Ruth Between Terrors

Nice item here from two of my favourite New Yorkers…Al Margolis is If, Bwana who gives us 31 (GD 021), a selection of five recent electro-acoustic compositions, and Geoff Dugan is the owner of the GD Stereo label which has been home to some truly wonderful sound art, field recordings, performed music and generally intellectually stimulating work. What characterises these five from Margolis is that all utilise and reprocess the performances of musicians and vocalists, including friends and local avantists such as Tom Hamilton, Lisa Barnard and Jacqueline Martelle. Their work has been processed, edited, selected and assembled into strange and mutated pieces which in many cases are quite some way removed from the realms of the familiar. This is particularly so on the slow alien creepsterness of ‘Fitz 2/3’, derived from processed accordion, vocals, guitar and oboe. You may prefer the jangling corruscate-o-scopes of ‘Soiled’, which is made simply from multi-tracking a bowed guitar. Slow, sludgy and unsettling process art of the highest degree.

Also from New York, Gilles Aubry is the latest contributor to the winds measure recordings label with his s6t8r (WMR 16), three pieces of minimal sound art derived from field recordings made in Berlin. As with Margolis, the transformative process allows for results that are both beautiful and horrifying, as if all humanity had been bled from a street-ful of active and happy Germans, resulting in a collection of grey, mottled statues who bleed black tar from their empty eyes. If you want to feel like the only person alive as you wander through a monochrome version of a de Chirico landscape not knowing what surreal threats await you, this record is just the medicine you require. The embossed cover art on this release is very suggestive of rusted sheet metal, as if the process of decay had somehow managed to migrate onto paper instead.

Kim Cascone‘s anti-musical celestial forces (STÖRUNG str006) is presented to us primarily as a field recording record, but in fact Cascone is supplementing this 30-minute set of low-level VLF recordings and location-recordings fetched from America and Europe with various minimal narrative elements, including actors who add spoken word, a numbers station voice, and Mike Rooke who most intriguingly plays a ‘mad scientist’. Plus there’s a musical dimension with the ‘cello gauze’ (?) of Claire Singer. In all this is a puzzling and mysterious piece of radiophonic drama whose meaning is far from clear. It does a lot to align itself with the proclaimed intentions borrowed from American avant-garde cinema, referring obliquely to the works of Brakhage and Hollis Frampton.

Hungarian Ákos Garai sent us a copy of Til Ødslig Horisont in 2005, one of the most extreme examples of baffling minimalism I’d heard up to that point at least. Nice to see him make a return with Pilis, (3L001) the debut release on the 3LEAVES label and in an edition of 150 CDR copies. While his previous release was all-electronic (as I recall it), Pilis is a collection of field recordings of water streams around the ‘sacred place’ he has discovered outside the city of Budapest. The intention here is to share his contemplative thoughts and feelings as he made his personal odyssey around the idyllic area, never straying far from the stream of clear water. The resulting tapes were modified with computer treatments as he composed the piece, an experience which allowed him to relive the enjoyable hiking experience. His highly personal and spiritual observations about the environment have been layered into the work, resulting in a very open-ended piece of inquisitory art.

Terminal Lovers spring out of Cleveland with a very convincing set of murky avant-rock in the shape of As Eyes Burn Clean (PUBLIC GUILT PG018). Led by Dave Cintron, the band includes players scaped from numerous other band projects, such as Keelhaul, Midnight, Lung, Darvocets, Dimbulb and many others, including the very fine Scarcity Of Tanks. I find it fascinating how many contemporary American underground bands are rediscovering their country’s rich heritage of late-psychedelic rock, but doing it by way of Krautrock and throwing in other influences from post-punk experimental bands. Terminal Lovers add a knowing, semi-literary touch of surrealism into their lyrics, which we are told are intended to emulate the effects of the cinema of Jodorowsky. Whether you accept any of this rich cultural cross-fertilisation or not, there’s no denying this stoned-out groovester of a record rocks like a greasy acid-fried demon. This combo have swallowed their influences whole like an enormous whale filling up on plankton and krill, and in only a few years have honed their ensemble sound to fatal perfection. Released on 24th this month as a limited press LP pressed in yellow and black swirling vinyl. A delirious slab to charm your fitful dreams at night.

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