Music Reviews



VV. AA.: Berlin Electronics

 Posted by Eugenio Maggi (@)   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Dec 21 2008
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Artist: VV. AA.
Title: Berlin Electronics
Format: 4 x CD (quadruple CD boxset)
Label: Absinth
Rated: *****
Besides documenting some of the most interesting performers out of Berlin's seething improv circuit, Absinth is always a standout label in terms of visual presentation and packaging. "Berlin Electronics" (following the "reeds" and "strings" chapters) features four 3" cds by Gilles Aubry, Annette Krebs, Andrea Ermke and Ignaz Schick housed in a cardboard sleeve handpainted in acrylic blue. As usual, the design and its handmade realization make for an eye-catching, peculiar object. That said, the sounds alone are above average, and easily avoid the quality issues of many radical improv documents. Aubry creates shifting tracks out of softwares and feedback, throbbing frequencies which at times are stretched out and squeal like reeds. Krebs offers a particularly intense set with some of her trademark starting points (guitar, mixing board, radios and tapes) alternating quasi-silent passages with crisp noise fragments. While her records are rather hit or miss for me, this is a sturdy performance. On the other hand, I've found Ermke's mix of erratic field recordings and mixing desk-generated noises too loose and unfocused to truly engage me. The best 3" is probably Schick's, who creates four amazing tracks of (edited and recomposed) improvisation out of organ pipes, cymbals, bowed turntable (!), effects and electronics. The squeals and hisses of mouth-activated pipes are looped and pitch-shifted merging with the frantic manipulation of other objects, creating a fascinating composition closer to NWW's surreal landscapes than to your standard improv performance.

Die Schrauber: Live in Mexico: Live in Mexico

 Posted by Andrea Ferraris (@)   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Dec 14 2008
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Artist: Die Schrauber: Live in Mexico
Title: Live in Mexico
Format: CD
Label: Acheulian Handaxe
Rated: *****
Shame on me for the time it took me to review this release, but to justify myself I’ll add releases like this above if captured during a live performance takes more than one simple listening so after several listening here we go with some conclusions. First off it’s really hard to believe this’ a live take due to the high quality of the recordings... ok, most of the instruments are digital/digital processed and probably it’s been recorded with a laptop, but give it a try and tell me how many live recordings have you heard with a sound definition like this. Second thing, rather than a live in Mexico it could have been a Köln performance performed in some institution for electronic art, I know it far too well it’s a stupid cliché to associate warm music to sunny countries and cold music to Germany or north Europe, but you know this’ just another easy way to describe a release. This work is divided in four sessions, the first of which is a collective (Hans Tammen, Joker Nies, Mario de Vega) performance about thirty two minute long, not that much for a live but a really long track on a release where the average length is about ten minutes. By the way, while the first part of the track is quite inexpressive it slowly become interesting in the middle I don’t write that just cause it becomes barely melodic for a while but for the fact even later the tension between the three players become really equilibrated. As I’ve already said leave your hopes if you’re looking for melodic electronic music and ambient shit since this performance is full of animosity an it’s pierced with a whole lot of dynamic incursions. There’s music where nothing is happening, and there’s music like that of this trio where something is happening constantly. After the first track you have three solo performances for every single musician, believe me after having listened the solo performances you could also tell who’s playing what during the collective session. I’ve found quite interesting the fact that despite this things happen constantly I’ve had during the majority of the track, Hans Tammen is really laid back in the way he plays. Probably many of you don’t know em but it all reminded me so much of a band called St.ride diminished of their melodic factor. Mario de Vega right after the middle of his solo song puts in some cyclic melody with makes the soup more and more tasty if you consider this far from being easy listening electronic music. Joker Nies in many ways gave me the impression of having the more psychedelic style considered his really complementary to the other two mates and not exactly "ambient oriented", but maybe that’s just a personal impression. Cerebral post concrete, fractured, spastic, epileptic electronic music with an electro-acoustic approach even it all sound digital but I’m speaking about the dynamics.

Brandon LaBelle : Live bootleg (book + cd)

 Posted by Andrea Ferraris (@)   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Dec 13 2008
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Artist: Brandon LaBelle (@)
Title: Live bootleg (book + cd)
Format: CD
Label: les presses du reel (@)
Rated: *****
It took me a while, several listening but above all a deep reading to review this work and sorry for having put it in the "music" section 'cause I'm sure it's quite reductive to label it as "music", differently from the previous works we reviewed, this book + cd focused on some recent installation/works done by Brandon Labelle is probably better contextualized if considered in the contemporary art field. This bilingual publication (french/english) contains provides an overview of sound installations and environments by the experimental artist-musician, featuring three essays and an interview, as well as a specific project, installations views, the artist's Museum of Instruments, and descriptions of the performances recorded on the included audio CD. As underlined in many pages of the book, the latest works of this artist are converging on two central preoccupations: public performance and radiophonic space. The book is really well done and filled with pics coming from the installations collected in this book and for the clear it is it's been not that easy trying to imagine the real power of these works and their live effects, but at last we're talking about installations. The cd contains "Phantom music concert" which features Jason Khan and Jaques Demierre, it's a two video projection in which the two musician on video are replayed as if they're involved in a concert and the same musicians later enter on stage performing with their own images. "Phantom radio broadcast" instead is a collection of radio memories read by two people sitting in a radio station while a cellist is playing while listening the songs recollected in those memories, another musician (this time Labelle himself is featured in the process) mixes all the elements adding some samples and other noises. In "Led nouvel (pirate drummers)" some walkers move out into the city armed with mobile phones with which they talk with four drummers in line in front of the Palais de Justice in Nantes (hey, this thing reminded me of the Revolution Summer thing and the whole drum-protests by the Washington punk involved in the Dischord scene). The drummers bang the drums according to the informations they receive and the drumming is mixed with the voices and the informations, while lot's of local residents pass by. In "CD=text" twelve minutes of sounds from twelve artists are played over headphones to various people who describe in words what they're hearing, the "song" is made out by putting together these voices in turn to create a chorus of voices focused on words and interpretations. It's interesting how the cd, differently from other work assembled by Labelle, this time is hard to be listened at if separated by the proper "contextualization" and by its "posology", the fact is after having read carefully hows and whys of every installation I think it's a logical step to consider this cd as the sonorization of the images featured in the book. With that I don't wonna say one can't/won't appreciate these "weird" compositions independently from their performative context, otherwise I would negate one of the most interesting thing written by Jorge Loius Borges: "the reader makes the book and not the writer", and trying to appear like as a pretentious relativist wonnabe, I would be contradictory for I really believe every listener should have his right to chose/listen/interpret/feel/twist reality according to his own will and resurface his/her "memories/ghosts" (am I naïve jungian enough?!). By the way, reading about every single performance and some description of the "modus operandi" I've been cast into a different prospective like when you happen to know Kubrick worked on "2001: a space odyssey" starting from several ideas one of which was the soundtrack/music... everything takes a different shape and the same goes out for these "audio memories". The funny thing is that in someway this cd features audio-reminiscences from performances quite often based on "audio memories" which brings out to a sort of mirror-game: in someway a recording is a picture of a moment that in the very moment in which it's been recorded... well, it's already gone. Can you remember "the invention of Morel" by Bioy Casares where the protagonist chose to become images like those projected on the island?...in some way we've arrived to the final paradox in which a recording becomes a "living object" itself. Sorry for having been so anal (and so stupid) the fact is that many works involving directly or indirectly Labelle duel with memory and the audio-experience related to it has always been one of my favorite topics. For example, consider this book contains a collection of radio memories from several people around the world (while reading Achim Wollscheid I couldn't but laugh in admiration for the then young audio terrorist!), it alone it's worth the reading (like the book "One Reason To Live: Conversations about Music with Julius Nil"). In someway it brings forth the most interesting point of audio-experiences, I mean it's hard (if not impossible) to discern where a listening can be separated from the original context. It also implies every single listening is different from those preceding it that's like saying the idea of something recorded becomes immutable is a lie. I know I sound like mr. know it all, I've discovered one of the most simple rules of life: everything is constantly changing I think it's better to approach this multimedia work as an art-object, as if it was the book of an exhibition and not a normal cd (but you're free to do what the hell you want with it, so please burn this after reading), I'm sorry I've always this problems while speaking about art but I always have this split sensation of repulsion due to the incredible amounts of wonnabes it draws and on the other side I feel attraction do to the fact if brings human impulse of "abstraction" into concrete (somebody would comments simply "cause art is the only important thing in this life"). Labelle is not a wonnabe and beyond the fact I'm not equipped (and not interested) to give a critical opinion or a stupid mark to his oeuvres, I think he's doing a great work 'cause in someway some of his efforts are going deep into interiority.

ALFREDO COSTA MONTEIRO: Épicycle

 Posted by Eugenio Maggi (@)   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Dec 08 2008
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Artist: ALFREDO COSTA MONTEIRO
Title: Épicycle
Format: CD
Label: Etude Records
Rated: *****
One of the most interesting radical improvisers of today's leftfield music, Alfredo Costa Monteiro has performed both as a soloist and as a member of duos and collectives (I Treni Inerti, Cremaster) playing accordeon, turntables and mixers in an unconventional way to say the least. Lately, though, his solo releases have shown an interest in digital manipulation and, my guess, more "composed" forms of mixing. "Épicycle" is a remarkable one-track work, clocking in at 37'37", where Costa Monteiro digitally alters samples of his own voice creating a frightening landscape. An ethereal drone is interrupted by abrupt granulated screams, as if black metal yells were processed by Peter Rehberg in the worst of his moods. The bathysphere of subdued frequencies is slashed and disfigured by layers of bestial laments, and words are slowed down to undeciphrable rumblings. If Henri Chopin's sound poems were turned into black mass summonings, they would probably sound like this. Play loud and never stop the madness.

FOSSILS: Waterboarding

 Posted by Eugenio Maggi (@)   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Dec 08 2008
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Artist: FOSSILS
Title: Waterboarding
Format: CD
Label: Unverified Records
Rated: *****
Hmmmm, my first exposure to Canadian weirdos Fossils and I must admit it's not really a memorable one. Seven tracks, 31 minutes of mostly outdoor recordings drenched in tape hiss. Some screech here, some loose string plucking there. If I'm not mistaken, there's also some dog barking, looped or collaged, which I've found enjoyable (barks on tape are always a must). But seriously, being a country guy, why would I ever want to listen to this again. This is a lo-fi aesthetic that I just don't get.


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