Posts Tagged ‘Experimental’

The CAVE rave has really livened up since we announced their new album Allways, their first since the time-fractaling opus, Threace. Following their five-year hiatus, the quintet of Cooper Crain, Rex McMurry, Rob Frye, Dan Browning, and Jeremy Freeze hasn’t missed a beat – in fact, CAVE have fearlessly dug down into their repetitive groove and emerged with a funk-flavoured colour that expands the palette well beyond what you may have come to crave from CAVE previously. No better example from Allways exists than their new single ‘Beaux’, an illustration of just how purely the moods can come together in a single day of a CAVE recording session.

Listen to ‘Beau’ here:

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LP/DL Rekem Records REKEM12/Fragment Factory FRAG45

Christopher Nosnibor

The music this album contains causes as much of a sense of overload as the cover art, with its perpendicular textual tessellations. Chessex has long pushed the tenor sax beyond the realms of conventional jazz or even overt compositional forms, and Subjectivation, a collection of live actions (a term also used by the notorious noisemakers Whitehouse). Side 1 takes pieces recorded in San Francisco, Berlin, and Zurich between 2010 and 2014, while Side 2 documents a performance at London’s Café Oto in 2015.

It’s all about the low frequencies at the front-end: the album begins with earth-moving, bowel churning bass tones that grind and snarl maliciously, and this, coupled with the conveyance of extreme volume places this in Sunn O))) territory, the atmosphere of creeping doom delivered at a pace and volume that punish slowly. And gradually – although not nearly so gradually – things intensify as additional layers of volume and frequency are added. The accompanying text describes it as a ‘field of distortion’, but it doesn’t come close. It seems unfeasible that such a raging sonic force could be sustained for any time, let alone increase, but increase it does, until there is nothing but a dense wall of obliterative noise. It’s impossible to discern there being any saxophone – or indeed any music instrument – in this vast, screaming whorl. I’m staring at the speakers in awe, wondering just how much sound they can actually carry, and moreover, how much sound could be created in pure physical terms. Seven minutes into the fourteen-minute sonic barrage – something akin to standing next to an RAF Vulcan preparing for take-off without earplugs or protective clothing, I’m wondering if my skull might not implode and my brain before the end. It’s a perverse pleasure the pain of this sonic assault provides.

The London side is less full-on, although it would surely be difficult to be more full-on. Nevertheless, it matches Side 1 in terms of intensity. It builds quickly from an irritated hornet buzz into an infinite echo, a thousand horns, honking in unison to create a rippling reverberation of sound. Some time around themed-point, the sustained crescendo fades, leaving eardrum-fluttering feedback notes, shrilly quivering on and on, before the air is rent with shards of scraping industrial noise, the grinding of metal on metal on a fast, rotational plane. It’s as if with each shift, Chessex introduces a pitch and tone more unbearable than the one before. The tiny sound that hangs where there should be silence mimics tinnitus, creating one final torture in the album’s closing seconds. There’s something cruel – and unquestionably uncompromising – about the way Chessex executes his sonic blitzkriegs, and for that, I admire him enormously.

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Chessex

Forking Paths PF0013 – 13th July 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

With a title referencing William Gibson’s Neuromancer, L5 finds maker of experimental minimal electronica New Tendencies explore an array of textures and tones with a real focus on the space around the sound. Sonar bleeps warp into whistles of feedback, consumed by underwater monsters and sonic detonations that linger like a heavy cloud of smoke, dust and rubble.

The shifts aren’t always delicate, the tones rarely gentle: the listener is dragged and hurled from high to low, abrasive, serrated edges sharpening the intensity of upper frequencies juxtaposed with rumbling, muffled lower ranges which pull at the pit of the stomach. The album’s ten compositions – which, given the way New Tendencies pull, drag, stretch, twist, and manipulate, are perhaps as well described as decompositions – are affecting by virtue of the physicality of the sound, and this in turn provokes a cerebral response.

Ordinarily, I find abstraction gives rise to an analytical rather than emotive response, but L5 is a different beast. The beats and rhythms – however diversely they manifest (and they range from distorted, crunching poundings to EQ-tweaked whiplash cracks via blasts of static) – create a sense of structure, however vague, a frame on which to hang the infinite varieties of noise, and thus draw the pieces back from absolute abstraction. And with the combination of structure and sonic impact comes a different type of response. Instead of seeking to analyse the technique, L5 invites the listener to feel the effects. And the effect becomes emotional on a certain level: the rippling waves and vibrations test the tension levels, pushing the up and pulling them down. Tense, intense, and at the very least, interesting.

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New Tendencies – L5

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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Haq_Antics-front-cover

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