Music Reviews

Teho Teardo: Ellipses Dans L'Harmonie

 Posted by Marc Urselli   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Apr 03 2020
Artist: Teho Teardo
Title: Ellipses Dans L'Harmonie
Format: CD & Vinyl
Label: Specula Records
Rated: *****
Italian composer/producer Teho Teardo (founder of Meathead and the composing half of the Teho Teardo / Blixa Bargeld duo that has gifted us 4 beautiful records so far) just released his latest solo album "Ellipses Dans L'Harmonie", which is a homage to the 1751 Enlightenment Manifesto "L’Encyclopédie" by Diderot & D’Alembert. The story goes that Teho discovered the many volumes of this encyclopedia at the Fondazione Giangiacomo Feltrinelli in Milan (Feltrinelli is known mostly in Italy as one of the biggest book publishers, but its Foundation also hosts an impressive catalogue of antique books dating back centuries) and that he randomly picked up one of the volumes which included a number of scores that exemplify how to work with musical elements such as counterpoint, cadence, harmony and so on and so forth. This long forgotten book served as the inspiration to write new music around the audible archive of lost memories that Teardo recorded at the Villa Manin Passariano (near Udine) and the Fondazione Pietá de Turchini in Naples in 2018 with a slew of talented classically trained musicians from Italy plus a special appearance by cellist Erik Friedlander (with whom Teardo made an album in 2006 inspired by poet Pasolini).

The music in the 10 tracks that make up this beautiful album is dense with subtle arrangments that weave the memory of the unknown and reference the holism of those books that most of us have never seen. If you know Teho's albums with Einsurzende Neubauten's singer Blixa Bargeld you'll recognize his style in writing great string arrangements (like the slow and voluptuous glissandos of "Chant Primitif" or the imposing staggered harmonized pizzicatos of "Systehme de Mr Kirnberger" with its ambiguously looped harpsichord), but this album goes way beyond that and strides along post middle ages classical music, ensemble chamber music as well as a certain "new music" aesthetics (listen to the flute lines in "Césures Rélatives" with its beautiful billowing bass clarinet tones).

The opener "Cadence Féminine" quickly develops from a treated percussive piano and strings dance that almost reminded me Anthony Pateras' Tetema project (with Patton) into a full blown electro-industrial thumper that immediately sets the tone for the album and at once reminds you of who Teardo is, what he does, and the entire sonic palette he's capable to conjure.
But, after the first i'm-here-and-i-mean-business opening track, the album takes a quieter turn, a much more chamber-like dimension that feels very organic and acoustic, and at times is even almost completely devoid of electronic-sounding timbres (except for sonic treatments applied in post). It's almost as if throughout the album Teho slowly peels away more layers to reveal a more minimalistic nature, maybe in an attempt to get to the very core of the writings of this book, focusing more and more on its true essence, letting the juicy marbling fat that we all love slowly drip away to reveal the bones that symbolize the historical and political age of this publication, all the way to the final melancholic reveal...

The orchestral closing title track's somber crescendo/decrescendo swells remind of a similarly moving "Kol Nidre" composition by John Zorn and of some apocalyptic Jóhann Jóhannsson film scores... It almost acts as a reminder of how the inspiration for this album was conjured out of dust and darkness and in doing so is returned to the fog of historical memory, almost with a sense of abandonment and resignation, maybe as to remind ourselves of the age of darkness and obscurantism that the book in question tried to fight, but that three centuries later, we are still grappling with...
Artist: Clarice Jensen
Title: The Experience Of Repetition As Death
Format: CD & Vinyl
Label: 130701/Fatcat Records
Brooklyn-based cellist Clarice Jensen has recorded and performed with an impressive range of artists, notably Jóhann Jóhannsson, Max Richter, Björk, and many more. Her second album “The Experience Of Repetition As Death” was recorded in late 2018- not long after Jóhannsson’s death- and whether deliberately or not, it feels very influenced by that composer’s work, as well as drawing Philip Glass comparisons at times.

What’s remarkable about this album is that it’s entirely created on a cello, but through an impressive and deft use of effects and layering, it ends up sounding like an entire ensemble work of multiple instruments, both acoustic and synthetic. The ‘proper’ cello sound does not get preferential treatment, although it is certainly integral to pieces like the beautiful sign-off piece “Final”. But if you weren’t explicitly told it was all cello-sourced in the liner notes, there’s a strong chance you might not realise.

“Day Tonight” exemplifies the overall sound neatly in a twelve-minute, self-contained form, with its rotating array of star elements ranging from choral-like hums at the beginning, through to short acoustic melodic loops towards the end, always accompanied by more familiar-sounding super-long plaintive string sounds.

The Philip Glass influence is most noticeable in “Holy Mother”, with its relentless organ-like chord arpeggios sounding very much like the “Koyaanisqatsi” bonus track you never heard before.

It’s certainly quite conventional, and doesn’t push on experimentally in any way from some of the composers mentioned above, but overall it’s a beautiful, velvet-like album of rich comforting sonics. It might be just the tonic people need in these troubled times.

Bernard Parmegiani: Violostries

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Apr 01 2020
Artist: Bernard Parmegiani
Title: Violostries
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Recollection GRM
Recollection GRM’s unearthing and revitalisation of its rich archive of avant garde and music concrète recordings this time offers up three long compositions from Bernard Parmegiani, from between 1964 and 1971.

The title track “Violistries” (1964) spends most of its first half littered with violinist Devy Erlih’s staccato stabs and squeals that feel skittish and impatient, but then takes a deep sombre dive in its second act with a combination of low drone and strained string that sounds decidedly horror-movie-ish, quite Kubrickian, sinister and not for the faint-hearted.

“Capture éphémère” (1967) is fascinatingly different, an electroacoustic array of phased drone sounds, breathy vocalisations and radiophonic sci-fi buzzes and zaps from the lower end of the frequency spectrum, interspersed with periods of impulsive, dense, chaotic atmospherics. Contrary to the previous piece, this work gets busier rather than gentler overall, but not predictably or consistently. Originally recorded as a quadraphonic work, this is a 1988 stereo version that despite the channel limitations, still feels immersive and encompassing. It would certainly have sounded amazing live.

“La Roue Ferris” (1971) is a far more scientific work, solely focussed on electronics, short and long wave patterns (from or inspired by a Ferris wheel’s spin), and long overlapping resonances that become their own textures. There’s a melody at play here, a short three-note pattern that emerges out of the overlapping and loops at length, with the occasional unexpected shift keeping proceedings tense. Some overlaid slams and percussive hammering adds a surprisingly aggressive human touch.

This is a very diverse range of pieces, that without the label, you could certainly believe were the work of three different composers. Putting them together in one collection frames them nicely though, and the progression between them feels musically logical rather than just chronological.

I would recommend that you ignore the oddly naive cover artwork, which mis-sells the depth and compositional maturity on display here. For people like myself not already familiar with Parmegiani, the Recollection series offers up another release that, with hindsight, was ahead of its time.

woriedaboutsatan: Crystalline

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Mar 29 2020
Artist: woriedaboutsatan (@)
Title: Crystalline
Format: CD + Download
Label: Sound In Silence (@)
Rated: *****
worriedaboutsatan is basically Gavin Miller (ambient electronics, guitar), from Yorkshire, UK, with a little vocal help from Sophie Green on this album, which is worriedaboutsatan's sixth, I believe. Over the years, worriedaboutsatan has shared stages on tours and supports with a diverse array of musicians, such as Underworld, Ólafur Arnalds, Clark, DÄlek, 65daysofstatic, Tim Hecker, Pantha du Prince, Braids, HEALTH, Kiasmos, Pye Corner Audio and many more. They've also played a number of music festivals between 2016-2018.

Can't say I've heard any worriedaboutsatan previously, but on 'Crystalline' Gavin doesn't seem particularly worried about Satan to me; in fact, the music doesn't indicate he's worried about anything. Not to say this is all happy-go-lucky; it's more ambient minimalism along the lines of Brian Eno, It's not drone, but more atmosphere with somewhat minimal light guitar phrases, and gentle bass, maybe some cello (sound) here and there. Sophie Green's ethereal vocal are wordless and swathed in reverb as if they're part of the atmosphere. Of course, there's an aura of melancholy throughout the 8 pieces on the album totaling a mere 35 minutes. Percussion/rhythm is used sparingly, and the pacing is predictably slow. Repetition is a formularized factor as you might expect, and also might give the (false) impression that this kind of composition is easy to do. The way worriedaboutsatan orchestrates the music is everything though, and not just anyone can do that well and make it sound anything but dull.

While not omnipresent, Miller's ambient guitar adds a uniqueness that transcends typical ambient minimalism. He hits all the right notes when they need to be hit, and never does more than necessary to get the (atmospheric) point across. I also find it interesting that Miller looks a bit like a young Robert Fripp in pictures I've seen of him, although he'd probably be the first one to deny the resemblance. There are tracks on 'Crystalline' that sound like an actual band, maybe the lighter side of the Cocteau Twins without Liz Fraser. For what does not apparently seem to be a wide variety of sounds, worriedaboutsatan does manage to pull together a wide variety of compositions that never seem to wear out their welcome, as long as you're in the mood for them. Numbered and limited in the traditional Sound In Silence format to a mere 200 CD-r copies, or digital download if you'd rather go that route.

Andrea Laudante: Banat banat ban jai

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Mar 29 2020
Artist: Andrea Laudante
Title: Banat banat ban jai
Format: CD
Label: KysaliSound (@)
Rated: *****
One of the most interesting output on Francis M.Gri's label KrysaliSound, that was kindly offered to the avid ears of more demanding listeners see the signature of the young Italian composer Andrea Laudante. In spite of the fact he keeps on study composition and electro acoustic music when this album was released, Andrea shows certain maturity in the definition of his stylistic pathway as well as an interesting approach to composition. The influence of the aesthetic outlook by John Cage becomes manifest since the very first moments of the opening "Southern Lights", which besides some echoes of Brian Eno's "By This River" in the melodic line, the amalgamation of piano and surrounding environment sounds like a clear reference to Cage's pianism, the aesthatetic framework of his 4'33" including its intimate connection to Rauschenberg's "White Paintings" that Cage himself defined as "airports for the lights, shadows, and [dust] particles" to underlines the unusual role of art against the moment and the place where art is and as an invitation to feel the surrounding universe. Such an invitation in the sound art of John Cage - whose notorious "In A Landscape" sounds explicitly quoted in the awesome suite "In A Scapeland" - got accepted by Andrea, and such a fact sounds evident when he describes his album 'Banat banat ban jai' as a diary of a journey through sound and listening, as a form of meditation: "Listening carefully to every kind of sounds in different places and with several methods gave me a new perception of the world around and inside me. [...] There is no difference between the sound that comes from a guitar and the sound that comes from wind blowing through leaves, if we know how to listen". Cage's pianism is not the only entity you'll meet during the listening of this album, which is going to sound a search for interesting hybrids as its listening will progress. For instance "Maheshwara" (one of the names of Shiva, that becomes somehow famous for a devotional song of the mystical stage of Nina Hagen) sounds like combining bell-driven meditation sessions and some of the more extreme electroacoustic experiments by Pierre Schaeffer, the awesome "Between Us", where it seems the listener breathing cycle get mirrored by cycles of inhalations and exhalation between the concrete sound and some field recordings of a seaside environment and the emotional ones rendered by daydreaming melodic gushes, reminding the exoticism of some contemporary minimalist composers, or the intersections between swirling cacophonies, disquieted piano chords and natural and urban field recordings in "Yugen" are just some samples of the cross-breeding techniques by this composer. Deserves a check.

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