13 August 2000
GEEEZ 'N' GOSH: My Life With Jesus
Still reeling from the release of the fabulous Señor Coconut album El Baile Alemán, two new discs from the prolific Uwe Schmidt (aka Atom Heart, Lassigue Bendthaus, et al) arrive at my doorstep.
The first sees Atom collaborating with Chilean rapper Tea Time, creating "the world's first trilingual triple-x hiphop album". Yes, this is pornographic hiphop in all its seediness and explicit detail. The lyrics (in English, Spanish, and Chilean slang) range from -xxx to xxx, which means that some songs have no pornographic content whatsoever. The first track, "mis chiquitas", for instance, is a naive story about wanting to travel to the tropics. But things do get much more explicit here: as in "love story", for instance, where Tea Time's refrain says, in English, "I wanna fuck her, and not a love story". All the lyrics on the record are written by Tea Time, and all the music by Atom. The music is a complex and unique fusion of latino music and hiphop conventions - and yet these conventions take on a new life, and are placed in this new, half-ironic half-sincere triple-x context. Samples of Tito Puente (incidentally assembled just days before his passing) and a host of other latin classics populate the breaks and beats in these 9 tracks. The record also features both harddisk and vinyl scratching (just you try to tell them apart!). Also notable are the cut-ups and edits that are Atom's trademarks, and some fantastic bass response in a handful of tracks. "Me tiene loco" takes us still further from latino hiphop, where Atom lays down a wicked dub groove to Tea Time's sampled refrain. If you can get past the triple-x content and Tea Time's ubiquitous rapping, your listening efforts will not go unrewarded. (Thanks go out to Atom for his elucidation on some of the lyrics and music).
The second disc comes from a new sub-division of Mille Plateaux, that is to feature records of some absurdly-named new genre called "click house". It's nice to see Atom here, though, because whatever he does flies in the face of categorisation and genre, and it's also good to see him on Mille Plateaux, which owes much of its "clicks and cuts" success to Atom's continuing innovations in electronic music. With one more project name added to the list of pseudonyms, "Geeez 'n' Gosh" lays down 8 devotional tracks about faith in Jesus. Temporarily shedding his meta-latino mantle, Atom goes back to the binary - and back to the electro-dancefloor - in full force. Ok, so there are a lot of breaks, cut-ups and fragmentations here, which make for rhythms that are often full of anomalies. But Atom has such a way of using these cut-ups that the anomalies become an integral part of the rhythms' complexity and appeal. So maybe there will be some reservation about spinning these tracks at the clubs, but I think this apprehension should be (and can easily be) overcome by both dj and listener. The groove runs very strong in all of these tracks, and their precision and complexity feeds both your head and your feet. Probably the most club-friendly track here is "Soul of Mine" with a solid rhythm and some soulful vocal samples guiding the track along its heavenward path "to live with God". Although more vocal samples from gospel recordings are heard in the accelerations of the closing track "Calling Jesus", and Atom himself steps up to the mic a number of times to offer some catchy refrains, the vocals are few and far between, and are used more as rhythmic accompaniments than as lyrics proper. For those who have only been baffled by Atom's foray into latin music and making music with ornamentation that is best described as baroque, My Life With Jesus should appeal to your binary appetite. The same goes for Mille Plateaux aficionados. For those who, like myself, revel in all of Atom's explorations (full of humour, complexity and subtlety), this record could not possibly disappoint. Cheers. [Richard di Santo]
An experimental music group from Lithuania presents this "best of" collection covering their diverse career of live performances and studio work in the late 90s. Anything goes here from the contemplative to the frantic, from quiet drones to chaotic noise-collages, from ambient and hard-edged techno to more jovial Lithuanian folk music. The moods and textures are all over the place, and though this may not be the most coherent CD in terms of its consistency, it certainly does its job to represent the many sides of ENDICHE VIS.SAT. The disc opens up with a melancholic piece for clarinet, drones and electric accordion. Following this first piece is a pair of tracks incorporating noise-collages and incidental sounds from source recordings, arranged in a way that seemed to me careless and haphazard, with little attention to compositional integrity or any sort of direction. Track 4 (I'm sorry, but I wasn't given any track titles!) is an excellent processional song with a slow rhythm and dark atmosphere, sounding like a funeral march or a public show of mourning. Track 5 opens up with a quiet drone, footsteps and an eerie mood, as if you are walking through a twisting hallway and turning sharp corners, never knowing what to expect with every new turn. Whispers and soft tones from the clarinet and piano direct the next contemplative piece, which is one of my favourites here. More noise on the seventh track, and then the disc ends commendably in the quiet and contemplative vein as it began. Over all this disc makes for a rather discordant listening experience, often too chaotic and dark for my liking. Though there are certainly glimpses where this group really shines, I think many of these compositions are lacking a certain direction which I think they could benefit from. ENDICHE VIS.SAT are at their best when they are their most quiet and contemplative; undoubtedly the best tracks on this disc (those with the most maturity, vision and coherence) are the ones where the group is performing with quiet sounds and slow rhythms. It's an even split, I think - a 50-50 recommendation. [Richard di Santo]
The new full-length from Burnt Friedman takes off from where he left off with his work on Just Landed (with the Nu Dub Players) and Templates (as Flanger with Atom Heart). These eight tracks (some of which have been previously released in 12" format on Burnt's new label Nonplace) range from jazz to dub with many stopover points in funk, lounge and latin territories. The album has been set up as a series of live recordings; and though this is probably just a humorous pretence, the album certainly does have the feel of a live session, where one can easily imagine the audience members kicking back and relaxing to the music's cool and mellow grooves. With Burnt himself on keyboards and vibraphone, he was joined by the Disposable Rhythm Section, consisting of Cologne resident Josef Suchy on electric guitars, Bernie the Bolt on drums and "bass-bot", and Nico "Nuez" Pulsilamo on percussion. The lore in the liner-notes has it that the bass-bot is an "interactive, humanised, instinctualised and improvisational real-time bass man/machine", but probably just means a top-notch bass-guitar. The drums play an important role in this album, as with many of Burnt's other recordings; fluttering, fragmented and driving, sometimes full of edits and incursions which add an element of spontaneity and improvisation to the over all mood. One of my favourite tracks here is "Destination Unknown", which is more like an improvisational jazz piece with many movements, coming back full circle in the midst of some Spanish-flavoured fretwork, a very cool bass riff, delicate percussions and some crystal-clear sounds of Burnt's vibraphone. Also notable is the dub excursion of "Platin Tundra" and the long improvisation piece "Das Wesen Aus Der Milchstrasse" featuring Atom Heart doing his (Lisa Carbon-esque) moog thing. An excellent record to relax with on a warm summer's night; as Pete Antonio says in the liner notes: "turn down the world and tune in to the Con Ritmo vibration". [Richard di Santo]
Maenad is an artist working out of upstate New York. This CD is self-released under her corporate identity Refined Clinical Research. Maenad has a mixed-bag of influences in her work, from phlebotomy and autopsy to Christian radio and finally Coil and the Hafler Trio. Flowers for Solomon is a short CD (clocking in at just over 20 minutes) of dark and unsettling atmospheres that stays true to its influences. Samples from Christian broadcasts and devotional testimonies float in and out of the drifting atmospheres. Vocal cut-ups and manipulations lend themselves to a very eerie soundtrack, like you've just entered the surreal nightmare of some radio-surfing Christian fanatic (or skeptic, depending on your perspective). Somehow I wasn't expecting such a Christian bent from an artist with the rather pagan name of "Maenad" (synonymous with the term "bacchante"). Maenad enters some fine sonic territory, and handles the atmosphere in these tracks with great command. The only disappointment here is that the disc ends rather abruptly, and seems to have been cut short. A quick fade-out at a rather inconsequential moment in the composition deflated much of the listening experience for me. I would have liked the tracks to continue in that steady flow they build up so well from the beginning, evolving and ready to reach a point of climax that unfortunately (in this format) never comes to fruition. In spite of its disappointment, however, Flowers for Solomon is definitely worthwhile listening: rich in texture and dark in mood, it points to a promising future for this innovative artist. I certainly look forward to a full-length release in the near future. [Richard di Santo]
The latest release from Stefan Betke's ~scape label is a compilation of experimental dub music from the likes of Vladislav Delay, To Rococo Rot with I-Sound, Thomas Fehlmann, Kit Clayton and others. It seems that Betke (aka Pole) has spawned a host of imitators and a new sub-genre of dub to boot, and has welcomed each of them to his own label. But this collection is a far cry from being an exercise in tautology: each artist has brought his own unique take on all things dub. Gramm opens up the set with minimal clicks and whirrs courtesy of his G3 Powerbook. His track "siemens.bioport" has a slow and complex bass rhythm which makes it one of the standout tracks on the disc. As with Vladislav Delay's contribution: a cradling bass rhythm and some surfacing crackles and hiss is one of the most unique tracks on the disc. And I think Delay prides himself in standing out from the crowd, the term "dub" is uttered from his lips only reluctantly. Disappointments here are the tracks by Sun Electric and The Modernist, which are largely uninteresting and bland, possessing nothing about them that really grabs me as a listener. Kit Clayton and Pole both deliver some excellent grooves. Thomas Fehlmann also gets a prize for being one of the true innovators here: his track "fellmaus" shifts unexpectedly and possesses a great range of sound, reflected well in the bass response of my living-room sub. Burnt Friedman's "hard drive dub" was previously released on the excellent Do Not Legalize It 12" released earlier this year, and (though a very fine track) it seems a bit out of place due to it's predominantly acoustic sound. In all, Staedtizism is an effective sampler presenting some innovative talents in the field of experimental dub music, though you may do better by picking up copies of Burnt Friedman's Just Landed, Pole's 3 and Kit Clayton's nek sanalet in order to enjoy a more full immersion into these sonic territories. [Cristobal Q]
Aurobindo is Mark Van Hoen and Daren Seymour. Van Hoen is best known for his work with Locust and Scala in addition to his two solo releases (Last Flowers from the Darkness and Playing with Time). Daren Seymour is better known for his work as Seefeel (on Warp records, etc.). Involution was released on Ash International in 1995.
This project takes its name from Aurobindo Ghose (1872-1950), an Indian thinker involved in reinterpreting the Indian spiritual heritage in the light of his own Western education. The term "involution" also comes from Aurobindo's writings (and most notably in his opus The Life Divine). Just as the term "evolution" describes the movement of a lower form to a higher form, involution refers to the inverse process. Aurobindo thought that consciousness is somehow already conceived in living matter before its evolutionary emergence, and that the Divine Being is in some way immanent in the process. He argued that Brahmin, by way of involution, manifests itself as matter (and so this higher form becomes a lower form) and then progressively brings about an unfolding of its powers through evolution. It's a complex theory that is admiddedly difficult to gloss over, and it's uncertain as to the weight of significance this theory carries in these recordings from Van Hoen and Seymour.
The titles of the ten tracks are specific dates that move progessively from 1877 to 1986. I'm not sure of the connection between the concept of involution, the life of Aurobindo, and these dates, but I can assume that they have some thematic significance. The tracks are abstract aural structures, presenting 10 unique moods through some heavy loop effects and dense sound layering. Some have more rhythm than others, but most fall deep within the realm of abstraction and thick ambience. The exception is "August 20th, 1977", in which a scientist gives his report on some experiment having to do with sound and vibration. The report (no more than 2 or 3 sentences long) is looped a number of times in the short track, and each time another filter is added the voice becomes more and more distorted. Some very intriguing results on this record which presents a challenging collection of sound miniatures. Oddly, djs have been using this record for mixing and creating unexpected moods in their sets. Highly recommended. [Richard di Santo]
Italian recording artist Arlo Bigazzi is the brother of Materiali Sonori frontman Giampiero Bigazzi. He's been active as a producer, musician and composer for the past 10 years or so, and his activities have all been documented on the Materiali Sonori label. Originally released in 1994, Polvere Nella Mente (best translated as "dust in my head") represents Arlo's explorations into the music of Native Americans, but placed in a new (distinctly European) musical context equally influenced by rock, minimalism and classical traditions. The result is a collection of pleasant songs that are carried by gentle rhythms and soft melodies, all characteristic of what is typically understood as being "aboriginal" in flavour. Arlo is joined on this record by a host of talented musicians and MatSon alumni: Paolo Lotti on flute and guitar, Arturo Stalteri on piano, Orio Odori on clarinets, Fabio Capanni, Luis Rizzo and Alessio Monsecchi on guitars, Bebo Baldan on percussion, and Arlo himself on bass, e-bow and sampler. Ordo Equitum Solis songstress Leithana also joins the ensemble, contributing soft breaths and gentle chanting on a couple of tracks.
The notes on the back cover question whether European musicians can ever really interpret the music of Native America "without simply falling into a banal imitation [una banale imitazione]". The answer in the case of Arlo Bigazzi's efforts is positive, though I wouldn't be too enthusiastic about making such a claim - the album does have its share of banalities. However, where he succeeds in transposing Native American musical motifs into this new avant-rock context, he doesn't always succeed in being an original artist. The third piece, "Appeso alle aquile", could easily be described as a "banal imitation" of the minimalism of Philip Glass. Despite this shortcoming, though, it's still one of my favourites on the album because it works surprisingly well with its naively "native" bent. The instrumentation on the entire record is excellent, and the arrangements are often quite beautiful. There's an attention to detail and subtlety that is truly admirable, and the compositions develop in a steady pace with plenty of breathing room. One of the most beautiful arrangements here is "Song for P", a quiet and contemplative piece with some delicate instrumentation from Odori, Lotti and Stalteri. Though this is by no means a groundbreaking album, its melodic ingenuity and skilful instrumentation make for a very pleasant record showcasing some great musical talents. [Richard di Santo]
One of Roedelius' finest records is this document of live performances with Nicola Alesini and Fabio Capanni as Aquarello. Strangers to Hans-Joachim Roedelius and his music will find in this record an excellent sampling of his talents and his unique musical language. Roedelius performs piano, keys, samples and voice, and is joined by Alesini's masterful alto and soprano sax and Capanni's innovative e-bow and treatments. Alesini is one of the finest sax performers out there, and can truly be said to be "singing" through his instrument, gently telling stories through his song. Capanni, for his part, has complete command of the e-bow, and what is so exceptional about his playing is the remarkably wide range of sound he can produce through his instrument. These three composers/performers work extremely well together, in harmony one with each of the others, and so it's no surprise that this isn't the first time they've worked together, and I doubt it will be their last. Roedelius himself has an incredible musical presence, both live and in his studio work. His compositional voice is unmistakable: the voice of a gentle and self-reflective man, immersed in himself and the expression of himself. The music here is quiet and subtle, full of drifting ambience and soft shifts in mood and instrumentation. The moods varied (there are a few outbursts and rough patches), but mostly things remain mellow, reflective, nostalgic and sad. The self looking back upon the self. As Roedelius says in his poem "Greghale" (a Corsican adaptation of a poem originally written in German as "Zerrissen zwischen Illusionen"), "you will once again be what you were when you were born... when you cross the boarders of illusion". The reading of the poem closes this disc, and lets fall this gentle and reflective mood that stays with you well after the music stops. Highly recommended. [Richard di Santo]
Canadian electroacoustics composer Randall Smith presents six pieces composed from 1995 through 1999. Each of these pieces is teeming with sounds and intensity; thousands of minute sounds flutter through these compositions in complex movements, revealing an intricate soundworld unlike anything I have hard before. "InsideOut" is for me the most intriguing of these works. Using only sounds derived from four instruments of an orchestra (alto flute, violin, e-flat clarinet and double bass), the piece carries a certain urgency and unease about it, and a crisp resonance that is remarkable. In the liner notes, the piece is effectively described as being "a digression through small worlds, islands of experience, each demarking a facet of the whole". Other pieces incorporate the sound sources of live instrumentation: "Liquid Fragments 1" uses double bass and alto flute, "Continental Rift" is a composition for cello and tape, and "Convergence" is for accordion and tape. There's also a geological theme that runs through some of these recordings. "Elastic Rebound" attempts to explore - in electroacoustic terms - the geographical activity of the earth. The title is a reference to a phenomena relating to the tectonic behaviour of an earthquake. "Continental Rift", says Smith, is a "metaphorical composition" describing the evolution of continental structures. This is perhaps the piece with the least sense of urgency, considering its theme is evolutionary as opposed to revolutionary; the cello intones in a way that suggests loss or a looking back to things that were. My least favourite of the compositions is "Convergence": a chaotic piece for accordion and tapes, characterised by quickly shifting movements where the accordion rides erratically in a strange "carnivalesque" manner. The CD comes packaged with lengthy elucidations by the composer on each of the pieces, describing their compositional histories. Also for each piece, the contexts, themes and impressions are discussed with great interest by Mike Hoolbloom. Randall Smith is certainly an inventive and innovative artist, experimenting with new electroacoustic techniques and creating surprising results. Each of the compositions on Sondes carries a very unique sound full of complexity and urgency, a hectic soundworld full of transitions and sharp movements. [Richard di Santo]
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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