Tagged: feedback

The Great Outdoors


Norbert Möslang’s music is a firm favourite in this house. He was one half of Voice Crack, the Swiss duo who delivered a good dose of abrasive non-stop noise to the passive barely-twitching corpse of free improvisation in the late 1980s and early 1990s…it was particularly poignant when they made records together with Borbetomagus. I often wish I could recapture the thrilling shock I felt when I first heard the record Fish That Sparkling Bubble. Well, here’s Norbert with his own album indoor_outdoor (IDEOLOGIC ORGAN SOMA008) on the Stephen O’Malley Mego-sponsored imprint. indoor_outdoor contains two side-long tracks, both worthy of investigation by hungry noise-snoopers in need of a good fix and showing that “Norbert The Noise” can still drive a bulldozer through the opposition with the merest flick of his wrist, swinging a wrecking ball that fells the contemporary music “scene” like the flimsy deck of cards it is. On the title track, he’s doing it in fits and starts, drip-feeding us with little chunks of the “good stuff” from his mighty funnel, until by track’s end those drips have turned into a raging torrent. Hard to believe it’s derived from field recordings of water. There’s a harbour close to where he lives where he captured the sounds, which have been processed and recomposed in the studio in a brilliantly “hands-on”, rugged approach to electro-acoustic composition. No namby-pamby over-cooked studio technique for him, nor agonising for six months over delicate nuances of tone, nossir! Part of the interest here lies in his iron control, knowing that he has so much chaotic power caged in his equipment like a jaguar. Tension arises at those moments when the chaos threatens to overwhelm him. But he reins in the jaguar and then sticks his own head in its jaws, as an index to his fearless skills. The crowd roars. Additionally, the sounds are beautifully rich and textured, and though the floor of this hotel may comprise rough-hewn surfaces and splintery timbers, they have been jointed in place by a master carpenter. Ach! I’m trying to say something here about the amazing dynamics of the sound, but I’ve been railroaded by my own mixed metaphors. That’ll teach me. How redundant it is to write about music.

Let’s flip this hot potato pancake over to investigate ‘hot_cold_shield’, where “Möslang The Magnificent” teams up with Toshimaru Nakamura. This fierce cut is a live recording from a 2012 music festival in Quebec. A pitched battle between the famous no-input mixing board and the equally famous cracked everyday-electronics ensues. Interesting that both of these performers have become associated with a particular type of equipment and usually insist that it’s always printed in the credits that way. I say a battle because this workout does in places resemble something of a war zone, although that’s only because I’m one of those listeners who can’t help running imaginary movies in my head when playing records. This one featured quite a few helicopters, probably carrying high explosives, and also collapsing buildings everywhere and much chaotic sprawl. This isn’t to say that the duo were fighting with each other, but they certainly know how to provide a good soundtrack for the end of the world when they lock their aural antlers. If the destruction is happening in a somewhat haphazard and inefficient manner, that’s down to lack of military planning on the part of my bazooka commander, ending up in a melee or a rout. This indicates I suppose the improvised dimensions to this side of the record; had some compositional programming been applied, it’s possible that the destruction of the city could have been effected much sooner, and with more spectacular explosions. As it is, ‘hot_cold_shield’ is choppy and disorganised, but it’s also much warmer and juicier this way. Noise improv made by humans. From December 2012.


Black and Orange destruction

That path is for your steps alone

The Italian percussionist Andrea Belfi has recorded Wege (RM446) for the Room 40 label. He feeds his drum kit through a looping system that involves amplification and feedback, and a modular synth; he’s able to control the degree of feedback with his mallets and sticks on the snare, or even by stretching the skins of his drums. In this way, he is said to emulate the composition ‘Pendulum Music’ by Steve Reich, which used similar methodology, but it also seems appropriate to mention Max Neuhaus in this context, who was an early pioneer of using feedback with his drumkit in the early 1960s. Belfi’s results here are far from dry or academic though, and he manages to transcend the means of production, creating rich crackling textures that fizz with subdued energy. He even creates some passages of sweet music with melodies, rhythms and patterns. From 5th March 2012.

Music for DeVeren Bookwalter

Norwegian saxophonist Kjetil Moster may have started life tooting wild sqwawks for a hardcore rock band, but after hearing records of John Coltrane he was drawn towards jazz, opting to study that musical form at the conservatory in Trondheim. He’s since found a way back into rock music as a key member of Datarock, but still finds time to contribute improvised sax music with other groups when the occasion requires. His Blowjob (+3DB RECORDS +3DB014) album is a set of solo tenor improvisations. It’s great as a showcase for his techniques, including overblowing, heavy non-musical breathing, and long sustained tones – all of which he has clearly mastered and puts them to use in service of his music, sometimes melancholy, sometimes emerging as disjointed thoughts. The tracks ‘Sayonara’ and ‘No Wonder We Love’ exhibit his romantic side, except they are like stripped-down, ultra-minimal versions of the sorts of tunes which Coltrane would have rendered as richly-embroidered fabrics. The title track and ‘Seaweed’ are much more abstract, a delicate cross between a breathing exercise and the blueprint for an improvised melody. From 5th March 2012.

A triptych for the end of the world

Debacle 070 from Seattle’s Debacle Records is a compellingly violent split between three noise projects, only one of which is familiar to us. It begins with Bacteria Cult, which may be the work of Chris Dodge who performs in many bands and projects besides running the Slap A Ham Records label. He is joined by three other players (Fetus, Howard and Nervo) and their 20-minute piece ‘It has been 3,000 years since the machine has stopped working’ is a full-bodied experiment in rumbling feedback, electronic tones, speeded-up voices and liberal use of a delay effect, all in the service of painting a pessimistic vision of things to come. Strong opener; gotta admire Bacteria Cult’s rigid control of their sonic elements which are carefully laid out to exploit the dynamic possibilities to the full. Yet it’s poised on the edge of chaos throughout. Good morning tension.

Juhyo is the team of Brian Kopish and Bill Henson from Minneapolis. Their ‘We Are Not Winning’ also uses a voice component or two, and one of them could be a media commentator or a military personage lamenting the fact that [America] is not winning a war. To bolster the sense of futility and inescapable misery, the Juhyo lads emit bizarre electronic sloughing effects that are not unlike the sounds a dying whale might make if she consisted of metal parts and circuits instead of bones and blubber. This shapeless and parpy musical rondello sits on top of an insistent lower-depths bass rumblage and is punctuated with sinister, bristling purrs from a spiky musical-box torture machine. The added voices increase in hysteria and madness as a counterpoint to the calm and assured grimness of this black noise, which ploughs on remorselessly. War is Hell, eh!

The set is completed by Blue Sabbath Black Cheer, the core team of Stan reed and wm. Rage and Crystal Perez, joined by M S Waldron and producer Scott Colburn, the same team who have sickened and terrified listeners with their monstrous, skeleton-filled recordings in recent years. On ‘Pure / Filth’ they may appear to have reined in their tendency for all-out thermonuclear war in sound – at least for the opening half of the piece, which is an increasingly menacing and expanding set of ringing frequencies slugging it out for space on the battleground with some slow-motion explosive bursts of ugly noise. But by the mid-point of this hateful symphony, the gloves are off and the entire widescreen arena is ablaze with hideous bombshells and fireballs, spelling death for any living creature within range. We listen horrified – can it get any more intense? It can. Only a few hardy souls will make it to the end of this harshest of harsh noise walls, where the very sound itself is capable of choking our lungs with putrid black smoke.

If the three creators share any common ground here, it would be their unfailingly bleak outlook on human existence, and a need to express their varying degrees of dismay through long-form escapades of inescapable despairing noise. Even when tempered with exciting dynamics, as all the music is, there is still no escape from the gloom, which at times threatens to choke us. The other shared sentiment is a certain relish in savouring the charred filth of the blackness into which they continually plunge. The package draws implicit connections between disease and warfare, both spreading unstoppably. It’s also possible to “read” the three tracks as a narrative sequence in triptych form, starting with a society where the machinery of its infrastructure has broken down and left them in a less than desirable state; proceeding to a point where war has broken out, and it’s an unwinnable war; and ending with a complete disaster of utter annihilation, probably involving large amounts of heavy explosives. The plot of all the Terminator movies, in short. From March 2012, a very credible example of modern noise horror, with excellent illustrations by Seattle artist Demian Johnston.


So It Falls

Free avant-rock Dutch band The Ex have been making tours of Ethiopia for ten years. Their guitarist Terrie Ex has nothing but warm and positive reports on these explosive and exciting events, where free jazz and improv mix freely with The Ex’s brand of anarchic punk rock and, on many occasions, the music of great Ethiopian musicians such as Getatchew Mekuria, Indriss Hausen, and others. The puffing steam engine that is sax player Mats Gustafsson, affectionately known as “Lungs” McGrew, joined in on the 2010 excursion and can be heard unleashing his hot primitive blasts on Baro 101 (TERP RECORDS IMPROV SERIESA AIS-19). He’s joined by drummer Paal Nilssen-Love, and this pairing alone could have resulted in an improvising document of considerable force, but the secret active ingredient here is the Krar player Mesele Asmamaw, who summons astonishing new sounds from this traditional bowl-shaped lyre instrument. For portions of this two-part session recorded in a hotel room, Asmamaw can supply powerful bass riffs in souped-up rhythm section fashion, but he’s at his most exciting when he saws and strums the strings to create a choppy wah-wah like pattern that sounds deliriously beautiful, and also throws the rest of the combo out of whack with its graceful, non-Western rhythm. At times even Gustafsson has to stop dead in his tracks just to listen to this beautiful African playing, and then has to try and find his place again. Asmamaw makes many other wonderful sounds also, and at times you almost wish for a slightly more restrained musical environment where his delicacy could be better exhibited. But it’s that very combination of the earthy and airy elements that makes this such a distinctive release. Recorded with a pulsating, electrifying “you-are-there” presence, this is a raw and bleeding document of a memorable musical encounter.

On Treasure Hunt (TICONZERO TCZ019-1), we hear an all-star international lineup of players creating a dense and gooey electro-acoustic music mish-mash using percussion, pianos, vocals, sound sculptures, and lots of live processing and electronic music. Ikue Mori, Maja Ratkje, Simon Balestrazzi, Sylvie Courvoisier and Alessandro Olla met up in Cagliari in Italy and recorded most of this in the TiConZero studios in September 2010, before playing live at the SIGNAL festival a few days later. Some of these sessions may have a slightly “sprawly” and shapeless feel, but they have been carefully edited and assembled, and at their best the team create quite amazing effects when they’re piling everything into the sonic sandwich. It can superficially resemble elements of 1960s musique concrète, but imagine it performed at tremendous speeds instead of painstakingly created from magnetic tape. It’s also mixed up with wild stabs from prepared pianos (what John Cage could be like after two bottles of Jolt Cola), and crazy vocal gibberish from the lovely Madame Ratkje. The graphic design of the package uses “map” motifs to indicate the city of origin of each of the players (the maps I recognise include Berlin, Oslo and New York), but also use these images to suggest something appropriate to the treasure hunt theme. Maps to find buried treasure, or even maps for a dérive, quite fitting given the rather “meandery” nature of these sessions.

Here’s a silent hissing beauty of brushed steel from the team-up of John Butcher and Toshimaru Nakamura. I wondered if this was the first time they had played together as it instantly feels like the perfect combination of personalities, but they have teamed up before in 2004 on Cavern With Nightlife (WEIGHT OF WAX). On Dusted Machinery (MONOTYPE RECORDS MONO041), the English saxophonist applies his rigid, unwavering manner with soprano and tenor saxophones against the equally iron-like pitches of Nakamura, the Grand Inquisitor of controlled feedback. What results is a very clean and pure music, sometimes slightly roughed up with edges of noise and imperceptible slips in the feedback balancing act. While ‘Leaven’ is a cruelly minimal episode of unblinking and near-brutal tones, the pair get a bit more frisky on ‘Maku’ with its noise-like textures. Nakamura belches up rude intestinal rumbling from his death-dealing board of mystery, while Butcher carries on a one-man conversation with himself about extreme weather systems and how they affect the course of nature. This rumbly portion does secede to bird-like twittering and closes with meditative long tones, while the pair do their best to seek out all those tiny dissonances in their combined tones that will rattle your fillings loose and stuff your mouth full of old copper pennies. On ‘Knead’, it’s a return to more basic planes of minimal three-dimensional puff and buzz music, with plenty of meditational space for the listener to contemplate his or her own self-made cages of the mind. Lastly there is the 12-minute ‘Nobasu’, where Butcher plays feedback saxophone. I’ve always wondered about this particular device, this “engine” if you will, and I gather it involves inserting microphones into the bell of the instrument where it can capture resonances directly from the column of air being blown into the instrument. When said setup is used to create feedback, the musician is then in the position of being able to control it by use of the valves on the sax. Listeners will want to tune straight to this track, the most “musical” of the batch, to hear the fascinating repeated patterns and miniaturised Terry Riley arpeggios generated by “Butch”, but also to marvel once again at his vice-like grip on the brass, intense breath control, and overall command of the situation. By contrast, Nakamura projects a Buddha-like figure, squatting behind his desk with a stern expression affixed to his foreboding visage. In all, Dusted Machinery is an exemplary work of subtle yet startling electronic music, and a fine document of two master improvisers conversing in grand and stately manner.


Liquid Fear and Pez Rock n Roll

A hefty bundle of CDRs and CDs arrived 14 February 2012 from digital sadist Miguel A. García in Bilbao. We last had news from him in May 2010, though I still recall his earlier Armiarmak record with fondness as a stern and brooding monsterpiece. There’s Cooloola Monster for starters, his team-up project with Carlos Valverde. Canciones Del Diablo (MASK OF THE SLAVE MS 027) is a bracing blast of distorto-filthed-up songs heavy with plenty of clanking rhythms and disgusting noise effects, plus additional voice hideousness provided by guest Ohiana Vicente. How often do we hear something that celebrates the joys of plague, Vlad Tepes, the ‘Curse of Akerveltz’, a journey ‘Into the Crypts’, Judas and The Antichrist, all in one single album? In these bizarre parodies of vaguely rockist electropop music with added scuzzerment for nutrition, Cooloola Monster provide a very imaginative and dynamic angle on the above shopping list of supernatural-horror themes, veering between deconstructed song-form and grisly Saturnine atmospheres of sonic murk. Good abrasive junk. A nifty start to the evening.

Mubles is Miguel with Alvaro Matilla; Miguel does all the instruments, which on El Accesso Al Ser (YOUNG GIRLS RECORDS YGR45) consists of spartan electronics generated with his familiar oscillators and a no-input mixing desk. Alvaro does the vocals and wrote the lyrics, but in case you were expecting Rush mixed with Blue Oyster Cult, their mis-conception of the song form on this occasion is about as radical as the brick foundations for a black cathedral of death. García grinds out fatal noise bursts, grim chugs, painful feedback squeals, menacing drones, and nondescript rumblings fit to raise Bedlam in your listening parlour, while Alvaro simply stands there and whines interminably through his nasal-throat orifice, complaining bitterly about who knows what. In short it’s like a slowed-down Spanish poetry-rap chanted and spat out by disguntled bees to the backdrop of a formless, shape-shifting electronic ghastliness. Or it’s like the Spanish version of Mark E. Smith growling away alongside the dark brother of Martin Rev. It’s great! Plus three guest players supply organ, electronics and more voice. Their name means “furniture” in Spanish, or it would do if they weren’t missing one letter E. Cutely, the CDR displays picture of furniture when played on a PC. Odd bestial sex in the back garden cover sketch is by Raul Dominguez. Eccentricity score so far = about two thousand points. Can it get even better?

Much the same instrumentation is played by García in his Xedh form. On Anekkyy (TRAIT MEDIA WORKS TMW029) he does it with Jon Imbemon, equipped with his guitar and effects pedal. This is just a single 50-minute track, hopefully done live in one take at a studio where the engineers chose suicide by hanging with a flex rather than endure another minute of this grim musical cacophono-fest. Ferocious, abrasive and poisonous sheets of noise just pour out of this deadly duo’s fingertips like death rays emanate from the gun of a hostile alien. Matter of fact I suspect Xedh could cause instant concussion to the skull just by pointing one finger at his chosen enemy. As noise explosions go, this Anekkyy is a deliberative and controlled assault on the senses, and I love the way it proceeds at a remorselessly measured pace, mowing down acres of goldenrods with the awesome certainty of the Grim Reaper himself. The duo leave plenty of space for each other, allowing heavy and angular blocks of sound to protrude from the mossbed of hissing fuzz as needed, creating fascinating abstract shapes of black monumentality. Another chompworthy cake, and released on the label associated with the great Eric Lunde. Box score to García = 3 out of 6.

Here’s one he made with Richard Kamerman, released on the latter’s NYC label. Homophest 20110921 (COPY FOR YOUR RECORDS CFYRL04) I take to be a document of some live event or other. After the previous three scorchers, this 31-minute dose of electronic sandpapering can seem comparatively restrained, but ye must persevere to be rewarded with extremely sullen and bad-tempered murmuring, as unvarying pitches of solid tuneless drones invade your personal space like a scowling man with a heavy, Frankenstinian brow. To make the experience even more insufferable, the duo keep stopping and starting what they’re doing, allowing the noisier aspects to drop out suddenly and leaving you face to face with an inexplicable, mysterious rattling. It’s the aural equivalent of watching your favourite appliances (TV set, fridge, washing machine) start to conk out and die, as you despairingly search for the number of a repairman and then realise nobody does call-out repairs any more. A fine set of contemporary minimo-noise art.

More collaborations on Exiled In Bilbao (DIM RECORDS DIM023 / GOLDSOUNDZ GS#111 / TIBPROD TIBCD127 / SERIESNEGRAS SN008), performed by Larraskito Audio Dissection Unit, an eight-piece of Spaniards who manipulate live electronics, objects, guitars and radio (on one track); García joins ‘em for three of the seven cuts, which are probably edited highlights from lengthy jams. Competent enough work, but this is the only one of the six CDs to misfire for me. Put simply there’s just too much going on with this laptop-based orchestra, and the photos of the men hunched over their mixing desks and banks of pedals doesn’t promise much in the way of healthy interaction between humans. Admittedly, the guitar players do much to liven up the solemn tone with their obnoxious axes belching stinky fire into the room. But mostly, proceedings just drift from one formless overcrowded and “textured” drone into another.

Lastly we have a Miguel A. García three-incher, called Red River / Rio Tinto (GHOST & SON GHOST5). This snakey little gemuloid is blessed with a Nick Hoffman colour drawing of cobras on the cover, and its hot pink printing has been flaking off into the case and littering my floor for the last few months. For me it’s a welcome return to noisy spirited chaos and lava-fuelled mayhem, a Habanero chili rammed in my mouth. Its uproarious mood cancels out the polite stiffness of the preceding arty CD. It’s ironic that García credits himself with “constructing” this errant jumble of insanity, when it’s about as broken as an old china plate in 16 pieces. All the gang of buddies are here for this toxic picnic. Alba Burgos and Ohiana Vicente give us their shrill screaming voices, Raul Dominguez hammers percussion like a baby with biscuit tins, and Carlos Valverde mangles guitars sadistically. Nine tracks, most of ‘em in the two-three minute area lengthwise, and it’s like how three year-old lunatics would imagine punk rock, if allowed to get their hands on flamethrowers and sticks of dynamite for instruments. Urgent, passionate thrash-racket laced with electronic vomit, power noise, and idiotic non-riff guitar riffs. Irresistible!

Fruit of the High

Tomorrow is Saint Valentine’s Day

If I was hearing Broken Heart Collector (DISCORPORATE RECORDS DISREC18) in February or March instead of in the bleak midwinter, I’m fairly sure it would instil certain bittersweet emotions of love and longing. As song lyrics, track titles and images make clear, Broken Heart Collector see love as an elusive force of nature, something mysterious and fleeting that you almost have to hunt down like an animal in the wild. Maja Osojnik is the lead singer of this German five-piece, operating with her English lyrics apart from a Slovenian song called ‘Another Heart Bites The Dust’, and she’s accompanied by four very talented players with their woodwinds, guitars, electronics and percussion who create interesting and wayward musical backdrops full of mixed chords, odd shapes, and craggy textures, all given an attractive studio burnishing by Oliver Brunbauer’s mix. If this record were a sculpture it might be a wild and rugged piece of wood rescued from an ancient tree, its scraggly bark polished and lacquered to perfection. Some listeners may prefer the band’s upbeat mode, as on ‘Walk The Dog’ which is as lively as anything Henry Cow ever mustered in the Kurt Weill mode with similar instrumentation, although the listener’s forlorn and heartbroken side is well-catered to by long pieces such as ‘Love Reclamation Song’, a slow dirge wherein Osojnik unburdens her soul. Her voice maintains stern control, but she walks a tightrope across a field of hurt emotions; constrained anger, resignation, self-pity. Mackie Osborne did the excellent cover paintings. Be ye wolf, owl, bat or firefly, this is the next record you should play under a full moon.

The Knowing Smile you Send…

The record by The Imaginary Soundscapes didn’t bode well at first sight, as for me it’s not a great “project” name and A Way Out By Knowing Smile (RUPTURED RPTD 006) feels like a rather ungainly title. Spin the disc though to be greeted with an unusual and studied piece of electro-acoustic feedback minimalism, expertly created by Stéphane Rives and Frédéric Nogray and plainly presented in two very long parts, one of them designated ‘Low’ and the other ‘High’. Gently lulling and mutating waves of droning abstract sound are created by Rives using samples from his own back catalogue of saxophone improvisations, along with field recordings from his own environment which he’s been collecting since 2010. Nogray for his part is simply manipulating feedback tones with his foot pedals. The two of them sound like they’re having a mesmeric ball, albeit one that happens very slowly, as they plaster continuous sound around their bodies like long-distance swimmers covering their bodies with goose fat. The ‘High’ track is slightly more lively and contains more weird effects per square inch, even daring to noise it up a little in certain passages, whereas the ‘Low’ track is better at massaging your listening lobes with the hypnotic effects. The album is clearly intended to have a benign effect, and the creators state they “wish the listener some beautiful journeys”. I’ll bear that in mind when I make my next trip down to the local Morrisons to buy some fresh bread.

Wild Palms

The Cincinnati combo Hearts Of Palm have now revised their name to Heart Of Palm. They say they’re doing this “to avoid confusion with the myriad bands who’ve copped our shit”, something which I find hard to believe (who could copy this obscure band?), and I think it’s just a way of throwing everyone off the scent. After all Sun Ra used to invent new names for the Arkestra on a regular basis, and even Loren Mazzacane Connors couldn’t settle on a single name variation for his solo releases for very long. Alles Zusammen (PALM MEADOW 005) is this band’s fifth release, and it’s another gorgeous slice of bizarre and denatured rock music. This time the production is much clearer than some previous (deliberately) murky efforts, and the performing framework continues to allow for much improvisation and inventions from band members that are simply insane in their unexpectedness, plus even a little sprinkling of voice samples and tape loops to add extra sprizzes of confusion and surprise. They have a lightness of touch in their playing (no plodding, thomping rock rhythms in sight) which followers of No-Neck Blues Band could learn from, to their advantage. The core of the work though remains a determination to explore semi-darkened corridors of the mind, marching along interior tunnels by torchlight and greeting the Bosch-like homunculi who dart about our feet or stick their heads out of misshapen windows as we pass. The bleats and whimpers of these sunless inhumans form part of the musical tapestry, further deepening the weirdness factor. Davidson, Hancock, Moore and Wilson continue to function as paragons of dark imagination and warped performing-recording styles which ought to make them a national treasure. Yet this is another limited CDR. An LP release on Ecstatic Peace is long overdue.

Rocket Man

Rocket Tales (TARUJA RECORDS TRUJ011) is pretty much a solo set of freaky electro-pop tunes from the fingers of Tom Cadillac, recorded in Auckland NZ with the occasional help of George Andrews (drum programming and production), Vicki Johnson, Phil Morten, and others. His synths groan out with a thick, analogue sound, rich as a bucket of hot tar pouring directly into your stomach. This CDR release has the feel of a 1980s bedroom tape, which isn’t a bad thing at all, and I like the slightly DIY clunkiness of the record – his machines give the impression they’re held together with chewing gum and sellotape and may fall apart the second he hits the envelope generator switch. There’s a vague heat-haze distortion to the finished production which adds considerably to listening fun. Cadillac’s take on the “minimal dub” style as typified by Basic Channel releases of the 1990s is evident in ‘Puppet Fan’, but he has much more fun with the idea than those joyless Germans. Only drawback is that Cadillac can’t seem to invent a truly memorable tune on these instrumentals, nor think about how to develop it successfully; consequently every track starts out good but doesn’t really end properly, and feels about two minutes overlong.