Samarkande - Douglas' Basement
(Samarkande Records SAM003)
Samarkande are a Candian duo of Eric Fillion and Sylvain Lamirande who come armed with a battery of electronic instruments that they use to bewildering effect. Mixing a variety of samples, rhythms and melodies with the occasional jarring atonality or good old fashioned synth exploration Samarkande produce a timeless kraut-prog-psyche kinda-thing that could just as easily have been produced in the mid seventies as in the mid noughties (2006 to be precise). What I really like about this album is Fillion & Lamirande's willingness to embrace uncomfortable ambiences alongside their more cosmic excursions. They display an almost filmic approach to their constructions although the speed and dexterity with which each idea is presented and utilised displays a healthy acid-fried sensibility that makes each track on this fine album a joy to hear.
Samarkande & Oblivion Ensemble - Split
(Samarkande Records / Static Signals SS/S-01)
Gig CD from these two fellow travellers. Canadians (Samarkande) and New Yorkers (Oblivion Ensemble) produce music that makes for strange bedfellows yet, like the best of relationships. make this discrepancy the very basis for their symbiosis. Samarkande are by far the more cosmic of the two, firing synth runs and electronic pulses into the stratosphere in a beautifully cool 1960's space-opera. There's a great sense of melodrama at work here. The music swells and subdues, it hints at a story line, at plot-developments and at climactic finales. For Oblivion Ensemble it is the other direction that is of interested. They are as 'inner-space' as Samarkande are 'outer-space'. OE live in a queasy world of the bizarre, the outlandish and the downright creepy. It's like listening to a recording of a 19th century vaudeville show only slowed down to a snails pace. Love it.
Samarkande - 3 Synapses
(Les Disques Samarkande Records SAM 004)
On this new cd Canadian astral-travellers Samarkande (aka Eric Fillion & Sylvain Lamirande have left the solar system that they explored so thoroughly on their previous releases and have headed for parts unknown. Last week I was listening to the incidental music written and recorded by The Grateful Dead for the Twilight Zone revival and I have to say that if it ever comes back again then in 3 Synapses they have the perfect soundtrack. This is cosmic in the most kosmiche way imaginable. Inherently restless, constantly questing and utterly, bewilderingly out-there, 3 Synapses is a stunning piece of psychedelic glory. Samarkande have taken the ideas, sounds and ambience that made their earlier releases so damn good and have molded them to create something that is simultaneously the sum of it's parts and so very much more. Fabulous and heartily recommended.
Nigel Samways - Silver River, Green Trees EP
Like label mates Vecchi-Teller, Samways operates at the periphery of what could possibly be construed as being noise music, where he differs however is through his use of melancholy instrumentation to conjure an all-pervasive mood of absence and loss. His music is, at times, almost unbearably sad, at other times, it's almost whimsical. The music is established upon a bed of field recordings (sourced around London) upon which Samway has layered various instruments (piano, harmonica, flute, guitar, synth and vocals). There's a vaguely Coil-like feel to Samways' music but shorn of all the goth pomposity that sometimes blighted that band's music. I don't really get to hear much music of this sort anymore but perhaps the scarcity makes it all the better when one does hit my seedee player. I like this album a lot.
Nigel Samways - Nine Barrow Down
(Ephre Imprint eph08)
Very nice set of off-kilter ambience from Samways painted in subtle colours and soft hues. Samways' subtle psychedelia floats from the speakers and colours the room with it's sounds. It's a very different animal from the last of his I heard which I described as being Coil minus the goth pomposity. This one is an altogether more personal sound and all the better for it. His music retains it's previous melancholy but now this is entwined with a delicate ambient simplicity of purpose that is filled with air and life.
Carlos Suarez Sanchez - Transit Mundi
Now here's an interesting piece of dark and desolate ambience.
Suarez is a Spanish composer with an impressive pedigree that I have singularly managed to miss. If this album is evidence of what has gone before then that's a shame.
The music on 'Transit Mundi' is a cascading torrent of abrasive and elemental noise. It's by turns pithy and vehement and also unassuming and introspective. I'm much more interested in noise music when, like this, it's produced with thought and an accuracy of touch rather than just with a distortion pedal fuelled by piss and vinegar. As such I enjoyed this very much. It conjures up all manner of disconcerting atmospheres and makes for an entertaining journey.
SAP(e) feat. Bernhard Gunter - Improvisation
Pierre Gerard's Et Le Feu Comme netlabel is fast becoming the go to place for quality music of a minimalist mindset. This new improvisation by Aurelien Besnard (clarinet), Christophe Devaux (electric guitar), Guillaume Contre (laptop) and Bernhard Gunter (Pocket trumpet & clarinet) is another beautiful piece of restrained musicianship. Each participant is making full use of a restricted economy of sounds whilst retaining a sense of suppressed urgency through the clusters of notes that fly from the speakers. Contre's laptop provides the foundation for much of the piece with a series of mainly high, piercing drones over which each instrument flutters and swarms.
I find reviewing this type of music quite difficult. It's sparseness makes description difficult and it's restraint can never be fully expressed so let's sum up in the simplest way I know, with two words. Beautiful music.
Hiroki Sasajima - renz
A few months back I was the fortunate recipient of two rather fabulous albums (by Homework and by Terje Paulsen) from new label Q-Tone. Now they've followed these with a further pair of releases by Sascha Muhr and this one from Sasajima.
Characterised by soft tones and organic field recordings Sasajima has assembled a set of gently immersive soundworlds unified by a deep sense of textural isolationism. Whilst there is a definite unity between the tracks Sasajima has imbued each with enough individuality to retain both a sense of cohesion and one of progression.
There is a slight insubstantiality to Renz which did bug me a little. It has a tendency to fade a little too far into the background and as such you do tend to lose chunks of the music when your attention gets diverted elsewhere but on the whole it's a solidly constructed foray into experimental ambience.
Hiroki Sasajima - Nille
(Mystery Sea MS60)
Japanese sound artist Sasajima's contribution to the always recommended Mystery Sea project utilises skittish field recordings in concord with sparse and mournful tonal elaborations. The nature of his field recordings mean that this isn't the most immersive of music as the insectile chittering serves to keep you at arms length from the music. It does have a nicely organic and bespoke feel to it though that allows it a modicum of charm and a distinct sense of purpose.
As I've said before my preference is usually for music with a slightly warmer mien than is displayed for much of this album but that hasn't stopped me from enjoying it immensely as it's a very nicely constructed set.
Hiroki Sasajima & Takahisa Hirao - Hidden Bird’s Nest
(3 Leaves 3L011)
Interesting use of the apostrophe in the title, the nest of the hidden bird. The implication then becomes is the area where the recordings have been made the nest for the shy avian wildlife or is the music the nest in which the birds captured on the recordings now dwell?
Sasajima & Hirao have provided a 2 track phonography based around the Togakushi area of Japan, described in the booklet as a ‘precious sanctuary as traditions coexist with natural heritages there.’ The pair made a series of recordings which they subsequently re-contextualised into what is presented here.
The album opens with the customary nature recordings although refreshingly the pair are content not only to leave their own presence in the recordings but to include them in the composition. The latter part of track 1 brings a further human element into the mix with firstly drums, then chanting and finally bells. It’s a stunning way to end the piece and perfectly encapsulates the dual nature of the area as identified in the extract from the sleeve I quoted earlier.
Track 2 is, initially, a wetter affair of drips and drops before the wildlife missing from the opener wakes up and we are subsumed in a melange of clicks, croaks, whistles, quacks and chirps. It is the most beautiful cacophony.
I think this is one of the nicest sets of field recordings I’ve heard in a while. OK so water and birds aren’t the most original of subject matter hut when it’s done with this level of sensitivity then it’s always a joy.
R.J. Schrey with Kenji Siratori - Future Embryo
(R.O.N.F. Records rnf-034)
I've been getting a steady stream of quality releases from R.O.N.F. Records over the last year or so but of late they've really upped their output rate. Much of what they release fits snugly into any of the many branches of noise music and falls at the periphery of my interests. They do however have a nifty little sideline in the harder edges of drone music, this collaboration between Schrey (music) and Siratori (words) being a case in point.
Here we find Schrey melding his caustic, noise drone, builds and crashes with a pleasing and brutal surety. He is as content with holding a subtle level of barely contained menace as he is with allowing the violence of his sounds full rein. As to whether his music is relating to the words I cannot say as being in Japanese Siratori's monologue has no meaning to me and so becomes a part of the instrumentation of the album providing a satisfyingly monochrome and surreally rhythmic counterpoint to the jagged restlessness of the music.
Sci Fi Industries - Drafts and Crafts
Every now and then I get sent something from a genre I'm not particularly a fan of but which I think is worth giving a shout out to. This is one of those. SFI do a sort of techno Coil kinda thing mixing the portentious keyboard lines with 'banging' dance beats.
I really have no frame of reference for this but mostly put me in mind of Coil, KMFDM, Frontline Assembly and Prodigy. If any of that sounds like it'd be your bag then it's definitely worth a listen.
Seasons (pre-din) - Your Eyes The Stars And Your Hands The Sea
(Mystery Sea MS55)
A new name to me but one who, judging by the press release, is very highly regarded by the erstwhile Daniel Crokeart, the fella behind the Mystery Sea label.
'Your Eyes...' moves gently between a variety of sonorities from whispered hiss, through forests of metallic shards to arboreal field recordings. All are beautifully realised and constitute a journey through landscapes of very different sonic possibilities all of which are explored with aplomb although the dips in the recording do pull you out of the moment.
The un-named UK gent behind the Seasons (pre-din) pseudonym has forged a quiet and intense audio sculpture. Presented as a single continuous piece but with more of the feel of several separate tracks (or movements) it isn't a cohesive as one might have hoped but it is a diverting listen nonetheless.
Seasons (pre-din) - Stars and Light : Together We Fall
Seasons (pre-din) - Music For Quiet Corners / Songs For No One
The new album from Seasons (pre-din) is very much an album of two halves, well actually to be fully honest it's an album of two seedees. The first is a set of slow and low drones full of rustles, clicks, metallic craaaangs, disembodied voices, phantasmal melodies and abstracted effects. It's very nice. I've played it lots over the last week. It's got a lovely sense of trepidation that permeates the album and sinks into whatever other activity you're doing while it's on. It's fabulous to read to adding a real edge to the storyline of my book.
The second album though is a set of piano melodies and is simply wonderful. I'm a real sucker for pianos at the best of time, I really love them. I'm especially a fan of the repetitive ostinato minimalism of Philip Glass’ piano work and that’s the area we’re inhabiting here. There're some other instruments in there alongside some electronics and some field recordings but it's the piano that carries the album. In mood it's a very different beast to it's big brother being light of touch, gracefully spacious and seductively calm.
As I said earlier, two halves but not two unconnected halves. These both feel as though they were produced through the same approach but using a different set of tools to produce two distinct but harmonious sets. This one is a must have people.
Seasons (pre-din) - Occasionally I Forget To Breathe
The last couple of months have seen a steady stream of releases drop through my door from the un-named fella behind Seasons (pre-din) - he doesn't even sign his emails, it's very rude. They've all displayed a real skill of execution and a feel for the slightly more obscure end of the whole drone spectrum. They're also all fairly short - around 30 minutes - which, being a pretty busy sort of chap, is just how I like my music. This months incursion through his third eye is a set of sibilant crackling drones with occasional bursts of voice or other immaterial sounds. It isn't the strongest of his releases sticking as it does to variations on the one idea throughout, but be aware that the standard he has set over those other seedees is pretty fucking high and so what we have here is a rock solid slice of noise music on a par with the best of the field.
Seasons (pre-din) - Lesser and Still
The music of our anonymous friend Seasons (pre-din) has become a very welcome visitor to the Wonderful Wooden Reasons seedee player. His music is sometimes melancholic, sometimes aggressive, always deeply immersive. Here, he presents a short(ish) set of gritty drones occasionally threaded with dialogue, sometimes audible, sometimes not. It's a sublime album that is easy to find oneself utterly lost within. My sole complaint is with the long period of silence in the middle of the final track that seems a little pointlessly indulgent and serves only to break the mood and make the final swelling of sound feel like an afterthought.
As ever though this is music to be relished.
Keith Seatman - Boxes Windows & Secret Hidey-Holes
(K.S. Audio Ksa002)
A brand new name to our little corner of the interworldnetweb and one that brings with it some really quite intriguing sounds.
Seatman's music is one of whimsical electrosis. There's an often nursery rhyme aesthetic that waltzes through the less capricious and altogether more caustic elements. Psychedelia is very much the game of the day here and indeed this album makes for a very colourful and kaleidoscopic experience even when the hardest thing you have to hand is Earl Grey tea in a mug with the words 'Space Bastard' on the side.
Keith Seatman - Around the Folly and Down Hill
(K.S. Audio ksa003)
It's been about a year since Wonderful Wooden Reasons was last visited by Mr Seatman and it's fun to see where his muse has taken him in that time. The playful psychedelia is still very much to the fore as is a sense of treditdation and disquiet here bolstered by some definite hauntological touches both musically and via the albums source of inspiration - games played near a folly on Pepperbox Hill in Wiltshire.
The album's blithe, impish nature is utterly infectious and it's nicely sequenced to provide a definite sense of narrative to run throughout leading us to the albums deliciously creepy denouement on 'A Gathering of the Odd'.
Keith has produced an album filled with life and joy, and a little trepidation just to keep things interesting, and it is heartily recommended.
Seconds in Formaldehyde - Inaudible
(Suggestion Records, Verato Project sug050)
I’ve been hearing this name a lot recently so it’s nice to finally be able to put some sounds to the words. Surprisingly for a Verato Project release this opens with a gentle and soothing set of tones to which added an insistent drone and pre-programmed drums. The overall effect is rather disjointed but I like it. The second track follows the pattern set by the first - synth tones over pre-programmed drums but the third and longest track takes a different route. This time the gentle tone and drone is a accompanied by sparse, almost country and western sounding guitar strums. As the track builds the inherent sense of trepidation grows as the piece becomes more discordant and disharmonious before it all falls away.
Probably my favourite of all the Verato releases but also just a damn fine album in it’s own right.
Seconds in Formaldehyde - A Shiver In Red
This my second exposure to SiF (or Martin Fuhs as he's otherwise known), the first being their nifty little release on Verato-Project from the other year. As with my favourite track off that album here Fuhs is content to sit back, relax and let the music do the work for him with a captivating set of drone pieces. The two tracks that make up the first side are characterised by an underlying grimy texture that propels the music forward and perfectly suits the momentum of the music. Side two is at first a much more gentle and bucolic set which slowly swells into new dimensions with the reintroduction of the more forceful and gritty textures.
A fine set that is heartily endorsed.
Second Thought - Since Every Hour Is Too Late
(Jerky Oats Records joat028cd)
Ross Baker’s Second Thought project dates back to 1999 but I must admit to being completely ignorant of it until this CD dropped through my door.
Having explored dance music and ambient soundscapes Baker has here turned his attention to melancholic and introspective (primarily) piano compositions. Threaded through his piano are a smorgasbord of flutters and clutters that give the piano a sense of place and a setting within which to display themselves. I think I’d have liked to have heard him give things a bit of a kicking at some point during the journey and broken free of the sadness but that’s not where this album is headed.
It’s an ephemeral and vaporous set that’s maybe lacking in a little bite but is full of beauty. A sinuous and intriguing set that is well worth pursuing.
Seht - Dead Bees ((the (quiet) earth)) suite)
(Pseudo Arcana PACD097)
I’m writing this with no access to a computer or the internet (bloody viruses) and so right of the bat I’m going to admit complete ignorance as to the who or what of Seht. The only name given on the disc is Stephen Clover so I’m going to assume it is he who is Seht.
I really can tell you nothing of that rather unwieldy title but the album consists of two long and pretty distinct tracks. Opener, ‘One Moment’ is a 36 minute drone piece that is beautifully realised but is, perhaps, a little too similar to Nurse With Wound’s Salt Marie Celeste for complete comfort.
Track two, ‘A Dance; four movements’, revolves around a strangely pulsating tone before morphing into a hissing noise drone and then finally slowing, fading away amidst billows of soft tones. This track is the cold to tracks one’s warm. They contrast each other utterly and I think would maybe have benefited from a transitional track in between to make the change less jarring and the album more cohesive.
An enjoyable listen - track one is particularly to my taste - but a little too disjointed to recommend unreservedly so consider it recommended reservedly.
7Seconds - Take It Back Take It On Take It Over
(Side One Dummy)
I came up hardcore and I'll go down hardcore. I don't listen to a lot of the music anymore but the ideology is still firmly embedded in my psyche. It's not something that I could ever loose and it's not something that I would ever want to loose.
I love 7Seconds and while this isn't a particularly new album I've only just got hold of it so I'm giving it a shout. 28 minutes, 17 tracks and only 4 of them clocking in at over 2 minutes (and then only just) gives a concise and energetic view of a band 20 odd years on and still better than anyone else in the genre. Kevin Seconds' song writing, whether for this band or any of his solo or other projects, is clear, incisive and as catchy as a cold. This is the poppest of punk and the punkest of pop and should be in everyone's collection because it's amazing.
Sempervirens - Dirge of the Dying Year
(New Age Dawn / Stellar Auditorium Productions AUD001)
If, like me, the sight of the words 'new' and 'age' in cflose proximity to each other sends cold shivers down your spine then please rest assured that there are no crystals or tye-dyed wolf t-shirts to be found here, which is a relief. There is one worrisome moment towards the end of track one where things get a little synthy but that goes away quite quickly and doesn't come back, which is also a relief.
For the most part Sempervirens (Estonian artist Margus Mets) conjures quiet abstracted dreamworlds from found sound (both field recorded and sampled) and (I'm assuming) keyboards. Occasionally the mix errs a little too much in favour of one type of sound or another and the flow of the album is interrupted but predominantly Mets allows his composition to trickle along with each aspect washing past the others in a most pleasantly organic way. There's nothing new here that fans of deep and dark soundscaping will get overly excited about but equally what is here is a satisfyingly worthwhile addition to the genre.
Colin Andrew Sheffield – Signatures
(Invisible Birds IB002)
For those of you who don’t already know CAF is the pair of ears behind the rather wonderful Elevator Bath label, he’s also a dronescaper of some distinction in his own right. ‘Signatures’ is a 4 song set where Colin displays his deft touch at each of the four main forms of drone music.
Opener, ‘Beneath the Waves’, is 20 minutes of gently wafting smoke trails that hover and disperse in the most beguiling of ways. ‘Arise’ on the other hand is a dark and forceful assault on one’s sensibilities full of acute angles and clashing colours. By the time track three's 'Surrender' gets it's chance in the sun we are well on our journey and it's poised noise drone is the perfect panacea after the turmoil of what's gone before. Album closer 'Breath of Day' is, for me, it's absolute pinnacle a glorious soaring tower of tones and drones. It's crystal clear and the view from the top is magnificent.
A drone masterclass. Do yourself a favour and grab a copy.
Colin Andrew Sheffield - Slowly
(Mystery Sea MS65)
CAS is the mind behind fantastic US label Elevator Bath who have provided some moments of exquisite listening over the last couple of years. As if that wasn't enough he also makes music of his own which is equally lovely and this set on Daniel Crokeart's incomparable Mystery Sea label is just wonderful.
The album opens with big, bold, beautiful rolling drones and synth tones that swell and break over a stuttering shale bedrock before giving way to the second tracks fiery sibilance. The third track is an altogether more grandiose affair filled with hazily stately tonal clusters until the album closes in a joyous cacophony of grinding machine noise.
Releases on Mystery Sea (and Elevator Bath) are always worth checking out and this one is not only no exception but an absolute must have.
Adrian Shenton - Houseworks
Cardiff, Wales based composer Adrian Shenton is a familiar entity here in WWR Heights as his previous release 'The Measuring of Moments' was released on my Quiet World label. That release was a set of warm almost Eno-esque ambient swathes, this one is different, very different.
Houseworks, as the name implies, is constructed almost (maybe even entirely) from sounds sourced around Adrian's home. The sounds are harsher and less forgiving which has directed the compositions into areas I've not previously heard him explore. Through the course of it's 7 tracks Houseworks touches on industrial rhythms, post-industrial drone, harsh noise, mesmeric loops, psychedelic swoosh and freeform abstraction, often at the same time. Occasionally there is a little too much reverb clouding the mix (Beating the Bounds) but on the whole Adrian is a skilled composer and producer and has created an album that is unreservedly recommended.
Adrian Shenton - Slowtime
Adrian's first seedee (The Measuring of Moments) was released on my very own Quiet World label so I am always curious as to where he's taking his music next. This, his third following on from last years 'Houseworks', is another step into a gently psychedelicised ambient soundworld. Adrian's music is clean, concise and beautifully composed (in both senses of the word). This time out you can feel that there is a distinct purpose directing the music. It is assured and mature and you can't help but feel that he's really coming into his own sound.
Adrian Shenton & Banks Bailey – Wrapped in Clover
A collaboration from somewhere close to home. I’ve done several albums with Banks and also released solo albums by both him and Adrian through Quiet World.
This collaboration between the pair is a most welcome experience. For the most part the music offers a gentle bucolic, pastoral ambience of ringing tones and subtle field recordings. When more synthetic sounds emerge they do so in a subtle and appropriate manner that allow them to exist in concord with those more organic sounds.
It’s both poised and elegant yet displays a rustic home brewed charm that’ll keep one returning to it again and again and again.
Adrian Shenton - Electric Breath
New four track album from Cardiff's Adrian Shenton recorded and improvised in January 2014. Using a battery of both the conventional (Kaoss Pad, effect pedals, contact mic) and the un (squeaky toy, tray, spring) he has produced a slow burning set of darkly ambient post-industrial drone pieces.
Never in a rush Adrian allows each piece plenty of breathing space whilst he gradually adds textures and colours. The album moves through a variety of states as it opens in a relative optimistic state filled with the light of a new day before becoming increasingly, but gently, more convoluted and disquieting as it proceeds along.
I've been enamoured of Adrian's sounds for a few years now and believe he's getting better and better with every release. This is a fine example of what he does and I heartily recommend you giving it a listen especially as it's available as a name your price digital release.
SHG - March Rain
Also recording under the alias Content (see elsewhere this issue or check the archives) Macedonian composer Boban Ristevski deals in a repetitive form of minimalism often consisting of two contrasting electronic pulses that are jiggled and oscillated and generally played off each other to produce a rather nice contrast of texture and rhythm that has an unerring knack of sucking all conscious thought from your head and leaving you in a stupefied trance until it comes to a conclusion. It's a very simple that has been exceedingly well done and I really do like it a lot.
A.M. Shiner - Banarchy
Static minimalist hissing noise with very little movement and sparse development either within or between tracks. Side two is live and follows much the same path as side one.
Not really my cup of tea this one but I spent an enjoyable couple of listens (in my kitchen because that's where the only cassette player in my house lives) and as an accompaniment to cooking it's a diverting enough experience.
Shinkei + mise_en_scene - Scytale
I first got to hear Shinkei's music earlier this year on the Variations in White compilation from White_Line. I liked his track very much and so because I'm a bit of a lucky bastard I know get to hear a full album. This one sees him in collaboration with a newcomer to my ears, mise_en_scene on three tracks, along with three remixes from Luigi Turra, Michael Hartman and Yukitomo Hamasaki.
The three compositions are very much in line with what I had previously heard from Shinkei, edgy dronework decorated with clusters of electronic scree. It's a good listen, not as immersive as I would have liked as the tracks are fairly short (for drone music) and so they don't really get a chance to bury themselves in your psyche.
The addition of the remixes is a, potentially, nice touch but for my money they don’t really offer a great deal to the proceedings. As tunes in their own right they are pretty good and the album feels fuller and more complete with their presence (but for my mind remixes are meant to take the music in new directions and add new dimensions which is something that none of these do. They fit beautifully on the album but I’d have liked them more if the remixers had really gone to town and done something outrageously different.
In sum, it’s a nice album that pushes all the right buttons but doesn’t really ever seem to do anything unexpected or engrossing which is a shame because I get the impression that there is the potential to. Worth a listen though.
The Shitty Listener - The Crying Sweater
The woefully named Shitty Listener is a loose collective based around Jewelled Antler Collective alumni Jason Honea. Here he's joined by Barbara Massacci, Melanie Velarde, Benjamin Laurent Aman & Michael Northam. Their collectivity isn't the only thing that's loose here. the songs are ephemeral, barely coherent musical spatterings often held together by Honea's folk tinged vocals. For me the music is always the prime concern, vocals are of little interest to me - which is just as well here as they are, on occasion, painfully hackneyed - but the music is often too insubstantial to grip hold of.
The truth is I'm not sure if it's any good. I've played it several times as I've been circling this review and sometimes I've found myself immersed in it but other times it's left me stoney faced and vaguely embarrassed by the ineptitude on display. I'm just not convinced that they aren't taking the piss somewhat and that's killing my enjoyment which is a shame because the quote on their press release, 'It's fun to sing stuff...' really made me want to like them. So, in sum, my apologies if this review leaves you in the dark over this album but if it does then it reflects my predicament. Go and have a listen on their myspace or something and make up your own mind.
Matt Shoemaker - The Sunken Plethora Consumes All
(Mystery Sea MS53)
The gentle nature sound opening to this release from American composer Shoemaker belies the turmoil of sound that soon unfolds from the speakers. A brutal watery cascade that eventually settles into the hesitant clank and drone of the second track, The Apneist. Here his field recordings have taken on a very different feel to those of the opener as they clatter, hiss and drone away below sheets of metallic sound. The purring trepidation that opens track 3, ‘Hallucination Pool’, soon evolves with a slow fanfare of vivid and cinematic tones before receding so as to allow the slow build gong and drone of the albums closing title track.
Shoemaker’s is a name I’ve been aware of for a little while now but this is my first opportunity to hear his music and it doesn’t disappoint. He makes music that is both introspective and demonstrative in equal measures which I foresee could become quite an addictive prospect.
Matt Shoemaker - Wayward Set
(Human Faculties hf_002)
This 35 minute live recording from US musician Shoemaker is probably at fundamental odds with it's own title. The set recorded here, as played in Seattle on July 18th 2009, is as tightly controlled as any studio piece. Shoemaker builds and demolishes his compositions with consummate skill and pinpoint accuracy.
As with his earlier Mystery Sea release, Shoemaker is operating in abrasive, metallic territories. His sounds have a mechanical quality his compositional style even more so. Precise, functional and interdependent the sounds he conjures are interwoven to such a degree that it's almost impossible to either decide where one begins and another ends and also how the piece could survive if even the smallest of them were to be removed.
It's a tumultuous experience and one that is definitely not for everyone. If gentle atmospherics or introspective hum and drone are your bag then really look elsewhere but if you have a predilection for a little controlled aggression then this is well worth seeking out.
Matt Shoemaker - Isolated Agent / Stranding Behaviour
(Elevator Bath eeaoa031)
Picture Disc LP
Shoemaker is a Seattle based composer renowned for his fiery compositions sourced primarily from his field recordings. On this beautiful picture disc LP he takes a very different tack providing both a gently evolving duo of drone pieces but also assembling both almost entirely from electronic means. This means the Shoemaker present here is a seemingly entirely new entity to the one we have experienced before.
I like this Shoemaker very much indeed. I like the other one too but this one is now doing things that make my spine shiver.
Regular readers will know I'm an absolute sucker for a good cosmic electronic drone piece. I love that all encompassing rush that comes with a triumphantly sustained tone and will happily lose hours on end inside those recordings. Shoemaker hasn't quite gone for the total immersion angle. His compositions here are far too mobile and inherently interesting for that. Instead he has established an ersatz ambience of tonal colour that swirls and shifts seemingly in concert with the breath of the listener. It is the most ephemeral of sounds and it's hugely addictive.
Matt Shoemaker - Soundtrack for Dislocation
(Elevator Bath eeaoa034)
I've liked pretty much everything I've heard from Matt and this new release on the always fabulous Elevator Bath is certainly no exception. Three tracks, one very long one preceded by two slightly shorter ones of deep dark droneworks.
In all honesty it isn’t anything earth shakingly new or original but it is beautifully composed and deeply immersive. I’ve lived with it on the player for four or five days now and I’ve loved it’s slow burn twists and turns. It moves effortlessly between earthy minimalism and an almost cosmic density. In style it’s hovering somewhere between the cold European style of people like Thomas Koner and the mellower warmer UK musicians such as Monos whilst still retaining an identity of it‘s own.
I like it and if any of those reference points sound like your bag then you will too.
Sil Muir - Sil Muir
(Diophantine Discs n=22)
I've been the lucky recipient of several Diophantine releases over the last few months and on the whole they have been a sublime assortment of music and Sil Muir is definitely no exception. The four constituent pieces are a beautifully constructed fever-dream of sound that somehow manage to become the entirety of your consciousness for their duration. My one complaint (and it's a teeny weeny complaint) is that there are four separate tracks which meant that as each track reached it's conclusion the 'real-world' dragged me unwillingly back for the few seconds it took to once more immerse myself in Sil Muir soundpool. A single longform piece would have saved me from the horrors (ok, a slight exaggeration) of mundane reality. Seriously though, this is a sublime set of ambient drone pieces from a label who is fast becoming one of the best places to source music of this form.
Simulacra - There is a Fountain Filled With Blood
(Consouling Sounds & No Angels Productions SOUL0009 / NAP-CD0012)
It really is time to call and end to album titles as clichéd as this one's. The press release continues this tirade of blah with a description that begins 'Degradation, degeneration, fear, sadness loneliness, the end...' ?!? It's just too hackneyed for words isn't it. I really am getting thoroughly bored with all this passé sub-goth drivel that hangs over the more down-beat end of the ambient spectrum. It's surely time to call a halt and demand something more imaginative than this lazy Hammer House of Horror labelling.
As for the music. It's a listenable enough set of keyboard sourced tone and drone ambience that as you can probably assume is making a stab for the dark-ambient end of things. To my ears it's all a little one dimensional and emotionally vapid but I've never been overly enamoured with defiantly genre bound music. That's me though and it must be said that It does what it does pretty well so if you like your music melancholic and sombre then you may like to give this a try.
Kenji Siratori - Bloody Brain
(R.o.N.F. Records RNF-023)
A stuttering noise fest from Siratori of sandpaper sonorities used to create two fairly sizeable noise-scapes. Track one is for me the least successful of the two, lacking in depth somewhat. Track 2 though is a complete riot. Sound attacking from every angle in a restless and cacophonous blast of sound. Good fun.
Skafandr - Escape From The Past
Skafandr are a Russian instrumental trio playing, according to their Wiki page, ‘metal-dub’ - which is intriguing but doesn‘t really fit with what I‘m hearing and a quick dip into the About section of their website has left me not much the wiser. There’s no dub here. Let’s get that clear from the off. There is copious amounts of metal though, Skafandr have got riffs built upon riffs. Both tracks here mix trebly abrasive melodics with heavy(ish) stoner grooves, a vaguely post-rock aesthetic and a very European almost symphonic sensibility. Side one‘s ‘Escape from the Past’ is a tightly wound mesh of tempo changes and breakdowns. There is a little to much reliance on the echo pedal during the slower places of side two‘s ‘Endless Catastrophe’ for my tastes but the heavier sections are right on the money.
Musically this isn’t something that I’d listened to before and it was fun to hear. It’s not something that I’d have searched out on my own and I probably won’t pursue it further but I do recommend it to those of you with a liking for grandiose metal.
Sleep Sessions - Heatwaves & Snowdrifts
(Industrial Culture Records ICR008)
The Sleep Sessions is Polish musician Dawid A. Kowalski who deals in music that is the antithesis of melody and restraint. Kowalski's soundworld is one of hissing frequencies, scraping sonorities and crashing resonances. This isn't anything that the noise underground hasn't heard before but it is done with aplomb and it put a big smile on my face.
Slow Listener - Enthusiastic Pursuit of the Pointless
(Students of Decay SoD-40)
Following on from his release on Celebrate Psi-Phenomena comes a new array of gritty analogue squall from this Brighton based noise monger. Subtlety isn't the first word to come to mind when the music starts but that is indeed where this album is at it's best. Hidden amongst the grime waiting to be teased out of hiding through careful listening are slow moving half-melodies that peek and tantalise. Personally I would have liked to hear more made of these aspects but that doesn't detract from an eminently listenable album.
Steven R. Smith - Owl
(Digitalis Recordings ACE007)
Steven R. Smith is a guitarist with, amongst others, the Jewelled Antler collective and here his distinct playing is augmented for the first time by his vocals. Smith is obviously well versed in the alternative underground of the last 20 or so years as his songs and sounds bring to mind people such as Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jnr, Songs Ohia, Palace Brothers and others but without ever sounding derivative or forced. His vocals are sparse and delicately placed and his layers of guitars create a slinky, tumbling river of melodies. At times the musicianship seems barely competent to carry the song at other times it is barely contained within the song, pushing, tearing and stretching the limits of it's confines desperate to explode in several new directions.
This is how I imagined the new Thurston Moore album (Trees Outside The Academy) was going to sound but didn't...this is much better.
John Sobocan - Features of Spheres
Opening your press release by having a dig at other musicians perhaps isn't the best way to draw attention to yourself. In fact the press sheet as a whole makes for some eye-watering reading as he (I assume it's self written as there's no name attached) proceeds to compare himself to Eno, Pete Namlook & Steve Roach, and describes himself as 'an innovator' before casually dropping in the phrase 'sonic auteur'. Reading between the lines I think there's a chance that his music might also create universal harmony, align the planets and make communication between all living things possible.
OK I'm being deliberately facetious and I rarely give these press thingies more than a cursory glance but this one was a doozy. It's all about the music though and the question now needs to be asked if the album lives up to it's own hype. Well, not really. How could it?
What we get is a long (70 odd minutes) set of 12 short ambient pieces. All are well made and the whole melds together nicely. The use of synths mean it's light and airy with plenty of drift and swirl and occasional use of field recordings allow an earthier element in but it's an ephemeral listen that often struggles to hold my attention but maybe that's the point.
Please don't misunderstand me though, what this album does it does well and if tonal ambient is your particular cuppa then there's every chance that you'll really dig this. I found it was a little too nice and maybe too safe for my tastes.
John Sobocan - OI
I reviewed John's last album a little while ago. It was an interesting little excursion into the more gentle ends of ambient. This new one continues with more of the same.
No info is given as to instrumentation but it sounds like the predominant force is a synthesizer as John takes us on a minimalist drone excursion.
Truthfully it's a bit light for my tastes and goes a little too close to those new age albums you get in head shops, the ones with waterfalls, rainforests or Native Americans on the cover. Fortunately it does stay on the good side of that dividing line and indeed track 11 is the albums strongest track as horns repeatedly call back and forth.
Again, as I said before, if tonal ambient is what floats your boat then give this a try. For me though it's lacking that edge that makes this sort of music exciting.
Social Junk - Born Into It
(Digitalis Industries ACE018)
Coming from a label that, to my mind at least, is more connected to the looser and distinctly introspective ends of the freaky music spectrum the atonal relentlessness of 'Born Into It' comes as quite a surprise.
US duo Heather Young and Noah Anthony have plundered the Throbbing Gristle toy-box of rhythmic discordance and shamanistic, unfettered vocalising to create something I've not heard done this well for quite some time.
This truer form of industrial music- shorn of the European synth pomposity or American pseudo-metal tedium of recent years is a welcome return. Social Junk, as the name implies, makes a wonderfully earthy and human cacophony that, much like modern culture, borrows liberally from the detritus of it's surroundings. 'Born Into It' alternatively sounds like the most soul-crushingly unpleasant of industrial labours whilst also bringing to mind a joyous spontaneous carnival - oh, and the opening of track 3 sounds like the start of an episode of the original Star Trek.
I liked this album a hell of a lot. It reminded me of how good industrial music used to be and how good it sometimes still is.
Soma & Torturing Nurse - Chilled
(Roil Noise RNOCDR085)
5" fan CDR
A single track pummelling drone-noise collaboration from Japan's Soma and China's Torturing Nurse. 20 minutes of coruscating, grinding beauty. It starts off huge and then stays there, continuously spinning like a rouge planet occasionally dragging various bits of ephemera into it's orbit before the force gets too much and they are hurled away.
Some Asian Female Bodybuilders / Evgeniy Gnoystrelev Project - K.A.B.F. / Hlyst
(Perineum Productions #10)
One of the things I like most about Perineum Products is their fondnest for groups who are tackling noise in a slightly left of centre way. For S.A.F.B. (on this seedee at least) that involves the use of some really quite excruciatingly painful sinewaves. Now, I like sinewaves but the problem with them is that they only really become sonically interesting when they're approaching frequencies that only dogs should be able to hear. The first time I listened to this I really enjoyed it. The second time it gave me earache.
Evgeniy Gnoystrelev Project are an altogether more jittery affair producing sandpaper sharp, grinding electronic noise. This all feels like it's rubbing it's dry, rubber gimp suit wearing self against the surface of your eardrums and it's not bothered with any lubricant. It's that good!
Sonic Catering Band - A Gourmet's Slumber
(Peripheral Conserve pH17)
On the shelves behind where I'm sitting to write this next to the 7" singes there is a pizza box stamped with a blue image. Inside the box are 5 10" records that I bought about 14 years ago. They are by the Sonic Catering Band whose frankly daft idea of recording themselves cooking appealed to me at the time, and indeed still does.
This CD compilation of tracks dating from about then to about now came to me via Colin Potter who is a peripheral collaborator with these absurdists.
The core trio of Colin Fletcher, Tim Kirby & Peter Strickland have over the last 16 years followed their muse down a singular path of hissing, bubbling concoctions that we get to listen to and they get to eat.
Sonic Youth - The Eternal
(Matador OLE-829 )
Since NYC Ghosts and Flowers (who's title track is still my favourite SY tune) back in 2000 I've found myself increasingly drawn more to the solo albums put out by the various Sonic Youth's more than the group efforts. I'd pop back now and again to check on what they were up to but generally it all left me feeling a bit cold (except Murray Street - I fucking hated Murray Street!). It just wasn't there for me anymore. So, 2009 and album 16 has just emerged and the band are back on an 'indie' label (if such a tag really applies to a label like Matador).
I certainly wouldn't say the band sound rejuvenated or re-invigorated or any of that jazz as this is very much a continuation of the direction they've been heading in recently but their recent excursion into their back-catalogue seems to have reconnected them with their essential Sonic Youth-ness. You can feel more than hear the old SY in the insistently rolling riffs, the noise jams which remain, for the most part, all wrapped up in the shorter 'punk' songs of recent years. It's the longer tracks (Antenna & Massage The History) alongside Lee's contributions (especially 'What We Know') that really drew me in but Thurston and Kim are as spikily pop-tastic as ever. Also worth mentioning, at least to my mind, is the arrival into the band of Pavement's Mark Ibold on bass allowing Kim to continue with her new love affair with the guitar. I've always had a real love for this guys playing and it's good to hear him again. Their last venture into adding a new member to the dynamic resulted in the SY album I like least of all but Ibold is a different animal to O'Rourke and I think will continue the pattern he set whilst in his previous band to provide a solid bedrock upon which others can build their castles. And besides can you think of a more perfect pairing than Mark Ibold and Steve Shelley.
I like this album more than I ever expected to like a SY album again and it really is well worth a listen.
The Soundcarriers - Entropicalia
(Ghost Box GBX020)
With the possible exception of the Study Series collection of 7" singles the Ghost Box label has for the most part based itself around the work of 3 artists - Jim Jupp's Belbury Poly, Julian House's The Focus Group, Jon Brooks' Advisory Circle interspersed around these four have been oocasional releases from Pye Corner Audio, Mount Vernon Arts Lab and former Broadcast keyboardist Roj (Stevens) and it is to his old band (amongst others) to which thoughts are immediately turned once play is pressed.
A quick search tells me that this is The Soundcarriers fourth album which means I now have 3 more albums I need to track down and inflict upon my long suffering bank account; particularly while the sun is shining. 'Entropicalia' is a joyous and groovy mash of motorik rhythms, sunshine pop, space age psychedelia and Gallic charm. I mean no slight when I say the The Soundcarriers - really as their name implies - hold their musical pedigree in full view; bands such as The Free Design, Stereolab, Can, Sallyangie, and more make for interesting reference points but truthfully only that as what we get is an amalgam that easily holds it's own.
There are some moments of sublime pop on here but for me it's when the band loosen their grip a little and start to open up during the album's latter half that it all truly comes together for me as the instruments start to soar finding endless clear blue skies on 'This is Normal'.
It is a little step outside the proverbial box for the label but one that has paid off in spades by finding a band that wholly complements the Ghost Box roster without holding themselves up in comparison. It's a playful nostalgia for the sci-fi pop of a promised future that never arrived and it's a hell of a lot of fun.
South of No North - Octopussies Liquor Store
(Humpty Dumpty Records HMPTY 014)
After the joys of Half Asleep and Tazio & the Boy in the last two issues HD Records are fast becoming one of my favourite labels and this album from SoNN is only increasing my love for them.
Of the three releases this is the more typically WWR in flavour. The quintet of Cedric Stevens, Jean-Henri Rigo, David Meunier, Laurent Delforge & Laurent Baudoux have produced a potent psychedelic stew.
The music is a constant tumbling, crashing, soaring ride through the stratosphere. Electronics abound alongside other, let's say conventional, instruments to produce a rip-roaring excursion far beyond the confines of most psychedelic expeditions. There's very little in the way of relaxation here. The music is all about the journey, the movement, and making this as eventful and exciting as possible.
As a reference point I can only aim you in the direction of 'Vision Creation Newsun' era Boredoms. The music is crisp, exciting, dynamic, bold, insane and wonderful.
Go get it.
Spectral - ... 0r A Blind Man's Carven Star
Spectral is the musical nom de plume of Gavin Semple who I'm sure some of you will know from his writings on Austin Osman Spare - which a quick gander on Amazon tells me are currently selling for some quite eye wateringly large sums of money. I must admit to ignorance to his words but I'm very glad to have been exposed to his music.
What we have here is an upcoming release of two discs worth of recordings documenting the last decade of Gavin's musical musings. Produced entirely from non-ordinary sound sources what we are presented with is a set of deep, dark drone pieces with a definite post-industrial ambience to them. Texturally they have a coarse grained granite like quality along with a definite sense of weight that gives it real presence in the room. It is anything but intrusive though; the still, calm evolution of each piece and the easy progression between them makes it a most welcome accompaniment to other activities as it colours and enhances the environment whilst also rewarding close and attentive listening.
Spheruleus - Voyage
(Hibernate Recordings hb34)
Spheruleus is a UK based sound artist named Harry Towell who is also behind the Audio Gourmet netlabel. Here he explores the sound and emotions of a 'failed sea voyage'. Given that one of his stated influences for the album was one of my absolute favourite things, Gavin Bryars' 'The Sinking of the Titanic', I was listening with eager ears.
It wears it's influences on it's sleeve, track 3 feels particularly familiar although it maybe has more in common with Nurse With Wound's 'Salt Marie Celeste'.
Towell's music is a soft focus descent into the murky depths. The instrumentation is sometimes apparent but for the most part is subsumed into the deep dark hole of the tonal soundworld.
It’s an interesting piece. As I mentioned earlier maybe sometimes a little too similar to some of it‘s thematic contemporaries but still a very engaging listen.
Spoils & Relics / BRB>Voicecoil - Split LP
(Harbinger Sound HARBINGER 085)
New release on this veteran UK experimental label of abstract and tentative noise.
No idea who Spoils & Relics but they do have an interesting approach to this whole noise thing, channelling heyday Nurse With Wound and layering sonic abstractions until they merge into a deeply disorientating whole.
BRB>Voicecoil's Kevin Wilkinson is a regular visitor to these pages both solo (like here) and in collaboration (as a third of DIODAAR). In both guises he makes pretty interesting sounds with his solo work being the noisier. This isn't the case here as he slowly works through a series of short stabs of sound punctuated by periods of almost complete silence. It's a massively understated set that breaks new and fertile ground for this artist.
An utterly unexpected delight of an album as instead of an impenetrable wall of noise it revealed itself to be to fairly introspect and intense excursions into something far more improbable and interesting.
srmeixner - The Dictatorship of the Viewer
(fin de siecle media)
Unexpected parcels of CDs through the letterbox are always a treat as even if the music turns out to be not my thing it's still fun to hear. It is especially good when the CDs turn out to be something rather wonderful.
I confess to being a little confused by the authorship of this CD as the cover identifies it as being the work of SR (Stephen) Meixner but the inner panel also credits the music to Adrian Morris but I've gone with the cover info. Housed in a rather understated digi-pack bedecked with strings of numbers leads ones imagination to assume the contents to be a rather dry affair. Indeed, as I first placed the CD in the player I was steeling myself for an attack of Autechre style cold-hearted abstraction. I was more than pleasantly surprised. Whilst the majority of sounds on display here are electronic in nature the treatment they are given and the setting in which they are placed gives them a 'pseudo-organic' quality that is quite bewitching. M&M utilise their electronic tones in such a fluid and 'natural' way that they take on a life-force of their own. Continually expanding and evolving with each subsequent piece of music a new stage in it's evolutionary cycle.
Not all the album works as well as one would hope (tracks 8 and 13 are my noted exceptions as the formers jarring pulses and the latter's relentless synth pattern feel extraneous and outdated) but taken as a whole it is a captivating and rewarding body of work that rewards repeated listens.
S. Stapleton, M. Waldron, S. B. Sigmarsson, J. Haynes, R.K. Faulhaber - The Sleeping Moustache
(Helen Scarsdale Agency)
You have to say that as line-ups go this one is a doozy. Waldron of Irr. App (Ext), Stapleton of Nurse With Wound and Sigmarsson of Stilluppsteypa alone make this an intriguing prospect. Add to this the presence of Jim Haynes (who has been residing on my imaginary 'must listen to' list for far too long) and R.K.Faulhaber, who is, to me at least, a completely unknown prospect (i like completely unknown prospects), makes this a must hear. It would take better ears than mine to be able to separate out individuals from the whole as there's is a unity (not uniformity) of sound and ideas on show here that gives the music an identity of its own instead of merely being the sum of it's constituent parts. It does however sound pretty much exactly as I expected it would and if you're familiar with any of these fellas then you also know what it sounds like. Now this isn't necessarily a bad thing as it really is a damn fine album but equally I do like surprises and it would have been nice if they had stretched themselves and included a couple in here.
Stereocaine - We Are The Clay
(Snowy Tension Pole STP002)
Well that turned out to be very different from the impression I gleaned from the cover design. I’m sorry if I offend the designer but it looked like a noise album. A nicely designed noise album - a sepia eye staring from a black surround with spiky, scribbled text - but a noise album nonetheless.
Happily, first impressions are so often wrong. Gracing the shiny circle inside is some really rather lovely meditative dronal works mixed with a smattering of almost ecclesiastical stateliness and run through with a dark folk aesthetic. It’s a bold and complex set of flavours and personally I like this album very much indeed.
Stimulus - Untitled Landscapes One
Long standing ensemble Stimulus throw their collective hat into the drone ring with a tumultuous attack on the senses. This is no lullaby drone as Stimulus explore the more abrasive ends of the spectrum without ever allowing the music to degenerate into anything as crude as noise. They utilise a veritable battery of sound-making equipment (cello, accordion, trombone, drums, guitar, organ, effects, radio & field recordings) to create a series of static, minimalist and churning droneworks. This is minimalism at it's finest containing exactly the required amount of detail played with exactly the right amount of control. There is nothing extraneous here just clean and exacting craftsmanship producing mesmerising music.
The Stinking Badger - Chunx Volume 1 1990-1997
A disc of short (or maybe concise) home recordings from David Higginson dating from the 1990s that show him in full experimental (in the true sense of the word) mode. Here you can hear him trying new sounds and ideas, some successful others less so. Over the course of the seedees 49 tracks Higginson experiments with dada electronics, sputtering noise, abstract rhythms, sampledelica and radiophonic exotica. It's an energetic and exhilarating listen and contains a not insubstantial amount of fun but it must be said that it is also a tad unsatisfying. The short tracks and the constant shifts can become wearisome leaving you wishing that he'd settle on a groove or an atmosphere for longer than the often cursory glance they receive and that he'd maybe evolve some of the ideas and see what grows. That said though I've played this through a few times now and pretty much thoroughly enjoyed it each time so my quibbles are maybe just that.
Stormhat - Addicted to Disaster
(Diophantine Discs n=15)
Stormhat is Danish artist Peter Bach Nicolaisen who has been a busy fella with releases on a variety of labels. His music is, at first sight, a chaotic soundclash of processed field-recordings and occasional instrumentation. Ambient music this is not but neither is it mindless noise, a fact that becomes readily apparent as the initial maelstrom abates and the quality of Nicolaisen's compositional skill is revealed. He uses a variety of mostly nebulous instrumentation, the notable exception being the prayer bowl, used most notably, on track three, but it is the field recordings that are the foundation of the music and it is these that Nicolaisen utilises to the greatest effect.
This isn’t everyday music. This isn’t even every other day music. This is occasional music as you won’t always be in the head space to appreciate the tumult of sound. The occasions when you are in the right space though and this album hits the player it’ll reward you every time.
Subinterior - Mesmerize
Italian musician Andrea Freschi presents a set of manipulated field recordings that hum and drone their way through an innocuous 46 minutes. Mesmerize doesn't exactly live up to it's title and indeed played at, what I would think of as, a conscious volume it's easy to ignore. It does all the things and has all the elements that a dark(ish) drone album is meant to do and have and is diverting enough in it's way but it never truly hooks itself into your psyche. However, played quietly whilst otherwise occupied it integrates itself into that activity with surprising fluidity revealing it's presence only when the album ends and you notice that something is missing. More importantly, that something good is missing.
Sujo - Dora
(Inam Records 23)
I have no information to give you on just who Sujo are (even the envelope it arrived in was enigmatic) but I do know that he / she / it creates a ferocious and intense experience. Not since the last Ghoul Detail album have I heard drones as colossal as these. Dense and foreboding, the music is a monolithic construction of indeterminate origin, it's the aural equivalent of the big black slabs in Kubrick's 2001. Having said that though there is a distinct lightness to the production that allows indistinct and malformed melodies to hover above the core of each track helping to create a depth and vibrancy to the album that is often missing in this genre. Hugely impressive and highly recommended.
Sujo - Pia
(Inam Records 22)
Sujo - Arak
(Inam Records 25)
Two 21 minute pieces on two mini-cds both operating at the more muscular end of the drone spectrum. Sujo produce a nicely abrasive, higher consciousness drone with the ability to grab a hold of your frontal node and tie the complete range of boy scout knots in it. They operate at the more muscular end of the drone spectrum - not so much soaring through space as blasting full-throttle into the ether, faces contorted by the g's and your mind epilleptic-ing from the strobing of the stars as you fly past.
I like these two ep's a lot but as they have arrived together, and are fairly similar, I think it's fair to consider them as one album and recommend you buy both cause to have one without the other would be silly and then you'd only be able to make half the journey.
(inamrecs (AT) yahoo.com)
Sujo - ep
(Inam Records 30)
I know nothing about who Sujo are but their magnificent post-psychedelic noise swirls are always welcome on my seedee player. Over the last while they’ve released a steady stream of music that has delighted these jaded old ears and this one is probably the best of the lot. Three tracks, ‘Clotted Wing’, ‘The Dawn Of Disease’ & ‘Dirt Cover’, of shoegazer-ish post-rock drenched with distortion - how could you possibly resist.
Sujo - Morte e Descida
(Inam Reords 35)
This last year has seen a steady stream of these little cd's from the enigmatic Sujo. I don't know anything about them / him / her / it but they / he / she / it do make a fine noise. It's drone based but at the noisy end of the scale (this one especially) full of grinding, distorted, elongated rumbles bolstered with occasional smatterings of actual instrumentation (drums made an appearance here). This one isn't the best thing I've heard by them / him / her / it but it's a fun little listen especially if you liked their earlier 'Pia' and 'Arak' eps.
(inamrecs (AT) yahoo.com)
Sujo - Dahma
After a veritable flood of releases last year it's been a few months since any new music from Sujo hit my seedee player so this new 4 song EP marks a very welcome return.
I really love Sujo's take on things. The music hovers somewhere between drone music and post-rock without ever settling in either for long enough to take root. This one has overtones of both Zoviet France and Explosions in the Sky. It's magnificent stuff! I love it and if either of those two references sound good to you them I'm sure you will too.
(inamrecs [at] yahoo.com)
Sujo - Dimona
it's always a good thing when new Sujo drops through the letterbox. His heavy as hell grinding take on the post-rock monster is one of the most cathartic musical interludes I get sent here at WWR heights. 'Dimona' is a brutal half an hour of almost Godflesh levels of intense beauty. It's got a looser vibe than the erstwhile industrial - metal superstars but it hits the same level of uncompromising fuzzy and monolithic dystopia.
Undoubtedly this is one for the more 'metal' or 'rock' inclined among you and I pretty much guarantee you'll love it but in all honesty I'll happily recommend it to everyone cause it's ace!
(inamrecs AT yahoo.com)
Sujo - Qatada
(Inam Records 667)
Sujo is one of several guises adopted by the remarkable Ryan Huber - I'll let you search the WWR archives for the others. go on, consider it a quest like the one Gawain did in the storybook. Yes, you can wear your armour if you want to.
The presence of new Huber on my seedee player is always something for which I am extremely grateful. His music is beautifully developed and sings with a voice made of fire. Here it begins with a deceptively gentle cascade of twinkles but it's not long before these are joined and subsequently subsumed by a sustained torrent of abrasion and scarification.
Ryan is always worth listening to in whichever guise he chooses to adopt.
(inamrecs [AT] yahoo.com
Sujo / Koperschwache - split cdr
(Inam Records 087)
Ah Sujo how I love the noises you make. This split album opens with 22 minutes of his characteristic coruscating, metallic, post-rock drone. Layers of pulsating and soaring guitars over tripping metronomic drums. Music constructed from glorious, euphoric highs and punishing, ecstatic lows. It's music to play at frankly appalling volume so as to let it pour over you and scour the mundane world away.
After the soul cleansing fire of Sujo, Koperschwache is, at least initially, a much gentler prospect with a first track of hazy guitar abstraction flowing into fuzzy melodies. The second track however is made of thumping drumlines, sharp guitar and some pretty sorry lyrics and vocals. Not to my taste at all this one. Things are back on track for the albums finale though with a brutal 8 minutes of slow as molasses grind that could have done with a bigger mix to truly come to life but still did it's job.
This one was always going to be about Sujo for me and his half alone is, of course, well worth your time but the second half certainly has it's moments.
(inamrecs [at] yahoo.com)
Sujo - Terran
(inam records 98)
I've probably (definitely) mentioned to you once or twice (or possibly many more times) that I'm a fan of this here fella. In whatever guise he adopts, be it Sujo, Olekranon, Vopat or Bobcrane, he produces music that burrows itself straight to the heart of me. Sujo is his apocalyptic drone project filled with post-metal grind and roar and an epic, though lo-fi, grandeur that fills every inch of the room.
This time out the metal is kept to a minimum and the music is presented as a series of blissfully fuzzed out drone crescendos. Truthfully it isn't my favourite Sujo album but bearing in mind what I said earlier that should by no means be considered a minus point against Terran. For me it's slightly missing the orgasmic, swirling maelstrom of sound, fury and colour that he produces when he's utterly on fire but it's still a joyful listen.
(inamrecs [AT] yahoo.com)
Sujo - Kahane
(Fedora Corpse Recordings FCR1210)
Sujo on vinyl! The world finally makes sense.
Guitar motifs that intertwine with chittering machine code as glorious fuzzy drones glide and soar building into towering monoliths of grit as multifaceted icy shards tumble from it’s peak their faces catching the sunlight and briefly illuminating new aspects before smashing to the ground in a metronomic drumbeat that helps drive the behemoth along it’s path.
Sujo & Sunhammer - Fistula
(Inam Records 107)
I don't know who or what a Sunhammer is and truthfully I'm not utterly certain where they fit into this record. It's a glorious cacophonic assault of spiky drone wonderfulness but really that's exactly what I've come to expect from Ryan (Sujo) Huber and as such I'm at a loss to point at any parts that are unlikely to be him and allocate their existence to his collaborator.
It's a thoroughly enjoyable trip into the outer edges of fiery drone and as ever with Ryan's projects one I heartily encourage you to make.
(inanrecs [@] yahoo.com)
Philip Sulidae - Unknow
Philip Sulidae - The Blacken Solver
Two mini sets of cosmic isolationist tone and drone from this Australian musician whose music links lonely tones with a subtly derelict post-industrial melancholy.
Unknow's 3 tracks are an absolute joy. They conjure images of loss and abandonment that leave one feeling distinctly uneasy.
The Blacken Solver contrary to what it's title would lead you to believe is the more open and psychedelic of the two. Here he has sacrificed much of the cloying atmospherics and replaced them with a more expansive and expressive palette that makes wider use of the sounds available to him.
Philip Sulidae - An High Land
Wow, this is bleak. Australian Sulidae has easily topped his previous foray into the outer realms of decaying post-industrial ennui with a thoroughly haggard and cold excursion into post-apocalyptic grey entropy. Managing to stay just the right side of the noise ghetto Sulidae uses field recordings, organ and a sampler to nice effect to produce a wall of sound that forces itself from the speakers. It's a punishing set and in all honesty not one I'll be returning to often as I generally prefer music that is a little less austere but as an exploration into the deep dark depths of what the dark ambient / noise field can produce this is a worthy addition.
Philip Sulidae - Banish
(Mystery Sea MS64)
Australian droner Sulidae specialises in sharp, gravely compositions of ashen black ambiences and his debut Mystery Sea release is no exception..
His previous releases on his own 'dontcaresulidae' label have been a punishing listen without ever having to resort to anything as crass as excessive volume or bludgeoning distortion. Philip's music is the sound of storm wracked desolation and wretched lonely isolation as one is cut off from the outside world stranded within its eye.
Tracy Lee Summers - My Favourite Color
(More Mars mm04)
It has to be said that the opening drum line is an inauspicious start to what quickly opens up to reveal an intriguing album. Mixing industrial style rhythms with a decidedly krautrock sensibility and an abundance of noisy drones Summers has created something decidedly different here and I like it very much indeed. The music is free of any genre constraints (the ones listed above are just fleeting impressions) and it dances it's way through a bewildering array of sudden turns and jarring juxtapositions whilst retaining a deep sense of musicality and avoiding any self-indulgent navel-gazing. It doesn't all work, track 9 (Mythe) is a slightly pedestrian rock(ish) workout that could probably have been left off the album but this is a small flaw on a large tapestry. I adore music that confuses me and is impossible to second guess and that is exactly what we have here.
Sunburned Circle - The Blaze Game
(Conspiracy Records CORE054)
American psyche-folksters Sunburned Hand of the Man meet Finnish psyche-rockers Circle in a free flowing, tripped-out, sprawling, crawling, very wiggy and slightly jiggy cut of pan-galactic freak-outs. This 11 man jam band produce a remarkably restrained and enchantingly swirly set of Faustian Krautrock that only looses it's way when the participants give in to their respective avant-tendencies and go briefly atonal and cacophonic. Very recommended.
SunnO))) meets Nurse With Wound - The Iron Soul of Nothing
(Editions Mego SOMA005)
This is the LP reissue of the NWW remix / re-imagining of SunnO)))'s ØØVOID LP. I've not heard the original. I've only ever heard one of the metallers other albums - Flight of the Behemoth - which I liked but didn't really find myself returning to that often. I think it was a little too unremitting and monochrome for my ears and it came out just as I was getting bored with volume and noise and looking for a bit more colour and space in my music.
The first of these two discs very much retains the character of the SunnO))) I knew as it's deep and dark all the way; full of dark ambient trepidation and cloying atmospheres. It's a lot less \m/ though and you can feel the tender hands of the nurse administering life affirming amounts of sweet, sweet narcotic bliss.
Opening side three is the portentous 'Ash On The Trees' featuring the vocals of Pete Stahl that go a long way towards making this very reminiscent of the Nurse / C93 collaborations or Coil at their most gothic. The final side concludes this en-Nursification of the metallers with a slightly more edgy and abrasive post-industrial ambient piece.
It's a stunning album on all counts. If you can find a copy and either of these two are your bag (particularly NWW) then really do.
Synchdub - Twilight Last Glance
I must admit the name of this project had me guessing as to the contents. The sleeve art doesn't give away much either. Usually you can get a feel for what's coming but this time... Synchdub is dub in the same way Mick Harris's Scorn project is dub; predominantly low and slow beats and drones that arrive in a haze of aromatic combustibles.
What's on offer is a cool collection of down-tempo atmospherics with a nicely sleazy vibe running through it. It's like bad sex done well. Even when it's trying to raise the tone (and spirits) it manages to keep things feeling vaguely low-rent and sordid. TLG is a long way from the sounds that dominate most of my, increasingly rare, free time but over the last couple of weeks it has made numerous visits and I suspect will continue to do so.
Syrinx - Outbound
(Dark Meadow Recordings)
Syrinx is a new group featuring one newcomer to these pages, Ed Plenderleith, and one very familiar face indeed, Jon from Ghoul Detail, who has been absent from these pages for far too long (it's good to have you back Jon).
Syrinx's world is one of industrial rhythms and isolationist ambience. The music is unrepentantly bleak and uncompromising, it's the sound gravel would make if it had a voice. Things are kept fairly low and slow for the duration. This album is all about textures with little attention paid to dynamics. It's a real nice late night album and a promising start to this new pairing.
Syrinx - Outside The Life That's Haunting Me
(Dark Meadow Recordings)
Right criticisms first. The opener (which is pretty much the entirety of disc one) of this musically dense dark drone undertaking is too long by far. It's almost impossible to keep a listeners attention on your music for the sort of durations we're talking about here (54 minutes). I've listened several times now and I honestly couldn't tell you what the track sound like from about 20 minutes on. I could make a fair stab and say it continues the oppressive, discordant, cavernous austere improv-drone of the opening but it would be no more than a guess. Musically it's very spartan with long hushed tones rolling ever onwards over which guitars are twanged and vaguely choral tones hold court. Now don't get me wrong I liked what I heard but I do wonder if what I heard was enough to warrant almost an hour's runtime.
Disc two on the other hand is an absolute corker from beginning to end. Opener, 'Give Up!', is a fabulous cocktail of repeated motifs, deep, pulsating throbs and expansive crescendos. It's the type of track I could listen to all day and have been trying to do so. The second track, 'There You Are', isn't half bad either. It follows more in the footsteps of disc one but with a much more realistic runtime, more dynamic character and a nicely improvised feel along the lines of Skullflower or indeed a drumless Faust.
'Outside the Life...' is a bold and assertive early outing from this new conglomeration. It is, I think, slightly flawed but no more than slightly and then only through being just a tad self-indulgent. But, you know what? Fuck it! Everyone's allowed to be self-indulgent now and again and disc two more than makes up for my quibbles over the run-time of disc one. Give this a try. I don't think you'll be disappointed.
Syrinx / Playing With Nuns - Split
(Dark Meadow Recordings DMR003)
The first two Syrinx recordings released on Dark Meadows were competent enough dark ambient excursions. Nothing we haven't heard before but competently done and very listenable. This month though has seen two new contributions from them, on the label sampler (see elsewhere this issue or search the archives) and their half of this here split seedee. Boy have they raised their game. Their comp tracks are good (one especially so) but the track here is phenomenal, full of light and life filtered through a deliciously warped vision of how music ought to sound.
Playing With Nuns (it's good that someone does or they'd get lonely) are also on top of his / her / their / its game with a corking sheet metal drone and scrape composition that'll raise the hairs on your arms both for it's teeth-grinding sonorities and it's sheer quality of execution.
An excellent seedee. More like this would make the label a force to be reckoned with.
Syrinx / Hoist - split
(Dark Meadow Recordings)
The three Syrinx lads are getting better and better at their particular thing every time I hear them. On their two contributions to this split album they are well and truly over the initial exuberant brio of the project and gone (although I'm sure they'll make a return) are the wall of noise histrionics. In their place is a subtle and refined sense of control over the direction each piece will grow. They have embraced a more minimalist sensibility that has given their downtuned guitar and electronics music a real sense of grandeur.
In conception Hoist are a very different musical entity. Their music is of a more conventional song-style structure within which they produce starkly disquieting electronica. It uses aggressive beats and booming bass tones to drive atonal melodic stabs straight into your frontal lobe. I like it - it's different to what I get usually get sent and different is good.
Very recommended this one.
Syrinx & Jessica Bailiff - Fear of the Red Admirals
(Dark Meadows Recordings DMR021)
Very low key set from Northampton's finest droners Syrinx as the team up with slowcore legend Bailiff.
I'll admit my exposure to Bailiff's work is extremely limited (I've only heard her 'Even in Silence' album) and there's little here that sounds anything like that album. To my mind her presence is most felt on the albums second and, for these ears, standout track the distinctly airy and psychedelic wafts of 'I Remember You Most'. The rest of this 4 track album is more typically, although perhaps less intense, Syrinx, exhaling monolithic clouds of post-industrial dystrophic miasma.
Nicholas Szczepanik - Iomcin
(Faraday's Discs FDS001)
Nicholas Szczepanik is a composer based in Washington DC who has produced a mini-album of gentle noise collage. Using a variety of sound sources, both traditional and non, he has produced a slowly evolving set of drone pieces. With the exclusion of opener, Aphasia (the album's highlight with it's pulsating, shimmering drone), the remaining three tracks are a little on the short side to be fully satisfying (I like my music long) but that's not to detract from the quality of the composition as each track has an individuality and a quality that is to be recommended.
An interesting new artist and an intriguing taste of things to come from this new label.
Nicholas Szczepanik - The Glass Ceiling
A deeply introspective drone offering from this New York musician that while suffering somewhat from a slightly muddy sounding mix shows just what a dab hand he is at conjuring up late night, dead city ambiences. His unsettling drones billow and echo as they twist and turn around, over and through each other. Rarely settling for longer than a couple of seconds this is an enervating but strangely invigorating listen that should be sought out and cherished by lovers of the darker side of life.
Nicholas Szczepanik - To The Moon & Back Again
Another single track mini-cdr from the prolific Mr. Szczepanik and this one's even better than the last (The Glass Ceiling) and that one wasn't half bad. This time the music is built not so much on drone as on pulse and fluctuation. This is a tactic I like very much. I find the slow washes of sound they generate hugely hypnotic especially when they are used as skillfully as they are here. Easily my favourite release by Nicholas and as such massively recommended
Nicholas Szczepanik - Ecru Epithet
(Power Silence ps-six)
A deliriously oblique album from DC resident Szczepanik. The other releases I've heard by him have tended towards drone based compositions whereas here he has happily discarded all notions of conventional musicality in preference to clashing atonalities, immaculately positioned field recordings, slowly emerging harmonies, machine buzz and delicate clusters of half-formed instrumentation. I like this side of Nicks music a lot (I like the other side too) it shows an artist utterly committed to experimentation but who also has the compositional skills to back it up as the music on this fab seedee avoids degenerating into pointless avant-noodling by rigorously following it's own internal trajectory.
Nicholas Szczepanik - mi otra mitad
This US musician is a familiar name here at WWR (and to you also if you’ve any sense). His musique concret sound works and in particular his drone pieces were one of our best finds of last year. He’s also the fella behind the great little SRA label but this new mini-cdr has been released on French label Basses Frequences who are new to mew.
That this little cd was created as an aid to relaxation should give you an insight into the type of piece Nicholas has created but don’t be thinking about naff ‘new age’ style relaxation music. Nicholas is far too accomplished a musician to produce such turgid nonsense. His version of meditative music has a distinct element of unease laced through the tones. His billowing clouds of sound hover tantalisingly at the periphery of comfortable listening. The higher frequencies he uses can be felt pressing on the ears. It’s rather nice in a wrong sort of way.
Not sure if it’s particularly good for meditation but it’s certainly good for listening.
Nicholas Szczepanik - The Chiasmus
(Basses Frequences & Sentient Recognition Archive BF16 / SRA021)
Joint release from Nicholas' own SRA label and French label Basses Frequences, who released his 'mi otra mitad' ep earlier this year. Over the past little while we've been increasingly impressed by the noises he makes. His recordings alternate between abstracted soundscapades and immersive droneworks and it is this second style that he's chosen to explore further on his first fully-fledged cd release.
The 'mi otra mitad' release I mentioned earlier was a pseudo-meditational construction dedicated to relaxation and the great aural drift. The Chiasmus on the other hand is, for the most part, a soaring blast of psychedelic drones that loom and hover. Each track is a blaze of colour and light that are easy to become wonderfully lost in. The exception to all this fire is the ice of the final track which, while sonically similar, is an altogether more restrained affair that eases the listener back into the mundane comforts of their own minds. It must be said though, the last 5 seconds are pointlessly horrible and kinda spoil things.
A blissful and almost unreservedly recommended listen for all lovers of the cosmic (or kosmiche) drone.
Nicholas Szczepanik & Juan Jose Calarco - Lack Affix
As a new series Unfathomless has yet to generate the sense of charm and general air of reliability that exudes so readily from it's older brother, Mystery Sea. It's a different beast to that other label though as here it is source specific sonorities that are the prime concern. Participants are requested / required to produce music based around their sense or memories of a particular place that is in some way dear to them.
The particular target of these two participants in the series is Maryland and Washington DC in the case of Nicholas and Buenos Aires for Juan. Now, the music is top draw. Both of these participants have graced these pages before and hopefully will both do so many more times as they both produce really quite wonderful music and to hear them together is a real treat. If your particular bag is for pitch black somnambience (I think I just invented that word and I'm really quite pleased with it) consisting of processed field recordings melded with disembodied dronal work then you really need to get this album before it's gone the way of the dodo. The problem I'm having with this seedee lies back there with the underlying concept and the separate locations that have inspired the music. I'm having real trouble reconciling the validity of a collaborative piece within the Unfathomless thematic framework. If both participants were working with regard to a single specific place then it would, while still being problematic (can two people truly share a perspective), offer a consistent vision. Instead this melding of location, sound and perception, whilst making for compulsive listening, is surely a stumbling block in terms of deepening the Unfathomless manifesto.