Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Tujiko Noriko-Blurred in My Mirror

.....Recent times have seen a return of the human voice as an important element in experimental music, both in song and spoken word. Artists like Valerie Trebeljahr of Lali Puna, Antye Greie of AGF and Swedish trio Midaircondo have been producing affecting and forward-looking work. With previous and soon-to-be-released albums on prestigious labels like Mego, Fat Cat and Tom Lab Tujiko Noriko’s output has been on par with the best of these. Joined on this release by Australian composer and multimedia artist (and Room40 label boss) Lawrence English, Noriko straddles the genres of pop, folk and electro-acoustic composition. Tracks like the opener, “Niagara Hospital,” are the kind of speak-sing performances pioneered by Laurie Anderson’s work in the 80s. Next up “Tablet for Memory” more closely resembles the jazz/lounge noir of Portishead. The Japanese language pieces are the most exploratory, binding abstract sound combinations to acoustic guitar and near-atonal chants. English’s electronic soundscape is the seat of strength and adaptation throughout. It is a barrage of tones and textures that shifts ceaselessly, yet somehow manages to stay neatly concealed beneath Noriko’s breathy voice. And a compelling voice it is.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

The Drift - Noumena

.....Sticking with an increasingly thinly stretched strand of a genre as instrumental rock is the musical equivalent of playing chicken… no one wants to miss the jump off point. The Drift is a San Francisco band made up from ex-members of Tarentel, Furniture and Halifax Pier, but their sound only holds sideways references to those bands. By siphoning off a little of the gas from the orch-rock machinery and going to more of an acoustic set up with trumpet, drums, electric guitar and upright bass, they manage to find a kind of jazz/fusion breakdown lane. Indeed, at moments they verge upon the Tortoise territory which occasionally fetishized Miles Davis’ 70s bridge building efforts. Their attention to groove and atmosphere over articulation also allies them with some of the more forward of the jam band brethren. So do they avoid colliding with onrushing obsolescence? Yes. Noumena, as in its Kantian origin, is an album onto itself, escaping the mope rock gravity well of the mind. The Drift drives over ground that is far from uncharted, but at least not completely stripmalled. Best to steer even farther clear next time.

(Temporary Residence)

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Folie - Eyepennies

.....Stefan Thor follows up his critically acclaimed first disc, “Misspass,” with an equally laudable work, apparently built from sounds generated by his two year old daughter. Circuitry marries the minimal pop trance of (Mitek label boss) Mikael Stavöstrand with the decaying dub experiments of Pole or Deadbeat. The result sounds a little like a microHouse hangover. Like Stavöstrand, Thor manages to unerringly work out the point where too little morphs into just enough in beat oriented electronics. By marrying a pregnant melody line to the trance-derived repetition of dry rhythm a highly kinetic space for the many and varied intermediate sounds is created. The familiar clicks, pops and beat-trailing echoes are present with subtle and slight genetic mutation detected. Those who mourn the passing of Mille Plateaux and Force Inc. will be able to put away their sackcloth and ashes for a while.


Friday, October 07, 2005

Christopher Bissonnette - Periphery

.....Just as you can make diamonds out of coal with enough time and pressure so too can you generate warmth from cold zeroes and ones. Christopher Bissonnette's work is not simply the end result but also the sound of the transformative process. "in Accordance" introduces the listener to the album with a simple assurance in the form of repeating and evolving piano notes, that there was music at the beginning and it continues, though at times subliminally. At other intervals he allows digital sound waves stripped nearly bare to approximate what fish trapped below pond ice might hear in the crisscrossing sweeps of skaters. Bissonnette leaves in sound "mistakes" which occur during editing, such as the clicks of abrupt track slicing and the digital "wow and flutter" of over-amplification which gives the effect of breath-like expansion and contraction. Each track elucidates a particular sensation yet still connects with the others for a genetic flow. "Comfortable Expectations" evokes watching a great sleeping body's slow rising and falling, while the follower, "Substrata," suggests the tingling anticipation of life set to spring up from just below the surface of... well, you pick. Other tracks, like "Travelling Light," are more musical but just as calm in their slow progression, with the rise and fall of a few organ notes bathed in static and gradually overtaken by their stutteringly altered digital doppelgangers. "Pellucidity" caps the album with a slight return to its opening theme, but is it an ending or the beginning of a new cycle in sound?


Thursday, September 29, 2005

TG Mauss - Mechanical Eye

.....On his first solo outing Torsten Mauss, previously one half of electro duo Tonetraeger, seems to be pulled in two directions: whether to present a vocal pop album or instrumental electro experiment. Tonally the album is cohesive, with a healthy balance of played strings, sampled instruments, soft electronics and found sounds. Mauss’ vocals are airily thin but, as in “Real,” effectively wed to the delicate layers of plucked bass notes, harpsichord keys and soft synth sounds. Ironically this track is complex and compelling regardless of the vocal, whereas instrumental tracks like “Pacific” meander without destination beyond a point where they’d be heard as interludes. In the post-Postal Service world of electro such a hook-free song feels unfinished. Luckily these missteps are few. Mauss’ taste in sublime sound combinations gently drives the album along. If full-blown pop songs tell stories these pieces are the equivalent of postcards: brief, heartfelt, scenic and atmospheric and with only the most ear catching details provided.


Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Songs of Green Pheasant - S/T

.....If the Nuggets box set were a compendium of near-forgotten 60s and 70s British folk songs, music by Songs of Green Pheasant would fit seamlessly. Despite being recorded in 2002 in a kitchen on a 4 track by Duncan Sumpner, an artist and teacher from Sheffield in England, the songs have a “just-unearthed” quality of breathy distance. The sound is more tapped-in than tacked-on to a tradition of metaphysical song cycles which stretches from madrigal to Garfunkel (and Simon). The more current elements, such as the drum machine rhythm and shimmering drone of “The Wraith of Loving,” are soon assimilated and bathed in the same atmosphere that sustains Sumpner’s echoing vocal harmonies. A subtle psychedelic current supports the acoustic foreground with recorder and hushed electric guitar tones providing elemental space. Sumpner is slated to collaborate next with Adam Davenport of Vibracathedral Orchestra, likely stretching further beyond these traditional boundaries. But these songs are perfect for imagining endless spring fields outside farmhouse windows and star-filled nights out on windy plains. As an introductory musical statement, Songs of Green Pheasant is pure without being purist (or puerile).


Monday, September 26, 2005

Sanso-xtro - Sentimentalist

.....The thing about learning a second language is that your range of expression can become drastically limited from what you’re used to. Verb tense becomes slippery and actions in the present suddenly slide into the past with an omitted accent or extra consonant. Melissa Agate’s first language is drumming and percussion, but on Sentimentalist she attempts to speak through a more processed iteration which uses analogue synthesizers, guitar, ukulele, kalimba, bells and other delicate sound sources. Although she is perhaps not fluent in these new instruments her approximate translations yield striking new expressions that outweigh any more “proper” approach. The opener “the last leaf” is the sound of a slightly tipsy, burping analogue synth backing out of a room of cymbals and snares. Elsewhere, as on “zlumber… talkinmysleep” and “minus_ecki,” she plays her stringed instruments as percussive loops in a double entendre of melody and hollow bodied echoes. The combination of sounds yields music that is neither ambient drifting nor the structured verse/chorus of pop but a synthesis of these… not unlike a recombination of early works by Pan.American and experiments by Steve Roden. It is music that doesn’t tell a whole story, but describes moments in colourful detail and from peculiar points of view across many languages. Very expressive and definitely not limited.


Friday, July 29, 2005

Away, but close

Sorry things have been stagnant for the last while... I've been away from home base for a few weeks and it's made keeping up with "production" a little tricky. I have July's shows just about ready to archive, probably do that over the weekend... It's been nice seeing mail starting to come in addressed to Surgery instead of the old perMUTATIONS moniker, though that name is still dear to our hearts, yes?

Expect to see reviews of these recent arrivals in the next little while as well.

The other thing which has been (pre) occupying my time is getting ready for a show in Ottawa upcoming on August 12th... part of a festival presented on July/August weekends put on by Artengine.

Gathering and mucking about with new sounds is fun, but it can be time consuming and impractical if you're doing it away from your own usual gear. We'll see.
If you're in the Ottawa area come on out and see us.

'Til then.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Now We're Really On.


The first seven shows are now archived and ready to download in .aif and .mp3 format from the links to your right--->

Soon there'll be more content in the form of reviews, interviews, exclusive tracks... but for now... a bit of background for the as yet uninformed.

The current show has its beginning back in 1999 when I started doing a weekly experimental music radio show on CHSR-FM 97.9 in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada. I had been involved with the radio station during the late 80s and early 90s but hadn't done anything until this new show which was, at first called The "Y2K-Mart." After the big bad Millennium passed I changed the show's name to perMUTATIONS "from vegetative silence to carnivorous noise" and continued until the end of Summer last year.

I like the idea of adapting the show to it's current format, one hour long... commentary-free mixes... accessible to anyone who wants to play/listen to it either on air or at home. It seemed to fit better with my other jobbies (job+hobbies) which include managing a record store and writing reviews for Exclaim! magazine (you'll find links to both on the right as well). This way I can comment on the music in a variety of different ways from play to review to interview to overview all the way to sales... ideally.

So... thanks to all the labels and artists who supported the show from its beginnings to the present... hopefully you'll continue and be joined by your peers... but for now...

On with the shows.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Review Index