Category: Recent arrivals

New promo CDs in The Sound Projector box

Phallus Dei

Meson
5C4L3
UK DISCUS 55CD (2016)

Meson is the collective name of metaphysical bard Bo Meson and an amorphous glob of hired musical help that usually expands to double figures. Strictly speaking, 5c4l3 or Scale, let’s jettison that numbers resembling letters affectation 1, comes as Bo’s debut lasering on Discus, as the Echoic Entertainment album (from 2015) was a shared project where Discus m.d. Martin Archer’s arrangements were employed as shifting back projections to the poetic/declamatory actions of the mesonic one.

The accompanying promo sheet shoehorns in ambient, ambidelic (?), free-form and improg as suitably fitting genres for this venture. Though at certain times, it can come down to an ‘all of the above’ and possibly a little bit more. I’d expect nothing less from someone who uses a word for an unstable atomic particle as part of his pseudonym. All of Scale‘s material is of an improvised nature that slumps heavily, eyes crossed, across the deep reverb/kozmik echo generator controls, clutching a P.K. Dick-endorsed blister pack of slow release capsules in its right hand. “We Traffic in Progress” with its classic analogue squeals and talk of quantum particles and the melodica-laced “Dark Matters” come almost on a default setting.

However, it’s not all centred on Copernicus, “G.Z.D.” era Arthur Brown or 90n9 dynamics (sorry!), as certain pieces travel less frequented paths. “Kem-Na Mazda” pitches mystical Jade Warrioresque exoticism against the full-bodied, classically-trained tenor of Wolfgang Seel and “Advances in Destruction by Technology” belies its attractive and serene nature with a doomy crystal ball gaze into a future where the use of artificial intelligence has led to mass unemployment within the professional classes, Could such things really happen? Only that wildly gesticulating figure behind the lectern seems to know…

  1. The typographical angel has detected a far earlier example of this, ahem, trend from 1997 and names The Fucking Champs as the guilty parties with their “III” l.p. on Frenetic Records/U.S.A.

Unorthodox Church

Heavy Training

Arturas Bumšteinas
Different Trains
POLAND BÔŁT RECORDS BR R005 CD (2014)

One name ubiquitous to my eyes of late belongs to Lithuanian composer, collaborator and sound artist Arturas Bumšteinas, by virtue of his having secured space on so many labels of interest to this journal. And to my ears he blends the roles of composer and sound artist very evenly throughout this largely solo effort. The Steve Reich-ian title quickly proves to be a red herring: where Reich’s work of the same title concerned itself with the disparity between certain Jewish experiences during and after World War II, Bumšteinas reformulates the theme (while preserving the Jewish perspective) as a work ‘inspired by Central European cultural landscape’ and all the turmoil, change and redemption this implies. The ‘Different Trains’ are both real and metaphorical, like passing carriages loaded with history, poetry, improvisation and composition of a distinctly religious tone.

Such good-natured appropriation should offer little surprise, considering Bumšteinas once published a book of cocktail recipes in graphic score form a la Stockhausen’s Studie II. And as the first composition (‘Wielka improwizacja’) makes clear, he is quite the organiser. This ‘radio play’ sets off with deceptive linearity: an accented female narrator gives a potted history of Lithuania’s railway system while trains shimmer past in the distance. The significance of this history is twofold: rails connect Lithuania internally and internationally, but at the same time admit all manner of influences desirable and otherwise. Thus it is that with one dread-inducing drone, Mother Russia takes hold of Lithuania (as she has done twice in the past two centuries) and the drama assumes a collage-like aspect, with equal measures of dissonance and benediction distributed across the sharded structure. Such moods reflect the geography: much was recorded in and around the Basilian monastery in Vilnius, which doubled as a Russian prison in the 19th century, becoming a ‘home’ for artists and prisoners of conscience. It certainly shows. Bumšteinas weaves recordings of Church organ, a string quartet, guitar and voices into a narrative that manages to accrue momentum in spite of its fragmented sequencing, but keeps the listener ever at a distance. Monologues and poetry in English and Lithuanian (some old, some new) convey immediacy and remoteness through dispassionate delivery, as if illustrating an ecclesiastical experience chilled by a lunar spiritualism that accepts only the faithful.

An inversion of the original title choice (and Bumšteinas’ chosen avatar), ‘Acceptnik’ flips on its head the idea of the ‘Refusenik’ (i.e. a non-conformist, or someone (especially a Jew) denied freedom of movement) as an expression of the personal freedoms that gave rise to this second piece. It would appear that ‘inspiration from above’ was both sought and admitted, given the piece’s founding on a ‘nocturnal improvisation’ played on the St. Severin’s Church organ in Germany, where one imagines Bumšteinas proceeding wherever whim took him. The resultant overtones issue forth, barely stemmed by struck chimes and the swells of a vaporous ghost-choir, as well as sine waves, field recording and instruments; all distributed in a pattern that provides a relatively linear yet quite uncertain experience, which humbly invites the listener’s acceptance.

While conceivably the ‘easy listening’ finale, ’Pinavija’ unites the cold air of antiquity with the warmth of lamp-lit nostalgia, owing to the delicate and pervasive melody of its harmonium basis, which was sourced from a 78 recording of the Hebrew Sabbath prayer Jehi Rozon. Composed as a gift, the piece takes its name from a flower, akin to which it opens gradually to reveal its splendour, blending the mellifluous and discordant alike (snippets of violin, koto, dulcimer etc.) as it proceeds towards a well-earned crescendo. It is not without incident though: the balance between solemn hymnal and pseudo-shamanic ‘folk’ is shaky at times; a structural uncertainty that wavers like faith under interrogation, though the bracing round of hand-clapping that marks the piece’s final minutes offers at least temporary fortification, as well as another possible Steve Reich reference. Given Bumšteinas’ capacity for repurposing though, it might just as easily function as a note of self congratulation.

Laughing House

Antanas Rekašius / Apartment House
Fonogramatika
LITHUANIAN MUSIC INFORMATION AND PUBLISHING CENTRE MICL CD 089 (2016)

Towering high with over 30 participants, UK’s Apartment House is a substantial set of indefatigable interpreters of international avant-garde in operation since 1995. Apportioning duties across this massive membership, in Fonogramatika they turn their collective eye to a selection of small chamber works penned ‘calligraphically’ and ‘elegantly across the page’ by the Lithuanian composer Antanas Rekašius (1928 – 2003), which the liner notes liken to the capricious splattering of a painter. A relative latecomer to the world of composition (beginning with his final year in law studies), after a determined catch-up Rekašius developed three strands in his oeuvre: dense symphonies ‘for a large, overburdened orchestra’; chamber music with an orchestrally counteractive ‘lightness and wit’; and songs for adults and children, with correspondingly chromatic modes of expression.

Though described by Apartment House’s Anton Lukoszevieze as ‘radical and forgotten’, the composer is evidently held in no small esteem by Lithuania’s cultural decision makers these days, this being a government-sponsored release. Even ‘radical’ Rekašius might have been startled by the standards: the CD is housed in four panels of extra-hard card, with the luxurious matt veneer of deluxe first edition.

Having elected to follow the chamber route (with all of its respective nuances), the musicians encountered a few speed bumps early on, making sense of a lack of specifics such as which percussion to use, though they turned this to their advantage fairly quickly by recognising in this paucity the composer’s wish to keep the music ‘free, fresh and improvisatory, blurring the boundaries between notation and interpretation’ and thus put some healthy onus on would-be interpreters.

No stranger to the kinds of aleatoric methods Rekašius employed in organising his material via repetition, pitch and timbral alterations, the group(s) follow suit in turning out pithy and distinctive variations of each composition’s primary theme, each commanding a very different mood. For variety’s sake, these can be divided into roughly five sections (‘Epitaph’, ‘Atonic’, ‘Phonogram’, ‘Fluorescences’ and ‘Musica Dolente E Con Brio’), each with a distinct arrangement (solo piano and cello, piano and percussion forming the main; the narcotically fine ‘Fluorescences’ being an extended duet for cello and synthesizer). Having discerned the lack of instructions to be a blessing in disguise, the groupings quickly divined their spontaneity and creativity in handling decisions, resulting in what I would suppose to be a sound approximation of the sought-after ‘alien jazz, with mournful melodies, grotesque rhythmic machinations and a sinuous pitch-bending’.

Though outwardly very sombre or otherwise unemotional, the compositional gravity is thus upended by the musicians’ lightness of touch. Saxophonist Frank Gratkowski and pianist Philip Thomas are particularly impressive for their crisp and athletic fingering in surroundings darkened by the brittle timbre of Lukoszevieze’s cello, which dynamics transform the performances from recitals into something far more personal. For instance, Parts of ‘Musica Dolente E Con Brio’ dance like an Alejandro Jodorowsky circus – outwardly spectacular, but infected with a presentiment that something dreadful could happen at any moment.

Which it does: a sudden ending. Which is as exemplary of where the ‘wit’ of these pieces as it gets; not in ‘subtle, winking humour’ but in ‘the crazy japes of vaudeville and Buster Keaton’. At the same time, I sense that this wit would be more evident in a live performance or in the composer’s presence (impossibility notwithstanding) – given his reputation for ‘rich, rapid, emotional and physical transformations, pulling and dragging out of his performers and jettisoning it into the acoustic space’. However, with Fonogramatika Apartment House offer a convincing argument for their authority as exponents of his work.

Decaying Loops

maaa

We’ve had a soft spot (assuming you can indeed experience such an emotion when it comes to harsh noise records) for the music of MAAAA since 2011, a time when we heard their Decay And Demoralization record for Mind Flare Media, and also a superb split they made with K2 for Triangle Records. For the longest time I have since assumed that MAAAA is a husband and wife duo and always liked the idea of them being two committed noise-makers who “live the life” to the max with a disciplined, straight-edge lifestyle. I’ve also been less than clear about the Russian-Polish origins of the band. A little fact-checking reveals that, at time of writing, MAAA is the solo project of Sergei Hanolainen, a Russian-born fellow who lives in Warsaw in Poland. The group is about ten years old, used to be a “punk noise collective”, and in fact had ten members in its ranks at one point. Sergei also came our way in 2015, when he co-curated the superb comp. Hard Panning for Triangle Records, on which MAAAA appeared with ‘Utmost Restraint’, enjoyed by this writer as a “liquid firework display”… “propelled forward as surely as a gigantic ball of dung rolled by two dung-beetles”.

We now have Abhorrence And Dismay (TRIANGLE RECORDS TR-55), which appears to be the first release by MAAAA since that K2 split mentioned above; continuing the theme of Decay And Demoralization, it’s clear that Sergei sees evil inhabiting the world in twin pairs of horror at all times. The music here was created by a mix of “decaying tape loop manipulation, amplified objects, field recordings and torn harsh noise passages.” These two long tracks express his personal revulsion at the grotesqueries of human life and the filthy globe. The first of these, ‘Abhorrence’, may finish up a sub-Merzbow roar of painful harsh noise wall, but before it reaches that point it stumbles its way blindly over some fascinating sonic terrain; the listener is led through several strange moods and bizarre textures, there are plenty of dramatic shifts and changes, and the dynamics of the music are just plain odd. I recently re-listened to Merzbow’s Collapse 12 Floors and was similarly struck by the careful attention to bizarre shifts of timbre and tone, where the sheer unexpectedness of the changes draws many a gasp from the lungs. MAAAA is not far away from achieving the same powerful sensations here.

The same drama can be found on ‘Dismay’, a superb construct full of similar contrasts and stark, evil sonorities battling it out in a disputed no-man’s-land of noisy turf. If he were a visual painter, MAAAA would most likely favour fields of all-black jagged edge colour fields, thrown to create vivid contrasts with white paint and unprimed canvas, an angrified update on Franz Kline. ‘Dismay’ also seems to link back to industrial music of the 1980s, and perhaps to the work of the ultimate Polish gloomoid noise genius, Zbigniew Karkowski; I can sense a similar preoccupation with remorsless, airless, sound, and an attempt to delineate the horrors of the grim Polish political-scape using electronic noise. With this release, Sergei Hanolainen has created a nuanced and detailed work fit to be regarded as a modernist compositional statement, and not just another harsh noise record. From 6th June 2016.

I Live Upon The Rack

asher-levitas

Asher Levitas is one half of Old Apparatus, an English duo who have released a number of experimental low-key electronic releases for the Sullen label since 2012. Here he is with a solo album Lit Harness (PLANET MU RECORDS ZIQ379), in which he attempts to unburden his soul of his personal affliction. For most of his life, Levitas has suffered from sleep paralysis, a condition that means that for a few moments after waking up (or falling asleep) you’re unable to move your body or even speak. This undoubtedly accounts for the extremely “anxious” tone of Lit Harness; even the title refers to a particular type of restraint that keeps the patient in a “calm place while chaos happens all around”. (I’m not clear if this refers to an actual medical procedure, or a psychological exercise.) This album starts out promisingly enough, and the opening tracks ‘Withdrawn’ and ‘In The Eyes’ are both strong pieces; the former takes a basic electronic drone and bombards it with unpleasant interruptions, inducing a sensation surely familiar to any sufferer of sleep-related disorders, and the latter takes the listener down into a deep, dark zone with an insistent, muscular pulsebeat. Unfortunately, I found the remainder of the album to be filler material, identikit dark ambient music, whose relentlessly grim tone becomes wearisome. There isn’t enough of the expected catharsis for me, and one emerges from the other end of Lit Harness with no real resolution or sense that the sleep paralysis issue has been sufficiently addressed. The cover art is very good however, and conveys a lot of the expected sensations of suffering and futility. From 15 June 2016.

Suspended Solids

e02_francesco_gregoretti_front

We’ve heard Francesco Gregoretti before as part of the group Strongly Imploded, an unusual Italian improv combo; their ranks also include the wonderful _SEC, who did the mastering for Solid Layers, Deafening Shapes (TOXO RECORDS TX06) which is Gregoretti’s solo percussion album. Gregoretti is what we might call an “expanded” or “augmented” drummer. Not settling for the classical drum set, he also plays objects and amplification, thus placing himself in a line of avant-percussionists that surely must include Chris Cutler in the 1980s.

His set-up is described as a “system” here in the press notes, and I can well believe it…his aim is to generate “personal sound worlds”, and the overall effect of Solid Layers is indeed something that surrounds and immerses the listener. Instead of being attacked by percussive stabs and bites like a swarm of hornets, we’re boxed in with heavy blocks of droning, groaning, sub-bass roars and grunts. No wonder ‘Uproar Among The Gods’ is one of his track titles; that track in particular is a portrait of an Olympian rumble, like the opening track to Hendrix’s Electric Ladyland rethought for amplified drums. Matter of fact ‘Uproar Among The Gods’ would make a good title for a Led Zep bio depicting arguments and disagreements within the band. Gregoretti is also pretty hot with bowed cymbals and other metallic moments, which vary and leaven the otherwise “blocky” sensations of this sweaty, 12-rounds with the heavyweight champ album.

SEC_ has also written a sleeve note for the record, in which he points out that Gregoretti is a mathematician, and speculates on the way his music tends to demonstrate the rules of chaos theory. I also find that Gregoretti has played with some of my favourite maverick improvisers, including fellow mad drummer Will Guthrie, Jean-Marc Foussat the Algerian king of the VCS3, and Japanese guitar maestro TeTuzi Akiyama. You can judge a drummer by the company he keeps, they say. I also learn that the group Strongly Imploded is but one offshoot of the mothership group Grizzly Imploded, which has also spawned another combo called Oddly Imploded. I can’t keep up. From 26 June 2016.

Dislocation Recordings

Various
Landscapes Of Fear
GERMANY GRUENREKORDER GRUEN 153 2 x CD (2015)

One to disrupt the harmony of your CD shelf is this oversized card wallet containing an obliquely labeled, monochrome OS map of the area surrounding Cologne and 2 CDs of discomfiting sound art pertaining to the themes of 1) Landscapes and 2) Fear. A simplistic summary perhaps, but given the density of the accompanying text – which will assuredly sort the men from the boys among us – some distillation is required. We might ponder the dichotomy posed by these two situational extremes: the tangible and idyllic terra firma juxtaposed with the most chaotic and disembodying of emotions; security and exile – two extremes of human existence. Framing this juxtaposition is an image of a metal fence, on one side of which is a crowd of displaced refugees concealed from view by strategically placed bushes and palm trees. On the other, two golfers conducting their game, unmolested by the nearby tragedy.

While the reference to Europe’s current refugee crisis is explicit, the universality of the title’s constituents is such that we could extend the analogy to many situations in which the ‘radically diverging perceptions and adoptions of spaces’ occur in the present day. Take for example the legally sanctioned compartmentalisation of UK homes into multiple ‘apartments’ as a means of revenue generation for landlords and private investors, added to which is the humiliation of full council tax for each (while mansion owners pay proportionately lower rates), regardless of the size of the dwelling, purely on the grounds that there is a lock on the front door. Inhabiting these overpriced shoeboxes are the many who are locked out of the ever costly housing market and who face a future of financial disempowerment.

Needless to say, we needn’t look to the contents of this collection for comfort, but we might take heart that some are watching and addressing the flagrant injustices that visit so many walks of life today. The majority of the music is drone-based; tension-fuelled dark/power ambient minefields paired with location recordings for dislocation effect; splattered with rhythmic and vocal shrapnel in reference to political assassinations and other human rights abuses, as well as – of course – the kind of drones used by Western governments to police and terrorise the Middle East. Lawrence English has produced work similar in sound and agenda, but not with the bleakness of such events as Tim Gorinski’s ‘Amuse 2’ – a controlled explosion of ricocheting beats, sirens and shouting (William Burroughs might have approved of this), or Alex Pulgar’s ‘Lujk/Flame’ – where electroacoustic flames are funnelled through a tunnel of low-fi scum noise.

Hardly content with the alienating effects of such ‘music’, the compilers have seen fit to include Lena Ditte Nissen’s dispassionate German-language narration in ‘Imaginary Orb’ – which many a non-German speaker will instinctively skip – and the uneasy listening of a pair of North American accented sat-nav devices speaking over one another in Stephanie Glauber’s and Miriam Gossing’s ‘Mercure/Mondial’. Even English speakers will find this nauseating. Indeed, our agitation appears to be the overriding raison d’etre. Where so much in the realm of high-concept music can comfortably detach itself from conceptual baggage to exist as listening material per se, works such as this promote a sense of responsibility by insisting upon a level of listener interrogation.

More akin to an art gallery experience, Landscapes of Fear attains a kind of surrealism as a home-listening product. The simultaneous in/coherence of the selection, defined largely by the wilful austerity and disparity of the artists’ methods, would effect a collapsing of borders between internal and external phenomena; occasioning a discomfort that would remind us of the atrocities that take place daily beyond our psychological blinkers, in a world in which even the horror of events like Donald Trump’s inexplicable popularity achieve a circus sensationalism at which most of us can but shrug our shoulders in resignation. At the same time, the experience should also remind us that far from getting downhearted and downhearted at such horror, a constructive response is always possible.

Night Thoughts

veto_013_cover

Adasiewicz / Erb / Roebke
More Dreams Less Sleep
SWITZERLAND VETO-RECORDS / EXCHANGE 13 CD (2016)

If it feels like we’re living through a ghastly re-run of the 1930s these days, there’s a crumb of comfort to be had that some bright souls are defying the isolationist, philistine spirit of the age and forging creative links across international borders. It’s a very small crumb of comfort, admittedly, but I’ll take it where I can get it at the moment, thank you very much.

Jazz was big in the 1930s too, of course, and what we have here is the jazz equivalent of a town twinning association exchange trip between the lakeside cities of Lucerne and Chicago. Christoph Erb brings the reeds from Switzerland, whilst the American contingent of Jason Adasiewicz and Jason Roebke add vibraphone and double bass respectively. At this point, my extended metaphor breaks down, because this sounds nothing like any jazz recorded in the 1930s that I’m aware of.

Instead, we have five, distinctly modern improvisations, with terse one-word titles and a definite nocturnal vibe, if you’ll excuse the pun. Quite why the vibraphone should make everything sound as if it’s happening after midnight I don’t know, but it certainly does. This doesn’t mean it’s soporific, however. Quite the opposite. Erb’s saxophone and clarinet scamper through the vibes and bass, creating an urgent, itchy atmosphere, complete with insistent, knocking percussion effects that hammer away like those thoughts that just won’t go away at three o’clock in the morning. There are patches of relative calm to balance this out, so the whole thing is like a strangely enjoyable anxiety dream on a muggy night.

Veto Records are becoming a bit of a stamp of quality, their satisfying cardboard packages containing genuine musical treasures. This one is perfect for when you want to lie awake and worry about the state of the world.

Gratuitous Violins

jean-luc-fafchamps

Jean-Luc Fafchamps
Gentle Electronics
BELGIUM SUB ROSA SR397 CD + DVD (2015)

‘These works are not at all for those whose attention is fully focused on the new worlds of sounds made accessible… by a jealous and relentless quest for technology. They target those who want to listen to instruments and not be able to recognise them… because their history has been changed.’

Thusly framed is this intriguing CD/DVD package from composer Jean-Luc Fafchamps and his hand-picked performers; the pomp of such grandstanding highlighting everything right and wrong with this release. He valorises the humbleness of the ‘simple electronic means’ used in realising these two compositions, which to my ears is a technological paucity that barely exceeds the processes of looping and amplification. In a sense it is a ’back to basics’ exercise in compositional resourcefulness where even multi-tracking is held in abeyance. This method might well be said to reinforces the ‘poetics’ of his music, but upon listening the meagreness of ingredients is clearly a virtue, as is the considered involvement of each performer with(in) their respective environment.

‘Beth/Veth’ – which features on the CD – is a single, extended ‘composition’ for piano and metallic objects, the passages of which consist mainly of semi-ornate, cascading naturalism broken by spells of incessant hammering, like a collage of Debussy, Satie, Feldman et al. Pianist Stephane Ginsburgh is a regular collaborator of Fafchamps’ and a reliable presence on the Sub Rosa label. He also has an affinity for Morton Feldman, which should surprise nary a listener. His studious examination of each and every note and phrase is that of the experienced jeweller studying a diamond for imperfections; an enquiry that deepens into jarring segues that lead to more irascible, fitful passages and finally the majestic arrival of gongs that signal the dying minutes. For me personally, it’s a listening experience particularly remarkable at the end of a tiring day.

By no small contrast the DVD is – on paper at least – something I’d not have plumped for if not prompted: footage of a ‘street’ performance for electric viola competing for attention with nearby traffic and initial public indifference; throughout the performance, the camera pans the area to record both the non-event of passing traffic and the growing interest of passers-by. The value of such an event as a recorded document is negligible, though once again Fafchamps’ words are validated by the fact that one has to ‘go to the effort’ of actually playing and watching the thing, rather than lazily clicking on a link. And by the simple means of repeating a brief, ascending phrase amplified ad infinitum, player Vincent Royer further satisfies Fafchamps’ function-over-form mandate; his ramped up layers of screech, swell and delay exhilarating and deafening his surrounding adversities into submission and finally into a round of well-deserved applause.

Stimulating as this all is, why these night-and-day pieces have been packaged as one is unclear: neither a comprehensive ’portrait’ of Jean-Luc Fafchamps, nor possessed of cohesive musicology; one is left to conclude that – self-sabotage notwithstanding – this disparity is the very point. We might also infer a qualified rejection of the many technologies that have encroached upon so much of our lives: social networking and music production for instance. How well it is served by such a manifesto as that quoted above though, I am dubious. For a statement that cries for simplicity, it certainly is wordy. But then who am I to comment?

Widt Of A Circle

widt

The record WIDT (ZOHARUM ZOHAR 124-2) by WIDT is largely the work of Antonina Nowacka, a Polish creator who is a visual artist, painter, film-maker and photographer. But she also sings, and has been using her voice and synthesizer for some years to create atmospheric, abstract music which we can only describe as “haunting” – often to the point of being overtaken by a spirit or inhabited by a ghost. She is capable of that slightly solemn and deeply ceremonial dark music which we often associate with recent Polish musical acts to have come our way, including Hati, 23 Threads, and Tundra. Antonina is also one half of A.N.R.S., a duo with Robert Skrzyński, who released their self-titled record for Requiem Records this year. Plus she has performed with trumpeter Algirdas Dokalskiego in 2014, in an improvising context.

On WIDT, get ready to hear seven examples of her craft, where her voice is treated with some reverb and looping effects to create endless patterns and repetitions, and the whirlpools of sound suck you in as expected, down into a gently spinning slow-motion maelstrom of ancient mystery. All the songs are done without words, and it’s all about Nowacka shaping sounds and vocalising into interesting textures. She’s trying to say something about particular mental states and moods. But she also seeks a connection with the “old songs” (whatever that may mean in Poland; perhaps a reference to folk music of the Carpathians), religious music, and opera; traces of all of these can be found embedded in the fabric of her works. More than once during today’s spin, I fancied I was hearing the dark, evil twin of Yma Sumac descending from a cold mountainside, armed with a sword.

The other half of the WIDT act is Bogumiła Piotrowska, a video artist; WIDT’s complete package of son et lumière has been represented before on a CD-DVD package from Circon Int. capturing their performance at Edinburgh; and Pointless Geometry in Poland even issued a VHS cassette of their work, in 2013. The DVD here will allow you to hear all seven songs again, this time accompanied by the video art of Piotrowska. It looks like it’s exploiting video feedback effects in real time to create visuals that move in time to the voice and music; something of a familiar trope, but it’s good stuff; I like the restrained colours, the limited abstract shapes, and the highly grainy quality to the surface, which at times borders on old-school television interference. The visuals have a grittiness which some modern A/V creators have forgotten about, or deliberately try to avoid. I particularly like the black and grey blocks for ‘Joleusa’, which remind me of a test card pattern, going slightly bonkers. From June 2016.

Mysterious Ways

emibatett

emißatett
qui-pro-quo-dis
GERMANY SCHRAUM 19 CD (2015)

Emißattet is a ‘trio’ of five improvisors from Cologne who perform in and around the ‘compositions’ of cellist Elisabeth Fügemann, though these are not ‘compositions’ as one might imagine: a division of labour to achieve a distinct musical goal. No, their discourse consists of face offs and skirmishes along the road between pained, metallic droning and all-at-once shard warfare – a tension augmented by the arrival of piano and percussion (in this newly expanded lineup) – though the prevailing democracy at least ensures that each of the players occupies their own sovereign territory: great, grey, rain-soaked spaces filled with tortured tree-like forms and mutated fauna; landscapes as rich in mystery as ennui.

Corresponding with this sense of tethered exchange is the erosion of distinction between free improvisation and ‘modern’ orchestration: lacking any melodic anchor points, one might easily mistake this for random ‘bits & bobs’ affair, were it not for the fact that much of the engagement is carefully choreographed: a matching note-for-note passage for piano and trombone in ‘Kugul’ being one obvious indicator that ‘a greater hand’ authors these seemingly random events. Then there’s the ‘hidden symmetry’ of transitions between trio and quintet formations, the ‘give-and-take’ the Latinised title almost alludes to, but which is trumped by Google’s telling translation of ‘For The Gods’. Vanquishing potential monotony, this latent theology is manifest in the episodes of expansion and condensation that govern Emißattet’s fields of malleable tonality, imbuing their music with a sense of intrigue that could lead to devotion.