Music Reviews



Carlos Casas: Vucca De Lu Puzzu (Fieldworks #19)

 Posted by Andrea Piran (@)   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Oct 09 2016
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Artist: Carlos Casas (@)
Title: Vucca De Lu Puzzu (Fieldworks #19)
Format: Tape
Label: Canti Magnetici (@)
Rated: *****
This new work by Carlos Casas is based upon recordings done in the Vucca de lu Puzzu, a mine in south Italy, where he was invited for a residence and where he fell during a recording session. So the piece is based also on the sound of the place and the sound of the magnetic resonance he had to do due to the fall. The result is another tile on his exploration on the sound of particular locations.
The side A of this tape is occupied by "Puzzu", a track based upon the contrast between the field recordings that generate a mass of sound which emerge from a quiet soundscape and radio frequencies which create a sense of displacement. The B side is instead occupied by "Vucca", a track based on field recording that are organized in such a way that the first part is almost noisy while the second is quiet and contemplative and the final part seems based upon real instruments, or so it seems, and ends in silence.
The impressive quality of his work is his ability to catch those sense of extraneousness of those places in relation of current urbanisation and, even if it's not something really different from his previous fieldworks, is another confirm for his artistic status. Truly recommended for fans of field recordings.

Jonty Harrison: Voyages

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Oct 08 2016
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Artist: Jonty Harrison (@)
Title: Voyages
Format: CD
Label: empreintes DIGITALes (@)
Rated: *****
I imagine that some atheists or rationalists could get captivated, after they'll listen the overlapping of farming animal sounds and field recordings grabbed in some mosque full of praying devouts and in an Italian church while reciting the rosary in a moment of "Espaces caches", the first 14-minutes lasting track of this collection, assembled by an impressive quantity of sound samples, which got premiered on June 7th, 2014 during the Klang! Electroacoustique festival in Montpellier under commission by Maison des arts sonores. Similarly, fans of nautical themes or seaside places could get entranced by a group of tracks, belonging to "Going Places" where many sounds got grabbed nearby harbours and quays (including underwater echoes of the quays and floating strain at their moorings caught near Sidney Opera House, barnacles found in Sidney Harbour, in the surroundings of Great Barrier Reef, and on the beaches of the isle of Corfu - Greece -, recordings of boats, swifts and harbour activities in Corfu and Poros, boats straining taken at the yacht club in Boston, Massachusets) and lovers of Iceland - I met many people devoted to that chilling place in the recent times (hoping it's not a mass phenomenon following the funny way by which Iceland football team used to greet their supporters at the end of matches at the recent European football championship) - would be delighted by the sounds of bubbling waters taken from geothermal pools at Seltun, the buzz of radio cables hanging from Hellissandur radio masts in Snaefellsness overlapping the sound of melting ice and subterranean glacial stream, taken nearby the Solheimajokull glacier. Besides the evocative sonic collages that Professor Jonty Harrison provides in this huge selection, the aspect that could interest in sound explorer like us and most of our readers is the way by which he transplanted field recordings into stereophonic channels, particularly in the above-mentioned "Espaces caches", initially a 30-track tape for multichannel sound system, which was entirely produced and mastered by Joseph Anderson in the first months of 2016 at the Sound Lab of the Center for Digital Arts and Experimental Media of the University of Washington in Seattle by means of stereophonic Ambisonic UHJ Encoding. The final result of this "transcoding" process is - believe me and my headphones - really impressive, while the most relevant aspect of the 23 tracks by which Jonty split a selection from his massive sound archive, collecting a plenty of recordings grabbed during many journeys all over the world, is the criteria that he mostly adopted to group together those recordings. Most of the tracks manage to assemble events that could be related to similar or sometimes identical phenomenon or cultural happenings, where the aggregating element is mostly aural, and these aural manifestations are similar to colors depicting the same event according to more or less mysterious rules that vary by different cultural environment! For instance, you'll hear bells from four different places (Chartres, Venice, Berlin and Corfu plus the Montaione clock in Tuscany), sounds from four different railway station (Florence, Pisa, Rome and Castelfiorentino in Italy), interlacing of pipes and drums from many different sets and settings (ghaitas in Marrakech, Morocco, piccolo bands parading during the Carnival of Bael in Switzerland, bagpipers in Morelia, Mexico and aural entities such as firecrackers and the noise of coins in offering bowls in a religious procession nearby the Temple of the Reclining Buddha in Bangkok) in single tracks. Harrison's collages define an engaging way of matching audio travelogues and field recordings.

( trained audiophiles should check these guidelines for a really immersive sound experience: http://www.ambisonictoolkit.net/publications/2016/06/22/harrison-voyages.html )

Controlled Bleeding: Body Samples

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Oct 04 2016
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Artist: Controlled Bleeding
Title: Body Samples
Format: CD & Vinyl
Label: Artoffact
Controlled Bleeding’s “Body Samples” is an 88-minute 2LP collection, reissuing twenty-five sonic ideas from 1985 that are primarily angst-ridden discordant industrial noise and hardcore experimental screeches. As the title hints at, this is a smorgasbord of different short ideas, and the running order of them feels almost random, sometimes uncomfortable, settling into nothing that could be thought of as a pattern. Even the track titles, when “(extra track)” and “Intro” both halfway through the first disc, imply a wilful and deliberate attempt to make this release challenging on every level.

While the press release describes “Body Samples” as “at time less abrasive” than Controlled Bleeding’s earlier cassette-only works, this is occasionally true. Tracks like “II” are effortless ambience in the Eno tradition. However the statement is also, sometimes, exceptionally untrue. There are segments and ideas on here that are cacophony squared, like white noise mating with industrial sound effects libraries on a building site.

Heavy use of stereo separation allows you to self-mix the chaos by favouring one channel over the other, with (subjectively) a possible slight emphasis towards rhythmic mania on the left channel and higher-pitched, nightmarish-guitar-solo style elements on the right. With this you can begin to distinguish some of the more accomplished and unusual electronic effects and samples that otherwise begin to play second fiddle to the sometimes constant dark rock and guitar-feedback-like drones.

“Rust Bag” has strong hits of the Radiophonic Workshop about it and sounds like it’s sorely tempted to break into the Doctor Who theme music at any moment. Don’t be fooled by titles like “Lung Dub” or “Lung Beats” into thinking there are reggae or house influences- there absolutely aren’t!

This is a largely structure-free collection of mid-1980’s bleeding-edge experiments into the dark underbelly of anti-music. It’s a fantastic curio but almost too piecemeal to be called an album.

Gaëtan Gromer: Noise Level

 Posted by Edward Trethowan   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Sep 28 2016
Artist: Gaëtan Gromer (@)
Title: Noise Level
Format: CD
Label: VoxxoV (@)
Distributor: Bandcamp
The term "Noise Level", as it appears here, has to do with reclaiming originality. Habit, arising over time out of ritual, dialogue, study, is a point of orientation for thought, and in particular in this case, creativity. The more habituated, the less open-minded and penetrating; the less original. From basic thematic associations to outright prejudices, the cultural linkages of habit interfere with creativity; they streamline it, stifle it, render it less radical and interesting. So, conducive to better creativity and ideas could be processes of association that have nothing to do with troublesome paradigms, in which the novel potential of juxtaposing unrelated concepts is explored.

So much for Noise Level the concept, as it was pondered over by Raymond F. Jones in his eponymous 1952 short story. As for Noise Level the album, Strasbourg sound artist Gaëtan Gromer is here found attempting to apply theory in practice, unleashing creativity by embracing the sheer heterogeny of his work's various contents. As a starting point, all the sound material present originates from field recordings made inside libraries. This is a nod to the short story, but it also serves the wry function of making the institution of the library, typically associated with quietness, Gromer's first object of examination; his goal is perhaps to reduce the 'noise level' that makes the library quiet in the first place.

For, of course, a library is really as rich with sound as anywhere else. Silence, wrote Salome Voegelin, is the start of listening. Gromer interprets the idea of silence in the library in this way, listening, capturing source material and eventually finding ways to manipulate it. He keeps things sparse, most of the time declining to mix more than a handful of channels together at a time. The first piece, 'The Shadow Out Of Time', couples harmonious drones with treated passages of hushed speech - the sotto voce of the library-goer - and ticking clockwork; perhaps a grandfather pendulum, judging from the woody grain. 'Mémoires du Futur' is centred around what sounds like a field recording contorted by an arpeggiator sequence; it has that slightly misshapen, mis-pitched texture to it exhibited by complex frequencies put through heavy processing. 'La Tour d'Aer', with subtle kicks and re-pitched, unidentified source material, is a little like some of the darker moments of Wolfgang Voigt's Gas works. What sounds like the low hum of a vending machine in 'La Bibliotheque De Babel' bellows in the foreground; louder than life and out of context, it gains a sinister presence among other creeping textures.

This premise of this album hints that if its concept has been successfully applied, we are in for something of unusual originality. Exactly where this originality finds itself, whether it applies to this genre, compositional approach, to Gromer's individual creative development as an artist or to some other dimension of the work, isn't specified. But in terms of overall style, Noise Level doesn't substantially overpower the tropes of today's dark ambient/drone and electro-acoustic music. Nor do structures greatly vary throughout. What we generally encounter with all six tracks are several layers of drones, some light and some intense, which roll beneath various textural structures. Sometimes it's very compelling, sometimes a bit mundane.

My view is that Gromer is comfortable in this style of music and not trying to develop it radically. Instead, I think his application of the noise level theory is twofold. First, by restricting available source material, he forces himself to re-examine the way in which he uses creative music technology, as well as the ways in which he is accustomed to hearing and thinking about the sounds captured on the recordings. Second, by telling us where these sounds came from, he has us listeners perform similar re-examinations. These are doctored combinations of sounds with which we're all quite familiar, but to which, in libraries if not in most other spaces, we are accustomed not to paying special attention. So hearing them with their contexts combined and rewritten unrealistically makes the material on these tracks disorientating and disjointed. And that's exactly our chance to think differently about habitually overlooked phenomena. Noise Level may have something to do with the creativity of technological sound manipulation, but most of all it deals with the creativity of listening itself.

Phurpa: Chöd

 Posted by Andrea Piran (@)   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Sep 25 2016
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Artist: Phurpa
Title: Chöd
Format: 2 x CD (double CD)
Label: Zoharum (@)
Distributor: Alchembria
The title of this work is a Tibetan term which roughly means “being cut off” and is the practice of sacrificing the body. According to the liner notes, this practice include the completeness of existence which includes the bright part of being and the darker ones. As in their previous releases, the musical form is based on voices and traditional instruments and is based in a relatively non occidental canon as their vision of drone is less related to sound and completely focused on an aid to meditation.
The first part of this release starts with a vocal chant where the most bass frequencies of the voice are explored to obtain something between the religious rite and experimental music; where the voices stop sparse beat appear as a small interlude between sections. The second section of the track is based on traditional wind instruments, with a sound similar to a bagpipe, that create a dialectic between the two registers as if there's was a cold and a cold light. The voice return in the third section with a more tight dialogue with the drum and is resolved by the voice which returns to the point where the track started.
The second part is opened by the wind instruments which develop the tension of the second section of the first part into a sort of juxtaposition of two lines, a fast one and a slow one, and their dynamics is able to evolve in a clear dialectic as one voice is highlighted with respect to the other in real alternation until the fast line close the section. The second section is focused on the chant which slowly evolves from bass pitches to higher ones with small silent section with sparse cymbal's shot between the tone's change, until the resonances of the recording room close this release.
This release is a sonic monolith which could be rated as a masterpiece without any doubt, however their music is so extreme that the casual listener could be overwhelmed and eject the disc after few minutes. The patient ones, and fans on drones, will be taken into a deep reflection on existence and meditate a lot on it. Obviously unrated but it's one of the records of the year.


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