> Archive > Music Review 17

3 December 2000

L. Gaab: Morphosis
Sachiko M: Detect
Mokira: Cliphop
Günter Müller / Lê Quan Ninh: la voyelle liquide
Reptilica: Nurse
Otomo Yoshihide / Voice Crack: bits, bots, and signs
Various: Find More Hits (Lucky Kitchen)
Various: Owasso Night Atlas (Infrasound Collective)
David Dvorin: With(In)communicado
Urmal Vesnat: First


L. GAAB: Morphosis
Morphosis Music | MM3 | CDR

Larry Gaab returns with another set of dark ambient electronic music, self-released and self-distributed on CDR. He continues with similar musical themes and motifs he had established with his two previous discs Resurrections and History All At Once, full of smooth atmospheres that shift from light to dark and back again. This music has definite affinities with the ambient, almost new-age stylings of Michael Stearns, for example, or those of the same old-school ilk (read: releases on Fathom/Hearts of Space, Amplexus, et al). Gaab's instrumentation, though it might not be breaking much new ground, still reveals his acute sensibility for creating strong moods with his analogue equipment, and a sure talent for soundscaping. My only reservation about this music is that at times I can really feel the limitations of Gaab's equipment; it's as if I can sense that the music wants to break free from its two-dimensional bind, but is unable to do so, and so it remains. Otherwise a very fine traditional dark ambient record. [Cristobal Q]



Antifrost | afro 2007 | 3" CD

This little CD is a gem. Merely 20 minutes long, the latest from Japanese electronics improviser Sachiko M (of Ground Zero, Filament and I.S.O. fame) is a showstopper. The key to this release is silence. It opens with a few short blips and bleeps, a crackle here, a short cluster of sound there, followed in silence. Another cluster, this time louder, more concrete, followed once again in silence. This exchange continues unevenly for a period which seems longer than it actually is, the listener never knowing when the next little burst will come through the vid of silence. I've been listening to this little piece for days, and each time I'm still surprised by it, never completely comfortable with my anticipation of the sounds. Slowly over the timeframe a smooth high frequency creeps in at an extremely low volume, almost imperceptible at first. This tone increases in its intensity and in its volume gradually over the latter half of this recording, shifting slightly and changing with each of the listener's movements. And then, suddenly, a full stop, and it's all over.

The strength of this record is in its economy of style. I absolutely love these limited CD formats, and especially so with glitch music and electronic improvisations. I'd like to think that any work published in this format was conceived with this this limitation in mind, thereby constraining the artist to express his or her ideas within its established parameters. Sachiko M does this extremely well; her sensibilities in working with the interplay of silence and sound are remarkable. Highly recommended. [Richard di Santo]



MOKIRA: Cliphop
Raster-Noton | CDR036 | CDR

This is the latest in Raster-Noton's "static series" of CDRs, and is by Mokira, a.k.a. Andreas Tilliander. Plenty of four-letter words make up the track titles here, but nothing you couldn't show the children. The first one, "Redo" gets things underway with a now typical assemblage of clicks, pops, beeps and nervous fastidiousness in the background. That's pretty much the setup and the execution of the bulk of the disc - very little in terms of new or unexplored territories will you find on this disc. Clever packaging instills a sense of toxicity in the music, but it is not overt. Things are more clinical than anything, with sparse arrangements and a rather limited sound palette. Highlights are "From", with its attention-getting shift in its final 40 seconds, "Byte", with its more substantial stance on groove, and the closer, "Slut" (what was that I said about the children?), with a jazzy rhythm, reminiscent of a severely stripped-down Flanger. An enjoyable enough recording, but without very much to inspire or change one's outlook on this genre. [Vils M DiSanto]



GÜNTER MÜLLER / LÊ QUAN NINH: la voyelle liquide
Erstwhile Records | 010 | CD

Two established and adventurous percussion/electronics improvisers team up for these dynamic performances recorded in January 2000, now released on Erstwhile Records. Müller has been exploring the potential of electronic improvisation in recent years, most notably with his releases on his own For 4 Ears label. Ninh has also been working with integrating electronics and percussion improvisation, and as a percussionist he has been performing with the new classical percussion ensemble Hêlios Quartet. The two met in 1988, and have occasionally been performing together since then.

The music on this disc has really grown on me over the past few weeks. There are so many subtle shifts, the sounds move in and around these compositions with such delicate movements, it amazes me more and more the fine details that are contained within these 75 minutes. The tracks are long, and each has its own voice, tone and direction. Percussions flutter to and fro, creating a body of multifarious textures and incongruous rhythms. Electronic processing sometimes interferes but mostly the crackles, tones and waves are integrated so as to make an harmonious whole. This is a superb work, full of the most minute details that will no doubt reward the attentive listener. Highly recommended, and one of the finest from Erstwhile's strong and growing catalogue. [Richard di Santo]



Lens Records | Lens 0002 | CD

Reptilica's new full length picks up from where his debut record Chrome Feather Future (released in 1999) left off with experimental and edgy lo-fi music, written and produced by Ed Creagan. As with his debut release, Nurse contains a balanced combination of instrumental and vocal tracks all produced using "low school equipment with minimal processing". That being said, this music is very rough around the edges, with harsh sounds and accidental noises pouring into the mix in songs dominated by electric guitars, drums, feedback and a host of samples. Once again I found the instrumental tracks to be much more interesting than the vocal arrangements. Creagan's vocal style (adolescent, off-key, garage-style) doesn't really appeal to my sensibilities, but his instrumentals show a great potential with their more experimental leanings, something that I would have liked to hear hear more of on this record. Consider the excellent track "wake-dress- undress-sleep", which hops around musical styles and samples, cuts them up and arranges them in a very neat montage. Still, a fine release of experimental post-rock adult-angst music, worth checking out for its adventurous spirit. [Richard di Santo]



OTOMO YOSHIHIDE / VOICE CRACK: bits, bots, and signs
Erstwhile Records | 011 | CD

Legendary electronics improviser and innovator Otomo Yoshihide (founder of Ground Zero, New Jazz Quartet, etc.) here teams up with the Swiss duo Voice Crack (Norbert Möslang and Andy Guhl), a group specialising in performing on "cracked everyday-electronics". The result is a set of stunning tracks with an incredible sound palette. Rich textures, crackles, beeps and pops mix with strange atmospheres, rumblings and concrete sounds, from the quiet (a soft crackle of static) to the more abrasive (the incessant buzzing of some peculiar machine). This CD should really be listened to with the volume turned up (although if you do this be prepared for some surprises). Many of the sounds (low rumblings, high frequencies) would barely be perceptible at low volumes, so it's best to turn it up and be aware of the work as a whole.

There's a strong sense of environment in the first piece, as if the electronic equipment is generating a completely organic world, the chirping of crickets, choruses of birds, a sharp wind... but I sincerely doubt that these are field recordings at all, but impressions which are instead merely evoked by the sounds which are most likely electronically generated. As the piece progresses this world becomes more disturbed, more industrial (metal scraping and the roar of machines), more polluted and dark. A very dramatic piece with a strong movement and direction. The same can be said for just about every piece on the disc (six in total, ranging in length from 6 to 17 minutes each). Each piece carries a distinctive momentum and creates its own sound environment, unique from the rest but still clearly a part of the same cosmos. Yoshihide and Voice Crack have created an extremely challenging record, so you should expect a bumpy ride; the more attention I gave it the more exhausted I became. Once again, another very strong release from Erstwhile records. [Richard di Santo]



VARIOUS: Find More Hits
Lucky Kitchen | LK 8 | CD

Lucky Kitchen founders Alejandra Salinas and Aeron Bergman passed a copy of their Find The Hits CD (LK 001) to 18 music groups and artists, asking them to respond to it. The result is this album, a collection of tracks from these artists sprinkled with short interludes from Sandra and Aeron themselves. These interludes are their own reworkings of the original material, presented here to provide the new listener with some context for this new compilation. Sandra and Aeron specialise in quirky, unassuming and homemade ambient and electronic textures, with a special emphasis on location recordings (or "life" recordings as they describe them) and a subjective approach to creating and presenting their music. They describe their music best as an "organic approach to memory-like audio documentation" or as "natural extensions of our ears and memories". This new compilation features contributions from Pimmon, Sachiko M, To Rococo Rot, Steven Marcus Taylor, I -Sound, and a great host of others, some of whom I am admittedly unfamiliar with. This new album also marks the debut for electronic artist and Bilbao resident Peña Ruido, who supplies a handful of very short tracks (the final three being one second each!).

The tracks on this record are reworkings/remixes/interpretations of the original material, but each contribution seems to blend seamlessly with Lucky Kitchen's unique musical approach (with the exceptions, perhaps, of I-Sound's "fool" and Peña Ruido's "little natural disaster", which are more abrasive than the rest of the tracks). From location recordings of church bells in Barcelona to an amusing rendering of "This land is my land" (complete with banjo), and with tracks ranging from the rhythmic (Electric Sheep, I-Sound) to the abstract (Pimmon, S.M. Taylor), Find More Hits offers us a rich supply of new music with a fresh and unique outlook. My particular favourites are the outstanding contributions from Hrvaski (acoustic guitar with interference), To Rococo Rot (subtle rhythms abound) and Electric Sheep (quirky and jovial electronics). As the promotional notes describe it, the music is "one part academic, one part electronic, one part folk, one part pop... add 18 music groups and there you have it, a strange new CD, familiar, and yet quite unlike almost anything else". 32 tracks of very rewarding music. Highly recommended! [Richard di Santo]



VARIOUS: Owasso Night Atlas (Infrasound Collective)
Infrasound Collective | INFCD003 | CD

Infrasound: The calling for mindscapes and probable fiction, unmediated spontaneity and collage inebriety, wrung out of the electric ether.
— Aquill, 1999

This new compilation from Infrasound Collective, a label of new and adventurous music (electronic, improv, post-rock, etc.) based in Nashville, Tennessee. The artists featured on this record are completely unknown to me (many of which being from the Seattle new music scene and beyond), so I'm not sure of their respective histories or backgrounds (please check out their webspace for further information). The music on this disc is all over the place in terms of styles and musical visions, shifting suddenly and with amazing frequency from one genre to another, from the conventional to the exceptional in a moment's breath. The disc opens up with a stunning drone of "multiple, extended, processed flutes" by Mark Fauver, which evokes a cold wind on a desolate hilltop. The International Bankers follow with a solid groove and a dubby bass (the ghost of Laswell, I suspect), complete with strings, distortion and electronic interference. The grooves continue with a more urban sound and a jazzy breakbeat from The Grassy Knoll. And then, all of a sudden, things get a little out of hand with a bizarre improvisation piece by Luther*McRae, which alternates between quiet and peaceful moments and unexpected eruptions of loud and chaotic catharses on guitar, percussion and flute. One of my favourite tracks here is Absorption's "Dead Slow", where the thin echoes of electric guitar sound over a rolling rhythm and a warm/cool atmosphere. Very nicely done, and will no doubt have me looking for more from this artist. An improvisation from the large ensemble group the Tentacle Improvisers followed by some haunting atmospheres from Christopher DeLaurenti, and more gentle rhythms from Layng Martine III and Let's Say Baltimore, continue with the disc's commendable programme of musical diversity and experimentation. A very intriguing release that crosses over many territories and yet still manages to hold on to its integrity; it surprises the listener with every turn and with every track, capturing our attention and holding it right through until the very end. [Richard di Santo]



DAVID DVORIN: With(In)communicado
Pax Recordings | PR 90248 | CD

With(In)communicado, released in 1999 on Pax Recordings, features the music of David Dvorin, a composer and multi-instrumentalist based in Nevada City, California. Equipped with a sampler, computer, bowed psaltry, electric and acoustic guitars and other instruments, Dvorin creates a number of strange and intriguing compositions, recorded over three years time. Dominating the tracks on the disc are the six movements to the piece "With(In)communicado", which, in Dvorin's own words, deals with "the breaking down of transmission systems and communication in an era of proliferating hi-tech communication devices". Cut ups and edits from answering machines, dial tones, busy signals, modems and conversations are laid overtop sparse instrumentations in these pieces, creating an unusual (and sometimes humorous) atmosphere. The track "Um Om", for example, takes all of the "umms" and "uhhs" from our everyday conversations and builds a new statement directly out of the elements which we normally filter out while listening. Although they employ some interesting ideas and concepts, I often found myself getting impatient with these pieces, the repetitions and droll voices more often irritated rather than piqued my interest.

"With(In)communicado" (the piece, not the CD as a whole) only comprises 6 out of 14 tracks on this disc, and while listening I found these other 8 tracks to be more diverse and rewarding. The intonations of "Jesart (3 in 1)", for example, are stunning, austere, and compelling. Guitar melodies, manipulations, minimal rhythms, and a host of strange sounds create these diverse pieces, each possessing its own character and compositional technique. David Dvorin supplies insightful comments in the liner notes, which tell of the different techniques he used during the composition/recording process. "Calendar", for example, "uses form as process for musical material", being composed in 30 consecutive calendar days, recording 15 seconds of improvisation on electric guitar per day. Another highlight is the track "Petaling", which explores multiple playing techniques on the psaltry (plucking, bowing, striking and harmonics). The results are stunning. Dvorin proves to be a very original and innovative artist, and when he gets it right, he really flies with it. His compositions carry a distinctive and adventurous spirit, and if not for the occasional annoyances throughout the record I would have probably been able to embrace it more completely. But alas, not every record can be totally satisfying... [Cristobal Q]



Secret Level Recordings | SLRCD07 | CDR

Let me tell you right off the bat that I know absolutely nothing about this artist, that I was simply handed the disc by Mr. Editor Supreme. I thought I could just listen to it for what it was, five tracks of enigmatic, simple rhythms, and in doing so, have enjoyed its company considerably. No liner notes, no track titles per se (unless you count "one", "two", "three", "four" and "five" as track titles), and no pressure. Just long stretches of droning harmonies underneath slow and spacious rhythms. It reminded me of Lagowski's "Ashita" in some spots, but without the deepness of sound Mr. Lagowski can pull out of his mixes. The pace is kept pretty slow through the course of the disc - there's not really any fireworks present - just an easy-going nature that doesn't necessarily prompt you to turn up the volume, but also doesn't make you want to turn it down either. The disc could use some better sonic engineering, something to lift the sounds up and out from where they currently sit. But as it stands, the disc proves to be a steadfast little number, and a holder of much promise for an interesting follow-up. [Vils M DiSanto]





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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