23 December 2002
There's already a chill in the air. Tonight, alone in these rooms, I have become serious, pensive and sober, filled with thoughts of the days and nights to follow, of the changes in store for me, lying just around the corner from the here and now. In these moments, three new compositions by John Luther Adams take up a new space in my home, and slowly sink into my mind as a gentle snowfall slowly covers the ground with its whiteness. Time hangs still with this music. A mesmerising vibraphone sings minimally, harmonically over a droning keyboard and bass clarinet, a double bass adds even more depth, along with a piano, violin and marimba. Adams makes his home in Alaska, a long way from the streets of Toronto where I wander from day to day. But not such a long way, it seems, because the temperatures, the snow and the wind are all here, just outside these windows, just outside this door. I can't help but wonder if these impressions would be any different if, given the same pieces of music, he lived instead in sunny California, or if the cover photograph was one of a warm beach or a hot, dry desert. The music appears as being both simple and complex, when one looks at the overall movement, the arch of the pieces, or of the three pieces taken together, one sees Adams painting in broad strokes, in slow, evolving gestures of expression. The instrumental shifts in the foreground become almost consumed by the deep ambience from the keyboard and other bass intonations, like a sea of cold creeping up from the background. The movements are natural, graceful. And my evening has become defined now by two elements, my thoughts from earlier, a quiet meditation, and this music, casting an enchanting spell on my intellect and imagination. [Richard di Santo]
Ridiculously limited to 100 copies, and paired with an exquisite minimal lithograph by Simon Starling in an on-going artist edition from the Bottrop Boy label (familiar to those enamored with Ekkehard Ehlers "Plays" series). This is yet another singular installment of Ambarchi's off-the-cuff and oft brilliant "Stacte" series. Two different takes on the concept of minimalism and drone. From inception, stacte.4 shimmers and slides like long, intense strips of reflected sunlight on metallic siding, burning into the retinas and leaving long, streaked spectrums of tracers behind. Each sound strip blends into the others until the composite is wholly of the mind, hovering and flickering without weight, the colors mashed together into a white noise whole. This is a powerful side of electronic drone proving that Ambarchi's rightful place is alongside artists like Phill Niblock, Charlemagne Palestine, and Tony Conrad. The B-side is more distilled, the notes spaciously picked at and twinkling like stars in the unfathomable vacuum of the night sky. There are no traceable constellations or trajectories at first, but as you slowly drift towards their radiance, the distant stars begin to waver and distort. It is then that you realize they are but celestial bodies reflected on a dark, deep pool, with raindrop ripples playing at the surface in small pops and hiccups. Reflections of the guitar are mirrored on either side, each with their own visual effect. Worth seeing, even at the gallery price. [Andy Beta]
With its ten tracks of rarities and exclusive material, listening to A Touch of Brimstone is a lot like travelling through time, only non-linear, scattered, a time defined by sound, and not necessarily moving forwards (ok, so maybe it's not like travelling through time at all, but alas, the comparison has already been made, so we'll just have to keep quiet and see where it goes), especially for those who, like me, have been listening to Beequeen through the years, ever attentive, fascinated, impressed. And now we have this new CD, compiled for the curious, to fill in the holes of lost time, to confirm to us the creativities and innovations that have marked the inspiring history of this partnership, packaged with pictures from the past, from the present, and words, words of elucidation, observations, impressions, readings of their work. And these ten tracks take me through drones, austere spaces, frequencies high and low, a brief narration, echoes and lost sounds funnelling through the woodwork and into my imagination. Beequeen's music has always been driven by the desire to find new techniques and structures, to keep the fire of inspiration alive and changing, adapting, overturning stones and uncovering new ones...
Beequeen is Frans de Waard and Freek Kinkelaar. For those unfamiliar with their work, this disc is a perfect place to start. [Richard di Santo]
Ivan Pavlov has definitely been prolific this year (not including his Mask of Birth reissue), but this is a most prodigious undertaking, even by his standards. Four sides of vinyl corresponding to paintings and compositions recorded with each season, this is a yearlong cyclic labour of love for both artist and label. Summer's selection is akin to Fernando Grillo and Aphex Twin making taffy out of violin strings, with an almost Morricone-like sense of dramatics pulling from every direction, the sounds collapsing far over the horizon. Built out of a field recording from Coil member Peter Christopherson, the autumn side is more meditative, with the solemn sound of rain ebbing into sustained piano hits. The austerity and purity of each note conjures up the image of Giacinto Scelsi on a meditative walk, perhaps upon a frozen lake, his footsteps breaking through to the wetness beneath, the sounds trickling together. Come winter, there is a static covering of ominous buzz with cello bow strikes that grows ever louder, leading into the closer for Spring. Built from a peculiar arpeggiation and acidic glitching, the strewn seeds of the guitar become more prominent in all its string-scratched fury. The record peaks in these final moments of violent bloom, as the sounds that slowly died for three sides emerge in an overwhelming inchoate purge of feedback roar and extreme frequency bursts. Gone are the beats and electronic intricacies of this year's work, as organic metamorphoses and truly acoustic phenomena become his focus over the course of these two discs. Short (and limited to only 400 copies worldwide), but a rewarding listen for those who thought they knew what to expect from COH, the Idea label, and the upcoming wintry season. [Andy Beta]
Rises up like the morning bell of a cold sun, mid-ring, shimmering in a smog-thick sky, with menacing string sections rubbing at the edges of its heavenly shape. The light is almost a ghost, barely present through the haze, that globe almost indiscernible. Neither rising nor setting, the piece just is this immovable whole that hovers and simmers. Comprised of a single, captured shortwave transmission, this is a hypnotic, airborne entity, barely processed by John Duncan. Compared to the act of automatic writing, this is a spontaneous recording, a singular moment in the ether, elucidated here in such a way so as to make like the sun, and at the same time, like a similarly shaped hole that emits such radiation through. Spherical object or spatial rupture? Regardless, its plasma quivers with the divine. [Andy Beta]
Clean is a very relative term. My apartment is clean. My friend says his apartment is also clean, and yet I find it to be filthy, with dust in the corners, crumbs on the floor and stains on the carpets. So what, then, is clean, and why are our opinions on the subject so vastly different? Does my friend really think that his place is clean, or is he fooling himself? Or are my standards perhaps too high? When transposed to minimalist aesthetics and sound composition, the term seems to take on yet another meaning. Is it a high frequency or a low one? does it exist within the chromatic scale or is it something more abstract that lies perhaps just outside it? A sharp, close sound or one submerged in echoes? Turns out it's all of these things and more. Duul_drv, a project of S. Arden Hill from Canada, presents three expressions of the term we have been discussing here. Nibo from Japan follows with another three, and Vend, the duo of Alex Peverett and Joe Gilmore from the UK, present five of their own. And it's a very clean affair indeed. Yet what project on Line would not be called an expression of clean? Minimalism embodies what is clean, and Line embraces minimalism with each of its releases. The dust- and dirt-free digital sound environments presented here are each very different from the others, and present the sort of sounds you might expect from such a genre, from such a label, or from such artists, whom you may have heard of before. But within the expected there lies something new, hidden just beneath the surface, and once found, the clicks, crackles, pops and frequencies create something more than the sum of its parts. As with my and my friend's apartments, opinions may very, definitions may fail us, and yet it doesn't stop us from using these terms to describe the things around us. Or, in the case of this release, using the term as a springboard for original expressions in sound. [Richard di Santo]
Some time ago (perhaps one year ago, perhaps five, perhaps twenty), Johannes Heldén travelled from Sweden to Russia, via Norway. Along the way, he took a number of photographs and made a series of recordings to document his journey. The photographs (seventeen of which are featured on this disc, accessible via your home computer) are sometimes inspired, sometimes incidental, but each one captures the distinct moods of the landscape. The sound compositions, on the other hand, are complete reconstructions, seven 'sketches' of very compelling sound material. Listened to at a low volume, the sounds are barely perceptible, making only faint impressions on the listening space, suggestions of ideas. Raise the volume, or listen in your headphones, and you'll discover something entirely different, much more engaging and immediate, impossible to ignore. From long drones to short and gentle loops crackling softly from left to right; from the sounds of the water under the keel of a large boat to the silences of a hilltop; a voice pleading for a response; a sound of what is desolate and lonely; a heartbeat... these are the carefully structured sounds of Heldén's voyage. It is a voyage out of place and time, incongruous, beautiful, and wholly original. [Richard di Santo]
The two tracks on this 7-inch were recorded specially for a concert release in September 2002, when Dan Burke, aka Illusion of Safety, and Thomas Köner performed at the Lagerhaus in Bremen. On the first site, "Heartmath" by IOS is a shock of noise and found sounds, a constantly shifting, mutating collage of voices, noises and atmospheres, a much needed jolt in my listening experiences for the day. Thomas Köner's "Intro/Col de Vence" certainly recalls his excellent full-length Unerforschtes Gebiet released last year on the same label. Icy atmospheres, the impressions of a desolate, desperate arctic voyage creep up in my mind as I'm listening, and even now as I am recalling these impressions. These two tracks are quite short (the total run time is a mere 11 minutes), but the format coupled with their exclusivity encourages me to pay close attention, to emphasise the impressions of listening over these few minutes, to dive even deeper into these sounds and nightmares. That makes for eleven minutes of unforgettable sound, these thoughts most vivid in my mind. [Richard di Santo]
Readers intimate with side three of Yoko Ono's Fly
record from 1971 no doubt made themselves familiar (either for further
inquiry or vehement avoidance) with the name of Joe Jones, as that was
the widest public exposure for his Tone Deaf Music Co. (the storefront
name for his self-playing music machines). On tracks like "Airmale,"
"Don't Count the Waves," and "You," Jones' contraptions
created incongruently rhythmic cataractous washes as Yoko called and cried
atop their cacophony. But aside from that quick glimpse into his pendulous
mechanisms, his work with these contrivances has been hard to come across.
All I know of these mysterious apparatuses is that the impetus of these
music machines is usually a motor of some sort, although the alternative
energies of solar and wind power have come into "play" as well
with the devices. Human participation is at a minimum. Aside from physical
assembly, there is only the subtle act of turning the machine on or off;
the contraptions perform the rest.
Straight from the Dirty Department: Massimo's first full length is an explicit noisy takeover of all convention, right down to the cover. This cover features a cartoon-girlwhose style is somewhere between Italo-Disco font lettering and Japanime hentai-girlmasturbating with a banana while she pisses golden globule drops. The press release is just as dirty, where in poor English a dialogue breaks out between apparently the same girl (Massimo's fantasy-girl?) and Massimo. She gives head to his new "full-length" release. Now Tim Hecker is a nasty boy and secret punk-academic, and Joshua Kit Clayton is a little perverted, but Massimo is poised to directly piss off intellectualizing avant-sound listeners everywhere who still have some shred of feminist discourse that rages up when encountered with male bullshit. This male bullshit, however, is at least self-deprecating, and that's obviously the gesture "at hand" here (over and over, up and down). ("He watched her beautiful face bobbing up and down on the pristine digital surface. He hadn't seen that in so long. God, how he missed it." Yes, this is a Mego press release).
And I can barely say anything about the album anyways. I'm already duct-taped and spread-eagled by Massimo, who tells me: "My 'sound.' I don't know what to call it but I fucking know what not to call it. So please stop using the terms 'power electronics,' 'laptop punk,' 'glitch and cuts' or 'post-microsound stew.'" Massimo is right, of course. He's a laptop stew of power glitch, a post-cut powerpunk of micro- electronics that enjoys scat for breakfast and girl-piss for lunch. Or, he's in it for the glitchpower of the post-top lapstew straight from the micronics electropunksound. We might even say that he's cut his microtop down to the postsound stew of his lap.
Whatever. He's noisy and rude, unforgiving in all respects, and has a hairy moustache. Play at loud volume. [Tobias c. van Veen]
This came in with a cold front, complimenting the grey and crystalline winds that roared down the black streets. Sine waves shattered into microscopic fragments, falling through the cracks of the clear plastic of the bus kiosk as darkness descended. These little wave shards, broken into their smallest curvatures, fluttered through to my legs and numbed my ears, the body cold in-between. I watch the brief snow static and brittle leaf slivers suspended in the night air. Coming to the mid-point of the disc, my own shivering incisors could be heard over the din, as the wind grew and swept at the empty midnight, symphonic in its invisibility and jagged debris. While never reaching freezing temperatures, the storm seemed content to hover above, dissolving into trash crackles and other small objects at the peripheral. The buses veer past on the street, stirring it all up for the storm's finale. Deceptively minimal and dark with short-wave damage of a most frigid sort. [Andy Beta]
As you sit down for dinner, the host opens his dinner jacket to reveal quaint pink innards spilling from his recent operation. The cut was performed on the tableyou saw the footage earlier, where his wife played the nurse with the 14-inch butcher knife. You admired her nurse outfit and the long legs with white lace boots... your mind drifts to that lonely day on the beach reading Sacher-Masoch. But you have little time for such reflections, for every guest is now expected to reveal their instruments of aural torture and to engage in a whipping frenzy. Flagellation of the stomach, of the mouth, and of the earswhip the ears, yes... yes... especially the earsthis is dinner music on an empty stomach: first course. Your ears are tender from the caressing. The flesh flies from the body and is lumped on the table, where it is evenly parcelled onto the plates for the buffet. You enjoy this.
Later, the host is speaking to you of the Fetus of Envy. You don't notice, as he whispers in your ear with a tongue of tapeloop track, that he has dropped a horse pill feud of madness into your second helping from empty stomach dinneryour stomach empty, of course, as it is now in the bodies of every other guest, and the host, who squeals in delight as the food passes through his gaping mouth to the oesophagus, and then litters itself out the slashed gap where the digestive entrails once were.
The next morning, waking up in the bowels of the ghost ship, ripped fabrics swaying from the interminable poker game, gold everywhere but not a drop to thinkdawn seeps as darkness through the noise of reality. Lethargy demands the glinted order of the day, even for the Baron.
This is the failure of Munchausen's Feast. [Tobias c. van Veen]
An interesting concept lies behind this release, where three artists create with a common style of music in mind, a style that each is not necessarily known for producing. The three artists featured here are Atom, Small Rocks and The Rip Off Artist (a.k.a. Matt Haines, who has released this disc on his newly-created Inflatabl Labl). Each artist contributes four tracks, and they are presented randomly on the disc. Small Rocks gets things underway in a disappointing, low-key fashion. I would have expected a more dramatic opening number, and I definitely expected more "dub" than is offered here. The production is good, and is in line with recent output from the likes of Tennis and si-cut.db, but the groove is definitely what is missing. Things pick up with the next track, by The Rip Off Artist, which features a number of jagged elements playing against one another, peppered with an unintelligible vocal sample. Atom's first track on the disc has little to do with dub to my ears, save for a few evocative moves in the bassline. Hammond organ joins the mix on this track, which overall has quite a different feel for an Atom track. It's interesting to hear, but it does feel restrained. His second track is perhaps the most beautiful on the disc: "Constellations" is a wonderful hybrid of ambient and dub, with super stretches of sound filling the air while a subtle hook catches you by surprise. Small Rocks is at his best on the track "Give Me Back Me Bucket," which would have made for a better opening track for the disc as a whole. "Mi Body" by The Rip Off Artist perhaps best characterizes the sound I expected to hear more of on this disc: a lively bass line punctuates some very inventive technical mayhem that features some great vocal cut-up work. His closing number, "Endubtime," is another admirable track, and I do think that Matt Haines' pieces are the best on the disc. Overall, I can't say the whole project was a successsome good work is presented here by each artist, but some mediocre work is as well, and that makes for a slightly disappointing experience. A great concept though, so perhaps the next instalment will offer better results. [Vils M DiSanto]
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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