N(5) - Bergen Skizzen + Notizen
(Consouling Sounds Soul0004)
LP (Promo CD)
Hellmut Neidhardt's oblique N project (where each release is indicated by a new, consecutive number being added into the brackets) is here remixed by himself and three other established names in the ambient underground. Having no knowledge of the original soundsources or of any of his other work I cannot comment on the effectiveness of any of these remixes only on them as individual compositions in their own right.
The 4 tracks make a fairly coherent set in terms of sonic characteristics but the quality of the music is less so. Mirko Uhlig opens with a short piece of coldly analytical electronic drones that is over almost before it has had time to establish itself. The second track sees Segment step up to the plate mixing the frigid tones of the first half of the track with intermittent outbreaks of digital pulses and choppy, rhythmic insistencies during the second half. The first half of this track I liked very much the second half not so much. To my mind the rhythms seemed brutal and lacking in finesse.
Fear Falls Burning create a powerful, volcanic lava flow of sound that burns increasingly hotter throughout it's 12 minute runtime before finally extinguishing itself.
The final mix is by N himself and is by far my favourite here. His tightly controlled, deeply resonating, ebb and flow drone is beautifully paced to float the listener along it's journey.
As I said there is a cohesion here although this may be to the albums detriment. No-one really stands out or does anything truly radical, or particularly interesting, with the sounds on offer instead opting for unanimity, uniformity and anonymity. I've played this album many times though and it's always been a pleasant experience as background noise. If you'd walked in at any point though and asked me who was playing I probably wouldn't have been able to answer.
N(8) - Trischen
LP (Promo CD)
My second exposure this month (with another still to come) to Hellmut Neidhardt's N project, this time unadulterated by other musicians and this one's a lot more coherent and a lot more satisfying.
Here Neidhardt's music is a gritty and distorted form of drone along the same lines as Jefre Cantu-Ledesma or Taiga Remains. Though the music is both forceful and dynamic it's pleasantly devoid of muscular posturing instead concerning itself with creating waves of gritty, static-laden drones upon which the listener can surf.
It's not an everyday listen. I've played this a good few times now and have not always connected with it but that's always going to be the case, especially with music as overt as this. It's also a little samey over it's 5 tracks and I personally would have liked to hear more variation in Neidhardt's textures. It is though both very well made and beautifully mixed and as such would be a very worthwhile investment for anyone with a penchant for this more aggressively insistent form of drone music.
N(10) / Mirko Uhlig - Sanddorn
(Genesungswerk GW26 / Ex Ovo EX071)
7" (Promo CD)
Split 2 track 7" from Hellmut Neidhardt and Mirko Uhlig.
It's a much more restrained and gentle Neidhardt who appears here than that which featured on his Trischen album. This Neidhardt has overlaid warm synthetic tonal surges to great effect to produce a short but deliciously more-ish ambient piece.
Uhlig on the other hand has chosen a delicate, repeated piano motif under which soft drones slowly unfold. There is a pause at the halfway point that heralds a shift in the melody but the structure and the mood remain as before.
It's a beautiful little release that is more ambient than drone and which showcases the best of both men. Recommended.
N(13) - Prora
A few releases by Hellmut Neidhardt's N(whichever number he's on now goes here) project have found their way into these pages over the last year and they've all been marked by a distinct air of quality and artistic panache. This ones no different. In terms of musical form it is similar to previous releases - longform dronework - but in terms of realisation of that form this one goes it's own way (as did the others for that matter).
Here it is forceful cosmic (keyboard?) drones that are the order of the day. The Cluster-like tonalities looming large and bold and forcing your mind into new and interesting shapes as the music builds and morphs around you as Neidhardt adds new layers and textures in a constant crescendo of beautiful noise.
Nacre - Hier et Demain
(Burning Emptiness BE#30 single series one)
3 inch 2 track cdr on the French Burning Emptiness label (also home to Empty fanzine). This three piece bring a variety of instruments (guitar, electrophone, saxophone & machines) to a beautiful, tuneless, cacophony of sound. On the first tune Emmanuel Mailly's guitar fidgets over a relentless pulsing backbeat while the other two players (Jyuri Remois & Arnaud Gorlier) add a variety of peeps, pips, squawks and swoops. Of the two tracks the second feels the most fully realised with each player dipping in and out of the spotlight with both ease and grace whilst the song swoops and weaves around them.
Absolutely no concession is made for the listener here, it is demanding and slightly ridiculous and as such it will appeal to a very select audience. This is unapologetically abstract and I unapologetically, and thoroughly, recommend it.
nahvalur - aboideau
(Mystery Sea MS46)
Nahvalur (where do people get these names from?) are operating in the field of drone music previously populated by Andrew Chalk & Christoph Heeman's Mirror project. Delicate, multi-hued, gently unfurling tones that are a little grittier (sprinkled with pops and crackles) and a little darker than those produced by those illustrious counterparts but that's not to detract from what's on offer cause what's on offer is very good. However (on track 3) when he adds the field recordings to the mix 'aboideau' lifts and becomes a mighty fine release indeed. One that has been haunting my stereo for many weeks and which I suspect will continue to do so.
New Juche Whores Of Leith - Bangkok Fanny-Rat
(New Juche NJ002)
Whores of Leith made their debut by mixing recordings of Scottish prostitutes with multilayered noise constructs. This bold follow-up continues with that idea but this time the location is Bangkok and the subjects are, primarily, the clientele. I'm not a great fan of voice samples in my music as I find they soon become quite cumbersome and intrusive into the flow of an album however on Bangkok Fanny-Rat the voices are utterly intrinsic to the project and whilst the music upon which they occasionally sit is undoubtedly impressive it often disappears into the background which, I suspect, is, to a great extent, intentional. The voice samples it must be said are somewhat clumsy. As reportage they impart no new information and as voyeurism they are reduced to the level of the farcical by the efforts taken to disguise the voices of those interviewed. For me it is the instrumental tracks here that work the best (and the all dialogue tracks the least) as the music holds an admirable sense of place wherein it sounds like an untamed and riotous traditional Malay or Indonesian orchestra utilising all the crashing and clanging atonalities that are often associated with the musics of the region. In conclusion, interesting but not, I think, essential.
David Newlyn - Friday Night Choir Practice
(Ephre Imprint EPH05)
I'm at a bit of a loss as to what to say about this release from Brit soundscaper Newlyn. At it’s core is a recording made at night in Durham Cathedral. We can hear various shuffling and muttering disembodied sounds before a slowly building choral-esque harmony rises from the murk. I’m not certain whether we are meant to feel that there is a symbiosis between the two or whether Newlyn has simply used the earlier recordings to add depth of sound or character to his piece. I’m not convinced either option is particularly successful. The sounds (both the field recordings and the music) are just too murky and lifeless to be fully satisfying. The mix is certainly not dead but it is quite poorly.
I do think there are some interesting musical ideas hidden in here straining to be heard and I think if your penchant is for the lo-fi end of the drone spectrum then you may find this to be something that’ll tickle your fancy but for me it was just a little underwhelming.
Ninth Desert - Zone
(Mystery Sea MS38)
I maintain that time is fluid. Time is in a constant state of flux that we move with, through, into, out of, above, below, around and inside. What we perceive as 'time' is merely 'timing', the act of marking time, of constraining it and interpreting it as ticks on a clock. The perception is everything. Slow your perceptions and you slow time. Just exactly how long is a moment? I ask because that is exactly how long Zone takes to play. In it's grip time, as a signifier of length, loses all meaning as Ninth Desert enmesh you in a vortex of complimentary, conflicting, contrasting, convulsive and compulsive sounds.
Nisei 23 - Milenka E.P.
(Northern Star Records)
4 track EP of drone and drums from one half (?) of psychedelic dronesters Perfect Blue whose excellent split CDR with The Bordellos I reviewed here a couple of months ago. The music contained herein hovers somewhere between soundscapes and songs with the former winning out. Slow builds of sound are propelled by brushed rhythms whilst whispered vocals tease at the limits of your perceptions and field recordings and electronic tones swirl around cascading drones creating an interesting and immersive whole. It should be noted that two of the tracks (1 & 3) are a little too similar sounding for me to be entirely comfortable with their inclusion on a four track ep but generally this is a fine release that bodes well for the future and bears up well to repeated listens.
No Context - Line to Follow Colour Changes in Leaves
The CMP label has a preferred aesthetic of edgy, vaguely dystopian, experimental dark-ambience and this album from the enigmatically named No Context is no exception to that rule albeit being of a slightly softer hue..
In the spirit of the nom de plume I have minimal info on the who or what so I have little context in which to place the music. What we have is disjointed ambiences and dislocated rhythmic diversions decorated with a variety of amorphous drones, tones, pops, cracks, twitters and grinds. There are some really nice moments here and I particularly like the way tracks build on the ideas and sounds of the previous one - the segue from track 2 into track 3 is my personal standout.
It is occasionally a little heavy on the reverb and the mood throughout is bleakly plaintive so it isn't an everyday listen. As I'm writing this it's 11am on a beautifully sunny Saturday morning. There are birds singing outside my window (as they are on the album) and this record isn't really doing it for me but 12 hours ago when I played it last it was in it's element.
Yann Novak - Presence
Novak is an LA based sound artist. This album is a long frigid isolationist drone piece formed from manipulated recordings made on a 'cell phone' of 'sounds that altered one's perception'. I'm not hugely certain what that means as I'm mostly of the opinion that all sounds alter perception in one way or another but we'll run with it.
The music itself is a longform crystalline tonal piece with a distinctly aspirated character. It's movements are slight and precise and so cold it feels as though it would take your skin off if you were to touch it.
This is music that keeps you at arms length and its icy mien is a nice change from the more common warmer tonalities but the flip side means that it does come across as a little aloof but don't let that stop you from staring into it's crystalline gaze.
Yann Novak - Paradise & Winchester
If I was to tell you (which I am actually about to do) that these recordings were made on the Las Vegas strip I'm pretty sure that the sounds that would start running through your head would bear little resemblance to those that make up this very lovely album.
The two areas of the strip where this was recorded, and after which it was named, are here represented at their 'quietest'. Occasional sirens, disembodied and disassociated speech along with amorphous and dislocated sounds pass through the tonal wash that centres the piece.
It's a refreshing (a strange term for souds that are quite this claustrophobic) and oblique piece and one that is as nebulous as I imagine the place itself to be without once resorting to the conceptual cliches that haunt people's perseptions of the place.
N.Strahl.N - Bewegungen in Blau
(Mystery Sea MS56)
Nice but cold set of melancholic soundworks from German musician Mario Lohr that has at it's core a distinctly post-industrial heart made entirely from grit and grime. His music is a pretty relentless affair consisting of abrasive tonalities liberally decorated with deliciously apt field recordings all of which sound like they were sourced in a disused and derelict factory during one almighty downpour.
The music's inherent bleakness becomes a tad wearing after repeated listens and you can almost feel your body un-tensing and breathing a sigh of relief when the album ends but as to whether such reactions are positive or negative I'll leave for you to decide.
Nurse With Wound - Echo Poeme: Sequence No.2
(United Jnana 2005CD)
I've been starting to resent NWW of late, simply due to the sheer volume of releases they are putting out. In the time between buying this cd and writing this review there've been two more. It's not the quality of the material that's at issue here. All the recent albums have been uniformly excellent and this one even more so. It's just that I need a break. I need the time, and the spare cash, to try someone new for a while.
This is quite wonderful though. Disembodied voices float wistfully around the room creating what is easily the most voyeuristic experience I've ever had. It feels like you're evesdropping on the speaker's most thoughtful and refelctive moments. Chilling and compulsive listening. Beautiful.
Nurse With Wound - Paranoia in Hi-Fi (Earworms 1978-2008)
(United Dirter DPROMCD69)
It's been a while since I invested in a NWW album. She and Me Fall Together was the last one. I didn't think much of it and it catalysed a feeling that I'd been having for a while that the albums were just getting churned out and the quality had taken a nose dive. For a long time NWW had been my bench mark and I still dearly love many (and I do mean many) of the earlier albums but I'd gotten lost in the avalanche of releases and there was no way of carrying on so I didn't. Then the other week I was mooching around a little record store and spotted this little beauty with it's 99p price tag - yes that is right ninety, nine, pence. It had to be worth a shot.
PiHiFi consists of 4 long tracks of edited together highlights from the Nurse back-catalogue by Andrew Liles. Only a real obsessive would be able to spot where all the segments come from and I'm not even going to try but those bits you'll recognise and those bits you won't are married seamlessly with some of the deftest editing I've ever heard. It's an absolute corker of an album and I can't recommend it highly enough, especially at that price.
Nurse With Wound – A Sucked Orange / Scag
(United Dirter DPROMODCD101)
The era that both these reissues hail from is my favourite of the NWW years. The Dada playfulness is in full swing as evidenced by the opening track – ‘Pleasant Banjo with Irritating Squeak’ – which is exactly that.
The rest of the album is exactly as strange, disquieting, discombobulating and downright daft as you could ever hope for. ‘A Sucked Orange’ has long been one of my favourite NWW albums and this long overdue revisit reminds me that it’ll probably remain so.
‘Scrag’ on the other hand is a cassette release dating from the same time – 1987 – that I’d never heard before. It’s pretty similar. It’s got the same abstract sensibility as its bigger brother. It does have a more vocal side to the compositions with voice being a feature of a number of the tracks.
It’s been a while since I took a mosey through this era of NWW and it was something I intend to repeat at the first possible opportunity. This is Nurse / Stapleton operating at the peak of his creative vision. It isn’t the most coherent of sets but surely that’s the point. Coherence would rob it of its unpredictability and its glorious sense of anarchic wilfulness.
If you’ve not heard this then you should.