Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Catch them while you can

Knowing I was getting some iTunes vouchers for christmas I did some bargain hunting. And found a set of mozart symphonies (the lot) for $16.99. checked on amazon and it was a well reviewed set. fired up itunes this afternoon to buy it and it had gone up to $160.99. The Bruckner symphonies had also gone from $16.99 to $50. In the interim a new $16.99 Bruckner set has arrived but when you try to buy it a response that 'the item is being modified and can't be bought' pops up - hmm how do you modify a virtual good other than put up the price.

Ah well - but take my advice, when you see a bargain grab it (the steve reich is still 16.99 down here though)

Stasisfield Redux

Resurrection is related to a different feast, but we have a Christmas present from Stasisfield - after a long period of silence I noticed a new release this morning - which had been there since December 17.

SF6001 The sonics of art spaces is a compilation that was originally curated by John Kannenberg at the end of 2006 for a London radio program. These tracks and some additional ones are now available for download. As the name implies, this is recording of various art spaces (SFMOMA, Tate modern, Tesla and more) some of which have been processed and others are quite raw. For example, Kannenberg's
Sketching Notre Dame facade includes the sound of pencil on paper as well as the surrounding crowd, while For Mark Rothko is subtle throbs, pulses and quietness.

Some well known names appear - a lovely performance of 4'33" by Steve Roden in the Schindler house, and Glenn Bach provides a number of small snapshots. Others create or compose excellent works: My Fun do indeed seem to have fun at the Tate, or Anne Guthrie at Beacon NY.

A welcome return from a respected web label.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Taming Power, Askild Haugland, Early Morning Records: 12 pieces

Taming Power first came to my attention in 2003 when Askild sent me a letter with some vinyl. Since then the relationship has blossomed: and can be followed in the old reviews. Through Early Morning Records Askild has released a wealth of music by himself as Taming Power. Starting in 1997 there is a series of 40 cassettes, and then 17 vinyl releases (mainly 10" but also 7" and 12" - some of which are re-issues of the tapes) of his amazing sounds: ambient music based around tape decks used as delay, feedback and looping of sounds from guitar, other instruments and radio sounds (not usually simultaneously - most tracks focus on specific sounds/sources). Askild is also a visual artist and the covers include photos or painting by him (or occasionally archival images). So when I got an email saying the latest release was on the way I was excited.

Twelve Pieces (EMR 10"-017) is like many other releases in that it has tracks from an extended period of time, December 2000 to May 2007. It also reflects two sides of Taming Power - side one is solo guitar, casiotone or zither, while the second combines percussion, voice, harmonica with tape recorder developing from the style seen in the previous release Six Pieces. There are seven pieces on side one - opening with three guitar solos - precise ringing tones, some effects due to the tape work but typical TP solos. There are then 2 on casiotone where the layering is more obvious and the sound warmer; a short zither percussive work before another guitar piece, but here the tones are longer, arching and shimmering in a dense new direction.

Side 2 starts with rising tones and ringing in a hypnotic piece. The combination of metal sound instruments, voice and harmonica continue the dense drone ambience in fabulous layerings, a torrent of tones weaving a huge bed. The third piece flutters like a bird, with strange high song within the eastern-droning, voice absorbed within the metallic world. Then a more meditative drone, based around deeper harmonics, with almost harp-like sounds emerging within the stream. These works have complexities which take some extracting while also flowing through you wonderfully. The album ends with a final guitar work that provides a circle of sound by returning to the mood of the opening sequence. Another great release.

What is it that excites me about Taming Power? There is the medium - Askild's adherence to cassettes and now vinyl, in the face of cd-r and MP3; the consistency in covers, both format and images, provide a strong unity, an oeuvre. However, it's the music, of course. It is intense, focused ambient, edging towards noise-ambient when working with things like tape-feedback. But it always satisfying, and until recently the limits he placed on his instrumentation fostered a dense and fascinating exploration of those sounds. And now he has added other components that add to the depth of his music.
The current release is his largest to date - 525 copies. The company that presses his records cannot handle small orders, and the economics are not much different. However, the increase means that 'there will be no new releases in 2008. Perhaps I will release another record in 2009, but this is not something I will decide now'. It would be great if people ordered this album (and from the back catalogue) so that Taming Power will continue to be released: the music is well worth it. All the releases are highly recommended.
email: earlymrecords@yahoo.no
This link is one of the few articles on Taming Power (
Ingvar Loco Nordin)

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Fessenden v1.1

Bass, guitar, percussion and electronics are
Fessendens tools and V1.1 is their first album (OE10, other electricities). Not sleeping, just resting opens the album with a pulsing drone and gradually adds a tapping, then a waving swirl that becomes more extensive and almost continuous and an occasional wah (that sounds like a cat). This rolls along and then gradually fades out. The layering and building of sounds occurs in each of the tracks, as does the combination (and difficulty in differentiating) electronica and the instruments.

Mid-swing combines a buzzing zimmer-zimmer with rapid tings and tangents percussive and beaty, then guitar notes and tones, chittering with a hint of feedback. Again, this enters an almost static minimalist exposition before fading away. As a change, Diode starts full on rather than building - percussion, electropulses, squelches, organ and guitar tones: with a hint of distortion. After looping for some time it metamorphoses into a more analog percussive hypnotic state less electronica although there are some crackles and deep tones. Perhaps in an unplanned homage to Pink Floyd A walk in the park opens with a frying like sound (Alan's breakfast) and a ticking, which is then echoed and develops tapping shimmers and whooshes after which it transforms into cymbals, scratcthing and humms that run to the end.

Two minutes of silence lead into the not very hidden final track Peak V/Z*sin where a watery sounds competes with a metallic echoing hollow rumble buzz, into which (or out of) high tones emerge. The slowly shifting stasis that you realise is now pulsing, and finally crackles into oblivion is typical of this album - minimal ambient electronic with a hint of industrial - not easy listening but a satisfying angularity. The music is mysterious and raises questions like what is making it, where it is going, and when did that change sneak in. With tracks between 5 and 10 minutes long Fessenden don't overstretch their pieces and leave you wondering where it could have gone next. An interesting album which is their studio debut.

The band is known as a live improv group - such as Preview on Stasisfield which was recorded direct to disk. There the acoustic instruments are more obvious and the looping/layering is more subdued, as is the sound in many places - in fact they reminded me a bit of The Necks. An interesting comparison, but you can see the linkages and the areas the studio has accentuated.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Eh? part 1 - DBH and Shelf Life

Eh? appeared in an earlier post with a release from Nagaoag in the Blog - 2 Days (oct 31). The label is another string in the Public Eyesore stable, and returns to the earlier days of PE with simple cd-rs (though with titles screenprinted on which is a blessing) of raw releases by a smaller close roster of associates, while PE moves to more permanent releases. 4 disks came my way, and I'll do two paired reviews.

(D)ynamic (B)rown (H)ips - "wave the old wave" (Eh?31) presents a few issues for the reviewer. Those annoying parentheses in the group name; all the quotation marks (around the album title and the track names); two pieces("all the money is gone"parts 1 and 2) are presented as 3 cd-tracks (see epiphany below); a lineup which is three people for one track and 7 for the other, and there are 5 people on the cover photo (which probably isn't them). Reviewers whinge over.

DBH is at core Rhody/Hubbard/Wright on trumpet, sax and percussion - and recorded the second part in the studio. Part 1 is a live recording which adds 4 more members on bass, percussion, violin/recorder and trombone.[Looking at the cover I suddenly realised the title track is the live piece and the 2 studio ones are the 2 parts of "all the money is gone"]. They present harsh aggressive improv. I sometimes draw diagrams of the music while I review it - crescendi, cycling etc - and the live title track was a square wave. Periods of almost silence, some gentle percussion or puttering suddenly changes to manic noise as the ensemble all make as much high pitched atonal noise as possible, pummeling away before dropping again. The trio is less based on extremes - the music (sound?) barrels along with few quiet spots or full-on assaults and more variety in terms of tempo and combinations (ie there are some slightly slower parts and a few solos etc), but it nevertheless has the impact that forcefully played trumpet/sax/percussion would have when the plan with the brass is not to look for sweet or mellow notes. The density of the music is accentuated by the recording to one-track tape. After playing this you are likely to answer 'eh?' to any questions as it demands loud volume and your ears may very well be bleeding. Played at the right time to the right people this works, but it is definitely not background music!

A couple of days earlier (29/10) I also reviewed Shelf life's PE release Ductwork - and now they have a new one on Eh? - Rheuma (27) - still a four piece on a range of instruments but AndrewP replaces j.schleidt. The album continues with the ambient improv of Ductwork (and quite a different experience to that of DBH). Playing electronics, keyboards, stringed instruments and probably some processing the 4 build dense ambient spacey soundworks. A dense electronic bed underpins each track over which other sound skitter and pass - it may be some plucked short guitar strings, scrapes, actual guitar solos, and unidentified buzzes and squeals. The mix is somewhat murky, but that adds to the democracy of the sounds, and as with the earlier album the tracks have different feels or moods - the second is more whooshy, the third has squeaky warbles (track titles are 13 or 14 letter codes). In most of the tracks a radio is tuned into the mix, crackling distorted voices adding another mysterious layer. It was probably the guitar in the 4th track, but I was reminded of Fripp&Eno, the density of the ambience also perhaps. In my view ambient music needn't be easy-listening but can, like this album, provide dark edgy soundscapes that can be listened to, absorbing the details, or be allowed to create a distracting backdrop, as they slowly develop and change or throw up nuances. I like what these guys are doing with their instruments and their direction - as Rheuma means flow, just go with it and let the music take you. A fine companion to Ductwork

Friday, December 7, 2007

Webbed Hands

I mentioned this label in the Krebs post - Oneirmancy which I reviewed as a CD-R and his Mystery Sea release had both been re-released here. At 80+ releases it is a big ask to look at, but a couple of things caught my eye.

Some history, the label was created by C P McGill and his brother, in the first instance for CP to release material under about 6 pseudonyms, but has since expanded to include a range of other artists. Release 73 is a McGill anthology which (along with his Rain albums) gives you an opportunity to taste his various personae, which are quite divergent: some ethnic ambience, a bit of more industrial.

On other things, a single release compilation -
Far Afield - number 55 should be pointed to. A double album of sonography/phonography based pieces. Other than Quiet American I hadn't heard of any of the artists, but there is 32 tracks of subtle and diverse envronmental ambience here, with differeing levels of processing on the pieces but retaining the original sense - whether it be city, country or specific sound that has been captured. A lovely release curated by Fred Yarm

I mentioned in the Krebs post the
Rain series. This is an expanding sequence of meditative/relaxing pieces each about an hour long, and with a theme of rain (surprisingly) initially. To quote the site:
"Each Rain is a CD-length ambient recording ideal for listening to while relaxing, working, or socializing. Typically the recordings in this series are minimalistic soundscapes, with motifs played out cyclically and repetitively, rather than progressively, in order to induce a relaxed state of mind."
Again, McGill kicked of the sequence but now a range of artists have had an in put and there are over 20 releases. People have approached it quite differently
  • Saluki Regicide kick off with three similarly structured works - a soft industrial rumbling and elements that drift over - bird calls, snatches of music (an old instrumental, Middle Eastern), environmental sounds, voices and occasional synth crackles that defined the series, and from which it has developed
  • Akashic Crow's Nest appeared early and again more recently - first with gently drifting and then bubbling swirls of electronica and synths.
  • Mystified has produced 3 very minimal pieces that could be brushed percussion or manipulated rain sounds, an electronics sussurus, while in Rain 3 (his first) it was guitars;
  • Djinnistan plays with ambient recordings of water, insects and deep ambient thrums (Rain 1), gentle tones and simple percussive tinkles (Rain 3) and more electronics and rhythms in Rain 2;
  • Ghostheory layers ambient-industrial tones;
  • Krebs' two are shimmering electronics;
  • Tree Helicopter wash a radio signal, simple drums, skitters, gtr/synth chords into a mesmeric atmosphere;
  • Tribe of Astronauts are minmalists - electronic crackling in 1 and deep washing throbs in 2;
  • SpoonPhase drift with drips, burbling background winds and delightful highlights;
  • Rolling Calf Sinfonette go with water, simple percussion and glistening wind tones warbling in 1, harp-samples, grumbling, high-hats over water in 2 and suggestively ethnic percussion, some rocky scrapes, high tones and subtle electronica in 3 (no water)
  • subtle manipulated image-sounds form the basis of the shimmering and subtle pulse crackles and chirrups over a melodic bed of Akashic Crow's Nest soft rain
The fact that most people have moved away from the water/rain theme and stayed with the cyclical soundscape side of the project has kept this set of releases fresh and interesting - together they form a very satisfying ambience

The label has also pointed me in the direction of Mystified's Treetrunk label: more later

Monday, December 3, 2007

Jeffrey Roden - Seeds of Happiness

They say that the iPod and e-music has killed the album. I think it was the cd. A vinyl album was about 20 minutes a side (30 if you pushed it like Elvis Costello on Get Happy!). But the standard was 30-50 minutes of considered music over 2 sides. Artists decided what opened and closed a side, how it flowed. Listeners consciously chose to play one side or the other or both in sequence. A double album was an extravagance, a triple bloated (usually live [I exempt Sandinista! from both charges!]). The cd introduced an expectation of 70-80 minutes, so people filled them out, and have thought less about the total flow. Let alone the physical beauty of the 12" album. Even then people bought an album for a track or two - but the whole seemed more focused. What I think it means is that people don't listen through a whole cd. You put it in - listen for 30-40 minutes and then have moved on - although with random-shuffle later numbered tracks get a chance.

What has this to do with Jeffrey Roden's new album Seeds of Happiness? (New Albion, NA133) Well, it is composed of two parts which would fall nicely on the two sides of a vinyl album, where the listener would get to decide whether to listen to Part 1 or 2 or both. But it isn't, so people will have to make sure they listen to it all (though I note on the website that Part 1 was released separately). Years ago I reviewed his earlier album The floor of the forest (and yes he is related to Steve Roden) and this one continues his use of the bass guitar as a solo instrument - in fact the tracks are recorded live in a single take with some background parts overdubbed.

The result is a sublime simplicity. Each track is only a few minutes long, in which time Roden explores minimal themes, that are melodic and warm - the quality of the closely recorded resonance of the instruments is a feature of his work. The overdubs are generally simple though in Rift there is a fast repeat motif
, that sounds like a loop, and a slower one under Forgiveness or Devotion and dance, that adds a complexity which is perhaps not seen (heard) enough in the album. You sometimes feel that more colour would be an advantage - but that isn't the artistic paradigm. This is an intense album, not specifically in relation to the mood or even the method, but rather because it is focused on such a restrained palette for both instrument and composition. However, Episode[s] of beauty, to commandeer a tracktitle, describes this music perfectly, because that is what this is, each one delicately formed.

The tone of the instrument, together with the deliberate (and I mean that in both senses) pace of pieces, create a solemn contemplative mood. Even the closing track of Part 2 - Fulfilment - maintains the atmosphere, rather than a celebratory conclusion (there is a passage of joyful complexity in the penultimate Invocation).
Which brings me back to my opening - the intensity of the music makes it difficult to listen to the whole cd in one go - while the length of each part seems about the right time to be able to focus. And the music is well worth giving it the attention.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

In the olden days

Found this, via iTunes, from the All Music Guide to the Incredible String Band's U album
Incidentally, sides one and four are combined on one disc, sides two and three on the other [on the vinyl release]. It seems unlikely that many listeners would have taken the time to play them in sequence (assuming they even noticed), but the problem was rectified with the CD release.
This threw me back to many of my vinyl double and triple albums and the days of auto phonoograms. The reviewer has got it wrong - sides 1and 4 were on one disk for a purpose (and with ELP's WBMFTTSTNELAGELP, it was 1/6,2/5,3/4.)
Because you put TWO (or more) disks at a time on the player so that the first to drop down was side 1, when that finished the next disk dropped down playing side 2. When that had stopped playing you took both albums off the changer and then turned over the pair so that 3 then 4 dropped down - this is an attempt at a graphic explanation

The view on the left shows the disks as you put them  on the spindle - the bottom disk drops and its upper surface is read (1) then the next drops and its upper surface (2) is played. Lift thme off and invert the disk stack and you get the right image - and play 3 then four (* mark played side)

2*         4*
3           1

1*          3*
4           2

With an additional disk in between for sets like Welcome back etc or other triple live albums. I for one, and many others, made sure they were played in the right order, autochanger or not!

Friday, November 30, 2007

E-music pricing

Following from the second post, I don't get the pricing of virtual music. First, my feeling is the album price is too high - in general I baulk at $17 (aus) for something that I could probably buy for not much more in a shop. I will admit to not paying a great deal for the Radiohead album because I wanted to try it - haven't really heard much of their stuff.

Then there is the variation - the bargains. Some of it may be because of poor algorithms - at big pond you can do well if you are a Mike Oldfield fan because the first few albums are priced on the track number - so a few dollars for Tubular Bells. Similarly with Eno's Music for Aiports. But it is not consistent.

But it's 'boxed' sets that confuse me. Further to the ones in that post, I have recently purchased a full Wagner's Ring Cycle (14 disks) all Mahler's symphonies (10 disks) and Beethoven's (10 hours worth). These are not by dud people - the Mahler is on Amazon for $150 (US). But there are other similar sets at $80-100. Why? Not that I mind - I had wanted to hear some of The Ring and can now sample at leisure. It just seems odd.

Normal reviewing will be returning soon

Saturday, November 24, 2007

bob marsh - viovox

Viovox - Another new one from public eyesore (pit109) - Bob Marsh who has appeared a few times on the label with a solo album. And another where liner notes can be a distraction. Marsh calls these 'rantings, ravings, sermons, scenes, little operas and whatever they might be' which leads you to expect a spoken word album. Reading on you see he plays (and processes) his violin and cello, messes around with sampled loops and some electropercussion and processes his voice.

The result is a series of weird radio transmissions from another dimension - the voice shifts in and out of meaningfullness, instruments call and deconstruct and repeat, percussion weaves in and out, and the mind tries to build something from the words, grasping at interpretation as actual statements fly pass.
The musical looping playfulness scraping and scattering around in the background echoes into darkness.

Some titles are metonymic - the Amerindian feel to Indian summer, the tumbling Ready to roll, watery Oh bouy as waves drift and whispers whistle. Others reflect their 'text' I'm a sucka or Bring out the dead. Forest for the trees voice keens wordlessly over a twittering of birds and insects. Most tracks are relatively Short, but the final Calm down is extended and provides an opportunity for some lovely extended violin loops.

This is haunting as its phantasmal verbal tangets tantalise your desire to find meaning. The music fractures dissolving melodic meaning as well - creating an album of drama and fascination.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

M. - 2 releases

Two from a guy called M. - that have been waiting a while for a guernsey: sorry. The first Lucy Y Fer was recorded at the turn of the decade. It shows two f the typical features of a first album - some more obvious display of influences (the opening tracks in particular are recognisable industrial) but also a diversity as the backed up writing finds its outlet. Both albums have a focus on sex/sexual politics, more obviously in the second, but a title like Feminine boy is an indicator. There are 4 short interludes which divide the album into acts or scenes. The first two tracks, Where the day takes you and Feminine boy are driving and enjoyable industrial/heavy metal with balance between melodic chorus or components (an OOOOO line through the first), guitar breaks, wah-wah solo, drawled vocals. A great start. Interlude:light crackles and electronics, distant voice, then we rock into The voice in me with burbling synth and string chorus and then an interlude of tuned percussion and cello. Restrained backing, vocoder effects build in the haunting Piano is followed by A poet's seat over a soundscape 'don't try to comprehend any of this ... it comes from him'. The slow burning Star then an Interlude of playful children. The skin heals has strings, melotron like synths and is a strong work; an acoustic guitar short song, Interlude:desafinado before the pressure builds again in The end..the dream with weird calliope, cracked insdustrial rhythms, heavy guitar and lust. An interesting first album with attractive variety. M.'s voice could be a problem, as at times it reminds me of Weird Al Yankovic, but it is not unappealing and is nicely placed in the mix.

What probably held me back was the second album L'amour ext mort. This is quite a 'concept' album based on transgression and sexual politics. It is focussed and presented up close and personal. The vocal is to the front of the mix and at this level M.'s voice is a weakness, sometimes flat and a distraction. The opening song Lies in your eyes continues the strong musical direction of the first album - dark analog synths; Adam slows with guitar and dark ambinece, though Miss Zina (baise moi) has a nice drive and catchy chorus. As the album progresses the musical side is strong - slow buring guitar ambience in The motel-room song, dark foreboding in The story of joy, degredation and incest to the bloopy synth of Mother's milk, simple guitar and processed spoken vocals Goodby, swirling radio, guitar figures and a sample that exacerbates weakness in Baton rouge all develop the mood of the album. This is broken by a coda about how to draw a heart (F.B.) that slides into guitar and piano. This is a hard album to get into, but a very 'brave' one - it exposes M.'s vulnerabiulities both personaly and musically. It is a difficult second album based very definitely on honesty and strong feelings. It is not as immediately accessible as Lucy but has strengths of its own. I look forward to a third album that combines the musical variety of the first album with the intensity of the second - that will be an amazing release.

The best link I could find for M. is cdbaby.com/cd/mmusic and cdbaby.com/cd/mmusic2
But now I have been advised that M. has a website

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Henceforth: Aguilar & Kihlstedt /Fujii

Two releases from Henceforth - a small label based in New York (ex of San Diego that joined the improvisation labels based there (I'm thinking Accretions and Circumvention)). Two new ones have arrived recently to add to the previous (Baggerboot and Sounds of Survival) reviewed recentlyish.
Gustavo Aguilar is a precussionist, composer, improvisor and demonstrates all these on Unsettled on an Old Sense of Place (103). Three tracks were performed by an ensemble that includes Aguilar (various instruments and live processing), a second live processor, voice and harp, viola and woodwinds. Xochicaloe uses a South American percussion as a solid base over which the harp and flute skitter, sometimes processed and looped, guitar descends and wordless voice create a dense complexity that eases out towards the end. In RoCaMaYoHa sliding dulcimer descedns into a wildness of percussion, shrill voice, honking that eases and rebuilds - Jeff Surak's Second Violin had a piece titled Hospital fugue of the mad nurse and that title would fit this. A martial percussion and electronics takes us out with swirling winds before more visceral high tones and extremeity and finally a period of agressive ambience (oxymoron anyone?) The final ensemble piece is Suprachiasmatic Nucleus (which is a group of cells, not nerve bundles as per the liner notes [don't get me started on them -
pretentious moi?]) - this emerges from rolls of thunder, fragments of vocal and woodwind peeps, building rhythm that then does battle with an electrical hiss which wins leading to another electro-ambient exploration - a nicely balanced piece. Between each of these are solos - the first a slow picked and percussive work on guitar that builds a flamenco rhythm and Dirac's theory on snare drum which uses a variety of techniques (including a coin dropped on it). The final track is Werndell's History - a poem by Wendell Berry put to simple but effective glockenspeil accompaniament, a touch that emphasises the scope of this album. An exciting album.

Minamo incorporates two performances by Carla Kihlstedt (violin) and Satoko Fujii (piano) in 2002 and 2005. The two artists, who apparently hadn't played together before the first or played again before the second, work seemlessly together riffing off each others ideas and providing space for development. There are touches of jazz, classical and almost rocking in the music, at times restrained before exploding outwards, swapping lead roles between the two instruments. The longest track from their first encounter - One hundred and sixty billion spray - starts with picking and plucking on both instruments as they then move into a dance in which the lead keeps swapping. In overview, the violin is sweeter and more playful while the piano more majestic, and while that perhaps simplifies it too much, the short Lychnis that concludes San Francisco demonstrates it. The second meeting was in Wels, and Larry Ochs feels it was less conducive, but still 'smoking' (in the liner notes - and better, simpler notes they are too) andI enjoyed it - as a single statement it has a structure that works very effectively and while the sound may not be as good, the music is exciting and delightful, with some sublime lyric passages. An excellent pairing of instruments and/or performers

Friday, November 9, 2007

a brief vinyl - D+D

Also from PE – D+D (Dereck Higgins and Dino Felipe no pit 105) with a self-titled 7” single double A-side. Blink and you could miss this – the pink 45 lasts less than 3 minutes a side. Properties (A) bleeps blurts squeaks scrapes in a quiet field – the eruptions appearing and disappearing. Guitar and synths seem to be the source of a relaxed randomness that disappears into the silent spaces. Ribbons (AA) has a fuller makeup, layered sweet synth tones with cable loose interferences, distorted voices, shimmery scrapes, burring compounding to a density. An interesting one for the vinyl junkie

13 songs mixtapes over

The thirteen songs mixtape adventure is over - the last (13th) release is available now. Still recommended and available for downloading the set. 12.rec has got too much on to keep doing them. a shame but thanks to them for what we have

Thursday, November 8, 2007

K M Krebs

Part of what will be an occasional 'composer' series, stimulated by something like stumbling over their webpage! Over the years I have come across people in various places and releases - let alone pseudonyms - and like the idea of pointing to their catalogue. K M Krebs first hit my attention as 833-45 with a number of releases on No Type. I found a few of these, then he sent me a couple of CD-Rs and then recently he popped up on Con-V a couple of times so I went looking for more. I found a few, which I'll touch on in a minute, but also found his home page. It includes a very nice blog covering his own releases, pointers to interesting web labels/albums, electronics and general stuff.

The most straightforward description of much of his work would be pointillist ambience - small elements looping modulating and layering to create long sweeping pieces. Those elements are percussive electronic syntheised sounds and
occasional voices or sonography. The works ebb and flow through your audio space. This side is exemplified by The Light Will Fill the Darkness... which was originally released on Mystery Sea but is now downloadable, the drifting electronica of the Fog sequence or his Rain 1 release for the Webbed Hand Netlabel series (833-45 has also released one, and more on the series at a later date, probably).

Then there are some more electronic works like Live at Muliplex 11, the two Jade Furnace releases comprising short pieces that are available to listen to or sample, or An Orange Radio.
And a 'narrative' work on the SineFiction no-type sublabel

As 833-45, the more abstract electronic side (though it is all leaning to abstraction rather than melodic or rhythm drive) is to the fore, creating with radio emissions and pulsations to create a more scientific industrial ambience. It was in this guide that most of his work for No-Type was produced, though Solar Cycle which I reviewed as CD-R has been net-label released also. That was meant to be 833's last release, but it is continuing.

Anyway Krebs is a fascinating artist to follow across the net - but for those who don't have the time, patience or downloads - there is a wonderful opportunity at the home page: a DVD collection of all the net works of Krebs in his various incarnations, some of which are no longer available. I haven't heard them all as my listening comes from years of trawling plus two cd-rs, but I can recommend what will be 20+ hours of satisfying listening.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

2 Days - Bryan Day

Bryan Day/Alex Boardman: One to Seven (public eyesore84). A combination of guitars (from both) and Day on taisho-goto and radio (these two are half of Shelf Life reviewed earlier). This a relaxed and satisfying improv album. The guitars are dominant, being played, strummed, picked, melodic - almost bluegrass, but that feeling is probably reffecting the 'guitar' sound. Some of the strings are loose and woobly: almost like manipulated tapes, adding a variation in sound. There are shorter atmospheric opening and closing parts. The second track is the longest, at about 13 minutes, with some extended tones underneath at times, skittery runs, loose playing and absorbing spaces, drawing you in. Three is a fuller piece, more connected as the strings interweave. The tones in the second return as big humming in Four - probably the radio, I decided now - in a piece that is rapid and playful. Five starts a little harsher before an interchange between melodic runs and strumming. Darker feedback in Six introduces the most scrapey 'difficult' piece before the aforementioned melodic short final section. This is a very nice release - the two players working nicely off each other, combining the tighter and looser string components.

There is a
youtube taishogoto ensemble video for those who, like most of us, don't know what it is

Nagaoag is Bryan Day and Luke Polipsick and Yama Labam A is a release on Eh? (28), a Public Eyesore off shoot. The two play guitar and drums respectively, and the music on this is an avalanche of percussive energetics across the whole armoury of drums cymbals and other banging pieces and complex guitars (electric and acoustic) that all at the same level in the mix: you can either focus on the clattering fast-forward momentum or the intricate and at time surprisingly melodic guitar: or even let them both wash over you. But then there is the third element - vocals by one of the two which swings between Waits-ian growls, Japanese noise squeels, high singing. Generally not-English (my guess is created noises [yaps, squeeks, expostulations, Dada poetry] but possibly other languages) it occasionally emerges with words and phrases. On the whole it works well, it is equal in the mix with the other components. The level of activity changes, but there is always a strange swampy feeling to this, probably from the Dr John vocal-phrasing and sound which seems to pervade it (alabamy could be somewhere in the title). More unsettling than Day/Boardman this would have benefited from perhaps a little more variation (the last track is more relaxed) as it becomes harder to take over the full 50 minutes - but is enjoyable in smaller doses.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Shelf Life and Fernandes/Horist

The cynic says that you start a record label to publish yourself – and that is often a stimulus to small labels. But usually they grow beyond that, and here are two label bosses whose labels have never really been about themselves – but about their music community

Shelf Life – Bryan Day, Alex Boardman, Joseph Jaros and Jay Schleidt from various States and different groups – started in 2003 (by the first two) and has gradually developed over the years. The instruments include guitars, stringed things, percussion, electronics, reeds, Theremin, sampler, contact mikes etc. In 2006 they spent 2 days a week improvising in Bryan’s Omaha apartment studio to produce 80 hours of material – edited down to 80 minutes for Ductworks (public eyesore pecd107). This is, therefore, quite an unusual improv album. They usually seem to be recorded in a day and we get ebbs and flows, crescendos and noise. The selection of the 13 tracks (titled with some anagrams of ductworks) seems to focus on stasis and mood. The selections are 2-8 minutes long and combine the same range of sounds (scrapes feedback percussion electronics somevoices bowing picking clatter twinkling mellotron-tones) so that without concentrating you don’t notice one piece changing to the next. However they do have different flavours or moods with different elements highlighted or collected. It is therefore some of the more ambient improv I have heard, with a steady subtlety that makes it quite distinct. I found myself warming to this more and more as I replayed it and I am sure it will be a favourite. A fine work. (a strange indicator of the smallness of the world – this comes in a card sleeve printed in the Ukraine)

And from Accretions, Jerks and Creeps by Marcos Fernandes (phonography, electronics) and Bill Horist (guitar, electronics) (www.accretions.com, ALP046) which is primarily two tracks from concerts in Japan. In Kobe which supplies three fifths of the album, they were joined by Haco on electronics and voice, while in Osaka Masafumi Ezaki (trumpet), Bunsho Nishikawa (electronics) and Tim Olive (bass) helped out. The two concerts are spacious explorations of the possibilities of the instruments: they only occasionally slip into recognisability. Fernandes had left behind his percussion and provides textures and depths to those emerging from the guitar. My notes read like an abstract poem which follow the music, words scattered over the page – mysterious, ambient, processed occur throughout. The guitar is percussive, tonal, sliding frippish, arpeggios. The density is in flux, at times dropping almost to single sounds at others a nightmarish display, and then again some ambience, but always absorbing. Haco’s most obvious addition is strangled vocals at times throughout Kobe. The phonography is sometimes obvious – the Middle Eastern horn and drums late in Kobe 1 or a tannoy – but it is not always apparent. In Osaka the sound is fuller (not surprisingly) but again swinging between density and more spacious sections. The part played by the members of the ensemble is harder to extract – some possibly blowy trumpet sounds, string scrapes could be either bass or guitar. And electronics is electronics! I am not sure the 2 minute Kobe coda adds anything to what is two strong pieces, but it doesn’t diminish them either. More in-ya-face than Shelf Life, but not too aggressively harsh though its intensity is satisfying.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

A new Roden

Another release spot in my sights is 12ks online sublabel Term (http://www.12k.com/term/)

Till my visit today there had been 15 releases, but two new ones have appeared. Off The Sky with four tracks of guitar ambience. And Term 17 - a 'lost' 30 minute live recording by Steve Roden from Berlin in 2004 (entitled Amnesia, because he seems to have forgotten it). Some loops come from the same source as the 5hour Soundwalk recording, but it is a different and additional piece in the Roden ouevre - very welcome.

a few web labels

I have admitted to liking free music, am an awful addict completist and now have a massive download (compared to the past). One of my favourite web-labels is still going strong - No Type (http://www.notype.com/drones/accueil.e/) and is now well over 100 releases, plus more in the Sine Fiction and Annexe sub-labels. One thing I like about it is the variety - you can go to the No Type playlist, wack it on random and lust about relax. I say just about, as there is a little bit of Noise though there!

My recent wanderings have identified a number of labels (in a label watch folder and I open them all every now and then). Here are a few which may interest

Test Tube: http://www.monocromatica.com/netlabel/releases.htmThe most active label I have come across - now up to 96 with
upcomings already. I downloaded the lot, but you can buy a DVD or CDs of past releases. The sounds are varied - ambient, techno, some jazz, all with very nice covers (for those with cover flow). There is a mix-tape which could give you some idea as to what it's like. I will admit I haven't listened to all 2.2 days, but have enjoyed whats gone through.

And speaking of mix tapes, the Collective Commons has led to a fair few going on. My favourite is
thirteen songs (http://thirteensongs.net/Main.htm) which ranges across the web to create
themed and wide ranging compositions. Again, a good way to test some labels and artists.
Another label which is growing at a fair pace is
Alg-a (http://www.alg-label.com/) - also broad ranged with 36 very different productions, and 4 mixes which extend beyond the label itself.
A final one to mention tonight.
Vitalis Popoff has put together a small but intriguing selection in Telescope (http://www.telescopelabel.net/relases.php?) which is a Polish electronica, IDM, ambient label. Two large compilations give an interesting perspective on the label.

Just some thoughts - I might expand on my 'label watch' list later - the Russians and more.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

iTunes pricing and international bargains

An odd first post - but one thing I have been doing in notes is pointing people at labels and music sources that have caught my eye. Having recently got fast broadband and a big download limit I have been collecting. The itunes store had been something I didn't really look at as the difference in price between the electronic and real albums didn't interest me.

But poking around I found some bargains - prices in australian dollars - such as

Penguin Cafe Orchestra - History - 4cds for $17
Clash - On Broadway - 3 cds $17
Philip Glass - 2 Pages - $5
and the real corker
Steve Reich - 1965 to 1995 - 10 cds $17

I was going to let people know - but decided to have a look at some international stores -and found that the Reich is still US$99 for example. I'm not going to complain, as I like a bargain, but it's a funny old world!

Ampersand on-line

Hello. Some years ago I started reviewing music for Vivisect, a Melbourne electronic/dark ambient zine. The pleasure of getting free music made me offer myself to Jasper when he started Ambience (a proper magazine) and the music kept rolling in.

When Ambience turned into a newsletter and then unfortunately passed on, I had reviews left and decided to keep going by posting on news groups and building an address base.

Ampersand Etc has lived for some years as an email newsletter, riding the waves of changing computer systems, reviewer burnout, work commitments. The last couple of years it has been random notes sent out - and I am not sure if people are getting them (I do get a few responses).

The whole exciting history - ie the back issues of the e-zine - are available at

Until recently I had been avoiding Blogs like the plague - but then came across Steve Roden's ripper one (airform archives) and some he points to, Tom Phillips' view into an artists world and more, I decided that the fragmented history of &etc may fit here. I still get occasional stuff to review, find things that I like on the net, etc - so this was born.

Thanks to all who may have read me in the past, welcome to anyone who may read this. And let me know if you want music reviewed.