The Infoxication

Howl is a 5-track EP from London-based composer Gabriel Prokofiev mostly made using an analogue synth (the ARP Odyssey) but treated with computers and other processing stages, plus there are two guest players on clarinet and violin who may surface. The theme of Howl (OSCILLATIONS OSC001) is intended to address the thorny idea of “information overload”, which may be a rather familiar and overworked trope, but Prokofiev links it to political protest and societal unrest, singing valiantly of uprisings and coups staged by underground commando heroes in search of the truth. If I didn’t know about his great Cello Multitracks project from years ago, I might almost have mistaken Howl for an advanced form of art-techno music or an experiment building on Mego-like glitch. The music is deliciously severe in places, with very strong dynamics, noisy shocks, and harsh textures to scrape your backbone. Howl was originally done as a dance piece and has been evolving over time ever since its debut on the tromping stage, with numerous performances since 2019. I think there’s also some intended reference to the Ginsberg poem of this name, or at least a suggestion of it, but Prokofiev’s Howl contains no words or verbal content, making its meanings plain through sound alone. Some parts of it feel very urgent and alarming, a warning to the entire world; other moments, especially fourth track ‘Pulse’, are decidedly bleak and desolate, as if the forewarned disaster had already come to pass. Very good stuff – lean and powerful synth blasts, the musicians performing the material with the genius of a stealthy assassin. (27/05/2022)

Midori Hirano has certainly come our way before via one of Rinus van Alebeek’s Staaltape cassettes, and we recall becoming quite enchanted with the subtle sounds and music of this Berlin-based Japanese composer. Appearing here as Mimicof, her Distant Symphony (KARL RECORDS KR093) is pretty much her EMS Synthi 100 record, and she made it at Radio Belgrade. These pleasant tones and textures have been very carefully prepared, recorded, layered, and arranged. Although Hirano is a pianist, this record is not simply her “playing” the Synthi like a keyboard; she patiently recorded many sound samples as the first stage, and then diligently assembled them into this completed three-part suite. There are long notes which when layered together create the suggestion of chords and harmonies, as opposed the short “blippy” bubbly sounds which are more obviously synthetic. But – unlike some users of this family of instruments – she’s not interesting in creating an “alien” sound, and indeed a lot of Mimicof emerges as something warm, human, and friendly. A good part of this project shows her striving to be true to the instrument, to honour the character of the EMS Synthi. Where the first movement is dreamy, droney, and painting abstract scenes of limpid beauty, the second movement aims for a minimal-serialist statement somewhat in the mode of Philip Glass. Melodic, accessible, very good. (27/05/2022)

Sintesi (OTONO OTN-021) is a solo electronic-ambient thing from Alessandro Baris, an Italian-American living in Bologna. Mostly soft and sentimental mush played on digital keyboards by Baris, although guest singers and reciters do appear. Lee Ranaldo’s contribution is to intone a soppy poem, about loneliness and loss (due to the pandemic), so bad luck if you were expecting some noisy guitar action from this former Sonic Youth guy. Even this clunker is a highlight compared to what follows: bad songs and airport lounge music. Yuck. (27/05/2022)

Impressive work from David Bennet & Vilhelm Bromander who perform Within Reach Of Eventuality (THANATOSIS PRODUKTION THT13). The title of this one could be taken to mean “It’ll happen some day”, the world-weary sigh of many a downtrodden cynic too wise in the ways of the world, but the music is very fine – cold, glacial, minimal saxophone and acoustic bass tones from this Swedish duo. Well, despite that pairing of instruments, this isn’t improvisation or jazz, but restrained, slow, barely-moving music of intense sadness. It was composed by Bennet who produced an “open score”, presumably leaving plenty of space for collaboration and interpretation; this means that all the pauses and gaps are sort of pre-planned, their placement in the temporal unfolding quite deliberate, giving both musician and listener time to pause for reflection. Often this kind of playing can seem forced to me, but this instance works very nicely. Together, the duo propose a form of “limitless exploration” and invite the listener to join them on this voyage, and I’m all for that – as soon as I got a copy of the record, I packed my haversack with plenty of thick socks. I also like the sound they make; not remote or inhuman, but full of “breathing” and (very slow) movements. Other “keywords” to summarise this achievement might include microtonality, beats, intensity, and “non-pitched sounds”, which in my non-musicological way I take to be something that’s a departure from conventional playing. I think this label has been home to similar austere releases, which I enjoy. (27/05/2022)