Posts Tagged ‘electronica’

Panarus Productions – 25th January 2019

Sometimes, I don’t help myself. I allow myself to disappear down rabbit holes of hypertext and to indulge myself in the worst, most mentally unhealthy ways while writing thinly-veiled work of fiction. Right what you know, right? Only, when what you know is anxiety laced with paranoia from two decades of exposure to corporate culture and rolling television news, gravitating towards the things you feel you should know more about to bolster the experiences of what you know, the echo-chamber of confirmation-bias just becomes a screaming howl of endless reverb.

And depressingly often, sooner or later, life imitates art. Over the last few days, I’ve received texts from friends telling me they’re witnessing scenes reminiscent of Retail Island at the very retail park that inspired the book. It was of course inevitable: in a time when the news channels have evolved into irony-free replicas of The Day Today, it’s night-on impossible to separate Ballardian dystopias located in credibly near futures from news reportage.

It was similarly inevitable that I would gravitate towards this release by Heat Death Of The Sun – or, moreover, that it would otherwise find me one way or another. The label promises

‘half an hour oppressive electronics’ and a work that’s ‘very much the soundtrack to some kind of automated authoritarian surveillance network’. Of course I’m sold.

The first of the album’s five tracks, ‘Currency of Faith’ opens with a recording of Dylan Thomas reading ‘Do not go gentle into that good night’ in expansive, ominous tones: slowly, low, rumbling drones begin to eddy around and slow, deliberate beats crash in like thunder. Before long, it’s built into a claustrophobic buzz with extraneous noise surges and a monotonous industrial rhythm clattering, half-submerged but cutting through the murk with a sharp metallic edge. Oppressive is the word, and not even a choral intervention can lift the atmosphere beyond subterranean dankness.

A tension-inducing uptempo beat – an insistent clicking hammer that thumps and thumps and thumps – introduces ‘The Relentless Pound of Austerity’ and continues to thump away monotonously for over ten minutes, amidst a whirling eddy of off-key atonality, a midrange buzzing and a collage of samples. There’s no way you can get comfortable listening to this as you feel your heartbeat increasing and your jaw clenching spontaneously, especially near the end when a shriek of digital feedback increases to an unbearable, ear-splitting level and engulfs everything. It’s fucking horrible – and as such, it’s the perfect soundtrack to the now, the lack of levity and lack of breathing space the sonic representation of the inescapable blizzard of media we’re subjected to all day, every day.

Guiding the listener through a bleak soundscape of dark ambience pinned together by monotonous rhythms, the experience of listening to this album is an uncomfortable one: even the delicate twitter of birdsong is imbued with a sense of impending doom. And it leads down the path which culminates in the pounding industrial grind of the title track. Awkward oscillations shiver behind a slow electronic beat while mechanical noise and voices echo into the abyss for eight full minutes, spreading an atmosphere of dislocation and alienation that fittingly draws the album to a stark, cold close.

Heat Death

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Monika Entreprise – monika93 – 7th December 2018

Although active on the German music scene since the late 70s, it wasn’t until 2007 that Gudrun Gut released her first solo album. She’s maintained a steady output over the last decade, while also operating labels Monika Enterprise and Moabit Musik. And while very much married to the field of electronic music, one could never describe her work as predictable or standard, and Moment is no exception. Describing it not as an album, or even a collection of songs, but a ‘statement’, she promises a work which is ‘stark, somber, sultry, and clever, [on which] the sides slide between ballad and lament, synth-pop and spoken word, anthemic and abstract.

From the opening motoric beat and throbbing electronica of ‘Startup Loch’, over which Gudrun Gut lays monotone robotic vocals, Moment presents a sparse retro electro style. Heavy repetition and monotony are the defining features of the album’s fourteen tracks which thud away, on and on. ‘Lover’ is exemplary, grinding out a single looped pulse over a square 4/4 beat bereft of fills for over five minutes, while the cover of Bowie’s ‘Boys Keep Swinging’ is an object lesson in cold clinicality, stripping out the flamboyance – and tune – on the original, and replacing both with a discordant drone.

As much DAF as Kraftwerk, it’s every inch German-built in its fabric. The atmosphere is one of detachment and sterility, but in that clipped early 80s style that makes optimal use of reverb and precise production. There’s something about that stripped-back analogue synthiness paired with mechanoid percussion that’s more chilling and glacial than contemporary digital production can muster. And by these means, Gudrun Gut gives a lesson in distancing, in detachment, in music that segregates the cerebral from the soul.

The experimentalism becomes more pronounced as the album progresses. ‘Biste schon weg’ pulls apart structure and stretches at the edges of linear time to warp some woozy bass and glitchy, clattering beats which slowly collapse from rhythm to deconstruct the very components of composition, presenting an exploded view of music-making. Gradually, the forms become increasingly indistinct, more fragmented, more abstract, delineated and disconnected. Cohesion crumbles to slow-drifting sonic separation as delineation and decay define the evermore nebulous forms.

Moment is not as the title suggests, a single moment, but a succession of moments which blur into one another. Collectively, the pieces create a unique listening space in which time folds in on itself and stretches, bending, in all directions. A moment to get lost in.

Neue Moment M93 LP Out.indd

Green Recordings – 30th November 2018 (Big Mouth)

A Gradual Decline is the debut album by CUTS, the audio-visual project of composer and filmmaker Anthony Tombling Jr. It follows the release of the EP ‘A Slow Decay’, which came out in October. The titles suggest a trajectory, an overarching theme, and Tombling’s preoccupation with environmental issues and global warming is the key here. “We are living in the age of the Anthropocene and it feels like everything is in decline,” he says.

He explains the process and inspiration as follows: “I have tried to make a record that feels like it’s all come from one place. My only musical influence on this was William Basinski’s ‘Disintegration Loops’. Not the music, but the process. The idea of a decline in sound really suited the concept of this record. All this music and instrumentation trapped in this declining digital signal. I wanted it to sound brittle and precarious. I also wanted to avoid doing overly dark material, opting instead for something that was more fragile, melancholic and even hopeful in moments.”

As such, this is a concept work, and a concept that’s conveyed by the medium of chilled-out electronica, propelled by quite mellow beats. And while there is a melancholy hue to the instrumentation it doesn’t exactly say ‘potential collapse of civilisation’ or ‘global warming: aaargh, we’re all fucked’. This is no criticism: it’s hard to reconcile the now with the future prospects was talk about endlessly but never seem to reach. Even positioning the Anthropocene is problematic, although using the increasingly popular placing of post-1945 as the marker, with that year being tipped by the Geological Society as The Great Acceleration in terms of the impact of human activity on climate and environment as the defining feature of the current geological age, is perhaps instructive in the context of Tombling’s comments that “we’re in a moment where extinction is regular. I wanted this record to reflect these frailties.”

The press release promises ‘11 widescreen, electronic compositions in response to global political and environmental breakdown,’ and explains how A Gradual Decline addresses the planet’s current fragility using actual field recordings of ice collapsing from glaciers’. This isn’t apparent in the music itself, and a lot of A Gradual Decline given to quite simple, straight-ahead electronica, and while there are warping synth washes to be found hither and thither, it’s gentle and genteel and doesn’t instil a gut-churning sense of panic. Then again, some of the pieces are quite stark and spacious.

The album’s trajectory is – as the title suggests – gradual. The pace slows and structures become increasingly loose and delineated, beats more fractured and fragmented as it progresses. It’s fitting: the slide into increasingly turbulent weather isn’t something noticeable on a day-to-day basis and on a global scale, rapid change is relative.

But by the time the listener has drifted through the rippling piano rolls and low-stuttering pulsations of ‘Maboroshi’ and the dilapidated slow-drone ambience of ‘Fear of Everything’ which suddenly vanishes to nothing after thirteen minutes of formless drift, the sense of journey becomes finally apparent.

A Gradual Decline is an album that makes more sense and grows in appeal with time to absorb and assimilate, to reflect and to refocus. Given time, A Gradual Decline makes sense. Its just a shame we don’t have the luxury of time to save the planet.

AA

CUTS - A Gradual Decline

Elli Records – EL07 – 13th November 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

Silence has long intrigued us. Variations of the philosophical question, ‘if a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?’ have been a subject of contemplation since the 18th Century. As much as this ponderance is concerned with perception rather than the existence of silence, it does also hint at the idea that sounds are only what we hear. Does silence actually exist? In an evermore noisy world, the possibility of silence seems to have diminished beyond the vanishing point. And the more impossible its attainment becomes, the more we seek and desire it. And yet, at the same time, some people fear silence, even if only subconsciously.

In my own experience, even a moment of peace is conspicuous by its mere existence. My attempts to escape the noise of the world invariably prove futile; the babble of the office, the endless throng and thrum of traffic and people on the journeys there and back; a wife and child and general domestic noise on either side of those. Taking refuge in my office, I spend my evenings listening to music, the whirr of my laptop’s fan and the click of the hard drive a constant even when the music stops, while dogs bark outside and neighbours clatter around in their kitchens on either side. The lived experience is one of no escape, and no respite, and one which confirms the myth of silence.

Much meditation and mindfulness is concerned with seeking silence, if only internally, and musical experiments with silence have been manifold, although perhaps most famously by John Cage. It was on visiting an anechoic chamber – a room designed in such a way that the walls, ceiling and floor absorb all sounds made in the room, rather than reflecting them as echoes, and also externally sound-proofed – at Harvard University and Cage’s realisation of the impossibility of silence that prompted the composition of ‘4’33”’.

It was a similar room – this time at the Mechanical & Acoustic Research Lab LMA-CNRD in France – which not only inspired Julien Bayle to explore silence, but provided the source material for the album, captured during two hours of silence in the room. The results – as the title hints – are anything but silent.

As the text which accompanies the release explains, ‘Tiny random variations of physical electronic noises coming from the recording system itself, as uncontrolled spectres haunting the wires, have been captured and amplified, cut into tiny slices and grains, and used, both as basic sound sources feeding the Bayle’s machinery, and as modulation sources influencing pre-existing sound textures and continua performed live by the artist.’ Evoking Cage, it suggests ‘Violent Grains of Silence is the interpretation of the impossibility of silence by Julien Bayle’.

From what appears as nothing on the surface, Bayle has not only created something, but something immense. Violent Grains of Silence is not a hushed, tranquil work, but one of volume and great sonic turbulence. Violent is indeed an appropriate descriptor. Violent Grains comprises a series pieces through which whispering, grumbling, crackling, groaning, droning sounds swirl and eddy. There are crackling blasts of explosive static, grinding, electric, metal-edged abrasions – ‘Distr’ is a particularly blistering burst of coruscating noise. ‘Unpr’ buzzes and fizzes and thunders, a heavy barrage of low-end sounds creating the effect of an arrhythmic percussion.

Amplification counts for a lot, but it’s only possibly to amplify something which already exists. And so it is that Bayle has created a work which is rich in texture and tone, dynamic and at times disturbing.

This is truly the sound of silence. And the silence is at times deafening.

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Julien Bayle - Violent Grains

Bearsuit Records – 1st November 2018

James Wells

This one seemingly pinged in from nowhere finds BBC (that’s Black Bear Catapult, which consists of Ippu Mitsui and Jimmy Finlayson) deliver a slice of strangeness that combines hyperactive electropop backing of spacey synths which wibble and warp against a drum machine which flitters and stutters frenetically as if its programmer is on a rush of sugar and caffeine, bursting into double-time seemingly on a whim. Jittery, jumpy, overenergised, this release positively twitches with a stroboscopic kineticism.

There’s a nice strolling bassline that emerges here and there during ‘Leopold Checks In At The Laughing House’, and while the overall tone is playful and a little bit daft, it’s something you can groove to. And I’m down with that!

AA

BBC - Laughing

Bearsuit Records – 14th July 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

The Bearsuit philosophy is, to the best of my understanding, essentially built round a l’aissez-faire approach to experimentalism and collaboration. Stuff happens, when it happens, as it happens. Sometimes it happens without input or collaboration. And it’s all fine as long as it’s not mainstream. Truth is, nothing any of the Bearsuit acts could produce in a million lifetimes would ever even hint at mainstream aspirations. The reason I’ve been a personal advocate of the label and its output for a while now is simply because they do what they so, and don’t give a crap about trends, commercialism, or anything else. As I wrote the other day, albeit in a slightly different context: it’s for the love, not the money.

The label’s latest release sees Haq (the alter-ego of another Bearsuit would-be legend, Harold Nono) return. Five years on from the ‘Nocturnals’ album, this EP offers three remixes frm the album, plus two new cuts.

Lead track ‘Antics in a Maze’ moves far beyond the avant-trip-hop leanings of its predecessor and froths with fanciful flights of incongruity, and brims with an air of otherness. Breathy vocals waft over drifting, trilling swathes of gauze-like synth, crossed with bursts of odd electronica, deep dub and driving drum ‘n’ bass. Warped snippets of thee tunes for fictional TV shows and films from the 70s and 80s emerge fleetingly for the ever-shifting compositional aneurysm.

‘Norvell’ is the second new cut: with sonorous, brooding synths and rich, layered strings that sweep and tug at the tear ducts, as well as percussion that simultaneously clatters and thunders, it’s a dissonant and haunting work that straddles industrial, goth and shoegaze, with hints of Cranes and a messed-up air of dark beauty about its detached, haunting evocativeness.

The remixes are varied, in terms of style, interest and significance – but at least they are varied. Senji Niban’s remix of ‘Are You the Elephant’ thumps along insistently, a far cry from the slightly eerie, chilled original, while The Autumna remix of ‘Bees in My Feet’ is but a humming drone that’s elevated above ambience by virtue of maintaining a pitch that’s impossible to ignore, however hard you may try.

There’s nothing ordinary about the music on this EP, and while it’s bewildering at times – as you’d reasonably expect from Bearsuit – it also contains moments of extreme elegance and grace which are spellbinding.

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Haq_Antics-front-cover

Reject and Fade – 13th August 2018

It’s been some eighteen months since we heard from break_fold, the, post-I Concur musical vehicle of Tim Hann.

27_05_17 – 21_01_18 continues the trajectory of its predecessor, the first break_fold release 07_07_15 – 13_04_16, and as previously, each track title refers to the date that work on the song commenced. And, as the press release for this limited-edition cassette release explains, ‘The album serves as a document of time stamped periods of creativity captured in layered beats and foggy reverse reverb textures’. However, this set also marks a evolution, and whereas dark ambience dominated the first release, this outing offers some real range, not to mention stylistic expansion.

As such, it’s something of a musical diary, and Hann’s methodology isn’t a world apart from that of John Tuffen on a number of his projects, notably Namke Communications’ One Year; Two Days and 365/2015. An what both artists share is a certain logical sense of documentation and a prioritisation of location in time (but, seemingly, less so space: we know the when, but there where, undocumented, is immediately lost to history and perhaps vague memory).

There’s a lot of fog and murk in the mix on the seven semi-ambient pieces collected here, but 27_05_17 – 21_01_18 is a lot, lot lighter than its predecessor and is the soundtrack t a move o an altogether happier place.

‘08_01_18_Intro’ raises the curtain with clitchy, flickering microbeats, sedate pulses of bass and swathes of expansive, abstract sweeps of sound.‘21_01_18’ goes low-tempo and stealthy, with a strolling, near subsonic bass and rippling piano drifting gently over a slow-turning sonic expanse. There’s a more direct feel to ‘07_08_17’, with it pulsing synths and insistent beats – and with the vintage Roland snare sound, it has something of a tense, Krautrock vibe and a certain urgent turbulence beneath its smooth surface.

‘19_11_17’ hits an almost commercial vibe, with a buoyant dance beat pushing the altogether more focused composition forwards. There are no two ways about it: 27_05_17 – 21_01_18 finds Hann pushing himself and expanding his musical palette.

The atmosphere on this release is very different from its predecessor, and while it’s very much a mistake to align the artist and the art, the tone suggests that Tim Hann is in a better place than when he recorded 07_07_15 – 13_04_16. I certainly hope so. 27_05_17 – 21_01_18 isn’t all sweetness and light, but it is a varied and, in places, uplifting album with no shortage of buoyance, melody and accessibility.

AA

break_fold – 27_05_17 – 21_01_18