Music Reviews

Artist: VV.AA.
Title: On Corrosion
Format: Tape
Label: The Helen Scarsdale Agency
“On Corrosion” is an ambitious art project. It’s the Helen Scarsdale Agency’s 50th release and the theme is based on founder Jim Haynes’ work curating an art collection under the name “On Corrision”. Ten different established sound artists have contributed their own full-length albums inspired by, or in response to, that theme. Over the course of nearly seven hours, these works head off in a variety of different directions, with diverse and varying appeal (some more than others). It’s appropriate that each album has its own artwork and subtitle as well, since largely they would stand up as sound works in their own right even if disassociated from the overriding theme- yet as I work through each release, I find myself spotting commonalities between each, leading to over-use of the word “also” in introducing each in the context of the last.

Fossil Aerosol Mining Project’s “Hydration Equilibrium” is a series of disquieting found sounds constructed into occasional patterns and rhythms on a drone base. ‘Disintegrated media’ is a successful subtheme, drawing and dismantling recordings from old tapes into an extensive entropy of modern broadcast noise, and meaty final track “Only The Green, Blue and Black” is a highlight.

The corrosion in G Park’s “Nosode” is largely digital, heavy bit-crunching, phasing and thick shifting equalisation taking fairly ordinary sounds like dripping taps and breaking them down into evil-sounding and edgy sonic abstracts across two fairly flat but intriguing 17 minute textures.

Himukalt’s “Torn Asunder- The Half Girl” is an exercise in unrelenting fury. Passionate angry feedback and noise walls punch your ears repeatedly, heavily distorted spoken-word monologues are barely discernible, raw sexual noises are thrown in for added affrontery. It jumps between structureless assembly and infrequent more industrial pattern-based sections such as when a kick drum pops in and out of “Cruel By Most Estimations”. “Absent” is the most successful track but the whole thing feels like reading somebody else’s private diary about a relationship that’s broken down in violent fashion.

Alice Kemp’s “9 Dreams In Erotic Mourning” also feels like relationship breakdown channeled into sound, but very differently. The stereotypical British bottling up of emotion seems at play here, as lethargic synth-piano melodies take precedent and suppressed feelings creep in at the edges, in the form of electric hums, masturbatory and pained vocalisations, identifiable rustling, and the like. These feelings break through periodically, most notably in the screams of “Alles Ist Wie Es Ist”, but it remains an odd balancing act of repression and expression.

Kleistwahr’s “Winter” also juxtaposes long harmonious melodic pads with more impulsive and gritty injunctions, this time more guitar-like, but across these two twenty-minute pieces it’s a contrast that feels more assured, almost enjoyed. It’s a tourist’s journey through discord but it somehow feels safe and unchallenging. Even as the pitch steadily shifts up and up and up in “Rust Eats the Future”, it somehow never sounds stressful or tense- which is very curious considering the ingredients.

“A Collection Of Damaged Reel Tape Loops” by Francisco Meirino also makes awkward noise palatable. There is no melodic element here, but there are windy envelopes that stroll over the main meat of the production, which is unrecognisably distorted sonic blowout and feedback that comes round and round, in looped patterns, to create rhythm and structure seemingly by accident. What could possibly me old music hall recordings drift through into your consciousness vaguely as it progresses, a literal but powerful interpretation of the corrosion of recorded sound-history.

No-wave, anti-rock duo Neutral offer up “Lagliv” which feels faintly anachronistic in this set thanks to the dominance of heavy guitar thrashing. A cacophony of dramatic documentary sound and spoken-word elements ride atop thick noise work but it still feels like the album here which is closest to what it would sound like if performed live. Of the two eighteen-minute tracks here, it was “Ganska lagt / Ocksa” that felt more accessible to me thanks to its increased inclusion of electronic noise, since I’m an electronics kid at heart.

Pinkcourtesyphone’s reliably minimalist “Shouting At Naunce” is an entrancing but uneventful forty-nine minutes of light electronic pulses, long delays, and slowly fading and breathing hums that’s absolutely charming and eminently soporific. Second piece “Alternatory” is marginally more melodic, adding to the sense of lullaby. If anything my only criticism of this work is that, in view of the overriding theme of the collection, this work doesn’t sound corroded- if anything it sounds smoothed, like a glossy sonic pebble. It joins other Pinkcourtesyphone releases on my sleep playlists.

Relay For Death’s “Mutual Consuming” is also a pair of long ambient works with a wave approach and a soporific flavour, but quite a different tone- there’s something steadily metallic about the resonances here, never straying fully into nails-down-the-blackboard territory but sharp enough to give an underlying sense of tension. Unlike the previous album, this does build to something dramatic, with second piece “Terminal Ice Wind” stepping assuredly up in level until it earns some dramatic deep bangs and crashes, corrosion akin to hearing the rapid cracking of a huge ice sheet from the point of view of someone trapped in the ice.

Alice Kundalini, as She Spread Sorrow, offers up “Orchid Seeds”. It’s storytelling-driven, powered by a breathy spoken word narrative that’s frankly hard to follow and feels invasively and deliberately over-intimate. This works on top of a bed of dark sonic textures, primarily super-low bass rumbles on the border of reproducible sound and ordinary hearing, but also cut through by higher-pitched rapid pulses and some very high-pitched squealing sounds that add to the discomfort. Occasionally, kicks and sub-bass sounds borrowed from dubby deep trip-hop bring everything up a level, making tracks like “She Didn’t Care” more memorable. Despite being split into five pieces, it mostly plays as a single unit, with the track divisions feeling as much chapter-based as they are by sonic change. A word of warning about the distant relentless old-fashioned telephone ringing sound that sits in the background of “Queen Of Guilt”- it will make you think your phone’s ringing, even if it doesn’t sound anything like your ringtone.

It’s presented as a 10-cassette set in a wooden box, but I only have the digital files to review so I can’t comment on the physical aspects of it. The packshot photo certainly makes it look like a thing of retro beauty though.

Sonically, it’s certainly a work of art. The way in which ten different artists have tackled the overarching theme, drawing parallels between themselves but also setting off in ten tangibly different directions. Everyone will have different favourites- I’d probably single out Pinkcourtesyphone and Francisco Meirino as mine- but people with a lot of time (and presumably money- I don’t know the asking price) to invest in dark electrosonic arts will find a lot that’s worthwhile in this nearly seven-hour-long collection.

John Chantler: Tomorrow Is Too Late

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Oct 18 2019
Artist: John Chantler
Title: Tomorrow Is Too Late
Format: CD & Vinyl
Label: Room40
John Chantler predominantly works with electronics and synthesizers, building abstract instrumental soundscapes out of tones, harmonics, hums, and a variety of frequency shapes, some more toothy and industrial than others. But while those ingredients often lend themselves to relatively static and ambient works, the two pieces in Chantler’s fifth album “Tomorrow Is Too Late” are imbued with a lot of dynamic change. There’s a constant sense of either current or imminent shift, never allowing itself to properly settle.

The title track sometimes showcases electronic pulses that offer a sense of tempo that’s unpredictable, but never low. Despite being built as two nineteen-minute works, each drops into silence at certain points, returning with different arrangements and giving us distinct unlabelled chapters. The result is akin to scenes in an old sci-fi movie at times.

Second piece “We’re Always At The End” is a shade more glitchy in its impulsiveness, opening with rising and fallng metallic sounds that are abruptly cut in and out in a manner that becomes machine talking. This leads to a bright-sounding mid-point that wallows in the richness of the possible sounds, before dropping into a sparser and more ghostly conclusion.

From relatively simple and familiar sonic building blocks, John Chantler has created a couple of extremely expressive works that really milk a lot of emotion out of the electronics. The result is a surprisingly diverse journey that keeps you on your toes, and it’s certainly worth following.

And at least a passing mention has to be made to the strange sepia artwork of what seems to be a cow’s bottom and some dung- one of the least appropriate or sensible pieces of album art I’ve seen in a long time.

Voin Oruwu: Etudes from a Starship

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Oct 11 2019
Artist: Voin Oruwu (@)
Title: Etudes from a Starship
Format: CD
Label: Kvitnu (@)
Rated: *****
Most followers and fans of the releases by Kvitnu, the label masterfully managed by Dmytro Fedorenko and featuring Zavoloka handling on graphics and mastering, matches them to more techno-driven and electromechanical rhythms and a certain martial attitude, in spite of some of the latest releases moved towards more experimental and ambient stylistic zones, but most of the artists manage to meet the tastes of them by impressive sonic artifacts. Kiev-based producer Dmitry Avksentiev aka Koloah forged the project Voin Oruwu to fly over those same stylistic territories by means of an imaginary starship! The sense of ascension gets immediately evoked by the opening "Titan", where a sort of cosmic synth-generated harpsichord weaves a web of tension and urgency around a whose sound set, which manages to render a feeling of gradual detachment, getting even more vivid on the following "Rising", where traces of known organic life get more and more distant until the final fading out, and "Blur Planet", whose combination of sounds marks the turning point and the somehow foreboding vision or memory of the left planet. The garbled refrains and the unstable melodies of "Source" as well as the corrosive sound manipulations on "Acid Clavi 2010" fully dives into sci-fi sonic environment, and I would say the same process occurs on the following where "Decay Instability" - the first moment where Dmytry gets closer to the typical Rhythmic Noise concept, pushed by many Kvitnu delivieries - could vaguely recall the refrain of the original version of Blade Runner. The feeling of being into a muffled bubble for extra-vehicular activity, that gets impressively rendered by the following "Even Mind", precedes "Limulus" and the moment (in the second half of the track) when the composer explicitly inoculates masterfully organized percussive elements and convulsive rhythmical patterns. The following "Escape Mission" and the catchy final "Ceremony" seem to be necessary stages of these journey, combining interesting sound techniques and a certain cinematic hook, that mirror Dmitry's interest in cinematography as well as mystical atmosphere in a so guessed way that some tracks of "Etudes from Starship" could be fitted for a sci-fi revision of Tarkovsky movies.

Ernest Hood: Neighborhoods

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Oct 10 2019
Artist: Ernest Hood
Title: Neighborhoods
Format: CD & Vinyl
Label: Freedom To Spend
“Neighbourhoods”- sorry, “Neighborhoods”- is a deluxe re-issue of an unusual 1975 album from Ernest Hood, whose early career was as a jazz guitarist before contracting polio pushed him into playing gentler and softer string instruments such as harps.

On this album though, as well as gentle string plucking, there’s a strong emphasis on the experimental- wistful fluke-like high-pitched synthesizer notes borrowed from the sound of prog rock or 70’s era Radiophonic Workshop, and a bold use of ambient field recordings that are mostly familiar-sounding audio postcards that you may find on sound effects LP’s, but which are allowed to run deeper and longer than you may expect and really give you time to soak up the atmosphere. In the original liner notes there are references to “musical cinematography” which for 1975 does seem (marginally) ahead of its time. Knowing fading of musical motifs into gentle birdsong-and-vehicle-laden ambient tone certainly seems to predate and hark forward to work like The KLF’s “Chill Out”.

There’s something quite parochial about a lot of it, musically speaking. “At The Store” sounds at first like the incidental music to a light-hearted documentary about the routine of everyday suburban life, even to the extent that it’s structured in a set of easily-edited movements for easy picture sync. The harp tones of “August Haze” seem to paint an idyllic but somewhat Stepford Wives-esque picture of suburban tranquility, and “From The Bluff” is similar but with evening social hues. There are odder compositions at play as well, with “After School” a curious concoction of fun, energy and innocence blended with playground sounds, but which does seem to carry a gently mocking subtext. “Gloaming” is the track where most spoken word is discernible, with what seems to be a grandfather waxing nostalgic to an attentive child, accompanied by a thoughtful melody seemingly determined to paint a landscape of ‘the good old days’

It’s one of those releases which, on the surface, has dated somewhat- despite exemplary remastering quality, it’s still a release that’s of its own time. But in context it’s a fascinating period piece- not just of sounds of the era (albeit not wholly different from today’s sounds), but of a lesser-known bit of 1970’s experimental music for which a dusting off is very much justified.

Daniele Bogon: 17 Encores

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Oct 10 2019
Artist: Daniele Bogon (@)
Title: 17 Encores
Format: CD
Label: New Model Label (@)
Rated: *****
The perturbed pads and the rising dissonant electrical interference of the opening "Ex Nihilo" are the sparkling aural events of this interesting album by Padua-born sound artist and academically trained musician Daniele Bogon, named after the already published album "17" in the guise of Alley and including the 10 tracks of this first output plus five additional tracks. Some of Bogon's musical background composition is manifested over the whole album, as on the following "Piano Song #177" - aptly intimate piano melody, that sounds perfect to follow the maidenly intro -, the intimately touchingintertwine of an imperfect minimal piano (recorded through close-mic), pads and brass of "The Tide" or on "Opono No Piano", whose piano elongations - recalling a piano refrain on Sebastian Tellier's "Le Ritournelle" or some moments of oldest compositions of other minimalists like Max Richter or Arturo Stalteri - closes the first part of the album, the one that retraces the tracks of the above-mentioned original release. By the way, I'm pretty sure that what is going to hit listener's eardrums more prominently are Bogon's electronic artifacts since the blurred fragments of conversation and the evoked a vague sense of bewilderment of "Airport" (far away from the known Brian Eno's sound in spite of the dry piano melody could sound 'Enoesque') or the harsh electromechanical spasms of "Insectx" - something closest to that branch of techno known as rhythmic noise -. Some tracks in the second part for some mysterious reason are somehow faltering, but what really hits in Bogon's music is the dangerous riding on a wire between anxiety and a sort of artificial calm, that he often translates into a sort of unstable stylistic balance between electronic ambient and typical OST music ("Wolverine", "Batman is Bruce Wayne"), that often embraces unconventional strategies in many moments of the second (previously unreleased) part.

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