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Vital Weekly 742

img  Tobias Fischer


FAILING LIGHTS (CD by Intransitive Recordings)
Despite having released "nearly uncountable number of cassettes and CDRs", I don't think I heard of Failing Lights before, although Mike Connelly's work with Hair Police and Wolf Eyes didn't escape my attention. As Failing Lights he moves away from the strict noise policy of his main acts and dabbles in the darkest corner of… well, what exactly? Its too easy to say that this is 'experimental' music, which of course it is. Its a sound collage of various interests: drone sounds, improvisations on a guitar, electronics, organ bits. All of that recorded in a bit of lo-fi mode, which adds a great charm to the proceedings. Great textured music, that has nothing to do with noise, except maybe for the somewhat raw and intense quality of the sounds used. Each of the five pieces have a distinct character of its own, using a variety of instruments and ideas, some more drone like in approach, others being more cut up. It shares that great 'good noise' tag with those releases on Semata Productions reviewed elsewhere. This is a release that is made with some intelligence with respect to composing elements from noise music, but then entirely in a non-noise way. Great! Highly recommended this one if you want to broaden your interests in noise. (FdW) Address:


WORK/DEATH - TENDER COMRADES (CD by Semata Productions)
No information is available on either of these two releases. Work/death are from Providence, Rhode Island and their CD has a sort of hardcore punk look, or perhaps noise even, but the music is pretty interesting and nothing to do with punk or noise. Yet what it is, is not entirely clear either. The long opening piece 'The Grey Elk Plummets To Earth And Then Is Lowered Beneath' has a powerful drone music on what seems to be a mighty church drone, with loops of acoustic sounds rumbling beneath. That feature is repeated, be it a bit lighter in tone, on 'Ascension Of The Many Steps To Porter Square'. The organ drone is a bit lighter, but there is the constant menace of a jet engine. Between this sandwich are two shorter pieces of more acoustic rumble, and even a guitar is spotted in there. All four tracks are pretty loud, but never in a noise sense of the word. Which is obviously something I welcome very much. It brings drone and noise to a level where there is actually happening something that is really musically interesting. A great release!
Nick Pace and Jesse Allen are Cowards. So it is written on the cover of their CD. Otherwise, again, not much information. Their music is not unlike that of Work/Death: a thick drone like sound that is quite intense. There is however one major difference: Cowards are more a noise band. Various tracks built up to a mighty crescendo ending with heavy screamed vocal type sounds. I am less enthusiastic about that. Throughout however I thought their noise approach to drone music was pretty good, relying heavily on (I assume) analogue synthesizers. They too know how to create music that is at times quiet and introspective, before collapsing/exploding into a wall of noise sound. Save for the vocal aspect which I didn't like, Cowards are easily on par with Work/Death. Differences are minor, but work slightly in favor of Work/Death, but both are fine examples of great noise music. (FdW)


With the sublabel Mathka, the polish Audio Tong netlabel make a fresh start for releasing proper CDs. 'The Lie and the Orphanage' by Martin Kuchen, is the very first one. Also a very promising one. Kuchen has his roots in Germany but was raised in Sweden. He plays saxophone and has already three solo works out, but this one is the first one that comes to my ears. When I have a new solo improvisation cd in my hands I often doubt it will be satisfying experience from begin to end. One has to like the sound and color of the particular instrument that is played, plus the player needs to have a rich and expressive vocabulary and technique. In the case of this album my fears were not justified. I was immediately engaged in this music. Liner notes say Kuchen plays baritone and alto saxophone plus a pocket radio. His approach has nothing to do with traditional sax playing. Without excessive treatment Kuchen creates very unusual sounds from his saxes. Breath and wind are very present in the music in a very peculiar and physical way. It is impossible to visualize how Kuchen does all this. Sometimes I think it sounds as it is played, at other moments I cannot imagine the music without undergoing considerable treatment. Most pieces are built upon a repetitive scheme of circular looping. Kuchen fills this space with detailed and precise patterns and textures. I'm pleasantly surprised by the depth of this music. A convincing work! (Dolf Mulder) Address:


A collaboration between two french improvisors. Kassap is around since the end of the 70s and performed with many french artists like Louis Sclavis, Michel Portal, Henri Texier, Bernard Lubat, FranÁois Tusques, and also with many musicians from outside France. Over the years he developed his very own voice on the clarinet and is an established name nowadays. Helene Breschand is a younger musician, a classically trained harpist from Paris. Like Kassap she performs improvised music as well as well modern classical music. She has a few solo albums as well as several duo works with Jean Luc Pauvros and others. "Double Reine" is her newest release within this format. A collection of 25 short improvisations. Breschand plays harp machines, voice. Kassap clarinets, machines, toys and voice. Breschand is by far the most outspoken of both in expanding playing techniques. They create little simple songs like "Mange-moi" and "Attends" built mainly from samples of Breschands voice. Other pieces like "Profond" have a prominent role for the clarinets of Kassap. "Plus Profond" has a rock feel somehow in contrast with "Un Caresse" that is more close to jazz esthetics. But all these labels make not much sense. Above all we have to deal with very abstract, musical dramas, that are way beyond most musical conventions. (Dolf Mulder)


Last station before releasing music as pure online files could well be the USB key. A very attractive physical media thanks to its handy size. Apart from releasing it as a vinyl, Norwegian project Athana has chosen a USB-key as the platform to launch their latest album titled "Beats and pieces" and aesthetically the artwork is a beauty. Behind the Athana-project you find the two sound artists Alf Terje Hana and Arne Hovda, who has a past in quite a few sound art-projects in the Norwegian terrritories. Making all kinds of rhythmic/groovy and ambient noises, based on his compositions and curiosity to blend guitar sounds with electronics, Alf Terje Hana is the main brain behind the Athana-project. The USB-key consists of five pieces plus a sixth track being a radio edit of the main track "I.O. Roni". In fact this certain track is an ode to british legend Roni Size, who apparently has been a great inspiration to the Athana-project. Though stylish we are far away from the expression of the main album of Roni Size, "New forms", that was a landmark in the drum'n'bass-field. Athana's "Beats and pieces" opens with the lengthy psychedelic piece "I.O. Roni" that moves in the borderlands between rock and electronic music quite similar to british electro-rock psychedelia-band Ozric Tentacles. Some tracks (i.e. "Lifeform 47") circulates in spheres first of all paying attention to early Warp-artists such as Black Dog, meanwhile other tracks gets far noisier and is best categorized as powernoise thanks to the inclusion of rhythm-textures in the noise-scapes. A quite interesting album, not only thanks to the wide span of styles in the music, but also the beautiful release-format. (Niels Mark) Address:


A split album by two masters of 'loud drone music' with an entirely electronic background. Piotrowicz already surprised us with 'Lasting Clinamen' on CD (see review in Vital Weekly 621), and this is now continued with 'Clinamen 3', also recorded using analog modular synthesizer. He plays what seems a loud, looped drone (no doubt repeated within the machine), which is piercingly loud at the start, but just like his great CD, he knows how to create a subtle piece music after that. It grows and it grows with some great lingering intensity. More complex than the CD release, this is simply another great piece of music.
On the other side we find Carl Micheal von Hauswolff, who always impresses me with his conceptual approaches. The first of the two pieces was made for an installation using loops of sound corresponding to the colors of the rainbow. Some high pierced static sounds move over into a very low (but not silent) dark rumble. I guess there is some connection to colors and herz waves here, which I no doubt fail to see, but its surely a strange piece of music. The second piece has the sound of people talking and I am to believed, through the press text, that these voices are from the galleries in which the work was presented - faint traces are apparent. Like many other works of Von Hauswolff this leaves the listener puzzled behind, but you can simply also be amazed over the beautiful quality of the music. I did. I may not understand the concepts behind it, but I can see/hear the beauty of the works. (FdW)


SPARKLE IN GREY/TEX LA HOMA - WHALE HEART, WHALE HEART (LP by Black Fading/Grey Sparkle/Musica Di Un Certo Livello)
Matteo Uggeri started Sparkle In Grey as a solo electronic project in 1999, but over the years expanded into a four piece band, using anything from laptop to guitar, bass, drums, bagpipes, violin and keyboards. One could perhaps say a kind of post rock band. They share a record with Tex La Homa, the brainchild of Matthew Shaw, who also runs the Apollolaan label. Sparkle In Grey have two lengthy pieces here, which make a fine combination between that sorrowful tune played on the violin, the scraping and tinkling of sweet guitar sounds, the gentle crash on cymbal, along with time stretched field recordings. Mellow music by and for mellow people, I'd say. Very enjoyable. Which is something that can also be said of the four shorter pieces by Tex La Homa, which aren't particular cut for any genre. A bit of ambience, a bit of drones (organs float about in 'Dorchester Sunrise'), gentle percussion in 'To Home' and a psychedelic pop song outing in 'Born On A Friday'. Four varied pieces of music that flow nicely into eachother. Nice one. (FdW) Address:

Only fifteen releases by the Ultra Milkmaids in about as many years of existence, that is not a lot. Its been a while since I last heard anything by them, but fact remains that 'Peps' from 2000 is carved with the words 'classic' in mind. That fine album crossing serious electronic music and popmusic. Such things do not happen on 'Medecine' as we see the milkies return to their older, formative years, the ambient/drone era, but also, at the same time moved on from there. The sound that lingers over this new one is that there is an orchestral feel to it. The best is already at the beginning of side A, and stretches out over most of that side. Its a wonderful piece for strings (just strings? I'm not sure), which built up slowly, and reminded me of the first part of Gorecki's third symphony (well, up to the vocals that is). An excellent piece, classic Milkmaids again, although nothing like 'Peps'. The other pieces on this CD are substatially shorter and involve such instruments as piano, hammond organ and guitar. Here the milkies arrive in a suitable more conventional drone land but create music that is among the finest in the genre. That is still great drone music and 'Medecine' is an absolutely great record. (FdW)

SCISSOR LOCK - BROKEN ENGLISH (CDR by HelloSquare Recordings)
SHOEB AHMAD - BLOSSOMS (CDR by HelloSquare Recordings)
As far as I remember 'Broken English' was the successful come-back album of Marianne Faithful in 1979, but its also the title of the latest CDR by Scissor Lock, the project of Marcus Whale. He has had a couple of releases, of which only his collaboration with Seaworthy made it into Vital Weekly (667), so this is my introduction. Whale uses his own voice quite extensively as well as computer processing. I vaguely remember Faithful's album, especially 'Working Class Hero'. I am thinking of that when listening to the rather sorrowful pieces recorded by Whale. He uses small blocks of his singing which he layers on end with eachother, almost like a dysfunctional choir. Dysfunctional as he uses digital manipulation to alter the sounds, in addition to sparse organ like sounds. All looped around, no doubt courtesy of Ableton Live. Each of the pieces last around ten minutes, which, given the little amount of variety inside each pieces, as well as all pieces together, is a bit much. This is cerebral music. Nice, but long.
Label boss Shoeb Ahmad is quite active these days with his band Spartak, but at last found time to do a new solo album - the first in two years. His solo music so far was a fine combination of guitar, shoegaze and laptop, but on 'Blossoms' he goes out into the world of drone music. Not by pressing two keys of an organ and some delay pedal on 'infinite sustain', but more specially he found interest in two Indian instruments, the Tanpura box and the tabla and this he uses here along with percussion, voice and pedals. Its a great release, save for the fifth one: since hearing too much Muslimgauze years ago, I just can't stand the sound of a tabla any more. But otherwise: excellent drone stuff. Electrically charged music that moves slowly, its also perhaps like listening to a machine. Electronically altered to create minor but vital changes. A powerful work. His best solo release so far! Think LaMonte Young meeting Mirror or KTL meeting Ravi Shankar. (FdW)

VicMod is a new label run by Ross Healy, also known as Cray. His first full length album was 'Undo', and reviewed all the way back in Vital Weekly 307. Since I didn't hear much of him, but now sends me his four current label releases, among which is one from him, and its said that this is second full length. In between he worked for TV shows and commercials, designed web pages and played live concerts. 'Water computing' was already recorded eight years ago, and recently found on an old hard drive. 'File under extreme computer music/avant electronics' is what the blurb says and that is indeed what we should do. Cray may be a master of modular synthesizers, this album is one of computer music. I think! Most of the times this is all quite brutal and loud, but a piece like 'Ribotan' shows also, at times, a more calmer side to this. I have no idea what goes into the computer, but everything is heavily processed inside. Microsound is far away here. If anything I'd say Cray is the cruder brother of microsound, or perhaps the missing link between the old Mego (though never as harsh) and the more serious electronic music from the sixties. An excellent album, although some of the tracks appear a bit long for what they have to offer. But surely its great. Doesn't sound dated, if you catch my drift.
The first other artist we have is Richard Lainhart, of whom we very recently reviewed a CD release. On 'The Wave Sounding Sea' he presents four pieces from 1973 and 1974, using the Moog CEMS, as developed by his teacher, Joel Chadabe. It would go to far to explain how this works, but best said its an early example of an analogue with some kind of automated programs, early software and such. If you know Lainhart's work from before it won't hardly be a surprise that the title piece is a fine piece of drone music, albeit much darker than we are used from him. 'Iron Hill' was his first piece in the 'One Sound' concept, and this one sound is expanded over a multitude of channels and plays a nice, somewhat raw phase shifting pattern on it. It takes the minimalism of Reich in a new, electronic music context. The biggest surprise is 'The FM Automat', which moves away from the drones we know (and love) and is more a soundtrack to 'Forbidden Planet', with tones flowing in and out of the mix. A classic sixties piece, despite being from 1974. 'Snow', then, is a surprise too. Its his first computer piece, that puts out 'random clicks through the computer's digital-to-analog convertors. I then processed that output through the CEMS System's filters and gates to create the final sound'. Its almost like a noise piece! But it sounds great and fits entirely the minimalist tradition Lainhart is working in.
(FdW) Address:


CHEMINS - #5 (CD, private)
Now, with the release of the fifth Chemins CDR, a little more is revealed: 'this is the fifth and final installment in the CDR series; like the four previous one, it is a montage of materials recorded between 2003-2009. The group will now start work on a full length CD of entirely new material to be released in 2011'. Ah. That explains a few things, one of which is the fact that all releases may have had one track, but clearly a montage of various tracks. Like I wrote before, the euphoria of the initial release is gone, but they maintain a high quality in producing music on the fringes of microsound, post rock, improvisation, drones and field recordings - I was thinking a less hectic, drumless Brise Glace here. This fifth installment sees them returning pieces flowing into eachother, and not like a cut-up as on the fourth one. Probably five bits here, with the final ending being their loudest manifestation so far. Another absolutely fine addition. Now someone should make a best of five release, as a long player. Can't wait hear to hear from them again in 2011. Hopefully sooner. (FdW)

From Singapore hail the trio Amino Acid Orchestra: Zai Kuning (guitars, percussion, noise, voice), Fuzz Lee (guitars, ambience) and Shark Fung (percussion, noises). I am glad they wrote me that were from Singapore, since I could have all too easily thought they would be from New Zealand. Their ten tracks were already recorded last year and no doubt in the garage of one of the member. The whole recording sounds a bit muddy, raw and intense. Ghost rock is what they call this, and that's what it is. Dirty sounding guitars, psychedelic banging drums, distortion pedals on, metal percussion in place and banging their way around. Not really loud of course, but that's largely due to the state of the recording. Quite good at that, if you like Corpus Hermeticum or some of the releases on Black Petal. All loosely played, no doubt improvisations, with a nice driving energy to it. Scary enough. (FdW)


JAN M. IVERSEN - STILL INTENSE (CDR by Droneskvadronen)
LYDHODE - LIVE AT SPASIBAR (CDR by Droneskvadronen)
Three CDRs fell on the doormat of the new Norwegian label Droneskvadronen. Unfortunately no information about the label itself, but the music will have to speak for itself. The first CDR from the label is by Jan M. Iversen. This prolific musician, has many (net) releases to his name and he also manages the label TIBProd. "Still Intense" is the title of this CDR and more information is not available. The only song lasts about seventy minutes, and develops slowly and takes the listener into a dream world where sounds come and fade. The atmosphere is quiet, noisy, especially melancholic and intense. A nice release for fans of dark ambient music. Hans Einar Gulliksen is for me an unknown musician. He released at Droneskvadronen the CDR "Quiescent". Elongated tones alternate with a repetitive two sound both hypnotic and irritating work. Ambient atmospheres made their appearance and develop a heavier and more layered until dark noise and spreads again let slip into the ambient atmosphere. Also a beautiful album in which the composition of 30 minutes allows for subtle changes. The last CDR "Live at Spasibar" is made by the group Lydhode. The group consists of five musicians, Terje Paulsen, Kjetil Hanssen, Roar Borge, Willy Kopperud Moors and Jan Iversen. The first is a live recording of a concert in Spasibar on June 25, 2008 and the second is a rehearsal in the same room one day earlier. Both recordings are characterized by a diversity of sounds that alternate. The sounds are made by a zither, marbles, an electric guitar, a glamour box and more. Witnessed the rehearsal of more modesty than the live-action, which to my taste even more noisier than the rehearsal more modeled on drones. In one way or another I am not a lover of live-recordings of experimental projects. Perhaps a nice souvenir for the attendees, but I prefer to physically present, that I through the speakers in the living room getting thrown. (Jan-Kees Helms)


The two extreme prolific musicians, Kasper van Hoek and Marcel Herms, with their own labels (Anima Mal Nata and Heilskabaal) created the CDR Laaglandse Hymnen. It seems like a popalbum, about thirty minutes with nine tracks. But that is not true. The short tracks are not poppy at all, but diverse what makes the album interesting. Zwijg (dutch for be silent!) is as noisy as hell. Interbellum is really a quiet composition for a quiet moment and after that it is time for a spooky moment. Krakend Hoofd (Crusty Head) starts ambient and becomes more and more full, but still? the head doesn't explode. And so it goes on and on. I really like this new release at Anima Mal Nata. For me it is the most successful album till now, because of the diversity in sounds and deliberate structure of the tracks and album. Highly recommended! (Jan-Kees Helms) Address:


Its been quiet on the release front for Andrey Kiritchenko from the Ukraine, but here he returns with the for me unknown Andrey Bogatyryev. He plays didgeridoo and self-made instruments, while Kiritchenko gets credit for electronics, drums and arrangements. The work was produced for the Gogol festival in 2009 and is labelled as an 'electro-acoustic performance'. Its however not something I expected from Kiritchenko. The music is based around various synthesizer like sounds, arpeggio's on them, and bounces nicely all around like an experimental ambient house (hey, again?) record. It borrows quite a bit from techno, but also the drums make it sound like a psychedelic krautrock/world music record. Tripping on sunshine? Quite odd, and as said, not something I expected from Kiritchenko, but I must admit I quite enjoyed it. It sounded all 'retro' to these ears, but that's not too bad. A lovely little item, that, as far as I'm concerned could have lasted a bit longer. (FdW) Address:


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