Music Reviews

Book Of Air Vvolk: Se (in) de bos

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   New Music / Downtown / Avantgarde Jazz / New Classical / World
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Oct 26 2018
Artist: Book Of Air Vvolk
Title: Se (in) de bos
Format: CD & Vinyl
Label: Sub Rosa
The 18 musicians of this orchestra here perform a single 60-minute work compared by Stijn Cools. It’s a long, mesmeric piece of near-ambient performance full of impossibly long sustains, very soft bass pulses and natural atmospherics. It’s somewhat conventional, perhaps, but it’s certainly beautiful and strangely warming.

The waves and washes chart a steady and glacial pace as it progresses and, to an extent, evolves. Ryuichi Sakamato’s ambient works are a good comparison, though the gentle bass work at times also made me think this is what you’d get if you convinced The Cinematic Orchestra to relax on a single note for an hour.

Unchallenging, certainly, but nevertheless an exemplary exercise in slow music, accomplished with a stunning sound quality and justified confidence.

Katharina Ernst: Extrametric

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   New Music / Downtown / Avantgarde Jazz / New Classical / World
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Oct 18 2018
Artist: Katharina Ernst
Title: Extrametric
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Ventil Records
This is a drummer’s album- a revelry of rhythm and percussive sound, perfect time and attitude. It’s a compact 34-minute collection of dominant drumming, with a tribal and sometimes quite raw vibrancy but rounded off with judicious use of effects.

The seven tracks are numbered rather than named. The rumbling bass drone and gradual introduction of elements on the first track gives it the flavour of an EBM album intro, the time signature change just under three minutes in reminding me of Sub Focus, before the extra complexity blended with beefiness in the second track initially recalls the harder side of 90’s trip hop and late-era 808 State before heading off into much jazzier exercises.

As it progresses, it gets a bit more experimental and at times introspective. Track five is a more drone-based offering opening with long cymbal rolls and a gradually unfolding noise wall that eventually opens up into a sparse and continually arhythmic atmosphere, while track seven is a slow, faintly funky workout that loops back to trip-hop.

Never guilty of showing off, this is a skillful but restrained set of embellished drum works that finds that rare balance between being impressive and being really enjoyable.

Aviva Endean: cinder : ember : ashes

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   New Music / Downtown / Avantgarde Jazz / New Classical / World
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Oct 15 2018
Artist: Aviva Endean
Title: cinder : ember : ashes
Format: CD + Download
Label: Sofa
This is Melbourne-based clarinet player Aviva Endean’s first solo release but it doesn’t appear short of confidence. Lengthy, indulgent and captivating experimental performances, making the most out of the clarinet’s distinctive deep tonal qualities, culminating in long rolls, and languid melodic elements.

There’s an intimacy to the recording, highlighted in the sharp breathy sounds prominent in “undulations : behind”. Predominantly it’s an album of sparse and ghostly atmospheres, notably in “apparition : above”, and while there are also some more chaotic moments, such as in “vapour between”, the boldly stripped-back instrumentation always provides a strict framework that keeps proceedings small.

Whilst principally solo, at times Endean uses timpani skins or pocket amplifiers to transform the sounds, and “undulations : behind” features a harmonic flute called an umtshingo which is melded with the clarinet notes in a nicely symbiotic way, the umtshingo giving the end product a temporarily more metallic- and even electronic-sounding edge.

Even without my previously disclosed love of the clarinet, I found this a really captivating bit of experimental audio performance, and considering that this is a solo debut, it’s barely anything short of stunning.
Oct 11 2018
Artist: Keisuke Matsuno, Moritz Baumgärtner & Lars Graugaard
Title: Crush
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Clang
For the second time, back in 2016, Danish avant-garde artist Lars Graugaard, German modern jazz drummer Moritz BaumgÄrtner and experimental e-guitarist Keisuke Matsuno met for a single day’s soundclashing and instrumental improvisation in a Berlin studio and here, just over two years later, is the output- fifty minutes of a relatively raw and spontaneous experimental fusion, split across five tracks with fairly different outlooks.

“Tomorrow Never Comes” is a haunted house affair full of sharp strings, thick reverbs, sinister approaching bass pulses and distant eerie rumbles, while the short “Grindle” is an vignette of electronics-led dark jazz, while “Blended Conurbation” more guitar-noodling orientation places it on the grittier side of prog rock.

Final and longest piece “Keep Something On” is more immersive, its own twenty-three minute ebb and flow which again skirts around prog rock but with glitching (that at times frankly sounds like a faulty CD-R read but probably isn’t) and some sporardic dives into deeper rumblier noise washes, before resolving into perhaps the most conventional structure of the set for a moody finale that seems to throw back to opener “Wheefing The Hoofer”.

It’s certainly an interesting collaboration, one that would certainly bear interesting creative fruit if nurtured long-term, but as it is, the somewhat raw edge to it perhaps doesn’t work in its favour, but it’s still a bold experimental statement.

Golden Oriole: Golden Oriole II

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Dark / Gothic / Wave / New Wave / Dark Wave / Industrial Gothic
New Music / Downtown / Avantgarde Jazz / New Classical / World
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Oct 08 2018
Artist: Golden Oriole
Title: Golden Oriole II
Format: LP
An energetic, backwards-looking stab at recreating edgy, experimental instrumental 1970’s psychadelic prog rock, Golden Oriole’s second release hits its apparent target. Often manic guitar-led meanderings are bolted together with analogue effects and twiddles bounce off against rigid, sometimes tribal-tinged drum work that has the consistency and sometimes tone of a drum machine, but sometimes the complexity of a complete wig-out.

It’s made of two tracks, though each track has fairly distinct parts so this seems a little arbitrary. “The Waxwing Slain”, after a particularly aggressive opening, evolves into a longer more mesmeric shifting pattern in two parts. Three minutes before the end of the seventeen minute piece it drops out completely, to introduce a high-pitched tinnitus-tickling electronic screech to either brainwash or punish the loyal listeners.

Second track “Az Prijde Kocour” kicks off with similar punchiness, which this time takes longer to abate. When it finally settles it works itself into a strangely funk-channeling stepping-groove affair, as though aimed at the world’s twistiest dancefloor.

It’s a punchy and very focussed LP that will appeal to anyone who fondly remembers (even if they’re not old enough to remember) some of the experimental-guitar excesses of the 70’s.
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