21 January 2002
Integração is the latest release from sound artist Marc Behrens. It developed out of an original composition titled "Integration" which used the recordings of trees as source material. The work then changed over the course of a year of performances between the summer of 2000 and the spring of 2001, and finally ends up reworked and re-titled for this release on the burgeoning sirr.ecords label. In his liner notes, Behrens explains that the tree recordings were made in a mountain forest close to the Italian/Slovenian border. He coaxed sounds out of the trees by shaking them. Additional sounds from urban environments were added later, in various stages. One of the great things about projects by Behrens is that they all seem to have such rich histories, and you can usually count on him to describe in detail the various stages his compositions have undergone. Integração is comprised of six pieces, each with a diverse and shifting sound palette. His sources are sometimes recognizable and concrete, sometimes stretched and sometimes compressed, transformed by his processing tools. They are woven to create some incredibly captivating structures. Consider the immaculate silences of "integration of silence" for example; I become so drawn into this piece that it has me on the edge of my seat, ready to fall headfirst into that void of silence and near-silence. A hollow wind, a fine, delicate crackling, shuffling concrete sounds, electronic pops and layers of sound in turns thin and dense, close and distant, are what constitute these phenomenal and complex sound structures. Highly recommended. [Richard di Santo]
Cáncer is one Jorge Cortés, who is also founder of the Ojo de Apolo label based out of Santiago, Chile. Cáncer creates some of the most incongruous midi sequencing around. Loops are densely and unevenly layered upon each other in strange and unexpected ways, which makes this music comparable perhaps with a more adventurous Autechre, or would fit right at home along with some of the projects on the Sulphur label. His music could probably be called a unique blend of post-industrial post-techno electronica. It was probably never intended for the dance floor but creates a strong mood when played at higher volumes. I expect that Cáncer plays an excellent live set (I wouldn't be surprised if some if not all of this music was captured live). The fifth track (no titles, of course) is one of the finest here, with a rolling rhythm that becomes more complex with each layer, and a simple Biosphere-like melody giving the piece its mood. It's also the most conventionally structured; all the tracks around it are characteristically more "random" in the way they come together, with dense clusters of harsh sounds, beats, feedback and cut-up synth tones fighting for a place in the foreground. Sometimes this works better than others, as a few of the tracks seem too busy and unfocused, teeming with layers of heavy electronic sounds that don't always cohere the way we might like them to. It's dark stuff surely, with a particular heaviness in its palette, but in its best moments Cáncer's music reveals a glimpse of some very interesting things going down at Ojo de Apolo HQ. [Cristobal Q]
Centrozoon is a collaborative project between touch guitarist Markus Reuter and Bernhard Wöstheinrich, who performs on synths and percussion. This is my second encounter with Centrozoon, after their first promotional EP titled The Divine Beast. The entire CD was recorded live during one recording session early last year. The disc begins with reminiscences of Robert Fripp; a shimmering atmospheric loop provides the backdrop for Reuter's performance on touch guitar. The disc then takes a surprising turn to become what seems to be just another traditional ambient record, much like what you would easily find on the Hypnos label (where Reuter has released a solo CD in the past), a lot of it reminiscent of Michael Stearns or Steve Roach. Tracks 2 through 5 easily fit in this genre, without adding much to the equation, even if there are some beautiful harmonics in a track like "In Sable Orbit", or in the conclusion to "Several Chilled Wines". The final track returns to slightly more adventurous territory, with a more complex electronic rhythm and dark swirling atmospheres which admirably take over the listening space. Still, it's not anything we haven't heard before in ambient projects come and gone. In all, Sun Lounge Debris is an "ok" record, which probably could have used a little more experimentation and explored a few more ideas, considering Reuter's proven track record at making more inventive ambient music (see his self-released CD The Longest In Terms Of Being for his finest work to date). [Richard di Santo]
Extrasensory, known for organizing sound art events in London's 291 Gallery with an emphasis on all things microsound and glitch, has taken one step forward and started its own label. This CD, released last October, marks the label's debut. Frantasmagramma is Francesco Leoci and Marco Leoci, who create a very minimal style of microsound, much like the sounds you might hear on Line, Force Inc., Staalplaat's material series, etc. It's glitch electronica in its purest form. Things begin in a very quiet and abstract vein, never quite making it into the rhythmical realm but keeping things interesting with random pops and close crackles. High and low frequencies are coupled and uncoupled in ways you have probably heard before if you're a fan of the microsound genre. Still, it's an engaging work, and some ways into the disc things become less random and more rhythmic, with more of a bass "thump" in the palette to carry you through. There are some delicate touches here, and as a whole the work holds together well. Throughout the tracks things remain on a more quiet and calm level, never becoming a distracting aural presence in the room. Nicely done. [Richard di Santo]
This marks the debut release for composer and electronic improviser Yannis Kyriakides. The title piece won a price at the Gaudeamus International Composition Competition in 2000. Joining Kyriakides (who, besides composing the pieces, performs on electronics) are Ayelet Harpaz and Stephie Büttrick (voices) and Marion von Tilzer (piano). The disc is packaged with detailed and insightful liner notes about the compositions.
The first composition is divided into six parts: "a conSPIracy cantata" is a 45 minute piece for 2 alto voices, piano, radio and electronics. Its theme is cryptic messaging, intelligence and espionage. It approaches both modern and ancient themes, alternating between the ancient oracle at Delphi, cold war and post cold war transmissions. It begins with a voice pronouncing a series of numbers, and repeating them in a measured and cold tone of voice. Electronic textures, made up of layers of radio transmissions and static, waver unevenly around sampled and live piano. The piece goes through a series of movements, where the voices might figure more prominantly (pronouncing verses of an ancient oracle, isolated words in a playful back and forth) or where the tones and electronic textures take the more dominant roles. It's a thoroughly creative and well executed piece, complex and clever, with a strong and suggestive mood, recorded and mixed with admirable clarity.
The second piece, for piano and sine waves, is titled "hYDAtorizon", after a term coined by the pre-Socratic philosopher Parmenides to describe his world view. The piece was created by placing four loudspeakers transmitting a constant signal of sine waves inside a piano. The waves coax complimentary harmonics from the piano's interior, while Marion von Tilzer performs additional notes using the keys. The piece consists of stunning harmonic textures; the interplay of piano and sine waves inspire a solemn and hypnotic sensation.
The final piece, titled "tetTIX" (which means "cicada" in Homeric Greek), is a piece for voice, insect sounds and drum machine. The piece has developed in various stages since its initial incarnation as music for a dance piece for Karl Jay-Lewin. Complex and broken rhythms from the drum machine (thumps, deep bass tones, taps, blips and bleeps) are mixed with a wordless moaning from the voice of Ayelet Harpaz and the buzzing of insect sounds. The insect sounds are varied and are subjected to a series of treatments; sometimes they sound "pure", like the ... of cicadas, and at others they sound like a motor, or an electronically generated buzzing. Compared with the other two, this final piece is surprisingly rhythmic, and really rounds the disc off well, moving from spoken text and radio waves to complex harmonics and then to more rhythm-based electronic music.
An excellent debut, inventive, accomplished, intense and highly recommended. [Richard di Santo]
This is the third installment in Antifrost's series of "extreme sound souvenirs" on 3 inch disc (the first two in the series were by Sachiko M and as11, respectively). This disc features an original composition by absolute sound artist Francisco López which has been reworked in collaboration with California based sound artist Joe Colley (aka Crawl Unit). Just under 20 minutes in length, the piece undergoes a series of dramatic, yet well paced transitions. From the silence and near silence of what is so typical of López, the sounds steadily begin to build on that foundation. The sounds of running water are probably the only recognizable sounds here, as everything else seems to be the result of some very heavy and multilayered processing. The sounds intensify and swirl in motions that become increasingly more loud, and then things slowly tailor off. leaving about five minutes in the piece. Subsequently, a few more minutes of silence is followed by field recordings and found sounds of some sort (some music playing in the background, movements and room ambience), ending abruptly and processed at a very low volume so that the sounds are only marginally recognizable. If not entirely engaging, it's a nice short record, although it doesn't seem to tread much ground not already covered by López in his solo work. Probably the least interesting in an otherwise excellent series of 3 inch discs. [Richard di Santo]
The latest CDR from the small Burning Emptiness label is the first I have heard from Moon. A Second Blue is structured to resemble a vinyl release. For starters, the track titles are divided into "sides" on the sleeve; there are seven tracks listed, even though there are only two tracks on the disc. The opening sounds are of a needle being placed on a vinyl record, and at the end of track one, after a voice announces "insufficient data available: human decision required", that same needle humorously gets stuck at the end of "side one", just waiting for you to turn the record over. After about four minutes of this loop, the second track begins, ending with the sounds of a similar locked groove. Now that I have described the framework of this release, let me turn to the content. Described as "electronic moonrock and ambient spaces," Moon offers an interesting spin on the term "space rock". Samples from sci-fi movies and soundtracks, electronic sounds, guitar, bass and a whole lot of static and distortion make this music what it is; a boiling cauldron of cosmic sounds and harsh atmospheres. From noise to ambient, from post rock to tape collage, this music takes many turns and admirably keeps things dynamic and interesting. When the guitars appear, they create these great, dense walls of sound; electronics and distortion reinforce these walls at every turn, and will often open up to more tranquil sections where there are only a few sounds and quiet loops. The music may be a little rough around the edges, but that's part of its charm. Nicely done. [Richard di Santo]
This one's definitely a conversation piece. The latest release from Belgiums Moonsanto tackles the topic of biotechnology in a completely over-the-top fashion. It seems that subtlety is not a word in Moonsantos lexicon they enjoy heading straight for the jugular. The premise behind this release is Moonsantos new pesticide called "Kili", which is designed to "eradicate the main brain faculty of every farmer and oblige them [to] follow us in our researchers (sic) over human progress." Of course, some may argue that conglomerates such as Monsanto have already accomplished this feat by their development of genetic alterations in fruits and vegetables, but they would never admit to having such diabolical intentions. The music is a concoction of rumbling backdrops, plucky bass guitars, tacky organ strikes, off-beat rhythm sequences and the omnipresent voice of "Professor Dr. Goodseed". The professor sees fit to introduce us to his product, reiterating statements found in the CD booklet ("Buy Kili! Use Kili! Everybody! Everywhere!"). He speaks in a voice not unlike Linda Blairs in "The Exorcist", and while its sometimes overbearing, it seems to work to Moonsantos credit on this disc. When all is said and done, Im left with a smirk on my face and a sudden urge to pick up a copy of Adbusters magazine while biting into an organically-grown apple. Whether that was Moonsantos intention or not is beyond me, but at least thats how I feel. [Vils M DiSanto]
Personal Settings, a new series on Belgiums Quatermass label, sets out to present music that is either "a continuity or a rupture" in the productions of its contributing musicians. Here we have three artists, each contributing about fifteen minutes of music to this intriguing concept.
Pan American (Mark Nelson) starts things off with two tracks of wondrous beauty. The pieces have a very open feel to them, and each has a distinctive dream-like quality. Tinkling piano notes float above a throbbing beat, decorated with some well-crafted percussive treatments. Train station ambience adds a real-world glow to the proceedings, and its extremely easy to lose yourself in the mix.
Komet (Frank Bretschneider), is next up with three linked tracks of pulsating bass, sporadic percussive strikes and a gurgling synthesis. The results are a strong grouping of tracks which slowly shift from initially sparse arrangements to more complex scenarios within. The arrangements are intricate, and although totally synchronized, they contain elements of impressive depth and spaciousness.
Last up is Fisherofgold (Joe Kingman), who offers up a single track that is very organic in nature. As with Pan Americans contribution, there seems to be a certain "glow" in this music. Even though some of the crackling underbelly of this track is rather ominous in nature, the overall feeling is quite positive. A broken-down, subtle hip-hop beat makes a brief appearance halfway through, but it doesnt break the overall flow of the piece in the least. Its another impressive number on this surprisingly cohesive disc.
Although each of the artists come from differing musical backgrounds, the pieces they contribute here work together very nicely. The entire disc flows from start to finish with a refreshingly warm energy that owes itself to creative liberty, rather than to a specific theme or movement set out by the label in question. [Vils M DiSanto]
Steve Roach returns with Streams & Currents, a new disc of guitar-based ambient recordings. This CD is something of a follow up to Midnight Moon (released in 2000, also on Projekt), which explored similar territories using the guitar as the central sound source. Two electric guitars, an ebow, loops, processing tools and a "mantra beat" comprise the instrumentation used in these pieces, recorded live with no overdubs. The music is like a series of tranquil waves that drift into one another; high and low frequencies mix seamlessly in what Roach describes as a "deep-quiet warm blanket of sound." The sleeve says that the CD is intended for "low volume continuous playback," but there are a few pieces that sound much better at higher volumes. The rich tones and textures of the opening piece, for example, are lost when played at lower volumes. I enjoyed listening to a lot of this record; however I often couldn't help but feel unsure as to where a few of these pieces were headed. Listening to one wave after another, one chord stretched and looped over another, I found myself wondering when and how some of these pieces might come to a close. At lower volumes, I found this music to be too forgettable, not making much of an impression on my listening space; at higher volumes, I found that it made me interested and disinterested in turns. Having recently been captivated by projects by Oren Ambarchi and Rafael Toral (who are also using guitar to create what can only loosely be called "ambient" music), I found his approach on this project to be too comfortable in its genre for me to fully embrace it. Roach is an incredible sound sculptor; his ambient recordings are characteristically rich and multi-textured, often inspiring a feeling of time suspended in sound. Where it is certainly true that he has shaped to a large extent what "ambient" means, his latest project does nothing to push any limits in the genre. Pleasant and comforting surely, but not nearly as captivating as it could have been. [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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