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28 June 2000

Thomas Brinkmann: Soul Center (2)
Tetsu Inoue + Taylor Deupree: active/freeze
Multiphonic Ensemble: Cirque
Hans Tutschku: Moment
Amon Tobin: Supermodified
Various: lowercase compilation
Farmers Manual: Explorers_We
Robert Henke: Floating Point
Reptilica: Chrome Feather Future
Vainqueur: Elevations


W.v.B. Enterprises\NL | CD

This is the second instalment of Brinkmann's series of excursions into techno-funk. Funkadelic samples from the Staple Singers, George Clinton, Eddie Floyd, Herbie Hancock, the Bar Kays and more are looped and looped and looped over hard and steady techno beats. This will probably go over well with DJs in the techno/rave scene (it can effectively be described as loud music for harnessing public energy), but not so much with me. The looping of call-and-response screams ("Can I ask you somethin'?! Yeah!!") runs loud and very heavy in these tracks, leaving me desperate for some relief. Though these rhythms are strong and intoxicating, programmed with the astute precision we've come to expect from Brinkmann, they leave me feeling claustrophobic, where normally a solid hookline is most welcome for me when in public spaces. For me this was a surprising disappointment, knowing and enjoying Brinkmann's more minimal work (like the track he supplies in the latest Touch sampler, for instance). [Cristobal Q]



12k | 1009 | CD

A collaboration between two artists whose individual musical visions have undergone major shifts in recent years. Former ambient master Tetsu Inoue (World Receiver, Ambiant Otaku) has shifted his interest to explore complex and incongruous computer programmations and cut-ups (see his two releases on John Zorn's Tzadik label for the best examples of this new interest). Taylor Deupree, who has also dabbled in more traditional ambient works, has his roots in the techno scene, and has shifted his interest to more minimal rhythms and "microscopic" sounds (see the excellent .N on Ritornell or any of his releases on his own 12k label). So hearing of a collaboration between these two esteemed artists whose sound-worlds have evolved into very distinct clusters, my interest was immediately piqued. When I spoke with Taylor at the Mutek festival (my interview with him will be published in an upcoming issue), this release was still very new and was virtually unheard in its completed form. He was curious to know if listeners would pick up on the input of one artist more than the other, and if there was an imbalance of elements in the final mix. Listening to it over the past few days, I must say the result is a very intriguing blend of the two sound-worlds, where one's input never outmanoeuvres the other. The artists have kept things minimal here, with clicks and shrills quietly arranged over a bed of silence. The arrangements are such that leave me anxious to hear how the sounds will evolve, in what strange combination the elements will next appear. I found the listening experience each time to be extremely rewarding, the sounds continuously surprising and intriguing me. An excellent disc, highly recommended for the careful listener. [Richard di Santo]



Quartermass/Sub Rosa | SR 168 | CD

The Multiphonic Ensemble is Yoshihiro Hanno, presenting with this debut record an overwhelming collage of music and sound. Hanno is his own virtual ensemble; his list of production credits include programming, synth, acoustic and toy pianos, accordion, percussion, tape recorder, turntable and voice (heck, who needs additional players when you've got all that?). Not that there isn't any live instrumentation here (various musicians are credited with performances on violin, strings, sax, guitar, and drums), but these sounds have all been sampled and manipulated to fit inside Hanno's complex aural structuring. The music is spontaneous and multi-faceted, and sounds as if you've just tuned in to about a hundred meticulously coordinated radio broadcasts. However the tracks are surprisingly consistent, each with its own theme and complex structure. The music ranges from drum'n'bass cut-ups ("jongleurs") and club-friendly grooves ("burlesque") to slower, sadder string movements and ambience ("portrait of a thin pierrot", "a babe and an old ballerina") and Roedelius-like moments ("a big bull and a little mahout"). An organ movement reminding me of the score for Last Year at Marienbad was a nice (because unexpected) preface to the jungle rhythms of "three ornately bicyclists". This is a quality inherent in this music: Hanno possesses an admirable ability to surprise his listener with sudden and unexpected shifts. I was really impressed by the range of styles on this record (though a little heavy with d'n'b motifs), and Hanno's ability to coordinate them so well in order to produce a consistent whole. Nicely done. [Richard di Santo]



Empreintes Digitales | IMED 9947 | CD

Born in Weimar in 1966, Hans Tutschku has been studying, composing and performing electroacoustic music for a number of years with various groups and institutions. He has an impressive CV of compositions and multimedia productions to his credit. Moment presents 5 compositions dating from 1991 to 1998. Each of these pieces can be seen as an exercise in integrating vocal and instrumental sounds into electroacoustic compositions, done - in Tutschku's own words - "with the esthetic concern to maintain the cultural context of the source". The first, "Extrémités Lointaines", uses recordings he made during a concert-tour of Asia, of city sounds, the music of churches and temples and children's songs. Presented with "these unexpectedly rich sound worlds... "the intensity of the impressions experienced during the trip has resulted in a dense compositional structure". This density has been achieved with stunning results, the sound manipulations are incredibly complex and delicate, and these qualities can be found throughout these recordings. The second work, "...Erinnerung..." is based on a poem written and performed by Spanish author Antonio Bueno Tubia. The recording of the reading "forms the starting point for acousmatic transformations". What results is a "musical translation" of the poem, created by first cutting up the sounds of the poem into minute pieces and played back "polyphonically to create dense sound textures". The fourth piece, "Sieben Stufen", is one of the most notable compositions here. It is based on the poem Verfall by Georg Trakl (1887-1914), and uses two readings of the poem (spoken by four different voices) as its sound sources. The four key words of the poem, Verfall/ruine/decline, Abend/au soir/evening, Glocken/cloches/bells and Vögel/oiseaux/birds, are sung in fourteen pitches (seven in German, seven in French). The results of Tutschku's acousmatic treatments are truly remarkable, haunting and mysterious.

The compositions on this disc each have their own intense structural constraints, almost all with numeric fixations. "Les Invisibles" is based on the number five (5 parts, each divided into 5 subparts, the harmonic material based on 5 chords of 5 notes each), and "Sieben Stufen" is based on the number 7 (seven sections, compression of the piece into 49 seconds, two sets of vocals in seven pitches each). These works are structural marvels. Also, the sound-sculpturing and production work here are of superb; the sounds breathe a life and dimension of their own, and seem to crawl out of the speakers and into the space around you. Highly recommended. [Richard di Santo]



AMON TOBIN: Supermodified
Ninja Tune | ZEN 48 | CD/2LP

Two years following his widely acclaimed Permutation CD (also on Ninja Tune), Amon Tobin is back. Having really enjoyed Permutation, I greeted this new album with mixed feelings, even before listening. How can Tobin improve on is already superb output? How (if at all) will his sound have evolved? Well, the answers came swiftly once I set this disc spinning. Tobin's music sounds like a maelstrom of all the drum solos in the history of jazz pooled together in dense groove structures. Combined with that are sampled riffs, sound effects, vocal samples and some deep dense bass. His first album Bricolage presented a more unpolished form of this kind of assemblage or tape-work, with rough edges and harder beats. Permutation softened these edges, polished the structures and created a magnificently balanced and unique collection of tracks. Supermodified modifies none of this. Tobin knows he's found a great formula and he religiously sticks to it. Most of the tracks here could have easily gone on Permutation, which probably would have been better for them, because hearing the same stuff two years later with very little variation is simply disappointing. Now these slight variations I speak of, to be fair, are the inclusion of more jazz elements and instrumentation, including more sax samples, and some guitar as well. Done with no doubt admirable intentions, generally these additions fail to cohere, fail to fit into the aesthetic Tobin is so deeply immersed in. The bottom line is this: if you already have Permutation, don't bother with this. If you don't have it, still skip on Supermodified but pick up a copy of the former and be prepared to be amazed. [Cristobal Q]



VARIOUS: lowercase compilation
Bremsstrahlung Recordings | blung001 | 2CD

twenty-seven tracks from twenty-seven artists form this intriguing compilation from newly-formed san diego label called bremsstrahlung. this release brings together a loose collective of artists brought together under the creative hub of something called "lowercase sound">, which acts as a resource for sound artists to collaborate, exchange ideas and promote releases. this compilation has tracks from bernhard günter, taylor deupree, ios smolders and kid 606 (what? no lowercase numbers??? for shame!), among many others working in this field. all forms of micro-sounds are included on this release - this is headphone listening at its most intense.

the packaging is first-rate, with informative individual cards for each artist/track on the disc, complete with bios, contact info, and discographies. this makes it feel as if you've got twenty-seven mini-releases in your hands rather than just one large one, which seems to fit the concept of this compilation.

i feel that headphones are the only way these tracks (with very few exceptions) can be appreciated (or even heard!). tracks can be so sparse or packed with such detail, that to listen in an open environment, too many things would go unnoticed. from the up-close recordings by bernhard günter of his dachshund/yorkshire terrier crossbreed to the lab equipment used on a track by josh russell then to joseph zitt's chest recording of his voice in varying forms, it is the minutae that form the basis of everything on these two discs. of course, this can all be a bit much for any one sitting. anything requiring such concentration can be utterly demanding and sometimes unrewarding/underappreciated. if taken in small doses, the rewards are much greater than by trying to take it all in at once. highlights for me are roel meelkop's opener on disc one, taylor deupree's opener on disc two, ios smolder's rhythmic manipulations, and tone speaks' loud and crashing closer on disc two.

a very intriguing release on the whole, but one that requires much patience and concentration on the part of the listener. if you're up for a challenge, do try to locate a copy of this limited-to-five-hundred release. [Vils M DiSanto]



Or | SQUISH 04 | CD

Further cementing the bond between Vienna's current MEGO family of artists and that stronghold of audio-esoterica, 13 Osward St. London (Ash/Touch/Tray/Or, the ever-enigmatic Farmers Manual deliver unto us Explorers_We. Attempting to draw reference points to the Farmers' special take on the art of digital cut-ups (as documented on this release) would probably decry the uniqueness of its overall sound (and be nigh on impossible, anyway). With over sixty-minutes the 'Manual present a work which operates both effectively well as a single piece or with the CD player in shuffle mode (sixty-PQ points provide for an ample amount of unpredictability analogous to the already random nature of the music).

It starts from humble beginnings, tracks 1-16 (each track is about a minute long) sound like edits from a location recording of perhaps Mego's office in Vienna (complete with the cleaning lady hoovering in the room next door, or maybe it's some kind of haulage-vehicle, idling outside their window). Somewhere around track ten more unidentifiable noises begin to jam their heads in and out of the equation, elbowing for room and interfering with each other's stereo positioning. And so it goes for the hour-long duration of the track(s). Occasionally the stumbling noises coalesce (or try to coalesce) into brief mangled sequences of rhythm which sound like they've been culled from ancient misfiring drum machines, snippets of sound generated by playing broken tape recorders, synthesisers, radios, televisions and various other household appliances, indeed anything that makes noise. Not that this ever really succeeds in structuring itself into anything resembling organised music, however. No sooner is something starting to take shape from the scatterings than it catches on itself and falls to pieces, only to be replaced by another juttering collection of broken sounds. It's all very abstract and in a very intriguing way you're never quite sure what's going to happen next.

The first thousand come with a bonus CD of two "live" recordings, one of which was made aboard the Mego label's "Loveboat" event as part of the Ars Electronica event in Linz, Vienna during September '98. Again, the same kind of sound as used on the "dead" CD: jarring, stuttering noises generally knocking one another about in constant fits of mechanical breakdown. Excellent stuff. [Kevin Doherty]



ROBERT HENKE: Floating Point
Imbalance Computer Music | 04 | CD

I remember reading somewhere that Floating Point was the result of a fascination with water and randomly recurring natural sounds. Out-with this knowledge it is definitely true that the music on this CD (fourth on Robert Henke's Imbalance label) does facilitate a "point of floating". Initially, small almost inaudible fizzles and crackles set the scene. Upon focussing your hearing on these minute non-repetitive splutters up pops a beautiful rich chord sneaking up behind you to make a bed for all manner of the little noises (including the softest of kick drums) to play over.

Throughout the CD's fifty-two minute exploration of ambience you may perceive the rushing of a great river about five miles away, the sounds of a very still electronically generated forest late at night (complete with "synthetic-or-are-they-natural" crickets hiding behind rocks and birds flitting through the trees), the occasional subtle soft pulsing rhythm, and that lovely breathy synth chord making intermittent appearances giving the whole thing an immeasurable warmth. A lovely work which transports you to a magical (but never tacky) place, often reflective of Henke's and cohort Gerhard Bhelle's fascination with location recordings (without ever being truly identifiable as a place in the "real world"). [Kevin Doherty]



REPTILICA: Chrome Feather Future
Lens Records | LENS 0001 | CD

Reptilica is Ed Creagan, and judging from the absence of any other personnel credit (except for C. Carl on vocals and electric guitar on one track), Creagan is a one-man band of low-fi experimental rock. Released in late 1999, Chrome Feather Future is Reptilica's debut CD which is also the inaugural release for the independent record label Lens Records. Inspired by everyday events, Chicago resident Creagan has created 12 diverse songs "best heard on a waterbed in the back of a van" (whatever that means!). Mostly the music uses guitars and drums, with some samplers, electronics and devices. In a vocal style that is sometimes post-rock-lethargic and sometimes more aggressive, Creagan's lyrics range from expressing everyday angst and insecurity to more trivial absurdities ("they will make cars from you... use your heart to pump the fuel" (?)). With the exception of C. Carl's commendable guest appearance on "queen of luxury", I sometimes became impatient with the vocal tracks, for this kind of lethargic style is really not to my taste. For me the best moments on this disc are the instrumentals, such as the more acoustic arrangement of "the rope that leads down" or the contemplative accordion melody of "drive to MN". But perhaps the best track here is the closing instrumental "beyond the herd", which is a balanced combination of various musical elements heard throughout the album, combining a confident rhythm, harsh but non-intrusive electric guitar and smooth synth sounds to great effect. There's some great potential in this music, and I am curious to see how Creagan further develops his sound in his follow-up recording which is now in the works. [Richard di Santo]



VAINQUEUR: Elevations
Chain Reaction | CRD 02 | CD

As is the case with most of the recent Chain Reaction releases streaming steadily out of Berlin's Hardwax/Basic-Channel/Force Inc./Mille Plateaux axis, Elevations by Vainqueur (Rene Lowe) seems to further hammer home the notion that when referring to late 90s "post-techno" techno, it's a case of: the SOUND is the music, the LOOP is the track. On Elevations Lowe presents eight pieces which seem to have been written under the pretence that ninety percent of any techno/dance track is superfluous trappings designed to adorn and decorate very basic integral elements to the music. In a sense, and in keeping with the general ethos of reduction/subtraction currently being championed by the Chain Reaction school of thought, Lowe has distilled these fundamental aspects down to a fine concentrate consisting of only the essential ingredients required to shape music with. It's very much like all the hi-hats, snares, bass-lines and chord changes have packed up and left for the evening, leaving only a few gentle, die-hard synth riffs and the odd kick drum to quietly keep things alive in a sort of post-dance music/after-image-of-techno fashion.

Often there is but one loop cycling round and round with just enough happening in a track's peripheral regions to intrigue the listener and maintain interest. Mild jets of bright effervescent synth-wash are propelled through a fine (sometimes Detroit-techno-esque) gauze, diffusing the sound into bursts of gentle spray. A muffled kick drum pumps gently in the background. The gentle simplicity of the loops Lowe employs are such that they provide the perfect fluid with which to rinse one's frazzled head at about 7:30 am, after a night of beat-induced mayhem in the combat zone of your local dancefloor. [Kevin Doherty]





The Incursion Music Review was published and edited by Richard di Santo from 2000 to 2004. All 75 issues can be accessed in the archive. Please note that we are no longer accepting submissions or promotional material for review.

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