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Vital Weekly 686 + 687

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PETER HANSEN - WORLD NEWS (CD by Everest Records)
One of the things I like to do while listening to music is to read nice easy books about music and it doesn't matter how often I read them. So it happened that a while ago I was reading one of the three books on classical music I have, Ornella Volta's nice book on Erik Satie (the other two being about Bartok and Dvorak in case you are wondering) and with a trip ahead which involved a lot of traveling and waiting, I thought it would be good to have Reinbert de Leeuw's interpretation of Satie's masterpieces on my Ipod. A good choice: in Helsinki I managed to fall asleep listening to his slow play. None of this petite personal histoire should be of interest had it not that I was thinking about that while listening to Hildegard Kleeb playing piano pieces by Peter Hansen. He started composing 'World News' in 1991 as a sort of jingles, signals or an imaginary radio. I was thinking why so much of this piano music sounds like Satie? The same slowness, the same 'background' music - furniture music if you wish (according to Satie's more famous pieces), introvert in character. Spacious music that works very nice as a backdrop to whatever you are doing - reading a book in my case that is (not the Satie book, as I finished that one). If you like Satie, Debussy, old Gavin Bryars or Harold Budd, and you just can't get enough of that, then this is an excellent new name to add to atmospheric piano music. Great performance, great recording. (FdW) Address:

FOUST! - JUNGLE FEVER (CD by Swill Radio)
In April of this year Scott Foust toured Europe, presenting his feature film 'Here's To Love', his 'Four Accomplishments' performance and a series of concerts as The Tobacconists, as well as recording a great, yet unreleased LP, of that moniker. 'Jungle Fever' is a new piece which he started last year and after his return to the USA completed for release on CD. If you know his musical career, from the early XX Committee days to Idea Fire Company and some of the smaller side steps, then I think 'Jungle Fever' might be something of a surprise, and perhaps not. Its a single piece, lasting seventy seven minutes and is best, perhaps, a stab in the back of minimal music. There is a bumpy rhythm, and there is bird/insect/jungle sounds. That's it. Quite dull. But that's merely deception. At one point you get sucked into the rhythm and the sounds, which seem to become more and more until all of a sudden at thirty-two minutes the rhythm is gone, and we are left in a very subtle drone land. We stay there for quite some time and then we move into the third section of the piece, which seems to me a slight rework of Foust's tour CDR release 'Last Morning Rain'. The middle section is perhaps the most Foust like section, reminding us of the best Idea Fire Company work ('Beauty School' for instance), even when its more stripped down and minimal. The other two sections are also minimal, but hardly with electronic means, certainly the third section. This is perhaps what we don't expect him to do. In all, this is a highly environmental work. Not just because it uses sounds from the environment (birds, rain, insects), but also because the work is a sound environment by itself. Play this, not to loud, as part of your environment and you'll be immersed in it. Sounds from the disc will collide with sounds from your environment (summer rain in my case!) and each time you play this something new will happen. Great work from a true master mind. (FdW) Address:

From time to time reviews of releases by Mutable
Music appear in Vital Weekly. It is the label run by vocalist Thomas Buckner who ran the legendary 1750 Arch Records in an earlier life. Most releases have Buckner contributing to it, but that is not the case on 'Local Customs;, a new CD by Tom Hamilton. Hamilton composes and performs already some 40 years. In the 60s he developed his interest for electronic music. He is a long member of the ensemble of Robert Ashley, participated in groups led by Peter Zummo, David Soldier, a.o. Recently a collaboration with guitarsit Bruce Eisenbeil has been released by Pogus. For 'Local Customs' he invited Terry Kippenburger (bass), Rich O'Donnell (percussion), Richard Cohen (clarinet), James Martin (trombone ) and Jacqueline Martelle (flute). Hamilton himself plays electronics. The five compositions were written with the help of techniques he developed in 2005. It is more appropriate to speak of five parts of one composition, as the music presents itself as one continuous unity. Waves of electronic sounds come and pass by, seemingly independent from each other, but you expect them to be interlinked in a one way or the other. Within these waves short runs of drums, flute, et appear. Strange but accessible and engaging music. It is difficult to determine 'where' this music comes from and how it is constructed. But these are questions you will forget when you listen to this pure music. (Dolf Mulder)

Reading the name of Phil Kline means thinking back of that new wave band with the beautiful name The Del-Byzanteens, a band that also had Jim Jarmusch among its members. Their LP and singles still circulate in my house! I don't know much about Kline's later whereabouts. He profiled himself as a composer and gained success with his project 'Zippo's Song' (2004). A song-cycle based on poems written by American soldiers while fighting in Vietnam. Now he returns again with a very special project. The double dvd-audio carries a high-resolution surround sound recording, promising a very special audio experience. It took some time before I had the opportunity to undergo this experience, as my old equipment was not fashioned to play these two discs. 'Around the World in A Daze' is a song cycle in 10 episodes, lasting some 65 minutes. From the title you may deduce that space is a keyword in this production. Recordings for this project were done all over the world. But besides Kline is very interested in the spacial aspects of music and sound. He played with these aspects by using whole sets of boomboxes for the recording of most tracks. Besides this main interest, other musical items led him by constructing ten very different works. The lengthiest piece 'Pennies from Heaven' is the one I liked most. Because of the sound and because of the structure of the piece. The same descending scale is repeated and repeated again, transposed and multiplied, etc. The constant downward movement is very imaginative and brings about a meditative state. Also the opening piece 'The Housatonic at Henry Street' fascinates because of its multilayered and detailed soundspectrum. Other pieces use the human voice as the most important material, like 'The Wailing Wall' resurrected by the voice of Kline himself. Two other pieces have the violin in the center: 'Svarga yatra' and 'Grand Etude for the Elevation'. The beautiful concluding piece is built from field recordings done in Central Africa. Tracks differ also because for the different structuring principles that are used. But as said the pieces impress above all because of their soundqualities and spatial characteristics. Each piece is accompanied by its own series of photos. Nice photos often. From urban environments, to nature, etc, etc. But I didn't need them for enjoying the music, nor the other way around. And I couldn't bridge them in my imagination. While listening I felt a bit 'imprisoned' by looking at the same time at the pictures. Well, this also a spatial effect I guess. The second dvd has an extensive interview with Kline commenting on each piece. This gives a good insight in what Kline had in mind. Congratulations for Starkland for releasing this extraordinary and well-documented release. (Dolf Mulder) Address:

DIMMER - REMISSIONS (2LP by Isounderscore)
It may sound like a new name, and half of it also is. Dimmer is a duo of Thomas Dimuzio and one Joseph Hammer. This double LP set is the follow up to a CD on Melon Expander which I didn't hear. Each of the four sides has a live recording, three from 2006 and one from 2007. Dimmer uses live sampling, processing, feedback, looping (Dimuzio) and tape manipulation and processing (Hammer). This is pretty interesting music. All four pieces show something that could be labeled as 'band sound'. The careful tape manipulations of Hammer, making the tape go 'wobbly' against the heads, set against a scary set of subdued electronics. A record to turn up the volume as things seem rather 'low' here, but once a bit louder reveal a lot of hidden detail. Scary, spooky stuff, with dark atmospheric undercurrent. Of the four pieces 'Giant Eagle' is my favorite here with its somewhat more clear tape sounds, and scraping, feedback like rusty metal sound, whereas the other three seem to be moving more along side one specific idea and are throughout more minimal. Excellent sci-fi soundtrack stuff at work here, save then perhaps for the piece I like which works really fine by itself. An excellent record. (FdW)

Back in Vital Weekly 663 I reviewed a nice but odd (or should that be nice and odd?) LP by Red Stars Over Tokyo from Belgium, who seemed to found inspiration in early 4AD, Factory and Les Disques Du Crepuscule. Here he writes us that 'I started working on this record wanting to created [sic] the minimal techno vibe of Kompakt... and failed', which is of course a funny thing to say, and also besides the truth. Unless we think (we should think) he failed terrible. Much like the previous record it dwells on lots of synthesizers, piano, some rhythm (no techno in a mile) and is just very pleasant music. For a day like today, with lots of hot air, blazing sun and warm nights, this is the perfect record when the sun is down. Zip a cocktail (never at work of course, so a glass of cool water), pick a book, or simply watch day turn night when listening these eleven tracks. Tracks here are a bit longer than on 'I Never Gave Up (Because I Never Started)', which actually works a bit better. The sketch like approach is perhaps nice for one record, but should not be repeated too often and in favor should be some more worked out composition, which is the case here. Recorded at home when the kids were off to school. How nice. Belgium's finest home brew. (FdW)

OBFUSC - INVERTED ISLAND (7" by Static Caravan)
Music by Obfusc was reviewed before, but a long time ago, in Vital Weekly 539, when I was also introduced to the Boltfish label. Joseph X. Burke is Obfusc, from Brooklyn, New York, who in these two tracks shows his more mellow side. On that previous, old release his music with more arpeggio's and harsher, stomping rhythms, but here the guitar seems to be leading the way and are set in quite a melancholic background of warm, tinkling synthesizers and a mild, pleasant rhythm. A pity that the proceedings are so short. I could have easily enjoyed another three or four of these. That's perhaps the only negative aspect of this record. Otherwise: top. More, please! (FdW)

Hey! 'Oceans Of Silver & Blood' by Joachim Nordwall & Mark Wastell? Didn't we already review that? Back in Vital Weekly 655? Yes, we did, but this version was recorded 'Live At Cafe Oto', the new hang-out of London's finest improv people. Maybe they read my previous review which concluded with: "At thirty-three minutes perhaps a bit short: I would have loved another one." Here as one piece, instead of two, with (I assume) the same instruments: Nordwall on a Roland S100 Modular Synth and Mark Wastell who plays a 32" Paiste Tam Tam. The drone piece here last forty some minutes and falls apart in two parts. A lengthy dark opening sequence, with long sustaining sounds on both the tam tam and the synths, with very occasional bang against the tam. Then the piece dies out, which I think happens with lots of this kind of music around twenty five minutes. There is some searching and then picks up again and works in a strong crescendo to a more noisy hilltop, showing a somewhat different perspective of the possibilities they have. Another fine piece, and with those two angles the perfect length. (FdW) Address:

Two new releases by the Dutch Databloem label, and both contains artists I never heard of. The first is an odd duet between Steve Stoll, who plays minimal techno and cello player Jeff Green. Two lengthy live cuts and four studio pieces. Unusual indeed. I am sure in what way the cello sounds are manipulated by Stoll, if at all, or perhaps by Green himself. I am hopeless when it comes to pointing out anything minimal techno, as I lost interest already a while ago, when it wasn't as hip as it became later on. Or, as a matter of fact, anything trend in the world of techno music (what is dubstep anyway? I keep wondering, but no doubt its something old packed as anew). The unusual marriage works... well... it works. I find it hard to say wether I like it or not. Its certainly entertaining, its certainly weird enough but I don't see myself dancing to it. Or someone else. A piece like 'Kites' with its absence of drum sounds might be a good set opener. An odd combination indeed, but its sure nice enough.
More traditional in approach is Krzystof Orluk from Poland. Aside from the usual gadgets he uses such as digital machines and field recordings, he loves to add orchestral sounds from old vinyl, pianos, synthesizers and bells. Especially the love of crackling vinyl is well spend on him, as its a feature that return in various pieces on his 'Blurred Reflection' album. This is ambient music with the big A. Deep synthesizer movements, bits of crackling, vinyl hiss. With the thunder rolling outside every now and then, but no rain and still warm inside (doors are open), it mixes nicely with the ambience of Orluk. Spacious music of course, which is best enjoyed at a hot summer night - like tonight. Like with lots of this music, there isn't much new under the sun, but this is fine enough. (FdW) Address:

A while ago I was cleaning out darker corners of the house and found a bunch of floppy discs, with fonts and perhaps samples from an ancient sampler I still have somewhere. I have no more means to check these out, so I threw them all away. And as you can see there is a problem when it comes to reviewing Jliat's 'Beethoven Noise 1st Movement'. No doubt inspired by recent releases on USB sticks, Jliat returns to the main carrier of information which seemed to have vanished now, but was so big in the late 80s, to the late 90s. Or perhaps even in the new millennium. I wish I could tell what is on there. I could guess, knowing what Jliat does, but I won't. 'What's that', my daughter asked. 'A piece of history', I answered and explained that we live times that simply go very fast, and what is great, hip and new, might be gone soon. We only have to wait for a few years (or less), before Merzbow releases a 3 terrabyte hard drive with all his recorded output as 24 bit audio. Perhaps Jliat responses wisely to that with a 5" floppy then. Less is more. (to be continued?) (FdW)

Musicians whose name start with the letter M seem to very productive: Merzbow, Machinefabriek, Muslimgauze in his day, but also Gunter Muller produces an endless stream of CDs. Here a double set, containing two sets recorded on February 9th and 10th 2006. The first night he played with Alan Courtis (unstringed guitar and tapes) and Pablo Reche (sampler, md's and electronics) and on the second night with Serge Merce (4 track portastudio without tape and WX7) and Gabriel Paiuk (piano and tapes). On the first disc things are cut as one track only, while on the other there are three. In their set, Muller, Courtis and Reche take one long built up as their starting point. The first thirty minutes are relatively short, but then it seems all of a sudden that they arrived in what seems to be, at least for Muller, quite a noisy outing. Muller takes control and quickly brings back the peace and in the rest of the piece things seem to die out in a long curve. Nice piece but perhaps a bit predictable. Maybe its because there is too much similarity in the sounds used.
The next day Muller, still armed with Ipod and electronics, and here things work better, and perhaps that's because there is Muller and Merce on one side, playing something that is electronic and Paiuk piano playing swirling around it, providing a nice counterpoint to the proceedings. This makes this music much more playful and open in character, hence perhaps the fact that we have three quite different pieces here. For me the second disc was the better of the two, but that doesn't mean the first one is bad or anything such like. (FdW) Address:

ZAUM VOL. 1 (CD by Psycho Navigation)
The man behind Mike Chillage is Micheal Gainford and on the picture behind the CD we see a bird view of his studio set up - always fun, even when the apparatus in question is stuff that doesn't mean much to me. Three bank of keyboards, two modular synths with no keys, a big mixing board and two computer screens. If that doesn't give you clue about the music, then perhaps the rest of the cover does: computer manipulated shots of the northpole, an icebear and the title 'Tales
From The Igloo'. There is still a corner of the musical world which concerns itself with the true legacy of the cosmic music which started in the early seventies, divided in true purists and those who do things a bit different. I think Mick is one of those. He adds a bit of technoid rhythm to some of the pieces, where he is otherwise heavily engaged in playing deeply atmospheric music. This has nothing to do with say Emeralds, but this is good, clean cosmic music. A straight line runs from Tangerine Dream via Pete Namlook to Chillage. Recently I played some old Fax Records releases and thought they still sounded quite nice. Tonight I play Chillage, and think this is quite entertaining chill out music. Nothing new under the sun happening in this corner of the musical world, but I guess they gave up thinking of doing something new already some time ago and all they care is about doing nice music, and Chillage succeeds well in that.
Enrico Coniglio and Emanuele Errante, two Italian ambient composers, compiled for Psycho Navigation (a label from Ireland) a CD with the current situation of Italy's finest in ambient music. I have no idea why an Irish label would do that, but alas, so it is. There are some names we recognize, like Netherworld, Aquadorsa, Luca Formentini, but throughout the others seem to be new names for me. Con_cetta vs Antartica, Illachime Quartet, Zoo Di Vetro or Arlo Bigazzi? The music is like an Yves Klein painting. All blue, but with the smallest variations. And perhaps the music itself is also 'all blue' too. Deeply atmospheric through stretched out synthesizer patterns, some processed field recordings and low end bass and high end clicks (Aquadorsa of course). The smallest variations that is in ambient music, sometimes pretty traditional (and cliche like), sometimes Isolationist and at times ambient glitch. Nice enough but the only one who steps out of line is Zoo Do Vetro, the last piece, which is almost a shoegazing piece, including female vocals. Perhaps the best track, because its so different. (FdW) Address:

Somewhere I missed out on the first release by Tucson based violin player Vicki Brown, but 'Seas & Trees' is her second release. Although the violin and improvisation are her tools of trade, she also plays cello, viola, voice, casios, loop stations, pedals and some guest players on bass, pedals and casio sk 1. That makes this CD into a nicely varied bunch of music, and not just a bunch of solo violin pieces. Fourteen pieces is of course a lot to keep the attention span going, but its the variation in these pieces that make things pretty nice. Per track she employs a few sounds, which of course loop around. Sometimes a bit too simple and those are the tracks that I think could have been skipped, but sometimes the simplicity works really well, in a nice minimal way. Then gentle melodies are woven together into a dreamy landscapes. Not in a drone sense however, more like post rock meeting classical music. At nine or ten tracks this would have been a near perfect CD. Now its just very good. (FdW) Address:

(CDR by An'Archives)
On the first of these two remarkable releases we have Michel Henritzi -snare drum, wood and metal junk, turntable and feedback, Masayoshi Urabe - alto sax and guitar. & Junko - vocals - on the second Junko - vocals Aya Onishi - Drums Rinji Fukuoka - Violin & Guitar & Michel Henritzi - Guitar. Well I've been playing these for sometime and trying to think of how and what to say, but must admit I'm somewhat defeated. The construction of these works is such that it could almost be considered classical, that what I suppose is improvisation is so closely listened, and listening is the key to making sound as music, that one could imagine that these musicians were either playing from a score or playing a traditional set of pieces, to the extent it could, but does not, almost spoil the work by a seeming lack of spontaneity. But rather like a ballet whether the product of accident or endless rehearsal the result is something aesthetically beautiful, and perfect in its accomplishment. (jliat)

If my memory serves me right, the first time I saw Gert-Jan Prins in concert was at the sadly no longer existing music festival Earational, the first edition in 1997. Prins had a big table, filled with cables, wires, small boxes and a TV monitor on which we saw static that somehow interacted with the noise Prins produced by touching the cables. It looked primitive but it was captivating. My memory no longer serves me when it comes to reminding if I ever saw that TV set again at later concerts. Since some time he works with Bas van Koolwijk (who also worked with Radboud Mens in the past), a video artist from the Netherlands. Basically the concept is the same - transforming audio to TV - but it seems to be a bit more 'refined' - even when that seems hardly to be an appropriate word for what we see and hear on this DVD. Prins' music is still dealing with feedback, broken cables, static hum and distortion and Van Koolwijk translates that is a visual bombardment of black and white images. Best seen when things are totally dark and superloud. There is an immediate treat from the visual and aural attack. I didn't watch this on a 'CRT Television Monitor' but on a computer but that meant I could use the regular audio playback better, but the room was nearly dark. An effective blast on the senses. The next step would be to get all the senses synchronized and hit them in a similar way. Normally I don't like noise (hey, didn't I write that last week also?), but this is absolutely great; heavy shit! (FdW) Address:

An improviser who releases a 7"? That's odd, I thought. The time span of a 7" is too short, I'd say, to show what an improviser can do, and perhaps a 7" for this kind of music in general is not great either. This first out of series of four 7"s will show us all aspects of Christian Wolfarth's acoustic solo percussion. 'Skyscraping' (with the unpop length of six and half minutes) seems to be concentrating on rubbing the skin of one drum part with an object, plus or perhaps with a violin bow. A haunting and spooky piece of music. 'Zirr' on the other is the total opposite. Rattling on the snare, while crashing one or more cymbals, this is almost a piece of marching music. Through the use of various microphones, the emphasis shifts to overtone qualities of the cymbals. Slowly the marching band moves away, around the corner into the next street. No popmusic here, but as separate tracks they work wonderfully well. It made me curious for the next releases in this series. (FdW) Address:

It kinda eludes me to see why Simon Whetham would want to copy 300 CDRs instead having it properly pressed. But of course: what do I know? 'Lightyears' is a piece commissioned by Kathryn Thomas for 'Darkspace', an exhibition by her. She asked Whetham to create a piece of music for it, and this CD only has a stereo version of the 7.1 surround sound one. Whetham uses the sounds Thomas painting in her studio, but also sounds from Aurora Borealis, shipping forecasts and transmission from Nasa. I don't know Kathryn Thomas' work, so I have no idea where those sounds fit in her work. The press text has some favorable quotes, by people like those from Fat Cat, Stasisfield, Room40 and Cold Blue Music (if you like it that much, boys, why didn't you release it, I thought) and indeed I must say its quite a nice work. Many stringed like passages, which could have fitted on say Fat Cat or Cold Blue Music, making this into some great music, in the best tradition of Cold Blue Music, as well as the Obscure Records series. Nice classical music. That's the main portion of the music, and those are great. There are however two things which I didn't like very much about this (minor detail critique). The cross fading between the various passages seems to be at times quite abrupt and breaks the atmosphere of the recording. Also the Aurora Borealis and Nasa recordings stand too much by themselves and also break the general atmosphere of the music. That's a pity, since the actual music parts (maybe 80% of the total music) is great. I have no idea why Whetham did it like that, but it's a bit of a bummer, I thought. Otherwise, top release. Could/should have been a real CD still. (FdW)

We already heard music by Duane Pitre before, an album on Trome Records called 'Organize Pitches Occurring In Time' (see Vital Weekly 605), which he recorded with the Pilotram Ensemble. That was a relatively small ensemble of a tone generator, bass clarinet, alto saxophones and a violin, whereas on this new work 'ED 09', which is performed by twenty-one musicians, which includes no less than five cello players, violin, viola, clarinet, various saxophones. About half the music they play is set in the score, whereas the other half is left for the players to fill in. Pitre as a composer is interested in microtonality, that is tones that are a very close to eachother and may sound like a cluster. In this forty minute live recording this works absolutely beautiful. Sounds swell, sustain, go away and everything flows into eachother in what seems to be a natural way. Again, if you like Phill Niblock, then this is right up your street too. An excellent work. (FdW) Address:

AMAUROTE - BINARY CODE FORBIDDEN (CDR by Minimal Resource Manipulation)
PLATFORM - UNTITLED 3 (CDR by Minimal Resource Manipulation)
So far the Minimal Resource Manipulation label released music by Matt Atkins, the label owner who works as Platform. Now he releases music by someone, one Joey Frohikey who lives in the Czech Republic, where he works with a netlabel called Cryoworks and since short with Amaurote as his own musical project. 'Binary Code Forbidden' is his debut release and has four tracks of what can be best classified as IDM music. Minimalist beats, which bend back and forth, pitch up and down in the best Autechre, the early mark thereof. Bits of melody are used, an throughout its not the most complex thing, mainly due to the somewhat minimal rhythms used. Four tracks are perhaps a bit short to form an opinion on this, but its sure nice enough.
If Amaurote is perhaps early Autechre, then the new Platform release is perhaps more mid to later Autechre. Messing around with 808 and 909 drum machines in a minimal style, Atkins adds an interesting blend of electronics that make the whole thing a bit more abstract for dance music. This is not dance music per se, not for the masses at least, but perhaps it could work at some underground tekno party, certainly with pieces like 'Thoracic Drop' or 'Polarity 3'. When the beat is absent, in 'The Eye Of Silence' or 'Prensig' he aims for a more experimental ambient sound, which adds a nice variation to the release. Quite groovy stuff. The dance pieces should be on vinyl, I'd say. (FdW) Address:

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