> Archive > Music Review 55

8 July 2002

Bovine Life: Social Electrics
Einóma: Undir, Feilnótum
Gcttcatt: ampErase
Guitare Brothers
Thomas Köner: Unerforschtes Gebeit
The New Blockaders / Organum: Der Graben
O vs. Tin.RP: stereophonique
O+A: Box 30/70
Polmo Polpo: The Science of Breath
Speedy J: Loudboxer
Twilight Circus Dub Soundsystem: Dub Plates Volume 3
The Vacuum Boys: Songs from the Sea of Love
Heath Yonaites: Where


BOVINE LIFE: Social Electrics
BiP-HoP | bleep06 | CD

I've had this release for a while now, indeed, too long has it sat waiting for words, neglected and gathering dust, although it rarely left the tray of the "ambient-room" CD player in my previous and beautiful Vancouver home. Now, here in the dead-heat of Montreal, I'm going to take the time to really enunciate clearly how wonderful this CD is. Since this album has come out, BiP-HoP has gone from an obscure French label to being one of the more recognised venues of original and unheard of electronic music artists; and although its production volume risks outgrowing its taste, this Bovine Life album stands as one of its seminal releases.

A "compilation" of sorts, this release features 14 "vs." collaborations among 10 artists, and a handful of new solo material from Bovine Life, aka Chris Dooks. Ranging from odd harmonic electric ditties to cut-and-broken beats and vocal cuts, sampled strangeness layered with melancholic chords to droney abstraction, this CD often brings out the best of not only Chris Dooks, but the artists he is working with. Dooks is a rather fascinating character. His To Look North CD under his own moniker, created while in residence at ISIS UK, remixing Northern Region Film and Television Archive sound material—old film strips, radio, interviews, etc.—is a discordant jaunt through the junctures of recorded sound and the fever of the archive reminiscent of Burroughs' cut-up techniques. Chris' collaborative work as Bovine Life also speaks to this archive-approach to sound, to a repetition of sampled elements in strange and new contexts. It is worth mentioning that Dooks suffers from M.E., a neurological disorder which induces chronic fatigue, pain, and memory loss (see The result has been Dooks' strategy of "having to do less to achieve more." While this sounds like a blueprint for minimalism, it instead manifests as an intense focus on each and every track to the aesthetics of the sample, its presence, absence, treatment, and placement within the rhythms or drones—for Dooks makes tracks that encompass all angles of the electronic spectrum, from the orchestral and operatic sounds of "ether works part 2" with the artist known as "?" to the weird vocal stylings and stutterings of "atay atae" with octorock. And one of my favourite tracks is "trigger finger" with m.c. mccooch dog. "trigger finger" reminds me of Cex at his best, mouthing off weird oddities to no one in particular, all distorted and weird. Mr. m.c. mccooch dog is on the same tip, and although the beats are rather oddly subdued, this is only to heighten the dramatic irony propelling this profoundly moving and uncanny track of surgical synth cuts and stuttered echo-beats..."oh did I mention I think about you when I'm benchin', running my trigger finger through your's intense..." Indeed.

Someone else who pops up on this compilation is turntable sound-artist Janek Schaefer, whose "dog day cicada" track with Dooks is one of the more provocative and alien-like explorations of the work. Imagine, if you will, the landscape of Mars—Cydonia and its canals, the mountains and the craters—and then the space-echo sounds, the alien calls and whistles, that would accompany the dark and red dust. This is "dog day cicada," full of looping off-key drones, lazily moving around electric needle stabs and harmonic resonances. It could also be the soundtrack to another "dog day," that of the film Dog Day Afternoon, for that is the intensity of its strange tensions.

Happily, at no point does this album feel pushed. Most of the tracks are quite short—2 or 3 minutes—allowing for a real feeling of exploring a sonic palette and an aesthetic vision, a mind of music. The last track, "now we are light," a solo Dooks piece, sums this up perfectly, with arpeggio synth chords triggering the passions in the most simplest of fashions with the most elegantly understated of aesthetic techniques. [Tobias c. van Veen]



EINÓMA: Undir, Feilnótum
Vertical Form | VFORM019 | CD

If, in the heat of summer, you'd much rather be reminded by the darkest cold of winter, of a deep and looming evil that resonates with each false step behind your back late at night in the dusty grime and dirt of a dangerous city, of a sordid and cold Northern exposure to the madness of the midnight sun and the brilliant harshness of the Northern Lights, and keeping in this dark rhythm, closed in your dark apartment, you are pondering an alternate soundtrack to an existence mapped out in cinematic grandeur in John Carpenter's The Thing, than the deliberate and drawn out crackling IDM beats, broken and chopped with an entrails-encrusted cleaver, tower as your most perverse fantasy of sonic sadomasochism provided by the Mistress Einóma.

Track 4, "Amonie," percussion-scythes with tic-tac needle-pins into the skin. A heartbeat kickdrum pounds. A devilled-zipper builds the counter-rhythm against a moaning backdrop of drones and far-off metallic hammer drops; a march towards impending doom; an apocalyptic track that would start a 4am minimal techno set—of the dark and Richie Hawtin Concept variety—off quite nicely. It all moves from here: a break that leads into a renewed vigour for the slow claw-shutters of the destined sort that turns the eyeballs into the soul at obtuse angles; squeaks and inhuman angles, electric lines across a fried, burnt corpse left on the edge of a slug, a behemoth crawling out of Antonin Artaud's reeking mouth as he recites the last rites, in last liturgy, to Van Gogh's entrails.

Which leaves us, quickly, a shaft of silence, back at the pin-drops and the hint of where we had been. And yet, besides this hint, the album only pauses before where it could have erupted (larval volcanic ash). Einóma retain their structures, their slow beats, their broken-and-dark-IDM sounds to the point of broaching repetition not of origin but of cliché. A critical note: we may have heard this passage before, but we still cannot help but praise those who explore its depths to the recesses of bowels and caverns. And yet, at what point have we mapped out this territory, again and again? Einóma end up, lamplight dripping wax on their pale left hands, mapping the worn map rather than mapping new territory, although, where the map is most frayed, they reinvent the tracings of previous pioneers long forgotten, and in doing so, claim with enough validity as the next their uncharted sonic waters.

Not without a sense of melancholy. And of desperation. Of stuttering silence, of teared percussion, of small and delicate piano pings contrasted with a muffled hard techno 16th note repetition across a slow and lethargic—yet impending—bassline break. Note all of this in the magnificent Track 6, "Celvoir," which, out of all the movements, leaps and bounds deep into the passageways of the crypt, where dripping liquid becomes indeterminate between water and the black bile of death, and with a grin opens coffins to sleep with wet corpses, the water of life, birth, and death. And I mean all of this sonically: you can hear the child's tears, there, at learning of her own death much after the fact, and of the whispering ghosts, noise-like, radio-channel, that swoop down to devour her virgin and delicate soul—so quick, so quick, and already, at 80.

Outside there is sun—across my desk. Inside the sonic space there is no sun. If we are on a river this music comes from the night of the forest. If we are in a city on the park by the canal these perverse sounds come from the cardboard shacks under the bridge long past the bourgeoisie hour of sleep. Haunting drone-synths, taking their cue from Lustmord, shimmering, cousin of Scorn, bastard son of Mick Harris, derivative ...

"Scorn not the Sonnet; Critic, you have frowned,"

Indeed. Who shall scorn a sonic-path so well carved, even though the ruts may be deep? For the path has been so well curved and prepared that the weary traveller will encounter few surprises although he will be treated to the most delectable parade of horrors, a carriage ride through a potpourri of death knells, lumbargo death smells made sonic, dives and drives through a well-tuned dark drop of the mind to the point where the body sheds through skin to the abject. [Tobias c. van Veen]


GCTTCATT: ampErase
Mego | 021 | CD

GCTTCATT is the operating name of turntable and CD manipulator Martin Ng and data processor Mathias Gmachi. Released in 2001, the sound palette is full and rich, as only the hills and valleys of vinyl can produce (even though playback is on a digital medium, the source effects are still felt quite strongly). There is not a single dull moment on this disc: the sounds are ever changing and thoroughly unique. I'm not sure what source material Ng is using on his turntables or CD players, but that's not really the point of this exercise. Here, the medium is more telling than the message. The quick starts and stops of Ng's turntable actions are the fuel to Gmachi's fire. Gmachi can take the shortest of sounds and manipulate them in the stereo spectrum so that by the time he's done, it has travelled to areas far beyond its original intentions. Some of the sounds appear to be exercises in turntable acrobatics, and the skill and dexterity shown in these instances is quite remarkable. The disc never strays to repetitiveness or ambient terrain, and so each audition brings out previously unheard sonic textures and contrasts. An attention-grabbing release. [Vils M DiSanto]



Burning Emptiness | BE_8 | CDR

O vs. Tin.RP: Stereophonique
Burning Emptiness | BE_10 | CDR

Two new EPs from Burning Emptiness, a small but growing CDR label based in Berre, France.

The Guitare Brothers, it turns out, don't perform on guitars (although perhaps they do, you can hear the occasional chord hidden deep in the mix); they're two robot-men who have sampled the life out of a series of eight 7 inch pop records for the ten tracks found on this EP. Running their samples through AudioMulch and ModPlug Tracker, they sequence them or just let them run wild with mostly mid-tempo electro beats. There's much mulching, crackles, clicks and static sounds to be heard among the crunchy beats and occasional quirky melodies, traces of the pop samples used as the basis for these tracks. The tenth and final track is the only one to give way to the noise, with a piercing barrage of static and noise drowning out some singing by a small vocal ensemble. Rough, amusing, and quite a lot of fun.

Here's an interesting concept. For their collaboration, the duo O (made up of two fellows named Yann and Sylvain) and Tin.RP (B"L and DDN) each for their own part occupy one of the two stereo channels, alternating from left to right depending on the length of the tracks. O perform on guitars (both acoustic and electric), while Tin.RP perform on machines. I suppose that one of the reasons for the channel separation is to further isolate the acoustic from the electronic and vice versa. Is this a battle? are these elements in opposition to each other? Perhaps. But the result of this collaboration is a very inspired collection of ideas and tracks, and I never had the sense that the artists were working against each other, but that they were working together to explore the tensions between their instruments, chords and textures. Six short sketches (between two and three minutes each) are followed by a longer piece that develops freely, ending the set rather nicely with an ever changing palette of sounds. On the whole, the project is quite nicely done, with an intriguing concept and some very compelling combinations. [Richard di Santo]



THOMAS KÖNER: Unerforschtes Gebeit
Die Stadt | DS43 | picture LP

The recordings presented on Unerforschtes Gebeit ("Uncharted Territory") began in 1997 and were completed in 2001. Seasoned sound artist Thomas Köner centred this work around dust, recording the sound of a dusty piece of 16mm film played in a projector, and using these sounds as both the inspiration and source material for the finished work featured here. Listening to these sounds, I am struck less by the idea of dust than I am by the map featured on the picture LP. The impressions of a slow movement through desolate, arctic, or otherwise uncharted territories run throughout the entire work. Low drones, subtle shifts and rumbles, the particles of sound-dust and the crackle of vinyl are all prominent features in this wonderfully crafted and slowly evolving work. Each side contains a long, continuous piece of gradually shifting and evocative atmospheres. With its slow movements, fascinating sound textures, this work draws you into its trajectory like a magnet, and keeps you suspended there, long after the sounds have faded to silence. A chilling, excellent work. [Richard di Santo]



Die Stadt | DS45 | 7"

Der Graben ("The Ditch") is the "final" joint release by these two legendary noisemakers The New Blockaders and Organum, who have been collaborating for years. Or perhaps their collaborations all happened within a limited period of time, and these periodic releases have simply been documenting their work a few minutes at a time. Here they present two extremely short tracks, which may or may not be from their archive of collaborations. Sides A and B together total a mere 3 minutes in length, which makes this 7 inch mainly one for the collectors. The two pieces are filled with metallic scraping sounds and dissonant noise elements. The pieces are nice enough, but this release is more of a novelty than anything, just a few minutes of first class noise packaged in a nice black and white sleeve. Limited to a press run of 500. I suppose if you're a fan of TNB and Organum, you will have already purchased a copy, and if you're not, this extremely short release (a mere snapshot of sounds) might not be the best place to start. [Richard di Santo]



O+A: Box 30/70
Tourette | TICK 7 | CD

O+A are the two musicians and composers Sam Auginger and Bruce Odland, who have been collaborating on numerous sound installations since 1987. Together they have created some kind of tuning system which somehow transforms the sounds of urban spaces and attempts to open up a new perspective of acoustic perception, taking the emphasis away from the visual aspects of the world and directing it toward what we can hear. Box 30/70 documents the individual stations of a travelling installation that crossed over parts of Europe, stopping in Berlin, Witten, Rotterdam, Düsseldorf, Dresden and Vienna. We are therefore presented with a series of pieces capturing the tuned resonance of each city in question. This is certainly an interesting concept, and one that is executed wonderfully in the pieces presented here. The sounds become alive in the listening space; I'm not sure exactly how Auginger and Odland are processing the sounds of the urban environment, but the results are stunning for their strong spatial and harmonic elements. The lives of these cities are reflected in the processed, or tuned, sounds of passing cars, the roar of trucks, crowds on the street, a siren, incessant motion on the streets and the occasional stillness. Over the past few weeks I have listened to these droning, dynamic environments many times, and each time I have found something new to capture my enthusiasm and interest in this project. Alternating with the main pieces representing the various cities are shorter works from another series titled "Alphabet of Sounds," which similarly attempts to capture unique aspects of a singular point in time and space through field recording and electronic processing. These pieces are more like snapshots than dynamic environments, and act as an intriguing foil for the fluidity of the longer "city" pieces. This release comes highly recommended. Also recommended is a visit to the Box 30/70 website, which outlines in greater detail the procedure of "tuning" used here. [Richard di Santo]



POLMO POLPO: The Science of Breath
Substractif | SUBSF05 | CD

Toronto based artist Sandro Perri, aka Polmo Polpo, has been increasingly busy in recent years, appearing at a growing number of live shows and releasing a series of 12" records on his own Audi Sensa label, all in very limited editions. Released on Alien8 Recording's sub-label Substractif, The Science of Breath is his first full length and also introduces Perri's work to a much wider audience than his own small label could account for. This is a great thing, since his music is a unique and compelling blend of dense and intoxicating layers of hiss and crackles, driving house rhythms and what has by now become a signature of his work, the sound of a wailing slide guitar, drowned out by the dense fog of hisses and rhythms. At its core, this CD collects four previously released tracks from two 12" records on Audi Sensa, both of which have already been reviewed in these pages (1, 2). Surrounding these longer tracks are four others; shorter, more abstract sketches and explorations on the theme of breathing which Perri discusses at some length in the liner notes. The four tracks explore the themes of high, mid, low and complete breathing, respectively. For those already familiar with Polmo Polpo's catalogue of 12" records, The Science of Breath might not offer very much by way of new material, yet the CD format and extra tracks should be enough of a pull for some. For those who have yet to discover Perri's unique sound, this would certainly be the best place to start. Definitely a name to watch. [Richard di Santo]



SPEEDY J: Loudboxer
NovaMute | 3071-2 | CD

Loudboxer sees a return to the dancefloor mayhem that made Speedy J a household name a good number of years ago. Recent excursions have been made to monstrous industrial terrain (A Shocking Hobby) as well as satisfyingly deep ambient releases (Vrs-Mbnt-Pcs). This new disc is a non-stop barrage of beats and cunningly arranged coercions to get your feet moving. Unlike labelmate Ritchie Hawtin and his megamix releases, Speedy J is his own best enemy—all the source material is his own, and it's been paced with a master's touch. Sparse beats (though not without a distinct air of intensity) occupy the first section of the disc, and with the track "Krekc," things quickly kick into high gear. Always with an ear for unique sounds and production techniques, the disc features many aural moments of spatial design that seem to break the mould of the two speakers in front of you. Immediately satisfying, and poised with enough self-confidence to bear the inclusion of a brief live reaction to the "Krekc" track later in the disc, the energy level is relentless and inescapable. Essential music to blast your way through the heat of the summer. [Vils M DiSanto]



M Records | 210 | CD

Every time a new Twilight Circus album comes out, I descend into a mad orgy, scrawling at the shrink-wrap to uncover these delicious grooves of deep and massive pure dub. It's something I enjoy every time because every time the music is just one crafted dub masterpiece after another. It is very unusual of me to write successive reviews—I've been following Ryan Moore's work for several years—of an artist's work and give in to hyperbolic praise. But this is the shit straight from the creative mind and tape-delay 4-track studio of Moore, who is otherwise known as the former bassist of The Legendary Pink Dots and as a remarkable studio musician. Indeed, Moore is a fascinating drummer, and he often makes the trek out to his native Vancouver, BC, to lay down the drum-set "bed tracks" of his albums on an annual basis. And yet his acoustic sensibilities are anything but a throwback anchor, a tie to a never-was and glorified (for the sake of selling records) dub-past. Moore is steadfastly leaping into the future by (re)interpreting developments and movements in the electronic genres at a level that many "electronic musicians" often fail to approach.

Dub Plates Vol. 3 sees a series of remixes of previous gems such as "Depth Charge" and "Binghi," as well as a series of new cuts that come close to summarising Moore's work to date. One hears snippets of the guitar work that Moore pushed on Horsey, the drum work of early releases such as Binshaker Dub, and the spaced-out echoes of Dub Voyage. Where Vol. 3 takes off in new directions, however, is with the startling sounds of hand drums in the mix. While this was always buried in the orchestral-dub layers, and although, according to Moore, these are "run of the mill 'Latin' style percussion" bongos and congas, they really come into their own across the first few tracks. There are many surprises, too, in the bedrock bass anthems. Strange electronic noises flit in and out of the mix, choruses are buried to favour non-traditional instruments, and watery clicks run rough over popping and hissing surfaces. You can hear that Moore is very attuned to what is going on in experimental electronic music, and he interprets and incorporates, in his own way, recent developments from glitches to clicks. In doing so, he offers a prescient projection of what these "new" sounds could become. Unfettered by much of the dogma that retro-electronic-futurism has become, Moore unabashedly lets loose on the bass and gets down to the groove, all the while redefining not only the dub sound but the isthmuses where dub, electronic music, and the rock tradition meld. These are the heavy rollers... so put on the big bins, piss off the neighbours, light up a blunt and feel free to blarg-osophy on the origins and politics of dub. [Tobias c. van Veen]



THE VACUUM BOYS: Songs from the Sea of Love
Fire Inc. | f-24 | CD

Wonderfully packaged like an innocent pop album from the fifties, Songs from the Sea of Love is the new release from the Vacuum Boys, bringing you intrigue and rock n' roll from the far reaches of the imagination. The team consists of Guy Amitai, Gert-Jan Prins, Heimir Björgúlfsson and Dan Armstrong. Of course, this isn't a real rock n' roll album (after all, we're dealing with a group of artists with a penchant for electronic experimentalism), but the entire concept of this project, from the package design and track titles right down to the music contained within, plays with the idea of rock n' roll in a light-hearted yet complex manner. The boys sample, cut up, and turn inside out samples of guitar, voice, drums, bass, arranging them alongside electronic tones and textures, creating these new asymmetrical structures, rhythms, melodies. There are some fascinating tensions and compelling arrangements here, each track presents its own world of ideas, all the while keeping things light and free from all pretension. Also in the packaging is an amusing detective story titled "The Vacuum Boys and the Secret of the Haunted Spanish Galleon." This one's not to be missed. [Richard di Santo]




This is my first encounter with Heath Yonaites, a sound and visual artist based in Northbrook, Illinois. The tracks on Where, his fourth full length to date, are based on a series of improvisations for the charango, a steel-stringed instrument that is open tuned. Yonaites builds on these improvisations by processing, re-arranging or isolating the sounds and using a long list of different instruments, objects and source material (guitar, music boxes, metal bowls, squeak-toy, ukelele, computer...) in order to weave a rich tapestry of sounds, rhythms and musical ideas. The results are quite astounding; Yonaites has a keen ear for mood and composition, often laced with melancholy and mystery. Although the most prominent sounds are acoustic in origin (the strings play a central role in all of these pieces), there's a lot of processing and filtering going on to make this an intriguing blend of acoustic and electroacoustic elements. The six tracks are of a generous length as well (falling between 9 and 17 minutes each), which allows Yonaites to explore his themes at a relaxed pace (none of the tracks are hurried or frantic, each piece unfolds with a slow and steady rhythm), while the music saturates the listening environment with its unique signatures. These sounds and arrangements should prove to be an evocative and rewarding presence for the sound adventurer: Where is an album filled with ideas, mysteries and unusual spaces, and it comes recommended. [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.

Please credit and the author when quoting from any content on this site.