9 December 2001
Based in Barcelona, Koji Asano has been busy recording projects for his own Solstice label (now reaching a total of 25 solo releases since its inception in 1995). In spite of this activity, however, this is my first exposure to his work. Spirit of the Wardrobe seems to be more about silence than about the sounds which occupy it. Long expanses of "dead" silence are punctuated by brief sounds, mere glimpses of what might be field recordings or found sounds. Whatever their origins, the sounds are taken out of their original context and placed in this enormous bed of silence. To give you an idea as to how much silence there actually is on this CD: in the 57'41 minutes that pass by from beginning to end I am inclined to guess that only one or two of these minutes are occupied by any kind of sound at all (and this estimation may even be generous). Perhaps there is a pattern in the sounds that do appear (something about their duration, or their placement in time, perhaps?), but I have not scrutinized the piece enough to uncover any structural principal. The result of this peculiar experiment is that even though you know to expect a sound to bubble up every minute or so, you cannot help but be startled each time these flashes of sound appear. It certainly keeps you on your toes, a little tense and ever attentive. It also keeps you intrigued as to what might happen next, but ultimately I think we're left feeling a little perplexed, perhaps looking for some kind of culmination or resolution bringing all of these sound fragments together. [Richard di Santo]
My first reaction: this has got to be a joke. German filmmaker Klaus Beyer sings four songs by The Beatles in German translation: "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band" (Hauptmann Pfeffers Einsamer Herzenklub), "Yesterday" (Gestern), "The Yellow Submarine" (Das Gelbe Unterwasserboot) and a live version of "When I'm 64" (oddly translated as "Wenn Ich 70 Bin"). Beyer's thin, wiry voice, hopelessly out of tune and sounding a little like a trembling Peter Lorre, is recorded over the most low-tech of tapes, roughly assembled either from the original Beatles tracks (you can certainly hear the voices of the Fab Four from time to time in the background) or instrumental versions of these songs. Sometimes the instrumental tracks stutter unevenly, often putting Beyer humorously out of step. So, my initial surprise at seeing this release at my doorstep subsiding, I do a quick web search. It seems that Klaus Beyer has a significant discography available (as well as photobooks and videos), many of which have funny spoofs of the original Beatles cover art, all featuring Beyer's chunky little face in place of John, Paul, George and Ringo. This one features a picture of him in a Sgt. Pepper outfit. Hilarious stuff, and certainly very bizarre (never quite sure how seriously Beyer is taking himself here; or how seriously we should be taking him!). This would probably make a great gift for any Beatles fan with a sense of humour. [Richard di Santo]
A stunning, solid and concise effort from Kit Clayton on this new Vertical Form release. Seven linked tracks of sonic mastery see Clayton achieve a pace and fluidity that has been lacking in his previous releases. The sounds are all his trademarked brand of crackly, downsampled grittiness, but are used to much greater effect this time around. There is definitely a unified approach to this disc: things start off with a grumbling deepness and slowly evolve to a rambunctious pace towards the disc's end. Bucking the temptation to hit us with more beat-oriented material, Clayton here has exercised restraint, but without making it feel like he's exercised restraint. He's created a world filled with rhythm, yes, but it's also a world of sonic strangeness and complexity. The dub factor is also less prevalent this time around, and this allows a certain liberation from his past excursions. The disc might have functioned better as a single 38-minute track, but then I suppose people would have asked for track breaks, which Vertical Form has included here. When the nine-minute sixth track bursts out, it's a rich and wondrous affair: the sounds brighten, the quietude lifts and Clayton reaches the apex of all his music to date. Simply wonderful. [Vils M DiSanto]
Uwe Schmidt (Atom) and Burnt Friedman are back on top of things with this incredible new collection of tracks. If previous releases under the Flanger moniker were open attempts to blur the lines between the real and the artificial, outer space/inner space supercedes any of that pretense by acting on it with an enviable sense of accomplishment. There's a vitality behind these recordings that is evident not only in the way each track plays out, but also in the way each instrument has been recorded and mixed together. The superb sonic placement of the diverse instrumentation goes beyond many recordings released today (this would make an ideal test disc to bring when auditioning new audio equipment).
More than just expert sonics however, this release features solid excursions into freestyle jazz, techno cut-up, and complex percussive treatments. Guest players from Santiago, Copenhagen and Cologne contribute to a number of the tracks here, and Atom and Friedman have a blast deconstructing their contributions (and sometimes just leaving them be). Highlights include the peppy opening track "Outer Space/Inner Space", the vibraphone-infested "Galak", and the bass-heavy, saxophone-laden "It Ain't Rocket Science".
Perhaps it isn't rocket science to the two guys behind these recordings, but I think the creativity evident here will impress almost any fan of jazz or electronica, and the accomplished musicianship will impress almost anyone who listens in. An instant classic. [Vils M DiSanto]
This is the second in the Folktales series by the burgeoning label Crouton Music, intended to "explore the literary aspects of sound and performance." Folktales No. 2 is a triple three inch CD where Jon Mueller, Bhob Rainey and Achim Wollscheid take one disc each. They also collaborated on a short and enigmatic text inspired by their contributions.
The first of these "sound tales" is by Jon Mueller and features one piece performed on drum set. It seems like hardly a drum set at all, with all of the static-like sounds, scraping and delicate textures in this piece, the sounds seem disembodied from any actual instruments. Mueller certainly knows how to keep his listeners guessing and listening closely to his strange and interesting arrangements.
The second disc is by improviser Bhob Rainey who performs on soprano sax. He presents five short pieces with a total playing time of about sixteen minutes. From uneasy wheezes and short breaths to more sustained notes exploring the subtle timbres and textures of his instrument, the pieces admirably leave ample room for silences and breaks in between the sounds.
The third and final disc (and perhaps my favourite of the three) is a piece for laptop and CD players by Achim Wollscheid. A rich and subtle palette of sound material, full of warm tones, abstract sounds, crackles and otherwise unidentifiable noises, all arranged in a single piece just under twenty minutes in length.
In all, three excellent contributions, each artist spinning his own yarn and telling a fascinating, mysterious story with sound. Indeed, who needs words when you have sounds like these? [Richard di Santo]
This is the third CD for Polwechsel, a gathering of four composers/performers/improvisers: John Butcher, tenor & soprano sax; Werner Dafeldecker, double bass, guitar, electronics; Michael Moser, violoncello and Burkhard Stangl, guitars. Featured on the disc are two compositions by Dafeldecker, two more by Moser, and a final piece by John Butcher. With characteristic precision, these performers create five demanding, subtle and complex works for our listening pleasure. In the first piece, by Durian's founding father Werner Dafeldecker, subtle electronics dominate the palette, while the less intrusive sounds from the other players occupy the spaces in between. It's a wonderful piece with a series of captivating turns and a beautiful dynamic range. The next piece by Moser opens with what could be the coupling of sax and violoncello, which creates a mysterious harmony, later peppered by the plucking, strumming and grinding of strings. The contrasting textures certainly make for an interesting listening experience. The third piece, also by Moser, sounds best at higher volumes; the clarity and closeness of the recording compliments the dramatic and commanding movements. The fourth piece, again by Dafeldecker, is another compelling arrangement for the quartet, with short drones alternating with higher pitched sounds like sine waves dominating the piece, each shift and pronouncement as surprising as the last. The final piece, by John Butcher, features a compelling performance on double bass and all manner of plucking, grinding, whistling, and electronic textures weaving a tight web throughout. The closer you get to these performances, the more they offer. Hiding behind the sounds in the foreground are subtle sounds and hidden possibilities worth exploring with close and careful listening. Excellent work. [Richard di Santo]
A new seven inch from our favourite "arhythmic organic techno" label from Scotland. Here we have two new tracks that look back to the bygone days of eighties synth pop. Murray Johnston, aka Neck Doppler here gives us a cover version of "Sit Down" by the British pop group James. It starts off simply enough but then takes a few dives as the voice and music are slowed down and sped up in a warped and unsteady fashion. Straight Outta Mongolia, whom I first heard on the Mothballs 3 compilation, also has a vocal track, although his is done "straight", without any weird turns or surprises. This is pure synth music with a real retro feel. His song, "Complications," might also be a cover, but if so haven't been able to identify it. Both tracks on this record are great fun; nothing serious of course, just a couple of guys having some fun with their old analog synths, but they make me smile a little grin just like the winged Mouthmoth logo... nice one! [Richard di Santo]
Surface of Eceon is a collaboration between members of psych-rock outfits Landing and Yume Bitsu. Its members: Dick Baldwin (guitar, processing), Aeron Snow (synths, effects, guitar) and Daron Gardner (bass, processing), Phil Jenkins (percussion) and Adam Forkner (guitar, treatments and voice). Where Landing's Oceanless CD (released earlier this year and reviewed in Issue 034 of Incursion), was a journey into the more mellow areas of space rock, Surface of Eceon explores more abrasive territories, while still saving some time for reflection. The guitars build dense walls of sound, the drums roll, the feedback rises and falls, while occasionally a voice will be your guide through the rough terrain. Probably the finest track here is the long finale, "Ascension to the second tier...", with its minimal chords and an evolving palette, over 16 minutes long but which seems to linger for some time after it ends. Where I'll admit that progressive, psychedelic, space or whatever it's called music might not be first on the list of what normally captivates my interest, there is a noticeable charm in this record, drifting right on by through these autumn days forever becoming shorter and colder. [Cristobal Q]
In approaching his new project, Arnaud Jacobs, aka TMRX, asked himself some of the fundamental questions around sound perception, representation and composition (can reality be acoustically reproduced? how can a field recording become a musical object? etc.). Although Jacobs is quick to point out that Difficulté de comprendre dans le bruit is "explicitly not a culmination of various field recordings," these recordings - capturing the sort of sounds you hear and are surrounded by every day - are nonetheless at the core of this work. When listening, the sounds open up before you; field recordings and concrete sounds appear in pure form only to be transformed by various treatments, in turns subtle and dramatic. You recognize a child's voice, fragments of words, of music, a growing wind, a passing car, the banging of objects, only to witness significant transformations before your ears. The treated sounds, droning, percolating and otherwise indescribable, surprised me at every turn. Subtle tones and fine textures carefully weave a fragile web around the sounds in the foreground. The production work on this CD is wonderful; the sounds appear with great clarity, occupying a wide frequency range and expanding into your own listening environment. Interestingly, the listener's room is identified in the insert as an essential part of the work; it is the fourth element, after three layers of field recordings (both untreated and treated) and concrete sounds. This is also the first time I have encountered a track 0 on a CD. By pressing the search back button from track 1, you can listen to about a minute's worth of sounds which act as a volume test for the rest of the CD. Because the volume fluctuates dramatically throughout these pieces, Jacobs was kind enough to give us a relative guide for setting up the optimum playback volume. Captivating, imaginative and complex, Difficulté de comprendre dans le bruit is an excellent new work that comes highly recommended. [Richard di Santo]
After an intriguing solo disc on ooze.bâp released last year, the Brazilian born and Barcelona based Un Caddie Renversé Dans L'Herbe returns with a fresh batch of tracks plus seven remixes of his work by Lucky Kitchen's Alejandra & Underwood, Erik M, DJ Olive, OnCe11 and Stephen Vitiello. Un Caddie is a great cut and paste artist, often working with turntables and software, where percussion and rhythm has a central role in the sound sources he works with. On Polyhedric Tetrapak, quirky rhythms, glimpses of melodies and sharp edits blend with and are constantly interrupted by all manner of sounds (scratches, hisses, clicks, etc.) that fill in the empty spaces. His tracks are all short (usually between 1 and 3 minutes in length), and as such he covers a lot of ground in a very fidgety manner, never sitting still or letting you catch your bearings while listening. The remixes in the second part of the disc take their source material from his previous CD on ooze.bâp titled Totlop Pak. Each artist puts their own spin on these tracks, some minimal and subtle, others more rhythm based, and still others more outrageous and fragmented. In all, it makes for a nice follow-up disc to last year's Totlop Pak, adding a few fresh takes and ideas into the blender for another fragmented and restless ride. [Richard di Santo]
The latest in BiP-HOp's compilation releases is another solid collection, and this excellence is now becoming de facto for this energetic label. It's becoming nearly impossible to criticise any of BiP-HOp's compilation discs, as each one introduces something new that was missing from the last. This compilation, like the ones before it, still refuses to categorise itself into any particular genre. Strong contributions from Mira Calix, Twine, and Cray keep things very entertaining, to say the least.
Mira Calix gets things underway with the sonic equivalent of a cranky old engine starting up in the cold of winter. Once things get moving, the piece flows effortlessly with clockwork precision. She introduces some vocal elements into the piece, which play quite nicely against the mechanical backdrop. Next up are two pieces from si-cut.db, the first of which possesses an echo of O Yuki Conjugate's sound (although much less organic in nature). A flowing bass line bellows beneath a spacious mélange of echoing percussive strikes and synthetic squeaks that sit high on the frequency scale. His next piece, though particularly rhythmic, suffers for its lack of sonic depth and conviction, especially in comparison to the previous track.
Soon after, we're delivered a couple of spacious, markedly soft numbers from Twine, recorded in 1999 and 2000. The melodic nature of the tracks, mixed with the scattered sounds over top could easily have found a home on Björk's latest disc. Very nicely done. Datach'i is next with two contrasting pieces to Twine's quietude. The pieces are rough and tumble, and feature a bizarre array of noise, static and bizarre vocal extractions, all thrown together into a fidgety mix.
Two tracks from France's vs_price are next up, and while not overly engaging, are welcome respite after the clamour Datach'i brought on. The disc closes with a lengthy number from Australia's Cray. The track is a successful blend of digital construction and destruction, unafraid to hide the rudimentary nature of its sounds. Bits and pieces are chopped together, roughed up and made to feel at home with one another. There is randomness present, but repetition also becomes apparent, however subtly.
Once again, BiP-HOp has supplied an informative booklet with the disc, providing short biographies on the contributing artists, and extensive links to discover other information on each of them. Yet another outstanding collection of tracks from this one year old label out of France. [Vils M DiSanto]
Released in 2000 on Toronto label Spinning Round The World, AstroGroove (as the name unabashedly suggests) is a collection of groove-filled tracks, overlaid with sax, flute, guitar and a plethora of samples. If some recordings are given the qualifier of "recorded live with no overdubs", AstroGroove could be described as "recorded live with plenty of overdubs". There's a great live-jam feel to the proceedings here, and the tracks are given much of room to breathe and progress. The opening number is a little too heavy on the samples for my taste, but things pick up in the following two pieces, which feature some nice alto and bass saxophone work. Mary Margaret O'Hara makes a welcome appearance on a couple of tracks here with her unique vocal stylings. The finest track on the disc is "It's Out There", a bizarre concoction of slow groove, squeaking instrumentation and spaced-out ambience. Overall, the mix is quite good, but from time to time the vocal samples pop up a bit too brightly and detract from the strong rhythms underneath. Occasional sampled drum loops also stand out in some of the tracks, but they act more to keep your ears in check from getting too hooked on the grooves. The closing track, "Choatica", is a terrific piece that once again slows things down, but not to a crawl. The pace is ideal and closes the disc off in fine fashion. Despite my initial reservations about the too-obvious link between the name and the sound, the disc held some very nice surprises in it, and it should be interesting to hear more from this trio. [Vils M DiSanto]
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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