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Vital Weekly 733

img  Tobias Fischer

Hot on the heels of their recent self-titled release on Hanson Records (see Vital Weekly 728), here is yet another new release by Emeralds. According to Mego they move forward, leaving behind their strict analogue approach and now they are using also digital synthesizers, guitar synthesizers and such like. This has indeed an effect on the music. The twelve pieces here are shorter than on their previous releases, but it seems also to me that they lost a bit of their original power. The music played here sounds a lot sweeter than before. In fact a lot sweeter than we would expect on a label like Mego in general. There is a general poppy feel to this album, which I guess is always good, but not something you would perhaps expect from Emeralds. The arpeggio's roll about, melodies are played on top. Still one could say that Emeralds are the Tangerine Dream of this century, but as opposed to their earlier work which sounded like early Tangerine Dream, they here sound like a later date TD and that's something that I am perhaps not entirely used to already. Overall I liked the older, rougher version better than this new version of Emeralds. Its good to see them moving on, and this album certainly has some fine moments. I'll give it the benefit of doubt for now, and curiously anticipates with whatever they come up next. Keep the instruments, but bring back the rawness of before. (FdW) Address:


RM74 - REFLEX (CD by Utech Records)
Reto Mader is a busy man. He works as and with Ural Umbo, Sum Of R, Pendulum Nisum and here solo as RM74. He has already a couple of albums as such, of which 'Fireproof In 8 Parts' (see Vital Weekly 568) was the last. I noted then that RM74 is someone was always seems to be changing his style, almost per CD. I love that. In recent times it seems that Reto Mader has developed an interest in drone like music, for instance his album as Ural Umbo or his production with Rhys Chatham. The drones that he is interested in are however not of a very mellow kind. With the use of electronics, organ, synthesizer, guitars and also computer RM74 creates a kind of drone music that owes to a lot of things, but not always necessarily drone music. Think psychedelica, think noise, think lo-fi New Zealand. Mader uses perhaps cheap microphones and down sampling (at a lower bit rate than the usual 16 or 24), to get this 'dirty' sound. Those puts into repeating blocks of sound with minimalist coloring of the frequencies: hence we might say this is drone music. Its an excellent CD, full of power and glory, with tracks being not too long, but forming a coherent whole. Again RM74 manages to sound different than before, so there is a surprise, and what's more important: he delivers another great work. (FdW)


A weeks ago I was in heaven about the CD re-issue of Mekanik Kommando's first LP, now its time to raise the same flag (but with less words probably) for the one and only LP ever by Pseudo Code. This trio from Belgium consisted of Alain Neffe, head of Insane Music, and as such also the man from Human Flesh, Bene Gesserit, I Scream, Cortex and Subject on synthesizers, strings organ, rhythm box, soprano saxophone. Also in the band is Xavier S on vocals and Guy Marc Hinant on electric guitar and pianet. He's now the man behind Sub Rosa. I always thought Pseudo Code was the most interesting band of the Insane Music label. Their cassettes were always great: the rhythm box in the middle, the instruments in free mode around it, and on top Xavier's voice which sounded like wounded deer (as someone once described it). Alienation music, but somehow always also accessible. Certainly not 'easy' music but filled paranoia and strangeness. Yet I always thought that 'Europa' was also a record of some lighter approach, and still think it is. What delights me even further is that their two 7"s are also enclosed on this re-issue, and what saddens me is that one piece has a new mix and one was omitted. Somehow there is always such a thing with re-issues. I once dabbled with the idea of approaching Alain Neffe to do a boxset of the complete work of Pseudo Code, but always was thinking: who would want to have 7 or so CDs by them, other than myself? A complete boxset is now no longer an option, but its great to see their most accessible work on CD. Its time to dig out the old cassettes and play those again. A pity that so much of their work is scattered over compilation tapes, maybe its time to transfer them all onto a fresh new tape. Following Mekanik Kommando the second best re-issue of this year. Oh wonderful life! (FdW) Address:

YEN POX - BLOOD MUSIC (2CD by Malignant Records)
After some hot days earlier in the week, the weather has cooled down, and the sky is grey. How is that of any relevance, you may wonder, for a reviewer? I'm happy to have received the Yen Pox not earlier than now, since the type of music they play is certainly not something one wants to hear on a nice spring, summer filled day. The total and utter darkness of their ambience may not fit the grey spring day, but the early darkness of a winter afternoon I guess, but then today will do just as fine. Yen Pox have been around for a long time, and somehow I don't think they ever changed what they are doing. Its hardly any relevant I guess. Yen Pox stumbled upon a specific type of sound, a musical approach and they feel more than happy to fill their entire career with doing what they like best. This double CD harks back to a CD called 'Blood Music' from 1995 and a previously unreleased track and on the second a cassette from 1993, a 7" from 1996 and a lost compilation track from 1997. The ultimate beautiful nightmare music. Highly atmospheric, highly drone like but also always on the move. This is not some static drone piece, but because its filled with tons of sound effects, which make the sounds bounce around. Obviously there is an immense space created through the use of reverb, which is never a personal favorite, but for this kind of music its understandable that its necessary. If Lustmord is anywhere your discman, or Troum, then Yen Pox should never be far away. The beautiful cruel world of blood music indeed. No doubt the best way to spend a grey, rainy night. Excellent. (FdW) Address: http//

Two contrabass players here, Andrew Lafkas, of whom I not really heard I think and Micheal T. Bullock, of whom I did hear before, and know as someone who likes his improvised playing to be minimal - to say the least. I think Bullock at times also uses electronics, but I am not if he uses any of that here. Its not mentioned on the cover, nor the fact that this is perhaps a live concert. I do however think this is a live recording, however one with no audience, but a direct-to-track recording of two man playing their contrabass, without any overdub or without any electronic interference. For forty-three minutes and twenty-four seconds they move elegantly through their material. Slow gestures, minimal changes, all colored in light grey tones. Moody improvised music. They play their instruments 'the way it should be' and not a resonant boards of woods which produce any sound. They use bows to play the strings (how odd that may sound perhaps these days), but occasionally also seem to pluck it or play it with objects. A very 'silent' piece, slow moving, minimal gestures. It seems recorded in a hall of some kind, so natural reverb becomes part of the proceedings. A great CD of improvised music by two excellent players. (FdW)


In recent times Philippe Petit, the owner of Bip Hop Records, becomes more and more active as a musician. Recently we reviewed his collaborative work with K11 (see Vital Weekly 729) and here is a 'solo' CD by him. His main interest seems to be in working with other people. Here, per track, he works with Andy Diagram (trumpet), Helena Espvall (cello), Alexander Bruck (viola), Tom Heasley (tuba), Richard Harrison (cuica & cymbals) and such like. Petit himself takes credit for processed acoustics, field recordings, synths, piano, electronics, turntable, percussion and found sounds. Garambrosia is from Twin Peaks and with that David Lynch meant 'pain and suffering is consumed'. The musical result in the hands of Petit is indeed quite cinematic. That's where his recent interests lies these days (he also did 'Henry: The Iron Man'). The music is strange hybrid of improvised music, where some of the players have their background, meeting up with modern classical music, which meet up half way through, with the finer addition of processed acoustic sound. Petit likes to work with a full on sound spectrum; emptiness seems to be a strange word for him. The crackles of the turntable sometimes are a bit loud and many, but throughout this intense music works wonderfully well. It's hard to say which movie it would suit best, but perhaps its the music that that is the movie itself. A dark one of course, a film noir with long slow shots. That would fit this much layered music best. (FdW)

Micheal Tee is behind A Cloakroom Assembly and he is called 'a pioneering Australian sound artist. He started the M-Squared label in 1979 and also the band Scattered Order as well as Ya Ya Choral in 1983. As A Cloakroom Assembly he plays highly melodic music. The press release says 'ambient/soundscape/experimental', but that latter word may not apply a great deal. Tee uses digital world percussion, mellow synths and piano to create a fine woven tapestry of music. If anything, I'd say its that same fourth world ambient music as played by Jon Hassell and which we found in the early years of the Extreme catalogue, think Mo Boma or, above all, Paul Schutze's early work, but then perhaps in a somewhat more digital age, especially in the lengthy piece 'Circa 1958'. Like said, this is hardly experimental, as this probably was never experimental in the first place. That is also hardly relevant. New or innovative are also words that hardly apply here. That is all hardly relevant either. What Tee does here is playing some very nice, pleasant atmospheric, at times moody music. Music to dream away by, to work by, to sleep by (perhaps), in short: ambient music. An excellent production. (FdW) Address:

EMBER - AURORA ARONA (CD by Creative Sources/Ahornfelder)
Ember is quartet of Urs Leimgruber (saxes), Christian Lillinger (drums, percussion), Oliver Schwerdt (piano) and Alexander Schubert (electronics, violin). Leimgruber is a veteran improvisor from Switzerland. The other three musicians all come from Germany and represent a younger generation. "Aurora Arona" is their second album. Their debut "Oullh d'baham" saw the light in 2006 on Euphorium. Every now and then the four musicians meet to play and record. On "Aurora Arona" we find them in a three-hour session before a concert during the Ahornfelder Festival in Leipzig in 2008. Recordings were edited by Alexander Schubert, resulting in an album that is a mixture of live and studio-work. The guiding idea behind this procedure was to "produce an album that would not fall into the often seen structures of improvised concerts with the long bows of searching for material but rather to have distinct and clearly separated pieces with precisely structured parts." This kind of information often puzzles me. Can I detect what is live and improvised, and what are manipulations afterwards. At the end I often skip this question as irrelevant, and consider the music on the CD simply for what it is, in whatever way it came into being. The music on "Aurora Arona" has aspects of free improvised music, noisy soundcollages and electro-acoustic treatments. The atmosphere of free improvised music is the most dominant, guaranteeing the lively and communicative nature of this music. It really boils from time to time, like in the cacaphonic parts of the opening track "Aruna Aurora" and "Begen bginn filt". The closing piece "Etherlorbien" moves towards the other side of the spectrum, and is a lenghty meditative soundimprovisation. An engaging but no sensational work. (Dolf Mulder) Address:

I have never heart of this band from Spain, but it is a nice surprise. Goli Mendez and Paula Martinez are the members of this band, which started in 2008. The goal of the band is to explore the limits of sounds and images. The CD starts with Tibetan alike chanting and the synthesizer completes the quiet atmosphere. Sometimes bells are coming up and sliding away. A calm melody takes the listener with in a meditative mood. The second track "Mantra" is based on drones, long lasting tones and develops slowly in a more dark meditative atmosphere. The last track starts noisy and has a more treathning atmosphere. It is divided in different parts what makes the composition variable. The DVD has the same soundtrack as the last track of the CD. The short movie made by Victor Canora starts with the following of electric wires on the street. The music fits really nice to the images. Sometimes the it seems that some sounds has the equal sound as the wires. It is a pity that the video -artist used videofilters which do not make the storyline stronger. But the use of different speeds makes the video more interesting. Although a great debut... highly recommended. (Jan-Kees Helms) Address:


VERTONEN/16 BITCH PILE UP (LP by What We Do Is Secret)
VERTONEN - BLOODSHIFT (cassette by Banned Production)
Ready for more Vertonen? Blake Edwards already warned us that this year will be a busy one, release-wise. The split LP has been waiting for almost three years to see the light of day, and perhaps that's why the Vertonen side sounds a bit dated. In the 'old' days Vertonen was less a drone based outfit, but more electronic and with the use of old vinyl, feeding through effects and synthesizers. It shows the more roughly shaped side of Vertonen, which I guess is nice to hear again after all this time and all the current more drone music. Some of that is already present in this side but not as refined. The side is actually quite nice, except perhaps for the last section which was to straight forward in its rhythmic approach. 16 Bitch Pile Up is on the other side. This band no longer exists and I expected some noise. I think I expected that before too, but was surprised it wasn't. Their side was recorded at some festival in San Francisco in 2007 and shows some interesting electronic and experimental side. Its unclear what they do here, but it works well. There is the obligatory noise bit in there, of course, but throughout they left us with the impression that they could do a lot of interesting music.
Vertonen on cassette - again! - for the by now legendary Banned Production label. It seems to me as Vertonen took the invitation of the label to present AMK, a turntablist himself - two pieces of vinyl work himself. 'Cat Dancing Disease' on the a-side is mayhem. Lots of layers of vinyl loops spiraling into chaos. Not his finest hour, or ten minutes for that matter. The b-side, 'Chelation Therapy (for AJR)' is more more interesting as it takes the vinyl into a new territory, the drone world, which is now common ground for Vertonen. An excellent piece that made me entirely forget the previous ten minutes! More of that please. (FdW)
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At the beginning of 'Th Pillow Where Your Head Does Lay', I almost started to hum America's 'A Horse With No Name', as I think it has similarities (although I haven't heard 'A Horse' in a while), but once Eoin O'Ruinaigh, as Oh Ruin is called, has the song on the road, its a different song indeed. More dark, more folky perhaps indeed, but it has a great drive through the use of drums and a catchy melody. A song of passion no doubt. 'Ringsend' on the b-side is less catchy, since it moves from place to place. Eoin on his acoustic guitar in the middle, singing his song, but then with drums and piano disrupting the mellow scene. A great song indeed, but not a utterly catchy as the flip. Totally unVital like, but no doubt that a-side is the best song (!) of the week. (FdW) Address:


CHEMINS - CDR #4 (CDR, private)
The fourth disc by Finlands' Chemins (see also Vital Weekly 707, 716 and 725), with again one track, now few minutes longer. They still haven't changed: they operate within the context of rock music, improvisation and electronics (field recordings most likely). They now gave their piece a title, for the first time, 'The Myth Of Physicists', but that's the only notable change. They move along various passages within a piece, with processed field electronics and guitars and some sparsely used percussion. This new piece seems to be a bit more working a like cut-up, without the natural flowing of one piece into the next. This piece has four main sections, which are mostly mellow in approach. Only the first and third section are a bit more harsh. Chemins fine tune their approach a bit further with this release and this might be their best to date. (FdW) Address:


A new work by Lukasz Ciszak, a Polish composer, guitarist, experimentalist, and head of the Sqrt label. This is an independent CDR/net label established in 2004, focussing mainly on electro-acoustics, experimental electronics and improvisation. No surprise the label published already earlier output of Ciszak. It don‚t know any of it I have to admit. But what "Redukt" makes clear is that the artist has already some experience in creating fascinating, slowly moving massive soundsculptures. Contrary to this, the pieces carry very short (reduced?) and formal titles as "FRRA/HAM", "ALS", "LHR" and "TPE". Titles devoid of many meaning. Environmental sounds and spoken word are combined with instrumental playing (guitar, sax) and intermingled with sounds and noises of unclear origin. Thick, multilayered soundscapes are the result. "ALS" has a convincing structure, and reminded me of old work by Fripp and Eno. In "LHR" I hear echoes of Kluster. On the shoulders of these veterans Ciszak constructs his own intriguing world. Yes, Ciszak knows how to built and construct his works. Sometimes however, I ask myself where these massive sound-continents are drifting to. But most of the time I‚m captured by the hypnotizing beauty of his dark soundworks of fine and richly textured tapestries. (Dolf Mulder) Address:

Following his solo 'poppy' sample madness of 'Handle This Wino Like He Was Angel' (see Vital Weekly 721) Ian Holloway returns here to his familiar background that of drone music, along with Darren Tate, who is of course known as the man behind Ora. He plays 'squeeze box', guitar and percussion) here, while Holloway takes responsibility for piano, wooden flute and sea recordings. Its divided in two parts, of which the second is the longer piece. The first is an intro like piece for some flowing synthesizer like sounds, and then it goes into the second piece, the main thing. Its hard to recognize many of the instruments used in this tracks, squeeze box? percussion? A guitar, yes, sea sounds, yes, piano too. Its perhaps too easy to say that this is just a beautiful piece of music, but it is. A great slow flow of sounds, a quiet sea on a calm day type of music. Nothing more, nothing less than just that. Nothing new under the burning drone sun, but in these capable hands a great piece of music. (FdW) Address:

In a short time I received another split of the man Carlos Villena behind Mantricum Records label from Spain. This split has two complete atmospheres what makes the 3"CDR an interesting release. Again the artwork is well-done. Packed in a small dvd-box with melancholic drawings of Arnau Sala. Besides his work as musician, he is an artist and graphic designer. His composition of about 10 minutes is noisy with crackling sounds, harsh pulsations. After a while there is more quietness and subtlety in the composition what makes the composition great to listen to. I would be interesting if he continues to explore the fine sounds of his noisy world and built it up like this. The track of Carlos Villena has about the same length and is more quiet and drony. The long sounds develop more and fluid into each other and become more and more noisy and go slowly back to more dark and melancholic tones. Villena takes time to create new atmospheres in this great track. For this release is a nice development in the music of Carlos Villena and a big step forward. (Jan-Kees Helms)


  (two cassettes by Incubator)
Back in the late 80s, early 90s one of the more striking small labels was Petri Supply. Though blessed with a very small catalogue, they had some of best hand made covers around. It was connected through a mailorder out of Seattle, called Incubator. In these days the label is born again, mainly as a cassette label, under the Incubator banner, but still with some great, hand made packaging. This particular release is out of the old days and recorded by one Allen Russell. One tape is quite experimental with just synthesizer sounds. Using the external input to feed sounds into the synthesizer, they are transformed once inside. Very rhythmic material, although this is hardly a work of dance music as we know it. In some ways a very crude version of early Pan Sonic, but without a drive or distinct groove. I must admit this is not the greatest thing around, but it certainly has a charm about it. The second tape from this set moves into a different direction. Here we have mostly dark synthesizer patterns, crudely recorded. An one synthesizer approach me thinks. Russell adds spoken word from TV (?) to it, and does a bit of vocal of himself. This is no doubt all supposed to be spooky and haunting, but its not really like that at all. It all sounds quite nice though, as a whole it seems to me, this second tape is worked out more than the other. Both tapes sound highly '80s' and that's an absolute positive qualification. Very nice. And of course with a great hand made packaging in combination with silk screen. (FdW) Address: <>


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