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Vital Weekly 603 + 604

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Usually the word 'final' means 'last', but in the case of The New Blockaders it could mean anything but 'last'. 'The final live document' says the sticker on the cover, but no doubt when opportunity knocks again, there will be another final live document, and another - ad infinitum. No problem, bro, whatever you want. The New Blockaders have been around since twenty or so years and I must admit I have always been fond of their music, but find it always hard to say what it is. Their earliest work seemed almost like acoustic noise, of rusty metal sheets scraped against bicycle tires - at least that's how I imagined things. Over the years they added feedback like sounds, but their sound reminded collage like, and lo-fi. Not the ongoing noise blast, and not the refined blasts, but a kinda of musique brut, with strange things dropping in and out. Since sticking around for so long they are now officially recognized as pioneers, so they gather up at say All Tomorrow's Parties - good for them. This recording was made about a year ago, and it seems to me that they are a little bit more inspired by the Merzbowian noise and fury, while trying to maintain some of their original sound of cutting sounds in and out. This recording seems to me one made with various microphones and the various recordings were made mixed together - I might be totally wrong of course. The change, or at least the marginal change, in sound is something that I'm perhaps not entirely used to, but I thought this final recording was a fine one and surely not as final is it suggests. (FdW)

If this is 'Het Terrein II', there must be a 'Terrein I', which I found in some blog ( being a cassette from the late 80s by De Fabriek and Hands Minimal Arts. I have no idea why this title is now dusted off and used again, unless the process behind this is the same as the one before, but information is something that not well spend on De Fabriek, unlike their many releases. After some thirty years it's hard to make any sort of discography by this Dutch 'band' (?), let alone tell if they have anything to do with releases that carry the name De Fabriek. Confusing? Yes, sir, it is. Information on 'Het Terrein II'? I'm sorry, sir, no such luck. 'The Hitmachine Goes De Fabriek', 'De Fabriek Goes The Hitmachine' is all it says, besides the label information. There is however one track on the CD and not two. In a good solid forty minute mega mix (to use that 80s phrase) we, the listener are taken for a ride through both music by De Fabriek and The Hitmachine, my local groupe extraordinary, who are like De Fabriek: always in for surprise. Who does what or when, who sat behind the controls when producing this, it's all quite unclear. I recognized elements of De Fabriek's 'Neveleiland' release, the live rock elements no doubt come from The Hitmachine (as De Fabriek never plays live), but throughout it's hard to know what is the outsider rock/noise/pop of The Hitmachine, or the experiment/industrial/techno noise of De Fabriek. It's like two chameleons in a room, changing color, shape and size every time you look up. It's probably as much as a De Fabriek and The Hitmachine release. It even has a cover that strongly resembles a lot De Fabriek did - go figure that one yourself. And as per usual: limited to merely 300 copies only. Another pre-programmed collectors item. (FdW) ddress:

POMASSL - SPARE PARTS (CD by Raster-Noton)
It's been a long time since Pomassl from Austria released his 'Trail Error'. Just very occasionally we heard something from him, or from his Laton label, but here he returns, for the first album of his on Raster-noton. When releasing his 'Trail Error' album in 1996 he was easily lumped in with the early Alva Noto, early Pita, early Pan Sonic - say anything that was early then in the field of high end peeps and low end bass rumble. The origins of head nod music, the era of clicks 'n cuts. Now eleven years later, Pomassl still works with on one hand the computer but the other hand is touching ancient sound generators and synthesizers of the soviet union history. The cool cross-over between analogue and digital. However what was ten years something new, sounds now a bit worn out, I'd say. The beeps and thumbs we know and even when Pomassl keeps his tracks short (fifteen in fifty-five minutes) some of them sound like sketches, a drawing if you will. Not every track is as worked out as the other, which makes this a somewhat unbalanced album. What I do like is the fact that some of the pieces have that rough analogue sound such as 'Valsalva Maneuver' that even sounds hissy. It makes a fine counterpoint against the clean, digital sound processing of some of the other pieces. In that sense this album is a pretty varied bunch, skipping over the place. However, my main critique, is that this album could have been stronger if some of the weaker brothers would have been left off. Rather forty great minutes than fifty-five of lesser quality. (FdW)

SORIAH - OFRENDAS DELUZ A LOS MUERTOS (CD by Beta-lactam Ring Records)
This week Vital received two new releases in Beta Lactam-ring's ever popular Black series and one that was released on BLRR proper.
Soriah hails from Portland. Ofrendas Deluz A Los Muertos (offerings of light to the dead) is the follow-up CD to Chaos Organica In A Minor. Whereas that CD featured a lot of layers of organ sounds and throat singing, this new one is quite different. The CD features two long tracks. The first one features hand percussion (perhaps castagnettes?), deep bass sound and feedback tones to create a rich ambient piece, which never bores. After a while incomprehensible vocals are introduced and concrete noisier sounds. Track two continues this theme, but adds singing/chanting in a Pandit Pran Nath-kind of way. Ritual/shamanic music you could say. More often than not, that would not be a recommendation, but Soriah pulls it off on this interesting album. Soriah makes the most of his music during performances, which have taken place in tunnels, churches, deserts and even a tree. Would love to see a video of that last performance. A good listen and definitely a name to keep in mind.
Volcano the Bear have been active since 1995. Members Aaron Moore, Nick Mott, Clarence Manuelo and Daniel Padden have recently released this follow up to their Classic Erasmus Fusion album. Despite the beautiful hard-carton book package and the great quality paper of the insert booklet (for the first 1000 copies of the CD), I'm having problems with this album. Volcano The Bear try to mix trippy songs with Nurse With Wound-ish collages and Residents-like piano/saxophone playing. This might be a good idea if it would work, but somehow the combination just doesn't gel on this disc. Tracks one and two (The Sting of Haste and Before We Came To This Religion) set the 60s jam psychedelic freakout idea, with acoustic guitars, tablas and flute. The weirdness starts with Larslovesnicks Farm where the NWW/Residents piano kicks in. Tracks like Cassettes Of Berlin and One Hundred years of Infamy are again more collage/avant-garde like. Best track of the bunch is Burnt Seer with its banjo playing and Robert Wyatt-like singing. In all, this is a nice but also rather uneven album and I'm not quite certain at who this is aimed. It sounds like Volcano The Bear basically make music for themselves, which is a good thing, but as a result this album failed to impress me as a whole.
The surprise of the bunch is George and Caplin (de facto Jason Iselin and Jeffrey Stevens). Their CD He Really Got Through To Advertising gives us 27 minutes of pure 80s popsongs. The title track features a nice rhythmbox and slightly crunchy guitars. The introduction of a harmonica in Horse Fair is a nice touch. Psychosomatic loses some of the magic, but it is well made up by the last few songs on the CD. A nice, subtle and friendly piece of work this is. Shoe tapping for shoe gazers. (Freek Kinkelaar)

After being active in the Denver music scene for years, the three women of Bela Karoli have released their first CD on Helmet Room records. Originally Bela Karoli was the solo efford of Julie Davis (vocals and double bass), but now Carrie Beeder (strings) and Brigid McAuliffe (voice and accordion) have joined. The unorthodox trio has created a wonderfully lush album with both sparse acoustic and more electronic soundscape songs. The serious, literary air that Bela Karoli wants to portray is reflected in the title (which comes from a poem by TS Eliot) and the track Some Things That Fly There (which lyrics are a poem by Emily Dickinson) but luckily that never stands in the way of the music. Surprises are reinterpretations of Summertime and Ol' Man River (probably my favourite Frank Sinatra interpreted song) with wonderfully sparse arrangements. The fragile track Machine reminds me of UK jazz band Carmel. A very nice late-night atmosphere setting album this is, which can probably be best described as avant-garde lazy jazz-oriented pop. (Freek Kinkelaar) ddress:

When I popped in the DVD once I opened the package I checked wether volume was a bit more down. Zbigniew Karkowski is in my book a noise composer, even when he did a lot of softer things in his life too. The DVD started playing and I was surprised to find some modern classical music. I turned to the DVD/CD case and noted a whole bunch of musicians and instruments mentioned. I know Karkowski is a trained composer of real notes, real scores but I don't think I ever heard any of it. Or at least I can't remember. The press text is not very clear on the proceedings. It says 'Karkowski employs a variety of tools to process and rework original acoustic instrument recordings', so I assume they talk about their own release? If I understand right, CD and DVD (which hold in total five different pieces) work along these lines. On the DVD the third piece, 'Membrane' is a pure electronic piece, while the other two are a mixture of acoustic instruments (including bass drum, bass trombone, contrabass clarinet, violin, cello, guitars, and percussion among others). I must say I found the first piece 'Float' great, with lots of tension and abrupt sounds, whereas 'Tritonal Rapture' was a bit too minimal for me. 'Membrane' was more a classic Karkowski piece, but here I though the visuals of Nojiri worked really well, keep the 'flow' of the piece. In the other two, Nojiri also follows the music quite well, but the highly abstract nature of it (lines, squares) is not too well spend on me. The CD has two long pieces (twenty-six an forty-one minutes) of music that seems to take the instruments indeed into a whole new electronic environment. Probably running it through Max/msp, sounds glide up and down the scale, and form a thick mass of sound. These layers drift apart from eachother collide with others, but drift again. Like icebergs but with faster movements. The music is not as noise based as some would probably expect from this man, but it's still heavy, if you catch my drift. Quite a remarkable release this one, showing, as far as I can recall for the first time the various aspects of Karkowski's composed output and thus should serve as a fine introduction. (FdW)

ST.RIDE - SE STO QUI, NEUICA (CDR by Marsiglia Records)
Music by St.ride has been reviewed before, and usually I made mistakes in describing what they do. Here on the cover of their latest CDR release, things are in Italian, but it seems (!) that Edo Grandi plays rhythm and synth, Maurizio Gusmerini vocals and guitar, plus there is various room for more experimental outing which shortwave and contact microphones. The seven pieces on this new release make a leap forward, I think. From the cut 'n paste sound of before, they now explore to make proper songs, held together with a strong rhythm and sequencer. On top the voice is not really singing and doing things that resemble singing. The rhythm is hip hop like. There is also extra sounds, such as skipping CDs, guitars (??, hard to recognize though) bring in the ornaments of the music, and make throughout quite a mature impression. This is not music to dance too, even when the rhythm is forceable present, but it's great popmusic to hear, with a strong sense of experimentalism to it. Very nice! (FdW) Address:

LABFIELD - FISHFORMS (CD by Bottrop-boy)
MOUTHUS - NO CANAL (CD by Bottrop-boy)
HECKER - HOLLER, TRACKS (2LP by Semishigure)
Four new releases from the house of Bottrop-boy, three on the main label and one of the side imprint Semishigure. Of the three, two are in the stylish, handmade new line of design of Bottrop-boy, while one has the 'old' line of design. I have no idea if there is any specific reason for it, but it could perhaps be some sort of division in music. Starving Weirdos and Mouthus (and Mattin/Bower and Sunroof of before) are in a certain musical area where you won't find Labfield. The latter is a collaboration between David Stackenäs and Ingar Zach. Stackenäs produced some nice work for Häpna, while of Zach we didn't much hear after an initial lukewarm response in these pages (the task of Vital Weekly is to be critical not to maintain good friends), which didn't lead to reviewing much more of music. On the risk of being accused (again) that I heard this only once, I must say that the work he produced as LabField with Stackenäs is great. Absolutely great. Zach plays bass drum, percussion, electronic scruti-box and electronic saranghi-box and Stackenäs plays acoustic guitars, resonator guitar, preparations and low budget electronics. With a background in improvisation you would expect careful, quiet, intimate playing - and in a way they do that. But it's not tender, soft or hardly outspoken. I suggest putting the volume up and get immersed by their wall of machine sounds. They play their instruments using all sorts of motors, fans or other mechanized instruments to create a natural resonating yet acoustic sound. Especially in 'Gin', the opening track which spans two-third of the entire CD this works wonderfully well. Dense to bone (mm, that's no expression)... dense like clouds, like being in a factory and one hears all the machines humming at once. Not deafening loud, but well constructed, balanced, varied, not from one point of the factory, but one has the feeling of walking about, hearing new aspects of the machines or new combination of the machines. By contrast 'Gin', the shortest piece, is a like bridge between that and 'Showa', soft tinkling guitars and percussive sounds, until things start to heat up again for the final piece. Hardly improvised sounding at all, this is sophisticated drone music of an outstanding order.
Of course the music by Mouthus and Starving Weirdos can't be compared to the two previous Bottrop-Boy releases, but altogether you might say that they are connected through the world of lo-fi, noise, drone, and rock - and preferable where they all meet up. Mouthus is a three piece of guitar, drums and electronics. I don't think we ever reviewed any of their music. The opening piece is a great flowing piece for synthesizer solo, eerie floating and I had to double check if I was playing the right CD. However with the next piece I knew I was back on track. Loud, hooky rhythms, feedback noise and guitar eruptions, make up the music. Post punk hookiness, but rather nice. In the third track things go a bit further into the territory of noise, but on top they lay down a tinkling guitar, which seems out of place, but the contrast works quite well in this wall of noise. The final piece is a track that is most industrial, with sounds that could machine loops, but is perhaps the steady drum beat on some pieces of wood. Four tracks, four different positions, yet it makes perfect sense altogether. It has certainly stirred curiosity about their previous works here.
Also new to me are Starving Weirdos, a collective around Brian Pyle and Merrick McKinlay from Humboldt County which is in California. They have been around for nine years and produced a whole bunch of CDRs. Apparently they have some sort of empty warehouse where they do most of their recordings. Playing mostly guitars and drums, picking up the sound with microphones from the space used this becomes, almost in a natural way, spacious music. Here too the word 'drone' can be easily used, but it should go with the word 'rock'. 'Desert Folk' is what Bottrop-boy calls it, and I can second that. Music as empty as the desert, but, as we know the desert is no quiet space. Starving Weirdos play like the wind licking the plains. It waves and it waves. Very cinematographic in approach, although I don't think some director will pick this easily, or he has to be interested in spacious shots. What is surprising with this one, as well as Mouthus, is that the recording quality is great, not the usual hiss induced lo-fi affair, but quite detailed pieces of aural refinement.
The final new release is on the side label Semishigure, one of the side labels of Bottrop-boy dealing with music and art. Music-wise, format-wise, it's all quite different than the three previous releases. The double LP is packed in a gate-fold sleeve, with pictures by world famous visual artist Carsten Höller (and of which separate prints will be sold in true art mode), and the music is by Florian Hecker. Perhaps I already told something about how my appreciation for Hecker changed after seeing his play live last year. Before that he was good, but it seemed to me he was one of the digi-noise boys from the Mego area. His concert however was great. Concentrated portions of noise and silence. The music on this record was created was made with software created by Alberto de Campo and Tommi R. Keränen, and it all sounds utter dry and utter minimal. Clicky rhythms, hardly anything to dance to, but rather loud and without much bass. They bang on, but over the course of a piece, things gradually change and it's done in a rather subtle manner. That makes the whole thing a rather fascinating listening experience, even when not every track is convincing. Especially 'II' derails half way through. But as a total - music, concept, package - this is a small piece of art. (FdW) Address:

PHONO PHONO (CD by Absinth)
Phono Phono is a berlin trio: Sabine Vogel (flutes, electronics), Magda Mayas (piano, synth) and Michael Renkel (guitar, electronics). Unknown musicians to me. Magda Mayas is a young musician from Berlin, also playing with the Mayas-Nutters-Olsen-Galvez Quartett and in a duo with drummer Tony Buck. Sabine Vogel originates from Munich. As a composer and musician she makes her living nowadays in Berlin. She played for instance with Michael Thieke, Alessandro Bosetti and Michael Griener in the 'Schwimmer' project. Michael Renkel is the most experienced of the three and also the leader of this trio. He studied classical guitar in Hamburg. Over the last 20 years he developed his own musical vocabulary and style. He worked and recorded intensively with Burkhard Beins as Activity Center and also with Kai Fagaschinksi, Phil Minton, Luca Venitucci, Sonja Bender, etc. Phono Phono is one of his more recent collaborations. The CD of this new trio contains a liverecording from 2005. We hear four improvisations alternated by three short interludes. They play a very reductionistic and open kind of improvisation. I use the word improvisation, but maybe some of it is composed, as their music sounds like some modern classical music. Anyway, with no doubt these players were inspired by modern composers (Feldman). The music is often very close to silence. On the other hand the music is also incredibly rich, full of little details and nuances. They found a good balance between the acoustical instruments (classical guitar, piano, flute) and electronics and synth. At one moment they play their instruments in a conventional way, at other moments they make use of extended techniques. With all that is available to them, they construct very well proportioned musical unities. All pieces have equal participation of all three players. They play with a great sense for detail and finesse, and concentrated throughout. It is one of these examples of improvised music that concentrate on sound and textures, but that is done with great musicality. So that I can end up saying without hesitation: this is great music! (Dolf Mulder) Address:

WEISS - REPHLEX (CD by Electroton)
A new label from Germany is Electroton and they call themselves 'Klangarchiv' (sound archive) and the name and the addition, in combination with packaging reminded me of the first Raster music (archiv for ton und noton, remember) releases (Goem, Behrens, Cascone etc). A similar transparant, soft plastic box, with a transparant sticker. It's not where similarities end however. Also music wise, Weiss (which means white, but it's also the name of owner, and first artist on the label) knows his classics it seems, which are in the same area. Exploring 'computers, synthesis and the programming language pure-date', Weiss presents his own click and cuts. Harsh, but rhythmic noise that refers to techno, but it would be hard to see any feet move to this lot. Head nod music this is. Nine tracks in total, with minimal variations, both inside the pieces as well as among the pieces it self, but it's short enough not to trap the hole of repeating himself. So, as a debut it's certainly not a bad CD, but it stays close to the originals of say Alva Noto or a more pop oriented version of Ikeda (Ryoji that is) and not the promised label statement of 'innovative, non-mainstream-oriented music'. Maybe Electroton should try and sign Hecker (reviewed elsewhere) to sign innovation. (FdW) Address:

Only a few good guys ask us: the well-known bands from the world of rock who help the true experimentalists. Sonic Youth is one, Einsturzende Neubauten is another. They help out, with their name and fame,, to support experimental musicians. Tore Boe had the honor of opening up a few concerts for Neubauten and 'Baunoten' is a piece 'based on material from Einsturzende Neubauten's webcasts and presented 6 times on their 2004 tour', although I am not sure what that means. The recording here is from one concert in Hamburg. Tore Boe is not unlike John Cage: a man of small sounds, but with the amplification used in rock concerts I am pretty sure this must have sounded massive. Musicboxes, piano bangs and obscured drones make up a great piece that receives a good applaus from the audience. Well deserved.
As Origami Tacet, Tore Honore Boe played with Micheal F. Duch. The latter plays double bass and Boe his acoustic laptop - which is a suitcase full of small acoustic objects and contactmicrophones. This recording was may in Dresden earlier this year, at the 'E.xtrem T.on' festival/event and during some twenty minutes the two play a thoughtful piece of music - of a more sorrowful nature. There is 'Elegy For Tony Wilson' (who died a week earlier), 'Glass On The Beach', 'Nick Cage' and 'Einstein At The Zoo' - I have no idea why it lists four pieces, as there is only one on the release, but perhaps there are four distinct parts. It's always not clear with improvised music when things start and stop, but the controlled improvisation of these two is quite nice too.
Boe is the founding father of everything that is called 'Origami' with whatever extension: a floating group of musicians that work together. Boe himself is not always a member, but he is with the Origami All Stars. Still with his acoustic laptop, but also with Tom Hovinbole on violin, Jonas Qvale on samples and Jorn Egseth on synthesizer. They play seven pieces on their 'Earwitness' release and it's the least convincing of the three. The improvisations seem to lack any tension and at times the four seem to be searching for sounds, or go into playing their thing without noting any of the other players very much so no real interaction seem to occur. (FdW)

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