21 May 2000
By far the most bizarre record reviewed in this issue. Curd Duca has had a small number of releases on Mille Plateaux and on Normal Records, but this is the first I have heard from him. Subtitled "digitalanalog mood music", this record is largely composed of digital cut-ups and processing of analog sound sources, moulded into complex arrangements and abstract vignettes for our listening pleasure. It's an incredible ensemble of strange, super-slow jazz movements and bizarre aural moods. 48 movements in all, it's difficult to write about these individual fragments, considering their integral role in constituting the mood of the whole. Notwithstanding, however, two favourites here are "tristan" and "midnight": ceremonious and sombre, they both have strong, dark moods, slow bass rhythms and abstract vocal murmurings (the latter of which is supplied in sprinkles throughout the album by Carin Faldschmid). Also "schwirr", which, when I listened to it in conjunction with an approaching thunderstorm, was synchronised perfectly with the natural rumblings and flashes in the sky. The music has an eerie quality that in places reminded me of Nurse With Wound's quieter moments, but otherwise is quite unlike anything I've ever heard. A wonderful album. [Richard di Santo]
And so we have Sussan Deyhim's Madman of God. Deyhim has worked with an incredible array of talent: from Hector Zazou and Heiner Goebbels to Bobby McFerrin, Richard Horowitz and Loop Guru. And it's no wonder: her talents as an experimental vocalist are far ranging indeed. Her voice is able to reach incredible feats, but in a manner which is more than simply vocal gymnastics. Madman of God, subtitled "Divine Love Songs of the Persian Sufi Masters", has Deyhim returning to her Iranian roots. Each of these pieces derives from traditional Persian melodies and poems by Rumi, Saadi, and other Sufi writers from the 11th to 19th centuries. Yet these songs are not historical documents: Deyhim takes these traditions and experiments with their forms, amplifies their emotions, and makes them entirely her own. In working with this material, she says: "I have sought to evoke and live the vibration, for I believe the vibration is the essence of the Sufi way of travelling through time, in cosmic space, which transcends all other parameters." In this endeavour I think she succeeds. Sussan is joined by some virtuoso players: Glen Velez (percussion), Reza Derakhshani (tar, kamancheh, ney and setar), Dawn Bukholtz Andrews (cello), Reggi Workman (acoustic bass) and others contribute to the very complex interpretations and powerful rhythms on this album. But, in the end, it's the voice that comes at us with full force. Like a cavern with a hundred mouths, her voice comes through from all sides, from every corner. There is always a risk that comes with using vocal overdubs, as this album does, that the voice may actually drown itself out and lose its immediacy and force. Not so with Sussan Deyhim's music; the overdubs are used very carefully, and never seem self-indulgent or exaggerated. I am so overwhelmed when listening to this music, so exhausted and exhilarated at the same time. It makes this one of the most interesting and moving records of the year. Highly recommended. [Richard di Santo]
Two long pieces from live performances recorded in 1995, finally made available on Manifold. The first is a collaboration of Illusion of Safety with Life Garden (Dan Burke, Edward Lear, David Oliphant, Peter Ragan). The sounds here are exactly what you'd expect from these members: dark soundscapes, piercing interruptions, sparse percussion, the occasional plucking of strings and the isolated klanging of metal objects. This first piece leaves me feeling unsatisfied, however, as the composition seems to be lacking in direction; as if the performers weren't sure where things were going, nor were they too eager to explore the directional possibilities. The second piece brings IOS, aka Dan Burke, together with Voice of Eye (Bonnie McNairn, Jim Wilson), and is by far the more interesting and rewarding piece on this record. Dense soundscaping, warm and cool ambiance, this piece comes closer to representing "the nature of sand", suggesting an isolated landscape where the sand drifts in steady motions over the desolate horizon. The piece is characterised by a greater attention to detail and a more unified approach to the composition (it never seems aimless, never divided in intention). Taken as a whole, this is an "okay" release that is one-half rewarding and one-half disappointing, but which generally lacks the deliberation and attention to detail found in Illusion of Safety's finest work (see the excellent Of & The on Soleilmoon, for example). [Richard di Santo]
MK. ORCHESTRIN: -28 + Alieni
Two CDs of improvised music from the eminent Canadian label Ambiances Magnétiques.
The first is a meeting place for two accomplished improvisers and composers, Joël Léandre on double-bass and Danielle P. Roger on drums and percussion. Both artists have extensive discographies exploring a wide range of musical styles, and this is the first time they are working together. The music on this disc is challenging and complex. The double-bass is grating and hyperactive; the percussions flutter through the pieces as if on wings. Together these two elements create an incongruous mass of much vigour and skill... My desire though was to have the percussion become more prominent in the pieces - something that is accomplished quite nicely on "coupes blanches" for example. But on this piece and a handful of others there are vocal outbursts and chants by Joël that I feel the pieces could do without; the voice takes away from the immediacy of these explorations. But it is clear there is much passion and energy in these performances; listening to the recording makes me long to hear these performances live, where I feel this music would be better appreciated by its listeners.
The second disc is more to my taste. Mirko Sabatini, aka MK. Orchestrin, is a virtuoso percussionist exploring the limits of his art. He has a more teleological approach to improvisation, believing that all accidents of chance "are driven by an unconscious will and determination towards a more or less precise direction", and it is on this principal belief that this project was realised. The music on this disc an amazing array of textures and techniques; on it Mirko performs on drums, motors, plates, springs and rubber bands. I am amazed that there are no overdubs used in this recording, and this amazement leads me to desire seeing this (as with the other improvisation disc above) as a live performance. Though I also think that NOT seeing the sound sources of this music probably increases my pleasure in listening to it. The opening pieces are very short; the percussion flutters in fragments as if they were cut up with digital editing techniques. In this regard, the opening pieces reminded me of the treatment of drumming in Flanger's Templates CD on Ntone. Then we have "eventi", a longer piece where long and shifting drone sounds are introduced (how these sounds were created is a mystery - by motor? spring? rubber band?) together with cymbals and other textures that create something truly remarkable. Another series of short pieces follow, quieter than the opening ones, which leads to another drone piece called "puri" (but this one incorporates many more percussive elements than the last). Finally things get rhythmical with the incredible and forceful poundings of "trumba", followed by a final series of short and fluttering explorations. I found the music on this disc to be marvellous, in the true sense of the word as describing something that is to be marvelled at wide-eyed with wonder. A superb achievement. [Richard di Santo]
Two long pieces (running at 30 minutes each) of deep frequencies and mesmerising drones. There is no information about this release in the sleeve (except some code and a 1995 date), so I'm not sure what the concept was (if any) behind these recordings. The first track begins with a nice low frequency fitting perfectly in my ears, then a high frequency is layered overtop, some deep ambiance, later the sound of water. The track progresses slowly and ends with a nice three note melody. Somewhere through the first piece I began to drift off (not to sleep, but into a very relaxed state), lost in the slight pulsations of the sound-work. The second track has much more activity, and, though it also has gently pulsating sounds, makes me more alert than docile. It has a similar foundation in soothing ambiance and high/low frequencies, but the new sounds that are introduced are more grating and intrusive, but nonetheless welcome in the mix. A rewarding and challenging accomplishment from the Laboratory of Sonic Discovery. [Cristobal Q]
Here is a CD from another member of :zoviet*france: gone solo. Horizon 222, Rapoon, and now Penumbra is added to the list! Obviously, there are some links to be heard here to the :z*f: sound, but overall this debut disc seems to be lacking as a solid, cohesive release. Tracks seem to be hit-and-miss. The opener, "Molecular Falls", is terrific - wondrous and loopy, with bright sounds thrown into the muddy mix, create a magical dynamic. After this great opener, we are offered a 20-minute monster called "Stepping Into The Night", which only managed to keep my interest for 3 minutes and 40 seconds. At that precise point in the track, a wishy-washy synth loop begins to take over, and total monotony and boredom ensues. 20 minutes is far too long for this track to meander as it does. "Pushpulser", the next track, is by far the weakest on this release. Its pulsing backbone is too similar to what we were subjected to in the previous track, and its 12 minutes started to push MY pulses! I did enjoy the final two numbers: "Panaphonica" contains another of Penumbra's pulsating backings, but what happens over top of it is much more interesting. Microscopic voices and dry winds contribute to a particularly strong track, which never settles into the mundane world of others on this disc. The final track, "Resonant Waves" begins with the sound of radio waves tuning into other radio waves. A choral element is added over top, and this adds a great deal of depth to the piece, similar to the brightness evident on the opening track. Penumbra's first release does hold some promise, but overall I feel it lacks a unifying element, which is why this failed to hold my attention. [Vils M DiSanto]
Inventive composer and percussionist Pierre Tanguay presents his first solo record of music made largely from invented and recycled instruments. It's been labelled as "'heavy new age' background music"; I'm not sure what "heavy new age" means, and the music on this disc is a far cry from background music, so I'm not sure if this label does the record any real justice. Tanguay plays anything from more traditional percussion instruments and flutes to household objects like bottles of wine, plastic Winnie-the-Pooh figurines, cowbells and a kazoo. His arrangements are complex and deliberate, the sounds delicately rising from a template of silence. The disc begins quietly with "C'est pas la mer à boire"; its gentle percussion and quiet drones make for a peaceful introduction, leading into the more varied instrumentation of "Ma Poule, ma fleur", which also rests gently on the ears. The further into the album we get, the more intricate the arrangements; ranging from quiet and minimal, to loud and alarming (especially so with the frantic tones of "Une étoile dans le coeur" and "L'alarme à l'oeil") and everything in between. The only regrettable track here is "Ma tribu personnelle", which has this irritating and monotonous vocal chanting that goes nowhere for me. In the liner notes, Tanguay collects the titles of the 16 pieces and forms a paragraph that is only semi-intelligible (you'd have to read it yourself to see what I mean). This is an interesting comment on the album as a whole, because the distinct pieces of music also form this entity that is by no means a straightforward linear composition. It's clear that there is much hidden within the arrangements for us to discover. There are many voices, many narratives, and many sounds which, as Tanguay points out, "address everyone, anywhere at anytime". The only trick is finding out just what it's all trying to tell us. Recommended for the adventurous. [Richard di Santo]
A nice little four-song 7" from Scottish electronica label Mouthmoth featuring Frog Pocket (look forward to a review of their full length next issue), Voltergeist, Parallel and Lips Vago. Frog Pocket's track is great; mellow and uneven beats, sweet melody for electric guitar, vocal cut-ups, manipulations, and bizarre sounds. This is followed by an extremely short and chunky drum'n'bass track from Voltergeist (a little heavy on the reverb, guys! but I appreciate its brevity). Parallel's track on side b begins with some backward singing which leads into a nice breakbeat and a cacophony of abstract sounds and cut-ups, which then take over, drowning out the beat and breaking it up nicely, only to bring us back to the opening vocal motif. Lips Vago provides a short track of bizarre beats and pleasant melodies, clouded by a thin layer of distortion, which closes things off rather well. All in all, an excellent little record featuring artists who are not afraid to have a little fun with their music... [Richard di Santo]
An instrumental offshoot for Haujobb, Architect seems the perfect antidote for those craving some nicely constructed, beated material. Packaged in a very unique green acetate-lined case, we're introduced to a clean, minimalist visual approach, which is followed to a "T" in the music. There's a wonderful sense of motion put into many of the tracks here. In particular, "Pastgate" would seem the ideal music to blast on an airplane during takeoff. "Ahead" is more subdued, but similarly forward-moving. Weaker moments include the overt video game sounds of the title track (which leads me to wonder why one of my least-favourite tracks is what the disc is actually called, but I digress). Also, the rather bland and straight-ahead assault of "Parallel" and "Tot Mann" offer not much apart from their drum 'n' bass force. They pale in comparison to the complexities found throughout the rest of this disc. The subtle ambiences and electronic wizardry make this an intriguing release, and the production is superb. It should be perfect for the bright summer months ahead. [Vils M DiSanto]
In recent years there has been an explosion of records experimenting with forms of guitar music, ambient or otherwise, and the results have been surprising and incredibly wide-ranging in scope. And yet it's always nice to see a return to the old "Frippertronics" - the use tape loops for electric guitar developed by Robert Fripp. Having studied with Fripp, and having an impressive CV of experience as a solo guitarist, Michael Peters here presents music for solo guitar made with a Paradis Loop Delay system, enabling him to explore the musical possibilities of his instrument through playing improvised "duets" with himself. The music here is inventive and clever: his use of tape delays has produced some great results. Some pieces have strong rhythmical elements with repetitive loops (see "April for No Reason" for the best example) but there's also a healthy dose of dense and drifting atmospheres howling through space (favourites here are "Infinite Moment" and "Dawn of Life"). No overdubs were used except where some environmental sounds are occasionally woven into the mix. From the listener's perspective this music is more pleasant than challenging, but in such a way that makes us immediately aware of the skill and innovations of the artist here at work. Nicely done. [Richard di Santo]
This release from a few years back of Icelandic starkness, originality and humour (recorded entirely in PERCEPTOVISION!), is a wonderful mishmash of styles and elements. From the deconstructionist take on techno in the opener, "Holy Tears Of Joy In Jesus", we're introduced to a sound which is heavy, Gothic, and sparse. A deep grunting voice, with an almost cartoon-like demonality about it, a deep choir echoing in the background, and light tingling bells lead you into a religious persecution like no other. Other tracks in this dark vein include: "Theoleptic Head", with background ambience Pan sonic would later like to have stolen for one of their recordings, "Anal Duke" and the closer, "S.O.G.". Not everything is so dark and heavy-handed though. Lighter, even "peppy" tracks with energetic rhythms and (gasp!) catchy melodies are here - "Bell-í-head" and "Song of the Beast" are the best examples of this. Andrew M. McKenzie of The Hafler Trio was part of this recording, mixing and producing this release. His sense of humour and sound style is most evident throughout, especially when compared to his release with HÖH (Bootleg) and his previous disc with Reptilicus (Designer Time). This is recommended listening for when you're not quite sure what you feel like listening to! [Vils M DiSanto]
Released in 1997 on the innovative Swedish label Atrium. The joik is a specific form of traditional throat singing found in various forms in Norway, Finland and Sweden. The music on this disc however does not present traditional joik arrangements, though it certainly has its origins and contains many elements thereof. Added to the vocal tracks here are instrumentations on guitar, clarinet, sax, bass, and a strong percussion section with a thunderous effect. But more prominent than all of these are the electronic atmospheres, performed by the project's producer Frode Fjellheim, that inform and direct all of the pieces on the disc. These "ambient sonics" (as they're called in the liner notes) are largely dark and disturbing. The landscape they suggest is sometimes chaotic, sometimes angry (read: post-industrial angst), and sometimes sorrowful. This quality adds a certain weight to these recordings that I find generally undesirable and oppressive. The most balanced piece on the record is "lars b. vuelie", with deep deep percussion, and gentle instrumentation, and of course the unmistakable tones of throat joik. Also on the positive side, some superb recording techniques (including parallel phase frequency linearising software) yielded incredible results in terms of the music's sound quality. Though this music is certainly inventive and challenging, I find I am rarely inclined to play it owing to its overbearingly oppressive mood. For a more accessible interpretation of the joik (of the Finnish variety), check out Angelit's Mánnu CD, a lighter, more pop-influenced recording released in 1999 on the Innovator Series label. [Richard di Santo]
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