Music Reviews



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Artist: Susanna Gartmayer (@)
Title: AOUIE - Solos for Bass Clarinet
Format: 10"
Label: God Records/Chmafu Nocords (@)
Rated: *****
The very first seconds of this release by bass clarinet player Susanna Gartmayer could surmise the incendiary tonal whirls by Colin Stetson and seem to follow that compositional path, but the astonishingly adventurous route that the brilliant Austrian musician explore pushes his instrument beyond the above-mentioned matching. The remarkable variagated range of transitions results from different places where it was performed and recorded (a museum, a theatre bar, a church, an electronic music club, a shop and so on), different playing positions of the performer, different playing direction, different audiences as well as different formations of mouth cavity - each track has been titled by corresponding vowels -, so that rooms together with bass clarinet and every side noise such as the breath, the tapping of the keys and the clanging of the instrument can be considered as reagents of the composition. The opening swirling of "AE" sounds like withdrawing into itself before the final eruption, the faint tonal filaments of "U" and "UE" move towards unforeseen directions, the buzz which opens the final "A" gets more and more incandescent, the austerely solemn mumble of bass clarinet of the central "E" (recorded in St.Ruprechts Church, Vienna) occasionally as well as the sly sneaking of "I" show tonal abrasions before their final dissipation, while the more vibrant movements of "O" is the icing on the cake of this multidimensional journey into bass clarinet sound.
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Artist: Fabio Battistetti (@)
Title: Into the Wood
Format: CD
Label: Creative Sources (@)
Rated: *****
A wood-driven record is maybe something that could bring an echologist or an enthusiastic fan of Thoreau's "Walden" to secrete resin for pleasure, but this environ/mentalist output by Italian sound artist Fabio Battistetti aka Eniac, coming out from a series of live performances (Lugano, Mondovi', Turin, Embrun and Chamois) that he made together with Andrea "ics" Ferraris and Andrea "Lotzio" Carlotto inside a wooden cube designed by Catherine Chanoux, which got amplified by microphones and then digitally adapted, is primarily an amazing listening experience. The above-described cube is the framework where Battistetti manipulates a series of plywood boards, branches and tree bark after fixing them to the wall of his wooden nest by means of elastics and shelves. The electric strands of "Buttonwood", the opening track, sounds like a tuning stage as if the artist is transplanting a device in the eardrums of the listener to grab sounds from his wooden objects, while the first tree that borrows sounds to Battistetti is "Castanea Sativa" (scientific denomination of the sweet chestnut). After the popping "Duramen", which sounds like the rendering of the intense activity of a squadron of anry woodboring beetles, the author sounds like extracting the most "spiritual" side of his sonic outputs on the following tracks: "Larix Decidua" sounds like an ode to European larch and its notorious resistence to very low temperatures due to the the falling of all leaves, a process which seems to have been rendered by the sounds of the following "Leaves Fall", a kind of slo-mo dub, that perfectly bonds with the hollow logs that could come to listener's mind while listening the spacey "On a Branch". The chippings and the echoed chimes of "Taxodloceae" and "Waldeinsamkeit" (a German word which can be translated as the feeling of being alone in the woods!) leaves listened on a high note.
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Artist: Sigtryggur Berg Sigmarsson
Title: So Long
Format: CD
Label: Helen Scarsdale Agency (@)
Rated: *****
Even if this release required many years to see its birth (it was recorded and mixed between 2008 and 2013 according to the somehow cryptic linear notes), I could surmise that its author could have been inspired by an unexpected delay of a journey, as I could infer from the titles ("Eight Hour Delay", "The Trip" and "Late Night Arrival") of the very long-lasting droning suites of "So Long". I can testify that many marriages, divorces, mental diseases, redundancies and more or less favourable things behind schedule have been caused by that Icelandic volcano which blocked air traffic in 2010, so that I wouldn't be too surprised if a sound artist like the brilliant Icelandic producer Sigtryggur Berg Sigmarsson - former member of the experimental band Stilluppsteypa - conceived an album after such an experience. I might get surprised, at most, by the final result as well as by the fact that these impressive dronescapes saw the light so late as it seems that the initial release on Intransitive Recordings got cancelled after the label checked out. Fortunately, The Helen Scarsdale Agency promptly dredged it up after Sigmarsson released a scaled-down version on the artwork/cassette "If You Have Any Questions, Let Me Ask". In spite of the pile of different emotional sonic purges and sudden spurious emissions, the moments of the opening "Eight Hour Delay" got perfectly bound together in a way that turned the final amalgam into a really hallucinatory syrup, while the central suite "The Trip", which features processed guitars by Argentinian experimental musician Anla Courtis and organs by Sigmarsson's partner-in-art Helgi Thorsson and BJ Nilsen, goes significantly less smoothly before the fourteen nocturnal minutes of the final "Late Night Arrival". Everything sounds like filtered by temporary numbness, dizziness and migraines and my description could be much more long-winded in order to pay tribute to its length, but I can assure that lovers of crypto-minimalist aesthetics are going to appreciate it.
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Artist: Birdcage
Title: Shogyomujo
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Shabu Recordings (@)
Rated: *****
Unlike most progressive techno producers, who are mainly digging into anxious or frightening emotional and spiritual territories in order to drain some inspiration, Sapporo-based Birdcage taps into "The Tales of the Heike" (13th century), the oldest known novel of unknown autorship. In particular, he tried to turn the concept of "Shogyo Mujo" (a Buddhist term which could be translated as "impermanence") into sound, an idea which was going to become a topical aspect of Japanese culture and got developed on the final part of the story of samurai Heike family. It sounds evoked by the gentle hovering of sonic elements after five minutes of bass-driven pressure - the genuine and proper stoic element of this release - on the initial "Shorea Robusta", a sort of hybrid between progressive techno and Gamelan music, as well as by the electronic whispers by which Birdcage gilds the wiggling jelly of "Atma"'s slightly distorted hypnotic basslines and the mid-tempo break of the granular techno tune "OP-88 Transience", whose unstable balance bites the dust after more and more anxiously chaotic swirls. The three reximes that got included in the release are more dancefloor-oriented so that the elements of "Shorea Robusta" got spin-dried on the stunning tribal blurs of "Alternate Version" and get closer to psychedelic trance bangers on the remix by Jesse 'Borealis' Somfay, while Scott 'Avus' Edwards, another esquire from Sharu stable, remove the nostalgic peel from the original version of "Atma" in order to highlight the dynamic and Acid-driven (I'm referring to the notorious music software) nature of the track on his remix.
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Artist: Ray Creature (@)
Title: s/t
Format: 12"
Label: Sister Cylinder (@)
Rated: *****
Ray Creature was formed in 2013 in Bloomington, Indiana, consisting of John Eric Booth - synth, guitar, bass, vocals; and Natascha Buehnerkemper - acoustic percussion, bass, and vocals. This self-titled 12" EP on 180-gram vinyl is their debut on the Sister Cylinder, and what a strange delight it is! This harkens back to some of the more interesting dark electronic music of the '80's, such as 'Black Celebration' era Depeche Mode, Wolfgang Press, SPK, and Trisomie 21, maybe with a dash of Suicide. Right from the get-go on "Don't Stop Talking" you know where these folks are at. It's cold-wave and post-punk done right, and you'd be hard pressed from Mr. Booth's vocals to peg him as American, for they surely have a more English or Euro sound. The song is funky in a Gang of Four or Shriekback sort of way. "Threat" is an unstoppable locomotive charging headlong into oblivion with a fast, repetitive bassline (think Alice Cooper's "Return of the Spiders" from the 'Easy Action' LP mixed with Suicide's "Rocket U.S.A."). The fun continues on "Burning Alive", with early Art of Noise/Human League synths and near rockabilly vocals. Unfortunately, it ends too soon. Natascha's vocals are harder to get a handle on, often blended in the same way Sisters of Mercy's Patricia Morrison's are with Andrew Eldritch. "White Suits" really reminds me of early Depeche Mode (but post 'Speak and Spell'), more in feel than trying to copy them in any way. There is a rawness to this record that exudes vitality, and its lack of professional polish gives it a credibility that might otherwise be lost in glossy production. Semi-submerged vocals give it almost a live sound, so you can bet that hearing them live shouldn't sound much different than the recording. Some songs are better than others, but in total, the eight tracks presented here are a pretty good debut. I'd recommend the vinyl over the digital download and limited to only 500 copies, it's bound to sell out sooner than later. Surely a band to watch.
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