SHIBATA & ASUNA – GRACE PARK (CD by White Paddy Mountain) *
TOY.BIZARRE/EMERGE (split LP by Attenuation Circuit)
ANNE F JACQUES – SABLE OU SEL (CDR by Atrito Afeito) *
CONCRETE MASCARA – HISTORY OF RUIN (cassette by Trapdoor Tapes)
LUKE HOLLAND – DECOMPOSITION (cassette by Trapdoor Tapes)

Vital Weekly #986 by Vitalweekly on Mixcloud

Here we may have a name that doesn’t immediately ring a bell, but Alvelos worked before under various guises, such as Autodigest, who once released a piece of music that consisted for an hour long of an audience clapping their hands, cheering, shouting (see Vital Weekly 456), which was called ‘A Compressed History Of Everything Ever Recorded, Volume 2: Ubiquitous Eternal Live’; Alvelos also worked as Antifluffy and Before Surgery, and has releases (I assume for either of these three) on Ash Internationa, TouchRadio, The Tapeworm and Cronica Electronica. But now he works under his given name, as he says that this new piece is autobiographical and that the sounds were gathered since 1972; the last piece from ‘Faith’ is all about that, and all of these pieces are linked together. No sound sources are mentioned, just that it is ‘sourced and produced from field recordings and audio irregularities, 1972-2013’. Whatever these field recordings are, there are not your usual rain, wind or bird recordings. Just what it is that I hear is very hard to say. My best guess is that we are dealing here with something that is either highly processed or that the nature of these field recordings is of such that Alvelos has an extended library of sounds from motors, ventilations, shafts and such like. He applies some very heavy equalisation to these recordings in order to bring out some of the darker and deeper frequencies found in this material. Only in ‘The Hopeful Night’, the one before last piece, we hear the chirping of insects and ‘Dedication’, the final piece is a short bit of captured conversation, just as ‘Vicarious Solace’, in the middle sounds like a bit of an answerphone. Otherwise everything around here is very dark and quite spooky. One doesn’t know what exactly Alvelos is hinting at but that’s the (sound-) poetry of it all. I was reminded at times of the utter minimalism of Michael von Hauswolff, as Alvelos seemed to posses similar qualities. Excellent record! (FdW)

More for the Disklavier, written by Jocelyn Robert. He’s been doing that since 1992. Following his debut he played some concerts with this Disklavier, but since then it was all studio work. But he recently got an invitation to play music for this instrument and perform it live, in which Robert uses software that he wrote for the piano. A Disklavier is a bit like a player piano: “The typical Disklavier is a real acoustic piano outfitted with electronic sensors for recording and electromechanical solenoids for playback. Sensors record the movements of the keys, hammers, and pedals during a performance, and the system saves the performance data as a Standard MIDI File (SMF). On playback, the solenoids move the keys and pedals and thus reproduce the original performance.” I imagine one can use it also to playback once music against music played on the spot. I am not sure if that is what Robert does, as the eight pieces sound quite sparse. The mechanical playing, which I seemed to hear on his previous release, ‘Cycloides’ (see Vital Weekly 904) is apparently not present here, or maybe to an even smaller extent. The music, all for solo piano, is melodic but also abstract; not so Satie or Debussy perhaps, but my knowledge of the modern classics is not very well versed I’m afraid. Having said that, I think this is another wonderful release by Robert. I have been playing this the last few days every morning, which I think is the best time of the day for that kind of music. It’s meditative, yet also a bit alien and strange. It sounds melodic upon superficial listening, but perhaps it’s all much more abstract upon closer inspection. It sounds as composed as it sounds improvised; and vice versa. Excellent meditation! (FdW)

SHIBATA & ASUNA – GRACE PARK (CD by White Paddy Mountain)
Certainly one of the better concerts witnessed last year is the 100 keyboards of Asuna, who built up a strong piece of drone music by switching on many keyboards and use the internal speakers. Organs of whatever kind, be it mechanical, with electric motor or reeds are his prime interest. Here he teams up with Shibata, who is ‘a sound maker of Borzoi is a pop song label ‘tori label’ of signboard unit representing the Totorri’ – I am quoting the press release here. He is also a member of garage band ‘Fumu Fumu’ and ‘nan!ka?’ with Mako Hasegawa from Maher Shalal Hash Baz. Shibata and Asuna have been playing for ten years but ‘Grace Park’ is their first album. They use vintage synthesizers, pedals and Casio keyboards and have one Moon playing guitar and one OPQ on handmade and modified instruments. Much of their forty-four minute piece has been selected from live sessions. I think that is something one can detect in these recordings: sections use long cross fades to go from one part to the next. Nothing wrong with that of course. Sometimes it sounds indeed like a live recording; perhaps even all of it is a live recording? Nothing wrong with that either. This is all drone-like with strong ties to the world of cosmic music. Themselves they mention Cluster & Eno and Moebius & Plank among their influences, which is something that I fully understand hearing this. It has that same light, good-natured sound of Cluster, with it’s shimmering small melodies humming in the wind. Sometimes there is a bit of field recording to add to the pastoral feeling of this. Organ sounds, reversed percussive sounds, acoustic objects (mostly towards the end of the piece): it all sounded richly organic. Sibata and Asanu use long fragments and long cross fades, which add a certain density to the music, but it gets very dark. It all remains on the bright side, like beautiful spring day (like today – maybe I’m biased?). This is surely something I would love to see in concert one day and for now the CD is a fine substitute.
Slowly White Paddy Mountain expands into a proper small record label, now also with non-Japanese musicians. Last year Jeremy Young was touring with his band Sontag Shogun, and also on the same tour, I assume playing solo, was cello player Aaron Martin. In the past he was a guest on albums by Machinefabriek and Jasper TX, but he also has collaborative albums and solo album to his name. It is music that one could classify as modern classical chamber music. Hearing each other’s music every night gave them the idea to work together, with a piano loop of Young as the starting point for each of the our compositions. On top of that we have the cello played by Martin and guitar by Young producing some improvised music. Added and/or aided by some electronics, I assume, this leads also to music of a highly delicate nature. It is hard to believe that this music isn’t the result of a meeting of two persons but the exchange of sound files through (e-) mail. Hence the title I assume. The music isn’t just delicate and sparse, it’s also highly atmospheric and here it is indeed a bit on the dark side. On one hand it is indeed a bit loop based, especially with the repeating piano phrase, which is not very demanding, but at the same time also isn’t too far gone in the mix, but whatever cello and guitar parts are on top of that are less loop-like and make the music by far and large. This too is chamber music, perhaps more like Aaron Martin does and less like Sontag Shogun, which seems a bit more electronic from time to time. This is also pastoral music, but more like a walk on a cloudy day. Very consistent, very beautiful. Two excellent releases. (FdW)

Sometimes I wonder how expanded the universe of electronic music is, and how much more stuff is hidden in vaults. Good thing that so much of that is unearthed and released. Here we have the work of the for me complete unknown Andre Stordeur, born in 1941 in Belgium. In 1973 he composed his first tape piece, a soundtrack to a film on Gordon Matta-Clark. Later on he founded an electronic studio in Brussels, mainly around his EMS synthi AKS and gave courses. Later on he worked exclusively with two variations of the Serge synthesizer, which were especially built for him, which were polyphonic. Stordeur also made use of computer software and went on to teach sound synthesis in the USA. From what I gather from the information he hasn’t composed music after that, although the title suggests otherwise. If I understand well, the first disc was released on vinyl and contains works from 1978-79. The other two CDs have one piece from 1980, one from 1981 and the rest from ‘circa 2000’. I believe none of those were released before. His 1974 tape piece is not included in this ‘complete work’ set, but maybe because it’s not analogue or digital electronic? The booklet text is a bit too concise for my taste and could have used some editing. The music however sounds very interesting.
The first disc contains ’18 Days’, his record from 1979, which he composed as a reaction against ‘cosmic’ music, and is created with the AKS, Oberheim and software. Stordeur says of this record that ‘it is an abstract journey into the phantasm of the subconscious, and it reflects the fears and obsessions connected with our daily lives’. The music is indeed not very cosmic (as in the Berlin tradition perhaps), but also it didn’t sound very academic. It’s approach seemed a bit more naive, more Conrad Schnitzler if you will. The way some of these pieces are build comes from the world of pop music rather than le conservatoire. Stordeur’s music is more linear if you will, such as in ‘Memories’ or maybe in ‘Nang Na Nang’ (in which I read an influence of Cabaret Voltaire’s ‘Nag Nag Nag’, but perhaps I am all wrong). I very much enjoyed this first introduction.
A more academic approach we find on the longest piece of this package ‘Oh Well’, which Stordeur composed when going through a painful divorce (and which title then reminded me of Fleetwood Mac, but that was before they went on composing break-up albums), which is heavily layered and peppered with lots and lots of electronics, which sounds serious as well as industrial; at least at various times in this long piece. A more serious exploration of software we find in ‘Chant 10A’, recorded at Ircam in 1981, with it’s multi-layered voices humming about. It sounded like very early time stretching: effective but at the same time also a bit crude; it was something I enjoyed very much. Within it’s seventeen minutes it moves through various phases. The final piece here is a live from 2000, when Stordeur was living in America, and it’s not one I thought stood out very much.
On the third disc we find ‘6 Synthesis Studies’, which last forty-five minutes and these are inspired by Indian music, hence such titles here as ‘Drone’, ‘Raga’, ‘Karma’ and ‘Tablas’. These pieces offer just that; if it says ‘Drone’ then you bet it is a drone, and ‘Raga’ sounds like a fine raga, but all of which comes from electronic instruments. Stordeur captures the mood of Indian music quite well, and all of these pieces are quite minimal and very hypnotic. Some of these sounds may be a bit cheesy, such as in ‘Karma’, but overall this disc worked very well. Close to three hours of music (not every disc is filled up), most of which is great. If this is the complete thing it’s too bad, I think. As a fine introduction, it left me wanting more.
Twenty years ago Sub Rosa released ‘Ancient Lights And The Blackcore’, a compilation with Scorn, Seefeel, Timothy Leary/Dj Cheb/Sabbah and as things are on labels as Sub Rosa, there was a bit of field recording, courtesy of David Toop, ‘Group Healing’ by the Yanomami Shamans. He made the recording in 1978 and now releases a double CD of recordings made by him from this tribe living on the border of Venezuela and Brazil. Toop recorded many of the shamans of various tribes and they were under the influence of Ebene, a psychoactive entheogen, as the extensive booklet informs us. These tribes don’t use any instruments just voices. It’s all quite fascinating to hear and to read. David Toop is of course someone who can write very well about music, as proven by the various books he wrote. I guess the music makes more sense if you take in all the information that is provided by the text. There is lots of chanting, singing, speaking (in tongues?), solo, in groups, young women. Being not ethnomusicologist or anthropologist I am not sure what to make of this. I thought all of this was very informative and interesting. Something for those who like field recordings to be expansive and not the usual clutter down the rain pipe. (FdW)

When I spoke out previously about the nature of remixes I received some heated e-mail about how I don’t understand the nature of electronic music. That might very well be. Never tired of explaining myself over and over, I’d say, here we go again. On one hand we have the remix as a tool for further exploring sounds, which is what a lot of electronic music is about. If we see sounds as building blocks, which one can re-shuffle, then remixing can be done all the time. On the other hand, a remix can be marketing tool: by using the famous remixer X for your guitar band, you may crossover into the world of dance music, and the audience of remixer X might buy your guitar music. Of course these two starting positions overlap each other, though not always. I am not sure if the audience of Hakobune now rushes out because there is a nice remix by say Miclodiet is to be found here. Which brings us back to the first position, and I sometimes, half serious, call this the masturbation option. Working with sound is great. Let there be no doubt about that. I love doing that, and I love doing a remix, especially if one is granted access to all the various tracks that make up a song, because one has so much more options. But that’s all me thinking as a musician. Step back and think as a reviewer, and ask such questions as ‘is it really necessary to have this album remixed?’ and you may find the answer to be: ‘no, it’s not always necessary’. Back in Vital Weekly 955 I considered the latest album by Hakobune, nom de plume for Takahiro Yorifuji, to be a fine example of ambient music: nothing to grab the listener, but that is perhaps not the idea of ambient music per se. It’s here to set a comfortable mood for the listener. Most of the remixers of that release, ten in total, add some form of rhythm to the ambient patterns of Hakobune, and not necessarily dance oriented; Constellation Botsu, creating the shortest remix of all, has a particular noise based, industrial piece. Some of the others try their hands at more on-going rhythm formations and one could consider these as pseudo-techno – at least I don’t see people dancing about to this music. The music is quite effectively melted down in this high-pressure cooker and it became something else. I can see that it’s made with love for the sounds of Hakobune and that everybody wanted to do something entirely different with this and not stay inside ambient music. All fair and square. But is it enough to release such a thing then? I for one, as reviewer, am not entirely convinced. (FdW)

Since 2006 Superimpose has been the on-going improvisation concern of Matthias Müller on trombone and Christian Marien on drums. They both are based in Berlin, but of course get around, such as to Edinburgh. They have had CDs on Creative Sources and Leo Records. Their goal is to create one sound from two such diverse instruments. That is an interesting approach, I’d say, and on this recording from March 2013 we can hear that they understand very well how that works. What they do is part and parcel of the world of improvisation and in whatever else they do this shows even more, but when I started to play this record (and before looking at the cover, information and such like), I noted down ‘minimal, dense sound’ and pretty much that’s what this record starts with: sounds that are very close to each other, like an exploration of a surface through the use of sticks, or objects upon objects, picked up from very close by with a microphone. A low-end rumble, but slowly the two instruments start to diversify. I think that’s something that can hardly be avoided, but that also adds to the beauty of the music. The B-side (both are untitled) here is the one piece that is more improvised in a more traditional sense, whereas on the first side this seems less the case – a more abstract use of instrument, I think, although they don’t always take it to the extreme as some of the colleagues do. This is a very good recording of some highly imaginative improvised music, perhaps not always the ‘one sound’ they would like to achieve, but nevertheless something quite exciting. (FdW)

TOY.BIZARRE/EMERGE (split LP by Attenuation Circuit)
The common thread on this split album is the recording of sounds in (partially disused) mines. It serves as the basis for the two compositions by Toy Bizarre and the one by Emerge on the other side. The information states that this is the first time the music from Toy Bizarre is released on vinyl, but there has been a 7″ on Drone Records and one on 20city. Toy Bizarre, one should know by know as we reviewed many of his CD and CDR releases, is the work of Cedric Peyronnet. In April and May 1995 he made some field recordings in a disused mine and used before on a cassette release by Serchres Mound (in 1996) – I am no longer sure how that sounded. In the two-part composition, which Peyronnet created in 2014 using this sound material, he opts for a more on going approach, layering various sound events together. This is a drone like piece, but then cut abruptly together. It is not your twenty-minute/one side of drone music, but Peyronnet goes through various stages, and through different dynamics: it can be very low in volume, but also pleasantly loud. It seems that everything that was recorded in the mine has disappeared in the lengthy process that was at the basis of this composition. It works very well, as Peyronnet created a fine, twenty-minute journey here.
On the other side we find label boss Emerge working with the same set of sounds, but then also played again in 2014 on a set of speakers by Peyronnet before giving them to Emerge. It starts out with a mid-frequency rumble of objects in a large, cavernous space, but slowly starts building up and adding some remote drones, pushed to the far end. Emerge too has the collage like approach but his sound material remains to be heard as it was. It plays around nicely with those distant drones and close by sounds, culminating in a massive low-end rumble. It’s almost like a story here: men going down into cages, but there is some beast below there, and the earth is cracking, like an earth quake impending, while the miners work on. Maybe I am reading too much in here and all that Emerge want to create is a fine piece of music of electro-acoustic and concrete sounds? Either way, he succeeded very well. One of the best pieces I heard from him so far. It’s very intense and powerful. (FdW)

Before this Bunny & The Invalid Singers were called Bunny & The Electric Horsemen, who is 2010 released their debut album ‘Fall Apart In My Backyard’, with the help of people as Hidekazu Wakabayashi, Magnitophono and PNDC. ‘The Invalid Singers’ is the second album, mostly instrumental (why else would this be ‘The Invalid Singers’?) save for some pieces, sung by Asuka Tanaka and Trixie Delight. Bunny is from Glasgow and sometimes works as Anata Wa Sukkari Tsukarete Shimai, with releases on the same label. Ten songs here; at least I don’t think Bunny doesn’t mind me calling these songs and not the more classical ‘pieces’. I am not sure what to make of this. Especially the guitar part of this release is something that gave me a hard time. It sounds all quite old fashioned to these not particularly rock shaped ears. Lots of wailing about that is. The programming of the drums and keyboards is something I enjoyed a lot more actually. It added an electronic vibe/groove to the music, and combined with the guitars it sometimes sounded quite post rock like. Maybe it reminded me also a bit of Doc Wor Mirran in some of their more rock-like incarnations. Kraut-rock like but then not always as energizing, sometimes even a bit stale; but that’s mostly due to the proggy guitar sound I didn’t always enjoy. In general: the less guitar (or maybe I should say: the less layers of guitar), the better I thought the songs are. Also the shorter, the better, as Bunny seems to be working these out into more ‘poppy’ tunes, rather than more ominous efforts. Best pieces were ‘The Unrevalling Of Sandy Wallace’ and ‘Annie & The Station Orchestra’ – short, funny and to the point. (FdW)

So far only a few amount of releases have been received by Anne F Jacques and they were also mostly quite obscure. I’m afraid this new one doesn’t shed much light either on his work. ‘More information on our website’, the label tells me, but in both cases there is no news on the website. The release by Jacques is the shortest, clocking at twenty-two minutes, with two pieces, both around the same length. As I said, I have no clue about this, but my best guess would be that Jacques uses a bunch of acoustic objects, which he plays with some kind of mechanical device(s). There is a constant background hum to be noted and on top of that the scanning of acoustic surfaces; it could be the skinhead of a drum, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this was something else that resonates below (metal drum maybe?). The second piece (both seem to be untitled) seems to be more of the same, but whereas the first piece had an ever-changing quality to it, this was not something I found in the second piece. That was all on a similar level, but not as intense or spooky.
Label boss Karoline Leblanc has a longer release with three pieces of which one is a soundtrack for a short animated film by Frederico Penteado, which I haven’t seen. Judging by the still it could be some sort of science fiction thing. All of the sounds on all three of the pieces are made with Alesis and Moog synthesizers. There is not a lot of difference between the three pieces, and surely that’s why we find them on one release. This music is somewhere in between the world of ‘lo-fi’ electronics meeting serious modern electronics and cosmic music. Sometimes spacious, but also controlled, bending back and forth, making big and small gestures. I am not sure if this played in real-time or perhaps the result of multi-tracking. Sometimes I had the impression it was all recorded on the spot, but in ‘Moon Tinge’ I thought it this could be very well multi-tracked, through a few sparse layers of synthesizer sounds. This was the best of the three pieces, in which Leblanc controlled what she did best and had the best tension throughout. ‘Alluvium’ was a sparser piece, hovering closely to near silence at times (mastering is something that could have been useful anyway on this disc, I think), but didn’t have the same tension. The same could be said for ‘The Aethernauts’, the soundtrack piece, which is also very quiet and also a bit lacking tension; just too loosely constructed I’d say, and overall there is much room for improvement in the sound department. (FdW)

Somehow the handmade package never really caught on in the world of CDRs; not as they once did on the cassette scene – maybe people had more time in the eighties? But this particular release by Vitaly Maklakov, from Russia, has one: a collage of paint, Xeroxes and magazine pictures. One can never be sure what the relation is supposed to be between the cover and the music. Vitaly Maklakov is a musician who loves his field recordings to be brutal. Imagine hanging a recorder below your car and driving down a bumpy road. Maybe I am over-doing here, but that’s how some of his rough sound material sounds like. On this forty plus minute piece, the level of noise is actually quite subdued; it’s not a mass of distorted sound, but the key elements are present: there are long form drone sounds, culled from field recordings, there is feedback due to the fact that he uses delay and reverb machines to transform the sound and everything hisses onwards and upwards. Sometimes new sounds drop in, but essentially the piece remains the same. It’s one long piece of cascading electronics, sizzling, mysterious and for all we know maybe also a bit psychedelic, if such attractions doesn’t come across as something very scary. You never know. Not a lot of variation but a very consistent composition of noise. Not too loud, created with some imagination. Just the way we like such things. (FdW)
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‘Heumond’ sounds like a small village in Belgium, I thought. Maybe Michiel de Haan and Marc Spruit went over there and recorded some field recordings, which upon return they treat with their computer technology? That is what I thought when I started this, judging on their previous work, together and solo. But almost from the beginning we learn we have entered new territory here. Spruit plays drums and laptop and De Haan guitar and iPad. And it’s not recorded in Heumond, but in their usual habitat of Alphen aan den Rijn, in the western parts of The Netherlands. They have moved away from the world of world of glitch and electronics, of crack ‘n noise and now opt for a sound that is more to do with improvisation, even when laptop and iPad still produce quite an amount of cracks and hiss. The five pieces here, totalling forty-two minutes, show us a very carefully improvising duo, whose guitar and drum improvisations are fed into their electronic apparatus to transform into feedback, sine waves, cracks, hiss and such like; but whereas before the music sounded cut-up and pasted together, it now has an excellent flow. Guitar and drum are recognizable – it provides the listener with fixed points in this music, whereas whatever else happens is the cherry on the cake. It’s certainly not ‘easy’ music; as things are overall not very loud and quite minimal, but upon close inspection one hears deep bass sounds, very high frequencies, this requires a lot of attention. This is not something you should let slip by easily. But once you open up and really dig deep when listening you hear a very consistent, highly intelligent interplay between their instruments and highly versatile electronics. One that may you leave quite tired behind, but no doubt also with some satisfaction. (FdW)

CONCRETE MASCARA – HISTORY OF RUIN (cassette by Trapdoor Tapes)
LUKE HOLLAND – DECOMPOSITION (cassette by Trapdoor Tapes)
Here we have two releases from the ever-consistent Trapdoor Tapes label from Australia; consistent in black and white package and the more extremer edges of noise music. Also the lack of information is stunning, as is the lack of a website (at least not mentioned on the cover). Concrete Mascara sounds like concrete massacre, but it really says the beauty product. Concrete Mascara is a three person power electronics group from the USA (Andrew Wilmer, Frank Cordry, Jack Scanlan, no instruments mentioned) who have a bunch of releases on labels which are unknown for me. Their music harks back to the days of Ramleh – a source of inspiration for several of the releases I heard so far on Trapdoor. A dark voice, somewhere between reciting and singing, set against a minimal set of loud electronics, beeping and droning away in the background. The voice is fed through a bunch of stomp boxes and makes it sound distorted, but never to the extent that the meaning of the lyrics get lost, even when they are shouted. ‘Funeral Shroud’, ‘Juggernaut Of Truth’ or ‘Narcotic Vixen’, never a dull moment in the industry. It sounds much like Ramleh, but that I thought was not bad: it’s one of my treasured power electronic bands and a good copy is never bad.
Luke Holland had some more releases on Trapdoor Tapes and he’s from Melbourne, Australia. Find his blog under ‘hell bent for depravity’ and you know what to expect. He has two compositions here, ‘Decomposition 1’ and ‘Decomposition 2’, which somehow also sounds very ‘industrial’. Maybe because Maurizio Bianchi used similar terms, among many others? Like a concert is never called ‘concert’ but ‘assault’. Armed with synthesizers and sound effects Holland created some fine hot mesh of sound. It’s loud and it’s dirty, but it has that excellent Bianchi like quality. Imagine being in an iron meltdown, hot as hell, but with sparkling red/yellow colours all around, which may give you this fine hallucinating experience. This is industrial music of the more psychedelic variety. Play loud is not an option, it’s a must; you’ll be transported to another dimension. (FdW)


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