Posts Tagged ‘Experimental’

Constellations – 24th August 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

Automatisme is the moniker of reclusive glitch artist and electronic music producer William Jourdain. Transit is the follow-up to 2016 debut Momentform Accumulations, and has been formulated using modular synth racks and a vast library of field recordings.

As the title suggests, Transit is an album of movement. In transit are not only the creators, but the listener, who finds themselves being taken – often at pace – to unexpected destinations. But there is no stopping – each port of call is no more than a glance and a wave out of the window, perhaps a quick photo, before you’re on the move again.

The first suite – ‘Bureau’, a work in four movements, combines ambience and rhythm to often disorientating effect, and explores brooding expanses of sound and juxtaposes them with often jolting beats. ‘Bureau 0’ rapidly shifts from softly swirling cloudlike ambience to snarling, grating overloading noise – and back again. Blast of distorted beats and speaker-crackling overdrive create some disturbing kind of Dalek disco. ‘Bureau 1’ casts shades of gloopy glitchtronica which crackles and hisses, before bleeding into the more overtly groove-orientated ‘Bureau 2’. Groove is all relative, of course, and there are natural non-beat-orientated rhythms, too: shuddering oscillations swell like thunder on ‘Bureau 3’.

‘Registrariat’ stands alone between the ‘Bureau’ and ‘Bateau’ suites, and forges a more overtly dance beat. Only, the tempos shift erratically and sampled voices echo in the swirling sonic mists, and it gets too fast and before long, you feel your heart race increasing and instead of wanting to get down, you’re on the edge of panic.

The two-part ‘Bateau’ builds tonal intensity and volume, culminating in a dense eddying swell of noise that fills the cranium and creates an all-encompassing throb.

And it’s only at the final destination – a roar that abruptly leaves silence – that the album’s overall route becomes clear, a deleterious course from A to B via Z, Q and an unexpected assortment of curious places. You cast your eyes back over the map but it by no means conveys the experience of the territory. And after a pause, a moment of quiet reflection, you can’t quite recall the sequence of events that brought you here. You turn, and start to retrace your steps…

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Nonclassical – cnclss024

Christopher Nosnibor

Langham Research Centre originated through late-night experimental gatherings at the BBC studios, and have evolved to produce long-form radiophonic works, of which 2014’s Muffled Ciphers was inspiredby JG Ballard’s seminal novel -which challenged the very notion of the form – The Atrocity Exhibition. Created with an accumulation of rare and obsolete instruments and devices, and inspired by early electronic composers spanning John Cage, Alvin Lucier, and Delia Derbyshire, Tape Works Vol. 1 is pitched as ‘a collection of modern musique concrète.’

The first thing I noticed was that my copy is number 11 of an edition of 30 promos. This knowledge spurs me to get my finger out and provide some coverage. The second thing I notice, on scanning the track listing, before reading the biography containing the above, is that it features tracks with the titles ‘The Voices of Time’ and ‘The Terminal Beach’ – the former of which is a collection of short stories by Ballard, and the latter of which is the title of one of the stories in that collection, which first appeared in 1963 under the title The Four-Dimensional Nightmare.

On Tape Works Vol. 1, the Langham Research Centre (and doesn’t that sound so Ballardian in itself… I’ve spent hours scanning my collection to see if there’s a character named Langham in Ballard’s oeuvre and have drawn blanks before ultimately deciding it’s better to actually get the work done than disappear down another rabbit-hole of research) explore all the dimensions. And while at times it confirms to the template of so much experimental analogue work, at times it ventures in the truly weird.

‘LOL, Pt 1’ mixes monkey chatters and R2D2 bleeps with eerie abstractions, bibbling bloops, fractured vocal snippets and small samples of laughter enter the mix alongside the kitchen sink to from an uncomfortable, disorientating sound collage.

There’s a lot of stopping and starting, whistling and droning, woe and flutter and infinite disruption. This is the sound of dislocation, a soundtrack designed to induce maximum disorientation.

Bleeps and squiggles, trilling squeals rising to a high-pitched hum collide with woozy, groaning bass frequencies. Notes bend as if on a stretched tape, and tape whips back and forth through heads. There are moments which recall the head-spinning cut-up and drop-in tape experiments conducted by William Burroughs, Brion Gysin, and Iain Sommerville in the late 50s and early 60s.

Birdsong. New snippets. A plane roars overhead. A conglomeration of voices. Static. Interference. A howling wind. Sparse, arrhythmic beats clatter and clang. Yes, this is life: fractured discordant, difficult. Simultaneous. Overwhelming. This is essentially how I feel about it. I cannot compute. I feel dislocated, alienated. I feel tense. Nothing new there. But Just as reading Ballard makes me feel uncomfortable in my own skin, so Langham Research Centre’s fucked-up sampling of old adverts and blending them with minimalist dark ambient twists me into a state of discomfort.

At time gentle, at others abrasive and bordering on the attacking treble whistles and white/pink noise crackle of early Whitehouse and Merzbow, Tape Works Vol. 1 is at no point accessible, easy, cuddly. But it does push the senses and question linearity and accessibility and even the boundaries of musicality. And as such, it fulfils its objective.

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Langham

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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Grappa Musikkforlag – 24th August 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

I used to watch a fair few horror films when I was younger, but don’t get to so much these days: my wife isn’t a fan, and, moreover, I can’t watch movies and listen to music at the same time. Spending my evenings reviewing means it’s the movies that have had to give. But when I did have the time to watch horror movies, I always preferred the films that unsettled the mind rather than overloaded the senses with in-yer-face viscera and gore. It isn’t necessarily that I like to be scared: I just like to be mentally challenged, and the imagination is a powerful thing. For the same reason, I usually prefer to invest the time in a book rather than TV show or movie. Greater effort tends to yield greater reward, and what’s more, the mind can conjure scenes far beyond the scope of any film set and special effects.

The mind’s eye is a terrible thing, but also a wonderful thing. Just look at your dreams: they’ll likely present vistas beyond anything you’ve ever seen in any movie. And even if not, these scenes are your own, rather than something pre-presented, the product of someone else’s imagination.

Rooms & Rituals is an album which engages the mind and encourages it to explore the darker recesses. The compositions are haunting, to the point of being outright scary. tapping into the deeper realms of the psyche, teasing out the horror of disquiet, and poking around in those dark, uncomfortable places. The voices are those of no less than ten female singers, although not necessarily at the same time. This is, indeed, a choir like no other.

‘Steamsaw’ sets the tone: dark, ominous, rumbling thunder and fear chords drifting almost subliminally… It’s minimal, and it’s a discomfort you can’t quite put our finger on. But it’s there, it’s real, and it gnaws at the pit of your stomach. ‘Pulser’ is eerie. Voices, disembodied, and as if rising from the grave, amidst unintelligible guttural utterances from the underworld, shrieks, and industrial pulsations and the occasional, sporadic clash of grating undifferentiated noise conglomerate to forge something stomach-churningly tense.

‘Ritual #3’ is a series of bleeps and tweets over a low-end rumble, and is reminiscent of some early Whitehouse, minus the trebly shouting. ‘Rise; is a voice lost in a gale, the sense of dislocation, distance and isolation rendered palpable in the drift. ‘Hymn’ pitches vocal melody that’s evocative, haunting, almost a Celtic folk piece, against a gnawing hovering synth hum, and elsewhere, ‘Gleam’ goes gloriously minimal, trilling organ pulses providing the backdrop to ethereal vocals that drift skyward.

Collectively and cumulatively, these pieces move and unsettle the listener, bringing a sense of dislocation, and disorientation. It creates a space for pondering. This is art.

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Trondheim Voices

Humpty Dumpty Records – 11th May 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

It’s quite the introduction: ‘Jérôme Deuson is an unstable musician’ is the opening sentence of the press release that accompanies his seventh album as aMute. But how many musicians are stable? And what even is stability? Is anyone entirely stable? Is it even a desirable state? So often, creativity emerges from a state of inner turmoil, or tempestuous emotional flux. There are, of course, infinite shades: this is just to peel back some of the layers of the initial and likely awkward response to the statement.

Some Rest is not the millpond calm the title may imply: it’s only some rest, not total rest, and in truth, the rest here is minimal, on an album that’s clearly the work of a restless soul.

The album’s structure and sequence is unusual, opening with the longest composition by far: the title track is almost eighteen minutes long, and transitions from a delicate swirl of strings through a vast, shoegazey post-rock vista to an expansive, driving rock workout. While there are strains of feedback amidst the humming melodic drifts and samples which echo, almost buried in the mix, and the whole thing builds to a sustained crescendo, it’s still a more sedate experience than its predecessor, the tempestuous 2016 album Bending Time in Waves.

Side two begins with the gloopy, bubbling ambience of ‘I’ve Seen it All’ before sliding into eerie dissonance on ‘Dead Cold’, which exploits ringing chimes which give way to softer, picked guitar and a more tranquil, melodic space, disturbed only be the vocal, processed and burred with distortion. It’s sort of melancholic, sort of trippy, sort of dislocated, sort of abstract, sort of shoegazey in a trilling organ swamped in echo sort of way. It’s all amplified into a fizzing digital funnel on ‘The Obsedian’, which features Christian Bailleau, emerging as a grand, slow-moving and mournful piece reminiscent in some respects of Dylan Carlson’s more recent work, exploring as it does the pitch, tone, and timbre of the guitar in near-granular detail. Closer ‘Maria’, with hints of early Pink Floyd, is similarly drifty, dreamy, trippy, echoey-warped, and it tapers away into vaporous clouds.

Because of its ever-shifting nature, and its sonic range, Some Rest provides only the briefest of respites for the listener to relax, creating as it does an atmosphere of flux and continual movement.

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Trace Elements Records – 3rd August 2018

Frozen Flowers Curse The Day is the latest release from pioneering avant-guitarist Robert Poss, founding member of the legendary wall-of-guitars group Band Of Susans, who (in)famously started out with three members named Susan and usually maintained three guitarists in their ever-shifting lineup, which at one point featured a pre-Helmet Page Hamilton.

The development of the album Frozen Flowers Curse The Day was performed, recorded and mixed by Poss at Trace Elements Records studios in New York City with guest drummers including Dahm Majuri Cipolla (Torres, Lydia Lunch, Japan’s Mono) helping out on two tracks.

Being a solo release rather than a full-band effort, Frozen Flowers Curse The Day isn’t an overtly ‘rock’ album in terms of material or instrumentation and primarily features guitar and loops of strings, to sometimes woozy and disorientating effect. But Poss’ approach to guitar playing, lauded by none other than Steve Albini, is certainly distinctive.

Much of the material here is jangling drone, drifting, chiming indie shoegaze. It’s pleasant, easy on the ear, undemanding. In a good way. Frozen Flowers Curse The Day is an album which explores texture, tone, and mood, but above all, it follows the distinctive compositional template of Band of Susans in that the songs tend to bludgeon away at a simple three or four chord sequence while layers of droning chords or feedback build over the top as the song progresses.

This approach is very much to the fore on the album’s second track, ‘The Sixth Sense Betrayed’. Elsewhere, on ‘Partial Clearing’, Poss works the eddies and streams of swirling drone and exploits the basic mechanics of the instrument to create something quite compelling.

While much of the album is given to switch-flicking, string-tamping, knob-tweaking. It’s not so much about the simple chord motifs or notes which hang in the air, but more about their manipulation. But however much this an album shaped by technique you’d never call it a ‘technical’ album. Nores ripple and chime and collide against one another in washes of reverb in the most dreamy, immersive of fashions.

‘Time Frames Marking Time’ hints at ‘Elizabeth Stride’ from Band of Susans’ final album, 1995s Here Comes Success, and even echoes ‘Frere Jacques’, but these are fleeting moments, and that’s the whole point: this is really about transition ad ephemerality and the effects of the briefest of memory triggers from an artistic point of view. ‘I’ve got a Secret List’ is more up-front, a thunderous drum track thumping away beneath multiple layers of guitars, over which Poss strains over a repetitive lyric, while closer ‘I’ll Curse the Day’ comes on like Springsteen in a 4-track tape portastudio.  And yes, while battering away a single motif and simple chord structure, it does invite comparisons to BoS. Significantly, it holds up to those comparisons: Poss certainly hasn’t lost it.

Robert Poss

Radio Bongo

Christopher Nosnibor

The cover art – a photograph of the stump of a recently-felled tree – is one of those exercises in magnificent blandness. It’s the fact it’s clearly in an urban setting which perhaps gives the greatest clue to the music it accompanies; it’s the discarded trainer which actually makes the shot, however. The image really only makes sense in context of the liner notes, which begin ‘The spiral of a record. The routine of life. The growth rings of a tree. The rhythm of a drummer. The groove.’

Production credits go to a President Bongo, and Execution is listed as being the first volume in ‘Les Adventures de President Bongo’ – which, apparently, ‘is a unique work of art that will reveal itself over the next seven years, give or take, in the form of 24 LP’s.’ This is quite ambitious, and while I still have no real handle on the concept or direction after several listens to this album, ‘adventure’ seems to be an appropriate choice of word.

The album contains two tracks, ‘Drama’ and ‘Transmission’. ‘Drama’ certainly fulfils its promise, but in the most unexpected ways. It begins with gloopy electronic pulsations, a sort of semi-ambient dance vibe rippling, soft-edged and mellow. So far, so chillout-orientated, club-friendly mediocre. But then extraneous drones hover and scrape at oblique angles across it, at complete odds with the chilled waves. It takes a while to build, and before the beats kick in. ‘She can make it,’ croons Þormóður Dagsson, over and over again. It’s a cool groove, alright. His voice is so sweet, so smooth, so achingly soulful. He could probably sing a shopping list and still make you melt. But while the vocal sits with the mellow bubbling synth, it’s the discordant noise that swells to dominate the mix. The jarring incongruity of the clash forges less a dynamic tension than it serves as an apparent act of brutal sabotage. And then the drumming goes absolutely fucking berserk, and the whole thing whips into a brain-bending, bewildering mess of sound. The groove is buried in the tumult, from which eventually emerges a driving, bass-dominated jazz-rock groove. Where did that come from? Dagsson’s voice continues to float, untouched, surrounded by a halo of reverb, through the wild wig-out. It all goes jungle with added whistles and bleeps further down the line, and it’s fair to say you’re unlikely to experience a similar seventeen minutes of song anywhere else.

Well, apart from on side two, perhaps. ‘Transmission’ creeps in by stealth before taking a turn for the dubby. It strolls along, bouncing echoes hither and thither. The vocal performance is understated, low-key, yet all the more effective because of it. A note hangs in an echo as a kaleidoscopic spiral of synth notes swirls around the steady, toe-tapping beat. There’s none of the wild experimentalism of the previous track here, the focus instead being on building laid-back atmospherics and a smooching groove that shuffles on unassumingly.

Groove, then, comes in many shapes and forms, and some are less obvious than others. Tilbury take the groove and twist it, bend it, kick it around a bit, push it close to breaking point. The curious nature of the music indicates a curiosity about music on the part of the creators. The end result is pretty damn strange, but also strangely enjoyable. It’s all in the execution….

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Tilbury - Execution