Posts Tagged ‘Avant-garde’

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

Grappa Musikkforlag – 24th August 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

I used to watch a fair few horror films when I was younger, but don’t get to so much these days: my wife isn’t a fan, and, moreover, I can’t watch movies and listen to music at the same time. Spending my evenings reviewing means it’s the movies that have had to give. But when I did have the time to watch horror movies, I always preferred the films that unsettled the mind rather than overloaded the senses with in-yer-face viscera and gore. It isn’t necessarily that I like to be scared: I just like to be mentally challenged, and the imagination is a powerful thing. For the same reason, I usually prefer to invest the time in a book rather than TV show or movie. Greater effort tends to yield greater reward, and what’s more, the mind can conjure scenes far beyond the scope of any film set and special effects.

The mind’s eye is a terrible thing, but also a wonderful thing. Just look at your dreams: they’ll likely present vistas beyond anything you’ve ever seen in any movie. And even if not, these scenes are your own, rather than something pre-presented, the product of someone else’s imagination.

Rooms & Rituals is an album which engages the mind and encourages it to explore the darker recesses. The compositions are haunting, to the point of being outright scary. tapping into the deeper realms of the psyche, teasing out the horror of disquiet, and poking around in those dark, uncomfortable places. The voices are those of no less than ten female singers, although not necessarily at the same time. This is, indeed, a choir like no other.

‘Steamsaw’ sets the tone: dark, ominous, rumbling thunder and fear chords drifting almost subliminally… It’s minimal, and it’s a discomfort you can’t quite put our finger on. But it’s there, it’s real, and it gnaws at the pit of your stomach. ‘Pulser’ is eerie. Voices, disembodied, and as if rising from the grave, amidst unintelligible guttural utterances from the underworld, shrieks, and industrial pulsations and the occasional, sporadic clash of grating undifferentiated noise conglomerate to forge something stomach-churningly tense.

‘Ritual #3’ is a series of bleeps and tweets over a low-end rumble, and is reminiscent of some early Whitehouse, minus the trebly shouting. ‘Rise; is a voice lost in a gale, the sense of dislocation, distance and isolation rendered palpable in the drift. ‘Hymn’ pitches vocal melody that’s evocative, haunting, almost a Celtic folk piece, against a gnawing hovering synth hum, and elsewhere, ‘Gleam’ goes gloriously minimal, trilling organ pulses providing the backdrop to ethereal vocals that drift skyward.

Collectively and cumulatively, these pieces move and unsettle the listener, bringing a sense of dislocation, and disorientation. It creates a space for pondering. This is art.

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Trondheim Voices

Constellation Records – 15th June 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

Bush Lady, originally released in 1985, is described as ‘a unique and magical record by any definition’, and as ‘an invaluable example of contemporary First Nations music that blends traditional folkways with modern composition’. Obomsawin is a member of the Abenaki Nation and one of Canada’s foremost activist documentary filmmakers: with over 50 films to her credit, she’s not primarily known for her musical output, with Bush Lady being released as a private pressing, half of which languished in her home for years and years.

It’s not easy to place. It’s not folk; it’s not spoken word. But then, these aren’t conventional songs either, although there are some charmingly pleasant flickers of woodwind and strings. But it’s primarily about Obomsawin’s vocals. Her voice conveys so much; against monotonous, thudding rhythms and trilling notes, eerie discord and wandering abstraction, she swings between blank monotone and quirky vocal contortions that jar the spine.

The real thing about Bush Lady is just how fresh and contemporary it feels, and sounds, never mind the fact it’s 33 years old. It’s not that nothing’s changed in this time, but an indicator or the creative prowess and sheer otherness of Alanis Obomsawin’s art.

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