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 Stav√∂strand with the decaying dub experiments of Pole or Deadbeat. The result sounds a little like a microHouse hangover. Like Stav√∂strand, 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?