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Online journal devoted to (un)popular culture's murkier regions. Began as Grim Humour magazine in 1983 and lasted eighteen editions until 1993. Took a break until 2000 when it was relaunched as Adverse Effect magazine (which continued with the old numbering system). Four editions published until 2005, then compromised into being available via the internet, where a barely maintained website exists. Grim Humour itself is presently slowly evolving into a book dedicated to various highlights and low points from the magazine, whilst two record labels, Fourth Dimension and Lumberton Trading Company, hover very closely like needy cousins. Send review material to: ul. Krolowej Jadwigi 133/5 30-212 Krakow Poland

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Reviews: Number Four

I keep unearthing more review material. Some of this should have been handled last year, but it unfortunately took me half a year or so to organise many things following a move in late 2007. Anyway, bearing in mind my apologies directed to those concerned are now firmly yet inadvertently cemented, here they are. Hopefully, the next round will see one or two others helping me out, too...

MYRA DAVIES Cities and Girls CD (Moabit Music, Germany, 2008)
Spoken word by this Canadian mostly fleshed out by music from Gudrun Gut but also, on one piece each respectively, by Alexander Hacke (Einsturzende Neubauten) & Danielle de Picciotto and Beate Bartel. The stories, which are executed well and are infused with a salubrious modicum of black humour, range from being about resisting ‘stuff’, Berlin, hanging out with John Giorno, times of supposed innocence caught in a timewarped friend, family history and so on to one cleverly suffusing women’s independence with a need for a ‘drill’. The music backs everything up perfectly and arrives generally from haunting electronica indebted to its rudimentary roots in sound exploration, although Bartel’s employing a single-string Viatnamese instrument called the Dan Bau serves as pleasant a detour as the use of old Irish melodies in Gut’s accompaniment to ‘Goodbye Belfast’. Altogether, everything falls into place well enough for you to either listen to it in the manner in which it was intended, with all attention paid to the words at work, or to enjoy as a glorious whole where Davies’ passages can be treated as very much a part of the music. Fair enough, considering the music was composed around the words and how, well, the collaborations even witness Davies singing on the ‘60s pop-inflected ‘My Friend Sherry’. Whatever, a wonderful album irrespective of how you choose to approach it. (Richard Johnson)

GoGooo Long, Lointain CD (Baskaru, France, 2007)
GoGooo is, essentially, the name given to Gabriel Hemandez’s excursions to often melancholic frontiers. Using field recordings and voices alongside a wide range of instruments including guitar, melodica and piano, then aided by his laptop, he creates a warm and gentle setting more structured than so many others operating in similar areas. Sometimes, such as on ‘Affleurement’, the voices and delicately-strummed guitar are employed to dominate proceedings, but even these assume a vaguely pastoral quality in perfect harmony with everything else on offer here. Gently airbrushed textures and tones are augmented by little, unobtrusive swells of electroacoustic flotsam and jetsam, whispers, bells and clacking noises, while the guitar never once betrays its polite stance whenever it appears. Overall, it recalls the feelings generated by Pan American’s work and, well, if you’re partial to these hazy plains, you could do far worse than visit this album. Also included are videos accompanying the first four songs, but for some reason or other they don’t appear to work on my laptop. (Richard Johnson)

HEAL Supernatural 12” (Sound On Probation, France, 2009)
Laurent Perrier has been responsible for both producing his own music and releasing work by others for a considerable while now. Since the late ‘80s, he has recorded under his own name and collaborated with others in groups such as Zonk’t, Cape Fear and, indeed, this project, Heal. He also used to run Odd Size before ceasing operations and moving on to Sound on Probation, which has moved away from the former label’s concerns with post-industrial music to often dance inflected electronics. Heal themselves fit in perfectly well with this, too. On Supernatural, their third release, they merge a wide range of percussion and string instruments with electronics in a setting not far removed from the worlds Portishead and Massive Attack have operated in. Pinned into place by some great double bass playing, violins sweep over an alluring array of soundtrack-ish twilight swirls perfect for these autumn evenings. Only odd thing, really, is the fact the sleeve states there are eight songs spread over both sides when it appears there’s only actually one song each side. I wouldn’t have been averse to listening to those missing six. (Richard Johnson)

HURRA CAINE LANDCRASH Unanswered Questions CD (Split Femur Recordings, 2008)
Manchester guitarist Daniel Hopkins’ debut, offering six cuts whereby he creates glazed textural ‘scapes by dropping pebbles, shells and so on onto the guitar strings before shaping everything up on his, yes, you got it, laptop. It’s okay but like so much of this type of music just doesn’t navigate anything particularly new or interesting. Shifting banks of sound produced by objects dropped onto guitar strings has been done to death already. I need something more personal from such work. Something that may hold my attention enough to command repeated listens. It’s not a tall order. (Richard Johnson)

LEHN/SCHMICKLER Navigation im Hypertext CD (A-Musik, Germany, 2008)
These two established electroacoustic artists, Thomas Lehn and Marcus Schmickler, first met in MIMEO in 1998 and began collaborating outside them together soon after. Over the years since their first album, Bart, released in 2000 and catching them at some synth improvisations, they’ve toured extensively and have recorded fifteen of the shows now used as the source material for both this album and the simultaneously released Kolner Kranz (also on A-Musik). Lehn uses an analogue synthesiser to Schmickler’s digital one and, together, they meld battery-assault-sized blocks of molten sonic disturbance to rather more refined bridges of static carresses all, of course, arriving from that same tempestuous lake so much contemporary electronic music is drawing from. Although some post-production work has taken place here, it’s still interesting to hear how much scope these two instruments have when placed side by side by two people whose chemistry and imagination evidently equal each other. The dynamics keep everything afloat but, besides this, the very fact there’s so much happening every time things either peak or are pared back to calmer levels really maintains the appeal. Sometimes almost industrial and at others akin to being snagged in some kind of parallel universe, Navigation im Hypertext is precisely where I enjoy being taken by abstract improv music. (Richard Johnson)

YOSHIO MACHIDA Hypernatural 3 (Baskaru, France, 2008)
Japanese artist Machida’s third part of a triptych, which began with a release in 1999 and has witnessed a gap of six years since the last, continues his interest in collaging field recordings with real instruments and treatments. Spread over seven cuts dedicated to the theme of oblivion (in being a positive thing as much as a negative, he explains on the sleevenotes), we get to hear lapping waves, lagubrious miniscule pulses, undulating tones, carefully woven crackle, birdsong, what sounds like a TV recorded ‘neath some frequency noodling, Aki Onda on “cassette recorder”, glazed chunks of static white hiss, Buddhist nun sutras, shuffling machinery and what may be either somebody walking on gravel or eating a wafer. Waves as an obvious reference point aside, it’s hard to see where all of this fits in with Machida’s overall concept for these pieces exactly, but there’s no denying that a lot of work has clearly gone into their being realised. This, and the fact the entire album sits together as both a beguiling and thoroughly engaging listen, renders it one to return to repeatedly. And every listen seems to successfully reveal more and more of its charms. (Richard Johnson)

MöSLANG/WEHOWSKY Einschlagskrater 7” (Meeuw Muzak, The Netherlands, 2008)
Just when I was beginning to think things were going quiet on the Ralf Wehowsky front, a package containing several singles including this one from Jos of Meeuw Muzak arrived quite recently. Good news for me as I’ve been collecting whatever I can by the German musique concrete artist for a considerable while now. My old group Splintered even collaborated with him on an album back in 1996 that I’ll still tell anybody who cares is one of my proudest moments. Here, of course, he collaborates with Möslang, from Swiss duo Voice Crack, on two cuts that are more accessible than most of his work, but I’m not complaining. Heaving drones that sound like they’re welling up from somewhere deep under the Earth’s crust cough out some electronic splutter and chattering sounds that’d sound agreeable enough alone. A great little record, from a great label dedicated to eclectic limited run 7”s deemed collectable almost as soon as they’re released. (Richard Johnson)

ZONK’T Beat Wins You and Me MLP (Sound On Probation, France, 2009)
Another release from Laurent Perrier, but this time presenting his solo material on what must be his sixth under the Zonk’t guise. As with previous material, Zonk’t is given to melding colossal chunks of industrial pounding to electronica and techno. The five cuts here see this approach scaling new heights, and it’d be fantastic to hear this in a suitable environment such as club or a blasted through a venue’s PA system. My own hi-fi, good as it is, has to accept the huge compromise known as neighbours, unfortunately… (Richard Johnson)