Music Reviews

Sao Paulo Underground: Tres Cabecas Loucuras

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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May 21 2012
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!

LHZ + H : Scope

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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May 20 2012
Artist: LHZ + H (@)
Title: Scope
Format: CD
Label: Monotype Records (@)
Rated: *****
LHZ + H are Thomas Lehn - analogue synthesizer; Carl Ludwig Hubsch - tuba; Philip Zoubek - piano; and Franz Hautzinger - quartertone trumpet & delay, all from Germany. Lehn has an extensive academic background in recording engineering, classical and jazz piano, and electronic music, particularly modern composition and the avant-garde. In 1989 he initiated the chamber ensemble Trio Dario and four years later the Mengano Quartett, performing compositions of the contemporary avant-garde, in particular numerous first performances of commissioned works. Lehn has recorded with Marcus Schmickler, Keith Rowe, John Butcher, Phil Minton, Phil Durrant, Radu Malfatti, Axel Dorner, Cor Fuhler, Gerry Hemingway, Andy Moor of The Ex, and is a member of the electronic orchestra M.I.M.E.O. (Music In Movement Electronic Orchestra), as well as numerous other projects and collaborations. Carl Ludwig Hubsch grew up playing clarinet in the local brass band and drums in punk and rock bands, but around 1983 he exchanged the clarinet for a tuba. He also has an academic background in singing, music theory, drums, composition, and electronic music. Besides his own projects like Hubsch's Longrun Development of the Universe, Drift and Hubsch's Primordial Soup, he founded the ENSEMBLE X and co-leads the Multiple Joy[ce] Orchestra together with Matthias Schubert and Frank Gratkowski. Hubsch is part of many collective projects and ensembles and works as side man in various projects. Philip Zoubek studied jazz piano at the Viennese Conservatorium and the Musikhochschule in Cologne. He now plays in various jazz and improv ensembles in Cologne, Vienna, Zurich and Berlin, including Ensemble Creativ, Org, Cauldron, Camera Obscura, Ubik, James Choice Orchestra and Muche/Zoubek/Tang, and with the group Snaut, among other projects. At present Philip Zoubek is mainly occupied with his own ensemble Philz. Trumpeter Franz Hautzinger studied trumpet and composition at the Graz Academy of Music and the Performing Arts and at the Vienna Conservatory. He started on the Austrian jazz scene in the late '80s, recording a handful of albums for the Extraplatte label mostly as a member of the groups Muhlbacher usw., Nouvelle Cuisine, and Striped Roses. After a three-year recording hiatus from 1998 to 2000, during which time he extensively radicalized his sound, Hautzinger came back with the solo CD Gomberg (2000) and the debut by his group Dachte Musik (2001), both released by the then up-and-coming German label Grob. These, and his participation in the composers' ensemble Zeitkratzer brought his playing to the attention of an international avant-garde audience at the beginning of the 21st century. Whew! Those are extensive and impressive bios to be certain (and to a great degree, condensed), and I have to admit I'm a little intimidated in my capacity as a reviewer for this CD. Still, it all boils down to how the compositions actually sound, and you're about to find out.

'Scope' contains four tracks in about 45 minutes that makes good use of the combined talents and the collaborative instrumentation of the four participants. While Thomas Lehn seems to be the most active player overall, there is no jockeying to be heard, little in the way of stepping on toes (except when required), and the execution of a well-oiled 'weird machine' where everyone contributes just what is needed to give these pieces life and depth. The album opens with 'Zoom,' a piece a little over 12 minutes in length. It begins very low-key, and continues that way through most it with quiet tones from the horns, sparse piano sounds and subtle but ominous synth tones, drones, burblings and atmospherics. There is a palpable tension here threatening to burst forth into a cacophonous riot especially towards the end, but never does. Perhaps an exercise in restraint, 'Zoom' doesn't zoom, it more looms like a most uneasy soundscape. It ends seamlessly merging into the title track 'Scope,' the longest on the album at nearly 17 minutes. Here there are more percussive sounds provided by synth and piano; plinks, plunks, notes, noise and noises, scraping, rattling, bird-like sounds, ringing, etc., with soft moaning horn tones. Activity is intermittent, and little is constant with an impressive amount of variety. This is a fascinating sonic environment that sounds like it could have been a field recording in some electronic alternate universe. Business picks up more than halfway through the piece and there is a shift to louder dynamics and heightened activity. Sounds careen and collide; horns are emboldened staggering drunkenly; monstrous rumblings from the piano, and a variety of synthetic noises. It all subsides before the end into stray, sparse, brief sonic elements. 'Lense' (9:40) begins with sustained muted horn tones and occasional interjection of noises from Lehn's synthesizer. Except for the obvious, it is often difficult to tell what sonic element is being created by whom, and this feels like the most electronic piece on the album. Before it's over things get a bit frenzied and chaotic, like some mechanized junkyard sculpture coming alive despite the intent of its awestruck creator to remain static. 'Hal' is the shortest piece on 'Scope' and to me, is more typical of what might be expected in a collaboration of this sort, with nods to Berio, Cage, Stockhausen, Tudor, Varèse and Lamonte Young. There is quite a bit more activity and participation from the participants making this a very satisfying improvisation and fitting close to the album. There is no final resolution though; it just ends and you may hardly notice that it did.

For those who appreciate avant-garde music and/or unusual improvisation, 'Scope' is an intriguing prospect, and one that may have you coming back for more of its enigmatic flavor.

Hildur Gudnadottir: Leyfdu ljosinu

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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May 19 2012
Artist: Hildur Gudnadottir (@)
Title: Leyfdu ljosinu
Format: CD
Label: Touch (@)
Rated: *****
Recorded live at the Music Research Centre of York University by Tony Myatt last January, by means of a Sounfield ST450 Ambisonic microphone and two Neumann U87 microphones, with no audience and above all with no post-production, this 40-minute lasting release by talented Icelandic cellist and singer Hildur Gudnadottir stands like an act of devotion to her musical vision, merged during her career into many artistic felloships - she's a permanent member of Mum since "Go Go Smear The Poison Ivy" and she could boast about important collaborations with Throbbing Gristle, Hauschka and Pan Sonic -. After 5 minutes of tuning in Prelude, starting with a do (C) on cello and various harmonic flexing, and the beginning of her entrancing vocal mantra, which becomes ethereal and hypnotical thanks to vocal overlapping, "Leyfdu ljosinu" (Icelandic for "Allow The Light") transforms into an authentic sonic theophany whereas there's a cyclic alternation of empty spaces close to silence and sonic saturations and the performer looks like a medium experiencing and translating of the divine, a purpose she manages to reach by overloading ths onic space with an increasing metaphysical tension, which immediately grabs the listener, who could experience a weightless-like feeling of suspense. Little by little, cello and additional arches sounds like expanding like clouds, and such an expansion looks like unstoppable and endless even when bow-strings sound like stretched to the limit and amplify tension and overwhelming catharsis, according to an ascending movement which could remind the sonorities of records like the collaboration between Sigur Ros and Hilmar Orn Hilmarsson for the soundtrack of "Angels of the universe" or Zoe Keating's soundtracks. Highly recommended!

Subterraneanact: s/t

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Industrial Noise / Power Noise / Harsh Noise
Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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May 16 2012
Artist: Subterraneanact (@)
Title: s/t
Format: CD
Label: Z6 (@)
Rated: *****
It's really difficult to recognize the points of departure of this collaborative project by Henk Bakker aka HEK (former member of Dull Schicksal with Lukas Simonis, Hajo Doom an Colin Mclure and one leg of Static Tics) and Jelmer Cnossen aka Malorix, but I think the drawn analogy between the computer (or ableton) assisted way they dissected, miniaturized, crumbled, aggregated and treated inputs from respective instruments - bass clarinet and drums - in order to discover their hidden and more extreme sonic potential and excavation, digging or any other possible activities concerning underground passages or tunnel (as well as any related biological reaction such as the stuffy feeling related to the rarefaction of air) is proper with their sound. You could feeling like some worker in the bowels of the earth for extraction of minerals or for the drilling of the rocks in order to create tunnels for underground trains while listening heavy matsuri-like bumps or hammering, saw-like cacophonic noises, sinister echoes, disturbing explosions and other sonic sketches with many somewhat imaginative episodes - my favorite ones are Specon 9 (where it seems there are sudden gusts from dark underground zones, mixing with clanking rods), Conlet (it seems that the track echoes the devastating whirling of a drilling blading while severing electric wires during its rotation, inspiring some dizzy feeling), Exart (during its listening I imagined some mad miner, who decided to kill a big community of underground bugs or rats with a plenty of sticks of dynamite...), Fiek and the final S-Scape (you could imagine the above-mentioned miner, who frantically looks for a way of escape after realizing that he destroyed its torch together with a plenty of rats!)-. This impacting Dutch project offers a little bit uncanny but very immersive listening experience.

M. Marchoff & MJ Caroline: Voxfields

 Posted by Andrea Piran (@)   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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May 15 2012
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Artist: M. Marchoff & MJ Caroline
Title: Voxfields
Format: CD
Label: Zoharum (@)
This release is a strange album. Completely constructed upon field recordings is far away from postcard-like sounds of some strange place but closer to evocative industrial soundscapes.
"Voxfields" opens this release with a factory's siren that underlines the oppressive soundscape made out of the field recordings. "Voxfields II" is a short interlude to the next proper track of this album "Voxfields III" with some sparse drones above a sort of rhythm constructed with small noises. "Voxfields IV" is based on metallic rhythmic sounds in a quiet environment while "Voxfields V" deals with metallic resonances. "Voxfields VI" close this release with a sort of dark ambient soundscape ending in a complete silence.
This work made by Marek Marchoff and MJ Caroline is perhaps too particular to be rated with a number between 1 and 5. Adventurous in this search of an industrial way of constructing a field recording album could be a revealing or a boring listening. It depends on the curiosity of the listener.

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