Music Reviews

Artist: VV.AA.
Title: framework500
Format: 3 x CD (triple CD)
Label: framework editions
Rated: *****
This huge collection of tracks, which have different connections to field recordings, is the grandiose way by which American-born sound artist, performer and radio artist Patrick McGinley aka Murmer's imprint Framework, which recently hit the enviable 500 broadcasted transmissions marker after almost 13 years in the ether, celebrates this important goal. The history of this radiophonic imprint is intimately connected to the artistic path and the sonic researches of its founder, who keeps on collecting found sounds and found objects by mean of which he makes sounds since 1996, when he moved to Europe. After many travelling across the Old Continent, he visited Southeast Estonia in 2005, where he decided to relocate in 2009, maybe for its unexpectedly vibrant scene in the field of sonic experiments that we spoke about on the occasion fo a chat with Gintas K some years ago. Patrick actually holds workshops, presentations and performances, which focus on the exploration of site-specif sound and sound as a definition of surrounding space. His live performances feature interesting matching between found sounds, found onjects, specific spaces and moments in time, which are intended to create a sort of ritual and visceral link with an audience and its location an such a link is the key to understand the core of his works in the guise of Murmer, which tries to give emphasis to sounds, which normally pass through our ears unnoticed and unremarked, but whose perception out of their context could sound like an extraordinry or even alien experience. On the first of the three cd of this colelction, there's also an assay of Patrick's sound art, the catchy and somehow relaxing "Signal From The Dam", but field recordings are the basis of the other 29 tracks of this collection, that involved the same sound artists which got involved for the celebration of 250th release by Framwork, and the strategies of implementation of field recordings in the track as well as the emotions they manage to render in listener's mind are remarkably diversified: the range covers proper reverie, which gets sometimes closer to mystical experiences, mechanical obsessions, immersive soundscapes, environmental and psychogeographical audio documents, augmented sonic realities and so on by more or less known artists in the enlarging field recordings community of producers and listeners. The idea of mirroring the processing for the production of the sonic product by including recordings of different stages of the manufacture - the three high-quality CDrs of the compilation got boxed in an origami sleeve made from locally produced recycled stock from Rapina Paberivabrik and letterpressed on very old printing machines at studio.tartuensis in Tartu (Estornia) - is really nice. Framework500 features new works by Asmus Tietchens, Dallas Simpson, Eric Cordier, Felicity Ford, Jeph Jerman, Keith Berry, Keith de Mendonca, Loren Chasse, Maksims Sentelevs, Maria Balabas with Mihai Balabas and Nicolas Triboi, Martin Clarke, Matteo Uggeri and Luca Berge, Peter Cusack, Scott Sherk, Eamon Sprod, Emmanuel Mieville, Jean-Luc Guionnet, Jez Riley French, Jim Haynes, Joel Stern, Jonathan Coleclough, Ben Owen, Kodama, Phill Niblock, Richard Garet, Simon Whetham, Thomas Tilly, and toy.bizarre. I'm pretty sure they'll keep on sharing the resounding venisons of their sound-hunting for many years toi come or until the universe will be totally silent...
Artist: Sphäre Sechs (@)
Title: Enceladus
Format: CD
Label: Malignant Records (@)
Rated: *****
Sphäre Sechs is Christian Stritzel and Martin Stürtzer from Germany, and 'Enceladus' is their second release on Malignant. You may have heard of Martin Stürtzer from his Phelios dark ambient project, which has about nine or more releases going back to 2006. This is my first experience with them, and I'm looking forward to more after hearing 'Enceladus'. They both control a small arsenal of analogue synths and electronic gadgetry (sans computers) on this quite unified dark ambient outing which was recorded live in the studio over the course of three days, meaning of course, it was entirely improvised.

It is said that in space, no one can hear you scream. Surely that is true in the world of 'Enceladus', not over all these deep, dark drones anyway. Enceladus is the sixth-largest moon of Saturn. Being covered by fresh, clean ice it reflects almost all the sunlight that strikes it. The surface temperature at noon only reaches '198 °C. Enceladus has a wide range of surface features ranging from old, heavily cratered regions to young, tectonically deformed terrains that formed as recently as 100 million years ago, despite its small size. Astronomically, there is a lot more to it than that, but I'm here to tell you about the album, not the moon. 'Enceladus' consists of seven pieces that blend together to form a solid whole. In fact, it is difficult to tell where one piece ends and the next begins, the continuity is so homogenus. Although different aspects are present in the way these dark, sonorous drones are woven together, it sounds like one complete, lengthy track over the course of 52 minutes. Stritzel and Stürtzer have managed to capture the coldness, vastness and awesomeness of space in this truly cosmic work. This is not space music to bliss out on, nor is it some frightening glimpse into some alien world. It's just so vast, your mind may have a hard time comprehending it. Sometimes oppressive in its density, at others weightless floating in the void, this comes as close to the "music of the spheres" as I have ever heard. A remarkable work that is sure to become a classic.
Artist: Tolchock (@)
Title: Elements of Rage
Format: CD
Label: self-released
Rated: *****
Tolchock is back with a brand new album after nine long years and that's a damn good thing. For those unfamiliar, Swedish band Tolchock is Christer Lundmark and Jens Persson with the addition of Jenny Runa (voice and choire) and Michael Forslund (guitars) on this album. They've been around since 1990 but I admit the only release of theirs I'm very familiar with is their 1998 album, 'In the Name of Tolchock' which I thought was fucking great and played to death for a good long time. I dusted it off and played it again for this this review, and I still think it's fucking great. I checked out their interim 2006 album, 'Wipe Out - Burn Down - Annihilate', and although it had a lot of power and anger, there was a lack of really good hooks, and it wasn't all that memorable. Not so on 'Elements of Rage', which find the band more focused, and on top on their game, with killer hooks galore and a more polished sound. This is EBM at its finest; snappy synth work, dynamic clubworthy beats, excellent edgy EBM style vocals, appropriate (and mercifully brief) samples and on-target songwriting. Although Jens is the voice of Tolchock, Jenny's vocals are the perfect foil and add a lot to this album. Forslund's guitar fits perfectly in place, never overstepping its bounds. For me, favorite tracks on the album are the (obvious) "One Second" (an undeniable hit if I ever heard one), the potent "Self Extractor", and the rather humorous "Walk of Shame". Go baby, go baby go baby go...down on your knees and crawl! "Day of Rage" and "Firecell" get honorable mentions. Three tracks get the remix treatment on the album - "Time To Breath" (Machinsta Remix); "Down The Hole" (Biomekkanik Remix); "Self Extractor" (Red Mecca Remix); and once again "Time To Breath" (Blipp Remix). While they all offer a bit different takes on the originals, none of them were anything I couldn't live without. I usually prefer the originals to remixes anyway. So the bottom line is, if you're looking for some great punchy new EBM, look no further. 'Elements of Rage' has got what you need.
Artist: John Zorn
Title: Pellucidar: A Dreamers Fantabula
Format: CD + Book
Label: Tzadik
Rated: *****
Pellucider: A Dreamers Fantabula is the fifth release and the first in over four years for John Zorn's band The Dreamers. Listeners who are familiar with the band's work can count on hearing a continuation of familiar themes and structures and can also count on hearing an energy that feels distinct from the band's preceding records. While the understated virtuosity of the rhythm section (with Joey Baron on drum set, Cyro Baptista on percussion, and Trevor Dunn on bass guitar) supports the often transcendent solo playing of Jamie Saft, Kenny Wolleson, and Marc Ribot throughout the entire record, Pellucider expresses itself through a group sound that is always focused on composition. It is worth noting that Trevor Dunn plays beautiful bass guitar, rotating from track to track through a milky finger-style sound and a round, picked tone that echos Carol Kaye. Pellucider takes influence from fantasy literature and this influence radiates from the CD's physical package created by Tzadik's exclusive designer Chippy. A 36 page booklet accompanies the music, full of detailed characters of the Dreamers world hand painted by Chippy. And of course, as with all Tzadik recordings, the music's sonic quality is exceptional - recorded and mixed by Marc Urselli at East Side Sound in NYC. Pellucider is an essential component of the Dreamers discography and would serve as both an effective record to introduce listeners to John Zorn's music and distinguished improvisation.
Artist: Ensemble Progresivo (@)
Title: Hesitancy
Format: CD
Label: Creative Sources (@)
Rated: *****
Another awesome release from the stack of releases by Creative Sources comes from Ensemblo Progresivo, a project that Madrid-born composer, saxophonist and clarinetist Ricardo Tejero made by a simple idea, that is improvising within a compositional context. I can't say such an idea is totally new, but the very fact that Tajero belongs to those musicians who believe that all those more or less academic debates about the distinguishing elements between composition and improvisation, which caused a remarkable waste of breathe and ink, are not really useful. The stronger argument for such an idea is the way this ensemble implemented this coexistence which is not only peaceful, but almost idyllic as you can easily verify by listening to some of what they define "progressions" by this ensemble by means of what they call "progressions" is really amazing. according to some words that got written when the Ensemble Progresivo moved its first steps: "The concept of progression is ever-present in the work of this band. Following the principle of non-repetition and ephemeral existence that improvised music has at its core, ensemble Progresivo aims to draw upon what they like to call "Progressions", pieces where the structure is prearranged using a combination of references and musical elements worked out by Rocardo Tejero, achieving different form every time a new "Progression" is played. in this way, every time the band performs they play a different "written progression" or piece, never to be repeated again". It should be pointed out that Ricardo carefully selected the musicians of Ensemblo Progresivo, as all of them - Alison Blunt (violin), Adrian Northover (alto sax, soprano sax), Marcio Mattos (cello, electronics), Roberto Sassi (electric guitar) as well as Ricardo come from the London Improvisers Orchestra... they are not new fishes in the pool! - and such a high level of expertise is clear over the nine funny progressions: the opening " Progresion 22 - Misnuet" departs from a sort of austere minuet, which sounds like groaning for its own figure till the point it almost autonomously begins to self-deconstructed, the amazing struggling by compositional elements between Mattos's cello and Tejero's alto sax on the following "F.A.Q.", the almost psychotic overlapping of sketched (or I'd rather say hesitant) musical phrases on "Ida y Vuelta", the clarinet melody which sounds like choked in it sleep by a convulsive violin on "Moundfield" or the limping symphony of the funny "Mannock" are just some examples of their modus operandi, and you can imagine how many times formal compositions got melted down by improvisational flickering over the 19-minutes lasting central piece "Dilema"... Some words by French magician Jean Eugene Robert-Houdin came to my mind while listening to this release. He used to say that "a conjurer is not a juggler". I won't say this could be true for this great bunch of musical conjurers!
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