Void In, from Blush Response (sometimes “Blush_Response”) is described as a “crafted sound sculpture” of a “deep atmospheric liquid metal world”. It’s hyperbole as usual but it’s a fairly fitting way to sum up this ten-track pack of very dark, gritty electronica and techno. What it maybe doesn’t fully indicate is just how aggressive and noise-driven some of it is. Tracks like “Slamhound” are full-on battle noise, driving broken kick patterns regimenting thick layers of distorted synths, glitches, granular noises, all blended together with heavy doses of reverb.
The relentlessness of some tracks become their main feature, such as with the pervasive and oddly anger-inducing “Loa”, the violent impulses of “Gene Stealer”, or the rapid double-hammering (and weirdly glam-rock-ish in a way) “The Second Aethyr”. Other tracks like “Morphic Polymer” are more abstract, looser experiments of noise and sawtoothed tones skittishly jumping up and down the register.
“Chiralium” is an unusual twist in that it brings a calmer and almost house vibe, without losing its identity in the middle of the album, while in the opposite direction “Waves Of Silver” takes what feels like an artificially generated melody pattern and meanders around with it in an enjoyably weird and experimental way. It’s predictable but welcome that last track “Timefall” edges the energy levels well down into near-ambient, like a kind of audio warm-down.
The palette of sounds being used across the 55 minutes is just a touch on the limited side, but the breadth of ideas and the willingness to change up the mood keeps the listener’s attention nicely. It’s on the right side of inaccessible and well worth bathing your ears in.
When this precious sonic document, a live recording that Pan Sonic - the obscure creature by Ilpo VÄisÄnen and Mika Vainio - made on the occasion of Kvitnu Live Concert on 6th June 2009 in Kiev, Ukraine, was firstly released by Kvitnu in 2014, Pan Sonic didn't exist anymore. Now that Kvitnu decided to push a second edition (300 copies only), many of you sadly know that Mika Vainio doesn't exist in his physical form at least, but the sound that those Finnish guys forged on that live session and nestled in this "Oksastus" keeps its fit to times. When it was firstly released, many reviewers heard some connection to the tickling bomb for world peace related to Euromaidan, the wave of demonstrations that started in Indipendence Square in Kyev in the night of 21st November 2013 to protest against the suspension of the association agreement with European Union. During our days, someone can certainly listen some echoes of the current and forthcoming limitations of civil rights and freedom related to... guess what? That virus. Both situations can somehow fit to the sound or vice versa. 'Oksastus' is the Finnish (and Estonean as well) word for 'grasp' and some details of both stories (Covid and Euromaidan) can conceptually be considered as grasps in the contemporary history. A grasp of an element in a common ground that totally disrupts the pre-existing order (or maybe it's aimed to strengthen it), even if the awesome grasps by those Finnish sound nihilists in the eight tracks (titled after their length, as there's no apparent matching with previously released output or simply melt sounds belonging to soundbanks they adopted for some of them) often sound like the inoculation of artificial cells into a dead matter, but I wouldn't say "Oksastus" is a sort of necrophile game, even if that's what you can feel particularly in the first three tracks. In the eleven minutes and three seconds of the fourth, the sonic entity, which they forged through chaotic dusts of dissonances, electronic regurgitations, convulsive synth lo-hats and atrocious cuts on volume, smells like a sort of mechanical flesh before their creators began to dig a hole to bury it and potentially your eardrums in the second half of the track. The clipped bleeps over super dried thus of the fifth movement (5'42") could have brought the audience of that live session to a higher level, even if those sound masters had fun in let their entities move into what sound like an anechoic room. The heaviest sonic assault comes on the following 17'28", a wonderful track that initially envelops listener's nerves into tighter and tighter electronic knots, hits them by a flurry of percussive muffled punches getting more and more cacophonous and sweltering and finally melts into magmatic sonic pools. Against such a stage, the fury of the last two movements is almost reassuring like the hug of a mother. Grab it, if you missed this little masterpiece.
Due to the COVID-related block of flights, I had to postpone the listening of some stuff I received in Italy, but as far as I managed to repatriate I unpacked (almost) all of them. One of the release that immediately grabbed my attention has been the one signed by KrysaliSound founder Francis M.Gri - a very good ambient label, whose releases were introduced many times on this space -. Named after a Japanese word meaning blur and mental confusion, "Boke" is the touching translation in music by which the Swiss-born Italy-based artist (also known as the co-founder of the Italian ethereal dark band All My Faith Lost, whose albums reached big labels of this niche like Projekt Records and Cold Meat Industry) articulated the different painful stages of a degenerative pathology burning the memory (I guess Alzheimer syndrome) diagnosed to someone very close to him and that many of us could have lived as powerless frustrated spectators. The electro acoustic microsounds appearing since the beginning of the opening "Loneliness" seem to render impurities in the entrancing blending of distillated synth pads over the repeated sequence of two tones, almost a sonic rendering of gradually petrifying or crystallizing mnemonic particles before the trigger of the emotional rendering by a melancholic guitar-driven melody. In "Lost", the listener can perceive both the beauty of getting lost and the rising sense of tragedy of feeling lost, where parts of piano and guitar are like dissolving flakes, which get agglomerated in a sort of buzzing lullaby at last. The strong knocking in the first moments of the following track "Void", where the melodic drafts leaking out of a synth, a whistling mouth and a guitar, continuously fade out in blurred evanescences, emphasize the progression over some of the worst stages of the disease, whose more tragic peak get sumptuously rendered by the final heartfelt hugs in between minimal ambient and post-rock nuance on "Disappearing", last chapter of an "interruption of memory" that gets aptly described as "a collision between our dreams and what we are".
The second album from Mick Hobbs’ Officer! (the punctuation’s part of the name) was released on vinyl in 1988. It’s been dusted off- or “remastered from the original reel-to-reel tapes” to give it the proper term- and released on CD by KlangGalerie with five bonus unreleased instrumental tracks from around the same time, as part of a rather prolific output.
It’s very 1988, in many ways- a lo-fi guitar-pop with a quirky, folky attitude and the occasional tilt towards the weird, backed up with a pleasant richness of guest string and wind instruments. The sound quality would have felt low-budget even then, and a bit of remastering doesn’t disguise the generally grungy feel. What carries it above that slight sonic problem is the fact it has a very strong ear for a catchy hook and a catchy riff, with elements like the chorus of “Coma” or the infectious opening riff of “Simone” undeniably strong pieces of song-writing.
Certain parts, like the Jethro Tull-ish flute of delightfully odd “r Tune” (a Simon Bates-sampling tune that Bates would never have played), feel both more eccentric and slightly older, harking back to a more experimental 60’s studio feel. “Remove Your Hat”’s first part has that barking mad avantgarde spaciousness, before the second part develops into a song that’s halfway to Madchester, while the Beatles-ripping riff of “Bright Star” seems like a more overt throwback.
“r Tune” is also an example of the unusual lyrical approach, which sits somewhere between straight-faced, wacky and ironic, without ever settling into overt comedy. “Simone, she leaves me accident prone, so I’d better leave her alone [...], keeping her body in tone, with food that’s organically grown” is poetry. The introverted but sweet love song parts, such as “(I’ve Got A) Nice Girlfriend”, never quite reaches Jilted John territory, but it’s not far off, while the simple and innocent approach stretches into wilful ironic pretend-dumbness in songs like “Hid It (‘Cos I Wanted You To Find It)”.
As quite a contrast, the five previously unreleased instrumental bonus tracks, rather than being the sparse pop-demo sound that I might have anticipated, are rich experimental pieces with analogue synths and complex time signatures that hint at a very different but equally interesting compositional approach. “Distal Interphalangeal”’s mesmerising counter-play of repeating plinky bell sounds with spontaneous growls is a particular highlight.
It’s oddly endearing from start to finish, and while the clanginess and sonic quality of the guitar does start grating over the course of an hour, it’s an interesting way to get introduced to Hobbs as an off-beat songwriter with some great tunes.
The concept behind Starflux is to play a cello in an unusual way. By laying it flat, and using one undulating hand to apply different pressures to each string whilst the other hand constantly strums, it becomes a staccato pulsing instrument, deep and broody and industrial and barely recognisable as a classical string instrument. The changes in tone forego the usual modal intervals of western music and are based on maths and fractions, and over the course of the three long pieces, the gradual changes in proportion caused by the changing weight on each string results in gradually shifting but subtle micro-changes in the tone.
The result in the title track is mesmerising, in a simple, direct way. What initially feels a bit like the sound of hammering gradually settles down into the feeling of rhythm- around 100bpm, give or take- and it’s one of those long sound effects that seems to normalise in your ears, so that when it eventually stops, you miss it, as though it ought to always be there.
Ostensibly, the second track is a reconstruction of the concept of the first, done digitally to avoid the natural limitations and inconsistent tonal dominance of a real cello. But the result is entirely different- long, sustained, pure sine wave tones arrive in sequence, unpredictable thanks to the unfamiliar range of pitches. The rhythm is so slow as to essentially be gone, and instead we have a near-ambient, glacial digital melody that could scarcely be more different to the first.
Final piece “Pharus Novae” essentially, to over-simplify it, brings together the sound of the two previous recordings. The simple connection between the low tones of the first piece and the exclusively high tones of the second feels like a natural fit, and rather than feeling like you are being fed the same sound on repeat, instead it feels like the natural conclusion to a triptych, with the ear-normalisation of the rhythm in the first piece returning like an old friend. It’s oddly satisfying.
This release is one of the sixteen in the now complete Elli Records “In The Room” series, and it’s in good company with some excellent other releases. It’s also worth getting all sixteen on Bandcamp, via a subscription maybe, because of the strangely satisfying effect of arranging all sixteen releases in a four by four grid so that the full original artwork can be seen.