Posts Tagged ‘electronic’

Rocket Recordings – 22nd February 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

Evolution – that’s perhaps the only word when considering Teeth Of The Sea. Their career is defined by it.

Their BandCamp biography gives some sense of context: ‘Since their formation in 2006, London-based Teeth Of The Sea have metamorphosized into the most adventurous psychedelic rock outfit in the UK. Taking on board influences like Morricone, Eno, Delia Derbyshire, Goblin, and the Butthole Surfers, they’ve arrived at an incendiary sound that marries the aural enlightenment of an avant-garde sensibility with the reckless abandon of trashy rock & roll.’

It was with Your Mercury that I joined the trip, sold instantly by ‘The Ambassador’ with its overloading noise intro, spiralling into a slow-paced desert rock weird out.

Each release has been different again, and so there’s nothing of that ilk to be found on Wraith, an album that’s slanted more toward the electronic end of the spectrum, although the guitars, while far from prominent, are very much integral to the texture and depth. But this being Teeth of the Sea, it’s a bit of everything all at once, and this is apparent from the very first track: ‘I’d Rather, Jack’ brings a sonorous bass and droning synth together over a thumping industrial disco beat with crashing snare that stutters and glitches all over, before jazz trumpet and a space-rock guitar fire off on different trajectories. It’s rare for such a maelstrom of ideas and forms to whip together into anything other than a horrible mess, but Teeth of the Sea manage to blend the ingredients into something far greater than the sum of the parts, the atmosphere shifting from oppressive to uplifting.

There’s some of the old Ennio Morricone vibe about the spaghetti western sunset guitar twang of ‘Hiraeth’, before snaking drums and twisted allusions to Asian musical motifs was in and out of expansive layers of brass on ‘Burn of the Shieling’.

There are hints of Tangerine Dream and expansive synthy electronica about compositions like the buoyant, spacey, retro-futurist ‘VISITOR’ and ‘Gladiators Ready’, which combines the tweeky, bleepy Roland sound that echoes Josh Wink’s remixed ‘Higher State of Consciousness’ with some gritty guitar noise off in the background. Equally, the forms belong equally to post-rock, and whereas peers Vessels have gone all-out techno and ditched any vestiges of their origins, TOTS succeed in creating the most dazzling hybrid, discarding nothing and instead assimilating an ever-widening range of elements into their work. There’s so much detail in every bar, from blurred, muttering voices buried in the mix to synth incidentals and shifting reverbs that it’s impossible to take it all in, and oftentimes, Wraith is an overwhelming experience.

The centrepiece of ‘Her Wraith’ and brief counterpart ‘Wraiths in the Wall’ explore more minimalist approaches, the forms vague and vaporous, as echoing piano notes hang in the air over mournful trumpet. Pulling back on the prominent beats and instead allowing ponderous strolling basslines to wander to the fore, they’re as intangible as the album’s title suggests.

An album this eclectic and uncategorizable rarely feels cohesive, but Wraith feels more like a psychotic mind-journey than an album. And it’s nothing short of epic.

AA

Teeth of the Sea - Wraith

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Forking Paths – FP0015 – 5th October 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

The title has very personal origins for Evan Davies, the man who records under the Blank Nurse / No Light moniker. A sufferer of Pure OCD – a form of OCD which manifests with no external behaviours or rituals, with the compulsions being mental rather than physical – and depression, Davies spent his teenage years tormented by the fear of HIV infection.

HIV 1994 sees Davies confront and channel the experience creatively, using what the press release describes as ‘often-overwhelming mental health issues’ to create song which are ‘like exorcisms for emotions and memories’. The context suggests that this was never going to be an ‘easy’ album, and however deftly Davies combines his wide-ranging and, in the face of it, incongruous and incompatible influences, which span ambient and neoclassical, hardcore, black metal, noise, and house, the clashing contrasts would be awkward enough without the anguish behind the compositions themselves. And so it is that on HIV 1994, Blank Nurse / No Light hauls the listener through an intense personal hell.

‘Blood Fiction’ begins with a collage of voices and extraneous noise before lilting string glissandos and a soft bass steer toward a calmer, more structured path. It provides a recurring motif, but one frequently interrupted by passing traffic and low rumbling noises. And so gentle tranquillity and ruptures of disquiet are crunched into one another before ‘Mocking of the Ghost of Crybaby Cobain’ really ratchets up the intensity with unsettling collision of styles, with pounding industrial percussion and expansive electronica that’s almost dancey providing the backdrop to the most brutal screaming vocals. It actually sounds like an exorcism. Or Prurient with more beats.

And it only gets darker, more disturbed and more disturbing from here: the lyrics are unintelligible, guttural screams of pure pain, and the tunes mangled to fuck, glitchy, twitchy anti-rhythms hammer around behind quite mellow synth washes. ‘Flu Breather’ sounds more like a demon dying of plague in a nightclub conjured in a nightmare, or, perhaps more credibly, the outpouring of indescribable, soul-shredding anguish that cannot be articulated in any coherent fashion.

There are some straight-ahead, accessible moments amidst the cacophonous chaos: ‘Outside the Clinic is a Hungry Black Void of Nothingness’ is a brooding electro-pop piece with a real groove and a narrative of sorts, and calls to minds Xiu Xiu, while ‘No Ecstasy’ goes all Wax Trax!, coming on like late 80s Revolting Cocks . But these tracks are very much the exception, as the majority of the others twist, turn, break and collapse in on themselves. Redemption and light are crushed and swept way in a succession of disconnections and claustrophobic dead-ends. It’s deeply uncomfortable from beginning to end, and much of it sounds like opposing sonic forces at war – which probably makes this a successful work, providing a deep insight into the tortured mind of the artist.

AA

Blank Nurse

Panurus Productions – 19th November 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

What have we got there, then? It would appear to be a collaborative release from Drooping Finger and Möbius, utilising the former’s lo-fi minimal electronic drone as a setting for the latter’s looped wordless vocal textures.

I must admit that I’m unfamiliar with ‘Newcastle gloomlord’ Drooping Finger, but ‘melancholic vocal duo’ Möbius I am aware of. Their first collaborative work, imaginatively titled Drooping Finger & Möbius is pitched as combining their talents, and consists of their set at The Gosforth Hotel’s Sumner Suite and material recorded during a session at First Avenue Studios in Heaton.

And what does is give us? The BandCamp write-up tells us that ‘Guttural gurgles are embedded in glacial electronics whilst siren songs tumble overhead. The tones hover above the murk at times whilst disappearing into its eddies at others as the collaborative trio draw you into their bleak atmospherics’. And all of it’s true. Although mostly it’s the murk that dominates, with sounds and tonal ranges all but buried beneath a sonic smog.

The live side, (at least corresponding with the cassette release) containing one track simply entitled ‘Sumer Suite’ is first, and is 26 minutes of dark ambient rumblings and janglings and mid-range drones, punctuated at first by stuttering, echoic beats, a shifting soundscape of disquiet. Ominous hums and swells of distant thunder provide the backdrop to disembodied, angelic voices low in the mix and veering between euphoric grace and the anguish of entrapment. Sonorous low-end booms out like a warning signal and cuts through the rising cacophony. But this is not a linear composition, there is no obvious trajectory: instead, the objective is the creation of atmosphere, and while it does naturally ebb and flow, peak and trough, the sustenance of tension is the priority here. Amidst slow crashes and waves of darkness emerge… nothing but nerve-tingling tensions, and even as the piece faded to silence, its hard to settle completely.

The studio side – again, consisting of a single track called ‘Stung’ which spans a full half an hour – provides more of the same, and with similar sonic fidelity at least on my speakers. Heaving drones like distant passing motorcycles drift in and out of range. Ghostly voices drift around nerve-chewing mid-range drones that shimmer and churn like foam on sand. On and on. Again, it doesn’t go anywhere, but that it’s the intention: it funnels and eddies to immersive effect. The tension builds not by any increments within the music, but by accumulation.

It’s a lights off, candle lit, eyes closed type of album, whereby there are no dominant features, and barely any features at all. In context, features are surplus to requirement: Drooping Finger & Möbius makes its presence known subtly, indirectly, creeping under the skin and weaving its dark magic subliminally.

AA

Drooping Finger   Mobius

Acte – Acte 002

Christopher Nosnibor

The press release provides previous little detail about the release, or the artist, beyond a brief summary of his broad interdisciplinary pursuits which include dance, theatre, live electronics improvisations and audiovisual performances and installations. It’s quite an expansion on his biography last time I encountered his work, back in 2011, when he simply described himself as a ‘sound artist’. That was when he released the ambient-orientated exploration usure.paysage.

Transfert/Futur is a long way from ambient. Heavy on the synths, it’s a beaty work that packs some considerable attack amidst the airy pulses and breezy blossoms of effervescence. It contains two tracks, the first of which, ‘transfert (299 792 458 m/s)’ is the audio element of a touring sound/light installation from 2017. On CD, it’s simply sound without the light, and clearly, the interactive and multisensory aspect of the project is nowhere near fully represented. Nevertheless, musically, it works. Over the course of some eighteen minutes, Bernier builds the atmosphere but above all, builds the beats. Scratchy, stuttering, synthetic, exploding in all directions, the rhythms pop and thrum, marching surges halting abruptly to change direction before powering forwards once more embarking on a propellant trajectory. The surround synths glide, pop and bubble, but mostly click and bleep and elongate, morphing and stretching longways, occasionally plunging into expansive, oceanic depths and venturing into eerie subaquatic territories. With so many false starts, false ends, twists, turns and unpredictable stammers, it’s anything but linear.

The second composition, ‘synthèse (299 792 458 m/s)’ has no such obvious context attached, but again is centred around warping synths and woozy bass tones wrapped around bold beats. Over the course of twelve minutes, it swerves from oblique bleeps and minimalist electronic squiggles and arabesques, via slow-building crescendos, to passages approximating straight-ahead dance music that you can actually get down to. As the track progresses, its form gradually dissolves. The soundscape is increasingly rent with bleeps and whispers and tranquillity always gives way to tension after a few uncountable bars. Microbeats and circuit spasms come to dominate the swell of hyperenergetic electrodes in synaptic collapse. Finally, nothing is left but a quivering whistle which slowly decays to nothing.

What does it all mean? Probably precious little. Transfert / Futur is about the journey, and the algorithms, rather than the meaning. It’s not a journey that traverses from A to B, but burrows its way into its own unique space.

AA

Nicolas Bernier

Störung – str011 – 7th July 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

I need to work a better filing system for my to-review albums. As it stands, it’s literally a pile, with new deliveries being tossed on top of the pile or otherwise littering the floor next to my desk. The chaotic disorder doesn’t sit comfortably with my innate sense of order and organisation, but the pile has a life of its own. Logically, new arrivals should go to the bottom of the pile, but lifting the pile, precarious as it is, is a risky operation. The teetering stack reached a height and degree of instability this morning that lifting the disc and accompanying press release from the top caused the whole thing to slide in several directions at once. Gathering the strewn and scattered discs and press releases, many of which had become separated from one another, I happened upon The Broken Glass. This seems to be something of a recurring theme, with Miguel Frisconi’s Standing Breakage standing out as a work centred around the exploitation and exploration of a cracked glass bowl. Rather later, I located the press release, too.

The pieces on The Broken Glass aren’t nearly as haphazard as my filing, but there’s a loose and spontaneous, improvised feel to much of the album, whether the composition is a sparse (dis)arrangement of electro / acoustic instruments (‘The Broken Glass v1’) or rippling, rhythmically pulsating electronica (‘The Broken Glass v2). There is a strong sense of variation and variety between the two complimentary yet highly contrasting versions – so much so that it’s difficult to discern how it’s the same piece performed differently. On the face of it, their commonality lies in the organic incorporation of Asférico’s field recordings and the subtle washes of sound.

The album’s third and final track (a CD-only bonus), ‘Sonidos del Subconsciente II’ (‘Sounds of the Subconscious II’) is different again, and has a running time of some forty minutes. An exploratory piece which evolves gradually and naturally, it begins with what sounds like the sound of the wind, a hushed and distant rumble. way off, distant machines clank and grind, the sound of heavy industry blown many miles on the breeze Brooding string notes creep in. The low tones surge and grow and build… and then there is silence. Abrupt, unexpected and unexplained silence. It simply arrives after nine minutes. The disc is still playing. Straining my ears for the faintest hint of sound above the whirring of the CD player and my hard-drive. I stop typing, so as to listen for sounds buried by the clatter of keys. But no: there is nothing.

Is this the sound of my subconscious? How long do I resist skipping the track forward thirty seconds, a minute? Why does the silence unsettle me so? Suddenly, I’m called to leave the room. On returning, the track is at the fourteen-minute mark, and there is sound. I skip back to discover where sound resumes I turn up the volume, to discover that there had been no silence, only extreme quiet. I go back to the beginning.

And from the so-quiet calm slowly, almost imperceptibly builds a funnelling storm of noise, a howling gale of tempestuous noise, amidst which crashing explosions of metallic noise, like sheet steel against sheet steel, reverberate. And the volume and intensity continues to grow and swell, to a level that’s difficult to bare. It’s no longer mere sounds, but a physical force. It’s all-encompassing, and I find myself cowering as though on a small boat in the middle of a violent storm, while the only land is an erupting volcano.

And yes, sometimes my subconscious does sound like this: a raging barrage of relentless, surging noise, amorphous, indistinct, it’s abrasive and it hurts. Not so much the sound of breaking glass, but sound to break the psyche.

AAA

Mia Zabelka & Asférico – The Broken Glass

Tavern Eightieth (TVEI) – 31st October 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

Don’t read too much into the Hallowe’en release date for this solo offering from Matt Christensen, who is more usually found lending his voice to Chicago genre-straddling guitar-based act Zelienople. There are no guitars to be found here, or vocals, and despite the album title’s connotations of the predatory, the sinister and the dangerous, this is no haunting horrorshow or ultra-dark ambient work coughed up from the bowels of the earth, although the five tracks on Prowl are certainly strong on atmospherics.

The title track sets the mood, a murky groove softly bounces along, the insistent beats largely submerged by a thick, opaque subaquatic sonic murk which strangely deadens the sound and creates a sensation that’s almost physical rather than simply auditory. When the rhythms are completely absent, as on ‘Mountains of Fire (Remix)’, Christensen glides effortlessly into what one may reasonably call ‘pure’ ambience: the forms are vague, intangible, with no discernible sense of structure as the soft and slowly-drifting washes of sound shift and turn gradually.

‘Spending It’ is perhaps the most haunting track on the album, crackles and pops – somewhere between the click and clatter of worn vinyl and the cracks and snaps of burning wood – form the distant rhythmic undercurrents which echo through the warping tones before being carried away into silence on a long, low wind-like drone. In contrast, ‘Junk Test’ is altogether more buoyant, bubbling beats flit beneath rippling Tangerine Dream synth motifs.

Everything is kept low-key, the sounds dissolving into one another and in a slow but continual evolution. It’s a radical departure from Christensen’s work with Zelienople, but, as one may expect, it’s an album that demonstrates a keen awareness of the dynamics of texture and tone. In the context of Prowl, these elements are explored in their most delicate and subtle forms, and in its field, it’s an accomplished and enjoyable work.

 

Matt Christensen – Prowl

Run United Music – RU18 – 3rd September 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

Gudrun Gut’s Vogelmixe is, as you may gather, a remix album. An album of traditional folk songs, recorded by contemporary artists and remixed by Gudrun Gut. Helpfully, there are two discs, the second containing unmixed versions with the traditional arrangements preserved, previously featured on the album Heimatleider aus Deutschland Berlin/Augsburg in 2015.

‘From the Top 100 to “Alternative”, most of today’s music has the emotional depth of your regular smartphone’, write Mark Terkessidis and Jochen Kühling in the liner notes. And so the inspiration behind the Heimatleider aus Deutschland was a longing for music with emotional impact and a sense of commonality, prompting a return to what they refer to as ‘“primordial” forms of singing, to folklore as an oral tradition.’ There’s a distinct logic in that. New music, however sincere, genuine or authentic is by its nature a product and is imbued with an inescapable sense of artifice. It’s always made with an eye – and ear – for public consumption, for distribution, regardless of mattes of commerciality. Traditional folk music is by its nature the music of the people. It was never borne out of a sense of commercial appeal, or even with a view to its own propagation. It has a life of its own, and that life is real life. These are songs of people, songs of the earth. There’s no way to plan or market this.

Many of the songs sound remarkably contemporary even in their original form, particularly the thrumming bass groove of ‘Marhba’, as performed by La Caravana du Maghrab. The range of styles represented provides a rare insight into German folk music unlikely to be known by non-natives. One element common to the majority of the songs is the emphasis on rhythm. Repetition and strong melodies are also a defining characteristic, with the bold harmony-led melody of bolero ‘La somber del ayer’ demonstrating a remarkable level of complexity which contradicts popular notions of folk songs being somehow primitive or simple.

On the one hand, Gudrun Gut’s remixes are pretty brutal in their treatment of the source material. Her approach is largely centred around heavy-duty electronic sounds which take the songs a long way from their original, traditional forms. You couldn’t exactly call them sensitive or subtle. In fact, the majority of the songs are unrecognisable on every level. Yet for all the superficial violence Gut commits to the songs, she does demonstrate a real connection with them, and conveys the passion and spirit which lies at their heart. Her dubby take on ‘ZaNeYen’ works well, the weirdy electronic bleeps sounding not out of place against the pulsating bass buzz and cavernously reverbed percussion. She really goes to town on ‘Marhba’, in places reducing the track to short, intense loops against an insistent, thumping dancefloor beat, while in contrast, ‘Toma de la ca’ emerges as a more sultry, sedate groove. She does treat Heide’s ‘Ein klienes Waldvögelein’ with a remarkably light touch, leaving the acoustic guitar and vocal performance fundamentally intact and augmenting them with subtle, glitchy beats kept low in the mix, soft synth washes and small sleepy incidentals, none of which is overdone.

Ultimately, it’s Gudrun Gut’s varied approach to the already diverse range of material which proves to be the strength of Vogelmixe. Moreover, the centrality of rhythm in the originals is retained and even emphasised in the mixes, and while the nature of those rhythms is much more contemporary, it again serves to convey the essence of the music, and the way in which the original artists rendered the songs with such life for which credit is very much due. And herein lies the difference between those traditional songs and the manufactured sounds which Terkessidis and Kühling find so objectionable: the latter are the sounds of the human spirit and soul, and have endured because of this. Moreover, however you tweak them, mash them and grind them up, mix and remix them, they will always contain these immutable constants which resonate through all time.

Gudrun Gut