Abhorrent Beauty & Jan-M Iversen - Momentum
(Dead Sea Liner 29)
Abhorrent Beauty’s Rune Martinsen and the latter half of the Bjerga / Iversen axis find common ground here over deep tonal sonorities before stretching their horizons to explore a more expansive soundworld.
Opening with the, perhaps slightly tentative, 'Inherently' wasn't the most auspicious start to this CD as it takes a while to get itself settled and is really only starting to flow nicely as it reaches it's end and gives way to the forceful opening of 'Momentum part 1'. Every time this has sent me grasping for the volume control. The difference between the two tracks is profound and such excessive alterations on levels do not a mellow listening experience make. But on the whole this is a very mellow listen. A nice mix of tone and drone with peppered with widely sourced field recordings and fluid distractions.
It isn't as engaging as I'd maybe have liked. With that one episode of shouting out of the way it comes across as perhaps a little too well-mannered and polite but as with everything well-mannered and polite it is poised and nicely realised.
I think if you are a fan of either of these two cats this would be something that you'd really dig but I don't think it's got the personality to bring in many newcomers.
Accomplice Affair - Jezioro Wspomnien
(My Hands Music MHM001)
Composed primarily using keyboards, guitar, voice and processing this dark ambient project by Polish musician Przemyslaw Rychlik is a decidedly more mellow and psychedelic beast than is the usual case with that genre. His atmospheres are interesting enough but the vocals he scatters throughout the album, especially the whispering, whilst initially an interesting addition to the album soon become quite tiresome. The music also occasionally looses it's way as track three gets to be a bit late 70's Pink Floyd sounding towards the end and track two begins as scarily new age. It's certainly not all negatives though as Rychlik really does know his way around both his instruments and his genre as shown on the excellent soundscape that constitutes the sixth (and title) track. It's certainly an interesting take on a genre that admittedly I don't visit very often but not, I think, an essential addition.
Acte Vide - Noeud
(More Mars Nous 3" Series vol.4)
Acte Vide are a Greek improvising duo consisting of Danae Stefanou (piano) and Yannis Kotsonis (laptop). The music is a single 20 minute improvisation that eases it's way through a variety of permutations with Stefanou especially producing a striking range of sounds from his instrument. The music is at different points sumptuously delicate, jarringly discordant, disjointedly chimerical and hauntingly quixotic but it is at all times simply and most welcomingly alive.
Adhesive Dan - The Reflection Of Sound
Whilst maybe taking the concept inherent in his chosen name a little too far in the packaging (a jewel case with a small sticky label stuck to it) of his album (a CDR with a sticky label stuck to it) and therefore achieving nothing in the eye-candy stakes this level of minimalist anti-design does suit the music contained within. Two tracks, one a 27 minute pulsating, mangled drone that is too short by at least half, the other an 8 minute excursion into a more delicate and meditative soundworld that also could have / should have been double its length. You don't need flashy packaging when the music's this good (although it couldn't hurt).
Aeoga - Coav
(Aural Hypnox AH02) CD
Aeoga - Zenith Beyond The Helix-Locus
(Aural Hypnox AH05) CD
After a fine start with much gonging and tinkling 'Coav' soon relaxes into a sedate yet uneasy atmosphere of noisy menace. This is music for the darker, dustier, cobwebbed parts of your ears. There is no light here. That faint glow you see up ahead is reflecting from the eyes of whatever's lurking around the next corner. Aeoga are all about the atmospherics (I'm trying really hard not to use the phrase 'dark ambient' here because I don't like it but it is appropriate) and to this end use their sound sources (whatever they may be) well. However, the somewhat lifeless production does rob the album of a lot of its dynamics, leaving it not as 'big' as it should have been but apart from that quibble this is nicely creepy.
The creepy continues on 'Zenith Beyond The Helix-Locust' (I've no idea what that title means) where the implied threat that underscores 'Coav' is replaced by abject terror. Not much has changed over the year that seperates these two releases. A great many of the instruments and sounds present on 'Coav' reappear here. What has changed however is the intensity of the whole thing. You can now feel the breath on the back of your neck, the bangs, crashes, screams and scratches are closer and the fear is more intimate, the walls are running with sweat and there's nowhere to go but forward. The production could still be improved but this has a far greater presence in a room than its predecessor.
Through the use of some well chosen instrumentation, gongs are always a good choice, Aeoga create a sound that would rival that made by tectonic plate shift. A great, cavernous, subterranean roar. Oh, and as with all Aural Hypnox releases the packaging has to be seen to be believed.
A Guide For Reason - I-IV
(Faith Strange FS13)
A Guide For Reason is a pseudonym for New York Composer Mike Fazio who is better known around these here parts as Orchestramaxfieldparrish. Under both guises Mike's music has an inherent ambient quality. His music is always richly textured and beautifully composed (in both senses of the word).
With A Guide For Reason he has taken this quality and re-imagined it in a vaguely surrealist context. There is an ominous nocturnal psychedelia entwined within the ambience that gives the music a deliciously alien character and there's a lot more mobility both within and between tracks here than is often the case. Fluid changes in texture, colour and shape create a constant but not insistent pull on the listener compelling you to follow it's lead.
I'm always impressed by Mike's music but never more so than here.
A Guide For Reason - VII-VIII
(Faith Strange FS14)
A Guide For Reason is one of the newer nom de guerres of Orchestrmaxfieldparrish's Mike Fazio. Under this guise Mike assumes a more psychedelicised mode interlacing beautiful almost-minimalist glitters into a latticework of sound. His sounds (mostly sourced, I suspect, from his guitar) have a decidedly alien flavour to them. but alien of the Forbidden Planet's Krell variety rather than that whole messy and decidedly uncouth chest bursting, acid bleeding type. Mike's got other vistas in mind and he takes the time to explore them fully. We are lucky enough to be allowed along for the ride.
A Guide to Reason - Iconography
(Faith Strange FS16)
Those of you who keep a regular eye on my witterings here at Wonderful Wooden Reasons will possibly have noticed that I am a bit of a fan of the work of New York's very own Mike Fazio who is the ever so lovely chap behind this here project (and also Orchestramaxfieldparrish). Under that other guise his music is a big and bold monolith of sound that towers over you here he's gone for a very different approach and incorporated delicate ambience, ticking rhythms, electronic flutters and flurries and occasional oneiric melodies.
It's by far the most melodic, immediate and warmly beautiful set of music I've heard Mike produce and without meaning even the tiniest of slights against any of his previous work I think it is by far the best thing I've heard him do. It's so easy to get lost within these twisting, flickering warping sounds as they weave through the air and so difficult to leave them behind at the albums close.
Beautifully strange and strangely beautiful.
Ilyas Ahmed - Between Two Skies-Towards the Night
(Digitalis Arts et Crafts Editions ACE003)
There's a whole swathe of gently psychedelic acoustic music swirling around the US at the moment. As is always the case much of it is produced in microscopic quantities and rarely heard outside the stereos of a few select (and lucky) individuals. The two albums included here were originally released as a (very) limited run of 50 copies each but have been lovingly re-mastered and re-issued by Digitalis Industries and may (insert non-specific deity of your choice here) bless them for it.
Ahmed melds voice, acoustic guitar and piano (there are other instruments too but lists are boring) to sumptuous effect. Musically, American folk music must be identified as the prime inspiration of many of these compositions but they are rarely confined by the inherent boundaries of the genre. I must claim some ambivalence (at best) towards the amorphous vocals as to my mind they generally feel somewhat lazy and ill conceived never achieving the state of easy grace of the music. Vocals are rarely my bag however and I will give Ahmed kudos for trying something different with his and the quality of the rest of the sounds he produces more than compensate for any misgivings I might have.
Ajilvsga - Medicine Bull
Ajilvsga is a duo consisting of Nathan Young & Brad Rose who is the man behind Digitalis Recordings. I’m fortunate enough to be the recipient of promos from Digitalis so when I saw Brad’s name on the inlay with this seedee I made an assumption that this was going to follow the Digitalis tradition of being guitar led experimental roots Americana or warped acoustic psychedelic. The robes and hoods in the photos should have tipped me off that this wasn’t going to be the case.
Medicine Ball is bleak, intense, heavy, sludge noise drone. I’ve no clue what they are using to make these sounds, there is definitely guitar but after that it’s anyone’s guess. These guys certainly know what they’re doing though. The focus never wavers and the unrelenting ferocity of in the darkness they emit is staggering.
My capacity for music of this nature is, I must admit, limited. I’m an old hippy at heart and as such like a little whimsy or light in my music, some yang to piss on yings fire, so how often I’ll return here is open debate but, with that said, it’s definitely worth a visit or two.
Tetuzi Akiyama, Kevin Corcoran & Christian Kiefer - Low Cloud Means Death
(Digitalis Recordings ACE 011)
Absolutely stunning set of improvised cuts by this new trio. (Acoustic) guitarist Akiyama, Kiefer on accordion, piano and other unspecified sound making implements & Corcoran on percussion together produce music of utterly absorbing beauty.
Low Clouds Means Death consists of a series of Feldman-esque pieces but where that erstwhile composers music feels utterly precise, each note meticulously placed with the utmost and deliberate care, here the precision feels beautifully natural. The trio’s control of their music and their musicianship leading them to create something that is timeless in every sense of the word.
Indeed, so unified do they sound that it’s easy to forget you are listening to an ensemble piece. The subtlety with which they advance each piece almost belies belief and the quality of the music is almost beyond compare.
Rodolphe Alexis – Sempervirent
Gruenrekorder have been kindly passing their wonderful array of field recordings my way for a little while now. They have for the most part been exceptional. This one continues that run with a set recorded in the national parks, wildlife refuges and private reserves of Costa Rica.
The recordings are, and I quote the sleeve here, ‘a series of ‘sequence shots’ where the quadraphonic microphone setup records all that passes by’. The soundworld captured is one of dizzying complexity and exotic mystery. Bats, parrots, monkeys, macaws, frogs and more are detailed in a variety of settings, some in as natural an environment as a reflexive observer can observe – ‘At Dawn Among The River’ – whilst others reflect the interplay of animals and humanity – the scarlet macaw eating his ‘Breakfast on Tin Roofs’.
It is a sumptuous album. A soundworld quite literally filled with life. When it’s done well I love this sort of unadorned field recording and here it’s done very well indeed.
Allerian - Listening Device
The info that came with this cd describes it as 'dark ambient'. I disagree. I think saddling music this free with such a leaden weight of a label does it a huge diservice. 'Dark', in this context, implies bleak and oppressive but I'm sitting here listening with a huge grin on my face thoroughly enjoying myself. It's not ambient either. Ambient music interacts with the sounds already present in a room preferably to the point where you cannot tell one from another which this doesn't do. This doesn't become one with the room, it takes over the room. You can wander around for hours inside this. It's enormous! Electronic sounds in constant motion characterise each track on the album and Allerian has a nifty little knack of utilising sounds that are always unusual enough to keep you engaged whilst new ones fly at you from every possible angle. My sole complaint would be with his use of an exclusively digital palette. I'd have loved to see the addition of some more organic sounds into the mix but that's a very small complaint and this is a very big album.
Amalgamated - Spark 1
(Intangible Cat CAT-15)
An interesting little EP from this American quartet, 'Spark 1' is an amalgam (sorry) of electronics, ambiences and rhythms. It's pretty low-key and in parts fairly forbidding but, for the most part, it is content to display a cheerful and sunny disposition although that smile may have a vaguely psycho-active quality. Behind the melodies there is a distinctly hallucinogenic sensibility that gives the proceedings just the right amount of edge to keep things off balance and interesting.
Amputation Desire / Ghogal - Wish / Not Wish
(Suggestion Records, Verato Project sug059)
Two track album with each band working with the others sounds. I’m not utterly sure which track belongs to which act so I’m going to assume it mirrors the order given in the title listing.
The first track is a deep, dark pit of slow burn rumble. At times it sounds like how you’d imagine a distant artillery battle would. It’s well made and I‘ve played this track a few times. The second track is a fuzz-drenched distorted wall-of-noise. It’s pretty much your standard noise track with nothing to truly recommend it.
Anaphoria - Footpaths and Trade Routes
Kraig Grady has been making his beautifully rotund music for quite a while and it shows. The struck bell (or prayer bowl) like ringing tones upon which his music is established are an erratically gentle fall of sound, unpredictable and incandescent. It's form is reminiscent of John Cage's Music for Prepared Piano but of a more elegant and stately nature.
Grady has previously recorded for ensembles but the three pieces here are two solo and one edited amalgam. All are delicately poised with shifts in tension given sparingly as the music waxes and wanes. There is a moonlit quality that is hugely immersive and compulsive. The music has a pull and a call based on it's refusal to settle into one particular shape and as such I've found yourself losing hours of time as I relentlessly flip the album over replaying each side in turn.
Apologist - We're On Vapour Cougar
Fairly noisy drone and ambient set from UK musician Philip Doak. 3 tracks of hissing, mobile and vaguely psychedelic drones that are full of colour and light. I'm really quite taken with this aspect of the music but I'm less enamoured with the guitar, rhythm, and melody elements that appear periodically throughout that give the album a depressingly dated feel and distract from the swirl of sound. It's straddling the border between kosmiche and prog and for the most part it's coming down on the side of the latter which is a shame (for me) as I much prefer the former. If you are inclined towards the opposite then this is probably worth checking out as it is very nicely assembled and does have much to recommend it.
Asher - The Depths, The Colors, The Objects & The Silence
(Mystery Sea MS39)
Asher delve into the underbelly of experimental sounds producing three heavily textured pieces of music. They straddle the divide between found-sound soundscaping and field-recordings. Very little happens over the course of the album, tones and voices come and go, yet it is massively dense. Asher's is the music of the butterfly collector. The world becomes the butterfly pinned to the board, scrutinised and examined to the accompaniment of the fluttering of it's wings. It's a hard and long listening experience with little let up in the crushing bleakness of the atmosphere's created and indeed it is hard to find reasons to recommend it to you on musical terms but, there is a compulsion to it that keeps me listening. Whether that compulsion is based on curiosity or enjoyment I've yet to decide.
The Avons - Hardscrabble
I'm pretty sure that there was a letter that came with this 7" but it's got misplaced in the chaos that masquerades as my daily life. I do remember though that it referenced the lovely folk at Intangible Cat so I'm pointing you in their direction.
According to the little info I can find The Avons hail from Marseilles, Illinois and they're quite contrary. The music - at least to a point - reflects that; the contrary that is not the Illinois bit. 2 tracks - it is only a single remember - of oddly mellow jazzy cuts. Side A pairs up Angelo Badalamenti style Twin Peaks vibes with scat vocals to wonderfully sinister effect. The reverse is a less quixotic and more melodic creature that retains the Lynchian aura of the imminent commencement of something fuck-awful but holds itself back from the full reveal - fortunately - and is all the better for it.
I'm sorry this sat in the review pile for so long - which pretty much goes for everything else in there too - because it's really bloody good and as my adoration of Mr. Badalamenti isn't something that gets fed anywhere near enough to hear music that is channelling the same spirits as him is a stone cold treat.