Posts Tagged ‘Karlrecords’

Karlrecords – KR077 – 24th April 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

For those unfamiliar (and that may well be many), die ANGEL is the collaborative project of Ilpo Väisänen (ex Pan Sonic) and Dirk Dresselhaus, which began in 1999 on a joint tour with Pan Sonic and Dresselhaus’ Schneider TM, with an objective to ‘use electronics, string instruments and effect loops to develop a sonic world that goes beyond fixed structures and clearly defined genres’. 30 years and 10 albums on, they’re still pushing those boundaries, and on this outing, the duo are joined by Oren Ambarchi.

It’s interesting to note that the material was recorded between December 2015 and January 2016, with Ambarchi adding overdubs in the spring of 2016, and the album being edited and mixed in the May of the same year, meaning it’s languished for the best part of four years., although it’s unclear as to why.

The album, available only on digital formats, comprises four longform tracks that would commonly correspond to a double 12” format

The album starts with ‘Epikurous’, which begins with a long, quavering drones that oscillates menacingly and ambulates directionless, a dark ambient cloud that drifts into the minimal throb of ‘Cargo Cult’. This piece is loosely formed around a rhythmic pulsation, a long, sonorous drone, interspersed with occasional interjections of ranging textures and frequencies. Sharp clustering bleeps and squiggling electronic fizz disrupt the smooth flow as echoic explosions and fractured rattles skitter and scuttle and scrape in and out of the frame.

‘Coup d’État’ is a bubbling foment that foams and froths unsettlingly, like a rumbling gut: it’s queasy, uncomfortable, a difficult, awkward churning that nags and grumbles, and filters into the dank miasma of the fourth and final piece, the ten-minute ‘Khormanoupka’. This is the deepest and darkest of the set, and rumbles almost subliminally, creating a deep, subterranean atmosphere, and as it crackles to a close, the listener is left empty and alone.

There is nowhere to go after this. The world didn’t end but what are you left with? An uncomfortable silence after half an hour of uncomfortable noise, noise that’s dissonant, difficult, and murky. And it works well.

AA

KR077_front

Karlrecords KR073 – 24th January 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Aidan Baker and Gareth Davis are no strangers to Aural Aggro: both feature in the roll-call of post-rock collective A-Sun Amissa, led by Richard Knox, and Baker’s myriad collaborations and contributions have received coverage here, and with good reason. Their contributions to the field of post-rock / ambient / brooding neoclassical orchestral avant-garde are substantial, to say the least.

It was two years ago that Canadian guitar player Aidan Baker and Belgian clarinettist Gareth Davis came together to release Invisible Cities, which, as the press release notes, ‘the duo explored the calmer side of things – from chamber jazz to ambient / drone and back, giving much space and air to breathe to their respective instrument’.

And so to the sequel: more of the same, yes, but different. Because there is always evolution, and never stasis.

Ominous. Unsettling. Slow-moving. Atmospheric. Resonant. The adjectives bubble up through the mist of ‘Hidden’, the album’s first composition as strings scrape and moan through a gauze-like haze and layers build and drift. Everything is vague, the elements fading into one another, with brief incidentals bringing tension and disquiet to an otherwise tranquil but strangely indefinable atmosphere.

‘Eyes’ rumbles into darker territory, rumbling, billowing darkness providing an undercurrent for wisps of otherworldly drones – forged on strings, but detached from the context of specific instrumentation

When listening to ambient works, I do, at times, find myself pondering the source or the various sounds. ‘That’s a violin’; or ‘that’s a cello’; or ‘that’ll be the clarinet’. It’s a distraction I could do without, especially when effects – and sometimes just reverb and the way notes and sounds rub against one another to create seemingly unnatural sounds – mean that instruments don’t sound like the instruments they are, and often don’t even sound like conventional instruments. It’s better just to let it all wash over you, and to let the sound swell and envelop your being.

This is very much true of the dense, malevolent sonic swirl of ‘The Dead’, which tapers down seamlessly into ‘Continuity’, where drones hover and piano notes crash as if sliding down a staircase and metallic drones slide and it’s a minimal approach to instrumentation that creates the greatest tension, which ultimately dissipates in the altogether warmer climes of ‘Names’.

Baker and Davis bring out the best in one another, combining their creative capabilities to forge ambience with depth and the power to affect mood rather than merely hover, and Invisible Cities II is strong, moving, and evocative while at the same time conjuring a perfectly distracting aural fog.

KR073_front

Karlrecords – KR024 – 15th July 2016

Edward S. Robinson

How I hadn’t encountered the work of Iannis Xenakis previously, I will never know. Nevertheless, it was at the 2016 European Beat Studies Network conference that I first saw – and then heard – examples of his work, courtesy of Antonio Bonome in his talk on ‘Polytopy and Burroughs’ Coordinate Points’. The crazy, three-dimensional graphs, or polytopes, which accompanied Metastasis were utterly mind-bending. Given that I’m neither a musician nor a mathematician, they didn’t mean a great deal to me, but as visual pieces, they were stunning. Conceptually, Xenakis’ fusing of two disciplines, music and architecture, breaks new ground in itself, with the combination of architecture and music translating to the architecture of music. And then Bonome played the sounds these images represented. Huge, extended, quivering, brain-draining walls of sound. Powerful, immense, they seemingly took solid physical form. This was truly something.

La Legende d’Eer was composed in 1977 and 1978, when Xenakis was in the midst of his far-reaching explorations of mythology and philosophy. La Legende d’Eer is another of Xenakis’ monumental polytopes, and was created to mark the opening of the Pompidou Centre in 1978. While previous editions have presented the music as a single track and across different releases, featuring an array of errors, this latest reissue from Karlrecords (which makes the work available on vinyl and download for the first time), uses the eight track version Xenakis himself presented at Darmstädter in 1978.

La Legende d’Eer represents one of Xenakis’ most renowned and celebrated electroacoustic compositions, and is a challenging work to sat the least. Not being musically minded in the compositional sense, or scientifically minded in the sense of the technicalities of the mechanics and frequencies and all that jazz, I’m perhaps rather ill-equipped to respond to the fullness of Xnenakis’ objectives and achievements. As such, this is less of an academic analysis and more of a straightforward review, and pulled more from the gut than drawn from anywhere else. However, this is sound which elicits a cerebral, emotional and physical response first and foremost. This is extreme music, which many would likely dispute even constitutes music, and a similarly extreme response is surely a natural one.

Those who are wired to actually derive enjoyment from it are likely a very small minority, but one I happen to belong to. The eight tracks segue together, and begins as a series of trilling whistles of feedback, building into a screeding, shrill mesh of treble, howling drones and pained hums that bow, bend and scrape. If sounds reminiscent of Whitehouse (the resemblance of ‘Wriggle Like a Fucking Eel’ to moments on track seven is remarkable, but then the twittering, jittering top-end noises Xenakis creates are also very like those which make up the majority of the Great White Death album) and the entirety of the careers of Merzbow and Kenji Siratori can be heard, then La Legende d’Eer marks the foundation stone of power electronics and noise. Amidst the earthwork rumbles and the buzzing swarms of hornets and the atomic detonations, shrieks, rattles and crashed are churned together to form a huge, excruciating aural assault.

Acute listening reveals complex internal polyrhythms of the sonic vibrations as they bounce together and against one another. And as the tones and velocity of the sounds shift, so the rhythms change. Indeed, La Ledenge d’Eer is a work in which sound is in perpetual flux. Bleeping arcade game sounds bubble from a tidal wave of noise which resembles a landfill sit’s worth of tin cans, blooping laser modulations surge and swell before devouring themselves and being carried away in an avalanche of static and pink noise. Extraneous jazz honks through a kaleidoscope of sparkling circuitry and low-end interference. In short, there’s a lot going on, and what goes on changes over the course of the piece(s).

It’s a three-dimensional attack on the senses, designed to inflict maximum disorientation and temporal dislocation. And it succeeds. It will necessarily and inevitably twist the psyche and create an almost indefinable sense of discomfort, and it doesn’t require a mathematical equation to calculate the unsettling effects of the sound on the listener. 38 years after its composition and it’s still an astounding and quite devastating work.

 

Iannis Xenakis - La Legende d'Eer

Karlrecords – KR025 – 23rd September 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

If you though that free jazz couldn’t be brutal and punishingly aggressive, you clearly haven’t heard Painkiller. A three-way collaboration between three legends in their own rights – namely Bill Laswell, John Zorn and Napalm Death’s Mick Harris, the three albums they released in the early 90s represent the work of a true supergroup: not just a coming together of names, but creative powers combining convergent forces to forge something exceptional. Guts of a Virgin and Buried Secrets, both released on Earache Records, melded grindcore and free jazz to devastating effect, but it was their final album, the double-CD sign-off that was Execution Ground (1994) that saw them take things to another towering level.

That 1994 is now 22 years ago is hard to digest: not only are there kids listening to Nirvana who weren’t born when Kurt Cobain ended it, but adults too. Nevertheless, it’s 22 years since Execution Ground was released, and only now is it receiving a vinyl pressing, in a limited run of 500 (with the obligatory download code). And yes, an album of such sonic depth more than warrants a vinyl edition, and Karlrecords have done themselves proud, with the 180g double vinyl mastered and cut by Rashad Becker in Berlin. There’s a slight change to the original running order here, with ‘Pashupatinath’ being cut from the vinyl and tacked on at the end of the download, but nevertheless it works, and the key point to note is that this doesn’t sound like an album from 22 years ago. But then, it doesn’t sound like an album from any time.

Zorn’s alto sax playing in the opening minutes is beyond wild, and it’s underpinned by a thudding, gut-rumbling bass. Everything about the album is immense: ‘Parish of Tama (Ossuary Dub)’ works the full sonic spectrum and distils the most potent elements of grindcore and jazz, while bringing down the pace to a glacial grind. Simultaneously frantic and pulverizing, it pulls the listener in two different directions, and possesses a dark turbulence powerful enough to tear you in half.

‘Morning of Balachaturdasi’ begins with a slow, heavy drum beat, joined next by a dolorous chime of a repeated bass chord. Half Swans, half Shellac… and then the sax. Fuck, the sax! Its shrill, it has attack, and while the rhythm sections gradually dissolves into a sea of echo, quintessentially jazzy grooves rise up and the playing really wigs out. Over the course of its quarter-hour running time, it builds to punishing crescendos, drops back down to almost nothing, with extended semi-ambient passages which in turn yield to shrieking sonic assaults with the brutal rhythm section producing some deep, dark dub vibes.

The ‘ambient’ versions are darkly menacing, and swampy echoes drift and swirl, offering little by way of comfort. In the distance, sax honks parp and bray like a wild beast begging for mercy from within the belly of a whale. Drum breaks erupt and vanish into think, murky air, while tortured voices howl in agony from the depths. The bass is so low and edgy it’s positively stealthy and almost subliminal in its attack. But attack it does, as it nags away, strumming and thrumming and skipping and dipping. Thirteen minutes into ‘Parish of Tama (Ambient)’, a crescendo of crashing drums and satanic thrashing and gnashing offer a view into the black heart of purgatory.

It’s certainly not ‘ambient’ in any conventional sense, and nor do these epic sonic expanses conform strictly to the tropes of ‘dark ambient’, instead making for something altogether dense, more oppressive and more sinister.

It’s a brain-frying and utterly monumental work of epic scope, depth and dimensionality. However far genes cross, you’d be hard-pressed to find a work which pushes forward across seemingly incompatible genres, and even more hard-pressed to find one which succeeds like Execution Ground.

 

painkiller-execution-ground