Music Reviews

Artist: Sutcliffe Jugend
Title: Shame
Format: CD
Label: Hagshadow
Rated: *****
When I think about Sutcliffe Jugend of ten years ago, I think about chaotic guitar noise and distorted vocals, while if I think about the ones of the early 80s, I think about feedback and power noise. So, what about their sound of the latest years? Well, lately, their sound changed: they balanced the elements in a different way by using less distortions for the vocals, they combined different noise/sound sources together and they also changed the intensity of their sound on some tracks (check "Seedless" on their 2012 album "Blue Rabbit", for example), just to be able to have a wider palette of possibilities. On their latest album, titled "Shame" and released by Hagshadow, we have five new tracks that confirm the new path taken by Kevin Tomkins and Paul Taylor. I already listened to the opening track titled "Shame", because they played it on their concert at the latest W.G.T. festival in Leipzig at the beginning of this month and even if on the CD you lose a bit of the tension they create on stage, it sounds good and powerful. This track confirms what I wrote at the beginning of the review, as we have a melodic part played with a distorted bass guitar with the add of more guitar layers which create a fluctuating wave of sound. On this, Kevin is shouting his vocals about the worst human's behaviors, mostly concerning sex. On "Sledge" you can feel the tension but it's not a noise track, it has different layers of treated vocals with a clean one upfront while on the background we have a dissonant hammering of a which I think it could be a treated piano, which rhythmically repeats few notes. On "Hurts" we have noise tides which duet with a clarinet (or it's a feedback which is sounding like that). You don't know what to expect when the next tide it will arrive and this is a more effective way to create tension. "Bait" plays with guitar noise loops while Kevin shouts about survival. The closing track "Blood", is a long dreamy noise tune which is working as decompression room creating a dazing effect. I prefer this latest version of Sutcliffe Jugend, as they keep their sound more open to possibilities and I think that at this point of noise music, it's working better than an "in your face" formula. Well done!
Artist: Anthony Pateras, Erkki Veltheim
Title: The Slow Creep Of Convenience
Format: CD + Download
Label: Immediata
A single, 50-minute drone duet between a pipe organ and an electric violin, “The Slow Creep Of Convenience” is a glacially slowly evolving series of tones that has hints of brass and of industry. Flexing in and out of dischord, it’s an unusual and generally uncomfortable environment, but if you allow it to wash over you for long enough, it becomes casually familiar.

It changes the bassline of your normal listening so that even some quite strained and complex tones become expected, but just before the 30-minute mark, there’s an abrupt shift in attitude towards a deeper and more tense ambience, after which the process has to start all over again. When the organ drops out completely a few minutes later is when you realise just how immersive this tone has been. A soft final few minutes transition you gently back into reality.

The pipe organ gives proceedings a slightly traditional feel, with a handful of discernible chord changes that skip you slightly out of your meditative state. The religious history imbued in those tones is hard to shake off even when presented in such an abstract form, so like it or not, this is a soundscape that will evoke memories of churches and solemnity.

A bold and very simple release which takes an idea towards its logical extreme, with a result that’s powerful and only initially difficult.
Artist: White
Title: s/t
Format: 12"
Label: ADAADAT (@)
Rated: *****
More vinyl, courtesy of the experimental UK label ADAADAT. WHITE is a neo-industrial project from Beijing, comprising Hang on the Box drummer Shenggy Shen and Carsick Cars guitarist and vocalist Zhang Shouwang. They recorded their debut self-titled album in Berlin in 2007 under the tutelage of Blixa Bargeld from Einstürzende Neubauten. Then went on to support Neubauten on their 2008 'Alles Wieder Offen' Tour, recordings of their performances were subsequently included in the AWO Tour Box. WHITE have also collaborated with the likes of FM3, Elliott Sharp, Alvin Curran and Manuel Göttsching. This re-release on Adaadat coincides with the 10 year anniversary of the recording. The album was originally released digitally in 2009 on OpenNote and on CD by Maybe Mars in China and Tenzenmen in Australia. This is the first time it has been made available on Vinyl.

As you might expect, this is quite experimental stuff, but playfully so. Shenggy Shen (Vocals, Drums, Percussion, Korg MS-20, Tape, Sampler) and Zhang Shouwang (Theremin, Guitar, Organ, Vocals, Sampler and Effects) combine forces to present a powerful and diverse album that sounds like many things, and yet nothing you've ever heard before. Elements of noise, punk, industrial, Chinese classical, modern classical, gamelan, electro-experimental, and more are all combined, deconstructed, reconstructed, reconstituted and transmuted to form something...well, very interesting, and sometimes just plain bizarre, as on the 19 second track "Beijing Beer" which could serve as a commercial for Beijing beer. There are nods to Suicide (Alan Vega, Marty Rev), Steve Reich, Philip Glass, Laurie Anderson, Glenn Branca and likely dozens of other avant-garde, edge of pop artists. If WHITE was around in New York's No-Wave heyday, they would have fit right in, and perhaps even dominated the scene. Sometimes WHITE is just inscrutably looney, as on the 25-second "English School" with rapidly spoken Chinese over a silly organ melody, ending with "its the wind thing" spoken in English. ??? In the next minute it's industrial noise mayhem and esoteric experimental in "Roswitha Strunk". Although repetition is a major motif in many of the compositions on this album it becomes all the more fascinating as WHITE builds upon it. There's also no question that Blixa Bargeld had an important role in the production and direction this album takes. Worth the price for the wonderful final track "Bai" alone, with its incredible vocal acrobatics (more like spinning plates), this limited to 500 vinyl copies album is a must for anyone into modern avant-garde. Being Beijingers only enhances their mystique.
Artist: Debmaster, DJ Die Soon, oki-chu
Title: ammo Hung II: Cursed Demon Seasons
Format: 12"
Label: Le Petit Mignon/Staalplaat (@)
Rated: *****
Okay folks, it's VINYL TIME! Finally getting around to giving some platters a spin and first up is 'Sammo Hung II: Cursed Demon Seasons' with music by Debmaster and DJ Die Soon and graphics by oki-chu. Debmaster (France) and DJ Die Soon (Japan) are two Berlin-based music producers, and oki-chu is a reknown Tokyoite surrealist painter/illustrator. If the title of this album sounds like a videogame to you, you'd pretty much be on the money. The videogame is in your mind though, so don't go looking for it at your local Gamestop. This is a split LP (limited to 297 hand-numbered copies, pressed on clear vinyl) in which Debmaster gets side 1(Invasion Side) and DJ Die Soon has side 2 (Crash side), 4 tracks each. According to the one-sheet, Debmaster's side (subtitled "Levels of Crevology") is "like the soundtrack of an apocalyptic video game of which you would be both the hero and the villain...Debmaster delivers a hybrid cocktail of playfulness and darkness...blending bounding kicks and deconstructed beats, obsure and droning industrial soundscapes, wrapped by electro acid strains." DJ Die soon titles his side "The Shimmers of Hell" and "immerses us in the black hole...a compact space sprayed by hip hop tones and saturated beats, overwhelmed by heavy bass and a piercing foam of noise." That's a pretty accurate description of what's going on here in this entirely instrumental opus. There's a whopping amount of repetition overall, but somehow it never gets boring. In a way, you almost feel like you're actually inside the game rather than an outside spectator/player. Even with all the repetition you can tell a huge amount of creativity went into this, and sometimes like on Debmaster's "FK" things are complex as hell. If you're not much into hip hop (I know I'm not) don't let DJ Die Soon's side scare you off, because this ain't no conventional hip hop; it's experimental all the way. The only thing hip hoppish about it is the pacing of the beats.

It's hard to say which side I liked better as they both have their merits. I will say that the last track on each side is rather mind-blowing. For the tech curious, Debmaster made his side using Push 2 and Oto Biscuit, while DJ Die Soon plays SP404 and MPC1000. Although you can listen to all the tracks on Staalplaat's Bandcamp site, I'd highly recommend the vinyl as it's a keeper, limited, bound to go out of print, and the fantastic 6-panel artwork by oki-chu makes this a genuine collector's item. (You also get a digital download card.) For the intrepid electronic music enthusiast who loves vintage videogame music.
Artist: Rapoon (@)
Title: Rhiz
Format: CD
Label: Zoharum (@)
Distributor: Alchembria
Rated: *****
In the now impressive, for number of releases, list of reissues of Rapoon made by Zoharum a release as "Rhiz" finds his place. Accurately the label present this release as a dance music one and so it's something different from the key albums from this project and so it sounds more as an experiment to be up with the times than an inspired release.
When the rhythm of "Gupta Highway" starts, there's a moment of disorientation as, instead of the usual hypnotic framework, there's a shift towards IDM territories so the rhythm is, at least apparently, less regular and it's the center of the track and the vaguely oriental samples are mostly underlining of the track. Instead, "Ho Gaya Can", features a moment, at the center of the track, where the rhythm stops and the familiar elements of the project properly emerge as in "Hunters and Pardesi" where there's more space for the soundscape as the speed of the track is lower. "LagaKe Swan" is the first track where the drum line is in the background, at the mix level, so the second part of part based on sparse piano note and a spacey drone find a remarkable equilibrium. While the first part of "Future Sajna" is the typical IDM track, the second part features a loop connecting the track with the canon of this project. "Last Stop" closes this release with more question than answers as it follows structurally forms established by other projects.
Honestly, if this was a release from an unknown IDM band, it could be valued as a derivative but good release that could be loved by fans of the genre but, as it's a release from one of the key name of an entire period, the lack of a moment that truly lasts in mind is a key lack. Only for collectors.
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