14 October 2001
Amsterdam residents Cor Fuhler and Gert-Jan Prins are both founding members of MIMEO, an improvisation collective in existence since 1997. Fuhler is probably better know for his work as a pianist; see his solo CD titled 7CC in IO, released in 1994 on Geestgronden. Here he performs on analogue synth (the EMS Synthi KS), which he uses to filter the sounds he conjures from turntables and mbiras (thumb pianos from Zimbabwe). Prins, although he has a background as a drummer, here performs on electronics, FM modulations and radio. Lately Prins has been working within the noise scene, as evidenced in his solo CD, Prins Live, released on Grob last year. Recorded earlier this year, The Flirts presents seven improvisations of varying length. The arrangements are busy and brimming with activity; pulses, crackles, grating sounds, static and hiss are all in constant motion. The sound is neither extra quiet nor extra noisy; it remains in this sort of middle ground, full of short sounds that flutter in and out of the sound field in constant flux. There's a marked physicality in this music; as if the performers are physically tearing out the sounds from their machines. When considering the nature of this music, the title of the CD seems quite apt; this is music that flirts with ideas of constancy and regularity; it teases the listener by being in constant motion and never sitting still. But all these sharp contrasts and abstract textures are a compelling combination with an impressive sound dynamic. Challenging surely, even a little unnerving for its refusal to rest even for a moment, but in this album Fuhler and Prins have created a fabulous beast. [Richard di Santo]
I'm not quite sure what to make of this one. Part Muslimgauze imitation, part dark and aggressive techno, From Artesia With Love is an eleven track full length from California resident Ginger Leigh. The record begins nicely enough, with a sojourn through middle-eastern percussion and a sampled string arrangement which sounds like it's coming from an old vinyl record. Similarly with track 2, which is pleasant enough, still nothing we haven't heard before from Bryn Jones and his unwitting compatriots. Yet from this point on is where the album begins to fall apart for me. With the third track it takes a turn for the worse by introducing some energetic dancefloor techno with some high-pitched whistling and a harsh shrieking like that which could once be heard on the artist's website some months ago. From here it's pretty much hit and miss; found sounds, ambience and a touch of mystery here and there mix with a more rough-edged palette of percussion loops, noise and sampled strings with all the flavours of an ageing movie soundtrack with middle-eastern motifs. But at the end the album doesn't sit too well with me; just as there are some interesting moments here, there are others that seem lacking in originality and direction. Ginger Leigh's music is something of a curiosity, and not without its good points, but in all I found this a mediocre effort inspiring a mixed reaction. Check out his previous EP, Broken By the World, for a more succinct and economical look at what Ginger Leigh is all about; it shows all sides of his current programme (aggressive electro vs. soundtrack vs. Muslimgauze-style percussion loops) all in just over 20 minutes. [Richard di Santo]
This new disc by Montréal based electroacoustic composer Gilles Gobeil picks up where his last disc, La mécanique des ruptures (also on empreintes DIGITALes), left off. It presents four compositions from 1995 through 2001. The first piece, "Derrière la porte la plus éloignée..." (1998) is punctuated by deep, broad and dynamic breaths. The piece undergoes a series of dramatic and earth-shattering changes, revealing an incomprehensible intensity and concentration of sound similar in spirit to what I found on his previous record. The next three pieces take their inspiration from works of fiction. "Projet Proust" (1995, 2001) incorporates a reading of the first few pages of Proust's Du côté de chez Swann (Swann's Way) with a constantly shifting sound field. "Point de passage" (1997) is an adaptation of H.G. Wells' The Time Machine, but there is no narration; instead the adaptation is manifested with pure sound, strange machinery and metallic clamouring. The fourth and final piece is based on Jules Verne's Voyage au centre de la terre (Journey to the Centre of the Earth), having found its inspiration in Verne's fantastic accounts of the underworld. Gobeil's vision as seen through these four compositions is characteristically dark and surreal. The dynamic and shifting nature of his sounds is truly remarkable; they occupy a broad trajectory on the stereo spectrum, and seem reach out from their confines into the space around you. This is difficult listening, the kind of music that pulls the carpet from under your feet and sends you headfirst into an unsteady and nightmarish world. So it's not for everyone, nor is it for everyday listening, but it's a fascinating trip nonetheless. Nicely done. [Richard di Santo]
After an impressive solo debut (released last year on Multimedias Pandora), after having collaborated with the likes of David Kristian and Martin Tétrault, and having overwhelmed audiences at the inaugural night at this year's MUTEK festival in Montréal, sound artist I8U returns with a new disc of dynamic sound environments. Her second solo release sees I8U exploring more rhythm than in her debut. Although these rhythms are often regular and minimal, they are immersed within environments that undergo continuous shifts in timbre and intensity. These new works were made with a combination of field recordings, analogue synths and the Tassman, a powerful soft synth tool developed by Applied Acoustics. Fluid drones come and go, they creep up on you and slowly give way to the next wave of dark ambience, deep synthetic drones and some incredible bass pulses. Higher pitched sounds - hiss, clicks, crackles and shuffling - play on the wings of these darker atmospheres. Consider "Senescence", with its complex layers of engaging rhythms and hiss; or the subtle changes in "Stasimon", where a dark undercurrent lays the foundation for an evolving surface of rhythm and texture. Each track folds into the next with natural ease and, though there are breaks between tracks, on the whole listening to this record is like listening to a complete concert; a set of tracks where you could not imagine the absence of any one of its constituent parts or phases. This is an intense and engrossing record that takes over the listening space, revealing new details and subtleties with repeated listening. Highly recommended. [Richard di Santo]
This two-disc retrospective on the works of Richard Lainhart features sound works composed between 1975 and 1989. Living in New York, Lainhart has a longstanding career working with digital sound and visual art, with numerous compositions and performance credits to his name (having performed with John Cage, David Tudor and Phill Niblock, among others). Despite having previously released his past projects on XI Records, Periodic Music and Vacant Lot, this is my first encounter with his music. The first disc features two long compositions from 1975 and 1976 respectively. The first, "Bronze Cloud Disk", is a composition for multi-tracked, processed bowed tam-tam. Stunning harmonic drones unfold before your ears and surround your listening space. This piece completely transfixes the listener in a mesmirizing harmonic swirl. The second piece, "Two Mirrors Face One Another", for multi-tracked, processed bowed Japanese temple bells, conjures a similar reaction; its drones move well beyond the confines of the room and when played at higher volumes they seem to occupy their own newly defined spaces. The pieces on this first disc remind me of recent work by Mirror (the experimental ambient project of Christoph Heemann, Andrew Chalk and Andreas Martin). The second disc features four more compositions. The first, "Cities of Light" (1980) begins with a dark drone, then undergoes a series of subtle and gradual shifts but preserving this beautiful dark ambient quality, created using multi-tracked, processed voice. The title track which follows, composed in 1980, was made by running M, a program developed as a means of controlling and manipulating sounds. The results are a more traditional ambient piece, with a cosmic drift like what you might find on a Steve Roach or Pete Namlook record. "Staring at the Moon" is more of an improvisational piece, where Lainhart again uses this M program in conjunction with a bowed vibraphone. This piece is quiet and tranquil, with probably more affinities with conventional ambient music than I was expecting, given the more experimental nature of the previous pieces. As such these two are for me the least interesting pieces in this collection. "Walking Slowly Backwards" is a shorter piece which closes off the retrospective. Composed in 1989, it is an improvisation for solo vibraphone. Using traditional mallet techniques, Lainhart achieves some stunning reverberations and harmonies. These tones appear with great warmth, and even if parts of it seem like electronically generated sound we are informed that only minimal processing was used here, and all the reverberations are an acoustic presence.
The two-disc set comes packaged with a series of insightful commentaries by Lainhart himself as well as friends and colleagues Ron Goldberg, Joel Chadabe and Ian Nagoski. In a conversation with Chadabe, Lainhart explains: "I've always been interested in natural processes such as waves, flames and clouds, in harmonics and harmony, and in creative interactions with machines. I use these as compositional methods to present sounds that are as beautiful as I can make them." Ten Thousand Shades of Blue is as beautiful as they come. [Richard di Santo]
A most welcome reissue of this Rather Interesting disc from 1997. Still debated today is whether Lisa Carbon is the svelte young hipstress on the cover of the sleeve, or in fact Atom himself (he of Señor Coconut and Lassigue Bendthaus fame). Perhaps he is only the "executive programmer", as credited in the liner notes. Regardless of the amusing controversy, the music on this release is ultimately timeless. This is lounge music for those too diligent to lounge. "Hey! Music!" starts the disc off in fine fashion, with a broken, downtempo jazz loop forming its basis. Swirling, echoing Moog chords sing high and low over the loop, and provide a fascinating contrast for the duration of the track. "Rhumba Rholand" sees stereo separation taken to whole new (or old) levels; drums are reserved for the right channel, paired with a creaking likened to crickets chirping on a sweltering summer's eve. The left channel supplies the ambient backdrop to the track as well as keyboard stylings dancing over top. The composition is truly wondrous. Before long, the disc slows its tempo down, with the seemingly faux-live track "Live in Sao Paulo", a ravishingly seductive little number. The pace picks up dramatically with the irresistibly catchy "Dibadudu", soon followed by the unhurried "Look Out the Window (Hollywood Piano)". The album proper closes with the completely engaging "Magic Sofa". Two bonus tracks are reproduced on this edition that were initially included on a release on the Japanese label Daisy World. The tracks are fine enough, but I think they lessen the effect "Magic Sofa" has as a perfect closing number. Overall, it's great to see a third issuing of this classic disc, and at four years old, it still sounds as refreshing as it did all those years ago. [Vils M DiSanto]
Niobe is the brainchild of Yvonne Cornelius, and her debut, Radioersatz, is a mysterious and surreal journey full of peculiar sounds, colourful arrangements and unusual vocals. In addition to producing this music (using a virtual memory of a mere 2 MB), Cornelius also performs all of the vocal tracks on this mini-album. She is joined by Helmut Zerlett, who performs guitar on "everybody shares a lounge", a song with lyrics by Janeta Schude. Her vocals are often filtered, sounding as if they were recorded using old or cheap microphones, and the words are often cryptic and defy easy interpretation, acting more as textures than as signs. Her vocal style is built around "tongue sounds"; her voice wavers and quivers, contributing to an atmosphere of uneasy enchantment present throughout these songs. The instrumental arrangements, which open up in broad sweeps, are also inventive and unpredictable. Surprising sounds interrupt the flow of some unusual rhythms, synthesized, live or sampled instrumentation. From the rhythm of some very jolly bass bubbles in the first track to a mellow acoustic guitar loop in the closing number, Niobe takes you on a strange and dreamlike voyage with her unique and inventive sound. This mini-album is just 25 minutes in length, but it has such a wealth of ideas which makes for a very rewarding listening experience. Spontaneous and spirited, magical and mysterious, Radioersatz is a great debut, and hopefully promises more from Niobe in the near future. [Richard di Santo]
Ostinato is a project by Christian Mevs, who is joined by Cécile Fox on vocals and texts. The music on Kap Arkona is dark techno with sharp textures and a characteristically "heavy" sound, full of thick bass tones and dense sounds. Solid beats, fit for the dancefloor or for driving across a long highway, mix with more or less typical electro sounds and effects, with a touch of drum 'n' bass here and there thrown in for good measure. The vocal parts are whispers which on the whole are swallowed by the electronic sounds and strong beats. There are a number of interesting moments on this disc, glimpses of possibility, the possibility of expansion or of breaking from this more conventional techno mould, but on the whole it never manages to break free and really capture my attention. There is, on the other hand, some nice production work on this album that makes this mildly interesting music to have on while you have your mind on other things. [Richard di Santo]
Bhob Rainey (aka Bhop Rainey, his name appears both ways on the sleeve) and Greg Kelley have been working together as Nmperign since 1998. In its initial incarnation, Nmperign was a trio consisting of Rainey on soprano saxophone, Kelley on trumpet, and Tatsuya Nakatani on percussion, but now it operates as a duo. Their latest disc is a set of live improvisations, and comes packaged with a nine-panel ode to their work and to the experimental improv scene in the Boston area written by Maria Klein. These performances start with almost nothing, the hiss of the live recording, and slowly the sounds start coming through. Their performances really emphasize the physicality of their instruments; their movements, use of the keys, their breathing and wheezing are clearly filtered through these solid bodies with their wind tunnels, twists and turns. On the whole they keep the sound environment pretty calm, but there are a number of occasions where they erupt in a more cathartic outburst of grunts and disordered whinnying. In all I found that this music was more interesting when it receded into a more quiet terrain; the sounds are gently shifting and appear more subtly to the ear. There's nothing really seminal here, just some interesting improv by a duo with some good ideas and an enthusiasm for experimental forms. [Richard di Santo]
Recently we heard Toshimaru Nakamura in collaboration with Sachiko M on the excellent CD titled do, released on Erstwhile earlier this year. Nakamura performs on a "no-input mixing board", which may seem like a nihilistic concept, but in the end it's the combination of process and output that matters, regardless of any peripherals. Keith Rowe is probably best known for his work in AMM, which he co-founded with Eddie Prévost and Lou Gare in 1965. Recently he has released a solo disc, Harsh (on Grob), as well as an excellent collaboration with the percussionist Burkhard Beins (on Zarek), so even after more than 35 years Rowe is still an active and influential presence in the experimental improv scene. Rowe performs on tabletop guitar and electronics. He also supplied the artwork for this CD, done in his characteristic "comic strip" style. Weather Sky features three live improvisations with a total runtime of 73 minutes, recorded this past June at Le Chok Theatre, Saint-Etienne, France. The first piece begins with a simple, high frequency tone, and upon this sound others slowly follow as the piece takes on a more intense mood. Nakamura and Rowe seem to work as one in these pieces; their collaboration seems to be a true meeting of minds. Their palette is kept relatively minimal, with slowly shifting, pulsating undercurrents (usually in the upper frequency range) and an occasional clamour or surface sound (a harsh grating, a rustling, a crackling) suddenly appearing in the foreground, only to disappear in a moment's breath. Surprisingly a simple rhythm appears for a brief spell in the second piece, a short intermission between the two longer performances on either side. These pieces move in broad sweeps, opening up slowly, their intensity fluctuates in small variations. On the whole they provide a highly captivating sound environment for the careful and creative listener. Excellent work. [Richard di Santo]
The always surprising and versatile Asmus Tietchens teams up with David Lee Myers, formerly known as Arcane Device, for this new release on Disco Bruit's sublabel Erneuerter Prozess (eP). Although Myers hung up his Arcane Device moniker in 1995, he has been active in the creation of his uniquely devised feedback music, which more recently is being called "processor music", since the late 1980s. Tietchens needs no introduction here; his techniques, numerous solo works and collaborations (with the likes of Thomas Köner, Vidna Obmana and Achim Wollsheid) have been central points of reference in experimental music over the past few decades. For this new release, Tietchens treated and arranged source material by Myers that was created using homemade machines that transform feedback into new sound elements for music. A brief guide to these fascinating machines and how they function can be found on Myers' Pulsewidth website. The album undergoes a marked progression in intensity and complexity, but on the whole this music is calm and quiet, full of subtleties and delicate shifts. With the term "feedback music" you might automatically be thinking of densely layered noise, a chaotic maelstrom of sound. But this album is far from the noise scene; quiet drones, fluttering electronic sounds and playful textures are the prominent features of this music. The finale is a phenomenal piece from start to finish; I hang on every mysterious sound, every light drone, every subtle change, until the very end. Tietchens and Myers make an incredible match, and in Flussdichte they have created an exciting new work that inspires an intense interest and fascination, especially with repeated and concentrated listening. [Richard di Santo]
The OR label has released a solid collection of tracks here, some of which have an electroacoustic essence about them, and others which are complete computer fabrications. A quiet number from farmersmanual gets things underway. It sits patiently in the distance at the start of the disc for one short minute, but makes a return appearance in a much more resounding (and lengthy) form by the disc's end. Alberto De Campo contributes a contemplative piece entitled "Imaon", which features continually striking chimes above a somber backdrop. The track has a meditative feel to it, and is undeniably powerful. The deceit is that all the sounds are synthetic in origin, which puts an interesting twist on the notion of meditative instrumentation.
Phoenicia are up next with a rather chaotic number, which jumps from tightly-packed globules of sound to patches of rhythmically challenged "beats". An interesting piece of turmoil, to be sure. Atau Tanaka and Eric Wenger contribute a track that was created by scanning bondage photographs into their computers, and using the image files as sonograms, they created the sounds heard here. The photographs were taken by Japanese photographer Nobuyoshi Araki, and have been reproduced (in sonogram form) in the accompanying booklet. The booklet also features many screen captures of the other artists' work as they created the recordings on this disc.
The showcase piece is Tom Wallace's "givingup goingon", which clocks in at over thirteen minutes in length. It's a bizarre concoction of broken glass, metal scrapings and other clinking sounds brought together in a most arresting manner. The material is thrown around - frontward, backward, inside out - and is smashed into a thousand shards. Wallace crafts the soundscape very carefully, and fills it with much tension, finesse and technical precision. I think it might have worked better as a shorter piece (the first four minutes are simply miraculous), as the track takes a few too many turns into unrelated territory (a sudden homage to Kraftwerk among them).
Curtis Roads and Jim O'Rourke each contribute a track here as well. Roads' piece being a restrained yet jittery track, and O'Rourke's being a more eccentric piece, featuring a brief encounter with female voice, strumming guitar and extended drum roll.
An excellent cross-section of computer generated music is presented here by each of the artists. OR has assembled a very fine group of tracks which play off each other nicely. I give a very high recommendation to this release. [Vils M DiSanto]
This was the first disc to be released on Line, co founded by Richard Chartier and Taylor Deupree as a division of 12k, in 2000. The first pressing of 500 quickly sold out, and now Line is re-releasing the disc, which has become something of a classic in the microsound genre. Chartier creates nine engaging sound environments with minimal elements embedded in a great expanse of silence. The most delicate tones, crackles and clicks, mostly in the higher frequency range, weave a web of sound best suited for headphones or for "quiet amplification" in an equally quiet listening environment. Like the works of Steve Roden or Bernhard Günter, Chartier's music does not lend itself well to distracted listening. In a fast paced world, some may find it difficult to sit down and really pay attention to a sound work like this, but "for those who insist on more than easy listening" (as Asmus Tietchens once said of his own listening audience) taking the time to explore a record like this comes as second nature. It's an experience somewhat analogous with reading; every sound that lights gently in your ear is like every word, every letter printed on a white page, which, when strung together, tell the most amazing stories. Chartier's sound has evolved considerably, even since the release of series only last year, yet this is an extremely accomplished and rewarding work. It's no wonder that this record is enjoying a growing reputation as a staple in its genre. [Richard di Santo]
A rambunctious little disc from Montréal released in early 2001, heavy on the thump and heavy on the groove. Ten tracks race along at an energetic pace, each executed in a similar fashion. Some uniquely twisted sounds emanate from the mix; some rise above the pounding beats, and some bury themselves below in an inventive and playful manner. Wonderful moments of technical refinement separate Pheek from the pack. Take the track "trois" for example (the highlight of the disc), with its excellent use of stereo imaging in the squeaking loop that sits over top of the matted background. Overall, the heaviness of the beat gets to be a bit much for a single sitting, but taken in smaller doses, Pheek has provided us with an entertaining collection of tracks here. [Vils M DiSanto]
Munich based artist Günter Schroth composes barcode music; that is, music made from scanning barcodes. Schroth has observed that "in each and every barcode there is hidden a melody or a sound structure strongly marked by the product on which the barcode sticks... By nature, the barcode on a can of Coca Cola sounds different from the barcode on a pack of cheese, of chocolate or of rolled oats." Since the inception of the Barcode Music Performance in 1995, Schroth has developed software that facilitates the translation of scanning barcodes into music. This disc, released in April 2000, documents his compositions and improvisations dating from 1995 through 2000. Barcode music is a strange and abstract thing; electronic tones, whistles and textures, some smooth and some harsh, playfully interact with each other. Sometimes Schroth indulges in a more noisy climax of intense sound, and usually the soundfield is extremely busy and alive with all manner of sounds that move from one channel to the next. One of the more interesting tracks here is a barcode-vinyl improvisation with Claus van Bebber on vinyl, where shuffles and minute electronic clusters and tones create some interesting combinations. The other "duet" is a barcode-voice composition, with vocals provided by Franziska Quandt. Schroth's harsh textures offer an effective foil to Quandt's voice, which alternates between a smooth soprano and a flustered and nagging tone. Her wordless intonations are an intriguing and refreshing element in Schroth's otherwise restless and densely layered electronic sound. In all, Barcode Music is a difficult and challenging record which offers an interesting approach to making music, with some nice results. [Richard di Santo]
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