Posts Tagged ‘electronica’

29th August 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

True to form, details of the theory or process behind Gintas K’s third release of 2020 are sparse: ‘Played & recorded live by Gintas K 2019. Recorded live at once, without any overdub; using computer, midi keyboard & controller assigned to vst plugins’.

What he presents here are three longform compositions, between fifteen and twenty-one minutes apiece, each accompanied by an ‘extension’ piece, of around five minutes or so, which tacks on to the end. The pieces are untitled, beyond ‘Track One’ and the date and what I assume to be the end time of recording.

K works from a palette of synapse-popping digital froth, tiny bleeping tones that fly around in all directions like amoeba in a cellular explosion, which builds to some neurone-blasting crescendos of whirring electronics and fizzing bursts of static and sparks. Amidst a swampy swirl of squelchiness rises a hum of interference, like an FM radio when a mobile phone’ been left next to it. ‘track one’ dissolves into a mass of amorphous midrange; its counterpart ‘extension’ reprises the glitching wow and flutter, ping and springs of the majority of the preceding twenty minutes, and follows a similar structural trajectory, only over a quarter of the time-frame.

‘track two’, recorded the following day in November of 2019 is, ostensibly, more of the same, with birdlike tweets and twitters fluttering around random clunks and thuds. Here, initially, there is more restraint, fewer fireworks, and more space between the sonic somersaults, until, briefly but intensely, about five minutes in, when a fierce blast of static cuts the babbling bleeps, washing away the sound to silence. Granular notes trickle in a minuscule but rapid flow which hurries keenly toward the conclusion, only to return for the extension piece, sounding rather like the tape being rewound.

Bloops, glops, tweets and twangs abound once more on ‘track three’, and if the pieces on Extensions are given to a certain sameness, it’s testament to Kraptavičius’ focus and dedication that he explores such a small sonic area in such intensely obsessive detail. Gintas K creates intensely insular music, which picks through the details of its own creation in a microscopic level, and if his spheres of reference seem suffocatingly introverted and inwardly-focused, then that’s precisely because they are, and it’s welcome. Instead of eternally reflecting on his emotions, like so many musicians, his work emerges from an infinite loop of self-reflectivity concerning its own content, and as such exists in a space that is free of such emotional self-indulgence. If this is indulgent – and perhaps it is – it’s equally scientific and detached, which very much paces it in a different bracket. And as Gintas K continues to pursue a most singular journey, it’s most educational to be able to tag along.

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Submarine Broadcasting Co

Christopher Nosnibor

The press release details that ‘SCHTUMMM is the new project from Craig Manga (Mangabros, Modwump)’, and that ‘it’s Craig’s solo foray into generative music and it’s experimental, complex, emotional, mathematical and thoroughly original. There is beauty in there for those who are prepared to look’.

‘Despise’ is a harsh word. It connotes such a strong dislike that it borders on the physical. A loathing, a hatred, so consuming one would wish to obliterate it. How could anyone despise music where there is beauty to be found?

To be fair, Manga does make it quite difficult to find the beauty or even particularly like his work at times here.

After the gentle introduction of ‘First Cuts’, which combines subtle post-rock elements with a delicate ambience, and is pretty innocuous to say the least, things immediately become a whole lot more challenging with ‘Cesium Bed Deposits’, an experimental electronic effort which finds multiple rhythmic sound sources jostling and clanking for supremacy while whistling notes on the feedback spectrum waver in and out. It has something of a vintage vibe, hinting at the likes of Cabaret Voltaire and Test Department, even Throbbing Gristle, the kind of innovators who took new and emerging technologies and pushed them – and the boundaries of music – to the limit.

‘Juggerman’ is another exercise in dislocation and disorientation, warped tape loops spooling every which way around bulbous bass notes and clicks and pops which form muddy, stop-start rhythms. White boys can’t dance, especially not to twisted disco that’s out of key and out of time with itself as the tempos wow and flutter erratically all over ‘Tempus Fidget’ (which gets extra points for the audacious pun).

Things take a microtonal turn on ‘Circuitry <v.2.0 binary flesh>’. With piano notes bent and stretched out of shape, it sounds like ‘How Long’ by ACE, or maybe 10cc’s ‘I’m not in Love’ on a chewed-up audiocassette that’s being run over by a bulldozer, while the glitching circuity slowly melts in a stammering overload. It’s certainly a perverse and an intentionally frustrating listen.

The three-part ‘Memorygauze’ sequence, each part of which is precisely 10:00 induration (apart from the third, which is ten minutes and three seconds – I’m convinced b now that SCHTUMMM is out to affront my sense of order and my somewhat OCD tendencies are tripping over this detail

The looping vocal collage of the first of these, ‘Memorygauze: ,the erosion of nostalgia: infantile dementia>’ employs the popular horror trope of the eerie children’s voice singing, but renders it all the more unsettling with its abstraction, and the child-like simplicity of the sing-song repetition when pitched against dripping bleeps and a stuttering heartbeat of a rhythm becomes more uncomfortable over time. ‘Memorygauze: ,the erosion of nostalgia: juvenile dementia>’ sounds like the same track only more melted, a trick repeated on ‘Memorygauze: ,the erosion of nostalgia: alienator goofiest nosh>’, which actually sounds closer to the first, only with additional sighs, farts, and beeps in the mix before going drum ‘n’ bass about six minutes in. It’s almost as if SCHTUMMM is endeavouring to wring every last drop of frustration by testing the patience to the max and then just keeping on going – and going, and going. And I admire the audacity. I also appreciate the exploration of tonality, the way the relationship between incongruous sounds is interrogated in detail. It’s also a credit that instead of switching rapidly between ideas, each is given time enough to be fully realised.

Ultimately, from the frustration emerges a real admiration: it’s a challenging album, and it’s meant to be, and as such, very much an artistic success.

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Front & Follow – F&F062 – 28th August 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

This twenty-three track extravaganza marks the third of five compilations for which cult label Front & Follow has been briefly resurrected with a view to supporting artists who’ve had their work rejected while raising funds for The Brick in Wigan, a charity for homeless people, which also operates a food back – more vital than ever, sadly.

What I personally like about the series and its approach to its purpose is that as has always been the case with F&F and the artists it releases, is its understatedness. And while there’s a lot of noise about the anguish of isolation under lockdown in the media and social media, the liner notes stress clearly ‘This is not an isolation project – it’s a rejection project’. This is very much representative of F&F’s singularity: the label was always about operating apart from trends or vogues, and as such, while it would inevitably cater to a niche audience, it wasn’t a fickle one.

While many of the artists are unfamiliar and probably not only to me, Social Oscillations and Sone Institute stand out as acts whom I’ve reviewed on previous releases on F&F.

Musically, and in terms of quality, though, it’s very much a level playing field, and it’s not hard to grasp why, having been inundated with submission for their modest project proposal, they decided to release a full five volumes.

It’s straight in with the eerie, spooky-sounding dark ambient courtesy of Social Oscillation’s ‘Dreich’, a word that’s stuck with me since my time in Glasgow around the turn of the millennium. It’s so descriptive, and yes, the song’s grey, sombre tone fits it nicely.

As with the previous volumes, despite being largely electronic and instrumental in its basis, the stylistic span is impressive: from minimal, dubby-techno to experimental post-rock via the most vaporous ambience, it’s all here, and curated so as to be perfectly sequenced.

With the super-murky ‘Crawling Guardian’, Everson Poe evokes the spirit of The Cure circa 17 Seconds and Faith before it goes crushing doom metal in the final minute, and the dingy production only amplifies the oppressive atmosphere. Elite Barbarian’s ‘Gat Trap’ is particularly unsettling and particularly impossible to pin down as is groans and rumbles; Newlands’ ‘Father Sky’ is a hypotonic chant, and ‘Orla’ by Farmer Glitchy is tense, claustrophobic, uncomfortable. Jonny Domini’s ‘New Pink Shirt’ is a bit of a departure, being a kind of Pavement-meets-The Fall lo-fi indie racket. It’s pretty cool, and John Peel would have loved it. Dolly Dolly’s ‘HEADS’ is a neat, if rather twisted, spoken word piece, and while it’s perhaps understandable why it may have ben hard to home, it’s no reflection on its being a good piece.

And, yet again, you can’t help but think that those who rejected all of these tracks, no doubt with an ‘it’s good, but just not for us’ let-down, are the ones who have missed out, and it’s all to the benefit of Front & Follow with their accommodating policy in curating this series.

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7th August 2020

James Wells

This, the third single from NKOS, is one of those tunes that just grows and grows, layer by layer, until it’s absolutely immense. Starting out subtly and slightly sinister, the beats build until the drums properly kick in, and it’s such a tight, punchy percussion, t smacks you right between the eyes, while a looping, cyclical groove eddies around to create a tense, claustrophobic atmosphere. Techno meets hip-hop meets electrogoth as a grating bass and heavily processed vocal snarls all over, calling to mind KMFDM and PIG.

With additional production from Jagz Kooner, who we can forgive his work with Kasabian and Oasis on account of his work with Radio 4, Ladytron, and the cult but so-underrated Officers, ‘Lonely Ghost-Self’ is hard-edged without being overtly aggressive, attacking without being excessively abrasive, and successfully avoids cliché, and ‘Lonely Ghost-Self’ has a lot going in its favour.

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When an act comes as being recommended for fans of STABBING WESTWARD, Nitzer Ebb and <PIG>, we’re all ears here at Aural Aggro. and ‘Lockdown’ by Thrillsville doesn’t disappoint, mixing a dark bubbling synth bass groove and tense vocals with a bold, bombastic chorus, it’s a strong effort.

Lyrics like “Can’t stop touching my face,” “Don’t even know what day it is anymore,” and “Losing my f*cking mind” convey the mental and emotional strain the crisis has had on all of us.
"This song was directly inspired by the unrelenting restlessness of being “stuck on lock-down.”  In essence it’s a romantic song about longing for a normal night on the town.” – Rani Sharone (THRILLSVILLE)

Check the video here: you won’t regret it 9and besides, you’ve probably not got anything else to do):

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Christopher Nosnibor

This makes for quite a refreshing change: it feels like about two-thirds of my reviews in recent months have been marked by a compulsion to comment on artists going into creative overdrive during lockdown and whacking out releases of new material because they’re not currently touring or working their day-jobs. But for Lithuanian electronic experimentalist Gintas Kraptavičius, it’s business as usual, with a steady flow of output over recent years, and with Amnesia being his second release of 2020.

One of the things I personally admire about Gintas as an artist is how broadly he explores the field of electronic music, with works ranging from minimal ambience to deep dives into microtonal territory, and a whole lot in between. Amnesia conforms to no genre or form, and instead spreads its myriad suggestions from across a host of conceptual spaces to create something wonderfully vague, and also vaguely wonderful.

The release comes with no information whatsoever about its concept or purpose or recording, beyond the fact that it uses drum samples by Travis D. Johnson. Those samples aren’t neatly assembled to form looped rhythm tracks and solid structural foundations for a work with an overt linear trajectory or other sense of solid form.

Amnesia contains a single track which spans a massive forty-four minutes, and begins with crackling, interweaving synths waves which crackle and fizz with distortion, while thumping clatters that sound more like shuffling, clumping footfalls than drums crash sporadically and arrhythmically.

There are some crescendos or swirling noise and shrill, trilling feedback notes that whistle and screech over churning blasts of bilious noise, violent sonic storms. There are segments of laser bleeps and skittering short, sharp toppy notes fire into a swirling morass of mid-range extranea.

A delicate piano tinkles in a nuclear storm and a stammering clanking rattles and clangs behind and alongside. This is a dominant feature of Amnesia: there is always a background and a foreground and a significant degree of contrast between the two, which is both textural and tonal. Harsh top and midrange are laced against softer, more gloopy lower spectrum sounds.

Time slips, drips, dribbles and cascades through a shifting sonic multiverse that’s often uncomfortable, at times undemanding, as the track transitions between ambience and abrasion, and towards the end it takes a turn towards synapse-collapsing early 80s power electronics.

What do you do with this? Where do you take it? What is it all about? There is no clear message, no distinct or decisive form, resulting in a longform composition that meanders and swerves in all directions but ultimately leads nowhere and articulates little – and that’s more than ok: Amnesia is not about sequence and making a bar, but about capturing a sense of vagueness and a certain lack of purpose, of point, and it does so magnificently.

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Front and Follow – 31st July 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Rejection hurts. Always. Some of us can ride it out, brazen it off, better than others, but always, it stings. Artists in any media tend to be sensitive types, and so the sting is all the harder.

The basis for this series is lovely: it’s relevant, relatable, but also worthy because of its wider context: ‘not an isolation project – it’s a rejection project’. Rejection is isolating in itself, but more specifically, this is a collection of rejections released from isolations.

As the accompanying blurb recounts, ‘Isolation and Rejection was born out of thinking about what happened to all the tracks that didn’t make it onto those fancy compilations, and is now turning into an ongoing project to collect, collate and promote rejected sounds.

With over 100 artists signed up, we are going to release five volumes over the next few months. Each volume will showcase those lost gems, discarded and abandoned but now lovingly embraced and put front and centre for your enjoyment. We’ll also be sharing the stories behind the rejection – funny, weird and sometimes a little heart breaking.’

The beauty of this collection lies not only in the music itself, but its eclecticism. The tracks range from fragmentary snippets to eleven-minute explorations, from bubbling electronica to billowing abstraction. With twenty-four tracks, it is a monumental and truly epic set, and not necessarily one to take in in a single sitting.

Lose a Leg provide the first piece, with a delicate piano snippet of a composition called ‘Thinking About It’. It’s barely a minute and a half, so there isn’t much time to think.

There’s a strong leaning towards mellifluent ambient works, abstract, cloud-like sonic drifts of intangibility, but this being a Front and Follow-curated release, it’s got well-considered range: Time Attendant’s ‘Binocular Visions’ introduces Kraftwerkian robotic electronica into the mix, with a motoric sequenced rhythm underpinning its throbbing electronic structures. Then again, there’s a lot of bleepy electronica centred around cyclical grooves and heavily repetitive beats, as exemplified by Caper One & Vandal Deca’s contribution.

Some pieces straddle both: Audio Obscura’s ‘Castles on Earth’ is big, bold dubby, beaty and ambient all at once, an echoic bath that swells around a dense, booming bass, and elsewhere, Crisp Packet Jacket bring woozy pulsations with ‘Dreadful Own Brand’. No Later’s‘The Revenant Sea’ is spectral and haunting, and in many ways encapsulates the spirit of the release in its hybridity, while ‘Music forBroken Piano’s recalls early Pram in its dissonance and discord.

Sairie’s lilting folk cover of ‘House of the Rising Sun’ stands out by virtue not only of its difference, but its beautiful vocal melodies, which later over a sparse et lush acoustic guitar. Why was it rejected? Did they submit to a death metal or power electronics compilations? But we know that rejection is often more about curatorial taste than quality of submission, and it’s quite apparent with this collection because there simply isn’t a weak track to be found.

It is a colossal collection, and likely not one to play in a single sitting, especially with so much going on. This makes it, along with the first edition, a collection of outstanding quality.

Room40 – DRM475 – 24th July 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

In one of a brace of releases on Lawrence English’s Room 40 label in July, Australian minimalist Todd Anderson-Kunert presents a selection of Moog synthesiser compositions, which we learn are ‘exercises in intimacy, restraint and unerring patience. Past Walls And Windows plays with how sound emerges and decays. It is an edition that celebrates the ephemeral nature of the medium and the way sound’s immateriality invites a constant sensing and seeking on behalf of those that encounter it’.

These are indeed minimal works, so sparse at times as to be barely audible, and they’re a long way from presenting any sounds conventionally associated with the vintage Moog. Instead of jangly, trilling tones, Anderson-Kunert teases hovering single notes that evoke a sombre, even funeral atmosphere for the most part. There are flittering oscillaations and low, diminishing drones, and they make up much of the fabric of this set, comprising six pieces, most of which sit over the five-minute mark.

It’s quiet and delicate: ‘Better Left’ begins with distant grumbles of thunder, before low ominous notes drone in and halt abruptly, while ‘An Echo’ brings slow pulsations and haunting drones like a trilling church organ ringing out dolorous notes in a sepulchral setting. It’s gloomy, and it’s ambient in the background sense, yet it has the capacity to send the listener inside themselves on a contemplative course.

It’s no criticism to remark that there isn’t a lot to say: this is an album that requires not commentary, but peace, and time: to be listened to without interruption or distraction, and ideally in semi-darkness. It isn’t an album that really raises questions, and it doesn’t offer answers: it simply is. An as a sonic vehicle for contemplation and tranquillity, it’s ideal.

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Christopher Nosnibor

Pierre Massé, the man behind the Paramestre project, threatens ‘Electronic-ish music with human vocals, guitars (played by a human), and far too many effects (along with a healthy dose of digital manipulation)’. It’s an intriguing proposition, and is it even possible to have too many effects, at least when used well?

As Massé explains in the liner notes, ‘As stated by the opening track, it is nothing “perfect”; there are artefacts from tortured source material, there is noise, there are glitches from randomized effects processing, and there is no pitch correction. But there is also warmth, groove, melancholy, and hope. I hope you find something that speaks to you amidst it all.’

This is, to my mind, a succinct summary of why any artist creates; in the hope of there being a shred of commonality with the receiver in the work. But, at the same time, creating not with the audience at the forefront of the creative process. This, ultimately, is what differentiates art from entertainment. The latter is primarily commercial, designed for the (perceived) audience. Art exists for its own sake, and any audience it attracts finds it.

Rippling post-rock guitars with an almost Spanish vibe cascade softly over a dislocated beat that bumps and bounces and flickers on the aforementioned opening track, providing a supple, mellow backdrop to Pierre’s dreamy, soulful vocals, and it’s a smooth, Gallic air that permeates the lilting synth pop of ‘Elle’. It’s pleasant, but it’s not an instant grab by any means, and much of Conditions Initiales feels in some ways exploratory, tentative. It isn’t that the songs themselves feel incomplete, because they certain don’t: it’s more that one feels Massé is still working towards a sound that is one he’s entirely comfortable with, that translates his sonic ambition into the final recorded output.

‘Conceal/Reveal’ goes a shade darker, but it’s the subdued waltz of the seven-minute ‘Madeleines’, with its echoing sampled background conversation that creates a subtle but clear level of juxtaposition, that really draws the listener in, in search of its evasive heart amongst the layers.

And it’s when Massé goes still darker and brings thudding beats to the fore that Conditions Initiales really becomes interesting: ‘Carry’ and closer, ‘Endless’ are both sparse but feature more prominent percussion, the latter worthy of favourable comparisons to Depeche Mode.

Understated as it is, Conditions Initiales contains no shortage of detail, and it’s an intriguing debut that hints at even better to come.

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MUZAI Records – 12th June 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Theo Gowans, aka Territorial Gobbing, is a frenzy of wild creativity at the best of times. Not only are his frequent live performances bewildering displays of manic energy and cacophonous noise, but his recorded output is less a constant stream than a relentless spate. He’s still doing posters and virtual gigs, but with no actual gigs to promote or do sound for, he’s seemingly got time on his hands which he’s filling with the production of even more intense noise than ever, and this collaboration with Newcastle artist Plastiglomerate is exemplary.

Packing five cuts of swirling sonic soup, a chaotic collage of samples, rolling tones and extraneous blasts of noise, it’s all churning like mad in kaleidoscopic postmodern blender. The first track, ‘Crocodile Mayonnaise’ chucks everything in up front, with clanking chimes and rattling cutlery and electronic foam and twanging elastic and just a completely brain-bending blizzard of random shit, and some extreme stereo panning only makes it more nausea-inducing.

It doesn’t get any easier or more accessible thereafter, with the ten-minute ‘Government Gloves’ being an utterly head-shredding stuttering blast of noise that surges and splurges so hard and so fast as to cause whiplash. The question is, of course, is it really 10 minutes and 43 seconds long, or is it 643 seconds long? Or do we count left and right channels separately, making it 1,286 seconds long? Or should we also include the tracks either side, or the soundchecks and outtakes in that statistic? Should we amplify it by the frequency range? I have no answers. I have no thoughts. I have too many thoughts, all of them conflicting, none of them coherent. In that context, The Internet Made Me Parkour is a perfect soundtrack.

Lockdown – and moreover, the circumstances surrounding it, and the (mis)management of information in an already difficult situation – is enough to drive anyone round the bend. These guys were already several corners further on than many, and this weird, whacky wig-out is perhaps as sane as response to life as it is right now as any: certainly, ‘Total Lobby’ is total nonsense, but makes perfect sense if you’re looking to purge your brain of everything else, and the obliterative blast of white noise that is the final track, ‘A Generous Fly on that Mascot’s Outfit’ is cleansing: it’s impossible to consider anything while the inside if your cranium is being scoured by such abrasion. No-one knows what the fuck is going on: every message is scrambled, and you can’t trust anything – certainly not your government, and probably not even your instincts. But you can trust these guys to make a crazy racket. And we love them for it.

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