - COLD (CD by Silber Records)
Ouch, this is going to be hard one. Behind MWVM is one Micheal Walton from Durham, UK, and he started to play music in 1996 and adopted the name MWVM in 2005. He plays a guitar and effect pedals. His music can be classified as ambient music. When I played this CD I kept thinking: Eno, Fripp, Fear Falls Burning, Hypnos, Stars Of The Lid. Been there, done that, you know the drill. I could all to easily slag this down as copycat # 2983, but actually I really like the music. Nothing new under the ambient sun, but it's nice, it's entertaining, it's atmospheric, it's beautiful. Music doesn't need to be per se new and innovative in the Vital HQ, but it's nice if it is. If it isn't, fine too, and we could simply enjoy the beauty of it and 'Rotations' is certainly a beautiful album.
We wrote before about Lycia, of whom Silber Records are now releasing five older CDs. Lycia was Mike van Portfleet (guitars, vocals, synth and drum programs), David Galas (bass, synth, drumprograms, audio-engineering) and Tara Vanflower on vocals. Of the planned re-issues, apparently 'Cold' is the masterpiece, one of the top ten Goth albums of all time, according to Alternative Press (maybe says something about being alternative) and goth and me was never a good marriage. Having said that and having played 'Cold', I must admit could actually enjoy the music. It's absolutely nicely produced dark popmusic, brought with a lot of pathos, heavy drums, dark minor chords on the guitar and atmospheric synthesizers. Still, being an old guy, I prefer the old Cure and Cocteau Twins records - I can even admit having a Dead Can Dance record on my ipod - but I surely like this as well. However the thought of hearing ten different goth records in order to produce a top ten is of course a bridge too far. (FdW)

Format wise I don't have a preference, I am not a snob. But Meeuw Muzak 7"s are always lovely. They did a couple of 10"s and even a 8" in their early days, but since long switched to releasing just 7"s. Grainy lo-fi covers, and sometimes cheer unknown acts. The Pitchshifters anyone? The Pitchshifters is Hideto Aso from Tokyo. In 2003 he made a CDR named "Improvise*Dessert" which landed on the desk of Meeuw Muzak who liked it that much that he decided to release two pieces on vinyl. A drum computer ticking the beat away, and a bunch of lo-fi keyboards playing minor keys. This in both tracks, which are of course not the same, but there are strong similarities. It sounds like sad songs, not mourning. but then not exactely alive at the party as well. But nice stuff, fitting Meeuw quite well. (FdW) Address:

SPIRACLE - LUMEN (3"CDR by Taalem)
Through the internet a lot of people who played music in the 80s but disappeared in the 90s came back, only to find their work is still alive. No return yet for Japanese S.Core, who in the late eighties and early nineties was an active force in the world of cassette, making releases on his own Afflict, but also Extreme and Staalplaat and doing loads of collaborative works, such as the one with Telepherique (who never disappeared from the scene). Kokeshidisk now re-issues a 1992 cassette of the two on CDR, which is very much a sign of those days. Crude, lo-fi sampling (the SK1 me thinks), some synthesizer and lots of reverb, which add a fake space to the music. Thus it sounds like something of those days, but if you look beyond that, you will discover actually quite decent ambient industrial music, with some nice changes and patterns.
And when they were preparing this, Taalem, Kokeshidisk's sister, asked Telepherique to remix the old release for a lovely 3"CDR. That piece, with all it's dark undercurrents, shows that Telepherique updated his equipment over the years and it sounds like a nice, thickly layered cake. The second piece is what they call 'a musical acoustic history about my project-name Telepherique', and is indeed a trademark piece of the band. Slow mechanical rhythms, psychedelic sounds swirling in and out of the mix, sample-heavy music with a firm, dark touch.
Following last week's release by Emmanuel Mieville, here is another one. The two pieces of his here dwell heavily but exclusively on field recordings. They start out in the field, but are sucked as it were into the studio and processed into quite violent slabs of soundscapes. Less refined than all of his previous works, but quite intense.
Spiracle is the big unknown here, being the project of Japanese Hitoshi Kojo, who now lives in Switzerland, were he has worked with Micheal Northam (as Kodama), Jgrzinich, Maurizio Bianchi, Yannick Dauby and Jonathan Coleclough, but he puts on his Spiracle hat when doing something solo. I am not sure what kind of sound sources he uses for his 'Lumen' piece, but I'm sure it's something created out of metal. Spiracle brings back the old Organum sound of 'In Extremis', which is a landmark in this field, in a chilling drone piece. Quite a nice work, this one. (FdW)

Apparently this is already the 12th release by Kasper van Hoek, I may have missed some. The basic material dates back to March 2006, when it was performed as an eight track piece, four speakers in each corner and four in the middle of the space. For this release the eight separate sound sources from the original concert are mixed together but with the intention to keep something of the original idea alive. It starts out with glitch like organ sounds, which give quite a nice textured feel to the material, but over the course of the next twenty-three minutes things get more heavy with skipping vinyl, a bit of distortion but it lands safely in some more noisy glitchy territory again. Quite a travel, but surely a nice one. Maybe I am less keen on the more noisy bits these days, but throughout I thought this was a great work, one of the best out of twelve. (FdW)

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