Posts Tagged ‘collaboration’

Christopher Nosnibor

Heaven may not be a venue one would immediately associate with heavy, heavy noise, but tonight it’s packed with a broad demographic that only a show as genre-smashing as the line-up would be likely to draw.

Bong are only just setting up their kit five minutes before they’re due on stage, but despite the absence of a proper soundcheck, they sound every bit as mighty as they ought. The Newcastle trio take their time, grinding out power chords with endless sustain without mercy during a half-hour set that contains just a single track. Epic is indeed the word. For all the leaning toward the doomy, droney low end, the guitar packs a crackling treble hit, which balances the sound against the shuddering, throbbing bass and the megalithic drumming, each thunderous beat registering individually on the Richter scale, crashing heavy through the 20bpm dirge with stutters and pauses to maximise the impact of each stroke. Their thirty-minute set consists of just one song. And this is precisely the way it should be: the band use the allotted time to fully demonstrate the expansive nature of their sound and compositions. This is heavy, grinding two-chord dredging pushed to the max and is designed to simultaneously batter and hypnotise the audience, and they deliver it beautifully.

Bong

Bong

If the reality of the studio realisation of Concrete Desert, the collaborative project which saw The Bug’s dubby dancehall stylings drawn out into infinite regressions of reverb as they collided with the dark drone of Earth’s earlier works felt somewhat restrained, and at times bordered on the ambient, in a live setting, the dynamics prove to be altogether different. Perhaps The Bug’s input felt somewhat muted on the release, as Carson’s murky, chiming ambient drones dominated he sound. Sure, the stealthy, bulbous bass and clacking beats, paired with quavering guitar notes which occupy the album’s grooves are atmospheric, but it often feels somewhat cautious, even subdued. Live, however, it’s an entirely different proposition and it feels far more like an equal partnership.

On the surface, the pair exist – and perform – in entirely separate, personal spaces, despite sharing a stage. The Bug – aka Kevin Martin – and Dylan Carlson, representing Earth, stand apart, separated by a wall of equipment: Martin is surrounded by banks of electronic gadgetry and stands focused on his Apple laptop for the majority of the set, while Carlson stands, side-on to the audience, one eye on Martin as he cranks out deep, seething drones and sculpted feedback squalls of noise.

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The Bug vs Dylan Carlson

Volume matters, and can so often prove to be integral to the live music experience: and this is loud. Proper, seriously, loud. Martin begins by sending bibbling waves of electronica out in juxtaposition to Carlson’s screeds of guitar: before long, it’s a veritable sonic tsunami as thunderous bass and violent blasts of percussion crash against a wall of relentlessly dense multitonal noise bleeding in every direction from Carlson’s fretboard. The bass frequencies – and gut-churning volume – are something else. Confetti glued by static electricity or other means to the venue’s high ceiling after being blasted out during the venue’s famous club nights shower down on band and audience alike as the thunderous vibrations rattle every molecule of the building’s interior fabric as well as my nostrils, my trousers and every inch of my flesh.

Many of the compositions are unrecognisable in relation to their studio counterparts, so radically reworked and so much more up front are the dynamics. This is no stealthy, sedate recreation of the album but something way more attacking and pure in its physicality. This is one of those sets which builds in intensity – and seemingly in volume – as it progresses, and toward the end, the pair drop a colossal slow-burner with slow, deliberate drops of bowel-shuddering bass frequencies: a single note resonates through the floor and the solar plexus for what feels like minutes, and the effect is utterly immersive and all-encompassing. The security guy in front of me, blocking the stairs (Heaven has a very strange arrangement of stairs up to the stag and only limited security at front of house, which is welcome), is clutching his ears despite waring plugs, and while it’s an uplifting euphoric experience which plasters a huge grin on my on face, it’s not hard to fathom why this much bass, and this much guitar, at this kind of volume, would cause discomfort. Because actually, it hurts. And that’s the best thing about it, because this is how it’s meant to be.

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Bearsuit Records – 24th March 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

Talk about a car crash. This split release between Swamp Sounds / Uncle Pops & The Dumbloods isn’t so much a hybridised sound clash as a head-on train wreck. Bearsuit Records can be relied upon for giving a platform for the most eccentric crossover works going, and this meeting of Japanese electronic/experimental musician, Yuuya Kuno, aka Swamp Sounds, and Scottish musician/artist, Douglas Wallace, aka Uncle Pops & The Dumbloods certainly fits the criteria.

You might broadly call it an experimental avant-disco / elecro album, but then you might equally call it pretty much anything you like, because it’s a brain-bending whirlpool of stylistic elements, thrown together with a wild and reckless abandon, with no regard for the effect it may have on the listener’s psyche.

And so it is that shrill analogue tweeking and frenetic, messy electro beats crash into a wall of screeding, mangled noise that pulses and throbs. The first half of the album belongs to Swamp Sounds, and the opener, ‘Marionette’, piles more ideas and juxtaposing elements into a dizzying three and a half minutes than seems even halfway sane.

When Uncle Pops takes over for the second half and things down to a more sedate groove, the overloading static abates, but as on ‘Harry Smith’s Paper Planes’, there’s still weird, woozy note bending in abundance, along with interruptions of extraneous noise and unexpected incidentals, tempo changes and myriad pan-cultural influences in the mix.

The split works well, as it means it’s not all crazy, deranged noise and mental overload: while switching between shuffling, low-key passages and cinematic sonic bursts, ‘Portrait in an Egg Cup’ brings both atmosphere and impressively expansive aural vistas, and by placing Swamp Soinds’ more manic stuff on what would effectively stands as side one , the album gradually tapers into more ambient territory over the course of the later tracks.

Exploring deep into the seam of the strange and excavating new layers of the uncanny, it’s all spectacularly oddball and wilfully weird, but without being smug or irritatingly zany in execution.

 

 

Swamp_Sounds-Uncle_Pops_Front_Cover

6th December 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

Some reviews are seemingly fated. This is one such review: I was slow to get started, and then, having spent several evenings working on a detailed critical analysis, exploring the album’s wild eclectism on a more or less track-by-track basis in a discourse of some eight hundred words, my laptop crashed and most of the work was lost, with the only available version being a collection of notes which were days old. How it happened, when my word processor is set to autosave every five minutes, I have no idea. Thanks Microsoft.

Still, this is an Ashley Reaks album, and a man who can produce three albums in a year – and continue to produce art, and to gig relentlessly, under difficult personal circumstances – deserves the same kind of unbowing attitude from a reviewer.

Because it’s an Ashley Reaks album, anything can happen. And it will. And it does. Following on from Reaks’ ‘punk album’ This is Planet Grot (and a remarkable credible and impressive punk album at that), Growth Spurts, on the one hand, could be considered a return to more familiar territories. But then, on the other, it could justifiably be tagged his ‘jazz album’. The familiar elements of reggae and post-punk inspired dub are present and correct, but this collaboration-based collection of tunes also brings in some wild jazz stylings. The collaborative element is also key here, not only to appreciating Growth Spurts, but to understanding Reaks as an artist, at least as much as it’s possible to grasp such an idiosyncratic and singular individual.

Like his collage artwork, his music is a mish-mash of elements drawn from here, there and everywhere, often bolted together at weird angles and demonstrating incompatible proportions and lines of perspective. He has very much his own slant on things, and his approach is also very much his own: Reaks is one of the few artists who consistently produces work which has the capacity to surprise, to confound, and, occasionally, confuse – which is a healthy response to something which is so staunchly unconventional. You get the impression that Reaks’ raison d’être is to produce art which surprises and confounds himself, as much as any notional audience. His mindset appears to be that if it’s not fresh, unexpected, and if it’s not sincere, then it’s worthless. Collaboration, when done right, yields an output which is greater than the sum of its parts, and draws out facets of each contributor which may not otherwise be known.

As such, Growth Spurts is a world away from his previous collaborative effort, Cultural Thrift (2015) with poet Joe Hakim, on which Reaks stepped toward the rear portion of the stage to provide a background accompaniment (which in itself was a departure given Reaks’ propensity for dizzying soundclashes). Five of the ten pieces – it would be wrong to refer to this as a collection of songs, given that they feature spoken word and poetry – feature writers and poets from a broad and diverse range of backgrounds. They’re disparate characters, as varied as Reaks’ own sources of input, hand-picked to contribute to the album.

The result is dizzying, a rollercoaster journey through a vast swathe of cultural terrain. Each of the collaborative pieces is distinct and different, and finds Reaks attentive to the style of the different speakers. And as the strange, strangles vocal cacophony which introduces the album’s first track, the oddly ominous prog-dub drum‘n’bass neoclassical jazz mixup that is ‘Divorced from the Body’ shows, he’s digging deep to locate new and unexpected hybrids. And yet, amidst the chaos, he still whips up some killer hooks – something so many experimental / genre-smashing artists completely overlook in their quest to innovate, to dazzle with their imagination and technical prowess.

‘The Gentle Art of Ignoring’ with Sylvie Hill is the most outright jazz track on the album, and her sassy vocal delivery and confident Canadian accent brings another sharp dimension to an album which displays almost infinite dimensions, but there’s just so much to take in. But if you need a pointer for where to start, start with the basslines. The crashing jazz-influenced drum ‘n’ bass drumming, the wild brass, the myriad perspectives of the different vocalists all slot into place over those low-down basslines that stroll and groove and leap and boogie. Get on down.

 

Ashley Reaks - Growth Spurts

Bocian Records – BC-AAJ

Christopher Nosnibor

As the title suggests, this is a three-way collaboration between Swiss composer Antoine Chessex, French purveyor of electronica Jerome Noetinger, and UK experimental ensemble Apartment House. The two long-form instrumental tracks were recorded live in 2014 and 2015 at Café OTO in London.

The sheer density of the sound of ‘Plastic Concrete’ from the very outset is astounding, a force as much physical as sonic. String skitters and strikes cascade amidst explosive detonations of sound. Playful horns tiptoe through bouncing double bass lines. The Apartment House musicians demonstrate just how versatile ‘conventional’ instruments can be, conjuring an array of textures and tones to forge shifting atmospheres, while Noetinger’s electronics and reel to reel tape work bring new dimensions and depths to the soundscape. Impressively, neither aspect of the instrumentation dominates: instead, electronic and acoustic exist in synergy.

A long, booming parp, resembling a ship’s horn echoes out to signal the beginning of ‘Accumulation’ Skittering, fear chord electronics and grinding, almost subsonic bass creep around before a clamour of woozy, shimmering discord takes hold. Playful passages, bordering on neoclassical in nature, offer a contrasting atmosphere to the darker, brooding passages which congeal into a heavy, amorphous sonic mass.

This is immense music. Physical music. Music that makes the skin crawl, the nerves tingle.

 

Apartment House

Baskaru – karu:39

Christopher Nosnibor

Within the domain of the avant-garde, there is a recurring thread of self-reflexivity, and a focus on ‘the process’ which borders on obsessive. Many artists have offered theories on the benefits of collaboration, with the practices and methods of another person facilitating fresh approaches to creative processes. William Burroughs and Brion Gysin famously cited Napoleon Hill’s bestselling self-improvement book from 1937, Think and Grow Rich, having latched onto the concept of ‘the third mind,’ whereby the coming together of two individuals brings forth an unseen collaborator in the form of a third, superior mind. Needless to say, collaboration is not for everyone, but Laurent Perrier is very much an advocate, as this release which finds him working in collaboration with three notable artists, namely Francisco Lopez, Tom Recchion, and Christian Zanesi is testament to. But all is not quite s it may seem: Perrier’s Plateforme series, of which this is the second release, offers an alternative interpretation of what collaboration means, with the tracks each standing as what he terms a ‘one-way collaboration’.

The idea works on the basis that Perrier takes sounds provided by his ‘collaborators’ and uses those sounds – and nothing else – to create the pieces. This approach naturally pieces. Raises questions around the nature of the relationship between the artist and the ‘text’ (in the broad sense of the term). Is Perrier the architect, designing and constructing the tracks from raw materials? Is he even the composer? Or do these pieces represent remixes of unmixed material? To what extent can the ownership of each piece be aligned to the collaborator, and how much falls to Perrier, the one who sculpts the raw materials into something? In terms of process, one is also compelled to ask, to what extent do the ‘original’ sounds define the character of each individual artist’s work?

There is a definite sense that Perrier has worked with a strong intention to preserve the identity and integrity of each of his collaborators in these three pieces, and here I would return to Burroughs and Gysin, who claimed “A page of Rimbaud cut up and rearranged will give you quite new images. Rimbaud images — real Rimbaud images — but new ones”. This is a premise with which Perrier would appear to concur: his aim is not to vandalise or otherwise desecrate or stamp his own identity on their sounds, but simply to shape and order them. So, a collection of Francisco Lopez sounds arranged, mutated and mixed results in a nee track by Francisco Lopez, forged with the assistance of Laurent Perrier.

And it works, with or without detailed knowledge of either the work of Laurent Perrier or his collaborators, with Plateforme #2 featuring three long-for tracks which explore texture and tone in a variety of ways, and with each track displaying a distinct ‘personality’.

Francisco Lopez’s material emerges as screeding scrapes and drones, barrelling hums, crackles and slow-motion explosions, fizzing static. Harsh blasts of drilling, rumbling earthworks and abstract noise fill the air. Elongated hisses, like air escaping from valves or burst pipes and storm-force winds all amalgamate to create big, big sounds and a sense of immense space.

Hinting at vintage science fiction and horror movies, long, low, ambient drones hang and turn slowly, to be rent with shrill shrieks of treble, and blizzards of looping lasers to conjure a strange, alien landscape in sound in the Tom Recchion collaboration. Jump cuts extend the filmic analogy. Spectral tracings haunt the longest of the three pieces, with Christian Zanesi’s sounds building from a whisper to a scream; around the mid-point, the piece has evolved to a veritable tornado of sound which blasts from the speakers with breathtaking force.

 

Laurent Perrier - Plateforme 2

 

Laurent Perrier – Plateforme #2 Online at Baskaru

Dronarivm – 18th July 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

Like most writers, and not just music journalists, I sustain myself financially with a demeaning, underpaid yet unduly stressful and arduous day-job in an office. The multinational firm who employ me, being fifteen years behind the times in terms of progressive thinking who have in the last year and a half decided halt the future is digital and that the place to pitch for market share in the coming years is on-line, have gone all blue-sky thinking and have fitted out a large rectangular room in each office with rising rows of seats, like some hideous postmodern parody of a colosseum in MDF. These ‘in the round’ meeting rooms, where the speakers stand in the middle (and consequently have their back to a quarter of the audience at any given time) have been preposterously named ‘agoras’. While throwing out quips about fluffy rabbits and jumpers, I’ve managed to decline all meetings in said room by claiming to be agoraphobic.

The reason for this preamble is that this album’s title is something of a play on words, a hybrid of ‘agoraphobia’ (a fear of public or open spaces) and the suffix ‘phone’, meaning sound. It only half works, in that phonia and phonic tend to refer specifically to speech. And, as anyone with access to a computer will likely know, ‘agora’ (in reference to either a space in an office or a word which simply means ‘public’ or ‘outdoor’) is a misnomer, in that the term ‘agoraphobia’, coined by the German psychiatrist Carl Friedrich Otto Westphal, was taken from the Greek ἀγορά, meaning ‘large public square/marketplace’ and -φοβία, -phobia, meaning ‘fear’. Still, based on the popular perception of the two terms, it makes an obvious punning sense which works in the context of what the album is about, in that it’s ‘a work which explores the relationships between people in given environments, and is specifically set in public spaces, namely the squares, or plazas’.

One might broadly classify this as a work of ‘ambient’ music, but in drawing together field recordings and manipulating the sounds and incorporating them into the rich sonic tapestry that constitutes samples and shimmering drones which form the material of Agoraphonia, Giannico and Aldinucci have gone far beyond the realms of background music and of atmospherics. Agoraphonia is a deeply evocative work, and one that requires a substantial degree of attention and focus.

Created using sounds submitted on-line, the album is a new kind of collaboration, and the end result is a work that requires attention and contemplation. Voices, passing cars and motorcycles and a low-level continuous chatter run through an indecipherable public speech seemingly made outdoors – at least judging by the trebly, tannoy echo – run through the first track, ‘Koutoubia’, as long, lingering drones simmer and eddy, building slowly in volume and intensity.

‘Plaza de Mayo’ finds the soft drones upscaled to vast, multitonal sonic washes which all but obliterate the voices audible at the start and end of the track. But this (im)balance is integral to the album’s purpose. In the world, the voice of man is not always dominant, and the relationship between human life and the environment it has created and inhabits is one which is infinitely variable and in constant flux.

There’s also the relationship between public and private, which at times is uneasy and for some extremely difficult and in some respects the recordings here are manifestations of that seemingly eternal fascination which surrounds the two states, which do not necessarily stand in diametric opposition or exist in binary formation. Giannico and Aldinucci do not offer answers here, but instead provoke thought as they lead the listener through the various locations.

 

 

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Agoraphonia Online