> Archive > Music Review 71

1 September 2003

Minamo: Shrine/Nest
Books on Tape: Sings the Blues
Glen Velez: Internal Combustion
Reynolds: Rampotanza Grodo Remplelente
Erdem Helvacioglu: A Walk Through the Bazaar
Cchris Delaurenti: The Night I Met Maria C_____
Roger Doyle: Rapid Eye Movements
Scores: Vivre avec la bête


With the arrival of August, everything seemed to slow down, nearly to a point of standstill. When asked a question, sometimes I would find it difficult to formulate an answer; when the sun would rise, I was slow to get out of bed; the sunlight would beat down and the humidity would rise with little mercy; the evenings were cool and lazy; and, through all of this, nothing seemed to get done.

Sitting at my desk, the ceiling fan above my head spinning in full force, I would often attempt to write—a review, a story, an essay, or even a sentence, a question—without much success, the laziness of the day in those moments overcoming my desire to express any thoughts that had been crossing my mind, content to have them simply exist, ruminating, turning, then fading as others would arrive in their stead.

And so I would often turn to music, something that would allow me to be silent and thoughtful, that had no other demand of me than to listen, which can be a considerable demand, to be sure, but somehow more conducive to my summer lethargy than the demand to be articulate in action or deed. Still, a few words managed to be written, and somehow the month disappeared faster than I had imagined.


One of the first new releases I turned to was Shrine/Nest by Minamo, out on Mr. Mutt Records as the latest instalment in their CDR Live Series (MLive03). Minamo was first formed in 1999 as a collaboration between Keiichi Sugimoto and Tetsuro Yasunaga. Two years later they were joined by Yuichiro Iwashita (guitar) and Namiko Sasamoto, and since then have gone on to release a handful of CDs and CDRs on labels like Apestaartje, 360 Records, Cubic Music and Quakebasket. This new disc presents two concerts recorded late in 2002, Tokyo. Combining electronics with guitar, piano, perhaps even other instruments (none are listed, but a few others could be suspected), Minamo have created two long, beautiful pieces of quiet minimalism, progressing slowly, carefully, every sound or combination of sounds as confident as the last. My impressions, growing ever more involved and multifaceted, could only be articulated indirectly, even as I listened for a second, third and fourth time; and even now, closing in on September, as these words find their way out of me and onto these pages.


Quietly, gently, there are sounds falling on the silence like leaves falling on the ground in autumn; soon enough, the silence disappears to reveal new combinations, presences in the sound space, just as the ground is suddenly covered in a blanket of yellow leaves, and with quiet wonder you observe the sun's rays illuminating the scene and everything seems new, tranquil, impossibly clear.


One morning, I walked over to my car and discovered that it had been broken into during the night. The thieves were professional, in my view, and courteous too, since they managed to unlock the doors without causing a single scratch. But, alas, they still made off with all the CDs I had been collecting in there, about 10 or 12 at most, and nothing else was missing or damaged, so in the end it was just a nuisance that was best left ignored, to be taken lightly as a mere inconvenience. One of those CDs was the latest release from Books on Tape, the ongoing project by Todd Drootin who has been busy with a number of recent releases crowding the shelves of late. Sings the Blues, out on the No Type label (IMNT 088), is not a blues record, to be sure. It's energy is incessantly high; right from the first moments, the hard, up-tempo, almost aggressive rhythms build your energy up to a raw, inexplicable high. Like a climax in a heist film, Henry Mancini's music blaring wildly with jazz touches; but this isn't Mancini, and there is no jazz touch here: it's all electro, all pounding rhythms and simple, energetic melodies, from start to finish. If my copy wasn't stolen, I couldn't say how often I would return to this music, but it was great company for a few hi-speed car chases.


And then there was Schematic's re-release of Internal Combustion (SCH033), a collection of mostly solo improvisations for percussion by Glen Velez. Originally released in 1985, it quickly became a classic for percussion enthusiasts, performers, and those generally interested in trance drumming and innovative performance techniques. Focusing his attention on various frame drums from around the world (Doira, Adufe, Bendir, Riq, Gaval and Bodhran), and joined on a few tracks by fellow percussionist Layne Redmond, Velez skilfully constructs his subtle and nuanced pieces—although some sections are laced with new-age overtone singing which failed to win my favour—unfolding before our ears and, if you're playing it loud enough, our bodies too, to a close look at the very nature of the drum through rhythm and performance; the drum and the man, intoxicating, unstoppable, the rhythms passing through us like waves of the sea.


And, once more, I slipped into a state of lethargy, the sun beating down on my tired eyes, my mind racing with memories, anticipations, in thoughtless wonder.


Then, as if in answer to my midsummer laziness comes a fresh batch of reviews from Andy Beta, a trusted contributor to these pages for some time. Here's what he had to say about the latest three instalments in the Met Life location sound series on Locust Music (instalments 3, 4 and 5, respectively):

To those of us who pay attention to our surroundings, a delicious moment occurs when coming across something, whether it is the way the Three Musketeers wrappers are arranged in the wastebasket, or how the light of the traffic outside is cut up by the mini-blinds in the bedroom, moving across the wall in abstract bars of reflected light, or the way in which the squeals of the subway train as it brakes sound more painful than any Japanoize record imaginable. Seeing or hearing in such a way fortifies the belief that this ephemera is art. A common response to this particular feeling is a procreant urge to try and truly capture or document these brief moments of life that seem to be outside of ordinary, staid reality. As many experimental musicians roam about with this peculiar headspace attuned for such sounds, it’s not surprising that the Locust label has created a series that allows soundmakers from around the globe to present not just a field recording (generally between 15-20 minutes in duration) but a piece that absorbs these original recordings into their own sound body. Inspiration and artistic reaction.

The most fun to be had from these, the third, fourth, and fifth in the series, is to listen along with the first half and try to deduce how the artists will respond. Reynols’ contribution, Rampotanza Grodo Remplelente, captures construction workers in Buenos Aires jackhammering on a city street, their metallic clangs and rhythmic thuds constantly evoking a grindcore beat. In the hands of Reynols though, the response is far more distant-sounding, the tribal drumming, horn, hammered piano, and guitar coming from the bottom of that stony hole, perhaps. It’s as loopy as any lo-fi Sun Ra noodling, yet as spiralling in its rhythmic turns.

In A Walk Through the Bazaar, Erdem Helvacioglu takes us for a walk through a Persian market, which layers chattering talk, radio, phones, and other dense ephemera nicely, before happening upon the flipside of the bazaar. It includes a brief bit of David Jackman’s flying carpet, all resonant metal drones, before meeting up with Techno Allah in the middle of the night out in the dunes, recalling the events of the day in an ancient rave atmosphere.

Chris Delaurenti’s The Night I Met Maria C_____ is a play on what it means to be wasted, toggling the idling engines and door-slamming of trucks at a waste-management facility and the thuds of garbage that collapse with the idea of being “wasted” at a party. It’s intriguing to hear the party chatter of Chris and his friends as they get more and more drunk, although it never quite attains the drunken documentation of say, Guided by Voices’ Crying Your Knife Away boot. Hilarious in concept and figuratively ‘piss-taking’ in a world of too serious field-recordists, (especially on his belching mid-piss break), I cannot fathom when I will be returning to it anytime soon, unfortunately. Fun for a night though. [Andy Beta]


One day, the city's electricity disappeared in a massive blackout. The news agencies were already calling it "The Big Blackout of 2003" before it was even over, and, while finding their way in the dark, everyone in the city walked out of their homes and into the streets—many, it seemed to me, for the first time in years—gazing at the stars or taking in the strange sight of a city suddenly plunged in darkness.

The bars were the first establishments to fill up with patrons, and the last to empty out after it was all over.


Then later, two more reviews from Andy found their way to my inbox, the first of Roger Doyle's Rapid Eye Movements, made available for the first time in 20 years in this re-release by the Silverdoor label (SIDO 013).

Those paying attention to the other work that was appearing on Steven Stapleton’s United Dairies label aside from the Nurse with Wound records in the early eighties were perhaps taken aback by Roger Doyle's Rapid Eye Movements when it was originally released. Comprised of “Fin-estra” (dating from 1977) and “Rapid Eye Movements” (1978–80), these two extended pieces of obsessive tape splicing and sound reassembly were displaced in time then, and similarly singular and at a pace of such a deep stage of sleep as the title intends. His attuned detail to mood and overall emotional impact owes more to the previous sound imaginings of a Tod Dockstader or Luc Ferrari than what was happening in that branch of English industrial explorations. It’s curious to consider his approximation of French chatter on the title track (woven in with sped-tape hallucinations, snippets of screen tests, impending clock ticks, and debris recast and recapitulated later in the piece) in light of his unending Tower of Babel project, which he has worked on for over ten years. “Fin-estra” is all of its nominal components: composed in Helsinki, utilizes orchestra recordings (and has a similar dynamism of powerful sounds), and also culls the echoes of children playing outside the window (fenetre) into a stunning piece of sculpted tape. It’s a wonderful meditation on the approach and convergence of sound with the stationary observer and then that far-off horizon that all marches towards, altering moments of brutish pace with more peaceful, unerringly constructed environments, the sound events front and centre before the tape spools them away. Filling out the disc are two of his earlier works, the first for piano and the other involving an interview with a 13-year-old junkie. [Andy Beta]

Andy's second review from that afternoon takes a look at the latest release by Scorces, Vivre avec la bête, out on Eclipse Records:

I’m not sure if the market for haunted, heart-of-Texas abstract folk levitation is bigger in Montreal or certain regions of Bordeaux country than it is in the States, but with les deux femmes from legendary bedroom psyche purveyors Charalambides second release as Scorces (combining their astrological signs), the title and handwriting of their back cover are all en français, and it makes me wonder. But as the opening seconds of quivering electric guitar and Peruvian folk instrument, the cuatro, reveal that sacrosanct portal of interdimensionality, earthly boundaries evaporate, and when Heather Leigh Murray gently howls out of the ether in a voice beyond language, the connotations of space and time slacken and dissolve. The three tracks here keep at this bare instrumentation, but the results remain transcendent, as sounds acoustic, electric, and human merge with one another into a haunted substance scarcely heard anywhere. [Andy Beta]


A slight breeze passed through the open window frame and touched on my face as I woke, the day beckoning me from my sleep. But my eyes opened only to find the room to be empty of any furniture, any windows, any doors, no objects at all could be found in my gaze, now turning wildly from side to side. I was dreaming, of course, so, realizing this,I closed my eyes and returned to what I wished would be a lifetime of nothing but sleep and lazy days.


But why all this ranting about August and the laziness of summer? As you are reading this, the temperature is already falling, the leaves already changing in colour, the air carrying with it the scent of autumn, arriving, or having just arrived in the later days of September, and with it comes so many memories, a season for nostalgia, for enjoying your solitude as much as the company of others, a time when the activity of summer settles into a certain sobriety, as you turn to your next project, a little wiser, a little older, another season come and gone.

[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 and the author when quoting from any content on this site.