Posts Tagged ‘Collage’

Preston Capes – PCT001 – 1st July 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

The Front & Follow label may have reverted to mothballed status (at least for the time being), but that doesn’t mean that Justin Watson is doing nothing these days, despite the title of the latest release from three-way collective The Incidental Crack, who we’ve been following – and covering – for some time here at Aural Aggravation. For this outing, they’ve found a new home on newly-established cassette label – and these seem to be springing up all over now – Preston Capes (and I’m guessing no relation to Geoff).

As the notes explain, ‘The Incidental Crack began with Rob [Spencer] recording himself wandering around in the woods and finding a ‘cave’ – Justin put some weird noises to it, and then Simon joined in. The rest is history. The Incidental Crack are joined again by Dolly Dolly / David Yates on this album.’ Indeed, however much The Incidental Crack may evolve, they remain fundamentally unchanged, their albums assemblages of random field recordings and strangeness melted and melded into awkwardly-shaped sonic sculptures that unsettle the mind and by turns ease and tense the body.

The Incidental Crack Does Nothing follows the two albums they released in 2021, the second of which, Detail, was a challenging and expansive work, and this very much continues in the same vein.

With The Incidental Crack, it very much feels as if anything goes, and reflecting on the name of the collective, this seems entirely appropriate. What their works represent is a crack, a fissure, in time, in continuity. Their methodology may not be specifically influenced by William Burroughs and Brion Gysin’s cut-ups, but are, very much, open to, of not specifically channelling and incorporating, the assimilation of random elements, and have a collage aspect to their construction.

‘Shitload of Rocks’ is comparatively airy, and serves as a brief introductory passage before the dank, gloomy ambience of ‘The Worst Party’. It’s a dark, ominous piece that hovers and hums, echoes, clanks, and rumbles on for a quarter of an hour; it’s cold, clammy, and unsettling. But is it the worst party ever? While it does sound like hiding in a cave while an armed search party charged with the task of your erasure stomp around in adjacent tunnels off in the distance, I don’t actually hear any people, laughing drunkenly or loving the sound of their own voices while holding court with tedious anecdotes, so I don’t think so.

‘Hair falling from our bodies clogs up the sewers,’ we learn as a clattering beat clacks in and rattles away on the industrial chop-up churn of ‘Hair’, featuring Dolly Dolly, who’s clearly no sheep. It’s the album’s most percussive cut, the monotone spoken-word narrative somewhat surreal, and looping eighties synths bubble in around the midpoint, although it’s probably too weird for the Stranger Things retro adopters.

‘Couch Advantage’ is the album’s second longer piece, a sinuous, clattering workout almost nine minutes in duration. It’s minimal, yet somehow, there’s enough stuff going on as to render it all a blur: is that jazz drumming, a groove of sorts off in the distance? Or is it simply some clattering chaos, the sound of bacon sizzling? What is going on? And following the brief interlude that is ‘Belting’, the final piece, the ten-minute ‘Photography’ with more lyrical abstraction from Dolly Dolly depicting random fragmentary images against a backdrop of clicking sparks and evolving, supple sweeps of drifting clouds of sound. It’s all incidental, every second of it: fleeting, ephemeral – and in the cracks, is where it happens. As they open wider, you peer in, and observe. There is movement. There is life. Because life is what happens between the events, among the random incidents and accidents.

The Incidental Crack Does Nothing may be confusing, bewildering, difficult to grasp – but it is, without doubt, a slice of life. You can do with that what you will.

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Audiobulb Records – 2nd March 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

Experimental and underground music, particularly of the electronic persuasion is a broad field, but, it would seem, a small world.

During lockdown, the Nim Brut label hosted a series of virtual gigs, where performers would submit sets accompanied by visuals, and the resulting streams were varied and eclectic, in the best possible way, presenting the full breadth of the melting pot of a diverse and disparate milieu. As is so often the case with events of this ilk, everyone was not lonely accommodating, but welcoming toward one another, celebrating the differences in style and approach.

Feast 5, back in August of 2021, was a belter, and not only because as half of …(Something) Ruined I got to unleash new brutal noise in a safe environment, but got to do so alongside some remarkable artists, notably Omnibael, who have featured a number of times here. Also on the bill was a performance so brief as to barely be an interlude, something I described as a ‘shifting wave of glitchronic ambience’ courtesy of Neuro… No Neuro, of whom I knew nothing, until today, when on the arrival of Faces & Fragments in my inbox, I learn that NNN is ‘a moniker of the electronic musician Kirk Markarian, an avid synthesist, drummer, abstract painter, and graphic designer residing on the alluvial plain of the Sonoran Desert, in dry and dusty Tucson, Arizona’.

The title is a fitting summary of the album, both its input and outputs, and the lived experience of listening to the thirteen pieces, which are as much collages as compositions.

As the liner notes explain, ‘Each track illuminates fragments of memory and speech, as they wander out of focus in the growing aperture of time.’

As such, each piece is formed, sculpted and layered, from an array of sounds and sources, snippets, and scatterings, fleeting and ephemeral; chiming notes ring out over soft washes, sporadic glops and plops, like drops of water falling in a cave, overlaid with brief fragments of voices. On ‘Everybody is Out to Get You’, those voices slow, distort, blur, into a nightmarish nagging. It drags on the psyche, against a skittering, jarring backdrop what warps and tugs unsettlingly, and makes for awkward, queasy listening.

Neuro… No Neuro’s own comments on the album’s formulation and function bring us closer to the heart of the state of confusion it creates, explaining, “Each track shares the ‘fragments’ of speech/memory, the growing aperture of time and loss of thought. While forming sentences via type has not declined (because there is time available), speech and recollection are steadily decaying into simplified phrases and poor playback for quick address.’

As William Burroughs said, the function of writing is to ‘make us aware of what we know and don’t know we know’, and this was particularly pertinent in the context of the cut-up texts he produced, essentially collages of other texts designed to recreate the real-time experience of memory and sensory awareness, and the simultaneity of events. We do not live in linear time; we experience multiple sensations simultaneously; thoughts, sounds, conversations, things happening around us all occur on the same timeline, in layers, and our memories record these experiences. This is the sensation that Neuro… No Neuro recreates with Faces & Fragments, from the stop start jittering of ‘Slice of Mind’, to the trickling sedation of ‘And the Energy Goes Back to the Ground’.

The faces blur into anonymity after a while; people look alike and are strange or strangely familiar, and things can get confusing after a while. Faces & Fragments may not – and probably doesn’t sound just like your internal monologue or the soundtrack to your life, but structurally, the resemblances are clear once you step back and reflect. Our thoughts are a jumble of intrusions and overlaps, with memories and recollections triggered by the most random associations and events, sometimes with seemingly no trigger at all, and all flitting through at the same time as you’re watching TV or scrolling through social media shit on your phone as messages and emails ping in and there are conversations and the radio or TV is dribbling away while dinner’s bubbling away in the oven. Life never stops: it happens constantly and all at once, overlapping, overwhelming. Faces & Fragments is a slice of life.

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Powdered Hearts – 25th December 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

I vowed not to cover anything Christmas-related, simply because, well, because, and also because fuck it. Christmas releases tend to be mawkish, and / or shitty cash-ins, which I have simply no time for, and even a general distain. Charity fundraisers are laudable, although in a just world there should be no need for them because ultimately the state should be supporting the needy and vulnerable without musicians, most of who make next to nothing from their art, having to donate their small royalty fees to food banks and the like. Christmas sucks on so many levels that it’s an essay or even a book in its own right, but this perhaps isn’t the place to begin expounding any of that.

But here we are, and here I am making an exception, and for what I feel to be the right reasons, with the additional bonus that this is no crappy cash-in, and no motive beyond itself.

The prodigiously prolific Gintas K celebrated Christmas unconventionally with yet another release, this time in the form of a Christmas treat entitled Christmas Till The End. With five tracks in all, which are mostly shorter pieces, apart from the twelve-minute title track, it’s quite a departure from much of his back-catalogue, not least of all some of his experimental digital explosions of recent years which have seen him move from microtonal explorations to squelch-laden sonic chaos delivered by means of some nifty software run though an ancient Lenovo Thinkpad (something I have infinite respect for: so many musos have state of the art hardware, while I’ve discovered for myself that reconditioned corporate laptops even from a decade ago have better specs and are built more sturdily than the majority of consumer-orientated laptops). Whatever the sonic differences, though, he’s maintained the same process, namely recording each track live in a single take with no overdubs.

Christmas Till The End may not be the frenzied digitised froth of recent releases, whereby GK simply blasts out various strains of laptop-generated whirring, blooping, crackling noise, and you couldn’t exactly call it a conventional Christmas album, or a celebration of the festive season, either. It’s more of an assemblage of elements of Christmas collaged, crossed out, crunched together.

If the first track, ‘Bah’, perhaps speaks for itself, ‘Für Elise’ presents a picture that highlights the complexities of Gintas’ work. It features Beethoven’s ‘Bagatelle No. 25 in A Minor’ (aka ‘Für Elise’) and mangles the absolute fuck out of it, because it’s a Gintas K digital mess mash-up. There’s no overt or explicit statement here but trashing the piece feels more like a desecration of the Christmas spirit than a celebration, an act of destruction that feels wonderfully irreverent and more than just a little cathartic in context. It is, also, an ultimately avant-garde act of destruction, in keeping with the principle of destroying the old to build anew. Here, Gintas renders that destruction performative, integral to the form and content.

‘Hymn Lithuania’, at first, does sound overtly Christmassy: a rendition of the Lithuanian national anthem on a glockenspiel, the notes ring out, chiming, bell-like and charming. But after about a minute, it begins to degrade and disintegrate as extraneous noise, feedback and bleeping whistles begin to disrupt the tranquillity, while the delicate piano of ‘vivaLIDL spring’ is ruptured by bomb-like detonations and the clatter and thud of descending rubble. If I’m not mistaken (and I may well be), a corruption of Vivaldi’s ‘Spring’ played at about a quarter pace provides the backdrop to this grim scene; you can almost picture the pianist playing, the film in slow motion, while the building collapses in flame around him. The wordplay is also worth noting – I’m assuming LIDL is bigger in Lithuania than Aldi, as VivALDI would have been the most seamless pun by which to highlight the commercialism of the season.

The title track wraps it all up nicely, and ventures closer to K’s whiplash blizzard off whirrs and bleeps, although in a relatively restrained form, whereby the discombobulating discord whirs and warps over delicately chiming tones. As things slowly disintegrate – both on the album and in the real world, it feels more like Christmas for the end: this is the soundtrack to the decline. May the end come soon.

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Cruel Nature Records – 3rd December 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

This is one of those albums where the approach to its creation is based around process and technical elements, and the title is not an abstract concept, but precisely the theme around which those technical aspects are centred. Specifically, as the accompanying notes explain, the album uses ‘a custom tuning system’ ‘based upon multiplications of the frequency of the human heart whilst sleeping’.

Or, indeed, not sleeping, as we learn of the composer’s own battles with ‘extreme sleep loss – waking as often as every 15 minutes throughout the night for a period of almost 3 years’ and how ‘the work encapsulates the haze of the perpetual tired’.

It’s relatable, as a near-lifelong insomniac myself, with my sleeping difficulties beginning at the age of five. And not sleeping is both traumatic and debilitating, and sleep deprivation can do awful things to the mind. The paranoia and hallucinations are real. ‘The Cats are Hiding and So Am I’ is a title that hints at this disconnection from the world that goes beyond the mind.

And so The Frequency Of The Heart At Rest is a curious compilation of sounds and sources, fleeting flickers of extranea in the mix beside powerful strings and dramatic drones, at times bordering on neoclassical, others something more industrial, others still folksy, and yet others still approaching ambience. In drawing on an array of sources, and then adapting and mutating them by means of overlays, adjustments of tape speed, this is very much a collage work, and the meticulous attention to detail – the way the sounds interact with one another, the slowing and the reverberations that contrive to create a rare and unique depth and density – is clearly the work of an artist who’s at once focused to the point of obsession, but also has found that point of detachment whereby the creation of such art becomes possible.

The result is incredibly powerful, in that it speaks to those who have occupied this space, where sleep and waking merge into a continuously blurry, bleary, fugue-like state. At times wistful, melancholic, or reflective in a more uplifting way, and yet at others bleak, The Frequency Of The Heart At Rest feels very much like an exploration, a work which strives to navigate this semi-real, half-lives, partially-cognisant existence.

‘6am, The Bathroom, Screaming’ is dark, ominous, heavy beats echo thunderously and captures the essence of the album, and the experience perfectly. No explanation as to why, what, if any story there is behind it, and it may be that the reason is unknown, but the piece transitions from bleak claustrophobia through a spell of ambient tranquillity before blossoming into a passage of soaring, string-led post rock with conventional percussion. The head is not so much a shed, as a cavern of chaos. The whiplash static storm of ‘The Hallways at Home’ is a synapse-blitzing crackle of electricity and fizz of pink noise over which gusts of nuclear wind drift with a desert emptiness. ‘Mealtimes at the Madhouse’ is Chris and Cosey in collision with Nine Inch Nails, a disorientating and hypnotic sketch built around a pulsing synth bass and thudding beat, while the final track, ‘Psalm of the Sleepless Child’ is an extended composition of dark shuffling and rumblings: it’s bleak, and feels very much like the soundtrack to being lost in an anxiety dream from which you can’t wake up, before veering into very different and positively Krautrock territory.

The Frequency Of The Heart At Rest is by no means restful, but is a work of rare intensity, one that prompts palpitations through its woozy, off-kilter other-worldly disorientations. It’s a restless jumble of tension and fatigue, where nothing makes sense, and it’s truly wonderful.

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Fabrique Records – 18th June 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Berlin-based composer and sound artist Jana Irmert has approached her third album for Fabrique with a view to exploring the way in which sounds have a certain sensory aspect. There’s a way in which music touches us, not just aurally, nor emotionally: some music you really do feel. Beyond music at the louder, harsher end of the spectrum – be it electronic or more conventional in its instrumentation, this is something that is perhaps more common to experimental forms, where contrasting sounds and the shapes and textures of those sounds are more the focus than the unity of a collection of instruments for create ‘songs’.

Articulating how music makes you feel is one challenge, but articulating how music itself feels – or moreover, how the sounds themselves feel – is an immense challenge. Because writing, like any other art, can often reveal its authors limitations, however well they’re working. Every artist has their own personal limitation. Francis Bacon was unable to paint feet, for example. The greatest limitation is invariably the disparity between concept and execution, and often, for musicians, it’s articulating the sound in their head using actual instruments – or, if not articulating the sound, conveying complex emotions through the medium of sound.

Jana Irmert’s challenge here was to render one sensation through another. “I felt I wanted to get closer to the sounds, feel their structure and surface and how they contrast each other,” she says. And, during the process, her recordings yielded some quite unexpected results: “It turned out the processed sounds resulting from hard materials would often have soft and tonal qualities whereas those made from ‘soft’ materials like water or air would ultimately be of percussive or harsh and noisy character.”

The opening bars of the first piece, ‘Lament’, are unexpectedly dense and heavy, a rugged, grainy tone that grinds from the speakers before slowly tapering down to something rather more tranquil, yet draped with the weight of melancholy. Moving into ‘Against Light’, Irmert creates a much more upbeat ambience, a shimmering, shuffling stuttering of sound, and it’s gentle, but not entirely calming or comforting, like being stuck in a tractor beam, a glitching loop that affords no forward trajectory.

With the sounds of the sea, the title track initially seems like it will fulfil the description, offering something soft, soothing, immersive. But as layers build, darker sounds clunk and rumble and loom and lurk in thickening shadows.

There is a certain sense of progression over the course of the eight compositions, with more percussive sounds coming increasingly to the fore. In doing so, the album gradually moves from intangible to something altogether more substantial, its physicality developing an almost corporeal tangibility.

Listening to The Soft Bit, one feel as though one is somehow in nature, and surrounded by nature, from the clouds, and the air – invisible, yet capable of substantial force when moving as a wind – to solid objects – stones, trees, the ground beneath the feet. Listen, inhale it all in, and feel it flow.

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Bankrecords – blank037 – 12th March 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

In his everyday work, Tobias Vethake composes music for theatres, installations, radio plays, television and film, and while also participating in various collaborative projects, including Mini Pops Junior, his primary outlet for his experimental explorations is Sicker Man. With electric cello at the heart of the compositions, Vethake incorporates myriad additional sound sources and draws on a vast cultural spectrum spanning jazz and industrial, from east and from west to forge expansive and quite intense works of range and depth.

Like Jo Quail, Vethake plays the cello in ways that rarely sound recognisably cello-like: it’s apparent that the instrument’s versatility is severely underrated. So while there are certainly orchestral elements present on Dialog, it’s by no means an overtly orchestral album, and by absolutely no means an overtly ‘cello’ album. It’s more of an abstract, ambient, (post) rock work. Moreover, collaboration has a way of drawing different ideas and methods out of artists, with the potential to realise works which are infinitely greater than the sum of the parts, the product of the ‘third mind’, if you will.

Dialog contains a collection of pieces recorded in collaboration with different artists – all improvised and unarranged. The dialogs therefore represent the musical exchanges between the musicians in the moment as they respond, spontaneously and intuitively, to one another, often as they meet and ‘converse’ for the first time.

The album’s first track, ‘dialog with Manuel Klotz’ begins with a weaving air of eastern mysticism (a Turkish marriage orchestra Tobias would pass as they played on his way to the sessions), and I’m reminded of the Master Musicians of Joujouka, only with more prominent percussion – but before long, a yawning swell of noise engulfs it, the wave finally breaking to a heavy tidal drone with an instant beat. Eventually, everything collapses to a buzzing drone.

Each piece has its own distinctive style, indicating not only the merits of what each collaborator brings, but also Sicker Man’s versatility. There’s a swampy swagger to the piece recorded with Lip Smh, where drill-like drone buzzes vibrate against serpentine scales that twist enigmatically into a desert haze.

Aidan Baker gets everywhere, and here he is bringing brooding shadows of melancholy the a mournfully lugubrious piece, which is, for my money, one of the standouts. Of the others, there are lengthy passages of gentle, abstract ambience in succession, but the dialog with Kiki Bohemia brings all the dingy bass, as well as all the shimmering space-rock synths, while Scheider TM goes all out on the electro pulsations. Clocking in at over nine and a half minutes, it makes for one mighty finale, building into an immense wall of overdriven guitar that’s absolutely crushing in its weight and density. It has the elements of Earth 2 and Sunn O))), but played at pace, a swirling black metal vortex of overloading distortion. It’s absolutely punishing, and its relentless.

After the curious journey that is the rest of Dialogs, this is just a devastating finisher. There is nowhere to go from here, other than to turn out the light and stare at the ceiling.

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MC/free iOS app Langham Research Centre LRC001

7th December 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

My last encounter with Langham Research Centre was 2017’s Tape Works Vol 1, an experimental set that evoked the spirit of William Burroughs while also being littered with references to JG Ballard which inevitably piqued my interest. However, on the arrival of Quanta / Signal / Noise, I discover that both a remix of Tape Works Vol 1 as well as Tics and Ampersands and the spectacularly mundane yet dauntingly postmodern-sounding Gateshead Multi-storey Car Park, both released in 2018 had bypassed me.

Quanta / Signal / Noise, a work in four parts seems to offer a fair – and welcome – point at which to reconvene with Langham Research Centre. the press release forewarns of ‘a shift away from the conventional building blocks of music: notes and harmony and rhythms that are mapped onto a grid of steady pulse. Instead, the focus is on a fascination with sound itself; with its unfolding textures, shapes, energies and dynamics’. So far, so much standard avant-garde / experimental fare.

The release contains four tracks, in the form of versions 1 to 4 of ‘Quanta / Signal / Noise’, each of which has a duration of four minutes and thirty-four seconds, two of which were composed by Iain Chambers, and two of which were composed by Robert Worby. ‘Version’ is a misnomer: none of the pieces bear any real resemblance to one another, ranging from heavy discordant clunks and thunks to fizzing circuitry and erratic bleepery, with woozy atmospherics, warped chatter of multiple simultaneous conversations and deep, dark, ominous undercurrents. Explosions shattering plate glass windows behind real-time running documentaries collide simultaneously with birdsong and erratic levels of volume. It’s an interesting sonic collage, but, one might say, largely of its type.

But there’s more to this than immediately meets the ear, as in addition to the standard audio release, there’s an iOS app, ‘Langham Research Centre variPlay: Quanta / Signal / Noise’, produced and developed in collaboration with London College of Music at the University of West London, which presents an interactive version of the release. The pitch is that it may be thought of as ‘experimental cinema for the ear or maybe a tool for dynamic sound painting [which] follows in the musical tradition established by composers, specifically in the middle of the 20th century, when sound recording became widely available… In the app version, by playing with these sonic materials, imaginary auditory landscapes may be created. Sonic narratives, with expressive moods, unfold before the ears and mobile, fluid sound canvases can be brushed and sketched and collaged.’

Such interactivity may not be wholly new, but still, to break the third wall in such a way becomes rare, and inviting the audience to become the artist radically alters the dynamic of the relationship not only between the artist and audience, but also audience and material. The material ceases to be something the audience ‘receives’, but instead repositions the audience as part of the art ad its creation. That breaking down of boundaries utterly transforms the experience of reception. It is quite possible that the concept is more exciting than the reality, but then, playing about with sound can be great fun. Unfortunately, the app only appears to be available for Apple / iPhone users, so I’m unable to confirm or comment either way.

The app version stands in extreme contrast to the physical release, on cassette, a format that was on the brink of obsolescence over twenty years ago, and yet is still going, albeit with a microniche market. The chances are half the interaction with the format involves a hexagonal pencil or a Bic biro.

Nevertheless, it’s an intriguing exercise to witness the evolution of interactive art that strives to question and to redefine the role or artist and audience, as well as the notion of the ‘finished’ or definitive artefact, making this more than just something to listen to, even if only conceptually and for a certain portion of the audience.

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Misanthropic Agenda – MAR056 – 4th December 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

It’s been a few years since I last engaged with Simon Whetham’s work, which at least up to a certain point had a certain preoccupation with geography, or least location. In a sense – albeit somewhat tenuous, that relationship to place remains as a backdrop of sorts to Forced to Repeat Myself, which documents a tour (remember those?) in 2018.

Perhaps the absence of touring has driven many artists to review their archival recordings, and on Forced to Repeat Myself, Whetham contemplates the way in which touring drives a tendency toward homogeneity in terms of the way each night’s performance is assembled. For rock bands and acts performing compositions of a fixed nature, this is part and parcel; the repetition of set lists and even, over time, between-piece patter and introductions. But for artists whose work is based on improvisation, repetition is undesirable – after all, at what point does repetition become something rehearsed and preplanned?

As the accompanying text observes, ‘One characteristic aspect of the touring experience that is not discussed often enough is the dilemma of repetition. Not repetition as a mechanism of the work itself, but as a tedious consequence of being obligated to perform night after night in quick succession. Generating a completely unique performance for each stop, even with the assistance of improvisation, is a laborious undertaking that consumes too much time and sanity, while adhering to a rigid set of rules leaves one open to both burnout and diminishing returns. Is there a way to split the difference so that both performer and audience are always engaged to the highest standard?’

And so this is the context for Forced to Repeat Myself. As a document, it’s a curious one, and it may or may not be ironic that the cover art for Whetham’s ‘live’ album is a photograph of a venue with rows of empty seats. If it was indeed shot at one of the shows where Whetham performed on said tour or any other (and the presence of a flipchart suggests otherwise), it was surely during soundcheck. But then, history can be subject to so many manipulations, and the time and space begins to flake over the passage of the latter… the relevance of the track titles is unclear: they’re not dates, and this is not some kind of aural tour diary. Nor are the tracks really the same. Yes, Whetham does revert to certain tones and textures as one would expect from the same equipment operated within a more or less predetermined set length.

Random is only so random, and external factors invariably influence and direct the shape of things. That said, the same performance is never the same performance: different venues of different shapes and sizes, the kit run through a different PA, different audience responses… Life in lockdown may feel like perpetual groundhog day, but the reality is that we never live the same moment twice. No-one is more acutely aware of this than Whetham himself when he comments, “In each situation objects and materials unique to the space were incorporated into the performance setup and structure, generating sounds or resonating with them. And yet I could hear similar scenes, movements, even spaces. This repetition determined the dynamic of the composition, working with it and against it.”

And so we return to geography, location, in the most immediate of contexts. And over the course of the album’s eight pieces, the identifiable repetitions are few, as the same sounds are reworked, remixed, reimagined, and with each manipulation, however subtle, they’re a step or phase away from their previous version.

But over the course of the album we’re reminded just how strong Whetham’s ear is for texture and tone, and there is a spectacular abundance of crackling overdoing distortion, groaning drones humming clicking, bangs and scrapes and minimal electronic sounds colliding and vibrating against one another – hard and violently. The absence of audience sound and the up-close fixing of circuits mean that this doesn’t feel or sound like a live album, but it is, every inch, a hard sonic challenge.

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Panurus Productions – 4th December 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Some of these experimentalists, they’re real buggers, you know. Awkward sods. Wilfully obtuse, intentionally unlistenable. Sindre Bjerga & Tanto sure as hell aren’t aiming for mass appeal on this absolute monster of a cassette release. In fact, I’d go so far as to suggest their primary goal is mass-alienation, because this is pretty fucking horrible. And it never stops.

Sindre Bjerga & Tanto’s collaboration contains two pieces which fill a C90. It’s an experimental mash-up, a cut-up, fold-in audio experiment that if not inspired by William Burroughs’ 1960s tape experiments, lots inevitably can be traced in terms of lineage and influence, conscious or otherwise. And for all the levity of the title, it makes for some seriously hard listening.

Amidst crackling fizz and stretched tape discord, there’s a warped, off-key rendition of ‘Don’t Cry for me, Argentina’, that’s buried in an underwater bubbling, a blur of blender nose and a mess of detuned radios. Shrieking feedback emerges and lingers on after grating clanks, and serrated droned, pulsing washed of analogue noise and sharp static blasts that cut through bubbling torrents and crude farting noises and a collage of contrasts and contradictions.

It becomes more challenging as it progresses: ‘Crashing Sonic Pepper Waves’ delves deeper under water and begins to take on the feel of a long underwater swim – the sound of a frenzied splash after being toppled overboard from a liner or destroyer. Beepling wipples fracture and disrupt a narrative of long, dark tones that rumble and scrape and intonate a truly post-industrial, post-apocalyptic soundscape – bleak, desolate, rusted, decayed.

If the first forty-five minutes feel like an endurance test then the second – ‘Tabasco Mist Prescription’ feels even more intensely so. What do you actually do with this? A masochist can enjoy it to an extent, and anyone with an appreciation of Throbbing Gristle and any of the myriad acts of all strains of genre style influenced by TG likewise. TG represent the closest reference here, with the heart of industrial music being less about the stylized appropriation of factory noise and the like than an attitude based on perversion of what was even considered ‘music’ delivered with a confrontational, antagonistic attitude – and Sneezing Waves From The Peppered Oceans is antagonistic, and then some.

35 minutes into ‘Crashing Sonic Pepper Waves’ is shrill blasts of treble are being amped up against all kinds of found-sound dissonance and difficulty, and it only gets messier, more brain-pulping with the messy murk of ‘Crashing Sonic Pepper Waves’. It’s unsettling, uncomfortable, and those are the compliments. It’s not even particularly dark, it’s just a nasty conglomeration of disparate sounds, collaged together to render something that’s uncomfortable, and never-ending, and quite enough to induce heartburn.

It’s good, but don’t expect to like it.

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MUZAI Records – 12th June 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Theo Gowans, aka Territorial Gobbing, is a frenzy of wild creativity at the best of times. Not only are his frequent live performances bewildering displays of manic energy and cacophonous noise, but his recorded output is less a constant stream than a relentless spate. He’s still doing posters and virtual gigs, but with no actual gigs to promote or do sound for, he’s seemingly got time on his hands which he’s filling with the production of even more intense noise than ever, and this collaboration with Newcastle artist Plastiglomerate is exemplary.

Packing five cuts of swirling sonic soup, a chaotic collage of samples, rolling tones and extraneous blasts of noise, it’s all churning like mad in kaleidoscopic postmodern blender. The first track, ‘Crocodile Mayonnaise’ chucks everything in up front, with clanking chimes and rattling cutlery and electronic foam and twanging elastic and just a completely brain-bending blizzard of random shit, and some extreme stereo panning only makes it more nausea-inducing.

It doesn’t get any easier or more accessible thereafter, with the ten-minute ‘Government Gloves’ being an utterly head-shredding stuttering blast of noise that surges and splurges so hard and so fast as to cause whiplash. The question is, of course, is it really 10 minutes and 43 seconds long, or is it 643 seconds long? Or do we count left and right channels separately, making it 1,286 seconds long? Or should we also include the tracks either side, or the soundchecks and outtakes in that statistic? Should we amplify it by the frequency range? I have no answers. I have no thoughts. I have too many thoughts, all of them conflicting, none of them coherent. In that context, The Internet Made Me Parkour is a perfect soundtrack.

Lockdown – and moreover, the circumstances surrounding it, and the (mis)management of information in an already difficult situation – is enough to drive anyone round the bend. These guys were already several corners further on than many, and this weird, whacky wig-out is perhaps as sane as response to life as it is right now as any: certainly, ‘Total Lobby’ is total nonsense, but makes perfect sense if you’re looking to purge your brain of everything else, and the obliterative blast of white noise that is the final track, ‘A Generous Fly on that Mascot’s Outfit’ is cleansing: it’s impossible to consider anything while the inside if your cranium is being scoured by such abrasion. No-one knows what the fuck is going on: every message is scrambled, and you can’t trust anything – certainly not your government, and probably not even your instincts. But you can trust these guys to make a crazy racket. And we love them for it.

AA

TG