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Vital Weekly 760

img  Tobias Fischer

MARK FELL - UL8 (CD by Editions Mego)
In Vital Weekly 596 we reviewed a DVD release by Marcus Schmickler, 'Altars Of Science', a work for multi-channel set up, but also one that could be heard in a stereo setting. The work, Schmickler's first electronic since 1998's 'Sator Rotas', drew inspiration from the sixties electronic music, and this new one 'Palace Of Marvels' is a continuation of that. This is contemporary computer music, and more in particular deals with the Shepard tone, as "discovered by Roger Shepard, which creates the auditory illusion of a tone that continually rises or descends in pitch yet ultimately seems to get no higher or lower" and used by James Tenney for the first time. Kind alike an arpeggio, "short sequences of tones creating an akin effect", as Mego describes them. There are more philosophical connections here, to Ernst Gombrich and Jacques Attali's "Noise: The Political Economy of Music", in which Schmickler found the title for his CD, from the work of Leibniz actually. Not that all of this is easily found on the cover of this CD, in fact nothing actually. What we hear is what we get I'd say. The twelve pieces, spanning close to an hour, use the arpeggio's quite extensively. Multi-layered, rhythmical and at times abstract. Sometimes they are very closely knitted and forming drones. Sometimes a piece is halted abruptly and completely changes the tone, or, within a piece a new piece seems to be started. All of this using computer technology, making this quite a 'loud' record, at times devoid of any warmth. Think some of the music by Mark Fell, but less empty and not entirely just revolving around click material. Schmickler's music is quite full of sound, multi-layered as said, with different sound events happening at the same time. Its an excellent CD, although perhaps a bit long at times for such demanding music. Best taken perhaps in smaller portions at a time, which will gradually lead to digesting the whole release in one go.
Only a few weeks ago we reviewed 'Multistability', a new work by Mark Fell, and here is 'UL8', another new work from him. The one half of SND seems very active these days. I wasn't entirely convinced about 'Multistability'. 'UL8' takes its name from the Celestion UL8 speaker, which Mark Fell's older brother got and which apparently made electronic music sound good. I am not sure why Fell uses this now as the title of his CD. There are twenty tracks here, divided into four parts. Part one has five tracks, part two and three seven each, and the final piece is a part by itself. Part one and two seem to me culminations of installation and video work, some of which was released before, such as on a cassette for Alku, and presented over the years in installation pieces. These parts are also described on the cover, but its perhaps not easy if you didn't study computer music, sound synthesis and such like. I must say that this CD sounded more interesting than 'Multistability', simply because its more varied than that. Fell harks back to his older work of himself, using rhythmic sets of sounds, but also sustaining blocks of sound, i.e. drone like material, but Fell, in his usual style cuts up things extensively, a firm deconstruction of sound, in which the 'Acids In The Style Of Rian Treanor' sounds like a heavy non-dance cut up of acid music. Perhaps the most surprising track is the last one, 'Death Of Loved One', in which the heavy type of cut up is embedded in what seems to be a swirling mass of synthesized sounds - almost like music, perhaps? Quite a strong CD altogether. (FdW)


SKY BURIAL - KIEHTAN (CD by Lens Records)
Over the years I have reviewed quite a bit of music by Micheal Page. Mainly from his major recording project Fire In The Head, but also from Sky Burial. As Fire In The Head he dabbles in noise, but as Sky Burial it is all ambient and drone. 'Kiehtan' is his 40th release since 2004, so perhaps I missed a few then. Its one piece that spans just forty minutes and as a bonus we get a 'sonic reconstruction' from Mark Spybey (Dead Voices On Air fame). The name comes from the Wampanoag tribe, the original inhabitants of Cape Cod where Michael lives and is something of 'creator spirit'. Page works in the old way of using four track cassettes to maintain a somewhat raw sound quality. Not easy to hear, unless James Plotkin changed something in the mastering process, since it all sounds pretty good, and hardly 'raw'. In fact I think this is the most musical release by Sky Burial to date. I have no idea which sound sources are used by Page, but it seems to me a fair bunch of analogue synths and electronics, perhaps topped off with a couple of field recordings, although I am not too sure about that. If anything it seems to me that Page connects here to the now so popular cosmic music. Synths swirl en masse in the weightless space, rising up, dying out like stars at night. With a fair amount of reverb Sky Burial creates necessary space. Throughout the tone of this is dark and atmospherical. An excellent ride for a winter's day, sitting inside where its nice and cosy. A highly refined disc and by far the best I heard from Micheal Page, both as Sky Burial and Fire In The Head. (FdW) Address:


OLEKRANON - {BILAL} (CD by Inam Records)
'{Bilal}' is the successor of 'Identi' (see Vital Weekly 701), by Olekranon, also known as Ryan Huber (also known as Sujo when it comes to deep noise drone music). At his disposal we find guitars - lots of them - rhythm machine and sound effects. Ten tracks are literally thrown on tape with the energy of say a heavy type rock band. A wall of sound approach that we know from his previous work, but somehow it seems to me it lacks the variety of 'Identi'. Surely there are moments here when things get 'softer', if that is an appropriate word at all in this context, but somehow  I have the feeling that Huber is beyond that and that feels more comfortable working within the louder context. In his usual fashion a song starts with a rhythm, followed by electronics and the icing on the cake are the multi-layered guitar drones. I think I prefer a somewhat more multi-dimensional take on such proceedings, but no doubt true noise-heads are out there to disagree. Ok, so I guess this is a great solid piece of work. (FdW)


CORY ALLEN - PEARLS (CD by Quiet Design)
"So what do you think of this?", my guest asked who came in when I was playing the new release by Cory Allen. Actually not much right now, I answered. It appears to quiet and not too outspoken. I am never good at giving random opinions, so when my guest left, I decided to play it again, immediately, since what I heard sounded pretty interesting. No indication as to sound sources is given here. The previous album, 'Hearing Is Forgetting The Name Of The Thing One Hears' (see Vital Weekly 704) didn't do much for me. Too noisy it deemed to me, so I was a bit wary to play this. Much to my surprise I must admit that 'Pearls' is the total opposite of 'Hearing'. Allen calls this 'dreamy and transcendent world of modern ambient music'. How very true that is. Whatever it is that Allen uses - me thinks a Max/msp patch with field recordings, listening to these sustained sounds and crackling, fire like sounds - he plays it very well. Quiet indeed, letting sounds die out beyond their sustain, while overlaying with other events, so that everything bumps and collides in seemingly random ways. The four tracks seem to be linked together through the sounds used - the fire crackle as I wrote it down - and the somewhat identical methods of processing. It makes a wonderful work of indeed modern ambient music. Perhaps all in the digital domain but with some great warmth to it, much needed on a cold winter's day. (FdW)


JASON KAHN - DOTOLIM (CD by Balloon & Needle)
More and more it seems that Jason Kahn is approaching the status of a real composer, doing graphical scores and such like. He was in South Korea and created a score to be performed by six people, including Kahn himself. He plays his usual analog synthesizer and short wave radio. The other five players are Ryu Jankil (speaker and piezo vibration), Park Seungjun (amp with spring reverb), Jin Sangtae (hard disk drives), Choi Joonyong (opened CD players) and Hong Chulki (turntables). Together they perform Kahn's score, which consists of symbols but which make much sense as a composition. Its not easy to isolate various sound sources here, as many seem in some way related. There is a lot of high scraping sound and what those are? Hard disk drives, opened CD players, spring reverb? But I guess these close sounding sources enhance the idea of one work, and not that of some improvised work, although on the other hand each of the players are more free in how to perform their part of the score. Throughout there is a massive sense of those similar scraping sounds, sometimes with deep end bass rumble (Kahn's synthesizer perhaps) and other sounds that drop in and out of the mix. The graphical score here serves as a guideline for use, and doesn't call for a strict interpretation and each player can add whatever he wants and with whatever force or subtleness or by creating small variations in approach. Seventy minutes is a long ride, but surely a rewarding journey. Quite noisy but good solid and never over the top. (FdW) Address:


For this year's christmas season I bought myself a double LP, this one to be precise. No promo's were forthcoming - at least, not that I know of, but since I once toyed with the idea of releasing a box set of the complete works of Pseudo Code, I just knew I had to get this. That box set won't happen. The 'Europa' LP was already released by EE Tapes, many thanks for that, and who wants to buy a CD anyway? Keep that in mind for the future. I am not really surprised that Sub Rosa would want to release this. After they already released an album with Pseudo Code music (among other things) in the past. But what's more, one of the directors of the company was once part of this great Belgium band. Guy Marc Hinant plays guitar, pianet, casio and metallophone. Xavier Ess was the singer, but also played Indian flute and Alain Neffe (otherwise known for his work on the Insane Music label, Bene Gesserit, Human Flesh, Cortex and many others) played all sorts of synthesizers, rhythm machines and saxophone. This double LP contains three pieces that were previously released, but shorter or in a different version, so we could easily say that this all previously unreleased material. And why is that, I wondered? These four sides are filled with some classic Pseudo Code music. Lengthy pieces of almost psychedelic music. From the liner notes we learn that much of their music was created by jamming together, usually around the steady beat of the drum machine, swirling synths and lo-fi guitar. On top the 'wounded deer' (as I read in those days) voice of Xavier Ess, which has a great vulnerability. As someone said, a bit like Nico. Think perhaps early Cabaret Voltaire, but Pseudo Code's music is more unique I guess. These twelve songs are simply great, and god knows why it took almost thirty years to hear them. And perhaps the biggest question: is there more? Please? (FdW) Address:

AMK - 29 PALMS (CDR by Banned Productions)
AMK - REBUS (cassette by Banned Productions)
DAMIEN ROMERO - FADE TO USELESS (cassette by Banned Productions)
Still going strong, banned Productions, but not always that present in Vital Weekly, unfortunately. Its good to see that GX Jupitter-Larsen, of The Haters fame, still has a solid home on this label. It quite eludes me why GX has a sudden (?) interest in communism, releasing a tape with versions of 'The International' (not received) and this CD with takes on communist fight songs. Wasn't communism dead and buried - i.e. the end of history? Various pieces here are GX with other people, some are solo by others, a whole international gang, if you pardon the expression. I must say I never believed in communism (or much of anything else actually, in case you're wondering), but a good marching song: any day. The music ranges from noise to noise, with all sorts of variations thrown in for good varied measure. Screamy vocals, feedback, tape-manipulations and curious obscure field recordings. Conspirators are Screwtape, Rafael Flores, Dave Philips, Half An Abortion, Origami Southamerika, Ben Presto, Rabbit, Club Moral (with a curious post punk song - a stand out/apart) and Salakapakka Sound System. Excellent is not the right word, I assume, but I thought this all as confusing as it was funny.
Labelboss AMK is present with two releases. '29 Palms' has three pieces, divided over forty tracks on the CDR, so if you play this at random you get a montage like style of playing, which is what AMK sometimes does, like in 'Babylon Basura', a montage of live AMK performances over the years. In his performances AMK uses a variety of flexi discs which he cuts and glues together and which he, perhaps not, plays using electronics. This is the loudest cut (actually fourteen) on this release, and sounds like Christian Marclay on speed. Nice but perhaps better when seen in concert. The title track was recorded at the Hungry Bunny Ranch, California. Something is going on there, but I couldn't find the information that easily. The pure field recording however is quite nice. Just stale wind over barren land. The first eleven pieces were recorded in collaboration with Destroy Date, which is a more controlled montage of rotating flexi's. Here it doesn't lead us to noise, but a very interesting, highly constructed set of sounds. Two-third excellent, one-third pretty good. A fine score.
On cassette we find 'Rebus', four pieces for record players, records, montage flexi disc, electrical interference, tape hiss and field recordings. It might be the nature of the medium, but here we find AMK in a rather 'raw' mood. Pretty wild stuff, but never over the top when it comes to noise. A rather short tape, twenty minutes or so, and its a bit hard to say what they are. Edits from concerts? Special pieces of some kind? It all runs a bit too fast to say anything decent. Nice, I think. Yes, nice indeed.
Damien Romero I remember as the man behind the rock band Slug, but also with some great noise drone music at his hand. However without being an expert on all of his music. The cover of his twenty minute tape reads 'field & studio, virtual & found, salvaged & repurposed 2002-2010', whatever that may mean. I could guess, but I usually guess wrong (I guess), but it sounds to me like erasing field recordings, feeding it through various methods of sound processing (analog? digital?) with some highly obscured rumble as the remains. The b-side has some sort of crowd recording and of the two pieces is the somewhat lesser one. The a-side is pretty strong however in its lo-fi deep bass rumble bumble drone. (FdW)


NILS QUAK - THIS ONCE SILVER SKY (CDR by Ripples Recordings)
From Cologne hails Nils Quak, sometimes working
as NQ with releases on Distance Recordings, Progressive Form, Kitty Yo and Audiobulb, but here under his own (?) name. I must admit I never heard of him. Although the cover suggests more titles, its really one, thirty minute piece of music. According to the information supplied there are loops of found sound, synthesized sine waves and granular processing, but also old flexi disc recordings, guitar and pianoloops. Not that I could decipher all of these, I must admit. But it sounds quite good. A slow, somewhat dramatic build up takes place, which at one point gets blown away suddenly, in favor of some other drone like sound - like two different pieces being mixed together. Its however a fine work all around. Nothing new under this particular drone sun, but lovers of the genre, say William Basinski or Asher, should pay attention. Nils Quak has a great ear for small details and this work displays some fine beauty. (FdW)


ZEBRA - J05 50J (3"CDR by My Own Little Label)
EZDANITOFF - WE BRING LIGHT (3"CDR by My Own Little Label)
Frans de Waard and his own little label impress again with new dedicated 3"-releases. Two excellent albums on the private label of one of Netherlands most dedicated and talented sound artists. First album comes from Zebra. I only rarely find projects that manage to keep me attracted to its certain style release after release, again and again (probably the back side of daily listening to loads of new music, having never time to taste before the next food is served). It probably sounds a bit over the top, however Dutch duo Zebra consisting of Frans de Waard and Roel Meelkop is one of the few projects, that actually makes me eager to listen to what new materials they come up with again again. As far as I know present release is the first Zebra-release on the "My Own Little Label" - being the hometown of the numerous projects of aforementioned Frans de Waard. Zebra-style is characterized by the alluring combination of cutting edge sound art with retrospective elements that both counts sounds of analogue synthesizers such as Korg, Moog and Rolands as well as samples of early disco electronics and other funky expressions to name just a few. Present release carrying the odd title "j05 50j" was made on the background of the 50th anniversary of another dedicated Dutch sound artist Jos Smolders. Thus Zebra assembles three of its earlier works with samples of Jos Smolders works. The result is a 19 minutes running singles piece that develops into new forms as time goes by. Excellent dedication to the sound art colleague and friend Jos Smolders.
Next album is a newer project of Mr. Waard named after the character of Herge's Tintin, Ezdanitoff. Compared to aforementioned Zebra-release, present album titled "We Bring Light" from Ezdanitoff is more introvert and spacious in expression. The project is a joint venture between Frans De Waard and Wouter Jaspers, that originally came to life after some concerts and then developed to another fine accomplishment of Frans de Waard. Present album is a slightly more melancholic and melodic approach to experimentation compared to the usual abstract masterworks from Frans De Waard. Dominating part of the 20 minutes running album is the organ-like sounds created by analogue synthesizers that waves through a fair part of the 3"-albums four intersections. The expression reminds me of the melodic ambience of early ambient pioneers of the German krautrock-scene. Ezdanitoff will be touring early 2011. Keep an eye on the schedule and go see them whenever you get the chance. Sound art at its finest! (Niels Mark) Address:


An odd website by this artist. Some links towards live shows, some of his releases and directions where to get it, but curiously enough also various PDF files of manuals for things like the Korg SQ10, Teac 3440 and Ramsa WR-8112 Mixer. A show off of equipment used, or something else? I am sure something else. 'Echolocation' deals with the Teac and what else? I am not sure here. Maybe a synth? The result is what counts and arrives at some pretty interesting, highly minimal drone music. His music is slightly obscured by tape effects (or perhaps its the lower quality of the medium chosen to release this, or perhaps it already started to 'fall apart' the moment it was captured on tape), but it reminded me of the work of Basinski or Asher. Low resolution music I call this. Yet McLaughlin's music is not 'far away', i.e. covered with too much hiss or such like, but remains pretty 'present'. It makes some great wonderful music, and also somewhat different from the others in a similar field. A new name to look for! (FdW) Address:

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