Music Reviews

Chandrama Sarkar: Guilty Nebula Compound

 Posted by eskaton   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Nov 17 2019
Artist: Chandrama Sarkar (@)
Title: Guilty Nebula Compound
Format: 3" MiniCD
Label: Inner Demons Records
Rated: *****
I couldn’t find anything on this artist, but they have released a handful of cassettes and collaborations. This is the first I have heard of this artist, and without any background, we can get right on to the music. Chandrama Sarkar comes out swinging, with a noisy track that is filtered through massive amounts of reverb. Noise blasts alternate with cartoonish voices, as if it was a 33.3 album run on 78. You really can’t understand a word of it, but the tone gives the whole thing a whimsical quality that really makes it work. You come away from the whole thing smiling. The backing sounds grind and pulse continually throughout the track, giving it a sense of continuity, but also keeping it interesting as new elements are added to the mix. Overall, this is pretty solid and the voices keep it lighthearted, which is often lacking in the noise scene. This disc weighs in at around 16 minutes.

Astatine: Global Exposure

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Nov 12 2019
Artist: Astatine
Title: Global Exposure
Format: CD + Download
Label: Sound In Silence
Stéphane Recrosio’s solo project Astatine gives us a curiously sketchy release here in “Global Exposure”. It’s twenty tracks of lo-fi ideas and noodlings that feel variously either accidentally or deliberately muted, muffled, experimentally mixed, or just raw. There are guitar pieces with vocals that border on songs, but they seem like insular bedroom demo versions, lacking in confidence or punch, and with awfully recorded vocals at times- but in the context of more consciously ambient works, they feel like they make more sense.

Most of the twenty tracks are short- only a handful top the three minute mark- but when pieces like “Monotron 5” are allowed to breathe, with their dark echoing ambiences and windy tones, the coherences starts shining through. “Etude125”, with its mixture of drone and distant radio signal style noises, is a highlight, as is the varispeed playfulness of prosaically named “Snow Loop #7”.

The mood also jumps here and there quite a lot, with angrier tracks like guitar-hammering “Muzrub” shaking you down and pushing the rather thin lo-fi production approach to its edge. By contrast, despite its endearingly frustrated title, “This Rail Junction Is A Disaster” is practically a guitar ballad. Some grungy pieces like “Decipher The Fall” fall a little flat, but details like unexpected drums in “L’Art De La Defaite” keep the surprises coming throughout.

Rawness and rough edges abound on a release that seems to epitomise the introverted solo experimental guitarist genre, but which absolutely has its strengths. This will strike a chord, quietly, with quite a few listeners, I expect, although others are likely to dismiss it’s thoroughly low-quality sonics as amateurish or ‘the wrong kind’ of lo-fi.

Thomas Brinkmann: Raupenbahn

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Nov 06 2019
Artist: Thomas Brinkmann
Title: Raupenbahn
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Editions Mego
“Raupenbahn” is a simple yet fascinating idea- twenty-one recordings (or only eleven if you buy the vinyl) of old mechanical industrial looms in action, presented as purist field recordings, but of material so rhythmic and comprising of so many moving elements that it is far from ambient and instead offers up its own form of accidental music.

Three of the recorded looms date from the late 19th century, the other two between 1967 and 1972, so whilst not the earliest examples of industrial rhythmic machinery, the older looms do come from towards the very beginning of what might be thought of as ‘industrial sound’. Many of the recordings clock in between 100bpm to 140bpm making them feel like precursors to (and potentially great rhythm tracks for) modern industrial or electronic music. The thumps and clicks in “Ruti / ód / PL, 1892” feel like the 19th century prototype for a 4/4 kick-clap electro beat, while “Lentz 2 MG” even feels like it ought to have Underworld chords and Karl Hyde lyrics applied directly to it. The double pounding pattern of “Grossenhainer EU lower floor” really does link industrial sound to industrial music.

The stereo effect in “Henry Livesy BO” is an example of the detail and care with which these sounds have been recorded, really filling the sonic space but without pushing it into the realm of an oppressive sound, even though visitors to old industrial museums might be expecting such sounds to be unbearably loud. That being said, certain pieces like the strangely tractor-like “Saurer 400 BO” are certainly noisier than others. Some recordings are relentless and somewhat flat, whereas others encapsulate the machine’s start-up and switch-off processes as well, some of which add neat little bookends.

At 70 minutes, the digital edition is an extensive pack and that’s perhaps too long a time to sustain avid interest in any pack of purely rhythmic sounds- so as a full-length listening experience it may be better in small doses. There are plenty of fascinating individual tracks though, that make this intriguing presentation of old genuinely-industrial rhythms certainly worth dipping into.

Passing mention has to be made of the artwork, of course; presumably there’s some excuse for putting a lesser-clothed woman on the cover. Titillation draws attention, obviously, but it totally misrepresents the sound product, and leaves some potential customers maybe having to explain to their wives or partners that it “isn’t what it looks like”.

Giona Vinti: Orc

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Nov 05 2019
Artist: Giona Vinti
Title: Orc
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Elli Records
“Orc” is a collection of four numbered tracks, or ‘layers’, each being around ten minutes of dynamic and impulsive live electronics work fusing modular synthesis, sound generators, and a litany of effects ranging from the homemade and handcrafted to the (fairly) big budget, mostly arranged on the fly through a 24 track analogue mixer. The result is four slabs of gloriously expressive chaos that jumps around between differently constructed walls of broken noise, and mostly short-lived breathing spaces between them. Rhythm is foregone, but there’s a serialism to the sonic affrontery that acts as a surrogate structure.

To say that the second part is any calmer than the first would be true, but would imply that the second part is in any way calm, which it certainly isn’t. The analogue squeaks come further to the floor, and the noise and distortion is notched down a touch, but it’s still panicky and skittish. The bubbling low electronics of the third part are the nearest we get to an actual rhythm, while part four is the darkest and most sinister, channeling more than a little sense of a Radiophonic Workshop representation of alien threat as expressed through the medium of late 60’s black-and-white TV.

It’s a fine balancing act to work in such a noise-driven and cacophonous way yet to find a way of emoting and building human expression into it, rather than pure randomness, and for the most part, Giona Vinti pulls off that balance here. The sheer unadulterated rawness and relentless energy level of it won’t be to everyone’s taste, but if you like your electronics acerbic, bordering on sandpaper-like, then this is a deep dive into thick soundwaves that you’ll definitely enjoy.

VV.AA.: Now That's What I Call Silence!

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
Dark / Gothic / Wave / New Wave / Dark Wave / Industrial Gothic
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Oct 23 2019
Artist: VV.AA.
Title: Now That's What I Call Silence!
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Silber Media
The brilliant title of this release is worth the price of admission on its own- but it also gives you a slightly misleading idea of what to expect here. In the natural world, real silence is non-existent, and in our modern day life, even more so. Here, seventeen different artists have offered up their very different interpretations of attempted, circumstantial or artificial silence- and some of them are very, very loud.

Some scenes, like X-Bax’s “Don’t Be So Cagey” or Baptizer’s “Whispers Of Rovinj”, are true representations of natural near-silence, with indistinct open atmospheres. In recordings that range from 30 seconds to just over 10 minutes, you are drawn in and encouraged to reflect on the base level of noise that exists in your life.

Other tracks however, in the words of clickbait, “will surprise you!”. Small Life Form’s “Empty Vessel” is a heavily driven noisy industrial drone, the kind of thing employees have to wear ear protectors and have special training for, and Remora and Konbanwa both offer up gritty mechanical-sounding flat sonic platforms. Ben Link Collin’s “The Concealed Surround” is conscious sound design full of hollow resonance, creating a haunting sci-fi soundscape that gradually becomes more animalistic as it evolves. Charles De Mar’s “Nap Time” seemingly twists the sound of soporific baby sleep.

And furthermore, other tracks seem to pay only passing service to the concept (or at least, to the concept as I understand it). Goddakk’s “North 7th” and Electric Bird Noise’s “A Walk Around The Neighborhood” are both dark bits of guitar strumming but decidedly musical, while Premature Burial’s “Signal To Noise To Signal” is thumping, musically industrial rhythm work. High Tunnels’ “Food Lion Meat Cooler” is a fascinating sort of hybrid between a complex electronica heartbeat rhythm and the sound of ice cracking, while the 30-second pieces are the oddest, almost comical parts.

The idea of the release is drawn from the 2000 “Blank Tapes” by Reynols- plus John Cage, naturally- but the noise of imperfect recording mediums is not a big player here. It does show up in the microphone peaking of Heavy For The Vintage’s “Attempted Baptism, Accidental Suicide”, for example.

It’s a really strong collection of tracks that shows off the broad range of sounds on the Silber label, but if you bought this release expecting ambient noise for nodding off too, you’re in for a shock.

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