Music Reviews



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Artist: Nakama
Title: Worst Generation
Format: CD & Vinyl
Label: Nakama Records
Ostensibly a study of which is the worst currently living generation of people, 5-piece Nakama’s first fully improvised album is a collection of five journeys where a relatively conventional and faintly jazzy musical set-up (vocal expressions, violin, piano, drums and bass) set off in parallel and pull in a variety of directions to form something deeply unpredictable that traces a broad series of curves and envelopes. Long, drawn-out, pained notes, a dismissal of time signatures, counterpointing rapid playing with sudden silences, it’s some classic improv stuff.

Some pieces, like “The Silent, Lucky Few” are generally refined and controlled and benefit from a clearly defined vision. “Millennials” benefits from an apparent musical agreement to ‘stay deep’. Others, like “Gen X”, have all the typical hallmarks of loose improv as they build into a chaotic and seemingly formless crescendo. Final track “Plurals” is a highlight, blending a little bit of the attitudes of all the preceding pieces.

Agnes Hvizdalek’s wild vocalisations- never a language I recognise, sometimes gargled, sometimes warbled, sometimes guttural and throaty- are the most distinctive element at play here in arrangements that otherwise do begin to border on the characterless.

It’s a relatively short bit of quite raw improv work with a slightly bleak tone. It doesn’t necessarily stand out from the crowd, but for people feeling alienated by some of the divisions currently cracking through their society, this may well strike a chord.
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Artist: Viv Corringham / Stephen Flinn / Miguel Frasconi (@)
Title: Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens
Format: CD
Label: Creative Sources (@)
Rated: *****
The amazing vocals of British (but currently living in US) singer, performer and composer (as well as certified teacher of Deep Listening and - very important detail - former student of Pauline Oliveros -) Viv Conningham, ranging from a sort of possessed yodelling, almost hysterical flicks and other great stunts in the thrilling set of ritual-like percussions Stephan Flinn and the hits on glass objects by Miguel Frasconi (including the funny echoing/imitation of a sort of door bell in the first seconds of the track) opens this good outputs, whose title quotes the pleasure gardens (known as Vauxhall gardens, as such a fashion was started in the well-known area on the Southern bank of Thames river in London) where the rising bourgeoisie had fun (but also something else) in the more or less public areas of park of major cities in the eighteenth century (mainly in UK, Belgium, and France). In the beginning, they just offered a dancefloor, a space for small orchestras, but they gradually evolved into the core of less visible aspects of social life, and they gradually offered amenities such shops for frivolous items, private rooms, and masonic temples. I guess these three skilled performers were running these ideas in mind while staging the impressive settings they rendered. Viv's vocals are really impressive, as she turned her voice into a key element of the scenography, sometimes by means of complete sentences - the hiccuping "don't tell anyone" turning into a strangled clucking in the second untitled track is an amazing example - or by imitation of natural elements - can you perceive the wind she seems to imitate on the third thrilling track? -, but she doesn't really need them to render vivid emotions and the way she matched her voice to the highly reverberated percussive sounds by Frasconi and the sometimes sinister entities by Flinn.
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Artist: Makkatu
Title: Ordeal
Format: CD
Label: Urbsounds (@)
Rated: *****
I didn't receive any biographical info about this entity called Makkatu, pushed by Urbsounds, the amazing Bratislava-based label by Michal Lichy, but it doesn't really matter to enjoy the sonorities it (referring to Makkutu, as it could be a male, a female, an animal, an alien or whatever) browses on this (debut?) release. Besides the mycological connection (mycelium is that web of branches, called hyphae, spreading chaotically by fungal colonies), the initial track "Micelium" and its grid of resounding bleeps, cushioned hits and cog-like thuds, whose tone get lowered in the second half of the track, could let you think Makkatu is going to take the direction of brainy side of the so-called 'rhythmic noise', but the style of the following track "Compose" slots in the darker mazes of dub techno. The stress on a tone of the computational sequence (typical of Detroit techno), the dried rhythmical pattern and the risingly darker atosphere of many tracks of Makkatu's outputs: tracks like "Swamp", "Flow" or "Will o the wisp" could surmise some acid declensions of the first steps into minimal techno and electro, made in the late 90ies by techno-makers of New York scene such as Abe Duque, Dietrich Schoenemann, Susanne Brokesch, Arc (bicephalous project by Savvas Ysatis and Taylor Deupre) and so on, while other stuff gets closer to the amazing sonorities spread by some Trsor djs in its glorious years (tracks like "Gorge" or "Hollow tree" could be easily matched to stuff by Drexciya, Surgeon or Sender Berlin). If you are a lover of dark electro-techno stuff, Makkatu deserves a check.
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Artist: Redukt (@)
Title: OTHO
Format: CD
Label: Kvitnu (@)
Rated: *****
Each track of this EP - the catchy debut release of Redukt, the project by Moscow-based electronic noise craftsmen Alexander Vasiliev and Nikolai Turchinski - got titled as a permutation of the main title and such a choice could make sense, as some aural elements are like constants that get thatched in different set-ups to change their "chemical" properties. The way by which they handled the noisy slices and the electric sparks that ignite each loops and the simple mechanics of the five tracks could let you think they didn't rely on computer-aided manipulation, with the only exception of a small clutch of percussive elements (such as the ground-shaking hitting low frequencies and the metallic clicks of "HTOO" or the async stitches digital crackle on the electrical stretching of "OTOH"). The paradoxically sordid collisions of these cushioned noisy entities are anything but thunderous, as they, on the contrary, evoke arctic wastelands and suburban desolation, which contaminated language, thoughts, and lives. A soundtrack of imaginary dystopian or borderline scenarios or something tragically close to our (more or less camouflaged) reality?
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Artist: Lasse-Marc Riek
Title: One Hour As Trees In Finland
Format: CD
Label: and/OAR
Rated: *****
At the end of his career, filmmaker D. W. Griffith famously quipped, “What the modern movie lacks is beauty—the beauty of moving wind in the trees.” Whether we agree with Griffith’s lament with regard to cinema, one could hardly say the same of aural media. An obvious and tactile case in point is Lasse-Marc Riek’s One Hour As Trees In Finland, wherein we are led to commune with nature’s enduring messengers without fear of intrusion. As its title indicates, the purpose of this album is not to present its subjects as novelties for escapist listening, but portals of becoming.

A literal description does little justice, if only because these windblown trees recorded in Alajarvi, Finland have both individual and collective personalities, meaning that any attempt at defining them would be an exercise in psychoanalytical failure. We need therefore only recognize that the album is divided into two nominal sections, “Crown” and “Trunk,” of five subdivisions each. Between them is a balance of high and low, outer and inner spaces, by which the ear itself is rendered leaf-like, itself windblown.

Wind is notoriously difficult to record. Without proper screening or absorption, it peaks input meters and distorts microphone sensors. Here, however, it is distant and expansive. Indeed, Riek’s technologically mediated presence feels devoid of any Hawthorne effect. For this hour, we are listeners among listeners. Hence, wind’s proverbial mystery: it is invisible yet made audible by its interaction with living matter. The beauties of this recording, then, thrive not in the wind itself but in what it activates.

Most remarkable about Riek’s engagement are its horizontal depths. We experience the rippling of leaf and limb against leaf and limb as currents spread in multiple directions from our ephemeral vantage point. The realm of the crown is populated by birds and other expected details flitting in and out of earshot. But there is also a feeling of height made all the more surreal for its quotidian atmosphere. Within the trees, one encounters a different narrative, as every ache of wood creaks through you. It’s the same sensation as when you hear your own tendons during a stretch. In this case, however, every nuance embodies an earthly history of flexion and elemental resilience.

If Alan Lamb’s classic telephone wire recordings are a modern wind music, then this is its traditional counterpart. The more one listens, the more these sounds become a part of something grander. There is not only the immediacy of the forest but also the mystery of seedlings yet to sprout, the detritus from which future forests will rise. It is, above all, the evocation of a place where only thoughts may lay themselves in beds of foliage. Its continuities remind us that such forces exist of their own volition, exhaled not by lung but divine suggestion, and that our knowing of them is one arc of a ceaseless journey.
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