Music Reviews

Jean-Luc Gionnet & Daichi Yoshikawa: Intervivos

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Feb 03 2018
Artist: Jean-Luc Gionnet & Daichi Yoshikawa
Title: Intervivos
Format: LP
Label: Empty Editions
“Intervivos” is a collaboration, bordering on a collision, between Gionnet’s impulsive alto saxophone improvisations and Yoshikawa’s instant feedback, resampling, sustained and electronic reprocessing.

It’s a fierce and raw-edged affair in which high screeching tones and dischords are stretched, mangled and tortured. Long notes end in abrupt flurries of playing interspersed with silences and subtle drone sections built to throw the intentional awkwardness of the arrangements into sharp relief. Impulsive light percussive sounds are sprinkled lightly around to offer a form of counterpoint to the impossibly long sax breaths, sometimes looping and retriggering into an imitation of rhythm.

Across four pieces that are numbered not named, and across 44 minutes, there are plenty of truly nails-down-a-blackboard moments- but it’s not entirely relentless. The latter sections of piece 1 develop a form of slowly evolving suspense where a sudden change of base note feels like real drama. In piece 4 there are sections that are sparser and feel like more traditional avantgarde jazz (accepting that contradiction in terms), deeper and strangely warmer notes- twelve minutes in being a dynamic highlight.

For the most part though this is a seriously challenging wall of noise to befuddle and overwhelm you. Wallow in it and get transported to very strange mental places indeed, or listen to it without concentrating and think “to be honest that just hurts my ears”.

VV.AA.: Rebuilding l'Alt Empordà

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Jan 31 2018
Artist: VV.AA.
Title: Rebuilding l'Alt Empordà
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Störung
The Störung label, with strong links to Catalonia, have gathered together twenty original pieces of sound art from different artists into a charity record from which all proceeds will go to causes in the area of Alt Empordà that was hit by a tornado on January 7th this year. Over two hours of high quality electronic experimental soundscaping, for a worthwhile charity? What’s not to like? Why bother with the rest of the review, just buy the thing already!

Should you require further convincing, here we go. There’s a wide variety of artists here- mostly pan-European but some from further afield- contributing mostly arhythmic layering of distinct artificial sounds ranging from all shades of noise, to processed synthetic waves and strains, with smatterings of long chord pads and the occasional arpeggio loop to taste. Most pieces run between five and ten minutes, with just a couple of exceptions on other side, and the dynamics are generally kept flat and near-ambient so as to create coherent otherworldly atmospheres rather than any particular surprises.

Highlights include the all-too-short and tantalising complex recipe served up my Mise_en_scene, and the quite full-on thirteen-minute arrangement from the Pink Twins with its broadly early 90’s trance flavours, and the predictably excellent combination of heartbeat-like pulses and melancholic sort-of-violin notes offered up by Scanner.

Other notable works include the twisted and filtered crowd noises (football I think) bent into an unusual shape by Francisco López, the beautifully minimal analogue pattern-forming from both Federico Monti and Asférico, and the mesmeric sub-bass rumblings provided by Barbara Ellison. The soft resonances of Enrico Coniglio’s piece that wraps up the two-hour experience with a surprisingly warm fuzzy feeling.

What’s interesting about the collection overall is that despite the slight bleakest of the concept, there’s a thread of warmth that runs consistently throughout- a notable absence of dischord or excessive darkness that it might have been so easy for artists to fall into after discussing the concept and the cause.

Regardless of the charity aspect and the speed with which this compilation has been put together, it’s a really splendid two-hour collection showcasing a variety of different sound art with touches of electronica and absolutely worth checking out.

-N: Suggestions

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Jan 30 2018
Artist: -N
Title: Suggestions
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Oqko
Beneath the witty self-referential conceit of theming an EP around a failed Google search for your own work lies a couple of long, raw, heavily glitched and dynamic sonic messes, plus an interlude track. Awkwardness is the name of the game right from the off in first track “Make sure that all words are spelled correctly”, built from feedback, white noise, deep and lo-fi analogue electric interference, and squelching weirdness. There’s no rhythm yet with rapid and unpredictable cutting it’s relentlessly frenetic. At points a sense of pattern briefly appears and it fleetingly has the semblance of extremely distorted techno, but within seconds the craziness returns.

Brief interlude “Try different keywords” is built from the same ingredients but is slightly more measured, in that the noises overlap less and there’s at least a hint of order. “Try more general keywords” starts slightly more plaintively, with drawn out slightly-guitar-ish wailing sounds acting as a form of glue, but eventually we devolve back into a similar melée to the first track, screeching and ear-bending towards the very edges of listenable noise.

It’s an impenetrable sonic wall, custom made for people looking for something challenging.

Michael Bonaventure: Darenth

 Posted by Andrea Piran (@)   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Jan 28 2018
Artist: Michael Bonaventure
Title: Darenth
Format: Tape
Label: Canti Magnetici (@)
Rated: *****
In the liner notes written by the artist himself, Michael Bonaventure describes this release as based on three tone poem i.e., every drone and loops is based on three notes and he makes heavy use of small shifts in alteration to create harmonic movement in an almost static tonal landscape. As usual for him, the only instrument used is the organ of which he shows the malleable sound properties.
Darenth is divided in three parts: the first one is based on relatively loud drones which, instead on lasting for the entity of the track, are interleaved with quiet parts based on pulsating tones whose variation is in the background of the loud parts and so are the line connecting the blocks. The second part is a more canonical drone track slowly developing until some seconds of silence introduces a slow melody which, perhaps for the cultural connotation of the instrumens, has vague sense of mysticism. The third part starts with a static drone slowly evolving in mass, continues with a quiet part with remarkable nuances and has a conclusion with an heavy drone which overwhelms the listener.
As radical in his sound palette as canonical in his sound structure rooted in a certain minimalism, this release is another example of how a language could bring something new while linked to the old. Recommended for fans of minimalism.

Elizabeth Anderson: Trilogie Janus

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Jan 27 2018
Artist: Elizabeth Anderson
Title: Trilogie Janus
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: empreintes DIGITALes
“Trilogue Janus” is a collection of three sonic compilations, each almost exactly ten minutes, and each made up of shorter sonic vignettes collated and contrasted into a soundtrack that’s mostly frenetic- there are fleeting moments of calm due to a reduction in elements but the pace never really lets up fully.

It’s all about the electroacoustics here, with sound structures made out of organic found sounds, electric sparkles, and various shades of noise. Pitches shift and bend across the stereo field, at times almost comically squeaky, at other times almost impenetrably rumbling and deep. It’s rough-hewn at times and definitely reminiscent of some of the more energetic and sinister-sounding moments of the Radiophonic Workshop’s back catalogue, to the extent that with the possible exception of the mastering and the breadth of the EQ, it would be possible to believe that this was recorded over 20 years ago, but it wasn’t.

While each of the three pieces have more than a few elements in common, opener “L’éviel” ends up feeling the most sinister, spending a lot of time in the lower registers, whereas there’s something a little quirker about “Chat noir” and its twisting of higher-pitched bell tones. Of the three pieces, “Neon” has the most sedate sections, with flittering noises that sound like digital birdsong opening up into a bizarre alien parody of an idyllic countryside-meets-beachside environment, though this shatters and rebuilds in a manner more akin to the other tracks after the three minute mark.

“Trilogie Janus” is also, notably, the first empreintes DIGITALes digital-only release. Format purists will slate me for saying so but a release with such dynamics and use of pure tone notes was never ideally suited to analogue formats anyway so personally I welcome the shift.

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