Music Reviews



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Artist: VV.AA.
Title: Archiv 1.1
Format: CD
Label: Raster-Noton / Asphodel (@)
Distributor: Asphodel
Rated: *****
Originally created in 1999 from the merger of electronic music labels Raster Music and Noton.Archiv für Ton und Nichtton (which is german for 'Noton Archive for Sound and Non-Sound'), Raster-Noton is a collaborative label effort by East German artists Frank Bretschneider (Byetone) & Olaf Bender (Komet), who founded Rastermusic in 1996, and Carsten Nicolai (alva.noto), founder of Noton.Archive, which also branded the idea of the cd magazine. "Archiv 1.1" was originally created for the Wire's December 2003 issue but also represents Raster-Noton's first copilation to be released in the US, licensed by Asphodel and scheduled for the end of July. It portrays the work minimal glitch electronics and experimental music artists including Signal, O, Senking, Byetone, Komet, Boghossian, Modul, Lima, Cyclo (which is Casten Nicolai's collaboration project with well known Ikeda), M.Akiyama, Pixel, Noto and W.Basinski. The album is well balanced and very interesting. It neve gets too noisy or too boring and displays a good range of creativity and sonics, even though it maintains a pretty uniform sound palette throughout the fifteen tracks.
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Artist: PUNCK
Title: A movie without images
Format: 3" MiniCD
Label: ctraltcanc records (@)
Distributor: S'Agita, and-OAR
Rated: *****
Adriano Zanni/Punck's "Mu" cdr (2002) has been one of the most impressive works to come out of the Italian electronic underground over the last few years, mixing menacing digital cuts and a sense of urgency and ongoing catastrophe which I could only label as "political", in the best sense of the word. Something like Ikeda or Pan Sonic during Italian "lead years" or an anti-war demo. While eagerly waiting for his new full-length, due out soon on AFE/S'Agita, we can now enjoy this experimental ep, properly titled "A movie without images" - indeed, it's a sort of cinematic trip, less monolithic and sombre than his previous release or gut-wrenching live sets. Recorded using "laptop, objects, field recordings, contact mics, samples", the 3" cdr opens with a metallic scraping, reminding me of Loren Chasse, Steve Roden or fellow performers Logoplasm - then mysteryous vocal samples (from films, I suppose) are added, before a pulsing, industrial-ambient tinged drone rises, ominously closing the piece with dripping water and - in a circular way - the initial sequence of scrapings and vocals. Well-constructed and conveying a sense of anxiety which must be some kind of trademark of Punck's - only a bit more latent or esoteric, this time.
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Artist: SHIFTS
Title: Vertonen
Format: 3" MiniCD
Label: The Locus of Assemblage (@)
Rated: *****
One more chapter in Shifts' "Vertonen" series, which I think is an ongoing project. Veteran Dutch artist Frans de Waard really needs no introduction, considering his activities as a performer (Kapotte Muziek, Goem, Bee-queen...), label-owner (Staalplaat, and now Brom-Brom and Plinkity-Plonk) and writer/networker (Vital Weekly). The abstract blue/grey painting on the cover, by de Waard himself, is an apt visual counterpart to this 19' piece of subdued minimalism, a quietly changing, apparently static drone. I think he's using processed guitar sounds, and I'd actually compare this to almighty Main. A kind of post-industrial ambient which nowadays is not all the rage (has it ever been so?), so it's all the more enjoyable to listen to it.
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Artist: VIÍN & MEM
Title: Onset
Format: 3" MiniCD
Label: The Locus of Assemblage (@)
Rated: *****
If the suicidal painting on the cover wasn't clear enough, Viön & Mem deliver some convincing anxiety in the opening track of their ep, where a disquieting low-end drone is gradually sunk, like in a magnetic storm, beneath concrete sounds, a sort of looped larsen, bleeps and glitches, eventually collapsing into digital debris. A strong piece, which unfortunately gives way, in track 2 and 3, to much less interesting harsh noise (with crushed melodic samples in tk 3 to add some variety) - while fierce and well-managed, it's a sort of let down after the initial intriguing crescendo. Track 4 is a paranoid concrete piece, juxtaposing quasi-raw recordings of steps, environmental echoes and dripping rain: effective, though not really memorable. A decent post-industrial work, with plenty of good ideas, but suffering a bit from its lack of coherence (which could actually be a virtue for some).
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Artist: PAUL BRADLEY
Title: Immure
Format: 3" MiniCD
Label: The Locus of Assemblage (@)
Rated: *****
I don't know much about UK artist Paul Bradley, except that he has recently released a full length on Twenty Hertz ("All that was"), a collaboration with fellow droner Colin Potter (of Nurse With Wound fame), and is going to share a split/collaborative cd with David Wells, again on The Locus of Assemblage. All of which I wish I had listened to, because this 3" cd, on the successful mini-assemblage series, is brilliant... Bradley plays sombre isolationist ambient, which perfectly fits with the title and graveyard cover picture: certainly dark, but solemn rather than bleak. Track 1 opens with jangling bell sounds, giving way to a low-frequency drone; an apt introduction to 12'30'' track 2, definitely the core piece of the ep, with shifting frequencies, cavernous basses and subdued environmental recordings adding to the menacing atmosphere. Track 3 is a shorter piece, closing the work with fading drones - leaving you craving for more, which is honestly not that frequent with records like these. An inspired, well-constructed work, mandatory if you like artists like Lull, Thomas Koener and the whole '90's isolationist niche.
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