Posts Tagged ‘electronica’

9th August 2019

Gintas K’s bandcamp boasts no fewer than twenty-nine releases. The Lithuanian experimentalist isn’t one to place quantity over quantity either: this almost overwhelming output, as represented by an average two releases a year, is the product of an enquiring mind, a fertile imagination and an unstinting work ethic.

The title gives a hint as to this EP’s creation: recorded live in a single day, without any overdub; using computer, midi keyboard & controller assigned to vst plugins, the three pieces on One Day Journey are exercises in excitable minimalism, skittering glitchtronics and exemplary works in the field of circuitry-based fuckabouts.

The three tracks, distinguished simply in numerical terms, are defined by swampy bleeps, bloops, glops, thumps, pips and pops fly haphazardly flitting and flickering in all directions, surging and swelling, whumping and slumping. Drip, drop, blip, blop, slip, slop, tinkle, tinkle In so many respects, they’re devoid of both structure and substance, and yet it’s this flippant flimsiness that renders them of merit.

Gintas’ flighty, almost fanciful style of experimental electronica is amusing in an avant-garde way, and almost seems intent on being vaguely irritating to anyone who isn’t already entirely on board with this strain of whacky wild synapse-snapping oddness.

The third and final track, ‘Three’ fizzes and foams a mess of electronic froth, foaming and fermenting effervescently over a thirteen-minute sprawl of apparent discoordination. It’s a crazed mass of non-linear noise, an impossible combobulation of sound. And if you are on board with this strain of whacky wild synapse-snapping oddness, One Day Journey has everything going for it.

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Gintas K - One Day

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Monika Enterprise – Monika94 – 16th August 2019

Released in December, Moment was one of those albums that grabbed my attention by virtue of its ‘otherly’ take on the conventions of electronica. Gudrun summarised it as being ‘stark, somber, sultry, and clever’, and indeed, it was all of those things, as well as being utterly compelling. How you do improve on that?

Ordinarily, I’d have said you don’t mess with near-perfection, and that you certainly don’t improve on anything with remixes. But then, much as I enjoy my reputation for always being right, I’m sometimes happy to be proven wrong, and with Moment Remixes, Gudrun Gut has found sympathetic remixers who all seem to have honed in on similar elements of the album’s tracks, meaning it’s a stylistically coherent collection, and with only four tracks, it doesn’t feel laboured or like it’s milking the material in any way.

The remixes very much accentuate the stark, minimalist aspects of Moment, as well as the retro vibe that amalgamates early DAF with ‘Warm Leatherette’ by way of a blueprint, and it’s the crisp cracks of vintage drum machine snares that dominate and define the sound here, while everything else is backed off. It’s robotic, dehumanised, and in some respects, challenging in its mechanised sterility. Or, as the press release puts it, ‘4 goose-bump inducing tracks ideal for all floors and moods’.

T. Raumschmiere’s remix of ‘Lover’ launches proceedings as a pumping dance track. It’s energetic and energized, but at the same time sultry and bleak, somehow balancing the seemingly contradictory atmospheres or claustrophobia and spaciousness.

The remix of Gut’s cover of David Bowie’s ‘Boys Keep Swinging’ courtesy of Pilocka Krach distils everything that was quirky and interesting about the album version and brings it together in magnificent style, and Dasha Rush and Paul Frick (remixing ‘Baby I Can Drive My Car’ and ‘Musik’ respectively) retain the emphasis on sparse yet ultimately danceable grooves. I don’t dance, but I do dig.

Gudrun Gut - Moment Remixes

Panurus Productions – 26th July 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

‘Prolific’ is the word. There are a number of artists, with a significant pocket being Japanese noisemakers like Merzbow and Kenji Siratori As Paraponera Clavata, released in March, marked his 41st release since his 2014 debut, it would be fair to place Osaka’s Takahiro Mukai in the ‘prolific’ bracket.

And while Ripples isn’t explicitly a ‘noise’ work, it does find Mukai drilling the listeners senses with some pretty shrill shards of treble atop whupping phased synths. The cover art may depict a perfect tropical ocean, clear and a glorious turquoise / blue washing softly over white sand, but delicate and gentle it isn’t, and Mukai’s approach to minimalism doesn’t equate to quiet or tranquil – simply that less is more.

The first of the album’s four tracks, ‘#437’ is reminiscent of Whitehouse around the time of Birthdeath Experience or Total Sex – only with better production and without the vocals. ‘#436’ follows, and draws abrasion from smooth surfaces. In the distance, a sound like a siren, while an oscillating synth bubbles along, its volume increasing as it moves to the foreground. More phasing pulsations bring a rhythm that stop and starts inconsistently to disorientating effect. The effect is the real achievement here: the compositions on Ripples work in such a way that the component sounds rub against one another to draw the listener’s attention to that peculiar tension that exists in the space in between.

Completely disrupting my sense of order with the non-sequential ‘#439’, Mukai stretches elongated, undulating drones out over some ten and a half minutes to create a deep disquiet, but it’s on the closer, ‘#438’ where Mukai steps up on the noise. Low in the mix, electronic fizzes like shooting stars whistle through the dense droning atmosphere. Over the course of almost nine minutes, the volume and intensity increase, revealing new textures and tones. Stuttering rhythms emerge like desperate messages in Morse code where every sound is a dot. Scrapes and squalls bore into the cranium in the upper frequencies, while a thunderous wind billows through the mid-range, expanding from a rumble to a roar like an approaching helicopter, or an avalanche.

Sitting in my office at home, writing on the hottest day of the year so far, and what may yet prove to be the hottest in the UK on record, the thought of an avalanche carries a rare appeal. But then, whether it be a literal avalanche or merely an avalanche of sound, Ripples fulfils that desire to be submerged and separated from one’s immediate environment.

Takahiro Mukai – Ripples

Panurus Productions – 21st June 2019

Inspector Fogg is Newcastle filmmaker Wayne Lancaster, and his eponymous album threatens ‘ten tracks of warm synth-based stuff.’ For some reason, this makes me think about pissing down my own leg.

The slow, soft wash of sound that marks the album’s arrival in the form of ‘Fuyu’ isn’t nearly as embarrassing or as uncomfortable, the drones swelling and rising in and out of step to forge fluidly fluctuating rhythmic ebbs and flows. Although very much of the album is ambient to the point that structures are lost in the drift, each composition has a distinct identity and mood.

‘The View Across the River’ begins as a delicate strum before yielding to polyrthymic bleepery, while ‘Strange Tales’ is dark and vaguely sinister. If ‘ominous’ sounds like a similar descriptor, it’s different enough to mark the subtle shift in atmosphere as ‘A Year From Now’ casts reflective shadows between held breaths.

There’s more substance to ‘Lamb to the Slaughter’, an insistent beat and pulsating synth behind a rolling piano creating a groove that evokes an action sequence in a film. But its erratic stops and starts are jarring, and it’s almost an act of self-sabotage as the one piece that seems to be going somewhere is simply gone in just over two minutes.

The pieces become shorter and seemingly less evolved towards the end of the album, with ‘Oil on the Road’ and ‘Case Closed’ being sketches of around a minute each. The former is driven by a grimy, buzzing synth bass overlaid with 80s-sounding electronic keys that threatens to go all Harold Faltermeyer before an abrupt ending, while the latter is a piano-based outline that has infinite scope for expansion.

Assuming this gradual diminishment of development is all part of a plan of sorts, the logical analysis would be to attempt to unravel its purpose or meaning. But this is art, and art so often defies logic. And while the snippety pieces are vaguely frustrating, the album as a whole is satisfying in its balance of variety and cohesion, and its infinitely preferable to pissing down your own leg.

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Inspector Fogg

COdA / Lonktaar – 20th March 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

This release came my way via master purveyor of noise and drone and occasional collaborator of mine, Dave Procter. The man with more pseudonyms and projects than possibly anyone I’ve ever met – with Legion of Swine, Fibonacci Drone Organ, Wharf Street Galaxy Band, Hundbajs, Dale Prudent, and Trouser Carrier being just a few of his outlets – he’s immensely well-connected (and deservedly respected) in this niche corner of difficult experimental music (with forays into poetry and spoken word and with an angular post-punk band in the mix). I’m therefore assured that anything he recommends will be suitably obscure, and challenging, and probably very good and right up my alley. This is very much the case of Systemet’s När Vintern Kommer Till Sverige.

According to the press sheet, ‘Systemet is a collective that challenges the architecture of a standard band. While the sounds have their roots in early industrial, dungeon synth, dark ambient and noise drone music, only a segment of Systemet is a harsh reinterpretation of the mix of these genres.’ And it is harsh. Meanwhile, according to Dave, it’s a ‘beast’. And it is a beast.

I learn that ‘the aim of this album is to recreate the sensations of the Swedish winter, based on a one-week off-track trek in the Sami area north of mount Kebnekaise, where the cover picture was taken, in the period between autumn and winter 2018.’ Having never experienced a Swedish winter, I’m ill-equipped to comment, but if it really is anything like När Vintern Kommer Till Sverige, I can only conclude that Swedish winters are seriously tough.

I also learn that ‘all sounds were produced by ELI and ELQ synthesizers’ – which, being custom-made, you won’t find in the shops or emulated on-line – on a quadraphonic system, and recorded in dual stereo. The effect is deep, wide, immense.

‘Čievrrajávri’, the first of the album’s four pieces – I’d be reluctant to call them compositions, begins as barely a whisper of wind, a delicate breeze laced with almost invisible, inaudible traces, before the low-gravity bass notes begin to amble and moan in rumbling undercurrents that set an uneasy tone.

Things don’t get lighter or easier from thereon in: ‘Glaciären Brinner’ brings more space-age pulsations, oscillating rhythmic throbs of distorting low-end and murky mid-range over which whistles and screeches. But mostly, it’s about dark washes out found, swirling gurgles that spiral and whip the air. It’s an ever-shifting soundscape of swirling, pulsating darkness, a vortex which sucks the listener in. and it only become s progressively more difficult. It’s perhaps a cumulative effect: scrapes and drones in small doses are simply scrapes and drones, but over the course of almost forty minutes, it slowly becomes increasingly torturous, and När Vintern Kommer Till Sverige offers no respite.

The ‘extended version’ of ‘Gaskkasvággi’ is 11:11 of elongated, grating drone and what sounds like heavy breathing up close to a mic amplified and looped. It’s a shade hypnotic. It’s followed by the final piece, ‘Vy Över Visstas’, Which is the sound of collapse and a protracted final meltdown; circuitry slowing, fizzling to a halt, howling and braying like slain robots in an uncoordinated wash of distortion and stuttering analogue froth.

När Vintern Kommer Till Sverige is indeed a beast: challenging, uncompromising, bridging the gap between Tangerine Dream, Throbbing Gristle and the vast field of contemporary dark ambient / industrial / electronic crossover, it succeeds in pitching unsettling layers of unease in the pit of the stomach.

Systemet – När Vintern Kommer Till Sverige

Christopher Nosnibor

“Are you a journalist?”

I nod. I don’t like talking when a band is playing. I don’t like other people talking when a band is playing, so why would I do it? It’s rude. And I’m there to watch the band. And so I don’t explain that no, I don’t consider myself to be a journalist or a music journalist, but a writer who happens to write about music often.

She’s already asked me what I’m doing and tried to get a look at my notes – a spidery scrawl barely legible to myself, to which I’d responded by wordlessly waving my A7 pad at her.

Some people just don’t get hints.

Following on from opening acts Steve Hadfield, who’ delivered a set of proficient but slightly static electronica and Dean McPhee, who performed some ethereal, atmospheric guitar instrumentals with the assistance of a bank of pedals that almost filled the venue’s small stage, worriedaboutsatan built their set nicely. One of their trademarks is intelligent structure, and while they’ve woven segments of their latest album’s more delicate parts into their set, they swiftly transitioned from drifting ambience through subtle rhythmic pulsations to propulsive beats, all the while conjuring rich layers of atmosphere. Gavin Miller’s guitar sounds even less guitar-like than ever, as he conjures rippling waves of sonic abstraction from six strings.

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Steve Hadfield

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Dean McPhee

It’s been a long and taxing day, and I’ve consumed more beer than intended, than is wise, I’m switching between tenses, and I’m trying to decipher the narrative of the film projected at the back of the stage. It’s intercut with various black-and-white footage that conveys nothing in itself, but is evocative in its bleakness, and there are flickering light segments, too: beyond this, they play in darkness, visible only in silhouette. Their stage show hasn’t changed dramatically in recent years, but it’s visually striking and effective, and places the immersive music to the fore.

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worriedaboutsatan

Then, halfway through, a couple of women appear at the front and get down to some mum-dancing: fair play, but they don’t need to be exchanging comments about it. I have my earplugs in and am in the zone, perhaps more even than usual in my state of inebriation. It’s the short, chubby one who starts nebbing at my pad – not that I’d have been any happier had t been her taller, slimmer friend.

“Who do you write for?” she shouts in my ear. It’s a shame earplugs only reduce volume and cut top-end rather than muting irritants.

“Me.” I want to tell her to fuck off, but even seven pints in, I’m mindful of manners.

This throws her but she seems to think it’s cool, and she asks yet more questions, and then she starts going on about how she’s worried about my eyesight, writing in the dark and all. I appreciate the concern, but my liver and blood pressure and anxiety are probably more of an issue than my eyes, and besides, I’m wearing tinted glasses at a gig, and if perfect strangers feel the need to worry about anything, I’d say climate change, Brexit, the stranglehold of capitalism, and the simple fact we’re all doomed are more worthy of that worry. Ok, so I don’t appreciate her concern one bit.

Eventually, she leaves me in peace and I’m able to watch the guys bring their set to a triumphant climax to an appreciative response from a home crowd. And deservedly so: the fact they don’t tour often, and when they do, they’re reliably solid, consistently engaging and dynamic in both set formation and performance, and perform with such incredible energy, makes an intimate show like this all the more special.

SM-LL BATCH0008 – 25th January 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

Having recently extended my spoken word performances to collaborations with soundmakers, I’ve started to learn a little bit about home-made kit. Not the practicalities of constructing it: I mean I find myself conversing with guys – it’s invariably guys – who assemble circuitry, some of which ends up ether accompanying or processing / destroying my vocals. Their approaches to both construction and housing vary wildly: one guy just leaves his PSB open, while another has a selection of lever-type knobs set in an upturned (empty) chicken and mushroom Pot Noodle pot.

New Tendencies of one of a number of projects of Toronto-based musician, artist, designer, and educator Matt Nish-Lapidus, who explains the origins of Batch0008 as being ‘a set of sound experiments as I was building pieces of my Serge system. With each new modules or panel, I spent time trying to understand its possibilities, limits, and edges. From these experiments I learned techniques for what Serge calls “patch programming”, using the patching of the instrument to specify what each component is meant to do in that specific context.’

‘For this collection of pieces, I used patching as the sole means of sequencing and composing the music. The music here is the result of a process of experimentation and refinement, steadily pushed forward by Martin at SM-LL, providing essential feedback and reference points along the way that helped me arrive at the sound of this record. I wanted to play with the raw electronic sound of the Serge but still make pieces that hold together as compositions and are unique from one another.’

And so we land in microtonal, minimalist, high-detail territory. The pieces are indeed unique, and I’m assuming the titles are indicators of the origins of each. However, at the same time, the pieces share much commonality, with pulsing rhythms providing the focus and the form. None of the pieces really evolve, as much as they trundle along a preset groove. Repetition takes precedent over development, the compositions – such as they are – standing as cyclical, looping phrases, occasionally punctuated by extraneous noises. It’s all strangely cold, clinical, detached: Batch0008 very much feels like the document of a series of experiments, far more than it does an album.

The digital edition contains a seventh track, ‘Swelter’. This also feels like a document of an experiment, another three minutes of electronic pulsations, glitching beats and rhythmic ebb and flow.

As an audience, we probably take from this less than Matt Nish-Lapidus, but, by the same token, there’s an element of shared engagement here, and if Batch0008 is a document of his evolution as a kit-builder, it’s also a journey on which we, as listeners, are involved.

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