Tagged: mystical

Inviolate Achromatism

We’ve long been quite keen on Josh Ronsen and his improvising music group brekekekexkoaxkoax, which has occasionally beguiled us with instances of its slow-moving and semi-acoustic approach to a very exploratory and experimental form of improvisation. On Sudden Empire of Tears (hushroom7), it’s less of a group record and more of a solo album; he’s taking a slightly different tack and by way of provender he offers us six tracks of his electro-acoustic compositions, which have at least partially been created from transformations of previous recordings made by the band. Because of this transformative approach, it’s become something of a cliché that electro-acoustic music, and musique concrète in particular, is usually labelled “alchemy” by writers and reviewers (it’s a gaffe to which I must own up myself, in TSP’s second issue), and Ronsen himself is indulging in the perfidious game too if his track titles are anything to go by; I suspect they’ve been lifted directly from some volume of Renaissance science or magic, and even the CD artwork bears a magic circle device of some ilk. And what symbolism might the the blue dolphin on the box cover purport? Since classical antiquity, it has carried the connotation Festina Lente; a most apt device, considering the slow, considered pace with which Ronsen comports himself and his music.

Inside the box however, are a large number of inserted tiny artworks that evoke surrealism, Fluxus, small-run art and poetry magazines, and symbolism; and in the manner of a latterday Edgar Allen Poe, Ronsen has included a short dream diary booklet illustrated with cryptic colour photocopy images. There’s a playful as well as a serious side to all this; there’s a note to anyone who reviews the record, insisting on the use of certain obscure words; and the edition is small, only 50 copies, indicating he might regard it as a very personal project. Musically, it’s a gem; I regard the long tracks here as triumphant examples of musical refashionings which transcend their origins exceptionally well, never calling attention to their means of productions nor the multiple layerings from which presumably they have been built. I am particularly mesmerised by ‘The Hiding of The Face’, and the first part of ‘One Should Stop at this Measure of Knowledge’, both of which fully achieve the trance-state / dream-state aspirations implied by all the packaging and titles. When the spoken-word samples start to invade the latter piece, it’s a most effective intrusion of nightmarish elements. Some copies in the edition, mine included, have a bonus album packed into the box called Anti-Jazz; it’s an unreleased item from 2004, which he’s kept under wraps just because he was disappointed by technical limitations in the mastering. In all, a lovely mystical box to induce dreaming in even the most hardened insomniac. This perfidious wodge of music shines with the luminescence of ten lamberts, providing a most excellent coruscation. From 16 June 2013.

Mind Chaos

kine557

Robert L. Pepper’s PAS have been working on a series of “curated music” releases, by which they mean to showcase albums which represent international musicians that PAS have worked or performed with in their long career. On Kine’s Meditations in April Green (ALREALON ALRN046), it’s the turn of Vietnamese vocalist Dao Anh Khanh to fall under the spotlight. Actually, although we do hear him growling like a tiger and cooing like a baby lamb on this record, it turns out that “vocals” are just one aspect of the work and art of this exceptional creator from Hanoi, who has created numerous sculptures and paintings, installations, and performance events. He turned his back on a career in the police force, where his duty involved seeking out examples of political “incorrectness” among the populace, and perhaps bringing their thought-crimes to a swift and decisive end with his baton. He has since devoted himself to a surrealist-mystical search for the truth, freely breaking taboos and crossing geographic boundaries with his bold artworks, and seeking to “escape to the outer reaches of the universe”. Out in space, is no disgrace.

Under the circumstances, it’s tempting to think he contributed more than his bizarre animalistic roars, grunts and chants to the long track ‘Meditation 1’, and that perhaps his very presence alone inspired the other musicians – guitarist Brett Zweiman, percussionist Amber Brien, and electronicist Pepper – to reach for the sort of twisted, magical, shamanistic post-Terry Riley ethnic drone which they turn in. This 18-minute cosmo-fest alone ought to repay your entry fee with ample hallucinogenic images and trippy vibes, but there are many other great moments: lively flute work from Pepper on ‘Meditation 3’, much cryptical gabbling vocalese from Khanh on ‘Meditation 4’ (he goes completely nuts, if you want the truth), and some indescribably moving moments on the minimally-ambient ‘Meditation 5’, where our Vietnamese friend squeaks and dribbles through pursed lips like an economy-sized version of Damo Suzuki. Strange and unfamiliar emotions are unsparingly evoked on this unusual cross-cultural album.

In places, this release tops the bill this month for sheer uncanniness. I realise the drawings on the cover represent the Brooklyn Bridge, reflecting Pepper’s PAS studio location, but it’s not too far-fetched to imagine that the record itself offers the listener a “bridge” from the physical world into another spiritual dimension, a world of unknowing; the same thing Sun Ra must have been referring to in his poem ‘The Bridge’, when he exhorted: “They must walk the bridge of the cosmic age!!”. 1 From 24 June 2013.

  1. ‘The Bridge’ was released as a one-sided single in 1982 and can be heard on The Singles 2 x CD set, Evidence ECD 22164. Mobarak Mahmoud did the memorable recitation.

Staunchly into the past she stomps


At end of January we received the new CDR from Hearts Of Palm, the beyond-underground team of noise-improvisers based in Cincinnati. ballglovemask (NO NUMBER) exists in a run of just 50 copies and was recorded by the foursome of Chamberlin, Hancock, Renschier and Wilson at a studio in 2009. Outdoing even their own past efforts in terms of opacity and obscurity, these 30 minutes behind the veil represent some of the most remarkable examples of nebulous, lichen-encrusted miasma to have been unleashed to us in the name of home-made kosmische-inspired avant-improv. Impossible to describe much that’s tangible about this insane, layered, cryptical and mystic groaning noise with its eerie non-sounds and its unpredictable percussive bursts; just allow it to envelop you like the shroud of a Saint from above. Hearts Of Palm have now been active for 14 years and as far as I know still remain “unsigned”, not that it would make very much difference if they were otherwise. I think best just to leave them be and let them proceed with their self-appointed tasks and scoop up whatever holy effluvia you can locate with your beady, ring-like fingers. “The group…hopes to record and release several projects this year”, they write in their press. If that boast be true, then keep a watchful orb trained on that myspace page and maintain the PayPal account at a steady level, is my advice.

Another curious item is My Favorite Tics (Z6 RECORDS Z6333666) by The Static Tics, sent to me from the Worm Shop in the Netherlands (an emporium that has been quite supportive of The Sound Projector Music Magazine). The madcap experimenters to credit here are Henk Bakker and Lukas Simonis, both making sport wildly and amusingly with their electronic set-ups, guitar, clarinet, samples, and the treated recordings of voices by visiting guests and friends who may have yapped knowingly or otherwise into concealed microphones. These 19 tracks are mostly gorgeous little fragmented explosions of sweet aural lollipops, most of them pop-song record in length, and all of them cheerfully subvert all our expectations about electro-acoustic music, sampling, and electronic music. The Tic-mongers have been active in their time (at least ten years) producing odd radio plays and audio magazine articles, and I think this CD compiles some of their very first forays into these areas, but is also “surrounded by material from later periods”. It’s massively enjoyable, delirious and puzzling chaos which I heartily recommend, especially to listeners who enjoy the great Vernon & Burns.

From Madrid, we got a copy of Early Summer (CON-V CNVCD 002) by the contemporary French-American composer Wade Matthews, on which he plays back a number of local field recordings made in that part of the world, processing and relaying them through his twin-laptop set-up over loudspeakers; I think what we hear is the document of a live performance of him doing this, hence the subtitle “improvised sound collages”. Among his concerns is an interesting in creating collisions, such as inserting small local sounds inside non-matching aural environments. He intends this as an aesthetic version of what everyone nowadays experiences when they play music through their earphones on a bus, unwittingly or otherwise combining string quartet music with the sounds of a bus motor and chatty passengers. He also wants to “play beyond or against memory”, by which he means he wants to explore and discover new combinations and play them back, whether or not they’re guaranteed to work. It’s all part of working against what you’re familiar with, which is good advice for any artist; but also shows Matthews’ commitment to spontaneity, excitement, genuine experimentation, risk-taking. All the above ambitions do show up in the work, but a brief skim has convinced me you need to be playing close attention to catch the multiple timbral inflections in this subtle and precise work. Very good.

Intense durational electronic minimalism on Aurora (PPLCD001) by Kamil Kowalczyk, the first release on his own label Prototyp Produktions. This young Polish-born composer carried out his first sound experiments in the mid-1990s, quite innocently experimenting with tape and cheap keyboards and creating his own brand of noise and drone music, unaware of anyone else’s work at home or abroad. After a few years releasing computer-based music on a netlabel, this is his first piece of tangible product. While Aurora may not be massively inventive music within the context of a genre that already has a fair abundance of exemplars, I have a lot of time for the simplicity and directness of Kowalczyk’s music, its very clean and “pure” delivery, the simple but effective use of high tones and low tones, the unhurried way it sets about advancing its basic structural forms, and the way it sort of envelops the whole body in sub-zero temperatures. It’s like a vast blanket of wool that chills your inner fibre instead of warming you up. If Kowalczyk’s intention on these two long cuts is, as cover art suggest, to send us slowly into the centre of a spiral-formed nebula in blackest deep space, he comes close to delivering on that particular KPI. Keep this alongside your Eleh CDs and albums, and check back in a few months to see which one is winning.

Black Poison and Mesmeric Spells


The UK label Cold Spring have, I think, now completed their diabolical plan to make available the back catalogue of MZ.412, a set of industrial noise records from the 1990s regarded by many as unassailable benchmarks of powerful pounding gloom and blackened hate. One of these we noted in December 2010, but now I have before me Nordik Battle Signs (COLD SPRING RECORDS CSR144CD), which delivers 12 horrifying cuts of beastly blasts, assaulting the listener with power electronics, desolate pale ambient drones, relentless percussion hammerings, and incredibly dense noise of all stripe. These works are “decorated” with vocal stretches, sometimes sampled, sometimes sung by grim choirs, sometimes intoned as ritualistic poetry, and thus do extra dimensions of hideousness emerge – quite often with a pagan or Satanic bent and steeped in a bloodthirsty, warlike mode. Not a cheery record, but what I find myself drawn to is the non-formulaic structures of these studio compositions, which (if you can ignore the depressing content) is extremely inventive and dynamic. No less extreme is Burning The Temple Of God (COLD SPRING RECORDS CSR140CD), which works much of the same aural territory as above, but with added thrusts of painful guitar-shredding in the Black Metal mould, and a general air of hysteria; it instantly conveys a sense of chaos and alarm which is very apt for this concept album about the utter destruction of religions and faith systems on a global scale. Unblinkingly documenting the rise to power of Satan and other supernatural creatures, such as the ‘Vampire of the North’, this is a strong concept album which comes close to remaking Bruegel’s painting The Triumph of Death in sound. This cultish project, mostly the work of Henrik “Nordvargr” Björkk (sometimes called Kremator) working with different collaborators for each record, is often spoken of in hushed tones by its fans and enslaved victims alike. Cold Spring now offer all five reissues in a wooden box called “The Vault” of which only 300 copies are available, and earlier this month the reunited MZ.412 performed live at The Garage in North London. And if these CDs aren’t enough for you, iPhone users can even purchase an app from Nordvargr’s website, with which you can create your own variations of this sick stuff to inflict on others wherever you may go. Only venture near this toxic material if you have a real taste for all that’s grim and insufferable!

Similar health warnings apply to Live At Hinoeuma (HYPNAGOGIA GIA04) by The New Blockaders, kindly sent to us by Hypnagogia in January this year. On these 2003 recordings made at the Red Rose venue, the Rupenus brothers are credited as “personnel” while Phil Todd, the English creator who also works as Ashtray Navigations, is credited with “anti-performance”. This caustic item has been out in 2004 as a picture disc from RRRecords, and while not excessively rare it’s since become a £20 item in the catalogues of many dealers, making this reissue worthwhile. Two 17-minute tracks of remorseless destruction music, where no quarter is given to the listener in the pursuit of shattering glass and building enormous heaps of stony rubble over which the half-tracks of heavy tanks must attempt to pass. Non-musical smothering hell, executed as if according to a blueprint by anti-construction workers who undertake the work with a deathly unhurried calm. Watch with dismay as the palace of your dreams is slowly demolished by this uncaring wrecking crew.

We last heard from Polish musician Bionulor in 2009 with a very credible CDR whose cover bore an alchemical theme. On his second release Sacred Mushroom Chant (WROTYCZ WRT 011), Sebastian Banasczyk once again confines himself to the discipline of working with one sampled source at a time. All five cuts here are sourced from voice and spoken word records, including shamanic chants, the US moonwalk, and an interview with Marcel Duchamp; Bionulor’s selection of cultural fragments is saying something about the furthest reaches of the human mind and our endeavours, and among other themes there is certainly a strong hallucinatory undercurrent to this release. To listen is to succumb freely to an opium torpor. On a technical level, it is most impressive how he has managed to find bass notes, musical tones, rhythms and patterns from these voice samples, and carefully assembled his jigsaws to create very imaginative ambient and electronic musical shapes. The innovations in his techniques allow him to bypass the overused and over-familiar sounds that blight many other records of modern electronic drone. A good one.

And to return to the triumph of death, scope the cover of the new release from Demonologists. Their Miscarriage of the Soul (CRUCIAL BLAZE 07) is a limited CDR which arrives in a tall DVD package the better to allow us to contemplate images of skulls, Nazis and multiple catastrophes rendered in high-contrast monochrome collages, and the luxury release includes a button, a sticker, and a lavish illustrated booklet containing yet more skulls and murky, indistinct images very suggestive of decay, death, confinement, torture, and meat packing. Two guys from Indiana, Cory Rowell and Dusty Redington whose names make them sound more like friendly farm-hands than dealers in poisonous noise, created this filthy black pit of slime, and it’s a fabulously inventive and intense exploration in the “harsh noise wall” genre, which to my mind they improve enormously; burrow through the impenetrable barriers of weighty feedback and shrieking power electronics, and you find a rich sonic world behind the waterfall pulsating with as much dynamic muscle and mutability as Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music. Competing frequencies and enormous colliding tones create ghosts of singing choirs, orchestras, and other musical phantasms that amaze. No lyrics, although some of the usual taboos are violated with titles like ‘Chalice of Snake Venom and Piss’; it’s an instrumental noise record on which these two maniacs efficiently plough their furrow of death with the same sort of resigned determination as we hear on The New Blockaders record above. Again, health warnings are in order for any who propose to spend time in the company of this crushing, sulphurous abomination.

Observation Wheels

Wheels within Wheels
A pleasure to hear once again from Michael Renkel in Berlin. Can it really be over ten years since we dug the Möwen and Moos release from Activity Center, his electro-acoustic improv project duo with percussionist Burkhard Beins? The calendar cannot lie! lohn & brot (ABSINTH RECORDS 017) is the new release to issue from the nimble fingers of these musical watchmakers, a natural development of their work which finds them continuing to hammer, scrape, pluck and blow musical instruments in exciting new ways that completely subvert “normal” musicianship, but now adding electronic devices and computer software to the equation, and doing more of it on the table top. The pair distinguish themselves from one thousand other gosthoons who think that if they pick up a spinning top, cover it with cheese and attach a contact mic to it they’re well on the way to being the next John Cage. This is mainly because Renkel and Beins use their brains, they can actually play and improvise in meaningful ways, and they connect and interact to produce music and sonic effects of the first water. This is particularly evident when you hear them stretching out on the two long tracks here (one of them nearly half an hour in length), where they sustain the music unflaggingly and abundant low-key genius continues to flow from the speakers in unfailing supplies. Enough intricate detail here to keep your mind occupied for many moons as you untangle the skeins of thought. Limited edition pressed in an outsize cream-coloured greeting card folder, decorated with treated photo-artworks by Renkel. Fine work all round.

Beyabbers! More primo material from the amazing Elodie Lauten, the lost NYC minimalist dream-world cinematic creatrix of the 1980s, whose The Death Of Don Juan opera was something of a revelation to us last year. Now Unseen Worlds deliver the goods once again on this terriff double-CD collection Piano Works Revisited (UW05). Disc one rescues two of her rare private-press LPs originally released on her own Cat Collectors label, namely Piano Works from 1983 and Concerto for Piano and Orchestral Memory from 1984. On the former, some taut and crisp work from Lauten playing five gorgeous compositions realised with piano, sequencer and sound loops; her use of electronics and tape is severe and sparing, emphasising the supremely romantic boniness of these evocative semi-surreal explorations, titled with such novelistic epithets as ‘Alien Heart’ and ‘Imaginary Husband’. On the Concerto music, she’s joined by Arthur Russell, Peter Zummo and others, adding strings and brass to her slightly more atonal and complex piano-based works, recordings where the vast Fairlight sampling computer is brought into play, adding a great spectral cathedral-like quality to the overall sound. The second disc contains longer works from 1991 and 1985, one of them recorded live, not yet played at time of writing. I think the label are pretty excited about getting this one together, and with good reason. Will be out next month!

Also from NYC, the composer-performer Geoff Gersh with a CD of sad droney music which he creates with bowed guitars, zithers, tapes and treated field recordings. The music on These Predicaments (DEEP LISTENING DL 42 2009) is specifically intended to act as an aural accompaniment to the gloomy paintings of David Stoupakis, one of which appears on the cover – depicting a very put-upon man-child Pied Piper whose flute-driven project to rid the town of rats appears to be going horribly wrong. I can see why Deep Listening might be attracted to a man who uses metal to bow an instrument (who can forget the 1989 metal cello LP by Robert Rutman on Pogus Productions?). Gersh’s music on the other hand, while accomplished and highly polished, is not as abstract or abrasive as that, and feels a bit too narrative and sentimental for this listener.

More ambient droning from Warning Light, on the American Stickfigure label. Further On (stick040cd) is made entirely with synthesisers whose tones are layered up into a deliberately gigantic cake of sound, its crumbly strata pasted together with sluggish butter-cream. Bits of this work quite well when the player emulates foghorns and Hammond organs, but generally it suffers from the same problems of open-ended formlessness we often encounter in this genre. From same label, the restless and rootless experimentation of the somewhat irritating Lid EMBA can heard on Terminal Muse: Red (stick046cd), an EP which doesn’t know where to put itself as it swaps around and changes styles in reckless fashion.

From the excellent UK Touch label, we have a very powerful minimalist droner in the shape of Eleh, whose Location Momentum (TOUCH TO:80) actually does indeed warrant all the comparisons to Terry Riley, La Monte Young, Eliane Radigue et al which are often glibly invoked by many lesser talents. This is the first I ever heard from the enigmatic Eleh project, which in fact goes back to 1999 and has been well represented with small-run vinyl editions on the American label Important Records. For those who enjoy having their carnal frame gently massaged by deep bass tones and relentless oscillations until your outline starts to turn fuzzy and indistinct, then my advice is to purchase this long-form masterwork immediately and play it at home over enormous speakers. Apparently best practice requires you to sit about seven feet away from those speakers. When you hear the record, you’ll understand why.

The Invisible City is a very suggestive title which might be regarded as one of the subtexts for the entire Touch project; I would suggest strongly that most of Jon Wozencroft’s work as AER is about attempting to capture some glimpses of an invisible city through clandestine tape recordings and judicious collaging. BJ Nilsen‘s new release of this title (TOUCH TO:77) is, perhaps surprisingly, quite spartan in its use of field recordings and has been largely realised through minimal instrumentation (including the exotic-sounding Subharchord), electronics, tapes, computer work, and non-musical activities such as door slams, chair dragging, walking through snow, and – most intriguingly – the sound of dead trees leaning against each other. The field recordings come from birds and insects, among other things, and like Chris Watson’s work for this label suggest there are entire universes of significant events taking place on various levels, which we’re missing out on because we won’t take the time to seek them out. An astonishingly mystical compilation results from Nilsen’s pan-global investigations. For all his minimal technique, it’s one of his more maximal releases, is very varied to listen to, and it poses many wonderful questions about unknowable and unseen things in the world.

A Doorway to the Afterlife (TSP radio 03/10/08)

  1. Jean-Louis Huhta, ‘Assume formlessness’
    From Halfway Between The World and Death, SWEDEN SLOTTET SLM5 CD (2006)
  2. Jazkamer, ‘Tentacles of Broken Teeth’
    From Balls the Size of Texas Liver the Size of Brazil, CZECH REPUBLIC PURPLESOIL PULSE ZERO: FOUR CD (2007)
  3. Corsican Paintbrush, ‘Hallelujah! Mother Mary’
    From Aquarian Hymns, USA DIGITALIS INDUSTRIES digi035 CD (2007)
  4. Dead Rat Orchestra, ‘The Walrus Hunt’
    From Live at St Martin’s Church, UK PALIMPSEST RECORDINGS PR02 CDR (2007)
  5. Doc Wör Mirran, ‘Death’
    From The Soundtrack of Death, GERMANY MOLOKO PLUS 056 CD (2002)
  6. Dead Letters Spell Out Dead Words, ‘Three Nineteen a.m.’
    From Old Ghosts, New Ghosts, All Ghosts, SWEDEN iDEAL RECORDINGS 029 CD (2006)
  7. mudboy, ‘The Last Song’
    From Hungry Ghosts! These Songs are Doors, USA DIGITALIS RECORDINGS ACE005 CD (2007)
  8. 01ek, ‘Furniture for the Dead’
    From Suicide Prevention, CANADA ORAL 17 CD (2007)
  9. Clay Ruby, ‘Roll the Stones Away’
    From The Uneven Path, UNRELEASED DEMO CD
  10. Autopsia, ‘Funeral Music I’
    From Berlin Requiem, ITALY OLD EUROPA CAFE OECD 084 CD (2006)
  11. Jasper TX, ‘And I Close my Eyes’
    From Gothenburg 08 compilation, SWEDEN FANG BOMB FB006 CD (2008)
  12. Herpes Ö Deluxe, ‘Tief unten’
    From Kielholen, SWITZERLAND HINTERZIMMER HINT 01 CD (2006)
  13. Mono and World’s End Girlfriend, ‘Untitled #4′ (fade)
    From Palmless Prayer / Mass Murder Refrain, USA TEMPORARY RESIDENCE TRR 108 CD (2006)
  14. OV, ‘Ghost of the Future’
    From Noctilucent Valleys, GERMANY SOFT ABUSE SAB 018 CD (2007)
  15. Andreas Bertilsson, ‘Movement III (A Moth to the Flame)’
    From Paramount, SWEDEN KOMPLOTT ESCUDRE08 CD (2007)
  16. Wooden Wand and The Vanishing Voice, ‘White Fungus Bird’s Nest and A Moon Pie’
    From l’un marquer contre la moissonneuse, USA THREE LOBED RECORDINGS TLR 014 CD (2005)

The Sound Projector radio show,
originally broadcast on Resonance 104.4 FM