22 October 2000
as11 presents his debut album on the Antifrost label. 00:00 is a radio collage recorded through internet radio broadcasts on new year's eve, an aural document of the dawn of the year 2000. Its one track, thirty-five minutes long, takes us through 24 locations across the globe on this momentous occasion. From New York to New Zealand, from Beijing to Tehran, from Moscow to Buenos Aires, as11 offers us an interesting glimpse of a single moment in human history. Radio DJs, presidential speeches, prayers, fireworks, music, celebrations and the noises of the crowds paint this aural portrait of a global party. An interesting concept, indeed, but I found that its execution was a little lacking. The audio clips are presented in short segments and mixed into a continuous and flowing whole, but essentially the collage does nothing but present a more or less linear arrangement of these samples, each "moment" placed one after the next in regular succession. But maybe this release should be praised for its simplicity, for its absence of compositional interference, though to be honest I'm not so sure. Although listening to this disc was a curious and entertaining experience, I can't see myself going back to it very much. 00:00, like the radio broadcasts on which it is based, probably would have worked best if it were produced as a radio broadcast, to be listened to only once, through the internet or over radio waves, as an ephemeral and live production and not something as concrete as a published CD. In spite of this, though, 00:00 should remain at the very least a nice souvenir for those who regard the dawn of the year 2000 with more sentimentality than indifference. [Richard di Santo]
This monumental musical project is the result of more than 10 years of compositions and recording material by electronics composer Roger Doyle. Babel is described in Doyle's liner notes as "a large-scale musical structure making use of many technologies and music languages, with each piece of music being thought of as a 'room' or place within an enormous tower city." The story of Babel, derived from a comparatively short passage in Genesis (11:1-9) but which has enjoyed a rich and elaborate literary history, describes how the descendants of Noah attempted to build a tower intended to reach heaven (the word "Babel" means "Gate of God"), and how God frustrates yet another of man's attempts to overreach his human limitations by scattering them and causing them all suddenly to speak in different languages. This, of course, causes massive confusion and an impasse in communication, and the building of the tower was thus abandoned.
God's blood-red hand of discord did not interfere with Doyle's ambitions, however, in creating his own virtual Babel, and after 10 years of composing, recording and mixing, he is finally able to present his magnum opus. In addition to his own programming, keyboards and electronics, Doyle has incorporated contributions from a massive host of performers (including Tim Brady, Trevor Knight, Elena Lopez, Barbara Gogan, Cindy Cummings and Dorota Baszczak). And yet the dominant elements in this music is from the programmings and keyboards. The music moves from frantic cut-ups and collages to more quiet and slower-moving ambient-style and improvisational music, reflecting the themes of each disc respectively (Temple Music, Chambers and Spirit Levels and Delusional Architecture). Babel should indeed be praised for its breadth and for its ambition. Its execution is obviously the product of rigorous and disciplined recording and mixing sessions, and here also it is clear that Babel is an incredible accomplishment. However, where Babel suffers, ironically, is in its very diversity, its very reason for being. My sense is that it tries to be too much at once, tries to be everything to everyone, understandable and yet incomprehensible at the same time. The very flaw of the biblical Babel; it's too ambitious. The music is a frantic blend of harsh cut-ups and floods of sound, with a highly "synthesised", or artificial feel to it, and I must admit I feel slightly claustrophobic while listening. This artificiality also makes this music seem two-dimensional, as there isn't very much movement or depth within the stereo soundfield.
Perhaps more successful, if only because it's more amusing than it is ambitious, is the "supplement" to Babel called KBBL. Comprising two out of the five discs, KBBL is the fictional radio station of Babel, hosted by William Monigold (the morning show) and Myra Davies (the evening show). Some clever witticisms make the experience of these discs more entertaining ("All Babel all the time", or "KBBL: information and entertainment in a language of your choice"), including an hilarious high-speed commercial break (incomprehensible, but to be listened back at normal speed "at your convenience"). Here, as in the previous three discs, Doyle presents a diverse collection of musical styles and structures, except that this time we have the more "popular music" of Babel. By far the more interesting of the two "radio personalities" is Myra Davies on the second disc, for her narration is less the terminally upbeat American radio-host, presenting a much more relaxed and better paced narration (the fifth is for me the best disc from the five). Some nice grooves and interesting songs on both discs (contributions from Barbara Gogan and Anne Lapierre are among the most notable here). But once again I am not completely taken in by these virtual constructs (the radio structure does become a bit tedious about half-way through the first disc). Perhaps a more successful take on fictional radio broadcasts is Radio Inferno by Andreas Ammer and FM Einheit (on Invisible Records), a complex radio play based on the themes and structures in Dante's Inferno.
Roger Doyle's Babel (like the biblical tower on which it is based) is ambitious, diverse and highly artificial -- three qualities which simultaneously describe its achievements as well as its shortcomings. [Richard di Santo]
Minimal electronics, digital architecture and frequency experiments by Fon, released on the new Workzeug label. The press release for this disc, not to mention the "information sheet" on Workzeug, was completely incomprehensible to me, so I'm afraid I can't say much about who Fon is or what their (his? her? its?) intentions are. Eleven tracks of abstract sounds and sine waves; this is microwave in its pure form. No rhythms show up until track 9, where a dark beat develops and frolics with some shifting tones that wrap themselves around a post-industrial-style rhythm. High and low frequencies change their consistency as you change your position in relation to your speakers. Blips and bleeps bubble up amid an entire range of hisses and pops, some of which can be quite grating and harsh on the ears, while others create a more smooth sound environment. Even if this music doesn't completely appeal to my aesthetic or musical preferences, I admire this work for its precision, its breadth of sound and its wealth of textures. Two notable compositions of atmosphere and abstract tones on tracks 7 and 8 ("Ist" and "West") for example, are well worth some attention, as is the aforementioned track 9. A must for those documenting the history and evolution of microwave. [Richard di Santo]
Dance Classics: "a digital parade for conceptual dancefloors," or so the story goes. This is my first contact with Ilios, an electronics group from Greece formed in 1992. In 1997 they founded the Antifrost label, which has offices in Athens and in Barcelona. Dance Classics, their fifth full-length release, presents 17 abstract dance grooves and miniatures, more for an imaginary dancefloor than a real one. Digital dust flies in random patterns, often with a solid underlying rhythm (and that underlying structure is what provides this music with its more "danceable" quotient), but always with healthy doses of abstraction that infiltrate the mix. Dense sounds, an opaque bass rhythm, a perfect night fog. The tracks are sometimes complex and polyrhythmic; your body has the option of moving to one rhythm or its complement rhythm buried somewhere in the structure. The disc ends with a bizarre radio trip through various channels and dense layerings of random noise -- hiss, whirrs, cut-ups and clicks -- mixed by Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth. A fine release of minimal music that grows on you more and more with every new listening. [Richard di Santo]
Having been duly impressed by Vladislav Delay's Entain release, I wasn't quite sure how to handle his house music projected released as Luomo. It seemed, at first, like an extremely unlikely concept: a pure and soulful dance record, recorded by a relative newcomer to the experimental electronic music scene. As soon as I hit 'play', all preconceptions had disappeared. On this disc are some gorgeous beats, some trademark Delay sounds, and, suitably, vocals.
On the surface, all the typical house elements are present: repetitive beats, repetitive lyrics, hi-hat strikes, and a smooth array of BPM variations. But how Delay constructs his six tracks here is far from conventional. There's a pleasant array of minute sounds thrown into the mix, a busy underbelly in every track that seems to have a life of its own, sporadic use of effective anti-beats that just may throw your steps out on the dance floor, and plenty of squeaks, stretches and other such paraphernalia.
The lyrics, instead of being of the typically bouncy, happy variety, have a definite downbeat nature about them. "There's nothing to do other's can't do," implies a keen sense of boredom amongst a very peppy beat in the second track, "Class". "I guess you turn me on... when you're gone," is similarly downcast in "Tessio".
I like how lengthy the tracks are: 9:56 is the shortest track on the disc. This gives the tracks a little bit of aimlessness about them, and Delay is competent enough to carry each track through with enough shifts to sustain listenability and not boredom. He's done a wonderful job with this release, and while I did not necessarily enjoy the vocal stylings on first listen, they have now come to grow on me, and I thoroughly do enjoy the entire disc. [Vils M DiSanto]
Sine is the latest instalment in Staalplaat's "material" series of specially packaged EPs of minimal click electronica (aka microwave). Each instalment boasts a unique packaging design accompanying a specially engraved standard jewel case, and Radboud's contribution is no exception -- inserted into the jewel case are two thin slabs of heavy and perforated metal. Just incredible, and worth picking up if solely for the packaging.
I am inherently skeptical about the rise of microwave, with only a few exceptions (I tend to look less favourably upon the pretensions of the rastermusik "school", but more favourably on the Staalplaat gang, for example). And yet I find that this series of EPs (with contributions from Goem and Kozo Inada, among others) has retained my attention and praise, and I think it has a lot to do with the constraints of producing a work of limited length. Microwave is at its best when presented in a limited structure, or presented in self-contained miniatures with tight arrangements. The temporal limits and constraints encourage a greater impact of the music on the listener, proving on a temporal level (as well as stylistic and aesthetic) that "less is more".
This latest work by Radboud Mens is phenomenal, and succeeds by presenting a series of five tracks (with a total run time of just over 30 minutes) that are as structurally complex as they are impactive. Pushing the limits of the stereo soundfield, these tracks are minimal but still carry a certain richness, detail, and (yes!) even ornament which makes Sine a unique success in its class. Of course, when I say "ornament" I don't mean to imply that this music is in some sense baroque or contra-minimal; the ornament is implicit in its more ascetic arrangements. I preferred this release to Radboud's recent full-length cl;ck, which I think all comes back to the virtues of the EP format. Highly recommended. [Richard di Santo]
Volume 3 is the latest instalment in the Mothballs series of 7 inch records from the Scottish electronica label Mouthmoth. Five exclusive tracks from a forever growing roster of artists. The only name I recognise here is Asterisk, who contributed an excellent and mellow track on Volume 1 of the series. Side A starts off with a track by Straight Outta Mongolia; "don't be so crass" would have no trouble fitting in with the Rephlex crowd owing to its naive electronics and off-key singing. Cute. Snotra brings in the noise with the second track "song for breaking stuff", which basically sounds like a whole lot of stuff being broken, their sounds violently cut up and distorted and finally arranged into a completely incongruous and destructive mess. The third track by d/compute brings things back to more mellow ground with a nice drumkit rhythm accompanied by a backdrop of analogue washes. Side B opens up with "sea green and cyan" by Asterisk, who return here in full form with an excellent track of steady rhythms, warm synth sounds and a lovely melody on guitar. Incidentally, this one's my favourite on the record (is a full-length from Asterisk in the works, I wonder?). It's back to noise, heavy drum loops and distortion galore with Pulsar's "the people with computers in their head", which has a funny narration ("the people with computers in their head don't talk anymore -- they communicate by a form of electronic telepathy") and creates a dark but humorous mood with its harsh textures. In total, five more wonderful little cookies from the gang at Mouthmoth. [Richard di Santo]
This classic of post-industrial dark-ambient by Andrew Lagowski aka Legion aka SETI was released in 1994, and (to the best of my knowledge) is still available for purchase, though Hyperium doesn't provide any direct mail-order service. The liner notes report an accident which took place in Kobe (Kyoto) Japan in 1981, when an assembly operator was killed by the industrial robot he was responsible for operating. The significance of this accident is that "it was believed to be the first fatal accident involving one of the 50,000 robots installed in Japan" at that time. Moving toward the production side of things, the music on this disc was produced using the "integrated data stream method", which feeds analogue, digital, live and radio sound sources into an audio VLSI processor and then through analogue processing with some added effects until it was then recorded onto DAT. The sound engineering on this disc is astounding -- concrete, subtle, deep, and full of dimension. All of the tracks have a very dark mood (metallic echoes, industrial motors, smooth waves of sound), and perfectly reflect the theme of industrial risks and dangers, but without falling into industrial-style cliché or hyperbole. An excellent release in any age, complete with an innovative package design by Disinformation. [Richard di Santo]
Initially released in 1995 on the Fax Sublabel, this collaborative effort by Atom Heart, Tetsu Inoue and Bill Laswell is as much a collaboration as it could have been a compilation by these three artists. All of their trademark sounds (circa 1995!) can be heard on this disc. Laswell's throbbing bass lines, Atom Heart's electronic wizardry and Tetsu's ambient soundscaping.
A thoroughly enjoyable disc from beginning to end, its four tracks ranging from the 29-minute "Synthetic Forest", with its slow movements and recurring creature/munchkin sounds thrown in over top, to the studious sounds of "Green Paste" with its slowly evolving crescendo that feels like the waves have just washed upon you as you lay on shore. The third track, "Artificial Seaside" is just that - water droplets drip over top of a sandy bassline undoubtedly compliments of Mr. Laswell, and the final track "Landing Cycle" (improperly listed as "Landing Circle" on the Sub Meta edition of the disc I own) is the shortest of the lot, and is filled with tones of a more dissonant nature, being dragged to the depths of its footing.
Both the Incursion editor and I had come to the same conclusion on the nature of this disc: it seems to last far longer than its running time suggests. We can't quite explain it. Perhaps it is the gradual shortening of each track as the disc progresses. Perhaps it is the finality of tracks two and three, which feel like "ends" more than "middles", and then when the fourth track comes along it feels more like a bonus than the finale.
Regardless, this is a wondrous disc, highly recommended (though methinks it is now deleted). It has a lustrous flow, and even though you can definitely tell who's contributed what to the mix, that makes it all the more enjoyable, as these three artists work together to create an unforgettable classic. [Vils M DiSanto]
Released in 1995 on Soleilmoon, Digilogue is a re-release and restructuring of an earlier vinyl release of the same name (solv 004). From the opening sounds of an opaque space with microscopic crackles, the listener is pulled into the :ZF: soundworld. In a few moments, a steady and simple rhythm develops, accompanied by a host of dark and isolated sounds. As it progresses you notice the slight anomalies that occasionally occur in the rhythm; turn the volume up and you suddenly witness the incomparable wealth of the sound environment. Robin Storey (now recording solo work under the name Rapoon), is a master at producing ambient loops that are extremely rich in detail and carry a characteristically "heavy" or "dense" sound. The effect of his music has always been comparable to a kind of hypnotism caused by the measured motion or cadence in his layerings and loop structures with a unique combination of tones and sound elements. His more current work as Rapoon has been excellent, even if a little lacking in diversity (there seems to be a certain formula that Storey only too rarely breaks from). Digilogue is an excellent example of Storey's strengths (it's certainly one of my favourites from his catalogue), and is one that I return to with growing admiration time and time again. [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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