Tagged: tapes

Flocci Non Facio

About a jillion points shall be awarded to the cassette Gara Delle Facce (TUTORE BURLATO #09) performed by the trio Flocculi. Its members Devid Ciampalini, David Lucchesi and Ezio Piermattei turn in a two-part performance across both sides of this short tape and in the process they defy human reason with some of the uncanny zany sounds that emanate from their agitated bodies. Percussion, oscillators, guitar, voice, tape and objects are all used in imaginative ways to maximise a sense of the bizarre and a sense of fun in equal proportions, and the spirited nature of their antics doesn’t let up for a moment. I suppose there could conceivably be a danger that this form of free and open playing could easily become self-indulgent and even “wacky” in a meant-to-be-funny sense that doesn’t translate; or it could become an exercise in forced “energy” music which degenerates into the usual skittery-improv chaos and clatter. Amazingly, neither scenario comes to pass and the music remains light and fleet-footed. This may be because none of the musicians are trying to prove anything about such unhelpful notions as “extended technique” or the “value” of free improvisation, and are simply playing together in ways they enjoy. But I speculate. Ciampalini is unknown to me, and Lucchesi the guitarist has surfaced on an obscure CDR as part of DeA in 2014; but Piermattei is of course more familiar to us, not only as the owner of this tape label but as Hum Of Gnats, poisucevamachenille and Autopugno, aliases under which he has made unique and funny records which to one degree or another exhibit his obvious facility for making uncanny sounds and music with his voice, and his tape overlays. Flocculi is yet another project he can be proud of. They may never surface again as a trio, but for 30 delicious minutes here they have unleashed several exciting and tasty events in sound upon the earth, with an obvious passion and enthusiasm for their work, and everything is played with a simple transparency which is highly refreshing. Things may get noisy, but never distorted; the spirit is liberating, never chaotic. The title translates into English as “Race Of Faces”, and that’s putting it mildly. Highly recommended!

One of nine cassettes received 4th July 2016 from Ezio Piermattei.

The Non-Existent Knight

The cassette Sharp Intake Of Breadth (TUTORE BURLATO #07) by Lovely Honkey is the next item I’ve pulled from the big July bag sent here by Tutore Burlato. This surreal and queasy mess is another recording which seems very much like something Ezio Piermattei would favour, and seems to occupy similar areas of strange humour and indigestible noise, arrived at by means of tape manipulation, layering, and juxtaposition of unrelated elements. Plus there’s the grotesque voice, which on more than one occasion resembles someone being seriously ill – groaning, howling, and clearly on the point of vomiting out their intestines. Lo-fi noise, broken electronics, damaged cassette tapes, and heaven knows what else – the detritus of modern consumerism is meat and drink to Lovely Honkey in his quest to reduce all around him to absurdity. What always impresses me about this sort of thing is the deliberation and poise with which the lunatic in question goes about their task, proceeding slowly and carefully through the rituals of their inexplicable antics. Thick, acoustic porridge noise-spew results, a potage which lays heavily on the belly of the listener. One other aspect of the Lovely Honkey plan is to ridicule pop music history to an extreme degree, and the singer’s nightmarish deconstruction of Black Lace’s ‘Superman’ (an easy target if ever there was) on side A here is not something you will forget in a hurry. The cover artworks also contain insights into the warped, visceral humour of this creator – look closely at the front cover to examine the background to this knight in armour, and you may do a small double take. Can’t find out much factual information about Lovely Honkey, although he has performed and recorded with Neil Campbell and may in fact be half of Acrid Lactations; other releases have surfaced since 2008 on Poot Records, Total Vermin, and Chocolate Monk.

One of nine cassettes received 4th July 2016 from Ezio Piermattei.

Cracked Barrell

Occupying a not-dissimilar zone of turf to the previous item is the Final Seed / Dylan Nyoukis split cassette (TUTORE BURLATO #08). On the A side by Final Seed, there may be electronic music, keyboard drones, samples and tape manipulation going on in this slow-moving procession of surrealism, and it’s doubtful whether even the creator himself knows for sure. This was recorded in 2015 at Mankato in Minnesota. Strangely beautiful music leaks out, surfacing to the top of confusing swirl of strange, alienating noises and absurdist treatments. I like the way the mood veers from feeling humourous and slightly silly to something verging on the edge of an industrial nightmare, often doing so in the space of seconds. The episodic, drifting nature of this dual-layered suite is really something to savour; a compelling dreamy fugue of stitched-together notions and jottings. Final Seed may be Jameson Sweiger and has released a few obscure cassettes for Fag Tapes, Alien Passengers and Chocolate Monk since 2009.

The side by Dylan Nyoukis has been derived from earlier works, a trilogy of cassette-with-poster limited edition releases from 2014 and 2015 called Encephalon Cracks Volumes 1 to 3, which appeared on his own Chocolate Monk label. For this tape, presumably some form of distillation, cutting-up, reworking or radical reprocessing of the sources has been executed, but I never heard the originals of those highly obscure items, so who knows? While there’s some characteristically unsettling vocal chatter at the start of this tape, for the most part it comprises minimal variations on an electronic drone pattern, to create a mesmerising force-field of blocky anti-energy that draws its listeners into a trance by dint of its fascinating monotony. It’s almost brutally single-minded and machine-like, apparently executed with a blithe indifference to its audience.

The above notes about TUTORE BURLATO #08 are provisional, since my raves may be applying to the wrong sides. In my defence, it’s impossible to tell. The pink cassette is issued with no labels, or any distinguishing marks allowing us to tell Side A from Side B; this is probably the way they like it, since it adds to the general air of disorientation and confusion.

One of nine cassettes received 4th July 2016 from Ezio Piermattei.

Amateur Chromatics

Another slice from the Stille Post (BÔŁT RECORDS BR R010 / MONOTYPE RECORDS mono100) box set by Alessandro Bosetti. CD02 is Gesualdo Translations, Bosetti’s take on the amazing music of Carlo Gesualdo. This Italian renaissance composer was famed for his bold harmonies and use of chromatics in his madrigals, and although neglected for a long time in the history of serious music, was reclaimed by Robert Craft and others and came to be regarded as a kind of forerunner of modernism; indeed I’ve even read a fascinating book called The Gesualdo Hex (by Glenn Watkins) which makes a convincing case for seeing Gesualdo as a precursor to serial and 12-tone composition.

Gesualdo also continues to fascinate a modern audience because of certain sensational details in his private life, for details of which I refer you to your own research. I’m fairly sure Bosetti knows about all this, but here he’s chosen to push the music through a daring experiment involving non-professional singers, in a sort of serendipitous crowd-sourcing action…he passed through the streets of Napoli, a place where Gesualdo is known to have lived and composed, and asked random people he met on the streets (and in cafes, churches, and markets) to participate. They would sing along as best they could to a recording of a single voice played back to them on headphones. Since the madrigals – taken in this instance from the famed fifth and sixth books of Gesualdo, regarded as his best and most experimental works – are multi-voice compositions, this clearly involved a lot of hard work by Bosetti in disaggregating the individual voice parts, and then re-assembling the parts from the taped results gathered in from his street singers.

The rich and complicated results on this record, some 45 minutes of heavily-edited suites, expand the “original chromaticism” of Gesualdo… “microtonal shadings are brought into the mix”, is Bosetti’s enthused claim, because the untrained singers, though often spirited and giving it a real go, are not really managing to hit the right notes at all. “Approximate renderings” is how he politely describes it. Additionally, further contextual field recordings from the streets are thrown in – people simply talking, chatting, bartering…along with cars, car horns, and other bits of guitar and keyboard music sourced from I know not where. All of this produces a delirious mix of sounds, assembled to a logic only Bosetti understands, and creates something new which is both familiar and strange at the same time.

A Gesualdo purist would probably be dismayed at the “bad” singing and take exception to the utterly fragmented mosaic-like approach of Bosetti’s assemblage, but taken as a whole lump of stew it’s a totally compelling experience. He calls it “a meditation on the practice of screziatura”, and screziatura is an Italian word which approximates to “mottling” or “speckling”…he may be thinking of a particular painterly effect, because I think one of the other pursuits of this genius polymath is the study of certain renaissance painting techniques, and composing or discovering musical parallels for them…how ambitious can you get? He also of course enjoys the random essence to the work, saying something about “the erratic nature of musical pitch”; and like everyone’s favourite mentor, John Cage, he is to some degree is allowing chance to guide his odyssey around the pathways of Naples and the people he met to produce these musical statements. Highly original and striking sonic coup here…

Palimpsests

Here’s another collection from Fossil Aerosol Mining Project, a fascinating art-music collective thing whom we last noted for the 2015 release, The Day 1982 Contaminated 1971. As previously noted, their method is to rework obscure sound sources, and the two main criteria for the selection of these sources appears to be (a) the formats are old, decaying, or obsolete – such as dictaphones, reel-to-reel tapes, cine film soundtracks; and (b) they are found in remote or forgotten places, such as abandoned warehouses and decaying cinemas. From these unlikely materials, great beauty is fashioned.

Revisionist History (ADM19) shows them taking their craft a stage further. All the music here was created by “grafting old artifacts onto new material”, as they put it, and making use of very contemporary studio practices. In this, I suppose they hope to achieve a physical layering of the old onto the new, and bring themselves closer to their imagined goals of time travel, spirit-world wanderings, triggering buried memories, and getting corpses to leap up and dance. This particular record is extremely slow-moving and the sounds are delicate and fragile, but the attentive listener will soon find themselves in sympathy with this unusual and evocative project, carried away on the drifting canoe of memory as it floats down the sluggish river of the past…or something like that. The patina of age is very much to the fore on this set; scratches and glitches attach themselves to the surface of the sound itself, creating a very subjective impression of deterioration and decay. The music itself is almost wholly abstract, a vague murmuring and ethereal drone, apart from some snatches of near-recognisable speech and tiny fragments of musical passages struggling to make their way across the time barrier, and nearly drowning in the process.

Revisionist History presents a near-blank screen for the listener to project their own dreams, hopes, memories, fantasies. Very fine. From 27th June 2016.

Necessary Monsters

The American duo of Hollow Deck turn in a peculiar album of songs and sounds with their Hobson’s Choice (FEEDING TUBE RECORDS FTR239 / WEIRD EAR RECORDS WER-011), recorded in Massachusetts. Mia Friedman and Andy Allen are Hollow Deck. Allen has also appeared as Friendship Ceremonies, and is associated with other New England free noise acts, such as Guerilla Toss and Arkm Foam; both players also appeared in Survivors Breakfast, playing on a big-band jazz project of some sort by Anthony Coleman called The End Of Summer.

The present record might be described as a later strain of the “free folk” genre, admittedly a highly loose and contentious definition, but Hollow Deck’s approach is extremely fragmented and off-centred. Friedman will perform a song with the banjo and her angelic soprano voice, but the singing is extremely tentative, the melody purposefully kept vague, the lyrics are unintelligible, and the performance arrives very haltingly. I suppose it’s “folk” in as much as it’s acoustic music, and she plays a banjo, but beyond that I can’t connect the music to any known Appalachian roots, for instance; and genuine American folk singers of the 1930s, full-throated belters such as Darby and Tarlton, Grayson and Whitter, or Charley Poole, would probably be baffled as to why Mia Friedman is so hesitant about delivering her message.

Andy Allen’s contributions shift Hobson’s Choice down an even more avant-garde pathway, and he uses woodwinds, percussion, guitars, electronics and found tapes to create free-noise backdrops which are delicate, imaginative, and in places quite unexpected. On ‘Hurrah’, he uses a drum machine and some electronic pwoops to do all he can to disrupt the expected flow of Mia’s song; it’s like a mashup between Karen Dalton and Erikm. The duo also work together on more extended free-form noise scapes, such as ‘Montana Lite’ or ‘Here Is My Home’, where the emphasis is on generating something as alien as possible, but through simple under-stated means instead of “freaking out” like Egg, Eggs might do. As such, the record reminds me very much of the first two Red Krayola records, veering from delicate songcraft to bizarrely unstructured free sounds. There’s a concerted effort to derail common sense, blind-side the listener.

Some of the songs – or the same titles at any rate – appeared previously on a cassette of the same name from Friendship Tapes in 2014. This, from 8th April 2016.

I Forget

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New York composer Howard Stelzer is mostly known round these parts for his fab label Intransitive Recordings, whereon he released many smouldering gems of mysterious electroacoustic composition, field recordings, tape music and noise. While a few snippets from his career have come our way, I don’t have much of his solo work to hand, so this collection The Case Against (MONOTYPE mono073) is most welcome. Title tracks indicate it’s a suite in five parts, so one might read it as a lengthy meditation on various heavy matters – the overall tone is sombre, and the music is extremely abstract for the most part, excepting some segments where recognisable fragments of real-life everyday noise seep into the mix.

Most notably this happens on ‘Rip It Up’, a brief montage where the sounds of a crowd of people take on a very puzzling hue in the context of so much droning soarage. Did I mention he does it all using cassette tapes…he calls it “cassette music” and his approach to composing with these cronky oxide lengths of magnetic hue is very maximal, using intensive processing and editing to create incredibly rich and dense fields of solid grind. What evocative track titles too…’Accumulated Background Radiation’ might almost be preparing us for a post-nuclear devastation landscape, always a popular trope with industrial musicians, while ‘The Last Scattering Surface’ contains a poignant air of finality, and serves up over 17 minutes of single-minded metal-enriched airy droning tones. When the noise ceases to make way for clouds, birdsong and the noise of the artiste fumbling with his microphones, it’s almost a shocking shift from the abstract to the real, emerging into daylight from the end of a deep pit. This moment, and other parts of the album, show how sensitive Seltzer is when it comes to contrasting timbres and deploying them for maximal effect.

The cover art is by comic strip artist Tony Millionaire and depicts a wrecked hulk on the beach, a forlorn image which is highly suitable for the somewhat lonely and desolate air of this release. From 21 June 2016.

C30 C60 C90 Go!

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Francisco López
1980-82
NO LABEL CD (2015)

Creating, recording and releasing sound and music couldn’t be easier these days. Tap a few glowing images on your Mother Box, zap the results into the magic everything machine, tell all those millions of friends-you’ve-never-actually-met about it, and Bob’s your uncle. This isn’t an unmixed blessing, of course, although I’m not suggesting that things were necessarily better in the olden days. Just pointing out that it wasn’t always this way.

This release from the venerable and prolific Spanish sound artist Francisco López is a case in point. It’s a document of a time when he had nothing to work with except cheap cassette recorders – no reel-to-reel recorders, no synthesizers, no rhythm machines or any of the other “prototypical experimental tools of the time”, as he says in the sleeve notes. All of the sounds you hear on the disc were recorded, transformed and processed entirely on cassette.

As evidence of a working method and the formative years of an artist, this is certainly fascinating. As a listening experience in its own right, my first impression was that it’s somewhat featureless collection of lower-register hums and rumbles. However, closer inspection reveals further details below the surface, like looking at the wall of a cave and realising that a prehistoric inhabitant has shaped a natural outcropping into the outline of a bison. The cave analogy is apt, because a lot of these tracks sound subterranean. Quite how López managed to uncover echoing voids in what I presume are field recordings of Madrid street life is something that can only be wondered at.

Worth a listen, then, if only to remind yourself of the paradoxically liberating nature of limitation, or, as López himself says, “the most essential tools are spiritual, not technical.”

Cultural and Educational Activity

Herewith the latest three cassette releases from Saint Petersburg’s finest underground label Spina!Rec, delivered here on 10 March 2016. As ever, the editions of physical product are tiny, and collectors of cassettes will have to move fast.

sr023

SR023 is a split betwixt Dubcore and Andrey Popovskiy. Dubcore sounds more like it ought to be the name of a label, or a genre, but here it’s an art project which experiments with found sounds and/or field recordings. They offer two pieces under the heading ‘Tea-N-Pepsi’, an endearing latterday cafe society proposal if ever there was. ‘Tuning In’ is a delicious jumble of sources, a fractured radio broadcast. Nothing spectacularly new in the approach of cutting up and random assemblage, but I happen to like the results on this occasion. The creators are genuinely capable of surprising the jaded listener with their juxtapositions and exciting cross cuts. A distinctly urban feel emerges; railway stations, media messages, street sounds, electronic noise, static, and beats. Everything is served up in aggressive micro-second slices, pandering to the minuscule attention spans of our atrophied brains. ‘Theyyam’ by Dubcore feels slightly less paranoid and tense, even admitting the possibility of some pastoral undercurrents, and quieter passages, to the overall mix of unpredictability. Here the listener is intrigued and puzzled. While not as subtle or inventive as the tapes we get from Staaltape and Rinus van Alebeek, Dubcore are operating in much the same area. “Six multilayered tracks full of sounds and changes,” is the description from the website, adding that Dubcore began life as something to do with exploring long tracts of silence. It so happens this tape is the exact opposite of that strategy, and has resulted in a glorious clutter of sonic detritus. A nice one.

Andrey Popovskiy occupies Side B with his 30-minute epic ‘Kryukov’. If credit list rings true, Popovskiy is operating various chunks of hardware for playback of pre-recorded elements (turntable, cassette player, dictaphone, CD player, etc), plus a violin, and e-bow, and additional field recordings. Hard to detect much of this equipment on the finished product, though. It comes across rather like 30 mins of a fellow stumbling about the room not really knowing what to do next, like a lethargic musician trying out ideas, opening the window, or turning the TV on. The recording doesn’t present the music, but documents the event, so that we pick up a good deal of room tone, random sounds, TV or radio in the next room, and general atmosphere of life in a Saint Petersburg apartment. This description may make it all appear infuriating and trivial, but in fact ‘Kryukov’ is a compelling listen. “Different kinds of interaction with environmental sounds,” is how the website describes this episode; “sometimes you can hear contingently appearing sounds of spaces, sometimes it’s prearranged processed recordings.” A lot to explore and get lost inside, varying textures, stories, and effects.

sr024

Open Readings (SR024) is a high-minded attempt to reclaim historic culture from the forces of Evil: “Barbarization of content, devaluation of moral and spiritual values and denial of cultural archetypes” are the declared Enemy, though the perpetrators don’t go into more detail about how this pernicious effect is coming about, or who are the agencies wreaking this vandalism. Are they talking about the media, television, movies, newspapers, the internet? I suspect many forces are culpable when it comes to dilution and bastardisation of culture. The retaliation from the Russian underground comes in the form of the spoken word, readings from “works of the best classical writers of the Silver Age”. In Russia, the Silver Age is the beginning of the 20th century, a highly productive time for experimental poetry, modernist novels, and short stories. On the A side, it’s done by Alexander Mashanov & Ilia Belorukov, who on ‘Blok’ (most likely named for the poet Alexander Blok) belt out short phrases and paragraphs, spoken in Russian, of course, as if words were weapons, to be fired like bullets from a gun. Inevitably, this approach soon develops into a clumsy form of rap music, the rhymes chanted aggressively over a clunky drum beat and tepid electro backing. In less than 11 mins, we’re barked to death. On the B side, the readings are done by Natasha Shamina with a musical backdrop by Sergey Kostyrko. Their ‘Vvedenskiy’ is less contrived than ‘Blok’, and instead of rapping the reading is delivered with the accompaniment of a menacing electronic growl, now and then turning into a nasty squeal, and contributing to the overall tension. The sense of purpose in Natasha Shamina’s steely speaking voice is unmistakeable; she may not be firing bullets, but you sense she’s staring at you with a disapproving eye, and is capable of acting as a silent assassin if the situation demands it. I prefer this B side; it makes zero concessions to entertainment, and demands your engagement with the content.

sr025

SR025 is another split and represents another chapter in this label’s friendly and ongoing collaboration with the Finnish underground. Umpio is the Finn, from Turku; Kryptogen Rundfunk is the Russian. Both are solo acts. Umpio turns in a typically over-baked stew of sounds on his ‘Rio De Venas, Gusanos, Pulso Insectal, Craneocapsula, Bajo Hielo’, and by typical I mean this is the sort of purposeless over-dubbed melange which the Finns have always done so well. This “cunning sound synthesis” as the website would have it is all done by electronic means, digital and analogue working together for that rich “swampy” sensation. ‘Rio De Venas’ doesn’t really progress anywhere, but as a half-realised vision of an alien world, it’s fairly convincing. Pentti Dassum is the fellow behind this pleasing gumbo, and he runs a record label called Nekorekords and was involved in the mastering of over 100 Finnish underground releases, besides the production of about 40 of his own solo records and split releases.

Kryptogen Rundfunk offer us a live recording from 2015 from a venue or event called ESG-21. Feedback and electronic noise are used to create slow and doomy textures…they lurch gradually out of the speakers like so much tar-encrusted sludge, and the outpouring won’t stop until every available surface is covered in this unpleasant morass. Some occasional nice effects are achieved by Kryptogen Rundfunk’s remorseless execution, but in the final analysis he creates the sort of environment that drives you away rather than invites exploration. Dank, grey, gloomy; saps the vitality of most humans, kills many forms of plant life, poisons the air. Artyom Ostapchuk is the creator of this dismalness, and he has made a few sporadic recordings of his brand of industrial ambient death music since 2004 onwards.

Vinyl Seven Glom Part 7

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Another exciting Le Petit Mignon release is LPM 16. Its full title is Le Petit Mignon Vs Le Cagibi and it’s a split between Vinyl-Terror & -Horror and Toys’R’Noise. It lives up to its promise of creating a horrorshow experience in sound, and what’s more is presented in a sumptuous silk-screen book with an array of contemporary graphiste artists.

The side by Vinyl-Terror & -Horror is pretty much a scrambled, cut-up version of an abstract radio play. Sound effects, fragments of voices, vari-speeded records and tapes, eerie music, ghastly drone and general strange things are all thrown together in a witch’s cauldron, leaving listener to imagine their own stories. Surreal, grisly humour abounds…but it never tries to shock the listener with intense noise. Rather ‘Inner Dialogues’ sustains a particular mood through its pop-collage method and never once descends into schlock or irony. The people behind this are Camilla Sørensen and Greta Christensen, two Danish sound artists currently agitating the gravel in Berlin, and are among the ranks of conceptual art terrorists who are “rethinking” the art of turntabling. They do it by smashing up old records, then reassembling the pieces of vinyl along with broken bits of plastic or glass junk that don’t fit. They do much the same to old record players, producing grotesque sculptures. They don’t have that many released items in their catalogue, but all of them make playful and punning references to movies and TV. They seem to be more of an art-gallery thing than full-time musicians, and you can see videos of their art installations on their website. Nearest reference point for me would be Michael Gendreau, whose been doing similar things since 1979.

‘Pachitea Aïda’ on the flip is by Toys’R’Noise, a further 4 and a half minutes of menacing, creepy noise. Sounds very mechanical, as if produced by ramshackle machines similar to those erected by Pierre Bastien, but the noise is spliced with contemporary electronic noise and nasty disco beats. Tribal clonking rhythms ensue, redolent of an imminent forward-marching doom brought about by wind-up robots. I think Toys’R’Noise are a French duo who produce all their murky noise with toys and home-made instruments, and photos of their set look like a junkyard or a car boot sale. Which is probably where they pick up their raw materials every Sunday…wouldn’t you love to be married to these two magpies? Not prolific in terms of releases, but there’s a self-titled debut on Tandori from 2013. The band remind us that the toys are just a gimmick, and their real roots remain in “ambient industrial electro”. Great clanking fun on their side, though I personally prefer the more intricate spells cast by our two Danish witches above.

The booklet is an art object in its own right. It opens in the middle like a pop-up book with a simple mountain-fold used to house the record, which incidentally happens to be pressed in blood-red vinyl. Inside are some dazzling images produced by some two dozen creators whose names are mostly new to me (though I do recognise Zven Balslev, and have published his drawings myself). Not sure if I’m intoxicated by the strong colours, the bold graphic techniques, or the shocking and surreal imagery on display, or perhaps the combination of all three. From 9th February 2015.

Update 27th September 2016: Toys’R’noise are a trio (but they sometimes play as a duo).