Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Surgery 34

Kilo - Kilo (Onitor)
Bj Nilsen/Chris Watson - Storm (Touch)
Oren Ambarchi - Suspension (Touch)
Hecker - Recordings for Rephlex (Rephlex)
Rosy Parlane - Jessamine (Touch)
BAJA - Maps/Systemalheur (Stilll)
Janek Schaefer - In The Last Hour (Room40)
Charlemagne Palestine/Tony Conrad - An Aural Symbiotic Mystery (Sub Rosa)
KTL - KTL (Mego)
Xela - For Frosty Mornings and Summer Nights (Type)

Track Listing

Kilo - I've Seen You At The Supermarket
Bj Nilsen/Chris Watson - SIGWX (excerpt)
Oren Ambarchi - This Evening So Soon
Hecker - Acid 245; Ph.Inv 9T2
Rosy Parlane - Part One (excerpt)
BAJA - Breakfast With Hostages
Janek Schaefer - Between The Two
Charlemagne Palestine/Tony Conrad - An Aural Symbiotic Mystery (excerpt)
KTL - Forest Floor 4
Xela - An Abandoned Robot

Listen to Surgery 34 click here

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Surgery 33

To Rococo Rot - Taken from Vinyl (Staubgold)
Geir Jenssen - Cho Oyu 8201m: Field Recordings From Tibet (Ash International)
Christopher Willits - Surf Boundaries (Ghostly International)
Dollboy - Casual Nudism (Arable)
Solo Andata - Fyris Swan (Hefty)
[etre] - A Post-Fordist Parade in the Strike of Events (Baskaru)
Various - Thankful (Temporary Residence)
Jan Jelinek - Tierbeobachtungen (~Scape)
Conjoint - A Few Empty Chairs (Büro)
The London Sinfonietta - Warp Works & Twentieth Century Masters (Warp)
Various - Project Bicycle (Ache)
Rauhan Orkessteri & Lauhkeat Lampaat - Sylissain Oot (Ache)
Scott Solter - Canonic (Hometapes)

Track Listing

To Rococo Rot - Days between stations
Geir Jenssen - Camp 1.5: Mountain Upon Mountain
Christopher Willits - Colors Shifting
Dollboy - Pauline's Shades
Solo Andata - Coastal Road Thoughts
[etre] - Dogs From My Childhood: Multiple White
Eluvium - Carousel
Jan Jelinek - Happening Tone
Conjoint - Conjoint With Clarity
London Sinfonietta - Aphex Twin Prepared Piano Piece 2
Tu M' - Ladri Di Biciclette
Rauhan Orkessteri & Lauhkeat Lampaat - Bile-Kalkkuna
Scott Solter - Witkin Dub

Listen to Surgery 33 click here

Monday, November 20, 2006

Steffen Basho-Junghans – Late Summer Morning

On 2004 album 7 Books, also on Strange Attractors, Basho-Junghans explored a more aggressive and diffident approach to his steel string acoustic guitar play. This album turns a gentler cheek back to a pastoral mode of 2003’s Rivers and Bridges. The long title track that opens the album wanders and tentatively contemplates trills and echoes before gradually giving over to an ecstasy of vibrating overtones that verges on airborne. Likewise, “Woodland Orchestra” collects a veritable hive of zings and stings. Often compared to John Fahey, this album eschews that master’s blues bending and terse changes for a more straightforward and expletive-free vocabulary. The brightest end of the rainbow and where it lands seems to most preoccupy the musical spectrum here. The ever-forward bouncing chords, played without pause, risks slight muscular strain on necks from head bobbing and ankles from toe tapping, but it’s a risk most will like take without qualm.

Strange Attractors

Janek Schaefer – In the Last Hour

Finding titles for its four tracks from a sentence in the novel The Bridge by Iain Banks, this hour long live performance by Schaefer is nothing short of stunning. Commissioned by and performed at U.K.’s Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival in November of 2005, the work was conceived for an eight speaker system in the majestic, domed Town Hall. Schaefer, who is primarily known for his forward-looking turntable work, here expands instrumentation to include chord organ, piano, clarinet, location recordings and the hall’s own native organ. Schaefer claims to have gather the source sounds over a period of three years in preparation for a piece to suit Banks’ line, “In the last hour, between the two, half submerged by each, the ruined city.” Opening with repeated slow organ swells and the sinister sounds of digging, the performance progress through a chart of sacred and profane devotions. The slow changes, from organ drone to hints of forest life to distant human noises all rising combing and receding are so gradually immersive that it borders on hypnotic. From within this altered listening state seemingly benign and moderate themes gain an unexpected emotional charge. Without a firm didactic hand Schaefer still guides the experience like a hushed sound tour of a slightly darkened and water-warped English hamlet. To hear it from recorded distance is breathtaking, to have been present for the performance was doubtlessly sublime.


Solo Andata – Fyris Swan

Long distance relationships seldom work. Seldom, but not never. Solo Andata is a collaboration between guitarist Kane Ilkin and laptop artist Paul Fiacco. The two met in Perth, Australia after Ilkin moved there and began perusing the “scene.” A common interest in the work of then-rising star Scott Herren (Savath & Savalas, Prefuse 73) led them to unsuccessfully attempt emulation of his hip-hop meets table top jazz style. Fiacco eventually moved to Stockholm, Sweden and it is ironically the separation that helped the duo come together musically. Fyris Swan sounds like a meandering Sunday afternoon telephone conversation that circles half thoughts and familiar vernacular that seem faintly arcane to eavesdroppers. Ilkin’s acoustic guitar is doubled and tripled in places to knit gentle plucks and scherzo that skip from ear to ear. Fiacco pulls together drones, room sounds, concertina breaths and static in kinetic but fairly spacious mixes. The slowed nature of the file sharing process allows a much more deliberate and contemplative placing of ideas and layers, though they avoid any sterility this might incur. If the best moments of The Books were decaffeinated you would have Solo Andata.


(Etre) – A Post-Fordist Parade in the Strike of Events

The acceleration of panic rushing from room to room as you frantically search for the microwave that’s melting down, the television shooting sparks, the light bulb sizzling its incandescent death knell… that’s what opens Salvatore Borrelli’s new work as (Etre). A certain strain of Italian audio art seems to suffer/benefit from a Futurism hangover. It proposes a machine-generative music set in motion then left unguided by human hands. A language of modem chirps and distorted voices issued from wax cylinders mixed with errant snatches of radio broadcast and spent mainspring percussion. The pieces also relate to Borrelli’s performance background that often involves real time manipulations and amplification of seemingly silent rooms or common objects and elements such as fire, ice, glass, chemicals. “Real” instruments become the less-than-simple machines that unexpectedly drift into the noisy fray. Borrelli guides us into the gyre of this tornado and lets the wind do its work.


Shedding – What God Doesn’t Bless...

Having made little ripples with post-rock group Parlour (Temporary Residence), Connor Bell eventually stepped out of the shallow water and into the deep end of solo work as Shedding. What God Doesn’t Bless… is his second release and it’s a quiet, seeking and delicate work stretched over three long tracks more indebted to European lowercase jazz and electronics improv that algebraic rhythms. Bell cites Eric Dolphy as a major influence, especially the jazz clarinetist’s own abiding interest in the sound of birds and the natural world as they relate to composition. The sound of Shedding is, appropriately, an unlayering of musical strata down to the bedrock where it’s organizing principles sunder, leaving unbound sounds to trail off seeking new relationships. A more traditional framework of drums (by Joey Yates) and bass open and enclose track 2, “W,” before dropping away to leave behind an elemental drone adorned by cuckooing electronics. The album closes with a tortuous electronic threadwork that describes an arid. rolling landscape with lowing notes and the grain of air. Bell manages to effectively improvise with himself in a rich exploratory manner.


Scott Solter – Canonic

Strange beast this; half man/half band… new, but old… confusing, at first. The root notes come from a 2005 album called Stowaway by the band Pattern is Movement, a quartet from Philadelphia. Half of this six track e.p. reintroduces the band and the album, revealing them to be a slightly more angular and/or muscular version of dexterous rock groups like Pinback and Wooden Stars. The other half of the equation is Scott Solter, credited with “machines, grease, razor and tape.” Solter takes his toolbox to the band tracks and origamis them into a stranger folded creature. His iterations are not standard remixes, splitting whole chunks of original work off and re-ordering them, distorting them, adding noise and ghost rhythms. The closest analog would be the Faust Tapes, re-interpretations of the German bands first two albums, but this time by an outside source more eager to add a personal stamp. The new tracks are shorter, restlessly changing tempos and density, lapsing in and out of sharp focus. Solter seems as happy to obfuscate the source as throw it in sharp relief. The two halves of the whole e.p. are free standing, but wires and vines weave the structures together.


Donato Wharton – Body Isolations

Isolation in this case has less to do with loneliness than with closed-circuit attention to detail. Wharton’s second full length takes its title from a dancer’s exercises in communication through all parts of a whole, an idea suited to his melodically rich and systematically diverse compositions. Tracks like “Blue Skied Demon” invite investigation into the accrued corrosion of texture and reverberation of surfaces via guitar shapes. On the other hand “Transparencies” lays bare, simple guitar and piano notes next to each other and examines their subtle interplay. With “Puget Sound” and “The End of the American Century” both elements come together in simplicity of tone that wearily beckons before shaking of highway dust and telling spellbound tales. Wharton has that rare gift for enclosing melody within fragments of sound that collide and recombine within each sphere of song. Each listener enjoys unique experiences depending on their concentration. Like suddenly discovering a map’s atomic landscape through a microscope.

City Centre Offices

Dead Voices on Air – From Labrador to Madagascar

Mark Spybey is a veteran of the psychic wars that were the 80s and 90s industrial, post-industrial, darkwave, etc. electronic scenes. Having logged hours with latter day Zoviet France and Skinny Puppy offshoot Download, it has always been his solo DVOA project that has yielded the most interesting results. Spybey, like fellow travelers Mick Harris and Justin Broadrick, has usually managed to steer clear of most grand guignol (and cheddar-smelling) aspects of industrial music. From Labrador to Madagascar, the first DVOA since a 2001 live effort, stays the ambient course for the long-running project. Rudderless drones are spiked with bobbing metal percussion and uneasy atmospherics suggesting all manner of phobia. Title tracks “Labrador” feature a warm hand-thrumming drum circle vibe while “Madagascar” is a sky of gunmetal scraped by chrome seagulls. The latter tracks, “Papa Papa Nesh” and “Splay” lapse into a more stock version of menace and threat, turning the clock back a couple of decades. Despite that DVOA sits in an interesting pocket where its weather beaten features render it timeless. Spybey makes no attempts to retool his palette to suit any of the newly mushroomed subgenres of electronics, but new classes have admittedly strayed into the edges of his playground.


Thursday, November 16, 2006

Svalastog – Woodwork

Tromsø, Norway… population 50000… would seem to have some native energy that powers experimental musicians. Biosphere, Alog and Röyksopp have all exported their own versions of winter-warmed electronics and are now joined by Per Henrik Svalastog. On his second solo full length he explores the traditional sounds of his remote home, using Harpeleik (Norwegian zither), Bukkehorn (ram’s horn) and Kuhorn (cow’s horn) as source instruments. Opener “the wood metal friction” introduces these sounds with a fanfare that is soon recast into a marching lope of bass pulses and seesawing strings. While Svalastog never masks or pitch shifts the original tonality, he is fairly liberal is his cutting and ordering of blocks. The tracks have a mantra-like quality, with the zither strings clipped and interlocking into regular measures and the horns blunted into bass notes. The result is the kind of microHouse you might expect in the most modern of mead halls. Ultimately Woodwork is a remarkably pure and simple synthesis of temporally discrete elements. The hills may soon be alive with laptops recording the horns of Ricola barkers and Balalaikas ringing out.

Rune Grammofon

Xela - The Dead Sea

After a stretch of remarkable releases by a disparate group of artists, Type label boss John Twells turns out his own most recent recording as Xela, his third overall. Referencing Italian horror film soundtracks and with a distant kinship to current doom and noise-laden sound merchants, Twells’ work is suggestive rather than blatantly flashing sharp knives in dark corners. He manages this way to sustain a low ebb of dread. The ramshackle clatter of percussion has a Tom Waits-in-Venice undertow, the perfect accompaniment for bobbing helpless as your ship disintegrates. Sounds and instruments often pull apart from set keys and times suggesting a band drifting apart on floating debris. The album’s narrative tension breaks for brief moments of light and hope like the acoustic jaunt of “Wet Bones” or the faux-heroic accordion parade of “Savage Rituals.” These sounds of salvation are soon drowned out by clanking chains, lonely buoy bells and “Sinking Cadavers.” Twells attention to detail verges on electroacoustic constructivism without sacrificing the musical thread, like a film’s music and sound design sliding together seamlessly. Xela’s nautical horror show is best listened to while safely landlocked.

Type Recordings

Various-Jukebox Buddha

It begins with a device so unobtrusive, so uncomplicated, so simple that it should occupy only backgrounds and peripheral space. The Buddha Machine was a limited run 8-bit electronic doohickey programmed with 9 lo-fi sound loops… a little plastic anti-iPod if you will. A year later, following effusive praise by Brian Eno, a troop of artists have taken the little Buddha as an objet d’art and the basis for 15 remarkably diverse extrapolations. ON-U Sound kingpins Sherwood and Wimbish build a crawling granular chant underwritten with in-house bass rhythms. Monolake’s Robert Henke, who has made a whole Buddha-centric album, creates looming waves of sound that threaten sudden unresolved impacts. Fonal records’ sound and film artist Es enjoys the close kinship the loops have to his own particle washes of drone. ~Scape technicians Jelinek, Pekler and Leichtmann commercialize the little box with tongues firmly planted in cheek. Sunn O))) unearth a dark little corner where AA batteries corrode and acid sears fingertips. Aki Onda, Blixa Bargeld, Alog, Sun City Girls and more unite through the possibility that Everything is Zen.


Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Surgery 32

Andrey Kiritchenko - True Delusion (Nexsound)
Boduf Songs - Lion Devours the Sun (Kranky)
Various - Jukebox Buddha (Staubgold)
Vedette - S/T (Stilll)
Svarte Greiner - Knive (Type)
Tod Dockstader - Aerial #3 (Sub Rosa)
A Taste of Ra - II (Häpna)
Mossa - Some Eat it Raw (Circus Company)
Tristeza - En Nuestro Desafio (Better Looking)
Reanimator - Special Powers (Community Library)
Chris Hebert - Mezzotint (Kranky)
Pan.American - For Waiting, For Chasing (Mosz)
Rafael Toral - Space (Staubgold)

Track Listing

Andrey Kiritchenko - November comes and squirrels fall in love
Boduf Songs - Please Ache for Redemptive
Es - Tietä Valojen Taa
Vedette - Seafoam Haze & Bees
Svarte Greiner - The Boat Was My Friend
Tod Dockstader - Descent
A Taste of Ra - The Fox and the Frog
Mossa - The Meat in You
Tristeza - Pildora Amargada
Reanimator - No Dancing
Chris Herbert - Chlorophyll
Pan.American - Are You Ready?
Rafael Toral - Untitled #1 (excerpt)

Listen to Surgery 32 click here

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Surgery 31

Move D - Kunststoff (City Center Offices)
Humcrush - Hornswoggle (Rune Grammofon)
Uphill Racer - No Need To Laugh (Normoton)
Caroline - Sunrise EP (Temporary Residence)
Working For A Nuclear Free City - S/T (Melodic)
Luomo - Paper Tigers (Huume)
Part Timer -S/T (Moteer)
Jean Felix Mailloux - Aurores Boréales (Malasartes)
Mr Cooper - Amongst Strangers (Wimm)
Gianni Lenoci - Sextant (Ambiances Magnetiques)
Forrest Fang & Carl Weingarten - Invisibility (The Foundry)
Damian Nisenson - Musika (Malasartes)
Lori Freedman - 3 (Ambiances Magnetiques)

Track Listing

Move D - Soap Bubbles
Humcrush - Anamorphic Images
Uphill Racer - Tangerine
Caroline - Sunrise (Logreybeam Mix)
Working For A Nuclear Free City - The Tape
Luomo - Paper Tigers
Part Timer - Thinking, Unthinking
Jean Felix Mailloux - Densité 23,7
Mr Cooper - Two
Gianni Lenoci - Punto
Forrest Fang & Carl Weingarten - Moon & Dome
Damian Nisenson - Ojosrojos
Lori Freedman - Seven

Listen to Surgery 31 click here

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Surgery 30

Ezekiel Honig - Scattered Practices (Microcosm)
Donato Wharton - Body Isolations (City Centre Offices)
Alexander Tucker - Furrowed Brow (ATP/R)
Svalastog - Woodwork (Rune Grammofon)
Smutny - Telehors (Normoton)
Xela - The Dead Sea (Type)
Hanno Leichtmann - Nuit Du Plomb (Karaoke Kalk)
Immune - SoundInside (Stilll)
Console - Mono (Disko B)
Paul Wirkus - Déformation Professionnelle (Staubgold)
Steffen Basho-Jughans - Late Summer Morning (Strange Attractors)
Tim Hecker - Harmony In Ultraviolet (Kranky)
Richard Jarverling - Two Times Five Lullaby (Yesternow)

Track Listing

Ezekiel Honig - Oceans And Living Rooms
Donato Wharton - Transparencies
Alexander Tucker - Saddest Summer
Svalastog - Reforestation
Smutny - Darkdesert
Xela - Wet Bones
Hanno Leichtmann - Keller
Immune - Wandering
Console - Foster Kane
Paul Wirkus - Valore Energetico
Steffen Basho-Jughans - Azure No. 3
Tim Hecker - Dungeoneering
Richard Jarverling - Heavenly Birds pt.1

Listen to Surgery 30 click here

Thursday, September 28, 2006

QuintetAvant – En Concert à la Salle des Fêtes

This compelling French group of improvisers has managed to uncover a new wrinkle in the traditional vs. modern approach to spontaneous composition. Three members of the quintet, Lionel Marchetti, Jerôme Noetinger and Jean Pallandre, use analog tape machines (REVOX only s.v.p.) as their sole sound sources. Marc Pichelin and Laurent Sassi pitch in on analog synth and digital recording, but it’s the magnetic media’s show. It seems peculiar that this idea isn’t more widespread given the diverse techniques for stretching, accelerating, looping, bending and breaking available as borne out by the animated interplay during this performance. Marchetti and Noetinger have a long history, together and parallel, of electroacoustic invention, while Pallandre and Pichelin have worked in the Ouïe Dire Production ensemble in the making of audio postcards through their phonography. Their interplay is stellar, pitching from whisper-light warbles to crystalline feedback screams, letting no moment go unmanaged. Sassi’s live mix is pinpoint sharp, filling all 360 degrees with sound. Could it be that tape will make digital audio obsolete??


Meissner/Slavin/Sachs – Into the Void

Begun as an investigation into the presence/absence of Jewish culture in one of the oldest European Jewish neighbourhoods; Sebastian Meissner and Eran Sachs did field recordings in the nearly empty winter streets of Kazimierz, Poland. Meissner then worked on the sounds to unravel a tale of coldness and disappearance, representing the populace only in the traces of footsteps, car sounds and briefly overhead conversations. Eventually a spare musical element creeps into “Kazimierz: Empty and Ghostly Place;” a spectral piano phrase that is a near mirrored opposite of Jurgen Kneiper’s score for Wings of Desire. Appropriate for the portrait of a city not watched over by guardian angels. The fast-forwarding of “…198819901992199419951996…” takes amassed samples and blends them into a blurred acceleration that has an erasing effect. Ran Slavin, who also shot video for a 2003 exhibition of a version of the piece in Krakow, and Sachs also both contributes more abbreviated suites using the same sources. Slavin's “Segments from the Snow” and Sachs’ “Memory Gaps” are both more sculptural in their approach, reducing the mass but sharpening details until both are left with intricate snow globe representations of the frigid city.

(Sub Rosa)

Ryan Teague - Coins & Crosses

In the world of synthesized sound a composer with a well appointed hard drive can deliver a multi-instrument soundtrack without ever crossing paths with another musician. That can tend to be a little antiseptic, though. Ryan Teague is getting his hands dirty with the Cambridge Philharmonic and Cinematic Orchestra harpist Rhodri Davies to find the convergent paths of acoustic and electronic music. After a brief fanfare the title track unfurls, a little queasily close to new age with wind chimes and Davies' harp tinkling and singing like pixies. The preciousness is never completely excised from the album, with animated pomp explosion of "Tableau I" knocking against the inflated acoustic grandeur of "Fantasia for Strings." Finally on "Accidia" things settle into a good chocolate/peanut-butter groove, with the windswept strings weeping over a grinding pulse and Morse code electronics. "Seven Keys" is a Hitchcock-ready dirge for encroaching darkness and double-dealings. At its best, Teague's work touches upon the minimalism of Reich, Bryars and even Aphex Twin. Those not unseated by the romantic swelling will find a rich sound world to sit through.

(Type Recordings)

Mountaineer - When the Air is Bright They Shine

If you're scripting a film that opens with strong serif credits over high p.o.v. shots of a wispy blonde on a Vespa winding along a polluted-but-pretty Middle European river, then Hamburg songwriter Henning Wandhoff is the man to write the music. As Mountaineer his third album is a sunshine smile that doesn't quite touch the sadness around the eyes. Over samba shuffles and light wah-pedaled guitar, Wandhoff's warm speak-singing smoothes the wrinkles in the boy/girl trysts gone not quite right. The tear-in-my-Pernod songs are rendered with the same light on dark style as Cohen's "Chelsea Hotel" or VU's "Femme Fatale." The sound hooks up the 60s and 70s poptastic jazziness with hints of modern microprocessing... like watching La Dolce Vita on your video iPod. It's an easy album to get into if you like doing crosswords in cafés while smoking American cigarettes, watching the clouds cover the sun then move on. It's a hard album to dislike otherwise.

(Type Recordings)

Benoit Pioulard – Précis

Listening to samples of earlier self-released work on Thomas Meluch’s website it’s obvious that Précis is a quantum leap forward… if 20-year olds can safely make quantum leaps. It’s also obviously an album perfectly suited for the Kranky label canon: mass accumulator guitar (KF Whitman), quirky and hushed folk rock (Boduf Songs, Dean Roberts) and quietly affecting sound experiments (everyone else). The whole is a completed puzzle one is tempted to pick apart and admire the craftsmanship of each piece. “La Guerre de Sept Ans” is smooth and shimmering wash of guitar loops that seems nearly weightless but picks up mass with each subsequent cycle of sound. “Together & Down” is a four-cornered acoustic waltz that releases dust and stately chimes when shaken. “Trigging Back” is a hologram that sounds like the intro to an early Cure song but from the next angle becomes Eric Matthews, then a combination of the two. “Sous La Plage” is a looking glass that imagines a seaside song that Elliott Smith never wrote. Each of the pieces can be put back in any order and still magically lock together into a new, unexpected whole.


Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Kangding Ray – Stabil

Another elegantly packaged release in Raster-Noton’s “Limited” series; an auspicious introduction for Berliner David Letellier under the Kangding Ray moniker. The sound is a snug fit with founder/bosses Frank Bretschneider and Carsten Nicolai’s chilled and pixelated electronic minimalism. Letellier’s work is more subtly open to emotion, as on “Sub.Res” with its thinly sliced guitar and keyboard lines that retain an elusive melancholy. While the sound spectrum skews to grayscale, tracks like “Dadaist” reveal spare tableaux that are actually dense and intricately shaded. In fact there is seldom “nothing” going on in terms of the blank space usually associated with this field. “Status + Light” verges on jaunty with its revealed and repeated piano chords over digital glitches that border on rolling drum fills. The partially unmasked source instruments also go along way towards melting the iciness of the digital palate. While it’s not exactly Moby, it still is an interesting step towards melody within the microbe.


Bardo Pond – Ticket Crystals

Philadelphia’s proud psychedelic sons and daughter continue their long sunward trek via riff and drone express. Like most ensembles that last more than a decade Bardo Pond are frequently warmly acknowledged for their longevity and decreasingly celebrated for their work. Instead of merely padding their discography the band has come back with their best work since 1997s Lapsed. Instead of embracing current trends of noise rock or freak folk, neither of which would stretch them far out of shape, they’ve stripped and stepped back to feature the song as central, albeit pushing its limits through time and space. Opener “Destroying Angel” is a head-on collision of Rust-era Crazy Horse and early Black Sabbath but with a haunted, vulnerable heart. Isobel Sollenberger’s vocals and flute ring clear on “Isle,” a track that imagines the improbable joining of Nico and Kate Bush atop a lazily churning sea of guitars. A cover of the Beatles’ “Cry Baby Cry” seems out of place, but the after a reverent opening the band pulls the original into their own smoky orbit. It also serves as a momentary rest stop before embarking on the nearly twenty minute space walk that is “FC II.” A balanced consideration of acoustic instruments, voice and quiet space opens room for breath at key points over the album’s 77 minutes. It is a voyage that makes us glad we bought our tickets so far in advance.


Arnold Dreyblatt and the Orchestra of Excited Strings – Live at the Federal Hall 1981

Dreyblatt is an American minimalist whose work and reputation is seemingly assigned close-runner-up status to more, ahem, household names like Cage, Glass, Riley and Reich. History aside, this document affirms a level of play that is no less conceptually rich that his peers and predecessors, but with a human warmth sometimes absent in the science of their sound. The very basic component in most of Dreyblatt’s work is the nodal excitation of single long open strings. At this 1981 concert, instead of a naked investigation of this simple idea he is joined by a quartet of players who support and surround it. Dreyblatt and Ruth Charloff both play open tuned and extended double bass violas, while the other three musicians combine on seldom-seen (and specially chosen/constructed) instruments: the hurdy gurdy, portable pipe organ and midget upright princess pianoforte. Presented as one 50 minute track, the play is actually split into several movements with pauses to refresh and reset. The central feature of each is also one of its investigative propositions, as quoted in the booklet: “To explain why an open string when strung [sic] makes many sounds at once.” Dreyblatt’s lone percussive attack on the viola’s string does indeed unlock an undulating drone that is eventually picked up and filled out by the other players. The result is reminiscent of, though less aggressive than Tony Conrad’s “Dream Syndicate” works and the early Conrad/Cale/MacLise/Zazeela etc. “jams” that were the roots of many such drone excursions.

(Table of the Elements)

Warren Burt – The Animation of Lists and the Archytan Transpositions

With a title that warns of an ass-numbing academic exercise, the sound of this Australian minimalist’s two disc exploration is surprisingly easy to digest. Burt is known for uncommonly eccentric approach to musical sound sourcing, and this work is the culmination of a two decade investigation into just intonation tuning forks. Having himself crafted or commissioned their construction in a wide note range from bass to upper register, Burt and Catherine Schieve then joined forces to “play” the forks as percussion instruments. The artist’s statement about the composition references such theory points as 2nd century Ptlolemaic harmonics, inverted Dorian modes and so on; but for all of that the more casual ear finds the approximate sound of particularly well-bred wind chimes. Closer attention unlocks the richly textured harmonic interplay full of sympathetic pulses and low throbs. One somewhat unexpected element of the composition is level of improvisation in its unfolding. The post play editing involves a certain subtle amount of recombination and, on the second disc, digital pitch alteration to extend the scale. At 2 1/2 hours a full run through the composition may stretch some attention spans, but like most well-crafted ambient music it pays back out the listener’s level of investment.

(XI Records)

Daniel Menche – Jugularis

The polarized concepts of restraint and extremity become all too relative when describing shifty-sand artists like Menche. Definitely more nuanced and temperate than earlier works like The Face of Vehemence or Beautiful Blood, this new work still demands attention and asks with full force. Essentially one long piece divided into three movements; a phased percussive thrust that begins with a eerily calm menace of sparse resonant instruments and objects. The hour-long evolution of the work conjures a narrative reminiscent of 1966 shlocky sci-fi movie Fantastic Voyage. You’re an explorer shrunk to near-microscopic proportions and injected into the bloodstream of a human being. The trip you take brings you ever closer to the beating heart, suddenly a violent force given your relative size. But, unlike the movie’s plot, Menche’s fantastic voyage takes a new twist: turns out this person you’re inside is also outfitted with gears, microprocessors and dot matrix printers! Yes (gasp) an android!! Or a robot, or synthetic person, or whatever. Like any good potboiler the story grabs and holds you with the anticipation or new revelations around every next corner, and unlike the pulpy formula the outcome is never a letdown. Even without Raquel Welch as co-pilot.


The North Sea & Rameses III – Night of the Ankou

With hands across the ocean, free folk CD-R label guru Brad Rose (The North Sea) reaches out from Tulsa, OK to London based trio Rameses III for the formation of this transatlantic ambient quartet. The album is essentially two longish pieces each with its own particular flow. “Death of the Ankou” has a spiral stillness that hovers at slowly shifting altitudes, carried on bowed strings and bamboo woodwinds. The motion is more a product of iridescence and timbral nuance than progress along a measure. Like watching a ship in a bay through late afternoon heat haze, distances difficult to judge. “Night Blossoms Written in Sanskrit” is more directed in its drift, with a shimmer of acoustic guitar carrying the first half of the piece, then the massed tones gain their own momentum, eventually evolving into a large chorus of voices, human and musical together. A slight oriental tint colours both pieces but never dominates the sound. The album is rounded out with a remix done by Type label boss Xela. This is approached in a Cole’s Notes manner, with the individual elements given plainer exposure then reintegrated and bound with minimal third party evidence. A well-mixed nightcap.

(Type Recordings)

Eluvium – When I Live By the Garden and the Sea

For a quiet album Eluvium’s Talk Amongst the Trees made a lot of noise on a variety of 2005 top ten lists. And rightfully so, Matthew Cooper having honed in on the delicate balance that holds ambient/minimalist music aloft. This four-track follow-up is an effective primer for the uninitiated, with a small-but-stately piano opening that recalls earlier albums as well as the excised-attack guitar swells that propel many of the pieces. The shouted intro sample to “as I drift off” sets in motion an abrasive tone the envelopes the short track, with a dense fog of compressed distortion pushing down the procession. The density carries through to “all the sails” with the sense of animals pulling a heavy load up an incline, the drone a sound of muscles locking up and relaxing. The final, title track is the gem here, with a broader sound scope than previously. Reverberating glassy vibes break the surface like the cresting of wavelets while the other swelling sounds take on a cathedral organ tone. It is processional music for an austere event, simultaneously happy and mournful, but ultimately neither. Eluvium at its best.

(Temporary Residence)

Monday, September 18, 2006

Surgery 29

Special show featuring songs from two of my favourite labels.

Lullabye Arkestra – Ampgrave (Constellation)
Labradford – A Stable Reference (Kranky)
Frankie Sparo – Welcome Crummy Mystics (Constellation)
Austistic Daughters – Jealousy and Diamond (Kranky)
Black Ox Orkestar – Nisht Azoy (Constellation)
Benoit Pilouard – Précis (Kranky)
Sando Perri – Plays Polmo Polpo (Constellation)
Jessica Bailiff – Feels Like Home (Kranky)
A Silver Mt. Zion – Plays “Pretty Lightning Paw” (Constellation)
Christina Carter – Electrice (Kranky)
Eric Chenaux – Dull Lights (Constellation)
Jessamine – S/T (Kranky)
Fly Pan Am – N’Ecoutez Pas (Constellation)

Track Listing

Lullabye Arkestra – Come Out Come Out
Labradford - Streamline
Frankie Sparo – Akzidenz Grotesk
Austistic Daughters – Boxful of Birds
Black Ox Orkestar – Ikh Kentsvey Zayn
Benoit Pilouard – Ext. Leslie Park
Sando Perri - Circles
Jessica Bailiff - Evidence
A Silver Mt. Zion – There’s a River in the Valley…
Christina Carter – Yellow Pine
Eric Chenaux – Memories Are No Treasure
Jessamine - Lisboa
Fly Pan Am – Vos Reves Rever

Listen to Surgery 29 click here

Point of Interest: I did the show in a kind of roundabout way, starting on a laptop I made an audio version of it and burned a disc with the mixed tracks. When I popped it into iTunes to convert it over to .mp3 the internet music database recognized the CD as: HIROKI - The Graduation Parted You From Me. Does anyone have this masterpiece?

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Surgery 28

Sybarite - Cut Out Shape (Temporary Residence)
Matmos - The Rose Has Teeth in the Mouth of a Beast (Matador)
Fm3 竇唯 - Hou Guan Yin 后觀音 (Lona Records)
Team LG - The Way We Do It (Twisted Nerve)
Psapp - The Only Thing I Ever Wanted (Domino)
Various - You Can Never Go Fast Enough (Plain)
Mountaineer - When The Air Is Bright They Shine (Type)
Our Brother The Native - Tooth And Claw (FatCat)
Encre - Common Chord (Clapping Music)
Inca Ore With Lemon Bear's Orchestra - The Birds In The Bushes (5RC)
Animal Collective - Hollinndagain (Paw Tracks)
Sawako - Hum (12k)
Grizzly Bear - Yellow House (Warp)

Track List:

Sybarite - Runaway (Featuring Psapp)
Matmos - Public Sex For Boyd McDonald
Fm3 竇唯 -
Team LG - Little Anne
Psapp - New Rubbers
The Suntanama - Parallels
Mountaineer - You Pay No Mind
Our Brother The Native - Apodiformes
Encre - Nocturnes
Inca Ore With Lemon Bear's Orchestra - Blue Train
Animal Collective - Tell It To The Mountain
Sawako - White Sky Winter Chicada
Grizzly Bear - Colorado

Listen to Surgery 28 click here

**please note: I discovered too late that there were a few annoying drop outs during the track by FM3 (third track in). This occured after the final mixing process was complete and was impossible to reverse, barring restarting the tracking from square one. I apologize to the artists and label for representing their project in this flawed form.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

The Year Of - Slow Days

Slow Days is an unexpected gem of a rock album. Unexpected especially when one sees a line up that includes Christof Kurzmann, Werner Dafeldecker and Paul Kling (aka Burkhard Stangl… gentlemen generally known for the minimalist, atom-splitting haze of groups like Polwechsel. Eyebrows shoot up then when “Mantra” greets the ears, not with phantom whirrs and clicks, but the jazz/lounge wind-up of an after-hours group about to ooze into a slow-core jam. The quintet also includes Martin Siewert who supplies a full range of guitar motion and much of the album’s warmth, plus B. Fleischmann on live drums and electronics. In the quieter pieces Kurzmann’s hairline vocal resembles a less pliable David Sylvian, or on the up tempo “Stephen Hawking,” a track that you could sneak onto New York without disturbing it’s flow, Lou Reed. “Calling Sky” shows off all the groups strengths, from a slow, crackling electro opening through the cool pulse of Kling’s vibraphone and Dafeldecker’s bass, the track builds through its 15 minutes into an ecstatic blast of horns and guitar noise. It’s an album of crafted detail and jewelers’ sparkling precision , unsurprising for players who usually build epics out of transistors and breath sounds.

Morr Music

Anoice - Remmings

Anoice are a young Japanese sextet together for just over two years. Remmings is their first album and probably a play on the L/R transposition… ergo, Lemmings. In the absence of other biographical facts we have a work that is a veritable sample platter of styles and approaches. Only four of the nine tracks are titled, these being the more “rock” pieces built around piano, guitar, drums and viola. “Asprin Music” [sic] has a bass chug that drags along strings, synths and drum machines in its wake, finding a point halfway between Radiohead and label-mates Larsen. “Kyoto” has an echo-chamber piano and sudden crashing drum parts that feel like late Three Mile Pilot / early Broken Heart Procession. The three central (and shorter) untitled tracks smell of interludes, either through abstraction or paring down of instrumentation. The opening and closing tracks are tonally matched: deliberate pacing, meandering figures, emphasis on space and pure sound… easily the most interesting pieces here. The album has a pleasant atmosphere and the band are talented instrumentalists, but they often grasp at ideas just out of reach only to lay hands on fairly generic substitutes. They warrant keeping an eye on, though.

Important Records

Loscil - Plume

Scott Morgan paints on the wind… or is that he paints with the wind? Whichever. On his fourth full length for Kranky the Vancouverite casts his gaze skywards and gently exhales nine drone-based themes titled for airy phenomena. Plume pulls back from the more “real” instrument overtures made on the previous First Narrows, though it retains some vibes, piano and e-bow guitar for the mix. Much like a West Coast skyline the wispy and foggy elements press densely down upon the surface, reducing them to shadows and traces. On “Steam” Jason Zumpano’s Rhodes maintains a loose bass chord pulse throughout with flickers and echoes of colour nearly describing dub-like shapes. Josh Lindstrom’s xylophone and vibes criss-cross the rubbery snapping path of “Chinook.” Morgan, who also drums for Destroyer, manages to steer the sounds away from potential traps of dirge and mope, including the understated sprightliness of tracks like “Bellows.” Where other sampling composers have moved over to more conventional song forms since the initial clicks n cuts boom, Loscil has cycled back with his most minimal work since Triple Point, his debut album rooted in thermodynamic principles, Seems appropriate when your head is in the clouds.


Friday, August 04, 2006

Surgery 27

One Second Bridge - S/T (Büro)
Susanna And The Magical Orchestra - Melody Mountain (Rune Grammofon)
Marsen Jules - Les Fleurs (City Center Offices)
Tujiko Noriko - 少女都市+ (Shojo Toshi+) (Mego)
Various - Kammerflimmer Kollektief Remixed (Staubgold)
Phonophani - S/T (Rune Grammofon)
Solenoid - Supernature (Orac)
Grizzly Bear - Horn Of Plenty (The Remixes) (Kanine)
Lindstrøm & Prins Thomas - Lindstrom & Prins Thomas (Eskimo)
Anthony Rother - Super Space Model (Datapunk)
Ran Slavin - Insomniac City (mille Plateaux)
Sébastien Roux - Songs (12k)

Track List

One Second Bridge - The Ghost
Susanna And The Magical Orchestra - Love Will Tear Us Apart
Marsen Jules - Coeur Saignant
Tujiko Noriko -マーブルワルツ (Marble Waltz)
Radian - Radian On Equilibrium
Phonophani - Ring
Solenoid - Protein / Lemuria
Grizzly Bear - La Duchess Anne (Safety Scissors rmx)
Lindstrøm & Prins Thomas - Don O Van Budd
Anthony Rother - Sleep
Ran Slavin - Planes And Violins
Sébastien Roux - The Classical Guitar Song

Listen to Surgery 27 click here

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Surgery 26

Norbert Möslang – Burst Log (For4Ears)
Dafeldecker/Fussenegger/Kovacic – Printer (Durian)
Möslang/Müller – Wild Suzuki (For4Ears)
Wachsmann/Hug/Grydeland/Zach – Wazahugy (Sofa)
Okura/Müller/Yoshida – Tanker (For4Ears)
Piotrowicz/Stangl/Zaradny – Can’t Illumination (Music Generica)
Various – Touch 25 (Touch)
Zach/Grydeland – You Should Have Seen Me… (Sofa)
Daniel Menche – Jugularis (Important)
Arnold Dreyblatt – Live at Federal Hall... (Table of the Elements)
Phill Niblock – Touch Three (Touch)

Norbert Möslang - bl_4__4:29
Dafeldecker/Fussenegger/Kovacic - Dun
Möslang/Müller - Fukuoka_2
Wachsmann/Hug/Grydeland/Zach - Wazahugy 6
Okura/Müller/Yoshida - Kitashinawaga-Lupsingen 3
Piotrowicz/Stangl/Zaradny - Can’t Illumination
Rafael Toral – Glove Touch
Zach/Grydeland - You Should Have Seen Me... [edit]
Daniel Menche - Jugularis 2 [edit]
Arnold Dreyblatt - Live at Federal Hall... [edit]
Phill Niblock - Harm [edit]

***a note on this episode: Due to a lapse in concentration I managed to mix the tracks into two half hour chunks, ready to add the show ID, then put it all on the shelf... planning to finish it a couple of days later. In the interim I lost the documentation telling me what albums I'd used and the track order as it appears. What you have above is (I believe) an accurate reconstruction of what you are hearing... if there are any errors you detect let me know, and I apologize to the artists for any mis-crediting that may have occurred as a result of my slippage. Thanks.

Listen to Surgery 26 click here

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Surgery 25


Takashi Wada
– Araki (Onitor)
Rasmus Mobius – Medicine Walk (Statler & Waldorf)
Sandoz – Live in the Earth (Soul Jazz)
Leafcutter John – The Forest and the Sea (Staubgold)
Swimming Pool – Good Old Music (Combination Records)
Tuxedomoon – Bardo Hotel Soundtrack (Made to Measure)
Giuseppi Ielasi – Untitled (Häpna)
Eluvium – When I Live By the Garden and the Sea (Temporary Residence)
Juana Molina – Son (Domino)
Six Organs of Admittance – All Cats (Believer Magazine June ’06)
Alvarius B – S/T (Abduction)
Wooden Wand – Harem of the Sundrum and the Witness Figg (5RC)
Bardo Pond – Ticket Crystals (ATP/R)
North Sea & Ramses III – Night of the Ankou (Type)
Envy – Insomniac Doze (Temporary Residence)


Takashi Wada – Twilight Zone
Rasmus Mobius – Boxfresh
Sandoz – Thousand Year Dread
Leafcutter John – Now
Swimming Pool – Dark Horse Twinkles
Tuxedomoon – Prometheus Bound
Giuseppi Ielasi – Untitled 4
Juana Molina – Son
Six Organs of Admittance – All Cats
Alvarius B – Jet Nicholson Murder
Wooden Wand – Forgiveness Figg
Bardo Pond – Cry Baby Cry
North Sea and Ramses III – Night Blossoms…
Envy – Night in Winter

Listen to Surgery 25 click here

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Surgery 24

Barnyard Drama - I'm a Navvy (Barnyard Records)
Heidi Mortenson - Wired Stuff (Wired Records)
Das Bierbeben - Alles Fällt (Shitkatapult)
Music A.M. - Unwound from the Woods (Quatermass)
Milosh - Meme (Plug Research)
V/A - Sous La Neige (Where Are My Records)
Gentlemen Losers - S/T (Büro)
Bill Wells/Maher Shalal Hash Baz - Osaka Bridge (Karaoke Kalk)
Isan - Plans Drawn i Pencil (Morr)
Barbara Morgenstern - The Grass is Always Greener (Monika)
Ms. John Soda - Notes and the Like (Morr)
AFX - Chosen Lords (Rephlex)
Vitaminsforyou - The Legend of Bird's Hill (Intr_Version)
Arden - Conceal (Stilll)


Barnyard Dram - I'm a Navvy
Heidi Mortenson - On The Move
Das Bierbeben - Der Heimliche Aufmarsch
Music A.M. - Your Bones
Milosh - Instrumental
Barzin - Just More Drugs
The Gentleman Losers - Salt of the Sea
Bill Wells & Maher Shalal Hash Baz - Time Takes Me So Back
Isan - Amber Button
Barbara Morgenstern - Mailand
Ms. John Soda - Outlined View
AFX - Cilonen
Vitaminsforyou - Me, Arden, and Iran-Contra
Arden - Sleeping In A Strange Bed

Listen to Surgery 24 click here

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Ekkehard Ehlers - A Life Without Fear

Since the beginning of the ‘00s German electronic minimalist Ekkehard Ehlers has cast his gaze back to the centuries past for inspiration and sound sources. On Betrieb (2000) it was classical music and on Plays (2004) it was “approaching and translating” works by Robert Johnson, Albert Ayler, John Cassavettes and others. On A Life Without Fear his approach is less deconstructive, its quotations laid bare instead of buried by modernist rubble. The work is bracketed by renditions of the traditional “Ain’t No Grave” and Ralph Stanley’s “O Death,” embracing the darkness of deep Gospel blues. The former of these is played fairly straight with mildly fucked guitar patterns and industrial hissings creeping in gradually, while the latter sounds like it’s being sung and beamed back from a post-apocalyptic space platform orbiting a charred planet. “Strange Things” retains the vocal of its composer, Baptist minister Charles Haffer Jr. who, in an interview with Alan Lomax, said of Gospel blues, "It's what we call a warning song… our object is to warn the unconverted….” Ehlers’ own compositions are more mechanistic and abstract, a perfect upgrade for today’s more nebulous dread. What better time than now for a new blues album?


Sunday, May 07, 2006

surgery 23

Paavaharju - Yha hamaraa (Fonal)
Koenjihyakkei - Angherr Shisspa (Skin Graft)
Excepter - Sunbomber (5 Rue Christine)
Danielle Palardy Roger – Bruiducoeur (Ambiances Magnetiques)
The USA is a Monster - Wohaw (Load)
Mephista - Black Narcissus (Tzadik)
Various - Conduction Convection Radiation (Music Fellowship)
….>Wind-Up Bird – “Voice and Bells”
Shogun Kunitoki – Tasankokaiku (Fonal)
No Neck Blues Band and Embryo – Embryonnck (Staubgold)
23 Skidoo - The Culling is Coming (Boutique)
Jandek - Khartoum Variations (Corwood Industries)
Anthony Pateras & Robin Fox - Flux Compendium (Mego)
Fat Worm of Error - Pregnant Babies Pregnant with Pregnant Babies (Load)
First Nation - S/T (Paw Tracks)
Carla Bozulich – Evangelista (Constellation)

Track Listing

Paavaharju - Valo tihkuu kaiken lapi
Koenjihyakkei - Mibingvahre
Excepter - Dawn Patrol
Danielle Palardy Roger – Immateria
The USA is a Monster - Built the Fire
Mephista - Laughing Medusa
Wind-up Bird - Voice and Bells
Shogun Kunitoki - tulevaisuus-menneisyys
No Neck Blues Band and Embryo - Zweiter Sommer
23 Skidoo - G-3 Insemination
Jandek - New Dimension
Anthony Pateras & Robin Fox - $2.50
Fat Worm of Error - Special Bonus Thing
First Nation – Swells
Carla Bozulich – Pissing (edit)

Listen to Surgery 23 click here

Sunday, April 23, 2006

surgery 22

Charalambides - A Vintage Burden (Kranky)
Anoice - Remmings (Important Records)
Helios – Eingya (Type Recordings)
I'm Not A Gun - We Think As Instruments (City Centre Offices)
Uusitalo – Tulenkantaja (Huume)
Landesvatter – LAX (Normonton)
Loscil - Plume (Kranky)
Dictaphone – Vertigo (City Centre Offices)
Phonºnoir - Putting Holes Into October Skies (Quatermass)
Ent - Fuck Work (Baskaru)
Mapstation - Distance Told Me Things To Be Said (~Scape)
Ekkehard Ehlers - A Life Without Fear (Staubgold)
Grizzly Bear - Sorry for the Delay (Audraglint)

By request, track listing:

Charalambides - Spring
Anoice - Liange
Helios - Coast Off
I'm Not a Gun - A Letter From The Past
Uusitalo - Lasi Hajoaa
Landesvatter - DUZ.
Loscil - Zephyr
Dictaphone - Dictaphone II
Phonºnoir - Origami
Ent - Milk Oblo
Mapstation - Listening To Stockholm
Ekkehard Ehlers - Maria & Martha (edit)
Grizzly Bear - Owner of a Lonely Heart

Listen to Surgery 22 click here

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Electric President – S/T

.....Take a couple of young men from Jacksonville, Florida in their early 20s who write well crafted acoustic songs with age-incongruent lyrical sensitivity and give them some fun new electronics and watch what happens. After three self-produced and vaguely existent embryonic experiments, Germany’s Morr is the benefactor of this teeth-achingly good effort. Beginning the songs acoustically, as usual, Ben Cooper and Alex Dane then set to sewing up the electro accoutrements to dress them dandily. The finished models are not martini bar/dance club disco-lite but 21st century porch swing indietronica. Comparisons to Ben Gibbard/Postal Service are inevitable (see, I just made one here), but Cooper also has the wounded heart and nasal vulnerability of John K. Samson. So much so that closer, “Farewell,” could be dropped onto the end of the last Weakerthans album without shifting balances. “Ten Thousand Lines,” “Grand Machine No. 12” and “Snow on Dead Neighborhoods” are a trifecta of gems so well crafted Charm jewelers would stroke out hearing them. If it finds its way into the right hands / onto the right TV show, Electric President could run onto a lot of year-end lists.

(Morr Music)

Growing – Color Wheel

.....The drone-friendly duo of Kevin Doria and Joe Denardo has undergone gradual, subtle changes since the 2003 debut on Kranky records. They’ve retained their contemplation and evocation of sound-as-drifting-microbes but excised the Earth/Sunn O))) riff strand of their DNA. The missing genetic material is replaced by a strange sidelong approximation of 70s style interlude tuneage. Opener “Fancy Period” begins with an extended flux of synth and guitar arpeggios that recall moody/spacey passages from vintage Alan Parsons, Styx or Planet P Project albums. The fanfare soon tumbles onto the digital equivalent of a cheese grater where it is progressively abraded into stuttering half notes. They continually defy the impulse to safely pocket themselves in fluffy ambience, introducing oversaturated tones and sharp bursts of noise to disrupt the reveries. The effect is like driving through early evening fog only to be overtaken by a downpour, pelted by sudden hail then shown a pretty rainbow when the sun breaks through.

(Troubleman Unlimited)

Oren Ambarchi & Robbie Avenaim – Clockwork

.....These Australian compatriots have been linked in music and noise since the mid-90s. Their collaboration began with the noise/punk group Phlegm that took its influence from the Japanese noise of the time. Their Jewish orthodoxy was imported resulting in a duo recording for the Tzadik label in 1999. Clockwork was initially released that same year on Ambarchi’s own Jerker label, but as with many self-releases it vanished under the sands of time. Hearing it now provides an essential puzzle piece to link the chaos of their roots to the more austere minimalism of Ambarchi’s recent solo work as well as the duo’s collaborations with Keith Rowe and Sachiko M. The piece features a guitar attack that is subtly amplified but extremely kinetic and varied in tonality. Avenaim’s percussion is likewise frenetic but feathery. After an initial time of tentative sorties the duos’ clipped skitterings lock together with Ambarchi’s guitar taking on gamelan orchestra overtones and Avenaim unleashing a small infantry of grasshoppers with heavy footwear across his toms and snare. Played for contemplation rather than shock, the piece resolves quickly and cleanly like the sound of a book’s page turning.


Ryoji Ikeda – dataplex

In the past Ryoji Ikeda has pushed at the outer walls of minimalist electronics. His talent always lies with an ability to reconfigure or translate native machinist sound into new, and slightly askew sound experiences. Notably, works like 1998’s 0°C on Touch records featured tracks which resembled Morse code tones and heartbeats sharing a bathysphere and dot matrix printers rigged to play Venetian Snares-style breakcore. As Dataplex begins it most closely approximates a hearing test gone wrong, with upper reach kHz pulses warring against white noise. As the short tracks progress it becomes evident that Ikeda is introducing each tone and noise set the way an orchestra tunes each of its sections. By the midpoint of the recording, on tracks like “Data.Microhelix” and “Data.Superhelix,” these sterile blocks have acquired a beat pattern… not unlike watching microscopic life quickly evolve under the lens. These pieces are unlikely to flood the dance floor or any human club, but wherever fax machines and modems rave is where you’ll hear these oddly hypnotic themes.


Tony Conrad with Faust – Outside the Dream Syndicate Alive

.....The origins of the Dream Syndicate date back to the early 60s and the heady drone works by a group of minimalist composers and transcendental outsiders that included John Cale (pre-Velvet Underground), Tony Conrad, Angus Maclise, La Monte Young and Marian Zazeela. Evidence of these experiments, as well as Conrad’s excursions “Outside the Dream Syndicate” in 1972 with members of Faust, are also archived by Table of the Elements. Fast forward to 1995 and Conrad reconvenes with Faust bassist Jean Hervé Peron and drummer Werner Diermaier for two performances of the seminal work. Also present on second violin is Jim O’Rourke who, after Conrad shreds the air with a lengthy one-note drone, shrieks across its path to generate teeth-gritting dissonance and eventual overtone harmonics. While the 1972 sessions were more restrained and metronomic the 1995 performance is aggressive, with Diermaier’s spare tom-snare-cymbal set up being given the beating of its life and Peron pounding his bass strings so vigorously he manages to break one, bloodying his fingers in the process. The hour the performance lasts divides the crowd at London’s Queen Elizabeth Hall, but the shouts of praise and outrage are drowned out by an even more aggressive ten minute encore. It’s always an adventure whenever art crosses paths with endurance.

(Table of the Elements)

K.K. Null/Chris Watson/Z’ev – Number One

Nature has been a frequent though unrewarded collaborator of many modern explorers in sound. Artists routinely gather field recordings like specimens to fractionate and microscopically alter into unrecognizable mutations. The East African location sounds gathered by Chris Watson for this recording, however, retain their original shapes and timbres, mostly. Instead they are used as elemental forces for this trio’s collaboration exploring the five part traditional Noh Theatre structure. What might appear overwrought or overreached in theory makes more sense in hearing the individual segments. Each of the five parts in Noh contains a character (celestial, man, woman, trickster, demon) as well as numerous natural, cosmologic and perceptive elements. Watson’s nature-based recordings are augmented by Null’s percussive electronics and varied acoustic recordings by Z’ev, who also assembled the final mix. So for the third movement, “Development,” for example, the figurative elements such as taste, earth, centrality etc. are represented by the sound of an elephant herd grazing and the movement through brush. These natural sounds are augmented by Null’s artificial thrum of earthen vibration and Z’ev’s wind-chime-like peals. Ultimately the result is an electro-acoustic experience that bares its strategies and pleases with a narrative well served.


Larsen - Seies

.....The mystery of Italian quartet Larsen begins with the tale of how Michael Gira (Swans/Angels of Light) came to produce their first album. The band sent him anonymous CD-Rs on the 1st and 21st of each month for a period before providing him the cash to travel to Italy and record them. In the 21 days they scheduled to create Rever (later released on Gira’s Young God label) they played from behind an opaque screen, never seeing or addressing Gira directly. Seies adopts the drone/crescendo structure of many contemporary bands then quickly outstrips them. The album is held within the ominous, feverish parentheses of “The Snow” and “Marzia,” the latter featuring Brian Williams (Lustmord). The central tracks are crystalline and towering but etched with such diverse fine detail that new facets reveal themselves with each slight repositioning. “Mother” is an elegant swoon in the face of uniformed martial rhythms while “Momi” contains a section of balladic duets for accordion and a laptop full of bees. A Swans connection is kept current via Jarboe’s, contribution of vocals and lyrics to a few songs. Whether or not Larsen ever peer out from behind their safety blanket is irrelevant so long as they continue to produce such wonderful works.

(Important Records)

Bird Show - Lightning Ghost

.....Ben Vida is one of those sleepless artists who seems to be everywhere you turn, whether it be as a core member of minimalists Town and Country, playing languid country folk with his brother Adam in Central Falls or as a contributing member of Terminal 4 and Pillow. Bird Show is his own personal sandbox full of buried toys. As with his previous Kranky release, Green Inferno, he creates unstable spaces overlaying various traditions of world music (African, Middle Eastern, Oriental) atop of electric/electronic drones and then wedges in song structures wherever possible. The results are spectacular, from the Konono #1 set free in Radio Shack of “Seeds” and “Beautiful Spring” to several pieces that resemble the trance-folk improvisations of Jackie-O Motherfucker or Sunburned Hand of the Man. While Inferno built up density beginning with a variety of field recordings Lightning Ghost creates its own context, one that is often much breathier despite a multiplicity of layers. An arsenal of percussive instruments such as mbira, qrareb and shakers encircle simple, single-note mantras issued as often by accordion and violin as laptop and synthesizer. Vida’s vocals are another element given more attention here, adding to the incantation or providing a melody.


Steinbrüchel – Opaque (+RE)

.....Ralph Steinbrüchel is a Swiss electronics artist with a decade long resume of previous works and collaborations with other minimalists such as Frank Bretschneider and Kim Cascone. Opaque is essentially a ten minute piece composed for the Taktlos music festival in Berne, Switzerland as part of a surround sound experience in a special “listening” room where it played in a cycle with sounds from other artists. The track is a slow shimmering seesaw replete with textured trills, prayer bells and digital hiccups. The rest of the album consists of other artists given access to some of the original Opaque sound files and pointed in a specific direction for their alteration/combinations. Chris Abrahams (of The Necks) added clustered piano notes from the uppermost octave to duet with the sounds of tiny bells. Taylor Deupree opened up the track’s melody, giving it a resonant and richly glitchy digital finish. Both Oren Ambarchi and Toshiya Tsunoda found ways, with added guitar and field recordings, to make each of their efforts oddly menacing, a quality nowhere to be found in the original. In the end the album works exceptionally as both a single statement and a collection of the various artists.


Wayne B - Night of the Hunter

.....A future film noir vibe permeates this solo album by Calla drummer/sample gatherer Wayne B. Magruder. A dark ambiance that’s half music half weather pattern blankets the sound. The atmosphere is much damper and expansive than Calla’s sometimes arid, hermetic work. Rather than choosing purely rhythmic bases for his pieces, Magruder gives special attention to the texture of tracks. Enlisting the vocal talents of not one but two torch singers, (Jana Plewa of Kat Cosm and Daphne Gannon of Mercova) songs like “Souvenir” and “Oak (in the Small Hours)” reshape and update the slow burn electro-jazz of Morcheeba and Remote Viewers with a skeletal twist. The action in the instrumental tracks is filled with off-screen tapping and heartbeat pulses all pulled together by warm acoustic guitar and crickety electronics. Details shift and mild unease makes moments flicker from placid to purple and back again. This is music for slowly drawn back curtains and half-ajar cellar doors. It is sultry and suggestive; teasing but never fully revealing.