Moon and a Mask

Stuart Chalmers is a fiendishly witty and capable mangler / masher of cassette tapes, blending his outputs from that aural activity with other sources (field recordings, radio signals, synths) to produce moments of delirious joy on Daydream Empire (LF RECORDS LF029). As with many geniuses in this genre his plan is to give the ear/brain a overload of information to process, spewing it out in slightly haphazard order to allow maximal surprise to the listener, while underpinning each composition with a steady flow of musical or verbal patterns. Each piece just floats like polystyrene on a lake. Chalmers is not in the game to shock or outrage; rather his balmy, hazy and opaque works spread a fine surreal gauze over the surface of the world, and everything appears slightly askew. The titles act as an index to his intentions: ‘Fall of Reality’, ‘Melting of time’ and ‘Theatre of the Absurd’ are poignant and accurate descriptions of his process. Chalmers is associated with improvising collectives in Oxford and Cheltenham, and also records as tusK and skarabee. (27/12/2012)

A shortish 7-track sampler from the Slovakian LOM label arrived 19 December 2012, showcasing the sound art of MRKVA and BOLKA (respectively, Jonáš Gruska and Matúš Kobolka). The label proposes itself as a meeting point for the assistance and encouragement of experimental art of all stripe, including field recordings, music, literature, books, images and poetry, and they tend to favour all of these cultural jewels when expressed in digital or web-based formats. The sounds hereon are ingenious compacted statements using intense digital glitchoid effects in abundance, the results quite often folded into pleated shapes that resemble swarms of insects – a trope which clearly preoccupies both their brains, if the fractured press release speaks true. They would like to help us to “channel our inner insect”. While each short slab of whoopery bounces with teeming life and transports you bodily across a field of grass, none of the sounds ever distress you with unpleasant noise nor threaten you with despondent gloomy drone. A charming and understated piece of imaginative electronica.

Nad Spiro is Rosa Arruti. This Spanish creatrice works mostly with heavily processed electric guitars, and builds intricately detailed patterns and textures from tiny samples, occasionally adding distorted voices on her CD Atomic Spy (GEOMETRIK RECORDS gr gsg 01). In an extremely precise manner, she weaves psychologically unsettling dramas which execute themselves with the deathly accuracy of a 1940s suspense movie – indeed the high-contrast photography of a film noir would seem an apt keynote for this whole album, with its mysterious jet-black shadows. This particular mesmerising outing has a vaguely “urban” theme, all eight tracks linking to suggest the narrative of a journalist or private eye who is tormented by unknown terrors in the city, including ghostly voices emanating from the old-fashioned valve radio set. The nocturnal mood and story are enhanced by the very strong cover image, a photo-collage by the artist Josep Renau which resembles a Weegee news photograph going horribly wrong.

The Chasms Of My Heart (CRUCIAL BLAST RECORDS CBR98) by Theologian is a strong dose of pounding industrialism, an overpowering abundance of powerful drone characterised by smothering intensity and relentless drive. Theologian plans to pursue his seething emotions with the determination of a pile-driver, rather than the stealth of a nimble hunter, and he’ll keep on screaming and howling in anguish until the very chambers of his own heart are rubbed raw. His record cover (and many of his other releases too) betray an interest in the frail flesh of the human body, the assorted juxtapositions here implying some sort of painful surgery for the torso, or the use of x-rays to reveal the hidden movements of the inner man, as if any felt emotion were a form of cancer that we must purge ourselves of. Track titles likewise allude to themes of despair and bodily decay; in some ways you could read the album as a gloss on a Hamlet soliloquy. While I personally strive to eschew artistic works which appear to wallow in self-pity and sentimentality, I am drawn to the compelling sonic surface of this heavy album, which veers between suffocating ultra-drones and hideously overloaded noise; technically it’s an admirable achievement of overdubbing and layering. Theologian is Leech, who also calls himself Navicon Torture Technologies, or Theologian Prime, and this is his third album for the Crucial Blast label.

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