Tagged: outer space

The Stars My Destination

arrtw327

Just the other day we gave brief mention to Star Turbine, the Danish-Norwegian duo who improvise in outer space and send their work back to us by radio. They were performing on one half of a split cassette tape, but now I get a chance to hear them solo on Inner Space / Outer Space (ATTENUATION CIRCUIT ACC 1011), with two long cuts taken from their April 2012 tour of Hamburg and Denmark. Sindre Bjerga and Claus Poulsen perform with a combination of live electronics and amplified objects and have a very “hands on” approach to what they do, and the work they generate is always full of warmth, juice, fire, and multiple events…if they’re at all interested in hacking or programming, it doesn’t show up one bit; they seem to treat electricity and circuits as naturally as you or I might regard a bowl of fruit on the table, before getting stuck in to crunching a ripe apple with our snappers. I suppose part of their charm comes from their slightly “distanced” sound, which might be derived from the recording method, or the instruments they play; the label describes this accurately as “far-away music from a half-muted radio”. I also like the way they’re not concerned with making music as such, or even with starting or finishing a piece; they just start to play and then go on playing, with no discernible plan. A certain child-like joy of discovery seems to follow their every move. Lastly what I also like is the very free-form and open-ended nature of each performance; it genuinely does feel like anything could happen, and that whatever landscapes they are creating, it’s usually a nice place for us to be. As you may know I often give short shrift to music which seems to be aimlessly going nowhere, but this does not apply to Star Turbine. Quite often the use of amplified objects simply becomes an excuse for a protracted investigation of a process, which the artist does in the name of “exploring all the options” or something, but with this duo I have no sense of pointless process art at all; it’s just about making something beautiful. From 28 November 2013.

gelbart

Leave it to Gagarin Records to introduce me to exciting and fun music I never heard before. Adi Gelbart, here performing simply as Gelbart, has been creating solo records for about 15 years for such labels as Defekt, Fact Records and Economic Thought. On Vermin (GR 2029), the A side is occupied by seven short and poppy instrumentals that show Adi’s effortless skill in weaving old-school synths and drum machines around his little finger, while charming snakes and juggling Indian clubs with his free hands. These delicious cuts, heavy on the keyboard melodies and notable for the snappy pace at which they dash around the block, were all performed solo with the exception of additional clarinet work by Benautik on the lovely ‘Meloda’, and display Adi Gelbart’s well-honed studio skills. It’s like the best and brightest LP of library music you never heard, albeit the label would also like us to hear parallels with progressive rock, noise, and a genre called “spiral space-punk”. As for the library music aspect, this is confirmed by the fact that Gelbart is also a film soundtrack composer, and the B-side of Vermin is the 18 minute soundtrack for the film of this name (which he also made; an excerpt can be seen online at Vimeo). Where the seven pop-tunes on Side A are all of a piece, make their colourful statement and dash off the stage again, the Vermin pieces are much more bitty and dramatic, filled with wild changes as befits the wayward editing of the experimental film. By turns threatening, exciting and mysterious, this is astonishingly wonderful music. It strives to align itself with science-fiction music soundtracks, and does comport itself with a certain “1960s” vibe for reasons that are hard to pin down – maybe just the recording quality alone accounts for it, or the choice of certain instruments and amplifiers…the combination of Vox organ and Telecaster guitars (I’m guessing) is quite inspired! It’s also stylistically very wild, somehow encompassing discordant post-Stockhausen electronic abstractions and textures, with moody subterranean organ drones and bursts of poppy jazz-inflected beat music, reminiscent of some subversive music smuggled out of pre-Republic Czechoslovakia. Of course it is all very “knowing” and post-modern, but Gelbart executes it with such flair, wit, passion and outright musical skill that you can’t help but fall in love with it. From November 2013.

Through the Ocean to the Stars: Per ardua ad astra

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Lustre / Elderwind
Through the Ocean to the Stars
Russia Kunsthauch CD digipak (2014)

Lustre may be familiar to quite a few TSP readers with his dark ambient / black metal instrumental soundscape work – he has released a number of EPs, split recordings and albums – but Elderwind is a fairly unknown Russian entry into the world of BM.

Lustre leads the way with the two parts to “Follow Us to the Stars” – these are completely synth-dominated instrumental pieces of long droning sounds based around sparse minimalist rhythm loops and best heard together as one track – which in a way they are. Right from the start the music settles into two opposing camps of repeating swooping drones and pointillist tones, over which effects such as a pounding background beat or atmospheric wash might add some texture or depth. The second part is as repetitive as the first but in a darker vein.

The whole thing sounds mournful though possibly this wasn’t the intention. I find no sense of wonder or anticipation of the glories of the cosmos and the chance to be at one with the universe and to know something of its purpose (and by implication, the purpose of humanity and our individual purpose). Both parts are flat in sound and feeling, and with repetition being the only way these tracks escalate tension and feeling, the music becomes a tedious affair. The droning lacks subtlety and is very heavy-handed in comparison with the rest of the delicate music.

Elderwind grabs just over half the split release’s playing time with four separate tracks. The difference between Elderwind’s side and Lustre’s tracks is immediate: the Elderwind tracks are highly atmospheric and seem more attuned to the concept of the split recording, with a sense of awe at humanity’s contact with the infinite. The tracks naturally roll from one into another which enables the momentum and the ambience (and the soothing feelings they generate) to pass smoothly into succeeding tracks without the disruption of abrupt changing repetition loops. The final track “Polaris” suggests some kind of unity or communion is reached with the combination of spiritual organ-like tones, background wave sounds and strange whistle effects that seem to encourage listeners to reach out and contact denizens of the farthest galaxies.

It’s clear to me which side is the winner by a long distance: Elderwind hands out a punishing lesson to Lustre on how to create atmospheric space mood music that respects the concept and implications involved in voyaging to the stars. Both acts proceed from a depressive / atmospheric black metal background which comes with a baggage of existential contemplation of the human condition. Listeners might assume (mistakenly perhaps) that with such a background, these bands investigating space travel would bring along a curiosity about how such travel could reflect something to us about our purpose and place in the universe.

I don’t mean to question or criticise Lustre’s sincerity or motivation but his pieces are clunky and amateurish against those of Elderwind. In all probability these fall far short of his ambitions. This split recording could have been something great, a classic of its kind in spacey black metal psychedelia. As it stands, it’s uneven and awkward.

At this point I should mention that Elderwind, according to his entry on Encyclopedia Metallum, formed in 2009 and spent a few years exploring and perfecting his sound before releasing his first recording in 2012. The careful and studious preparation is evident in the quality of the work presented on this split release.

Contact: Kunsthauch
Van Records

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Hippogriffs


We heard from Sula Bassana in February when he contributed to the monstrous Electric Moon LP The Doomsday Machine…we first gained the impression that Dark Days (SULATRON RECORDS ST1204-2) might, in title at least, be following from that depressive slab in a similar vein of blackened, thundering, ultra-heavy psychedelic space-rock…on the contrary it turns out to be a generally uplifting and sometimes mystical album of mighty guitar riffs, supremely steady drumbeats, and cosmic flurries of synth-winds howling around every corner. Apart from percussion assist on a couple of tracks by Pablo Carneval and vocals by David Henrikkson, this is totally a solo album by Bassana (i.e. Dave Schmidt), also assisted to some degree by Komet Lulu who did the sleeve paintings of orange, brown and green mosspit-shapes crawling from the belly of the universe, said images being used in turn by the musician to influence and shape his playing as he scoped these impasto swabs of lurid smearage. Another strong album from this retroid genius, a man so besotted with Krautrock he is capable of dipping the genre in gold, while condensing all his favourite Pink Floyd moments into intense hits of overamped smokiness…this outing contains the memorable 20-minute ‘Surrealistic Journey’ which sends the listener on a “far-out trip” in line with the aspirations of any given album by Gong or Hawkwind, while for those who prefer something punchier we have the very strong opening cuts ‘Underground’ and ‘Departure’…only place where the mood sags a little is on ‘Bright Nights’, a meandering odyssey into brain cells best left unturned, resulting in shapeless noodly guitar lines and, ultimately, dollops of rather pointless noise…and I’m not so keen on the frenetic beat-loops of ‘Arriving Nowhere’ which sometimes seems to be turning its ageing grey hippy head in the direction of Techno music and misunderstanding what it sees. From 20 June 2012, also available as a double LP.

Got a large bundle of curios from the Spectropol Records label in Bellingham (Washington State)…first picked out from the envelope was Elle Avait Raison Hathor (SPECT 11) by Vincent Berger Rond. He is an electro-acoustic composer based in Quebec, and presumably appears on the back cover in his winter garb standing besides an ice sculpture of a female head and shoulders. The winter wear is our first clue that this is difficult and inhospitable music for seasoned hardy outdoors-types only, on which more shortly. Meanwhile any attempt to stare fixedly at the image of the woman in order to decipher her features will simply result in even less definition, as it gradually recedes from your intelligence evasively. The whole album, you see, is a conceptual composition addressing “notions of womanhood” and doing so by filtering its music through an understanding of mythological treatments…Japanese, Greek, Inuit and Egyptian texts are found within the booklet, dropping hints that are somewhat less than lucid, yet strangely illuminating. Circe is the well-known enchantress from The Odyssey, but in a few lines you learn more about her meaning and symbolic resonance than you could have wished for. We’ve got a female vocalist Laura Kilty on the first track, where she intones her own settings for the poetry of Rond, but after that the remainder of the album is instrumental. It features strings and piano as you might expect from classical chamber music, but also synthesisers in a couple of places, electric organ, and the multi-dubbed electric guitars of Fred Szymanski. But none of this knowledge prepares you for the sheer weirdness of the distorted soundscape – the whole record just sounds completely bizarre. Vincent Berger Rond’s technique involves a lot of cutting up, editing, reshaping, modification and recomposing, such that Szymanski’s improvised guitar lines, for example, are completely recast into incredible, impossible shapes. The notes also refer to the composer’s “spasmacousmatic” method, which is a highly evocative term suggestive of a deeply radical and idiosyncratic approach to this contemporary form of composition. Not easy to listen to, but he plays fair; the work has clearly been assembled with great care and commitment to the form, and each piece, though at first bewildering, clearly adheres to an internal logic. The womanhood theme is not really explained in detail, which is a relief to any readers who are doubtful about long-winded explanations of an artist’s intentions, but Rond provides terse informational notes about this and would probably be very pleased if we did some research into the area for ourselves. From 13 June 2012.

We noted eRikm‘s Austral in November 2012 – at any rate, the audio dimension of it, which was released by Room40 as part of the Transfall album. Now here it is again as a DVD (DAC2031) from D’Autres Cordes Records, reminding us that the composition is a mixed-media work, combining electronic music with video. The visual side to the work was also created by the composer, and shows him weaving electronically-generated abstract shapes across the screen in shades of gray, green, and red, which multiply and germinate in jerky animated fashion. These images used photographs of cities as their starting point, taken from his journeys to South America. The music is played by the Laborintus Ensemble and remains a sharp snappy piece of atonal chamber music, sounding even better in this DVD presentation. But the visuals are rather banal, very process-heavy, not much more adventurous than a first year art student exercise. From 15 June 2012.

Fractures (DEBACLE DBL076) is a perfectly pleasant record of electronica / beats music by Rainbow Lorikeet. I like the “dubby” construction of the music that emphasises the heavy beats and the spaces in between, reminding me in places of Techno Animal – which I’ll admit is one of the few points of reference I have for this musical genre. Lorikeet’s electric sounds are not very distinctive or inventive though, and I find my attention wavering very quickly after only a few moments of this over-familiar crunch-and-squelch morass.

Anita‘s Hippocamping (WILDRFID RECORDS WLDRFD006) is more successful as an example of inventive and personalised electronica. We’re not given much reliable information on her technique, but I have the impression she’s something of a mosaicist, piecing together musical fugues out of very small fragments of sounds, tones, and whatever shapes she can find lying around the floor of the workshop to pick up and add to the collage. Resultant album is a highly textured listen – you can feel your ears being dragged over a thousand different rugs, textiles, vinyl floors, coconut matting, and assorted soft (and hard) furnishings. While she doesn’t abandon form completely, Anita has very little interest in composing a tune, and would prefer to leave you spinning in an unfamiliar micro-landscape for three or four minutes at a time, while she makes a cup of coffee (small black espresso, natch) and admires the results of her labours with a wicked smirk. What’s also impressive is the very firm and muscular core to these steel-belted monstrinos; Anita is never content to settle for a comforting decaffeinated drone when she can tie you up with eighteen yards of fencing wire. Track 11 is titled ‘L’Ultimo Yogurt’, which is precisely the sort of dessert I’d expect to be served if I was invited to a dinner party by this mysterious woman. This exists as a limited LP with a screenprinted cover and insert provided by visual artist Sofy Maladie.

Motorised Rockets


John Butcher and Gino Robair combine personalities and styles to abrasive effect on Apophenia (RASTASCAN BRD 065), the former with his saxophones, sometimes playing them in “motorised” mode, and the latter with his “energised surfaces”. Know what you mean, Gino…my surfaces are already getting energised just by coming into tactile contact with these non-specific, process-based rotary abstractions. I certainly enjoy the lite-industrial creakery of ‘Knabble’, although you may prefer ‘Fainéant’ which, among its nine minutes of duration, has some moments recognisable as a parping saxophone, hooting freely like a circular-breathing owl, and a snare drum or equivalent item being scraped like an unfortunate ox paying a visit to the tanner which didn’t quite work out in line with the expectations of that bovine. ‘Camorra’ is another superb swipe of ringing and resonating clatterability, where inanimate objects have their hidden voices revealed by the patient caressing of Gino’s sensuous massage, but the real tour de force is ‘Jirble’, nine minutes of steady and ingenious improvising whose core body mutates from a mysterious murmuring mixed-drone cloud into a palpable wail of near-animalistic howls. Imagine slow-motion cement monkeys pushing in vain against the bars of their cages, steel bars that ring and vibrate in an endless corridor. Aye, this deep music can come across as a stern and challenging listen, while the cover art, colourful blobs splurged out from the autopen of Dennis Palmer, reminds me of the sort of humpy-jumpy free playing jazz LP that John Zorn, Fred Frith or Bill Laswell might have released around 1988. Arrived here June 2011.

The First Live Performance (HYPNAGOGIA GIA06) of avant-noise industrial supremos The New Blockaders took place in June 1983 in Morden Tower in Newcastle. Here it is again on CD, with a wealth of splendid artworks printed in full colour, as usual displaying old photographs from the 1920s or 1930s in a highly ironic way. Inside the front flap is an image which I take to be a facsimile of the original poster for the event, juxtaposing men in tuxedos and ties with some old-fashioned machinery that might be a lathe, a sewing machine or some brass plumbing. At this early-ish stage of their development, R. Rupenus and P.D. Rupenus concentrated on creating an unpleasant churning din, much like rocks rattling inside the blades of an old-fashioned lawn mower which you had to push across the ground. I call it the “broken rubble” sound, as opposed to the later “roaring dynamite blast” phase of TNB. Apart from the complete lack of musical dynamic of any sort, the abiding effect here is one of disjunctive, purposeless, neutered energy, a compacted metaphor for the dysfunctional organisational state of any modern agency – be it government, business, academia, or most especially the arts. This is not the first reissue of this music, so prepare (once again) for claustrophobic, nihilistic Hell.

Another CDR from Taruja Records in Auckland. On Rocket Tales (TRUJ 011), Tom Cadillac provides his own eccentric and unbalanced take on the minimal electronica genre, with his wonky analogue synths and slightly dubby drum machine rhythms. His producer George Andrews contributed some help with the drum programming, and there are occasional guest musicians such as the violinist Vicki Johnson, but this is a Cadillac solo studio production. With its rough edges and rather charmingly “odd” keyboard sounds, this is unlikely to be mistaken for a slick piece of imitation Kosmische or a clinical drop-forged Mille Plateaux production from the icy studios of Cologne, and each short instrumental track hobbles along the squelchy pathway in a fairly compelling way – at times like a slightly punkier version of Ptôse, with more warmth and wheeziness in the sounds. He works best when he keeps the “riffs” simple – two or three notes at most. Attempts at “soloing” or stabbing out a slightly more sophisticated melody with his fingers find the player getting unstuck. The only other drawback is the limited sonic range of the album, and the fact that all tunes seem to be in the same key, but these factors may assist with any mesmerising benefits you may hope to derive as a listener. Arrived here in July 2011.

From Ryan Huber’s microlabel in Indiana, we have Hallowed Circuit with Dead Planet Transmission (INAM RECORDS 669). Five examples of variations on sustained noisy-drones, which largely stay in one place and create interesting textures through subtle interventions. ‘HC1′ and ‘HC2′ are subdued humming whirligigs of whine and radio static, but ‘Pillow Dust’, ‘Remains’ and ‘Sister Signal’ are all strong examples of controlled noise eruptions. They soon become overcharged and overloaded with feedback, loops, crusty layers and general detritus piled on with a generous hand, creating that sense of suffocating excess which is one of the “signature” marks of the music on this label. I haven’t checked, but this may even be Huber himself recording under yet another alias. The title track ends the disc and aims for an “epic” sweep of dramatic mixed-chord science fiction deathscape arena music, sending astronauts spinning into a vast black hole or dooming them to face a horde of alien enemies on a hostile planet. Got this in June 2011 but as mine is numbered 29 of 30 copies, it may well be sold out already.

Space Soon (TSP radio show 08/09/06)

Special 2-hour show on a pre-determined Resonance 104.4 FM theme

  1. The B-52′s, ‘Planet Claire’
    From The B-52′s, UK ISLAND RECORDS ILPS 9580 LP (1979)
  2. Comets On Fire, ‘Ghost of the Cosmos’
    From Comets On Fire, USA ALTERNATIVE TENTACLES VIRUS 301 CD (2003)
  3. Spacemen 3, ‘Suicide’
    From Losing Touch With Your Mind, BOOTLEG LP [MR011] (1991)
  4. Mars, ‘Tunnel’
    From LP, USA IMPORTANT RECORDS imprec047 LP (2005)
  5. Merzbow, ‘Space Metalizer Pt 1′ (fade)
    From Space Metalizer, CANADA ALIEN8 RECORDINGS ALIENCD4 CD (1997)
  6. Hawkwind, ‘Space is Deep’ (1972)
    From Doremi Fasol Latido, UK UNITED ARTISTS / LIBERTY (EMI RECORDS LTD) UAG 29364 LP
  7. Stevie Wonder, ‘Saturn’
    From Songs in the Key of Life, UK TAMLA MOTOWN / EMI RECORDS LTD TMSP 6002 2 x LP (1976)
  8. John Coltrane (with Rashied Ali), ‘Saturn’ (1967)
    From Interstellar Space, USA IMPULSE! (MCA RECORDS INC) GRD-110 CD (1991)
  9. Mouse On Mars, ‘Chromantic’
    From Instrumentals, GERMANY SONIG 01 LP (1997)
  10. Iancu Dumitrescu, ‘Galaxy’
    From Iancu Dumitrescu, FRANCE EDITION MODERN ED.MN.1005 CD (1993)
  11. George Russell, ‘Waltz From Outer Space’ (1960)
    From New York NY / Jazz in The Space Age, USA MCA RECORDS INC MCA2-4017 2 x LP (1973)
  12. Trevor Wishart, extract from ‘Journey’
    From Journey Into Space, UK PARADIGM DISCS PD 18 CD (2002)
  13. Ornette Coleman, ‘Space Flight’
    From The Music of Ornette Coleman, UK RCA VICTOR SF 7844 LP (1968)
  14. Joe Meek and The Blue Men, ‘Orbit Around the Moon’ + ‘Love Dance of the Saroos’ (1960)
    From I Hear a New World. An outer space fantasy, UK RPM RECORDS 103 CD (1991)
  15. Scientist, ‘Supernova Explosion’
    From Scientist Meets the Space Invaders, UK GREENSLEEVES RECORDS GREL 19 LP (1981)
  16. lightyears away, ‘Windows of Limited Time / The Astral Navigator’ + ‘Yesterday’ (1970)
    From Astral Navigations, UK BACKGROUND HBG 122/1 CD (1992)
  17. Robert Ashley, ‘Flying Saucer Dialogue’
    From Music From Mills, USA MILLS COLLEGE MC 001 3 x LP (1986)
  18. Attilio Mineo, ‘Around the World’ (1951)
    From Man in Space with Sounds, USA SUBLIMINAL SOUNDS / JACK DIAMOND MUSIC SUBCD-4 CD (1998)
  19. Peter Thomas Sound-Orchester, ‘Bolero on the Moon Rocks’ (1966)
    From Raumpatrouille / Space Patrol, GERMANY BUNGALOW BUNG 009 CD (1996)
  20. The B-52′s, ‘There’s a Moon in the Sky (called The Moon)’
    From The B-52′s, op cit.
  21. Kawabata Makoto, ‘Love on the Galactic Railroad’
    From Your Voice From The Moon, POLAND VIVO RECORDS vivo2005018CD (2005)
    Simultaneous playback with:
    Spaceman, ‘Insalubrity’
    From Space Is No Place Volume 2, USA PSYCH-O-PATH RECORDS cdpsp-7 CD (2004)

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