2 August 2002
MENS & BLONK: Brombron 05: Bek
Here are two new instalments in Staalplaat's continuing Brombron series, created in partnership with Extrapool, an arts initiative in Nijmegen, the Netherlands. Two or more musicians are invited to take up a residency at Extrapool, and, given full use of their recording studio and a limited span of time, they come out with a new work ready for the presses. Previous instalments have included releases by Main and Antenna Farm and by Stephan Mathieu and Ekkehard Ehlers.
In order to create the Unspoken World Tour, Heimir Björgúlfsson (ex-Stilluppsteypa) teamed up with Jonas Ohlsson, from Iceland and Sweden respectively, bringing their distinctive sounds to the Brombron project. They resurfaced from their residency with a surprisingly rhythmic collection of 23 short tracks with a strong analogue element dominating the soundspace. The music presented here feels like a series of well-conceived sketches, with empty spaces to be filled in at some later time, perhaps. But these empty spaces are what give this music its best qualities, its unfinished quality is what keeps me returning to this music as something in between the challenging and the conventional which can be enjoyed on different levels, which adapts itself to different moods. Nicely done.
Micro-minimal-techno artist Radboud Mens joins up with vocal artist Jaap Blonk for their release, titled Bek. As this word is Dutch for 'mouth,' it seems only natural that all the sound sources used in these recordings derived from Jaap Blonk's voice. Blonk mimics techno rhythms and sounds with astounding accuracy. I can only assume that Mens, with his admirable ability to create meticulously structured rhythms, then structured the sound sources into the tracks presented here. The result is a wonderfully upbeat handful of light, mechanical yet organic sounding techno tunes (exploring techno, drum'n'bass, minimal techno and gabber rhythms), with a host of strange, quirky sounds filling in all the details. The disc is short (presenting five tracks in under 25 minutes) but it's a strong, distinctive release. You've likely never heard anything quite like this before. [Richard di Santo]
Based in Halifax, Canada, Andrew Duke has been increasingly active composing, spinning and performing his continuously evolving electronic music since the late 80s. Sprung marks his first departure from his own Cognition Audioworks label, and will perhaps be the release that catapults him into a more international arena. And right it should. Featuring a collection of rhythmically driven tracks, densely layered and rich with darker details, odd textures and strange sounds (frogs, insects, you name it!), the album looks both forward to a dark, glitch-infused electro-fusion aesthetic and backward to an early techno flavour which is occasionally thrown into the mix. It's a unique concoction, and it's nice to hear some techno that sounds better on my household hi-fi than in a club. Still, the album has its pitfalls, since each of the tracks delivers a strong, driving, densely constructed rhythm, having eleven of such tracks in one release seems to overstate things a little, and can be a little heavy to listen to from start to finish. I might have enjoyed this CD more if it had some breaks peppered throughout, something to balance out the driving force of the music. Otherwise, Sprung is an excellent introduction to a rising figure in electronic music. [Richard di Santo]
Jazzkammer is the Norwegian duo John Hegre and Lasse Marhaug, who have been busy making a name for themselves in the improv noise scene in Norway and beyond. Here they present a single, 20 minute piece recorded live in Tokyo in November 2001. With its title and pretty cover image of lush trees by the water, you might expect some sweet sounds and pleasing melodies from this release, but not so. From its opening moments, it's clear that this is going to be a rough ride full of noise, electronics and feedback. Hegre performs on computers, guitar and electronics (we are told that his hands bled on his guitar during this performance), while Marhaug performs on minidisc and computer (no bleeding here, computers can be so friendly that way). The piece offers a dynamic, shifting soundspace, moving from one theme or set of sounds to another, alternating between extreme and not-so-extreme noise, but the fact that there's a lot going on beneath the walls of feedback saves this release from becoming 'just another noise record.' Jazzkammer know how to make a noise track that sounds decidedly musical, that can almost be pleasant to the ears. At least, I think they have done so here. This piece certainly captured my interest, it inspired me to lean in close to its sounds, and while there I found some interesting details to wonder about. I'll be honest here and say that I'm not sure how often I'll return to it, but for the past few days, this short little disc has been good company. [Richard di Santo]
WARMDESK: The Pride of the South Side, Live @ WHPK
After the critical success of their Invalid Object Series, Fällt has inaugurated the Live Series, documenting short releases of new electronic music recorded live at various venues and locations across the world. The new series is being pressed on AB-CDs, which are full-size but short-length (30 minutes or so), and have a transparent ring around the edge. Fällt adds something new (and a little disorienting!) to the aesthetic by printing the release details in reverse along the transparent edge, so that the disc appears double-sided.
The first release in the series features a live set by Stephan Mathieu, performed live at A-Musik in Cologne two summers ago. There are two tracks here, the first is the main piece (20 minutes in length), and the second, shorter piece seems more like an epilogue, or an afterthought. Performing live, Mathieu is certainly in his element; he has the wonderful ability to capture and captivate the attention of his audience by creating engaging, slowly evolving arrangements. Much to their delight, audiences were treated to two excellent performances by Mathieu at this year's Mutek festival in Montréal, but this is another matter altogether. The main piece featured here, titled "Gigue," begins with sparse, minimal elements, digital clicks and static textures becoming ever more rich and detailed as the minutes pass. Before I know it, I am surprised to find myself submerged in a bath of densely layered atmospheres, static and noise. I wonder how I got there, how Mathieu could have taken me to this place so unsuspectingly, how he could have made such an intricate structure out of only a few elements, how I could let myself be so surprised. But herein lies the beauty of this work, its ability to surprise its listener.
The second instalment is by Warmdesk, Chicago based artist William Selman. His music is much more rhythmically driven, and picks up the pace with a steady progression of digital sounds and delay effects (all the elements of click-house, click-dub, click-hop, etc. etc.), and touches of found sounds from around the house thrown in for good measure. The disc features two 15 minute tracks connected by some common rhythmic themes. The music is both well-constructed and refreshing, a nice mix of elements and an impressive attention to detail, a strong, burgeoning rhythm... in all, it's nothing very serious, no statements are being made here; Selman is happy to simply present some light, rhythmic and intelligent electronic music for our enjoyment, and I, for one, am happy to receive it. Nice work. [Richard di Santo]
The sixth instalment in Piehead's series of limited edition CDRs is by two brothers, Christian and Roland, who record as Multiplex. British natives, they now collaborate across continents: Christian is now in Toronto and Roland has remained in the UK. Together they make IDM inspired music filled with crunchy beats, smooth atmospheres, cute melodies, analogue bubbles and plenty of synths, both analogue and digital. If this description sounds familiar, then doubtless you've heard music like this before. The music is nicely structured, upbeat and sometimes a little charming, with a distinct retro feel, but it seems I've travelled down this path a few times before (Warp or Rephlex catalogues would be obvious reference points). This release is comprised of half original tracks, half remixes, featuring mixes by the likes of ISDS, Spark, Ob, Guy James and the Blameshifter. Each mixer adds his, her or their own flavour to the Multiplex sound, yet still maintaining the status quo, give or take an anomalous bleep, buzz or beat appearing in the mix. On the whole, it's an ok record, good for a lazy Sunday afternoon, but not much by way of being new or notable. [Richard di Santo]
The innovative Austrian label Durian presents a new joint project by Barbara Romen and Gunter Schneider. Both established composers and performers, they have been collaborating for more than ten years, focusing their attention on uncovering the possibilities inherent in the guitar, and adding a few new twists and turns along the way.
In the first piece featured here, "Salut Für Caudwell," composed by Helmut Lachenmann in 1977 and divided into four parts, they perform on acoustic guitars and voice. Both playful and meticulously structured, the piece is an alluring exercise in the refusal to adhere to the musical practice normally associated with the guitar. As Lachenmann himself describes, his intention is not only "to penetrate this typical sound world with my compositional means, but also to be penetrated by it myself." Throughout the piece, the notes are plucked sharply, most often muted so as to cut off any resonance, and this sharpness, the styles and notational language that allow the two performers to interact with each other, are what constitute the work's most alluring qualities. Not understanding very much German (my pocket phrasebook can only decode so much!), I feel like I'm missing out on something during the spoken sections. The words take on a certain abstract quality, sounds divorced from their meanings. The words are spoken in curt, broken voices, so this may very well have been the intention anyway.
The second piece is an original composition by Romen and Schneider for 13 prepared guitar instruments. Performed live, it's a 30-minute piece presented without any overdubs or editing. The title "Disordered Systems" is perfect for the piece; it implies the dichotomies of order and disorder, organisation and disorganisation. One might imagine that the piece grew out of improvisation, or vice versa, starting with a few themes, notes, sketches, which were then drawn out, intensified or left alone, through a single live improv session. Either way, it's an intriguing piece, filled with tensions, shadowy moods and unusual sounds. The guitar preparations, which involved fixing metal bars and knitting needles of different sizes between the strings of each instrument, must have been splendid to watch in operation. This piece, like "Salut Für Caudwell" before it, is challenging and intense, so be prepared for a difficult and rewarding journey. [Richard di Santo]
Wilt is one James P. Keeler, whose reputation and renown might not be
as widespread as these press notes might indicate, but who nevertheless
busies himself by making experimental dark ambient music. White
Chrysalis in Blue is certainly dark ambient at its most creeping
and sinister, and the music here is very well done, with an emphasis on
low end drones and submerged sounds. Taken independently, each track is
like a growing shadow that first appears in the corner and then begins
to cloak the entire room. But taken together, I can't help but feel that
there's a lack of diversity here; after listening for a while (there's
nearly an hour's worth of music here), my ears and my head would grow
tired of the same low-end rumblings, submerged sounds and sparse, open-ended
drones. Perhaps this would have been solved by releasing this music as
a short series of 7" records (the Drone Records catalogue, for one,
is a perfect example of how to present short yet very strong releases),
but as it stands there's too much sound here and not enough substance
to keep the listener completely interested throughout. But let's keep
our eyes and ears open for future works by Wilt.
Recycling Buzz is a joint release by Amanita Records, a small label based in Biarritz, France, and Idoia, a design company based in London. It features contributions from Formatt, Retina.it, Un caddie renversé dans l'herbe, Colongib, Forestopper, Eardrum, Alejandra and Aeron, Act, Voodoo Muzak and Idoia. The collection falls largely within the digital glitch zone of electronic music, and often with very mellow, spacious arrangements, downtempo, ambient, abstract, impressive. Occasional forays into other territories round things off: post-rock breaks and choral madness (via the impressive track titled "a blotch" by Act) and avant-jazz terrain ("suffer," by Eardrum) give a refreshing measure of diversity to the collection. Eardrum's track is a frantic and energetic piece, with a growing intensity of percussion and sax. Colongib's "pair up and board" sounds a little too close to our from Sonig, but otherwise nicely done. Alejandra and Aeron from Lucky Kitchen contribute a short piece of quiet, unobtrusive yet compelling ambience. Sad strings and a smart and minimal digital rhythm make Forestopper's "ver.di" another nice feature of the disc. Formatt, aka Peter Smeekens, gives us two impressive tracks of subtle, laid-back digital textures and found sounds. The disc also features an enhanced portion that includes a Quicktime movie by Christopher Graves and an interactive 3D sound module by Idoia. The movie was filmed at some metal scrapyard that seems more like a sombre graveyard, with strange metallic shapes and objects lying still and abandoned in a wooded area, or towering high in the sky. The soundtrack (by Colongib, also featured as track 4 on the disc) was composed of metal sounds from the same location. In all, it's a strong, varied collection filled with unique sounds and interesting ideas. [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 Incursion.org and the author when quoting from any content on this site.