Eilean Rec x5: Śruti/ Benjamin Finger/ Emmanuel Whitzthum/ Aries Mond/ Amuleto.

For this second part of Eilean Rec release catch up, I get up to speed on the Class of 2018 (minus the previously reviewed Ljerke release). Again, some fine works of various colors and musical styles for listeners to dive right into.

Śruti is the collaboration between Egyptian experimental musicians Omar El Abd (Omrr) & Mohammed Ashraf (Pie Are Squared). “Heard, Unspoken” is their debut. The album was created over the past two years between Cairo, Egypt & Ravenna, Italy. El Abd has appeared before on Eilean Rec with “Music For The Anxious” while Ashraf has appeared on labels such as Records DK, *Handstitched and others.

The album is paired into two tracks of each part of the album’s title eg: “Heard (Pt.1)” and “Heard (Pt.2)”.

“Heard (Pt.1)” begins with cut up electronics that sound like something breaking down. The textures range from crisp sounds through to more submerged sounds. Drones, field recordings, loops, broken electronics come together in an aurally rich sound scape which is fluctuating with depth and intensity, but doesn’t sound cluttered. The music takes a darker turn with heavier drones mixing in with glitches and noise to create a storm like environment that threatens to, but never wholly enters the maelstrom. Snatches of minimalist piano change the mood of the piece, which still remains intense, but with a different edge to it. Towards the end organ sounding drones mixed with static saturated synth pulses give a fractured feel to the track not too dissimilar to its beginnings.

“Heard (Pt.2)” picks up were part one finished before moving into a mixture of field recordings, acoustic guitar and thought out and well spaced minimal piano. Granular pulses of electronics add a gritty edge before strings take the track to more cinematic places before fading to an almost unheard level. They continue with a melancholic edge alongside broken electronics, before the music swells with intensity and various guitar sections come in such and a post rock/ambient influenced style and a more twangy section. The music becomes more forceful seeking out more of the listener as it threatens to and borders on noise in brief parts. The swell of the track is such as once it has reached its crescendo, it slowly dissipates with breathy drones to its completion.

“Unspoken (Pt. 1)” feels like a mysterious soundtrack composed of snatches of electronics, backwards dialogue, floating ominous synths and foreign sounds. There is a strong Space theme. A tunnel like sounding drone comes in with its almost echoing presence before turning into a lighter, but still intense soundscapes, just with a bit of light to the ominous sound generated. The sound feels like it’s constructing of many layers that are not totally discernible, but can be slowly picked out at glances. With three minutes left in the track the music takes on a more electronic feel to it with swathes of ambient coating Oval-esque sounds.

“Unspoken (Pt.2)” continues with the glitchy electronics added to with field recordings, drones, piano, and other tones to create a track that falls across genres like electroacoustic, sound art, quasi film soundtrack and modern classical flirtations. The sound comes across as full, but the way the components come together allows for depth in the piece. The track has the ability, much like the others on the album, to flow easily from section to section without sounding clunky.

Hopefully not the last collaboration between these artists, it would be great to hear how they would react to stripping back the layers and focusing on an individual style. I would imagine it would be as impressive as this debut.

Benjamin Finger follows up his “For Those About to Love” album on Flaming Pines with “Scale of Blindness”. Finger, based in Oslo, Norway has been composing music since 2005 and active since 2009 and is a composer, electronic music producer, DJ and photographer. His music has graced labels like Time Released Sound, Shimmering Moods Records, Oak Editions and many more.

This is his second release on the label with this previous “Pleasurably Lost” in 2015. The label describes the work as “an unknown territory, dense and unpredictable, without musical styles, a deep dive, well-managed, into his own world.”

“Halogen Flux” welcomes you to the album with squelchy sounds, loops, gritty sounds, haunting female vocals, broken circuitry and scattershot electronics. Sounding more like an experimental piece that is a song collage, rather a standard piece, though it must be noted that it does have a sense of composition about it rather than the ‘kitchen sink form of experimentation. “Anxiety Blues” follows in the similar sound landscape with bubbling electronics, female vocals (by Lynn Fister), washes of synchs and percussive elements. You can visually picture Finger with a bunch of analogue retro instruments plugging away and turning knobs.

“If Memory Serves” utilizes some American dialogue about a plane jacking (DB Cooper) alongside layered retro synth lines that remind of Mogwai’s post “Rave Tapes” sounds that have a hint of menace about them coupled with melody and a retro feel. “Vagabond Void” begins with loops of squelchy sounds alongside a Morse code like scratchy synth and a kakiedescopic carousel sounding synth section with minimal percussion. The track feels like hyperactive synth lines that are then broken up by an ambient section before a darker sound enters the field and becomes part of the frantic feel you get. The track has an almost claustrophobic and schizophrenic sound to it.

“Fragrant Darkness” warped oscillating tones that fluctuate with frequency and intent, coming across in a way of a broken transmission are paired with an emotive vocal/synth drone with dub like qualities. The music has a looping quality to it that changes as the track goes through several moods and expands with additional instrumentation of mainly the synth kind. “Earview Map” starts with a more traditional synth drone of long proportions with choppy synth stabs that than ripple out creating quite a moody submerged piece. You get the feeling of alien world such are the low subdued tones. The drones grow with a slight static to them in the last-minute with blips and blops keeping that alien feel alive.

“Falling Asleep” oscillating synth lines with a partial drone attached meet dubby synth lines, percussive elements, vocals. Elements come in loop forms, but also in building up and breaking down of the sounds. What sounds like treated guitar comes in and adds something else as well as the clicking sticks percussion.

“Vanishing Faces” is the album’s epic clocking in at just over 12 minutes in length. It is quite different to the previous tracks before it in that the music is more laid back, less frenetic. It is given time to unfurl the drones and the bass line holds it all together. The drones are both melodic and metallic. The feel of an alien like environment is still sonically there but the initial feeling is of dawn with the sun coming up. The bass line melody (which sounds like an ominous organ) gets more flesh to it as the track also builds around it. Drones and rumbling synth with flashes of synthetic strings finish off the track, which until the last moments, was a change from the majority of the album.

This album would suit those that like a touch of experimental music mixed with a healthy dose of retro feel. In comparison to the Flaming Pines release, which will be reviewed at some point, you can see an artist that while there is something that ties his work together, it appears not to be too similar.

Emmanuel Witzthum is an Israeli musician, multidisciplinary artist, and lecturer. He has been on labels such as Cotton Goods and has appeared on Eilean Rec with his collaboration with Craig Tattersall as E & I on the”The Color of Sound” album. This album has 4 tracks, 4 haikus, like 4 seasons, two tracks of which are long and the other two are normal length.

“Eyes shut, Leaves. Lift in winds across. Autumn Skies” is an emotive piece that utilizes Whitzhum’s viola and electronics to compose a piece of sweeping music that has obvious dronal elements, but to label it just drone would be to undersell it. It feels like a grand classical piece that has elements that flow and ebb with an undercurrent that forms the body of the track. The use of layering and repeated motifs helps build the track and gives it more than one dimension.

“Soft rain falls. Winter Solitude. At night, still” a fusion of short passages of viola over which layered long sections can glide with a occassional minimal bass drum beat opens the track. If the title gives anything away it is the word solitude. The music feels rather mournful and it feels that it tells a story of loss with the two viola styles being ‘sobbing’ the short loop like passages and the deep melancholy of the longer sections, mixed with reflection.

“Shy Flowers. Cloud Sighs, Clear Blue Sky. Breeze turns warm”. In a way this feels like the flipside of the previous track as the elements are connected and in a similar style – short and long viola passages with a minimal occasional beat. However, the tone is different. It is lighter, still lyrical and emotive, but this time with head held high looking into the sun. The pace of the track accentuates the feel with a relaxed speed.

“Against Tree. Eyes look to Sunset. In summer.” continues with the similar stark instrumentation that the three preceding tracks have used with each track managing to convey z different mood which, given the timbre of the viola is not that easy to do. This particular track utilizes more of drone than the short sections of viola than before. The main sections of viola have the familiar long form bows, but conjure up a feeling of reminiscing. The visual representation would be looking over an open field to a body of water that stretches out with nothing on the horizon. A nice addition to the sound palate are brief moments of wordless vocals to the end which add another element.

Whitzhum’s album is a joy for those that like music that conveys human emotions.

Boris Billier is a french musician based in the Pyrénées mountains in southern France. He started to compose with environmental sound recordings in 2002. He toured with different solo projects, playing “acousmatic” concerts. He often collaborated with contemporary theatre.

From 2013, he started to focus on instrumental music, with a particular interest for piano, and to share tracks under Aries Mond pseudonym.

“Come” the opener starts with flickering sounds and muted piano that comes across as both distant and up close. Electronics scatter around the piano breaking up the sound but also adding queues for the next section. A hum arrives adding a different long melody which holds and brings forth a new section of piano largely unfettered by the electronics (though they are still present). For a three-minute track you feel that it is almost an intro than a stand alone piece and it gives you a feeling of a thematic album, that you will or will not discover is the case, as it unfolds.

“Again” close records piano meets some swirling static sound, electronics and snatches of breathy noises that sound collaged as they have a cut and paste feel. The track is rather brief and sounds an exercise in texture and minimalism rather than a song.

“Come on lets wait” fuses field recordings, experiments with the piano itself, glitches, random tones to create a fractured piano/glitch track that turns ever so ominous with the tone getting heavier and the glitches and tones increasing in their coverage. There is an echoey tone to the glitches which sound like machines breaking down. The repetitive loop section mid way through the track gives it a major motif to hang onto. Things clatter and clang, melodies ring out and for want a better word, a groove is found. After this section an introspective feel comes over the track with the piano being slightly moody.

“Please” close capture recorded minimal piano with all the sound and imperfections of the piano leads this track in a thoughtful mood. Each note is played intentionally with no accompaniment leaving the piano sounding a bit fragile. The pace is relaxed which enables the mood to be easily read. A nice well thought out piece.

“Relentlessly” follows some of the cues that were introduced on “Again” with the vocal glitches having a sound of frustration in there little snatches of sound. There are metallic scraping sounds, possibly the wires from the inside of the piano. The scraping maintains a rhythm which is also produced by the bouncy tones as well.

“Sure” a metronomic sound welcomes lightly played piano and electronics that bounce out and circulate around field recordings. The piano is the center of piece as it holds its place and pace, while other elements float around it including field recordings and more breathy vocals. The piano and tones at times mimic reach other with their repetitive tones.

“So Long” frantic keys, bells and glitchy tones set the stage for this track which holds onto melody while still being experimental in its playing and combination with organic and non organic sounds. The feeling is not too dissimilar to that of the music of Nobukazu Takemura, but with a more humane touch. The mirroring of piano and tones works well.

“Once again” ventures into glitch territory almost exclusively with moody ambiance breaking up the loop sections with a percussive feel – in a like a pinball machine, included in the track. While having pulses of melodic touches, there is an element of noisiness due to the slightly storm like distorted sound.

This album includes piano, vocals, glitches, field recordings, but is more the sum of the parts with its willingness to experiment and play with sound. The music is consistent in its sound, but without being repetitive and boring.

“Amuleto is Francesco Dillon (cello, prepared cello, feedbacks, other strings, objects) and Riccardo Wanke (guitars,keyboards, electronics, synths, harmonium). The duo takes its name from Roberto Bolaño’s novel and seeks to trace invisible links among distant geographical and cultural spaces, words and sounds. Good part of the inspiration comes from literature, sounds, images coming from various sides of the world. Their music emerges as a combination between contemporary, experimental and electronic music with influences of folk and classical traditions and improvisation.”

As a duo their work has previously come out on the Mazagran label, while separately they have appeared on labels such as Sedimental, Stradivarius, Glistening Examples and Three:Four records. As a level you could make a strong argument that Electroacoustic forms a large part of their oeuvre. This side is shown with Amuleto.

“Las Hojas Mineralizadas De la Árboles” aka “The mineralized leaves of trees” fuses field recordings – crackling noises, electronics, with guitar, harmonium, cello to create a drone piece which results in long sustained tones being coated in a sonic detritus. The drones and other elements travel the various depths of sound and texture, using the instruments for their primary and secondary sound sources. This is best demonstrated by the use of the various guitar tones and the sound of the lead being inserted and removed from the guitar.

“Sumaj Orcko” frequencies and loops seem to be the heart of this piece which definitely rests in the experimental field. Sounds buzz, gurgle, scrape, scatter in a kitchen sink manner where everything appears to be constructed using instruments of alternative means. The track ranges from purely electronic experimentation to more organic sound source experimentation through to left field ambient/drone.

“Bajo la Lluvia Casa Silenciosa” aka “Under the rain silent house” features voice recordings, cello, electronics to create a piece that is hard to get a handle on in regards to what it is trying to convert. Field recordings of conversations give it an eavesdropping feel, but then the noisy prepared strings take in a completely different direction, although it should be noted a variation of this appears at the start of the track.

“Los Naufragios De Cabeza de Vaca” aka “The Cow Head Shipwrecks” fuses field recordings, dark electronics and looped string instruments, giving an almost conventional feel to the track as it builds up the intensity and suspense, before elements drop out and the electronics are what remains. The next section returns to the experimental of before with wild guitar bashings over electronics. Interestingly this leads into more traditional guitar sound with an accompanying humming rhythm, before going into a traditional/ experimental hybrid section. This section builds suspense due to the bashing, the strings that are screeching and the constant humming electronics.

“Una Aventura Nocturna” aka “A Nighttime Adventure” taking the title literally, the duo construct a sound pallet of metallic screeches and string drones that reverberate and extend seemingly forever. The mood is dark and field recordings of dialogue are used, but without understanding the language I cannot ascertain if they fit mood. The feeling is thick but without being claustrophobic, but also suspenseful.

“Máquina Para Fabricar Santos” aka “Machine to Make Saints” fuses the noisy experiments with prepared strings alongside electronics which creates a nice balance of the two styles that while different compliment each other. After a breakdown section, cello that is being roughly played joins electronic beats before another section of joins in and the electronics start to lead the track once more. With the track having around a minute left the cello goes into overdrive in its intensity and its sound of harsh tones that slash and grind to the end.

If you like to more free form experimental Electroacoustic side of music (and Eilean Rec), this may be right up your alley.

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