Music Reviews

Artist: Worsel Strauss
Title: Unattention Economy
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Vicmod Records (@)
Rated: *****
One of the main criticisms levelled at electronic music is that anyone can make it, the machines do all the work. That is true, just press the triangle and let fly! This then raises the question: What makes good electronic music? Sure, we can listen to the refrigerator hum or blender whine for hours, but does that constitute good 'music'? Worsel Strauss, half of the retro electronics outfit Schleusolz, plugs in his machines, and considers the results.

Inspired by an infamous piece of early electronics, Douglas Leedy's 'Entropical Paradise (with bird call),' a triple-LP of self-generated modular synth music, Strauss wondered if he could make some interesting synthnoise, without resorting to sidelong synth soundscapes. Instead, he wondered if the machines could come up with more conventional 'songs', and set to, armed with a vintage Buchla synthesizer and some other analog electronics. The pieces were composed, straight to tape, and then edited later, in a process he called 'subtractive mixing'. 'If there is a creative process involved at all it is the design of the rules and the final choice of which results to present, and which ones not.' He even wonders if it can be considered music at all.

Which brings us to the mechanical heart of 'Unattention Economy,': Does it sound good? An album reviewers purpose is to report back what he hears, and to alert listeners as to whether a particular piece is worthy of their attention. While 'UE' might be cyberdine techno, it sounds REALLY good. At first i was skeptical: another experimental synth record? How much knob twiddling can a bloke hack? But it is my job, to parse through the datastream and report what i see, and i will not let you down. It is our job, as listeners, to try and remain unjaded, to not let the cultural torrent wash us away. This comes through presence and awareness, and the final analysis is, Strauss' machines sound boss. Bringing to mind a surprising amount of modern electricians (Nine Inch Nails, Autechre, Jessica Rylan), the sounds are all sourced from exquisite components. The drums kick like a Parisian siege, while the analog pads are as warm as a Sahara sun. There's bleepy, gloopy tones, that'll appeal to the retro-fetishists out there, but there's also dance floor fare (Shopping for Antibiotics). 'Swarm Intelligence' is a standout track, killer martial breakbeats and detuned swarming melodies. Its like an instrumental outtake from 'The Downward Spiral' remixed with a Pure Data patch. It brings the body and the head together, and could help introduce some listeners to the world of abstract electronica that's out there.

Vicmod Records could have a real hit on their hands here. Worsel Strauss is worthy of yr time and attention, possibly yr praise. The time and care he took to setup the experiment allowed for some remarkable alleatoric daemons to manifest, and i'll be damned if i don't hear a bit of soul in there. 'Unattention Economy' is very highly recommended.
Artist: Lisfrank (@)
Title: Mask Rewind
Format: CD
Label: Anna Logue Records
Rated: *****
We talked about Lisfrank different times on CHAIN D.L.K. about three years ago when Anna Logue Records did a compilation of released and unreleased tracks by Fulvio Guidarelli's musical outfit. Fabrizio Della Porta reviewed the 12" 7" compilation which now is out of print (you can find the review here and I interviewed Fulvio about his music and about those years (you can find it here Few months ago, Anna Logue Records decided it was time to make "Mask Rewind" available again and printed an expanded CD version of that compilation. On this new release you can find all the classics and demos included into the vinyl version ("Man without limits", "It's life", "Violence in my mind" or "My Toy" just to name a few) plus four extra tracks previously unreleased: "S.W.M. (Obscure Version)", "Night Calling (First Mix Version)" and"Ombre". Unfortunately there are still missing two songs from the EP "Man Mask": "Night Calling" (even if here there's a demo version) and "I Still Believe In Love". About the new tracks, "Ombre" was included into the tape compilation "Area Condizionata" issued in 1983 and it's an experimental track made of synth hisses, filtered vocals and echoes; "Dead Girl" is a cold wave track based on basic filtered synth monophonic sounds, in front vocals and drums added on the final part; "S.W.M. (Obscure Version)" is a very minimal track where the experimental side of Lisfrank is shown as only vocals, synth windy noises and 4/4 drum machine tempos have been used. If you missed the first issue of this compilation or if own the vinyl and you'd like to get also the extra track, be sure to check this limited CD print of "Mask Rewind".
Artist: Anworth Kirk
Title: Shacklecross
Format: 12"
Label: Pre-Cert Home Entertainment
Distributor: Boomkat
Rated: *****

Shacklecross is the newest transmission from the Andy Votel's shadowy alter-ego, Anworth Kirk. Its a double-sided psychogeographic sojourn, that takes you on a voyage through the communal id of a hamlet in Central England. Shacklecross is a non-descript village in Derbyshire; not much information is available. When you look it up, the only image that pops up is of an antiquated Lock, in a barren urban no-man's-land. Like the music contained on this vinyl, the image is mysterious and alluring, pulling you in and making you look further.
Every release on Pre-Cert Home Entertainment, the label run by Andy Votel and the Demdike Stare folks, brings to mind the era before the internet, before the simulacrum took over, with its self-satisfied mapping, cross-referencing, and immediate archiving. Votel and co. serve to remind us that there is much wonder in the wondering, in the thrill of discovery and curiosity, of finding something unknown and brilliant. Or just plain weird. Andy Votel, Demdike Stare, and all the artists they work with, seem to genuinely cherish the strange and half-bad. They love the beautiful losers, and are pulling them back out into the spotlight. Votel was one of the founders of the brilliant British re-issue label, Finders Keepers, that have pulled so many records out of the dustbins of history that it makes you slightly fearful for the social lives of its curators. In the process of archive diving, researching and investigation, putting together obscure mixes, Votel has built an intricate sampledelic style completely his own, also being refined by Demdike Stare, and others are starting to catch on. Taking tiny fragments from movie scores, Indian tabla records, sci-fi musings, and seemingly blending them with his own recordings of wheezy pawn-shop instruments, yr just never entirely sure what is going on. How is he making all these sounds? Who is this person? These people? Its a weird wormhole, that will take you further than you are comfortable with. The world inhabited by the Pre-Cert folks is strange, horrible, brilliant, dusty. You'll be watching cannibal flicks before you know it, and stopping to sample the muzak, down at the supermarket. It gets inside you.
'Shacklecross' is a travelogue through time, space, and genre. There are seperate tracks, but its blended as a seamless hole, and its hard to tell where one ends and another begins. It starts with some noxious, growling synth that lets you know this record is going to take you to the darkside, but things get decidedly less cut-and-dry from there. The image that i was left with was of leaving the safe civilization of nearby Derby, travelling through picturesque Borrowash, leaving the modern world behind. As you get further and further away from society, you leave the touchstones of consensual reality behind you. You fall out of time, you even leave the Earth behind. This is a world where faeries gather in toadstool circles, and gypsy curses level the fields. You fall in with an uncanny gypsy caravan, trip-trapping down gravel country lanes, who take you to a Persian hashish ceremony, then lead you to the burial mounds, once yr seeing stars. Lying on the grass, with these impossible companions, you let go and let loose, drifting off into space. Yr no longer in yr body, sensory data is just not the same. You can see sounds and hear colours, and yr just not sure WHAT yr going to say to the blokes at the office on Monday. But fear not! Anworth Kirk will not leave you floating in the stars. He guides you back, quick as you like, the same way that you came. As you exit the strange terrain of Shacklecross, leaving yr phantom companions with regret and also exhiliration, as you backtrack down those gravel lanes that looked so VERY different in the starlight, the world begins to solidify. You begin to wonder if it were but a dream. But yr trousers are still damp with the dew, and there are scratches from black twigs on yr neck.
Its a disorienting affair, and not for those that like their techno bright and quantized, but the possibilities raised by Anworth Kirk's masterful sample-stitching are hair raising. Maybe, finally, we shall finally arrive at a newform of music, not merely refining staid genres, to win cash and prizes. These are sonic alchemists, bemused at possibilities. The whole Pre-Cert roster's dedication to soundtracks make all of their records like a surreal story. Sounds leave so much more to interpretation and imagination than film, and the images conjured while listening to these headphone opuses are layered and dense and moving.
Andy Votel, Demdike Stare, Pre-Cert Home Entertainment, Finders Keepers, and a score of others, are redefining music, and offering a light in the grim postmodern tunnel. We're assimilating our influences, and weaving the future. It's thrilling to watch it unfurl in realtime, waiting with baited breath for each uncanny release. 'Shacklecross,' like every Pre-Cert Home Entertainment release, is dreadfully limited, and may be long gone by the time you read this. But now you've been warned! Don't sleep on these gents. Let them invite mystery to yr hearth.
Artist: Robert Normandeau (@)
Title: Palimpsestes
Format: CD
Label: empreintes DIGITALes (@)
Rated: *****
Many followers of electroacoustic music and fans of one of the most renowned imprint, the Canadian label empreintes DIGITALes, were asking themselves about this skilled performer Robert Normandeau, who already signed a plenty of "movies" for the ears according to the way many reviewers described his art, but after listening to his long-awaited album - his last release on the label was "Puzzles", which came on the unlucky DVD-Audio format -, I could say it's worth the wait. The initial title-track "Palimpsestes" is an amazing collage of hubbubs, gargles, sniggers, grumbles, soughs, wheezes, snorts, pants and other bizarre expression of human voice, whose opening "disorganization" seems to get gradually organized so that they looks like staging a sort of gargantuan machine in the second part of the track, while the following "Murmures" is an interesting acousmatic sample, where Robert seems to amplify metallic, plastic and gummy noises in order to render a certain sense of perceived mechanical degradation, whose incessant sinister swarming sounds constantly transposed from urban to natural settings. On "Jeu De Langues", he manages to render flushed and flustered sides of the nocturnal hot dreams he grabs and the subtle flutes he added vividly depict the worming of wantonness and tempting reveries which silently sneak into a bed. The following track "Anadliad" - the one I like most - has been named after a Gaelic word, which means breath and inspiration, and the great work he made by combining the sound of a bagpipe and a pigborn, a Welsh wind instrument, and the strong winds and intense storms of that lovely place of the planet could let you feel like a particle, which get pushed out of the drones to meet the violent electric energy of thunders outside before getting inhaled again into bagpipe's bag, a listening experience which anticipates the final "Palindrome", a mesmerizing track, where various sonic elements seems to overwhelm listeners after wrapping them up by a series of eruptions which feed a persisting mental strain.
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Artist: Night Sins
Title: New Grave
Format: 12"
Label: Avant! Records
Rated: *****
Night Sins 'is a band coming from Philadelphia that born in 2011 from members of hardcore bands Salvation and Mother Of Mercy. "New Grave" is their first album released by Italian label Avant! and it doesn't sound nothing like hardcore or such. "New Grave" is a nice nine tracks album which musically is inspired by 80s darkwave. If you are already fans of The Tunnels or The Soft Moon you could easily find yourself comfortable into listening tracks like "Playing Dead", the experimental "Introduction" or "The Eternal Giver". Mixing shoegaze vocal melodies to paced drum machine drumming, powerful bass lines and guitar lines which now are clean arpeggios and then "clouds" of distortions, the duo wrote cool songs which will please the lovers of 80s new wave music as well as lovers of modern indie sounds who'd like to paint their music playlists with darker sounds... As usual with Avant! releases, I'm writing their Bandcamp page where you can listen to the whole album and then make your purchase.
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