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Vital Weekly 804

img  Tobias Fischer

Now here are two men who know eachother for many years, who have played together on many occasions, ran a label together (ERS Records), yet never released a CD together. Maybe its due to the nature of their work together, live music rather than studio based composition, that it took twelve years of playing together to do this CD. Dan Amstrong is a man to play the guitar, connected to a bunch of sound effects (all listed on the cover), whereas Mens is a computer wizard, who has mastered the finer depths of Ableton Live, in combination with midi-controllers. You can guess where this leads to: Armstrong playing the guitar, Mens picking up that signal and modifying it inside the computer. Now the guitar playing is hardly conventional strumming, but it is a stream of endless, sustaining sounds, played with e-bows and this multitude of sound effects, before it reaches the computer. Here something interesting is happening: instead of using plug-ins that make even more masses of sound, Mens uses plug ins to atomize the guitar playing (which of course we hear too), into small particles, using also a multitude - it seems - of variations of these small sounds. It adds a strong rhythmic component to the music, without leaping into any sort of dance music. More glitch like music with an ambient background - or vice versa even: ambient music with a glitchy component. That is either way not really the case, as both players remain on a similar level, not pushing himself to the foreground. Quite a fine release: six great pieces (although occasionally something of repetition leaps in, in the approaches of guitar/computer) of intelligent ambient music, with a excellent amount of experimentation to it. A rarity these days. Greatly refined music. (FdW)
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This CD comes with a handkerchief, the previous one 'Solstice Eclipse' (see Vital Weekly 789) with a pen, which I still use actually, so with the autumn coldness a welcome gifted. But what about the music, I wonder? Koji Asano never ceases to amaze me: you never know what to expect (electronic music, classical music, field recordings. The previous one seemed to be using organ sounds and hiss of tapes, this new one has two pieces (27:34 and 39:26 minutes in length) of what is electronic music. The first piece, part 1 I assume, is a mechanic rhythm without much variation, and comes across to me as a bit too minimal. The second part is more interesting, even when its hard to guess what is going on here. It seems like the sound of a machine, but then muffled, far away, starting up, doing 'things', winding down - like a dishwasher. It has that same minimal quality as the first part, but it also has more stages which it passes through, some returning, some disappearing forever. I thought this was quite an interesting piece and could have settled for just this one on this CD. (FdW) Address:


Both of these artists can be regarded as 'new kids' on the block of field recordings, coming to the foreground in recent years with a plethora of releases on labels as Sentient Recognition Archive, U-Cover, Dataobscura, Test Tube, Resting Bell and Mystery Sea - the latter doing a solo release by both of them. On their subdivision Unfathomless they have a collaborative disc of music, based on field recordings made in their own locale (the Akigawa Valley/Otake Limestone Caves, Japan in Sasajima's case and The D'Aguilar Mountain Range, North West of Brisbane, Australia in McDougall's case) and then 'equally developed'. 'The sensitive issue of not occupying the same token sites was acknowledged and it was opted instead for a common geologic context' - whatever that means. Its a release that has some questions: for instance: is there any processing and if so to which extent? How does this collaboration work anyway? Are recordings from both locations simply played together, or has there been any kind of mixing going on? Its all not easy to say. I think there has been some form of processing, mainly just EQ-ing, bringing out more high or low end frequencies, especially in the third and fourth pieces. Also I think that in all four pieces they have searched for specific characteristics of the provided sounds and set them together, with some extent of mixing. I also kept thinking: why should I bother thinking of what they did or didn't do: these four pieces are very good, a culmination of field recordings that, once together, make great sense. Not minimal, hardly changing music, but vibrant, always on the move, full of tension, evocative and beautiful. Excellent, if not always the most original, but that is perhaps quite hard. (FdW) Address:


MAROW - + - 0 (CD by Force Inc)
Of course you know Mille Plateaux, once at the forefront of experimental electronic (dance) music. Less known, perhaps in these pages, were the sister labels Force Inc and Force Intel, for even more dance music. Not always reviewed here, but I fond memories of the releases by Akufen and Uusalito. All of that went under in bankruptcy, but Mille Plateaux rose like a phoenix and now its also the turn for Force Inc with an album by Marcus Rehmet, also known as Marow. Now its never easy to say why one thing is on one label and the other on its sub-division, as the music of Marow could have as easily fitted on Mille Plateaux, maybe save for the occasional soft touch synth sounds - the ambient side of this album; the beats are all dubby techno based, highly minimal, glitchy at times. Its music that if you sit back and actually listen very closely, say because you have to write a review, may sound a bit boring. I am not sure how well this would do on the dance floor either, but thank heavens I am not a DJ so I don't have to ponder over that, but this music works best, as tested, when you have a small party in your house, a few drinks, talk and then this music is a great 'small party' enhancer. Melodic synths, fine beats: it all goes down easily and you'll have a good time. Plus, the next day, when cleaning up the house, this music makes your work a bit more smoother. Excellent all around. Brings a smile to my face. (FdW)


1982 - PINTURA (CD by Hubro)
Now here is quite an odd release. 1982 is a trio of Norwegian's finest musicians, in an odd combination. We have Nils Okland on the Hardanger fiddle, Sigbjorn Apeland on harmonium and Oyvind Skarbo on drums. They have their ties into folk music, improvised music, jazz and some of them releases on ECM. Now that all seems hardly to be music we would have in Vital Weekly, but like with so many releases on Hubro I am pleasantly surprised. This is all highly improvised music that is in seven of the eight pieces quite small and introvert, though not exclusively. Only in the third (untitled, as are all) piece things erupt and don't work very well. In the other pieces they play quite freely, with each player seemingly having their own role, or sometimes, such as in the fourth piece, within a fixed rhythm and a crazy play on the keyboards, with the fiddle holding back. At times I thought it all had a bit too much reverb (maybe a left-over from their ECM days?) on some of these instruments, fiddle mainly. Quite a strange release I'd say. Very unlike Vital Weekly, but then perhaps very much unlike anything else also. (FdW) Address:


Its that we know that Bocian Records is from Poland, but if we would just look at the roster of artists they release, it could seem that they are from Australia. Here we have two more musicians from down under, James Rushford and Joe Talia, who have collaborated before with Jon Rose and Oren Ambarchi. Armed with a whole bunch of instruments they recorded their work in different places (Melbourne and Rotterdam, The Netherlands). These instruments include viola, piano, ARP 2600, polystrene, megaphone, cardboard, church organ, chamber organ, brake drums, steel drums, ocarinas, voice (all credited to Rushford), drumkit, spring reverb, Roland System 700, Revox B77, brake drums, steel drums, bass drum, tam tam and crotales (Talia) with Anthony Pateras on Doepfer A-100). I assume these recordings from four different places were all done in a sort of improvised way, which was later collated into the two pieces that are now on the record. I think this is an amazing record - right up the street where I like it most. It combines various things, such as improvisation, electro-acoustic music and composition. Massive blocks of sound are cut with sparse electronics, collage like but never chaotic or out of control. If anything, this reminded me of the old work of Mnemonist and Biota who worked from with similar ideas of improvisation and studio techniques, perhaps sometimes from a more rock context, whereas Rushford and Talia seem to have a more musique concrete like background. Two sides, perhaps only fifteen minutes per side, which is surely not enough. Bring on a CD with bonus material, please. (FdW) Address:


MARTIN & THEODOR - AESTHETIC THEORY (cassette by Social Drift)
More confusion from the house of Jliat. Maybe I get it right: Social Drift is a duo of Martin and Theodor, a.k.a. Jliat and Luke Emmett. Each side is named after one or the other, referring to Theodor Adorno (and dialectical double reconstruction) and Martin Heidegger (aesthetic theories of destruction). Maybe Jliat and Emmett are each responsible for mixing one side of this? The Martin (=Jliat) side is a piece of 'noise as noise', made with hard- and software. Loud chunks of distorted sound, but interestingly enough not as noisy as one should expect from Jliat (especially keeping in mind his 'Now That's What I Call Noise' CDR series). Luke Emmett is more interested in time stretching and in general applies a more collage like approach to his music. Looping around heavy blocks of rhythmic sounds, along with distorted sounds, bits of spoken word, and, perhaps, indeed time stretched larger segments of noise. Musically perhaps the more interesting side, whereas Jliat delivers his own unique insight in the world of noise. (FdW) Address:


HUSNAAN - READING (cassette by Hasana Press)
HUSNAAN - METURO (cassette by Hasana Press)
Usually the cassettes reviewed in Vital Weekly are pretty standard sort of looking: box, J-card (xeroxed, printed), cassette. In that sense the current wave of cassettes doesn't exactly reflect the 80s, when a lot more was done with packaging (milk carton, pyramids, oversized print work, sponge). These three tapes (ignoring the six month rule) hail from Indonesia and look great. Two of them in a small carton box or as the website for the first: 'hand-numbered edition of 37, hand-stamped gold natural resin wax seal, pro-dubbed gray tapes in handmade recycled paper boxes with mixed shredded atlas map & newspaper inside', or ' hand-stamped starry black natural resin wax seal, pro-dubbed kelly green tapes in handmade corrugated paper boxes with hemp rope & hidden hermit crab shells inside' - now that's more like it. The music, all from 2010 and 2011, is all made with a Korg MS-10, electronics and tapes. Now one could easily think that all of these sound similar given these limitations, but its not. 'Reading' is can be found more in an ambient/cosmic corner of the musical spectrum, as well as 'Meturo', but the latter has also some field recordings and is less static, more with small arpeggio's. The 'in between' release of 'In The Cave' is on the other hand more an old fashioned industrial release, with a grittier sound and louder sustaining music. Here I was reminded of Maurizio Bianchi in his earlier, 'Plain Truth', years. A bit more industrial sounding, but done in a very delicate way. No harsh noise walls here, but a cold clinical mechanical sound, producing some hypnotic trance like music. Three excellent tapes - a great surprise. (FdW)


BEN OWEN - BIRDS AND WATER, 1 (cassette by Notice Recordings)
Perhaps best known for his label with neatly printed covers, Winds Measure Recordings that is, Ben Owen also produces some fine music. Here he has two long, unedited, pieces of work created at the Experimental Television Centre in Owego, NY. Owen uses an 'image processing system', developed by one David Jones in the mid seventies. I am not sure what these are, but it has, apparently, a 'set of keyers, a multi-input syncable sequencer and a bank of oscillators'. These two pieces last over 45 minutes each, and of the one on the b-side I can be short: its a monolithic wash of sound that doesn't seem to have much variation from the entire duration. The a-side however, uses a similar thing, but then shorter and in an interesting sequence of variations, feeding the sustaining, amp-noise like sounds through a variety of filters. These form blocks of sounds, which fade away into near silence, which can last for quite some time, all a bit in the old Lopezian way. This is a very interesting piece, one which could have as easily been released on a CD-{R} for a full dynamic impact. Maybe some day when the cassette is sold out? (FdW) Address:


The three men who are behind this happen to be three men whom I know very well, and two for a very, very long time. Its the musicians behind this, Roel Meelkop and Rutger Zuydervelt (better known as Machinefabriek) and the man who mastered and post produced this for his Ear Labs Hi-Fi online label, Jos Smolders. That is, sometimes, reason enough to review an online release (the exception to the rule, I gather). Meelkop and Machinefabriek on september 9th as part of a series of lovely evenings called Aether in Rotterdam, and while it may seem odd, this pairing, it makes great sense. Zuydervelt is a master of more drone oriented music, using guitar, zither and his various loop stations, while Meelkop is more the kind of man to chop up sound, collages and electro-acoustics. Together however they know how to create some intense music that is perhaps more drone like than what we usually know from Meelkop, but he 'forces' Zuydervelt on a more swiftly changing course than in his usual solo mode. Zuydervelt plays a bit more acoustic objects and radio sounds (check pictures on the website below) and it all works wonderfully well in this recording. Maybe it could have been edited a bit more, weeding a bit of the weaker spots out, and it would have made a great CD. As far as documentation goes, this is great. Lovely 24-bit sound quality! (FdW) Address:


The complete "Vital Weekly" is available at: Vital Weekly

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