We nearly overlooked this fine sound-art item from Scott Foust, who sent us Jungle Fever (SWILL RADIO 030), his first ever solo record which he published under his Foust! alias some months ago. It’s a single 77-minute piece which may have derived from field recordings in his home area of Amherst. but its origins are deliberately kept obscure. There is a vaguely mechanical element chuntering away inside what could be a miasma of open-air, clouds and bird song, and the release is wrapped with Rousseau-like images of palm trees and a still-life photography cover that manages to suggest a Dutch painting while it combines various common domestic objects to create the suggestion of indoor wild-life. Speculate freely as to what Foust intends with this highly cryptic, encoded and extended minimalist statement; it may be an attempt to confound the ideas of “indoors” and “outdoors”, or tell us something about the ongoing encroachment of modern industrialisation on the wilderness. It’s a challenging listen, but I found it very compelling – one of those static soundworks that keeps occupying the same interesting space for a very long time without really developing or going anywhere. To stay in one place is often one of the hardest things for a musician to do. “I had been thinking about and working on this piece for three years and I am very happy with the way it turned out,” reports Foust in the latest edition of his newsletter. “Alas, so far it has sold 51 copies. If you can’t sell your age, perhaps it is time to find something better to do.”
Brighton collective Hamilton Yarns sent us their new release Rising (HARK RECORDINGS HARK! 012) which arrived in a charming decorated envelope. This five-piece of gentle English absurdist boys and girls use their voices and retro Wurlitzer keyboards to give us a series of very gentle and twee songs and ditties. They strive to avoid any self-conscious mannerisms in their vocal work, retaining local English accents and personal inflections, so that to them singing is only one step away from talking, telling a story, or reciting a poem. Indeed it seems they formed the band simply from “a desire to tell tales”. Quite often they finish what they have to say in the space of a minute and a half, sometimes managing to insert avant-gardesque electronic doodles into these compressed, sketchy songs. Arrives in a faux-Magritte gouache painted cover with four ascending balloons and the hand of a wistful observer.
Roland P. Young enhances his woodwinds with much electronic and studio treatment, making great use of echoplex and digital delay to create some remarkable effects on Istet Serenade (EM RECORDS EM1087CD). The record reminds one of the 1970s experiments carried out with an echoplex by West Coast player Stan Getz, but Young is far bolder in his reach. These ‘Isophonic Comprovisations’, as much composed as they are improvised, are intended to straddle many musical genres and styles, including jazz, ambient, electronic and classical chamber music. There’s no denying the basic jazz inflection of Young’s confident and intricate phrasing, and though he may occasionally lean towards the saccharine in his melodies, the record has a brilliant glistening surface and is by no means an unpleasant listen. Curious listeners may wish to know that EM Records also put out Isophonic Boogie-Woogie by this man in 2006, but I think it’s sold out. A vinyl edition of this new one has been released however; note the Risa Young artwork printed in powerful red and black amoeba blob-shapes that comes across like a cosmic version of Scottie Wilson.
Torturing Nurse are a terrific underground harsh noise combo from Shanghai. Their music has become something of an obsession for this writer ever since Tamon Mayakita of IllFM played a track on Southwark Anthology of Noise last year, regaling us with a selection from the band’s now impossible-to-get Eerie CDR from 2007. Only active for a few years, these Chinese loons have already built up a formidable back catalogue of dangerous and destructive releases, with an impressive array of live shows and collaborations to boot. Broken (RNF-039) was sent to us by R.O.N.F. Records, a micro-label in Spain specialising in issuing small runs of intense noise infections, including our good friend Vomir from France, many of them decorated with sickening images of death, sex, and torture. This one is a live recording in two halves, about 40 minutes long, and only 50 copies exist; perhaps not an essential example of TN’s craft, but it does convey something of their head-on approach to tackling very extreme dynamics. They’re also represented on the four-CD survey of Chinese experimental music from Sub Rosa, noted here.
Very good to hear from Kacheltisch again who impressed us last year with their formless and brutish synth bursts on their first release on Betong Tonträger, packed in a corrugated card box with a small lead weight. Their new one, Kacheltisch & Niko Tzoukmanis – 30072009 (BETONG TONTRÄGER #005), is mounted on a ceramic tile. I was thinking of buying the entire edition of 70 copies, since my bathroom needs retiling, and wondered if I could somehow activate the music when I take my morning shower. This new release, on which the Frankfurt duo of Becker and Pawlicki team up with Niko T from Audision and Unitary, may not have the same primitive power which so troubled me during the months of 2009, but it does have the shapeless go-anywhere quality like a tram that’s become uncoupled and is being driven by a half-mad operator through the hapless city. I see from their website I’ve already missed at least two releases in this series, but those who don’t collect boxes and simply want to hear the music are invited to download all their work for free from various Mediafire links on their site.
For a more convincing foray into the territory of simplistic electronic music, we can heartily recommend Fred Bigot‘s work on Mono/Stereo (HOLY MOUNTAIN 83268 / TLÖN UQBAR TUQ1003). Proudly declaring himself as ‘Pan Sonic meets Rockabilly’, he actually manages to surpass the Finnish electronicists for sheer relentlessness as he pushes his sequencers uphill with numerous unvarying black pulses, and he drives himself with all the determination of a blinkered digital cart-horse. Rockabilly fans expecting twangy guitars and reverb might not want to rush out to buy a copy of this, but true devotees of that genre who own original copies of the entire Meteor label back catalogue will recognise that Fred Bigot is a true brother under the skin. He somehow manages to inflect every note he makes with the pure hamburger grease that we hear on the best examples of 1950s Rockabilly (one of the most genuinely “isolationist” genres ever to have existed on this planet), and by so doing places himself some distance from the clean lines and antisepctic approach of the contemporary German schools of minimal electronica. However, we should not overlook the pioneering work of Alan Vega and Martin Rev, both as Suicide and in their solo careers; if you want to hear a truly modern update on Rockabilly, Vega’s first 1980 solo LP is required listening.