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Vital Weekly 599

img  Tobias

Although Christopher McFall started out ten years ago to play the piano and computer, he moved to field recordings and tape manipulations about six years ago. He now lives in 'blighted industrial warehouse districts of Kansas City' and it's there were he gets his inspiration from. Not just the warehouses but also the 'heat, grit and turbulence' that is also part of that area of the USA. The field recordings are put to analogue tape, which was then removed from it's housing, treated (but how it doesn't say) and then altered and layered using a computer. I must say that I think this is a most intriguing process, which is my imagination sounds pretty cool. I see McFall burying tapes in backyard and dig them up six months and playing some eroded tape. It might not be that way, but the sounds covered on these five tracks sound pretty eroded. Among the people he acknowledges we see, besides Jos Smolders and God, Asher Thal-Nir, and that doesn't strike me at all. There are strong similarities between the music of McFall and Asher, that very scraped off, eroding, residual sound, but there is also a difference: in McFalls music there is a lot more happening. Asher is more the man of a concept, explored to its core, but McFall is the man for a story. Each of the pieces (named 'East', 'West' etc and 'Epilogue') is a story by itself, quiet, louder, intimate. McFall doesn't necessarily offer something wholly new on the subject of microsound, but 'Four Feels For Fire' is a fine release, easily along the masters of the genre (Meelkop, Behrens, Chartier to name a few). (FdW)

FORMICATION - AGNOSIA (CD by Harmful Records)
Following a string of releases on CDR and MP3, Formication made their move into 'real' CDs with 'Icons For A New Religion' (see Vital Weekly 579), and now return with 'Agnosia' for Harmful Records, which is their own label. Still a duo of Alec Bowman and Kingsley Ravenscroft, and still taking their influences from the last forty years of alternative music (from Conrad Schnitzler to Pete Namlook, from Throbbing Gristle to Porter Ricks). Highly atmospheric music, playing the mood card rather than the well structured composed card. Playing around with musical instruments, mainly samplers and synthesizers me thinks, this moves away from the previous release, which was a bit too 'magickal' and 'ritualistik' for my taste. This new one seems to be more open, has more air in it. Especially the final track (couldn't figure out the track titles) build around a pulsating rhythm is quite nice, highly psychedelic, but also having their marks inside ambient through dreamy synthesizers and a slightly distorted voice. A bit like Zoviet*France, this entire release, except that this is a bit short, clocking at some thirty-two minutes. Nice move this one. (FdW)

For their latest two releases URCK Records decided to release them on CD, rather than on the CDR format, perhaps with the idea that these are bigger names. Scott Nydegger, also known as Sikhara, has played in 26 countries and lives in France, on a self-imposed exile, where plays with Yann Geoffriaud as George Bitch Jr (you wonder why the self-exile?). 'Bardos State' is the second release by Sikhara, and it deals with percussion. Loads of percussion. It's something that one has to learn to appreciate, and it's something that I haven't learned so far. I tried hard enough, did a fair amount of Muslimgauze (I can easily claim as a non-fan I still heard them all, at least once) and in it's day I thought Crash Worship was good, but that's perhaps because I didn't know they were a percussion band. And that perhaps points the finger to the problem: with percussion music, even when Sikhara adds a lot of effects and chanting of various kinds, it's lack melody in favor to banging rhythm. Sikhara, partly ethnic, partly industrial inspired, offers some interesting pieces of tribal warning shots, but in the end the variation isn't just too much to be fully, entirely satisfying.
A lot of artists on URCK take their musical inspiration from Asia, especially the rhythm and raga like drone stuff. But not just the URCK people, one could say there is a large group of musicians, and 'Post-Asiatic: Lost War Dream Music' tries to compile these musicians, who all (the majority at least), life on the west coast of the USA, save for perhaps Z'EV and the deceased Muslimgauze. This already defines the range of this compilation. Some names are known here through previous releases, such as, besides the two aforementioned luminaries, Bill Horist and Hop Frog's Drum Jester Devotional, but there is also a bunch of names, the vast majority actually, are people I never heard of. As to be expected there a lot of sitars, tablas, gamelan, oud, saz and more exotic instrumentation, but also guitars, metal percussion, field recordings (licensed from 'Indian Soundscapes' by Soleilmoon as well as some from Burma). Chants, dervish, techno, pure percussion: it's all there. A highly varied compilation with 150 minutes of music. I am not sure, but this could very well be a complete picture of a scene. If such a scene exists of course, but this lot makes a nice scene. (FdW)

Simon Fell is a busy bee, involved in a huge number of projects, to many to mention. Also he runs the Bruce's Fingers label, documenting many of these initiatives he is involved in, the Zfp Quartet being one of them. With Carlos Zingaro (violin, electronics), Marcio Mattos (cello, electronics), and Mark Saunders (drums, percussion), Simon H.Fell (double bass) completes this international quartet. Zingaro is a pioneer and veteran of the Portuguese improvised musicscene. Marcio Mattos from Brazil lives in England since the 70s, and plays mainly with english improvisors like Eddie Prevost, and many others. Mark Sanders is a new name for me, although he played with a whole legion of jazz, rock and improvising musicians. In this combination as the ZFP Quartet they released their first one - 'Music for Strings, Percussion and Electronics' (Bruce's Fingers) - with a recording from a performance in Portugal in 2002. Now they return again with a CD of live recordings. The cd and the tracks are simply named after the cities where the live recordings were made. When lengthy abstract improvisations leave you no escape, then something really is happening. This is what happened to me when listening to the first improvisation that takes about 34 minutes. What a superb music! Group improvisation of a very high standard. The musicians know how to develop an improvisation and remain focused all through this journey. As in the other pieces they excel in some very concentrated improvisations of a very warm and deeply human nature. Their atmospheric music is very delicate and well-balanced. A full-grown work of four very communicative improvisors. A very rewarding and joyful experience! (DM)

A name who needs no further introduction. You probably know that she performs since the end of the 60s together with Paul Fuchs as Anima (Sound). But more important, Limpe Fuchs is still as a performing artist. Several months ago I reviewed another cd of her: 'Pianobody 2002', a solo-work, being the first release on the obscure Seven Legged Spiders-label. 'Vogel Music' is a cd with duets with Christoph Reiserer and one trio piece with Reiserer and Julia Schoelzel on piano. We hear Limpe Fuchs playing lithophon (serpentinit), ballaststring, tubedrums, kettledrum, violin and voice. Reiserer plays clarinet, soprano and baritone sax.
All though I'm not sure, I guess the seven pieces on this cd are composed and did not came into being out of improvisation. The pieces are named after birds, so they may have inspired Fuchs for her compositions. The strength of Limpe Fuchs lies not in her technical skills. She is not a great instrumentalist. But with the strange (self-built) percussive instruments, she creates a very own world of Partch-like sounds. Also the compositions are not extremely complicated or whatever. On the contrary they are of a charming simplicity that works. Fuchs is an artist with a vision who knows how to materialize her ideas effectively with limited means. This makes that his music works on a different level. Recordings date from 2002 and 2004 during live performances on several locations in the south of Germany. (DM)

Before we came across the name Jamie Drouin when he collaborated with Yann Novak on 'Auditorium' (see Vital Weekly 577), but here its a work with one Lance Olsen. The first disc is a re-issue of a limited CDR release from 2003 when this was conceived as a four channel installation. 'The seven tracks were derived from the interaction with a field of snow in British Columbia measuring the same dimensions as the empty host gallery in the United Kingdom where the compositions were back'. So field recordings of snow were used? Or perhaps snow flakes upon contact microphones? A bit like the work conceived by John Hudak and Stephan Mathieu in that area, 'Pieces Of Winter' (see Vital Weekly 443). Maybe they use ice, freezing or melting? Crackling sound of things falling down, but in some way I don't think they use much sound processing. It's more like ears to the ground and amplify what is coming. That makes this quite nice, I think.
I am not sure why this deserved a remix CD, but anywhere there is one. That one seems a bit odd, with two remixes by Jamie Drouin, one by Lance Olsen, one by Yann Novak and, the longest in fact, by Tomas Jirku, who seems then to be the only outsider. Here electronics play an important role, as the snowflakes are heavily treated in all five remixes into either very droney sounds, like in 'Snow:Storm' by Yann Novak or both remixes by Drouin whereas in the Olsen and Jirku remixes rhythm plays an important role. Not in the form of big beats but in termites eating their way through the grain. It's all quite alright I guess, but nothing spectacular. The first disc however was more than enough. (FdW)

BINARY OPPOSITIONS (CD compilation by Static Caravan)
Somewhere in Brescia, Italy, there is a gallery curated by Matt Price, dealing with the contrasts of analogue and digital, hand made versus machine, myth and rationalism. As part of the exhibition there is also a CD compilation by Static Caravan, which does more or less the same as the exhibition. Of course it features names that not always mean a lot in my universe, but in the parallel universe of Static Caravan they do. Betty & The Id? Micronormous? KateGoes? Mike In Mono? No less than twenty-one tracks, which breath the air of alternative popmusic, alternative folk, alternative electronics. I put this CD on and started to sink in my chair and watched the outside rain in autumn. I hardly glanced at the cover, which means I probably didn't hear any outstanding good track, or outstanding bad for that matter, just absolutely fine music. Maybe interchangeable at times, but with enough variation to keep things interesting throughout the entire CD. The sweetness naivety of KateGoes is followed by the vocoder piece of Mike In Mono - to give an example. Perhaps a big jump, but in this they attract each other. Lovely compilation. (FdW)

This new work by Lawrence English is not published by his own Room40 label, but one from around his corner in Brisbane, Phono-Statique Records. In October 2005 he found himself in an apartment in Palermo with Domenico Sciajno, whom we know from his solo work, or in collaboration with RLW and Kim Cascone. What exactly the reference is to Merola Shoulders, an Italian singer, who performed around the corner when this was recorded I don't know. One has to be careful, but it seems that this laptop duel is more Sciajno than English, as it's more powerful, noise even than much of English work. Maybe Sciajno has had more to say in the final edit of the material - it's not easy to see who did what here, although there are certainly quiet moments to be spotted, such as in the prize winning 'A Frank Discussion About Ruins'. It seems, again to me that is, that this culled from many hours of improvisation, both using computers with all sorts of sound files and software running, but that in the end final editing (and perhaps adding a bit of sound effects?) things are cut down meticulously. Maybe parts were over-layed, but the most interesting parts are to be found here. It's easy to detect the more experienced at work, I think. Whereas a newcomer would release a CDR of all the material, uncut, unpolished, here we have two accomplished musicians with a more than critical look at the material, and who present a particular strong album.
On English' own Room40 label there is a mini CD by Tim Hecker, in the tradition of previous down under mini CDs (Richard Chartier, Taylor Deupree), which were all made for a tour over there. Hecker has already a long string of albums to his name, for labels as Mille Plateaux, Kranky, Room40 and Staalplaat and toured the world. In Norberg, Sweden, he played a concert amidst mineshafts and cluttered buildings, and something of that area may reflect in the music. The twenty minutes captured here are of a highly grainy texture, like an endless amount of low resolution samples that built, no rather fight, for attention. Each of them seems to be struggling against the others, and things are in full crescendo mood, but nowhere that this piece get of the rails. At the controls is Hecker, who has all his sounds like a puppet master on a string. A good, rock solid piece. (FdW)

Perhaps the name Mark Clifford rings no immediate bells, but he was a founding member of Seefeel, who made quite an impact in the world of popmusic meeting post-rock. Later on he also worked as Disjecta, started his own label Polyfusia and sometimes works under his own name. I am not sure what exactly divides his work using the various names, but under his own belt he likes the guitar and he likes his computer. There are two tracks by him on this CDEP, as well as two by Zavoloka, whom we know from here various releases on Nexsound. Clifford's pieces are heavily e-bowed and heavily layered affairs on the guitar and the computer. As such the instrument is still to be recognized, but through various plug ins, a nice additional layer is added. Still leaving the guitar to be recognized, but also, oddly enough to be firmly rooted in computer treatments. The other two tracks are by Kateryna Zavoloka, who is from the Ukraine and who says to be inspired by traditional Ukranian music, which is something I can't verify, simply due to my lack of knowledge on that. Her two pieces are more based around rhythm, broken up but still head nodding. Alongside she adds a whole bunch of flute like sounds, like morning birds that give the music a rather cheerful basis. Despite the autumn time, it's more like springtime music. Very nice. A bit short, sadly. (FdW) Address:

Not much information on either of these releases, which is a pity. Thinguma Jig Saw is definitely the odd ball of the week. Lots of banjo and harmonium, along female (a lot) and male (a bit less) vocals, and perhaps a bit of other instruments such as wind instruments (saxophone, flute), bells and perhaps even electronics. Thirteen tracks of hardly neo-folk, as this sounds a lot more folk like than all the folktronica people. I am a very unlikely person to review, nor, I think anyone from the Vital personnel. I can easily admit that the whole thing grows on me after a couple of listens, but then thirteen tracks is also a bit too much for my taste.
The LP is by Toymonger, who according to the insert are Gavin Prior and Andrew Fogarty. This is much like it. For us, I mean. This duo plays drone music according to the laws of power. It starts out soft but slowly the effective powers that be creep in, like coming through the back door. At one point they even sound like a train here, when the forces of evil have risen to true power. Four lengthy cuts of controlled mayhem, distortion, but never forgetting to capture the very essence of drone music - to keep the head inside space. Quite charming free flow drone music of a much louder kind. Think Sunn O))) or such like monsters, and Toymonger is half way your house. (FdW) Address:

KARL BÖSMANN - ESKALATION (LP by You Don't Have To Call It Music)
Like John Cage said, and I believe Staalplaat after him, there is now even a label dedicated to his words: You don't have to call it music, if the terms shocks you. Works always fine if the uninitiated walk into your room and want to know what the hell you are playing today. For those who know, you as the subscriber to Vital Weekly, you know this is music. Karl Bösmann has had a couple of CDR releases before, mainly on his own, or with Verato and Tosom, but here he comes with a nicely packed LP: black cover with silver foil print ('wow', says the little girl around who loves shiny things, 'a bit like Philips Silver Series I muttered). Certainly something that sets the standard a little bit different. Bösmann's music on his last release was quite noisy and not very interesting, but luckily for this LP he goes back to the music of his first two CDR releases. Bösmann plays minimal music, recorded with 'original' instruments - 'no samples used', it says on the cover. What these original instruments are, I must admit, is not easy to hear. My best guess is guitars and sound effects. Things evolve in a rather slow manner, but that is part of the Bösmann esthetic. Building many layers of sound, which only marginally differ from the others, and then building things up in a dramatic way, scary, like a menace. Especially in the title piece, which covers the main part of the second side of this record, this works very well. The pressing is not the best around, which is a pity, since it doesn't serve the music very well. But throughout it's a very nice record, excellently telling us what Bösmann does very well. Great one. (FdW) Address:

The name Martijn Hohmann was more known to me as an organizer in his home town Breda (The Netherlands) than as a musician. As UniversaalKunst he is active inside music, drawing, graphic arts and installation. Here however under his own name with one Marc Heijmans, who is a graphic designer and illustrator. Together they produced a single sided record (on the other side there is silkscreened) in a boxed set edition of 75 copies and a regular edition of 100 copies. Perhaps Heijmans is responsible for the graphic part and Hohmann for the music? The instruments used are recordings played on a turntable, but the records are treated with a mezzotint rocker, a rubbermat, pieces of cardboard, water, a rubberband tied to the needle, and also used is a voice recording by their deceased friend Arthur van Keppel (to whom this is dedicated). Creating music with records is of course not something new (think Christian Marclay, Institut Fuer Fein Motorik, Tetrault and many more), but there is something quite nice about these recordings: dark, brooding, menacing, with some music leaking through, hand-spinning and more such like. More noise based than music based, but the matter is under control, which is a rare thing. Nice product, with, to top things of, a nice silkscreened cover and inner sleeve. (FdW) Address:

STROM NOIR - THE STROM EP (3"CDR by Black Orchid Productions)
Emil Mat'ko is the man behind Strom Noir and also behind the Black Orchid Productions from Slovakia, which has still a healthy view on the world of cassettes. The cover says just 'sounds and recordings', by which we are to understand guitar (slowed down), drones from field recordings and sound effects. In the four pieces he plays some nice slow music of an highly ambient and thus highly elegant nature. Not the louder segment of drone music, but almost sketch like pieces of music, slow and peaceful. Perhaps the tracks are a bit too short, and some further development could have been made, I think. I am not sure how long Mat'ko is doing music, but he surely does a nice thing here and a longer production could very well be made, I think. Nothing new as such under the ambient sun, but certainly a welcome new name on the horizon. (FdW) Address:

BRUTUM FULMEN - 1000 SUNS (cassette by Throne Heap)
For all I know Brutum Fulmen were history. I didn't hear from them in quite some time, which was a great pity as from the few sparse releases I heard from them, I had them down in my little book as one of the interesting noise bands. Good to see them around, even when it's a cassette. They use a whole bunch of sound sources, including voices, feedback, 'readings of eye witness accounts of atomic tests' and something that is called the 'corrugaphone', among lots of other things, but as interesting is the list of tape processes used here, such as stretching, wrinkling, writing on tape, breaking cassette shell, biting, rubbing, scraping, abusing deck while recording and then I haven't even summed up half of it. Although the cover 'seem' (!) to list various titles for the pieces, I am not sure if we are dealing here with one, two or more pieces, but what is captured here is great. That is: if perfection isn't your middle name, or, if you are as old as I am, and still cherish old cassettes and what ever imperfections that had. Brutum Fulmen use their lo-fi techniques to a great end, and still belong to the best that noise has to offer. Not for their sheer volume (by which noise sometimes is wrongly associated), but by using all sort of unconventional techniques and sounds to create something. Wish I had this on CDR, so I could more easily play though. (FdW) Address:

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

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