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Vital Weekly 817

img  Tobias Fischer

COLIN POTTER - ANCIENT HISTORY (5CD by Ultra Mail Productions)
Very kind: "Forgive me for sending such a substantial item - I hope it doesn't overload you!', writes mister Potter on the press release. "Dear mister Potter, thanks for this substantial item. Its by no means an overload". When I got 'Flowmotion - A Compilation', back in 1983 or 84, I got it because it had Chris & Cosey and The Legendary Pink Dots on it, but I discovered so many more. That LP was released on Potter's ICR label and his track 'Rooftops' on side two closes that side which has some great synth pieces by Ian Boddy, Paul Nagle and Carl Matthews. It lead to 'Visions', a similar synth-styled compilation on Third Mind Records, again with Potter. His third compilation, on 'Three Times A Day', I have yet to encounter on CD. To the young FdW that was quite revealing, having missed the 70s cosmic synth music and only acquainted to some second hand vinyl of Tangerine Dream. But as these things go, I lost sight of Colin Potter and now learn that he had kids and ran a professional studio. In the last decade he he is back, mainly as a member of Nurse With Wound, both in studio and on stage, but also working, studio wise, with Current 93, Fovea Hex, Bass Communion, Ora, Andrew Chalk and Jonathan Coleclough. His ICR label released the last cassette back in 1990 (although soon will revive this format) and started to release CDs and CDRs. Through Vinyl On Demand he already had a historical record out, in 2006, and this four/five CD set fills in some more gaps. The four in the official package (limited to 400 copies) are all previously released cassettes, spanning 1979-1982 ('A Gain'), 1982 ('Two Nights') and two from 1989, which were already a round up of compilation pieces up to that point 9'Recent History Vol. 1 and 2'). There are also 200 copies of this box which comes with a fifth CD, 'Deja Who?', which looks at pieces from the mid 80s to late 90s. That is, roughly the period, when Potter didn't do as much as in the first few years. This could work both ends. Either you think you have a fine cross-section of Potter's older work, some of which is not easy to get hold of (and certainly not expertly remastered), but especially with that fifth CD, also perhaps too much of a cross section. Purists would argue that they rather have say 'The Ghost Office', 'The Where House', 'Here' and 'The Scythe' in one box, since they are the first four cassettes he released. Or perhaps a box set of all of his early compilation pieces. Who says that might not happen one day? Obviously such a prolific musician has something to choose from and Potter made this choice. Sometimes I can be a purist when it comes to re-issues, liking to have a 'complete' thing, but i thought this box set was great. To start for a fact that I don't have any of these old cassettes myself, and it serves as a great way of getting to hear them at last. The earliest recordings here show a love for sequencer synthesizer piece, bubbling and bouncing, stuck together with great electro rhythms. When Potter picks up the guitar, in 'You Tell Me' and even more in 'All Reel' for instance, I must say I less impressed. It becomes a bit mindless jamming around, taking away the pleasure for the listener. 'Two Nights' has two pieces from the original cassette, basically twice the same idea, in an attempt to create music that could also be performed live. The sequencer/arpeggio's are in place here too, but the sound is fuller, richer and more dramatic, more chords in minor. Includes as a bonus that great piece from the 'Visions' compilation. Various pieces on 'Recent History Vol. 1' already hint towards the more recent drone music, such as 'The French Polisher' and 'Ships That Pass In The Night', and guitars are used better in 'One Million Blades Of Grass'; 'Volume 2' has more rhythmic pieces on it, but also another fine guitar piece 'Green Fields'. On 'Deja Vu' it seems we land in something completely different, with almost techno like pieces ('Know More', 'No More', 'Washing Machine', 'Know No Thing'), too many bass guitars ('Bulkhead'), but also fine pieces of drone music, as 'Drone For JC' (as in Jonathan Coleclough, not Jesus Christ nor Johan Cruijf), 'No Good' and 'Shark Music', all of which are more alike his more recent music. A shift in technology is clearly audible in these pieces, some of which are a true miss, especially those technoid pieces, but its great to hear them at last. 'Ancient History' provides you with a fine overview of the first twenty years of music making. Hopefully the gaps will also be filled. (FdW) Address:


A new and remarkable release by Christof Kurzmann. This one made me really wonder. Where the hell am I? The music is so strange or making feel strange and uneasy, that I found myself uncomfortable at moments. But all this within the limits of an engaging musical experience. Earlier work by Kurzmann has been released on his own Charhizma label, as well as Erstwhile, Potlatch, etc. His musical output shows that it is not only geographically difficult to situate him. Electropop, new music, improvisation are equally interesting for him. He lives mainly in Buenos Aires nowadays. This may explain why this new release is dedicated to Argentine poet Alejandra Pizarnik who died in 1972.  The finishing piece ‘Ashes II’ contains an extended sample of her voice, reading – I suppose – one of her poems. As said, it is all together a cd of very strange music, although the music is not extraordinary demanding or far out. Not at all, I find it even a bit outdated on some moments. But often it is bizarre and full of unexpected combinations. And amidst of this we have the fragile voice of  Kurzmann, who also plays alto sax, electronics and electric guitar. The rest of the crew: Ken Vandermark (tenor saxophone, bass clarinet, clarinet), Eva Reiter (viola da gamba, contrabass recorder, dan bao), Clayton Thomas (bass) and Martin Brandlmayr (drums, vibraphone). The opening piece has an intimate atmosphere. It is a captivating sound work where different textures are connected into one whole. Electronic-dominated sound patterns combined with improvised sax playing, and the voice of  Kurzmann reading a poem. As in the other pieces the musicians demonstrate an interesting combination of electronics and acoustical instruments plus voice. The music shows many different faces often in one piece: ‘Para Janis Joplin’ starts from free improvisation, and continues halfway with a melodic theme that sounds very medieval. Kurzmann seems to be an expert in combining very different musical elements. Interesting stuff (Dolf Mulder). Address:


WOLF SCARERS – THROAT (CD by The Noise Upstairs)
The Noise Upstairs facilitates improv concerts in Manchester and Sheffield and started their own label in 2009. ‘Throat’ is one of their recent releases. Wolf Scarers is a duo of Simon Prince and Keith Jafrate, both playing tenor and alto saxophones. Prince, also playing flute, works mainly in the Manchester area. Keith Jafrate works throughout  England and gained reputation in the 80s as a jazz-poet with his band Sang. Both gentlemen played all sorts of music in the past. They have known each other for years but never met on stage. This changed in 2010 on Hudderfield’s Inclusice Improv, where they decided to continue for some duo work. Listening to ‘Throat’ I understand why. They really are in conversation and have a lot to tell.  Releases with sax-only music always make me a bit cautious. Saxophone is not my favorite instrument. It is associated - in my prejudiced mind - with endless and meaningless solo-excursions that irritate me. But Prince and Jafrate work very focused in these live recorded improvisations. I really liked them. They have a rich and varied vocabulary at their disposal. Meditative meandering excursions are followed by heavy outburst. Fine interplay and communication between these two!. Nice work. (Dolf Mulder) Address:


Mincek is a young New York-based composer and sax player. In the past he also set steps in the world of rock, punk, jazz and electronic music. Up to 2005 he was member of the experimental ensemble Zs, with whom he performed composed and improvised music. Nowadays Mincek is saxophonist, bass clarinetist, and artistic director of the Wet Ink Ensemble, a group dedicated to contemporary music, which he founded in 1998. This first cd by Mincek, offers five works that he composed since 2007. No wonder some of them are performed by the Wet Ink Ensemble. Like ‘Pendulum V’and ‘Pendulum III’.  In these two pieces Mincek plays with the “temporal and spatial phenomena demonstrated by the simple swinging notions of pendulums”. As in most compositions on this cd he choses to work with a limited set of musical elements. Repetition being an essential one. Also he creates from this approach delicate timbres and textures, contrasted with energetic outbursts. Because of the principles he works from the music sounds a bit locked in mechanical procedures. The closing piece, ‘Nucleus’, composed for percussion and sax, deserves special attention, because it is an positive exception to this, although composed along similar lines. In its performance however by Michael Ibrahim and Eric Poland the music is played more free and jazzy making it more alive. (Dolf Mulder) Address:


Andrea Belfi is a drummer who (hopefully) doesn't need any introduction. He played with David Grubbs, Stefano Pilia, Machinefabriek,  and Attila Faravelli. 'Wege' is his fourth release in which he explores the possibilities of a system he developed which allows him to play drums, synthesizer and feedback at the same time. He uses speakers to create feedback on the drums which are then filtered through the synthesizer, all to which Belfi can drum along. Belfi has a style that is very much his own, using a lot of tom sounds and handheld percussion. The more I play this, the less convinced I am that its all played at once. The cover lists a bunch of additional recordings provided by some of the people mentioned above, so somewhere along the lines, something has been added. Its of course not really important to know how it was made, it makes no claim of being recorded at once. It has a great stillness around it, the simple yet highly effective beats of beats, sparse electronics from feedback, and making this is into a fine record of improvisation meets post rock meets electro-acoustics in four delightful pieces of music. I wouldn't have mind hearing a bit more.
The other new release is 'Transfall' by erikM, of whom I never seem to know if he's a composer or an improviser, or both. No doubt, the latter. The six pieces on his latest CD are not new. They were recorded between 2004 and 2009 and found their way to compilations, dance pieces or commissioned by an ensemble. The latter is the longest and opens the CD, and has erikM playing electronics and CD player and the ensemble playing harp, clarinets, flutes, cello and percussion. This is a piece in the best modern classic tradition, but despite reservations I may have against modern classical music, I think 'Astral' is a great piece. Partly filled with nasty electronic sounds, and partly what seems at times acoustic instruments, reminding me of the best Zeitkratzer pieces. The other five pieces are much shorter and see erikM working with electronics and field recordings. Here we find him as a more traditional composer of musique concrete, in some excellent short, concise pieces with great style. Full of tension, great compositional style and evocative, these are excellent pieces. (FdW)


AFARONE - LUCEN (CD by Karl Records)
Two new names for me, a polish and a spanish composer on a German label. The Polish composer is one Cezary Gapik who started to compose his own music in the mid nineties when such possibilities were easier with the arrival of computers. His interest lies in anything from Lull to Ferrari to Radigue, but its more alike the first and the last than the man in the middle. Gapik uses electronic sounds (which the cover defines as laptop, prepared electric guitar and sound processors) and acoustic sounds (prepared piano, various objects (vibrators, fiddlestick, glass, paper, metal). That acoustic side was a bit hard to hear, but no doubt they have been eaten alive by those digi-monsters of the computer, or at its best, its the starting point of a piece, such as in 'The Gradual Loss Of Elasticity', whereas in 'Idiomat' guitars act like airplanes. Gapik plays 'ambient depressionism', as he calls it himself, but I think 'Isolationism' suits this just perfect (and we still know what we are talking about). These four lengthy excursions into the underworld of music, dark, moody (depressed? not really) and ambient. Rough at the edges, which makes this quite nice. Its not a work that we haven't heard before, but Gapik plays it with a fine ear for detail. Music that fits the dark season.
From Spain hails Stefano Ruggeri who has worked the last three years on his debut album 'Lucen'. His influences are to be found in Alva Noto, Thomas Koner and Mira Calix, but also Gustav Mahler, Anton Webern and Alban Berg. His main instrument is the piano, but also uses extensively electronics. Eight instrumental pieces here, in which the piano plays an important role, embedded in the glacier glitch world of electronics and crispy beats. A bit intelligent for being pure dance music - as if anyone could dance to this anyway - this owes more to the world of ambient music, but has a bit too much beats for that (I keep telling ambient house is never far away from a return). Also Afarone uses samples of classical music, mainly violin and cello, to add a more (even more) melancholic edge to the music, even at times it becomes a bit drone like. All minor chords, dwelling on nostalgia, like late romantic classic music in a very modern guise. Not entirely my cup of tea, but its sounded all quite nice. (FdW)


American group PAS (Amber Brien, Michael Durek, Jon Worthely and Robert L. Pepper) have been around for some time and while on tour in Poland last year they worked on new material. No instruments are mentioned on the cover, but I think we could safely say they use a fair amount of traditional instruments, such as guitars, bass, various wind instruments, keyboards, percussion, but also samples, field recordings and such like. It seems to me that much of what PAS does in playing lengthy improvisations, record them on a bunch of tracks and then start weeding out the bits they don't like, add more layers of sound and make the whole thing a bit more concise. Sometimes they arrive at a fairly conventional piece of music, such as in 'Telepathic Rain Race' or 'Inner Ear Echo Imbalance', both held together by one kind or another rhythm (sampled me thinks) over which they play more melodic jams on their instruments. Then they sound a bit too conventional for my taste, a bit like anything ambient industrial record from the late 80s (say Illusion Of Safety meets Violence & The Sacred), but then there are also pieces that are more abstract, dwelling less on a rhythm, more on field recordings, and they are more interesting. PAS however never forgets to be a group, playing together, which makes this quite an interesting release. Soundscuplting, band like structure, improvisation, studio techniques, collage/montage, and yet still operating within what I still like to consider a 'song' (mainly due to the length, never under three minutes, never extending seven minutes). Maybe at an hour's length, a bit long, but nevertheless a very fine CD. (FdW) Address:


For various reasons I already think that D.S. Al Coda Records is already an interesting label. First of all, of the four releases I received - two new and two just an introduction, there are two DVDs, one LP, and one CD. They announce more of all of these in the future, but also books. An all round label of various outings of cultural activities. That's great. The two recent releases are printed in packaging developed by Knust/Extrapool, and resemble the Brombron series. Of the two releases I am asked to review, the CD is from Trophies, a band with  Alessandro Bosetti (voice, electronics), Kenta Nagai (fretless guitar) and Ches Smith (drums). Smith is new, since on the previous release, reviewed in Vital Weekly 792, Tony Buck played the drums. I wasn't too pleased with their first CD, and also not really of their concert, which I saw a year ago. They play nervous, hectic free jazz like music, along with the singing/speaking of Bosetti, who delivers his speech very fast, almost like a sped up tape. Here we have six new pieces, which are very similar to the first release, and again, I must, say this kind of music doesn't do much to me. Too theatrical, too much a show off of the big book of free music, maybe pretentious even. Its all played with great care and style, and these people know what they are doing, and perhaps the combination of poetry and free jazz with bits of electronics is something new. Most people liked their concert, so I must be wrong. Great package!
Chris Mann I also once live, but I can't remember when. Must have been in the late 80s at V2, when they were still in 's-Hertogenbosch. Likewise I can't remember much of the concert either, but the helium like voice of Mann is certainly I something remember. On his DVD we see him, right on the screen, while on the left we see him from above, simultaneously recorded. I assume he recites the text that is printed on the cover. Not that I could tell what it was about, not from hearing what he says, nor reading what it says. But is a delight to watch. Maybe thirty-nine minutes is a bit long, but hearing his rapid delivery and strongly amplified mouth sounds, makes this a great piece of sound poetry. Mann delivers his text is a pretty similar way as Bosetti does, but it works on a much more abstract level, which is something I like a lot. I was thinking: maybe I would enjoy Trophies better on DVD (despite the concert)? Mann has an unique voice (pun intended). This is great to watch, maybe once, but you can easily stick it on as a regular music release.
Also on DVD is a piece of labelowner Alex Zimerman, who plays cello here, below the Brooklyn Queens Expressway. He's filmed by Liz Wendelbo on 16mm and who also created footage around this location. Also the sound of the area is used in the piece, which makes this a nice gesamtkunstwerk. Whereas the Mann DVD is perhaps something to watch once, and hear multiple times, this one is both to watch and hear various times. The cello sometimes seems to disappear in favor of just street sounds, but that makes the piece all the more fascinating. An excellent work of field recordings (taped on audio and video) and improvised music.
The oldest release I got (much older than six months, both of the last two, but I don't really care, as I like the overall presentation a lot, which reminded me of Factory Records/Les Disques Du Crepuscule), is a LP which has two pieces. One by Alex Waterman and one by Dan Fox. Here we also receive a lot of text on the inner sleeve, but I found it hard to relate to the music. Apparently the two pieces were written in response to a letter received by Dexter Sinister, calling for press releases to be exhibited at the 7th Regiment Armory Building. On one side we have a spoken word piece by Dan Fox, who talks about 'From Brussels With Love', the legendary compilation cassette from late 1980, which has a poem recited by Richard Jobson called 'Armoury Show' and talks about this compilation in relation to art, rather than punk. Nice, since its a great compilation (get it on a CD, re-issued a couple of years ago), but hearing the American pronunciation of European names is a bit painful. Also I wonder how often you'd play this. Waterman responded with a piece of music played on trumpet, phonographs, stroh violin and violincello and is, from a musical point of view, much more interesting. A soaring piece of estranged tones, like recorded in a different time, a different place and what seems to be outdated technique. A bit Gavin Bryars like, a bit 'The Sinking Of The Titanic', complete with sounds from the space it was recorded in. Quite a nice side. Odd conceptual record and certainly a label to watch out for, standing in the tradition of the best. (FdW) Address:


DMDN - KAPOTTE MUZIEK BY… (7" by Korm Plastics)
In 1998 was the goal of DMDN should create a remix of recordings of Kapotte Muziek. He is a close friend of the members of Kapotte Muziek. In the eighties they already contributed and released tapes at Korm Plastics and DMDN label Midas Tapes. DMDN was also a co-member of THU 20, in which we also find members of Kapotte Muziek. Anyway… DMDN started with a lot of enthusiasm and when he was ready to mix the material, something was broke down and everything was ruined. Anyway the next opportunity was the celebration of 25 years of Kapotte Muziek at Extrapool in Nijmegen. DMDN did the DJ set and mixed with a variety of turntables, tape decks and CD players Kapotte Muziek music. DMDN send out of the blue two edited highlights of this beautiful evening and about 14 years later the 7" inch single is ready. This release should be the fifth in the serial of "Kapotte Muziek by…" and for now the job has been done. Musicians like Troum, Asmus Tietchens, Illusion of Safety and Radboud Mens did it before. Anyway… the music at the 7" is very intense and drowned, just under the surface soundscapes make space for feed-back tones and minimal beat and subtitle cracks. Side A opens with, I think edited field recordings, like the sounds of passing cars and turns up to a nasty annoying noise beat with lot's of sounds around in a rhythmical way which leads to more abstraction of the soundscape. Side B starts with low frequency sound layers and abstract sounds. A minimal beat changes the sphere of the composition and makes it more open. There must be a reason that we had to wait 14 years… which one… I do not know… but this 7" is worth waiting. The single has a limited edition of 100 and has been co-release by Antenne Records, the label of DMDN. (Jan-Kees Helms) Address:


NOIKO - HONEY (CDR by Eta Label)
Michal Kedziora is the man behind Noiko, and according to the label 'Honey' is 'a debut album with ten instrumental electroacoustic lo-fi compositions created from various samples, sounds of a clarinet, guitar, drums, glockenspiel, piano and different electronic virtual instruments'. It took him four years to record this, and he got help from Lukasz Maciejewski in turntable. Its on one of those things, I guess, where you expect something else. The CD opens with a laid back jazz like drum playing over a set of electronics and clarinet, and jazz like bass. Not really something lo-fi or electroacoustic I thought. In total there are ten tracks on this release, and it moves along similar lines throughout on this CD. Its all more melodic than I anticipated, even after that first piece. Which of course is not a bad thing. Melodies are great. Its all very much music that is played first and then taking apart, altered and put back together, all thanks to the glorious wonders of the computer. So it misses, for me, that electro-acoustic angle, and seems all a bit more like the studio version of a (post-) rock band. The tracks aren't too dissimilar altogether, which is perhaps a bit of the downside of this. The jazzy laid-back drums and bass return in a couple of tracks, while all along the electronics and shimmering clarinet play a role here.  But the tracks are pretty concise, with a total length of thirty-four minutes, which I think is long enough. This shouldn't have been much longer than this. So, in all its strangeness for being different, crossing improvisation to computer/studio techniques, I'd give this thumbs up. (FdW) Address:


Dadala is an ensemble which creates musical collages. The music is produced, arranged and mixed by RDunlap, which is created by Loopy C. Loopy C describes this music as virtual improvisations, synthesized soundscapes and rhythmic transient electronic hyperrealisms. He has a wide pallet of instruments and sounds. The music is completed with material of Frank Dunlap on alto sax, clarinet, flute, trumpet, other winds, bass, guitar, violin, rubber 2 by 2, kalimba, keyboard and percussion, Johann Meier on piano and keyboard, guitar, bass, software synths, samples, sequences and beats and Billy Shaw on sax. Spaghetti Wall starts like a well known free-jazzy improvisation piece of music. But luckily the music starts to get more adventurous, with nice combinations of ritual beats, electronics and nice melodies on sax of experiments on guitar played in a loop with a moving sax like a jumping bird. Or like a lullaby of a kind of tones and sounds which are coming up and fading away. Spaghetti Wall is a beautiful experimental album in which different musical worlds melt together in a pleasant bath of structured improvisations. (Jan-Kees Helms)


More music from Justin Hardison, who works as My Fun. This is a follow up to the poetic work of 'Camaraderie' (see Vital Weekly 754) and moves along similar musical lines. That is perhaps the downside of this. Hardison uses field recordings, electronics and vinyl records to create six new pieces that have that similar sound of before. Glacier like movements of long, seemingly endless sustaining sounds. All of the field recordings are highly processed, so we only recognize very occasionally something like water sounds, thunder storms and chimes. No other instruments are mentioned here (as opposed to the previous which had organ and harmonium, but I think its safe to assume we have them here again). Gentle ambient music is the result, as, again, despite the glacier like movements don't sound 'cold'. Still quiet, still peaceful and if you were looking for a dramatic change, this is not the place. No radical new movements here, no paradigm shift in the approach of ambient music. Just a fine CD. That's worth something too. (FdW) Address:

JOHN BRENNAN & ANNE-F JACQUES (cassette by Crustaces Tapes)
Only two weeks ago I reviewed a 'free' cassette which you can get by sending a postcard or gift to the label. That was their second release, now I have the first one too. A collaboration/improvisation between one John Brennan (alias Static Kitten, also a member of Chansons D'Amour, Chimurenga Electroacoustic Ensemble, Endos and Totems) and Anne F. Jacques (member of Minibloc, Chimurenga Electroacoustic Ensemble, Total Improvisation Group and Funf). Here they play around with tape recorders, cassette loops and effects. Again a tape that lasts about ten minutes and has the more noisy end of improvisation, and sounds like recorded in one go. The b-side is noisier, but also sounds more coherent than the a-side, with big thanks to the loops going round and round there. Quite nice this one. (FdW)


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