Reviews, February 2020

ADVERSE EFFECT Reviews by Richard Johnson and Steve Pescott

The following reviews are of some of the releases sent here during the past year or so. We only review physical releases. More reviews will be added in due course. In the meantime, if you have anything you would like reviewed please send it to the address noted elsewhere. Another physical magazine is likewise coming this year.

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ERLEND APNESETH TRIO with FRODE HALTLI Salika, Molika CD (Hubro, Norway, 2019)

Accordion player Frode Haltli joins this Norwegian trio who blend folk and jazz in a contemporary setting which also draws from the subtlest of avant-garde shading. Vocalists also join three of the seven pieces, but not understanding Norwegian renders it difficult to comment beyond stating they each sit well with the music. This itself, like so much other music from Hubro, sways between being lively enough and more brooding or sombre. It’s a neat range that clearly flexes some of the group’s abilities, but I always end up feeling such music is best served live. And that’s not a slight on this release in the least as, listening to it, I’d be quite happy to hear this music in such a setting. (RJ)

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THE ARMEDALITE RIFLES Revel in the Beauty of the Sour Note LP (Wrinky Dink Records, USA, 2017)

Although released a good coupla years ago this LP was only sent to me to review this year. I’d never heard of the group before, but they’ve evidently been going for almost two decades and have a string of other releases behind them, mostly on the same label. Defiantly lo-fi and with a scuffed punk sensibility, the songs here conflate brazen melodies, touches of oddness that wouldn’t be out of place on some obscure comp tape of bizarro electronics from the early ’80s, and the kinda songwriting that has me thinking about Husker Du or, more specifically, Bob Mould. Might simply be down to James Pogo’s vocal style, though, as the title track opener is likewise infected with a touch of Gang Of Four funk attack. Either way, it’s an interesting combination and fluidly veers between being sprightly and immediate and somewhat suggestive of a David Thomas-type character working on songs in his basement whilst surrounded by an array of archaic lab equipment, analogue synths and a faulty reel-to-reel. When listening to such music this is a good image to be conjuring anyway…at least in my humble estimation. No website or email, naturally, so one to sniff out from the finest obscure record dealers you know. (RJ)

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ANGELO BELLO Gendyn Suite CDEP (Elli Records, France, 2019)

Four short electroacoustic pieces serving as one of the more recent releases from a label dedicated to exploring music made by those with a deep connection with the machines they use for their compositions. Hardly a unique concept in and of itself, but laudable enough, I suppose. Bello’s works are multi-layered and although uneasy are driven by a vaguely hypnotic undertow of melodies not unlike Eliane Radigue’s work. A satisfying enough melding of the rough with the smooth, and far more engaging than only too much contemporary sound art. (RJ)

https://www.elli.media/artists/angelo-bello/

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DAVID BOWLIN Bird As Prophet CD (New Focus Recordings, USA, 2019)

Six compositions by the likes of Mario Davidovsky, Martin Bresnick, Du Yun and others that witness violinist Bowlin sometimes accompanied by a flute, piano, cello and percussion. Each piece falls into a modernist setting simultaneously dynamic and demonstrating Bowlin’s fluid command of the violin, whilst brimming with crisp drama. Grainy and taut swirls engage with melodic picking and jarred undercurrents of rasping bridges, conjuring images perfect for a creepy and sinister thriller. I’m not sure whether that was the intention or says more about how my own ravaged mind works, though. (RJ)

www.newfocusrecordings.com

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WILHELM BRAMANDER & FREDRIK RASTEN For Some Reason That Escapes Us LP (Differ Records, Sweden, 2019)

Bramander, already known for his improvised works on double bass, here duets with fellow improviser Rasten, whose own guitar playing is similar with respect to a nicely understated approach that’s both full of space yet expressive enough to evoke imaginary worlds. Together, there’s a rich fluidity here which gently seeps into the outer reaches of one’s consciousness like a glass or two of half decent red wine. It’s a nicely subdued setting which offers far more than initially seems possible as gentle plucks, bows and scrapes wheeze and gasp into a sonic gauze that, for all of the players’ apparent academic leanings, bears similarities with some of Richard Youngs’ work. Improvised music, like anything else, can often be staid, but For Some Reason That Escapes Us illustrates only too well that surprises can still be discovered in its midst. I hope they work together again. (RJ)

Email: differrecords@gmail.com

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CASPAR BROTZMANN MASSAKER Black Axis CD (Southern Lord, USA, 2019)

I first got this album in 1989, a time wherein many rock groups took their cues from post-hardcore, industrial, noise, jazz and other such sources. A time, like the post-punk and no wave periods before, when groups given to a more aggressive sound, would once again draw from all manner of disparate genres in order to create din-infused guitar-driven slugs more likely to send listeners reeling towards the nearest exit than much else. Groups such as Gore, Treponem Pal, Of Cabbages & Kings, Cows, Skullflower, Jesus Lizard and Tad all sprung from this apparently gaping sore like they were the only ones in town doing this. In all honesty, in their respective hometowns they doubtlessly were, though. This was music made by and for the kinda misfits who never found punk, hardcore, metal or whatever quite enough to satisfy wherever their tastes were transcending. From this period arrived Caspar Brotzmann, son of improv sax player, Peter, with whom he collaborated on the excellent Last Home LP in 1990 (released by Pathological) and from whom he evidently learnt a lot about rendering new and abstract shapes from his own instrument of choice.

Using a guitar, Caspar Brotzmann would freeform into a space previously tormented by the likes of Hendrix or Helios Creed, twisting huge, often psychotic or searing, blankets of dissonance alongside bass and drums themselves spiralling between the atavistic and downright unforgiving. Together, this trio (sometimes aided by Einsturzende Neubauten’s F.M. Einheit) produced a relentless and brutal noise that in lesser hands would have seemed leaden and ordinary. Massaker, however, perhaps had more in common with the likes of Borbetomagus or even Painkiller as they lashed out with steamrollered barbs in every direction, all semblance of melody quickly melted to blend in with the group’s viscuous melee. Heavy and bludgeoning, iwith sparse depresso vocals entering the fray at various junctures, Caspar Brotzmann Massaker were akin to broken power cables spitting sparks uncontrollably during a storm.

Black Axis, the group’s second album, doesn’t once relax from a level introduced with The Tribe LP in 1988, either. Compromise was never part of their agenda and, indeed, it is telling that the group’s work still holds up well now in this respect. Hence this deserving reissue, put out just ahead of the equally wonderful Southern Lord sponsored revisits to both third album Der Abend Der Schwarzen Folklore and Koksofen, originally released in 1992 and 1993, as well. Of these, the penultimate Massaker album, Koksofen, assumes a generally more subdued stance, combining the fiery stance with nightmarish grizzled ‘scapes best exemplified by the lengthy title track, once more compounding just how different the group were to not only most heavier leaning rock artists, but also their peers.

All in all, absolutely stunning works, guaranteed to put more meat on your bones than most other records pertaining to be ‘experimental’ whilst having a somewhat noisier disposition. (RJ) 

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LAN CAO/GREGOR SIEDL/WOLFGANG SEIDEL Optimistic Modernism CD (Moloko+, Germany, 2019)

Tempered percussion, saxophone, guitar, synths and so on form the backbone to these eight collaborative pieces which despote being more generally subdued in nature at least keep the proceeedings enriched with a lot of disparate elements. Fluttering sounds, chirps, gentle clangs, scrapes, swirls and digital farts and squelches ebb in and out of an assortment of unobtrusive tones and shimmering noises to an effect that, as so often with such music, sounds far more interesting than it actually is. I’m all for musicians extracting new sounds from their instruments or sound sources, but only too often the music then generated becomes flat, dry and studious. On third cut, ‘Tarantism’, things threaten to develop more wildly as what sounds like a clarinet begins to freeform, but it’s only too quickly hauled back from the precipice. More of this in the mix would have made a huge difference. (RJ)

www.molokoplusrecords.de

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THE CRAY TWINS In the Company of Architects CD (Fang Bomb, Sweden, 2019)

This UK duo’s second album, as far as I know, constituting of three pieces utilising organs, various electronics, bells, guitar, voices and suchlike to an effect not necessarily surprising as each unfolds into an ocean of tempered shimmers and subtle abstraction, but at least engaging enough to pull the listener into this world for its entire duration. As always with such music, things become more interesting when the drifting tones give way to less expected passages of sound, highlighted here by the last piece, ‘Anarchitects’, whereby Werner Dafeldecker’s guitar provides additional colour and creates neatly banked surges before Jessica Evelyn’s spoken word interlude reminds me somewhat of Contrastate’s own merging of murky ambience and occasional stabs of stark poetry. Nice. (RJ)

www.fangbomb.com

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C.3.3. Ballad of Reading Gaol – The Cacophonietta  CD (Cold Spring Records, 2018)

Test Dept.; an egoless, heavily politicised, metal-bashing collective hatched in mid-eighties Sarf London. after seventeen (1) full-lengthers and the still excellent “Compulsion” 12″….. Then nothing.  I never saw the going of ’em and I don’t even recall any splinter groups forming in their wake. But, miles further down the time line and like a steely bolt from the blue comes Ballad…; the brainchild of one-time TD founder Paul Jamrozy (electronics/vox), who’s aided and abetted by Roz Corrigan on various keyboards and one vintage (?) gramophone.

If you’re wondering about the project’s moniker, C.3.3. was the cell number where literary genius Oscar Wilde was incarcerated under gross indecency charges and was also the pseudonym for the publication of The Ballad of Reading Gaol, which was based on the execution of one of Wilde’s fellow inmates. The curtains open with the superbly evocative tones of ‘Grassy’ Noel Macken’s ‘Prologue’, which guides us into the collection’s four-part centrepiece. ‘Blood and Wine”s oppressive faux orchestral samples merge into the relentless throb and distant earth-moving vibrations of ‘Iron Town’. While the fathom-deep cello-like drone of ‘Gallows Tree’ eventually descends into ‘The Devil’s Own Brigade’; a portal of industrial revolution-referenced hell, where a veritable storm of crackling electricity and curious whiplash sonorities threaten to almost leave the digital confines of the CD and invade your dimension in poltergeist form.  At times, this anvil chorus of pounding/crunching jackhammer rhythms reduces its intensity to allow for more melancholic passages which perfectly convey the daily grind/inhuman treatment meted out by these Victorian places of correction. All in all, Ballad… captures more than enough of that brimstone-infused blood ‘n’ thunder of yesteryear and, irrespective of the long time m.i.a., Paul’s creation can be thought of as a valuable addition to the TD family tree.  (SP)

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DE FABRIEK Made in Spain LP (B.F.E. Records, Spain, 2018)

Originally released in 1986 and including luminaries such as Frans De Waard and Peter Van Vliet in the lineup alongside founder Richard Van Dellen, Made In Spain gathers ten pieces of analogue electronic splurge sewn to primitive hypno-rhythms and crude loops. Still active and very much based on the original concept of a loose collective of ‘workers’ punching in time before starting up their machines, the sound since this album may well have deviated into occasionally more ordinary fare somewhat expected from the comparatively easier digital era, but what comes across here is a kinda sweat-drenched physicality to the exploratory sonics at hand. Flavoured with a dash of the Dadaist maverick, bursting with robust noise and alien oscillations, this reissue pays testament to a period in music where new possibilities were not readymade and seen like an automatic right. A very nice reminder of mostly long gone times. (RJ)

www.bferecords.com

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DOC WOR MIRRAN feat. RE-DRUM & SASCHA STADLMEIER  24.3.16 LP (Attenuation Circuit, Germany, 2017)

This LP arrived was included in a package of several releases from DWM founder Joseph B. Raimond only in late 2018. It collects two lengthy pieces with a post-industrial artist operating under the name Re-DrUm, who seems to be another prolific name on the low-key CDr release circuit, and Stadlmeier, who is otherwise found running the Attenuation Circuit imprint. Over the years I’ve accrued a number of DWM releases and what’s good about them is the fact you never really know what you’re going to get. Although Joseph has delivered all from a kinda rugged avant-rock to music tinged with jazz, he has mostly stuck to producing more electronic or guitar-based grizzled ambient pieces, presumably improvised and all owing much to prime krautrock movers such as early Tangerine Dream and Kluster, since he started in the early ‘80s. It is an area that can often fall flat as it enters the usual zone of dull grey predictability, but Joseph proves himself adept at avoiding such trappings as each of the two pieces (possibly initially one simply divided over the two sides) is rich in contours and enough of a wide-angled range to alleviate the merest hint of stasis. Perfectly driven by some suitably nice ’n’ moody minimal bass guitar, an array of shifting tones, alien bird-like noises, huge rumbles, distant jingling and other such sounds collide and jostle gently with each other before assuming new shapes that ebb like lava streaming from a broken and misshapen cranium. None of the three players dominates, which is precisely how it needs to be in order to make such music breathe. The healthy restraint shown in this otherwise high-reaching search for something new is what makes it. A great album from an artist much overlooked despite the evident compulsion to keep producing work regardless of who listens to it…or who doesn’t listen to it, more to the point. (RJ)

http://www.attenuationcircuit.de

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DOC WOR MIRRAN Alternative Facts LP (Marginal Talent, Germany, 2018)

Resembling a bootleg, this LP arrives in a plain white sleeve with only a couple of A4 inserts furnishing us with clues as to its actual content. Recorded in 2017 at the Provino Club in Augsburg, Germany, four other musicians besides Joseph B. Raimond churn through a set where smoky late night jazz shakes hands with a barrage of keyboard mulch, bass grooves, samples, tapes and the sorta guitar that wouldn’t be out of place in post-rock outfit. Ranging from the plaintive and melodic to heady avant-weirdness, I’m sure this would have been pretty effective in its original setting. The tapes themselves were apparently made by Jello Biafra, Paul Lemos and Conrad Schnitzler, amongst others, possibly shining as much light onto DWM’s areas of interest as the saxophone twirls and blurts in this set. (RJ)

http://www.empty.de/margtalent.htm

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CHIHEI HATAKEYAMA Forgotten Hill CD (Room40, Australia, 2019)

The problem with having a label specialised in one area of music is that one knows how most of the releases will sound without hearing them. Room40, run by Lawrence English, whose own music at least dominates the more interesting ambient spectrum, is dedicated to music by artists charting similar waters. Some of the releases are interesting and/or stand out more than others, but Hatakeyama’s Forgotten Hill, unfortunately, is an album that’s as forgotten as much as the hill the title refers to almost as soon as it’s finished. It’s the sonic equivalent of a kettle being boiled whilst dusting a nearby shelf. I honestly don’t know what this thinks it’s adding to the genre. (RJ)

www.room40.org

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JEAN-PHILIPPE GROSS Reflex CD (Eich, France, 2019)

Thirteen short pieces of garbled digital mulch swaying between uneasy ‘noise’, musique concrete and the kind of territory others might forge a soundtrack for a horror or thriller film from. As nearly always with such music, some of it is borderline annoying and the rest of it is agreeable enough whilst it lasts, but I always end up wondering who the hell would want to return to it after a listen or two. (RJ)

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JEAN-PHILIPPE GROSS Curling CD Mini-Album (Eich, France, 2019)

A short piece lasting less than 23 minutes comprising of ominous drones and other such tempered wheezes set to a location recording of what sounds like the curling tournament of the title. It’s quite effective and assumes many different hues whilst recontextualised like this, but I still can’t help feeling most such music tends to get lost in a vacuum once it’s been listened to a couple of times. I have no idea what the significance is of the curling, too. Is this recording tacked on for its own sake or is there some greater meaning? One thing is for sure: no amount of listens will reveal any answer. Maybe that’s the point? (RJ)

Email: gross.jeanphilippe@gmail.com

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HOWL IN THE TYPEWRITER Manifesto: A Universal Declaration of Independence CD (Pumf, 2018)

The very first time I became aware of Mark Standing’s long-running Howl In The Typewriter was during his stint as bassist, operating under the moniker Stan Batcow, for The Membranes sometime around the  mid-1980s. Since then the project has quite literally gone wherever any given musical whim has taken him, from a kinda cloying psychedelic pop to avant-noise and even techno. Collaborators have come and gone, plus there have been occasional links with fellow Blackpool (affiliated) groups Ceramic Hobs and Smell & Quim, amongst others. The album here, however, itself featuring a considerable cast of musicians, comprises one almost hour-length track that’s apparently taken seven months to put together after a seven year ‘gestation period’ and assumes all kinds of shapes along the way. The main factor binding them all together is various lyrical refrains concerning wanton consumerism and other aspects of modern living related to advertising and so on. Although some of the music is playfully inventive enough, veering as it does between sample-drenched avant-rock/pop (no surprise that Negativland are gleefully credited on the sleeve after one of their own songs has been plundered) and cheesy electronics, the predictable railing against the unnecessary products we’re being told to buy and so on becomes pretty fucking woeful after a short while. The problem facing musicians making such stands is that there’s some kinda assumption at work that the listener isn’t already aware of what’s going on whilst walking around a city or turning on the TV or computer or whatever. Especially the type of listener that might be prepared to pay Howl In The Typewriter any attention. Such commentary falls very close to not only stating the obvious but could easily be construed as patronising and, honestly, beyond the fact Standing may well have felt compelled to let off a little steam about the daily onslaught of hard sales tactics he has to wade through before presumably collapsing into a heap of exasperation, I fail to see any point to it. It’s akin to listening to a self-righteous vegan perpetually bemoaning animal farming methods, which is, quite frankly, guaranteed to do nothing but magnify any abject hatred I have already towards our species (irrespective of how I feel about animal farming methods). (RJ)

www.pumf.net

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I FEEL LIKE A BOMBED OUT CATHEDRAL eponymous CD (Dirter Promotions, 2019)

Two lengthy pieces from Amaury Cambuzat of Ulan Bator, Faust and various other solo incarnations. His own musical field of interest is pretty broad, so it’s not easy to predict how any one of his releases will be. Always a good thing, of course, and before I was handed a copy of this by Steve of Dirter the only thing I had to go on was his own gushing over how he was so impressed by the music he felt compelled to release it. He gave no indication as to the minimalism/drone-led music in store, nor indeed to the fact that, if anything, this album owed something to the Faust & Tony Conrad approach to such matters rather than more recent nods in this direction. With his guitar often sounding akin to several organs glimmering away over the sound of a hearbeat, these two pieces hypnotically stretch out and unfurl exactly as one would anticipate from a master of his craft. Utterly spellbinding, these add up to something quite extraordinary, proving once again that this language still has much to express. (RJ)

www.dirterpromotions.com

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JACINTHEBOX Incomplete 1984/86 LP (Supreme Tool Supplies, NL, 2018)

Gathering ten cuts previously issued between 1984 and 1986 on various low-key cassettes, some of which were compilations dedicated to post-punk/industrial offerings from Jacinthebox’s native The Netherlands, this collection is a rough ’n’ ready tumble into lo-fi electronics, barely played guitar spasms, muffled distorto vocals, piercing snatches of feedback and a drum machine apparently kept to the most basic of settings. At one point, what sounds like a tuneless recorder enters the fray, but it might be a guitar and as whatever it is struggles to create vaguely melodic shapes the entire track makes way for the next track’s full-on bludgeoning of chiselled hiss, static white noise and what may well have originally been intended to give early Consumer Electronics a run for their money. Jacques Van Bussel’s musical passions may well be evident here, but the sheer force of the often relentless pummel caught in the tornado whirl of untamed primal howl renders this a mighty document of early DIY music in its rawest of forms. Limited to 150 with a pasted-on piece of artwork to an otherwise plain white sleeve perfectly capturing the mood. This is the real deal. (RJ)

www.antenne-tilburg.nl

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ALINA KALANCEA The 5th Apple CD (Storung Records, Germany, 2018)

Romanian-born sound artist Alina Kalancea’s beginnings in electronic composition approximately began seven years back and that interim period saw her dipping her toes into different sub-genres of the digital/analogue worlds, in order to hone an individual voice for live and studio situations. Not too easy a task to steer a way through the ever-heaving throng in the avant rockpile, all anxious for their day in the sun. But… that vast yellow orb really doesn’t get a look-in with ..Apple. That black sleeve art with a grainy partial portrait of the artist in question (?) supports a compositional frame of mind where natural light is phased out in favour of all things crepuscular, with dimly-lit, yet telling contributions from cellist/arranger Julia Kent, Raven Bush and co-writer/Storung label boss Alex Gamez.

The opening spoken-word piece ‘Imbalance2’ immediately sets out its stall. “The more we give, the less we have, imbalance is the only privilege we have…”. The insidious, whispering tones hovering over analogue burble, reminiscent of Robert Moog’s early tinkering. Other poems/recitations like ‘Fears’ and ‘Devil’s Lullaby’ seem to mine the same chin-on-floor despondency and come sandwiched between atmospheric instro pieces, leaning heavily on the blackened drone option.

All in all, a lack of tonal colour, unfortunately, seems to be this releases’ Achilles heel. Unless of course, the intention was to construct a suite of compositions where only one mood was dominant? However, there is light at the end of the self-imposed tunnel, in the shape of ‘Poisonous Girl’. This being the most successful venture by far; its partly sung/partly spoken delivery and its Kentian cello score recalling certain sections of Helen Money’s ‘Become Zero’ elpee on Thrill Jockey. A golden ticket out for sure, which hopefully means that those character traits will transfer themselves to A.K.’s future projects.  (SP)

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MIDNIGHT MINES Create Disturbance in Your Head 2CD (Independent Woman Records, New Zealand, 2019)

A collection of sprawling garage-bound lo-fi rock skree of the kind that quite literally throws up recognisable shapes here and there but ultimately delivers like an obsidian crack to the skull worth submitting to. Could swear I even heard a Dead Kennedys riff buried in there, plus some direct nods to early Ramleh, never mind some Dead C., but such reference points aren’t to be scoffed at here. This London duo’s approach to sound-blasting is fully immersive, heady and imbued with just enough weird ’n’ wonderful contours to keep everything snagged between portentous black clouds and some kinda primal yet joyful dance beneath ‘em. Ultimately, you’re left feeling confident that this music is in good hands. (RJ)

Email: independentwomanrecords@gmail.com

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HENRIK MENKEBY NORSTEBA/DANIEL LERCHER/JULIE ROKSETH Off the Coast CD (Sofa, Norway, 2019)

Four pieces composed from clarinets, harp, trombone, piano, electronics, field recordings and voice that, as is typical of so much contemporary music from Norway now, has an entirely modernist presence whereby most of the sounds assume abstract shapes. The vocals counter this with their folkish, sea shanty-ish air, but largely these pieces sound as moody and unpredictable as the very sea the album’s title is suggestive of. (RJ)

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NO TREND You Deserve Your Life LP (Digital Regress, USA, 2018)

Great archive collection of songs from the perfect antithesis to so much of the absolute garbage that came outta the US hardcore punk scene. No Trend always delivered on the early punk promise of not playing the game and, well, spitting directly into the face of all expectations. Nihilistic, misanthropic and so punk their music was more ‘anti-punk’ than much else, No Trend never deviated from the biting attitude encapsulated by their name. With titles like ‘Cancer’, ‘Human Garbage’ and ‘Mass Sterilization’ matching a tumbling razor-lined barrel of primal yet seething art-primed rock tumult, the contempt here always at least sounded convincing enough to give everything else a well deserved electric jolt to the temples. Had it not been for co-founder Frank Price’s suicide in 1984 I’m sure these could’ve gone on to even greater things than all the songs they left behind, which itself remains worth thrusting into the ears of anybody whose brain has been mashed by too much Rollins or whatever. This LP is on transparent vinyl and includes an insert with sleevenotes by drummer Michael Salkind. Of course you need it. (RJ)

https://digitalregress.com

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P*I*G The 2255 CDR (Jakub-Monika Lampart, self-released, 2018)

A self-released gathering of ten songs that draw from folk, industrial and electronic music. When not delivered like, I dunno, some Death In June demos or something, there are some other ideas afoot here that promise better things, such as ‘Ecstasy’, with its jerkily danceable rhythmic hold and melodic lilt. Elsewhere, abstract sounds pulsate away and could equally assume a stronger position given the chance. Clearly, there are some interesting approaches blended together, but it’s the mutant dance stand also witnessed on ‘A Sex Issue’ that feels like it could reach the furthest. (RJ)

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PREENING ‘Greasetrap Frisbee’ 7” (Ever/Never, USA. 2019)

Four potent melds of deep-tone sax skronk, ox-strength angular rhythm pound and blazing grease gun tumult with low-slung vocals shouted like dinner’s ready to those in the next room. It’s a juicy enough noise even if it does make me think of Flipper or No Trend warming up. (RJ)

Email: evernever.records@gmail.com

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JORG PRINGER Darkvoice CD (Transacoustic Research, Austria, 2019)

Surprisingly rhythmic collection of pieces by an artist predominantly using his voice as a foundation from which to construct a patchwork of abstract sounds into something more direct. Unlike, say, the work of Jaap Blonk or Harry Partch, however, there’s little here to indicate the source. All semblance of the sound poetry from which Pringer’s work is undeniably a part of is mulched into the kind of music the likes of Autechre have carried off so well. Textural blocks of noise, polyrhythms, woven threads of ravaged gush and the like all converge to create the soundtrack to a damp basement room of a club most people would prefer to steer clear of. If thus inclined, that can be read as a recommendation. (RJ)

www.transacoustic-research.com

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PROPAN Trending CD (Sofa, Norway, 2019)

The second album by Norwegian vocalists Ina Sagstuen and Natali Garner, who improvise together using both their voices and an array of effects that lend their approach a stark otherworldly quality at once psychedelic and full of intrigue. Mostly more subdued and atmospheric, with an almost eerie dimension at work, cuts such as ’Smack on the Back’ counter this completely with a tendency towards heaving pulses teased along by more abstract shapes apparently poised for several directions at any given moment. Typical of so much Scandinavian music, there’s a folkish slant to some of the pieces which instantly conjures images of dark, ice cold forests and isolated log cabins, but next to the heady mix of post-traumatic comedown tremors and waking nightmare feel of most else here it makes perfect sense. Not for everybody, I’m absolutely certain, but I can imagine this music excelling live especially. (RJ)

www.sofamusic.no

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ANNA SCHIMKAT Spinhouse CASSETTE (Fragment Factory, Germany, 2018)

Not familiar with Schimkat’s work before, but this doubtlessly small run cassette represents her latest work in several years of blurring the boundaries between sound poetry, abstract electronics and drone music. It has two side long pieces that are respectively based on the recordings generated by an office building in Dresden and an installation. Both proffer a series of digital coughs and splutters teased hrough an absorbing mesh of deep sounds and molten noise that at least presents room to further explore. (RJ)

www.fragmentfactory.com

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SMALL CRUEL PARTY Resin, Parched, Chthonic LP (Ferns Recordings, France, 2018)

Highly absorbing reissue of an album that originally appeared as a now typically much sought after and collectable cassette in 1991. Four tracks meshing together fantastic high voltage electronics of a mildly dissonant and abstract nature not unlike the hums to be found searing through the dank basement of a power station cranked to the max. Occasionally, more machine-like rumbles, distant crashes and more subdued approaches take hold, but everything ultimately sits together as well as anything expected from, say, prime period Zoviet France or Nurse With Wound. A solid album hard not to fall into completely. (RJ)

Email: fernsrecordings@free.fr

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STANDING WAVES The Wave CD (self-released, 2019)

Seven collaborative compositions by Marcus Davidson, already known for his work with Chris Watson and Philip Jeck, and classical violinist Roger Huckle that merge the music of the eastern and western hemispheres. Following the first one, ‘Tabla Dance’, a heady and rousing number one can imagine many letting their feet respond wildly to, ‘Elegy’ is rather more restrained and polite as it veers away from the folkish nature towards a chamber piece a little out of place as the rest of the album unfolds to reveal an approach generally more in keeping with the opener. Fourth cut ‘Hildegard’s Dream’ includes a powerful and mesmerising vocal performance from Kat Kleve, whilst ‘The Wave – Part 1’ throws in vocalisations from Jayson Stilwell and assumes a more sober posture without losing the eastern elements that buoy almost everything else so well. The second part of the title track is more spirited despite a slightly sorrowful air hanging over the proceedings you can still imagine being jigged to, then the final, wonderfully titled, ’Sky of Consciousness’ brings everything to a close on the kind of atmospheric high note commanding further returns to this fray. Although not quite as subtly envelope-pushing as, say, Michel Banabila’s own dabbling with such areas, this delivers like it would be great in its original setting with films from Kam Wan and the European Space Agency accompanying it. (RJ)

www.standingwavesconcert.com

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OYVIND TORVUND The Exotica Album (Hubro, Norway, 2019)

The idea behind this Norwegian composer’s latest album was to blend the kinda schmaltzy exotica or lounge approach of certain ’50s soundtracks (think cheesy romantic comedy or Disney rather than film noir, horror or sci-fi) with a somewhat more contemporary abstract one. As such, what comes across mostly like music perfect for cocktails in a retro bar is sometimes given to jazzy strides and avant-garde embellishments that do little to detract from the main course. With an orchestra aiding the proceedings the ten compositions deliver playfully akin to Boulez trying to score cosmic music for Bugs Bunny or something. Mostly saccharin in nature, this clearly won’t be for everybody, but there’s no denying how adept Torvund is in attempting something away from the norm that reconfigures a realm of music itself still capable of surprise. (RJ)

www.hubromusic.com

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KASPER SKULLERUD VAERNES & ANDREAS WILDHAGEN Troposgrafien CD (Nakama, Norway, 2019)

More Scandinavian free jazz, this time with Wildhagen’s drums holding Vaernes’ saxophones just about in place as notes cascade and fill the space like Pharaoh Sanders never existed. It’s good, though. There’s everything one wants from such music in terms of great chemistry underpinning a fluidity embracing dynamics and swells that threaten to explode into higher states of intensity. Personally, I prefer it when the music assumes a more volcanic stance, but appreciate even the best of ‘em have to breathe. Mighty stuff. (RJ)

www.nakamarecords.no

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THE TELESCOPES Stone Tape CD (Cold Spring, 2019)

Like many groups, The Telescopes kinda passed me by, even though I was aware of them around the time of their inception during the late ’80s. I presumed they were another of those groups like Birdland, whose music I likewise never heard but made me feel like I probably had regardless. Anything deemed ‘indie’ at the time, and ever since, has largely left me cold. From what I understand of The Telescopes, however, is that they’ve always been steered by songwriter Stephen Lawrie, an artist whose work straddles those spheres where psychedelia, guitar noise and a broadly downbeat aura collide in comfortable enough fashion. On Stone Tape,  itself a reissue of an LP originally released in 2017, the seven cuts gently meander through foggy drifts of carefully controlled guitar abandonment, contemplative vocals and a slow-mo approach to the rhythms that lend everything a tug into a steady head-nodding zone at once atmospheric, insular and ruffled occasionally by a slight detour into unexpected sounds and ideas. I’m reminded at times of a more scuffed and generally ruffled Bowery Electric, where the nods to the Velvets and Stooges are still pulsing at the heart but have been moulded into something entirely new and contemporary. It’s a good mix and I’m now looking forward to exploring the back catalogue. Sometimes, we make oversights and mistakes as we explore music. As entry points go, this is absolutely solid. Honestly cannot wait. (RJ)

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THE TOUCHABLES The Noise Is Rest CD (Conrad Sound, Norway, 2019)

Eight collaborative improvisations by Guro Skumsnes Moe (octobass) and Ole-Henrik Moe (piccoletto violin), two Norwegians I have no idea whether or not are related who are given to deploying their instruments to create long, drawn-out tones in the key of E doubtlessly somewhat inspired by the works of Tony Conrad, if the name of their own imprint is anything to go on. Ole-Henrik Moe once studied under Iannis Xenakis, though, so it’s little wonder he wanted to do something a little removed from the machinations of the chamber orchestra both he and Guro are generally a part of. These pieces rasp and scrape as they jostle into a setting that’s far from easy listening but no less compelling for it, proving once again that the lines in modern music between primal noise, textural sounds and academia can be as indistinct as ever. (RJ)

www.conradsound.com

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WABI EXPERIENCE eponymous CD (Mikroton Recordings, Russia, 2019)

“No musical instruments were used” proclaims the inside cover blurb of this debut album by Jara Tarnovski and Tomas Prochazka, as though it were a major feat in today’s world of software-driven music. Then, as if to help compound their presumably proud statement, they produce the kinda gnarled and grizzled digital spew that mostly appears convoluted and shapeless until some rhythmic robot groans and occasional fluttering sounds permeate the proceedings. Only on final cut, ‘Still Burning II’, do things become slightly more interesting as some folkish melodies merge with the abstract mulch to an effect considerable enough to further explore. Outside this, everything’s just a little too close to the science lab to wholly engage, really. (RJ)

www.mikroton.net

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DU YUN / INTERNATIONAL CONTEMPORARY ENSEMBLE Dinosaur Scar CD (Tundra, USA, 2018)

Ten compositions by Du Yun with ICE, an orchestra she has known and worked with for so many years now they can be considered good friends. Dramatic and tense, the works pull in several directions (sometimes even at the same time) and create a setting that’s not designed to feel too cosy in. I’m reminded here and there of some of Penderecki’s compositions, but unlike those there’s at least a little more breathing space between each of the powerful swells of strings and various wind instruments. Du Yun herself sometimes adds beguiling poetry, piano, toy kazoo or electronics, enmeshing everything with even greater depth as it courses between the darkly sombre and the almost unforgiving of jagged avant-garde atmospherics. (RJ)

NB: Tundra c/o New Focus Recordings, USA

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INGAR ZACH Floating Layer Cake CD (Sofa, Norway, 2019)

Ingar is the co-founder of Norway’s Sofa imprint, which is mostly given to documenting regional artists caught in the spheres of improvisation, electroacoustic, avant-garde, modern classical and folk music. For many years he has also been an artist in his own right, taking his interest in percussion as far as possible into realms where the basic source is no longer recognisable as different treatments are deployed in order to explore different possibilities. This is hardly a new premise in and of itself, of course, but what determines whether or not such music works or not is, as usual, both what’s behind it and whatever’s expressed by the given means at hand. This is to my knowledge the first work I’ve heard of Ingar’s. It comprises of two pieces, the first of which is a collaboration with Canadian string quartet Quatuor, guitarist Kim Myhr and poet Caroline Bergvall and is essentially the expansion of a composition originally of Myhr’s which traverses the atmospheric and dramatic. Building up from a lake of hums and sparse percussion it eases into a rich and haunting domain where the string quartet keep things to an effective minimum and the voice, a presence also evenly paced, makes for a mesmerising accompaniment before the final section’s hypnotic knitting of rhythmic strums and evocative melodies. Of the two pieces this is perhaps the most rewarding. The second piece is entirely solo and melds choppy electronics to drawn-out scrapes, tones, shimmering drones and bowed sounds of the kind Eddie Prevost cut his teeth on. This is also tantalising enough but in spite of the conviction perhaps comes over a little too parched, as though it would have benefitted from another musician or instrument to play off. All the same, Floating Layer Cake underlines Ingar’s work boldly enough to warrant delving deeper. (RJ)

www.sofamusic.no

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VARIOUS ARTISTS Troum Transformation Tapes: The 20th Anniversary Celebration (1997 – 2017) 2CD (Transgradient Records, Germany, 2018)

The German duo Troum have now been going for well over two decades yet, despite numerous releases having appeared over this course, barely once betrayed their original position as purveyors of work mostly of the atmospheric drone persuasion first established by Lustmord. Of course, they do his very well and could even be deemed amongst the very best in terms of contemporary artists dedicated to such music, but whenever I hear any one of their albums I have to ‘fess to wondering just how much of their music most people actually need as so much of it is fairly derivative. Maybe I’m missing the point, but there’s little in the way of surprises here. Unlike, say, Contrastate, whose own music can assume all manner of different guises, drawing from folk, noise, modern classical and the avant-garde, as it likewise remains heavily committed to the realm of delphic atmospheric textures, Troum, like so many of their peers, are comparatively one-dimensional. Their best work, actually, has been the collaborations with Eyeless In Gaza’s Martyn Bates, snared on the 2006 album, To a Child Dancing in the Wind, which itself is elevated several notches by the combination of his fantastic vocals and melodica playing embellishing proceedings. Although Troum have collaborated with others, such as the similarly dispositioned Yen Pox and the stretched-out pools of heavy guitar dissonance of Aidan Baker and Nadja, the setting created by that with Martyn is perfect for their broadly different approaches. It is here that Troum excel as their gift for creating strong and often unsettled dreamlike ripples of immersive sound is afforded the opportunity to be re-contextualised and applied new meaning. As noted, they are very good with what they do, but (for me, at least) the overall approach is simply too repetitive.

On this 2CD, however, selections from their vast back catalogue are picked away at and reworked by an array of international artists mostly stalking similar spheres, such as Inade, Raison d’etre, Dual, [multer], Bad Sector, Ure Thrall and the like. Contrastate themselves also have a track included, plus there’s a song featuring Martyn Bates once again, but everything mostly falls into the twilight ambient setting of both the original work and, indeed, the scope of these artists. Now and again, rhythms or beats are deployed that suggest the moodier end of the dancefloor, but once again the highlight for me here is the song with Martyn, ‘An Untitled Protest’. Troum would really benefit from more such collaborations.

Beyond this, this collection might well serve as a reasonable enough entry point to such music, and for all my own criticisms I can only once again underline the fact anything concerning Troum is a great place to start. (RJ)

Email: troum@dronerecords.de

 

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