Tagged: electronic

Loving the Alien

MeiZhiyong Dave Phillips
MeiZhiyong Dave Phillips
SLOVAKIA URBSOUNDS COLLECTIVE URB035 LP (2017)

Schimpfluch Gruppe’s prized Humanimal-Aktionist Dave Phillips needs no introduction round here, though Mei Zhiyong – his confederate for this collaboration LP – may be less familiar to SP readers, which didn’t stop him racking up kudos in 2014, when he organised a tour of China for/with Herr Phillips. Live videos show the man to be a beast behind the mixing desk, pumping out torrents of effluent noise that could pass for that of ‘80s/’90s scum-noise-mongers such as Hijokaidan, Incapacitants or even Otomo Yoshihide on a strident night. This LP, a typically Schimpfluchian cut n’paste montage, is sourced from slivers of the Sino-Swiss double-act’s subsequent, 20-city rampage across Europe in 2015, which must have left audiences breathless and Phillips with much to wade through while editing this monster.

First thing out the window is linear time: the record obliterates any sense of what happened during these shows, but in its warped continuum of sudden shifts, subdermal explosions, subterranean drones, dulled voices, animal growls, and occasional sonic pixelation as Phillips zooms deep into his materials, offers some idea of the audience’s disorientation. The prolific Phillips’ probably threw this all together on the fly, filleting his digital archives of tasty bits as he gave them the once-through; burnishing the sum into a ferocious form of electroacoustic wizardry without wasting a moment. Hewn of fat, flatulence and dead air are the visceral shits and giggles, leaving only muscle and menace: an approach eminently preferable to even a highlight-cuts compilation, much less the bloated live document format. For this we are eternally grateful.

Gilles Aubry
And Who Sees The Mystery
GERMANY CORVO RECORDS core 011 LP (2017)

Between 2013-14, well-commissioned radio producer and sound artist Gilles Aubry took to Morocco’s in-between spaces to collect and process the recordings he went on to map out this 38-minute composition or ‘sonic exploration of Berber-Amazigh voices and instruments, rhythms and spaces’ as the literature has it. The Berber are an Afro-Asiatic (but largely Islamic) ethnic group dispersed across Northern Africa, with concentrations in Morocco and Algeria; their languages a blur of related autochthonous tongues under the Tamazight umbrella. Reasons for Aubry’s interest in the group are unclear, but what distinguishes this recording is its distance from the motifs, the vigour and the verve one might expect from a part of the world so frequented for its sense-sharpening music. Indeed, hot countries are not usually known for such introspection. However, behind the curtain of our thwarted expectation, we may, perchance, bear witness to the titular ‘mystery’.

Much like the expansive sound collages of Sublime Frequencies (and as far back as the proto-collage on Sun City Girls’ Low Pacific), And Who Sees The Mystery is both an excursion through and remote from from the standard issue sound sources encountered in field recordings and fixed-medium electroacoustic both. It openly trafficks in faintly-familiar fragments (street sounds, bird calls and rousing musical performances), binding them with the dissonant yet adhesive properties of ‘performative’ feedback and a recurrent drone that tints everything it touches, till the whole artefact succumbs in time to sonic degradation: tape corrosion, piercing feedback and the dust of field recordings that demands cognitive reparation for our audio tourism. Neither travelogue nor scrapbook, the record is more of an interior tapestry of nameless voices echoing through the darkness of either an alienating reality or dispassionate dream world, at least inviting the listener to ruminate upon this strange, fictional realm.

Andi Otto
VIA
GERMANY PINGIPUNG 53 / JAPAN NIGHT CRUISING NC-LP02 2 x LP (2017)

Berlin’s Andi Otto first touched our radar in 2014 with Where We Need No Map, under his Springintgut monicker – a lightweight deck of beat-driven backpacker postcards from all corners of Asia. He followed this with a fine collaborationThe Bird and White Noise (with F.S. Blumm) – an uplifting ‘travelogue of naturalistic melodies’ that I have turned to in many a time of Too Much Dark Ambient. His current self-image is of an ethno-beat maestro of the Four Tet/Daphni school, who crams the channels with suave string samples, modular whoops and warbles, and selectively swiped Asian girl vocals doing loops around slow-burning deep house and dub rhythms.

With more in the way of a blissed-out Buddha Bar vibe than ‘Map offered, tracks like ‘Dub For Ian Waterman’ balance eye for detail with ear for delicate melody, though this is an exceptional instance of a build-up leading to a payoff, where many other tracks level off to a predetermined pace and stay there. The effect of this is that for all the variety of content, identity quickly becomes homogenous. Besides, Four Tet perfected the art of middle-class beat-smithery with his Morning / Evening record in 2015. Thus, while clearly a talented producer, Otto and his skills might be better off in good company.

Velocity Dislocation

Volume Eleven of Text-Sound Compositions (FYLKINGEN RECORDS FYLP 1042) is dated 1974. If you want much variety and short pieces for your dollar, plus a fairly wide range of international artists, this might be the one to pick from the whole set, although I did find it very variable in quality.

Christer Grewin’s ‘Words That…’ is a strong opener. The text materials for this come from an unknown Latin American writer, suspended in a minimal soup of electronic sounds and whispering. Meaning and context are subverted or twisted by Christer’s subtle interventions.

Lars Hallnäs’s piece is called ‘Mit einer Rede Von…’, a quite good text and computer-sound piece with a rather stilted halting delivery that is somehow endearing. I had to wince when I read it came out of a period of “defiance and rebellion” for Lars. The recording is a very Swedish middle-class notion of what defiance and rebellion sounds like, a very genteel affair based on the ideas of intellectual film-makers and philosophers of the 1970s. He cites Jean-Luc Godard, but lacks the Frenchman’s bite. Still, punk rock hadn’t quite been invented in 1974.

Roberta Settels ‘P4’ is a hot item. A very effective blast from this American ex-pat who was in Sweden at the time. There is some text, but it’s mostly a radio waves experiment, and solar flare activity comes into it somewhere. For these reasons, perhaps we can draw a line from here to Disinformation’s Stargate and Per Svennson’s Intergalactic Transmission. What I like here is the sense of imminent danger, as though we’re hearing things we shouldn’t, broadcast from a part of the universe we ought to leave alone. I’d love to hear more from Ms. Settels, but she only made one LP in 1985, which was suppressed by an established label due to its controversial subject matter (expressing apparent sympathy for a terrorist), and she ended up self-releasing it on her own Music In Crisis label.

Jon Appleton is another American, well loved in this house due to his Appleton Syntonic Menagerie 2 CD compilation. He also made a record with Don Cherry on Flying Dutchman. ‘Rödluvan’ is his take on Little Red Riding Hood, which doesn’t work quite as well as it ought. The strongest element is the young Axel Bodin doing the reading. Appleton’s Buchla synths aren’t as exciting as they could be. Something of a throwback to an old popular classical record format (e.g. Peter and The Wolf) but slightly undermined in some way.

I’d like to pass over Eugeniusz Rudnik’s ‘Wokale’. You may have noticed that Bolt Records in Poland is doing everything they can to restore Rudnik (and the Experimental Studio at Polish Radio) to his rightful place in the history of electroacoustic music. In case you haven’t got enough material from their extensive reissue programme, here is a five minute unreleased item. And it’s a massive embarrassment to hear Rudnik vocalising a “boogie” rhythm over a clunky electronic track. Maybe it could end up being passed off by some hoaxer as a Paul McCartney out-take from his 1980 LP.

Rune Lindblad, another king of Swedish electro-acoustic music, ends this LP with an uncharacteristically “direct” piece. 1 ‘I Want To Go Home’ attempts to address the problems of old people in society and ends up levelling an accusation at the Institution of old peoples’ homes, and the uncaring authorities who run them on behalf of the state. This is achieved with a documentary interview that reveals the total lack of compassion and comprehension displayed by a professional “carer” as he listens to the plaints of an unhappy, yet still dignified, old lady. Even to non-Swedish speakers, this much is completely clear. The piece is punctuated and decorated with restrained and fascinating electronic sounds. Remarkable work.

  1. I use the word “uncharacteristically” because so much of what I have heard from Lindblad is oblique, allusive, opaque and probably packed with poetic symbols expressed in musical form.

Diastolic Darkness

O Yuki Conjugate
Tropic
GERMANY AUF ABWEGEN aatp58 LP (2017)

A pair of side-longs that reenact the sleeve: mirrored halves of radiant, nocturnal drift that simultaneously precede and antecede in an indifferent, self-consuming contest between light and darkness. ‘The Fate of Less Valuable Animals’ opens up the Heart of Darkness (as in Joseph Conrad’s account of ‘the horror’), signalling the journey towards death and its mysterious purpose through gongs and chimes ringing with benign resignation in the tropic night; funereal drums greet the listener deeper in, beating the night, while intermittent passages of blurred narration (presumably also from Conrad) emerge like lost wanderers in the underwhelming greyness. Given that this record is essentially a long-lost bits n’bobs melange, there’s an aptness to this ostensible lack of structure.

However, ‘Darkness Was Here Yesterday’ maintains and inverts, fulfilling the title’s sequential structure by audibly extracting light from the darkness, a process comparable to the onset of human cognitive development. But the warmth romantically associated with (en)light(enment) is often spiked with the intensity of man’s industry and destructiveness, and congeals into rhythmic patterns like metallic metronome and downbeat techno: tentative reminders of the fragility of mortality, of human ascendancy and the immediacy of the darkness that enshrouds it. The final ascent to the light is similarly provisional and without rapture, though the strangely enough, the converse is true for this intrepid record as a whole.

Colin Andrew Sheffield & James Eck Rippie
Essential Anomalies
USA ELEVATOR BATH eeaoa043 2 x LP (2017)

Double LP of dark ambient rich with the hypnagogic uneventfulness that dreams are made of, shimmying in with simmering wave after wave of liquid metal that ripples gently upwards towards the pulse-pounding point of disquieting distortion… the eventual resumption of droning pulsations repeats like a long forgotten threat. This uneasy yet mesmerising lead-in yields delicate details, rendered dream-like in the hands of Colin Andrew Sheffield (sampler) and James Eck Rippie (turntables), whose longstanding and long-distance friendship was also reprised for the occasion.

Immersing themselves in the black folds of their spiralling cut n’paste tumult, the pair sprinkle in what they define as ‘essential anatomies’ – the emotive essence of the sounds they’ve sampled from ‘commercially available recordings’ (their vague terminology signposting the crate-digger’s secrecy, or dodging copyright litigation law) and reduced to basic textures, timbres and tethered, minimalist murmurings. Some have wielded epithets like ‘plunderphonic’ to these results, which to my ears is far more homogenised than the grand mutations of your John Walls and Oswalds, whose works aspire to transcend/obliterate the sum of their constituents, and annoy/alarm the listener while at it. Sheffield/Rippie’s is a commendable effort, schizomorphic and laced with sweet splinters of nightmare orchestra in the near-climatic finale, but it’s of a far slower and more seamless species of symphony.

Sound and Vision

Vlad Dobrovolski
The Drums Of The Fore And Aft
RUSSIA KOTÄ 19 LP (2017)

The sea and its memorious associations is one element of Vlad Dobrovolski’s new record, The Drums of the Fore and Aft, which finds him working with modular and analogue synths, tapes and his “head and heart” as he puts it, with a faux naivete that is redeemed by music of a similar charm to Jon Brooks’ 52 – a remembrance of times spent at his grandmother’s house – or in Jurgen Muller’s new age oceanography. Dobrovolski’s record is similarly sparing and sentimental in its evocation of cherished locations (while not imagined, they show he’s no stranger to Brian Eno); his sincerity is as radiant in each piece’s pale patina of picture postcard perfection as it is in the badly translated notes that accompany. Each slide shows a sparing swathe of vintage bleeps and pulsations issuing through clean sea air while rippling waves hiss underfoot; each is unaffected, unadorned and light to the touch.

Dino Spiluttini
To Be a Beast
AUSTRIA CUT SURFACE CS004 LP (2017)

Sound and visual artist Dino Spiluttini makes penetrating emotional sound fields full of circular motifs rolling in shoegaze-haze, comparable to the dreamy flashback ilk of Tim Hecker, Fennesz et al. Ambient music for mildly troubled souls, in other words. Thus To Be A Beast is very much the music that vinyl is made for: a furrowed surface that spins out short story re-enactments of atavistic self-mythologies; disinters and restores emotional revenants to their place in the psyche, yet keeps distortion levels within the comfort zone. Conveniently corresponding to these fuzzy, weighted vignettes is Spiluttini’s sideline in photography, much of which shows half-captured landscapes on damaged film, full of faded tree-greens and light-bleached topographies. Between the two listeners might discern a corridor, not to mention much mutual value to be appreciated.

The Non-Passage

Nice collaborative effort between Chris Abrahams, the Australian piano player, and Burkhard Beins the German percussionist, on Instead Of The Sun (HERBAL CONCRETE DISC 1602) …they’re forsaking their usual instruments and doing something in the electronic realm, and all the music here was created with synthesizers and live electronics. Burkhard, who sent us a copy from Berlin, was kind enough to give precise details of the instrumentation. Chris Abrahams plays a “Waldorf…a cross between FM and analog synthesizer, and has a keyboard”, while Beins’ set-up is a bit more elaborate, comprising “a circuit of small analog synthesizers, loopers, and effects”. Beins also has prepared sound files which are added to the performance from an Edirol player (this is the only bit I do understand – it’s what I would call a tape recorder, except it’s all digital). His synth set-up also has some custom-made synthesizer elements. All of this amounts to a reasonably unorthodox table-load of equipment, I assume, allowing for a unique combination of electric yawps.

What results is nine tracks of abstract buzzing and burring and intensive drone-chattering blather, with strangely insistent pulsations that don’t exactly follow a precise beat, but are enough to numb you into an insensate condition with their soft-hammer blows. Plus plenty of strange crackling and textured crunchy noise effects floating around like the constituent parts of a Cadbury’s candy bar. Attention is paid to working in the stereo field, and these digital insects flutter back and forth through the imaginary space with a mixture of wild abandon and sinister purpose. There’s little concern with old-fashioned ideas about composition, but some of the pieces do follow the sort of trajectory where matters grow more intense and insufferable by the end, as if the duo were intent on choking up the air with clouds of pollutive static. But that makes it sound a bit brutal; I shouldn’t lose sight of the remarkable subtlety of this album, which is far from being a noise-burst assault, and this duo are capable of exciting tonal variations and dynamic shifts that are logical and fascinating; there’s no need for them to resort to shock tactics or wild daring leaps into the unknown.

While there’s not a great deal of sonic variety on this album, the monotony of it has a part to play too, and the listener must pay attention to the small variations and experimentation that is evidently possible within this relatively limited set-up. It’s also clear the music is live, even if it may have been trimmed in places for presentation; this may say something about the considerable improvisatory skills of the pair. I consider this an interesting update on the glitchy-noise genre (if that still has any meaning in 2017), and a testament to the performing skills of these two accomplished artists. From 17th January 2017.

In One Gollup

Highly unusual home-made release by Evil Dick (i.e. Richard Hemmings of Leicester). His All That Glisters (NO LABEL) is mostly a one-man-band release, although he is joined by saxophonist Dave Jackson for some of the record…Dick plays keyboards, drums and guitar, and may do some “digital mangling” of the saxophone sound. It’s a highly eclectic mix – free jazz, improvised music, electronic squeal, hip-hop beats and fusion all drop into Dick’s melting pot, which he stirs with the zest of an insane witch cackling over her cauldron.

There’s evidently a lot of musical chops behind Dick’s madcap sprees, but he never sits still for long enough for us to appreciate them – he’s keen on cut-ups, edits, juxtapositions, stop-start arrangements, and just about any trick he can use to keep the dynamics of each tune zipping along like Roadrunner in the Chuck Jones cartoons. These loopy changes make it hard for the listener to concentrate, although that may be part of the plan. Not everything follows this schema exactly, and the six parts of ‘All That Glisters’ are formless sprawls without the manic rhythms, possibly intended to demonstrate Evil Dick’s idiosyncratic take on musique concrète with their unutterably bizarre manipulations of sound, arranged to no apparent logic.

Hemmings is an associate of Ben Watson, the English writer who has published at some length on the work of Frank Zappa, a connection which I mention because I would guess Hemmings might be something of a Zappa devotee himself. He too is interested in jazz fusion, speedy keyboard runs, strong rhythms, tape-mangling, composition, and general zaniness. The difference is that Hemmings doesn’t really have much to say beneath the crazy surface effects and eccentric production, and judging by his jokey self-conscious sleeve notes, evidently lives in dread that anyone might take him seriously. From 16 January 2017.

And Also The Trees

Last heard from Chester Hawkins, the Washington DC synth genius, with his 2015 solo release Apostasy Suite – a vague parody of the Catholic mass in music that indicated the trend of Hawkins’ mind towards some sort of ritualistic purging. He’s back again today with Natural Causes (INTANGIBLE ARTS IA019), an LP which doesn’t quit over two continuous sides, amounting to 44 minutes of soundtrack music for the film Pale Trees made by Tim Ashby. This film is still making its mark on the festival-arthouse circuit at time of writing, and it’s not quite clear what themes it might be tackling in its weird storyline, apart from an interest in ghosts, buried memories, and skeletons locked away in a family closet. To do justice to this semi-supernatural subject matter, Hawkins has summoned up all the “dark ambient” forces he can muster from his impressive array of vintage synths, and also enriched the production with field recordings made in the forest to bring the scent of the earth and the pine cone to his LP. He calls them “deep-woods” recordings, in fact, apparently made in Rock Creek Park, a National Park which lies north of Wash. DC. As forests have figured significantly in fairy tales and dark folklore for several centuries, this was an inspired move; one might say no other choice was possible. The cover photos, in stark black and white, may be sourced from said locale, and convey ominous sensations of dead bodies and burials. As a final touch, he painted his tongue black and wore an undertaker’s suit while making the record inside a mortuary. Not all of these facts are accurate, but you get the idea.

The album itself almost divides into two halves, with the “melody” on the A side and the “atmospherics” on the flip, but even that is too simplistic an assessment as the main musical theme reasserts itself towards the end of the suite, thus creating a satisfying whole in the mind of the listener as said theme re-emerges with a certain triumphant flourish. Despite the slightly macabre undercurrents, Natural Causes is not an especially morose record, nor does Hawkins ever fall back on conventional pre-sets, lazy drones, or instant effects to achieve his aims; instead all the music feels solid, through-composed, and assembled with the deliberation of an architect. It certainly has a sturdy backbone, unlike some flimsy electronica drones I could name. Equipment fetishists may slaver with envy over his list of keyboards, which include assorted Korg and Moog branded devices, but once again Hawkins demonstrates it’s the imagination and skill behind the machines that matters most when the rubber hits the asphalt.

On his press note, Hawkins makes plain his debt to “kosmische” and “krautrock” music, and declares this record to have derived in part from his understanding of the “sonic textures of the 1970s Berlin-school kosmische drone and the more experimental side of krautock.” If it weren’t for the internet I wouldn’t know that this school is associated with the music of Tangerine Dream, Klaus Schulze, and Manuel Göttsching, who happened to be based in West Berlin in the 1970s. The aim of that label is to distinguish the music from the more rhythm-hungry types of Dusseldorf, such as Cluster, Can, and Neu!, and “Berlin kosmische” is seen by many as one of the progenitors of ambient music, as it has now become known. Hawkins doesn’t neglect rhythm completely on this record though, as side A marches along to its own ponderous and robotic tread with a solidity and weight that is distinctly Teutonic, yet clearly filtered through the mind of an American, an American who mentally overlays the landscapes of Caspar David Friedrich with paintings from the Hudson River School. I mean there’s a real understanding of the sheer ruggedness of the forest, which comes across in almost every passing moment of Natural Causes, and a trait which would be welcomed by Walt Whitman and Thoreau alike. From 22nd December 2016.

Devious Dub

Andreas Oskar Hirsch came our way in 2015 with his unusual and beguiling solo LP Summe 1, which was like an imaginary voyage into an undiscovered part of the world, executed with field recordings, bird song, unorthodox percussion instruments and much imagination. Here’s Hirsch again teaming up with Richard Eigner, the percussionist and field recording fellow from Austria associated with the Ritornell label (a sublabel of Mille Plateaux). Their 7-inch single Stalker/Swoop (OUS 006) is an uneasy mix of precision drumming with vague and uncertain electronic burbles, and both these short swipes of music seem to be packed full of yawning gaps – I mean not just spaces in the music, but the fact that much is understated and unexplained, as to their intentions or musical ideas. ‘Stalker’ is the one with the offbeat swing-beat rhythm, proceeding at a very deliberate and unhurried pace, where the drumming is accentuated by a warped marimba pattern which might be mistaken for a minimalist-urban version of Gamelan…perhaps produced by digital means. This feels like a dance track remade as a matchstick model, fragile and spindly and quite unsuitable for purpose. ‘Swoop’ is equally inscrutable, and if the title is meant to be describing the action of a predatory bird, the music is completely unrelated to the grace and agility of that peregrine falcon. The rhythm here is more suggested than played, Eigner playing around the beat with sharp rolls and fills like a free jazz drummer. In the gaps, Hirsch inserts his languid ambient drones of vagueness and doubt. A perplexing listen, all in all. Pressed in green vinyl. From 14th November 2016.

Ledge End

Noteherder & McCloud have released a nifty limited edition lathe-cut piece of product…a 7-incher with two tunes of “pop song” length, which I totally recommend if you can still get one of the 32 copies in existence. ‘From Ledge to Ledge’ sees Chris Parfitt freaking out on his soprano sax like Evan Parker having an epileptic fit in a zinc tunnel while Geoff Reader parps out spastic techno-bursts from his ultra-primitive synth deck. This was from a 2015 live set at The Green Door in Brighton organised by Spirit Of Gravity, who released this as GRAV116…on the flip there’s 3 mins and 50 secs of ‘Jammed In The Shingle Middle, It Comes Right In The End’, on which the electronic half of the act is doing a superb low-key impersonation of the Network South train that presumably took them to Bar 42 in Worthing, where this was recorded. Meanwhile Parfitt has evidently discovered the one “perfect” note on his sax, and keeps repeating it for at least sixty seconds. Either side of this are some highly tasty Lol Coxhill-styled licks with the honeyed curlicues and effortless breath control that were among Lol’s hallmarks. I think this duo are one of the UK’s best kept secrets, but half of the Brighton cognoscenti seem to be hip…for further Brighton doings, you could do worse than scope out the Spirit Of Gravity links, for programmes of events and embedded Soundcloud links so you can catch up on the radical noise you’ve been missing for the last 56 months. From 23rd December 2016.

Yaschichek, Little Box

Herewith four more cassettes from the Russian Spina!Rec label. Arrived here 20th December 2016.

Andrey Popovskiy is the St Petersburg composer whose work has been arriving here since 2014. If there’s any connection between his releases Rotonda and Kryukov, it might have something to do with the way sound behaves in an enclosed space, and the exigencies of recording devices in attempting to capture the elusive reality of acoustical behaviours. While Rotonda seemed to misfire for Jack Tatty, we liked the mysterious properties of Kryukov (his split tape with Dubcore) and the way it somehow summoned an aesthetically pleasing effect from such everyday banality. Even to call Popovskiy a “kitchen sink” composer would be to make it far too exotic; he’d be happy to occupy the cupboard under the sink, along with the cartons of bleach. Works For Voice Recorders 2011 (SR029) takes this pared-down approach to an even further extreme. On the A side, there are five short pieces documenting his experiments with voice recording devices (dictaphones, perhaps? If those things even exist any more), placed inside a room and capturing whatever external bumps and groans may come their way. There’s also something about the devices being used to record themselves – contact mics placed in their own innards, or something. All manner of recorded artefacts are generated in a refreshingly non-digital manner. I can’t account for why this unprepossessing, near-blank grind effect is so compelling, but I can’t stop listening to it.

On the flip is a long piece called Zvukovanie, and is a far more ambitious composition lasting some 34 mins. He’s created layers of sound from field recordings out in the streets, musical performances, and rehearsals, superimposing them into what is described as a “three-dimensional” piece. Percussionist Mikhail Kuleshin and improvising trumpeter Vyacheslav Guyvoronsky join him in this task. While this might seem a recipe for chaos, in Popovskiy’s hands it results in a very pleasing jumble of balmy strangeness, drifting and shifting in unexpected ways. The listener is not being “directed” to pay attention to any one element, and instead is free to wander in an open landscape of sound events, much like an exotic street bazaar, and picking up what trinkets they may. Delightful.

SR027 is a split. The side by Andrey Svibovitch did little for me; very ordinary sounds emerge from his synths (probably due to use of over-familiar filters or pre-set sounds) and he has a simplistic approach to playing chords, both of which point to under-developed techniques. He produces a stream of undemanding electronica with little structure or originality. The four parts of “What Hides The Voice” were originally presented as part of a multi-media installation with the work of visual artist Maxim Svishev. Svibovitch creates his music using voice samples, yet what ends up on the tape is so synthetic and processed it seems to have zero connection to anything as natural and human as a voice.

The side by Sergey Vandyshev is more engaging. The electronic music of this fellow is described as an experiment in “pure data”, and there are references to “digital generators” and “granular synthesis algorithms”…most of this is beyond my ken, but it seems to point to a process-based approach where machines do most of the work, but also indicates that Vandyshev is a skilled manipulator of digital data, perhaps doing it “at source” in some way. What I mean by that is he may bypass the conventional routes of feeding information through pre-sets and filters. Anyone who can run an algorithm at granular synthesis level is capable of anything. The sound of his untitled tracks is certainly quite clean, and feels uncluttered by unnecessary elaborations. I also like the loops, repetitions and insistent pulsations, which are set forth in a very porous, open-ended manner, as if he’s found a way to avoid the trap of the strict grid-systems imposed by digital sequencers. This reminds me very much of a more low-key version of Pimmon.

SR028 is a split. For this release we have a rare (for this label) instance of acoustic music played on musical instruments – as opposed to their standard electronic fare. Blank Disc Trio are a Serbian group of improvisers who have been at it since the late 1990s. It used by a duo of the core members Srdjan Muc and Robert Roža (guitar and electronics, respectively), but have since been joined by Georg Wissel, who puffs a “prepared” alto saxophone. For this tape, they were joined by the pianist Dušica Cajlan-Wissel and the electric guitarist Julien Baillod. What they play is a rather tentative version of the “electro-acoustic improv” thing, a form which in their hands takes a long time to get started and is littered with many half-baked stabs and much guesswork along the way. I like the abrasive textures they manage to summon up, and it’s good that they know when to shut up and leave gaps for each other, but overall there isn’t enough coherence or continuity in these wispy musical ideas to sustain my interest.

On the flipside we have Ex You, another three-piece of Serbian experimenters. Milan Milojković, László Lenkes and Filip Đurović blend electronics, guitar, and drums into a pleasing scrabbly mess of non-music, keeping it fairly low-key and resisting the temptation to create a hideous energy-noise blaroon-out. The addition of guest cello player Erno Zsadányi only increases our pleasure in this grumbly, meandering groan-fest. Like their Blank Disc brothers, this group sometimes finds it hard to crank up the old motor, but once they get it turning over we’re guaranteed a much more exciting drive through the old Serbian mountain tracks. I wish more drummers could act with the restraint and decency of Đurović; he doesn’t call attention to himself with fills and ornament, but his steady gentle pulsations give a surprisingly sturdy backbone to this music. Two members of the trio also play in Lenhart Tapes Orchestra, should you feel curious to investigate the Serbian “scene” further; their 2014 album Uživo Sa Karnevala Glavobolje looks like the one to go for.

The tape Povstrechal Gaute Granli (SR030) is a team-up between Mars-69 and Gaute Granli, another one of the Russian-Norway “hands across the water” affairs which this label does so well. Mars-69 are I assume Mars-96 with a slight change to the name – at any rate the core members of this Palmira trio appear to be intact. They’re about the most prolific bunch on the Spina!Rec label and we’ve enjoyed most of their disaffected noisy work. I always thought they were a guitar-bass-drums trio but here they’re spinning their craft with synths, syn-drums, and vocals. As for Gaute Granli, we’ve been enjoying the solo work and group work (in Freddy The Dyke) of this Norwegian loon for many years now, and can recommend anything he’s done for the Drid Machine and Skussmaal labels. He brought his electric guitar and voice to these Povstrechal sessions. With a line-up like that, I feel I have a right to expect some serious fireworks, which is why I felt gypped by this damp squib. With the possible exception of ‘Osa’, the opening track, the tape is a lacklustre set of pointless studio noodling, half-formed ideas trailing away, and occasional absurdist vocal dribble. One waits in vain for a single idea to catch fire or take off into the stratosphere. The band had a lot of sociable fun on the day (hint: that’s code for they all got drunk) – the press write-up seems to indicate as much – but that doesn’t justify the release of this self-indulgent nonsense.