Music Reviews

Zeitkratzer / Svetlana Spajić / Dragana Tomić / Obrad Milić: Serbian War Songs

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Jul 21 2017
Artist: Zeitkratzer / Svetlana Spajić / Dragana Tomić / Obrad Milić
Title: Serbian War Songs
Format: CD + Vinyl
Label: Karlrecords / Zeitkratzer Productions
Prolific ensemble Zeitkratzer’s latest work takes traditional Serbian folk songs of World War I (performed by guest vocalists Spaji, Tomi and Mili) and builds a harsh avantgarde soundscape around them. Despite the relatively traditional arrangement of instruments (piano, french horn, violin and so on), at times this is a wall of rather harsh and aggressive playing that emulates discomfort and danger. It’s an hour of scratched strings, inhumanly sustained drone notes and slow waves of amplitude and pitch shifts with a pointedly analogue and unpolished timbre. Mellower moments like “When I Go To War” are the exception rather than the rule.

With a rather sombre and sincere packaging that is more than likely to confuse and potentially disgust people looking for authentic folk recordings, “Serbian War Songs” sometimes veers dangerously close to taking the profound suffering of 100 years ago and simply toying with it. That’s perhaps a little unfair and certainly not true of the whole work though, with longest piece “Assassination In Sarajevo” feeling particularly both bold and authentic, and some of the shorter works such as “Last Night Dorde Went through Valjevo” and “King Peter Song” giving the song core a more spacious and respectful setting.

“The Battle Of Makov Kamen” is one of the most accessible pieces, a duet with regular percussion and chanting that ends up sounding strangely like The Creatures in parts. Conversely “Salute to ivojin Miši” is the most difficult listen, a carefully staged and sharp cacophony that feels like it would work better as part of a theatre work rather than purely sound.

The dynamic vocalisation is really the star here- sometimes wailing, sometimes angry, sometimes a yoik and at times almost a yodel. The instrumental setting is fair but at times perhaps neither as sympathetic or as dynamic as it could perhaps have been, which is a shame as this release certainly had the potential to shine brighter.

Vipcancro: Uno

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Jul 16 2017
Artist: Vipcancro (@)
Title: Uno
Format: CD
Label: Lisca Records (@)
The Italian group Vipcancro is comprised of Andrea Borghi - bass; Filippo Ciavoli Cortelli - percussion, tapes; Alberto Picchi - electronics; and Nicola Quiriconi - voice, metal. From what I can tell they've been active since 2008 and have about six or seven releases prior to this one. I've never heard, no heard of them before so this is new to me. 'UNO' was recording between 2015 and 2016 in Venice during the 56th Biennale of International Art and in Pietrasanta at Molize Studio. The best way to describe this in non-music, or maybe even anti-music. I really don't know what the concept is behind this work, but maybe it's an attempt to glorify the mundane. 'UNO' is comprised of two lengthy, and one not so lengthy pieces - "U," "N," and "O," for there is no other reference on the grommeted CD slipcase. Much of the sound generated by this group seems to be field recordings. The first track opens with the chatter of a crowd that goes on for a few minutes and is gradually replaced by a low buzzing hum-drone. Other sounds that emerge seem to indicate some sort of pseudo-mechanical activity, perhaps a cleaning crew or something. There are a few different types of sustained and then oscillated feedback, and perhaps intermittent vacuuming sounds. The undercurrent is all deep drone, nearly subliminal. Other sounds emerge such as scrapes, squeaks and squeals. Minor, subtle electronics are also employed here, and there is a background of ambient conversational voices, content indistinguishable. There's 11:14 of that. The next piece (we'll call it "N") has a discreet low hum running throughout, as if it was recorded on a cheap tape recorder in a closed environment. There are sounds of activity- perhaps small tools and devices wielded manually, perhaps crafting something? The audible low drone-hum occasionally becomes more prominent, but yet distanced as if it emanates from another area. Harmonics emerge in the drone with an unconscious musicality. Voices of little children can be heard in the distance. It almost sounds as if someone is constructing something in their basement! This drone-hum modulates over the course of time as the electronic filters open up. I suppose the theme of this piece could be 'discreet musique concrete workshop' as the foley sounds ought to spark the listener's imagination. (At one point it sounds like someone sorting through a junk bin.) This piece lasts for 12:01. Final track "O" is only 6:20 long. It begins with a muffled, off-kilter, submerged thudding rhythmic loop, and once again, children's voices in the background. The sounds of manual industry are once again present- tapping, clinking, clanking, thrumming...a whole panoply of onomatopoeiac expressions. Now we here something resembling a small engine, and perhaps some droning machine noises associated with it. I'm getting the impression someone is trying to fix something. It all ends with a brief muffled howl. This whole thing took less than 30 minutes. The first time I heard 'UNO' my immediate impression was "what the fuck???" Are these people just messing around with stuff they found in a cellar? Who would ever listen to this? Garbage! Utter rubbish! Then, after a couple more listens I began to find it intriguing in a strange way. This is the music of our lives in a certain respect, and although atonal and arrhythmic has a quality to it which defines us as humans. It is true industrial, and does not purport to be anything else but. There is no glamour, no cleverness, no message, no emotion conveyed here, just pure industry. To that end, it succeeds. I don't think you're going to find any hidden meaning in it or great intellectual concept about it. It's just the sounds of activity combined with electronic drones. If that seems interesting to you, well, here you go.

Zbeen: Tonal Whiplash

 Posted by Andrea Piran (@)   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Jul 16 2017
Artist: Zbeen
Title: Tonal Whiplash
Format: CD
Label: 13 (@)
Rated: *****
The return of the project of Ennio Mazzon and Gianluca Favaron is marked by an absence of reference on the label and the artist sites so it's something that has to be deciphered entirely by the listener. Wrapped in a cover art of other times where material and a certain craft was required is based upon cyrillic character and pictures from women's fashion magazine. It could be seen as a rather cryptic homage to certain avant-garde movement of last century which had a relation to society rather than only a concern for form.
As "Rest Energy" starts, it's clear how little is changed in the modus operandi of the duo as the sound generated by Favaron and processed by Mazzon are developed in structures where's it's the movement of the sound elements the focus of this release, so it's seems complex but are few sounds placed in different sound fields. "Marciulionis' Tash" is based upon fast noises and long tones. "Tea Cube" assembles quiet drones at the threshold of audibility, noises and tones in an attempt to demonstrate how listening is a search for perception rather than a dull contemplation. "Materia Prima" plays with the point where the sounds came from. "Decalcomania" use the same process to dynamics. "Seitan Core" is a relation between quiet and fast sound in the background and slow and loud in the foreground. "Sopa Coada" closes this the release with a noisy track whose central part seems also static in his quiet development escaping a sound wall.
This release even if difficult for ears used to derivative works based on trends has everything lacking in the average release: conciseness, dynamics, space. It's something like a return to the future.

St. Francis Duo: Peacemaker Assembly

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Jul 09 2017
Artist: St. Francis Duo (@)
Title: Peacemaker Assembly
Format: LP + Download
Label: Trost Records (@)
Rated: *****
Here's an album by two veteran improvisational musicians - guitarist Stephen O'Malley and drummer/percussionist Steve Noble, performing together here as St. Francis Duo. Both have a lengthy list of credentials. O'Malley's other groups and projects have included ÄÄNIPÄÄ,
Æthenor, Burning Witch, Ensemble Pearl, Fungal Hex, Ginnungagap, Gravetemple, Khanate, KTL, Lotus Eaters, Love's Holiday Orchestra, Nazoranai, Pentemple, Sarin, Sunn O))), Teeth Of Lions Rule The Divine, Thorr's Hammer, and Vesuvio. He also founded the record labels Southern Lord in 1998 and Ideologic Organ in 2011. Noble studied with Nigeria master drummer Elkan Ogunde and in the early 1980s was a member of Rip Rig and Panic. Some of the projects he's been involved with include Alex Ward Quartet, Alex Ward Sextet, Alex Ward Trio, Badland, Decoy, Dikeman Noble Serries Trio, Franz Hautzinger Quartett, Free Base, Julie Kjær 3, Kahondo Style, London Improvisers Orchestra, N.E.W. (Noble - Ewards - Ward), School Of Velocity, The Brian Irvine Ensemble, The Mancini Project, The Offshoot and others. You would think that with all of those I would have heard these guys before, but un-uhn; I guess I live a sheltered life. Well, to be fair I think I caught Rip Rig and Panic on an episode of 'The Young Ones' in the 1980s but for the type of music we have here, I don't think that counts for much.

'Peacemaker Assembly' was recorded live at St. Francis de Sales in Philadelphia on May 19, 2014 by Eugene Lew and mixed by Chain D.L.K.'s own Marc Urselli. It consists of two, lengthy untitled pieces - Side A: 19:38 and Side B: 18:04. It was mastered by Matt Colton at Alchemy in London, UK. What this essentially is, is amplified drone guitar and
accompanied with freestyle drumming. When you think drone guitar, don't be thinking Robert Fripp and/or Trey Gunn; it's much closer to the Velvet Underground's "Loop". Noise drone and controlled feedback with lots of rolling drums and cymbal shimmer by Noble. The drone is constant as there are no breaks, only shifts in shades and intensity without much pitch variation. On the other hand, there is plenty of diversity in the drumming. Although you might just think he's off on his own trip, Noble must be perceiving something in O'Malley's drones we're not as attuned to as he is and he runs with it. Perhaps repeated listenings could yield the key to it all, but three times was enough for me, and two too many for the cat, who fled in distress. This was probably best experienced live where the sound was all-encompassing, but perhaps at louder volume it could be simulated. For those who appreciate noise drone combined with free jazz percussion.

Gerstein: 32 Years Of Rain

 Posted by Andrea Piran (@)   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Jul 09 2017
Artist: Gerstein (@)
Title: 32 Years Of Rain
Format: CD
Label: Der Klang (@)
Rated: *****
Now almost canonized in the history of italian industrial music, the project of Maurizio Pustianaz celebrates 32 years of music with a collection of tracks presented in almost chronological order and selected by the personal choice of the composer. The result is a journey that could be roughly divided in two phases: the song phase and the experimental one.
From the cartoonish atmosphere of "Poison" the first part of this release sounds centered around piano with the exception of more experimental "Phlegmaticus 3" with his use of echo and delay. With a track as "Hang The D-Evil" as final landing of a journey starting from the quiet and almost romantic piano of "Track 7" to the horror inspired "Putrefacto", Gerstein write a sort of industrial pop song closer to his musical legacy than expected and expressed with a certain irony. With "Take The Hold (1993)" starts the second part of this release centered on his new wave influences so "In The Shadow Of The Sun" sounds like a tribute even in his title and track like "Puke" and "Black Flag" reveals even some metal influence in the trend of those years. The most recent tracks, especially "Il Male" reveals a synthesis between the two forces: the pop song and the industrial piece.
Other tracks like "Cuts" or "The puke they are" were probably chosen as freak experiments as the first sounds as polished ambient pop tune while the second is a personal version of indie rock.
Quite a enjoyable collection of tracks that could be well received by newcomers if they have the patience to arrive at the end of this release and be carried towards a piece of our industrial history. It's really worth a listen.

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