A nice rum mix of acoustic pastoral meander-mystery and ramshackle noised-up songs from Viv, on Sea Shells Listening (PEBBLE 02). This very English combo made a virtue in recording their debut CD in somewhat unusual locales, not exactly in search of a Brian Wilson-styled pristine perfection in their sound, but rather in allowing themselves ‘more breathing space’ in their playing environments. That sense of comfortable rapport and feeling much at ease is reflected in this charming and slightly eccentric record, one where the muffled and ambiguous music works very hard to resist casual and simplistic characterisation. Membership of ViV unknown at this time, but they have also played in Hamilton Yarns, The Mary Hampton Band, Collectress, and others. Full of gentle countryside promise.
From the Canadian label Drip Audio, a couple examples of contemporary avant-improv CDs. Viviane Houle passed the imaginative title test with ease on her Treize (DRIP AUDIO DA00481) album; I’ll check out any record whose opener is dubbed ‘Mandrake’. Turns out Houle is a very capable avant-vocalist who sings, warbles, hesitates, squeaks and screeches across these 13 very abstracted tracks of cubist jazz explorations, aided by a small army of sidemen on brass, string and percussive instruments. Each track is a duet, creating a wonderful intimacy and dialogue-rich situation which conjures up a full range of emotions from the tender and lonely to the outright grotesque. I’m unsurprised to learn that her effervescent presence has graced numerous dance, animation and theatre projects also. Recorded with tremendous clarity and punch by Jesse Zubot, a fine release that, in places, actually lives up to the hyperbole about a musical ‘shared language’. We’ve noted Houle before as part of this series of Canadian discs.
The Tony Wilson Sextet recorded The People Look Like Flowers At Last (DRIP AUDIO DA00482) in Vancouver last year didn’t quite grab my throaticle responders in quite the same way, but the players have a dead-on precision that enables them to effortlessly deliver these tricky variations, layered melodies and combinations of jazzy improv with scored arrangements. The first half of the disc is dominated by their rendition and rearrangement of a Benjamin Britten composition Lachrymae, about which I am unable to comment except to say it no longer sounds remotely English in tone. Leader Wilson plays a rather slick-sounding electric guitar replete with jazz-inflected phrases, but Peggy Lee’s very sober and darkened cello is the star for me.
Remarkable collection of contemporary-retro electronic music to be had from Oneohtrix Point Never; the collection Rifts (NO FUN PRODUCTIONS NFP-56) compiles three earlier full-length releases from around 2007-2009. Never heard this man Daniel Lopatin play before, but I’m heavily impressed with the assured way that he applies nimble digits to the analogue poly-synth, equally at home in the worlds of melodic drone and alien, unnatural noise-bursts. There’s an undeniable science-fiction undercurrent to the titles and imagery, suggesting worlds of very precise geometry and stainless-steel architecture, in which a modern man wanders both amazed and alienated by the experiences. The rarity of the original vinyl private press releases makes this collection a most welcome introduction to the world of a visionary of the new circuit-board.
For additional electronic scalpel-work, who better to satisfy your hunger than Vertonen, that Chicago lone wolf who has previously flattened many a tenement block with his puzzling releases of sophisticated table noise and electro-acoustic high-volume diablry. We Had A Few Sprinkles Today, But Not Enough To Help Out In The Garden (C.I.P. CIPCD23) is quite a different affair from his usual hairy nightmarish blast-a-thonics, being a very clinical assemblage of washed-out tones, air-filled drones and creepy metallic whisperings. A very ‘clean’ sound throughout, right down to the all-white cover overlaid with a barely-visible abstract image in gloss printing. Yet Vertonen (a.k.a. Blake Edwards) never lets up on the tension for one second, with net result that prolonged exposure to this vaguely grim CD can result in an unshakable sense of dread.
Black To Comm has Alphabet 1968 (TYPE RECORDINGS TYPE053), a fine release emanating outside of his usual Dekorder home in Berlin. These ten instrumentals display all that is best about the lavish and richly-packed drone sessions produced by painstaking overdubbing. I detect a soft focus veneer and lo-fi wobble on some tracks which adds an attractive ‘nostalgic’ patina to the album.