Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Music Reviews

Sébastien Guérive: Omega Point

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Artist: Sébastien Guérive (@)
Title: Omega Point
Format: 12" + Download
Label: Atypeek Music (@)
Distributor: Diggers Factory
Rated: * * * * *
After a close listening of this album by Nantes-based composer and sound engineer Sébastien Guérive, he could undoubtedly be one possible suggestion to some moviemakers of the contemporary sci-fi scene, if in need of a score composer. I'm not sure if "Omega Point" belongs to one of those release for an imaginary movie that will never be released, but its listening can certainly feed imagination. Most of the track can easily fit an episode of Black Mirror, including the less disquieting... if you saw this famous TV series, don't tell that tracks like "Minchir", the one that features the collaboration of Manuel Adnot, or "Nashira" - very good choice for the title, as Nashira is the name of a star transitioning to a giant one belonging to the constellation of Capricorn, whose name origin is an Arabian expression meaning 'bearer of good news' - wouldn't be perfect for any tropical reverie of immortality like the one described in "San Junipero". Actually, there's no need to discommode science fiction, considering all the weird facts (not necessarily on mainstream) related to the last months of global history, this album could also be a perfect soundtrack for the pretty dystopian reality we're experiencing almost daily. That black exploding globe on the eloquent cover, but above all the general mood of "Omega Point" evokes that kind of concerned mood of those journeys with no return, which seems to permeate those real and concrete nightmares of ecologists or the likewise scary ones coming from catastrophists and maybe their intimate hopes or mental getaways. There's a certain heterogeneity in the dynamics of each track, ranging from resemblances to the sonic riding by some so-called krautrockers (in particular Tangerine Dream, Cluster and Ash Ra Tempel) to the recent sumptuous electronic diversion of Nils Frahm's pianism (partially evoked by the combination of electronic sequences with the piano phrasing by Cédric Le Guillerm in "Bellatrix") or Moroder-like electronic progressions ("Adhara"), even if sometimes I had the feeling that sound editing tends to be quite recursive, particularly on the different 'Omega' tracks. Such a mole doesn't break the fascination of the evoked atmosphere and a certain visionariness by Sébastien music, that deserves a check by our readers.

Pawel Pruski: Between

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Artist: Pawel Pruski (@)
Title: Between
Format: CD
Label: KrysaliSound (@)
What makes this output by Polish music producer Pawel Pruski so conceptually interesting is maybe its substantial lack of a conceptual framework, that sounds like an invitation to focus on the beauty of sound, described by inheriting the spiritualist suggestion on how to live any moment and what is considered as present. Linear notes by the label clarifies the meaning of the title, as follows: "it is interesting to look for what lies between the words, between the moments, between the first and the next particle of sound", music structure is "no longer linear and the whole thing is freezing over time. There is no earlier and no later, there is no history and no future, there is no cause and effect. There is only a single moment 'in between'. We don't need any kind of language or descriptions". Pawel decides to sow his music into this fertile interstitial metaphysical ground by interesting interbreeding of masterfully grabbed field recordings, overstretched looping harmonies and ambient effluxes, whose function seems not to be the one to slow time down, but rather to distend the time axis in order to let the listener access to an insight of what he meant by the idea of 'between'. In tracks like "In The Evening" or "Moor", the motion of tones itself sounds mired in this sort of inertial friction that seems to retain everything until the last track "I will come tomorrow although I don't know the time", where the template of a brittle piano melody sounds more discernable.

WZRDRYAV: West Coast Systems

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Artist: WZRDRYAV (@)
Title: West Coast Systems
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: LINE (@)
Rated: * * * * *
Most of the stuff coming from the drive of Vancounver-born producer Kelly Claude Nairn under the umbrella of his imprint and artistic identity WZRDRY orbits around electronic dub and 'sample-a-delic' planets as well as the plenteous stream of drum-machine driven (in the 80ies) and sample-based (in the 90ies) New York hip hop artefacts as well as by the sensory stimuli coming from his parents (a new age mom and a jazz freak artist dad, according to his biography). By the way there are some awesome samples of fluffy ambient stuff, thriving in many releases he dropped through his Bandcamp. This digital release he dropped last December on Richard Chartier well-managed imprint LINE sounds like the apical rarefaction of this area of his sonic explorations, maybe influenced by the quietest aural environment of Vancouver surroundings. The meeting during his electro acoustic studies with granular synthesis forerunner Barry Truax, whose work explicitly influenced the sound of "West Coast Systems" (a dedication to Mr Truax but also to the place where these sounds were forged), the tree topped mountains and the closeness to the ocean of his nest in British Columbia as well as the placid flows of the streets of Vancouver are somehow mirrored in this entrancing flow of overstretched whispering tones, agglutinated into field recordings, vaporous aural entities and gently delayed gauzy patterns. Environment variables (to call them so) or specific spots often become the sparkle of each suite, such as a prolonged downpour on the opening "Heavy Clouds", where a wave-like game on the volume renders a sort of interpenetration between a meteorological phenomenon and the perennial movement of the sea, the almost hypnotic flow of "Elysian Chorus" or the entrancing sonic heterotopia of tracks like "Nuns Island" or "Roberts Creek".

rlw: Agnostic Diaries

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Artist: rlw
Title: Agnostic Diaries
Format: CD
Label: Black Rose Recordings (@)
Rated: * * * * *
This is the second of two discs recently received from Black Rose Recordings. rlw = Ralf Wehowsky, one of the most respected electronic composers of our day and was also a founding member of the seminal German group P16.D4 and label Selektion whose ground-breaking releases influenced many working in today’s experimental music scene. Way back in 2013 I positively reviewed his 'Fall Seliger Geister' album here, calling it " an enigma just waiting for you to puzzle through." The common factor linking the recordings on 'Agnostic Diaries' is that they were projects never fully realized. The basic recordings started in 2005, however the period of reworking and transformation (2016 to 2017) is more important. All vocal parts and general revisions were done during this period. Agnosticism was the basic idea for the vocal/musical re-working of the pieces with the vocals implanted into the basic pieces, not just as simple overdubs, but inserted in a dialectical confrontation with the basic sounds and structures. The album consists of six tracks running about 50 minutes. It's a strange listen for most, but no so strange if you're already familiar with rlw.

Track 1 ("le ballet") claims to rely on George Antheil´s 'Ballet Mecanique.' If you're into avant garde music you've likely heard this fantastically aggressive, frantic, chaotic classic. If for some odd reason you haven't, think of Frank Zappa's work at its most avant garde (instrumental; not the comedy stuff). You really should check out 'Ballet Mecanique' before going any further though. "le ballet" may have been influenced by Antheil´s composition but does not sound anything like it. Antheil employed a number of pianos, pianolas (player pianos), xylophones, drums, as well as electric bells, siren, etc. rlw's vision here is closer to musique concrète, realized with electronics, cut up voices, etc. Think more John Cage than George Antheil, and fits comfortably into the experimental ambient domain. Track 2, "July 2006" is a noisier affair than the preceding, giving a sense of motion, but also careening headlong into oblivion, until it comes to a momentary dead stop. Picking up again, the digital sounds seem like they've been put in a lo-fi blender without a lid, and spit out hither and thither. The piece is uncomfortable, but it is precisely this uneasiness that makes it interesting. "for gerald" was to be a co-operation with Anla Courtis using some sounds by Ovary Lodge planned for the Gerald Jupitter-Larssen series which stopped far too early. Here, breathy light noise and single tone rising and falling electronic oscillators combine with radiant electronic resonant tones and chords for awhile, but that changes somewhat when more (intermittent) percussive elements are introduced. Next comes some chaotic circuit bending introduced into the mix. Track 4 ("without m.b.") includes rlw’s parts for a collaboration with Marc Baron, but holds up pretty well on its own, combining processed noise and electronics, spoken word (Italian, I think), feedback and manipulated samples as well as deep chambered resonance. With all that is going on here (and frankly, it's a lot) I don't see how Baron could have added much to this piece. On "caute!" we are treated to a noise scrubbing, once again with (treated) foreign language spoken word samples before it drifts into a quieter sort of ambience, with a juxtaposition of sublimely percussive low and high tones. There's a it more going on than that; you just have to hear it for yourself. Last track, "monotype #6," includes vocals by Dylan Nyoukis, but seems to be largely comprised of processed strings and electronic treatments.

'Agnostic Diaries' is a remarkable achievement on its own and shouldn't be just considered a collection of unrealized projects. Although there isn't a central unified theme here, I don't necessarily think there has to be one. I am still amazed though that an artist with the stature of Wehowsky doesn't seem to have his own website (I couldn't find it so I used his Discogs page) and forget about any email address. I'm sure Black Rose will notify him of the review anyway.

Contrastate: Recorded Evidence II

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Artist: Contrastate (@)
Title: Recorded Evidence II
Format: CD
Label: Black Rose Recordings (@)
Rated: * * * * *
This is the first of two CDs recently received for review from Black Rose Recordings. I reviewed Contrastate's 'A Breeding Ground for Flies' back in 2013 and found it to be uneven. Some things I really like, others...not so much. 'Recorded Evidence II' is a collection of rare and unreleased tracks by Contrastate, released on their own Black Rose Recordings imprint, although some of these tracks did originally appear on Dirter in various formats too. The tracks are a progression from old(er) to new(er) so there is a discernible difference in recording and composition from beginning to end. The group, from the U. K. consists of Jonathan Grieve, Stephen J. Pomeroy and Stephen Meixner. The CD is 12 track over 59 minutes, and if you know Contrastate, it's fucking weird as usual.

Opening with "Taste the waste for the human race,” it sounds like The Residents on vocals over an acoustic guitar riff loop and other processed sounds and vocals. "English embers" begins with a crying baby over some dark ambient drone before a grim spoken word dialogue becomes the center of attention. Other elements, such as a clanging bell and ringing bells, various and sundry electronic elements invade your psyche. While I'm not going to describe every track, there are some that deserve mention, one way or the other. "Between two mirrors" is a primarily vocal piece that has a hallucinatory yet drunken quality to it, which under the influence of psychedelics would likely freak you the fuck out! The following track, "From the opened red lips" (an rlw improvised revision) is similar in its enigmatic vocal expression, but much briefer. I really loved the very spooky ambience of "True believer," but was a little disappointed with the repetitious voice-over that came in halfway through, leading into a huge noise barrage that followed, but that's Contrastate for you, or just me and my preferences. I really liked the malevolent ambience of "The people who control the information," and as noisy as it is, and with unintelligible vocals, it still manages to get its point across, in spades, I think. The weird thing is, it almost seems like that track was supposed to be the title of the following track, "Revolution sera la nom de la civilisation" from the "people who control the information" vocals on it, so I'm wondering if the track order didn't just get mixed up. The last track, "Africanus neanderthalis" takes a while to build into its ultimate percussive frenzy and ensuing electronic chaos, but just stops dead for no apparent reason...kind of like the tape ran out?

Fans of Contrastate are likely to appreciate this album more than I did, but it's a good introduction to the group for those who haven't heard but may be curious. As with 'A Breeding Ground for Flies' I'm not totally sold on it, but there's still a good deal to enjoy.