Tagged: beats

Monotroniks

tienlai

The album Rhthm (MONOTYPE RECORDS mono083) by Polish combo T’ien Lai is a highly diverse set of music, where the duo of Łukasz Jędrzejczak and Kuba Ziolek attempt many styles, many modes and many methods to realise their ambitions. They certainly aren’t short of ideas for what direction to take next, and there’s a large collection of tools in their box of instruments and synthesizers. There’s the systems-y pseudo-composed ‘W D’, a half-hearted attempt to “do” Terry Riley. There’s ‘Piknik Nad Rzeka Ma’, whose beats and sampled speaking voice derived from a French girl barking out an obscure text seems to have warped over here from around 1985. ‘SMZS II’ is pure Kraftwerk-influenced sequencer malarkey. But the evil robotic-march vibes of ‘Monotronik’ (where they are joined by the percussionist Rafal Kolacki from HATI and cymbal player Mikołaj Zieliński) are effective, and may reflect the fact that at time of writing T’ien Lai now consider themselves a quartet. I also enjoyed the short but chaotic ‘FX6’ which opens the album with a beautiful and illogical firework of noise.

The rest of the set shows them veering around – beats, ambient, melodic tunes…anything they can do to “experiment” with instruments, computers, and the studio, yet there’s always this lazy back-pedalling into conventional sounds and arrangements which blunts the “alternative” edge they wish to project. No denying the instrumental skills of this pair, nor the impressive assurance with which they set about their tasks, and the textural density of these outputs is evidence of much hard labour by Kuba Ziolek at the mixing and production end. Rhthm just feels like they’re trying to say too much in a short space.

This is their second album for the label; their more intriguing and esoteric Da’at was noted by Pescott, and the pair have a declared interest in Jewish mysticism. The release is packaged in a triple-gatefold digipak with a restrained geometric device on the front, and a garish psychedelic collage visual horror on the inside. Plus there’s a Herbert Marcuse quotation printed on the inside. From 21 June 2016.

Negation Of The Negation

cura

Last heard from Sturqen in 2012 with their Praga album for Kvitnu, the label that loves all things heavy and dense…the Portuguese duo of Cesar Rodrigues and David Arantes have been active since 2008 and continue to carve their own furrow in the swirling world of dark techno-mechanical blackness. Their Cura (KVITNU 45) shows they are still preoccupied with machines and their work remains themed on the idea of industrial mayhem, described here as a “journey through grimy machines”…consequently, a black and airless world is what they create, with remorseless hammering drum beats sucking up the air and the only relief to our plight is offered by electronic devices and synths occasionally treated to resemble the howl of an electric guitar.

Cura is also a “concept album” of sorts; the title means “cure” in English and an enclosed note muses on the idea of what modern medicine can really offer us by way of effective treatment, perhaps thinking of such aggressive techniques as chemo-therapy to cure cancer. Sturqen propose a radical alternative to mainstream medicine with their music, calling it a “negation of the negation that suppressed that which is strange to a healthy system”, and offer the album to the world as “an act of healthy violence”. Presumably this is all a metaphor. I don’t think they seriously intend Cura to be played henceforth in hospitals everywhere over the PA system, thus causing ill patients to leap from their beds instantly, but their argument has not been fully thought through. It seems simply to be a rather solemn and over-elaborate way of saying “take it or leave it” when you hear their music.

This aside, there is a lot to enjoy on Cura, and I like the stern and unblinking qualities the pair are capable of unleashing, even though their sounds are not quite as dark and violent as they evidently seem to think. From 8th June 2016.

The Armoury Show

blast

Blast (or B.L.A.S.T.) are a French four-piece of contemporary jazzers led by the trumpeter Pierre Millet, who also composed all the music on Derrière Le Manège (PETIT LABEL PL051); I’m a trifle surprised Millet hasn’t shown up on the screen before now, given his sizeable output – he’s in at least three other combos beside this one, namely Hand Five, Renza Bô, and S’il Te Plaît Madame. He’s been releasing records on Petit Label since 2008, and also seems to have a foot in the hip-hop camp if his work on the B. Boyz EP is any benchmark of the situation. Joined here by J.B. Julien with his Fender Rhodes electric piano, the bassist Antoine Simoni and wild-card / secret weapon Pierre Troel who is credited with “MPC”, they turn in six entertaining cuts heavy on the dance-floor beats, the Fender Rhodes riffing on tasty chords, the weird electronic sounds, and the echoplexed trumpet, all the while doodling their easy-listening slow-groove charmers in languid style. This normally wouldn’t appeal to me at all and if feeling unkind I’d lump it in with some of the clunkers we’ve received from the French label Circum-Disc (particularly the mediocre Flu(o)), but there’s a sense of fun lurking between the beats that adds warmth, and makes me feel I can trust these Blasty Garcons. Some of these oddball vocal interjections and electronic smart-bombs might be coming from Pierre Troel, who as Fulgeance and Peter Digital Orchestra has created a minor stir around Ile-De-France with his DJ antics. While B.L.A.S.T. are sometimes a tad too smooth and facile, and have a propensity for tasteful music that might become tiresome, the album still has enough mood-changes and tricky surprises to make this an enjoyable and entertaining spin. From 18 April 2016.

The Warsaw Wives

lxmp

Quite exhausting and hyper-kinetic record Polish electronic bounce and electropop bashery from LXMP, a duo from Warsaw. Their Żony W Pracy (LADO ABC Lado A/18LP) was made using just keyboards and drums, but Piotr Zabrodzki and Macio Moretti have a particular inclination towards Korg synths (indeed, they actually seem to have bonded over the matter) and the glimpses of their equipment set-up on the front cover may cause many a hardware fetishist to salivate in sympathy, particularly the view of the Roland SH-101 (if such it be), a famed monophonic job from the 1980s that has caused many a man to twitch with a slack-jawed expression.

These ten tracks of theirs amount to an unholy blend of sources and inspirations – cheesy easy-listening records, cute shiny electropop, and some mutated strain of disco fever that has not yet been released from the laboratory, and they’re mostly played at a breathless rate which pounds the listener into surrender in short order. There’s also something rather airless about the sound that betrays the studio-bound origins of all this work. Between the tight, compressed compositions and the gapless notes, it’s a wonder a man can breathe here at all. I’d like to say the duo have a gift for a strong melody, and while some tracks do shine and even uplift the spirits with their melodic sparkle (assuming you think TV theme tunes and space-age pop albums are a good template), every other track misfires with its slapdash technique and relentless insistence on putting the unpleasant synth “squelch” right in your face. It’s a case of allowing fun-loving “retro” sensibilities get the better of your aesthetic good sense…there’s a shade too much irony and insincerity, suggesting that LXMP are more glitterball than substance.

The title translates as “Wives At Work”, and I have no idea what that means in this context. This is the third LP they’ve made for Lado ABC and a follow-up to 2013’s Back To The Future Shock, which appears to be a set of cover version of Herbie Hancock and Bill Laswell tunes. Ingenious, aggressive, but the fun factor comes with a very limited guarantee. From18 April 2016.

Long Overdue Part 7

belly

We have noted Andrew Plummer’s works briefly in the past – the bizarre songs of World Sanguine Report are enough to make anyone sit up and take notice, and Plummer cultivates his status as a sort of English Tom Waits / Captain Beefheart sea-faring eccentric type. Another band he plays in is Snack Family, with drummer Tom Greenhalgh and sax player James Allsopp; their Belly EP (LIMITED NOISE LTDNSE5) may not be especially “avant”, but is an extremely visceral and eccentric take on the sort of evil swamp blues we might associate with Dr John, crossed with ingenious off-beat rhythms and deliciously spare playing from the side musicians. On the title track ‘Belly’ you’ll feel like you’re being compelled by a malevolent witch to eat your last meal of poisoned chili beans; you can feel indigestion setting in already, but you can’t stop shovelling food in your mouth. Drew Millward made the cartoony Grand Guignol cover art. Not safe for vegetarians. From 4th March 2014; they made one other EP that year (Pokie Eye).

r-n141_vinyl_02_960x640

Last noted Vladislav Delay with his 2012 Kuopio album for Raster-Noton where Jen noted his “nervy beats”…his Espoo EP (RASTER-NOTON R-N 141) experiments further with beats and loops, and intends to set-up maddening cross-rhythms that are had to follow. It’s done with filters, modifiers and echo effects, but the equipment precisely controlled; you can tell on the finished product that there’s not a single digit out of place, in the inhumanly exacting patterns that have been so ruthlessly enacted and executed. Vladislav Delay explicitly intends to create conceptual music, yet he doesn’t want to depart too far from the disco dance hall. These ingenious mesmerising pound-a-thons ought to present quite a challenge to your average hoofer. I like the way he disguises his severe conceptual ideas; the sound of this record, for instance, isn’t too alienating, and indeed ‘Kolari’ has a user-friendly ambient setting that cushions the blows from these steely and devilish beats of high complexity. By front-loading his work with semi-familiar and approachable sounds, perhaps he stands a chance of smuggling his subversive ideas into the mainstream of dance culture. From 3rd July 2012.

marielle

Beautiful and transcendent droney-violin and synth sound art thing from Marielle V. Jakobsons and her Glass Canyon (STUDENTS OF DECAY SOD097). For this project, painstakingly created over a number of years between 2009 and 2011, this Oakland artist decided to reduce the process to just violin and synthesizer, mostly to explore the sonorities of “where two timbres meet”. The simplicity of the process conceals a lot of complexity; somehow you can tell there’s a great deal of preparation, forethought and composition that has been fed into each of these gorgeous long-form stretches of sound, and she’s not simply letting her machines run on autopilot. This seems to be the first work released under her own name; the curious listener may wish to investigate her Ore record from 2009, released for Digitalis as Darwinsbitch, and she’s also led the groups Date Palms, Portraits, and Myrmyr. From listening, and from titles such as ‘Purple Sands’ or ‘Dusty Trails’, it’s clear she’s a landscape painter in sound, and her multi-media practices involving art installations would seem to conform this; her intention is to create a “visceral experience of sound and light”. I think ‘Purple Sands’ and ‘Cobalt Waters’ are among the finest pieces here, with incredibly subtle shifts in tone, mostly staying in a very pleasant and beautiful place and allowing us to contemplate it; for a few precious moments on ‘Purple Sands’, there’s one of the most mournful and affecting violin tones I’ve ever heard, like the cry of a bird. ‘Dusty Trails’ has a synth sequencer rhythm and somehow seems a tad more conventional, stylistically tipping its forehead towards Tangerine Dream, but that’s a small quibble when faced with such an original and sumptuous album. From 3rd July 2012.

No mystery but plenty of treasures on “Space Echo: The Mystery Behind the Cosmic Sound of Cabo Verde Finally Revealed”

Various Artists, Space Echo: The Mystery Behind the Cosmic Sound of Cabo Verde Finally Revealed, Analog Africa, AACD080 (2016)

At long last, the music scene that thrived in Cape Verde during the late 1970s / early 1980s gets a reissue on CD by Analog Africa as part of a series showcasing African pop music from the last quarter of the 20th century. This CD (number 20 in the Analog Africa series) is an excellent compilation of 15 songs composed and performed by various musicians, whose relations to one another I’m still not really sure of after reading the booklet that comes in the package. The songs are credited to individual composers and musicians but that can’t be completely right as all songs are performed by bands, some of whose members rate no mention in the booklet.

Generally the music has a light feel and a mostly sunny outlook, though given that Cape Verde’s culture was much influenced by its Portuguese colonisers, a bit of melancholy is bound to appear here and there. The surprising aspect of the music is the use of synthesiser, electric piano and other electronic instruments popular in the 70s and 80s through most tracks in composing and playing melodies and rhythms, and creating and sustaining moods and soundscape backgrounds. Even when the background music seems at its most electro-alien and cold, the charging percussion, rhythms and singing infuse the songs with lively energy and spirit.

Listeners expecting that the music will be similar to Brazilian and a lot of African pop of the same period might be in for a surprise: sure, there are African-influenced beats, rhythms and structures, and the musicians sing in Portuguese, but the music also sounds very European, much more than we might have assumed. There’s not much call-and-response music, where a lead vocalist calls out to a crowd and urges them along, and everyone responds singing the same lyrics or a chorus, and a dialogue that bounces back and forth continuously is set up, that appears here (or what does appear seems watered down into verse-chorus refrain songs); and there’s a lot of Euro-disco and Latino influence across the songs. In short, we have a true synthesis of African and European styles and elements overlaid and united by the Western music and cultural trends and advances in the music and recording technologies of the time and the opportunities these offered to musicians to explore, question and engage with their musical heritage, and to reach out to their people and the world beyond.

There are many good songs to be found here and anyone and everyone who listens to the album will soon have a favourite song or two. The one song that typifies this compilation and which I consider the best is one of the middle tracks, Quirino do Canto’s “Mino di Mama”, which is a wonderful liquid duet (or duel?) of a lone male vocal and a flippy silver synthesiser melody over a light galloping percussion beat. This song comes at the end of a run of great tracks starting with Fany Havest’s “That Day”, the sole English-language song, which initially start slowly, even a bit gloomily, and then suddenly go light and sparkly.

I believe the 15 songs that appear come from a collection of 1,000 songs found by the compiler over a year or so of research and travelling around Cape Verde, only to discover most of the musicians who composed and played these songs are actually living and working in Europe. As mentioned before, on the whole these tracks are upbeat and sunny, and most listeners will be satisfied with that, but I’m hoping future follow-up compilations will include music of a wider range of moods and subject matter. Still, this collection is a great introduction to the music and culture of Cape Verde.

As for the “mystery” about the supposed lost ship whose cargo mysteriously appeared abandoned on the shores of Cape Verde … the mundane reality is that the music scene celebrated on this CD exploded after the islands gained their independence in 1975, and that event must surely have been the watershed that allowed Cape Verdean culture to flourish.

Where The Wild Things Are

Andi Stecher

Andi Stecher
Austreiben / Antreiben
AUSTRIA HEART OF NOISE EDITION 03 CD (2015)

Having recently enjoyed Charles Fréger’s enthralling Wilder Mann, imagine my delight at finding one of his “Images of the Savage” staring at me from the cover of this release. It’s the face of a visitor from the deepest, most primal levels of the human psyche, and that’s pretty much what the music sounds like too.

Andi Stecher is an Austrian born, Berlin based drummer, percussionist and electronic musician. This album was specially commissioned for the Innsbruck Heart of Noise Festival in 2015, and is Stecher’s own response to the same Central European mask traditions that Fréger documents in his photo collection. Essentially a solo release, he’s helped out on a couple of tracks by double-bassist Antti Virtaranta and ululator-in-chief Otto Horvath. Together, these wild things make everything groovy, in a ritualistic, shamanic kind of way.

Proceedings open with ‘(un)durchdringbar’, tintinnabulating bells laying down a primitive rhythm from which a more sophisticated groove emerges, as the double bass kicks in and the whole thing builds to a crescendo of cymbals. It’s as if the first part of the track has been designed to invoke the second part. Or perhaps we’re looking at one of those evolutionary diagrams showing the ascent of dance music, from Homo Habilis be-bopping on a lump of rock to Homo Sapiens programming a drum machine.

Two short pieces follow that – ‘möglicher zugang übergang 1’ and ‘2’ – which feature the Horvath vocal chords doing what comes unnaturally. The final track, ‘Tödi’, has a similar structure to the first track, as the jolly sounds of a folk festival dissolve only for a groove to re-emerge from the chaos. The tintinnabulations return, like a commodius vicus of recirculation back to Howth Castle and environs, bringing us back to where we started.

A remarkable blend of ancient and modern that creates some timeless moments. One for the wild at heart.

Vinyl Seven Glom Part 6

AUGAAL_0012

Got a 7-inch lathe cut from Urbsounds, the Slovakian label that’s the home of very unusual urban and avant-techno sounds. We have in the past noted the 2004 compilation Urbsounds Collective, and the 2012 CD Instant Satisfunction. “Inhuman machine-like spirit created from the incessant repeating beats,” noted Nausika at the time. Michal Lichy recently sent Random Shadows (SKY BURIAL 013 / URBSOUNDS COLLECTIVE [/] no. 30) by Urbanfailure, a baffling EP of three tracks…everything sounds very “muffled” on the actual lathe cut, which I expect is due to the limitations of the process, but when played on the Bandcamp page you get quite a different story and the music’s aggression comes to the fore. ‘Gridiron Ambience’ starts out as a random array of beats and nonsensical noises, including some completely out-of-context birdsong recordings, then gradually warms up into a menacing and pounding mess – only to subside into mystery again before you get any ideas about bouncing up and down to the music. Quite bewildering in its compositional shape. You might fare better with ‘Standoff Abrupt’, which has a more recognisable rhythm and squelchy synth patterns, but the sounds are mean, abrasive, and nasty. Any hopes of continuity or uninterrupted listening are constantly sabotaged by Urbanfailure’s disruptive interventions. The blurb on the Bandcamp page indicates something of this record’s intentions, through allusions to mathematical principles, integers, and the human nervous system.

The cover art is by Tove, depicting three hooded spirits breathing fire in a mystical circle, and on the back cover apparently taking part in a makeshift funeral. This back cover, all suffused greys and blacks, feels very appropriate to the music somehow, especially when I play my lathe version with its ghostly and pallid beats. There’s also a full colour foldout, with a photography by Jana Mikova depicting air pollution and black clouds in a sickly green and orange sky, and image that induces a profound industrial horror in the viewer. From 15th April 2016.

Vinyl Seven Glom Part 4

cavernofant

Cavern Of Anti-Matter is the current project of Tim Gane from Stereolab, where he plays guitar and electronics supported by Stereolab drummer Joe Dilworth and Holger Zapf playing synths, drum machines, and electronic noises. Lawrence Conquest noted their 2103 album Blood-Drums here, as “highly melodic instrumental synth pop of a determinedly retro variety”. Total Availability And The Private Future (PERIPHERAL CONSERVE pH-24) is much in the same mode, two pieces of clever synth pop with added beats. Quite nice. I always feel a tad underwhelmed by this band’s work, perhaps because the name itself Cavern Of Anti-Matter is leading me to expect something with more intellectual heft, or at the very least a bit more cavernous dub echo in the production. Or maybe something from a science fiction fantasy where they produce music so powerful and strange that it can undo the fabric of matter itself. That would be worth hearing. I’m sure Tim Gane knows that story about Tony Visconti’s Eventide Harmonizer used on Low, and probably filed that nugget away in his mental cabinet as a piece of rock mythology. If only they could live up to it. At any rate this music is nowhere near as smarmy and knowing as Stereolab used to be, so that’s progress. The cover art is by Julian House. Some nice design and collage elements going on here, and it could have been as strong as a meeting between Eduardo Paolozzi and Peter Max, but somehow the image loses its nerve and is lost in a welter of bad design. From 31 October 2014.

blues

The duo of Loren Connors & Suzanne Langille appear on the 7-incher Strong & Foolish Heart / Blue Ghost Blues (TANUKI RECORDS #16), which was recorded at a festival in Glasgow in 2013. The alienated guitar music of Connors is something I feel I ought to know more about, and I’ve often bumped into it since there was a surge of interest in his music since the mid-1990s. There was an Ecstatic Yod box set of four CDs that compiled some of his early acoustic work that I’ve often wondered about. We have fared a little better in recent years with the Haunted House records, where Connors and Langille teamed up with others in a tenuous musical situation that could just about be described as a “band”. Their albums for Northern Spy were impressive, including a fairly rockin’ beast called Blue Ghost Blues…but I haven’t compared the 2011 version with the song on this single to confirm if it’s the same song in another form. Matter of fact “form” is never the word that really comes to mind when hearing this duo’s music, as it seemed determined never to materialise into any recognisable shape. Think instead of musical phantoms, ectoplasms, fogs; that might be a better way to consider its value. I will say that on her singing for ‘Strong & Foolish Heart’, Suzanne Langille does pay her respects to the blues idiom with her flattened fifths, but does so in slow motion, like a mannered, awkward and frozen-stiff version of Billie Holiday meeting Ida Cox at the side of some infernal glacier. Meanwhile Connors is producing effects that are more like shimmering, transient aerial phenomena (the Northern Lights, for instance) rather than concrete guitar chords, or anything that might translate back into a basic blues-box. The combination of odd shapes, FX pedals and perhaps the tremolo arm come into play in producing this ethereal sensation. Bleak and chilling material, but wait till you hear the near-apocalyptic wail of ‘Blue Ghost Blues’, where the guitar creeps into the noisier realms with extended, hollow-sounding riffs that induce lasting despair. Langille’s lyric is half-spoken, half-whispered, half-sung…the metaphor of ghosts and haunted houses clearly abides with her as a lasting “motif”, perhaps a way of dealing with ruined relationships, horrible memories, and impossible situations that can’t be resolved. Very good. 250 copies of the record were pressed, the visuals are by Loren and there are three different covers available. From 25th January 2016.

Hurricane Fighter Plane

GOD32-monos

Austrian multi-media performer Opcion might be Nikos Zachariadis, who has previously traded his brand of harsh techno-inflected noises as Ab-Hinc and Canc. Finding a lot to get my teeth into on his vinyl slab Monos/Und (GOD RECORDS GOD32), his full-length debut performing as Opcion, following a couple of short tracks he threw onto the Schiizo Box compilation for Rock Is Hell records in 2014.

On the A side of this platter, he treats us to three solo bursts called simply ‘Monos’ 1-3, exhibiting various aspects of his grim, pared-down and frowny approach to dark ambient electronic noise, sometimes punching home his abstracted messages with nasty fuzzed-up beats and mind-numbing loops. ‘Monos 2’ is the most successful instance here, delivered with a near-merciless approach that will mangle the nerves of any sensitive listener; plenty of razor-sharp tension and dread in every disquieting second of noise. Throughout, it’s interesting to note Opcion’s refusal of conventional structure, and he attempts to break as many rules as possible about form and progression in the space of five minutes.

The B side contains the fruit of his collaborations with three European musicians, duets with Maja Osojnik, Bernhard Loibner and Kurt Bauer. One assumes they improvised together at some point, but it’s hard to tell from the finished works which have been severely distressed, processed, and re-edited to a radical degree. Maja Osojnik recently released the astonishing Let Them Grow, and her versatility with instruments and sound is stretched to the limit on ‘N MO’. Over five minutes of lurching and straining ugliness, driven into a schizophrenic state by Opcion’s over-zealous editing.

Bernhard Loibner’s electric bass is mutated into an alien presence on ‘N BL’, where once again the reconstruction process has been designed for extreme dynamics and maximum shock value, by turns soothing the listener with sweet drones and pummelling us with animalistic roars and heavy poundage to the chest. Kurt Bauer’s violin is likewise twisted beyond any recognisable form on ‘N KB’, demonstrating that the trend of Opcion’s remix strategy leans towards the production of strange and unnatural sounds, with no attempt to realistically capture the voice of any given instrument.

In all these collaborations, Opcion aims for heart-stopping shifts in timbre and tone; it’s as if he’s afraid we’ll fall asleep if he doesn’t activate 18 fire alarms every ten seconds. This guy must be a riot at cocktail parties. To further indicate his aggressive intentions, the sleeve art is decked out with images of fighter planes silhouetted against an uncertain monochrome sky; the planes themselves are cut-outs, visual “samples” if you will, forewarning the purchaser of Opcion’s method and intentions. Very good. From 1st February 2016.