> Archive > Music Review 54

24 June 2002

AGF: Head Slash Bauch
As11: New CD Out Now!
Desormais: Climate Variations
. (aka Ben Hatchelt): Everything's exactly how you left it EP
Formatt: Edito
David Grubbs: Rickets & Scurvy
I8U: grasshopper morphine
Ilios: b.a
David Kristian: My Three Suns
Kuwayama – Kijima: 01.06.16
Lecanoscope: Comparing Notes
Yasunao Tone: Wounded Man'yo #38-9/2001
Various: sul – dedicated to chris marker


AGF: Head Slash Bauch
Orthlorng Musork | orth08 | CD

German is an intense language. It commands, it orders, it directs, and it demands attention. For some English speakers, German suffers from the image of being a vulgar and brutal idiom, indoctrinated into our psyche from years of watching poorly acted German soldiers yell "Achtung!" in bad World War II movies. It is surprising for me then, at least, to hear German, for the first time, as a seductive language. agf is Laub vocalist Antye Greie-Fuchs' solo project, and it is her voice that calls out to me from this weird and wonderful CD. At times, her soft voice is close enough to taste, to feel the air from her lips caressing my ears; and then, at other times, her voice is rudely disrupted with stuttered computer processing, displacing my stereotype of the feminine and abstracting it into robotic montages. Cyborg feminine love... Most of the time, these two processes are happening at the same time: her voice just is, so far, so close. [Two robots, built by Fritz Lang—or is it Chris Cunningham?—playing a game of Fort/Da in a room full of mirrors...] And so far the language is only empty representation, pure image of nothingness. For I know not Fuchs' meaning: at times, snippets of English jolt my consciousness, but not enough to grasp what is being said to me. I don't know how to respond, and so I listen and listen, like a young teenager before his beloved pop-star: and here I am, head (head) titled-back, at an angle (slash, the mark of my neck), trying to decipher this word-thing (bauch). Bauch: is it pronounced like Bach?

slash — the cut of the blade across my windpipe so I cannot speak these strange guttural sounds...

I am in love with a cyborg—and then I discover that for a good part of the album she is reciting what sounds like Java code. "Every object to be given a unique name..." Then: "You as the first argument..."

Am I in love with computer code? Does it love me? And what of the music, the sounds between the voice and behind it, sometimes in front, always at the sides?

Haunted music—deep hums under a circling, industrial echo—staccato rhythms of density—tracks that are not songs but several tracks, spread over each other, make me sing—searing drones, microsound particles, dark and noisy ambience—colliding cement blocks of "post"-beats—then a warm entrance of synthesizer wash, only to be speckled with an erotic wandering of Fuchs' voice, sampled, perverted, exposed; she seems to say: "I show, you mine..."

It's like nothing I've ever heard, for in my ears, the words are nothing to me. It conjures up memories of Coil, of early '80s industrial—Throbbing Gristle in a melodramatic mood on downers meet Einstürzende Neubauten in a sex-shop filled with Hammond organs? Organs that also cut: saws and scythes that swing and repeat; her voice is gone now and I am somewhat sad. I want to hear her again—here is the next one, slow booming echo-beat, crackle over top, throat-crackle "clic clicc gh clic" she says, as if unable to speak what she must say to me, to all of her listeners, to the many she is speaking to, disembodied, spinning and cutting...

And this, I tell myself much later, is what a new listening experience is all about. [Tobias c. van Veen]



AS11: New CD Out Now!
Antifrost | afro 2013 | 3"CD

ILIOS: b.a
Antifrost | afro 2011 | 3"CD

The Antifrost label presents two new volumes in their continuing extreme sound souvenirs series of 3 inch discs. To date the series has included notable releases by Sachiko M, AS11 and Francisco López with Joe Colley.

New CD Out Now! is AS11's third release for Antifrost. It begins with a computerized voice possibly giving an instruction about how to listen to the CD, which unfortunately I could not completely understand, so I just listened to it straight-on from track 1 through to 11, together running up to 20 minutes in duration. The pieces play like a series of abstractions or scenes, sketches of hiss, clicks, silences, melodies and electronics in turns subtle and harsh. Track 8, for example, carries a simple yet eerie synth melody, saturated with hiss and other gently encroaching sounds. Contrast this peaceful and mysterious track with track 10, the longest piece featured here (about 11 minutes long), full of sharp textures and louder, more abrasive sounds and electronic cut-ups. Sprinkled in between these two tracks is a great little advertisement for AS11 and Antifrost. This release might not have the focus and unity of his last contribution to the series, 500M New WR released last year, but it's a noteworthy disc nonetheless, full of dramatic twists and turns, holding your interest all the way.

The members of Ilios are also the founders of the Antifrost label. Two years ago they released Dance Classics, a series of abstract tracks and impressions that seemed to be designed more for a hypothetical dance floor rather than today's conventional clubs. Here they present two compelling tracks of electronic abstraction, static, subtle tones and atmospheres. The first track is the longest (about 15 minutes long), and also the most captivating of the two, with a slowly evolving palette of sounds. The second piece is much shorter (about 5 minutes long) but also more jarring, with loud, harsher loops of electronic sounds and laptop mulching. Both tracks are very nicely done, arranged with an astute attention to detail, structure and mood. [Richard di Santo]



DESORMAIS: Climate Variations
intr_version | INTR004 | CD

For some time I have been trying to articulate something of this collection of sound that arrives at my ears, that washes over me in slow, languid pulses and noisy gusts, swirling gently through ambience and glitchscapes, stuttered beats and oceanic textures, plunging up from the deep recesses of the grey brain matter minds of Mitchell Akiyama and Joshua Treble.

Climate Variations possesses a textured and complex yet relaxed approach to post-ambient music that many attempt but few succeed. Often, in attempting to create such a mood and sonic exploration, the artist becomes lost in the over-processing of layers, drawn into the obscurity of the mixing board, and entranced in his own never-ending loops, wandering in a never-ending and cavernous maze. The moment of beauty—required to escape the maze and view it from the vantage point of height, while still knowing its wandering depths—comes in the careful manipulation of complexity against a well of emotion. Perhaps it is through the collaborative process between Mitchell and Joshua that we witness the necessary spatial dialectic—above and below, within and without—arriving at our ears and affecting our bodies, coming to being through a poetic exploration that encompasses a layering of treated sound shards and turning them, like the Egyptian god of change and chaos, Set, into holistic waves of emotion that offer new beginnings.

It should come as no surprise that Akiyama is a former design student—see his beautiful website,—and there is an obvious dedication in his work to the structural balance of sonic particles. Although I cannot speak for the previous work of Joshua Treble, from the few snippets I have managed to hear online of his work on PitchCadet, it is obvious he shares a melancholic penchant for melodies interwoven with a glitch aesthetic. The result is a quiet entry of light into the green-blue world depicted on the album's cover, of which we can ask, much the same we can ask of the music, Is it an ocean? A tidal pool? Or a reinterpreted Japanese brushwork painting? There are no answers to these questions, only aesthetic interpretations, and in choosing to meld the aesthetic with deeply held emotional convictions and moods, Joshua and Mitchell have managed to combined the realm of the purely aesthetic and experimental with that untouchable element that never comes when it is called, but only arrives at its own moment, the tragic note of pathos that acts not through rhetoric but through poesis, the poetic. Of course, where this album succeeds beyond emotional pandering—if we wanted to be vicious—is its ability to make us think, and to act upon thought, and to imagine, and with this, we can only say that the album moves us not only through the soul but the mind. If we want to continue a slight allusion to Aristotle's Rhetorics at this point, we might say that Climate Variations possesses all the necessary elements: logos—to make us think—ethos—the integrity of the artist—and pathos—the emotional appeal.

Yet there is no rhetoric here. I'm hearing all of these things, and hearing my mind speak them. It is I who orate these pronouncements to you, which, despite their attempted metaphorical affect, will be understood as judgments and critiques. Mitchell and Joshua create through poesis, not rhetoric, and it is I who engage in the real charlatanism.

Undoubtedly comparisons will be made to Fennesz's Endless Summer. Although much broader, perhaps, in its breadth and complexity of sound, Climate Variations strikes a similar note to Endless Summer, and picks up where Fennesz left us just a year ago—somewhere on a beach, recalling our youth with the waves crashing on and on through Fennesz's almost singular treatment of his subject with a distortion pedal. Mitchell and Joshua have turned from the crashing water, and the memory-book, and explored that little green and blue tidal pool on the right, the one that is always teeming with life despite its quiet and calm waters. [Tobias c. van Veen]



. (AKA BEN HATCHELT): Everything's exactly how you left it EP
spa.RK | sp3/bh1 | CDEP

"." (pronounced 'dot') is the name of one Ben Hatchelt from Britain, who made his fist appearance on spar.RK's ep1 motion re(e)leases series. Here he presents his first complete work, a seven-track EP of intriguing audio textures, dense atmospheres, crunchy rhythms and sad, evocative melodies. Even in such a short time (the EP is about 24 minutes in length), Hatchelt certainly makes his mark on the listening space by creating well structured tracks with strong moods, noticeable melancholy and diverse sounds, drawing from IDM, glitch and experimental ambient in equal measures. In addition to using electronic sounds and beats, Hatchelt turns much of his attention on integrating field recordings in these pieces (strikes of metal, running water, a passing crowd...), some of which become heavily treated with effects and filters, others remain clearly recognizable. The tracks are short, but each pursues its own set of ideas, drawing on the mood of the others and creating a neat, self-contained and unique work. Nicely done. Limited to a press run of 500. [Richard di Santo]



Grain of Sound | gos005 | CDR

Formatt is one Peter Smeekens, a sound designer living near Antwerp. In creating the pieces found on Edito, he worked from the ground up, from a foundation made of the smallest sounds, weaving them into loops and then into larger structures. That being said, there are many details to be found when listening to this work. There's an undeniable yet unconventional rhythmic emphasis in Formatt's music. The sounds (clusters of sounds, loops) move in waves, each one grows, approaches, folds over itself and somehow manages to give birth to yet another, with a new set of characteristics. Although there are twelve track divisions (with breaks), my impression is that this is more of a single, unified piece. The music on Edito doesn't shift suddenly into different directions, although the tracks certainly have their share of ideas and differences. Moving from one track to the next, one feels like a traveller, moving through spaces filled with slight, subtle sounds, gentle waves surrounded by silences, from one sphere to the next. The journey certainly leaves me curious to see what is next for Peter Smeekens, so keep an eye open for more of his current and future projects. [Richard di Santo]



DAVID GRUBBS: Rickets & Scurvy
Drag City | DC224 | CD

Opening with some understated electronic tones, David Grubbs' latest release merges new elements into his country-inflected guitar and distinctive vocals. The album is a more balanced juxtaposition of acoustics and electronics than The Spectrum Between, his previous full length released two years ago. Having listened to all of Grubbs' solo work since the break-up of Gastr Del Sol, this album stands right behind 1998's The Thicket. Like his friend Will Oldham, Grubbs is an oddity whose work can be seen as part of contemporary pop-rock, but exudes a thinking more diverse or critical than most bands seem to be. Perhaps the eclecticism of his own label Blue Chopsticks shows the gamut of styles and genres that these albums are stuck between. The problem is that in spite of Grubbs' ability to meld his avant and folk influences with wit and ease, somehow the whole comes out less than the parts. The folk sounds bogged down in quirky arrangements and guitar and the electronics never seem to reach the extreme peaks that, say, Pita might employ. While the album fuses well it is caught between mind and body, never reaching the ecstatic peaks and lows that these styles would if they were separate. What made The Thicket so great was that simple banjo and guitar tracks were followed by great drone and intonation pieces. Rickets & Scurvy is a step forward in bringing the two together, but Grubbs hasn't quite reached that point yet. You can hear the future of his music cocooned, in a few instances breaking from its constraints into a world where thought and body are formed into a joyous assemblage. [Andrew Jones]



I8U: grasshopper morphine
Piehead | PIE 004 | CDR

Subterranean rumblings greet you when you first hit play on I8U's latest release. The low frequencies are peppered with staccato clicks that seem random at first, but rhythms slowly develop over the course of this opening piece. This sets the pace for an intense and engaging new release by this Montreal sound artist. Time moves slowly here: there are no sudden jumps, starts or fits to speak of. There are plenty of contemplative moments, where the sound fills your space with an incredible depth and presence, and there are plenty of dissonant moments as well, to keep your ears on edge. I8U has created some wondrous music here that challenges and rewards in the same breath. Highlights include the intense "grasshopper morphine," the mighty "cattail furnace" and "cantname," an incomparable closing piece if ever I heard one. Wonderful material from beginning to end, it's a pity the disc is only limited to 311 copies. [Vils M DiSanto]



Piehead | PIE003 | CDR

This is the third release in a series of eleven planned for Toronto's Piehead Records this year, and David Kristian has provided some very entertaining material here. Thirteen tracks of spirited, sci-fi inspired electronics travel from B-movie terrain to a more gentle style of techno. This is not the David "Sound Design" Kristian of Cricklewood or Room Tone, rather the slightly more accessible David "IDM" Kristian, featured on Beneath the Valley of the Modulars and Sawdust Sinedust Squaredust. Inventive rhythms intertwine with gurgling analogue synths, pulsing bass and the occasional human voice to create a warm and irresistible mix of sounds. The melodies are haunting in a casual and indirect way – subtlety is Kristian's forte, and it's used to good effect here. Fellow Montreal sound artist [SIC] makes a couple of appearances here as well in the form of telephone message recordings presumably left for Kristian in varying states of realisation. One such realisation comes when she notices that her mouse-bearing feet have caught fire (I'll leave the rest of the amusing details for you to discover). Definitely the strangest section of the disc, but an entertaining tale nonetheless. With Kristian's solo output being rather limited these days, it was a nice surprise to have this release cross my path. [Vils M DiSanto]



trente oiseaux | TOC 023 | CD

Kuwayama Kiyoharu and Kijima Rina have been performing together for some time, creating adventurous, subtle and suggestive improvisational music that blends instrumentation (they perform on cello and violin respectively) and location ambience. The sounds of their recording locations are central to their work, figuring just as prominently in their music as do the sounds from their instruments. Last year saw the release of an excellent 7 inch on 20 City which also marked my introduction to the duo's innovative work. On 01.06.16, their latest full length release out on Bernhard Günter's trente oiseaux label (having been venturing into experimental improv territories of late), the duo presents four pieces recorded live at the bottom of a highway at midnight. We can hear the cars driving by, and the wind, as the two players work through their improvisations. Each piece seems both free and tightly structured all at once; the cello and violin work around each other in slow drones or in tight, restless movements, creating compelling environments, conflicting tensions or calming harmonies, disharmonies. This is music that draws me in deeper and deeper with repeated listening, the immediacy of the recordings (reinforced by the location sounds) translates into an immediacy of listening, of uncovering sound events in the present tense, being surprised at the turn of every stone. Recommended. [Richard di Santo]



LECANOSCOPE: Comparing Notes
Metabolic Music | MM 03 | CDEP

Lecanoscope is a California based group who have been active for some ten years, releasing their music mostly on cassettes and appearing on various compilations through the years. Comparing Notes is their first official CD release, featuring five tracks in just under 25 minutes. The group makes a sort of ritual trance music, full of tribal rhythms (tablas, hand drums, etc.), ambient guitar riffs and droning atmospheres full of loops, reverbs and voices. For me, the genre of ritual trance, tribal ambient, or whatever term you like to use for this sort of thing seemed to have reached its peak some ten or more years ago (the days of Vasilisk, Hybrids et al.), and Lecanoscope aren't really adding anything to the established conventions in place. That being said, the music on this CD is certainly well produced, well executed and even pleasant to listen to; each track has its own logic and mood, the rhythms develop in steady motions, the atmospheres wrap themselves nicely around the more dominant percussion sounds. But be wary of any claims of transcendence, experimentalism or of being transported through psychical realms hitherto undiscovered. It's just some pleasant percussive ambient music to pass a little time, reading the paper, doing the housework, living, moving, working through the day. [Richard di Santo]



YASUNAO TONE: Wounded Man'yo #38-9/2001
Alku | 3" CDR

We last heard from ex Fluxus member Yasunao Tone on Alku's Un tributo to James T. Russell compilation CDR released earlier this year. His contribution was a frantic piece of CD scratching and cut-up collage, and I must admit that the piece didn't hold my attention or capture much interest. On Wounded Man'yo #38-9/2001, we are treated to more of the same: a 20 minute piece of fierce digital processing and cut-ups with a nice use of channel separation. But can I really say much more about this piece? The setup seems simple enough. Its form is aimless and free, seeming to have only the one idea of presenting a restless and occasionally abrasive piece of sharp digital edits and electronic noise. Of course, I admit that the words "aimless and free" are not inherently negative qualifiers, but I found that with this piece there wasn't enough (of ideas, tensions, differences) within the free form to capture my interest. If there is any more to witness here, I'm afraid it has eluded me. [Richard di Santo]



VARIOUS: sul – dedicated to chris marker
SIRR.ecords | 2006 | CD

Seven sound artists pay tribute to filmmaker and artist Chris Marker (b. 1921) in this new compilation from the Lisbon based label SIRR.ecords. Being familiar with Marker's work only by reputation (among his better known works are La Jetée from 1962 and Sans Soleil from 1982), I am left to rely on the liner notes enclosed with the disc for insight into his vision. The notes discuss "the Zone," an evolving concept that has been running through his work over the past twenty years, appearing to be as much about time and space as it is about personal history and deterritorialization. This CD features contributions from a compelling line-up of artists: Atau Tanaka, Eric La Casa, M. Behrens, Vitriol, Pimmon, I.D. and Oren Ambarchi each contribute a piece, interpreting or commenting on the concept of "the Zone" or otherwise just paying tribute to Marker's work. Atau Tanaka opens the disc with a dynamic piece of shifting drones, metallic textures and tones, moving from quiet and subtle sections to noisier clamours, keeping the listener most attentive for the entire journey. Ideas of space are abound in the cinematic pieces by Eric La Casa and Vitriol, who each seem to have based their works on environmental sounds (urban or otherwise) and field recordings. M. Behrens contributes a stunning piece of quiet and low-end drones and rumblings. Pimmon's piece is an especially piercing yet captivating piece of sharp electronic textures and fluctuating tones, and I.D. follows it with a more extreme approach to electronic noise featuring sharp, dizzying feedback textures. Oren Ambarchi completes the compilation and returns to more tranquil yet overwhelmingly mysterious territories with his piece of bewitching low-end drones and textures (perhaps all these sounds derive from the guitar, as in his other recent works?). It's an excellent compilation, with or without knowledge of Chris Marker's work. Recommended. [Richard di Santo]





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