16 September 2002
Joe Colley is better known for his numerous recordings as Crawl Unit (on Ground Fault, ERS, Mego, C.I.P. and many, many others). The first release to appear under his own name, Anthem is a single piece, mixed "by hand" (without computers), using both acoustic and electronic sound sources as its basic material. The piece, just under 19 minutes in length, moves forward on a similar path Colley has been following with his other projects, but not without its own surprises. Drones, noise and more drones. Composed as a series of 'scenes' with an undeniably acute attention to detail, the piece operates on its own logic. Beginning with quiet drones, the hum of static, amplified white noise, the final 'scene' presents a jolting collection of noises and abrasive sounds. It's a compelling work, and one that keeps you guessing, keeps you interested, even after you've listened to its cycle more than a few times. Nice work. [Richard di Santo]
Here's a disc I don't know quite what to make of. Featured on the cover is a chalk drawing of a disgruntled yet content image of (are you ready for this?) David Lee Roth. Van Halen seems to be the object of attention for the entire disc (which runs about 25 minutes in total). Hecker has a comparable sound to Fennesz, and he seems to treat his source material in a similar fashion. Guitar chords appear and disappear, and are treated with the same volatile keenness as Fennesz utilises in his mixes. The differences lie in the source material: Hecker uses the plunderphonic approach, by borrowing sounds from existing musical recordings and adding interview snippets, concert banter and other found sounds. The end result is a unique mix of wavering sonic strata treated with a third-party rock star mentality. I can't say I was fully hooked on the premise from the start, and though some pleasing musical moments do occur, I remain indifferent to the finished production. Perhaps I was looking for a higher dose of humour in the music; track titles like "sammy loves eddie hates david" hint at the absurdity of the subject matter, but more could have been introduced into the music itself. Something of a disappointment, even though I didn't know quite what to expect from the outset. [Vils M DiSanto]
Here's a release that digs deep into David Jackman's past. Back in the eighties Jackman (best known for his work under the guise of Organum) released a number of cassettes that have either slipped into obscurity or oblivion. This 10 inch record from Die Stadt resurrects two tracks from this early period. The title track, composed in 1980 and released in 1982 on Aeroplane records, is a collaboration with Philip Sanderson. Just over six minutes in length, the piece features a sound more or less typical of this period of Jackson's work: rattling noises and tape loops shift unevenly on the surface of a deep, underlying drone. The B side features a solo track by Jackman from 1981, originally released on Snatch Tapes that same year. Just under four minutes in length, the piece features layers of synchronised tape loops much more prominently, the repetitions creating a cloudy, dark, and bewitching atmosphere. As impressive today as twenty years ago, this release is not to be missed. [Richard di Santo]
Since the early (and influential) experiments of THU20, Roel Meelkop has been busy exploring his ideas about sound construction and composition, be it through his solo works (released on Staalplaat, Trente Oiseaux, etc.), sound installations or through various collaborations (Goem, Kapotte Muziek, etc.). His latest solo work, (To Be Announced) is a single piece about 45 minutes in length. The piece unfolds slowly, but is marked by a series of incongruous interruptions, contrasts, unexpected 'events'. Meelkop is a master at combining seemingly dissonant elements; he starts you on a journey which at first seems cold and uneven, but before you realise it you are completely wrapped in its overwhelming complexity. Using a combination of electronic and acoustic elements, Meelkop's sound is both lowercase and electroacoustic, moving from silences and near silences to sudden bursts of sound, from shrill high notes to stunning bass tones, yet always arranged with the most subtle attention to detail. It's good to listen to this release a number of times, first on your loudspeakers, then with your headphones, so you can discover details otherwise hidden. Recommended. [Richard di Santo]
Monos is a collaboration between Darren Tate and Colin Potter. Darren Tate is probably best known for his work with Andrew Chalk as ORA (see our review of Aureum, an excellent 2LP release on Streamline). Colin Potter, besides releasing solo work on his own IC label, has collaborated with Steven Stapleton, Current 93 and Jonathan Coleclough on various releases. On Nightfall Sunshine, these two sound explorers present five tracks with a basis in field recording. Each track opens of generous length and opens a vast soundscape, sometimes dark and desolate, at others shimmering with light and beauty, but always unfolding itself slowly and with deliberate movements. Deep drones, mesmerising tremolos, the crackling of fire, the whistling of birds... this music consists of layers of sound that are woven into a delicate fabric, and each one finds a way of wrapping around its listener like a shroud. Only with the final track, "Sunshine," do they lift this shroud in favour of lighter sounds inspired by the dawn. This is a truly compelling work that has found its way back on my player in recent weeks. Recommended. [Richard di Santo]
Based in Pescara, Italy, Emanuela De Angelis and Andrea Gabriele are mou, lips!, and this is their debut EP. Emanuela has worked with the group Joyce Whore Not and also as a guest with tu m', and here performs on voice, computer, guitar and objects. Andrea was one third of tu m' before leaving the group recently, and here performs on laptop, turntable, sounding table, guitar, double bass and objects. Together, they make music at times light and playful (I have no doubt some of these tracks would feel right at home on a Sonig compilation), at others chilling and austere. But always, throughout these six tracks, there's a sense of adventure, of embarking on exploring new sounds and interesting combinations, taking the glitch aesthetic as a basis and making something quite compelling with it. Occasionally the crackles and pops are accompanied by a voice (and yet even this voice quickly becomes processed and consumed by the glitches), and more often by other electronic interruptions and sounds both concrete and synthetic. Usually the tracks are not driven by rhythm, but by tone and atmosphere; although there are rhythms all over the place here, mostly in the form of minimal or playful loops, crackling sounds and half-melodies trying to make it into the foreground. A small taste of possibly great things to come. Check it out. [Richard di Santo]
For three days in January of 2002, the four members of Polwechsel were joined by Christian Fennesz for a series of recording sessions. Wrapped Islands is, of course, the result of these sessions. Polwechsel is a quartet based in Vienna which, since it was founded in 1993 by Michael Moser and Werner Dafeldecker, has been exploring the boundaries of electronic and acoustic experimentation, moving freely between improvisation and composition (see our review of Polwechsel 3), creating some intense, provocative results. Fennesz might not need much introduction here, but let it suffice to say that he is best known for his solo works on Touch and Mego, and for his continuing collaborations with the electronic ensemble MIMEO and the trio Fennoberg. Here he performs on acoustic guitar and computer. Polwechsel's members take on the following roles: John Butcher (sax, feedback tenor), Werner Dafeldecker (double bass, computer, acoustic guitar), Michael Moser (cello, computer) and Burkhard Stangl (guitars, electronics). The pieces presented here, titled as a series of 'framings,' are pure improvisations and reveal a remarkable wealth of ideas. Framing 3 is probably the track that stands out for me as the most exceptional, featuring a deep, grinding drone and a stark arrangement of surface sounds (guitar, sax, electronics) in the foreground (that drone also returns in Framing 5). Occasionally, as in Framing 6 and 8, close playing on acoustic guitar figure prominently, in turns gentle and hard, figure prominently, or, as in Framing 4, digital glitches and sharp tones take a leading role. The final piece is also the shortest, but is remarkable for the way the entire piece seems consumed, flanked by elastic glitches warping the soundfield. I could go on to describe a multitude of extraordinary moments, sounds, arrangements, subtleties, but at this point it's all in vain; this record must truly be experienced. What is there left to say, then, but that this release comes highly recommended. [Richard di Santo]
Two tracks from Asmus Tietchens recorded during the same sessions that produced a-Menge and b-Menge released on Ritornell last year. Thus situated, the temptation would be to make comparisons with the pieces found on these albums, but these two pieces, titled "Tot 5" and "Tot 3" respectively, are in a world of their own. The first piece features dense clusters of clicks, pops and synth tones, and, though we're dealing with 'rhythm' in some sense of the term, the track has a more abstract feel to it. A short burst of feedback interrupts the piece briefly, signalling a shift in gears as the sound clusters rebuild themselves. The second piece is more conventionally rhythmic, and certainly more minimal than the first, comprised of a series of loops (again, clicks, pops and short tones), but with a more stripped down approach. Tietchens is an artist that certainly keeps you guessing, as his recent switch to the laptop demonstrates, but with each shift, idea, concept or process, he has shown himself to be consistently on top of things, creating original, challenging works at every turn. This short release is no exception, and comes highly recommended. [Richard di Santo]
Wäldchengarten a collaboration between two Danish guys, Lars and Dennis, making industrial ambient in its more abrasive and challenging form. Their music is largely characterised by the roar of guitar drones, machines, reverberations of noises in the distance, harsh, abrasive noises up close, hypnotising loops, an isolated melody for acoustic guitar and all the gloom of the industrial cum post-industrial sensibility. Occasionally rhythmic, most of the tracks take on more abstract structures full of atmospheres, drones and shifting guitar textures. Featuring nine tracks of varying length (from 1 to 7 minutes and anywhere in between), the album explores some interesting ideas and enjoys a few moments where these ideas really shine through, creating some truly excellent work. Where this isn't consistently the case (for occasionally the tracks seem to get lost in their own noise and gloom aesthetic and lose their focus), on the whole it's a release perfectly suited for those with an industrial leaning. Nice work. [Richard di Santo]
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