Saturday, September 10, 2011

CD Reviews: Acclimate, Allan Zane, Arvo Zylo, Chefkirk, Eric Lunde, Dave Fuglewicz, Hal McGee, K2, Knurl, Maaaa, Mandom, Marlo Eggplant, Noisepsalm, Norcal Noisefest, Triangle And Rhino

ERIC LUNDE (Trait Mediaworks, TMW030) Mimefistofele (2011) CD

I've been following Eric Lunde's creative endeavors since the mid-80's and his work is always very interesting. From his beginnings in the industrial band, Boy Dirt Car, to his co-projects with Jeph Jerman and Illusion Of Safety (aka Holeist) in 1989/90, his noise works are intellectually rigorous and, yet. poetic all the same. A period of transition followed where little was heard from Lunde, but more recently, mostly via his own Trait Mediaworks label, a burst of activity and numerous  releases have become available, many in limited editions.

"Mimefistofele" is "based on a recording of Boito's Mefistofele, itself based on the play Faust by Goethe". This is another exercise in what Lunde, a devotee of the deconstructionist theories of Jacques Derrida, refers to as "analogue tape reduplication", an elaborate process of recording and re-recording that he uses for disintegration of his sound sources. The cover is satirical, from the EMI Classics look, to the insert illustration of Mefistofeles flying with a tape recorder in hand, to the humorously thought-provoking liner notes: "Faust is himself merely a copy of a copy..." Lunde, seemingly, finds a correlation between his working process and the mythological struggle of good and evil as embodied by the characters of divinity (shaking your head? read the liner notes). But the sounds themselves, apparently cracked and broken re-recordings of the original opera, are another thing altogether. The 14 tracks here share a common tonal characteristic, the sound of pitched feedback soaring like wind through ruins and barren landscapes. The dramatic characteristics of the original orchestral recordings are destroyed and Lunde turns them into spectres of themselves. His work with disintegrative process is unique and, even as the process is entropic, the sound sources broken down way beyond their origins, the approach creates a distinctive new sound world that is complete in it's own way. Noiseheads will dig this. A must have! Get it HERE.

VARIOUS ARTISTS (Norcal Noisefest Org. NCNF014) 2010 The Junk Drawer Is Open, Norcal Noisefest Compilation Document (2010) CDR

Compilations aren't as numerous as they once were. Seems like I see a lot more "split" releases these days. But there are two things special about a compilation: first the possibility of hearing many different, individualistic approaches to a common theme, second is discovering an artist you weren't aware of. Since this isn't a "themed" compilation, I was looking for new faces and there are a number of those here. "The Junk Drawer Is Open, Norcal Noisefest 2010" is an excellent introduction to the northern California noise scene and includes many different styles of sound expression. Overdose The Katatonic are new to me, contributing a weird track that, despite dipping into the overused film-snippet device, comes back in the last 1:45 with an astounding array of loops, sudden stops, crescendos and ends in strangled machine-death. Chopstick, Instagon and Noisepsalm all create beautiful, atmospheric, dark-ambient tracks. Crank Sturgeon provides another of his eccentric, chattering noise pieces. Another new face, for me, was Thomas Helton, who brings an electroacoustic twist to his brilliant composition, via stringed instruments. En Nihil is very heavy, about as devastating as power electronics gets! The real find here, for me, is the superb track by Hypnotic Injection, "Insectual", with it's fluxing, overlapping textures, exploring a microminiature world populated by all sorts of active life. Noise doesn't get better than this! With 18 artists and links to each of their websites, this is a great way of becoming more informed. I found the compilation to be well-paced and listenable, each track unique from the other, an affirmation of the exhilarating sounds being created deep in the U.S. basement noise scene. Produced as part of the Noisefest event, likely sold as merch at the shows, this is a limited edition of 200 copies, probably mostly sold out. Get it HERE.


This album really took me by surprise. Knowing Chefkirk only from his bizarre no-input mixer album with Hal McGee, titled "Nimbus", I wasn't expecting such a minimal piece as the first track on this album, "Overcoming Computer Anxiety". But there it is, a very controlled tone, changing pitch occasionally, and buzzing along for upwards of 12 minutes in an environment where little quirks and slivers emanate from around the edges. Then of a sudden, a very loud burst of mere seconds and what is left is a ghost, winding through various tonal stages to be pulled down at the end by a digital vortex. Where "Nimbus" found me correlating the swirling, crashing sounds to microbic worlds, this definitely has the feel of being inside the computer, like some sort of covert exchange being whispered between digital bytes only to be destroyed by the antivirus software. A mighty track!

The next three tracks are by Marlo Eggplant. Marlo co-founded Spleencoffin Records in 2003 (with Timothy Wisniewski) and, more recently, has been running her own label, Corpus Callosum Distro. She has been a major figure in promoting the noise and experimental sounds of women in the international underground, both with her series, "Ladyz In Noyz", and in her label catalog. Marlo Eggplant is an abstract expressionist, casting her pigments in smeared layers on a sonic canvas. The tracks sound like they were created out of improvisations, but they have a composed quality about them, not only due to some very potent edits, but because there is a sense of deliberate intention here. When I say "composed", that word may well mean something different to each set of ears. In the case of Marlo Eggplant, however, even as abstractions, these tracks have driving forces behind them, very interesting types of noises that evolve, multiply, create rhythms, destroy those rhythms, quite often there is a backdrop that seems to be created with some sort of looping. The reverb also gives a touch of atmospheric quality, well captured in the digital recording, and the impact of some of the expressionistic gestures is stronger because of it.

This is an excellent album. Get it HERE.

ACCLIMATE (Samboy Get Help! 001) World's End (2011) CDR

When Artemis K, of Acclimate, moved with his wife from the U.S. to New Zealand in 2002, he began recording an album that represented his feelings and impressions on living in (and out of) the states, post-9/11, the isolation of being very far away from home and his thoughts on the evolutionary possibilities of a form he loved: industrial music. Thus began the long saga of "World's End". With the project completed, the master tapes ended up in the archives of  Mark Wallbank, the founder of the Club Bizarre label in New Zealand, who had plans to release the album. By 2005, Artemis' marriage had broken down, he was separated from most of his musical equipment, in the process of becoming a helicopter pilot and somehow the record had still not been released. Two years later, Club Bizarre ceased operations and the album never saw the light of day. Artemis took a five year break from anything having to do with music, didn't buy any albums, didn't really listen to anything, moving back and forth between NZ and the states doing various flying gigs, he was away but hadn't forgotten about his music. In 2010 he returned from his self-imposed exile to reclaim the one and only master from Wallbank and release the long postponed album on his own label.

Some of the sounds on "Worlds's End" are holdovers from the early days of Acclimate, a lot of media and film clips of obscure origin provide a sort of post-modern libretto to this and, most assuredly, you're going to be reminded of some Wax Trax and Nettwerk electronic/industrial projects like Greater Than One, or Manufacture. Of course, it's been many years since those Wax Trax days and Acclimate's work also reflects the influence of the new-millenial noise generation. Acclimate's rhythms always had that martial feel, but here the drum programs display an increased technical assurance and as Artemis explains there is "so much noise and shit evolving around (them) you don’t feel stuck in the same place". But, nonetheless, you couldn't feel "stuck" in these compositions at any point as they are fluxing at every moment in a mix that is full and lush, each track with dozens of textures montaged together in a dramatic, filmic soundscape. In fact, this is the most cinematic work to date from Acclimate. These compositions were built with a minimal setup using a Roland SP-606 sampler, the now obscure Ensoniq Fizmo(only a hundred of the rackmount units ever made!) and multi-tracked on a 16 track recorder, mastered by Thomas DiMuzio, the album sounds potent. The track titles, "Transition", "Evolution" "Introspection" etc. find Artemis K meditating on the possibilities inherent in every journey, his has just taken him farther than most. It should be very interesting to see where this prequel leads, with some anticipation, to the forthcoming "Songs For The Dead" to be released later this year. A superb album. Available HERE.

NOISEPSALM (Auricular) Death Masque (2011) CDR

"Death Masque" is the latest release from Noisepsalm, the sound project of Matthew Lewis. According to the liner notes the project took nearly two years to be completed and, when you listen, you will understand why. This isn't just another improvisational slopfest, it's a meticulously produced album, full of nuances and musicianship. Special guest appearances from Allan Herrick(electronics), Lacey LaPointe(cello) and a host of others broaden the colours of Noisespalms's sound palette. If you dig the sound of Coil, you'll dig this, because it has the luminance of Peter Christopherson's recording process and also the sort of sick, downward spiraling within the compositions. It's a fascinating listening experience, one for the headphones maybe, but also very powerful on the house system. Of course, for those in the know, it is Psalm 100 that states "make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth", i.e. Psalm 100 is the "noise psalm". Don't let my correlation mislead however, this isn't Christian, or religious music, yet it is somehow spiritual and contemplative beyond it's wellspring. One of the best albums of the year. Get it HERE.

MANDOM ( All The World Loves A Lover (2011) CDR

Mandom is the duo project of  Roger H. Smith (Chefkirk) performing on no-input mixer and Don Haugen (Warning Broken Machine) on audio oscillator, electronic switcher, and broken function generator. Everything I've yet heard by Chefkirk has been captivating and this release is no exception. Beginning very low with background dronings and a strange rhythmic pattern that reminds me of something on a This Heat record, it doesn't take long for the first crescendo which sounds like a passing jet, but there still are the rhythms, nevertheless changed, evolving all the while. The thing I love about Chefkirk is how he has managed to use a most simple device for creating feedback, but with this device there is, at any moment, the possibility to become overblown in your statement. I never feel that way with Chefkirk, his sounds are brilliantly controlled and have the feel of pureness of intent. Towards the end of the composition  a structure emerges out of a repeating figure that is so powerful it will leave your jaw dropped as you suddenly hear the audience applause at the end and recall that the cd did, indeed, say "recorded live". A marvel! Get it HERE.

ALLAN ZANE ((11.5)2 Anti-Music) Nihil Obstat (2011) CDR

Allan Zane, founding member of the experimental ambient duo, Wyrm, is an accomplished artist who pays closest attention to details in his work. Zane is acutely aware of the precedents for his soundwork, he is equally fascinated by electronica, industrial and noise genres, but his work never sounds derivative, every project I've heard has been unique.

"Nihil Obstat" is Latin for "nothing hinders", but the term is used more by the Catholic censors as a way of specifying that a book is not offensive to the Church. Released in an edition of only 13 copies, if you don't already have "Nihil Obstat", you'll likely not get your hands on it. Instant rarity here, but Zane seems comfortable releasing quite a few of his albums in ultra-limited quantities. This cd presents Zane at his bleakest state, it's certainly not the listenable dark-ambience of Wyrm, nor the playful psychedelia of Sir Bear Trapper (another of Zane's pseudonyms). This is a dense noise maelstrom, sounding to my ears digitally created, with some kind of underlying tonality being obliterated. A minimalist/maximalist death threat created as a response to the connotations expressed in the title. Contact Allan Zane to check if this is still available, HERE.

ARVO ZYLO (No Part Of It) 333 (2010) CDR

Arvo Zylo was an unknown name to me before I received his package of releases. Info on the net is sketchy, but Zylo's press release emphasizes his presence on the Chicago independent radio scene, live shows in and around the windy city and an association with the legendary Illusion Of Safety.

"333" is a really interesting release that combines krautrock, prog, electronica and noise (sometimes all on the same track!). Very well paced with a real affinity for the dramatic buildup. These compositions are created from some of the strangest, oddball sequenced patterns, followed on by chattering noises, psychedelic synth tones, more harshness and stunning, rhythmic driving-forces that reshape the sound structure again and again. If this is breakcore, it's creating a new definition for it. It's a devilish sort of music that, at first, makes for the raised eyebrow and then the dropped jaw as this thing grows into a behemoth before your ears! I really cannot recommend this one enough. Likely to leave noise purists skeptical but this is for more open minded listeners. Get it HERE.

DAVE FUGLEWICZ (No Label) One, Featuring The Loops Of Hal McGee (2011) CDR

Dave Fuglewicsz's new work, titled "One", is a collaboration with one of the foremost U.S. noise artists, Hal McGee. In 2010, the ever-prolific McGee posted 60 one-minute sound clips to the Internet Archive for any artist to use in possible collaboration. The intention was to spur collabs with artists from around the world who were contributing to his International Email Audio Art Project, a multi-volume collection of one-minute compositions. But where most people, like myself, worked with only one specific source track, Dave Fuglewicz decided to take a different path and use every one of McGee's sources, mix them together and process them to create a one hour composition. I've heard McGee's source material derived from feedback looping mixers, most were fairly harsh, but he's a master at creating organic, even microbial sounding environments. Fuglewicz's mission here is to take all those random-but-related pieces and create something that is significantly more than the sum of it's parts and I'm pleased to say he succeeds on every level! Extremely listenable and quite varied all the way through, the piece evolves at every moment into something else. The stereo spectrum is well utilized on this, listen on your house system with speakers wide apart. For those who dig the occasional retreat from heavy power electronics, but still want to listen to noise (i.e. noise-ambient), this collaboration is a rare treat! Inquire about it HERE.

MAAAA / K2 (Triangle) Split (2011) CD

Here we have a riveting split cd of driving, psychedelic noise textures this one released on the Triangle label in Poland. Maaaa, a Polish husband/wife duo, begins the first set here with the closeup sounds of a flying insect, a momentary bit of human voice, then smashes high-speed into a wall of noise like a head-on car crash. Their sound world is one of terrifying, but beautiful, machine noises. Extensive use of the Korg MS-20 synthesizer's analog sounds, feedback and metal junk(on track 4, "Drunken Skinhead") create a soundscape of unusual brutality. Everything is mixed with a wide stereo image and enough compression to expertly delineate their powerful abstractions.

When you come up next to the great K2, you better come correct! This guy, by day known as Dr. Kimihide Kusafara, a pathologist, is one of the originators of the Japanoise genre. He used to make sounds with scrap/sheet metal for his classic style, but now has removed any possibility of self-reference in his sounds by creating a vast arsenal of noise weaponry that sounds so otherworldly, it might as well be the sounds of an alien planetscape. Not a peaceful place, mind you, more like the howling thousand year storms of Jupiter's red spot. At times, a voice is audible as the trigger for feedback and, like Maaaa, K2 also utilizes a Korg MS-20, but whatever analog synth sounds are here aren't discernible processed through these huge slabs of distortion and feedback. With K2 it doesn't really matter what the origins of the sounds are when listening glued to your seat with the fascination of their sheer awesomeness. Get it HERE.

KNURL (Cohort Records) Halometh (2011) CDR

John D. Gore's label, Cohort Records, has been releasing limited edition cdr's for a long time now. The packaging for this series, with it's minimal approach, makes for a very handsome edition of art releases. Of course, Gore's been at this for over 20 years having run the Cohort label now since circa 1990 and also very active in experimental music circles as Kirchenkampf

This is one of several new Knurl releases in 2011. "Halometh" contains all the classic elements of the Knurl style, the heavy use of scrap and sheet metals as source for these compositions. the hideous distortion elements, all recorded with no overdubs or post-production computer editing. These remarkable compositions show how an artist with purist intent can arrive at a result that is not limited by the restraint in concept. These compositions are utterly powerful, very intense! There is a similarity in some of the mid-range tonalities, each track seems recorded in the same space, but like a series of paintings, each track correlates to the others. Curiously, such track titles as "Hemothelium" and "Synoxylate", quite possibly made-up words, references sounding of possible medical origin, but this doesn't sound metaphorical for microbic worlds or viral entities, it possesses a geologic, nearly crystalline quality, like the sound of shooting radiation through precious stones. Excellent! Get it HERE.

TRIANGLE AND RHINO (800 Wild) Fuckin' Howdy (2011) CDR

This is a very interesting psychedelic weirdo release from Jake Lexso and M. Rappa, aka Triangle And Rhino. Sounding like krautrock at times, definitely resembling the Sun City Girls in it's eccentric scope, and maybe also reminiscent of some of the Chicago 90's scene stuff like Gastr Del Sol, but with a harder edge. "Fuckin' Howdy" will make Jake Lexso's musician friends jealous, the playing is just so damned good! Yeah, it's garagey, i.e. not all the timing is on target, even though the drummer is a monster(!), but it has that feel of not knowing you might be able to reach what you're trying to, but try anyway... and it works! Tracks such as "The Lovely Assistant", or "There Are Questions About Your Behavior And Concerns About Your Health" are heavy, yet jazzy, the way Saccharine Trust used to be. Yeah, that's what this might be: "blurt poetry"! But it's different than that too, it's an audio diary kept by a couple of young cats whose heads are into anything musical, who've been listening obsessively to everything they could get their ears on since they were little kids and whose musical obsessions are brought to life in some basement studio through balls and sheer talent! The end result is a really great listening experience. This is on my best-of 2011 list already... Get it HERE.

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