About Me

My photo
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, October 17, 2009

Reviews: Number Five

Unfortunately, there are still some older titles tucked amongst the review piles, but I think this lot sees the back of those from 2007. Please note that some of the reviews here are by old Adverse Effect contributor Ian Canadine, too. Hopefully more people will climb on board in due course...


KASHIWA DAISUKE 5 Dec CD (Noble Records, 2009)
The first track on this album wafts in with some gentle keyboard melodies pleasantly redolent of Daisuke’s countryman Ryuichi Sakamoto, while some of the later pieces combine piano and glitch in a manner very reminiscent of Sakamoto’s excellent collaborations with Alva Noto on Raster Noton. That would all be fine, if a little unoriginal, but Daisuke obviously feels the need to shit all over the mellowness elsewhere, by throwing in everything but the kitchen sink on the majority of the remaining tracks. With elements of drum’n’bass, cheesy Metal guitar and pounding beats elbowing each other aside for room, Dec 5 mostly comes across as a bit of an incoherent bombardment, or perhaps an exercise in cut up pranksterism that can’t quite wipe the smirk off its face. (Ian Canadine)
www.noble-label.net
www.kashiwadaisuke.com


FAMILY UNDERGROUND untitled 7” (Quasi Pop, Ukraine, 2009)
New release from this Danish trio who’ve been furrowing their own path through a convergence of foggy drones and textures for a number of years now. Both pieces here maintain their interests perfectly well, offering up two instrumentals almost bordering on layered noise via the sound of electric shavers overheating whilst, on one, a hypnotic rhythm does its utmost to compete. Rather nice. Wouldn’t mind getting one of their albums now as this taster’s simply not quite enough. (Richard Johnson)
www.quasipop.org


FRANZ HAUTZINGER & BERTRAND GAUGUET & THOMAS LEHN Close Up CD (Monotype Records, Poland, 2009)
I recently had a discussion about improvised music with a close friend who ended up contending that you only need to listen to it on a release once because, afterwards, it’s got nothing new to offer. Whilst I can see his point, I likewise feel that recordings of improvised music, as with any other form of it, can become valid documents in their own right which, for all manner of different reasons (subjective and otherwise) can be returned to repeatedly. Especially if those moments captured succeed outside their realm as, simply, improvised music. This team-up of these improvisers caught in, respectively, early 2007 and two separate occasions in 2008, illustrates this all too clearly. Utilising Gauguet’s alto and soprano saxophones and Hautzinger’s trumpet (and electronic devices) alongside Lehn’s analogue synth, the three untitled pieces caught here fall into that magical category whereby certain music or collections of sounds appears to reveal something new with every listen. Through some carefully mannered gloop positively rife with contours enough to sustain interest alone, breathy rasps, squelches, tones, unearthly mumblings and a subtle sense of distress and unease unfurl without once sounding either unnatural or uncontrolled. The fact these three players have played together several times and have a huge understanding of each other prevails heavily throughout. Nobody gets in the way of the others and the focus never once strays. What’s even more noticeable than the apparent chemistry, however, is the way the music pulls itself along into possibly the most atmospheric domain I’ve so far heard on a release of this nature. And whilst the music itself is not so obviously confrontational, it does at least sound like it’s challenging the notions of what can or can’t be done in improvisation. An achievement in itself. Highly recommended. (Richard Johnson)
www.monotyperecords.com


MERZBOW Tombo CD (Fellacoustic, USA, 2008)
Three cuts of ear-bleeding howl the like of which Masami Akita made his name on before he began going both digital and into more rhythm kingdoms. Some of the sounds, as to be expected, are incredible, but I have to ‘fess this album’s not as dynamic as certain work I’ve caught in recent years. Track two, simply titled ‘Tombo 2’, nudges in some quieter moments but, as with the rest of the album, an all-out sonic lava-fuck tends to remain the main course. (Richard Johnson)
www.fellacoustic.com


MIKHAIL Morphica 3xCD (Sub Rosa, 2009)
Morphica apparently represents an exercise in “morphing” an earlier Mikhail album, Orphica, from 2007, which was based on the Greek Orpheus legend. The triple CD set features a cast of thousands, including DJ Spooky and members of the Hilliard Ensemble, reworking material from the earlier project. It comes elaborately packaged, including a sizeable foldout featuring extensively annotated heavyweight academic essays, referencing Deleuze and Lyotard, which attempt to site the artist somewhere on the intersection of the postmodern and the Baroque. While it would certainly be easy to snigger at the preciousness of the whole thing, that would indulge a kneejerk anti-intellectualism which I tend to think is cheap, so I’ll restrain any cynicism here. The discs within are respectively entitled Electronics, Voices and Strings, although I wouldn’t say the distinction in sound or content between the three was that clearly discernible. The music itself comprises a dense and heady fog of layered and phased electronics, harpsichord and kettle drum, tabla, drones, whistles, squelches, and chamber strings, with a Gertrude Stein sample thrown in for good measure. Mikhail’s highly-strung androgynous vocals float in and out at intermittent points, to complete the febrile atmosphere. I was reminded at times of Antony and the Johnsons, at others of ‘80s 4AD supergroup This Mortal Coil, and occasionally of the queasy stylings of Nurse With Wound. Having not heard the original Orphica CD I’ve got no idea how Morphica develops or resembles it, but it nonetheless works reasonably successfully as a standalone experience. (Ian Canadine)
www.mikhailmusic.com


FES PARKER Side Room CD (Pressupable Recordings, 2008)
Fes Parker, “one of the real Blackpool legends” according to Simon Morris’s sleevenotes, was a local hero of the Fylde coast punk scene, who died of cancer in February 2009. This 2008 release delivers a full-on set of fairly unreconstructed, and sometimes pretty lo-fi, rock’n’roll ranting, with maybe a touch of Hawkwind kosmische in the guitar attack. Not really my scene, but the guy was obviously a man with a mission and he stuck with it to the end. (Ian Canadine)


GERT-JAN PRINS & BAS VAN KOOLWIJK Synchronator DVD (Cavity, NL, 2009)
Collaborative audiovisual project that commenced in 2006 by these two artists that can be perceived as some kind of assault on what’s typically spewed from our TV screens. Prins’ own digitalised sonic gush, wavering as it does between spacious crinkled workouts and towering temples ablaze with molten white-noise, provides the perfect accompaniment to images derived from often distorted magnetic signals found within the interference. The resulting ten pieces here amount to broken and barely snatched images cast assunder by violent waveforms or what may well be a test card transmission beamed from a planet so distant that it’s become a mere shadow of its former self in the process. It all works rather nicely but, I’m sure, would be far more effective on a massive screen than those to be found in most people’s homes, despite this being the original intention. The fact it also clocks in at 36 minutes total goes in its favour as well. Too much of this and I think these boys would have to get Nurofen sponsoring them… (Richard Johnson)
www.synchronator.com


RAMLEH Switch Hitter 10” (Black Rose Recordings, 2009)
Since the late 1980s, Ramleh have been stabbing away at a tumultous rock approach that steers between a heavily anguished form of psychedelia and something more suitable to battering yr senses to fuck. Occasionally, they still dabble with their power electronics of yore, too, or even combine the two approaches. Whatever, as far as I’m concerned, it’s all pretty damn good and I can honestly say they’re one of the few groups who survived the early ‘90s UK noise-rock non-genre still prone to doing interesting things. ‘Switch Hitter’ opts for another all-out sensory bombardment of a punked-up and beefy Hawkwind In Search Of Space variety where some great rhythm pummel drives along the kind of guitars that could spill your innards. The distortion’s cranked to the red and Gary Mundy’s vocals sound like they’ve been stripped savagely from an early angry punk obscurity. It all, need I point out, works fucking great for me. The b-side’s ‘The Machines of Infinite Joy’, a title in itself which instantly conjures something from the late Ballard’s world, is an equally heavy instrumental belter. Neat. (Richard Johnson)
Write: srmeixner@yahoo.co.uk


SLOWCREAM and CD (Nonine, Germany, 2009)
Five pieces by Berlin’s Me Raabenstein which embark on a celebration, if you like, of the hand, in all respects from our physical dependency on it to its use as a symbol or metaphor, and everything in between. Beginning as a commission for a contemporary dance project, Slowcream’s third album stretches for around forty minutes and generally sways gently over a filmic hue imbued with a soft electronica approach itself augmented with strings and extra cellos and organs on three of the cuts improvised live by Greg Haines. Whilst the temperament remains refined throughout, some foothills at least take shape at certain points, adding an appropriate sense of subtle drama to the proceedings that sensitively reflect titles such as ‘Pressure’, ‘Vibration’ and ‘Moisture’. What with melodic keys likewise breaking through the symphonies at various junctures, it all feels like Me Raabenstein’s background in club music is ultimately shaking itself away into pastures more serious yet not so sober it may alienate previous listeners. I’ll resist the urge to round this off by saying we’ve either got to hand it to him or must give him a big hand. Instead, I implore you to listen to this incredible addition to a canon of work by a mere handful (sorry!) of contemporary artists whose vision rests outside the usual parameters. (Richard Johnson)
www.nonine.com


STEFANIE RESSIN/ASMUS TIETCHENS 3 Wishes split-7” (Meeuw Muzak, The Netherlands, 2009)
Another great entry in the ongoing series of 7” releases from Meeuw Muzak. Stefanie Ressin I know little about, I have to ‘fess, but here she proffers a nifty slice of dirty electro-pop vaguely reminiscent of Malaria!, which is fine by me. Tietchens, on the other hand, appears with a version of the same song which discards most of the rhythm and vocals in favour of sounds resembling machinery at war. Which also, needless to say, wins my vote. Fantastic stuff. (Richard Johnson)
www.meeuw.net


MIKA VAINIO Black Telephone of Matter CD (Touch, 2009)
Being one half of the fantastic Pan Sonic, it’s no surprise that Vainio’s solo endeavours tend to adopt a similar approach to teasing often abrasive or uncomfortable sound structures into areas where they are tempered and far less black and white. When Vainio cranks things up, everything feels measured and almost surgical, yet these red-level workouts only arise in the first place from a mass of undulating and sometimes broken frequencies or what sounds like machine-noise having a coughing fit. At times, such as on ‘Silences Traverses Des Mondes Et Des Anges’, the proceedings even become quite subdued, like listening to an underground lake, before what sounds like a plane looming overhead then takes over in the next piece, ‘Bury A Horse’s Head’. Attention to detail and, in turn, to mapping out ideas that never betray a stance that feels wholly personal (without being completely detached from the listener) is what sets everything apart. Once more, the (perhaps obvious) analogy of the surgeon in the operating theatre springs only too readily to mind. Everything’s considered and executed with precision and care. Helped along by very occasional choice samples themselves given to some appropriate treatments, Vainio appears to be operating on a far superior level to most of today’s digital wanderers. Black Telephone of Matter pays testament to this fact in leaps and bounds. (Richard Johnson)
www.touchmusic.org.uk


WICKED KING WICKER eponymous CD (Noiseville, USA, 2007)
Four lengthy tracks of slow-motion sludge and feedback by these US metal monsters. The very thing certain teenagers find themselves leaning on because they’re misunderstood whilst the rest of us splutter into our cognac, I suppose, although to be fair there are some pretty massive sounds afoot here that could make many a purported ‘noise’ artist weep with envy… (Richard Johnson)
www.noiseville.com


JOHN YOUNG Lieu-temps DVD Audio (empreintesDIGITALes, 2007)
John Young is an electroacoustic composer from New Zealand, though currently based in the UK. In Lieu-temps he uses field recordings, narrative framing, radio samples and oral history, interweaved with drones, electronics, detuned piano and other tools of the electroacoustic trade, to relate the story of how his father, a soldier with the New Zealand army, first met his Italian mother, during the Second World War liberation of her hometown, Forli, by Allied forces. Young mixes his ingredients effectively and movingly to draw out his major theme of how personal and world-historical events are inextricably entwined, and how chance can play such a huge role in dictating the outcomes of human lives. The repetitive use of chimes from the belltowers of Forli, together with contemporary commentary from war reporters on the scene, works particularly well in evoking the feel of time and place which is vital to the project. Lieu-temps has something of the experimental radio documentary about it, but is none the worse for that, and repays repeated listening in bringing out the intricate detail of its montaged elements. I’m not sure if there are any real benefits in this having been released on DVD Audio rather than CD, but evidently all releases on the empreintesDIGITALes label follow this policy. (Ian Canadine)
www.empreintesDIGITALes.com

1 comment:

Jean-Fran├žois Denis said...

Thanks for reviewing John Young’s Lieu-temps. In the last sentence you wonder why this disc was released as a DVD-Audio. The reason is that both works on that disc are also available in 5.1 Surround sound, a format only possible on DVD-Video (in Dolby Surround) or DVD-Audio (in linear PCM, full spectrum sound quality).