Tagged: Sweden

Spårring Partners


Hooray, here’s the second record from Vrakets Position which we’ve been looking forward to since their 2011 debut release, a powerful self-titled double CD that was a real mind-crusher. The Swedish duo of Göran Green and Tommy Lindholm are in their sixties now, but since 2005 they’ve been going through a purple patch of musical creativity as they revisit a musical partnership which began in the early 1980s. The release of Spår (GALLERI 21 RECORDINGS VRAKGODS 2) in late 2012 coincides with some interest shown by an Art Association in Malmö, who commissioned a five-hour live performance from the band to promote this new release. Five hours is clearly the bare minimum amount of durational space these fellows require, as you can deduce from this album with its excessively lengthy tracks of mindless and mesmerising rock grind. ‘Så Ska Dot Låta’ is the main event, 33 minutes of non-stop musical lard, a simplistic, plodding, tumescent piece of lumpen drone-rock filled with great bowlfuls of loud guitars, hypnotic synths, monotonous bass tones, and a remorseless programmed drum rhythm. Great!

The skill of Vrakets Position is that they keep the music both simple and powerful, and never waste time with airy-fairy nonsense like chord changes, structure, solos, or other wimpy variances. And they rock! I kind of regret the way that Sunn O))) have managed to turn good honest heavy metal into some sort of occultist fine-art drone for intellectuals, resulting in a product that has retained the extreme amplification, but sacrificed everything else – starting with the beat. If you too would prefer that some of sort of backbeat were restored to the equation, then Vrakets Position are the band for you. This isn’t to say they aren’t “art music” too, but with their intensely numbing repetitions played in a no-nonsense heavy-fisted manner, they resemble the greatest Krautrock band that never were; and their insistence on the transformative powers of psychedelic drone might align them with their countrymen from a previous generation, i.e. Pärson Sound.

Also on the album: ‘Korall’, an airless, shrill and metallic piece of clatter that runs over the corpses of many like a freight train; and ‘Sweetheart’, a somewhat more restrained and lyrical chugger which showcases the croaking voice of the lead singer as he delivers fragments from the poetry of W.B. Yeats. As such, it’s a great combination of refined delicacy with brute strength – the marriage between a butterfly and a wrecking ball. Here the performance is very stripped back – you can actually hear the synth keys and drum machine instead of a wall of distorted silver flashing – and some may find it less of an irresistible proposition than the opening blaster, but it has a nice attenuated vibe that links it to the “wasted” garage rock of Les Rallizes Dénudés. Entire release is comprised of live recordings, and it’s a hefty wodge of contemporary rock noise which we recommend. From 15 January 2013.


Empty Worlds

Four cassettes from the Swedish Beläten label sent to us by Thomas Martin Ekelund, who may also be the label boss. Beläten produce “post avantgarde pop” and align themselves with things apocalyptic, transgressive, esoteric, and pagan. Even the catalogue numbers are somewhat recherché, using characters from the Hebrew alphabet. Industrial music has clearly cast a long shadow since 1979. I seem to be one of the few music fans who never heard a single record by Throbbing Gristle but I continue to experience the long-tail fallout from that cultural event, as reflected in tape bands like these. Even the fact that they express a preference for cassette tapes is a statement, expressing allegiance with the “glory days” of tape trading and mail art of the early 1980s. And guess what…the label is based in Gothenburg, home of the finest gloom music in all of the Nordic realms. All of these items (which arrived 20 July 2012) existed in tiny editions of 50 copies and have probably all sold out, although downloads are available.

Michael Idehall produces 10 sullen, inward-looking episodes on Sol. Electronic pulses with a sinister bent are repeated with a single-minded dedication to monotony and dreariness, while a cracked and muttering voice utters its broken phrases, to create sensations and emotions very suggestive of an inner desolation and multiple disasters. To accompany these inner journeys, additional synths bark and toot in distinctly inhuman fashion, or provide snarling and sizzly textures to add to the general discomfort. The cumulative effect tends to present Idehall as a haunted figure cursed under a malevolent spell, a supernatural dimension which is not denied by the magick and pagan themes running through tracks such as ‘Snake Messiah’, ‘Serpent Wand’ and ‘Language of the Birds’. Clunky and hesitant in places, his music nonetheless creates powerful ceremonial effects with a Hammer Horror undercurrent.

Edifice Of Nine Sauvastikas is a split tape. Æther and Trepaneringsritualen each create a ten-minute drone piece dedicated to an esoteric reference, paying their respects to Yung-drung Gu-tzeg 1. Æther’s interpretation of the hermetic theme results merely in a plodding and overlong drone of rather wearisome solemnity, but I’ll admit there is a dynamic at work which allows a gradual build-up of slow-burning terror as reflected in the increased distortion and deepening of the tones, plus they manage to emulate the sound of chanting monks quite effectively. Trepaneringsritualen recently had a single out on Fang Bomb, and he’s a pretty cool doomster. In fact he’s also Thomas Martin Ekelund, the man behind this label and also the excellent Dead Letters Spell Out Dead Words. While that former incarnation was fixated on the afterlife in a semi-mystical and speculative fashion, Trepaneringsritualen is all about the futility and the doom – mixing it up with quasi-religious and supernatural elements to further add to the black cloud of uncertainty. As such, his work fits in perfectly with this label’s aesthetic. On the cassette he contributes a murky clashing percussive sound with layers of hideous grind and eerie whisperments, instantly evoking a terrible inhuman landscape. What strikes me with this track, and indeed all the music spun so far, is how it’s not afraid to stay in the same place, working obsessively with the same limited range of tones and sounds until they grind them into a handful of dust.

Now here’s an entire tape by Trepaneringsritualen called Roi Perdu. I should be careful what I wish for. What a nifty cover too, a simple skull with a crown on it, yet it’s an image that induces instant suicidal feelings with its stark message of futility. This one was originally issued by iDEAL Recordings in Sweden and constitutes a reissue. The album also has an intriguing theme, slightly more historical in nature as it explores myths and legends of medieval Europe. I thought it might be a dark ambient update on the Fisher King and the Golden Bough themes in The Waste Land, but it seems Trepaneringsritualen have their eyes on the Merovingian legend. Four tracks of increasingly abject futility, with the ultra-slow bleak music proceeding at a leaden pace with its processed ambient drones weighed down by four anchors stapled into its dorsal muscles. The voice elements, as is customary, are likewise treated until what ends up on the tape is the monstrous groanings of a tormented creature. This may not appear very engaging from my description, but Trepaneringsritualen (like most of Ekelund’s music) has a cathartic effect on the listener, and you’ll expunge many an inner demon if you can make it to the other end of this turgid field of grim murk. Of all items in this batch this one has the most cohesive vibe, a composition that is planned and sequenced for maximum effect.

A Somatic Response is a compilation put together by Soma Sema and featuring the music of Blitzkrieg Baby, Television Set, Vita Noctis, Club Amour, Kord, Lust For Youth, Goz Mongo Alliance, Xiu & Soma Sema. This is mostly variants and strains of minimal electro-pop music shading into a genre which I believe is called Cold Wave. Melodies, lyrics and vocals feature more prominently, and in many instances we have a self-important male voice chanting about alienation and coldness against the beat of a drum machine. But I do like ‘Slugs’ by Estroboscorpio with its twisted and poisonous synth lines, Makina Girgir‘s ‘Alpha’ for its sinister air, and the sheer shrieking insufferability of Nimam Spregleda‘s ‘Fire’. In distinction to the above doomy ambient music, this is more upfront, aggressive even…the underlying message of many songs is that we’re on our own in a cruel world and nobody will protect us from the forces of evil.

  1. It’s the name of a mountain also called Mount Kailash, and figures largely in an ancient Tibetan spiritualist tradition.

Condensing Clouds

From Göteborg in Sweden 1 we have a package of tapes produced by the label Native Parts Records which arrived 1st June 2012. The DIY collage covers looked promising and the website follows a similar aesthetic, configured so that the scrolling takes place on the horizontal plane instead of the vertical. Skugar is Johannes Brander and his solo tape is Magic / Khands (NPR02) which is quite pleasing although I found the first track wittering on for too long with its dreamy synth runs and rather pointless droning. What don’t I like? Hmmm…maybe the root note is a bit too ordinary and the overall tone is a shade too nice, as if the music were trying too hard to please an audience. However the B side (if indeed that is correct since the sides are unmarked) is darker and more engaging. Fairly sinister edge and lots of unknown quantities. I find myself being gently pulled into a bewildering maze of slightly distorted rumbling and keening noises, a faded jungle of imaginary plants and wildlife. Skogar seems to work best when he allows himself to meander in this echoey electronic murk, a gaseous entity which is almost beyond being abstract, so lacking in definition it be. Yet there is a core of some living matter within the cloud. Pulsate! Pulsate! Skugar also exhibits some interest in psychedelic or proggy tunes, as suggested by his cover of a Bardo Pond piece, an American band whom we would associate with that early 1990s upsurge interest in “space-rock” and latterday psychey droning with guitars. Skogar works well for me when his inner skeleton is acting sullen and weird, and he should force himself down that path of incommunicative obscurity more often, perhaps by putting his head in a cloth sack 2. Also we like his interest in malfunctioning or broken equipment which was used to make the record. Strange cover art shows men in sun hats like 1930s Mexicans or Paraguyans, being dwarved by enormous plants, maybe some form of gigantic sugar beet or other local crop. There is also a luxury art edition of the release which comes with a unique painting on wood. It’s an old-ish release from 2010 but is still available.

Brander’s an able painter as shown by the symbolist cover art 3 he produced for Verfver‘s tape which is Animi / Animus (NPR24). A solo tape by Johan Gustafsson who is also associated with Tsukimono, Blessings, and Scraps of Tape. We like him well as Tsukimono, under which name he produced the memorable title ‘Moan Jar’ for a compilation. This tape doesn’t quite produce the desired chilling / pessimistic / bleak visions however. Distortion and lo-fi recording are the guiding lights behind this scrapbook of musical episodes, pages and cuttings torn from the eyes and mind of a restless soul. Verfver does manage some pleasing moments in this eclectic array of ambient, drones, tunes, piano fugues, and rhythmic avant-rock tunes, but there is too often a deficiency of conviction or weight behind his musical utterances. I’m sure there is a way to turn these wispy tones into the sort of plangent and heartfelt melancholic wails to which he aspires. He has certainly managed as much in his Tsukimono guise.

Lastly we have Crystal Crypt‘s II (NPR21). Crystal Crypt is another alias for Johannes Brander, and again the package is adorned with clippings from National Geographic magazine to form the collage cover art. The titles here certainly indicate a more “cosmic” Pink Floyd type outlook on man’s existence, with ‘Beyond’, ‘Worlds Apart’ and ‘Future Past’ pointing to his aspirations to journey into the metaphysical zones. Realised I think mostly with an electric guitar, feedback and an echo unit, though there is also percussion and other things going on. Works best when it wallows in maddening repetition and remorseless exploration of raw guitar tones. The music he makes here can also appear lonely and isolated, so perhaps at one level these tunes and their ponderous titles are metaphors for an inability to communicate 4. Although still formless, woolly and self-indulgent in places, this cloudy and clanging music does have the same sort of “Roman wilderness of pain” vibe as the Skogar tape, a mental state which Brander would do well to cultivate and explore even more fearlessly on future experiments with his psychological axe. A 2011 recording which the creator wishes to associate with ‘Heart of Darkness’, the Conrad novel which was one of the texts which fed into Apocalypse Now, still the movie of choice for all dark-hearted outcasts and pariahs of society. I often think a lot of these musicians wish they could remake the soundtrack for this film, and this tape may represent another entry in that ongoing catalogue.

  1. Also the home of Fang Bomb Records, our favourite label of angsty and grating Swedish noise.
  2. I make this suggestion simply as a cheap and practical way to achieve sensory deprivation. More sophisticated methods are available.
  3. It depicts a cathedral blighted by a witch in the guise of a black spider with multiple arms.
  4. At times the music put me in mind of another Göteborg depressive, Dead Letters Spell Out Dead Words, who likewise despairs of making himself understood by the rest of humanity. In that instance the creator suffers from borderline personality disorder.

Exercise Restraint

Imperious Wrecks

This double-CD by Vrakets Position (VRAKGODS 001) arrived late April 2011. It’s two guys from Sweden who make one heck of a deuced fine 100% improvised din using just guitars and synths, maybe some effects pedals, a rhythm box…veering somewhere along the slopes of avant-rock, free noise and even freer improvisation, the combined simplistic and unfettered musical thumping howl they make is utterly splendid. Göran Green and Tommy Lindholm are old friends who were in a punk band 1978-1982, and after the break-up of that combo continued making music together on cassettes from 1988 onwards. Now it seems they’re both over 60 years old and still find they have a hunger and passion for playing that is undiminished. So along comes this set offering over 70 minutes of music, all drawn from their recent period of creativity which started in 2007 – freaky psychedelic-ish jamming and soaring feedback din, enigmatic atonal songs, near-romantic ballads, and just plain old freeform fuzz out noise. One trademark that distinguishes their mixed-up emotional splurges is a strong sense of rhythm and repetition, and there’s hardly a song among the seven cuts on CD1 that doesn’t massage your brain into a glorious state of tranced-out bonelessness, simply by dint of mindless repeat thumpage. It’s a soft-hard sound that insinuates itself into your body like so much cotton wadding, which then proceeds to swell up when moistened and cause your carcass to turn inside-out. CD2 is slightly less of an all-out zonkermaroo, offering one single 24 minute floor-wiper called ‘True Sailing Is Dead’ (a line from ‘Horse Latitudes’ by The Doors, as any fule kno). This item is more of a wishy-washy synth based wailer that ebbs and flows like a miniature whirlpool and is (for me) marred slightly by the annoying voices at the start, but even so I can see th’ track might turn out to be a beguiling mystery swamper with its numbing repeato-patterns and general air of opacity, something it shares with its sister CD. One of the real nice surprises of the year this, and recommended too. Allegedly, the boys from Northern Skåne have hundreds of cassettes dating back to 1978, so keep an eye open for more releases from those carrier-bags of buried treasure. By the way their name translates (roughly) as “Position of the Wreck” in English, and after playing the first disc, you’ll understand exactly what it means.

Liberez Shun Front

Here’s a gem I’ve left festering at the bottom of the box for too long, the LP The Letter (ALTER ALT05) by Liberez released in May 2011. This English avant-rock combo were formed by the recording engineer John Hannon and the drummer Pete Wilkins, both former members of Woe. The group was soon rounded out by the addition of guitarist and keyboard player Tom James Scott, who’s had a couple of releases on Bo’Weavil. Their secret weapon is the vocalist Nina Bosnic, whose highly unorthodox role in the band is to pour her ominous spoken-word texts in the microphone, producing recordings which are themselves looped, repeated, and heavily processed in the studio workflow. Indeed it seems that it was one of her texts, a private diary-like recounting of an incident from her home country, that sparked the catalyst causing Liberez to cease tinkering with lo-fi home recordings and start to gain an identity of its own. Once you hear Bosnic’s looped sprechtsing (especially on the title track, split into three separate parts) you’ll quickly discern the overlap into avant-garde sound poetry and Steve Reich tape loops; and the whole band are studio-wise experimenting noiseniks almost on a par with This Heat or The Pop Group. In fact the whole Liberez mission statement involves intelligent notions about deconstructing traditional apprehensions about band dynamics, and moving widely and freely into areas of wild experimentation and music production, freely admitting influences from avant-garde composition in a meaningful way (instead of simply namechecking every European composer who’s ever had a release on the Philips silver series or spliced a tape within spitting distance of Pierre Schaeffer). All I know is, I loved their claustrophobic and catastrophic bass-heavy sound within ten seconds of hearing it, and the LP lives up to its title, performing like a dispatch of urgent news from a strife-torn corner of the contemporary world. Highly recommended listening!

Les Fleurs Du Malcontents

Now for some richly disquieting “art music” on the great German label Absinth Records from Tomas Phillips, joining up with guzheng player Craig Hilton on Le Goût De Néant (ABSINTH RECORDS 019). A guzheng is a grotesque Chinese zither-like instrument kitted out with a peculiar number of strings, at least three times more than a normal guitar, and in fact the exact number of strings can change at any given moment, accounting for its controversial status in the stringed instrument world. As for Phillips, he is armed with the ubiquitous laptop and must be held responsible for transforming portions of this music into the many-layered, dreamy, slightly threatening and ambiguous sleepwalker drones we’re dealing with today. So far, everything about this feels wrong. The duo take their inspiration from the 19th-century French Bohemian layabout Baudelaire, a man so brimful of laudanum and opiates that in the end he could only put his trousers on in the morning with the aid of a mechanical derrick, and while three of the cuts here are called ‘Sans Mouvement’ (parts I-III), a highly apt description of the poet’s physical condition for 90% of the time, the centrepiece is the title track which translates as the “taste of nothing”, a sensation which one can only assume was the ultimate goal of Charlie B and all who followed in his decadent footsteps. While the preceding tracks are quite musically droneworthy and resemble supersize cellos brought in on slow-motion speedboats across an ocean of glue, this ‘Goût De Néant’ track is much more disjunctive and event-laden by comparison, passing through unpleasant sickness-states of low rumbling, nerve-shredding jangling effects, heavy mixed chords like twenty cathedral organs, and odd passages of mysterious silence. Great attention to detail here in bringing this 24-minute delirium of unwelcome physiological conditions to fruition. What an unreal record; it’s even more disturbing to hear the guzheng, which we usually consider to be quite a lively instrument plucked at happy events like weddings and drinking parties, being pressed into service as an instrument of ashen-faced doom and jaded world-weariness. I hope that Phillips and Hilton, now known around Europe as “Laughing Boy” and “Smiley Gus” respectively, get together again soon so they can realise a sonic tribute to the poems of Edgar Allen Poe. Now that, I would buy!

Lunar Nokturnes

One hour of dank and clammy Swedish drone from Keränen, who spends the entire disc describing the lurid lighting effects of the Moon Over Torrelorca (LJUD & BILD PRODUCTION LBP002). The grey cover image entirely reflects the nature of the music, a charcoal drawing which in its semi-abstract way conjures up a black moon hovering in a sky that feels almost solid – perhaps clogged up with fog, smog, and life-threatening clouds of pollutive filth. This was recorded at the EMS electronic music studio in Stockholm, and Keränen must have spent many long hours labouring behind the digital capstans to produce this layered, burnished and near-oppressive sound. He applies filters so slowly and abstemiously, you’d think they were dispensed on a meter charging system at the EMS. Last heard from this guy in 2010 with his Bats In The Attic release for Pica Disk, which as I recall was quite a spiky package of strident noise; this Moon item is far more restrained, but still packs quite a wallop, even if the metal fist collides with your chin in slow motion.

Good old Dmytro Fedorenko used to co-manage the Nexsound label with Andrey Kiritichenko until 2007, and thereby kept my ears fed with fascinating musical reports of electric drone from the Ukraine. He’s been highly visible lately thanks to the Kvitnu label which is carrying on the Eastern European agenda with great purpose and import. Myths & Masks (KVITNU 18) is a showcase for eight Ukranians, all of them paying their musical and sonic tributes to Karol Szymanowski. No, I never heard of him either, but that’s our loss because this Polish classical composer who died in the 1930s is reckoned to be every bit as important as Chopin in his homeland, and the Director of the Polish Institute has personally endorsed this CD project thus confirming its cultural worth. The young musicians here are not classical pianists like Szymanowski, but have found ways of using their digital equipment, laptops and synths to abstract meaningful strands of information from Szymanowski’s work – whether it’s “emotional melodic structures”, “stylistic aspects” or the exploration of “new musical and harmony ideas”. Each contributor has a strong idea and vision; what results is some fascinatingly diverse experimental electronic music, each piece underpinned by a different conceptual structure. Of the names here, Andrey Kiritichenko, Kotra and Zavoloka are familiar to me; the others are Dunaewsky69, Nikolaienko, V4wenko, Ujif_Notfound, and Alla Zagaykevych. The latter has studied at the Kyiv Conservatory and at IRCAM; her ‘Mithe IV: K.S.’ is one of the most intriguing and starkly beautiful works on this set, featuring the violin work of Smovzh Orest in amongst a superbly dramatic swirl of electro-acoustic sounds, to create a powerful musical allegory full of symbols. Gorgeous embossed package design by Zavoloka too, with booklet of notes and photos bound in. A timely and effective affirmation of the meaning and power of modernist composition. History, continuity, influence, progress; this is how culture is supposed to work.

From Philadelphia, Starcircleanatomy (i.e. Izaak Schlossman) comes to us with Cold/Path (DEBACLE RECORDS DBL062) after a few years releasing cassettes and CDRs. His electronic music is in the dreamy-ambient mode and while his basic sounds may not be that inventive, his skill lies in the way he blurs and layers his edits together. You may not notice at first, but he is subtly disrupting the normal flow of musical information in engaging ways, particularly on the opener ‘Cold Gold’. Another successful piece is ‘Unline’ with its buried guitar loops and other elements which are gradually revealed within its pulsating rhythms. Lightweight techno music overall, infused with vaguely upbeat and sun-drenched impressions.

Glaswegian band Tattie Toes have released Turnip Famine (EGG 78) for Pickled Egg, a release which perhaps represents a slightly left-field departure for this label which has been home to lively and idiosyncratic pop music for some years. Tattie Toes are certainly idiosyncratic, blending various forms of folk music and song into their short compressed songs which often change tack two or three times in as many minutes. All-acoustic instrumentation is their choice – violin, accordion, bass and drums, plus there’s the extremely mannered vocalising of the Basque singer Nerea Bello. The band are versatile as heck too, and you get the feeling they could play you a song by Caetano Veloso, a Romanian gypsy dance tune, a Scottish sea-shanty and then do a Hungarian outlaw ballad as an encore, simply in response to requests from the crowd. I do like the sound of the blended instruments, especially the wayward violin and vocal effects (often it reminds me of Art Bears), but overall the pace of the album feels sluggish; they don’t really swing or rock out, even the lively songs collapse into a dirge quite quickly, they indulge their quirks once too often, and the singer’s mannerisms can become quite grating. Steven Ward did the recording, and while I imagine they’re pretty entertaining live, I feel the positive aspects of their energy haven’t quite translated successfully onto this release, and it fails to catch fire. The cover is nice; it’s a collection of their “trinkets, heirlooms and inanimates” which they have been curating and treasuring for years, treated to look like an old faded photograph.

Music like Escaping Gas

Xenon I believe is a form of gas, certain properties of which Lars Åkerlund has attempted to emulate in sound on his release Xenon (FIREWORK EDITION FER 1090). Five tracks of quiet and hissy sound-art shall be thine for purchase of this disc; you don’t so much play it as release it into the atmosphere. Evocative titles like ‘No Room No Shadow’ or ‘Acoustic Mirror’ will enhance the experience, and the release is decorated with anonymous monochrome photographs of oxidisation and other phenomena which one would normally expect to find in a physics lab. Swedish minimalism at its most chilling.

Super Death Explosion Kittens (EARTHEN RECORDS EAR002) is a highly raucous item by Achenar, and is a very invigorating way to spend 20 minutes. High-energy electronic noise is propelled by furious drum patterns, with crazy simplistic tunes delivered at ridiculous speeds and voice elements vocodered and resampled out of all recognition. Genre-hopping is the avowed aim of this Scottish musician from Aviemore, whose work surprised me when I read that it was all done solo using computer programs; it sounds like the work of a four-piece band, with a berserk Viking on guitar and a Belgian wildman of the woods on drums. He’s a huge fan of USA mathrock bands, but also incorporates crazed forms of extreme techno into his work, and managing some episodes of threatening ambient music and singing bizarre ballads over the top of his ultra-busy tracks. The splendid digipak package emulates a leather book suffering from red rot, a condition which will also afflict your brain soon after spinning this fierce beastie. Arrived here 08 April.

Sundrips are two guys from Montreal who I find have been making a few inroads into cassette and CDR releases since 2009, many of them released on their own Fadeaway Tapes label. Just A Glimpse (DEBACLE RECORDS DBL051) is a not-unpleasant collection of keyboard and synth drones, mostly in a major key, with some heavily-processed guitar work. The sleeve art makes use of anatomical cutaway views and, unless I am mistaken, an image of Robert Fludd’s monochord.

Very nice to get another release from the angry Italian electro-punks from Genoa who call themselves st.ride. Their Cercando Niente release from December last year was abrasive and alarming, and I see Edo Grandi and Maurizio Guesmerini continue to follow similar paths with Primitivo (NIENTE RECORDS VOLUME 7), 17 short tracks made with synths, drums, voice and guitar, stuttering and barking out their broken messages in a deliciously disjunctive fashion. Studiously abnormal, there is nary a familiar or overworked sound or technique in earshot on this record. They describe the trajectory of this album as “a ruthless, ludicrous, cynical and desperate story”, and it does indeed sit somewhere between rap, sound poetry and electronica while inventing many new forms of non-communication. Maybe animal language is the way to go, if the sleeve note about learning the language of “wild dogs” is anything to go by. It takes a special sort of talent to keep on refusing conventional rhythmic patterns and normal musical modes, especially when stripping your band sound down to the absolute bare bones; no wonder they can only keep it up for less than three minutes at a time. The work extends into video statements which can be found at their YouTube page. From 04 April, a real nice item.

Minimalist composer and guitarist Rhys Chatham made a superb avant-rock release for Hinterzimmer records last year and it’s good to seem him in the public eye. Listeners who want to hear a more meditative and experimental side of this American titan should bend an ear to Outdoor Spell (NORTHERN-SPY NSCD004), which is a showcase for his trumpet and voice work. The title track is a sort of La Monte Young-styled droner with holy chanting, but ‘Crossing The Sword Bridge Of The Abyss’ is a revelatory explosion of genius in 18 minutes of astonishingly layered music. Another drone piece, in a way, but a quite different approach is taken, and the use of echoed horn sections cause it to resemble Terry Riley’s In C or some of Steve Reich’s early pieces. Over the top of this steady humming foundation Rhys blows some freaky embouchure effects in a manner which, to me, advances the cause of atonal free jazz in many exciting ways. For listeners in search of something more frenetic and unpredictable, scroll on to ‘The Magician’ where Rhys is joined by drummer Kevin Shea and guitarist Jean-Marc Montera for 12 minutes of glorious semi-structured free improvisation; once again I suspect overdubbing is deployed allowing Rhys to perform his Ayleresque squiggles and swirls while also uttering long moany passages from his Mystery Horn. Montera is pretty intense on this cut too, swiping away like John McLaughlin with his fingers and making good use of a volume pedal with his feet. This touches a lot of bases for me – great composition, performances, improvisation, bold experimentation and solid studio technique, and is an essential release!

Trembling Hands

From Fang Bomb in Sweden (arrived late January 2011) we have a double-cassette box by Neghantil called 1990-1996 (FANG BOMB FB015), presented in a rather stern and foreboding package; flip the lid from the box and you have a set of 6-by-6 art prints suggesting various uncertain and paranoid mental states using collage, xerox and monochrome printing, then discover two cassette tapes in a foam surround, plus a metal gewgaw embedded…everywhere we see the mascot of Neghantil, a geometric doodad that might represent what the Psychic TV emblem would grow into if you left it inside a factory chimney overnight. This collection turns out to be the earliest recorded music of Ronnie Sundin, that Swedish electronic sound creator whose work we have noted in previous issue of the mag…this even predates Bad Kharma, his 1995 project which was mostly about extreme noise and tape collage. Then later on he went under the name rsundin for a few lower-case music records which were extremely quiet and puzzling and often themed on the ideas of sleep and dreams.

Underground music listeners who want to keep digging further into the archaeology and history of this genre of experimentation, particularly as released on cassettes, continue to be well-served. In 2009 we had the fabulous Musiikkivyöry release from a disaffected Finn who was making music in the early 1980s that could scorch your eyebrows with its palpable alienation. Likewise Neghantil ticks a lot of the requisite boxes: home recordings, sparse instruments, Korg synths, broken delay unit, tape loops and collage, four-track overdubbing, and a clear obsession with 1980s Industrial music. Sundin didn’t even have his own musical instruments to hand, so most of the gear was borrowed from friends. None of this detracts one iota from the power of the music here, which clearly springs from a heartfelt need and years of bottled-up energies. Driven to create, he sets about his work like a coiled snake let loose in a low-tech factory full of metal die-stampers. He can do the relentless pounding mode with great conviction, and never neglects to keep the music as grey and monochromatic as the accompanying images, but other things also come across to me; he is capable of the sort of delicacy and subtlety which would characterise his later work, and never lets the noise-trip intoxicate him to the degree that the machines take full control. In addition, we have to note Sundin’s assurance and conviction that is evident through most of these recordings; if they really are his first efforts, he should have been mighty proud of them. It’s as though he knew exactly what results he wanted to achieve, and kept working away at the devices until he could bend their mechanical arms to do his bidding. But it’s also exploratory, with some of the results unfinished, and characterised by a sense of innocence: “It was a fun, spontaneous if perhaps a bit unfocused period,” says Sundin today, “and some of these recordings were made with a somewhat ironic attitude.”

Equally ironic perhaps that although he intended making a cassette release out of these sessions, he never got around to doing so, and this Fang Bomb publication represents the first appearance for this material which has been safely stored in Sundin’s personal archive. In addition to the 13 tracks from 1990-1993 that presumably would have passed muster as an album, we have a second tape with rehearsal tapes (interesting, though nowhere near as focussed as the shorter pieces) and a long 1996 work called ‘Industrial Training Camp’, which contains harrowing blasts of distorted and blistering electronic doom-drone, forlorn bass guitar strums, and pallid percussive elements. The visuals for the package are by Neghantil and Nullvoid (i.e. Thomas Ekelund of Dead Letters Spell Out Dead Words) and this release is another welcome addition to my growing collection of Swedish electronic gloom, whose distinctive flavour I am coming to appreciate more each day. “I wish I’d made more of this stuff,” says Sundin, reflecting about his first musical efforts some twenty years later. So do we, Ronnie!

Invasion Table w/Vacant Stare

The Fox Hunt
Goodly bundle of items arrived in October 09 from the Swedish Kalligrammofon label, including two excellent seven-inchers…Solo Senza Testa offers us his unique take on dub music with Skull of Sade II (KALLIGRAMMOFON #11), an action which apparently continues a thread begun many years ago by its creator Jonas Rosén, when he recorded a dub track on an album for his previous band The Female Anchor of Sade. Spun at 33 revolutions, this record filters dub mixing through a wall of lightly distorted electronic noise and uses echo and reverb effects with a sparing, delicate touch. Flip it over for a ‘version’, which if anything is even more minimal than the A-side…this fine record, imbued I might add with a few puzzling overtones from its maker (something about an ‘enormous Red Elephant’), is not derived from the school of King Tubby and Lee Perry so much as post-punk records from 1978-1979 that attempted to emulate dub effects. I was also reminded of French 1980s cult electronic band Metal Boys, whose ‘Love In Dub’ on their sole LP Tokio Airport is a firm fave of mine.

Tsukimono is represented on the other seven-incher, Gotta Sing / Gotta Dance (KALLIGRAMMOFON #13), a superb little slice of improvised electric guitar which shimmers with distortion and harmonics, and is played with all the restraint and economy we are learning to expect from the very talented Johan Gustavsson. The front cover shows, in monochrome black and silver, a small and intense audience reacting with dream-like puzzlement (and digital cameras) before Tsukimono’s hypnotic work with the axe. 100 copies only of this, a joint release with Lady Godiva Operations. We also received his gorgeous avant meta-blues CD Heart Attack Money, noted here in December.

Dead Letters Spell Out Dead Words meanwhile has put out a little EP called Sally Hill (KALLIGRAMMOFON #9) onto a 20-minute cassette tape, a re-release of one of his very first records from 2005. As you may know we devote much ear-time to this heroic and depressive Swede, whose records do much to speculate about the afterlife while also exploring the furthest extremes of the mental whirlpool in which its creator often finds himself embroiled. Sally Hill, including an opening track which is inspired by girl-group records of the 1960s, is filled with delicate, mournful, layered drones which express an insatiable longing and wistfulness, carefully worked through over long periods of time.

Pat Gillis wrote to us from Alexandria in VA earlier this month. As owner-operator of the HC3 Music label, he also sent a copy of his new release of unkempt electronic devilry released under his TL0741 guise. Magnetic Injuries (HC3TLCd2) is a new edition of a work previously out on Panic Research Audio with new tracks; Gillis does everything using synths, effects and tape manipulation, impressively performed in real time. This risky approach does much to add tension and crackle to his highly-abstracted concoctions, which can work very nicely when spread out to over 15 minutes as on the impressive ‘Auricle’ here, although some may prefer the pop-tune economy of ‘Ur Chokt’ and ‘Through Blast Radius’, which make their respective points in around three minutes. TL0741′s splurgy, paintbrush charged-up approach to electronic music is refreshing; he won’t bludgeon the listener with airless noise, even if he risks getting his gumboots sucked into the mud and murk that swirls around the feet of those who dare to flirt with analogue equipment.

However for those listeners who feel that they would enjoy a nice spell of bludgeoning, we have just the thing for you. Wicked King Wicker is part of a shipment of new goodies from UK label Cold Spring Records, home to many a depressive and dismal blast of grimness. God Is Busy…Save Yourself (CSR125CD) is the 6th release from this American project whose extreme take on avant-garde Black Metal results in overpowering blocks of distorted monstrosity, which cannot possibly have been created merely through the use of guitars, mics and amplifiers, save such equipment were purchased from a music store owned by Mephistopheles himself, using a scorched credit card issued in Chorazin. Three ultra-long workouts are filled to the brim with sheer poisonous hatred which billows out into the atmosphere like irradiated gas every time you spin this bloated beast. Themed vaguely on a concept to do with the Crucifixion, the record’s artworks use old engravings on an all-black field to increase the general sense of futility and despair, and the inserted instruction ‘Nails Not Included’ directly implicates all those who buy this item, urging us to join in the abominable persecution of Christ. ‘Buffet and scoff, scourge, and crucify me’, from John Donne’s Holy Sonnet XI, seems an appropriate verse to utter under the circumstances.

From Apop Records, we have Duchesses with their Estupet CD (APOP033) which I think landed here several months ago. This all-female group fling themselves headlong into their work with fiendish relish and gusto, producing an uncanny hybrid of Black Metal, punk, noise and primordial drumming-chanting racket that is, at times, scorchingly unforgettable. What these gals do with their massed catty vocalising will leave you mentally scarred for many a moon, so don’t risk playing it after midnight. Their regular production sounds eerie enough, but this release is weirded-up to an even more extreme degree through the inclusion of several far-out remixes of selected tracks, courtesy of the mutated hands of Weasel Walter, Sunshine Militant Childrens Hour, Ops Spirits, Qulfus, and Blanketship. I’m far from surprised to learn that this diabolic quartet emanate from California, home to many a Satanic dabbler, and it’s troubling to learn their average age is 19, considering the depths of depravity they so convincingly plumb in sound.

We Are Curious Fellows II

The Sound Projector Radio Show 11th September 2009

  1. Henrik Rylander, (Track 4)
    From Formation, SWEDEN FIREWORK EDITION RECORDS FER 1047 CD (2005)
  2. Karl-Birger Blomdahl, ‘Mimamusik’ (1959)
    From Forerunners: Swedish Electronic and Concrete Music 1955-65, SWEDEN FYLKINGEN RECORDS FYCD 1027 CD (2008)
  3. Daniel Rozenhall, (Track 03)
    From Forecusst, SWEDEN KNING DISK KD029 CD (2008)
  4. Ocsid, ‘Dearth Of The Cold’
    From In Between, SWEDEN ORIGIN OR 2002 CD (1999)
  5. Per Svensson, ‘Intergalactic Transmission!’
    From Intergalactic Transmission!, SWEDEN OLOF BRIGHT OBCD 23 CD (2008)
  6. Carl Michael von Hausswolff, ‘Empty Airfield’
    From Topophonic Models, GERMANY FELD RECORDS FELD004 CD (2006)
  7. Henning Lundkvist, extract from The End Of A System Of Things, SWEDEN KOMPLOTT ESCUDRE10 CD (2007)
  8. Dead Letters Spell Out Dead Words, ‘If You Touch Me I Will Disappear’
    From Old Ghosts New Ghosts All Ghosts, SWEDEN iDEAL RECORDINGS iDEAL 029 CD (2006)
  9. Lise-Lotte Norelius, ‘RP-Bob’
  10. Åke Karlung, ‘Antihappening’ (1962)
    From Forerunners, op.cit
  11. The Skull Defekts, ‘Bone Tone’
    From The Drone Drug, SWEDEN RELEASE THE BATS RTB#41 CD (2008)

In this series:
Swedish Sound Art 2004

Swedish sound-art (TSP radio show 04/06/04)

Theme: ‘We Are Curious Fellows’: (Swedish Sound Art)

  1. Audio Laboratory, ‘The Sound And The Fury’
    From From Silur To Devon, Carbon & Trias, SWEDEN FIREWORK EDITION RECORDS FER 1040 CD (2003)
  2. Rune Lindblad, ‘Die Stille Liebe’
    From Die Stille Liebe, SWEDEN ELEKTRON EM1006/7 2 x CD (2003)
  3. Leif Elggren, ‘Latrine’ and ‘Extraction’ cross-faded
  4. a. Andreas Karperyd, ‘Customers, Prospects, Partners and Competitors’
    b. Thomas Liljenberg, ‘March’
    c. Henrik Rylander, ‘Feed’
    d. Per Svennson, ‘Royal Explosion’
    From The Kingdoms of Elgaland_Vargaland 1992_2002+++, UNITED KINGDOM ASH INTERNATIONAL ASH 6.6 2 x CD (2002)
  5. Carl-Michael Von Hausswolff, ‘Why Similar Aesthetics Collide’
    From A Lecture on Disturbances in Architecture, SWEDEN FIREWORK EDITION RECORDS FER 1036 CD (2002)
  6. The Swedish Chef interlude
  7. a. Sten Hanson, ‘La destruction de votre code genetique…’
    b. Åke Hodell, ‘General Bussig (General Buddy-Buddy)’
    c. Sten Hanson, ‘How Are You’
    d. Åke Hodell, ‘Igevar (Presentarms)’
    e. Sten Hanson, ‘Railroad Poem’
    f. Åke Hodell, ‘Structures III (part 6)’
    From Sten Hanson, Text_Sound Gems & Trinkets, SWEDEN FIREWORK EDITION RECORDS FER 1037 CD (2002) and Åke Hodell, Verbal Brainwash and Other Works, SWEDEN FYLKINGEN RECORDS FYCD 1018-1-2-3 3 x CD (2000)
  8. Daniel Rozenhall, ‘Eyeland Part 1′
  9. Rune Lindblad, ‘Op 161′
    From Die Stille Liebe, SWEDEN ELEKTRON EM1006/7 2 x CD (2003)

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