Posts Tagged ‘Experimental’

11th May 2021

(kröter) don’t do things by halves. Back in 2018, the landed not just one album, but three, all culled from the same sessions, with two of those albums arriving simultaneously. Fifteen minutes of (kröter) can be quite the headfuck, but three hours? (kröter) are a melting-pot of madness, and how much of their derangement does anyone need?

Well, from seemingly out of nowhere, they’ve dropped a further two albums, *d and *e, again drawn from the epic sessions in 2017-18.

‘avantgarde’, the first piece on *d is typically whacky, and knows it. A picked guitar, hesitant, and sounding more like tuning up than an actual composition, is immediately obliterated with a squelchy squirt of digital diarrhoea. ‘How much water does an avocado need to grow?’ they ponder by way of an introduction to some abstract lyrical ponderances. ‘This is avantgarde’. And yes, it is: and this is also an exercise in avantgarde self-reflexivity, art reflecting on art reflecting on art.

‘soul monkey’ does have that cack pop vibe of associated act Wevie Stonder and Mr Vast’s solo works, white soul played limp and strange, before a really dingy bassline grinds in like a bulldozer and distorted vocals rant and yelp half-submerged in the mix. The ten-minute ‘flattening shades’ marks a distinct shift of style and pace, manifesting as a slow, ponderous, piece with chorus-heavy guitar and a sparse, strolling that combine to create some palpable atmosphere. Despite some odd vocal segments, there are some moments of both menace and beauty, which show that beneath all the zany shit, these guys have some real talent and ability.

Not that you’d know it from the discordant chaos of ‘lambs brain’, which is twelve minutes of demented racket and shouting, and a bunch of twanging and sampling and whatever else happens to be at hand that ended up bring tossed into the blender. Then there’s ‘tomatos’ and ‘omatose’, companion pieces that are daft, quirky interludes. Because.

The album really only has one song that’s recognisable as such, and that’s ‘up to chance’ which incorporates elements of country and prog and autotuned Radio 1 chart pop, and of course, it gets pretty weird pretty quickly.

*e, described as ‘another bucket full of toad spawn fished out of the kröters sessions’ is more of the same, only more, containing four longform tracks that showcase leanings towards more spacey-electro and jazz. Tinkling synths and a wandering horn amble all over an insistent beat that in combination provide the disjointed backdrop to monotone chanting vocals on borehole (prelude), which provides an extended introduction to another aspect of their oddball stylings. It paves the way for the twenty-minute ‘borehole (suite)’, which is both more and the same, an extended drone of froth and foam and bubbling electronics, propelled by a swampy, looping, pulsating bass. It’s certainly darker in hue, and the expansive forms only add to the bewilderment.

The hypnotic weirdness continues through the snickeringly-titled ‘glandfather’, culminating in the eighteen-minute ‘coloumns’, another off-kilter spoken word piece accompanied by minimalist instrumentation that scratches and scrapes

If some of this feels like the whacky weirdness is something they’ve worked on, it’s equally something that they feel comfortable with, as if they derive pleasure from making you feel uncomfortable. As such, while there’s a certain self-awareness about all of this, it doesn’t feel particularly contrived or forced, and we leave this duo of albums with the conclusion that this isn’t a gimmick and that these guys are genuinely fucking barmy. And we should embrace that: while people all around us are losing the plot, (kröter) celebrate the idea that plot is overrated and they never had any grasp on it to lose in the first place. At their best, (kröter) evoke some of Bauhaus’ more experimental moments,, but mostly, (kröter) just sound like (kröter), and utterly deranged. Which is all the reason to like them, even if their music isn’t for everyone.

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SN Variations – 7th May 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Did downloading really kill physical formats and the music industry? If you believe the media and the major labels, yes, and again, when it comes to non-major artists, it’s clear that the current industry model is not one that benefits them kindly. Then again, streaming services probably did more damage than downloading – or home taping – ever did. But there is also a very definite flipside, in that the cost of producing physical releases on a small scale is phenomenally expensive on a per-unit basis, to the point that it’s often prohibitive, and that’s before one factors in issues of distribution and postage.

There’s also a matter of purpose: conventionally, singles were released to promote albums, and in order to achieve that aim, tended to be the most commercially viable song(s) from said album that radio stations (and, later, blogs and the like) may play and draw potential buyers in. But artists like Adrian Coker don’t make music that has that kind of marketability. You won’t find his music being played on commercial radio, and a single is probably likely to sell a bunch of albums.

No artist makes music for it not to be heard. And so it is that SN Variations release Adrian Corker’s ‘9 Spaces’ single as a download only, and it makes sense, particularly in context, as a musical work that was only possible via digital means, as Corker explains: ‘This piece started quite a while ago in a room with me, Chris Watson and an electro magnetic receiver made in Russia. It ended with the processing of these parts by Takuma Watanabe and a percussive improvisation by Tatsuhisa Yamamoto that left my original demo in his recording worldising my track in Japan. In between over the last year musicians such as Aisha Orazbayeva, the Ligeti Quartet and Pascal Wyse sent me parts remotely from London and various places around Europe. A track that was made in 9 spaces of which I was in 3’.

It’s in this context that the title makes sense also. And the roll-call of contributors is quite something:

Tatsuhisa Yamamoto – percussion

Takuma Watanabe – max

Chris Watson – field recordings

Aisha Orazbayeva – violin

Pascal Wyse – trombone

Ligeti Quartet:

Mandhira de Saram – violin

Patrick Dawkins – violin

Richard Jones – viola

Val Welbanks – cello

The first version, a quite punishing nine-and-a-half-minutes in duration, begins with grating drones and serrated buzzes, somewhere between an electric hair clipper and a palm-sander, before transitioning into trepidatious territory, with skittering fleeting buzzes and swarming sounds creating an unsettling tension atop a sparse, hesitant bass that stops and starts, single notes echoing and halting, And ultimately, it’s quite challenging – but to be clear, that’s no criticism. Art that isn’t challenging isn’t really art, but entertainment.

‘V2’ is subtler, quieter, stealthier, the drones trimmed, more mid-range, cleaner, manifesting as more like organ notes that quiver and quaver into space, disturbed only by the occasional extraneous disruption. As such, it’s more ambient and less upfront. It’s also everything a single should be: a snapshot of the artist, showcasing different aspects of their sound in contrasting and complimentary fashion.

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Miasmah Recordings – 16th April 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

It was the heavyweight score of his debut album, Hold, that provided my introduction to the work of James Welburn, and very much piqued my interest – because in some way, sonically at least, it seems I like to be published. Almost six years to the year on, Welburn delivers another immensely heavy set with Sleeper in the Void.

According to the accompanying blurb, the album ‘feels like a story in two parts, rising lethargically, but with gargantuan power. The second begins with the momentous In and out of Blue, where Juliana Venter’s disembodied, spectral dirge takes center stage among the furious drums and bassy riffs, reaching a full crescendo with seconds to go. Parallel marks a release – Hilde Marie Holsen’s nostalgic soundscapes, pristine as glass, meeting the distant thunder of Welburn’s strings on the horizon. And finally, Fast Moon ends the record in a most surprising way – a tribal industrialized banger, complete with vile distorted beats and every other spice in demand on a blackened dancefloor.’

It’s intense from the outset, and ‘Raze’ is anything but lethargic. It begins with a modestly middling dark ambient drone, but before long, pattering drums are hammering like machine-gun fire and whipping up a frenzy while all around the drones increase in volume and intensity until there’s a veritable cyclone of sound raging all about. The experience is dizzying, suffocating.

The percussion is again punishing on ‘Falling from Time’, but while the sound is still dense and murky, the thundering rhythm, is far more mechanised, more industrial, thudding in a furious frenzy amidst an impenetrable smog of sound. The tempo is fast, and it’s relentless: you could perhaps even dance to it, although that’s not so much my thing: instead, I found my pulse accelerating and a glow of perspiration as the tension grows. Finally, the synths break into a softer swirl, although there are ominous tones eddying around as the drums finally peter out and it’s finally possible to catch your breath and compose yourself. It’s but a brief respite before crushing percussion crashes in on the doomy dirge of the title track: stuttering, stop-start detonations cut through the shoegaze on ketamine crawl of the blurred blizzard of extraneous noise.

Julia Ventner’s vocal on ‘In and Out of Blue’ and ‘Fast Moon’ (the latter of which is a grating, bulbous bass-driven beast of a cut that loops and lunged in a trill of treble and a crackle of fizzing distortion) are haunting, ghostly, and pitched against the lurching cacophony of drums and juddering blasts of noise that hit like a taser to the abdomen, it’s not only a contrast and a change of atmosphere her presence brings, but a new level of trembling intensity.

Sleeper in the Void unquestionably makes an evolution for Welburn: while incorporating many of the same elements fundamentally, their application is quite different on Sleeper in the Void in comparison to its predecessor. The basslines are less overtly structured, and Sleeper in the Void sees Welburn move further from any loose conventions of ‘rock’ toward something more abstract. It may be less direct, less bludgeoning, less reminiscent of early Swans, but it’s certainly no less intense or powerful, and it’s still dense and percussion-driven. If anything, the greater sense of nuance and Welburn’s expanded palette only amplify its menacing resonance, making Sleeper in the Void an album that may be challenging, but achieves optimum impact.

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Wild Goose Chase Records – 27th April 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Little Musgrave – the vehicle for Brussels-based Joey Wright – was conceived and recorded during the first Coronavirus lockdown, and its homemade, DIY, lo-fi stylings are perhaps representative of the style and form that will, ultimately, prove to define the period from Spring 2020 to Summer 2021 as musicians, twitchy and desperate for release took to recording at home, minus bands, and without access to studios or even half their kit, let along bandmates. Primitive drum machines, apps, recording and even mixing on mobile phones and releasing via Bandcamp has for many been the only way.

Why not wait? You may ask. Because creatives often need to create and to put it out there: creativity is a compulsion, and for many, public reception is validation of their output, even though got many it’s equally a source of anxiety and self-doubt.

‘Matches’ is a no-messing mess of sinewy guitars chopping out some rough and ready post-punk tinged indie that lands, lay-legged and in a heap between The Fall and Pavement. Wright isn’t really a singer in the conventional sense, often adopting a more Sprechgesang mode of delivery – although that isn’t to say he can’t sing, and there are some brief moments of melodic reflection. This is also a fair reflection of the abstract / elliptical lyrical content, which is wildly veering and often abstract, but not without moments of sensitivity.

The lack of polish, while borne out of necessity, is endearing in that it also presents a lack of pretence. And, also of necessity, the fizzing guitars and simple, insistent rhythms that pump away and pin the loosely-played songs together, are found alongside, as the liner notes proffer, ‘sounds which could have been recorded live in the dentist’s chair – we’re talking drills, saws and high-pitched whines’. With trips to the dentist off the table during lockdown, one assumes these extraneous sounds were sourced elsewhere, and primarily around the home. It’s remarkable just how unsettling a blender or electric shaver can sound when recorded and played back out of context, you know.

More often than not distilled into sub-three-minute bursts, clattering percussion and jarring angles are defining features; ‘Your Reputation Precedes You’ pitches a semi-spoken word performance over a clanking industrial-edged backdrop, while elsewhere, ‘Workers’ day’ is dissonant, difficult, and antagonistic, but as a thunking synth bass groove emerges through it all, it takes on an awkward electrofunk vibe that evokes the stylings of early Shriekback – before dissolving into a mess of feedback, whirs, and buzzing, and the scratchy Fall-esque ramble ‘Stick By Stick’ collapses into mangling noise.

And while Matches doesn’t sound like The Fall per se, its wild eclecticism and the levels of discord achieved by the guitars (are they in tune, let alone playing the same key? Just listen to ‘Which of you has done this?’ to get a handle on the stylistic collisions that aren’t just characteristic but define the album.

Weird and wonderful with the emphasis on the latter, Matches is inventive and unusual. At times difficult and brain-bending, it’s also self-aware and interesting, and deserves some time to adjust to. It’s not mainstream, but it’s got real cult potential.

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Audiobulb Records – 5th May 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

The wonderful thing about stories is that there are no rules – no rules about what they should contain, how they should be told, or whose perspective they should be told from. Even the standard expectations of ‘beginning-middle-end’ are an artifice, and for any convention, there are infinite ways to deviate from it. Linearity is a construct which assists in rendering events more easily navigable, but sometimes, disrupting that linearity is an integral part of the unravelling of events. Stories – be they true or fictional – are often a way of making sense of the world through the construct of narrative. Sometimes, we forge our own narratives from fragments of confusion in order to orientate ourselves, and as such, stories are instinctive and integral to our understanding the world and our place in it.

The fourth album from Quiet Noise, the vehicle of West Wales based producer Adam Wilkinson, is, like so many albums from the last year, the product of lockdown. ‘In a studio that overlooks a valley where the air breathes a lone craftsman sets to work mapping his experience through experiment,’ his biography tells us. Does this mean that Wilkinson was perhaps better equipped than many to deal with the last fourteen months, given his solitary nature? Not necessarily, but while many lockdown musical projects, which have been steeped in an air of claustrophobia, anxiety, and tension, Story Machine is a breath of fresh air that conveys aa sense of – if joy is too strong, then appreciation – of life. Perhaps it’s the fact that after four years being busy producing music for singers and film makers, Wilkinson finally has time out to return to the world of Quiet Noise to explore his own avenues of creativity. Adam explains the limitations that determined the album’s formation, recounting, “stuck at home, sitting with my wife and children while they worked from home, I set myself the challenge of creating pieces using only equipment that could fit in my space on the living room table. Motivated by my game and pleasantly surprised by what I could achieve.”

For the most part, Story Machine is an overtly electronic set that comfortably incorporates a diverse range of styles from across the spectrum – and a large portion is fresh and accessible, danceable even. The range is such that the individual pieces feel as though they each tell their own stories – but then again, taken as a while, perhaps they’re chapters of a longer story that is the album as a whole.

With bold, surging orchestral strikes and tension-building strings, ‘Grand Entrance’ is appropriately titled. ‘Climbing Trees’ is altogether more light-spirited, with a buoyant electro beat and birds twittering – although it suddenly explodes in a surge of light that’s a veritable epiphany. ‘Murmurations’ brings a very different vibe, with a straight-up dance groove. The beats are bold and uptempo, and while the top synths are quite soft and subtle, bringing an expansive but chilled later to the sound, the bass is bouncy and urgent.

In among it all, there are some moments where vast expanses of sound burst seemingly from nowhere, radiating an almost prog-rock grandiosity. These bursts of extravagance are a shade audacious, but somehow, they work. Above all, Story Machine is an uplifting experience, and in the face of so much bleakness, it’s one that’s most welcome.

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Nova Alternativa – 16th April 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

The two Ks are Gintas K & Jan Kruml, and Environmental Framework is a collaborative work, whereby, as the liner notes outline, Jan worked with the historically first and last track that Gintas published. Gintas reworked tracks from Jan’s (Instinct Primal) live set from January 2021.

But rather than simply rendering this as an album of two sides, which would be perhaps the obvious approach, but instead, the seven tracks are sequenced with A1-A2-A4-B1 composed by JK, remixed by GK, and A3-B2-B3 composed by GK, remixed by JK.

Bring unfamiliar with Jan Kruml’s work, and having not heard the live set in question, it’s difficult to judge just how radically Gintas K has reworked the pieces here, but the remixes 1 and 3 of ‘Myths’, with their combined running time of ten minutes are sparse, spacious, and unsettling, as an elongated droning drift hangs, conjuring n eerie atmosphere. Incidental echoes and flickers, barely-present crackles of static rise and fall, fading in and out of the mist almost subliminally, but growing thicker and denser and more layered over time in the first, before transitioning into the explosive digital sloshing that is something of a signature for Gintas K. If this raises the question of the extent to which a remix can become more the work of the remixer than the original artist, here it’s worth commenting that it does work well, and places a complimentary light on Kruml’s sounds, and the way in which Jan approaches the ‘Noisebient RMX’ of ‘Phono’ very much returns the favour as it presents a clamorous babbling microtonal rush against a broad sweep backdrop.

The first remix of ‘Entering the Cave’ (which is in fact Remix 4) is hectic, a busy bubbling rush of sound that recreates that vintage analogue froth, only on a cocktail of steroids and speeds – amped-up and foaming away at a blizzard’s pace. Remix 1, which immediately follows, is altogether more low-key, shadowy, manifesting as a rumbling, grumbling ominous ambience. It’s dank, dark, and very much does evoke the scene of the title.

As the liner notes point out, ‘they never met in person, but sonically it’s like if they knew each other for decades’ – and certainly, there is a keen sense of intuition displayed here, as the two artists seemingly become interchangeable in their works.

It’s drone that defines Kruml’s remix of ‘Almost the End’, which is, fittingly, the penultimate track, before he revisits the ‘Noisebient’ theme for the epic span of the album’s bookending ‘Invite Round For A Cup Of Tea’, which strains and clamours and whirs in a flurry of granular tonality for over ten minutes. If it’s familiar territory for Gintas K, it equally highlights how at ease Jan Kruml is with this type of electronica, and despite its segregated origins, the remixing process has given the material a sense of unity that renders Environmental Framework a remarkably cohesive work that actually feels like ‘an album’ rather than a bunch of remixes. A true artistic triumph.

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25th April 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

While real gigs still aren’t possible, nim_brut are keeping the fringe noise community together with their ‘FEAST’ streams – and it’s an appropriate moniker, as they offer a veritable smorgasbord of experimental, noisy, and weird shit that fans of this disparate (anti)scene can fill their boots with at one of these events – eclectic, engaging, and inclusive, with something for everyone (as long as they’re into this kind of niche). Admittedly, the lineup was predominantly white and male, but that’s by no means an issue unique to experimental / electronics / noise, and the chat that ran alongside the stream was both welcoming, supportive, and encouraging for all comers. And in terms of replicating the live experience, it’s pretty good: something obscure provides a backdrop as people arrive and there are greetings in the chat, much like turning up at a similar show in person: a fair few people know one another from the circuit, and it’s relaxed and accommodating. In real life, these are some of the places I feel happiest: there’s no pressure as such, and people are accepting and accommodating of others not feeling particularly sociable, and the shared appreciation of diverse and indigestible music is simply accepted as enough.

So we’re here, and it feels comfortable.

The gig poster is replaced by footage of a lot of knobs and wires… a lot of panning and close-ups of this complex kit accompany drippling, blipping, bleeps and whistles, trickling, babbling sounds create a light, skipping mood. It’s Autotross, and they certainly don’t outstay their welcome with this short set. A nice taster, it would be interesting to see what more they make of this setup.

Soloman Tump’s pulsating dark ambient electronica is quite a contrast, and the rumbling, droning groan is accompanied by a walk in the woods, blurred, rasterised and colourised to render it most uncanny and unsettling. Clicks and burrs spike through the murk, the thudding beats thick and heavy, slow and deliberate, while will-o-the-wisp lights flicker and skip in the upper tonal regions, bringing a full sonic spectrum with good separation. The walk ends in a strange place with what looks like pouring paint and the sound winds down slowly like the life is slowly being sucked from it. While it would no doubt he great to see and hear in a real live setting, it does work well through phones.

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Soloman Tump

I was rather anxious ahead of the slot reserved for …(something) ruined: technical difficulties meant that the intended set wasn’t good to go, and I had stepped in last minute with a solo track I’d been working on, which I had about an hour to add visuals to before submission, thus making the debut for instrumental offshoot …(everything) ruined. Seven minutes of gnarly digital distortion accompanied by an eight-second clip of a sink-unblocking chemical in action looped for seven minutes seemed to go down pretty well.

Grating electroindustrial and eye-bleeding, fit-inducing flickering visuals are the order of the day from AGED at the start of the set – and then things start getting really weird as skeletal birds begin to drift back and forth against low oscillating scrapes and hovering drones.

OMNIBAEL had threatened a set involving banging railings and that’s what they delivered. Somewhere between Test Dept and Einstürzende Neubauten, it’s a heavily percussive clanging racket, and it’s brutal and oppressive. Marking a significant shift from their previous FEAST appearance, it’s a short, sharp shock of a set, and its impact is immense.

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Blackcloudsummoner’s set starts out dark and sense with a grimy, distorted bass booming. Not a lot happens: the drone drones on, as shrill whistles of feedback strain through a discoordinated chatter of sound that reminds of being in a crowded place… it’s unsettling and tense. Red lights drop like lava against a dark background in a loop, and in combination, the effect is hypnotic.

There’s a whole lot of gnarly nasty noise from Error Control, and there’s a definite sense of performance here too, as we see him twiddling the knobs on his compact but knob-dense kit while blindfolded. On one hand, this could be taken as a critical comment on the nature of harsh noise and the lack of technical prowess required to create it, as well as the S&M subculture associated with some corners of the scene, but I feel it’s more about exploiting the ransom elements of music making – and he works his patches well, generating some head-shredding tones with some abrupt tonal shifts.

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Error Control

Even if you ‘get’ and dig Territorial Gobbing, Theo Gowans’ outré approach can’t fail to evoke a certain ‘wtf’ response. Sonically, this set is very much standard territory, a series of groans, drones, bleeps, blips, burp and farts, with random samples flying in from all angles to dizzying and bewildering effect. Only this one, he’s dialled in from bed with a hot water bottle and some kind of elephant trunk hat thing made out of foam and paper mache or something. He coughs, splutters, wheezes, mutters, and snores, the din stops and starts and you wonder if he’s perhaps unwell, maybe delirious, but then you remember that’s just how he is, and he’ll probably be doing shit like this on his deathbed. It’s a cracking set that reminds us that there really isn’t anyone else doing anything quite like this.

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It’s a top end to a top night. At some point in the future, this will happen in a small room, at extreme volume and will be observed and appreciated with a fervent enthusiasm by a dozen or so people, and it will be aMAYzing. For the time being, it’s a real joy that the creativity continues and the sense of community remains.

And you can watch it all here:

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Plinki – 15th April 2021

I’ve been vegetarian since around 1994 or 95. My vegetarianism amuses some people, including a couple of friends who are such hardcore meat enthusiasts the prospect of a meal without at least some meat element makes them shudder and quiver and slowly foam away like a slug having salt poured over it. Then again, there’s a real risk they might dehydrate through salivation at the prospect of a tray of meat. Yes, the promise of meat can have a profound and indeed physical effect.

On this album, Anat Ben David and collaborators aren’t promising any meat you can actually eat and digest, but only chew on, which will no doubt disappoint my carnivorous chums. But there is much to chew on, and to ponder, as they present a vast array of styles and sounds that don’t always sit comfortably aside one another and will test many listeners on a number of levels. At times it’s pop, and with an electronic beat, but at others, it’s overtly experimental. And what does the cover art say?

Each of the songs on the album according to the liner notes, takes as its starting point ‘a text by a different author’ with ‘the new compositions bringing out a shared theme: the interaction of humans and the natural world and the assimilation of technology into our being’.

The five tracks on The Promise of Meat are stunning in their dramatic structures, their contrasts, their juxtapositions, and Anat’s soaring operatic vocals are utterly breathtaking. And there is no one overarching style that defines the album beyond the method, a focus on the minimal, the brooding. Pitched against groaning, droning electronica and stammering synths, it’s a striking sensation that creates a certain cognitive dissonance? What is this? How does one process and assimilate it?

‘Naked Axes’, the first song, is sparse and dissonant, dramatic and while the vocal is perhaps most reminiscent of Billie MacKenzie and there are hints of the high drama and tension of The Associates, it’s Scott Walker’s later work that’s perhaps the closest comparison here.

‘Cherish the Birds; is a chorus of delirium, while ‘Face Mixed With Phone’ is a stuttering barely- there dual-vocal acapella / spoken word piece with some bloopy, gloopy incidentals. It’s a shade awkward, especially when growls and whoops collide with shuddering organ-like drones and the crack of the snares of vintage drum machines to forge a wibbly sonic mirage.

The title track, a sprawling ten-minute morass of meanderance, is where things really get weird, and it’s sonorous, lugubrious, as an acoustic guitar plods a deadened strum, augmented by mournful brass sounds sad, lost notes into nothing, and amidst squelches and digital glitches. As atonal and varikeyed vocals collide against one another in the instrumental drift, it becomes increasingly disorientating and deranged.

Maybe this isn’t an album to process or assimilate in the usual ways. There is no clean or simple way to position this or to otherwise feel comfortable with the unexpected transitions and perspectives. But it is an album to spend time with, and to reattenuate your expectations by.

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WHY Record Company (WRC) – 20th March 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Once again, Gintas Kraptavicius, aka Gintas K has shamed me with his relentless output. Sure, Art Brut is only his second released of the year, but then, it is only the first week of April, and he’s maintained a pretty steady flow of two or three albums a year since 2003, and that’s before you get to the collaborations and visual projects. And if cranking out improvised sets using various permutations of keyboard and battered laptop with software seems to be something that can be done relatively quickly in principle, the setting up of said software for optimal effect, and devising how best to exploit it to achieve one’s aims and objectives can be time-consuming.

Art Brut finds Gintas delve deep into the most extreme digital territory in a while, with some wild improvisation and some pretty harsh keyboard battering conjuring a brain-frothing array of stammers and glitches, bleeps and bloops, all stop-starting, stutters, judders and clunks. This is one of those ‘everything all at once’ efforts that leaves you dizzy and bewildered, drowning in a digital foam. The experience is jittery and intense.

Although a digital release, it’s clearly designed as an album of two halves, corresponding with two sides of vinyl or cassette, with the three parts of ‘Art Brut’ in combination spanning some twenty-two minutes, and virtual B-side, the three parts of ‘Al Sublime’ stretching out over a similar duration, with the ten-minute ‘Al Sublime #2’ extending beyond the ten-minute mark.

The three movements of ‘Art Brut’ melt together in a transistor-troubling digital meltdown. Tractor beans and laser blast tear through warped tapes spinning on fast forward, and the whole bathful of bubbling noise swashes and sways in lurching waves. Fizzes and crackles and sparks fly like a heater dropped in, and you can almost hear the sizzling of flesh as electrodes pop at a rate of a hundred a minute. Everything fizzes, pops, squeaks, squeals and crackles in a crunching blizzard of scrappy, scratchy skitters and scrapes, and every single second is different.

‘Al Sublime’ isn’t radically different from ‘Art Brut’, but it is different nevertheless, with the effervescence countered by a broiling volcanic low-end simmer that grumbles and ferments. The low-end thrumming is at times almost subliminal, a humming drone that buzzes and grates, but is so often almost buries in the hectic insectoid clamouring. But this is also slower, lower, more warped and droning. Twisted tones resemble human voices, elongated moans droning become quite unsettling as gurgling electronic trails rise and fall and as jangling, chiming blips bounce off one another at random angles atop the gurgling discombobulation as if a blender is being sucked into a minuscule black hole, it all becomes to much to digest and assimilate… but then save for the two minute scrabble and scrape of a curtain closer in the form of the stammering ‘Al Sublime#3’ – a brief but tense bookend to an extended exercise in fractured fragmentation that digs deep into the cranial cavities and leaves you feeling slightly violated.

It’s a return to previous territory for Gintas K, and Art Brut finds him on peak form.

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Red Hook Records – 16th April 2021

Red Hook Records is the new label set-up by former ECM producer, Sun Chung. Hanamichi is Red Hook’s debut release. And what a prestigious release it is.

This is no casual, passing release or minor effort, and it’s certainly not a stop-gap space-filler of a release in the body of Kikuchi’s work: Hanamichi represents the final studio recordings made by the Japanese pianist, laid down over two days in December 2013, before his death in 2015 aged 75. As the liner notes suggest, Hanamichi is ‘the culmination of [his] lifetime of musical exploration and discovery.

Having featured on no fewer than 62 album releases, and having worked with a host of artists including McCoy Tyner, Elvin Jones, Miles Davis, Gary Peacock, Paul Motion, Hanamichi provides a fascinating bookend to an outstanding careers, and demonstrates his unique ear for melody. The airy and spacious opener, ‘Ramona’ is exemplary: the notes, played at intervals that hint at a time signature, but one that’s varied and unconventional, flow in a fashion that’s on the surface an easy, vaguely jazzy tune, but then there’s something that doesn’t quite conform to expectation, with small and subtle but still definite jumps between key.

And so Kikuchi leads us airily through the soft easiness of ‘Summertime’, an extended composition of great delicacy. Fleetingly, a bar resembling Ella Fitzgerald’s song of the same name half-appears, but in an instant, it’s floated away on a zephyr. Yet there are some moments of uncomfortable discord, and clouds gather across the sun, before the piece slowly tapers down to nothing in the final minute.

‘My Favorite Things’, in two parts, echoes the lilting lightness of the first piece, and the atmosphere is almost that of the background soundtrack in a basement jazz bar. Back in the day, you’d hear stuff like this that was mellow and laid-back through a smog of smoke and a babble of chat late into the night and even into the morning in tiny spaces down winding stairs. But what renders these pieces interesting are the sudden flurries or notes in a different tempo, occasionally lurching unexpectedly here to there, breeding disorientation and discomfort.

The contrasts are the key: gentle, accessible melodies and soothing tunes veer sharply and unexpectedly into awkwardness – not so awkward as to be horribly jarring, but just awkward enough to be, well, awkward. As such, Hanamichi sounds like nothing else: easy, but not, existing in a unique space, a space apart.

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