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Vital Weekly 743 + 744

img  Tobias Fischer

CONCERN - CAESAREAN (CD by Slow Flow Records)
Gordon Ashworth is Concern, and hails from Oregon. He has had a couple of highly limited releases on Students Of Decay, two of which are included on 'Caesarean', his latest offering on Japanese Slow Flow Records. The cover lists instruments in order of appearance (which is funny, almost film like): piano, clarinet, banjo, shruti box, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, chord organ, harmonium, springs, bass processed by quarter inch tapes, cassette tape, octave pedal and reverb. Funny to see that list, since in the very first second of this playing there is 'stutter' in the music, yet there is no computer listed. That aside, the five long, very long pieces on this album are actually very nice. At almost seventy-seven minutes maybe a bit long, but such is the life of an ambient drone composer. That's where we find Concern. Layering the various instruments in a rich harmonious manner. Motors play electric and acoustic guitars, the sustaining of strings are picked up and the resulting overtones do the rest. Always dark, always atmospheric, always slow in development. Late night music I'd say. Concern doesn't do anything 'new' by any ambient standards, but I don't think that is a concern for him. What he does, is create some great music, using the mighty ambient manual to his own ends and as such he does a great job. Comes along with a great dark cover too. Excellent stuff for what it is, never 'original', but that's fine. (FdW) Address:

AABZU - RAMBO (CD by Audio Tong)
Audio-Tong is a Polish net-label established in the early years of this millennium. The aim of the label is to present of the music from the outer limits both as album releases, but also by organizing concerts and electronic events. A number of very interesting releases has been launched from the label throughout the first five years or so. Latest example of interesting music from the label comes from this project driven by one of the co-brains of the label, Lukasz Szalankiewicz (aka Zenial). On this project called Aabzu, Zenial join forces with another Polish sound artist, Maciek Szymczuk. The two artists has quite different approaches to electronic music compositions and this is probably the main reason for such an impressive result. Musically Aabzu operates in many layers and styles of expressions throughout the twelve pieces on the album titled "Rambo", and yes, the album does refer to Sylvester Stallone's monster-success as the soldier-hero, Rambo of the 80's. Though musically there are absolutely nothing that stylish does refer to macho-style of Rambo. The music is deeply felt with excellent dreamlike atmospheres. From trippy trance-inducing textures across ethno-ambience and cool club techno towards semi-harsh noise and minimalist techno. As you swim through the album associations one minute moves towards early Biosphere and the next towards icy textures of Pan Sonic. No matter where you find yourself on this album, so many things happens, making it absolutely impossible not to be absorbed into the spheres of Aabzu. (Niels Mark) Address:

PORTION CONTROL - PROGRESS REPORT 1980-83 (7LP by Vinyl On Demand)
Before you start being jealous at the fact that Vital Weekly receives promo's from that wonderful, yet expensive deluxe label Vinyl On Demand: you're wrong. By exception I actually bought a copy, as a birthday present for myself. Seven LPs, one DVD, book, patch, 7", t-shirt, in a metal box (eat your heart out, J. Lydon!). The 'business as usual' stuff for Vinyl On Demand. Portion Control already released a box set before, of CDs, but that was, apart from the inclusion of their first 12", more about the later work. Quite wrongly (I guess), they figured their artistic peak was there and not in the early works. I beg to differ. The early work, let's say from 1980-1984, is of much more interest than the later work, which was a bit slick in their hard rhythmic approach, a commercial approach, whereas the old work was more about adventure and taking risks. This box tells us all. There are some personal favorites of mine on here, such as 'Dining On The Fresh' (which I still have somewhere, without the balloon!), the first 12", 'With Mixed Emotion' and their first LP 'I Staggered Mentally' (one of the few doublers with the CD box actually). We hear Portion Control growing up. From the earliest try-out tracks, sometimes a mere ramble and rattle of synthesizers, vocals and percussion, but then quickly learning how to play a simple and captivating tune, see 'Sweet Julia'. When I first heard that, back in 1983 or so, I thought they sounded like Depeche Mode (and wrote that on a postcard which I mailed to the band). Never meeting the Mode's commercial success, Portion Control would be a template for groups to use hard rhythmic electronics, such as Skinny Puppy. These seven records (of which various sides last thirty minutes) are indeed a true 'progress report'. Not every single track is great - of course - but this is a unbelievable great archival dig out. Minor points of complaint: the DVD shows some embarrassing moments (but perhaps quite right in a historian's view) and the booklet is a like a photo book - no, IS a photo book. One could have perhaps wished for some historical text, scans of all the covers and such like. Maybe I'm rambling: I just spend ten hours with the music of Portion Control, and therefore with my own past. Let's return to the present (pun intended)

All three musicians on this record have had releases on Hapna, so they were all aware of each other's work. Two guitarists (David Grubbs and Stefano Pilia) and one drummer (Andrea Belfi). They met up in New York when the Italians were involved in a fellowship project and recorded this album. Its not a work of just two guitars and drums, as there is also electronics, piano and ultimately, in the title piece, Grubbs voice. Three likeminded spirits at work here. Masters, each own in his own right, of contemplative music with a rock background. The title piece, perhaps, is the one that comes closest to that rock background. In the other, instrumental, pieces, they are in more general flow of sound, with vast open spaces, strumming gently, spacious, free percussive sounds but underneath that tension of Belfi's electronics, mild to heavy distortion (in 'Lightning Vault', which is the logical heavy weight conclusion of the album). Although divided into five pieces, the built up is excellent. From the sparse opening song, the noisy interlude 'Nitrated Out', the more complex 'City Rats On Mountain Pass' to the two already mentioned pieces: a fine, dramatic, theatrical build up. Great collaboration. (FdW) Address:


NO JOKE! It is said on the press text: 'Recorded in 2009 by twin sisters Roxann and Rachal Spikula while in a hospital doing some fucked up health study where all they could was Shasta for like 2 weeks. […] Master tape arrived wrapped in a duct taped hospital gown with my address written on it in sharpie'. Why should we think that is a joke? No doubt it is bloody serious. I see those sister in an empty part of the hospital, surrounding by the ghosts of those who didn't leave the hospital alive, with some ancient reel-to-reel machine, an echo box of some kind and then perhaps some acoustic objects (from the hospital). On both sides they rumble about with these objects, but on side one they slow things down, effectively making themselves the daughters of Maurizio Bianchi, while on the other side they speed things up a bit making it a bit more crude and noisy. Both sides however are pitch filled with pitch black music. Not necessarily noise, no way of any synth layered ambient music, but, as Hanson Records quite rightly says: the real thing. Scary stuff indeed.
Maybe the same thing will happen to Relay For Death as with Darksmith: a quick sell out of the pressing, leading to a quick CD release. The music from one Tom Darksmith was recorded on a four track, using 'guitar, drums, tapes, objects, domestic and field recordings', although that is quite hard to hear on this. What do we hear? Ah, well, that's altogether a more complicated question. It could be field recordings - recording outdoor sounds through closed doors? - or cranking of acoustic objects? There is also the occasional use and abuse of voices. Quite a mysterious release as such. If anything this is a wildly, vivid and crude assembly of musique concrete - but in its most pure  sense. No electronics, or synthesizers for that matter, are used here, it seems. Just hissy street recordings, crudely cut tape loops, the battering of objects, recorded on a hand-held micro cassette recorder. At with quite an amount of variation I must say. The hissy 'The Phantom Other Half' has quite a spooky quality to it. As pleasing as it discomforting. A lo-fi version of musique concrete and more likeable than many of his high-brow peers. Indeed, as the label says, for fans of Yeast Culture, Agog, Joe Colley, Graham Lambkin, Jason Lescalleet and Hands To. I totally agree. Very much along those mysterious lines. Great noise, quite excellent! (FdW) Address:


PETROLIO - END OF VISION (CDR by Gruenrekorder)
As we know by know the main portion of releases on Gruenrekorder consist of field recordings and music made using them. However, more and more we also hear releases from say the world of improvisation. Here's an Italian trio: Luca Robba (drums, voice, laptop, samplings), Michele Spanghero (double bass, live electronics, field recordings) and Ugo Boscain (contrabass clarinet and piano). 'The music was played live and recorded with omni-directional microphones' it says on the cover, but they could have fooled me. First of all, the recording quality is great and secondly, it doesn't sound like the product of pure improvisation. The pieces are more stretched out atmospheric impressions, in which occasionally an instrument pops up. There are pieces which hint more towards improvisation, but here too it seems to me that things are well under control. More composed than improvisation, and no doubt due to some extensive mixing process, which allows them to bring necessary balance, and quietness in these proceedings, a careful constructing of silence and tension, atmosphere and cinematographic qualities. Maybe its the extensive use laptop, sampling and field recordings? I am not entirely sure, but throughout a great release, I thought. An excellent example where improvisation also works out of the context of direct playing and making a great listening session later on (which in the world of improvisation is not always the case). (FdW) Address:

TOTSTELLEN - KRS (CDR by Totes Format)
Sometimes I get a package and when looking at the design, I feel quite so warm that it really can not go wrong. Format of the publications by Totes Format label are all gems of a DIY high level with high tactile quality. The CDRs by the Totes Format label are packaged in found materials which are then silkscreened. The design is both sleek and playful.
Schuppen is an experimental trio "with an attitude." The names of the musicians speak for themselves: RZA aka Bobby Digital on drums, the JZA genius on bass and Bill "Motherfucker" Murray on hand drill and electronics. The CDR contains six tracks, with three tracks of about twenty minutes in which the trio will release a lot of punk, noise, to experimental music and free jazz alike beats. The short songs are more punk-oriented chaos.The recordings are very low-fi which makes the atmosphere even underground than it already is. This CDR cannot interest me and cannot keep my attention.
I can not say this about the works of Totstellen. KSR consists of recordings of empty office buildings KSR 8 and 10, where a lot of money has been raised and now they are abandoned. The field-recordings are edited with a four-track recorder. Also Totstellen uses instruments made from objects found in these empty buildings. The recordings were made in 2002 and 2003 in Hamburg. The atmosphere of the music in noise and industrial. KSR 8 ends with a lot of feedback tones. KSR 10 is is more quiet and you will walk into different rooms and atmospheres. This one also shows a film with shots of the demolition of one of those buildings. A beautiful piece of music about critics to the ruins of capitalism.
"Mein Light beleuchtet nur Abgruende" is a collection of  recordings of an one year (2009-2010) journey through Poland, Lithuania, Estonia, Finland and Lapland. The last track was recorded in 2007 and modified in 2008 and includes recordings from Finland. All recordings are made in so-called constructed nature, so the sounds of humans and machines are not excluded. Totstellen uses both field recordings, but plays music, sound material creates what he encounters, like the rustle of plastic and metal buckets on ticking. In one way or another, the atmosphere is nostalgic and melancholic compositions and are true sound paintings. These beautiful CDR's packaged in a self-sewn cover with a picture book where the emptiness of the city and nature plays a central role. Highly recommended! (Jan-Kees Helms)

TOY BIZARRE - KDI DCTB 216 [DATA #10] (3"CDR by Kaon)
TOY BIZARRE - KDI DCTB 216 [DATA #11] (3"CDR by Kaon)
Its been twenty weeks since we had number nine in the twelve part series 'KDI DCTB 216', Toy Bizarre's project about weather conditions in Atherton Gardens. Number 10 deals with December 24, 2009 ('mainly sunny top of 28 degrees with south easterly wind'). This is again a work at drift, opening new possibilities. Firmly rooted in the world of musique concrete, with loud acoustic sounds, there is below all sorts of vague drone like sounds (the kettle boiling?), which towards the end builds a mighty crescendo. A world of contrasts brought out in this fine piece. Which can also be said of the eleventh part (January 7, 2010: Mainly sunny top of 29 degrees with light south westerly wind), which works out differently. Here the the heaviness is at the beginning, with acoustic sounds being on par with electronic processing thereof, but in a rather noisy manner, which is not like Toy Bizarre in particular. Here, towards the end, more clarity is brought in and offers a more tranquil ending. Both new releases seem to act as a mirror of eachother. Two more fine additions. Curious what the final release will bring us! (FdW) Address:

A damn short tape here: ten minutes only. Hilary Jeffery is a trombone player, whom, I think, lives in Amsterdam. He works with electronics (a review of his solo CD can be found in Vital Weekly 413). There is not much information on this cassette, except that Jeffery plays the trombone and that Machinefabriek processed the sound. These processes seem to me a bit sparse. Through these two, five minute, improvisations, we can recognize the trombone clearly, and the electronics seem to be in place to color his improvised playing. There is a small amount of layering the sound, rather than going 'inside' the sound, and create something entirely new from it. The b-side seems to me the piece that does that most. Its a nice little product, but not a highlight in the extensive Machiefabriek catalogue. More like something that is in between major works, and as such a nice intermission. (FdW)


One of the things I think I would never do is to imagine planet Earth without human beings, let alone how it would sound like. Its one of things that is beyond imagination, I guess, well, at least for me. But other people do, and two of them call them Secret Druid Society. Of course its all a matter of interpretation. Who knows, maybe its the most noisy place you ever imagine? Not according to the Secret Druid Society: they think the planet Earth sounds like an ambient soundscape. And why not, indeed? There are no clues here as to the instruments used by this duo, but my best guess is that it is derived from guitars, electronics, synthesizers - human inventions from the planet Earth, when things run on electricity. The bad news is that 'Restless' (from what I wondered?) sounds like any album that has been tagged as 'dark atmospheric ambient' music. The kind of darkness we find on say a label like Malignant Records. That is not a bad thing, unless you were looking for someone who would open up new doors in the world of ambient music. That's not what Secret Druid Society does. The walk a path that many before also wandered. They do however an absolutely fine job. Their drones are far from subtle, but sound like they have been dug up from the Earth's core, covered with dust and dirt, but yet manages to sound like a rough diamond. Perfect rainy day music. Quite nice, for us humans that is. (FdW) Address:

From Groningen (The Netherlands) hails one Mendel Kaelen, a student of neuro sciences, who wonders about the unconsciousnes: what are the limits of our perception and which aspects of our mind are closed of because of our modern lifestyle. That the objective side of a scientist in training, but on the subjective side  he works within sound art, with a strong interest in shamanism. Sound is an influence on us, conscious or subconscious. That's why it was, for instance, used for religious practices throughout many centuries. Kaelen is trained as a guitar player, mainly spanish guitar, but always had interest in music from Coil, Francisco Lopez, Alio Die and Thomas Koner and started with electronics and field recordings in 2006. He has worked with Machinist before and now releases his first full length album, with four lengthy compositions, in total over seventy minutes. It seems to me that Kaelen's interest lies within the creation of atmospheric moods, rather than creating a well rounded off composition of some kind. That of course is not a bad thing. In a fine interplay of instruments - mainly the processed guitar I think, field recordings (although hard to define which they are), computer processing and acoustic objects - I believe to hear the sounds of stones - he creates music that is best enjoyed at night, lying down, eyes closed, on repeat and all night - long after one is asleep. I am not sure if it will invoke of memories of what was forgotten, or wether anything else hidden will be revealed, but its surely great music. In terms of soundscaping closer to Alio Die than Lopez, this is a rather smooth work. Nothing new under this particular moon of atmospheric ambient music, but its made with some great imagination. (FdW) Address:

LETHE - CATASTROPHE POINT #7 & #8 (2CD by Invisible Birds)
Kuwayama Kiyoharu is the man behind Lethe. Under his own name he works within the field of improvised music, playing cello and electronics, in a duo called Kuwayama-Kijima and as Lethe he creates music that deals with large spaces with lots of natural reverberation, such as abandoned warehouses, shinto temples, mausoleums and factories. These works are called 'Catastrophe Point' and on this double CD we find two of them. One (from 2004) was recorded at Arsenic in Lausanne, Switzerland and the other at an ex-power station in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 2006. Inside such spaces, Kuwayama goes about to record the empty space, picking up large reverberations with the tiniest of sound information. Found metal is being scraped, hit and dragged across the floor. Now that may seem like a 'heavy' thing, but if you listen to these pieces, there is a great sense of 'emptiness' in these recordings. It stays far away, like being removed far away from the microphone(s). I suspect he picks up his 'action' with various microphones and then mixes these together when it comes to releasing such works. Its hard to say (and no doubt not really necessary) what this is, this music of Lethe. Ambient? Perhaps, but not as we commonly know it. Experimental? Surely. Action music, performance art? No doubt that's true as well. You could wonder why two discs. There are some interesting differences between both works. The Scotland work is very sparse: an empty space, a few sounds (in all three tracks). The Switzerland piece has some sort of drone/alarm/buzz going on, with lots of more activity. Towards the end of the first part, the space around is removed and we have a very clear picture of all sorts of acoustic activity going on. In the second part a 'clear' piano pops up. Maybe we have to keep the time frame in mind: in 2004 Lethe was perhaps more focussed on 'music' in a big space, whereas in 2006 he was more interested in the space itself. I am not entirely sure. Of the two 'Catastrophe #7' would count as the more musical one, whereas 'Catastrophe #8' would count as a piece of sound art. For either drone lovers, improvised music fans and art goers, there is something for everyone in this quite unique sound world of Lethe. (FdW) Address:

Following his two previous 7"s with 'acoustic solo percussion' (see Vital Weekly 687 and 706), here is the third volume in what will be a four part series. Like before its hard to believe its percussion music. But this time we get a detailed notes on the proceedings: side E has 'two cymbals bowed together with one cello bow' and side F has 'a snare drum rubbed with a ring of styropor and two cymbals bowed together with a cello bow' (and made me wonder how many hands Wolfarth has?). Oh, did I mention 'no overdubs, electronics and other aids'? Maybe that's something that applies more to side F than E: the rotating sound of the styropor on the snare drum has a percussive element, with the bow bringing the oddity into the composition, but on E, the higher pitched sound of the bow and the cymbals have quite a distinctive electronic feel to it. Two more great sides from a great imaginative player. May I ask for a CD release of all four records, in due time? (FdW)

PUH QUH/HOLZKOPF (cassette by Toztizok Zoundz)
Peter Quistgard is a lovable young man from Amsterdam who produces some interesting wild music with game boys and such like, but found time to start a new project called Puh Quh, which he describes as Atari-Dup. Not a lot of information to go by here, but let's say that he's now taking up an interest in dub music, recorded in jam session. Unperfected music which works well on cassette, but little beyond it. A bit reggae like indeed, but not in any kind of 'band' like set-up, but played on what may seem ancient keyboards and, indeed, Atari sequencing. Quite simple, perhaps a bit naive, but then put together in a joyous mood and, no doubt, spirit among the players. On the other side of the we find Holzkopf from Canada, which I believe is a one guy project too. Here too one track on this side, lasting about twenty-four minutes. Here its not dub or reggae, but some kind of deranged form of techno, albeit of a slower nature than is usual with this stuff, more distorted and much more freaky. Its also less playful than Puh Quh, and probably even fits the medium of cassette more. Quite raw and undeniably underground. (FdW)


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