Signal Check

Five long tracks of electronic music on Signals (NEUMA RECORDS Neuma 157) from the team of Lawson & Merrill…these two Americans, both named David, haven’t exactly followed a conventional career path in music, and they aren’t really composers – more like sound designers who have worked in theatre and cinema, and are highly regarded technicians likely to receive a call when an engineering commission is on the table. They also might be mistaken for equipment fetishists, given the way the printed credits list their synths, modules, racks and harmonizers with lovingly expanded detail. However, the music here is well-crafted, touching on a number of contact points – ambient, New Age, meditational, and has evidently been assembled and processed with a good deal of care and much back-and-forth between the duo. I quite liked ‘Dark Angel’ and ‘Morning Meditation’ – the former is reasonably menacing and the latter is suitably melodious and relaxing – but ‘Riviere’ is one example of where they attempt to emulate serial composition, and they lack sufficient ideas or compositional discipline to produce anything more than lightweight Steve Reichisms. (10/05/2022)

I gave Oslo vocal duo Propan a rather dismissive brush-off for their previous release Trending, and today’s record Swagger (SOFA MUSIC SOFA593) comes across as equally fluffy to my bitter ears. They have a whole band behind them this time, but they’re still projecting like post-modern session singers for a TV advert. Ambient, dreampop wispiness abounds; hard to believe that something so insubstantial was intended for use by a radical Feminist dance troupe. (27/05/2022)

Daniel Studer and his double bass appear on Fetzen Fliegen (WIDE EAR RECORDS WER064)…this doesn’t appear to be a solo improvising record, or even music; it’s more an experiment or an investigation into the fundamental nature of sound. He did it inside an anechoic chamber, positioning the microphone in many different locations, as he made a variety of playing actions – rubbing, striking, caressing, and semi-classical techniques such as pizzicato or con arco. The resulting recordings were later mixed, with the aim being to position the listener right in the middle of the double bass (a large and capacious box, in case you needed reminding). This allows us to “experience the acoustic space”. The results are tedious, minimal, process-art; the fragmented and disconnected sounds that have ended up on the disc are flat, sterile, and boring. Even Studer himself doesn’t seem very engaged with the task; he either sounds listless and distracted as he strokes and rubs, or angry and frustrated as he whacks the instrument with his bow. Despite the strenuous efforts of respected writers Giancarlo Schiaffini and Ilaria Schiaffini to bolster the project with much detailed analysis, all they’re providing is description. The work is released in tandem with a video by Lisa Böffgen. Sorry to be so negative about what is clearly intended as a serious art statement, but there is zero sublimation going on here, and the value of the experiment is not as self-evident as those involved seem to think it is. (16/05/2022)