Music Reviews

15 Degrees Below Zero: New Travel

 Posted by Michael Grillo   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Apr 24 2008
Artist: 15 Degrees Below Zero (@)
Title: New Travel
Format: CD
Label: Edgetone Records (@)
Distributor: Independent Online Distrubution Alliance
Rated: *****
15 Degrees Below’s recent release "New Travel" is an attempt at a neo-musique concrete sound that is built upon sampled sounds and melodies that are chopped up and reconfigured into a collection of cinematic soundscapes. While the album is very well produced and has an exceptionally good sound quality, it doesn’t really grab or excite you in any way. The problem with this record is that it is simply "typical experimental music." While this phrase may sound like somewhat of an oxymoron in that the goal of experimental music is to be untypical, what I mean here is that in the thirty years that have passed since artists started producing this type of cut and paste music a number of trademark elements have developed that are frequently used and have become synonymous with the genre such as chopped up improve guitar patterns, the random placement of electronic sounds and feedback, and distorted free jazz and lounge samples, all of which this album has. For example, the tracks "Circumference" and "Sunday Drive" for most part sounds like every song that Fred Frith has ever recorded. Though to give credit where it is due there are a few promising tracks on the album such as "Westward," which blends country western style guitar playing with a simplisitc ambient background and "Untitled Tube" which uses distorted guitar sounding samples and subdued ambient synths to a create a mood of hopelessness. These two tracks are the shining stars of "New Travel" in that they achieve something that many experimental artists can not, which is using unconventional methods to create music that stirs the emotions. If the whole album went in this direction it would have been something special, but unfortunately it did not and was thus dull and does not really offer much that has not already been done before and beaten to death by most experimental artists, which is a shame given that there is definitely the potential to do so.

WARREN BURT: The Animation of Lists And the Archytan Transpositions

 Posted by Andrea Ferraris (@)   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Apr 23 2008
Title: The Animation of Lists And the Archytan Transpositions
Format: 2 x CD (double CD)
Label: Xi records (@)
Rated: *****
Ever heard speaking about music that’s "out of time"? If so, that’s the definition that came to my mind when I started having a clear perception of the audio-portrait painted by people like Scelsi, Ligeti or Feldman... and as you’ve probably guessed, the compositions of Warren Burt gave me the same vibe. The sound is really close to that of a glockenspiel much more than a vibraphone, but from what I’ve read in the line notes the work has been played with self-built "just-intonation tuning forks", it has been multi-tracked and later transposed with a computer. It looks like the idea of the first composition is linked to an old collaboration of Burt with Phill Niblock and recorded in three passes. A review would be too short and maybe inappropriate to add further technical details about the work, but the work behind this cd is really complex, above all for an ignorant listener/player like me. "I wish this complex two-part sonic object will provide the listener with many opportunities for contemplation and enjoyment"... for what concern contemplation, I can guarantee this music creates a deep and meditative atmosphere, but I seriously doubt "The Animation of Lists And the Archytan Transpositions" will generate something even barely comparable to "enjoyment". Thanks to an incredible sound definition and to the unique voice of his self-built instrument, Warren Burt floods the room with the resonance of every played note. What really add beauty to an already wonderful release is the tempo used by the composer, his quiet playing, his patiently waiting for the appropriate moment to go for the next note: all these things together generate an incredible acoustical dimension. The fact is that the impression everything is moving so slowly it is barely still is probably wrong since the succession of notes is not that sluggish but the impression I got is that during the listening inside the room everything is moving slowly. Burt plays the soundtrack for abandoned buildings where light and dust are the only tenants... it looks like an old black and white photo crystallizing a face forever. This’ an evocative work that in some way also reminded me of some of the best Cage’s works for prepared piano, if not acoustically at least for the odd ambience in which you get absorbed during the listening. It’s really hard to describe the intensity of this cd with a stupid review, but please do yourself a favor give it a listen.

Thick Wisps: (self-titled)

 Posted by Perry Bathous   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Apr 17 2008
Artist: Thick Wisps (@)
Title: (self-titled)
Format: CD
Rated: *****
Earnest cut-up noise collage artistes Thick Wisps' debut CD has a lot going for it in terms of texture and stylistic range, although a bit undefined around the edges as to both composition and performance. The music itself is an all-instrumental, arrhythmic atonal wash of static drones, hums, random clicks and pops, and arcs of flanger and phaser sweeps that bespeak the infrastructural howls and rumblings of the innards of New York, and particularly Brooklyn, where this duo, made up of Giancarlo Bracchi and Juan Matos, is based.

The first and last of the seven tracks, the long "Organ Acumulator" [sic] and "Deluvio," were recorded "live" in-studio, without editing, which is a virtue any way you slice it in this ProTooled day and age. Overall a good first effort not yet up to the kind of gritty, witty electronic nihilism that the Wisps' New York predecessors Suicide were first known for, but then again why should everyone be required to even keep a beat (or have a "singer") in the first place? Put this on to hear the roar of a thousand long-gone Manhattan basement furnaces, or feel the inter-borough subway trains cut across your mind's eye.

Suspicion Breeds Confidence: The Fauna and Flora of the Vatican City

 Posted by eskaton   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Apr 17 2008
Artist: Suspicion Breeds Confidence (@)
Title: The Fauna and Flora of the Vatican City
Format: CD
Label: Gruenrekorder (@)
Rated: *****
First, a bit of self-disclosure. I have been familiar with Suspicion Breeds Confidence since he sent me a track for the Zaftig Research Christmas Compilation "Let it Snow!" back in 1999. I have followed his project ever since. Thus, I came at this disc with some anticipation and Schmitt does not disappoint. First, the obligatory comparisons. The card that came with the disc compares Suspicion Breeds Confidence to "Aphex Twin meets Mouse on Mars." The main ones that come to my mind are a more electronic version of Zoviet France’s "Loh Land," Rothkamm’s "Astronaut of Inner Space," and some of Coil’s older glitchier work.

This is a glitch-tastic album. Cut up field recordings meld with analogue bleeps and slightly broken beats with everything layered on top of a barely perceptible wash of drone. But this is not simply cut up music along the lines of Hafler Trio’s "Bang! An Open Letter." Rather, this disc seems intricately crafted and carefully constructed to get just the right bit in the right place like a sonic jigsaw puzzle. Plus, you have to love song titles like "Her Delicacy Shivered At The Absent Summer," "While Admiring The Quality Of Other People’s Lives They Probably Do Not Deserve," and "A Million Birds Should Know Something About Modesty." Of course, like most experimental albums, the song titles seem to have little to do with the content of the track itself.

This disc has a definite sense of unity. The only track that didn’t really work for me was "El Hipopótamo Crujiente." It became a bit too repetitive in tone, seeming to work mainly as an exercise in rhythm. Perhaps the standout track for me is "Willkommen Im Schachclub Plankton 2 (Kleiderordnung)" with its distorted voices and overall weirdness that sounds like circuit bending in your dreams.

If you have ever thought that there needs to be an experimental disc for beginners, this may be exactly what you are looking for. This is one of the more accessible experimental discs that I have heard in a while. That does not mean that it lacks in complexity, only that it is a bit less in your face in its weirdness. This disc weighs in at 75 minutes and is limited to 500 copies.

VV.AA.: The Best Of Polish Smooth Jazz... Ever!

 Posted by Maurizio Pustianaz (@)   Techno / Trance / Goa / Drum'n'Bass / Jungle / Tribal / Trip-Hop
Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Apr 17 2008
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Artist: VV.AA.
Title: The Best Of Polish Smooth Jazz... Ever!
Format: CD
Label: Recycling Records (@)
Rated: *****
Recycling Records with THE BEST OF POLISH SMOOTH JAZZ... EVER! succeed into making a fresh hoax which actually doesn't sound like a joke. Presented as the best of Polish music (you can see different bands and singers on the CD cover) the album contains experimental electronic cut-ups of Polish music performed by unknown people. This sort of operation remember me what Negativland did (do you remember the sue they received by U2 for using one of their songs?): the original tunes are raped, reduced to the bone and like a phoenix they are able to born to a new life. Probably a better one judging by the photos of the original performers. Musically the tracks have a structure and a sense, for sure they do sound experimental but not too much compared to id.m. music. Maybe they are more accessible and fresh compared to some i.d.m. release. Loops and samples are creatively irreverent but they do sound great! If you want to try it, the album is also available as free download directly from the label's website thanks to their choice to embrace the Creative Commons rights. Unfortunately you won't be able to see the video of the AjB.M. track (which is only available on its integrity there) which has been created following the same technique used for the tracks: cut-ups of the video of the original song re-worked with porn inserts of what I think could be a "stolen video" of the female singer of the original band.

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