25 November 2001
Here we have three new releases from the small CDR label Avult. The label is operated out of Hungary by R.R. Habarc, and its releases have been exploring some very compelling and inspired experimental music during the past year. Each release is usually limited to a mere 20 copies, so if you're interested in any of their titles you should act quickly.
The first disc in our list is by the label's founder R.R. Habarc. I first heard Habarc's work a few months back on Két Reggel (see our review in Issue 032), the debut release for Avult, and I found it to be a work brimming with activity, ideas and various affinities to the buzzing of flies (the fly also serves as the logo for Avult). On his latest release, however, things are less chaotic and buzzing than they are measured and harsh. Bélyeg! features five tracks of modest length, each exploring a particular combination of moderately harsh noise loops. The loops in the first track (there are no titles listed on the sleeve) sound as if they were created using an electric guitar and its feedback as sound sources. Others could have been made using a variety of sources, electronic or otherwise. The main characteristic of these loops is their harshness, like feedback or a decay effect. Tracks four and five might actually induce some toe-tapping with their repetitive loop structures that seem less abstract and more like something the body can interpret as rhythm, but this is far from being music for the dance floor. Only at the end of the fifth and final track do the loops give way to reveal some strange and quiet whining, a nice ending and a breath of fresh air for the disc as a whole. In all of the tracks, slight modifications in the loops may or may not take place from time to time, as this impression could very well be my ears playing tricks on me after listening to all of this dizzying noise. While listening, this music grew on me gradually, as I find it's the sort of thing that might not have made much of an impression in the first few minutes, but as the rest of the disc unfolds these sounds become more appealing. [Richard di Santo]
The second disc is by S.K.Y, a collaborative project of improvised music recorded live during the second Festival International D'Art Vivant in Lyon, France earlier this year. Kovács Zsolt performs on tabletop guitar, objects and ebow, while Sörés Zsolt performs on tabletop viola and violin, bowed cymbal, radio, ebow, mics and various objects. The disc features one track, just under 28 minutes in length. It begins with the murmuring of fragmented radio voices, with concrete sounds carefully shuffling underneath. Smooth tones, perhaps from the tabletop viola or violin, run in thin lines here and there throughout the piece, while rougher, louder and more textured sounds come from the guitar, ebow and bowed cymbal. Objects are often struck or moved around, creating concrete frictions with alternating violence or gentleness that punctuate the phrases in the piece. In all a slow, haunting atmosphere takes shape which builds and fluctuates in volume and intensity throughout; certainly an excellent work of experimental improv which will definitely find an appreciative audience in fans of Erstwhile and Zarek labels, to name only two. [Richard di Santo]
The third release is a 3 inch disc by another new name (for me, anyway) called Vertex. Senki-Föld features three track titles but six actual tracks with a run time of about 20 minutes. The disc begins with a slight hiccup, but then it settles into an atmospheric loop full of crackles and static. Loops of dense, opaque sounds fold in and out of each other, full of strange echoes and imperfections, but on the whole remaining fairly regular and measured. The sixth track, which I imagine is the title piece, is a dark, brooding piece of dense atmospheres, swirling noise, industrial drones and dark ambience. It's a good one; and on the whole this short little disc makes a very good impression. I'll be interested to see what's next for Vertex. It's hard to choose a favourite among the three discs reviewed here, but this one comes as close as any. [Richard di Santo]
LUCKY KITCHEN x 2
Here are two new releases in Lucky Kitchen's Sparkling Composers series, which also includes a new project by Alejandra and Aeron (see our review in Issue 040) and forthcoming releases by Joshua Abrams, Toshiyuki Kobayashi and others. The series features work which "gives us the feeling of shiny generosity and warmth... containing vague ideas of narrative." Both of these discs are packaged in beautifully designed paper sleeves (while the Aerospace Soundwise disc also comes with a simple six-piece foam puzzle).
A.F.R.I. Studios is one Andrés Franz Krause, a sound artist based in Cologne. Comprised of three tracks with a total playing time of about 30 minutes, this disc captures some beautifully crafted drones and harmonies. Deep tones, gentle pulses and smooth atmospheres make for some very comforting sounds on this release. It's perfect to have playing in a quiet room at a reasonable volume, as the listening space quickly becomes swallowed up by this drifting and evolving music. [Richard di Santo]
Aerospace Soundwise is Todd A. Carter, and aside from presenting some compelling tracks on past Lucky Kitchen releases (see Find More Hits and I Love Fantasy), this is the first full length of his that I know of. Full of textures, rich atmospheres and surprising turns, this is excellent music. It's the sort of thing that captivates your attention, throws you off track with a burst of noise, for example, or a sudden shift in gears (consider the unexpected downtempo beat in track 9, "Pushing it in Many Ways"), but every second of the way it holds onto your interest and curiosity. Assembling everything from found sounds, electroacoustic musings, noises, beats, subtle rumbles and gentle crackles, Aerospace Soundwise has created a fascinating microcosm in this record that is well worth repeated exploration. [Richard di Santo]
TOUCH x 3
Suspension is the latest release for the Sydney-based guitarist and percussionist Oren Ambarchi. The fact that Ambarchi is a guitarist, that the music on this record is made solely by a man and his electric guitar (along with some live effects, surely), is certainly something to marvel at. Suspension is also his second CD for Touch, having released Insulation last year. Here we have six tracks of uncanny beauty and purity; this music occupies an impressive space and drifts effortlessly into the listener's consciousness. Rich tones course their way throughout these pieces. The sounds will often shift suddenly, or they will be continuously interrupted and succeeded by another sound of a different timbre, and yet never do these changes knock you out of your comfort zone as a listener. The sounds are deep, quiet and nearly concrete, and as such they are a perfect fit for one's ears. It's a pure enjoyment to listen to this beautiful music, which makes Suspension one of the more bewitching projects I've heard in some time.[Richard di Santo]
Mark Van Hoen and vocalist Holli Ashton return as Locust on this double CD release on Touch. But I should be quick to point out that this is no ordinary double CD set. The discs are to be played simultaneously: the first disc contains the songs, and is to be played on your main system. The second disc contains drones, and is to be played on an auxiliary system; something smaller and less powerful, like a portable player or through your computer, in a neighbouring room. The music on Wrong lies somewhere between the more conventional pop structures of 1998's Morning Light and the more abstract songs and synthetic washes found on the records by Scala, also on Touch. Holli Ashton's voice seems trained for catchy yet compelling pop tunes; her lyrics and vocals (from sweet to bitter-sweet) are perfect fit for this music. The tunes all have those simple pop melodies that you'll be whistling and humming for days on end, but there's a lot of complexity hidden in these arrangements as well. All of the non-vocal parts in this music were generated by Mark van Hoen on synths. As such, the sound carries a particularly analogue or "retro" quality which is really brilliant, complex and mixed to perfection; yet at the same time the sound can sometimes seem too synthetic, as if we're waiting for the sounds to break free from this opaque analogue cloud. Playing the two discs together proves to be an interesting experience, and adds a nice dynamic to these songs. The drones on disc two are on synths alone, and they flutter with a shimmering tremolo and weave thin lines around each other. You'll notice the drones more when there are dips in the volume of the songs on disc one; it's like creating your own surround sound mix of the album. On its own, disc one contains some great music; together with the drones on disc two the moods are refined and a little more mysterious. Nicely done. [Richard di Santo]
The tracks on Passt were recorded live at three venues in Sydney and Melbourne throughout last year. The disc begins with a confounding intro (you'd have to hear this announcement yourself to figure it out), but then Rehberg and Bauer quickly get underway with a barrage of electronic sounds and sharp cutups. Full of effects, glitches, pulses and interruptions, this music puts you in surprising places as it constantly shifts its gears. By no means chillout music, I think these tracks might be meant rather to give you an unsettling jolt, to knock you out of complacency. Rehberg and Bauer subject their sounds to all manner of effects and run them through the cogs on their laptops (or so I imagine), which slice and dice them into multitudes of abstract and often harsh electronic elements. I'll be the first to admit that I haven't really been able to get into this music since it arrived in my mailbox. What unsettles me is that I'm not sure I can see where this music is going; to what end all of this harsh kaleidoscopic collage work is heading. My impression is that it seems too transient to have some kind of clear vision or direction. It's certainly one of the more difficult and inaccessible releases on Touch released this year, and if there is an underlying principle or theme in these recordings I seem to have missed it. [Richard di Santo]
20 CITY x 3
Continuing in this issue's thread of new releases grouped by label, we have three new 7 inch records from 20 City which reflect the true breadth of this label's activities.
The first is by the duo of Kuwayama Kiyiharu and Kijima Rina (known collectively as Kuwayama-Kijima), who perform on cello and violin respectively. These two tracks were recorded at a construction site, the future home of an expressway. This is music where the setting is as much an integral part of the composition as the performances on cello and violin. A large fan whirrs throughout, while the violin whines erratically and the cello broods in a more melancholic strain. Excellent work, achieving a unique marriage of environment and performance. [Richard di Santo]
Presented here are two older tracks by Sandoz Lab Technicians, recorded in 1993 but not released until now. Pressed on white vinyl, this 7 inch features just about eight minutes of free improv culled from a much longer live session by this New Zealand foursome. On one side, the piece begins with an intro spoken in a sped up voice, and by instinct you check to see if you're playing the record at the right speed, and sure enough you are. What follows is a playful yet eerie piece full of vocal effects, deep moans and murmurs, strumming on a guitar and random strikes on percussion. The track on the other side forsakes the vocals for a more prominent percussion section, loud and resonant strikes on metal, and dissonant chords on guitar. Both pieces are quite interesting abstract and cloudy like a strange, dark dream and as this is my first exposure to Sandoz Lab Technicians, I would not be averse to hearing more of what this group can do. [Richard di Santo]
I first heard Sukora's ultra quiet sound environments on Tower, released on Meme a short time ago; I remember being intrigued by a strange quality in his sound not easily defined. Here we have two new tracks on the Two Horses EP. It sounds as if Sukora has simply set up a microphone or two to record the natural ambience of a room. No sound in the first piece gives the impression of any deliberate structure. A quiet sprinkling of sounds and shuffling gives the impression that there is at least some movement in this environment. In the second piece, the room ambience is much more noticeable, and there are a few "hiccups" which interrupt the natural flow of the sound. These interruptions are what save this record from being just as forgettable as any other room ambience we encounter every day, and as such what we're left with is a sort of no-frills ambient that nonetheless leaves its mark with the listener, however transient. [Richard di Santo]
DRONE RECORDS x 3
Here are four seven inch records from the back catalogue of Drone Records, a label with a reputation for releasing experimental ambient music of quality and mystery. Although they have repressed much (if not all) of their back catalogue, all editions are limited to a few hundred. As far as I know all of the records reviewed here are still readily available.
Life Garden is a group from Phoenix, Arizona that was born from the embers of Maybe Mental. Plutonian Dub/Chaos Lullaby was originally released in 1997 and repressed last year on red vinyl. Combining dark ambience, echoes of voices in the distance, ritual drumming and found sounds, the piece "Plutonian Dub" builds its energy gradually and yet amazingly it is still a comparatively short track. On the second side, "Chaos Lullaby" continues along similar lines, with a more prominent oriental vocal (a woman's voice that seems sad and distant, suffering and desperate). This piece also builds in intensity with the introduction of ritual style drumming not unlike what you might hear on a record by Vasilisk or Hybrids. This music seems to transport you to another place, and it commands your surrender when played at higher volumes. Perhaps the only disappointing factor here is that both tracks fade out rather quickly at the end, and as a consequence you're left with the feeling that these might be unfinished pieces, or ideas only half realized. [Richard di Santo]
Based in Brussels, Noise-Maker's Fifes is a name I've heard floating around before, but I have never heard their music until now. Intervisage (parts one and two) was originally released in 1997 and reissued in 2000 in an edition of 300 copies. Two pieces of quiet sounds, echoes and ambience, swirling gently to create a mysterious world in which to repose for but ten minutes or so. These are two wonderful tracks; evocative, full of tensions and mysteries. This music reminds me quite a lot of Organum's more quiet drone releases, or the more recent projects of Mirror. This is dark ambience at its finest. [Richard di Santo]
Jain Umpoulet by Ultra Milkmaids was originally released in 1998, and as with these other records it was repressed last year. These two pieces, titled "The Chickens in the Kitchen" and "Lover Time (Kitchen Mix)," are shimmering with beauty. Swirling drones of electric guitar and other circular sounds weave a wonderful web of warm and comforting tones; the gentle crackle of the vinyl only accentuates the beauty in these distant sounds. It's an excellent work, and another gem from Drone Records. [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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