Chic Nerve is the very talented Rebecca Mills, founder member of The Caution Curves, a Washington DC all-girl combo who press a lot of buttons for me in the quirked-out improvised rock and electronics field. Hectic Tenuous (Sockets CDR 37) is Rebecca’s solo trip, and it promises a multitude of fascinating bizarre processed sounds. A quick flick thro the tracks reveals echoing caverns, a wailing voice strained through computer sieves, and heavily-treated percussive guitar patterns. The woman’s imagination is sparking on all six – can’t wait to find time to visit her ‘Red Trek Moon’! As you can see, the label package their CDRs in DVD cases, very often with colourful artwork.
The John Cage item you see is Songs for Voice 58: 18 Microtonal Ragas (OTHER MINDS RECORDS OM1010-2), here delivered by the fine voice of Amelia Cuni, a very serious student of dhrupad singing. This was sent by the good graces of Werner Durand, the very friendly German musician who contributes his electronic drones to this rather subdued, but very compelling, record. The work is an extract from Cage’s Song Books (1970).
Ivor Cutler, the astonishing Scots poet and singer, died in March 2006, and A Flat Man (HOORGI HOUSE RECORDS HHCD01) has been timed for release to mark the anniversary of that sad event. The record was originally released on Creation Records in 1998, but is now very hard to find; so here it is reissued with a fine booklet containing drawings and photos and a very insightful text by his son Jeremy Cutler, which is about the first thing I’ve ever read that actually provides some real insight into the mind, the history and the preoccupations of this completely unique man. Watch out for further Cutler reissues and releases from the Hoorgi House; they are planning to bring us ‘new material which has never been publicly available before.’
Yet more abundance from Pica Disk, in the shape of Gunpowder Temple of Heaven (PICA04) by Birchville Cat Motel, the world’s favourite droning New Zealander of international renown. Campbell Kneale is praised to the skies (the very heavens indeed) by the effusive Bruce Russell on the sleeve notes for this single 40-minute work, which seems to involve playing rich chords on a church organ continuously. Evocative church interior photo on the front and mystical-symbolic engravings in black and silver all add to the associative experience. There’s a BCM discography reproduced here too; to call him ‘prolific’ would not be far from the mark.
You might be able to make out the murky cover art for the newie by Rigor Sardonicus; it’s got a skeleton standing in a graveyard and it’s called Vallis Ex Umbra de Mortuus (PARAGON RECORDS PRG 23016). I was just thinking it’s about time this magazine was sent a Black Metal record; Jennifer Hor gives the genre enough coverage in our pages, after all! The Rigors are I think a genuine band (not a solo act), and their brand of ultra-slow doom-laden bass-heavy sludge is just perfect to feed my warped predilections. Quite a luxury package, the full-colour booklet includes Hollywood-gothesque staged pictures of dead maidens in coffins, and further skeletons overlaid into various scenes using Photoshop and wielding the scythe of death wherever they roam. Plus some live video cuts somewhere on the disc. ‘Laudare Apocalypsis’, indeed.
By way of contrast to that heavy noise, may we propose Map (POTLATCH P108) by Jean-Luc Guionnet and Toshimaru Nakamura. On these four long and quiet pieces recorded at Montreuil and elsewhere, the Japanese emperor of hissing feedback uncoils himself like a gigantic snake while the French improviser clucks like an anguished chicken with his alto sax. The duo purr like contented white tigers on the third track, but wait till you hear the troubled and dark chords that Jean-Luc summons forth from his organ on track four. Taut and nervy improv at its leanest, this CD is a mean little beast!
The thing in the large red and olive envelope is sent from International Corporation in Chicago. They are I assume a small independent label, but all their releases arrive with paraphernalia trying to persuade you that they’re a huge faceless business organisation; even the press releases, complete with fake business cards attached, don’t really tell you about the music but seem to suggest that their enterprise is poised to take over the lion’s share of the marketplace. (They are even extending this strategy with the cryptic e-mails they send out!). I really enjoyed their previous release, a faintly subversive view of shopping mall culture as refracted through charming electronic music. This one, Mary St John‘s Some Leaves Turned Red, Some Still Green (NO NUMBER), is 14 tracks of sumptuous and delightful synth instrumentals that I can heartily recommend to listeners who enjoy Eno, Cluster, or anything released on Sky Records. A wistfully nostalgic cover collage provides the complete antithesis to the global-domination subtext playfully suggested by the above.
Finally, we have three CDs from the Austrian label Sulatron-Records courtesy of the friendly Dave Schmidt (who is also Sula Bassana). Electric Orange are a band led by Dirk Jan Müller, and they play a very convincing and dynamic form of krautrock-inspired rock music on Morbus (st 0702). Anything with plenty of Hammond organ and mellotron usually gets my vote, although the squished orange on the whimsical cover art put me off my lunch for 5 seconds…Annot Rhül have Lost in the Woods (ST0703), and they’re a six-piece of talented Europeans who are aiming at something moodier and Pink Floyd-esque, though still planted firmly in the prog-rock area with their mellotrons sellotaped in place to the flute setting. While not as ‘dark’ as they might like to think, their semi-melodic sonic atmospheres are charming enough. Zone Six take us through 10 Years of Aural Psychedelic Journeys (ST 0704), with eight very lengthy songs and instrumental pieces, whose noodly guitars and bombastic synths are again guaranteed to appeal to all you diehard prog and kraut fans (including me). The kraut konnektions are confirmed by presence of a former Embryo guitarist, and mastering work by Eroc.