Tagged: dub

Churches Schools and Guns: minimal electronic soundtrack to a techno-dystopia

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Lucy, Churches Schools and Guns, Stroboscopic Artefacts, SACD005 (2014)

No, “Lucy” isn’t a woman in case you’re wondering: it’s a solo project by Berlin-based producer / DJ / sound designer Luca Mortellaro who also owns the label Stroboscopic Artefacts. “Churches Schools and Guns” is the quirky title of this offering of dark and slightly sinister minimal techno-dub whose central theme might be a futuristic survey of a dysfunctional society addicted to paranoid technological visions amplified and manipulated by media designed to mirror and reflect back to us our deepest phobias in order to keep us all afraid of one another and so prevent our revolt against the forces oppressing us. I confess that initially when I got this album, I thought it should have said “Churches Schools Post Offices and Guns” but that would have suggested a more particular vision peculiar to societies where “going postal” means something more than popping a letter or a parcel into the mail-box.

Though divided into 12 tracks, the music is best heard as a continuous soundtrack of deep space techno-ambient rhythms. Individual tracks, while they may contain some interesting sounds, rhythms and audio-textures, turn out to be very repetitive and (in the second half of the album) monotonous, unable to advance much further than the initial rhythm and beat loops. While early tracks set down definite atmosphere and mood of an ambiguous and slightly malevolent nature, delineating the start of a tour of the future global panopticon where consumers of manufactured experience huddle in their cells, afraid to look outside, the tracks in the later half of the album seem less confident and the early strong direction dissipates.

Some tracks are very distinctive by virtue of machine-like rhythms (“Laws and Habits” which might suggest that the regulations and conventions we have are our jailers), crisp crackly pulsation beats (“Follow the Leader” which also features a very creepy throat-singing sample loop) or a robot vocal (“Leave Us Alone”). “We Live as We Dream” seems a hopeful track though the title itself suggests a double-edge sword: our dreams are all that sustain us but they might well be more nightmare than dream.

Ultimately though this album promises a lot, it doesn’t quite reach its potential as a soundtrack to an imaginary dystopian techno-world. I’m hoping Lucy’s follow-up work will take up where this one leaves off as I think Lucy could work itself into a niche of very dark ambient minimalist techno soundscape art not reliant on dance beats and rhythms.

Contact: Stroboscopic Artefacts

Buried Secrets

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Airchamber3
Peripheral
FRATTONOVE fratto023 CD (2013)

According its creators, the Italian improvising trio Airchamber3, this record was conceived as a soundtrack to an imaginary film. It is a fitting description for such viscous, textured music. The group’s creative process – improvising on various acoustic and electronic instruments augmented by comprehensive processing and editing – results in a set of layered and textured pieces that are somewhere between free improvisation, post-rock and an unheimlich ambient sound.

‘Dopamine Yuppie Dub’ is a great example of this approach in action. A burst of static ushers in a stealthily paced bass line. It’s gradually enveloped in layers of guitar, resonating and dampened, plucked strings and squalling chords. Squalling tones pile sound upon sound. Each instrument, loop or noise seems to exist in its own world yet is also part of the whole. Just as we’re getting into the post-rock vibe, a dark burst of noise covers everything, like a thunderstorm appearing out of nowhere on a summer’s day.

Unease continues on ‘The Buried Secret Inside My Ventricles’, Andrea Serrapiglio’s cello sawing ominously on a bed of queasy drones as brother Luca picks out equally disconcerting phrases on the bass clarinet. It’s all unresolved tension, a creeping shadow that vanishes as soon as you turn around.

Yet that’s just a dress rehearsal compared to the sheer daemonic horror of ‘Recollecting Pieces of Treasured Memories’. It’s a piece that resembles a nightmarishly time-stretched ballad, thanks to a fantastically eldritch vocal contribution from Vincenzo Vasi. His gothick declamations are a canticle of dread, bringing to mind Jocelyn Pook’s terrifying Masked Ball, deployed to such disturbing effect in Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut.

Fortunately for my sanity, it’s not all trippy darkness. ‘Tunnel Vision’ offers up a collage of guitar mayhem and Scanner-style found sound snatches. ‘Crippling Approach Anxiety’s naggingly insistent clockwork groove is a jerky marvel, nicely complemented by wriggling electronics and tin tack guitar.

There are more vocals on ‘A Body Is A Map Of Bruises’, this time a jazzy croon from Barbara De Dominicis. Over fuzzy clouds of digital mush, reedy moans and cello exotica she casts a haunting, nostalgic presence, her voice drifting in and out of audibility as if being conjured from the digital aether. It’s ghostly, melancholic, and full of pathos.

Peripheral is enigmatic and liquid sound. Not a set for listeners keen for jazzy display of virtuosity, the playing pared down and rarely strays from minimal phrases, augmented with noise and samples, building blocks for the trio’s musical welding. Yet it is an evocative wonder, a slow-motion carousel of sounds and images, a dream in which you are only half-awake.

The Infinity Dub Sessions: an uneven set of dark desperate dub techno minimalism

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Deadbeat and Paul St Hilaire, The Infinity Dub Sessions, BLKRTZ, CD BLKRTZ008 (2014)

Although this CD represents their first studio recording together, the two artists Deadbeat aka Scott Monteith and Paul St Hilaire aka Tikiman have collaborated in live situations on and off since they met over a decade ago in Montreal and discovered a common interest in dub music. On this album, the duo have gone for a dark minimalist musical approach on songs bound by a theme of the stress of modern life and how one can find comfort and purpose in a hard world where machine rhythms and routines dictate our thinking and behaviour.

There’s a sense of desperation in the opener “Hold On Strong”, a relentless and bleak if understated pulsing track. Reggae influences are strong in this song and on all other songs: they are in the rhythms, the voices and the music and lyric structures. What listeners might not expect is the cold and subtle, near-industrial nature of the sounds nor the open black spaces within each and every piece. A strong sense of urban alienation and a feeling of a cold, seemingly forbidding yet alluring and seductive hyper-technology that dominates life are present. An unseen eminence grise, sensed more than heard or felt yet pulling the strings here, might be moving slowly and confidently in the deep dark background.

Hope and frustration mix in tracks like “What the Heck Them Expect”, notable for its superficially lazy-loping rhythm, and “Working Everyday”, a repeating mantra of resignation and despair over an insistent looping rhythm that lures you into its dark trance world: this is the strongest track on the album in spite of (or maybe because of) its never-ending Moebius-strip structure. Sparse, seemingly empty yet yielding ever more from its depths, this soundtrack to work drudgery might just be in danger of advertising for it; the two dub musicians should not push their luck too hard. The constant repetition is both asset and liability: a couple of later songs on the album drag the whole thing down with repeating loops of unremarkable music and lyrics (“Rock of Creation” and “Little Darling”) though some of the sound effects can be good. Closing track “Peace and Love” brings an impression of hope over despair with an emotionally moving rhythm, a strong beat and
equally affecting melodies and lyrics.

It has its ups and downs and I’m sorry to say they’re in the ratio of 50:50 for this style of dark minimalist dub techno. The music is beautifully constructed with gorgeous sounds, a clear three-dimensional ambience and memorable rhythm structures. It’s weak in the song-writing department with too much repetition in most tracks which sometimes give an impression of not knowing how to climax and then get out of the way quickly. I’m sure though the two musicians will continue working together in the studio because the sound they have is too good to leave to just one album. I confess I don’t listen to much dub and reggae at all but I think I know a quality act when I hear one and these guys definitely have the potential to be leaders in their genre.

Contact: Deadbeat / BLKRTZ

Ominous Green Energy

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Tag Cloud
Winter Hours
USA ZEROMOON ZERO149 CD (2013)

Not to be confused with Boston resident Justin Mayfield’s amateurish but strangely charming “noisy space-core adventures” project of the same name, this Tag Cloud is Washington-based Chris Videll who describes his music as “DIY drone/noise”. He has a previous release on Zeromoon called Named Entities. Videll’s sonic arsenal on Winter Hours is disclosed in the following terms: “…electronics, casio, fx, loops, pitch pipe, shruti box, insomnia…” It’s the first time I’ve heard of insomnia played as an instrument on a recording, and a long time since I’ve noticed a pitch pipe credit but there you go. The first track, ‘Ominous Green Energy’, reminds me of late 90s UK vintage analogue experimentalists Kaleidophon (not to be confused with the 1960/70s production studio of the same name run by White Noise’s Michael Vorhaus), featuring as it does ethereal Casiotone 701-like sounds, nifty backwards rhythms, and plenty of slow, deliberate delay pedal manipulation. The next track, ‘The Past’, also features delay manipulation – it sounds analogue but it could possibly be the sound of guest musician Dan Barbiero’s Geomungo App. A Geomungo, a quick internet search reveals, is a Korean zither. Incidentally, Daniel Barbiero also has releases on Zeromoon. The third piece, ‘Grendel Dub (version)’, is a dim and murky foray into repetitive electro drum programming, possibly sourced from the ubiquitous Casio, combined with droney samples or “loops”. Here, regrettably, at 2am, a fine mist of pointlessness settles over the harbour. I regret to inform you, dear reader, that it was altogether likely that it would put me to sleep, perhaps forever, such was the unchangingly tedious nature of it. And where the dub element came in I’m not sure. Post-Stefan Bettke’s Pole project, I concede that dub has developed in new and interesting ways, but the utter dub invisibility of ‘Grendel’ is not one of them.

Happily, by the fourth track, ‘Years’, things are getting more interesting. Immediately compelling, the gauze is finer and the mist is turning to fog but the welcome lack of rhythmic drive allows thoughts to form more easily and when the bass end does finally emerge – still drone-like – it brought a big smile to my face. Constantly moving and evolving. A short duration this track; one I could have enjoyed over a longer duration for sure. In summary, then, a flawed yet strangely enjoyable album.

Vinyl Sevens round-up (3 of 3)

Nice hit of modern dub music from Diggory Kenrick and Tapes, on the druggy-themed ‘Pipe Cleaner’ c/w ‘This Weed’s Making Me Nervous’ (MEEUW MUZAK MM043). Actually Kenrick only appears on ‘Pipe Cleaner’ providing the fantastic “spacey” flute playing, and curious listeners who enjoy such woodwind artistry may want to seek out his single ‘The Lion Flute’ on Coptic Lion from 2012. The flute adds warmth to what is otherwise enjoyable but also merely capable reggae music, where the digitally-sequenced bass comes off a shade too clean and may disappoint hard-core King Tubby fans. However, Tapes (London player Jackson James Bailey) clearly knows his dub music and has been experimenting for years with interesting attempts at cross-pollination, blending dub rhythms with extreme electronica effects. Arrived 05/12/2012.

Mysterious single of day (RLEP01) which we have had since around March 2011. Turns out to be by Stefan Blomeier and its two tracks are ‘Popular Electronics II’ and ‘Radio Astronomy’, but there’s nothing printed on the release except the label name Research Laboratory of Electronic Progress. It’s a brilliant brace of highly entertaining “retro” synth instrumentals, very analogue and assembled with a great deal of warmth and humour. One side is extremely melodic and catchy, the other side slightly more quirked-out and bizarre. I see he’s since done a 12-inch for Lux Rec called ‘Unexpected Journey’ and may also have something to do with Dark Acid II, a compilation for Clan Destine Traxx where he appears with Claire. Depending on which section of the internet you believe, Stefan Blomeier is a Danish mathematician or a Glasgow fine artist. Maybe both are true. Either way this record wins this week’s prize for outstanding fidelity in the Radiophonic field.

The team-up of Kevin Drumm, Jérôme Noetinger and Robert Piotrowicz made the Wrestling (BC04) single for Bocian Records. Right there you’ve got an all-time winning threesome as far as I’m concerned, and I know each of these fellows has produced or been associated with some truly wild / highly accomplished records of electronic music 1. This is why I’m so baffled that Wrestling turns out to be a rather damp Roman candle, sputtering out the odd blue flame when it should be shooting continual bright sparks like a gigantic Catherine Wheel. The synths, live electronics and guitars form an odd desultory jumble, and performances don’t quite cohere enough. It feels like it’s taking place in a festival “workshop” environment, where everything is under-rehearsed, unpolished, and slightly stilted. The release uses a “wrestling” metaphor, with its reference to the mysterious parable about Jacob wrestling the Angel. I doubt if the artistes intend to depict their improvisatory bout as a wrestling session; rather, the texts on the back emphasise the duration of this day-long biblical struggle, the fact that the Angel does not prevail, and something to do with giving Jacob a new name.

From 21 February 2012, a bizarre and unsettling item by Foi Pour Pusillanime (NO LABEL). This self-titled seven-inch is the teamup of Caroline Ehretique with the infamous Ogrob, whose renegade works we recently noted as one fourth of Micro_Penis, but this French creator has many other guises. There are six short compositions on this little weirdie, all with surreal titles such as ‘Vascularisation Maximale’ or ‘Les Enfants de la nuit’, and realised mostly with electronics and voices; you know you just have to own any record where the Ondes Martenot is played, likewise the ‘chiropteran echolocation’ device – which I would guess refers to a bat detector. For me, this tasty noirish creepfest has all the hallmarks of genuine artistic experiment – there’s a real boldness to these statements, along with a sense that the creators don’t much care if anyone’s even listening, so long as they have the chance to explore these interior landscapes from the dark side of their souls, and report back with piecemeal but unedited fragments of delirium captured on tape. All home-made, strikingly original, low key, and in places genuinely unsettling. The sleeve is a handmade linocut, it unfolds into an outsize frieze, and there were three other variants of this cover issued.

  1. Hear Piotrowicz’s Rurokura And The Final Warn if you can find it.

Brooklyn Connection

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DJ Olive Featuring Honeychild Coleman
THWIS
USA THE AGRICULTURE AG055 CD (2013)

Looking past the tiresome and arbitrary nature of journalistic neologisms such as ‘post-rock’ and ‘folktronica’, usually utilised to fence in disparate but geographically proximate artists, I have to say that I never felt there was much substance to the music that fell under the ‘illbient’ banner back in the ‘90s. Wordsound releases often hit the spot (were they illbient?) but little else. I gave DJ Olive’s We™ a try and quickly traded it in, the same with some of DJ Spooky’s stuff. Whatever parties they were playing at, I certainly wasn’t invited, nor was I covetous. So with a hint of apprehension I have given this one a shot, many years on.

To my surprise, it’s a warm and friendly post-party playlist of minimal dub/dancehall rhythms infused with tickly twinkles and drizzlings of delay. Snare – as is pointed out – is largely absent, and the drum palette is sparse by design. This effectively foregrounds whatever rhythm or texture Olive has established as the dominating feature at any given time. For the most part, the music sits innocuously on the border between background and mood music: neither to be ignored nor distracting, and always effusive when engaged, if a little forumlaic. This attribute is mitigated somewhat by the silken tonsils of vocalist Honeychild Coleman, whose invitation to ‘come home’ (with her) and such on several tracks will inevitably prove divisive. Personally, I’ve never been one for ballsy R&B voices, so I’ll skip, thanks. If you’re fine with that, you can fill your boots for roughly a third of the album.

By Olive’s admission, this work is the culmination of ‘countless hours’ refinement – both live and in studio. The process presumably being one of paring down operations; to the point at which – I imagine – it was probably a relief just to get it out there. Still, the care shows, every track exudes a feel-good exuberance – and for me it’s a surprisingly appealing formula. At the same time, I find the evidently painstaking approach amusing, considering how King Tubby’s early dub inventions supposedly arose from happy accidents.

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Locust
You’ll Be Safe Forever
AUSTRIA EDITIONS MEGO 162 CD (2013)

Latest on the list of superannuated rock star cash-ins is the return of Londoner, Mark Van Hoen’s Locust project after a 12-year absence, his better-known work under the alias being a number of records on labels R&S and Apollo in the ‘90s. Word has it that Locust’s latest dispatch arose serendipitously during a jam session with one Louis Sherman in the latter’s Brooklyn studio, prior to a set on WFMU radio. The duo went on to record and perform live, the fruits filling much of this album. I’m guessing that they’re the ones that sound an awful lot like Boards of Canada, who seem to be the main muse here, right down to their hazy swirls, starry stabs, and predilection for interludes between every fully realised idea. Which is not in itself a bad thing – lest we forget the many layers of that much-cited duo’s popular music, which reward repeated listens as easily as the upper blanketing confirms impatient accusations of homogeneity. Observe, for example, the mechanical, shuffling snares that subtly counterpoint woozy, atmospheric stabs and clicks in ‘Fall For Me’ and ‘Oh Yeah’ – two of the album’s stronger offerings. Other tracks express less subtlety, favouring a more overwhelming collision of big drums and vocal samples, ‘Just Want You’ being one such example. Climate changes towards the less expansive in the final third of the album (mood remaining reflective albeit): stretched and muted guitars make more ‘90s allusions, certainly to Seefeel; the more moon-booted jazz moments to Herbaliser and even Amon Tobin. Make no mistake, surprises are not on offer here, nor is the nostalgia for the unnameable. However, these ‘post-trip-hop’ (to coin an inevitable future trope) ditties should fail only to displease.

Lord Tang’s Haunted House of Dub

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Lord Tang
Hello
ALARM AV002 LP (2013)

Why does everything sound so ‘hauntological’ these days? Take ‘Fog’ – the opening to ‘Hello’ – in which wibbly-wobbly hills of dubby bass are spooked by a warbling whine, fuzzed-up and visited by vintage movie samples that speak of ‘fog’ (though a tad plosively on the ‘g’, leaving me to wonder if I just heard the f-word). It sets the ghostly tone for what’s to come, and though not an unwelcome tone by any means – possibly a little closer to the faux-naiveté of the much-missed Plone than the now well-ensconced Ghost Box stable – the preponderance of such music over the last few years renders increasingly familiar that which would be ‘eldritch’.

To be fair, the designs of Lord Tang – one Dominic Cramp, of Gigante Sound, Evangelista, Vulcanus 68 (etc.) fame – are on whimsical interpretations of his cherished ‘Golden Age’ dubs, and the tracks comprise a diverse set of variations on this variable. Matters quickly mutate out of hand – cobwebbed and lead-footed one minute; agitated by an obsessive organ dirge the next, suggesting that deep troubles weigh on the mind of Count Dracula. Ever longing to change the mood, the closer the needle moves towards the spindle, the more whacked-out things become; the darkness delved more deeply, but with an ever-present playfulness that keeps Lord Tang clear of Demdike Stare’s obsidian murk.

Side B is b-side version time, in a manner of speaking. It’s more muted and melancholic in manner, as side A’s rolling bass is skeletoned; foregrounding and freeing delayed and delicate instrumentation (including melodica, organ, dulcimer etc.) from the supporting role, while lending an emotive (if remote) air at times, like King Tubby hazily remembered on Vincent Gallo’s ‘When’. There’s a great sense of space throughout, as though the audio fog of these nocturnal wanderings were in fact slightly sedative. And – just as judicious in duration as it is sparing in ingredients – the ethereal melodies each dissolve into the invisible without ceremony or warning, like the passing of a dream.

It’s a charming record, quite unassuming, and at just 200 available copies, its low profile is more than just an audible feature. Kelly Porter’s sleeve artwork is a bit of a tie-breaker: displaying a vivid range of autumnal tones that enrich the abstracted topographies of a hidden season. Rendered in innocent, ‘I could do that’ pen-and-ink lines, these graphics are as ambiguous as the music, looming like benevolent but unnamed entities from the hidden world of Arthur Machen. One for twilit Sunday evenings.

Lord Tang
Alarm

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Somatic Soundtracks: modest set of abstract experimental minimalism with a dub touch

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Ulrich Troyer meets Georg Blaschke, Somatic Soundtracks, 4Bit Productions, CD 4Bit-P001 (2012)

I’ve already passed quite a few pleasant afternoons and evenings with this compilation of recordings made by the Viennese sound-art creator Ulrich Troyer. Originally these pieces of music were composed for dance works choreographed by Georg Blaschke so if they sound rather low-key to some listeners, their initial purpose is the reason. The music moves from very moody abstract ambient soundscapes of a digital grainy texture to actual music constructions based on reggae, techno or dub. Although the sounds are varied, they seem quite tiny in the huge white art space in the album. The choice of instruments to create this array of music include analog synthesisers, samplers, melodica and guitar, performed in the main by Troyer himself with the exception of the last track “Back from Serbia” on which Jurgen Berlakovich played guitar.

The early tracks may prove daunting for most as they are quietly unassuming and give very little away, and you strain to catch every little nuance of tone and sound. The best of these tracks is “Somatic Script” which promises mystery and drama in its sinister whirring, scraping guitar-noise rhythms and foreboding tones.  The middle tracks may still be very bare-bones abstract and quite po-faced but there are intriguing rhythms within their dark spaces (“Your Dancer”) and very sculpted flubby sounds (“In Case of Loss”). “Song for Heide (Extended Version)” finally starts edging towards gentle pop and a definite dub reggae rhythms. “Back from Serbia” is a sunny, laid-back piece of fragmented reggae rhythm and ambience that might have sprung from someone’s much-loved collection of reggae vinyl platters from the mid-1970s.

If there is one criticism to be made, it’s that the tracks are often not much more than studies of rhythm texture and atmosphere, and often sound a bit like excerpts of much longer music. Bear in mind though that the music may have been secondary to the dance spectacle it was written for.

An ideal collection of rhythm studies and loops for an aspiring DJ perhaps and for the rest of us, some nice background music to a quiet restful Sunday afternoon in late summer: this is an album of very modest music.

Contact: Ulrich Troyer, Georg Blaschke, 4Bit Productions

 

Instrumentarium: a wondrous tropical tapestry inquiring into the techniques of dub

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Boris Hegenbart with 19 Artists, Instrumentarium, Monotype Records, CD mono055 (2012?)

What a wondrous tapestry of soundscapes the digital experimenter Boris Hegenbart stitches here with help from nineteen musicians representing a range of abstract experimental and improvisational music styles. The album is meant to be Hegenbart’s inquiry into the methods and techniques of composing dub music but his results don’t sound very dubby apart from the syncopated rhythms in some tracks. The majority of the 18 tracks on offer (one track features two guest musicians) are at least 3 minutes in length and all come well within 6 minutes so most of them don’t have a lot of time to develop but instead stay more or less as exercises in rhythm looping (as in track 3 with Stephan Mathieu on drums). Although there’s an emotional coolness throughout the album, on the whole it seems quite friendly and benign in approach; I think of it as a community of slightly remote people, minding their own business and respectful of the privacy of others, until such time when someone is in an emergency and needs help, and everyone pitches in to assist without hesitation and needs no thanks to know the recipient appreciates the aid.

Some instruments benefit from Hegenbart’s dissection of the original music samples: the banjo gets a stretchy work-out that almost turns the instrument into a koto on track 4. The night ambience of chirruping insects on that track becomes incredibly spooky. Most musicians featured choose to play guitar or drums; on the other hand Oren Ambarchi couldn’t make up his mind which to play so he ends up playing everything in sight including an organ and on top of it all does some singing (track 10) – now that is really indecisive! On track 6, Bernhard Gunter plays an electric cellotar which sounds like the kind of keyboard guitar-shaped object I’ve seen in videos where the kooky Kazakh Borat tries to channel his hero Freddie Mercury but actually generates some very nice tones and tunes in the time it has.

Though most tracks lack a distinctive personality that might be associated with the source material and their owners which is a bit of drawback, a few are stand-outs with regard to having an identity: the aforementioned track 4 with David Grubbs on banjo, track 6 and track 8 (Fred Frith on guitar), to name a few. Ambarchi’s track does sound quite dubby in sound and rhythm and there is a wild and wacky edge to the blurred singing over the tropical music. Marc Weiser’s guitar piece (track 11) is turned into something very hypnotic and Martin Brandlmayr’s drums contribution (track 12) is a beautiful and seductive piece that threatens to go quite haywire at times.

Overall this album is a pleasant listening experience with sometimes very beguiling and seductive music suggestive of laid-back holiday tropical beach ambience and open-air discos. Haven’t had much of that warm summer experience lately with all the heavy winter rain that’s been falling over the past few days …

Contact: Monotype Records

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Hippogriffs


We heard from Sula Bassana in February when he contributed to the monstrous Electric Moon LP The Doomsday Machine…we first gained the impression that Dark Days (SULATRON RECORDS ST1204-2) might, in title at least, be following from that depressive slab in a similar vein of blackened, thundering, ultra-heavy psychedelic space-rock…on the contrary it turns out to be a generally uplifting and sometimes mystical album of mighty guitar riffs, supremely steady drumbeats, and cosmic flurries of synth-winds howling around every corner. Apart from percussion assist on a couple of tracks by Pablo Carneval and vocals by David Henrikkson, this is totally a solo album by Bassana (i.e. Dave Schmidt), also assisted to some degree by Komet Lulu who did the sleeve paintings of orange, brown and green mosspit-shapes crawling from the belly of the universe, said images being used in turn by the musician to influence and shape his playing as he scoped these impasto swabs of lurid smearage. Another strong album from this retroid genius, a man so besotted with Krautrock he is capable of dipping the genre in gold, while condensing all his favourite Pink Floyd moments into intense hits of overamped smokiness…this outing contains the memorable 20-minute ‘Surrealistic Journey’ which sends the listener on a “far-out trip” in line with the aspirations of any given album by Gong or Hawkwind, while for those who prefer something punchier we have the very strong opening cuts ‘Underground’ and ‘Departure’…only place where the mood sags a little is on ‘Bright Nights’, a meandering odyssey into brain cells best left unturned, resulting in shapeless noodly guitar lines and, ultimately, dollops of rather pointless noise…and I’m not so keen on the frenetic beat-loops of ‘Arriving Nowhere’ which sometimes seems to be turning its ageing grey hippy head in the direction of Techno music and misunderstanding what it sees. From 20 June 2012, also available as a double LP.

Got a large bundle of curios from the Spectropol Records label in Bellingham (Washington State)…first picked out from the envelope was Elle Avait Raison Hathor (SPECT 11) by Vincent Berger Rond. He is an electro-acoustic composer based in Quebec, and presumably appears on the back cover in his winter garb standing besides an ice sculpture of a female head and shoulders. The winter wear is our first clue that this is difficult and inhospitable music for seasoned hardy outdoors-types only, on which more shortly. Meanwhile any attempt to stare fixedly at the image of the woman in order to decipher her features will simply result in even less definition, as it gradually recedes from your intelligence evasively. The whole album, you see, is a conceptual composition addressing “notions of womanhood” and doing so by filtering its music through an understanding of mythological treatments…Japanese, Greek, Inuit and Egyptian texts are found within the booklet, dropping hints that are somewhat less than lucid, yet strangely illuminating. Circe is the well-known enchantress from The Odyssey, but in a few lines you learn more about her meaning and symbolic resonance than you could have wished for. We’ve got a female vocalist Laura Kilty on the first track, where she intones her own settings for the poetry of Rond, but after that the remainder of the album is instrumental. It features strings and piano as you might expect from classical chamber music, but also synthesisers in a couple of places, electric organ, and the multi-dubbed electric guitars of Fred Szymanski. But none of this knowledge prepares you for the sheer weirdness of the distorted soundscape – the whole record just sounds completely bizarre. Vincent Berger Rond’s technique involves a lot of cutting up, editing, reshaping, modification and recomposing, such that Szymanski’s improvised guitar lines, for example, are completely recast into incredible, impossible shapes. The notes also refer to the composer’s “spasmacousmatic” method, which is a highly evocative term suggestive of a deeply radical and idiosyncratic approach to this contemporary form of composition. Not easy to listen to, but he plays fair; the work has clearly been assembled with great care and commitment to the form, and each piece, though at first bewildering, clearly adheres to an internal logic. The womanhood theme is not really explained in detail, which is a relief to any readers who are doubtful about long-winded explanations of an artist’s intentions, but Rond provides terse informational notes about this and would probably be very pleased if we did some research into the area for ourselves. From 13 June 2012.

We noted eRikm‘s Austral in November 2012 – at any rate, the audio dimension of it, which was released by Room40 as part of the Transfall album. Now here it is again as a DVD (DAC2031) from D’Autres Cordes Records, reminding us that the composition is a mixed-media work, combining electronic music with video. The visual side to the work was also created by the composer, and shows him weaving electronically-generated abstract shapes across the screen in shades of gray, green, and red, which multiply and germinate in jerky animated fashion. These images used photographs of cities as their starting point, taken from his journeys to South America. The music is played by the Laborintus Ensemble and remains a sharp snappy piece of atonal chamber music, sounding even better in this DVD presentation. But the visuals are rather banal, very process-heavy, not much more adventurous than a first year art student exercise. From 15 June 2012.

Fractures (DEBACLE DBL076) is a perfectly pleasant record of electronica / beats music by Rainbow Lorikeet. I like the “dubby” construction of the music that emphasises the heavy beats and the spaces in between, reminding me in places of Techno Animal – which I’ll admit is one of the few points of reference I have for this musical genre. Lorikeet’s electric sounds are not very distinctive or inventive though, and I find my attention wavering very quickly after only a few moments of this over-familiar crunch-and-squelch morass.

Anita‘s Hippocamping (WILDRFID RECORDS WLDRFD006) is more successful as an example of inventive and personalised electronica. We’re not given much reliable information on her technique, but I have the impression she’s something of a mosaicist, piecing together musical fugues out of very small fragments of sounds, tones, and whatever shapes she can find lying around the floor of the workshop to pick up and add to the collage. Resultant album is a highly textured listen – you can feel your ears being dragged over a thousand different rugs, textiles, vinyl floors, coconut matting, and assorted soft (and hard) furnishings. While she doesn’t abandon form completely, Anita has very little interest in composing a tune, and would prefer to leave you spinning in an unfamiliar micro-landscape for three or four minutes at a time, while she makes a cup of coffee (small black espresso, natch) and admires the results of her labours with a wicked smirk. What’s also impressive is the very firm and muscular core to these steel-belted monstrinos; Anita is never content to settle for a comforting decaffeinated drone when she can tie you up with eighteen yards of fencing wire. Track 11 is titled ‘L’Ultimo Yogurt’, which is precisely the sort of dessert I’d expect to be served if I was invited to a dinner party by this mysterious woman. This exists as a limited LP with a screenprinted cover and insert provided by visual artist Sofy Maladie.