Friday, March 21, 2008

weblabel update

A quick note on a few things happening in some of the labels I keep a watch on. The quiescent-for-2007 Stasisfield has continued with the reawakening (resurrection is perhaps appropriate) and now has 5 releases this year ranging from soundscapes to improvisation and the gentle musical ambience of the latest Gregory Taylor's Two maps of Danaraja, a drifting MAX-MSP gamelan piece that intrudes lightly into the environment.

Then there is the trans>parent radiation subdivision of bremsstrahlung recordings which releases MP3s ahead of later actual releases (at which time the freebies are archived). Again, there has been a ramp up in recent times - a nice sonography from Asher and Ubeboat, and just recently Shinkei with Biostatics which takes recordings from bio-electricity and amplifies them as a skittering pleasure.

Treetrunk has been active with some new Mystified amongst other things, and of course TestTube is unstopable: a musical juggernaut.

And then a new one I found recetly Robotopera which only has seven releases to date but it seems like a very enjoyable and broad exploration that takes in lowercase, glitch and microsound, but also extends into some very musical techno/electronica. Not sure where it emerged from or how long it's been around, but these releases are worth looking for.

An update on We7 - I have scoured it pretty well and have got some good classical, lots of ELP, interesting Tangerine Dream and some other bits and pieces. As I thought, the ads are 'easy' to get around and the selection not bad. Some things are country limited (I can't get the Kinks or Nice) and there is development going on. Things diappear too - King Crimson's Power to believe was there I am sure (I have a copy) but can't find it agin (the related ep was not available to Australians)

Friday, March 14, 2008

Soundician: Still

Still: the latest album from the team at Soundician (odette and kit johnson) continues their ambient journey which has been traced in &etc. Those who have been following will know that Soundician tread that fine, hard to distinguish line between ambience and new age: perhaps a non-existant line but definitely a snob-divider. For me new age tends towards anodyne, facile and overly familiar. In my ambience I want some adventure, some difference, but am still happy to listen to basically beautiful music. And Soundician provide this.

We open quietly witha deep underpulse shaking the speakers, a very dark Soundician opening, light buzzles spiraling out, whooshes and a slow high tone melody. Across this spacey piece are intriguing clicks, an unusual addition. Ambient titles are very subjective - this track which seems to rise and grow is entitled Falling. Over the layered washes of Malachite sea a slightly atonal accordion plays a melancholic melody (and which draws line in the depths of my musicl memory with some Eno from Another Day, I think), while brooding drift of piano, bass and choir offer a beautiful Myrtle. On an album where the ambience of Eno and co are an reference point, Pearl billows with tones over a deep undertone, tuned percussion and piano delivering an attractive cold simplicity. Seagrass appropriately includes subtle atmospheric washes that swell towards the end, harp arpeggios and an Eastern influenced plucked string instrument. Among the accents that add that certain something to these tracks is a backwards sounding schwagger that skitters through the voices and whistling tones of Seal - a track which (together with the closing Tundra) reminded me of the scenes created by The Resident's Eskimo album.

Showing how close they can get to new age, Seashell would be quite comfortable down at the local shi-atsu massage centre, voice washes, harp and venting wooshes but we are immediately regrabbed by Stasis with an echo-degraded tom loop, key chord pulses and snare brushes that creates a disconcerting mood. More static than Stasis was, Tide is a picture of sounds-whips, twinkles, paper rustles and riffs in a lovely display. And finally Tundra, starting quite subaquatic with submerged tones, dolphinish calls, washes that all builds as voice like sounds intrude to create that eskimo-like quality.

So again, an album of beauty, subtle complexity and that intriguing quality that makes an instrumental album draw you in and listen to it, rather than let it wash over you. Soundician continue to explore and grow into that ambient sphere of their own creation.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Krebs, 833-45, russian netlabels

A new release by Kreb's alter-ego 833-45 gives me a chance to mention him again and also to repoint people to some labels I mentioned in an old notes.

At the base link, Net Audio provides access to three netlabels which are based in Russia. Electrosound (up to 41 releases) is a varied electronic label, featuring mainly local acts. Broad in range it is an interesting one to keep an eye on. Share my wings seems mainly electronica and rock, and to be honest I haven't explored this one yet. Musica Excentrica is the final element and presents less mainstream music (self-described as 'avantegarde post-music in non-entertainment genres') it has also featured more non-Russian names - Philip Samartzis, Joe Colley/Jessica Rylan/Kevin Drumm, Kenneth Kirschner, Kim Cascone, plus more on a couple of compilations - and some better known Russian ones (CD-R, Species of Fishes and Alexei Borisov) and the 12 releases to date are a diverse and exciting collection.

The latest of which is 833-45's Tunguska, a 16 track album that is now available. I know Krebs is very excited by this release which he sees as a culmination of the 833-45 sound. This is a combination of harsher, edgy glitch ambient electronica often with samples in the background - voices speaking, the wonderful Conet recordings - over which a delicious electronica plays created from crackles, tones, small sounds and some beats. It opens with Outremer, a harsh buzzing, arctic winds: the buzz breaks into a sort of beat, fast hihat joins in, some clicks, a crackling voicelike shimmering: short tonal highlights are a sampled melody, a voice in the mix as it builds intensity: it bubbles along, with a sampling almost buried before fading into an electric wind and crowd noises. These continue into Laldaboath where a choir of strained scraping notes ebbs and flows in an industrial soundscape, voices sliding into a gentler ambience that again continues into Outermost sphere that becomes pulsating unsteady radio buzzes with more distant galactic radio shows hidden within (we can see two working themes here - tracks that meld together and the undercurrent of voicesounds). Amethyst is a harsh buzzing colony of tones rising and falling against each other. A bit further in, and Alamut is a recording of a lost orchestra broadcasting into the ether, while a Beacon pulses under gentle developing electronica while drills build a pulsating force that builds and then fades away leaving chattering bleeps and layered people. The Conet is strong in Surrounded by halos, accompanied by drifting sheet metal ambience. And so on through this strong and varied album that shifts between harsh edged and drifting ambience, some beated techno and lyricism, and totally listenable. Beautifully balanced, Kreb's is justifiably proud of this one. Drop over to Russia and pick it up.

(And this is NOT a Russian rip-off MP3 site, but a portal to some great music)

Thursday, March 6, 2008

A roden christmas

It is not usually my practice to review out-of-print or specially made disks. However, Steve Roden sent me two disks which made me bend this practice. Both are christmas specials, and one will become an MP3 and the other was produced in enough quantities that you could persuade Steve to let you have one in a fair exchange.

Volume Projects curates multimedia events and for its first anniversary asked him to put together a soundpiece, which has been released as Edition 1Vester Fields. The celebratory card is now out of print, but a free download is promised (and I'll let you know when). The instrumentation was suggested by a postcard, but from there it moves onwards. A 7" 78 christmas recording from the 1940s provides an opening before the starts playing cycling melodies, quite percussive almost like a hammer dulcimer joined by some slithering metallic (bowing) elements - quite dense. Something like a bird call loops in and a pulsing accordion - all surprisingly loud and upfront for SR! Strings fade a a deep flowing string bass, something like a thumb piano and a strange distant squiggling of an overheard conversation. Fading again for the voice to enter, strange harmonies and overtones, under which a venting drone develops organ flutters. A complex sound, which resembles water but with more elements in comes to the fore, laughing voices weave through and soft taps. The strings return briefly for short concluding coda. This is one of SR's more episodic pieces, like the Soundwalk live work or Resonant Cities, and is captivating as it takes you on a journey through these soundspaces (there are field recordings and plants in there too). It will be worth waiting for.

The other disk is A christmas play for joseph cornell which is based on a text-score by G Brecht. This was produced by SR as a christmas gift, but there are some copies left. The play opens with crunchy crackling snow noises, possible footsteps, into which rising/falling percussion loops drift (a bathtub tapped with mallets). A cycling clicking, cluttering develop and will run through to the end. Single notes on a vietnamese string instrument join developing into some rapid strums and flat notes, before SR's sings the lines for the first child in his hauntingly distinctive voice - a breathy semi-whispered falsetto. Some processing, including a buzzing marks the centre of the piece: to here it has echoed the image on the front, gradually enlarging as elements are added. Now a process of decretion occurs - the percussion becomes more prominent as the voice fades, then the strings change - short echoed strings and bowing/scraping, resonant but slowly fading to leave a soft buzz to fade. Then a brief coda, a hum and crackles from a 78 grooves. There is a strong narrative flow to the 30 minutes of this piece - a visual shape to its development which enhances the atmosphere of the music. SR's work continues to develop, as does one's appreciation of individual works, and he never fails to enchant.

Both feature images from the RPPC and snapshots that are the visual heart of the invaluable airform archives (follow the links on the right)

And if you are interested in SR's collection of 78s, which regularly feature on the archives, for a short while streaming and as a podcast is his set for the framework radio show.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Helzer/Stowell: Friendship and remembrance

Circumvention hit the spot with another smooth album. Rick Helzer plays piano and John Stowell guitar (though unless you knew that already, the information is not on the sleeve), and have been doing so for some time - and the duo is based on a 25 year friendship. Friendship and remembrance 051) is, on the whole this is one of those late night ease back and relax albums - the guitar and piano lay down grooves that intertwine with each other, giving the space for each other to shine in the foregrounded solos. Both instrumentalists are skilled players and this shines in the melodic and contemplative nature of these pieces. The mood changes, however, to add variation and depth: And now, back to reality is a much brighter, faster piece, as is For the real composer in the house; while Hiro's hideaway is a guitar solo. Desert rest stop breaks away from the others, opening with soft bass and strange percussion, pizzicato piano, odd rhythms, a leaning to atonality, possibly prepared strings and an altogether more imagistic approach, which demonstrates another avenue these two could have explored. Another really enjoyable album from this label.