Music Reviews

Etron Fou Leloublan: Les Sillons de la Terre

 Posted by Perry Bathous   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
 Edit (1943)
May 24 2005
Artist: Etron Fou Leloublan
Title: Les Sillons de la Terre
Format: CD
Label: Musea Records (@)
Rated: *****
Avant-jazz quartet Etron Fou Leloublan seem to represent a legacy of sorts. Apparently part of a movement called "Rock In Opposition" (RIO), EFL existed and toured extensively in the United States and all over Europe in the early 1980s. This CD, Les Sillons de la Terre ("The Furrows of the Earth") is the re-release of their penultimate recording in 1983. The band had swapped talent among the likes of Fred Frith, who produced their prior album, Les Poumons Gonflés. I don't think it would be at all a stretch to say that EFL utlimately came to serve as a bridge from classic French pop and film music of the 1960s and '70s to the neo-retro-lounge stylings of Stereolab and Air. As far as I can tell, the avant scene they came from may not have been an isolated occurrence in recent musical history. Les Sillons sounds like genuine black-beret-wearing-existential-poetry-reading music, folks, and about half of the songs contain poetic platitudes loudly intoned all in French by either Ferdinand Richard (bass), Jo Thirion (piano and organ), or Guigou Chenevier (drums and tenor sax), in place of lyrics per se. Whether the songs be about a bathroom sink, people from Alsace, or Guigou's childhood, they are a fun opportunity to dust off that French dictionary you haven't used since high school. This provocatively upbeat recording would also go perfectly well with a trip to the beach with a bottle of your favorite cabernet, or perhaps a round of the Milles Bournes card game with your postmodernist philosopher buddies. Oui, I say.

STEVE PETERS: From shelter

 Posted by Eugenio Maggi (@)   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
 Edit (1938)
May 20 2005
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Title: From shelter
Format: CD EP
Label: Cold Blue Music
Rated: *****
Though I'm awfully late at reviewing it, this excellent work was the final one in the first series of eps from Cold Blue, and possibly it was not a casual choice - if Jim Fox's "The city the wind swept away" evoked departure and long goodbyes, Peters' four-track cd is like an embrace - like finding a shelter, indeed, or being warmed by recollections. Originally written in 1997 for Lane Lucas' dance and theater work "Shelter", it features "Three short stories" where Alicia Ultan's multiple violas recordings create slowly drifting textures, while in "My burning skin to sleep" Peters' sparse piano touches and Marghreta Cordero's painfully beautiful vocals lull you to a state of suspension and wonder. In his long career, the composer has used very different idioms and means (from Gamelan to field recordings to found objects to installations), but maybe this represents his art at its most intimate.

Emily Hay: Like Minds

 Posted by Perry Bathous   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
 Edit (1926)
May 17 2005
Artist: Emily Hay
Title: Like Minds
Format: CD
Label: pfMENTUM
Rated: *****
For most new listeners of experimental music that is classical in instrumentation and structure, Emily Hay is like no other artist you have ever heard before. Her new CD, Like Minds, is a tour de force of voice and flute laid over percussion and a small orchestra of instruments ranging from bass to brass and woodwinds to "electronics" and "field recordings." When I say "voice," by the way, I mean that she uses her voice purely as an instrument: animal growls, yelps and clacks, baby talk, gutteral rumblings and other utterances, occasionally followed by classical operatic passages to temper the mix. Now, it's quite a lot to get used to, and it's by no means your typical EBM thud, but it's serious avant-modern-classical music made FUN, okay? Just listen: the opener, "Call to Unarm," evokes a primitive, deep jungle-y atmosphere. The aforementioned percussion and flute take center stage, while her vocals only subtly jut out of the mostly free-form musical tapestry. But her singing jumps out into full prominence on track number 6, "We Are"--pre-verbal, glossolalic vocalizing, sung rhythmically and staccatto to the instrumentation. On "Waiting for Sara," track 10, her vocals even sound sexual--especially if you expand that particular thought balloon to include feline as well as human interplay. Track number 8, "Wha' 'Bout," features cool background samples--a hint of machinery shadowing the acoustic drumming. The second and last tracks have (respectively) my favorite tonal and chordal structures on the disc: "Liturgy of Sound" is echoey and dreary, and "Swamp Moss" is simply bluesy, with hypnotic, droning guitar twang.

The tracks for Like Minds were recorded all over southern California between 1994 and last year, in both live and studio situations. I, who also live here in La-La land, am starting to wonder what could possibly have kept me from attending an Emily Hay performance, aside from sheer obliviousness to my surroundings. And on top of all that talent, she's a high-flying music law professional who could pass for your average So. Cal. surf babe (blonde and pretty, that is.) Anyone who can't dig such an unbeatable combination doesn't know what the word "fun" means.

Jerry Colburn: Smell the Love

 Posted by Perry Bathous   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
 Edit (1918)
May 10 2005
Artist: Jerry Colburn
Title: Smell the Love
Format: CD
Label: Strip Mall of Sound (@)
Rated: *****
A self-produced and -released solo artist out of North Little Rock, Arkansas, Jerry Colburn provides many moments of brilliance with "Smell the Love", a CD of instrumental passages and interludes. Contrary to the title's riff on Spinal Tap, most of what you hear are two- to three-minute instrumental programmed drum loops that have a sort of hip-hop feel, festooned with Rhodes piano and organ sounds, and flavored with acoustic guitar and varied percussion. Although various influences are mentioned in his description sheet, to me this release is a lot more closely related to DJ Shadow than to Esquivel. The tones and textures are too diverse to pin him down, anyhow: mathematically idiotic chord progressions that somehow make perfect sense, passages which draw you into the plot of some intriguing movie even though all you have is its soundtrack. The music almost doesn't want to be taken seriously, but I insist it really is good, if you hear it through a good enough stereo and speakers (or headphones). Indeed, though, with song titles like "Buzzy the Squirrel", "Evening in Newark", "Shellfish Bop", and "Dildo Baggage Car", it's hard to keep a straight face, but that's probably Colburn's intent. And it seems that Mr. Colburn was a longtime drummer for punk, garage and improv bands, gigging all over his home state, until now deciding to move into the wonderful world of Experimental Electronica. Welcome, Jerry. (Although I have to dock half a star for the baby picture.)


 Posted by Eugenio Maggi (@)   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
 Edit (1911)
May 08 2005
Title: Broken Vessels
Format: CD
Label: Mystery Sea
Distributor: Drone, Self Abuse
Rated: *****
Third release from Canadian soundmaker Mathieu Ruhlmann (after a cdr on S'Agita and a 3" ep on Ta'lem), "Broken Vessels" is a sombre, nocturnal soundscape which manages to achieve what many electroacoustic or ambient works lack, i.e. an emotional/psychic grasp on the listener. Based on the manipulation of a flow of natural recordings (possibly only water), the three tracks gurgle, scrape and echo throughout, depicting barren underwater territories and conveying the distressing feel of being stuck in the belly of an adrift submarine. What lacks in terms of variation - as all tracks are quite similar in their strategies - is easily made up for by the genuinely nightmarish listening experience. This is one of those (actually few) ambient records that you have to resist and eventually surrender to to fully appreciate them - and surely one of the darkest interpretations of Mystery Sea's night-drone concept.

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