> Archive > Music Review 32

22 July 2001

Nicola Conte: Bossa Per Due
Dachte Musik
De Fabriek: Quatro-Erogenic-Occupy-Theme's
Ernesto Diaz-Infante & Chris Forsyth: Wires and Wooden Boxes
Fennesz: Endless Summer
Bernhard Günter: monochcrome white / polychrome w/neon nails
Tujiko Noriko: Shojo Toshi
Spaceheads & Max Eastley: The Time of the Ancient Astronaut
Rafael Toral: Violence of Discovery and Calm of Acceptance
Marty Walker: Dancing on Water
Weekend Guitar Trio: Animotion
Various: Inhouse Volume 1
Atom Heart & Eyephone: Microprocessed
RR. Habarc: Két Reggel
Luc Kerléo: Un Clocher
Steve Roach / Thupten Pema Lama: Prayers to the Protector


Eighteenth Street Lounge | ESL043 | CD

A veritable festival of groove, this collection of recordings by bossa jazz master Nicola Conte succeeds by way of its lively nature and enthusiastic instrumentation. Originally released internationally as Jet Sounds on Conte's own Schema label, Eighteenth Street Lounge has repackaged and re-titled the disc for American sensibilities (that means a photograph of a Vespa on the cover). Each track is as lively as the next, and each goes beyond mere retro fashionability due to the strengths inherent in the musicianship. A very strong percussion section always keeps the pulse strong, and is joined by organs, saxophones, flutes, vibraphones and even sitars. An emphasis on female vocal accompaniment is also made, and the tunes are extremely hummable. There's very little down time - almost every track has an upbeat groove at its core. While the disc makes for a great collection of tracks, it suffers a little for its unrelenting pace. It might have been nice to have a couple of downtempo numbers to keep it from feeling like an assemblage of 12" releases, but it's a small quibble on my part. A highly entertaining release overall. [Vils M DiSanto]



Grob | 313/314 | 2CD

Dachte Musik is the name of a collective of improvisational artists: trumpeter Franz Hautzinger, trombonist Radu Malfatti and guitarists Burkhard Stangl and Gunter Schneider. The name of the collective is untranslatable, and refers to the music as being something that is not simply played but thought and "understood in the (grammatical) passive (voice)"; it admits that music often takes on an identity of its own, often eluding the intentions of its creators. Recorded, mixed and mastered by Christoph Amann in 1999, this release gives the listener two discs, two tracks, and over two hours worth of improvisation. There is definitely a fresh approach to performance, technique and interactivity with this group, immediately apparent in the way the sounds play off one another, and each element is allowed ample breathing room. The sounds from the instruments seem both foreign and authentic at the same time. On the first disc, scraping, plucking, pops, textures, breaths and wheezes from all sides create one long piece that evolves slowly yet remains relatively peaceful and subdued, without many sharp contrasts or bursts of noise, though it does have its share of surprises. There's a marked shift in style with the second disc, a stronger sense of atmosphere and a darker, more surreal mood. There is also an interesting balance of quiet sections with harsher, noisier textures in this piece, a balance that is never overturned by the extremes of silence on the one hand and noise on the other. What remains in both of these discs is a vast canvas full of textures and surprising sounds; another recommended release from the improvisational "church" of Grob. [Richard di Santo]



DE FABRIEK: Quatro-Erogenic-Occupy-Theme's
Moloko+ | plus 039 | CD

At the centre of De Fabriek is Richard van Dellen, who has been making adventurous music since the early 80s. On this, his first CD on Moloko+, van Dellen is joined by Berry Rikkerink, Olaf Seider, Zan Hoffman, Alexander and Aleksey Chulkov and Mitsumasa Miyazaki, all of whom are new names for me. Every track on this disc has a different theme and a different voice, none being quite like the last. On the opening piece "River of Tears", a stunning torrent of water gives way to a mysterious chorus and electronic interference. The sounds of the river act as a sort of leitmotif found throughout the twelve tracks here. On "Glaciers", a post-industrial hum spreads a dark mood over water drops, rainfall. a slow rhythm and a brief sample of indigenous chanting. More of an old-style electro rhythm dominates the retro-industrial track "El Ninyo". The dominant mood of this record, although things shift courageously from track to track, remains decidedly post-industrial (see especially the noise piece "Happy Nation" for the most obvious reference), and there are some incredible moments here that I've enjoyed returning to in recent weeks (chief among them being the opening track and closing number "What's What and What Was"). This record actually reminded me in spirit of various projects by HNAS, similarly eclectic and adventurous with mixing diverse musical elements and sounds with electronic manipulations and collage work. The CD comes packaged with some mixed media artwork by Mark Lane and Robert Schalinski. [Richard di Santo]



Evolving Ear/Pax Recordings | EE 03 / PR90252 | CD

With a number of impressive releases on Pax Recordings for solo piano, and last seen on Pith Balls and Inclined Planes with Jeff Kaiser (released on pfMentum), Ernesto Diaz-Infante has certainly been making his mark in improvisation circles. Chris Forsyth, too, a New York based guitarist, has been keeping busy as a member of the improv collectives All Time Present and W.O.O. Revelator (among others), and is also the curator of the Bunker Annex series of improvised music at the Knitting Factory. Wires and Wooden Boxes, recorded in real time with no further editing, features shared performances on guitar, piano, an extracted piano soundboard, percussion and voice. The pieces were created, as the performers describe in their liner notes, "by incorporating a level of premeditated composition in the process of improvisation." Using a host of strange objects and more conventional equipment in their performances (including alligator clips, screwdrivers and distortion box), the duo is able to coax a host of wild sounds from their guitars (acoustic for Diaz-Infante, and electric for Forsyth). The pieces are diverse in mood and structure, ranging from more meditative arrangements (via Diaz-Infante's haiku inspired notations for piano in "NYC Journal excerpt", or the melodic playfulness of "Passing One Another") to more cathartic moments (as in "Pulled Wires", or "To Place In", where the duo employs more aggressive and dizzying playing techniques). The former captivates, while the latter sometimes irritates, but such is the case with challenging, more esoteric works such as this. In all, an interesting work with more than a few twists and turns to keep you on your toes. [Richard di Santo]



FENNESZ: Endless Summer
Mego | 035 | CD

This release has catapulted itself into one of my favourites of the year. A mix of wonder, warmth and savvy, this new disc by Christian Fennesz crosses boundaries many have stumbled upon but few have crossed with such fluidity. His first solo full-length since 1999, Fennesz here constructs a sound similar to Oval's territory, but technology takes a back seat to melody and (dare I say) emotion. The title "Endless Summer" no doubt contributes to this sense, as does the filtered sound of acoustic guitars strumming front and centre. He's not afraid to use such elements over top of the stuttering, wheezing synthetic backdrops, and so the record thrives. Tracks begin in a seemingly random nature, but then the diverse components will "click" and everything falls into such perfect place. The closing track, "Happy Audio" even has a trance-like feel about it, with its repetitive chord sequence that tries to hide behind the soft pops dancing in the foreground. A wonderful disc that seems to capture the essence of summer in a previously unimagined way. [Vils M DiSanto]



BERNHARD GÜNTER: monochcrome white / polychrome w/neon nails
LINE | 005 | 2CD

German composer Bernhard Günter began thinking about this project after visiting a large retrospective by visual artist Bill Viola in Frankfurt. One of the installations in the exhibit, Günter explains, "consisted of a video image projected on to (and through) several semitransparent tissues hung from the ceiling. I found the weightless aspect of this work extremely attractive, and so on my way home started thinking about ways to translate this impression into music." And so we have the beginnings of Monochrome White, the first part of what has now evolved into a trypticon. The second disc in this release, containing Polychrome w/Neon Nails represents the second part. The third, titled Monochrome Rust, is forthcoming on LINE. (Herein lies my only reservation about this release, and this only parenthetically: I can't help but think that the trypticon should have been released in its entirety; to provide one part is understandable, but two out of three seems to tip the balance.)

Using source material from Immedia's (Darren Reynolds and Vicki Panale) In Audio CDR, Günter began assembling a work using only high frequency spectra in order to "lift it off the ground... and keep it harmonically floating/suspended," as he explains it in his liner notes. Monochrome White is a wonderful piece; the sounds creep up on you slowly, the gentle, dynamic crackles and high frequencies play softly across the sound field while they compliment and subtly transform the listening space around you. The second disc, Polychrome w/Neon Nails, may be using a lower pitch (although Günter admits that the difference isn't apparent to the ear), but the composition is more audible than the last; Günter is still employing high frequency spectra, but these sounds impose themselves more in the foreground, like the incessant chirping of digital cicadas. Both pieces have a complimentary structure and overall rhythm, and each have a run time of approximately 45 minutes. In all, a compelling work that rewards well with each listening, a fine addition to Günter's catalogue of groundbreaking compositions. [Richard di Santo]



Mego | 047 | CD

Born in Osaka and now living in Tokyo, Tujiko Noriko is a new addition to the Mego family. Clad in a bizarre outfit of underwear, t-shirt, socks and sneakers, she is probably one of the more eccentric personalities on the label. With a sweet singing voice (mostly in Japanese), Noriko is making a new kind of pop music, blending melodic vocals with sometimes abrasive, sometimes naive-sounding experimental electronics and melodies. A lot of this music might fit well on Rephlex, with its bedroom studio style electronics. Sometimes she's childlike, melodic and gentle (as in "tokyo" and "differencia"), sometimes playing with traditional vocal styles (as in track 5, with a Japanese title), and at other times she'll surprise you with a violent outburst (as in the harsh distortions and electronic rhythm of "be be"). There's an underlying melancholy in some of these tracks too, as in dark moods and atmospheres of the closing number. In all, Shojo Toshi is a refreshing twist on what we can expect from a new kind of pop music. Charming and surprising, this one's a real treat. [Richard di Santo]



SPACEHEADS AND MAX EASTLEY: The Time of the Ancient Astronaut
Bip-Hop | bleep 04 | CD

The fourth release for Bip-Hop seems like an unexpected turn for the relatively young label; where Bip-Hop seemed to be grounding itself firmly in the clicks+cuts tradition of minimal glitch electronica, they have surprised us with a release of space age ambient improvisation. English duo Spaceheads (Andy Diagram on trumpet and harmony machines and Richard Harrison on drums and sheets of metal) here teams up with sound and visual artist Max Eastley, who performs on an instrument of his own invention called the Arc. The Arc is a nine-foot long monochord; one string stretched over wood and played with a bow or glass rods. This release promises to be the first in what is called the "Universal Head Expansion" series of records the Spaceheads are planning to release, each with a different collaborator. Eleven tracks fold into one another in groups, forming amorphous sections of long, stretched-out sounds, drifting harmonies and strange sonics; a cosmic trip of looped trumpet calls, metallic scrapings and processed reverberations. Sometimes the journey is more difficult, with sections of challenging, kaleidoscopic layers, harsh sounds, and free jazz indulgences. At other times, however, the passages are easier, with bewitching harmonics and deep textures. At first it seemed that final track, "Ancient Astronauts", was a little out of place here, with its strong jazz-rock rhythm, but in the end it I find that it actually closes things off rather nicely with its cathartic and infectious groove. The Time of the Ancient Astronaut is a strange yet impressive release, and certainly an interesting turn of events for Bip-Hop. [Richard di Santo]



RAFAEL TORAL: Violence of Discovery and Calm of Acceptance
Touch | To:48 | CD

Packaged in an oversize sleeve with stunning imagery by photographer Heitor Alvelos (with art direction by Jon Wozencroft, of course), the latest CD by Portuguese artist Rafael Toral is a wonder to behold. Each of the ten tracks on this disc uses only the sounds from electric guitars (he catalogues them in the liner notes), with the exception of the final track, where the background noise is taken from "a recording of silence during a Space Shuttle mission real time webcast". Delicate shifts and shifting drones in each of these relatively short tracks create some wonderful atmospheres. Toral has an undeniable talent for creating self-contained moods and textures; each track is unique, developing in its own rhythm and direction, yet at the same time each carries Toral's singular voice. The guitar only rarely sounds like a guitar, as in "Optical Flow", or in the strumming of the closing piece "Mixed States Uncoded". Instead, Toral's art rests in the transformations of his sound source; roughness is transformed into gentility, a chord is transformed into a stunning drone. Silence and sound interact in these pieces to great effect; the listener treasures the continuous ebb and flow of this wondrous music. Highly recommended. [Richard di Santo]



MARTY WALKER: Dancing on Water
Cold Blue Music | CB 0005 | CD

This CD presents compositions by new music composers Daniel Lentz, Peter Garland, Jim Fox, Michael Jon Fink, Rick Cox and Michael Byron, many of whom have their own releases on the recently resuscitated label Cold Blue Music. Their compositions are interpreted and performed by clarinetist Marty Walker, with contributions from a number of instrumentalists (David Johnson on vibraphone & marimba, pianist Bryan Pezzone and trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith, to name a few). Walker's clarinet and bass clarinet are the central voices of melancholy in these pieces, and each piece carries a quiet charm that immediately draws in the listener's attention. A quiet mood for contemplation is created in Lentz's "Song(s) of the Sirens", with its broken voice (spoken by Amy Knoles), a gentle rainfall of notes from piano, and the melancholy sounds from Walker's clarinet. Michael Jon Fink's "As is Thought/Aurora" is a wonderful appendage to his own solo release on Cold Blue, I Hear It In The Rain which was released earlier this year; as is Jim Fox's meditation "Among Simple Shadows", affirming his unique voice and compositional charm. Perhaps my only regret is the inclusion of Michael Byron's "Elegant Detours", which seems out of place here; a solo for bass clarinet that is more energetic and restless than the other pieces on the disc, with its ascending three-octave figure escalating to loud exclamations of sustained notes. Yet the disc rounds off wonderfully with a series of four short compositions by Rick Cox, duets for bass and contra-alto clarinets (performed by Walker and Cox respectively), dominated by a sinister mood, an eerie anticipation of impeding darkness. If, like me, you have a soft spot for the clarinet's melancholy, you won't want to miss this disc, shimmering like light "dancing on water." [Richard di Santo]



Beg The Bug | 211200-001 | CD

Hailing from Estonia, Weekend Guitar Trio (Robert Jürjendal, Tõnis Leemets and Mart Soo) create composed and improvised music for guitars, electronics and effects. Animotion is their third release. The music is an eclectic blend of musical elements and traditions, from jazz to world music, from minimalism to rock, and even some country twang can occasionally be detected in their fusion fretwork. The music is difficult to pigeonhole, which is to its credit; the arrangements are captivating, complex and enjoyable. Some tracks are mellow meditations (as in the charming "Kaanon", or the beautiful traditional arrangement of "Ma tänen Sind"), and some more lively (as in the rolling tabla rhythm of "Kuula, kuula!", or the country-folk variations in "Seen"). The electronics are kept to a minimum, and they never intrude on the foreground, which is rightly given to the guitars. There are some weaker moments too (as in the dizzying motif of "Maa varjukülg"), but these are only a few. These three players (whether classically trained or more firmly grounded in improv) read off of each other with natural ease and really know how to coax unique moods and sounds from their instruments and effects boxes. Nicely done, recorded with great clarity and recommended for fans of a more open style of guitar jazz and fusion work. [Richard di Santo]



VARIOUS: Inhouse Volume 1: Modern House Sounds from Deepest Germany
Comfort Records | CFR 001 | CD

I'll be the first to admit that the house compilation is not something I'll usually be found listening to. If at all, I usually enjoy house music in small doses, or rather, what usually impresses me is the suggestion of house within a more experimental context. Full-blown dance tracks can go either way with me, often depending on my mood or the particular energy in the room. Inhouse Volume 1 is the first release for the German label Comfort Records, a subsidiary of the ever-present German mediahouse EFA Medien GmbH. Here we have eleven tracks lifted with kind permission from labels like Sense, Moon Harbour, Playhouse, Stir 15, Perlon and others, and from artists like Soul Parlor, Korben Dallas, Ian Pooley, Lowtec and more. Let's not kid ourselves here: all of the tracks on this CD have all the elements of house, and there's very little deviating from the formula; kick drums and handclaps, bass rhythms and piano tinkerings, smooth atmospheres and deep deep grooves. What matters is the arrangements of these elements, and some of these outfits do it much better than others. Take "So Many Things" by Needs; here is a wonderful track that builds its momentum slowly and with deliberation; the arrangement is not rushed nor is it crowded with elements. The same can be said for "La Collazione" by the Wighnomy Brothers, or the more experimental dance track "Phake & Phoney" from Soulphiction, with its fragmented rhythms, heavy bass and electronic trickery. Some weaker moments are found here and there in the compilation: Deep Drawn's "Boogie Wolf" only annoys with its irritating vocal loop; there's nothing separating Ian Pooley's "900 degrees" from the rest of the more conventional house crowd; the unfocused palette of Lowtec's "Please Go Away", and a few other tracks which on the whole didn't capture my attention or incite much of a response. The surprise track here is "Even Better" by Glissando bros featuring Clair Dietrich. Velvet-smooth vocals (for your sing-along pleasure) play wonderfully with an energetic and impressive bass rhythm, catchy moog-work and sharp electronic ornaments, and the whole thing is wrapped in an energetic structure manufactured to get you up from your chair and onto the dancefloor. In all, Inhouse Volume 1 offers a nice balance of dancefloor and more downtempo tracks, some more interesting than others. Nice for summer nights and guest DJ sets at your local club. [Cristobal Q]



ATOM HEART & EYEPHONE: Microprocessed
Container | 002 | CD

A marvelous release dating back to 1997, this co-production between Uwe Schmidt and Marc Behrens is essential listening for those interested in low frequency dynamics. The frequencies contained within are shatteringly powerful, not just in terms of them being low on the scale, but also the manner in which they creep into your listening space with such intensity. The disc is a work of dense ambient layerings, each slowly shifting from one movement to the next. Tearful, synthetic cries bring to a close the 30-minute opening track, "Microstart", and with them come that remarkable low frequency that is less a hum and more a boom. The boom coaxes you into the second movement, and then disappears for a while, so concentration can be paid on the higher pitched chirps and whistles that are then featured. The third movement, "Microcracks" sees some rhythm added to the equation, a fast-paced sequencing that eventually gives way to the ambient core of the whole. The final piece, "Microcycled" sees the return of the boom, and rather than it being brought in underneath the proceedings, other elements are added to it instead. A slow clicking mimics its decibel level fluctuations, and eventually it gives way to the disc's serene closing. Wonderful dynamics through the course of the disc make this a pleasure to revisit often. [Vils M DiSanto]



RR. HABARC: Két Reggel
Avult | 001 | CDR

R.R. Habarc initiated the Avult CDR label in order to explore experimental, electroacoustic, and lo-fi noise works from Hungary. This release, a solo work by Habarc himself, is also their first, released in 1997. The editions are extremely limited (this one has a pressing of 20!), and this one comes packaged with a cute handwritten sleeve with almost childlike cursive writing. The disc features two long tracks of experimental cut-ups and abstract textures. Sharp contrasts and quick, harsh sounds dominate these pieces, electronic edits and manipulations of probably acoustic sound material, arranged in a manic, dizzying collage with no rhythms (except for a fleeting moment in track 2). The icon used by the Avult label is the image of a housefly, and this is a perfect choice for this release, much of which sounds like the incessant and irrational buzzing of flies, and the slurping and strange sounds you might associate with this sort of insect (think of the sounds coming from the hybrid fly in Cronenberg's film, only magnified, fiercely edited, sliced, diced and spit out of a sonic blender). That being said, this is not an easy journey; these sounds command your attention and often try your patience, but still not without its more interesting moments. Above all, Két Reggel (which translates as "two mornings") makes for a confounding start to a unique, homespun label, now with six releases in its catalogue. [Richard di Santo]



LUC KERLÉO: Un Clocher
Kaon | fe98 | 3"CD

This bizarre concept disc by Luc Kerléo, released in 1998 on Kaon, is a bit of a mystery. Featuring nine tracks in just over 16 minutes, the sounds on this disc (a note from a piano? a movement? a shuffling? a crackling?) skip, stutter, and stretch themselves out into a piece that is both fragmented and whole at the same time. Things shift on the fifth track; the piano-like harmonics momentarily disappear and are replaced by the quiet hiss of static, similarly fragmented put through the same sort of processing. These sound fragments shift continuously, loops are generated and regenerated until suddenly everything stops in mid stream. There is mention in the press notes that Kerléo is using 30 seconds of source material for this CD, and that he has run it through a skipping CD player, subjecting it to various manipulations, fast forwards and rewinds, in order to turn these 30 seconds inside out (yet these are perceptions from another review ­ there are no official statements from Kaon or Kerléo ­ and as such they may not be accurate at all). The title of the piece, "un clocher" (a church tower, or alternately, a clock tower) is my only real clue as to its meaning: this work may very well be a strange exploration of time ­ recorded, represented and fragmented to a degree that would rival the timeline of a film by Alain Resnais. Three-inch CDs are treasures for me, for so often they are able to explore and communicate more ideas within such a limited time frame than could ever be found on full length records. Un Clocher is no exception, and with its harmonic stuttering, fluttering and fragments, this perplexing project has quickly become a minor jewel in my collection. [Richard di Santo]



STEVE ROACH / THUPTEN PEMA LAMA: Prayers to the Protector
Celestial Harmonies | 13183-2 | CD

Recorded in 1996 through '99 and released in 2000, this album presents the unique teaming of Steve Roach's signature ambient style with ritual Tibetan chant. In 1996, Thupten Nyandak Pema Lama, a monk from the Dip Tse Chok Link Monastery, visited Steve Roach in the Timeroom, his home cum recording studio. The details and circumstances around this visit are described in the liner notes by Roach's wife, Linda Kohanov. She describes the challenge before Roach in working with the source material of Thupten's meditative chanting:

From the afternoon of December 31, 1999 through the first 18 days of 2000, he [Roach] held vigil in the Timeroom, creating a sacred sonic space worthy of supporting, and at certain moments amplifying, the feelings of devotion, compassion, protection and unfathomable mystery resonating throughout Thupten's recitations.

This record presented certain difficulties for me, too. I don't normally listen to chant, and ritual music has often eluded me as a source of inspiration. How does one listen to a record of solitary recitations, structured in what are for me unfamiliar vocal rhythms, and wrapped in gorgeous ambience and sonic atmospheres? Is it music to facilitate meditation? to inspire an awareness of Buddhism's central concerns, like compassion, suffering, or restraint? Surely, I shouldn't be washing the dishes or talking with friends while listening. So, after a long day of activity and toil, I find a comfortable position on my sofa and start listening, giving it all of my attention at first, and trying to remain conscious of my mind's wanderings while listening. I'm usually an analytical listener, tuning in to sonic details and structures, and this is music that asks you to take a step back from the analytical, to perceive the whole and participate in its meditative spirit; or to get so lost in analysis that it unwittingly turns into mediation. Listening proved to be an interesting experience (I hesitate to use the word "enlightening"), and I enjoyed learning about the role of ritual musical practices of Tibetan Buddhism through the extensive liner notes. Another landmark for Steve Roach, forever mapping ambient territories and exploring the sounds of tranquility. [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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