22 July 2002
This is my first contact with Thomas Ankersmit, a sound artist and improviser based in Berlin, with an impressive roster of live collaborations (with Axel Dörner, Kevin Drumm, Greg Kelley, Jason Lescalleet and Jérôme Noetinger among others) and installation work to his credit. On this private edition CDR, sixteen minutes in length and limited to 250 copies, Ankersmit presents four short but strong, distinctive tracks performed on alto saxophone. By the sounds of these recordings, it seems that Ankersmit does not only use his instrument, but incorporates the air around it into the performances. The sax cries out in long drones, anguishing tones, rough yet delicate in timbre, and seem to be enveloped in space, in the reverberations and echoes of the recording location. At times it seems that more than one 'voice' cries out all at once, which makes me wonder if this is a live recording without any overdubs, which it probably is. Sad, tense, intense and commanding; this short release comes recommended. [Richard di Santo]
The second release from CMR features five pieces from sound artist Marc Behrens, collecting both new and earlier works composed over the past ten years. The first three pieces, "Architectural Commentary" 1, 2 and 3, represent the latest material, composed in 2001. The disc also features two earlier works: the fourth piece was originally released on RLW's Tulpas CD on Selektion, and uses source material by Ralf Wehowsky; and the final piece, "Der Raum," was composed in 1992 as the soundtrack for a video by the same name by Torten Grosch.
Is it possible to make an architectural commentary with sound? If so, what would it consist of? Using source recordings made in different locations in Germany, Switzerland, France and Japan, Behrens seems to have created sound environments that both occupy and comment on the spaces of hypothetical buildings. He has woven silences, near silences (empty corridors), recurring sounds (a pattern in the mouldings, the stucco) and shocks of sound (a sudden break in the wall, an unexpected awning) together with a combination of dynamic, subtle and spatial electronic and acoustic textures and tonesmetallic, synthetic, acousmatic (corridors, galleries, doorways, salons, halls). The pieces are fascinating explorations, providing the listener with a wealth of ideas, details and tensions which reveal themselves gradually with repeated listening. [Richard di Santo]
EFZEG: Boogie (dedicated to John Lee Hooker)
Three new releases from the ever-active improvisational 'church' of Grob.
Based in London's free music scene, both John Butcher (tenor and soprano saxophone) and Phil Minton (voice) have their roots in jazz, but here we see them at their most experimental. Apples of Gomorrah collects 17 short improvisations, a culmination of the many years this duo has been working together. Minton, formerly a trumpeter, now performs using only his voice in a style all his own. He moans, whines, groans and wheezes throughout these pieces, shifting gears and coaxing some very unusual and unattractive sounds from his larynx without ever uttering an identifiable word. Butcher's saxophone might be described in similar terms, with moans, whines, groans and wheezes. For me, Butcher's contributions were the main draw of attention, Minton's vocalisations could sometimes become an awkward, even unwelcome presence in this music. Together, these two improvisers weave a strange web between themselves, sometimes in a noisy flurry of sound, at others in a more silent and restrained manner, often getting tangled in unlikely combinations but to their credit they keep things fresh by presenting their work in short pieces. Essentially, this means that there's always a change in direction right around the corner if you find yourself losing interest along the way.
Efzeg is a five-piece Vienna-based improv collective comprised of Billy Roisz (videomixer, feedback-cam), Boris Hauf (saxes, electronics), Burkhard Stangl (guitars, devices), Dieb 13 (turntables) and Martin Siewert (guitar, lapsteel, electronics). Boogie is the follow up to Grain, released two years ago on the Durian label. This new release is dedicated to John Lee Hooker (recently deceased); Efzeg regard their music as a kind of homage to his "eternal song." The four main tracks of the CD focus their attention on various tensions between sounds, with long, static-filled drones and loops, the occasional and isolated chords of acoustic guitar, shifting sine waves, distant tones of a sax, someone knocking on wood in the distance, a mesmerising loop of tuned, resonating metal, all creating a rich tapestry of captivating sound. These pieces succeed in drawing you in and enveloping the space around you, becoming an immediate presence in your listening space. An excellent release of some very compelling music. The CD also features a fifth track on an enhanced portion of the disc: an intriguing Quicktime movie by Billy Roisz titled "Pram," featuring abstract visual patterns and a soundtrack of mysterious, droning sound by the ensemble.
SSSD is yet another improvisation collective, and, like Efzeg, it is comprised of well known figures in the experimental improv scene: Martin Siewert, Burkhard Stangl, Taku Sugimoto and Werner Dafeldecker. Essentially, the group is a guitar ensemble, performing on acoustic and electric guitars, a 6-string bass, double bass and e-bass respectively, with only Sieward occasionally switching gears by performing on electronics. Their music is quiet, meditative and mellow, with more than a little shadow and melancholy for good measure; a beautiful, improvised chamber music for quiet evenings and sober mornings, when the world seems to stand still, and any motion is imbued with hitherto unimaginable significance. The seven pieces featured are a mix of shorter and longer works (anywhere from four to eleven minutes each), and each unveils its themes and ideas slowly, never shocking you with sudden movements, but captivating you all the while with surprising subtleties and combinations. The sounds, whether the strumming of an acoustic guitar or a droning of the e-bass, shimmer with intimacy and occupy an impressive dynamic range. It's a remarkable, bewitching work, and highly recommended. [Richard di Santo]
Enclosed in a disturbing sleeve featuring a strangely attractive, but wickedly deformed dummy, Peter Rehberg's latest is a melodic and rhythmic venture into the outer spaces of electronic sounds. Composed for the Grenoble dance troupe DACM, Showroom Dummies plays with the concepts of accessible audio while layering sounds that in other hands might just be a noise fest. The album opens with Rehberg layering some chime-like minimal beats that meander into smeared spots of microtones. What's here sounds like the beginning of a progressive house track, but quickly acquires some static backbeat and stays with a slower groove, highlighting the many levels of sound that his processing produces. From there we're taken through more ambient pieces resembling stripped down versions of Christian Fennesz's early work on Hotel Parallel or Mika Vainio's solo projects. At times Rehberg focuses on small events of glitch beats that fade away into panned ambient sinewaves and distant tones. Track 8, a collaboration with Marie-Caroline Hominal, features some strings played backwards and warped into a spliced drum beat. Track 10 moves with a repeating minimal sample somewhere between Mahler and Tony Conrad before 11 closes the album out with a dance number au primitif. In all, an interesting work from Peter Rehberg, aka Pita, and an excellent place to start if your looking to get into his work. [Andrew Jones]
Out of all the Mille Plateaux releases to spend time in my CD player, it is Mike Martinez's panoramic ambient album, Gradations, that has usurped control over my ears. This meandering collection of delicate beats mixed with a resonating chill-out vibe begs repeated listening, for it seems that at every fresh acoustic event there is a new sound to hear: the precise volume adjustments to the synths on "nightriders," the acoustic guitar and scratchy-squelches on "painted rooms," the jumping-pluckings and EQ envelopes on "astral traveling." Rarely has a 'post-ambient' album contained so many layers in such a simple package. Unfortunately, the latter is also the album's downfall, for often it becomes too easy to gloss over the intricate sounds that interweave the composition. This has perhaps more to do with the uniformitysome would say homogeneityof Martinez's sound palette, which at times speaks ambivalence rather than emotion or spatialised imagery. It is as if Martinez has stripped the sound of its overt emotional or topographical components and left the stuttering, repeated elements to intersect with the background washes and glitches in a soundscape that at times approaches a self-referentiality. The problem of the increasing self-referential nature of 'post-electronic' musicor whatever you want to call everything coming out right now that is glitched, clicked, and cut, often with acoustic sourcesis that it approaches an obscurity: it either only speaks to the connoisseur of the genre who can recognise the points of departure, or speaks only to the artist creating it. When a referential album is expanded to incorporate elements of pop culture, the referential circle breaks its loop-point; however, when it closes the cut too closely, it risks at one and the same time a new sound and yet a sound that also fails to resound within a listener's attention, requiring a deeply meditative space of listening, or indeed even pushing the work into the background of our listening experience.
This said, Gradations continually dances this line, and leaves me indeterminate as to its final moments. I believe this is a good thing. At the end of the album, in the long, minimal dub-techno jam "rian," which is reminiscent of a stripped and slowed Monolake, a deeper orchestration and repetition of sounds cull a quiet melancholy. Shards of scraping sounds move across the terrain; a meaningful piano maintains rhythmic momentum. It is a beautiful track and a fitting end to an album that can only be described as pushing ambient music into the clicked and glitched realm of the Mille Plateaux aesthetic. [Tobias c. van Veen]
One hundred and eleven albums from Mille Plateaux. Criticism aside that the German powerhouse of theory-labels puts out a little too much, Mille Plateaux has managed to release some of the most challenging and innovative material of the last decade that primarily defines itself somewhere within the beat-driven realms of electronic music. However much creditor criticismwe can heap on the label, the fact remains that there are a collection of talented artists who continue to plunder the archives and the world's genres of sound, often single-handedly reconfiguring the musical topography as a result.
Atom Heart, aka Atom, aka Señor Coconut, aka Geeez 'n' Gosh is one of these farmers of sound, transporting seeds from far off regions to grow the most strange of crops. He currently has a nice plot of fertile earth down in Santiago, Chile, after leaving Germany in the mid-90s. Geeez 'n' Gosh, in its first incarnation with the My Life With Jesus album released last year, was billed as giving rise to a whole new genre called click house. Taking snippets of gospel recordings and setting them to a clicked-and-funked stripped down beat, Atom took one thing, added it to another, and came up with something totally different. Atom has a knack for sampling and restructuring that furthers a new creation of not only sound, but structure. Whereas traditionally the sample resides within a frameworka vocal in deep house, a break in hip-hop Atom has allowed the sample to redefine the very soul of the structure itself. Nobody Knows is not a follow-up album to My Life With Jesus. Although it bears the same project name, and still uses gospel samples, its structure is radically different, diving into a deeper minimalism and eventually emerging out the other side to embrace broken beats and even drum 'n' bass. As Atom's performance at Mutek 2002 attests, the man is not afraid to double-time his drum machines and escape the 4/4 completely.
If you are not certain as to my opinion on the album, let me make it clear: it's excellent. [Tobias c. van Veen]
Martin Gendre has made a beautiful painting. There is a silhouette on the left, hands in pockets, a white, blurred face. There is an oversized heart on the right, different shades of pink, and little pink flowers surround the ensemble. Now, this is the cover of Margo's album, the catnap.
As I unfold it, I can read the titles of the songs, written in big capital letters, there are eleven songs. I like the number 11. The album has been written, composed and produced by Margo; it has been recorded "at home." There is also a thank you paragraph mentioning individuals and couples and I am surprised and delighted to see that the last couple, which occupies an entire line, is Jean Claude and Françoise, now those are my parents' names!
The Peter, I'm Flying! label is in Rennes, where I lived for about a year, but most importantly, it is situated at 25, av. du Canada and hey, this site was born in Canada. So I just thought I had to write something, because I like those little things, those imaginary connections, those sweet, inoffensive stories that one creates for him or herself they add some fun, some tenderness, some loveliness. And it seems that the people in Margo like them too. JF, Jerome, Antoine and Melanie draw their inspiration from their peaceful and ordinary everyday life, are influenced by The Cure and apparently like pretty much everything on Morr Music. They make simple, romantic electronic pop songs with guitars, keyboards, bass, other machines, a xylophone and the girl also sings. They themselves describe their airy, sentimental compositions as light, thoughtless, innocent music. I was even impressed by the third track "warm," by the melody of the voice, sometimes even by the music. And on other tracks too, I thought the music was quite nice. There must be glimpses of drama in their lives, even if they won't admit it. When performing live, Margo seeks to create a unique experience each time, by using video images, animations that are projected in the background, images of the clothes that they design. Fair enough, they are free to do as they wish, but they do seem to know how to harmonise, to connect content and visuals; for the entire album, like its cover, is sweet. And while I find that too much sweetness can be disheartening, some people can never get enough sugar, and anyway, my opinion isn't to be taken seriously; 'what do I know?'
There are good signs though, that Margo will evolve to prevent tooth decay, as they are remixing Mils on the second Goom compilation. And Mils sounds just fine, I think it's very good. [Emmanuelle Dauplay]
Motion is one Chris Coode, a sound artist based (I think) in Kingston, UK. Dust is his second full length, after his debut Pictures, released last year, and a split 12" on Fat Cat with Matmos released the year before. Here he presents eleven short tracks of granular, abstract, and occasionally rhythmic snapshots of 'lowercase' sound. So by now, we probably all know what this means: the snap-crackle-pop of static sounds and electronic glitches, sine tones and cold, digital atmospheres, looped or arranged in random patterns or non-patterns. Motion keeps things comparatively restrained and subdued throughout these tracks, never giving way to excessive noise or strong beats, preferring instead to let his small sounds do the work, creating a series of moods for everyday listening. I've listened to this CD a number of times over the past few weeks, and I still can't help but feel that something is missing. Many of these tracks are nice enough, and certainly well produced, but I also find the arrangements, and the sounds that constitute them, to be largely unimaginative, lacking any real pull for my ears, my attention, or my imagination. It might just be best to say that this music is pleasant, but not demanding; nice, but on the whole, not very interesting. Light ambience for days when all you want to do is ignore the sounds around you. [Richard di Santo]
About Breathing is the result of a collaboration between Robin Storey (of Rapoon and :zoviet*france:) and Victor Nubla (of Macromassa) that took place in Canfestis in Northern Spain. They gathered some sounds from the location (field recordings, ambience, shortwave radio, etc.), manipulated and processed these sounds into new structures to use as sample loops and phrases, then used this new material as the basis for a live recording session. The result is an intoxicating and difficult journey into experimental dark ambient territories. The thick, opaque ambience and densely layered loops weigh heavily on the listening space; they fill every crack in the walls, they usurp every breath of air, and if you close your eyes, you might fall asleep, being lulled and rocked by the cadence of the loops which is impossible to ignore, and slip into this otherworld of surreal sound and strange nightmares. And yet these loops are often imperfect, interrupted, disrupted by sharp edits or hiccups in time, a change in direction, a new set of sounds, ideas, visions. The CD features seven tracks in all with a total run time of just over 66 minutes, and in the centre of it all lies the fourth piece titled "Exhalation of Stars": over twenty minutes in length and the probably strongest piece in the collection, with its continually evolving palette and distinctive sound. Recommended for those looking for a portal, a temporary escape into a dark, complex and immensely imaginative terrain. [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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