Posts Tagged ‘Avant-garde’

Christopher Nosnibor

I was forewarned. The note which accompanied the debut releases – yes, plural – three separate CDs released simultaneously – but experimental collective kröter – strongly recommended that listening was not (yes, underlined) to be attempted with a clear head. The note’s sender, one Mr Vast, began with an apology. ‘I’m really sorry to do this to you…’ he wrote. I don’t believe him. He knows I like weird, fucked-up shit. Although with this sprawling three-album effort, I can’t help but wonder If he’s testing me. If I struggle, how will anyone else handle this work of ambition beyond sanity?

Things get off to a good start, with a picked guitar, notes bent, weaving a soft melancholy. I suddenly jolt and look around: it sounds like my cats in pain in the next room. No, wait, it’s just the CD. That’s some crazy woodtrumpet noise. ‘Is that the cat?’ my wife calls from the next room. ‘No, it’s just the CD,’ I reply. ‘Thank goodness, it sounded like the cat was really ill.’ Seconds later, my daughter’s at my elbow asking if it’s the cat she can hear in my office. I explain it’s the CD, and she declares that she loves it. We’re less than two minutes in, not even one full track of twenty-seven played, and already these Kröter buggers are causing mayhem and breaking my flow.

The sparse, bass-led spoken-word sleaze of ‘Sebastian’ seems positively commercial by comparison, despite being, in real terms, claustrophobic and vaguely disturbing, the monotone narrative bordering on the psychotic. And the rest of the album is just as weird. All the shades of weird, from dislocated spoken word colliding with off-kilter electro-funk to minimal electro-pop that sounds like it’s melting as beats misfire in all directions and loops stutter and fracture like some kind of sonic seizure, with the lyrics veering from the surreal to the ultra-mundane by the verse.

Wibbly-wobbly weirdness abounds, shuddering, juddering analogue synthiness and all sorts of inexplicable dominate pieces that range from interludes of less than a minute in duration to expansive workouts. On *b, ‘Dogsick’ is a seven-minute spoken-word piece that delivers graphic details about the varying shades of the globules of canine vomit, mutating along the way to find Mr Vast come on like Peter Murphy against a backdrop of whacked-out trumpet action.

There’s wonky, fucked-up funk disco on the menu, too, alongside the 10-minute ultra-sparse blues exploration of ‘Tricky Task’ that goes kinda Pavement, kinda huh? as it progresses. It’s impossible to separate the wheat from the chaff, the killer from the filler: this is simply an exercise on experimentalism, and you’ll like it or lump it and maybe like some or lump the rest, or, meh, who cares?

By disc three, my brain’s beyond bent: my daughter’s hassling for more songs that sound like that cat and I’m being battered with tunes from her new Pomsie, which are like cat disco and explaining that there probably isn’t another song on the planet like it isn’t being well-received, which is troublesome, especially as kröter do have some net tunes half-buried in the big mess of weird shit. Then again, ‘Telephone Rag’ starts out quite nicely, but rapidly descends into screaming madness, and ‘Opera Lift’ is all over, a nasally-delivered narrative carried by a slow-building post-rock / krautrock crossover with swelling choral backing vocals. I mean, how do you rationally process this? There is no rationality to the yelping dog loop freakiness of ‘Asumasite Huip’, or the Doors-meets-The-Fall plod of ‘Flageolet Beans’, or, indeed, any of this. And then tings go kinda strangely Bowie on the last track, ‘Awful Light’, which is arguably the best track on the entire set.

Kröter are the epitome, the encapsulation, the embodiment, the definition of niche. They’re the archetype of a band making music for their own entertainment. These three discs – which purport to contain ‘excepts’ from their sessions in Berlin in 2017 – may represent the best of their improvisations, or only a flavour, but nevertheless leave the question ‘just how much material did they get down?’ The questions unasked, perhaps ‘how much more are the likely to release?’ and ‘how much more do we need?’ The truth is, the world is always a better place for artists unconstrained by convention: it doesn’t matter whether or not you, or I, or anyone, like them – it’s about choice. It’s about expression. And commercial success is no measure of artistic merit. And if the artistic merit of the individual pieces on this insanely ambitious, sprawling effort varies immensely, it doesn’t actually matter, because the merit is in the scope, the ambition, and the fact it exists. They may have utterly screwed my brain, but the world is better for the fucked-up weirdness of kröter.

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1st October 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

Velvet Teeth was originally released as a 200 only limited-edition CD through the October issue of TQ Magazine, which is the kind of publication that gives coverage to the likes of Ceramic Hobs and Drooping Finger – not so much competition for Aural Aggravation, but a channel with a shared goal of giving coverage to the kind of acts most won’t, assuming they’ve even heard of any of the artists. The funny thing about niche music is that it has a fairly hardcore set of devotees, and there’s a kind of disparate, disconnected community that’s less of a scene and more of a rhizome-like underground network. And while a lot of fairly niche stuff may still only have a potential market of around 200, it’s often amazing just how many oddballs there are hiding in the cracks demanding the work of some bands that on the surface seem so obscure that even their mates haven’t heard of them. Chlorine – the musical vehicle of Graeme Hopper – certainly has that wider appeal, and moreover, most certainly deserves wider exposure and the opportunity of a larger audience.

Velvet Teeth is experimental in the most explicit sense, a sequence of fragmentary sonic collages. The longer pieces roam around murky depths with ominous fear chords obscured by laced shrouds of sonic fog. ‘Manlines’, with its down-tuned, sinister vocals and groaning, droning dissonance, and ‘The Scenic Route’ exploit dimetric tonalities and the prominent separation of frequency ranges, with rumbling, almost subliminal low-end providing a base for niggling treble. The six-minute ‘Low Hauxley Tide’ pushes further on the resonant low-end pulsations, a low, tidal throb providing the main body of the piece. It’s kinda mellow, but kinda shiversome, too. There’s a creeping fog of darkness that pervades both the piece, and the work as a whole, which creates a certain sense of separation. It’s simultaneously immersive and engaging, but there’s a feeling that you’re not quite in the same room and there’s a force-field preventing entry.

‘Who Pays for This’ is a spine-tingling mess of scrapes and jangles, muffled, slowed speech that’s just on the cusp of indecipherability, and elsewhere, ‘Bubbewraps’ is woozy, wibbly, vaguely disorientating. The album as a whole is built on a loose, drifting fluidity, with compositions that aren’t so much compositions as sonic coalescences which occur as much by chance as design.

Uncomfortable, awkward, unsettling… these are the positive qualities of the oddity that is Velvet Teeth.

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Chlorine - Velvet

Christopher Nosnibor

Fibonacci Drone Organ: three random words spliced together, unshackled from the constraints of context to allow free association to determine interpretation? Or a descriptive indication of what Dave Procter’s second- or t(h)ird-latest (this month saw the debut of HUNDBAJS, which is Swedish for dogshit, the absolute latest) of his myriad projects which include the Wharf Street Galaxy Band and Legion of Swine? The cassette release contains precisely no information whatsoever, even down to a track listing, but a spot of digging reveals that it’s the latter – which should come as no surprise, given that the man behind FDO curated a ‘10 Hours of Drone’ event a while back. The album contains two pieces, each occupying a side of the tape, and they’re formed around droning organ notes. Long, long droning organ notes.

And my (rather limited but suitably fruitful) research uncovered that FDO ‘uses the Fibonacci Series as part of the compositional process,’ that ‘the notes are chosen via dice rolls and coin tosses,’ and that ‘the durations of the notes are chosen by the Fibonacci Series. Notes are added at the appropriate time.’

From this, I infer that in technical / theoretical terms, FDO compositions emerge from an intersection of John Cage-inspired randomness and the mathematical precision of Fibonacci. What this actually means, ‘m not entirely sure, and thankfully, the technical aspects don’t impinge too heavily on the output from a listening perspective. Ultimately, it’s all drones. And on this outing the ‘appropriate’ time for adding noes is seemingly after an eternity.

This means that across the tape’s duration, not a lot happens. Notes may be added, but at such distance that the layers build so gradually that the pieces are over before much depth, resonance or layering has occurred. This is all testament to Procter’s unswervingly uncompromising approach to music-making, and encapsulates the reasons I personally hold him in such high regard (and it’s fair to say that if there’s one person I’ve worked with who’s intuitively understood my vision for creating spoken word with the most hellishly mangled noise, it’s Dave who’s been behind the majority of my best and most exhilarating collaborative live work). With more projects, pseudonyms and releases to his credit than seems humanly possible, he’s practically a one-man underground scene in his own right. Look up ‘northern avant-garde’, and you’ll likely find a picture of Dave Procter – or a bloke in a lab coat sporting a pig’s head or something.

Procter gets art, and is an artist, but doesn’t espouse the pretentious trappings of being an ‘artist’ (or, worse still, an ‘artiste’). Which means he can not only get away with releasing a tape containing 40 minutes of theory-backed drone without appearing a tit, but delivers some of the most brilliantly self-aware electronic drone you’re likely to find.

Side two (not that the sides are marked) brings a quavering decay to the elongated drones – which hover toward the higher frequencies – by way of contrast to the strong, stable drones of side one. The effect is cumulative and ultimately soporific, and it’s definitely the music and not the beer as I listen to the spindles rotate on my tape deck and the notes drift from the speakers. Sometimes, there’s no shame in sleep.

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28th September 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

Disjointed. Fragmentary. Fractured. Sketchy. Incomplete. The ten pieces (untitled other than by numbers 1-10) on Refound are vague in structure, minimal in form, non-linear in trajectory, and often unclear in purpose. Hardly surprising, given that they emerged from improvisational sessions made with electronics and ‘inside piano’. I’m not sure if this is becoming increasingly popular as an instrument of choice in avant-garde circles, or I’m simply evermore aware of its use in the making of experimental music since I received a copy of Reinhold Freidl’s immense Inside Piano double CD four years ago.

But what are they doing to the piano to achieve these sounds? Precisely what ‘inside piano’ actually is remains is shade unclear. The liner notes to Friedl’s debut solo which effectively set the mark for and so defined the technique, is spectacularly oblique and vague in its definition of ‘inside piano’: The good old grand piano plays aggressive noise attacks, choir-like symphonic movements, strange complex sound fibrillations, sometimes lighting up single prepared piano notes, juxtaposed with the tremendous bass of the nearly three-meter long strings…

For Refound, Neumann and Neilsen’s improvised experimentations were remixed and realigned by the two contributing artists themselves to create something… well something. I was tempted to say that conveyed their joint vision, although what that vision is, assuming there was a vision beyond seeing what their playing together produced, is unclear.

Refound manifests as a succession of tweets, hisses, rumbles… skittering, bird-like treble and yawning mid-tone feedback. There’s no discernible trajectory, the pieces break off and stand separately from one another as a series of sketches rather than as a coherent, cohesive album.

 

 

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Andrea Neumann Mads Emil Nielsen – Refound

Karl Records – 21st September 2018

James Wells

There’s nothing like an intriguing title, or one which ignites the imagination to generate interest in an album – or maybe it’s just me. And so the curious selection of the pairing of ‘runt’ with ‘vigor’ piqued my interest: the idea and image of a runt, smaller and weaker than nature intended, flailing feebly but energetically… Paired with the collage cover art, it all points toward something far-out – and I’m not mistaken or misled.

Now, I’m more accustomed and adjusted to music from the furthest, most extreme fringes, avant-gardism that redefines bizarre, inexplicable, outré. Chen is so outré that she’s bypassed me for all of 30 years, which includes a prodigious solo career punctuated by myriad collaborations that accounts for the last 15.

While much of her output is centred around cello, voice, and analogue electronics, vocal explorations have been at the heart of her most recent works including this four-track offering, which contains forty minutes of gulps, clicks, gargles and hums all emanating from the mouth and throat. Ululations and stuttering glottal stops create the very fabric of the compositions and occupy the foreground, along with asthmatic, gasping breaths, atonal, meandering whistles, and strangulation sounds.

While it’s more overtly ‘musical’ than Mike Patton’s Adult Themes for Voice which stands by way of a relatively obvious comparison, it’s not less disturbing or strange, and it’s impossible to distinguish the origins of all of the sounds here; the whispering hums, drones and wavering gusts of wind are, I would assume, as likely to originate from the artist’s body as from an instrument. It’s the way in which everything is rendered obscure, the voice twisted, pushed, pulled, distorted and disfigured beyond all recognition from the conventional utterances of speech, song, or even flatulence, which is so awestriking.

You may hear albums which share the same sonic territory, but I’d wager none will have been created in the same way.

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Audrey Chan

Mamka Records – MAM01 – 1st November 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

‘Language becomes sound, and sound becomes language. Out of the fragmentary, the density is weaved. From the depths of the fragile, the whole is born. Time structures are questioned and assembled through loops. Field recording from Mexico meet Osojnik’s singing. Spoken language turn into melodies, whole noise turns into bittersweet rancheras.’ The words from the text – more of a short essay – which accompanies this release resonate: as a long-time student and practitioner of cut-up methodologies, I’m a firm believer in the unusual power of the fragmentary, the capacity for those broken, ruptured pieces of discontinuity to unlock experiences and emotions direct approaches to narrative and the channelling of experience cannot. similarly, I’ve long maintained that the language of sound has the capacity to transcend the language of words, to touch deep and difficult parts of the soul and the psyche irrespective of the tongue or tongues in the listener’s ken.

And so it is that the first release on Mamka records, the label established by Maja Osojnik – whose work I’ve not only covered previously but greatly admire – is something really quite special. My download arrives – personally addressed, handwritten, stamped, embellished – all the way from Vienna, in an envelope 7” square and therefore resembling a 7” single, accompanied by a six-sided press release packed with words far more engaging than the usual hyperbole. There’s also a numbered cut-vinyl print, 7” square included in the package, and it all adds up to a multisensory experience – sonic, tactile, visual – which above all conveys a real sense of commitment, a passion, to making something tangible, something that’s not ephemeral or disposable, but something that matters. The medium is the message, and Maja has found a way – labour-intensive as it is – which goes beyond the medium of the audio release to create… art. The same approach applies to the ‘commercial’ release, a 7” available in a super-small run of 150 copes, only 120 of which are available for public consumption. But better target a small, passionate niche than a large indifferent mainstream if art is your pursuit.

Finding a way to render digital media tactile, visual, and above all, personal, in giving the digital listener a large portion of the vinyl experience, Maja is quite possibly breaking new ground, or at least standing at the forefront of something new. For me, it’s less about nostalgia and more about recovering some of what’s been lost with the demise of physical media.

Said release finds Maja performing with Rdeča Raketa (together with Matija Schellander, she’s integral to the duo who go by the name of Rdeča Raketa) and author Natascha Gangl to deliver a brace of tracks – very much a replication of the classic 7” A and B sides.

‘Chicken’ opens with a frenzy of analogue synth noise. It simmers to a grating buzz and pulsating electro beat before Maja barrels in with a deep-throated monotone with a barrage of lyrics about a chicken in her heart which bleeds and bleeds, and while clucking electronic bleeps twitter and bleep here, there, and everywhere. It’s weird, it’s noisy, it bumps and thrums, but still has an off-kilter pop sensibility partially submerged in the layers of noise and oddness.

‘Die Toten’ (that’s ‘the dead’ in translation) is rather less accessible, but no less intriguing, engaging, or odd, and in fact, introduces a new level of strangeness to proceedings. It’s low, slow, lugubrious.

Simultaneously weird and wonderful, ‘Chicken’ is everything you want – and need – by way of an introduction to partially-accessible, highly idiosyncratic, and extremely engaging weird shit.

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Natasha Gangl & Rdeča Raketa – Chicken

Nonclassical – cnclss024

Christopher Nosnibor

Langham Research Centre originated through late-night experimental gatherings at the BBC studios, and have evolved to produce long-form radiophonic works, of which 2014’s Muffled Ciphers was inspiredby JG Ballard’s seminal novel -which challenged the very notion of the form – The Atrocity Exhibition. Created with an accumulation of rare and obsolete instruments and devices, and inspired by early electronic composers spanning John Cage, Alvin Lucier, and Delia Derbyshire, Tape Works Vol. 1 is pitched as ‘a collection of modern musique concrète.’

The first thing I noticed was that my copy is number 11 of an edition of 30 promos. This knowledge spurs me to get my finger out and provide some coverage. The second thing I notice, on scanning the track listing, before reading the biography containing the above, is that it features tracks with the titles ‘The Voices of Time’ and ‘The Terminal Beach’ – the former of which is a collection of short stories by Ballard, and the latter of which is the title of one of the stories in that collection, which first appeared in 1963 under the title The Four-Dimensional Nightmare.

On Tape Works Vol. 1, the Langham Research Centre (and doesn’t that sound so Ballardian in itself… I’ve spent hours scanning my collection to see if there’s a character named Langham in Ballard’s oeuvre and have drawn blanks before ultimately deciding it’s better to actually get the work done than disappear down another rabbit-hole of research) explore all the dimensions. And while at times it confirms to the template of so much experimental analogue work, at times it ventures in the truly weird.

‘LOL, Pt 1’ mixes monkey chatters and R2D2 bleeps with eerie abstractions, bibbling bloops, fractured vocal snippets and small samples of laughter enter the mix alongside the kitchen sink to from an uncomfortable, disorientating sound collage.

There’s a lot of stopping and starting, whistling and droning, woe and flutter and infinite disruption. This is the sound of dislocation, a soundtrack designed to induce maximum disorientation.

Bleeps and squiggles, trilling squeals rising to a high-pitched hum collide with woozy, groaning bass frequencies. Notes bend as if on a stretched tape, and tape whips back and forth through heads. There are moments which recall the head-spinning cut-up and drop-in tape experiments conducted by William Burroughs, Brion Gysin, and Iain Sommerville in the late 50s and early 60s.

Birdsong. New snippets. A plane roars overhead. A conglomeration of voices. Static. Interference. A howling wind. Sparse, arrhythmic beats clatter and clang. Yes, this is life: fractured discordant, difficult. Simultaneous. Overwhelming. This is essentially how I feel about it. I cannot compute. I feel dislocated, alienated. I feel tense. Nothing new there. But Just as reading Ballard makes me feel uncomfortable in my own skin, so Langham Research Centre’s fucked-up sampling of old adverts and blending them with minimalist dark ambient twists me into a state of discomfort.

At time gentle, at others abrasive and bordering on the attacking treble whistles and white/pink noise crackle of early Whitehouse and Merzbow, Tape Works Vol. 1 is at no point accessible, easy, cuddly. But it does push the senses and question linearity and accessibility and even the boundaries of musicality. And as such, it fulfils its objective.

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Langham