Music Reviews

Andrew Pekler: Tristes Tropiques

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Jan 16 2017
Artist: Andrew Pekler (@)
Title: Tristes Tropiques
Format: LP
Label: Faitiche (@)
Rated: *****
One of those artists I appreciated a lot when they started their discography that I had no news about is Andrew Pekler. I admit I still like listening to its debut "Station To Station" (2002), the debut he signed for ~scape, the label by Stefan Beltke (better known as Pole) through which my ears firstly met Jan Jelinek's sound as well. It's pretty nice to see Andrew's return on Jan's imprint Faitiche many years after I got reached by their sonorities almost at the same time, even if Andrew's signature for Faitiche already appeared as the director of "Sonne = Blackbox", the amazing collection of stuff by Ursula Bogner, an unknown German pharmacist, musician and housewife, whose fantastic music was published posthumously after Jan met his son by chance (don't understate a John Doe delivering your letters or the flyers of some poisoning new BBQ or pizza parlors, as you should expect the unexpected by pretty unknown people...). An explanatory interview to Andrew by Jan got attached to the introduction and within the booklet of this release, whose main interesting aspect is the way by which Andrew declensed the concept of 'exotica' - an 'umbrella' label to define the style that begun spreading in the late 50ies by the integration of exotic elements, which was mostly related to that "ersatz tropicalism" that persuaded many composers to combine lush orchestration and instruments from Far East, Oceania, Polynesia or Hawaii. A quotation by French anthropologist and structuralist philosopher Claude Levi-Strauss's 'Tristes tropiques' - a multidisciplinary essay/memoir, embodying the 'detached vision' of tropical places (mostly Brasil in this travelogue) by an anthropologist searching connection between seemingly distant cultures - is the framework of Andrew's sonic artifact: "For mile after mile the same melodic phrase rose up in my memory. I simply couldn’t get free of it. Each time it had a new fascination for me. Initially imprecise in outline, it seemed to become more and more intricately woven, as if to conceal from the listener how eventually it would end. The weaving and reweaving became so complicated that one wondered how it could be unravelled; and then suddenly one note would resolve the whole problem, and the solution would seem yet more audacious than the procedures which had preceded, called for, and made possible its arrival; when it was heard, all that had gone before took on new meaning, and the quest, which had seemed arbitrary, was seen to have prepared the way for this undreamed-of solution. Was that what travel meant? An exploration of the deserts of memory, rather than those around me?". Andrew seems to push the boundaries of this detachment by a bizarre and very nice choice: besides reviewing the genre by micro-electronic patterns, chirping tunes and sonic hooks that sound tropical, the eight tracks (some of them actually group different tracks together) got often grasped by totally fake field recordings so that it seems to render the funhouse mirror-like artificiality of that exotic distorted vision without substantially altering its inner fascination. In Andrew's words: "As a listener and as a musician, exotica music of the 1950s and 60s has always been a constant reference point and inspiration. And perhaps my listening has been ‘ruined’ by exotica, but as I have dug deeper into ethnographic archives of ‘traditional’ music, I’ve come to the realization that all recordings that evoke, allude to, or ostensibly document other musical forms have a similar effect on my imagination: I am most intrigued when I perceive some coincidentally familiar element within the foreign (a tuned percussion recital from Malawi that immediately brings to mind Steve Reichian minimalism or the Burundian female vocal duet that sounds uncannily like a cut-up tape experiment, etc.). I suppose this album is an attempt to recreate the same kind of listening experience as what I’ve described, just with the electronic means that I have at hand". The "sadness" (if we have to quote album title) of Andrew's tropicalism could be something closer to the awareness of a justifiably depressed clerk after a trip in some 'wild' place after the impact against the common rites of its ordinary "life".

Electric Bird Noise: The Spider..... The Christ Child..... The Crow

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Jan 13 2017
Artist: Electric Bird Noise
Title: The Spider..... The Christ Child..... The Crow
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Silber Records (@)
If I stuck out a press release saying this was an undiscovered 1960’s spin-off created by tripped out off-duty members of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, there’s a strong chance that people would believe me (assuming they didn’t google it).

It’s a warm piece of organic, analogue-feeling but not excessively lo-fi, sinister avantgarde performance, with slow guitar loops at its core. With filmic reverb, uncomfortable drunken flange-like note-twisting and Lygeti-esque sustained choral-ish high notes and some elements played in reverse, it’s a familiar enough set of ingredients but sincerely mixed.

Though split into nine relatively short parts (numbered “twenty seven” to “thirty five”, albeit with the letters reversed), it’s a coherent 33-minute-long work that could be regarded as one piece in nine stanzas; no one piece breaks or challenges the tone. “Thirty one” (sorry, “eno ytriht”) is the most complete standalone piece that develops within itself, many of the others are little more than one evolving loop, but it flows well, especially the heightening tension in the finale “evif ytriht”.

Described in the press release as “discordant chorded minimalist guitar jazz music for art galleries”, I wouldn’t challenge that, especially with the emphasis on discordant.

Amp Studio: Uncertainty Principles

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Jan 12 2017
Artist: Amp Studio
Title: Uncertainty Principles
Format: 2 x CD (double CD)
Label: Ampbase (@)
Rated: *****
It seems that the artwork for this new output by Amp Studio, the solo project by Richard 'AMP' Walker, the leading mind behind the space-rock/electronic rock project AMP - I wouldn't believe if someone will profess a devotional fan of contemporary shoegazing/psychedelic rock stuff like that coming out by bands like Spiritualized, Seefeel, Flying Saucer Attack or even Spaceman 3 without knowing AMP's sound -, got created by processes aimed to produce random images. In reality, it vaguely reminded me the cover artwork of 'Astral Moon Beam Projections', AMP's second album (featuring the hypnotical singing by Karine Charff and the drumming by Gareth Mitchell), a fantastic set of sort of space rock ballad, which was heavily influenced by Texan post-ambient, some codeine-like sounding psychedelic rock and some well-known reveries by My Bloody Valentine and Cocteau Twins. I am not so sure if such similarity was intentional or not, but many moments of this output by Richard reminded that feeling of confused bliss, inspired by or inspiring the above-mentioned album. The title 'Uncertainty Principles' is a dedication to that kind of unexpected beauty, coming from casual or complex processes that musicians can find out during long studio sessions - something similar to those scientific or medical breakthrough that happened and keep on happening by accident! -. The idea of assembling this album came after an unexpected request for a copy of "Tiller" - lovely ambient track that sounds one of the best choices to stare at northern lights -, a track included as a tail of the first lp/cd in 'Uncertainty Principles', and the subsequent research of the master where it was stored. Richard himself thought that some of the findings in that archive - including the chillingly borderline ambient of "Slip", the enchanting balance of "Misstype Dolittle" (a track whose sound vaguely reminds some moments of the above-mentioned 'Astral Moon Beam Projections') and the evocative "Sleep City Drone", one of that kind of tune fitting a nocturnal riding over the desert streets of a metropolis in wintertime - deserved a new life. So that he partially reworked and revamped them by adding some interesting new sonic spices, such as the use of an effected typewriter as a percussion in "Misstype Dolittle", the inclusion of noises from urban environments in "Sleep City Drone" or the dilatation of the blissful emotions inspired by "Slip" into different moments ("Sliptwo" and "Photon Sphere"). The randomised sequence of computational bleeps, splashes and electronic gurgling over the nine minutes of "Mort Irritées", an homage to 'musique concrete' and the amazing work by Pierre Henry, who can be considered the firestarter of that branch of electroacoustic music, is considerably different from other tracks of "Uncertainty Principles". "Uncertainly Alive" - the transcript version of a live performance that Richard made in Bethnal Green, East London under invitation -, the track that takes most of the second part of the album (it lasts more than half an hour), is one of the more exciting moments of the whole album: the first part reminds me something in between one of the earlier lucid raving by Edward Ka-Spel, an elemental evocation (as well as some of the highest lyrical peaks) by the well-known stalker (both in Tarkovskij's movie and Strugackij bros' novel) and a whispered prophecy in the middle of more or less ethereal sonic streams and icy blows, before it turns into a sort of self-exorcism or forced catharsis following the transmutation fo this sonic set into something closer to the mechanical cycles of a washing machine. The piano-driven final track "Flashbacks" got matched to a possible landfall following a situationist "derive".

Steinebach: Zeit

 Posted by Andrea Piran (@)   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Jan 06 2017
Artist: Steinebach (@)
Title: Zeit
Format: CD
Label: attenuation circuit (@)
Rated: *****
There's few informations about this project despite the fact that Martin Steineback is credited of a considerable discography on Discogs with his aliases, and this is a symptom of the amount of good releases ignored in times where the criterion of the choice of album to review is not clear. The framework of this release is based on two distinct elements: tones generators, probably oscillators, and noise generators, probably guitar with a process similar to the first Merzbow's release and the result is relevant as it creates movements with elements associated with stasis.
The track start quietly with a metallic drone whose resonances generates noisy tones; suddenly a noise, or a guitar, is juxtaposed but it stops to permit the development of the musical material as the juxtaposition of drones which slowly develop with an alternation of quiet moments and noisy ones. However, when it seems that it should last until the end of the track, a pulsating sinewave introduces a section of the track closer to a certain minimalism based on tone generators if the noise insertions did not create a twist in the expectations. In the second half of the track, the introduction of voices, heavily distorted, generates another level of variation with even some samples until the return of the basic elements of the track conducts the listener towards the end of the track.
This is that sort of release which sound simple at the writing level but with the minimum of the means develops a remarkable ends and will stay in the player for a long time. Recommended for minimalism's fans.

Orphax: As Yet Untitled

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Dec 29 2016
Artist: Orphax (@)
Title: As Yet Untitled
Format: Tape
Label: Silken Tofu
Rated: *****
A distorted electric buzz, which wraps what the typical noise of the needle on a vinyl when it reaches the last empty track, opens "Not Yet Titled", the first sidelong suite of this release by Sietse van Erve aka Orphax, coming as a dedication to Jos Smolders, as it seems it got 'based on recordings made for a never finished project for Jos Smolders in 2014'. The voltage of this 19 minutes lasting track gets higher and higher, when Orphax - almost immediately - adds spirals of thrilling sounds, which are close to the ones that many soundtracks use to highlight some frightening peak in a horror movie, and make them gurgling together with other subtle elements and a sinisterly squeaking whisper, which becomes clearly listenable some minutes before the end of the track, as if all of them turn into recipes of a highly corrosive acid soup. The soup I've just imagined could have been fatally mainlined by the organist, who fictitiously opens the title track "As Yet Untitled" by letting collapse his head on the keyboard: well-trained listeners will grab slight tonal variations over its twenty minutes as well as its resemblance to many outputs by Phil Niblock, the composer to them Orphax dedicated this somehow entrancing suite. If you listen to Niblock's "Hurdy Hurry" for instance, "As Yet Titled" could sound like its "phonocopy", rendered by means of gradually piercing higher tones, squeezed by what looks like a processed organ gradually turn to a sort of processed guitar - I could imagine Orphax prerecorded a processed organ and a processed guitar and slowly turning a fader knob to complete such a sonic migration -.

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