Music Reviews

Artist: Billow Observatory
Title: s/t
Format: CD
Label: Felte (@)
Rated: *****
The plodding smoothing of frequencies and the fussy bleaching of sound for this release, it could sound unbelievable, lasted almost six years so that this couple of perfectionist musicians, Danish producer Jonas Munk aka Manual, whose experience in film music and sound engineering certainly chipped in to enhance the final result, and American guitarist Jason Kolb from Auburn Lull band, whose ethereal space-rock dilutions partially comes to mind during the listening of Billow Observatory debut, together with similar sonorities by quite known names such as Loscil, Stars Of The Lid or Tear Ceremony, didn't leave anything to chance and their meticolous attention to detail will be clear after repeated listening, as long as you manage to hold your head out of the psychedelic whirl their sound could generate. For instance the enchanting beginning of "Camulet" could let the listener re-experience that idyllic haze after the awakening from general anesthesia, the delicate sonic ripples on the following "Slow Billows" could let you imagine while orbiting around a soft sugary cumulonimbus or jump from cloud to cloud of a mackerel sky and "Unstable Presences" makes tangible the electric air of a forthcoming storm, "Dim Language", the track which sound closer to the style by above-mentioned Tear Ceremony, could let you think about the attempt of establishing a dialogue by some invisible reassuring being from a parallel dimension and I even recollected the craving of knowledge in astonishment I experienced one time inside Trinity College library in Dublin while I was listening "Pankalia". Some tracks are probably related to emotions or reveries they experienced in some places such as the entrancing "Odessa", the unruffled and algid sonic massage of "Kronstadt", named after a town on Kotlin Island nearby Saint Petersburg, or "Helsinki Radio", where you could almost touch radio frequencies deflected by cold gusts of wind. This release could be pure and blissful rocket propulsion for your imagination.
Artist: Ephraim Wegner & Julia Weinmann
Title: Eins Bis Sechzehn
Format: CD
Label: Crónica (@)
Rated: *****
Scraped plaster, cracked walls, wrecked doors, broken switchboards, shattered mirrors, shorn wires, rusty spikes, wet planks, forsaken rooms, damaged facades. old dailies, faded attires, some tangible clues of gone-by glory and other sparse reminiscences of the heydays characterize this sonic and visual journey within abandoned huge hotel resorts, staged by these young artists. Sound machines and microphones by Ephraim Wegner and Julia Weinmann's lens wittily portray the ruins of former hotels as if they were wheeezing dying entities or a wreck of a drifting ship by exploring it from their skeletal chest, where the glimpse of beautiful places which surround them evokes shadows of his previous symbionts. A sort of elegiac representation of decay, where the concepts of place and non-place seems to coexist in the dramatization of artifacts as well as decostruction and construction find their meeting point, easily manages to inspire some glimmers of new beginnings.
Artist: Worsel Strauss
Title: Unattention Economy
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Vicmod Records (@)
Rated: *****
One of the main criticisms levelled at electronic music is that anyone can make it, the machines do all the work. That is true, just press the triangle and let fly! This then raises the question: What makes good electronic music? Sure, we can listen to the refrigerator hum or blender whine for hours, but does that constitute good 'music'? Worsel Strauss, half of the retro electronics outfit Schleusolz, plugs in his machines, and considers the results.

Inspired by an infamous piece of early electronics, Douglas Leedy's 'Entropical Paradise (with bird call),' a triple-LP of self-generated modular synth music, Strauss wondered if he could make some interesting synthnoise, without resorting to sidelong synth soundscapes. Instead, he wondered if the machines could come up with more conventional 'songs', and set to, armed with a vintage Buchla synthesizer and some other analog electronics. The pieces were composed, straight to tape, and then edited later, in a process he called 'subtractive mixing'. 'If there is a creative process involved at all it is the design of the rules and the final choice of which results to present, and which ones not.' He even wonders if it can be considered music at all.

Which brings us to the mechanical heart of 'Unattention Economy,': Does it sound good? An album reviewers purpose is to report back what he hears, and to alert listeners as to whether a particular piece is worthy of their attention. While 'UE' might be cyberdine techno, it sounds REALLY good. At first i was skeptical: another experimental synth record? How much knob twiddling can a bloke hack? But it is my job, to parse through the datastream and report what i see, and i will not let you down. It is our job, as listeners, to try and remain unjaded, to not let the cultural torrent wash us away. This comes through presence and awareness, and the final analysis is, Strauss' machines sound boss. Bringing to mind a surprising amount of modern electricians (Nine Inch Nails, Autechre, Jessica Rylan), the sounds are all sourced from exquisite components. The drums kick like a Parisian siege, while the analog pads are as warm as a Sahara sun. There's bleepy, gloopy tones, that'll appeal to the retro-fetishists out there, but there's also dance floor fare (Shopping for Antibiotics). 'Swarm Intelligence' is a standout track, killer martial breakbeats and detuned swarming melodies. Its like an instrumental outtake from 'The Downward Spiral' remixed with a Pure Data patch. It brings the body and the head together, and could help introduce some listeners to the world of abstract electronica that's out there.

Vicmod Records could have a real hit on their hands here. Worsel Strauss is worthy of yr time and attention, possibly yr praise. The time and care he took to setup the experiment allowed for some remarkable alleatoric daemons to manifest, and i'll be damned if i don't hear a bit of soul in there. 'Unattention Economy' is very highly recommended.
Artist: Lisfrank (@)
Title: Mask Rewind
Format: CD
Label: Anna Logue Records
Rated: *****
We talked about Lisfrank different times on CHAIN D.L.K. about three years ago when Anna Logue Records did a compilation of released and unreleased tracks by Fulvio Guidarelli's musical outfit. Fabrizio Della Porta reviewed the 12" 7" compilation which now is out of print (you can find the review here and I interviewed Fulvio about his music and about those years (you can find it here Few months ago, Anna Logue Records decided it was time to make "Mask Rewind" available again and printed an expanded CD version of that compilation. On this new release you can find all the classics and demos included into the vinyl version ("Man without limits", "It's life", "Violence in my mind" or "My Toy" just to name a few) plus four extra tracks previously unreleased: "S.W.M. (Obscure Version)", "Night Calling (First Mix Version)" and"Ombre". Unfortunately there are still missing two songs from the EP "Man Mask": "Night Calling" (even if here there's a demo version) and "I Still Believe In Love". About the new tracks, "Ombre" was included into the tape compilation "Area Condizionata" issued in 1983 and it's an experimental track made of synth hisses, filtered vocals and echoes; "Dead Girl" is a cold wave track based on basic filtered synth monophonic sounds, in front vocals and drums added on the final part; "S.W.M. (Obscure Version)" is a very minimal track where the experimental side of Lisfrank is shown as only vocals, synth windy noises and 4/4 drum machine tempos have been used. If you missed the first issue of this compilation or if own the vinyl and you'd like to get also the extra track, be sure to check this limited CD print of "Mask Rewind".
Artist: Anworth Kirk
Title: Shacklecross
Format: 12"
Label: Pre-Cert Home Entertainment
Distributor: Boomkat
Rated: *****

Shacklecross is the newest transmission from the Andy Votel's shadowy alter-ego, Anworth Kirk. Its a double-sided psychogeographic sojourn, that takes you on a voyage through the communal id of a hamlet in Central England. Shacklecross is a non-descript village in Derbyshire; not much information is available. When you look it up, the only image that pops up is of an antiquated Lock, in a barren urban no-man's-land. Like the music contained on this vinyl, the image is mysterious and alluring, pulling you in and making you look further.
Every release on Pre-Cert Home Entertainment, the label run by Andy Votel and the Demdike Stare folks, brings to mind the era before the internet, before the simulacrum took over, with its self-satisfied mapping, cross-referencing, and immediate archiving. Votel and co. serve to remind us that there is much wonder in the wondering, in the thrill of discovery and curiosity, of finding something unknown and brilliant. Or just plain weird. Andy Votel, Demdike Stare, and all the artists they work with, seem to genuinely cherish the strange and half-bad. They love the beautiful losers, and are pulling them back out into the spotlight. Votel was one of the founders of the brilliant British re-issue label, Finders Keepers, that have pulled so many records out of the dustbins of history that it makes you slightly fearful for the social lives of its curators. In the process of archive diving, researching and investigation, putting together obscure mixes, Votel has built an intricate sampledelic style completely his own, also being refined by Demdike Stare, and others are starting to catch on. Taking tiny fragments from movie scores, Indian tabla records, sci-fi musings, and seemingly blending them with his own recordings of wheezy pawn-shop instruments, yr just never entirely sure what is going on. How is he making all these sounds? Who is this person? These people? Its a weird wormhole, that will take you further than you are comfortable with. The world inhabited by the Pre-Cert folks is strange, horrible, brilliant, dusty. You'll be watching cannibal flicks before you know it, and stopping to sample the muzak, down at the supermarket. It gets inside you.
'Shacklecross' is a travelogue through time, space, and genre. There are seperate tracks, but its blended as a seamless hole, and its hard to tell where one ends and another begins. It starts with some noxious, growling synth that lets you know this record is going to take you to the darkside, but things get decidedly less cut-and-dry from there. The image that i was left with was of leaving the safe civilization of nearby Derby, travelling through picturesque Borrowash, leaving the modern world behind. As you get further and further away from society, you leave the touchstones of consensual reality behind you. You fall out of time, you even leave the Earth behind. This is a world where faeries gather in toadstool circles, and gypsy curses level the fields. You fall in with an uncanny gypsy caravan, trip-trapping down gravel country lanes, who take you to a Persian hashish ceremony, then lead you to the burial mounds, once yr seeing stars. Lying on the grass, with these impossible companions, you let go and let loose, drifting off into space. Yr no longer in yr body, sensory data is just not the same. You can see sounds and hear colours, and yr just not sure WHAT yr going to say to the blokes at the office on Monday. But fear not! Anworth Kirk will not leave you floating in the stars. He guides you back, quick as you like, the same way that you came. As you exit the strange terrain of Shacklecross, leaving yr phantom companions with regret and also exhiliration, as you backtrack down those gravel lanes that looked so VERY different in the starlight, the world begins to solidify. You begin to wonder if it were but a dream. But yr trousers are still damp with the dew, and there are scratches from black twigs on yr neck.
Its a disorienting affair, and not for those that like their techno bright and quantized, but the possibilities raised by Anworth Kirk's masterful sample-stitching are hair raising. Maybe, finally, we shall finally arrive at a newform of music, not merely refining staid genres, to win cash and prizes. These are sonic alchemists, bemused at possibilities. The whole Pre-Cert roster's dedication to soundtracks make all of their records like a surreal story. Sounds leave so much more to interpretation and imagination than film, and the images conjured while listening to these headphone opuses are layered and dense and moving.
Andy Votel, Demdike Stare, Pre-Cert Home Entertainment, Finders Keepers, and a score of others, are redefining music, and offering a light in the grim postmodern tunnel. We're assimilating our influences, and weaving the future. It's thrilling to watch it unfurl in realtime, waiting with baited breath for each uncanny release. 'Shacklecross,' like every Pre-Cert Home Entertainment release, is dreadfully limited, and may be long gone by the time you read this. But now you've been warned! Don't sleep on these gents. Let them invite mystery to yr hearth.
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