Tagged: drone

Red Dust


Bizarre skull-laden item from Romain Perrot, here performing under his Roro Perrot alias. This diminution of the Christian name is for me one of the more endearing traits of French culture; the way Henri becomes Riri, Estragon becomes Gogo, and so on. I think it’s the way a French mother shows affection for her children. As to that, you may think that only Romain Perrot’s mother could love a ramshackle album like Musique Vaurienne (DECIMATION SOCIALE), but you should bend an ear to this far-out item of disjunctive amateurish guitar noise and unearthly caterwauling and decide for yourself. An electric guitar is mangled and shredded, producing awful tuneless noises and formless shapes, with no attempt made by the player to disguise the clumsy, lumbering manner in which his paws clutch and tug at the metal strings and leaving all “mistakes” and duff notes as part of the finished work. Occasionally the guitar-playing is either fed through a clunky antique reverb unit, or else recorded as though Roro were playing in a deserted chicken coop at four AM – there’s that strange feeling of “distance” that recording engineers try their best to eliminate, and in places this is like hearing a live bootleg of The Magic Band recorded through an old sock. Then there’s the hideous singing, which lurches wildly from nauseating groans to primitive animalistic grunts and strange obsessive repetitions of dumb phrases, much like the mutterings of a raving loon. In all, this is an endearing and very human attempt to bring “rock music” right back to its radical beginnings – assuming those beginnings are aligned, not with Elvis Presley, but with the earliest days of Neanderthal Man. I realise that most listeners will lose patience in about five seconds with these broken non-musical outbursts, but Roro doesn’t care – the insouciance is shown not just in his music here, but also in the titles, which taken together in translation amount to “So what…fuck off…who gives a shit…nothing”. How much more Punk Rock do you want? It’s not the first time that Perrot has picked up a guitar, but this is a great example of his unique craft, simultaneously reinventing and parodying rock music on his own terms.


The album Love Song for Broken Buildings (QUIET WORLD FORTY THREE) in fact contains no songs, nor even any industrial-style noise sounds you might associate with wrecked buildings or demolition sites, but instead a suite of charming electronic instrumentals concocted by Kostoglotov, the alias of Daryl Worthington from London. Label boss Ian Holloway was impressed enough by Kostoglotov’s two previous releases to find a home for this one, and he praises the painterly qualities of the music (light and colour) while also situating it stylistically in a general Kosmische / Cluster / Sky Music milieu. It might be apt to imagine Kostoglotov wheeling his camera down a boulevard of derelict houses, and drinking in the visions of solitude and urban decay. There’s a human side to it also; certain tracks suggest that broken buildings are a sanctuary of sorts for him, a place he can retreat in search of solace or meditation, even inviting like-minded friends into the shared space. Personally I like the muscular qualities of the openers ‘Nervous Things’ and ‘Broken Buildings’, whose brevity (two minutes apiece) I would also commend; and the sub-bass throbs of ‘Cement’ have a brooding minimal inscrutability which I enjoy. But I’m afraid I found the rest of the work drifts off too easily into meandering, ambient drones, whose overall sound is just too familiar and user-friendly for my tastes, tuneful and pleasant though it be. From September 2013.


Another fine piece of retro-prog played in the 1970s style on The Papermoon Sessions (SULATRON RECORDS st1303-2), where the Copenhagen trio Papir jam it up with Electric Moon, the German duo of Komet Lulu and Sula Bassana. For this 2012 session they produced just three tracks, two of which are lengthy star-struck freakouts worthy of their Hawkind and Grateful Dead antecedents, and Mogens Deenfort (from Mantric Muse, Øresund Space Collective and The Univerzals) with his synthesizers has brought additional electronic freakery to the echo-drenched party. ‘Farewell Mr. Space Echo’ is sixteen minutes’ worth of hard proof that the Pink Floyd album Ummagumma continues to hold more sway than the Book Of Kells across certain strains of unreconstructed European hippiedom. ‘The Circle’ is even longer in duration, but less effective somehow; wallowing around in vaguely jazz-tinged soloing for its first half, then sinking slowly into a miasma of one-chord pounding thereafter. The sound is just a shade too cluttered, but I suppose that’s a danger when you bring two long-hair bangle-wearing bands together in the room. Even so, all of these Sulatron releases are recommended if you already have a huge collection of 1970s prog and krautrock, and want to hear it re-expressed even more emphatically than the original creators of the genre could manage.

Nature & Organisation


Adrian Shenton & Banks Bailey
Wrapped In Clover

Between nature sounds and singing bowls, this CDr begins. Four tracks of little chirping birds mixed with synthesised sound and atmospheric ambient music. There is a pressed flower on a laminated card inside a limited edition of 50 copies. With a Spring note it has the ambiance of a lush green parc as a place to chill out. Gargling water sound throughout the CD easily gives the music a flow, made by nature and coloured by the musicians. But the pianos (synth?), played on most if not all the tracks, kill the mood – bringing you back to muzak, along with the singing bowl, which is also prevalent throughout this album. On the whole, there are some good ideas which could be developed with the field recordings or in Brian Eno’s spirit, but there is a sense of naivety taking hold, in some hippie genre, that doesn’t always fit with the intention.



Main have been active since the mid-1990s with lots of good ambient releases. Their music is full of drone and reverberation, static noises and extended percussion sections. This new release on the Mego label is somehow looking for a new direction. Tracks I and IV are very much a mix of Musique Concrète like Main’s classic ambient style. Of course this release was recorded in GRM Studios in Paris which is not entirely incompatible with these two tracks. That said, the other tracks are divided into levels of sounds, varying from the quiet and reverberating to the resonant, as if everything were fading away and lost in wave after wave of echoes. However the composition is more precise than most classical ambient music, with lots of changes in direction and sudden shifts in the organisation of the sounds and its reverberation. Main has been composing this type of music for many years now, giving the impression of new perspectives on classical music inspired by Brian Eno. It does have a bit of a 90s sound though, a special kind of research on resonances within the echoes and distant frequencies.

Hammer of the Gods

Gaffer 33t:Mise en page 1

Here’s another release featuring the great Jean-Marc Foussat, the Algerian synth player who I regard as one of the unsung heroes of free-noise-improv of Europe. Actually he’s here as one third of the trio Marteau Rouge, with the guitarist Jean-François Pauvros, another overlooked genius whose work I really must try and catch up on, based on his sullen and murky performances here. I see he made a couple of records in the 1970s – No Man’s Land with Gaby Bizier, and Phenix 14 with Siegfried Kessler, and in more recent years has “jammed” with some of the greats of Japanese guitar noise, including Haino and Kawabata Makoto. He may have been responsible for bringing the drummer Makoto Sato to the group, and he’s equipped with a healthy knowledge of free jazz licks. Foussat, as the world knows, wields a VCS III synth, and when his jackplugs and knobs are on the correct setting then few can match him for free-flying, unhinged sounds. Noir (GAFFER RECORDS GR035) is described the first release proper from Marteau Rouge, and was preceded by a live album they made for In Situ in 2009, where they were joined by Evan Parker. The present album, recorded in the studio, was made in 2004 but not released until 2012. (… Un Jour Se Lève, the 2002 CDR, surely preceded them both?). Sonically, this album most reminds me of Masayuki Takayanagi and his New Direction combo; Takayanagi was the guitarist held in awe by Otomo Yoshihide, and indeed by many others including a stunned Henry Kaiser. Marteau Rouge comes close to delivering the same degree of beyond-free deep underground murk, of the sort that Takayanagi wrestled with in his many recordings where he’s tackling a giant octopus beneath the sea. What I mean by this is that individual notes don’t really stand out, there isn’t much recognisable structure, and instead the layers of synth, guitar and drums just pile up and coagulate into a glorious, heaving ruin. Foussat adds plangency, melancholy, and the keening sound of Arabian horns from his synth; most of the propulsive energy is supplied by the tireless drummer, and the incredible Pauvros creates wonderfully abrasive textures, stabs, whines and painful groanings. Just great! Apparently other listeners regard Pauvros as quite a “violent” player, and I can sort of get that, but he’s also capable of sinking into a deep introspective sulk and howling like a Cyclops. I’ll admit the tunes are quite “slow to start”, and the trio generally start kicking heavy butt by the mid-section, and some listeners may lose patience with this. Not me. From August 2013.


One of two items received from Romain Perrot in September 2013 is Les Escaliers de la Cave (DECIMATION SOCIALE / SKUM REX / NARCOLEPSIAHN), which he released under his Vomir cloak. An hour-long blast of abrasive abstract noise is preceded by a five-minute one on this CD. These two may be ‘Escalier 1’ and ‘Escalier 2’, though printed text on sleeve suggests there’s a third track ‘There’s a riot goin’ on’, which I somehow doubt is his tribute to the coked-up paranoid funk music of Sly Stone. Monstrous, unlistenable, Vomir’s work always reminds us of an avalanche, one that takes place in slow motion over a very long time, and where the rocks involved are dense, heavy, and very solid. One’s psyche emerges bruised and pummelled, assuming one even makes it out alive. Vomir sees the world as a perpetual slaughterhouse for our walking hunks of meat, and proposes that we savour the process of being transformed into viande hachée over the course of 60 insufferable minutes. Beautiful cover art by Jacques Noël; suggestive of illustrations from a 1920s fantasy novel.


Large stack of great CDRs from the UK label Quiet World which arrived 17th September 2013. Argh…I am always too late with publishing reviews for these highly-limited pressings, which means by time you read about them, they are likely to be sold out at source. Here’s one great piece of UK experimentalism called Albion Geared (QUIET WORLD THIRTY-TWO) performed by B. Lone Engines, which are the twosome Spider and Ant Blone who come from Reading. The great thing about Spider is he really is a spider, so able to use all eight limbs to perform on musical instruments in ways that puny humans cannot achieve. Ant Blone may or may not be distantly related to one of the many colonies that thrive in the Reading area, and he’s the kind of guy who gets what he wants through formic acid attacks. They previously had a release on the Northampton CDR label Dark Meadow Recordings, and Ian Holloway picked up their “contract” after that label bit the dust in 2012. On this fine album, I was grabbed by the opening track with its spiky and discordant guitar clashes fighting a steely battle of some ilk, but apart from one other instance of it, this turns out to be somewhat uncharacteristic of the whole; their specialism is turning in long and cold tracts of bleak, formless abstraction dronery, the interminable wasteland occasionally punctuated with perfectly-judged details of mysterious brushwork and sculpture, such as a tree painted by Sidney Nolan. This pair have an occluded sense of darkness brewing inside their collective stomachs, and their brand of minimal krautrock-noir is bound to appeal to any night-dwelling creature such as the badger or owl.

The Calling of Hell: where Hell exists in far realms of the universe


Alturaz, The Calling of Hell, Soulthief Musick, CDR (2014)

A most curious object this CDR from San Francisco act Alturaz has turned out to be: it’s inspired by black metal ideas and concepts but all instruments are either organ or other keyboards. The quartet of tracks runs to just under 18 minutes so listeners might expect there’s not much on offer. You would be wrong: this is creepy Gothick-sounding atmospheric music that nods in the direction of old horror movie soundtracks made for films about proper bloodsucking daemons and not pallid Robert Patterson parodies of current Twilight film franchise fame. Alturaz is a solo project by a musician who helms a perhaps more conventional (?) BM act called Wikkid.

The recording opens with a slow spooky droning organ piece based around a very simple chord sequence, against which a more sprightly organ melody may dance in short bursts. Picture yourselves entering a tall, grim and grey cathedral, the stone walls of which depict carved figures of sinners in hell writhing in silent screaming agony under sadistic punishments dealt by demented devils. We continue on to a deep darker-than-dark space atmosphere piece of low murmur, the odd synth splash and a blank wall of nothingness. As this amorphous piece progresses, it gains a more definite if very plastic shape and a brooding atmosphere. The music becomes a twitchy pulsing, silver-shimmery alien skeletal critter, all long fragile limbs with fine veins of rhythmically swishing ichor. It is a beautiful and delicate beast yet there’s something deeply sinister in its darting movements.

If you were expecting the CDR to depart on a triumphant though maniacally evil note, you’ll be disappointed: the outro track is short and barely there, a most understated and minimal drone mutter barely rising above the black formless plasma murk that births it. No better way to leave listeners stranded in deep space with no means of escape or survival than this coldly indifferent desertion can be conceived of.

In its own understated way, this recording poses a portrait of Hell as a place of dark brooding silences and overbearing dread. The use of simple repetitive drone, drawn out and relatively unembellished, creates an oppressive black atmosphere and a feeling of malevolence. Alturaz combines serenity and mesmeric sounds into a dark trance music. I only wish the whole thing had been longer for listeners to savour something of an unenviable experience of being plunged into this forbidding universe and left there forever.

Contact: Wikkid, wikkidblackmetal@gmail.com

A Life Examined


A Life Is Everywhere

The musical path of Gordon Sharp (now, for all intents and purposes Cindytalk…) winds a considerable way back along the time coast. I half expected to find an entry for him in George & DeFoe’s ‘International Discography of the New Wave’ sourcebook. And sure enough, his first (?) band The Freeze with the “Psychodalek Nightmares” seven inch is within the pages of this mighty tome. You’ll notice I used the word “path” with reference to G.S., as “career” almost suggests an unbroken tick list of achievements. For me, he seems to flit wilfully in and out our our consciousness and is as slippery and elusive as Harry Houdini employing a Romulan cloaking device. Well, in the last couple of years, Sharp/Cindytalk has decided to remain within our spatial co-ordinates and Editions Mego has been his latest stopping-off point.

A Life Everywhere l.p./c.d. is his fourth for the label and is an arresting melange of audio snapshots of fairly indeterminate origin, where the processing element (post production) is pretty much king. Though the approach here seems to veer towards the more organic/naturalistic school (see Annea Lockwood or Stylus), instead of the cartoonized/rapid-fire juxtapositions beloved of many. “Time to Fall” and “To a Dying Star” are immediate attention grabbers, both sharing common ground by using what appears to be the sound of the incoming tide on a shingle beach. Both pieces could easily serve as perfect backdrops for M. R. James’ “O Whistle and I’ll Come to you my Lad”. In particular, the scene involving Professor Parkins’ first encounter with unknown forces on that deserted shoreline. This has to be the Jonathan Miller adaptation – accept no imitation! 1

“My Drift is a Ghost” is I guess, the most rhythmic and appears to extract/magnify all of the traffic slipstream synthesized by Kraftwerk on Autobahn. Then there’s “Interruptum”, which merges the sombre largos of Tangerine Dream’s Zeit with certain facets of Graham Bowers’ outlandish symphonics. Looking at my initial jottings/scrawl regarding the closing “On a Pure Plane”, I seem to to have written that “the contents of a massive aviary have become hysterical with the introduction of several birds of prey…” and, playing this screechy and claustrophobic beast just one more time, I see no reason to apply the Tippex…stet. Being unfamiliar with Sharp in this incarnation, I fully expected an exercise in cumulo-nimboid ambience. The jade in me thought of that as a soft option for those with a ‘history’. However, this weird tableau that unravelled before me relays a story of an artist who is clearly pursuing his own visions with precious little interference from the world outside his window.

  1. Editor’s note: I second that emotion. The version by Neil Cross and Andy de Emmony screened on BBC2 in 2010 is a travesty.

Ordo ab Chao


Carter / Chen / Wooley / Yeh

Vast, cosmogonic explosions jump-start another galaxy thanks to this crew of hardy improvisers who ceremoniously ‘blur the line between electronic and acoustic music’ (it still exists?). Consisting of the ubiquitous C. Spencer Yeh, saxophonist Nate Wooley, cellist Audrey Chen and audio engineer Todd Carter, the string-centric sessions were recorded by Yeh, Chen and Wooley during a residency in Amsterdam then shipped to Carter for extensive editing in NY. While those recording sessions appear to have been a galactic free-for-all: all amplified, scraped strings, thrumming electronics, groaning drones and fathomless feedback (a prohibitively pricey proposition were it the analogue tape days), there’s ample evidence of the musicians applying the best of their respective crafts to ensuring the listener endures nothing too exhausting or tedious.

In this respect, Carter is clearly our hero of the hour: he spent a week sifting through the recordings (whether alongside his other work I know not), startling the trio soon afterwards with this taut and tidy electroacoustic suite. Considerate are his track times, ranging from two to fourteen minutes (depending on the content), which effectively render side A into a sound collage, somewhere between Tony Conrad and early Faust. Accompanying and accentuating the studio antics are fleets of distant sirens alongside all manner of mysterious sounds and transformations Carter saw fit to add, resulting in a dripping tunnel vision of a mechanised dystopia, in which electricity is the inhabitants’ lifeblood.


Yong Yandsen

Seven servings of industrial-lunged, post-Ayler/Kaoru Abe screeches and bellows from Malaysian sax warrior Yong Yandsen, who is one quarter of doom jazz unit, Klangmutationen, and one of a putative handful of new music exponents comprising the ‘Experimental Musicians & Artists Co-operative Malaysia’, situated ‘on the fringes’ of Kuala Lumpur.

It would certainly seem that he’s the first of them to issue a solo recording, and quite a debut it is: nearly three quarters of an attack-happy hour with the tenor sax, which find Yandsen indefatigably wrestling new sounds out of the thing. Of course, comparisons to Ayler and Abe are now de rigueur, though in this case they belong more appropriately to the latter, as Yandsen lacks the audacious melodic deconstructions that were Ayler’s bread and butter during those glory years. It’s abstraction all the way, and delightfully so, even if the style is one burningly familiar to free jazz fans. It does feel authentic to me though: I get the sense that every audible emission here represents the cathartic erasure of yet another hint of melody from Yandsen’s being, in a public exhibition of musical therapy.

The sessions on side A consist of shorter, sharper attacks, with lots of pauses in between as he gets his bearings. Side B revels in more masochistic breath stretches, which flow into gliding scale runs and through a punishing range of dynamic extremes. You know the deal. Over forty-five minutes, it is the listener who is ultimately put to the test, and I’m glad to say I’ve made it through in the rudest of health, spirit rejoicing.

Divided By Nine


Francisco López / Luca Sigurtà
FRATTONOVE fratto021 CD (2013)

I’m not sure what the connection is between the two works on this split release. Perhaps they are two interpretations of same source material. If so, it’s hard to tell. But frankly I don’t care, as this CD kicks some serious ass. Francisco López is a playwright of sound art, in that his pieces can be composed of a series of discrete sonic monologues, dialogues, or crowd scenes. At least for me there always seems to be a sense of drama, of events unfolding, taking the listener to unexpected plot twists, revelations and epiphanies. In his track entitled ‘untitled#294′, field recordings of natural and man-made environments, machinery, or his beloved insects are filtered, looped, and processed in that Lópezian trademark manner. Moments of near silence or total silence (listen closely or crank up the volume) are follow by intense blasts of in your face density. It’s all very exciting and an enjoyable ride. Luca Sigurtà‘s track ‘Eaves’ almost feels similar to López’s. Field recordings are the source material for the most part, but some actual instruments find their way into the mix. And while López’s piece is broken up into discrete acts with interludes of silence, Sigurtà’s is free flowing. Lyrical moments try to break through but are swallowed up. An excellent album. Crank it up.


Alberto Boccardi / Lawrence English
FRATTONOVE fratto022 LP (2013)

The concept is straight forward: Alberto Boccardi assembles a three part suite using the music of Antonio LaMotta as conducted by David Mainetti. Later Alberto sent Lawrence English the material and tells him “do what thou wilt”. Alberto’s side is a three part suite comprised of french horn, double bass, cello, autoharp, vocals, soprano saxophone and electronics. It starts off with French horns playing a repeating four note pattern upon which layers of the other instruments and electronic sounds are added. The mix gets thicker and thicker until suddenly someone trips on the power strip in the studio as it were and everything stops, sans some spinning object. Or perhaps it’s an instrument. Whatever it is, I can only describe it as the sound of rotation. Again the same pattern of layering occurs, but this time it rather sneaks up on you. Buried in this construction are some guitar-like histrionics, which after a few minutes crescendo and then once again suddenly deflate and the music goes down the drain. On the third part Boccardi takes a minimal approach. It begins with looped voices singing a four note pattern for a few bars, then switches to some repeating electronic tones, coupled with some keyboard lines awash with tremolo effects. End of side one. On side two (I imagine flipping the record over as I only have a cdr promo to work with) English utilizes a minimal approach to the material. We kick off with a short prelude of the same looping chorus. Then it’s off to a fifteen minute minimal ambient exercise. Time-stretched and down-pitched sounds, repeated, layered, processed into hazy drones. At the end the chorus returns for a short coda but at a lower pitch. It’s all pleasant enough but I keep feeling that something is lacking. Perhaps it would have benefited from some vinyl crackles and surface noise, or even the hiss of a twice-dubbed cassette copy. Mr. Boccardi’s side has a lot more going on and offers a lot more to my ears. It makes its point quickly and precisely. While Mr. English’s side is a pleasant excursion into wallpaper music, his remixing of the material lacks adventure.

The Tuba Four


The superb tuba-ist Dan Peck blows his notes again on the simply-titled Solo LP (TUBAPEDE RECORDS tb01), and a unique powerful blaster-thumper-droner it be. As you may recall he’s a member of The Gate, a New York trio that produces a unique form of doom metal sludge out of an all-acoustic setup, with many free jazz inflections thrown in…on this 2012 LP there are two side-long solo pieces produced by his gigantic swollen lips making intimate contact with saliva-laden brass mouthpiece. For when you’re in the mood for relaxing sleep music, tune in to the A side ‘Longus Tonus’, for a notable piece of heavy bass-tone minimalism…using possibly the acoustic tuba, Peck simply lets rip with slow and long blarty eruptions, much like a sleepy volcano trying to decide whether to switch from dormant to active mode, or an enormous bear stirring itself out of hibernation with snores and yawns heaving from its belly. There’s an underlying rhythm to this one, and it pretty much matches the rhythm of human breathing. Well, what else would I expect from a tuba player? But it’s fair to say that Peck has taken the deep listening lessons of Pauline Oliveros to heart – and to his lungs and nostrils and diaphragm as well.

After that “musical snoring” delight, flip over to ‘Satanitorium’, which by way of total contrast is an enlivened bacchanal of free noise, possibly rendered by El Peckstein using his amplified or prepared tuba setup. There’s at least three layers of activity here, but it sounds so spontaneous and fresh that I’d hate to find out he used overdubs to realise it. One tuba provides a bass rhythm, another tuba parps out free jazz utterances in a higher range with the uninhibited wailery of a lost BYG refugee from 1969, while an entire tray of cutlery plucked straight from a nearby Queens restaurant has been brought into play to serve as a percussion track. Like I say, I’d prefer to believe this stormer was all done live in one take by Old Peckermeister performing as a one-man band, but then I can’t even imagine what such a performance would even look like. Life is full of disappointments. This B side is a fiery devil fer sure, hence the title which combines suggestions of satanism and a refuge for mentally unstables, most apt for this diabolical episode of unhinged whoop-and-clatter which you’re likely to hear played in the ballroom for when the annual Saint Vitus Dance troupe strut their stuff, often in competition with the local Tarantellas and the Parkinsons Collegiate. To top it off, there’s a cactus flower image on the cover and a quote on the back cover from Nikola Tesla about how the earth is going to split in two due to vibrations produced by expansion and contraction. Great! I think we received this pecky monster in April 2013.

Fog Day Afternoon

Luca Forcucci
Fog Horns

I love fog horns. Or things that sound like fog horns. Or any sound that’s buried in the background, pulsing, bleeping, operating just below the surface yet conveying some very important information of some form. Unfortunately I don’t live near any body of water where fog horns are a necessity, otherwise I’d be hanging around the docks all day. So I am jealous that one day in 2011 Luca Forcucci landed in San Francisco after a long flight and was confronted by these murky whale-like sounds, unintended members of the wind instrument family known as fog horns. The title track is full of their distant heavy sighing. These sounds alone would make a fine track, but Forcucci mixes in vinyl cuts, beats and scratches. They seem really out of place, but somehow they work. No doubt the bird chirps and footsteps also help cook up this batch of Verfremdungseffekt stew. It’s quite an odd eleven minutes, but I dig such things. The next track is also about eleven minutes in length and consists mainly of waves crashing against the shoreline. These are occasionally filtered and ring modulated into high crackles. While waves are nature’s white noise and quite enjoyable, at eleven minutes all that water just becomes filler, since there’s not much else going on. Happily the final and longest track is a return to strange sonic mix of the opening track. “Winds” starts off with a filtered cistern like drone, to which Forcucci layers with water sounds, jangling objects, and a harmonious bass drone which sounds like its played on the neighbor’s stereo system at such a volume that its bleeding through the walls. Its there, but you can’t quite make it out. In reality it’s Michael Kott supplying cello murk and haze. The cello here answers the call of the fog horns, with its obscured warning.

Deison / Galán
LOUD! CD07 (2013)

Italian sound artist Deison met up with Sara Galán, a cellist based in Valencia, Spain for this short album of dirty electronics and processed cello drones and a sprinkle of field recordings. Like the cover imagery this is a hazy atmospheric affair, suggestive of a soundtrack to a film which doesn’t exist. No doubt it would be one with missing frames and peeling nitrate film stock. The cello sounds are marked by long single strokes intoned like foghorns along some lifeless port on a rocky coast. The electronic elements never take the center stage, as they seem to only work in service of the droning cello, acting to process it and thicken up the sounds, or add some faint morse code like dots & dashes. Some of the tracks sound like acoustic outtakes from My Bloody Valentine demo tapes after they’ve been taped over a dozen times and bathed in copious amounts of reverb. Despite the grey tonal palette this is a rather pleasant affair which grows upon me with each listen. Sometimes the indistinct sounds don’t hold up to scrutiny as there is not much there once you peel back the layers of smoke and fog. Smartly the runtime is only 35 minutes, which is just the right amount for this assemblage as anything longer would have diluted its strengths.

Simon Whetham
Never So Alone
CRONICA 073-2013 CD (2013)

An album of field recordings is never something new nowadays, so the question is how does this one make it any different, or rather, worthy of your leisure listening time in this world overloaded with sounds demanding your attention? I’d say you won’t regret listening to Never So Alone, as this one is pretty damn sweet. While it’s hard to present sounds that are not generated by yourself as being your own, Whetham does a fine damn good job of taking the sounds that he gathered and composing them into an album’s worth of material that held my attention for the duration of the ride. I didn’t hear any novel approaches to composing with field recordings, but Whetham does demonstrate a skillful hand and ear when it comes to assembling such sounds together to make them compelling and enjoyable. The sounds were gathered in Lisbon, Portugal in 2010. Throughout the 78 minutes divided into 7 tracks we hear heavy drones that could be air shafts or the time-stretched echoes of some ancient rusted water cistern, rain hitting window panes, metal objects being banged about while construction machinery grinds away, wind chimes overdubbed into a cacophonous wall of sound, long tones that are mutated into hypnotic organ sounds, sea waves hitting the shore filtered into oblivion, etc. Or maybe the sounds are not at all like what I describe. In any case this is a fine addition to the canon of field recordings.




DEER is a trio of Hans Koch, Christian Müller and Silber Ingold. All three musicians appear to be aficionados of the bass clarinet, but electronics are also employed, again possibly by all three dudes. Interestingly, Deszpot have also recently released a bass clarinet album by Marc Lardon. I’ll refrain from making the pun about bass clarinet albums being like buses and instead leave you to instead consider the hand-drawn illustration of a deer’s head, possibly mounted, in monotone brushwork style on the cover.

My first listen to this bass clarinet-based drone piece was on my car’s somewhat inadequate stereo so the “…small sound miniatures…” as promised by the press release were completely lost and the whole claustrophobic, intense piece seemed to have all the subtlety and character of a bassy and electronicky brick. I broke off listening after fifteen minutes of frustration, making a mental note to listen to this disc on the decent stereo in the house. In no way should this be seen as reflecting badly upon DEER, as this is another cracking bass saxophone recording like Mr Lardon’s which I’m quite partial to. It simply means I ought to get around to getting a better car stereo.

Armed with the decent stereo, it quickly becomes apparent that there is a lot of detail in this music. There is a sparing use of delay time adjustment, and a gaseous fluttering as an industrial sized filter slowly gapes open.
It is a quiet beginning. It is a simple idea to start small and gradually throw on more and more detail; a process of maximalization that yields satisfying results. This kind of slow encroachment always relaxes me so I’m sold straight off. It might seem easy, but it is harder than you think to play as restrained as this over such a duration. Forty minutes is an optimal duration, I think. It is quite possibly the average time period that experimental musicians like to play for, although I have no facts or statistics whatsoever to back up this assertion. The temptation to open a filter envelope too brusquely or add harmonic overtones to eagerly is ever-present. Check it: the first major, noticeable even (apart from a slow increase in volume) addition happens at sixteen minutes. Sixteen minutes! I hesitate to use the word “change”; One is unchanging. At this point, the drone is identifiable as clarinets for the first time. For the next twenty-four minutes, One develops more swiftly in progressively more violent and unsettling ways. DEER really open the taps around 30 minutes. It really does sound like the musicians are opening up a portal to somewhere. Dynamic, exciting, transporting; its exactly what I want from drone music. A stark contrast to the Marc Lardon bass clarinet disc, which I also love, but for completely different reasons.