Music Reviews



Alfred Harth/Carl Stone: Gift Fig

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
 Edit (7072)
Jun 03 2012
cover
Artist: Alfred Harth/Carl Stone (@)
Title: Gift Fig
Format: CD
Label: Kendra Steiner Editions (@)
Rated: *****
Alfred Harth, aka Alfred 23 Harth, or A23H is a German multimedia artist and multi-instrumental musician in the avant-garde field, with a slew of releases (a good number of them being collaborations) going back to 1970 or so. His extensive biography is easy enough to find on the www, so let's just say he's had his fingers in a lot of different pies. Carl Stone is an American composer, primarily working in the field of live electronic music. His works have been performed in the United States, Canada, Europe, Asia, Australia, South America, and the Near East. Stone studied composition with Morton Subotnick and James Tenney at the California Institute of the Arts and has composed electro-acoustic music almost exclusively since 1972. Stone has a dozen or so releases going back to 1983, and probably more if you count collaborations, commissioned works and miscellaneous material. Kendra Steiner Editions is a small label run by poet Bill Shute of Austin, Texas (I reviewed one of his releases a little while ago) consisting primarily of limited CD-R runs. 'Gift Fig' is limited to 133 copies.

Well, no amount of background is necessarily going to prepare you for this collaboration- live performances recorded at Festival ROT, Mousonturm, Frankfurt, Germany (December, 2009) and at Superdeluxe, Tokyo (May, 2010), mixed by Carl Stone at Radio Free Nankano, Japan, and mastered by A23H at LaubhuetteStudio Moonsun, Korea. A23H is credited with Reeds, Con Arco, Kaoss Pad, Taepyeongso, Dojirak, Samples & Voice. Stone is credited with Computer, Max/MSP, Voice and Samples. To say the music on this album is challenging is a gross understatement. The pieces have an improvised nature to them, and what contrived structure there may be was likely born of a sense of randomness and chaos. That's not to say there isn't a method to the madness on 'Gift Fig' (a palindrome, if you haven't already figured it out), but you're going to have a devil of a time figuring it out.

Sonically, much of the album sounds like engaging in non-musical activity- rattling, stretching, scraping, squawking, squawking, muttering, murmuring, hissing, rumbling, clinking, clanking, swooshing, and just about every other onomatopoeiatic word of phrase you could think of. To be fair, A23H's wind instruments do emerge occasionally with some free jazz riffing but for the most part it seems more for effect than alluding to anything conventionally musical. At one point, it sounds like a flock of distressed geese. And there are touches of electronics that do sound...'electronic,' but the total effect in combination is something genuinely bizarre. The tone running throughout the album is an unsettling one; even in the less boisterous passages (of which there are many) there is a sense of uneasiness.

All tracks are titled 'Adler_Kino' and then a suffix- Gu I & II, 1166-1215 (I, II, II, and IV) which seem to serve only as markers for points in time of the whole. For me, though there is plenty of variation in the sound produced, the tracks seemed homogenous as a whole work, in spite of the heterogeneous nature of the sonic components. There are time s that the music takes on a ritualistic character, such as at the end of the last piece, the nearly 22 minute opus, 'Adler_Kino 1166-1215 IV' but the kind of rituals we might imagine here may have more to do with unspeakable Godz than any practices you'd be familiar with.

If you think you've got the capacity to appreciate some really 'out-there' stuff, by all means buy this CD and soak it in. Just remember, you've been warned. You WILL get wet on this ride.

Richard Pinhas & Merzbow: Rhizome

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Industrial Noise / Power Noise / Harsh Noise
Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
 Edit (7070)
Jun 03 2012
cover
Artist: Richard Pinhas & Merzbow (@)
Title: Rhizome
Format: CD + DVD
Label: Cuneiform (@)
Rated: *****
Another release by Cuneiform landed on my deck with a certain delay is this astonishing collaboration by French trail-blazing guitarist Richard Pinhas and Japanese noisy sorcerer Merzbow. I already appreciated their sonic mongrel on the occasion of the issue of Keio Line, which occurred four years ago. The amalgamation between these the sonic elements sounds even more disorienting than its predecessor as there are many moments of the listening experience where it's quite difficult to discriminate between laptop and guitar, due to wise DSP by Merzbow who recorded in real time some harmonics by Richard while flooding sonic space by ceaseless billows of hisses, frizzling pulses, hypnotic fibrillation, wobbles, screeches and binaural beats interbreeding with performative technique by Pinhas, based on an overlayered and heavy orchestration of guitar loops, even if in some moments of the performance it seems exploring those reverb-driven primitive forms, which are going to be appreciated by Pink Floyd or Fripp's fans. In order to have a visualization of their sound, you could get the inspiration by its nice cover artwork, whereas a gentle geisha girl looks like threatened by a demonic freak of a piggy bear, arguably a metaphorical translation of the seemingly dissonant siege of harmony by noise, but I assigned different parts to playing elements while listening to their aural soundscapes: it seems to me that in the first moments of their performance (Rhizome comes as a recording of their live show at La Maison Francaise in Washington D.C. on 24th Septemeber 2010) Merzbow laser guns and other sonic weaponry have been set to remove any possible fastener or tier of the listener, which could thwart Pinhas'propulsion for listener's mental flights , and step by step they melt together in unison by emphasizing a sort of involving chorale. The listening experience has not weighed down with unuseful preciosities, as some tricks and the whirling assortment of sonic tricks make it everything but boring all over the four rhizomes and the additional one - the one I prefer -, which look like the highest level the gradual ascension their sound could reach. In spite of the delay, I think some copies are still available. They include a DVD, recorded live during the above-mentioned performance, a document which gives the possibility to have a visual approach to these surprising music minds.

Simon Scott: Below Sea Level

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
 Edit (7064)
May 25 2012
cover
Artist: Simon Scott (@)
Title: Below Sea Level
Format: CD
Label: 12k (@)
Rated: *****
Cambridge-based drummer and "electronic" musician Simon Scott, whose name and musical skills emblazoned a number of remarkable post-rock, shoegaze and post-minimalism emanations (he replaced Adrian Sell in Slowdive and collaborated with Rafael Anton Irisarri and his band The Sight Below as well as with Machinefabriek, Lowgold, Klimek and many other), looks like taking listener by the arms in order to let him discover the wonderful marshy region of Fenland in East Anglia by means of natural sounds of that former wetland, grabbed with hydrophones and self-built recording devices, and his music, whose emotional charge and sonic chromaticism sound emphasized by the filter of nostalgia, as the so-called Fens and its controversial environment were the places where he spent some moments during his childhood. "Below Sea Level" - the title can be explained with the fact the Fens host the lowest land points in United Kingdom due to drainage and higher grounds are so rare that it's maybe one of the few places in the world were occasional hills are called "islands"! - immediately gets listener inside the environment (both natural and emotional) and every musical ingredient (mainly processed guitars, waves, synth horns and other sonic sketches deriving from digital signal processing) seems to look for a symbiosis with natural auditory inputs, so that it seems a sort of osmosis between acousmatic pastorale and lively natural elements occurs track by track till the moment when such an amalgamation has been accompished in the final entrancing track. This release is just a part of a wider project - there should be a limited edition of it as well -, which include a 68-page-color journal with snapshots, Scott's entries in his travel diary over a period of two years when he explored the Fens and essay entitled "An Exploration of the Subterranean Fenland Environment", which could help the listener in understanding the creative process behind it.

Florian Hecker: 2/8 Bregman 4/8 Deutsch 7/8 Hecker 1/8 Holler

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
 Edit (7061)
May 22 2012
cover
Artist: Florian Hecker
Title: 2/8 Bregman 4/8 Deutsch 7/8 Hecker 1/8 Holler
Format: 2 x 10" vinyl
Label: Presto!? (@)
Rated: *****
Some listeners who already approached stuff by Florian Hecker are aware about the fact that behind his baffling look which could fit a trade unionist coming from some guild of electrical engineers or a nerdy clerk who's too interested in developing circuits, getting through uncountable pieces of work or settling infinite matters to choose a new pair of sunglasses, there's a really skittish musician and this bizarre sound compilation on double 10", made with the contribution by Carsten Holler, whose funny title enlists its theoretical, sonic and conceptual ingredients, confirms such an attitude at late. At first blush, many unlearned people could think he's trying to cheat them by undergoing trials of sap sounds without understanding what he's able to cheat is mainly their auditory perception so that for instance you could have the illusion he's practicing some scale whereas he's just playing with pitch modulation or sound intensity or other gimmicks some sound engineers should know and in order to make his intentions clearer (no, he's not trying to use you as guinea-pig for elegant instruments of sonic torture, which can be purpose-built to exhaust or move away unsymphatetic neighbours...), he suggests some readings which could be useful to go into details of psychoacoustics and better appreciate such a release. If you don't have the time to consult Albert S.Bregman treatises on auditory scene analyses, Rudolf Arnheim's interviews, Brian C.J.Moore's lessons on the "Psychology of Hearing" and so on, consider them as pure auditory games - my favorite ones are those dealing with voices as they recalls similar experiments (check the bizarre "Sometimes behave so strangely" for instance!)by Diana Deutsch, a quite famous cognitive psychologist who made a plenty of researches on auditory illusions, mentioned in the title -.

Sao Paulo Underground: Tres Cabecas Loucuras

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
 Edit (7060)
May 21 2012
cover
Artist: Sao Paulo Underground
Title: Tres Cabecas Loucuras
Format: CD
Label: Cuneiform (@)
Rated: *****
This new tropical fever arrived on my decks or, maybe I'better say it infected my body, just some days ago, but this sample of audio-viral engineering by one of the wittiest composer of our times, Rob Mazurek - most of readers will remember his name for his releases on Thrill Jockey or for his precious collaborations with Him, Calexico, Exploding Star Orchestra or Isotope 217 - doesn't appear like a wishy-washy t-shirt. The contagion of this new musical hybrid - worthy continuation of the incredible melange of their "The Principle Of Intrusive Relationships" issued by Aesthetics in 2008 -, played by Rob with his consolidated partners-in-art Mauricio Takara (adding the typical sound of cavaquinho to the line-up, a sort of small guitar, with an higher timbre), Guilhermo Granado and the fourth head, Richard Ribeiro, together with a number of guest musicians - ears open on Kiko Danucci, a very talented musician - could be instantaneous. Even if maybe its sonorities are less daring and experimental than the ones SPU gave to the listener on their previous release, "Tres Cabecas Loucuras" cherishes a fun crossover approach and many listeners could have the impression Mr Mazurek poured some of its most prominent musical insights into this tropical juice, flavoured with a palpable compositional joyfulness and wit. In order to give you an idea of the funny music Sao Paulo Underground wrapped, I could invite you to imagine what Jaga Jazzist or late Stereolab (it's not a mistery Rob's hand was there as well) would play if they were born in Brazil. Some similarities with that kind of psychedelic freeform, which was booming between 60ies and 70ies, are quite logical, but the fact this combo refreshes that spirit by winking at certain musical traditions is what makes it so attractive. Warmly recommended!


Search All Reviews:
[ Advanced Search ]

Chain D.L.K. design by Marc Urselli
Suffusion WordPress theme by Sayontan Sinha