Tagged: drone

Voice of the Beehive

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Got a couple of tapes from the Belgian Tanuki Records label, which is operated by Patrick Thinsy who used to be a member of martiensgohome. To be honest I never cared much for anything I heard from by the mgh collective, so I approach Thinsy’s Disappearances (TANUKI RECORDS #4) with a little trepidation. The A side is a simple experiment in minimalism, operating small variations on a single (very high) monotonous tone; you never heard such a thin and delicate drone in your life, as though he were trying to extend one gram of platinum in a wire so thin it would encircle the earth. High tone on one side, a low tone on the B side; a mysterious grumbling bullfrog making its moan in a forgotten swamp, wheezing like a very restrained old harmonium, until it too becomes an extended tremulous drone, so faint you can barely notice it. It’s likely that both of these simple compositions operate according to a structure; they proceed with an inscrutable methodology, and a basic trajectory is perceivable from start to finish. Not quite achieving the monumentalism of Phill Niblock, but not bad. From 27 February 2013.

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The press notes describe Woodger Speece and Thierry Burnhout as “two very interesting Belgian sound artists”, and 14 Rhythms for Jamilla / This Beehive State (TANUKI RECORDS #3) is their debut. Though not made clear on the release, this appears to be a split and Woodger – who is actually someone named Pauwel de Buck – has four, not fourteen, of his rhythm tracks on the A side, combining strangely attenuated beats with prickly radio static. It’s amazing he gets anything solid out of this unlikely combination of elements, but he persists doggedly until these severe, alienating tones begin to cohere at some level. It’s the kind of music you imagine that small insects, or microbes, would enjoy dancing to on the sub-atomic plane. After ten minutes of this art-minimal reduced Techno buzzery, even Atom TM will sound “over-produced” to your ears. Thierry Burnhout occupies all of Side B with 22 minutes of This Beehive State, which like Thinsy’s above is operating in a droney and floaty area, where the skies are mostly grey and we dance to the whims of the wind. Though de Buck describes him as a “troublemaker”, Burnhout’s abiding mood here is somewhat serene and peaceful; in places, he generates pleasing harmonic passages that inspire a sense of well-being with their rich vibrato and throbbing undercurrents. I just feel it’s scant on ideas; having established one mood, he’s uncertain where to take it next, and he either treads water for too long or runs out of steam at crucial moments.

Mind Chaos

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Robert L. Pepper’s PAS have been working on a series of “curated music” releases, by which they mean to showcase albums which represent international musicians that PAS have worked or performed with in their long career. On Kine’s Meditations in April Green (ALREALON ALRN046), it’s the turn of Vietnamese vocalist Dao Anh Khanh to fall under the spotlight. Actually, although we do hear him growling like a tiger and cooing like a baby lamb on this record, it turns out that “vocals” are just one aspect of the work and art of this exceptional creator from Hanoi, who has created numerous sculptures and paintings, installations, and performance events. He turned his back on a career in the police force, where his duty involved seeking out examples of political “incorrectness” among the populace, and perhaps bringing their thought-crimes to a swift and decisive end with his baton. He has since devoted himself to a surrealist-mystical search for the truth, freely breaking taboos and crossing geographic boundaries with his bold artworks, and seeking to “escape to the outer reaches of the universe”. Out in space, is no disgrace.

Under the circumstances, it’s tempting to think he contributed more than his bizarre animalistic roars, grunts and chants to the long track ‘Meditation 1’, and that perhaps his very presence alone inspired the other musicians – guitarist Brett Zweiman, percussionist Amber Brien, and electronicist Pepper – to reach for the sort of twisted, magical, shamanistic post-Terry Riley ethnic drone which they turn in. This 18-minute cosmo-fest alone ought to repay your entry fee with ample hallucinogenic images and trippy vibes, but there are many other great moments: lively flute work from Pepper on ‘Meditation 3’, much cryptical gabbling vocalese from Khanh on ‘Meditation 4’ (he goes completely nuts, if you want the truth), and some indescribably moving moments on the minimally-ambient ‘Meditation 5’, where our Vietnamese friend squeaks and dribbles through pursed lips like an economy-sized version of Damo Suzuki. Strange and unfamiliar emotions are unsparingly evoked on this unusual cross-cultural album.

In places, this release tops the bill this month for sheer uncanniness. I realise the drawings on the cover represent the Brooklyn Bridge, reflecting Pepper’s PAS studio location, but it’s not too far-fetched to imagine that the record itself offers the listener a “bridge” from the physical world into another spiritual dimension, a world of unknowing; the same thing Sun Ra must have been referring to in his poem ‘The Bridge’, when he exhorted: “They must walk the bridge of the cosmic age!!”. 1 From 24 June 2013.

  1. ‘The Bridge’ was released as a one-sided single in 1982 and can be heard on The Singles 2 x CD set, Evidence ECD 22164. Mobarak Mahmoud did the memorable recitation.

Industrial Action

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Hati
Zero Coma Zero
POLAND ZOHARUM ZOHAR 050-2 CD (2013)

Of a more kinetic ambience than recent reviewees Howlround and Lethe, the ritual percussion duo Hati (Rafal Iwanski and Darek Wojtas) nonetheless establishes an equally eerie atmosphere in their psychogeographically remote recordings. Heaven (or Hell) knows where they performed these pieces, but they sound as dark and distant as certain of Coil’s or perhaps Paysage d’Hiver while he’s trapped in a blizzard. Like their longish-term collaborator, Z’EV, Iwanski and Wojtas build their own percussion instruments from salvaged and recycled metal, a process that lends itself both to a genuine intimacy with the means of production, and to an evocation of the cycle of death and rebirth, from which this collection conceives its title. The CD compiles a 250-copy, 2005 CDR release, Zero Coma Zero and a 121-copy, 2006 mini CD, Recycled Magick Emissions, the latter title denoting an initially disconcerting association with Thelema, though initial fears of encountering gaudy, lo-fi goth-pop were quickly subsumed by muted delight at the lengthy trancelike vibrations beamed through my speakers from an imagined/imaginary Tibet.

With sparing elegance, Hati command voices of primordial grandeur from their extensive, metallic battery and arsenal of skeletally sourced wind instruments. In ‘Animal’, a slow, thumping rhythm is yawned through by a backmasked, extra-dimensional ice-cat, suggesting a candle-lit darkness from which issues a clattering voodoo-esque rhythm that accompanies the lively arrival of dance troupe of Goetian demons. Though just shy of seven minutes it is rather brief for my liking, but actually one of the longer tracks on the album. Presumably the pair believes that welcomes are not to be outstayed. Still, they go on to stir up showers of shimmering cymbals, thundering peals of bonging gongs, howling woodwinds and disquieting clangs, all laced with metallic grey reverb that seems to conjure up one eyeball-sucking vortex after another. The nine tracks that form Zero Coma Zero are generally more jarring and dynamically varied than the more meditative drones of Emissions, but the EP forms a soothing coda or a banishing ritual of sorts. It’s a slow burner for sure, but burn it does.

Womb C: a wide range of genres searching for communion with dark sinister cosmos

Womb C, self-titled, Bestial Burst, CD BeBu-059 (2013)

Dark space ambience, post-industrial percussion, sinister electronics, black metal and trance psychedelia combine to form this quartet of instrumental pieces that trace an individual journey into communion with the cosmos. The musicians responsible for this unique if weird and wonderful set of soundscapes include members of Finnish BM bands Dead Reptile Shrine and Ride for Revenge as well as musicians from bands I don’t know: Blutleuchte, Cloama (who share members with DRS) and Will Over Matter (the brainchild of the man behind Ride for Revenge). This looks like a Finnish-Russian affair which might mean (in a good way of course!) plenty of sparks flying here.

We begin with “Satan Universe Moloch”, a long sprawling track that takes in glitchy electronics, noise-lite textures, trance guitar work and atmospheric soundtrack music effects among other things. At times you fear the music might travel down some very dangerous paths menaced by black devils itching for a chance to ride the sounds and drones out of the loudspeakers or headphones and into your ears and head. Second track “Bug Humanity” is no less adventurous, daring to tread through some very low-key sections of darkness where a heavy atmosphere reigns or inhuman distorted voices make pronouncements in the far distance. A monster percussion rhythm, its edges fuzzed over with acid noise, thumps through the track. Later moments include some very odd and deranged robot voices in an apparent emptiness and some bombastic industrial metal knees-up bashing.

The music enters underground metal territory proper with “She Male Vegetation” which is dominated by a repeating series of harsh textured drone guitar riffs over a shambolic drum pattern. As the album continues into the fourth track, we enter a strange universe of beings that are partly organic and partly mechanical living among environments that are at once beautifully space ambient and terrifyingly machine-like in their natural rhythms. Increasingly the record acquires a more interior and precious feel, as if it were retreating into some hallowed space where only a privileged few may be allowed to enter: it could be a shrine to unseen gods or it could be the cell of a deranged prisoner. A kind of tinny chainsaw black metal whine forms the backbone of the music over which drills whine, a melodic country-western guitar melody plays and a sorrowful clarinet-like sound follows the chaos that gradually develops. The album’s conclusion is rather ambiguous: unity with the universe is achieved in a way that suggests a return to the cosmic womb and therefore death promises a slim chance of rebirth, leading perhaps to another tortuous journey back to the darkness of the womb, risking one’s identity and sanity again. (The CD sleeve offers a prose piece which listeners can follow to make sense of the music and what it’s aiming at – but I can’t promise that the prose makes any more sense than the music does.)

The recording does feature a dry atmosphere typical of those Ride for Revenge albums I’ve heard which is no surprise as the fellow behind RfR and WoM plays a big role in creating and assembling together such a wide disparity of musical elements and genres. For all its musical expanses, the album is actually well ordered rather than full-on blatant and intense. Though it can be heavy-going in parts due to a heavy black atmosphere, the music is often very minimal and every bit of sound, no matter how far back in the distance it seems to be, can be discerned. Quite a lot of polish and care must have been applied here even though the music has its demented moments.

For fans of the bands whose members participated in creating this work of dark twisted soundscapes with a mystical message, this album is a must-have that showcases a more varied and experimental side of their heroes.

Supermax

Retro 2038 (EDITIONS MEGO 172) from COH is Ivan Pavlov’s immaculate album of futuristic disco-tech minimalism from the later 21st-century or some such…he probably did it using time-travel methods, while also harking back with a fond eye to retro and vintage modes of pulsation and boundage techno music, about which I am ill-informed…one would have to imagine a blueprint or schematic form of graphical score for a super-imaginary work that balances perfectly astride the entire Kraftwerk-Moroder axis, albeit reduced and stripped down so that only small, atomic-sized particles remain for digestion by the hungry biscuit-muncher. I was on safer ground with 2010’s IIRON from this guy, as that was more of a noisy guitar album in the area of intellectual heavy metal. But I can see this well-produced and finely polished set insinuating its way into my system, by dint of its smooth surfaces and inhumanly clean sounds, propelled by crisp and crunchy mini-beats. “Contains no instrument samples, patches or other additives”, is the proud boast of Pavlov as he brands his work “100% home-made computer sound”, almost as if it were a product from the supermarket. From May 2013.

Minimetal are a rum duo of Swiss guys who perform on stage as a guitar-and-drum duo, apparently wearing top hats and tuxedos while doing so. They’ve gotten into music from a background in the visual arts – design, sculpture and painting, so right away one can’t help but wonder if there’s a performance-art slant to their act. Apparently they formed in 1994, and were fans of Kyuss and other stoner / rock bands of that period…they only wrote 11 songs, and their entire act consists of repeating this slightly limited repertoire to anyone who will listen. On one level they might be accused of starting off as a parody and have now evolved to the point where they’re parodying themselves, but I think there’s likely to be more going on under the surface. The songs on this record are genuinely strong examples of mesmerising and compelling rock, but they’re also performed with a precision and attention to detail which you won’t find in the music of 90% of sloppy west coast slacker bands of the 1990s. Even the vocals are a spot-on impersonation of that throaty American grunty style of singing; you might have to pause to remind yourself that they’re actually European musicians. At no time though is there any sense that Minimetal are mocking the genre, its musicians, fans, or audiences, and Never Hang Around (SPEZIAL MATERIAL SM043CD023) is a thoroughly enjoyable listen of ultra-steady rock rhythms, precision-tooled riffing and relentless syncopation. I suppose the anomalous factor is that they perform this set in art galleries rather than rock venues, but there’s nothing especially odd about that – after all how many New Wave and noise bands have performed at London’s ICA? The top hat and tuxedo gimmick might be read as a nod in the direction of The Residents, but I think it’s more likely to be another carefully-planned gesture of irony; choosing costumes that are uncomfortable and well-groomed in order to position themselves as the diametric opposite of the grunge and stoner “style”, with its comfortable leisure wear, trainers and denims, and loose sweatshirts worn over t-shirts. From 7th May 2013.

Drums and guitar are utilised in a quite different mode by Glockenspiel on their Dupleix (BABEL LABEL BVOR12108) album. The duo of Adrian Dollemore and Steve d’Enton emerge from a background in UK improvisation, and are now cocooning out of that shell into a species of ambient beat-driven jazz drone, played with Dollemore’s diffused and effects-laden guitar and d’Enton’s rather languid beats. Not unpleasant, but much of the music is a bit too smooth and cosy for me, with the exception of ‘Bellville’ which has a lot more in the way of ragged edges, discordant notes, and fire in the guts; moments of ‘Fentanyl’ work in this way too, disrupting the otherwise rather polite tone of the album. One slight reservation one might express is how dated this approach to making music seems now; Dupleix could have been made in 1996, and its aspirations towards Sonic Youth, Krautrock, and ambient music feel a bit tired and unengaging. From 13 May 2013.

Mutatis Mobilis (ATTENUATION CIRCUIT ACR 1028) is a fine item by the great Freiband (i.e. Frans de Waard), sent to us in May 2013 from this Germal label who do package their droney output in some fine tactile plastic lunchboxes for our delectation. I suppose there are two main characteristics to note with Mutatis Mobilis – its interactiveness, and its extremely recycled nature. As to the interactive dimension, Frans has timed and edited these two suites of ultra-processed drone so that they last precisely the same length; the listener is invited to open both tracks on the computer, using a suitable audio program, so that they can be played back and listened to simultaneously. And even remixed in real time, if the user entertains such proclivities. I haven’t yet tried it myself, but I expect Audacity would do the job effectively, and it’s an open source program which I recommend. However, with this release De Waard is trying to move away from strictly “digital” methods and is harking back to the 1980s when TEAC four-track machines enabled the bold experimenter to do amazing things on cassette tapes with overdubs, mixage, and bouncing-down. Matter of fact the label also released this album as a cassette (15 copies only, though) in hopes that owners of original Portastudios could get stuck in. As to the recycling element, Mutatis Mobilis uses source material created by Freiband blended with other source material from the album Mutatis Mutandis by Aalfang mit Pferdekopf, which itself was created out of sound samples provided by Freiband. This collaborative “reprocess my stuff, dude” spirit seems to be one of the mainstays of 1980s experimentation (I was just mentioning it the other day in reference to P16.D4), and Freiband are clearly steeped in that work ethic. With the multiple configurations and reconfigurations of material that are taking place here, further compounded by the possibilities that we might introduce if we open up this CD in Audacity, Mutatis Mobilis is clearly a work that is never actually “completed” in the ordinary sense of the term. From 20 May 2013.

Upset Twilight

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From 12 March 2013, fabulous cassette in a mostly black package from the swell Fang Bomb label of Goteborg. As you may know Fang Bomb is a personal favourite of mine for some reason. Maybe we share the same sense of the macabre. If they were a printing or engraving workshop, they would etch their lines deep and use a black ink of the deepest hue, resulting in evil tomes which, when opened, would give the reader forbidden glimpses of an ashen world and induce nuclear-holocaust strength headaches. Imaginary Forces is the London composer Anthoney J. Hart, who comes to us from a background shaped by 1990s drum and bass music, and whose Begotten (FB022) is a very rich piece of complex dark ambient music, with multiple layers – “environmental field recordings, the chug of train on rail, percussive chatters, insect song and whipping wind” all fed into its creation, selon thequietus.com. The fact that he was approached by Anthony Di Franco for a collaboration may also help you to situate his work. That and the fact that Begotten is based on his own personal obsession with a movie of the same name. I expect he’s referring to the 1990 experimental horror film made by E. Elias Merhige, which looks like it could be a mind-searing experience. Ironically, Hart spent a lot of money getting hold of a copy of this deleted item, but for the non-squeamish among you it can be viewed on YouTube now. The music of Imaginary Forces is compelling, not quite as “bleak” as much emptied-out dronery I’ve heard in this area, where the creators insist that we accept and participate in their sense of futility, and endure the aural equivalent of sub-zero temperatures that numb the brain. By contrast, Begotten gives us a lot to listen to and in its subtle layering often appears to be spinning in four directions at once, its elements shimmering and shuffling apart like decrepit tree limbs slowly withering away before our eyes. Yet it also retains an insistent and mesmerising power. Hart seems to have found a way to suffuse and disguise his pulsations so that they have the same impact as an entire week spent in a club with high-volume dance music, yet remain almost imperceptible in the mix.

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Here’s CD 2 of the mammoth P16.D4 box set Passagen (MONOTYPE RECORDS mono58) which we broached some weeks ago. For Distruct, the trio of Ralf Wehowsky, Roger Schönauer and Ewald Weber were joined by Stefan Schmidt, Gerd Neumann, Thomas Memmler and Peter Lambert, for these 1982-1984 recordings which were released by Selektion on LP in 1985. RLW had been given the idea – by Harry C. Poole of Smegma – to do a remote collaboration; Poole proposed to send across tapes from America for P16.D4 to complete, without having to meet up. Apparently the American found the idea of a thousand-mile distance extremely appealing. This kind of thing is fairly commonplace nowadays, especially since file-sharing has been made easier by the internet, but I suppose it was an innovative and bold step in the early 1980s. Although Smegma don’t actually appear on the finished item, RLW went ahead with the idea anyway, and with his characteristic productiveness organised collaborations with numerous international names from the “noise” and “industrial” music areas. Consequently, you can hear contributions from Bladder Flask, DDAA, De Fabriek, The Haters, Merzbow, Nocturnal Emissions, Achim Wollschied and Nurse With Wound, plus many others. Even an anonymous submission was used for this ambitious postal project; on ‘Aufmarsch, Heimlich’ you can hear a choir from a tape sent to the band from somewhere in Eastern Europe. Said tape has of course been severely mangled by RLW’s unusual treatments and deep slices as he wields the scissors of truth. Impossible to summarise the intense and wild music on this release – every track seems to exhibit a different approach or inhabit a new sound-world – but one thing they all have in common is that they produce very disjointed, broken and difficult listens. The rubble and bracken of unpleasant noise is jumbled and rehacked every which way, resulting in an extremely uncomfortable ride. Truly radical deconstruction techniques at work here. While admirable and important, it’s not much fun to listen to with its general air of nihilism and misery, although I found some respite from the grimness on ‘Les Honteuses Alliances’, whose success might be attributable to the fact that it’s a multiple collaboration: Merzbow, Bladder Flask, Nocturnal Emissions and Phil Johnson all supplied elements to the work, although once again it’s mostly Wehowsky putting the materials into the frame. A very clever and elaborate frame it is too, one made of robust wooden struts and held together with dovetail joints and screws. The CD release includes a couple of related bonus tracks, which have only been available previously as part of a subscription-only Vinyl On Demand box set.

BlakesianWilliamness: a heady noise psychedelic journey of inner space

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Holism Gaea, BlakesianWilliamness, Heart & Crossbone, CDR-HCB042 (2013)

As its title suggests, this debut album by new duo Holism Gaea is inspired by the British poet / artist William Blake, in particular his early personal philosophy as expressed in his work “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell”. I must admit I know very little about Blake and have not read that work but I hazard that some of its ideas on dualism in art and human existence prefigure Friedrich Nietzsche’s later concept of the development of art and culture in Western societies, revolving around two polarities of Apollonian order, structure and authoritarianism on the one hand, and Dionysian spontaneity, inspiration and creativity on the other. To be honest, I get very little sense of Blake’s early dualistic worldview from this recording and I think your enjoyment of the music need not depend on knowing any of the writer’s corpus.

The music is a mix of noise, tribal and space ambient, and post-industrial. “Antares Fall” leads off with a sinister beat against a weird spitting and hissing space-travel noise / electronica background. Cold sculptured tone effects form a repeating melodic motif while wubbly electronic sounds erupt and bubble continuously. The track develops into a lumbering majestic opus of mesmeric spooky voodoo rhythms and beats, runaway electronic thrills and flips, and echoes of a distant alien god looking over its cosmic creation and voicing more commands as galaxies and nebulae spring into being and fly out to the farthest reaches of the universe. Altogether this is a most strange and impressive opus that could well stand on its own as it draws in listeners and takes them on a trip through huge vistas of space at the speed of light. “But into the Wine Presses” is a more mysterious piece of spiralling noise and frothing texture over which sharp pin-prick tones dance lightly. “Ah! Sunflower” is a wonderful track of both early shuddering noise storm, eerie UFO lift-off effects and warm gentle cosmic-space tone ambience over which the Blake poem of the same name is recited.

More deliriously cosmic trance music, highly immersive to the point where it might be overwhelming and suffocating, follows: “The Argument” especially is a dark and sinister psychedelic mindfuck of wobbling rubber drone and abrasive texture crunch and shuffle. A robot voice detracts from the music which is forced to assume a more passive role while the vocals drone on but whenever the speaking stops, the noises and tones are able to fly as sky-high or as deep in the bowels of Sheol as they like. The album concludes with another epic space voyage that takes listeners deeper into realms and sub-realms of the extended universe as its branches stretch ever further into infinity. The sounds and textures quickly overflow the limits of restraint and boil into exaggerated clouds of noise chaos. The structure collapses and cannibalises itself, staving off final implosion where it can. But Dark Nemesis claims her own eventually.

This is quite heady music, highly absorbing especially when the singing or chanting ends and allows the instrumentals to launch themselves as far into the firmament of the heavens as they can. At times though some passages of music can become a bit comical possibly because the musicians let themselves go with the music and it flows or falls into excess. A lot of the music here is not exactly original; most parts will sound familiar to people already steeped in epic space-ambient psychedelia and it seems as if Blake’s early philosophy provides a convenient excuse for an all-embracing space-voyage soundtrack. But if you simply want music to transport you away into inner space, there are few recordings that can match this one for its consistency.

Toxic Beach Party

OLD KOMM 1

Old Komm
Ventspils EP
UK DISCREPANT CREP08 EP (2013)

Latvia’s sixth largest city, Ventspils, has been a shipbuilding history that goes back to the Sixteenth Century. The port’s ice free harbour still makes it an important transportation hub today, so a record which presents electronic music derived from field recordings made in various locations around Ventspils promises a vaguely maritime listening experience, or so I first thought. This is not the case. I failed to recognise any obvious sounds derived from water, ships, heavy plant, cranes and so forth.

An intriguing 12” ep here. Old Komm declare the presence of field recordings, broken synths, found sound and church pipe organs. The first side is peppered with vocal samples like “no other attempt was made” and CITE. Tones could have been supplied by machines from a dental surgery or the cardiology ward of your local hospital. Vintage voltage-controlled synthesisers boosted with Warfarin. The beats are minimal and sullen; they seem from another world on this side, helping as they do only to propel the sinister bass frequencies. After this, there is an interlude with what sounds like the auto-accompaniment feature on one of Leslie Crowther’s massive old one-finger Kimball home entertainment keyboards.

But then things get a bit more abstracted.

From the robot cat purr paired with feedback samples played on a broken midi keyboard on an ironing board for a stand (perhaps) could be the source of the following musical development here – and musical it certainly is – despite their heavy use of samples and field recordings, these sources are arranged in a similar way as if they were traditional musical instrumentation.

Digital water drips, digital cowbells patter, handheld digital hard-drive recorders capture rain splashing on hot tin roofs. What’s interesting here is that Old Komm have an undoubted talent for production; for example, there are some cheap-sounding general midi-type sounds here but they are buried so low in the mix that their very nature is changed from the banal to the exotic. More vocal samples but detourned this time around – only vaguely reminiscent of human speech. A colossal, possibly the world’s largest, Leslie Rotary Speaker eventually comes to rest in a power cut while a Soviet politician rants and a “choir of angels” synth preset (038 on the Roland JV1080 or similar), while a car politely beeps its horn. Something extremely low-end attempts to shred my speaker cones before the sounds of waves breaking on a beach merge with the sound of fluff on the needle on a run-out groove (not mine – I checked), in a kind of post-apocalyptic beach party for the infected.

As I turn the record over, I’m expecting more of the same on side B, but am surprised to discover a completely different view of the city.

More heavy on the field recordings, but this time heavily processed and with a melodic low-register element hung off them. Its clear field recording techniques have been employed in the pre production, but the result is open, narrative and cinematic only without the detail and verve of Mecha/Orga or David Velez, for example. But these are perhaps unfair comparisons – Old Komm present themselves as an electronic act and not field recordists exclusively.

The nicely laid out sepia-toned cover is festooned with detailed photographs by Sergey Gorsky of Ventspils port itself, and the inner sleeve displays a series of shots of the interior of a ruined building presumably somewhere therein.

A vinyl edition of 250.

Discrepant

OLD KOMM 2

Free Fall

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Mathias Delplanque
Chutes
BASKARU KARU 23 CD (2013)

Musician, composer and improviser Mathias Delplanque’s latest album is a series of moody, textured instrumental pieces, recorded between 2010 and 2012. It’s a meditative and atmospheric work, full of mysterious clanks and disembodied twangs and chimes, like a gamelan orchestra played by robots.

Delplanque plays everything on the album himself – a right royal panoply of instruments and sound making gear ranging from electronics and guitar, through bells, metallaphone, melodica, kalimbas to various percussion and what the release notes mysteriously call ‘various objects’ – hooking it all up to a portable digital recording studio, before hitting ‘record’ and seeing what happens.

It’s the opposite to what those genius hermits – artists like Todd Rundgren, Prince or, more latterly, Burial come to mind – do, carefully crafting their pieces in the studio, painstakingly layering track on track to create the perfect tune.

Delplanque doesn’t do that. His pieces were recorded live – ‘there was no overdubbing,’ his notes tell us sternly – his recording setup enabling him to play, manipulate, edit and mix the sounds he makes on the fly. You can see it in action here.

The result is a curious mix, part composition, part improvisation, organic in feel, yet often mechanical in sound and texture, and makes for rich listening. In ‘Flo’, for example, its beautiful, shimmering intro, formed of bells and metallaphone gradually transmutes into twanging, clicking chorus, all underpinned by what sounds like a factory assembly line in the background.

Opener ‘So’ also draws from a palette of electronic and acoustic sound, but there’s a tenser, glitchier feel. It’s like something from ‘Rounds’-era Four Tet, with the jittery euphoria replaced with a caffeine-induced jumpiness.

There’s a pleasing consistency to the pieces on this album, Delplanque employing a similar armoury of instruments throughout. He keeps things interesting though, able to vary the mood and feel of each track with subtle variations of tempo and arrangement. In ‘Fell’ a distorted guitar gives the piece a gloomy, subterranean feel, its twang and resultant feedback echoing through the piece and complemented by a lovely bass drone.

This is all undoubtedly impressive. Yet I’m left with an overriding impression of, well, tastefulness. Delplanque’s pieces are poised, sinuous and are admirably well put together. But there’s just not enough grit here to jolt me out of my reveries, as if Delplanque has been too careful, too measured in his improvisation and too keen in his edits to smooth out any rough edges. Get loose and relinquish control, Monsieur Delplanque – what’s the worst that could happen?

Killer Drone

IELASI JAEGER 1

Guiseppe Ielasi & Kassel Jaeger
Parallel / Greyscale
AUSTRIA EDITIONS MEGO eMEGO161 LP (2012)

Two sides of pulmonary bass drones, growling sped-down tapes, and winter birch tree arteries of atonal synth – a kind of dystopian In C. Both these pieces are live documents of a new duo performing firstly, with all analogue equipment in Paris in October of 2011; the second, with a digital set-up this time, in Oreno the following June.

Giuseppe Ielasi runs Senufo Editions and has releases on Erstwhile, a 7” boxset on Holiday Records, and has contributed his mastering skills for certain releases on the UK’s excellent Consumer Waste label. Kassel Jaeger, I understand, has previous on Editions Mego, Senufo Editions, Unfathomless, and Antisolar.

The first side, designated Parallel, has tentacles like a giant deep sea octopus surfacing through the spume in horrific slow motion to drag an unsuspecting clipper to its watery end. There are bodies in the water but vital signs are barely registering. The flooded ship’s radio is producing tones that could be fractured Morse code or the reverb-tails of demonic tuning forks. Suddenly, the performance sounds weirdly digital – like there is the presence of software, but we are assured it is all analogue equipment being employed here. Then there’s the presence of what sounds like processed wind-buffeted microphones or the overheard heartbeat of something too near and too unspeakable. There is the sense that machines are at work here; but rather than helpfully and obediently carrying out the musicians’ sonic wishes, they are unstoppably macerating something organic. Tapes run backwards in one channel with digital artefacts running in the other. Fizzing, burning? Are they physically dismantling their machines in real time? I’m sure I can hear cassettes being manipulated/maltreated in the background.

Later, knives are heard being sharpened in an isolated tone-composition. Dangerous levels of moisture build-up on the leaves of plants, tendrils; excess oxide build-up on monolithic tape heads. The familiar and comforting sound of pitched down church organ, while the bearings on the capstan wear down and squeak.

Parallel is a massive, killer, sabre-toothed drone. Like the gates of hell are yawning open while the fragments of electronic pop song whip around in the maelstrom only visible now and again; like when anything accidentally gets sucked into the mammoth turbines of a hydro-electric plant – it doesn’t stand a chance. This is not quiet music; it’ll take your head off. Complex digital flutterings. Reinforced concrete stretches to breaking point, exposing the rusty reinforcement within, tarmacadam bubbles, masonry condenses and vaporises. That kind of thing. About as heavy as electro-acoustic improvisation gets these days. Warm and cold fronts collide. Or occlude. Whatever, once you sit this on your turntable’s platter you’re in for stormy weather.

The flip side, Greyscale is described as “…more laptop oriented”, and this is the performance from Orena, and is apparently only the second time Ielasi and Jaeger performed together. Here are sounds derived from rotation, possibly. Curiously, of the two, this one sounds more “live” to me despite the stated presence of laptops. New and devastating uses of DSP processing and mid-air refuelling. Satellites communicate; distant choirs transmitting from the 11th Century. Ruined abbeys protected by glass boxes – if you want to have a nosy around, its ten pound a punter into the pocket of the National Trust. Sounds grabbed from synthesisers combined with close-mic’ed table object manipulation. As regards an uninformed guess as to possible techniques employed, a lot of rubbing of the microphones themselves perhaps? A radio telescope being demolished slowly in remote woodland. Nature pushes back. Creepers creep, a briar curls over an abandoned stone cottage. If you sit in your car and fall asleep every time you visit a place of interest, it is no wonder your local knowledge is so poor. Just tell me which lay-by you’re going to be in and I’ll come and pick you up. They’ve mic’ed up a snake’s nervous system. Whoa. Back in the room. You’ve probably guessed that this is far more ambient to my ears than the Paris side. And all the better for it.