10 June 2001
This disc is the first release for Alien8's new sublabel called Substractif, a vehicle being used "to develop a truly cohesive platform for our interest in techno and electronica". Mitchell Akiyama, who is himself a relative newcomer with one self-released debut and a compilation track to his name prior to this release (he also operates the Montréal based Inr_version label), here presents us with ten smooth and minimal numbers, mathematically rhythmic, but with a less structured approach than, say, Autechre might display. The tones are warm, the sound palette is richly diverse, and there are more than a few surprises in store. There's an overall serenity about the music here, but frequently appearing sound abstractions keep things interesting. The track titles give a sense that things are being displaced in what seem to be sentence extractions (i.e. "resists change nicely" and "error than trial"). Individually, the tracks mirror this 'part of a whole' philosophy, but they go beyond being mere extractions themselves. Some tracks take a monochromatic approach, such as "named after the chorus" with its plucking sounds and minimal accompaniment. Others are more diverse, such as "underside of an intersection", which plods along for its first half, but changes gears with the arrival a few tinkling piano strokes, when things get very interesting indeed. It's great to see a relatively new talent proving to be so proficient in his craft here, and I was duly impressed by this excellent release. [Vils M DiSanto]
This new disc from Greek conceptualist AS11 is his second release, following last year's 00:00 (also on Antifrost) which documented the change from 1999 to 2000 through an across-the-world collage of radio broadcasts and found sounds. This new work is a simulation of a one-man 500 metre race - an attempt to break the world record (WR) of 12'29"26 established by Haile Gebereselassie. That this 3 inch disc has a total run time (no pun intended) of just over 17 minutes might be an indication that this attempt failed to break the old record, although I can't be sure of the relation between the duration of the tracks and the world record itself. The disc is composed of three tracks. Track one: a heartbeat, steady, unchanging. Track 2: the heartbeat accelerates but remains unchanging throughout, a strange internal breathing sound -- erratic and natural -- and a quiet hum of static in the background. Track 3: the relative silence of one of these ultra-high frequencies only audible when your head is turned in a certain way. As a concept, I'm not sure how this recording holds up (I would need some more literature to determine this). As a piece of music, 500M New WR is a little mysterious, but it piques my interest so I become bent on finding details in the heartbeats, variations in the breathing, in the quiet hum or the gentle hiss buried in these pieces. [Richard di Santo]
Now here's a challenge: how do I review a record which I'm not supposed to listen to? Civyiu Kkliu's 111 is described on the sleeve as a "utility" which "functions as do light and heat in a room". We're also told that it's antithetical to sit before this utility, face it, or even listen to it. Which I guess makes sense if it's a utility: we don't usually give the light or the heat in a room the same amount of attention we would normally give to music. The only question is, if this is a utility, how does it affect the space it occupies?
I proceeded to "turn it on" (as opposed to "playing it" like a record), and simply continued doing some domestic work. I sorted through my bills, answered some email, talked with friends... basically I tried to maintain a normal level of domesticity in order to keep myself from actually paying attention to this disc, which I had on repeat mode for at least 4 cycles. Did I notice any changes in the environment? Did I even know what to look for? Changes in light and heat? or is this a new sort of utility, previously unknown to our domestic environments?
What we do hear (and let me now make at least some reference to the sound of this utility) is a low-end rumble, a very quiet hum like the echoes of an infinite air vent with very little (if any) change in intensity; there is another sound in here too, like a distant vacuum cleaner being turned on and off, but so distant and faint as to make you think it's coming from somewhere else in your home, or even at a distance outside it. Did I just hear a click? No matter, don't pay attention to it, just move on. It does fill the space rather nicely with a sort of tangible sound, sound that you seem to breathe in with your lungs (you'll really notice its absence when the disc ends; like the shock of turning off the light in a room, your senses immediately have to grow accustomed to the change). I had to turn the volume relatively high in order to notice its presence, and perhaps the volume does escalate on its own throughout the duration of the recording (just over 30 minutes). Highly recommended for fans of the ultra-minimal aesthetics of Line and Trente Oiseaux, or for just about anyone feeling like there's something notably missing from their domestic spaces. [Richard di Santo]
This is the debut release for Object, and only the third for Foton Records, a label based in Belgium focusing on releases of minimal and abstract electronics. This disc by Object (a project of Foton Records co-founder Peter Van Hoesen) is no exception. Six long tracks of minimal electronics, arranged and layered progressively in repetitive rhythmic patterns. Minimalism, according to Object, is a means to an end, and not an end in itself. One question, however, remains unanswered: What then is the end to which minimalism is a means? Delicate, high pitched frequencies weave in and out of long tracks which develop slowly and unfold nicely but without many surprises (with the exception of some sharp contrasts in the track "a/b"). Bass tones, static sounds, processed vocal samples, hisses and pops play repetitive games with these thin frequencies, and create some nice and often intriguing minimal structures. The results place us in familiar territory - Ryoji Ikeda is an obvious (and explicit) point of reference - and where I can appreciate long tracks that unfold slowly, I found a few of these tracks ("singular 2" especially) were a little too long for the momentum and ideas behind them. Still, some excellent production work here revealing Object's sensibility toward choosing his sounds and arranging them with great care and ability. Limited to a press run of 500 copies, Release the Object comes packaged with a colour slide (?) with a design by Submedia and a small card featuring a painting by Ela Stasiuk. There are also two extra mp3 tracks available from the Foton Records website. [Richard di Santo]
Released a few months ago on Mike Griffin's Hypnos label, Digitalis is the latest work by touchstyle guitarist Markus Reuter. He has also recently released another solo project, The Longest In Terms Of Being, which is an engrossing work of ambient sound made solely with the touch guitar. Digitalis was recorded in real-time onto a 2-track stereo in 1999. Twelve tracks which mostly blend into one another creating a consistent whole, although there's a marked dip into silence on track 8 ("radiating blackness"), and the tracks further break up following this point. Swirls of sound, harmonics and drifting ambience dominate this beautiful recording. Reuter's touch guitar is just the beginning for a host of delay techniques, loops, and live manipulations; really it's quite remarkable that this music is created in real-time. I'll admit however that I found this work less engaging than The Longest In Terms Of Being, which was able to captivate my attention with a more simplified sound palette. Here, the swirls of cloud 9 can be a little much, and where this record shines is where the loops and delays take over (as in the track "whole", or in the finale "holy" which closes things off rather nicely), and take you astride their irresistible currents. [Richard di Santo]
Chas Smith performs on instruments he has designed and fabricated from the ground up. These instruments are some of the most bizarre and intriguing looking objects I have ever seen (the booklet comes with a number of stunning photographs of these structures), and look more like measuring devices than musical instruments. He also performs on pedal steel guitar for the final two pieces on Nikko Wolverine, his latest release on the recently resuscitated Cold Blue Music label. Chas Smith plays solo, with occasional contributions from George Budd who plays thundersheets on a couple of tracks, and Ojá Fin, whose vocal presence is barely (it at all) perceptible.
The disc is divided into 4 pieces. The first, "Nikko Wolverine" (a piece in three parts) is scored for various bowed and struck metal instruments in non-tempered tunings. Complex harmonics and rich metallic reverberations create a very mysterious and commanding piece of music; there are no melodies, beats or rhythms, but the atmosphere is dense and the drones run long and deep, like the dark ambience of post-industrial drones, reminiscent in places of some of Dan Burke's earlier work (from his pre-laptop days) as Illusion of Safety. And all of this without any electronic manipulations, delays or loop effects. The next piece, "Tons Tons Macoutes", is also scored for various of these original metal instruments and is structured along similar lines as the previous piece, although this time the sounds are darker, like the soundtrack to a surreal nightmare. The final two pieces on the disc, "Genus Sho-Bud" and "Near the Divide" are for pedal steel guitar. The first utilises long delays and harmonic suspensions, and the second sounds more traditional in technique, but both are equally evocative, although the moods they evoke pale in comparison to those suggested from the earlier pieces on this disc.
A vastly intriguing work, which must really be something to witness as a live performance. The photos of Smith's original creations only compliment these powerful and imposing compositions that inspire awe and amazement in the listener. I felt however that his pedal steel exercises could have justified a separate release, since the shift in mood, technique and aesthetic lessens the impact of this record as a whole. Otherwise an excellent new release from Cold Blue Music. [Richard di Santo]
The second edition of the Bip-Hop Generation series features exclusive contributions from six artists, many of whom were previously unknown to me: Bernhard Fleischmann, Arovane, Warmdesk, Köhn, Wang Inc. and Laurent Pernice. The theme here is "adventurous bleeps, delightful & fragile ambiences" and so Bip-Hop continues with the excellent standard it established with the first volume of the series. Fleischmann (whose work has been released on Charizma and Fuzzybox) starts things off wonderfully with two tracks of rich digital atmospheres, moods both light and dark (even some chords on a guitar!), friendly melodies and mellow rhythms. Arovane (Uwe Zahn) provides the closest thing to a Warp Records compilation track on this disc, but still a nice 10-minute piece with a jaunty rhythm and various analogue tweakings. Warmdesk (William Selman) contributes four dynamic tracks, ranging from abstract electronic textures to firm beats, crackles and surprising interruptions. Köhn treats us to some abstract digital clusters, fragments and approximations of rhythms with ample texture and activity. Apparently these tracks form a short story about his landlord; there are even some sad vocals on one track, "S. (for hubert)". Wang Inc. from Italy provides 2 sets of short "homemade loops", a dark reflection on the last Kosovo war (one of the most striking tracks on this compilation, and one of my favourites), and random variations on a rocking 3 note melody. Nice stuff! Laurent Pernice, last heard on his latest full-length Yppah CD on Moloko+, gives us three tracks of his characteristically multi-faceted sound; a melting pot of post-industrial beats and quirky electronics (Pernice calls it "electronica furiosa"). In all another very fine instalment from a label which has quickly become the centre of a lot of attention in recent months. [Richard di Santo]
Three works by Marc Behrens composed between 1992 and 1994, reedited and remastered in various stages between 1997 and 1999. Lecture Feedback was composed for a lecture on acoustic feedback which took place in 1993, and Source Feedback was composed for a short film of the same name. The source material for both of these projects is exclusively made from acoustic feedbacks, and Behrens has arranged them here in dramatic and shifting movements. Long stretches of apparent silence populated by a slight crackle or a variation of hiss will be answered by subtle clusters of strange sounds (echoes, crackles, pops) and occasional bass intonations. Minimal, often barely audible, the feedbacks blend with the crackle of vinyl, and the slight hum from the spinning turntable. With such sensitive sound material, it's a wonder that these pieces were published on vinyl at all, though I have no reservations about the choice in media - on the contrary, I love to witness the interplay of barely audible sound elements, as if I am creating a new work with each playback. On the second side, the 5 tracks that form The Aesthetics of Censorship (1994) were created for a concert series on string instruments. No live string instruments were used for the recording, but rather samples of string instruments. The first 2 pieces use the piano as a sound source, the next two use the violin, and the fifth and final piece uses the harpsichord. These pieces are surprising and sharp; the samples are looped, distanced, manipulated, stretched, edited and filtered to create 5 dynamic pieces, full of dramatic shifts, where silence doesn't figure as largely as in the other works on this record. A wonderfully rich audio experiment, meriting close examination and repeated listening. Among the string of quoted passages on the record's sleeve is this statement which seems to formulate things perfectly:
(Apparently this passage is quoted from Wunnerful, Wunnerful! The Autobiography of Lawrence Welk, although this doesn't seem quite right.) This record by Behrens explores these two fundamental frequency areas to great effect. Nicely packaged and pressed on good quality vinyl, this one comes highly recommended. [Richard di Santo]
Released in 1999, Martin Tétrault and Otomo Yoshihide's 21 situations documents 21 short improvisations for turntables (with and without treatments on the needles and vinyl), sampler and CD. Both Tétrault and Yoshihide are quite well known for both their innovation and daring in the improvisational community, and especially so when it comes to the turntable. Recorded in 1997, these 21 short (never much longer than 4 minutes, but most between 1-2 minutes long) deal with various themes that determine their titles: cartoon, science-fiction, conflagration, chant, jungle, chaos, tension, etc. "Satellite", for example, has an eerie cosmic-like sound; "cartoon" is playful; and "chant" contains a strange human-made squawking. The mood of this disc is really quite playful, and even though there are some dips into darker themes and sounds, the over-all feeling is one of spontaneous experimentalism. Scratches, scrapings, loops, sharp cut-ups and collage work, grating textures of the needles on treated vinyl, and short glimpses of what the original records may have sounded like are the elements that keep you on your toes throughout the entire recording. Keeping the tracks short is a wonderful exercise for improvisers since it enforces a constraint on their process, an artificial compulsion to compress their language down to its essential elements, charged with meaning and energy. The effects on the listener of this compressed language is another matter, though. An immensely energetic and frantic release, and in spite of the unease it causes in my temperament, it still captures by interest and curiosity. [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.
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