Ubeboet - Spectra
(Twenty Hertz TH017)
Con-V label head Miguel Angel Tolosa here conjures a series of beguiling and palatial ambient tone pieces. Gracefully unfurling sounds form a billowing tapestry upon which Tolosa gradually and patiently constructs his breathy and disconcerting soundscapes. At a cursory glance it's easy to dismiss these pieces as being slightly insubstantial but listeners willing to take the time and effort to immerse themselves in the pool of sound will find layers and nuances to absorb and explore.
Ubeboet - Albada
(Locus of Assemblage mass19)
Miguel Tolosa once more emerges from behind the Con-V label to adopt his Ubeboet persona for his contribution to Locus Of's mini-assemblage series. Each teeny-weeny CDR in this series is a treasure trove of delight for drone enthusiasts and this is no exception. Tolosa takes the listener on a diving sleigh ride of sound, pulling and nudging the sounds into a bewildering array of shapes and puzzles that he then forces us to negotiate. His primordial roar cossets and buffets and pounds and submerges sounding very much like the soundtrack to all the documentaries about volcanoes I watched as a kid. You can feel the power and the ferocity contained within these sounds but the simple and organic way in which Tolosa handles his material allows it to maintain a naturalistic cohesion that is often lost in recordings of this type. Hugely recommended.
Mirko Uhlig - The Nightmiller
(Mystery Sea MS47)
I'm ill so I think it might just be the medication talking but Nightmiller sounds to me like a great job title.
'Who are you?'
'I am the Nightmiller! Beware my finely-ground floury wrath!!!'
Mirko Uhlig's Nightmiller however is a lot mellower than the one in my head. His is more the painterly sort, delicately mixing his palette of only the warmest of hues to create a sumptuously warm landscape into which to travel.
To continue with my painting metaphor, Uhlig works with long, steady, confidant brushstrokes. His colours clear and precise. At no point does this work feel spontaneous but instead there is an aura of meticulous planning in this display of masterly technique. If this description makes 'The Nightmiller' sound dry and unwelcoming then I apologise because it is neither of these things. While it is true that the immediacy of more unstructured or improvised music is absent the sheer quality of what has been crafted in it's place more than makes up for it and makes Nightmiller one of the finest drone albums it's been my pleasure to hear this year.
Mirko Uhlig - Supper
In case it hadn't been noticed before I really do love a good drone. One note stretched to infinity is pretty much my aural nirvana (although I am also very partial to a good acid-fried freak-out) and so the drone stuff I get sent does tend to be listened to with fairly eager ears, the other stuff too but, if I'm being totally truthful, my day definitely perks up if a parcel lands on my mat by someone I know is also partial to making minimal use of the notes available to him or her. This is particularly true when it's by someone I know is going to produce something wonderful. Mirko Uhlig's subtle, shadowy, rolling drones first crossed my path via his 'Nightmiller' release on Belgium label Mystery Sea. Supper continues where it's predecessor left off. It's a stunning album of tightly controlled tonalities slowly winding a meandering path to it's chosen destination. Nothing you can do will hurry this album along. If you give it too much focus it seems to slow down almost to a complete halt. It's best to just relax into it and allow it to carry you along. Uhlig introduces new sounds, colours and textures with such calm dexterity that often it is impossible to notice their arrival until you are utterly caught up in them.
As before, this is a stunning album that you should seek out post haste.
Um Fall Am - Things Went By
(Split Femur Recordings SFR009)
Guitar seems to be the instrument of choice for releases on Split Femur. The three albums I've heard have all taken this most over-used of instruments and presented it in interesting and arresting ways. Um Fall Am is the musical identity of a London based chap called David Cooper who lays his warm and gentle folk-styled instrumentals over a river of field recordings. Occasionally things hover dangerously close to twee new-ageishness (track three's pairing of a slightly insipid guitar melody and birdsong) but on the whole the quality of Cooper's musicianship and his ear for an interesting sound hold him in good stead making Things Went By a cosy and comfortable duvet of an album.
Well worth a listen.
Un - The Final Question
(ICR & Twenty Hertz ICRTH1)
Un, for those of you who don’t already know, is Paul Bradley and Colin Potter who I’m sure you all know through his involvement with Nurse With Wound.
With the exception of the track by Colin on the ‘The Machine Started to Flow into a Vein vol. 3’ compilation I reviewed recently it’s been a long while since either of these chaps featured in WWR. They did both actually feature in the very first issue and it’s good to have them back.
‘The Final Question’ is quite different from what I was expecting. Given the pedigree of each chap I was expecting a set of sumptuous droneworks and in the early moments of the disc I thought I was right as it begins with some trademark soft and warm tones that hover just out of reach. Soon though the album opens up and reveals itself to be of a generally much more old-school Krautrock mien. Shades of Cluster and Tangerine Dream abound as the music displays the beating of it’s synthesized heart. It is delightfully old-fashioned sounding. It oozes character and charm and has been on loop on the stereo all evening making the room feel warm and fuzzy and colourful.
Uncodified - Document
(Lisca Records lisca011)
I had to look this one up on the Lisca website before I started this review as I wasn't sure which was the band name and which was the album title. What I did know though was that whichever word proved to be the band name it was the game face of one Corrado Altieri.
Document is a set of 9 fairly low-key and slightly introspective noise pieces. Now, I got fairly bored of the whole noise scene a few years ago. Too many Merzbow imitators and Massona wannabes sucked the fun out of the genre little. But, every now and again, something new comes my way that whilst definitely operating within the general parameters is doing so in a fairly engaging way.
I like the way Altieri isn't afraid to mix up the pace of his tracks, I like the cleanliness of the production, I like the free-flowing nature of the composition and I like that, as is the case with pretty much all my favourite noise albums, it's pretty short and doesn't hang around long enough to get boring.
Underjordiska - Dystert Vilse
(New Age Dawn / Stellar Auditorium Productions)
Dahl from Underjordiska is angry! There's a vein throbbing in his forehead, his eyes are wide and staring and he's gone a bit purple. He's angry! Angry! Angry! Angry! And demonic! Grrr! Snarl! Grrr! You can tell all these things because he's shouting. He's shouting a lot and he's doing it with loads of distortion and quite quietly in the mix so it sounds more evil. And really dated. I thought people stopped doing this sort of comedy devilry years ago. It's a tired old horse that's been worked to death, flogged, revived as an evil zombie horse, then worked and flogged some more before being left to rot in a field (an evil field). It's a tired and hackneyed musical cliche but I thought it had been given up on mostly because it sounds crap!
Right about now you're probably asking yourself 'I thought he didn't write about albums he didn't like. What happened to the 'no slagging stuff off' rule?' Well, it's not been forgotten, or ignored, because behind the vocals is some really nice music. A Branca like swarm of buzzing guitars that create a dynamic and restless gothic drone that would have lovers of bands such as Skullflower dropping to their knees in worship at the altar of Underjordiska. If they can get past the vocals they probably still will be but personally I couldn't.
Underjordiska & Spectral Lore - Split
(New Age Dawn / Stellar Auditorium Productions)
It's a very different sounding Underjordiska that opens up this split album to the one that appears on his own New Age Dawn release. Throughout that other album I was wishing he'd shut up and go the instrumental route but this really isn't what I expected would happen if he did. His 32 minute contribution here is probably the polar opposite of that other release. Gone is the furious guitar abuse an in it's place is a sedate and stately melodic drone piece. The muddiness of the mix means that full immersion in the soundworld is difficult but his deft ear for noise, melody and composition means that this is an engaging listen.
Spectral Lore offer more of the same but accompany it with a nastier, grittier edge. Theirs is a slow-wash drone music drenched in an acidic cocktail that has, in places, corroded their drones into a rasping, ragged, beautiful grind. In other places their drones are billowing and malleable although, as with the previous track the muddy mix does spoil things a little. There is a minor glitch around two thirds of the way through the track with the introduction of some new instrumentation which serves only to burst the carefully modulated ambience but things are soon back on track (please excuse the pun) and things are wrapped up nicely.
Underjordiska's solo album I recommended with reservations. This split album I'm just going to recommend.
(Pineal Gland PG 001)
The problem with repetition in music is that it can go one of two ways. It's either going to be tremendously irritating or simply tremendous. Luckily, this is the latter as Piero (Ranalli) opens his cosmic excursion of an album with a series of overlapping strums and plucks. This is followed by a good old-school krautrock workout which is where Unimother 27 seems most content. A slight over-reliance on the synth means things do occasionally get a little too prog for my tastes (primarily track 4) and some of the playing (mainly the bass) is a little leaden but generally this is good, solid psychedelia in the vein of Popol Vuh or Ash Ra Tempel. I think the addition of some other musicians would enliven the music giving it a looser, jam-based edge than it currently has but I'll always have time for psychedelic rock music that's not afraid to abandon riffs for a little cosmic freeforming.
Unimother 27 - Grin
(Pineal Gland PG003)
Piero Ranalli's Unimother 27 (I wonder what happened to the other 26?) is a one man band psyche-prog project with the emphasis this time far more on the prog than it was with his self titled release that I reviewed here the other year. In the early part of 'Grin' there is less of an edge to this release as he seems to be holding his compositions under tighter reign which is a shame as it was the Krautrock style freeforming that I really liked the last time out. As the record progresses however it just gets better and better. The compositions loosen and take on a life of their own rather than mimicking the prog of the past (which surely is a contradiction in terms).
For me this is an album of two distinct halves and I suspect that will be the case for other listeners also. I'm really not a fan of straight prog - in all honesty it irritates the hell out of me - and the first two tracks here are very prog but when the musicianship that comes with it is married with a genuinely exploratory spirit (as is the case of the latter half of this album) then I'm all in favour.
Uton - We're Only In It For The Spirit
Uton first came to my attention via the exuberant praise of Darren Tate who for the past couple of years has been mining the Finish underground for aural gold. Jani Hirvonen's Uton (here joined by J.P. Koho) has been, for me at least, the stand-out find of that search.
On 'We're Only In It...' the pairing conjure up a set of enchantingly dark psychedelia that mixes drones and acoustic instrumentation with nebulous noise. The music is rarely content to remain static for long, it's forward momentum propelling it through a myriad of permutations almost all of which are as unexpected as they are obvious. It's an entrancing listen that has been a nightmare to review as I keep drifting off into it and forgetting to write anything until the sudden stop at the end jars me back into awareness.