Posts Tagged ‘electronic’

11th March 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Sometimes I find myself in a state of confusion. Sometimes / often. Admittedly, work fatigue, lockdown fatigue, parenting, and beer on an evening are all likely contributors on many an occasion, but sometimes, I’m almost certain that life and situations are simply addling and that’s all there is to it. E42.A8’s press release is a source of a degree of bewilderment for me, as they outline their latest release thus:

‘E42.A8 lies between a place, a process, a group or several, or maybe as we were introduced in Frankfurt once: a Musikkapelle. We like to think that what matters are the following guiding notions: freedom, play with opening(s) & interaction, resulting in music marked by textures, variations between pulse & stretch, moments of varying intensities, détournements (Verwandlung?), oscillations in saturation and silence.’

IIIII is in fact a compilation, a double CD, which draws on a morass of releases spread across downloads, CDr and one tape, and features 21 musicians, in varying ensembles, from 2 to 9 people, recorded during the first five years of the collective’s existence. Said collective, which operates around a ‘disused farm/barn in the countryside in Picardie ( a region spread over the north of France +southern Belgium’ is centred around improvisational works, and as the fifteen pieces, which span a whopping 141 minutes – which isn’t far short of two and a half hours – and which makes listening to this in full a serious time commitment. The chances are that few listeners are likely to repeat it more than once or twice.

And while most of the compositions are under the eight or nine-minute mark, there are are handful of absolutely epic works that sit in the twelve to twenty-one minute mark that really illustrate the expansive plains E42.A8 ere capable of exploring when given the time and the space, and of course, the right atmospherics.

As one might expect from such a loose framework of musicians improvising over such a time-span, this is a pretty mixed bag, centred around immense drones, grinding organs and elongated oscillations. At its best, it’s haunting, evocative, unsettling, while at its worst its clunky, uncoordinated, experimental but without focus. And that isn’t a problem: the avant-garde and the postmodern so often delights in revealing its workings, demystifying the creative process, pulling apart the myth of the ‘creative genius’. IIIII reveals E42.A8 to be multi-faceted and willing to take risks in the interest of progression, of artistic evolution.

Insectoid skitters and creeping drones, scrapes, and all kinds of bleeps and twitters and stream-like trickles combine to forge the peaks and troughs, gulfs and chasms which make up this immense work. Heavy clanks like the sound if a blacksmith mishitting his equipment as shards shower everywhere in such an enclosed space. Chinks and stammers and fractured tonal cracks break the surface, and disruptions and discord and discombobulations abound.

A track-by-track analysis would be even more pointless than Brexit or an episode of Pointless, because this isn’t a work that has standout tracks: compilation it may be, but ultimately it’s an immense document which collates a vast library of experimental ambient electronic works which will shred your brain, make your eyes pop leave you feeling bewildered overwhelmed, which is, in context, a measure of artistic success.

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15th February 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

I’ll admit, of those who were highly anticipating the latest output from the ‘Chicago-based one-woman industrial army’ who is I Ya Toyah, I wasn’t among them. No-one can know all of the music, and it actually amuses me rather when obscurants give that stunned look or otherwise make like you’re utterly clueless when you haven’t heard of and aren’t into every ultra-niche act they are, as they make like the artists with maybe 1,500 likes on their Facebook page are household names.

For a cult / underground artist I Ya Toyah has a pretty healthy fanbase, but not enough to guilt me into thinking I’ve been living in a cultural void for however many years. However, the arrival of new single, ‘Out of Order,’ the lead single from the EP of the same title, is a proper punch. It’s a dark, brooding electropop affair with breathy vocals that suggest an array of emotions, and it’s accompanied by a disorientating video that’s pitched as ‘a surreal story of a gradual mental breakdown, caused by an isolation and misinformation fed by media’, which was inspired by ‘the film art of David Lynch and the pandemic’.

It’s probably fair to say we’re all influenced by the pandemic, our every thought and our every move – or lack of. Has lockdown made us more paranoid? Probably. Has revisiting David Lynch been a common and rational pastime? Probably. Lynch was twisting things before everything got so very twisted, and now, the twisted seems fairly rational, or otherwise makes sense as a metaphor for the present if nothing else. And this slow-burning tune fits nicely. It’s not an instant grab by any means, but then, nor has the impact of life in lockdown – it’s been creeping, cumulative, the result being a new kind of fatigue that’s certainly mental, but for many manifests as physical. What do you actually do with that? There isn’t actually much you can do, other than find solace in music. And that’s where I Ya Toyah comes in. ‘Out of Order’ speaks beyond what it says explicitly, and through her art, she captures something about these difficult and desperate times, and about the human condition more generally.

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Multi-genre artist, SINthetik Messiah has just unleashed two new singles for Christmas. ‘In My Dreams’ is a collaboration with The Other LA. You can listen to this here:

The track ‘In My Dreams’ was originally produced by Cj Pierce of Drowning Pool for The Other LA’s self-titled album that was released in 2016. The Other LA approached Bug Gigabyte to take the music and bring it on a more twisted,  electronic journey. After receiving the original track stems, Bug took the audio , ground it up into a new composition and added more drums, guitars, synths and vocals. Grammy nominated engineer Joe Haze (Lords of Acid/The Banishment) then used his mastery of analog mix and mastering technology to glue all the chaos of the track together.

The band also presents their cover of Atari Teenage Riot’s, ‘Destroy 2000 Years Of Culture,’ which seems quite appropriate in 2020. 

Their first cover was meant to be an updated American version of the 1997 track ‘Destroy 2000 Years Of Culture’ by the revolutionary electronic noise act, Atari Teenage Riot.  Originally ATR sampled the track ‘Dead Skin Mask’ by American metal  act Slayer, from their 1990 album, Seasons in the Abyss
In continuing the tradition of the ATR song and ideas behind both acts’ music, Bug Gigabyte sampled the same Slayer track and gave a new spin to the fundamentals of what makes Atari Teenage Riot. Once Bug finished composing the cover, he then passed it on to Grammy nominated engineer, Joe Haze(Lords Of Acid, The Banishment) for mixing and mastering with analog technology.

Check out ‘Destroy 2000 Years Of Culture’ here.

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DL Monika Entreprise monika 95-1, 95-2 (LC 01806)

20th November 2020 / 27th November 2020

Monika Werkstatt isn’t an individual, but a collective of female musicians and producers gathered by Gudrun Gut from the circles of her label, Monika Enterprise and Moabit Music.

Ambient Session is a document – abridged – of a two-day live project that took place at the Jewish Museum in Berlin on 26th and 27th April 2019. The liner notes detail the event, a full multimedia – and multisensory – extravaganza combining sound and light and where nothing is fixed, with the musicians performing ‘in various constellations inside res·o·nant—a walk-through light and sound installation by the Düsseldorf conceptual artist Mischa Kuball situated in two of the famous Voids of the Libeskind building. For this specific edition Monika Werkstatt activated the joined forces of Beate Bartel, Danielle de Picciotto, Gudrun Gut, Islaja, Pilocka Krach, and Sonae. The Fab Five of Silicon-meets-Analog-Machine-Music set out to invite listeners to join them on a two-day, four hours-each expedition into the yet unknown, improvising with sounds and configurations while structuring the longue durée in sustainable packages by adding and subtracting members to the flow’.

And so the lineups for the two days differed slightly, with Islaja performing on day one only, and Pilocka Krach on day two only. Who played what and when is largely immaterial, as this s very much about the overall feel. It’s impossible to get the full measure of the experience on either day, but the beauty of digital releases is that time constraints and productions costs are much less of an issue, and as a consequence, we’re afforded a luxurious full – and precise – hour of material from each day as a separate track (and a separate release). As such, Ambient Session definitely hints at the immersive nature of the performances, even though the visual and spatial elements are absent.

In a certain sense, there isn’t much to say here: listening to ‘Day One’ there are some woozy uplifts and downtunes that lurch a little like rising steeply op or down a hill in a car on a hilly road while driving at night, but for the most part, it’s a glow, vaporous wash of sound that turns and drift slowly and gradually. Subtle beats appear and disappear, and everything is quiet and understated, even when clouds gather to cat shadows into darker domains, unsettling electronic bubbling, bleeps and whistles. But mostly it’s a steady exploration of soft-edged atmospheres: not a lot actually happens, and yet, somehow, it does. It all happens fleetingly, subtly, in the background. There are fleeting moments of dissonance, and brief passages where patterns emerge – be they niggling bass motifs, looped vocal snippets, or repetitive rhythms of a more percussive nature, but large portions of the audio is given to abstract noise that hums and drones on an almost subliminal level.

‘Day Two’ feels different. More electronic, more edgy, stammering more beeps and messages undeciphered and indecipherable stop start and shudder, juddering and halting the airwaves against gliding contrails of mellifluous drone. Sonar drones, reaching out into the darkness. Dense rumbles and fear chords creeping. This is darker, more ominous, more eerie – or at least the track is. Then again, there are rippling groves and metronomic beats that pulse amidst a swathe of reverb and murky tones. How representative of the performances as a while these segments are, we don’t know.

I am, sadly, reminded of the way recorded media fails to fully convey an experience, and how footage of live sows on YouTube compel me to append any share with the caveat that ‘you probably had to be there.’ There is never any real substitute for the three-dimensional experience: sound, light, space, the interaction of different stimuli on the senses, especially when applied simultaneously. But for all that, this is an immersive pair of longform recordings, and the journey they lead the listener on is one of sedate – and sedated – curiosity.

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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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19th October 2020

Christopher Nosnbor

The title – Meander – intimates something that not only lacks a clear, direct trajectory, but to my mind at least, something ambling and aimless, like a leisurely walk on a Sunday afternoon in summer, a story narrated at length and via an array of detours and diversions, or a river reaching the later stages of its route towards the sea, when its force has dissipated and it weaves in a sedate series of s-bends through gentle lowlands.

Interlard’s new album may not be defined by a distinct or direct linear trajectory, but it’s anything but sedate, barrelling in with a sonic assault from the outset, with ‘Getting in the Van’ a churning wash of cyclical repetition. Yes, it may well resemble the swashing slosh of a washing machine with additional top-end bleeps, but it also stands as the opening to a passageway that heads downwards into a dark network of tunnels and caverns, an underground maze of the mind and off twisting soundscapes.

It soon becomes apparent that Meander is one of those albums that’s designed specifically to perturb, to disturb, to disrupt, perhaps in any which way it can, and to achieve this, there’s an element of chaos, or the random, as an array of sounds are collaged together, overlapped and overlaid.

‘Jonny Staccatto Does Cold Turkey’ packs all the weirdness into just over three and a half minutes, with woozy bass and discordant twangs and looped vocal samples emerging from snippets of laid-back jazz. Elsewhere, thunderous martial drumming and whirrs like drills buzz through reverberating feedback on the short but intense ‘Power Walking Holding a Claw Hammer’ that batters its way into the space between Test Department and Nurse with Wound. ‘Ugly Socialite’ ploughs a thudding furrow of bleak monotony as it trudges on, and on, and ‘Griefcase’ is dank and murky, oppressive.

Sonically, Meander is big on both texture and tone and moreover, where it stands apart from so many other works that slot into the broad field of experimental / industrial / electronica is in its stylistic range: Interlard explore far more than shades of noise and abrasion. In some respects, this actually renders it more challenging, as reconciling the more mellow passages and out-and-out incongruences within the context of a ‘noise’-oriented set isn’t easy: it goes against the grain of convention, but that’s all the more reason to appreciate the project’s broad artistic vision.

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Front&Follow – 25th September 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

So big a space to fill… the absence of live music leaves an abyss of indescribable scale. Social media has been aflame with outcry over the treatment of this so-called ‘unviable’ industry, crippled by restrictions – an industry that generates many, many billions of pounds for the economy. Over and over, I’ve read articles and personal pleas from those involved about the plight not only of musicians and venue owners, but the invisible but essential contributors, the sound and lighting engineers, the roadies, the studios, and it’s all so, so painful and heart-rending.

The fourth, penultimate instalment of the Isolation and Rejection compilation series which brought the Front & Follow label temporarily out of hibernation contains a further twenty-four contributions from a vast array of artists, known and unknown, assembled here under the common banner of all having been previously rejected by labels. Their loss is our gain and that of Front & Follow, whose inclusive approach to curating this series has made for a truly enriching journey over the last few months.

There is a leaning toward the electronic, and Pulselovers’ ‘Orphans’, which lands early is typical of the atmospheric strain that’s something of a staple of the F&F catalogue. Neither dance nor ambient, it’s understated, rippling, the gauzy layers pinned together by lowkey but insistent beats.

Daphnellc’s ‘Sinker Flies The Plane’ starts out jittery, hyperactive, edgy electronica that tinkles and flutters, before going all out on the hard, pounding beats, and contrasts with many of the more delicate, wispy compositions on offer here. Then again, with ‘Slava Xenoxxx’, Bone Music hit a dense industrial groove, bursting with snappy snare explosions and a blitzkrieg of samples, and for 80s robotix electro, Function Automat’s ‘Data Data’ is proper vintage, and not without a massive nod to not only Kraftwork, but also DAF and Cabaret Voltaire’s ‘Nag Nag Nag.’ In a parallel universe, this was recoded in 1978 and a truly seminal cut that brought its makers international renown.

These more accessible works are countered by the industrial-strength dark ambience brought by Revbjelde and the gouging aggressive dark drone attack of ColdSore, and Howlround push this to the next level with an overloading mess of pulsating distortion.

MJ Hibbert bucks the electro trend with his pithy acoustic indie, and if it seems a shade incongruous it’s all the more essential because of it: the spirit of these compilations is inclusivity, and this is what gives these largely instrumental, experimental, oddball collections soul.

These remain bleak times, and fir many, the long-term prospects continue to grow bleaker, and releases like this are essential not just in terms of bringing high-quality leftfield music to those seeking sonic solace, but also in creating a certain sense of community and collectivism.

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Powdered Hearts – 15th October 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Gintas K releases albums more often than I change my clothes. That’s of course intended as a comment on the prolific nature of his output, rather than a confession about my personal hygiene post-lockdown, although not going into the office or being around people – or ever within two metres of them – has meant I’ve maybe made slightly less effort of late.

The same clearly can’t be said of Gintas K, at least in terms of his work, since I don’t know if he’s been tweaking away at his circuitry in his pyjamas or the same jeans for a week and a half or if he’s been bothering to shave or deodorise daily. I don’t need to, either, of course.

Anyway: Sound & Spaces explores what’s become established as familiar territory for Gintas K, with gloops and bibbles, froth and foam, squelchy bubbles of sound rising up randomly against the crackling burrs of electronic distortion. Sound & Spaces is less attacking and less abrasive than some previous outings, and is les intense and intensive in its interrogation of microcosmic space than some of his previous microscopic, microtonal explorations.

The first track – the thirteen-minute ‘Sounds & Spaces #1’ is a challenging mess of stammers and jolts, fizzing and crackling in a swampy slosh of analogue synth soup. It very much sets the tone, but in context, it’s a comparatively gentle start to what ultimately unravels to be quite a brain-shredder of a set.

‘Per aspera ad astra’ is a brief interlude of tingling, jangling dissonance before ‘Sounds & Spaces #3’ brings a bit of low-end grumbling, whining, and distortion, yawning undulations whizzing and popping all over.

By ‘Sounds & Spaces #4’, it’s almost impossible to differentiate distortion from percussion, and what originates where, although there are distinctly snare-like cracks in the feverish melting-pot of contrasting textures and tones, which become increasingly fragmented, fractured, and overloading as the album progresses. As an album it’s a frothy foment, and while some may find it simply uninteresting or a wash of so much noise they can ignore, I’m unlikely to be alone in finding the experience quite tense and uncomfortable – and nothing more so than the twenty seconds of silence at the end of the overwhelming chaos of ‘Sounds & Spaces #5’

If disorder offends your sensibilities, avoid this recording: once again, Gintas K has captured metal turbulence in aural form. It’s hard to process, but well worth enduring the turmoil for.

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27th August 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Leeds proves once again to be the spawning ground for some interesting experimental music, and this four-tacker from Material Loss is a work of dark, dark ambient, a genre I’ve become increasingly drawn to over time by virtue of its lack of prescription: what I draw from it is as much about my own projections, my own internal state and contemplations as the music itself, although it in turn has the capacity to reflect back at me those internalisations. And what Material Loss convey corresponds with the name – a sense of emptiness, a sensation of being aimless and bereft. Admittedly, these moods do hit from time to time and I know his isn’t something by any means unique to me, but when they descend they do so rapidly, like a storm blowing in from the horizon on a strong wind, building from out of the blue and forcing a sudden pressure drop.

And what is material? Something palpable, tangible. And yes, these four tracks, for all of their vague, effusiveness, they succeed in conveying something more concrete, somehow. It’s all about the atmosphere, which has been carefully constructed and arranged for optimal effect, and while it’s short, it reached seep into the psyche, and into the body, prodding the gut, the bowels, the lungs, and, above all, stealthily creeping around the deeper recesses of the brain.

Such dank murkiness shouldn’t be associated by any means directly with a depressive state, though: the lack of overt form or structure can be quite therapeutic, offering a form of escapism as one allows oneself to drift through the sonic clouds, The first piece, ‘Set’ rumbles and growls, and within those sonic clouds, there’s a storm brewing. It’s a distant rumbling, a dissonance, an almost unquantifiable and most unspecific unease more than anything else.

Following on, ‘UA’ manifests as a barely-audible droning hum for the most part but it’s occasionally rent with tearing shards of nose or rising tides of amorphous sound. The fact that each composition is brief means that none becomes overwhelming, r challenging to the point of traumatic, although in the infinite subtlety, the menace is always present.

‘SD-CLA’ may be brief, but it’s dark and doomy, a single beat repetitively hammered out at a funereal pace amidst fizzing electrics and splinters of breaking glass. Closer ‘Alm’ – the calm without the c – brings a sense of tranquillity, a lifting of the mood and something approximating a sense of lightness and of relief, and a sense that maybe things aren’t so bleak after all.

They are, of course: the reality of living in the now is beyond dismal, but at least, for a couple of minutes, we can perhaps forget and pretend otherwise.

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DL only – Self Released – 15th July 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Four months on from the original Kressel Studies release, Mick Sussman delivers a second volume of ‘algorithmic studies’ which explore ‘new rhythmic and timbral techniques’ The accompanying text explains that ‘as with the previous volume of Kressel Studies, these pieces are brief and generated from compact nuggets of computer code. But they form a varied procession of musical thoughts, some severe and some almost merry.’

I wrote of the first back in March that Sussman took the listener ‘deep into skittery microtonal bleeping territory’, and this twenty-one track collection of snippety fragments of drones, hums, bleeps and yawning extraneous and quivering noises follows the same experimental trajectory. And as one may reasonably expect, Vol 2 is more of the same, only different – but not very.

‘kr40P1p5’ is a jittery, skittery melange of synths, and ‘kr40P1p5’ is similarly brain-bending, but even more fractured and dizzying, as stunted notes bounce and ricochet every which way in a kind of Brownian motion. ‘Kr42p2p5’ is a swampy soup of straining analogue, while ‘kr42p2p7’ is a fizzing morass of whupping phase and stunning static hiss that’s churned to a spacey foam.

R2D2 bleeps and whistles and retro-futurism clash with short blasts of power-electronics noise, and this is very much a work which is preoccupied with sound rather than sense, conjuring a wibbly-bibbly world of weirdness.

It’s very much a mixed bag of oddities, and if, like its predecessor, it sounds like so much dicking about in the studio, then that’s because it really is, although that’s no criticism. The blurb explains that across the album, ‘some [tracks] veer toward pure noise, like Kr. 42.2.3, while others have a lighter melodic flavor, like Kr. 42.3.1. And some split the difference, with rough-textured grooves, like 44.2.1.’ And perhaps, rather than view this as an album in the conventional sense, it should be held up against the sound effects alums of the 70s and 80s, the likes of which were recorded by the BBC Radiophonic workshop.

With each piece – compositions is a stretch, at least as a musical descriptor: any composition involved is digital coding as Sussman plays with the parameters of programming – so brief, the listener doesn’t get the opportunity to settle, and is instead slapped by a quickfire succession of sonic assaults presented as sketches that flit across the full range of textures and tones, and at a pace that’s sometimes bewildering.

It does work – again, not as an album, but a collection of random sounds and sonic experiments.

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