Posts Tagged ‘Gagarin Records’

ChristopherNosnibor

The split album seems to be in vogue again, and it’s a format which perhaps offers more scope for artists who don’t trade in punchy little tunes than the split single or EP. Shine on you Crazy Diagram may only contain four tracks and have a running time of just over thirty minutes, but it allows both contributing acts to showcase the range of their sound by presenting expanded, developed musical works.

The two tracks by Splitter Orchestra explore and examine weird digital percussion: the ever-shifting pitch creates the illusion of ever-shifting tempo (or does it? Perhaps the tempo does shift albeit subtly) beneath whistling contrails of feedback. They sputter and scrape and drone and hum. ‘Diagram 1’, at under four and a half minutes, is but a prelude to its counterpart, ‘Diagram 2’ which hums and wheezes for almost eleven minutes. There are rhythms in the mix, but they’re pinned back in the mix and bounce around against a shimmering backdrop of feedback and extraneous noise.

Kubin’s compositions are altogether less overtly structured, or at least rhythmic, as swampy swashes and thumps rumble and eddy before – from seemingly out of nowhere – faceripping blasts of distortion roar and blast. ‘Lückenschere’ is constructed around a clattering, shifting rhythm.

‘Lichtsplitter’ clatters and moans and hums and drones for an eternity, before stepping up about ten gars. By the end, one has a fair idea of what it just be like to stand within two feet of a Boeing 474 taking off.

This is, without doubt, one of those releases which lends itself perfectly to vinyl: it is, after all, an album of two halves. They compliment and contrast, and showcase two quite different sides of the experimental digital coin.

There’s a digital bonus track from the Splitter Orchester. ‘Diagram 3’ is a ten-minute extravaganza of thick, impenetrable hums and drones. It might not exactly change the complexion of the release, but it does unquestionably fill out and round off the intangible, non-physical format nicely.

Splitter Orchestra   Felix Kubin

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Gagarin Records – GR2037 – 1st March 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

Werke für Schlagzeug und elektroakustische Geräte (that’s Works for Percussion and Electro-Acoustic Devices) is the second album by Polish duo Miłosz Pękala and Magda Kordylasińskam, and it’s a covers album. But as you might expect from an act which started out under the moniker Hob-beats Percussion Duo, this isn’t anything like a regular mainstream covers album. The selection of ‘original’ compositions more than amply evidences this, with the album starting with a brace of Felix Cubin compositions – ‘Renaissance Gameboy’ # 1 and #2.

Miłosz is a vibraphonist and percussionist, while Madga’s instrument is marimba: they use these to recontextualise and realign the explorations of Kubin’s works (while usually found working with synths and Gameboys, these pieces were originally written for violin, saxophone, cello, drums, and tape), and the results are nothing if not fascinating. It’s a slow drip, clatter, rattle and scrape with the occasional swelling rumble. It’s percussive, but not overtly so, and the unorthodox approach to generating – and recording – sound using their instruments of choice means identifying the origin of each individual sound is almost impossible.

Frank Zappa is by far the best-known artist covered on here. Famed for being difficult to play and originally written for drum kit and electronic percussion, but later emerging in various revised forms, it does seemingly lend itself to Pękala and Kordylasińska’s set-up. But of course, they’re not content to simply ‘play’ it, and instead incorporate dripping water, temple blocks, cups and use lose-mic recordings of all of these and more to forge an altogether different kind of clicky, flicky clattery racket.

Pieces by Thymme Jones and Steve Reich receive similar treatment, with the latter’s ‘Vermont Counterpoint’ performed with the flute motif and, indeed the rest of the orchestral parts, performed on vibraphone, glockenspiel, marimba and dulcimer. Building layers of rippling melody, it’s remarkably faithful to the original.

An original Pękala composition, ‘Modular #1’ closes the album. Based on a rhythmic pattern generated by a modular synthesiser, it further demonstrates the versatility of percussive instruments, as delicate waves of sound drift and flow in supple glissandos.

And yet, as beguiling as the music is – and it really is extremely pleasant, and relaxing without being too much ‘background’ – the thing I found to be most charming is the sticker on the cover of the CD, which lists the running time of 36:52 as the ‘Total Playtime’. It may not feature on the commercial release, but it does serve as a reminder that music, however serious or experimental, invariably involves an element of play, and this is nowhere more apparent in Pękala and Kordylasińska’s approach to music-making.

 

Pękala – Kordylasińska