When it comes to giving artists from all different aesthetic sensibilities exploring digital processing, field recording, and various kinds of synthesis the wider exposure they deserve, Audiobulb is one of the premier hubs to dig through. Among a slew of wildly diverse new releases from around the world comes Sibbe, a jagged and richly-textured chunk of dark ambience that is informed by its author Aria Rostami’s sociopolitical identity as a second-generation Iranian immigrant living in the U.S. who has known political oppression all too well from the impact that it has had on his family and friends. Some of the field recordings that Rostami utilized on this release were made by his family in Iran, where such activity is looked upon with suspicion. Sibbe is dedicated to all who have been imprisoned or murdered for their art, and to those who are not permitted by their culture to document their world.
Like possible influences Demdike Stare and The Haxan Cloak, Rostami makes emotive dark electronic sounds that drift in and out of a sense of rhythm. What is focal is the painstaking amount of attention paid to the emotional interaction of textures within the mix. The sound is constantly, violently shifting, constantly on the verge of collapsing on itself to reveal some new manifestation. Moreover, though Rostami has disclosed that violin, glockenspiel, melodica, Turkish tar, piano, and vocals were employed in a sound driven mostly by digital synth and sampling, in these mixes, the source of the voices at the peripheries are nearly always a little difficult to figure out– and with producers who make heavy usage of processing, that is how the finished creation is supposed to be, ideally! What all went into the creation of the volatile, mutating storm clouds of “Nosferatuva”? Truly compelling sound artists will want to keep one guessing when it comes to questions of origin– the only limitation that they should really feel beholden to is imagination itself.
It’s a sinuous, dynamic sound that sends a crushing tone of despair and longing right at your center of gravity, regardless of whether you’re passing through the eye, the eyewall, or the diminishing outer chaos (see “Sibbe III”, “Nosferatuva”, and “Vietnamoses”, in that order…). At its lowest and its highest, it hits hard. Essential listening of the year for any and all deep into microsound, dark ambient atmospheres, and experimental techno sounds.
Tim Daisy is a Chicago-based percussionist and composer who has been active in free music since the 90’s. His excellent new album on the ground ‘an amusing mess’, a free-improv exploration of percussion both traditional and non-traditional and found sound will be released on cassette off 1980 Records come November 7th, though it has already had a digital release from his Relay Records. If you are into jazz and art music, you’ll want to pick up a copy, as well as dive into his storied discography, most notably last year’s collaboration with saxophonist Mikolaj Trzaska, In This Moment. I got ahold of Daisy via email to ask him to share some thoughts on music and life…:
When did you start learning to play and what were your earliest experiences playing shows like?
I started playing drums around age of 13. My dad plays drums and would have his set up in the basement while I was growing up. I would climb behind them and start pounding away once in a while. I was horrible! One day my brother told me that I should try playing in time with the music instead of playing randomly. What an interesting idea! Anyway, my brother and I formed a rock band when I was around 15 or 16 and we started playing shows around Lake County, Illinois.
I started taking private drum lessons while in high school with a teacher named Joe Varhula. He instilled a bit of discipline in me, had me practicing everyday, got me on track so to speak. I went to community college after high school and continued to study with Joe, he introduced me to the marimba, had we work on tympani as well. Basically, he was getting me prepared to apply to a four year music school.
When I moved to Chicago in 1997 my plan was to stay for a year and then head out to school. However, once I arrived and discovered the improvised music scene, the plan to go back to school went out the window. 17 years later I’m still living and working in Chicago.
Most of my early free improvised gigs in town were with saxophonist Dave Rempis; we would play at a spot in Lincoln Square called the Nervous Center, a café with a basement performance area where the owners would let us do what we wanted to pretty much. A little later on I joined the Vandermark 5 and started playing at a club called the Empty Bottle every Tuesday. Things kind of snowballed from there as far as playing opportunities were concerned. The late 90’s were and amazing time to be in Chicago as there was a lot of collaborations between the avant jazz scene, the rock scene, the electronic music scene etc. I met a ton of great musicians during this period.
What were your earliest musical influences?
I grew up listening to bands like Minor Threat, The Dead Milkmen, Black Sabbath, Corrosion of Conformity, 7 Seconds, DRI. Tons of punk, hardcore, and metal. I didn’t get introduced to jazz or improvised music until I was 17 or so. My first experience with improvised music was through the late period Miles Davis records: Bitches Brew, On The Corner, Live Evil. These records changed my life. This was a turning point for me, set me on my path.
You’re established as a drummer but you utilize a wide array of musical instruments and unconventional not-strictly-musical tools on this new album. Tell me about the focal points of your setup, and why you ultimately chose the tools you ended up with:
I have been augmenting my standard drum set with various non traditional and or found objects for almost 15 years now. The inspiration for utilizing these objects came about through my introduction to the work of American composer John Cage. His ‘Sonata and Interludes” for prepared piano as well as his percussion piece “First Construction in Metal” inspired me to find new ways to make sound on my drum kit using various types of metals and found objects. In addition, meeting the English percussionist Paul Lytton back in 1998 was an important event in my life. Mr. Lytton’s approach to the drums was a breath of fresh air for me, his use of the drums as resonators through which a multiplicity of sounds could be produced really stuck a chord. Meeting Paul was also my official introduction to the European school of improvisers, many of whom were using a wide array of sound sources along with a standard drum set. Han Bennink, Tony Oxley and Paul Lovens are a few who come to mind.
Describe the process of recording On the Ground ‘An Amusing Mess’.
On the ground is completely improvised with absolutely no overdubs or edits. I set up my materials on the ground, both electronic and acoustic, and improvise a piece until I feel it should end. No agenda, just honest improvising.
The recording engineer Alex Inglizian came to my practice space and set up four microphones, one in each corner of my set up. We recorded live into his digital recorder and then later dumped the files into pro tools and mixed and mastered it. A simple process really. Uncomplicated, this is how I prefer to work!
Who are your favorite composers?
There is a long list of composers whom I admire and am inspired by, and I’m constantly discovering new ones. To keep the list short, I’ll stick to a few of the composers who have had the most profound impact on my work up until this point:
John Cage, Earle Brown, Edgar Varese, Terry Riley, Anthony Braxton, Conlon Nancarrow.
What’s the best show you ever played?
I can’t say that I remember there being a “best” show. However one of the most meaningful concerts for me was playing at the Lviv Philharmonic Hall in Ukraine with the Vandermark 5. There were around 500 people in attendance, this was shortly after the Orange Revolution and there was a spirit of change in the air. After the concert they brought us flowers. They didn’t want us to leave. Amazing experience for me.
You have worked with a long list of collaborators in your career. What’s important about collaboration and what has it taught you in the long run?
I think that collaboration, at least in an improvised music context, is extremely important for your development as an artist. All the great musicians whom I have been fortunate to have worked with over the years have helped shape who I am as a drummer and composer. And I could not have done it without them! When I moved to Chicago in 1997, I started working with Dave Rempis almost immediately; we would get together and play for hours bouncing ideas off of each other, recommending various recordings to check out, musicians to listen to. It’s extremely important to collaborate! I’m not sure I would have discovered the work of the Abstract Expressionist painters had I not worked with composer/reedist Ken Vandermark who recommended I check out the “New York School” of Painters and Composers. Also, I have a much deeper appreciation of the work of Bela Bartok through my relationship with oboist/composer Kyle Bruckmann. These influences were forged through the collaborative process over the years. And I have been very lucky to have lived in a city like Chicago that offered so many amazing musical minds to work with.
What has all of this taught me? Don’t take for granted what you have. It might not always be available to you!
Do you want On the Ground ‘An Amusing Mess’ to evoke something specific, for listeners or yourself?
It is my hope is that I can offer folks a fresh perspective on the art of solo improvisation.
Sindre Bjerga, an experimental sound artist and musician from Norway and the curator behind Gold Soundz Records’s catalog for about twenty years strong, searches for the lost ghosts on magnetic tape through garishly beautiful collages. On August’s Fugue States, off Gateshead, England’s Invisible City Records, Bjerga takes us for a trip through a pair of blackened landscapes of eviscerated pop songs, bludgeoning noise, and uncomfortable near-silence. Recorded live and likely largely improvisatory, Fugue States is a dusky gem cobbled together within a seeming abyss…look into this one if you are a fan of the genuinely psychedelic crashing-around-in-the-dark-with-deliberation of the likes of Smegma and AMM.
Panpsychism, by Nicola Farnasari’s Xu, off Perth’s Twice Removed Records, is a series of improvisations that, culled together, form a night-vision topography of the darker corners of the unconscious. The Cremona-based musician and sound artist, an alumni of Entropia, La Petite Vague, and Twyxu, uses the Xu project to explore haunted drone soundscapes mostly with effects-drowned guitar. On Pansychism, any trace of the pastoral sensitivity of Butterfly Meets Mountain has all but vanished– this one is a tenebrous forest on a winter’s night. A sense of contemplation is imbued with tension by the steady pulse of the sine wave generator, always threatening to fracture the scene. This one is a deliciously atmospheric new outgrowth from the constantly-expanding lineage of the dark psychedelic sounds of Coil and their brethren…not be missed.
Selaroda is audio elevation by Berkeley, California’s Michael Henning. His fine September tape release viaje a través de sonidos transportative, off Oakland’s Inner Islands, explores the ever-evolving layers of a cosmic dream posited within the tissues of the waking seemingly mundane.
Here, the sun-glazed lens focus on the worlds within droplets and grains. In the soft murmurs that accumulate to form the warmly enveloping drone of “phonons et phenomes, à l’infini éternelle” and the piano that treads lighly over a bed of sweeping, stately synths “ondas de reflexao interior”, one can see not only how Henning expertly anchors organic textures within a cosmic frame to imbue his soundscapes with an emotional pull, but also how he finds reflections of the macro-structures within micro-structures, and vice versa. Just as easily, though, he can bring us back down to the less-distant ontic level of life’s dances and humble shrines, through a percussion circle on “mgeni ngoma safari mduara chama” and a solitary, pious dulcimer on “santur solo from tau ceti f, circa 1929”. Make haste to check this one out if you like the sound of Robert Rich getting together with Date Palms for a joyous safari-rite.
[ B O L T ], a duo from Bochum, Germany, take a novel approach towards creating heavy, funereal, guitar-based drones– two bass guitars and an array of effects pedals are the tools driving their minimal, deeply-resonant voice, though field recordings will often add to the ambience and collaborations with friends are frequent. March’s ( 3 ) is as great a starting point as any at which to immerse oneself in this notably original outfit’s sonic world.
These soundscapes have a numbing, chilly embrace– though the guys can employ some fairly thick distortion in their sound, unlike many of their contemporaries in drone-metal and elsewhere, they hold back on the noise. [ B O L T ] are certainly in tune with the mystic vibration tapped by psych-drone entities like Aidan Baker, but they generally bypass the routes by which absolute saturation gets you there. On a track like the ethereal, slow-building “[ 2 6 ]”, the death-knell riff hugs the shadows, with the sonic space hovering at the brink of silence, so that when the crescendo finally arrives, every note comes crashing down like a tidal wave of pure lightning. In the face of this highly sensitive and expressive praxis, one is reminded of the meditative atmospheres of a guitar-centered release like Mathias Grassow and John Haughm’s Mosaic. [ B O L T ] make power ambient that can hold its own with the most beautiful stuff by the masters– we’ll keep our eyes trained on them from now on…
Less than 30 seconds into the stop-start freak-out of “Wifemother”, the opening track off the self-titled full length debut of the Portland-based artist known as Body Shame, you know that you’re in for a strange experience. Synths shriek and roar like sirens as a drum set gets pummeled and slashed by some unseen maniac who doesn’t seem to attempt for rhythm so much as alternate between abusing the skins and the cymbals. But you keep listening, and patterns emerge– blaring sonic clusters from synths fight for space with scurrying outbursts from the drums to create doomy marches towards oblivion and gleeful rollercoasters meticulously planned to run slightly off-kilter. Every outsider sub-culture of terrifying dystopian electronic sounds came together for a love tryst with the wild and woolly end of the avant garde, and while the result is an odd spectacle to behold, there is a certain gravitas to its grim intelligence and tightly-controlled bombast.
Even for SadoDaMascus Records, who have been putting out very radical outsider sounds (Check: ABSV’s dubby noise and The Transulent Spiders’ absurdist sound collage, among others) as the release arm of Sonic Debris Multimedia for over three years, this one really stands out for its harrowing rawness. Body Shame takes self-abuse to the level of the sublime. Call me weird but I think I’m going to go put it on again.
For my Portland readers: you can pick up a copy of the limited tape release of Body Shame this Saturday for Cassette Store Day, and attend the release party for the album next Tuesday, the 20th at Valentines. The release party will feature Body Shame, Alto!, and Consumer, along with live projections by Arjuna Dingman. Hope to see you there.
In the wake of January’s boldly original and emotive Loss, it’s clear that London-based composer James Murray has set himself up as taking a more dynamic path in sound art than nearly everyone else in his field. The Sea in the Sky, an album of granular synthesis released in September off VoxxoV Records, continues in the conceptual vein so brilliantly mined on Loss. This one is a meditative set of soundscapes that take as their subject the expanses of the stratosphere.
These are desolate zones frequently reminiscent of the arctic ambient of Thomas Köner and Sleep Research Facility. Higher-register frequencies crackle, ring, and hum like the streams that flow past a lone traveler making their flight through this vaporous envelope. In the midst of this chaotic network of currents, emotive swells are buoyed back and forth– dissolved voices. One cannot help but be impressed with how the parameters of granular synthesis have been employed to highly imaginative effect, creating layered, filamentous sonic spaces. The Sea in the Sky is something of a textural and conceptual masterstroke– arid and oceanic all at once, and powerfully mind-manifesting as the best dark ambient sounds are meant to be.
The twenty-seventh point on the Eilean map is Patriarchs, a secluded hollow of tape loops and granular synthesis carved out by Vancover, Washington- based sound artist and musician Bryan Ruhe– better known simply as Ruhe.
What one is struck by when listening to Patriarchs is the enormous stylistic shift it represents from the approach he took on February’s achingly beautiful Chamber Loops (off DAUW), which was centered on found sound, spooled into bleary magnetic tape hauntology. For Patriarchs, Ruhe returned to the more organic approach seen on A Beautiful Weakness and incorporated some slow, delicate piano lines of his own to craft the loops and progressions making up the fabric of the album. The result is more ambitious than anything he has ever done, achieving an organically-wrought atmosphere of stillness and shadow on tracks like the title piece and “Shelter”. Nobuto Suda even dips in on “Restoration”, one of the lighter moments of this somber but lovely record. Watch Ruhe’s next moves with great curiosity– this one is not to be missed by any fan of ambient sounds.
like a tree
planted along the riverbank
bearing fruit each season
leaves never withering
one hundred and twenty-one degrees
this album is for all who yearn for
Contact Cult is psychedelic dark ambient by Troy Micheau, the main guitarist of Swahili, who released their latest full-length in two years, Amorvevx, off Translinguistic Other in March. Swahili stand out from a lot of minimal-wave worship for their spacious psychedelic vibe and relaxed tempo. If you get the chance, check out Amorvevx soon, as it’s pregnant with all sorts of unexpected gems, like the shimmering closer “Mokomokai”.
Contact Cult is also pretty unconventional stuff– what are we looking at here, exactly? Like my buddies in Antecessor, Micheau took a page from Pulse Emitter and went for a radical, raw, genre-bleeding take on kosmiche synth sounds for Hylozoist, also released on Transliguistic Other in July. The mutilated textures of drone noise…the spooky transcendence of the original New Age of Iasos and Steven Halpern…all this is just sound in the end, and the idea is to throw it all into the crock-pot to create a strangely beautiful sort of mystic synth-futurism.
You wouldn’t typically encounter music this diverse in its aesthetic-synthesis outside of Portland. The standout track, “Extract”, ripples and swells like bvdub and Loscil’s most gorgeous productions, but with the already vague skeleton of ambient techno even further drowned in the mix. Elsewhere, on tracks like “Narcotomist” and “Ascetic Phase” Micheau punctuates some eerie tribal dark ambient with cool and glowing synth arpeggios and effects. The approach behind Hylozoist comes from the name: “Matter-Zoist”. Seek the inherent connections in all things. This is headphone music un-beholden to any specific genus, and recommended to all fans of dark ambient sounds.