Tagged: laptop music

Alone Again Or

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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’.
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Cendre: beautiful music trapped in land of Melancholia

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Fennesz + Sakamoto, Cendre, Touch, CD TONE-32 (2007)

Sometimes I wonder if I’m missing out on much by various artists who I used to listen to but then drifted away from. It’s been quite some time since I heard anything by Christian Fennesz. So I thought I should check out this collaborative instrumental work from 2007 with Japanese composer / musician Ryuichi Sakamoto with whose music I was also once familiar way back in the early 1980s when he was a member of Yellow Magic Orchestra.

“Cendre” is a series of ambient soundscape pieces done mainly on piano, guitar and laptop (used to process guitar and piano sounds and melodies). All track titles are short one-word names that suggest states of incomplete stasis or the remains of something that once existed but is no more. Much of the music is desultory piano melody meandering, often sad and meditative in mood as it favours certain keys, with guitar and laptop electronics active in the backdrop. The atmospheres can be quite dark but they are never menacing or threatening. No other instrumentation is used and there are vast spaces revealed in the music by the plaintive keyboard tunes. There is the sense that listeners have to fill in the empty spaces with their own imaginations and memories that those darkened spaces might evoke.

Although the album is divided into 11 tracks, the music is better heard as a continuous soundtrack of changing melodies and sounds that passes through a melancholy blues style, something approaching lounge lizard muzak and occasionally falling into abstract experimental territory. The best tracks are those where the piano and guitar electronics are blended so well that everything sounds like one instrument with an amazing array of tones and effects that all sound like pure piano and Fenneszian guitar effects (“Kuni”, for instance).

The music is certainly very beautiful and its sculpting can be gorgeous and heavenly but at the same time it stays within a very restricted zone of Melancholia: in this world, joy, lightness and happy defiance, in the face of a world that insists on solemn observance of the transience of life, are qualities alien to its denizens. I know we all have to die one day and for many that’s a terrible prospect to be shunned; for others such knowledge kills off all motivation to live fully in the moment; and for still others the awareness suggests we must observe detachment and resist a hunger to satisfy all our appetites but at the risk of denying our emotions, feelings and animal passion; but “Cendre” takes its remit of regarding the world and change with a detached eye rather too seriously to the extent of draining any life out of the music. The result is an album that increasingly becomes stupefying and soporific as it hammers its message over and over with each subsequent track.

Hmm … I probably wasn’t missing all that much after all after floating away from Fennesz and Sakamoto all those years ago.

Contact: Touch Music, Christian Fennesz, Ryuichi Sakamoto

FABRIKSAMPLER 002

Fabriksampler V4: winding its way through different musical territories of Elektronikopia


Various Artists, Fabriksampler V4, Pharmafabrik, PFCD020  (2011)

Featuring acts from several countries in Europe and from South Africa, this is a lively collection of artists engaged in the multifarious arenas of electronic-based music. The expected genres of noise electronics, ambient, industrial, minimalist and dub-influenced styles are all to be found here. On both discs, tracks are arranged to bleed into or meet one another so the overall effect is of a continuous mega-work that winds its way through several musical territories, moods and atmospheres.

Disc 1 kicks off with Japan’s KK Null with his particular approach to creating music that sounds positively inhuman and machine-like in a deranged and repellent way. This turns into a warmer, more balmy and soothing though no less pointillist piece under Neven M Agalma from Slovenia. Other track highlights include Yoshihiro Kikuchi’s bubbly and cheeky effort (Track 4) which once upon a time would have qualified for a Mego or Editions Mego release;  Mutant Beatniks’ rather demented murk piece “Whiteout!!!” with faux sinister and dark wobble drones and eerie noises; and Vega Stereo’s mysterious and brooding “Morning”. Of the rest of the ten tracks on offer, they’re not bad but some can be very repetitive or simply revel in being as baaad-aaaasss as they can and pay no attention to volume dynamics, texture or structure.

Disc 2 seems a quieter, more ambient and better behaved collection although that impression could be due to the opener “Transmortorium” by Velge Naturlig: this has a slow and steady droning low end anchoring a skeletal sputtering high-pitched sound. While the overall effect may be discomforting sometimes, this is a warm and quite beautiful and enchanting piece with warm bell-like tones near the end. Other notable pieces include Astma’s very sparse “IgE”, Analog Concept’s quietly chirpy “Aliens Love This Melody”, Cezary Gapik’s “#0466″ (highly atmospheric minimalist machine droning) and Mike Browning’s complex and layered “Phantom Space” that combines an paradoxically warm yet slightly chilly horn loop, a female vocal and a busy background of simmering effects.

Hmm, there seems to be a bonus track on my copy: the album sleeve states there should be nine tracks on the disc and mine has ten listed. This unnamed piece turns out to be the best track on the entire double set: well over 10 minutes long, it’s a veritable soundtrack to a mini sci-fi / horror flick about some slithery alien menace.

On the whole, Pharmafabrik does a better job selecting which ambient-oriented artists and their work should feature than they do with some other acts. The label probably should have mixed up the genres more but it did aim at connecting like with like which is why each disc sounds different. The set is a hefty one to hear all the way through – most tracks have a lot happening on them – so I suggest each disc should be played at different times of the day, depending on your own moods and what’s occurring around you. Disc 2 is definitely the better of the two and the domination of ambient-oriented electronics here gives it greater versatility as a soundtrack to quiet periods of the day or helping to while away burdensome chores.

Contact: Pharmafabrik

 

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No one is an Island: a warm and pleasing set of duets

Bérangère Maximin, No one is an Island, Sub Rosa, CD SR 337 (2012)

Quite right too and Bérangère Maximin proves that maxim by inviting four musicians to her Home Sweet Home Studio – which really is her home sweet home – in Paris to record duets with her. All four musicians invited are guitarists but one, Rhys Chatham, plays trumpet instead on one track. The music varies from wistful and warm to playful and bubbly, and they nearly all have a very light touch. The guests tend to dominate their tracks with Maximin providing the backdrop and the barest of structures for them to play about in.

The only track on which Maximin finds herself alone is the shortest piece on the album, “Un jour, mes restes au soleil”, which features echoing scrabbling strings or some semblance of them: it’s a very fragile little scrap that might be missed if you’re not paying close attention. The two tracks on which Christian Fennesz plays are easily recognisable for his distinctive playing and honeyed sounds; they’re also the only tracks on which Maximin sings. Her vocals and their echoing replies dance and swirl around Fennesz’s light and trilling processed guitar glides on “Knitting in the Air”. The other track “Bicephale Ballade” is a little chillier but Fennesz’s gentle acoustic guitar and the glitchy electronics in the background are a reassuring contrast to Maximin’s slightly shocked voice fragments that jump out suddenly and disappear just as quickly into the darkened space.

The other tracks on the album are quite good but don’t shine as much as the Fennesz ones. “Where the Skin meets the Bone” with Chatham has a ghostly air but comes across as overly fussy and strangulated for a long piece. “Carnaval Cannibale” with Richard Pinhas on guitar is a busy piece of digital beehive buzz. Frédéric D Oberland appears on “How Warm is Our Love”.

Overall this recording is a warm, pleasing set of collaborations. The tracks aren’t that much of a stretch for the guest musicians who could have used Maximin’s own contributions as something to bounce off and zoom into the stratosphere to explore new musical territories; only Maximin comes across as having put some effort into really stretching her talent and experience.

Contact: Sub Rosa 

028

Liquid Fear and Pez Rock n Roll


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

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

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

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

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

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