1 April 2001
Vladislav Delay has done the unthinkable - released two quite different releases under the very same title. One version of Anima appears on CD, as a continuously flowing 62 minute opus. The other version appears on three LPs, broken up into 10-12 minute segments apiece. And yes, both versions are quite different, if not in sound, then in their mood for certain.
My first audition of Anima was with the CD version. I had it for quite a while before acquiring the LPs. Both versions are replete with the trademark Delay principles: a sultry, deep mix containing gurgling, watery sounds intermixed with bassy thumps and bumps, reverberating softened metallic strikes, and warm, harmonic undertones. This time around, Delay has lightened up his sound some, especially in comparison to Multila and Entain. He's also begun to add strings of filmic dialogue to the mix, which he has done before in his Uusitalo (utilising "Eyes Wide Shut") and Luomo ("End of Violence") releases. This time around I don't recognize the film, but its language is coarser and the excerpts are shorter here. The CD features much heavier use of the dialogue than the LP does, and with good reason. The CD packs more dramatic punch - its sounds, its length, and its structure all lead to a more cinematic form of experience.
The flow of the CD is persistent: there is not much flux between start and finish. There are hints of digression (some quite strong), but Delay resists the urge to wash you over with a catchy rhythm or smug hook. That would have been too easy, so instead he exercises restraint and the disc is all the stronger for it.
In comparison, the LP version begins with a rather catchy hook, a light little beat to tap your toes to. It doesn't stay around very long - within two minutes the "flowing" aspect of Anima takes over. The beat never returns in as noticeable a form, but it does stay with you, leaving an indelible impression. Due to the necessary breaks of a vinyl release, the feel of it had to be different from the CD. Delay couldn't just break up the CD into segments of equal length for the purpose of releasing this on vinyl. For this reason, the LP seems lighter on its toes. The sounds that perk out of the mix seem to do so in a more structured manner, and take less time to develop than they do on the CD.
The two versions come to a similarly satisfying close, but it all seems much more dramatic on the CD - it is far more consequential and endearing. What helps is the epilogue that follows the finale on the CD that is not included on the LP.
Delay has done wonders again with this release, and I'll admit these differences between versions could be construed as gimmicky (if not downright greedy) on his part, but I do think it worthwhile to examine both versions for curiosity's sake, if not for art's sake. [Vils M DiSanto]
Phil Durrant (violin), Thomas Lehn (analogue synth) and Radu Malfatti (trombone) join forces for a second time on Dach, a live recording from the 1999 Kaleidopon festival in Ulrichsberg, Austria. Dach, an "environmental improv record", is one continuous performance, divided into 4 tracks solely for the listener's convenience. There is also a fourth collaborator on this disc, and, although it's difficult to give an inanimate structure composition credits, the white plastic roof over the performance space has an active presence throughout this piece (and hence its title: "Dach" is German for roof). The recording opens with sounds of a gentle rainfall on the roof, setting the stage for the delicate sounds and pregnant pauses to follow. The roof has more to say than just being a receptacle for the falling rain; as the sun emerges, warming the roof's metal supports, creaking and cracking sounds begin to emanate from above, creating a new and significant sound source in the performance. Each of the performers function with like-minded restraint, respecting the silences between sounds, presenting shuffles, tones, wheezes, or pluckings here and there in a loose arrangement that is both simple and complex. Dach inspires the listener's keen and careful attention, and as time goes by my perception becomes ever more sensitive to new sounds and developments in the piece. An incredible achievement. [Richard di Santo]
Here's a strange little beast. Ginger Leigh, from Artesia, California, has recorded six tracks here of such diversity, I don't quite know what to make of it all. Things get underway with the track "Black Hair", which is a noisy little number featuring a wall of fuzzed-up guitars, distorted vocals and electronic weirdness over top of a steady ethnicized backbeat. Things move to similar territory in "Children of God", but after that the disc takes an unforeseen turn on "Little Angels". Here's a Zul'm-era Muslimgauze style track, which is really rather pleasant to listen to. No distortion, no industrial music leanings, just a simple percussive number with a lonely wailing melody played over top. Quite a surprise to hear this after the mayhem that started this disc off. From there we take another bizarre turn to a groovy harpsichord-laden number that would be right at home on an Italian horror film from 1962. The disc closes with a ritualistic drum track, complete with menacing sirens borrowed from the previous track. So there you have it. A definite plethora of styles covered in a very short (22 minute) time span. Should Ginger Leigh follow some of the paths taken on this EP, I should be very interested to hear what else he can do with his creativity. Should you choose to visit the web site, be warned: auditory annoyance is guaranteed. [Vils M DiSanto]
Joining forces for a second time (their first collaboration, un, was released in 1998), Toshimaru Nakamura and Sachiko M are two prominent electronic improvisers. They are both members of what has been called the "onkyo movement", so named for its emphasis on sound texture ("onkyo" means "reverberation of sound"). For this release, Nakamura performs on a no-input mixing board, and Sachiko M forsakes her memory-free sampler for a sampler with sine wave. The first track, with a run time of under 37 minutes, is an incredible exploration of sonic textures, tones and sine waves. The sounds are intensely volatile, being sensitive to each and every movement of the listener. You hardly have to turn your head and the frequencies shift in your perception. This music is alive, residing not so much in your hi fi system but rather within your very senses; music that not only inspires your creative, somatic and cognitive responses, but to a great degree also demands them. In the past, I have enjoyed listening to Nakamura's work with Jason Kahn as Repeat, and Sachiko M's various solo works and collaborations which have been becoming increasingly more visible in recent years. Sachiko M is a magnificent improviser; her intimate knowledge of how to provoke a creative response from her audience is undeniable. A powerful and inspiring collaboration, do is essential listening for the curious, receptive and adventurous listener. [Richard di Santo]
Ambient master Steve Roach returns with Early Man, a double CD on Sam Rosenthal's Projekt label. The first disc is a reissue of a limited run CD released earlier last year, and the second disc, "Early Man Decomposed", is, as one might expect from its title, a reworking of the original material plus new sound elements recorded around the same time. With over 70 minutes of compelling music on each disc, you can't go wrong with this release if you're looking for a strong mix of (more or less) traditional ethnoambient grooves and atmospheres. As the title suggests, the theme here is prehistoric man; the track titles conjure motifs of a primitive life ("Hunting & Gathering", etc.) and archaeology ("Carbondate", etc.). Roach keeps things organic and flowing on this release: the bass runs deep and moves around like a current of water following a winding path; drums, electronic incursions, and most of all drifting echoes and dissonance form the basis for these long and compelling ethnoambient works. The finest moments on both discs are when Roach emphasises more natural rhythms and deep currents, like the flow of water coupled with a deep bass rumbling, suggesting not only what resides in the outside world but also what lies in the darker elements of the subterranean. There are also more electronic rhythms than one might expect here ("Elemental" and "Hunting & Gathering", for example, have more in common with Pete Namlook's vision of ambient). There also seems to be a shift in emphasis between discs one and two; the first is driven more by rhythms than ambiance, and the second shifts the balance the other way, with priority being given to drifting echoes and lingering traces of sound. If there's one thing that we can always count on from Steve Roach is his commitment to creating rich sonic environments best listened to at high volumes, created by a dense layering of details and undercurrents. Early Man is no exception, and, though it may not stir things up in terms of conventions in ambient music, it succeeds in capturing both our attention and our imaginations. [Richard di Santo]
Becoming increasingly more active in recent years, Robin Rimbaud returns newly christened as "Scannerfunk", a name which indicates the strong and unexpected rhythmic element in this new album. Wave of Light By Wave of Light is by far Rimbaud's most conventional record. Perhaps I was expecting a little more of an experimental spirit in this record. I would have thought that if Rimbaud would ever release a techno album, it would challenge the conventions to a certain degree. But instead, Wave of Light's uncomplicated techno rhythms, breakbeats, and fairly simple loops and synth work make for a pleasant but on the whole unrewarding listening experience. I'm afraid that what we have here is merely a conformance to established structures and conventions. Mind you, I'll have to admit that he does a really good job of it. The album documents a series of hits and misses, from the dynamic soundplay in "Vault" (probably the finest track here) to a boring vocal loop tacked on to an even more boring rhythm in "Automatic". The track "I Am Calm" is by no means calm; the title conflicts with the frantic rhythms which I found more agitating than calming (though I imagine this was the point). Another fine track is "Light Turned Down", which, with its deep house-like rhythm and intriguing vocal cut-ups, is the perfect soundtrack to a long night's drive on some forgotten highway. If Rimbaud is after some mainstream attention here, which only seems natural after winning the hearts of many experimental music lovers, this should earn him the respect of the establishment. But maybe I shouldn't be so hard on him; after all this is good music -- balanced, well structured, and engineered to great effect. It's just not very exciting, or spirited. This is music for driving and for the dancefloor, but this time around, it isn't music for the head. [Richard di Santo]
Scratch Pet Land is Laurent and Nicolas Baudoux, two brothers with a passion for improvised electronica and idiosyncratic sounds who have been recording together since 1997. Solo soli iiiii is their debut full-length release. Quirky rhythms abound (though not of the same humorous ilk as Vert's moremooseicforme, see below) this album is a bizarre cacophony of strange sounds and textures. Much of their source material derives from using contact microphones and an interactive technique where every new movement makes a different sound. Imagine listening in to a giant playroom full of old analogue equipment and children's toys, and I think you've got the general impression of this record. An elephant's call mingles with a jew's harp (performed by alimylove); harsh guitar textures (by Quentin Hanon) answer to an otherwise disorderly library of sounds. Not to say that there is a lack of structure here; although the dominating spirit is definitely one of collage and improvisation, one never gets the sense that the Baudoux brothers lose sight of their intentions. They keep things relatively light, and the sound palette is never overwrought with oppressive noise or a feeling of chaos. And yet, having listened to it periodically over the past few weeks, I can say that solo soli iiiii is, at best, a charming and inventive record, a curiosity in my collection that nonetheless leaves only a faint impression. [Richard di Santo]
This is the first I have heard from Ulver, a Norwegian group with a number of releases going back to the early nineties. Their music has morphed from their early incarnations of black metal (Old Norse folk music mixed with all things anger and anguish) to their current blend of hard electronic beats, ambiance, and cinematic jazz elements. Perdition City: Music to an Interior Film, their fifth full-length record, also contains a video titled "Limbo Central", which, unfortunately, isn't formatted to play on my Mac. The general mood of this album is dark; a soundtrack to an imaginary city which could be your own, emphasising the shadows and blind alleys therein. Musically the album covers a lot of ground, but in general terms we're dealing with electronic post-rock, with touches of jazz, ambiance, and a strong post-industrial edge. Even some cinematic soundtrack elements creep into the arena (witness the Bernard Herrmann-like string arrangement in "Catalept"). My compliments to the production team who engineered this album with great clarity -- the hard breakbeats and bold melodies of a brooding piano dominate the sound palette admirably (see especially the excellent track "Hallways of Always"). These are strong mood pieces, full of post-industrial urban angst (I think this is an album I would have whole-heartedly embraced in my teens), but an angst that has been greatly subdued and rationalised over time (and hence its relative appeal in my seasoned adulthood). The album consists of mostly instrumental tracks, with a few vocals which I think the album could have done without. Better to suggest a mood or an attitude with the music than spell it out with self-conscious lyrics, I always say. Though they admittedly made me wince, these weaker moments (as in the final track "Nowhere/Catastrophe") are few, and I think overshadowed by the more dominant instrumental sections. If you're looking for a dramatic (if not entirely pleasing) record to play in the shadows, one to compliment your feeling of helplessness in an encroaching city, be sure to check this one out. [Cristobal Q]
Adam Vert Butler, perhaps better known for his earlier work in what's known in his parts as drill and bass, returns with a solo 12" on Cologne's Sonig label. This fabulous little record, with a total runtime of about 25 minutes, is dominated by quirky rhythms, cartoonish electronica, distortions, grooves, moog, clicks and static sounds. In short, moremooseicforme is a great load of fun, and if you're looking for something to make you smile meanwhile keeping you interested and engaged, look no further (see especially the track "schpountz!" on side A). Imagine the lighter elements from Autoditaker by Mouse on Mars being chopped up, put into a blender and served with a side dish of distortion and cartoonish vigour (oh, and don't forget the cheese). Vert is becoming the Mr Scruff of electronica, and we're glad to have him (and for those unfamiliar with Mr Scruff, have a look at his hilarious webspace at www.mrscruff.com). Vert also has a full-length titled 9 types of ambiguity forthcoming on Sonig, to be released later on this year (proposed formats for this record are CD, LP and... skateboard??), so watch out for it. [Richard di Santo]
Vitriol is the collaborative project of Paulo Raposo and Carlos Santos, and is the debut release on SIRR.ecords, a new label of experimental electronic music from Portugal. Randonée 0.06 documents their contributions to the internet event "Le Placard: Headphone Room", organised by the BURO association in Paris. The event was born out of a desire to experiment with "finding new ways to diffuse and listen to electronic music by bringing out a relationship between time/work/diffusion". With a run time of just 20 minutes, Vitriol's work here is a surprising electronic soundscape with many shifts and nuances. Rich digital tones, sparse sounds, clicks and crackles mix with various found sounds, creating an atmosphere of digital detachment and distance. The arrangements are never predictable and full of details and subtle movements, which makes the listening experience more rewarding each time I've put this disc in my player. Indicative of very fine things to come from Sirr.ecords, an organisation which is, by its own description, "more interested in documenting exceptional processes than in rewarding aesthetically well-finished works". Sounds great; let's keep our eyes and ears peeled. [Richard di Santo]
Released in 1997, Cichlisuite saw Autechre move in a noticeably different direction from their previous releases. Things moved from the stark, clinical world brought to light on Tri Repetae, to a much more complex, busy sound that would be showcased even further on LP5. Everything is packed very tightly on these five tracks here. There is little room to breathe, save for the space between the tracks. The pulse is ultra-quick, and the layerings are so dense it's difficult to discern them, let alone follow them on their course. Rhythms lock themselves in, but are quick to disperse to whatever fancies Autechre next. The production is superb as usual. Sounds seem so clean and crisp, and yet there is a warmth evident amongst all the staccato noises. There are some extremely intense moments here: take the second track for instance ("Pencha"), where a certain element of improvisation takes over, and the heavily processed sounds you'd been experiencing up to that point take a back seat to tempo and instrumentation alterations. Autechre's EP releases are always a pleasure to explore, and this is no exception. More than a few key moments here establish this as one of Autechre's finer releases. [Vils M DiSanto]
This short work by Context was originally released on cassette in 1987 and reissued as a part of the Archives series on Korm Plastics, who decided they wanted to dig up editions from their back catalogue of very limited cassette-only releases. Schnitte (German for "cut") sounds like someone radio surfing for nearly a full half hour. From what I can tell, it looks as if Context used two shortwave radios and separated their outputs into the left and right channels. It's difficult to say whether there was any additional production work done here, but for the entire duration of this piece we witness the seemingly endless search for a good radio station. Both left and right channels fluctuate with similar frequency, resting on each signal for no more than two seconds at a time before it "cuts" to the next frequency band. The reception, as one might expect, varies from reasonably clear to indecipherable static and frequencies. We travel across the globe and witness fragments from many languages and musical genres (and just as many variations in static and high-pitched frequencies) but only catch glimpses of each. Listening to this strange and amusing experiment, the time just flies by. An interesting document from an exciting time in the history of Korm Plastics. [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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