Music Reviews



VV.AA.: Historische Aufnahmen / Historical Recordings Vol II

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Oct 31 2018
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Artist: VV.AA.
Title: Historische Aufnahmen / Historical Recordings Vol II
Format: LP
Label: Gagarin Records
Eight years after the first volume, Felix Kubin again compiles ten archive recordings ranging from 1930 to 2002 into what essentially serves as a sampler of rare found sounds, and an exploration of where found sound ends and sonic art begins. Ten tracks, generally between two and four minutes long, are accompanied by extensive notes, although somehow the release is more appealing if you avoid the notes and try to imagine what it is you’re listening to based purely on what you can hear- it’s a challenging game.

I’m normally loathe to copy and paste from often over-florid press releases but there’s one paragraph in this release’s notes which tells you pretty much everything you need to know. So I’m going to control-C control-V, just this once, as follows:
“[...] the focus has been put on the quirkier corners of recorded sound: curious events, remarkable characters and fascinating tales - revived and restored for the edification and amusement of modern ears. Listen to a wooden automaton piano player, a microtonal choir of larynx patients, the sound of a rescue device used for the purpose of evacuating miners, the demonstration of a water leak detection microphone, a violent demonstration accompanied by Christmas carols and many more. The sound quality of these recordings is not perfect and the inevitable imperfections are audible.”

It’s a weird and wonderful- if rather brief- set of found sounds that’s engaging and rewarding. Many are strongly musical; “Etude pour un larynx écrasé” sounds like the kind of Lygeti piece Kubrick would have put into 2001 A Space Odyssey if he’d known about it, “Pianist” is a novel but conventional bit of automated wooden piano. “Island Of The Pig Men” is strongly reminiscent of Radiophonic Workshop-esque electronics. “Eiscreme-Krieg Jingle” is a decidedly weird piece of proto-experimental oddness that in terms of context feels like a highlight, as well as a real ‘WTF?’ moment.

More overt voiced recordings like “Lecksuchmikrofon” and “Anti-Schill Demonstration Hamburg” seem a little less worthwhile somehow, reminding me prosaically of German comprehension tapes from school and old reportage newsreel respectively, and certainly not feeling exotic.

Collectors of found sound will appreciate the diversity of this compilation.

Alistair MacDonald: Cabinets de curiosité

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Oct 25 2018
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Artist: Alistair MacDonald
Title: Cabinets de curiosité
Format: CD + Download
Label: empreintes DIGITALes
A compilation of independent works from sound artist Alistair MacDonald, ranging from 1997 to 2013, this collection of processed found sounds is a gentle exploration of everyday noises from which richer and less familiar aspects have been teased out and highlighted- sometimes with the mildest of touches, sometimes with a far more heavy-handed post-production-centric approach.

Opening piece “The Tincture Of Physical Things” initially seems like purely layered found sound atmospherics, but the grumbles of earth and fire build progressively and it takes time to appreciate the subtlety with which you’re being presented with something composed rather than just found. “Final Times” is also on the subtle side, while “Bound For Glory (Postcard From Poland)” is a rather straight-laced piece of train noise with very subtle layering and processing that reminded me of the recent CNSNNT release “T”. Final piece “Wunderkammer” is built from jungle sounds, treated with resonance most prominent on its bell-like notes to give a more dream-like layout.

Less subtle pieces include the Delia Derbyshire-inspired “Psychedlian Streams”, which adopts a Radiophonic Workshop-esque approach to sonic twisting but with a pace more frantic, skittish and spontaneous than anything I heard Derbyshire create. Pieces like the ‘glass instrument’-derived “Scintilla” are a touch more conventional, playing with tuned resonances and reverberation to create an inner alien world, and are counterpointed by the gravely growliness of “Equivalence”.

It’s a generally quite neat approach to found sound as a dominant source without any obligation to purity of its treatment, resulting in seven fairly disparate but certainly intriguing sonic environments.

Mothertape: Unexplained Mind Bruises

 Posted by Andrea Piran (@)   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Oct 23 2018
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Artist: Mothertape (@)
Title: Unexplained Mind Bruises
Format: CD
Label: Zoharum (@)
Distributor: Alchembria
Rated: *****
Mothertape is a Polish project from Koobrzeg and their music can be roughly catalogued under EAI; however, instead on rely upon the nowadays canonical form of isolated and carefully chased sound events immersed in silence, their music is far more lively and seems more influenced by certain minimal electronic music where the rhythmical cage and the search for a perceptible process are important.
A track starting with a noisy ebb and flow and a barrage of isolated sound, "Hematoma", opens this release and exposes an idea of track construction based on a sequence of events rather than on accumulation; the result is that it sound consequential instead of accidental. "Rapid Pulse" revolves around a form vaguely reminiscent of certain minimal EDM where all isolated pules and drones drown in silence, even in their evident rhythmical structure. "Pain and Tenderness" starts almost statically until, when the apparently irregular beat emerges, there's a return to a movement by events. "Dizziness or Fainting" proceeds instead by accumulation and, so, it's the more sonically thick track of this release. On the contrary, "Limited Range of Motion", it's more sonically constrained as it uses a rather this sonic palette. With his use of pulsating drone and sparse notes and samples, "Numbness or Weakness" is quite hypnotic in its both static and moving form. "Immediate Medical Attention" closes this release with a crescendo by accumulation ending with the progressive removal of the sound layers.
Even if the band's influences can be clearly heard in some passages, the overall result is reasonably personal and shows a project that can release something important if it will work on a more refined structure rather than indulge in some improvisations with a predictable behavior. Fans of EAI will enjoy the overall variety of the music. It's worth a listen.

Koray Kantarcioğlu: Loopworks

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Oct 22 2018
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Artist: Koray Kantarcioğlu
Title: Loopworks
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Discrepant
Kantarciolu refers to his process of treating samples from 1960s and 1970s Turkish records “databending”, and while that term maybe lacks precision, his approach is certainly substantially different to the mainstream sampling techniques of dance music and electronica. While there are loops here, there’s only the briefest shades of rhythm- everything else is delay- and effect-washed atmospherics that flows in waves, back and forth, sombre and thoughtful.

Prosaic titles like “Percussions A-1100” more suited to a sample library misrepresent the quite expansive, multi-layered tones and flavours on display. The plucky melody on tracks like “AC RU 29 Part 2” (a highlight) are reminiscent of Sasha’s forays into more ambient areas, while “Part 3” of the above is a firmly deep-space soundtrack piece. “Organ Extract KP 001” is, sure enough, based around an organ, but so thoroughly pulled and reworked into drone territory that it’s a solid understatement.

The final tracks on each side of the LP are both notable exceptions to the above, more overtly and almost tongue-in-cheek mangling old lounge groove into short afterthought pieces that borders on silly, as though intended as explanations of the audio trickery which so thoroughly disguised the rest of the sound sources.

Originally issued as a limited edition cassette two years ago, I’m glad “Loopworks” is getting a ‘proper’ outing on LP and download, as it’s an intriguing experimental work with a distinctive character and a surprising amount of charm too.

Polticical Ritual: s/t

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Oct 17 2018
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Artist: Polticical Ritual (@)
Title: s/t
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Ambiances Magnetiques (@)
Rated: *****
This was one heck of an album to track down the details for, which could have been solved simply by the inclusion of a one-sheet. If there was one it must have gotten lost en-route to me from Chain D.L.K. central, and just about everything about this album and its producers had to be sourced off the Internet. Have you ever tried Googling "Political Ritual" ? Just use your imagination as the results you'll get in this day and age. Fortunately, the artists, Félix-Antoine Morin & Maxime Corbeil-Perron, put their names on the album, but both being French-Canadian, much of the info about them and Political Ritual (the name of the project is also the album title) is in French. According to Morin and Corbeil-Perron, Political Ritual build their music in architectural and woven layers of harmony and polarity, arranging ethereal drone next to hard edged buzz or cinematic movements alongside pummeling beats. With live performance as their backdrop, Félix-Antoine Morin and Maxime Corbeil-Perron took to the studio in 2014 for their first album. Corbeil-Perron is a multidisciplinary artist who has created film and video work and interactive installations shown at international events and festivals, as well as making electro-acoustic and mixed-media music as Le Pélican Noir and solo – he also started a PhD at the Université de Montréal in fall 2015. A visual artist as well as an electro-acoustic composer, Morin works solo and collaborates with contemporary choreographers, videographers and several other musicians, finding inspiration for his poetic creations in the processual components of traditional and sacred music. Pushing the boundaries of abstraction, these expert improvisors in analog modular and digital synthesis incorporate invented wind instruments, traditional Balinese percussion, field recordings and digital signal processing into their compositions, intent on shaping a transcendent listening experience.

Okay, that's all well and good, but what does this album sound like? The album is comprised of two long pieces - "Ceremonie" (20:07) and "Projection cathodique" (21:35). While ambient in nature, this isn't a passive kind of ambient, but a very active, organic and highly charged sort of ambient. "Ceremonie" is full of crackling electronics and uneasy drones of indeterminate machinery. Over time it morphs into quasi-psychedelic Klaus Schulze territory before veering out into more experimental terrain. The oscillations employed are quite unsettling and throughout its droney demeanor, jarring events occur with some frequency in the background. Just when things seem to be humming along nicely the bottom drops out and the listener is transported to an alien construction site on some God-forsaken planet, replete with the distortion of heavy equipment until it grinds to a sudden halt.

"Projection cathodique" begins with a less forceful demeanor, the twinkling of crystalline high frequency particles over melodic sonorous low tones and held together with hollowish metallic drone substances. The latter sonority intensifies and echoes off in a feedback loop which morphs in myriad directions overtaking all other sonics present. There is a somewhat natural evolution to the unfolding of this piece that you just have to hear as any description fails to do it justice. Let's just say it gets pretty dense as sonic layers build on top of each other. By its conclusion there is a return to some of the elements that began this piece and so the cycle is complete.

To be perfectly honest, I didn't think a whole lot of the album on the first go-round, but after repeated plays the subtleties were revealed and the brilliance of the work became evident. That it was primarily released as a limited edition vinyl LP (500 copies, also available as a digital download) makes it an even more vital purchase.


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