Two items from Intransitive Recordings in the US. Lethe is the Japanese charred ghoul Kuwayama Kiyoharu, offering us a couple of recordings made in a disused grain warehouse in Nagoya on his Catastrophe Point #5 (INT034). Sure enough, his activities mean that we get a resulting record full of odd tuneless creaks, groans and clankings, all echoing in stirring ways, and suggesting a nocturnal bout of confinement with strange shapeless monsters lumbering about in a gigantic bedroom. Lethe certainly takes industrial music to a grand-scaled level, moving his blocks of sound around in a very physical way.
The duo of American far-out improvisers Greg Kelley and Bhob Rainey record as nmperign, blowing their respective trumpet and saxophone instruments on six examples of ultra-refined growling metallic puffiness for Ommatidia (INT035). They perform with all the heroic restraint of a mad preacherman who is suddenly forced to abandon his pulpit, seal up his bellowing lungs, and deliver his messages of damnation and hellfire by whispering to the congregation through the wrong end of a glass fishbowl, while his mouth is full of dough. I see that the wonderful Irene Moon has contributed some fine insect images for the artwork.
Phill Niblock, titan of American minimalism, continues a series of bounteous and lengthy records for the Touch label with the latest installment Touch Strings (TOUCH TO:79). On the first CD, we’ve an example of how he builds up a layered work using recorded performances of musicians, in this case the guitars and bass of Susan Stenger and Robert Poss. However, ‘One Large Rose’ on the second disk is all performed live in real time, using cello, violin, an e-bowed bass guitar and a piano strummed with nylon strings; magisterial stuff, packed with subtle discordances, and it’s as exciting as a massed slow-motion attack of seabirds, such as the guillemot or ptarmigan. Once again Niblock proves conclusively he has the definitive last word on heavy, solemn drone music with as much presence as three rhinoceroses made of lead. Arrives in a sleeve whose colour scheme is not unlike that of a Mark Rothko painting.
From the Musica Genera label in Warsaw, a splendid example of contemporary electro-acoustic compositional work by Lionel Marchetti and Yôko Higashi. On Okura 73° N – 42° E (MUSICA GENERA G005), they each get one solo piece and then collaborate on the last cut. Marchetti’s ‘Pétrole 73’ instantly begins on a shrill, menacing tone and stays there, with a taste as sharp as ground glass. Higashi has done some exemplary and memorable work for the Entr’Acte label (matter of fact, that label is also releasing a CD called Pétrole by this pair which is presumably related in some way), and she’s full of jarring cinematic effects, electronic diablry, and great vocal work from Big Sandra and Chico Antonio. The collaborative piece is also excellent. Plenty of analogue electronics, uncanny vocalising, radio samples and field recordings, all put together with sharp imaginative flair and great intelligence. A dark and troubling record, whose cover artworks of uncharted waters, sea monsters and mermaids all serve to confirm that the aim of this work is to leave us stranded in the mental oceans of the unknown.
Matt Shoemaker used to live in Seattle, but now he’s sent me a package from his new home in Camano Island, Washington State. His Wayward Set (hf_002) is the second release on his own Human Faculties label, and it’s a CDR limited to 100 copies. This 35-minute performance from the Chapel Performance Space in Seattle utilises feedback, metal and electronic droning (as far as I can understand it) to create what its creator calls a ‘primordial, psychedelic narrative’. While it starts out fairly minimal, the performance does indeed grow increasingly ‘wayward’ and packs in a surprising quantity of shape-shifting events, in a fairly seamless package. Shoemaker’s personal style is improving enormously since I first heard him some six years ago, he’s relying less on the computer, and is not over-processing his sources. Instead, he’s taking more chances and coming back with something a lot more unpredictable, wild, noisy and mysterious.
All the above were received in the TSP box during October 2009.