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Vital Weekly 635

img  Tobias

As far as I remember I've never been to the area where Cedric Peyronnet (also better known as Toy Bizarre) and Eric La Casa recorded their work, the Creuse department in central France - maybe I saw it today when watching the Tour de France. However there is a booklet with this CD with pictures of the area, and in each picture there is a pair of microphones to be spotted. This is as close as you can make field recordings visual I guess. A pity that the booklet, a diary it seems, is all in French, with some general English translation on the cover. The area was divided into several specific sites which were recorded by one, and then sent to the other to work on it, to interpret the place. And vice versa of course. Each piece is started by one, finished by the other. Its not easy to hear who did what, but I think that the pieces finished by Peyronnet have a minimal subtle electronic manipulations, and that La Casa's pieces are entirely made with field recordings. I might be wrong however and no electronic processing took place. We hear rain, wind, footsteps and sounds from water, objects and other sonic events which are hard to be placed somewhere in terms of what one could recognize. Even when this is divided into nine pieces, it's best enjoyed as a complete picture: listen from start until the end, sit back and transport yourself through time and space - time is the length of the CD and the place is La Creuse. This rural and forest area is pictured quite well before your very eyes. A very refined work. (FdW)

Right across the border, Vital Weekly can almost see it from the HQ, is the small German city of Kleve, and located there is a small but active scene of improvising musicians, who gather around the Nur Nicht Nur label and as such has been a force for many years. One of their members is Helmut Lemke, who has 'presented the process-based results of his investigations into site-specific sound' for close to thirty years now. Here he teams up with the much younger Ben Gwilliam, who does likewise work and is more from the improvised music scene. In 2007 they spent time together, using different formats of audiotape: pre-recorded, prepared and unprepared. Together they collected a whole bunch of sounds on various tapes (reel to reel, cassette, micro cassette and what else, 8-track maybe?) which they collage together in quite densely layered pieces of hiss like sounds and obscured sounds. Its not easy to say what the sounds are that they recorded on those tapes, save for some voice material being sped up and slowed down. Otherwise its not easy to recognize much, but that obscurity adds a great texture to the release, I think. It's a bit like music you could find on cassettes in the 80s, but now with a much better recording quality. Small amplified sounds along the lines of John Cage's 'Cartridge Music'. A fascinating, closed cloud of sound is what they produce, with small elements coming in and out, which leaves much to guess for the listener, who is sucked into this swamp. A nice trip down! (FdW) Address:

HUGH DAVIES - PERFORMANCES 1969-1977 (CDR by Another Timbre)
Of course I could make a joke about mafia money running out and Another Timbre now also doing CDR releases (see Vital Weekly 619), but the reason for releasing a CDR is probably more archival than economical. Hugh Davies, a builder and inventor of sound devices, died in 2005. He played his instruments since the sixties, and belonged to the 'first wave' of improvisers (along with Derek Bailey, Evan Parker) as well as playing music by Cage and Stockhausen. On 'For Hugh Davies' there are a six solo improvisations from 1969 to 1977 which are played back to three players, Mark Wastell, Adam Bohman and Lee Patterson (all of them influenced by Davies), to which they added their own playing, as well as one homage to Davies without Davies. A bit complex I'd say, and perhaps a bit blasphemous. Wastell plays the cello, while Patterson and Bohman use a table full of small, amplified objects. If you are aware of say the works of Patterson or the Bohman Brothers, then you might have an idea of what this is about. Lots of scraping, touching, scratching etc of objects, in a hectic manner, or if Wastell plays a bigger role, with some more emphasis on longer, sustaining exploration of the instrument. Certainly not easy music, and certainly not quiet music, but throughout a highly concentrated affair.
How it sounds without the players, the real solo thing as it were, there is a CDR of the original Hugh Davies live recordings available too. Maybe it's better to hear that first, to get the impression of the original thing first, which of course I didn't, so maybe my judgment is a bit clouded. On this CDR the live sound of Hugh Davies is a more direct in your face sound. His self-built instruments rattle in your face in a direct way, like when things are picked up with a microphone close by. It was a bit hard to believe that these recordings were the foundations of the release I just heard, as at times this sounds much more loud and present. It's not the easiest disc, since, with six tracks that span almost eighty minutes, this is a bit too much. But it surely gives you a very fine impression of how this great man sounded.
Also on Another Timbre are two trio discs. The first is by Matt Davies (trumpet and field recordings), Matt Milton (violin) and Bechir Saade (bass clarinet and flute). This is a live recording from November last year. I never heard of Matt Milton, whereas the other two already have a rising reputation in the world of improvised music. Improvised music from the world of sound, rather than from the world of instruments. The world in which silence, or sheer near silence, is as important as producing a sound. Here is where a sound is produced, left by itself and then the wait starts for another sound: the three players watch eachother, in full concentration and then a new event happens. Certainly not music to put and leave on, and do something else, but very much like the players to be listened with full concentration. No easy listening here, but one that unfolds its beauty in a similar peaceful way as it is produced.
A more unusual line up is on '... De Las Piedras' with Ingar Zach (percussion), Esteban Algora (accordion) and Alessandra Rombola (flutes and tiles installation). Here the improvisation is of course, like all releases on this label, the starting point, but the outcome is not like that of the previous three. Indeed careful playing, silence plays a part, but throughout it seems to me that these three are aiming at something else. It seems that things are more planned around here, with Algora's accordion at the centre playing Oliveros' like drone music, and the other two are more in a free role. This trio stays more close to the original improvisation but offers likewise strong, intense listening music. Certainly it's not easy to play all four of the new Another Timbre releases in a row - I certainly didn't - but each of them has their own view on the subject of improvisation and proving the endless amount of possibilities are available. (FdW)

BRANDON LABELLE - RADIO MEMORY (CD/Book by Errant Bodies Press)
BRANDON LABELLE - DIRTY EAR (CD by Errant Bodies Press)
Perhaps I once stated that I have no radio. It's not entirely: next to my bed I have radio, to wake me up in the morning with the 8 o'clock news (days at Vital HQ start early), and then I shut it down and get up. I don't know what else is on the radio anymore. I don't mind either as through the door much music arrives. As a young man, with no money, enough time on my hand (being a student), I used to listen to radio in the evening. Several good programs in The Netherlands ('Spleen', 'Radionome' anyone) gave me my first steps in strange music. I did tape stuff from radio back then, and in some cases it too me years to find a record that I known for so long ('Nyrabagia' anyone?). I wonder if anyone who downloaded a MP3 these days has that same feeling - but I am getting old, I know. All of this rambling about radio is all hardly of interest I guess, but it could have been part of the installations that were conceived by Brandon LaBelle. A couple of years he invited a whole bunch of people to write him about their first memories on radio. That can be a song, or a situation in which radio played some role. It's an interesting read, as they are collected here in the book, which brings back other memories of the same songs here or which made me curious to hear some of the ones I don't know. Part of the book is devoted to the installations that resulted from these memories, and is thus an art catalogue. And of course there is a CD, in which LaBelle works with four memories and builds a script around them, have them spoken by some people and adds music to them. The result are four radio plays about memories, dreams or nightmares about radio, locations and people. A very strong and coherent work, even when you won't be playing this on a daily basis.
At the same time there is also the release of 'Dirty Ear', which has no book which seems to be a rare thing for LaBelle these days. It uses 'dirty field recordings, found sounds, sound effects, archives and sonorous dramas. Composed as a series of micro-narratives each designed to intervene onto imagined settings or spatial locations, as counter-sonorities'. Although that last bit is a bit of abacadabra to me, the actual music is quite interesting. They are indeed micro-narratives, on quite an abstract level it seems, or at least most of the times. Hard to tell what those 'dirty' sound sources are, but there is a certain muddy aspect to the music which makes it actually quite nice. Good to hear LaBelle's doing a more regular release again. (FdW) Address:

These two releases look beautiful, no doubt about that. The DVD is a box which holds the release and the CD is a cut-out, pop-up, fold out thing. That is amazing, and no doubt expensive to make. But why oh why would you want to release such beauty and hardly any information on either cover. I found out that the label is called SOS Editions, and no information yet on their website about these two new releases, which I culled from another site. The CD is by Siyu, or perhaps the title is 'Siyu' and it's performed by Annette Krebs and Toshimaru Nakamura. Krebs plays guitar, mixing board, tapes and objects and Nakamura plays no-input mixing board. As minimal as the cover is the music. Stretched out sine waves, produced by the no-input mixer mingle together nicely with the overtones produced the guitar, in which we sometimes recognize the guitar and most of the time nothing at all. Contemplative music - like staring at a white wall with sunlight on it (or perhaps the white cover with it's geometric holes). A work of peace and quiet, even when I can imagine this working on the nerves if you are not initiated in this kind of music. But me thinks this is quite nice indeed.
I said it before, and will say it today and probably many more times: I have a big problem when it comes to reviewing video. I am afraid I just don't know too much about it. To be honest: I stuck this DVD on, and didn't look at it. The reason was perhaps that the music is by Olivia Block, someone whose work I admire a lot. She composed a 'site specific' which doesn't sound like much I heard from here before. The forty some minute piece is quite noise based with distorted sounds of unknown origins. In the back there is the mighty drone, rolling about for what seems to be the entire length, but on top there is all sorts of glitchy sounds moving in distorted way, especially as the piece progressed. Kinda like latter day Oval - and that's something that didn't bother me much. I must say that this is the first Block work that didn't work very much for me. The video footage, with its flickering images however fitted the scene quite well I thought. In that sense this worked well, even when I'm no specialist at all (I might have said that already). (FdW)

TRUE SOLACE - BANDONA (CDR by The Art Of Mystification Records)
Always nice to see a new label from The Netherlands, even when a blink on their myspace site things seem to be a bit too gothic for my taste. The art of mystification Records was started in 2006 by one Ewell Juliana and we read that the label is " self- release Ambient Drone Avant-garde music with a black dark spiritual charisma and occult films. Music feels like entering the Eden of disharmony and enlightenment, exploring both spiritual and the unknown activities inside your deepest unwanted feelings." The first release is by Ewell Juliana himself (herself perhaps, as I never heard the name Ewell before) under the banner of True Solace. Five lengthy pieces of music which are made with guitar, spoken voices, hummings and lots and lots of effects at which reverb is at the very centre of the chain. The guitar is strummed and played with a bow, while the singing is more like chanting. Quite ethereal - certainly for my taste. True Solace works in atmospheres that aren't mine - too closed, too confined, too directive. Things work best in those pieces in which the chanting is less dominant or absent, such as 'Skuridat' or in 'Panorama'. Maybe the music relies a bit too heavy on the use of reverb, but throughout it's quite a nice work, if a bit too closed for me.
The other release features on Melle Kramer who plays drums and percussion and a group called Industrial Passage who are responsible for guitars and vocals. The 'theory of Karma is central on this album. No time to think or analyze, doing is the main word of this theory. By reunite these spiritual & musical friends you will discover this kind of music with art structures' it says on the website. The guitars are loud, slow and heavy, they sustain and drone nicely along in bath of reverb and distortion. The drums play a more free role in the music and seem to be recorded as part of an improvisation. Heavy free improvisation rock with strong drone like qualities, but because of the free role of the drums, the two long pieces are also a bit like various loose ends stuck together, and sometimes the power of the recordings get a bit lost in a dark forest. One can hear what they are aiming at, yet it's not always reached. A bit shorter next time and keep more consistency in the drumming and it's a rocking formation to clean those stuffed ears. (FdW)

Another new label, hand delivered since they are from Nijmegen is Etherkreet. Nijmegen isn't that big, but that doesn't mean I know each and everyone playing music. The three names here don't mean much to me, but who knows: if I see them, I may know them. They might not be locally, since the label is based here and in Amsterdam. The first release is by Ezra Jacobs, who uses 'manipulated shortwave recordings' which were recorded during storm and heavy rain, which I thought was a good starting point. I am clueless as to what kind of manipulations is used in these six tracks, but my best guess is lots of layering. Large chunks of radio sounds are layered and stacked together of unequal lengths, so that there is no apparent element of repetition. The one thing that put me off a bit is the extreme variation in volumes. The first two pieces are very soft, while the third one bursts out at one point. No doubt intended as such, but it breaks the gentle flow of the first two pieces and things could work better if the flow was more constant. But this is a most enjoyable album of ambient sounds, atmospheric in every sense of the word.
Richard Jonas recorded sound material in the analogue studio of the Institute of Sonology and from these sounds built his own work called 'Stekkerspel' (which is a funny word play as a 'stekker' means plug and 'spel' is game or play), referring to the plugs old analogue synthesizers have. He creates nine relatively short tracks with this material, which takes him all over the place. As easy going from serious 'Forbidden Planet' alike material, he can suddenly create a beat or two or leap into music for sci-fi computer games. As the pieces are short and joyful, this is a very nice release to hear. Jonas keeps his material fresh by not exploiting them to the hilt. A fine combination of styles mixed into something that might not be entirely unique, but which is refreshing to hear.
And finally there is one Bas van Huizen, with 'his processed guitar and voice sounds'. Van Huizen may be regarded as the most musical release of the three, using layered guitar sounds in which both drones and shimmering melodies play a role. The drones provide the mighty backdrop for the tracks, the guitar feeding through endless delay pedals, with additional computer processing to top things of. The voice I didn't recognize in this swirling mass of sound. Bas van Huizen likes moody tunes of a darker kind. Elegantly produced, perhaps a bit long here and there, but quite nice. (FdW)

(CDR by Quiet World)
Of the three new releases on Ian Holloway's Quiet World label, two new names. The first one is Adrian Shenton, whose music on 'The Measuring Moments' isn't exactly quiet, even when he gathers much of his inspiration from the world of drone and ambient music. It seems to me that Shenton wants to create well rounded pieces rather than a free flow, long term ambient piece. He plays ten relatively short pieces, which owe, structure wise more to a 'song' than to a bigger 'piece'. Shenton doesn't always succeed in what he wants and some pieces are a bit too easily made. But on other occasions he manages to play a nice piece of ambient music, mainly using (software?) synthesizers, of a somewhat darker kind. I am not sure if this is his first release, but (hope no insult is made here) its a most promising start.
Labelowner Ian Holloway has two releases. The first one is a work he created with Darren Tate (of Ora fame) playing guitar and one Banks Bailey providing him with field recordings. They don't play together as such but Holloway uses recordings of both to create five pieces of ambient drone music, even when the opening piece has a glitch like rhythm. Don't let this fool you, as this disc is mostly made of ambient drones, duck recordings and, perhaps a second surprise and one that fits the scope, a more improvised guitar playing by Tate occasionally. Quite a nice release, with some surprises and stepping away, even just a little bit, from the world of 'just' drone music. That's something I always like.
On Holloway's solo release 'A Lonely Place' he continues his previous releases of drone music, but here too a small shift can be noted. Holloway plays guitar here and mixes them with manipulated sounds thereof into a single piece of thirty-nine minutes of music. Here too a certain element of improvisation seems to leap it, making this is a little bit - but only marginally I'd say - different than the other work that is available under the banner of 'ambient drone' music, even when this comes closer to it than the release with Tate and Banks. Certainly it seems to me that Holloway is somebody who looks beyond the horizon and is eager to make small but necessary changes in ambient drone music - and it's about time, I'd say. (FdW) Address:

A new label this Compost and Height, with a simple but effective packaging. They kick off with a release by Lawrence English and Jeph Jerman. English continues his explorations of the sea started (?) on 'Study For Stradbroke' (see Vital Weekly 631) with another piece for hydrophonic recordings, with a strong focus here on the grain of the ocean. Water collides against the surface and the microphones pick it up in a somewhat crude way, making this less of a subtle piece of soundscaping but all the more interesting. Jeph Jerman's piece is something different than his usual line of work too. Normally he plays small objects without amplification, but here he created a piece using recordings of meteorities, sferics and radio emmissions from Saturn. Sounds from space set into a piece of dark drone like material which could be a plane coming over, along with crackle and rattle. Air and ground make a great pair on this release. Seems like an appropriate start for a label called Compost and Height. (FdW)

The complete Vital Weekly is available at: Vital Weekly

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