Glenn Bach – Radia
(Dust Unsettled DU08)
Bach is an improviser and soundscaper from California with an impressive pedigree. I must admit though that his is a new name to me.
From my reading of the press release he seems to operate very much within the area of lowercase music in this case derived from guitar feedback and field recordings. Now, I’ve always had a problematic relationship with lowercase, not from any dislike of the, admittedly few, things I’ve heard that use the name, just in the annoyance that such deliberately quiet music causes me. I like music to have a presence in the room; I like it to show itself. It doesn’t have to be demonstrative or showy it just needs to interact with my environment at a level where I don’t have to strain to hear. For the most part ‘Radia’ was drowned out by my environment. I had to have the stereo turned up to degree that made me uncomfortably paranoid that I’d forget I had done so when I changed the disc (this did in fact happen...twice) and also with the vague feeling that by cranking it up I had done an disservice to the idea of the album. You’ll notice of course that all these issues are with me and the genre not with the music at hand.
The thing I did discover when I turned everything up is that the music on ‘Radia’ is pretty damn good. It’s noise music but of a pretty rarefied and refined nature. The tracks offer a textural ambience that provides a pleasantly gritty atmosphere that is fun to move through. I just wish it was louder.
Bad Brains - Build A Nation
Has anyone else noticed the canonisation of BB that has been going on the last couple of years. This isn't something I'm going to rail against, I love the Bad Brains and it's about time they got the props due to them. However, this album isn't quite the return to form masterpiece that was hoped for. And, to make matters worse, it's for the same reasons that have dogged them throughout the last 20-odd years. The metal-tinged hardcore workouts are as inspired as ever but Bad Brains are, at best, a mediocre reggae band and yet again the album is groaning under the weight of some really quite uninspired plodding. All the classic BB elements are here. HR's voice is as sinuous as ever it was, Dr Know has contributed some of the most fiery metal style guitar ever heard on a hardcore album and Earl and Darryl are the unrelentingly groovy bedrock. And it's a good album. In parts it's a really good album but I think it's one of those that's going to end up in pieces on a walkman rather than enjoyed as a whole.
Banks Bailey - Dawn Along Cactus Forest Trail 5-24-09
The chances of you actually getting hold of a copy of this new album from US field recordist Banks Bailey is remote. If I tell you that my copy constitutes exactly one quarter of the run then you’ll appreciate just how remote those chances are. It's not really available to buy. It's not even an official release it's something made for a few friends but it's really nice and so I thought I'd give it a shout. Banks lives and works in Arizona and many of his recordings are aural documents of the desert landscape surrounding his home. Making these recordings is something he is startlingly good at. They are full of life and character and are a wonderful escape to location whenever my own environment simply isn't doing it for me. This one, as the name implies documents the sound of the animal world waking up on a May morning. It's rife with birdsong and underscored with a vague rumble (of water?). It's a beautiful piece of art. It's music unbound from any attempts to control or modify beyond the decision of where and when to press the record and the stop buttons.
I love Banks' recordings. They are crystal clear and filled with life. He has an unerring knowing just where and when he needs to set up his equipment which shows a deep and emotional connection with his subject matter that makes these recordings all the more honest and compulsive.
Banks Bailey - Upwelling
(Mystery Sea MS63)
There are a couple of people who I, in my musician guise, collaborate with fairly regularly. Darren (Monos, Ora, Dada Lives) Tate is one and Arizona's finest field recordist Banks Bailey is another - we have a new one called 'A Slow Feather Falls' out soon on Quiet World. This though is my first opportunity to hear Banks adding his own music to his field recordings. It's rather nice.
The music is a single slowly morphing rolling drone. Sleepy and soft with it's blurred edges melding with a variety of natural textures (water predominantly) and occasional bell (or gong) strikes. It is a mesmeric excursion where Banks holds you gently in the palm of his hand as he carries you through some beautiful ethereal landscapes.
Banks Bailey - While the Mourning Cloak Sleeps
My friend and frequent collaborator Banks Bailey gets his very own release on the label of my other regular colleague Darren Tate and I need to declare here and now that I'm not a wholly unbiased reviewer as I did the artwork and mastered the recordings (both of which are brilliantly done btw - cough).
Banks is a field recordist with a real flair for finding interesting phonographies. He works in and around Arizona - mostly up in the mountains and his work deeply reflects that ecology in all it‘s forms. Here, whilst the geography, the flora and the fauna (both animals and people) are still paramount, he is expanding his oeuvre to incorporate musical elements, in particular struck tonalities such as bells, gongs and prayer bowls. He has so gently incorporated the two so as it takes a while to appreciate the distinctions in the sound sources - the deliberate from the happenstance. The end result is a soundworld of such verdant and psychedelic character that it becomes an addictive place to rest awhile and fold yourself into his milieu.
Fausto Balbo - Login
AFE are one of the labels of quality that I'm lucky enough to get regular mailings from. This newest one to reach my ears is an absolutely cracking assemblage of glitchy, electronic phantasms, pulse quickening electronica and dissonant cosmic excursions.
Made using only a free to use virtual synth Balbo has really done an exemplary job of extracting the variety of sounds, textures and colours on display. The album has a restless quality that is continuously reappraising itself and expanding and contracting in order to fold itself into the next idea.
I'm most impressed by this and have been listening to it for most of the last three days. It's one that is most definitely for fans of synthesis but equally one that will reward most pairs of adventurous ears.
Barbara - Peger
(Heart & Crossbone HCB-009)
Israeli label Heart & Crossbone have been responsible for some of the most extreme and punishing music to grace my seedee player and this album by Barbara continues that noble tradition. Mixing some fabulous grindcore riffing with a defiantly math rock angularity before adding some old school Septic Death style vocals pushes many of the right buttons for me. In places this reminds me very much of John Zorn’s Naked City project (in particular the Torture Garden album) but what that project had that Barbara lacks is a crystal clear production. Much of Peger’s power is lost in the fuzzy murk of their mix which for a less adventurous band would have been a blessing but here it serves only to steal away a good proportion of the impact and that‘s a real shame. Like I said earlier though this is cracking stuff that with a little more time spent on the mix would have been utterly earth-shattering.
Baseline - Estado Liquido
(RMO Productions RMOBS02)
Cosmic drone meets industrial rhythm on this project from Spanish musician Pilar Baizan. Her muse leads her to stack layer upon layer of electronic loops, drones, glitches and other assorted abstractions and obstructions to create a towering monolith of post-industrial kosmiche psychedelic. I like this album a lot. Think Cluster jamming in a steel mill. Beautiful, powerful, metallic drones soaring over angular arrhythmic hits that slowly disperse into grinding noise and pulsating loops. And that’s just the first track.
Track 2 opens with a cavernous rumble before morphing into a jittering, slowly evolving grind. It’s a nice tune but a little inconsequential when compared to the two tunes that bookend it.
The heartbeat at the core of track three allows the sedate mechanical drone to quietly build in momentum and insistency, eventually breaking through to the surface with a clattering of sound. This one is by far the more muscular of the three tracks and it flexes it’s way through much of it’s twenty two minute runtime before the heartbeat once more emerges and the track slowly fades away.
A very recommended release that, if you’re at all a fan of the music featured in this zine should be hunted down immediately.
Pascal Battus & Alfredo Costa Monteiro - Ductile
(A Question of Re-entry #8)
(Organised music from Thessaloniki #3)
Your guess is as good as mine (probably better) as to the pedigree of these two cats. What I do know for sure though is that together they produce an abrasive cacophony that would rival that produced by any other noise merchant and they do so using only paper and microphones with the total absence of any processing effects. I know this because it says so on the sleeve but once you know this you can kinda tell. On first listen you find yourself playing a game of 'How did they make that sound?' but soon your subconscious mind becomes drawn into the game and you are absorbed into the maelstrom.
If I'm being perfectly honest, and I always strive to be so, then I must admit that Ductile isn't an album that'll feature regularly on my player but over the last month it has made more than a couple of appearances. The sounds they generate are a little cold and abrasive but I suppose that is the characteristics of the sound source. At first I was listening with curious ears as to how they were gong to pull this idea off. Subsequent listens were made with ears that simply enjoyed the verve with which this pair have realised their idea.
BBC Radiophonic Workshop - Doctor Who - At the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, Vol. 1: The Early Years 1963 - 1969
It doesn't take a genius to work out which tune opens this collection of sound effects and incidental musics created by the BBC Radiophonic Workshop for the Doctor Who series. Indeed Delia Derbyshire & Ron Grainger's theme music (which has to be the most recognisable piece of music in the UK) appears some 4 times in all. The other 72 (yes you did read that right) tracks are devoted to some of the most fantastic pieces of, pre-computer (or post for that matter), electronic musics that you'll ever hear. The pieces reproduced on this album are taken from the time of the first 2 Doctors including sounds from the pilot episode. Keeping in mind that this music was created over 40 years ago the freshness is astounding. Nothing here has dated in the slightest still sounding remarkably contemporary. This is a testament to the skills and creativity of those involved and leaves one to wonder why quite so much homage is paid to the likes of Stockhausen, Varese, Henry, etc, when the work on offer here by Derbyshire, Grainger, Brian Hodgson, Dick Mills, Dudley Simpson, John Baker (and the wonderful Daphne Oram who isn't on here) is as unrepentantly eccentric, unique and cutting edge as anything created by those erstwhile composers.
BBC Radiophonic Workshop - Doctor Who At the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, Vol. 2: New Beginnings 1970 - 1980
(Grey Area of Mute)
If you listen very carefully you can hear the sound of me arriving in geek heaven. These are the sounds that shaped my ears and sculpted my musical tastes. I was a little kid in the 1970's and Doctor Who ruled my world. I loved everything about it and hearing these incidental pieces and sound effects is like trying on a favourite (purple velvet) jacket that you haven't worn in decades and finding that it still remembers every contour of your body. Whilst maybe not as sonically ground-breaking as the work featured in Volume One of this series this is still a treasure trove of electronic goodies. Some of the sounds used have dated slightly and I'm sure I heard some ZX Spectrum sound effects in there somewhere. But be aware I'm quibbling in the interests of being the impartial, professional reviewer when what I actually want to do is giggle like an over-excited 7 year old and sing 'Woo-oo-oooo Ooo-oooo' (join in you know the tune) at the top of my voice. Brilliant stuff.
BBC Radiophonic Workshop - Doctor Who Sound Effects
A reissue of a BBC album from 1978 filled with the sublimely alien sounds of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. There’re no composers listed so you’ll have to go look it up yourselves if you’re curious. Personally the individual identities never really mattered that much, I just like the sounds. When I say ‘like’ please realise that these are the pivotal sounds in my life. I’m still as much of a geek for Who as I was as a kid (I was 8 when this album was first released) and the music is integral to the love.
Don’t let the title fool you into thinking this is a disjointed melange of noises. Some of the pieces, particularly the latter half of side two, are characterised by short little bursts of sound (tracks 14 to 22 are all the sounds of alien guns) but these run together nicely to create a satisfying whole. The first side is longer pieces of ambient (particularly of control rooms) sounds, computer thrums and swooping electronics, that are simply wonderful.
I’d like to say that this album took me back to my youth but truth be told I play Radiophonic albums pretty regularly (the Doctor Who series on Mute Records are particular favourites). This is a very happy addition to that collection though and one I heartily recommend to all fans of the show and the Workshop.
BBC Radiophonic Workshop - Out Of the World
As an LP this re-released collection of sound effects conjured up by the wizards at the BBC Radiophonic Workshop is less satisfying than the wonderful Doctor Who album I reviewed recently. The tracks here range in time from the briefest at 3 seconds to a mammoth prog inspired 1 minute 22 seconds. In themselves they are the most wonderful cavalcade of joyously fantastical sounds but as an album it is more than a little bitty. But truthfully how could you ever go wrong with an album containing track titles like, 'Andromedan War Machine', Magic Beanstalk Grows', 'Two Terror Twangs' & 'Three Terror Bangs' made by people called Brian, Delia & Glynis (amongst others).
BBC Radiophonic Workshop (and others) - Doctor Who: The 50th Anniversary Collection
(Silva Screen Records SILCD1450)
OK, an admittance right off the bat. These folks are my musical heroes so I'm probably not going to be particularly critical here. I think the people who made up the Workshop are amongst the most important figures in electronic and experimental music particularly in the UK if not worldwide and it must be said that a lot of that is down to the work they did on one particular TV show.
To celebrate the 50th anniversary Workshop archivist Mark Ayres has been sifting and cleaning two and three quarter discs full of Radiophonic Workshop Doctor Who cuts for each of the 7 Doctors that they were affiliated with. There's special sounds and incidental music galore from each of the main Workshoppers associated with the show and it's absolutely glorious although during a concerted listen even I can find myself getting a little sick of the various versions of the theme.
the Last disc and a bit is taken up by six cuts from John Debney's orthodox but not wholly awful soundtrack to the 8th Doctor's movie and then an entire disc of Murray Gold's entirely not my cup of tea soundtracks for Doctors 9, 10 & 11.
It's the first lot that are of interest here though and they absolutely do not disappoint. If the names Delia Derbyshire, Brian Hodgson, Tristram Cary, Paddy Kingsland, Dick Mills, Roger Limb (and so many more) mean anything to you then you are going to have a blast with this album. If they don't then perhaps you need to rectify that frankly shameful state of affairs and this'd be a hell of a good place to start.
BCS Entertainment - Trial and Error
I have no idea what the hell is going on here. This is easily the oddest thing I've heard in quite some considerable time. Described to me as a bit of 'a wrong un' and I have to agree. I have to agree especially as I consider that phrase a great recommendation. The music is all over the shop, though even turning and changing on a whim as it does it never feels like it's doing so randomly. You can feel a guiding hand here just it's not always readily apparent where the hand is guiding it to. It's a huge joyous mix of post-punk-electro-pop-indie-krautrock inspired lunacy and it's available from the label in return for a SAE which is a price within anyone's budget. Do me a favour though and if you do order a copy (and you really should, it's completely bonkers) then send them a couple of quid as well because any label with the balls to stump up the cash to release this deserves your support.
Bearcub - ep
Lively 4 track instrumental ep occupying the margins between post-rock and indie. The songs feel newly minted and are played as such so they're a little stiff in places but there's a jaunty playfulness and a pop heart that is pretty much guaranteed to, at the very least, get you nodding along (especially when the criminally underused violin kicks in).
It does seem that some of the songs have been written with vocals in mind ('Your Zoo' & ' Agamemnon') leaving things sounding slightly bare in places but a little time and the addition of a decent vocalist should see Bearcub evolve into something to look out for.
Gianluca Becuzzi - Eternally Now
(Lisca Records lisca010)
After the short bite-sized chunks of the other Lisca release in this months issue (Document by Uncodified) the long drawn out and subdued, post-industrial noise-scapes of Becuzzi are a real change of pace. That's not to say he's all about the quiet though, there are several moments on here where things get downright raucous.
What really stands out on 'Eternally Now' though is his use of actual instruments - gongs - and voices and then leaving them in full view. This refreshing restraint from drenching everything in overdrive and distortion is definitely to be applauded. He lets the sounds speak with their own voice and collages them into a subtly powerful narrative.
Beequeen - Time Waits For No One
(Herbal International CD0801)
This is an older Beequeen album but I've only just been sent a copy and it's as good as you'd expect it to be so I'm going to give it a shout out.
Beequeen is the long term musical partnership between Frans de Waard (of Vital Weekly) and Freek Kinkelaar who together produce a gloriously industrial psychedelic swirl of sound. The pair have a decidedly mechanistic edge to their music. Their sounds are the circadian rhythms of a dreaming city. It's deliciously vague and obtuse at times, juggling measured synthetic cadences before slipping unexpectedly into imperturbable ambience from which hallucinatory eddies of drone and noise erupt. The album is full of unexpected twists and turns and the sheer verve of the composition takes you by the hand and leads you to it's conclusion without ever stumbling or taking a wrong turn.
It's a stunning piece of work that I'm utterly in awe of. Why the hell this pair aren't the acknowledged forefront of the post-industrial scene is beyond me. Buy this you'll love it.
Albert Beger Electroacoustic Band - Peacemaker
A beautiful and absorbing set from this Israeli quintet that has been bringing huge smiles to my face for a couple of months now. Saxophonist (tenor and soprano) Beger is here joined by Dan Benedikt (drums & percussion), Avi Elbaz (laptop & electronics), Assaf Hakimi (bass) and Ido Bukelmanm (electric & acoustic guitars) to create a set of tunes that form one of the finest free jazz albums it's been my pleasure to hear in a long time - possibly since the last Valerio Cosi album (and that was a few years ago now).
There is a prevailing lyricism of sound here that is often missing in free music which gives the music that extra lift. The quintet are certainly not afraid to venture into the abstract and the obtuse but for the most part the music is embedded in a strong sense of the melodic and is all the stronger for it. I'm all for the occasional frenetic blowout but these days I generally prefer my music to have that softer more considered feel to it and that attitude permeates all through this album.
Simply put, it's phenomenal.
Albert Beger & Gerry Hemingway – There’s Nothing Better to Do
(OutNow Recordings ONR007)
The last (and first) time I heard saxophonist Beger’s music I was stunned, utterly gobsmacked, by the way he and his compatriots melded exploration and melody. It’s still an album I play regularly.
This time out, in a duet with drummer Hemingway, the music is more distinctly biased towards exploration. There are moments where hints of the predecessor can be heard from Beger but for the most part the pair are involved in building an teetering, transmogrifying cavalcade of rolling sound with occasional pauses to take stock of what has gone before and to allow a new direction to be chosen.
It probably isn’t going to take up residence in my player like the other but when the mood is right I suspect the title will prove prescient.
Marc Behrens - Apparatus
This collection from German musician Behrens introduces the listener to a soundworld that offers up a forceful melding of the natural and the artificial.
For me it's at it's best when the field recordings are kept to a minimum and Behrens allows his compositional skills full rein manipulating the more 'brutish' components - bells, compressor, trumpet - alongside the field recordings.
These field recordings are well made but for me the act of sitting in my study listening to recordings of what is evidently a verdant and vibrant ecosystem is a vaguely dispiriting experience. Far better to experience these things first-hand. For me field recordings are far more satisfying when used alongside other soundsources as a tool in the composers armoury rather than as the main focus of a piece.
It's an interesting listen and technically very astutely constructed but maybe a little emotionally aloof for me to be able to fully immerse myself into it.
Max Bellancourt - The Stone Tape
(Dead Sea Liner 24)
Each track title (barring the last) of this new cd from French musician Bellancourt is followed by a sound source i.e. earth on mic or coffee perculator (sic) but as to whether each track is entirely sourced from these I do not know. I'd like to think so but I cannot say for sure.
I became deeply enamoured of this form of single sound source recording several years ago mainly through Japanese musician Aube who turned it into his signature tactic. Bellancourt takes a slightly different approach to his Japanese counterpart and mines an entirely more minimalist vein. His sounds are often easily identifiable and are engaging in a full interaction with the other components. There are some switches in ambience that are quite jarring such as the sudden appearance of long electronic tones halfway through track 3 but on the whole this is a beautifully mature recording, assembled with a deft touch and a fine ear.
Keith Berry - The Cartesian Plane
(Elevator Bath eeaoa033)
Picture Disc LP
London based musician Keith Berry is never going to be accused of flooding the market place with releases. This is his first in 4 years. I've only been exposed to his music on two occasions previously, his 'A Strange Feather' album on Twenty Hertz and his contribution to the 'A Cleansing Bath' compilation also on Elevator Bath. Both were excellent and this one is no different.
Berry here has created a massive set of immersive kosmiche drones destined directly for Barnard's Star. His control of the tone, the pace and the motion is exemplary and one spends the entire journey cradled in his sounds. He has created a wondrously timeless composition that holds you in perfect stasis whilst all around is a blur of psychotropic movement.
Maurizio Bianchi / M.B. & Maor Appelbaum - Neurotransmitters
(R.O.N.F. Records RNF-044)
Another in the recent flux of releases from veteran post-industrialist Bianchi this time in collaboration with Appelbaum of Israeli uber-metallers Grave in the Sky (amongst numerous other projects). I have no info on how this collaboration either came about or was conducted so your guess will be as good as mine - I'm guessing it was an ancient Incan blood-debt realised through karmic osmosis - but however it was the final piece is a relentless haze of grey-sky isolationism.
If colour and subtle harmonics are your bag then look elsewhere. If delicate fluctuations of tone and mood is your thing then the exit's over there. If rolling ambience and dislocated melodies makes you wet then you'd best put your knickers back on. However, If dense, impenetrable fog of abrasive, static-laced drone that spends 40 odd minutes throwing itself at your face is what you are looking for then you'll be in heaven. A very bleak sort of heaven but heaven nonetheless!
Maurizio Bianchi / M.B. - Industrial Murder / Menstrual Bleeding
(R.O.N.F. Records CDO-002)
For those of you who don't know Bianchi has a pedigree within post-industrial music that goes back all the was to the days of Come Org and what we have here is a re-issue of a 1992 release featuring sounds originally recorded in 1981.
What you get are 2 fantastic tracks of throbbing, pulsating, stuttering, grinding slabs of coruscating post industrial noise. It's a huge, and I really do mean HUGE, sound that looms over you and moulds and folds and contorts itself into an increasingly grotesque beauty.
These recordings are 31 years old and render most of the music of this form made over the intervening years utterly irrelevant.
Jeremy Bible & Jason Henry - Vowl
(Mystery Sea MS67)
The latest offering from Belgium's finest label Mystery Sea brings us this pairing of Ohioans. Bible and Henry, according to the press release, have amassed an eye-opening resume spread across some mighty fine labels but I must admit both these fellas are new to me so first impressions count.
The opening of this two track album is very much in the MS vein. Processed field recordings drenched in reverb creating ghostly atmospheres thick with palpable trepidation. It's very well done and is easy to lose oneself within but it's nothing that we haven't heard before.
The second track sees them open themselves to wider horizons and the drawn out, wavering tones and gentle flutters of melodic flash see them engage in a staring contest into the sun before harsher, earthier, mustier drones force their way through the light and take the music in an altogether more arid and dark direction before everything slowly comes to rest amidst crystalline ambience.
It's this second track that really makes this release for me. Track 1 has much to recommend it and I liked it much but track 2 was a far more adventurous composition whose exploratory nature was utterly compelling.
Andreas Bick - Fire and Frost Pattern
(Gruenrekorder Gruen 074)
Two long tracks of re-contextualised field recordings of heat and of cold.
Bick has amassed a collection of sounds that represent the many variations on each of these themes and created two long selections of harsh yet immersive soundscapes.
In terms of vision and execution Bick's work puts me most in mind of the later period works of Japanese sound 'designer' (his term) Akifumi Nakajima (Aube) who's single sound-source compositions tread similar ground to Bick. The discordant sound sources melding to provide an anomalously restful and multi-hued whole.
Bick's choice of sources is an inspired choice. Adapting them from a range of sources from both the sciences and the arts he has created an alchemical fusion of the two into something new and rather special.
Big Block 454 - Their Coats Flapped Like God's Chops
Long time Manchester experi-mentalists Big Block 454 travel the gamut of outsider-music traditions over the course of this 17 track album. Their cited influences of Krautrock, The Residents and the Bonzo Dog Band are always apparent but never all-consuming allowing BB454 the freedom to pursue their own identity. The funkier side of Can is, to the these ears at least, the most obvious of those influences as BB454 delve into a much unexplored area of experimental music - that which you could conceivably hit the dance floor and bop along to. Music for the head and the feet. It has to be said that there are a couple of moments on this cd about which I have nothing nice to say, these being mostly decents into whimsy and zany. Fortunately, these are few and the rest veers between the sublime and the magnificent.
Big Block 454 - Bratislava
I liked the last BB454 album i heard but the daftness got on my nerves more than a little and spoilt the album for me. This time out however the daftness is fully integrated into the album. it's woven throughout in both the music and the lyrics and boy does it work. Sure there are moments throughout that I'm not connecting with (Melamine for instance) but on the whole, and it's the whole that counts, this is corking stuff that takes elements of Devo, The Residents and a whole host of other outsider pranksters and adds a healthy dose of English eccentricity to create something new and wonderful. This isn't going to be for everyone but it's definitely for me.
Bigcittyorkestra - Ymiq
(AghartA Tapes 3)
Magnificent set of disharmonies from an outfit that I have no prior knowledge of. It's full of invention with sounds flying at you from all directions. It never feels forced or contrived and contains more noises and ideas per minute than most artists fit into an entire album. It's primarily loop based sounds melded with field recordings, drones, noise and found voices. Nothing new there you're thinking and you'd be right but it's how it's all been assembled, the craftsmanship, which is the joy here. It's like reading a Burroughs novel it's got all the elements of a regular novel but they aren't necessarily in the right place or order. I like this album a lot and as such I'm struggling to detach myself from it and write an objective review so I'm going to stop and just tell you that it's fab.
Birds of Tin - Altarwise
(Diophantine Discs n=24)
Two track CD from long-time dronescaper Brooke Oates' Birds of Tin project of remastered recordings from 2004.
Both tracks are substantial in length with the opener clocking in at around 30 minutes of fairly raucous loop and noise shenanigans. It's an intense ride full of twists and turns that keep you listening through sheer force of execution. Its fairly open beginning filled with hushed tonalities and half sung half chanted vocalisations is gradually replaced by a phantasmagoria of cascading loops and contrasting textures of phosphorous noise that slowly increase in intensity through to the track's climax.
The second track is a much more sombre and stately affair. It's deep, dark sonorities gently undulating their way to a conclusion some 46 minutes after setting forth. This one is the least successful of the two tracks on offer. The mix seems flat to me, lacking in the dynamic crispness that makes the opener such compulsive listening. I found the muddiness to be a distraction the prevented me from fully immersing into the experience. Outside of the production issues it's a well executed and nicely evolving drone with some moments of real beauty, the passage between 22 mins and 32 mins was particularly nice but as I said I never truly managed to sink into it. Track one though is worth the price of admission on it's own.
Birch Book - Fortune & Folly
(Helmet Room )
Jon Michael B'eirth (from here on called B'ee) is better known as the person behind psychedelic troubadours In Gowan Ring. Birch Book is where he presents his more directly song based compositions. Here he wears his influences boldly on his sleeve. The press release notes both Leonard Cohen and Nick Drake and indeed there are elements of both but I can also hear shades of Donovan and Dylan. However if this is making you think that Birch Book is merely the derivative of it's constituent parts then please push that thought away as B'ee is taking his obvious love for the above and celebrating it through a set of songs that are entirely his own and show a songwriter actively engaged in honing his craft.
Bisturi / Vril / Mixturizer - BVM Split
(R.O.N.F. Records RNF-032)
If the darker and more atmospheric end of noise music is your bag then you'll already be well aware of R.O.N.F. Records. Last month I featured their excellent 'Altered Neurologycal Function Vol.1' comp and this month sees a cool split seedee from three bands who are all new to WWR.
First up are Bisturi who open the album in a surprisingly psychedelic way with various half-melodies and broken rhythms scattered and roaming around the mix. A droning noise slowly builds in the mix along with some amorphous voice samples before the whole thing comes to a close with a birth.
Second and third are Vril with a pair of erratic and acidic constructions of razor-edged noise. It's great restless fun that'll nicely soundtrack your next armageddon.
Finally we have Mixturizer who, despite sounding like they're going to be a hip hop act, wrap things up with a cretaceous fuzzy roar.
Bjerga & Iversen / Skullpture - split
(Musically Incorrect Records MIR#25)
Bjerga & Iversen open this split CD-R with a track constructed from ‘amplified objects, effects and electronics‘. It’s piercing sine waves, vague rustlings, beeps, burps, clatters and shimmers all sit atop a warm and comforting vinyl crackle. For those of you without an LP player raised exclusively on CD or, heaven forbid, MP3’s then you just won’t understand the beauty of this sound. As for the track as a whole, it’s delicate and fragile yet solidly constructed and beautiful to listen to.
Skullpture, as the, dreadful, name implies, are a much darker sounding outfit. Consisting of the enigmatically named Novaro, PT & Wikgren, Skullpture’s untitled improvisation by-passes the niceties of the B&I track and instead confronts the listener with a soundworld that is unapologetically abstract, angular and antagonistic. Some guitar peddle abuse (especially the echo) aside this is great fun. Whilst Bjerga & Iversen invite you into a warm room and give you the comfy chair next to the fire, Skullpture tie you to the chair and flick peanuts at your head. Recommended.
Sindre Bjerga - I Never Promised You A Rose Garden
(Dirty Demos DirtyCDR 017)
Sindre Bjerga is one half of the prolific Norwegian duo Bjerga & Iverson who I last reviewed way back in WWR 3 (their split release with Skullpture on Musically Incorrect Records). This is a far different kettle of fish to that release, it's a damn sight louder that's for sure. A massive, muddy roar is propelled along by a metronomic drumbeat as shards of electric noise crash and break like surf on a shoreline. Very minimal in construction and rather brutally mixed means this isn't going to be an everyday sort of listen but if you're in the mood for something a little nasty and edgy then this would be a good place to start.
Sindre Bjerga & Cam Deas - Split Series #2
(Dirty Demos DirtyCDR 026)
Sindre Bjerga is a long time favourite here in Wonderful Wooden heights and his contribution to this release is yet another reason to love what he does. Slow build hum and noise crescendos that grind and snarl their way into your head and heart. Especially impressive as it's live.
UK sound mangler Cam Deas is a new name to me who here works a 24 minute track of bent and warped guitar. His 24 minute contribution is a rolling display of his oeuvre where he's at his best when he allows the music room to breathe and not get too bogged down in overtly abrasive effects and volume. It's a fine piece however that flows nicely through it's many distinct fluctuations.
Black Motor - Vaarat Vastukset
I’m going to let you all in on a secret about this music reviewing lark. You ready for it? As a reviewer you get to listen to a frankly ridiculous amount of music but it’s rarely the music you want to listen to. I can’t really remember the last time I pulled an album off the shelf because I hadn’t listened to it in a while. As I write this there are two piles of about 40 cds next to me waiting to be played and written about. Not that I’m complaining you understand. Of that 40 odd most will be worthy of several listens as the bands, artists and labels who send to me are a pretty consistent bunch. The point I’m trying to make is that my listening habits are dictated by what I’m sent rather than what I like to a great extent. Now here’s where this becomes apposite to the album in hand. Up to about 4 years ago I listened to a lot of jazz. I fell deeply and profoundly in love with the music for one pure and simple reason. I do not understand it at all! Mystifies me completely. Every twist and turn of a good jazz album, whether by Coltrane, Dolphy, Evan Parker, Cecil Taylor, whomever, takes me by surprise and I love surprises.
I don’t get sent much jazz to review at WWR - I think 2 albums in 4 years - but playing on my stereo at the moment is the long awaited third and I am loving it.
Finnish trio Black Motor mix an atonal skronk with wonderfully chilled lyrical passages to great effect. Even on first listen there was a comfortable familiarity to the music - which I certainly do not mean in a negative sense - as it felt warm and open. Inviting and yet exotic. Like visiting a new country in the company of your best friend. You don’t know what you’ll find there but you know the company will be good.
Opener Yksi Sinulta Puuttuu is for me the weakest track on the album. It’s easily the most atonal and avant-garde piece here and gets the album off to a deceptive start. I think positioned later in the running order would have benefited this track as it really is the odd one out here. It’s blatant disregard of the niceties of established notions of musicality is laudable but at odds with the melodic nature of the other tracks. As fond as I am of a good ruckus it is the remaining 5 tracks that really make Vaarat Vastukset something to behold. The melodies pour from the arrangements and lift the album from any assumptions made during the opening 10 minutes or so. The balance between melody and madness is perfect and has left me gob-smacked meaning that this album has taken up residence on my player. Hugely recommended.
Blackpepper - Disabled Algebra
(Dirty Demos DirtyCDR 008)
Another quality mini-CDR from Dirty Demos this time providing a sampling of Blackpepper's twitchy and vaguely uncomfortable (in a good way) breakbeat. This is dance music for people who aren't particularly too keen on dancing as rhythms and melodies float in and out on a whim refusing to settle into a groove. At different times Disabled Algebra reminded me of (amongst others) Boards of Canada, Matmos and particularly Pendulum but equally Blackpepper is very much its own beast and seems set on carving out a niche all of it's own.
And (much to my partners delight) it comes with a free spirograph.
Black Sparrow - Legs Heavy With Pollen
(Dead Sea Liner 12)
I've virtually no info to give you on Black Sparrow other than that it's the work of someone called Robin (I think). Black Sparrow is the sound of recordings peaking. Lo-fi drones recorded with everything in the red. There is nothing quiet or subtle about this album, it gets right up in your face and glares at you, It wants you to know that it doesn't like you, it thinks your car is ugly and your mother is the town bike. It's loaded with broken sounds and it doesn't want them fixed because it did it itself and it fucking likes it that way! Has it been done before? Yeah. Has it been done better? Yeah. Is it any good? Hell yeah!
Blindhæð - Whether that will make people want to become archaeologists, we'll have to see
Single sided LP from this Belgian ensemble of broken ambience and massively digitised micro-clusters of sound.
The name (which uses Icelandic characters and which they don't mind you writing as Blindhaed) is equivalent to 'blind spot' which is an interesting analogy to the sounds they make. While the music isn't wholly unpredictable, the place where it starts is, to all intents and purposes the place where it ends, it does take a series of intriguing twists and turns along the way. I've not been exposed to a huge amount of this sort of micro-sound work so I'm guessing a little here but my impression of the genre was one of utter, finicky, anally-retentive control. Of never letting the sound escape the strictest of confines of the paradigm. Here that doesn't seem to be the case. Blindhæð allow their sounds a significant leeway in terms of how they evolve often abandoning the template all together to expand into noisier (if not quite noise) territories, My favourite part seems to involve someone stirring a cup of tea.
I like this record very much indeed. Generally my tastes are towards music with a more organic feel but this one caught me and took me to places I don't normally get to hear and that was fun. It's a shame it's a single sided release as I'd have liked to hear more but it isn't and that's fine also.
Blindhæð - Laguna Sunrise
(Mystery Sea MS61)
Blindhæð (pronounced 'Blindhead' - approximately) first came to my attention last year via their release on the Ini Itu label. Theirs is a world of dark machine constructs emitting a darkly apocalyptic Lynchian rumble. In contrast to what the title may suggest there's very little light allowed to be glimpsed through the miasmic gloop but there is a certain stygian warmth that surrounds everything during it's run-time. That's not to say there's no subtlety on display here though. Blindhæð manipulates and integrates his sound-sources with ease to create a fully realised world. Albeit a world the sun doesn't get to shine on very often.
Daniel Blinkhorn - Terra Subfonica
A new entry into the Gruenrekorder Soundspace series and another very interesting and evocative experience of re-contextualised sounds.
I am glad that I listened to this a few times before I opened the booklet. I'm a fairly simple soul at heart and I'm not a huge fan of over-intellectualising music or of tagging cumbersome philosophies or explanations onto things. I just like the sounds. I'm not saying that any of those things are in any bad or wrong, I'm just saying I dislike them. Having now read the booklet that accompanies this album I suspect the composer would disagree with me as each track has been explained and analysed to within an inch of their lives with some quite cringeworthy text which to my mind destroys any mystique or even the art within the composition reducing it to a chemistry experiment or a cooking recipe.
If you'll forgive me the conceit of continuing with that latter analogy though, musically, this is a very fine dish filled with varied flavours and textures that are revealed with each bite. Prepared with ingredients that for the most part feel fresh and well sourced and the overall feeling of satisfaction upon completion is delightful. Just, whatever you do, don't ask the chef for the recipe.
B. Lone Engines - B. Lone Engines
(Dark Meadows DMR018)
No here's an album that covers some distance. Reading (UK) duo B. Lone Engines have produced an album of extremes; extremes of mood, of sound, of texture, of instrumentation, of intent.
Nestled deep within it's darkly psychedelic heart there is a fabulously rustic feel to their music. The duo of Spider and Ant are happy to throw thumb piano into the mix together with electric guitar and pair hand claps with soaring digital noise. It shouldn't work but it does, it works beautifully in fact. The music is in equal parts darkly contemplative, coolly exuberant, gently bucolic and brutally psychoactive - often all at the same time.
It's chaos is a massive part of it's charm but equally the verve and aplomb with which it's been assembled shine through and make this a massively compulsive and addictive listen that you'll return to repeatedly.
Bobbys Beard - Bobbys Beard
With the exception of the fact that they’re from Somerset (or at least that’s where they recorded the album) the truly appallingly named Bobbys Beard (the punctuation error is theirs) are an enigma to me. It’s on Ingue Records though which means it’s well worth a listen so here goes.
The music is a chilled and whimsical slice of psychedelia. I can spot a variety of influences hiding amongst BB’s songs. The whole thing has a pronounced Beach Boys-esque feel to it, the vocal style has been liberated from the Stone Roses or the Inspiral Carpets and there’s a real Angelo Badalamenti vibe to some of the tracks.
The production is pretty lo-fi which works to their advantage and the songs are pretty good. It’s pop music though and good pop always lives or dies on the quality of it’s hooks and they’re, for the most part, missing here. I love that they’re more than willing to throw a shot of anarchy into the proceedings and it’s a good listen but it desperately needs those hooks that will raise it up to the next level.
The Bordellos - Meet...
I've previously described The Bordellos as being 'quirky British pop a la Syd Barrett or The Fall'. Well, I'm pretty much sticking by that description as this new album takes their weird and wacky take on pop music to new, illogical, extremes. Some tracks are definite standouts - Scream & Arthouse Gang being my personal favourites - but all are, at the very least, listenable. The Bordellos mix a refreshingly tongue-in-cheek sense of humour with an easy songwriting style evocative of beer and weed filled summer afternoons spent watching your mate's band jam. So much so, I'm going to revise my description slightly to read 'quirky British pop a la Syd Barrett or The Fall or The Bordellos'.
The Bordellos - Debt Sounds
(Welshcake Records WC1)
Long time friends of WWR, The Bordellos, return with the first release on their very own Welshcake Records label. 17 tracks recorded over 10 consecutive Fridays with minimal rehearsal and zero overdubs. It's monumentally stoned sounding and as lo-fi as it's possible to get. They wear their psychedelic hearts proudly on their (probably paisley) shirt-sleeves and they sing heartfelt songs about love, Rolf Harris, love and lot's of other things, including love.
TB are very much a band out of time. Their sound is that of the indie-est of music from the late 70's and 80's. Their beautifully shambolic musicianship is brutally at odds with both modern tastes and modern recording technology. They will never grace the cover of either NME or Sound on Sound and you've gotta love them for it. I couldn't listen to this all the time - I think I'd go insane - but I feel the same about most music.
Debt Sounds is The Fall, is Daniel Johnson, is Jad Fair, is Half Man Half Biscuit, is The Bordellos.
Andrea Borghi - Moltiplicazioni
(Lisca Records LISCA006)
Borghi is the bass player in VipCancro and he brings that instrument to bear (along with a computer and effects pedals) on this solo set. It is, as you'd expect, a pretty downbeat and bottom heavy array of compositions and is, I'm afraid, a tad one-dimensional. This isn't for lack of ideas however as Borghi keeps things mobile and regularly throws new elements into the mix but the solemnity and fairly cumbersome nature of his chosen instrument mires much of the album in a grumbly murk that is hard to extricate ones imagination from.
It's a good and worthy attempt at something different but not necessarily an entirely successful attempt.
Andrea Borghi - Vetrale
(Obs*instrument (n65) 043)
Borghi is an Italian musician working here with modified turntable, elaborated glass discs, computer and effects.
The music is a darkly insectile selection of droneworks that have a clammy sort of dampness to them. If you could hold them they'd feel sticky in a way that'd have you compulsively washing your hands once you'd managed to put them down again.
It's been a long while since I've experienced music quite this tactile and glutinous. It's fun, I like that it's waking up my other senses via my ears. I approve.
Andrea Borghi - Music per Nastro (Tape Music)
(Spectropol Records spect16)
This time round Borghi brings us 10 tracks of electric ambience realised using bass, mics, computer, effects, samples & field recordings. According to the inlay it's intended to be a tribute to 1960s tape music but in what way I'm not certain.
What we get is a pretty involved and restrained set of predominantly synthetic sounds - buzzes, creaks, jitters, clangs - that together create an eerie and generally lonesome atmosphere of forlorn abandonment.
It's quite restrained throughout and never does anything overly obtuse or eccentric. Instead it maintains it's pace and it's aura throughout to create something quite immersive and nicely unsettling.
Box - Digested Material
Box - evilBOXlive
A box of many corners producing music of jarring angularity and complexity utilising guitars and a battery of amorphous and enigmatic instrumentation. I've chosen to review both of these albums together as there is a compositional unity on display being as Box is the nom de plume of one person - Neil McIntee. His soundworld is populated by crashing noise and electronic spatters, digital cascades and harmonic drones, electronic glitches and pulsating tones. A post-industrial diaspora of sound derived mostly, I suspect, from digital sources and a guitar.
I think the most appealing thing for me about Mcintee's compositions is his refusal to rush. All the pieces here (even the shorter tracks that make up Digested Material) move at a stately and unhurried pace. His ability to manage his sounds is, from the first moment, never in doubt so it is very nice to be left in the position of being able to sit back and allow his compositions to take you wherever they wish to.
Strangely, given my propensity for long tracks it is the former of these two albums that I claim as my favourite simply on the grounds that the individual pieces seem more 'mature' - in the fine wine sense - as though they've been allowed to sit and improve over time. As the second's title indicates that it was recorded live (I know I should check the press release at this point but I simply cannot be bothered) this is only to be expected. There's nothing to deter you from this album either though as it does include some very fine moments it‘s just a little too fidgety for my tastes.
Mark Bradley - Drifting
(Feelscape Recordings FRC01)
This debut Feelscape Recordings release is by American sound mangler Mark Bradley and it is indeed and auspicious start for the label as he here provides some deep and languid explorations. The albums centrepiece, the 28 (and change) minute long third track (Drifting), is both the most sonically interesting and the track that’s least likely to get repeated plays due to it’s mix of the rounded tonalities, that characterise much of the rest of the album, with some really quite piercing high end tones. I like this tactic but it’s one I can only take in short doses and after the best part of 30 minutes I’d had enough. Don’t let this really minor quibble put you off giving this a try though because this album is well worth a listen.
Mark Bradley - For The Monks
(Existential Cloth Recordings)
Mark Bradley - Bible Black
(Idrone Park cd17)
Two short new releases this month from US musician Mark Bradley. The first, 'For The Monks', is a set of slow drones and sci-fi twittering. It opens with the blissful and gently euphoric 'Fade In' before slipping into a more melancholic ambience on 'Oslo'. The simple melody line giving it a gloriously wistful quality. At only 1 minute 21 seconds long track 3, 'Transcend', seems little more than a segue (albeit a nice one) towards the final track, 'The Monks', which is for me the best track here, a lava-lamp of tones, swelling and fading to create a beautifully mesmeric microcosm of sound.
As good as 'For The Monks' is and as much as I like it, I like 'Bible Black' even more. Right from the off this is a more dynamic and wholly hallucinogenic set. On the opening track, 'And Even Still', his organ-like drones overlaid to such a density that they almost preclude any and all other sounds from reaching our ears. This is followed by the deep resonances of 'In Cascades'. It's alpine horn sonorities creating ripples in the air surrounding the speakers. Third and final track, 'What Once Was', is the more restrained of the three. As with 'The Monks' on the previous ep it's more concerned with gentle falls of sound. It's sleepy autumnal feel a relief after the intensity of the previous two. It's the relief of arrival rather than the turmoil of travel.
Two fine drone EP's. Both recommended.
Mark Bradley - Eternal
(Blackest Rainbow Records)
Mark Bradley - A Forever Heaven
Having been a pretty busy chap over the course of 2009 US musician Mark Bradley has launched into 2010 with two new releases. He has a track record in these pages for putting out solid drone releases.
The first of these two new releases, Eternal, sees him in a more playful mood as he warps his tones into a series of short, almost songlike, pieces. It's not the most successful thing I've heard from him. The tracks are engaging and there're plenty of ideas thrown around but the tracks are all just too brief and end far too jarringly pulling you out of your headspace each time.
After a worrying first 30 seconds which sounds like the opening of a Jean Michel Jarre album this EP reveals itself to be a bit of a gem. Continuing the short track theme of Eternal, AFH is a much more satisfactorily rendered set. Here Bradley seems to have fully developed each piece and their limited runtime no longer feels like a hindrance. The music is less overtly psychedelic than the former album which is a shame as I really do like having my third eye squeegeed but as he's replaced this with some nicely earthy tonalities and some very well chosen rhythms (especially on the opener) I have no complaints. Of the two this is the one I would recommend but the first definitely also has it's charms.
Paul Bradley - Immure
(The Locus of Assemblage mass11)
I wasn't blown away by the last Paul Bradley album I heard (Drone Works #1). It wasn't a bad album but I felt that it was constrained by it's twenty-odd minutes. It was over before it ever really felt as though it had got started. With this 3"cdr we have, roughly, the same amount of music but this is a whole different ballgame. Each of the three tracks has an identity and a lifespan all of it's own. The gong crescendo of track 1, the otherworldyness of the second track and it's multi-layered 13 minute drone and the short comedown of track 3 show just what Bradley is capable of. This time the disc is too short not because the music has yet to get anywhere interesting but because I'm not ready to let it leave yet.
Paul Bradley - Drone Works #6
This is the replacement #6 in the series the first having been withdrawn for some reason. Bradley’s second contribution to the series is a delicate 20 minute drone that's so quiet it took me three listens before I managed to make it all the way through without outside noises drowning huge chunks of it out. A far more satisfying listen than his earlier piece, Bradley's somnambulant electronic drone winds it's merry way, untroubled and unhurried. You get to walk with it for while until, even at this lazy pace, it eventually pulls away and fades into the distance.
Paul Bradley - Chroma
(Twenty Hertz TH016)
The latest release from UK drone musician Paul Bradley sees him embracing a slightly more ambient sound than had previously been apparent although Bradley's take on the genre is very much his own. Working from what seems like a, not limited but, concise palette Bradley paints an ambient landscape of subtle tones and shades. His drones are steely and forceful, they are electric and magnetic with the ozone aftertaste of a lightning storm. Like the best ambient music Chroma is never overpowering or intrusive it simply is.
Paul Bradley - Searching For The Way
(Locus of Assemblage)
Paul's previous contribution to LoA's 3" CDR series (Immure) was a sublime melange of gongs and translucent tones. This time out Paul uses surging crescendos to propel the choral-esque tones and slicing shards of electronics straight to the centre of your attention. In place of the pervasive ethereal quality that is his calling card there is a solidity and physicality to the sounds used that hasn't often been apparent in Bradley's solo music making this a very fine addition to an already impressive discography.
Paul Bradley - Somatic
This beautifully packaged CDR on the predominantly web-based label Con-V is the latest in a string of fine releases from Paul Bradley. This is new(ish) territory for Paul as the delicate wash of his tonal pallette is here augmented by layers of grimy and gritty field recordings. The whole feels significantly less 'airy' than is often the case with a much more textural and tactile quality. Here it seems that the intention of the music is to bypass any somnolent ambient characteristics inherent in the drones by the inclusion of elements (both sonic and structural) that, almost, forcibly engage the listener. One is compelled to stay alert to the flow of the music unable to divert one's attention from this fascinating construction even if one should be so asinine as to actually want to.
Paul Bradley & Colin Potter - The Simple Plan
(Integrated Circuit Recordings ICR73)
CD (plus ltd ed CDR)
This new collaboration between these two, now ex, north England musicians is the first to feature them both playing entirely live (in a studio) with only the bare minimum of digital interference with the sound. Using vintage synths, guitars and a battery of effects pedals they create several pieces of Cluster style cosmic drone that build, soar, swoop and then soar again. The sound is a lot harder edged than may be expected from these two if you have any experience of their respective back catalogue but the unexpected is always good especially when it's pulled off with aplomb.
The very limited edition (135 copies) bonus CDR takes the material that constitutes the main album and subjects it to the digital processing that they had previously denied themselves. There are three tracks (2 by Potter, 1 by Bradley) and they are a slightly different animal to the main disc. The music strangely seems more playful here even though it is under tighter and more rigorous control. It seems less purposeful and as a consequence more fun. Obviously it takes much the same form as the other but that's to be expected and indeed welcomed as these two do what they do very well indeed. I think I may even prefer this bonus disc to the main but whichever way my opinion falls they both are exemplary examples of dronescaping and should probably be sought out by anyone with an interest in the genre.
Brain Lesion - Abomination of Desolation
(Heretic Records HC10)
With a project name and album title like these you pretty much know exactly what you're going to get don't you. A bit of 'aaaaaaarrrrrrggggghhhhh!!!', a smattering of 'wwwwwwuuuurrrrrggggghhhhh!!!!', and a shovelful of 'ssssssssssssskkkkkkkkkkkkrrrrrrrrrrraaaaaaaaaaaaaa!!!!'. And guess what? You'd be...well, correct actually. Ugly, monosyllabic noise. Ambient music for the 327th level of hell as presided over by Dark Lord Cedric the Squirrel Fondler. This is the deep, dark, death obsessed end of the noise world where only the blackest of clothes may be worn. I find it all a bit silly but I like it. It's unapologetic and contains more than enough ideas to both keep me listening and to bring me back for more.
Andreas Brandal - Reverse The Night
Attentive readers will know that late last year in my other guise as a musician I shared a split album with Andreas on Lithuanian label AghartA Tapes which, due to my involvement, was ineligible for inclusion in these here pages - I can't really review myself after all. So, it's nice to finally be able to lay before you the very fine music that this gentleman makes.
Reverse the Night, as the title and the solid black of the sleeve implies is a melancholic and introspective listen that plumbs the depths of the dustiest, dankest catacombs of Andreas' mind. Side one is the more overtly bleak of the two although the flip isn't exactly a summer's day skip through a wheat field. It does however have a distinctly psychedelic edge to it's austere ambience. Although it must be noted that this is the ambience of a distinctly lonely and forlorn form of psychedelia filled with amorphous malformed melodies and abyssal throbbing hues. It really is quite beautiful.
Late night music for late night minds.
brb>voicecoil - Occupation by Killers
(Muzzedia Verhead MV008)
Mini cd from UK musician Kevin Wilkinson of lo-fi almost noise constructions. Made from close up recordings of plastic on wood and tin on concrete alongside some judiciously placed field recordings this 22 minute composition of rhythm and drone skirts the edges of noise music without falling entirely into that genres increasingly mundane clutches. I like the way Wilkinson doesn't quite hide the primitive nature of his sound sources - there's a griminess to the recordings that grounds the music very nicely allowing it to retain it's humanity which is a factor all too easily removed from much experimental music.
brb>voicecoil - In Damascus They Are Marked By The Teeth
(Muzzedia Verhead MV012)
Second solo visit by Muzzedia label owner Kevin Wilkinson to Wonderful Wooden Reasons which continues where that previous recording left off. Wilkinson builds his constructions around recordings of manipulated (struck, dropped, dragged, etc) objects and found sounds. His recordings are stark, uncompromising and utterly human. His sound sources are, for the most part, honest and unadulterated and his control over his compositions is sublime.
He walks a very fine line between the predominant musique concret strategies and the noise ghetto, sometimes teetering on the brink but his balance is good and he usually manages to keep on the interesting side using noise as augmentation and not as the end result. The two constituent tracks sit together nicely displaying a uniformity of purpose that is belied by their very different predominant sound sources (metal in the former, water in the latter). I have a preference for the industrial resonances of the first as it feels the more sonically accomplished whereas the second is maybe a little too aggressively noisy for my aged ears.
I do wonder where Wilkinson will take his music next. The punishing nature of music of this sort does tend to lead, with an almost depressing inevitability, towards ever louder and more belligerent forms but if his work as part of the Diodaar trio and his choices of music and artists he releases through his label is anything to go by then these worries are entirely unfounded.
brb>voicecoil - These Are Not Our Borders
lathe cut 7"
Truthfully I'm not entirely certain if this 7" (best format ever) should have played at 33rpm or 45rpm or even which side is which but I'm not really sure it matters and I plumped for 33rpm because it'd last longer.
It's been a while since the music of Kevin Wilkinson appeared in these pages and that's a shame as I like it very much indeed. On these two tracks he has forged a deftly understated set of skittery, crunchy and achingly reserved pieces. There is a deeply cavernous and subterranean quality that is hugely tantalising and has kept me returning for more.
Brekekekexkoaxkoax - We Used To Be Such Good Friends
(Hushroom Recordings hushroom4)
If Wonderful Wooden Reasons has been especially difficult to write this month (and it has) then this album is the reason. For the 3 weeks since it arrived on my doormat it's dominated my stereo. It's playing as I type. Nothing unusual in that, the album I'm reviewing usually is. But, and here's my point, this is the third time it's been on today and it's only noon. Yesterday it was playing in the car, on my mp3 player and I played it a couple of times in the house too. It's superb.
Brekekekexkoaxkoax (what is that name about?) is the alter-ego of one Josh Ronsen, from Austin. Texas, and a rotating array of collaborators (here it's Bill Thompson, Jacob Green, Vanessa Arn, Glen Nuckolls and Genevieve Walsh). The role each musician takes is unspecified and to be perfectly honest I care nothing for such things. What is important is the beautiful noise they make as a collective (in whatever combination that may be). Primarily guitar led melodic improvisations (I think) that roll gently around the room. Acoustic instrumentation flows around electronic as the music shifts and drifts like the tide. The music never rests but most importantly never rushes. Every idea that rolls along is allowed to develop fully before it relinquishes it's hold on the ambience and something new takes it's place.
It's an amazing album.
Brekekekexkoaxkoax - I Manage To Get Out By A Secret Door
I was absolutely besotted with the first Brekekekexkoaxkoax album I heard (We Used To Be Such Good Friends) and indeed if the truth be told I still am. It is probably the best album I heard in 2008. I mention this to give you some measure of how much this one, it's predecessor, has to live up to. So, does it? Well, yes actually. It seems that on 'We Used...' those involved were continuing on from where they left off on this earlier set of explorations. The ensembles assembled around guitarist Josh Ronsen are more fluid in their composition this time out (two solo pieces, a duo, a trio and a quartet) and the instrumentation seems less elusive with Ronsen's guitar being the most readily apparent.
The real glory of the Brek-etc ensembles lies in their willingness to embrace musicality. Far too often we hear improvisational groups diving headlong into jarring atonalities without ever taking the time to consider what it would be like to improvise around a melody and do so in a thorough and engrossing way utterly devoid of musical clichés. It's a joy to hear musicians who seem to consider both directions as being equally valid of investigation.
Once again, I am stunned. A beautiful album, heartily recommended.
Broohaha - EP
(4th Note Records)
Like their fellow Leeds based contemporaries Omnivore, Broohaha (sic) play angular and intensive mathy skronk but where they differ is Broohaha base their explorations far more in the realm of rock music (apart from one questionable foray into ska). Their music is a groovy collage of sound and technique that rarely settles in one shape for long prefering to continually throw new ideas into the mix to see what happens. The set-up of trombone, tenor saxophone, guitar, bass and drums is bolstered by occasional samples although these aren't the most well sourced as it must be said that using Bill Hicks is getting more than a little hackneyed now. The music though is assured and more than competently played and shows a real flair for the form but to me it was missing a little fire. It's almost too well worked out and so has forgone that element of chaos that I like in my rowdier forms of music but I really do recommend tracking this wee fella down as these guys do feel like they may be worth keeping an eye on.
B°tong - Polar:is
(Petty Bourgeois Broadcasts)
B°tong is Swiss composer Chris Sigdell who has been active since the mid nineties in various guises. His music is a deep and dark somnambulant stream punctuated with occasional flurries and eddies of sound and texture that serve to both enhance and agitate the flow. Much of Sigdell's sounds display a love for the harsher ends of the sound spectrum but they are assembled with such a sympathetic ear that they achieve a naturalistic quality that is the flip side of what early expectations lead one to expect. 'Polar:is' is forceful and vigorous excursion into the outer edges of ambient music. It's considerably more interesting than most music being produced in this style at the moment and if, to use a crass term, dark ambient is your particular bag then you'd be hard pressed to find anything better.
B°tong - Microsleep
Swiss composer Chris Sigdell had previously impressed me with his Polar:is album on Petty Bourgeois Broadcasts a year or so back. He operates deep within dark ambient territories producing music to soundtrack your most uncomfortable sleepless nights.
I'm not entirely sure where Sigdell sources most of his sounds. Most I suspect are electronically generated although I think I can spot some other types of sounds (bells, guitar) in the mix. His compositions are constructed over a solid bedrock of some fine drones that give each of the pieces their character before he decorates them with shards of hard sound. If some of his strategies are a little age-worn, slowed down vocal samples and stuttering electronics, that's only because they are such good strategies and are here used to their best effect.
Dark ambient done very well and recommended to all fans of the genre.
B°tong - Hysteria
(Suggestion Records, Verato Project sug065)
Apparently the source sounds of this seedee come from recordings of water and earthquakes, the second of which definitely points your mind in a certain direction as to what the music is going to sound like. You’re mind would be pointing in the right direction too but there is more to both B°tong and to ‘Hysteria’ than that. Added to the mix are a host of warped voice samples and his usual vast array of sounds created on, what he calls, ‘ancient technology’. It’s a darkly psychotropic experience and one I urge you to try for yourself.
Ido Bukelman - The Door
An album of solo acoustic guitar (plus occasional banjo & percussion) improvisations from this Israeli musician is a mixed bag of delights and frustrations. For me this album is at its best when it is taking things slower, being more purposeful and exact in it's improvisations. The more chaotic sequences have a tendency to sound like flailing and consequently lack that spark that makes good improv so very compelling.
Generally the music on 'The Door' is a tangled display of unorthodox guitar dexterity. The tracklist hints at a thematic structure with tracks 6 to 11 listed separately under the album's title. It would take much more attuned ears than mine to identify how these 6 tracks differ from the initial 5 in anything other than intent.
It's not going to be to everyone's taste, me I quite enjoyed it. It was twisty and angular and obtuse which was pretty much an exact match for my mood over the last couple of days.
Ido Bukelman's Cracked Song
(Out Now Recordings ONR001)
Oh, now this is really very good. I'm not the world's biggest fan of jazz guitar or of guitar noodling in general but Bukelman and friends (Yuval Mesner - cello, Assaf Hakimi - double bass & Udi Shlomo - percussion & drums) have produced a set of tumbling and careening compositions that showcase a focussed and varied jazz style.
There's much to admire in the exacting moves between extravagant explorations and cool meanderings. The interactions between the quartet feels natural and unforced. The music is alive and vibrant and eager to be heard.
Ido Bukelman, Daniel Davidovsky, Ofer Bymel - EFT
(Outnow Recordings ONR003)
This is the third visit to these pages in the last 4 issues from Bukelman and each time it has seem him in collaboration with different musicians. I love this fluidity of partners. It has meant that each release has very much had its own style and personality.
This time things are pretty tangled and convoluted as demonstrated most strongly on the fearsome and fiery 'Crunch'. That is the extreme though and the rest of the album embraces a variety of textures and forms from the post-industrial soundscaping of 'You Could Be' to the AMM-esque freeforming of 'Teething' and on to the demented post-flamenco acousticism of 'Tender Phobic Home'.
There's much to admire here and it's a fascinating if slightly exhausting listen.
Burmese / Cadaver Eyes - Split
(HCB Records HCB-016 New Scream Industry IND-002)
For Christmas this year our singer would like a new throat as the one he's got is now ruined. Those bass amps you brought us last year now sound like farts in a hail storm. Thank you very much they're perfect. Also Mark says thanks for the drumkit. He's beaten it half to death and the cymbals now sound like saucepans.
We've made an album with our friends Cadaver Eyes. They're really good and like us they've mutilated all their instruments to within an inch of their lives. We will leave a copy of the album for you with your milk and mince pies. We think you'll like it a lot because it's proper noisy.
Lots of love