Music Reviews

John Cage: Song Books

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Nov 22 2012
Artist: John Cage
Title: Song Books
Format: 2 x CD (double CD)
Label: Sub Rosa (@)
Rated: *****
"To consider the Song Books as a work of art is nearly impossible. Who would dare? It resembles a brothel, doesn't it?". That was the amazing description John Cage himself made about "Song Books", a huge composition where he applied the principles of aleatory music to human voice. In the jungle of celebratory ventures and memorials related to the first centennial from Cage's birth - nearby my homeplace, there's one of the most interesting "memorial" connected to Time Zones festival just today and tomorrow, held in Bari, but there're a lot of releases, which celebrates this key-figure of music history... we recently introduced a very good one by Australian musician Lawrence English on this space -, this impressive reissue of his gargantuan opus, from SubRosa, which can brag about being the first label to have the merit of having collected and published the entire opus and not just parts of it, focuses on Cage's explorations of human voice is one of the best homage to this seminal American composer. It seems that Cage applied the above-mentioned aleatory principles since the beginning, as after the commission by Cathy Barberian and Simone Rist, he consulted the Chinese oracle book "I ching" to decide about the number of the songs to do before the close deadline (just three months). The divination system gave its responses: 56 and 34. That meant that Cage had to compose one solo a day. The final result was written on a 317-pages manuscript, which mainly included a set of performative instructions and guidelines, including those ones about the bizarre classification he adopted: the starting point was the choice of a theme and it seems that Cage took a casual line from his diaries ("We connect Satie with Thoreau"), so that any song which had references to Satie or Thoreau got labelled as "relevant", the other ones were "irrelevant"; moreover, each solo could be classified in further four categories (song, song using electronics, theatre and theatre using electronics), while the last variable cannot but be related to method (already used one, partial variation on previously used method or new one). Wisely performed by Lore Lixenberg, Gregory Rose and Robert Worby, this release includes 7 amazing mixes (randomly placed in the tracklist...) of shorter soloes. I reccomend to have a read about Cage's guidelines while listening as well as in compliance with his "compositional laws" just listen it...randomly!

Holy Hole: Plan Z

 Posted by Andrea Piran (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Nov 21 2012
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Artist: Holy Hole (@)
Title: Plan Z
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: self-released
Rated: *****
This release is the debut ep from an italian duo whose music is guitar driven drone music. According to the press notes this is a young project born in Berlin aiming to develop a blend of psychedelic, math rock and drone music but the result is a carefully produced drone music with a meditative mood.
"Excerpt1" opens this release with a heavy guitar drone colored by a quiet tape loop until a voice line emerge from the darkness. "Excerpt2" is an intro to "excerpt3" a long track beginning quietly until a metallic beat and a guitar line begin to appear and slowly return to silence as the guitar take full control of development of the track. "Excerpt4" close this release with a subtle work of resonance.
Even is the result is relatively distant from the aiming of the artists, it's a solid work worthing a listen. Recommended for drone fans.

Harold Rubin & Alexander Frangenheim: Suite

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Nov 21 2012
Artist: Harold Rubin & Alexander Frangenheim (@)
Title: Suite
Format: CD
Label: Creative Sources (@)
Rated: *****
This interesting musical encounter by clarinet player Harold Rubin and talented doublebass player Alexander Frangenheim (sometimes joined by Mark Smulian's electric bass), which has been arranged by Helma Schleif, one of the most active figure of Berlin cultural scene, just recently came out on Creative Sources, even if it was recorded at Digihippi Studio, Hod Hasharon (Israel) on June 2010. Besides the unconventional way of performing of both musicians and the audible influences from modal jazz and jewish music, the most amazing aspect of this release lies on dynamics: whenever it seems clarinet and double bass are having a dialogue, they manage to change register so that the first lines turn into controversy, bicker or excited musical storytelling. The bizarre hurly-burly within the specular melodic symmetry on "Twin Leaf", which looks like those sketches where comedians try to bamboozle their reflection on the mirror by sudden motions, the tumultuous pursuit on tonal scales on "Clear Run", the supposed hotchpotch of jingles on "Commercials (& Football Never Freedom)", the stumbling vacillations and the occasional wheezing on "Monkey Jam", the dragged alternation of melodies and countermelodies on the nice "Slow Trio", the crackling instrumental tally-ho on "Wood Knocks First" and all the other moments of this record sound like being a continuous preparation before their converence in the final long "Suite", when any lump in the throat of each instrument sounds like gradually resurface by means of rivulets of fragmented melodies.

Maarten Van Der Vleuten: Are You Worthy?

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Nov 20 2012
Artist: Maarten Van Der Vleuten (@)
Title: Are You Worthy?
Format: CD
Label: Tonefloat (@)
Rated: *****
There are three constant factors the industrious Dutch producer Maarten van der Vleuten cannot drop: acid house, a certain bend towards experimentation and (mainly Roland) drum machines. His "masked" superabundant musical production under a number of aliases, releases by glorious techno labels such as Apollo Records, Klang Elektronik, R&S sublabel Test Zone, Outrage Recordings, Djax-Up-Beats, Mighty Robot and ESP and partially reprised on his own imprint Signum Recordings, leant towards Detroit techno and acid house, but included many stylistical tricks and that interbreeding between kicking beats and sandpapered sounds which could be considered one of the possible forerunner of the so-called minimal techno (think about a crossbreed between 808 State and Carl Craig), while when he decided to sign his music by his real name, he moved towards a stronger stress on experimental factor, even though he doesn't abandon his primeval passion for house sounds through-and-through. It's not just a matter of bleaching and dosage, which could be explained by an artistic maturity, as he already signed a remarkable ambient-project called In-Existence in the first 90ies, but the interesting eclectism of "Are You Worthy?" supposedly lies on the intention of keeping on researching new sonic balances within the framework of known stylistical codes (a sort of self-awareness) and the crestfallen awareness that every fashion comes and goes, a kind of awareness which can be frequently experienced by contemporary artist due to the accelerated transience of vogue and the resulting feeling of "obsolescence" of the artist itself, as it seems to resurface from the occasional clues, such as the solipsistic odyssey of the lovely "Note To Self: Aye Aye, Bye Bye" (one of the most touching moment of the entire album) or the hazy post-industrial melancholy of "About Things Left Behind", coming after the initial title-track which sounds like a tuning of that above-mentioned "Self", its reawakening on an intriguing breeze of abstract tribalism for a painstaking examination, and before its temporary eruption on the hypnotic ambient-trance of "Shaped By The Sum Of Habits", which seems to be the peak of a temporary process of rejuvenation. The second part of the release unleashes sonic forces, which confutes and stops that process, but in a very immersive way: the murky speaking spectre (in close relation with the dwarf in a red suit and dress shirt from Twin Peaks?) and its inquiring warning on "Schau Hinein" and the inclement narrative voice of some poisoning super-ego on "Blutige Marie" precede the subtly fiendish drones and the haunting dilutions of "Distorted Soul, Awaken!" and the exhausted lullaby/atonement of 'Hold Me, Comfort Me, Embrace Me', which concludes this catchy inner musical journey.
Nov 20 2012
Artist: Cut Hands
Title: Black Mamba
Format: CD
Label: Susan Lawly/Very Friendly (@)
Distributor: Cargo Records
Rated: *****
In a 2011 interview with The Quietus (, William Bennett talked about the effects of polyrhythms on the nervous system, that when we run out of body parts to move, 'It (the rhythm) goes inside, and things happen inside on a more metaphysical level. And on the more rhythmic tracks that's what I'm attempting.'

Cut Hands is William Bennett's so called 'Afro Noise' project. He's best known as one of noise music's longest contributors, as one half of the duo Whitehouse, formed in 1980. Whitehouse would push audiences to exultant states by use of transgressive sounds, language, imagery; a 30-some year barrage to break down all beliefs, all conditioning, to push someone through to a pure experience. Over the years, what most people have come to think of as 'noise' (power electronics, HNWs, synth explorations, tape collage) has become increasingly easy to assimilate: its the same experience every time. Bennett became wary of the technological arms race of the traditional noiz freak. After experimenting with a DJ night of Vodoun ritual drumming at Glasgow's Optimo club, Bennett realized the ritualistic potency and ability to confound and trance-form, when exposing audiences to the rhythms. He pared his music down to sparse percussive elements, then layered with feedback and buzzy synths.

'Black Mamba' is the second full-length from the project, after last year's 'Afro Noise vol. 1', which made everyone drool. Stripped down and sparse, cut hands weaves layers of djembes, doundouns, ksing-ksing and synths into a hypnotic tapestry that will make yr insides dance, for sure. 'Witness The Spread Of The Dream' kicks things off with a tmantra, read by Mimsy DeBlois, who designed the sweet, sweet voodoo album art, and sounds like a creepy hypnotism loop, until tearing into the pounding tribalism of the title track, that sounds like walking into a voodoo ritual, midstep. This tracks showcases one of the deadly strengths of Cut Hands: the ability to change tempo. Much of this record reads like bleak, gray British techno, but almost all dance music gets caught up in one BPM, one groove, and it takes a real prodigy to make a computer swing like a human. Cut Hands African ritual is the height of complexity, its like trying to count a snowstorm. The rational mind goes to sleep, overwhelmed, allowing for something beautiful and ancient to transpire. This version of 'Black Mamba' is a slight variation on the vinyl edition, released earlier in the year, and answers yet another question; yes, you do need to buy every Cut Hands release.

Its continually inspiring to see people who've been around for a long time constantly reinventing the game. They've had time to master and explore their craft, and sometimes it seems that the post-punk underground has been able to produce a number of downright geniuses. The clubs are perfectly poised to fall for Black Mamba, a part of a number of blackened post-Techno magicians rolling up their sleeves and getting primal. In a world that is predominantly defined by people making similar styles of music with similar gear, there is an increasing demand for electronic music that is homespun, handmade. We are all moving into the Heart Of Darkness, with ritual rhythms lighting up the night with the ghosts of embers. William Bennett, (and Raime, and Ekoplekz, and Shackleton), are sneaking in trance music to the clubs, bringing the ultimate dopamine fix, waking something ancient and powerful. Its coming out of a movement from Throbbing Gristle and Cabaret Voltaire, through '90s industrial music and rave. Its dark and its smart and its arty and its weird; i, for one, have not been this excited about a wave of music for a number of years. Hopefully, Cut Hands continual ascent forces cliche noise bands, as well as electronic producers, to step up their game and not get too fatted. And also hopefully, this decadent ritual will continue to spread.

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