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Vital Weekly 600

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IF, BWANA - RADIO SLAVES (CD by Monochrome Vision)
BATCHAS - EXPLORATIONS 85-95 (CD by Monochrome Vision)
If you are twenty, and you work inside experimental music, there is no need to send a demo to Monochrome Vision: this Russian label deals with old people; people who started in the 80s with cassettes, then moved to LPs and eventually CDs. That is, if they didn't have a break in their career. If, Bwana's Al Margolis is still around and never was away. In the 80s he had his own Sound Of Pig Music, which released hundreds of tapes (if my memory serves right), and If, Bwana was his solo music thing. 'Radio Slaves' was originally released as a cassette on French Medicinal Tapes and it's primary instrument is the casio SK-1 sampler. More than the VL-Tone 1, which was a small synthesizer, the SK-1 (and the SK-5) was THE instrument of the cassette underground. You could record two long or four short samples (on the SK-5), which couldn't be stored, so you had to play with them on the spot. That's what Margolis does here. Lots of vinyl and radio sources, the sixteen tracks are foremost short, sketch like. Voices from opera, preachers, orchestral bits, vinyl cracks - it's all there. Almost like a DJ, but then twenty years ago. It's throughout nice stuff, although some of it perhaps a bit too sketchy for my taste. Also included are four bonus pieces, and excellently remastered - something you don't find when ripping this of a blog.
The good things about Monochrome Vision is that the covers (all in stark black/white) have liner notes and so I learned that Robert Masse, who was once the active force behind Batchas (as well as Freq 63, Mydaus, Trebor Semas, Microscope, Myiase and Mental Showdowns) is no longer active in music, but works as a flash developer. What a pity, certainly when we hear 'Explorations 85-95', which of course has material from this period. Each of his projects had a specific sound and Batchas hoovers about in the dark alley of highly atmospheric music. Played on a bunch of analogue synthesizers, this is darker than life mood music, sometimes going almost beyond the threshold of hearing. Great stuff, which calls back to memory his old records, or in fact the scene that came with it, the ambient industrial posse. Very music of that age - highly ambient, a bit industrial: we'd call that drone music these days.
In Annecy, France lives Philippe Blanchard, also known as Lt. Caramel, who organized a festival called 'Bruit De La Neige' (the noise of the snow), with exclusively young Russian music makers. We come by a whole bunch whom we met on CDRs before, such as Cisfinitum, CDR, Alexey Borisov and Bardoseneticcube, but also new names names such as Interior Disposition, Moscow Laptop Orchestra, Noises Of Russia and Instant Movie Combinations. Throughout the music here seems indeed the work of young, serious men and their laptops (thus destroying what I said earlier), who all play a fair bunch of field recordings, feeding through laptops, plug ins and what have you. But also sound bricolage, using reel to reel machines, cassettes and other lo-fi quality recordings never seem far away. Not every piece is convincing, but throughout it was a most pleasant introduction into the experimental music from a different country than the usual suspects. And as such quite nice. (FdW)

Many of the works by Senor Lopez are sparsely packed: his name, untitled number so and so and a label name. The vast majority of his work doesn't go beyond that low level of information. For reasons I am not entirely sure off (or rather not at all), some works are packed with text: 'La Selva', 'Buildings [New York]' and this new one 'Wind [Patagonia]' too (the link might be they are all recorded in America). So we learn that this piece of fifty-six minutes is an 'non-processed, not mixed environmental sound matter from a certain 'reality'' and in this case the reality is the wind the empty spaces of Patagonia, in the southern part of Argentina. During the 'austral winters' of 2000 and 2003, Lopez recorded a whole bunch of wind. The empty space, usually referred as a quiet one in the world of musical reviews (certainly by Vital Weekly) is of course a misconception. Silence as such doesn't exist and the wind can be harsh player. The wind blows here heavily in the microphone - varies types are used - and the membrane shakes along. It's not a straight forward, almost one hour piece of win blowing. In his piece he uses various segments of wind sound, both the 'quiet' and the 'loud' and thus depicts a beautifully cruel world. As a biker I learned to dislike the wind, as much as I like it; it depends on which way you are going. This new work fits along very, very well along the two previous mentioned releases and for those who care to know: this isn't the all out silent Lopez, as it's audible through the end, although the sound is in a long fade out. A great conclusion to a great trilogy. (FdW) Address:

After I played this for the first time, I already knew it was a disc of solo percussion. But somehow I thought it would have been a multi-tracked version of solo percussion. Because it sounds like that in certain places - although not everywhere. Unlike that other recent solo percussion disc, 'Metal' by Jon Mueller, this is from the world of conventional improvised music, even Nakatani, from Japanese origin, but in the USA since the age of 13, uses bows to resonate the cymbals and various objects to play his instrument. He doesn't like the words 'improvisation' or 'experimental', but instead uses the word 'contemporary solo percussion', which indeed is perhaps a more adequate phrase. Nakatani used eight microphones to capture his playing, which he mixed down to stereo. Perhaps that's why I think it's multi-tracked. For Nakatani the rhythm is not the most important thing about percussion music, as there are portions in which he scraps his cymbals in a furious way - almost like strings of a violin and it sounds far, far away from traditional percussion music. I must admit I quite enjoyed this release, because on one hand it's traditionally improvised but on the other hand, it seems to be his concern to make it sound like anything but percussion music. Almost an hour long, Natatani takes the listener on a journey through highly varied textures, which make a great listening session. Very extended percussion music. (FdW)

TOSHIJI MIKAWA - GYO-KAI ELEGY (CD by Anoema Recordings)
Mikawa is known for being one of the two form-destroyers in Incapacitants (and before that some time in Hijokaidan). Although he has been active in these Japanese noise groups since the late 70s this is his first album under his own name. It's pretty rough material as could be expected, but there's also a delicacy at play here that makes this record quite an exciting listen. The best thing here is that Mikawa unleashes his sound with the same intensity that made Incapacitants so infamous, but there is always place for detail, with several layers working simultaneously, the screeching noise always supported by a more subdued backbone, like a second noise record being played in the next room and softly filtering through. Timing and some form/idea of basic compositional interest are obviously not completely lost on him; nothing outstays its welcome here, and nowhere does it get boring because of a possible lack in sound variety. Simply a great noise record.
Quality control is probably an self-critical joke towards his own release policy, but it is fact that people like Lasse Marhaug have shown that releasing 5 CDs a month doesn't mean that they don't know what they're doing. Well, maybe he doesn't, but there certainly is no quality decrease since I started listening to his music several years ago. On this new one he's not discovering new land for himself, more like taking a walk amongst already explored territory. That's not a bad thing, Marhaug is still inventive and abrasive enough with each release to make it an enjoyable listen. Especially the frenetic (the louder you play this the more sounds seem to emerge) nature of some of this material reminds me why I became a fan in the first place. (Robert Meijer)

From the active scene in New Zealand, where
everybody seems to be making music, hails the CLaudia label, of whom we reviewed releases before. But now they venture out to releasing real CDs, and like a young label would the first real CD is a compilation, showcasing only thirteen of the talents from the world down under. We come across well-known names such as Greg Malcolm, Metal Rouge, Mhfs, Sam Hamilton, Rosy Parlane, Antony Milton, but also Stefan Neville, The Futurians, Sweetcakes, Jane Austen and the very dutch name of Arie Hellendoorn. Throughout the music is experimental, working out in different directions. Drone like, lo-fi guitar playing, computerized glitch drones, and more straight forward improvised music. There is however a strong element of 'atmospheric mood music' to be detected in all of these tracks, even in the more heavy outing of The Futurians or Stefan Neville. Tracks are throughout short and to the point and none of them is a real high flyer, but there isn't also a real weak link. A good overview this compilation of just a tiny bit of a big scene. (FdW) Address:

MATTIN & TAKU UNAMI - ATTENTION (CD by w.m.o/r/Hibari Music)
File under 'practical jokes' this one. Taku Unami plays a guitar, but produces not many sounds throughout the entire seventy-three minutes. A note here, silence, a note there. Ok. That's one the right channel. On the left channel there is Mattin rambling about this music, and that you should play it at the best possible installation, and asking if you are still there. 'Go Buy This CD' is also a statement, followed by lengthy silence, as all of his remarks are one liners, statements, but hardly do make a coherent text. We all had a good laugh and then played some music. (FdW)

It might seem an odd name, and certainly not one that is easy to pronounce, Wochtzchee (one of the reasons of not doing announcements in our podcast!), but behind it's one Estonian Taavi Tulev, son of Toivo Tulev, who apparently is a world famous composer in contemporary music (but I readily admit I know only one famous Estonian composer). Taavi was trained on the violin, but stopped playing it and then went on to create other types of music, including electronic music. As Wochtzchee he tries to play hypnotic music, incorporating the far end of dark ambient and techno rhythms, although those are kept in a strict minimal, somewhat slow fashion. I couldn't help thinking of Plastikman's 'Consumed' album, as it carries that similar interest in darker than life mood music in combination with stripped down, minimalist beats. When I first played it, I sort of dismissed it as a Plastikman clone, but then, later at night I played it again, somewhat louder and I must admit the album grew on me. Quite densely layered material, that works best if played in a somewhat darkened space to create that extra scary mood.
The same Tulev also plays as Dseir, and has a MP3 EP on Krill. It's a totally different kind of music. Also dealing with beats, also dealing with atmosphere. But the atmosphere is a rather chilling one, cold and distant, whereas the beats, when they sound, are loud, fast and distorted. There is a bit of vocals thrown in here and there, sung or sampled who knows, but throughout I must admit I am not blown away by it. It's alright, but too much in breakcore style, tracks being too long without the necessary interesting changes and a lack of hypnotism, this one I pass on. (FdW)

Though being a constant factor in noise & free rock for as long as those genres might even exist, I can't recall ever listening to a full Smegma album apart from collaborations with Wolf Eyes or Jazkamer. This new LP, subtitled SINGLES 90-95, might therefore be the best introduction to this group that has been around for longer then I've been. Considering that this is a collection of 7" tracks it makes for quite a diverse and exciting listen, even including a relatively straightforward garage rock track with opener "Swamp Dick". What amazes me most here is how good they actually are as musicians. Tracks like "Fish Story" end up as some alien free jazz, not unlike some Art Ensemble of Chicago, and what also strikes me is the spirited use of loops, found sound and sampling. It makes the group sound in places like a musique concrète lab experiment injected with a viral disease. I wonder if their all-out approach to sampling is something from the 90s or if this has always been their sound. I will certainly need to start checking out more of them now. Better late then never.
Much less known, and much younger, is Redglaer. The solo project of one Bob Bellerue, this new CD contains a live recording made in Tulsa in 2006. The title of this recording is chosen well, it sounds like somebody who knows his craft, and builds sonic walls for his after-work pleasure. The music takes place at the crossing between drone music, dark ambient and the occasional noise, but stays abstract enough to neither annoy or grab attention. At some moments vocals come to the fore, especially in the third, final, and best track, which for a short moment sounds like an extended buddhist chant overlayered with, I assume, Redglaer's own wordless incantations ending in some rather nice stormy weather. (Robert Meijer) Address:

The release by Jeff Gburek looks pretty vague from the outside, but he wrote some extensive liner notes about the area in Berlin he lives in (Kreuzberg and Neukolln), a poor area with lots of immigrants. It's in these streets where he made his field recordings that resulted in his piece 'Virtuous Circles', along with recordings from Paris, San Francisco, New York, Java, Morrocco, Kenya, Egypt and Iraq. A blend of western cities and 'third world' cities - the clash of cultures? On a microscale this is what Berlin is like too, a melting pot of cultures. In Gburek's piece there is a lot of high end sounds at the start, quite abstract, but if you can, turn up the volume and play this louder. Below the high end surface there is a lot of activity going on. Later on the field recordings become louder and it's possible to dissect voices, sounds of transport means, street sounds and such like. I thought it was a pretty strong work this one, with a particular strong composition and not just a pure work of field recording. Fascinating journey this one.
Also fascinating, vague but too short is 'Impartial Metric' by The Sonic Catering Band and The Bohman Brothers. Vague, because it's hard to tell what is what here. My guess is that the opening piece is by The Bohman Brothers, reciting some text at the beginning and then continuing with amplified cooking sounds, which sounds like a great musique concrete piece of music. Cooking sounds are also the territory of The Sonic Catering Band, but their 'Refrigeration' is probably more about cold food. They present a bunch of shorter pieces, which are more like sound events, of partly heavily cut together sound sources, and straight forward recordings. Nice, but less convincing than the brothers. With sixteen minutes in total, this would have made a nice 7". (FdW)

Exactly one year ago, we reviewed the first three releases by Italy's Ascanio Borga (see Vital Weekly 550), even when those releases were quite old already. On his fourth release, 'Peripheral Vision', he continues to explore the vast area of ambient music. The previous lot showed he was capable of producing various forms of ambient, cosmic in one, more industrial in the other two, but here he goes out, all the way into the 'real' ambient music. Heavily textured music, all played on a guitar, but he could have fooled me. I assume this all goes through a whole bunch of computerized environment (I don't know why I think so, but Borga has 'a formal background in mathematics and works in the software industry', maybe that's why). It shares common ground with the work of Vidna Obmana (mid nineties) and whatever was released by Hypnos (also in the same period). It makes this music heavily dated, but that's not really a big problem. To re-new the music area of ambient is not necessary, if not impossible, but in general it's also not of concern for those who play ambient, like Borga. His goal is deliver an hour worth of music that creates a beautiful environment for the listener and as such he succeeds wonderfully well. (FdW)

Bits of this release we already heard on the compilation CD 'Don't Get Annoyed, Get Inspired' (see Vital Weekly 581), where said it's 'glitch', but now we get the full work. Jan-M Iversen is best known as an improviser with his Bjerga/Iversen duo, but also because he a long line of solo releases, many of them on his own label Tib Prod. The quality of his work is of a varying nature, from the more noise related work to more ambient outings. 'Det Er Det Det Er' falls in between these two categories. It starts out in a true ambient drone fashion but half way through in the background distortion leaps in, however Iversen manages to keep things under control here. It's like a wall which you can sort of see in the background, but not entirely well visible, so that the overall work is still of a distorted but ambient nature. It's a fine work, perhaps one of the best solo discs I heard of mister Iversen. (FdW)

On the small Ikuisuus label two releases of people I think I never heard of. First there is Cones, a duo of Marcel Turkowsky and Ulf Schutte, who are also members of Datashock and have involvement in "Aosuke, Tapetektoniks, UUHUU, Hui Tales Collection, Leo Mars and more", although none of that rang a bell here. It's a bit hard to say what they use equipment wise, but the music is quite interesting. In one way it's quite lo-fi, with all sorts of rumbles going on, but in a vibrant way. Things keep evolving and revolving around rotating loops and electronics that drop in and out. Maybe a lot of turntables used here? I think the music is generated through improvisation, and I was reminded of the work of Bjerga/Iversen. Quite cosmic/psychedelic release, with the title track being the prize winner here.
Also, likewise, I never heard of Maxime Primault, who works as Enfer Boreal, who runs a label called Crier Dans Les Musées. In August of this year he recorded his own debut as a musician, using a guitar, electronics, turntables, bass, radio, keyboards and voice. From various improvised music sessions, he created this release using multi-layering. Here too the result is quite psychedelic, although it lacks the somewhat harsher overtones found in the work of Cones. More drone based with minimalist changes going throughout each of the two pieces, that unmistakably move forward, entering new fields before you know it, but it changes like this throughout. It makes two lengthy, spacious pieces of music of the right length to remain interesting, with lots of subtle variations. (FdW) Address:

The man behind Matsutake is one Evgeniy Gorbunov, whom he met in Vital Weekly 544, when we reviewed a work with Dankoe and Zemlyanikeen, but here is on his own, armed with a guitar and a computer. His playing is improvised, and the sound is fed directly into the computer, which does all sorts of crazy things, but also at times allows to sound the guitar like a guitar. The original improvised playing can be heard through all the crazy effects. The artists sees his music like a mushroom, ' it grows and develops by its own but nevertheless weird things happen. The artist takes only a little part in the musical process by letting the music "grow by itself"' - he says. It's a fine work, although I am not taken by his mushroom theory. You need to have input and keep on feeding with input otherwise your mushroom will die, I think. That aside, this is a fine work. Pieces have variations enough, throughout the release, and are kept to the point. No overtly long improvisations, but each with it's thematic approach, sometimes gentle and sweet as the fourth part of part one, sometimes noisy and angular. Nice.
Named after the major Ukrainian telephone monopolist is Ukr.tele.kom, which is an open musical project of people sending in their sound contribution, which is compiled by Andrei Sechkovskiy, who started the project in 2002 with Sergei Klein. The text on the backside is barely readable, but this release is a collection of various improvisations with people and various compositions, which are made by Sechkovskiy himself. He plays with the live recordings of the group, home made improvisations and computer collages. I must say I am a bit lost in this release, it's so much over the place that it's hard to say what Ukr.tele.kom wants. Bits of improvised electronics, more regular improvised music, noisy bits, sampled bits: there is so much in some many different styles, that one bounces from one thing to the other, but it seems to me a too much. Add the sketch like character of some of the pieces, which leave an unfinished feel to them, it's not easy to get into this one. (FdW) Address:

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