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)

KEITH ROWE & SEYMOUR WRIGHT – 3D

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)

KEITH ROWE / COR FUHLER – Rowe / Fuhler

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)

STEPHANE LEONARD – Lykkelig Dyr

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)

ANDERS DAHL – RGBTapes

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)

ÜL – III

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)

Craving A Quiet World

Swansea (Wales) is the home of Ian Holloway’s imprint, which I currently reckon among the few truly genuine sources for abstract/dark electronica-related genres.

IAN HOLLOWAY & DARREN TATE – Wet Rat Year

Typically lovely cover artwork, with two nice dancing rats that just ask to be joined. The music is, one should say, “Dadaist as usual”: absolutely impossible in fact to predict what these men will do from a record to the next, especially when Darren Tate is involved. In this case, we have less drones and field recordings than the norm (except a beautiful conversation of honking ducks at the beginning of a track) and LOTS of distorted/warped guitars, digital delays in “hold” mode and, I presume, nonconformist analogue synthesis. In parts, the whole is unambiguously alluring, principia of acid degenerations reinforced by utter corrosions of the audio message (which is a desired effect). At the end of the CD, an FM radio station appears to further destabilize the residual comfort. Those who expect something along the coordinates of Monos, or the most bucolic sides of both artists, are going to remain seriously deluded. This is harsh stuff, achingly dissonant at times, but the substance is clearly visible for the knowledgeable ones.

BANKS BAILEY – Vibrations From The Holocene

First meeting with field-recording artist Bailey for yours truly. The large part of the album is devoted to natural sounds, which may have become commonplace these days but are always preferred to useless music in this writer’s room. Here we find what everybody expects: chanting crickets, gurgling waters, strong wind, steps on leaves, cracking wood, buzzing flies. Heard a million times, yet still beautiful. Also nice the “urban” interlude recorded in downtown Springfield, Ohio in which a bell tower is translucently juxtaposed with train horns and remote traffic-derived reverberations. Overall, what Bailey managed to capture at their most tenderly compelling is the heartbreaking singing of the birds, to which the real ones outside the house seem to respond. Do we necessarily need legitimate artistic progress to appreciate the soul of the earth? My answer is definitely “no”. As obvious as these tapes sound, they’re gorgeous and I’d love listening to these voices all day long.

IAN HOLLOWAY – She Loves To See The Sky

Holloway is especially keen on keyboard-generated drones, and this 40-minute offering is no exception. Again, nothing to cry miracle at but a pleasing listen without particular troubles. The large part of the work’s weight lies on the broad shoulders of classically throbbing subsonic lows, most often deriving from clustered layers in the low regions of the instruments, whatever they are. Particularly in the first half, percussive presences – of the post-industrial kind – thud and reverberate in the mix to add a degree of instability, but then the moaning river stays in its bed more or less till the end of the album, probably for the better. A honest effort which is not difficult to mentally connect with, provided that we remain aware of this music’s pre-determined field of action and well-known boundaries. A steady company from a peddler of sincere-sounding electronic music who privileges solidity and openness to incomprehensible sentence-spitting hiding sonic fraudulence.

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Last Esquilo Quartet

Graham Halliwell’s On The Sensation Of Tone was originally released in 2005 in a 12-copy limited edition, initially conceived as a collaboration with visual artist Nash Masood. Despite the fact that we’re by now familiar (in part) with the concept of “saxophone feedback”, something that involves a complex game of microphone placing and soft touching of the instrument’s keys, the inexplicable enthralment that this music causes is still a sort of mystery to me. A term of comparison that came to mind at some stage in the playback is - perhaps obviously - Alvin Lucier, especially in virtue of the wobbly bordering tones that, repeatedly during the piece, place a touch of instability in an otherwise rather soothing (at least for my own needs) cerebral liniment. The 3-inch CD does not present actual surprises or sudden changes, beginning and ending with the same type of expansions and contraptions interspersed with more or less acute frequencies. The firm advice, though, is that of repeating the experience in all kinds of possible setting (which indeed one should do for every record when the living conditions allow it, thus finding the correct balance between personal pleasure and understanding of the composer’s intentions). Via headphones, there’s much to be heard in regard to the mechanics of sound production (only then, for example, you’ll be able to clearly distinguish the clacking keys modifying the sonic tissue), whereas enjoying these mildly incandescent diffusions in a room brings partially different results, ethereal layers of slightly morphing nimbuses intensifying our will of forgetting about everything else for the entire 19-minute duration.

In May 2008, Michael Vorfeld wrote an essay called Ringing Light, published on the Detritos art magazine, to which he also added some graphics. On another 3-inch disc we now find the sonic transposition of those ideas, the piece’s title remaining the same. Scored for “light bulbs, percussion and self-designed stringed instruments”, this is perhaps the best music I’ve heard from this artist, at least among his own propositions. A fine juxtaposition of contrasting factors: varying dynamics and total void, anxiety and calmness, gentle flow and harsh impassiveness, making use of the extremes of the audio spectrum with keen compositional authority. Vorfeld leaves the right time to each statement to resonate and fade away, fixing single events - including the apparently insignificant ones - in our memory to carve a heterogeneous picture of intelligence that mixes concrete and insubstantial sonorities to convey a kind of untainted radiance that is meant to last. Even the (unusual) utilization of a recurring rhythmic pulse sounds perfectly logical, the piece reaching its conclusion exactly with that, leaving the audience in a state of satisfactory uncertainty. I listened to this five times in three days and it is still growing on me, revealing new secrets with every additional spin. Highly recommended.

Besides the above reviewed small formats, the Portuguese label issued two full-length CDs, albeit both are rather diminutive in duration. Tomas Korber and Utah Kawasaki’s Pocket Size Isolationism is, honestly, a difficult record for me to give an assessment to. I’m fairly familiar with, and appreciative of, Korber’s past output but was instead completely unaware of the Japanese’s activities until now. The problem derives from the fact that a sizeable chunk of this recording belongs to that category of live performances where the action is so “micro” that numerous incidental sounds of the room and from the outside (motorbikes, screaming children) are doing the work, which is nice at times yet - for my personal taste - has become somewhat stale: too many people are exploiting this option by now. This occurs following a scathingly sharp discharge of treated guitar and feedback at the beginning and one is left waiting for minutes and minutes (and minutes…) after that, catching just glimpses of minor movements and rare manoeuvring of tiny bits. Luckily, the second half or so starts realigning our ears with more tangible transmissions, as the body of the piece – exiguous as it remains – becomes somehow expanded by a growingly penetrating drilling of the membranes by a superimposition of mainly acute frequencies, static enough to hypnotize a bit yet alimented from within by something comparable to a barely perceptible irregular throb, especially in the conclusive section. This section definitely saves the day, giving the listener a reason to play again a disc which, otherwise, would have sounded as one-in-a-million in this progressively overcrowded genre (there’s still a long way to go before reaching the figures of “artists” and “releases” of esoteric ambient, though).

Better satisfactions came from Rebecca’s Variation No.12. Kai Fagaschinski and Michael Renkel are one of those combinations of sonic personalities that seem to function whatever the context you put them in and whichever the instruments they utilize to convey a peculiar kind of discipline. This record’s principal feature - my favourite - is a noticeable transformation of the structure of the music from legitimate improvisation to something that sounds preconceived and realized according to a specific design (that might be the case, but I sincerely didn’t check – no time to surf the web these days, and the sleeve says nothing in that regard, except that the performance was recorded by Christoph Amann, usually the sign of great stuff in this field). This is particularly true for Renkel’s strings (he plays guitar and zither with “preparations”), which at the beginning are exploited in their percussive aspects more than anything, while – as the piece goes on – the duo depicts different tonalities thanks to a knowledgeably sensitive use of bowing techniques (the zither is especially useful for gentle overflows of upper partials, so beautiful at times). Fagaschinski alternates light insufflations of sheer air-through-the-conduit to almost flute-ish emissions and minor contrasts, in general remaining on the caressing side of timbre, superbly complementing his comrade during the execution of a plan that meshes intuitive discretion and critical acuteness of the perpetrators, who give the impression of choosing the right thing to do at all times. Not a masterpiece, but definitely a cleverly measured recording.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

No Pigeonholing Required

As they say in the trade, the world is beautiful because of its variety - and there are still people out there who don’t make records for money or personal glory, god bless their souls.

OCEANSOUNDS – Marine Mammals And Fish Of Lofoten And Vesterålen

One has to feel affection for characters such as Heike Vester, a “biologist, coordinator and founder of Ocean Sounds, specialized in bio-acoustics of marine animals”, whose “main interest is to preserve life on this planet by trying to minimize human destruction”. As naïve as this aspiration may look in this hopeless age, I often think that with a few additional millions of Vesters around the world there would still be a measure of hope for humanity. Oh, well. This CD – published by Gruenrekorder - is essentially a collection of calls and signals from the inhabitant of the seas from the Norwegian regions quoted by the title, two among the geographic areas in which Heike is active today as she studies the vocal behaviour of killer and pilot whales - the real protagonists, together with dolphins, of the whole project. The hard-to-believe gamut of emissions released – clicks, buzzes and synthesizer-like shrieks - are enjoyable alone or meshed with other aquatic elements, including the background sound of a fishing boat’s engine in a circumstance. Many of these sonorities have nothing to be envious of in comparison with certain anarchic fringes of EAI, to tell you the truth, and several of these cetaceans would easily dialogue with a Theremin - or with Thomas Lehn, if so preferred (this is meant as a compliment). A lovely edition, which nourishes a joy of existing that very rarely materializes in most everybody’s existence nowadays.

PUNTILA – Pabswift And Winterfront

The nom d’art of Alistair Roberts, Puntila produces self-made CDs in strictly limited personal edition, a veritable “release-on-demand” enterprise which, for good measure, reveals an interesting musician gifted with a number of uncharacteristic features (check this website for more information and to purchase the material). Pabswift And Winterfront shows various sides of Roberts’ music across six pieces in which your favourite babbler managed to find elements – whose presence is presumably totally involuntary – of Nurse With Wound, somewhat deviated Celtic folk and, in the initial “Pabswift”, Bowie’s instrumentals circa Low and Heroes (…do I hear someone giggling? “Neukoln” gives me goosebumps to this day, if you really want to know). Caveat: these are my own fantasies. Utilizing samples, real instruments - not indicated on the sleeve, but I’d swear that a dulcimer, and for sure an accordion, are present - and perhaps a couple of pinches of tape/digital manipulation, the composer manages at times to stun without sounding grotesque, alternating vicious suggestions and near-bucolic agreeability with benevolent savoir faire. Echoes of warped pastorals amidst idiosyncratic venomous whispers – plus a degree of mild droning - finely presented in handmade gatefold covers. Enough, this writer believes, to titillate your curiosity, no?

Sunday, 12 July 2009

Here, There And Everywhere

A few reviews edited in a Sunday afternoon characterized by wonderful choruses of cicadas around the house, always my favourite music in the summer (or what once was intended as such – we’re practically having a storm a day or so in this region).

TRIO HOT – Jink

Nemu

A mega-trio in terms of technical nimbleness, Theo Jörgensmann (g-low clarinet), Albrecht Maurer (violin, voice) and Peter Jacquemyn (double bass, voice) are not afraid of showing what they can do, favouring over-exposure to silent observation every now and then, feet always firmly rooted in dignity nonetheless. Improvisations influenced by modern chamber music – the lone exception a virtually unrecognizable “Round Midnight” – where instant rejoinders to the various suggestions thrown usually draw a rather intelligent acoustic polemic occasionally flourishing into fully fledged quarrels bordering on stylish petulance. The real pleasures, truth be told, come when the trio’s members decide to play less and listen more, yet there’s no doubt about the consistent logic of aural gratification that permeates the disc: these people are able to deliver outstanding tones in instantaneous efficiency, their instrumental accents all but gorgeous. Sometimes this is enough, provided that the limits of good taste are not trespassed, which is not the case in Jink.

CELER – Neon

Self Release

Inexhaustible as usual, Will and Danielle Long are steadily claiming an important spot under the weak sunlight of contemporary droning. This is Celer’s 21st self-produced release, typically coming in a folded sleeve distinguished by Dani’s artwork, and it’s another half-stunning, half-tranquilizing soundscape – one of the best, in my opinion - whose foremost principle is symbolized by hardly intelligible loops that don’t allow easy admittance to unwarranted analysis. This is valid until one reads the detailed elucidation written on the inside leaflet, which reveals that the sources are “pure instruments reduced to their bare tones”, and that the loop cycles behave according to impulses generated by voltage-controlled neon lights. It would be great to have a video of this process, aiming to “demonstrate a beauty of traditional instrumentation, the transformation of sound into the beauty of electroluminescence, the reflections of man-made lights and the unique color spectrum of nature”. The resulting sounds are particularly delicate and calming, embracing the environment and the listener alike enigmatically yet sympathetically. There’s no divergence, no conflict; everything seems to be perfect when this record is spinning. And – contrarily to what happens in this writer’s head after a while, when he’s exposed to lengthy segments of ambient-related nothingness – the need of going on with the experience remains substantial. Definitely a useful soundtrack for self-looking cogitations but, above all, a splendid release that encourages the enhancement of our consciousness. (POST SCRIPTUM: I decided to leave this review unchanged as a homage to Danielle Baquet-Long who, unexpectedly, left this earth last July 8. She was only 26. Rest in peace Dani, you’ll never be forgotten here).

OFFICE-R(6) – Recording The Grain

+3DB

A sextet comprising Koen Nutters, Robert Van Heumen, Jeff Carey, Sakir Oguz, Dirk Bruinsma and Morten J. Olsen sharing mixed media (laptops, bass, reeds and percussion), Office-R(6) present us with vivid electroacoustic improvisations making good use of gaps and corners, mostly expressing a disconnected type of application which causes the music to expand its complex designs through a chronic alternance of short notes, concise phrases and not excessively extended deliberations. Multitudes of charmingly dignified timbres fit together without creating chaos, the sense of discipline is exceptionally developed, the whole sounding tight and controlled also when that’s probably not the case. More than resulting problematic at any cost according to a classic “look at how difficult we sound” attitude, Recording The Grain puts forth intelligent questions and gives itself the answers. Paradoxically, this is perhaps the only defect, in that the record lacks a measure of unexpectedness despite a considerable variety, appearing as surgically exact, meticulously intransigent, elegantly authoritative to these ears. The quality of the single voices is very high, though, and that alone makes listening an utter delight. A measured, but not parsimonious work which doesn’t contain the stigmata of momentousness yet – somehow - sounds astute, even seducing, no self-indulgence or vulgar impropriety in sight.

STEINBRÜCHEL – Mit Ohne

12k

Apparently, Steinbrüchel is unable to bring into being less than stimulating music. This short record - the audio counterpart for Yves Netzhammer’s 3-D visual installation “The Feeling Of Precise Instability When Holding Things” - consists of about 18 minutes of warmly digitized emissions which persistently shift and recombine, individuating their brain-relieving raison d'être in narcotic sequences applied to chiaroscuro settings, immaculate frequencies and stretched out tones similar to bell-like elongations or metamorphic virtual realities producing incessant awe in total aural fulfilment. The ever-present symmetries and glowing beauty of this artist’s sonic kingdoms, derived from “particles of melodies searching for space to breathe”, are once again enough for me to classify the work as tremendously charming, and – particularly in this circumstance – perfect for personal utilization independently from the original context. An instantly identifiable class that never betrays, enhanced by a not excessive productivity that, together with the sheer intensity of the sounds, places the Swiss composer/architect light-years distant from the late-coming hordes of laptop rapists.

THOMAS PETER – Medir

Domizil

Computer-assisted and/or electronic music can remain introvert, if necessary, without the automatic need of intimidating the addressees. Such is the case of Medir by Thomas Peter – an artist I never met before – which sounds pretty closed in terms of memory-retaining power yet exudes a sort of digital warmth that makes it sound acceptable since the very first spin. The composer refers to his work as designed for “imaginary spaces”, although one sees this definition as a little reductive. There’s nothing conceived to let us cry miracle, every element exactly where we expect it to be, perfectly delineated in a well-considered sonic organization which leaves extreme dynamics and gratuitous noise on a side to give more opportunities to subsonic growths, under-skin negotiations between monochromatic excrescences and conciliatory resonances, and mesmerizingly nerve-rubbing pulsations. Only slightly intangible in short spurts - but cannily realized overall - Peter’s sonic concept is discreetly tasteful even if not really unforgettable. Indeed, memorable albums are becoming a scarce commodity nowadays - especially in this area, where not coming out with a dud is already an accomplishment.