Music Reviews



Iannis Xenakis: Persepolis

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Mar 08 2018
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Artist: Iannis Xenakis
Title: Persepolis
Format: LP
Label: Karl
Previous, now out-of-print issues of Xenakis’ 1971 work “Persepolis” are something of a rarity, going for quite substantial figures on sites like Discogs even though they suffer, apparently, from errors or abridgements that mean they don’t represent the complete work. Now, Karl Records have arrived with a newly remastered and apparently complete 55-minute LP & download issuing it in all its glory.

In nine numbered but continuous parts, it’s an electroacoustic assault of metallic drones and scratches, heavily processed noises and somewhat tortured organic noises. It’s a wilful wall of noise that’s staggering for 1971, taking the still-fresh experimental avantgarde principles and pushing them to what must at that time of been their logical extreme- a completely space-free, densely packed overlapping of layers into something so relentless and impenetrable that when you listen to it, after a while you stop hearing the full extent of the noise and start zoning in on some of the details as though you’re watching one particular piece of shrapnel in a huge explosion.

It’s only in the details that individual parts could be identified with care. The third part, for example, with strained and stretched bowing of string instruments, is notably disorientating. The fifth part, with occasional echoing noises like seatbelt signs creating a sonic aeroplane nightmare, while the sixth part sounds like some of the Lygeti music in 2001: A Space Odyssey would have sounded if the composer had decided it wasn’t yet extreme enough. The final part is a touch more percussive, with a steady sense of upward sliding that creates an escalating tension that never truly resolves, just bluntly stops.

Even without exploring the political context of the original work that could have been seen as shockingly secular when first performed, it’s unquestionably ahead of its time and still challenging almost 50 years later, clearly a milestone in electroacoustic music, and with a very nice new presentation too.

Henry Kaiser / Alan Licht: Skip To The Solo

 Posted by eskaton   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Mar 06 2018
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Artist: Henry Kaiser / Alan Licht (@)
Title: Skip To The Solo
Format: CD
Label: Public Eyesore (@)
Rated: *****
I have been familiar with Alan Licht's work for many years now and Henry Kaiser has worked with such luminaries as Nels Cline, Jim O’Rourke, and Fred Frith, so I was interested to see how this would go. First off, the idea behind this album is a lot of fun. As the label explains, The album’s title and concept harks back to the experience of playing vinyl records and lifting the stylus ahead to the guitar solo. . . . Alan recalls, “During a 2015 duo gig at The Stone in NYC Henry turned to me and said ‘Play a couple of chords that I can fuzz solo over.’ A couple of days later it hit me--let's do a whole album of that!” This disc is it, one where the artists provide a notable service to the listener: they skip to the solos so that you don't have to!” So if you like guitar solos, throw the horns into the air and let’s get into this. Each of these solos have their own personality, so I’ll hit each of them briefly. First off, we have “More Or Less Cowbell,” a funky number with more wah than a 1970’s porn soundtrack. You’ll grow a mustache just listening to this. “Where Are They Now” is fuzzed out guitar with a soulful feel. “Smolover's Dream” is coming to you live from the Ramada Inn and sounds like adult contemporary rock meets corporate training video soundtrack. Next up, a sample of someone saying “It was sounding like God” opens “The Pawn Of Null-A,” and it does. This is a full force classic rock solo. “File & Rank” has a 3/4 feel that makes it seem fast and frantic. “Variations On The Jerry Garcia Secret Chord Progression” slows it down a bit with a slight reggae feel. “Rendezvous In Space” is more stripped down and minimal by comparison, but gets more complex over time, with sparse drums to provide an interesting counterpoint. “Wong Dong Doodle” is slow and bluesy – someone done Mikko Biffle wrong and he’s going to tell you all about it. “What Is Arizona Really Like” is a pretty straightforward guitar piece. “Dancing The Paphian Jig” brings back the 70’s funk with squeals of feedback. “What's Your Line” features a smooth jazz beat with a full force guitar solo – it’s the incongruity here that makes this interesting. “Ask Me About The Dorian Mode” is another basic guitar solo. “Blast Of Silence” is equal parts 80’s hair band and 70’s prog rock. “Infernal Affairs” brings it all home by channeling Santana and Hendrix, by way of the Doors. It was fun to see how each solo often had its own kind of feel. If you like guitar solos, I really can’t think of a better album to recommend. Overall, this was a lot of fun. This album weighs in at around 66 minutes.

Alan Sondheim / Azure Carter / Luke Damrosch: Limit

 Posted by eskaton   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Mar 06 2018
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Artist: Alan Sondheim / Azure Carter / Luke Damrosch (@)
Title: Limit
Format: CD
Label: Public Eyesore (@)
Rated: *****
I was unfamiliar with these artists, but I have enjoyed a lot of what Public Eyesore has put out lately, so I was interested to see how this one measured up. Plus, it’s always fun to hear something where you don’t recognize half of the instruments. I mean, here is a partial list of instruments credited to Sondheim – long-necked saz, dan moi, ghichak, holeless shakuhaci, hegelung, sanshin, and rebab. After listening to this album a few times, I would describe it as “pretty dissonance.” This is what you get when you get some mellow, ethereal music – say Durutti Column or Love Spirals Downward – and the tape gets eaten by the machine. Everything is infected with glitch and washed over with a heavy layer of reverb. For some examples, the album begins with “aacbb,” which sounds a lot like an orchestra warming up before they have hit the correct note – everything is shifted just off from the center, “afghaninvdynb” sounds like bagpipes that have been looped repeatedly and played through an AM radio, and “zymphonyb” is frantic and chaotic, while never quite becoming noise. There is a lot of variety to keep this interesting, but the ones that really stand out are the tracks featuring Azure Carter’s vocals. For example, “aborrowers” seems to depict the tale of a snail, with lyrics like “I will take my tiny house with me / Where will my tiny house go / I am a snail in a shell / My shell is memory / …. I’m living on borrowed time.” In another track, “harbinger,” Carter begins, “Everything I do is grotesque, misshapen / the sooner I get to space and time the better.” What makes these tracks so engaging is the contrast between her pleasant voice and the odd lyrics. Overall, this is interesting and engaging and would appeal to fans of bands like Coil and Oval. Well worth checking out.

James Bradbury: Biomimicry

 Posted by eskaton   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Mar 06 2018
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Artist: James Bradbury (@)
Title: Biomimicry
Format: CD
Label: Tone List (@)
Rated: *****
Years ago, Ios Smolders put out an album called Music for CD Players. The goal was to create a different experience every time by putting the player on random and having the player compose from the base tracks. Others have played with the idea of chaos in music, most notably John Cage and his use of the I-Ching as a means of composition. As such, James Bradbury finds himself in some good company here. As the label explains, “Biomimicry is an autonomous musical system that draws on perceptual features of an improviser to synthesise a response. By parsing the collaborators sound into Mel-frequency cepstral coefficients the system is imbued with an evaluative capability and can assess changes in amplitude and timbre in order to shape its interactive behaviour. At its heart, the system is designed to be cohesive and unified with its human counterpart but at times its digital memory fails and the system's sensibility emerges.” This was released in five different versions, and it seems that I have Biomimicry Version 2; the readme file states that to create the entire system you would need all five versions. For the moment, I will talk about my specific version. There are two tracks here, which weigh in for a total of around 10 minutes. The sounds on 2a are comprised mainly of body noises – the sound of voice, clearing one’s throat, gargling, gagging, and just making noises with the throat to sound like Donald Duck. All of this seems cut up and reassembled in an unsettling tableau as some noises are recognizable, and others have been reduced to drone and static. 2b, on the other hand, is much more abstract, with clicking noises, abused instruments, and what sounds like someone fumbling with a microphone. This version was interesting enough that I went into the files to find the other versions as well. These tracks are likewise a mix of cut up organic somatic sounds and those that have been beat into something else. They are similar, but distinct. In the disc, there are several other versions of the tracks that were not actually part of the final compositions as well as raw materials. This was released in a shockingly limited edition of 10 copies, with two copies of each version, all with different sound files, so if this sounds good to you, get this while you can.

Filtro: Materia

 Posted by Andrea Piran (@)   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Feb 25 2018
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Artist: Filtro (@)
Title: Materia
Format: Tape
Label: Dokuro (@)
Rated: *****
The project of Angelo Bignamini and Luca De Biasi returns with a tape released by Dokuro that presents this release as "flowing between movement and disappearance and is ultimately capable of expanding the listeners' sound perception in innovative ways". Prior to discuss this statement it has to be said that this release is a single track in two parts.
The first side of this tape could be described as a field recording immersed in a background noise that could be a sonic mimesis of the title; it sounds as concrete while it's been realized and this sound immersed in a realistic environment. In the B side this is however exhibited in his apparatus in the moment where there's a void in the sound reproduction; it doesn't matter if this is a fault in the reproduction or is a deliberated choice of the performers as the result is the same: to show to the listener that this is not field recording but a deliberated composition of sound.
It could be a little too static or too long for the few sonic material that is handled by this duo; however there's a concept of sound and his manipulation behind this release that is remarkable and could be well appreciated by fans of experimental music. Non only for collectors and a project to follow.


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