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.

 

 

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2017 : Twenty of the Best List.

 

TWENTY GREAT RELEASES OF 2017

I have to admit a sense of dread in compiling this list. These lists can be seen as from arbiters of taste and start well before the year ends. Sometimes it seems in competition to be the first to decree which album/label etc to be the finest of the year. I am not an arbiter of taste at all by any stretch of the imagination. This is a simple list of twenty releases I liked this year. There is no ranking, no breakdown into genres or sub groups (sorry, no best Winter albums as well, it’s not winter everywhere). Just a plain old list. My apologies go to those that had sent across material that has yet to be reviewed, but I endeavor to review them all. There is a supplementary list of three re-issues that also caught my attention this year. Without further ado and in no particular order….

 

Lorenzo Masotto “Aeloian Preocesses” (Dronarivm)

“Although I have not heard Masotto’s two previous releases and cannot compare this release to them (nor ascertain if the music matches the title of the album), what is striking is the use of electronic elements and instrumentation that compliment the solo piano. Such is the skill that this could sit comfortably in the Erased Tapes catalog.”

Toàn “Histós Lusis” (Eilean Rec)

“The album has a feel of a well crafted cinematic mix of elements like every single structure, instrument and style was carefully thought out and executed well. This is not an album rushed or one to rush through. The pace of the album is very gentle and it flows smoothly.”

Emilìa “Down To The Sadness River” (Rottenman Editions)

“Yi and Peh construct the album using only bowed guitar and piano to stunning effect. Recently I have been listening to music composed with lots of different elements and instruments, so it is quite a refreshing change to listen to something constructed with such few instruments that is so rich in sound.”

Giulio Fagiolini “Dietro a un Vetro” (Home Normal)

““Dietro a un vetro” is quite a stunning record especially as debut’s go. There is a great range of material and the fact that Giulio shows great restraint in his playing shows that he is in total control. The field of Modern Classical solo piano is one that is full to the brim, but Giulio easily adds to the field without it being simply ‘another piano album’. Totally recommended.”

The Green Kingdom “The North Wind and Sun” (Lost Tribe Sound)

“The production, performing and mixing were all done by Michael Cottone. I can only assume that the recording was done at home as there is no information to where it was recorded. If this is the case Cottone has done an outstanding job with such time and care put into this album which was expertly mastered by Taylor Deupree at 12k Mastering. If you have been a The Green Kingdom you will love this, if you are new to his work go back and get accustomed to his outstanding back catalog. Totally Recommended.”

Francesca Giannico & Giulio Aldinucci “Reframing” (Eilean Rec)

““Reframing” is a work that could be classified as Electroacoustic Ambience and has more than enough depth and variation for sustained listening. It is a perfect headphone listen to pick up all that is happening in the tracks. A mention should be made of the dynamic master of Ian Hawgood.”

Sontag Shogun and Moskitoo “The Things We Let Fall Apart” (Home Normal)

“On this single Sontag Shogun and Moskitoo have ably demonstrated how to collaborate. The way they have been able to fuse their music together and construct it results in an enjoyable listen. Hopefully this is not the only collaboration that the four of them come up with. Totally Recommended.”

From The Mouth Of The Sun “Hymn Binding” (Lost Tribe Sound)

“From The Mouth Of The Sun have delivered a stunning album and have carried on Lost Tribe Sound’s outstanding the Prelude to the Decline series. They show how to make deeply textured music seem effortless and reward the listener with an album to enjoy endlessly. Totally recommended.”

Roberto Attanasio “Behind Those Eyes I Rest” (1631 Recordings)

“As Roberto mentioned in our email exchange in regards to his method of writing /recording his music “The only thing I had to do was transcribe I had in mind, and that was incredible because what you listen to is exactly the song I played in my mind. I didn’t do any change respect to my music thoughts and maybe this is the beauty of the Ep : spontaneous and intimate.”

I think the last word of that quote best sums it up this Ep and the recording style of it. – intimate.”

Bruno Sanfilippo “Lost And Found” (AD21music)

““Lost & Found” sees a collection of material from a wide span of time be collected to form a cohesive album. Some work better than others, my personal preference would be “Soltario” to be shorter, but the album is an enjoyable listen for people looking for more than just a solo piano album.”

Crisopa “Transhumante” (Sound in Silence)

“There are no standouts on the album for me. That is because it is consistently good. There are elements that appear several times over (like the affected vocals) which can make the music a bit samey, but that can attributed to a fair amount artists. What Lizón has created here is an enjoyable, bright listen. It’s the aural equivalent of opening the curtains and letting the light shine in. If you like the artist references at the start of the review, then you will enjoy this album.”

Aidan Baker/ Thor Harris/ Simon Goff “No Place” (Gizeh)

“It is quite amazing to think that this was recorded in a short period of time on one day, edited and re-assembled and then some six months later sounding like a fully formed album from an established group. Aiden Baker, Simon Goff and Thor Harris have produced a very enjoyable, rich album that thanks to Gizeh Records we are able to appreciate.”

Adrian Lane “Playing With Ghosts” (Preserved Sound)

“To say he has achieved something jaw dropping is an understatement. Any concern you have of it being derivative of The Caretaker are easily forgotten.A special mention should go to his collaborators especially Bryan Styles’ Clarinet, which helps formulate many of the albums tracks. This album was released on August 18 in an edition of 150 copies, I urge you to check it out.”

Ghost and Tape “Var” (Home Normal)

“Over the course of four albums in seven years, with the others appearing on Schole  and Slaapwel as well as Ep’s on Rural Colours and Hibernate, Heine Christensen has created his own place in the ambient scene with his thought out minimalistic, micro glitches and melodic tones. Expertly mastered by the former experimental grindcore practitioner Plotkin, “Vár” is a trip down the sun soaked dappled miniatures of Ghost and Tape and lives up to both his history and that of Home Normal’s class of 2017. Recommended.”

Jason van Wyk “Opacity” (Home Normal)

““Opacity” refers to the lacking of transparency or translucency which can be compared to the pieces on the album where there are multiple elements. One of the synonyms of Opacity is haziness which can be occasionally heard in tracks like “Clouds” and the beginning of “For Now” for example. For “Opacity” van Wyk has taken on some of the elements of “Attachment” added some from his previous work and taken it further. The shorter pieces that come across as Soundtrack-esque is a something that would be interesting to see van Wyk detour into as I think he would pull it off with aplomb. A mention should be made of the cello and violin of Brittany Dilkes, Gavin Clayton and Lynn Donson for their important contributions to the album. Recommended.”

Polaroid Notes “Unsung Memories” (Whitelab Rec)

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

The Prairie Lines “Eyes Down Slowdown” (Whitelab Rec)

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

Astrïd & Rachel Grimes “Through The Sparkle” (Gizeh)

“The playing and compositions of this album give you the feeling of a long-standing band, not a band and a collaborator. The way Astrïd and Grimes fuse together is so seamless with each others influences forming together to create something their own. Elements of Grimes’ sounds developed in Rachel’s come through and fit nicely within the Astrïd framework to provide an enjoyable and cohesive piece of work. The label describes it perfectly : “Through the Sparkle is a record of miniature symphonies, of elegant restraint. A gracious and generous offering from a group of musicians at one with each other and at the top of their game.””

Dominique Charpentier “Esquisses” (Self released)

“It would be easy to see this ep as something more than it is. It could easily be part of a soundtrack to a feature film. The length of the tracks are perfect and make great little vignettes. For an artist that is used to being self released, he could easily slot into the roster of say 1631 Recordings.”

Totally Recommended.

Akira Kosemura  “In The Dark Woods” (Schole)

“Throughout the album Kosemura has demonstrated why he has such a following. For some a strictly solo piano album could be too much of a same thing, but for Kosemura he knows how to construct an album that can sound familiar but you look back to the other tracks you cannot pin point which track it is. Naturally with a genre like Modern Classical /Solo piano that is fast becoming a saturated one, it helps to be a great composer and this is what Kosemura has on his side. Add to the fact that Kosemura doesn’t just rely on Piano and you have an artist that sustains the listeners interest and keeps them engaged.”

 

THREE GREAT RE-ISSUES OF 2017

 

Vargkvint “Brus” (Soft Recordings)

“It is fairly easy to see why Soft re-issued this and fits in well with their stable of releases that have included Darren Harper, Kate Carr, EUS and of course Linear Bells. This release is just simply one of those that come along and captivate you from the start and you hope that more than a limited audience gets to experience it.”

William Ryan Fritch “The Sum Of The Parts” (Lost Tribe Sound)

“Throughout these albums Fritch shows his musical chops in the form of composer, musician and recorder. His strength lies in his ability to construct multi layered pieces with an attention to, structure and how the instruments work together. If I were to chose between these two albums Would pick “The Sum of the Parts” purely because my taste leans more to the cinematic feel than the more rustic Alt-Folk that his is familiar with. However, both albums are recommended.”

Jakob Lindhagan “Skorheten” (1631 Recordings)

“Overall this is an impressive album with miniatures that would be great if expanded. It shows of Lindhagen’s talent and flexibility and a composer to use different elements to the tracks so it’s not a case of “same same”. I look forward to what he brings us on his next release. Totally recommended.”

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.

Lee Yi – An Instant For A Momentary Desolation.

Spanish musician Lee Yi has already appeared on this blog this year as half of Emilìa with the stunning “Down to the Sadness River”. This time ’round he is in is solo mode and again it has been released in small collectible copies (now sold out) on Rottenman Editions.

According to the label “An Instant for a Momentary Desolation describes a place devastated by the natural reactions of these days. Nature can be as cruel as beautiful; immense and tenacious! This album goes through a path of ambiguity, of how beauty can corrupt us by desecrating what we love.  “Momentary Desolation”, “Desecration” & “Incertae” explain the feeling of despair with a heartbreaking corrosive sound, Lee draws dirty faces with lost looks without finding answers.  “Vulnerable Petal” shows us the fragility of life , emptiness after the chaos and uncertainty of what will happen”.

While the Emilìa release was a brief but beautiful collection of miniatures, Yi’s solo release has only 4 tracks but the lengths vary from five and half minutes to just over sixteen minutes.

“Momentary Desolation” opens the albums with long melancholic with a hint of something menacing drones which are bathed ever so slightly in fuzz. Joining them in the sound scape are subtle glitches loops, long string drones that hang with a certain weight that turn a modern classical style in to piece. There is a feeling of decay, rubble and isolation which the elements bring together. The presumably violin drones give a difference to the long drones that hang about in there speed of playing. They drop out to let guitar drones enter the fray, which gives the track another color. With the drones being of the darker nature it is refreshing that the track is not claustrophobic.

“Desecration” starts of with layered vocal like ambience, rippling glitches, shimmering guitars and industrial-esque sounds. The rippling provides a rhythm of sorts with which the ghostly vocal presence can hover over alongside the snapshot of darker sounds that cascade on an out – some veering in the breakdown in transmission like sounds,  some sounding like dark electronics. While the previous track felt dark ambient, this one is more electronic in nature and gives the album another feel as opposed to being drone centric.

“Incertae” (possibly referencing in taxonomy,  the taxon where it’s broader taxa is unknown ie:  the relationship between two things are unknown which fits in with the nature theme of this release). An electrical storm of sound starts building up, sounding in a way like Alan Lamb’s legendary power line recordings. A storm of such with long rumbling drones running parallel to pulsing throbbing noises and an over arching noise that takes over for a section. You get the feeling of wrestling with nature as Yi valiantly tries to hold onto control that is slipping out of his grasp as the music threatens to end in all out chaos. The track keeps incrementally building in sonics with the layers and noises fighting for position and while getting close doesn’t get to its Merzbow moment.

“Vulnerable Petal” as mentioned before is designed to show “the fragility of life , emptiness after the chaos and uncertainty of what will happen”. The track combines vocal lines alongside haze, distant shimmering guitars, softer drones, thudding minimally spaced beats with a lighter tone to the previous tracks. There is a certain cloudiness to the track caused by the haze which lends it the feeling of looking through a fog with not having the knowledge of what is around. The vocal drones and guitar provides the source of light while the beats and the sounds of detritus give it the edge of the tracks preceding it. The vocals, haze and guitar become the central focus with the other elements getting buried in the mix and there intensities fluctuate over time as the slowly unfurl to the end where it’s almost as the track has turned full circle.

Throughout the album Li has proven that he is not restricted to style. Put this next to the Emilìa release and they are quite different beasts. He has also proven that with an idea in mind it can be reflected through the music where the listener can follow the narrative. While not as immediate as the Emilìa album “An Instant for Momentary Desolation” has depth for repeated listenings with elements to reveal themselves to the listener.

In Brief: Sana Obruent – August / Vlimmer – Randow (Original Soundtrack).

Two releases from the German label Blackjack Illuminist Records (whose Leonard Donat “Deer Traps” I reviewed some time ago) have been on the list for a while. But a wealth of material being received plus the usual work/life balance have seen them sit in the queue. Time to listen and cover them, although with 33 tracks on the Vlimmer release,  its more a case of an overview.

Sana Obruent is California-based artist Paul Lopez and this is his fourth album with three on Blackjack Illuminist. It follows “Dyatlov” which was by all accounts a Dark Ambient release. “August” sees Lopez go in the opposite direction, Glacial Ambience. According to the label “On his fourth album Paul Lopez sounds as if he wanted to imitate the sound of Icebergs floating by or massive mountain ranges scraping the earth, the new album “August” is intense Drone played with guitars only, bulldozer like, heavy Drone that shakes the listener’s living room walls”

The album which was released on cassette (edition of 15), cdr (edition of 50) and digital has six numbered tracks ranging in length from five minutes to ten minutes and fifty-eight seconds in length. “I” is waves of submerged glacial drones that don’t sound as if they were constructed on guitar. There is a certain amount of distortion to the track which could be explained by the fact that there is no mastering credit which leaves the material sounding raw. “II” the epic of the album follows a similar path with layers of wind-swept like drones with a more sinister desolate edge to them.

“III” features haunting drones that give the listener feelings of isolation. They are more varied than the previous two tracks and are environmental in tone. A glacial / dark ambient balancing act. “IV” the drones sound vaguely orchestral like ringing church bells. They fan out in loops while others circle around. “V” is the album’s epic clocking in at just over eleven minutes. Circular sounding drones change sound to become off kilter and oscillating and are the most synth like of the album. Half way through the track the tempo changes to longer duration and lower intensity.

“VI” takes the album to its conclusion with a darker, harsher track. As if recorded in a snow storm. The sound is bleak with little light visible. There is a change mid way through the track which adds more texture and a more obvious treated guitar sound, but in a similar vein to the original harshness to which the track returns to.

Randow is a podcast/audiobook about a small village located in a proximity of an inexplicable gap in space and tine where Berlin used to Vlimmer’s soundtrack serves as dark and deep, sometimes terrifying, in parts melancholic assistant for an uncanny story which is full of dubious characters and disturbing encounters in strange places”

Vlimmer is an alias of label boss Leonard Alexander Donat. He also records under names like Fir Cone Children, Infravoids, Feverdreamt and others. Clearly he is quite prolific as since this was released he has put out the five track albums/ Ep’s “IIIIIIII (aka 8)” and “IIIIIIII (aka 9)”. All have been released on CD (50 copies)/ Cassette (15 copies)/ Digital.

“Randow” begins with “Hiatus” that mixes pointed synth stabs with fluid waves of drones. A mixture of experimentation meets classic synth ambience with a certain amount of degradation and eerie (if you don’t understand German) voice over.

“Biologie” reminds ever so slightly with its intro of old SPK before the synth progressions that have a sci-fi feel to them. This is carried onto the next track “Stadtkarte” which is an ominous interlude that you can imagine the filmic version having a nasty ending.

“Frage” in it’s five second glory reminds my somehow off the synth sounds of the film “Liquid Sky”, but in a way that has become broken. Its following track “Einbruch” uses bass (presumably from synth) alongside rippling keys or chords that echo out till they disappear alongside vocalized/singing like drones (though no vocals were used on the album) and what sounds like guitar drones.

“Gestalt” could be the standout with its choppy rhythm that emerges from the sound of steam. You get the feeling of a retro-futurist “Blade Runner” type piece which the rhythms are complimented by icy drones which leads the track out to electroacoustic style electronics and more distant narration.

“Gefängnis” utilizes the bass and synth stabs alongside low-level ominous drones which provide a counterpoint in some sections,  but also compliment in others and add to the sense of unease and otherworldliness. The word “Gefängnis” refers to a place of captivity so this could possibly refer to the fictitious “Randow” in the sense of being stuck in the gap of the space time continuum or as a jail located in Randow.

“dliblegeipS” is “Spiegelbild” backwards which is the German word for mirror and features layers of drones that float over each other before narration comes in. Not knowing any German I can ony guess at whether the meaning of the title or the theme is revealed in the narration.

“Walddämmerung” features guitar which adds a different element, by still retains the similar feel. Drones cascade in the background with an ominous quality and some sort of their sounds occur which sound like people talking undescipherably.

“Selbstzweifel” which translates to self-doubt is the albums epic track with its slow rumble of industrial elements , the muted sound of decay and distance alongside buried sounds that morph into harsh drones that overwhelm the sound like a swarm. The sound varies in the final minutes with less rumble and more of a constant throb of the industrial-esque sounds alongside the noisier elements.

As a comparison between two albums on the same label, I feel one works and the other doesn’t. The Sana Obruent release, for me, needs some more variation. As there is no mastering credit mentioned and I am taking that it is unmastered. If this is the case I am sure mastering could elicit some more details to the material. As for Vlimmer, there is enough variation through the music and track lengths (the shorter tracks give a filmic interlude feel) to easily ustain the eighty minute length.

A.R.C. Soundtracks – DERELICTION // MIRROR.

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The first time I came across A.R.C. Soundtracks was via their submission on “The Pomona Comet” on the “Sequence 8” compilation. This, their third release following on from “Archive: Volume 1” (Little Cracked Rabbit) and “From a Shattered Beam” (Sacred Tapes) finds them on the Gizeh label which is well suited to their dark, experimental, post industrial sounds.

A.R.C. Soundtracks are an audio/visual duo comprised of K. Craig on Synth, Percussion and voice FX, alongside David Armes on Lap Steel, Electric Piano, Samples and Synths. On this release they are joined by Elizabeth Willow on voice. Created during a residency at Salford’s Islington Mill, a home to a variety of noise, experimental musicians and labels, the work is inspired by semi derelict spaces and the notion of ruins.

According to the label “This new film and soundtrack takes us into a bleak auditory realm of post-industrial structures and traces the role of the body within these liminal spaces. Strained harmonics and industrial, discordance mesh with veiled rhythms and spoken-word narrative to create a heavy static energy to both sound and visuals”.

“DERELICTION//MIRROR” the title track opens up the album with double bass like percussive moments, gongs, drones fusing together to build atmosphere but to be open to where the track will go. It’s intention is revealed when swathes of synth and piano enter the fray and start taking it in an ominous direction with pounding piano keys adding to the mood while becoming another percussive element. Screeching and pulsing electronics take the track further to the maelstrom before it reaches tipping point. The track has a definite post industrial feel to it.

“FIELD//TRESPASS” starts with soundtrack-esque clanging metallic drones that lay a desolate environment where sounds clash, reverberate and buzz. Minimal tribal percussion builds up at a subdued pace raising the intensity while arching drones scatter about filling up the sound scape with dark ambience. The elements drop out to change to a more distant disjointed ambient feel.

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“RUINS//RITUAL” shuffling sounds, distorted noises as if in a tunnel, what sounds lap steel effects are joined by a narrator who talks poetically over the track whose rhythm feels like a train is moving on rickety tracks. The narrator talks of dust and decay and as sounds enter and leave the field, with shuffling and random percussion plod along til they start clanging and banging under spluttering drones, synth bursts and applause like noises.

“INTERIOR//STRATA” film projector sounds that flicker and loop around are joined by Oscillating drones, random bright keys and Elizabeth Wilson’s narration which comes as a post industrial world view about Ruin and Decay.  Wilson’s voice is not as bleak as the previous narrator, but shares the similar theme. The looped material works well in that it doesn’t detract from the narration.

“DUST//SURVEILLANCE” transmissions from the other side with cymbal crashes, loops, repetitive lap steel, metallic foundry like drones, tribal percussion form the basis of this track which leads on a free-form direction before the elements get sucked into a vacuum and a form of distorted silence takes over.

“TERRAIN//VAGUE” cutting and screeching drones, backwards cymbals, bass drum beats, distorted electronics that pulsate on and out give the track, at the beginning of a horror film like feeling.  The drones cut across at various levels with some having that metallic sound which is quite sharp, while others have a more traditional bassy drone sound. The electronics give it the post apocalyptic feel with their dark pulses that with volume would shake speakers.

“FOUNDRY//CORE” the factory feel to this track is created by ominous drones, whip like sounds, industrial style percussion of metal bashed, treated distant electronics that sound like a broken transmission from another world. Elements enter and disappear as soon as they have entered the fray while others buzz around giving off the feeling of decay and destruction. The looped elements during the last-minute and a half are the breakdown of the transmission.

“HYBRID//AGENCY” (as heard below) is as close to a conventional drone track that you will get from this duo. Distant metallic percussion clangs, bubbling, gurgling electronics, sharp melodies and a delightful synth progression are joined by K. Craig’s narration talks of fragments and decay is joined Elizabeth Wilson to overlay double narration while oscillating sounds and arching drones weave about the sound scape.

“IMPERIAL//NOSTALGIA” sounding initially like the intro to Gary Numan’s “Cars”, the tone is changed with ghost like spectral sounds, pulsing electronics, affected vocals, ghostly presences, synth layers take their time to add to one another and build up with the parts forming a noisey drone. This drone is joined industrial percussion and screeching drones creating an environment of both desolation and destruction which is subtly counterpointed by a melody towards the end.

A.R.C. Soundtracks have built an album that is difficult to fully classify.  Is it Drone? Is it Experimental?  Is it Post Industrial? Is it a concept album? The answer to these questions is yes and then some more. By being essentially genre-less it is hard to classify and may not interest from people who like easily pigeon holed music, but for those who like it noisier, genre fluid and unclassifiable will find layers of interest in this album. Currently the album, limited to 175 copies as part of Gizeh’s Dark Peak series is on sale now here.

 

https://youtu.be/8fZmCeztXTs

https://soundcloud.com/gizeh/arc-soundtracks-hybridagency