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13 May 2002

Oren Ambarchi: Mort Aux Vaches
Hellothisisalex: The Canadian Spelling Program
Kneale-Kuwayama: Bottom of the Motorway
Massimo: Mort Aux Vaches
Poire_Z +
Stapletape: Soft Landing
V. / Ultra Milkmaids: Drone+Unease
V.V.: Note
Various: Bip-Hop Generation v.5


OREN AMBARCHI: Mort Aux Vaches
Staalplaat | CD

Last year, Sydney-based sound artist Oren Ambarchi amazed me with the release of Suspension on Touch, a bewitching album of experimental, almost ambient music made using solo guitar. For Ambarchi's contribution to Staalplaat's acclaimed Mort Aux Vaches series, titled "Song of Separation," the recordings are once again recorded using solo guitar. But calling this "music for solo guitar" is entirely misleading; one's preconceptions of what "solo guitar" refers to would have to be thrown out the window. These aren't mellow jazz musings, nor adventurous improv sessions, nor time-stretched ambient loops. Ambarchi's guitar has more in common with laptop electronics, with deep, rich tones, clicks and pops. The piece begins with and remains for the most part in a meditative strain; slow, sustained notes and tones mark the spaces between silences. During the last movement (the remaining 10 minutes or so in the composition) a stunning multi-tone drone kicks in and carries you through to the end of the set. It's another magnificent release from Ambarchi, and yet another laurel in the crown for the Mort Aux Vaches series. [Richard di Santo]



HELLOTHISISALEX: The Canadian Spelling Program
Piehead Records | CDR

This is my first exposure to the duo of Melissa Creasey and Mark Prier, better known as hellothisisalex. The Canadian Spelling Program (yes, these folks are from Canada) is their second full length release, and even so this release is only 34 minutes in length. But there are 13 tracks here, chock full of analogue synths, cheesy melodies and quirky rhythms. It's all happy music (there are very few shadows to contend with here) with charming, naive melodies and mostly uptempo rhythms. It's music that wouldn't feel out of place on Morr Music or even Rephlex. There are no sudden shifts or changes of direction, no real surprises once you have listened to the first few tracks, but the tracks are nicely assembled and together make for a very cool record to enjoy when the mood is light and the sun is shining. This is volume 2 in Piehead's recently inaugurated series of limited edition CDR releases for 2002. [Richard di Santo]



KNEALE-KUWAYAMA: Bottom of the Motorway
Pale-Disc | PD-08 | 10"

This extremely limited 10 inch release features the collaborative recordings of New Zealand's Campbell Kneale (who records as Birchville Cat Motel) and Japan's Kuwayama Kiyoharu (Pale-Disc founder, who records various projects as Lethe and Kuwayama-Kijima). The two pieces on this release were recorded immediately underneath the Nagoya motorway, and even though they feature sounds from violins, metal, drums, trumpet and voice, the location of these recordings is of central importance. We are treated to varying drones, scrapes, and banging of metal and strings, all the while accompanied by the intermittent yet gentle sounds of the passing cars overhead. The din of noises remains subtle and suggestive, delicate sounds intermingle with harsher textures, but never do the players lose control of the atmosphere, which remains full of echoes, resonances, harmonic intimations. It's a compelling work of live acoustic experimentation, using to its full advantage the unique opportunities of location recording. [Richard di Santo]



MASSIMO: Mort Aux Vaches
Staalplaat | CD

Sicilian based glitch artist Massimiliano Sapienza, aka Massimo, returns with a surprising new set for Staalplaat's Mort Aux Vaches series, recorded live at the VPRO studios in Amsterdam. Harsh, unrelenting and energetic, the eleven tracks on this CD represent a digital catharsis of sorts. Power electronics, glitch-punk, call it what you will. Harsh digital textures, glitches, heavily filtered samples and sawtooth tones are looped into strong, aggressive, yet ever shifting rhythms. It's a surprising turn for Massimo, who has never presented such a dense, difficult set before. Each of the tracks, collectively titled "Free shower at Esther," pursues a variation on a theme; the noise never relents, the rhythms never stop shifting, the blistering digital feedback builds insidious walls inside the ears of the listener. But strangely their presence isn't cumbersome; the noises find a peculiar niche there; you get used to them, maybe even crave them at times. Crazy stuff. The CD is packaged in a minimal and tastefully designed sleeve, a refreshing change from the decidedly crude cover image of last year's Hey babe, let me see your USB and I'll show you my FireWire CD released on Mego. [Richard di Santo]



Erstwhile Records | 022 | CD

Poire_z is the quartet of Günter Müller, eRiKm and Voice Crack (Norbert Möslang and Andy Guhl). The "+" in the title likely refers to the group's fifth member, who changes with each live performance. This release features three performances, and each one features a different fifth member: Otomo Yoshihide, Sachiko M and Christian Marclay respectively. A few words about the players, who probably need no introduction in these pages: Günter Müller is a prolific percussionist and electronics improviser who has also founded the For 4 Ears label; Swiss duo Voice Crack have been performing on "cracked everyday electronics" since the early eighties, and have been experimenting with sound for the past 30 years; eRiKm is probably best known for his intense turntable experimentalism, but here he focuses on using the minidisc and sampler. In the first piece (which is also the longest with a run time of 25 minutes), Otomo Yoshihide accompanies the quartet on turntables and electronics. This piece is a stunning testament to the entire group's ability to create intense, shifting sound atmospheres using unconventional techniques and instrumentation. The second track features a performance by Sachiko M on sinewaves, and in keeping with the minimal aesthetic present in most, if not all of her work, the piece is composed of delicate tones, crackles and light bubbling sounds, resting and intermingling with characteristic weightlessness, only occasionally being interrupted by glimpses of harsher textures. The third and final piece features Christian Marclay on turntables. In the opening minutes, the mood is dark and the sounds more restless and scurrying, as if seeking shelter from a coming storm. Calm sets in briefly, where delicate electronic elements and subtle hisses lightly touch on the silence, while other tones, rough textures, waves of sound come onto the scene, until the storm finally hits with a flurry of sounds, sweeps and sonic textures. Here as ever, poire_z present another engaging and challenging release. Excellent work. [Richard di Santo]



STAPLETAPE: Soft Landing
Grain of Sound | gos001 | CDR

Soft Landing by Stapletape is the inaugural release for Grain of Sound, a new CDR label based in Lisbon. Stapletape is the multimedia project of Nuno Moita on laptop electronics and João Vicente who takes care of photography and video. They are accompanied on these recordings by Manuel Mota, Paulo Raposo (of Vitriol and sirr.ecords), ok suitcase and Carlos Santos, among others. It's mostly abstract, improvised electronics, with touches of acoustic instrumentation throughout (a guitar, an upright bass). The soundscape shifts delicately with each track, but things never veer too far from presenting quiet, subtle arrangements of clicks, sine tones, laptop gadgetry and digital interference. Sometimes looped into a pulse or rhythm, but mostly the sounds constitute highly abstract arrangements. No one track can be singled out from the whole, although each one operates on its own set of principles and pursues a new set of ideas. Allow these sounds to draw you into their world, where silence and near silence figure as prominently as the noises we make to fill it. The disc is accompanied by spiraled liner notes by Michal Seta on the trappings of music theory. [Richard di Santo]



V. / ULTRA MILKMAIDS: Drone+Unease
Zeromoon | CD

Over the course of a few months, Ultra Milkmaids (brothers Y. and R. Jaffiol) and v. (Jeff Surak and James Guggino) met in both Paris and Maryland to record the material featured on drone+unease, their first collaborative work. While the Ultra Milkmaids use their laptops and digital equipment, v. prefer to use found objects, turntables, hurdy gurdy, autoharp and various other acoustic and/or broken instruments. Their apparent differences, however, are reconciled in these pieces; the electronic and acoustic elements converge admirably into a coherent and multifaceted work. Swirling drones, glitches, field recordings, percussions and many, many noises create an intoxicating and dense fog of sound. Probably the most striking track (for me, anyway) is "Bogi," featuring the voice of Russian singer Irina Pechegina (from the band Sumerki). Her voice, soft, gentle and strained in song, is filtered and treated with effects, all the while being immersed in a dense layer of intoxicating drones, submerged rhythms, and mysterious sounds. And yet each of the seven tracks featured here offers a unique and immensely engaging sound environment. I have been listening to this over the past week, and it has proven to be a recording that reveals its secrets slowly and with careful listening. Recommended. [Richard di Santo]



V.V.: Note
C.I.P. / Crank Satori | CIP 06 | CD

V.V. is Ven Voisey, a sound artist and sculptor based in Oakland, California. We last heard from Voisey last year on his impressive 3" Things Collapse on Themselves (released on the Throat label), and more recently on the No Type compilation The Freest of Radicals. He returns with a new set of "sound events" that focus on long, slowly evolving arrangements of hisses, drones and crackles, sometimes looped like a locked groove, but mostly they flow in long, steady movements peppered by intermittent noises and interruptions. Occasionally you will be lulled into complacency by these soft hisses going on and on, or be mesmerized by a track of shimmering harmonic tones and pulses, but at other times (as in the fourth track), you'll be knocked quite off your seat, surprised by the sudden burst of noise, a brief yet steady stream of relentless and distorted hisses and interference. But v.v. is quite good at captivating his listener without veering off course, eliciting a unique response that never translates into indifference; the shifts and surprises draw you ever closer, your attention becomes fixed to these sounds and you feel all the better for it. An excellent disc, challenging and difficult, but thoroughly engaging. [Richard di Santo]



VARIOUS: Bip-Hop Generation [v.5]
Bip-Hop | bleep 13 | CD

Bip-Hop returns with the fifth edition to their Generation series, much admired for presenting a balanced look at some finely crafted electronic music with a particular emphasis on microsound, clicks 'n' cuts and all things digital. This instalment features contributions from an international roster: Accelera Deck from the US, Canada's Andrew Duke, Sweden's Mikael Stavostrand, Tonne from the UK, Rechenzentrum from Germany and D'Iberville from France. Accelera Deck, aka Chris Jeely, starts things off in fine form with the light, charming, IDM-inspired track "bloom." From Canada's east coast, Andrew Duke contributes a compelling 15-minute track of synthetic atmospheres and a compelling rhythm that builds slowly and with careful, deliberate steps. Bip-Hop will also be releasing a full length from Andrew in the coming months, which is definitely something to watch out for. Both Mikael Stavostrand and Tonne provide tracks more typical of the microsound genre; delay effects, clicks, cuts, and deep atmospheres. Rechenzentrum's track is probably the strongest in the set; their music carries an intensity I find difficult to describe but easy to admire, a rich, rhythmic tapestry of digital glitches and bizarre sounds. D'Iberville, aka Julien Berthier, follows with three strong and dynamic tracks with many surprising turns. It's another strong collection of tracks, and is by now what we have come to expect from Bip-Hop; their Generation series is quickly becoming an international who's who of new electronica. The CD also features an enhanced portion, a "soundtoy" designed by Tonne, with which you can customize a series of sound loops until your heart's content. [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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