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Vital Weekly 640

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JUXTA PHONA & OFFTHESKY - !ESCAPE KIT! (CD by Somnia)
Jason Corder, the man behind Offthesky (or Off The Sky as we called), has released various albums on 12K/term, Autoplate/Thinner, Databloem/Dataobscura, Atmoworks and such like, but as far as I find it, I only reviewed two of his releases on Databloem. Here he teams up with Juxta Phona, of whom the label mentions no information and I don't think I saw this name before. I have no idea if Juxta Phona moves Corder around into a more rhythmic world but this is ambient with the big a, but also with the big r of rhythm. The label makes a reference to The Orb's 'Pomme Fritz', which is nice, since hardly anyone liked that album because so many people thought this was too experimental. '!Escape Kit!' has these experimental touches too, but I found them to be lesser than on the aforementioned Orb album (which I actually liked back then), but the elements are clearly there. These touches, phrases if you want, are embedded in a set of laidback dubby and jazzy rhythms, which are indeed quite 'escapist'. In a world of war this music is indeed an escape kit, in which you can nicely drift away. Relaxing, feet tapping music, head nod, good wine music, rather than classics that will fill your (alternative dance floor). There is a long tenth track, which is not mentioned on the cover, which is nice enough, but falls a bit outside the album. This 'secret track' thing seems a bit outdated - when it's nice, just put it on the cover, I'd say. IDM, a bit of jazz and lots of atmospherics. Nothing new under these suns, but its all easy listening and that's nice as well. (FdW) Address: http://www.somniasound.com

ZILVERHILL - +EOTVOS+ (CD by Adept Sound)
Although posting private letters that arrive along with promo copies is not, and will not be, a habit, I found a personal note on the press blurb for Zilverhill's '+Eotvos+': hello Frans, seems a long time since IBF - remember them (circa 1985)'. Well, yes and no. I do remember IBF, or Ideas Beyond Filth, but how did they sound like? I honestly don't remember. Too much music has passed under the bridge. More importantly, and more appropriate perhaps, what's the relation with Zilverhill, which 'represents a collaboration between Schuster and Present Day Buna', which leaves me with even more questions, such as 'who are they'? There is more to ponder about in the blurb: 'incorporating elemental contrasting themes of inertia and movement, the shifting sound presented here encompass a many-layered evocation of somewhere else, a third period, the 11th hour, the day's end...'. Gettit? Not me, but if I look on my screen the time is 23:04, the day's end. I am not yet too tired to listen to Zilverhill and think about the music, IBF, Zilverhill and the day's end. I honestly don't remember what IBF sounded like - but I think I said that already - but it might be something like Zilverhill? Their music seems like being put into a time machine and thrown back twenty years and listen to a crystal clear version of music that was once released on audio cassettes. Loops of mechanical rhythm, field recordings (although that word wasn't a common place back then) of electronic processed water sounds, more electronics, more sound effects. Maybe I am thinking of Contrastate's first two albums? I am old, this music is old, the day is old. One of the pros of getting old is that one can easily, more easily that is, dwell in nostalgia, to be free of the pressure of being young, new and hip and reminiscence about something old and think: well that surely sounds like something of those days and actually it's quite nice. '+Eotvos+' is such a work. Perhaps not something I would play too often, since I would rather play say those two first Contrastate LPs, simply for the fact that I 'know' these, but due time '+Eotvos+' may be also one of them. In 2028, God permits, I'll be getting a letter: 'remember Zilverhill?. (FdW) Address: http://www.adeptsound.net

CHRISTOPHER MCFALL - THE CITY OF ALMOST (CD by Sourdine)
Field recording specialist and musician Christopher Mcfall is a fast riser in this world. And quite rightly so. The title of his latest CD, on Asher's Sourdine label, refers to the once prosperous area of Kansas City, where Mcfall has his studio and which is now a lesser neighborhood. I have no idea what it looks like, but if anything this music shows its that its an area in decay. Mcfall uses field recordings from around the corner as it were and covers them with more dust, peels of the skin of those recordings and waits for them to erode some more. The plug ins used to achieve this are extensive - although perhaps they are just lots and lots of equalization used on the various sounds. Its hard to tell what the origins of these sounds are: metal on metal perhaps, wood objects, plastic found on the streets. I really couldn't say. But as I was listening to this for another time, I thought its also something that is hardly interesting to know. Would it make any difference if we would know what these sound sources are. Would we appreciate the music any more if we and thus would be any less if we didn't know? Hardly I think. This is one of those cases where you can sit back and simply relax, let it roll out in front of you. Mcfall owes certainly to people like Francisco Lopez or Roel Meelkop, but he offers different things as well. The extensive use of plug in/EQ-ing the sound for instance, or the occasional use of rhythm in some of these pieces and a somewhat more free approach to his compositions. It doesn't make this something really really new, but Mcfall proofs that he can easily meet the best in his field, with his very own approach to the use of field recordings. Do whatever you do best and develop from there, seems to be his motto. Don't leap into over production is my advise, and things will be good. (FdW) Address: http://www.sourdine.net

PAUL DEVENS - EXWORK (CD by Moab Records)
In the lovely surroundings of the very southern part of The Netherlands lives and works Paul Devens. By day a teacher at the art academy and by night creating his own music and installations. I am not sure if he would agree with me here, but I believe music is his main interest and installations are a vehicle to play around with sound in a different manner. Some of his previous releases dealt with the relationship between music and his art pieces, but this new deals with just sound. He uses a variety of sound sources: sampled strings, plates attached to small electric motors, field recordings, circuit bent children's toys and modular- and granular synthesis. All of these are used to create a composition, or rather eleven compositions and Devens looks at their qualities and what they can do for the composition. I once saw a concert by Devens which was quite noise based, so I expected a lot here. Luckily - not being the big lover of noise anymore - only to a small extent there is noise to be found on this CD. 'Rootbeer' is one such piece, but Devens knows to play around with the noise and make it more musical. It is followed by 'Watercycle', which is the total opposite of 'Rootbeer', and quite low humming and what seems to be sine wave that sound like waterdrops. None of the tracks are really long and Devens explores per track a few sounds, works around them to create a very interesting composition, which isn't a long stretch, nor an endless repetition of moves but short and to the point. A highly varied bunch of pieces that make a strong coherent whole and includes one film - just because it needs to be shown that Devens is a multi-media artist, but it's a nice one indeed. (FdW) Address: http://www.pauldevens.com

THE DEATH & BEAUTY FOUNDATION (CD by Somnimage)
The name Val Denham is one I saw years and years ago in relation with Throbbing Gristle and Industrial Records, but I never knew what he did exactly. Now I know he (or rather she, as she had a gender change operation) is a painter and also plays music. Back in the 80s Val Denham started the Death & Beauty Foundation, first with Micheal Wells of later Greater Than One fame and in 1982 he recorded work with Andrew Mckenzie, of Hafler Trio fame, which now is finally released. The very opening sequence sounds like something I heard before; perhaps it was one of the Touch compilation cassettes from that period. This release sounds like nothing The Hafler Trio ever did - not in the old days not in the recent years. The only thing that may vaguely refer to the old Hafler Trio is the fact that this is all build into one long collage. The main instrument at work here is the voice, I assume Denham's. He sings, speaks, hums and is best described, I guess, as sound poetry, with a melodic touch. To this all sorts of instruments are added, like guitars, the good old casio VL-tone 1 and several tape editing techniques (speeding up of sound, slowing down). The music is played rather naively and free, very much in the spirit of the time I guess. Somewhere on Denham's website I saw a reference to The Residents, and well, yes, that is perhaps a nice thing to compare it with. For me it is a bit too much dealing with voice and text and that's something I don't like necessarily too much. Its however an interesting work, but perhaps more from a historical perspective. One to grow on the listener. (FdW) Address: http://www.somnimage.com/

OMIT - INTERCEPTOR (2CD by The Helen Scarsdale Agency)
Clinton Williams is never a man of just a few words. He doesn't release that much (anymore?) under his banner Omit, but when he does it's usually a 3CD or a 2CD set, and 'Interceptor' is not different. For this release Williams did something other than his usual musical routine. Two suitcases where filled with drum machines, effects, analog synths and a portable studio and in stead of looking for job, which he was supposed to he create this music. The line up of instruments may seem like something he has used before, but in the musical world of Omit, the somewhat cruder forms of ambient play the big role, as everything is smeared together with sound effects and synthesizers, whereas the drum machine may just trigger the synths. On 'Interceptor' things have changed a bit, as Williams cuts away the avalanche of sounds that he uses to keep things flowing and instead focusses on the rhythm, which feeds into the synthesizer and then comes up in smaller sine wave, saw tooth or modulation sweeps. However is my description may lead to the idea that Omit now plays crude forms of dance music, than you are also wrong. It's partly rhythmic, even when its still used to trigger the synthesizers, but it stripped down, bare naked. Helen Scarsdale herself compares it with Mika Vainio, Klaus Schulze and Chris Carter's area with Throbbing Gristle, and I fail to see Schulze here, but the other two make indeed perfect sense. Bleak post industrial landscapes of machines getting rusty and we are tapping in to hear their falling apart. On the surface it seems that disc one is more 'ambient' and disc two has more drum machines, but maybe things are blurry. Because if one thing is a bit too much here, its the fact that its a double CD. For the reviewer no easy task, but I have the impression that the best of both worlds could have easily fitted on one CD. So it's all fine here, except it's a heavy lunch box. (FdW) Address: http://www.helenscarsdale.com

AEMAE & ARASTOO - OSTRAKON (LP by Isounderscore)
During the holiday period I went to a theme park and sat in one of those trains and listened to the sound the carts were producing. How strange to hear them on the piece 'Ostrakon' on the first side of the split LP by Arastoo and Aemae. Arastoo is Arastroo Darakhshan, who plays piano, does the mix, production and artwork and Aemae is Brandon Nickell who is responsible for production, mix and synthesis. The piano plays an all important role on the title piece, and the train carts become feedback, but remain subtle and there is a small bit of what seems to be synthesizer sound boiling at the bottom of the sea. On the flip side we find 'Capo'. Here the balance is more equal. The field recording sounds are mixed with that of the piano, which comes in only half way through the music, and its throughout a more spooky piece of music. I might be wrong, but it seems to me that Arastoo is responsible for the a-side with some sounds of Aemae and that the trick is reversed on the b-side, which makes this a particular coherent bundle of music. Limited to 320 copies, so act fast. (FdW) Address: http://www.isounderscore.com

FUCK DRESS - SUBRUBAN NIETZSCHE FREAK/SUNSHINE CORPORATION (7" by Nr One Records)
A very short un-Vital corner this week, just this 7" by Fuck Dress, whose 'Suburban Nietzsche Freak' open catchy with "God Is Dead, So I Listen to Radiohead" and that makes a pretty catchy song and one I certainly enjoy. On the flip 'Sunshine Corporation', with male and female vocals, and is more crisis post punk rock and less catchy than the a-side. But as with all great pop singles, it's always just the a-side that matters. (FdW) Address: http://www.nrone.co.uk

MACHINEFABRIEK - VLOED (CDR by Sentient Recognition Archive)
Two days ago someone told me that he had almost all recordings by Machinefabriek but he was afraid that Machinefabriek would be overproductive and would flood the market. Today I receive 'Vloed' ('flood' in Dutch) by Machinefabriek. Coincidence at work I guess, since the Dutch word as used by Machinefabriek stands for the flood of water. It has three live recordings from concerts in Amsterdam (not a city where Machinefabriek hails from actually), from 2006, 2007 and 2008 (actually recorded July 6th!). The 2006 piece was already released as a 3"CDR, although I am not sure which one. All three pieces show that by now typical Machinefabriek live sound: bricks are made from a few sounds, usually guitar, which are sampled, played back and to that more guitar sounds are stapled, until a finely woven mass of sound arises and things are let to an ultimate crescendo, in the 2008 version, even a nasty piece of feedback. Trademark Machinefabriek stuff around, with the sound that so many people seem to love. The ambient guitar sounds, the solo Mogwai, the ambient Arvo Part of the guitar and the Oren Ambarchi of the low lands. But I must agree with my friend of two days ago: there is a lot of Machinefabriek out there, and one could wonder if this particular release would add much to what is already out there. It was nice when he was building up his career, but at this point the release of live recordings may no longer be necessary, unless they really add something to his catalogue. I'm afraid that 'Vloed' doesn't do that, but it will keep the die hard fans happy I guess in the pursuit of a weekly dose of Machinemuziek. (FdW)
Address: http://www.myspace.com/sentientrecognitionarchive

A SHADOW - THE TWISTED LOGIC OF A SOUND MIND (CDR by Road Records)
Hand painted CDRs. Whenever are people gonna stop doing that? Please? I didn't get the 'hand made case' that comes with this, but an extra CDR with texts that are also on paper along with this and some images. A Shadow is the name chosen by Keith Murphy, a 24-year old musician from Dublin, who uses electric guitar, piano, glockenspiel, xylophone, vibraphone, mandolin, hulusi and kaen - 'among other instruments', which are processed on the computer to create music that is a cross-over between the classic ambient sound and microsound processing, but without becoming very glitch minded. Murphy recalls his influences with the likes of Sigur Ros, Gas, Fennesz and Tim Hecker, all of which are indeed somewhere to be traced in these five tracks. Melodic digital ambient, with some guitars leaping out every now and then. Throughout these five tracks sound pretty decent, nothing spectacular hot soaking new under the sun, but Murphy plays it with great style and neat production. That is fine too. (FdW)
Address: http://www.myspace.com/ashadowmusic

BUDHADITYA CHATTOPADHYAY - LANDSCAPE IN METAMORPHOSES (CDR by Gruenrekorder)
Its never easy to judge field recordings, but things might be more difficult if the place that is subject is unknown to the reviewer. Such is the case with a place called Tumbai, 'a landscape in change; from a greener pasture transforming into one of the busiest industrial belts of Bengal-Bihar border in India', so says Budhaditya Chattopadhyay on the cover of his piece 'Landscape In Metamorphoses'. Had we not known this, could we have told after hearing this? Always a though question, since simply we know now and yes, we can tell now. It starts with what we could agrarian surround sounds, with animal sounds, people talking but over the course of the piece some mechanical, motor like sounds come in. That may be the 'industrial belts' at work, but could be the engine of a motorboat. Its never easy, is it? I must say however that I quite enjoyed this release, simply for the story like way of putting the piece together and the excellent quality of the recordings, simply pass the political implications that this release also has. Excellent stuff. (FdW) Address: http://www.gruenrekorder.de

CRYSTAL PLUMAGE - THREE MOTHERS (3"CDR by Razzle Dazzle)
A note with this release says 'more informations on http://www.razzle-d.com, which in return moves you to discogs. Not much info. I think Crystal Plumage is a band with members Sean Fergus Barrett on guitars, objects, cassettes, Benjamin Laurent Aman on electronics, amplified objects, percussion and analog oscillators. Their pieces was recorded in Berlin and mixed by Micheal Northam, which perhaps seeks a new career as producer? Don't let the fact that Northam lead you, it has nothing to do with his own music. Crystal Plumage play music that is best described as 'new zealandish': lo-fi drone like, with minimalist guitars wailing about and percussive strokes here and there and, pushed to the back, sounds of an unknown nature. As per usual the recording quality is not top, but there is a good spirit in this recording. While not the most original sound in the world, the three parts that make up 'Three Mothers' is quite a nice work. Perhaps better enjoyed when heard live, but a fine disc anyway. (FdW)
Address: http://www.razzle-d.com

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