Tagged: synthesiser

Yaschichek, Little Box

Herewith four more cassettes from the Russian Spina!Rec label. Arrived here 20th December 2016.

Andrey Popovskiy is the St Petersburg composer whose work has been arriving here since 2014. If there’s any connection between his releases Rotonda and Kryukov, it might have something to do with the way sound behaves in an enclosed space, and the exigencies of recording devices in attempting to capture the elusive reality of acoustical behaviours. While Rotonda seemed to misfire for Jack Tatty, we liked the mysterious properties of Kryukov (his split tape with Dubcore) and the way it somehow summoned an aesthetically pleasing effect from such everyday banality. Even to call Popovskiy a “kitchen sink” composer would be to make it far too exotic; he’d be happy to occupy the cupboard under the sink, along with the cartons of bleach. Works For Voice Recorders 2011 (SR029) takes this pared-down approach to an even further extreme. On the A side, there are five short pieces documenting his experiments with voice recording devices (dictaphones, perhaps? If those things even exist any more), placed inside a room and capturing whatever external bumps and groans may come their way. There’s also something about the devices being used to record themselves – contact mics placed in their own innards, or something. All manner of recorded artefacts are generated in a refreshingly non-digital manner. I can’t account for why this unprepossessing, near-blank grind effect is so compelling, but I can’t stop listening to it.

On the flip is a long piece called Zvukovanie, and is a far more ambitious composition lasting some 34 mins. He’s created layers of sound from field recordings out in the streets, musical performances, and rehearsals, superimposing them into what is described as a “three-dimensional” piece. Percussionist Mikhail Kuleshin and improvising trumpeter Vyacheslav Guyvoronsky join him in this task. While this might seem a recipe for chaos, in Popovskiy’s hands it results in a very pleasing jumble of balmy strangeness, drifting and shifting in unexpected ways. The listener is not being “directed” to pay attention to any one element, and instead is free to wander in an open landscape of sound events, much like an exotic street bazaar, and picking up what trinkets they may. Delightful.

SR027 is a split. The side by Andrey Svibovitch did little for me; very ordinary sounds emerge from his synths (probably due to use of over-familiar filters or pre-set sounds) and he has a simplistic approach to playing chords, both of which point to under-developed techniques. He produces a stream of undemanding electronica with little structure or originality. The four parts of “What Hides The Voice” were originally presented as part of a multi-media installation with the work of visual artist Maxim Svishev. Svibovitch creates his music using voice samples, yet what ends up on the tape is so synthetic and processed it seems to have zero connection to anything as natural and human as a voice.

The side by Sergey Vandyshev is more engaging. The electronic music of this fellow is described as an experiment in “pure data”, and there are references to “digital generators” and “granular synthesis algorithms”…most of this is beyond my ken, but it seems to point to a process-based approach where machines do most of the work, but also indicates that Vandyshev is a skilled manipulator of digital data, perhaps doing it “at source” in some way. What I mean by that is he may bypass the conventional routes of feeding information through pre-sets and filters. Anyone who can run an algorithm at granular synthesis level is capable of anything. The sound of his untitled tracks is certainly quite clean, and feels uncluttered by unnecessary elaborations. I also like the loops, repetitions and insistent pulsations, which are set forth in a very porous, open-ended manner, as if he’s found a way to avoid the trap of the strict grid-systems imposed by digital sequencers. This reminds me very much of a more low-key version of Pimmon.

SR028 is a split. For this release we have a rare (for this label) instance of acoustic music played on musical instruments – as opposed to their standard electronic fare. Blank Disc Trio are a Serbian group of improvisers who have been at it since the late 1990s. It used by a duo of the core members Srdjan Muc and Robert Roža (guitar and electronics, respectively), but have since been joined by Georg Wissel, who puffs a “prepared” alto saxophone. For this tape, they were joined by the pianist Dušica Cajlan-Wissel and the electric guitarist Julien Baillod. What they play is a rather tentative version of the “electro-acoustic improv” thing, a form which in their hands takes a long time to get started and is littered with many half-baked stabs and much guesswork along the way. I like the abrasive textures they manage to summon up, and it’s good that they know when to shut up and leave gaps for each other, but overall there isn’t enough coherence or continuity in these wispy musical ideas to sustain my interest.

On the flipside we have Ex You, another three-piece of Serbian experimenters. Milan Milojković, László Lenkes and Filip Đurović blend electronics, guitar, and drums into a pleasing scrabbly mess of non-music, keeping it fairly low-key and resisting the temptation to create a hideous energy-noise blaroon-out. The addition of guest cello player Erno Zsadányi only increases our pleasure in this grumbly, meandering groan-fest. Like their Blank Disc brothers, this group sometimes finds it hard to crank up the old motor, but once they get it turning over we’re guaranteed a much more exciting drive through the old Serbian mountain tracks. I wish more drummers could act with the restraint and decency of Đurović; he doesn’t call attention to himself with fills and ornament, but his steady gentle pulsations give a surprisingly sturdy backbone to this music. Two members of the trio also play in Lenhart Tapes Orchestra, should you feel curious to investigate the Serbian “scene” further; their 2014 album Uživo Sa Karnevala Glavobolje looks like the one to go for.

The tape Povstrechal Gaute Granli (SR030) is a team-up between Mars-69 and Gaute Granli, another one of the Russian-Norway “hands across the water” affairs which this label does so well. Mars-69 are I assume Mars-96 with a slight change to the name – at any rate the core members of this Palmira trio appear to be intact. They’re about the most prolific bunch on the Spina!Rec label and we’ve enjoyed most of their disaffected noisy work. I always thought they were a guitar-bass-drums trio but here they’re spinning their craft with synths, syn-drums, and vocals. As for Gaute Granli, we’ve been enjoying the solo work and group work (in Freddy The Dyke) of this Norwegian loon for many years now, and can recommend anything he’s done for the Drid Machine and Skussmaal labels. He brought his electric guitar and voice to these Povstrechal sessions. With a line-up like that, I feel I have a right to expect some serious fireworks, which is why I felt gypped by this damp squib. With the possible exception of ‘Osa’, the opening track, the tape is a lacklustre set of pointless studio noodling, half-formed ideas trailing away, and occasional absurdist vocal dribble. One waits in vain for a single idea to catch fire or take off into the stratosphere. The band had a lot of sociable fun on the day (hint: that’s code for they all got drunk) – the press write-up seems to indicate as much – but that doesn’t justify the release of this self-indulgent nonsense.

Towards Enlightenment

Herewith three cassettes from Eric Kinny’s label Santé Loisirs in Belgium, all boasting the attractive woodblock printing covers which Eric makes himself. We last noted the label in January. Package arrived 7th December 2016.

Pont à Mousson sings 13 wistful songs of love, loss and self-doubt on Rock With Pont à Mousson (SL07). His forte is introverted, self-regarding songs, tinged with longing and regret; when he attempts more upbeat rock or pop songs, the results are rather weedy. There’s a certain charm in his relaxed, conversational style of singing which does connect with the listener, but he’s not a particularly strong vocalist. I like the brevity of the songs though, and the spare arrangements – guitar, piano, drum machine – do smack of honesty and economy. The cover art is drawn by Nicolas Guine, showing Pont à Mousson surrounded by flying devils who are not especially threatening.

Hablemos del Alma has just four songs on his self-titled cassette (SL06). This is the solo turn of Angelo Santa Cruz from Chile, and it’s performed with synths, twangy guitars, drum machines, and low-key vocals, adding up to a personal take on the synth-pop genre (though not quite unsettling enough to be labelled Cold-Wave or Dark-Wave or whatever the term is). Weirdly, he describes his creations as “New Age” music, a connection which I don’t get at all. At least there’s a smidgen more tension in his songs than the wispy Pont à Mousson, and there’s a certain opacity about his motives I like. Only once or twice does he lapse into rather tasteful chords that transform him into a DIY cabaret singer. He does it with old-school synths, ARPs, organs, and Diana Menino, Micaela Skoknic and Manu Guevara assisted with the vocals.

Final item is a real oddity by McCloud Zicmuse, a vagabond musician who we encountered a couple years ago with his Version D’un Ouvrage Traduit album on a record credited to Le Ton Mite. Today’s cassette, Het Slechtgetemperde Klavier en Zwakke Blokfluiten (SL08), is performed using harpsichords, flutes and recorders, striving hard to project a medieval, renaissance or Baroque period feel. In the end it delivers the sensations of a lost European movie soundtrack, with its very short cues (most of the tracks are under a minute in length) and vaguely “historical” atmosphere; you can practically see the wenches, knights and jesters cavorting in front of an old castle photographed in Eastmancolour. This might not quite be the whimsical pastiche I’m making it out to be, and there’s a certain strange mystique lurking behind these elliptical, half-finished musical statements; and Zicmuse performs everything with strength and conviction. At 23 tracks it may seem to be stretching a single idea a little too far, but the album is brief overall. Recorded in London and Belgium.

Ras Oumlil

We haven’t heard a great deal from Jos Smolders, the Dutch musician who began his career studying architecture, outside of his contributions to a compilation of sorts called International Musique Concrète Assembly where he appeared with fellow Netherlandish droner Frans de Waard. But that was in 2007. It would have been nice to have heard some of his 1980s releases on Midas, or his 1990s records for Korm Plastics, but I’m missing these parts in my education. More recently, he’s been conducting a series of experiments called Modular Works, some of which were released online in 2014 and 2015. I’m assuming today’s record, called simply Nowhere (CRÓNICA 123-2017), is more or less in that same area, basing my guess on the subtitle “Exercises In Modular Synthesis and Field Recording”, plus the record’s inner gatefold which shows foreboding images of modular synths with knobs, patches and cables a-plenty, a sight which presents a challenging barrier to the ignorant novice.

Smolders used to be a self-confessed control freak in terms of editing his work. For Nowhere, he’s been trying to cultivate a more spontaneous technique for the production of electronic music. He’s basing it on Zen; he tells the story of how a traditional Zen calligrapher works, describing the process as 99% preparation. The artist must spend a long time getting into a deep state of concentration, and then create the artwork in a matter of seconds. I have heard this applied to painting and poetry as well as calligraphy. I’ve also heard it applied to project management, but that’s a dull topic which has no place here today. With Smolders, this means that he thinks long and hard about which patch to connect and how to set the parameters, before he even starts the session. When the sound / music is underway, he goes with the flow and only “interferes when necessary”, a phrase which may refer to purely technical considerations. When the work is completed, overdubs and editing are not eliminated altogether, but he forces himself to forego his usual extensive re-working method.

I’m all in favour of artists lifting themselves out of the rut of familiarity and using whatever means are necessary to get their brain to that point where they short-circuit their own comfort zone. Taking all the above into account, you might expect Nowhere to present a wild and chaotic spread of crazy electric noise, but in fact it’s a strong example of restraint and understatement. There’s much to enjoy and appreciate in these quiet tones, crackles, percussive pops and ambiguous whirrs, and the music sometimes develops into pleasing nocturnal drone-scapes, as it does on the fourth track which is a tribute to Maya Deren (who made visionary sleep-walking dreamy films with the help of her husband). Some of the pieces are quite lengthy, and they take a long time before they get to the point of their long and drawn-out statements, but the journey is more interesting than the destination and I can see the value of working out all the stopping-points in longhand. For the most part, Jos Smolders succeeds in transcending the workings of his machines, creating something more than mere process music. From 21st November 2016.

Blue Shadows on the Trail

Marsen Jules
Shadows In Time
GERMANY OKTAF#12 CD (2016)

Dortmund-based Martin Juhls has been putting out records under this derivation of own name since 2003 on labels including 12K, City Centre Offices, Autoplate and his own imprint, Oktaf. He also uses the names Falter, Krill.Minima and Wildach Sonnerkraut. There is also a separate Marsen Jules Trio where Juhls is augmented by brothers Anwar and Jan-Phillip Alam on violin and piano respectively. He terms his solo work under the Marsen Jules heading as “instrumental/ambient”. And his weapons of choice for this single piece Shadows In Time are synthesisers.

I suppose you could describe Juhls’ approach as drone/ambient synth-scape, but the development, at least initially, is a tad faster than is traditional in this sort of venture. Nothing wrong with that per se, and soon it relaxes into a sound more reminiscent of church organ. The material repeats, which is one facet that may put off hardened connoisseurs of Drone; the organic, “random” generative development familiar with such purveyors or, at the other end of the drone spectrum: complete stasis, is absent in this particular prime cut of beefy transcendence. It has neither the roiling mid-range bombast of Nadja’s Thaumogenesis nor the single-minded brutality of Puce Mary nor the inexorability of Phill Niblock.

I’m sure Juhls will be rolling his eyes to hear these lazy comparisons, but the point I’m making is: I’m not entirely sure of his actual intent. It’s repeated material for sure, but nice to drift off to. Put the cd player on repeat and you could drift away for ever thanks to Juhls’ interest in extended duration. He makes this statement about the process of composing Shadows In Time: “…It is based on four variations of the same 20 seconds loop modulating on three different layers, which are running against each other on a basis of millisecond variations…”, before also the assertion that “…Generative music has long ceased to be unknown territory in composition…”

But like the apocalyptic trend for pop-star singer-songwriters to overuse their brand new loopstations ten years ago, is it enough to simply set some pre-recorded material loose and watch it go, however subtly and delicately manipulated? Even a two-year-old will eventually tire of a wind-up toy, but on the other hand let’s not forget that Phillip Jeck and William Basinski have made careers out of this sort of thing, in their own unique ways. Juhls is another addition to the oeuvre. Indeed, he is poised to enter the history books when “the world’s longest film”: Anders Weberg’s 720 hour colossus Ambiancé is released in 2020; it’s theatrical trailer features music by Juhls – all 7 hours and 20 minutes of it, (Got a day off? View it here.

San Fil

Another gem from the UK Linear Obsessional label. We’ve followed Richard Sanderson’s label pretty much from its inception and it seems there are at least three strands of sound he’s interested in publishing – free improvisation, sound art, and experiments with hardware and software. In the latter category, the recent release by Phil Maguire is a strong example with his radical experiments with the Raspberry Pi. We now add Dirch Blewn to the list, since many of the tracks on his Axis (LOR 089) CDR owe their existence to a toy called Plumbutter, which is a home-made synthesiser unit created in recent years by Peter Blasser, a device described by one enthusiast as having “a distinct philosophy behind it”. You could say the same about a Dyson vacuum cleaner, a household unit which has endeared itself to many with the way it seems to express the idiosyncrasies of its inventor 1 I can see how the latest iteration of this Plumbutter thing would appeal to a certain mindset; currently it looks like a cross between a wooden toy and a lego brick. With its coloured patch plugs spread all over the board in a semi-chaotic fashion, it seems to invite the sort of wild experimentation promised by the old VCS3, as much as saying “try me!” in a little friendly voice. Although it seems Plumbutter is mainly good at drum machine sounds, there’s nothing it can’t do when it finds its way into the hands of someone as imaginative and exploratory as Dirch Blewn.

That’s only one part of the Axis story, though. Field recordings play a big part, as do many types of percussion, mostly wooden and perhaps some metal percussion. In his elliptical notes, at one stage Dirch Blewn summarises the album as “an album of wood recordings through a metal gong”. The field recordings show a close attachment to nature, including rain fall and bird song, and these things are deployed in a highly mysterious fashion. I mean that we’re not always sure what we’re hearing (we’re never sure what we’re hearing, in fact) and even the creator himself seems to be amazed by the things he’s managed to capture on his tapes (or hard drives, or however it’s realised).

I’m trying to drop hints as to the slightly uncanny nature of this release, an intangible element to which the press notes allude by resorting to words such as “arcane” and “esoteric” and “haunting”. Dirch Blewn himself declines to explain, other than in somewhat cryptic notes which list the ingredients or recipes (with shopping lists of equipment used) for each piece, but he remains silent as to his motivations or intentions. There’s some playful definitions and redefinitions of the word “axis” (puns are permitted in this game) as he concisely describes some experience which might be a vague odyssey through the woods leading to a spiritual epiphany, or simply an outdoor camping trip. He intersperses the notes with images of rocks collected by some woman in Iceland, shown photographed in loving close-up and revealing the details all manner of unusual volcanic formations, sometimes encrusted with algae or lichens. “These things are all connected, but only in my head”, is all he will tell us. I think it behooves us to respect this somewhat gnomic uttering, and bend our ears to these unusual micro-sounds, attempting to join the dots in our own time.

Dirch Blewn is David Bloor from South London, who is also represented (under his own name) on a recent comp called Sounding D.i.Y from elektronische art and music. Very happy to receive this unusual release; I feel that Dirch Blewn is far more valuable than a simple process artist, and he’s not exploring these invisible microscopic areas just for the sake of generating unusual sonic textures. There’s a real power and depth to this work. From 25th November 2016.

  1. At least it used to; I’m not sure about the more recent models.

Who Let the Dogs Out?

Stray Dogs
And The Days Began To Walk
UKRAINE KVITNU 48 CD (2016)

On paper there’s not a lot to distinguish the murky, downtempo minimalism of Belgian post-techno duo Stray Dogs (Frederik Meulyzer and Koenraad Ecker) from peers such as Raime and Emptyset in that well-eked theatre of interstitial operations, though they do show gratifying humanity where po-faced aloofness is often the norm. Their take on industrial techno subordinates the pre-sets to man-ufactured polyrhythms that see muscular limbs reaching through perpetual darkness; tribal drums clattering through cinematic synth-scapes and dub effects echoing the much-loved motif of urban decay. Constant tension between these dynamics amasses a potent, ritualistic energy.

So, while And The Days Began To Walk is likely to please many a serious and sedentary listener, messrs Meulyzer and Ecker often write with choreography in mind: their work over the past few years has included commissions for theatre and contemporary dance as well as more standard AV collaborations, and on this occasion choreographers Ina Christel Johanneseen and Stephen Laks benefit from their competent composition. One earlier video shows the pair blasting live cello and drums onto a set piece that sees a sea of lithe bodies contorting like molten rubber zombies in one turmoiled tableau after another. The musicians remain partially veiled throughout, as if to blur into uncertainty their diegetic relationship to this frenzy. Thus this album slots easily into the ‘soundtrack without a film’ category and it might have been a contender for a place on the new Blade Runner soundtrack, were that not already taken. It might even have had a cleansing effect on such doggerel as the ‘rave’ scene in Matrix Reloaded, though this association would probably have killed the duo’s credibility altogether.

Sound Pipers Of Garlic

Indescribable double CD of improvised vocal noises along with non-musical sounds and eruptions…this is the combined talents of four international mavericks, i.e. Adam Bohman, the UK sound poet, performer, bricoleur and cassette diarist; Oliver Mayne, English musician living in Budapest; Jean-Michel van Schouwburg, described here as “the inimitable voice maestro”; and Zsolt Sőrés, the Hungarian musician. Budapest is the connecting zone, the area where these four met and climbed into a musical melting pot. Bohman and Jean-Michel were invited there in 2010 by the film-maker Peter Strickland, and once Zsolt S?rés got wind of this he quickly set up an improvising situation and asked Oliver Mayne to join in. What has supposed to be a fortuitous one-off occasion soon developed into a regular event, and in the years since the four have performed together many times, now working under the strange and awkward name of I Belong To The Band. The double CD we have before us documents four such occasions from 2010 and 2013, all of them happening in Budapest, and shows the foursome captured either live or in the studio. On one occasion, a live event at Fuga, they were joined by the vocalist Katalin Ladik. Ladik’s impressive vocal work may be known to some for her contributions to recordings of Ernő Király, the Yugoslavian modern composer.

This package, titled Bakers Of The Lost Future (INEXHAUSTIBLE EDITIONS ie-004-2), shows how the combo require a lot of space and time to spread out – some might unkindly call it a sprawl – to realise their need for self-expression. Musical instruments are involved, including vibes, synths, and stringed instruments, but I get the impression that amplified objects are much more the weapon of choice in the IBTTB stable. Bohman’s a past master of selecting and hitting strange objects in the service of sound production; Zsolt Sőrés has his own personal selections, and also brings circuit-bending and dictaphone tapes to the table in his quest for the ultimate in lo-fi distortion and mangled groink. Mayne too is no stranger to clipping a contact mic onto anything that stands still long enough. Together, these three weave a cluttered but intense din of rubbly and unfamiliar textures, producing a dense soup that makes no concessions whatsoever to “art music” or jazz-inflected improvisation, nor is it as opaque and mystifying as the inert over-processed murk that Das Synthetische Mischgewebe often creates using similar methods. I haven’t heard such a compelling layered and over-crowded racket since my last DDAA listen. Over this scrambly foundation, van Schouwburg yawps out his nightmarish vocalising, a bad dream of opera singing caused by a night of indigestion at the Magyar Állami Operaház. All the pieces have been assigned nonsensical titles, word-salad arrangements such as ‘Intergalactic Gulash vs Sneezawee Gaspacho’ and ‘Gastric Samba Honkers’, as if attempting to realise the same sense of mental indigestion through the channel of literary expression. The references to food and the stomach in these titles are most fitting.

I would also single out the uncanny escapades of Katalin Ladik on the track where she features, ‘Poets of the Absurd on Chalk’. She’s pretty much carrying on an unintelligible argument with van Schouwburg as if the two were actors / opera singers playing husband and wife in a grotesque marriage, or perhaps simply play-acting a garbled version of Punch and Judy. It’s by turns comedic and ugly, yet still infused with moments of mysterious and terrifying beauty. Both the vocalists here sound certifiably insane, but they deliver their loopy barks with great assurance and confidence. We could say the same about the music, which is pretty much fragmented and bonkers in the extreme, but played with gravitas and conviction. There is no doubt in my mind that this is down to the personalities involved (very strong personalities); you could never train a classical musician to play this way in a million years, even if they had been raised on John Cage since birth. It’s an instinctive thing, and a very personal thing. The effect here is intensified because these are four like-minded souls, who have nothing to prove to the world…the music is as much a product of that bond as anything else, the sound of an amazing conversation, on which we are lucky enough to eavesdrop.

Peter Strickland, though he doesn’t play a note, is also pivotal to the record. He also happens to have been part of the Sonic Catering Band in a former life, and the strange formless non-musical performances he was responsible for are could be seen as one of the many tributaries that have flowed into Bakers Of The Lost Future. He also directed the movie Berberian Sound Studio, which used the talents of Katalin Ladik for its soundtrack, and which briefly featured the Bohman Brothers making a cameo appearance. Another gem from the Slovenian label Inexhaustible Editions, arrived 28th October 2016.

Five Leaves Left

Günter Schlienz from Stuttgart has evolved his own electronic sound over many years through his own secret hand-built devices and unique set-up, which involves modular synthesis, tape machines, and echo units. As Günter Schlienz, he’s released over 20 albums since 2010, some of them privately pressed as CDRs or as cassettes on his own Cosmic Winnetou label. As Navel – described here as an “ambient post-rock project” – he goes back even further, with a string of self-released CDRs from the late 1990s. Today’s record is called Autumn (ZOHARUM ZOHAR 133-2), and it’s a completely charming evocation of the seasons rendered in timeless and very sweet electronic music. I couldn’t help thinking of the Peter Schmidt watercolour painting that was included in Eno’s Before And After Science, the one titled Look At September, Look At October; the music seems a very good fit for that evocative image of a tree seen outside the window, the leaves about to turn brown. Schlienz’s music is not far apart from Eno’s, but it must be said his hand-crafted inventing has really reaped dividends, and he has successfully side-stepped the problem of pre-sets and factory settings that has blighted many a lesser synth keyboard player. Autumn doesn’t sound particularly “weird” though, and I suspect Schlienz doesn’t see himself as a pioneer of unusual sounds or a cosmic explorer trying to wring hidden depths from the innards of electronic machinery. Rather, he simply has his stories to tell in musical form, and wants to find his own way of saying them. An album of slow and intriguing beauty…while not quite as spiritually deep as Popol Vuh, Schlienz’s heart is in the right place, and with his benign and optimistic outlook on the world, he makes Tangerine Dream seem positively turbulent and apocalyptic in comparison. From 27th October 2016.

Saturn Radio Waves

Güiro Meets Russia
Dystopia
SPAIN VERLAG SYSTEM VS011 CD (2016)

Nice, heady German Kosmische/Progressive-flavoured synth-gush on offer here. Plaudits and acclaim for that from me, straightaway. Of course the big names like Faust, Can and Neu! are massively influential and their varied mythologies are attractive to those of a certain age, myself included. If I make overt and unnecessary references to Ash Ra Tempel, Cosmic Jokers, Popol Vuh, Cluster, Amon Duul and similar others during the course of this review I apologise – I read Future Days, David Stubbs’ overview of the 1970s German progressive scene, recently. So I’ll try to control myself. This Spanish duo’s own press release states their interests as “…IDM, Cold Wave, Synth Pop and Kosmische Music…” I don’t get the Cold Wave reference as much as the Kosmische, but it’s good to hear younger practitioners of this type of music; like Jupiter Lion or – perhaps more tenuously – one of my favourite young bands at the moment; Ulrika Spacek. These days, even some of the remaining old psyche favourites are made up of young musicians these days, take Nik Turner’s Inner City Unit, Faust (both versions), or perhaps Gong, who seem to be currently made up of people who weren’t even born in the seventies, let alone the sixties. No matter. There’s a suitably urgent start to this cosmic banana. “Rootless” is just that – a kind of exhilarating, rudderless plunge into wild, arpeggiated, motorik territory. The title track is built around a relentless home-entertainment keyboard drum preset, while woozy synth pads waver in pitch by one or two percent. Chiming melody gives way to celestial, decellerating sirens. The third track, “Die Reise” displays Güiro Meets Russia’s most obvious krautrock influences, but that’s no problem for me; I’m in just the right kind of mood for it. “The Possibility Of An Island” is more laid-back with its 4/4 mid-tempo rhythm and great swells of synthesiser. Things proceed in this way for an appropriate duration until finally, to finish things off, GMR move into more relaxed Gong or Hillage territory with “Deus ex Machina”. Something new for Steve Davis’ DJ-ing record box for sure. But who are GMR? I don’t know – I’ve spent longer than was probably wise trawling the interweb in order to try to find out – but all to no avail. It doesn’t matter. Rest assured there is nothing dystopian about this record despite its title – perhaps the title is ironic, or perhaps a more abstract political comment. Either way it’s good, and deserves your attention.

Bandcamp page

Undicititoli

Massimo Pavarini
X Sounds Extremely Mysterious
ITALY SUSSIDIARIA SD009 4 x CD (2016)

The emergence of this bulging quad c.d. box set comes as a homage to, and an overview of the works of Italian composer/multi-instrumentalist Massimo Pavarini (1970-2012). A nicely appointed retrospective details his genre-hopping career from the years 1988 to 1994, showing a restless, mercurial talent who, as contributors to the accompanying booklet will attest, was also his own sternest critic. Projects that began with the best of intentions would be casually ditched and bulk-erased from the memory banks, much to the chagrin of his close friends and contemporaries. I’m thinking here of someone that, working practice-wise, seems to resemble Arthur Russell (himself no slouch in rapid genre shifting), combined with the mindset of a pre-fame Syd Barrett. I seem to recall reading that a number of his works at art college would be discarded/destroyed (?) soon after receiving their very last drip of paint, as if going through the artistic process was an end in itself. However, in Massimo’s case, his work has been retrieved from places unknown and have been lovingly and painstakingly restored.

“Alea”, his debut, matches arthouse electronics against hushed piano introspection and was originally issued in cassette only format on the Rosa Luxemborg label. On “Alloro a Colazione”, we can see the dapper spirit of Monsieur Erik Satie hovering over those ivories, genie-like. But that largely unadorned piece ill-prepares the listener for the eye-watering gas cloud of white noise that eventually engulfs “Over the Rainbow” (from ‘The Wizard of Oz’ (!)). Dear Judy and her mutant entourage would soon realise that some things are even more psychologically disturbing than those damnable flying monkey-things. The startling “Impulso è Rigetto” has Massimo ‘breaking glass in his room again’ with lung-straining sax skronk and mangled guitar emissions recalling certain violent juxtapositions/jump-cuts found in the early Goebbels & Harth songbook. The “Undicititoli” collection (c.d. no. 2), sadly unreleased at the time, again finds our teenage (!) hero teetering between light and shade. For every “Nativo”; a bewitching Italian cousin to the “Kes” soundtrack, there’s always an “Ingrandire un Policlinico”, in which pounding drum tattoos are but a mere click-track set next to the ‘a to z’ of factory demolition tonalities that follow.

Another artistic zig-zag takes place with the “Danze” c.d. with the artist in question’s apparent brainwashing at the hands of the sinister house/techno-ambient cabal. Well, I’m happy to report that their efforts weren’t that successful as tracks like “The Good Clerk” and “the Curling Ducks” are too hard-edged to occasion thoughts of the loved-up ones throwing shapes with glo-sticks. Mercifully, this approximation of a U.K.-based ‘scene’ (cough) has been partially bent out of shape by an outsider’s p.o.v. and seems to align itself with grainy b/w photos of Hard Corps or Nitzer Ebb instead.

Massimo’s collaborative exploits find a home on “Gruppi”, the final disc in this foursome, and covers his involvement as principal drummer/rhythmic synthesist with Le Orbite, Marmo, Le Forbici di Manitù and Tomografia Assiale Computerizzata. Recorded mostly live, Le Orbite were a 2g/b/d vox outfit that could’ve easily slotted into the Creation Records roster right next to Slowdive. This kinda ‘my bloody mary chain-lite’ choonage (at its best on “Over and Over” and the “6 Colori” instrumental really does fail to match the sense of invention displayed on the previous discs. Sadly, the lure of a bowl cut and a hooped t-shirt must’ve proved to be too overwhelming…

An earnest/moody vocal package and trebly white boy funk guitar signals the arrival of Marmo. Excised from vinyl/cassette comps, the Hula/Chakk-esque rumblings reach their boiling point with Massimo’s ‘noise guitar’ cameo on “I Cinque Angoli”. Laboiusly slow grinding, subterranean rhythms and T.A.C. leader Simon Balestrazzi’s dark mutterings and insinuations seem to share thoughts and deeds with Anti-Group and 23 Skidoo. But perversely, this mainstay of the Italian underground (for over twenty years…) hits real pay dirt with “Ingoiare Chiodi” (from the “Hypnotischer Eden” c.d. on Discordia) which could almost be a great lost Morricone theme. Those chasing unusual sonorities scoped from exotic sources will do a double back flip over T.A.C.’s genius deployment of scraped propellers, ‘walkie-talkie’ voices, Ethiopian drums and the Turkish Zurna. Le Forbici di Manitù’s piece marks Massimo’s last recorded work. With its archetypal synthetic waveforms, “Esilio nel Deserto delle due Lune” could easily have hatched from any period in the last half century or so and is taken from the “Luther Blissett Soundtrack” on Alchemax Records.

So there we have it… a long ‘n’ sprawling response to a tragically brief yet sprawling career path. A sincerely constructed tribute from drawing board to finished article.