Thursday, July 26, 2007

Surgery 45

Wighnomy Bros./Robag Wruhme
- Remikks Potpurri II (Freude Am Tanzen)
Various - Total 8 (Kompakt)
Bola - S/T (Skam)
D'Arcangelo - Eksel (Rephlex)
Max Rouen - The Magnetic Wave Of Sound (Karaoke Kalk)
Dopplereffekt - Calabi Yau Space (Rephlex)
Philipp Quehenberger - Phantom In Paradise (Mego)
The Tuss - Rushup Edge (Rephlex)
Fovea Hex - Allure (Die Stadt/Janet Records)
A_Dontigny - Geisteswissenschaften (No Type)
jodi cave - absent (term)
Tijuana Mon Amour Broadcasting Inc. - Cold Jubilee (Of The Snowqueen) (Büro)

Track Listing

The Future Sound Of London - Lifeforms (Wighnomy Brothers And Robag Whrumes Simetikon)
Jörg Burger - Polyform 1
Bola - Waknuts
D'Arcangelo - Saturn
Max Rouen - Leon's Genesis
Dopplereffekt - Mirror Symmetry
Philipp Quehenberger - Ozerea 1
Reinhard Voigt - Follow The DJ
The Tuss - Goodbye Rute
Fovea Hex - Neither Speak Nor Remain Silent
A_Dontigny - Begriffsschrift
jodi cave - absent/walking backwards
Tijuana Mon Amour Broadcasting Inc. - Cold Jubilee

Listen to Surgery 45 click here

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Drawing Voices – S/T

Here’s another chance for the headbangers of the world to transform themselves into chin scratchers. Drawing Voices is in fact an interdisciplinary effort that closely examines the process sounds from illustration… i.e. brush or pen on paper. Craig Dogonski of Georgia State has been pursuing this idea since 1999, and is joined on this step by Isis guitarist Aaron Turner to further illuminate his findings. The results sound like they would be a better fit for labels like Erstwhile or Charhizma than HydraHead… an admittedly progressive Metal label, here further extending it’s Double H Noise Industries division. In certain passing intervals, as on “The Shrine of Wreckless Illumination,” the actual sound of etching and the actual sound of guitar are clear and present, but by and large the process is itself processed into electron orbits of noise. It is compelling work, on a par with the more passive aggressive moments of Daniel Menche or John Hudak; detailed, rewarding to multiple listens and with a vague but discernable operating principle. Will it cause the scratching of chins? Perhaps at least the scratching of metal heads.


Destructo Swarmbots – Clear Light

Not as obviously extreme as Sunn O))), Nadja or any of the suddenly legion drone metal acts on the scene, the Swarmbots are still more impolite than most acts the “brainy” side of the buzzing divide. Mike Mare, who also is part of NJ hip hop crew Dalëk’s touring band, seems to be more in line with 90s post-industrial ambient/isolationist acts such as Justin Broadrick’s Final or Mark Spybey’s Dead Voices on Air. Clear Light kicks off with a forty-minute monolith called “Banta” that supposes the sound of a guitar loop plummeting through space on the Voyager probe. A sense of movement through resonant, yet mostly empty distance definitely rules the atmosphere as the pieces slowly transforms from gray to slate to charcoal. The three shorter pieces are like shards that have split away from the larger opener: a fragment of feedback here, polished echo and sustain there. The very between-ness of Mare’s sound may draw in listeners from both the dark and lighter side of the drone force, though the opposite is equally possible.

(Public Guilt)

ErikM (Luc Ferrari) & Thomas Lehn – Les Protorythmiques

In effect this is a document of an unplanned event. Invited to the 2005 Musique Action Festival in France ErikM and Concréte pioneer Luc Ferrari were slated to present a set designed around an “open working process” that allowed greater improvisational possibilities for characteristically more inert Concréte composition. Ferrari’s poor health (he passed away that August) prevented him from attending the festival. In his absence ErikM employed the audio archive the two had built for the 2004 Angle release Les Archives Sauvees des Eaux, and invited analog synthesizer wizard Thomas Lehn to accompany him. The result is a single half hour piece that stays true to many of Ferrari’s processes of electro-acoustic work, turning real world sources, splintered conversations and abstract sound into impressionist narratives. The play is extremely active and rarely overemphasizes specific moments or elements. Provocative uses of sudden volume stabs derange the more naturalistic scenes, while Lehn’s pulsing tones are well integrated into ErikM’s methodology. Even without his immediate participation Ferrari’s presence is felt in the bones of this work.


Adam Frank/Sam Shalabi – Overpass! A Melodrama

To live in one city for any amount of time is to eventually become both it’s defender and/or critic depending on circumstance. Overpass! is Adam Frank’s multi-personality dichotomous love/hate letter for Vancouver. Rather than a song-cycle Frank, a teacher of American Lit at UBC, chooses a sort of radio play, or melodrama as he describes it, supported by music from Montreal’s Sam Shalabi. The narrative centers upon the experience of Vancouver through the eyes of newcomer Antonia, a kind of toughly modernist version of Alice through the looking glass. She interacts with Merv, assistant to the city engineer and voices of architects, publishers and even the sound engineer provide various facts, figures, feelings on the peccadilloes Vancouver’s haphazard modernization. These eventually focus in on the overpass in question. Shalabi’s music, played by a small rock ensemble, by necessity remains in the background; occasionally driving the energy of the story or alternately pooling to mirror the difficulty of progress. While specific to Vancouver, Overpass! can speak to anyone who suddenly tunes in to their urban surrounding and what makes it work, or fail to.

(Alien8 Recordings)

Organ Eye – S/T

As guiding hand behind Portugal’s Osso Exótico David Maranha has long bowed his way towards the heart of Eternal Music. Drawing inspiration from the 60s experiments that eventually birthed Velvet Underground, Maranha enlists longtime collaborator Patricia Machás as well as like-minded New Zealanders Jasmine Guffond and Torben Tilly to explore two long and detail-rich drone excursions. While earlier recordings, such as excellent 2000 release Circunscrita on Namskeio records, delved exclusively into the dense properties of acoustic instruments, Organ Eye opens the door to the electronics provided by the NZ invitees. The results are phenomenal. On “Tema #1” Maranha and Machás’ slowly breath through their Hammond airways adding little pockets of violin, drum and bowed piano as time passes. The electronics here are so gradual, transparent and integrated they never really reveal themselves until the piece concludes. “Tema #2” however picks up at that spot with the modem squelch of digital noise transmitting its signal into both past and future. Building these pieces through improvisation, the players are skilled listeners, preferring to cooperate on completely filling the cavity of listening gracefully rather than overwhelming with over-amplification and feedback.


Nicolas Bernier + Jacques Poulin-Denis – Étude no. 3 pour cordes et poulies

Created as a sonic accompaniment for the dance troupe O Vertigo, Etude no. 3 is a recording that steps lightly on its own two feet. Creators Bernier and Poulin-Denis are both multidisciplinary artists and crossed paths through their study of electro-acoustic composition at the University of Montreal. Poulin-Denis’ previous training as a dancer and actor doubtlessly led to this specific collaboration. The two have achieved something rare and wonderful: a music that has the precision, inner life and depth of field inherent in accomplished electro-acoustics, but with the ghostly breath of melody giving it lift and lightness. The electronic elements elicit comparisons to the detailed works of Alva Noto or Ryoji Ikeda, but they are only the gears and hinges of a much larger and delicate machine. Nothing is ever still… brushed drums shoot right-to-left like chain lightning; voices pop out like brief captured radio broadcasts; ticks and chimes well up like a wall of music boxes… yet nothing ever seems overwrought or crowded. Bernier’s website/label/micro-community Ekumen is one to keep an eye and/or ear on in nights to come.


The North Sea – Exquisite Idols

Tulsa, OK native Brad Rose is king of all things Foxy and/or Digital… running two labels (Digitalis and Foxglove) and a webzine (Foxy Digitalis) and whenever a slow warm night comes along, recording a foxy digital disc. That is if foxy means steeped in off-kilter folk, Eastern drone and haunted by flocks of birds carrying spoons in their beaks. Last year’s collaboration with UK trio Ramses III, another Type release, explored hypnotism via longer form explorations, whereas the pieces on Exquisite Idols are more acoustic, folkier and fit in your breast pocket. Rose still ekes grandeur out of the small noises of birdsong, wind chimes and trembling drone linked arm-in-arm, as on “Guiwenneth Of The Green Grass,” with an acoustic guitar that sounds in love with the world. “Take it from me Brother Moses” is the most traditional of pieces here, with a plunky banjo giving us the old timey treatment. Elsewhere on pieces like “Cover me with Knives” and “We Conquered the Golden Age,” the latter being the only extended meditation on the disc, Rose wanders onto more crooked paths and achieves a kind of transcendence many free/freak folk collectives strive to discover.


Ramses III - Honey Rose

Last year was a (relatively) high-profile, high-yield year for UK trio Ramses III. After a reissue of their limited edition collaboration with The North Sea’s Brad Rose on Type Records they graced the The Music Fellowship with a new full length called Matanuska. This time it’s the rapidly shifting and always interesting Important Records turn to make room, this time for an e.p. of themes that act as soundtrack for Jon Spira’s short film Suityman. The six pieces are essentially the same languid piece of music, adapted and rearranged each time for new instruments and (slightly) different moods. Without directly referencing it, Honey Rose recalls the world weariness of Ry Cooder’s score for Paris, Texas, all windblown, flat and lonesome. Subtly shifting acoustic effects and trading guitar for banjo, lap for pedal steel, the pieces are almost salutary… little pockets of recognition across distances. With a slow gait, the rhythm approximates a waltz with too many knee bends per step, saved by a buoyancy that lingers in the heart of the piece.


Alva Noto – Xerrox Vol. 1

If you recall your first year Classics and Philosophy, or at least barely like most of us, you’ll remember the Platonic ideal that reminds us our “real” objective world is filled with imperfect representations of perfect or “ideal” forms. So it follows that Carsten Nicolai draws our attention to the flaws and imperfections that diminish each copy of “unique” items… such as original recordings. The noises of digital errors, old fashioned modem transfers, fax tones are all drawn upward in the mixes of selected pieces, given equal attention. Of course, fans of Raster-Noton and other “clicks and cuts” proponents will likely be unsurprised by the white noise given its frequent appearances in other like-minded releases. The interference here is often much more extreme, often obliterating the original sources… and it is in these sources the next layer of concept is found. Nicolai pilfers sounds from such pillars of mundane repetition and reproduction as airport announcement tones, telephone waiting loops, 7-11 muzak. The irony is that the mutated forms of these everyday backgrounds become austere and even beautiful when demolished and reorganized in a digital copyist environment. The pieces are carefully interspersed with more pristine, unblemished takes on ambient sound to enhance the tension created by the noise. The artist and label both continue to push outward on the modern electronic frontier.


Small Sails – Similar Anniversaries

With too many choices daily for new bands to crush on, acts with solid live performance reps tend to earn an extra edge. Portland, Oregon trio Small Sails are musicians who also work as a filmmaking collective whose live show include on the fly video mixing with multiple projectors to enhance their playful electronics. But even without visual accompaniment their first full length delivers the light and wistful goods that gain them favourable comparisons to bands like The Books. The difference between the two groups is that the folktronic duo’s modus operates on tongue-in-cheek inventive and textured sketches, whereas Small Sails tracks are more traditionally rounded into songs… albeit songs with a little candy for their cheeks. The voice constantly returns as integral to the mix, either as enthusiastic “ta da das” or whispered secrets just under the surface, but it envelops each piece with cheerful humanity. The band have managed the neat trick of finding a sound that is intricate enough to always engage but so whimsically upbeat no one could feel challenged. So whether your first love is the post-rock crunch of Tortoise, the folk/jazz implosion of Four Tet or the quivering electro/rock of The Album Leaf, prepare to meet your new sweetheart.

(Other Electricities)

Various – On Isolation

In our file-sharing, instant messaging, cell phone-clutching modern world we are suffused with the illusion that the boundaries between humans are melting away and we are growing into tribally interconnected and enlightened societal supergroups. Or perhaps that’s just bullshit. Australia’s Room40 and the University of Tasmania collaborated in soliciting audio artwork that illustrates the flipside of this interplay: the silences and solitudes that individuals experience in the wake of globalism’s information bulldozer. Many of the artists on the compilation had already produced work immersed in the alienated end of digital minimalism: notably Richard Chartier (who also designed the sleeve) whose “A Field for Recordings 3” is a slowly creeping mass of sub-audio noise that eventually reveals itself, like the sudden surprise that your computer is a noisy dangerous animal. The other pieces waver between two basic approaches: David Toops’ “Chair Creaks, Though No One Sits There” and Scanner’s “Mountain Cabin” combine field recordings and music to evoke aural melancholy in a somewhat traditional trope; while Jeph Jerman’s “Albuquerque Hotel Room” and Greg Davis’ “Riwalla Farm (Excerpt)” reside in naturally occurring near-silences presumably far removed from technology’s empty chatter. Whether the compilation provokes though or merely more background noise perhaps has to do with each listener’s indoctrination into the machinery.


Lichens – Omns

Robert Lowe’s second Lichens disc for Kranky finds him pouring vocal descant over fragile guitar notes in the same small, enclosed space as 2005’s The Psychic Nature of Being… though it is a space someone has since let open to streams of dusty sunlight. The sheer simplicity of the music’s construction, keening loops of wordless vocal layered and embellished with iridescent fragments of folk/blues bars, belies their resultant complex emotional reach. The first two tracks, “Vevor of Agassou” and “Faeries” tremble like Medieval magic spells sung in foggy hollows. These spells are broken by “Bune,” a distorted electric wail that uncoils like Hendrix at his most introspective. The fragmentarily titled “M St R Ng W Tchcr Ft L V Ng N Sp R T” is appropriately broken into sections that move from gentle acoustic string bending to rising chord drones through flurries of birdcalls into a chant that drops from the nasal cavity and into the stomach. A welcome bonus is a thirty minute DVD that features an extended performance of this last mentioned piece at The Empty Bottle in Chicago. Lowe is deliberate and compelling figure on stage, placidly graduating from guitar to vocal loop and back until the once silent space is buzzing with his hymn.


Valet – Blood is Clean

Honey Owens has explored freak folk, electronics and psychedelic improv as a collaborating member of Jackie-O Motherfucker, Nudge and World (respectively). Going solo in Valet she unleashes her subconscious, letting it steer her into some otherworldly spaces. The landscape is the audio analogue of some funky 70s Dr. Strange astral projection, with effervescent guitars, bubbling digitalis and voodoo hand drums. If you listen carefully you can almost hear the bead curtains rattling in the warm breeze. Blood is Clean is the light-streaked cousin to last years Evangeline by Carla Bozulich, though not without its own shadows and smeared lipstick. It often resembles a machine just barely under its operator’s control, as on opener “April 6” and closer “North.” The former starts as a simple chant and hand drum pattern complicated by electricity, while the latter is a dark koan that slowly stretches upward into a Zen drone. The title track is nearest to overt songwriting and features a tiny lysergic guitar solo that would freak out any Mother. Each of the eight tracks offers a slight twist in the high; a brief station stop to ponder the colours and tastes of the sounds.


Monday, July 09, 2007

My Cat is an Alien – Leave me in the black No-Thing

Concurrently with a solo work by Roberto Opalio, Important also release another emanation from the “Alien Zone” in Italy that Roberto and his brother Maurizio prowl as My Cat is an Alien. Where Roberto’s disc is a hushed affair, MCIAA unleash the full force of their cosmic and astral noise. After a salutation equal parts chanting and white shriek they retreat to their percussion instruments with all the glee of a spastic (i.e. rhythmically challenged) kindergarten class recital. The disjunctive banging grows tedious, but is thankfully replaced by a frequency-shifting chant/drone generated by voice and “space toys” that finally lifts off the roof and peers into the cosmos. The second half of the thirty minute track plunges headlong into the void with shuddering abandon that most interstellar of overdrives would never attempt. The second, slightly shorter, part builds around clusters of electric guitar notes that are strummed, looped, and eventually obliterated by debris and space winds. The duo stick to their no overdub, no outtake formula of live in-studio improvisation, but with a methodology and tools that are recycled the experimentation begins to go to formula. There is a purity in their primitive-slash-futurist aesthetic that yields transcendent moments; moments that make it worth waiting out the tedium.

Important Records

Roberto Opalio – “Chants from Isolated Ghosts”

As the oft-quoted Spinal Tap saying outlines the “clever-stupid” dialectic, so it also goes in experimental music that a fine line exists between engaging and annoying. Italy’s brothers Opalio, better know as My Cat is an Alien, arguably have unlimited passports to criss-cross this line with their whimsical take on space(y) rock. On his first solo outing, originally self-released on their Opax CD-R label, brother Roberto carries on the family tradition of improvising spacious and droning themes made from cheap looped electronics, metallic objects and toy rayguns. Recorded in single takes, the pieces have a meandering quality that fortunately keeps to the “engaging” side of the border, for the most part. The spectral quality, evident in the album’s title, is sustained through sounds that suggest residual energy in empty rooms that collide against the objects… rattling their chains in other words. This spent and evaporating force echoes through the deliberately restrained pace and limited variety of sounds. The last track is a literal chant performed mournfully and accompanied only by an open window allowing the sound of rain, traffic and distant thunder to enter.

Important Records

Mika Vainio – Revitty

So you’re immersed in a five thousand gallon sensory deprivation tank with a hammerhead shark, Natalie Imbruglia and a handheld power sander, what do you do? If you’re Pan Sonic’s Mika Vainio you make an album whose title translates as Torn. Perhaps Miss Imbruglia’s involvement is more figurative than actual, but the albums focus does interpose actual shark attacks with more existential ennui. Three shorter pieces concerning “hampaat,” or teeth, introduce short bursts of electronic violence separated by lulls that become less frequent and silent as blood clouds the water. Each piece increases the menace with more graphic colour and sweeping passes of noise. The emotional elements of the album are given ample space on “yksinäisyys, suru, katkeruus,” or loneliness, sorrow, bitterness; a track that plunges us in a vast metallic enclosure with a mournfully grating cymbal as our only friend. “Raatelu,” or mauling, follows with a compression of themes that culminates in post-Neubaten grind of distorted guitar and bass pulses shot through with digital noise. At its core Revitty fulfills a horror-story narrative with twists and tensions that suggest fantasy before unleashing real gut-churning terror… and of course a last second shock as the album ends. Vainio will be indispensible should the Saw movie goons every remake Jaws.

Eluvium – Copia

Matthew Cooper has released a series of excellent and well-received works as Eluvium over the last few years. Most recently the When I Live By the Garden e.p. served as both summary and introduction to his overall sound. Copia starts off promisingly with “Amreik,” a gentle reveille reminiscent of Johann Johannson’s Virdulu Forsetar, and “Indoor swimming at the space station,” a familiar building processional of piano and synthesizer. The next suite of tracks, however, veers into a kind of melancholy torpor that resembles over-wetted themes by Angelo Badalamenti. The synth strings are too synthetic and the tone suggests an absurdly abject Laura Palmer must hide behind a nearby shrub. The album recoups itself with the last four tracks, especially “Reciting the airships” and “Repose in blue,” that reintroduce dynamics and diversity drained out of the album’s middle section. Cooper’s strengths, his ability to overlay gentle and stately strings, piano figures and drones into elegiac themes, also contribute to some limitations that begin to peek through. The illusion of the pieces being overheard, fading in at approach… existing for the duration of our listening… fading out as we exit, loses charm as the strategy repeats itself. No one wants to only see small mammals pulled from top hats for an entire evening no matter how magical the first time.

Temporary Residence

Pixel – set your center between your parts in order to

Yet another fine release from this German label that continues to explore and build within their signature sound. Jon Egeskov takes an ultra-minimalist sound set of clicks, slurs and whispery tones into live in-studio improvisation. The extended duration of the five pieces allows a slow build that initially resembles the more clinical restraint of Ryojo Ikeda’s work before introducing overlapping and competing rhythms. By the last minutes of opener “drum” the patterns take on a strange digital drum circle vibe seldom encountered in this airless environment. The real-time manipulation of minimalist elements subtly subverts a genre that usually derives strength and discourse through its dogged repetitions and slight variations. Egeskov’s background in jazz imbues a peculiar looseness to the wholly artificial noises creating a head-nodding rhythm normally only derived from “real” drums and “real” basslines. More ephemeral sound clusters, or clouds, float in and out of range like horn players sidling up to the mic to take breathy solos, as in “lion.” Whether this signals a new wave of “Funky Drummer” breaks due around 2025 remains to be seen.


Mark Templeton – Standing on a Hummingbird

Those familiar with the granular acoustics of Tim Hecker, Fennesz and Mitchell Akiyama will find safe harbour in this new label’s introductory release. Albertan Mark Templeton’s palette starts with the guitar, banjo and accordion, all of which quickly discorporate and enter a new digital eminence of colours. Edits are extreme in their detail yet an unhurried calm governs each track. Pieces like “Pigeon Hurt” and the title track make halting progress as each chord and string is made to stutter and backtrack before pushing on. Still progress is always present in the ghostly pulse of song structure that sends signals from various depths. Templeton is equally attentive to the digital overflow of accidents from over amplification and dangling shards of trimmed noises. He skillfully folds these into the mix along with incidental room sounds to blur the inside computer/outside world distinctions. While comparisons to the above mentioned artists are easy to make, this work is seldom predictable. Templeton manages to create work that follows feverish dream logic, with colours that brighten and suddenly fade and details that transfigure without altering their basic character. A welcome addition to the canon.


Carlos Giffoni – Arrogance

Breaking its vinyl only streak, Brooklyn’s No Fun Productions commits to aluminum a five-part ode to analog noise. Giffoni, who has worked with Fe-Mail, Jim O’Rourke, Prurient and in the group Death Unit, spent downtime in 2006 improvising these pieces in his apartment on his analog synth. Those expecting warm clouds and clever squiggles will encounter instead walls of oscillating white noise and what sounds like a submarine crippled by depth charges nearing the ocean floor. And so much for track one. Arrogance crosses thresholds of saturation more than those of volume, inducing a slight auditory nausea long before tinnitus would take hold. The rumble never settles on one frequency or density, the result of which is like a hit and run reversing to take another crack. Giffoni wrings everything he can out of his keyboards, until he reaches the denouement, appropriately titled “A Proper End.”

No Fun Productions

Prurient – Pleasure Ground

Those of a certain age may recall their first exposure to extreme music came in the form of groups like Skinny Puppy. We were confident we’d unlocked doom in cassette form until oddly shorn and black turtlenecked characters thrust earlier works by Test Dept., Nurse With Wound and others into our hands. Prurient’s Dominick Fernow makes music that resembles an aluminum suitcase jammed with those same tapes that have spent the last twenty years in a deep lake before being pulled to the surface by magnets. The four tracks on Pleasure Ground were initially (and all too appropriately) released as a double cassette on Hospital Productions. With the exception of “outdoorsman/indestructible,” which features a sickly off-kilter but mostly subdued keyboard pattern, the album is a gray-zone distorted eruption of bile and dank atmosphere. Fernow growls and shouts from beneath a collapsing wall of keyboards that sound near extinction. Like those forebears mentioned above, the anger within the music seem less a call to action than a cry of frustration. What makes the tension real is how acceptable and ultimately calming it becomes.


Xela – For Frosty Mornings and Summer Nights

The four years since Type label boss John Twells’ initially released his debut full length have been intriguing for the electronic music world. A slow dissolving of checkmark genres have left behind an aesthetic that’s difficult to summarize. Having moved even further from the dance floor, new electronic works are often held together by the poetry of tone. Frosty Mornings sits comfortably alongside up-to-the-moment releases, contrasting with last year’s more individual, dense and frankly menacing The Dead Sea. It also hints at Twells’ points of entrance through the digital looking glass. “Japanese Whispers” has a slightly retro sound that runs a shiver between a snail’s pace trance and hip-hop backbeat. “The Long Walk Home at Midnight” also threads together Mille Plateaux/Raster-Noton clicks and pops with a cool after-afterhours jazziness. The reissue also compliments Type’s growing catalogue of releases that highlight individual visions over collective solidarity. Twells’ is a fine label boss to lead by setting the example of “no example necessary.”