Tagged: beats

Death Knell

Ilpo Väisänen
Syntetisaattori Musiikkia Kuopiosta
UKRAINE KVITNU 49 LP (2016)

Unfortunate is the timing of this new arrival from Ilpo Väisänen – former Pan Sonic partner to the recently and sadly departed Mika Vainio – which, through no fault of its own, renews the sting of that prodigiously prolific ex-cohort’s death. Compounding this exceptional timing is the rumour of its being Väisänen’s first solo work in 16 years, though such pretensions to the momentous are quickly thwarted by the facts of a) his solid cohort of contemporaneous collaborations (many, poignantly, featuring Vainio) that show his to be a similarly workhorse constitution; b) it isn’t his only solo work: the recent I-LP-O project features a solid lineup of Ilpo, Väisänen and himself; the trio but a masquerade. What’s more, Syntetisaattori Musiikkia Kuopiosta is but a mini album and not a game-changing one, but I think I’d best move on lest I talk readers out of reading on.

‘Osat’ parts 1-9 cover some ground. Though much less abrasive than many of Pan Sonic’s balls-out blitzkriegs, in a blind-test situation Väisänen’s restless yet understated rhythmic peregrinations would still draw comparisons to the ‘other’ act. ‘Osat 1-5’ pushes pattering, pulmonary palpitations that murmur like muffled machinery in an envelope of escalating hum, setting up a spell of car-sickness-inducing arrhythmia in its final lap. Flipping over, ‘Osat 6-9’ pulsates with Porter Ricks-style nautical dub and the squelchy gibberings of dolphins deftly navigating the sweeping bleeps of depth-sounding technology. Lacking both Pan Sonic’s napalm distortion and military stamina, movements are brief and sufficiently well-blended to keep ‘the rut’ at an ever-comfortable distance and ensure a taut and enduring freshness in even the dourest and most impersonal moments.

Jamka
Inter Alia
SLOVAKIA URBSOUNDS [/]031 LP (2016)

Keeping Pan Sonic firmly in mind (and in recognition that those operations were long-closed before Vainio left us) is this brief blast of dread-inducing drone techno, responsible for which is Jamka aka Slovakians Monika Subrtova and Daniel Kordik, who have issued a steady trickle of such artisan efforts in the last decade and a half. Tracks like ‘Patemp’ and ‘Anazmo’… well, this whole album… makes liberal use of panic-inducing drones and dub-flavoured attack formations of sinewed and bludgeoning beats; making a virtuous show of punishing discipline; exhibiting fewer of the excesses of distortion and over-production than those Jamka model themselves on – your Regises and Techno Animals – not becoming over-repetitive, though breaking no rules either. This is ‘clean’ techno for clubs where the only hint of danger is the smoke they pump in to make punters thirsty, but it’s ideal for those who prefer home-listening to the slap of recognition that one is at least a decade older than every other tight-assed white-boy doing the dancefloor indie-shuffle.

Wings Of Fire

Loopy electronica, wild noise, insane illogical beats and coarse sounds abound on Phoenixxx (PLANET MU RECORDS ZIQ383), a sprawling experiment which comes to us from the East, concocted by three youngsters from Russia and the Ukraine calling themselves WWWings. Heck, the oldest member here is 25, so they seem largely untroubled by draggy things like fitting into categories or providing any kind of continuity with the past, and in places seem intent on applying a punk rock-inspired tabula rasa attitude to everything they do. It’s also notable that the band seems to have come together through the internet and social media networking, rather than more conventional old-school methods.

WWWings are massively disaffected and frustrated by everything they see around them, and given the state of the world today, who can gainsay them? “Struggle with real life in almost totalitarian countries affects us,” they snarl at the world, in between mouthfuls of a dead rat they’re roasting over a makeshift campfire in the middle of a bomb site. “I think that’s why most of our tracks sound disturbing and depressive.” This alienation, and it’s not too strong a word, carries over into their personalities and prompts them to work under alias names which distance themselves from the so-called “real adult world” and bring them closer to a cyber-world of tags, avatars and forum names, a world which they own and understand, and have completely colonised, hence ‘Lit Internet’, ‘Lit Eye’ and ‘Lit Daw’. To say nothing of the colourful characters who collaborate on the tracks, with names like Born in Flamez, Gronos1, Chino Amobi, Endgame, Ebbo Kraan, and DJ Heroin.

The game plan for the modern world proposed on Phoenixxx is a simple one – burn everything down and (probably) don’t bother to rebuild it. This is reflected in track titles issuing simple instructions such as ‘Pyro’, ‘Ashes’, ‘Melt’ and ‘Ignite’. I can get that, for sure. While the name Phoenixxx implies a rebirth from the flames, I don’t think WWWings have written that part of the plan yet. Until they do, grab that can of gasoline and box of matches, and get stuck in. From 3rd October 2016.

Otho The Android

Pretty good muscular electronica from Redukt, a duo of tough guys from Moscow named Alexander Vasiliev and Nikolai Turchinski. Well, one of the pair looks a pretty rough customer, with his shaved head and arm tatoos and fairly powerful forearms. The other has glasses and a more presentable hairstyle and, despite geeky appearances, may act as the “brains” in this gang and plans the bank robberies which the other mug has to execute. They make their music on Otho (KVITNU 46) using analog synths, drum machines, and “computer hard drives with pickups”, the latter suggestive of some sort of digital input to the overall production.

I’m sure there’s plenty more threatening and aggressive music being made in the name of Dark Techno or Black Reverbo-Feedback just now, but what I enjoy about the five tracks on Otho is the relentless hammering of pulses and beats, which are used to drive home a near-blank statement, a reflection on the world that refuses emotional attachment and is pretty much numb and deadened to a very extreme degree. To put it another way, Redukt don’t care about anything or anybody, and are prepared to propel the steamroller of indifference over all the good things in this world, flattening out all the distinctive qualities in the process.

To further advance this thesis, let me point out that all five track titles are simply anagrams of the same four-letter word ‘Otho’ – ‘Ooth’, ‘Tooh’, ‘Otoh’ and so on. I note the care with which they avoid the only permutation that would form an actual word ‘Hoot’. This demonstrates two things: (1) Redukt understand that language is just becoming monsyllabic gibberish these days, as demonstrated by 99% of what passes over people’s mobile phones and texting devices; and (2) they appreciate that everything we say and do is now treated as signs of equal value, in a post-modern world where skills, experience, intelligence and discrimination count for nothing.

I regard this release as a strong metaphor for what is happening in the world today, and suggest that Redukt are skilled at depicting a general emotional crippling of our minds, bodies, and senses. Issued in a very fine die-cut sleeve designed by house artist Zavoloka; the colour part of the artwork is inserted inside a window-mount, effectively. From 3rd October 2016.

The title of this post is a reference to a character who appeared in the adventures of Captain Future, a pulp sci-fi classic from the 1940s.

Secret Reproductive Plant

Enjoyable set of entertaining distortion, noise, electronics and rhythmic pulsations from The Miz’ries, on their EP Complete Control Of Your Vehicle (BELTS & WHISTLES B&W005). They’re pretty much a trio operating in New York, featuring Quinn Collins, Jeff Snyder, and Leila Adu, though on this outing they’re joined by Crosslegged who I think is Keba Robinson from Split Level Records and is known as a mover and shaker in Brooklyn music circles. Miz’ries create a nice surface sound, using loops and malfunctioning turntables pushed through pedals and distortion effects, and their own brand of cracked electronic blurpage some of which was invented and built by Jeff Snyder – he even calls it Snyderphonics, perhaps in homage to The Simeon of Silver Apples.

On top of their barely-working layered stew of avant-pop rhythms, Leila Adu adds her poised and mannered soprano vocals – now singing, now humming background tunes, or in one instance muttering snippets of nonsense in the studio, which have been further cut up and redistributed as needed around the track. She’s also pretty mean with her drum pad playing, deliberately missing the beat and contributing lopsided time signatures. On paper, this may sound like a recasting of the Portishead set-up, but in a less polite and more angstified arty mode; The Miz’ries are certainly darker and troubled, sometimes with a vaguely political edge (Adu’s songs are supposed to contain elements of politics and ballads, though I can discern neither), and will never settle for anything that resembles a familiar sound, note, or vibe in their quest for surprising aural goodiness. They also see themselves as a pop band, working within three or four minute boundaries, instead of extending these workouts into something three times the needed length (which PAS Musique, fellow Brooklynites, would not hesitate to do).

As to their intensive working method, which involves improvisation in the studio, much distortion and effects, editing and composing from tapes, it’s clearly paid off in this instance, even if some of the experiments misfire slightly. The press notes compare this method to Miles Davis (presumably they mean Teo Macero rather than Miles, but fair enough) and Can, but if we’re namechecking krautrock bands I think Faust’s method is more apposite…From 22 September 2016.

Press Play Stop Eject

Working in the 1980s, A. K. Klosowski produced music and noise with his largely hand-operated methods of pressing buttons and depressing keys to get playback from a bank of eight Walkman cassette tape players. He also used a drum machine and some effects. “Intuitive and spontaneous control” are the operative words for this practice.

He hooked up with Kurt Dahle, a member of the Dusseldorf synth band Der Plan, a record appeared in 1985 called Hometaping Is Killing Music (Dahle appeared under his Pyrolator name). I never heard it, but the present LP A. K. Klosowski Plays The Kassetteninstrument (GAGARIN RECORDS gr2035) predates that session, and is done solo.

Reading about it may be more interesting than hearing it; it’s certainly a great way of working, and while the album contains an entertaining and inventive set of tunes, it doesn’t go much beyond a primitive sampling set-up with added noise and beats. A.K. doesn’t push it far enough; or the set-up itself is limited. Klosowski manipulates his device, and his sounds, like modelling clay. It results in lovely imperfections, rough edges, things not matching, which I like. I never liked that school of thought that spent ages crafting a “perfect” loop or sampled beat, an approach which kills spontaneity.

Other writers have picked up on the theme that this represents an early pre-digital approach to sampling, and invoked Cabaret Voltaire and The Art Of Noise. I like this better than Cabaret Voltaire (who were too arty, and trying to tell us something) and The Art Of Noise (who were too synthetic, too layered with intellectual pretensions.) Klosowski has a directness – his noise is noise – and it may start with tapes, but doesn’t end there. His actions are imprinted instantly onto the record without studio “diddling” before and after. It may even be closer to the “art” end of early sampling, for instance Steve Reich.

Not every track here is “abrasive disco”. ‘Lamento’ is a very nice use of strange loops, mostly voices and strings, and not too far away from Canaxis (‘Boat Woman Song’). And ‘R H 2’ is as close as he comes to producing chaotic industrial noise.

Let’s not forget cassette tapes are at the heart of this inventive noise. Label owner Felix Kubin doubtless approves; his love-affair with the cassette tape was wittily and passionately expressed on his Chromodioxgedächtnis box set, which we noted in 2015.

From 31st August 2016.

Diabolical Insight

Continuing their mission to bring us the finest in far-out and eccentric obscure music, and then press it on vinyl, Feeding Tube Records bring us the work of Teddy Fire and Iguid Fidd on the LP Chastity Revolution And The Submachine Girl (FTR 245 / P&R-LP-004). The music, originally recorded in the mid-1990s, was made by the DJ and record-collector Pablo Yglesias and featured his teenage brother Teddy on vocals; they did it using a home recording studio and oodles of attitude and wild imagination. Supporting them are the band Iguid Fidd, including pro musicians such as the guitarist Bond Bergland from Factrix, plus Miki Navazio, Fritz Fox, and Phil ‘Nordit’ Scher. But it’s safe to say that Pablo Cuba and Teddy Fire are the stars of this particular wayward entertainment.

Cuban-American Pablo is an expert in Latin and funk music, and is also a writer and historian besides being a musician. Latin and funk aren’t quite in my line (although I do frequently indulge my taste for Funkadelic), but I can groove on the sheer weirdness and vitality of Chastity Revolution. The vocals of Teddy Fire hit me first…abrasive and mean on opening track ‘Howlin’ Ham’, I soon learned to love his endearing semi-innocent manner of vocalising, and even the press notes invite comparisons with Jad Fair. He raps in a fetching non-professional manner, by which I mean he’s not trying to sound like a million other 1990s hip-hop rap artistes, nor engaged in a competition to pack as many words as possible per square inch into the vinyl. There’s something about his delivery I can’t shake off; he walks a knife-edge between insouciant cool and impassioned pleading as he struts his way through these surreal raps.

Speaking of which…as a feat of writing alone, the verbiage on this release ought to be nominated for some sort of special prize for warped street poetry. No wonder a printed lyric sheet has been included. T. Wulff and P. Yglesias have written some memorable mind-curlers, each one a compelling comic-strip vision of bizarre proportions, and people by such madcap characters as Harry Comatose, the Jello Girl, and Frank The Lima Bean Boy. I’m wondering if these raps began life as comics, or drawings. “Why don’t you say the rest?” “Well, I can’t, it’s a drawing, but I’ll try.” That’s from ‘Electrical Smile’, one of my favourites on the album, which comes close to creating a snapshot of a film noir nightmare that even surpasses Tom Waits.

There’s a lot of guitars on this album, along with the beats and distorted production, which may be because of the number of guitarists in the band (assuming they’re not all part of a hoax). I’m no expert but that is some funky, greasy guitar work. The press notes point out the way a track can shift from psychedelic freak music to R’n’B without batting an eye, which is true, but I’d like to add rockabilly to that mix, even if it’s inappropriate to do so. It’s all that reverb, you see. What an oddity…and a delight. The record is a joint release with Peace & Rhythm, Pablo Cuba’s vinyl label. From 17 May 2016.

Drei, He Said

At first glance, the European trio Bader Motor may appear to be offering us nothing more than a very knowing take on Krautrock records, with their obvious quotes from Kraftwerk and Neu! LPs, and probably other Germanic references too. However, I’ll forgive any project which has Fred Bigot as a member, considering my fondness for his solo records where he mixes electronic noise with rockabilly in a highly enjoyable manner. not to mention the unusual Melt Famas record with its over-amped guitars and drums. Bader Motor are Bigot with Arnaud Maguet and Vincent Epplay – the latter played with Jac Berrocal and David Fenech – and the three have appeared together before on Musique Pour Les Plantes Des Dieux in 2009. This record, Drei drei drei (VEALS & GEEKS VAGO17 / LES DISQUES EN ROTIN REUNIS LDRR #056), not only has the clever Krautrock pastiches assembled by these French wags, but also offers their slightly sardonic version of electropop, disco, and general Euro-murk – the sort of banal aural wallpaper that might blight your continental tour at any point between the airport, the shopping mall and the cafe. This may be what the threesome have in mind when they speak of “a new class of space [rock] and Riviera Krautrock”. Riviera Krautrock?! What does that even mean? I can’t think of anything worse than experimental music recast as another consumer / lifestyle option for the “Riviera set”, those rich buffoons wearing expensive sunglasses and swimsuits, if indeed such a thing even exists any more outside of 1960s travelogue movies, but I’m prepared to believe Bader Motor are up to something vaguely subversive and sarcastic. As it turns out, this LP is an enjoyable listen with its edgy mix of user-friendly beats and melodic drones combined with odd, queasy noises, rough textures, and outpourings of filtered glorp. From 12th August 2016; available as an LP or download.

Ossuary Dub

Finding much to enjoy on this 2016 reissue of the third Painkiller album Execution Ground (KR025) from 1994, appearing as a double vinyl LP from Karlrecords in Germany. The trio of John Zorn, Bill Laswell and Mick Harris make a crazed and maximal noise full of things we tend to like, such as manic sax screams, heavy bass, remorseless rhythms, and plenty of lush studio effects such as reverb and echo. It’s much to my chagrin that I never bought their records at the time, but I intend to make good and investigate Guts of a Virgin and Buried Secrets as soon as possible. The structure of the original release was to pile on the crazy rock-friendly rhythmic stuff on the first disc, and then reserve disc two for the “ambient” mixes. Even so the second disc is every bit as menacing as the first, and the listener lives in fear for their life for most of the duration of Execution Ground.

I see the track titles make reference to Balachaturdasi and Pashupatinath, both of which terms are associated with Hindu and Buddhist rituals, a nod in the direction of esoterica which I tend to attribute to Zorn, especially with some of his later Tzadik releases when there appeared to be no gnostic subject at which he wouldn’t have a tilt, or at least profess an interest. This strain is conspicuously absent from the first two Painkiller records, which came out on the Earache label (a home to extreme speed metal, most notoriously Mick Harris’ original band Napalm Death) and whose track titles wallowed in gore, death, and other tasty taboo subjects. On the other hand, the image on the labels of a hanged man surrounded by a mod in a grisly fog will more than compensate and put the listener in a suitably morbid frame of mind.

While I’m not the world’s most loyal fan of John Zorn’s music, I find his crazy squeals make a tremendous amount of sense in this context, the studio effects improve his sound, and there may even be some edits which demonstrate he wasn’t wedded to the conventional jazz idea of recording a solo in its entirety. It wasn’t too long before this that he made the Spy Vs Spy LP, which drew musical connections between extreme hardcore and the free jazz of Ornette Coleman; clearly a stepping stone on the way to working with Harris. Laswell is probably known to most readers of these lines, and his profligacy in recorded and performed music since the 1980s is – erm – remarkable; as one example of his genre-straddling capabilities, the press notes remind us of his Last Exit project with Peter Brötzmann, Sonny Sharrock and Ronald Shannon Jackson. One of many melting-pots where improv, free jazz, rock noise and funk exchanged their sinewy vibes in a sweaty, punchy mix. The parallels with Painkiller are evident, and if you enjoy wild free-jazz skronks on top of ultra-heavy bass rhythms, this is indispensable listening.

That particular blend of sound, which we could reduce to the simple equation “rock noise with wild sax noise”, immediately made me think of Otomo’s Ground Zero. Both bands seem to have started about the same time, and the possibilities of cross-infection are interesting to speculate on, although Otomo’s band went much further down the road of layering in intense cut-ups and samples from pop culture, before the band imploded from sheer exhaustion. Also note that their Null & Void album came out on Tzadik in 1995. That same year, the year after Execution Ground came out, we had Techno Animal and the first Macro Dub Infection record, where Kevin Martin and his friends carved out a further niche down this road, laying more emphasis on the dub mixing technique, but not neglecting the fine juicy noise. I suppose Painkiller were one of the monumental milestones that opened up this route of musical experimentation. Very good. From 12th August 2016.

Bird Song

Gudrun Gut
Vogelmixe
GERMANY RUN UNITED MUSIC RU18 2 x CD (2016)

As part of Heimatlieder aus Deutschland, an initiative funded to shed light on the ethnic and musical diversity of modern-day Germany, producer Gudrun Gut has been commissioned to set up symmetrical, speaker-friendly setlists of eight re-recorded ‘traditional folk’ songs for the magpie-minded Vogelmixe; going on to give each a rhythmic makeover into the bargain. While first impressions suggest this pan-global melange is more vapid-minded cocktail bar than boudoir, Gut’s choices are apparently as informed by history as by personal taste: each of the songs tracing its ancestry as far back as the 15th century to nations to have immigrated to Germany and which can thus be regarded as contributing to the country’s current ethnic identity. Each nation (Turkey, Cameroon, Morocco, Croatia, Cuba, Portugal, Transylvania and Bulgaria) is also represented in the pool of musicians to perform the ‘original’ songs; the streamlined format of which ensures that such ‘confusing diversity’ will in fact prove pleasing to listeners with and without a studied interest in the multi-coloured purview of the much-loved ‘world’ music label.

While this visible striving for authenticity might seem at odds with the remix disc’s aesthetic of electronic beats and textures and melodic extrapolations, it’s just as easy to reflect on the ‘cover tune’ simulacra nature of the pieces themselves. These aren’t preserved in amber, but subject to the prerogative of whomever happens to bring them into the present moment, though by all accounts a good deal of care went into sourcing musicians as part of ‘an extensive research and recruitment process’. The underlying theme of ‘unity’ putatively runs through all songs as expressions of a trans-continental ‘melting pot’, bringing dynamic equilibrium to which must have been a task for the compiler, but who better than the DJ to effect such a transfer?

One further motive of the remix treatment is to address the supposed lack of representation of traditional folk music in modern German electronic music. Qualifications regarding cultural appropriation aside, Gudrun’s remixes are both inventive and light of touch, making adroit use of dub, club and electro-pop motifs. Her poly-stylistic subtlety is not completely removed from that which made Honest Jon’s Shangaan Shake selection such an interesting event, though it does lack that collection’s the producer headcount advantage. Under Gudrun’s watch, generic 4/4 beats collide into thorough deconstructions, tightly-wound Thomas Brinkman-sized samples loop-based rhythms and an almost hymnal resonance that bleeds from the past into the present. While not every piece is likely to please every listener, it is nonetheless a tasteful arrangement that can be enjoyed from many a distance.

Moroccan Oil

Last noted Gaap Kvlt with his 2014 record Void; here he is again on the same label with Jinn (ZOHARUM ZOHAR 123-2). Gaap Kvlt affects an air of mystery, so we don’t know if it’s just one person or a group, though they display a penchant for esoteric pseudo-ceremonial drone and solemn techno beats in line with other releases on this Polish label. Jinn is vaguely trying to make some statement about the “sun-baked Moroccan deserts”, and possibly referring obliquely to the writings of American ex-pat writer Paul Bowles, who lived in Tangier for most of his life. I confess to knowing little about the work of this writer, though I appreciate there’s an aura of cultishness about him and his works that attracts some; it may be his sheer isolatedness, the fact that he couldn’t really connect to modern life and lived in solitude.

Gaap Kvlt doesn’t make much of an effort to interpret or explain Bowles’ work, but that may not be the point of the record. Its maker or makers trade in deeply mysterious ambient drones and atmospheres, occasionally propelled by implacable processed drum beats; apparently much of the fabric was derived from field recordings made in North Africa. The cover design by Mirt does its best to capture the essence of a Moorish mosaic. The “Jinn” of the title meanwhile probably refers to a demon or spirit found in Arabian and Islam mythology, and the track titles refer occasionally to prayer and to death, for reasons that are not entirely clear. Content-wise, this is something of a pan-cultural stew, with shallow and non-specific allusions to matters which have not been well understood or digested. Musically, the record has its moments, but the unremittingly self-important tone becomes wearisome. From 4th July 2016.