Music Reviews

Athana with Jody Linscott & Gary Husband: ”The May Sessions 0518”

 Posted by Maurizio Pustianaz (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Jun 09 2019
Artist: Athana with Jody Linscott & Gary Husband
Title: ”The May Sessions 0518”
Format: CD
Label: West Audio Music
Rated: *****
I reviewed different releases by Alf Terje Hana's Athana and for his newest one he teamed up with Jody Linscott and Gary Husband. Jody Linscott is a session musician and percussionist coming from the U.K. Gary Husband played as session man with different people of the likes of Jeff Beck, Al Jarreau, Andy Summers, Steve Hackett and many more and he's been part of Level 42 as well as of Allan Holdsworth Group, Gary Husband & Friends, Gary Husband's Drive, John McLaughlin And The 4th Dimension, Olga Konkova Trio. The whole band for his latest live album titled ”The May Sessions 0518” is the following: Alf Terje Hana - Guitar, electronics, composer - Jody Linscott - Percussion, Gary Husband - Keyboards, Drums - Torgeir Nes - Electronics, live sampling Øyvind Grong - Bass, voice - (Guests on vocals: Astrid Kloster / Christian Hovda). The seven tracks of the album have been recorded at the Tou Scene and at the Folken MajJazz Festival the last year in May. Compared to the last album I reviewed I must say that on this one the "improvisation" factor maybe is influencing a little bit the home experience. I mean, there is always the presence of ambient atmospheres and distorted "in your face" guitars with heavy drumming moments but I feel that the jazzy improvisation kind of killed the experimental vein we had on the other releases. Probably this is due to the back experiences of the session men but this is a thing that my ear caught and it affected a bit the judgment. The album is available as CD, double LP and digitally. I received also a printed USB key which is containing the video file of the "Athana Symphonic Experience", the concert recorded in 2013 where as guest drummer Athana welcomed Stewart Copeland. A nice bonus...

Jörg Piringer: Darkvoice

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Techno / Trance / Goa / Drum'n'Bass / Jungle / Tribal / Trip-Hop
Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Jun 06 2019
Artist: Jörg Piringer
Title: Darkvoice
Format: CD + Download
Label: Transacoustic Research
Jörg Piringer (of The Vegetable Orchestra)’s “darkvoice” album is pitched as a dark commentary on modern communication surveillance and the act of obfuscating vocal sounds beyond the boundaries of comprehension- all quite sinister and sombre.

The audio that comes out of it, however, seems almost bright by comparison. Though it’s made entirely from digitally manipulated vocal sounds (and “sinister typography”, though I’m unclear what that means), it has a sonic palette that’s electronica bordering on dark slow techno. Steady and crisp rhythm patterns, sometimes industrial-ish but never particularly bass-heavy, are a structural skeleton for low hummed bass, thin higher-end melodic chords, and spontaneously squelchy and glitchy percussive impulses.

Tracks like “peed” and the broody “dig” make the vocal sourcing more self-evident, centring around single vocal sounds that are played with but still identifiable as human, while tracks like “p a” devolve the sound beyond that point of recognition.

It isn’t all happiness and light- tracks like “bbbbb” or the extra-glitchy “raacc” have a decidedly raw edge to them- but it’s offset by pieces like “el sys” which, with its meandering bouncy melody, recalls the fun side of early synthesizer experimentation. Final piece “hoit”, after a tense intro, is almost playful by the end.

Other highlights include the odd three-step of “d-singe”, and the almost dancefloor-friendly groove of “teew”.

Overall, conceptually angsty it might well be, but the reality of it is a dark but detailed foot-tapper from the interesting edges of experimental techno. It’s got a unique character that’s worth sampling.

Distant Animals: Weaves

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Jun 05 2019
Artist: Distant Animals
Title: Weaves
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Hallow Ground
This is the second release on the Hallow Ground label from the unidentified artist using the Distant Animals alias (unless I’m mistaken about it being an alias, and Mr. & Mrs. Animals’ urge to name their daughter “Distant” raised no eyebrows at the registration office). While the first release was a more purist and simple drone, this is a more complex affair built from a variety of elements drawn from the sonic palettes of electronica and avant garde classical. There are low synthetic bass tones, string strums, tuned wooden and metallic block hits and bell tones, and found sounds disassembled at a granular level.

The arrangement of these is based on a written word text that has been used as a trigger- though details of the process, the transposition, or even the identity of the source text, is not provided, so the extent of Distant Animals’ compositional influence is hard to judge. Across two numbered parts and a total of 33 minutes there are ebbs and flows, louder and more dramatic sections contrasted with more peaceful times, but it does certainly feel like there is a helping of randomness, or at least arbitrariness, at play here. This is audible both in the rhythm, or sometimes the lack of it- an impulsive and reactionary percussive approach makes this a sound which never sits still- and also in the melodic treatment, with several pitched elements which repeat or shift notes with a similar, seemingly anti-pattern mentality. That being said, there’s also a progression- a devolution of sorts, with noisier sounds, heavy wind and distorted vocalisations (possibly religious ceremonial chanting, it’s hard to tell), gradually creeping in more and more towards the finale to give a defined structure and defy any notion that the whole work has been truly randomised.

The result is a relatively sparse, disorientating alien environment. It’s a little bit sci-fi, and just a little bit tense, as though you are lost in an unfamiliar metal forest and there are industrial creatures flitting past nearby- but where, for the most part, you are being left alone and where loneliness not tension may be your overriding emotion.

It’s a dark and brooding bit of experimental work, grumbling and sinister, but it’s a work you may appreciate cerebrally more than actually enjoy.

MIS+RESS: Dispellers

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Jun 03 2019
Artist: MIS+RESS (@)
Title: Dispellers
Format: CD + Download
Label: Sound In Silence Records (@)
Rated: *****
MIS+RESS is the ambient solo project of Brian Wenckebach, based in New Jersey, and he is also 1/2 of the electronica/shoegaze duo Elika, experimental/electronica duo Thee Koukouvaya, and lately as a member of Measured, a new collaboration project along with Evagelia Maravelias, the other 1/2 of Elika, and electronic producer and latter-day Tangerine Dream member Ulrich Schnauss. Prior to 'Dispellers' MIS+RESS has released an album and an EP. What Brian does with this project involves mostly effected electronically processed delayed guitar loops, but not so much you can't detect the guitar. In fact, the guitar base is usually quite evident. While these pieces aren’t necessarily what I'd call ambient, there is a certain ambience to them. On the one-sheet, Sound in Silence compares MIS+RESS to Michael Brook, Daniel Lanois, Durutti Column, and July Skies, something that I'd agree with but not in every aspect. There is a gentle and genial melodicism running throughout the eight tracks on 'Dispellers.' You have to love titles such as "Highly Functioning Sleepwalker" and "She Trembles As She Paints," which are somewhat evocative of the music they represent. While not as intense as say, the Fripp & Eno collaborations, the album isn't far off the mark from that kind of thing in places. Still, there is a rudimentary experimental quality about much of the material on ‘Dispellers’ that sounds as if Wenckebach was more interested in amusing himself than in developing thoughtful compositions for a sophisticated audience. That this album is under 30 minutes in time may make it a pleasurable breezy affair, but some may want more bang for the buck. Limited to 200 numbered copies in a custom handmade cardstock envelope.

The London Sound Survey: Thames

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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May 20 2019
Artist: The London Sound Survey
Title: Thames
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Persistence Of Sound
After being live for just over a decade, Ian Rawes’ London Sound Survey, an online collection of over 2000 field recordings of environments in and around the capital city, has purportedly documented a substantial change in London’s soundscape since the project began. “Thames” is a collection of eight unprocessed and original field recordings, from different times during the last decade, presented with explanation but without comment.

As such they stand alone as eight mini soundscapes- between three and seven minutes long each- that fall generally into two categories (in my opinion). The first of these is the “Tower Bridge” category. From one angle, this is the epitome of music concrete. The harmonious, almost-melodic drone of final track “Tower Bridge: Machine Room” is accidentally more musical than some intention compositions, mirroring first track “Tower Bridge: North Bascule Chamber” which with its distant tannoy announcements and more percussive sounds of everyday life, feels like a staple work of ambient music as practised years ago by dance acts like The JAMs or The Art Of Noise. The sightseeing boat horn audible on “Tower Bridge: South Bascule Chamber” almost feels like cheating, since it is a deliberately composed three-note warning siren where the melody has not arisen purely by accident.

The second category is calmer, wildlife environments- as though setting out to show the ecological health of the city by the volume of its natural sounds, or wandering into twitcher territory. There’s a neat juxtaposition between “Allhallows Marshes: Day”- a very purist bit of wildlife sound recording, full of busy birdsong- and “Coryton Refinery Siren”, the note of a siren at a now-closed oil refinery which is so tuneful and strangely emotive that you might initially believe it’s a rare birdsong. Following it with “Maplin Sands”, a quieter and possibly more dusky bit of birdsong soundscape, is a smart bit of intentional compilation.

The exception to the above categories is “The Albert Basin”, a short recording of weighted halyards clanking against metal flagpoles which have been removed since the recording- it’s a sort of off-key wind chime effect, fairly relaxing, and also potentially quite nostalgic for anyone who used to live close enough to hear it.

It’s a neat and accessible found sound collection which, while it could never claim to make any broader claims about the city as a whole or what it sonically represents, provides us with some thoughtful set pieces and which should provide strong encouragement to wear headphones less often when wandering around the greater London area.

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