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Vital Weekly 601

img  Tobias

You could wonder if an active improviser as Hild Sofie Tafjord needs a solo record? She is a member of Spunk, Fe-Mail, Agrare, Trinacria as well as an improviser with Wolf Eyes, Matmos, Birchville Cat Motel, Ikue Mori, Fred Frith and many more. I wonder: when does she have the time to record anything solo? At night, it seems, from the summer of 2006 to the winter of 2007, in her studio in Oslo, we find her with a French horn. It says so on the cover, as it's not easy to believe. There are traces of a French horn in the opening bits of this work, but sooner than later things explode into quite a noise blast of distortion, grunting tones. It might be a French horn. It might. However don't expect this to be a work that is a full on blast throughout towards the very end of the disk. It's much more than that. Tafjord knows how to pull back the brutality and you can find here producing raw, loud, but sparse tones, somewhere around the fifteen minute mark, before building up again. Fifteen minutes and through another cascade of noise, the work finds itself in a rather heavy rhythmic mood - deep pulsating, almost like early industrial music. 'Kama' is a noisy beast, but it's more than just being a noisy beast. Tafjord uses the right amount of computerized doodling in combination with shifting textures to deliver a great release. Great noise this is. (FdW) Address:

RAPOON - ALIEN GLYPH MORPHOLOGY (CD by Soleilmoon Recordings)
I bought my very first Soleilmoon-release in the legendary L.A.-record store Aron's Records back in 1997. It was the amazing "Digilogue"-album by British Industrial-frontiers Zoviet France. It was a set of dark minimalist textures based on multiple layers of loops and cut-up techniques - very fascinating indeed! That Zoviet France had much focus on looped sound processing as musical expression isn't strange since co-founder of Zoviet France, Robin Storey was highly influenced by a godfather of sound exploration, Karl-Heinz Stockhausen. Also in Rapoon, the solo project of Robin Storey, the art of loop-techniques shines clearly through. Rapoon beautifully balances between complex sound techniques and ethereal soundscapes. This latest effort is the third and final chapter of the trilogy titled "Alien Glyph Morphology". The first chapter was a DVD, while the following was a 10" vinyl double album. The artwork of this third chapter is a pure beauty with its handmade tiger-patterned print folder. On the sonic side, the album sings its very own melody of beauty despite its experimental and once in a while quite demanding nature. The grounding layers of looped sounds create an excellent feeling of hypnosis while the upfront layers of moody soundscapes in combination with concrete sounds of acoustic instruments keep a melodic pace on the album sometimes not too far away from ambient composer Steve Roach. Thus 25 years after his debut with Zoviet France, Robin Storey demonstrates that he still knows how to keep the right balance between art and melody. (Niels Mark)

The electronic scene of Denmark seems to flourish these years. New labels and sound artists emerge and quite a few reach the limelight of the international sound art scene. Danish sound artist Jacob Kirkegaard (Touch Records) is one of the latest examples of artists who have gained great attention for his works thanks to some excellent releases on among others British label Touch. Danish label Phisteria is another place to be, if you're looking for electronic sound explorations of the more cross-bordering kind. According to the owner of label, Phisteria conceptually focuses on music with depth and subtle awareness of the soul. In other words the majority of the releases of the label has their starting point in deep and immersive territories of sonic expression, with Danish power electronics/ambient noise project Wäldchengarten being one of the better known names that focus on the drones based style. Compatriot project HINSIDAN also belongs to the drone-based style. And they certainly do it well. "Hinsidan" is the Swedish word for "beyond" and the name fits perfectly well into the sonic spheres of the project. Having released three albums within 2007, we are dealing with a quite active project.
Despite the common denominator of circulating in dreamlike atmospheres, there is a difference between the three releases. First album titled "God is in the details" (Phisteria label) is the most rhythmic of the three. Hypnotic dub-like rhythms create a nice texture in the otherwise ambient-oriented sound world. The sound spheres ranges from pure electronic escapism to more down-to-earth expressions with the addition of acoustic percussion and guitars. Distant voices create a feeling of being left on your own far away from other human activity. Excellent album! Second album reviewed here is titled "Bleach dye yr heart" (released by the "Gears Of Sand"-label). This album belongs to the harsher and darker areas of floating expression. The title of the opening track "Slaughter of the innocence, Slaughter of the innocent" confirms the fact that we are dealing with sonic darkness on this one. The aforementioned opening track is a sinister piece built on short-looped ultra-deep buzzing drones. The almost frightening sound spheres remains intact halfway through the album with the fifth track being a turning point. As the title suggest "Traders of optimism" contains a feeling of warmth thanks to the grandiose almost angelic ambience turning the memories back to the British legendary project Global Communication. Despite the extreme minimalism of the album, there is a great variety on this very intense album with expressions reminiscent of everything from early Brian Eno to Coil. Third album reviewed here is titled "Shapeshifter blues" (released by German label Verato Project) and it is the warmest and most melodic album of the three. As was the case with "Bleach dye yr heart" the strength of the album is the intense minimalism making space for some dreamy and casually psychedelic ambient works turning the memories back to the ritual psychedelic ambience of early Coil. Again the utilized sounds of guitar gives a very nice organic feeling on the album. Thus we have three quite varied approaches to ambient expression from Hinsidan who certainly proves their ability to reach higher levels of the contemporary electronic scene. Completely different worlds of e-music are being explored in the Russian project Speaking In Tongues. Behind the project, we have two young Russians Alexi Ovtchinikov and Anton Zaichenko, both based in Copenhagen, Denmark. This debut album released on Phisteria reveals that the label is oriented in other styles than the pure drone-based. Speaking in Tongues is best described as abstract IDM/electronica sounding like a mixture of the playful charm of Warp-legends Black Dog and the haunting soundscapes of Boards Of Canada. There are some great interventions of breakbeats textures not far away from breakcore projects like Venetian Snares and early Photek. The album is like a pure machine soul, reminiscent of some forgotten Japanese animation soundtrack or a rusting Commodore 64 just about to give up the ghost. Thus, yet another interesting project confirming the fact, that Phisteria is label to keep a close eye on, if you're looking for electronic music of the deeper and experimental kind. (Niels Mark)

In recent times I didn't keep up with the output of Marc Behrens, for whatever uninteresting reasons I guess. It perhaps didn't arrive here. But last month I bumped into him and saw him play a four channel piece based on field recordings he made in Norway. I thought it was really good, also because of the spatial character of the piece. Spaces and architecture has a strong interest from Behrens, and many of his releases refer to that. 'An Architectural Commentary is a form of 'reviewing' architecture in which functional, symbolic and aesthetic aspects of a building or a bigger architectural structure are analysed'. For a series of compositions with this name, Behrens goes back to his library of field recordings, like interiors of buildings, ventilation or gas fired heating, in subway trains of stations and construction sites (I am merely quoting the cover, just in case you thought how I knew all of this). Often the name Behrens is used to point the reader into a direction, a reference. Like fellow composers such as Roel Meelkop, Behrens belong, at least to me, to the absolute top of the genre that can loosely be defined as 'microsound'. Taking field recordings and processing the sound in the computer and built a musical piece from that. It's not easy to define what makes this great, while others are struggling to get something done that is not even close to this. Partly this lies in the structure of the pieces Behrens plays: they are well structured, have tension, sudden changes and movements. The ingredients to make a composition interesting as opposed to running a few sounds through max/msp or PD. Certainly not easy music, as much of it hoovers at a low volume, but if you put the volume up, then all the smaller details will be revealed, and beauty unfolds. Perhaps one could say that Behrens not always renews what he is doing, but as said, I haven't heard all of his recent works, so for me it's fine re-introduction. (FdW)

Issues by the Sonic Arts Network are always compiled by a guest curator who invites people to send in music along a thematic approach. Angolan composer Victor Gama thinks that 'the west' dominates the world and that 'third world' (not his word) composers are in 'threatening zones of silence' (which are his words). So the fourteen pieces collected here hail from countries as Lebanon, Iran, Colombia, Brazil, Egypt, Palestine, Angola, Brazil, Cuba, Peru and Ukraine. However all of these don't dabble in 'world music' or 'ethnic folk music', but play an experimental card. The results however is, like the countries, all of the places. Kamran Rasteger from Iran and Hassan Khan (Egypt) explores Middle Eastern rhythms with electronic means, whereas Ricardo Gallo from Colombia and Sote (Iran) takes field recordings which he processes. There is improvisational sounds by Mazen Kerbaj (already known in this part of the world), modern composed music by Sujeito A Guincho, rap music by Boikutt, field recordings by Ana Romano (Columbia) and even noise by Kotra and Christian Galarreta. Gama himself stays close to traditional music (in both pieces he has here), but presents it in a more documentary form, and Giba Conceicao plays music on traditional instruments. It's quite a nice compilation this one, maybe a bit too mixed in musical styles, but it surely presents a nice overview of what happens on Planet Earth. (FdW)

FRANK ROTHKAMM - LAX (CD by Flux Records)
LAX stands for Los Angeles Airport. When you check in your luggage it gets a sticker 'LAX' for that airport, or 'JFK' for New York. I read Rothkamm's liner notes, which seem to be dealing with conspiracy, millennium bug and all that. Rothkamm is a man of concepts, and a man to change his music. The three previous releases 'FB01' and 'FB02 - Astronaut Of Inner Space' and 'FB 03 (E Pluribus Unum)' dealt with electronic music in the best 'Forbidden Planet' style, which succeeded best on the second release. Here on this CD release he goes out to using computers, from Mac to Atari and from Music V to Csound - to mention two types of hard- and software used. It's funny to see the similarities with the two previous releases, as it seems almost that Frank Rothkamm wanted to translate his science fiction music from analogue to digital, with glissandi played on various types of software an such like. However it moves away from the poppy like character of the second release, and is more in serious avant-garde area. At times it sounded like Arcane Device, with feedback like tones, and such like. A bit more noisy than the previous releases also, but it never ventures into the world of 'real' noise. It is fine release since it breaks, if only technically, with the past and hopefully a road to be explored more in the future, maybe to find another masterpiece like 'FB 02' on it's way. (FdW) Address:

These two new releases on Spekk are wide apart, music wise. One at least is wide apart from the usual pack of Spekk, and that is the release by Yair Etziony. He hails from Israel, and sometimes works as Faction, Basic Unit and Vermont, but here presents his music under his own name. So far the releases on Spekk dealt with glitchy, warm microsound/ambient/drone music, but Etziony is the first to use beat material. Minimal techno it is. Originally his intention was to make separate albums: one with beats, one with textures, but luckily he made the combinations for us. Culled from mistakes and flaws, like a broken monitor, he creates his music. Now, I am not a person who see shuffling the dance floor, so I can easily admit that it's not easy for me to judge whether one can dance to, well basically any type of music. But I'm pretty sure it's hard to dance to this one. The music by Etziony is slow, too slow to dance too. You may nod your head, tap your feet - but not fully swing your body. Not a big problem me thinks, because the album is surely well designed for long train rides. You tap your feet, watch the scenery pass by, read two words in a book, and dream on. Warm, glitchy music again, and one that so happens to have a few rhythms. Nice enough to carry around, while doing 'other' things.
More like the 'real' Spekk experience is the release by Minoru Sato (m/s, SASW) and Asuna. I am not sure why Sato wants that behind his name, but maybe it's for the old fans to recognize that? As m/s he had a couple of releases, mainly on his WrK label (as well as V2 and Selektion), which he ran with Toshiya Tsunoda. His previous releases were based on 'researching sounds based on physical phenomenon' and not always constitute music as we know it (even we, I may add). Asuna is one Naoyuki Arashi, who apparently had releases on Lucky Kitchen, Apestaartje and and/OAR, but I believe his name doesn't ring a bell here. For their collaborative release they use 'self created glass tubes and reed organ'. Pictures can be seen on the cover, but they are small. So what these tubes do and how it relates or plays with the organ is hard to say. I believe both pieces, each around thirty minutes, are studio based compositions of various recordings which are overlayed. Two long, beautiful harmonic pieces of drone music. Kinda like Paul Panhuysen's CD for Plinkity Plonk a few years back, which had a similar effective notion of drone music. Fans for long sustaining music composers as Alvin Lucier, Charlemagne Palestine, Paul Panhuysen and such like should pay notice. This is right up their alley and can meet the best. (FdW)

MANNING/NOVAK - PAIRINGS (CD by Dragon's Eye Recordings)
The Dragon's Eye Recordings, owned by Yann Novak, is slowly getting a weekly household name here. Hailing from Seattle, many of the releases have some sort of involvement of the labelboss himself. Here for instance he teams up with one Marc Manning, who usually works as Heavy Lids, which I never heard but is supposed to be 'humid ambiance and electronic power drones along the lines of Black Dice, Nurse With Wound and Sunn O)))', whatever that should sound like. Nothing so here, as Manning picks up the electric guitar, acoustic guitar and voice which he lets run through the laptop of Novak - the usual work these days it seems of combining a 'real' instrument with the computer. As such the six tracks captured here are also nothing new under the microsound sun, but the ambient and drone textures are quite nice. Sometimes a bit too obvious in time stretching, but when the 'real' instruments comes in, things balance quite nicely and makes this a fine work in the otherwise overcrowded scenery of drone, ambient and microsound. (FdW)

It's been a while since we last heard from Sebastian Meissner, erstwhile known as Random_Inc, Bizz Circuits, Autokontrast and recording for labels as Mille Plateaux, Kompakt and Sub Rosa, but here he returns with an album of pieces dedicated to people for specific purposes under the banner of Klimek. These people can be well-known, like Micheal Gira, Marvin Gaye or Steven Spielberg, but also his grandmother Zofia Klimek and a Russian ship worker Vladimir Ivanovich. Each of the eight tracks have a pair of dedication. Meissner's previous work may be associated with lots and lots of all things computer, and to some extent that's the case here too, but the main sources are guitar, piano, string and percussion instruments. They play highly moody music, and through all things processed can still be recognized. In some songs better than in others, obviously, but the whole album has quite an unified character. Warm music, made with love for the persons involved, no one could say that there is a harsh sound in ear-sight to annoy the dedicated nor the outsider, us the listener. Some cineamatographic in approach, this is mood music for late hours. Especially the final piece, dedicated to Steven Spielberg and Azza El-Hassan, has sweet strings underpinning a slightly menacing tone. Well done. Lit a candle and enjoy. (FdW) Address:

About a year ago we reviewed 'Table For Six: All Quiet?' (see Vital Weekly 554), a neatly put together compilation by Belgium's EE Tapes, who already produced some great compilations called 'The Walls Are Whispering'. Now there is a volume two of 'Table For Six' and we come across some old, known names (at least to us), and some new ones. Objekt 4, Andrea Marutti, Laurent Perrier and Brian Lavelle are perhaps not household names, but they all have in one way or the other interesting releases to their name. Lutnahimat had one release on Entr'acte and June11 seems to be a new name. Each of the six artists get fifteen minutes to showcase their talent, and they all hoover about to some extent in some 'quiet' music. However don't confuse this with music below the threshold of hearing or some such. It's more about dark ambient than microsound if you get my drift. The CD opens with Objekt4 who plays a nice piece of sampled percussive sounds and some collated sounds. The dark synth by Marutti is perhaps the bleakest example of 'm all, but it's fine one. Laurent Perrier doesn't forget his other work in the world of techno music, but incorporating rhythmic clicks in his piece, that however doesn't convince throughout. Lutnahimat has two pieces and seem to continue his interest in ambient glitch, but especially the short 'Disagreeable Ingress' is quite nice at that. Also June11 has two tracks, which seem to be more from the post rock background (I might be as easily mistaken here), with a sort of organ and guitar in a fuzzy bath. Lavelle closes the proceedings. It's been a while since I last heard his music, but 'Crucible Of Sky' is actually a nice piece of slowly evolving field recordings and piano sounds: melancholic autumn music which works quite nice indeed. (FdW) Address:

Following the recent CDR release by Tigrics, Highpoint Lowlife now releases another CDR, and again outside their usual musical format. Behind the Ertslaub moniker, there is one Dave Fyans, who sometimes works as Daigoro. Armed with a Nord G2 synthesizer with 'no additional processing or multitracking', he plays a single forty three minute track. No rhythms, no 'intelligent dance music', but rather a dark, atmospheric piece of music. Sometimes like an airplane coming over real low, sometimes just softly bouncing like the dark clouds on an autumn day. Totally unlike what this label normally do, and perhaps in terms of 'drone' or 'dark ambient' not entirely new either, by it's a very fine, nicely produced set of darker than life music. Nocturnal music. Horror music at times. Cave music. (FdW)

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