Archive for the ‘Albums’ Category

Folk Wisdom – FW008 1st February 2019

James Wells https://auralaggravation.com/2019/03/05/bewider-full-panorama/

BeWider, aka Piernicola Di Muro, says of his latest offering, ‘Full Panorama is perhaps the most intimate, irrational and emotional work I’ve done. Not only because I freely followed what I really felt close to musically speaking, but also because it is an album that comes from a very important moment of my life: a moment of creative change, of transformation. I wanted to make an album that started strongly from elements that are closest to my heart, which are cinema and imagery. I thought about what cinematically represented me the most. I imagined what the soundtrack I wanted to accomplish would sound like, and these 12 tracks were born. These are more than 12 tracks in themselves, they represent a complete and unitary work, as a whole. It is a journey, a path, that evolves throughout the entire span of the album, and that touches several musical stages of my life.’

It’s perhaps not unfair to say that the context doesn’t entirely convey in the end product, which is a cinematic electronic album driven by subtle but solid beats. It’s pleasant, danceable, even, but the emotional resonance is well buried in the full production and accessible, laid-back dance forms which follow well-established tropes.

The first piece, ‘Panorama’ is built on rippling, gloopy synths and a slow-building feedback that yields to a hypnotically chilled groove which locks in and pulses its way into the distance. It sets the tone for the album as a whole, with broad, semi-abstract washes of sound and undulating synths.

‘Last One Night’ is about soft ambient pulsations and backed-off beats as it evolves into a kaleidoscopic trance, and so it continues through ‘Retina’ and ‘Sartorius’, which slowly drift into one another in a hazy mellifluousness.

It’s nice, its gentle, and it’s largely background: Full Panorama is relaxed and enjoyable, but not an album you really listen to or engage with. It just sort of happens, just kinda drifts. I want to feel the emotional pull, the depth, the range, but I just don’t. But… it’s pretty cool to listen to.

AA

BeWilder

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28th February 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

Piiiisssss’ third LP appeared by stealth, after a two-year hiatus, seemingly taking even its creator, the ever-prolific and unpredictable Dan Buckley, who has more projects, bands and pseudonyms than probably he can remember, by surprise, launching it via Facebook with the announcement ‘Lol I guess we have 3 albums now’. And as if to illustrate the point, that now stands at four just three days later, with the arrival of Enthusiast_ on 2nd March.

This five-tracker is a showcase of Buckley’s comparatively recent move into circuit-making, and if some of his kit doesn’t look especially pretty, then the sounds it makes are even more challenging at times. It’s front-loaded with the epics: ‘1’ is the first of the seemingly randomly-numbered / titled tracks, and is twelve-and-a-half minutes of oscillating loops.

‘II’, which clocks in at eleven-and-a-half minutes ventures into dark ambient territory, whispering and rumbling ominously and quietly, the distant whispers and moans creeping over a mid-range hum resembling a far-off herd of zombies in The Walking Dead. It’s unsettling, creepy… and then echoes of synth hum buzz louder, reverberating into the dead atmosphere. The drone rises to the fore and ultimately dominates everything, creating its own rhythm as the frequencies collide in a slow tidal wash. Sliding down the octaves, it transforms into a fear-chord organ throb that oozes unsettling vibes while a voice, roboticised and barely audible, winds down slowly in the background.

The third track is entitled ‘00000011’, and goes for the out-and-out eerie, with gloopy synths and bleeps and shooting star effects echoing into blackness to conjure an atmosphere that’s pure space-age horror. And if that genre doesn’t exist, then someone needs to make a movie to fit with this soundtrack.

‘Five’ is gnarly, loud, the fucked-up and desperate robotix vocal submerged in a woozy, warping wave of drone, rent with glitches, before it descends into a mess of scratching noise on the circuit-melting closer, ‘Confirmed Sixhavers’.

Piiiisssss marks quite a departure from many of Buckley’s myriad other musical outlet, not least of all his prolonged foray into playing covers revamped as bangin’ donk choons, or the industrial-disco grind of Petrol Hoers, and Alan & His Parents functions well as a standalone piece which showcases one of the many facets of a remarkably diffuse artist.

AA

Piiiisssss

Midira Records

Christopher Nosnibor

The press release informs us that Four Movements Of A Shade is the second solo album by Sarram, and that it ‘features four haunting tracks, that move through different genres like doom, drone, ambient and somehow minimal post-rock, played with just a guitar and some synths. The idea behind that album was to go to the studio without having tracks, just an idea and the mood he had in mind to play an improvisational session. The result was recorded in one day and turned out as a very dark and intense soundjourney. You can feel the temper of the recording session by listening to that record. Sarram recommends very loud volume.’

I can’t recall an album that mentions volume which actually recommends playing at a reduced level, although increased volume can definitely increase or even optimise the level of impact and appreciation, depending on context. Music played and recorded at high volume is definitely best heard at the volume intended: there’s a distinct relationship between volume and frequency, and certain frequencies and notational interplays only occur with the amps up. Many of the bands which stand out as purveyors of dangerous decibels – MBV, Sunn O))), Swans, A Place to Bury Strangers – simply wouldn’t work quiet: and I say that as having witnessed Swans’ show at Leeds Cockpit (no longer in existence) a few years ago. At regular gig volume, they sounded like a band rather than a transcendental sonic force capable of shattering atoms.

Listening to Four Movements of a Shade, the benefits of increased amplification soon becomes clear. It’s got some heft, and while these are countered by extended quieter passages which are often delicate and nuanced, and chime along nicely at ordinary levels, it’s when the crescendos climax that Sarram’s music really needs to be felt vibrationally as well as sonically.

The first movement begins quietly, rising to a bowel-trembling wall of low and mid-range dark ambient droning sonic cloud. Big, barbed, sonorous swells of sound scrape sharp edges, while other aspects of the resonant whirling blackness cast sinister shadows, long and deep: hints of the billowing drone of Sunn O))) build into tempestuous thunder and rumbling, grating storms that cast unsettling atmospherics into the psyche and resonate around the gut, but this is very much a composition of ebb and flow. Nevertheless, while the underlying menace remains undiminished, around the mid-point the darkness yields to dappled sunlight and soft strings, hinting and optimism and freedom. For a fleeting moment, one actually feels somehow lighter, despite the inescapable sense that it’s only the calm before the next storm – an instinctive drag that proves – of course – to be correct. It’s always a matter of when, rather than if….

The album’s second half – comprising the megalithic, fifteen-minute third movement and the final, eight-minute forth – focus on the atmospheric layers and the drifting clouds of drone on drone, occasionally straying into expansive post-rock territory.

If it feels like the grip of darkness is being released, the dying minutes swirl into a deep, dark vortex that leave the listener drained, shattered.

The success – and ultimate power – of Four Movements lies in Sarram’s attention to detail and the compositional awareness: it’s not just the way the crushing weight contrasts with the graceful levity, but the timing of the transitions. Everything is exquisitely poised and placed to yield the greatest effect – cerebral, emotional, physical – and that effect is most moving.

AA

Sarram – Four Movements of a Shade

gk rec – 18th February 2019

Gintas K’s catalogue continues to expand at a remarkable rate, and yet again, he demonstrates his deep interest in the production of theory-driven experimentation. However, the theory behind M isn’t necessarily as it may appear, as the text on his Bandcamp page for the release indicates:

Ralph Hopper: Is ‘Mimicry’ a re-imagining of the earlier ‘M’? It appears that ‘M’ is computer music and that ‘Mimicry’ is also computer music but in a live performance if I have that right and thus I’m thinking that your are ‘mimicking’ the earlier release. Maybe not?

Gintas K: well, when you said so it looks quite logical. Music inside is a bit similar. But in fact it is not. It is made using a different vst plugins. M is made from live played files, but later from them is made a collage. Mimicry is made just from real time made files, without any overdub.

In effect, M and Mimicry – released here together under the single monograph banner of M – are the product of a process played forward and then in reverse: first, the live performance collaged and generally fucked with, and second fucked-with sounds played as a live performance.

As a consequence of its modes of production, M is very much an album of two halves, a call-and response, an expostulation and reply, a working as a reworking. Comprising two album-length suites of compositions, ‘M’ and ‘Mimicry’, M was originally ‘played, composed & mastered by gintas k by computer in 2012. M (2012)’, while ‘Mimicry’ was ‘played live / real time & mastered by gintas k by computer’ some five years later in 2017.

‘M’ consists of six compositions, numbered in sequence, with the longest being the first, ‘1m’ which clocks in with just shy of 18 minutes of gurgling digital distortion, hissing static, whistles of feedback and fucked-up overloading, glitching gnarliness that sits comfortably in the bracket of extreme electronica. It’s not the frequencies which hurt: it’s the relentlessly stuttering, juddering, fracturing of sound, the jolting, the jarring the cutting out, the intermittency. By nature, the mind works to fill in gaps, and so the subconscious work required to smooth the tremolo effect of the stammering noise mess is mentally exhausting.

‘3m’ and ‘4m’ are substantial pieces, over seven minutes in duration, while the remaining three are snippety fragments of drone and hum, although they all congeal into a morass of brain-pulping pops and whizzes which crackle and creak and skitter and sizzle in erratic tides of discomfiting discord. And yet there’s something oddly compelling about this sonic sup that bubbles and froths and tugs at the nerve-endings without pity.

My synapses are fried and firing in all directions by the time I’m halfway through ‘3m’, a grinding, grating mess of clipped signals with all dials in the red which resembles ‘A Cunt Like You’ by Whitehouse, minus the ranting vocals. And then on ‘4m’… what is that? Some kind of subliminal vocal? Or is my mind just messing with me as it struggles to find orientation and points of familiarity in the stream of inhuman sound. It’s disorientating and difficult – and these are the positive attributes.

The ten ‘Mimicry’ pieces are perhaps re overtly playful – bleeps and whirs, crackles and pops, all cut back and forth so fast as to induce whiplash – not necessarily in the neck, but in the brain stem as the organ shifts into meltdown as it attempts to process the bewildering back-and-forth transmission of sonic data. Tones bounce and ripple at pace in confined spaces, and much of the sound seems to be in reverse, which adds to the dizzyingly fractured, disorientating sensation. There are dark moments, which hum and throb and drill and yammer and chew at the guts, but overall, the ‘Mimicry’ suite is less dense, less brutal, less painful.

The two sections would have worked as standalone albums, but to hear them side-by-side as contrasting and complimentary works is, ultimately, a more fulfilling experience, despite also being something of an endurance test. Its clear that as much as M challenges the listener, Gintas K is an artist intent on constantly challenging himself. And in an era when trigger warnings, entertainment and safe conformity have infiltrated and now dictate every corner of the arts, Gintas Kraptavičius’ unswerving commitment to pursuing his own interests and ends stands out more than ever.

AA

gintas k - M

Gruenrekorder – Gruen186 – 1st February 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

This is perhaps one of the strangest, most far-out and outright strange releases I’ve encountered in quite some time, and that’s certainly saying something. Slotmachine exists as an on-line project run by musician/artist Achim Zepezauer.

The press release explains that ‘online the user can combine three tracks by 13 different artists with different instrumentations, either hand sorted or completely randomized from the 158 recordings. Every artist provides at least ten tracks to generate from, which leads to the theoretical possibility of 1 billion different combinations’.

Curious, I spent some time messing about at the Slotmachine website in an attempt to get a handle on how it actually works. It looks like a slot machine. You can spin each of the three rows to change the track, and you can mute one, two, or even all three – but for best effect, spinning in three random pieces simultaneously is the way to go.

In some respects, Slotmachine offers an extension of Brion Gysin’s permutational poems, which involved the rearranging the words of a single phrase in every possible arrangement or permutation. This could be achieved by systematically moving the first word to the end of the row and moving each subsequent word one place to the left, hence A B C D E becomes first B C D E A, then C D E A B, and continuing until all of the variations had been exhausted. From a five-word phrase, a total of 119 new phrases, plus the original, could be created.

Zepezauer’s approach is less systematic – by which mean it appear to be completely random and arbitrary – but the one-word title attributed to each 45-second composition means each piece which utilises all three ‘rows’ has a three-word title which can be permuted. For example, ‘Cowshed’ by Simon Whetham, running alongside ‘Neck’ by Achim Zepezauer, and ‘Rupture’ by Jérôme Noetinger yields a track entitled ‘Cowshed Neck Rupture’ is a three-way collaboration by Whetham, Zepezauer, and Noetinger. But of course, what Zepezauer adds is the sonic element, which renders these permutational works multisensory, particularly when interacting on-line. Admittedly, touch is limited to mouse-work or keypads and you can’t taste or smell it, but it’s still pretty engaging.

The vinyl release on Gruenrekorder documents the project with a selection from 13 artists and 158 recordings, that offered a possibility of 3,944,312 tracks. Whittled down to just 30 choice cuts, it gives a flavour of the audio aspect of the project, if not of the interactive experience. And these short, snippety pieces are intriguingly varied, the layers forming experimental works spanning ambient, free jazz, hop-hop, dark electronica, and spacey Krautrock – and pretty much everything else in between. At times jarring, jolting, discordant, woozy, with clashing and complimentary sound works merging to create a single piece, it’s not always readily accessible, or even listenable. Then again, when things combine, as they do, to create (fleeting) moments of mystical musical magic, it’s truly wonderful. With each piece being so short, it’s difficult to find a flow or rhythm: instead, you find yourself swept along on a rollercoaster of lo-fi oddball weirdness and unusually eclectic hybrids. This is very much an integral part of the charm, the appeal, and the enjoyment.

And it’s an enjoyment that the record only captures the corner of, since the online-slotmachine has the ability to continuously grow and contains at the date of the vinyl release (February 1st, 2019) four more artists and a total of 225 recordings, providing some 11,390,625 possible titles. Even with audio clips being only 45 seconds long, that’s a lot of hours pissing about online before you’re explored the project fully.

AA

Slotmachine

SkipStone – SKST024

Christopher Nosnibor

Pun unintended, there’s something groovy about releasing an album as a triple-deck of 10” records. I was never averse to getting up and turning a record over or changing the disc, even though some releases do take the piss a bit in terms of making work by pressing just one four-minute track into a side of a 12” on an album release. But with the 12 tracks clocking in around six or seven minutes apiece and with two per side, Artemisia seems to balance the vinyl experience and the practicalities of playing records.

Artemisia is by turns tranquil and volatile, and this makes sense in context of the album’s inspiration, whereby, as the press release quippingly quotes that cellist Erik Friedlander distills (sic) the brain-bending powers of absinthe, and the darkness of its murky past into his latest project’.

While perhaps one of the most famous works of art inspired by absinthe is Degas’ L’Absinthe (1875-6), followed maybe by Manet’s The Absinthe Drinker (c.1859), it’s Picasso’s absinthe glass sculptures which captured Friedlander’s imagination in 2015 when he visited MOMA.

“The glasses were pretty… kind of innocent on first glance, but as I looked more closely, I found a dangerous side. The front of each glass is exposed – torn away to show its insides. It seemed like Picasso was saying this is what happens to you when you drink absinthe,” says Friedlander. This viewing spurred Erik, who’s played with a host of artists spanning The Mountain Goats, John Zorn, Dave Douglas, and Courtney Love, into ‘an exploration of absinthe’s mysterious history: beneath a glamorous veneer in 19th century Paris lurked accusations of hallucinatory properties and elusive effects that created an atmosphere of addiction and demise’.

That absinthe has – or ever had – hallucinogenic properties appears to be a myth, but the romantic notion of the drink’s properties proliferate in art and writing, and Friedlander’s jazz-orientated representation of the drink and its history is intriguing and at times quite hypnotic. Take, for example the sparsely-arranged, exploratory ‘La Fee Verte’ with its sporadic percussion and mournful strings.

Friedlander’s cello is augmented by a band of collaborators, which includes pianist Uri Caine, bassist Mark Helias, and drummer Ches Smith, and certainly, his cello takes something of a back seat, or at least occupies a less dominant position in these varied compositions which range from the buoyant, focused and direct, to wandering experimental works.

AA

Erik Friedlander – Artemisia

Karlrecords – KR064 – 15th March 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

This is one of those made-for-vinyl releases comprising two longform tracks, and comes with a title that has heavy hints of JG Ballard. But then, doesn’t so much nowadays. Perhaps it’s my personal intertextual radar, but it does very much seem that the prescience and influence of Ballard’s work which was often spoken and written of in his lifetime has only become truly apparent in its extent in the last decade. It’s perhaps fitting that while Terminal Desert carries connotations of his more stilted, genre-driven works of the 1960s in its title, its sound calls to mind some of Ballard’s more wayward peers, not least of all William Burroughs and the Tangiers Beat collective.

The accompanying text refers to ‘Jajouka Pipe Dream’ as ‘a clear reference to the Master Musicians of Joujouka, with lots of flutes and percussion’, and describes it as ‘a very rhythmical, ritualistic track.’ And it is. Slow, undulating, dominated by polytonal, polyrhythmic percussion, it marks a thematic revisiting of some of Barakat’s previous work, albeit in a less confrontational and more ambient-orientated setting.

But then, this collaboration marks both a departure and a continuum for each of the contributors. German-Palestinian artist Ghazi Barakat, after playing in rock bands including The Golden Showers and Boy From Brazil, developed the alias Pharoah Chromium, a vehicle for the creation of what he calls “meta-music for meta-people in a meta-world”. Meanwhile, Paul LaBrecque, of vast collective Sunburned Hand of the Man and who usually records as a solo artist as Head of Wantastiquet, contributes guitar and synthesizer to the two tracks.

Less cut-up and less mashed than some of his other stuff, it’s still certainly not rock. It chanks and thumps and conjures an air of obscure eastern mysticism as haunting notes echo through a sonic heat-haze.

‘Planet R-101’ is altogether mellower, less edgy and agitated, rippling out over seventeen minutes of soft synth oscillations that brings together ambience and Krautrock to forge a mellow, immersive sonic expanse, a drifting sea of soft tones and Then, from amidst the wibbly, woozy, spacey ripples emerge some word music / new age pipe drones which echo out into eternity. And then, soaring guitars that are pure prog emerge as if rm nowhere and take the composition to another genre plain.

What to make of it all? Terminal Desert is best absorbed without too much contemplation. That isn’t because it lacks conceptual depth or consideration, but because it’s an album that needs to be given room to breathe without close analysis, for the atmosphere to be fully absorbed.

AA

Terminal Desert