Klara Lewis may be based in Stockholm and may have some connection to the EMS studio. At any rate her Ett LP (EDITIONS MEGO 190) is a strong debut. She also does visual art and a projector device is as much a feature of her live setup as her laptop. The album alternates between menacing, pulsing “dub” abstractions and digital droning. What I like is the subdued tone, almost stern, refusing cheap emotional satisfaction and retaining an icy poise.
Johannes Heldén is definitely from Stockholm. His System LP (IRRLICHT MAL 007) is a picture disc, on one side of which is a cluster of white dots which evokes a sense of the vastness of the cosmos, and looks quite mesmerising when spun. The B side is nice too, imprinting texts on the all-white body of the record. The idea here is something to do with nature and technology and “inevitable conflicts”, and the entirety of System’s statement is to be understood as an interlocking combination of music, text, and image. The music is fairly ordinary continuous drone resembling a digital organ, but there are some gradual variations to give it more texture. He clearly prefers a rich and complex sound, full of overtones. We previously noted his Title Sequence album for Ideal Recordings in 2011.
Outer Space is the team of American players Andrew Veres and John Elliott, the latter of whom has played in Emeralds. Of this batch of vinyls, their Phantom Center (EDITIONS MEGO 196) is the crowd-pleaser, with keyboard playing that almost arrives at a listenable melody, rhythmical elements (on the A side at any rate) that approximate dance music, and a highly user-friendly tone emanating from their instruments. While ‘Arrival and Assessment’ is upbeat, the B-side is more contemplative and aims to produce an atmosphere of mystery. I’m trying hard to like this, but it’s just “library music” to me, background soundtrack music with a contemporary flavour.
Kassel Jaeger is far less of a party animal than the preceding. His Toxic Cosmopolitanism (EDITIONS MEGO 183) is characterised by its stillness and its almost desolate, empty surface. His drones are highly ominous, as if he expects Death awaiting him around the next foggy corner on a dark night. While most of the “ambient” sounds here are somewhat over-familiar, Jaeger does have a nice manner of distressing his surfaces. This Parisian fellow, real name François Bonnet, works as a sound engineer at GRM and would probably prefer to think of himself as an electro-acoustic composer. It would be nice to hear more of his work; his website has details of a large range of events and records, some of which look intriguing, while others look quite bonkers.
Brett Naucke is another American electronica and visual artiste who is also part of Druids of Huge, Exercise, and Skin/Trade, and made a number of cassettes in 2009 as Face Worker. His Seed (SPECTRUM SPOOLS SP 034) is soured for me by the solemn tone of his ambient drones; it just feels like he’s immediately asking for respect and awe from the listener, yet hasn’t done very much to earn it. I’m happier when he turns on his pulsating machine and generates some comforting patterns. The record was made using “a singular patch for modular synthesizer” in Chicago, combined with some field recordings he made in Miami. His compositional method is described as “ritual variations”, which suggests a healthy dose of intuition was steering his movements.