Naviar Records x 2 – Gomel, 1986 / Sōzuproject “Breathe Slowly”.

Naviar Records is London Based label who describe themselves as “a community and label that explores the intersection between music and traditional Japanese poetry.” They have been releasing music since March 2014 and these two releases are their latest.

“Gomel, 1986” is an extension of the “Clouded Lands” show (in conjunction with the art collective Food of War) about the 31st anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster and was “a show which aimed to raise awareness on the consequences that such catastrophic events bring in people’s culture and everyday life. For this event, Naviar’s community had to recreate sounds, atmospheres and moods of one of the areas which were mostly affected by the disaster: the region of Gomel, in Belarus

Each artist had to re-imagine the atmospheres and moods of the time and the recordings were made within a two-week period. The release is available as a limited Cd-r (50 copies) and digital.

“Black Rain” by Dirigent opens the album. Dirigent is San Francisco classically trained composer Chris Christensen who is drawn toward analog electronics and classic tape-studio techniques. The track starts with echoing percussion, water like sounds, electronics, the chiming of clocks, dark ambient drones and recordings of phone calls and media reports in Russian. I haves no idea of what is being said, but there is a certain amount of alarm in the voices, but not overly distraught. The music borders Dark Ambient and Industrial and has an unsettling edge to it. Electronics come in and or in a wave-like fashion possibly inspired by waves of radiation.

“Tjernobyl” by Robert Rizzi. Rizzi is a Danish/American Composer and Sound artist, Master of Electronic Music Composition from DIEM, Aarhus. Robert teaches Electronic Music and Sound art at SDMK Music Conservatoire in Esbjerg, Denmark. He works primarily with field recordings, found scores and improvised instrumental pieces, very often in collaborative site specific installations and compositions with visual artists. Field recordings of rain/ a storm with scattershot sounds are joined by a siren like drone, bass, minimal piano and electronics. The focus is on the field recordings, but the minimal nature of the bass and piano alongside the electronics really brings out the post apocalyptic feel of the music.

“Black Clouds” by Earthborn Visions. Earthborn Visions is a project born out of wide-ranging influences, with a particular affinity for any music that positively influences perception and thinking. They explore juxtapositions of sounds and styles, melodies and noise, planned and random acts, field recordings and electronics, analog and digital. Synth drones slowly unfurl melodically before picking up a darker wind-blown edge and giving a feeling that compliments the title. There is a subtlety to the track, so it’s not too literal in its intentions.

“Cage of Obscured Rain” by IF. IF is Matteo Gazzolo an actor, director, musician, sound designer (founder of Soundethers). He’s been teaching theatrical techniques and text analysis since 1999. He organizes trainings and lectures on acting styles. Matteo lives in Sardinia (Italy) where he plays his stage productions, focusing on the relationship between music, sound technologies (live electronics) and speech. The use of rain sounds return with a more obvious use of weather sourced field recordings. The drones that join are fractured as if they are too also affected by the weather. The drones start to build in intensity and the tone tends to go in a more screechy noise affected way. The track heads into a mix of dark ambient and more melodic fusion with the two opposing styles mixing up in layers and alternating in dominance. The ending of the track is where the field recordings and dark ambience takes hold.

“I Forgot Everything” by In die Ferne. In die Ferne’s first musical experiences date back to the late 80s — playing the guitar in an utterly forgotten noise combo that only recorded 2 tracks. He started making electronic music in the early 2000s. Minimal drones and tones are central to this track. Repetition or loops sees the motif replayed as the drones, while noisy have that classical Eno style to them. The rough / noisy is to the tracks detriment and stands out against the clearer recordings.

“Aftermath” by Jesús Lastra. Lastra aka Jalastram/Flat Stone is a Madrid-based self-taught artist from Maracaibo, Venezuela. He began to experiment with audio editing software in 2007. Then, he started composing ambient music, or more specifically, soundscape, drone and experimental music within the electronic genre. Slow drawn out drones are joined by string drones and a low rumble. The sound is full, but also mournful.With a title like “Aftermath” the artist is clearly trying to convey the post disaster desolation of the area with the heaviness of the drones, the fusion of the elements (strings, piano) and the mood of the times.

With a compilation that comes with a theme or an inspiration there are bound to be cross over of source inspiration eg: field recordings of rain, that said while there are similarities, the artists are able to put their own touches to give a little variation to each piece. The two final tracks probably act as the weaker and stronger pieces on the album. If you like thematic albums this may be for you.

Paolo Mascolini records as sōzuproject. He has released a handful of albums and ep’s. This release on cassette (edition of 59 copies) and digital is his latest. This is the first time he has come across my radar.

The label states that this was “Recorded between December 2016 and February 2017, Breath Slowly describes the composer’s experience while cycling off-road in the mysterious Italian Dolomites in 2016. Divided into two acts, the album depicts an imaginary journey of self-discovery inspired by these desolate and overwhelming mountain landscapes.

“Ascent” starts off with eerie rumbling, echoing recordings of some sort before layered and occasionally fractured drones arc across the soundscape. Staccato strings cut across before a deep Bassoon like bass drone enters and vibrates out. The music starts to fill out with the strings and the bass thump being joined by noisier sections. The music oscillates with looped electronics joining the fray. As the track continues on the intensity is lifted. If the intention is to convey the intensity of ascending mountains on bicycle and also the desolation of the area, then it is succeeded with the slow build up which dissipates to a more electronica like ending.

“Descent” the drones that start this track have a slightly croaky sound to them as if they are made of field recordings of frogs. A buzzing drone enters the picture and loops with a low-level electronic section barely audible underneath. The electronics start to build up in the mix and their fast paced nature is at odds with the slow intense drones, before they start to challenge the drones which are getting noisier and distorted. There is a subtle wall of noise/ orchestral nature to the drones in the way they sound. The end of the track is like reprise of the beginning with some of the elements featuring again with the electronics still fighting for position.

I have to admit having an expectation to how the tracks would sound in relation to the theme which was completely opposite to the end result. I expected “Ascent” to be intense , which it was, in relation to climbing a mountain by bicycle and ‘Descent” being a more laidback enjoying the scenery feel, which it wasn’t. If you like long form noisy layered drone, then this release might be your cup of tea.

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Otto Lindholm – Alter.

On October 13 (Friday the 13th in certain places) Gizeh Records releases the second album from Belgium based Double Bassist/Electronic musician Otto Lindholm. Lindholm’s self titled debut came out on Icarus Records /Vynila Vinyls in 2015 and gained critical appraisal from the likes of Fact Magazine and influential broadcaster Mary Anne Hobbs.

Lindholm had this to say about the album’s genesis “My original idea was to work on the melody and the play of the arco (ed note: Arco being the returning to playing bowed after pizzicato), looking for expressive music from this combination. To do it, I first decided to work on ‘modes’ and their specific color. With these modes I could work on tensions, frictions and color shading. Working on the melody aspect, I was looking to go beyond the romantic, easy listening or sentimentalizing, trying to suggest more than an expression of concrete emotions.

The album contains four tracks with a consistent length with times ranging from just over eight minutes up to ten and a half minutes. The record comes in a vinyl edition of five hundred copies on 180g vinyl with download code and bonus 12″ x 12″ print if purchased via the labels store. It was mastered by Lawrence English of the Room40 label.

“Fauve” (a Fauve is a type of artist from the Fauvism movement that featured the “radical use of unnatural colors that separated color from its usual representative and realistic role, giving new emotional meaning to colors”). On this track slow bowed strings and monolithic bass swells are the first thing you hear, pulsing and throbbing. There is a deep dark sound to the track, but also room for melodic touches. Layers of double bass come in an out with low-level electronics and manipulated bass sounds. The more the track moves on, the more elements are added with the electronics mimicking the bass swells, but also being off rhythm to them. The tracks fluidity enables it to cover the genres of modern classical and certain elements of post rock. With the use of tones and manipulated organic and electronic sounds you could state the Lindholm has started he aim for the album straight off with the opening track.

“Lehena” (which in African names means one who refuses) arcs of bass vibrate across with a swarm like sound underneath that build up before a violin like section takes the focus before an electronic section of pulsing loops, ambience and squelchy beats provides a counterpoint to the organic sounds created by the double bass. The electronics threaten to take over the track and lead it in a more dance/electronica based vein, but while they lead the track to its finish they remain as one of the elements of the sound palate.

“Alyscamps” a deep dark drone is joined by ghostly electronics and glacial ambience. The drones intertwine with the electronics combing the acoustic with the electronic. Flickering sections lead to the feeling of a broken transmission from a deserted outpost. The flickering remains a constant while scattershot sounds with haunting presence form like a storm which is subdued just before the end for some distinct double bass. The “Alyscamps” is a Roman section in Arles, France and was the burial ground for nearly 1,500 years. The haunting music could be easily influenced by this landmark.

“Heliotrope” a Heliotrope is a popular flowering plant that happens to be a toxic plant. On this particular track the double bass recordings are deep and are used under a bed of higher at times bordering on screeching drones. While tracks like “Alyscamps” utilized the electronics in a different way, “Heliotrope” relies more on the ambient and drone elements that can be coaxed from the double bass. There are effects in the piece with juddering sounds, sounds that cut in an out, degradation of sounds, etc…. which gives it a more experimental / cut up feel.

On “Alter” Lindholm expands on what he started with on his self titled debut, but comes across more as focusing on the qualities of his chosen instrument than the electronic component of his debut. Don’t get me wrong, the electronics are still there but appear to be more of a tool of his experimentalism than as a feature. For those who checked out the recently reviewed Alder & Ash should also check out this album.

Otto Lindholm

Gizeh Records

Alder & Ash – Psalms for the Sunder.

Lost Tribe Sound sought to expose Alder & Ash to a greater audience. The first of the two releases they put out was “Psalms for the Sunder”. This originally came out self released in 2016. Lost Tribe Sound decided to re-issue in physical form alongside the latest album “Clutched in the Maw of the World”.

The label had the following to say: “Psalms for the Sunder thrives in opposing extremes. As the title suggests, Psalms for the Sunder is a study of downfall and collapse. The work explores the boundaries, the desolation and despair, among the edges of things come undone. In that tension and space it finds not only cacophony, violence and decay, but also bittersweetness and calm.”

Alder & Ash is Adrian Copeland from Montreal, Quebec, Canada and is a solo cellist and only uses Cello to compose these pieces. He uses such techniques as legato (“musical notes are played smoothly and connected. That is, the player transitions from note to note with no intervening silence”), pizzicato (plucking of the strings), but also extended techniques like percussion against various parts of the cello, scordatura (detuning strings), string scratching, col legno (striking strings with bow) and ponticello (metallic and shrill overtones). Making full use of the instrument results in the music made by Alder and Ash.

“A Prelude To The Decline” slow drones are accompanied by minimal picking before the mournful quality of the cello cuts through with a melodic touch. The main cello piece alternates in tone and intensity giving the track both the mournful part, but also an angry intensity. The range of tones gives the cello a vocal-like feel in that it is conveying an unsung narrative.

“At Night in the Slaughterhouse” a distorted beat and slapping of the body of the instrument give the track its percussive feel while layers of cello combine to give both rhythm and lead parts. The press release gives mention of Dirty Three and Bad Seed’s Warren Ellis violin playing and this comes through early in this track with similar frantic playing. Just when you feel the track is settling down, the distorted percussion comes thumping back in industrial style while affected cello screeches above it roaring in intensity until the more emotive sections take control.

“Black Salt” starts with occasional strumming of the cello as if the player or person is finding their feet or rhythm before the percussive part starts to form something more. The strumming picks up speed, joined by buzzsaw sounds cutting left to right and some distant distorted rumble sounds. The melodic cello part that becomes the central focus lends a modern classic feel which is at odds with its more rustic beginning. After an ebb the strumming starts up again with both the distorted rumble sounds and a percussive beat. After a short period it fades to low-level drones and cutting sounds while the strumming slowly fades to the end.

“Seen Through the Cedar Smoke” multi layered picking and percussion are joined by the briefest bursts of sounds similar to that of a horn. The picking rhythmically becomes dense and woven and is covered with stabs of sound. The affected cello comes back into play sounding like the guitar sounds of Big Black – like distorted that it removes the original sound of the instrument. The quiet/loud dynamic comes into play when elements drop out and the picking starts up again, with both a feature element and the rhythmic base. There is quite a post industrial feel to the track, almost like post war desolation and decay.

“Ikejime” bizarrely the title refers of a method of paralyzing fish to preserve the meat. I am not sure what preservation is going on in this track but it has a jaunty rhythm over which slow bowed cello hangs over utilizing the screech noises that can be apparent with the cello. There are several layers the recording with each holding its own position from rhythm to melodic parts , those that are designed to add color, while others become the lead and yet others add the emotive depth to the pieces. All the levels don’t make it claustrophobic in any way and they are complimentary.

“Children of Gomorrah” has an ominous bluest feel with the starting percussive bit and distorted strings before sad sections are added and the track returns to the distortion of earlier tracks and has a vibe of seedyness as if it would suit as a soundtrack piece for show like “Peaky Blinders” or something where there is little light, grime, decay, etc….

“Triage” acoustic strumming with a drone that is long and emotive that slowly evolves, with the rhythm staying the same pace before dropping out altogether and allowing the drone to be accompanied by Warren Ellis style strings which posses an Americana feel that is almost improv like, before the strumming re-emerges. With Triage meaning to assess the importance of things, this could be represented in the layers of the piece and the way they build up and how they are structured.

On “Psalms for the Sunder” Alder & Ash utilize their chosen instrument to the fullest and create music that cuts through genres such as Drone, Americana, Industrial and others without being bogged down in one set genre. The music contained could easily be featured on a soundtrack or just enjoyed with a pair of headphones on.

The last physical copies are still available now.