Music Reviews

Artist: 1982
Title: Chromola
Format: CD + Vinyl
Label: Hubro Music
After a couple of collaborative releases, the trio confusingly labelling themselves 1982 return to first principles for an improvisation-heavy mood album with an instrumental core of violin, fiddle, harmonium and drums, but an outlook which is closer to both drone and soundtrack than to the folk or jazz that that ensemble of instruments may suggest.

Over slowly shifting hums, sometimes warm, sometimes discordant, the string instruments of choice plaintively wail in an often structureless and melancholic meandering. Slow and gentle drumming provides the structure, sometimes in the region of 90bpm.

Though the ingredients remain the same, there’s a broad diversity of styles between the seven pieces. Sometimes, such as on second track “06:19” (all the tracks are identified only by duration rather than having names), the patterns drift closer to a verse-chorus form, albeit not very close, and when this happens it does have a faintly celtic folk lilt to it. “07:00”, by comparison, is a stripped-down and freeform alternative, with spontaneous percussive noises and a more reluctant smattering of bowed notes. More militaristic use of steady snare drums gives “04:03” an after-the-battle flavour, while “04:45” with its dafter harmonium playing in particular has a more playful, almost silly touch of the avantgarde about it.

It’s an accomplished set of improvisations from a trio with a clearly broad scope, and while it possibly wanders in so many different directions that it begins to lose coherence as a forty-minute listening album, it certainly has a lot of class.
Artist: Luc Ferrari
Title: Hétérozygote / Petite symphonie…
Format: LP + Download
Label: Editions Mego
While ChainDLK more commonly receives reworkings and new recordings of modern classical pieces, this is an old-fashioned re-issue, by Editions Mego under their re-issues sub-label “Recollection GRM”. These are original recordings, one from the Sixties, one from the Seventies, carefully remastered and re-released. The mastering is exemplary- you could believe that this was a completely fresh recording. While this isn’t the first time these tracks have been reissued (they were released on CD in 2005), they have been freshened up here.

The A-side “Hétérozygote” is from 1963-64 and is from the very cutting edge of contemporary music concrete. Amid the 26 minute sequence are a fairly large number of scenes and interludes, individual ideas and elements that have been sequenced but rarely overlaid. There’s everyday found sound, woodland walk ambiences and light office machinery noises, there’s cut-up theatrical vocal snippets with their meaning stripped, there’s microphone and tape trickery. There’s distant traffic noises (that may be aeroplanes) making a sonic wash that resembles a single wave on a beach, sounding so processed that it’s hard to believe it’s not been put through modern digital filters. Some elements may in 2017 seem like avantgarde cliché but it’s works like Ferrari’s that allowed us to reach this place. The staged and dramatic staccato mini-drama of the vocal elements is, if I can say this, ‘very French’ for the time and reminds me of some Pierre Henry works.

“Petite symphonie intuitive pour un paysage de printemps”, recorded ten years later is a rather different beast. It opens with extensively layered pure sustained flute tones, lilting and echoing like birdsong. Unlike the first track, there are no abrupt halts and gearshifts here, but instead, very slowly, other elements are introduced. There’s a long snippet of a French interview (sadly my French is not up to knowing what it’s about), there are odd grasshopper noises and some metallic tubular tones. In the second half the pace lifts, flute playing is a little more frantic and something akin to more ethnic percussive instrumentation can also be heard. Overall it’s a much, much softer listening experience, less theatrical, more of a landscape.

This release is without doubt worth of the careful remastering that’s been applied and people exploring the development of avantgarde music should make this one of the stops on their journey. Completists may have preferred tracklistings faithful to the contemporary LP’s- this is essentially the first side of each of two separate LP’s stuck together- but as a bit of distilled history, it still works.
Artist: Zos Kia / Coil
Title: Transparent
Format: CD
Label: Cold Spring (@)
Rated: *****
Now considered as almost a piece of history, "Transparent" documents the first steps of this project as Zos Kia coexisted with Coil as John Balance was a member of both projects and Peter Christopherson was a guest of Zos Kia. The two bands performed together and some critics hinted at this cassette as the first release by Coil arguing that Zos Kia has the same relationship with Coil than eLph i.e., a way to explore slightly different territories by the same band. As Balance and Christopherson were still members of Psychic TV, this material is on the path of the first industrial music where a great part of the work was in research of something which was somewhat disturbing.
The first part of this release, credited to Zos Kia, features the voice of Alisteir Crowley in "Sicktone", the screams of Min in "Poisons" and the voice of Charles Manson in "Truth" as a mean to create an uncomfortable setting as they evidently aim to confront the audience with the deepest fears of our culture. While this first side of the record has is rooted in a noisy musical framework, the second side, credited to Zos Kia / Coil, marks a change of direction as "Sewn Open" is based on the drones that will be the skeleton of the Coil's first releases and the subsequent track more or less continue in this path, denoting a greater attention to sound details with the field recording of Silence and Secrecy (Section) and the loops of "Stealing The Words" until, in "On Balance", there's the introduction of drum and a clean audio that sounds as the introduction to "Scatology".
This reissue features also two bonus tracks credited to Ake which was the project prior to Zos Kia featuring Min Kent, John Gosling, and Matt Cope: "No Mas" and "Rape Live @ Equinox" whose musical framework is based on the impact of noise and the hypnotic voice of Min.
The history of Coil is so important to be a key element in the judgment of this release so now this music represents the first attempts to remove shock tactics from industrial music moving towards more complex musical settlement. History.
Artist: Scheerling, Thaumaturgist (@)
Title: Vertoeven LVI / Mysteries Van De Droom
Format: Tape
Label: Oggy Records (@)
Rated: *****
Let's dig deeper in sonic world's underbelly that is often so 'under' that some of you could think weird things related to them (occultists, aliens, mad psychiatrists making experiments, ghosts or whatever omitted to get credited as producers...). Fans of the darkest side of drone-driven music and gloomy ambient will be maybe delighted by the listening of "Vertoeven LVI" on side A of this split tape release, filled by Dutch sound artist Bert van Beek aka Scheerling with four acousmatic drones (lasting five minutes each) - mostly driven by effected scorched guitars, but also featuring whisper-like sounds, whooshing noises that got often used by tape art and metallic hits -. The abrasive first track "Schemmer" sets the ground for the hypnotical "Guurn", where some of the above-listed aural entities have been immersed into a dilated reverberation, which makes them feel like coming from some parallel dimension. The third movement "De Danne" - my favourite one - is a combination of tricks of the first two ones, as both slightly scorched guitars and reverb-puffed bubbles got joined, and precedes the final "Tehoape", which sounds like a cathartic reprise of the initial "Schemmer". I read somewhere it got inspired by the translation of some poetry of Dennis Gaens, but it's a detail that doesn't help me in explaining nuances I didn't catch due to the fact I didn't find anything in English or other languages I understand, so that I can only say it's an entirely recommendable listening. Likewise absorbing the sound that Thaumaturgist spread over two 10-mins lasting tracks on "Mysteries Van De Droom": this guy used some briquettes and pellets of acid-house and Berlin techno to develop a seemingly lo-fi sound (more sedated and uplifted on this first part, slightly morbid and psychotic on the second one, landing on those fractured bleeps you can hear when some old Korg drum machine is close to tilting), that could vaguely surmise some industrial techno experiments of the late 80ies.
Artist: Lawrence English (@)
Title: Cruel Optimism
Format: LP
Label: Room40
Rated: *****
This new impressive release by Lawrence English immediately barges into listeners' mind through a sort of thud and magnetic lapping on the initial "Hard Rain", rendering a magnetic and somehow urgent sense of pensive tragedy, which manages to push them in the meditative pool, inspiring the whole release. Named after the title of an essay by American theorist Lauren Berlant (it also inspired "Cruel Optimist", a song by Brooklyn-based melodic punk band Worriers, led by songwriter, singer and feminist Lauren Denitzio, but I preferred the sonic language chosen by Lawrence to a part of the content of that essay), the sparkle of the inspiration, enflaming "Cruel Optimism", was a reflection about the (consuming, augmenting and shaping) effects of power on two related aspects of human conditions, obsession and fragility. Unlike the screaming of liberation yelled by the above-mentioned punk band, which was almost concomitant to the publishing of that essay, the more concerned halo mantling the ten tracks of Lawrence's output sound more anchored to the somehow unexpected pronouncement of contemporary human history. The connection between the surrounding meditation behind this album and Berlant's essay got explained by the author as follows: "In Cruel Optimism, I found some critical readings around the issues that have fuelled so much of the music I have been making recently. Beyond her keen analysis of the relations of attachment as they pertain to conditions of possibility in the everyday, it was particularly her writing around trauma I found deeply affecting. It was a jumping off point from which a plague of unsettling impressions of suffering, intolerance and ignorance could be unpacked and utilised as fuel over and above pointless frustration.". Most of the ten flowing movements are drones built on elongated voice-like choirs, intensely fluttering single tones, subtle chimes, muffled thundering hits, reaching the apex on tracks where Lawrence dramatise the previously described sense of tragedy by banging hits such as "Hammering a Screw" or the majestic "Object of Projection". During the listening, your mind could land on some of the contemporary historical events and the subsequent thoughts related to them that partially inspired Lawrence himself - he mainly quoted the new wave of humanitarian and refugee crisis as well as the emblematic photo of that tiny body on the shore by Alan Kurdi, the striking drones in many parts of the planet, the black lives matter movement, the use of sonic weapòons against civilians, Us and Uk recent elections, the serpentine return of racism and sexism -, but "Cruel Optimism" is also "an encouragement to press forward towards more profound futures" in Lawrence's words. Someone could ask if such a kind of "functional" album are really necessary and maybe such a feedback could make sense. Decades ago. Nowadays the situation is so concerning that some ways (or sonic protests, if you prefer to consider in a different way) of escaping from the lobotomizing musical mainstream are somehow necessary.
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