People in the Ceiling

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A delightful item is Tales Of The Expected (MOMENTAL RECORDS MR CD1), an assemblage concocted with joyful glee and meticulous care by the composer Thierry Vaudor. This Canadian-born composer comes to us from a musicological background, and after his studies in jazz composition at Montreal he played his bass in local jazz and rock bands before picking up the virtual editing knife under the guise of Total Normal. All the cuts on this album he classifies under the “acousmatic” term, which is what composers say when they intend the music to be used exclusively for playback over speakers. It’s all done by building layers of sampling and editing, a task over which Vaudor labours with love and dedication, and you might hear anything up to 150 separate instruments on a single track. Some of them are quite brief in duration, but the listener certainly won’t feel short-changed after digesting each intense and chunky spread of music which smears like goose liver pate over hot buttered toast. I want to emphasise that Vaudor is not one of those sampling types who wallows in irony, post-modernism, sarcasm or all the other tricks perpetrated by some dozy samplerdelic types following in the wake of John Oswald, and we are not invited to play “spot the source” nor break into a knowing smirk at each witty juxtaposition. Instead, Vaudor works entirely with his ears; he chooses the “intrinsic qualities” of a “found sound”, not for what he calls its “anecdotal or referential value”. In this way he delivers quietly impossible music: brilliant melodic poppy-jazzy rhythms sprinkled with elements of easy listening, techno-lite beats, souled-up vocals, and multiple layers of extremely odd confections of constructed sound. Lots of good humour in these seamlessly-assembled bright tunes, and intellectually satisfying too. From 1st February 2013.

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Late notice for the Untitled (SMERALDINA-RIMA S-R-015) album by Spirit Of The Positive Wind, a lumpy clunkeroo of rugged performo-noise from four Americans which was released in October 2011, received here in April 2012, and is only now surfacing to the rim of the cauldron. On this vinyl item we’ve got members of Mouthus Brian Sullivan and Nate Nelson (who also did the cover painting), plus Pete Nolan of Magik Markers and Karl Bauer from Axolotl. I’ve enjoyed the crazy noise music of all of these underground Yanks, although it’s been impossible to keep up with all of their prodigious output, and to this day I still feel unable to assess the value of what they’ve achieved over the last ten years or so. Releases like this one, while extremely enjoyable, aren’t helping me make up my mind. Their combined work has been collaged together into two suites of about 20 minutes apiece, and the process has involved a fair amount of smearing and rendering-down, at times producing extremely bizarre and unfamiliar sounds, and at other times creating a rather wearisome and unnatural bubbling drone effect. I certainly admire whatever rough-hewn techniques were employed to achieve these strange-tasting effects and exotic aural moments, but somewhere the force of the original performances has been drained away. There may be about five or ten good minutes in amongst this meandery mudbath full of purple eels and gulping carps, but there doesn’t seem to be any convenient way to extract these nuggets.

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La Géographie Sans Regret (SPECTROPOL RECORDS SpecT 15) is a fairly uncanny record, one of those wild collaborative affairs that make you wonder in amazement at the results. The young Brazilian guitarist George Christian clashes his steely howler-mode strings with the Japanese act Mehata Sentimental Legend, who is the visual artist and experimenter Mehata Hiroshi and one who describes their work as “ritual futurism”. It’s a shocking listen; within seconds you’re presented with far too much musical information to digest, as though watching a cine film with double exposures, or even triple exposures. This impression persists for the first two tracks and, apart from a lull into a slightly quieter passage on track 3, doesn’t get much easier after that point; indeed it’s these very raw and discordant qualities that make the work live and breathe for me, and keep it fresh and vital for each new spin. For just about every second of listening, you truly feel like this is a matter of life or death, that something very serious is at stake. Both musicians recorded their parts at their respective homelands, separated by significant distances, and I wonder if the totality was assembled after the fact from disparate parts, a method that is proven to work well, and if that’s what they did it adds considerably to the deliciously jarring experience of the album. Plus there’s the claustrophobic and eccentric mix, which piles all the sounds together as signs of equal value, and obliges the listener to sort it all out in the head. Both of them sing or add voice parts, but as the lyrics are printed in Portuguese I assume that’s George’s voice that dominates on such juddering haunters as ‘Abismo de Cravos’; he admits he is attempting to “test the limits of his singing voice”, and his notes also disclose the very personal exploratory nature of this work, a reconciliation of his own musical history with his interest in contemporary art. As to Mehata Hiroshi, this person is a cryptical mystic type, uttering compelling phrases such as ‘Stem and root emits life to two sides of the same coin’ and ‘Soul, such as magma deep underground that is wriggling’. Right on! The total effect of this slow-raging hailstorm of shrill and metallic sound swirling together with these plaintive howly vocals is palpable, producing a coppery taste in the mouth and inducing an apocalyptic headache of the soul. Not an easy listen and few will work their way past its forbidding surface, but once you’re deep within this tunnel / maelstrom of music you’ll find it hard to slip loose from its intestinal bonds. Besides the wild voices, you should find the guitar playing of George Christian is truly remarkable (when it occasionally climbs its way to the surface of the cluttered mix, that is) and it’s not far-fetched to predict that one day soon he’ll be held in as high esteem as Haino, Akiyama, or Li Jianhong. From 5th March 2013, and highly recommended.

3 comments

  1. Hi Ed Pinsent,

    So, I’d like to add this information about what me and Mehata have done in the album: as a guitarist, Mehata deserves as much credit as me in the album… His guitar highlights are the subtle soloings on “Túneis”, the e-bow in “If I’m Mad as a Hatter, My Heart Bleeds a Stormy Weather” and the sheets of guitar noise in “Voo Cinzento” and in “Ultraviolet Soul”. My real soloing moments are in “Abismo de Cravos”, “Muito Mais Longe do que o Bastante” and in the last track, “Ultraviolet Soul” – in which I play acoustic guitar and the final electric guitar solos. All the acoustic guitars and rhythmic electric ones are mine.

    If you download the album, there’s a more clarifying booklet about what we’ve done: http://spectropolrecords.bandcamp.com/album/la-geographie-sans-regret. In fact, the CD booklet is a reduction compared to the .pdf one.

    Thank you very much for such review, it’s a real rewarding thing for our work, for sure!

    Best regards,

    GC

  2. Hi

    Thanks so much for this review wich was a nice surprise as you played a track on your show a year ago.

    May I add a link to listen to the album ? totalnormal.tk is a flash site so for those who don’t have flash you can listen for free at http://totalnormal.bandcamp.com/, or just search for it on your favorite music service.

    Cheers

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