Tagged: electronic

Undicititoli

Massimo Pavarini
X Sounds Extremely Mysterious
ITALY SUSSIDIARIA SD009 4 x CD (2016)

The emergence of this bulging quad c.d. box set comes as a homage to, and an overview of the works of Italian composer/multi-instrumentalist Massimo Pavarini (1970-2012). A nicely appointed retrospective details his genre-hopping career from the years 1988 to 1994, showing a restless, mercurial talent who, as contributors to the accompanying booklet will attest, was also his own sternest critic. Projects that began with the best of intentions would be casually ditched and bulk-erased from the memory banks, much to the chagrin of his close friends and contemporaries. I’m thinking here of someone that, working practice-wise, seems to resemble Arthur Russell (himself no slouch in rapid genre shifting), combined with the mindset of a pre-fame Syd Barrett. I seem to recall reading that a number of his works at art college would be discarded/destroyed (?) soon after receiving their very last drip of paint, as if going through the artistic process was an end in itself. However, in Massimo’s case, his work has been retrieved from places unknown and have been lovingly and painstakingly restored.

“Alea”, his debut, matches arthouse electronics against hushed piano introspection and was originally issued in cassette only format on the Rosa Luxemborg label. On “Alloro a Colazione”, we can see the dapper spirit of Monsieur Erik Satie hovering over those ivories, genie-like. But that largely unadorned piece ill-prepares the listener for the eye-watering gas cloud of white noise that eventually engulfs “Over the Rainbow” (from ‘The Wizard of Oz’ (!)). Dear Judy and her mutant entourage would soon realise that some things are even more psychologically disturbing than those damnable flying monkey-things. The startling “Impulso è Rigetto” has Massimo ‘breaking glass in his room again’ with lung-straining sax skronk and mangled guitar emissions recalling certain violent juxtapositions/jump-cuts found in the early Goebbels & Harth songbook. The “Undicititoli” collection (c.d. no. 2), sadly unreleased at the time, again finds our teenage (!) hero teetering between light and shade. For every “Nativo”; a bewitching Italian cousin to the “Kes” soundtrack, there’s always an “Ingrandire un Policlinico”, in which pounding drum tattoos are but a mere click-track set next to the ‘a to z’ of factory demolition tonalities that follow.

Another artistic zig-zag takes place with the “Danze” c.d. with the artist in question’s apparent brainwashing at the hands of the sinister house/techno-ambient cabal. Well, I’m happy to report that their efforts weren’t that successful as tracks like “The Good Clerk” and “the Curling Ducks” are too hard-edged to occasion thoughts of the loved-up ones throwing shapes with glo-sticks. Mercifully, this approximation of a U.K.-based ‘scene’ (cough) has been partially bent out of shape by an outsider’s p.o.v. and seems to align itself with grainy b/w photos of Hard Corps or Nitzer Ebb instead.

Massimo’s collaborative exploits find a home on “Gruppi”, the final disc in this foursome, and covers his involvement as principal drummer/rhythmic synthesist with Le Orbite, Marmo, Le Forbici di Manitù and Tomografia Assiale Computerizzata. Recorded mostly live, Le Orbite were a 2g/b/d vox outfit that could’ve easily slotted into the Creation Records roster right next to Slowdive. This kinda ‘my bloody mary chain-lite’ choonage (at its best on “Over and Over” and the “6 Colori” instrumental really does fail to match the sense of invention displayed on the previous discs. Sadly, the lure of a bowl cut and a hooped t-shirt must’ve proved to be too overwhelming…

An earnest/moody vocal package and trebly white boy funk guitar signals the arrival of Marmo. Excised from vinyl/cassette comps, the Hula/Chakk-esque rumblings reach their boiling point with Massimo’s ‘noise guitar’ cameo on “I Cinque Angoli”. Laboiusly slow grinding, subterranean rhythms and T.A.C. leader Simon Balestrazzi’s dark mutterings and insinuations seem to share thoughts and deeds with Anti-Group and 23 Skidoo. But perversely, this mainstay of the Italian underground (for over twenty years…) hits real pay dirt with “Ingoiare Chiodi” (from the “Hypnotischer Eden” c.d. on Discordia) which could almost be a great lost Morricone theme. Those chasing unusual sonorities scoped from exotic sources will do a double back flip over T.A.C.’s genius deployment of scraped propellers, ‘walkie-talkie’ voices, Ethiopian drums and the Turkish Zurna. Le Forbici di Manitù’s piece marks Massimo’s last recorded work. With its archetypal synthetic waveforms, “Esilio nel Deserto delle due Lune” could easily have hatched from any period in the last half century or so and is taken from the “Luther Blissett Soundtrack” on Alchemax Records.

So there we have it… a long ‘n’ sprawling response to a tragically brief yet sprawling career path. A sincerely constructed tribute from drawing board to finished article.

Death Knell

Ilpo Väisänen
Syntetisaattori Musiikkia Kuopiosta
UKRAINE KVITNU 49 LP (2016)

Unfortunate is the timing of this new arrival from Ilpo Väisänen – former Pan Sonic partner to the recently and sadly departed Mika Vainio – which, through no fault of its own, renews the sting of that prodigiously prolific ex-cohort’s death. Compounding this exceptional timing is the rumour of its being Väisänen’s first solo work in 16 years, though such pretensions to the momentous are quickly thwarted by the facts of a) his solid cohort of contemporaneous collaborations (many, poignantly, featuring Vainio) that show his to be a similarly workhorse constitution; b) it isn’t his only solo work: the recent I-LP-O project features a solid lineup of Ilpo, Väisänen and himself; the trio but a masquerade. What’s more, Syntetisaattori Musiikkia Kuopiosta is but a mini album and not a game-changing one, but I think I’d best move on lest I talk readers out of reading on.

‘Osat’ parts 1-9 cover some ground. Though much less abrasive than many of Pan Sonic’s balls-out blitzkriegs, in a blind-test situation Väisänen’s restless yet understated rhythmic peregrinations would still draw comparisons to the ‘other’ act. ‘Osat 1-5’ pushes pattering, pulmonary palpitations that murmur like muffled machinery in an envelope of escalating hum, setting up a spell of car-sickness-inducing arrhythmia in its final lap. Flipping over, ‘Osat 6-9’ pulsates with Porter Ricks-style nautical dub and the squelchy gibberings of dolphins deftly navigating the sweeping bleeps of depth-sounding technology. Lacking both Pan Sonic’s napalm distortion and military stamina, movements are brief and sufficiently well-blended to keep ‘the rut’ at an ever-comfortable distance and ensure a taut and enduring freshness in even the dourest and most impersonal moments.

Jamka
Inter Alia
SLOVAKIA URBSOUNDS [/]031 LP (2016)

Keeping Pan Sonic firmly in mind (and in recognition that those operations were long-closed before Vainio left us) is this brief blast of dread-inducing drone techno, responsible for which is Jamka aka Slovakians Monika Subrtova and Daniel Kordik, who have issued a steady trickle of such artisan efforts in the last decade and a half. Tracks like ‘Patemp’ and ‘Anazmo’… well, this whole album… makes liberal use of panic-inducing drones and dub-flavoured attack formations of sinewed and bludgeoning beats; making a virtuous show of punishing discipline; exhibiting fewer of the excesses of distortion and over-production than those Jamka model themselves on – your Regises and Techno Animals – not becoming over-repetitive, though breaking no rules either. This is ‘clean’ techno for clubs where the only hint of danger is the smoke they pump in to make punters thirsty, but it’s ideal for those who prefer home-listening to the slap of recognition that one is at least a decade older than every other tight-assed white-boy doing the dancefloor indie-shuffle.

Casting The Runes

A true labour of love – some might call it a labour of obsession – is the album Runaljod – Ragnarok (BY NORSE MUSIC BNM002CD), by the Norwegian music group Wardruna. It’s the third part in a lengthy project which began in 2003, where the aim is to create a musical expression of old Nordic runes; previous instalments of the grand plan were released in 2009 and 2013. The work is mostly driven by the ideas of Einar Selvik, who composes the music and plays most of the instruments, but he’s joined here by Eilif Gundersen, a trio of vocalists and two additional guest singers, plus the Skarvebarna Children’s Choir on one track.

In pursuit of authenticity and historical accuracy, Selvik plays antiquated and archaic instruments, such as the taglharpe, the kraviklyra, the goat horn, the tongue horn, the bronze lure and the birchbark lure; these are combined with lots of percussion – depressing martial drumming, mostly – and electronic music. Further, all the lyrics are written in Norwegian, Norse, and proto-Norse, there’s a Nordic rune printed on the front cover, and the record label is called By Norse Music. I’m intrigued to learn that they also managed to recruit the Icelandic composer Hilmar Örn Hilmarsson for their second album Yggdrasil, and the singer Steindór Andersen who sings in the “rimur” epic poem style.

As well as the studio projects, Wardruna have managed to create a performance band out of all this effort, and it’s probably safe to say they created quite a stir when they performed before the 1100-year-old Gokstad ship which you can see at the Viking Ship Museum in Norway. It’s good to see this determined effort taking place to preserve ancient Nordic culture, but while I’m certainly no expert in the field it’s also evident that Einar Selvik has a very personal, somewhat mystical, take on the subject. “In my songs it is not necessarily a goal for me to approach the respective rune from every conceivable angle, nor to cover or unravel all of the different aspects of it,” he writes in the enclosed booklet, alluding to the many scholarly views of this area where, I gather, the meaning, context and origins of the surviving runic evidence are much disputed. “My approach is both of runologic and mystic nature and my focus is on the core of each rune and the qualities that serve the whole concept and purpose of Wardruna best”, continues Selvik, affirming that his “vision” of the band-project always comes first, side-lining most academic interpretations.

While the whole genre of neofolk / pagan music (a milieu in which it might be convenient to situate this music, though the creators might not agree) is a closed shop to me, at least it’s clear that Wardruna are not dabbling in Viking history for some ill-informed white supremacy purpose, and the depth of Einar Selvok’s conviction and commitment to his task is self-evident. I just wish it wasn’t such a wearisome listen; pompous, solemn, relentless hammering drums, unvarying grim drones a-plenty, and shrill hymns sung in an ancient unknown tongue. From 12th October 2016.

Crude Cassettes

Herewith one large envelope of Miguel A. García-related material from 19th September 2016.

The cassette tape Harigams (CUT#35) comes to us from the Polish label Wounded Knife. The story of it is that Miguel A. García was touring Europe with the French saxophonist Sébastien Branche, and during the Warsaw leg of the trip they recorded a studio set with the drummer Wojtek Kurek from the experimental duo Paper Cuts, and Mateusz Wysocki (sometimes called Fischerle), armed with his laptop of sound samples and field recordings. On the A side, an understated but dense cloud of smeared, fizzy, electro-acoustic noise was the result, a rather subdued and slow drone where it’s hard to say where the saxophone leaves off and the electronic elements begin. The musicians seem to be hampered by uncertainty, but at least their efforts create a fairly pleasing trance. At length, a more restless note creeps into the day’s work, and attempts are made to coarsen the surface with harsh electronic whines and bubbly, crackly emissions from the bell of Branche’s sax. Things improve somewhat on the B side, where the abrasive textures continue and the general flow of the music is subject to more ebb and flow. There’s a nice sample of some vocal music thrown in by someone, but it’s done tentatively, and you wish it could last for longer. The noises are generally pretty good, but the performers are not organising themselves. There’s a general lack of spirit and courage that prevents this music from really catching fire.

Another cassette tape Crudo (NYAPSTER 019) was recorded by García with Carlos Valverde. García and Valverde have performed and recorded together as Cooloola Monster, and their Canciones Del Diablo is an all-time classic in the blasphemous / supernatural noise stakes. On this occasion (as far back as 2011) the harsh pair locked their noisy antlers together and recorded a piece at Radio Bronka in Barcelona, under the general rubric of “Fuck The Bastards” – not sure if this refers to a regular broadcast on that station or a music festival or what, but it’s a good piece of anti-social hate-mongering, not unlike the sort of slogans employed by Crass and Flux Of Pink Indians in the 1980s, except they did it in an anarchist context. The word Crudo is of course entirely apt for this burst of coarse filth, and for about 23 minutes you’ll wallow in scads of black feedback and ugly electronic scabrousness. That sense of nagging insistence, like being attacked by a remorseless sewing machine or other torture implement, is one of García’s strongest characteristics, and in Carlos Valverde he has clearly found a kindred spirit who shares his sadistic tendencies. The cover art – a single word written in black – is spray painted on through a stencil, and the cassette is issued in a Poly-Frosty-Flexi case.

The split tape on Rypistellyt Levyt (RL-016) is not exclusively a Miguel A. García item, but he’s on the B side. At time of writing, this small Helsinki label only offers three releases on its Bandcamp page, but it’s been active since 2009 or earlier, starting out with CDRs but then specialising in cassettes, and has been home to such Finnish obscurities as Neue Haas Grotesk, Supermasters, and the jazz group Horst Quartet. The A side was recorded in Helsinki in 2015, and features our good friend Ilia Belorukov, the ubiquitous Russian, wielding his sax and electronic setup in the company of Lauri Hyvärinen, the Finnish improvising guitarist. The label describe this noise as “slowly unravelling acoustic and electric sounds”, and point out that it was recorded in a concrete bunker, as if that really made any difference. It’s a dud in any case; the duo’s attenuated electric whines and clattering junkyard scrabbles completely fail to cohere for me, but it sounds as though Lauri Hyvärinen has a unique approach to playing the guitar.

On the B side, Miguel A. García is doing it live in Mexico with Héctor Rey, about a week after the Helsinki gig took place. Rey from Bilbao is not unknown in these quarters as he runs the Nueni Records label, which every so often sends us a CDR missive containing obscure and challenging minimal / improvised music. We haven’t heard much of his own work, but his Myxini from 2012 (on the comp Radical Demos #4) impressed us, because of the utter seriousness with which he approached the problem of simply plucking a string. It was as though his very life depended on him sounding the right note. On this Live At Umbral set he’s playing violin and percussion while García supplies electronics, and it’s an extremely subdued set punctuated with much silence and hesitancy. There’s that same sense of deliberation (some might call it paralysis) that I recall from Myxini. When the duo do manage to make a noise together, it’s as if they’re looking at each other with doubtful expressions, asking each other “is this okay?”, as though they were questioning their very right to make improvised music before an audience at all. The duo “work on their sound from a sculptural perspective” according to the label blurb, which may be their way of trying to express in words the deliberation of this stilted approach to playing, likening the musician to a sculptor carefully chipping away at a large slab of marble. They manage to stretch this shilly-shallying out for 17 uneventful minutes, and you’ll need a lot of patience to get to the end of it. Limited edition of 50 copies was released in March 2016, and has already sold out.

The tape Absquatulate Azimuth (BC023) is an old one from 2015, and long sold out. Bicephalic Records is an American tape label and many of the releases feature cover drawings by the owner, August Traeger, who also appears on this split. On the A side, García turns in three variations on a theme he calls Stripes (For Windowpane)…probably one of the most unsettling and confusing sets I’ve heard from the man. It’s got the familiar sense of obsessiveness and the determination to explore an unknown area, but he’s really pushing against the limits, particularly on the spooky third part. Feels like something that members of Nurse With Wound would’ve welcomed in the late 1970s…a real creepster. Apparently the work is derived from “original raw sound sources by window pane”, if that means anything to you.

August Traeger is a new name to me, but he’s a video artist as well as a musician, and also trades under the name Somnaphon. His two contributions are no less creepy than the A side, and ‘Eating Borrowed People’ has a spooked cinematic vibe which I attribute to the sound effects of echoing footsteps and suspenseful chords in the background. But the footsteps are irregular and troubling; no human has ever trod the pavements of the world and created such an unnatural rhythm. I preferred this contribution to ‘Logistic Maps (Subset 2)’, a rather routine bit of glitch and scrambled low-key techno which barely hangs together, but even so Traeger has a nice line in producing synth tunes in the background which make the flesh creep with their queasy, off-centred nature.

The Whole World Is An Enigma

Christopher Chaplin is an English composer who formed a connection with Hans-Joachim Roedelius, dating from the time when he did a live performance of his work in Austria. The pair seem to have enjoyed a number of collaborations since, starting with an appearance on the Late Junction radio show, and then the release of the King Of Hearts album in 2012. John Norman noted that release here, finding it a somewhat hit-or-miss experience, but when it did succeed the music impressed with its “secret mutterings of the insides of things” and strange juxtapositions of sonic elements. Today we have before us Je Suis Le Ténébreux (FABRIQUE RECORDS FAB58CD), a new Chaplin composition for the Viennese label Fabrique Records. That’s him on the cover looking like a strange reverse-Messiah figure, a glint of madness in his wide-eyed glare. Once again contributions are featured from the veteran Cluster-Harmonia genius, who adds piano and synths, and his voice. There’s also spoken word and narration from Christine Roedelius, the French soprano-actress Judith Chemla, and the poetess Claudia Schumann, who also supplies texts that are central to the theme of Je Suis Le Ténébreux.

As to this theme, it’s based on the so-called “Enigma of Bologna”, an epitaph written in Latin on a Roman tombstone, sometimes known as The Aelia-Laelia-Crispis Inscription. The tombstone was discovered in the 16th century (the album erroneously claims it was written in the 16th century), and since then has grown into something of a puzzle; some 18 lines of text packed with paradox and contradictions, alluding to a figure that’s neither male nor female, nor hermaphrodite. By the late 17th century, anguished scholars had already come up with 43 different solutions to the riddle, claiming variously it was a description of “the rain, the soul, Niobe, Lot’s wife, or a child promised in marriage that died before its birth.” Another view said it described an animal (a mule or donkey) rather than a human being. Later interpretations have found elements of alchemy, psychology, spiritualism and philosophy buried within this compacted text; Jung wrote about the Enigma, and so did the French writer Gerard de Nerval 1, in two tales Pandora and Le Comte de Saint-Germain; de Nerval is further referenced (however briefly) by Claudia Schumann’s poetry on this album.

As befits this “enigmatic” theme, Chaplin’s record is music that’s shrouded in darkness and layers of hinted meaning, and vague allusions scattered throughout the texts which are sung, spoken, whispered, or otherwise handed over to the listener in packages that themselves must be unwrapped and decoded. English translations of Latin and German are provided in the booklet (whose pages, by the way, are all black backgrounds) to help with the decoding process, but it’s likely that Chaplin wishes to protect the mystery of this strange riddle. The music, a studio-bound assemblage of synths and pianos, is mostly a sort of complex and progressive electronic drone with highly sinister connotations, but carefully structured to avoid any sort of conventional musical resolution. Each piece just continues to march grimly through a void, shrouded by veils of unknown blackness, with no clear end or destination in sight. Yet there’s still a sense of drama; in places, as though we’re hearing a stripped-down version of a Purcell opera, recast for post-modern times with a huge dose of irony and stripped of all context.

“Not much can be said about the enigma, other than it holds a certain fascination”, writes Chaplin in his sleeve note. I wondered why I found myself slightly disappointed with this apparent blithe indifference of his. Perhaps I’d be happier if he showed the same sort of feverish obsession with his text as those early scholars who devised 43 different interpretations of it. At times Claudia Schumann seems more engaged with meaning than he is, especially on the final track ‘The Enigma (Reprise)’, where the solemn intonations of both the Roedeliuses add a certain weight to the texts. There’s also much to be said for the other Roedelius contributor, Rosa Roedelius, who supplied the art pieces which are photographed on the covers. They resemble little raviolis of various size, and are no doubt intended as puns on the female genitalia. If The Enigma Of Bologna does indeed contain themes of sexual ambiguity, Rosa’s sculptures seem to have hit the target first time, and more effectively than Chaplin’s cautious, measured treading. Even so, this is an unusual item which you may wish to investigate. From 20 September 2016; also available as a double LP.

  1. The French romanticist who took lobsters for a walk.

The Purge: Anarchy

Fine blast of art-noise with a punky edge from the Peter Aaron / Brian Chase Duo, an American pair of seasoned players who only met up a few years ago in 2013. On the same occasion as their first live outing, they also booked a recording session at an old church in Hudson NY and recorded Purges (PUBLIC EYESORE 134), an intensive set of vigourous music created by means of guitar, drums and electronics. The longer tracks with names like ‘Space’, ‘Rolling’ and ‘Swirl’ are more easy to locate in the improv-exploratory noise zones, and they are sandwiched in between the numbered ‘Purge’ blasts, which are short punky guitar explosions usually around a minute in length – clearly the players intending to “purge” themselves of all bodily poisons with a voiding, puking action.

It’s impressive to hear this much confidence and swagger on a debut, but the pair have long histories; Peter Aaron, from Cincinnati but known in New York and New Jersey, was the guitarist and singer with punk band The Chrome Cranks in the 1990s, whose records are described elsewhere as “Garage Rock” and are hopefully edgy and nasty affairs of angrified electric bombardment. Chrome Cranks were pretty successful, with eight albums, lots of tours, and an MTV appearance. Aaron was also in Sand In The Face, who made one hardcore punk LP in 1986. As for Brian Chase, he’s the drummer with Yeah Yeah Yeahs (New York alt-rock band since 2000), and has duetted with Alan Licht, Andrea Parkins, and made an experimental drumming-drone record for Pogus Productions. I’d like to think that it’s these credentials that make Purges such a compelling listen, a thrilling combination of raw punk attack with ideas about sound art and improvisation…the label is equally enthused, emphasising the loud volume of their sets, and the “rare uncanny telepathy” that the two share, enabling them to set up and start playing without any fussing over sound checks and balancing levels.

The digipak sleeve includes a photo of the boys in action, confirming once again you can always trust a guitarist who wears a suit. The front cover may look a bit of a mess, but it’s an image of a broken lightbulb (a motif picked up on the other artworks) which, along with the acidic colours of the printing, does much to suggest the violent power of this music. Very good. From 21st September 2016.

Library Of Liberties

Some Some Unicorn are a small army of free improvisers, and on Unicornucopia (CLUTTER MUSIC CM023) I counted at least 40 names before I ran out of fingers and had to buy a new abacus. It’s a pretty healthy gender balance, too; a lot of women musicians in the group. Shaun Blezard is the mover and shaker that’s mustered this army, a fellow whose background is electronica, samplers, laptop and dance music, so it’s interesting to find him masterminding this project involving real human beings instead of machines, and music that’s mostly produced by acoustic instruments. That said, there are a large number of players credited with electronics on this record too.

Some Some Unicorn started online as a collaborative thing; now they see themselves as a collective, or even a small community, of like-minded souls who value real experience over dwelling in the virtual realms of Facebook likes and Twitter responses. The music here was recorded in a number of venues through 2016, in Salford, London, Lancaster and Ulverston; Blezard did a lot of the recording, and mixed and mastered the release itself. I’m already daunted; I feel like these 40+ energised souls have a lot of material in the pipeline, and this diffuse and sprawling record represents only a smattering of the things they are capable of doing. It would be a bold man indeed who would try and categorise the music on offer, since it’s so diverse; although you may think you can recognise elements of “traditional” free improvised music here in the free sax and trumpet blowing, there’s also drone, choral music, percussive meditational tunes like some form of souped-up Tibetan bowl music, classical chamber music, and even a species of folk tunes. Quite often, three or four of these styles and genres are blended freely on the same track, the musicians doing so in an entirely unselfconscious manner. It’s not a forced mash-up, more a natural melding of forms and expressions.

Even though not everyone is present on each track, it’s still impressive to get this many people together and not end up with a muddy, shapeless cacophony. Indeed, the simple clarity and directness of the music is one of the hallmarks of Some Some Unicorn; without trying too hard or over-intellectualising the idea of “freedom”, they’ve ended up creating music that’s arguably more free than many well-known hardcore improvisers can manage. There’s a real open-endedness to this music which invites the listener to enter and join in, rather than shut them out; and the players themselves are clearly enjoying making their explorations, which take place in a very friendly and collaborative place. That’s rare. But real unicorns are rare too. One of the benchmarks we’re reminded of is the Spontaneous Music Ensemble, which is a very apt comparison, and in particular I would suggest those voice-choir experiments John Stevens conducted in the early 1970s, such as For You To Share (which featured untrained members of the audience joining in). I’m also reminded of Cornelius Cardew and The Great Learning, though thankfully this album Unicornucopia is entirely free from Marxist and Maoist dogma of any sort, nor does it follow the wearisome and stultifying trajectory of Cardew’s old warhorse of a piece.

While some of the wordless vocalising may seem a little “arty” in places, for the most part this beautiful record is a total delight, injecting new life into a genre which has lately seemed in danger of becoming stultified and crippled by its own history and baggage. Mr Blezard, and all the musicians named on this record, can feel proud of this achievement. From 23rd September 2016.

Antras Galas

The enigmatic Lithuanian Gintas K. has featured in these pages numerous times, on each occasion baffling the curious listener with his quasi-scientific studies in glitchy electronica and producing mysterious sounds which seem to be taking place on a sub-atomic level. Maybe he reveals otherwise hidden events; maybe he’s the agency that causes them, dressed in his impersonal white overalls and goggles. His Dimensions (FROZEN LIGHT FZL042) album is mostly devoted to a 35-minute experiment he conducted in Vancouver in 2015, at the 21st International Symposium on Electronic Art. There seems to have been a theme, or even an actual venue, called the “Immersive Sound Room”, where you would have found Gintas K. and his set-up. He did it using Plogue Bidule, which appears to be a particular kind of “virtual instrument” supported by various plugins, and which runs on popular operating systems. When one sees screenshots of this modular creation studio, one can only guess at the possibilities. It so happens the vendor is Canadian, so perhaps Gintas K. was taking advantage of an exhibitor at his stand in Vancouver that day. While he mentions the use of midi keyboards and controllers, the real point of interest here is that he did it live. It kind of shows, too; there’s an urgency and nervousness in this cybernetic jumble that I don’t usually sense from the cryptic, faceless Mr. K. It also sounds fairly loopy and unhinged in places, evidence of the software running away with its own ideas like an army of demented cyber-crabs scuttling across a digital beach of tiny pebbles. The album is rounded out with ‘antras galas’, six mins and 30 secs of even more crazy wriggles and splintered demons, winging their way madly inside a glass jar. One of the more extreme entries in the “glitch” genre, and a jolly time. from 7th September 2016.

Fyodor’s Wild Years

A real one-of-a-kind record is Russian Canon (FROZEN LIGHT FZL 037), a record credited to Fake Cats Project, a trio featuring Kirill Makushin, Igor Levshin, and Alexei Borisov, which they only started in 2015 yet they’re already produced four records, of which this is one. Can’t find out much about the project or the band, although Alexei Borisov is well known and respected on these pages, and is probably my favourite avant-garde Russian musician (along with Kurt Liedwart and Ilia Belorukov).

Russian Canon is a bizarre suite of songs and instrumentals which may amount to an opera, a song cycle, a parodic comment on modern urban society, or simply a series of surreal poems set to music. All is sung (and lyrics printed) in Russian, so I’m at a bit of a loss, but at least the titles are printed in English. You might be able to piece together a scenario from titles like ‘Falcon Theme’, ‘Clouds Of My Memory’, and ‘A Kitten Looks At Soldier’s Eyes’, but it’d be a pretty wild and hairy screenplay that you’d be submitting to your editor. The music is kind of all over the place too. I can discern tunes and ditties that might be Russian folk songs (a wild guess though; the accordion backing is my one and only clue here) and likewise songs that more resemble the sort of proletariat anthems that appear in my worst nightmares when I’m inventing newsreel footage from the days of Kruschev and Sputnik and screening these imaginary movies in my brain. Particularly the opening blast, ‘Everything Is Fine’, a fractured every-which-way composition whose waywardness makes it perfectly clear that whatever else is going on, everything is not fine. But that’s just my warped imagination.

The trio also play electronic synth drone tunes; a very distorted form of easy-listening jazz with the help of guest trumpeter Konstantin Sukhan, acting as the reverse Herb Alpert in this context; broken, minimal post-punk songs; and even on one track a song built on a famous Erik Satie tune, so that’s their classical music credentials also checking in for duty. Fake Cats Project perform in all these styles effortlessly, and are not attempting a mannered pastiche…and they play with utter conviction, maintaining a serious and slightly gloomy mood throughout the whole off-beat performance. Street singers and “baggers” – hopefully that’s the local slang for bag-men – are also sampled and their voices join in the rollicking fun in places.

It’s a remarkable tour de force, packed with much drama and musical invention. Now that I think of it, the nearest Western equivalent to this might be Tom Waits, but even he would probably hand over his last bottle of brown-bagged bourbon if he could produce something as cinematic, noirish, and unhinged as Russian Canon. Wish I could decode more of this, so I may just have to send a message to the band through their Bandcamp page. Very high recommendation for this lavish, layered, musical oddity. From 7th September 2016.

Hearing Voices

We are quite keen on Star Turbine, the duo of Sindre Bjerga and Claus Poulsen, whom we last heard on their album for Attenuation Circuit which came out in late 2013. Here’s another six tracks of their craft on Nothing Should Move Unless You Want It To (FROZEN LIGHT FZL 043) on the Russian label usually dedicated to sinister dark ambient music. The pieces here represent snapshots of the duo’s live work between 2014 and 2016, captured in various European and UK locations (I make the distinction advisedly). I think they do it with electronics and radios and perhaps some amplified objects, and what emerges is a low-key chatter and hum sound, but one which is rich with layers, detail, and textures. It’s strangely affecting and enjoyable to get these disembodied, fractured voices drifting out across a gently lapping sea of non-descript noise. Far from being aggressive or loud, Star Turbine propose that we float for a while in this semi-abstract space and use our ears to explore. As I may have said before, this is one rare instance where the unfinished, meandery approach to sound generation really pays off. Limited and numbered edition CD. From 7th September 2016.