Brief bulletin for May

Many listeners (including me) have a soft spot for the great Kevin Martin on account of landmark projects like Techno Animal, The Sidewinder, God and numerous works of his from the 1990s, not to mention his compilation Isolationism for the Virgin label (a release that’s become quite a pivotal nexus of something). His latest item Sirens (ROOM 40 RM4103) might not be the place to tune in if you’re expecting a rehash of those dubby beats, powerful bass throbs and alarming layers of shrill noise; instead it’s very understated, chilling, desolate, tones of pure ice. One or two of these 14 wind-swept emanations from the Arctic have a trace of bass-y pulsations that make you long for the glory days of 1996, but for the most part it’s time to get the heated blankie into operation and curl up with a reindeer horn of brandy. Martin, appearing here as Kevin Richard Martin, wisely avoids playing “tunes”, yet also sidesteps the cliches of the ambient genre at every turn on these abstract wastelanders. (08/05/2019)

Solastalgia (ROOM 40 RM4105) is by the American ambient composer Rafael Anton Irisarri who sees to have been active since 2007 with a string of releases for Miasmah, Room 40, Geographic North, and Umor Rex. I find this one suffers from that lush, over-saturated surface which is the signature sound of a lot of releases on Lawrence English’s label, but I like the way Irisarri manages to avoid coming across as overly sentimental. In as much as this kind of denatured and unfocussed music could constitute a view of the world, Solastalgia is a reasonably clear-headed one. He aims for the same sensation of an occluded, buried melody that wafts towards us on the breeze, much like The Caretaker (but without the sinister aspects). His bio and mission statement would include words like “cinematic” and “immersive”. Others have compared him to William Basinski. (08/05/2019)

A strong team-up between a couple of world-class contemporary electro-meisters is Albédo (VAND’OEUVRE VDO 1951), on which the French titan eRikM locks horns with his Australian counterpart Anthony Pateras. Over time, both these wonderbods have carved out their own trench in the world of souped-up electro-acoustic music and been exceptionally prolific with their sprawling catalogues of goodies. To say they’ve each taken liberties over the years would be an understatement, each one breaking the rules of composition, improvisation, turntabling and performance, in pursuit of their personal aims. Here, Pateras is doing it with synths, while the French half of the act is credited with ‘CD-J’ and ‘Idiosyncrasie System’. Let’s hope the latter is his own computer patch that makes mincemeat out of Max-MSP. Two long tracks, with ‘Orbitale’ recorded live at a concert while ‘Nyctalope’ was realised in a cold studio. Dynamic blasts and layered trickiness abound across the whole of Albédo, and while it’s massively accomplished, there’s still something slightly stiff about the encounter, in spite of their aim to “explore sound landscapes in complete freedom”. (08/05/2019)

We’ve enjoyed previous recordings by Daniel Barbiero, the talented double-bass player, including Nostos and the excellent Non-Places record. The latter was a semi-conceptual work and a barbed comment about the alienation effect of modern urban spaces, particularly shopping malls. His latest is Wooden Mirrors (PLUS TIMBRE PT086), which sees him once again teamed up with Cristiano Bocci for two improvisations recorded in the studio. It’s noteworthy because it’s the first time they ever met up in person – previous recordings were done by file-sharing over the net. Wish I could say it was a real historic event, but the title track – subtitled “two carved objects, in complementary motion” – is rather ordinary and meanders badly for 23 mins with little variation in tone or mood. It’s not clear what they’re trying to say, a charge I could never have levelled at the previous projects. The press note speaks of “musical chemistry” between the duo, but there is little evidence of it. I fared much better with ‘From A Concourse’, on which Bocci treats the bass of Barbiero with her live electronics. Here, there’s a lot more action and fizz going down, and the simple patterns and repetition are welcome, even if they are realised by means of digital echo. (03/05/3019)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.