Music Reviews

L# Collivasone: Vostra Signora Del Rumore Rosa

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Aug 26 2018
Artist: L# Collivasone (@)
Title: Vostra Signora Del Rumore Rosa
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Furry Heart Records (@)
Rated: *****
I think we've become jaded and lazy as far as new music goes; in what we listen to, the way we listen to it, where we get it, and what we pay for it. At the risk of being called an old fart (I am, but that's beside the point) I recall a time when ever new album was a special event; something to be savored and cherished. Yeah, there was the radio, but it mostly played "songs," not complete works. It was a taste- incomplete and usually only the highlight or "hit", not the whole work. (A bit of a different situation with classical music, but that's another story.) The point is, with so many different music outlets and formats, we tend to take it for granted. Stealing music on the 'net is commonplace. Many new music artists give it away just to get known. Nearly everybody streams their stuff, so you don't have to pay anything to hear it (not to mention YouTube), just to own it. To some extent I think that cheapens the experience, and also cheats the artist. But if you can't listen to it (radio is a dead, at least here in the U.S., for most new music artists) how are you going to get it to the people who will most appreciate it? Record companies (labels) used to pave the way, grease the right palms, and obtain exposure for new artists. Now it doesn't work that way anymore, partly because the labels can't afford it, and partly because they're unwilling to do the kind of work they used to do. The whole game has changed and it's up the artists more often than not to promote their product. With so many out there doing that though, it's a cacophony of sound where one has to slog their way through so much crap to get to anything really good. This is where folks like me come in. I don't necessarily think reviewers are the arbiters of what's good and what's not, so much as guideposts pointing potential listeners in the right direction. Yes, we're all biased to some degree as no one can be completely objective when it comes to an art that is just so subjective. However, a good reviewer should be able to provide context and maybe even some nuance when it comes to description and qualification.

So why the big long preamble here? Maybe because this is a review of something so far afield from the norm that it warrants some expository treatment. When I come across unfamiliar music that purports to be "avant garde" I tend to wince because it's a genre that is often refuge to the talentless and inept, music utterly lacking in palatability or associated redeeming features. (Just because it's weird doesn't make it good.) I am most pleased to say though that L# Collivasone's 'Vostra Signora Del Rumore Rosa' (Your Lady of Pink Noise) is not that dreadful, poorly conceived and executed kind of avant garde music, but the real deal. A little background on Luca Collivasone (AKA: Doc. Luden Looksharp, Aston Baxmaq, L #, L.L.Looksharp): this Italian musical genius/savant began his artistic career as a musician at the turn of the ’80s as founder and guitarist of the band Aus Decline. He then studied classical guitar and various programs for the production of music with computers, composed soundtracks for documentaries, tv shows and advertising. He played with the Italian rockabilly band Stiletto, then later (2006-2013) established the art-punk/rock 'n' roll/retro band The Masked Marvels which toured extensively in Italy, Switzerland, Germany and France. Post-Masked Marvels Luca formed the band Iarballe, playing prepared guitar and a small synthesizer accompanied by a bassist and a drummer. It was around this time that he stumbled on the concept of the "Cacophonator," the primary and only instrument (excepting Collivasone's voice) played on this album.

The Cacophonator was made from an old (1940's) Singer sewing machine he found in a junk shop, that he modified with an assortment of strange sound producing elements. To see this contraption you would have no idea that the sounds on this album would even be remotely possible from some an archaic device, but they are. It really sounds as if it was made using some hi-tech combo of sophisticated modular synthesizers and samplers. (He calls it the "Concrete Music Machine".) A bit of Collivasone's philosophy regarding this work - "Slow down. Remove technology with its sure result. A strong idea becomes the first musical instrument..." There is much more but you can chew on that for now.
So what does this sound like? Well, a wide variety of things ranging from subtle ambient to chaotic experimental electronic. Dynamics are quite varied; quiet at times, loud at others; sometimes beatless, sometimes rhythmic. The album is comprised of nine tracks all with different motifs, moods and sonic palettes. "Alpha Crucis" which open the album is low-key ambient and kind of droney. The title track features a poetic recitation by Luca (in Italian) with slow beats, twisty, contorted sounds amidst light bellish tones and the occasional moaning, groaning bass. "Tropicantor," one of the longer pieces on the album, begins with a variety of low tones, then ghostly moaning oscillators enter the picture. Also eventually some squeaky sounds in a repetitive pattern, with a slow noise as well. This piece also has a vocal recitation, a short phrase repeated like a ritual chant. Collivasone concocts a plethora of odd electro-acoustic sounds for "Everything About Her Was a Lie," backed by an off-kilter rhythm. The bizarre vocal track on this one just has to be heard. If there could ever be a hit single from this record (which is highly unlikely) this would be it. There is even some sort of stringed instrument solo (warp guitar??) but all that is coming from the cacophonator.

Moving to side 2 we begin with "Bela Bite" which uses a simple metallic rhythm over which bowed, scraped and plucked string sounds, bass and little noise elements interact. The piece grows noisier over time as the volume increases. There is a definite buzzy machine-like ambience in "Sanguisuga," also with heavier beats which begin a basic rhythm you could even dance to. In fact, this is REAL industrial dance music, but not the kind you may be used to hearing. (I'd recommend this as the B-side of the non-hit single.) "Anus Pelicanus" almost sounds like its title, but I was thinking "duck farts in a shallow bathtub". String plucks and woodwind squeals over that strange duck-farting sequence on a repeating loop with blasts of noise interspersed. My description doesn't do it justice. "Rain On Your Parade" might be as close as we get to a conventional song with Luca's spoke-sung lyrics and repeating chorus, but it's not that close. Finally, "Caramel Moon" is a musique concrete fantasia with just about everything in it including a rudimentary beat. Usually when I've listened to this much avant-garde music I've had enough for a while but this album just makes me want more. Highly recommended for its concept and execution, but you'll need some quiet time to process it all. Thanks Edwina (owner of Furry Heart Records) for sending me the vinyl rather than just a download link. Tangible product is always appreciated, and I’d recommend the vinyl over the download.

Luton: Black Box Animals

 Posted by Andrea Piran (@)   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
New Music / Downtown / Avantgarde Jazz / New Classical / World
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Aug 26 2018
Artist: Luton (@)
Title: Black Box Animals
Format: CD
Label: Lost Tribe Sound (@)
Rated: *****
Luton is the Italian duo of Roberto P. Siguera and Attilio Novellino whose electroacoustic music is something at the edge between modern classical and ambient. As they use traditional instruments as strings, woodwinds, brass and percussion and they reportedly wrote their pieces in various venues, this release sounds as a sort of journey diary with his impressive diversity.
"Mount Kenya Imperial" opens this release with a field recordings which is juxtaposed to drones generated by strings used to add a subjective mood to an objective landscape. "Spectres of Mark" is a minimal and hypnotic track developed upon a drone and a simple synth line. "Södermalm Phantom Cab" is instead a sort of jazz tune introduced by a field recording followed by the entrance of the single musical lines. "Eternal Now" is a short interlude where all elements of Luton's music are compressed to the essential. "Black Concrete" alternates noisy moments to ethereal ones. "Archipelago" in an evocative catchy tune where the clear arpeggio of the guitar and the melancholic trumpet line capture the listener. "Night Avalanche" is a drone crescendo interrupted only for another one using instruments. "Elk Talk" is a dialogue between a piano and a violin while "Submergence" uses editing techniques to escape catchy melodies. The melodic elements of "Ice Museum" emerge from the drone background and "Silent Firework" closes this release bordering on the edge of modern classical.
The clever and rather romantic use of melody let this release depart the rather pop territories of modern classical as the electroacoustic element appears to add an element of noise which is functional to avoid the sense of déjà vu while retaining the catchy elements. Highly recommended.

Attilio Novellino & Collin McKelvey: Métaphysiques cannibales

 Posted by Andrea Piran (@)   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Aug 26 2018
Artist: Attilio Novellino & Collin McKelvey (@)
Title: Métaphysiques cannibales
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Kohlhaas (@)
Rated: *****
This new release by Attilio Novellino and Collin McKelvey takes its title by the essay by the anthropologist Eduardo Viveiros de Castro which seems based around the concept that, for fully understand another culture, it's necessary not to see it behind the screen of western culture. So, it's understandable the liner notes claim that "sound organization is here conceived as both as a apparatus of creation and a practice of knowledge" i.e., it's not derived by an abstract system but it's closer to a physical exploration.
This release is divided in two parts: the first one, "Métaphysiques cannibales I", starts quietly with the juxtaposition of pulsating sinewaves in the background and various noises in the foreground, then the track evolves alternating moments where the noises generate a sound field reminiscent of the city's background noise to more static one where the drone acts as a moment of rest during a long journey. Those sense for path planning escapes the dull accumulation of samples for fake complexity.
The second one "Métaphysiques cannibales II" is instead a subtler track starting with a quiet and almost inaudible drone which slowly introduces other drones until at half his length this framework is repeated with noisier elements as a study for sonic accumulation.
A well developed release where a narrative sense removes that patina of self indulgent experimentation which is ejectable for the fans of the genre. It's really worth more than a listen to fully appreciate it.

Federico Dal Pozzo: Untitled_VNZ

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Aug 22 2018
Artist: Federico Dal Pozzo
Title: Untitled_VNZ
Format: CD
Label: KrysaliSound (@)
Rated: *****
Besides an almost scientific approach to recording techniques and the general "sonic strategy" based on the idea that music can be squeezed from matter, one of the linking ring between this "Untitled_" (the tag that starts any title of his outputs) and the previous one ("Untitled_TeVeT") on Francis M.Fri's imprint KrysaliSound by Venetian musician and concrete performer Federico Dal Pozzo is maybe only water: the one turning into a 380 kilos weigh ice block on the latter, and the mini acousmatic concert of delays, echoes and a series of odd reverberations and mutations (where the liquid sonic source paradoxically seems to turn into a hiss or a fire crackle) of the dropping ones on the former. The other one could be its detachment into two related parts: as for "Untitled_TeVeT", "Untitled_VNZ" (being VNZ, a sort of code derived from the first three consonants of Venezia, Italian for Venice, the conceptual and the material framework of this release) sounds like a bipartite acousmatic progression, whose watershed (occurring after 20-21 minutes) is an Italian sentence by a female voice, that appeared shredded in the first part saying something meaning "one second before I ask myself how it will be, one second after I think to the next time, but when I do that, it's nice and I don't think to anything else". As the dropping water is the sparkle element of this first progression, the sparkle of the second part is another concrete distinguishing element of the sonic landscape of Venice, the toll of some church bells (I guess they're the ones of St Mark's Basilica), gradually re-morphed and melting with the likewise transformed sound of chirping birds; this intriguing amalgamation sounds like fading into an obscure synth pad, that Federico suddenly turns off, as if he can control the voltage of this sonic electric film. The isolated resounding frequencies, wisely extracted from the initial tolling bells, will soon fade into a maze of hissing noises, similar to the white noise related to broadcast of no signals on TV screens or radio, a disturbing chaos that Federico channels into a "balancing" sound before the final minutes where he seems to give voice to poltergeist musicians of Venetian ghosts, who seems to play a classical romanza in between the dying atoms of Federico's pulverization. It's everything but a cliched romantic sonic postcard of Venice, that maybe mirrors the shadow on that same cliche.

Swans : Soundtracks For The Blind (4LP)

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Aug 13 2018
Artist: Swans (@)
Title: Soundtracks For The Blind (4LP)
Format: LP
Label: Young God Records (@)
Rated: *****
Swans - an iconic, legendary band that defies simple categorization or classification. They've been called experimental, noise, post rock, post punk, goth, industrial, avant-garde, no wave, and more. They are all of these and none of them in particular. The Swans are "sui generis," in a class of their own. Their history goes back to 1982, and the Michael Gira led band continues on today. 'Soundtracks For The Blind' was the last (pre-2010 revival) Swans studio album from 1996, when Gira and Jarboe fronted this outfit. To quote Mr. Gira - “This album has everything in there – all the ideas from Swans’ initial 15 years of work. There’s some contemporary recordings of the band as it existed in ‘96/7, with Larry Mullins on drums/percussion, Jarboe singing and playing keyboards, Vudi playing electric guitar, and Joe Goldring playing bass and electric guitar, and me singing and playing electric and acoustic guitar, but there’s also a huge amount of sounds and recordings that Jarboe and I collected over the years. These are reassembled, looped, mangled, and in many cases overdubbed upon to create new pieces of music…" Originally released as a double CD set only, this work has just now been made available in a remastered limited edition of 4,000 copies on a 4 vinyl LP box set, with a poster, insert and download card, and signed by M. Gira. What's on the records is really no different than the original CD release, and I wasn't sent the album package to review (because it's damn expensive for a small indie label like Young God to send out unsolicited product of this magnitude, although I wish they had), just a private link to streaming the album online. So am I going to review an album that's been around for over 20 years? Well, no...yes...sort of. There is history here. In 1984 (or maybe 1985) I inadvertently and informally met M Gira and Jarboe at a radio station interview. (I wasn't the one doing the interviewing.) I remember them being intense people with a high intimidation factor. I don't know if we even spoke to each other than to maybe mumble a "hello" at the time. We were in musically opposing genres - me in synthpop/new wave, and them...well, you know. I had heard a little of their music at the time and didn't much care for it. (I had been involved in New York No Wave in the mid/late 70s, and by 1980 had enough of that.) Over the years things change- breakups and breakdowns, misdirection and new directions, so by 1990 or so I was beginning to become more interested in goth-industrial and dark ambient. A friend of mine had purchased some Swans albums, and I liked what I heard. Not all of it, but a good deal of it. Soon I began buying some of their stuff myself. When I first heard 'Soundtracks For The Blind' I wasn't wild about it. It seemed excessive, overly long, and draggy and dreary. If I had bought it, I must have sold it or given it away because I don't have it now. Listening to it again these many years later I realize just how vital it is. It really summarizes everything the Swans were, not succinctly but distinctly. There are songs, there are non-songs, drones, noise, loops, lengthy dialogue samples (personal, not from movies), mystical psychedelic instrumentals and more. For a Swans fan, this is the shit. Way back when, I thought this could have been boiled down to a single album of essential material. Now I realize it was all essential and not a thing should have been changed. This 26-track album still holds up well after all these years. The four LP set comes at a price though- 70 bucks is a hefty music investment for most. Dither about buying it and it will be gone, and the after-market (collectible) price is sure to be much higher. Fear not though, Young God is planning a later 2018 vinyl release of it in a gatefold LP album, and a CD reissue as well. So what was this- a review, an advertisement, or just anecdotal bullshit? I don't know, maybe all three, maybe none. I just know there are a lot of Swans fans who might not have known about it, but surely do now. Worthy for those who can afford it.

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