Posts Tagged ‘Editions Mego’

Editions Mego – EMEGO305 – 28th June 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

BJ Nilsen’s focus has long been the ‘sound of nature, the nature of sound and the effects these have on humans’, and his exploratory collages and soundscapes tend to draw of field recordings and myriad other sources to create often contrasting, and dissonant works, and Irreal is very much dissonant and contrasting, with moments of tranquillity and subtle, quivering elongated drones disrupted by battering blasts of difficult noise.

The liner notes outline how ‘Irreal is a selection of recordings from different situations encountered in Austria, Russia, South Korea and The Benelux. The range of sound is as wide as is the emotional impact which slides from the unnerving to the shimmering and gor- geous. Doors, bells, birds, wet snow falling from a tree, hacking of wood, water dripping in a cave are all exquisitely captured and moulded into vast landscapes of sound. Human voices, string instruments, descending trains, oceans, winds, grass, trees. These diverse sonic elements are grafted around and upon each other to create a rich tapestry of sound. Electronic embellishments harness the whole to create a singular expressive canvas. The 3 part suite concludes with the Beyond pebbles, rubble and dust, a grand glacial work which serves as a masterclass in extraordinary transcendental drone.’

I’m instantly primed for some challenging scraping drones as the first few seconds of ‘Short Circuit of the Conscious Thought’ build tense, treble scratches, and am immediately puzzled when it halts and there are just clicks in silence. It’s as if the file has inexplicably glitched. From the quiet, a trilling, rippling drone emerges and hangs like a haze – but that smooth stillness carries a tension, which ruptures with distortion and bands like a dozen car doors slamming simultaneously, and at the most unexpected of times. In the final minutes, it evolves into a slow-pulsing minimal ambient Krautrock sequence reminiscent of Tangerine Dream.

Rumbling thunder cracks and crackles all around at the start of ‘Motif Mekanik’, and it booms and grumbles all around a low, ominous drone, and the track is a tumbling tempest of amorphous noise like a raging storm circling and hovering, drifting back and forth, and it’s unsettling. The contrast of the sounds of the elements and the metallic scrape of the eternal drone is perhaps the most obvious way in which Nilsen highlights the relationship between nature and humans, the man-made and the organic. It also intimates the tensions at the heart of that relationship, as strains of ear-splitting feedback cut through the murk and mumble, and it segues quietly into the expansive final composition, the monumental thirty-eight minute ‘Beyond Pebbles, Rubble, and Rust’ – and I know ‘immersive’ is a word I probably use excessively, but it’s entirely appropriate as I find myself swimming amidst the thick, slow—moving sounds of the piece.

Lazy bleeps, like R2D2 on a low battery or the Clangers on ketamine bibble into the mix, before fading out to a drifting mist of dark rumblings that present not immediate routes into the heart of dark mass, only an impenetrable mass of sound, like a mountain rising to the heavens, its summit hidden by a low cloud base. A low bass registers almost subliminally, a single note repeated slow and regular, booming out dolorously. Not a lot happens over a very long time, but the effect is cumulative, and as you sit and stare while the drones and spectral wails of ambience envelop, you find yourself in contemplation and searching for the meaning.

There are all shades of reality, spanning the unreal and the hyperreal. But the irreal is not real. However, where the irreal is distinct from unreal lies in the perception – not just something unreal, but estranged and otherly. In drawing on so many found sounds and field recordings, Nilsen’s album is in fact rooted in the tangibly real, bur recontextualises it, shifting the axes so as to present that reality through the filter of human intervention and incongruity, and as such, distorts that reality to present an interpretation which in turn becomes a fiction and therefore not real, or irreal.

As the rain hammers outside on this early July night, following a day of heavy storms, it occurs to me that what Nilsen articulates through his sonic juxtapositions, is that the relationship between human and nature is precarious: we, as a species, are not nature’s friends, and that progress is disruptive and often damaging – and it’s the human way to command, control, and harness nature for our own ends. But that superiority is an illusion, a delusion, and humanity will always be at nature’s mercy. The relationship is not interdependent or symbiotic, and we need the natural world , whereas it does not need us. In time, we may reach a point where our planet is uninhabitable to us, and to many other species, but it will exist long after we have ceased to, just as it did before. Darkness descends, and at the close, the album tapers to silence – and this is as it will be.

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Editions Mego – EMEGO298 – 16th April 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

As the title perhaps suggests, Cylene Suisse Redux is a document of the tour of Switzerland undertaken by François J. Bonnet and Stephen O’Malley in December 2019, following the release of their first album, Cylene. That said, it’s no straight live recording, as the two longform tracks – naturally corresponding with a side of vinyl or cassette each – were edited and manipulated respectively by Jim O’Rourke and Ryoji Ikeda, ‘giving them carte blanche, and each in turn chose a distinct personal approach’.

The two musicians chose to entrust sound material recorded on the tour to the expert ears of two friends and great musicians Jim O’Rourke and Ryoji Ikeda, giving them carte blanche, and each in turn chose a distinct personal approach.

For Ryoji Ikeda, it was a question of finding a moment, circumscribing a fragment of time through his listening, with minimal intervention. For Jim O’Rourke, on the other hand, the live recordings became material to be deconstructed and reassembled, to tell, according to his musical sensibility, a path of metamorphosis for Bonnet and O’Malley’s music.

According to the press release, ‘Cylene Suisse Redux is a prismatic substrate of a series of concerts surrounded by friendship, lakes, mountains, and by nightfall’. But how does that translate as a listening experience?

O’Rourke conjures an ominous sci-fi soundscape, abrim with other-worldly odyssey, as spooky-sounding mid—range drones hover and twist in a haze of reverb. This is the sinister soundtrack to a sinister movie set in a barren wasteland in an alien climate, as clouds of red dust drift through the thin, inhospitable atmosphere. Something is awry: danger is omnipresent, and anything could happen at any moment. Sonorous tones echo out into the emptiness, accentuating the bleakness of the sonic expanse in which we find ourselves. There is nowhere to hide, and there is nothing solid or familiar, only an ever-shifting drift of layer upon layer of sound without and signposts or markers, nothing to orientate oneself with. You feel isolated, alone, exposed, vulnerable, as you advance, with trepidation, onwards through this nerve-jangling eighteen minutes.

Ryoji Ikeda’s approach is quite different, and so is the end result, which starts out like a distant freight trail screeching to a halt with the scrape of metal upon metal, and it continues far off in the background as insistent drones, broad and bulbous, hover and turn, twist and whine, evolving over time. This is more what you might consider ‘typical’ ambient drone, favouring neither lightness nor darkness, and with neither a leaning toward bass not treble, and therefore not challenging and sensory aspect too hard. It’s still ominous in places, but not overtly unsettling or uncomfortable. Because there’s some sense of linear trajectory, it growls louder and darker as it progresses, swelling in volume and intensity, while the soft-edged drones develop sharper edges and become increasingly shrill, howling dissonance and pain before gradually tapering down, albeit with some afterburn.

You’re left wandering, aimless, vacant, in no-man’s land, wondering precisely how you should feel and how you should react to what you’ve just heard – and that’s as it should be. François J. Bonnet and Stephen O’Malley create music without boundaries or definition, and that indistiction is further accentuated by O’Rourke and Ikeda. It’s for the listener to do the work, to explore and to find the points of resonance. There is much space to explore. Go forth.

Editions Mego/Cave12  – 8th January 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

There’s a heavy air of finality about this release, encapsulated simply and plainly and unemotively in the title. Mika Vainio, best known as one half of Pan Sonic, produced a quite remarkable body of work under various guises and through numerous noteworthy collaborations, before his death, age 53, in April 2017. Last Live is a document of his final live performance, recorded on 2 February 2017 at Cave12, in Geneva. This is by no means a cash-in release or some poor-taste milking of the vaults.

As the liner notes recount, ‘we needed time to listen to this archive again, which we did in situ in June 2020 with Cindy Van Acker. After this listening, we felt invested in having to make this archive public.’ And instead of just banging it out, Editions Mego invested in making it fit the format, with Carl Michael von Hausswolff to do the mixing, and the recording was organized in 4 movements, with Stephen O’Malley involved in the pre-edit process and the legendary. Denis Blackham doing the mastering. This was, of course, necessary, in order to fit the double-LP format, and each segment spans between ten and nineteen minutes to cover the full hour-long set, which begins as a low, oscillating hum.

The drone goes on through the duration of ‘Movement 1’: indeed, it’s almost torturous after a mere five minutes, and we’re reminded early on that Vainio’s reputation was not based on his commercial appeal. Eventually, the hum halts and is replaced by a low-level throbbing, and a softer tone, before plunging into a drone of ow-level murk that one feels more than hears.

There are breaks in the ever-shifting sonic blanket pitched forth by Vainio, and the near-silent spells don’t correspond with the lulls between tracks as you might expect – but then, on the CD, the tracks beleed together anyway, giving a true sense of the set as a continuous piece, and a performance that explores tonality and texture, as well as frequency and dynamics.

There’s no question that this performance was loud: circuits creak, wail, and scream in a bulldozering barrage of grinding earthworking sound, a nuclear wind in the middle of a construction site drilling through the mantle to the earth’s core. But Vainio also ventures effortlessly into quieter, more tranquil bywaters, as well as bringing it down into semi-ambient territory.

At times, it hurts. The density is just bewildering, and twelve minutes into ‘Movement 2’ when everything starts to overload, it’s tempting just to lie down and stare at the ceiling muttering ‘holy fuck.’ When the sound really starts to crescendo, it’s a brutal, speaker shredding wall of noise, and it’s dark, and utterly obliterative. It’s also absolutely fucking punishing. So much so, any kind of analysis or critique feels almost futile.

Even without the context of death and finality, while penning this review in a place where there has been next to no live music in ten months, listening to Last Live is an intense and moving experience. It serves as a reminder of just how physical and how transportative live music can be, how songs may be important but sometimes, all you need is a sea of sound which will carry you away. There is no destination here, just an immense flow of sonic waves. And this is all you need.

It may well have been an unintentional sign-off, but as a last, and lasting, live statement turning the light off on an illustrious career, this is an appropriate curtain close.

2LP Editions Mego – Digital release date: 4th December 2020 / Physical release date: early February 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Initially – and indeed, oftentimes – On Feather and Wire sounds very like so many slightly noodly minimal electro albums, incorporating elements of pop and krautrock to forge some neat synthy moments, fairly light and accessible and propelled by soft but insistent beats and bubbling bass grooves, and it’s pleasant enough, with the darker overtones providing depth and detail. Rivet’s reverence and enthusiasm for the technology is apparent, as is his appreciation for the likes of both Chris and Cosey and Kraftwerk. The invited comparisons to COH are warranted, and if the synthy explorations of the 70s and into the early 80s with the emerging industrial scene is your bag, then the appeal here is clear: there’s plenty to like, but then again, not a lot to distinguish Rivet from myriad other artists of the era or his myriad peers operating in the same field, which seems to be increasingly populous.

‘Glietende Liebe’ has hints of DAF, but then equally of Cabaret Voltaire, and even Depeche Mode with its buoyant repetitive motif. Vocals are limited just the occasional phrase, more shouted the sung, and it seems Rivet – that’s Mika Hallbäck Vuorenpää – is more than happy for the listener to wrestle – or not – with the questions of intention and meaning, as, according to the liner notes, ‘interpretation is flung open as the audience are invited to gauge what on earth is going on here… Are these songs? Are these lyrics? Words melt as beat perpetually takes us deeper into flight. Throughout this trip sharp snares punctuate ghost melodies as vocals rise and vaporise. Shadows hover the walls leaving holographic traces of the duality between fun and fear, the unexpected drifts diagonally across the audio plane teasing and taunting the listener’.

‘Keloid’ is an out-and-out minimal dance tune, and ‘Mag Mich’ is pretty much straight-up EBM, and all of this is fine and neatly executed by largely unremarkable. ‘Sodden Healer’, on the other hand is stark, clinical, dangerous in its detachment. Fragmented vocals cut across one another against a backdrop of grating analogue bass oscillations.

But ‘Coral Spate’ comes as if from nowhere, a standout and standalone, the absolute distillation of every feature of the album culminating in five minutes of claustrophobically gripping intensity, It’s the sound of anxiety, of agoraphobic panic, in ways that are difficult to pinpoint and even more difficult to express. Whereas the dislocated retrofuturism of ‘Ordine Kadmia’ sounds like so much cyberpunk and so many 80s sci-fi movie soundtracks, and is the kind of composition that’s affecting because there’s a certain sense of the unheimlich about its stark robotic repetitions and whipcrack snare sound, it’s precisely the extreme familiarity of ‘Coral Spate’ that’s so uncomfortable – suffocatingly so. And yet the experience of discovering that physical spasm articulated, given a soundtrack, is perversely comforting. It’s a rare and dichotomous sensation that’s difficult to reconcile – but then, art is at its best when it challenges us. The more it makes us feel, however much it hurts, it’s fulfilling that function of taking us beyond the limited boundaries of whatever comfort zones we may have and challenging us to confront those innermost fears by mirroring them back at us.

For this alone, this track alone, I wholeheartedly recommend this album, but maybe should forewarn those of a weaker disposition that it isn’t all breezy grooves.

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Christopher Nosnibor

Digital release date: 18th December 2020

Physical release date: March 2021

Released as part of a series of collaborative releases between INA GRM and Editions MEGO, this is something of an unusual package, in that it’s presented as a split LP, but is also sort of two separate LPs. – digitally, they’re being released separately, but the vinyl version is split. Given the length of each contribution – in the 20-25-minute zone that neatly corresponds with one side of a 33rpm vinyl album – it makes sense, and certainly more sense than splitting a continuous piece in two over a 45rpm 12”, or the economics of a pair of one-sided albums.

Hecker – Florian, not Tim – contributes a work of ‘computer-generated sound with resynthesized situated texture recordings’. It’s a rumbling tempest of a composition, the crashing of digital waves against a hard shore of tightly-packed circuitry that rolls and thuds. A sonar pulse is rent by tinnitus-inducing drill-like whirr, and over the course of its twenty-five-minute exploration of toes and textures, Statistique Synthétique becomes quite a challenge – one that you may find yourself drifting from and struggling to maintain focus on at times, while at other wishing you could zone out a bit more instead of having an incessant buzzing and crackling piercing your brain.

I often find that with experimental instrumental works that do place such a strong emphasis on texture and that whole ‘cerebral sonic experience’ for want of a better phrase, that my mind does tend to drift while listening. It’s a challenge as a reviewer to critique something that’s so intentionally removed from the domain of overt musicality, or using a combination of music and words (or even not) to express or article something. Because precisely how does one engage with it – or, to consider another perspective, how is one supposed to engage with it? What does the artist want to convey to the audience, what kind of dialogue are they striving to create? Works like this certainly aren’t preoccupied with emotional responses or striking that kind of resonance that’s so integral to music with even the most vaguely ‘popular’ leaning. It’s not a matter of technical competence, at least in the sense of musicianship: there’s no breathtaking virtuosity on display in the world of electronics – and when I say ‘electronics’, I mean laptop and circuitry, not electropop or whatever. And so this is almost purely cerebral, and I’m forced to reflect on the way certain sounds, pitches, frequencies, and textures make me feel, what they do to me – how much treble and fizz makes me tense, how much s just quite exciting. Here, Hecker pushes all the buttons, literally and metaphorically, and I find myself twisting and turning in varying degrees of discomfort.

The objective, apparently, is to stove got ‘a properly hallucinatory state, that is to say to a meeting point where the object and perception dissolve into each other, in a sort of transcendental field.’ I might not quite be reaching that peak, but it certainly has some kind of effect.

Okkyung Lee gives us howls and yowls and overloading circuitry that bleeps and barrels, and of the two pieces, it’s the sharper, and more abrasive, and is also perhaps less nuanced. That’s no criticism: there’s a dense roar that tears from the speakers and there’s a tangible sense of volume. Everything creaks and groans and stammers, as if the equipment is about to buckle and blow under the weight of so much noise all at once.

This fits in context: Teum is intended as ‘a truly telluric moment’, the expression of ‘where tectonic movements and shear stresses become music’. ‘If the earthquakes were, as we thought in the 18th century, due to underground thunderstorms,’ observe the liner notes, ‘there is no doubt that this piece of music, both celestial and continental, could have been their audible manifestation’.

And there is no question that this is a musical work with a strong sense of physicality. The sound veritably heaves and shudders, a gut-lurching low-end heft you feel as much as you hear.

There’s a lot going on here, and there are – so it seems – some wild brass explosions rioting in the distance at some point amidst the churning sprawl. Again, this isn’t about emotional resonance, but how it touches and effects the listener on other levels.

These two works are distinct and different, both sonically and intent and purpose – and consequently, their effects are different too. But equally, the difference can be attributed to the different forms, and textures, with Hecker’s composition being sharper, more abrasive and, I suppose, more overtly ‘computerised’ than the denser, earthier piece by Lee. But for this, the contrasts are complimentary, and the two sit side by side and back to back nicely, and make for a perfectly-pitched double dose of discomfort.

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Editions Mego EMEGO292 – 6th November 2020

Nineteen years on from the release of his first audio document, Russell Haswell’s latest effort is a typically wild collection of vintage synth sounds whipped into crazy cacophonous cocktail.

The objective titles of the release echo the statement on artistic commodity made by Public Image Limited on their 1986 release, which went by the titles Album, Cassette and CD (although technically, all three formats contain the album, making the vinyl edition something of a misnomer). In the digital age, and notably in the year which has seen UK vinyl sales hit a thirty-year peak, the format is an integral part of the experience.

As the press release notes, ‘12" channels the original role of the medium with 2 tracks of beats that present themselves in unpredictable ways. 12" also features the head shattering bonus cut, Always Check Their Instagram. LP cut at 33rpm allows explorations into broader territories with deep ambience running into twisted acid and splattered shapes bouncing amongst rapid fire rhythms’. The 12” single in the 80s and 90s did very much acquire a unique position, accommodating extended mixes and longer songs, and often an additional B-side.

That the tracks on 12" are exclusive to the format and not available on the digital release may deprive many listeners of the pleasure of three Haswell classics may seem rough, but on the other, is fair play, because context counts and the medium really is the message. Moreover, while I’ve amassed a hard-drive groaning with digital audio files over the last decade for review purposes, if I’m going to buy music, I’ll still always favour a physical format, despite increasing problems when it comes to storage, and, with vinyl, my medium of choice, actually getting to play it on account of the stereo and record collection being in the living room where the TV is, which is occupied by the family pretty much every waking moment.

So, for review I have just seven tracks, namely the set which comprises LP and Digital. In digital format, naturally: I tend not to get much vinyl in the mail for review these days, funnily enough.

The dark, dank rumblings of ‘Ambient Takedown’ register low in the gut, with heavy tones like a distant jet, and the sound hovers for a time that feels significantly longer than its two-minute duration. It does nothing to prepare the listener for the polyrhythmic drum-machine frenzy that of ‘r-809’, a ten-minute riot of tinny synthesised percussion which bounces along and around in hyperspeed. There’s a thrumming bass and insistent, repetitive squelching sound and there are moments when everything goes off all at once, and it’s as if someone dropped a match in a firework factory. It’s the first of two extended workouts, the second being the album’s closer, ‘End of Eternity’. It’s a sprawling mass of squalls and tweets, a foaming froth of sine waves and howling analogue torture that wows and flutters and goes on, and on, stopping, starting, fizzing and scraping churning and stammering wildly as it scrawls and scratches its way through the terrain of Power Electronics and headlong into an aural apocalypse.

In between, the remining tracks ae fairly concise, with only ‘The Bottom Line of Safety’ running past the five-minute mark. ‘Pulsar 2’ is an overloading crackle of noise, a wibbling modulation rendred unrecognisable by being cranked up beyond distortion: it’s the kind of gnarly mess one tends to associate with Haswell, and precisely what you’d expect from an artist who’s been a member of Consumer Electronics, both live and on record in recent years. If these pieces feel fragmentary, and vaguely frustrating in their lack of a firm form or obvious trajectory, then it’s fair to say it’s entirely intentional.

Some of it may sound like so much dicking about, but Haswell’s grasp on tonal contrasts – and beats – is firm: this is very much about exploration rather than entertainment.

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Editions Mego – 1st November 2019

The 80s was an exciting and revolutionary time, and UK label Some Bizzare gave a platform to some of the more unusual exploratory and experimental acts around the middle of the decade, meaning that while acts like Depeche Mode and Soft Cell were mainstays that brought in funds, they were able to release albums by Soft Cell offshoots like Flesh Volcano, as well as work by Foetus, The The, Coil, Einstürzende Neubauten, and Cabaret Voltaire. Their reputation may have slipped in later years following various stunts and a major falling out with Neubauten over unpaid royalties, but the legacy very much remains strong.

The Elbow is Taboo was Renaldo & The Loaf’s fourth and last album of their initial phase prior to their return in 2010, which was released by and Some Bizzare in the UK and Ralph in America in 1987. Marking a significant expansion and evolution on their previous outings in compositional and instrumental terms, and the result of three years’ work, it’s considered to be ‘the definitive statement by the group in this early period’.

There was a 2016 reissue, with a stack of ‘elbonus’ material and I’m sold on the pun alone, but this Editions Mego reissue has to be the ultimate, as in addition to the elbonus stuff, the first 300 vinyl copies and digital editions also include bonus bonus 7” tracks ‘Hambu Hodo’ live and a remix, ‘Hambu Hoedown’, which ultimately sees the album’s original nine tracks expanded to twenty-two. Comprehensive is the word.

But is it any good?

It’s leftfield, weirdy and experimental: the album’s first piece, ‘A Street Called Straight’ melds medieval folk with tribal drumming and something pan-pipey and hints at neofolk but then goes off at some odd tangents, before ‘Boule’ does some kind of quirky somersaults across traditional Japanese music and sparse, clattering electronica. It’s the stuttering, busy-yet- rattly percussion that defines the oddball and off-kilter compositions, from the wonky country twangery of the title track to the marching Krautrock groove of ‘Hambu Hodo’ that lands somewhere between the pulsing electro of DAF and the zany mania of early Foetus. ‘Critical/Dance throws some jazz and atonal bleepings into the mix. It’s this offbeat eclecticism paired with an emphasis on rhythm that renders The Elbow is Taboo simultaneously compelling and bewildering.

The slew of bonus material on Elbonus ranges from fragmentary loops to fully realised versions and songs, spanning disorientating sound collage to audio collisions which are simply dizzying, not to mention quite inexplicable.

If ever an album qualified as a lost classic, it’s The Elbow is Taboo. So if the 80s underground is your scene, you need this. And if it isn’t, then it’s time to get educated.

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Renaldo & The Loaf – The Elbow is Taboo

Editions Mego – EMEGO264 – 5th July 2019

Australian avant-gardist Oren Ambarchi has enjoyed a varied career spanning over three decades, and includes among his associations Sunn O))), Merzbow, and Burial Chamber Orchestra. To describe his output as ‘prodigious’ would be an understatement.

According to the press release, ‘Simian Angel finds Oren Ambarchi renewing his focus on his singular approach to the electric guitar, returning in part to the spacious canvases of classic releases like Grapes from the Estate while also following his muse down previously unexplored byways’.

It continues: ‘Reflecting Ambarchi’s profound love of Brazilian music – an aspect of his omnivorous musical appetite not immediately apparent in his own work until now – Simian Angel features the remarkable percussive talents of the legendary Cyro Baptista, a key part of the Downtown scene who has collaborated with everyone from John Zorn and Derek Bailey to Robert Palmer and Herbie Hancock’. Some of this has meaning: a lot of it doesn’t. I don’t know everything, and nor have the time or inclination to research. Jobbing reviewers crib from press blurbs and make like they know stuff. The majority are lying.

Neither Brazilian music nor guitar are overtly apparent on the two long-form tracks which make up Simian Angel: the sixteen-minute ‘Palm Sugar Candy’ consists of supple, trilling organ notes drifting across clopping, loping, irregular wood-based percussion which fades out to nothing leaving only soft, whisping tones which weave in and out of one another.

The title track is vague, piano notes rising into a rarefied air. It builds gradually into flurries of notes which flutter like snow in a breeze, skittering unpredictably. Baptista’s contribution is remarkable in its subtlety: a sedated heartbeat pulse which occasionally stutters and stammers. Around the mid-point of this twenty-minute mod-inspiring epic, the piano halts unexpectedly and an upward gliding drone alters the previously straightforward trajectory of the composition. Simmering down into twittering gentleness, subtly twisted with the slightest hints of dissonance and eventually transitioning into some mellowed-out semi-ambient reinterpretation of minimalist jazz – which isn’t nearly as bad as it sounds. Instead, the slowly insistent beats force something approximating a solid frame on which all the other abstraction hangs – and it works.

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Oren Ambarchi – Simian Angel

LP/DL Editions Mego eMEGO238

8th September 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

The album’s blurbage tells us that ‘Shit & Shine’s sidestep from percussion led bunny rabbit rock ensemble performance based glee to ultimate heavy fools of the sticky dancefloor remains one of the more inspiring turn around’s in recent years’. They’ve certainly come a long way from the percussion-dominated noise rock racket of their formative years, but Craig Clouse continues to demonstrate a tireless appetite for pushing both himself and the listener.

Some People Really Know How To Live picks up where the 2015 album Everybody’s a Fuckin Expert (also on Editions Mego) left off, and the cover art even serves as a companion piece of sorts. Musically, it combines elements of disco, electro, old-school industrial and classic experimentalism to forge a sound that’s murky, dense, vaguely nauseating and still strangely danceable.

Warping, woozy drones taper in and out against bumping bass and a whip-crack vintage Roland snare sound on opener ‘Behind You Back’, before ‘Dish 2 Dish’ brings the groove. Dark and vaguely dubby, it’s also angular an abrasive, hectic and blustery, with some big bass tones. Its lack of sophistication is somehow a virtue, in that there’s a directness and spontaneity that gives it real punch.

Samples are lobbed in here and there, adding to the dislocation of shivering synths and engine-like growls, atonal incidentals and the fractured, warped grooves which abound. ‘Notified’ brings heavy clattering percussion and low-down grindy bass. With a time signature that’s unpredictable to say the least, it’s disorientating and head-pummelling. Elsewhere, the fucked-up funk of ‘Girl Close Your Eyes’ bumps and grinds its way through the stomach to make you shake. With beats that are propulsive providing the power behind a twisted sonic attack that’s more repulsive, Some People Really Know How To Live is some good shit.

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Editions Mego – EMEGO226 – 24th February 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

The latest work from Florian Hecker, A Script for Machine Synthesis is described as ‘an experimental auditory drama and a model of abstraction’. The press release continues, explaining that ‘A Script for Machine Synthesis presents a complex simplicity that spirals in an unending manner as an audio image of the uncanny valley. It is the third chapter in the trilogy of text-sound pieces Hecker has collaborated with the philosopher Reza Negarestani. A resynthesized voice outlines procedure as procedure itself unfolds… The suggestive encounter with a pink ice cube is a conceptual point of departure for a scene in which linguistic chimeras of descriptors are materialized through synthetic trophies, mental props and auditory objects. Exeunt all human actors, A Script for Machine Synthesis is an experiment in putting synthetic emptiness back into synthetic thought.’

I’m reminded of a number of theory-based text works centred around automation and abstraction, ranging from William Burroughs’ cut-ups and Brion Gysin’s permutations, to Philippe Vasset’s 2005 novella, ScriptGenerator©®™, via Stewart Home’s experimental audio piece, ‘Divvy’, which used computer-generated voices to read the two simultaneous narratives. The concept of the removal of the author from the creative process is nothing new, and while a robotic takeover may have been more greatly feared in science fiction works of the 1970s and 1980s, the fact of the matter is that the threat is greater now than ever before – but people are generally too wrapped up in reality TV or killing themselves just to make ends meet and to pay the bills that the technological developments of the last decade or so have gone largely unnoticed: instead of a seismic shift, the takeover has been gradual and insidious.

A Script for Machine Synthesis exists in a strange territory between territories, or, more specifically, times. While drawing heavily on the paranoias – and, by its sound, technologies – of preceding decades, it’s very much a contemporary work in terms of its concept if not so much its rather retro-sounding execution.

A Script For Machine Synthesis is not an album one listens to for its textual content: it is a drab, monotonous work which centres – aside from the introduction and credits – around a single track some fifty-seven and a half minutes in duration. Slightly fuzzy monotone voices narrate the process of the process in the style of technical manuals, and lecturing a highly complex theory in the driest, dullest of styles, while bubbling synths and electronic scratches and bleeps provide distracting incidentals which aren’t quite distracting enough to break the monotony. It’s hardly riveting from a sonic perspective, either. At points, the words become practically inaudible as digital distortion and file corruption disrupt the audio. Skittering, warping interference do more than interfere with the audio flow, but create a certain cognitive dissonance which engenders a sort of subliminal tension: I find myself growing twitchy and jittery, manifesting in increasingly awkward head-scratching, and a difficulty in sitting still. It could just be a unique individual response, ad of course, any experiment will produce different results with different subjects, but sitting by candlelight with a relaxing pint, I can’t readily identify any other factor which may explain my growing discomfort.

This is, of course, the ultimate synthesis of theory and practice, and more than anything, the experience of listening to A Script For Machine Synthesis bears strong parallels to the digitally-generated screeds of text published by Kenji Siratori in the late 90s and early years of the new millennium. That is to say, it’s a concept work which, while far from enjoyable, is undeniably admirable in its audacity and its absolute commitment to explore the concept at its core to its absolute end. This is art.

 

Hecker - Script