> Archive > Music Review 75

February-March 2004

Ambarchi / Müller / Samartzis: Strange Love
Christina Carter: Bastard Wing
Tom Carter: Root King
The Hafler Trio: Kill The King
Stephen Iliffe: Painting with Sound: The life and music of Hans-Joachim Roedelius
Lionel Marchetti: Dans La Montagne (Ki Ken Taï)
Yituey: Espacio = Vida
Various: freq_out


For4Ears Records | 1448 | CD

After a long silence, one that lasted minutes, hours, days, even weeks, during which time there was all manner of movement, merriment, milling about, meandering, I distinctly heard a low rumble, a hum, the beginnings of something large, of machines being powered, of circuitry being charged with electricity, with currents of energy, messages, signs, signatures, the discreet presence of three, at first appearing together at the Corner Hotel in Melbourne, then later collaborating from their homes in Sydney, Itingen, Melbourne, and suddenly their presence is not so discreet, tensions mount, some of the clicks and buzzes find a rhythm, while others follow their own paths, even if these equations shift as more time passes, as the first piece ends and the second begins, with its rich, sonorous, resonating buzz, a deep rumble which, when listening at high volumes, shakes my insides, the roar of a helicopter, the sudden and immediate presence of voices, while at low volumes it caresses the space around me, and details disappear, then reappear when my attention so slips from one thought to another, from one sound to another, when gradually everything slips away, gravity returns, and silence once again fills the room. [Richard di Santo]



Eclipse Records | 018 | LP

Eclipse Records | 020 | LP

Grasping at a linear timeline for the Texas couple of Tom and Christina Carter and their affected and isolated take on bedroom psychedelic music done as Charalambides can be as easy as catching a wisp of incense smoke. Of the moment, and with a whiff of the sanctified, small batch pressings come and go. (A limited edition CDR from last year just got reissued as the group’s 8th album, courtesy of the Kranky label.) Some releases show up five+ years after being recorded, as their Internal Eternal disc and the Scorces side project can attest. But even arranged by a year date, it’s all pretty timeless. With two grainy-looking solo meditations from each Carter released earlier this year in a slightly larger edition than their ridiculously-limited solo recordings, it seems that there is a bit more smoke to hold onto these days.

A good portion of Christina Carter’s solo album, Bastard Wing, was recorded on a creaky piano back in 1996, and it’s only with the greatest of sonic tweaking that it even gets to a listenable state by 2003. Fortunate for sure, lest its frightening clangs and disintegrating chords be lost to the daylight. While her recent howls in her Scorces side-project and pieces like “The Blown Door” from 1998’s Houston are obvious reference points, the music loosed from her throat here is devastating indeed, somehow embodying all the lost voices from that creaking and foreboding house at the end of the cul-de-sac. I can’t imagine that she moves far from the “ah” vowel sound for most of the record, but there are entire chilly universes in every utterance made between the pounded piano keys. Made audible are werewolf pits, circling falcon cries, and children abandoned in wells, all emitted from her impossibly human mouth. Behind it all is a presence that is receptive yet ultimately unknown and mysterious.

Tom’s solo album expounds on gradual and graven ideas from earlier explorations as well. All of side one is “Lighthouse,” a slow, shimmering glissando of gonging bells and elongated swells of feedback, each and every glowing ripple crescent with the others that came before it, growing into a singular essence. A glacial yet effervescent guitar piece, it is as if Loren Conners was possessed by Blind Willie himself, all of it growing darker as they settle in for the cold ground. The second side offers more elusive—although very present—notes that flow with the held tones that constantly waver between a vague throat/tonal source. “Root King” returns to the ringing essence of beautifully pruned feedback, with certain moments so pure in their sound as to almost remind me of Folke Rabe’s “Was??”

Whether or not the two Carters will continue their explorations as Charalambides, as individuals their sound is so self-aware and actualized that it might merely mean twice the harvest. [Andy Beta]



Korm Plastics | CD

With its dust jacket of translucent paper completely covered in barely-decipherable text, the long-awaited reissue of The Hafler Trio's Kill The King is an art-object seeming even more obfuscated and austere than ever. Fully remastered (the first pressing, issued by Staalplaat and Silent Records in 1991, reportedly had its share of problems), this release marks the first in what promises to be a very impressive series of reissues from Korm Plastics, resuscitating long-unavailable-or-otherwise-concealed recordings, texts, images, and various to-doings from The Hafler Trio's back catalogue. And what a better place to start than with Kill the King, one of his most imaginative and compelling works (for this listener, at least), which may or may not consist of seven parts, though there is a single track here, with short pauses and breaks, shifts in direction. The Hafler Trio's sound world is one which leaves the listener in wonder (with its soft voices, drones, whispers, rhythmic noises, loops, more drones, ambiences, unfathomable combinations), attempting toarrange the pieces of a puzzle, discern the sources in abstract, otherworldly sounds, or, as a reader of the texts that accompany these recordings, to assemble meaning from the perplexing formulations, flashes of narrative, the symbols of transformation. We may not fully understand all of what is being revealed here, with the Hafler Trio one always has the sense that there is something much larger at work, but the experiences are always unique, challenging, and unforgettable. [Richard di Santo]



STEPHEN ILIFFE: Painting with Sound: The life and music of Hans-Joachim Roedelius
Meridian Music Guides | 0-9545995-0-0 | Paperbound book

When I learned that Stephen Iliffe was planning to publish a book on Roedelius, I had a strange feeling. That this man's life and work could be encapsulated in a slim, full-colour volume brimming with photographs, observations, reportage and interviews, seemed like such a strange idea, this man who is so alive and passionate about life and music, about his family, or how the sun shines on the leaves, on the rooftops... And when I thought of the idea of capturing this life in the pages of a book—and not by his own hand, but from the perspective of another—I must admit I had my reservations. And yet Stephen Iliffe is one who seems so enchanted by the stature of Roedelius, by his experiences, friendships, chance meetings, collaborations, and, most of all, by his music, that his text seems very much alive with this enchantment, but also fed and refined by the reporter in him, looking for facts both obvious and obscure, little gems of insight, interviews with others, snapshots from the distant and not-so-distant past.

Iliffe moves steadily from year to year, concert to concert, meeting to meeting, and each chapter looks at a particular set of years, dividing life and work into distinct segments, though within each there are gestures toward the past and to what follows. His writing captures with ease the zeitgeist, the creative energy which filled the studios, the concert halls, theatres, the rooms, and streets in which Roedelius has worked, passed the time, and performed.

This biographical portion of the book is followed by a daunting set of reviews, of some 66 solo albums and collaborations, from the first Kluster release to the latest in his Selbstportrait series and "best of" collections, and covering all the details in between. Although adding a certain resourcefulness to the book as a whole, the reviews are the least engaging portions here, lacking the larger drive of telling the story of a life, of the charms of life-writing, and perhaps better read more as a reference than from page to page.

In the end, Painting With Sound reads like a book that needed to be written, and seems long overdue. Keeping a fine balance between biography and homage (although, with its often hyperbolic or sweeping language, occasionally the text does slip from the path of objectivity), it is an informative look at the life and times of this influential figure in the field of electronic music. Recommended for the armchair traveller, for those with a need to feel the energy of a time now past, but how that too can be channelled into the present. [Richard di Santo]



LIONEL MARCHETTI: Dans La Montagne (Ki Ken Taï)
Chloë | 004 | 3"CD

Twelve minutes of mysterious sounds, screams, exclamations, musique concrète, during which you might think that you've tapped into a radio broadcast from some secret torture chamber, but which more likely has been constructed from recordings of Kendo sessions, aural glimpses into the art of Japanese swordsmanship, to which the subtitle "Ki Ken Taï" refers, something of the integration of spirit, sword and body. Thus abstracted from their sources, the sounds have an alarming effect, I winced as I listened to each cry, to each scream and exclamation, shuddered as I heard the clash of bamboo sticks, or perhaps even swords, amazed and alarmed at the strange echoes in this theatre for the ears, which impresses a feeling of confrontation, of immediacy, an exquisite discomfort. And indeed, it seems only natural that this piece was composed for radio, and even won a prize at the Muse en Circuit radiophonic competition. The recordings were made in 1996, and are released for the first time on Mike Bullock's always intriguing, always challenging label, Chloë Recordings, based somewhere in the heart Boston, Massachusetts. [Richard di Santo]



YITUEY: Espacio = Vida
Paralelo 18 | 3"CDR

One morning, when I stepped out of my house, I discovered space in Puerto Rico. I uncovered a world teeming with sounds and events, walked with the sunlight shining on my face, the wind rustling through the trees, through the strands of my hair, between my fingers. The space of Puerto Rico sang a song to me, and I recorded that song, I listened to it again and again once I returned home and could explore the recordings I had brought back with me. All sounds seemed to converge in my mind, as I listened to one street corner, then another, then to the mellifluous songs and trills of hundreds of birds, if not thousands, tens of thousands, captured here on these tapes, to the turning leaves as they fluttered through the wind, then to the insects, the aeroplanes, the flowers, the cars, the sunlight and the wind, the hair on the back of my neck as I felt the chill of the space before me, revealing itself before my eyes, my ears, now filled with the space of Puerto Rico, the sounds, the beautiful sadness, the melodies, the birds, the profound noise, the breath of the world as it turns on its axis. This is my island, this is my space, and this is my life, my music. Espacio = vida; and all the rest simply follows from there.

Claudio Yituey Chea first presented these pieces as a part of the online exhibition of the Public Art Project of Puerto Rico. They are now featured on this, the first release from Paralelo 18. [Richard di Santo]



VARIOUS: freq_out
Ash International | 5.8 | CD

For this project, Carl Michael Von Hausswolff enlisted selected artists to contribute to an installation of twelve audio works titled Sound As Space Creator, first presented at Copenhagen’s Charlottenborg Exhibition Hall in June 2003. Each contributor was assigned a frequency range in which to work, using only a mixing desk and PA system. The individually produced pieces were then assembled by Benny Jonas Nilsen (aka Hazard) into a ‘collective’ final work to act as the sound installation.

The aural document of the project includes thirteen tracks, the aforementioned twelve plus the concluding ‘ensemble’ piece. They’re distinct microsound excursions that often demand patient, close listening so that their abundant textural subtleties can be appreciated. It’s fascinating to witness the aural interest that can be generated using such minimal means. At sixteen minutes, one might think that PerMagnus Lindborg’s contribution eventually might wear out its welcome, but its exotic sounds hold one’s attention throughout. At times the track approximates the sounds of wind blowing through multiple pipe air holes, or even massed overlays of bird warbling. Other pieces offer similarly distinctive sound worlds. Petteri Nisunen and Tommi Grönlund create the sonic equivalent of soft insectile chatter heard amidst buzzing hydro wires, while Jacob Kirkegaard presents reverberant echo-treated sounds of cello-like scrapings to eerie, industrial effect. A slightly more conventional approach is adopted by Hans Sydow, who uses toy box sounds and a looped voice sample, presumably a snippet from “Keep this frequency clear” uttered at track’s end. The overlaying of voices is effective but advances little upon similar strategies explored decades ago by Steve Reich with ‘Come Out’ and ‘It’s Gonna Rain.’ Admittedly, not all of the pieces are so memorable. Kent Tankred and Mike Harding contribute tracks that are little more than three-minute one-note drones, and Franz Pommasl’s and Finnbogi Pétursson pieces are barely-audible excursions into microsound territories but not terribly interesting otherwise. Of course, the ultimate payoff is the ‘ensemble’ piece, where elements of the twelve tracks coalesce into a multi-layered amalgam. The twelve are woven together carefully with some tracks’ elements appearing first and then ceding their places to others. It’s a fitting conclusion and a satisfying climax, if somewhat misrepresentative in sacrificing the strict minimalistic qualities of the separate pieces for a more maximalistic if still subtle effect. [Ron Schepper]





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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