Tagged: vinyl

Lover’s Paranoia

The Sexphonie album by Tyll (MENTAL EXPERIENCE MENT004) is a welcome reissue of a very obscure 1975 Krautrock album, originally released on the small German label Kerston Records. The guitarist Det Fonfara, who performed as Teflon Fonfara, was approached by label boss Fred Kersten to put together a record, most likely to cash in on the “popularity” (ahem) of Krautrock at the time. After all, Kerston had just put out a compilation record called Proton 1, featuring a bunch of fourth-division nobodies from the German prog and fusion areas – Nexus, Penicillin, Zyma, and Andorra. Fonfara designed the cover to that particular canard.

Fonfara’s response to the commission appears to have been to assemble a pick-up crew and rush them into the studio in short order – much the same way, perhaps, as Polydor Records had hoped to create the German equivalent to The Beatles when they approached Uwe Nettelbeck. Instead, they got Faust – but that’s another story. Fonfara had connections with Eulenspygel at the time, so he poached the drummer Günter Klinger and brought in some muso-friends of Eulenspygel as well. Tyll were thus a studio band who only made this one record, and what’s more the project was completed in a matter of weeks. The other members were bassist Achim Bosch, who later played on the Mongoloid album by German New Wave band Ernst, and vocalist Michael Scherf, who has vanished from view since.

Matter of fact, there’s at least three singers on Sexphonie, including Susanne and Ulrike Schemmp, and their performance really lifts up the song ‘Paranoia Eines Verliebten’, turning it into a species of post-hippy Bubblegum Pop, laced with edgy singing, a riotous “party” atmosphere and a strong beat that Phil Spector would have loved. The multiple vocalist thing also works well on ‘Delirium-Song Grammophon’; the words may all be in German, but I can’t help feeling this bunch are preaching heavily about something. This may be why other experts have compared Tyll to the more explicitly political agit-group, Floh De Cologne.

The remainder of the album is great too though, Essentially it’s a basic rock trio set-up with guitar instrumentals and very string drumming, with melodies that occasionally trigger associations of non-Western music, and highly syncopated time signatures. Fonfara may not be an exceptionally inventive guitarist, but he’s not excessive or self-indulgent; his taut and compacted work on ‘Tim’ is impressive, to say nothing of the ingenious studio-concocted freakout that appears unexpectedly in the middle of that song. ‘Nervenzusammenbruch Einer Gitarrre’ is another gem of power-trio looseness and facility that rivals early Guru Guru…‘Asiatische Liebeserklaring’ is more explicitly Indian in its references, the guitar sounding like a sitar, and pasted thickly with hippy dreams of exotic travels and bricks of hashish.

If I am right about my speculative notion that Sexphonie was intended as a quickie cash-in attempt by Fred Kersten, it has ironically turned into something which fans of the genre (and 70s guitar music in general) can now truly appreciate and savour. This may account for why originals of the LP command a £300 price tag. If you’re thinking of investigating the label for further buried treasure, I wouldn’t bother – it appears Kerston Records mostly released 7-inches of Schlager and German Pop. From 3rd June 2016.

Deflation Hymns

Strange record of electronica by Bromp Treb in the form of Concession Themes (FEEDING TUBE RECORDS FTR 243)…Bromp Treb is a solo act named Neil Young Cloaca, who has been releasing music under this name since 2002, sometimes on his own label Yeay! Cassettes; his Loop Rotator Pool from 2010 contains no fewer than 77 tracks, which may be an indicator of something. Cloaca favours home-made and broken lo-fi sounds, producing everything with tapes, synths, samplers, and mics, and passing most of the results through cheap distortion techniques. He certainly doesn’t lack for a sense of fun, as can be readily gleaned from the cartoony cover art and insert, and the jolly titles such as ‘Pennies from The Back Of Displeasure’ or ‘Pest Promenade’, the latter of which would have made an excellent theme for a 1930s Silly Symphony animation. The press notes for this release invite us to consider Bromp Treb’s work as a form of dance music, but one that subverts the norms and stereotypes of the genre; “what if…you threw all those beats and tempos at the ceiling and then just let the pieces fall wherever?” is the rhetorical question posed by Angela Sawyer. Concession Themes is presumably the answer. Quite good fun and vaguely unusual sounds, and throwing pieces in the air is always a good working method, but this LP is thin on substance and extremely wanting in production depth; each track is more like a doodle than a finished work. Many of the generated sounds, which Sawyer politely describes as “whimsical”, strike me as just plain nonsensical. From 17 May 2016.

Age Of Enlightenment

Image sourced from http://fangbomb.com

Imaginary Forces last came our way in March 2016 with the unsettling and implied violence of Corner Crew, a record he made for the Sleep Codes label. With the Visitation EP (FANG BOMB FB026), we’re back on the shadowy ground which we know and love him for ever since his 2013 Begotten cassette for the same label, and here are four tracks of grim and slow avant-techno laced with diabolical repetitions, mercilessly loud and heavy bass thumps, and joyless beats that are intent on propelling the listener down a slow but sure slide into oblivion.

London player Anthoney Hart projects a low profile in his music and image, a strategy which I admire heartily, and every release seems to be an attempt to undermine our collective certainties, using stealth and invisible means…each beat is a hammer blow delivered with the surgical skill of a geologist prising loose a keystone from a pyramid of power…the temples of the Establishment are sure to topple, but not before our masked hero has long made good his escape under cover of night. The A side contains ‘Preternatural’ and ‘Enlightenment’, both hugely effective pulsation and throb experiences that can sap the vitality from a hundred civil servants in just ten minutes.

The B side includes the unusual ‘(A Drift)’, a version of a Closed Circuits track which is even more skeletal and bare-bones in its arrangement (if that’s conceivable), where the beat is unprocessed and raw, arriving like the knocking of a hammer on an empty wooden crate (or coffin). Chris Page intones a dark and defiant lyric in a resigned tone of world-weariness, while around him strange minimal electronic tones dart about like small birds.

To complete the package and its tone of strange despairing symbolism, we have the excellent cover art: a troubling image of a man with a head split in two, blood trickling down his nose, yet wearing an impassive and calmly accepting expression. His striped shirt and jacket might almost mark him out as a businessman or other enemy of society. The half-tone printing employed on this monochrome image adds to the weird mood; you certainly wouldn’t welcome a “visitation” from this menacing apparition with his grey, clay-like features. From 19 May 2016.

Drift Studies

Last heard from duo FvRTvR in 2012 with their Gobi Wow record (noted here), and their new vinyl utterance Following Shapes To The Edge Of A Drift (DISCOMBOBULATE BOB009) shows the team of Fritz Welch and Guido Henneböhl are still working their unique furrow of disconnected percussive and electronic noise. As Fritz Welch projects go, I tend to find this one preferable to With Lumps, his side project with Neil Davidson which produces music bordering on the unlistenable, in the best possible way of course. At least FvRTvR sound like they’re having some fun, or a good whole-hearted discussion over a brew or two, rather than contemplating the general deterioration of the universe with crestfallen expressions.

Not a single moment on this white vinyl pressing flies by that isn’t filled with unexpected pleasures, and unpredictable aural swoop attacks – particularly from Henneböhl, the German half of the act, who is evidently more kestrel than man, using oscillators for wings. Welch’s task, which he engages with manfully, involves a certain amount of heft and sweat, and is more akin to punching rivets into the side of a hull than conventional “music” as, say, Les Percussions De Strasbourg would define it. A restless and slightly angrified mood abounds for duration of this spiky and turgid album, and you should start to feel itchy and active after just ten mins of spinnage.

The cover art conveys precisely the right degree of sleaze, mystery, and surrealism in equal measures. There is something quite surreal about most of Fritz Welch’s music, as though he seems determined to remould everything we think we understand about life, then tear it apart with his kneading hands, pressing it all together into a large gobbet of insanity. From 7 April 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.

Them!

Ants, eh…you can’t live with ‘em, can’t live without ‘em…at any rate, it’s always these six-legged bastards who show up in pseudo-scientific articles when some nincompoop author is clutching for a metaphor for human society. Perhaps it’s because we suppose these tiny black rogues have organised themselves into a hierarchical system, one with a monarch at its centre, and capable of productive activity on an industrial scale we puny humans can only dream about. Then there’s their elaborate communication system, which involves flopping their pathetic antennae about in some way, to relay signals throughout the entire colony. It’s only a matter of time before some smart alec compares that to “The Internet” and starts to make outlandish claims, for instance that “Ants Invented The World Wide Web” or some such nonsense.

I for one have never trusted the ant, and regard these crawling devils with the same suspicious eye as I do most of the smaller creatures who share the earth with us. They’re up to something, and I don’t like it. One interesting trend for many years has been the cultivation of a so-called “ant farm”, which I believe involves creating a mini-colony of these unpleasant monsters inside a glass box filled with sand or porous earth, allowing us to observe the ants plotting their nefarious schemes. These ant farms have proven especially popular among American school children, who proudly exhibit them as “science projects” when they wish to earn points in entomology. The truth is far more sinister, of course…any given ant farm is just a way of proving the inevitability of capitalism, perpetuating the exploitation of labour, and the “need” for a caste system that keeps us all oppressed; and where better to indoctrinate children with this poisonous ideology than at secondary school. It’s all there, in among the ants.

Some of my justifiable paranoia and bile has, I like to think, informed the record we have in front of us – titled Ant Farm (FEEDING TUBE RECORDS FTR241) and credited to the players Elliott Schwartz and Big Blood. It’s a slightly creepy and weird slab of sound art and music, not without its frequently beautiful moments, but mostly issued as a warning against the rise of the ants. The music was originally the soundtrack for an art exhibit, also called Ant Farm, an event which was held in Maine to showcase the work of The Ant Girls, a visual art group including Colleen Kinsella and Dorothy Schwartz. Right there you’ve got a strong thread of “ant-ness” detectable in the genesis of this particular record. I shouldn’t be surprised if The Ant Girls knew more than they were letting on.

Colleen Kinsella is also one half of Big Blood, along with Caleb Mulkerin, and they’ve been making records since 2006, many of them issued as CDRs on their own Don’t Trust The Ruin label. Weirdly, they’re actually a four-piece but only have two members. They probably came under the influence of the ants to arrive at that point. Elliott Schwartz is a veteran American composer whose modernistic (I assume) escapades date back to the 1960s, although he also made a remarkable record with Marion Brown called Soundways, issued in 1973 by the Bowdoin College Music Press. It’s remarkable for its combination of electronic keyboard music with free jazz sax blowing, a combination which always works for me. Schwartz has no traceable connection to the world of ants, and is just guesting.

The Ant Farm record will draw you in at first by dint of its unusual sound – lo-fi, crackly, misted-up recordings as if heard through a layer of aural fog. From these gentle rumbles and purrs, there will emerge strange tunes and eerie keyboard fugues, some of them played on gamelan instruments such as the Baliphone, or other hammered instruments like the Dulcimer. There’s more atmospheric home-brew electronics than you could fit in a shopping bag, and Schwartz plays his heart out when called upon, offering near-classical tunes of intricate delicacy, many of which have a narrative vibe very fitted to telling the stories of these darn ants. For instance, ‘The Queen’s Egg’ or ‘Winged Pile’ or ‘Swarm’. All of these uncanny musical elements – plus some occasional whispery breathy songs on side two – are blended into a seamless suite of gentle, vaguely sinister music of a supreme oddness, leading the listener through that evil maze-like warren that is the tunnel system of the ants. To top it all off, it’s packaged in some gorgeous sleeve art and inners, featuring paintings of – guess what! – ants at work. These images are uncredited on the release but are possibly provided by one of the Ant Girls. Great! From 17 May 2016.

Dream Caused By A Fly

Excellent 10-inch slice of absurdist noise and composition in the form of Oeil Céleste (DOUBTFUL SOUNDS)…it’s in clear vinyl, limited and numbered, and packaged in a clear sleeve with a thick piece of cardboard backing it up…printed on said cardboard is the name of the project “Astagrob” using old-fashioned block printing methods…there are postcard inserts, and some fabulous Dadaist poems printed on the labels, making plain their allegiance to the cut-up style and “Words in Freedom”…plus there’s an image of a fly hovering over a punched hole in the card. Said fly loses his wings on the flipside of this card. Be warned…a similar tragic fate awaits the unwary listener who will lose brain cells and tenuous hold on reality…

Astagrob is a team-up between Ogrob and Astatine. Ogrob (Sebastien Borgo) has been inflicting mental pain on this house with his diabolical, powerful aural spells for many years to the memory, while Astatine is an alias for Stéphane Recrosio, another French composer who has been unleashing his own strain of freakish ambient noise on his own Orgasm label in that country for at least five years, often in the form of eight-inch lathe-cuts. The A-side of Oeil Céleste may have the most immediate appeal to noise-addicts, and it’s a highly assured arrangement (some might call it a pile-up) of uncanny elements, fitted together with intent to maim and hurt. I’m very impressed at the confidence with which this violent agglomeration has been cemented together…would like to see more of this instead of the usual tentative “experiments” from other corners, which blight the world of music today.

The B-side is less of a slammeroo in the mush, but it’s an intoxicating mix of field recordings stirred together with lo-fi ambient junk, which includes shrieking birds which may be from Australia, and an overall ambience which can’t decide whether to be countryside or industrial factory, and settles in some mid-way no-man’s-land where the skies are purple and the atmosphere is at risk of pollution. Vivid, alien landscapes…that’s the way to arrange your field recordings if you want to make an impression these days. Apparently there are six separate compositions on this mind-blender of a record, though it all solidifies into a continuous collapsing ruin as you play it. A remarkable little gem of sound-art with surrealist undertones. From 19 April 2016.

Well, Hardly Ever

Pretty intense slab of vinyl ominous doom-noise produced by an eminent and talented duo…Kasper T. Toeplitz and Anna Zaradny get their gloom-suckling nozzles together for a feast of grim heavy-set droning on Stacja Nigdy w Życiu (AUSSENRAUM AR-LP-005), a title which is helpfully translated into French as Station Jamais De La Vie, and (less successfully) into English as Station Never In Life. Grammatical infelicities aside, the word that’s relevant here is “Never”, and to bring home the point “Never” is printed on both labels in full capitals, underlining the sheer, brooding negativity of this humming and suffocating noise that passes between the duo like waves of pure hate.

Actually it’s not that bad; the job is fairly manageable from the listener’s point of view, the sound adopting the same caste of grim forebodingness for both sides, and adhering to a simple structure of gathering intensity and evil-ness as the work progresses. Matter of the fact the vinyl seems to reach the same high point of insufferability at around the same notch, where the ghastly and unpleasant effects hit their crescendo and seal your fate. It’s rather like being read a lecture about the imminent end of the world, or at least receiving unwelcome news from the utility board about your next bill. “A perpetual reconstruction of a crushed architecture,” is how the press release would have it. Also on each side, when the pain is at its most agonising and the nettles of torture have woven into a thicket, there instantly follows moments of blessed relief where the music audibly drops its temperature and enters a more acceptable form of numbed, rhythmic droning. This may be intended as a balm; the effect for us is like inhaling a mouthful of ether.

Toeplitz continues his aural assault against mankind using his bass guitar and a computer, although the latter can probably be discounted to some degree as just about everything has a chip installed in it somewhere these days, even the doormat to the local newsagents. The main connection here is Poland, a surreal country renowned for its plumbing fixtures which release black ink instead of water, and where the clouds bring fish to all who wait under that fearful canopy of hardened sky which offers no possibility of release or escape. Toeplitz may live and work in Paris, and indeed owes his compositional credibility to some of the foremost musical institutions of France, but his origins are Polish. The same goes for Zaradny, who uses the saxophone (and computer; see previous remark) to make her music, and the record was recorded in Warsaw. I do seem to recall seeing Toeplitz perform at the famed Meltdown of Noise event in London, where he made a lasting impression with his bass, and ever since then I’ve tended to think of him as a bludgeoning man, using sound as a weapon. How handy it would be to have him next to me in a fight. He could open up his instrument case like Django opening his coffin, and bring out two heavy ball-peen hammers. With one of these babies clutched in each fist, he’d make short work of my opponents.

Stacja Nigdy w Życiu is probably much more nuanced than this fanciful account might suggest, and the subtle variations in textures, timbres, and range will make this a rewarding listen, and it manages to pull off quite a balancing act between the heavier dub-like bottom end and the more delicate surface effects, which are unusual. As to Anna Zaradny, she’s a formidable creator who runs Musica Genera (a label, a festival, a home brew) and is renowned as composer, improviser, and visual artist. And the “nihilism” I may perceive in use of the word “never” is very far from the actual intent; it’s more to do with a “cry for freedom” and an absolute position of no compromise… “you can torture me, don’t feel the pain, don’t even care” is probably meant to be heard as the resolute howl of the political prisoner or defender of belief whose defiant words are etched in blood on the handout. From 31 May 2016.

A Sense Of Depth

Spuren (HIDDENBELL RECORDS 009) is a very good solo percussion record from Christian Wolfarth, released in Zurich on his own Hiddenbell Records. This player has appeared in not a few collaborative settings, for both modernist composition and free improvisation, and given what we hear on Spuren it’s not surprising to me that he’s worked with Jason Kahn. We’ve also heard Wolfarth in these pages in slightly more conventional jazzy settings, such as on The Holistic Worlds of Wintsch Weber Wolfarth and Thieves Left That Behind.

Wolfarth’s achievement here is mainly to do with the sound he makes, the timbres and the textures, all of which are arranged and performed so as to maximise contrasts – various grains and weaves of drum sound rubbing up against each other like so many fabric swatches in a choice tailor’s workshop. He’s not after mad disjunctures of sound, and the total effect is wholesome and integrated, creating a very satisfying continual ever-changing rumble across two sides. The accretion of sounds is intended, I believe, to have a certain effect to do with creating an illusion of depth, a sense of perspective. It’s not the same thing as recording engineers strive to create when they speak of “spatialising” the mix; here, its more like a very sophisticated kind of magic-eye painting, applying principles from abstract art.

Another way to look at this cross-patching effect is to read his sleeve notes, short five-line paras of concise text (much like an abstract poem) which might describe the either process of creation or the finished work itself, and allude to the works of Stan Brakhage, the underground film-maker to whom so many musicians are in thrall. If you think of Brakhage’s work as continual overlays of contrasting textures, the connection with this drumming record seems plausible. “Flecks become shards become blocks” is one striking phrase that describes this accumulation of detail; “The surface is variegated and open to the incidental” is another. Wolfarth has two specific Brakhage films in mind, one of them the famed Mothlight where Stan glued wings of moths directly onto celluloid in his pursuit of shining light through layers of semi-opacity.

At one level, this may sound like a recipe for formal process art with no discernible listening pleasure, but Wolfarth is a consummate craftsman, restricting himself to a deliberately limited range of possible sounds and performing them with rigid concentration. Through these means, he achieves sublimation very effectively, and after five minutes in I was utterly mesmerised by the stark intensity of this work, its gentle but insistent core of meaning. From 5 May 2016.

Komm Herein

The front cover of Teilstück Für Totalen Schwung (90% WASSER WVINYL022) is stamped with the text “archive release #1”, which made me think this was a rescue job from the past history of electronic music brutalism. This crude electrosynth noise certainly has got that “1980s edge” everyone is banging on about these days. “Past history” is about 35% right, since though Teilstück is a new record, the creators Kein Zweiter have an interesting history that starts in 1989.

Apparently the duo Gort Klüth and Klaus-Helene Ramp managed to endure each other’s company for about four years, then broke up. Then they decided to reform in 1998. Oddly enough there’s no evidence of any records released in all that time, until Muskeln + Kraft = Überlegenheit appeared on this same label in 2006. This record made plain its preoccupation with muscle-building young men pumping up their sinews, and may even have certain undercurrents of homo-eroticism. After another ten-year sabbatical, we now get this little gem. I’ve always been keen on the sub-genre of “men shouting and chanting over synth noise and beats” in electronic music, and I suppose we’d have to kow-tow to D.A.F. (who clearly inspired this duo) as the past masters, or the creators of the template, even.

But Teilstück goes further down the route of teutonic ugliness, insisting on its own “muscularity” and pumped-up sweatiness with every step we venture inside the gymnasium of endurance. Disco dance music for confused robots, laced with elements of NDW hostility and flashes of modernistic 1990s dub noise in the weighty bass tones. All the entertaining “party animal” material is on side one, where the winning combination of basic drum machine beats, minimal synth attack and single-minded chanting is massively appealing, to say nothing of the coarse and grainy production…side two holds the weirder ideas, including the positively bizarre ‘Endstation Gürtel’ which is like an experimental dream-scape with its fractured construction, horrid voices, and unusual ambient tones. It also offers the epic ‘Der Wagenmann’, which at six minutes is like a Wagnerian opera rethought as disco music with pompous string sounds, jarring dynamics and arrangements, and its lapses into choral singing and wacky sound effects of a drunken sex party from the Middle Ages. Great!

Also of interest: if you buy the LP you get a DVD with a video called Eine Richtung – Eine Saat, made by Jürgen Eckloff of Column One; Anette Eckloff, another Column One member, is credited with the “concept” behind ‘Kreislauf’ on side one. From 25 May 2016.