Incursion.org > Archive > Music Review 46
18 February 2002
DIEB13 / JASON KAHN / GÜNTER MÜLLER:
Streaming was recorded live in April, 2001, on the occasion of Sonique Serie 6, part of a series of improvisation concerts in Zürich, curated by Jason Kahn. Dieb 13, aka Dieter Kovavic, aka Takeshi Fumimoto, performs on turntables, while Jason Kahn and Günter Müller perform on parts of acoustic drums which are modified by electronics. The performance breaks up into five tracks, but I like to think of this as a single piece. One might have expected more noise from a performance on turntables, electronics and percussion, but these three improvisers have created a wonderfully subdued performance, with mostly quiet sounds, low noises, feedback, found sounds, scraping, scratching and vibrating noises woven together with great care and deliberation. The players perform admirably together, and seem to be sensitive to the slightest movements, complimenting each other's contributions and allowing the entire performance to breathe with a unique spaciousness, rather than crowding it with restless activity and competing sounds. Chiming, swirling sounds, soft strikes on metal, subtle textures and unpredictable movements characterize much of this compelling performance. Subtle and intriguing, to say the least. An excellent new release on For 4 Ears. [Richard di Santo]
FROG POCKET: caric kils
Scotlands Frog Pocket deliver a tender forty minute selection of soft, meandering electronica, peppered with strange accents and peculiar instrumentation. Things get underway with "fir faas", a track somewhat difficult to categorize. At times, it comes off as a simple, childlike melody played repeatedly (with slight variations) over its short length. Listening again, it evokes a type of Jewish folk song never before recorded. A strange foot to start off on, but the melody is inviting and sets a distinct tone for the rest of the disc. From there, Frog Pocket take us to a peaceful setting on "underwood ladykirk", which pleases with guitar chords that sit atop a restless, stuttering percussion track. The technology threatens to overtake the acoustic elements at some moments, but a fair balance is always kept. A couple of other tracks follow this course here, the best example probably being "my little friend", which teases in an illusory state of simplicity. They even have the courage to bring out the fiddles for the track "felix kubin", and the results are positively engaging. Towards the end of the disc, Frog Pocket lay it on thick in "come on the arches!", a track that teeters from tranquil melody to all-out sonic assault. Even though many of the tracks contain blazingly edited sequences, the effects are never jarring. The whole disc seems to have a type of glaze that has been draped over the sounds, resulting in a cohesive and well-formed collection of music, rather than just another smartly programmed one. [Vils M DiSanto]
JULIUS: (Halb) schwarz
In his insightful liner notes to this disc, Frank Hilberg introduces the sound world of Rolf Julius: "From the standpoint of a 100% pure Central European aesthetic, it's all about weeds, rubbish, noise; hisses, crackles, whines, drones all sounds that would be eliminated by tradition-conscious sound engineers, at great technical expenditure." Working with "small sounds," all generated (or, at least treated) electronically, Julius constructs sublime drones, rich with the elements described above, the sounds that constitute "glitch" music. The pieces featured on this disc were composed and produced between 1989 through to 1998. His sound is complex and multi-layered, captivating and arresting. The drones, buzzers, textures and hisses occupy an immediate space in the listening environment, commanding my utmost attention and wonder, and it is with some difficulty that I find the words to describe these pieces, often the sign that I have been very much impressed. There's a lot happening here; strip away one layer of sounds to uncover more layers, which, when isolated in turn reveal still more constituent parts hitherto unnoticed. The strongest pieces are also the longest and most dramatic. "Vier schwaze rechtecke," a piece in two parts, for example, contains rich drones, chirping and deep echoes, that rise and fall in intensity. By contrast, "musik für den blicke nach oben" contains more generous silences and echoes, the minute sounds (chirping, chiming, etc.) occupy an expanse slightly behind the foreground. In all, these are some excellent constructions; a fantastic record, complex and highly recommended. Lets hope we hear more from this innovative sound artist. [Richard di Santo]
MAENAD: a thousand petals
A Thousand Petals is the follow up to Maenad's debut EP, Flowers for Solomon. Her debut, which was released back in the summer of 2000, was a compelling mix of influences and dark ambient elements, creating strong, sometimes disturbing moods, and yet the only place where it fell short was that the pieces seemed to be cut short before realizing their potential. Not so with A Thousand Petals, a full length disc with four long tracks exploring some very dark territories and moods. Deep ambience, piano, distant voices, an eerie chant-like humming in the first piece takes you to a meditation on flute, then to more deep and dark electronic textures in the second piece, with the sounds of rain and thunder completing a picture that is dark, dank and dreary. In the third track, "The one who is created," the sounds of babbling water morph into dynamic electronic textures, while an altered voice makes a strange confession. In the final track, "Pigs my fly," distant radio voices (of a disturbing Christian fanaticism) mix with a hollow electronic wind, completing the album admirably. Excellent work, revealing an impressive sensibility toward creating intriguing ambient textures and strong moods. Even if it's extremely dark with nary a glimmer of light to be found, this one's well worth exploring. [Richard di Santo]
NECK DOPPLER: Future Hits Vol. 1
Future Hits Vol. 1 is the first full length for Neck Doppler, although we've heard his music before, on a split 7 inch with Straight Outta Mongolia (on Mouthmoth), or his work with The Render General as Eye and Ear Control (with a few releases on Consume). Here we see Neck Doppler in a similar territory as with the split 7 inch, where he approached more of a pop music style and added a whole lot of weirdness to the equation. The music on Future Hits is even more strange, where "pop music" is turned completely inside out. If you thought the Aphex Twin had a skewered approach to mixing pop elements with electronic madness, think again. Bizarre, manipulated and wavering vocals, singing what could almost be catchy refrains in a backwards universe, mix with quirky rhythms, analog noises, loops and samples. It's all in good fun, though; I can't imagine Neck Doppler is taking things too seriously here, which is a good quality in this music. Funny, absurd, quirky and, above all, stranger than fiction. [Richard di Santo]
ROBERT NORMANDEAU: Clair de terre
This review was not meant to become so thoroughly academic: but the music in question is thoroughly academic, from start to finish, from its origin to its reflection in our ears. Electroacoustic music is a startling mixture of playing with theoretical models in a geography of organic instrumentation and digital manipulation to explore their soundness, their structure, their resonance and dissonance and a love of sonic experimentalism, of the perverse pleasures of the ear, that has propelled musicians since the birth of Art on January 17th, about 2 million years ago (according to Fluxus).
Robert Normandeau works in a genre of electroacoustic called acousmatic sound. Acousmatic sound, according to Michel Chion, is a sound "one hears without seeing [its] originating cause an invisible sound source." Born in Québec in 1955, and currently a Professor of Composition at the Université de Montréal, Normandeau explores the outer ranges of the acousmatic in Claire de terre through three separate works: "Malina," "Erinyes," and the title track, "Claire de terre." Or at least the liner notes claim that he is exploring the acousmatic, that which seems devoid of origin; for paradoxically, the first two movements are purely concentrated upon issues of origin and centricity. "At the origin of the work is a play," begin the liner notes to "Malina," which is the score to a theatrical adaptation of Ingeborg Bachmanns 1971 novel of the same name. Likewise, "Erinyes" begins with: "At the centre of this work is the voice." The attempt, according to Normandeau, is to "bring out the primitive nature of the voice." The paradox inherent in the definition of the theoretical project acousmatics and the stated intent of the individual works is fully realized in the last piece, "Claire de terre," which focuses upon humankinds newfound ability to see Earth from space. "Claire de terre" is a French play on words: "claire de lune" is a Quebecois expression of the moon at night, its clarity and cold purity which grounds many Quebecois folksongs. The reversal of this to see the Earth in a pure state, from the moon illustrates the paradox: for we cannot actually see the Earth, we only see it in a reflection, in pictures or representations of the Earth, taken from the Moon. What has traditionally grounded French folksongs such as "Au claire de la lune" is now displaced: the origin itself is decentred through its reflection. According to Normandeau, the result is a realization that "Earth is not at the center of the universe," leading to a "state of unbalance that is reflected in the way we see the world." This very reflection a mirror image of balance interpreted as imbalance, an interpretation that can never be sure of a true balance beneath its simulacra of instability is the stuff of Normandeaus "acousmatic" explorations, for even his definition of acousmatic differs from that of Chions. For Normandeau, "meaning contributes to the development of the work as much as does sound," whereas Chion understands the term as devoid of referential meaning. The paradox lies within our consideration of the works in question: is it necessary to critique the stated origins to grasp the paradoxes inherent in Normandeaus acoustic logocentrism? Or can it be heard within the "sound" of the work itselfdevoid of meaning, at a loss for representation?
"Malina" strikes directly into my memory, deep at a Western Orientalism: I "hear" the sounds of the East and for good reason, as the principle source of sound is the ghostly playing of the Japanese flute called the shakuhachi, processed with spatialization and delay to add a spectral quality. And perhaps it is a sense of the unheimlich (uncanny) that directly confronts us in the rawness, the startling orgasmic quality, of the human voice. Drawn from onomatopoeia, sampled from a production of Sophocles Elektra, and at times processed to trill like flocks of birds, the treatment of the voice is akin to sonically imagining the deconstructive critique of the voice Derrida offers Rousseau in Of Grammatology. Voice is it the raw primitivism, similar to the birdsong, poetic at its core, as Rousseau claims? Or is voice mixed with writing that corrupt, perverse, guilty pleasure from its incestous origins? Writing: the Meaning that centres voice. And it is the third piece, "Claire de terre," that explicitly reveals the violence of this conflict, of the paradox. A countdown at the beginning of the piece leads to industrial sounds hammering, doors, squeaking, distorted fuzz clashing with fat sighs from the human voice. The palette shifts and we are led once again into a sonic memory that can only be described as uncanny: off-key pitches, high drones, rubbings and metal taps, metallic squeaks and echoes. We are in the wasted trainyard of the mind at the very indeterminate juncture where we cannot determine conscious/unconscious, mind/body, voice/writing, meaning/sound. It is perhaps fitting, then, that after a burst of bagpipes, the last sounds heard are the squeaky hinges of a closing door or perhaps, a crypt. [Tobias c. van Veen]
The latest release from Tim Olive presents seven improvised tracks for solo guitar, recorded live to DAT with no effects or overdubs. Olive has worked with Sachiko M, Greg Kelley, Nakamura Toshimaru and Jeffrey Allport, among others in the experimental improv scene. The total duration of his latest disc is just short of sixteen minutes, but Olive really makes his mark on that time by presenting a flurry of intriguing sounds. In the hands of a talented improviser, the guitar is transformed into an instrument with immense possibilities, inspiring the listener to truly marvel at all these sounds we never thought a guitar was capable of making. Such is the case with Olive's latest work: using only three strings of the guitar, a bow and other objects (described as "a passel o' stuffs form the hundred yen store"), he is able to coax an incredible array of sounds from his guitar. It squeaks, it moans, it scrapes and yelps, and in all Oilve keeps the mood light, never becoming too serious, academic or overbearing. This is the third release from celo recordings, which is slowly developing a great little catalog of short, limited edition CDRs. This one's limited to 200. [Richard di Santo]
ROSY PARLANE: Getxo
Four years following Rosy Parlane's inaugural release on Sigma Editions, Getxo is the tenth and latest release from this innovative label. Originally from New Zealand but now residing in London, Parlane has worn many hats over the years, performing on various instruments (percussion, piano, electronics) in a variety of contexts. On Getxo, Parlane turns to digital territories, creating warm sonics rich with dense walls of static and the cadence of hypnotic waves, that move from the minimal to the complex. Rhythmic elements are always present but never taking on conventional structures. Nonetheless I found them captivating at every turn. The sound sources are often unrecognizable; perhaps the first track began with a few notes on a piano, which were then treated with complex filters and processing tools. Microsound elements are present (static, pulses, crackles), but I wouldn't call this clicks + cuts. Rather, this is some beautiful, warm and complex music with a phenomenal attention to detail and an intoxicating effect, as I find myself transfixed by the sounds and rhythms as they unfold. The six tracks on the CD exist as pairs, but the symmetry works in an odd way from the outside in (track 1 goes with 6, 2 with 5, and 3 with 4), although the exact nature of the relationship between tracks remains elusive. It's an excellent release, and highly recommended. [Richard di Santo]
TARENTEL: Mort Aux Vaches
The latest in Staalplaat's acclaimed Mort Aux Vaches series of live recordings for VPRO. Tarentel might not seem like the sort of project you would expect to find on Staalplaat; their sound somewhere between Godspeed You Black Emperor! and Mogwai. Their music (at least, as it appears on this release is a compelling form of slow moving guitar-based rock (could one even call it space rock? or post rock?) with some fantastic feedback, rolling rhythms and a heavy, cradling bass that carry you through these four long tracks. Probably my favourite track here is the second one, with its balance of elements, moving from a rocking groove to quiet guitar drones, incidental sounds and feedback. It seems to capture all aspects of the band's sound in one go. Formed in 1997 and having throughout their history gone through various personnel changes, each of Tarentel's releases (on Temporary Residence, Awkward Silence, and more recently on Neurot Records) has reflected a particular shift in their sound. Their latest full length on Neurot has been likened to a somewhat unlikely combination of :zoviet*france:, Radiohead and Arvo Part. Sounds fantastic. This record for the Mort Aux Vaches series was recorded mid-2000, and is more rock-based, but the music reflects a great talent for creating some intoxicating guitar-based experimental rock music. [Richard di Santo]
TV POW: Despite Ourselves
Despite Ourselves is the latest release for the Chicago based laptop trio TV Pow. It features twenty minutes of music divided into fifteen tracks, even though this really is one single piece. The separate tracks might just be what gives TV Pow license to conjure up as many of these silly track titles they can think of (among them, "i'm not only a client, i'm the beer president," "this is the part the austrians like" and "the all new bandana styles"). More and more I think that humour plays an essential role in presenting experimental music. On Despite Ourselves, the trio takes found sounds and electronic sounds, cuts them up, runs them through the cogs of their software tools, and gives us something that has the feel of both free-form improvisation and planned composition. The jittery, often restless sounds flutter into and out of earshot in a heartbeat; sharp textures, disembodied sounds and electronic tones that cover a full range of frequencies make this an intense and engaging release, with all the more impact for its brevity and economy of style. Nicely done, and recommended. [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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