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.


Midaircondo - Shopping for Images

.....Bjork is often cited for being at the forefront of experimental pop music, having taken elements of electronic (dance), hip hop and jazz production into the popular form. Early on she enlisted producers like Nellee Hooper, Howie B and Tricky and later studio/live collaborators Matmos, Zeena Parkins and others. Cynical types could see these moves to be as much trend spotting (a la Madonna) as it is artistic trend setting. After all if anyone had enough money to hire avant garde artists to play on their albums…. Swedish trio midaircondo come on like a group with three Bjorks plus all her collaborators rolled up in one. Shopping for Images also goes a few steps further into modern realms occupied by artists as diverse as AGF, Mitchell Akiyama and Sylvain Chauveau. What makes them even more potent is their ability to produce above average pop songs, such as “Serenade” and Bjork-like “Perfect Spot,” then shift over to organic sound experiments like “Coffeeshop/Sorry.” Lisa Nordstrom, Lisen Rylander and Malin Dahlstrom each bring layers of musical talent to the show: woodwinds, brass, laptops and three voices. Rather than overstuff their work with processing and trickery they tend to prefer a spare yet strong centre around which sound details flow, eddy and vanish. Likewise their vocal approach is warm and restrained, at times well below the surface or completely absent. If there is indeed a forefront of experimental pop music midaircondo could well be standard bearers.


Boduf Songs - S/T

.....The world of art is made better by the participation of eccentric Englishmen. Mat Sweet is one such oddity. In a Robert Pollard-worthy pre-history Sweet has released multiple CD-R recordings on his own Baby Blue Recordings under a catalogue's worth of different names, including Four Man Ghost, Pistols at Dawn With Afterglow and of course, Boduf Songs. There is a little Syd Barrett, but just as much Roger Waters in Sweet's heredity, especially in his more traditional acoustic guitar style. On a track like "Claimant Reclaimed" you can almost, "(h)ear the lark and harken to the barking of the dog fox /Gone to ground" of Waters' "Grantchester Meadows." This tradition is refurbished with touches of noise and anachronistic tape effects as well as flourishes of bells and bowed cymbals to add occasional punctuation. The album's brevity and tone mark it as a close, more sombre relative to the also-recently-released Songs of Green Pheasant on Fat Cat Records (see review below). Both artists flout the current tendency toward folk music as free flowing improvisation and concentrate on songcraft which is solid but strange, and still canonical. Boduf Songs are apparently soft and unhurried, with hints of distress and decay which poke up and out into titles like "Puke A Pitch Black Rainbow To The Sun." It is to Sweet's credit that Kranky thought the original tapes so accomplished they re-released the album with no additional edits. Any impulse to change lanes may be witnessed upon recording the follow-up slated for release on Kranky sometime in 2006.


Lichens - The Psychic Nature of Being

.....Robert Lowe, singer/bassist in 90 Day Men and sometimes TV On The Radio collaborator, is getting at something. As Lichens he generates lengthy, softly ululating chants which are simultaneously without antecedent yet hinting at connections to spiritual/mystical sources numerous but undelineated. A distant cousin of Double Leopards' wall of noise approach to the vocal drone, his sound is a primitive futurism akin to a UFO full of Tibetan Monks crashing into the LaBrea tar pits. It is a wordless blues pulse that pushes us adrift in the wilderness with hellhounds trailing and the tunnel of light up ahead. And then there is the acoustic guitar. It hides until you've forgotten it then rings out as a kind of beacon in the mist. Lowe's mode of play hovers nearest to Eastern raga-like styles. On "You Are Excrement..." his rhythmic technique is so seductively sitar-like that the ear strains to hear tablas which never appear. The same track features real physical sounds of preparation: a guitar case opening or bumping against a chair leg, the air in the room an empty space waiting. All of it reinforces the ceremonial sense of the piece. Like any good service it features gradual changes and complications; homilies; the introduction of bells; sackclothed ladies at the back smelling of incense. Well maybe that's stretching perception a little, but it is a reverberating effect of the recording. By its conclusion we have joined Lichens' digging in the dirt for... something which remains ineffable.


Lappetites - Before the libretto

.....Born of a 2001 event at the Tonic in New York curated by Kaffe Matthews, The Lappetites is billed not as a group but a “…forum, meeting place, a concept within which to make and exchange new music....” For the purposes of this recording the meeting place welcomes a cross-generational group of women in the field of electronics and improvisation. Matthews herself is joined by electroacousic pioneer Eliane Radigue who studied with Pierre Shaeffer and Pierre Henry. Antye Greie, alias AGF lends her poetry and electronic cutup style to the project. Youngest member Ryoko Kuwajima, like Matthews, is a real-time sound gatherer/manipulator. “Before the libretto” is a surprisingly balanced affair, expertly combining all of the artists’ modus operandi into a fascinating, teetering but ultimately stable environment. A dynamic mix captures the many simultaneous sound events that whirl like the head of Janus on a lazy susan. By combining live playing with sharing of digital data over time and space, the foursome are able to disseminate the best moments of the experiment and present the evidence in these thirteen startling tracks.


alva noto/ryuichi sakamoto - insen

.....The second collaboration from this meeting of minimalists across the acoustic/electronic divide is every bit as lovely an accomplishment as their opener, “vrioon.” As with the first release, which topped Wire Magazine’s 2004 list of electronic releases, Noto (Carsten Nicolai) was given a series of sketches by Sakamoto and left to shape them into a finalized format. Unlike the work on “vrioon” which consisted mainly of applying a sine-wave tapestry to the piano parts, here Noto microscopically dissects the piano notes themselves and rebuilds the music from the inside out. Sakamoto’s original themes are of the sentimental but sturdy school occupied by Erik Satie, Gavin Bryars and others. This sturdiness is only enhanced by Noto’s surgery. His signature pallet of pulses, clicks and beeps weave around the piano chords connective tissue, strong but delicate. It is where the altered notes and electronic rhythms fuse that progress is achieved. The primary/secondary order of which artist leads and which one supports is stripped away as the piano becomes rhythm to the electronics’ melody, then vice versa. A meditative calm suffuses the entire album, though not in an ambient way where the sound becomes transparent, but in a way that gives reason to pause; stop; listen; enjoy; become momentarily serene.


Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Back from Flatline

After a brief power outage we are back in business... all links should be operational once again. Thanks to MD.