Scott Walker - Bish Bosch
I'm a new comer to the Scott Walker party. All I knew about him was the Walker Brothers stuff. I'd kind of absent-mindedly dismissed him from that point expecting the solo stuff to be, like most of his peers, an endless rehash of past glories. I was wrong. Boy, was I wrong. Sorry Scott.
I looked into this after a friend posted the video for 'Epizootics' and a casual click left me sat there with my jaw in my lap, my brain leaking out of my ears and my preconceptions heading out the door with a bindle over it's shoulder. I really had to hear more. I never do this but whilst first listening to the album I checked out some other reviews from around the place. For the most part they were very worthy analysis of his place in the avant-garde or wordy examinations of the lyrical themes. Truthfully I'm not really interested in any of those things (it's why most Wonderful Wooden Reasons reviews are so short) as for me this music was an utterly visceral reaction. It's music you can quite literally feel. It attacks you from all directions taking unexpected turns and twists throwing ideas and words at you that are equal parts puerile, poignant, pissy and pointed.
In a way it's redolent of John Zorn's Naked City mash-ups. The way it contrasts genres and ideas celebrating their differences and showcasing their potency; pounding metal (in both senses of that phrase) following delicate passages of forlorn crystalline beauty that in turn give way Hawaiian ukulele strums and light operatic musique-concrete and let's not forget the farting.
It's a singular vision and there's nowhere near enough of those in the world at the moment.
(R.O.N.F. Records rnf-038)
Wander is a side project of Beequeen which is the long-time project of Dutch musicians Freek Kinkelaar and Frans de Waard (who apart from recording under a plethora of other identities is also the pen (or should that be keyboard) behind the always essential Vital magazine).
A cursory reading of the Wander page at the Beequeen website leads me to believe that this project was established to further the drone and ambient experimentation that defined the earlier tactics of that group before their embracing of more pop elements sent their sounds along a different path. Here there is very little pop and Wander produce an altogether harsher and chaotic sonic brew than I was expecting. The early part of the piece is dominated by a siren-like tone beset by waves of jagged noise until roughly the half-way point where they are replaced by hissing showers of silvery static.
It's the first half of this EP that was of most interest to me the second seeming a little under-developed. The two halves are quite distinct with only the barest of transition time between the two which does leave them feeling a tad disconnected. For my first visit to the Wander soundworld though it was an intriguing experience.
David Wells - 02
In his guise as head of the Locus of Assemblage label David Wells is responsible for releasing a string of rather wonderful mini-CDRs featuring such luminaries as Paul Bradley, Cheapmachines, Earzumba and more (lots more).
As a musician in his own right Wells produces some impressive drone based electronica. I'd previously heard (and reviewed) his contribution to the 20 Hertz labels Drone Works series (#9) which is reproduced here as track 1. Wells' approach to the drone melds it with amorphous and often ambiguous sound sources that are scattered through each piece to insert patterns and colours into his palette and shows he's unafraid to create startling music from the most delicate of sources. Certainly one of the most sedate albums I've heard in a long time, the movement of each piece can be measured in terms of glacial time. But, to quote the old adage, good things come to those who wait.
David Wells - Efegin
(Locus of Assemblage)
Locus label head David Wells here produces a form of drone that is characterised by rotund tones that slowly form, evolve, roll and then fade. It's a beautifully sedate affair that only once makes an overt play for your attention (which it does very nicely) to remind you of it's presence.
David Wells - Rojo
Scottish musician David Wells makes a welcome return to these ears with a stunning and stately, euphoric drone piece. Rojo is a beautifully timeless construction. It's 38 minutes could be 38 seconds or 38 days, it's impossible to tell once it drapes itself over you. I've no idea what he used to make this music I'm just glad he did.
David Wells - Resolutions
(Siri Disc siri12)
Scottish drone-maker David Wells has been a regular in WWR for a number of years now. Through his now defunct Locus of Assemblage label he released some fantastic music by a wide variety of people working in the field. Now, through his new Siri Disc he has continued with the high quality releases but happily his own music features more strongly than previously.
On Resolutions David's music is a sparkling cluster of elongated tones slowly building, growing and spreading through the room. It's a glorious hazy, lazy, seductively warm sunrise of sound.
I have another of David's albums here with the same name (but with a much longer playing time) released on cassette by the Con-V label that I've been unable to play until I buy a new player (mine has taken to savagely ripping the innards out of whatever is put in it). But if that release is anywhere near as good as this (which I'm certain it is) I'll be heading to the shops this afternoon.
Bettina Wenzel - Mumbai Diary
(Gruenrekorder Gruen 086)
A real oddity this one. Sound artist Wenzel adds her own voice work to a multitude of field recordings amassed while in residence in Mumbai. In line with my policy here of never writing negative reviews I probably shouldn’t be writing about this as I found her vocalisations to be uninspired, uninteresting, often annoying and, for the most part, childish. The phonography of the city on the other hand is really quite interesting and if you enjoy or are able to listen past the vocals then I’m sure you’ll find much to like here.
Simon Whetham - Beneath The Swinging Bridge
(Mystery Sea MS59)
Fittingly there's a decidedly aquatic theme to Simon Whetham's contribution to the Mystery Sea catalogue. Water trickles, pretty much, throughout this rather lovely composition. He overlays the water with vaporous tonal drones that pulsate and oscillate their way through intermittent coral reefs of less salubrious sounds. His tones are a little too cold for full immersion in the sound so you are never fully swept along but as an accompaniment to my daily life it is a more than suitable soundtrack.
Simon Whetham & Paul Khimasia Morgan - The Grey Area
A tricky release to review this one. Its paucity of sounds meaning it often behaves in the most ambient of ways and melds seamlessly into the room and it is only when it does something overt that you become aware once more of it's presence.
The music on offer was recorded and manipulated live in the Grey Area Gallery in Brighton, UK and is a melange of tactile and fibrous sounds with a strangely sub-aquatic feel. For me it isn't the most absorbing of templates - I prefer my sounds rounder - but it is immaculately realised with all the available sounds fused into a fragile and brittle whole.
Simon Whetham - Slopt
This is a slightly different incarnation of Simon than has previously appeared in these pages. Here he has taken on a more tonal aspect to his music and crafted a set of slowly evolving, revolving or devolving (delete as appropriate) drone pieces.
The source materials for this set was recorded during a series of late-night / early morning walks around Edinburgh in 2008 but it wasn't until 2 years later that he began to work them into any sort of form. Those walks must have had a real effect because the music here is as expansive as I've heard from him and then some. It retains the slightly gritty textures of his previous work but there are rounder more ambient tonalities in there too and I find this contrast really appealing.
I turns it's meditative, disquieting, hallucinogenic, unsettling and transportative and utterly compulsive.
Simon Whetham - Mall Muzak
Simon has sourced all the sounds for this release on Mystery Sea offshoot, Unfathomless, at The Mall, Broadmead, Bristol, a three story temple to soulless corporate consumerism in the middle of Bristol city centre. The music, like it's inspiration, is stark and unsettling to such degree that you are soon left expecting the lady in the radiator to start telling you how everything is fine in heaven.
The hulking monolithic music that Whetham has assembled speaks of the grinding, rumbling, laborious underbelly of the place; a far cry from the plastic happiness that is paraded in the public areas. This is the sound of the internal workings of The Mall; it is the sound of the intestines, the arteries, the lungs and the groaning, rasping joints. This is music that has moved away from it's (post-)industrial roots to embrace a new metaphor; one of the biology of the machine; a bio-mechanical exploration of the body-economic.
The Why Because - Musicshapes
San Francisco’s The Why Because have concocted a mutated hybrid of jazz and post-rock on these 5 improvised pieces that showcase a set of musicians at ease with each other and in full accord as to where they're heading. Recorded straight to mini-disc the production does leave a lot to be desired, at times the drums sound like cardboard boxes and the playing occasionally falls foul of it's own aspirations (and is all the better for it) before the group mind reasserts and it's all systems go once more. TWB's music manages to be both utterly chilled and maniacally twitchy alternating between atonal jazz skronk and the downright groovy. My guess would be that watching this lot jamming live must be a real blast because they're pretty damn good jamming on record. Someone needs to get them in a real studio though.
Chris Whitehead - Ravenscar
Ravenscar is a small coastal village in North Yorkshire on the east coast of England. There's not a massive amount of evidence of the presence of humanity on this recording as instead of the village Chris focuses his attention on creating a five part phonography of the surrounding environs.
It's a really lovely set with quite a bleak and isolated character to it. Some of the sound sources are maybe a little commonplace but they are situated so as to offer character rather than as a primary focus. At no point does this ever feel like the focus has become the recordings rather than the area it is documenting.
A beautiful and immersive release that really does feel like it speaks of place, time and perception.
Wiracki - The Harmony Of Noise
The first thought that comes to mind when listening to Wiracki is 'symphonic noise'. Yeah I know that sounds horrible but it is kinda apt because this isn't your usual turn everything up full and wail away type of noise album, it's been thoroughly composed and listening becomes as painstaking a process as constructing it obviously was. As it progresses, 'THoN' relinquishes much of the grandiosity of the early tracks which it replaces with more psychedelic elements that free up the music to allow it to explore other avenues and this for me is where the album really comes to life. It suddenly feels more alive, more fun.
It is readily apparent that Wiracki has devoted a considerable amount of thought and effort into the construction of each piece on this album but I have to say this isn't really the type of stuff that floats my boat as I generally prefer a more spontaneous or improvised feel. However, the sheer volume of ideas on display here and the care and attention with which each track has been constructed means there is pretty much something to suit everyone's palate.
Wireless - Terminal Broadcast Station
(Flight Disaster Lounge Recordings)
From what I can tell this is the 4th Wireless album.. They describe it as 'Brooding, classical, industrial melancholia. Swan song to a dying planet'. What you get is a damn fine opening track of swirly, psychedelic guitarscapes followed by a second track that offers you more of the same before it all gets drowned in a cod-classical soup of big strings and dark atmospheres. Things get a little bit 'Enigma' on track 3 before the album regains it's feet on the next with a nice melodic ambient piece. A tendency, however, to drift into the kinds of areas characterised by 'new age' musicians dogs the rest of this album and detracts annoyingly from its impact. I am enjoying this at the moment but as good background music. It fills a space in a room beautifully and if I'm doing something else it helps me ignore the slightly cheesy bits and enjoy the rest of it.
Wolf Scarers - Throat
(The Noise Upstairs NUS004)
A frenetic and playful 4 track set from 2 UK saxophonists - Keith Jafrate & Simon Prince (also on flute). The pairing originally (it says here) found each other through the Huddersfield Inclusive Improv festival in 2010. Lucky bloody Huddersfield I say (and that’s something that probably hasn’t been said many times before).
This is great fun. Sonically it’s not the most varied thing in the world as it’s predominantly two tenor saxophones tying each other in convoluted knots - but I happen to think that the tenor sax is one of the two most beautiful instruments there is (the other is the banjo - I bloody love the sound of the banjo).
I’d dearly love to hear a tight and inventive backline behind these guys but until that happens I’m going to be happy listening to them circle each other with charm and élan and a real sense of joie de vivre.
Wounded Knee - Green Tea Ceremony
Voice and delay pedal improvisation from Scotsman Drew Wright. Not a lot I can say really except he's gone for the vaguely Tuvan / Mongolian adenoidal throat singing style. It reminds me of someone else so much that each time I play it I spend the first 5 minutes of the album trying to remember who it is which is driving me insane. For my taste a single 32 minute voice track is way too long to hold the interest as it never changes or evolves in any truly significant way. The voice is an interesting and generally under-explored tool but Wright's voice does, I think, need the support of other instruments to add extra levels to what, in their absence, is a slightly one-dimensional listen.