11 November 2001
Alejandra Salinas and Aeron Bergman return with a new kind of storybook disc incorporating electroacoustic sound and storytelling. The stories, which have all the qualities of a tale spun by Lewis Carroll, appear in full in a beautiful hand-crafted booklet by A&A and Old Dutch d.i.y. master stencil printers Jan Dirke De Wilde and Joyce Guley. In the actual sound compositions, only glimpses of the stories appear in fragments, spoken in a motherly singsong voice by Marie Annette Fox. They are centered around a character called Pip, a lazy sort of person with a very narrow vision of the world around him. By contrast, the sounds which engulf these stories are far from narrow; ambient textures, broken melodies, a droning accordion, found sounds, surprising interruptions and the happy chirping of birds create environments characterised by the fantastic, inspiring a sort of childlike wonder in their midst. Acoustic sound sources get what is likely a digital treatment; the sounds open up with great clarity and occupy an impressive expanse on the stereo soundfield. The release as a whole carries a well-paced rhythm as well, which makes this an understated, captivating and overall enjoyable record to listen to, so long as you're paying attention (this is not the sort of music you want to have on in the background while doing the housework or entertaining friends). Another fine release from A&A and Lucky Kitchen, which comes highly recommended. [Richard di Santo]
We Have No System marks the debut release for Consume, which has by now followed this one up with another five releases to date (so my apologies if we seem a little behind). Eye and Ear Control is a collaboration between the two "non talents" of Neck Doppler and The Render General. Appearing to suffer from a severe lack of self worth, the press notes also point out that they have "no computer, no sampler, no planning, no direction and no obvious skill." Alright, so these guys are either comedians or just brutally honest about themselves. Either way, in the end I think it's safe to say that the press release is irrelevant, so onward to the music. The disc features three long tracks with a total playing time of just over 40 minutes. Music made perhaps with a synth or drum machine, tapes, radio and maybe an electronic device or two. The rhythm (simple, filtered and unadorned) dominates each of the pieces, which is then accompanied and bombarded by various disorderly noises and kaleidoscopic sounds. Bizarre changes and a some surprising sounds make this a marginally interesting disc, but never at any point while listening was I really captured by this music, nor did I ever stop and say "wow, that sounds fantastic." However, these guys certainly aren't as worthless as the epithet "non talents" might imply; perhaps they just need a more exciting idea the next time around. [Cristobal Q]
Goem's seventh full-length release collects material recorded in Rotterdam, Montréal, Tokyo and Kyoto between 2000 and 2001, featuring eight tracks with a run time of just over 50 minutes. Although they probably need no introduction here (see our feature article and interview, Broken Music and Loop Tensions, published earlier this year), Goem consists of Roel Meelkop, Frans de Waard and Peter Duimelinks. In creating their "minimal pulse techno" (for lack of a better term), Meelkop has said that they "are always looking for this tension in the track; if the tension is not there, the track is nothing." This tension is created by combining a small set of short loops and minimal pulses, all of which are mixed live and with no subsequent editing. The basic material may seem simple, but the possibilities in the mix are endless, which might explain why each one of Goem's releases is as refreshing as the last. It recalls the idea that constraint is actually more liberating than free forms. Each track contains enough subtle changes and delicate touches (shifts in volume, eq, pitch, balance, etc.) to bring these minimal elements to new levels, implying that these are more than mere pulses, and hidden within them is an entire world of sound through their interaction with the body. It's the subtleties that makes this and all of Goem's work so rewarding, easily transcending the "microwave" or "clicks & cuts" conventions by a mile. Excellent work. [Richard di Santo]
This CD brings together seven electroacoustic pieces created over the past six years by Alex Keller, a man whose fascination with the omnipresence of sound as artifice has led to his interest in sound design and difficult music. Each of these pieces tells a different story, and is constructed with different methods and sound material. Keller describes his intentions and methods for each piece in the liner notes, and this is where you get the sense that he is a real enthusiast for experimenting with sound. The first, "And the walls became the world all around", uses a limited number of sounds from a soft synth, later treated with effects and then assembled in ProTools. The second piece uses the sound of an electric guitar; the third, a piano. Others use field recordings, samplers, and soft synths, all put through the wheels of various effects and cut-up techniques. Some of these pieces are wonderful; they exhibit coherent and inspiring sound worlds filled with rich textures and captivating sounds. For example, the harmonic drones which coast through the short piece "Landscape: still life with bug lamp" occupy an impressive dynamic. Also, the field recordings and vocal manipulations in "All of these things" form one of the strongest pieces on the CD. Others might feel a little fragmented in places (parts of "Cosmetic", for example, feel a little crowded with ideas and transitions), but always with an impressive presence of carefully structured sounds. An ambitious collection that surely makes for difficult listening, but will also reward the careful listener. Nicely done. [Richard di Santo]
Il n'y a pas de Sud is the debut release for Montréal native Ghislain Poirier. Armed with an aging PC with limited memory and processing power, Poirier was forced to compose his music in parts, piecing them together only at a later stage. An interesting process which makes me wonder if it was accidental or intentional. The music is slow but rhythmic (although it does pick up the pace on occasion), with dense layers of reverb, bass and submerged sounds. It borrows from techno and microsound equally, but immerses them in a cloud of opaque processing and delay effects. The description might imply that this music sounds like a record by Vladislav Delay (a trusty reference point for all things digitally "submerged" and organic), but that's not really the case, although I'll admit that there are a few affinities. Poirier's music is more self-contained, each track in and of itself, and each with its own swirling sonics and evolving rhythms. Some of these pieces are more interesting than others, but overall it's a very strong release that grows on you the more you listen to it. Indicative of a small but growing microsound initiative now festering in the homes, clubs and concert halls of Montréal. [Richard di Santo]
We last heard Chas Smith's solo work on the impressive Nikko Wolverine, released earlier this year on Cold Blue. In addition to performing on pedal steel guitar, Smith designs, manufactures and performs on magnificent metal instruments which are bowed and struck as the design allows or the need arises. His music is a compelling sound world comprised of rich metallic textures and drifting harmonics. For these new pieces recorded in Encino, California, Smith is accompanied by the voices of Ojá Fin and the Reseda Women's Choir, an anonymous player on flute and cello, and the Reseda Wind Ensemble on flutes. And yet, with all of these accompaniments, the dominant element is still the metal; the reverberations, harmonics and strikes on these instruments create rich tapestries of intoxicating sound, implying a deep void that exists just beyond the audible. The choral textures of the final piece "Nachthexen" recall Ligeti's choral works, a bewitching sound soon consumed by the characteristically deep and swirling metallic drones and echoes that make for an unforgettable finale. For those unfamiliar with the works of Chas Smith, I cannot think of a better place to start. [Richard di Santo]
Contemporary jazz drummer Fredy Studer joins forces once more with DJ M. Singe (aka Beth Coleman) for this new project recorded in February 2000. Studer and Singe have worked together before as Roots and Wires, a group formed at the Cultural Alchemy SoundLab in 1998 which also included Hans Koch, Martin Schütz and I-Sound. DJ M. Singe, a champion of turntablism, has been one of the major players in New York's illbient scene, combining breakbeats, heavy basslines and dense ambient textures in new and exciting ways. Fredy Studer, based in Switzerland, has an inclination toward adventurous collaborations, having worked with Jin Hi Kim, Joëlle Léandre, Robyn Schulkowsky, and a host of others in the new jazz improv scene. On Duos they present seven tracks in collaboration, and DJ M. Singe provides three short remixes of the same material. The music on this disc is uneven and quirky, sometimes dark and brooding and sometimes light and funny, and never too serious or esoteric. Abstract breaks and fragmented rhythms cut in and out of the mixes, scratches from the turntable (beats, bass, voices) and electronic quirks match with equal weight Studer's fluttering of percussion. Muscular sections of fragmented drum 'n' bass alternate with darker, more subdued atmospheres. Rather than presenting a series of coherent rhythmic tracks, these are pieces that play with the idea of rhythm. They switch on and off, and I found that after listening to their complex and teasing fragmentations I was finally inclined to hear a good solid beat. Studer and Singe keep things fluid and transient; they mix things up just enough make for a challenging listening experience for those who enjoy experimental improv, while at the same time providing a mildly satisfying catharsis for those illbient headz out there. [Richard di Santo]
V.V. is one Ven Voisey, who it seems also runs the Throat label, on which this disc was released earlier this year. Things collapse in on themselves features one track that is just under 18 minutes in length. It begins with the sounds of rain, escalating slowly in volume and intensity until a sudden shift takes place, as if closing the door on the rainfall, leaving only an uneven dripping of water along with random concrete sounds. A simple loop on acoustic guitar creates a slow and repetitive lull in the middle of the piece, accompanied by flashes of static and all manner strange sounds. The noise builds and builds, the guitar disappears, the hiss rises in intensity, the sounds become closer and louder, until the piece finally climaxes, coming full circle as it falls back into the rainfall from the opening sequence. V.V. has created an intense and dramatic piece here, and this short disc is quite enough pique my interest about what might be next for him. Recommended. [Richard di Santo]
An incomparable release in the history of psycho-acoustic recordings, no other disc in my collection possesses such indisputable power to alter my mental and physical state. One track in particular, "A.A.A. (Audio Alpha Activity)" contains such mind-bending material, it's difficult to fathom the notion with which it was created.
T.A.G.C. (The Anti-Group) is a project of Clock DVA's Adi Newton, who created the project as an "experimental research program". Included with this disc is an informative text entitled "Threshold Of The Inconceivable", which delves into the effects of sound on brain patterns from technical and meontological (parapsychological) perspectives. Also supplied is a breakdown of beta, alpha, theta and delta waves, and which specific sound frequencies pertain to which.
The disc commences with a twelve-second recording of a 40 Hz tone, seemingly to test the boundaries of your sound system. If you can't feel the presence of this low frequency tone when it's played through your system, you'll be missing out on too much to get anything out of these recordings. The track "Teste Tones" follows, which is a layering of ultra-high frequency sounds parlayed over the 40 Hz tone introduced at the start. Slow, creeping synthetic washes of sound enter the mix, and begin to reverberate around you. The mix is recorded so that the stereo phasing of certain elements is flipped to near 180º, resulting in a surround effect.
I'm going to skip ahead to the track "A.A.A.", which is listed as the fourth track on the sleeve, but is actually track three on the disc (Soleilmoon's track breakdown differs from the LP version released on Side Effects (R.I.P.) in 1988). From my own experience, this track is best listened to under somewhat controlled circumstances. Play it at a healthy volume - you will need to feel the low frequency pulses that develop in the track - and lay down comfortably with your eyes closed. Ensure you will not be interrupted for at least ten minutes (the length of the track), and hit play.
The track begins with a slow, simple beep and hiss loop, sounding like a medical monitoring device of some sort. This is punctuated by vocal utterances of a very repetitive nature. The setup forms the basis of the entire track, and what happens is that every minute the tempo doubles. In the first minute, there are twenty-two beep/hiss strikes, and in the next there are forty-four (methinks Adi was looking into his "magick" book once again to come up with all these multiples of eleven). Not only is there anticipation of how fast the next minute will sound, but the very notion that the tempo will be doubling on itself repeatedly evokes visions of an infinitesimal nature. This relates precisely to what thoughts can enter your mind as you listen to the track in its entirety. Not only are these thoughts with you, but a physical effect is also experienced by way of the low frequency pulses and constant left-right panning of the beeps.
When I listen to it, my eyelids flutter and my body twitches. It renders me helpless, creating a feeling of lightness, both in body and in mind, but the end result is well worthwhile. It has the ability to clear your head and energize your being. It's definitely a positive energy, and it lasts for a good while after listening to the track.
What follows are two very peaceful ambient pieces, which give you time to recuperate from the hyper pace of "A.A.A.". In particular, the track "Magnetic Pharmacology" has an entirely calming effect, with its choral attributes and elemental effects.
The disc closes with "A.A.A.A. (Accelerated Audio Alpha Activity)", which essentially is a cut-to-the-chase version of "A.A.A.". It clocks in under five minutes, and the physical effects are nowhere near that of its predecessor. The arrangement is remarkable however, with a breakneck approach to its sequencing.
A remarkable achievement not only in sound design, but also in research and implementation, this release is unique in the history of sound recordings. It demands your attention, your intellect and your openness. It goes beyond being a mere auditory curiosity by inviting its audience to partake in the research first-hand. The results may amaze you. [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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