2 September 2001
About a year ago (or maybe it's been longer?) I heard Greg Headley's Adhesives (out on Bake Records) which is an impressive exploration in working with solo tabletop guitar. He returns on his own CDR label with A Table of Opposites, where he is again engaged in using the guitar as his main sound source (with interjections by a few effects boxes along the way). The disc explores several ideas and techniques, each piece differing in mood and structure from the others. Headley moves freely from drones to more dynamic structures, but always remaining in the abstract. The variety doesn't make for an uneven listening experience, but rather engages the listener and makes one marvel at the subtle transformations of his sound source, since it's almost impossible to discern the chords of a guitar in most of this music. Consider the stunning low frequency drones of "Tourbillion", or the high pitched chiming and subtle touches in "Brings ether harmonies". From the first to the last, Headley's music proves to be an engaging and rewarding presence, and as such A Table of Opposites comes highly recommended. [Richard di Santo]
This is my first contact with Little Annie, aka Annie Anxiety Bandez. She has a number of solo releases out with On U Sound and has collaborated with the likes of COH, the Wolfgang Press and Current 93. This new three-track EP is her first on Christoph Heemann's Streamline label. The title track was co-written with Joseph Budenholzer (of Backworld) and features George Rush on bass. It's a slow, mature and melancholy jazz arrangement (piano, bass, drums, vibes, etc.), with Annie's sometimes smooth, sometimes sharp, sometimes haunting voice creating an evocative nighttime mood. Bandez plays the tortured songstress well; her voice is tinged with a sweet sort of suffering (in places reminding me of Siouxie Sioux, but only marginally) while her lyrics are solemn with touches of mystery. The second song, "Lullaby," was co-written with Larry T and features Budenholzer once again on guitar and production. Its lush, sweet melody is matched by Annie's soft voice, promising safety for the lover in her arms, but still manages to leave you with a certain sense of unease.
Side two features a ten minute remix of the title track by Christoph Heemann. He emphasizes masterfully the haunting aspects of Annie's song by prefacing it with a dark and surreal soundscape. Heemann's touch is unmistakable here, the echoes of voices and sounds resound with characteristic melancholy. He manipulates and stretches out the song's instrumentation and vocals, combining them with field recordings of a quiet wind and lonely place. The remix is the perfect compliment and conclusion for this intriguing new release, and comes highly recommended.
Streamline, formerly manufactured by Anomalous Music, is now manufactured and distributed by Drag City. [Richard di Santo]
Perlonex is an electroacoustic trio comprised of Ignaz Schick (live electronics), Joerg Maria Zeger (guitars) and Burkhard Beins (percussion). They were formerly known as Perlon, but changed their name in agreement with a Frankfurt-based techno label, also called Perlon. Peripherique features two tracks, recorded live at Instants Chavires in Paris last December. These two long pieces (43 and 13 minutes respectively) develop slowly in broad movements. The compositions seem to be free of any real time constraints, yet at the same time the sounds are extremely concentrated, as if they were contained in a vacuum sealed container, ready to explode at any moment. The electronics, guitars and percussion compliment each other with their non-competitive, non-intrusive sounds, forming more of a unified sound throughout the pieces. Perlonex brings together three innovative sound artists in the world of new improv, and Peripherique is a true testament to their skill and spirit. [Richard di Santo]
Ignaz Schick has surprised me with every new release of late, becoming increasingly prolific in the areas of new improvisation and electroacoustic music (see his work with Perlonex, reviewed above, or his many other projects available from his own Zangi Music organisation). Petit Pale sees Schick perform in collaboration with Andrea Neumann, who is a new name for me. Neumann had studied classical piano before turning to develop her own innovative performance techniques. Through her collaborations with Phosphor (of which Schick is also a member), Rananax and Annette Krebs, she has become an emerging figure in improvisation and electroacoustic circles, and justifiably so. For this session (recorded live on 8-track without overdubs or editing) Neumann performs on a prepared and electronically treated inside-piano, while Schick performs on live electronics. The two components complement each other well; Schick's subtle tones and electronic textures, at times barely audible, create a fragile soundspace with which Neumann's scrapings and surprising sounds are arranged. You never quite know what to expect while listening; quiet movements are interrupted by a sudden clanging or a surface scraping, but still they keep things charged, subdued and subtle, only occasionally moving into more harsh textures. In all, an excellent new release of electroacoustic improv. [Richard di Santo]
Basal is the debut full length from Sogar, aka Jürgen Heckel. Richly layered textures, crackles and tones create some compelling sonic spaces and a mood that is quite calming and reflective. The components often melt into gentle rhythms, yet sometimes remain in the abstract. The tracks are medium length (9 tracks in all, with a total runtime of just under 50 minutes), and develop with natural ease. There's a calm, contemplative nature to this music, which carries a sort of warmth about it that seems rare for a microsound project (usually favouring more of a cold, stark mood of alienation in the digital age). The melodic textures on this album can be almost hypnotising: their crackles, tones and harmonic loops mesmerise the listener with their soothing rhythms and complex layering. In all, this is a peaceful and engaging new release, and a promising start for Sogar. [Richard di Santo]
STEAMBOAT SWITZERLAND: Budapest
Two new records by the improvisational powerhouse trio known as Steamboat Switzerland. The band is comprised of Dominik Blum (Hammond organ, electronics, piano), Marino Pliakas (electric bass) and Lucas Niggli (drums & percussion).
The tracks on ac/dB (Hayden) alternate between "ac", a collective composition by the members of the band, and "dB", a composition by the English composer Sam Hayden commissioned exclusively for Steamboat Switzerland. The album was recorded live at various venues throughout 1999. The music alternates between swinging and muscular sections with strong references to both rock and jazz (the drums and organ play dominant roles here), and more subdued meditations which are rather like the calm before the storm. A listener can easily become lost in the kaleidoscope of sounds and rhythms, coming at you from all sides through some very complex arrangements, energetic playing, and what alternates between dizzying and grounding sections throughout the album. The interplay between Hayden's notation and Steamboat's improvisation leads to a very raw sound, a strange balance of being free yet constrained at the same time.
The second CD, Budapest, is more of a dizzying affair. Recorded live in 1999 in the city after which the disc is named, the album is comprised of six major components, encased by an "intro" and "outro". This music is much more dense and free, without the noticeable constraint and structure found in ac/dB (Hayden). There's less of a rock orientation here, and more of a dense, heavy layering of sounds (the organ, a droning bass, fluttering drums and cymbals remain the dominant components here) with a number of surprising shifts, quiet sections and noisy outbursts. The over all feeling on this disc is one of heaviness and obscurity, like a thick fog settling in. Everything culminates in an short, energetic encore that is the "outro", reclaiming an explicit rock orientation that is otherwise missing from the rest of this album.
These two discs are available either in separate editions or together in a limited edition box set, packaged with extra material. [Richard di Santo]
This is the second release from two French artists who go by the names of B"L and DDN, recording under the name Tin.RP. It's a unified concoction featuring heavy slabs of noisy rhythms with minimal accompaniment. The rhythms are not drum-based; rather, they are interpretive, based on patterns evident in digital distortion and software inefficiencies. The tracks each have a very heavy feel about them, with low frequency pulses and repetitious glitches throughout. The disc starts off faintly, but beware: the second track certainly comes out roaring, and the disc never looks back. Powerful electronics and clean recording tactics make this a pleasure to listen to. While not nearly as polished as a Pan sonic disc, it does share elements with their more extreme sonic moments. I sense much promise for this duo. [Vils M DiSanto]
A definite curiosity in the history of electronic music. Lustmord is the man behind this project, with engineering, sampling and programming assistance by Andrew Lagowski. Released in 1992, Crash Injury Trauma is a shocking exploration of automobile crash injuries and deaths. An unrelenting assault of screeches, screams and piercing frequencies punctuate the sonic spaces on this release. It stops at nothing to drive its point across that investigations into automobile crashes are often inadequately performed.
Furnished with a plethora of references and suggestions for crash investigators, along with some particularly graphic imagery (the cover itself is undeniably disturbing), the disc acts as some kind of bizarre teaching tool with an accompanying soundtrack. According to the liner notes, the tracks were recorded live with no overdubs, which may account for the pops and clicks present throughout some of the tracks. The live feel definitely works to the advantage of this disc however, as the rawness of the recordings adds to the dramatic effect of the entire package.
Pre-dating Cronenberg's exploration of similar themes in his film Crash, Lustmord's concept has capitalised on the shock factor as well as the cerebral nature of the subject matter, instilling a reality-based fear to his audience (this is definitely the last disc I would want to play whilst in an automobile). While an impossible disc to recommend to someone, the overall effect of this disc is undeniably powerful. It is sure to stir up differing opinions and reactions based on one's experiences in and around automobiles. [Vils M DiSanto]
Released last year, Invisible Gold features two compositions from the 70s by David Rosenboom: "Portable Gold and Philosophers' Stones" (1972) and "On Being Invisible" (1976-77), in two parts. Rosenboom is fascinated with the brain's electrical activity the musical possibilities of such activity, and these pieces reflect that fascination in very unique ways.
"Portable Gold," subtitled "Music from Brains in Fours", was created using the brainwaves of four "biofeedback musicians" who were wired and hooked up to a Holophone. The Holophone is described as a bank of filters into which the four-note chords of pulse waves are fed. The result is a remarkable work, nearly 20 minutes in length, composed of waves, tones, pulses and varying harmonies. The piece runs through a number of changes; the synchronization of the waves fluctuates steadily and sometimes surprisingly, from calming waves and gentle pulses to more uneven oscillations. About fifteen minutes into the piece the four constituent parts go a little crazy, fluctuating in broad, sweeping movements, until finally settling down again for the finale.
The second work, "On Being Invisible", also works with brainwaves, but the process and subsequent results couldn't be more different. Instead of pulses and waves we get clusters of short electronic sounds and clicks. There's a complex process involved in creating these pieces, and I won't attempt to summarize it here. Let it suffice to say that the performer, his brain wired to a system of electronic interpreters and filters, interacts with the interpretations by complex computer programs. The first piece begins in a very abstract vein, but about half way into the piece recognizable and complex rhythmical structures are introduced by activating "a part of the software capable of building structural hierarchies in music". The second part uses much of the same software as the first part, but this time the inputs are derived from acoustic sources rather than brainwaves. The performer makes occasional sounds into a microphone, which the software in turn attempts to group into stable patterns. This music is truly a wonder to behold, especially in light of the complex models and mechanisms developed by Rosenboom for the project.
Fascinating stuff, and the liner notes by Rosenboom offer an intriguing gloss over his motivations and methods. The pieces documented on Invisible Gold represent an undeniable milestone in the history of electronic music. [Richard di Santo]
Last year, 20 City released this 7 inch by Peter Wright, a sound artist from Christchurch, New Zealand. It features two compelling tracks of drones, deep atmospheres and rough textures. The sounds were made using bowed and prepared electric guitars, likely run through various delays in order to create an endless, dynamic drift. Wright achieves some stunning results here, especially on side two, titled "Kepler" (the tracks are named after two craters on the moon), where the deep, dark chords resound with great force, carried on the wings of an eternal drift. Reminiscent of projects by Rafael Toral, or even Markus Reuter's experiments on touch guitar, this recording is a short but noteworthy contribution to guitar-based ambient recordings. Nicely done. [Richard di Santo]
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