Tagged: field recordings

Dislocation Recordings

Various
Landscapes Of Fear
GERMANY GRUENREKORDER GRUEN 153 2 x CD (2015)

One to disrupt the harmony of your CD shelf is this oversized card wallet containing an obliquely labeled, monochrome OS map of the area surrounding Cologne and 2 CDs of discomfiting sound art pertaining to the themes of 1) Landscapes and 2) Fear. A simplistic summary perhaps, but given the density of the accompanying text – which will assuredly sort the men from the boys among us – some distillation is required. We might ponder the dichotomy posed by these two situational extremes: the tangible and idyllic terra firma juxtaposed with the most chaotic and disembodying of emotions; security and exile – two extremes of human existence. Framing this juxtaposition is an image of a metal fence, on one side of which is a crowd of displaced refugees concealed from view by strategically placed bushes and palm trees. On the other, two golfers conducting their game, unmolested by the nearby tragedy.

While the reference to Europe’s current refugee crisis is explicit, the universality of the title’s constituents is such that we could extend the analogy to many situations in which the ‘radically diverging perceptions and adoptions of spaces’ occur in the present day. Take for example the legally sanctioned compartmentalisation of UK homes into multiple ‘apartments’ as a means of revenue generation for landlords and private investors, added to which is the humiliation of full council tax for each (while mansion owners pay proportionately lower rates), regardless of the size of the dwelling, purely on the grounds that there is a lock on the front door. Inhabiting these overpriced shoeboxes are the many who are locked out of the ever costly housing market and who face a future of financial disempowerment.

Needless to say, we needn’t look to the contents of this collection for comfort, but we might take heart that some are watching and addressing the flagrant injustices that visit so many walks of life today. The majority of the music is drone-based; tension-fuelled dark/power ambient minefields paired with location recordings for dislocation effect; splattered with rhythmic and vocal shrapnel in reference to political assassinations and other human rights abuses, as well as – of course – the kind of drones used by Western governments to police and terrorise the Middle East. Lawrence English has produced work similar in sound and agenda, but not with the bleakness of such events as Tim Gorinski’s ‘Amuse 2’ – a controlled explosion of ricocheting beats, sirens and shouting (William Burroughs might have approved of this), or Alex Pulgar’s ‘Lujk/Flame’ – where electroacoustic flames are funnelled through a tunnel of low-fi scum noise.

Hardly content with the alienating effects of such ‘music’, the compilers have seen fit to include Lena Ditte Nissen’s dispassionate German-language narration in ‘Imaginary Orb’ – which many a non-German speaker will instinctively skip – and the uneasy listening of a pair of North American accented sat-nav devices speaking over one another in Stephanie Glauber’s and Miriam Gossing’s ‘Mercure/Mondial’. Even English speakers will find this nauseating. Indeed, our agitation appears to be the overriding raison d’etre. Where so much in the realm of high-concept music can comfortably detach itself from conceptual baggage to exist as listening material per se, works such as this promote a sense of responsibility by insisting upon a level of listener interrogation.

More akin to an art gallery experience, Landscapes of Fear attains a kind of surrealism as a home-listening product. The simultaneous in/coherence of the selection, defined largely by the wilful austerity and disparity of the artists’ methods, would effect a collapsing of borders between internal and external phenomena; occasioning a discomfort that would remind us of the atrocities that take place daily beyond our psychological blinkers, in a world in which even the horror of events like Donald Trump’s inexplicable popularity achieve a circus sensationalism at which most of us can but shrug our shoulders in resignation. At the same time, the experience should also remind us that far from getting downhearted and downhearted at such horror, a constructive response is always possible.

I Forget

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New York composer Howard Stelzer is mostly known round these parts for his fab label Intransitive Recordings, whereon he released many smouldering gems of mysterious electroacoustic composition, field recordings, tape music and noise. While a few snippets from his career have come our way, I don’t have much of his solo work to hand, so this collection The Case Against (MONOTYPE mono073) is most welcome. Title tracks indicate it’s a suite in five parts, so one might read it as a lengthy meditation on various heavy matters – the overall tone is sombre, and the music is extremely abstract for the most part, excepting some segments where recognisable fragments of real-life everyday noise seep into the mix.

Most notably this happens on ‘Rip It Up’, a brief montage where the sounds of a crowd of people take on a very puzzling hue in the context of so much droning soarage. Did I mention he does it all using cassette tapes…he calls it “cassette music” and his approach to composing with these cronky oxide lengths of magnetic hue is very maximal, using intensive processing and editing to create incredibly rich and dense fields of solid grind. What evocative track titles too…’Accumulated Background Radiation’ might almost be preparing us for a post-nuclear devastation landscape, always a popular trope with industrial musicians, while ‘The Last Scattering Surface’ contains a poignant air of finality, and serves up over 17 minutes of single-minded metal-enriched airy droning tones. When the noise ceases to make way for clouds, birdsong and the noise of the artiste fumbling with his microphones, it’s almost a shocking shift from the abstract to the real, emerging into daylight from the end of a deep pit. This moment, and other parts of the album, show how sensitive Seltzer is when it comes to contrasting timbres and deploying them for maximal effect.

The cover art is by comic strip artist Tony Millionaire and depicts a wrecked hulk on the beach, a forlorn image which is highly suitable for the somewhat lonely and desolate air of this release. From 21 June 2016.

All Or Nothing

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Hein Schoer
The Sounding Museum: Box of Treasures
GERMANY GRUENREKORDER GRUEN 137 BOOK / 2 x DVD / CD (2014)

Talk about getting what you wish for. The Sounding Museum: Box of Treasures could have been assembled and (re)issued in direct response to Jennifer Hor’s review of ‘soundscaper’ Hein Schoer’s original in 2012, CD-only edition of The Sounding Museum: Two Weeks in Alert Bay in the Sound Projector in 2012. The CD contained field recordings of the mountainous ‘Namgis region of Western Canada along with documentation of the aboriginal inhabitants’ oral tradition of songs and stories; the two being contextually inseparable. Yet the disc proved unsatisfying and incomplete to some listeners, owing to a lack of background detail, though whether or not this effect was by design is unclear. However, Jennifer’s dissatisfaction with this under-represented subject matter – and potentially extending to other ethnographic documents – was qualified by a recommendation for accompanying DVD and map of the area in question.

It appears that the walls sometimes have ears, as the Gruenrekorder label have gone even further in their appeasement gesture than hoped for, packaging an extended CD, audio and visual DVDs with a 400-page book detailing Schoer’s motives for and experiences during his two weeks spent among the small Namgis community, a name doubtless quite new to most readers of these words. To leave no stone unturned is one reason for this disambiguation, and to ensure no remaining uncertainty as to the fact that it represents an outsider’s superficial overview, another. The explicit honesty behind this disclaimer offers more than the safety of academic distance: the music is intended to stir interest and imagination and to spur the curious listener to invest time in personal research via the book and discs, including an audio DVD designed for nothing less than quadraphonic playback of the full contents of the original CD, which further underlines the book’s similarly immersive role in this set.

One problem highlighted by the above review is the lack of background information about the life and culture of the people of Alert Bay, though this deficit may in fact have been by design: Schoer provides an account of the project’s development, which early on included preparing a permanent exhibition in a museum in Zurich; one of sound without visuals. ‘We believed that the experience of the sounds of a culture brings an immediacy and intimacy, an immersive quality, that the usual object-focussed approach of the classical exhibition was lacking’ he explains.

Such an approach illustrates the evident challenge when translating to a saturated CD marketplace though: who wants to buy a blank package? The problem is more than adequately handled by the second DVD though, which contains an unexpurgated ‘directors cut’ cornucopia of photos, videos, original recordings, an interactive map and related documentation should anyone have the time and commitment to plumbing the depths of this comprehensive effort. The feast of photography is particularly fascinating, illuminating pastimes, wildlife and local landscapes less than half-defined by the recordings. Schoer recommends sifting through all this only after listening to the main recording.

Musically, both much and little has changed to the contents of the initial release, that is, the title piece ‘Two Weeks…’. This 42-minute audio montage weaves environmental sounds into recordings of the culture and customs of the ‘Namgis: traditional songs, percussion performances, carving workshops and what could be story-telling (or merely gossip) in the indigenous language, though there are snatches of explanatory English. Weaving together uneventfully quotidian events to rather rousing musical passages, Schoer’s intention for this exposition seems to be would appear to be a blend of authenticity with the sensational, resulting in a kind of magical realism; a wallpaper that repeatedly draws you in from the cold with its bamboozling intricacy. While I personally find many of the supplementary recordings interesting, their appeal certainly owes a great deal to this piece. My one regret is that I haven’t the facilities to enjoy the more immersive DVD audio version.

Appended to this are some original songs and a verbal account of a local myth in which U’melth – a promethean raven – connives to steal the sun; a fable that held parallel for Jennifer to the work of the soundscaper/field recorder. The telling is richly descriptive, but requires careful attention, unlike the title piece. However, all of this is framed by what is explicitly Schoer’s perspective: the ‘journey’ begins and ends with recordings of the ferry trip to and from the Alert Bay, the first an echoing and relatively lunar experience, the latter a rich, dream-like accumulation of audio memories that follow the recordist home.

The thoroughness with which this package has been compiled soundly addresses any possible charge of paucity, yet it also highlights the difficulties implicit in purveying ethnographic recordings. Many labels recognise this reality, and present their recordings with a necessary minimum of supplementary material. By offering this remarkable and heavily annotated second edition to Schoer’s original soundscape, Gruenrekorder make the point that such endeavours are by necessity an all or nothing affair, and – moreover – that the listener has a responsibility to take an active role in the process.

History of Violence: an exploration of a serene forest as a site of unspeakable horror

Philip Sulidae, History of Violence, Belgium, Unfathomless, CD U19 (2014)

Daniel Crokaert of Unfathomless very kindly sent this CD as a bonus with the Kassel Jaeger and Andrea Borghi CDs I had ordered as Philip Sulidae is based in my home city (Sydney). As it happens, I am passing familiar with the case of the Belanglo State Forest murders of backpackers and hitch-hikers committed by the notorious Ivan Milat in the early 1990s which Sulidae’s release “History of Violence” refers to. The field recordings Sulidae made for this album were taken in the area Milat used as his hunting ground to kill his seven victims.

Despite the album’s title, the six tracks on offer are actually very quiet and the volume dial needs to be turned up fairly high (almost to the point of distortion) to catch all the sounds. Long passages of silence and an impersonal blank ambience surrounding the quiet drones and textures are highly oppressive and might be the most dreaded part of the whole recording. Surprisingly the sounds don’t attempt to approximate the soundscapes of Belanglo State Forest – there is no obvious birdsong, neither are there insect choruses, yet those are what Sulidae has recorded among other things – but seem much more machine-like, detached and remote.

You’re left feeling very uneasy and disquieted at the thought that someone could have taken advantage of naive travellers from out of state and abroad (a few of Milat’s victims were German) and left their bodies to decay and disappear in an otherwise serene and pristine forest environment. The final track “A façade” suggests that the peace and tranquillity of the forest may be masking some truly horrific secrets; or on the contrary, that what we imagine to be horrors are really our projections of our thoughts and feelings onto the forest itself, making it an unwilling accomplice, even victim, of Milat’s murders.

Disturbingly, since those original backpacker murders, other bodies of people killed since Milat’s sentencing and imprisonment have been found in the forest. For better and for worse, Belanglo State Forest has now come to occupy an unenviable place in Australian contemporary culture as a site of man-made horrors.

Also reviewed here in 2015 – Ed.

Fuochi Rituali di San Giuseppe: the mystery of fire through comforting rituals

Andrea Borghi, Fuochi Rituali di San Giuseppe, Belgium, Unfathomless, CD U36 (2016)

Play this often enough and loudly enough and your neighbours might think you’re operating a diner, frying up loads of comfort-food lamb chops, bacon and eggs for breakfast, lunch and dinner for hungry commuters and truckers. Indeed, the dominant sounds on the three parts that make up this recording are fire-related: a crackling fire on firewood, oil being fried over fire, and people and children gathering around a fire. While these fiery field recordings constitute the sonic foundation of this CD, and are more or less continuous (though the sounds may dwindle close to nearly inaudible), other more ghostly or murky sounds pass in and out of the space above the snap, crackle and pop to give us a recording that’s as much mysterious as its source material is mundane.

The recording is very spacious with a cool darkness that appears to be benign, and listeners may be surprised that they are drawn into its depths by fragments of ordinary every-day noises, sizzle and crackle. Even though there is not much variation in the soundscapes, the mystery surrounding the noises and the rituals that they suggest keep attention close and boredom away. More soothing and comforting than exciting or forbidding, you’d probably bring out this album to play during times when you want familiar company, without too much stimulation that might frazzle your nerves and leave you feeling jumpy and unable to relax.

Gosh, just talking about this recording is making me hungry …

Onden: a surprisingly soothing set of interwoven soundtracks of man-made and natural sounds

Kassel Jaeger, Onden, Belgium, Unfathomless, CD U37 (2016)

If you enjoy the soothing frying sounds of electromagnetic fields captured from lights and cables, and want something of the ambience of Japanese cities as well, you’ll feel at home with this surprisingly calming urban soundscape of field recordings made by Kassel Jaeger in various locations across Tokyo over a six-month period in 2015. The material has been spliced into one continuous flowing track of layers of droning textures, all frying away and intriguing in their sonic pointillism, each dot of sound complete in itself as a tiny mini-universe and all of them joined up in long extended linear strings that are more than the sums of their minuscule atoms. Jaeger lets these sounds speak for themselves, not trying to shape them into structures with recognisable beats or rhythms and the result is a leisurely sinuous, almost organic river of metallic or sparking textures brimming with alien life and energy.

The actual sounds are very difficult to describe and yet they can remind listeners of all sorts of objects and memories: a hydrofoil coming into a bay and settling down beside a wharf to deliver its passengers; a leaf-blower in the far distance from where you’re sitting; cargo trains passing in the night; machines laying asphalt on a road; and probably lots more besides, depending on the individual listener’s own past experiences. No sound in particular evokes a mood or feeling and as a listener you tend to passively observe the sounds passing by rather than feel engaged with them. Yet these soundscapes can be very hypnotic and through their mesmerising quality keep boredom at bay. Some listeners may even find a spiritual dimension in the sounds, especially near the end of the recording where deeper tones begin to resound amid the receding textures.

There are actually two very different soundtracks here on the album: the more obvious urban-generated soundtrack of electromagnetic humming and droning, and people going about their daily business in the city; and the world of birdsong, insect ambience and other murmurs of the natural world that acts as a counterpoint and commentary on sounds generated by humans and their machines.

I do find this a very likeable recording though its length and obvious lack of musical structures won’t endear it to most people. You’d be hard put to find another recording of droning metallic noise drone that’s just as serene, majestic and impassive as it rolls by.

Office Surprise

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Ryu Hankil, Noid, Matija Schellander And Others
Foreign Correspondents
RUSSIA MIKROTON CD 43/44 2 x CD (2015)

Foreign Correspondents is an unusual double CD of music and sound art which is highly intriguing…I thought it might be nice to investigate it “blind” without aid of search engine to begin with, as the information printed on this Russian release is not exactly forthcoming with contextual information. Rather, a few lines of bare facts is all we have to go on. On Disc One, there’s just a single stretch of music some 47 minutes long, which might be an improvisation between Hankil Ryu, Matija Schellander, and Noid. It’s called Tokyo Office and might well have been recorded in such a location, given that Ryu plays the typewriter as a percussion instrument. For starters, it’s reassuring to think there might still be typewriters in a world where everyone taps out digital messages on smartphone and tablet, freeing their trivial blather into the void. Ryu’s relentless hammering on that old-school analogue device is music to the ears of those who still cherish tangible messages written on a medium you can hold in your hands. Meanwhile Schellander plays the double bass and also emits buzzy explosions from something called a “Victorian synthesizer”, while Noid bows the cello and the jinghu, a Chinese bowed instrument whose wailing drones you may have heard if you’re an aficionado of the Peking opera. Their performance is an endearingly peculiar piece of acoustic improvisation, full of mysterious rattles and stabs, and equally puzzling tracts of silence. It was recorded at Ftarri in Tokyo in October 2013. Ftarri is not the deserted office block I was hoping for, and instead turns out to be a small shop and music venue, but I still can’t help hearing this piece as a document of an office cubicle take-over, performed by mutinous staff in the middle of the night, protesting against their restrictive lifestyles by means of forming an impromptu band playing pieces of office equipment. That’s a revolution we can all get behind.

Noid is the Austrian cellist Arnold Haberl, whose music we noted previously on another Mikroton release called I Hope It Doesn’t Work. He might be the pivot to this particular release as he is credited with recording and mixing the music, plus he appears on most of the pieces on the second disc, a collection entitled Field Report. From the same date range, Oct-Nov 2013, we have 23 tracks here on Field Report, interspersing improvised music with short snippets of field recordings captured in parts of urban Japan, China, and Korea. The latter include observations of Japanese city life which must have seemed intriguing to the European Noid; subway doors, traffic light signals, and a pachinko hall. But they also include such oddities as the machine drones heard in the staircase of the CIA building in Hong Kong, and a “fuel tank filled with sound art” (whatever that may be) in Shanghai. Some of the best field recordings can be given an extra dimension through such imaginative titles; the true poet should be looking for flashes of the divine wherever they poke their lyrical luminous nose.

These charming and understated field recordings convey a sense of peace and mystery, which is the exact opposite of what we might expect to find in these densely-populated parts of Asia such as Hong Kong, Seoul, Osaka, and Tokyo. Viewed through Noid’s audio snapshots, it’s as though the people, buildings and traffic have all been reduced by 75%, and the locations feel like some pre-war innocent paradise of birds, flowers, and contented spirits. The same sense of peace emerges from the extremely quiet improvised music on offer. It’s centred, tranquil. Hankil and Schellander are here again as the core members of this ad-hoc grouping, but also guest appearances – including notable Wandelweiser player Radu Malfatti, the guitarist Kazuhisa Ucihashi, Syo Yoshihama with a laptop, and Jin Sangtae. Most of the music is slow, unobtrusive, and with few notes; not only that, but it’s recorded in such a way that the acoustics feel very diffuse, and it’s hard to separate the sound of the instruments from the sound of the locale where it’s taking place. In this way, all of Field Report becomes of apiece, the edges blurred between music and sound art. This is most clearly demonstrated with the various instances of “street music”, where the musicians blend in with events, people and sounds out in the open; one track documents Noid and Schellander “playing air horns while walking away from Mullae Art Center”, while another piece from the same Dotolimpic Festival treats us to the sound of an entire orchestra performing on the “Victorian Synthesizer”, involving participants in a workshop. The results – less than 90 seconds of strange scraping sounds – are not quite as spectacular as that build-up may lead you to think, but what is more relevant here is the event itself, a spontaneous outbreak of sound and activity, a tiny wonder.

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Foreign Correspondents is the document of Noid and Schellander’s 2013 trip to the Far East. It was planned they would meet musicians and exchange ideas… “carrying compositions, sound art pieces and workshop preparations in their luggage to be tested by changing social and artistic settings, by everyday tour life and to be used as starting points for debates in various forms,” as the label website describes it, and “exposing sometimes strict concepts to confusing listening situations”. As to this latter area, I think it’s this intoxicating mix of control and chaos that emanates from this CD. For most of the time it does so hesitantly, as befits the potentially bewildering situations that these roving Europeans found themselves in, out East. As for the “Victorian Synthesizer”, this appears to be an ongoing project by J.M Bowers since 2004 to build an electronic instrument using 19th century technology, and an “imagined historical reject” is what he calls the end result. We received a copy of this release on 14 April 2016, but it’s been out since 2015 and is sadly sold out at source.

Grain Removal

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The composer / musician NE Trethowan is based in Tampere in Finland, though given his actual name is Nicholas Edward Trethowan I wonder if he has Cornish roots. He has appeared on two compilations for the label Linear Obsessional Recordings, namely Open The Window and Two Minutes Left, and here he is now with an entire solo release for that label, the collection Grammostola (LOR 080) which contains eight instances of his subtle and understated craft.

While these quiet and crackly drones may be pigeon-holed in the “ambient” genre if so inclined, I found several instances where Trethowan is able to transcend any limitations and arrive at his own highly distinctive sound. I think it was around the track ‘Suvanto’ that I started to become convinced. This is not a bad piece of work at all. Like a lot of composers in this general area, he’s got a declared interest in slow and subtle change, and these pieces certainly reflect that, but his goal is to try and efface traces of human intervention if possible – he wants to achieve a certain “distance from active human composition and authorship”, and would be happier to create music that feels more like a phenomenon of nature in some way, as if simply created by the elements.

The active agent making this into an aesthetic experience is not him, but us as listeners; we do the work of “link[ing] together” these “fluctuating, chaotic, momentary events.” In terms of his processes, a lot of the work begins as samples which he gets from second-hard records, specifically choral records he found in Finland charity shops. His extensive reworking and reprocessing methods allow for a certain amount of random or chance events, often expressed as automated scripts probably run in the computer. This appeals to him as much as structure and order, and so any given piece here may represent a fortuitous combination of accidents and interventions. I would guess that NE Trethowan is being slightly modest here; many other musicians working with the same techniques and sources would come up with something dull and samey, so in spite of his attempts to distance himself from “authorship” I would say Trethowan’s personality or signature imbues this work.

In the final analysis, it’s quite beautiful music, recommended to listeners who enjoy Ian Holloway and his Quiet World label. If you want to hear more of his work, there are numerous file-based releases on his own Tavern Eightieth label. Limited edition CDR (50 copies) with inserts. From 28 April 2016.

Grand Bassin

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Another great piece from Jean-Luc Guionnet, the French fellow who first crossed our pathway with his church organ experiments, but is also a saxophone improviser and a very good sound artist. On Quelque Chose Au Milieu (CIRCUM-DISC LX008 / BECOQ RECORDS 25), we have a strong collaboration with the alto saxophone duo Bi-Ki?, who are Sakina Abdou and Jean-Baptiste Rubin. The duo played in various very specific locations around Lomme in France, and Guionnet recorded them – here credited with the very precise French term “prise de son”, and he also did the editing and mixing. The locations are one half of the pleasure to listening to this record, mostly chosen for their sonority and possibility of natural echo, I suppose, but it’s also nice to hear background sounds becoming part of the music too. Said locations include a municipal swimming pool, a church, a hotel, a market, and a bridge near the motorway.

As I write these lines, it seems I’m making out that Quelque Chose Au Milieu is merely an “interesting” process piece, but somehow I find there is more substance to it which I can’t readily account for. It might be the photographs in the insert, which although they’re documenting the actions of the recordings, are both strangely evocative and seem to be documenting something else altogether. I like the way that the figures of the artists are, in a couple of images, rendered as mysterious while silhouettes, as if they were missing persons. And the lovely blue colour of the printing may also be adding to my delusional rhapsody. There’s also an explanatory line or two describing the genesis of the works, printed in French, but I think the gist of it is that Bi-Ki? have always been preoccupied with “la question de lieu”, the question of a place or location, and how to express it in recorded sound. This collaboration with Guionnet is their response to the problem.

In short: very enjoyable long slow saxophone drones arising from pure improvisation, and tied to their locations through a combination of preparation, selection, good recording techniques, sensitivity to the environment, and strong ideas. All of this means that Quelque Chose Au Milieu is not simply nice music with field recordings added on, which anyone could do (and these days, everyone and his brother does precisely that). From 11 April 2016.

Cultural and Educational Activity

Herewith the latest three cassette releases from Saint Petersburg’s finest underground label Spina!Rec, delivered here on 10 March 2016. As ever, the editions of physical product are tiny, and collectors of cassettes will have to move fast.

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SR023 is a split betwixt Dubcore and Andrey Popovskiy. Dubcore sounds more like it ought to be the name of a label, or a genre, but here it’s an art project which experiments with found sounds and/or field recordings. They offer two pieces under the heading ‘Tea-N-Pepsi’, an endearing latterday cafe society proposal if ever there was. ‘Tuning In’ is a delicious jumble of sources, a fractured radio broadcast. Nothing spectacularly new in the approach of cutting up and random assemblage, but I happen to like the results on this occasion. The creators are genuinely capable of surprising the jaded listener with their juxtapositions and exciting cross cuts. A distinctly urban feel emerges; railway stations, media messages, street sounds, electronic noise, static, and beats. Everything is served up in aggressive micro-second slices, pandering to the minuscule attention spans of our atrophied brains. ‘Theyyam’ by Dubcore feels slightly less paranoid and tense, even admitting the possibility of some pastoral undercurrents, and quieter passages, to the overall mix of unpredictability. Here the listener is intrigued and puzzled. While not as subtle or inventive as the tapes we get from Staaltape and Rinus van Alebeek, Dubcore are operating in much the same area. “Six multilayered tracks full of sounds and changes,” is the description from the website, adding that Dubcore began life as something to do with exploring long tracts of silence. It so happens this tape is the exact opposite of that strategy, and has resulted in a glorious clutter of sonic detritus. A nice one.

Andrey Popovskiy occupies Side B with his 30-minute epic ‘Kryukov’. If credit list rings true, Popovskiy is operating various chunks of hardware for playback of pre-recorded elements (turntable, cassette player, dictaphone, CD player, etc), plus a violin, and e-bow, and additional field recordings. Hard to detect much of this equipment on the finished product, though. It comes across rather like 30 mins of a fellow stumbling about the room not really knowing what to do next, like a lethargic musician trying out ideas, opening the window, or turning the TV on. The recording doesn’t present the music, but documents the event, so that we pick up a good deal of room tone, random sounds, TV or radio in the next room, and general atmosphere of life in a Saint Petersburg apartment. This description may make it all appear infuriating and trivial, but in fact ‘Kryukov’ is a compelling listen. “Different kinds of interaction with environmental sounds,” is how the website describes this episode; “sometimes you can hear contingently appearing sounds of spaces, sometimes it’s prearranged processed recordings.” A lot to explore and get lost inside, varying textures, stories, and effects.

sr024

Open Readings (SR024) is a high-minded attempt to reclaim historic culture from the forces of Evil: “Barbarization of content, devaluation of moral and spiritual values and denial of cultural archetypes” are the declared Enemy, though the perpetrators don’t go into more detail about how this pernicious effect is coming about, or who are the agencies wreaking this vandalism. Are they talking about the media, television, movies, newspapers, the internet? I suspect many forces are culpable when it comes to dilution and bastardisation of culture. The retaliation from the Russian underground comes in the form of the spoken word, readings from “works of the best classical writers of the Silver Age”. In Russia, the Silver Age is the beginning of the 20th century, a highly productive time for experimental poetry, modernist novels, and short stories. On the A side, it’s done by Alexander Mashanov & Ilia Belorukov, who on ‘Blok’ (most likely named for the poet Alexander Blok) belt out short phrases and paragraphs, spoken in Russian, of course, as if words were weapons, to be fired like bullets from a gun. Inevitably, this approach soon develops into a clumsy form of rap music, the rhymes chanted aggressively over a clunky drum beat and tepid electro backing. In less than 11 mins, we’re barked to death. On the B side, the readings are done by Natasha Shamina with a musical backdrop by Sergey Kostyrko. Their ‘Vvedenskiy’ is less contrived than ‘Blok’, and instead of rapping the reading is delivered with the accompaniment of a menacing electronic growl, now and then turning into a nasty squeal, and contributing to the overall tension. The sense of purpose in Natasha Shamina’s steely speaking voice is unmistakeable; she may not be firing bullets, but you sense she’s staring at you with a disapproving eye, and is capable of acting as a silent assassin if the situation demands it. I prefer this B side; it makes zero concessions to entertainment, and demands your engagement with the content.

sr025

SR025 is another split and represents another chapter in this label’s friendly and ongoing collaboration with the Finnish underground. Umpio is the Finn, from Turku; Kryptogen Rundfunk is the Russian. Both are solo acts. Umpio turns in a typically over-baked stew of sounds on his ‘Rio De Venas, Gusanos, Pulso Insectal, Craneocapsula, Bajo Hielo’, and by typical I mean this is the sort of purposeless over-dubbed melange which the Finns have always done so well. This “cunning sound synthesis” as the website would have it is all done by electronic means, digital and analogue working together for that rich “swampy” sensation. ‘Rio De Venas’ doesn’t really progress anywhere, but as a half-realised vision of an alien world, it’s fairly convincing. Pentti Dassum is the fellow behind this pleasing gumbo, and he runs a record label called Nekorekords and was involved in the mastering of over 100 Finnish underground releases, besides the production of about 40 of his own solo records and split releases.

Kryptogen Rundfunk offer us a live recording from 2015 from a venue or event called ESG-21. Feedback and electronic noise are used to create slow and doomy textures…they lurch gradually out of the speakers like so much tar-encrusted sludge, and the outpouring won’t stop until every available surface is covered in this unpleasant morass. Some occasional nice effects are achieved by Kryptogen Rundfunk’s remorseless execution, but in the final analysis he creates the sort of environment that drives you away rather than invites exploration. Dank, grey, gloomy; saps the vitality of most humans, kills many forms of plant life, poisons the air. Artyom Ostapchuk is the creator of this dismalness, and he has made a few sporadic recordings of his brand of industrial ambient death music since 2004 onwards.