Posts Tagged ‘Cronica’

Crónica 138 – 6th February 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

Mark E Smith has died. It shouldn’t come as a surprise. In fact, the surprise should be that he didn’t die sooner. But I can’t help but be shaken by the news. It doesn’t feel appropriate to post any music reviews: my social media streams are aclog with tributes to Smith, and it feels wrong even to add to the noise. Part of me feels I should revisit a slew of the old favourites, but they’re so engrained in my mind, I don’t really need to hear them, especially not now.

And so I immerse myself in Témoins, the latest offering from Mathias Delplanque, whose work I’ve previously enjoyed. The three sections of Témoins (including the digital bonus track ‘TU)’ are a world away from the ramshackle three-chord stomps and lyrical derangements of The Fall: these instrumental works – sound collages laid over difficult hums and drones – present a very different kind of abstraction. And it reminds me, vitally, that life goes on. Music goes on.

The sparse arrangements – often, they barely feel like arrangements – are as much about space and silence as sound. The sounds – the whirrs, the drones, he hums, the hisses – are interrupted, disrupted, broken – by seemingly random elements. Birdsong, lowing cattle, slamming doors, clatters and bangs, thumps and crackles. These are amidst the irregular extranea which form the fabric of the material of Témoins.

The atmosphere shifts and moods emerge most unexpectedly from seemingly innocuous sound pairings and juxtapositions. Late in the second piece, ‘Bruz’, thin, tentative notes hover long in the air, needling the senses while unexpected bumps and knocks at close proximity are enough to make you jump. Muffled conversation carries on all around. Here, Delplanque expertly recreates the conditions and sensations of the anxiety of agoraphobia. It grows chill, and it’s difficult to not feel tense are wary. On ‘TU’ – by far the shortest piece running for less than ten minutes – a ghostly piano drifts into the damp air while scraping footfalls combine to create an unsettling, spine-tingling atmosphere.

With Témoins, Mathias Delplanque delivers an hour of understated yet quietly compelling ambient dissonance.

AA

Crónica138_front

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Crónica – 10th January 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

In the sphere of experimental and what one may reasonably term ‘fringe’ music, there is something of a propensity for descriptive titles. I’m quite a fan of these kinds of titles. Picking up Exercises in Modular Synthesis and Field Recording, I have a reasonable idea of what to expect. Granted, there’s no detail as to how these elements manifest sonically, I know I’m not going to get black metal or orchestral pop.

Smolders likens his process to that of the calligrapher, working with speed and precision. Operating with minimal interference or reworking once the process is under way, he is, he says, guided by the flow and the ‘here’ and ‘now’.

‘Incident at Ras Oumlil’ is constructed primarily from long, low rumbling drones interspersed with clicks and fizzy bursts of static. Voices rise; the words inaudible, but the tones of the clamourous crowd conveys a sense of agitation. Introducing an element of wordplay which reminds us that even nowhere is somewhere and is located temporally in time and space even if not geographically, ‘NowHere’ approximates the sounds of engines; trains and planes and whistling lasers. It’s evocative of something, but something so vague as to be an empty vessel from which echoes notions of travel, departure, passing through. We’re here, now, but where is here and when is now? Counterpart and companion piece, ‘NoWhere’ is barely there for the most part, with delicate chimes and rings hovering on the fringes of audibility, gradually building in its tonal range and density. The seventeen-minute ‘Up, Up and Back to 1982’ deals in sonic abstractions, shimmery analogue bleeps and twitters flit through a composition which transitions through a succession of seemingly independent segments.

These are sparsely arranged pieces, with emphasis on tone, texture and above all, space. Wibbly oscillations funnel between screeding noise, feedback and distortion. Slow, atmospheric swirls drift blankly against a backdrop off hums and crackles. At times manifesting as a sound which approximates little more than the rumble of a vinyl groove, at others bursting with sound on sound, Nowhere is attentively executed with a rare precision, navigating a route through a succession of temporo-spatial zones which linger long in the mind.

 

Jos Smolders - Nowhere

Crónica – CRÓNICA109

Given Ran Slavin’s broad artistic pursuits, which span video installation, sound and film, and his far-reaching interests which manifest in the exploration of the tensions between opposites, Bittersweet Melody is something of a summation of his preoccupations.

Just as ‘bittersweet’ is one of those words that encapsulates contradiction and juxtaposition, so Slavin’s latest album is built on contrasting sounds and forms. Culled and curated from pieces of work from Slavin’s archives and a release from over a decade ago, the material which comprises Bittersweet Melodies has been disassembled, reassembled and generally re-rendered.

A mellow organic drone hovers and hums through ‘Saturday’s Dress’, but the ambience is disrupted by very mechanical-sounding pings and spring and microtonal bleeps by way of irregular rhythms. A repetitive thrumming hum provides the framework for the minimal yet dense and sinister ambient hip-hop of ‘Category: Murdered Entertainers’, with distant snippets of exotica adding a heightened sense of the unfamiliar to its curious texture. Elsewhere, polyrhythmic percussion collides with stuttering trip-hop beats and eastern-flavoured scales entwine luscious soundtrack strings. Frenetic drum ‘n’ bass ballasts against shimmering electronic froth and looped vocal fragments wash in and out of rumbling scrapes, fear chords, dissonance and a rich soup of sound from all corners of the globe and of the recesses of the mind. Woozy ambience and glitchtronica waft into passages dominated by dank pulsations and murky, shadowy shapes.

The fragments evoke neither nostalgia nor excitement, but a sense of displacement, or alienation. How else does one respond to pan-cultural motifs overlaid and strewn with dancehall music and digital blips but with a sense of vague bewilderment? Slavin does not contrive to create a typical collage mash-up: Bittersweet Melodies is something altogether more subtle in many respects. Moreover, the contrasts and oppositions are moulded and melted into one another to as to become complimentary. Strange, disorientating and uncomfortable, with a lot happening simultaneously, but complimentary nevertheless.

 

 

Ran Slavin

 

Ran Slavin Online

Cronica – CRONICA 111

James Wells

The sixteenth album from @C, like its predecessor Ab Ovo, began as a soundtrack for puppet theatre play Agapornis, inspired by the life and works of Anais Nin, and as such, has nothing to do with the kind of Three-Body Problem Elton John has. It also isn’t a soundtrack album per se: the soundtrack was rewritten after the play’s premiere, and as such, Three-Body Problem is a satellite work which evolved from the original concept.

So, what is the problem around the three bodies? It transpires there are in fact two distinct but related problems: the first descends directly from the production of the play itself, which is centred around two main characters, played by puppets, and a third character with several spoken lines, played by an actor. The challenge of representing the characters in sound was core to the development of the album, the actor being replaced by musicians.

And then there was the process of developing the album itself, from the initial soundtrack, through the album, to a third, ongoing process, of creating video pieces to accompany the album’s tracks. As such, the problem is concerned with both physical bodies and with body of work.

The nine pieces are sparse, static crackles, hisses and fizzing sounds spin in co-ordinates around dank, gloopy bass rumbles. Creating a spooky kind of ambience, it’s darkly atmospheric, ominous and unsettling. Toward the end, trumpet squawks and honks add additional texture and discord, and introduce further contrast to the squeaks and scrapes which flitter and twitter. The final track marks a change of direction, drifting toward the horizon on a wash of delicately strummed harp chords which ultimately evaporates in a wash of noise, far removed from the original starting point.

It’s this gradual, subtle progression that proves to be the album’s ultimate success, because it’s a work that confounds the expectations it sets. Intriguing and quietly compelling, the problem is solved.

https://player.vimeo.com/video/161043546

TRANSCENDENCE 115 from Lia on Vimeo.

 

Three Body

Crónica – Crónica 105 – 8th March 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

It’s not a criticism to state that oftentimes, the material on Roha feels more like a collection of sounds than a succession of actual compositions. There’s a certain randomness about the sounds, which range from clanking, arrhythmic percussive sounds, squeaks, tweets and flutters, groans and drones and distant, barely audible and completely indecipherable speech. There are rhythmic elements, but these are more emergent than overt or focal to the eight pieces. The listener is likely to find themselves pondering the connections between the sounds, or subconsciously creating, ways on which they relate to one another, the ways that certain juxtapositions affect the effect of the individual sounds.

Often delicate, subtle and quiet, if not exactly calming, there are passages which build from nowhere to great sonic density. ‘tuul’ brings great hefts of doomy overdriven noise that could as easily be a sludgy guitar as a synth sound, and is more metal than ambient, and elsewhere, the tropes of traditional folk music drift into the album’s eclectic sonic pallet. Trobollowitsch is something of a magpie, and while it would be a mistake to suggest he takes from a range of sources indiscriminately, there is a very strong sense of organicness and fluidity in the way he treats the material assembled here.

The overarching mood of the album is dark and sombre, with the funereal ‘ssbeat’ sounding a dolorous death knell, but Trobollowitsch manages to avoid creating a work that’s completely oppressive. It’s a form that takes a little acclimatisation, but in its ever-changing nature Roha is an album that deserves exploration.

Roha

Andreas Trobollowitsch Online

Crónica – Crónica 103 – February 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

Simon Whetham has a considerable history of taking sound recordings – often environmental sounds – and working them into something unrecognisable, by means of various sonic and software mutations. Against Nature emerged from an exploration of what Whetham describes as ‘errors and failures’, using ‘badly built microphones, over-burdened amplifiers, motors driven by sound impulses, misbehaving software and objects toppling’ as part of an organic process. The album is in many ways accidental in nature, the end product determined more by the material than the artist. It could be seen, in some respects, as a project of artistic self-erasure. This album may bear Simon Whetham’s name, but his function here is as a conduit, more of an editor than an author of the work.

Against Nature may only contain five tracks, but the tracks are both lengthy and intense. Screeding noise sustains interminably, piercing tones that aren’t drones but something altogether more serrated. Pink noise switches to white noise. Hums crackle, fizz and whizz and gradually build to immense, barrelling walls of noise that suck the listener into an immersion tank of sound. The quieter passages lull the listener’s senses, a gentle breeze and the occasional clanking of what sounds like a yak’s bell evoke almost pastoral images, before once again building sonorous, scraping tension that creeps and swells. Metallic clattering grinds like a cement mixer. Blasts of static and white noise tear through silence.

The five movements of Against Nature are not rhythmic in their formation, and are free of anything one might refer to strictly as percussion. Primarily, it’s a work of tonal exploration, as sounds bend and bow against one another, straining and generating sonic frictions, but beneath it all, there are natural – or unnatural – resonances, pulsations, which form their own subtle rhythms. And these resonate biologically, psychologically, rubbing with and against the brain-waves and gnawing away, prodding the nerve-endings and ultimately working their way under the skin.

 

Simon Whetham - Against

 

Simon Whetham Online