Tagged: instrumental

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.

Moon Boots

Plodding Norwegian instrumental rock from Moon Relay, a band featuring Daniel Meyer Gronvold from the Norwegian Noise Orchestra, plus Havard Volden, Ola Hoyer and Martin Smadal Larsen. Their guitar-led instrumentals on Full Stop Etc. (HUBRO HUBROLP3579) are occasionally spiced up with electronic and synth interventions, and Lasse Marhaug contributes some “additional sounds” on two of the tracks. Competent enough; the band play in a tight and straight-forward manner which is respectable, but the art of syncopation is something that seems to elude them, and often we find all the instruments locked into the exact same beat over a pedestrian drum pattern, with no clear idea of how to find their way out of it. They rhythm guitarist supplies “twangy” fills to remind us that he’s heard some surf records, and these too land squarely on the right side of the beat. Everything’s overly manicured, clean; the idea of low-down dirty rock and roll has no place in their well-ordered cosmos. This may be an efficient way to make rock music, but it’s not too exciting, despite the self-important air of drama that hangs over every slice of thudding thrash. The record is a follow up to their 2013 release on Fysisk Format; the band claim they’ve gotten better at arranging since then, and have taught themselves the art of concision, which comes as some surprise when you hear these meandering slogs. It amazes me that people still mistake this sort of over-stated music for “krautrock”. The final straw is the pretentious track titles, each one rendered as a jumbled assortment of punctuation marks. From 11th October 2016.

With Borrow’d Sheen

We quite liked parts of Anish Music Caravan by Band Ane, which is a solo turn by the Danish musician Ane Østergaard; her approach is to use all sorts of physical objects and musical instruments (some of them old and broken) as starting points, then merge and combine recordings into her laptop. On today’s release, Anish Music V (CLANG RECORDS clang047) I find the novelty is wearing thin already, and the music, although wistful and longing in tone, comes over as shapeless ambient driftery. I’m not expecting anything so conventional as a “root chord” in this type of music, but perhaps some central theme or consistency of thought would be nice to stop the listener’s attention from wandering. In her favour, the playing is sparse and understated, there is sensitivity in the work, and the use of natural caverns to enhance the acoustical space in this recording may be a bonus: the credit notes refer to a “17 second natural reverb from Cisternerne (Copenhagen)”, and “recordings from Thingbæk Limestone Mines”. There’s a limited press of 100 vinyl copies available. From 4th November 2016.

The Cat Who Could Read Backwards

The Carp’s Head (MONOTYPE RECORDS MONOLP018) record is an extremely unusual album featuring the vocal talents of Ghédalia Tazartès, the unclassifiable mystic from France who has been coming our way a fair number of times in recent years…his tape collages, like the LP Repas Froid, are one thing – nightmarish reconstructions of the physical world and all that’s in it – but when he opens his mouth, strange creatures emerge by the bushel. We’ve heard him singing on Superdisque (with Jac Berrocal and David Fenech) and as one half of Reines D’Angleterre, and it’s not an experience that you can soon forget.

On Carp’s Head, he does a lot of guttural throat-singing type stuff that I assume is extremely hard to do, and makes Ghédalia Tazartès sound like some shaman taking off on a magical flight, or an old man of the mountains uttering prophesies. But he also makes sound effects and animal interpretations, such as on the self-explanatory ‘Wolves And Birds’, where he not only provides the voices of these ravenous beasts but also supplies the background sound of wind on the Russian steppes, and thus single-handedly creates his own atmospheric soundtrack for a radio play that has no story.

He’s doing it with the help of two Polish musicians, most notably the multi-instrumentalist Paweł Romańczuk, who seems to have access to many exotic-sounding devices that conjure up the spirits of non-specific ethnic recordings from everywhere in the civilised world (and beyond). Romańczuk is not known to me, but he regularly performs in the experimental combo Małe Instrumenty of which he is a founder member. Romańczuk has also built his own home-made musical instruments, and maybe some of them appear on this record. The other Polish musician is Andrzej Załeski, who I think is mostly supplying percussive devices, a music curator who is known for his numerous musical collaborations, his cinema work, and performances in theatre groups.

Carp’s Head has a lot to recommend it – the all-acoustic arrangements, the spare simplicity of the playing, the unsettling atmospheres it creates, and the all-time freakiness of Tazartès’ vocalising throughout. The players have worked hard to create something innovative and new, proud of the way they “drifted away from the traditions of chamber music”. From 21 November 2017.

The Masked Ball

On Before I Was Invisible (SIREN WIRE / WILD SILENCE), Welsh songstress and pianist/composer Susan Matthews teams up with the French visual artist, record collector and musician Rainier Lericolais. This multi-media fellow has hung his work in many French galleries and collaborated with a number of excellent musicians; it seems he’s released over a hundred records, with evocative titles such as Médiumnique Musique and My Song Exaggerated To Dilate Horizontally. He and Matthews have worked together before, for instance on When The Ghosts Are Within These Walls and Homothetique Ricochet, both small-run editions published in 2008 by Matthews on her own Siren Wire Records imprint. Lericolais lends his collage skills to create the cover artworks for this album. They’re a tad conventional, in thrall to Max Ernst, but that’s no bad thing – and they suit the mood of this delicate and enchanting release.

‘The Healer’s Art’ is an extended work of minimal piano trills, gently pulsating electronic tones, and a compelling mood so taut you hardly dare to breathe…occasionally interrupted by fragments of a song delivered in a hesitant voice, a plaintive whine from a woodwind instrument, and distorted found recordings that might be coming from the mouth of a mechanical doll made in the time of Benjamin Franklin. If the plan was to try and pin down the mysterious moods of a dream on tape, much as the surrealists aspired, then the collaboration can be counted a success. Some may scorn its fragile and introverted surface; not me. If you enjoy the somnambulist worlds of Joe Frawley, this eerie broadcast from the night gallery is the one for you.

‘Truth Past the Dare’ is likewise a series of long tones, presented in an unhurried and non-linear fashion…the musicians seem to bring in sounds or musical drones as needed, rather than adhere closely to a schematic plan. Intuition may be a key word here. A beautiful piece to be sure, even if at times it comes close to tipping over into romantic sentimentality.

‘Your Ghost Moves With Me’ is a piece which in title continues the preoccupation with departed souls and vanished friendships, themes alluded to on the earlier 2008 album, and is another highly beguiling work; the voice of Matthews is repeated and overlaid in short, non-logical loop patterns, producing strange overlaps and harmonies, the breathing and short phrases creating a diaphanous mosaic of sound. This translucent veil of vocal music is occasionally bolstered with percussion samples that appear like unexpected supernatural visitors, and the puzzling mood is deepened as the track develops into a quiet and meditative stretch, with very distant and muffled piano music, backwards tapes, and other foreign elements. This piece builds on the dream-like atmosphere established by track 1, and whisks us away further down the pathways of Slumberland towards an oneiric oblivion. We might never wake up again, and we feel excited by the dangerous prospect. From 17th October 2016.

No Bulbs

Norwegian guitarist Kim Myhr has been noted in these pages as part of the group Circadia with Tony Buck, but he’s probably more familiar in his home country as part of the Trondheim Jazz Orchestra, and is also known as an experimental guitarist and composer. His 2014 solo record All Your Limbs Singing, not heard by us, evidenced his interest in American folk guitar idioms as well as micro-tonal avant-garde music. Today’s record, Bloom (HUBRO HUBROCD2578), does have moments where it sparkles, but feels sketchy and unfinished to me. Myhr requires time and space to spread out, which is fine, but he wastes most of that time noodling about on the ground pecking for seed when he could be taking off like an eagle and soaring in the sky. Myrh informs us that he had been listening to “Ram Narayan (a distinguished Indian sarangi player) and Milton Nascimento, as well as psych-folk stuff” before he made these recordings, but owning a record collection is not the same as being a composer or being able to frame musical ideas. Bloom merely demonstrates a vague osmosis of some superficial effects from these progenitors, rather than a solid grasp of musical form. ‘Sort Sol’ has some pleasing textures, presumably the result of overdubbing several 12 string acoustic guitars and electric guitars, and weaves its way through changes in the surface without actually achieving very much. ‘O Horizon’ has slightly more grit, and I did like the atonal lite-noise effects Myhr gets from obsessively scratching his fretboard, but this track soon lapses into the tasteful wallpaper that characterises much of this release. I’m sure that Myhr is an accomplished player, and I’m sorry not to derive more pleasure from his intricate work, but this soft-centred and woolly record failed to make much of an impression. From 3rd October 2016.

Air Piano

Japanese musician Teruyuki Nobuchika has a job composing TV and movie soundtracks, but also performs his own non-commercial works, and has been building up a small discography. One such is Still Air (OKTAF 013), released by this German label and packaged with abstract cover art by the painter Mischa von Wegen. Eight short instrumentals which at first spin seemed to be situated too conveniently in the “ambient” drifty zones – pleasant sounds often bordering on the tasteful, framed in pieces which might be too diffuse to contain anything of any value. However, I rescind that view on today’s spin; there’s a lot of detail and ideas going on in these deceptively simple pieces, which are tautly structured to conceal their clever changes, and they make a small journey almost without us even noticing, arriving somewhere that’s interesting and ambiguous. Nobuchika does this with the subtle use of loops and repeated pulsing patterns, sometimes interrupting the flow with a judicious piano trill, an interjection which has earned him the “classical” tag from other reviewers. Still Air manages to suggest stories and forward movement, rather than simply settling for pleasant “atmospheres”, and Nobuchika has put a deal of compositional effort into constructing and polishing these ingenious miniatures. From 20th September 2016.

Fyodor’s Wild Years

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

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

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

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

Red Giant

Fine instrumental music from Møster! on their album When You Cut Into The Present (HUBRO MUSIC HUBROCD2565), where Kjetil Møster and his men turn in five lively performances with a rock set-up that’s a framework for Kjetil’s sax melodies and the guitar efforts of Hans Magnus Ryan. Last noted this band for their 2014 album Inner Earth, where Steve Hanson responded warmly to their “heavy prog” vibe. I would concur…in places we can find traces of “jazziness” in their playing, and it’s not just because of the agitated sax blowing, but the fact that they don’t follow conventional verse-chorus structures or time signatures, and instead tend to keep blurting it out for eight or nine minutes at a time, in a sprawling jam-session style, provided we can use that phrase without any suggestion that this is flabby, self-indulgent or shapeless music. Rather, Møster! are as taut as a spelunker’s climbing rope (I’m using imagery suggested by the front cover, and I just hope they actually go cave exploring on weekends, thus validating my speculation) and punch their messages home with close attention to dynamics, energy, and concision. Come to think of it, their drummer Kenneth Kapstad may be one of the more important members in that regard. Whereas a lot of Hubro records tend to be a little too pleasant and countrified for me, this album delivers a strong avant-rocky punch to the bread-basket. The album title is derived from a William Burroughs quote, which is in fact completed by one of the track titles here, but it looks as though that’s about as this band goes as regards flirting with underground culture or experimenting with cut-ups. From 12 July 2016.


Ants, eh…you can’t live with ‘em, can’t live without ‘em…at any rate, it’s always these six-legged bastards who show up in pseudo-scientific articles when some nincompoop author is clutching for a metaphor for human society. Perhaps it’s because we suppose these tiny black rogues have organised themselves into a hierarchical system, one with a monarch at its centre, and capable of productive activity on an industrial scale we puny humans can only dream about. Then there’s their elaborate communication system, which involves flopping their pathetic antennae about in some way, to relay signals throughout the entire colony. It’s only a matter of time before some smart alec compares that to “The Internet” and starts to make outlandish claims, for instance that “Ants Invented The World Wide Web” or some such nonsense.

I for one have never trusted the ant, and regard these crawling devils with the same suspicious eye as I do most of the smaller creatures who share the earth with us. They’re up to something, and I don’t like it. One interesting trend for many years has been the cultivation of a so-called “ant farm”, which I believe involves creating a mini-colony of these unpleasant monsters inside a glass box filled with sand or porous earth, allowing us to observe the ants plotting their nefarious schemes. These ant farms have proven especially popular among American school children, who proudly exhibit them as “science projects” when they wish to earn points in entomology. The truth is far more sinister, of course…any given ant farm is just a way of proving the inevitability of capitalism, perpetuating the exploitation of labour, and the “need” for a caste system that keeps us all oppressed; and where better to indoctrinate children with this poisonous ideology than at secondary school. It’s all there, in among the ants.

Some of my justifiable paranoia and bile has, I like to think, informed the record we have in front of us – titled Ant Farm (FEEDING TUBE RECORDS FTR241) and credited to the players Elliott Schwartz and Big Blood. It’s a slightly creepy and weird slab of sound art and music, not without its frequently beautiful moments, but mostly issued as a warning against the rise of the ants. The music was originally the soundtrack for an art exhibit, also called Ant Farm, an event which was held in Maine to showcase the work of The Ant Girls, a visual art group including Colleen Kinsella and Dorothy Schwartz. Right there you’ve got a strong thread of “ant-ness” detectable in the genesis of this particular record. I shouldn’t be surprised if The Ant Girls knew more than they were letting on.

Colleen Kinsella is also one half of Big Blood, along with Caleb Mulkerin, and they’ve been making records since 2006, many of them issued as CDRs on their own Don’t Trust The Ruin label. Weirdly, they’re actually a four-piece but only have two members. They probably came under the influence of the ants to arrive at that point. Elliott Schwartz is a veteran American composer whose modernistic (I assume) escapades date back to the 1960s, although he also made a remarkable record with Marion Brown called Soundways, issued in 1973 by the Bowdoin College Music Press. It’s remarkable for its combination of electronic keyboard music with free jazz sax blowing, a combination which always works for me. Schwartz has no traceable connection to the world of ants, and is just guesting.

The Ant Farm record will draw you in at first by dint of its unusual sound – lo-fi, crackly, misted-up recordings as if heard through a layer of aural fog. From these gentle rumbles and purrs, there will emerge strange tunes and eerie keyboard fugues, some of them played on gamelan instruments such as the Baliphone, or other hammered instruments like the Dulcimer. There’s more atmospheric home-brew electronics than you could fit in a shopping bag, and Schwartz plays his heart out when called upon, offering near-classical tunes of intricate delicacy, many of which have a narrative vibe very fitted to telling the stories of these darn ants. For instance, ‘The Queen’s Egg’ or ‘Winged Pile’ or ‘Swarm’. All of these uncanny musical elements – plus some occasional whispery breathy songs on side two – are blended into a seamless suite of gentle, vaguely sinister music of a supreme oddness, leading the listener through that evil maze-like warren that is the tunnel system of the ants. To top it all off, it’s packaged in some gorgeous sleeve art and inners, featuring paintings of – guess what! – ants at work. These images are uncredited on the release but are possibly provided by one of the Ant Girls. Great! From 17 May 2016.