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Vital Weekly 614

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MANDALA VOLUME ONE (3"CDR by Ex Ovo Records)
In January 1975 Brian Eno had an accident which brought him into hospital. A friend of his gave him a record of 18th century harp music. After his friend had gone, Eno noticed that the record was played rather softly, but he couldn't get out of bed to turn up the volume. He instead listened to the very soft record and the environment in which it was played. Thus ambient music was born. In 2006, Ex Ovo Records released the compilation 'I, Mute Hummings' and on it was an excerpt of Richard Lainhart's 'White Night', a piece recorded on a moog in 1974. In my review of the compilation I wrote it sounded too much like regular ambient music to me (see Vital Weekly 550). Ex Ovo may have picked this up and added one to one, and thought, 'wow, we discovered a piece of ambient from 1974, older than Eno's original conception on 'Discreet Music' from 1975. If only things were that simple. Over the last thirty years ambient music has developed in all sorts of manners, from listening to pure field recordings to ambient house, rock and what else. The biggest part however is played by musicians who use a lot of synthesizers to create music that fills your environment and makes you feel good. This could, historically, be linked back to Lamonte Young, Terry Riley, Pauline Oliveros and Charlemagne Palestine, the origins of western drone music. Now Ex Ovo releases the whole, twenty-nine minute piece, and, while named after a snowy night on which it was recorded, today it's actually very sunny and not cold here. But the sun provides a sharp light in my room, and the swirling tones of Lainhart's moog are presently there in my environment. Maybe I still think it's regular ambient music, but I must also admit that it's a very fine piece of music. A nice piece of drone music, not unlike the latter day Mirror or Christoph Heeman, or in fact some of Eno's own later work. A solid piece.
Chinese whispers are when someone tells you a line of a story, you make up the second line, a third person the next one etc. Ex Ovo started a series of musical works based upon this notion, where a musician makes up five minutes and then someone else takes over, until four are done. This is 'Mandala Volume 1', starting out with Mirko Uhlig, Tobias Fischer (both of them behind the label), Keith Berry and Jörg Eger. Almost without noting the first two pieces slide into eachother, in a very weightless space sort of way. The music is highly (in every sense of the word) atmospheric. When Keith Berry takes over, things move from heaven right into the ocean, deep down, but here to the cross into guitarist Jörg Eger works really well, he comes in later on with his slide guitar and not from the very moment as he is supposed to play. A project like this could be a real miss, but these four are spot on. One excellent piece of ambient music, in not too clear four parts, but it surely makes sense. (FdW) Address:

Over the years Gert-Jan Prins has established himself as a solid figure in the world of improvisation. The first time I ever heard his name was in 1984 when he played drums on music by band called Y Create. Many people don't realize this, but Prins started out as a drummer. On his new CD he throws in some timpani, and even some voice, but none of that is easily be recognized. Today Prins is perhaps more regarded as a noise head, but if you listen closely to his work you will acknowledge the fact that he is a percussionist. A percussionist of broken electronics. The wires of his instruments - open boxes with the circuits exposed - are all connected and buzz, hiss and peep, while the fingers of Prins make the connections come alive. Fourteen tracks in just under twenty-five minutes. No doubt Prins has plundered his archive of recordings (both live and studio) to select tiny fragments, which he feels best represent what he stands for. Breaking down circuits, bending circuits, all in a rhythmic and noise based manner. This is the true noise and by someone who knows how to break things in order to create new things. Not a second too long, or too short. This is Prins at his best.
I read the text that came with the CD by O'Malley and Csihar, but I am not sure if I understand it well. There were two shows at two different galleries by american sculptor Banks Violette. The music was produced at one gallery but later on also to be heard at the other and lasted eight hours and thirty-five minutes. What is on this CD is only a small portion, with, again if understood right, tape voice material Csihar. O'Malley plays 'HP 200CD & Travis Bean / Fender Twin Reverb'. I must admit I have no idea who Csihar is or how the art of Banks Violette looks like, but this CD gives me some clue. The overtone like singing/chanting sounds very much like the voice of a man alone, a contemplative recording of solitude and despair. O'Malley creates a sonic texture of likewise sonic isolation. It's all dark and grim, as well as empty. I can imagine that this lasts eight hours and that it creates more an environment than a piece by itself. The darker undercurrents may not be spend that well on me, but every now and then a bit of depression, is nice too. (FdW) Address:

VOICE_ELECTRONIC DUO - VED (CD by Monotype Records)
Polish label Monotype Records doesn't exactly releases music of a monotype. The four (??!?) releases here can be separated in two different lots: one is the more accessible kind of music and one is the experimental type of music. In the latter area we find Alfredo Costa Monteira, of whom we recently reviewed 'Epicycle' (see Vital Weekly 611). He was concerned back then with the voice, now it's the inner place, the household objects. 'All the sound sources are part of my domestic environment. Every sound is used here as it was recorded with no electronic effects or processing except for dynamics. Some sounds result from acoustic combinations of other sounds'. I am not sure if Monteiro thought of Pink Floyd, who wanted to do a record of household objects, but Monteiro limits himself to apparatus around the house which make a mechanical sound, washing machines, hair driers, coffee grinding - things like that. He cuts all of these sounds together in quite a nice way. Collage like. Sounds start and stop while others continue. Sometimes in a noisy manner, sometimes in an ambient manner, but quite nice. You could wonder if a 3" CD wouldn't have been right enough to make the same point, but throughout it's all quite alright. A sort of much more intellectual noise, whilst also taking the piss out of the field recording posse.
And perhaps leading man of that posse is Francisco Lopez, who has delivered a long line of releases of music made with field recordings. As perhaps known, at least to his dedicated followers, he is now releasing his best live recordings. I have no idea how he selects these. Recording quality? Performance of the piece? Uniqueness of the piece? But he surely travels around the world, and he was in Auckland, New Zealand where he played a forty some minute piece, in which we find him in a somewhat different mood. Perhaps an unique performance? For this piece he seems to be using rhythmical machine sounds at the start, which will later on return. Also insect sounds from tropical rain forests are used, but only in a small portion of the piece. The machine like sounds form the bigger part of this piece, which isn't that silent at all. The silent approach is rather something he uses on his studio releases, and live things are, well, just different. It's a great piece building to a large crescendo at the end - another Lopezian trademark. Very fine work.
On the other side of the musical spectrum we find Brasil And The Gallowbrothers Band, who type font is unreadable on the cover, but it looks nice. With or without glasses, I am not going to ruin my eyes on this. They don't play textbook popmusic, but are clearly influenced by slow popmusic, mood and atmospheres. I hear guitar, vocals (whispering of course), drums, keyboards and a bit of electronics. Six long pieces, with slow developments. Once the band is on the wagon things roll on, based around drums, vocals and the instruments playing ornament bits. Certainly not bad, but as said, all is a bit long. Some of the pieces could have been tighter in playing and perhaps a bit more variation this could be a great thing, now it stays in nice ideas.
The most out in popland is Voice_electronic duo, which is exactly what it is, a duo of electronics (male) and vocals (female). By judging the various bits of information on the cover I am pretty sure, nay, convinced that they are from Poland, and they have listened to emopop, trip hop, Björk, Portishead and Alva Noto - odd? Perhaps, but yeah it does make sense. The whispering, soft, fairytale vocals of Zosia Eden, with the eerie electronics, slow beats and such like by Marcin Dymiter, make a daring, odd but also workable combination, I think. Moody, poppy, but also enough sense of experimentalism. Nice enough, although not easy to break the alternative charts, well, perhaps in Poland, where they might understand the lyrics. (FdW) Address:

PRURIENT AND STILL WANTING (CD + 5inch single by No Fun Productions)
A feature of this epoch (an end) is its similarity with the Baroque (another end) - i.e. irony, sex as perversion and pornography, surface, amusement and ultra realism, (the origins of opera!) compared to the religiosity of truth and beauty - even eroticism - of what preceded - the renaissance or modernity. Contrast Michelangelo with Caravaggio or Sol Le Witt with Jeff Koons. My reasons for not liking opera - in the past - was that it was not serious - and my reasons for still not liking -now- it is that it has become serious (and popular amongst intellectuals). I was appalled at Nixon in China whilst the chattering classes were enthralled - they at last had something they didn't have to understand. So this release must be good, is serious and popular - should be acclaimed amongst a
set... from which I am excluded. A self exclusion by virtue of its very idea of an opus an operatic work in scale and form/content - voice / noise. Industrialization saved humanity before, with the end of logic no machine will either save us or burry us, the shouting and posturing - which is both ethical and aesthetic - and what gives the work above both credit and value - (old functions) as noise- or better music- is in vein, only decoration without function - pure noise - which this is not- will do. (jliat)

Perhaps it's safe to assume that all people hum, at least every now and then. Humming to themselves, to a tune or to meditate. Kathy Kennedy, of whom I never heard, does group hummings for 'sonic experimentation and meditation, for play and for physical well-being'. Recordings of this humming were given to a whole bunch of people in order to crank out some form of remix, which is clever thinking, me thinks, because it brings her work to a new audience. Kennedy is, I believe, from Montreal, so some of the Montreal posse are here, such as Helene Prevost, i8u but also Francisco Lopez, Kim Cascone, Thanos Chrysakis, Austici, and lesser known names, such as Doug van Nort, Magali Babin, Jonas Olesen, Margaret Schedel. Some of them use the humming of voices as a starting point to create electronic deviations of it, other use the voices as voices, and layered them, change the pitch etc. But all of the twelve remixes (the first track is a sort of documentary piece about humming and people are being interviewed) seem to be interested in creating densely, atmospheric music in which you can feel good. To create perhaps a similar effect as humming, to enter a relaxing state. Quite a nice compilation, but not always a big surprise. (FdW) Address:

If you wouldn't know any better than the four tracks on this release would be by the same musician. Is that good or bad, when it involves two different ones? The answer I haven't quite figured out yet. It's always a risky affair, the four seasons and music - but in this case there is no Vivaldi fiddling along, which is good. Toy Bizarre is perhaps one of the last 'old' guys to use his band name rather than his own name, Cedric Peyronnet, which is good. Pierre Redon is a much younger guy and never used a band name, which is also good. They have been playing music together since 2002. Peyronnet is in fine electro-acoustic mood and Redon's main instrument is the guitar and electronics. They both play two pieces, Redon springtime and autumn (first and last piece), Toy Bizarre summer and winter (the two pieces in the middle). Listened closely to the music, one can spot the differences, even when Redon uses field recordings and Toy Bizarre makes his field recordings sound like drones. The result should appeal to all lovers of drone related music with a good, sturdy look at the world of field recordings. Subtle music goes loud, noise music goes subtle. Mind you, this is not a work of microsound. There is much more happening than just a few static crackles built from a ten second rain sample. This is quite vivid, imaginative electro-acoustic music. Great stuff. (FdW) Address:

Three new 3" releases by AIC from Hamburg, Germany, and they all seem to be dealing with history. Most clearly in the release by Jetzmann. He's been around for a long time, but has remained somewhat underground. Here he takes a text by Friedrich Hölderlin about being among the Germans and sets this to music. The text, spoken in German, is recited wonderfully, even if you don't get the drift of it. Jetzmann adds minimal electronics from his laptop to it, and makes a really wonderful, radioplay like piece. The second piece seems a filler: it's a pure electronic piece of deep end drones and rhythmic clicks, but I don't think it has much relation to the first piece.
Also Sonata Rec, also known as Heidrun Schramm uses voices in 'Es War Einmal...' (once upon a time). They are culled from historical sources, and fed through some sort of computer plug in or something like that. It doesn't however tell really much of a story and is a bit long. Turntable variation seem to be part of the much shorter second piece. The vinyl spinning is 'historical fragments', which are layered around so that we can't hear which part of history. The weakest of the three releases.
No voices on Büttner's release, but the historical component is that he harks back to a movie he did in 2002, about data compressing. NIL in the title stands for 'non-existant interface', where files are sent for deletion. By compressing and decompressing sound files, Büttner arrives some fine microscopic glitch material which, like glacier masses rub against eachother until it reaches it's conclusion in the short 'Intkom'. Warm, glitchy, modern yet also a bit too traditional.
Labelowner Olivier Peeters also does music under the banner of Totstellen. His latest release 'Tunnel Bruecke' was recorded inside a motorwaybridge across the river Elbe in Hamburg for 'a fragmented video performance'. The sound later on processed and edited. The result is quite a dark atmospheric release, which employs lots of reverb, texts recited, cars passing, water running. Quite a grim release, much along the lines of Lustmord's 'Heresy', but not in caves but in a tunnel. Isolation music for the darker souls around. But it's actually it's all quite nice and well recorded and executed with care. (FdW)

MATTHIEU SALADIN - 4'33"/O'00" (3" CDR by Editions Provisoires)
In 1974 Cramps Records released the very first version of 4'33, the 'silent' piece by John Cage from 1952. On vinyl. It was followed later by other versions, and even a CD of cover versions. Matthieu Saladin, who likes a conceptual approach to music, takes the 1974 recording and amplifies it to the maximum, by using 'change gain' and 'normalize' - no doubt and comes up with a sole, four minutes and thirty three second piece (well actually it clocks in a 4'40"!) of some utter loud noise, which, much to my surprise, actually has variations in it (not following the score however of three parts, I think). Play loud, it says on the nicely designed cover, and that is indeed the best thing you can do. The shortest Merzbow CD that Merzbow never did. Great statement. (FdW) Address:

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