Tagged: cassettes

Acta non Verba: no frills / no nonsense 1990s-influenced black metal in search of a distinct sound

Deitus, Acta non Verba, United Kingdom, Ulthar Records, limited edition cassette CATS009 (2016)

“Deeds, not words” is the title of British BM band Deitus’ debut album, though without very much information about these guys at my finger-tips I can’t say how much they live up to that motto. Here be straightforward no-frills / no-nonsense 1990s-styled raw BM that stresses hard-edged martial riffing, outbreaks of blast-beat drumming and plenty of melodies in songs boasting occult and Satanic themes. All songs show thought and care in their construction and each track stands as a flowing self-contained unit in its own right with drama, aggression and energy. The weakest element here is the spidery BM vocals which are all but swamped by the energetic music, which is a bit unfortunate as most songs feature singing and the music accommodates it, never fighting it. While the guitars have a distorted sound, the band’s overall style is actually clean and polished enough for all instruments to be heard clearly and the general sound is more steely and spacious than grinding.

All songs are played well and consistently though if they had fewer and more distinctive riffs and melodies they might all emerge as potential singles. Trying to pack in as many riffs as possible into each and every song has the unfortunate effect of robbing them all of their own identities. As they are, the longer tracks “Ladder of Divine Ascent” and “Todestrieb” coming at the end of the album stick out more, probably because they also feature some lead guitar playing, pay more attention to creating mood and ambience than the other earlier pieces or experiment a bit with the band’s style and sound.

While the album is technically good and these Deitus guys have considerable ability and song-writing skills, they need to develop a more distinctive style and sound. At present they sound very much like 1,001 other generic raw black metal bands drawing on 1990s black metal influences and inspirations. The vocals very definitely need to improve beyond raspy spider chant and incorporating a second vocalist (with perhaps some death metal influence) probably wouldn’t go astray. There are indications on the later tracks, especially “Todestrieb”, that suggest that what I’m hearing here is just a small part of what Deitus are capable of and they could certainly include more ambience and non-BM elements than they do here.

C’mon guys, we’re looking forward to your second album where deeds not words are what we want you to live up to!

From the country and the concrete jungle

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Two more cassettes from Staaltape arrived 9th May 2016. It so happens both releases are by women, and very coincidentally the imagery on Rinus Van Alebeek’s collaged decorated envelope (which he customarily includes with every mailout) features the faces of women clipped from his vast stack of old magazines.

Patrizia Oliva has created Numen – Life Of Elitra Lipozi, a most beautiful work clad in a smoky black cover with just a single blue butterfly spray-painted on. The A side, titled ‘Danse Des Fantomes’, is dreamy and evocative and makes me a willing dancing partner of the proposed ghosts and spirits. Voices, loops, and even some vaguely operatic elements are refashioned by Oliva into something personal and strange. She’s playing with magnetic tape like a gifted child sets to work with a box of watercolours. I don’t know why musicians (like Michael Nyman) are drawn to the work of Oliver Sacks (this release includes dedication to that deep thinker). But Oliva may be trying, like Sacks, to map the strange pathways of the brain in her atmospheric and charged music.

The B side ‘A Day Long To’ showcases the “Annette Peacock” mode of this performer…vaguely jazzy free singing she emanates from an indefinable part of her singing apparatus, in an inflected and mannered mode…the lonely avant-ness of Joan La Barbara is notched back two degrees and edged a shade closer to a ghostly portrait of Ella Fitzgerald…by which I mean it’s not clear if she’s singing from her mouth, or her brain-waves. Of course the minimal arrangements that back her up are pretty inspired too, making the most of a studio housed in a matchbox and two rubber bands holding everything together. More tape loops and much dreamy unfinished music drifts into the ether. A nice not-quite-there quality, slightly balmy. Oddly the B-side feels to me like separate songs, where the A side feels like a mini-opera telling a story. Not all that’s here is a song; there’s one very effective piece which is extremely abstract, just repeated patterns, sound effects, and whispered / murmured voices, yet it’s uncanny and highly effective in its dream-like mood sustaining of same. The side ends with a fascinating anecdote about synaesthesia, how it’s possible to see music as colours, and how no two people who have the condition ever agree on what the “right” colour is. Interestingly, the condition was first recorded in medical history by another Dr Sachs, this time a German physician of the 19th century.

In all Patrizia Oliva not only has a singular vision but also a very delicate touch in the creation of her work which is determinedly “non-masculine”, which isn’t to say it’s feminine and decorative, but organised along non-aggressive lines, without the usual male need to follow structure blindly and rush to a contrived ending. “Patrizia lives in the country, surrounded by nature,” write Rinus helpfully. “One lady from the old world”. If that’s true, that’s one old world whose passing we will come to regret. Every commonplace remark made on Twitter hastens the death of these old worlds.

The tape by Valerie Kuehne is of a different order. I couldn’t find a title but it might be called Audiozone #3, part of a series; release is just identified by the two sides, called ‘Ball Side’ and ‘Other Side’. Patrizia Oliva is pleasantly balmy, while Valerie Kuehne is an inspired screwball, in the nicest possible way of course. “Valerie moves in the concrete jungle”, writes Rinus about this American performer. Her songs here feature a kind of demented folk-inflected chanting and yawping, for instance the opener ‘Haul Away Joe’, a sea shanty which requires the artiste to remake herself as a crusty nautical cove on board an 18th century rigger. A grotesque opener. ‘The Graviton’ is better, more of a shamanic free-form wailing trip…like a lost ESP Disk recording from such waywards as Erica Pomerance, much free warbling with plenty of percussion and manic performances from her side musicians. ‘Apocalypse Berliner’ is a spoken word recit which gradually becomes more, erm, impassioned…as she describes some situation which sounds like a grave social injustice, her sarcasm shoots through the top of the thermometer and she becomes positively demented with her passion and commitment to the cause. The sort of loopy radical who might have featured in any 1970 Hollywood hipster road movie made in the wake of Easy Rider. Then there’s ‘Long Long Sleep’, which is like a nightmare parody of Edwardian parlour music with its poised and mannered vocalising which over-stresses certain phonemes in an annoyingly pronounced manner. But you can still sense the underlying nuttiness…her cello work, just now beginning to surface among the chaos on offer, is also certainly highly distinctive and evidence of a wild, peculiar talent.

B side of this weirdie in tape form contains ‘Sunshine in the Sunshine’, which is her freakoid take on the Fifth Dimension pop hit, with emphatic singing, chaotic playing from the guest musicians, her mad cello sawing and her frantic attempts to stir up collaboration among all participants. A glorious mess. You’d hate to have her at your birthday party, unless you love to be embarrassed and mortified. A mostly solo work follows, ‘Architecture at Muchmore’s’, with its cracked all-over-the-show melody, and alarming dynamics which require these abrupt shifts of tempo and sudden bouts of intense delivery. Shocking, crazed. Voice and cello only, I think, were used to realise this insight into the cracks of Kuehne’s brain. After this it might be a piece called ‘Leader Eater’ but it’s getting harder to tell one track from another. Part of what we hear sounds like a confrontational performance-art piece that involves yelling at the audience, and further ingeniously complex songs where it’s a wonder she manages to sustain the difficult long tones which the tunes require. I’m a-warming to this release now…Valerie Kuehne is a very acquired taste, but you don’t get this exceptionally high degree of uncut humanity and honesty captured on tape every day. Ably supported by her side players, which include Natalia Steinbach. Alex Cohen, Hui-Chun Lin, The Columbia Orchestra, Matthew Silver, and others, she saws and sings away. Other releases by Valerie Kuehne include Dream Zoo and Phoenix Goes Crazy, both very obscure low-run CDRs.

The tape itself is a provisional attempt at an “album”. Rinus Van Alebeek made the selections and put it together, but didn’t get much in the way of preferences expressed by the creator, who’s presumably so creatively chaotic in her life that she doesn’t bother with bourgeois things like organisation and planning. So “it is not an album by Valerie; it is an album about her”, is the stated claim, along with an attempt to document the “subculture she is a part of”. This provisional aspect is even reflected in the cover, showing details from a notebook, where the track order and even the titles are subjected to much crossing-out and rethinking. Most intriguingly, the result “leads to a couple of obscure passages into 21st century life somewhere in the US.” What in the name of Condoleezza Rice does that mean?

Mortadelle Aux Vaches

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Got a double-cassette pack from L’Autopsie A Révélé Que La Mort Était Due A L’Autopsie, which arrived here 19th April 2016…we first heard from this strange outlying project in November 2014 when they sent us a very bizarre album called Le Souffle de L’Avorton and we learned, whether we wanted to know or not, that the membership comprised Ogrob, aka_bondage, Anla Courtis and Frank de Quengo. Courtis and aka_bondage did the editing and mixing of the present release, and aka_bondage provided the artwork. As you can see, it’s an image of a Mortadelle sausage, and the album is titled La Tétralogie de La Mortadelle (KOMMA NULL KN11). I have never eaten this particular Italian delicacy, as I suspect that the inclusion of berries and pistachio nuts (little red and green bits) in the mix of cured pork and pork fat make for an unappetising combination. You might say the same about this loopy music, but we’ll get to that.

The release is clearly another send-up of “serious” music. The last album spun a yarn about the life and work of Jean-Philippe Borbollono, a composer who never actually existed, but the band put a lot of effort into creating a convincing hoax. This piece uses the term “Tétralogie” in mock-solemn tones, although technically it is indeed a tétralogie because it’s composed and presented in four separate parts, over the four sides of the two tapes. They pretend it was made at “Groupe de Recherche Mortadelique de Dammartin”, thus poking fun at the “real” Groupe de Recherches Musicales, though this kind of in-joke isn’t much of a knee-slapper unless you’re already a devotee of Pierre Schaeffer and all his works. They also claim to have realised the music using a Toshiba GT-840S, which is a genuine reel-to-reel tape recorder from the mid-1960s, but that might be wishful thinking on their part (such devices are quite rare). Lastly there’s the absurd image of the sausage, which might be read as a snide comment on electro-acoustic music “grinding” its sources into mincemeat, but I’m probably over-thinking it. There’s no quicker way to get a grand bouffe from your audience than using the image of a big sausage.

It’s hard to keep my mind off food for some reason…but the music here is mostly indigestible, a greasy stew of thoroughly unpleasant turgid sounds. It’s slow, disjointed, and makes no sense; in places, it stands on the cusp of being comical. This group, Ogrob in particular (just check out any of his solo works, like the recent microphones-in-the-vaginas album), have an uncanny knack for producing a strain of glorpy, muddy sound that resembles a stomach-ache. Or induces one, if there’s an aural equivalent for that condition. Admittedly, the surface does resemble “old school” musique concrète in some ways, possessing that kind of “muffled” and slightly hissy sound you get on 1950s recordings, which may be a patina that L’Autopsie have lovingly tried to recreate on this release. However, it’s clear they are not at all interested in normal tape composition methods nor conventional aesthetic pursuits, and that’s putting it mildly…vague, meaningless murmurs are the order of the day, deliberately voided of meaning or association. Playing it back becomes an endurance test; it’s up to the listener if you choose to bring anything to this picnic of the Damned. You’ll need a fair degree of inner resource, or you’ll go hungry.

This isn’t to suggest La Tétralogie de La Mortadelle is just an elaborate leg-pull. I have no doubt that the creators involved have a serious point to make, and none of them are talentless frauds. They’ve been doing this project for eight years now. But somewhere I suspect they may have reached a point where the idea of an artistic compact (for instance, the creator attempts to transmit meaning to a receptive audience) has broken down completely for them, and they see no point in attempting to repair it. Thus we end up with muddy, disjunctive noise, which pokes fun at anyone foolish enough to take music seriously.

Post Scriptum

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From Tanuki Records we have a nice cassette of sound art by the trio Le Cable Du Feu. This is Olivier Meyer, Laurent Berger, and Aymeric de Tapol. Berger is one third of the trio Sun Plexus, and we have heard him play in the trio Suboko; their split tape on Kommanull records was a memorable blast of harsh and disjunctive noise, and their Schraum release is also worth hearing. Aymeric de Tapol is new to us, but he’s evidently a highly prolific and productive creator of weird drone music in Brussels, with various cassettes and file based releases in his catalogue. This trio’s FireWire (TANUKI RECORDS #17 / MEMOIRE MMR01) is a compelling mix of many styles and approaches – drone, noise, tape loops, field recordings, and general low-key mayhem, all creating interesting narrative-like tableaux and pictures for the ears to wallow inside. Distortion, assemblage, duration, and odd sounds are among the many tricks at their disposal, and there’s a certain intriguing imagination at work in each piece that raises question marks over the listener’s head and passes on an enjoyable mental condition of ambiguity. Aural riddles, printed on cassette tape. The packaging and insert are saying something perplexing about churches or a church in the Alsace area, and the foldout image of the church organ – an old engraving – raises that instrument to the level of something rather unsettling, a gigantic machine which Dr Frankenstein or Dr Caligari might have pressed into service in some way. On the other side are printed some vaguely confusing texts and collages. A fine sense of the futility of things. An enjoyable piece of work, and much better than some things we’ve received from this patchy Belgian label. Arrived 4th April 2016.

Long Overdue Part 12

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Here’s one Bryan Lewis Saunders tape I overlooked, despite my best efforts to achieve comprehensive coverage of his Stream Of Unconscious series. The idea was for other sound artists to interpret and rework the dream diaries of this singular American performance artist, who leaves cassette tapes running so he can tape himself talking in his sleep. The series was intended to be collaborative, although I don’t think there was much of a back-and-forth process involved, and once the weirdness of Saunders’ brain had leaked onto the tape, the collaborating artist was left to their own devices as to what to do next. On Volume 8, it’s the turn of Lee Gamble and CM von Hausswolff.

Lee Gamble is a significant player in the field of abstract electronics, and he seems to have got to this point through the dancefloor route; I’m surprised we haven’t received or reviewed any records by this fellow. On his side of the tape, titled ‘Identity Technology’, he has done something quite ingenious with the tapes supplied to him by Bryan, using “voice re-synthesis and manipulations”, and some technology used for identity recognition. At least, that’s how I choose to interpret the cryptic credit notes printed here. At one level it may have involved a serious “deconstruction” of sound files and software, subverting the intended purposes of both, and creating a fascinating and rich noise of digital glitchery thereby. At another level, there’s an intended critique of surveillance techniques and voice-recognition software, implying subtly that Bryan Lewis Saunders is an enemy of the state who must be monitored and analysed by the authorities, even while he is asleep. The above is pure speculation on my part, but I think one or two of my random arrows may have hit the mark.

CM von Hausswolff is the Swedish maestro whose chilling ice-cold drones and process emanations have been unsettling the world (and me) since 1980. I usually associate his work with places, locations, and buildings, rather than people, so it’s uncharacteristic of him perhaps to get involved with something so intimately connected with human beings and the human voice (notwithstanding the recent effort with Leslie Winer). Under the heading N2 Collection, he turns in two pieces, enigmatically titled ‘(10c/s)’ and ‘(12c/s)’, and dedicates the results to the Association for Neuroaesthetics in Berlin. Unlike Lee Gamble, he doesn’t appear to have reworked the voice material at all, but simply overlays portions of it on top of another recording, a distracting and maddening noise that resembles a geiger counter going insane, or a piece of plastic film trapped inside a rotating blender. A less appropriate sound for a “sleep” themed record you could not imagine. Incredible tension results, but then tension is what I have come to expect from the work of this uncompromising fellow. It’s as though he’s somehow x-raying the mind of Saunders, which continues to putter away on overdrive even while he’s asleep.

In all, this is one of the better entries in the series, with its vaguely paranoid tone and dark undertones, so I feel bad for leaving it ignored for so long. Arrived here 25 June 2012.

Previous releases in the series noted here, here, and here.

Long Overdue Part 11

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The cassette micro-label Full Of Nothing is I think run by Ivan Afanasyev from Petrozavoosk. We have noted a few marginal items over the years, including releases by gkfoes vjgoaf, Banana Pill, and Charlatan and Clathrus. In Russia (fon38) is a 2012 cassette featuring a team-up, or at any rate friendly encounter, between three bands – Woodpecker Wooliams, Golden Cup, and Love Cult. Love Cult is in fact Ivan Afanasyev (one of many aliases) with Anya Kuts, and the other two are solo acts, I think from the UK and Italy. On these 2011 recordings, the artistes find common ground cavorting in slow motion inside a limpid, dream-like pool of warm and fuzzy syrups, floating in the type of extra-terrestrial droning soap bubble that used to be so common on the Digitalis label. ‘Saransk’ is the more soothing and ethereal of the two sides, while ‘Saint Petersburg’ finds the fluffy ones engaged in the production of slightly more eventful surfaces and effects. Distortion, lo-fi, ambient twittering, numbing repetitions and patterns, and indistinct textures are among the techniques deployed in pursuit of these otherly states. The collage of photos inside the box gives the nearest visual analogue to what we’re hearing – double exposures, shaky focus, colour flashes and fogs, all amounting to a modern impressionism, even when the subject matter is quite ordinary – streets, houses, and vehicles in suburban Russia. Quite nice.

Long Overdue Part 3

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Komora A’s Mercury Time (MONOTYPE RECORDS monoMC003) cassette was released in 2013, created by the team of Dominik Kowalczyk, Karol Koszniec, and Jakub Mikołajczyk, working with various equipments – computers, synths, contact mics, radio signals. We have heard them before with one half of a split single with Cremaster, called ‘Crystal Dwarf Opens His Eyes’, where we noted a serious lack of force and energy behind their “melange of analogue and digital synth porridge”. We could say the same about the vague, understated tones on Mercury Time, but today’s spin is surprisingly rewarding and may fit the bill if you’re hungering for a few slices of uncertain, ambiguous non-musical gruel in your diet. It tends to cling to the listener like a fine drizzle, or follow you around like a grey fog. The recordings are all from 2004-2005 and were recorded in various venues in Warsaw; guest Polish electronica artists Emiter and Arszyn appear on the last track.

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From Angélica Castelló is a cassette tape called Silvertone E Il Sentimento Oceanico (MONOTYPE RECORDS monoMC002), released as a cassette by Monotype Records in 2013. We have a lot of time for this Mexican genius ever since we heard her Bestiario in 2011, but we also know her through Sonic Blue (2015); her appearance on Scuba with Billy Roisz, Burkhard Stangl and Dieb13 for Mikroton; and as part of the SQID collective for the same label. If we’ve learned anything about this trained academician in this time, it’s that she often records using the Subgreatbass Paetzold Recorder (a formidable woodwind instrument from the recorder family often associated with early music consorts), and that she has a recurring interest in the creatures of the deep blue sea. This latter preoccupation can also be discerned on the present release, not just in the jellyfish on the cover of the booklet, but the whole of side one ‘Adela Aurita’ which to my hyper-active imagination presents an abstracted version of a trip to the ocean floor, a descent in a bathysphere to the watery depths. It’s long been a feature of electro-acoustic composition that one must strive to represent a metaphysical journey in sound. Radio signals, distorted announcements, angelic voices, and layers of constructed sound all create a splendid soundtrack for the “rapture of the deep”, which I think was once a quaint way of describing “The Bends”. A very nice magical-realist charmer of a composition. The B side contains ‘Tuba Piece’, another fascinating jumble of sounds and layers that amounts to a rich, complex mosaic of music, percussion and noise; and ‘Limacina (Blütenschmuck)’, a more downbeat droney episode that stresses the mysterious and ambiguous side of Castelló’s music, packed with muffled and unresolved sounds and events. Her sparring partner Billy Roisz contributed some sketches to the booklet, as did Hanna Schimeck and Urkuma. In all, an overlooked gem with many moments of dream-like, precious beauty, sumptuous images which disappear as soon as they materialise.

Long Overdue Part 1

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Welcome return for some music by The Vitamin B12, in a double-cassette set we’ve had here in the racks since 2014. The Vitamin B12 is sometimes just a solo project by Alasdair Willis, but has also been an improvising collective involving any number of people in and around the Brighton UK area. We used to enjoy the solo records enormously back in the day, such as the vinyl-only releases 2LP Gatefold Set from 2000, or the double LP Badges from 2003, and for a time I was amazed we managed to persuade this rather reclusive fellow to contribute some record reviews to the magazine and provide some of his sumptuous drawings as well. Solo Vitamin is always hard to pin down to a genre, but it’s usually a form of very melodic music, full of inventive and eccentric electronic tunes and ditties, informed by everything from Radiophonic Workshop, easy listening, and classical avant-garde composition. The improvising version of The Vitamin B12 didn’t appeal to me half as much, but the manic skittering clattersome noise they made was well represented on a series of 10-inch LPs called Heads, all issued together in 2006. When spun, you had the impression with these players that they just didn’t know when to stop.

Today’s item is not like either of the above “modes”. Winter City Patterns 1-4 is two cassettes with zero artwork or information printed anywhere, and they’re sealed inside a plastic box which you have to open by loosening four screws. Luckily, I have a head start in that department. Listeners without a Philips screwdriver will find themselves at a loss. I was afraid it might turn out to be a memory stick inside the box, containing some 400 unreleased albums. I wouldn’t even have known the title had it not been for the helpful letter from Nick Langley of Third Kind Records, who issued it and sent me a copy. It’s a solo set by Alasdair Willis; “the music…will definitely not be described as impenetrable”, writes Langley.

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Winter City Patterns is all keyboard music, mostly piano (or digital piano) with some other keyboards including a tasty organ preset, with one long piece per side of a tape. It is indeed very accessible music and in places quite beautiful. The earlier electronic music from 2000 onwards was often characterised by its brevity and compactness, but here Willis has opted for the long form to allow his discursive ideas to develop. Perhaps as a result of this, it’s easy enough to find comparisons with the music of Terry Riley or Philip Glass in these repeated arpeggios and restated patterns with their slight variations, but Willis is clearly not aiming for anything as solemn or monumental as an American Minimalist, and is still happy to construct model villages and Lego toytowns in sound. His music here may mesmerise and enchant, but he doesn’t promise mystical Sufi fulfilment or Eastern knowledge at the end of it, maybe rather a trip to the toyshop and a bag of boiled sweets. All of the pieces are pretty much in a major key setting, contributing to the sense of uplift and well-being; and the music flows as naturally as a mountain spring.

Besides the American minimalism parallels, there’s something of more substance and complexity going on with sides three and four (at any rate, the third and fourth sides of these unmarked tapes which I spun) with moves and structures which I would like to classify as more European, but I lack the musical knowledge to affirm this claim. One might hear traces of Satie in these inventions and caprices, including phrases which sound as though they ought to be quotes from well-known classical works, woven seamlessly into the flow of the music. For one thing I had no idea Willis was so fluent and capable behind the piano, but with such a self-effacing personality it’s perhaps in keeping that he remains modest about these achievements.

If one could find fault with Winter City Patterns, it would be with the small problem that Willis solo, like the Vitamin B12 collectives, doesn’t know when to stop. The duration here is important to the meaning and realisation of each piece, but they also seem to go on for far too long, without really progressing much in the process. There’s also this slightly cloying taste to the work, to the point where the major key and user-friendly melodies start to become irritating. It’s almost like a very contemporary form of cocktail lounge music. These observations though should not detract from your listening pleasure as you allow these lengthy and pleasing extemporisations to wash over you like a warm bubble bath. From 1st December 2014.

Phantom Artefacts

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English electronics composer Adam Asnan has been on the radar for a number of years now, first with cassettes from the Foredoom label and then through the imprint Hideous Replica, both sources of fine grisly electronic minimalness. He’s also one third of the occasional trio VA AA LR with Vasco Alves and Louie Rice. Very happy to receive his cassette Carriers, PA (MAPPA MAP02) which has been issued by a Slovakian label and kindly sent to us by Zoltán Czakó, who also did the design; the geometric styled cover art is by Miroslav Žolobanic.

Pretty testing listen; single-minded hums, purrs, drones, buzzes and distorted whines abound on this stark set of sounds, resolutely refusing any connection with reality and ploughing their remorseless furrow down a pathway of severe abstraction. Few variations, and the rough-edged sounds are not particularly engaging. With these fearsome grinds, Asnan manages to transcend simple process-art, and it’s not just through sheer persistence either. I am persuaded he has clear ideas about form, structure, and duration that guide his moves. Hope this gives you some idea what to expect. Of course, you may stick it in your player and hear nothing but off-tune transistor sets or the annoying growl of workmen doing drilling three blocks away, which would also be a perfectly understandable response.

One of the more rewarding and successful experiments we’ve heard from this fellow, perhaps because it’s more continual and maximal than some of the more puzzling minimalist forays to which he’s tuned his dials and knobs. Apparently this work was made several years ago using analogue synthesisers, a technique which Adam rarely works with these days. The two different series – named Carriers and PA – were not intended to be played side by side, but he finds to his own surprise that they work very well together. Very good! From 13 April 2016.

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Cultural and Educational Activity

Herewith the latest three cassette releases from Saint Petersburg’s finest underground label Spina!Rec, delivered here on 10 March 2016. As ever, the editions of physical product are tiny, and collectors of cassettes will have to move fast.

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SR023 is a split betwixt Dubcore and Andrey Popovskiy. Dubcore sounds more like it ought to be the name of a label, or a genre, but here it’s an art project which experiments with found sounds and/or field recordings. They offer two pieces under the heading ‘Tea-N-Pepsi’, an endearing latterday cafe society proposal if ever there was. ‘Tuning In’ is a delicious jumble of sources, a fractured radio broadcast. Nothing spectacularly new in the approach of cutting up and random assemblage, but I happen to like the results on this occasion. The creators are genuinely capable of surprising the jaded listener with their juxtapositions and exciting cross cuts. A distinctly urban feel emerges; railway stations, media messages, street sounds, electronic noise, static, and beats. Everything is served up in aggressive micro-second slices, pandering to the minuscule attention spans of our atrophied brains. ‘Theyyam’ by Dubcore feels slightly less paranoid and tense, even admitting the possibility of some pastoral undercurrents, and quieter passages, to the overall mix of unpredictability. Here the listener is intrigued and puzzled. While not as subtle or inventive as the tapes we get from Staaltape and Rinus van Alebeek, Dubcore are operating in much the same area. “Six multilayered tracks full of sounds and changes,” is the description from the website, adding that Dubcore began life as something to do with exploring long tracts of silence. It so happens this tape is the exact opposite of that strategy, and has resulted in a glorious clutter of sonic detritus. A nice one.

Andrey Popovskiy occupies Side B with his 30-minute epic ‘Kryukov’. If credit list rings true, Popovskiy is operating various chunks of hardware for playback of pre-recorded elements (turntable, cassette player, dictaphone, CD player, etc), plus a violin, and e-bow, and additional field recordings. Hard to detect much of this equipment on the finished product, though. It comes across rather like 30 mins of a fellow stumbling about the room not really knowing what to do next, like a lethargic musician trying out ideas, opening the window, or turning the TV on. The recording doesn’t present the music, but documents the event, so that we pick up a good deal of room tone, random sounds, TV or radio in the next room, and general atmosphere of life in a Saint Petersburg apartment. This description may make it all appear infuriating and trivial, but in fact ‘Kryukov’ is a compelling listen. “Different kinds of interaction with environmental sounds,” is how the website describes this episode; “sometimes you can hear contingently appearing sounds of spaces, sometimes it’s prearranged processed recordings.” A lot to explore and get lost inside, varying textures, stories, and effects.

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Open Readings (SR024) is a high-minded attempt to reclaim historic culture from the forces of Evil: “Barbarization of content, devaluation of moral and spiritual values and denial of cultural archetypes” are the declared Enemy, though the perpetrators don’t go into more detail about how this pernicious effect is coming about, or who are the agencies wreaking this vandalism. Are they talking about the media, television, movies, newspapers, the internet? I suspect many forces are culpable when it comes to dilution and bastardisation of culture. The retaliation from the Russian underground comes in the form of the spoken word, readings from “works of the best classical writers of the Silver Age”. In Russia, the Silver Age is the beginning of the 20th century, a highly productive time for experimental poetry, modernist novels, and short stories. On the A side, it’s done by Alexander Mashanov & Ilia Belorukov, who on ‘Blok’ (most likely named for the poet Alexander Blok) belt out short phrases and paragraphs, spoken in Russian, of course, as if words were weapons, to be fired like bullets from a gun. Inevitably, this approach soon develops into a clumsy form of rap music, the rhymes chanted aggressively over a clunky drum beat and tepid electro backing. In less than 11 mins, we’re barked to death. On the B side, the readings are done by Natasha Shamina with a musical backdrop by Sergey Kostyrko. Their ‘Vvedenskiy’ is less contrived than ‘Blok’, and instead of rapping the reading is delivered with the accompaniment of a menacing electronic growl, now and then turning into a nasty squeal, and contributing to the overall tension. The sense of purpose in Natasha Shamina’s steely speaking voice is unmistakeable; she may not be firing bullets, but you sense she’s staring at you with a disapproving eye, and is capable of acting as a silent assassin if the situation demands it. I prefer this B side; it makes zero concessions to entertainment, and demands your engagement with the content.

sr025

SR025 is another split and represents another chapter in this label’s friendly and ongoing collaboration with the Finnish underground. Umpio is the Finn, from Turku; Kryptogen Rundfunk is the Russian. Both are solo acts. Umpio turns in a typically over-baked stew of sounds on his ‘Rio De Venas, Gusanos, Pulso Insectal, Craneocapsula, Bajo Hielo’, and by typical I mean this is the sort of purposeless over-dubbed melange which the Finns have always done so well. This “cunning sound synthesis” as the website would have it is all done by electronic means, digital and analogue working together for that rich “swampy” sensation. ‘Rio De Venas’ doesn’t really progress anywhere, but as a half-realised vision of an alien world, it’s fairly convincing. Pentti Dassum is the fellow behind this pleasing gumbo, and he runs a record label called Nekorekords and was involved in the mastering of over 100 Finnish underground releases, besides the production of about 40 of his own solo records and split releases.

Kryptogen Rundfunk offer us a live recording from 2015 from a venue or event called ESG-21. Feedback and electronic noise are used to create slow and doomy textures…they lurch gradually out of the speakers like so much tar-encrusted sludge, and the outpouring won’t stop until every available surface is covered in this unpleasant morass. Some occasional nice effects are achieved by Kryptogen Rundfunk’s remorseless execution, but in the final analysis he creates the sort of environment that drives you away rather than invites exploration. Dank, grey, gloomy; saps the vitality of most humans, kills many forms of plant life, poisons the air. Artyom Ostapchuk is the creator of this dismalness, and he has made a few sporadic recordings of his brand of industrial ambient death music since 2004 onwards.