Reviews: experimental

(experimental / avantgarde / electro-acoustic)

Dustmuffin & The Aluminum Cans – Essential Recordings 1984-2001

Vague and unclassified are fitting descriptions for the music of Dustmuffin & The Aluminum Cans. This US based loose collective uses any sound they like to produce their weird anti-pop music and neo cabaret electroclash. Nineteen tracks is a lot to go through and Dustmuffin is not making it easy for you.

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The Psychic Paramount – Live 2002 The Franco-Italian Tour

I like The Psychic Paramount’s formula: mix the traditional trio of guitar, bass, and drums with a heavy dose of lawless spontaneity. Much is still possible with these three instruments, The Psychic Paramount shows, even a bit of rock-n-roll.

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Teatro Satanico / Muzakiller – Untitled

This mysterious duo from Venice is also known sometimes as ‘Teatro Satanico Charles Manson’. They have produced a lot of obscure and limited releases on tape, vinyl and cd-r since the early 90’s, including collaborations with Novy Svet. This untitled album (their first ‘real’ cd) is limited to 666 copies and includes a satanic tale and surreal drawings in the booklet.

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Nurse With Wound & irr. app. (ext.) – Angry Eelectric Finger 3: Mute Bell Extinction Process

Mute Bell Extinction Process features three tracks of original Nurse With Wound material that has been worked over by Irr.App.(Ext)- otherwise know as Matt Waldron. This release is the third installment of Nurse With Wound’s Angry Eelectric Finger series, the first two editions consist of the same source material reworked by Jim O’Rourke (Angry Eelectric Finger 1) and Cyclobe (Angry Eelectric Finger 2).

Irr.App.(Ext)’s first track of the NWW remixes, Part I, is completely strange. Very dark and very ominous, a child-like voice rambles on about something while a coiling ring sound of some origin bounces from left to right. Bizarre! This track builds as more electronic-mechanical and acoustic-natural sounds intermingle; perplexing yet calming.

Part II starts with another mechanical sounding ringing, maybe like factory sounds on hallucinogenics. The clamor gains in intensity, eventually swirling in all directions, screeching and squealing. Faint voices entering the picture here too, but remain indecipherable and add to the intoxicating confusion.

Part III is probably the most musical of the three parts. It starts on somewhat of a balanced path, with a repetitive bass or tom drum mixed underneath a saxophone, flute, and some other source of whistling. The drum grows in volume and intensity while dark drones also enter the mix with more oddities, drones, and voices floating around. The sax on this one holds everything together; reminiscent of a player on a street corner, a street corner in bizarroland.

While I’d like to have seen all three of the Angry Eelectric Fingers released together, or more material per disc, I really like what is here. Excellent stuff! It comes in a really nice looking digipack from Beta lactam Ring too.

V/A – State of the Union 2.001

EMF’s State of the Union 2.001 is probably one of the coolest ideas for a compilation CD that I have seen in some time. There are 171 (!) artists represented here from a major range of styles of the avant-garde, electro-acoustic, and experimental sort. The collection is compiled by Elliott Sharp and highlights one minute selections from each of the artists.

The one minute track length is perfect for those times when attention is short or someplace else. With all of the craziness and randomness over these 3CDs the affect is something like a schizoid attack! A couple names from the collection that were familiar to me were Merzbow and Foetus, but there are so many other composers from the avant-garde and academic music worlds that I have never heard before.

It’s great to have a slice of these artists’ work all in one place and there to follow up on when things get interesting.

Severin Bestombes vom Horse Gore Club – Auszug und Abgesang

If you think you have heard strange music then listen to this record and think again. Severin Bestombes is a side project by one Novy Svet member and the record consists of two long tracks (one on each side). The tracks are sound collages of weird noises, recorded sounds (everyday life sounds) and composed elements.

For example, you will hear bird sounds with some background noises and a repetitive rhythm. But before you are dozing off with these tranquil sounds the music suddenly changes into a next phase, to keep you awake as it seems.
This is no pop music or easy listening. You really need to get into the two compostions and listen to them many times to discover all there is to it. Auszug & Abgesang truly is music for the adventurous listener.

Very nice is also the glow in the dark vinyl the music is pressed on and the printed transparant sleeve. Put the record in the sleeve under a lamp for a moment and then turn down the lights… Another great production from Punch Records.

Kemialliset Ystävät -­ Lumottu Karkkipurkki

Lumottu Karkkipurkki means ‘The Enchanted Candy Jar’, which is a very psychedelic title for a very psychedelic record. The songs and sound collages on this album are built around vague electronic sounds, loops and melodies and dissonant plucked strings.

Don’t let yourself be discouraged by this description, as the record is a great piece of work, strange but wonderful and charming. The mood is warm and friendly. Musically this album seems to be from another planet but one with an interesting culture and music tradition.

Lumottu Karkkipurkki is one of the weirdest releases I have heard form Fonal so far but worth listening to, just as all the other ones from the label.

Fredy Studer/ Ami Yoshida – Duos 21-27

The last two records from For 4 Ears Records didn’t really get a positive (short) review by me. Maybe it’s because of my musical taste, but I bet that when I pass this release on to a co-reviewer, the reviews won’t get any more positive. The label’s releases are just to damn inaccessible. I consider myself to be incapable of reviewing this stuff. The reason why I ‘review’ this record is because I think in every effort lies something beautiful for someone, the labels and the musicians are dedicated, and experimental creativity in general should be stimulated.

The cd is professionally released, with extensive liner notes in Japanese, German and English about the background of the collaboration. Fredy Studer is a Swiss drummer and percussionist from Zurich, Ami Yoshida a Japanese vocalist. They planned and meeting and collaborated. Music was their language. The whole release consist of drum and vocal improvisation. Yoshida moans, growls and howls and brings fort the most strange, inhuman vocal noises I ever heard. It’s delicate though, whispery and soft.
Studer plays, as the notes indicate, ‘squeak percussion, far away from the usual grooves.’ Non-rhythmic ticks, scratchings and rumbling is what he creates out of the percussion. No structures are discernable, spontaneity seems to be his guideline. The whole release, no electronics are involved, so the atmosphere is overall acoustic.

I won’t cast my judgement. This is the last release of the label that I review. I’ll close with the pretension of the collaboration, stated in the liner notes: ‘The two[…] always tried to concentrate on the essential. Away from the cultivated, towards the elementary.’

Paavoharju – Yhä Hämärä

The problem for me with the Fonal releases is always the same. There is so much to write about the music but I cannot always find the right words for it. The simple reason for this is that you need to hear and experience these releases to understand.

This album by Paavoharju is no exception. The music takes the listener down to unearthy catacombs of sounds and moods. You will feel estranged by the vague songs and music tapestries.
Somewhere in the distance there are echoes of folk music and oriental influences. But also electronic elements are used.

The best I can do to describe this cd is to call it modern open minded lo-fi chambermusic. Listen and enjoy!

Kyle Dawkins – Walls became the world

As a music reviewer, sometimes a lack of words to describe the music is a problem. Especially when it concerns experimental music. The additional info can be a help, although most of the times it as linguistically vague as can be, and also pure commercial of course. Words as ‘atmospheric’ and ‘emotional’ are not much of a help because they can be very ambiguous.
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Tetuzi Akiyama – Jason Kahn – Till we meet again

Again an effort from the For4ears label. More minimalism and experimentation, but this time created out of acoustic guitar, analogue synthesizer and with percussion.
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Samartzis – Müller – Voice Crack – Wireless within

An electronic reflection of a visit to the rainforest is presented here. Laptop minimalism by Guhl and Möslang in collaboration with Günter Müller and the Australian sound artist Philip Samartzis.
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End – The Sick Generation

This is a very strange release. Not just on its own, but also as a Hymen product. This label is known for it IDM releases but The Sick Generation has little to do with IDM.

End opens the album with the title track, which is a rock song. Although the rhythm structure is electronic this is a rock song for sure. The second track is a remix of this same track done by Foetus. This won’t surprise anybody who listens to this album and is familiar with Foetus. End uses a lot of strangeness in his music that is reminiscent of this legendary industrial / avant-garde artist.

There are three more remixes of the title track included on the album. One is done by Jason Forrest (also known as Donna Summer). So expect some weird breakcore as always with this artist.
More strange music is served to listener by The Messerchups. This artist also did a remix for End and of course it is in their weird surf/cabaret style.

I don’t know what to think of all these strange tracks, weird remixes and different styles on this disc. There are two conclusions I can draw, One, The Sick Generation is only for adventurous listeners with a diverse music taste. And two, this is a very strange release indeed.

Kosmonautentraum – Ungehörtes Unerhörtes

Vinyl On Demand has established itself in a short time as a label for quality releases of obscure 80’s music. This new release is a compilation album of the music by Kosmonautentraum. The band was part of the Neue Deutsche Welle scene and had an experimental attitude like many (but not all) bands in that scene.

The tracks on Ungehörtes Unerhörtes come from various sources like early 7”’s, a side project (called Ziggy& Eno), an early lp and tapes. Most tracks are rather experimental. Some are noisy with hints of early industrial and some others have more krautrock influences. There are also typical NDW tracks included like the energetic ‘Juri Gagarin’ and Tanz den Kosmonaut’ and the weirder ‘Bärte Entstellen Wärter’ and ‘Geduld’.

It is becoming a little predictable but this new Vinyl On Demand records is again fantastic. Any fan of NDW can buy this without hesitation.

Nipsey Russolo – Noise Reduction

A cute 3 inch mcd, limited to only 50 copies, with a very cool retro nostalgic B-movie look. There are five tracks on it, which apparently contain sounds which were “gathered by processing tracks from various noise artists with noise-reduction technologies & techniques”. Well, that’s an interesting concept by the mysterious mr. Russolo. You could say he took the noise from the noise, and reassambled the leftover fragments into rather abstract sonic structures. The experimental result is at times intriguing, like the shimmering clear sounds of ‘Pony up the twenty’ or the minimal droning sounds on ‘Hair beyond space’. An interesting creation, but perhaps more for the ideas behind it than for the actual sound.

Zero, Pamela – Living Backwards

This album is a 100% solo production by Pamela Zero, who did everything from the song writing to the lyrics and vocals to the graphic design. She is a member of a collective of multimedia artists known as Discord Aggregate. The striking feature about the music is the prominent role for Pamela’s expressive vocals, which are often used in multi-layered structures, resulting in original choral pieces on an entirely a capella album.
The music seems to have influences from renaissance, folk and ethnic sources, which result in original melodic structures. Harmonic passages are alternated with more experimental pieces. I have to think of varied singers, like Jarboe, Laurie Anderson and Loreena McKennitt, but also of musical and opera. Many tracks make me think of fairytales, like the title track about Alice (“Oh rabbit, sell your watch for a song”).
Not an album that I will play on a daily basis, but an interesting piece of work, that will appeal to people fascinated by the emotions evoked by the human voice.

Molotkov, A. – Can you stay forever?

The numbers are impressive on this album. There are 34 songs, lasting over an hour. A. Molotkov plays over 20 instruments, from a Bengali flute to a vacuum cleaner. He is joined by over 15 other musicians, who contribute didgeridoo, electric sitar, throat singing and multiple other manners to create music or sound.
Mr. Molotkov is part of the Discord Aggregate, a multimedia collective from San Fancisco. One of his colleagues there is Pamela zero, reviewed on these pages before and also participating on “Can you stay forever?”.
As you could expect, the album mostly contains improvised experimental music, but the end result is not as inaccessible as you made think (except for a few passages like ‘Bleeding’). In fact, I find it quite an entertaining and colourful patchwork. Especially the combination of surprising sounds and original poetic spoken words works quite well. An album made with a lot of imagination, for those who like travel along the borders of the mind.
“When you are ready / Place a red ribbon / On the edge of the crescent moon.”

Head Resonance Company – 80-84: 15 tracks for unknown people

This is a weird but interesting release. On the first lp of this double lp set there are fifteen tracks of experimental sounds and noises. The second lp features minimal electronics, released under the name of Peter Pixel. A combination of styles you don’t see that often, but that should be done more often.

Head Resonance was an interdisciplinary art project from the 80’s. They worked in many fields of arts. Amongst others they were involved in video art, installations, performances and sound sculptures.

Some of these sound sculptures can be found on the first lp. Expect repetitive structures, minimal rhythms and pulsating sounds. The music is more about ideas then about creating pleasant music to listen to, as it should be in art music.

So, these fifteen tracks must be seen as experiments. Too be honest, this is really an interesting piece of music but you will most likely only play it once in a while. Maybe because of that there is the second lp included with more easy music.

On the second lp are five tracks of minimal electronics with a touch of classic EBM. All tracks are long, extremely minimal but danceable. Especially the ten minutes long ‘Ich und meine Mammaschin’ and the almost seven minutes counting ‘Du bist alles’ are catchy pieces of minimalism.

So, once again a great release form Vinyl On Demand and another excursion in time and into the archives of obscure music. And, as always only on limited vinyl.

Freiband / Boca Raton – Product

Freiband is the digital-electronic ‘remix’ project of Frans de Waard (of Bequeen and Kapotte Muziek fame). Boca Raton is an unknown project to me. Presented here is a pair of live recordings from a performance as part of the Earational 2004 festival for electronic music and audio art. It might as well have been a studio-recording since the production quality is superb.
I knew Freiband through the ‘Martin – Seven [new] aspects’ 3”cd ep which I gave a very positive review earlier.

The eleven tracks presented by Freiband are quite dark and oppressive. Collages of ongoing micro-sounds that brood dynamically into other shapes of sound. De Waard himself describes Freiband as a pop-project, since it is music made of popping sounds. The ‘tracks’ flow into each other perfectly, nervously trembling, clicking and evoking images of dense piles of microscopic electronic bits and pieces. The manipulations are quite abstract and devoid of melody; no echo’s of nature or recognisable ambient influences are present. It’s a project that makes me listen in full astonishment over what can be achieved in production/ reworking of sound. Highly mature and highly recommended.

Boca Raton is Martijn Tellinga and is a kind of reflection on ‘the everyday soundtrack that surrounds us’, according to the additional info. Because of the absence of build-up tension, rhythms, harmony and melody it all sounds quite random and accidental, indeed as the everyday sounds that surround us. However, this is not an environmental record. The everyday sounds are manipulated and rearranged to a level beyond recognition. Boca Raton is a good partner for a split with Freiband, since the material sounds intriguing, mature and thoroughly deformed. Playing ‘Product’ is like travelling in a mirror-world of staged sonic reflection, as abstract as it is enjoyable. Only for autistic sound fetishists though.

Absolut Null Punkt – Live In Japan

Absolut Null Punkt (ANP) is the long time running off and on collaboration between Japanese sound artist Kazuyuki Kishino (aka KK. Null) and percussionist Seijiro Murayama. ‘Live in Japan’ consists of six live-recorded improvisations at various spots in Japan; released by Important Records.

To this listener, ‘Live in Japan’ is purifying. Bored with tightly sequenced electronic music, sick to death of the pop verse-chorus format, and tired of predictable styles of music in general, ANP offer a radical departure. There is little if any easy listening found on ‘Live In Japan.’ Instead, what’s here is raw and explosive. Two of the six tracks (3 & 5) include the footnote: “decomposed by kk.null at prima natura studio”, otherwise, I would guess that the majority of the material here has received no additional studio work after being recorded live on the spot (other than 3 & 5, perhaps). As ad hoc or one time only takes, the unplanned/unforeseen nature of these pieces takes the foreground. It’s likely that not everybody will enjoy, or even be able to tolerate, this degree of uncertainty, however.

With KK. Null’s varied noise work and Murayama’s improv percussion, including jazz-like styling at times, if we were looking to tag a label onto ANP’s output we’d probably be safe with: avant-garde. There are certainly times when the improvisations enter areas of power-electronics and industrial noise; rhythmic industrial even (track 3). Still other tracks take different directions, or multiple directions, as track 6 does in over twenty-one minutes in length. In total: a demanding but definitely worthwhile collection of tracks, likely to appeal to a discerning audience.