Music Reviews



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Artist: Pascal Comelade
Title: Back to Schizo (1975-1983)
Format: CD
Label: Gazul Records
Distributor: Musea Records
Rated: *****
Pascal Comelade is, apparently, a French pioneer of minimal, experimental music dating back to the early days of the synthesizer. The track listings in this compilation of early works spells out the instrumentation used in each, more often things like toy keyboards, toy saxophones and regular acoustic pianos than actual synths (in this case, to be precise, the Synthi EMS-AKS). Clocking in at just over 41 minutes, most of the 26 tracks appear to be not much more than short pieces of sonic wallpaper, in the form of tape loops, chiming and tinkling little abstract melodies, simple scales, and ambient treatments. In a couple of the songs ("Fluence" and "Ready-made 4", tracks numbers 1 and 21) are heard swooshy electric guitar overlays, strongly reminiscent of those on Robert Fripp & Brian Eno's 1973 epic "Heavenly Music Corporation," two years precedent to the starting date of this CD retrospective. (Eno and Michael Nyman are, in fact, listed among his influences.) There may be question as to Comelade's possible influence on important Industrial/EBM ancestors such as Throbbing Gristle or Cabaret Voltaire, but clearly his work is not as truly pioneering as might be assumed.

Nor, in the present time, has he moved on much beyond his toy piano arrangements, or improved his original repertoire. An online look at his more recent catalog reveals weird, ethnic-sounding hybrid titles (seldom with any accompanying audio), and covers of old standards like "September Song" and rock songs like the Stones' "Brown Sugar". Still, monsieur Comelade becomes more and more intriguing the more one listens and investigates--and this reviewer can only conclude that Back to Schizo may be the most promising and logical starting point.
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Artist: XDUGEF (@)
Title: ASDFHAKSFHASOSAUF & RETARDANT
Format: CD
Label: self-released
Distributor: CD Baby, Tower Records.com
Rated: *****
Interesting the way I discovered XDUGEF. I was researching some Sleep Chamber CDs I was putting up for auction on eBay when I came across a listing that said: "XDUGEF 2xCD - Noise Industrial SWANS SLEEP CHAMBER", so of course curiosity got the better of me and I had to check it out. It turned out that XDUGEF was an independent artist using "Swans" and "Sleep Chamber" to describe his music; it wasn’t actually a Swans/Sleep Chamber collaboration I hadn’t heard about. So I contacted the seller and asked him if he wanted his CDs reviewed. After all, something that had elements of The Swans and Sleep Chamber had to be interesting, right?
Adrian DiMond, the man behind XDUGEF, contacted me back and was most amenable to sending me the CDs to review. I received his package in a few days, which consisted of the 2 CDs and a couple of one-sheets with bio, pics and photos. While some of the photos screamed computer-geek-nerd’ (not necessarily a bad thing), his background verified and amplified my initial impression. Adrian was involved with a few musical project in the early 90’s, the most noteworthy being the Christal Methodists (irreligious techno-punk band from Chicago) before he took a job with H-Gun labs creating CG animation for a number of high-profile acts including KMFDM, Psykosonik, Meat Beat Manifesto, The Residents, Cubanate and more.
It was Adrian’s discovery of the technique called "circuit-bending" (a process of modifying stock electronic equipment by adding switches and knobs in order to mutate the function/sound, first realized by Reed Ghazala back in the 60’s) that led him back to music. (If you’re wondering where the review is on the CDs, I assure you it’s coming, just have a little patience and bear with me.) After making a few of these "bent circuitry" instruments, Adrian dubbed his project XDUGEF, named for an ancient Nepalese Buddhist technique for manipulating forms. It’s also supposed to be a mysterious software package of the same name being developed which makes extensive use of these ancient techniques to allegedly revolutionize the world of digital content creation as we know it. Whatever the case, Adrian’s XDUGEF may not revolutionize the world of electronic music as we know it, but it sure qualifies as an interesting listening experience.
Referring back to the beginning of this review (the Swans & Sleep Chamber references) I found nothing on either XDUGEF CD that reminded me of Gira & Jarboe (Swans) or John ZeWizz’s Sleep Chamber (sex-magick-ritual music made with synths, samplers and the jawbone of an ass). What I did find on the first CD "ASDFHAKSFHASOSAUF" is a collection of looped environments/ incidents in a low-fi setting that give the impression of a gadget factory run amuck. Discreetly looped noise-rhythms are the glue that hold the electronic effluvia together in the majority of pieces on this disc. There are industrial aspects to the various rhythms through repetition that never overwhelm but add depth and perspective to the individual tracks. Overall, the impression I got was low-tech sci-fi environments complete with RF hum (in spots), or too much blotter acid in others ("The Torture And Death Of A Chipmunk", where mutated bird sounds compete with an intermittent LFO modulated sequences and a flanged staccato rhythm that is consistent throughout). The 5th track on this CD, "The Nursery Rhyme Slowly Slides Into The Gapping Man Of My Adulthood" began as an Enoesque series of low, merging tones with another subtle sampled repetitive loop in the background pushing it along, interspersed with some buzzy elements. The remaining tracks continued to explore ersatz-industrial sonic environments and I couldn’t help but think that XDUGEF’s talents might be well served for video-game environments.
By contrast, I found the second CD, "Retardant" the more interesting of the two. The tracks seemed to be more fully realized and cohesive as well as more ambient’ in nature. And a dark ambient one at that. According to Adrian’s one-sheet, "Retardant" is comprised of sound bits slowed way down. Also incorporated are elements taken from recorded phone conversations and open mics going back a decade. Because these samples have been slowed way down’, their low tonal pitch and elongation gives them rather monstrous properties. I’m not sure if it was luck or precise calculation, but the construction of these pieces seems absolutely brilliant, resulting in a variety of disconcerting uneasy-listening environments that range from subterranean industrial workshops to deep space Lovecraftian atmospheres where unspeakable horrors dwell. All in all, a very good CD that succeeds perhaps even well beyond its intent.
Since these CDs are relatively inexpensive (between $5.00- $7.00 from what I’ve seen on the Internet, and an even better deal when Adrian is running an auction on eBay) I would recommend checking them out. If you happen to be a fan of experimental noise projects like Coil and Oval, you’ll probably be very happy with XDUGEF. I expect we’ll be hearing even more interesting things from Adrian DiMond in the future.
Artist: ANDREW LILES
Title: Drone works # 7
Format: CD EP
Label: Twenty Hertz
Rated: *****
Within the recent, and much deserved, flow of releases by UK experimental soundmaker Andrew Liles, one shouldn't miss this single-track cdr, which proves how Twenty Hertz is currently one of the best drone-related labels around. The untitled piece begins with a paranoia-inducing atmosphere made of static, sombre sine waves slowly uncoiling. Total black hole-style ambient whose nearest relation could be Nurse With Wound's "Soliloquy for Lilith", or Colin Potter's works on Twenty Hertz itself. Then, about halfway, Liles imperceptibly starts changing the mood, transforming anxiety in an ecstatic stupor, until, in the last few minutes, more recognizable sounds (cymbals, half-whispered voices, water) gently wake you - or just lull you to a different kind of dreaming.
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Artist: Trio 96
Title: Quartet '99
Format: CD EP
Label: Poseidon Records
Distributor: Musea Records (NOTE: distributed in U.S. by Syn-Phonic)
Rated: *****
Japanese experimental jazz outfit Trio 96 are, according to their label's description, alternately a quartet and a duo, and hence their respective CD titles (see also the review for their CD "Duo '03," below). The band is made up of core members Ishikawa Kenji and Tanaka Yasuhiro on guitar and drums respectively. Their CD EP entitled Quartet '99, which was recorded in 1999 as the title suggests, has Yano Tomoaki and Ejiri Hiromitu rounding out the lineup on tenor saxophone and bass. The all-acoustic, all-instrumental music is fast-paced, busy, frenzied and frenetic, making great use of each player's musical gusto, which could get to be a bit much; the song titles aren't too descriptive, either: "JB," "5 Beats," "9 Beats," et cetera.

On the whole there's not a lot for the average electronica/industrial fan to appreciate. If, however, you are at all into the off-the-wall antics of avant-jazz artists like Eugene Chadbourne, John Zorn, Elliott Sharp, or (especially) Frank Zappa, this would at the very least pique your interest. And the CD's short five-song length keeps it from becoming a tedious listen, and makes it more than worthwhile. One could best relate--let's say--to living in an ultra-urban environment with all its varieties of texture and decay, and maybe taking in some exhibit of insanely abstract modern art with this music coming through your headphones. Or, hell, even write your art history thesis on Jackson Pollock or Franz Kline to it. If I ever go back to school (or in some other way get back to using my under-utilized brain in my regular day-to-day career), count me in....
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Artist: Trio 96
Title: Duo '03
Format: CD
Label: Poseidon Records
Distributor: Musea Records (NOTE: distributed in U.S. by Syn-Phonic)
Rated: *****
While down to just the two core members Ishikawa Kenji and Tanaka Yasuhiro (see "Quartet '99" review, above), Trio 96's Duo '03 CD has richer tonal textures, and definitely WEIRDER stylings. As you can guess from the titles, the earlier CD was indeed recorded in 1999, and this one from 2002 to 2003, both in Tokyo. This time around, Trio 96 has moved away from being a traditional-sounding jazz combo, straying into sound effects territory, and I applaud this direction. From the sampled-string-bending on track number two, "Kerenmi Afureru Pray" to the strange Hendrix-y wah-wah guitar and staccatto bass patterns on "Improvisation (Braford)" to the synth-like brooding melancholy of "Hommage à A & G," there is, ironically enough, a lot more tonal variation to sink your teeth into. Poseidon/Musea's promo sheet compares the guitarwork on this CD--a six-song EP, really--to that of eighties King Crimson, and I think that's quite right. To me, it also goes a long way toward bridging the gap between avant-jazz and works like the amazing jazz-electronica of fellow Japanese duo Boom Boom Satellites. Less is more, kids.
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