Catalogue

TO:107 – OZMOTIC “Elusive Balance”

CD – 7 tracks – 41:44

OZMOTIC is a multidisciplinary artistic project, deeply fascinated by the dynamics of contemporary society, by architecture, cities and vast uncontaminated spaces.

OZMOTIC creates world sounds characterized by an intense tonal variety and a refined rhythmic research. The interaction between electronic music and digital visual art in

real time is an essential trait of OZMOTIC’s aesthetic.

Having previously collaborated with Fennesz, Murcof, Bretschnider and Senking, “Elusive Balance” is their third album, following “AirEffect” in 2015, and “Liquid Times” in 2016 (both for FolkWisdom). OZMOTIC now release their debut album for Touch.

Mastered by Denis Blackham
Artwork & photography: Jon Wozencroft

Track listing:

1. Elusive Balance
2. Hum
3. Pulsing
4. Lymph
5. Being
6. Whisper
7. Insecting

CONCEPT

“Elusive Balance” explores the relationship between humans and nature, as well as the search for balance between these two great entities.

The theme of equilibrium and its precariousness, and its natural tendency to achieve relative stability connects all living things. Equilibrium is also a junction point and evolutionary engine – unstable and elusive, ready to deteriorate and to start a new reaction mechanism bringing organisms to a new harmony.

“Beauty is a rare and fleeting thing; it oftencorresponds to those phases where we can grasp that unstable equilibrium which exists between us and the world at large.”

THE ALBUM

Musically the album seeks resolution of sound contrasts, in a continuous search for an emotional component that gives simultaneously a feeling of tension and stillness.

There is a duality between the ‘organic’components (represented by soprano sax and percussion) and their interaction with machinesand computers.

In “Elusive Balance”, OZMOTIC investigate the essence of their sound to expand its emotional and compositional potential. Each track contains a search for a synthesis between sound elements apparently distant from each other, but in reality create a new balance – as poetic as it is musical.

The album’s seven tracks draw a sonic flow in which the melodic aspects are countered by glitchesand angular sounds, and the ambient passages are subjected to heavy rains of rhythm, leaving space for dreamlike moments.

Reviews:

Toneshift (USA):

After several collaborations, Italian duo OZmotic is perched to release their sophomore effort, Elusive Balance (Touch; CD/DL) on July 6. The recording is comprised of seven tracks, all under eight minutes which they describe: “explores the relationship between humans and nature, as well as the search for balance between these two great entities.” This being the great balance in so many soundworks and contemporary art of late, the call for change and understanding is internationally broad. The album’s title track begins in total silence, and begins with a synthetic drone, minimal hiss and small electronic bleeps and flutters. The atmosphere is cool and detached, until a sweeping soprano sax enters. It’s voice is silky and clean, yet effuses an emotive consternation.

Moving into the next track, Hum, the space is vast with sweeping, drawn out synths and barely audible bright tones that are cordoned to the edges. They are capturing a sketch, an audio version of our changing Earth, hoping to define a kind of collective metamorphosis that occurs almost unconsciously. Operatic voices elusively emerge from the background and this recording finds its sweet spot early on in a seamless transition between contemporary electronics, to opera, to the field recording of birds charmingly chirping away. They explore the contradictions between the virtual and the real. And just as the transitions within the track are impressive, as is the passage into Pulsing. It’s moody and transparent until becoming something plot-like. The meandering sax, micro percussion and other effects make this a neon-lit all-nighter. Some may call it space jazz – not at all to be confused with the leanings of say, Sun Ra. It’s got it’s own flavor, blended with the smoother side of jazz razzmatazz.

Elusive Balance is endlessly listenable, and doesn’t go too dark or light, kind of coasts in this glossier space of electronic music that just stays neatly under the radar of categorization. Lymph is one of those transitional tracks that gets slightly lost in the mix. It’s a midpoint in this exploration, and as such reads as a view from the scenic long road trip. When they roll out the dusty Whisper the atmosphere is pin-drop, slow and low. It’s a gorgeously twisted ambient work in many shades of gray. The nebulous drone is quite breathtaking, as they briefly augment with those remote disembodied voices once again – it’s by far the highlight of the album, and separately could effortlessly be woven into a piece of cinema.

And then Being shape-shifts the sound/space on the recording, with starts and stops and the pitter-patter of microelectronica atop a sweeping sax line. The overtones of classical, jazz, and contemporary digital music are a bit odd at first, but the deeper they go, with timing and editing, the combination just makes a new kind of sense. Finally, wrapping things up on Insecting, when a low rumble is met with variegated drone and other flash glitch tones that are quite potent. The buzzes continue, like an alarm set on a bank vault. Something is hatching, something is breaking – it’s a very exciting, dramatic conclusion. Grab some additional details about the record here. [TJ Norris]

sherwood.it:

Riccardo Giovinetto e Simone Bosco ovvero Ozmotic, un duo che coglie l’essenza del suono e la traduce con un liguaggio personalissimo che crea una sorta di osmosi – è il caso di dirlo – tra i suond artists/musicisti e l’ascoltatore. La ricerca dell’equilibrio tra il nostro mondo sempre più artefatto rispetto all’altro da cui proveniamo, la possibilità di rialacciare un rapporto con la natura abbandonata, sette tentativi di contatto che riescono a stordire e trasportare chi ascolta in luoghi altri, lontani ma stranamente familiari. Una miscela sonora che sorprende, ambient, minime tessiture glitch appena accennate, drumming programmato, la voce narrante di un sax soprano che commuove e rende viva, umana questa esperienza sul confine tra poesia e lampo digitale. Questo è il terzo Ozmotic e il primo stampato sulla prestigiosa etichetta Touch; solo i migliori esploratori possono permettersi tali imprese.

pastemagazine.com (USA):

Electronic and instrumental duo OZMOTIC have announced their upcoming album “Elusive Balance” which is set to drop on July 13 (USA) via TOUCH. Comprised of Simone Bosco and Riccardo Giovinetto, the duo has received support by notable publications Resident Advisor, Fact Mag, UNCUT, Noisey as well as radio play from BBC Radio 3. Bosco and Giovinetto have collaborated individually and as a collective with the likes of Christian Fennesz, Murcof, Senking, Bretschneider, William Parker, Mary Halvorson and Murcof, just to name a few. As individuals, they represented Italy in the International Biennial of Sarajevo, won the “Movin ‘up” award of the Italian Ministry of Culture and conducted 80 percussionists in the opening ceremony of the XX Olympic Games at Teatro Regio di Parma, Turin, broadcast worldwide, a popular theatre which has hosted extraordinary performances by legendary artists such as famed opera-star Luciano Pavarotti.OZMOTIC are an innovative duo with extensive musical affiliations. Also having performed at festivals such as Todays Festival, State-X Festival, also at the prestigious Army Theater in Sarajevo, Petrozavodsk Theater and Corner Exchange in Turin.Inspired by ambient to techno and instrumental music, the duo was established in Italy and have been experimenting with electronic sounds that can be characterized by intense rhythmic research, tonal variety as well as visual art. Using their extensive musical techniques to work with actors, performers and digital artists to integrate visual art and audio video concepts to give their performances a deeper dimension.Drawing influences from artists such as Bjork, Miles Davis, Steve Lacy, Pan Sonic, Chris Watson amongst others, OZMOTIC’s style could be compared to artists like Alva Noto, Boards of Canada and even hints of Jon Hopkins, or rather a cohesive blend of all three. With an impressive list of skills the duo have also collaborated with Fennesz (“Air Effect”) – Senking (remix in ‘Liquid Times’) and Frank Bretschneider (remix in ‘Liquid Times’) and have hypnotized fans with their artistry of cinematic layering and electro infused ambient sounds. Their use of an array of electronic equipment paired with mixing different genres like IDM, noise and jazz create a unique sound that expresses OZMOTIC’s true form.OZMOTIC give insight into their upcoming LP, commenting, “‘Elusive Balance’ explores the relationship between humans and nature, as well as the search for balance. Equilibrium is a junction point and evolutionary engine – unstable and elusive. Musically the album seeks of resolution of sound contrast, in a continuous search for an emotional component that gives simultaneously a feeling of tension and stillness.” [Daphne Gilden]

Clash (UK):

Production duo Ozmotic create small but wide-ranging incisions in electronic music. Continually probing for fresh ideas, the pair have stumbled across a sound that is both immediate and penetrating. Currently working on a full length album (order LINK), the duo – Simone Bosco and Riccardo Giovinetto – apply years of experience to each project they undertake. Languid new piece ‘Elusive Balance’ opens with minimalist electronics, the stuttering, at times almost chaotic, approach linked to modern developments in classical music. The pair explain: “‘Elusive Balance’ explores the relationship between humans and nature, as well as the search for balance. Equilibrium is a junction point and evolutionary engine – unstable and elusive. Musically the album seeks of resolution of sound contrast, in a continuous search for an emotional component that gives simultaneously a feeling of tension and stillness.” An engrossing and highly moving piece. [Robin Murray]

Blow Up (Italy):

Bad Alchemy (Germany):

Tone 63D – Zachary Paul & Patrick Shiroishi “Longitude: Live at Roughage”

Download only – 1 track – 15:20

Track listing:

1. Longitude

Two Los Angeles-based musicians come together for the first time for a concert at ‘Roughage’. Zachary Paul on violin and Patrick Shiroishi saxophone.

Recorded by Richard McLaughlin at Roughage #2, March 25th 2018 at 106 Studio, Los Angeles. With thanks to Jasmin Blasco.

Artwork & photography by Jon Wozencroft

Tone 62D – Philip Jeck “Arcade”

Download only – 1 track – 32:56

Track listing:

1. Arcade

Recorded live at Iklectik, London on March 23rd 2018. Also playing that night were Yann Novak and Simon Scott.

Artwork & photography: Jon Wozencroft

Reviews:

Bad Press (web):

“Philip Jeck works with old records and record players salvaged from junk shops turning them to his own purposes.” For those of us who can’t imagine a more engaging biographical note, Jeck’s new 33-minute epic Arcade is a pure delight.

Recorded live at London’s celebrated Iklectik space in March, the piece features contributions from Yann Novak and Simon Scott. This is turntablism of the highest order.

Jeck has been making music with vinyl and electronics since the early 1980s. He started out (and continues to work) as a visual artist, studying at the Dartington College of Arts.

That southwest England institute has turned out an impressive list of graduates that includes Sonja Klaus, a set decorator, film art director and production designer, composer and political activist Lindsay Cooper, who also played oboe, bassoon and was a member of Henry Cow and composer/educator Patrick Nunn.

Jeck has 11 solo albums to his credit. He’s collaborated with Jah Wobble, Steve Lacy, Gavin Bryars, Jaki Liebezeit, David Sylvian, Sidsel Endresen, Bernhard Lang and Fennesz.

Each of this new work’s elements – and there are too many of them to count – evokes a time, place, feeling or a combination thereof. The work can be enjoyed equally en masse or as an audio mining exercise. Take it all in or pick it apart.

Its density is a significant part of its appeal. Arcade never overwhelms, but there is so much going on here. His application of surface noise may be most impressive.

Jeck uses the device more centrally than others. It’s not just louder that you may be used to, it sits at (or at other times near) the centre of the piece.

It’s a cliché to say that artists like Jeck use the turntable as an instrument. But there really isn’t any other way to put it. The fact that he plays these record players so imaginatively and with such a fine sense of their potential has a lot to do with why he’s such an important artist.

Don’t let this be the only Jeck title in your collection. [Kevin Press]

Tone 61D – Fennesz “Station One”

Download only – 2 tracks – 7:04

Track listing:

1. Tom
2. Silk Road

“Tom” was previously released on the modeselektion vol.3 compilation in 2014. Please see here: monkeytownrecords.com/releases/modeselektion-vol-03/

“Silk Road” (formerly “Silk Lane”) was part of an installation for The Red Bull Music Academy, New York City in 2016. it was only played once in a loop for a whole day and has never been released.

The tracks have been reworked, slightly remixed and remastered at kaiserstudios in Vienna in April 2018.

Artwork & photography: Jon Wozencroft

TO:110 – Strafe F.R. “The Bird Was Stolen”

CD – 14 tracks – 63 minutes
First edition of 500

Strafe Für Rebellion is Bernd Kastner and Siegfried M. Syniuga
All songs recorded by Strafe F.R. in 2017 at STRAFE Studio, Düsseldorf, Germany.
Thanks to Detlef Klepsch for technical support and for helping with the mix down.

Mastered by Denis Blackham
Artwork & photography: Jon Wozencroft

Female vocal: Caterina De Re
Male vocals: Strafe F.R.

Track listing:

1. Jovian Tempest
2. Prepper’s Home
3. Aconite
4. Anophelis
5. Cap de Barbaria
6. Pianosmoke
7. Flare
8. Medusa
9. Golden Stomach
10. Dictator
11. Himmelgeist
12. Megalitic
13. Violet Sun
14. Towton

The bird was stolen because the donkey was sleepy

Based in Düsseldorf, Germany, Strafe F.R. is a long-term collaboration between the artists Bernd Kastner and S. M. Syniuga, which started in 1979. After a long period of hibernation, The Bird Was Stolen marks their return to Touch following four previous releases in the 80s and early 90s.

From their early connection with the local punk and new wave scene, centred around the Ratinger Hof in Düsseldorf, Strafe went on to develop a unique and influential form of sound sculpture that pioneered the use of field recordings alongside home-made instruments and the use of the studio as a performance space.

A new track, ‘Virgin’, which appeared on the recent Touch Movements CD/book, gave an early indication that they are back at the peak of their powers. The Bird Was Stolen presents 14 new compositions that push the signature sound of Strafe F.R.

1. We have a piano that is somehow completely bare-boned as if a butcher had been at work. The piano is lying on its back – we can climb into its corpse. The piano strings are easy to access and we prepare them with anything that influences a possible recording. Loudspeakers are installed. Inside the piano we play bass and guitar to use the resonance of the strings of the piano. Pianosmoke was recorded in this way.
2. Sound sources are often ‘accidents’. We were recording with our old Uher Portable Tape Recorder –
all of a sudden the machine developed a strange malfunction: the Uher had problems with its engine. Himmelgeist was born. The recorder began to ‘scratch’ like a vinyl record, but it was the recorder doing everything itself; we could also manipulate the speed with our hands. This was magnificent. Strange rhythms just happened, the tape recorder did it… We are thankful that we managed to record all of this.
3. We often amplify sounds quite loudly, that actually have a very low natural dynamic. This is interesting when recording guitar, piano and the human voice… To reduce the normal recording level by an extreme and amplify the soft, low sounds.

It all started with the eagle, Eaton, who was eating the liver of Prometheus. Prometheus was a Titan, not a god. He was teaching humans how to make fire and was punished by the gods for having done that.

Through this, the humans experienced the meaning of Strafe Für Rebellion
(in English, ‘Punishment for rebellion’). Ever since this happened, the members of SFR register peculiarities and specific incidents as an incitement to make music.

Some examples are as follows:
When searching for new sounds inside the bowels of a piano we occasionally found the sleeping Franz Liszt. Underneath the piano pedal, the MC5 were glued. Unfortunately the mites have eaten all of our socially and critically-engaged texts.

Recently, neozea, similar to indian parrots, fly above our streets. They are able to talk, and they scream: ‘No Guitars!’. Several foxes devoured the analog tapes from our old tape recorder; there are Chinese mitten crabs living inside the bass drum. A bullfrog has eaten up the marsh frog population that we once recorded at a nearby airport. Large blowflies are sitting on the guest chair in our studio lounge.

The helicopters belonging to German army are in a desperate condition. However, the poor maintenance of the machines has unleashed a fantastic new sound. The same way that Prometheus’s liver is renewed and grows again each night, happens also to the Zeitgeist. Because of this, we must continue to work on the music. We cannot stop and will never finish.

There is vanilla fudge in the coconut trees.

Reviews:

Toneshift (USA):

Long-running German duo Strafe F.R. has been at it since way back in ’79 and The Bird Was Stolen is their first recording on Touch since four releases between the 80’s and early 90’s. Next week (5/24) Bernd Kastner and Siegfried Michail Syniuga unveil this new album in an edition of 500 on CD (and Digital) with fourteen tracks, and a running time of just over an hour. As Jovian Tempest opens we enter a bit of a sacred and mysterious space. What sounds like radio channeling pairs well with other frequencies and effects. It’s definitely in a gray area and I recommend that you may want to listen in the dark.

Indistinguishable field recordings of moving elements are embedded with exquisite corpse harmonies on Prepper’s Home where rhythmic percussion rises into the mix. It’s warming and pent up until a remodeled voice emerges on Aconite accompanied by charged guitar and fiery electronics.

The album delves into areas of balmy funk and post-rock, all the while erasing any evidence of genre identification. Then comes Caterina De Re who assists with random vocalese on Anophelis and elsewhere. Her voice is a lighter version that reads like a combo of titans Lydia Lunch and Nina Hagen. The under-the-radar, yet playful experimentation on The Bird Was Stolen has a passing tin echo like a bell tolling in various places. Instead of opting for a constant tone drone, the two fabricate shorter puzzle pieces like a classic film director shaping a plot between Cap de Barbaria and Pianosmoke. So many twists and turns here, even a alien siren call evoking Close Encounters of the Third Kind (yes, Spielberg) on the quirky track Flare. It’s warm and fluid, it’s awkward and expressive. As spelled out Strafe Für Rebellion share about their process in a bit of stream of consciousness:

“When searching for new sounds inside the bowels of a piano we occasionally found the sleeping Franz Liszt. Underneath the piano pedal, an MC5 sticker was glued to it. Unfortunately the mites have eaten all of our socially and critically-engaged texts.”

In this light the tracks assign a sense of timeless references that act as both incidental music, and complete vignettes. They are in the lab concocting a better beast and delivering a formula like nothing out there right now. Dictator is just a jaw-dropping melange, a transection of Coil, People Like Us and early Ministry without any overt pop spirit whatsoever. Take a copter beat and walk the aisles to old-school Woolworth’s background muzak, add some intermittent cartoonisms and you have Himmelgeist. They saved a bit of psychedelia for the very end in the form of a trippy guitar laden Towton. Stripping down rock n’ roll to its barest and blend with male and female vocals, contorted synths run on fumes, and there you have it. This is one of those records that traverses a lot of territory without taking stock in one camp or another, modern gypsy music with a spiritual-fluid byline. [TJ Norris]

Chain D.L.K. (USA):

Strafe F.R.’s second album since returning from a 20-year hiatus is an exercise in contradictions. Truly experimental, it provides us with 14 unique and hard-to-read environments of metallic noises, heavy filters and tape effects, heavily gated guitar and guitar-like noises, pulses and processing- then crashes into them to various degrees with percussive surprises that are sometimes harsh and unpleasant, sometimes quirky bordering on comical. Even the press release skips from talking about vanilla fudge in coconut trees and finding Liszt sleeping inside a piano to the devoured liver of Prometheus. It’s one of those “really don’t know what’s going to happen next” releases, exemplified by the sudden appearance of heavily processed vocal on “Aconite” with a lyric in which the album title is found.

But among the wilful surprises, there’s a rich depth to be found here as well. Though constructed from unorthodox parts, “Prepper’s Home” is a fascinating bit of electronica with a truly emotive undercurrent that suddenly breaks into almost Krupa-esque jazz rhythms in its second half. “Pianosmoke”, built from an experiment in playing bass and guitar sounds through a loudspeaker inside a piano in order to stimulate the resonance of the piano, ends up being a very coherent and melodic work that with the right electronica remixes would have a lot of crossover appeal, while other pieces like “Flare”, though built of similar stock, have a darker layout and a more spontaneous and theatrical flavour. “Violet Sun” is a good example of a sparser approach, in which the processed guitar evokes feelings of some sort of alien road movie, while final track “Towton” throws furthest back towards the band’s 80’s roots with some very analogue, fuzzy tape flavours and Nina Hagen-ish vocal wails, right down to its abrupt halting end.

It’s an unpredictable, fresh-sounding and rich hour-long release which never drops the interest levels, and it’s certainly worthy of attention. [Stuart Bruce]

Silence and Sound (France):

Depuis maintenant presque 40 ans, Strafe F.R. (Strafe Für Rebellion) composé par Bernd Kastner et Siegfried Michail Syniuga, produit une musique faite d’accidents et de manipulations sonores, où field recordings et assemblages instrumentaux forment un ensemble singulier, qui doit autant à Throbbing Gristle qu’à Cabaret Voltaire.

The Bird Was Stolen marque le grand retour du duo qui n’avait plus rien sorti depuis 2013. Manipulant les effets et les prises de son, jouant sur l’acoustique et l’espace, Strafe F.R. nous perd dans son dédale aux résonances dub et grisaille industrielle, développant des paysages dévastés par une pandémie aux effets contaminants.

On est littéralement happé par le magma de matières traitées au vitriol, qui voit les pianos s’écorcher sur des rainures noise aux mouvements surréalistes. Les couches se multiplient et se superposent, pour donner naissance à des ambiances sombres, enchainées à des mouvements aléatoires à la complexité concentrique.

Oeuvre riche en rebondissements, The Bird Was Stolen ne s’inscrit dans aucune catégorie prédéfinie, alliant éléments classiques et traitements électroniques expérimentaux, aux allures d’ode post-punk electro acoustique, aux effluves accidentelles gorgées de sensations écorchées. Un opus ténébreux qui voit le futur se liquéfier de par ses propres maux. Captivant. [Roland Torres]

Nonpop (Germany):

Alles begann mit einem Adler, heißt es. Der aß von der Leber des Prometheus, der an eine Felswand des Kaukasus gekettet wurde, weil er den Menschen das Feuer gebracht hat – was ihm strikt verboten war … So die Legende des ersten Rebellen, dessen Strafe das Anketten war. Und schon sind wir beim Thema.
STRAFE FÜR REBELLION, beziehungsweise STRAFE F.R. heißt dieses lang bestehende Projekt aus Düsseldorf, das bereits 1979 von BERND KASTNER und SIEGFRIED M. SYNIUGA gegründet wurde. Ihre erste selbstbetitelte LP, der eine 7inch beigelegt war, erschien 1982. Viel Beachtung wurde ihr aber leider nicht zuteil. Obwohl doch die 1980er- und 1990er-Jahre durchaus produktiv waren. Dann kam die Pause. Sie dauerte etwa zehn Jahre. Erst 2014 knüpfte STRAFE F.R. an das Musikalische der vergangenen Jahrzehnte an. Doch nun gibt es mit “The Bird Was Stolen” eine brandneue, auf 500 Stück limitierte und auf dem Label TOUCH herausgegebene CD.

Man merkt sofort, dass die Musik nicht – wie mittlerweile üblich – auf digitalem Weg produziert wurde. Das wurde sie nie. STRAFE F.R. nutzt keine elektronischen Musikinstrumente. Es werden ausschließlich herkömmliche oder – positiver ausgedrückt – klassische Instrumente wie Klavier, Gitarre, Bass verwendet, die dann allerdings präpariert oder zweckentfremdet eingesetzt werden. Dazu haben KASTNER und SYNIUGA, die übrigens auch als bildende Künstler tätig sind, eigene Instrumente und Geräuschmaschinen gebaut. Diese werden dann auch schon mal ins Wasser gehalten, um die so entstehenden Töne mit einem portablen Tape-Recorder aufzunehmen. Das Ganze wandert schließlich in ein Archiv. Man weiß ja nie, wann und wo ein Sound noch eingesetzt werden kann.
Beim Hören der neuen CD fallen gerade die Sounds auch ins Ohr. Sie sind gleichermaßen alt, retro und neu. Mit etwas musikhistorischem Hintergrund erinnert die Soundkulisse an die EINSTÜRZENDEN NEUBAUTEN der frühen 1980er-Jahre oder an DAS SYNTHETISCHE MISCHGEWEBE. Auch bei diesen wurden Instrumente verwendet, die zweckentfremdet zum Einsatz kamen. Auch bauten sie sich ihre eigenen Klangerzeuger, beziehungsweise wurden artfremde Geräte zu Instrumenten umfunktioniert. Allerdings war und ist die Herangehensweise dieser beispielhaft genannten Formationen bis heute höchst eigen. Und ein direkter Vergleich führt in die Sackgasse. Jedoch hilft ein indirekter dabei, sich in etwa vorstellen zu können, in welche Richtung diese Veröffentlichung zeigt.

STRAFE F.R. baut zum Beispiel auf musikalische Unfälle, die dann als Quelle für die Aufnahmen ins Spiel gebracht werden. Sie nutzen das Studio dann auch eher als eine Art Grundstück, um sich darauf auszuprobieren, oder als abschließbaren Raum, um darin ungestört Ideen umzusetzen. Sie gehen also nicht in Schwimmbäder oder unter Autobahnbrücken. Sie gehen vielmehr in Klausur.
Es entstehen durch Arbeit stark entfremdete Sounds, die nichts mehr mit der eigentlichen Klangqualität gemein haben. In “The Bird Was Stolen” sägen Gitarren, klappern metallisch klingende Gegenstände, wabern unzählige Fäden, die zeitlich immer weiter ausfransen. Auf „Pepper´s Home“ (02) etwa ein Schlagwerk, das sich wie von einer defekten Maschine gespielt anhört, die auf wundersame Weise jedoch noch den Takt halten kann. Und Flächen, die hier und da wie Schollen vom Grund und Boden abbrechen. „Aconite“ (03) steht ebenfalls stellvertretend für diesen speziellen STRAFE F.R.-Sound.
Dazu dann die Stimmen, die früher schon mal von eigens engagierten Opernsängern kamen und hier meist an verzerrte, nicht menschliche Stimmen erinnern. In „Anophelis“ (04) klingt das wie in Wasser gesungen. Dazu Störlaute, Brummen, Kratzen. Fehlfunktionen und Feldaufnahmen. Tierlaute und Klangereignisse, die ob des besonderen Ortes, an dem sie aufgenommen wurden, auch besonders klingen.

Ein 14 Titel umfassendes, ein kraftvolles und doch warm klingendes, tief atmendes Album, dessen Intensität an ein Früher erinnert, das sich selbst eingeholt hat, um alt und neu zugleich zu sein. In Anbetracht der geringen Auflage ist schnelles Zugreifen wärmstens empfohlen. [awk]

VITAL (Netherlands):

While I easily would say that I am a big fan of the Germanys Strafe F.R. (in which that F.R. stands for ‘Fur Rebellion; punishment for rebellion) I must at the same time admit, I am not that big of a fan that I heard of their return in 2014 when they released ‘Sulphur Spring’. So when I got ‘The Bird Was Stolen’, I thought that was the first sign of life since ‘Pianoguitar’, which was released in 1995. As said I always enjoyed their music, even when these days it is not always found on my turntable. Strafe F.R. is a duo from Düsseldorf, Germany, consisting of Bernd Kästner and S.M. Syniuga and already started out in 1979. From their early no wave post punk sound they quickly expanded into a group that was really beyond any musical boundary, with the studio being their main instrument. Their music could have the shape of a pop song, but then it is made with field recordings, tape-loops, object abuse, samples and instruments. Over the years vocals have mostly disappeared from the mix and the studio was used extensively to shape their musical phantasies. The music this results in is open, spacious, poppy and above it always tells a story, however abstract it sometimes is. Every song is a like a small radioplay. They have fourteen of those on ‘The Bird Was Stolen’ and it is not unlike a time machine. These pieces remind me of the best Strafe F.R. works, ‘Lufthunger’ and ‘Oschle’, and perhaps that begs the question that after twenty or so years there has been little musical development for them, but I’d like the positive point: they were not yet done with their unique story telling and after a long hiatus they pick the story they started and just continued where they left off. Their approach is as varied as before. Sometimes a piece is like fully rounded pop song (even including a bit of female vocals here and there), sometimes a bit more open and improvised in their execution, with sound effects tumbling and falling, sometimes introspective and small, but in song like ‘Dictator’ it all bursts open and becomes a wild massive piece. There are soundscapes, there more rhythmic approaches, and no instruments are spared. Maybe they can’t play them properly, but Strafe F.R. knows how to extract sounds of them and how to use them in the bigger picture of the piece. This is all an excellent return to form. [FW]

Amusio (Germany):

Was geschieht – und was nicht alles geschehen kann – wenn der Gefiederte geklaut wird, veranschaulichen Bernd Kastner und Siegfried M. Syniuga auch im annähernd vierzigsten Jahr ihrer Kollaboration. Zwar scheint ein Tanzflächenfüller nach Art von Hochofenballet (anno 1984) nicht zu den Folgen besagten Diebstahls zu gehören. Doch der geistige Elan, mit dem auf The Bird Was Stolen (Touch/Kudos) die Verwertbarkeit an sich ruinierter Instrumente oder dysfunktional orientierter Aufzeichnungstechnik abgefedert wird, mag zum neuerlichen Nestbau der Synapsen beflügeln. Die Welt ist Klang, also kann alles auf, um und in ihr zur Waffe werden. Hierzu bedarf es noch nicht einmal der Agitation im eigentlichen Sinne: Die Einengung der Strafe – für den Tatbestand der Rebellion – war ja gestern schon gestrig. Noch verblüffender als die Quellen, aus denen die Düsseldorfer schöpfen, erscheinen die Arten und Weisen, mit denen sie das forschend Elaborierte – über seine Manipulation hinaus – der endgültigen (?) Hörbarkeit überführen. Was die Lehrbücher der Mikrophonie verschweigen, verkommt bei Strafe F.R. noch längst nicht zum Jargon. Vielen Dank dafür. Wie wäre es mit einem Wohnzimmerkonzert? [Jovian Tempest]

Blow Up (Italy):

Touching Extremes (Italy):

Exactly as it happens with their bizarre and unpredictable output, several mental doors opened up when I saw that Strafe F.R. had released a new album following an extended hiatus. First came the recollection of a long-distance interview that we had carried out (via snail mail!) during my early days as a music writer, this reviewer’s half 90s rants limited to the restricted audience of an Italian quarterly. Then, the realization that nothing has changed: in fact, the same impossibility of classifying the astonishing upshots of Bernd Kastner and S. M. Syniuga’s studio wizardry accompanied the inaugural spins of The Bird Was Stolen. All of the above turned into a classic “OK, let’s go to work for real” type of approach, which is the only requirement for a decent comprehension of the duo’s universe.

The name may translate as “punishment for rebellion”, yet Strafe’s electroacoustic visions are never really “punishing” for a listener. Rebellious, maybe – but in a subtly enticing way. The incredible diversity of situations presented in these fourteen tracks is balanced by perfect dosages of compositional seriousness and somewhat sinister humor. Standing still in one or few places is unfeasible for Kastner and Syniuga; they definitely prefer fleeting hints, occasionally synthesizing vivid details and tactile timbres in a single minute’s capsule. Stylistic crystals are thoroughly shattered in about ten seconds: lunatic songs chained to odd-metered sequences, alien reverberations enhanced by awkward superimpositions of feedbacking melodies, “traditional” instruments alternated with sources of unidentified origin, filtered voices uttering incomprehensible messages. You can even try and memorize short snippets of what is heard; however, that memorization will last until the next instant.

Should someone see a similarity with today’s typical lack of logical strength and gradually shortening attention spans, that someone is completely missing the point. This set appears to be grounded on fragments of a deeper knowledge, both technical and congenital. And when one wishes to repeat the trip right after it’s finished, that’s the unmistakable sign of being in the face of artistic intelligence. Therefore it’s not a “welcome back” but a “thanks for welcoming us back”. In the hope that, this time, Strafe F.R. are here to stay. [Massimo Ricci]

Bad Alchemy (Germany):

TO:104 – Mark Van Hoen “Invisible Threads”

CD – 7 tracks – 39:51
Limited edition of 500
Ekopak

All titles composed and recorded by Mark Van Hoen in Los Angeles 2016
Photography & design by Jon Wozencroft
Mastered by Denis Blackham

Track listing:

1 Weathered
2 Dark Night Sky Paradox
3 Opposite Day
4 The Yes_No Game
5 Aethēr
6 Flight Of Fancy
7 Instable

In mid 2016 I did a brief tour of the west coast with Philip Jeck, Simon Scott, Daniel Mensche, Lee Bannon, Kara-Lis Coverdale, Pye Corner Audio and Marcus Fischer. The music of all these great artists and the experience of playing these shows with them all informed what would become ‘Invisible Threads’ which was primarily composed and recorded in the latter half of 2016. I had not played live at dates in such a dense cluster for many years, and the exposure to so much great music and the artists was inspiring. Other Touch artists were also an influence here – Claire M Singer, Jana Winderen and as ever Chris Watson (who has been an enduring influence from the moment I first heard Cabaret Voltaire in 1979)… along with my project ‘drøne’ with Mike Harding… the collaborative aspect of drøne brought up a few new paths in itself.

During the time I was recording the album I was editing audio and sound design for films – this too went some way to defining the structure and sound of ‘Invisible Threads’. At the time of recording several of the titles on the album, I had re-read ‘The Conversation of Eiros and Charmion’, a short story by Edgar Allen Poe… and in some ways this record is a soundtrack to that.

The title ‘Invisible Threads’ refers to the intangible connection between all of the musical and personal influences that brought this record into being.

Instrumentation/sound sources

Modular synthesizer notably using modules manufactured by Make Noise, The Harvestman & Mutable Audio
Software – Ableton Live, Pro Tools and many plugins – heavily used were Max, Soundhack and Native Instruments’ Reaktor & Kontakt
Sound libraries from Spitfire Audio.
Fender Rhodes piano, Fender Jaguar guitar. Farfisa Organ, Vox continental.
Notably no analogue synthesizers were used on this album – probably the first time I’ve made a record without them since ‘Aurobindo: Involution’ in 1994
A few field recordings made on my very modest Zoom H4n recorder (mainly domestic sounds) made it onto the record
Some ‘found’ sources also are present, mainly from vinyl records and YouTube.

Reviews:

Toneshift (USA):

Touch releases the latest adventure by Mark Van Hoen just today (25th May 2018), its called Invisible Threads (CD/Digital). Let’s attempt an unveiling as I need to play catch-up since his last record I experienced was 2012’s amazing The Revenant Diary. Starting with the top track Weathered, the mood is strangely symphonic, light crackle and hiss over an otherwise moody, darkened mid-range synth drone. It’s pure aural theater from the start. The foreground actions are minimal while the back is bold and shape-shifting, with a random radio frequency throwing practically inaudible voices that are assimilated into the mix. Dark Night Sky Paradox continues without the tail end, and adding a slightly higher pitched tone creating a bit of an alarm. This feels like an extended overture in suspension.

This has inflections of his past work throughout, but Van Hoen has matured in his editing, and paring down any excess, keeping each track here packed with drama. The air is goosepimple inducing on Opposite Day. It’s part tropical forest meets part space exploration, with a tinge of shadow play. He’s heading into the world of independent soundtrack scoring in the foggy space created on The Yes_No Game. Strident synths, lapping waves and bare whispers become space age symphonic. This blend of unyielding artful restraint is also indicative of label head Jon Wozencroft‘s ghostly green coverart, like a found object from another galaxy.

It’s been since 2010 since I saw him play live (my Resident Advisor nod) and this is a great chance to catch up with a true sound artist. The final three tracks continue are bathed in the balance of luminous trepidation, most notable in the vast reverb of Flight of Fancy. It roars tensely, quietly into Instable which is quite a dizzying mix of a swirly synthesizer that sounds as if it’s being broadcast inside a cathedral. The conclusion is on-point, especially if you appreciate a great disappearing act. [TJ Norris]

Das Filter (Germany):

Wenn Mark Van Hoen neue Musik veröffentlicht, ist das eigentlich immer eine gute Nachricht. Doch – Überraschung! – seine letzten Alben hatte ich überhaupt nicht mitgeschnitten: Der Bandcamp-Dschungel ist an einigen Stellen einfach zu dicht gewachsen, gerade wenn es um die Aufarbeitung eines über die Jahre stetig gewachsenen Archivs geht. Mark Van Hoen war mal bei Seefeel am Start. Veröffentlichte als Locust. Und ließ die Musik vieler eher akustischen Band elektronisch schimmern. Schimmern ist genau das richtige Stichwort bei seiner neuen Platte, die er dieser Tage auf Touch vorlegt. Ruhige und in sich ruhende Miniaturen, die dabei jedoch kontinuierlich mäandern und in den unterschiedlichsten Schattierungen brodeln, einem immer wieder die Hand reichen. Ob man sie wirklich ergreifen soll, bleibt aber bis zum Schluss rästelhaft. Es ist genau diese Stimmung, die Mark Van Hoen über die Jahre erst entwickelt und dann perfektioniert hat. Seine Musik ist wie ein Blick in eine andere Welt. Besser als das Hier und Jetzt, aber nicht frei von Makel. Damit erschafft der Musiker eine Art des Hyper-Realismus, ausgebreitet und arrangiert in einem komplexen Spiegelsaal der affirmativen Irritation. Oder ganz einfach gesprochen: In diesem Ambient-Skyscraper stoppen die Aufzüge ganz besonders sanft vor der Dachterrasse ab. [Thaddeus]

Silence & Sound (France):

Moitié de drøne aux cotés de Mike Harding, Mark Van Hoen dit avoir puisé l’inspiration pour Invisible Threads, dans l’énergie créatrice des artistes avec qui il a tourné en 2016, ainsi que dans celle des artistes du label Touch.

Invisible Threads est une oeuvre étrange et envoutante, aux climats presque mystiques, avec ses orgues et ses synthés décrivant des cercles habités de field recordings naturalistes et de zones urbaines fantomatiques. On est happé dans un monde que l’on imagine du bout des oreilles, capable de se faire presque imperceptible.

Mark Van Hoen compose des ambiances sombres sans pour autant être pesantes, laissant la lumière passer au travers d’interstices minuscules, desquels s’échappent en catimini des bourdonnements frêles.

Climatique et cinématographique dans son ensemble, Invisible Threads tire presque parfois vers des ambiances expérimentales aux arrangements classiques, avec ses cordes et ses cuivres en fond, flirtant avec une certaine idée du divin et du profondément émotionnel.

Mélangeant proximité et éloignement, le travail sonore effectué sur Invisible Threads est des plus impressionnants, effleurant l’idée que l’on ne doit pas perturber les mouvements par des gestes trop brusques, mais pénétrer en sourdine dans cet amas de matière à la plasticité des plus ensorcelantes. Vital. [Roland Torres]

DLSO (Italy):

Chi ha iniziato le frequentazioni nel genere elettronico negli anni 90 si ricorderà di Mark Van Hoen grazie alle sue produzioni con il nome d´arte di Locust, in buona parte pubblicate su label Apollo/R&S. Da lì in avanti una infinità di collaborazioni – con Seefeel e Mojave 3 tra le altre – e progetti artistici di vario genere. Parallelamente si sono anche susseguiti ad intervalli più o meno regolari alcuni convincenti album pubblicati a proprio nome dei quali Invisible Threads è il convincente ultimo arrivato. Ispirato dal contatto diretto avuto con altri artisti appartenenti alla label britannica Touch, per la quale questo album arriva sul mercato, nonché dalle ulteriori collaborazioni avute nel corso degli ultimi anni, non ultima quella con Mike Harding nel progetto drøne, ed ancora dalla letteratura Edgar Allen Poe: è così che Van Hoen è arrivato alla realizzazione di questo incantevole album. C’è molta drone music dentro mentre la lunare e sospesa The Yes_No Game sottolinea la vicinanza che il londinese ha avuto con le frange più sperimentali del genere shoegaze, Opposite Day e Aether sono invece pura beatitudine ambient. Ascolto straconsigliato. [Tony D Onghia]

Aural Aggravation (web):

The Revenant Diary feels like a long time ago now: perhaps because it was. Six years is long time (although Mark Van Hoen has released two albums as The Locust in between). And yet, it continues to haunt me in some way. Returning with Invisible Threads, Mark Van Hoen continues to explore ominous, shadowy territories.

This is a dark, immersive work. I’d had a tough – and very strange – day at work. Oftentimes, when weary, stressed, dazed, I will select an instrumental work as my review project for the evening, as I find I can simultaneously write and relax, allowing the sound to wash over me. It transpires that this may have been precisely the album – or not, depending on perspective – for the occasion. I say, staring blankly. Not really listening, not really engaged, and certainly not typing. Not thinking, and not doing anything else. I don’t know exactly how long I remained like this, to all intents and purposes, immobile, in a sort of fugue state.

On returning, and attempting to remain focused, I find Van Hoen’s dark, churning sonic nebulae every bit as arresting and distracting.

The album’s inspiration stems from multiple sources, not least of all Edgar Allen Poe’s short story The Conversation of Eiros and Charmion which he re-read while on tour. The album is in some respect designed as a soundtrack to this, but equally, the Invisible Threads refers to the intangible connection between all of the musical and personal influences that brought the record into being.

In truth, the context and background have only limited effect on the reception. The reception is pure: a direct engagement between sonic output and listener.

Low, humming, hovering tones undulate across the album’s seven subtle compositions. Creeping, interweaving, fragmentations of light dance across these cold, bleak expanses which often bleed together. Even the silence between seems to provide an integral part of the listening experience and contributes to the shape of the overall arc of the album.

It’s distinctly background but in a way that fulfils that criteria of ambience that affects and colours the mood rather than being sonic wallpaper, disappearing into the background unnoticed. Repeated listens to Invisible Threads have not lifted my mood: instead, I feel claustrophobic, tense, weighted by an indefinable oppression. I give up: my critical vocabulary is as exhausted as my mental state when faced with this album at this time. I take a shower. Reflect. Accept that perhaps this work is so immersive that I am, temporarily, drowned.

Norman Records (UK):

After an enlightening and enriching tour with a number of Touch luminaries, Mark Van Hoen channeled his inspiration into the pieces that would become Invisible Threads, which have been layered up out of a mass of modular synthesis, sound samples from records, domestic life and YouTube, various instruments, and computer processing. The resulting seven tracks create an extremely immersive soundworld all of its own, despite its many crucial roots. CD on Touch.

and a staff reviewer wrote:

Former Seefeel member and sometime Locust — as well as having tucked numerous productions in his own name under his belt — Mark Van Hoen continues his long line of detailed, often intense ambient electronic albums with Invisible Threads. In the twenty-plus years he’s been making music, Van Hoen — stellar himself, of course — has kept some equally illustrious company; of late, on a string of live dates stretching back to 2016 he shared a stage with Philip Jeck, Simon Scott, Kara-Lis Coverdale and Pye Corner Audio.

Those experiences seem to have played a part in his continuing evolution; elements of sound design and techno influences have filtered in so that individual parts are increasingly granular and would probably bear inspection under a microscope, should we have the time. I couldn’t possibly do this album justice by summarising it as ‘pretty drone with dark ambient undercurrents’. In other words, there’s a lot going on and there are many depths beneath the surface. You can probably ignore the ‘Danger’ and ‘Hidden Currents’ warning signs, though. It’s a perfectly safe and enjoyable swim; also, Mark is a trained lifeguard, which helps.

Waves of sound — in both the literal and metaphorical senses — wash over the listener to create a feel of ebb and flow; it’s an immersive as well as fluid listen. The track ‘The Yes_No Game’ is a good example of this, as a woman’s voice, previously obscured, periodically emerges as the swells subside; it’s a call, an invitation to plunge into the waters. I could happily listen to this track alone on repeat for hours… ‘Opposite Day’ starts gently with some pleasing dissonances, sub-aquatic rumbles of bass and some delicate strums and harmonious chimes. It’s all very pleasant but don’t expect to be lulled into slumber; there be darkness here. Sweet, reassuring darkness.

VITAL (Netherlands):

Also on Touch is the latest CD by former Seefeel member Mark van Hoen. As far as I know he’s been on Touch for some time now, including his drøne duo with label boss Mike Harding (which is not something I heard). Two years ago Van Hoen toured the west coast of America with a bunch of Touch and related artists and along with influences of Claire M Singer, Jana Winderen and Chris Watson, Van Hoen set himself to compose the pieces on ‘Invisible Threads’. Edgar Allen Poe’s ‘The Conversation Of Eiros And Charmion’ inspired the title of the pieces, and so he says “this record is a soundtrack to that”. Van Hoen uses a variety of tools, modular synthesizers, software, piano, guitar, organs and bit of field recordings and some found sounds from Youtube and vinyl, and no analogue synthesizers. Unlike the
Strafe F.R. disc I have just been overwhelmed with, Van Hoen has not a lot of interest in playing out many variations or approaches. In these seven pieces (in total forty-one minutes) they more is very quiet, highly atmospheric and perhaps the perfect comedown record after the massive ear cleansing of Strafe F.R. It is not to say that the music from Van Hoen is necessarily ‘easy going’; his ambient approach is that of uneasy unrest. There is always a rough edge to be spotted in these pieces, which is something I like very much. It is perhaps something not entirely new but it works wonderfully. Van Hoen is someone who knows what he’s doing when it comes to ambient music. It is all-spacious, surely, but there is some visible rust on this spaceship. Maybe the same kind of beautiful spookiness one finds in the work of Poe, I was thinking. When playing Strafe F.R. I had the urge to play the entire output of the group again, straight away, and with Van Hoen I wanted to stick it on repeat, find that Poe story and read that again. And if the story were too short, I’d probably carry on with a few others of his. Unfortunately there is only so much one can do in a single day. Sad but true, but surely one evening soon I will find the time to just do that. [FdW]

Blow Up (Italy):

Ondarock (Italy):

Per Mark Van Hoen il graduale ritorno a pieno regime sulla scena sperimentale non è stato la rivendicazione di un posto riservato, quanto piuttosto la risposta a una necessità di fare tabula rasa e ripensare radicalmente le modalità espressive già adottate con profitto a cavallo tra i due secoli. In seguito alla riedizione in doppio Lp di “The Last Flowers From The Darkness” (Touch, 1997), a ridosso del suo ventennale, il sound artist londinese ha lavorato a ben tre dischi in tre anni con Mike Harding, co-curatore di Touch, per il progetto-laboratorio Drøne (“Reversing Into The Future”, “A Perfect Blind”, “Mappa Mundi”). A quest’ultimo e a molti altri sodali si ispirano e sono dedicate le composizioni confluite in “Invisible Threads”, titolo riferito propriamente ai sottili legami e alla comunanza di visioni artistiche che si instaurano tra autori di simile sensibilità ed estrazione culturale.

Composto e registrato nella seconda metà del 2016, l’album del ritorno su Touch prende notevolmente le distanze dalle tematiche (post)apocalittiche degli umbratili concept a nome Drøne, inserendosi piuttosto in quel filone ambient che negli ultimi anni ha visto un notevole ampliamento dei suoi accoliti, facenti capo a label indipendenti più o meno storicizzate quali Room40, 12k, Dragon’s Eye e Cyclic Law. Van Hoen cita esplicitamente influenze vecchie e nuove, su tutti Chris Watson e Philip Jeck – le brumose stratificazioni sonore di quest’ultimo sembrano suggerire il mood di diversi momenti – ma anche due più recenti conferme al femminile, Jana Winderen e Claire M Singer, le cui affascinanti intersezioni con la scrittura neoclassica e il field recording portano avanti onorevolmente l’inestimabile eredità Touch.

Tenendo fede alla sua formazione da producer, Van Hoen gioca a carte scoperte elencando anche la strumentazione, i software e i materiali sonori cui ha attinto: una varietà di elementi dosati con sapienza e misura tali per cui nessun brano somiglia ai precedenti, nonostante prevalga nettamente un’atmosfera fluttuante e contemplativa (“Weathered”, “Opposite Day”), quando non di assoluta pacificazione spirituale (“Dark Night Sky Paradox”). Solo in “Flight Of Fancy” si addensano sinistre nubi in forma di bordoni vibranti, mentre laddove coesistono chitarra e tastiere pare di ritrovarsi nel limbo cosmico dei Natural Snow Buildings (“The Yes_No Game”); “Aethēr” simula la più delicata delle orchestrazioni per archi, e nel finale “Instable” le ondulazioni dell’organo rievocano di sfuggita i miraggi del “Solaris” tarkovskiano.

Lavoro in certo senso “tradizionale” ma nell’ambito di un artigianato sonoro tutt’altro che elementare, “Invisible Threads” svela un lato della poetica di Mark Van Hoen che forse mai si era manifestato in maniera così trasparente. Godiamocelo, prima che il pessimismo torni inevitabilmente ad avere la meglio. [Michele Palazzo]

Bad Alchemy (Germany):

Spire 7 – The Eternal Chord “Semper Liber”

CD – 4 tracks – 78:40
Limited edition of 500

Track listing:

1. Aeternus
2. Perpetuum
3. Immortalis
4. Semper Liber

‘Semper Liber’ consists of a series of duets featuring Marcus Davidson, Hildur Gudnadottir, Mike Harding, Charles Matthews, Clare M Singer, Maia Urstad and Anna von Hausswolff and are drawn from recordings made at Spire events since 2009. Mixed by its curator, Mike Harding, at the Völlhaus, and mastered by Mark Van Hoen, this powerful 4 track collection – to be played as one piece – explores the sonics of the mighty organ in all its thundering glory. 

***WARNING! EXTREMELY LOW FREQUENCIES (BASS) MAY CAUSE DISTORTION ON HEADPHONES/COMPUTER SPEAKERS!***

Performed on the 1893 Schlag & Söhne organ at Johanneskirken, Bergen; the 1967 Karl Ludwig Schuke organ at Passionskirche, Berlin; the Peter Bares organ, inaugurated in 2004, at Kunststation St Peter, Cologne; the 1885 ‘Father’ Henry Willis organ at Lincoln Cathedral; the 1877 ‘Father’ Henry Willis organ at Union Chapel, London; the Rieger organ at St. Stephan’s Church, Mautern & the 1897 Johnson & Son organ at St. Saviour’s Anglican Church, Riga between 2009 and 2016

The 4 colour plates by the art historian and author Sydney Russell show cave art from 4 to 6 thousand years ago. Taken in Brazil on one of several expeditions she made around the world, these highly emotional works reveal the sophistication and ageless quality of the imagination of the peoples who were expressing themselves at this time; they have been slow to reveal their beauty to us, having survived all weathers; their acoustic soundtrack unfolds slowly, submersive and involving.

Sydney Russell writes: “These photographs were taken in 1976 in Brazil. We eventually obtained minimum radio carbon datings for levels covering the paintings from approximately 3750-2500 BCE. They originate from the rock shelter sites of Sucupira, (Lagoa Santa) and Lapa do Cipo (Santana do Riacho), near Minas Gerais and Quadrillas (Montalvania), Bahia. Please refer to the website for more information.”

Mixed at the Völlhaus
Mastered by Mark Van Hoen
Photography by Sydney Russell
Artwork by Philip Marshall

Reviews:

Ambientblog (Belgium):

The church organ, the most majestic of keyboard instruments and the instrument with ‘the greatest frequency range of any acoustic instrument’ has recently gained some extra (and deserved) attention in experimental and drone music. Detached from its usual association with classical and/or devotional music the instrument opens up a completely new sonic world.

“There is no ‘correct’ way to play the organ. Of course, there are strong and long traditions of how it should be played and by whom, but in the realm of time these strictures count for nothing.” Unlike many other instruments/performances, the sound of a church organ opens up a unique world, too: the characteristics of the organ strongly depend on the skill of its builders ánd on the acoustic properties of its location.

Semper Liber (‘always free’) is a very special project dedicated to the sound of the church organ – ‘the Emperor of Instruments’.

The Eternal Chord is a series of live concerts that grew out of the Spire Project, based on an idea by Mike Harding who was fascinated by this instrument but also was frustrated that during church services the “the organ players clearly never pushed the instrument to its limits.”

Ever since 2009, various duo’s have performed on different locations: Hildur Gudnadottir, Claire M. Singer, Anna Von Hausswolff, Marcus Davidson, Mike Harding, Charles Matthews and Maia Ustad. Some of the recordings of their explorations / performances can be found on the Eternal Chord Live page, or on this Bandcamp page. Semper Liber, however, is not simply a performance recording. Mike Harding has drawn material from the different recordings and mixed them into four long tracks that are meant to be played as one continuing piece. It’s impossible to distinguish who is exactly playing when. But all performers definitely share a single goal: ‘to explore the sonics of the mighty organ in all its thundering glory.’

You may have to set aside some of your preconceptions of ‘church organ music’ if your first association with the instrument is a church service or Bach. But I know you can, otherwise you probably wouldn’t be here and read this.

The reward: an incredible journey into an almost otherworldly sonic space… provided of course you can play this on a decent sound system and on an appropriate volume (there’s a warning in the liner notes about the extremely low bass frequencies that may cause distortion, especially in the last track). And even then, I guess that even the best sound system cannot live up to the real ‘live’ sound of a church organ in its own reverberating environment. After listening to Semper Liber, I really hope that this series of live performances will be continued in the future. [Matthias Urban]

Wreck This Mess (France):

Le système son de notre vénérable tour a survécu… Il faut dire que ce vieux Mac Pro en a vu d’autres. Malgré la mise en garde — warning! extremely low frequencies (bass) may cause distortion on headphones/computer speakers! — aucun dégât constaté. Ni pour nos enceintes, ni pour nos tympans…! En fait, seule la quatrième et dernière piste, qui donne son titre à cet album au tirage limité, accuse vraiment des fréquences très très basses. Un lent bourdonnement que l’on ressent presque de manière physique et mentale. En parallèle, une longue plainte monocorde s’élève puis meurt tranquillement, dessinant une hyperbole sonore. Une note prolongée qui se déploie progressivement, sans variation de style, mais qui gagne en intensité avant de refluer (“Aeternus”). Un drone acoustique qui sort des entrailles d’un orgue “martyrisé” notamment par Marcus Davidson, Hildur Guðnadóttir et Mike Harding qui forment The Eternal Chord (et Mark Van Hoen pour le mastering). Les morceaux intermédiaires (“Perpetuum”, “Immortalis”) sont basés sur ce même schéma, mais ils offrent un aspect plus soft, moins intense. Nous sommes là sur un registre plus ambient, plus subtil aussi, avec un habillage un peu plus sophistiqué. Cette réalisation s’inscrit à la suite d’une série de performances live du même ordre où des artistes du label Touch sont invités à se produire dans différentes églises et à jouer de l’orgue de manière minimaliste et expérimentale. [Laurent Diouf]

Tone 60 – Touch Presents… “Live at Human Resources”

DL (Bandcamp only) – 8 tracks

February 23rd @ Human Resources, Los Angeles, USA
Curated by Mike Harding & Yann Novak

To launch the release of Yann Novak’s second album for Touch, a live event was held at Human Resources on 23rd February in Los Angeles.

The evening also included a tribute to Jóhann Jóhannsson by the ensemble

Touch Presents…

Jasmin Blasco
Robert Crouch
Garek Druss
Jake Muir
Yann Novak
Zachary Paul
Geneva Skeen
Byron Westbrook

You can read about the event here – artculturejazz.com/yann-novak-album-release-at-human-resources

Photo: Jon Wozencroft, Kew Gardens, London

Reviews:

Art Culture Jazz (USA):

Human Resources in LA’s Chinatown was brimming with fans for the launch of Los Angeles-based artist Yann Novak’s latest album, The Future is a Forward Escape into the Past on Friday, February 23. The event – carefully curated by Novak and Mike Harding – was salon style, featuring eight short performances covering ambient, field recording, experimental and contemporary minimal electronics that were absorbing and immersive. Human Resources and Touch presented a powerful evening with performances by Zachary Paul, Geneva Skeen, Robert Crouch, Jasmin Blasco, Garek Druss Jake Muir, Byron Westbook and of course, Novak, who performed a track from his new album. Like all the other performances, it was concise and highly digestible – none longer than 20 minutes and a packed, intelligent audience on a cold night lapped it up.

The Future is a Forward Escape Into the Past, the latest album by the multidisciplinary artist and composer, Yann Novak and his second for Touch, considers the relationships between memory, time and context through four vibrantly constructed tracks that push Novak’s work in a new direction while simultaneously exploring his sonic past. The album’s four tracks dynamically shift and surge, where time is rendered as material and momentum compels it into a movement. Subtle distortion throughout the album ties the tracks together and echoes techniques explored in Novak’s Meadowsweet (Dragon’s Eye, 2006). Tension gives way to a halcyon vision of place in “Radical Transparency,” immediately followed by the austere swells of “The Inertia of Time,” a piece that captures the twin impulse of generating optimistic beauty in harshly muted tones. Both tracks introduce subtle bass swells and stabs reminiscent of In Residence (Dragon’s Eye, 2008). From there, the album grows darker with “Casting Ourselves Back into the Past,” and “Nothing Ever Transcends its Immediate Environment,” two icier tracks that preserve the album’s core: a layer of something long since passed that locks us into the very moment we inhabit. The latter introduces a processed vocal sample of Geneva Skeen, similar to Novak’s collaborative work with Marc Manning on Pairings (Dragon’s Eye, 2007). The album is a study in perception and alteration, manipulation and awareness, effectively capturing Novak’s command of emotional texturing.

TO:105 – Yann Novak “The Future is a Forward Escape into the Past”

CD – 4 tracks
Limited edition of 500

All titles composed and recorded by Yann Novak in Los Angeles 2017
Photography & design by Jon Wozencroft
Mastered by Lawrence English at 158

Track listing:

1. Radical Transparency
2. The Inertia of Time
3. Casting Ourselves Back into the Past
4. Nothing Ever Transcends its Immediate Environment

‘The Future is a Forward Escape Into the Past’ is the latest album by Los Angeles-based multidisciplinary artist and composer Yann Novak, and his second for Touch. It considers the relationships between memory, time, and context through four vibrantly constructed tracks that push Novak’s work in a new direction while simultaneously exploring his sonic past. ‘The Future is a Forward Escape Into the Past’ is composed as a quadriptych – a single gesture broken into four parts – that meditates on the inevitable progression of time, our relationship to the past, and our distortion of the past through the imperfections of memory. The album will be released February 23, 2018 on the London-based label Touch. Available digitally and on CD, the physical version will be packaged in a gatefold sleeve as a limited edition of 500. For more information on the artist and release, please visit www.touch33.net.

The album’s conceptual roots stem from ‘The Archaic Revival’ by American ethnobotanist and psychonaut Terence McKenna. In it, McKenna theorizes that when a culture becomes dysfunctional it attempts to revert back to a saner moment in its own history. He suggested that abstract expressionism, body piercing and tattooing, psychedelic drug use, sexual permissiveness, and rave culture were proof of this default to a more primal time. The text’s idealism was influential to Novak in the ‘90s, but today the theory bears a darkly-veiled resemblance to the rise of nostalgia-driven nationalism. Regardless of whether one agrees or disagrees with the signifiers of a ‘better time’ – McKenna’s idea highlights our propensity for selective memory, seeing history through the lens of memory instead of fact. On ‘The Future is a Forward Escape Into the Past’ Novak looked back at his own older works through this lens as inspiration.

“For this album I was interested in expanding into a more emotive compositional style and palette. In doing so, I was reminded that this was territory I had covered early on in my career — the whole process became a way to reconnect with my own past and history.”

The Album’s four tracks dynamically shift and surge, where time is rendered as material and momentum compels it into movement. Subtle distortion throughout the album ties the tracks together and echoes techniques explored in Novak’s ‘Meadowsweet’ (Dragon’s Eye, 2006). Tension gives way to a halcyon vision of place in “Radical Transparency,” immediately followed by the austere swells of “The Inertia of Time,” a piece that captures the twin impulse of generating optimistic beauty in harshly muted tones. Both tracks introduce subtle bass swells and stabs reminiscent of ‘In Residence’ (Dragon’s Eye, 2008). From there, the album grows darker with “Casting Ourselves Back into the Past,” and “Nothing Ever Transcends its Immediate Environment,” two icier tracks that preserve the album’s core: a layer of something long since passed that locks us into the very moment we inhabit. The latter introduces a processed vocal sample of Geneva Skeen, similar to Novak’s collaborative work with Marc Manning on ‘Pairings’ (Dragon’s Eye, 2007). The album is a study in perception and alteration, manipulation and awareness, effectively capturing Novak’s command of emotional texturing.

Reviews:

Touching Extremes:

A sentence in the press release contains a pivotal clue. [Yann Novak’s] “work is guided by his interests in perception, context, movement, and the felt presence of direct experience”.

Direct experience is the prime counsellor in one’s aliveness, well beyond the hypocrisy of sinisterly inadequate “divine” guidelights. This simple fact should be obvious to any individual whose encephalon has not been rented to someone else’s infirmity. However, it is the concept of “felt presence” that is crucial here. As always we’re dealing with the essential, if inexplicable murmur of deep-rooted awareness which seems to frighten so many credulous specimens.

The stochastic recurrence of an event; the “infinite repeat” mode of the sea waves; the frequency that – among millions – causes the mind to freeze and the heart to slow down almost to a standstill. Just three examples of the aforementioned “felt presence”. How can anyone explain that to people in dire need of being lulled into psychological coma by recycled narratives about extramundane maths and featureless entities acting as impeccable draughtsmen of nothingness?

You can’t. There’s no time left to waste with neurologically induced nonsense. As frequently stressed on these pages, certain levels of inward discernment must be respected by their blessed owners (who, too often, throw away the gift received at birth for unhealthy ego-inflating purposes).

Novak chases the opportunity of a privileged observation between the varying stages of an actual process of growth. He does it by assembling resonant materials that put a pragmatic listener in the condition of probing unthinkable depths, in this case starting from a theory by ethnobotanist Terence McKenna (you are cordially invited to do your homework).

In strictly sonic terms this is an exemplary instance of static subtlety, intermittently (and coincidentally) reminiscent of Keith Berry and Klaus Wiese’s analogous sonorities. A commendable balance gradually revealing shrouded details, inaccessible elements of continuity linking the parts in an affecting sequence. The acoustic modules combine field recordings with subsurface oscillations, trans-harmonic cyclicalness, moderate interference and human samples. It’s the symbolization of a trek outside the body limits while standing – firmly conscious – on the ground of the circumjacent materiality.

A final and somewhat expectable warning: do not use, and do not categorize this substance as “ambient”. It would be an authentic offense to the composer’s painstaking accuracy in rendering the phases of apprehension clearly particularized by the audible matter. Paraphrasing the album’s title, Novak challenges the average being’s exigency to envision the “excuse of future” as a method to flee from the responsibilities of the present. In other words, the “here and now” of Buddhist descent – so voguish in places where the talk is talked without walking the walk – is still too troublesome a proposition for vanquishing corporeal and psychogenic obligations once and for all.

Boomkat (UK):

Dragon’s Eye Recordings proprietor Yann Novak unfurls a mesmerising, meditative suite of processed field recordings on Touch. Imagine the elegant protagonist of Richard Chartier’s Pinkcourtesyphone took a stroll at dusk with Biosphere in the L.A. ‘burbs…

VITAL (Netherlands):

It has been a while since I last heard music by Yann Novak, as long ago as Vital Weekly 881, but I see (on Discogs) other releases that have been released by Dragon’s Eye Recordings (his own label), Eter, Line and a previous album by Touch in 2016. Here is his second release for Touch of which the “conceptual roots stem from ‘The Archaic Revival’ by American ethnobotanist and psychonaut Terence McKenna’, in which he claims that if things go bad in a culture it wants to go back to a saner moment in its own history, which perhaps has very much to do with the times we live in, with all the nostalgia of ‘our culture is the best one, but the past of that culture was even better, now getting to lost…’ (Fill in whatever enemy you prefer’ doing its rounds worldwide. Novak goes back to his own musical past and make (re-) connections again with sounds and techniques he used before on his older works and how to put that into the new work. This is, mind you, not a remix of course of old stuff. The four pieces of drone music here are however something that I would expect from Novak. These computer-generated drones built up like deep organ tones, reach a climax and then go via a likewise slow ascend down again. In between these pieces there are field recordings, especially at the end of the opening ‘Radical Transparency’, or at the beginning of ‘The Inertia Of Time’, which follows after that; each of the four pieces seem to merge right into next one, giving the album an excellent flow. Novak’s special feature, a very refined yet effective distortion is present in all these pieces; one should not think of this as something heavy or noisy, but a gentle, brittle touch that has been carried out to all of these pieces, a rough edge to gentle drones. I am not sure if it is enough to say that Novak really does his own version of microsound, but he produces music with some fine delicacy that is just different enough for me. Some very meditative stuff here for sure. [FdW]

Nitestylez (Germany):

Put on the circuit via Touch on February 23rd, 2k18 is “The Future Is A Forward Escape Into The Past”, the latest album effort by Los Angeles-based composer Yann Novak which also is his second release on the label. Split into four pieces and stretched over an overall playtime of approx. 41 minutes this limited to 500 copies release, influenced by Terrence McKenna’s “The Archaic Revival”, caters a study in carefully crafted Ambient / Deep Listening Music, incorporating genre typical, slowly moving pads and shifting dynamics as well as tweeting birds and Field Recordings present in the opening tune “Radical Transparency” which seamlessly transfers into “The Inertia Of Time” which combines an underlying layer of uproar from either a faraway ocean wave breach or the very beginning of the universe with carefully layered strings, beautiful atmospheres of droning intensity and static crackles. “Casting Ourselves Back Into The Past” drifts away into a realm subfrequent movements, continuos crackles and icy winds before “Nothing Ever Transcends Its Immediate Environment” takes Ambient to a more vibrating, yet fragile and partly unsettling level, emitting oscillating frequencies that make glass jangle and cause thoughts to dissolve. Not necessarily a highly innovative release in terms of Deep Listening Music but still recommended for die-hard diggers or those looking for an entry point into their personal exploration of the genre.

Fluid Radio (UK):

Music and politics — what could sit together more easily? From the rousing patriotic hymns of emerging 19th-century nations, through the provocative ballads of Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan, to Stormzy’s Grenfell-themed ad lib at the recent BRIT Awards ceremony, music has long been seen as a potent political force. From the titles and press blurb for Yann Novak’s “The Future is a Forward Escape into the Past”, it would seem that the Los Angeles-based artist is intent on making his own critical statement on “the rise of nostalgia-driven nationalism” he sees in his native United States — but can he make his ambient drone weapons pointy enough to do damage?

‘Radical Transparency’ kicks things off with a very gradual fade-in, a low rumble joined by vague, tonally-indistinct chords. Rough noise is unexpectedly juxtaposed with melodious birdsong, but is this the assertive, truthful voice of Mother Earth, or a false ‘harking back’ to a mythical primeval oneness with nature? The birdsong continues into the next track, where a solid rush of air comes and goes and organ-like chords crack round the edges. In ‘Casting Ourselves Back into the Past’ another rush of air sounds like a jet plane passing overhead, except it doesn’t pass — it hangs there in the sky, burning fuel yet motionless, as faint, indistinct tones glimmer with azure. Final piece ‘Nothing Ever Transcends its Immediate Environment’ is an urgent one, tugging on the sleeve with its buzzing tones and grave, wordless vocal intonations.

Novak certainly seems to be aiming for a political ambient music, but the music’s abstraction (or sometimes its concreteness, as with the birdsong) perhaps poses a challenge when it comes to making specific statements, leaving the titles to do much of the work. However, this indefiniteness may well be the most honest approach to take in an era where the line between truth and falsehood is constantly being blurred by all comers, and where the longer you look at a situation, the more complex and entangled it appears. “The Future is a Forward Escape” echoes the vague disquiet and unease that seem to be constantly murmuring in the background of our everyday hypermediated lives. In refusing to allow us to settle on false certainties, whether nostalgic or utopic in nature, perhaps political ambient can be a powerful affective force after all.[Nathan Thomas]

ambientblog (UK):

Before listening to this new Yann Novak album – his second title for Touch -, it’s good to reflect a bit on its somewhat enigmatic title.

“The Future Is A Forward Escape Into The Past considers the relationships between memory, time and context. […] The album’s conceptual roots stem from ‘The Archaic Revival‘ by American ethnobotanist and psychonaut Terence McKenna. In it, McKenna theorizes that when a culture becomes dysfunctional it attempts to revert back to a saner moment in its own history. The text’s idealism was influential to Novak in the ‘90s, but today the theory bears a darkly-veiled resemblance to the rise of nostalgia-driven nationalism. […] McKenna’s idea highlights our propensity for selective memory, seeing history through the lens of memory instead of fact.“

The impact of Novak’s music is coloured by the context of this philosophical background. The overall atmosphere in these four parts (the album is best played in one continuous sequence) is dark and sombre – which may very well be my own personal association with ‘the rise of nostalgia-driven nationalism’.

But at the same time you can listen in a completely different way, realising that Novak “looks back at his own older works though this (McKenna’s) lens as inspiration”. Or, if you prefer, you can have your own associations with these timeless deep drone tracks combining sub-bass with subtly detailed distorted effects and some distant fieldrecordings – a sound that seems to originate from an immeasurable vast space too big to comprehend.

“The album is a study in perception and alteration, manipulation and awareness, effectively capturing Novak’s command of emotional texturing.“

Sodapop (Italy):

Yann Novak è un musicista e curatore di mostre e già dai primi minuti di questo disco lo si può chiaramente intuire: la ambient scura di The Future Is A Forward Escape Into The Past, in pieno stile delle migliori uscite Touch, ha quel gusto “museale” che fa emergere il suono dal sottofondo di accompagnamento per portarlo in primo piano, magari accompagnato da elementi multimediali. Si tratta invece di sola musica, concepita a partire da una interessante rilettura del pensiero di Terence McKenna: le sue tesi degli anni novanta secondo cui una società si trova a guardare indietro quando è in decadenza sono interessanti, ma oggi più che orientare verso un neo primitivismo fanno pensare ad una rilettura che porta a nuovi nazionalismi… e il panorama si fa tetro. Disco allegro in effetti questo non lo è, con la sua quarantina di minuti di campioni cristallini e incedere lento ma costante: niente di nuovo nel campo della sound art e della ambient più “concreta”, ma la qualità di queste registrazioni è davvero sopraffina e ben sopra la media delle produzioni che trovate in giro. Un aspetto interessante è quello che i quattro brani, sempre in relazione alle tesi di McKenna, sono basati su una rilettura del passato musicale dello stesso Novak: ciò aggiunge benzina al tema della rielaborazione del pensiero e della musica attraverso il tempo, ma questi aspetti possono anche essere tranquillamente ignorati e si può fare spazio alla musica, che da sola la fa da padrona in questo gran bel disco. [Emiliano Grigis]

Souterraine (France):

L’inevitabile progressione del tempo, il rapporto tra l’uomo e il passato, la distorsione della memoria. Temi estrapolati da “The Archaic Revival” (1991) di Terence McKenna, la cui teoria verte sulla c.d. funzionalità di una cultura: una volta esauritasi, tenderebbe a imporsi una sorta di ritorno nostalgico, il medesimo in atto, ad esempio, nel quadro dei nazionalismi contemporanei. “The Future Is A Forward Escape Into The Past” (2018), via Touch, fa perno sul testo dell’etnobotanista statunitense, un ottimo punto di partenza per Yann Novak che, con quattro lunghi brani, compie il suo percorso a ritroso all’interno di materiali pregressi. L’artista recupera, inoltre, il concetto di ‘memoria selettiva’, cioè rileggere la storia attraverso una propria lente d’ingrandimento, a discapito dei fatti. L’album si pone, dunque, come il tentativo, a metà strada tra ragione e sentimento, di sintetizzare in un unicum differenti frammenti sonori. Straordinario il risultato finale.

Igloo (USA):

Taking from drone, musique concrète, found sound and electroacoustic music, the Dragon’s Eye man’s recorded fields are laptopped and trailed into sonorous stases that seem to stem from the liminal to an ineffable occluded vastness.

In which Yann Novak muses on ‘the inevitable progression of time, our relationship to the past, and our distortion of the past through the imperfections of memory,’ themes extrapolated from re-visions of US psychonaut Terence McKenna. The Future is a Forward Escape into the Past (Touch) references that ‘cyclone of unorthodox ideas capable of lifting almost any brain out of its cognitive Kansas’ (Tom Robbins) whose The Archaic Revival (1991), an old trip transmission made theory, sees the functionality of a culture, once exhausted, as tending towards a sort of nostalgic reversion. New skin for the old ceremony of memory curated by Novak, and a point of departure to make his way back into the heart of his material.

Abstract expressionism, body piercing and tattooing, psychedelic drug use, sexual permissiveness, rave culture… That was then. This is now: making sense in the present tense at the dead end of late modernity, the artist recovers the concept of ‘selective memory’, re-reading history through its own magnifying glass. ‘Expanding into a more emotive compositional style and palette,’ the artist finds reconnection with his own past, reminded this was territory covered earlier, ‘looks back at his own older works though this lens as inspiration,’ seeking to syncretize reason and emotion, to synthesize different sonic fragments into a whole. Taking from drone, musique concrète, found sound and electroacoustic music, the Dragons Eye man’s recorded fields are laptopped and trailed into sonorous stases that seem to stem from the liminal to an ineffable occluded vastness; chthonic sub-bass and tone-mass shift and surge under distortion grain and echo revenance. With a stillpoint of focus on the moment, from within come slow reveals, elements linking parts in sequence—fields with substrative oscillations, trans-harmonic cyclicity, discreet interference, animate samples.

For all Novak views his materials as affordance structures for mindfulness of the present, exhorting to ‘reclaim the present moment as a political act,’ the music, more coded than loaded, bespeaks différance. But while posties may fly free semiotically, no hors-du-texte (hi, Jacques), talk of ‘darkly-veiled resemblance to the rise of nostalgia-driven nationalism’ suggests we take it outside. Seen as if through a glass darkly, its quadriptych is spread for a heavy freight of significance: “Radical Transparency,” “The Inertia of Time,” “Casting Ourselves Back into the Past,” “Nothing Ever Transcends its Immediate Environment” — titles turn into takes on what to make of the opaque. The Future is a Forward Escape… resounds with the hum of disquiet at the back of everyday hyperreality. [Alan Lockett]

Blow UP (Italy):

Sound and Silence (France):

Artiste pluri-disciplinaire, Yann Novak travaille essentiellement sur le ressenti temporel et émotionnel, composant des titres aux évolutions drone et aux lentes ascensions vers des sphères aux questionnements intrinsèques.

The Future Is A Forward Escape Into The Past fait appel à la méditation et au temps qui passe, long fleuve faussement tranquille fait d’incidents effleurants et souvent imperceptibles.

On est absorbé par les quatre plages aux évolutions lentes qui appellent à la pause, moment sacré où l’on se relâche pour se concentrer sur un vide libérateur des tensions quotidiennes et environnantes. Un opus relaxant aux vertus apaisantes. [Roland Torres]

A Closer Listen (USA):

The Future is a Forward Escape Into the Past vibrates ever so slowly, dilating like a time-traveler’s portal. Listeners reaching deep into the crackling speakers will watch one’s body dissolve into sound waves, emerging in a universe resembling our own, in every way, except for one small point: It’s devoid of humanity. Neither a Star Gate episode, nor an astrophysics thesis, Yann Novak’s dystopian reality, quite chillingly, could be our future.

Whether humanistic or mystical, Novak’s four glacial, noise-specked recordings urge evolutions of mind through revolutions of heart. In order to better see ourselves, The Future is a Forward Escape Into the Past claims clarity in stillness, quietly mirroring our collective reflection.

“Radical Transparency” creeps within a murky bog. Buoyed by a chilly drone, the pressure increases, snarling static squeezed by throbbing vises. Birds—the only creature left in sight—sing brightly, oblivious to the looming storm.

The birds persist on “The Inertia of Time,” clouds clearing to reveal uprooted trees, roofs stripped of shingles, cars crushed beneath power lines. Silky organ wafts over the wreckage. A Geiger counter sweeps flooded streets as rescuers—their Hazmat masks fogging with breath—lead survivors into a fallout shelter.

Signaling the end of sun-warmed skin, “Casting Ourselves Back into the Past” resumes with the same eerie clicking. A pendular bass pulses beneath mechanical drones: Is that the humming of distant traffic, as evacuees flee with family house pets, or the whirring of an underground air duct? The miasma crescendos: distortion tapers to a drizzle.

The morning after evacuation, “Nothing Ever Transcends its Immediate Environment” rustles from cold ashes. White noise scours synths clear as contrails. Merging voice with airy vibrations, a sudden deluge purges Novak’s wordless chanting.

While bearing hope amid a market crawling with sound bites, mangy memes and Twitter tantrums, Yann Novak spares no nerve for the cynic. Until our minds mirror our hearts, some leaders of the free world wag tail at shirtless autocrats while barking at rocket regimes. Until our minds mirror our hearts, failure to grasp time’s circularity will forecast our downfall. Pondering sanctions and a nuclearized peninsula, The Future is a Forward Escape Into the Past rumbles with reflection, revealing portals to what we’ve neglected. Before it’s too late. [Todd B. Gruel]

Dark Entries (Germany):

Uitermate minimalistische drone, dat krijgen we voorgeschoteld op het album “The Future Is A Forward Escape Into The Past”. 4 tracks staan erop van rond de tien minuten en ze lopen bijna ongemerkt in mekaar over in een lange soundscape. Yann Novak ‎is een multidisciplinaire artiest en componist uit Los-Angeles die sinds 2005 al een onoverzichtelijk aantal van bijna 50 releases op zijn naam heeft staan, eerst vooral voor Dragon’s Eye Recordings. Dit is nu zijn tweede album voor het Britse label Touch Music.

Het centrale concept is de relatie tussen geheugen, tijd en context. “The Future is a Forward Escape Into the Past” is gecomponeerd als een quadriptych, een vierluik, eigenlijk een grote compositie in vier delen, die mediteert over de onontkoombare progressie van de tijd, onze relatie met het verleden en de ruis die op het verleden zit door de imperfectie van het geheugen.

“The Future Is A Forward Escape Into The Past” (4 tracks, 41 minuten speelduur) is een conceptueel album gebaseerd op ‘The Archaic Revival’, een werk van de Amerikaanse etnobotanicus en psychonaut Terence McKenna. In dit werk ontwikkelt McKenna de theorie dat wanneer een cultuur dysfunctioneel wordt, er krachten ontstaan die pogen om terug te gaan naar een gezondere periode in zijn historie. Hierbij suggereert hij dat uitingen als abstracte kunst en expressionisme, body piercings en tattoos, het gebruik van psychedelische drugs, seksuele permissiviteit en de rave cultuur voorbeelden zijn van hedendaagse uitingen van dat teruggrijpen naar een gezonder verleden in deze zieke maatschappij. In de jaren 90 werd Novak erg begeesterd en beïnvloed door dit werk, maar vandaag zien we die hang naar het verleden vooral in de opkomst van allerlei duistere vormen van nationalisme en een beetje progressieve mens kan dat bezwaarlijk interpreteren als teruggrijpen naar ‘betere tijden’. Ongeacht van de interpretatie van ‘betere tijd’ benadrukt McKenna’s idee toch ook vooral onze neiging tot selectief geheugen, waarbij de geschiedenis vooral wordt gezien door de bril van het geheugen in plaats van als objectief feit. Novak keek hier voor dit album met zijn bril naar zijn eigen oudere werken als inspiratie.

De eerste track “Radical Transparency” laat een minimale langgerekte drone horen, gecombineerd met vogelgeluiden. Bij de overgang naar de tweede track “The Inertia Of Time” valt de drone even stil maar kwetteren de beestje gewoon door. Een nieuwe al even minimale drone steekt de kop op. Iets voor halverwege deze tweede track zwijgen ineens de gevederde vriendjes. De ultralangerekte drone wordt nu gecombineerd met een zacht knisperend geluid. Tegen het einde van de tweede track sterft de drone weer weg en bij de overgang naar de derde track horen we enkel het zachte geknisper waarna een nieuwe drone de kop op steekt. De drone van deze derde track, “Casting Ourselves Back Into The Past”, doet me denken aan een overvliegend sportvliegtuigje. Het geknisper is nog steeds aanwezig maar dooft langzaam uit. Op de laatste track “Nothing Ever Transcends Its Immediate Environment” treedt erg geleidelijk een vocale sample steeds meer op de voorgrond, een vocale sample die eigenlijk maar bestaat uit een langgerekte klank en eigenlijk amper als dusdanig herkenbaar is. Deze laatste track gaat aardig richting drone dark ambient en benadert zelfs een beetje goede oude Cold Meat Industry sferen.

Ik vind alle vier de tracks erg goed en hoewel erg minimaal van opzet gebeurt er toch vanalles en vervelen ze me geen seconde, dit is sublieme medidatieve drone waar je echt gebiologeerd naar blijft luisteren. Het zal jullie wellicht niet verrassen dat mijn favoriete tracks de eerste twee tracks zijn met de vogelgeluiden. Het album is digitaal beschikbaar en op cd in een oplage van 500 stuks.

FOLIO 002 – Various Artists/Jon Wozencroft “Touch Movements”

76pp full colour book + CD
33 tracks – 78:59
Limited edition of 1000

Release date: 11th December 2017

Track listing:

Into the Open
Mika Vainio – Behind the Radiators
AER – Just Before Dawn
Bethan Kellough – Twelve
Wire – A Year A Second [For BCG]
London in a Week
Carl Michael Von Hausswolff – Sine Missing One
Chris Watson – Deepcar
Jana Winderen – Bronx Tunnel
The Magical Land of the North
Claire M Singer – Storr
Hildur Gudnadottir – Death 200AD
Three 20 – Four Twelve
Philip Jeck – Deed of Gift
Walking on Water
Simon Scott – Storm of the Fens
Eleh – Overt One
The Love Train
Russell Haswell – Demons
Heitor Alvelos – Expectant
I’m a Schoolteacher on Holiday
Johann Johannsson – Mingyun
Mark Van Hoen – Prescient
Fennesz – Paint It Black (remastered)
Sohrab – JV Dream
It’s Enough to Make You Weep
Strafe FR – Virgin
Before The Sea @ Falasarna
Jim O’Rourke – Despite The Water Supply
Situation Stabilised / BJ Nilsen – Atom Mother
Peter Rehberg – Cinecom
Gateway to the Garden
Oren Ambarchi – Testify
The Sound of Eleven

In a 24/7 world there is no greater challenge than “to be in command of one’s own time”. Is it true that the ability to download anything, at any moment, constitutes freedom? Has the ‘value’ of music, art and design been stripped bare? “I Google, therefore I am”…

Touch MOVEMENTS has been compiled over the course of 3 years. It is a response to many requests for Touch to publish a fuller account of Jon Wozencroft’s photography for the cover art of the project. The book follows the music, which was compiled step-by-step, like a jigsaw – there was not an “open call” to the artists, rather a sequential development which gives the CD a special narrative quality. And since our last Touch 30 compilation in 2012, the accuracy of the music has grown and rises to the challenge of what sound can do to transform perceptions about the immediate emotion of musical work and its more difficult, longer term evolution.

Following Touch Folio 001 in 2015, this series is a dedication to finding new ways of audiovisual publishing, somewhere between the twin peaks of a jewel-cased CD and a lavish box-set. The two elements of sound and the visual work in parallel to create the idea of an “Ear-book”, whose interdependency reveals itself over time, and allows the richest of listening and viewing experiences. The music and the photography is fully annotated, alongside a rarely-seen manifesto by the Surrealist film-maker Jan Švankmajer which celebrates the spirit of the creative act.

David Sylvian writes: “‘Movements’ celebrates the continuity of a carefully nurtured and sustained audio/visual aesthetic which, via its publication, could be seen as affirmative action in uncertain times. Thank heavens the likes of Touch still have the gall to propel beautiful things out into the world.”

TO:103 – Carl Michael von Hausswolff “Still Life – Requiem”

Vinyl LP – 2 tracks – 44:24
Limited edition of 500

Track listing:

1. Still Life – Requiem l
2. Still Life – Requiem ll

Written & recorded by Carl Michael von Hausswolff
Artwork & photography by Jon Wozencroft & Carl Michael von Hausswolff
Mastered by Jason at Transition

Conceptualised (2010–2013), composed and produced (2014–2017) by Carl Michael von Hausswolff in Palma (Majorca) and Stockholm. This musical piece consists only of sounds emitted and extracted from physical matter using emission spectroscopy as the sole basic technology. Acknowledgements to Linköping University (IFM), Sweden.

‘Still Life – Requiem’ consists of one piece with the same title and is divided up into two to fit the LP format. The piece is, as the title suggests, a requiem and it’s contents are solely composed by sounds captured from a specific physical solid state material. The composer has used a technique called ’emission spectroscopy’ whereby the frequencies generated from the material was analysed and transferred into, for humans, a listenable pitch (between 15 and 14000Hz). This captured organic sound material has been stretched, looped, equalised and composed to produce the recording.

A requiem is a piece of music dedicated to certain sole or several restless souls that wander our worlds looking for a place to call home. A requiem radiates calm, peace and perhaps comfort for tormented spiritual beings – it’s a piece dedicated to promote and insert tranquility and transcendence.

This requiem also provides the listener with a certain feeling of connection – perhaps a connection with the unknown and with the energy field clusters and mental abilities of post-mortem life forms that would be the incorporeal essence of a living being.

CMvH (born 1956 in Linköping , Sweden) has a long history within the communities of contemporary music and visual art. His first records was released in early 80s while the most recent saw the light just a few years ago (‘Squared’ [CD – Auf Abwegen, 2015]). In recent years he has been collaborating with Leslie Winer (‘1’ [LP – Monotype 2016]) and Hans-Joachim Roedelius (‘Nordlicht’ [LP – Curious Music, 2017]).

He has also instigated and curated the collective sound-installation ‘freq_out’ during 2003 – 2017, which includes artists such as Jana Winderen, JG Thirlwell, Finnbogi Petursson, Christine Ödlund and others.

Reviews:

CUT AND RUN (UK)

Chain D.L.K.:

Solely using data from emission spectroscopy on physical objects, pitch-shifted into human hearing range, “Stll Life – Requiem” is one single thirty-one minute piece that’s been divided into two purely because of the limitations of the vinyl target format.

The result is a slowly undulating and very gently glitchy analogue hum and drone that feels like it owes as much to the variations in the electric innards of the recording equipment or the power supply than to the objects being analysed, though I’m sure scientifically this may be unfair. The most intriguing thing about this is how there are some higher-pitched elements that seem to have very short patterns that border on melody.

There’s a lot of ebb and flow here- louder, more harsh-edged parts at times, barely audible near-flat waveforms at others (including near the beginning of the first part, where you begin to wonder whether you’ve accidentally paused the playback as you haven’t heard anything for a while).

Putting aside the science, it’s a very well-formed and interestingly textured undulating drone piece that’s really rather relaxing. The purity of the concept is to its credit and it’s a very enjoyable listen that becomes quite mesmeric when it has your attention.

ArtNoir (Germany):

Hört mal, ich spür etwas. Was früher in leicht anders formulierter Version in Kultfilmen für Lacher sorgte, das gilt auch heute noch für experimentelle Klangkunst. Der Schwedische Künstler und Musiktüftler Carl Michael von Hausswolff beweist dies im Extrem auf seinem neusten Album “Still Life – Requiem” – ein Werk, dass vom Hörer körperlich und psychisch alles verlangt. Dabei ist die Tonwelt in diesen zwei langen Stücken mehr als zurückhaltend, versinkt sogar oft neben die Bereiche des Gewohnten und Hörbaren.

Aber genau dieses Experiment der Wahrnehmung hat Carl Michael von Hausswolff (dessen Tochter Anna von Hausswolff einigen von euch eher ein Begriff ist) mit dieser neuen Platte auch bezweckt. Die Grundsteine, welche für die lange Komposition “Still Life – Requiem” gelegt wurden, basieren auf hörbar gemachten und veränderten Aufnahmen von konstanten Schwingungen fester Materialen. Das liest sich nicht nur abstrakt, es hört sich auch so an. Wie der verzettelter Drone eines Bienenschwarms in Verbindung mit verlorenen Geigenspielern, steigern sich schier unhörbare Frequenzen zu einem Muster.

“Sill Life – Requiem” ist keine einfache Platte, es ist ein Album, das man mit extremer Hingebung anhören muss und keine Angst vor kleinen Lautstärken haben darf. Denn Carl Michael von Hausswolff hat sich bei seinen Feldaufnahmen nicht beirren lassen und viele Stellen von dieser Komposition im Unmöglichen gelassen. Somit muss man wie ein Forscher in die Klüfte hinuntersteigen und Schicht um Schicht zwischen Umgebungsrauschen und Tinnitus freigelegen – kommt dabei aber einer Erlösung näher als sonst jemals. [Michael Bohli]

Loop (Spain):

Swedish composer and sound artist Carl Michael Von Hausswolff since the late 70’s has been working on his sonic compositions using the tape recorder as one of his main instruments. As a conceptual visual artist he has been involved in performances art, light and sound through sound installations and photography.
This musician who works in Stockholm is well-known in the experimental scene and since 1980 he holds a threesome of solo releases and in collaboration with artists such as Hans-Joachim Roedelius, John Duncan, Leslie Winer, among others.
‘Still Life – Requiem’ consists of a piece with the same title and is divided in two to fit the LP format.
This piece of music consists solely of sounds emitted and extracted from physical matter using emission spectroscopy as the only basic technology.
The composer has used a technique called ’emission spectroscopy’ so the frequencies generated from the material, were analyzed and transferred for human listening.
This material was processed and composed to deliver two pieces of imperceptible and certainly enigmatic and dark sounds. With several layers of noise and intermittent signals and a drone that it holds in the background. [Guillermo Escudero]

Ondarock (Italy):

Gli oggetti hanno una loro vita e un loro linguaggio, per quanto inevidenti e misteriosi: non si tratta soltanto della nostra tendenza a umanizzare e attribuire le nostre facoltà percettive alla materia inanimata, ma di un vero e proprio potenziale energetico insito in tutte le cose. Sondare la natura sonorum al limite o al di sotto della nostra soglia uditiva è un ambito di ricerca pluridecennale che si intreccia con l’estetica lowercase, grammatica non-musicale in caratteri minuscoli.

Il concept del recente progetto del decano Carl Michael von Hausswolff si basa su un rigoroso approccio scientifico: attraverso il solo utilizzo di emissioni spettroscopiche, tecnologia messa a disposizione dall’Università di Linköping, il compositore svedese ha catturato le frequenze risultanti dal contatto con la materia e le ha trasposte a un’altezza percepibile. In seguito questi microsuoni sono stati manipolati con effetti di looping, estensioni e interventi di equalizzazione.
In piena regola si può dunque parlare di still life (non equivalente a “natura morta”) come titola la suite divisa sui due lati di Lp: al pari di un processo alchemico apparentemente impossibile, lo stato solido e tangibile diviene un flusso di onde sonore che ne attesta l’esistenza oltre la vista e il tatto. Il secondo titolo “Requiem” è un’ulteriore suggestione atta a “irradiare tranquillità, pace e forse conforto per esseri spirituali tormentati”, entità che all’apparenza non abitano più le nostre prossimità ma che ancora si manifestano attraverso tracce minime, segnali che in pochi sanno captare e mettere in luce.

Ricollegandosi alle radicali indagini elettroacustiche di Bernhard Günter e al drone microtonale di Phill Niblock, ma con un approccio affine alla dark-ambient isolazionista, CM von Hausswolff contribuisce alla longeva serie Touch Tone con un’opera ermetica e subliminale dove forme essenziali affiorano brevemente dalla muta oscurità cui appartengono, riaffermando con voce flebile la loro esistenza più profonda e inosservata, un barlume invisibile che avvicina l’idea di un’anima universale della materia.

Touching Extremes (Italy):

It took me a good while before deciding to write about Carl Michael Von Hausswolff’s most recent investigation of the “beyond beyond”. Instances occur where the unembellished elucidation of a procedure denotes such a level of prescient acuity that a supplement of narrative risks to destroy both the integrity and the logical undermeaning of the outcome.

After the effective starkness of the composer’s lines (“a connection with the unknown and with the energy field clusters and mental abilities of post-mortem life forms that would be the incorporeal essence of a living being”) it is impossible not to recall the “heavenly epic” theories of numerous incoherent “scientists”, and silently chuckle.

The inability of recognizing the reshaping of matter as the exclusive symbol of continuity inside an infinitude which remains unnerving for less than pragmatic specimens lies at the basis of today’s global cerebral wreck. Every body – including the apparently inanimate – is defined by a degree of intrinsic vibration. The combination of those frequencies is essential for providing elements of actual development; in this sense, adjectives like “inharmonious” or “strident” should not even exist.

Only the limitations of the individual brain/ear apparatuses keep sticking quality labels and rules of acceptance on a collective counterpoint of unique existences. On that account, no one can afford to trumpet a correspondence with theoretical “superior entities” designing a nonsensical flawlessness. There are none, until proven differently; and the “proofs” coming from sheer trust (or, more incisively, human delirium) are not acceptable.

An elementary truth inevitably hurts a dysfunctional mind. Isn’t it much better to rely on celestial bullshit? How to proceed otherwise in the daily struggle against the acknowledgement of one’s fundamental uselessness in the nominal “great scheme of things”?

In terms of mere “musical” content, Still Life / Requiem stands up there with the finest work by the Swedish scanner. In just over half an hour we’re treated with chorales of reverberant quintessences and barely measurable signals from the innards of the audio spectrum, in accordance with Von Hausswolff’s interest in the abnormal ranges of audibility. The album begins and ends with the same sound; a genuine loop symbolizing the stochastic cyclicity of transformation within the continuum of a merciless rationality.

All of the above is probably too hard to fathom for people in search of answers they’re never going to get. Von Hausswolff’s connoisseurs – plus listeners interested in John Duncan, Asmus Tietchens and the likes – need no further prattle but two words: compulsory listening. [Massimo Ricci]

Tone 59 – Claire M Singer “Fairge”

Claire M Singer – Fairge [Touch # Tone 59]
CDEP – 1 track – 20:55
Limited edition in CD wallet

Written & performed by Claire M Singer
Mastered by Denis Blackham @ Skye
Photography & design by Jon Wozencroft

Recorded by Clare Gallagher at Oude Kerk, Amsterdam, 12th June 2017 on the transept organ built by Ahrend & Brunzema (1965). ‘Fairge’ was commissioned by Oude Kerk for ‘Silence’, a concert series curated by Jacob Lekkerkerker.

Following 16 months after Scottish artist Claire M Singer’s debut album comes the release of the beautiful and intriguing ‘Fairge’, meaning ‘the ocean’ or ‘the sea’ in Scottish Gaelic. ‘Fairge’ is a single 21-minute piece for organ, cello and electronics, composed, performed and produced by Claire and is very much a companion work to the title track on her debut album ‘Solas’ (Touch, 2016).

Commissioned by Amsterdam’s oldest building and parish church Oude Kerk, ‘Fairge’ premiered at the church in February 2017. Claire M Singer’s performance on the Ahrend and Bunzema organ, cello and electronics is truly captivating. The work very much encapsulates her signature style of expansive soundscapes full of intricate textures, rich overtones and powerful swells, emotionally resonating from beginning to end.

‘Fairge’ was written specifically for the Ahered and Bunzema organ and explores the precise control of wind through the pipes using mechanical stop action. This creates a lush harmonic backdrop against the harmonics and melody of the haunting cello.

“Oude Kerk were very generous in letting me have time to explore and really get to know the instrument. The work was developed over many visits sitting in the church until the very wee hours over the winter months, which was incredibly magical and inspiring. When working with mechanical stops and precisely controlling the amount of air that passes through the pipes it requires a lot of practice and exploration to learn each incremental sound the organ can make and what the quirks of the instrument can be. As every organ is unique, the piece will differ on other organs but that’s what makes writing and working with the organ so fascinating. The tuning is mean-tone temperament, which I have not worked with previously. With ‘Fairge’ I really wanted to show how special this relatively small organ is and the beautiful pallet of sound it can produce.” [Claire M Singer, September 2017]

Claire M Singer’s performance is truly captivating, with her signature style of intricate textures, rich overtones and powerful swells, emotionally resonating throughout.

She is playing two special dates supporting the band Low at Union Chapel, London on the 14th October and at Westerkerk in Amsterdam on the 16th October.

The work of Claire M Singer has been widely commissioned, exhibited and performed throughout Europe and North America. This includes acoustic and electronic composition, fixed media, multi-media, installations and live electronics.

Performances and commissions include Tate Modern London; Glasgow Cathedral; Chez Poulet Gallery San Francisco; XMV New York City; Fylkingen Institute Stockholm; Ceremony Hall Austin; Kunst-Station Sankt Peter Cologne; Muziekgebouw Aan’ t ij Amsterdam and the Barbican supporting Stars of the Lid.

Claire is also Music Director of the organ at Union Chapel and Artistic Director of the Organ Reframed festival.

In June 2017 she was a recipient of the inaugural Oram Awards from the PRS Foundation and New BBC Radiophonic Workshop for her innovation in sound and music.

Reviews:

ATTN:Magacine (UK)

Claire M Singer reveals that the ocean is present within Fairge. The title comes from the Scottish Gaelic word for “the sea” or “the ocean”. Water ripples across the album cover. And with that, I am swept into thoughts of the water as her music gathers from layers of cello, organ and electronics. Those held organ chords trace the horizon line, shimmering as moonlight skates across it. Overtones bulge and recede like those tiny, transient waves that bring the entire surface into motion, fleeting to the point of illusory. And then, less materially, I feel the optimism of peering into the void, facing away from the frank and firm surfaces of terrestrial concern, absorbing a view whose flux is a rich, ever-renewing state of possibility, mesmeric for its absence of endings and limits. Fairge is, after all, seemingly edgeless. Stereo space is not the breadth to which sound must abide but the mere brink of what my ears can perceive, and I imagine these drones to stretch far beyond what can be fathomed by the context of recorded audio.

And so as Fairge rouses itself unevenly – upon wavering, almost discordant clouds of breath and shrill whistle – I take it that it is me, the listener, who is the cause of this bleary beginning, my hearing still soft and distant as I awake. The chords deepen. The detail starts to crystallise. Pitches begin to stabilise. Fairge becomes less a cluster of unsympathetic hums, and more a single organism surging back and forth as a coherent whole as my mind starts to perceive it as such: the surface bristling with small cyclical movements, the low frequency depths surging between greater tidal changes. The longer I listen, the more I start to imagine the presence of voices within the flow, peripheral perception teased by those little quivers of water. And while the piece might technically be a mere 20 minutes long, it ultimately rolls out across eternity. Like a stretched out pop song, each chord is pitched as a heartfelt beckoning of the next, gifted movement from the interplay between longing and fulfilment. Again, the conclusion of Fairge is rather a symbol of my departure. The ocean melts as my senses slip toward slumber; still present, but silent. It will still be there when I return.

Ondarock (Italy):

Con i suoi trentacinque anni di storia, Touch è sempre stato e ancora rimane uno dei principali avamposti per la scoperta di nuovi talenti della musica sperimentale e della sound art. Solo nel 2016 l’etichetta londinese ha dato alle stampe gli esordi su disco di due giovani compositrici emergenti della scena britannica: Bethan Kellough (“Aven”, Tone 54) e Claire M Singer (“Solas”, TO:101), entrambe interessate a favorire un dialogo spontaneo tra ambient/drone e neoclassicismo.

Il nuovo live in edizione limitata di quest’ultima, capitolo afferente alla serie Tone, è stato commissionato e registrato presso la chiesa parrocchiale Oude Kerk, ad Amsterdam, nel febbraio del 2017. “Fairge”, termine del gaelico scozzese che indica il mare o l’oceano, è un breve quanto efficace studio sul rapporto tra tono continuo e composizione melodica.
Diversi autori contemporanei si sono dedicati al disvelamento del potenziale poetico di elementi essenziali come bordoni e onde corte, da Matthew Earle al radicalismo di Michael Pisaro, sino alla recente e affascinante raccolta di Chiyoko Szlavnics su Another Timbre (“During A Lifetime”, 2017).

Prima ancora che l’interazione tra le due dimensioni sonore, Singer mette a frutto il loro contrasto netto: a tre minuti occupati da un lievissimo accumulo di linee statiche e convergenti, d’organo e di violoncello, segue una graduale moltiplicazione che sposta idealmente l’asse acustico centrale e lo propaga in ulteriori direzioni. Si genera così un equilibrio armonico tanto solido quanto aggraziato, un bilanciamento la cui esattezza risale agli albori della musica sacra, in cui l’intonazione di antifone e salmi già poggiava su un basso continuo, ma che si ricollega al presente in una distinta consonanza con le tessiture ambient degli Hammock e le sezioni d’archi dei Sigur Rós più estatici.

Ultimato in seguito a numerose visite in loco, oltre a rappresentare un lodevole esercizio di sintesi “Fairge” ispira la lieve commozione di una luce pura che riveste una parete altrimenti spoglia – suggestione che può addirittura prescindere dalla specificità della sede cultuale, tanta è la sua immediatezza. [Michele Palozzo]

Exclaim (Canada):

Scottish contemporary composer Claire M Singer follows the patient beauty of her debut album, Solas, with this epic, nearly 21-minute single-track EP conceptualized around the Scottish Gaelic word for “ocean.”

Fairge continues Singer’s fascination with carefully textured drones and the gradual mutation and intensification of repetitive parts. With gripping deliberation, she thickens the organ-driven frequency spectrum with layers of electronics and cello over the piece’s majestic, undulating and swelling runtime. When a simple note-diving hook enters around the 11-minute mark, the sound has congealed so much that it’s hard to tell which instrument or combination is causing it, but the effect makes a most effective and chilling climax to the piece.

After this subtly roiled sonic ocean churns up those delicate whitecaps, the quelling comedown is long, soothing and rife with the attentively nurtured minute timbral warbles that make Singer’s music important to listen to on high end speakers. A compelling continuation of the instrumental conversation she started on Solas, Fairge is ample evidence that this compelling new voice in minimalist modern classical composition has a lot more to say.

Chain D.L.K. (USA):

Described as a companion piece to the title track from her debut album “Solas”, “Fairge” is one twenty-minute work commissioned and written primarily for the relatively small Ahered and Brunzema organ in Oude Kerk, Amsterdam’s oldest building. Long, sustained and mesmerising organ chords are decorated by the addition of modest and sympathetic cello and electronic layers to create a deceptively simple sonic carpet.

Occasional chord changes and a gradual sense of tonal shift that at times feels like a Shepard tone effect result in something that seems static at first, but which under the surface, is never standing still. A two-note pattern slowly reveals itself in the upper register that over time transforms into a plaintive unanswered call.

Seventeen minutes in, a gradual cessation begins in which the purest organ tones are slowly left alone in their own space, a fade which continues beyond our hearing into a final minute which is essentially silence.

Fairge is Gaelic for the ocean, and if this is an evocation of the sea, it’s a very calm, sedate and empty moonlit plateau.

It’s a bold and beautiful work that, on first listen, made me sign up to Singer’s mailing list with immediate effect, and want to check out “Solas” at the first opportunity.

Artnoir (Germany):

Und jetzt zu etwas komplett Anderem: Eine 20-minütige Komposition für Orgel und Cello, ein kontinuierliches Anschwellen an Klangschichten, ein hypnotisches Stück Musik zwischen Experiment und Ambient. Was die schottische Künstlerin Claire M Singer mit “Fairge” vorlegt, ist genauso träumerisch und unwirklich wie geerdet und emotional. Knapp ein Jahr nach ihre Debütalbum “Solas” wird der Kosmos dieses jungen Talents gefühlvoll erweitert und ist nicht nur für Denker interessant.

“Fairge” ist als Lied wie als Konzept eine Reise und beginnt in kompletter Stille. Ganz sachte lässt Claire M Singer die Instrumente in das Bewusstsein des Hörers treten und verfeinert die Töne mit Elektronik. Was zuerst wie etwas unheimliche Field Recordings wirkt, bläht sich mit jeder Minute zu einem grösseren Klangkörper auf und man bemerkt: Dies sind Orgelnoten, welche schier pausenlos gehalten werden. Schwermütig, aber immer zaubervoll vom Cello umgarnt, steigt man zusammen mit der sich steigernden Lautstärke in die Höhe. Und spätestens ab der Hälfte des Liedes findet die Katharsis statt.

Claire M Singer scheut sich nicht, meist eher veraltet anmutende Instrumente in experimentelle Formen zu bringen und mit wenigen Veränderungen in der Komposition extreme Wirkungen zu erzielen. “Fairge” ist somit eine ergreifende Erfahrung und sowohl für Leute perfekt, denen Anna Von Hausswolff immer etwas zu bedrohlich erschien, für die die Orgel im Soundtrack zu “Interstellar” dann aber doch zu selten aufspielen durfte. Und wenn am Ende die Musik langsam wieder aus unserer Wahrnehmung verschwindet, so bleibt das Gefühl der Vollkommenheit. [Michael Bohli]

Westzeit (Germany):

Rockerilla (Italy):

La poetica della meccanica, un suono unico davanti al quale si abbassa il capo chiudendo gli occhi nel rispetto della bellezza. Claire M Singer suona l’organo, un particolare modello di organo fabbricato artigianalmente da Ahrend e Brunzema. Uno strumento che si trova, nella versione con 17 registri, anche nella prestigiosa Oude Kerk di Amsterdam, lì dove a Febbraio la musicista ha presentato per la prima volta questo lavoro dal vivo. Solamente una traccia, venti minuti che si espandono per una durata indefnita, travolgendo l’ascoltatore con immense ondate schiumanti commozione, la stessa che si prova guardando lo spazio sconfnato dell’Oceano, Fairge in lingua gaelica. MAGICO. [Mirco Salvador]

ambientlog.net:

Fairge (meaning ‘ocean’ or ‘sea’ in Scottish Gaelic) is a 21 minute composition for organ, cello and electronics written and performed by Claire M. Singer.

The piece is commissioned by the Oude Kerk in Amsterdam (the city’s oldest building, now a museum), and was written especially for its remarkable Ahrend and Brunzema organ. “As every organ is unique, the piece will differ on other organs but that’s what makes writing and working with the organ so fascinating.”

Fairge builds up slowly, starting from the sounds of the breathing organ pipes, then introducing an almost shy cello accompaniment gradually gaining confidence and moving to the foreground. Getting stronger and louder (like ocean waves in a storm) – a massive and impermeable sound dominated by the sound of the church organ – ‘a lush harmonic backdrop against the harmonics and melody of the haunting cello’.
The sound of a church organ in full power can make man feel humble and small, and so does this ‘expansive soundscape full of intricate textures, rich overtones and powerful swells.’

The wind through the pipes of this organ can be precisely controlled using mechanical stop action. When the piece ends – the ocean storm retreats – one can hear the last breaths of air leaving the church pipes: the powerful dominance gone and replaced by a feeling of uncertainty that creeps back in together with the surrounding silence. [Peter van Cooten]

Gonzo Circus (Belgium):

Groove (Germany):

Zum Abschluss der Kolumne und der Jahreszeit angemessen gibt es heuer wieder eine vollendete Schöpfkelle purer Transzendenz. Das Zweitwerk der schottischen Organistin und Komponistin Claire M Singer, Fairge (Touch), ist ein einziger langwelliger, von subtilen elektronischen Echos umflorter Orgeldrone, der in zwanzig Minuten von dunkel glimmendem zu brillant gleißendem Schönklang und wieder zurück führt. Diese erhabene Breitseite von Kraft und Anmut hat zwar enge Verwandte wie Charlemagne Palestines Schlingen Blängen, ist in der durchgehaltenen klanglichen Schönheit und Liebenswürdigkeit aber doch gigantisch.

Pfeiltasten Hoch/Runter benutzen, um die Lautstärke zu regeln.

P.S. Im Winter um die Jahreswende 2017/2018 wird Singer Fairge in verschiedenen europäischen Kirchen aufführen. Nicht verpassen!

Blow UP (Italy):

RNE (Spain):

El Nuevo trabajo de la artista escocesa Claire M. Singer, “Fairge”, llega 16 meses después de su debut.
“Fairge” significa “océano” o “mar” en gaélico escocés y es basta como él, una pieza única de 21 minutos para órgano, cello y electrónica, compuesta, presentada y producida por Claire, en gran parte un trabajo complementario al tema principal de su álbum debut ‘Solas’.
“Fairge” fue encargado por el edificio más antiguo de Ámsterdam y la famosa iglesia parroquial Oude Kerk, en la que se estrenó en febrero de 2017.
“Fairge” encapsula el característico estilo de Claire con sus paisajes sonoros expansivos llenos de texturas intrincadas, ricos matices y potentes oleajes, que resuenan emocionalmente de principio a fin.
‘Fairge’ fue escrito específicamente para el órgano construido por los famosos Jürgen Ahrend y Gerhard Brunzema y explora el control preciso del viento a través de las tuberías mediante acción mecánica. Esto crea un telón de fondo armónico exuberante contra los armónicos y la melodía del violonchelo inquietante.
Además de su carrera como compositora e intérprete, Claire es también directora musical de órgano de la Union Chapel y directora artística del festival Organ Reframed.
En junio de 2017, recibió los Premios Oram de la Fundación británica PRS y el New BBC Radiophonic Workshop por su innovación en sonido y música.

Loop (Spain):

After her debut album “Solas” (Touch, 2016) the Scottish artists Claire M. Singer released her “Fairge” EP which in Scottish Gaelic means sea.
This work was commissioned by the parish church Oude Kerk (the oldest building in Amsterdam) and was specially composed for the Ahered and Bunzema organ.
“Fairge” is a single 21-minute organ, cello and electronic track that starts very slowly with the pulsation of a chord, and then another is added producing a slight change of tone, as if it were the opening to an epic piece of work. The cello emerges timidly while the electronic layers are submerged as a backdrop.
The organ with its precious pipes is closer to heaven than earth and its music thrills for its heavenly and inspiring beauty. [Guillermo Escudero]

Beat (Germany):

Sogar eine so großartig pro- duzierte EP wie „Fairge“ kann nur ansatzweise die Klang-macht, Fülle und Zauberweltlichkeit vermit- teln, welche die Kompositionen von Claire Sin- ger auf ihrem liebsten Instrument und in ihrer bevorzugten Umgebung entfalten: Der Orgel der Londoner Union Chapel. Mit einfachen, mecha- nischen Mitteln – Pedale und Register, sparsame Akkordtektonik, das Fortschreiten im Tempo ih- res Herzens, abseits von Clicktracks und weltli- cher Zeit – scha t Singer eine Musik, die Ruhe und Kraft ausstrahlt, aus Limitierungen unge- ahnte Möglichkeiten extrahiert und zugleich vertraut und zutiefst mystisch anmutet. 21 Mi- nuten Kontakt mit etwas, das sehr viel Größer ist als wir.

Tone 58 – Philip Jeck “Iklectik”

Released: 22nd September 2017
CD – 1 track – 47:56

Artwork and photography by Jon Wozencroft
Recorded and mastered by Jeff Ardron of St. Austral Sound

Track listing:

1. Iklectik

The 6th in the series of limited edition compact disc live recordings (after Thomas Köner & Jana Winderen, Simon Scott, Bethan Kellough, Yann Novak, Robert Crouch) brings Philip Jeck live at Iklectik, London. Recorded 11th May 2017.

Pre-order Philip Jeck “Iklectik” [CD + Download] in TouchShop on 1st September
www.philipjeck.com

Reviews:

Ondarock (Italy):

Philip Jeck è, molto semplicemente, colui che più d’ogni altro ha elevato a forma d’arte sonora la turntable music. Da oltre vent’anni l’etichetta londinese Touch fa tesoro di questa espressione quietamente sublime, tanto negli album in studio quanto in una selezione di registrazioni live. La presente edizione limitata documenta la performance tenutasi lo scorso 11 maggio presso il laboratorio IKLECTIK, nell’ambito di una serie di eventi curati dallo stesso per il progetto internazionale The Engine Room dedicato alla sound art.

La materia prima di Jeck sono frammenti musicali alla stregua di reperti, accumulazioni di objets trouvés in cui tuttavia le diverse sorgenti non soffrono mai di un contrasto violento bensì, secondo il know-how che contraddistingue anche i migliori dj, si distendono mollemente l’una sull’altra e si armonizzano in maniera spontanea, sfumandosi nei loro rispettivi confini.
Dai tratti definiti dell’avvio – sinistro e vibrante come un lounge bar lynchano – il fluire viscoso del suono cede il passo all’onda lunga di ambientazioni generate dal rallentamento del piatto. Sottili fruscii e scricchiolii sono pressoché gli unici, sporadici elementi para-ritmici tra le campiture di un affresco ininterrotto e dai colori sbiaditi, sottratto al dominio della memoria sonora verso una dimensione astratta e impalpabile.

Tuttavia, come e più che nelle sale da ballo spiritate di Caretaker, l’obiettivo ultimo non è la conservazione ma l’oblio, l’abbandono in quell’area cerebrale in cui la percezione non si sedimenta ma subito si disperde e scompare. “Iklectik” è un ennesimo, inebriante stream of (un)consciousness musicale da parte di uno tra i più sensibili decani della sperimentazione contemporanea.

cultureel (Netherlands):

Je kunt de klok erop gelijk zetten. Er zal toch wel weer een nieuwe plaat van Philip Jeck komen dit jaar. En jawel. Daarop doet Jeck wat hij altijd doet. Dat betekent: een beetje wat platen opzetten, daar loops van maken, delay erover heen. Klaar is Philip. Wel zo’n beetje.

Toch trekt nauwelijks iemand zulke ambient textuur op. Jeck grossiert in hoogpolige mistbanken van electro-akoestische raadsels en puzzels. Uitgesmeerd en door elkaar geveegd hoor je niks meer dat herinnert aan de originele bronnen. Precies dat is typisch Jeck. Doe het hem maar na.

Dusted (USA):

Live performances by British sound artist Philip Jeck actually manage the impressive feat of being even more immersive than his studio albums. Maybe it’s the immediacy of hearing the sounds, created using faded and damaged vinyl records, synths and other instruments, as they come to life in front of you, conjured by an unassuming man who stares down at his devices, avoiding the eye. Maybe the unpredictability of using such a fragile tool as old vinyl adds a certain tension. Whatever the case, Iklectik, recorded at the London venue of the same name, is a welcome addition to Touch’s new series of live recordings. Evolving over 45 minutes, the solitary piece that makes up Iklectik develops gradually, from a blissful opening sequence of wobbly drones and warm bass through more unsettling tonal surges not that dissimilar to something you might hear on an industrial record and an all-consuming wall of synth bliss to a crackling final section driven by muted beats that fades into silence. At times, the audience can be heard rustling and crackling, adding to the intimacy of the recording. Where Jeck prefers to divide his studio albums up like suites, the single track flows more organically, following the emotional whims of its creator. Jeck is often compared to the hauntology scene, but in truth his music, especially live, is more introverted and contemplative, making Iklectik a sort of avant-garde sonic poem.

Alan Haselden (blog):

Liverpool-based sound artist and improviser Jeck works with phonograph turntables and scratchy old vinyl records prepared to jump or lock the stylus into repetitive loops. In addition he deploys ancillary devices to shape the sounds in real time. Imagine walking somewhere urban with a heavy background simmer of wind, traffic, voices, birds and occasional random events. You turn a corner and detect music playing in the distance but you don’t know what it is. The sounds are the best thing you ever heard, until, that is, you identify the music, which turns out to be some pop ubiquity. That initial moment of aural magic is what Jeck perpetuates in his performances: stammered musical extracts from records, thick with gritty violent surface noise, are layered with each other and transformed by live processing. This 47-minute ‘Iklectik’ concert on cd was recorded earlier this year and it is Jeck at his best, in my opinion. Brief spoken word emerges towards the end, a female voice, presumably a performance poet.

Tone 51 – Thomas Köner & Jana Winderen “Cloître”

CD – 1 track – 44:24

Remastered by Thomas Köner
Photography by Jon Wozencroft

Recorded live from the cloisters at Evreux Cathedral, Normandy, France by Franck Dubois, 14th June 2014, as part of L’Ateliers. With thanks to Denis Boyer.

Track listing:

1. Cloître

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Tone 56 – Robert Crouch “Sublunar”

CD and download – 4 tracks

Release date: 19th May 2017

Written, recorded and performed by Robert Crouch

Mastered by Lawrence English @ 158
Artwork & Photography: Jon Wozencroft

Track listing:

1. Descension
2. Brick by Brick
3. Listen to the sound of the earth turning
4. Coda (Sailing Stones)

You can listen to an extract here

Presented live in Los Angeles. Source material originally developed as part of mas gestos y mas caras, a collaborative performance with Rafa Esparza and Yann Novak, presented at the Hammer Museum on July 8, 2016.

Robert Crouch is an artist and curator whose work encompasses sound, performance, and technology. As an artist, he locates his work with the intersection of post-phenomenological listening practices, conceptual sound art, and contemporary electronic music. At its core, his work can be understood as a conversation between tonality, context, history and subjectivities. Similarly, Crouch’s curatorial work focuses on the overlapping disciplines of sound, technology, movement, and performance.

Sublunar continues Crouch’s inquiry into the complex relationships between sound, context, and meaning, first proposed in his 2016 release, A Gradual Accumulation of Ideas Becomes Truth (Line). The four tracks which comprise Sublunar were composed using field recordings from and audio files originally created for mas gestos y mas caras, a collaborative performance with artists Rafa Esparza and Yann Novak. mas gestos y mas caras was a durational performance incorporating sound, breathing, and a series of repetitive actions and gestures, choreographed within an architectural installation of adobe bricks fabricated and designed by Esparza.

Sonically, Sublunar is a radical departure from the originating performance, yet these tracks remain tethered, literally and aesthetically, to the processes and context of their construction: Esparza’s labored breathing, cautious footsteps, a soft cascade of water, dust, soil. The title itself, Sublunar, reinforces an attachment to the Earth and the physical world, and intentionally resists metaphysical interpretation or decontextualization.

It is precisely through this tethering that Crouch seeks to open up a diversity of possible approaches to the work, rather than confine our reading to a primarily or exclusively musical text. The first track, Descension, opens with sounds of breathing, muted movements, and environmental noises, and serves as an acknowledgement of our collective understanding of sound, of these specific sounds, as physical phenomenon. By extension we are allowed to consider this particular organization of sound itself as a kind of sculpture, architecture, and choreography. The body becomes the primary oscillator and architect, delineating boundaries and defining the work as a space within which we might inhabit.

www.robertcrouch.com

Reviews:

Brainwashed (USA):

Crouch’s last release, A Gradual Accumulation of Ideas Becomes Truth (Line), was a heavily conceptual work touching on location and memory that, even divorced from its intellectual underpinning, was an excellent piece of sound art. Sublunar may not be as steeped in concept, but again the audio (a live performance mixing existing material and field recordings) is the most important facet, and again he excels in creating a disorienting piece of familiar and unfamiliar sounds that blur together wonderfully.

Sublunar is the result of a live performance utilizing source material from fellow artists Rafa Esparza and Yann Novak as part of mas gestos y mas caras, a multimedia performance including sculpture and performance art. His reworking of the material is drastic, resulting in a performance split into four pieces of a very different sound and sense. A light static ambience enshrouds “Descension,” capturing a variety of found sounds, like an insistent beeping sound that could be almost anything. Crouch works the various layers of sound together, coming together at times lush and rich, and at others thin and harsher in nature. This constant unending flow makes for a complex, captivating piece of sound.

“Brick by Brick” continues with the delicate water sounds from the previous piece, but at first Crouch keeps the mix sparse. What he does leave in the mix helps to build that sense of space and distance, like the architectural structures of his previous album. The emptiness soon becomes crowded however, as Crouch adds a droning, engine like noise that becomes denser and denser, engulfing the mix before letting it collapse.

The following “Listen to the Sound of the Earth Turning” has a more hushed, meditative sensibility to it fitting the title. With the static hum and detuned radio noise that define the opening of the piece, Crouch conjures the sense of hovering in air, off of the earth but not quite in space. This is only strengthened by the blowing winds that surge throughout, not cold or frigid in nature, but giving the feeling of hovering in open space.

The final part of the performance, “Coda (Sailing Stones)” continues the sense of space from before, but Crouch slowly brings the work back down to earth. The openness is mixed with field recordings of an unspecific nature; environmental sounds that could be recorded anywhere or nowhere. With this he adds some gorgeous tones and synth-like buzzing, shaped into a melodic progression before pleasantly fading away.

Separated from the source material, Sublunar may not have the same conceptual nature of his previous work, but his knack for mixing familiar sounds with unfamiliar ones is still strongly present. Here he manages to create a space that is both comfortable and alien, where the ambiguity simply adds to the quality of the sound. Given this is a live performance; it just makes this record all the more impressive. [Creaig Dunton]

Bad Press (Canada):

Another new release from the innovative Touch label, this one lands Friday. In addition to issuing a number of fine recordings, Touch sponsors a mentorship program that helps artists with grant applications, business counseling and more. It’s an impressive outfit.

Robert Crouch is a solid addition to the stable. His latest, Sublunar was recorded live in Los Angeles. It’s a subtle, nuanced electronic work that demands – and promptly rewards – a close listen.

Crouch pulled its source material from “mas gestos y mas caras,” a July 2016 collaboration with Rafa Esparza and Yann Novak. (Google tells me that translates to “More gestures and more faces.”)

His process is part of the story. Crouch’s interests lie in “the complex relationships between sound, context and meaning” according to a write-up accompanying the new disc. By lifting pieces of a previous recording and breathing new life into them, he’s done exactly what he set out to do.

The album’s first piece “Descension,” begins appropriately enough with a recording of Esparza breathing. It’s not immediately recognizable, in part because it’s set within an intricate mix of ambient sounds. Two minutes in, it’s clear we’re in for an intense, detailed listen.

But it’s a quiet intensity. The most striking thing about the album is its ability to go in multiple directions and at the same time maintain an even keel. It surprises without jarring. It is intricate and at the same time expertly polished.

Touch has produced 500 CD copies of Sublunar. It will also be available as a download. [Kevin Press]

Chain D.L.K. (USA):

“Sublunar” has its origins in a collaborative live performance mixing sound, technology and movement, but the original sonic material has been reworked and repurposed into something which is ultimately much more static. The result is a collection of drones, found hums and atmospheres that almost extol the virtues of non-movement.

Opening track “Descension” is warm, with a reassuringly cosy hum. The breathing patterns continue into second track “Brick By Brick” but the tone becomes coldier, emptier, more windswept.

The misleadingly titled “Listen to the sound of the earth turning” is even more lightweight, a repeated single robotic note triggering in an evolving rhythm, an exercise in how a sound might be alarming and soporific at the same time. Halfway through, the repeating note fades and warmer hum-chords similar to the opening track return. To complete the arrangement, “Coda (Sailing Stones)” blows cold again, with sporadic noises like water droplets falling in an underground cave, and the slow arrival of a faintly synth-organ-like melodic loop as a crescendo of sorts.

Despite its complex and multidisciplinary origins, “Sublunar” as an audio product is stark and simple. It’s so mellow that it could easily find itself on a sleep playlist, and might serve well as an environmental setting, but it lacks distinctive features or ideas that would make it shine in its own right.

Blow Up (Italy):

Tone 57 – UnicaZürn “Transpandorem”

Vinyl LP and download – 2 tracks

Release date: 27th January 2017

Written, recorded and produced by David Knight & Stephen Thrower
Additional production assistance: Ivan Pavlov
Cut by Jason @ Transition
Artwork & Photography: Jon Wozencroft

Track listing:

1. Breathe the Snake
2. Pale Salt Seam

UnicaZürn (David Knight and Stephen Thrower).

UnicaZürn build their long, ceaselessly evolving musical compositions through a process of improvisation followed by careful editing and processing. Their music, drawn from subconscious associations while recording, is frequently aquatic or oceanic in overall mood and texture. Knight has spent most of his life living on the banks of the Thames while Thrower resides on the East Sussex coast, and their musical flights of imagination tend toward rolling river dynamics and the open seas of synthesised sound.

For UnicaZürn, tidal imagery, oceanic forms and the slow rhythms of coastal water are a recurring structural presence, with strong associations of rootlessness, of being far away from home, a stranger in a strange land. The inability of human lungs to breathe water endows rivers and seas with a special poetics: a boundary between two different but inter-related states. On the one hand, solidity, clarity, definition; on the other, fluidity, uncertainty, dissolution. The sense of a threshold between opposites gives rise to an elusive otherness, suggesting a portal through which the everyday world can be escaped. Death under the water, the survivors of a lost kingdom clinging to the rocks of an unfamiliar island, a coastal boat ride into deepest abstraction, a deserted beach expressing a world outside reality.

A sexual frisson too: a hovering at the brink, poised at the turbulent edge of pleasure, swept away into oblivion. Do we head toward the sea when we want to escape? And at the coastline, do we walk to the edge because we want to jump, or be swept away by an unexpected wave? There’s a darkness in the sea, even if illuminated by the most dazzling sunshine. Open horizons shows the clutter of our lives to be transient, and as we look to the sea we feel a dizzying sense of the eternal. Aquatic sensibility, oceanic timescales: the action of the salt sea beating on the shore. Each grain of sand a rock smashed to dust. Beaches are cosmic, elemental. They are images of time.

UnicaZürn’s core instrumentation blends analogue synthesiser, mellotron and electric piano with electric guitar and clarinet. Both Thrower and Knight draw upon their love and wide experience of of electronic music, from the outer shores of Stockhausen to the outer spaceways of Tangerine Dream. In addition, Knight is reknowned for his pioneering multi-textured fretwork with Danielle Dax and his ambient guitar settings for Lydia Lunch, while Thrower’s reed playing provided a distinctive melancholy in Coil and emerged as electro-acoustic texture in Cyclobe.

The title “Pale Salt Seam” is drawn from the poem “Night-Song of the Andalusian Sailors” by Federico García Lorca. Parts of “Pale Salt Seam” were recorded live at the Ironmongers Row Baths on 2nd March 2013.

www.unicazurn.com

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TouchLine 9 – Ipek Gorgun – “Aphelion”

touchline9

Digital Download – 8 audio tracks – 48′ 23″ + mpg + pdf (1.2Gb)
The link to the .zip can be found in your email receipt [also in your account history]

1. Kairos 5:28
2. Fata Morgana 4:42
3. Bloodbenchers 8:54
4. Lethe 2:54
5. Martyrs 8:22
6. Dendrite 4:20
7. Nightingale 9:20
8. Troubling Speech 3:50 [bonus track]

Kairos video: Noetic Works
PDF photo book: Ipek Gorgun
Recording and Mixing: Ipek Gorgun
Mastering: Barkin Engin

“The dictionary describes aphelion as “the point in the path of a celestial body (as a planet) that is farthest from the sun”, which i reckon is a suitable title since it reminded me of the night time, when I recorded and edited the majority of this work.

The night makes me think about openness and gathering. To me, it is a state of togetherness in which things are allowed to keep their own identity, yet they are covered under the veil of darkness. From time to time we may recognise such things as they are, but the night also evokes the so- called luxury of intuition, helping us become aware of their existence without using our sense of sight.

One might feel that the night has a disturbing, chaotic and uncontrollable character. I can relate to that since it becomes harder to see; our ocularcentric modern ways of living are being challenged. Contrary to the sunlight that helps us divide, analyze and govern, the night tends to reveal our most primitive selves, as well as uncovering our deepest thoughts, untold dreams and memories. In addition, in such state of openness, the lack of light provides more space for the activation of other senses.

This is when hearing becomes so acute – as well as touching and smelling. I still think about smell, but hearing can also be associated with touch, since we are literally touched by sound in the form of waves through space, and they become audible in the range between 20Hz. and 20kHz. The night makes this contact even more obvious.

Such communication is the most intimate that two complete strangers (who will probably not meet again) can be. And I’m once again grateful for my own personal aphelion (2:44 AM, GMT+2) at the moment for helping me write this to you, beloved listener.”

Buy & download Ipek Gorgun – “Aphelion” [.wav + pdf] in the TouchShop – The link to the .zip can be found in your email receipt [also in your account history]
You can read more about TOUCHLINE here

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Tone 55 – Yann Novak “Ornamentation”

Compact disc in wallet – 1 track – 49:00

Artwork & photography by Jon Wozencroft
Release date: 11th November 2016

Track listing:

1. Ornamentation

Presented live in Los Angeles. Source material includes field recordings captured throughout the United States and Canada from 2006–2016 and modular synthesizer recordings, all digitally altered.

Yann Novak is a multidisciplinary artist based in Los Angeles. Ornamentation is Novak’s first physical release on Touch and continues his investigations of presence, stillness and mindfulness through the construction of immersive spaces, both literal and figurative. On Ornamentation Novak resists modernism’s problematic relationship to race, class and labour, and attempts to decouple contemporary minimalist sound work from this historical precedent. The title refers to Adolf Loos’s notorious 1913 manifesto, ‘Ornament and Crime,’ in which the author argues that the desire to adorn architecture, the body, objects, etc., is a primitive impulse, and the proper and moral evolution of Western culture depends in part upon the removal of ornamentation from daily life. Loos devalued the labor traditionally associated with aesthetics and beauty, and equated ornamentation with the degenerate. In this context, one could consider ornamentation as a way of viewing decay. His examples as such (tattoos, fashion, style, painting, et al.) predictably fell along divisions of race and class, coding modernity as the next outward manifestation of white, capitalist patriarchy. Throughout the process of creating Ornamentation, Novak attempts to sidestep some of Loos’s modernist intolerances by focusing on the labor of composition itself, rather than particular processes or structures. Novak began by incorporating specific field recordings from his archive, deliberately selected for their poor quality; awkward interruptions, low fidelity smartphone recordings, problematic frequencies. The selection of these difficult sounds, processed alongside recordings of his modular synthesizer, created a unique set of challenges for Novak where the familiar, reductive approaches would fail to be useful and ultimately abandoned in favor of more dynamic, additive, and laborious process. Unlike minimalism with its roots in modernism, or “sound art” with its conceptual biases, Novak creates a work that acknowledges these conventions, yet stands apart as a meditation on beauty, labour, and aesthetics; Ornamentation as an adornment of time itself.

www.yannnovak.com

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TouchLine 8 – Gravitas – “a frequency crescendo in 11 movements”

Gravitas – a frequency crescendo in 11 movements

touchline8

Now available

Digital Download – 1 audio track – 27′ 34″

1. Gravitas – a frequency crescendo in 11 movements

Heitor Alvelos, digital frequencies
Anselmo Canha, bass, field recordings
Anabela Duarte, treated voice
José Maria Lopes, guitar
Jaime Munárriz, guitar, trumpet, electronics
Jono Podmore, theremin
André Rocha, arduino-activated lemon tree (concert)

“Gravitas” is a studio re-construction and re-consideration of a sound performance that took place at the futureplaces medialab on October 24, 2015, in Porto, Portugal.

Woven and edited by Heitor Alvelos, Oporto, August – September 2016
Mastered by Jono Podmore, Köln, September 2016

The words that bookend the piece belong to Bernadette Martou (1962-2015)

TO:102 – Lustmord “Dark Matter”

Compact disc in digifile – 3 tracks – 70:38
Artwork & photography by Jon Wozencroft
Release date: 30th September 2016

Conceived and Produced by B.Lustmord
Recorded in Los Angeles October-December 2015
Artwork & Photography by Jon Wozencroft

Track listing:

1. Subspace
2. Astronomicom
3. Black Static

Derived from an audio library of cosmological activity collected between 1993 and 2003. It was gathered from various sources including NASA (Cape Canaveral, Ames, The Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Arecibo), The Very Large Array, The National Radio Astronomy Observatory and various educational institutions and private contributors throughout the USA

Lustmord writes: “The Universe we inhabit is a vast expanse far larger than we are able to comprehend. As we attempt to understand its underlying structure and as we gain new insight into the nature of matter, new questions arise and further gaps in our understanding are revealed.

Behind the world that we experience lies a veil of darkness and much is hidden between, beyond and unseen.

We are limited by our inability to truly grasp the infinite breadth of the Universe, the time scales involved in its measure and our insignificant position within.

Some things will always be unknowable, and existence does not begin or end with man’s conception.

Everything that has ever been observed by man, even with our most sophisticated instruments, amounts to less than five percent of the Universe.

Approximately sixty-eight percent of the Universe is unseen dark energy and approximately twenty-seven percent is unseen dark matter. We have yet to discover what dark matter is, and only know the things it is not. Although it has not been directly observed, its existence and properties are inferred from its effects on visible matter, its influence on the Universe’s large-scale structure, and its effects in the cosmic microwave background.

The universe began of darkness, not of light.

While space is a virtual vacuum, it does not mean there is no sound in space. It exists in space as naturally occurring electromagnetic vibrations, many well within the range of human hearing while others exist at different regions of the electromagnetic spectrum and these can be adjusted with software to bring them within our audio range.

The recordings of these interactions in space come from several different environments including radio, ultra violet, microwave and X-ray data and within these spectra a wide range of sources including interstellar plasma and molecules, radio galaxies, pulsars masers and quasars, charged particle interactions and emissions, radiation, exotic astrophysical objects, cosmic jets and flares from magnetars.”

About Lustmord:

Widely credited as the originator of the “Dark Ambient” genre. Credits on over forty motion pictures including The Crow and Underworld. One of the two composers for the Turtle Rock/2K game Evolve. Worked with John Balance, Chris & Cosey, Clock DVA, Current 93, Paul Haslinger, Maynard James Keenan, Melvins, Nurse With Wound, Tool and Wes Borland amongst others.

www.lustmord.com

Reviews:

Norman Records (UK):

9/10

This stalwart of the Dark Ambient scene with, an immersive back catalogue of work stretching over 3 decades, returns with a new release on the highly respected ‘Touch’ label; and what a cracker it is. Ten years worth of compiled sound sources were used in the production of this latest output; as cosmological audio spread over three distinctive slabs of pitch black, cavernous dark matter. With a vast amount of his past releases re-issued on Germany’s Ant Zen label in recent times; this, along with those quality uncompromising pieces of work, cement a legacy of master-ship within this chosen genre.

The Quietus (UK):

Heard on lightweight headphones Dark Matter could be musicians working with recordings of the wind. They admirably foreground the dance of air – wisps slowly whipping up a foreboding gale – their instruments remain restrained, providing background colour but never taking the lead, as their gentle tones get swept then smothered by the elements. On this level, it reminded me of the soundtrack to The Revenant, but not so much the superb music composed for the film by Ryuichi Sakamoto and alva.noto, but the rich environmental sound design of the wind in the trees that played equal part in imparting the strong sense of a bleak but magical wilderness.

But upscale the playback to an amp and decent speakers and, while the bleak, magical wilderness still rings true, it is no longer of this earth. Dark Matter, the latest in a long line of epic scale soundworks from Brian Williams AKA Lustmord, uses ‘electromagnetic vibrations’ captured from various cosmological phenomena such as interstellar plasma, pulsars and flares. These recordings, sometimes not within our perceptible audio range, were then sculpted by Lustmord’s highly experienced hands to arrive at a suite of three twenty-minute parts. Given the right playback equipment they impart a terrifying sense of scale that belittle the listener regardless of having prior knowledge of the sound sources.

But as well as this novel, if terrifying, feeling of insignificance and awe, Dark Matter has a strong and moody musical undertow throughout. Ghostly choral residues and long, sluggish streaks of low end, like the exhaust trails of the deep space freighters of the Terran Trade Authority, emerge from the nebulous drift. This positions it far from a documentary on the sounds of space and instead artfully arrives at a sonic ritual or devotional hymn to the universe. [Russell Cuzner]

Bleep (UK):

Dark ambient visionary Lustmord teams up with prolific UK experimental label Touch to present Dark Matter. Following 2013’s The Word as Power on Blackest Ever Black, the studio album was 15 years in the making and thus feels thoroughly well-conceived. It comprises of material the Welsh producer, real name Brian Williams, gathered from 1993 till 2003: NASA and various astronomy observatories across the US are amongst the sources of his audio library.

Centred around the idea that the universe mainly consists of dark energy, Dark Matter sounds the unknown beyond our imagination. Taking naturally occurring electromagnetic vibrations as a starting point, Williams used software to bring them into our range of audibility – the result is an unsettling galaxy of sonic interferences: crumbling avalanches of cosmic jets, interstellar plasma and molecules, crushing drones of radiation and flares from magnetars.

Black Audio (UK):

Lustmord can comfortably sit with the legendary status he has attained within Dark Ambient circles; with a catalogue that stretches back as far as the early 80’s. Recently he has had a number of albums re-issued by German label Ant-Zen, so it is a surprise to see his latest output on the well-respected Touch label.

Built upon ten years worth of cosmological sounds compiled in an audio library; there is no doubt as to the concept surrounding this latest piece of work, spread over three long tracks and housed in a nice oversized ekopack wallet.

The songs themselves are suitably bleak. Rich, throbbing low-end bass pads out cavernous dense air as ghostly apparitions of high-end musicality reach out into the vast unknown corners of space. Lustmord tries his hand at grasping an unseen and unkown quantity, that of dark matter and its influence on the universe.

Overall, this is a quality piece of work end to end. Densely layered and mysterious with many a nook and cranny to become enveloped within and providing everything a Dark Ambient release should. There is really nothing to compare Lustmord to as he has created his own mythos and received well-deserved acclaim; this latest opus just adds to that. 9.5/10

Core (Italy):

“The Universe we inhabit is a vast expanse far larger that we are able to comprehend. As we attempt to understand its underlying structure and as we gain new insight into the nature of matter, new questions arise and further gasps in our understanding are revealed.” Con questa frase il musicista gallese apre un disco che rappresenta un sunto di attività cosmologica che inizia nel 1993 e perdura per circa un decennio. Materiale conversato, riletto ed interpretato, di cui l’artista aveva anticipato l’esistenza in alcune interviste. Accompagnato dal mirabile artwork di Jon Wozencroft e registrato a Los Angeles, dove ormai risiede da tempo, tra ottobre e dicembre dell’anno passato, ‘Dark Matter’ è un dolce vagare nello spazio. E quando uso il termine dolce non lo faccio perché le ambientazioni che mi ritrovo a descrivere sono colorate, divertenti o piacevoli da visitare. Al contrario uso questo aggettivo perché quello che ci aspetta è decisamente peggiore. Un incubo, la fine del mondo, l’apocalisse terrena o semplicemente un viaggio in chissà quale dimensione. Per anni Lustmord è stato considerato un eretico e un solitario ma dopo l’avvincente ‘Stockholm’ è venuto il momento di esplorare di nuovo la galassia e farci tornare con i piedi per terra appena sopraggiunto il silenzio. Dei tre movimenti proposti il primo, ‘Subspace’, è senza dubbio il più spettrale e coinvolgente ma l’intera opera, pur non essendo di semplice assimilazione, è di gran lunga superiore a quanto di sperimentale e avanguardistico esce in ambito drone, ambient e vagamente elettronico ai giorni nostri. [Lorenzo Becciani]

The New Noise (Italy):

Brian ‘Lustmord’ Williams è un artista molto più eclettico di quello che si crede. È normalmente considerato il papà del dark ambient (Heresy, 1990), ma nei dischi usciti negli ultimi dieci anni, che possono piacere come non piacere, ha collaborato con i Melvins, con Maynard James Keenan e Adam Jones (Tool), poi con Aaron Turner (Isis), Jarboe… e ha remixato in chiave dub dei pezzi dei Puscifer, per restare nell’ambito della famiglia Tool.

Oggi torna su Touch, da solo e in qualche modo più vicino al sound grazie al quale s’è affermato. Non penso che lo faccia per battere cassa andando sul sicuro (come capita a certe band che giocano la carta del cambiamento, non fanno soldi e si ri-presentano dai vecchi fan con qualcosa che li accontenti), perché Dark Matter è un’idea di cui ha parlato per un sacco di tempo nelle interviste e alla quale solo ora è riuscito a dare seguito concreto, dopo anni in cui ha raccolto il materiale scarso di cui si compone il disco. Williams, infatti, si è creato un archivio di “suoni” spaziali fornitigli dalla NASA e da vari osservatori: vibrazioni elettromagnetiche che viaggiano nel vuoto, alcune al di fuori della capacità percettiva del nostro orecchio, ma portate nel nostro campo uditivo da dei software (un procedimento simile a quello di Pietro Riparbelli con le onde corte, per restare nel genere). Così facendo, Lustmord, ripulendo molto la materia grezza e rumorosa di partenza e adattandola alla sua estetica, ci ha restituito l’attività di stelle, pianeti e galassie. A differenza che in certi suoi primi dischi, che ci davano una sensazione di pericolo, qui sembra di ascoltare il respiro di creature eterne e indifferenti alla nostra esistenza, adagiate da qualche parte in un’immensità a tratti affascinante, a tratti in grado di gettare nello sconforto più assoluto. Un Lustmord puro ed essenziale, dunque, che non rinuncia però a bassi spaccapavimenti e a qualche suono alieno che ghiaccia il sangue nelle vene. “Nello Spazio nessuno può sentirti urlare”, dice la tagline di un vecchio capolavoro, ma – aggiungo io – se noi potessimo sentire nello Spazio forse ne moriremmo. [Fabrizio Garau]

Trebuchet

Tartine de Contrabasse (France):

Tout amateur de dark ambient a forcément croisé ce nom sur sa route : Lustmord, ou le gars à qui on attribue peut-être à tort la création du genre, mais dont on ne pourra jamais nier le rôle crucial dans sa démocratisation entre la fin des années 80 et le début de 90 ; Heresy se place ici en pierre angulaire du personnage et de ce style de musique en 1990, avec ses captations cryptiques et volcaniques à glacer le sang. Comme je n’aime pas faire comme tout le monde, je lui préférerai The Place Where the Black Stars Hang, dont le déroulement en territoires spatiaux photorépulsifs fait naître des sentiments d’isolation et d’impuissance face aux éléments que seul un Thomas Köner peut prétendre atteindre. Transition parfaite pour nous mener à la dernière production aux inspirations cosmiques de Brian Williams qui paraît sur le totémique Touch, excellent toit pour musiques minimalistes tangentes s’il en est. Après une décade de collecte d’échantillons sonores dans les plus grands centres d’études spatiales et chez les plus petits contributeurs privés puis 15 autres hivers de gestation, Dark Matter voit le jour. Façon de parler.

Là où The Place Where the Black Stars Hang faisait découvrir et explorer les espaces inaccessibles à notre petite humanité confortable, Dark Matter semble y poursuivre l’aventure d’une manière encore plus lovecraftienne, presque nihiliste. L’Homme n’est rien dans cette immensité qu’il pense connaître, mais dont il ne voit même pas la pointe de l’iceberg. Tant de choses ont déjà été conjecturées, vérifiées puis admises dans ce dernier siècle de science, et pourtant, encore plus de questions et d’incertitudes se sont soulevées en réponse. Nous croyons savoir, mais sommes des ignorants qui s’ignorent. Des affirmations sur notre vanité et notre incapacité à considérer les infinités qui nous soutiennent et nous surplombent, que l’artiste a condensées en trois morceaux marathoniens sur 70 minutes. Ouais ma gueule.

Entre réminiscences mélodiques éparses et ressac de basses polies comme seul un Lustmord sait le faire, l’album nous submerge très vite sous ses vagues sub-hertziennes impitoyables où les seules balises lumineuses sont des astres piégés dans le champ gravitationnel d’une singularité, brûlant d’autant plus fort qu’ils s’approchent inexorablement de l’horizon des évènements. Les pulsations vaines des étoiles agonisantes se diluent progressivement dans l’éther vrombissant, tandis qu’elles accélèrent leur course effrénée vers une mort certaine dans la bouche de l’ogre insatiable à leurs pieds. Décrire l’expérience comme intimidante ne lui rend presque pas justice, tant les sentiments de désolation et de fatalité sont exacerbés : lancer Dark Matter, c’est comme écouter un trou noir supermassif respirer. Aucun espoir, aucune échappatoire, juste le droit d’être témoins de l’inconcevable au travers des cris de terreur électromagnétiques de soleils déchus, et d’attendre l’oblitération subatomique par le laminage transversal des fréquences à moins de trois chiffres avant la virgule. Un album de contemplation donc, mais d’un genre qui aurait certainement plu à ce cher Howard Phillips ; de ces contemplations dans les abysses sans fond qui nous invitent à y plonger sans jamais se retourner, de ces plongées dans l’inconnu reconnu qui n’offrent que l’issue inévitable mais salutaire de l’oubli absolu, de cette réalisation de l’insignifiance originelle qui recalibre l’âme sur les vibrations universelles qui nous dépassent complètement, pour enfin prétendre à surpasser sa condition. Ici, la lumière n’a sa place que parce qu’elle met plus en valeur les ténèbres qui s’en nourrissent : en témoigne particulièrement le second morceau Astronomicon, requiem à 4bpm pour particules au destin tragique, dont les lentes et puissantes inhalations ôtent tout oxygène à l’environnement immédiat, et qui bénéficie d’une construction progressive de ses strates atonales absolument monstrueuse.

Pour moi suite magistrale de son excellent The Place Where the Black Stars Hang, Dark Matter poursuit le voyage vers la noirceur au bout du tunnel initié alors, questionnant avec recul ce qu’on pense de notre place dans l’univers et ce qu’elle est en réalité, avec un sound design toujours d’actualité après les décennies d’activité de son créateur. L’art du dark ambient par Lustmord, c’est toujours sans aucun compromis, c’est toujours aussi démentiel, et je n’hésiterai pas à placer sa dernière galette parmi ses toutes meilleures.

CD ou digital, on peut trouver le nécessaire directement chez Touch, comme plein d’autres bonnes choses.

NONPOP (Germany):

Sieht man von zwei Live-Alben ab, so ist das vorliegende, brandaktuelle LUSTMORD-Opus “Dark Matter” die erste wirklich neue Veröffentlichung seit dem 2014er-Album “The Word As Power” – auf diesem trieb BRIAN WILLIAMS jene Lust an Innovation und Experiment, die sich auf den Alben der letzten Jahre kontinuierlich mal mehr, mal weniger subtil niederschlug, bekanntlich auf ihre einsame, unerhörte Spitze und machte zum ersten Mal in seiner langen Laufbahn von Vocals – wenn auch primär instrumental fungierend – Gebrauch. Insbesondere für die fundamentalistischen, ultra-orthodoxen Verehrer des Wahl-Kaliforniers mit walisischem Migrationshintergrund, der das Genre Dark Ambient im Grunde genommen “erfunden” hat und insofern als eine Art halbtranszendenter Gottvater der Sparte gelten darf, kam dieser Schritt einem mittelschweren Sakrileg (ob Gottvater überhaupt ein Sakrileg begehen kann, sei an dieser Stelle als spitzfindige Off-topic-Frage für Hobbytheologen hinterlegt) gleich, war indes aus nachvollziehbaren Gründen dem Konzept des Albums geschuldet und insofern durchaus gerechtfertigt, zumal das Ergebnis absolut zu überzeugen wusste, wie der Rezensent vor drei Jahren an dieser Stelle jubilierend vermeldete. – Nun, mit Innovation und Experiment (relativ zu jenem speziellen Sound, der für LUSTMORD konstitutiv ist) ist jetzt entschieden Schluss: WILLIAMS legt mit “Dark Matter” ein LUSTMORD-Album vor, wie es exemplarischer und klassischer kaum sein könnte, durch & durch gesättigt mit stockfinsteren, zappendusteren Klanglandschaften aus den entlegensten, abgrundtiefsten Tiefen des Raums. Mit “Dark Matter” besinnt sich WILLIAMS auf die Essenz seiner Musik und entfaltet über eine Gesamtspielzeit von 70 Minuten jene paradigmatisch kalte, luftleere und isolationistische Atmosphäre, welche das Album mühe- und umstandslos in eine Reihe mit Klassikern wie “Heresy”, “The Monstrous Soul”,”The Place Where The Black Stars Hang”, “Carbon/Core” oder “[Other]” einpasst.

Bezeichnender- und ironischerweise ist “Dark Matter” der erste LUSTMORD-Tonträger, der auf dem, für seine dezidiert experimentelle Programmatik und die Affinität zu elektronikbasiertem Frickelsound unterschiedlichster Provenienz hinlänglich bekannten, TOUCH-Label erschienen ist. Aus diesem Umstand vermag der kundige Rezipient immerhin eins schon mal ziemlich zweifelsfrei abzuleiten, dass nämlich kaum mit eingängiger Unterhaltungsmusik im weiteren – oder gar engeren – Sinne zu rechnen sein dürfte. Und in der Tat: auf der CD finden sich drei Stücke von jeweils 20, 23 und 27 Minuten Länge, die ernsthafter – und insofern freilich auch LUSTMORD-typischer – kaum sein könnten: Es gibt ultratieffrequentes Brummen, Dröhnen und Summen satt auf die Löffel, angereichert und verwoben mit diversen Field Recordings intergalaktischer Tonsignale, die, von NASA und ähnlichen Institutionen freundlichst zur Verfügung gestellt, dem Ganzen in der Gesamtschau jene ebenso beklemmend-unirdische wie irrlichternd-atmosphärische Wirkung verleihen, die wir vom Oevre des Mr. WILLIAMS so gut kennen und so sehr an ihm lieben. Selbstredend wäre LUSTMORD auch nicht LUSTMORD, gehörten jene extraterrestrischen Abgründe, in die “Dark Matter” den Hörer manövriert, nicht einer 100%ig humorfreien Zone an. Doch auch, wenn an diesem Punkt das statistische Risiko unfreiwilliger Komik eigentlich am höchsten ist, gelingt BRIAN WILLIAMS ganz souverän einmal mehr das Kunststück, ein tutti completo totenbierernstes Werk abzuliefern, ohne dabei auch nur im Ansatz prätentiös, abgeschmackt oder gar albern zu wirken. Das Werk steht da wie der Monolith in Kubricks “2001”, und der Mann, der hat’s nach wie vor drauf – oder besser: mehr denn je.

Wie der Titel bereits nahelegt, beschäftigt sich das Album thematisch mit dem Phänomen der Dunklen Materie, die, wiewohl nicht direkt sichtbar, in der Kosmologie postuliert wird, um die Bewegung der sichtbaren Materie im kosmologischen Standardmodell erklärbar zu machen. Die Existenz Dunkler Materie ist bislang nicht bewiesen und lediglich theoretisch bzw. anhand ihrer Wechselwirkungen mit Gravitationswellen aufzeigbar, ihr eigentliches Wesen ist jedoch weitestgehend ungeklärt. In diesem Sinne illustriert BRIAN WILLIAMS im Promotext den konzeptuellen Hintergrund des Albums: “Approximately sixty-eight percent of the Universe is unseen dark energy and approximately twenty-seven percent is unseen dark matter. […] The universe began of darkness, not of light. While space is a virtual vacuum, it does not mean there is no sound in space. It exists in space as naturally occurring electromagnetic vibrations, many well within the range of human hearing while others exist at different regions of the electromagnetic spectrum and these can be adjusted with software to bring them within our audio range.” Und eben dieses: eigentlich nicht Wahrnehmbares auf raffinierte Weise doch vernehmbar zu machen, das gelingt dem Godfather of Dark Ambient mit dem vorliegenden Album ganz vortrefflich: nicht eines der drei Stücke verfehlt seine Wirkung auch nur ansatzweise, auch wenn – oder doch: gerade weil? – das Album nüchtern und rein stilistisch betrachtet auf Innovationen und/oder Experimente, die aus dem LUSTMORD-genuinen Klanguniversum ausscherten, beinahe vollständig verzichtet. “Dark Matter” beeindruckt durch eine beispiellos dichte, stockfinstere Atmosphäre, wie man sie in dieser Perfektion insbesondere von den Alben der 1990er-Jahre kennt. Und auch heute erweist sich BRIAN WILLIAMS, der sympathische kleine Vollbarträger, der sich übrigens keineswegs zu irgendwelchen obskuren chthonischen Kulten, sondern zu einem nüchternen Atheismus bekennt, als ein – um nicht zu sagen: als der Großmeister nachtschwarzer Tiefenvibrationen schlechthin.

Der langen Rede kurzer Sinn: “Dark Matter” ist ein LUSTMORD-Album geworden, wie es im Buche steht, und für Eingeweihte wie Novizen auf dem Gebiete interstellarer Psychoakustik gleichermaßen empfehlenswert. Selten war eine CD einerseits so vorhersehbar und andererseits doch so uneingeschränkt faszinierend, packend und von der ersten bis zur letzten Sekunde alle Sinne fesselnd wie die vorliegende. – Um abschließend noch einmal den Großmeister höchstselbst zu zitieren: “Behind the world that we experience lies a veil of darkness and much is hidden between, beyond and unseen.” Schön, denkt man da doch, dass es Zeitgenossen wie ihn gibt, die uns mit akustischen Psychedelika wie “Dark Matter” dabei helfen, den Schleier wenigstens für einen kurzen Moment zu lüften, um einen flüchtigen, zappendusteren Eindruck zu erhaschen.

African Paper (Germany):

Das Weltall hat im Werk von Brian Williams schon oft eine zentrale (nicht nur metaphorische) Rolle gespielt, so etwa auf dem noch immer als Dark Ambient-Referenzwerk geltenden „The Place Where The Black Stars Hang“, auf dem im Booklet zu lesen war: „There is a place /where the black stars hang/and the strangest eons call /that amorphous mass /unknown, immense /ambivalent to all“. Immer war das All (auch) ein Signum für die Begrenztheit menschlicher Erkenntnis, für die Insignifikanz des Homo Sapiens in einem Kosmos, dessen Grenzen kaum fassbar sind; Gedanken, die sich u.a. bei Pascal, Lovecraft oder etwa Robinson Jeffers finden. “Guard yourself from the terrible empty light of space, the bottomless/Pool of the stars”, heißt es in Jeffers’ “Quia Absurdum”. In den Linernotes des neuen Albums schreibt Williams: „The universe we inhabit is a vast expense far larger than we are able to comprehend“.

Auf “Dark Matter” verwendet Williams ausschließlich zwischen 1993 und 2003 zusammengetragene Aufnahmen kosmologischer Aktivitäten (Strahlung, Quasare etc.) als Ausgangsmaterial. Schon auf dem Album „Trans Plutonian Transmissions“, das unter dem Projektnamen Arecibo 1994 veröffentlicht worden war, wurde auf solche Aufnahmen zurückgegriffen. Verglichen mit jenem Album ist „Dark Matter“ – ein Album, das schon lange geplant war – allerdings wesentlich reduzierter, minimal(istisch)er. In einem 2001 veröffentlichten Interview sprach Williams davon, er plane “a long-delayed very minimal Lustmord ambient album to be called “Dark Matter”, which will only utilize recordings of deep space and interstellar activity that I’ve collected over the years” zu veröffentlichen.

Williams hatte in den letzten Jahren immer wieder das Klangspektrum erweitert, ob etwa durch den Einsatz von Keyboards auf „Metavoid“ (die dazu beitrugen, dass sich das Album partiell Filmmusik annäherte), die Verwendung von Gitarren auf „Other“ oder aber dadurch, dass er Stimme(n) auf dem 2013 veröffentlichten „The Word As Power“ ins Zentrum rückte. Die auf „Other“ basierenden sehr reduzierten Alben „[Beyond]“ und „[The Dark Places of the Earth]“ mit „extended ambient remixes“ wirkten dagegen fast wie eine kleine Korrektur, denn auch wenn man eine allzu puristische Herangehensweise vielleicht ablehnt (da Hybride oftmals spannender sind bzw. sein können), so waren die fast schon außerweltlich klingenden tiefen Bassfrequenzen, die das Werk des gebürtigen Walisers prägen, wesentlich besser geeignet, Musik zu erzeugen, die den Hörer in einen Raum außerhalb unserer Erde beförderte, wohingegen konventionelle(re) Instrumente den Klang letztlich doch (manchmal allzu sehr) auf dem Boden der Welt verankerten.

„Dark Matter“ besteht aus drei langen Tracks: „Subspace“ beginnt mit einem melodischen Ton, bevor die typischen tiefen Basssounds einsetzen. Auf „Astronomicon“ scheint Wind zu wehen, der an Stärke zunimmt und auch „Black Static“ wird von einem dunklen Brummen dominiert, ganz so, als solle die im Booklet als Umkehrung des biblischen Schöpfungsmythos abgedruckte Behauptung „The Universe began of darkness, not of light“ unterstrichen werden. Nach 70 Minuten tiefster Schwärzer ist der Hörer sicherlich soweit, das zu glauben. [MG]

Polyphonia (Poland):

Brian Williams nagrywa pod szyldem Lustmord od przeszło trzydziestu lat. Właśnie powraca z nową dark ambientową płytą.

Williamsa uznaje się za jednego z pionierów dark ambientu. Jego mroczne dźwięki znamy także z wielu ścieżek filmowych (m.in. „The Crow”, „Underworld”), reklam czy gier komputerowych. Brytyjczyk rejestrował swoje nagrania w tak osobliwych miejscach jak katakumby, groty, jaskinie, schrony i kopalnie. Od jego poprzedniego wydawnictwa „The Word As Power” minęły już trzy lata. Tegoroczny krążek Lustmorda nosi nazwę „Dark Matter” i dostarcza nam trzy kompozycje.

Te długie, bo ponad dwudziestominutowe utwory przenoszą nas w otchłań wszechświata, ponieważ kosmos jest motywem przewodnim tego krążka. – „Wszechświat rozpoczął się od ciemności, a nie od światła” – pisze Williams, co też dobitnie słychać w „Astronomicon”. Lustmord utkał swoją opowieść bazując na fragmentach wyszperanych z dźwiękowych zasobów (pochodzących z lat 1993 – 2003) różnych miejsc (biblioteka, radio), takich jak NASA (Cape Canaveral, Ames, The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Arecibo), The Very Large Array czy The National Radio Astronomy Observatory. Poza tym wszystkim, źródło dźwięku zostało wydobyte także z kwazarów, egzotycznych obiektów astrofizycznych, kosmicznych dysz, magnetarów i nie tylko.

Twórca przekazuje nam też sporo swoich przemyśleń związanych z kosmosem: Około sześćdziesięciu ośmiu procent wszechświata jest niewidzialną ciemną energią i około dwudziestu siedem procent to niewidzialna ciemna materia. Opowiada również między innymi o drganiach elektromagnetycznych we wszechświecie, które są nieodłącznym elementem przestrzeni kosmosu.

Na „Dark Matter” w moim mniemaniu najciekawsze rzeczy dzieją się w utworze „Subspace”, gdzie w tych z pozoru statycznych i niespeszeni toczących się dronach skryły się drobinki dźwiękowe, które z jednej strony chronią nas przed wrażeniem nudy i banału, a z drugiej wzmacniają siłę wyrazu tego kosmicznego wyziewu. Warto wsiąść w kapsułę Lustmorda, ale tą z napisem „Subspace”. [ŁUKASZ KOMŁA]

Le Son du Grisli (France):

Le sujet – la matière noire – aurait pu inspirer Lustmord bien avant Dark Matter, dernière référence en date de la discographie que Brian Williams inaugura sous ce nom en duo avec John Murphy. Serait-ce alors un pas vers l’ultra-noir que ferait ici, en trois temps, l’une des grandes figures de l’ambient ombreuse ?

Il faudra tenir les claustrophobes éloignés de ces nappes soufflant le froid et de ces sirènes qui, sur deux notes, balisent un paysage lugubre qui ne peut que faire effet sur le voyageur derrière lequel se sont refermées de grandes et lourdes portes de métal. Pour cette sorte de descente aux Enfers qu’il lui a promise, Lustmord oblige en plus son invité à un transport aussi lent que le sien.

Prendre, alors, garde aux bruits sourds que vobulent les résonances et les vents contraires : confinée à un environnement hostile mais ravissant aussi, l’écoute s’empare d’un paquet de rumeurs auxquelles elle attachera presque autant de fantasmes noirs. Si la dernière piste est moins impressionnante – allongeant l’expérience d’une distance de trop – est-ce parce qu’elle accompagne le lent retour à la surface du musicien et de son invité ? [Guillaume Belhomme]

Touching Extremes (net):

How many times has the name “Lustmord” been uttered or typed, when it comes to music impassively conveying the darkness of abyssal cavities, or a hypothetical illustration of atemporal void?

Now, seeing a Brian Williams release on Touch is one of those natural events that for a reason or another had not happened, but was meant to. Dark Matter is the obvious culmination of a process destined to engender a classic; and boy, is this record a classic – with the capital C. Consisting of three extended tracks, it’s perhaps the most profound cycle of quasi-standstills and stupefactive climates ever conceived by the California-resident Welshman.

Born from elements of cosmological activity, the electroacoustic lattice conjures up imponderable ubiquities, foggy prospects and heartrending remote calls. Not a surprise, of course. Prohibitively low ranges represent the predominant factor in the mix; a severe immensity derived from layers of immeasurable sub-pulses and altered tones. Prior to reading explanations, I was hearing whales in there. The mind, you know.

Contrarily to the myths surrounding the deus ex machina, we’re quite distant from the evocation of malign spirits, and never for a second we perceived a “rich soundtrack for black hole tripping” smell. Instead, Williams is a master of confluences, diverse sonic currents uniting in a huge tidal wave of brain-nourishing frequencies. These atmospheres appear more submarine than lunar to these ears, though; one is sure that there are dangers lurking, but is equally convinced that it would be preferable to push the existence through this lucid numbness rather than come back to hear squalid everyday characters polluting silence.

Imitators, dissolve yourselves in a pool of tears: in this playground, Lustmord remains untouchable.

Against the Silence (Greece):

Οι δυνατότητες μας είναι περιορισμένες, οι αισθήσεις μας ατελείς και η φαντασία μας δεν μπορεί να καταλήξει στο τι μπορεί να συμβαίνει στην κάθε μακρινή “γωνία” του σύμπαντος. Ο Brian Williams, γνωστός ως Lustmord, υπόσχεται να μας μεταφέρει στην απύθμενη μεγάλη περιοχή πέρα από τον γαλαξία της Ανδρομέδας, βγάζοντας από το μυαλό μας κάθε έννοια του χώρου, του χρόνου, της απόστασης, της φοράς. Dark Matter το όνομα του άλμπουμ που θα κυκλοφορήσει από την Touch στις 30 Σεπτέμβρη. Τρία εξαιρετικά μελετημένα κομμάτια-αποσπάσματα που βρίσκονται υπό κύηση από το 2001. Η συλλογή των ήχων έγινε από το Cosmological Activity της NASA, The Very Large Array, The National Astronomy Observatory και διάφορες άλλες πηγές.

Με επίκεντρο γύρω από την ιδέα ότι το σύμπαν αποτελείται κυρίως από σκοτεινή ενέργεια, το Dark Matter μας πετάει ομαλά στο άγνωστο, πέρα από κάθε φαντασία, ανάμεσα σε γαλαξιακές ηχητικές παρεμβολές, διαστρικά πλάσματα και μόρια, ακτινοβολίες από συνθλίψεις κηφήνων και χιονοστιβάδες από κοσμικούς πίδακες.

Ondarock (Italy):

La lunga gestazione di un’opera d’arte può dipendere non soltanto da un’ispirazione intermittente o dalla necessità di rivedere insistentemente ogni dettaglio, inseguendo una propria idea di “perfezione” e compiutezza. A volte quel che manca è un’adeguata materia prima, elementi di base senza i quali certe suggestioni possono risultare falsate, al loro fautore più che a coloro che ne fruiranno in seguito.
Per un maestro di lunga data della dark-ambient come Brian “Lustmord” Williams, elaborare una rappresentazione dell’immenso vuoto cosmico non poteva prescindere dalle seppur minime tracce sonore rilevate e catalogate presso gli istituti astronomici, che hanno così aggiunto un prezioso corpus documentario al patrimonio scientifico dell’umanità.

Gli strumenti della Nasa e di altri importanti osservatorii hanno reso percepibili diversi fenomeni cosmologici che altrimenti non potremmo udire nel loro contesto d’origine, dove ogni equipaggiamento risulta essenziale per isolare il corpo dall’energia distruttiva delle particelle subatomiche. Le registrazioni custodite nei rispettivi archivi sono state effettuate tra il 1993 e il 2003: Williams ha atteso diversi anni prima di poterle ascoltare e solo un anno fa vi ha messo mano per creare “Dark Matter”, tra le uscite di punta della Touch per il 2016.

Se in molti casi l’obiettivo ultimo della musica ambient è quello di stabilire un contatto empatico con chi ascolta, ricercando più o meno direttamente certe sensazioni distensive o estatiche, la corrente dark ottiene il proprio effetto perturbante con la negazione del suono armonico, dando paradossalmente voce a un vuoto pneumatico che muova in direzione di un prosciugamento totale, di senso come di tratti estetici.
È l’assenza di legami con la realtà percepita a generare l’orrore atavico e pervasivo di questi tre atti unici. E per dire la verità, se non ne conoscessimo la fonte, sarebbe difficile indovinare la provenienza di questi suoni, foggiati alla stessa maniera dei primi esperimenti glaciali di Thomas Köner come anche della torbida “Blood Music” di Yen Pox, di segno opposto all’origine ma con approdi convergenti nella stessa inumana desolazione.

Il soundscape circoscritto da Lustmord è solo una possibile sintesi di ciò che intende rappresentare, ma è comunque sufficiente a farci immaginare una vastità in minima parte occupata da corpi solidi, talmente sproporzionata da sfuggire alla parola e annullare i termini di confronto con l’esperienza limitata del nostro mondo.
Ogni elemento di un siffatto scenario sembra suggerire che l’avventura si sia spinta oltre un limite invalicabile, troppo al di là della nostra comprensione: in “Subspace” risuonano i lamenti di radar dispersi, fioche spie luminose che galleggiano nel nulla più profondo; “Astronomicon” (forse dal lovecraftiano “Necronomicon”?) ne è l’epicentro impossibile, il crocevia di scie cosmiche che si intersecano esercitando attriti sinistri nella loro mancata collisione.

“Black Static” è un soffio continuo e opprimente che sembra trascinare con sé l’ombra di una forma di vita inconoscibile, un’immagine la cui statura abnorme è offuscata dagli anni luce che ce ne separano. La nostra ricerca è ancora agli inizi, e non sembra esistere un terrore abbastanza sovrastante da scoraggiarla.
Prendete una bella boccata d’ossigeno prima di affrontare questa lunga traversata, sapendo che il ritorno potrebbe non essere un’opzione. [Michele Palozzo]

Bad Alchemy (Germany):

 

Musik an Sich (Germany):

Lustmord ist eines der wohl bekanntesten Dark-Ambient-Projekte. Bereits seit 1981 veröffentlicht Brian Williams unter diesem Namen Alben. Inzwischen sind es über 25. Dabei und auch daneben arbeitete er mit einigen bekannten Namen, unter anderem Jon Ballance, Chris & Cosey, Clock DVA, Current 93, Melvins, Nurse with Wound und sogar Musikern von Tool zusammen und komponierte Filmscores für Filme wie “The Crow”.

Für sein neues Album Dark Matter verarbeitete er Fieldrecordings aus den Jahren 1993 – 2003, die er unter anderem auf verschiedenen NASA-Arealen wie z.B. Cape Canaveral und Arecibo aufgenommen hat. Der Hintergrund des Albums ist die Dunkelheit des Alls, am besten beschrieben in der Aussage des Künstlers: „The Universe began with darkness, not with light“.

Diese Aussage spiegelt dann auch wie der Albumtitel ziemlich genau wieder, was den Hörer erwartet. Die drei Tracks des Albums, zwischen 20 und knapp 28 Minuten lang, sind oberflächlich gehört drei überlange, dunkle Drones. Doch diese haben es wirklich in sich. Denn Lustmord gelingt es, sehr viel Tiefe in diesen Sound zu bringen. So beginnt das erste Stück mit etwas helleren Keyboardsounds. Unter diesen beginnen dunkle Sounds zu rumoren und es breiten sich langsam Sounds und Geräusche aus. Lustmord gelingt es über die komplette Spielzeit, durch das langsame Einbringen neuer Sounds, das leichte Verschieben der Klänge, minimale Veränderungen von Tempo und Sound, eine unglaubliche Tiefe zu erschaffen.

Dass daraus nicht 70 fröhliche Tanmusikminuten entstehen, sollte jedem klar sein. Nein, die teilweise durchaus auch mal beängstigenden Sounds führen den Hörer mit einem gelungenem Spannungsbogen durch diesen dunklen Soundtrack. Gehört über Kopfhörer kann man in diesen Sounds eine tiefe Entspannung finden, oder einen Albtraum erleiden, sollte man beim Genuss der Scheibe einschlafen.

Dark Matter gehört sicherlich zu dem Besten, was die Dark Ambient- / Drone-Szene bieten kann. [Wolfgang Kabsch]

Resident Adviser (USA):

Brian Williams first made reference to Dark Matter back in 2001, and even then it was “long-delayed.” The album’s concept is still promising 15 years later: music made from recordings of deep space and cosmic activity between 1993 and 2003, collected from a variety of sources, including NASA. What does deep space sound like? It’s foreboding and impossibly huge, enveloping and empty all at once. In other words, it sounds like a Lustmord record, albeit a near-impenetrable one that makes his previous albums sound like a walk in the park.

“Dark matter” refers to an unknown material estimated to make up about 27% of the universe, and this album is similarly implacable. It’s droning and all-encompassing, coating any environment it enters with a sense of dread and wonder. If outer space is thought of as a vacuum with no life or sound, then Dark Matter paints a more fanciful picture. Here, deep space is a never-ending vista of the unknowable, saturated with the humming and buzzing of the universe.

From the first moment of “Subspace” you’re suspended in Williams’ severe world, a stage-setting that dwarfs and immerses the listener. Trying to pick out details in the audio is like squinting to see shapes in a pitch-black room. As your ears adjust, you notice things: pockets of static, a high whooshing that’s somewhere between whale cries and sonar pings. The latter sound repeats irregularly throughout Dark Matter, disappearing during the formidable rumble of “Astronomicon” and then surfacing again later. It’s one of the only recognizable motifs on a record that otherwise feels like a wall of atmospheric noise.

Though the mood is no different from previous Lustmord records, Dark Matter is more opaque. Williams is largely credited with inventing dark ambient, but Dark Matter toes a line between that genre and regular ambient music. A Lustmord classic like Heresy made use of guitar and other instruments in a way typically associated with rock music, while his last album, The Word As Power, prominently featured vocals. They had unnerving melodies and progressions, tension and release. Dark Matter has no such window dressing. It’s just the lonely sound of outer space, manipulated into formless, 20-plus-minute compositions.

Dark Matter is an oppressive record in Williams’ already challenging discography. It sounds totally out of time and place, fitting for a project that took almost two decades of working with otherworldly source material. It’s no surprise that Williams found inspiration in a lifeless, blackened realm that few have fully explored—that’s basically what he’s been doing from the start. [Andrew Ryce]

Trust (Germany):

Musique Machine (UK):

Dark Matter sees this industrial legend & dark ambient pioneer returning to one of his favourite subjects/ themes- deep dark space, and it’s often eerier vast-ness. This CD release from late summer 2016 offers up three lengthy works, and it’s fair to say it’s some of the most compelling & haunting dark ambience I’ve heard in a good few years.
The three twenty-to-twenty seven minute tracks are built around a blend of manipulated recordings of deep space sounds and cosmic activity from between the years 1993 and 2003- taking in recordings from various sources, including NASA. These recordings are skilfully stretched, layered, and built together to create these vast & slowly shifting sound-worlds, which take in the vastness, mystery, and wholly compelling atmospheric darkness of deep space. Each track is both eventful, yet considered in it’s unfold- with Lustmord very carefully treading the line between worthy compositionally progression and atmosphere. Also there is a fairly varied blend of different types of texturally settings, as well as often memorable & haunting harmonic drifts running through all three of the tracks lifetimes.

From the very start to the last minute one is total captured by the albums slowly shifting sonic landscapes- like all great ambient work this has to taken as a whole journey, and one long 70 minute ride. You have to let yourself become one with the slow ebb & flow of the sonic landscapes; as you both ponder the seemingly uncharted vastness of space, and mankind’s small-ness with in the universe.

Simply put Dark Matter is a dark ambient masterpiece- which I can see myself returning to again & again, for both it’s skilful unfold, cleverly layered detail, and haunting yet highly compelling vast-ness.

Spectrum Culture (USA):

What does space sound like? A lot like a Lustmord album. On its new album Dark Matter, made in part from the sampled sounds of space, it’s hard to tell what’s what.

If you know anything about outer space, it’s easy to tell which sounds couldn’t possibly come from there: the wet, fuzzy sea of static that threatens to subdue “Astronomicon,” for instance, or the dubby pings near the beginning of the same song. The drones on “Black Static” fade about halfway through into what sounds like a singing bowl, that staple of dark ambient. The opening high notes of “Subspace” form too neat a melody to have arisen naturally.

Lustmord and whatever being or force of nature created the cosmos like a lot of the same sounds: deep bass rumbles, subsonic drones. What might sound like outer space to anyone who’s tuned into NASA’s library of cosmic field recordings – or heard any other recording made with space sounds, like Biosphere’s Autourd de la Lune or Terry Riley’s Sun Rings – might as easily be generated by Lustmord’s electronics.

Welsh industrial musician Brian Williams has recorded under the Lustmord name since 1980, and has released dozens of albums since then. He has made recordings from sources that are disparate and unusual, from slaughterhouses to Tibetan horns. Most of the sounds here could be found on any one of his previous albums. If the new album doesn’t offer many surprises, fans should like it just fine. It delivers more of what Williams has always dished out: deep, bassy, dark, amelodic ambient music. Some may be disappointed Lustmord didn’t do a bit more with the space sounds; this doesn’t make quite as flamboyant a show of its source material as The Word As Power, the band’s last studio album, did with its high-profile guest vocalists. Furthermore, Dark Matter is slight at only three tracks, though each carries its weight.

Non-Lustmord fans should be warned: this stuff requires patience. Each track clocks in at between 20 and 30 minutes, long even by ambient standards. Listeners used to music this formidable will delight in getting lost in its cavernous drones and every minuscule change in texture (really the album is all texture) will take on the significance of a major event. Those who like their ambient shorter, cleaner and prettier might be left wondering why the record’s been going for half an hour and nothing has happened yet. (Try falling asleep to it.)

Dark Matter expertly evokes the vastness of outer space. Though this is dark ambient, there’s little foreboding or dread. Instead, Lustmord creates an eerie, sterile calm, occasionally interrupted by swells of bass that seem impossibly huge but distant – miles, perhaps even light-years, off. Not much happens in space, but it’s still a dangerous, mysterious, frightening place. The same could be said of Dark Matter, an album content to do little more than create a void for the listener to get sucked into. [Daniel Bromfield]

Brainwashed (USA):

Brian Lustmord’s latest opus, allegedly first begun 15 years ago, attempts to evoke the immense void and mystery of space using a host of cosmological recordings from NASA and others as his source material. There are a number of serious hurdles standing in the way of that ambitious and quixotic objective, sadly, but Dark Matter boasts enough flashes of inspiration to make it an interesting and valiant struggle. Though serious Lustmord fans will probably be delighted to hear Brian revisiting similar territory to his classic The Place Where the Black Stars Hang album, his epic vision is hobbled a bit by the limitations of the format.

Dark Matter opens with its strongest and lengthiest piece, the 27-minute “Subspace,” which is centered around a wonderfully eerie, distant, and forlorn-sounding two-note melody. While that “hook” is the most important part of the piece for me, such touches are quite peripheral to Lustmord’s central vision here: Dark Matter is primarily an album of deep throbbing drones, cavernous rumbles, ominous whooshes, volcanic bubbling, and distant crackling. Therein lies the root of my issues with the album, as Lustmord is first and foremost a brilliant and exacting technician fixated on mood and texture, while his interest in being a composer is clearly of secondary concern. To his credit, a lack of attention to melody and harmony makes perfect sense thematically, as space is ostensibly a soundless void. Veracity and thematic purity do not always make for a great listening experience though. On this particular piece, however, Brian strikes an excellent balance between composition and sound design: “Subspace” gradually becomes subsumed by drifting emptiness and mysterious crackles before a second strong theme emerges from the lonely void in the form of something that sounds like a whale song. It is a genuinely satisfying arc. That balance is the exception rather than the rule, however: if the entire album stuck with that precarious and unpredictable ebb and flow between form and formlessness, I would probably like it a lot more than I do.

Aside from “Subspace,” Dark Matter often sounds like it is on dark ambient autopilot. Each piece ultimately boasts a showstopping set piece, but there are a lot of lengthy, frustrating lulls between flashes of actual greatness. For example, “Astronomicon” has a wonderfully haunting final motif, but it takes about 15 minutes to get there. Of course, Brian was not actually on autopilot for this album and that is where things get thorny. Part of the problem is that Lustmord (much to his chagrin) was one of the primary architects of the dark ambient genre, influencing a host of other artists in the ’90s. The resulting glut of lesser, yet very similar, music necessarily made Lustmord feel a lot less special. As a long career in film and videogame and sound design can attest, Brian is head and shoulders above most of his peers in the actual mechanics of his craft–unfortunately, however, an amorphous flow of subterranean rumbles, deep throbs, crackles, buried howls, and whooshes in the hands of a dilettante sounds a hell of a lot like the same thing done by a master on most stereos. Without anything resembling melody or rhythm, the only obvious differences between similar artists in that milieu are largely technical and conceptual.

Naturally, Brian is well aware of his predicament and has noted in the past that his rare live performances are partly done just so people can hear how Lustmord is actually supposed to sound. Consequently, Dark Matter is fundamentally a bit an indulgent and insular release, existing almost as a site-specific work designed solely to be experienced on Brian’s own amazing home stereo system, as he has observed that very few people will be able to properly experience its visceral and seismic low frequencies. Another problem is that sonically trying to evoke the bleak immensity of space is inherently futile (space’s sounds are generally at wavelengths that we cannot hear) and conveying infinity in an absorbing way is also no picnic. Trying to hold my attention for 70 minutes with hollow whooshes, clanging metal, cavernous gurgling, and muted roars is a similarly unpromising endeavor, so it takes a lot of patience, attention, and volume to fully appreciate Dark Matter’s secrets. Having to wait a quarter of an hour for both “Astronomicon” and “Black Static” to fully evolve into something remarkable is far from optimal, but both are great once they finally catch fire.

The more I listen to Dark Matter, the more I find myself conflicted about it. The only things that I am certain of are 1.) an enormous amount of work went into it, and 2.) an album is hopelessly inadequate for conveying the full majesty of Lustmord’s vision. I wanted to love Dark Matter and I lamentably do not, but the reasons for my vague sense of unfulfillment were initially hard to nail down. At first, I thought this was a significant regression from the crazily ambitious and divergent The Word as Power and that Brian’s day job has begun to bleed a bit too much into his art (at normal volume, Dark Matter would provide a perfect atmosphere for a dark sci-fi game or film). Those assessments are not entirely off the mark compositionally, as Dark Matter definitely retreats to Lustmord’s longtime comfort zone, but it is equally true that this album may very well be Brian’s magnum opus, albeit with some asterisks. I am not going to say that Brian was too ambitious, but I do believe that his intent here far outstretched the capabilities of the medium: Dark Matter is an album that begs to be experienced on a grand scale (like an earthquake) rather than just heard. As such, it is a bit underwhelming and easy to ignore for long stretches in its current form, but it is not hard to imagine these three pieces feeling like the voice of God if they were experienced at apocalyptic volume in the right context.

Blow Up (Italy):

Dark Entries (Belgium):

Dark Matter bestaat uit drie lange stukken, elk goed voor minstens 20 minuten, waarop Brian Williams aka Lustmord ons meeneemt op een ruimtereis die nog lang zal nazinderen.
De man die van essentieel belang is wat betreft het dark ambient genre, getuige hiervan een mijlpaal als Heresy (1990), nog steeds een van de meest beangstigende platen uit de muziekgeschiedenis.
‘Subspace’, waar het allemaal begint, leviteert je naar hogere stratosferen alwaar de zeer ijzige soundscapes ervoor zorgen dat een algehele ijlte zich van je meester maakt. Op het punt dat de wetten van de zwaartekracht niet meer van toepassing zijn, zweef je doorheen ‘Astronomicon’, een atmosferische trip doorheen de ruimte met al zijn verborgen geluiden die deze met zich meedraagt.
Eenmaal helemaal in de kern doorgedrongen te zijn, kom je via ‘Black Static’ in een draaikolk terecht, de zuigkracht van deze spiraal is van een dergelijke kracht dat weerstand bieden zinloos is, het statische zwart waarvan sprake klinkt als een muur van atmosferische noise, en Dark Matter als geheel laat zich situeren tussen reguliere en dark ambient. Eentje waarbij je haast een drilboor nodig hebt om je doorheen te werken, vooral door de grootsheid (ook eigen aan de ruimte) ervan. Het is Lustmord dan ook gelukt om een realistisch audio beeld van de ruimte te scheppen, en meteen een garantie voor een van de opmerkelijkste platen die we dit jaar op de draaitafel mochten leggen.
Waarom Lustmord voor Dark Matter de ruimte uitkoos om zich in uit te leven, legt hij graag even zelf uit: “Het universum dat we bewonen is een enorme uitgestrektheid veel groter dan we in staat zijn te begrijpen. Als we proberen om de onderliggende structuur ervan te begrijpen en nieuwe inzichten trachten te verkrijgen in de aard van de materie, rijzen nieuwe vragen op en worden verdere hiaten in ons begrip onthuld.
Achter de wereld die we ervaren ligt er een sluier van duisternis waar nog veel tussen verborgen ligt, voorbij het ongeziene. We zijn beperkt door ons onvermogen om de oneindige breedte van het universum, de betrokken tijdschalen in zijn meetbaarheid en onze onbelangrijke positie hierin, echt te begrijpen. Bepaalde dingen zullen altijd ongekend blijven, dingen waarvan het bestaan niet begint of eindigt met de conceptie van de mens. Alles wat ooit is waargenomen door de mens, zelfs met de meest geavanceerde instrumenten, bedraagt tot minder dan vijf procent van het heelal. Ongeveer 68% van het heelal is onzichtbare donkere energie en ongeveer 27% is donkere materie. We moeten nog ontdekken wat donkere materie is, enkel kennis hieromtrent volstaat niet.
Hoewel het niet direct waargenomen is, kan met het bestaan en de eigenschappen ervan afleiden uit de effecten op de zichtbare materie, de invloed ervan op de grootschalige structuur van het heelal en de gevolgen ervan in de kosmische achtergrondstraling ervan niet ontkennen.
Het universum begon vanuit duisternis, niet uit licht.
Hoewel de ruimte een virtueel vacuüm is, betekent dit niet dat er geen geluid in de ruimte is. Ze bestaan in de ruimte als natuurlijk voorkomende elektromagnetische trillingen waarvan vele binnen het bereik van het menselijk gehoor liggen, terwijl anderen bestaan op verschillende gebieden van het elektromagnetisch spectrum, die aangepast met software, binnen ons audiogebied gebracht kunnen worden.
De opnames van deze interacties in de ruimte komen van verschillende omgevingen, waaronder radio, ultra violet, microgolven en X-ray data en binnen deze spectra is er een breed scala aan bronnen, waaronder instellaire plasma en moleculen, radio melkwegstelsels, pulsar masers en quasars, interacties en emissies van geladen deeltjes, straling, exotische astrofysische objecten, kosmische stralen en vuurpijlen uit magnetars.”
De geluiden die Lustmord verzamelde zijn niet zomaar eigen verzinsels, ze werden afgeleid uit een audio bibliotheek van kosmologische activiteit, verzameld tussen 1993 en 2003. Hiervoor werden verschillende bronnen geraadpleegd waaronder de NASA (Cape Canaveral, Ames, The Jet Propulsion Laboratory en Arecibo), The Very Large Array, The National Radio Astronomy Observatory maar ook verschillende educatieve instellingen en particuliere donateurs in heel Amerika.
Een vette kluif dus voor sciencefiction fanaten, of mensen die bezig zijn met astronomie. Maar ook al heb je niet zo veel met het thema, dan nog kan je er niet omheen dat dit een gitzwarte ambient plaat is. In het verleden dook hij al onder de grond voor een duistere sound (ten tijde van Heresy was dat, grotendeels opgenomen in bunkers, kelders, grotten, etc.), Dark Matter toont dat mijlenver boven de grond de sfeer ook unheimlich en Lustmord-scary is. [Dimi Brands]

freq (UK):

Lustmord has long had an affinity with space, both the sonic space of his heavily dub-inspired soundscapes and the actual physical space of the cosmos. For people of Lustmord’s and my generation, space was our future — where we all expected to be hanging out by the start of this century.Thanks to, in William S Burroughs‘ words, “the last and greatest betrayal of the last and greatest of human dreams”, it was not to be.

As is the nature of advance review copies these days, Dark Matter arrived in digital format. After a couple of plays, it was evident that my Mac speakers, adequate for most things, were not up to the full sonic spectrum here… so a bit of re-wiring to link up my PA system then… ah that’s more like it! Despite being pigeon-holed as the founder of “dark ambient”, Lustmord’s music is anything but ambient and demands to be heard at as high a volume as is practical (fortunately my neighbours were away).

constructed from cosmological recordings obtained from NASA, The Very Large Array, The National Radio Astronomy Observatory and various educational institutions and other sources who “wish to remain anonymous”

A precedent to Dark Matter may be Tangerine Dream‘s 1970 masterpiece Zeit — both share an alchemical power to morph time and sound into space — but whereas TD employed cutting edge electronics of their era to evoke the vastness of the universe, Lustmord uses the sound of the universe itself. The three tracks, each over twenty minutes long, are constructed from cosmological recordings obtained from NASA, The Very Large Array, The National Radio Astronomy Observatory and various educational institutions and other sources who “wish to remain anonymous”, and are sewn together to stretch out into infinity… and beyond.

Lustmord’s interest in astrophysics was first evident in 1993’s The Place Where the Black Stars Hang, and Dark Matter does in some ways seem like a sequel. In the intervening twenty-three years, Lustmord has naturally acquired far more experience and Dark Matter subsequently gains a deeper tonal range and more noticeably, a wonderfully expansive yet subtle spacial soundscape.

the human element is entirely absent here, apart from its insignificance in the scheme of things

If you listen to the album at high volume or through headphones, you are guaranteed to float off into space… at a fraction of NASA’s budget. Dark Matter is very different to Lustmord’s previous release The Word as Power, which came up close and intimate to explore the rich textures of the human voice — the human element is entirely absent here, apart from its insignificance in the scheme of things; but hey, who wants the same thing twice?

Apparently some of these sounds are actually generated within the range of human hearing, despite the conception of there being no sound in space, while others have been transformed into our range via software manipulation. According to Mr Lustmord:

The recordings of these interactions in space come from several different environments including radio, ultra violet, microwave and X-ray data and within these spectra a wide range of sources including interstellar plasma and molecules, radio galaxies, pulsars masers and quasars, charged particle interactions and emissions, radiation, exotic astrophysical objects, cosmic jets and flares from magnetars.

Turn out the lights, turn up the volume and bon voyage. [Alan Holmes]

Gonzo Circus (Belgium):

gonzo

Rockaxis (Spain):

Álbum que se instituye como antagonista físico de las seis partes en que se divide el destacado y subterráneo “Heresy” (1990), disco que se originaba en grabaciones realizadas en cuevas, volcanes, criptas, y en un variado espectro de sonidos emanados desde las profundidades de la tierra. Sin embargo, en este “Dark Matter”, el calvo hombre del hexágono dirige su mirada hacia el oscuro universo: las tres extensas pistas que lo integran se originan en audios de actividad astronómica recogida por diversas instituciones encargadas de desarrollar la compleja tarea de resolver, comprender  y explicar el misterio infinito, aquello sin inicio, sin tiempo ni muerte.

‘Subspace’ comienza como un despegue, como el brote de un viaje por regiones tonales constantes que parecieran estáticas en su siniestra textura. Un lento avance que se desenvuelve entre pesadas frecuencias amenazadas por ecos tormentosos provenientes de lugares inobservados del ingrávido universo. Una perspectiva que plasma un tenebrismo espacial que persiste en ‘Astronomicon’, pieza que cita al poema cósmico más antiguo que se conoce, y cuya terrorífica sonoridad pareciera cinematográfica, como si relatara terribles enfrentamientos solares o espesas explosiones siderales que interrumpen los minimalistas mantos sonoros que se extienden por amplios minutos.

El debut de Lustmord en el encumbrado sello Touch, propiedad de Jon Wozencroft (creador de la abstracta carátula de éste y muchos otros discos editados por la plataforma), continúa con ‘Black Static’, pieza de una condensada energía que se va liberando entre profundas exhalaciones electrónicas. Un drone etéreo pero, a su vez, orgánico, como de animal vivo y de oscuridad latente que se exalta a través de extendidas radiaciones de timbre microscópico y eléctrico. Un oscilante bucle astral con el que Lustmord habla por un cosmos que pareciera mudo e inasible, acentuando que aun cuando todo lo que es, deje de serlo, igualmente subsistirá el enérgico concierto del universo, el ruido secreto de lo infinito. [Carlos Navarro A.]

Neural (Italy):

Brian Williams, aka Lustmord – a veteran of dark ambient scenes and member of the industrial combo SPK – has for the first time published a solo album under his own name with Touch Music, an old and well-known, experimental British label. The label was founded by Jon Wozencroft, having the aim to emphasize an approach more focused on multimedia and audio-video. This release is a perfect addition to the label’s catalogue: an interesting, detailed and super-vivid cosmogony. The starting inspiration is a creative vacuum, an image that recalls any act of creation, both artistic and physical. “We’ve always tried to pay attention to all of those invisible feelings and ideas about atmosphere and space and presence that are difficult to talk about and need a context in order to be talked about.” This was what Jon Wozencroft said about Touch, long time before this release. The words now make even more sense, following the inspiration of dark matter, a formless substance looking for new models of aggregation, a different and propulsive breath. The sounds played by Williams in this album are field recordings coming from several sources including NASA (Cape Canaveral, Ames, The Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Arecibo), The Very Large Array, The National Radio Astronomy Observatory and various educational institutions and private supporters all over the USA. These sounds are waves and frequencies traveling over the sidereal space. Some of them are difficult to be recognized by the human ear. According to scientific studies, the sound waves cannot be transmitted in the vacuum of space. If outer space is seen as a vacuum, a dream world where synthetic landscapes and plasticity of visual forms invented by Lustmord correspond to a state of mind, this suspended galaxy, filled by a kind of all-inclusive buzz, goes beyond every infinitesimal singular body. The composition refers to the old-school kosmische musik, suspended between the krautrock and ambient. As a result, this production is at the same time hyper-contemporary while also being classic and vibrant too. [Aurelio Cianciotta]