Archive | December 2015

(New Album Review) Frédéric D. Oberland- Peregrinus Ubique

Frédéric D. Oberland is a multi-instrumentalist and visual artist based out of Paris, France who has been maintaining a staggering output since his first guest contributions and compilation appearances around 2007. He’s been a major international presence in post-rock and ambient music since, favoring resonant dark ambience and blistering noise over the usual middle-of-the-road stuff. He’s helmed too many bands to reel off, collaborated with Charlemagne Palestine and Lee Ranaldo, and continues to put out experimental, consummately-assembled, textural stuff year after year. 2015 saw him a busy guy, bringing droney, primitivist psychedelic soundscapes reminiscent of Cul de Sac to life in FOUDRE! and Les Reveils des Tropiques as well as guiding oceanic post-rock into the unknown in Oiseaux-Tempête’s highly anticipated Ütopiya? and now his debut full-length solo effort, Peregrinus Ubique, for VoxxoV.

Six scenes, six spaces for dreaming– Peregrinus Ubique is cinematic minimalist music that resists being described in terms of one uniting style. Desolate drones seep into the chilly recesses of Oberland’s field recordings of environments both derelict and public, from which insistent krautrock rhythms gradually emerge, seemingly keeping time with the flight of a haunted outsider. The swift emotional transitions of the work unfold like the soundtrack to a series of clashing episodes in a fractured narrative. And for further abstracted-suggestion, the physical release comes with a book of photos also by Oberland– but whatever narrative you end up inventing for this dream, you no doubt see that it flows from one space to the next with a sense of precise construction that nevertheless does not forget to leave room for sonic exploration. The pieces are deliciously layered with tactile details from pantophone, signal generator, and a whole array of esoteric acoustic instruments, though Oberland’s jagged, emotive electric guitar tone is usually the anchor. Oberland finds equal inspiration from psychedelic rock, electro-acoustic experimentation, neoclassical, and even folk, using a bouzuki on the plaintive “Scene IV” to evoke the sense of a doubting pause in the chase just before night falls, and with it the windswept despair of the buried synth and guitar on “Scene V”. A really well-constructed and eclectic collection– a vision that was a long time coming and certainly demands your attention.

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(New Album Review) Warren Schoenbright- Eaten by the Forest [EP]

Another netlabel gem from the tail end of 2015: the experimental noise/improv duo (Daniel McClennan on drums, Matthew Pastkewicz helming laptop and other electronics) Warren Schoenbright’s Eaten by the Forest, off London’s Vacant Fulfillment. Though they are after all a noise duo with a drummer, McClennan more evokes the disintegrating ambient jazz of Tony Buck than Tatsuya Yoshida’s manic prog galloping. Pastkewicz’s insistent, spectral loops are equally adept at evoking breathless calm as they are with the tried and true gloom and doom. The pair can unleash an avalanche of noise rock fury, and they can explore impassive ambience via live looping– in other words, don’t want to be pigeonholed, and cannot be anyway…so don’t even think about it. A really wonderful release from a deeply textural project that really needs to put out a full length! Here’s hoping we get to see that soon…

(New Album Review) Edu Comelles- Agost

Edu Comelles is a Valencia-based sound artist, musician, and curator whose work represents some of the most psychically dynamic, deliciously-textured acousmatic music out there waiting to be uncovered by whoever’s inquisitive enough to take the plunge. Beginning with the seething laptop drones of his live performances as Mensa, over the years he has formed a consummately expressive, immersive style of sound art that meshes sound synthesis and processing with field recording, as well as telepathic collaborations with acoustic players such as cellist Sara Galán. Moreover, his netlabel Audiotalaia  released work by Philip Sulidae, one of my tried-and-true favorites among the international acousmatic scene (though less active in the way of releasing new material as of late), in addition to a DJ mix from the always engrossing Heezen. In short, if you are in search of mind-manifesting electro-acoustic soundscapes, then Comelles is definitely your guy, whether as curator or architect… which means that his new release for Barcelona’s spa.RK, Agost, will no doubt be a great last-minute discovery for your 2015!

For Agost, Comelles had some help from Sara Galán on cello once again, along with Avelino Saavedra on drums, Lucy Claire on piano, and Fernando Junquera on electric guitar, but really, what fascinates about these pieces is the impressionistic manipulation of a sample Comelles recorded of his finger brushing the edge of a wine glass– the concept here was to utilize this single sound source to the exclusion of any others, barring the contributions of his collaborators. From this single seed, lush drones flower and die. Agost is a municipality near Valencia– its sonic counterpart holds within it long quiet afternoons and nights of fireflies. Compared with chilly, uneasy stuff of the likes of Comelles’s more field-recording-oriented A Country Falling Apart, Agost is serene and pensive; listening to this, I feel like I’m falling through a sun-dappled leafy funnel from the golden hours of summer into autumn’s embrace. How odd, then, that it’s seeing the light of day now that the hours are so cold and short. It is endlessly enveloping all the same, a shimmering dream that ends too quickly…

(New Album Review) George Cloke- Hrísey

On his new digital release Hrísey, George Cloke (of the ambient outfit Team Morale, with Oli Dewdney) invites listeners to actively participate in the field recordist’s process of making sense of a place and drawing-up a sonic map of its disparate environments. The sound artist and musician spent a month on the island of Hrísey in Northern Iceland collecting the sounds he later compiled on a digital map showing the approximate origin of each recording
(the map can be accessed via this link: http://mapmaker.donkeymagic.co.uk/map/29103).
Nestled among hydrophone recordings of rockpools and awe-struck reveries beneath fireworks and flocks of seabirds the listener will find, on closer inspection, the points on the map at which musical tones complement the wide variety of  natural ambiences– the human reply we make once we’ve allowed the world to say its piece. By the time the delicate keyboard lines and contemplative downtempo of “ferry out” are unfolding, you know that this is a journey you’ll likely take again and again.

(New Album Review) The Occupant- Gradient Rot

The Occupant is Portland-based sound and visual artist Shane McDonnell, whose contributions to Portland’s totally passionate noise community, along with those of comrades like Debris Field (Cody Brant, the owner of Textural Sounds), Tim Sternat (of AweFull Records, and too many bands to list, including Delusional Reality, his band with McDonnell and Brant), Open MarriageLamella, Geneva Snyder, Ure Thrall, and Indignant Senility, make it clear that the work of characters like Maurizio Bianchi and Robert Turman not only still holds a ruinous mystique but has soldiered on in spirit through the experimental sounds of the Pac NW. On his excellent new self-released tape Gradient Rot, The Occupant takes sound collage hauntology into deeply-textured zones, with impassive pre-recorded synth chirps and trills hiding in the shade cast by mangled sonic odds-and-ends, the groaning timbres of metal on metal. Nighthawks scatter before the gnashing teeth of monster machinery among urban wreckage, just before everything goes black. Truly mind-manifesting stuff…and definitely among the essential listening of the year if you are at all interested in the American experimental/noise underground.

Gradient Rot can be purchased directly from Shane via PayPal. Please listen.

(New Album Review) Twinkle³ with Sidsel Endresen – Debris In Lower Earth Orbit

Twinkle³ (Clive Bell, Richard Scott, and David Ross) and Sidsel Endresen’s Debris in Lower Earth Orbit, the second release from Manchester’s Cuspeditions, is a real treat; the esoterically-cultivated British experimental trio and the now-legendary Norwegian jazz vocalist have come together for a total psychical eclipse, a meeting orchestrated by David Sylvian that birthed a meditation on impermanence teeming with deep textures and mischievous, alarming juxtapositions.  These electro-acoustic soundscapes, dominated by Bell’s shakuhachi and other woodwinds along with Endresen’s glossolalia and vague intonations, crackle and shiver with Ross’s interruptions on modified oscillator and Scott’s electronic revisions…it is a conversation that smacks just as much of wind and water as of gas clouds and detritus whirling through space. Sure, one could say that Debris in Lower Earth Orbit samples from several different cultures instrumentally (check, for instance, the shimmering tone from Ross’s kantele toward the end of “The Kessler Cascade”) to “exotic” effect, however, the point here is that the timbres selected are uniquely suited to the effects that are being striven for: abrupt transmutations from the graceful and susurrant to the piercing and eerie. When one clears one’s mind of the cultural associations it carries, Bell’s shakuhachi takes on the soulful quality of a disembodied voice, darting and ducking with the human voice alongside it through the sidereal gardens of “Gloominescence” and “Cosmos and Iridium Embrace”. The “idiom” the collective was aimed for evokes the whispers and interrogations of superreal phantoms, on Earth and elsewhere…

(New Album Review) Martijn Comes- Tradition Noise

Dutch sound artist Martijn Comes‘s striking Tradition Noise, off The Silent Howl, ventures to Mediterranean and returns with what sounds akin to a jet-lagged meeting between Stockhausen and Muslimgauze. Comes’s vision of the sonic other has a seductive languor, with “exotic” sounds from Middle Eastern vocalists and players riding wave after wave of pummeling electricity. Like Bryn Jones and Holger Czukay, he sees the connecting threads between spacious dance-music mixes, acousmatic modernity, and ancient idioms, and leaps from one way of doing things to the next from track to track, finding the logic to make things fit along the way. Wickedly intelligent rhythms and bracing noise abound, but what really burrowed into my brain was the spectral melody of “Preveli Beach”– the sort of stream-of-consciousness loop that manifests in the face of something as seemingly endless as the horizon, or the weight of history. This one’s a real tour-de-force from a guy who is without a doubt the real thing.