Various - Altered Neurologycal Function Vol.1
(R.o.N.F. Records RNF-030)
Spanish dark-noise label R.o.N.F. have travelled the world in order to populate this slick compilation album and it's quite a line up. There are a number of familiar names here alongside some interesting newcomers.
From the USA, Darph / Nader (which I just noticed I had mistakenly written as Darth Nader) open proceedings nicely with a deep and dark soft focus grind. Fellow Americans Ctephin follow this with an almost symphonic composition of soaring tones and hissing menace. A very nice five minute visit to Spain in the company of Tzesne and their rolling loops and insistent drones and then it's back to the USA with Mystified for a driving drone piece that melded very nicely with the drilling coming from my next door neighbour. Next up is the also drill friendly C_utter (from Spain) whose swooping voices are a little too old hat for my taste (the drone is nice though). Back to the USA for Death Trance who have melded some misleadingly gentle upper register tones with a speaker killing tectonic rumble. A visit to The Netherlands with Kristus Kut brings proceedings back to a low and slow almost industrial grind. Norway's Swamps Up Nostrils continue the low-key approach with a short but sweet somnambulant dark ambient construction as do Americans Flat Affect. The sole UK representative Project Horsed create a very nice loop based psychedelia before Norss (Netherlands) returns to earth with his subterranean dark-drone. The ickily named Americans, Flower of Flesh & Blood take a more noisily digital approach full of eardrum rupturing high frequency waves and grimy swooshes before Spaniards, No, end the journey with a noisily apt track of (what I think is) guitar noise and singing.
Most compilations are pretty hit or miss affairs and there are a couple of tracks here that didn't really move me but when all's said and done there are way more hits here than there are misses and if you are interested in exploring some new names in the dark-ambient / dark-noise genres then you'd do a lot worse than checking this out.
Various - Bluesanct Mixtape 2008
I'm not 100% sure why I'm writing this review as you can't actually buy this album. It arrived accompanying the Caethua album 'Village of the Dammed' from a label (Bluesanct, obviously) I'd not come across before. It's intended as a label taster for reviewers and lucky bastards like myself. I've not heard of a single one of the 13 bands that make up the runtime but my god it's an absolute corker of an album.
Now compilations are always a mixed bag. The chances of you liking every track on an album of this sort is always going to be slim but I'm hooked by the lot, some very much so but I'm not going to single anyone out as their all worthy of a mention. I should probably give you some pointers as to where it all is musically. I think maybe the more gently psychedelic of the American indie bands especially people like Low, Songs Ohia, etc, there's a bit of acoustic folkiness and some vague allusions towards low-key country americana.
So, why am I writing this review? I think I'm writing it for the reason I started Wonderful Wooden reasons in the first place which was to be a pointer towards music that was interesting, exciting, fun, worthwhile and underappreciated. Well here's 13 cases in point on one disc and they're all worth the effort of tracking them down. Bravo Bluesanct.
Various - Classroom Projects
(Trunk Records JBH049CD)
This newer release of music by children lacks the sheer gonzo insanity that made it's precursor on the label - 'Music For Children' by Carl Orff & Gunild Keetman - such an amazing and compulsive listen but has much to recommend it in it's own right.
Collated from a variety of recordings made by school children between 1959 and 1981 it features folk songs, experimental oddities and a version of 'Bright Eyes'. For me the definite highlights are the moments of avant-garde wonderfulness scattered throughout the album courtesy of an album by the name of 'Sound & Silence' but there are many moments of simply sublime music littered across the album, and a version of 'Bright Eyes'.
I was in primary and secondary school through the 1970s (the year of the latest recording here is the year I started senior (comprehensive) school) and so this sort of free and rather bucolic approach to musical education brings back some strange memories and raises some odd feelings (even though the songs we sung in school were in Welsh).
It is a wonderful selection of tracks that manages to hold that sense of wistful nostalgia whilst also remaining vital and entertaining. Even on a version of 'Bright Eyes',
Various - The Corwood Variations
(Summersteps Records Handmade SUM-HM 001)
Right, first off let me just say that I have no idea who Jandek is! There I've admitted to my unhipness. Sure I've heard the name and seen a photo of some skinny guy dressed in black at a gig in Glasgow a year or two back but that's it. Never heard a note! Not a one! Nothing! Nada! Zip! Zilch! Sweet F.A.! Equally, I've only heard of one outfit (Burning Star Core) on this companion disc to Summerstep Records two Jandek tribute albums and I've not heard anything by them either. So, fresh ears.
If the first 4 tracks are any indication then this Jandek chap produces fey-keyboard-bluesy-indie 'n' roll-droney-experimental-lounge jazz. I'm confused! I'm enjoying myself but I'm confused. Like all compilations this is a mixed bag of the good, the bad and the indifferent. Being a tribute album its main appeal is always going to be with fans but if like me you're a complete novice there's still plenty to enjoy.
Various - Cosmic Machine: A Voyage Across French Cosmic & Electronic Avantgarde (1970-1980)
(Because Music BEC5161470)
With sleeve art that looks like a mid 80s Hawkwind bootleg and containing music from a scene I have absolutely no knowledge of over and above that one big name artist that hangs over French electronic music; he's on here of course. As it happened there were two tracks on here that I knew already. The afore-referenced Jean Michel Jarre weighs in with 'Blackbird' which is everything that is expected of him but also on here are Space whose 'Magic Fly' was a huge hit here in the UK back when I was a little fella.
Sonically it's a real mix although one that's heavily weighted towards the poppier ends of the electronic music spectrum. Synth is king and for the most part it's being used to produce a fusion of easy listening and disco. Most of these tracks are not without their charm but there are moments that really should have been left in the obscurity in which they had rightfully languished.
There are real gems sprinkled throughout though. The Atomic Crocus produce some fantastic space sleaze on 'Ombilic Contact', Francois de Roubaix, Alain Goraguer and Jean-Jacques Perrey all bring the heat with top notch library music(esque) tunes that could find a happy home on any number of giallo crime flicks.
Compilations are always going to be a bit of a pick and mix and I think that's why I quite like them. This one was fun and a little bit silly and it's put a smile (and the occasional cringe) on my face a few times over the last couple of days.
Various - Dark Meadows Recordings sampler
8 tracks featuring 5 groups make up this compilation from new Northampton based label Dark Meadows. That the label itself is the new home of the thunderous Ghoul Detail should give you an idea of what to expect from them.
Opening (and closing) proceedings is Syrinx, the work of the two label heads - the afore mentioned GD and one Ed Plenderleith. Their initial track is a nice excursion into the deep, dark full of long tones and a delicious sense of apprehension. Their album closer is a fabulous melange of guitar and samples - more of this please guys.
Second on the bill is Glowingpixie who litters his / hers / their contribution with reverb drenched clatters. It's a good piece which left me either wanting more or wishing it had done more, I couldn't decide which before Ghoul Detail unleashed the full force of his 12 bore drones.
Two consecutive tracks from Hoist. The first, the deceptively named piano intro, is a twitchy little drum and noise assemblage that is more than listenable. The second is a strangely hip hop-esque slice of drum and tone, it's an unusual combination but I think it's one that works - I'm definitely intrigued by Hoist.
The final two tracks are by Calactus and have a sort of noisy shoegazer sort of vibe. Musically I kinda dug it but I really hated the vocals.
Compilations are always a mixed bag and I've written before on my feelings towards them but happily this one has far more going for it than against it. Worth a look.
Various - Dark Meadow’s Lonely Christmas Vol.2
I know I say this every time I review a compilation but I really hate reviewing compilations. So with that in mind you’ll excuse me being ridiculously vague.
Dark Meadow is a Northampton based label who I’ve developed a close relationship with over the last few years. Not only have they released some of my music but I’m also on this here compilation (and cause I don’t get the chance to feature in WWR very often you can hear my track on the mix accompanying this months issue - #43).
As you’d expect from a 4 disc album it’s a real mix bag both in terms of style and quality. there are some fantastic moments on here alongside some fairly lumpen ones and all stops in between. But, as is always the case you’ll disagree with me on which fall into which category and that is exactly how it should be.
Those of you with a hankering for the darker side of life would be well advised to give this a shout especially as it means supporting a nice fella whose willing to put his money where his mouth is and release a 4 disc box set just cause it’s Christmas.
Various - Drones since before the dawn of time: M. I. Compilation Vol. 4
(Musically Incorrect Records)
I’m moving house at the moment and I’m spending all my time sorting through the debris of having lived in the same flat for ten years. Earlier I was boxing up my books and playing, very loudly, was this album. It’s big and noisy and droney and I thoroughly enjoyed it. To this point I’ve not even looked at who’s on it and I don’t really care because it was perfect for the moment.
It's now a month later, the books are unpacked and I've finally got the time to sit and listen to the stack of seedees that has gathered over xmas and the new year. The album opens with noisemongers Grey Park whose 'Hundred Years Old' gets things off to a riotously noisy start before Skullpture enter the fray with three, untitled, tracks of their own particular brand of harsh guitar improv. Flutwacht's 'Course of a River' is 13 minutes of pounding noise whilst Am's two untitled offerings are at first glance a more 'traditional' and 'musical' beast, until that is the razor sharp wall of guitar noise puts the lie to that idea and they follow it up with their superb Throbbing Gristle style second track. Half Mile Down continue the old school industrial feel marrying vague phasing noise with assorted boops and swoops and Crossbred meld their eerie effects with some vaguely middle eastern sounding melodies, think the opening desert sequence of The Exorcist as soundtracked by Coil. A damn fine album that you really ought to hear.
Various - Funny Old Shit: A Trunk Records Sampler - vol. 1
Trunk compilations are always a joyous experience. One that is to be greeted with a smile and an expectation of being taken on a trip like no other. This first in a new series of budget compilations is no exception. As you'd hope it's a glorious TARDIS of sound that travels through time, space and genre to bring us 16 examples of unusual, crackpot, wonderful and, yes, funny old shit.
Where else in your collection will you find Brazilian movie soundtracks, French avant-garde (Pierre Henry & Pierre Schaeffer), the b-side of the first ever Radiophonic Workshop release (a pseudonymous George Martin as Ray Cathode), Noel Coward reading Ogden Nash over Aquarium by Camille Saint-Saëns (a melody that the Harry Potter composers were most definitely aware of) and calypsos from both Robert Mitchum and the UK TV legend that is Bernard Cribbins; Mitchum's about a stolen watch and Cribbins' about gossip that references both an oxyacetylene welder and someone having their kneecaps scraped - which sounds exquisitely painful - all sharing the same space along with 10 other equally bonkers and marvellous excursions into the peculiar.
But, and I can't put this strongly enough, even if the catalogue of delights I've listed above don't inspire you to go out and grab this fantastic and cheap - did I mention the cheap? it's only £2.99 on CD - compilation then you absolutely must, must, must, must, must go out and get it for the exquisite vocal take on Coltrane's 'Naima' by The Double Six of Paris which I've had on loop for days now.
It's always cause for smiles when a new Trunk release drops on the doormat but that's especially true when it turns out to be as good and as much fun as this one.
Various - I, Mute Hummings
(Ex Ovo EX001)
I find compilations really hard to review! Mainly because you want to give everyone on it an equal shout but that's not always possible or particularly recommended. Often some of the tracks are a bit crap so you try to avoid writing much about them because it's not big or clever to slag someone off but equally if you write nothing then it's like you've ignored them or written them off as being beneath comment and that's probably worse.
You feel you have to discuss the pacing of the album but that usually feels forced because compilations aren't organic like single artist albums. The individual tracks often have little in common (especially with experimental music) except some vague thematic link that's often been imposed by the compiler. Then you have to sound knowledgeable about the bands on the disk most of whom you, at best, have a passing familiarity with or more commonly have never heard of. All this and a limited number of words to do it in.
Fortunately what we have here falls mostly on the happy sides of the above complaints. 'I, Mute Happenings' is a 9 track compilation to launch this new German label. The line-up is impressive, the music more so. Dealing mostly with etheric, somnolent and narcotic sounds Ex Ovo have brought together an impressive array of musicians who display a refreshing lack of uniformity in their approaches and their sounds. From Keith Berry’s slowly unfurling wash to Dronaement’s LP crackle melded with drones and chirps. From Paul Bradley’s immersive, crystalline tones to Fear Falls Burning's slowly strummed guitar and Richard Lainhart’s choral keyboards. There are others, all worth a mention, but this review is already too long, While some moments do fall a little flat others are vibrant (often in the same track). It’s an intriguing album, nothing particularly stands out but it’s a good showcase for an interesting new label.
Compilations, often a bitch to review but sometimes a joy to hear.
Various - Koji Tano Tribute
A 10 disc box set of tracks donated in tribute to the late, Japanese noisey chap, Koji Tano (of MSBR). Yeah, I know what you're thinking, '10 disc box set!?! I can't bloody afford that!' and 'How did you get one of those? Are you made of money?'. Well, the important facts to notice here is that it's a free to download box set and there is no box in the set. The 158 tracks that make up this project were all donated in the two week period following Tano's death and they provide, in a manner of which i'm certain he'd have approved, a fascinating and thoroughly enjoyable snapshot of the world's noise scene. There are a few of the more recognisable names here, Emil Beaulieau and KK Null, but this is the realm of the deep underground and consists of, in my case, around 152 bands I'd never heard before. It's as though Xmas has arrived 2 months early.
Luckily the nice SI people have split them into seperate zipped cds for ease of downloading (CD07 wasn't working when I tried but hopefully that will be fixed soon). What we have here is one very big album. Rarely does an individual track stick it's neck out and demand your attention but equally it never fades completely into the background. For me it's the tracks utilising more 'organic' sounds that engage my full attention where the majority offer a more digital edge to their compositions. I'm struggling here as I'm loathe to pick out individuals from the mass because really it works best as a whole. That's not to say the tracks all sound the same, in fact, quite the opposite. There is a huge range of, well, noises on display here as we run all the way from sheets of ear-scraping feedback to delicate wind instrumentation via detours into glitch, dark ambient and industrial territories. It's easily worth the time it takes to download as well as the time it takes to listen to for that matter.
Various - Playing With Words
Really it's the most obvious of sound sources. For the vast majority of the planet vocalising sound is a primary act, fundamentally intrinsic to our everyday life. It is however something that is very much under-explored in current experimental music. I very rarely receive any music featuring vocals of any form here. This set from Gruenrekorder seems to be attempting to redress that imbalance all on it's own with some 41 tracks spread over two CDs all based around the exploration of spoken language.
As I'm sure you realise there are as many different approaches here as there are tracks. Whether these be 'simple' recitation of text, abstracted vocalisations, cut-ups of pre-recorded voices, contrasts of language or any one of the other techniques displayed here it is, for the most part, a deeply affecting experience.
It certainly doesn't all work. I found one 3:03 minute long track to be amongst the most agonisingly tedious experiences of my entire life and played back to back the two CDs make for punishing listening that will certainly test the patience of all but the hardiest of musical explorers. What shines through however is a majestic and uncompromising variety of approaches that often result in some quite astonishing art.
Various - Lost In Translation
4 way split compilation featuring Kenji Siratori, Goghal, Torturing Nurse and Fever Spoor. 3 of these I'd heard before but Ghogal are a new prospect but knowing what the other three do means (noise and lots of it) I can make a fairly good guess as to what they'll sound like and I'm right.
Lost In Translation is a pretty homogenous affair. No one act stands out from the others but all deliver an engaging variety of shrieking maelstroms of electronic noise. I liked it. Not sure why. I got magnificently pissed on cheap red wine last night and woke up today without a hangover or a care in the world so I suspect that may be a factor but, fuck it, I'm declaring today Shrieking Noise Day and this album can be it's theme tune.
Various – The Machine Started to Flow into a Vein (volume 3)
A very limited (300 copies) compilation released for the Nurse With Wound and Hafler Trio gig in Lithuania on the 10th of November 2012. Its 6 tracks long with 3 of them being Nurse related.
Opening the proceedings in Andrew Liles whose ‘Camberwick Green’ does indeed open with the character of the twee, but fondly remembered, British cartoon before morphing into a rolling hang drum pattern decorated with elongated groans and creaks.
Colin Potter on other hand serves a delicious platter of ‘Hell Food’ consisting of shuttling backward rhythms and swirly gritty mastications. 5 Minutes in, the soup tureen arrives in a series of dark gloops arising from its abyssal depths. The soups psychoactive properties kick in towards the end before we remember just whose food we’re eating and the trip goes decidedly bad.
Nurse are next with a darkly tredepitious and slow moving meditation. It’s not the most adventurous of pieces from him (them) but it’s a nice way to spend some time.
Following NWW is a short but sweet psychedelic swirl from the first of the new names to me, Dimeth Trip, whose nightmare ambiences are continued by the other new name, Skeldos. The latter nicely providing an extra layer of portentous longform melodies to give their contribution an aching melancholy.
Closing the album is a spoken piece by the Hafler Trio wherein a man’s voice (Andrew McKenzie’s?) describes, in tedious monotone an unidentified place. The voice sounds like the one that read the weekly football scores on UK TV in the 1980s.
I didn’t dig this at all.
Overall, a corking compilation with enough commonality for cohesion but with enough variety to maintain attention. Subsequent plays though have found me pressing stop after the fifth track though which is a shame as I’m quite partial to a bit of H3o.
Various - Radical Turf presents: Hello Future
(Radical Turf RT303)
I really don't know what to write about this. It's so far outside my normal listening parameters that I'm pretty much at a loss for words. My first impression is that the title seems a bit of a misnomer. To my ears this isn't so much a salute to the future more a homage to sounds past. There are a plethora of synth tones on display here that have been evidenced on albums for, at least, the last 20 years. Equally though many of those self same tones have a pedigree unmatched in electronica and are used here with aplomb. The occasional foray into hip hop and drum & bass, some impressive beatwork and a unity (but not uniformity) of sound make Hello Future an intriguing play.
Various - R.I.N.O. an international compilation
(Roil Noise RNOCDR071)
Compilations drive me insane. Not in the listening process but in the reviewing one. You see a lot of this album was, in my opinion, awful. Power electronics and muscular noise workouts of the type that makes my bowels itch. Some of it was astoundingly mediocre and some of it was really pretty damn good. The bad ones I'm not going to name because to do so would really suck, the mediocre ones I'm not going to name because that would be rude and the good ones...well...I'll happily name them. Android in Motion vs. Ghoul Detail, Ctephin vs. Elser, Cull, XDUGEF vs. GDR, Tada, Opium Farmer & Sturclub. Why these? Mainly because they're all going their own way to some extent and that's always interesting to hear.
Interesting but not essential.
Various - Sarah Dear Sarah! Spacemen Don't Live On Mars
Right here's the situation. Compilations, love listening to them, hate reviewing them. Regular readers will be well aware of this as I've ranted on many an occasion on this subject. Compilations, particularly punk compilations, are always a mixed bag in terms of both quality and style. Actually I'm going to rephrase that. Compilations, particularly good compilations, are always a mixed bag in terms of both quality and style. And this my friends is what we reviewer types call a damn fucking good compilation! Slightly battered singer / songwriter tunesmiths (Richard Burke) stands shoulder to shoulder with angular noisecore outfits (One Louder) whilst inordinately happy pop bands (Hypermarket - they even whistle) queue up alongside punk rawk groups (Cosmicdirt). And that's just to name 4 of the 19 bands featured.
The only artist I'd heard of on this entire album is H2S and that's only because I got one of his albums in the same envelope as this one. Not everything was exactly my cup of tea but none of them were bad songs per se they just weren't really my thing so I'm not naming names. Nothing made me hit the skip button, most are pretty good and at least half had me grinning like a loon.
Various - Test Tone Anthology Vols 1, 2 & 3
The first thing that needs to be addressed when regarding this set of discs is the misnomer. Do not go into it as I did expecting to hear a series of crisp tonal works developed in a lab somewhere for equipment testing purposes. Instead be aware that within these discs you'll find a sizeable array of experimental music from a fairly diverse set of genres.
Medama Records has been set up to document the artists who have passed through the doors of Tokyo's SuperDeluxe a 'multi-purpose venue founded in 2002 to facilitate experimentation in sound, art, film, theater, dance and technology.' and the performances that happen there. Each of the three volumes offers a different take on the ideology or the actuality of the venue in that disc one concentrates on improvisation and electronica, disc two is concerned with performance and the acoustic properties of and interactions with the venue itself whilst the third disc brings a presentation of the Tokyo outsider music(al) landscape.
Time and space prohibits me from bringing you a comprehensive overview of each album and with 39 separate tracks and artists I think I would run out of words somewhere around the middle so lets talk in generalities.
The first disc is probably the closest to what I was expecting from a compilation of Tokyo experimental music. It's filled with crisp electronic sounds, obscure vocalisations and brief snatches of noise. I'll have to admit to being utterly unfamiliar with most of the names on offer here (Government Alpha and Zbigniew Karkowski being the only exceptions) but it's all eminently listenable and if you're a fan of eremitic experimentation then you'll find much to like here.
Disc two is a much more gently musical beast than its precursor with conventional instrumentation and songs taking their turn in the sun. In attitude this is very much a continuation of the first disc but in sound a corner has been turned. Melody and composition are in ascendance and experimentation and improvisation are less obvious (particularly the latter). Not every track here is successful, indeed there is one (which I shall not name) that I utterly detested, but for every piece that didn't grab me there were two that really made me sit up and take notice - a particular fave being that by Samm Bennett & Hiroyuki which is sublime.
Disc three is a hotbed of free jazz, noise rock, post rock, obtuse improvisation and post-punk erudition. It's a fine assemblage that, as you can see, moves freely through stylistic boundaries paying them the disregard they so richly deserve. There are some truly fantastic moments on here with Muddy World's 'Beleth / March' being my absolute favourite and 'Siryo' by OWKMI running it a close second but that's just to name two standouts amongst ten very fine and very different pieces.
The joy of compilations of this type lies in the sheer volume of new music that it brings to your ears and taken in single sittings this is a punishing listen. However the stylistic differentiation of the three volumes allows each an individual identity whilst still retaining a cohesive sense of identity and purpose and showcasing some astonishing music. Each disc has it's merits and will appeal to different people and I do have a definite favourite of the three but I don't think I'd want to have heard any one of them in isolation from the others as it would have painted an incomplete picture and it's a picture I intend to continue to look at for a long time yet to come.
Various - What Pleasing The Lord Looks Like Marriage: Extreme Noise…And Terror
From Japan & Israel
(Heart & Crossbone HCB-020)
Wrapped by that very odd title is a compilation featuring 4 Israeli and 4 Japanese purveyors of extreme music. Like all comps it’s a series of highs and lows. The general gist of this one seems to be slow and sludgy with some real dodgy generic bronchitis vocals - Ryokuchi, Cadaver Eyes, Zenocide - or total noise (with or without added shouting) - LietterSchpichDiet, Poochlatz, Remesh, Neverless - or both - MONEYI$GOD.
Some tracks I liked more than others. Some bits of tracks I liked more than others but with this sort of stuff the chances are that my choices would be entirely different from yours. I’d be surprised if this ever hits my seedee player again but it was fun to listen through and if noise or doom is your bag then I’d be surprised if you didn’t find something to your liking here.
Various - A Cleansing Ascension
(Elevator Bath eeaoa040)
Celebrating 10 years of existence Elevator Bath have chosen to mark the occasion with this their first compilation release featuring exclusive tracks from 10 of the musicians currently involved with the label. It's quite some line-up and they all are more than up for the task.
Opening proceedings is Matt Shoemaker whose 'Waning Ataraxia' is 7 minutes of muscular tidal drones dripping with pin-like sine. Adam Pacione follows at a slightly more sedate pace with an ambient synth piece that balances precariously along the edge of becoming new age music but pulls itself back from the precipice with some nicely dirty ambience about two thirds of the way through. Jim Haynes takes a far more industrial tack with his contribution using static, nebulous hisses and stuttering gritty loops overlaid with plump tones. Keith Berry's 'Toward the Blue Peninsula' is like a lost William Basinski piece, all haunting tonalities and half remembered melodies. Rick Reed follows with the first piece that appears even remotely celebratory but it's initial electronic swoops and swirls soon give way to a more restrained yet still pretty noisy ambience. Offering a gentle return to earth is the deep and gentle drone washes of Dale Lloyd's 'Our Morphosis' before Colin Andrew Sheffield lifts the proceedings with triumphant long drones drenched in oceanic hiss. Francisco Lopez continues his seemingly new found love of sound over silence with an uncharacteristic piece filled with drawn out tones, rapid squelches and crashing eruptions of machine-like noise very much in line with the contents of his Machines CD (also on Elevator Bath). James Eck Rippie makes a fine contribution with a concrete construction of insectile buzzes, metallic clatters, burbling aquatics and grandiose tones before Tom Recchion closes the proceedings in a chorus of sea sick tonalities.
Happy anniversary Elevator Bath, here's to 10 more.
Various - Underwater Noises
New water themed compilation from Ephre featuring 15 Italian sound artists. Comps are a notorious pain in the posterior to review as before you even start you have to make a conscious decision on how you are going to listen to it and write it up - track by track or as a whole. Ambient comps help in some ways as they are meant to be pretty cohesive affairs so here goes.
On the whole it's much of a muchness. Some field recordings, some twittering, chittering, skittering sounds and some slow wash drones make up the majority of tracks here. Most are very listenable, some are excellent (Ennio Mazzon, Un Vortice Di Bassa Pressione & Christian Di Vitto) and the music generally merges into one long track which I liked very much as it keeps one in the moment.
I'm not really a fan of compilations. I find the constant stylistic changes to be a little jarring and distracting but that's not the case here. Of course you could say that displays a massive lack of imagination on the behalf of the participants but equally you could make the claim that it shows a consistency of vision on the part of the compiler. Whichever side of that particular fence you come down on (I'm the latter) this is worth a listen.
Vecchi-Teller - One EP
Operating in the arena of recontextualised improvisation by which previous improvised pieces are combined and reconfigured into new shapes. This modus is readily apparent when you listen as each track is crammed to the gills with sound. There's a distinct noise feel to the proceedings but not in the stereotypical 'everything at 10 with screaming' manner instead it feels like it's like it is purely because it needs to be not just because it wants to, which is and important distinction. Distortion isn't god here and the duo use their tools (toolbox & junk percussion, electric guitar, analogue synthesizer, a vibrator with contact mic and a sampler) to great effect. The size of their sound is based on density and clarity of sound not simply muscle power.
I'm glad it's an EP. The short runtime means that you don't really have the chance to get bored with what's going on and things never outstay their welcome. It's short, very much to the point and pretty good fun.
David Velez - Bay Ridge
(Mystery Sea MS 68)
An unusual 2 disc outing for the Mystery Sea label by Brooklyn based Velez which, at an hour and thirty five minutes (58 minutes on disc one & 37 on disc two), is enough to test the attention span of even the most ardent fan of the genre.
As is always the case with MS releases water is the central theme which is, as Velez states in the liner notes, the dominant subject of his own work and as such this pairing should be a marriage made in heaven and for the most part it is. The sounds on offer feel rubbed and ground and scrunched to provide a deliciously textural experience that seemingly hangs together due to the coarseness of the constituent sounds. The problem for me though is it's just too long. My attention span with albums is somewhere around the 40 minute mark after which I start craving something new. As such disc two is easily my preferred of the two and besides, it feels more fully exploratory. Disc one whilst certainly enjoyable kept losing me so I found it difficult to make the journey to it's conclusion and I certainly couldn't do the full two disc trip in one go, which was a shame. Hopefully though you'll have a longer concentration span than me and will be able to stick it out and experience the full effect.
David Velez - Vestigios de Nada
The field recordings that make up 'Vestigios de Nada' (Remains of Nothing) were collected in the Parque Ambiental Embalser del Neusa in Bogota, Columbia. They document an area of lush, verdant ecosystems.
Velez states in the liner notes how fond he is of the area and this shows in the composition. The recording is sparse and almost reticent. The presence of the recordist is acknowledged but not implicit and for the most part the sounds present are allowed to carry the listener through the national park to it's close.
It's a journey worth making.
David Velez - Sonido Descompuesto
David is a welcome return visitor to these pages especially as this, his contribution to the Unfathomless discography, is amongst the best things I've heard from him.
For Unfathomless, contributors are required to produce a piece that speaks of a place dear to them based on recordings sourced there. For Velez thsat place is a farm called 'Las Margaritas' in Columbia.
Over the course of it's 49 minutes the piece explores the various aural textures of the environment - machinery, (what sounds like) a busy road, water, etc - filtered through some heavy processing.
In essence it's a heavy and darkly opaque set of textures post-industrial ambience. Truthfully it isn't anything new to the genre but it is very nicely assembled and holds your attention throughout.
Veliu Namai - Pasiklyde
Now this one really came as a surprise. I think I was expecting bass heavy dark ambient rumble from this Lithuanian musician and instead I got the gentle meanderings of slow Angelo Badalamenti-esque synth compositions.
One man band Veliu Namai (the name means 'The house of souls') is an interesting prospect. He obviously has a real knack for putting a composition together and the early part of the album is very fine indeed but as it progressed I found my interest waning. It's certainly not because his compositions deteriorate it's simply because he doesn't alter the mood. The same air of distracted melancholy is maintained for the entirety of the album and I found myself getting very bored indeed - I just can't take this much navel gazing in one sitting. Split over two albums or simply adding some other ambiences to the mix would have raised this album from being merely listenable to being highly recommended.
Velveeta Heartbreak - I Shot The Invisible Man / Secret Beach Boys Fans
(Semper LoFi Recordings SLFR0001)
If there's one way of getting on my good side before I even start listening to your record it's to send it on vinyl. In particular 7" vinyl. I love 'em! Always have, probably always will. A true design classic that'll never be bettered.
Most of the music I listen to isn't very well suited to the format. The drone music that takes up most of my ear-space takes place over times more suitable to ice-ages than 7" run-times. Velveeta Heartbreak (or Michael Bowman to be more precise) makes music that is perfectly suited to the format. Short, concise, pop songs that shimmy out of your speakers like sonic smiles. Of the two tracks it was the b side that made the bigger impression as it's the slightly stranger and looser of the two which is exactly how I like my pop (and my women but that's probably more info than you need). Summer music on a sunny spring day, life should always be this good.
Vibrating Garbage / Corsican's Whore - Effusive Moon Kaleidoscope / Cash Only
(AghartA tapes 2)
One of several cassettes released to launch the new label rising from the ashes of Lithuania's finest label of the weird Perineum.
American(s) Vibrating Garbage fill side one with a long bubbling set of cracked electronica. Disjointed sounds trip over each other in their exuberance to escape from the confines of the speakers. It's unrepentantly silly with a nice old-school Nurse With Wound feel to it.
Fellow American, the delightfully named, Corsican’s Whore take a very different tack on his side. His path is one of dense, narcotic hallucinations filled with radio waves and obtuse trumpet peels. It’s not spectacular but it does what it does well enough.
An interesting start to a cool new label.
Carlos Villena - Oscil.Lacions En La Penombra De Les Taques Solaras
(Ephre Imprint EPH03)
Spanish noise musician Villena uses processed field recordings to produce his music. It’s a fairly austere experience laced throughout with a scathing dissonance. Noise music really doesn’t do it for me anymore but I can still appreciate when it’s being done well and this is. It’s restrained and mobile. Villena explores his sound source thoroughly and isn’t averse to mixing things up a little which raises him above the usual distortion-mongers.
Carlos Villena - Sensacions Desplacades
(Mystery Sea MS70)
Sometimes it's hard to review releases like this. My pen is screaming to write phrases like 'deeply immersive', 'darkly somnambulant' and 'seductively foreboding' because all of them are apt. They've been used before though (and will be used again).
Villena makes cavernous soundworlds filled with formless entities that shimmer, shiver and flicker. Brief lives demanding attention before succumbing to their inevitable demise.
I've been the lucky recipient of a fair load of Villena's releases. They are all worth your attention but none more so than this one.
Violence and the Sacred - Scarcely a Pause in the Process of Butchering
This is the first in a series of 5 (although maybe eventually 15) releases tracing the live actions of Canadian industrial experi-mentalists Violence and the Sacred. This first one in the series was recorded at The Fallout Shelter, Toronto on 16th of May 1986.
This set of cello, vihuela, synth, beatbox, voice and tapes is for the most part a decidedly atonal affair. The music is made almost entirely out of acute angles, sharp bends and pointy sticks. It's a 4 day espresso bender recreated in sound. A mind-bending hodgepodge of baffle and whoosh.
It isn't music for everyday listening but it's certainly an unusual and entertaining way to spend the occasional hour.
Violence and the Sacred - The true Poison 1986
The second of this set of excursions through the history of Canadian industrial chaos-ticians is a mix of studio and live tracks dating from the heady days of 1986.
Musically this continues in much the same way as the disc detailing their 1985 that I reviewed last issue. There is a difference though there is a real sense of confidence here. there were several moments on the previous album where it felt like things were degenerating into a manic free-for-all. You don't get that here. the band seems tighter and the ideas stronger. The music is still a cacophonic kaleidoscopic swirl but there's an almost plunderphonic vibe. Some of the spoken word elements are, let's say, of their time and maybe haven't weathered the years as well as might be hoped but on the whole this is another interesting and entertaining release in this series.
Violence & the Sacred - Teddy Bear Stinks Real Bad Now
And so, via the magic of the Viosac reissue series, we arrive at 1987 and V&tS are showing a maturity of sound that their early primitivism belied. It is still undeniably the same band that we can hear on those early performances but it's a hell of a lot slicker and, maybe, more coherent.
Sonically it's a continuation of what has gone before. Abstract guitar, cello, synth, voice and sample soundscapes that relate a surreal and incomprehensible narrative. It's filled with caffeine jitters and nic-fit edginess and it stands in front of you trying relentlessly to poke you in the eye with a stick.
Now, doesn't that sound like something you want to hear.
Violence & the Sacred - Arkinoid
Violence & the Sacred - Lost Horizons
I've reviewed a few of these live retrospectives from V&tS over the last year and so decided to do the last two as one review as they both date from 1987 and were recorded at the same venue.
These are probably my favourite of these live shows so far. Both display an assured and cohesive band displaying a strong sense of control over the proceedings whilst still embracing the chaotic soundworlds documented in some of their previous outings. The music, the samples, the readings all gel to create a cut-up narrative that is as compulsive as it is abstruse.
Viosac - You Are Planning To Enjoy The Apocalypse
These Canadians, who are more commonly known by the unwieldy name of 'Violence and the Sacred', have produced an album of two distinct halves. The first is dominated by disjointed Korg synthesizer compositions which I found to be hugely tedious, to the point that I'd pretty much decided not to review the album. Overly insistent cavalcades of bleeps and boops have never been of particular interest to me. Luckily I persevered though as on track 5 the album suddenly unfolds to reveal hidden depths. The Korg is restrained (but ever-present) and it is joined by a wider variety of sounds and instrumentation that allow the music to breathe and to grow.
I'm still not hugely taken with the album but I do think that fans of the less intense ends of experimental and industrial music will find something of interest here.
Viosac - Dawning Luminosity
It'd be true to say I wasn't overly blown away by the previous Viosac albums that had kindly been passed my way. It wasn't that they were bad, they just weren't to my tastes. This time out though Graham Stewart has produced an album that is fully in line with what I love in my drone music.
'Dawning Luminosity' is a three song set of processed Moog drones that hover in the air and morph themselves into increasingly complex Venn diagrams. The music is distinctly electronic but holds a tactile warmth which you can almost feel as it swirls around you. I love this sort of vintage sci-fi soundworld that old tech just oozes so well and couple with some truly delightful and restrained musicianship this album is an absolute dream.
If like me you're a fan of the space drone of people like Tangerine Dream or Cluster then I really do recommend this one to you.
VipCancro - Tropico
(Lisca Records LISCA007)
Tuscan improvising quartet VipCancro are an intriguing new prospect who produce, on this their third album, a scything cacophony of abrasive drones, gurgling atmospherics and squealing distractions. Making nice use of the sounds they have available to them the four players have produced a deeply unsettling body of work with a delightfully cloying and claustrophobic post-industrial ambience.
There's a commonality of sound and feel to the 6 tracks that make up this album but at no point do you get the feel that they are short of ideas or flailing. The music is tightly controlled and very nicely paced. It's isn't going to set the world on fire with it's innovations or it's deviations but it's a solid piece of work that I've returned to several times over the last week.
Vopat - Lathe ep
(Inam Records 26)
Vopat - Call To Them
(Public Guilt PGL006)
Terrific pair of instrumental post rock ep's on little teeny cdrs. They both have much to recommend. Lathe is the more melodic of the two with an almost pop sensibility peeking through in places (the opening of track 2) but in general this music places itself squarely to the left of centre and isn't afraid to change direction on a whim.
Call To Them is the more muscular release opening with some pretty fiery Mogwai-esque guitar abuse that falls into a more mellow excursion before it gets all dark and heavy and full of shrieking guitars on track 3 (one day I'll learn to look at track titles).
I must admit that at no point have I listened to either ep in isolation and so they do kinda blur into one album in my mind and I have to say it's a damn good album. So, my recommendation would be...please, for god's sake, don't buy either one of these ep's! Instead, invest your money wisely and buy both of these eps.
(inamrecs (AT) yahoo.com)
Vopat - same
(Inam Records 103)
I've previously talked to you of my love of Sujo and of my joy at Olekranon and so I shall now evangelise for Vopat for Vopat is Olekranon, is Sujo, is Ryan Huber.
his lovely little cavalcade of noise and melody is a trip through some of Ryan's older (2008) pieces that provide a snapshot of the grandeur of his work. Euphoric guitars drenched with triumphant amounts of distortion and underpinned with crashing drums and soaring drones but with a pronounced tunefulness that emphasises the shoegazery heart that you can often hear beating within in his work.
(inanrecs [@] yahoo.com)
(VxPxC) - Chinatown Nose-Cut
(Dead Sea Liner 11)
Part dada-ist circus music montage, part industrial soundscape, these unwieldy named Americans have produced an album that Throbbing Gristle would have been happy to put their name to. The instrumentation is buried in the production morass but the ideas are very much to the fore. Occasional dirge-like vocals do strain my attention a little but they are few and the music is generally carried along by a willingness and a wilfulness that is to be admired.