Posts Tagged ‘electronica’

ANTIME – ANTIME20

Christopher Nosnibor

According the bio, ‘Bad Stream is guitars and machines vanishing in the spaces between Radiohead, The Notwist and Nine Inch Nails only to reemerge amidst ambient, noise, and drone. It marks Martin [Steer]’s attempt to release his own history, alienation and loneliness into the chaos of the digital world and to retain their substance in doing so.

This is very much Martin’s thing, essentially a solo project, and the album represents five years of work, of gathering, of sifting, of seeking ways to represent the realities of life in contemporary society.

“I look at my phone even while I’m playing guitar,” says Martin Steer, “and that isn’t even entirely voluntary. The 2010s really changed my perception of how digital technologies and social media affect me as a musician. Through Bad Stream I want to make sense of this particular kind of anxiety, and to use sensory overstimulation as a way to develop an independent and progressive musical language.”

I can relate. Starting out as a writer around the turn of the millennium, I was fascinated by the idea of postmodernism – because although the concept emerged in the 70s in considering writing of the 1950s and 1960s, I was completely engaged in the notion that this was something that was happening now. Whatever McLuhan, Lyotard, and Jameson, or Deleuze and Guattari had to say about the effects of accelerated communications and a ubiquitous blizzard of media and sensory overload, nothing could truly predict or account for the psychological impact of living in the second decade of the second millennium. Nothing we’ve seen before corresponds with the endless twitching, the nagging anxieties of text messages without response, the barren Facebook page, the diminishing Twitter following, the hassling, haranguing, emails and messages, the relentless barrage of information and contact from every direction.

Besides, theory and practise, however closely they endeavour to merge, invariably and inevitably exist with degrees of separation. And so it is with Bad Stream. It’s a nicely-assembled album, with some suitably dark and intense moments, and the production balances the slick, crisp ultra-digital with the messy, reverby, sonic halo that pulls it all back a way.

I often wonder what the musical landscape would look like if Nine Inch Nails hadn’t happened. It seems that one act not only spawned a genre unto themselves, but reshaped the musical landscape, to the point that what would once have sounded ‘edgy’ now sounds mundane, and so much can simply be filed as ‘derivative of Nine Inch Nails’. In drawing in a samples, semi-ambient segments and more besides, Steer extends hi sonic palette beyond the NIN template – but by the same token, Reznor’s shadow looms large over the majority of the compositions here.

Amidst the accessible (granted, it’s all relative) electro tunes, the bleak ‘Drown on Mars’ builds a pulsating bass groove over an insistent beat that call to mind the darker, more downbeat moments of The Downward Spiral and With Teeth. But where Steer separates from Reznor is his unswerving tendency to offer melody and chorus over obliterative noise. On the one hand, it’s a relief: life is punishment enough – but on the other, there’s a sense that he simply doesn’t push far or hard enough, and fails to convey the anguish, the anxiety, the trauma. ‘Polyzero’ is a cracking stab at surging shoegaze with a resonant electro throb, and it’s perfectly executed – a kind of hybrid of ‘March of the Pigs; with Nowhere era Ride. And I dig. But Bad Stream fails to convey the claustrophobia and relentless bombardment and the mental anguish it engenders. It’s a relatively minor criticism, though: everything is fucked-up enough as it is, and do we need more music that mirrors, even amplifies back, the torment of the overload that is life as we experience it? I’m too fried to conclude right now…

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20th April 2018

James Wells

Adrena Adrena is an experimental audiovisual duo consisting of. E-da Kazuhisa (Boredoms, Seefeel) and artist Daisy Dickinson, and they’re pitched as being for fans of Can, Faust, Wire, etc. According to their press release, ‘the duo cut a raw blend of drums, noise and organic visual work, featuring in their performances an eight-foot white sphere that hangs above Kazuhisa’s drum kit and which Dickinson maps videos on to.’

Naturally, the organic visual work doesn’t translate to the medium of recoded sound, but nevertheless, it’s a multisensory experience, which resonates on various levels, at least half of which are subliminal.

‘Cybals’ is a mess of murky noise, thumping, tone-shifting drums muffled by bass and mid-range and drowning in a sea of reverb. It’s industrial in strength, with echoes of Revolting Cocks’ ‘Beers, Steers and Queers’ bouncing angrily around an electro space. There’s some pretty aggressive modulation, not to mention savage treble going on.

‘Toys’ may have playful connotations in its title, and it’s a fair bit less abrasive than its counterpart, with a twittering see-saw motif dragging and quavering over a simple, repetitive beat. But the fills are dubby, clattering and laced with heavy echo, and thick ripples of bass cut through like squelchy, booming foghorn pulses. The effect is one of a certain resonant dissonance, a sonic collision.

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Karl Records -20th April 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

The title is, in many respects, self-explanatory: the successor to last year’s Organism, organism_evolution finds the collaborative pairing of Arovane (the recording alias of Berlinbased electronic artist Uwe Zahn) and Porys Hatami, who, I gather, is a prime mover on the Iranian electronic underground.

The 23 pieces which comprise organism_evolution – and whether or not this number is coincidental or confluent with the 23 enigma is perhaps an extensive aside too far – are sparse, elliptical sliver of minimalist electronica. The rhythms are cyclical, emergent, rather than overtly beat-driven: there’s little to nothing immediately identifiable as percussive.

With the exception of a brace of expansive, seven-minute sprawlers, the pieces are brief, largely sub-two-minute snippets and fragments, which range from undulating swampy miasmas of amorphous, undefined ambient smog, to clicky, crackly sketches of dissonant arrhythmia. Slow, bulbous pulses, gurgles and spiralling buzzes, woody knocks and hushed, wispy undulations weave fractal patterns. It’s a collection of intangibles, sounds in ever-shifting states and perpetual transition, the forms conforming to no distinct shape or structure.

The pieces aren’t only brief, but adopt a microscopic focus – the accompanying blurb lists among the processes involved in the album’s formulation ‘modular and granular synthesis, spectral processing, resonator/modal synthesis’. The technicalities of synthesiser work are beyond my ken: ultimately, I’m interested in the output rather than the input, and its effects as a listening experience.

At times, the experience is discomfiting, the eerie atmospherics creating unsettling disharmony as ominous low notes hover, hum and scrape against jittering skitters of treble that set the teeth on edge. The extreme use of stereo in places creates an immersive – if disorientating – three-dimensionality. But for all of the perpetual movement and the speed of the sonic transitions – sounds and ideas pass before they’ve even registered, giving organism_evolution an air or ephemerality – the overall effect is one of a work which flows.

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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.

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Nicolas Bernier

Jahmoni Music – JMM209 – 23rd February 2018

James Wells

Straight into weird shit territory here. Wordless, atonal vocals layer up, ululating and droning and whatever, the tape stretched and slowed and generally fucked about with, while a monotonous bass throb and thumping industrial beat holds an insistent four/four. Think The Fall crossed with Throbbing Gristle. It’s not the full picture, but is a flavour of ‘To Evacuate is Difficult and Infrequent’. It may or may not be a song about bowels. But probably is.

DJ Marcelle is certainly not a DJ in either the conventional or contemporary sense: nor does she present the image of the club DJ throwing down bangin’ tunes for the euphoric masses. Her website uses a kind of Scooby Doo Mystery Machine typeface, and her tour photos all document the soups she’s consumed. This explicit lack of coolness is a cause to celebrate her as an artist. This is not about trends or commercial endeavours: this is about making art with sound.

‘To Reveal the Secret’ is a lo-fi mess of sample loops and clattering drums, and calls to mind the jittery experimentalism of the early 80s avant-garde scene: again, the shadow of TG looms, but equally, the playful oddness of early Foetus and lesser-known acts like Meat Beat Manifesto offshoot Perennial Divide. It pretty much bleeds into ‘Walking Around Aimlessly’, another mash-up of looped samples and old-school tape effects, mining that seem of William Burroughs cut-up inspired audio experimentalism that marked Cabaret Voltaire’s first few albums. Firecracking percussion and wild analogue bleeps provide the fabric of the frenetic finale, which lands in the form of ‘To Sing Along’. The irony is as heavy as the bass, and it rounds of a set that’s noteworthy primarily for its weirdness and apparent celebration of the random.

And random’s where it’s at. Psalm Tree is weird but groovy.

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DJ Marcelle

5th February 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

Sidestepping any comparison of the title to Chocolate Starfish And The Hot Dog Flavored Water and perhaps clocking a nod to Cinema Cinema’s Manic Children and the Slow Aggression, The Tattooed Aunts and Mice on Speed stands not only as one of the most intriguing juxtaposed item album titles I can think of, but is probaby one of the best you’ll hear all year.

It’s been some time in coming, but Rick Senley’s fourth album under the I Am A Man with a St Tropez Tan guise. He has many, including musicforvoyeurs, alongside his work as a photographer, journalist, writer, teacher, actor and guitarist in a number of bands. I Am A Man With a St Tropez Tan is – according to Senley himself – ‘the sound of aggression borne of death, mental health struggles and addiction. It’s also a project centred around one man and his Dictaphone, a magpie-like approach to lifting and combining snippets of sound to create a nasty, messy and quite abrasive collage.

The biographical context to The Tattooed Aunts and Mice on Speed is genuinely harrowing, and I shall quote without abridgement: ‘After the death of his girlfriend and an accident left Rick housebound for months he channelled his rage and despair though electronic sounds and screams – a Chemical Brother nightmare put to sleep by Apex Twin’s downers, a bed-bath by Depeche Mode with Nine Inch Nails glaring through the keyhole and The Prodigy banging on the door.’

It’s a challenging mess of splintered noise, fragmented and disjointed, with pumping technoindustrial beats and dark club-orientated grooves pounding insistently beneath it all.

The whole thing has a nightmarish quality about it. Warped vocal samples taper in the way for a juddering beat and warping bass groove on the first track, ‘Killing Seals’, and thins become only more challenging from hereon in. the second Senley seems prepared to offer an inroad, an accessible structure centred around a solid rhythm and consistent bassline, he tears it to shreds and throws it all up in the air.

Senley pitches the album with the summary ‘Bursts of Burma, Thai ladyboys, Egyptian dogs and kittiwakes from Iceland join forces in equally disturbing measure.’ It’s perhaps a slanted perspective of the actual contents of The Tattooed Aunts, but it does give some indication of the wide-ranging sourcing of material Senley has engaged in in order to formulate this near-Burroughsian cut-up collage of sound. It’s disruptive, disturbing, a soundtrack of dissonance and dislocation. And it very much captures and conveys a mood of a difficult headspace, making for an album that’s at times tough, but ultimately rewarding.

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Crónica 138 – 6th February 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

Mark E Smith has died. It shouldn’t come as a surprise. In fact, the surprise should be that he didn’t die sooner. But I can’t help but be shaken by the news. It doesn’t feel appropriate to post any music reviews: my social media streams are aclog with tributes to Smith, and it feels wrong even to add to the noise. Part of me feels I should revisit a slew of the old favourites, but they’re so engrained in my mind, I don’t really need to hear them, especially not now.

And so I immerse myself in Témoins, the latest offering from Mathias Delplanque, whose work I’ve previously enjoyed. The three sections of Témoins (including the digital bonus track ‘TU)’ are a world away from the ramshackle three-chord stomps and lyrical derangements of The Fall: these instrumental works – sound collages laid over difficult hums and drones – present a very different kind of abstraction. And it reminds me, vitally, that life goes on. Music goes on.

The sparse arrangements – often, they barely feel like arrangements – are as much about space and silence as sound. The sounds – the whirrs, the drones, he hums, the hisses – are interrupted, disrupted, broken – by seemingly random elements. Birdsong, lowing cattle, slamming doors, clatters and bangs, thumps and crackles. These are amidst the irregular extranea which form the fabric of the material of Témoins.

The atmosphere shifts and moods emerge most unexpectedly from seemingly innocuous sound pairings and juxtapositions. Late in the second piece, ‘Bruz’, thin, tentative notes hover long in the air, needling the senses while unexpected bumps and knocks at close proximity are enough to make you jump. Muffled conversation carries on all around. Here, Delplanque expertly recreates the conditions and sensations of the anxiety of agoraphobia. It grows chill, and it’s difficult to not feel tense are wary. On ‘TU’ – by far the shortest piece running for less than ten minutes – a ghostly piano drifts into the damp air while scraping footfalls combine to create an unsettling, spine-tingling atmosphere.

With Témoins, Mathias Delplanque delivers an hour of understated yet quietly compelling ambient dissonance.

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