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Vital Weekly 821

img  Tobias Fischer

Its been quiet from the side of Olivia Block, well or so it seems. Its always nice to hear a new work by her. Here she teams up with trumpet player Greg Kelley, while Block takes credit for electronics and piano. I am not entirely sure, but somehow I don't think this is a work from a concert situation, but rather a studio based effort. I am not entirely sure. This is music with a lot of tension, carefully build and quiet. Electro-acoustic music meeting improvisation and modern classical music. Sometimes it seems as if everything melts together, piano, trumpet, electronics (field recordings perhaps) and make a blurry low resolution picture, to stay in some sort of reference with the title, like a camera being out of focus. But then the lens is being adjusted and we hear clearly a trumpet, piano, electronics and field recordings (which might very well be any sort of sound being derived from the piano itself). After this unfolds, it can as easily fold together again and reach again for that level of abstraction. Music that is somewhere in between improvisation and composition. Music, also, that is quite demanding to listen too. Its not very loud, although not exactly of the inaudible kind also, but lots of things happen below the surface. This is not something you can put on and leave it as such. This requires your full and unabridged attention. Without that, it won't work. With your concentration fully spend on this, it will slowly unfold its beauty - very time you play this. (FdW) Address:


In October 2010 these five persons meet up at the Signal festival and played together. The two days before their concert they played together in a studio, resulting in these eight pieces of improvised music. We have here Ikue Mori (electronics), Simon Balestrazzi (electronics, prepared toy psaltery), Sylvie Courvoisier (piano, prepared piano), Alessandro Olla (sound sculptures, electronics) and Maja S.K. Ratkje (voice, toys, live electronics). This is quite interesting stuff. I have no idea what kind of post-editing took place afterwards, but the whole thing has a great vibrant character. A fine clash of acoustic and electronic sounds, bouncing off and on together. While I have no idea, I must also say that I am pretty much convinced that the whole thing was captured with a bunch of microphones and mixed together later on. Sounds pop up from now with great clarity (the piano, the voice) and move as easily between pure acoustics - toys, piano - and electronics. It has more fine balances: between loud and soft, sparse vs busy, many and few dynamics. Throughout there is something to be found around here and it makes a fine release throughout. A quintet of voices (real ones, but obviously also their own instruments) which are all seasoned players who come up with a great work, seemingly quite easily, but perhaps not as easy as we think. Whatever might be the case, its a fine work of great electro-acoustic improvisation. (FdW) Address:


Artist Sabes re-news the sound of power noise scene; - a scene that is one of the true triumphs of German label Ant-Zen Recordings. The power noise style combines crushing noise textures with blasting beats and has been practiced for almost two decades by Ant-Zen acts such as Synapscape, Converter and Asche. Especially the two latter projects crosses my mind as I listen to this blasting debut from Sabes. Behind the project you find German artist Sebastian Mich who started DJ'ing at an early age and then continued studying music. Sabes combines harsh industrial-noise-expressions with blasting rhythm textures and atmospheric drones singing somewhere underneath the landscape of sheer darkness. Voice samples once in a while sneaks into the sound picture in this otherwise inhuman and evil piece of nocturnal sound art. Excellent album. (Niels Mark) Address:


If you see a picture of mister Toeplitz, its usually behind a laptop. That could lead to the assumption that he is a laptop musician. Which he is, but it is not necessarily the whole range of his work. He also plays bass, performs music from other composers (such as Eliane Radigue) and composes his own music, such as the work on this new CD, 'Inoculate?', which is a work for a wind trio (trumpet, bass and soprano saxophone, trombone), live electronics, data noise and dance. The latter is of course not part of this release. Toeplitz is a composer of minimalist works but also of heavy music. His music is not some mil droning stuff, but au contraire works into the brain, like a heavy block of noise falling down. The sheer minimalism of 'Noise Wall' reminds us of Niblock, but then the live Niblock rather than the studio Niblock. It is what it is: a wall of noise drones, which even reminded me at one point of Zbigniew Karkowski. By comparison, the short 'Inoculer' is a soft piece of drones, and one that seems to have no wind instruments, just electronics, which moves over into 'Irradier', in which the electronics seem to play a major role still, but the wind instruments return here. Before the 'Noise Wall', the CD is opened with a piece called 'Brume', which is the perfect ascent down the spiral staircase. Wind instruments and artificial wind sounds from the computer mingle in an elegant manner, creating a vast spacious piece of music. Here the noise is yet far away, and forms a great introduction into the world of Toeplitz. An excellent work, this four part work 'Inoculate?' of modern classical music, using electronics and real instruments. (FdW) Address:


Undivided is a project of polish musician Waclaw Zimpel (clarinet, bass clarinet). He is trained and educated in improvised and classical music. He played with people like Ken Vandermark, Joe McPhee, Steve Swell, and numerous polish musicians of course. For his Unidived-porject he is joined by Klaus Kugel (drums), Perry Robinson (clarinet), Bobby Few (piano)and Mark Tokar (bass). All three lengthy pieces on this album are written by Zimpel. They were recorded during a live performance in September 2009 in Warsaw. As a quartet – without Perry Robinson – they recorded one earlier album ‘The Passion’, one of the best-received albums of 2010. By the way, Zimpel  is also present on several earlier releases by Multikulti. Unidived plays jazz, to be more precise a evidently Coltrane-inspired kind of hypnotic post bop. Solo excursions are rare, most of the time musicians are involved in group playing, producing complex harmonic developments. Much room for improvisation but at the same time moving along lines what were composed by Zimpel. Overall it is slowly developing and floating music, but at the same time very intense an solid. Music as a stream of consciousness. Music with an intricate beauty that is not easily to be consumed. (Dolf Mulder)


The Netherlands are, these days, warming up for a revival of Ultra - even we might run a special on it next week. I wrote about this before when discussing the Minny Pops CD/DVD and Plus Instruments CD. Something which along the periphery I am involved in and so people ask me lots of stuff about Ultra. The Dutch equivalent of post-punk/no New York is usually my reply, ranging from doomy rock bands to duos with synthesizers. But a name never mentioned in this is The Ex. Now when Ultra was 'big' (1979-1981) The Ex was firmly rooted in real punk music, with heavy political lyrics and scratching guitars. But now, 2012, we might easily say that they are one of the true surviving Ultra bands. I'd like to think of Ultra as expanding your (musical) horizon. Try out something new, not try to sound like anyone else and that's exactly what The Ex have been doing since 1979. They played as a big band, with unusual non musical instruments, with jazz musicians, improvising musicians and since a couple they have some strong ties to Ethiopia, where they have played a many times. These two CDs have nothing to do with The Ex themselves but both where recorded over there, in hotel rooms. The first is a duet of clarinet player Xavier Charles, who is also a member of Silent Block, who toured along The Ex in Ethiopia and The Ex's own guitar player Terrie Ex (the only original member). In a hotel room they played seven pieces of highly improvised music. Terrie Ex is a more 'traditional' improviser, where the guitar, despite the dissonant character of his playing, is always recognizable as a guitar, but unlike some other improvisers he avoids the strict rules of rock. Charles on the other side plays a bit more traditionally here too. Together they go from anywhere 'soft' and introspective to wild and loud - the punk roots of improvised music. However everything is well under control here. Excellent improvised music.
Also improvised is the release by Paal Nilssen-Love (drums), Mats Gustafsson (baritone saxophone) and Mesele Asmamaw (krar), and also recorded in a hotel room. This was part of a series of concerts in which the saxophone played an important role. There is also a difference. Both discs contain improvised music but whereas Charles/Ex is harder to define, this one is no doubt to be called free jazz, which is perhaps less my speciality (or my cup of tea). The two lengthy cuts where captured on the spot and its a heavy free jazz affair, especially Gustafsson blows away like its the last thing he's ever doing. although, having said that, its not a work that is about constant going over the top. There are also moments in which they hold back, search a new phrase and explore from there again. Its quite a powerful recording, direct and in your face, but for me just a bit too much free jazz and not just free improvisation. But nevertheless quite good also. (FdW) Address:


Its been quite a while since I last heard solo music by Keith Fullerton Whitman. Late 2009 he started to play 'Generators' in concert, 'from flooded basements to festival stages', a few dozen times. The final two performances are captured on this record. It uses digital and analogue modular synthesis and Keith wrote about it: "Generator" was at attempt to wrest a viable performance-based music out what had until then been a solitary set of sound-design tools. The piece grew out of a frustration with the limitlessness of computer-based real-time synthesis & algorithmic / generative systems vs. their utter failure as performance solutions. It hinges heavily on the ideology of the "Playthroughs" system (in that the subtle tuning inconsistencies of a physical instrument - the electric guitar - could be amplified & multiplied) through the use of multiple layerings of different topologies of oscillator, yielding an unstable array of modal canons that drift in & out of "tune," causing all manner of inter-voice beating & assorted psycho-acoustic effects." What it means to me, I think, is that he has a set of modular sound generators which he can freely play around with, deciding on the spot which direction he will take. This flexible approach makes that no night is the same when he performs his 'Generators'. The two pieces here quite different. 'Issue Generator (For Eliane Radigue)' is a low droning affair in which tones start to oscillate against eachother and create nice 'beatings' inside the material. On the other side we find 'High Zero Generator' which is a more heavy beast of pulsating tones, piercing and loud. In both of these pieces we are dealing with a microphone recording, which adds a nice subtle nastiness to the music. Great cosmic music on one side but with strong edge and more noise based on the other, with a likewise strong edge. Excellent music for those who like their cosmics being a bit more different. Who wouldn't want that? (FdW) Address:


The original on one side and the remixes on the other side. Maybe that's a way to do it. I am wary of all the remixes going on and perhaps also in this case, I am not sure what purposes the remixes actually serve. Karl Bösmann plays zither, bows, voice, hammer, ventillation, timpani, trumpet and trombone in the twenty minute title piece. I usually quite like his work and this new piece is no different. It seems to creating a hiatus with his older work in that it all seems to be derived from acoustic sound sources, rather than electronics. Its slowly building up, layer by layer and from a certain point on a moire like effect takes place, of shifting sounds, moving in and out of the mix. A fine complexity of dense sounds arrives and has a weird, almost avant-folk like character. Think Idea Fire Company meeting Sandoz Lab Technicians. Three remixes on the other side. The first is by Jan van den Dobbelsteen, The Netherlands' more conceptual composer. I have no idea what he did to the material, but 'radical rework' surely applies here. A static beep, like an alarm clock, repeated over and over. A great idea, but perhaps too long for the radical nature of the piece. Or way too short. Ultra Milkmaids do also a form of reduction but in a more musical way, bringing everything down to just a few meandering organ like sounds. Easily too short. Hiroshi Hasegawa, sometimes known as Astro, on the other hand does what he does best, which is putting down a fine psychedelic mix of noise like sounds. Maybe a bit compressed together (maybe the lack of proper mastering), but it works quite well. Three entirely different remixes, none of which resembles the original at all. Now that's what I call a great remix project.
At the same time Jan van den Dobbelsteen also released a new 7", which deals with the Museum Le Secret, which I believe is a portable museum, a scale model of a museum, which can be presented in another gallery space. Van den Dobbelsteen, also a visual artist, exhibited in that small museum, and released this record. Like the museum has a scale of 1:200 and 1:87, the music is made from making a similar scale model, I guess by slowing down sounds in a similar scale. Or maybe just silence slowed down, as both pieces last 4 minutes and 33 seconds. The 1:200 version is barely audible and just seems to have some vague sound happenings, the 1:87 model is a more electronic piece of microscopic events being played around. Music wise that is the more musical side of the two. Like much of Van den Dobbelsteen's work this is a highly conceptual record; one that leaves more room for questions than it is prepared to give answers. (FdW)


From the beginning it is evident that Iranian multi-talent Salim Ghazi Saeedi has a love for progressive rock and avant rock produced by bands like Univers Zero. No idea if progressive rock is of any importance in countries like in Iran. In that case Saeedi may be an outspoken exception. ‘Human Encounter’ is his second solo album. ‘Iconophoci’ his first solo album dates from 2010.  Earlier he released albums with his band Arashk. The pieces on this new album are divided into two sections: a dark side and a bright side. He reflects on encounters in his personal life with fellow human beings. On the bright side he dedicated his compositions to persons. On the dark side pieces carry titles as ‘Lonesomeness’ and ‘City Bombardment’. A concept album so to speak, on which Saeedi again proves himself to be a very capable composer in Rock in Opposition vein. Everything is played by himself: guitars, keyboards, samplers (drums), etc. Because of this the music does not breath as it would when played by a band. It is the same experience I had with his first solo album. Nonetheless I had a good time with this album. Although 12 pieces are on this album, it works as one giant composition in different parts. His pieces are thoroughly composed and arranged. Saeedi understands his craft. Musically his work fits perfectly in the tradition of  Henry Cow, Univers Zero, 5uu’s or X-Legged Sally. No doubt Saeedi has access to this kind of music.  I can’t say Saeedi opens a new chapter in this line. But for sure does not simply repeat the past, but he is able to construct some very tight and well-thought compositions in this line. His music has potential and it is well-crafted. Can’t wait to hear more of this guy. (Dolf Mulder) Address:


A trio of improvisers, all on string instruments. We have Agnes Szelag and Marielle Jakobsons, who work as Myrmyr (with releases on Digitalis Recordings and Under The Spire Recordings), who plays violin and cello, teaming up with Helena Espvall on cello. She has played with Amnesiac Music & Dance Ensemble and Eugene Chadbourne. I believe the electronics used are courtesy of Myrmyr. Its not easy to recognize these electronics, since it sounds pretty acoustic. Its not easy to say something about this release, without the risk of copying things that are all also in the press text. To make references to pieces by Arvo Part of Henryk Gorecki is easy, but also to the point. But then less composed and all improvised. Music that is dealing with long form, sustaining but also bending of tones, making this both melodic yet also abstract, gentle and majestic, moody and atmospheric. Somewhere in between modern classical music and improvised music, this is an excellent release. (FdW)


WYNDEL HUNT - OBLIVION (CDR by Simulacra Records)
Its always nice to see your quote used in a review - a reminder that I already reviewed this person before and apparently I was delighted. "a highly pleasant work" I wrote in Vital Weekly 715 about Wyndel Hunt's 'Sunshine Noir'. Its been quiet after that I think, but here is a new release with four new pieces, all, quite curiously, around ten minutes. He has expanded his set up from guitar and computer to bass guitar , harmonica and field recordings from the Pacific North-west. No computer is mentioned as such, so perhaps its not there, or it plays less of a role here. I think the latter. Unlike his previous which was all drone based and quite heavy as that ("'louder', more 'present' than many of his peers" I wrote), things seems to have smoothened out here a bit. No longer the shoegaze laptop guy, the dense layers of sounds, but with a bigger role for the sounds as they are. Maybe, so I was thinking, is some of this stuff even recorded in some sort of live situation - perhaps 'live in studio'. It certainly sounds so. In the title piece we hear obscure field recordings and bass guitar treatments with perhaps a few keys down on the harmonica. In 'Elision Field' it all seems to revolve around hiss like sounds, and has a static form of composition. In 'Pragmatism' there seems to be a return to the drone days, but less shoegazing, although mildly distorted. The final piece, 'Everything That Rises Does Not Converge', is in return a more quiet piece and has a more collage like form, including a long section of near silence. That makes the whole thing quite a varied affair, with four quite different pieces of music, made with relatively simple means. Quite an effort in doing so and a proof of fine craftsmanship as such. (FdW) Address:


"Chemical accompaniment encouraged but by no means required", it says on the press release. Thank god, not required, as I am afraid no work would get then smoking big joints while trying to review music. But hearing Clade I can see why they would encourage that. Their music can surely be enjoyed well when one is chemically induced. Music that can be used, they say, for 'private rituals, astral inquiry and small hours', which I am afraid is also not exactly my favorite enjoyments. Clade is a collective from Oakland and they use guitars and electronics, recording their music in one take without any overdubs. The recordings on this release where already made in 2009 - I am not sure why it took so long to release them. Guitars and electronics usually equals drone/ambient music, and that goes for Clade too. They reference Troum, Nadja, Lull and Earth, which seem to be quite valid references. The music Clade produces certainly fits that heavy type of drone music, which is even a bit noisy at times. The raw and untamed side of drone music, rather than the refined side. The wall of sound approach. Nine long pieces (well, eight, one is under one minute) and in 'Penal Song' things get a calmer, but then we are already well under way. Maybe there could have a been a bit more variation in this I thought, but maybe I am merely listening from the perspective of a reviewer, rather than thinking sky high on chemicals about a private ritual. That aside, I think this is quite a nice release of heavy weight drone music. Fans of the aforementioned bands will be pleased with these new kids on the drone block. (FdW) Address:


GLENN BACH - RADIA (CDR by Dust, Unsettled)
Although the name sounded familiar, I may not have heard of Glenn Bach before. He leads the improvising ensemble Double Blind ('a vehicle for collaborative soundscapes) and Intense Situations Of Peril (all electronics ensemble) and has worked with John Kannenberg on 'Two Cities', 'an audio-visual meditation on ambulatory experiences of place'. Besides that he has a net-label MPRNTBL, about field recordings, lowercase, analog noise and collaborative soundscapes. This solo release uses guitar feedback and field recordings captured in various state parks in California and Wisconsin. This is quiet music, sometimes almost below the threshold of hearing, but it sounds great. Lowercase is a term we don't hear that much anymore, but it certainly applies to this music. Whatever field recordings he has captured (at some instances I recognized the sound of water and birds), or whatever processes he applied to them, they sound like blurry static pieces of hiss like sounds, in which he places his sparse guitar sounds. There is a lot of space in the music - not in a cosmic sense of the word, but in the sparseness of the sounds used to create this music. This is not the kind of music you put on for 'fun', or as 'background'. This music requires active listening and without such concentrated effort it rather fails to impress the listener. It might be over before you know something had started. That is, I think, a great quality. (FdW)


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