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Vital Weekly 816

img  Tobias Fischer

J.R. PLANKTON - NEON (CD by Karaoke Kalk)
Although J.R. Plankton sounds like one guy, it is actually a duo of Jens Struver and Robert Ohm. Ohm is in the press text described as 'studio nerd and multi instrumentalist' who worked with Struver before on a radioplay. Struver is the man from the M=minimal label, releasing music by the likes of Conrad Schnitzler. Their CD has five long pieces (four of them made it to the vinyl version). Great music it is. I've already played this at least five times, before even thinking that I had to review this one point. Electronic music, obviously, but with a great drive. Maybe even what we could consider a dance record. 'Musique Electronique' is a homage to Kraftwerk with its robotic voice repeating the title, but my goodness what a great drive this piece has, just as 'Sundance'. That piece comes with a nice guitar lick that reminded me of the best Porter Ricks days, but slowly turns into a 70s disco guitar. Otherwise pieces, like 'City Jungle' or 'Nakamaru' is then a bit more downbeat, but slowly build up, along minimal lines, before arriving in full steam. 'Regen' closes down the CD and is a moody, post dance chill out affair. A fine pairing of minimal house rhythms, cosmic synths and krautrock like minimalism. Excellent CD - first highlight of the year.
I never heard of Tolouse Low Trax, also known as Detlef Weinrich, who released three EPs and two albums, before 'Jeidem Fall', his third full length. Weinrich is best known as a member of Kreidler, who, to my surprise, apparently still exist but I lost them out of sight. His album has eight tracks (six on the vinyl) and also deal with rhythm, but on a bit of a different level.

Whereas J.R. Plankton is danceable and house-like, Tolouse Low Trax finds a more curious mixture of minimalist beats, sampled perhaps, simple drum machines maybe, which are fed through a few sound processors. This minimalism reminds me of industrial music, although its never that loud, or in fact much more easy going. Coming to us with the use of some arpeggio's on the synth, a vague ethnic notion (think Psychic Warriors Ov Gaia at times), this is a record for the after party and J.R. Plankton more for the party itself. The kind of minimal dance music, that is not entirely danceable. References to PWOG, Esplendor Geometrico, Muslimgauze and Goem could be made, but the nice dark/light contrast in the music is very nice, whereas these references usually are just dark. Great one too, but not as good as J.R. Plankton. (FdW) Address:


GOH LEE KWANG - AND VICE VERSA (CD by Herbal International)
Yesterday I fell asleep while playing this new CD by Goh Lee Kwang, which in the world of John Cage is probably a compliment. It happened during the long piece 'Weightifwax', which is curious ambient piece for electronic insects and mild feedback like sounds. An excellent piece I think. Not because I fell asleep, but something I noted when fully awake. Its not easy to say what Goh Lee Kwang is doing here, in relation to what I heard previously by him - turntable and no-input mixer - but the general quiet mood worked excellent. As said its a long piece, well over thirty-seven minutes, after which 'Touchpoint' works as a nasty wake-up call. Although not as noisy as some of his previous work, this loud block of high pitched sounds, nervous, is not so much my cup of tea. The other main tour de force, although 'just' fifteen minutes, is 'Weightofdust', which is even more subdued and sounds like metal wires being played which an extended use of reverb, pushed to the far end quiet side of the sound spectrum. 'Endless' closes down the CD with a strange bouncing rhythm that slows down over the course of the piece, and is a bit like a cover version of Alvin Lucier's 'Clocker'. Plus there are two more pieces that are so short they go by hardly noticed. Without that 'Touchpoint' intermission, I think this is by far the best work I heard from Goh Lee Kwang. A great variety in approaches to sound material, resulting in some very fine and refined music. Maybe a bit more info on the cover wouldn't do no harm though. (FdW) Address:


CORTEX - THE WHOLE STORY (2CD by Plinkity Plonk)
My son was happily surprised when he listened to the first CD of Cortex when we were driving car. At last... short songs and no endless musical experiments or improvisations with long-lasting tones. That's the power of the first CD of 'The Whole Story' of Cortex. Thirty compositions which have been recorded and mixed directly on an open-reel tape machine between 1974 and 1982 by the Belgium musician Alain Neffe. Alain Neffe was very active in the eighties with his label Insane Music and musical groups and projects like Human Flesh and BeNe GeSSeRiT. These tracks have been released at cassette at his own Insane Music label and other labels like The Cassette factory, Aerosol, 3rio Tapes, Grafika, Fraction Studio, Discograph, Stack Orientation, Beast 666, Trax, Music For Midget, Colin Potter, Finger In The Dike, Tear Apart Tapes, Korm Plastics, Innersleeve and Gut Level Music. Alain Neffe used  synthesizers, rhythm-box, string organ, ring oscillator, guitar, tapes, percussion, electronics and tape-loops to create his dreamy music. The lyrics have been recited by Mirella Brunello, Isabelle Yernaux, Tina Scatozza and Nadine Bal (also member of BeNe GeSSeRiT). Most of the lyrics are in French and by the way of reciting the music gets a poetic atmosphere. The second CD is full of nine unreleased tracks and one track has already been released (on their one and only cassette from 1984). As been said the power of the music of Cortex can been found in the short length of the music. In a period of one till four minutes Alain Neffe creates a beautiful composition in which the female voice melts together with mostly warm sounds of Neffe. This historical piece of music may not been missed in the collection of the adorer of eighties music and the mix of poetry and sound. (Jan-Kees Helms) Address:


Norway is cold and full of forests, which are full of reindeers. The antlers of the reindeers are the main instrument of the Hornoskesteret which has been founded in 1999. The Group explored the natural acoustic sounds through compositions and improvisations on stringed and bowed reindeer antlers. The group uses also bones, ice, coffee pots, rocks, and various woods together with vocals, flutes, drums and field recordings. Using spoken word, free improvisation, noise, folk, blues and drones. "Fjær og Jern" is a overview of Hornorkesteret?s musical development and a great introduction to the band. It features ambient arctic mood music, field recordings, improvisation, traditional and even a Mari Boine cover. Most of the tracks are recorded live to two tracks with no editing, some are studio recordings. The music is connected with the natural environment and elements of Norway. The combination of music-instruments and field-recordings have been used in an intelligent way. Nature and culture come together and the Hornorkesteret are masters to create this mixture. The booklet gives a lot of background information about the group and the compositions. "Fjaer og Jern" is a beautiful album to explore the cold parts of the world in a musical way. (Jan-Kees Helms) Address:


A work of changes? That is what this seems to me. Normally we find Rhodri Davies behind a harp, and Mark Wastell playing tam-tam, but not on this one. Here Davies gets credit for 'low-fi live electronics' and Wastell for mixing desk, digital delay pedal, stereo and mono contact microphone, mini-disc player, CD player, charcoal, ceramic tile, velvet material, light grade sand paper, cardboard, wire wool, bell, singing bowls, beaters, pre-recorded electronics and likewise harmonium. Yes, it sounds different than much of their other work and as such a change perhaps, but its for one not that radically different and secondly a recording from 2005 already. So, all around a release that promises quite a bit, moving out their usual habit. We are not disappointed here. This is a great release. Loud at times, with piercing feedback like sounds, but the acoustics used by Wastell are never far away. They provide that velvet touch in which this sine wave like stuff moves. Vibrant music also, that is never for too long in the same place. A noisy version of electro-acoustic music, moving away from their usual more carefully constructed pieces - this at times (most of the) quite loud and present. Quite an exciting recording, I think. If you are fan of these two men, then you should be in for quite surprise - if what they do is in general too soft, then be sure to check this out. You too will be surprised. (FdW) Address:


Its been a while since I last heard something new by Oren Ambarchi, which may be entirely my problem of not noticing, or perhaps Ambarchi's output was slowing down. Whatever the case, its good to hear something new from him and its surely quite a surprise, or two. One surprise might be obvious, the presence of singing, which is not entirely new in the world of Ambarchi, but then is in his Sun band, but here on Salt we have the voice of Paul Duncan. Another surprise, perhaps a bit hidden, is the presence of a cover of Kiss' Ace Frehley. But perhaps the biggest surprise is the omnipresence of many different collaborators, which, apart from Duncan, includes Elisabeth Welsh, James Rushford, Eyvind Kang, Janel Leppin, Stephen Fandrich, Josiah Boothby, Joe Talia, Crys Cole, Kessica Kenney and Natasha Rose. Many of them contribute violin, viola, cello, but also percussion, piano and voice. Its not a record to be compared  with his previous solo records easily. Mainly due to the fact that the sound not always evolves around Ambarchi's guitar playing, slow, peaceful, heavy with low tones and minimal. This new album is much varied opening many new doors for Ambarchi. The simple ticking of rhythm machine, wine glasses, voice and acoustic guitars on the Frehley cover, but that's at the end of the CD. It opens with the Duncan sung 'Salt', which is perhaps the closest link to the old Ambarchi sound, but already extended with voice, violin and piano. A slow dramatic song. 'Knots', with thirty-three minutes easily the tour de force of the album, accelerates slowly into a heavy free rock improvisation, full on distortion and Talia banging the drums heavily, but with rather majestical heavy ending. More psychedelic music than guitar ambience for sure. Ambient is surely present on 'Passage', with all sorts of instrumental passages, but strangely enough, perhaps, the signature guitar of Ambarchi seems absent here, moving gently into the aforementioned Frehley cover. A CD full of surprises, lots of different textures, yet absolutely very coherent. Great return! Excellent work. (FdW)


MOE - IT PICTURES (CD by Conrad Soujnd)
Moe is a trio from Oslo- Norway and consists of Guro Sknumsnes Moe on bass and vocals, Havard Skaset on guitar and Sveinar Hoff on drums. The album It Pictures is their first album. The bass-player is known as an energetic musician in the Norwegian improvisation scene. And that is what you can hear in several songs. But the music of Moe is more structured than her soloworks. Fast and noisy blasts of chaotic eruptions will lead to a lullaby, where the singer asks "If you could save me?" The style is hardly to describe, for me that is always a good point. All kinds of styles are melt together into aggressive static riffs, uptempo drums, melodic patterns with a hardcore punk attitude, soft voice and evil screams. The trio is inspired by bands like DNA, Melvins, Black Sabbath, Patty Smith and Jesus Lizard, but I hear also many other bands passing by… But Moe is Moe and it is an energetic piece of music with a lot of creativity and without any border which is not leading to a mess of sound. Highly recommended! (Jan-Kees Helms) Address:


You may have heard of 'white noise' before (the sound thing rather than David Vorhaus), and even 'pink noise', but 'brown noise' might be lesser known, and 'green noise': did that exist? Yet all of that is part, somehow of these two records. Staalplaat Soundsystem is not a band/project in quite the regular sense of the word, but rather a fluctuating group around Geert-Jan Hobijn (also founder of Staalplaat, the label), Carlo Crovato (an artist and under the pseudonym plastic-electrics), Jens Alexander Ewald (software developer) and Carsten Stabenow. Their installations are about sound and space and 'small' is a word that never applies to these pieces. Its never for one car, one vacuum cleaner, but calls out for loads of cars, vacuum cleaners or one hundred electric office fans. They are altered so that a composer can play them. In 'Yokomono Pro', a piece created in New Delhi, for 30 tuck-tucks, the horns can be controlled remotely. They drive a pre-determined route, so their sound starts becoming a rhythm pattern. Ilpo Vaisanen (of Pan Sonic fame) composed a piece out of that, which is hear recorded in Gent (Belgium), so I assume its cars rather than tucks-tucks. Its an utterly annoying piece to hear, certainly if you never drove a car yourself - like me - but it also has something captivating. Hardly like anything that is even remotely Pan Sonic like, but its not difficult to see Vaisanen's fascinating with a choir of short and long form tones back in this piece for thirty car horns. Towards the end its gets even fast rhythmical and almost melodically. Maybe, however, we lack a visual component here. Green noise is something that we find on the backside, which is a piece of 64 trees, attached with 'controllable, mechanical vibrators', which can be played with custom made software. Visitors to the installation can control this with their cell-phones, but its also possible to play this is a piece. On this record we have a composition by Radboud Mens. In both cases its clear what we hear, car horns and trees. But whereas the car horns are slightly annoying and making a novelty record (perhaps due to the lack of a visual element), the 'Composed Nature' side actually works pretty well, without a visual side. We hear trees, branches, leaves flapping in the wind, triggered by those vibrators, along with the birds and wind sounds that you get when you an outdoor recording. Radboud Mens cleverly builds up his piece, starting with sparse elements and then slowly going to more heavy motions of those trees (bigger ones I assume). Now here a visual element is not really necessary, as this can perfectly be enjoyed as a piece of music by itself. There is mean drone like sound at its core (why am I thinking of chainsaw?), which comes in and out, but these seemingly random sounds are put together into one great piece of music.
One thing that puzzled me is why one side of the record is called Yokomono Pro, as I thought this whole Yokomono thing dealt with vinyl, vinyl killers and such like? To which end Staalplaat goes as far as to pressing records for these installations and invite composers to deliver sound material. I am not sure how this will end up in the installation pieces, but if its still the same thing as with the vinyl killers, then this '3.5' is worthy one. To explain what it is, I have to copy the original text by Staalplaat: "Our first attempt was the release of Yokomono 03 where we hoped to cut two tracks, one spiraling from outside in and the others from inside out. So that the needle would move in different directions. This attempt failed (for reasons that we will not go in to at this moment). This new record has three parallel soundtracks where the cutting needle was lifted twice with short intervals, in order to make the needle used during “wiedergabe” to jump tracks randomly. To play this record you must not see your turntable as a reproduction machine that reproduces the music on the record. You can not put it on and sit down to listen. See the record and turntable much more as a music instrument that with each turntable model and with each setting if your machine you will create a different sound and mix of this record. As with any instrument you have to learn how to play your turntable and find what setting you like best. Of vital influence are the skate settings en the wait [sic] on the tone arm, these and others you must very to experience the options of the record." There is a brown noise (inserts quote again: "In science, Brownian noise, also known as Brown noise or red noise, is the kind of signal noise produced by Brownian motion, hence its alternative name of random walk noise. The term "Brown noise" comes not from the color, but after Robert Brown, the discoverer of Brownian motion." with sound pieces by Cynthia Zaven and Merzbow, and a white noise side with Mika Vainio and Jaap Blonk. Now this is certainly a most strange record. I stood by my turntable, changing the weight of the tone arm hearing say Blonk, but then moving into Vainio and back, or the piano tones which I assume are Zaven's going into Merzbowian noise, sometimes with white/brown noise blocks coming in, quickly and disappearing equally fast. Stuff you can do on vinyl only and which have a highly added value to what you get. Hardly plain music, but also not just a DJ tool. Very nice, even without the art installation itself. (FdW)


SELBYVILLE - MANSIONS (CDR by Tea First Records)
A trio with Michael Kamin, Artie Fischer and Derek Kimball who are from Portland (Maine) and Pittsburg (Pennsylvania) - which seems hard for me when it comes to band rehearsals - and who are called Selbyville. I believe they all three play guitar and there is a little bit of electronics in play. Plus they have friends who add cello, trombone or violin when needed. As I was banging away on my keyboard writing other stuff, I was playing this in the background. When the music was over, I realized that was not a great idea. Not because the music was demanding, far from it actually, but because it was so gentle, it got a bit lost. Then I decided to play it again and again, all along not doing anything in particular, well, other than sipping coffee, and thought this was great music. All instrumental, all gentle, with just that nice extra touch of electronics in the background. Think post rock perhaps, but then much of it without drums. A bit Americana with that occasional violin and banjo (which I didn't see listed). But if anything, I think this is 12K music, in their 2012 mark of blending lots of acoustic instruments with bits of electronics. They maybe sparse on this release, but all the more exciting, I should think. This is some excellent acoustic ambient music, a gentle touch. The Durutti Column of some years ago, but then with three guitars all at once. Refined stuff. (FdW) Address:


CARL KRUGER - LOVEDAY (3"CDR by Bicephalic Records)
Bicephalic doesn't tell us more than 'Carl Kruger is an American male of European ancestry working in abstract sound design'. I reviewed some of his music before, but don't recall what I thought of it, which is, given the amount of music heard, perhaps really an excuse. But I think I should go back to them, as this new one, with five untitled pieces, is actually quite interesting. I may have put him down as someone who plays noise, this new one is indeed 'abstract sound design'. Kruger uses his laptop to alter acoustic sounds in an interesting way - the rumble of plastic, voices and perhaps instruments. The modern version of musique concrete I should think. A great deep production with some wild bass sounds, which hit the conus quite hard, looped segments of acoustic crackles and hiss and static. Cracks 'n cuts was once the name of a series of evenings, with improvising musicians playing together, with usually someone  'processing' the acoustic instruments and I remember hearing stuff like Kruger does here. It seems a long time ago. It also reminded me of some of the works on Ritornell, that experimental off-shoot of the once mighty Mille Plateaux label. I should think that Kruger could easily fit on that label with his loud, abstract, sometimes noisy, sometimes introspective but highly intelligent computer music. Excellent stuff. (FdW) Address:


Two small discs of improvised music, in the usual nice packaging. The first one is a duet between Chris Heenan on contrabass clarinet and Dimitra Lazaridou-Chatzigoga on zither. In May of last year they played in Berlin, privately I think, this fine fifteen minute piece of concentrated effort. Drone like with motors licking the zither, and the somewhat darker sounds of clarinet that seem to follow the gestures made on the zither. In the second half of the fifteen minute piece, the roles are reversed and here it is the clarinet that takes the lead in a more louder, more dense, piece of sustainment. Very nice.
Stranger is the release by Yiannis Tsirikoglou, which has six tracks but last only eleven minutes. Before the word '[dust]' there are some dots, hard to reprint. The liner notes are hard to read, but there are also on the website of the label. Tsirikoglou lives in The Hague and works here with visual artist Mariska de Groot, using optical sound - "old technique of capturing sound on film also used at the first synthesizers" - and uses projections and loudspeakers. There is a narrative here at work, but its hard to say what. These six pieces reminded me of early, abstract electronic music, maybe both from the execution of these small pieces and the description of the project. Without images it still works quite well. Perhaps its a pity that this is all so/too brief and its hard to make up ones mind about it. Here I could have easily enjoyed the time range of a 3" - twenty-one minutes wouldn't have hurt. (FdW)

Its been quite a while since I last heard from Burning Emptiness, the French home for all sort of electronic music. I assumed they disappeared - these things happen. The idea of a split we should take very literal here. Each has four tracks, first one by FrzImagho, then one by Moon, then one by FrzImagho etc. FrzImagho is a new name for me. A duo of two guitarists, using computers to process their guitars. Clicky, hissy ambient textures in which, other than some of Fennesz' work we can still recognize the guitar. The music is apparently a bit older, from 2003-2004 and recorded in one take. Mininature like this works quite well. The four pieces by Moon are of course also quite short. This one man band is to be found behind a load of analogue and synthesizers and plays ambient music. Gentle music, but here the short time frame of the music is a bit too short for my taste. Pieces like this need at least a couple of more minutes to evolve, and not be as sketch like as they are now. But no doubt it serves as a nice introduction to the music of Moon. Quite a nice one. (FdW)


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