Sunday, 16 August 2009

Uneasy Listening

Five suggestions for a serene end of August, provided that you don’t have a family (tolerant wives are accepted) or nervous neighbours.

DAS SYNTHETISCHE MISCHGEWEBE – Neunundvierzig Entgleisungen

In the hope that I transcribed the spelling correctly, this unpronounceable release (not disease) is a double 10-inch with a splendid cover artwork by Françoise Vigot (whose graphic beauty is most regrettably scarred, on my copy, by a huge “PROMO” marker graffiti. Are you so afraid of me selling stuff on eBay, guys?) by the deus ex-machina behind the DSM project Guido Hübner, who – working alone after years of illustrious collaborations - welcomes us with four slices of studio mistreatments of practically unidentifiable sources, reducing the whole to a parade of semi-disturbing noises and capricious discharges which at times sound like a proper composition yet grow to be predictable with the passage of time (which is absurd in a way, given the Dada-meets-Tietchens orientation of the creature). Yes, it also happens in the best families: what seems erratic and unmanageable can become almost prescribed, determining the checking of my wristwatch to see how long the fourth movement will take to end. The fact that one has to flip sides twice to hear - more or less - a similar kind of music everywhere doesn’t help. Beware: the record plays at 45 rpm although the label says that it’s a 33. As a joke it didn’t work with this barking man, a total hater of excessive effort in the decoding of useless mysteries outside the very sonic content. (Auf Abwegen)

BIOSPHERE – Wireless

Or, if you will, Live At The Arnolfini, Bristol. Admittedly, an on-site performance by a man who’s considered a master of meticulous aural construction (and whose music usually strikes for its impressively uncontaminated luminosity) got me halfway through curiosity and refusal – I am gradually, inexorably shifting my preference to studio-generated recordings - but class being class Geir Jenssen knows how to deliver rewarding soundscapes even in such a circumstance. This CD comprises a concert recorded in 2007 during the Touch 25 festival by what the press release calls “the doyen of sound recordists, Chris Watson”. A few tired moments aside (those pre-taped voices are not inexplicably enthralling as perhaps Biosphere desired, indeed taking a portion of magic away from the overall mood when they appear, and certain synthetic rhythm patterns dangerously approach kitsch) Jenssen manages to appear great as usual with his fantastic loops, among the most mesmerizing one can hear today, in essence confirming to have (almost) everything under control in every occasion. Wireless is not a chef d’oeuvre, and probably doesn’t belong in the artist’s top five. Still, it was played thrice in two days, so that must mean something. (Touch)


Another Guido from Germany (I always wondered about the large diffusion of this Italian name in that country), who usually sweetens the audience’s ears with contaminations of elegantly anarchic electronic niceties and melancholic acoustic cuteness, this time surprises us with a bizarrely vivacious album in which instruments sampled in a rhythmically efficient way are intertwined with vocals based upon invented languages by “4-track virtuoso Andreas Gogol aka go:gol” (pleased to meet you). The result is a series of often hilarious songs which exploit superficial traits of the most commonly identified genres, interlocking them in pastiches apparently sung by a Russian-African meta-creature who frequently sounds recorded backwards while gagging. The music is also good for dancing, more or less awkwardly. It’s not the deepest of records and, in truth, tends to lose a bit of steam in its final third or so; but utilized sparingly and in the right moment it works great, producing a few episodes of amusing weirdness. (Karaoke Kalk)

KKNULL / JOHN WIESE – Mondo Paradoxa

Mondo Paradoxa is the result of a two-year collaborative mail exchange between artists who have found fame and fortune (just kidding) in the realms of the advanced, so to speak, forms of noise but are also able to compose something interesting with it, contrarily to 99,9 % of what's typically exalted by the "specialized" press. Although the character of this music is definitely inimical to any hope of relaxing listen - at least for the untrained unfortunates - the sound and the fury are mostly well-channelled: more than feeling raped by sheer racket one's fairly happy to be transported in dimensions comparable to a small empire of punkish suggestions often permeated by an inclination to minimalist repetition. The couple worked with pertinacity to the construction of a knotty tissue dirtied with a kind of semi-pleasing electroacoustic plankton which only very rarely degenerates into quasi-vulgarity, even the most brittle fragments of reality cemented in a sufficiently cohesive whole. Beyond electronic screaming, warped samples, sinister sequences and irrational distortions we can see a predilection for the investigation of inaccessible spaces and the predisposition to a consecutiveness of events which makes clear that these men are not illiterates trying to look as rocket scientists, they’re instead a pair of researchers who may leave someone struggling with a difficultly tolerable aesthetic yet clearly respect a few basic rules, in absence of which this type of release is easily associable to rubbish. On the contrary, there's still a good measure of musicality here, all for the better. Intriguing stuff, and be careful when listening by headphones: some of these frequencies bite. (Auf Abwegen)

MEERKAT – Kapnos

A collective project involving several of the principal Italian operators in the area of post-dark-ambient-cum-natural-elements, a bandwagon that in this particular country has meant shelter for practically anybody who wakes up one morning thinking “If Vidna Obmana, Lustmord, Köner, Roach … put your additional hundred names here… can become famous with something like this, why not me?”. The participants in Kapnos (Greek for “smoke”) are Luca Bergero, Andrea Ferraris, Paolo Ippoliti, Laura Lovreglio, Andrea Marutti, Fabio Selvafiorita, Luca Sigurtà, Matteo Uggeri, Davide Valecchi and Adriano Zanni. I’ll gladly do without the semi-cryptic monikers, also a commonplace of sorts in this macrocosm: perhaps there’s a law preventing individuals from releasing droning material and signing it with their real name. To end with the list of negatives, the field recordings - although generally well realized and expertly positioned in the mix - mostly belong to the worn-out sphere. Is there someone, somewhere, who has NOT taped a rainstorm or sheer gurgling water yet? (*) Is it still necessary to camouflage chatting people (among them, ironically, a Roman-accented fellow who talks of Glenn Branca: not bad for a potentially meditative piece) amidst cavernous rumbles and sublunary humming? It all smells so “Pink Floyd circa 1973”, not making much sense today. Having said that, at least three tracks in this disc are very good, helping to place it in the upper half of the regional average. And the winners are… “One”, “Six” and “Seven” (with “Five” almost at the same level). Honourable mention to Andrea Ferraris’ guitar and electronics, the latter supposedly at the core of the profoundly beautiful resonance heard throughout “Seven”. In a nutshell, this reviewer loves the quality of the drones significantly more than the environmental banality. And since I’m a nice guy, comments about MB’s “explanatory” sleeve notes will be spared. (Afe / Nighthawks / Ctrl+Alt+Canc / Grey Sparkle)

(*) STOP PRESS: In this last CD, the answer is a "half-yes". There's indeed water, but no rainstorms: I mistook the deep breathing of wind over fire for distant thunders (sorry, Fabio, and thanks to Matteo for the heads-up). I'll keep the rant for a next meteorological turbulence, which will surely come sooner than later...