Music Reviews

Strotter Inst.: Miszellen

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Mar 29 2017
Artist: Strotter Inst.
Title: Miszellen
Format: 2 x 12" vinyl
Label: Hallow Ground
As Strotter Inst., Christoph Hess plays with the mechanics of turntables as a physical instrument, rather than a record player. For almost two decades he has avoided using other people’s records, except when asked to do remixes. With “Miszellen” there’s a change of heart- he decides to take stems and elements from others, from artists that theoretically have influenced him over time, and warp and abuse them in a variety of ways.

Every track bears the name of an artist whom Strotter Inst. is paying tribute to, or heavily borrowing from, depending on how you look at it, but with the letters ordered alphabetically. This includes Asmus Tietchens, Nurse With Wound, and Tasaday. This inadvertently turns it into a bit of an alternative music quiz- “AABDMORRS”, anyone? How about “GIILLMSS U”?

While as a concept this might suggest that “Miszellen” is raw, sharp and analogue, the result is certainly none of those things. The raw ingredients are, as far as it’s possible to tell (they’re not credited), sourced from music concrete and avantgarde classical sources, along with electronic drones where it’s hard to tell whether they’re being played in, or whether they’re Strotter Inst originals.

Understandably, with such a variety of sources, the net result sits somewhere where several labels, though none of them would stick totally comfortably. There are dark industrial synthwave elements, there’s drone, there’s noise and found sound, there’s aspects of super-slow techno and more. The predominant mood is tense and ominous and there’s a lot of prevailing space.

There’s 70 minutes of material here, giving plenty of time for tracks like “ACEEH IMNSSSTTU” to swell into extensive filmic soundscapes of slowly pulsing bass notes with building, distant drumming. “DEHIN NOR STUUWW” is an accomplished piece of many parts and is at times reminiscent of Jimmy Cauty’s “Space” project but with an overriding sense of being further away. “146DP” and final track “ARLTU” both begin as a simple piano patterns which are then wrapped and then smothered in glitched electronic noise. “EFOSTU” features ambiguous vocal noises, while on “ÄDEKL” there’s the rare appearance of a discernible vocal sample, with a strangely cowboy swagger to it.

There’s a good balance between consistency and variety here, and it’s generally hard to distinguish where the original material ends and Strotter Inst.’s reworkings begin, which is a good sign. It perhaps never truly shines as a work that’s either attention-grabbing or beautiful but it’s a very coherent body of work that’s got some distinct character.

Luc Ferrari: Hétérozygote / Petite symphonie…

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Mar 27 2017
Artist: Luc Ferrari
Title: Hétérozygote / Petite symphonie…
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Editions Mego
While ChainDLK more commonly receives reworkings and new recordings of modern classical pieces, this is an old-fashioned re-issue, by Editions Mego under their re-issues sub-label “Recollection GRM”. These are original recordings, one from the Sixties, one from the Seventies, carefully remastered and re-released. The mastering is exemplary- you could believe that this was a completely fresh recording. While this isn’t the first time these tracks have been reissued (they were released on CD in 2005), they have been freshened up here.

The A-side “Hétérozygote” is from 1963-64 and is from the very cutting edge of contemporary music concrete. Amid the 26 minute sequence are a fairly large number of scenes and interludes, individual ideas and elements that have been sequenced but rarely overlaid. There’s everyday found sound, woodland walk ambiences and light office machinery noises, there’s cut-up theatrical vocal snippets with their meaning stripped, there’s microphone and tape trickery. There’s distant traffic noises (that may be aeroplanes) making a sonic wash that resembles a single wave on a beach, sounding so processed that it’s hard to believe it’s not been put through modern digital filters. Some elements may in 2017 seem like avantgarde cliché but it’s works like Ferrari’s that allowed us to reach this place. The staged and dramatic staccato mini-drama of the vocal elements is, if I can say this, ‘very French’ for the time and reminds me of some Pierre Henry works.

“Petite symphonie intuitive pour un paysage de printemps”, recorded ten years later is a rather different beast. It opens with extensively layered pure sustained flute tones, lilting and echoing like birdsong. Unlike the first track, there are no abrupt halts and gearshifts here, but instead, very slowly, other elements are introduced. There’s a long snippet of a French interview (sadly my French is not up to knowing what it’s about), there are odd grasshopper noises and some metallic tubular tones. In the second half the pace lifts, flute playing is a little more frantic and something akin to more ethnic percussive instrumentation can also be heard. Overall it’s a much, much softer listening experience, less theatrical, more of a landscape.

This release is without doubt worth of the careful remastering that’s been applied and people exploring the development of avantgarde music should make this one of the stops on their journey. Completists may have preferred tracklistings faithful to the contemporary LP’s- this is essentially the first side of each of two separate LP’s stuck together- but as a bit of distilled history, it still works.

Zos Kia / Coil: Transparent

 Posted by Andrea Piran (@)   Industrial Noise / Power Noise / Harsh Noise
Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Mar 26 2017
Artist: Zos Kia / Coil
Title: Transparent
Format: CD
Label: Cold Spring (@)
Rated: *****
Now considered as almost a piece of history, "Transparent" documents the first steps of this project as Zos Kia coexisted with Coil as John Balance was a member of both projects and Peter Christopherson was a guest of Zos Kia. The two bands performed together and some critics hinted at this cassette as the first release by Coil arguing that Zos Kia has the same relationship with Coil than eLph i.e., a way to explore slightly different territories by the same band. As Balance and Christopherson were still members of Psychic TV, this material is on the path of the first industrial music where a great part of the work was in research of something which was somewhat disturbing.
The first part of this release, credited to Zos Kia, features the voice of Alisteir Crowley in "Sicktone", the screams of Min in "Poisons" and the voice of Charles Manson in "Truth" as a mean to create an uncomfortable setting as they evidently aim to confront the audience with the deepest fears of our culture. While this first side of the record has is rooted in a noisy musical framework, the second side, credited to Zos Kia / Coil, marks a change of direction as "Sewn Open" is based on the drones that will be the skeleton of the Coil's first releases and the subsequent track more or less continue in this path, denoting a greater attention to sound details with the field recording of Silence and Secrecy (Section) and the loops of "Stealing The Words" until, in "On Balance", there's the introduction of drum and a clean audio that sounds as the introduction to "Scatology".
This reissue features also two bonus tracks credited to Ake which was the project prior to Zos Kia featuring Min Kent, John Gosling, and Matt Cope: "No Mas" and "Rape Live @ Equinox" whose musical framework is based on the impact of noise and the hypnotic voice of Min.
The history of Coil is so important to be a key element in the judgment of this release so now this music represents the first attempts to remove shock tactics from industrial music moving towards more complex musical settlement. History.

Lawrence English: Cruel Optimism

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Mar 26 2017
Artist: Lawrence English (@)
Title: Cruel Optimism
Format: LP
Label: Room40
Rated: *****
This new impressive release by Lawrence English immediately barges into listeners' mind through a sort of thud and magnetic lapping on the initial "Hard Rain", rendering a magnetic and somehow urgent sense of pensive tragedy, which manages to push them in the meditative pool, inspiring the whole release. Named after the title of an essay by American theorist Lauren Berlant (it also inspired "Cruel Optimist", a song by Brooklyn-based melodic punk band Worriers, led by songwriter, singer and feminist Lauren Denitzio, but I preferred the sonic language chosen by Lawrence to a part of the content of that essay), the sparkle of the inspiration, enflaming "Cruel Optimism", was a reflection about the (consuming, augmenting and shaping) effects of power on two related aspects of human conditions, obsession and fragility. Unlike the screaming of liberation yelled by the above-mentioned punk band, which was almost concomitant to the publishing of that essay, the more concerned halo mantling the ten tracks of Lawrence's output sound more anchored to the somehow unexpected pronouncement of contemporary human history. The connection between the surrounding meditation behind this album and Berlant's essay got explained by the author as follows: "In Cruel Optimism, I found some critical readings around the issues that have fuelled so much of the music I have been making recently. Beyond her keen analysis of the relations of attachment as they pertain to conditions of possibility in the everyday, it was particularly her writing around trauma I found deeply affecting. It was a jumping off point from which a plague of unsettling impressions of suffering, intolerance and ignorance could be unpacked and utilised as fuel over and above pointless frustration.". Most of the ten flowing movements are drones built on elongated voice-like choirs, intensely fluttering single tones, subtle chimes, muffled thundering hits, reaching the apex on tracks where Lawrence dramatise the previously described sense of tragedy by banging hits such as "Hammering a Screw" or the majestic "Object of Projection". During the listening, your mind could land on some of the contemporary historical events and the subsequent thoughts related to them that partially inspired Lawrence himself - he mainly quoted the new wave of humanitarian and refugee crisis as well as the emblematic photo of that tiny body on the shore by Alan Kurdi, the striking drones in many parts of the planet, the black lives matter movement, the use of sonic weapòons against civilians, Us and Uk recent elections, the serpentine return of racism and sexism -, but "Cruel Optimism" is also "an encouragement to press forward towards more profound futures" in Lawrence's words. Someone could ask if such a kind of "functional" album are really necessary and maybe such a feedback could make sense. Decades ago. Nowadays the situation is so concerning that some ways (or sonic protests, if you prefer to consider in a different way) of escaping from the lobotomizing musical mainstream are somehow necessary.

F.ormal L.ogic D.ecay: Origamystical

 Posted by Andrea Piran (@)   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Mar 25 2017
Artist: F.ormal L.ogic D.ecay
Title: Origamystical
Format: CD
Label: Beyond... Productions
Rated: *****
This new release form the Luigi Maria Mennella's project is not the proper follow up of "His Master's Void" but the reworking of a release which was completed but never published, so it sounds as a return to form in respect to the pop transgression of his predecessor. The album is inspired by the Japanese idea that the act of writing is a sort of ritual and it's mostly based on the relationship between words, which is what is written on the paper, and noise, which is the sound of the pencil.
After the first seconds of silence, but the headphones reveal that is a background noise perhaps obtained by a pen on a paper, the static fields of sounds of " - First Step" introduce a listener toward a soundscape, where small noises emerge as if part of the track was obtained with field recordings, which evolve, in " - Introspection", in a sort of drone introducing the second part of the track based on hypnotic lines of synth. The voice of " - Second Step" reveals the inspiration from the ancient rituals as, in a sort of contraposition with the noises in the background, it's harmonic in his development and in " - Contemplation", where it's on the background as it were recorded at a certain distance and has the repetitiveness of religious ceremonies, is used as an instrument rather as a mean to convey a message while in " - Third Step" there's a return to a spiritual message in the spoken words. The synths of " - Meditation" mark a return to territories closer to Kosmische Musik while " - Fourth Step" is the final part of the path taken so the voices are even more distant and reverberated so, in " - Abandonment", they were overwhelmed by the synth as if a fog obscures a voyager from a viewer's eye.
The main quality of this release is the ability to develop a personal language from a palette of sound where the author's influences are clearly audible, so this music sounds as a recording of a ritual rather to be a collection of sounds presented as a ritual. Recommended for fans of dark ambient or ritual music.

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