Water towers have eyes

Hello and welcome back to the semi-regular ‘new arrivals’ posts…the box is completely overflowing at the moment and we shall never see its cardboard bottom. I’ve been busy writing issue 16. Oh Astro have sent Champions of Wonder (IA115). They are from the Illegal Art collective, a faceless group of concept artists based in America who are dedicated to undermining the world’s common sense through audio collage. Previous outings from that label have been rather snide and sarcastic, but this one seems to be laden with friendly beats and even a sneaky melody or two lurking among its twisted corners. Complex sleeve overprints scrawly images of cats and children, like loose leaves torn from the diary of an outsider loon-boon.

Jean-Francois Laporte seems to be a stone-groove elephant of the electro-acoustic school, rushing forwards with a collection of his late 1990s recordings on soundmatters (23FIVE 009). His ‘Electro-prana’ is derived from wind recordings, but unlike many artistes who have taken their devices out into the windy ringing plains of Greece and Poland and come back with vacant statements, Laporte instead brings back a sinister rendering of that friendly puffery, transforming the wind from mankind’s friend into its deadliest enemy. I’m hoping for further sombre thoughts from the remainder of this package…slipcase cover is pretty much just a colour-field painting of ochres and reds. If it were 25 foot square, you could lose yourself in its muddy textures.

Marcus Schmickler is a great European hero of the digital medium, and he’s trumpeting forth with a new electronic menacer called Altars of Science 1-8 (Stereo Mix) for the famous Editions Mego label in Austria (EDITIONS MEGO 082P). With that inscrutable title, is he intending to criticise our unquestioning acceptance of contemporary scientific methods? Or is he all in favour of white-coated boffins ruling the world with a titanium fist? Hear these steely stern sounds and decide for yourself. His minimalistic mystery and odd dynamics work to great effect here, and while this disc is not as overloaded as label head’s Peter Rehberg’s KTL projects, it’s in the same general area of consternation. Y’may wanna know that the label has also reissued Hotel Paral.lel (EDITIONS MEGO 016P) by Christian Fennesz, in a nice remastered version with an additional video by Tina Frank burned on.

Mathieu Ruhlmann – here’s a very nice record I had hoped to squeeze into issue 16 of the magazine, but my crowbar-wielding capabilities failed me. The Earth Grows in Each of Us (AFE0971CD) is an optimistic and warm statement from AFE Records in Italy (they also sent two excellent Edward Ruchalski records) and arrives in a slimline card wallet, decorated with photos and collages very suggestive of Joseph Cornell’s work. Aurally, Ruhlmann seems to promise similar worlds of associative mystery and nostalgia, backed up with titles like ‘all will grow young again’. He plays many acoustic instruments and applies his nimble fingers to lots of objects found in nature, such as pine cones and tree branches (shades of Jeph Jerman there). The overall sound surface however ends up quite heavily treated in the recording process, and emerges resembling an out-of-focus photograph. Lyrical and enchanting.

Martin Archer of Sheffield has sent in Randomworld 1 (DISCUS 31CD), another release on his own Discus label, but this one is limited to 150 CDRs and the all-white CDR is packed alongside a square chunk of artboard, said slab smeared with yellow, red and orange paint blobs. Presumably Archer had a pleasant afternoon creating these unique covers by climbing into his garden shed and dribbling over large sheets of card with house paint, then slicing up the results into CD artworks. The music features Archer plus his friends and collaborators Chris Bywater, Neil Carver, Chris Meloche and someone called UTT – all credited with playing various acoustic and electronic instruments, field recordings or turntables, and processing work. Judging by the few minutes I have auditioned, it’s a sprawling canvas of assemblage, but with no harsh edits – instead we have something designed to give the impression of one hour’s worth of continuous strange music. Promising.

Think I’ve got a large batch of newies from Temporary Residence, the NY label that deals in slightly odd and dark alternative rock, but I can only lay hands on one of them at the moment. Sleeping People‘s Growing (TRR123) is a collection of ten edgy avant-rock instrumentals, all delivered with a surprisingly spare and effects-free sound, and with titles like ‘Centipede’s Dream’ and ‘Grow Worm’ the band are edging into vaguely dreamlike territory. Not as nightmarish as I would like, but Sleeping People are a crisp combo (with a very good drummer who can handle the tricky time signatures). The cover art almost looks like a classic Mark Beyer drawing from 1983, with its humanised water towers on top of a tenement building.

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