8 July 2001
Aranos, probably best known for his work with Steven Stapleton (Nurse With Wound), here teams up with two American musicians, Jon Mueller and Chris Rosenau, who have performed in the groups Pele, Telecognac, and Collections of Colonies of Bees (none of which are familiar to me). Aranos is a multi-instrumentalist (performing on anything from violin to oriental flutes and santoor) with a flair for creating a sort of avant-garde gypsy folk music (see his 1999 release Making Love in Small Places for a recent example). Mueller performs on percussion and electronics, while Rosenau handles guitar, banjo and electronics. The result of this collaboration is a strange blend of elements, and as the title of this album might suggest (what does it mean to be Bleeding In Behind Pastel Screens?), things get rather surreal, even a little unsettling. The music is dominated by metallic scrapings, hinges in desperate need of oiling, rough textures, strange melodies and bizarre manipulations. Sometimes interesting, but sometimes merely annoying, these arrangements had a double effect on me, some days I enjoyed this music, and others I could hardly tolerate it. Now this is probably saying more about me and my listening habits than about the record itself, but one never knows with this sort of thing. I cannot deny that occasionally there are some captivating arrangements and some nice details in these pieces. A strange vocal arrangement in "Now Sparkling Ice" has Aranos crooning like a sad, tortured lounge singer. The disc ends nicely with a more quiet instrumental meditation. Overall an intriguing record, one that will inspire you (if you're anything like me) to either sit up and pay attention, or get up and switch it off completely. [Cristobal Q]
Lucky Kitchen's Aeron Bergman prefaces The Shed Record with a quote from Foucault: "It is impossible to document an entire civilization, or even a short period of time within that civilization." What Bergman then sets out to do, defiantly, is present a portrait of "the family shed" in Clarkston, Michigan. This CD continues in Bergman's unique brand of "electronic folk music", documenting the world around him by using a combination of domestic samples, found and electronic sounds. The Shed Record may be short (just under 30 minutes), but within no less than 20 miniatures it covers just as many objects, features and events in this domestic setting, with little sketches on the sleeve identifying the subjects of each track. From descriptions of an old gardening tool to aeroplanes passing in the sky and a homespun rendition of "Getting to Know You", Bergman takes these field recordings, splices them, arranges them, and colours them with subtle electronic tones and textures. Recorded with the assistance of his Lucky Kitchen partner Alejandra Salinas, this record is a tiny gem, unassuming and beautiful in its simplicity. [Richard di Santo]
Kevin Drumm (guitar, electronics) joins forces with Axel Dörner (trumpet) for these studio sessions recorded in February and October 2000. Dörner, now living in Berlin, has had extensive experience in free improv ensembles (Territory Band, Hidros One) as well as challenging collaborations (with Günter Müller, Andrea Newmann) and solo works (see the forthcoming solo album on A Brut Secret). Kevin Drumm has also has a diverse resume (see his various releases on Perdition Plastics, Sonoris, and a wonderful collaboration with Martin Tétrault on Erstwhile Records), and most recently could be seen with Dan Burke (Illusion of Safety) during a summer tour. In these untitled sessions, Drumm's electronics remain abstract and subtle, the guitar is hardly recognisable in its roughness, and the trumpet is transformed into something entirely new by Dörner. Sharp contrasts, prolonged silences, brief outbursts, and long textures dominate these captivating improvisations to amazing effect. I found that these recordings benefitted from headphone listening rather than on the loudspeakers. Headphones bring out the closeness of the sounds, emphasises the silences and spaces between the sharp textures and whistling tones. These sounds, textures and transitions become even sharper and more vibrant in the final three pieces, recorded by Jim O'Rourke in Chicago. All this makes for a wonderful and rewarding listening experience, finding new details and textures every time. [Richard di Santo]
KETTEL: Brother Max
It's always a treat to hear the latest from Mouthmoth Records, a small label from Scotland specialising in releasing quirky electronica. Here we have a new 7-inch from Kettel, aka Reimer Eisling from the Netherlands. On the A side, "these birds around meadows", we hear the sweet chirping of birds, melancholy synth chords and a slow, rolling rhythm, perfect for when you're lounging on the patio on a quiet Sunday afternoon, basking in the outdoors. Side B, "embolaze remixed by max", is a remix by Eisling's cat Max (!), and is more uptempo, yet still carries this charming "backyard" quality to it. The synth cords are still a little melancholy, but on the whole this track has you picking up your feet instead of dragging them on the ground. A wonderful little record, nicely executed and highly recommended.
Next up comes a split LP. On one side, four tracks by Random Number, aka Matt Robson. Autechre's inspiration can be found in nearly all of the projects on Mouthmoth Records. Random Number is no exception, although he definitely transforms this inspiration into something beyond imitation and into new territories. He lays down four great tracks where sad piano and synth keys nicely mingle with wobbly atmospheres, cut-up beats and unsteady rhythms. There's an strong cathartic energy in the third title "rakes", a barrage of beats like a machine-gun and a bizarre kaleidoscope of electronic sounds make this one of the more striking tracks on the record. The other side presents three new tracks from Mouthmoth founder Frog Pocket, here exploring more harsh guitar textures than what we have seen in his previous releases. Frantic and unstable beats flutter around energetically, while the more dominant guitar adds an interesting post-rock element in the first two tracks. My favourite from Frog Pocket here is his third track "erra balloon", with its retro sound and more complex arrangement.
One of the great things we can always expect from Mouthmoth is that there's always an undeniable sense of informality, a lighthearted charm and a sense of adventure in this music. Recommended! [Richard di Santo]
Hubbub is an improvisational collective comprised of Frédéric Blondy (piano), Bertrand Denzler (tenor sax), Jean-Luc Guionnet (alto and soprano sax, jaleïka), Jean-Sébastien Mariage (amplified guitar) and Edward Perraud (drums and percussion). This album was recorded in Paris, January 2000 by Vincent Joinville. "Hubbub" is the perfect word to describe this project, and it's no wonder they have gone to great lengths to emphasise the meaning of the word in the sleeve by providing dictionary definitions and examples of use in the English language, perhaps the most telling of which being Macaulay's "this hubbub of unmeaning words". The music carries the same suggestion; there's a certain tumult, a confused noise, which hums its way throughout these two long pieces. The din of noises rises slowly, like a dinner party where the guests become more relaxed and verbal after a few drinks. None of the instruments take the lead and there are no competitive outbursts, only a busy, complex hubbub of sounds and textures. The feeling here is that at any moment the hubbub is going to climax and erupt into a cathartic chaos, but it never happens. The players maintain an uncanny control over the direction of their improvisations; there's so much to listen to here, it's a wonder there are only five members in this collective. An intriguing record, and wonderfully executed. [Richard di Santo]
The master of darkambient returns with Metavoid, his first full-length of new material since 1994's The Place Where the Black Stars Hang. The theme is the universe itself, its many depths and layers that will forever remain unknown to us. From his liner notes: "Outside the narrow confines of our intellect, larger forces are at play, and some things may best remain unknown." Metavoid might then be considered a glimpse of what the void of the universe might contain. The sounds here are indeed larger than life. In the opening track, "The Ambivalent Abyss", the deep opens up before us; I turn the volume up to reveal a consuming void, the deepest sounds and darkest atmospheres in what is probably the best track on this release. What follows is music which is definitely grounded in the industrial-darkambient school; choruses of dark voices not unlike what we would hear in some apocalyptic soundtrack create some very dark moods indeed. Here we also have Lustmord's return to rhythm, with hard and thunderous ethno-industrial drumming that colours a number of tracks, as in the dramatic "Blood Deep in Dread", with the assistance of Steve Roach on Bullroarer. Unfortunately, it's not all good, as the album presents a series of hits and misses. The dark drones and synth chords are wonderful, however if I have a problem with anything here it's these choral tones; sometimes they create a nice effect, but mainly I felt that they were a little over the top, with their blatant apocalyptic-industrial suggestions ("The Outer Shadow" is about as old-school as you can get). Over the years I have moved away significantly from this dark industrial aesthetic, for the reason that it simply wasn't going anywhere; variations were few and it seemed that this thing called "industrial ambient" had reached an impasse in its development. I must admit, however, that Lustmord does this sort of thing extremely well, and has opened up the soundfield to great depths. My favourite moments here are when Lustmord keeps the drama to a minimum and allows the void to open up before us, but admittedly these moments are few and far between, dominated instead by epic movements, dark drumming and choral tones that unfortunately didn't do much for me. [Richard di Santo]
VARIOUS: Versus Rather Interesting
Two compilation discs released this year, completely unrelated, though similar in outlook. A group of artists have been brought together on each disc to remix another artist's work. It's always a tough thing listening to interpretations of classic recordings you've known for years. Some remixers enjoy keeping the spirit of the original track present in their remix. Others enjoy creating tracks that wouldn't sound out of place on one of their own releases, and just add touches of the source material that are barely recognizable.
Slag Boom Van Loon was a project created by µ-ziq's Mike Paradinas and Speedy J's Jochem Paap a few years ago. They released a full-length disc, which has subsequently made itself scarce in availability. I have always enjoyed that collection of tracks they made together, and so I looked forward to hearing this collection of remixes. Contributors to So Soon include Boards Of Canada, Coil, Matmos, Pole and others (even µ-ziq himself contributes a remix here). Being unsure what to expect, I was pleasantly surprised by the contributions. Boards Of Canada start things off with an amazing number, their remix of "Poppy Seed" is a true gem. Pole's remix of "Casual" is so much a Pole track that without the introductory and closing melody, I would be hard-pressed to identify any other Slag Boom influence. Matmos contribute one of the finest tracks here, a very lively number called "Moon Base Alpha". A nice, plunging bass line serves as the core to the expertly edited proceedings over top. Coil contribute a ten-minute remix of "Fallen Angels Entering Pandemonium", which feels every bit as dramatic as the original. A good match for Coil remixing this number. Boards Of Canada make one more short appearance, closing the disc off with "Poppy Seed" in reprise form. It gives a nice sense of completion to the disc, as its pleasing chords reverberate softly into that good night.
The Versus Rather Interesting disc seems more a "tribute" disc than a remix disc. It seems to have been released to honour that wunderkind, Atom and all of his creations on his Rather Interesting label. Remixes here are performed by Plaid, Pole (once again), Fibla, Pram, Mash'ta and Atom himself. Tracks were picked from a small selection of Rather Interesting releases: Naturalist, Pentatonic Surprise, Fonosandwich, and Schnittstelle, among others. The remixes here by Atom are "light" remixes - by that I mean the original works have not been altered to a great degree. They retain the original sound for the most part, and add or remove a few things here and there. The outsider remixes stray further from the core, sometimes completely uprooting the original material. Plaid's track is one such case - it's a great track, but it's difficult to discern its origins from Dropshadow Disease. And as on Slag Boom Van Loon's remix disc, Pole's track here sounds so much like Pole. It's great that he's got his sound down pat, but it would be nice to hear him stray from the path now and again, and what better opportunity to do so than on a remix disc such as this? Fibla slows down Lisa Carbon's stylings on his closing number to great effect - the rhumba sound is quite pleasing at this pace.
While I didn't mean for this to become a "Versus Rather Interesting Versus Slag Boom Van Loon" type of review, the Slag Boom disc is a more enjoyable disc for the very reason that familiarity with the source material doesn't interfere with the pace of the disc. I think since Atom's contributions are so very close to his original works, I found myself not listening to the compilation as a completely new release - it feels like something between a best-of and a tribute disc. Both discs are recommended, but Slag Boom Van Loon's is my higher recommendation. [Vils M DiSanto]
In the fall of 2000, the Icelandic laptop trio Stilluppsteypa (Heimir Björgúlfsson, Sigtryggur Berg Sigmarsson and Helgi Thorsson) joined Chicago's TV Pow, another laptop trio (Todd Carter, Brent Gutzeit and Michael Hartman) for a week-long US tour. This CD documents a series of live improvisations from this tour. You might think that with six boys and their laptops, minidisc players and devices all on stage at the same time, things might get a little crowded. But this is by no means the case here: the sextet maintains the minimal arrangements and microscopic sounds they have become known for producing. One thing this collaboration has done, however, is contributed to the spirit of improvisation, evident in the striking transitions throughout these pieces, sometimes shocking and unsettling (as in the conclusion to "mchigan impossible"), and sometimes they creep up on you slowly and steadily (as in the superbly subtle arrangement of "international starving artists"). The sound spectrum opens up nicely on all of the tracks here, with dynamic arrangements of tones, crackles, sound clusters, found sounds and sparse atmospheres, executed to perfection by these artists. An amazing feat, especially considering Stilluppsteypa and TV Pow had never worked with each other prior to these performances. [Richard di Santo]
A new compilation from the U.K. label Headphone Records, featuring tracks from Freeform, Higher Intelligence Agency, System Error and Hem. Output 04 is an enjoyable sojourn through quirky electronica, much of the disc features a lighter approach to sound and structure. There is a consistency in the music here, with each artist sharing a seemingly similar musical vision. The only "out" track is a remix by HIA of a Muslimgauze track ("From The Edge"). It's the most simple track on the disc in terms of structure (in true Muslimgauze fashion) and it really revels in its place here. Other standout tracks include "Playback" by System Error (Bobby Bird of HIA with Brian Duffy), and "Vavoom" by Freeform, with its jazzed-up stylings. Hem, who contributes three tracks here, especially shines on the downtempo "Wired To A Machine". The closing track by HIA is perhaps the best on the disc, with a clean drum track and its high-octave vocal snippets and pulsing backbone. A nice compilation from start to finish, though it may not have made a strong impression or impact on me, I do enjoy the burgeoning sound of this relatively young label. [Vils M DiSanto]
Released in May 2000, (The) L.K.A. Sonar Kit came as a complete surprise to me, since it seemed that Cranioclast had disappeared in recent years. The German duo comprised of Clair St. Anoc and Anatol Skrik here present two wonderful new tracks of captivating sounds and moods. On one side ("the anemone"?) a bass pulse loop mesmerises while piano keys and crystalline sounds create beautiful waves on the surface; distant voices and field recordings, treated with delays and effects, contribute to a mood of isolation and quiet reflection. On the other side ("de zeester"?): a haunting vocal melody, the voice of an angelic spectre, reveals a darker rhythm with splashes from a sitar, atmospheres, melancholy chords and a metallic fluttering drone. These are two remarkable pieces that seem to exist out of time and space; they somehow manage to transform your listening space for a brief while into something otherworldly. The record comes in an immaculate sleeve of semi-transparent paper, and the record itself is a black and white picture disc with images of surreal amoeba-like creatures. A wonderful work, and a little gem in my collection. [Richard di Santo]
Released in 1998 by the Experimental Intermedia Foundation, Sinopah features two long pieces by Annea Lockwood and Ruth Anderson respectively.
The first piece, Annea Lockwoood's World Rhythms, originated as a 10-channel live improvisation, first performed in 1975. The version on the CD was recorded in 1997. In constructing this piece, Lockwood used recordings of natural events such as volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, rivers, waves and mud pools. As she explains in her liner notes, "these sounds are a physical manifestation of energies which shape us and our environment constantly, energies of which we are not always aware, but which powerfully influence and interact with the rhythms of our bodies." The result is a intriguing collage of sounds from massive natural events, peppered by the more local sounding of a gong, or the tapping of a pulsar. Lockwood's piece presents rhythms on a number of levels; some are more local and apparent, but I think the piece points more toward the rhythms of the world as a whole (bringing us back to the theory of the world as a living organism in and of itself), and as such there is a more large scale rhythm at play here, not immediately apparent to our senses as would be a more conventional rhythmic structure, requiring us to take a step back and look at the structure of the piece as a whole.
Ruth Anderson's I come out of your sleep is a piece following in the traditions of sound poetry, or text-sound. The piece is based on the speech vowels in Louise Bogan's poem "Little Lobelia". The sounds appear in quiet whispers, elongated echoes, weaving in and out of the threshold of hearing like the sound of the wind against the trees. The whispered vowels become mysterious and tranquil tones. Although they have their origins in the words of a poem, these sounds do not form words in themselves (rather they are the vowels extracted from the poem), however the sounds seem to suggest a meaning or a message; the experience of listening is analogous to those moments when you swear you can hear words being spoken through the whispering winds. "The breath rhythm is an invitation to meditation," writes Pauline Oliveros in the liner notes; and further, "the focus of meditation could be the poem, could be the breath, could be the sound, could be the non-threatening nature of the piece as a whole." A mysterious and captivating work. [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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