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Vital Weekly 781

img  Tobias Fischer

From Norway two discs of improvised music. The Huntsville CD you will get for free if you buy the LP that is the main attraction. It has the same music. This trio consists of Ivar Grydeland, Tony Kluften and Ingar Zach. Bass, guitar and drums, and one the first piece (which spans the entire a-side of the vinyl version), vocalist Hanne Hukkelberg. I don't know their previous work nor other work by Grydeland and Kluften, but this is not like other work I heard by Zach. It has a certain krautrock like feeling to it, combined with an electronic vibe, that is created with real instruments and perhaps (no doubt) a bunch of sound effects. It creates a mechanical drive to the music, but somehow it never gets any static. These three players know how to add small variations in the way they are playing. By altering the way they strum or add small tricks that I am not aware of. It makes this music very vibrant and speedy, highly energetic. The best option, I guess, is to hear this played loud in concert; the second best option is to play this at home really loud. Drone like LaMonte Young, Velvet Underground and Black Dice. An excellent manifestation of drone rock meets improvised music.
After this, the release by Sigbjorn Apeland sounds rather small. He plays the harmonium. Mostly an instrument used in religious music and with limited musical possibilities, but perhaps that's the reason that some improvisers like it. It has that dream-like quality of drone music, and also to play it in very loose manner that almost always sounds good. Apeland plays folk music, jazz and church music, also as an organist. Five pieces of improvised harmonium playing of what he calls himself 'acoustic ambient music'. The harmonium, besides producing the sound as intended, also has extra sounds like noisy keys, the feet operated bellow and such like and all of these are used in this recording, although not all on an equal level. In about thirty minutes Apeland plays some rather beautiful, solitary music on his harmonium. It could have easily lasted a bit longer, as far as I am concerned. Quite relaxing, early morning (sundays are preferred, and one can have their own religious tinkering at home) waking up music, or perhaps the last thing to play during the day. Excellent acoustic ambient indeed. (FdW) Address:


By now Graham 'Dids' Dowdall has established himself firmly as a musician under the alias of Gagarin, and his past history lies far away (Ludus, playing with Nico, John Cale and David Thomas). He has produced a number of CDs as Gagarin (see Vital Weekly 544 and 666 for instance) where he works with today's technology: synthesizers, drum machines and rhythm. Now celebrating the man who gave the name to his project, the first man in space in 1961, with a new album of music. It sees him continuing where he left of with 'Adaptogen' (see Vital Weekly 666): melodic, techno inspired music (although perhaps one expects him to play cosmic music, given the name he uses: he doesn't) that is not really for dance floors. Throughout the twelve tracks on this the mood is rather 'atmospheric' and 'ambient'. The rhythm lies usually not on top of things, but supports the mellow ambience of the pieces. Sometimes light in approach, but more usually a bit darker in the shades. Like Gagarin's solitary orbit experience, Dowdall's music has a similar solitary quality to it. Rather than playing this loud in clubs, I can imagine this more for the home environment. Much like its predecessor, this is an album that fits labels as Expanding Records, Boltfish and Highpoint Lowlife. It doesn't shed a new light on what we know already, and not necessarily a major step forward, but a fine work throughout. (FdW) Address:


A new bunch of Edgetone releases: a duo, trio and a quartet. To start with the duo of Amir and Benedict, for sure the most bizarre of these three releases.  Malik Ameer is an experimental improvisational rapper, writer and producer in the field of alternative Music. Lorin Benedict is also a vocalist, essentially a scat singer, living in San Francisco. Most of his work is connected loosely in the jazz idiom. On this album they explore  "their combined interests in improvisation, groove, story-telling, and general sonic emanation." The music is computer-generated, sounding orchestral ( in the closing piece 'Enclosures'), or ethnic like in 'Footsie Schmootsie', gospel-like in 'Might as well do the get up', funky at other other moments, etc.. All pieces are in one way or another built along hip hop principles. In most pieces there is a beat. Their voice acrobatics are often treated, speeded up, etc. beyond what is humanly possible, without losing all characteristics of the human voice.  A very fresh and funny record.
Timothy Orr and Josh Allen first met in 1997 in a project called Sax vs Guitar. >From this experience they decided to continue as a trio with Randy Hunt (doublebass) playing free-bop and standards. They broke up however rather quickly. In 2008 they met again on stage and decided for a second start. Listening to 'Drudgery' I conclude this was the right decision. The album contains a session recorded in 2010 at oakland's New Improved Recording Studio. 10 concentrated improvisations that are close to what we expect free jazz to be but, combined with original and convincing aspects added to it. And that's what makes the difference.  Although the sax playing by Allen is prominent, the drummer and bass player are of equal importance. Their commitment and communication is impressive, resulting in engaging improvisations. In their exercises they work from different angles, so that there are no dull moments in this vibrantly performed session.
'Ohio Grimes and Misted Meanies' is the work of four gentlemen, two of them needing no further introduction, namely Marsh and Wright. John and Ben Bennett - father and son-  may be new to you. John Bennett is responsible for voice, words and things. Ben plays with invented devices. John Bennett has long been the curator of the Avant Garde Literature Collection of Ohio State University. He plays a central role on this disc by speaking words and short sentences, that are twisted and bended into various shapes. Some kind of concrete poetry is the result. Ben Bennett improvises by manipulating all kind of objects and instruments. Together with Wright and Marsh they create open and abstract environments for the words spoken by John Bennett. I felt in contact with what is happening here, but please do not ask what exactly is going on here. (Dolf Mulder) Address:


Kamama is a duo by Audry Chen (voice, cello, electronics) and Luca Marini (drums, percussion), recorded during concert in 2010. 2010 is also the year they first encountered.  So this cd documents one of their first steps in developing their music. Luca Marini grew in France and works nowadays in New York.  He studied jazz and improvised music on various conservatories in Europe and America, and played with wide range of musicians since. American Chen plays cello and voice from a very early age. In her classical training she moved towards the new Music repertoire.  Since 2003 she choose another direction.  As a vocal artist she works in the line of Diamanda Galas and Shelley Hirsch, etc. Her cello playing did it for me.  Nice duets with Luca Marini, who is an accomplished percussionist. They really built on something in their focused improvisations. No wonder there are strong moments in their playing. Good communicative interplay on this mini-cd that offers one 23-minute long improvisation. 'The Gratitude of Sediment' is a solo effort by Chen, using electronics, cello and her voice. In eight improvisations she shows many sides of her possibilities as an improvisor. Some of them are very quiet and subtle exercises, others however are on the other side of the spectrum and loud and noisy. All pieces demonstrate a very  well going together of cello, electronics and her voice. Sometimes  it is difficult to differentiate between electronics and voice, or cello and electronics. (Dolf Mulder)
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This three way compilation was released for a tour these bands did in April 2011. All three are Belgium and their background in what we can roughly distinguish as 'guitar music'. Urpf Lanze (also known as Wouter Vanhaelemeesch) has a most curious piece of music using a detuned acoustic guitar, which he plays nervously in a free-folk manner. A bit like Bill Orcutt recently did on his Mego CD. Very upfront and very nice. Edgar Wappenhalter (no doubt not his real name) has also something folk like, but simply strums his guitar and sings with an unhealthy amount of reverb on his voice. Shoegazing like, but perhaps also sounding a bit too much like a cliche, but the tape-loops at the end make up for the bit that I didn't particularly care for. I can imagine him however to be headlining this tour. Hellvete is a member of Sylvester Anfang II and runs the Funeral Folk label. He too plays folk like music, also with perhaps a bit too much reverb (maybe to generate that necessary atmosphere), but works quite nicely in a minimalist/drone like manner. A beautiful solitary howl. The tour is over, but a very nice artifact remains, and this time not on a home burned CDR. (FdW) Address:


Since splitting up with Christoph Heeman as Mirror, I haven't followed the recent work of Andrew Chalk. It simply seems to be moving outside my view. Heeman started a collaboration as In Camera with Timo van Luijk and now its the turn of Chalk to also work with Van Luijk as Elodie. This might be their first record together and what is odd, knowing the work of either of them, is that this is not one of those 'one drone per side' kind of LPs. This LP has no less than thirteen tracks, which perhaps sees them moving into something which is less drone oriented and something that is altogether more acoustic in approach. Van Luijk's curious collection of small acoustic objects and wind instruments and Chalk's sparse guitar playing. The record opens with a layered piece of various wind instruments and as such may count as a drone piece, but other pieces are more of an open spaced improvised nature of rattling bells, small metallic sounds, and Chalk's watery electric guitar, along with charming field recordings. The pieces are more like open ended sketches then fully realized compositions, which adds the charm of the record. Throughout a fine record of shimmering, small melodies, rusty percussion, bird calls and a gentle mood. The perfect early spring record: open your windows, let outdoor sounds in and simply enjoy the good life. (FdW)


'Dub Concrete' is the term coined by Technical Drawings, a duo of Melissa St. Pierre and Jesse Stiles. St. Pierre plays the prepared piano as 'invented' by John Cage. The inside of the piano is filled with coins, screws, bolts and sounds like a piece of gamelan. She uses an electric piano, and just how that works with prepared strings is a bit unclear to me. Stiles uses 'livid Ohm 64, jazzmutant lemur, Mas/msp and computer). A strange but great record.  Seven of the eight pieces are instrumentals, and one uses the voice of Todd Jones. That wasn't necessary, as far as I would say, as the instrumental pieces are strong enough. A highly rhythmic record, that is hard to pin down. Certainly not techno, nor house, but mechanical world music like, gamelan like, hip hop like, but then as straight forward minimal beats, and no backbeat. Maybe the closest I could think of is it bears some resemblance with Konono No.1, less any singing. Very energetic music, pulsating and throughout honestly weird. Excellent.
The name Max Goldt vaguely rings a bell, but I am not sure of the whenwhyhow of it. He's been playing music since the late 70s and these days is best known, in Germany, for his writing. On this album, you'll find a 10" record from 1983 on side A and on Side B more pieces from that period. Goldt uses "prepared acoustic guitar, pitched voice, zither, some effect pedals and a multi-track recorder. The rhythmic patterns are played by hand using his self-invented 'rubbermind method'". I don't recall hearing his music back in the day. I was thinking whether one could say if this sounds 'old' or 'retro'. My conclusion would be more 'retro' than 'old'. Quite rhythmic music, with primitive delay/hold pedals and those very germanic neue deutsche welle like vocals and instrumentation. A bit Der Plan, Andreas Dorau and Frieder Butzmann. It has that great radioplay like quality that Germans simply have a trademark on. A bit of radioplay, a bit of (alternative) popmusic, a fair amount of weirdness. These relative simple elements make up some very nice music. It could have as easily made 'now' as thirty years ago. I have no idea what these lyrics are about, but it sounds all quite sunny. A record to bring a jolly good mood. (FdW) Address:


VAN KAYE & IGNIT - ANTHOLOGY 80-85 (5LP/10" by Vinyl On Demand)
First I have a small confession to make: for many years I tried locating the two musicians known as Van Kaye & Ignit. Once a married couple playing electronic music and operating their own Ding Dong Disk label, but in the second half the 80s they seemed to have disappeared. I wanted to do what Vinyl On Demand now did: release all their work. For me on CD, but Vinyl On Demand now on 5 LPs and a 10" record. So when the lovely Frank Maier of Vinyl On Demand asked me for their whereabouts I couldn't help him either, but almost instantly Van Kaye & Ignit popped up on facebook. Vinyl On Demand got in contact and swiftly released this most over-due set. It documents their entire career which started when Van Kaye (known as Ed van Kasteren) left his rock band The Monomen and started playing with synthesizers and rhythm machines, with his wife Ignit on vocals. They produced a thirty minute demo and a 7", now a most sought after collectors item. The demo was then properly re-released a sixty minute tape and Ding Dong Disk became one of the best known cassette labels in The Netherlands (the fact that Ignit had a national radio show for weird music on sunday afternoon no doubt helped). With third member Willem Wisselink they produced a second tape, along with the help of Edward Ka-spel, Bene Gesserit and Portion Control, delivered a whole bunch of compilation tracks and then they disappeared. What happened is not clear, there is a card with a bit of history, but it doesn't shed any light on the ending. In all those years their music wasn't forgotten: it was even bootlegged on a LP, their first cassette only, but the impact of their music has been great. 'Minimal synth' is a tag that many people use for bands like Van Kaye & Ignit. A synthesizer, a sequencer, a drum machine and someone singing who is not always the best singer. That may count for the early work of Van Kaye & Ignit, say their first cassette and first 7", but the later work was much more complex, with the addition of guitars, building more complex songs. I can't be very objective about this release: I love it. Even when I realize that not all songs were equally great. C'est la vie, I guess. It shows the many highs and some lows in their electronic pop music, for that is what it is: pop music. Sentimental like ballads, up-tempo songs, sequencer driven ditties, and the excellent music in progress of 'Into Plan A' (which is perhaps the most experimental piece they did); and Van Kaye's youth hero Danny Kaye is annoyingly present too. God, to see all of this collected into one box is simply great. Surely I raved about another re-issue being the highlight of 2011: its now officially replaced by this one. (FdW) Address:


TRAPPED IN A LOOP - ECHO/JOINUS (10" by Surplus Recordings)
SURPLUS PEOPLE/SORK - SPLIT (LP by Surplus Recordings)
Surplus Recordings started in december 2010 in Gothenburg in Sweden. I am not for sure, but I think Magdalena Agren is one of the people behind this new label. She makes music in all bands above mentioned. Anyway, I was highly surprised by these two releases. Since my youth I have been a great lover of music like The Ex, Dog Faced Hermans and so on. Trapped in a Loop is a band which refers a lot to these bands. The band exists of Magdalena Agren and Richard Widerberg. The duo uses guitar, drumcomputer, trombone, field recordings and trombone and the two songs are really uptempo and the use of loops makes the music hypnotic and two times the duo creates a climax. Great music, nevertheless just two songs. An admirable release.
Surplus People is a Swedish and Finnish trio and the members are Petra Kiiskinen who plays old organs, Helena Engaras on bass and ? Magdalena Agren who sings, screams and creates sounds by megaphone, trumpet and trombone. The trio has played many concerts if funny clothes, I guess the concerts will be a nice mixture of fun, chaos, theatre and good music. The split-part of this album seems like a mix between Arbeid Adelt, De Kift, Siouxsie and the Banshees and The Doors. I love this eighties music, with distorted organ sounds, simple melodies, brass-compositions and bossanova drum patterns. Sork is more or less a follow-up of Surplus People, after Pontus Torstensson joined the band. The style of the band is based in post-punk traditions and the band does it in a nice way. The bass is pulsing and the drums steams like a rolling train. The voice of Magdalena and her interactions on the synthesizer, stylophone and trombone take care of the experimental part of the music. (Jan-Kees Helms) Address:


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