Music Reviews

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.

Bernard Fort: Fractals / Brain Fever

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Mar 24 2020
Artist: Bernard Fort
Title: Fractals / Brain Fever
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Recollections GRM
The fascinating Recollection GRM series has been revisiting lesser-known or out-of-print old electronic, electroacoustic and experimental works for a long time now, and continues to throw up some surprises. Here, they’ve grouped together two distinct works from Bernard Fort composed almost forty years apart, and the contrast is intriguing.

“Fractals”, from 1981, is a sonic collage of the unfamiliar, built from squeaking noises, found sounds, hisses, insect swarm-style buzzes and hums, mostly imbued with a live performance feel. It’s comprised of six parts, with silence inbetween, feeling rather like six vignetted scenes, but they are all originated from the same sonic ingredients, bringing a consistency. There’s a strong sense of the improvised and theatrical about it, with much ebbing and flowing- quite at odds with the mathematical precision and scaled repetition that the title ‘Fractals’ might imply. Certain points (such as 18:30-ish) sound like radiophonic workshop-style alien versions of everyday sounds like alarms and kettles. At times, such as around six minutes in, it almost borders on the comic- as though the performer is playing a balloon. (Anyone with a phobic aversion to the sounds of nails on blackboards, or balloons being rubbed, will want to steer well clear.)

“Brain Fever” from 2017 is a different beast. More specifically, ostensibly, it’s the field-recorded sound of a brainfever bird (also known as a common hawk-cuckoo), recorded in Southern India. The ambience dominates, but crucially, is not alone- it is permeated by a collection of other noises. Human sounds, ranging from choral vocalisations to gentle scrubbing sounds (possibly even brushing teeth I think) and electronic hums and whirrs that sit in an uncanny valley inbetween musical and mechanical, seem to line up and take turns to either compliment or drown the birdsong. Like “Fractals” before it, there are some lengthy near-silent parts contrasted against parts where this becomes quite chaotic and almost funny (just before the ten minute mark as an example of the latter, the twelve minute mark for the former). But when these sounds periodically fade, the birdsong keeps coming back- which feels quite telling.

It’s a pair of intriguing experimental performance pieces in a somewhat classic experimental style, with expressive and strongly humanised interpretations of everyday noise into something otherworldly. It doesn’t necessarily push any envelopes, but as these works go, it’s more dramatic and curious than average, with plenty to hook your attention into.

Sara Oswald & Feldermelder: Hidden In Kaoris Castle

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Mar 19 2020
Artist: Sara Oswald & Feldermelder
Title: Hidden In Kaoris Castle
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: -OUS
Fusing together acoustic and electronic in a duo format seems to be quite fashionable at the minute. Only last week I reviewed Divus’ “Divus 2” where saxophone met electronics. Here, it’s Sara Oswald’s cello that is played with, or against, Feldermelder’s electronic landscaping, and they are here to show there is plenty of life in this electronic-acoustic hybridisation yet.

The low yet warm rumbles of “Left Eye Distortions” is a strong example of where this duo is at. The long sustained and hum-like notes of the cello are refracted to different degrees at different times, sometimes taking the lead, sometimes just adding a slight extra layer. Everything is live, and impulsive, but a fairly rich layer of signal processing on the cello sounds gives a more considered feel.

The electronics are derived, at least initially, from algorithms and signal paths rather than human impulses, and this leans them towards abstraction (or, less positively, sometimes shapelessness). The humanity is restored by the cello, which in pieces like “Front Door Gator Encounters” is the main source of rhythm and pattern. The wave sounds in that track, incidentally, twist the profile of the sound in an unexpected direction, making it sound even more unusual- and absolutely nothing like the tone I’d be giving off if I had alligators near my house.

The maths behind it is more prominently on display in “Folding Deltas”, yet strangely this ends up sounding like the most positive piece of the batch, thanks to its steady rising tones.

After four pieces roughly around the seven-minute mark, the album concludes with a much longer self-contained adventure in “Red And Yellow Prisms”, and this piece sounds decidedly more ‘soundtracky’, with its various chapters and changes of tone sounding very much like a deliberate soundtrack to unseen picture. Towards the end it also carries the most horrendous tinnitus-like high squeal noise that made me think either my speakers or my ears were broken, so watch out for that one.

The overall soundscape is so alien and abstract that the whole thing does feel at times more like a musical exercise or experiment than a composition or journey. It’s nicely distinct and complex though, real thinking music that really draws you in.

Zelienople: Hold You Up

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Mar 13 2020
Artist: Zelienople
Title: Hold You Up
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Miasmah
Chicago-based trio Zelienople’s first album in five years is an understated one. Channeling a relatively conventional set-up variously comprising vocal, piano, guitar and drums through a tunnel of progressive and post-rock abstraction and experimentation, whilst imbuing it with a constant sense of fragile introspection, results in a very personal-sounding half dozen long and moody tracks.

Heavy use of reverb and delay give tracks like “Breathe” an otherworldly feel, and there’s a little bit of a lo-fi, echo-heavy vibe on most of the instruments that give a wrapping sense of isolation that mostly comes across as very cold. Breathiness and looseness is integral to the character of the vocal, which works well in tracks such as journeying piece (and highlight) “You Have It”.

The publicity for the album refers to “driving rhythms” and “underground pop”, but the implementation of this is more low-key than you might expect. There’s certainly an edge-of-pop structure around songs like “Hold You Up” (albeit in eight-minute extended mix form) but generally the performance is so gentle and lackadaisical- but not in a bad way- that it doesn’t channel a pop energy. Instead it can come across like the sound of Joy Division falling asleep. Trio member Mike Weis’s studies of Korean Shaman and Buddhist music is more openly apparent.

A bit of variety comes in the fairly modestly handled use of different instrumentation, such as what seems to be bass clarinet and flute synth sounds that creep in to “Just An Unkind Time”, but this is so subtle that it’s hard to be confident as to what they even are.

Although the grunginess and washy production qualities of this aren’t always to my taste, nevertheless there’s a purity of expression and a musical richness that seeps through here and makes it a very worthwhile listen for those times of indulgent rather than enforced isolation.

Viv Corringham: On The Hour In The Woods

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Mar 09 2020
Artist: Viv Corringham (@)
Title: On The Hour In The Woods
Format: CD
Label: Farpoint Recordings (@)
Rated: *****
British-born U.S.-based singer Viv Corringham has been cutting her own distinctive path as a singer and vocalist ranging across free improvisation, Greek Rembetika, Turkish folk and other styles of music, often combined with environmental field recordings made during solo walks. Her work includes concerts, soundwalks, radio works and multi-channel installations. 'On The Hour In The Woods' was created at Byrdcliffe Arts Colony, New York. As Viv put it, "That summer I stayed in a cabin in the woods. Every day, at a different hour, I went outside to record and sing with the sounds I heard there. After 24 days I had covered every hour of the day and night and so I stopped."

So what we have are 24 tracks, one for each hour of the day, all individually less than three minutes in duration. All are different, and all feature whatever environmental sounds were occurring at the time (birds, animals, insects, planes flying overhead, etc.) and Viv's vocalizing. That vocalizing ranges from heavy breathing to various vocal calisthenics, to abstract scatting, growls, grunts, chirps, whines, screeches, ululations, whispers, bird and animal imitations, etc. One of my favorite segments (track 10, 4pm) was Viv's duet with a barking dog. I think she egged the pup on to be even more vociferous than it would have been if she weren't there. In the end the barking contest seemed like a toss-up. I also liked the owl (track 18, 12am). As interesting as it initially was, I think you'd have to be a real connoisseur of the vocally strange to make it all the way through the 48 minute runtime of this album. Not for everyone, but captivating for those who might enjoy spending some time with a vocally eccentric lady and her woodland creatures.

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