Music Reviews



Oto Hiax: s/t

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Feb 03 2017
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Artist: Oto Hiax
Title: s/t
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Editions Mego
Oto Hiax is the duo of Mark Clifford (Seefeel) and Scott Gordon (Loops Haunt) and their self-titled debut album is twelve modest but tasty slices of sound design, compromising thick layers of warm drones, sustained guitar and synth notes swimming in processing, digital glitches, and mostly percussive found sounds.

Mood-wise it’s a mixed bag. Tracks like opener “Insh” are mellow and comforting, tracks like “Creek” and “Loyal Odes” are sinister and moderately uncomfortable, while in moments like “Dhull” and “Thruft” both options are true at the same time. Almost every track thrives on this juxtaposition, none more so than “Hak” with its urgent fast-retriggering digital pulses playing against its supremely languid sustained guitar notes. It’s as though in this musical duo, simultaneously one is always relaxed while the other mostly panics.

With most tracks coming in under four minutes none of the atmospheres get the chance to be deeply immersive. The deep subbass tones and claustrophobic atmospheres, “Thruft” like being stuck under industrial machinery and “Bearing & Writhe” like being pulled underwater, are chaotic but brief. “Lowlan” has an organic, metallic feel to it that feels like a throwback to improvised avantgarde experiments of the 1960’s.

This is a brief and bold collection of complex audio packages, all toying with juxtapositions of tone and mood in a way that screams for attention and definitely deserves some.

Bethan Kellough: Aven

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Feb 02 2017
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Artist: Bethan Kellough (@)
Title: Aven
Format: CD
Label: Touch (@)
Rated: *****
The first stone for this enchanting output got laid on the occasion of Touch Conference at South of Sunset area in Los Angeles, one of the appreciated meeting that Touch recently organized to focus listeners' and followers' to some branches of sonic research (including of course the one by the artists in its rosters, some of whom took part in these events in order to help newbies to learn some techniques as well). British composer and sound artist Bethan Kellough (formerly known as Bethan Parkes) attended the one I mentioned above after having joined the touch Mentorship Programme in 2015. The "concrete" sounds you'll listen in this precious sonic gemstone got collected during some journeys in Iceland and South Africa together with some big names of this branch of sonic exploration. She grabbed the noises coming out of a fence in South Iceland by means of a contact microphone in the days when Chris Watson and Jez Riley French were holding the Wildeye sound recording workshop, while the ones she grabbed during the Sonic Mmabolela residency with other two big names of this branch of sonic explorations like Francisco Lopez and James Webb got taken by a Soundfield microphone hidden under some bushes in the Savannah while a storm was approaching. What makes the listening actually engaging are the delicate and powerfully evocative musical insertions by Bethan: this inventive woman managed to highlight the mysterious power of nature by some breathtaking melodic lines she mostly made by the violin she played since her childhood, when she started getting involved in Scottish traditional music, classical music, rock violin and free improvisation. The melodic parts got added on the occasion of the conference I mentioned above, and that guided choice managed to turn the sonic canvas of field recordings in two special natural sets into a powerful musical poem. Highly recommended listening experience.

Laurence Crane / Asamisimasa: Sound Of Horse

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
New Music / Downtown / Avantgarde Jazz / New Classical / World
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Feb 02 2017
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Artist: Laurence Crane / Asamisimasa (@)
Title: Sound Of Horse
Format: CD
Label: Hubro (@)
Rated: *****
I guess the John White, quoted in the title of the opening extended suite "John White In Berlin" (composed in 2003), is the English experimental composer and performer, who invented the so-called systems music, the British branch derived from American minimalism, as the seeming stasis of the track, vaguely reminds the style of that John White: one of the most amazing feature of this suite for electric guitar, cello, piano and percussion is the slow succession of almost looping similar chords on flute and piano over a likewise almost motionless reverberating sound (supposedly derived by the slow brushing of cymbals), which seems unpredictable just when listeners think he'll predict its slow procession by truncating phrases or changing the primary instrument just whenever a phrase is close to its supposed end. This first composition unveils some of the features of its author, the London-based composer Laurence Crane, whose unpredictable but placid compositional quirkiness got masterfully performed by avant-garde-oriented Norwegian ensemble Asamisimasa. The sudden end of the short "Old Life Was Rubbish" (a short composition for open instrumentation, dating back 1998, performed by Asamisimasa using an electric guitar, a piano and a bass clarinet) sounds like a rude awakening that interrupts a lovely dream, just when it was going fine) and a similar bittersweet aftertaste gets evoked by the sudden vanishing of the lulling instrumental voices (a cello, a clarinet and an electric organ) that feed the daydreaming suite of the following "Riis". According to some reviewers of Laurence's music, this sort of humorous "castration" (someone could nicely consider him a cheeky bastard!) could get explained by a typically English way of being. Similarly some suitably English manias and an enjoyable self-mockery resurface along the funny three parts of "Events", a suite for three clarinets, a vibraphone and a voice, who sings about a series of facts related to 7th February 1997, the day when it was composed (a list of people, their age and profession celebrating their birthday on that day in the first part, a selection of foreign exchange rates and a list of places and their weather conditions at 12 AM on that day...it was raining in Bristol...) and the unpredictable rages of crazy rockish explosions in a typically chamber music suite in 7 parts that give the title to this amazing collection. The choice of such a bizarre title - "Sound of Horse" - has a double meaning, as it refers to both the place where the idea behind the piece was conceived - Horse is the name of a sound (a stretch of water) in Scottish Highlands nearby the Coigach Peninsula - and the sound that guitarist Mick Ronson sometimes made by his instrument. According to Laurence own words, "on a few occasions during Mick Ronson's work with David Bowie in 1970-73, he made his guitar sound like a horse's 'neigh', most notably on the song 'Time' on the LP 'Aladdin Sane'"....and we all know how English gentlemen love horses!

Jos Smolders: Nowhere- Exercises In Modular Synthesis And Field Recording

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Feb 02 2017
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Artist: Jos Smolders
Title: Nowhere- Exercises In Modular Synthesis And Field Recording
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Cronica Electronica
The “Nowhere” in the title is initially a barren place, the first three minutes of the opening track little more than faint geiger-counter-like glitches, before being crashed into by industrial electronics and barely discernible vocal declarations that form a jolting chaos for a couple of minutes, before disappearing as abruptly as they arrived, leaving only a radiophonic workshop-esque scenario of meandering tones.

This largely sets the tone for the entire work, which is substantially improvised, in Smolders own words “letting things flow and interfering only when necessary”, “I have left the idea of a preconceived/designed composition”, “there is only a vague idea before I start recording”. Large expanses of gentle scientific, sometimes sci-fi ambience are occasionally gatecrashed by sudden and acrid assaults of white or discordant noise so abrupt they ought to carry a health warning; five minutes into third track “For Rudy Carrera” being a prime example. “Song For Maya Deren” is like REM sleep briefly troubled by monsters, before the sleep of “Up Up And Back To 1982” mixes distant hums with vinyl crackle sounds akin to rain on a window before, once again, the nightmares return around the six minute mark. This evaporates, warm bottle-music arpeggios arrive, but these in turn are crushed into lo-fi, 8-bit 4-bit and beyond. It’s a pattern that repeats unpredictably and it’s certainly not always pleasant.

Were it not for the rather petulant sudden storms that whip up irregularly, I would be full of praise for the confidently sparse, measured soundscapes that are created here, a form of contemporary digital remodelling of music concrete that forms the larger part of the work. And while I certainly wouldn’t want to suggest that music should be anaemic or palliative, in this case it’s the furious interludes that don’t complement the whole, and a more measured temper throughout could have left this as a very elegant album, and it’s the cacophony-free pieces such as track 2 “NowHere” and track 6 “NoWhere” (do you see what they did there?) that are the strongest.

Eric Wong: YYSSN

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
New Music / Downtown / Avantgarde Jazz / New Classical / World
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Feb 01 2017
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Artist: Eric Wong (@)
Title: YYSSN
Format: CD
Label: Creative Sources (@)
Rated: *****
Minneapolis-born Hong Kong raised and Berlin-based guitar performer Eric Wong is the author of this amazing release on Portuguese label Creative Sources, named after the initial of each of the five pieces he collected here. Since the opening track "Yut", where he interlocks fast tapping, rubbing and pizzicato on his guitar together with sound processing that could let you think he's trying to change the state of matter of this amalgamation of guitar-driven sounds (if you can imagine audible elements as a physical entity), a listener can quickly catch his full command of the devices he handles as well as the inventiveness of his approach to the instrument. I particularly enjoyed that sort of stressing test that Eric proposed on the central track "Saam", where decaying low tones that disfigured the sound of guitar follows almost five minutes of over-strained and over-compressed guitar tones - a technique that sound reprised in the last part of the track -, and the bizarre "Sei", where the listeners can imagine that Eric managed to render an imaginary alien shop of cuckoo clocks by a weird alternation between a strange chirping and sudden cogs of such a chirping stream. The starting point of the other tracks - "Yee" and the final "NG" - are isolated guitar chords, that he gradually processed and dissected according to an approach that could let you think of unexpected and unrepeatable moments of manic lucidity by an experienced guitarist.


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