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23 April 2000

Burnt Friedman & the Nu Dub Players: Just Landed
Edward Ka-Spel: Red Letters
Kraftwerk: Expo 2000
Los Sampler's: Descargas
David Kristian: Sawdust Sinedust Squaredust
Mimir [3]
Mirror: Ringstones
Muslimgauze: Untitled
Suba: São Paolo Confessions
Vladislav Delay: Entain
UBSB: Traceroute
Various: Substancia 2
Alp: At Home With Alp
Amir Baghiri: Autumn
Jochem Paap: Vrs-Mbnt-Pcs 9598 I & II
PAL: m@trix
Plateau: Spacecake
Hans-Joachim Roedelius: Theatreworks


~scape | 004 | CD

Burnt Friedman has dabbled in many styles of music (consider the differences between Leisure Zones, his work with Atom Heart as Flanger, and all the Nonplace activity in between), but surely he feels most at home here with the Nu Dub Players (Bernie the Bolt, Crucial Guenther, DJ Booth, and the enigmatic Cousin of the Sausage Smearer). Never has dub sounded so good. The music was recorded using "the Friedman Effect Stereophonic Curtain of Sound" which in theory places the musical instruments in exact proportional locations based on the original recordings. The music on this disc has an incredibly crisp and clean sound, moving through tracks of dub-heavy, progressive (i.e., non-roots) dub, with a number of unique and surprisng twists along the way. The rhythms are quirky (we never lose sight of the Players' sense of humour), the drumming is immaculate, and the bass runs deep. Recommended, yhis record is pure magic. . [Richard di Santo]



Cacciocavallo/Soleilmoon | CAD2 | CD

Receiving a new release from Legendary Pink Dots frontman Edward Ka-Spel is always a wonderful thing. My first exposure to Ka-Spel's music came many years ago via his early work with cEvin Key as The Tear Garden, and ever since then I've been following his work, wide-eyed with wonder. His solo works are among his best, offering a more intimate and experimental style of music and lyrics that is often lacking in LPD's catalogue (especially lately, the band's psychedelic rock reorientation can be a little daunting). There's always an inherent loneliness in his solo works: as if he were whispering to us from some solitary corner of the world. Ka-Spel's fragile voice intones messages (apocalyptic, playful, heartfelt) like a prophet, like a voice from the outside and, simultaneously, a voice from the inside. Red Letters follows last year's largely disappointing solo effort The Blue Room (which seems musically uninspired and lyrically barren). Red Letters explores themes of anger, isolation, bleeding hearts and poisoned rivers ("a poison pen") and is a more fitting successor to the unparalleled Scriptures of Illumina released in 1994. The music here begins in the way we've come to expect from Ka-Spel: beautiful dark moods, clear voice and conventional melodies. Things pick up nicely with the transitional piece "Illumina 3/The Carrier", which introduces more experimental elements in the composition. This is followed by the excellent and uneven "Grooovy" (incorporating analogue loops and radio waves) which is reminiscent of his work with Elke Skelter/Lady Loop (most notably Tanith and the Lion Tree, perhaps his best solo record to date). Though not his best, this is overall a very fine CD, and makes for good company to while away the lonely hours of the evening. [Richard di Santo]



KRAFTWERK: Expo 2000
EMI Electrola | 724388798426 | CDS

So. Kraftwerk is back. Sort of. Been a long time, hasn't it? Indeed. Here's the general problem I have with such releases: band is M.I.A. for 14 years; band puts out re-worked versions of their "classics" to let you know, dear listener, that they are "still in business". Then band puts out 23-minute EP in hopes that you will be fawning over their new work. Well, I do end up doing that. To a point. How can you listen to this objectively? Four remixes of the very same track with some of the very same voices they used on "Musique Non-Stop". And the tracks are poorly arranged on this disc as well. Why start off with the short "Radio Mix" of the song? A better place to start would have to be the 7-minute "Kling Klang Mix 2000"! Kraftwerk's work must s-p-r-a-w-l over longer times. Sure, almost all their releases are under 35 minutes, but rarely has there been many 3-minute tunes for them. So if you hear this disc, I suggest playing track 2 first -- you get a much better idea of this slow-moving song that way. It's leisurely, pulls no punches, and surprises you nowhere. It's exactly what you'd expect from Kraftwerk. Which is probably good. Lord knows what we'd do if they added drum 'n' bass to the equation! So I say throw away the radio mix, revel in Mix 2000, dance to Mix 2002, and chill out with Mix 2001. So there. [Vils M DiSanto]



DAVID KRISTIAN: Sawdust Sinedust Squaredust
Multimedias Pandora Inc. | MPAN-0005 | CD

My first encounter with Mr. Kristian turns out to be a very positive one. Sparse, clean lines and dense ambience fill this disc's 66 minutes quite nicely. Jumping from aquatic oddities like "in the haunted silo" with its Randy Grief-like gurgling, to supple and sublimely smooth beated tracks like "ping disco", Kristian moves in and out of the functions on his scientific calculator for our amusement. Highlights are "pegel", "stolen sunshine", and the finale, "hinterfalls" with its deep, pounding bass accenting the noise of crunchy, distorted peaks. Sonically, I find the disc comes and goes: it starts a bit "off" to me -- I found the first two tracks sounding quite different from the rest of the disc -- overly boomy beats in track 1 and buzzy ambient layerings in track 2. From then on, things pick up quite nicely, and never do look back to the relatively backward-sounding tracks 1 & 2. This disc is reminiscent of Autechre's EP7 to me -- much density, cleanliness and surprises are in store for you, should you give this disc a try. [Vils M DiSanto]



LOS SAMPLER'S: Descargas
Rather Interesting | RI053 | CD

The latest offering from Uwe Schmidt aka Atom Heart aka atom™ is a remarkable exercise in sampling and rhythm reconstruction. Descargas is a collection of warped latin rhythms (artificial renderings of traditional rhythm structures like the mambo, son, and cha cha cha), performed by a fictional sampling ensemble. Lively and hilarious, multi-faceted, multi-layered, muy brillante! Using an immense host of samples (culled from atom's vast collection of latin music) this music is thematically centred on the Cuban term "descarga" which has the double meaning of "jam session" and "discharge". Favourites here are "La vida es llena de cables" (which takes on a traditional "son" rhythm and vocal style, concluding in a rapid explosion of sampled fretwork), the complex "Estudio en ritmo" (where a traditional vocal track rides unevenly on waves through the 7/4-5/4 times rhythm), and "Vamos con San Pedro" (another "son" reconstruction, which turns unexpectedly into an urban beatbox rhythm reminiscent of the excellent Mono Trademark, released in 1996). Filtered vocals, latin percussions, acoustic guitars, edits, cut-ups, and a cacophony of atomisms and "galletas" (short digital clicks, or, more literally, "cookies") contribute to the very complex and careful structures on this album, the kind of digital baroque atom™ has been developing with extraordinary success in recent years. And this cover art is not to be missed. Highly recommended. [Richard di Santo]



Streamline | 1012 | LP

Mimir is back with their third and finest album to date. Mimir is something of an ambient supergroup, comprised of Christoph Heemann, Andreas Martin (both ex H.N.A.S. members), Edward Ka-Spel, the Silverman (both leading members of the Legendary Pink Dots), and the prolific Jim O'Rourke. The music is incredible, masterfully recorded and mixed by Heemann, and it really does defy easy description. Side one is a brilliant collage of ambience, noise, loops, drums and some beautiful melodies for guitar. This music occupies a space all on its own, and fills the house with elements of incongruous beauty. Side two is much more quiet and deep, and is divided into more distinct movements. It is less acoustic and more organic, with subtle stylings fading in and out of the mix. You can recognise all the key players here, but especially Ka-Spel's tendency toward analogue loops (the opening sequence has you riding on the tracks of a familiar aural train ride straight from his earlier records). Stunning work, and highly recommended. This one's limited to 950, folks, so you'd better act quickly. [Richard di Santo]



MIRROR: Ringstones
Some Fine Legacy | SFL002 | LP

Mirror is the pairing of Christoph Heemann (whose work we have already seen on the third Mimir LP reviewed above) and Andrew Chalk, an accomplished sound and visual artist whose catalogue has seen rapid expansion in recent years. Recorded in 1998, Ringstones presents two long drone pieces of immense beauty and dimension. The liner notes (words by "Sarban" from 1951) speak of a great silence suddenly encountered by a traveller who finds himself alone on the moor. These words find their perfect compliment in these two pieces. From their starting points in complete silence, they develop very slowly using a subtle combination of high and low frequencies to create an atmosphere of stillness and solitude. An incredible record, packaged with stunning artwork by the two artists (a numbered 12x12 print of sandy textures and sketches). Limited to 600. [Richard di Santo]



Klanggalerie | GG14 | CD

Music recorded in 1993 but largely not released until now (two tracks are taken from a very limited 7" by Syntactic), this record by the late Bryn Jones offers nothing new for those familiar with his work of the period. Although I am willing to admit that the music of Muslimgauze is sometimes brilliant, but more often merely intriguing, his innovations were far too few to merit his incomparably vast output. The music on this disc is easily compared with Betrayal (which has the same rhythms and beats, minus the vocal / conversational samples) and Maroon (the same, but with different vocal / conversational samples). If it weren't for these affinities with these and other Muslimgauze releases, I would have really enjoyed the moods and rhythms here. Smooth waves of sound, sparse samples of Arabic percussion, electronic beats and vocal samples here are wonderfully mixed and are all characteristic of this period. This music is enchanting and takes hold of the atmosphere filling it with its mood of impending danger. Recommended for those as yet unfamiliar with Muslimgauze, but for those who are I can only recommend caution. [Richard di Santo]



SUBA: São Paolo Confessions
Ziriguiboom-Crammed/Six DegreesRecords | 6570361019-2 | CD

I am by no means a brazilophile, but this album by Brazilian super-producer Suba has its indelible charm. Suba had somehow found the time in his busy schedule to record his first album of largely original material (all tracks are original compositions except for "Felicidade", a bossa nova classic from Vinicius de Moraes and Tom Jobim), blending elements from all over the map of popular Brazilian music with electronics, constructing a hip aural exploration of his native city of São Paolo. Suba is joined by a host of skilled musicians and vocalists, including the smooth vocal stylings of Cibelle, percussionist João Parahyba, and the notable Nordeste ensemble Mestre Ambrosio. Suba's talents seem to work best on vocal tracks, like the mellow "Sereia", or the more driving rhythms of "Tantos Desejos" and "Abraço" (the latter of which was first released on 1998's Freezone 5, also on Crammed). The instrumentals, however, suffer from a certain lack of structure, and are often imbalanced, due to some bass-heavy mixing. I would have been very eager to hear how Suba would have developed his sound and talents, but sadly I learned that his life was recently cut short: he died in a fire at his apartment. He was a skilful producer and an artist full of promise, and there are a handful of gems on this disc to prove it. He also produced the forthcoming debut CD from Bebel Gilberto on the same label, so watch this space for more reviews of electro-Brazilian music. [Richard di Santo]



UBSB: Traceroute
Ash International [R.I.P.] | 4.7 | LP

Marketed as a power electronics "supergroup" project, this release gathers the talents of Ulf Bilting, Edwin van der Heide, Zbigniew Karkowski and Atau Tanaka to tackle the theme of noise travelling through the internet -- more specifically, the traceroute information you see when you look at the fine details of any message transported over the net. From the time I accidentally opened up a Photoshop image file with my audio editing software and discovered there was SOUND information somehow created from it, this area of creating sound from non-sound sources has proved to be of great interest to me. Normally what results is pure, unadulterated noise, but as is the case on this release (noise notwithstanding!), elements of rhythm and repetition abound. The sound of messages being transported back and forth to various servers in order to get to their destination hold much in the way of translatable sound information. The artists for this release wrote Unix software to cull and track these messages, then went in to "hack" the file created to bring you the sounds recorded on this release. The single track on side one, "" is the most rhythmic of the three on this vinyl release, and is the richest-sounding track as well. The second side of the disc has two similar-sounding pieces to one another, yet the second track "" contains more in the way of sound processing. This sounds more processed by humans than the other two tracks do, and the result is mind-numbingly noise-laden! Seek out this release if your interest is peaked more with the METHOD of sound-generation than the RESULT of sounds you hear. [Vils M DiSanto]



Mille Plateaux | MP80 | CD

This 23 year old musician from Finland, trained as a jazz drummer, has turned to making his mark in the dynamic realms of electronica. This offering from the eminent label Mille Plateaux (comprising two previously released tracks from a 1999 release on Sigma Editions and four new ones) is a dark exploration of electronic landscapes, rhythms and atmospheres. The six tracks are mixed into an amorphous whole; it is music that feels submerged and surfacing at the same time, with sounds occsionally rising like clear bubbles from dense cloudy water. The first track opens with stark atmospheres, followed by the regular and paced sound of a heartbeat. The heartbeat almost immediately changes, and new rhythms are introduced to it, developing into a complex and incongruous rhythm, creating a mood that carries on for the length of the cd (over 70 minutes worth). The sounds are very deep and organic, the moods are abstract and ascetic, and the predominately low frequencies used here will give your woofers a good workout if played at a high volume. Stunning and innovative. Mark my words: we're going to be hearing a lot more from Vladislav Delay in the very near future. [Richard di Santo]



VARIOUS: Substancia 2
Quatermass/Sub Rosa | SR180 | CD/LP

The budget-priced sampler is a tricky medium. Labels try to cover a wide trajectory of artists and styles in an attempt to capture what is current in their catalogue. At the same time, the compilation needs to be a coherent whole, so tracks never seem out of place. The most recent success in budget-priced samplers is the Leaf Label's Osmosis, an incredible mix of new and more-or-less innovative electronica. Approaching the same music scene, Sub Rosa's imprint label Quatermass releases the second Substancia collection, with contributions from their current roster of artists: Scanner, atom™, Tal, Benge, Bisk, Bump & Grind, Calla, Richard Thomas among others. There are some wonderful tracks on this cd. Among the most notable is an exclusive track by atom™;"Sort of Rhythmical" is a cornucopia of samples and styles, with a sound corresponding more or less to a combination of the electro-pop of Lassigue Bendthaus (circa Pop Artificielle) and the latin inflections of Los Sampler's (see above). Multiphonic Ensemble also contribute one of the finer tracks on this cd, a multi-dimensional and dynamic track from their latest cd Cirque (also on Quatermass). Tone Rec pairs up with To Rococo Rot and comes up with a solid house rhythm, and Ensemble surprises with the stark clicks and asceticism of their (his? / her's?) untitled piece (I'm very eager to hear more from Ensemble, who have a CD forthcoming on the same label). On the whole, where this sampler succeeds in providing an excellent survey of what's upcoming from this innovative label, perhaps its only failing is that as a compilation it generally fails to cohere. The styles here being very diverse, it seems that little effort was made to arrange them effectively. Otherwise indicative of fine things to come from Quatermass. [Cristobal Q]



ALP: At Home With Alp
Soleilmoon Recordings | SOL91 | CD

O Yuki Conjugate member Roger Horberry released this surprising album in 1999. All the sounds here, as he explains in the liner notes, "originated as contact microphone recordings of everyday noises". This means sounds from a microwave oven, a pan of boiling water, photocopier, washing machine, etc. This is a far cry from the ethno-ambience of OYC, but nonetheless it's a very impressive departure. Most of the source material is rendered unrecognisable here, and the tracks run like vignettes of extremely dense ambience. The sounds drift in and out with occasional suggested rhythms, and although occasionally you may lose yourself in its density, craving just a little levity into the mix, the overall listening experience is very rewarding. The non-intrusive quality of this music makes it great company to have playing while doing the household chores, considering the sound samples all derive from very domestic materials. [Richard di Santo]



Arya | Y08 | CD

Recorded between 1994-7 and released in 1998 on the Amplexus sublabel Arya, Autumn is a fine example of cross-cultural ethno-ambient music, in a style that fits in nicely with the Amplexus catalogue. Waves of warm and cool synths wash over you, drones of the didgeridoo growl through the layers of sound, a variety of percussions and faint chanting are all part of the mix. Baghiri produces music that is one part Michael Stearns (plus greater depth and texture) and one part Jorge Reyes (minus the emphasis on ethnomusicology). The moods here are strong and imposing, a combination of light and dark, warm and cool. This music doesn't blend in with the ambience, it creates its own. [Richard di Santo]



JOCHEM PAAP: Vrs-Mbnt-Pcs 9598 I
Fax Label | PS08/94 | CD

JOCHEM PAAP: Vrs-Mbnt-Pcs 9598 II
Fax Label | PS08/96 | CD

Such wonderful, haunting music exists on these two discs, I cannot recommend anything more stunning than these two releases to you today. Jochem Paap, a.k.a. Speedy J, has released some terrific dance-oriented electronica over the last few years, and has always included a strong ambient element to each release. In particular, his Public Energy No. 1 disc featured some quite rugged soundscapes within. Now, on these two Fax label releases, we are able to witness this relatively softer side to Paap's output. My only complaint to Fax is that these should have been released as a double-disc set! Playing one disc just never seems to be enough. What you will find on these discs are some extremely deep, pulsating bass shifts, sweet harmonies countered by enough drama and release to make each track an entity unto itself. Yet there is such a grandiose flow between the tracks -- recorded over a four-year period -- that it sounds like these releases had been planned that way for ages. From the vowel-less disc and track titles to the depth and clarity of each track, there is much beauty to be found here. Highlights for disc 1 are "Spk", "Dtnd-Jn" and the finale "Mbnt-Plng" with its soothing tones and eerie simplicity. And where variety seems the course of action for disc 1, staidness and concentration seem to elevate things on the superior disc 2. Dramatic high sweeps on the opener, "Dx-Snth" are enough to bring this reviewer's emotions into play -- such beauty and inspired ambience I have never heard before. And then comes the 28-minute "Mrg-Rvx", with which its depth and movements encapsulate you into a fractal -- sounds move up and down the audio spectrum, and you're never quite sure where YOU fit into all of it. And the finale, "Jchm-2ngn", lingers long after its 18 minutes have gone by -- the low pulsing bass just resonates within you and your surroundings for hours after playing. Seek out and find these discs with whatever means you have! [Vils M DiSanto]



PAL: m@rix
Ant-Zen | ACT 63 | CD

Some aggressive rhythmical work for you here, created by sound assaultist PAL. Harshness abounds, with fine sprinklings of lighter elements thrown in from time to time. Treated, howling pound dogs accentuate the pummelling, seedy noise of the sequenced rhythms on "unwanted" -- all those isolated dogs left on their own in the world. This proves as a high theme in this release: isolation. Yes, this theme has been covered before by a myriad of other assaultive releases in this vein, but PAL's sound is a little different -- mostly stripped of accompanying synths and ambience, he plays with drums and sequencers and not much else, to create a world of nerve-grating noise. Highlights are "t.a.e." and most definitely "e-mass". Things get to be a bit much the further into the disc you get: "hybcollab 3" is an unrewarding beat-cruncher and "whomp that sucker! (live)" sounds tinny and doesn't hold much more depth than its blasé title does. The disc's closer, "wasteland" is possibly the best track on the disc: wailing synthesis and a slowed-down chopped-up beat bring the disc to a dramatic close. But what is evident on this final track seems to be completely missing from the rest of the album (apart from "t.a.e.") -- DRAMA. These two tracks hold much promise for PAL, and I hope he follows this path in future releases. [Vils M DiSanto]



PLATEAU: Spacecake
Metropolis Records | MET135 | CD

Released last year, this is the second full-length for Cevin Key and Phil Western recording under the name Plateau. This time around they are joined by newcomer Tim Hill (replacing Anthony Valcic) who contributes to a handful of tracks and the eerie murmurings of vocalist Karin who appears on two others. Key's discography since his time with Skinny Puppy is indeed varied, but until recently it has always seemed to me that he was working from leftovers from his Puppy days. From Doubting Thomas to Download, his music has always carried some of that old "puppy gristle", by which I mean his own brand of aggressive beat and voice distortion, a flurry of sounds at once chaotic and well-placed, and a fascination with moments of light and beauty within dark aural landscapes. This could even be found on Plateau's 1997 debut full-length Music for Grassbars (on Hypnotic), which blends smooth atmospheres, housey beats and solid rhythms. Not so on Spacecake. This little disc is filled with variety and ingenuity, and represents a real departure and development in Key's music. The opening tracks are characterised by their constantly shifting natures; they all take many turns and develop in surprising ways, but one never feels like it's too much (Download's The Eyes of Stanley Pain suffers this affliction in places). Once we get to "de Fog", which lays down a solid dancefloor groove, the tracks become more constant in nature, there are fewer shifts in the compositions and more of an emphasis taking rhythms to their natural conclusions and/or limits. This music that demands your attention and rouses your imagination, full of smooth beats and shifting atmospheres, and comes highly recommended. [Richard di Santo]



Multimood Records | MRC016 | CD

The forever-active Roedelius, with over 30 years of making music and more than 80 releases to his name, is undeniably a legendary figure in electronic music (he was recently dubbed "the godfather of ambient"). His records cover a wide trajectory of styles, moods, and techniques; his music has always been a very personal testament of his love for life and his fascination with the possibilities of self-expression (all of his music can be considered as part of his Selfportrait series). His finest releases to date can be found in the Multimood catalogue. These are three: Der Ohren Spiegel, Theatreworks and the epic La Nordica. Released in 1994, Theatreworks combines old and new material (some sources dating back to the Eno/Cluster/Harmonia period of 1975), and was composed and arranged specifically for two theatre pieces based on the writings of Argentinian author Jorge Luis Borges. The music is an assemblage of rich, abstract textures and dynamic moods. Elements from past projects and samples from many musicians and artists contribute to the compositions: Nicola Alesini (sax), Joao de Bruco (percussions), Fabio Capanni (guitar), Dieter Moebius (synth), Brian Eno (doing his thing), among many others. Samples from various sources (Reyes, Thomasius, et al.) trickle in and out of the mix. The moods range from calm and cool ("The Old and the Young" and "A Fascinating Man") to more frantic rhythms as in "Quaint Man" and "La Tour". Finally, the closing track "Dance" is a deep and forceful rhythm structure that shakes the foundations of your complacency as listener/spectator. This music represents the more experimental side of Joachim's music (and if you like this, consult La Nordica, which, together with the upcoming Sinfonia III, I consider his finest work to date). Surprising and delicate, this CD comes highly recommended. [Richard di Santo]





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