Tagged: dub

A Gruesome Twosome

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We Will Fail
Verstörung
POLAND MONOTYPE RECORDS MONO074 CD (2014)

Woozy, downtempo beats that gravitate towards a William Gibson future, where potential for redemption or wrongdoing stand on equal footing but remain unrealised thanks to a perpetual disinclination towards dramatic change. Which is not to say the music is unambitious: With cracked palm outstretched, We Will Fail (aka Polish ‘ex-visual performer’ and ‘amateur musician’ Aleksandra Grünholz) demonstrates commendable patience as he rolls his rhythms in subtle atmospherics, one that puts him in the illustrious company of Raime, Senking and Andy Stott, whose penchant for the hiss-overlaid and ponderous somehow manage to elevate their craft above perilous monotony. Individual titles are forsaken for fourteen numbered ‘Verstörung’ or ‘disturbances’, a subordination of identity to the overarching statement that persistence is king, which means yes, a little pugilism aside there’s little stylistic variation beyond dubby/doomy techno pulses and smoggy interludes, but minimalistic components deliver maximum depth, for which we’ve every reason to be grateful. Grünholz is also responsible for all of We Will Fail’s exquisite sleeves, though his illustration style suggests a more naturalistic concern than the doom and gloom pulsations we actually hear.

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Olekranon
danaus
USA INAM RECORDS 115 CD (2013)

Misanthropic snatches of gnarled, growling, gothed-up noise rock, feedback with whiffs of dark wave/industrial techno, though I’m happy to report that nothing merits the common comparison to Russell Haswell (of which I am often guilty). Wolf Eyes and Prurient (hear the flayed atmosphere of ‘Crooked Wheel’) don’t escape mention though, sharing Olekranon’s affection for the raw and spontaneous first take, as well as the odd incursion of dreary drone. Unashamedly gloomy is it for the duration, marching in a mechanised and somewhat grudging manner like black metal teens that have to get up for college. There is however reasonable stylistic variation afoot, possibly reflecting the breadth of Olekranon’s CDR corpus of the past few years, from lead-footed electronica to a decent approximation of ambient black metal anthem in ‘Marionette’ and its anaemic herald, ‘Severed’, which are still but pale approximations of Darkspace’s majestic black whoosh. I’d not be surprised in fact to learn that Danaus was compiled from these years; the lack of cohesion between diverging tracks being the telltale. Still, while there’s a fair measure of the forgettable in between eventful tracks, few moments are really wasted: pieces do end abruptly, which can be pretty annoying, but such lack of ceremony here suggests a pragmatic path clearing for successors. In other words, Danaus pretty much does what it’s supposed to, right down to the nightfall drone in closer, ‘Libertine’. Noise aficionados might do well to keep clear, but the CD could serve to entice curious newcomers into the dark fold.

Without Fail

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Ulrich Troyer
Songs For William 2
AUSTRIA 4BIT PRODUCTIONS 4BIT-2005 CD (2013)

While dub is generally something for the summer, this one’s sure to chase away the rainy day blues. There’s even a 32-page comic to plough through while the clouds dissolve over your roof. Indeed, so sincere is Ulrich Troyer’s devotion to the analogue equipment he used to produce these eight tunes that he even devotes that page space to anthologising the travel tales of William, his favourite effects unit, as ‘he’ enters a more digital epoch – up to and beyond its bamboozling first encounter with a laptop full of stompbox emulations. The comic is a sequel to part one of Troyer’s ‘love letter’ to William, and every panel is rendered in a friendly, Kid Koala-esque scrawl. In musical terms though, where our favourite Canadian marsupial favours samples of rollicking rhythm & blues, Troyer’s composes understated and shimmering dub with truckloads of delay, brushes of melodica and enough oozing bass to keep you nodding till sunrise.

But far from mere pastiche, this is an able enthusiast’s effort and no mistake. Even a cursory listen offers the ears a world of happy adventure and attention to detail, the whole set arcing selectively through the history of dub – from cheery dancehall down to twelve fizzing minutes of Porter Ricks-style dub techno in closer, ‘Landscapes’ – while coming across as both unassuming and ‘traditional’ in realisation. While Troyer varies pace and mood with a lightness of touch, much space is devoted to smoky, downtempo antics, which would likely find welcome on higher profile rosters such as Ninja Tune, among others. Burnt Friedman would surely approve of the Troyer’s reverence for his craft, and the resourcefulness of his arrangements, which encompass a conservative instrumental line up. I certainly approve, and am bowled over by the care and attention our man has put into this delightful little package.

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Kucharczyk
Best Fail Compilation
POLAND MONOTYPE RECORDS MONO066 CD (2014)

While presumably not so much of a failure as to escape the notice of the diverse and discerning Monotype label, Wojciech Kucharczyk’s cheerfully slapdash, mish-mash bedroom electronica could conceivably be a hard drive odds n’sods compilation. The waggishness of the title doesn’t necessarily bespeak false modesty, rather an entirely different vein of humour: a quick Google of the album title yields scores of Youtube vids of stunts turning out worse than hoped and restores painful memories of Jeremy Beadle days: a swollen subculture of schoolboy schadenfreude that informs the delirium herein, qualified albeit by the artist’s statement that ‘the failed may often be fabulous’. Does he refer to the serendipity of his compositional process or does his hedged tone offer broad commentary on the quality this release? There’s a degree of truth to both notions. Kucharczyk’s enthusiasm for music making shines through these eleven cuts of light-hearted and layered pop techno, and clear is it that he disapproves of repetition or playing it serious. Even his adoption of the theorist guise – by likening his music to evolutionary divergence – is subverted by a wilfully haphazard assembly process and a perpetual spring in the step.

Are we humans also the result of a long series of accidents or does evolution possess a sense of humour? Perhaps both, but opener ‘Kol Lorro’ kills smiles stone dead: its twee, whistle-while-you-work refrain epitomising the reason God gave us the skip button (I hope it’s just an accident). It is a false start though, and things pick up quickly. Much of the album could pass for factory music of a ‘How Do They Make It?’ vein: often chirpy (‘Epic Fail’ and ‘Fan Faraway’), sometimes nostalgic (‘Filter Ed and Acid Ad’) and occasionally approximating respectable, minimal techno, were it not for the indelible smirk its liberal drizzling of distracting non-sequitur sounds that spell death for the linear. Not every track quite succeeds in taking off: the skittering tap-tap of ‘Green Green Kick’ is a nondescript Raster Noton pastiche with an appetite for crescendo denial’; ‘Rain In June – Klik’ at least earns its title: a minimal, thudding loop that grudgingly transports us through a spell of bad weather. Still, the fail-friendly Kucharczyk never once overplays his hand and on the strength of this collection has a good deal to be modest about.

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