Music Reviews

Don Preston: Filters, Oscillators & Envelopes 1967-82

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Jun 07 2012
Artist: Don Preston
Title: Filters, Oscillators & Envelopes 1967-82
Format: CD
Label: Sub Rosa (@)
Rated: *****
Esteemed Belgian label Sub Rosa issues this bizarre audio-documentary about electronic pionierism of Don Preston, one of the key figure orbiting around legendary Frank Zappa's The Mothers of Invention, whose staid hippie-like figure behind old-fashioned synths has been immortalized in many clips. Known for his distinctive touch and his unflinching wonder for sonic research, he deeply influenced the stylistical path of that band and issues such as Uncle Meat or Ahead of Their Time, which marked Zappa's veering towards jazz as well as a more accentuated stylistical syncretism, are considired as authentic miliar stones of the evolutionary stages of MoI's sound and even if he was member of the combo for a limited time-span, his stamp was clear even after the arrival of Ian Underwood. Don Preston's vision was shining through his linear notes on Uncle Meat yet: "We're coming to the beginning of a new era wherein the development of the inner self is the most important thing. We have to train ourselves. So that we can improvise on anything: a bird, a sock, a fuming beaker. This is, this too can be music. Anything can be music." His prominent enthusiasm for possibilities given by electronic music devices, which remarkably widened expressive chances for musicians as well as the scope of investigation for sonic explorers, led him to enrich his creativity with deep listening of some masters of concrete and electroacoustic music such as Luciano Berio, Karheinz Stockhausen and Tod Dockstader while focusing on these magical sonic machines called synths - he developed a self-made instrument by combining an home-made synthesizer with various filters and oscillators - the one used for the assemblage of "Electronic", the first long-lasting track of this selection, recorded in 1967 - and gave his personal contributions to the enhancement and the integration in traditional line-ups of Mini-Moog, due to his close friedship with his inventor, Robert Moog. The placement collective imagination could assign to Don preston could prompt the association of some sounds to other elements of that scene - for example, the caterwaul-like whistle in the second track, the first of "Analog Heaven", a sort of mini-album recorded in 1975, included in this collection, could be mistaken for the whimpering of some groupie! -, but careful listener are going to enjoy, almost immediately, Preston's mindblowing style and tonal games whose dynamics could recall molly twist bracelets, as well as the attempt of giving to the compostion a certain cinematic attitude, in accordance with many musical researches of that age so that it's almost spontaneous thinking about those fish-eye, multi-coloured or filtered scenes when movie makers tried to represent some character's point of view under the effect of some mind-altering psychotic drug!

Rapoon: Disappeared Redux

 Posted by Andrea Piran (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Jun 05 2012
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Artist: Rapoon (@)
Title: Disappeared Redux
Format: CD
Label: zoharum (@)
Zoharum releases the new album of Rapoon, well known moniker of Robin Storney, created after his influencing experience with Zoviet France. Properly speaking, this album is a reissue because it was released as a limited CDR edition and now is remastered and reworked and seven minutes longer, so the "redux" of the title is a joke?
"sunshine in the parlour" opens this album with a piano line while "Days like rain" is a more regular, if this term means something for one of the innovators of this genre, ambient track familiar to everyone who like this artist's work. "Lost caress" is a quiet atmospheric track. "Dust rattle" is a lesson on how a bunch of small noises could be cinematic. "The outside shadow" is a lied for piano without voice. "We walked in diamonds" is movement for violin loop. "Breath of ages" is perhaps the more reminiscent track of the author's past while "a clock in every room" is a ritual ambient exercise of style. "The declining of lace" is a quiet soundscape for resonances while "Snow legend" is a soundscape made out of voices and small noise. "Pig vampires" continues the use of small violin samples when "a pale blue door" is almost religious in his evocative soundscapes and "she never came" close this album with a piano lines as the opening track.
Honestly speaking, Robin Storney continues his musical journey under his usual influences, inspiration and musical style but the quality of his work is really remarkable and enjoyable for all his fans. One of the masters of this genre. Unrankable.


 Posted by Andrea Ferraris (@)   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Jun 04 2012
Title: Season two
Format: CD
Label: Solar Ipse Audio House (@)
Rated: *****
Shame on me, I should have reviewed this one a long time ago, but there's no excuse, so I just can say I'm sorry. Here we've the debut release of this new label run by the guy who's behind Solar Ipse, one of the the few printed fanzine still kicking in Italy and without any doubt one of the few interesting printed matter you can read if you can speak italian. The debut work of the label is a guitar plus drum duo, Ninni Morgia has a respectable solo, he's also collaborated with people like William Parker, but he's also paid duty in La Otracina, White Tornado, Right Moves and a plethora of other bands. Marcello Magliocchi is an unconventional drummer/percussionist that played with many people from the radical free/off jazz circuit. This' the second time they join their sticks and strings and follow the footsteps of their early collaboration on Ultramarine records. This recording is basically evolving around free-noise as you know it, so if that's your cup of tea you better look for it, since they definitely know how to play, since Morgia goes straight like an arrow toward his own way and Magliocchi is a very versatile drummer he can play psychedelic mantras, free jazz or experimental music with his own personal post Seventies unique style. It's an odd release sometimes it hits your nostril like an uppercut, sometimes it's more misty and warm. As I've said, if you're into this style of music, go for it you will dig it for sure.

Hilter: A tergo

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Jun 03 2012
Artist: Hilter (@)
Title: A tergo
Format: CD
Label: Hikikomori Records (@)
Rated: *****
Well this was almost the CD review that wasn't. The CD was misplaced until a few weeks ago (found wedged between two boxes where it must have fallen), then the wrong side of the CD picked up some of the adhesive gum from the plastic sleeve edge of the CD package and wouldn't play because of that, and I had a hell of a time cleaning it off to restore the CD, which I finally did. Lastly, I misplaced the one-sheet that came with the CD, and this was somewhat crucial, as this group is so obscure there is pitifully little info on them on the Internet. Google 'Hilter' and you are given results for 'Hitler' who obviously had nothing to do with this album. Even their label (for this CD), Hikikomori Records only has a description of the album and not much on the group on their website. Hilter doesn't appear to have their own website either (so I had to sub the label's website just so I had something to put in the required space. Just recently I found the one-sheet providing me a little more info on this enigmatic project from Iceland so finally, I'm getting down to it.

Hilter was founded in 2000 by Peter C. Mueller (vocals, programming, words), Rob Perzika (rhythm, drum, composing) and Rhalv Folling (cello, visuals). 'A tergo' is their first album in five years, previous releases being 'Sexfilms' (2004) and 'Prepared' (2005).I haven't heard either of those, so there is no prior frame of reference. Hilter's modus operandi for their brand of experimental avant-gardism is to employ a lot of samples, loops, TV/movie dialogue, bursts of noise and twisted synth sounds with occasional passages of musicality woven throughout the proceedings. Hilter sounds like what you might get if you mixed bits of Autechre, Brume and Brighter Death Now together (and/or similar artists), so you kind of get the idea. In no way though is this any form of IDM, even in in the loosest sense.

This 9 track 50 minute album opens with a spoken word sample, 'Hello Sonny, I suppose you know...' on 'L'affaire de Sonny B.' and quickly churns into a miasma of of dialogue samples, noise, electronic sounds, loops, drones, etc. 'Modus Operandi' which follows (was I subliminally induced to employ this term earlier?) makes copious use of the dialogue sample 'If you shoot somebody in the head with a 45 every time you kill somebody it becomes like your fingerprint, see?' and others from the film 'Henry, Portrait of a Serial Killer,' over eerie, droney atmosphere and heartbeat. There are also other stray sounds and a bit of atmospheric, ominous piano. 'klopf mich ab' has a sense of foreboding malevolence utilizing dark ambient textures, and a girl breathing heavily (trying to escape the killer?, monster?, whatever) with strategically placed staccato beats to heighten the tension. It's the briefest track on the album at only 2:51. The first few seconds of 'Regan No' are a shitstorm of noise but actually becomes the most musical track so far with a rhythm track and piano noted amongst other more twisted sounds. It's 'Triangle of passion' though that is the magnum opus on 'A tergo,' at 18:31 the track is lengthy enough to expound a variety of changes and mutations, mostly on the industrial sinister side. The form is quite varied, but relentlessly bleak. It's almost like some kind of surreal funhouse dark ride through a factory engaged in the manufacture of toxic products. There's a point in this madness where it sounds like some kind of stamping machine is pounding the heads of live babies (they might want to put in a disclaimer, 'no babies were injured in the production of this track') for some nefarious purpose. After awhile though this persistent stomping just becomes a little annoying. I can't deny though that this track was one weird trip.

The rest of the album produces some credible dark ambience in both atmospheric and noisy shades, but the last track 'Persona' has a cool industrial rhythmic structure to it, no less dark but a lot more moving. I was rather impressed with this, and is seemed like the perfect outro. My guess is that there aren't a lot of people who will pick up this release, and limited to only 50 copies (my promo copy doesn't count as one of the 50) , I guess the label didn't think so either. However, if you do manage to acquire one, count yourself lucky because this could possibly become one of those cult items that could soar in price in the future because of its scarcity. 'A tergo' may not be the best thing to come down the pike lately, but it is an intriguingly intense excursion into a peculiar realm of dark ambient dementia.

Alfred Harth/Carl Stone: Gift Fig

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Jun 03 2012
Artist: Alfred Harth/Carl Stone (@)
Title: Gift Fig
Format: CD
Label: Kendra Steiner Editions (@)
Rated: *****
Alfred Harth, aka Alfred 23 Harth, or A23H is a German multimedia artist and multi-instrumental musician in the avant-garde field, with a slew of releases (a good number of them being collaborations) going back to 1970 or so. His extensive biography is easy enough to find on the www, so let's just say he's had his fingers in a lot of different pies. Carl Stone is an American composer, primarily working in the field of live electronic music. His works have been performed in the United States, Canada, Europe, Asia, Australia, South America, and the Near East. Stone studied composition with Morton Subotnick and James Tenney at the California Institute of the Arts and has composed electro-acoustic music almost exclusively since 1972. Stone has a dozen or so releases going back to 1983, and probably more if you count collaborations, commissioned works and miscellaneous material. Kendra Steiner Editions is a small label run by poet Bill Shute of Austin, Texas (I reviewed one of his releases a little while ago) consisting primarily of limited CD-R runs. 'Gift Fig' is limited to 133 copies.

Well, no amount of background is necessarily going to prepare you for this collaboration- live performances recorded at Festival ROT, Mousonturm, Frankfurt, Germany (December, 2009) and at Superdeluxe, Tokyo (May, 2010), mixed by Carl Stone at Radio Free Nankano, Japan, and mastered by A23H at LaubhuetteStudio Moonsun, Korea. A23H is credited with Reeds, Con Arco, Kaoss Pad, Taepyeongso, Dojirak, Samples & Voice. Stone is credited with Computer, Max/MSP, Voice and Samples. To say the music on this album is challenging is a gross understatement. The pieces have an improvised nature to them, and what contrived structure there may be was likely born of a sense of randomness and chaos. That's not to say there isn't a method to the madness on 'Gift Fig' (a palindrome, if you haven't already figured it out), but you're going to have a devil of a time figuring it out.

Sonically, much of the album sounds like engaging in non-musical activity- rattling, stretching, scraping, squawking, squawking, muttering, murmuring, hissing, rumbling, clinking, clanking, swooshing, and just about every other onomatopoeiatic word of phrase you could think of. To be fair, A23H's wind instruments do emerge occasionally with some free jazz riffing but for the most part it seems more for effect than alluding to anything conventionally musical. At one point, it sounds like a flock of distressed geese. And there are touches of electronics that do sound...'electronic,' but the total effect in combination is something genuinely bizarre. The tone running throughout the album is an unsettling one; even in the less boisterous passages (of which there are many) there is a sense of uneasiness.

All tracks are titled 'Adler_Kino' and then a suffix- Gu I & II, 1166-1215 (I, II, II, and IV) which seem to serve only as markers for points in time of the whole. For me, though there is plenty of variation in the sound produced, the tracks seemed homogenous as a whole work, in spite of the heterogeneous nature of the sonic components. There are time s that the music takes on a ritualistic character, such as at the end of the last piece, the nearly 22 minute opus, 'Adler_Kino 1166-1215 IV' but the kind of rituals we might imagine here may have more to do with unspeakable Godz than any practices you'd be familiar with.

If you think you've got the capacity to appreciate some really 'out-there' stuff, by all means buy this CD and soak it in. Just remember, you've been warned. You WILL get wet on this ride.

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