Got a couple of tapes 22 July 2014 from Hideous Replica, a UK label whose aura of anonymity tends to appeal to me for some reason. The green item is a split and on the A side we hear those famed Spaniards Miguel A García (Xedh) and Oscar Martin (a.k.a. Noish) teaming up for six tracks on Mneffa (HR2). While I’m a huge fan of these two, García in particular, I found this emission a rather unrewarding listen. Promising start fer sure, with slithery hissing suggesting of the noise-snake crawling noiselessly into our kitchen intent on wreaking venomous havoc, but this ominous opening is not followed through. We have some strong moments of abrasive nastiness, and other strong moments of sullen glaring, but also a lot of plain old process-noise that doesn’t suggest much more than boredom or aimless knob-twiddling. I liked the title ‘Variable Cataclismica’ hoping it referred to a tornado or other similar disaster, but it turns out to have something to do with a star that varies in brightness.
Also from Spain is Vasco Alvez, who teams up with the label owner Louis Rice for the other side of this split. Last heard from ‘em on the Wasted Capital label, which is a sub-label of Hideous Replica. Their Arcs is a single side-long experiment, where the duo fiddle around with “compressed white noise and processed statics”, as they call it, and create something painfully abstract and near-impossible for the human ear to endure. Admittedly it’s not a complete monotony and it does vary somewhat, for instance going from a soft crackle to a loud shattering explosion, and then moving into over slight variances of timbre, suggestive of a restless radio listener tuning across the dial. But static noise is all that can be found. Arrgh! There seems to be a pattern emerging with Vasco and Louie, at least based on what has reached my ears so far since 2011, and it’s that they are trying hard to create an aesthetic experience from the most severe and unpromising materials they can find. This extremely reductionist stance would be fine, if only I could discern some genuine ideas or structure behind it. Process for its own sake doesn’t sit well on my stomach. A real ear-grater, this one!
Komhths (HR3) is by Kostis Kilymis, the Greek fellow behind the label Organized Music from Thessaloniki. In the past he’s sent us some fine examples of recorded concerts of noted minimalists, including some from events he organises himself, though I fared less well with a release of his under his Syndromes alias. I’m enjoying Komhths, which I take to be a minimal concept album on the theme of comets, much more. It even tells a story. The comet approaches on side A of the tape, while on side B the gathered astronomers observe its passing and have given it a name – Comet Athena. The start of the piece is the murmuring anticipation of these scientists expressed as a black pulsing drone, while the sighting of the comet is rendered with a more agitated surface, suggestive of the palpitating hearts of the excitable eggheads as they squint through their telescopes at the ball of dirty ice streaking across the sky. On evidence of this, Kilymis is a very able manipulator of feedback and electronic pulsations, and this whole tape is an exercise in tautly controlled rhythms and sounds. Other listeners have likened Komhths to some form of pared-down art-techno music, and it might indeed be a drum machine or sequencer that’s providing the basic foundations to the B side. While incredibly parsimonious with its sounds (which sometimes appear so miserly as to be squeezed out of a microscopic toothpaste tube), this music manages to transcend the process of its creation, to create a mysterious and unexplained piece of work that comes close to matching the astral phenomenon of its namesake.