Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Ulaan Khol - I

Increasingly, our guitar heroes seem to be genetically recombining to meld the traditions of folk mystic (Fahey, Basho) and electric pyrotechnician (Hendrix) into one frame. Steven R. Smith developed mutations of both strains over ten years spent in both Mirza and Thuja, but it was perhaps his more recent Hala Strana project that led to this recording. Billed by Soft Abuse as the first installment in their “Ceremony” series, Smith adapts his interest in Eastern European musical structure to an overdriven and fractured electric recording of striated guitar layers with occasional minimal percussion. The result does conjure mist-shrouded metaphysical graffiti in search of some lost truth. The nine untitled tracks are curiously compact given their outward reach, but cumulatively they read like prophecies interpreted from several interlinking points of view. They are also like powerful little engines that rage against an encroaching darkness that is dissolving the clean lines of defense.

Soft Abuse

Christina Kubisch – Five Electrical Walks

The idea of the “Sound Walk” in fine art is usually a marriage between the artist’s presentation of site specific concepts and the pre-recording of natural / urban sounds provided to listeners for experiencing. Christina Kubisch adapts this idea to previously invisible worlds. By developing headphones that act as receivers of electromagnetic impulses Kubisch allows listeners to hear the network of transmissions that surrounds them and seek out individual experiences of their own. For the purpose of this recording she gathered sounds from many cities (Birmingham, Chicago, Taipei, Paris etc.) and many sources (NYC’s Times Square, various train stations and airports, retail security doors) and with careful sequencing has created a kind of music that is alien despite continually being present in our lives. “Homage With Minimal Distortion” reveals Times Square to be a wonderland of ambient loops that almost naturally resembles the work of artists like Alva Noto or Ryoji Ikeda. “E-Legend II” illustrates the landscape of Birmingham where the near-silent decay of collapsed industry abuts the cellular voice-haunted squawk of new technologies. In some ways this work updates the new age music fads like Solitudes; recordings of nature to be played in your living room. But this is the new new age after all, and not as relaxed as before.


Balmorhea – Rivers Arms

The much overused word that plagues music like that of instrumental duo Rob Lowe and Michael Muller is “cinematic.” It’s a kind of shorthand to describe themes that are emotionally evocative but difficult for some to fully absorb while unmarried to either vocals or images. Any trouble with absorption should only come from the richness of sources or the diversity of modes Balmorhea embrace within the walls of this album. Opener “San Solomon” cross wires a field recording-enhanced banjo/piano pattern, reminiscent of The Books or Ramses III, with a grounding pull of cello courtesy of collaborator Erin Lance. The piano parts belie a strong classical hand that is equally adept at Chopin’s quiet darkness and Stravinsky’s skipping clusters. The acoustic guitar’s counterpoint leans more towards a folk ease and understatement that helps build the album’s quiet confidence. With touches of violin, accordion and bass along with the cello Rivers Arms becomes a place full of colourful stories, with or with out the pictures to prove it.

Western Vinyl

Lars Stigler - Samarium-Cobalt Compound Impulse-Release Magnets And Linear Resistance

This Viennese guitarist has been working quietly, in all senses of the word, for just over a decade now. Samarium is his fourth solo release in that time and showcases a patience and clarity of technique. As the lengthy title hints, a tonally complex yet scrupulously observed phenomenon continually unfolds until it inhabits a wide vista of sound. In the musical world this is revealed through initially delicate and deliberately plucked notes against a rising hum of chorus. Stigler stretches the first two long pieces into divided movements, suggesting natural process, before releasing a more synthesized arrangement for radio static saturated guitar and piano harmonics. Stigler’s compositions have a little in common with Oren Ambarchi’s more restrained moments or Giuseppe Ielasi at his least abstract. But truthfully his music is on it’s own track… one that is less interested by the density of structures and with a simplicity that is more about clarity than minimalism for it’s own sake. These are themes for traveling deep into the heart of things or observing the sweep of great distances.

Karate Joe

Silje Nes – Ames Room

This Norwegian singer/songwriter is sure to draw comparisons to fellow Sub-Arctic siren Björk’s for her blend of wobbly electronics and acoustic inflected pop experiments. Nes is much more of ship in a bottle to Björk’s galleon, though. Not exactly fragile, the pieces of Ames Room are still miniature, but once assembled they become something unexpected and charming. Perhaps a more appropriate comparison would be to Finnish avant-folk artist Islaja, whose work seems likewise more “built” than “played.” It’s a slippery affair to pin down, with a title track that burbles and chirps like jay in a natural spring followed by the drum machine and guitar drone of “Giant Disguise,” a track that wouldn’t be out of place on an early Cat Power album. This in turn is followed by “Dizzy Street,” which imagines a Belle & Sebastian / Fiery Furnaces détente. Nes’ approach is a hybrid of her classical piano background in collision with freewheeling home recording, making for a surefooted traipse through whimsical and tricky terrain.


Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Surgery 56

Bochum Welt - R.O.B. (Robotic Operating Buddy) (Rephlex)
Lars Stigler - Samarium-Cobalt Compound Impulse-Release Magnets And Linear Resistance Inputs (Karate Joe)
Bobby And Blumm - Everybody Loves (Morr)
Various - Monika Bärchen Songs For Bruno, Knut & Tom (Monika)
Ulaan Khol - I (Soft Abuse)
Atlas Sound - Let The Blind Lead Those Who Can See But Cannot Feel (Kranky)
Borko - Celebrating Life (Morr)
Fuck Buttons - Street Horrrsing (ATP/R)
Principles Of Geometry - Lazare (Tigersushi)
Thee Silver Mt. Zion - 13 Blues for Thirteen Moons (Constellation)
Sun City Girls - You're Never Alone With A Cigarette (Abduction)

Track Listing

Bochum Welt - DR2D [0:00]
Lars Stigler - As Cells Approach Exhaustion... [5:16]
Bobby And Blumm - The Letter [10:37]
Michaela Melian - Locke Pistole Kreuz (Edit) [13:27]
Ulaan Khol - Untitled 04 [17:10]
Atlas Sound - Ready, Set, Glow [20:02]
Borko - Hondo & Borko [22:56]
Fuck Buttons - Sweet Love for Planet Earth [29:38]
Principles Of Geometry - Akeshore [38:17]
Thee Silver Mt. Zion - Blindblindblind [43:36]
Sun City Girls - Sev Acher [56:49]

Listen to Surgery 56 click here

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Surgery 55

Bernard Falaise
- Clic (Ambiances Magnetiques)
Box - Studio 1 (Rune Grammofon)
Linsey Wellman & Mike Essoudry - S/T (Malasartes)
Balmorhea - Rivers Arms (Western Vinyl)
YUL - Departure (Malasartes)
Tim Brady - Topology: Scat (Ambiances Magnetiques)
Instruments Of Science & Technology - S/T (Secretly Canadian)
Christina Kubisch - Five Electrical Walks (Important)
AGF - Words Are Missing (AGF Producktion)
Angel - Kalmukia (Editions Mego)
Valet - Naked Acid (Kranky)

Track Listing

Bernard Falaise - Tour [0:00]
Box - Untitled 11 [5:00]
Linsey Wellman & Mike Essoudry - The Gadfly Suite - Breaths [9:38]
Balmorhea - The Winter [12:07]
YUL - Sophie [17:45]
Tim Brady - Struck Twice By Lightning [21:40]
Instruments Of Science & Technology - Ghost of Hip Hop (New Apostles Mix) [31:26]
Christina Kubisch - Homage With Minimal Disinformation [34:58]
AGF - Under Water (Run!) [39:34]
Angel - Bones In The Sand [42:45]
Valet - Kehaar [54:12]

Listen to Surgery 55 click here