Remarkably loud and forceful minimalist electronic tones from Acre on his Isolationist (ISOUNDERSCORE [ISO_14]) CD. Aaron Davis from Portland regards this as his most ambitious work, produced after a few years spent issuing very limited releases for CDR and tape labels; indeed a couple of tracks here were issued last year by the label Students Of Decay. Work your ears beyond the initially foreboding countenance of this semi-blank release, and a rich world of microtones, shifting variances, rippling soundwaves and rotating blocks of analogue power will await you in these careful compositions. Brandon Nickell did the striking modernist orange artwork with its varnish overprinting of a geometric grid.
The very versatile bass player Joe Williamson sent us three CDRs representing many facets of his work on the Jedso Records label from an address in Sweden, though he has a German email address and the music was mostly recorded in London…turns out he’s Canadian born…of the three items of musical spinnage, I couldn’t make much headway with Everything Should Have Been Just Fine (JEDSO#1), a collection of 10 songs he made with The Inconvenience, a small troupe which includes Alex Ward on guitar and two drummers. However, The King Of Herrings (JEDSO#3) is much better to my mind, a set of raucous and free-storming improv recorded in London which shows Joe is capable of just the correct degree of impolite and atonal interaction with the guitar of David Stackenäs and the laptop of Phil Durrant. For listeners who just enjoy the sound of the standup bass, The Inhibitionist (JEDSO#2) offers you three tracks of Williamson doing it solo, scraping and rubbing his grunty strings to produce many a hog-like utterance from his stipple-backed instrument. The painter Ivan Seal provided cover art to these releases.
From Athens, we received a rather nifty cassette of lo-fi electronic process noise by Dead Gum. The C30 tape Fake World (PHASE! RECORDS PHR-70) contains eight tracks of experimental echo and grind, packed with relentless repetitions, whose underlying abrasive nastiness makes for a perfect alternative to applying an emery board to your brain. The creator (who may or may not be named Pangiotis Spoulos) is clearly influenced by the dark and doomy end of the futuristic industrial genre, but he has imagination and dynamics, and never lets his machines take control of the day’s events. The curious listener is advised to purchase copy and wait until Mr Spoulos opens his mouth to issue a grisly chant-song on ‘Body Come Down’. Your whole day will never be the same. 50 copies only.
AMP2 (Advanced Music and Mixed Media Pool Palermo) are a flange of five Italian experimenters armed with laptops, electronic devices, percussion and guitar, performing somewhat like an economy-sized version of MIMEO. For the new release Hums (BOWINDO RECORDINGS BW13), they were rather amazingly joined by the great Tim Hodgkinson, guitarist, clarinetist and composer from art-rock avant band Henry Cow. According to those present at the sessions, they ‘felt like a group of scientists at a conference’. The published results of their deliberations are given titles such as ‘Intelligent Sofa’, ‘The fish and dagger’ and ‘Hoop scorn’, and are packed in an utterly indifferent abstract sleeve. This cauldron of atonal bubbling musical soup sounds pretty good, but the performances are lacking in tension; I don’t feel much risk-taking going on between the many talented participants, many of whom are content to lapse into mediocre digital droning and fizzing.
Ramleh are one of those important and productive English noise acts (active for only two years, 1982-1984) whose work has somehow managed to elude this innocent listener, so I have been grateful for the opportunity to bend an ear to Valediction (SLR004), the new release on Pete Johnstone’s Second Layer Records. Johnstone is something of a connoisseur of fine repellent noise of all stripe, be it satanic Black Metal, Japanese table noise or industrial grind, and his verdicts in this area are often trustworthy. A collaboration between main man Gary Mundy (electronics, guitar and vocal) and Anthony Di Franco (electronics, synth, bass and guitar), Valediction contains six tracks of astonishingly dense and layered mutant ugliness that’s almost overpowering. I can see it’ll take a few million listens to wear down the rough edges on this ultra-heavy monster, providing I can survive its crushing effects and make my way through these tangled, clotted vats of sound. The sleeve and booklet for this high-quality package are replete with images and text conveying grisly sensations of emptiness, destruction, decay and misery. In fine, a nihilist’s dream come true!
From Brooklyn in New York, we have a release made by PAS last year. Led by Robert Pepper, this is a quartet of experimenters making rather quirky and quite dark electronic music with heavily treated vocals set to clonking rhythms, resembling in places a rather more sinister version of The Residents. I think it’s fair to say The Lyre Speaketh (NO NUMBER) is an idiosyncratic record and will not be to the taste of all listeners, but PAS (whose name unpacks into a rather unpleasant sentence of visceral horror) do have some distinctive moments of bizarre invention leaking out from this sprawling mass of analogue electronics, exotic effects, and incomprehensible jazz-poetry recits. I think they work best when they manage to shroud themselves inside an introverted, voodoo-fog of their own making, not raising their heads once as they weave their eerie spells. Apparently they make videos too, which if seen in conjunction with the music might have serious consequences for the audience’s overall grip on reality.
I’ve got no end of Mort Aux Vaches releases in the box awaiting attention, but here’s one of the more recent items to have emerged from that famed European house of eye-catching packages in the service of very marginal experimental music. I think Wouter Van Veldhoven are a Dutch trio of gentle and puzzling players featuring Rutger Zuydervelt and may have connections to Machinefabriek and Soccer Committee, and they produce a sort of photocopy-degraded version of Brian Eno ambient records. This record contains three tracks of sad and lonely playing produced by means unknown but may involve an accordion at some stage; everything has been put through various filters and post-production to create a distressed and broken surface, until it’s like looking at the world through a rain-streaked cracked window made of brown glass. The CD is housed in three panels of stout blue card, and is embossed with letterpress text in blind, packed with a jumble of letters and numbers that is very hard to interpret.