Posts Tagged ‘Experimental’

Bohemian Drips – BD10 – 30th August 2019

Christopher Nonsibor

January 2017: I was introduced to Microtub on receipt of their album Bite of the Orange.it prompted all kinds of tangential associations, few actually or specifically related to the album’s sonic contents. But then, that’s s often one of the great pleasures of music for me – the ideas and images it has the capacity to unlock. And while more conventional musical forms – especially lyric-orientated works – resonate on a more direct level in that sound and sentiment combine to connect with given emotional states, more abstract works have greater potential for far freer associations.

July 2019: I’m reintroduced to Microtub and reminded that I still don’t really grasp what a microtonal tuba is, and remain amazed by the idea of there being three microtonal tubas in existence, let alone musicians to play them. Because, yes, as the press release informs / reminds us, ‘Microtub is the world’s first and only microtonal tuba trio, exploring Just Intonation and the rich harmonic potential of the tuba. In collaboration with bohemian drips and Ace Tunes they bring us their new release Chronic Shift, featuring recorded material from the stunning “Großer Wasserspeicher” (large water tower) in Berlin-Pankow, mixed with analog synthesizers’.

It gets a bit technical after that: ‘Carefully recorded in binaural audio by the bohemian drips engineers, this unlikely combination of tubas and simple synth pitches provides a meditative and immersive experience, and an auditory glimpse into a truly unique acoustic space. By using Kunstkopf stereophony and the perspective of a so-called dummyhead microphone (Neumann KU-100), the acoustical scenary of the tank was captured in 3D-audio, relocating the listener into the actual recording situation’.

More usefully, we learn that ‘the title track ‘Chronic Shift’ is a rework based on the piece ‘Sonic Drift’, a Robin Hayward composition written specifically for Microtub. Not that I’ve heard ‘Sonic Drift’ to compare, or know if I’d be able discern the connections.

Still, the two pieces on Chronic Shift are yawning longform experiments in organic hum and drone that sound nothing like anything involving an actual tuba. Which is probably for the best.

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SN Variations – 5th July 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

Having read the press release, and from my previous – albeit somewhat limited – experience of lock grooves, I had expected something overtly technical and perhaps somewhat tedious:

‘A lock groove is one cycle of one groove on a record. This is 1.8 sec cut at 33RPM and 1.33 cut at 45RPM. Having used lock grooves on film scores for British film Waiting for You and The Have Nots directed by Florian Hoffmeister, Corker wanted to explore their potential further in a standalone more percussive release. He used the cutting lathe currently residing in the living room of The Exchange mastering legend Graeme Durham to experiment with different sounds cut onto acetate and then recorded over different durations back into a computer. The process is similar to print processes in the visual arts where there is a high degree of unpredictability in how the eventual lock groove is recorded and then plays. Also because of the softness of the acetate the lock grooves break down as they are re re-recorded causing unexpected effects as the needle carves away the surface of the vinyl. This generative process adds layers of unpredictable noise culminating finally in white noise. These are combined forming frames for performances of violin, percussion and piano. The pieces reflect on the tension between the mechanical and the human gesture/expression and place where they merge.’

The album is split across two sides: ‘Inflow’ and ‘Outflow’, with each comprising three pieces. Rhythm is at the forefront of the pieces. Not solid, beat-built rhythm, but repetitive swells of sound. The close-packed humming loop that forms the foundation of ‘Inflow Part 1’ is gradually overlaid with a range of other sounds which repeat at varying regular frequencies, an immense, dramatic crash leading to a sustained crescendo. ‘Part 2’ pairs an echoing piano note and a picked string which vibrate off one another in a space between accord and discord, and it’s discord that marks the mood on ‘Part 3’. The album’s longest piece finds Corker develop tension through the juxtaposition of elongated drones and stabs of rumbling piano and sharp strings before building to a large swell of sound that fizzes and hisses white noise around the cavernous conglomeration.

‘Outflow Part 1’ creates a different kind of tension, with harsher sounds – buzzing, grating, distorted sounds looped in short, fast repetitions that get into your skull and raise the blood pressure. I’m actually typing visibly faster, and not for the first time I’m aware of the way music affects the listener in ways beyond subliminal mood adjustments. ‘Part 2’ is subtler, more subdued as an ominous drone hovers beneath scratches and scrapes. and leads into the slowly-shifting ‘Part 3,’ which transitions through a gentle pulsation to a wail of straining violin.

And however technical its construction, it’s far from tedious.

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Adrian Corker – Music For Lock Grooves

Buzzhowl Records – 26th July 2019

Left Limbs are Raul Buitrago (drums) and Jake Saheb (guitar), and Hexes is an album of two halves, two sides, two tracks, each sprawling over ten minutes apiece in duration. And they pack a lot of challenging noise into that timespan. At times uncoordinated, at times harsh, it’s very much a journey.

At the risk of infinite repetition, I’m a fan first and foremost and critic on the side, and of the many people I work with doing this, the PR and labels – and artists – who are clearly in it for the love are my favourites by miles. The passion invariably shines through. And so I’m disproportionately excited when, during a Twitter exchange, I’m told ‘In the second track, about half way through some kind of beat emerges and if you listen all the way through it’s a really great moment, but I just like the sound, distorted guitar and drums – but dismantled.’ And I get it. sometimes -often – the ‘ow!’ of a rack lies in a fleeting transitional moment, where something = often something random or incidental – happens. You notice it. And once you’ve noticed it, you can’t unnoticed it. But it something special and sweet and it’s a ‘moment’. Your moment, a personal insight and intersection between creation and reception. And it becomes everything, the moment on which the entire piece hangs and pivots from good to magical.

And so I’m on the edge of my increasingly-worn suede-covered chair, which I’ve sat in to write reviews for the best part of a decade now, squinting in the darkness at the screen as erratic, irregular beats clatter and clank and feedback screeches, howls and whistles among echoing unevenness. And ‘dismantled’ is the word. It’s spectacularly disjointed, difficult in the most glorious of ways.

Where is this all going? It’s a clash of experimentalism, avant-garde and jazz without the groove, a messy exploration of sonic incongruity, rich in atmosphere and angularity. It meanders, thumping and bumping and squawking and screeching… and then suddenly, there it is, crashing in around the nine-minute mark. A dolorous bass booms in and the drumming picks up and it’s like Filth-era Swans for a moment as things get frenetic and the sound rapidly descends into a distorted mess of speaker overload.

It’s the crushing, headache-inducing unprettiness that’s precisely the appeal: Hexes may not be remotely political or even engaged in anything about anything, existing in its own microcosmic sphere, but it’s an ugly album for ugly times. It helps release the pain.

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Left Limbs - Hexes

Focused Silence – FOCUSED0065 – 7th June 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

Shrill. Treble. Not so much chiming as trilling, a sound between a rapid ringing bell and an alarm that drills into the cranium introduces ‘Colophon’, both the album and the title track on this release by ifitisn’t, a duo comprising Robinson & Kalnars – who both have musical pedigree. It’s the jangle of shattered glass and continues for what feels like an eternity, even though it’s only five minutes or so, before dissipating, dispersing into fragments amidst soft clouds of sound punctuated by near-subliminal bumps and scrapes.

According to the press release, ‘ifitisn’t is about the interruptive noise that exists between transmission and the intended reception of the message, the fragments of concrete experience that interrupt hegemony. it is the mapping of emotional and political territories. ifitisn’t is cartographer and rhetoricican’.

They probably realise that absolutely none of this ‘mapping of emotional and political territories’ actually translates through the work itself: the transmission conveys none of the intended reception. They’re probably more than aware that art’s capacity to ‘interrupt hegemony’ is limited at beast, especially in the current climate, especially when that art is obscure and inscrutable. The disparity between the medium and the message are immeasurable, and all that we have to process is ‘interruptive noise’. It’s quite conceivable that that’s the entire point. The fact they’ve gone ahead and done it anyway is what matters. Artistic statements count for less than pissing in the wind, but its through persistence and perseverance and a steadfast refusal to bow or quit that art will ultimately rise above its societal and cultural backdrop. And it’s art, in all of its myriad forms across all media, which makes life worth living.

I’m by no means saying that with Colophon, ifitisn’t are going to have any impact on my life praxis, or make any waves even within artistic circles. But that doesn’t matter.

Random sounds abound on the second piece, the eleven-minute ‘Denity’, which finds whistling digital feedback, dd snorts, disembodied voices and sounds of unidentifiable origin rifting in and out and intersecting with irregular chanking chimes and glooping ripples of analogue waves frothing impatiently. Nine minutes in, some gallic-sounding vibes enter the mix: it sounds at first like an accordion or concertina of some kind, but could equally be a melodica, but it’s soon washed away on a tide of fuzzy extraneous sound whatever it is.

And whatever it is, it’s worth hearing at least once.

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Crónica – 9th April 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

Useful points worth noting by way of a preface: Unwritten Rules for a Ceaseless Journey

documents three pieces composed for dance, commissioned by Ballet Teatro for the play Revoluções (Revolutions) by choreographer Né Barros. The in three parts are designed to embody formal idealisations of the three decisive layers of time — past, present, and future.

The three tracks each span around fifteen minutes, and the first, ‘Something’s Missing (Utopian) begins with elongated, scraping drones… and continues onwards with ominous hums that swirl and eddy around a barely-audible hissing buzz. A rolling organ while emerges from a clamour of shuffling intangibility to provide a vague semblance of form and instrumental musicality, but the it’s sad and sinister in equal parts, conveying a sense of loss while reminding us that the past is dark. The muttering voices, inextricable individually: are those the voices of the dead?

It seems entirely fitting that the pieces should melt into one another: time always transitions seamlessly, and in terms of life lived, it’s difficult to appreciate the fact that every passing second is stacking up the record of time past as the present slips away instantaneously. It’s also fitting that the present, as represented by ‘The Pulsating Waves (Reality)’ flattens into an indistinguishable mid-range hum that groans and sighs and whispers. Metallic sparks hiss way off on the horizon, forever out of reach. There’s a sense of emptiness and despondency about this inhospitably bleak sonic wasteland, even as it swells into an altogether smoother, denser, broader droning hum. It’s the sound of absence, a dulled absence that lacks dynamism or detail. So much positive, pro-mindful life-coaching material and contemporary self-help verbiage tells us that we should live in the moment; but the fact of the matter is that the moment is invariably empty, bleak, depressing.

‘Don’t Look Back, Run (Trauma)’ is solid advice: it’s impossible to retreat to the past, or to recreate it, despite the booming nostalgia industry’s suggestion otherwise. To commit too much time to reflection is to lose oneself to the past and deny the possibility of progress; but, to run to the future without due attention to history is to be doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past. There is a balance to be found. The album’s final track suggests a certain degree of balance: it’s slow, its form emerging from dragging pulsations drawn out in bowed strings – or ersatz assimilations thereof – which gradually diminish into a rumbling gust of wind, blowing grey, blurred particles into a formless mass. The future is, and will forever be indistinct, unclear, as unpredictable as the weather, fashion, and our fragile emotions. And in the dying minutes, it crumbles to a cloud of grey obscurity, lacking shape, form, and tonality, a vaporous viscosity of… what? Uncertainty. Murky, messy, abstraction. What the future holds, we know not: the present is unsettled, dangerous, turbulent. The present is well out of hand, and the future yet more so.

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H_CE_ARTES_FINAIS

Wonkystuff

What do Neuschlafen do? The York / Leeds collective which features member of myriad other bands and projects seem to exist more in the ether and in theory than as a tangible entity, despite the existence of a handful of recordings, most of which capture live improvisations in collaboration with other artists.

It’s been some time since the trio, comprising John Tuffen (guitar, synthesiser, vocals), Ash Sagar (bass, percussion, synthesiser, vocals) and Jason Wilson (drums, percussion, synthesiser) combined forces to release anything ‘proper’, although What We Do – a rehearsal room recording committee to (virtual) tape on a Tascam DR07-mkII (with no overdubs) at House Of Mook, Leeds on March 24th, 2019 adheres to their improvised, zero-budget, DIY ethos to the letter. Some of the sound is a little muffled and muddy, and the balance isn’t quite what studio ix would aim for, but it does capture the band’s essence and approach a vast expanse, before

With the exception of the twenty-five second ‘Breath #1’ the eight pieces here are all long-form explorations that sit toward the ten-minute mark. The first, ‘The Set-Up’ could be a literal rendition of its title and is more f a soundcheck than a song, with a wild crash and slash of cymbal mayhem and frenetic jazz percussion over a gloopy, strolling bass.

‘A Slow Hand’, with its wandering, repetitive motifs, has echoes of latter-day Earth and conjures a spaced-out-desert rock / folk hybrid played under sedation. It meanders along, before the playing becomes quieter, and it finally sort of peters out. And yet it doesn’t feel remotely disappointing, because it sounds somehow intentional.

The tracks tend to follow a similar flow in fundamental terms: the drums plod along with frequent and explosive, unpredictable fills punctuating the rhythmic line while the bass wanders around casually while returning to its root motif by way of an anchor just when things start to look like the structure is losing shape and the guitar lays down layers of abstraction and textured atmospherics rather than affecting any semblance of melody or tune.

The title track is a definite standout: landing at around the albums mid-point, it steps up the tempo and goes straight into a chunky jazz-tinged krautrock groove. It’s the rhythm section that dominates, while synths waft and ripple and heavily echoed guitar rings out crisp and clean but at a distance. And whereas the other pieces tend to drift, ‘What We Do’ drives and maintain a linear, forward-facing trajectory as it builds through successive slow-burning crescendos.

It’s the percussion that comes to the fore on the closing tryptic, with the 15-minute ‘Divisions’ constructed around a relentless rhythm around which pulsating synths grind and drone in way that calls to mind Suicide’s debut. Somewhere, maybe about halfway through, when the drums have hit an optimal thump and the cymbals are crashing all over, the bass boosts into an approximation of Joy Division’s ‘Isolation’, while monotone vocals, the words inaudible, drone away in the background as the instrumentation stretches out into a vast expanse, before the final cut, ‘to the end’ breaks loose with a thunderous clatter of freeform percussion and sprightly bass that bounds around freely and fluidly to conclude a set that’s simultaneously tense and mellow, an amalgamation of so many disparate elements that renders it difficult to place. And that’s all the more reason to rate this effort, that broadly sits in the brackets of avant-garde, experimental, jazz, and even post-rock and math-rock, albeit at their most minimal and most deconstructed. And that is what they do.

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Neuschlafen – What we do

Love Love Records – 26th April 2019 – LOVLP03

Christopher Nsnibor

However you remember Sly and the Family Drone, whatever your past experience, and whatever you may expect, the reality of each new entry in their catalogue brings something slightly different.

My first encounter with them was in a live setting, and I was left reeling with images of a bloke in boxer shorts pummelling drums and getting half the audience to join in. I remember noise, rhythms and chaos. Various YouTube footage confirms this is pretty much representative.

All of those elements are present on their studio recordings, but in different measures. It works: it’s a different medium. And moreover, each release reflects an evolution, usually a subtle but nevertheless key shift. And so it is on Gentle Persuaders, the collective who describe themselves as a ‘neo-noise-jazz outfit’ (one suspects that as apt as the description is, there’s an element of tongue-in-cheek here, just as their absurdist track titles aren’t entirely straight-faced) ‘vomit forth a smooth serving of curious and clattering noise not devoid of fun’.

Smooth is perhaps one thing it isn’t, and for that we should all try and be grateful. Challenging, angular, tonally and structurally abrasive, Gentle Persuaders finds Matt Cargill and co. playing to their ever-growing strengths.

The album opens in suitably uncompromising style, with the longest of the four compositions, the fourteen-minute ‘Heaven’s Gate Dog Agility’. It takes its time to get going, and with minimal instrumentation save for elongated sax drones, it has something of a sparse, free jazz feel. The percussion is restrained, distant, muted, and the emphasis seems to be on atmosphere, and – so it would seem at this stage – musicianship. But by the mid-point the drums are full-blooded, and the sax is battling amidst a barrelling wall of extraneous noise. The closing minutes find the rare emergence of an overt structure, a form, with repetition and a coalescence of sound that could almost be mistaken for a tune.

Crashing, head-blasting industrial beats worthy of Test Dept or perhaps reminiscent of Revolting Cocks’ ‘Beers, Steers & Queers’ shatter the air on ‘New Free Spirits Falconry & Horsemanship’. And they continue to pound away for the duration, while the sax screeching becomes ever more strangled and frenzied.

‘Votive Offerings’ ventures into murky, dark ambient territory, and reveals glimmering flickers of light shifting amidst the shadows of sombre drones and unsettling incidentals. It’s a mosaic of fragments: forms start to emerge, solid rhythms kick in, only to halt after a few bars, and if it’s jazz with noise, it’s jazz with noise penned as a soundtrack to the fragmented hallucinatory anti-narrative of Naked Lunch.

It’s this change of mood that renders the finale all the more impactful: beginning stark, sparse, eerie, with single notes ringing out into a sea of black echo and swampy low undercurrents, the spectacularly punny (and so very typical) ‘Jehovah’s Wetness’, a low-end bass grind begins to build the foundations of a swirling sludge-trudge climax. It’s not gentle, but it’s extremely persuasive.

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Gentle Persuaders