Reviews 2017

The following reviews stem from a combination of some of the items we received during 2017 and others originally destined to be published in the physical magazine, which continues to be delayed due to a lack of time (please see news elsewhere regarding this)…

If anybody is wishing to join the panel of reviewers at Adverse Effect,  please get in touch with a publishable example of a recent-ish release that adheres to the criteria concerning our reviews with respect to the label, year, format and website or contact address. It must be a physical release because this is what we specialise in and it must arrive from those areas of music we are concerned with (post-punk, post-industrial, electronics, electro-acoustic, improv, ‘noise’, avant-garde, modern classical, free jazz, etc.). Likewise, AE remains open to reviews of books, films and fanzines, etc. Of course, there are a few people involved already but there’s certainly room at this stage for a couple of others. If interested and then accepted, you will receive the occasional package of CDs, etc. received here to review. The aim right now is to expand on Adverse Effect and hopefully make it more effective. Other article submissions (interviews, overviews, etc.) are also welcome, but please note that nothing unsolicited will be published. Get in touch first if you think you have something you might like to include here. Thanks.
Also, of course, thanks to the labels/artists who continue to send in material. If you have something you would like reviewed, please send to the usual address:
ul. Wilenska 5/70
31-413 Krakow
Poland
Richo
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Reviews by Richo Johnson, Kate Macdonald, Steve Pescott and Thomas Shrubsole
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PETER ABLINGER Augmented Study CD (Sacred Realism, USA, 2015)

One lengthy composition spanning over an hour featuring 16 heavily processed violins stretched beyond all semblance of their original form to sound like a swarm of bees doing Metal Machine Music. It’s effective but I cannot help but feel it’d have been far more so if kept to about a third of the length. As usual with such music I don’t know what it’s trying to say that hasn’t perhaps already been said. According to the notes inside the cover, this version of a study originally made by Ablinger before was “never intended as a work to be performed live in concert.” A pity as I think it’s in precisely this realm it’d really come into its own. (RJ)

www.sacredrealism.org

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 ALLES Culture CD (Antena Krzyku, Poland, 2016)
Second album from this Lodz-based duo with a contemporary take on EBM and electro crossover that’s embellished by distorto vocals owing more to punk and industrial music than anything else. Threaded throughout is a melodic slant giving rise to a more cinematic nature, but Culture largely sounds like a heady mix of anger, discontentment and dancefloor shockwaves aiming straight for those who’d doubtlessly deny enjoying such indulgences usually. (RJ)
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AMP Q Factors (A Mixtape) CD (Ampbase.net, 2017)
Collecting ten mixes of Amp material recorded between 2000 and 2017, Q Factors may not necessarily hint at an overly prolific period for this London-based duo who last appeared on (physical) record nine years ago, but at least goes some way towards illustrating they didn’t disappear completely into hibernation. Anybody familiar with Amp will know they once formed an integral part of the landscape that blurred the lines between post-rock, shimmering atmospherics, drone-rock and even ventures through more abstract divergences. The fact they were proudly housed by US label Kranky back in the late 1990s doubtlessly says much about where their foundations lay. Since then, however, they’ve been through several labels before going the same way as many others and having decided to keep things in-house with their own label. It’s the future for many artists now, especially if fortunate enough to have decent distribution and time spare enough to deal with sundry related matters. What about the music, however? Opening with a comparatively mad and frenetic ‘Drowning Mind’, mixed by longterm collaborator Marc Challans, you could be forgiven for noticing a knowing nod towards former bedfellows Third Eye Foundation, but the following couple of cuts slide through more familiar fare, melding cushioned beats with ambient tones and Karine’s often hushed or gentle vocals. Jazz piano chords and some weighing in with subdued drum ‘n’ bass embellish proceedings and although it’s all a bit ’90s it’s a neat example of rock music sliding into the chill-zone.
 Fourth song, ‘Loveflower’, mixed by the usually more experimental Amp side project, Amp Studio, takes on some tempered post-industrial sounds before evolving into the kinda magical pop the group are known for. This later intensifies and splices some carefully controlled noise, proving itself to be a highlight I’m sure would benefit greatly from being blasted over a PA in a huge space. I’m sure it’d sound amazing live, too. Further blending of stuttering rhythms, tonal glaze, shimmering hues and buried vocals constitutes the majority of the other tracks, sometimes recalling Cocteau Twins, but what makes Amp stand out is the little detours to more abstract realms. Always a presence anyway, these especially take hold on another Amp Studio mix, ‘Push ‘n’ Hold’, itself setting the bar for great ways forward, and the haunting ‘When & Where’, mixed by Jon Attwood’s Yellow6 project.
 ‘Ombres Sur La Lune’, by Ladder to Royale, serves a rather sedate, tho’ no less hazy, ending to the album, once again proving that for a group noted for a certain palette in their approach to music, Amp are graced with a lot of movement within it that sometimes bursts out of the seams. Next to their absence of recent years, this collection shows that all the components that drive them are far from diminished. (RJ)
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AIDAN BAKER The Sea Swells a Bit CD (Ici D’Ailleurs, France, 2015)

Four lengthy neo-ambient pieces form this album and surprisingly, at least going by the few Aidan Baker releases I have, take us into the territory between coffee shop muzak and that tailored for hipster bars., The hints of menace have gone, unfortunately. The sea should have swelled enough to wash this one away, methinks. (RJ)

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BANABILA & MACHINEFABRIEK Error Log CD (Tapu, NL, 2015)

There’s always a feeling of awkwardness attached to being given a new release by a friend whose music doesn’t always hit the spot, Almost every time I meet Dutch electronics composer Michel Banabila (several times a year usually as his wife is from Krakow and they find themselves returning to this wonderful city on a regular basis), I’m handed another CD by him and reminded of those awkward moments that so often run concomitant with this situation. Thankfully, his music doesn’t fall into this trap, though, and I’d argue that his last few releases, including two collaborative albums with viola player, Oene Van Geel, Music for Viola and Electronics I and II, have paid witness to something of a new plateau having been reached in the development of his work. Maybe he excels more in a collaborative setting, anyway? I’m not really sure, since the solo output from the last few years has likewise seen him forage soundworlds that are more honed and fully realised. After having originally cut his teeth on music that mapped styles from the Middle East and Asia with contemporary electronics, Banabila’s music has largely moved away from this during the past decade or more, emphasising more significantly an interest in field recordings, mutated electronic textures and occasional beats. Sometimes, his earlier penchant for more worldly sketches still get blended into the fray but, mostly, he’s been chipping away at his own vision of modern electronic compositions and is deserving far more recognition for this than he generally receives. Error Log is his second collaboration with Machinefabriek, and contains three neatly hewn pieces clocking at about 30 minutes total duration. Akin to much of Machinefabriek’s work, a kinda charged atmosphere runs throughout, but it’s less a gentle soaking and more restless, with even the odd sojourn into a rough and angular approach rearing up that I suspect is more Banabila’s input.

 If you’ve not yet heard anything by Michel Banabila, it might well be time to redress the balance. And I say this not because he’s a friend but because I also believe his music genuinely is worthwhile and doesn’t compromise me into being in the least bit diplomatic.Error Log makes for a good starting point and is doubtlessly as limited as most CDs these days. You know what to do. (RJ)

www.banabila.com

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BAND ANE Anish Music V LP (Clang, Denmark, 2016)
The latest release from this Danish female solo artist collects three pieces spanning just 20 minutes or so that glide through Eno-esque territory sometimes bordering perhaps too closely with a new age-y sensibility hard to swallow. For all the Pete Namlook-ish leanings, however, there’s a personal stamp that especially shines through when Ane is adding vocals. This elevates things somewhat and the countless others operating in this sphere could certainly learn from it. Pity they only make a brief appearance as her voice is very effective. (RJ)
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BETTER OFF DEAD Cracked 7” e.p. (213 Recordings + others, France, 2015)

Four-tracks of sprightly if rather pedestrian punk that reminds me of The Adverts and Penetration with its female vocals and ‘old school’ sound. At the risk of being every bit the old fart that I am these days, I really don’t understand what gets into any group simply subscribing to any ‘rentapunk’ sound. For all intents and purposes this might as well be a covers group. (RJ)

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SINDRE BJERGA/MICROMELANCOLIE Invisible Paths CD (Zoharum, Poland, 2015)

This is not the first time Norway’s Sindre Bjerga and Poland’s Robert Skrznski have collaborated. During recent years, they have worked together and can be found on a few other releases, including another album recorded for Poland’s Monotype in 2014. Invisible Paths sees them offering two lengthy pieces, however, which chomp their way through a fog bristling with tiny sound shards, lost voices and nascent discomfort. At one point, it sounds like the very same plumes drift over a workshop where some serious drilling is given the ‘crackling record’ treatment Gas always did. Things become hazier and less unsettled from here, but the moving between shades is perfectly agreeable regardless.(RJ)

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BLOOD TUB ORCHESTRA The Seven Curses of the Music Hall CD (Phono Erotic, 2017)

Although certain other elements are sometimes drawn into the melee, including a smattering of country twang or rock solid stomping on certain tracks, The Seven Curses… 
largely amounts to punked-up music hall originals generally otherwise long forgotten. Boozy, cheery, lewd and often played, apparently, for comedy purposes, the songs here are at least imbued with a sense of something deeper and at times can be both powerful and intoxicating. When considering artists/groups equally indebted to music hall, it’s easy to automatically conjure names such as Ian Dury & the Blockheads and Madness, tho’ at the same time you cannot help but feel Chas ‘n’ Dave’s presence isn’t so far away either. Chumbawumba and The Cardiacs also spring to mind as a cheap reference point to some of these songs but, ultimately, whether or not you’ll enjoy this album rests on your tolerance of music hall. An interesting concept, if one guaranteed to divide listeners. (RJ)
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CELER & MACHINEFABRIEK Compendium CD (Irrational Arts, 2015)

If I have a problem with Machinefabriek (or related) releases it’s in that there are simply too many of them and the sound foraged in each is largely the same. It’s a pleasant enough one, but I’m just not convinced I personally need it spread over umpteen albums. Having established this, I have to admit the seven collaborative cuts here with Will Long’s ambient platform work very well, evolving as they do through some measured and hazy electronic timbres occasionally punctuated by the patter of distant noises or rhythmic hush. Everything hangs nicely together and is underpinned to enough movement to keep those more tedious waters at bay when it comes to such music. Three remixes are also included, by Sylvain Chauvau, Nicolas Bernier and Stephan Matthieu, who’re artists themselves given to finding their voices in that terrain between musique concrete, glitchwork, environmental sounds and related medium. I’m not sure they add much, to be frank, but their pieces are at least warm and inviting. All in all, Compendium is a freshly washed duvet of a listen. Snug and possibly even as good as those early Biosphere albums anybody with an interest in decent contemporary ambient music already ought to own. (RJ)

www.irrational-arts.co.uk

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SYLVAN CHAUVEAU & ENSEMBLE NOCTURNE Down to the Bone: An Acoustic Tribute to Depeche Mode LP (Ici D’Ailleurs, France, 2015)

A tenth anniversary reissue of this album whereby eleven Depeche Mode songs are reduced to the level of sounding akin to a Coldplay demo. Never been a DM fan myself, but think they deserve better than this. Terrible. (RJ)

http://www.icidailleurs.com

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RYAN CHOI Three Dancers CD (Accretions, USA, 2016)
Three ukulele-led instrumentals by a Hawaiian improviser fleshing out his works with percussion and subtle electronics. Each of them is fairly buoyant and, maybe as expected, organic in nature, tho’ the fact that Choi is classically trained probably accounts for much of the restraint they’re rendered with. As a vivid testament to his obvious ability, Three Dancers is more than fine, but it’d be good to hear his ideas and skill smashed into the framework of a setting furnished by other players. In the meantime, these pieces, recalling dimly John Fahey’s approach to stratospheric note-bending, make for a pleasing introduction to an artist I’d like to think we’ll hear more of. (RJ)
Contact: sounds@accretions.com        www.accretions.com
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LAURENCE CRANE / ASAMISIMASA Sound of Horse CD (Hubro, Norway, 2016)
Wonderful collection of works by a contemporary composer who has been steadily gaining recognition during recent years. On Sound of Horse he collaborates with Norwegian ensemble Asamisimasa on several pieces so delicately orchestrated they assume an almost ambient disposition. Spacious piano, fluttering melodies, soft-hued organ and serene guitar lines conjoin equally pleasant cello, vibraphone, clarinet and voice, each of them used sparingly from the school where less is more and understatement proves itself a more powerful mechanism for expression than anything beyond. Only on the fourth part of the title composition, appropriately subtitled ‘Loud and Rough’, do the proceedings at least for a couple of minutes or so become slightly more dramatic. Outside both this and some more frenetic guitar interludes in the fifth part of the same piece, ‘Very Plain’, Sound of Horse’ is a calm affair both vibrant in its refinement and healthily restrained in its panoramic grasp of sound. Something entirely magical is afoot here which needs celebrating. (RJ)
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ERLAND DAHLEN Blossom Bells CD (Hubro, Norway, 2015)

Blossom Bells is the second solo release by this Norwegian jazz percussionist in a few years. Otherwise known for his involvement in Batagraf, Madrugada and the Sonic Codex Orchestra, Dahlen is a highly adept artist who can sway from more exploratory or avant-garde realms to something resembling epic post-rock only too easily. This album, whilst sometimes across like a showcase for a man who can probably fill the seat for any such band (and more besides), is rich with ideas that spill over like a fantastic soundtrack for the most part. For all of the steps towards a more pedestrian approach evident here, the carefully interwoven details and willfully playful and boundary-defying sensibilities render this a fine listen strongly beckoning repeat plays. Always a fine thing. (RJ)

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 DEISON/MAURIZIO BIANCHI  Black Panorama CD (FinalMuzik, Italy, 2015)

Another page turns in the annals of legendary sound brutalist/first wave industrialist Maurizio Bianchi. Now well into his second wind since that longstanding radio silence, we’ve seen a near purple patch littered with a substantial wedge of solo ventures and alliances with kindred spirits such as Cria Cuervos and Paolino Conzoneri involved in a kinda sorcerer’s apprentice role to the shadowy Mr. B’s conjurations. Though the billing in this particular case might just point to an occasional role reversal (?).

Black Panorama comes as a shared disc with Deison (a.k.a. C. Deison), who’s a veteran circuitry manipulator of two decades standing, with over thirty releases to his name, including collaborations with Lasse Marhaug and Macronympha amongst other notables… With the now de rigeur sombre sleeve art, the accompanying half dozen pieces, culled from the M. B. archives, were, perversely cut (w/ further embellishments), during the summer of 2013. But as anyone who is au fait with Maurizio’s game plan will attest, the listener will be faced with a descent into a cold world of stifling darkness populated with imposing monolithic constructs. The unforgiving drones of ‘Cavernous Blackness’, occasionally mirroring the user-unfriendly passages of T.G.’s ‘In the Shadow of the Sun’ and the ersatz harmonium wheeze and insect stridulation of ‘Inert Darkness’ surely confirm this. Though ‘Glimmering Twilight’ might suggest an atom or two of optimism and hope, its seismic rumblings and steel on steel sonorities form the body electric of the most uncompromisingly powerful piece on show and, of course, the title reveals itself to be a cruel joke at the expense of anyone within earshot, myself included, naturally. (SP)

 www.finalmuzik.com

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DIETER MUH Live at Gangeviertel 3” CDr (Sound Holes, 2015)

Steve Cammack’s Dieter Muh has been assembling a neat mix of garbled electronics, field recordings, collaged noise and frayed loops for a number of years now, following his work with Lincoln’s industrial duo Ideas Beyond Filth. This ultra-limited CDr (20 only!) documents a 22+ minutes live recording of organic and rich textures, sometimes soft and at other times more intense, only giving way to voices sometimes emerging from the morass. Highly effective and engrossing, it illustrates only too well how adept Cammack is at this particular game. Very nice. (RJ)

Email: soundholes@sndhls.com

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DIETER MUH Hanging the Blind Dog CASSETTE (Hanson Records, USA, 2015)

Another goodie from Steve Carmack’s ongoing project, this time offering one piece per side which splices together molten electronics, snippets of dialogue and at one point even an all-encompassing drone poised to drench the listener in glorious sound. The more I hear his work, the more I’d like to see him live. Stunning work. (RJ)

Email: dilloway@hansonrecords.net 

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DIETER MUH Feeling a Little Horse CD (EE Tapes, Belgium, 2016)

Considering the fact that the first time this album was ‘available’, back in 1998, it was courtesy of a CDr released by the short-lived Mouth label in an edition of 15 copies, this reissue is more than justified. Catching a lengthy live recording spanning over 35 minutes by the duo of founder Steve Cammack and Dave Uden, there’s an alluring array of squelchy or hissing electronics here vaguely recalling  H30 before being escorted through perhaps moodier terrain. Rhythmic pulses and heavily distilled voices keep everything tacked into place whilst moonlit tidal tones and firmly harnessed stabs and rumbles eventually converge with the voices and build up to something poised to consume everything in their way. Powerful, mesmerising and with an insert proudly proclaiming these gents recorded this with “no overdubs, no tarting about” it is only too apparent they know their game. The disc also features three shorter bonus cuts, previously issued by EE Tapes on a couple of CDr compilations, from around the same period that serve as perfect accompaniment. Packaged in typical EE ‘7″ single’ style sleeve, too. Pisses on most such artists prone to “tarting about” in the studio, that’s for sure. (RJ)

http://www.eetapes.be/

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HEXA Factory Photographs LP (Room 40, Australia, 2016)

Originally commissioned for David Lynch’s ‘Between Two Worlds’ exhibition in 2015, these ten pieces by the Australian duo of Lawrence English and Jamie Stewart glide stealthily between ominous rumble-driven fog crunchers and other such post-industrial gestures. With much emphasis on rhythmic textures and dramatic atmosphere, it isn’t difficult to see how these sounds could sufficiently accompany any world connected to David Lynch, but there are enough ideas wedded for them to be taken on their own terms as well. I don’t know how they compare to Stewart’s own other work, but they certainly appear a little weightier than the often understated approach of Lawrence English’s. Fine stuff indeed. (RJ)

www.room40.org

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RUDOLF EB.ER, JOKE LANZ, GX JUPITER-LARSON and MIKE DANDO Wellenfeld – For Amplified Brainwaves” CD (Fragment Factory Records, Germany, 2015) 

The first time I chanced upon a recording where an artist had that lightbulb moment in which one’s own brainwaves could be used as the bedrock/trigger of an experimental piece was an album from composer and Mills College prof David Rosenbloom called Brainwave Music (A.R.C. Records, 1976/EM Records CD reissue). Filters/modifiers and all manner of electronic paraphanalia were deployed to give all that grey matter its ‘voice’. Without being mired down in too much lab-coated technical spec, I should imagine that’s pretty much the same template used at this performance during the three-day Extreme Rituals/Schimpfluch Carnival, based at Bristol’s Amolfini Centre, back in 2012. Meaning that aktionist noiseniks Rudolf Eb. er, Joke Lanz, Hater-in-chief GX Jupiter Larson and Con-Dom’s Mike Dando, all hooked up to electroencephalographs, have their resulting data transformed into sound, which then surrounds the audience via a ring of eight speakers. There is no escape.

The sleeve art portrays the quartet sat sitting there, buddha-like, much as you’d expect really. However, this static display with the accompanying relaxed state of collective mind (cue to various meditational disciplines), reaps its own sonic rewards. I had half expected a fusillade of theremin-like whoops, chirps and judders, but instead what is produced by these combined electrical juices comes on heavy like short wave radio interference which swells in a somewhat agitated fashion to reveal something akin to a dozen or so oscillators, stretched on a rack, squealing in cyber-agony. This later development (I guess?) eventually finding ‘the sender’ firmly in the driver’s seat, gaining control over his transmissions by listening to the results of his own brain activity.

 A pretty diverting noisefest all told, standing out from the pack possibly, by virtue of its rather individual sound sources. By my reckoning, the next release, by person or persons unknown, in this ultra-niche genre should be ready by 2054 as the crow flies. (SP)

www.fragmentfactory.com

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THE EX At Bimhuis (1991 – 2015)  2CD (Ex Records/Bimhuis, NL, 2015)

Spread over these two discs are 24 mostly collaborative songs by this uncompromising Dutch group who started out in the anarcho-punk/squat scene of the early ‘80s. To this day, they remain informed by the predominant spirit surrounding those early years, too. Similar to the worlds both Crass and even Dead Kennedys operated in, a space was afforded where freedom reigned over musical ability or inhibition and the ideas guiding their songs were bigger than their means of expression. In the truest sense, this was independent music created by independent thinkers working outside the usual and typical straitjacketed rock demographic even countless peers of the time succumbed to in their effort to forge a career. 

 The Ex have consistently remained principled and almost Calvinistic in their attitude to work and the ideas it is adorned in since those days, plus are committed to a sense of freedom and exploration rarely found elsewhere. One such embodiment of this is found in the group’s having always been open to collaborations or featuring guest appearances by musicians from what may appear to many as very contrasting backgrounds, such as jazz, brass bands and traditional African music. A tight unit themselves, the group are fluid yet bound to a muscular rhythm section capable of taking on all from fully blasted dissonance to jazzy lounge interludes and everything in between. It is music with a strong improvisation sensibility yet steers well away from being pompous or overblown. For all its experimentation, the raging and dissatisfied punks beneath it never stray too far. And it’s precisely this that makes their music so fucking effective and infectious.

  The collaborations here, all pulled from fairly regular stints at Amsterdam’s Bimhuis venue during the last 24 years, include a huge array of improv jazzers  and avant-garde artists too vast to list here but with notables such as Phil Minton, Ken Vandermark and Jaap Blonk amongst them. The songs are brazen, energetic and burn with an attitude simultaneously warm, open, celebratory and pissed off. Outside the usual confines of what has been described ‘punk jazz’ (or ‘jazz punk) over the years, it spans something deeper and wider. Releases of live music might well mostly be aimed at those with a huge love of any given artist prone to doing them, but The Ex at Bimhuis demonstrates just how powerful and commanding this group, and their many friends, still are in such a setting. It is hard not to listen to any of this without wishing to see them all performing live right now. Which must, surely, be partly the point. To say this music is incredible is something of an understatement. (RJ)

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EX YOU eponymous CDr (self-released, Serbia, 2015)

Four sprawling pieces of organic jazz-free splurge courtesy of a Serbian guitar, electronics and drums trio. The emphasis appears to be on a kinda understatement knocked into line via shuffling patterns of sound and sparse rhythms themselves haphazardly falling between something ur-like and busily intricate, depending on the general mood.  Random electronic ripples grapple with guitar shards and abstract noodling over these instrumentals, creating a mesmerising setting I’m sure would be fantastic live and deserving the attention of some label backing. These guys know what they’re doing, that’s for sure, and it makes for a welcome change to a lot of the usual slop thrown this way. Impressive shit. (RJ)

 www.exyou.bandcamp.com

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ADAM GOLEBIEWSKI In Front of Their Eyes CD + booklet (self-released, Poland, 2015)

If you ever lay awake at night wondering what a set of binaural microphones and a drum could sound like if performed live together at an installation, then this release should set things right. As you can guess, without the context of the actual original setting these sounds were recorded in, something is perhaps missing. Without that, even the nicely presented booklet of related artwork and sleevenotes does little to detract from what otherwise sounds like a rusty chain being slowly cranked up a mineshaft while a robotic cat claws at a nearby window. Oh well. (RJ)

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ERIK GRISWOLD Pain Avoidance Machine CD (Room 40 Records, Australia. 2015) 

I ‘believe’ John Cale axed one to death, Ann(e)a Lockwood burnt one at the Chelsea Embankment in 1968 and in the film L’Age d’Or,  surrealist artist Sal a row of ’em. But thDali jammed a number of dead donkeys inere have been less psychopathic intentions towards the poor piano. Instead, some experimentalists took on a more restrained approach by merely subverting the keyboard’s tonal qualities. Obviously the key figure in all this being John Cage; who thought little of jamming choice purchases from his local hardware store into the instrument’s liver and lights. The resulting doctored notes (to me) always seemed to take on a kinda oriental tone as all the west’s natural sustain went east, so to speak. And, following on from these investigations, American avant gardist and now Aussie resident Erik Griswold, back from a two-year stint in multi-instrumental composition, has decided to return to the comforting, real wood’n’wires world of the prepped piano. The Pain Avoidance Machine project, recorded at home on a German ‘Lipp & Sohn’ model, sees Mr. G. attacking the keys with a rare and driven gusto which thankfully never descends into downtempo or ambient realms.

    Those fractured and dampened notes, sometimes dulcimer-like, some resembling the languid thwack of rubber bands supply the rhythmic undertow, while recognisable and more rounded piano lines supply brief and haunting melodic quotes amid tense and suspenseful punctuation, (see “The Persistence of Memory” and the fringe-systemic “Pale Yellow Frontier,” for example). And it’s that suspenseful air which permeates the majority of the fifteen tracks on offer; especially so on the excellent ‘Hammer and Tongs’, where those of a delicate sensibility, prone to attacks of the vapours, would seek to find immediate refuge behind the nearest sofa at the stroke of its very first broken note. (SP)

www.room40.org

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HAND OF STABS Barnfield Pit CD (Astrakhan Bellhorn Music, 2015)

This Medway-based trio has long been breaking away from urban environments in order to delve into a kinda rural form of electroacoustic music in equal parts organic, sinister, earthy and suggestive of unearthly rituals tucked away in shadowy groves. Barnfeld Pit is their first ‘proper’ release, following a number of low-run CDRs mow impossible to find, and comprises an almost 50-minute long improvisation where sparse percussive sounds, metallic scrapes and presumably dented pots and pans flesh out what sounds like a violin being very slowly eviscerated and subtle pitter-patters of indiscernible origin. Whilst it all brings to mind Morphogenesis having been ground through a Wicker Man-esque sensibility, it’s hard not to overlook the fact something magical, or even magickal, is clearly at work here. Melodies and signatures are eschewed in favour of a cranial flow of sounds that don’t once relent from being powerfully hypnotic. This truly is like being led into the heart of the unknown, which is always, always damn fine thing. 100 only, so probably now equally hard to track down.(RJ)

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HATI Metanous CD (Zoharum, Poland, 2015)

Now expanded to a three-piece, at least for this album, Hati once again prove just how adept they are at producing a kinda ritualistic take on mostly metal percussion-led atmospheric music. Using a wide range of other instruments, (often equally percussive) sound sources and electronics, it’s fair to say that Hati’s music can be a little hit-or-miss sometimes, but Metanous proves itself as one of the best albums thus heard by them, bringing with it a high-reaching sense of quality and craftsmanship that’d leave certain contemporaries downing their tools in abject resignation. If you want trance-like music that’s guaranteed to compel you all the way, you won’t go wrong here. (RJ)

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HEADBUTT Raindrop CD (Radiowave Recordings, 2015)

Archival release of a live gig by this English ‘Industrial Noise Rock’ (Not my words, but the words of the Press Release) band from the ‘90s. I didn’t know of the group beforehand but, nevertheless, spinning the disc resulted in instant transportation to a particular corner of the aforementioned decade, for good, ill and other shades of hair dye in between. On this evidence there may in those halcyon days have been something in the air or water, or indeed stuck to the carpet. Scouring the back catalogue it seems other archaeological evidence includes a neglected album on Dirter amongst other things. At any rate this manages to effect a Proustian regression whether you were there (Rennes, in this case) or not to that alternate time-zone, that eternal bubble of particularity, where noise-rock, metal, punk and ‘industrial’ (rhythmic rather than atmospheric) swilled and swills still round small venues (and any carpeted areas in them) like cigarette butts in the dregs of a stale and slaver-diluted pint of lager. Pre-Mayan apocalypse, pre-millennium bug, even, this is; just smell the innocent sounds of stomping and throat-abuse, revel in the atmosphere. And I, for one, love a party with an atmosphere. An intimate venue; medium-high spirits; two drummers utilising dustbins and the like; two bassists, one of whom also handles yelling duties. The sound is a chummily belligerent chug n’ thump of mildly fluctuating fidelity – very appealingly documentary in nature, in fact. The sense of aural veracity to this long-past tribal ritual is, as mentioned, apparent. The feedback-ing basses and things being hit translate very pleasantly in the lower-middle frequency range through even consumer-grade audio reproduction devices, all sounding like good, honest, noisy fun. The players display(ed). In the past, this is. Don’t forget) a solid and moderately wiggly line in simple and raunchy bass riffs – albeit as swift to sublime into the pre-millennial aether and/or backdrop of feedback as seemingly effortlessly as they are plucked from the collective bran-tub marked ‘rawk’ – alongside a propensity to lurch into various double-drum tub-thumping percussion grooves at the drop of a mallet. Almost Adam and the Ants meet Test Department, they certainly, on this showing, did stand and deliver. The goods. If the goods you were after were a surprisingly jaunty noise-rock knees-up with a bass and percussion focus*. Whilst it exudes inclusiveness rather than alienation, fun with frequencies rather than gruelling grind and perhaps suffers from this approachability and un-finessed image in comparison with some of the other names that might spring to mind in the same sprawling temporal and sonic area of operations there’s definitely something to be said for the punk disregard and broad-strokes approach. There’s also value inherent in investigating a previously unknown side of the once familiar, threads of musical continuity temporarily outside of current discourse, perhaps, that subtly alter perspectives on prevailing zeitgeists. Perhaps by definition a minor document, as such, it’s still always nice to be reminded that there are always more scenes, groups and individuals plugging away at things than any one currently popular narrative encompasses. Oh and there’s an awful bi-lingual joke from the singer about half-way through, as a bonus. (TS)

* There’s a video up on YouTube of Headbutt live at The Camden Falcon which presents in grungy VHS fidelity another angle to the live story, an anarchic and shambolic show hinting of affinities with the Day-Glo irreverence of Japanese Noise Rock of the time, such as early Boredoms, Melt Banana etc.

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HERCULES II Herculaneum LP (Radiowave Recordings, 2015)

As you might expect from a group featuring ex-Headbutt members and other noisenik affiliates, this album delivers like a juggernaut of psychedelic stormin’ and bass excess. If you’re looking for variation, you’re in the wrong place, though, as each of the seven cuts churns, bludgeons and does its utmost to bury you in fully amped, cranked-to-the-max, sound overload. A coupla basslines reminded me of The Stranglers, but that’s no bad thing. The vinyl is streaked clear and I daresay this baby’s limited, so don’t deliberate over yr temptation for too long. No idea where you can find it, however, as the label has no website. Check Facebook and Discogs, etc. (RJ)

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HEY COLOSSUS Radio Static High LP (Rocket Recordings, 2015)

Sounds like a generic hard rock group trying to do the whole interstellar thing to me. Stripped away of the overdriven psychedelic textures, this would just reek of guys in denim with acne and bad hair. Dishwater music. (RJ)

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HIROSHIMABEND dddirzzz CD (Klanggalerie, Austria, 2016)

A copy of this album, along with a coupla other releases by the same artist, was thrust into my withered claws at this year’s Wroclaw Industrial Festival by the person responsible for the music. Operating under the guise Puppy38, this Texan-born chap is these days a resident of Vienna and responsible for thus far having released many, many CDr albums since 1998 on his Opiumdenpluto imprint. Arriving from the school of tempered electronic music, there’s a deft amalgam of tethered beats, rolling atmospherics, dreamlike tinkling sounds, post-industrial gauze and molten dancefloor nods at work here. Might not be anything especially new amongst it all, but there’s a nice and, dare I say it, ‘mature’ feel to the way everything hangs together that I’m sure works even better live. There are some collaborators here, but Puppy38 clearly knows what he’s doing. This album pays testament to that. (RJ)

Email: klanggalerie@aon.at 

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HOLLYWOODFUN DOWNSTAIRS Tetris CD (Antena Krzyku, Poland, 2016)

Third album, I believe, by this New Zealand group. Following Poland’s neat Antena Krzyku label’s CD reissue of their second album, Reactions, also from 2016, which was originally released by NZ’s Press Gang imprint on both vinyl and cassette formats, this third release houses another twelve cuts of blistering post-punk-inspired noise cooked up by a trio of moody guys whose inside cover photo’s stance is only betrayed by a moustache that looks like it was rented from a ’70s hustler. Once past this, the sound is a full-on inferno of tumultous guitar-damaged and screaming vocal-driven attack dimly akin to a slightly more restrained Rudimentary Peni chugging it out with No Trend. Only ‘Reverse Ahoy’ is pared enough to reveal almost classic Ozzy-like vocals, which in and of itself isn’t entirely a bad thing tho’ the less anything is inclined towards metal (even rudimentary metal, such as Sabbath) the more my tolerance level at least remains stabilised. I’m sure these would be a blast live, though. (RJ)

http://antenakrzyku.pl/

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IF, BWANA The Ice Moons CD (Nefryt, Poland, 2015)

Al Margolis’ If, Bwana has been producing music since the mid-‘80s, when the project first emerged from the burgeoning cassette scene with a number of releases built around sometimes crude loops, oscillating analogue electronics and industrial noise. Often driven by a slightly dadaist approach, more akin to NWW than the moodier set, this music didn’t necessarily stand out from countless others initially but at least illustrated that Margolis was serious about his work until it was honed and began to chart its own course. Whilst it’d be practically impossible to keep up with everything released since the early days, I have found myself dipping into If, Bwana’s waters from time to time and always enjoying where his work now takes us. The Ice Moons is one of the latest albums and brings together five lengthier pieces, sometimes aided by guests adding different sound sources (such as voice, cello, saxophones and a dulcimer). The results are more tempered and possibly have more in common with the likes of La Monte Young and Tony Conrad than those earlier peers, yet each one is imbued with a rich and organic flavour at once warm, mesmerising and confounding all expectations. What this lacks in the dadaist approach of much of the other work is more than compensated by this being a wonderful addition to the minimalist composition canon. A very good release, typically packaged in Nefryt’s now standard oversized card wallet sleeve. (RJ)

http://www.nefryt.serpent.pl

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IT IT ANITA Agaaiin CD (Luik Records, Belgium, 2016)

Beefy guitar-driven noise-rock duals with the kinda cosmic excursions towards pure brain-mulch territory The Strangulated Beatoffs were likewise prone to. When the terribly named It It Anita shed themselves of the more obvious dressing and follow patterns presumably made by spacecakes things become far more interesting. However, when not indulging thus everything’s boiled down to a sweat, grime ‘n’ gristle strategy that’s powerful enough but just doesn’t add anything to the sprawling canon of such music already overflowing from every conceivable corner of almost every city of the planet, unfortunately.. (RJ)

http://luikrec.com/

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THE JAZZFAKERS Hallucinations CD (Alrealon Music, USA, 2016)

Just what I needed, and I’m being literal rather than facetious. Eight new tracks from this NYC group who’ve been active for almost 10 years now and have a few albums behind them already. This one is produced by the legendary Martin Bisi, a figure whose activities have long been pronounced on the New York scene by virtue of his production work for Swans, Bill Laswell, John Zorn and Sonic Youth et al, plus several solo records. It would appear he has long worked with The Jazzfakers, too, and I daresay it’s easy to understand how they’d forge a strong working relationship given the delphic noise conjured up in this almost No Wave-inspired free jazz setting. Between the eight tracks, presumably improvisations that bring together electronics and synths as well as bass, percussion, violin and sax, there’s much in the way of restrained headiness that takes on avant-strutting through alien landscapes before looking poised to spit acidic foam in some kinda post-apocalyptic meltdown. This is how modern jazz should be; untamed, volatile and unpredictable, with a galvanised approach that takes no prisoners even in its milder framework. And mostly, again, Hallucinations places much emphasis on nuance and a sense of discipline or space. For all the warmth embedded, however, The Jazzfakers are not apparently here for our comfort. Rather, they soundtrack our confused, convoluted, desperate and disparate times just perfectly. I need to get their other records right now. (RJ)

http://www.alrealon.com/

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JFK/THE GREY WOLVES Assassin LP (Peripheral Records, 2016)

Reissue of these six collaborative recordings from 1988, neatly pressed onto red vinyl. Anybody familiar with Anthony Di Franco’s JFK project, especially from around this period, will know he specialised in rudimentary, factory hammered, rhythms melded with electronic, sometimes bass heavy, textures. As such, it’s difficult to discern the power-noise duo The Grey Wolves’ involvement here as any cranked-to-the-max overload is at best buried or kept to a more mannered distance. The rhythmic approach tends to dominate, but this perfectly okay. It’s only that it seems more of a JFK release than a collaboration. (RJ)

Contact: info@peripheralminimal.co.uk

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ALICE KEMP Fill My Body With Flowers and Rice LP (Fragment Factory/Erratum Musical, Germany, 2016)
For a long enough while now, defiantly lurking in one of the many hollows to be found in contemporary homegrown avant-garde music, Alice Kemp has been hacking away at often nightmarish sonic tendrils via her involvement with various groups and her previous solo endeavour, Germseed. Arriving from a similar school to Switzerland’s longstanding Schimpfluch-Gruppe, responsible itself for housing artists such as Runzelstirn & Gurgelstock, Dave Phillips and Sudden Infant, it is perhaps not entirely surprising that their very own Rudolf Eb.er can also be found on the seven tracks constituting this album on, amongst other things, ‘de/composition’ duties. And, similar to the work nestled in this region of overt restlessness, Fill My Body With Flowers and Rice is one that through its guise of disquieting yet subtle forms and general discomforting atmosphere ultimately makes for a listen as thoroughly absorbing as a Joel-Peter Witkin photograph. Far more than simply presenting notions of beauty in decay, however, each piece here, replete with dreamlike title shaded by suitably nefarious gothic horror, plots its way through spaces as much serene as they are fogged by disturbances both tactful and of grander design. Natural sounds engage with skewed digital flotsam, sparse piano breaks out of something more threatening despite its lack of presence, a padded cell voice blends in with the proceedings and all manner of sound fragments and shapes most would deem non-music are sewn together to create a monstrous yet wonderful new space to reach into. Fill My Body…  is the second full-length release by Alice Kemp under her real name, following a typically limited edition CDr one from a couple of years ago and, exactly the same as that, it only suggests great things from an artist deftly handling her craft. I want more. (RJ)
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 KILLERKUME Trautzer Blaster LP (Odio Sonoro + others, Spain, 2015)
No idea why this LP from over two years ago just arrived to AE‘s cavernous Reviews Dept., but happy to oblige regardless. Maybe it took that long to reach here? This captures three tracks by a Brazilian guitar and drums duo, occasionally given to throwing in yelps and other such ur-sounds, firmly cut from an aggro position. This is like the psychotic metal pulverising of Gore given greater sense of purpose via Caspar Brotzmann’s Massaker. Pure improv pummel, like being jackhammered in the temples by tumultuous rock blast furnaced with the kinda non-jazz Borbetomagus crushed minds with. Once in a while, the relentless assault lets up for a few rusty razored gasps of air, skewed melodics thrust in several directions like hot plates, but the savagery is never far away. Much needed good shit. (RJ)
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KINSKY Copula Mundi 2LP (Antena Krzyku, Poland, 2015)

This arrived as a nice surprise before xmas, kindly sent by the label owner to me as a gift after his knowing just how much I’d enjoyed seeing this reformed Polish group live twice during the year before. I can only credit my fiancee, Iwona, for having introduced me to them, however. Prior to seeing them at Alchemia in Krakow, I knew zero about them, despite my having explored a considerable amount of Poland’s punk and related scenes over the years. Iwona, knowing my tastes, convinced me they’d be worth seeing and she was absolutely right. Seeing this group in Alchemia was jaw-droppingly good and not just because of the music but because of the actual performance, too. Kinsky merge theatrics with their music, meaning a couple of costume changes, dadaist manoeuvres, audience participation and the singer, Pawel Sulik, diving into or running through the crowd like a youthful Jello Biafra combined with Buster Keaton and a homicidal maniac. Absolutely captivating, he leaves no room to even ponder the fact he must be in his middle years. All the while, the music is tight as fuck and, obviously, that’s exactly all we can focus on right here on this lovingly repackaged and remastered reissue of the group’s 1993 album (the original CD of which could set you back the cost of a couple of decent meals in a mid-range restaurant).

 How to describe the music, though? It’s taut and draws from a grinding yet angular punk sound whilst remaining infused with a touch of the avant-garde, spooky keyboard signatures and a keen sense of the unpredictable. At its toughest, the rock strand is somewhat reminiscent of Gore and is all powerful bass strut and deeply anguished vocals, tho’ thankfully devoid of their metallic crunch. When this relents, however, we’re dragged into a twilight zone of disembodied voices, fractured hiss and the kinda electronics more befitting of an industrial group. All round it’s a great combination and still sounds fresh enough despite the 23 years that have passed since this album’s original inception. I really cannot fault anything here beyond the fact the magic this group cook up with their live show obviously cannot be fully served any justice on record. I really hope they record again and, of course, once again take to the stage this year.

 Some groups deserve to reappear. Kinsky are another living example of that. (RJ)

http://antenakrzyku.pl/

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KLEISTWAHR Broken and Beaten in 5/8 Time lathe-cut 10″ (Independent Woman Records, New Zealand, 2017)
It could be ventured that such releases, put out in microcosmic editions of 30 or so, are a complete waste of time, but as a taster of the music by a given artist made available in a format that’s kinda fun, true to the DIY spirit of yore (when selling 30 copies of anything might be deemed a success) and has stupid collectibility appeal, I personally have no axe to grind. Kleistwahr, you doubtlessly know, is Gary Mundy of Ramleh’s solo endeavour and over the two tracks here assumes both an appealing foggy drone stance and something altogether more melodic and subdued, if no less capable of conjuring a midnight hour melancholy. This material is decidedly more reflective, maybe even submissive, but illustrates only too well the fact there’s more to Gary than being amongst the kings of the so-called ‘noise-heads’. Fitting in with the geographical location of the label perfectly, I’d say there’s a ring to the sounds here that wouldn’t be amiss on a Michael Morley record, but that’s no bad thing whatsoever. Although loong sold out, there’ll be a CD collecting these tracks, too. There’s inside information for you, right there. Get in touch with this amazing little label for info concerning more such releases in the meantime. (RJ)
Email:  independentwomanrecords@gmail.com
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GRISHA LICHTENBERGER La Demeure; Il Y A Péril En La Demeure CD (Raster-Noton, Germany, 2015)

Warm glitch-infected electronica of the kind we’ve already heard before countless times. I realise it’s increasingly difficult to bring something new to a well-worn table, but even a touch of personality would at least help. I just do not know what the point of this is. (RJ)

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LIMBS BIN 18 Rack Demo cassette (Torn Light, USA, 2017)

Josh Landes’ Limbs Bin have been going for several years now, producing various low-key cassettes, lathe-cuts and even a flexidisc of maxed-out earsplitting electronic howl of fantastic proportions, snagged somewhere between Napalm Death’s first album and Crank Sturgeon. There’s a decidedly American take on the proceedings in spite of a cap doffing to power electronics pioneers and perhaps some of the Japanoise set, but this seems rawer, angrier and more twisted with graphite humour than the contemporary face represented by, say, Prurient. In this sense, I’m sure brutal hardcore punk was as much of a starting point as these other signifiers, thus lending everything, conversely, a savage purity both confrontational and slightly absurdist. It works a fucking treat. (RJ)
Contact: automation@tornlightrecords.com
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FRED LONBERG-HOLM / KEN VANDERMARK Resistance  CD (Bocian, Poland, 2015)

Five pieces bringing together these two mainstays of the contemporary improv scene, Lonberg-Holm on trademark cello and electronics and Vandermark sweating over a tenor sax. Dynamic yet mostly set in the uneasy listening zone, the sax aims straight for a sucker-punch to the cranium whilst electronics occasionally splutter and gurgle away and Lonberg-Holm sounds like he’s fighting with his strings. Sometimes everything drops for a more melodic interlude, at once illustrating the duo’s chemistry and range, but Resistancelargely sounds exactly as the title suggests and delivers both sonorously and aggressively to superb effect. Anybody wanting their freeform lashing straight for the jugular will find much to savour here. (RJ)

www.bocianrecords.com

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MAP 71 Sado-Technical-Exercise CD (Foolproof Projects, 2016)

It is extremely rare that something comes along that moves me from my sultry position of jaded fucker, but Brighton’s Map 71 have done just that with what must be their fourth album (if first to appear on a format other than CDr or cassette). This is truly stunning music that’s virtually out there on its own these days, combining as it does spoken word/poetry by Lisa Jayne with percussion and electronics from Andy Pyne, As with the debut solo release of the latter (also reviewed here), the music itself has a neat tendency towards the avant-garde yet thankfully steers clear of stuffiness through a raw and earthy post-punk feel, ultimately serving an incredible backdrop to  some great poetry readings themselves falling somewhere between personal, observational and abstract. Sometimes the music nods towards the kinda minimal synth work the late ‘70s and early ‘80s were peppered with, with more emphasis on structure and mood setting, but elsewhere ideas abound that tear convention completely. If I have one criticism it’d be directed towards the delivery of the vocals, which although effective are mostly in the same dry and almost flat style. Of course, this adds an agreeable punk-ish edge to the proceedings, but only the final track, ‘Void’, subtly plays around with the voice, unfortunately. It’d be good to hear the voice and the actual delivery of the words perhaps pushed more, a la Anne Gillis or somesuch. All the same, I’m hooked anyway and, well, if you ever liked D&V and crave something from similar, if less angry, waters then you really won’t go wrong with this. I hope my recommendation is clear. (RJ)

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MAZZSACRE + 2CD (instant Classic, Poland, 2015)

Jerzy Mazzoll has long been a leading presence on Poland’s contemporary improv jazz and avant-garde scene. Forever open to pushing his music into new worlds in order to perhaps redefine the language of his clarinet and the many stories it has to tell, it is only a shame that he’s not renowned on the international landscape. Along with a group here, +brings with it seven new pieces of always taut yet outward-bound flex neither afraid to fluff out its musicianship or break convention. Fluid all the way, the lineup (including electronics besides bass, guitar and percussion) conveys raw chemistry and illustrates only too well just how on form Mazzoll still can be when in a decent enough setting. The bonus disc captures a live recording that’s often more raucous and heavy but equally bound for some fantastic cosmos-churning. Only surprised he’s never been granted a Tzadik release, really. (RJ)

www.instant-classic.com

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EMMANUEL MIEVILLE Ethers CD (Baskaru, France, 2015)

Following a few more releases since 2007’s rather fine collaborative disc with Eric Cordier on Malaysia’s Xing-Wu Records, Ethers collects four field recording-based pieces representing Paris-based Mieville’s sixth album (and fourth ‘proper’ if we’re to include two early CDr releases). Similar to fellow Frenchmen Cordier and Eric La Casa, his work revolves around the idea of drawing together disparate environmental sounds to create compositions that either form narratives or at least sketch out ideas formed from this premise. Collating recordings from his travels to places as far apart as Hong Kong and Morocco that take in all from various sounds of nature to those borne of the city as his foundation, Mieville appears to be taking us on a tour of paths already well traveled but perhaps not paid attention to enough. Little details help embellish this but you’ll also hear on the final piece, ‘Island Ferrysm’,’ a heavily processed saxophone tugging us along hypnotically. Overall, Ethers maps out an engaging, and firmly engaged, listening experience. What the hell is it about the French being so damned good at this particular craft…? (RJ)

www.baskaru.com

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MONKEY PLOT Angaende Omstendigheter Som Ikke Lar Seg Nedtegne CD (Hubro, Norway, 2015)

As far as I can tell this is the third album by a Norwegian trio whose earthy improvisations derived from acoustic guitar, double bass and drums possess a snug and intimate feel. The music itself has an avant-folk leaning, constantly shifting yet never too far from the point where it remains entirely accessible and thoroughly engaging. Whilst it keeps things interesting and isn’t afraid to explore tangents, this is music that not only expresses great interaction between the players but welcomes the attention of those listening, too. Am sure this’d be good in a cosy pub backroom on a wintry evening with an open fire blazing away. I’m all for that. (RJ)

www.hubromusic.com

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MURAL Tempo 3CD (Sofa Music, Norway, 2015)

Capturing a live event: Is it even possible to truly capture something sonically that existed in ways that reached all the senses? Live albums have always tried to recreate the experience of a performance, but how can it be the same when you can’t see the artist in front of you, or smell the air in the venue, among other things? Tempo is a mammoth undertaking in this regard, attempting to render the bulk of a four hour improvised performance in sound. The project was conceived especially for the venue where it took place, the Rothko Chapel in Houston, Texas, where the members of Mural had performed on two previous occasions. On the afternoon of 27th of April, 2013, they played for over four hours, inviting the public to stop in and listen at their discretion and to experience the performance in their own way. Tempo brings us three of the four hours (the first was not included) and a twenty-minute codex where the passion of the moment took the band beyond the initial four-hour time frame.

The recording does a good job of bringing us the music and something of the venue’s atmosphere – there is even some additional sound added by the storm that pounded Houston that day so, yes, this does make for a good document of the live experience. And the nature of the music means that there was likely little rock-band showmanship, so the loss of the visual element may not be as drastic as it would be in other places. This is most likely the result of the two-year mixing process undertaken to bring the raw recordings to their final state. Although presented on three discs (the last one including both the final hour and the codex), the artists’ advice is to listen to the entire release as if it were a single piece, since that was how it was created and manifested. Whether or not you want to listen to a single release for three and a half hours is something you’ll have to figure out for yourself, but I do get their point: the breaks between CDs are imposed by the format and have nothing to do with the music itself.

Getting a recording of this music must have been a trick, to say the least. The first twenty minutes of the first disc are just barely audible under normal listening conditions, and even when things do pick up a little, they fade right back to their sonic mumbling. In fact, great portions of the album lack any dynamism at all. That might be something that is more evident on the recording than it was in the chapel, but that only takes us back to the question of whether it’s even possible to document such a performance accurately.

The effect of so much of the album being a strain to listen to makes it seem a bit selfish. The crescendos, and I should add that the performance never becomes tremendously loud, offer the listener a moment, but then things fall back into their normal quiet. It’s difficult to relax and engage with music when you have to fight to hear it most of the time. Francisco Lopez arguably pushed the envelope of this type of recording to its extreme in the late ‘90s, but fans of his recordings of that era may find themselves drawn to this.

It’s a little surprising that,with three musicians playing half a dozen instruments (most of which are easily identifiable, since the album doesn’t rely on processing) should have created something so timid sounding. There seems to be a reluctance for anyone to take the lead and to build something from the forest floor they’ve created. No one wants to impose himself on the others and as a result, there are long stretches where it seems the musicians are waiting for something to happen as much as the audience.

Even the 20 minute final piece, where they were supposedly so engrossed in the moment that they simply lost track of time, shows nothing of the sort of energy one would expect from that statement. It sounds more like they simply kept waiting for more to happen and forgot to stop playing. If you want to feel passion from your music, this is not going to be your cup of tea.

The other thing that Tempo has working against it is just its sheer scope. It is three and a half hours of music that doesn’t stray too far, which means that there aren’t great differences between its different sections. I think that if the band had released the third disc on its own, I would have felt more kindly towards it. One gets a sense of all the sounds present from the final third of the release and it comes off as more dynamic. That, of course, would be less true to the live experience, but more adapted to the realities of listening to music at home. (KM)

www.sofamusic.no

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MURMURISTS I Am You, Dragging Halo CD (Zoharum, Poland, 2016)

Hard to place where exactly, but Murmurists is a name I came across long before the man behind this project, Anthony Donovan, kindly offered to send me a couple of discs in order to learn more of the murky netherworld it is given to furrowing. Having collaborated in the past with the likes of Morphogenesis’ Clive Graham, Steve Beresford and a vast array of others via groups he’s participated in such as Vultures Quartet and Some Some  Unicorn, it’s relatively simple to understand how his cutting of teeth in the realms of improvisation, electro-acoustic soundforms and avant-garde electronics has rendered I Am You, Dragging Halo so perfectly realised. Comprising just one heavily contoured, or contorted, piece spanning approximately 46 minutes, the album proves mercifully difficult to remove oneself from as it peels back layer upon layer of ideas each as positively surprising as the last.
 Assuming all from a nightmare twirl of dissonant electronica to fragmented bursts of rock and avant-jazz in its quest to create a cinematic landscape at once broken, destroyed, dark and oblique, this music has an almost Lynchian quality to it rarely evoked well by many beyond classic Nurse With Wound. Only the work of luminaries such as Andrew Liles, Sion Orgon, Thighpaulsandra and Contrastate comes close with respect to both the quasi-dimensional sonic approach and production values evident here, but this is merely ornamental. Like  each of those artists, Murmurists has its own vision and the trajectory towards this doesn’t owe much to any reference points the casual listener may foist upon it irrespective of possible cursory winks and nods of approval. As with the previous album, I Cannot Tell  You Where I Am Until I Love You, itself only consisting of one lengthy composition which morphs hydra-like throughout, there’s something personal afoot that sets it head and shoulders above the rest of the pack.
 Using many different instruments and approaches to attain a cohesive whole even illuminated with carefully chosen and often thought-provoking dialogue snatches at various junctures, this emphasis on craftsmanship, of true artistry if you like, in order to try and understand and fully realise this personal vision makes for a rare precedent I’ll keep returning to. Stunning work. (RJ)
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NEGATIVE SCANNER eponymous LP (Trouble In Mind, USA, 2015)

Hard not to recall early Siouxsie when listening to Rebecca Valeriano-Flores fronting the songs on the debut by this US punk outfit. The similarities are quite remarkable, really, despite the songs themselves being of a different disposition. This music veers closely to dissonant indie at times, but is stamped heavily with that DIY aesthetic which truly put the punk into early punk. Energetic and powered along by a great rhythm section, this makes for a fine start all round. (RJ)

www.troubleinmindrecs.com

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HENRYK NORDVARGR BJORKK / MARGAUX RENAUDIN Anima Nostra CD (Cold Spring, 2016)

Bjorkk is possibly mostly known for his martial industrial project, Folkstorm, which might well be inactive now, and being a mainstay in most of the circles surrounding EBM, post-industrial, electronics and related music. The eight collaborative cuts here with Renaudin, who is unknown to me and will probably stay that way, draw from most of this in order to create a brooding environment where low growling vocals rise from ominous swirls or metal clanging from somewhere deep and cavernous strive for the ‘horror film’ effect so many such artists seem to crave. Some of the growled vocals, themselves either a form of throat singing or at least partly inspired by that, are quite effective, but most of the music goes nowhere I never heard before on those old Cold Meat Industry records I used to get sent in the ‘90s by groups themselves all wishing to be Lustmord. Of course It’s proficient, and to be honest I’d expect nothing less from an artist who has been chiseling away in this particular corner for so many years now, but it doesn’t evade that pervasive ‘doom ’n’ gloom’-by-numbers approach it is positively drenched in, unfortunately.  I don’t want to appear too harsh as I’ve only heard Folkstorm before from Bjorkk’s many different projects, tho’ the work under that moniker failed to generate a bead of enthusiasm in me, too. Ho fucking hum. (RJ)

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MURMURISTS I Am You, Dragging Halo CD (Zoharum, Poland, 2016)
Hard to place where exactly, but Murmurists is a name I came across long before the man behind this project, Anthony Donovan, kindly offered to send me a couple of discs in order to learn more of the murky netherworld it is given to furrowing. Having collaborated in the past with the likes of Morphogenesis’ Clive Graham, Steve Beresford and a vast array of others via groups he’s participated in such as Vultures Quartet and Some Some  Unicorn, it’s relatively simple to understand how his cutting of teeth in the realms of improvisation, electro-acoustic soundforms and avant-garde electronics has rendered I Am You, Dragging Halo so perfectly realised. Comprising just one heavily contoured, or contorted, piece spanning approximately 46 minutes, the album proves mercifully difficult to remove oneself from as it peels back layer upon layer of ideas each as positively surprising as the last.
 Assuming all from a nightmare twirl of dissonant electronica to fragmented bursts of rock and avant-jazz in its quest to create a cinematic landscape at once broken, destroyed, dark and oblique, this music has an almost Lynchian quality to it rarely evoked well by many beyond classic Nurse With Wound. Only the work of luminaries such as Andrew Liles, Sion Orgon, Thighpaulsandra and Contrastate comes close with respect to both the quasi-dimensional sonic approach and production values evident here, but this is merely ornamental. Like  each of those artists, Murmurists has its own vision and the trajectory towards this doesn’t owe much to any reference points the casual listener may foist upon it irrespective of possible cursory winks and nods of approval. As with the previous album, I Cannot Tell  You Where I Am Until I Love You, itself only consisting of one lengthy composition which morphs hydra-like throughout, there’s something personal afoot that sets it head and shoulders above the rest of the pack.
 Using many different instruments and approaches to attain a cohesive whole even illuminated with carefully chosen and often thought-provoking dialogue snatches at various junctures, this emphasis on craftsmanship, of true artistry if you like, in order to try and understand and fully realise this personal vision makes for a rare precedent I’ll keep returning to. Stunning work. (RJ)
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NACHTHEXEN eponymous 10″ (Harbinger Sound, 2017)
I saw these performing in Krakow in mid-2016 and was impressed enough to offer them a single on Fourth Dimension immediately. Whilst this never materialised, though, the excellent Harbinger Sound have at least stepped in and thus far made this release available, collecting a number of tracks originally housed on the Sheffield-based group’s debut cassette album and now already o/p and hard-to-find 7″. Over the eight cuts of sprightly, contempo punk hewn from the perspective of the four females who constitute Nachthexen, meaning Night Witches in German, the sound is made distinctive for Donna D-stroy’s weaving in of ravaged and unruly synth riffs, sometimes melodic but often sounding like they’re tumbling down a stairwell. It’s a touch that serves them well and not only places them amongst the pantheon of groups such as Metal Urbain, Tuxedo Moon and Screamers but adds a unique layer I’m sure they can explore further as their sound develops. As it stands right now, the group are raw, angry, defiant and suitably abrasive yet this is countered by a healthy dollop of bitingly sarcastic humour and general air of positivity. While song titles such as ‘Panic’, ‘Fuck the Diet’, ‘Drunk Lads’ and ‘Cheer Up Luv’ point to the reality the group are unfortunately submerged in in everyday life, there’s much to be savoured in this mix where a keen pop sensibility is sandpapered before being thrown against the wall. There’s an album coming on Harbinger Sound in due course, too, and I for one only anticipate good things from it. (RJ)
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TOMONARI NOZAKI Tryptych CD (Forwind, 2016)
Released at the very end of 2016 this compilation gathers seven cuts by the prolific contemporary composer whose music forms wonderful shapes amongst the mists rolling from ambient music’s many hills. Designed, presumably, as some kind of overview or introduction to his work, it makes for a rather sublime entrance that brings together lush shimmering sounds, space-whispered textures and subtly contoured pools of tempered abstract noise a cut above the countless others chipping away at this particular game. Beautiful and utterly mesmerising, Nazaki’s compositions command visual accompaniment. The man needs to be given a film to match the scope of his cinematic music right now. Stunning music. (RJ)
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ANDY NYXTA & NERON DARKIUSS Artefacts cassette (Default, Poland, 2017)
This was kindly handed to me by the label owner at a festival we both happened to be at during August. Cryptic due to its use of Greek lettering on the cover, it took me a fair while to ascertain exactly what this was, but it was worth the wait. Over the course of six tracks, we are treated to a neat selection of electronic sounds, some anchored in gentler waters and others serrated and moving mercilessly in several directions simultaneously, both originally composed around 20 years ago by these two, I believe, Ukrainian boffins. To describe this merely as ambient would serve it something of an injustice as there’s too much movement as the banks of sound tumble into each other like vast miasmic plumes. All six pieces appear like they’ve been beamed in from the very edge of someone’s convulsing consciousness, harnessing broken machine-like rhythms against a tide of chemically saturated atmospherics. Absolutely wonderful. I could listen to a lot more of this. Default, amongst other things, is dedicated to documenting archive works from Ukraine. I look forward to hearing more. (RJ)
Contact: default.record.label@gmail.com
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YUI ONODERA Semi Lattice CD (Baskaru, France, 2015)

One of at least three releases by this prolific Japanese artist who has been creating molten ambient works for at least ten years now and has many releases behind him to prove it. The seven pieces that form Semi Lattice combine watery field recordings, hushed tones, melodic key passages and timbral swirl to a seductive enough effect. Tending towards the gentler side of things, everything ebbs and flows with a natural grace absolutely perfect for sinking into your favourite armchair. What this music lacks in surprises is more than compensated for the relaxing lull it’s clearly made to pull you into.(RJ)

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OWL RAVE eponymous LP (Interstellar, Austria, 2016)

Debut by a trio from Austria whose own background can be traced back to hardcore and garage punk. Here, however, they’ve ditched the brash sounds of their former groups to spin seven cuts of a more gloomy take on some of the ideas inherent in the Twin PeaksOST. Some of this hints at a Portishead demo, whilst the rest is more akin to bog standard post-industrial ambience with some of the worst and most flat vocals I’ve had the misfortune to listen to in a considerable while. To counteract this, the same vocalist clearly cannot resist his old urge to shout and emit some primal grunts over one piece, too. Like the fucking name wasn’t bad enough. (RJ)

www.interstellarrecords.at

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PHAERENTZ  Autofinger CDr (Phaerlag, Czech Republic, 2015)

The only thing I’ve got against this release, which itself is the second full-length one from CZ-based artist Petr Ferenc (of the now possibly defunct Birds Build Nests Underground), is the fact that it only exists as a doubtlessly very limited CDr and not as something more suitably substantial. Over the course of almost 50-minutes, a minimalist slant takes hold over a motif of subtle melodic keys and carefully honed electronic haze that bobs along gently until it later greets a more dynamic and intensified swell of rhythmic pounding. Wrapped in a hand-painted foldout sleeve, too. Very nice. Let’s hope somebody picks up on this because it certainly deserves it. (RJ)

http://phaerentz.bandcamp.com/ 

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RAMLEH Never Returner lathe-cut 10″ (Independent Woman Records, New Zealand, 2017)
Predating its appearance on the incredible Circular Time album, released in 2015 by a US label mostly known for metal and dark ambient records, Crucial Blast, ‘Never Returner’ is here snatched from a live recording from Blackpool in 2009. Typical of such recordings, it’s a gritty affair notable for some untypical (and, strangely, uncredited) audible vocals atop a loose rock setting version of the group with Martyn Watts on drums. Decidedly unhinged despite the strong backbone, it’s almost garage punk in its being poised at the precipice of a deep canyon permeated by rivers of acidic sweat. On the reverse we have a live studio recording of ‘Conquest Play II’ from 2014 which sees the core duo of Gary and Anthony firing up the synth and electronics for another burst of neatly controlled abrasiveness doing everything it can to belie the impression they’re actually nice guys really. As with the Kleistwahr 10″ this label put out, this was released in a horrendously limited edition of, I think, 50. Worth making the effort to track down, though. Makes a case for Ramleh putting out a regular single or some other vinyl release, at least. (RJ)
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REGOLITH I 2LP (Rock Is Hell, Austria, 2015)

Four lengthy slabs of heavy and multilayered drone pummel not far removed from some of Branca’s earlier symphonies. There’s a nice and absorbing dynamism to this duo’s pieces I’m sure would be even more effective live and everything’s conducted with a mean conviction firmly counterbalancing the fact the sound itself isn’t entirely new. Cannot say I know much about Regolith themselves, but it’d appear they’ve had a number of low-key releases out during the past few years. Would certainly like to hear more and, indeed, would gladly seize the original vinyl of this if I could rather than having to suffice with a crummy CDr copy aimed at those of us reviewers! (RJ)

www.rockishell.com

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JOCELYN ROBERT The Maze CD (Fragment Factory, Germany, 2015)

The Maze is the latest sound release from interdisciplinary Quebec artist Jocelyn Robert. Robert has an impressive pedigree in the world of experimental contemporary art – working in computer art, performance, music, and writing among other forms. He’s also actively involved in helping shape future artists, having taught in Canada and the U.S., including his current position as director of the School of Visual and Media Arts and Laval University in Quebec City.

He describes The Maze as “imaginary sound maps and subjective audio landscapes”, enticing listeners with the promise of discovery of new musical lands. However, what the listener discovers in this album is going to depend on their mindset and environment.

The first question to ask oneself before embarking on this sonic excursion is: “How do I feel about experimental music?” If your definition of that genre includes more structured acts like Faust or assaults like Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music, or anything that might also apply the label “ambient” to itself, you might want to approach with caution. The Maze creates a geography of sound through exquisite detail and carefully placed sounds that gives a kind of 3D effect. But it doesn’t contain much that could be termed “musical”, doesn’t rattle you with its rawness or energy and isn’t suited to background or “mood music” status. Which brings us to the second question a prospective listener should ask: “How much do I like silence?” Unlike so-called “ambient” music, this album is minimalist in the extreme. It functions by juxtaposing moments of sound with stretches of near-complete silence, setting up a contrast between the two, so that a few notes on the piano come crashing through with the force of a canon. Getting the most out of the release, with the exception of one track, requires a superior sound system and even then, you’ll need dead silence all around (yes, even if you don headphones), or the final sound will be muddled and you won’t get the full effect that the artist evidently intended. You also have to be fairly comfortable with stretches where there is simply nothing to hear, and to be ready to listen actively, so that the effect of the sound-against-silence isn’t lost.

The music is more a piece of art than what would normally be found on CD. It has the glacial pace and meandering quality that people either love or hate about experimentation. Robert uses crisp, acoustic instruments (piano, guitar) sparingly to create something that is minimalist in the extreme. It’s likely that those who have found themselves drawn to other artists who practice in multiple disciplines will appreciate The Maze as well.

There is a shock in store, however, in the form of the album’s third track. Entitled ‘San Francisco #1’, it’s a monstrosity of digital glitches that will test the speakers and the patience of most listeners. After two decades or more of listening to things that a lot of people would argue isn’t even music, I’ve grown pretty inured to the shock that comes with a blast of noise, but even I wondered if the disc was malfunctioning when this came on. This is the sort of thing I really can’t see anyone liking. Rather, I think they’ll fall into one of two categories: those who skip it whenever they put the album on and those who can endure it.

Given the challenging nature of the music and the challenges associated with being able to listen to it properly, I think this is likely to be a release with limited appeal. Those who are drawn to minimalist experimentation and who can find a way to enjoy everything it has to offer will be pleased. Others are better off looking elsewhere for their musical fix. (KM)

www.fragmentfactory.com

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FRANK ROTHKAMM Wiener Process 24CD set (Baskaru, France, 2015). 

 A German avant electronix composer, now based in Los Angeles, Mr. R’s gargantuan project, contained within a  handmade lucite box, in, no doubt, a hideously expensive limited edition of 24 (!) points to a new conception in music, a zone where there is no beginning nor end and no linear development, statistically designed so that the listener will not remember a jot of what was heard a few minutes ago, and what they hear will seem different on each occasion.

    Because there are twenty-four hours in a day, the Wiener Process comprises of twenty-four distinct one hour pieces and each disc is artworked with a twenty-four hour clock with the missing number signifying a particular volume. With the promo disc, I expected a segment, say, of three minutes from each c.d. but on closer examination, it shows that all of the numbers are intact and perhaps inevitably (?) the CD doesn’t play at all. Nothing. Nada. It appears that I’ve been custard-pied by a conceptual in-joke! and, yes, gentle reader, my sides have just split. So it’s all down to the accompanying crib-sheet. The work apparently begins in silence, builds to white/pink noise, which eventually develops into a tonal zone of melodics, which over time, lose their integrity and then enter denser harmonic planes. Things then come to a close with a field recording called ‘Hyperacusis Man, Opus 82’. Or so it sez…. I for one shall never know – two dozen times over. (Stefan McPeacock)

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SCHROTTERSBURG Cialo LP (Extinction, Poland, 2016)
Released at the very end of 2016 the second album by this Polish trio has an appropriate wintry and desolate feel spread over its eight cuts. Arriving unashamedly from the post-punk milieu, each song vividly recalls groups from the early 1980s such as Joy Division, Artery, 1919 and UK Decay after being given a salubrious contemporary spin that renders everything seeming just that touch more powerful and angrier. It’s a decidedly immersive sound catching them more or less as they are live. And that’s perhaps where my only complaint is levelled, too. Whilst it is good to ensnare all the strengths of such a setting, I feel Schrottersburg would benefit much from a little more studio attention with respect to some other layers of sound, additional vocal tracks and the like. In the meantime, they’re certainly proving themselves as one of Poland’s finest successors to the lofty heights scaled by Siekiera (whose own 1986 debut is amongst the very best of them). (RJ)
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JON SEAGROATT & IAN STAPLES with BOBBIE WATSON Deathless CD (Future Vinyl, 2015)

Spread over this disc are thirteen pieces of a mostly instrumental nature by Comus’ Jon Seagroatt, known also as clarinet player for Current 93’s present lineup, and improv jazz group Red Square’s Ian Staples. each of them dedicated to the story or even plight of the minotaur as re-imagined by Steven Sherrill’s 2004 novel where it is now living in a trailer park. Aided by Comus’ Bobbie Watson furnishing two of the pieces with spoken word, they are mostly based around an ominous and haunting mesh of growling drones, guttural reed jabs, unearthly electronic sounds and fragmented improvised melodies trailblazing the ether. Owing as much to modern classical composition as to their own backgrounds in improvisation, jazz and the more frazzled end of psychedelia, Deathless delivers like a perfectly executed concept album where the story is almost wordlessly buoyed throughout. Rich, complex and completely engaging, it’s hard to not be pulled deeply into its folds from start to finish.  (RJ)

www.jonseagroatt.com

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SKELETON WRECKS eponymous CD (Gibbon Envy Recordings, 2015)

Meantime, David Yow has joined Godflesh to create the kinda din Al Jourgensen once used to. Includes a somewhat surprising remix by Gary Mundy of Ramleh/Kleistwahr, which at least shows the trio that is Skeleton Wrecks possesses good taste. (RJ)

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SKULLFLOWER The Spirals of Great Harm 2CD (Cold Spring, 2017)

Whilst I wouldn’t go quite as far as many in declaring Skullflower founder Matthew Bower to be some kinda mystical guru on the guitar, there’s no denying his place as key purveyor of white heat bound six-string mangling. Over the course of the thirteen tracks here, aided by Samantha Davies (also known under the artistic guise of Gyr) on violin and additional guitar, the trademark Skullflower sound is healthily manoeuvred through billowing plumes of psychedelic noise that sound like they were initially baked at the very heart of Mauna Loa. What might appear unrestrained in this lava-stream of unadulterated sonic gush is nuanced with recurring flecks gyrating along the melee like broken dancers. Barbed strands glint shard-like amongst the layers of brimstone noise, should one get a little too comfortable whilst tugged by the undertow, but more than most else this is fantastic cosmic churn as delightfully all-encompassing as it is laced with convoluted threats or an inescapable sense of dread. I can’t say I keep up with everything of Skullflower’s, but every time I find myself immersed in their world via the occasional new release I’ve tripped over in my own quest to sprinkle a modicum of sense into my own life I’m never disappointed. Far from it. (RJ)
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SLEAZE ART Infra CD (Bocian, Poland, 2015)

If I’m not mistaken this is the first album by French bassist and dronesmith Kaspar T. Toeplitz  under the Sleaze Art guise since the late ‘90s. Typically comprising additional bass layers by a few collaborators, Infra amounts to one long piece that begins as a low rumble, swells enough to make the walls shake with sweat and gradually ebbs into the distance. At over 70 minutes long, I feel Toeplitz could have achieved far more with less, and even though the execution of the concept itself is hardly original there’s no denying the sheer weight and intensity here. (RJ)

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STARA RZEKA Chien Chmury Nad Ukrytym Polem 2LP (Instant Classic, Poland, 2015)

Looks like this is a reissue of an album originally released on CD in 2013 by this Polish alias (meaning ‘Old River’) of Jakub Ziolek, a multi-instrumentalist and composer also known for his work in Kapital. Stretched over the four sides of white vinyl here seems to be something for everybody; a dash of avant-folk, several seams of drone, a bout of tumultuous noise and even a cover of Nico’s ‘My Only Child’. The man is clearly talented, but this music sounds too restrained, on the whole. Less heartfelt and more akin to an advert of his prowess to budding collaborators. Something to return to, perhaps, but not in a great hurry.  (RJ)

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STARZY SINGERS Ombreola 2LP + CD (Antena Krzyku, Poland, 2015)

Remastered reissue of this now defunct Polish group’s debut album from 1997. Frayed melodic punk with a leaning towards what was once known as college rock (maybe it still is? I have no idea!), although most of the songs are frenetic and charged with more power than that might suggest. A neat enough weirdness element is threaded into the sound, too, sometimes even recalling Sun City Girls when at their punkiest. That’ll always win a vote round here. (RJ)

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ANDI STECHER Austreiben/Antreiben LP (Heart of Noise, Austria, 2015)

Debut by this Austrian percussionist now residing in Berlin whose four pieces here, inspired by European mask traditions and themes of transition and our relationships with nature and so on, gravitate between a bowed, rasping tonal approach and more pulsing rhythms. At times recalling the stark treatments served by Eddie Prevost and at others diving into realms not unlike that of a kinda stuttering minimalist tribal techno, there’s much to be said for these incredible explorations into thematic sound. Good to see that an old Krakow-based buddy, Norman Teale (a.k.a. The Norman Conquest), was handed a credit for the mastering job, too. A release I’ll return to for definite. (RJ)

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GEIR SUNDSTOL Langen Ro (Hubro, Norway, 2016)

Whilst only too clear this Norwegian guitarist is an accomplished and versatile player, given as he is to drawing from folk music from his native country to Indian classical, the music is perhaps just a little too light and saccharine for the most part. Aided by an array of other players who between them embellish the compositions (one of which was written by Georgio Moroder) with piano, harmonium, synths, various percussion instruments and more strings, there’s certainly a nice organic feel afoot, but everything wavers too heartily between hotel lounge bar and general muso territory to render it engaging enough to lose yourself in. The warmth of the production only pronounces just how squeaky clean Langen Ro is. This is the sound of someone who at least appears nothing has ever once gone wrong in his life. (RJ
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GHEDAlIA TAZARTES/PAWEL ROMANCZUK/ANDRZEJ ZALESKI Carp’s Head CD (Monotype, Poland, 2016)
I have to ‘fess that French artist Ghedalia Tazartes is a completely new name for me even though he’s clearly been active for a few decades now and has even had numerous releases on the fine Italian imprint Alga Marghen. There’s so much stuff out there that it’s easy for something to slip through the net, though. Not always a bad thing, either, but in this particular case it’s certainly a shame as the ten cuts here, recorded in collaboration with these two other similarly disposed artists,  embark on an unsteady stroll through a deep forest heavily intertwined with sounds as beguiling as they are mostly enchanting. Voices ranging from the gutteral to the kind of operatic style one would expect only to emanate from the guts of a near derelict Victorian asylum outstretch tendrils through all from melodic zither and sitar plucking to disembodied animal cries, ghostly rasps, doom rattle and an always engaging ‘ur’ approach to avant magic-making. In a perverse way,  Carp’s Head is akin to a monstrous folk music as imagined by Vlad Tepes before having its bowels ripped slowly from its more trad image, which is perfectly fine as far as I’m concerned. I only wish I understood the lyrics. (RJ)
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THET LITURGISKE OWASENDET Wisconsin Mining State cassette (Forwind, 2017)
First time I’ve heard this artist, but he appears to have been pretty prolific since his first release appeared a coupla years back. Throughout the six tracks here, we’re treated to moody electronic rumbles, distant rhythms, shifting tectonic plates of quasi-industrial sound, proto pulses and chattering signals from a long dead satellite now presumably being sucked into a black hole and destined to be turned inside out or something. On one hand, the music is stark and muscular and, on the other, it alludes to the kinda psychedelia primed for stumbling through a dystopian k-hole without even a semblance of moral support. Either way, it succeeds where so many of these cod-horror death ‘n’ doom-fixated ‘ambient’ artists fail. It’s an immense sound and I like it as much as anybody with a functioning brain should. Shame only 30 were produced, but there’s a digital version available, apparently. That stuff’s lost on me, though. (RJ)
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MIGUEL ANGEL TOLOSA Ephemeral CD (Sofa, Norway, 2017)
Third album under his own name by this Spanish artist now living in Cologne collecting ten compositions utilising carefully teased gush, penumbral digital flotsam and shimmering timbres. It all sounds fine and pleasant enough, but somewhat perfunctory and not far removed from an infinite number of other contemporary artists all more or less furrowing similar ground. Each of them apparently work with the same tools and similar ideas, slowly but steadily eradicating any personality in the whole process. The question mark after asking the point of such music these days is now so big and eblazoned with so many neon lights it’d outshine Las Vegas…  (RJ)
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TRUPA TRUPA Headache CD (Ici D’Ailleurs, France, 2016)
The last track, ‘Picture Yourself’, on this remastered reissue of the third album by this Gdansk-based group, serves a triumphant and anthemic close to an approach converging indie-rock sensibilities with a clearly more experimental yearnings. It is due to the latter that Headache rises above the usual fare by young men attempting to straddle guitars when not otherwise ingesting poetry or dissecting the last Bela Tarr film over a bottle of cheap red plonk. Into a sometimes cascading veil of six-string attack reminiscent of Godspeed! the awkwardly named Trupa Trupa tuck in more erratic and oblique twists that wouldn’t seem out of place on a Sun City Girls album. Whilst I’d personally like to hear this decidedly avant-garde approach pushed more, the fact that it already exists not only illustrates the group have their heads screwed on but defiantly gestures towards far greater things. I’m all for joyous walls of guitar one can get utterly lost in, but more often than not it’s what lays in between ’em that counts. I look forward to the new album. (RJ)
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TRUPA TRUPA Jolly New Songs LP (Ici D’Ailleurs/Blue Tapes/X-Ray Records, France/UK, 2017)
Newest album by this Polish group who set themselves apart from their native peers by singing in English. This is something I’ve often pontificated on when considering the comparative success (or not) of most Polish groups outside their home country and, perhaps sad to admit to a degree, it makes a huge difference if any such group has its sights set higher than average. Jolly New Songs collects eleven, you guessed it, new songs which perpetuate the themes of the last album, Headache, blending melody, dissonance, rhythms that occasionally jut against each other and even a pop sensibility keenly buffing away all nods towards gratuitous experimentation. Sometimes the latter can grate, such as on the thankfully brief lowdown strum-a-thon ‘Coffin’, but for the most part the balance is set just right. I’m reminded somewhat of Girls Vs. Boys or Breaking Circus at times, which is no bad thing when it comes to the rather more scuffed end of pop of course, tho’ it’s clear these guys owe as much to the more progressive strains of hardcore and its hold over what later transmogrified into post-rock. Whilst the mix itself might not be entirely new there’s a freshness and energy to Trupa Trupa’s sound bursting out. Coupled to the evident yearning to reach beyond these corridors, the group have much going for them. Let’s see where they go from here. (RJ)
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VLADIMIRSKA Paper Birds CD (Gusstaff Records, Poland, 2017)
As far as I’m aware, this is the second album by this Krakow-based septet who, led by vocalist/accordion player/multi-instrumentalist Scotia Gilroy, also utilise an array of wind instruments and an upright bass besides regular rock instrumentation in order to conjure a breezy and sometimes jaunty folk-pop. There’s a lightness of touch to most of the nine cuts that constitute Paper Birds, tho’ occasionally more pensive strains are mixed into the fray that lend the proceedings a more smoky, moonlit quality counterbalancing everything perfectly. ‘Midnight Stroll’, coming across like a lolling blend of klezmer and Hugo Race, is a  suitably shaded highlight that sets the overall tone. (RJ)
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JOHN WALL & MARK DURGAN Contrapt CD (Harbinger Sound, 2017)
Seven collaborative pieces by two artists generally housed in the worlds of abstract electronics, plunderphonics and electroacoustic shapeshifting. Akin to so many such releases, it’s not entirely a comfortable listen as we are subjected to a series of often queasy squelches, crackles, fizzes and rasps of a hue not unlike that of a robot having a mental breakdown, although there’s much to be said for the exploratory nature of these otherwise utterly immersive sounds. As is often the case, I feel music of this nature works far better as a live experience than on any recording, really, but as a testament to Wall and Durgan’s capabilities as alchemists of a potentially untamed sonic environment, Contrapt makes for a great document several cuts above the usual fare emanating from this space. (RJ)
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CHRISTIAN WALLUMROD ENSEMBLE Kurzsam and Fulger CD (Hubro, Norway, 2016)
Christian Wallumrod is a prolific and highly respected Norwegian pianist given to contemporary takes on jazz and classical music, sometimes softly embedded in a more subdued setting dovetailing with near-ambient or cinematic music. The seven pieces here, buoyed stealthily along by tempered vibraphone, percussion, cello and subtle sax or trumpet flourishes, stem from a largely quieter zone where space and a penchant for subtlety and restraint reign over the (sometimes broken) melodies. The opener, ‘Haksong’, is a little busier with its lolling and more joyful and playful approach, whilst ‘Langsam’ is possessed of a sombre tone not unlike the general mood of the album, and ‘Phoniks’ delves deeper into an abstract domain where rasping textures jostle next to each other effectively. Everything is fine until the closer, ‘Kurzsam Und Onward’, jauntily grates away till the stop button has to be hammered full force. It is evident that this Ensemble, helmed by Wallumrod, has a fluid handle of a wide range of styles and techniques, most of them at least interesting, but an underlying cloying sensibility tends to get in the way of certain pieces, unfortunately. (RJ)
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SIMON WHETHAM What Matters Is That It Matters CD (Baskaru, France, 2015)

Typical for this French label, we’re presented here with another sound artist whose work is focussed on space and utilising anything within it to create a tapestry of hums, tones, rasps and suchlike alongside an array of subtle field recordings. Rather subdued on the whole, these compositions sway between a sometimes chilly and breezy filmic haze and those swollen with movement and hints of dissonance. Whilst Whetham’s work doesn’t necessarily stand out from that of countless others operating in the same area, the obvious deftness and sense of shading at least keeps it evocative. Somewhat more interesting than the other cuts is the title one which pulls in some gentle and minimal melodic signature possibly, and hopefully, sourced from real strings before it makes way for a neat bank of steadily controlled noise. A whole album of such pieces would go down very well round here. (RJ)

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 WIRE Nocturnal Koreans LP (Pinkflag, 2016)
Difficult for me to stand back from this group and criticise them. Even in their weakest moments during the past few decades they’ve retained an artful handle on a sensibility which casually wavers between a kinda scuffed pop, aggro-rock, ‘noise’ and their more experimental leanings. They’ve never been a group one can pigeonhole easily, despite a veneer still easy to slot into the post-punk landscape where they not only evidently found their own voice (154, their third album, pays witness to this sublimely and catches them pushing their undeniably punk defiance into territory more to do with Pink Floyd and Brian Eno than much else) but learnt to tease it way beyond expectations. Punk was always going to be, in a way, too limiting for them, at least in the sense most people perceive it. On the eight songs that make up Nocturnal Koreans, the group, still led by Colin Newman’s always agreeable history documentary narrator voice, once again delve into a world of knowing hooks, enterprising melodies and measured snarl where their post-production skills reign above all else. This is pop as it should be. Clever without any pretension and, more importantly, not trying to do anything beyond exist in a world of its own making. The nearest parallels I’ve ever been able to draw alongside Wire, irrespective of how utterly futile they might well be, have always been This Heat, Can and Robert Wyatt, but even then it has always been more about finely honed insightfulness than the actual music. I still stand by this, too, even on the 2016 version of the group. They were so far ahead from the very outset that each and every new album only, as a rule, maintains their lofty position. In a league of their own. Still. (RJ)
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KARMICIEL WSZY Isdalskvinnen CDr (Anoplura, Poland, 2015)

During the past year or so, this Polish artist has been keeping himself busy with putting out a number of low-run and often self-financed cassette and CDr releases. This particular one only appears in an edition of 30 or 40 and was mostly used as a promo or given to friends, etc. Housed in an oversized foldover card sleeve, it collects nine softly hewn dark electronic pieces that are kept interesting enough via the shifting plates of sound at work and their occasionally ebbing into more intensified forms. There are no tricks up the sleeves beyond this, unfortunately, but everything hangs together nicely enough regardless. As often the way with such music, I feel far more could be achieved by the introduction of disparate elements. A turning of the corner in this respect could make this really worthwhile. (RJ)

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YA TOSIBA Love Party CD (Asphalt Tango Records, Germany, 2017)
Debut by this Scandinavian duo who converge Arabic sounds with a vibrant enough electro-pop approach. Pleasant but even with these additional elements not especially taking the dancefloor anywhere new, unfortunately. It’s almost as though Transglobal Underground never went away… (RJ)
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ZEITKRATZER Lou Reed: Metal Machine Music CD (Zeitkratzer Productions, Germany, 2014)

If you’re not already familiar with this German orchestra’s work at least courtesy of their two releases focussed on the music of Whitehouse, then here’s another perfect chance to try and redress the balance. Of course, you should all know Lou Reed’s classic album,Metal Machine Music, and have doubtlessly read all the stories concerning it. Regardless of those, it is a good album in its own right and serves as something of a link between the minimalist droneworks by La Monte Young, Tony Conrad et al and the more industrial music inspired delving into noisestorms of a purely electronic persuasion. What Zeitkratzer have done, however, is to arrange the array of feedback loops and often harsh tones of the original for a 10-piece ensemble of strings and percussion. This itself could only too easily fall flat, but the attention to detail and all-encompassing layers sweating out here are irresistible as they move steadily from one part to the next entirely naturally and without losing sight of the original’s sheer power. This collects live recordings and only serves to make one wish they’d been in the audience. Beautiful and utterly mesmerising.(RJ)

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JOHN ZORN Pellucidar A Dreamer’s Fantabula CD (Tzadik, 2015)

Whilst I’ll concede he’s got a talent for at least working with some great musicians, has some interesting enough ideas of his own and certainly champions some interesting work that would otherwise remain buried even deeper in obscurity, I’ve never been a huge fan of Zorn. This album, replete with its catchy title and Ikue Mori photography, is just fucking annoying. Lounge music played with one eyebrow locked into an arch that should be demolished. Instantly and as painful (as this music) as possible. (RJ)

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VARIOUS ARTISTS The Harbinger Sound Sampler 2LP (Harbinger Sound, 2017)

Say whatever you like about Harbinger Sound or the duo, Sleaford Mods, that carried Steve Underwood’s label beyond its serving some kinda enclave to weirdo ‘noise’, post-punk and outsider artists of a largely DIY disposition, but it has never once strayed from its earnest and humble beginnings. As if to compound matters, this collection of twenty artists who’re all somehow affiliated with the world the label inhabits, each one offering a new or rare cut, has a ‘Pay No More Than £3.99’ statement proudly emblazoned on the front cover, just like how it used to be for certain punk/independent (before it became lame and limped into ‘indie’) releases. It is a touching gesture that works on a few levels, least of all the idea of hopefully introducing a new audience, possibly drawn to the set’s inclusion of a Sleaford Mods’ track, to entirely new sounds perhaps only otherwise connected to each other by the underlying attitude to their creation. And, indeed, it is because of this that, similar to most compilations, the array of sheer different noises on offer is so vast. A number of the artists/groups here are certainly new to myself as well, which when arriving from a generally reliable source such as Harbinger Sound is always a good thing.
 The proceedings kick off with a song by German punk group, Toylettes, who’re possessed of a neat ramshackle approach beamed straight from 1979, before Mark Wynn’s ‘Michael Buble Slippers’ recalls John Otway & Wild Willy Barrett after being shoved through a meat grinder. That’s a positive in my book, by the way. Steve Ignorant’s Slice of Life proffer the third entry to the first side with ‘Your Day Will Come’, still catching the ex-Crass vocalist angry enough over a lolling, almost pop setting of piano and female backing singers buoying his poetry well. Sleaford Mods deliver a highlight with ‘Fat Tax’, built around a funky refrain and typically acerbic yet funny as fuck lines from Jay about ‘the fresh prince of bell-ends’ and an ‘alternative white chocolate mocha”, while Consumer Electronics round off the first side. The latter’s last album, Dollhouse Songs, in some ways saw the group pushing the envelope of their sound somewhat via beats and the inclusion of Sarah Ruth on vocals. All well and good, but (and this is nothing personal) Sarah’s ‘smurf having a fit’ vocals aren’t strong enough to carry the words, I feel. Philip is absolutely perfect in this domain, with his own craft having been honed to virtually untouchable heights. Why compromise that?
 Onto the second side and Mark Durgan’s setting things off to a great start with some distinctive rasping and curdled electronics somewhat removed from the work under his former guise of Purefier. John Paul, who engineers at Nottingham’s Rubber Biscuit Studios, follows this with his own take on Sleaford Mods’ style before Future Commuter might make you wonder where The Human League would have gone if instead of embarking on a pop career they’d have delved further into weirdness ‘n’ wonderment. The excellent Circuit Breaker, although more rhythmic, likewise keep such thoughts afloat and Sudden Infant round the side off with a live rendition of ‘Father’, one of Joke’s beefier works I’m sure would be fantastic caught in the original capacity of the performance. The one Sudden Infant show I’ve so far witnessed was incredible. Highly recommended should you get the chance.
 The third side catches Phil Julian opening things with ‘Blanking’ whereby the scrunched-up electronics at work here come as no surprise but are beguiling enough. Japan’s Pain Jerk then scatter more electronic noodling over a rudimentary rhythm that sounds like it got jammed, while Switzerland’s Massicot are adorned in a sprightly contemporary post-punk sound drawing from stranger waters kept in check by a violin and an adventurous rhythm section. Pisse, from Germany, maintain the punk-ish detour but seem a little mandatory by comparison, while Karies (likewise from Germany) continue the pace with their Joy Division-meets-Nice Strong Arm stance rounding the side off.
 The fourth and last side begins with LA punk group Urinals’ ‘The Girl Before’, which has a melodic pop-punk feel the like of which I’ve done my utmost to avoid for about three decades now. After this, Frustration, another more 21st Century take on post-punk sounds, from France, flex things up somewhat and include some neat synth stabs, while The Lowest Form, whose Luke Younger makes great electronic music as a solo artist, knock out some hardcore punk no more or less remarkable than Chaos UK, whose own ‘Impose’ contribution follows it. Was a time I could regularly listen to hardcore, and I daresay I still have a few such records tucked away in my collection, but most of it leaves me rather cold these days, much as I still appreciate the energy. Sweden’s Treriksroset take us back to some electronics damage that doesn’t very much stand out from the crowd, either, ultimately rendering this entire side, the weakest of all of ’em.
 All in all, though, and in spite of my own music preferences and petty grievances, I cannot fault this release as a whole on any count whatsoever. Not only does it adhere to that old cliche of doubtlessly having something for everybody (at least those interested in these areas of music) but it kicks against everything the now redundant Record Store Day stands for with its overpriced special editions and the main players of the, uh, ‘industry’ hogging the record plants and suchlike in order to play up to its dominance (and immediate cash injection, I daresay). ‘Fuck RSD’ indeed. Buy this release while you can and support one of the few voices of true independence who might well have smashed down the gates of mediocrity in their own tiny way without compromise.  (RJ) http://harbingersound.bigcartel.com/
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MONOPIUM/K. Nightclubbing/Die Wolfe Kommen Zuruck CD (Zoharum, Poland, 2016)
Never a huge fan of split-releases, although have procured a number over the years and even released a few myself with Grim Humour back in the day. All the same, I understand their role as possible entry points to the work of the respective artists at a generally lower cost and, for sure, they can sometimes even be quite remarkable (let’s not overlook the NWW/Whitehouse split-LP of yore here, 150 Murderous Passions). Monopium, who have existed for several years now and already have a string of releases behind them, proffer four simplistically set pieces combining looped voices, skewed yet understated electronics and gauze-like ripples of sound. Although generally subdued, there are some neat tempered noises afoot. Nice. K., who have likewise been in operation for a few years with plenty of releases behind them, bring three pieces to the table that are in keeping with the overall restraint of the previous cuts but opt for a comparatively rhythmic-ambient approach redolent of Locust, CJ Bolland and even early Biosphere. (RJ)
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