Music Reviews



Thet Liturgiske Owäsendet: Wisconsin Mining State

 Posted by Andrea Piran (@)   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Oct 01 2017
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Artist: Thet Liturgiske Owäsendet (@)
Title: Wisconsin Mining State
Format: Tape
Label: Forwind Press (@)
Rated: *****
Thet Liturgiske Owasendet are a duo from Sweden which uses mainly guitars, field recordings and modular synths; the name of this release and of the tracks are centered around the mining activity in an American state. Structurally it sounds as a release conceived for a tape as the two sides are musically separated in the construction of the tracks even if the main sonic elements are the same, but music is sound contained in a structure.
The first side of this tape is mostly quiet and dreaming; it's opened by "Platteville", a drone track where the movement is obtained by the dynamics as the sound masses have ebb and flow. "Hazel Green" oscillates between quiet sound tones and noisy interlude. While at first sight "Klar Piquett" sound static, it's only because it's components emerge and drawn as in a loop creating a sort of discernible rhythmic structure.
The B side is more oriented towards industrial territories; it's opened by "Iron Ridge" where the noisy main loop ties the soundscape in the background that emerges when the the loop is off. "Mineral Point" revolves around its metallic rhythm which creates a contrast with a quiet high pitch drone that result in an hypnotic track. "Rajah" closes this release with a drone with thick masses of sound which creates a link with the first track of the first side of the tape.
It couldn't be ground breaking or it couldn't be an album of the year but it's something really well written and it doesn't let the impression of something put on tape only to have something to release; the cure in the development of this opus, included the stunning artwork, reveals a search for art. Truly recommended.

ELEH + Richard Chartier: LINELEH II

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Oct 01 2017
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Artist: ELEH + Richard Chartier
Title: LINELEH II
Format: CD
Label: LINE (@)
Rated: *****
The temptation to check the second part after I enjoyed the first one of this collaborative release by Richard Chartier and ELEH (have a read on the words about the first part to see who are these guys) was too strong. Compared to the first half (or I'd better say to the first third, considering the fact that the length of LINELEH II is nearly twice the one of LINELEH I), there are some elements of variation. In order to reprise the medical comparison I adopted for the previous review, the first minutes of this second part could sound like the screening of heart pulsations of someone under a drug-induced coma. A slow drop-like pulsation is audible during them, but the set slowly changes. The surrounding drone seems to rise little by little and that pulsation seems to have been turned into a muted hiss as if it comes from an empty large space. The listening experience is seemingly static as you'll find different slow transitions and mutations of the intangible substance they manipulated till the moment when the audible elements become so thin that they could evoke a journey into a sort of a metaphysical nothingness. Like the first part, it's a matter of (physical and mental) space and time again and, as I already said on that occasion, a pair of headphones or an excellent set for a quiet amplification is recommended.

ELEH + Richard Chartier: LINELEH I

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Oct 01 2017
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Artist: ELEH + Richard Chartier (@)
Title: LINELEH I
Format: CD
Label: LINE (@)
Rated: *****
This is the shortest (just 73 minutes lasting...a pittance in relation to the 128 minutes of the second part) and the first of a two parts collaborative release by two masters of so-called 'muted drones' like Richard Chartier, the co-founder of 12k's auxiliary label LINE and the man behind Pinkcourtesyphone, and ELEH, an unidentified (having no real or shown registered identity) flying project that already landed on labels like John Brien Jr's imprint Important Records, Touch and Taiga, following the reciprocal knowledge and appreciation of personal outputs. It belongs to that kind of projects where the setting where you decide to use it could have an important role, a matter of time (due to its remarkable length) and space then, whose enjoyment could provide somehow surprising mental journeys. Whether you reach some satori-like enlightenment or you travel through the observation of dust particulates flowing in your room when hit by a sun ray filtered through a window, these guys know how to set parameters for an entrancing listening experience. I could compare this first part of LINELEH to a long-lasting CAT scan, where the sound makers control the rotation of electromagnetic scan as well as the scan and the medical liquids that will stream through your body to remove any formation to clean tumours pressing on the cognitive processing centres of your brain. Well, this entrancing intersection of sinewaves and very low frequencies (created and revised between 2015 and 2016) won't maybe have such a therapeutical effect, but lovers of drones will be surely delighted by the listening experience they provided in this set. A pair of very good headphones is warmly recommended.

VV.AA.: Il Picchio

 Posted by Marc Urselli   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Sep 26 2017
Artist: VV.AA.
Title: Il Picchio
Format: CD
Label: 19'40" (@)
Rated: *****
This new release coming your way from the British/Italian subscription-based label 19'40" is one that prominently features percussionist Sebastiano De Gennaro (who is also part label owner and part recording/editing engineer/producer on this CD) as the sole performer (except for a couple of violin/viola parts played by Yoko Morimyo) of a repertoire that includes five pieces by Louis Andriessen, Edmund Campion, David Lange, the great Enrico Gabrielli (the other one third label owner) and Nikolay Popov.

If the composers' name don't give it away, rest assured you are in for 35-40 minutes of stochastic, angular, unapologetic, contemporary pioneering experimental music that pays tribute to the woodpecker (english word for "picchio"), the bird who sometimes annoingly and persistently pecks away at trees in the forest, making noise all by himself, bothering the peace and the other birds but also making himself known as the percussionist of the forest, the pace-setter, the one who provides the rhythm to the ornithological spiecies' songs and calls; I guess this is also how De Gennaro thinks of himself.

The opening piece of the album (written in 1999 by Dutch composer Louis Andriessen) entitled "Woodpecker" couldn't be more adeptly placed and chosen, especially since it features 6 wood blocks, 5 temple blocks and a xylophone (only wood instruments).
From the rhythmic and time-enforced confines of that, the second track ventures into a much more open and outlandish avant-garde territory with a piece by American Edmund Campion origially written for tape loops and vibraphone. Then the most well known of these composers, the American Bang On A Can co-founder David Lang, takes center place with his "Unchained Melody" for 7 glockenspiel bars, 7 noises and one nasty metal, which comes off as the most glitchy and electronic of the bunch, especially since the performer has decided to use some Teenage Engineering 8 bit noises as the 7 noises to be played along with the 7 glock bars (removed form the frame of the instrument and placed side by side). Then we get to my favorite composer of the bunch: Enrico Gabrielli, who borrows from linguistics and from chemistry to title his new 2017 composition "Coppia di Allotropi (Pair of Allotropes)" originally written for violin, cello and piano but specifically re-worked for De Gennaro to be played on xylophone, non-tempered balafon, vibraphone, drum-pad violin and viola. The CD closes with another millennial piece by Russian Nikolay Popov entitled "Artra" and based on the two golden discs that were sent into space by NASA on the outer solar space exploration vessels Voyager 1 and 2 in 1977 (coincidentally these two 12 inch discs have recenly been reissued by Ozma records).

Don't let me forget to mention that the CD comes in a limited hand-numbered edition of 200 copies in the beautiful origami folding carboard packaging that 19'40" has accustomed us to expect. Make sure you get a subscription so you can get this and the upcoming releases!

VV.AA.: Selected Works Of Experimental Music And Art Expo

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Sep 26 2017
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Artist: VV.AA.
Title: Selected Works Of Experimental Music And Art Expo
Format: Tape
Label: Kotä Records
This epic compilation to celebrate KotÄ Records’ 20th release is a collection of 5 tapes, collecting together over five and a half hours of music, all of it performed live at the EMA Expo in October and November 2016. Thirteen different Russian experimental musicians or groups each submit lengthy self-contained works, all simply entitled “Live Document” with no other labels. The shortest performance is ten minutes long, and there are three pieces that each top the 40 minute mark. As a back-to-back listen, this is a whole day’s work! Hence the extended review...

Vlad Dobrovolski & Michel Klimin kick things off, if you can call it kicking, with a mellow affair of clean-sounding bottle-like bleeps and pings that ride over a hollow and reverberant base, and occasional interspersed snippets of clear, (I think) Russian spoken-word that sounds like the reading of an instruction manual. Things get a little more warped and deeply processed as it progresses, with a steady pulse developing towards the end.

SAD & Bred Blondie is a duo that also includes Vlad Dobrovolski so the fact the second track has a flavour consistent with the first is not too surprising. There’s a slightly more analogue and organic texture here, with faintly quirkier and more percussive shades of Pierre Henry or the early Radiophonic Workshop at times, again alongside a mottled bed of soft drone, and spoken word that this time is more distant. And again, a more structured set of pulses join in the second half to enhance the feeling of progression.

Alexei Borisov and Benjamin Skepper offer up something darker and harsher, with acoustic instruments such as a cello being scratched and distorted in an initially aggressive improvisation that slowly drops in energy. Dmitry Morozov, as ::vtol::, then brings us something akin to the electronic equivalent on the same side of the tape- another sinister soundscape with frequent but unpredictable interjections from harsh-edged waves and distorted electronic signals.

Lovozero & Kira Weinstein, the latter better known for indie-pop than avantgarde, offer up something audibly more feminine. Long folky vocal notes, marinaded in reverb, float over gentle squeaks and a super-soft hollow chord. Compared to what preceded it, this feels like chill-out music, until yet again a rhythm- in this case a soft kick pattern- arrives twelve minutes in. Adding gentle rhythms ten minutes into long freeform pieces is in fashion, it seems. The spaced out feel to it, with theremin-style tweaks, becomes very reminiscent of 90’s The Orb towards the end.

Kasich brings a piece which, at only 10 minutes long, seems like an interlude compared to its peers. It’s centred around a custom-made experimental instrumental called the FingerRing (though if that’s a product ever to be marketed in the UK, some awareness of the other meanings of “fingering” might encourage a name change). It’s difficult to tell what the FingerRing is doing purely from the audio, but what we get is a stop-start, glitch-heavy succession of ambiences, with heavy rain recordings that seem to reduce into white noise and what sounds like the noise of passing cars towards the beginning. In an unexpected twist, almost out of the blue, the final three minutes bring in a heavy breakbeat and starts messing around with it, making it the single track that covers the most distance from beginning to end, despite being the shortest.

Dmitri Kourliandski & Andrey Guryanov use unspecified “instruments and constructions native to electronic dance music” to build their experimental improvisations, and yet again, you have to wait fifteen minutes before the spontaneous electro-industrial whirrs and squelches form themselves into the shadow of a short-lived dark techno beat. Again it devolves into non-matching patterns, and it’s another ten minutes before the hi-hat elements reform themselves into a new, frantic but regular pattern. This is, as it suggests, a total deconstruction of techno sounds into an experimental space where elements act like layers in a moire pattern that are more often out of sync than in.

The longest piece, from Brinstaar, Marc Myasoedov & Nikita Oleinik, is notable in that Marc Myasoedov is only seven years old (or he was when this was recorded, at least), and Brinstaar is his Dad. A fairly lethargic, slow-stepping arrangement of bleeps and tweaks plays out with a strong tinge of melancholy. Higher-pitched, birdsong-esque chirrups arrive progressively, before some bell and digital thunder noises with a slightly more horror movie tone. This floats away into lighter territory as it winds up. Shouldn’t seven-year-olds be full of sugar and bouncing around manically to cheesy pop music? I wasn’t listening to this kind of stuff when I was seven. Nevertheless, as an in-depth and solemn bit of electroscaping, it goes far.

Roman Golovko as Wolffflow opens with an repetitively looped American spoken word sample monologue about art not floating in a vacuum, which initially, perhaps ironically, floats in a sonic vacuum. Gradually bridges are built, with a low repeating bass pattern working its way in. The arrangement feels more orchestral at times, a thick layering of pad synthesis that feels more assured and composed than live, with the palindromic structure that becomes evident towards the end emphasising the sense of tight planning.

Andrey Guryanov’s 21-minute piece has a generative feel to it, as though elements are triggered based on data. Rhythmic tip-tapping noises come and go, ambient effects drop in briefly, and harsh metallic screeches switch on and off abruptly. The pace and the amount of layering rise and fall without ever really feeling structured, other than perhaps in the rapid fire finale.

The piece by “Solo Operator / Multi-Operator” is an interesting installment piece in which Alexander Serechenko, who normally uses the Solo Operator name, collaborates with his audience through the use of an app which allows audience members to sample and retrigger parts of Serechenko’s improvised saxophone on demand, thus making them part of the performance. Initially it’s too chaotic for the innovative function of it to shine through, but the unique approach becomes more evident as Serechenko’s playing simplifies and thins out to allow the audience-triggered segments to be appreciated.

The fifth and final tape starts with Alexander Senko’s sci-fi soundscape, with deep synth sweeps and geiger-counter-style clicking. Initially a 10-channel performance, it’s been confined to stereo for this release for obvious technical reasons, which is a shame as it’s an environmental sound piece that would sound excellent when listened to immersively. Later-introduced elements such as choral pads, twinkles, digital wind and vinyl crackles veer gently towards the more cliché sounds of ambient music, but this changes in the second half as we appear to board some sort of steampunk bi-plane which motors gruffly around the sky. This metaphorical plane lands and leaves us in a barren alien landscape for the final few relatively subdued minutes.

Finally, the KotÄ label’s co-founder Brinstaar allows himself another piece, this time without his seven-year-old son, though there’s nothing in the press release about whether he needed to get a babysitter. For this final forty-minute piece we get crisp envelopes of softened white noise and warm analogue hums, clicks and flutey melodic squeaks. Though the accompanying description cites a variety of real instruments- guitars, whistles, harps and toys (which presumably the seven-year-old had now grown out of and didn’t need any more)- these elements are cut and treated in such a way that the whole affair feels thoroughly digital. A long gentle centre period solely of bleeping that feels like an unknown variant of musical morse code is followed by a slightly shoegazey section with plucked and delayed guitar notes that changes the mood somewhat.

All of these works are fully-fledged experimental journeys in their own right, that you could listen to independently and judge on their own merits. So what you’re getting here is, in some respects, thirteen for the price of one. Personally I’m still cynical about the appropriateness of the cassette format for music like this, particularly the more ambient and spacious pieces that have subtlety and detail not usually benefitted by the whirr and hiss of a cassette, but luckily it’s available as a download as well. It’s a mammoth and indulgent bundle, carefully compiled with like-minded pieces together for the most part, and with some unique and innovative ideas in it for sure. In the North of my country there are days that are shorter than this compilation.


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