> Archive > Music Review 43

7 January 2002

Giuseppe Ielasi / Domenico Sciajno: Right After
Illusion of Safety: In opposition to our acceleration
Jason Kahn: Plurabelle
Greg Kelley / Jason Lescalleet: Forlorn Green
Konk Pack: Warp Out
Kontakt Der Jünglinge: 0
Brandon Labelle: Shadow of a Shadow
Lionel Marchetti: portrait d’un glacier (alpes, 2173m)
Realistic: Private Moments
Realistic: Toiletparts
Sandoz: Afrocentris
Tu m’: .01
Z’ev: Face the Wound
Various: 90% Wasser


Erstwhile Records | 020 | CD

Recorded last year in Palermo, Right After compiles a series of seven improvised collaborations between Giuseppe Ielasi and Domenico Sciajno. Both performers have been moving steadily from the realms of acoustic instrumentation (Ielasi began with the guitar, Sciajno with the acoustic bass), and have now immersed themselves into pure electronic instrumentation. Their music is alive with activity and motion; crackles, subtle tones, sharp textures and sudden bursts of noise are woven together to create these dazzling and intense pieces. There's not much room for rest and contemplation here; listening to these pieces keeps you alert and sensitive to each shift in direction. There are moments when the seeming physicality of the performances becomes manifest in the sounds we hear, which gives the impression that these pieces were built from more than point and click electronica. You can almost see the frantic scratching on electrically charged devices, the performers moving from one device to another as the focus shifts from one set of sounds to another (and in this respect I am reminded of Martin Tétrault's work). Perhaps my favourite piece here is "the 'still' or moving image," consisting mainly of gentle crackles popping in a more or less regular pattern; a simple structure where new and subtle sounds are added or subtracted in the background throughout its ten minute duration. It's also the most tranquil piece here. Although listening to the full disc can admittedly be difficult in sections (in the places where the sounds are most intense and densely layered), these pieces certainly reward the careful listener. There are plenty of unique frictions and fascinating moments on this record well worth exploring. [Richard di Santo]



ILLUSION OF SAFETY: In opposition to our acceleration
Die Stadt | DS 32 | CD

The latest release from Dan Burke, aka Illusion of Safety, compiles one studio piece and eight live pieces of ambient and improvised music recorded between 1996 and 2001. Mostly, the pieces are solo, although a few tracks include the participation of Mark Klein, Thymme Jones and Kurt Griesch. Since the release of Historical in 1991, IOS has released 14 full length releases, each one a testament to Burke's growing interest in uncovering new territories for ambient and adventurous sound, moving well beyond the industrial and post-industrial into the realms of experimental ambient, musique concrète, improvisation, live manipulation and "broken" music. This latest release is no exception. Some of these tracks continue along a similar path that was uncovered with Of & The, a superb double CD of dark sonorities and tense ambient textures released on Soleilmoon in 1997. But a lot of this takes us to new ground, combining treated and found sounds, thick ambience, beautiful and close atmospheres and the static of contact mics. Consider the broken notes of a piano in the first piece, or the crescendo of concrete sounds and disturbing noises in track seven; Burke has an acute sensibility for combining apparently dissonant elements into arrangements that are both original and bewitching. The disc is packaged in an oversize sleeve with a series of postcards featuring artwork by Burke. [Richard di Santo]



JASON KAHN: Plurabelle
Cut | 007 | CD

Plurabelle is the latest release from Jason Kahn on his own Cut label. An active improviser and new music curator (he hosts the regular "sonique_serie" in Zürich), Kahn performs on percussion and electronics. On Plurabelle, Kahn continues his exploration of minimal rhythms and hypnotic textures found on his previous releases, especially the notable Analogues, released in 1999. Minimal pulses, delicate frequencies, clicks, static sounds and strikes on drums and metal objects are the constituent elements in his music which is neither microsound nor free improv, but a curious and steady blend of the two. The metallic strikes resonate with impressive clarity, the clicks occupy the spaces in between the pulses and tones, all in a mix that keeps things interesting and surprising. The pieces move slowly, each creating its own pace and signature on the listening space. Like his other recent releases, Plurabelle confirms Kahn's skill and vision in creating some very engaging new music, taking minimalism in interesting new directions. [Richard di Santo]



Erstwhile Records | 019 | CD

Two accomplished improvisers and performers, Jason Lescalleet and Greg Kelley, got together periodically over the past two years to record the pieces collected here. Kelley performs on trumpet, while Lescalleet performs on tape loops and computer. I last heard Lescalleet on the excellent Figure 2 CD, a collaboration with John Hudak released on Intransitive earlier last year, and Kelley has been known to coax some intriguing textures from his trumpet (see his collaboration with Bhob Rainey on Selektion titled Nmperign). Forlorn Green is an adventurous project full of dark rumblings, sharp tones, shrieks and strange aural textures from both trumpet and electronics. The central piece on the CD is "Conquest of the Earth." Clocking in at 27 minutes, it's a phenomenal exploration of dark moods, concrete and electronic sounds, developing slowly and creeping along with deliberation and subtlety. Lescalleet's atmospheres suggest an industrial landscape, a Tarkovskian space of surreal loneliness , with opaque sounds, distant echoes of engines and muffled cries lost in the wind. Kelley's trumpet, almost unrecognizable in the way the sounds flutter, tremble, and shriek, is also used to suggest a mood that is dark and menacing. This is a powerful project, difficult and dark, but it keeps things interesting all the way through. [Richard di Santo]



Grob | 323 | CD

Warp Out is the first studio album for the improv trio Konk Pack, although it is their second release after Big Deep, a collection of live tracks released a couple of years ago. Konk Pack is Thomas Lehn (analogue synth), Roger Turner (percussion) and Tim Hodgkinson (flat guitar and klarnet). What we have here is not a noise record, although it isn't jazz or ambient either. In each piece the trio moves in a steady pace, moving freely and deliberately from quieter sections with almost no sound at all to loud bursts of noise with sounds coming at you from all directions. At times one element takes the lead, but soon is flanked by the sounds coming from the other players. The whole might reveal itself as being a little unsettling, might make you feel less comfortable sitting in that easy chair by the window, but these pieces are nonetheless quite captivating. This is especially so during the quieter sections, when the listener becomes sensitive to every subtle movement and sound, which is then dramatically transformed into more complex, noisier sections. What captures my interest most in these pieces is the interplay of elements, how the players simultaneously compliment and conflict with one another. It presents one of the qualities often found in some of the best improvisational records: the paradox of harmony in chaos. In turns difficult and rewarding to listen to, Warp Out is another challenging new release from Grob. [Richard di Santo]



KONTAKT DER JÜNGLINGE (Thomas Köner + Asmus Tietchens): 0
Die Stadt | DS 39 | CD

0 is the second release documenting the live performances of Kontakt der Jünglinge, a collaborative project of Thomas Köner and Asmus Tietchens. This concert took place last October aboard the MS Stubnitz, a ship built in 1965 for the soviet fishing fleet, but now stationed in Rostock, Germany and converted into a performance and installation space. It seems the perfect location for this performance, and perhaps even sounds from the location were used as source material. Of course it's always difficult to talk about possible source material (it's all conjecture, anyway), but there seem to be suggestions of a massive vessel and a seafaring journey in these sounds. Deep rumblings of faraway engines, the echoes of empty passageways, the cold and raging wind and the sea under the keel of a moving ship are all images that come to mind when listening to this one long piece, just over 40 minutes in length. Listening to this at home, I'm inclined to raise the volume more and more, to feel the bass go straight through my body and really immerse myself in this cold atmosphere. An excellent work. [Richard di Santo]



BRANDON LABELLE: Shadow of a Shadow
Selektion | SHS 008 | CD

One of Brandon Labelle's latest releases (along with Techne on A Bruit Secret), Shadow of a Shadow is a project dealing with found and treated sounds. Each piece seems to use a particular sound source, and the track titles interestingly (if sometimes enigmatically) suggest what these sources may be (for example, "the skin is a surface marked by external stimuli," or "a doorway is a membrane wet with each passing"). The pieces are predominantly quiet and minimal, with subtle changes, additions and subtractions occurring throughout. With scraping, buzzing and shuffling sounds, each piece has its own characteristic and its own language. Some pieces are more abstract, some sounds seem more concrete, while others are more "musical" and ambient. Throughout these pieces, Labelle blurs the distinction between treated and found sounds, between the so-called real sounds and those filters of reality. The shadow of a shadow, a dream within a dream. The disc is accompanied by an essay written by Labelle on these issues: perception and representation, the role of the cultural work, the nature of sound as being one constantly assaulted by interference. In recent weeks I have been returning to this disc with growing interest and attention. Recommended. [Richard di Santo]



LIONEL MARCHETTI: portrait d’un glacier (alpes, 2173m)
Groundfault | GF017 | CD

Using recordings made in France on the Glacier de Tré la Tête, high on the Massif de Mont-blanc, Lionel Marchetti here allows us to accompany him on a quiet (if suspenseful) journey through this snowy, ominous terrain. Rather than presenting a straight-on field recording of his expedition, he uses small sections from the recordings at a time, and plays them through beautiful, lingering tones and still ambience. Recurring elements (yells, splashes, tools balancing on hardened surfaces) are featured in this 28-minute sonic excursion, and each have a creepy, icy quality. If Biosphere can capture the aesthetic beauty of a snowy mountain through his recordings, Marchetti has the uncanny ability to capture the flip side of it: the danger, the uncertainty, and the sheer magnitude of it all. Listening to this disc through headphones in a darkened room is a magnificent experience: low rumblings permeate the proceedings, periodically interrupted by dramatic surges in sound that will take your breath away. Technically faultless, this is a work of stunning magnificence. [Vils M DiSanto]



REALISTIC: Private Moments
Illegal Art | 103CD | CD

REALISTIC: Toiletparts
Blackmusic | BMCD024 | CD

What is billed as a "steamy mess of headphone sex", Realtistic’s Private Moments disc unfortunately can’t live up to that titillating premise, but it is a humorous and lively collection of sample-driven electro. Relying heavily on Meat Beat Manifesto’s (earlier) approach to patchwork sampling over big drums and coy ambience, Realistic doesn’t really offer much in the way of new sound territory covered. There are some memorable moments, but overall the disc is sketchy and unrefined. Take, for example, the unfocused cut-up of Prince’s "1999" on "Oops Out of Space". In it we have Prince’s undisguised guitar lick, his snarl, and Wendy and Lisa’s backing voices, which spit and cough their way through the jittering percussive strikes. There’s just no direction in these moments (and there are others on the disc like it). The disc could have been better without the plunderphonics. The disc starts off strong, with some great rhythms, entertaining sample work, and plenty of energy. Things get a little bogged down in the center of the disc, and with the exception of a few interesting moments late in the disc, the pace never really reverts to that initial surge.

The second disc, Toiletparts, is a collection of remixes and alternate versions from Private Moments. It captures much of the energy of the stronger tracks from its sibling, but ultimately covers more of the same ground. From the unlistenable "Larry Likes Greeting" to the creative and well-paced "Magnetic Home Poetry", we have another jumbled collection of hits and misses here. To Realistic’s credit, most of the tracks are kept under three minutes on this disc, but due to their density, some of them seem to linger a bit too long for my liking. The final track, "Seamless (Tinapplemix)", runs over ten minutes, but it’s a nicely drawn-out affair that is refreshingly sparse on vocal samples.

With increased concentration on the structure of the songs and less time spent on the samples, Realistic could ultimately offer up something quite interesting. There is an energy present in these recordings that is undeniable, and I think there is a better way for this energy to manifest itself in future recordings. [Vils M DiSanto]



SANDOZ: Afrocentris
Intone | INTONECD001 | CD

I must admit to there being a certain "comfort factor" in listening to new releases by Richard Kirk. On one hand, I’m excited by the prospect of new grooves, deftly choreographed with non-Western musical motifs and the muted, reverberating voices drifting in and out of the mix. On the other hand, a disc released by Kirk today such as Afrocentris could easily have been released five years ago, as his style has not necessarily progressed beyond the elements mentioned above. Granted, he does take excursions into unique territories now and again (see the excellent Orchestra Terrestrial released on Die Stadt last year), but this new Sandoz disc sees him returning to safe ground, with pleasing rhythms and recurring musical themes. African elements are a big part of the sound here, featuring musical and non-musical chants, percussive elements and television and radio extractions. The beats Kirk lays on are his usual low-key variety, but this time he’s treated them with a distinct spaciousness in the mix. The beat never seems to attract too much attention to itself — it is always on the strength of the track’s composition that each one succeeds. This is what sets Kirk apart from other producers of groove. He can weave a two-second sampled loop into a piece and have it become the essence of the track, where others might try to draw unnecessary attention to it. On the whole, Afrocentris is a wonderfully flowing work of well-crafted material, with some definite standout tracks contained within: "Terminator Chop and Clean" is a rambunctious number that features a terrific display of distorted reverb; "Dissolved (In a Cid)" contains a friendly hook and elasticized bass line; "Bring Me Joy" contains a voice snippet that’s played like a bowed instrument in stunning fashion. If anything, the disc falters some in its later tracks, as many musical themes are repeated in alternate versions. The exception is the finale, "Phaseur", which is a remarkable closing number, and perhaps one of Kirk’s strongest tracks yet. A great release on the whole, and a most welcome return under the Sandoz moniker. [Vils M DiSanto]



TU M’: .01
Cut | 006 | CD

Tu m' is a multidisciplinary trio from Italy, formed in 1998 by Andrea Gabriele, Rossano Polidoro and Emiliano Romanelli. Their music presents electroacoustic improvisations with a free form and constantly changing landscape. These six pieces are complex and dynamic improvisations with an intensely mercurial character. One part glitch, one part electroacoustic abstraction, and a host of other influences from illbient (some of this music reminds me of projects by the illbient outfit Byzar) to minimal techno, .01 brings together a diverse collection of influences and musical elements. At times this mix might seem too varied and lacking in focus (with so many shifts and changes in direction, there's a lot to process here), but on the whole tu m' keeps the listener interested and sensitive to new sounds, crackles, tones and burgeoning rhythms, maintaining an element of surprise and dynamism throughout. Challenging surely, but hidden beneath the complex layers and restless shifting to and fro lies an interesting view of where experimental improv can go. [Richard di Santo]



Z’EV: Face the Wound
Soleilmoon | SOL 72 | CD

Face the Wound is part two of Z'ev's Head and Tales series. The first was HYPERcussion, released on John Zorn's Avant label in 1998. The pieces found on Face the Wound have a long and complicated history, but for now let it suffice to say that they were recorded in the latter half of the 90s. These pieces blend cut and paste spoken word with electronic industrial-tribal rhythms, mixed with dark atmospheres and electronic instrumentation. The musical elements are characteristic with Z'ev's particular interest in rhythm and ritual, with the driving and intense percussion taking a central role.

In his notes for this release, Z'ev describes the work as a Sprache (i.e. "Spoken") Opera, sharing the structure of a Greek tragi-comedy (complete with chorus) and employing the Wagnerian device of leitmotif. The spoken text was culled from about 45 hours of tape collected from a variety of sources (self-help tapes, media evangelists, a recording used as evidence in a teenage harassment trial...). Words and short phrases from these tapes were then cut up, removed from their original contexts, rearranged and synchronized to create a new poetic work. Many of these narrative elements contain disturbing messages ("it came to me in a flash to perfect people through violence" ... "kill your parents" ... "clothed with a vesture dipped in blood"), and on the whole the tone works at uncovering a dark and unsettling portrait of the state of things. Mainly, the themes of the work focus on the role of family and religion, as well as addressing a variety of social responsibilities. The words flow in an unstoppable stream, they move with the menacing rhythms and sounds driving the work forward. They build a series of climaxes and create an intense and uncomfortable mood. But this discomfort is necessary; it's an essential part of this work. You feel the crisis, the climax, the catharsis of life out of balance. What you do with that feeling, this awareness and dark portrait of life is entirely up to you.

Up to this point, my exposure to Z'ev's body of work has been fairly limited to isolated tracks, texts and contributions, so for me this project is an intense introduction to his vision. Although I recognize the strength, artistry and originality of this work, I also have to admit that it's a very unsettling place to be spending much time in. [Richard di Santo]



VARIOUS: 90% Wasser
90% Wasser | WCD 002 | CD

Here's a compilation CD from a new Berlin label, 90% Wasser, focusing on "electro-acoustic-minimal-spoken-digital-ideological-tonal & atonal-electronic music" (it's definitely a mouthful, but at least it's accurate). The CD features tracks from Rechenzentrum, Andrew Loadman, Column One, Le Bach, Francisco López, M.O.W.E. and Scimox, among others, many of whom are also co-founders of the label. The tracks range from microsound and minimal ambient to spoken word and more experimental material. The disc begins in full clicks + cuts mode, but takes a few detours into realms of spoken word (by M.O.W.E., for example) and some funny plunderphonics by The Excellent Listener. Rechenzentrum provide the liveliest piece here, fit for electroclubs across the land with their remix of a track by Column One. Jürgen Eckloff also has an excellent piece on the more subdued side: an abstract loop takes you from start to finish, while subtle interruptions and isolated notes from a piano occur throughout. The track shows great promise for his forthcoming full length release. López gives us what he does best; a drone of absolute sound with a subtle ebb and flow in its intensity. I am now convinced that the best projects by López are those where his time is extremely limited; his aesthetic seems that much more effective and concise when constrained to only a few minutes. Some spoken word by the familiar voice of Genesis P. Orridge concludes the disc nicely. If this compilation is any indication, 90% Wasser looks like it's going to be a very interesting place to be. [Cristobal Q]





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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