10 March 2003
TEMPER: Navy Blue
Piehead Records returns in 2003 with a new series of 11 limited edition 3 inch CDs. This year's series promises releases by the likes of The Blameshifter, Twine, Rapoon and Tinkertoy, among others.
The first in the series is Navy Blue by Temper. Temper is Michael Weak, born in Toronto but now living his student days in Nova Scotia, on Canada's eastern coast. Taking ideas composed on piano during the past five years, then translating them through his computer and whatever cheap music software we're told he has acquired, Temper makes music much in the manner of his contemporaries hellothisisalex and I Am Robot and Proudanalogue-sounding electronics (for who can tell the difference between digital imitations of analogue and analogue itself?), pleasant melodies and a relaxed tempo. Call it "Sunday electronica" for its light, carefree mood and quaint aesthetic. Temper does a nice job mixing his elements and creating just the right mood; the structures remain simple but are executed with distinctive charm. On the whole, the disc plays like a bag of sweets, adding a little sugary charm to your palette on a lazy afternoon.
The second release in the series is by Books on Tape. The man behind the moniker is Todd Matthew Drootin, who has is roots in punk, hip hop and, of course, electronic music. But with Books on Tape, those raw, unfinished elements of a punk sensibility have somehow found their way into his music, although its harder edge and aggressiveness are slightly curbed and reshaped with some quirky sidesteps, though still recognizably intact. We should also be quick to point out that Books on Tape is concerned with neither books nor tapes (his music is recorded directly on harddisk, with nary a literary reference to be gleaned in its timbres or titles). The results on this EP, amusingly titled Winning Record, are mixed; the ideas behind the sequenced pounding, the simple melodies and what seem like quickly assembled arrangements are never quite so interesting as to inspire my enthusiastic praise, but I have nevertheless found a fresh energy and a raw temperament in these four tracks that I have enjoyed. Not really much of a "winning record," but certainly one to watch. [Richard di Santo]
Among the recent flood of new recordings by The Hafler Trio, a new trilogy is inaugurated with the release of Cleave: 9 Great Openings, on Nextera in association with Die Stadt. Appearing slowly from the silence, a deep-throated drone moves into audibility. At first it sounds like a cello, although I immediately wonder how it could be so, unless the bow is never lifted from the strings in a continuous performance. As it progresses, new sounds appear deep within the drone, you realize that what you thought of as one layer has multiplied into many, and even if it seems as if everything is still, there is movement everywhere. Unfolding slowly, with the most subtle of gestures, the drone shifts yet remains on course; it moves yet its foundations are planted in the same ground; the volume and intensity, like the sea, are characterized by an mysterious ebb and flow; a new leafa new vibration, a hidden harmonyunfurls only to reveal itself curled on its surface. And when, after spending minutes, hours, days in this state of incubation, of isolation from the world but in connection with something beyond it, within it, the piece ends, I am still there, the walls of this cocoon open ever slowly, the vibrations still resonating in my consciousness, I step outside, my speech and movements slow, my senses ever acute, but shying away from the light, from the sounds, odours and textures around me. A process leading to involution, if the titles of the nine openings described in the beautifully packaged booklet are anything to be trusted. Magnificent, austere and beautiful, this is truly something to experience and explore. "Faith of consciousness is freedom." [Richard di Santo]
Nova Ars Digitandi is a relatively new label born out of the Microsuoni distribution company in Italy, releasing music which so far has been exclusively in the microsound/glitch mould. This is the fourth release for the label, the second for Kinetix, and it's an interesting one. Possible Forms is a set of two CDs to be played simultaneously. Each CD contains 8 tracks, all of which are of equal length. The directive is to play both discs at once on two systems, using shuffle and repeat mode on both players, thereby creating different combinations of tracks. One of the discs contains more dominant rhythmical elements and sharp digital tones, while the other contains more delicate or abrasive noises in turn, often non-rhythmic, and occasionally some harsh static drones shake things up in the mix. The sound sources for the project were lifted from numerous other artists, almost a who's who' of minimal/lowercase sound, and duly noted in the liner notes. It's a project where you can have a bit of fun, switching discs from the dominant player (on main loudspeaker) to the computer and vice versa in different connections, exhausting various combinations, etc. So much for the theory. The results are a little odd and disconnected at times, but actually quite successful in a number of places. One imagines that some, if not all of the tracks were composed using a certain template, metrical pattern or overall structure, as the tracks on both discs often seem to match each other's transitions, pulses and retractions quite well. At others, it all seems too arbitrary, too random, too much like an accident. When it works, it works well, and as evidence, perhaps you will be able to glean a smile forming on the curl of your lips as you listen. In the end, what you have is an interesting experiment with some mixed, but often positive, results. [Richard di Santo]
This CD is in part a re-release of a picture disc by the same name released last summer (see Issue 055 for our review). Köner's work now gets a new pressing, and along with the original tracks, a new one titled Les Soeurs Lumière is added (and thus the reason for this second review). This 27-minute piece was composed as a soundtrack for a video presentation by Karen Vanderborght, a filmmaker, visual artist and instructor at the Academy of Fine Arts of Ostend. This is, I believe, Köner's second collaboration with her, having also composed the soundtrack for her short film Kijkgedrag (1999). The soundtrack has no other connection with Unerforschtes Gebeit other than a certain affinity for suggesting cold, desolate spaces and slow movements. As the piece unfolds through constantly shifting aural texturescomplex, dark, deep and magnetica narrative reveals itself in the form of a correspondence between two girls, Lucia and Stella. The correspondence seems to span years, from childhood to adulthood; however, we're only given access to Stella's letters in the form of spoken text scattered throughout the piece. Without giving too much away, we learn early on of Stella's death, and so the texts appear as retrospectives, revisitations of a correspondence that once was, looking back while moving forward, revealing mysteries, clues, suggestions of things to come. With every word, with every shifting sound, I find myself being pulled deeper and deeper into this bewitching piece, which I'm sure would be made even more compelling when experienced with the missing video component, though to be honest I found nothing lacking in listening to the soundtrack on its own. In addition to Les Soeurs Lumière are, of course, the two previously released tracks of Unerforschtes Gebeit, and I quickly discover how they draw me into their "uncharted territory," as they did many months ago when I first listened to them. Even while acknowledging that the work loses certain qualities and timbres in the translation to CD, however ephemeral, it is clear that it has invariably gained still others in the process, making this an extremely rewarding and engaging release, from start to finish. [Richard di Santo]
... Have you ever desired over a dozen lovers' tongues caressing your electrode skin? Offer your sonic self to the remix orgy of a delicate love. So many one-night stands, moving through my player without leaving a trace; others snuggle the recesses of my aural cavities: hear, this ambient echo of dub beats and soaring synthesizers"always within you," says funckarmathere is the house of sound. Auroikos. Outside lives a vast snowfield of creatures. Beyond classification, they slip in and out of glitches, crackles, and deep rhythms. Each creature is a nostalgic entity that forgets its pernicious past and sings of a future sonography. A beautiful temporality of sun-refraction on sine waves. "Tell me... the secrets of love" sings Multiplex in her ecstasy with EU, a vocoded phantasy not of electroclash sodomy, but of the Sonic Sutra played on the body of the electronic organ. From love to drum 'n' bass, "But ne'er the rose without the thorn"memory music for making love. Not kinkywe'll leave the Aphex Twin for when you want to drown out the screams from your red-whipped partner. This is delicate loveon the ears. Listen...There's Monolake nibbling the toes of broken beats; Animals on Wheels tracing lines in the Zen belly garden; Mitchell Akiyama caressing the sky with jet trails; Isan tickling those "secret(e)" places... until the fucking, that is. Kreidler steps indrop beats, IDM lovin'. Slow and steady, but picking up the pace, quirky kiss-clicks. Spark is pistoning spherelove, a nod to FSOL as the love gives way to animality in Kettel's curious d'n'b & a repetitious groove of Doydy Race's 4/4 on the floorwhich is where you are, ice burn on tundra. Time for that EU joint, my friend. Chill to Fuxa's field recording ambience, Lackluster's pick-me-up beat slices, Phonem's dark post-Lustmord dronescape, and Jakob Thiessen's kitschy IDM klicker. We could rename this album: "To the Virgins to make much of Time." [Tobias c. van Veen]
Here's a record by a relative newcomer calling himself Shadyzanethough his name, surely for both those who know him and even some who don't, is Chris White. Now Chris is a fellow who was raised in New Zealand (now living in London), who we are told grew up to be an accomplished saxophonist (having won an award for one of his jazz recordings), and has now turned, like so many others before him (along with him, after him) to electronic music. Listening to the first track of what appears to be his first release under this project name, one immediately recognizes Shadyzane's main influence, though it seems like we have only just made his acquaintance not too long ago. Murcof, aka Fernando Corona, has certainly made ripples, if not waves, through the world of microsound since the release of Martes last year on the Leaf label. His sound, though not entirely original (carrying as it does the weight of his precursors), is nonetheless quite distinctive, resonating something both beautiful and intelligent, mixing with great sensitivity the seemingly dissonant elements of the clicks and pops of microsound with the delicate melancholy of Gorecki, Arvo Pärt and surely others. And now Shadyzane has made a record that certainly draws its inspiration from Murcof's work, and from the opening track one immediately recognizes this. This is not to say that Murcof is the only inspiration here (our trusty press release also mentions Jelinek and Cornelius, and though these names weren't the first ones to come to my mind, I would likely agree), nor is it to imply that this music is a pure imitation, but that for me, as I listened I could not imagine this record existing without this other one before it. As it progresses, the album takes on certain characteristics of its own, adding and subtracting different elements (jazz, African percussion, etc.) from the template already established in the first few tracks, with varying success. It introduces its own variations, melodic phrases, combinations, without shaking things up too seriously, without adding much that is new or even very exciting, yet, in the end, still providing a pleasant mix of tracks. So for now let's say that Shadyzane is ok at what he does; let's just wait for him to create something that borrows less from others and introduces more ideas of his own. [Richard di Santo]
After a period of quiet activity, here is a recent release from Multimood Records, purveyors of ambient and experimental music since the mid 80s. When I see their name I am immediately reminded of those older releases from their catalogue, by the likes of Asmus Tietchens, Roedelius, Jeff Greinke, and Peter Frohmader, among others, as these were important markings for me in my ongoing search for new sounds, and so it is always a pleasure to see that they are still active, committed to releasing some very special editions.
This is my introduction to Pär Thorbjörnsson, a composer and graphic designer based in Multimood's hometown of Göteborg, Sweden. In his search for composing music with what he calls a "structured randomness," Thorbjörnsson found his ideal source in our own DNA. He learned how ribosomes translate bases of molecules found in our RNA and gradually build proteins using amino acids according to what "information" it finds there. As he describes in his liner notes, he then had a computer "simulate the ribosome translation, converting genetic information to a music score based on decimal figures," which were in turn based on different sound parameters (specifying timing, effects, sound channels, etc.). He then experimented with the output, adding his own element of control to the compositions, but for the most part volume, pitch, etc., are all determined by the genetic data. So much for the theory and the process behind the work. Genophonics collects twelve compositions controlled and inspired by our genetic makeup in this way. Thorbjörnsson's music is calming, tranquil, solemn and beautiful. I expect that what we're hearing is a combination of synthesized and sampled sounds (strings, piano and horns might have been used at some point in the genesis of these recordings). The pieces carry with them a particularly organic quality, even if some of the sounds do appear a little two-dimensional (i.e., flat), the overall structures, the moods and timbres, more than make up for the dynamic range and production quality, which I found sometimes lacking. This record is best played at night, in a quiet room, in headphones or on loudspeaker. Simply lie down and let the structured randomness of these musical patterns and gestures take over the space for a while. Call it genetic ambient, this music has found its inspiration in the depths of humanity, and, through sound, now seeks to find its way back, through the senses. [Richard di Santo]
At long last, Die Stadt inaugurates its new retrospective series on the works of Asmus Tietchens. The series (for which subscriptions can currently be attained) consists of 18 releases which will make available all of Tietchens' early vinyl albums released between 1980 and 1991.
This first instalment features something of a bonus: in addition to Nachstückehis first solo record originally released in 1980, plus a handful of bonus tracks from around the same periodalso included is a second disc of archive material recorded between 1965 and 1969 with his long-time friend, producer and occasional collaborator Otto Becker. A second collaborator, whose name I have never heard before, is Hans Dieter Wohlmann. Titled Adventures in Sound, these tracks are sure to be a big surprise for anyone familiar with the work of Tietchens. Representing four years of work with tape recorders (the Revox G 36 and Grundig TK 42), they recorded their own instrumentations (electronic or otherwise) and perhaps even found sounds, making music that is more electroacoustic than pure electronic, exploring the manipulative possibilities of their tape recorders to no end. Improvising and borrowing heavily from free jazz and psychedelia, they have also sampled the works of others: most famously a manipulated recycling of the piano crash from the Beatles' "A Day in the Life" opens the aptly titled "Beginning with Beatles' Ending"; or consider "Drei Versionen von The Word'" which is a dizzying remix of the Lennon/McCartney tune from 1965's Rubber Soul. Listening, you might never know that it was Tietchens. All the more reason to have this in your collection: the earliest experiments in what has turned out to be a long, groundbreaking and, though often overlooked, certainly one of the most influential careers in experimental music. The tracks on this first CD are followed by two interviews, with Tietchens and Bekker respectively, which are both (sadly for me) in German without a transcription.
Returning to Nachstücke (subtitled "Expressions et Perspectives Sonores Intemporelles"), which I had first heard, and once only, some 7 or 8 years ago, I am struck by how much I remembered from my one encounter with it. This might be owing to the relative simplicity of the melodic lines and the softness of the rhythms and harmonies (courtesy of the rather distinctive sounds of the Moog Sonic Six and Minimoog synthesizers), both of which surprised me then, being at that time aware of Tietchens only through his later work, post-Notturno (1987). Yet even these simple lines stumble, they move uneasily, sadly, with the mood of a dark sky hanging overhead, resembling only slightly the densely rhythmic "pseudo-pop" of his subsequent four releases on Sky Records. Instead, they give the impression of sounds treading on a thin wire suspended in mid-air, ready to topple at any moment. Reading the liner notes (which are also in German, yet faithfully translated in the promo notes), one learns of the history of these recordings, how they were made between 1975 and 1978, yet due to various problems with the label (they never thought it would sell), the tapes were shelved until 1980, when they were finally released in a "cautious" vinyl edition of 800 copies. Tietchens remarks how the record, released just two years following its completion, "was already out of step with its time." Since 1980 was witnessing the advent of new wave, punk and industrial, the soft, incongruous but almost ethereal aesthetic of these pieces already sounded dated. In this new edition, the original tracks (taken directly from the original tapes, which even for its original release were altered by the addition of reverb, pre-fadings, cuts etc.), are supplemented by four bonus tracks recorded around the same time but hinting toward a new development in his work, moving more toward musique concrète than witnessed here.
Already it seems that, with Tietchens' wistful guidance, this retrospective-reissuing series from Die Stadt will be successful in contextualizing his work, with more than a little insight pouring in through the seams. Stay tuned, this promises to be extremely rewarding. [Richard di Santo]
Anchortronic is an audio project by Time's Up, a self-professed "laboratory for the construction of experimental situations," in co-operation with Staalplaat. The project's mandate, inherent in the title of this new DVD (the first ever produced by Staalplaat), is to move experimental music from the two channels of stereo to the six channels of 5.1 surround sound. They invited a number of artists, among them Andreas Berthling, TV Pow, Efzeg, Goem and Golden Tone, to a basic 5.1 audio studio at Time's Up headquarters in Linz, Austria. The result has been documented here, a collection of 18 tracks in about 3 hours total running time, all snugly pressed onto a single DVD. The DVD format is perfect for such a project, being able to utilize the AC-3 surround sound mix (as well as an optional binaural headphone mix for those who, like me, do not possess a home theatre setup), but also because most of these tracks have an integral visual element as well, involving collaborations with various video and graphic artists (among them Cecile Babiole, Xabi Erkizia, Lillevän and Markus Decker). Some contributors, like Stilluppsteypa or Chris Fortescue, have developed their own visual components.
Although the visual component was not integral to the Anchortronic project in itself, it plays a central role in many of the pieces. Consider Michael Strohmann's "cassation," with a video component by Strohmann, Petra Zöpnek and Manfred Karrer, or "carefullcarelesness" by nt with a video component by joreg. Both of these pieces achieve intriguing connections between the audio and visual elements, providing immersive environments for the listener-viewer to lose himself in, if only for a short time. And these two examples are not alone. Other strong contributions are by Stilluppsteypa, who seem to never be at a loss for how to have some fun with their projects while continuing to create compelling works (their video component could have been called "Stilluppsteypa go out for sandwiches, and later, drinks"), Goem, who create another excellent track exploring the tensions of simple loop structures (I'd love to experience this one with full surround sound), and Efzeg, the electroacoustic improv quintet of Boris Hauf, Billy Roisz, Martin Siewert, Burkhard Stangl and Dieb13 who developed their own visual component for this project. Golden Tone, the ongoing collaboration between Fennesz and Zeitblom, contribute the longest track here: with its running time of 40 minutes, "wernichthörenwillmussfühlen" is a potent and ever-evolving mix of laptop processing, moving through abrasive and ambient sections, in turn restless and calm, frantic and tranquil, but always complex, with a beautiful synergy arising from the sum of its parts.
As with any compilation, Anchortronic has its high and low points, featuring projects that surprise the listener and surpass expectations, and still others that fail to capture much interest. Some pieces, as the web collaboration CTL Net.Loop, seem less about composition and sound exploration than they do the exploration of the technology that allows for such experiments to take place. Some of the video components also fail to inspire interest; the usual video filters, cutups, pixellations or interferences sometimes create visual textures that seem all too familiar. And yet I should also be quick to point out that the weaker points in this release are few and far between, and on the whole the compilation is as strong as it is engaging. The Anchortronic series might be a continuing one (the instalments to date run from 2000 to 2002), and if this is the case I'm very curious about a follow-up release in the same format. [Richard di Santo]
:uncompromising gattling gun chatter :fast & furious distorted durations :quick.surgery.cuts.with.dirty. instruments :Windows-crash-log-muzak :ducks for quacks :C3PO JAZZJOB :lava burns from Safety Scissors :beautiful gamers stroking joy-sticks :45multiple sonorgasmship-pop junctures & distorted ballad bhangra: a schizophrenic compilation heading in all directions every 45 seconds. At points a preponderance of IDMongery but there is SO much to hear in such a short time I hear my skull pressurizing at the impact of repeated and singular aural assaults. Each 45 second instalment from an artist in the leftfield of experimental (electronic) fiefdom: Kim Cascone, Gamers In Exile, DJ Spooky, ost, si-cut.db, Andrew Duke, eight frozen modules, Jan Jelinek, Stars as Eyes, d84, Rothko, Mannequin Lung, Sutekh, Solventjeezus... Too many to list here & too many to comprehend in one listen. Throw it on random for a fliptreat. Yes, there are 99 artists in this 45 second burst madness. A monument to Simballrec's expanding roster of dirty madness and a highly engaging experiment in the "V/A" framework :singing apples in a bowl of microchip larvae :antimatter against pig snarlus :strangel the cos of martin rev :sybarite on the edge of edmund :rockin' pony pushing leafcutters :electric alter echo companies technocolour :milkmaids use lump on spacehustler :birds smash figurines :[Tobias c. van Veen]
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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