Tagged: laptop music

Bignonia Vines

Heumond

On Heumond, we have another team-up between the Dutch players Marc Spruit and Michiel de Haan. The last time we heard them working together was in 2009, when we received a couple of examples of their interplay on the albums Hollands Licht and Schoonhoven. Working with drums and laptop (Spruit) and guitar and ipad (de Haan), they continue to muffle, transmute, disguise and otherwise interfere with the natural sound of musical instruments, and freely blend these odd sounds with digital noise, thus arriving at highly unusual aural mixages and bruits that estrange the listener. Further, the work is delivered with a baffling logic guiding their performance that is extremely hard for an outsider to decode. To add to the mystique, both track titles and enclosed insert of photographs tell a story; or more accurately, they suggest a narrative with meagre clues, something which may be the start of a detective novel or a romantic yarn. At times Heumond is a perplexing listen; it’s as if a bastardised version of Derek Bailey had been reduced by 75%, and blocked by a filter that only allowed a few random guitar notes to get through, and even those that do survive are cut off at the knees, strangled before the strings can stop resonating. Bewildered, these orphaned notes struggle to make their way through a constantly-interrupted transmission of glitch and white noise. Arrived 10th September 2015.

Dehaanspruit at Bandcamp

Tiny Dancers

airs

Kawaguchi / Olive / Oshiro
Airs
JAPAN 845-AUDIO 845-5 CD

Two quantum level explorations of the musical underverse, starting with a Japanese-Canadian collaboration. Airs presents four live in the studio performances for self-made instruments and magnetic pickups, from musicians/installation artists Takahiro Kawaguchi, Tim Olive and Makoto Oshiro. It’s very, very quiet, but too spiky to be properly called ambient.

The music, such as it is, unfolds in pulses of resonance and metallic vibration, interspersed with sine waves, rattlings and tinklings. Track 3 introduces some barely-there bass to the mix, and some electronic buzzing, as if someone was taking the opportunity for a quick shave. Track 4 brings in some rhythmic elements, like the world’s first nanotech drum solo. Most of the time, however, you’re listening to the sound of space and air, which makes the title particularly well chosen.

Whilst listening to this, and trying to decide if I was hearing music or just my own tinnitus, I came across an article about a new metal developed by the Boeing Company, a micro-lattice that is 99.99% air. These tracks are the audio equivalent.

Small Bits of Indigenous Space Between The Grains

Spruit
Small Bits of Indigenous Space Between The Grains
NO NUMBER CDR (2015)

Compared to Airs, Spruit’s offering sounds like The Who Live At Leeds, but it shows a similar fascination with microscopic detail. Spruit is Dutch musician Marc Spruit, who for this release has abandoned his previous work with turntables and taken a step into the wonderful world of laptops and software.

The tracks on Small Bits Of Indigenous Space Between The Grains are digital cut-ups, created from old toys and radios, no-input mixing boards and virtual synths. The resulting bleeps, bloops and burblings have been run through the audio processor and chopped up into small samples, which are then used as components for longer improvisations.

All tracks are named for their running times and, to my ears at least, have very little to distinguish one from the other. Still, it’s quite a fascinating listen. The overall effect is like a musical double-slit experiment, with the sound displaying the characteristics of both waves and particles. Again, it’s all too spiky to be called ambient music, unless the ambience you’re aiming for is “cosmic background radiation”.

Interesting experiments, if nothing else.

Net Lingo

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Very good cassette compilation from the LF Records label, with 17 artistes assembled under the banner Computer Music (LF RECORDS LF035), including many friends and accomplices of the label owner dsic (by which I mean a few of them have appeared on this label in one shape or form). The website blurb calls attention to the slight irony of having computer-based music released on “old-time magnetic tape”. The digital origins of this music, if that assumption is correct, may in fact gain something from being transferred onto oxide, because the overall sound that projects from this cassette is far from being “inhuman” or “clinical”. When laptop music was a relatively new thing – I suppose I’m now thinking about the mid-1990s – I have a vague memory that compilations of this exciting new music released on Touch or Mego were far “cleaner” than the music here, even when they delivered great scads of insane, programmed noise.

By contrast, what’s the general vibe that oozes off LF035? It’s depressing, bleak, broken, dismal and rather gloomy…incoherent slices of vague and nondescript noises adding up to less than zero. I hasten to add that this is not a negative assessment and I count this achievement as a complete triumph…it suggests how the golden dreams of computer technology have become tarnished very quickly…the possibilities of the internet are shown to be a rusty steel trap instead of the limitless freedom we’d hoped for…the promised bottomless pits of information have turned out out to be barrels full of gibberish and trivial inanities…and all software and web services are in the hands of multinational corporations, sucking the life out of our bodies through our very fingertips as we blindly stumble along in the social media quagmire.

Contributors to this nightmare include Anla Courtis, Astral Social Club, dsic, Ian Watson, Phil Julian, Seth Cooke, and TX Ogre (those are the names I’ve heard of). All of these have distinguished themselves on record with their strong personalities and musical flavours, but what’s interesting is how they surrender their identities and all merge together on this comp, whether by accident or by the design of the compiler, and most of the sounds we hear advance the agenda proposed above. Net result is a superb absurdist update on the industrial noise genre, full of alienating emotions, strange chilling beauty, grisly noise, fragmented sketches and bizarre drones. Great! Arrived 5th September 2014.

MAY2015569

The record by G.I.A.S.O. – the Great International Audio Streaming Orchestra – appears to be the latest missive in a series of dispatches from “internet orchestras”, of which the previous manifestations known to us include APO33 and their 2013 record BOT: Compositions Continuums des Machines, and the laptop trio pizMO. Very coincidentally, the same names tend to turn up among all these projects, and they are all released by Fibrr Records. On G.I.A.S.O. (FIBRR:014), we hear music which has been captured live at various festivals in Bourges and Bergen between 2013 and 2015, while the sleeve prints the names of numerous pan-European members of the orchestra between 2012 and 2014 – including Jenny Pickett, thenoiser, Kadet Kuhne, Crdik Croll, Romain Papion, Julien Ottavi, and many more.

Unlike the grim Computer Music above, this CD offers a far more sanguine view of the prospects which IT can offer us for music creation, sharing, collaborating, and creativity. The project proposes that the music created exists in the internet, an arena of freedom which is embraced for its liberating possibilities for collaboration and “collective sound production”, and when it comes to a live performance, it’s mostly a matter of turning on a stream of musical data – drawn from numerous musical channels – and recomposing / re-ordering this stream in the live venue. In so doing, one of the things they wish to do is challenge the old notions of what an orchestra is, and propose new compositional forms…I suppose a lot of this derives from the fact that there is no single “location” to the sound, it’s all just gobbets of digital data residing somewhere in “the cloud”, and the 19th-century idea that violinists have to travel to a concert venue and appear in person to perform music under the baton of a conductor, is being undermined. The other side to it is the emergence of a “virtual musician”, where the orchestra members are only known (if at all) by their online names, and it’s not crystal clear who is contributing what at any one time. To further demonstrate their altruistic intentions, the record is released under a Creative Commons License, another internet phenomenon which was invented in order to free up creative sharing of content and ideas from the old restrictions of copyright law. The very fluid membership of G.I.A.S.O. likewise contributes to this part of the plan, dispensing with the old ideology of egos and star performers.

As ever, when being spun these ambitious ideas about radical recreations of music, one finds the actual sound of the record a little disappointing; this album, for instance, is mostly continuous streams of samey-sounding digital murk and drone, with only occasional variations which don’t seem to do much to redirect the river of content in interesting new directions. But it’s still a compelling drone, one which simultaneously lulls you into a false sense of security with its purring tones, while still keeping an undercurrent of slightly edgy noise bubbling beneath the surface. The lengthy, drifting nature of each piece can often steer the listener into an unexpected and even somewhat bleak backwater of unfamiliar tones; much the same dangers as you find when surfing the net, in fact. Even if the finished results seem a bit lacking in dynamics, I still applaud the ideas and the methodology here. From 5th September 2014.

Private Session

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Plenty of delicate shades of low noise from Miguel A García on his Choirs (COPY FOR YOUR RECORDS CFYR022) – including ominous hissing, radio static crackle, humming machines, and fridge motors coming to life in the next room. Above all there’s the recurring sound of what could be mistaken for a mechanical breathing apparatus situated in a hospital room, suggesting that the patient is on his last legs and his dying breath is to be taken for the voice of these “Choirs”. Five long compositions, many of which are heavily punctuated by spaces of silence or near-silence, a compositional device which used to be favoured by Bernhard Günter, Rolf Wehowsky and Francisco López. In the hands of García, the device is not purely aesthetic and tends to add to the menace of these creeping, minimal atmospheres. A nice one, although you may find the unvarying slow pace of the album rather solemn and unrewarding, and it’s somehow lacking in the purposeful “bite” I normally associate with García’s work. Jean-Luc Guionnet, the French sound artist and improviser, did the nondescript cover drawings. Arrived 11 August 2014.

EPAPR15547

Also from Miguel, the Moscow Sessions part 1 & 2 tape (GALP-9), a summit conference of international noise and laptop buzzers at which he assisted. Actually it’s more accurately characterised as a private discussion or a seminar held in camera. Alexei Borisov, who (along with Ilia Belorukov and Kurt Liedwart) is the go-to guy when you’re talking weird anti-social noise on The Steppes, organised this meeting in June 2013 at Prospekt Vernadskogo and has now released same on tape. Present were García, Borisov, Jelena Glazova (the Latvian visual artist, sound artist and poetess), Xavier Lopez (electronicist from Paris), Kiwanoid (curator and lecturer from the Estonian Academy of the Arts), and Vitaly Elektronoizov. Together the massed equipment of these creators brings forth a fairly enticing brew of fizz, throbbage, wild bleeping, and all the attendant digital-process marmalade that spills endlessly from the contemporary vat of soundfile generation. With six heads in the room, little remains by way of fresh oxygen for the listener, and it’s a case of either pay attention and listen or suffocate to death. No space remains unfilled, as surely as if we were dealing with six over-zealous building contractors in a roomful of cracks, and one large tub of Polyfilla between them. It’s a rich fug of noise, but I was hoping for something with a little more solidity to it. From 11 August 2014.

Alone Again Or

exclusiveor570

From Carrier Records, great record of innovative and experimental electronic music from the duo of Sam Pluta and Jeff Snyder, who perform as exclusiveOr. Archaea (CARRIER020) contains six of their recorded outbursts, such as the spiky and abrasive ‘Landing’, a strong opener which is hyperactive to the point of being almost dangerous – a child running through the rumpus room with scissors. Electronic scissors, that is. Great way to set out the stall; large variety of exciting and unusual sounds fired about like rockets. ‘Book of Dreams’ is slightly more approachable for some of its duration, weaving its way into a somnambulatory state by stealth, but also proving it’s something of a “sleeping giant” when layers from the surface peel away to reveal a teeming mass of activity of some sort – could be a termite colony eating into the floorboards, could be loose cables spurting sparks in your face. ‘Intro/Outro’ delivers plenty of gaseous wheezes and erratic coughs as it releases jets of scalding steam; if it was a kitchen appliance, this track would have been recalled by the manufacturers five years ago. There’s also the tremendously exciting ‘Pulse’, which shows on one level how the Merzbow influence is trickling down into the consciousness of certain Americans (much like High Rise and Musica Transonic created a similar mini-explosion among US rock bands some years ago). This cut is especially wild and bold in its abstract-expressionist swoops and splurges, painting gigantic coloured brush-strokes in the air. Yet compared to said Merzbow it’s a slightly sanitised and more approachable form of crazy electric noise. Then again I gotta love the extreme dynamics of it, the way the massive steam engine can be controlled, slowed down, reined in and reversed as needed, even made to dance a pirouette on the tracks with its dainty steel wheels.

Pluta and Snyder are just the men you can trust with this job, assuming you’d ever appoint them to rebuild your house. Pluta’s work is endorsed by us at TSP 112%, and his thrilling semi-improvised group compositions are recommended listening, if you want to learn about new directions in this area since John Zorn 1. On this record, he’s cutting up rough with a laptop programmed with his own custom-built software. Jeff Snyder goes even further in terms of the rugged-individualist hand-made approach, and plays an analogue modular synth which he designed and built himself. A true Gyro Gearloose type, seems he’s even built some “invented instruments” which can be used to play a warped form of early music. He probably travels around New York City on roller skates which he operates like Scalextric cars, while reading the Daily News on his home-made tablet which he built out of the printed circuits from a 1990s toaster oven and an old Etch-a-Sketch. The image inside the CD shows a photo of these two New Yorkers, heavily Photoshopped, suggesting visually how they are becoming at one with their machines, dissolving into the patchboards and printed circuits as surely as the hapless adventurer in Tron. The album title however is totally organic (non-digital) and refers to a class of microbe that can survive in very inhospitable places, such as hot springs or marshes. These mighty microbes can even make their home in the human body, which is probably what exclusiveOr would like to do – implant themselves in your system and gradually take it over. If you wish to participate in this cruel and unusual experiment, this CD is for you. From 5th July 2013.

  1. I have no idea what I mean by this. I have some vague visions of New York lofts populated with wild-eyed arty types, doing without sleep for three days, nothing but a jar of pickles in the fridge. But these words are lifted from a description by Eric Bogosian of his early performance art days.

The Fire Next Time

pizMO is a collective / collaborative entity that could be enormous and diffuse, wishing to project a façade of anonymity while also claiming to be a hydra-headed entity of many creators, although it may just as likely be the laptop trio of Christophe Havard, Jerome Joy and Julien Ottavi. The group sent us a copy of blst (FIBRR RECORDS 012) in June 2013. This current line-up is the “born-again” incarnation of the group which began 13 years ago with Joy, Ottavi and Yannick Dauby. In describing this work, terms bandied about include “environments” and “audio architecture”, suggestive of a large-scale distribution of events, statements, and effusions happening – very fleetingly and temporarily – in places which cannot even be identified with any certainty. Ay, it’s hard to pin down exactly what’s going on with this assemblage of live recordings, captured from festivals in France and Norway during 2012, but for over 53 minutes you will experience a continuous barrage of formless, bewildering and strangely exciting electronic music, dispersed over a wide area without explanation or context.

As you have gathered, pizMO have high ambitions for their music, hoping to somehow bypass conventional means of communication and presentation, and even transcend the limits of human perception to some degree; they’d be pleased to see all forms of centralised system collapse, and want to place themselves in the centre of a musical revolution. This is all expressed in a manifesto printed on the artworks, stated in English and in French. Their attitude is redolent of a certain impatience with the way things are (narrow, confined, predictable, monolithic), and a desire to find some new, secret, invisible space of vitality where their music can freely exist and thrive in a near-infinite continuum. The main thing is to ignore and undermine the dominant music industry, and especially concepts of ownership; the work is made available under “copyleft” terms. A lot of this, it seems to me, is about bumping one’s head on technological limits; I get the feeling that pizMO would love to exist as an unending stream of digital data if they could, transmitted forever around the world across broadband networks, and made freely available to the people. The actual music /sound they make is not so incendiary or innovative as any of this may imply, but when it doesn’t lapse into meaningless white noise, this is a very engaging listen, with many unexpected swoops and slippery sensations.

Grün ist grau: green gets ground out on this post-industrial dystopian music travelogue

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Ravi Shardja, Grün ist grau, Grautag Records, 2 x LP GTR#005 (2013)

Aye aye, Captain Shardja … green is grey according to this French improv musician who has been let loose on a bewildering variety of instruments here: electronic bass, guitar, mandolin, various hand-me-down synthesisers, a broken-down Yamaha mixing table and other musical and non-musical gadgets of varying ages and music-worthy (or unworthy) condition, to create monumental audioscapes of noisy post-industrial improv. Fear not! – the result is a travelogue through dystopian post-apocalyptic soundscapes where steel skyscrapers and other monuments to the Age of Oil now lie in ruins and are over-run by Nature exacting her due on presumptuous humanity, now long gone. While the mood of the album isn’t bleak or hopeless, the general feeling tends to be one of clinical curiosity, as if listeners have been invited as disinterested tourists to survey this devastated world as a lesson in not what to do before travelling to the next planet.

On the four tracks, each of which gets a 12-inch vinyl-platter side to itself, Shardja surveys a different part of the post-anthropic Earth: one track might pass for a quick lookaround of India, to judge from the presence of a sitar (courtesy of Jean Marcel Busson whom Shardja roped in from their band GOL to assist) which appears at various points throughout the track. The music can be dramatic in parts but it’s generally approachable and light in tone and delivery. There is sometimes a playful quality and even the most doom-laden sections never sound really very heavy or morose. The mood sometimes seems quite wry and deliberately down-played, the music appearing very po-faced at what it may be observing.

Track titles range from the absurd and amusing like “Bombay Boobies Battle” to the deeply disturbing like “Attaque sournoise du Kopassus a Wamena” (“Sneak Attack by Kopassus on Wamena”), the latter covering some sinister spoken-voice field recordings as well as some toy-box melodies that seem quite out of order here. While the music on this track can be quite jaunty in parts and becomes shrill and intense in its final moments, listeners should be aware that Kopassus refers to a crack special forces unit in the Indonesian Army that conducts unconventional warfare, counter-terrorism and special intelligence gathering activities and as such has committed human rights violations in various parts of Indonesia including Papua where Wamena is a major town. Why Shardja should give this piece such a startling title I’m curious to know: is he trying to stir up listeners’ jaded sensibilities, dulled by always expecting to be entertained by one short-lived thrill after another, or is he merely commenting in a casual, almost noncommittal way on one aspect of the chaos and almost banal repression and violence that always seem to break out in at least one corner of the globe every so often? (This would assume that human violence is something that happens because … hey, it’s human nature to be brutal and violent and we just have to live with it. Move on folks, nothing to see here. The notion that violence of a brutal and vicious kind is something we are taught through our total and involuntary immersion in modern Western culture from the moment of our birth never occurs to people.) Whether the listener can be bothered to find out what messages or non-messages Shardja is trying to convey with the various track titles (given in English, French, German and Italian) and the music they attach to is another thing altogether. At the very least, it’s disturbing that we have a track called “Attaque sournoise …” with no further explication from the artist (I admit I don’t have the actual double LP artwork which might explain a lot more in front of me) which leaves me as a listener guessing at what Shardja’s intentions may be – but possibly the fact that I have to guess may be the intention itself: it at least has roused my curiosity and interest.

Some passages in the four tracks can be very intriguing and enjoyable to listen to but on the whole this quartet can be something of an endurance test and attention levels can flag very quickly. This double LP set is perhaps best digested in separate chunks. Each track could almost be substituted for one another and you would not notice much difference. I feel a bit debilitated each time I listen to the album and I think that’s due to the dabbling and dallying out stretched out to an interminable length.

Endless Autumn

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Kilo
The Wildernis
EXPERIMENTAL STUDIO BRIGITTENAU EXB 002 CD + DVD (2012)

With exceptions, the few friends I have know me to have precious little time for ‘happy’ music, and – as is my wont – to disparage it with canyon-sized generalisations, finding it too distracted by its own joie de vivre to deliver substance. Indie pop? With a vocal spectrum that stretches from post-Beach Boy falsetto to wimpy whine? It animates me with an aggressive lust for hateful black metal.

Thus, to my great surprise, I find my apprehension melt away in earshot of the latest work of the laptop pop duo, Kilo (comprising Kompakt alumni Florian Bogner and Markus Urban), with the startling serendipity of an unpretentiously simple set of songs. It may just be that this crisp, sunny autumn day has engendered in me a feeling of false optimism, but this is exactly what I want to hear right now. Though lacking the sheen and budget that sold the summer to Daft Punk, Kilo’s songs smoulder with inner warmth, which is revealed by the layer to careful listeners. And the nondescript, monotone (even banal) vocals are my new fair-weather friend.

‘The Wildernis’ is a hazy hybrid of mildly glitch-gilded, GASeous pop sensibilities shot through with an array of distilled musical gestures from synthetic chamber to shoegaze, though the press release boasts of a more distinct and eclectic set of styles (including ‘rock, jazz, contemporary music and free improvisation’) than I am equipped to identify. In any event, such influences are atomised and wormholed into a dazed and distorted dimension of muted exuberance, casting the record in the same neverwhere light as that which illuminates Fennesz’ Endless Summer. Think of a brighter Tujiko Noriko, a less complex Cornelius or one of Kompakt’s ‘Pop Ambient’ stable and you’re in the ballpark.

Opener ‘For Those Who Go Away’ bounces along at a pace: cheery phrases ping from rubberised guitar strings while phantom syllables sweep the horizon. Maintaining a mightier clip, ‘Masken’ is all handclaps, kick drums and synth swells, marching like animated animals into an endless foreground (though its triumphant tone better befits an album closer). Another highlight in the haze, ‘Melody’ collects chromatic climbing and dispassionate harmonies, rubbery bass and tight (if swerving) kick-drum whooshed by red-arrow layers of neon synth; it is (im)pared-down electro-pop that stands firm, halfway in, undone by a lysergic, lilting flute and rebuilt from scratch amidst perpetual collapse. The harmonious blend of elements synthesized and acoustic, beneath a fuzzy blanket – if clumsy at times – renders the hapless song writing all the more endearing.

A ghostly sense of summer days and nights, idealised and invented, veins every track, including more downbeat numbers such as ‘Shivering’, with its world-weary entreaty to ‘feel my body shivering’ over a slurred, string-weltered backdrop. Its transition into a more crepuscular climate marks an emotional sea change for the album, while eroding the first few tracks’ sense of purpose, to no overall detriment albeit. Woozy instrumental interludes such as ‘Integrals’, ‘Wildernis’ and ‘Langdeep’ perpetuate the directional indifference – possibly to the loss of more impatient listeners – though enhancing the sense of scrapbook scrawl, captured well by the near-ubiquitous, sudden stop/start structure, as one halcyon moment after another gets hastily Prit-stuck for posterity. This approach is expounded upon in the nine-minute ‘Dickicht’ which descends like a cryogenic coma, haunted by the ghost of 1970s Miles Davis: a ponderous Fender Rhodes heaves over 4/4 drum machine and low, melodic mumbles – all elements exercising their right to capricious entrances and exits.

Often ambiguous and ambivalent, over time these deceptively simple songs reveal moods and textures that capture the emotional complexity of autumn mornings and other transitional times. ‘The Wildernis’ is a refreshing and disarming collection of songs, worth the time it takes to befriend.

In addition, the CD is complimented by a DVD, which contains visual analogues of all of the songs, in case the images in your head prove to be insufficient; special mention going to Adnan Popovic’s psychedelic Sesame Street visualisation of ‘Melody’. The films – many topographical in content – are well coordinated with the music, and would serve well as a backdrop to a live AV show, or to the home playback should a projector be available.

Elegant and Detached: a beautiful and serene work that’s perhaps too remote and unemotional

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Pinkcourtesyphone, Elegant and Detached, Room40, CD RM451 (2012?)

Elegant and detached this second album from the solo act Pinkcourtesyphone certainly is, so we know what we’re letting ourselves in for. Moody minimalist work exploring the spatial nature of sound and silence, how we listen and interpret what we hear, is the order of the day. The spaces are very cavernous with a cool, slightly soughing air wafting through; tones float in and out; there may be faint echoes of what could be familiar noises but I’m not sure. It’s very dignified and stately work here with grace and tranquil serenity in quite a few tracks (track 2 in particular).

As might be expected, the music can be very quiet, so quiet that either your ears strain to catch everything or you’re turning the volume level waaay up which does defeat the purpose of hearing the music with all its subtle gradations. Whatever you obtain out of the music depends on what experience and imagination you bring to it: spooky darkness or an air of wonder and exploration can be found on track 3, for example.

Perhaps the album is rather too remote and unemotional to appeal to very many people. The music glides along effortlessly on an even keel throughout and not much threatens to derail it in another direction. There are not many contrasts between sounds or between tracks that might keep listeners enthralled and wondering just where PCP will go next. The danger with this kind of electronic sound art is that listeners may regard it as something to bring out to impress the art crowds at a new gallery opening or an exhibition’s first night: yes, it can be that kind of background ambient muzak.

It’s quite a beautiful, august and slightly unsettling recording at times, but whether many listeners will play it often, apart from the odd art gallery opening or two, is another issue.

Contact: Room40

Regional Surrealism

KONX OM PAX 1
Konx-Om-Pax, Regional Surrealism
PLANET MU RECORDS ZIQ323 CD (2012)

Although I have since determined that the title probably refers to local (Scottish) colour rather than, necessarily, to lesser-known British Surrealist painters, the promise of allusions in that direction initially piqued my interest in this release. Further investigation and closer scrutiny of the cover art proves this not to be the case; however, if we consider the 90s heyday of bedroom electronica, the associated hermetic synthetic productions of the various pale and furtive residents of the less cosmopolitan fringes of these grey isles, a form of regional surrealism 1 (and let us do so, just for the purposes of an extended and mixed metaphor), then this album can be viewed as a latter-day take on that canon. One that evinces some sense of a personal take on the form and which also incorporates glances towards other, more distant musical waters.

Aquatic metaphors are wielded by the press release, names like Drexciya are mentioned. While the watery references are for some tracks apposite, a more obvious set of sonic antecedents would be Aphex Twin and Boards of Canada. Konx-Om-Pax’s personal twist on these inspirations being, apart from post-laptop-revolution production techniques and sound, a focus on the ambient potentials indicated therein. A gentle untethering of various archetypal Aphex-inflected melodies to be left to unspool at their own languid paces with slightly left-field accompaniments. Here a synth part is layered with a cryptic slowed-down monologue, there with a digitally mutating sound effect. The mode remains pretty much beatless although not arrhythmic, there are gentle arpeggiations and delays throughout the albums length, the moods are diffuse and subtle, with a couple of exceptions. ‘Pillars of Creation’ has a brassy heft to it which surprisingly (or not if you consider that there are one or two stray techno genes lurking somewhere in here) contains hints of mid 90s Carl Craig de-coupled from beats or any particularly techno inclinations. Other tracks nod towards the cross-genre sound palettes of, for example, latter-day Boards of Canada or Broadcast, all coloured with a general ambient wash.

‘Glacier Mountain Descent’ is presented as a rhythmic ‘reimagining of the start of Werner Herzog’s Aguirre’. In other words, Popol Vuh’s magisterial and truly mystical soundtracking of that scene. This unfortunately invites unfavourable comparisons to the original, despite being enjoyable enough on its own terms. Ash Ra Tempel are also invoked in the press release, to similar effect. It’s good to see Kosmische ripples still potent, still expanding their way through the collective unconscious. Krautrock isn’t a set of stylisms to be tacked-on and referenced, however, rather a state of expanded inspiration, striving towards the unknown or faintly apprehended. Surrealism likewise, British or otherwise, and whatever latter-day Dali might have you believe.

The abiding impression is of a de-anxietised drift through muted pastel clouds of coloured Teflon gasses or of Jan Hammer hits played underwater by a jellyfish on a sponge laptop. An unerringly pleasant listen if not freighted with too much (unrequested) expectation; and while not as cranky or weird as it could be by any means, it still exudes a certain quiet sense of individuality and could perhaps be good for a daydream or two of an afternoon whilst contemplating shifting grey British skies and their watery constituent elements; and who knows, maybe a slyly surreal experience may manifest during such a moment of abstraction?

  1. I’d particularly consider the works of, for example, Anthony Manning in this respect. ‘Chromium Nebulae’ and ‘Islets in Pink Polypropylene’ on the Irdial record label exemplify an individual, weird non-generic 90s electronica. See also various misfit emissions from the Rephlex label of a similar vintage e.g. Kinesthesia’s ‘Empathy Box’.