Vital Weekly 928

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SONTAG SHOGUN – TALE (CD by Palaver Press) *
AMUTE – SAVAGE BLISS (CD by Three:four Records) *
XUMLA – STATIX (CDR by Audiobulb Records) *
(((MODOFI))) – DE GROENE DRIEHOEK 15.01.14 (CDR by Oggy Records) *
SYNTAX PONY (cassette by Oggy Records)
THE TENSES & GUZO – FULL-ON RAGER (cassette by Obsolete Units)
ZAIMPH & YEK KOO – L’INTERIEUR DE LA VUE (cassette by Obsolete Units)
K.M. TOEPFER – INSTIGATE (cassette by Obsolete Units)


Vital Weekly #928 by Vitalweekly on Mixcloud



tracklist for Vital Weekly 928:

0000 Tune
0014 Red Sektor A – Temple Of The Temple
0321 Sontag Shogun – Orbit Insertion
0627 Hamilton Yarns – Come Around
0934 Xumla – Dancin’ Dust
1238 Howard Hersh – Concerto For Piano And Ten Instruments Movement II
1540 Amute – Emperical Evidence
1845 Jaap Blonk – Proof Of Gossip
2148 Frank Holger Rothkamm – Buch 1 No. 6 ‘Die Mühle Und Die Mühllerin’
2450 Modofi – De Groene Driehoek 15.01.14
2757 Jaap Blonk – Somnabulance
3107 Tune

SONTAG SHOGUN – TALE (CD by Palaver Press)
Last year I saw Sontag Shogun in concert at Extrapool, which left me somewhat, confused, as I wrote before (Vital Weekly 900). I enjoyed the instrumental part of their music (with lots of digital piano, field recordings, reel-to-reel manipulation, guitar soundscapes but I was less fond of their use of vocals. That is something that can’t be changed of course, as it’s part of what this trio does. Ian Temple (piano), Jesse Perlstein (voice, laptop, voice, field recordings, radio) and Jeremy Young (tapes, oscillators, carpetwaves and piezo’d objects) are from three cities, London, Seoul and Brooklyn, so perhaps this new album was recorded using the Internet, but no doubt being on tour together also provides time to work on new music. Sontag Shogun plays a rare combination of musique concrete, ambient and maybe singer-songwriter. It’s all highly textured, with a fine combination of found spoken word (Nasa flight control in the very 90s ambient piece ‘Orbit Insertion’), while the extended use of piano adds a very melodic touch to the music. It has a very soundtrack-like atmosphere, this music and occasionally the singing reminded me of Gastr Del Sol, and, come to think of it, maybe some of the music to, especially the use of the piano of course. But Sontag Shogun has very much their own sound, mainly due to the field recordings and objects and surfaces being scanned with piezo disc contact microphones. All of this played very carefully with much thought, much emotion and throughout a finer narrative undercurrent. I must admit I even enjoyed many of the vocals here; it all made much more sense than back then. I’d say this is their most accomplished work to date. (FDW)
Address: http://www.palaverpress.com

With instrumental, guitar-based compositions and dynamic sound structures, it’s easy to compare the Swedish band Sonson with any average post-rock band. Post-rock used a trick which can run out easily, which probably accounts for the fact why the last post-rock wave of ten years ago dried out after a few years. In their press release, Sonson admit the post-rock influence, but add that instead of building epic soundscapes, they tell short, raw and rough stories. It’s a road trip which changes after every few minutes. And it’s true. With their first full-length ‘ A Shine Below The Mound’, released in March, Sonson update the rather obsolete post-rock rules and adds 60-ish psychedelica and krautrock. Not only the typical post-rock guitar, but also the organ has a big part in their music. It gives it a warm, nostalgic feel. Especially songs like the opener Foghorn (60’s beat organ and sometimes schizophrenic composition), Medicine Lumber (easy-listening psychedelica), its punk rock counterpart Juvenile Steam and the final song Tupilak (with distant Pink Floyd references) are highlights on this excellent album of only six songs. ‘A Shine Below The Mound’ makes for original, multi-layered and sometimes even cheerful songs which keep running in your head after a few listens.
They will be touring Europe this spring and I’m curious to see them perform these songs live. (LW)
Address: http://www.kapitaen-platte.de

AMUTE – SAVAGE BLISS (CD by Three:four Records)
Jerome Deuson is the Belgium musician behind Amute. He released only four albums in his ten years career on Still, Humpty Dumpty and Intr_version and it’s only the latter I heard, his debut album ‘A Hundred Dried Trees’ (see Vital Weekly 421), I think. As the label points out there are some obvious references here to be made, such as Fennesz, Tim Hecker, The Microphones as well as more post-rock/ambient bands. Hearing this new work that’s hardly a strange thing. These eight pieces are indeed along those lines. Extended tapestries of sound, derived from guitar (perhaps; sure;), which goes straight into the laptop and gets the big laptop treatment and comes out as a steady wave of sound, with a bit of a wobble, when it comes to a bit of a rhythm. There is always some form of motion however and it’s not about standing still. Changes are minimal but apparent. It seems less song structured as his first release, but then: ten years have passed. It also seems to me that this is a bit darker then before; actually a whole lot darker than before. It’s all to be found in the lower end of the sound spectrum, rumbling just upon the surface, or just below. In that sense it also seems to follow Fennesz in his more ambient excursions in his later days. Do I like this? Yes, I surely like this music, being a sucker for all things ambient, drone and such things. Do I think Amute will change the course of musical history? Nah, I don’t think so. Amute works in a niche with some others but the competition is massive out there. It will be hard to reach the top in there. (FdW)
Address: http://www.three-four.net

No less than two CDs by Dutch experimental voice composer Jaap Blonk and on both of these he explores his current interest using software in combination with the voice. I am not sure what kind of software, but certainly something along the lines of Pure Data or Max/msp. For the first CD his distributor says: ‘funny confusing songs about insomnia’, which is perhaps somewhat of an odd description. Blonk may seem, at least to me, not someone to play ‘songs’ but a composer of ‘pieces’ – he’s not a pop artist! But listening to these thirteen pieces (it’s all semantics of course) you could say these are songs. They are all, more or less, around the three/four minute mark and form a rounded off composition. Blonk uses a variety of voice manipulations in each of them and collages these various recordings together in these pieces. Sometimes he uses very small blocks to form a rhythm of some kind, but there is also time stretching, granular synthesis and such like. On top he sometimes uses real time voice sound, and perhaps Blonk creates a total alien form of singer-songwriter – the kind you never see on TV. Songs indeed. From the world of clicks ‘n cuts, musique concrete and noise, but then condensed to three and half minutes. Another fine surprise from Blonk in his recent computer modus.
The other CD is technically a re-issue of a CD that came along with a book, ‘Traces Of Speech/Sprachspuren’, which can be downloaded from Blonk’s site now. Here he translates drawings into texts using Optical Character Recognition and also by importing these texts as raw data to translate them into sound to use both the text and sound together. If ‘Songs Of Little Sleep’ has a lighter touch to it, then surely this doesn’t. Here we have pieces, as opposed to songs (semantics!). Only seven pieces are on this disc, but it’s also close to an hour of music. This is some very interesting music, dealing with electronic sounds and voice manipulations. Electro-acoustic music in optima forma. This is poetry combined with electronic music in a way that I like very much. Most of the time the electronic music seems to prevail, and then, out of the blue it seems, Blonk’s voice pops up, reciting numbers and letters, such as in ‘Proof Of Gossip’ and goes from something very abstract to something very warm and human. The music has something that reminded me, most of the times at least, of sixties electronic music, with its oscillators and filters, but then made with 21st century technology. Perhaps following his recent works less of a surprise, but certainly nothing less in quality than the recent releases. In fact I think one of the best of his recent works. It has a great variety, a fine concept and is less single minded than say ‘Polyphtong’ (see Vital Weekly 911) – another fine surprise from Blonk. (FdW)
Address: http://www.toondist.nl

A complete surprise enters digitally into my earphones by IO Sound from Canada. Their latest release by Martijn Comes is an ear-pleasing album which takes you to several electronic worlds. Martijn Comes is a Dutch musician who is specialized in new media, sound design and electro-acoustic composition. He has released since 2008 some albums and he curates two radio programs at De Concertzender.  The album starts like a well-known house-pattern that has a spacy start of a upcoming dance-event, but unfortunately the beat won’t start. “The Electric Field” starts also spacy, but has a more open atmosphere and develops into a reggae-beat with lot’s of space around which flows into other beats, minimalism, maximalism and electronic choirs. It is a pleasure to hear how Comes combines all these different elements into a balanced composition. “Silent Field” is not silent at all. It is an experiment of the developing of sound and atmosphere, which flows from happy moments to melancholic to a penetrating noisy drone which opens when the percussion enters. “Mirrored Field” has a completely other atmosphere. It reminds me to some Aphex Twin tracks from the album “Selected Ambient Works.” The melodies are unpretentiously with clear beats and suits well into the beginning of the house. The last track  “Ultrasonic Field” has strong relations with happenings at the sea and is a beautiful combination of singing, babbles, sea-sounds, uptempo breaking beats and cracking sounds that you will hear when a submarine will burst. The sounds of the choirs are beautiful, but that is not strange, because he records also choirs for radio broadcasting. Anyhow… Martijn Comes tells stories in his compositions without any words, only with his wide spectrum of sounds and beats. The stories are complex but also easy to read aka listen, because he uses lots of elements of several musical traditions and brings them together in his own musical world. This album is highly recommended for people who are looking for adventurous music. (JKH)
Address: http://iosound.ca/

When it comes to the boundaries of what Vital Weekly is about, I usually write something along the lines of ‘this is not really my territory/expertise’ and that usually applies to all things pop and rock, but I might easily state the same for all things classical music. That’s where we find the music of Howard Hersh (1940) from Sierra Foothills, which is a composer of serious notated music. On this CD he has three pieces, ‘Concerto For Piano And Ten Instruments’, ‘Angels And Watermarks’ and ‘Dream’. I am not sure what to make of this music. I could say: I like it, because that’s what I do. Especially the ‘Concerto For Piano’ was really nice. Not exactly minimal, not exactly serialism either, but with a great gentle flow about it. The title piece is a suite for harpsichord, played not the way Stephan Mathieu would do this, with five e-bows, but as a harpsichord, which is all fine, but it sounds too baroque for me. ‘Dream’ is a solo piano piece, which is very tranquil and introspective in an almost Erik Satie or Claude Debussy like manner. Almost like a soundtrack for a dream indeed. So the harpsichord pieces I didn’t like that much, but the other two pieces were really good. Not something I can elaborate about in terms of musical development, as I simply don’t seem to have the review tools for that. Worth checking out though if you like your classical music not is too weird, I’d say. (FdW)
Address: http://www.howardhersh.net

Andrea Bellucci is behind Red Sector A and I can’t remember if I heard his music before. In the 90s he had a bunch of successful 12″s, released some music on Minus Habens (which is a label I know, but I am sure I didn’t hear everything they released) and released four albums. He also worked as Subterranean Source, with some releases on Desolation House and worked with Alio Die. ‘Transients’ is his fifth album as Red Sector A, which has ten pieces of which seven are recorded with guests: Andrew Lagowski, Teho Teardo, Retina.it, Dean Dennis (ex Clock-DVA), Giorgio Ricci (Templezone), Eraldo Bernocchi of Sigillum S fame, and Fabrizio Modonese Palumbo of Larsen. Normally the Silentes label releases music that can be classified as ‘ambient’, even when we extend that notion to a wide field of interests, here the rhythm plays a very large part. Like I said, I didn’t hear everything Minus Habens released, even when I respected the label a lot. But you know how these things go, interests going apart and such like, but as I get older I find myself more and more curious of things that I perhaps missed out upon, going back to old stuff and finding out about them. Maybe one day I will explore this kind of dark dance music more and more. Listening to these ten pieces certainly woke me up to investigate this more: I quite enjoy this. These pieces are not aimed at the dance floor per se, but it also doesn’t mind if one should try to do so. Intelligent dance music? I don’t think I ever liked that term a lot, because: what does that mean? Intelligent people dancing? Or in some way the act of dancing being intelligent, or making you more intelligent. Who cares? These ten pieces are lovely chunks of dance oriented electronic pieces. It made me bounce around for a while.
In Silentes LP series ’13’ the third issue is by Nicola Ratti and Mark Templeton, plus a booklet of great black and white photography by Leanne Olson. Both Ratti and Templeton have a large body of work to their name and both are heavily involved with sound treatments through analogue and digital means. I am not sure but I think this is not a work of collaboration, but rather one that is a split release. The questions are: how does Milan sound and how does Edmonton sound, the cities where these composers life and are they very different – hence my idea that this is a split record. The answer is: there is not really a lot of difference. The sound is wide open – like sticking a microphone out the window and capture that far away express way, and the nearby neighbours rumbling about. However both of them add stuff, like ‘synth loops’, which they keep to a minimum – again: I think. One side opens up with a repeating slow bang. I played this record a couple of times and everything I seem to hear new things in here and more and more I realize I may not hear what I hear, or maybe I am all wrong. Maybe I am just very confused sometimes? It’s a great record! Not per se in what is new in here, but just the fine combination of sounds and instruments. Not per se an accurate picture of both cities, but a great record anyway. (FdW)
Address: http://www.silentes.it

For a very brief period of time I had piano lessons, but I really wanted a guitar, not guitar lessons, or piano lessons. All I know about scales is what I learned from that brief period, and I don’t think I ever properly learned to play a ‘real’ song. Not much a musical talent, so I never got around playing music by Carl Czerny, the Austrian composer (1791-1851) whose ‘School Of Velocity’ (well, actually called “Schule der Geläufigkeit” is essential learning material for anyone learning to play the piano. Frank Holger Rothkamm is a German composer, living in the USA, who has brought us electronic music, but also various works on the 88 keys of the piano. There is always a conceptual edge to his works, and sometimes it’s hard to understand what that is. Such is the case with this particular release. Rothkamm behind the piano playing seven pieces from that Czerny books ‘School Of Velocity’. It seems, but oh boy, I might be terribly wrong here, that he’s playing what Czerny wrote. Maybe not? I have no idea. It sounds like it. Maybe Vital Weekly should have a ‘help wanted’ add: in search of a reviewer classical music? It’s an hour long and sounds great. I was reading the morning paper and drinking coffee – perfect time to play piano music. The disc is spray-painted and an edition of 24 copies, but it looks a bit cheap all together. That’s the only downside of an otherwise nice release. (FdW)
Address: http://rothkamm.com/

Having just written the Rothkamm review (see elsewhere) and saying something about the cover, I must say that it’s not my habit of complaining about covers, but Hamilton Yarns is also a band that doesn’t spend much money on doing a cover: white card board sleeve with no images and a stencil print booklet, which looks nice, but hidden in this nothing cover. That’s a pity, and hardly inviting the listener to listen – or perhaps this is a promo and the real thing looks different (I may suggest reading our submission guidelines)? That’s a pity since I think their music deserves to be heard. Hamilton Yarns is a big band with a total of nine members, who, no doubt, don’t play altogether at once. More than on their previous releases (Vital Weekly 764, 855) they are now in a somewhat more experimental mood. For some reason Itunes calls this ‘soundtrack’, but there is no evidence to support that this is indeed some sort of soundtrack, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was. The pieces are short and mostly instrumental, with a few instruments per track. Piano plays a dominant role in most of these, but there is a bass, wind instruments (trombone and trumpet it seems) and occasionally one of three female vocalists. All of these pieces have something more sketch like, even when the longest piece is over seven minutes. The overall mood is that of improvisation within the realm of something that could be vaguely described as ‘pop’. Lots of experiment, but never away from what might their roots. Introspective, beautiful music. Very nice. (FdW)
Address: http://www.hamiltonyarns.co.uk

XUMLA – STATIX (CDR by Audiobulb Records)
Delivered in a nicely printed digipack we find the music of Ilya Goryachev, aged 30, from the nice city of Yaroslavl in Russia. A project born ‘in a search for simplicity’. Like much of the music released by Audiobulb Records this deals with the use computer technology and software, and the music from Xumla seems to be no difference. It’s music in which everything seems to be reduced to the bare necessity, without sounding like just a clicks and cuts. It’s interesting to hear that Xumla is always looking for the musical element in his compositions. Digitally treated piano sounds, a sustaining synthesizer pattern, organised but chopped up beats and such like. Sometimes these beats are more organised in sequenced patterns. These twelve pieces are quite short and very much to the point, and that’s another point of reduction that works well here. It has the well-known elements of microsound, of clicks ‘n cuts, of intelligent dance music, and is not unlike some earlier Oval, or a milder Fennesz; it’s like hearing twenty years of computer music being pressed into these twelve pieces of music, but it would be too easy, I think, to say that Xumla is merely copying what others do. Xumla offers quite some variation in his pieces, from the very ambient title piece to the more up tempo ‘Another Sky’ and anything that goes in between here, which makes this a most enjoyable album of varying textures and changing colours. A great release, but it’s especially the variation here that makes that this album works best. (FdW)
Address: http://www.audiobulb.com

The voice is the oldest instrument and has lot’s of possibilities to express emotions in a musical way. The human instrument is the most personal sound which does exist and many musicians and artists experiment with their own voice. In this tradition Dirk Huelstrunk, working and living in Germany, creates the album Müüü which is released by Atemwerft. Atemwerft is a new label which is specialized in vocal sound poetry, scat singing, beatboxing, loop singing, breath music etc. etc. The spoken-word and sound artist Martyn Schmidt run the label from Augsburg. Dirk Huelstrunk is a sound poet/artist aswell, but is also a poet, literary minimalist and dada-researcher. The album has ten compositions and are all recorded by using his own voice and a loop station. He uses his voices in many many ways and knows how to use the loop station. For people who know how this effect works the music will not be a surprising act, but the diversity in using his voice as a instrument, as a source for repeating poets and as a noise machine makes this album to a worthy album in het sound-word art. The title track for example is a beautiful improvisation in which high tones and trembling sounds create a meditative atmosphere. “Seedferdchen und Flugfische” is written by Hugo Ball, a Dadaist and co-founder of Cabaret Voltaire has been interpret by Huelstrunk and his interpretation of one of the first Dada poems is nice and clear. Müüü is highly recommended for people who are interested in sound poems and the multiple possibilities of the human voice. A nice start of a new label and I am curious to their next releases. (JKH)
Address: http://www.atemwerft.de

(((MODOFI))) – DE GROENE DRIEHOEK 15.01.14 (CDR by Oggy Records)
SYNTAX PONY (cassette by Oggy Records)
Under the banner of De Groene Driehoek, Oggy Records organises jam sessions, which are later edited for a release. Here its a session with one person, it seems, being (((MoDoFi))), who did the honors on January 15 2014 and which in a compressed form of a twenty-one minute CDR comes to us. There is no list of instruments but it’s clear that this particular jam session takes place with the equipment of an electronic musician: rhythm machine, synth, effects, microphone, kaoss pad and such like and it’s never really sequenced like a proper dance record. There is a large amount of delay going round here, on the microphone mainly, which reminded me – sometimes – of an old record I have by Nyrabakiga, and maybe also some early Cabaret Voltaire. The whole mood here is rather that of something that is loosely orchestrated and a bit chaotic, certainly the first six minutes which may serve as an intro – maybe not. Once it gets into a rhythm and sequences it’s more organised, but it never becomes a true dance record. Obviously. I think at twenty-one minutes this is long enough. It keeps you interested and doesn’t distract too much with endless doodling. Nice!
Syntax Pony is label-boss Oscar Wyers on samples, tape manipulation, field recordings and effects and local angst pop meister Peter Johan Nijland, best known as one half of Distel on piano, double bass synthesizer, guitar, percussion and voice, plus guests on saxophone and percussion on the third piece. A short tape, maybe 15 minutes, but bringing together the poet that Wyers also is – actually his main line of business is writing – with the atmospherically tunes of Nijland, but both seem to be out of their comfort zone. Wyers in his own music has a strong love techno inspired tunes and Nijland’s Distel is all about synthesizers, rhythms and vocals. Here’s all about sound collage, using a variety of sound sources which not always seem to fit together, but which make up a most curious and dense patterns of sound. Voices are manipulated (speed up and down through analogue means) and all these intertwining sounds from instruments and field recordings. It seemed, at times, that a lot of this was put together in a rather random way, like a blind mix of various tracks, which I thought was very nice. Great cover also, by Marina Tadic. (FdW)
Address: http://oggyrecords.blogspot.nl

THE TENSES & GUZO – FULL-ON RAGER (cassette by Obsolete Units)
ZAIMPH & YEK KOO – L’INTERIEUR DE LA VUE (cassette by Obsolete Units)
K.M. TOEPFER – INSTIGATE (cassette by Obsolete Units)
Three tapes from Obsolete Unit, all of which seem to be new artists to me. The first is a split tape with members from Smegma with solo projects. On the first side we find The Tenses, being Ju Suk Reet Meate and Jackie Stewart (both for more than 30 years part of Smegma) in a live concert recording from Portland along with Madelyn Villano from Guzo, who is new to Smegma. It’s a bit unclear what they do here, but there is (perhaps!) the use of turntables, reel-to-reel machines, electronics, rusty violins and a guitar, playing part surf music and part noise drones. A pretty chaotic and wild concert – let’s start and see where we end, preferably altogether, which they do. Maybe there were some minor edits, but maybe not. The other side has just The Tenses, also live, but from Paris this time and with considerable more organization in their chaos. Here too it’s hard to say what they use and do, but it seems to be a live collage of turntables and tapes and maybe with some obscure instrumental input. This is the side of the two I liked best actually. That would be something to see in the future.
The next tape is by Zaïmph and Yek Koo, also known as Marcia Basssett on electronics and also a member of Double Leopards, Hototogisu and GHQ and Helga Fassonaki on trumpet and effects, and whom we know from Metal Rouge. You may expect some drone rock lo-fi rock out (?), but that’s not really the case on these two pieces, which I assume were recorded live. Its all more subdued and carefully played, with lots of space in between the notes, especially in the trumpet playing, while the electronics of Marcia play more open configurations on whatever electronics she uses. What she does has a spooky nature, I think, but the trumpet’s more free jazz like playing prevents that it’s all too much spooky and cosmic. A most curious collision of courses here, very spacious yet very down to earth. We don’t have a lift off but it sounds great.
From Canada hails K.M. Toepfer, who before worked as Potier. Here the cassette is the instrument, along with a radio reception device, and both were made into a ‘autonomous sound-source by means of very simple interference with its circuitry’. The low end of instruments explored further. The cover explains further how this works, the machine becoming the artist and such like, and the rough noisy edge of these recordings – nothing is destroyed here – is very nice. Sonic debris, an audible rumble of what sounds like a bad reception, or microphones dragged over the surface. The variations between side A and side B is marginal, but it’s not the same thing. That makes this whole excursion a very consistent manifestation of noise music. Loud, minimal and with much consideration put together. Excellent release. (FdW)
Address: http://www.obsoleteunits.com