Endurance – Endurance.

One of the first artists to send their wares to this humble blog was Japan based Canadian Joshua Steffane aka Endurance. After the review appeared a handful of further cassette releases appeared on labels such as Onmyodo Cassette, ACR, Moss Archive and Metaphysical Circuits. He also has been involved with new Japanese label Muzan Editions.

This self titled cassette was self released and is based on a science fiction short story that Steffane was writing involving a stranded astronaut infected by a parasite that protected him from harm and prevented him from aging (see more information at his bandcamp page). The album was constructed with a variety of electronic tools and field recordings.

“Starsea” opens up the release with glacial ambience of the floating variety combined with static bursts. The swirling layers of ambience  give the feeling of being off the ground and being above the clouds.

“I No Longer Miss Home” long tendrils of drones spiral out with one sounding a bit cut up, another looped and a third being of the proggy synth variety. While the opener had a feeling of floating, these drones have a bit more of a discordant edge to them, especially the secondary drone that is slightly dominated by the proggy synth one. As the track progresses the drones alternate in focus, bringing out different qualities.  You get the feeling of isolation or abandonment through the singular nature of the music.
“Collapsing Giants” opening with distant screeching noises, a rumbling soundscape emerges which is oscillating as if it is almost stuck in a short position and is decaying. The decaying sounds increase with the screeching becoming a howl and industrial like field recordings add a sinister robotic edge.

“New Companions, Old Friends” what sounds like looped broken electronics or signals moves from right to left with a rumbling, but not oppressive sound. There is a feel of some sort of transmission , but also a feeling of the still and quiet after something has happened and a new dawn is beginning. It’s hard to pin down as it is slightly eerie, but also calm and unsettling.

“Goodbye Everything” is the first of two of the album’s epic tracks clocking in at just under twelve minutes. In that time it moves at a relatively slow pace, much like a mud slide that engulfs everything. Opening with what sounds like affected field recordings similar to natural electricity,  random melodic tones appear as the field recordings start to have a stormy quality.  The tones start to get heavier and darker, but also uniform. The speed of them is constant and slow, with the background stormy recordings containing the variety as opposed to the constant foreground drones. Coming up to the six-minute mark the melodic tones return accompanied by a harsher weather sound and a thicker bottom edge. For the remainder of the track the elements alternate in their intensity and the attention of the listener. With such a thick long track, it is almost like a wiping out of what has come before and a possible new start.

“Why Must I Endure?” Is a more purer ambient track than the one that preceded it. Lush ambience, in a way returning to the style of the opening track, alongside field recordings that give an environmental feel. Layers of synth start to envelope with one being a more constant drone, while the other having a cut up varying tone to it. With a title such as this it would be expected to be quite morose, but for me the meaning is obtained largely through the repetition as if the character is ruminating things over and over in their head. There is still enough of an edge that it is not all light and fluffy, but not claustrophobic either.

This album would be suited to listeners who like their music thematic or with a Sci-Fi edge.

 

 

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Ben Rath – Black Heart Music.

It is a little hard to review Eilean Rec releases. Such is the demand for the music they put out and the limited edition nature (this particular release was limited to 130 copies) that they regularly sell out in pre-order. You may find them at Stashed Goods or Experimedia, but on the whole the physical editions are long gone.

“Ben Rath is an amateur musician currently based in Manchester, UK. He makes experimental, ambient music using original recordings of guitar, keyboard and piano, as well as samples and field recordings. He has been recording and releasing music through a variety of labels since 2014 and has also released a short EP of improvised acoustic guitar tracks under the name Slow Heart Music in 2017”.
Ben Rath has been building up a catalog via a series of great labels such as Triple Moon, Cathedral Transmissions, Unknown Tone and now Eilean Rec.

His “Black Heart Music” album contains ten tracks of differing material such as the ghostly and noisy opener “I see you demon” with its icy electronics, howling wind like drones and slightly ominous electronics that are joined by an organ like drones, field recordings and what sounds like a guitar quartet to the scratchy field recordings, drones and almost classical guitar of “Hidden Contract” which has a drone meets acoustic post rock meets orchestral drone feel to it.

“Devotion” takes the listener on a loop based psychedelic electronic drone journey while the follow-up “Reasonable Doubt” sees acoustic guitar return to the fore with a hypnotic disjointed loop feel and a whistling drone gradually building to hold a similar degree of attention in the track, complimenting the guitar playing.

“Know thy Shadow” is a pure drone piece with an orchestral choral feel to it which makes it quite haunting. There is a shuffling feel before darker pulsing elements take over with flashes of electronics which altogether give a wide-screen feel to the sound. “Boiling Point” has pulsing static covered electronics that have a drill like quality with orchestral probes which sound like a bed of church organs. As the title suggests, the music builds up with a fractured cut up selection of electronics and sound to build a frantic base for the organs to sit upon. As the track finishes up the elements start to drop out with a static off-kilter buzz taking the piece to silence.

“Winter Blues” has looped samples and submerged drones with distortion. Such is the distance felt in the recording, the drones feel buried underneath the samples and it gives a claustrophobic feel to the track.

“The Devil in Disguise” opens with slightly shimmering drones that are layered and occupy different levels on the sound palate. There is no need for urgency, but they are not stationery in any way. The build slowly and swirl around. Field recordings of an unknown nature scatter about and a glacial drone joins the fray as these two elements become dominant before a heavier drone that slowly varies in pitch takes over.

“Hesitation” looped cut up drone elements with a slight chugging feel are joined by a spindly guitar style drone and a fog horn sounding one. A melodic element takes its place and initially it is buried in the mix, but starts taking prominence in piece.

“Visit to the other side” starts with a looped distortion drone that throbs while a granular and a bowed like haunting element joins in. The haunting element has a ghostly sing-song feel to it with an orchestral like touch. The medic ebbs sad flows, but probably needs another element to complete it.

With “Black Heart Music” Rath shows he can create wide-screen music with impressive elements and the like of “Reasonable Doubt” show he is heading in the right direction. I look forward to seeing where he can next take his music.

Ljerke – Ljerke.

The first Eilean Rec release for the new year may just be their most ambitious one yet. The debut album by Ljerke, a collective of like minds artists comes as a multi media package with a DVD included that is a visual realization of the album from Netherlands and Icelandic artists Marco Douma + Haraldur Karlsson.

“Ljerke is a multidisciplinary live project which took form in the Frisian landscape as as source of inspiration. (which on a tourist website is described as “as Dutch as it gets. Blue skies with impressive cloudscapes. Vast meadows, in which cows graze amid narrow ditches. Sheep dotting an old dike with a village church on a hillock in the distance”). The project includes some music artists from Netherlands (Romke Kleefstra on guitar and effects, Jan Kleefstra on poetry and voice, Sytze Pruiksma on percussion, dulcimer and guitar with effects ) and Norway (Alexander Rishaug on electronics, Hilde Marie Holsen on trumpet and effects, Michael Duch on contrabass) completed with the video artists Marco Douma (NL) and Haraldur Karlsson from Iceland. A new project of live impro music, poetry and film, in the same context of former projects as Seeljocht (Piiptsjilling) and Skeylja (The Alvaret Ensemble).”

“Muurv” which translates to the project umber three can mean a variety of things. From wisdom, harmony and understanding to the number of time; beginning, middle and end, birth, life, death, past and present and death. The track opens with what sounds like a bass drum beaten (but could be the contrabass), before scattered electronics, manipulated guitar recordings, drones and fragments of sound are joined by the narration / poetry of Jan Kleefstra. Sounding like a pure electroacoustic piece that seems in a way a collage work, with the intention, I think, to create a sense of unease. There is no real consistent structure. Sounds enter and leave, quiet-ish narration and warped parts like guitar, that depart as quickly as they arrived. In the last-minute and a half the track goes as conventional as it will with feverish guitar and contrabass being strummed quickly building up a rhythm while also sounding quite random in their playing. As there is sparseness to the track it is hard to discern what is going on, but it hints at the direction the music will take over the album.

“Tsjilland” starts with a distant explosion like beat alongside scorching electronics and trumpet. The trumpet has a touch of melancholy alongside the metallic sounding electronics that have an electrical storm quality about them. Contrabass, scratches of guitar and dulcimer give a more noisy sound scape. The press release mentions the “Frision Landscape” as a source of inspiration, but for me this is like an alien transmission. Unless that particular landcsape is still, but with a sense of menace or unease to it, then I don’t get the influence. That said, it is not my environment, so that could be my lack of recognizing the influence. A large part of this alien feel is the electronics, which are early Mego-esque with their feel of splattering sounds. The contrabass lends a more mournful tone, along with the fast strumming of what sounds similar to violin, but possibly manipulated guitar, gives it a certain, dare I say, structure to the piece. Again, towards the end the track starts to take more of a shape than the preceding six plus minutes.

“Waarbekkasin” low contrabass rumbles with a Godflesh like intensity are joined by a squall of stormy noise before a high guitar drone and Kleeftra’s narration enters the picture.A metallic noisey drone is introduced before it departs almost as quickly as it entered. The sound of the track is cloaked in a fog, but you can sense elements building up which they start doing four minutes into the piece with what sounds like bells, but probably dulcimer ushering in the next phase which has the contrabass quickly strummed, guitar lines rippling out, bass drum beats and electronics adding to the mix. the final section is the most musical with the dulcimer giving the brightest shade to a predominantly dark piece.

“Skiermunk” begins rather subdued with a pulsing sound with smatterings of percussion, static, low-frequency electronics, trumpet, guitar manipulations building a subterranean soundtrack of fractured music. a bit like musical detritus in that the parts seems to decay in your ears. As the notes say mixed and edited by Rutger Zuydervelt (aka Machinefabriek) you are not sure if this is one combined improv piece of one that has been edited or constructed together. You get elements of Jazz Fusion meets Mego fuckery meets out-and-out electroacoustic experimentalism.

“Hettekobe” droning contrabass sounding didgeridoo like welcomes the listener with its manipulated deep low playing and scraping. Bells and Kleeftra’s narration enter alongside a swirling drone. The contrabass disappears to leave the drones alongside trumpet and table top electronics changing the texture of the track to a slightly lighter one before bashing percussion takes the piece into a third section which the percussion and trumpet lead the way. The Contrabass and electronics return alongside a searing drone, more percussion, trumpet and guitar manipulation to create an almost impenetrable wall of sound that swarms tp the tracks completion and crashes like a wave.

“Skjegfuggl” looping distant trumpet, long presumably guitar drones fuse together with electronics entering the fray and low bashed guitar creating a jazzy soundtrack-esque piece of noir which adds an extra level of noir with Kleeftra’s poetry narration. The music changes more to a drone piece, but not a traditional one as you would usually expect, but one that has a definite more experimental approach to it. Elements come across, enter and disappear, flash in and out and probably is the most controlled piece of the album.

The album was recorded as part of a tour in  November 2016 at the Landscape studio te Gauw, recorded by Jan Switters and later mastered by Norwegian Noise legend Lasse Marhaug. The recording is clear and there is enough space for the instruments to occupy various levels of the sound scape and be audible at any level. That said, If I am being honest, I probably wouldn’t listen to this a lot. This is primarily my desire for more structure and less improvisation. Improvised music relies largely on flashes of brilliance, while a more constructed piece can work more on building mood, texture, rhythms as the musicians are on the same page. With improvised music the musicians are in a way reacting to each other, so there is more chance encounters at something different as opposed to constructing something in a singular fashion. That said, if improv is your thing, this may be for you.

 

 

Whitelab Recs x 4: Teleferik/Polaroid Notes/Overshift/The Prairie Lines.

Harry Towell’s Whitelab Recs had a big 2017.  With seventeen releases (of which I got sent these four and the Covarino/ Incorvaia release sent by the artists themselves). The label even managed to snag a placing in A Closer Listens Labels of the year list – a great placing considering their one in seven strike rate for reviews. Due to the volume of submissions I have grouped these release together for a label overview.

Telerifik is Brutes, Belgium based artist Christoph Ywaska who also runs the weekly experimental music show Klankschap. “Sixteen Frames” is Ywaska’s first physical release compiling a decades worth of personal selections.  According to the label “The record is a curious mixture of Modern Classical excerpts and Ambient drones treated with electronic techniques. It might appeal if you like artists like Monolyth & Cobalt, Roel Funcken or Sylvain Chauveau.”

The album starts with ” (A) Cutlerie or how I used to eat my heart” and is a mix of vibraphone/chimes with looped distortion, short bass lines which together form a melodic and trance (not the musical style) like piece where the sounds of the vibraphone/chimes becomes muddier over time to eventually form a long slow drone.

“(B)Insert Kart” is a piece of manipulated and looped guitar playing, warping in and out joined by Nobukazu Takemura style glitches that are a different pace to the guitar, but as the track continues the focus varies from the glitches to the guitar and back again.

“(C)Close in matter” is a breakdown in transmission before a glitched section meets a small sampled and looped piano section. The track adds extra glitches elements taking away the organicness of the piano to become a purely electronic piece which also reminds me of Takemura.

“(D)Nightshift” continues the theme of manipulated recordings this time having a haunted fairground church organ sound before snatches of Amon Tobin like samples of percussion washes in and out.

“(E)Mingling” slowly approaching minimal percussion, sonar sounds, field recordings, sampled piano loops,  form this experimental track that is predominantly looped based.

“(F)Lets go nowhere else” a horn like loop that emerges right to left when listening with headphones is joined by a section of violin going in the opposite direction. After building up to similar sizes in the sound scape glitches appear as a form of detritus, much like the cut up nature of the two predominant sounds. Woozy jazz sounds enter the mix like a drunken man staggering around and join the two earlier elements to become the third main element just as looped electronics take over to the end of the track.

“(G)Klarf” sounds as if it is based on some old TV show (presumably from Belgium) alongside hauntological looped sounds not to dissimilar to that of The Caretaker.

“(H)Does it Matter” short metronomic electronic loops are joined by other electronic sounds that are also looped , but have a sound similar to an organic instrument. The layers are joined by a bass sound and squelchy sounds that look like they are looking for a beat to propel the track forward. It all degenerates towards the end of the track.

“(I)History favors the Winners”, maybe there is a Caretaker/ Leyland Kirby influence after all with a title like this? Snatches of piano, field recordings and broken electronics form this brief interlude.

“(J)The long Distance” glitchy rhythms, drones,  small fragments of percussion and oscillating electronics form the basis for this is track which is held together by the glitches. The other elements appear to be added without having much off an impact.

“(K)Lumen Reign (Telerifik reworks Illuminine)” shimmering electronics, waves crashing, drones with a hint of classical nature to them cascade against each other. The music has sections that slowly unfurl with some recordings of aeronautic nature.
“(L)Berceuse” meaning a musical passage that resembles a lullaby, with this one sounding like a demented one. Hauntological loops, glitches,  warped chipmunk like manipulated speech make for slightly harrowing listening.

“(M)Sketch 2” a long form drone, gentle bird song field recordings and soft acoustic guitar alongside some slight effects bring out a track that makes you think “Why couldnt the rest of the album be like this?” the music is gentle, but soaring , the elements all share a similar space and quality with a restraint not shown previously. Definitely a direction Telerifik should follow-up with.

“(N)Static of a Distant Storm” has a slightly sci-fi vibe with its layers of synth that float over each other with a slight sense of unease to them. The track as it progresses veers more towards a dark ambient vein with its metallic drones which are clanging in sound.

“(O)Subliminal” the glitches have returned, but following the previous track there is still a Sci-fi vibe to them. The synth sounds like stabs of arranged sound that bounce of each other and have a percussive quality.

“(P)A Minus D Minus D” swirling synth almost like a turntable that has been spun too fast joins a melodic tightly formed looped section that threatens to break out, but instead drops totally to a slow death march of retro electronic sounds an beats to the death.

Personally I feel the album is a collection of sketches that aren’t fully fleshed out. You see flashes of what could be good, but they disappear. If I am being terribly honest with the exception of (M) Sketch 2″ I probably wouldn’t listen to this again.

 

Polaroid Notes is a South Germany based artist named Andreas who has previously been released Whitelab Recs sister labels Tessellate and Audio Gourmet while also releasing dub techno music under the Kraut Sounds name. According to the label “‘Unsung Melodies” is very much inspired by film and TV series, as he strives to carve out sketches for an unreleased movie score. It plays out with each track as an episode with brooding piano and drone texture.” They recommend it for fans of Willis + Sakamoto, Robert Scott Thompson or Christoph Demean.

“A Small History of Decay” fuses ambience and solo piano with a feeling of stillness and restraint. For some reason I am thinking of winter and the ambient drones that soar around the piano are chilled while the piano itself is crisp. With subtle repetition and deft playing its a nice start to an album.

“Moment of Truth” starts similarly but with an off kilter-wish piano rhythm and glacial drones. Again I am feeling this is suitable for winter. The music starts to be manipulated with backward treatments which, if this alluding to a fictitious  film or TV program, brings the feeling of a flashback to an event or situation. So far the album has started at a relaxed pace.

“Golden Dawn” fuses icy drones, shuffling sounds, occasional bass notes, minimalistic piano and eerie electronics to create a mood rather than be a fluid piece of music. They use of the drones and eerie electronics add an element of suspense. The visual I get when I listen to this is a person, a detective,  driving through snow-covered dense forest roads with a lot on their mind such is the filmic quality of the music.

“Colours of Peace” repeating drones, electronics that briefly pop in and out, subtle sounds of an unknown electronic  nature and plaintive piano. It follows the theme set out previously with the other tracks before it, but I don’t get a visual representation with this one. It’s just a nice mix of sounds that have a similar sort of tone to each other and that work well together.

“Inside of Everything” manipulated sounds warp in and out with stark minimal piano playing alongside slightly noisy electronics – almost static like in their brief presence. The opening sounds have a distant quality to them and provide the melody and focal point. The distance felt with them is opposite to the immediacy of the piano and makes it feel like they are environmental in nature, like an outside force that is affecting something.

“Unsung Melodies” the pairing of drones and piano is strong in this title track where the drones are more central, but also threatening which is emphasized by the fragility of the piano with its delicate playing and its part slightly submerged in the mix. The nature of the piano leads to a feeling of suspense which is supported by the drones. The drones come in waves and are constructed in a pleasurable way.

“Dark end of the Street” the piano stabs that open this track and seem to go onto infinity set the scene for this track, which for me, visually is like a sister track to “Golden Dawn” but a darker version of it. The heavier keys of the piano present a dread that the other keys with their despair are leading to. As the track continues drones start to replace the initial effect that the piano had at the start and the fade the track out to the end

“Take Care of What you Love” manipulated layered electronics that warp in and out over a bed of glass-like piano playing. The electronics add a haunted and eerie feel to the music as they overlap the repetitive slightly reverberating meditative piano that has a visual quality of memories and possibly the electronics are the ghosts of the person’s life floating around.

“The Low Country” features noir-ish bass heavy minimalist piano with ever so subtle electrical sounding noise and possibly guitar generated drones which add a sinister like edge and feeling of claustrophobia to the track. You get a feeling of things closing in, but not totally engulfing the situation. The music is purely in shades of black and white.
“Nothing is Ever Over” begins with a mans voice uttering this title before synth throbs and distant birdsong and are joined by whispered vocals samples, percussion moments, field recordings of walking through bush paths, snatches of piano that is highly edited into electronic samples. The phrase “I saw you in my dreams” hints to a dream like quality of the track with the title being repeated ever so subtly. The visual feeling is an open grassy area where a person has either fallen asleep or is daydreaming and these elements are floating in and out of their consciousness.

“Once there was a beauty” a collection of howling drones over field recordings of nature sounds and small fragments of piano build up with the emphasis being the drones and the field recordings. The drones have a storm like quality without being too harsh and flow in a cyclical direction. This is a nakedness to the music as it is quite unadorned with lots of elements, but the elements that are there serve a purpose.  Towards the end the piano with its sparseness picks up intensity as the drones dissipate and between them and the field recordings take the piece to the end with a feeling of moving away from the storm.

“Dissolve” granular noises and buzzing slightly muted drones start this more electronic of tracks. Rippling keys and scattershot sci-fi sounds which fire and pulse around contain a different mood to the rest of the album. The track is still filmic, but the lack of piano makes it stand out as being from a different type of feel. While the remainder of the album feels like a Scandi noir soundtrack, this track feels like it’s from a Sci-fi soundtrack and just for that reason, because musically it is great, it doesn’t really fit the whole dynamic of the album.

A thoroughly enjoy album from someone who would easily craft a great soundtrack in the future.

Overshift is a US based artist who has been released on labels such as Psicodelica, Yoruba Grooves, Galanding and Listen:React (all of which are new to me).

According to the label “‘Of Light and Shade’ is an immersive listen with Ambient and Electronic tones that are likely to appeal ti fans of artists such as Krill.Minima, Robert Henke or Echospace.” 

The Antivedulian Question” starts off with a section of electronic sounds which sound like glass balls rolling, crackles, oscillating ambience, static, glitched beats before a dub techno beat and bass line, clipped and metallic percussion join in. Field recordings of someone speaking,  manipulated cymbals and occasional wood block sounding beats come in as elements drop in out and occasionally just leave a very dubby section focusing on the static, bass lines and cymbals. This sets the template with the addition and subtraction of elements. You get the feeling that this would not be out-of-place on the long-lost Autoplate or Thinner Net labels. There is a very laid back and summery feel to the track and it is nice and relaxing to listen to.

“Repose” after some sort of field recording and a synth line, minimal beats, field recording of someone walking,  ambience and synth drones, the drones build up and up added to by sounds of compressed air and more field recordings. Once they have built up to a certain point the texture changes with a synth line slowly replacing one of the drones. It has a fractured rhythm to it and the drones, field recordings  and synth all build up again to peak levels joined by a looped electronic alarm like section and the compressed air. You feel like you are waiting for the drop where the beat will come in, bit it never does and you are left tantalizingly on the precipice.

“Reservation” begins with glitches, what sounds like chime bars, distant percussive beats, swirling darker electronics, darker drones and a horn sound creating an almost industrial meets new age sound before synth waves and minimal ping ponging beats take it in more a prog direction. As the track goes on wind instruments that sound like a pan flute enter the sound escape and a metallic chain like a percussive element joins a bass line, before the swirling electronics become the beat less focal point for a section. The beats return but deep in the background as the track fades out.

“Pareidolia” which means to see a meaningful image in a random or ambiguous visual pattern. The track begins with a collection of fractured electronics,  humming ambiance, glitches, beat like motifs, birdsong and very low-frequency glitched looped beats. A shuffling like percussion, plus other indistinguishable percussion elements join an ambient section that sounds like Alan Lamb’s electrical wire recordings as they hum with a certain level of disquiet before fading. Synth lines with a glassy, dubby feel enter alongside ultra minimal beats showing restraint,  but bring the melody and structure that was not present before. Overshift is quite adept at the use of the cut up and fractured elements that make up this track. While not feeling as summery as the opening track, it shares a certain quality and after largely beatless pieces between the two tracks it’s almost like a closing of the book in a flipside manner.

With the opening track feeling very Dub Techno,  you would think that was a direction in what the rest of this release might head in, but to the artists credit, they don’t take you down the obvious path, they steer you to the fringes with a little teasing on the way.

The Prairie Lines is South London-based artist Bill Bowden who formerly recorded under the moniker Herzog and ran the short-lived Bedside Table label. His music has previously been released by the likes of 12rec, Resting Bell, Rural Colours,  Serein and Audio Gourmet.

“This is where we Kneel” begins with hazy tumbling melodies soaked in a fog. The music feels that is weighed heavily down and distant, but as the melodies tumble in an ordered loop form, there are surrounding noises which are adding a layer of distortion to the piece. The music starts to get more distant as the distortion turns to waves of static, but not to loud as to overpower the melodies.

“Hands from the Sky” delicate looped piano lines are covered once more in a layer of fog and matched with a slight click providing a percussive element. Melodies come through in drones and hull like bass lines. Clockwork sounding micro beats appear as cascading melodies roll down like tones flowing down stairs. The haze makes the melodies masks the softness of them and adds a slight gritty feel to the music.

“Secret Home” sounds like a church organ opening it up with its relaxed, gentle melodies that slowly unfurl. The melodies are joined with cut up drones and fractured sounds that add a disjointed and nice counterpoint to the original controlled melodies. Dub style synth flashes that ricochet across add another layer to the sound palate as they ring out across the end of the track.

“Calm Landing” Warped rhythms welcome buried deep shimmering piano under a layer of static with the tones of the piano being gentle but totally immersed in haze removing any starkness that pianos can generate and making the melodies smooth. The layers of piano are slowly paced with time taken to let them breathe. The post production allows the music to inhabit a different sphere to that of it was just solo piano.

“Stop Haunting my Door” shares the sound scape with both buried introspective tones and those that are front and centre. The introspective sounds warped on the background, while the foreground ones ate cut up, layered and looped. However, they both have a feeling of memory from the hazy hated to remember background to the fractured fading away foreground sounds. At the end of the track the background sounds remain, but they have largely lost their warped edge to gently drone out.

“Smile But Prepare” Hazy glitched tones reverberating outwards in melodic tones of various layers, fill the piece with ambiance that is joined by static, fragments of percussive sounds, like sticks clacking together and a shimmering section which goes in a direction different to the main parts. At times claustrophobic, at others introspective and others with a sense of hope, the track covers a lot of territory.

“Eyes Down Slowdown”  a broken transmission welcomes you with off kilter melodies that sound like from the distant past as a buzz swells alongside them. A travelogue of sounds, you feel as if you are moving with them in a haze soaked drive through memory lane with faded Polaroids to remind you of the landmarks of the past. The speed starts to pick up with the rhythms running into each other as more sections join up together and the cut up sections splice together quickly. The bulk of the elements drop out to leave a small static section and the fractured reverberating piano bringing things slower to a more melancholic if broken down part. Before you get accustomed to the calm it all builds up once more with the gentle off kilter melodies complimenting the static fuzz till it fades to silence.

As a bonus and I guess a look back at the days of hidden tracks on cd’s, there is another version of  “Smile But Prepare” that comes on after a spot of silence and sounds like the hazy tones have had some of that haziness removed and are a bit harsher than before. Distortion is awash and in a way it is a bit of a reduction as if this is closer to the origin of the track prior to its addition of the haze and other parts.

A thoroughly enjoyable release especially if you like your ambience coated in thick haze with layers to peel back and investigate.

If this is a selection of 2017, then the new year should also be a good one for Whitelab Rec’s.

My Home, Sinking – King of Corns. 

“King of Corns” is an ensemble piece constructed by Italian experimentalist Enrico Coniglio (last seen on these pages with his collaboration with Mateo Uggeri on the Dronarivm. This particular release on double LP, CD and digital saw the light of day through the US label Infraction,  hone to the likes of Offthesky & Pleq, Celer, Northern and others. It features outstanding art and layout from James and Heginbottom and Chris Bigg with deft mastering by James Plotkin.

According to the label “The My Home, Sinking project is one that has been in the works for well over a year. Enrico Coniglio is the artist behind the MHS name. He collaborated with a multitude of other artists and vocalists on “King of Corns”. It is a combination of Talk Talk’s latter-day “Spirit of Eden / Laughing Stock” style of restrained tension, experimental chamber music akin to Rachel’s, chilling vocal deliveries, Finnish Folk and windswept ambience”.

I will admit being bewildered by this release. Some records have tracks that sound familiar with the artist having their ‘style’, others have tracks that have their own feel, some follow a narrative, while others can be quite experimental where it is not easy to put your finger on what the artist is doing. This album falls in the latter category and requires, for me, repeated listening to get my head around it.

On the album Coniglio plays Guitars, Melodica, Harmonica, Horn, Electric Organ, Synthesizer, Psalter, Tapes & Vinyl, Found Objects and Field Recordings. As well as individual artists on particular tracks he is joined by Elisa Marzorati on Piano and Piergabrielle Mancuso on Viola.

“Bird’s Eye” starts with bell sounds, static, warped drones that sound treated, arching drones, Melodica and minimalist piano. There is a rumbling sound to the drones and straight away that Spirit of Eden influence comes through via the Melodica and the starkness of the piano. The drones feel like they are cut up as they intersect the sound palate and have a feeling of like being generates by a train on tracks, not that they have the sound, more like the undulations of sound that you would expect on a train track. In a way the sound palate for the album is introduced slightly with this opening track, but by no means defines what the rest will sound like.

“D’automne (The Sobs of the Violin)” has a repetitive guitar piece accompanied by piano stabs, sounds similar to those of a cash register and lamenting violin sounds. The elements are in a way are disparate as while the piano and the violin occupy a similar musical tone, the guitar playing is off kilter and rolls like a drunken man. There is a very folkish feeling to the track, but one that is sinister and slightly unhinged. Even though it is off kilter, it is the guitar with its rollicking playing which gives the track its rhythm, however off-center for the other elements then to attach themselves to.

“King of Corns” featuring Jessica Constable on vocals is a dark and sinister piece with Constable’s eerily almost indecipherable falsetto vocals that remind ever so slightly of Diamanda Galas along side a filmic soundscape of horror like suspenseful electronics that lurk around the tracks darker areas before revealing themselves towards the end of the track. Marzorati’s piano is used sparingly, but effectively adds to the sinister menace of the track.

“Animating Old Postcards (Aikaa ei Ole Olemassa)” features Violetta Päivännkkara on vocals, glockenspiel and effects. The acoustic guitar surrounded by a summery hum accompanies Päivännkakara’s childlike innocent vocals and the wispy drones of the Melodica. Shuffling, almost brushed percussion effects are added as well as chimes, glockenspiel which add to the vocal quality and give it a totally different feel to the previous tracks. Where the title track as all dark atmosphere, this one is the flip side of pure innocence, but still inhabiting a folk territory.

“Love Scene” features Peter Paul Gallo on vibraphone starts with a backwards loop effect, affected guitar and slow long violin lines which are lyrical in their playing. The vibraphone adds a crystalline sound which goes well with the backwards loops and provides a totally different texture to the violin. The guitar varies from being strummed, to plucked to being manipulated which works well with the loops. If this was a soundtrack to a movie I am not entirely sure what the visual representation for a love scene would be based on the sound of the track.

“Bird’s Eye (Interlude)” dark drones, distant violin, field recordings of blown air and static, piano form the sound elements to the track and are like the opening track, but one that has been stripped of its elements and reformed using not all the constituent parts to form a ghostly version. Not a remix or a reprise, but like a reduction of the opening track.

“The Day the Earth…(Clock is Ticking)” echoing electronics that sound like sonar blips and acoustic guitar and distant sounds that are looped, but then seem to come out as this growing drone from which scraping and long bowed violin appear and work in staccato fashion. The acoustic guitar has short, but repetitive pieces which act as like a metronome. Clicking glitches, minimalist piano stabs, horns and a plucking sound add to the noir-ish quality of the piece which sounds experimental,  but at times both modern and retro it its styling.

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“Rachel on the Beach” fractured field recordings or tape loops that are shuffling in nature are joined by acoustic guitar which is paired with piano alongside drones and the sound of detritus or shells rubbing together. The piano that reminded me of the sound of Spirit of Eden is back to the point where I am expected minimalist Mark Hollis singing and horns wailing. Instead violin that is layered joins in and has a slightly subdued, but reflective quality.

“I can’t help it (But this is the end)” features Chantal Acda on vocals and features Peter Paul Gallo on vibraphone starts with an ambient drone, guitar, vibraphone, piano and electronics. There is shimmering quality that is brought out of the vibraphone that adds to the track. Harmonica enters the sound just before Chantal Acda transcendent vocals enter the track. I could happily listen to Acda sing the phone book such is the quality of her voice. The harmonica that enters where she sings “This is the end” brings the track up to another level. As well as the piano, the electronics of an unknown nature steer this unconventional conventional track to its end. Probably the highlight of the album.

“Along the Pipeline” features James Murray on Organ, Vocals and Loops starts with field recordings, strummed drones which radiate outwards, piano stabs heavy in sound and minimally spaced, with ethnic sounds and low pulsing electronic loops that start pulsing metronomically. Ethereal vocals briefly enter and depart and enter again, but it is the stark minimalist piano that is the instrument that is the key to bring on the other elements. It feels like it controls the mood and the pace while giving space for the other elements to find their position. The track is like an experimental chamber piece with a noir-ish, but electronic edge.

“Full Blank (No Stars)” featuring Jessica Constable on vocals and James Murray on Electronics starts with tape loops and Constables layered falsetto and emotional singing over distant sounds of piano and violin, drones and scattered electronics that have a storm ravaged like quality. There is a dark underbelly of electronics that are indistinguishable, but add to the menacing quality of the track. I have to admit not knowing what Ms Constable is singing about, but her vocal delivery is truly frightening.

As I stated before, I am totally bewildered by the album. When I think I have a handle on it, I am thrown into left field. But, by not being able to easily pigeon-hole it, it is open to more interpretation and revealing of all the layers. I would describe Coniglio as an experimental composer with an ear for construction and also for layering and working with disparate sound sources. If you like going down the rabbit hole, this album may be for you.

 

Theo Alexander – Palliative.

Theo Alexander is a Plague based London composer who has appeared on labels such as Blank Editions and 1631 Recordings while also releasing music himself with cd, cassette and digital release. “Palliative”  is a standalone digital single that will appear on his forthcoming “Broken Access” release which was inspires by various live performances throughout 2017 including Piano Day and as support for Agnes Obel.

Alexander states “Palliative features an extended tape loop droned which guides a developing piano motif into a thickly textured harmonic apex“.

The piece opens with the sounds of a taped performance, glitches of technology breaking down and a repeating tape loop of piano which becomes the central rhythm of the piece and sounds like it’s ebbing and flowing. As mentioned on Alexander’s bandcamp page this was constructed using just a piano and a Tascam 414 tape recorder.  The loop is joined by Alexander’s piano playing which is full of restraint. Where needed the emphasis on playing is gentle and when a bit more immediacy is required it is there as well. A long form drone joins the sound mix acting as a middle layer between the tape loop and the piano playing on top. It sounds horn like with a long duration and its fluctuations work well alongside the loops.

As the track enters the second half of its almost seven and a half minutes the intensity is increased with more layers of piano joining just as Alexander stated in becoming entwined in a textured harmonic apex. Towards the end the layers appear to mix together to form an almost jangling end.

I have to admit being unaware of Alexander and his music, but note his use of tape and loops in other releases and can see that he is quite adept with this technique. For essentially a solo piano piece the length of seven and a half minutes can be occasionally tiring, but not with this particular track. It will be interesting to see how the rest of “Broken Access” turns out when it is released.