4 March 2002
Cray is the recording project of one Ross Healy, an emerging laptop artist from Melbourne, Australia. Undo is his second release, after Comment, a mini-CD released for the Invalid Objects series on Fällt, and an appearance on Bip-Hop Generation [v.4] released last year. Healy has been involved in the Melbourne music scene since the late eighties (he has played with such diverse musical projects as Eden and The Digital Ocean), but lately he seems to have settled into the microsound/glitch scene with some degree of comfort. And rightly so: Undo is a disc full of ideas. Each of the eight tracks takes a different direction, full of heavily processed static, hiss, and crackles, with a density reminding me of some of Pimmon's recent work. Healy likes to have his sounds stutter and shake; you'll never be lulled into complacency while listening to these jittery, restless pieces. The music maintains a certain level of abstraction, never breaking into conventional rhythms, although there are rhythms here, hidden and unconventional, deep within the rich layers of static and glitches.
Also included on this disc is an enhanced portion including an intriguing Quicktime video for one of the tracks, "Forna." The images, obscure close-ups full of interesting colours and textures, stutter and jump cut in time with the sharp static sounds in the music. In all, an inventive release with more than a few good ideas kicking around, well worth the exploration. [Richard di Santo]
Filmmaker and sound artist Chris Dooks perhaps better known as Bovine Life, undertook a residency at ISIS Arts, an arts agency based in North Tyneside, from which the work on this CD was born. It was also made in collaboration with the Northern Region Film and Television Archive (NRFTA). Dooks was given access to thousands of hours of film to use as source material, and after spending what I would imagine as being a lot of time with this footage he set out to construct a new work based on both the audio and video of this footage. To Look North presents 25 short pieces, each with its own set of sound-bites and samples, which are sometimes treated with effects, looped, or set in a context of abstract electronic sounds and fragmented melodic elements. Listening to the snippets of speech which are central elements in these short pieces, the footage seems to reflect a diverse programming schedule, from news items to documentary or popular interest pieces, all from the archives of England's North East. Some of the audio is humorous ("three tons of onions?") but others seem to reveal a portrait of life that is dark and confused, melancholic and somewhat out of balance (witness the computer voice of "an outsider from finland" stretched over slowly tolling bells and dark atmospheres). In the end, I think it is feelings of the latter impression that remain with the listener. The CD is also equipped with an enhanced portion, containing a series of Quicktime movies constructed from the NRFTA archives, manipulated and scored by Dooks into short themes. It's a highly original work, full of rich sonic detail, a surreal audiovisual portrait of the North East of England in the latter half of the twentieth century. [Richard di Santo]
Released late last year, Au défaut du silence represents something of a departure for Trente Oiseaux in that it appears that no computers were used in the making of this music. Reinhold Friedl performs on inside piano, while Michael Vorfeld performs on percussion and stringed instruments. The first piece, "smooth attack," is also the longest at just under 30 minutes. It begins slowly, gently, with delicate harmonic strains drifting in and out of earshot (my guess is that their instruments are bowed). The strains slowly intensify, and without you realizing it, you're in the thick of an intense friction between current and countercurrent, a haunting display of sharp harmonic elements. The second piece takes on different characteristics, the sound elements implying more of a playfulness (but engaged in a serious sort of play) as they mingle with each other in soft, subtle tones over a wide expanse of silence. Here the dominant sounds are not sustained as in the first piece (although there is a lot of that still going on, a swirling presence flowing throughout the piece in intervals), but the sounds are more brief, like gentle taps, short but intense sounds and more erratic movements of shrill, sharp scraping sounds. The third piece is short (under four minutes), and plays with rhythmic, melodic elements, without conforming to any single form. Listening to these pieces over the past few weeks, I have been captivated by their combinations and subtle touches, the way the harmonies play off each other, creating haunting, intense moods full of beautiful, demanding sound. [Richard di Santo]
Et Nico is the debut release for Nico Girasole, in spite of the fact that he has been composing music for theatre for the past ten years. Girasole's music is a rich and intimate sort of chamber music, with influences stretching from east to west (but still unmistakably Italian), from ancient to modern, and meeting somewhere in between. The pieces featured here were performed by a six-piece ensemble, featuring classical guitars, clarinets, double bass, a self-styled lyra and the beautiful voice of Assia Polito. The music quiet and lyrical, the acoustic instruments mingle in movements that are in turns sensitive and bold, meditative and dramatic. Beautiful melodies on clarinet (an instrument always close to my heart, performed admirably here by Emiliano Maurelli) and light touches from the lyre add en element of timelessness, the guitars sound out phrases with both oriental and occidental sensibilities, while Assia Polito's voice offers a bridge between the sacred and profane, between east and west. There are sixteen pieces in total, all of which remain comparatively short (usually between 2 and 4 minutes), but each makes its own mark and carries its own unique expression. One of my favourite pieces here is the instrumental "Ai piedi della montagna" with its haunting, atmospheric woodwinds and deep bass foiled by the light, gentle impressions on the lyre. It's beautiful music to sit with, relaxing on a Sunday afternoon, allowing it to take you to another place and another time. It's nothing too demanding on your senses, but it captures and holds your attention all the same. Evidence that music does not have to be difficult in order to be original and intriguing. [Richard di Santo]
Redshift is the latest release from sound artist Bernhard Günter. The title piece was composed using noise sounds from Günter's DAT archive, from his early sampling days in 1993. This long piece begins with faint crackling, soft fluctuations giving the impression of movement, of a gently changing sonic space. Beneath the crackling sounds is the quiet roar of a fan, a motor, a distant drone, but it too rests gently on the listening space. Sharper textures rise and fall throughout the piece, of varying frequencies and timbres, all of which create hypnotizing movements of fluctuating sounds perfectly suited for playback at medium volume. The disc also contains a second piece, "Abschied," which otherwise has no connection with the first. It was composed in memory of Erika Kedziora, an aunt of Günter's wife who had recently passed away. Slow moving, dissonant harmonics, sounding as if they were made using a combination of bowed instruments (stringed, metallic or otherwise), create a beautiful soundscape mourning the loss and celebrating the memory of a relative who is obviously very close to Günter's heart. The piece might not have any thematic or compositional connection with "Redshift", and yet these two pieces compliment each other well. The uneven crackling and subtle noises of the first piece are answered by the sustained notes of the second. A stunning new release, one that won't want to leave your CD player for days on end. [Richard di Santo]
Enthusiast is the latest release from Douglas Benford, aka si-cut.db. Recently we witnessed his commendable collaboration with Benge (Ben Edwards) as Tennis (Bip-Hop released their debut full length, Europe on Horseback, in 2001). On this solo outing, we find ourselves in the familiar territory of "click dub" that blend of microsound, clicks + cuts and dub made famous by Pole and immortalized by a host of sound artists who either mimic or experiment with these elements with varying degrees of success. Si-cut.db lies somewhere in between. I've become so accustomed to hearing clicks and static run through delay effects, all the while being driven by a minimal house rhythm or a deep bass in that unmistakable dub style, it's all getting a little predictable. This is how I would describe most of the tracks on this CD, but that's not to say that si-cut.db is not good at what he does. He certainly has a nice sound, pleasant to listen to and have playing while doing things around the house, it's just that there's nothing really new here, and even if you paid very close attention you wouldn't find much to marvel at. Beginning with minimal elements, the clicks, hisses, echoes and pulses slowly build up their momentum, introducing one new rhythmic element after another, until the track climaxes and reaches its end. So there are some nice arrangements here, but in the end they don't add up to an outstanding record. I guess if you're looking for a fix of microsound dub, this is as good a place as any to be looking, but for me there wasn't enough originality here to really capture and hold my interest. [Richard di Santo]
The latest release from the always surprising Barcelona based label Alku is by Opopop, whose output has been similarly surprising at every turn. Opopop has had a handful of releases out on Alku, Mego, Mínim and fals.ch, with a number of compilation appearances in recent years. Presenting sixteen tracks in just over ten minutes, Juicio Final captures a raw, abstract electronica, a fragmented maelstrom of broken sounds and heavily processed digitalia. The notes make particular mention of the trumpet (in its New Testament significance as the instrument which will awaken the dead to resurrection), so perhaps these sounds originated from trumpet recordings. Although you'd never know it from listening. These restless digital cut-ups might not have the power to raise the dead (although one can almost hear my dissenting neighbours making such a claim), but it will certainly awaken the listener from his stupor, eyes and ears ever alert to the raw energy of this recording. [Richard di Santo]
The latest release from Syndey based sound artist Paul Gough, aka Pimmon, continues his exploration of analogue and digital sound abstractions. His previous releases most notably Assembler on Fällt and Orquesta del Arrurruz on Staalplaat revealed Pimmon's talent for creating complex worlds of densely layered sounds (static, crackles, pulses), where simple melodic elements lie hidden, music that is both rhythmic and highly abstract all at once. The packaging of Secret Sleeping Birds might suggest that this project is informed by a return to childhood, and true enough, some of the melodies communicate something of the simplicity of childlike songs. Each of these eleven tracks create its own environment, its own mood and character. From the dark and brooding tones of "Amarelo pálido, quase branco" to the light and cheerful melody of "Bird Cage Circus," Pimmon covers a wide trajectory of ideas, combining dense layers of digital pops, hiss and static sounds with what might even be environmental or found sounds. Each piece is a beautifully constructed microcosm; the density of sounds suggests an infinity of layers, the more you peel away, the more layers are revealed. Intense, fascinating music, and recommended. [Richard di Santo]
Tin.RP returns with a new release on Burning Emptiness. Presenting 16 short tracks in just over 32 minutes, the duo that is Tin.RP (known only as B"L and DDL) make minimal rhythmic music full of analogue sounds and glitch electronics. The backbone of each track is usually something simple (a pulse, or combination of pulses), and weaving in and out of this basic rhythm will be various sounds coming in and out of earshot, abstract textures, electronic waves, static sounds, keeping the listener on his toes. The disc is short but they keep things varied throughout, maintaining my interest in that the music never stays in the same groove for very long, and each track explores its own set of ideas. Nicely done, maybe even my favourite out of Tin.RP's catalogue so far, and it looks like things are only getting better with this project, so stay tuned. [Richard di Santo]
"Silence is not innocent." John Cage
In 1952, David Tudor performed for the first time John Cage's controversial piece 4'33". The piece consisted of opening the piano lid, and, after four minutes thirty-three seconds passed without having played a single note, the lid was closed once again. Never before had silence been construed as music, and this so-called "composition" (whether it was conceived as an elaborate ruse or a serious statement) inaugurated an entirely new dialogue where silence figures just as largely as structured sound when it comes to talking about composition, performance and the act of listening.
Sound artist Roel Meelkop was the first to suggest the idea of a compilation CD consisting of various interpretations of Cage's infamous piece. Now, years after the initial discussions took place, we see the release of 45'18" on Korm Plastics, compiled by Jos Moers. The disc features nine interpretations, performed by Keith Rowe, Artificial Memory Trace, Thurston Moore, Pauline Oliveros and the Deep Listening Band, Jio Shimizu, Voice Crack, Clive Graham, Toshiya Tsunoda and Alignment. As one might expect, each contributing artist has his, her or their own interpretation of Cage's piece. Since each one of the contributions has its own set of rules, I will spend some time describing each of the tracks, and the particular approaches used by the respective artists.
Keith Rowe (of AMM) begins things in complete silence, interrupted only faintly by a short click less than a minute into the piece (sounding like perhaps a microphone was switched on), which some time later is followed by the faintest sounds, perhaps of a passing airplane or passing cars on the road, but so faint are these sounds, enveloped as they are in deep silence, one can barely discern anything concrete from them.
Artificial Memory Trace, aka Slavek Swi, follows with "Close(d) inside me," a longer interpretation breaking from the 4'33" time and extending it to 8'21". Beginning with a faint, high frequency tone, other frequencies are introduced (moving from high to low, then back to high), accompanied by obscure concrete sounds, in turns muffled and clear. Listening to this intense piece, I'm never sure if the sounds will ever erupt into a burst of noise, or whether things will remain quiet. I'll leave you to discover that on your own.
Thurston Moore, performing on guitar and voice, is accompanied by a complete band for his track, including drums, vibraphone, bass and additional guitar. As Moore describes it in his liner notes, his piece constitutes "surprise music." It begins innocuously enough with a comparatively restrained section of free and fluttering sounds, until it finally erupts into a hardcore punk piece full of raging performances from all players involved, with other surprises along the way. It seems that Moore may have regarded Cage's silence as an invitation to fill it with "liberated" sounds, and that he does with admirable energy.
Pauline Oliveros is joined by her Deep Listening Band and a host of guest musicians totaling no less than twenty-five players for her contribution. This one is probably the most clever of all the contributions here, as all twenty-five players remain motionless for the entire duration of the piece, not one of them uttering a single sound.
Jio Shimizu's piece captures the sound of a specially designed vinyl record, the record player, along with "all the slight vibrations and sounds of the space where it was... which were picked up by the playing needle." The piece is overwhelmingly silent, with only the hint of something audible creeping in from time to time.
Voice Crack (Norbert Möslang and Andy Guhl) offer up a piece of mysterious, faraway sounds, without any notes as to their method or approach in creating their interpretation. These are perhaps found sounds (the fan of a furnace?) perhaps without much processing either, but I could be wrong.
Clive Graham (of Morphogenesis) what at first might sound like static is more likely the sound of the wind struggling with an open window, later revealing an approaching siren in the distance. Perhaps his piece is a simple, linear field recording made with one microphone and involving little (if any) processing.
Toshiya Tsunoda supplies some extensive liner notes to accompany his piece. His track is divided into three "movements," each one capturing sounds in the Toshima area (Sarushima, Nakazato Tunnel and Old Nakazato Avenue respectively). The sounds were then treated, trimmed, and interruptions from a computer voice (announcing the recording times of each section) were incorporated later. Each section reveals its own sound environment full of dynamic, unique sounds, from peaceful rain to the roar of a tunnel.
Alignment (Radboud Mens and Mark Poysden) give us a piece of "electronic silence". Like Tsunoda's piece, Alignment's contribution is also divided into three sections, and their notes reveal that Cage had also divided his 4'33" into three sections (30 seconds, 2'23" and 1'40" respectively). Now, what they describe as "electronic silence" in their liner notes is "electronic noise" in reality; hiss, crackles and static sounds combine to form the three distinct sections of the piece, and so the paradox of this piece reveals that, in the end, "silence still manages to elude us."
A tenth participant, Frans de Waard, is also included in the track listing, although his contribution is text only. His letter to Jos Moers describes how he regards Cage's piece as not being about composing or about music, but that it is essentially about the act of listening. Describing various approaches he could have taken at interpreting the piece, discounting each one for a different reason, he concludes that he believes Cage's piece is not meant to be interpreted or even put on a record. Even though he couldn't bring himself to offer his own version, de Waard encourages us to listen to this CD, but that "after it is finished, open your windows and listen to the real thing." It makes for a fitting conclusion to a discussion of one of John Cage's most infamous work: only in embracing the impossible silences surrounding us will we discover the joy of listening. I'll allow Frans the final word on this one: "All you need is ears." [Richard di Santo]
Deep house music intends to set the ambience for intimate late night conversations surrounded by moving bodies in dark, downtown lounges, or for provoking memories of those evenings when the listener's environment may not scream cool. Good deep house collections provide for both effortlessly, while poorly mapped mixes seem to stray too far in the direction of pure disco. Inhouse Volume Two from Germanys Comfort Records (Volume One was released last year) rests on the side of good deep house, albeit with a few missteps. The session satisfies the cravings of those who, like myself, seek music that provides a solid beat, smooth melodies, and a funky bassline within an atmosphere of urban sophistication.
The disc features a diverse group of house and funk labels representing the German deep house sound, including Stir15, Soul Camp recordings, Polyester recordings and Sense records among others. The 11 tracks reflect that diversity while maintaining the core elements of what constitutes deep house. "Everyday" from Glance feat. Marlene Johnson creates the mood with soulful vocals, deep basslines and piano loops. "Invitation to (socas hip mix)" is a classic deep house groove pleasing the listeners ear with smooth horns, flutes and a melodic background supported by a funked out beat. Georg Levins "When Im With U (jimpsters vocal mix)" recalls 4am Saturday morning, where only the energy and love from the crowd can take you any higher. "Into this lonely crowd" from Gamet 3000 is another danceable offering with its heavier bassline, spacey melodies and trendy 80s synthesizer effects. Things slow down and cool out with "Alone Again (Dixons stripped down dub)" from Fauna Flash and "Le Voyage" from Pascal Leroc. The former soothes with abstract harp and flute sounds mixed with downtempo beats while the latter delves into the darker side of house with a haunting French vocal sample and contrasting melodies, piano riffs and complex layers. The ups and downs of any long party night wrapped into one song. This collection does stumble at the end with the final 2 tracks, although I believe this is because of the producers' dedication to allowing a broad selection of deep house styles rather than any lack of taste on their behalf. "Get On Up (80s Haarlack mix)" produced by Meitz is an unnecessary tribute to movie soundtracks of 20 years ago, the cheesy vocals and bad Pointer Sisters bassline inspire scary thoughts of pastel suits, blue eyeshadow and shoulder pads. The final entry, "I Miss U babe" from the Wighnomy Bros. wants to release the listener into the sunlight with a bright, happy, feel good even though its 7am and the night is over mood. However it simply annoys with its perkiness and simplicity. Despite its less than stellar ending, Inhouse Volume Two serves its purpose for both the newcomer to deep house and the more experienced club hopping hipster. Opportunities for dancing, chilling and grooving abound, just change discs after track 10. [S. Mac Kenzie]
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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