Tagged: electronic

Arcane Pop



K5. Frank runs through the ramifications, numerological, linguistic, esoteric, epistemological and also, but most importantly, those pertaining to synthesiser identification. Japanese instrument manufacturer Kawai brought out a range of digital synthesisers during the 80s that included the K5, a grey box that, unusually, offered the user the ability to generate sounds using additive synthesis, still one of the lesser encountered synthesis methods even today. Having owned a (dire but enjoyed) K1 – similar to, but slightly worse than, a Roland D10 or D50 – I felt the warm glow of nostalgia for obsolete, unintuitive, obstructive and unlovely instruments that somewhere in their cold machine hearts may offer an unusual effect or hidden feature more easily and satisfyingly accessed through other hardware.

From the years 2004 and 2012 we are presented with nine pieces, titled but also catalogued by the composer using the classical opus numbering system, a conceit which points towards the electro-orchestral nature of the box-symphonies within. Atonalities, sine waves, alien drones and glissandos slide around like the shadows of Platonic solids looming in a grey pixel-mist. Indeed, these CD slices shift like a Plato’s cave Xerox of Cologne WDR produkt. No tape friction, no heat – moving images projected.

Rothkamm delights in arcane logic structure, obtuse menu systems appealing to the hermetically minded, push button accessed sub menus, office furniture taken through a black hole, laminated sheets of plastic sound extruded like one of Gen Ken Montgomery’s lamination pieces. The album a monomaniacal exploration of parameters of a single instrument, almost arbitrary and absurd, but pursued with straight-faced rigour – a sort of well-tempered synthesis module. For him, the romance of the manual – a ring binder of instructions for an instrument that doesn’t exist populated with the harmonics of the imagination.

These multiple variations on grey tones induce dreams of plastic walls, a Silicon Valley labyrinth, 3D Monster Maze infiltrated by self-replicating machine sprites, endlessly repeating cubicles, blank, moulded casings open to a Blue Öyster Cult sky populated with silently hulking Apple Macintoshes and IBM PCs, grey dots on black monitors.

There is a Californian tinge that reminds of Erik Davis’s Techgnosis tome, equally there are echoes of the endless mutations of human art generator Conrad Schnitzler. You get the feeling there could be zip discs full of this stuff and it could be churned out as quickly as printing a pdf instruction manual. And that’s a compliment in this context (in case you couldn’t tell).I regard Schnitzler as a great artist and poet of our times, reformatting and subverting, amongst other things, man-machine myths. Rothkamm’s interchangeable studies of machine symphonics share a steely grind and similarly impish humour combo. Do not be fooled by the featureless plastic exterior. Or, in fact, do be. Mr Frank Rothkamm sails a similarly lone course through the uncharted digital oceans, the winds of concept and phone-numbers for long-since-disappeared tech-support departments filling his sails, scanning the horizons, hunting the great white midi monster.

A whale of a time is guaranteed for all pop lovers. Be sure to visit the website for more floppy disc riffs on additive synthesis, sine waves and Plato. If I can quote Mr Rothkamm: ‘the K5 synthesizer is a Platonic Machine because I can personally assure you a posteriori that while working with it you do not experience any pleasure or pain whatsoever, only the numbing sensation of tedious repetition, which is quite sinusoidal.’. Amen, and enjoy!

Voice of the Beehive


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.


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.

Alone Again Or


From Carrier Records, great record of innovative and experimental electronic music from the duo of Sam Pluta and Jeff Snyder, who perform as exclusiveOr. Archaea (CARRIER020) contains six of their recorded outbursts, such as the spiky and abrasive ‘Landing’, a strong opener which is hyperactive to the point of being almost dangerous – a child running through the rumpus room with scissors. Electronic scissors, that is. Great way to set out the stall; large variety of exciting and unusual sounds fired about like rockets. ‘Book of Dreams’ is slightly more approachable for some of its duration, weaving its way into a somnambulatory state by stealth, but also proving it’s something of a “sleeping giant” when layers from the surface peel away to reveal a teeming mass of activity of some sort – could be a termite colony eating into the floorboards, could be loose cables spurting sparks in your face. ‘Intro/Outro’ delivers plenty of gaseous wheezes and erratic coughs as it releases jets of scalding steam; if it was a kitchen appliance, this track would have been recalled by the manufacturers five years ago. There’s also the tremendously exciting ‘Pulse’, which shows on one level how the Merzbow influence is trickling down into the consciousness of certain Americans (much like High Rise and Musica Transonic created a similar mini-explosion among US rock bands some years ago). This cut is especially wild and bold in its abstract-expressionist swoops and splurges, painting gigantic coloured brush-strokes in the air. Yet compared to said Merzbow it’s a slightly sanitised and more approachable form of crazy electric noise. Then again I gotta love the extreme dynamics of it, the way the massive steam engine can be controlled, slowed down, reined in and reversed as needed, even made to dance a pirouette on the tracks with its dainty steel wheels.

Pluta and Snyder are just the men you can trust with this job, assuming you’d ever appoint them to rebuild your house. Pluta’s work is endorsed by us at TSP 112%, and his thrilling semi-improvised group compositions are recommended listening, if you want to learn about new directions in this area since John Zorn 1. On this record, he’s cutting up rough with a laptop programmed with his own custom-built software. Jeff Snyder goes even further in terms of the rugged-individualist hand-made approach, and plays an analogue modular synth which he designed and built himself. A true Gyro Gearloose type, seems he’s even built some “invented instruments” which can be used to play a warped form of early music. He probably travels around New York City on roller skates which he operates like Scalextric cars, while reading the Daily News on his home-made tablet which he built out of the printed circuits from a 1990s toaster oven and an old Etch-a-Sketch. The image inside the CD shows a photo of these two New Yorkers, heavily Photoshopped, suggesting visually how they are becoming at one with their machines, dissolving into the patchboards and printed circuits as surely as the hapless adventurer in Tron. The album title however is totally organic (non-digital) and refers to a class of microbe that can survive in very inhospitable places, such as hot springs or marshes. These mighty microbes can even make their home in the human body, which is probably what exclusiveOr would like to do – implant themselves in your system and gradually take it over. If you wish to participate in this cruel and unusual experiment, this CD is for you. From 5th July 2013.

  1. I have no idea what I mean by this. I have some vague visions of New York lofts populated with wild-eyed arty types, doing without sleep for three days, nothing but a jar of pickles in the fridge. But these words are lifted from a description by Eric Bogosian of his early performance art days.

Din Din

Contemporary experimental music from Slovenia is represented on the compilation eksperiment Slovenia (SIGIC SGC CD 003) with 13 tracks of varied outpourings from many talented creatives. There’s an accompanying essay written by Luka Zagoricnik, the editor of the music journal Odzven, and some of his headings – ‘The relation between noise and silence’, ‘Free improvisation as platform’, ‘Space(s) of sound art’ and ‘Deconstruction of pop form’ – may steer the curious listener as to what to expect from the aural contents. Each performer / group is profiled and pictured in the extensive notes; there’s the composer Bojana Saljic Podesva, the improviser Tomaz Grom, the percussionist group JakaundKiki, and the all-rounder Irena Tomazin, who’s an actress, dancer, performer and philosopher as well as a vocalist. Some standout pieces for me personally include a lively and grumbly double bass solo from said T. Grom, who is one of the more highly regarded performers in Slovenia just now; he also appears on the minimal group piece which opens the album. On evidence of this solo track, he’s got hands that could easily slice a hog carcass in twixt. Irena Tomazin, who performs as iT, wreaks havoc with her many Dictaphones on ‘Question of Good and Bad’, releasing so many near-demonic voices in the process that she’s virtually her own exorcist. The noise-improv deconstructionist types Vanilla Riot also appeal to me, with their highly-energised ‘Chop’ full of manic drumming and over-cluttered with far too many synths, guitars and laptop manipulations; amazingly, just three guys are involved in producing this high-volume unkempt wildness. They also have a sense of fun which I don’t really find elsewhere on this rather sober and serious-minded compilation. Another tasty oddity is ‘Ljubljana-Tokyo’, where the Slovenian performer N’toko weaves four minutes of heavy mystery drone and vocalising with the help of Japanese player Seijiro Murayama. N’toko is described as an “experimental hip-hop artist”, which seems an unlikely sub-genre, but when you listen it turns out he is indeed producing a species of very weirdified trippy and lethargic beats, even rapping to some extent – it’s just all happening in a very slow and erratic manner, and it’s all incredibly endearing. Also here: Marko Karlovcec, Marko Batista, Miha Ciglar, Samo Kutin & Marko Jenic, and more. Lovely gold embossed cover with a bi-lingual booklet bound into the digipak; there’s a long list of production credits, and with support from the Ministry of Culture no expense has been spared in making this a high-quality definitive compilation. From 21 June 2013.

Mind Chaos


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.

The Fire Next Time

pizMO is a collective / collaborative entity that could be enormous and diffuse, wishing to project a façade of anonymity while also claiming to be a hydra-headed entity of many creators, although it may just as likely be the laptop trio of Christophe Havard, Jerome Joy and Julien Ottavi. The group sent us a copy of blst (FIBRR RECORDS 012) in June 2013. This current line-up is the “born-again” incarnation of the group which began 13 years ago with Joy, Ottavi and Yannick Dauby. In describing this work, terms bandied about include “environments” and “audio architecture”, suggestive of a large-scale distribution of events, statements, and effusions happening – very fleetingly and temporarily – in places which cannot even be identified with any certainty. Ay, it’s hard to pin down exactly what’s going on with this assemblage of live recordings, captured from festivals in France and Norway during 2012, but for over 53 minutes you will experience a continuous barrage of formless, bewildering and strangely exciting electronic music, dispersed over a wide area without explanation or context.

As you have gathered, pizMO have high ambitions for their music, hoping to somehow bypass conventional means of communication and presentation, and even transcend the limits of human perception to some degree; they’d be pleased to see all forms of centralised system collapse, and want to place themselves in the centre of a musical revolution. This is all expressed in a manifesto printed on the artworks, stated in English and in French. Their attitude is redolent of a certain impatience with the way things are (narrow, confined, predictable, monolithic), and a desire to find some new, secret, invisible space of vitality where their music can freely exist and thrive in a near-infinite continuum. The main thing is to ignore and undermine the dominant music industry, and especially concepts of ownership; the work is made available under “copyleft” terms. A lot of this, it seems to me, is about bumping one’s head on technological limits; I get the feeling that pizMO would love to exist as an unending stream of digital data if they could, transmitted forever around the world across broadband networks, and made freely available to the people. The actual music /sound they make is not so incendiary or innovative as any of this may imply, but when it doesn’t lapse into meaningless white noise, this is a very engaging listen, with many unexpected swoops and slippery sensations.

Un, Deux, Trois



Les Hauts De Plafond
No Ask Lévrier

Highbrow yet accessible, this sumptuous sonic melange melds vintage musique concrète’s rigorous exploration for new realms, scattershot syllable poetry and the propulsion of a studio-savvy avant-rock outfit that’s comfortable in any gear. No Ask Lévrier, Les Hauts de Plafond’s four-wheeled fantasy, chugs through forests of mystery with sat-nav flagging up every musical detour along a 40 minute ‘scenic route’, in which sound upon intriguing sound is layered and woven into the next like a patchwork quilt, stitched together by hands adept at intuitive combination; the music suffering not in the least from absence of climax; joy lying largely in wedding one strange sonic situation with another. As a result, you can leave the room and feel certain that someone’s changed the CD while you were out.

Something of an extended radio piece, this recording also belongs in the tradition of live meets sampled sound collage, and while it never quite attains the ecstatic poles of seminal works such as My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, nor does it stray into the less enthralling zones. Those familiar with the hardcore collagists (and a personal favourite) Milk Cult will also have some idea what to expect, the miniatures of their Project M-13 exuding a similar penchant for playful mystery, wherein vignettes of avant-pop collage engender eclectic and serendipitous psychological spaces; a perpetual scrapbook of adventure as in ‘Dieu Est Une Voiture En Plein Phare’, which immerses a metronomic bass in a web of voices and the motor blasts of a car race.

A press shot shows the pensive pair attempting to record pieces of fruit, suggesting a quirky sense of humour and a ‘concrète’ mandate to distil drama from the quotidian. Further homage to the sound-spelunking forefathers can be found in ‘L’insoutenable Objet’, featuring clattering crockery and a deep, squeaky door that opens the portal to Pierre Henry’s Variations Pour Une Porte Et Un Soupir. Les Hauts de Plafond has also been said to broadcast music from a 2CV used as a mobile amplifier, the myth enhancing their capacity to illuminate the sublimely ridiculous within the ostensibly ordinary.

Sylvain Chauveau


Sylvain Chauveau

Sylvain Chauveau’s 10th recording Kogetsudai is the second in a trilogy based on convergence of abstract and natural forms. Where the first part, Singular Forms (Sometimes Repeated) drew upon the mysteries of abstract painting, Kogetsudai reflects (and reflects upon) a more eastern phenomenon: Japanese rock gardens, such as Ryoanji in Kyoto, where the piece was conceived. I’m pretty sure Ryoanji was also the site of an incongruous photograph of Rudolf eb.er and Dave Philips, joined by a bevy of Japanese schoolgirls, which I can’t locate right now. Further bemusement notoriously occurs in response to the site itself: 248 square metres’ worth of pebbles raked to resemble… nothing much, leaving many a westerner wondering what they travelled all that way for.

In a similar manner, the Kogetsudai resonates with naturalistic intrigue, oscillating fragile ripples and whorls, from the centre of which issues the odd snatch of haiku-like lyric, delivered so gradually as to force you to pay attention. Emotionally adrift somewhere between Fennesz and Eleh; archetypally minimal; it’s not Francisco Lopez, but it is delicate in construction, every piece just a gossamer layer or so, consisting of location recordings, sine waves or, in ‘Lenta’, soft, suspended piano chords. While I’m not drawn to the laboured vocals – I don’t know – something like a frozen Bill Callahan’s, the tenuous musical gestures are genuinely evocative, suggesting a space outside of time the way Aphex Twin did in his second round of Selected Ambients. Evident is the attention to detail, and a seemingly genuine appreciation of the meditative mentality of Chaveau’s subject matter, which to my ears is a significant accomplishment, given that one cannot simply ‘turn Japanese’.



A Rebours

To realise a long-term ambition, French electronic trio Minizza recruited six collaborators for their third and most considered recording: a radio rendering of J.K. Huysman’s dense novella about a decadent misanthropist named Jean Des Esseintes. In the novel, Des Esseintes retires with his many worldly possessions from Paris – sick of society and its tiresome mores – to a house in the countryside, where he spends day upon day keeping strange hours, reflecting upon and rejecting orthodox literature, criticism, Catholic writings, and rewarding his senses to the gills with the finest substances he can treat them to. He also encrusts the shell of a tortoise with gems, causing its death; an indulgence analogous to the lifestyle that nearly kills Des Esseintes himself. Seemingly sedated by the knots of memories and sensory experiences past and present, the narrative proceeds quite ponderously at times, and is best reserved for times devoid of distraction.

Similar attention may be required here, for though an easier experience than the novel, it’s not a casual one. Realised for French radio, Francophones will certainly fare better than I in appreciating it in its fullness, though I begrudge it not the inaccessibility: rather the French vocals engender a sense of emotional distance analogous to the protagonist’s. Besides, I couldn’t see an English version living up to this standard, to be honest: the obsessive yet languid atmosphere is far more suggestive of a continental decadence than a conceivably more inept, British one. As if to drive the point home, in ‘De La Nature Des Choses’ a Gallic slur slinks sleazily behind a familiar bassline, through the same firelit drawing room as in Serge Gainsbourg’s ‘Melody’, and offering the set one of its more seductive sections. That said, the narrator’s resonant, often breathy delivery I find difficult to correlate with as sickly a figure as Des Esseintes, unless it is a self-dramatising interior monologue, where none can taint his schizoid, scholarly reveries.

Arrangements are on the whole airy, moody and evocative of Des Esseintes’ sensory forays. Instrumentation is spare, implying precariousness and single-mindedness, and further by layers of soft, echoing electronics, seemingly bathing the voice in sickly rays of light. ‘Dominé Par Des Abstractions’ delights especially in the ebb and flow of it. These faint sonic veneers sometimes admit voices: revenants from Des Esseintes’ distant, debauched past; figments of the dimly remembered, lit by faint flickers of Badalamenti-esque jazz. As it approaches the final stages, the atmosphere becomes quite disorienting, culminating in a radio dial blitz in ‘Agonie’, but all in all it’s an enticing listen, as rich in tone and pretension; as ornate and fleeting as the world of Des Esseintes, and perhaps as appropriate to specific points in time as a reading of the novel itself.

Inside Outside: a soaring ethereal voice above psych-folk electronica and abstract improv

Source: http://sygilrecords.bandcamp.com/

Aurora Dorey Alice, Inside Outside, Sygil Records, cassette 013 (2013)

A gorgeous if sometimes slightly sinister and deranged psych-folk offering with a split personality  is to be found on this release from the increasingly eclectic Sygil Records which among other things has proffered black and doom metal recordings and industrial drone art. The first half of the album, the “Inside” part partakes heavily of glitch and fuzz electronica and woozy, zonked-out wash effects; the second “Outside” half drinks in found nature sounds and sparse abstract improv. Whether you like your music to be outdoors or indoors, one thing you’ll surely fall in love with is Aurora Dorey Alice’s voice which at times is floaty and ethereal, and at other times assertive and soaring above the often intangible and dreamy music.

I have to confess I’m more of an “indoors” gal here: the electronic soundtrack is gentle and slightly fizzy in sound and texture, dreamy in mood, and very other-worldly and shimmery overall. “Master / Apprentice” is a strong opening track that sets the tone for the rest of “Inside” to follow; indeed, it might just be the strongest piece on the whole album. The rest of the cassette is no bunch of slouching footnotes though. “Rain” is as close to country-western as ADA comes with its fast chugging-train rhythm and ADA’s own enraptured faux-Nashville vocal.

On the “Outside” half, the music is more acoustic and does not showcase ADA’s singing at all which is a bit disappointing because it’s her voice that really stands out on this recording. Here, the music could almost be one of many hundreds of live instrumental improv releases with flutes, found sounds and a not-too clear idea of where all the musicians are supposed to be going. It’s as if having found themselves out in the warm sunshine, the musicians decided to have a party and a snooze as well but not necessarily in strict alphabetical order of making music, partying and snoozing.

Nevertheless what we do get from ADA is to be treasured indeed: in range her singing straddles the divide between reality and the universe beyond, which already is far, far more than can be said for the current crop of mainstream female pop singers. I’m going to risk lying my head on the guillotine block and say ADA will be a significant influence on future female singers to come, even if her career does not turn out the way it should.

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.

Teban Slide Art: triple set that casts parallels between Nazi Germany and current times

M.B., Teban Slide Art (The Come Organisation Files), Menstrual Recordings, 3 x CD LH40 (2013)

“M.B.” refers to Maurizio Bianchi, the noted experimentalist in industrial / musique concrete / noise whose career extends back to the late 1970s / early 1980s, the period in which he made these early recordings which have now been re-released, some of them without his consent, it must be said. The recordings were originally issued by the Come Organisation label under the name Leibstandarte SS MB and included speeches and addresses made by Adolf Hitler in his role as leader of Nazi Germany from 1933 to 1945.

I’ll be frank: these recordings can be long and tedious to listen to. The tracks appear to have been released to profit from his current period of hibernation away from music creation and performance, and the attention his activities have attracted over the years. Those of us who aren’t British probably wonder at the obsession that British contemporary culture often expresses with Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany, especially when we compare the extent of British encounters, military and non-military, with the Nazis with those of other European countries unfortunate enough to have borne the brunt of the Nazi German onslaught in terms of lives lost and the lasting political, social and economic effects. In those countries, particularly Russia and Ukraine where the most brutal and vicious conflicts between the Nazis and Soviets were fought and many of the most hideous atrocities were committed by both sides against each other’s forces and on civilians, these effects continue even today, nearly 70 years after Nazi Germany surrendered to Allied forces, in subtle ways: among other things, I have seen on the Internet a suggestion that in 1954, the Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev bypassed proper government procedures and made a gift of Crimea by decree to Ukraine to push people there away from supporting the Ukrainian ultra-nationalist and notorious Nazi collaborator Stepan Bandera and his followers who were still active (with contacts in Britain and West Germany) during the 1950s. (And of course even after his assassination in 1959 Bandera still has his acolytes in Ukraine as recent events in that country have so far revealed.) Then again, we are not – and many if not most British people also are not – always aware of the extent to which fascism gained a strong foothold among some sectors of society in Britain during the 1930s (Oswald Mosley notwithstanding); perhaps as a loosely held set of often contradictory beliefs fascism never really went away in that country.

I am not necessarily counting the people who made and / or compiled these recordings among those sectors: over the past 50+ years, Nazi symbols and recordings have been used in popular and youth culture as symbols and expressions of rebellion and dissent from mainstream discourse which itself has often been authoritarian and repressive. The folks at Come Organisation themselves would be aware of the extent to which Nazi iconography was being pilfered by musicians in the punk, new wave and industrial scenes at the time and it’s possible that they released these recordings to call attention to the fact that the Nazis were real people who carried out or encouraged other people to commit the most heinous acts of violence, destruction and theft, physically, socially and culturally.

If you don’t know any German, the spoken voice recordings are painful to listen to in their unrelenting haranguing and monotony, and I suspect that if you do, you may find the content of them repetitive to the point of inducing mental numbness even if you’re not offended by it. The music is not always bad though on very long tracks (and Disc 1 “Triumph of the Will” especially – you can see the obvious reference to the Leni Riefenstahl documentary here – features very long pieces of over 20 minutes each in length) it can be unrelieved monotony playing a secondary role to the spoken word recordings. A better time can be had with Disc 2 “Weltanschauung” where the music assumes a more expansive mood and is slightly atmospheric; on tracks like “Endoradiation”, the droning sounds and undulant rhythms supply all the menace needed and require no additional enhancement. Parts of Disc 3 “Lebensraum” appear to draw parallels between Nazi German society and popular culture of the 1930s on the one hand and popular culture in the UK on the cusp of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s reign in the 1980s on the other, and suggest that the political, social and economic conditions that birthed Nazi Germany might also have existed then in Britain and other countries (and might do even today). The wavy yet stuttering music is relentless, absolutely inhuman and machine-like, yet it also possesses a seductive power that can mesmerise listeners. Recordings of speeches given by other leading lights in the Nazi German regime that include rapturous audience applause given at regular intervals throughout the speeches have the same call-and-response litany structures that religious ceremonies and large music festivals and concerts employ.

Listeners are at liberty to pick and choose which tracks they prefer to hear: Discs 2 and 3 are the easiest on the ears. Those listeners of a generation for which Nazi Germany seems as temporally distant as the empire established by Alexander the Great over 2,000 years ago might find the spoken voice recordings tiresome and puzzling, and probably need to know some 20th century history and an understanding of how Nazi German symbols and propaganda have been appropriated by contemporary Western culture and art as symbols of modern rebellion.