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TSP new print issue out now

The Sound Projector 24th issue
Out now!

Available from lulu.com
price £9.00 + postage

Interviews with:

  • Miguel A. García: “I have accepted all my facets; the music can go anywhere, it can take any direction”
  • Sébastian Borgo: “I am utterly pessimistic as far as my vision of the world is concerned. Man will disappear in the near future, self destroying himself.”
  • Simon Whetham: “Boring is a completely subjective term anyway, isn’t it…I could quite easily be as bored watching someone playing guitar and pulling faces as someone frowning at a laptop”.
  • Philip Perkins: “Cage influenced everyone, me included, if only by seeming to give permission to do whatever we wanted”.

Contributions from Stuart Marshall, Jennifer Hor, Steve Pescott and Paul Khimasia Morgan

Numerous pages of record reviews, fully indexed, profusely illustrated throughout

Ame Hinode

The Kyūbi (NAKAMA RECORDS NKM005CD) record is by Jinchūriki, a duo of Norwegian violinists Håkon Aase and Adrian Løseth Waade. You may be familiar with them through their other group Filosofer, and Waade plays in the quintet Nakama as well as the much larger improvising group Skadedyr (noted previously for their record with the big crab on the cover). Kyūbi is an understated and largely quiet acoustic record, with 20 short tracks – it’s a bit of extra work to get onto its wavelength, as the musical statements are so brief that they pass by before you even start to pick up the vibe of where these two mysterious Norwegians might be coming from. But there are interesting details and textures hidden inside these concise, blank utterances, and it’s worth persevering for the moments when they get quite worked up, packing a large volume of frenetic plucks and abstracted notes into quite small spaces.

They also like to limn imaginary snowy landscapes, using creaky scrapes and long tones from their wooden devices and strings. The aim of these musicians is something to do with exploring limits – of their instruments, of their sound, of themselves; perhaps they have in mind the musical equivalent of a commando weekend where you’re dropped onto a cold moor wearing only a vest and pants. It’s to their credit that they keep these observations so brief; the average innings here is less than two minutes, and their best pieces zip by in about 40 seconds or less. I think if they stretched into the 7 minute zone, a practice which by the way seems to be de rigeur for many improvising combos, they might turn into flabby, boring drones. However, brevity doesn’t always equal profundity, and some of these tunes can seem inconclusive; but at their best, Jinchūriki pose acoustic riddles which you can puzzle over for hours.

The cover image, also by Håkon Aase, seems to suggest a volcano emitting a fiery plume and much smoke, but a volcano is the last thing on the listener’s mind when faced with these gentle and rather cold musical miniatures. The names Jinchūriki and Kyūbi apparently both come from a 1990s manga and anime series called Naruto, which tells the story of a disaffected teenage ninja warrior. From 26th September 2016.

Mules Of The Sea

Last heard from Ted Lee, one of the luminaries behind the Feeding Tube Records label, in October 2016 with his bizarre solo record made as No Sod. I’m still trying to come to terms with that spontaneous explosion of free noise and art music, but while I’m trying I have this new LP Dream Away Lodge (FTR269) by Donkey No No to assuage my wounds and soothe my brow. On it, Ted Lee supplies percussion by bowing his cymbals, while joined by two mostly-acoustic players – the guitarist Omeed Goodarzi and the violinist Jen Gelineau. Omeed Goodarzi has been associated with Midi & The Modern Dance and Ivan Ooze, while Gelineau from Holyoke in MA has performed on a large number of records by Egg, Eggs, the sprawling and prolific New England free noise combo.

Dream Away Lodge is quite a different proposition to the far-out No Sod record, and indeed in places it’s quite tasteful and introspective, where No Sod is brash and outspoken. A melancholic tone permeates both sides of this continual low-key rippling drone music, recorded at a place called Dream Away Lodge in Massachusetts in 2015, and for some reason it casts the impression of being recorded in near-darkness or by candlelight. Omeed Goodarzi’s acoustic guitar work is probably the most conventional element in the trio, and for a few seconds on side A we could almost be hearing an acoustic Led Zeppelin bootleg. He provides most of the structure and form to the A side, his simple chord shapes and figures forming a prop for the other two to drape their solos and noises. I like Gelineau’s tone and her sound, and she finally has a chance to shine (Egg, Eggs sessions seem to be just a free-for-all wrestling match) with her playing; her chilling music greets you like the icy stare from the Victorian portrait of a long-dead ancestor. Her echo effect on the B side is delicious, contributing a vaguely “kosmische” vibe to the music; Tangerine Dream music played on violins instead of mellotrons.

As for Lee, his metallic shimmers are positively restrained, adding just the right degree of improvised noise to these semi-melodic fugues. The team cohere well on these two sides, and even if the music seems to go for longer than it should, this is part of the improv-only deal in this context – you have to take everything or nothing. When Donkey No No get themselves into a good space, they pretty much stay there for 15-20 mins. Since 2015, they’ve already released 11 other recordings, mostly in tiny editions on cassette or acetates. The cover, screenprinted by Neil Burke from a photo by Lauri McNamara, is quite a strong point; it’s printed in just the right shade of “mellow brown” to match the music, reminding me of the Fairfield Parlour cover (or perhaps the 1971 LP by Master’s Apprentices on Regal Zonophone). I don’t know much about the donkey in the picture, except it’s made of metal and joins them on their performances and presumably gave the band their name. From 27 June 2016, limited to 100 copies.

Flocci Non Facio

About a jillion points shall be awarded to the cassette Gara Delle Facce (TUTORE BURLATO #09) performed by the trio Flocculi. Its members Devid Ciampalini, David Lucchesi and Ezio Piermattei turn in a two-part performance across both sides of this short tape and in the process they defy human reason with some of the uncanny zany sounds that emanate from their agitated bodies. Percussion, oscillators, guitar, voice, tape and objects are all used in imaginative ways to maximise a sense of the bizarre and a sense of fun in equal proportions, and the spirited nature of their antics doesn’t let up for a moment. I suppose there could conceivably be a danger that this form of free and open playing could easily become self-indulgent and even “wacky” in a meant-to-be-funny sense that doesn’t translate; or it could become an exercise in forced “energy” music which degenerates into the usual skittery-improv chaos and clatter. Amazingly, neither scenario comes to pass and the music remains light and fleet-footed. This may be because none of the musicians are trying to prove anything about such unhelpful notions as “extended technique” or the “value” of free improvisation, and are simply playing together in ways they enjoy. But I speculate. Ciampalini is unknown to me, and Lucchesi the guitarist has surfaced on an obscure CDR as part of DeA in 2014; but Piermattei is of course more familiar to us, not only as the owner of this tape label but as Hum Of Gnats, poisucevamachenille and Autopugno, aliases under which he has made unique and funny records which to one degree or another exhibit his obvious facility for making uncanny sounds and music with his voice, and his tape overlays. Flocculi is yet another project he can be proud of. They may never surface again as a trio, but for 30 delicious minutes here they have unleashed several exciting and tasty events in sound upon the earth, with an obvious passion and enthusiasm for their work, and everything is played with a simple transparency which is highly refreshing. Things may get noisy, but never distorted; the spirit is liberating, never chaotic. The title translates into English as “Race Of Faces”, and that’s putting it mildly. Highly recommended!

One of nine cassettes received 4th July 2016 from Ezio Piermattei.

The Road To Red

redsquare

Red Square
Rare And Lost 70s Recordings
SPAIN MENTAL EXPERIENCE MENT003 LP (2016)

Here’s another excellent item from Mental Experience, the sub-label of Guerssen who also brought us the two reissues of Circle, the lesser-known 1980s post-Krautrock band. Red Square were an English art-rock free-jazz combo who were first active in the 1970s, and had a serious political edge to boot. The name Red Square refers not to the plaza in Moscow, but to the work of the Constructivists painters (especially El Lissitzky), but I’m sure these Marxists found it was a good way to signal their intentions to promoters and organisers alike. Nothing like booking a commie pinko band to play to the radical young students of the day, who wanted some light relief after a hard day occupying the University faculty with their sit-ins and strikes. They also made a grand old racket, as is evidenced by Rare And Lost 70s Recordings, an album which salvages a studio session from 1978 where they played live to create four blistering cuts, and another three recordings from a gig at Lindisfarne Hall the same year.

It’s fairly clear Red Square had at least one foot planted in the rock music enclave, as the guitarist Ian Staples heaves out a delicious heavily-amped swirl of noise, proving he fears neither loud amplifiers nor feedback effects, and makes few concessions to conventions of free jazz (or rock, for that matter). In fine, by 1978 Staples had already evolved himself into an English Sonny Sharrock, which isn’t bad going if you consider that Monkie Pockie-Boo was only 8 years old at this time, and I sincerely doubt if many people in England had even heard that record. Then you’ve got the drummer Roger Telford, who has a fairly relentless attack…I usually don’t care for drumming that attempts to fill in every available space with unnecessary rattles, bangs and triple-notes, but for some reason this maximalism is just perfect here. Manic, excessive drumming appears to be a big part of the Red Square sound. One might even say it’s the lifeblood. If nothing else, Telford’s bass skins do give the band their “bottom end”.

Then there’s the woodwind player, Jon Seagroatt, also a member of Comus and sometime performer with Current 93, who plays bass clarinet and saxophone and may at times seem to be in danger of being wiped out by the guitar noise, but retaliates with everything he’s got in his lungs, heart and liver. While he too may have picked up some of hell-for-leather sensibilities of the all-out free blowing such as you find on the 1969 BYG records, Seagroatt has also somehow evolved his own English take on the genre. There may be anger and fury bubbling under the surface, but whereas Archie Shepp and Clifford Thornton directed their anger against white racism in America, here it’s channelled into an audible Marxist dialectic, laying out a sustained critical argument against the iniquities of society in 1970s UK. At any rate, that’s my take on the matter. I invite the listener to hear for themselves and see if they agree.

All of Red Square’s music carries this particular directed energy, so the music is not just an exercise in “free blowing” or “extended technique”; they were probably young idealists itching for change, and I would suggest they intended to pass on their restless state of mind to the listener, and thereby activate the brains of the audience towards critique, towards questioning. I have often expressed the same view regarding certain Post Punk bands, most notably This Heat. It’ll come as no surprise when you learn Red Square played with Henry Cow, and were part of a movement called Music For Socialism. On the other hand, while I can imagine Chris Cutler personally welcoming Red Square as fellow Marxists, I’m not sure how far they went with participating in the Rock In Opposition thing. For balance, we should also point out they shared bills with other jazz and jazz-rock combos with no discernible political agenda, such as National Health and Lol Coxhill. There’s also some vague allusion in the press notes here to general conflicts which arose in the band’s lifetime: “their extreme sound and attitude were too much for both audience and record companies”, an evasive remark if ever there was. “Too much”? What happened? Were there audience riots? And could you be more specific about why they didn’t get a record deal?

Even if you’ve no interest in politics, which can be a jolly boring subject, the music will energise and amaze you. At their best Red Square created a kind of fierce tidal wave of sound, which was absolutely untrammelled by any tedious conventions such as rhythm, metre, structure, chord changes, or any of that stuff that gets in the way and restricts movement. Yet they did not simply spew out a hideous, self-indulgent racket, and the internal dynamics of this trio must, I assume, be something that these three men alone were capable of creating together. The press notes blither on about how Red Square were pioneers of things that “have become common practice today”, and doing this before Sonic Youth, Last Exit, and contemporary noise combos like The Thing, as though these “common practices” were fixed values and fixed goals, and “getting there first” was the important thing. I take issue with such lazy thinking. Such thinking also assumes that all these bands and musicians are all trying to do the same thing, which might not be correct. I realise we all need these labels like “noise” and “avant jazz” to help us get our bearings, but we shouldn’t trust them to the extent that we fail to listen to the music itself, and appreciate the real differences between things. Music is a living culture, not a map pointing to things we already know. And while I’m prepared to grant pioneer status to any brave musician in history who took risks and followed their instincts, I don’t think it’s helpful to see musical evolution as some sort of race to the finish line or a competition to invent something “new” before everyone else. But there I am criticising the press release, which is a bad way to write.

Red Square existed from 1974 to 1978; apparently they created two private press cassettes at this time, probably for selling at gigs, and as far as we know no “official” records from this period exist until now. However, they reformed in 2008, and albums were released on FMR Records and Fo Fum from this date, including a document of s gig at the Vortex released in 2010. Very happy to hear these fragments of buried treasure from 1978 and this record is highly recommended. From 18th April 2016.

The Third Brain

mikroton_cd_48

strøm is the superb duo of Swiss players Gaudenz Badrutt and Christian Müller. I thought we had in the past received some of their solo releases on the Swiss Domizil label, but I must have dreamed it. At any rate Gaudenz Badrutt has surfaced a few times, as part of the group Social Insects and with Jonas Kocher on a maddening record called Strategy Of Behaviour In Unexpected Situations. Plus he played with Kocher again in the Mayakovsky Library on Rotonda, where they were joined by Ilia Belorukov. This new record may be called X (MIKROTON CD 48) and is one of a crop of new excellent improv / sound art releases we received from the Russian Mikroton label.

Where Badrutt is all electronics here, Müller does some electronics but also plays the contrabass clarinet, the forbiddingly huge instrument which is the largest member of the clarinet family. On these six tracks, strøm are capable of creating a deliciously fractured and bitty approach to electronic noise, refusing any form of lushness or pleasant surface to the sounds, and accepting only the choicest moments of compressed digital glitch and crackle into the mix. Austerity and severity are just two of the watchwords hopefully sellotaped onto their respective consoles or mixing desks. This can result in very exciting music, where the listener’s fleshy brain and listening apparatus are draped over a stainless steel structure of some sort; there’s that much power and inflexible strength to the core.

Elsewhere, there is a menacing bass drone underpinning the work which may have originated from the clarinet. Oddly enough these moments are less satisfying for some reason, and I find I derive more satisfaction from the pieces which spit out their digital juices like so much hot fat over the roasting pan. Extremely abstract music, as reflected in the plain colourfield designs of the cover artworks. But this is very far from the clean lines of Raster-Noton or other minimal-glitch work of Cologne and Vienna, and its lineage does not come from techno beats or the dancefloor. From 14 April 2016.

The Angry Sea

TSPOCT15066

Nice tape (PML 010) of experimental performed lo-fi junk-noise by the duo of Patrick Cain and Phong Tran, here calling themselves The Shouts From The Sea. As far as living up to that name, they concentrate more on the “shouting” than the “sea-faring”, crazy noise-mariners that they are. The raw sound they make is what grabs me at first, indicating that the pair don’t bother with niceties like recording studios or careful microphone placement when they’re getting into a groove with their crude electronics, prepared guitar, and percussion set up (enhanced with tapes, amplifiers, pedals, and other units of noise deployment) – the main thing is to capture the moment. Naturally, just about anyone with a budget of zero dollars could achieve a similar surface sound if so disposed, but I find my interest captured by The Shouts From The Sea, sticking around to enjoy the slow firework display, as if mesmerised by the potential of this ugly fizzing mass of teeming swill, and certainly interested by what I perceive as the slightly obsessive and driven bent of the duo as they set about their tasks with grim determination and concentration. Abstract, anonymous, unexplained, but suffused with assurance and power. While abrasive in places, this is not your average thumping-din power noise that delivers relentless blows to the face and chin, and there’s a lot of messed-up angst and psychological power feeding into these disaffected low-key shrieks, and even a degree of subtlety to be found within their pulsating, exploratory episodes. Phong Tran has made one CDR in 2012 as part of the trio Halo Valley, while Patrick Cain released Pack Down for Carbon Records in 2013 and has also appeared in Death Rattle with Jim Abramson. I think they are both American, while the Power Moves Label is based in Toronto, and their motto is “True Bedroom Recordings” – a saying that might resonate with all the forgotten bedroom musicians of the UK from the 1980s who released many amateurish but heartfelt cassettes in the wake of post-punk music. If this spirit lives on today, that’s a good thing. A nice one…unfortunately the cassette was limited to 53 copies and at time of writing is now sold out, but it can be streamed for free on Bandcamp. From 3rd March 2015.

Charlemagne Palestine interview

A podcast of our interview with Charlemagne Palestine, of which a transcript was published in issue 5. This interview took place September 1998 at St John’s Church Waterloo Road, under the organ loft; the sound you can hear is the organ ostinato.

charlemagne_2_2009.JPG

C Joynes – missing words

Away from the cliff_web
EP: What instruments do you play? Are you mostly self-taught?

CJ: Properly speaking, I only really play guitar and mandolin. When I say ‘properly’, I guess I mean an instrument that I would be prepared go up on stage with all on my own. However, like many other musicians, I also tamper with varying degrees of knowhow with a number of other instruments. These I’ll experiment with more as sound-making devices, objects that can add tone or colour to pieces.

I am mostly self-taught. I had music lessons as a child – piano because it’s the standard, trombone because as a young ‘un I really liked Dexy’s Midnight Runners and The Specials and trad jazz. Still do, actually. I guess these gave me a reasonable musical grounding at the time, but I can’t read sheet music anymore. It also made me recognise that, for me at least, there was greater satisfaction in pursuing one’s own musical daydreams than in acquiring the uniform set of skills and attributes expected of formal musicians, useful though they are. I suspect that many children get put off music because the lessons commonly involve labouring away at music that holds little emotional appeal for your average 12-year old. I was fortunate because, before giving up the piano completely, I was introduced to a new teacher, a joyful Canadian woman called Connie, who had a real love both of music and of teaching it and could coax that same enthusiasm out of her pupils. It was that which saw me through to my mid-teens, when I suddenly wanted to play guitar.

EP: How big a part does intuition / improvisation play in what you do?

CJ: I am massively interested in improvised music of all sorts, and without realising it, I guess I’ve always liked it. But I was introduced to free improv a few years ago by a friend of a friend who’d been sending through cassettes of Derek Bailey, Evan Parker, Antony Braxton and all, folks I’d never heard of at the time. Turned out the friend of a friend was Rhodri Davies the harpist, who’s now one of the leading free improvisers in that European school.

But in terms of my own music improvising is something I approach with great wariness…

Remainder of interview published in The Sound Projector 18th issue.

Errata for TSP18

  • The interview with C Joynes somehow lost a couple of paragraphs near the beginning. Click here and you can read the missing parts.
  • In the Rhiz compilation review (The Risk Of Burns Exist), the leader of Blurt is Ted, not James, Milton.
  • Page 119: Jana Winderen is Norwegian, not Japanese.
  • Page 35: Mikroknytes not Mikronytes.
  • Page 74, Z’EV interview: The first question should read: “What specifically about the music generates these healing effects? Is it a ‘passive’ phenomenon, or does it depend on the participation of the one who is to be healed?”
  • Page 133, Idea Fire Company Beauty School LP. This review makes a few incorrect assumptions. Scott Foust writes: “The sound on that record is not all that great, probably due to the mastering. The title track has a beautiful sound that didn’t quite come through on the record. We recorded it live in our long hallway, with Karla at the back and her amp on a stool and me and Matt about halfway with our amps on the floor. The stereo mic was in the living room. No pedals on it either, but I suspect you are hearing Karla’s Korg digital synth, which sort of has that sound.”