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Vital Weekly 602

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CARL STONE - AL-NOOR (CD by Intone Music)
Despite composing since 1972, the name Carl Stone might not be that familiar with the audience of Vital Weekly, simply because he doesn't release that much music on sound carriers or by labels that don't serve the longest running source of experimental music on the internet. His main interest lies in exploring max/msp software, in which he no doubt builds his own patches. Stone's music here is deceivingly simple. It seems that each track only explores one loop, say a drum loop in 'Flint's' or voice and drums in 'Jitlada'. This is fed through the software and from then on things start bouncing around. Playing small portion from a loop, cutting it together with larger sections of the same loop, he creates this simple music. But deceiving, as the result is quite hallucinatory. Taking the minimalism of say Reich and Glass into the world of computers, these four 'songs' (lasting anywhere between nine and twenty-four minutes) are all shifting phases and time measures and create a hypnotic feel. In the title piece this might still be a bit too much shifting up and down with voices, but in 'L'Os A Moelle' the rock structure reminds us psychedelica, including fuzzy guitar solos, keyboards that play baroque themes and a constant stomping rhythm, but with bridges and fills. Quite a cosmic trip these twenty-four minutes, which curiously never get tedious or boring. Not quite a CD I expected from such a serious composer, but surely one of the best I heard from him. (FdW) ddress:


Reading about this group in the past, I remember saying to myself: 'keep this name in mind. Could be very interesting'. And now I can confirm this from my own experience. I,m impressed by this very disciplined combo. Upsilon Acrux originated in the San Diego area in 1997. In 1999 they were ready for their first album 'In the Acrux of the Upsilon King', released by Accretions. Concerning what they are trying to do, they are comparable to bands like The Flying Luttenbachers and Ahleuchatistas: bands that try to combine the energy and directness of punk with the compositional complexity and technical ability that we find in progressive and metal music. In their line up they limit themselves to the: two guitars, played by Paul Lai and Braden Miller, bass (Eric Kiersnowski) and Jess Appelhans (drums). With this conventional line up, and because they play instrumental pieces only, they are also closely linked to postrock guitarbands. 'Galapagos Momentum' is their fifth album, being their first one for Cuneiform Records. This will make them known to a wider international audience, I hope. All 10 pieces on this CD are very speed-driven exercises and highly complex compositions with many breaks and twists. Sometimes we hear echoes of Beefheart, at other moments they recall the spirit of King Crimson. Listening to this album it is impossible not to be impressed by their discplined and athletic playing. With incredible polyrhythmic structures, unison playing at moments, etc., they play some very powerful music. A minor point: because they are so disciplined, they are only disciplined. They lose themselves in complexity and by consequence the music lacks emotion. It has not the emotional impact like the music of Beefheart or Présent. If they succeed in integrating this aspect as well in their music, next time we will not only be impressed, but changed also. (Dolf Mulder) ddress:


Since The Claudia Quintet started in 1997 it has reached a considerable audience, and conquered its place within the spectrum of groups making new, jazz-related music. The main force within this quintet is John Hollenbeck, who gained acknowledgment from several other projects as well. For example, personally I,m very fond of 'Joys and Desires' that he performed with Jazz Bigband Graz and Theo Bleckmann. With 'For' the Claudia Quintet presents its fourth cd. Again with the same unusual line up as we know it from earlier CDs, especially because of the presence and role of the accordion: Drew Gress (acoustic bass), John Hollenbeck (drums, percussion, electronic tape preparation), Matt Moran (vibrahone, vocals/lyrics), Red Reichman (accordion) and Chris Speed (clarinet, alto sax). Although the group is open for many musical influences, in the end I would classify it as a jazz group. Allthough as you understand it is far from straight jazz. All compositions are by John Hollenbeck, and they often direct without really noticing to a climax. Allthough the music is remarkably accessible, it isn't easy. And it needs a open and dedicated ear before it reveals all its beauty. As on earlier CDs they never sound angry, loud or frustrated, with the exception of 'Rug Boy' that starts with a great duet by Hollenbeck, exploding on drums and accordionplayer Ted Reichmann . But most compositions on this cd breath a warm, harmonious and delicate atmosphere. Also the music is full of subtleties, with cascading parts that remind me of the minimal work of Reich and Glass, and often with a grooving and hypnotizing pulse. 'For you' is the most far out piece. Hollenbeck concentrates on looping electronics and tape manipulation here, with Moran dropping simple words with great intervals of silence and sparse contributions by the drums, vibraphone and accordion. All in all a very nice album of rich and full-grown, but 'unspectacular' music. But by a spectacular group. (Dolf Mulder)


There has always been a ritualistic and trance-inducing feeling in the music from Canadian composer Vromb. The brain behind the project, Hugo Girrard, has a quite unique expression with oscillating, minimalist frequencies, rotating sequences and bubbling technoid sounds creating his quite unique repetitiveness. The ritual factor is intact on this seventh full-length album titled "Sous hypnose" released on German label Ant-Zen Recordings. With a title that in English means "Under hypnosis" experienced listeners of Vromb should know that the ritual style remains. And it definitely does. Despite the intended titled, I doubt that many hypno-therapists would dare to let their average customer sink into this world of icy drones and cynic rhythm textures. Unquestionably though it would be a quite interesting experience for the patient. The nine tracks drift back and forth between futuristic sci-fi ambient and rhythm textures that develop from non-existing across subdued layers moving up to the front of the sound picture. The great French spoken voice of Vromb does penetrate occasionally sounding like the hypnotist himself. If you enjoy the frostbitten sonic world of Vromb you will definitely appreciate this latest sci-fi launch from the Canadian. ddress:


In the Netherlands there is these days a lot of talk about 'canon', things you should definitely know from science, history, film or literature. It made me think about a canon for contemporary, post World War Two music. I think you should have certainly lend an ear to 'Gesang Der Junglinge', 'Symphonie Pour Un Homme Seul', '433' (well, know what that is about) and on this small and very incomplete list, I should certainly add 'The Sinking Of The Titanic' by Gavin Bryars. The unfortunate biggest boat in the world, running in an iceberg in 1912, while the orchestra down stairs kept on playing. Bryars took that 'orchestra playing' as the starting point for an ensemble piece by taking the piece that was played, as told by survivors, the slow 'Autumn' and Bryars takes it apart, or rather, in free sixties style, let the players decide what to play and also there is voice material on tape, to have the idea of the ship sending S.O.S. signals. This piece has an open length and has been, as far as I know, been released twice. First on LP in Eno's Obscure Records series in the seventies and in the nineties on CD by Crepuscule, if I not mistaken. Here is a version recorded last year with Bryars on double bass, Philip Jeck on turntables and an Italian ensemble called Alter Ego. It's a bit wrong to compare all three versions I think. For the occasion I dug out both and the first one comes rather quickly to the point, with 'Autumn' coming in quite fast and so did the voices. The first CD version is more spun out and has a dramatic built up, and nice choir like sounds. The new version here starts out and ends with a long 'solo' by Jeck, and otherwise seems to follow the original setting. Half way through there is a chirping insect like sound, of which I have no idea who produces this (Jeck perhaps?), but in all the cases that I heard this I couldn't help laughing. The Titanic crushed into a iceberg in april 1912, surely not really a place for insects. Maybe a wrong record chosen? It however makes also clear that this is a live recording and mistakes happen - not a failure of gigantic proportions but just something that causes a minor ripple on the waves. I am not sure if one should 'have' this, unless it's your first experience of the work (then it's a must have), since it doesn't seem to be adding that much to the two previous versions, but for those who want to spot the differences it's surely a welcome work. It definitely something you should hear once in your life. (FdW) ddress:


Yes, that is quite a mouthful, hard to pronounce, even when entirely sober. However we came across them before, when we reviewed their 'Halrum' release on SNSE Records (Vital Weekly 492), influenced by Einsturzende Neubauten, New Blockaders and Metgumnerbone and on 'Skrankverk' they continue that path. Despite being cut into various tracks, it comes off as one long track. Lots and lots metal rambling, not fast, but slow, maybe even intended to be magickal, ritualistik, I don't know if that's the intention. However they cleverly sometimes use tapeloops of electronic sounds, scratching the barrel and such like which give the whole album a feel that there is more to it than just metal rumbling. I have no idea where these boys are from but me thinks they are from Germany, although there is no evidence to substantiate that claim. There is perhaps not even variation between the pieces nor with previous album, which is too bad, I think. But fans of the more obscure semi-industrial music, along the lines of Cold Meat Industry and Old Europa Cafe know the drill: they have been alerted to get this. Me, I think it's a fine album, but perhaps a bit too alienated. (FdW) ddress:


An infinite and sometimes not easy to grasp recycled process. That's what Asmus Tietchens, at least to me, is known for. Here he teams up with Kouhei Matsunaga from Japan (of whom we haven't heard much lately, but he had a couple of nice releases on his own Flying Swimming label) and an even more obscure Y-Ton-G, who hails from Hamburg (just like Tietchens) and has been around since the dawn of cassettes and still releases CDRs to this date. Each of them supplied sound material to somebody else who then composed a piece of music. Two of them have sound material by a duo (Y-Ton-G and Kouhei and Asmus and Kouhei) - see, not easy to grasp these processes. Not that it really matters when it comes to appreciating this release. The eight tracks here make quite a coherent flow of music. The starting point - say the rumble on the surface - is processed through means unknown. That is: Asmus in his studio, Y-Ton-G through tapeloops and sound effects and Kouhei through laptop, things are altered, changed, deformed and sound like anything else and the starting point as such can no longer recognized. Through whatever means each of the composer uses here it still sounds pretty coherent. It's hard to tell who does what here if one is not looking at the cover. One could argue that the composers are perhaps interchangeable, but I like to take an opposite view. Through different working methods, arriving at similar results one gets a great example of various ways in reaching goals in modern musique concrete. Both Y-Ton-G and Kouhei Matsunaga show great respect for the music of Asmus Tietchens and its an album that surely will appeal to fans of Asmus. A very refined work. (FdW) ddress:


MERZBOW - LIVE DESTRUCTION AT NO FUN 2007 (CD by No Fun Productions)
A story I told before: I gave up on keeping my Merzbow collection complete. Sad but true. I found myself without time of hearing (and re-hearing) all the releases properly. Such is life. So whatever new Merzbow I hear, is getting back to his music. I must admit when I hear it I sometimes think it's a pity I gave up. Or perhaps not. There is a certain constant factor running in his music that makes him, no doubt about that, the king of noise. Variations and innovations are sparse in his work and can probably only be detected by the true fanr, of which I may I no longer call myself one. 'Peace For Animals' sees a continuation of his works of recent years, I think. Computerized noise, perhaps with the addition of guitar effects that are still damaging your ears. However at the same time it also seems that this album is less harsh, well that is relative thing of course with mister Merzbow (an all acoustic album is still in demand, I think), but some of the scraping sounds reminded me of his 'Enclosure' and 'Ecobondage' times, but filled with some more sound effects. Another powerful statement this one. Maybe the urge for more Merzbow should be controlled and played again what has already been accumulated over the years.
And with luck I just also got another Merzbow CD (which of course the journalists with a less attention span would say: see this guy is over productive, two CDs per week). Merzbow played at the No Fun festival earlier this year and 'remixed' it at home into a full on forty-one minute slab in the face. Away from the Quasi Pop release, this is Merzbow full blast of noise. I saw Merzbow a couple of times playing live, among which were his very first concerts in Europe in 1989 when of course nobody came out to witness it, and listening to this live recording brings back the great memories of those concerts. Merzbow studio can be loud, but his concerts are the real beasts. In one concentrated paint brush he paints all the colors of the rainbow in bright as hell tones. A mighty fine work. He should be in our area more often me thinks.
Also a live recording is four guitarist line up of Nels Cline, Carlos Giffoni, Alan Licht and Lee Ranaldo, who teamed up on 0201-2007 at the Tonic to play together, following a review of an old Lou Reed LP (printed on the cover): more is more, being the subject. Bring in as many guitars, as many amplifiers and make noise. That starting point leads to a fifty minute free jam in which the guitar is as important as the amplifier, let alone all those nicely colored boxes on the floor, and the four of them let things explode in a true noise manner. Not to dissimilar to Merzbow me thinks, but this quartet is less noisy than the boss on his own, and they move through more phases unlike the monolithic mountain of Merzbow. At times free jazz and endless prog solos lurk around the corner, but let's assume they are merely tongue in cheek? Another nice blast (excellently mixed by a fifth guitarist actually, James Plotkin).
Music by Edward Sol has been released by Quasipop before and reviewed here. Here he presents another four tracks on 3" format in a nice little package. Apparently the theme is about 'This is the tragic (and funny at the same time) story of Pop Diva working and partying hard', although it's not sure which diva is meant here. Maybe Kylie Minogue, as suggested by the track title 'Inside Kylie'? Unlike some of his previous stuff, Sol goes out to old fashioned tape collages, cutting, splicing and pasting of tapes to create his music. At times he wanders out in the rich field of noise, but stays in true spirit of the good ol' musique concrete. It's at times loud and vicious, but the collage element of the music prevails. Influenced by say Pierre Henry (voices are spliced together) and Merzbow, makes this his most refined statement so far. Not in every subtle, but created with great care. (FdW)


'This record is dedicated to Paul and Raymond whose zest for life was with me six months long. I will keep it' it says somewhat mysteriously on the press text. Benjamin Brunn is, along with Scanner and Move D, a stalwart artist of Bine Music, but reviewing this two track 12" is not an easy task. The rhythm driven music will surely work well on the dance floor, but who am I to tell? I am not a DJ, not even a regular visitor of the dance floor, let alone known for moving my feet, so what can I do with in the cosy place called home with it? I can play it, like it even, but I realize that's hard for me to say wether this is great minimal techno, or perhaps a faint copy of the real thing. The watershed between me and the world of minimal techno is simply too big. So, I didn't dance around, but sat down, thought the fat bass was great, the light, dubby keyboards were nice and I thought it was damn nice record. And oh, I thought, I should go out more and dance more. (FdW) ddress:


And of course, the days are short, the nights are long and we must celebrate the birth of our saviour again. Christmas was no friend of mine. But there is one little bit of light in the dark days of christmas: Meeuw Muzak releases another fine 7". By now I can spend at least half boxing day listening to the crazy christmas tunes of Meeuw. The latest addition is by Dittrich von Euler-Donnersperg who has released some even more crazy music on his own Walter Ulbricht label and Die Stadt, with partly reading of texts and partly electronic music. Here he offers two soft electronic music pieces, which are like snowflakes (of course it never snows in Dutch christmas times). Almost kitchy and new age like on a super cheesy keyboard with all the wrong (and thus right) preset sounds, Dittrich is perhaps that great family man that such tunes under his tannenbaum for a wealth of happy children, who start unwrapping their presents as daddy finishes his tunes. Great stuff, once again. I can't wait for christmas with my Meeuw Muzak collection (isn't about time for a nice CD compilation, mister Meeuw). (FdW) ddress:


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