Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Wholesale Memories 2008-2009

(Expect more of these gatherings of old and new things, folks…I have to create some space on my desk, you know).

JAMES DEVANE – James Devane

Ill-defined, crusty washes à la Fennesz open this collection, entirely constructed upon of “loops of different lengths separated into left and right channels”. Don’t be thrown off-target, in any case: this is another brand of music - more repetitive, unremittingly evocative, genuinely nostalgic. Think “feet in the sand caressed by the sea at sunset, eyes on the horizon”. Mildly emotional at times, charming throughout although not really bottomless in terms of compositional endeavour - but it was indubitably meant to be that way. Devane utilizes guitars the whole time, and also – sparingly - Rhodes piano, drums and field recordings. Someway I believe that fans of Aidan Baker and early Celer could give this a try, even if Devane’s recollections are a tad over-consonant, in certain occasions, for my liking. The ultimate conclusion is: heartfelt, therefore appreciable enough. (Bremsstrahlung)


Frankly, this 3-CD set is probably valuable as a collector’s item – or for the hypothetically “experimental” approach to listening, more about this later – but not too much for the “interest” generated by its content despite my inexhaustible concentration and reiterated tries. Certain records manage to grab the attention even if conceptually pregnant (usually, the exact contrary happens to your reporter, who enjoys sounds much better than words trying to explaining and consequently limiting them). The scholarly quotes and analytical explanations dressing the sonic paucity of 3D are definitely disproportioned in relation to the final result; in this musical area, a likelihood exists in the combinations of events for not working as expected and - in all honesty - this is one of those cases for the large part. Recorded in Derby in 2002, the concert is presented in three different “views”, according to the recorder’s placement amidst the audience and the equipment utilized. The first version was taken by David Reid in central position at the edge of stage; the second by Chris Trent from the right side of the front row; the third by Jeff Cloke (“extreme left, three rows back”). There are indeed noticeable differences in the versions (including, alas, louder coughing), although not so imperative to justify the release of a triple disc that in any case can be easily downloaded for free. The potential multi-dimensionality should ideally be exalted by juxtaposing the simultaneous playback of the performances – but, again, this is easier said than done and of course highly impractical. What remains is enjoying Wright’s incredible array of unconventional techniques employed to elicit implausible emanations and mutinous percussive gradations from the saxophone, whereas Rowe seems to favour a restraint barely freckled by a few emersions with stinging plucks and classic jangling/bouncing grumbling - always too short – together with his customary, ever-masterful use of radiophonic instability. Still, the meagre “authoritative presence” – you know what I mean - of the music in the immediate surroundings while experiencing it from the speakers and the distractions that frequently tickled my attentiveness even during the headphone sessions are additional clues of the non-lasting qualities of this triplet, largely due to the musicians’ inconsistent dialogue which renders the whole akin to a parallel exhibition, not a real duo session. (w.m.o/r)


In opposition to the above reviewed release, it is with blameworthy delay that I hereby invite you to look for a copy of this scarcely available album, released on Fuhler’s own imprint a good while back (maybe two years? Time flies indeed). The recording itself is even older, as the set was taped in 2003 at the Doek 3 Festival in Amsterdam. Either you’re acquainted with the musicians or not, this is a must if your interest lies in vibrantly tarnished drones: the less-than-half-hour CDR is in fact thoroughly dominated by gritty rumblings and slowly crawling infiltrations of feedback and – naturally – radio, with a splendid balance between broad-shouldered pulsating low frequencies and pierce-and-jangle resonances, Rowe captured at his snarling best without undue alternatives, Fuhler suggesting a stationary harmonic dignity at times vaguely reminiscent of Stephen Scott’s inside-the-box orchestrations in terms of timbre. The few really conspicuous dynamic movements – mainly dropped notes and strums of the piano strings - are delivered, intelligently, towards the end of the piece. A study of gentle variations on a semi-static canvas that does not require excessive intellectualism to be deemed gorgeous. (Conundrom)

SIRSIT – Colorblind Cycle II

Four renowned individuals from the field of contemporary electronica form the skeleton of Sirsit: Rick Reed, Brent Fariss, Cory Allen and Josh Russell. The only piece, which lasts 36 minutes, appears as a rather edgy hybrid of modern and ancient cosmic explorers – early Tangerine Dream to (ever-quotable in these circumstances) Lustmord – with a relatively deeper organic vibe, explicated by an almost debilitating constant modification of the material’s consistency, which now and then is heard as in a “boiling liquid” state, while elsewhere the transformation occurs in merciless unpredictability, mixing unfathomable pulsations, purple regurgitations, magniloquent eruptions and, more rarely, tranquil reassurances. We’re not given a list of the instruments used, but analogue synthesis and computers might be involved. Difficult to say how much one can become fond of this record: the sounds are clearly articulated and seriously delivered, occasionally engrossing – yet, somehow, Colorblind Cycle II keeps leaving me pokerfaced after three listens. (Con-V)

GOH LEE KWANG – Draw Sound

Conceptual art a go-go. A booklet full of abstract pencil drawings, a 3-inch CD modelled after an 1-Eurocent, a 9-minute piece divided in 98 short tracks, each consisting of a throwing of (most probably) that piece of change with its different kind of rolling. One of the “actions” was performed by Woody Sullender, the rest by Kwang. For collectors only, as this thing has absolutely no weight in terms of “musical” quality. Maybe it could be used to disturb someone while they’re desperately trying to relax, just to have some stupidly wicked fun. The scribbled sheets look only slightly more interesting. Sorry, if there were hidden meanings it’s too hot today to search and find them. (Künstlerhäuser Worpswede)

HYPNOZ – Breath Of Earth

Dmitry Zubov comes from Fryazino, defined as a “Moscow suburb town”, and has been active on the Russian experimental scene since the early nineties under the Hypnoz moniker. He recorded the basic tracks for Breath Of Earth with Evgeny Voronovsky (aka Cisfinitum) over the course of a series of “night psychedelic sessions”. The result is an album of electronic music which sounds so candid to these frazzled ears that one can’t help but smile in appreciation to the purity of intents of these musicians. There’s everything you might expect from the genre: rhythmic pulse, extraneous voices, static keyboards, subsonic humming, solar winds, synthetic invocations projected towards cardboard-made galaxies. Yet, somehow, we tend to welcome the apparent honesty of the production rather than stigmatizing the recurring use of certain clichés – which, upon new listens, don’t sound so formulaic after all. The boys love what they’re doing, and it shows. An innocent record which, if enjoyed in the appropriate moment, could even give something to ponder about. (Zhelezobeton)

MUSLIMGAUZE – Jah-Mearab / Sulaymaniyah / Jaagheed Zarb / Sycophant Of Purdah

Following what happened on 9/11/2001, forgetting to mention Bryn Jones - better known as Muslimgauze - among the greats of the last two decades of XX century has become convenient in many circles. Luckily, Staalplaat remembers him quite well instead, and I’m thankful to the Dutch label’s staff for having forwarded these posthumous releases (keep ‘em coming!), all crafted ahead of Jones’ early demise in 1999, aged 38, due to a serious blood disease. One wonders what this bluntly outspoken, incredibly prolific loner from Manchester would have thought of certain “strategic alliances” that send apparent sworn enemies at lunch together nowadays; yet there is no question that only in a Muslimgauze record you can find a title such as “Ali Loop Bin Laden”. So much for the will of being accepted by the mass market. Let my stance be perfectly clear: independently from the radical political views the man literally created a genre, and these records are here to remind it. I chose not to review them singularly because it makes no sense: Muslimgauze is a unique entity that self-expressed through extreme ideals, strong opinions, hard-to-swallow photographs and – especially – magnificent sounds, and to this day there’s nobody who can touch the concoctions of mesmerizing rhythms and Arabic tones – both vocal and instrumental – that Jones kept incessantly seaming, collating and releasing from his English hole, often finely mixing them with ultra-modern beats and dub accents. Face it: most of this music eats stuff hyped by The Wire as ultimate coolness for breakfast, and spits the remnants sneering. It’s not a surprise that – before the economic crisis killed our credit power – Muslimgauze’s limited editions were the ones for which veritable bidding wars were seen on eBay. What might be told to the uninitiated is: start from indispensable albums like Untitled or Vote Hezbollah (how about this?) and then decide if the “Muslimgauze groove” is OK with your soul. This quartet of CDs is a candidate for regular revisiting: they feature excellent cuts – still sounding up-to-the-minute after over ten years - and the experience is strongly recommended to young and adults. A few weeks prior to dying, Bryn sent this reviewer a treasured postcard containing just four words in the typical semi-intelligible handwriting which graphically characterizes the majority of his records: “Hello Massimo – Keep Listening”. I definitely will - and my rarities are NOT for sale. (Staalplaat)


It took three years (2004-2007) to Stephane Leonard to realize his third solo release (I’m completely uninformed about the first two). He states that, for Lykkelig Dyr, the purpose was to experiment with “synthetic sound modulations, manipulations and artificial sound creation” as opposed to previously utilized guitars and keyboards. By exploiting Max/MSP and analogue sources – including field recordings captured over the course of several trips – Leonard gave life to an interesting album whose pigments and silhouettes are not entirely unpredictable as per the composer’s original intention but certainly ear-gratifying, often out of the ordinary, providing the listeners with a sense of direction, respecting their mental order through a correct placement of the events and – in general – highlighting organic qualities which render the experience almost physical at times. What I especially welcome is the absence of preternatural idiocies so typical of musicians who decide to utilize nonrepresentational sonic figuring for self-expression. Although not everything is on a level of pure excellence, the music never sounded calumnious to these ears, nicely mixing concreteness, gaseous matters and ironically twisted bell-and-whistle accents to avoid the most deleterious aspects of incompetence. In synthesis, one can detect the time and the sweat put in by the originator. Good record, even funny in a way, and smartly put together. (Heilskabaal / Naivsuper)


Once upon a time, “ambient” meant something soft and quiet that barely emerged from the background, typically caressing the ears during an afternoon or a late evening. In recent times, I’ve elaborated a radical reworking of this concept: to me, in fact, “ambient” now corresponds to a record containing sounds that might be interesting to a degree - but not excessively - which can be used as an active complement to whatever situation your room contains at that particular moment. RGBTapes is perfect for this: at 7:20 PM of a torrid day the external echoes – heavily informed by cicadas as it always occurs here over the summer’s course – mesh quite well with this grouping of electronics, tapes, tape rewinders, guitar, clarinet and – you guessed it – RGBTapes, of which no technical explanation is given, and - very sincerely - we couldn’t care less. A description would include downgraded timbres, hyper-acute delineations of irregular structures, spatial resonances morphing into coagulations of frequencies, unmanageable energies which often are rendered practically useless by cheap tricks and (occasionally predictable) inconveniences. The whole sounds anarchically burlesque to a point, never annoying. As above explained, this is a CD that works adequately in concert with the manifestations of the outside environment while, taken alone, a few doubts about the effective reliability of the music lingers on. (Con-V)


An all-Argentinean trio of guitars - Fernando Perales, Charly Zaragoza and Alan Courtis – arrive at their third outing after two obscure albums on the Pjorn and Facon labels. According to the press release, the goal is “combining elements of noise, drone music and free atonal improvisation”, which is a correct enough interpretation for this substance. The darker-than-dark atmospheres, the slowed-down clangour, the metallic qualities of the near-subterranean clattering of the instruments contribute to place this CD in the zone where dirty droning rules, yet there are also moments of quasi-consonance bathed in industrial pulse that could appeal to the aficionados of the usual suspects who manipulate axes to generate enthralment. Only towards the end of the program the “psychedelic disturbance” factor is augmented, the whole becoming a little less digestible. But, otherwise, this is an album that – quietly and unassumingly, and especially at low volume from the speakers – guarantees several minutes of fascinating reverberating malaise. (Zhelezobeton)