Catalogue

TO:124 Richard Chartier – ‘On Leaving’

Artist: Richard Chartier
Title: On Leaving
Formats: CD & Digital Download
Catalogue Number: TO:124
Street date: 24th May 2024

You can pre-order this CD album here

Track Listing:

1. variance.1
2. variance.2
3. variance.3
4. variance.4
5. variance.a

Mastered by Denis Blackham
Photography & design: Jon Wozencroft

About Richard Chartier

Richard Chartier is a Los Angeles-based artist/composer considered one of the key figures in minimalist sound art. Chartier’s works explore the inter-relationships between the spatial nature of sound, silence, focus, perception, and the act of listening itself.

Since 1998 Chartier’s critically acclaimed sound works have been published on labels including Room40, Editions Mego, Important Records, Touch/Ash International, mAtter, Raster-Noton, 901 Editions, his own imprint LINE.

He has collaborated with William Basinski, ELEH, France Jobin, Robert Curgenven, Taylor Deupree, AGF, CoH, Yann Novak, Asmus Tietchens. As Pinkcourtesyphone he has collaborated with Cosey Fanni Tutti, Kid Congo Powers, harpist Gwyneth Wentink, AGF, and Evelina Domnitch.

Chartier’s sound works/installations have been presented in museums and galleries internationally. His performances have occurred live across Europe, Asia, Australia, New Zealand, and North America. Chartier’s compositions have accompanied dance works by noted choreographers Ohad Naharin, Cristina Caprioli, Dustin Klein, and Marco Blazquez).

Since 2000, Chartier has curated his influential label LINE, publishing over 150 editions documenting the compositional and installation work of international sound artists and composers who explore the aesthetics of contemporary and digital minimalism.

the tree in a breeze
too much movement to focus
on a single leaf

dedicated to Steve Roden (1964-2023)

For over a quarter of a century, sound artist and composer Richard Chartier has interrogated an ever deepening thread of minimalist sound that meshes questions of stasis, pulse and timbre. The results of this work is some of the most quietly intense compositions of this century. His is a music of subtle variation, unwavering concentration, and also patience. This five part work created between 2020 and 2022 is dedicated to his friend and fellow sound artist Steve Roden.

“I first became friends with Steve Roden (and later his wife, Sari) back in 1998 when my first album ‘direct.incidental.consequential’ was released. He was one of the first group of artists to whom I sent the album. Almost instantly he had been there on the other side of the phone (or email) and ever since.

His way of listening and attention to details (no matter how small) was inspirational — the clarity and complexity of his understated and only seemingly simple compositions, engaging. Underneath it all, ‘the less’ truly opened your ears to ‘the more.’ Steve saw and heard everything between the noise, no matter how faint.

Some of the last times I was able to see Steve were right before the pandemic. The effects of his advancing Alzheimers were present, still somewhat subtle, but increasing. I am still regretful that we were unable to spend more time together prior to his succumbing to his condition’s cruel effects. Another regret is not engaging in the collaboration we had both talked about for YEARS. ‘We should really start on that sometime soon’ Steve and I would say with each passing year.

I worked on the compositions included on this album as Steve gradually slipped away from communication. He was not in my life like he had been before. During this time it became apparent that these pieces were for Steve. A reflection of his ability to find beauty in the most minute details. Even when finally reviewing the final masters after his passing, I tried to think about how Steve would listen.

What would Steve hear in the details? His effect on this album is strong… the accumulation of influence and inspiration. This album feels organic and warm and was developed during a time when his absence in my life increased. That warmth is reflective of the nature of who Steve was himself, his friendship, and his visual & sound work.

on listening… on loss… on leaving…

As Steve and I mutually suggested… for quiet amplification or headphone listening.”

Reviews:

Boomkat (UK):

Dedicated to his fellow sound artist Steve Roden, Richard Chartier’s Touch debut is a quiet contemplation that zeroes in on the microscopic details, bringing rough, inclement textures out slowly from somnolent, psychoactive drones.

When Roden passed away last year, Chartier was already almost finished with ‘On Leaving’. The two artists had been friends since 1988, when Chartier had released his first album, and had been close ever since. So when Chartier visited Roden before the pandemic, and observed how he was slipping away from the effects of Alzheimers, he realized could reflect Roden’s impact on his life with a series of contemplative compositions. This is patient, cryptically complex material, and some of the most stealthily emotional work Chartier has penned to date. It’s an album that’s minimal – Chartier asks us to listen on headphones or at the very least at a low volume – but not without movement. Like Roden, Chartier exerts a meditational level of focus on his soundscapes, coaxing us into deep listening with subtle rhythms and tonal shifts that occur almost imperceptibly.

This isn’t music that can be skipped through or placed in the background, it requires attention – the kind of concentration that can bring out its oblique movements and furtive textures. The first 10-minute piece is surprisingly organic; it’s not obvious what Chartier’s source material might be, but the gustiness suggests the outdoor environment or at the very least, some kind of obsolete technology. He cautiously blurs in synthetic sounds, never overwhelming the atmosphere with drama, but retaining a pregnant nervousness that shifts into the center of the frame on the thrumming ‘variance.2’. And by ‘variance.4’ the noise has subsided completely, leaving raw, undulating sub bass that curves underneath barely perceptible synth quivers. It’s a charming but unrelentingly intense analysis of loss and regret that doesn’t ever forget the humanity and warmth of its subject.

Igloo (USA):

Richard Chartier’s On Leaving is an excellent album comprised of subtle, minimal, old-school drone pieces dedicated to the late Steve Roden. “Variance.1” begins as a light noise whir accompanied by glitchy, reverberant clicks. Gradually an oscillating two-tone pattern, run through a sort of flange effect, is added—hearkening back to music from the original peak of drone music, before the turn of the millennium. “Meshing questions of stasis, pulse and timbre,” as the press-release states accurately.

“Variance.3” starts with a lower-pitched murmur. Washes of noise, in soothing cycles, are mixed with this low drone. The track is calming both in that the humming sounds are consistent and cycle with some regularity. The volume increases throughout, and about halfway through, a sense of progression is suggested by the appearance of a higher-pitched tone.

“Variance.4” also begins with a deep, steady vibration. Listening more carefully, we begin to notice subtle, higher harmonics. A deeper oscillation cycle is brought forward, throwing the static nature of the drone in question. Tonal phrases are combined, resulting in a humming pulse. The track ends with a graceful, slow fade.

Overall, On Leaving contains a set of vintage variances, soothing drone tracks that are in ways abstract yet deceptively organic in nature. Minimal composition together with low pitches and recursive sets of sound contribute to this soothing effect.

ambientblog (NL):

Of course, Richard Chartier and Pinkcourtesyphone are the same person – but there is a distinct difference in the music released under these names. As Pinkcourtesyphone, Chartier presents a somewhat ‘tongue-in-cheek’ side of music, more emotional, with perhaps some slightly ‘campy’ themes. Or, as Chartier himself says: ‘more musical’. But Pinkcouresyphone’s output should be taken as seriously as the work released under his own name – which is a sound art more minimal, spatial, and abstract perhaps.

With these two (almost simultaneously released) new albums the differences (as well as the similarities) can easily be explored.

On Leaving is dedicated to Steve Roden, who died in 2023, suffering from Alzheimer: “Steve saw and heard everything between the noise, no matter how faint”.
“I worked on the compositions included on this album as Steve gradually slipped away from communication. He was not in my life like he had been before. […] on listening… on loss… on leaving…”

With this background in mind, the five variances get a dark touch, but in itself, the music is free of such emotional value. It is also intensely quiet and peaceful. The ‘implied silence, finely structured and in some cases cyclical’ requires listening at low volumes or on headphones.
One question remains, however: ‘What would Steve hear in the details’?

RGB02 Fennesz + Wozencroft – ‘Liquid Music ll’

Liquid Music ll features a full-length video by Jon Wozencroft, an extract of which you can view above. The download bundle also includes audio of the soundtrack, by Fennesz. This is a Bandcamp exclusive release.

This release is now available here

The film was made for Fennesz’s live performances on the Touch 2001 tour (with Hazard/Heitor Alvelos and Biosphere/Jony Easterby) and the first version eventually released on a Touch 30 USB stick in 2012, from an incendiary performance at Brighton Gardner Arts Centre which centred on material from the Endless Summer release, amplified to the max. A DVD release was scheduled in 2005 but this proved impossible to master due to the fast–moving nature of the footage… once compressed for the demands of the format at that time, it looked like a pixelated jigsaw.

The DVD was to be partnered with this quite different set by Fennesz at the 2004 Norberg Festival in Sweden, shortly after the release of Venice, but totally improvised, including few traces of that release. Liquid Music II is now available for the first time and is “the extended version” to take account of the longer set times and the continued synergy that it gave to Fennesz’s live performances. Christian’s performance was trance-like in comparison to the Brighton gig three years earlier and is in itself an essential document of his developing sound.

The footage was filmed on Hi-8 and mini-DV between 1995 and 2001 and is intended as an analogue to the fast moving developments of digital media and its distribution at that time. With this in mind, none of the footage benefits from any post-production nor processing, it is as seen through the lens of the camera which often involved dangerous positioning, close to the edge of rivers and rocks to get a forensic capture of the movement. A tripod was impossible; at times the camera is almost touching the water.

I call it a film and not a video because the inspiration was from classic avant-garde interventions by such luminaries as Stan Brakage, Peter Kubelka, Guy Sherwin and others, who always shot on celluloid. I did it on camcorders because there was no budget to use a Bolex and it was simply a question of what was practical, portable and a kind of guerrilla action when the weather was favourable. In addition, it was becoming a big thing at the time for ‘electronic’ musicians to use digital video projections to frame their naked-laptop performance situations, but I felt Fennesz did not fall into this perceptual grid, his music having a romanticism and a harmonic force that was more timeless and would be neutered by the latest software aesthetic.

The film challenges the notion of sync between sound and image, so that every time it was projected, and every time Fennesz played, the connection would be different and the chemistry personal to each member of the audience. In that way it becomes a live conversation and not simply a ‘show’ nor wallpaper for the music.
[Jon Wozencroft, March 2024]

V33.80 – ELEH ‘KICKTILE’

Released 30th November 2023
You can buy from Bandcamp here

Following a suspended project with Iklectik in 2021, ELEH presents a 22 minute recording KICKTILE in support of the venue’s current struggle for survival. Touch releases the track as a digital download on bandcamp to coincide with the benefit concert on 6th December 2023, ‘To Have and to Hold’, with all proceeds going to Iklectik. KICKTILE was previewed at the Jon Wozencroft/Bruce Gilbert sound seminar on 29th November.

TO:121 Claire M Singer – ‘Saor’

Artist: Claire M Singer
Title: Saor
Formats: CD & Digital Download
Catalogue Number: TO:121
Street date: 3rd November, 2023

You can order this CD album from 6th October 2023, here

Track Listing:

1. Cairn Toul
2. Pressure
3. Càrn
4. Outside
5. Forrig
6. Stops
7. Braeriach
8. Above and Below
9. Saor

Written and performed by Claire M Singer

Mastered by Denis Blackham
Artwork by Jon Wozencroft
Photography by Ash Todd (front and inside) and Seàn Antleys (back)
Published by Touch Music/Fairwood Music (UK) Ltd.

Claire M Singer has announced details of the first release in a triptych of albums. Saor [pronounced Sieur: meaning ‘free’ in Scottish Gaelic] perfectly encapsulates Claire’s experimental approach to the pipe organ, exploring rich harmonic textures and complex overtones which create ever-shifting melodic and rhythmic patterns, conjuring visions of the Scottish dramatic landscapes which inspire her. It’s her 3rd album for Touch, after ‘Fairge’ [2019] and ‘Solas’ [2016].

Saor follows two narratives: my trekking across the Cairngorm mountains in Aberdeenshire through the granite plateaux, corries, glens and straths, and my exploration of the 1872 organ built by Peter Conacher & Coy, Huddersfield in Forgue Kirk, Aberdeenshire where many of my ancestors lie.”

Tracks that are directly influenced by the Munros of Scotland, such as ‘Cairn Toul’ and ‘Braeriach’, are both majestic and sublime in their scope, sitting alongside interludes that more generally allude to the instrument: ‘Stops’, ‘Pressure’, ‘Above and Below’.

When writing her first organ commission in 2006 Claire approached the instrument as a sound source rather than how it is conventionally played. She has never had a lesson in her life and developed her own way of playing, including using straws or chopsticks to hold down the keys so she can manipulate the wind through the stops. About 90% of her sound, she says, involves her having one hand or two on the stops – having a full physical relationship with the instrument, continuously tweaking and exploring the mechanical stop action as she progresses her melodies.

Much of the album was written or recorded in Claire’s home county, at Forgue Kirk in Aberdeenshire. A church she hadn’t discovered before, in a remote spot, up a slight hill near a small cluster of houses. A friend recommended the organ to her and she later found out from her mother that many of her ancestors were buried there. “I had this weird stars aligning moment – during my residency at Forgue I spotted a gravestone propped up in the pews which was being restored, and it was Peter Forsyth, one of my relatives.”

Across the album, tracks flutter, pulse and build into and imposing mass. Some suggest texture and weather, using electronic processing and distortion. Others rely on the organ itself for heady atmospheres, while Saor’s title track goes even further; recorded at Orgelpark, Amsterdam, an international concert hall for organists, it uses five instruments in layers that span four centuries. Claire also plays cello, mellotron and harmonium on the album, and there are contributions from strings (Patsy Reid), trumpet (Brian Shook), clarinets (Yann Ghiro) and French horn (Andy Saunders).

Saor is an adventure bringing the same sense of elation as the journeys Claire made on foot to the summit. “When I’m alone at the top of a Munro, I feel completely free. It’s the most exhilarating feeling to be up there with nature looking at this vast landscape. I hope Saor conveys how that feels, and carries people with those feelings.”

Saor is generously supported by Arts Council England, PRS Foundation’s Composers’ Fund in partnership with Jerwood Arts, the Friends of Forgue Kirk, the Richard Thomas Foundation and Orgelpark, Amsterdam.

Reviews:

A feature in The Drouth here (by Neil Cooper)

Boomkat (UK):

Singer knows her way around a pipe organ better than most. Not only is she Music Director of the organ at London’s Union Chapel, she runs the UK’s only organ festival, Organ Reframed, and has been writing for the instrument for over a decade. Saor (meaning ‘free’ in Scottish Gaelic) is her second proper album for Touch, and is a triumph of not only technique but composition. In her hands, the pipe organ is expressive, not just an aesthetic pointer to our liturgical past, and she layers harmonies that charm and bewilder as they slowly evolve. This isn’t a loose set of dirges, it’s a deftly balanced, deceptively complex symphony that uses the inherent power and spiritual theater of the instrument to evoke pure emotion.

Singer was motivated by two particular themes: her walks in Aberdeenshire’s Cairngorms, and her experience getting acquainted with the 1872 Conacher organ, an instrument that arrived in Forgue Kirk, where many of her ancestors are buried, shortly after the Church of Scotland allowed it to be used again after over 300 years. This personal resonance is apparent on the album’s opener ‘Cairn Toul’, a weighty composition that starts by establishing the tonal quality – wavering, ghosted drones – before adding thematic heft.

Unashamedly grandiose, it’s music that captures both the imposing, mountainous landscape and the solemn mass of history, sounding contemporary in its approach but aware of its historical function. She helps set the scene with short skits, recording the environmental creaks, clanks and hisses that help us lock into her location. They make the longer, more lushly crafted pieces sing louder and more clearly, so when we hear ‘Forrig’ after the brief ‘Outside’, a quick chirp from the surrounding natural world, it sounds all the more angelic.

And on ‘Above and Below’, Singer adds stubbly, distorted textures and rhythms, bending her organ sounds underneath woody clatters and blown-out hits. The centerpiece is the title track though, an almost 25-minute hum that cleverly only implies its magnificence. Singer waits a good 13 minutes before slipping from cautious drones into dense, powerful motifs, and when the drop comes, it’s like a message straight from the heavens. You can almost touch the fog.

and in The List here

Composer Claire M Singer takes a somewhat unconventional approach to playing the organ. She tells us how the Scottish mountains have influenced her musical style and fed directly into a new album

Foxy Digitalis (USA):

Gonzo Circus (Belgium):

Das Filter (Germany):

Saor is my album of the year. It moves me like nothing else has taken me in the last twelve months. The elongated build-ups, the sheer power and power of the through-composed drones that develop step by step and chord by chord lay a cloak of silence over everything with beats. Saor is an anthemic superlative of euphoric restraint. The way the musician combines her organ playing with mellotron, trumpet, cello, clarinet and electronics is absolutely masterful. Sometimes bright and radiant, sometimes dark and threatening, sometimes deliberately noisy. Saor is a chamber liberation move.. [Thaddeus Herrmann]

Amazon (UK):

One could use a myriad of adjectives to describe Saor or to be more precise one could try ones upmost to describe ones listening experience of Saor…but I feel it would be like trying to describe or intellectualize ones listening experience …the pleasure of that listening experience. However, I could say, there are some pieces on this album that almost brought tears to my eyes, that I felt an overwhelming sense of beauty, at times I felt as though I was immersed in light, then slowly unearthed from that experience or sensation …I could say Saor is like a composition of arresting music, the notation of an interior voyage or I could simply say this album is beautiful, very beautiful …just sit down by yourself and listen to it! [Jamil Ahmad]

No. 1 in iTunes

Groove (Germany):

1767, 1872, 1877, 1922, 1925, 2009, 2018: Das sind die Baujahre der Orgeln, mit denen die schottische Komponistin Claire M Singer ihr Album Saor aufgenommen hat – ein zeitlicher Bogen, den der Techno einfach nicht schafft. Singer hingegen schafft auf ihrer fünften Veröffentlichung (wenn wir alles mitrechnen) einiges, wenn nicht sogar alles.

Saor bedeutet so viel wie „frei”, und um Himmels willen setzt Singer mit ihren dronigen Entwürfen die Segel für die Überfahrt gen Freiheit! Die Musikerin schichtet Harmonien und Strukturen so reduziert-mitreißend, wie es Jóhann Jóhannsson nur selten gelang, selbst vor seiner Hollywoodisierung. Mit einem Wechselspiel zwischen Hell und Dunkel, Episch und Bedrohlich, Leise und Laut zersägt Singer auch die letzten morschen Planken der hölzernen Achterbahn mit Endlos-Loop. Das ist deep und in höchstem Maße emotional, dabei aber nie anbiedernd oder banal, sondern zeitgenössische Stringenz im Dienste eines Flows, der das Versinken in den eigenen Gedanken zum Kategorischen Imperativ macht. Ich habe mein Testament geändert. In der Trauerhalle wünsche ich mir „Forrig” auf voller Lautstärke, zweimal hintereinander.

Boomkat (UK):

further (UK):

Influenced by trekking through the Cairngorm region of northern Scotland and an 1872 pipe organ installed in a church in Forgue, Aberdeenshire, Saor finds Claire M Singer reflecting on the topography of her homeland, as well as ruminating on existence itself. Many of Singer’s ancestors are buried at the church in Forgue, and the vast Cairngorms expanse would be largely unaltered from when they were alive. That gives these pieces the notion of things staying the same, but at the same time always changing. This is expressed in beautiful, thought-provoking pieces like ‘Cairn Toul’, through long, unmoving held notes on the organ over which more fluid moments are laid. The album’s 25-minute title track is nothing short of mesmerising, its organ drones rising gracefully like one of the mountains and plateauing with hopeful, joyous interventions. Singer is currently raising funds to help the restoration of the Henry Willis organ in the Union Chapel In Islington, which is featured on Saor – to donate, go here. Thanks to Mike and Zoe. 

T33.22 Youmna Saba – ‘Wishah وِشاح’

Artist: Youmna Saba
Title: Wishah وِشاح
Formats: CD & Digital Download
Catalogue Number: T33.22
Street date: 6th October, 2023

You can order this CD album here
and the vinyl version here

Track Listing:

1. Akaleel’أكاليل
2. Ba’oud بعوض
3. Al khayal الخيال
4. Ahad أحد
5. Tareeq طريق

Written and performed by Youmna Saba
Recorded and mixed by Fadi Tabbal at Tunefork Studios, Beirut
Produced by Youmna Saba and Fadi Tabbal

Mastered by Stephan Mathieu
Photography & design by Jon Wozencroft
Published by Touch Music/Fairwood Music (UK) Ltd.

Wishah (‘Veil’ in Arabic) is a composition in five stages, written by Youmna Saba between 2021 and 2022, for voice, oud and electronics.

Following her previous solo works Njoum (2014) and Arb’een (40) (2017), this album marks a significant turning point in Saba’s journey. Created after leaving Beirut and settling in Paris, Wishah reveals a profound shift in her musical expression, informed by rigorous research in the sonic properties of sung Arabic phonemes and their role in shaping synthesised electronic sounds.

The album employs a digital extension for the oud, a concept developed by Saba in her research project Taïma. This device enhances the oud’s sonic range, seamlessly integrating synthesised electronics. It also amplifies subtle, often overlooked sounds generated during playing, such as resonances and fingerboard friction.

The composition is organised into five distinct stages, each contributing to a process of gradual revelation. As the tracks unfold, they strip away layers of constructed emotions and perceptions that have been intricately woven over time, to expose a space that no longer exists. Wishah is a farewell to home.

The oud digital extension used on this record was developed by Nicolas Canot, and produced by Césaré – Centre National de Création Musicale, as part of the research project Taïma, by Youmna Saba.

Youmna Saba (Beirut 1984) is a musician, composer and musicologist. Her current research focuses on instrument and space resonances in different sonic and musical contexts. With four albums to this date, she has collaborated with musicians of different musical expressions such as Kamilya Jubran, Floy Krouchi, Mike Cooper and the Neue Vocalsolisten ensemble, and has taken part in numerous artist residencies. She is the laureate of the first sound residency at Quai Branly Museum, Paris (2022-2023) with her research project and installation La Réserve des Non-Dits, now on view at the museum; and a laureate of the music residency program at the Cité Internationale des Arts, Paris (2020-2021).

Reviews:

Utility Fog (Australia):

And finally, venerable UK sound-art label Touch brings us our third Lebanese artist tonight, with a remarkable new work from Beirut’s Youmna Saba, now based in Paris. Saba is an accomplished oud player, found on many other artists’ releases (such as Oiseaux-Tempête). On Wishah her oud’s sound is technologically extended, to amplify every string squeak and body tap, and further integrated with sympathetic electronics. The works range from abstract processed sound to delicate oud fingerpicking, and most tracks patiently reach a place where Saba brings in her emotive vocals. It’s an immersive, moving listening experience.

Musique Journal (France):

You can read a feature by Pierre France here

Beyond the Coda (France):

Wishah , on Touch, is the last album marking a significant turning point in Youmna Saba‘s journey. Created after leaving Beirut and settling in Paris, Wishah reveals a profound shift in her musical expression, informed by rigorous research in the sonic properties of sung Arabic phonemes and their role in shaping synthesised electronic sounds.  The album employs a digital extension for the oud, a concept developed by Saba in her research project Taïma.

As well you have to visit Youmna Saba’s installation concerning La réserve des non-dits at the Musée du quai Branly in Paris. The artist went to capture the breath of musical instruments in the heart of the ‘instrument tower’, a protected and optimized environment to ensure the proper conservation of the Museum’s collection of musical instruments. The installation offers a zoom on the micro-sounds emitted by these instruments in their passive state, their resonances, their voices. It is a way of revealing the inaudible, of exhuming traces of sounds and other residual images, of transcribing their unwritten stories, the information that these instruments capture and record in their bodies, as close as possible to their material.

[Wishah, sur Touch, est le dernier album marquant un tournant important dans le parcours de Youmna Saba. Après avoir quitté Beyrouth et s’être installée à Paris, sa pièce Wishah révèle un changement profond dans son expression musicale. Cette pièce relève d’une recherche rigoureuse sur les propriétés sonores des phonèmes arabes chantés et leur rôle dans la formation de sons électroniques synthétisés. L’album utilise une extension numérique pour le oud, un concept développé par Saba dans son projet de recherche Taïma.

Egalement visiter l’installation de Youmna Saba concernant La réserve des non-dits; au Musée du quai Branly. L’artiste est allée capter le souffle des instruments de musique au cœur de la ‘tour des instruments’, un environnement protégé et optimisé pour assurer la bonne conservation de la collection d’instruments musicaux du Musée. L’installation propose un zoom sur les micro-sons qu’émettent ces instruments dans leur état passif, leurs résonances, leurs voix. C’est une manière de révéler l’inaudible, d’exhumer les traces de sons et autres images résiduelles, de retranscrire leurs histoires non-écrites, les informations que ces instruments captent et enregistrent dans leurs corps, au plus près de leur matière.]

The Wire 2023 Round Up:

Foxy Digitalis (USA):

A five-part composition for voice, oud, and electronics that lingers like an illuminated phantom hovering in our periphery. Youmna Saba’s voice is timeless, each whispered tome finds its way into the stars before the sting wears off. Rushed passages send out glowing tendrils to cut through the darkness, simmering with an endless vitality that captivates the senses and leaves us wondering what’s to come. Organic resonance shuffles beneath a well-worn sheen, oud notes hanging longer than a single breath.

Structured into five discernible stages, Wishah guides us through a gradual process of revelation, deconstructing memories and barriers that have built up through the ages. Saba carefully peels back those layers, finding an empty shell at the center, the place where home once existed. Each word stings. Caustic, atmospheric drones hollow out the last remnants, leaving our thoughts trailing into the endless night. A stunning album. [Brad]

Tone 78 Jana Winderen – ‘The Blue Beyond’

Vinyl LP with Fine Art Print – 2 tracks.
Release date: 4 August 2023. Buy ‘The Blue Beyond’ on Bandcamp.
Mastered and cut by Jason at Transition.
Artwork and photography by Jon Wozencroft.
Commissioned by Audemars Piguet Contemporary.

Track listing:

A: The Art of Listening: Under Water
B: Du Petit Risoud aux Profondeurs du Lac de Joux

Edition of 1000 copies, the first 100 copies numbered and signed by the artist.

The record offers edits of two sound compositions for installations, ‘Du Petit Risoud aux Profondeurs du Lac de Joux’ (2019) and ‘The Art of Listening: Under Water’ (2019).

‘Du Petit Risoud aux Profondeurs du Lac de Joux’ was first presented at Art Basel in Basel from 13 to 16 June 2019. A live performance of the piece was given at HEK (House of Electronic Arts Basel) on 11 June 2019. ‘The Art of Listening: Under Water’ (2019) was first presented in the Rotunda, Collins Park, Miami Beach, in the context of Art Basel in Miami Beach, from 4 to 8 December 2019. ‘The Art of Listening: Under Water’ installation was made in collaboration with Tony Myatt. It travelled to the Lenfest Center for the Arts, Columbia University School of the Arts, New York, from 3 to 13 February 2022.

Winderen’s practice focuses on sound and knowledge production. The artist seeks to raise awareness of the environmental issues we face as a society.

Audemars Piguet Contemporary collaborated with Winderen on two new sound installation compositions. The first, ‘Du Petit Risoud aux Profondeurs du Lac de Joux,’ was developed during two field trips to Le Brassus in the Vallée de Joux, at the heart of the Swiss Jura, where Audemars Piguet has been based since 1875. On these trips, Winderen captured sounds in the waters of the Lac de Joux and in the Risoud forest.

When Audemars Piguet Contemporary invited the artist to present a second composition for exhibition in Miami Beach, Winderen proposed a site-specific sound environment.  For ‘The Art of Listening: Under Water,’ Winderen used sounds recorded in the Atlantic Ocean in the Miami area, as well as sounds from the Barents Sea around the North Pole and the Tropical Oceans to expose the constant underwater presence of human-created sound today.

In both pieces, the artist offers a unique opportunity to listen closely to the underwater inhabitants of a specific region and to reflect on how human activity interacts and interferes with aquatic and also terrestrial life in a seemingly beautiful and visually calm environment.

Jana Winderen often draws the fish, amphibians and plankton she meets. This release also consists of a drawing of two fish that probably would never meet; the pike from the freshwater Lac de Joux in the Jura Mountains and the snapper from the saltwater environment by Miami.

Reviews:

a closer listen (USA):

While spinning The Blue Beyond, I couldn’t help but hope that Jana Winderen and Manja Ristić might one day meet and become friends, if they haven’t already.  The distance from Oslo to Belgrade is approximately 2500km, but the interests of these sound artists align.  They share a fascination with underwater sound, turning a keen ear to sounds occurring beneath the surface: brine shrimp, coral reefs, shifting seabeds but they also share a deep concern for the scourge of noise pollution: sand pumps, motors, industrial dumping.

If humans beings are incensed by the cacophony of construction, lawn work and traffic, why would we suspect sea creatures to be any different? The deep agitation caused by noise pollution affects feeding patterns, breeding and migration and while humans can at least complain, sea creatures can do nothing but endure.  A plane flying overhead may be a minor annoyance to us (and especially to most field recordists), but a constant parade of motorboats over a mating ground leads to fewer children and in some cases, extinction.

In The Blue Beyond, the intrusions are always near, but seldom dominant, like annoying neighbours who at least stay on their side of the fence.  Unfortunately, their noise becomes our noise, and in this case, we are the annoying neighbours.  Engines can be quieter (think of stealth submarines), if only the manufacturers might find the motivation.  On Side B, the biophany decreases every few minutes as the anthropophony increases, in the same way as all conversation ceases when a fire engine races by.  But whenever there is no human intrusion, the richness of the sonic tapestry is revealed.

‘Du Petit Risoud aux Profondeurs du Lac de Joux’ was recorded in the waters and forest of the Swiss Jura, the first of two commissioned pieces by by Audemars Piguet Contemporary.  The piece begins in innocence, with lapping waves, cawing birds and underwater crackle (sonically close to the sound of fire).  At times, the wind produces a drone; but what do ocean dwellers know of wind?  Only a minute in, the first motor arrives, and is noticed.  The local citizens react, as does the home listener.  On the LP, the sound is as soft as an old refrigerator hum; in real life, it may have been deafening.  Scant minutes later, the relatively benign sound of chimes precedes a louder engine, creating a stark contrast.  The forest creatures emerge in its wake.  Winderen’s composition highlights the pas de deux, the interaction noticed by only one party, the other impassive.

‘The Art of Listening: Under Water’ was recorded earlier, but appears here on Side A.  This piece combines recordings made in the Barents Sea and the Miami Beach area with ‘Tropical Oceans.’ Impressively, the piece was presented in Miami Beach, one of the most commercialised slices of real estate on the planet.  (Think spring break, Heat culture, an influx of tourists and Miami beats compilations.)  Will the local human beings, known for being anything but subtle, respond to such a warning?  They should, as their seemingly carefree mode of life has already been affected.  Only one week ago, the local water temperature hit a record 97 degrees (36C), affecting the local coral, algae and sweltering fish.  The sea mammals at the center of the composition seem to be crying, although we know we are anthropomorphising; if they are not boiling in Miami Beach, they are losing their glacial habitats at the North Pole.  Even Santa is sweating.

The last sounds on Side B are those of buzzing bees and a passing plane.  While the bees take the foreground, the plane has the final word.  There will be another plane; but one day, there may be no more bees. [Richard Allen]

Norman Records ALBUM OF THE WEEK

Bandcamp (USA):

Jana Winderen’s work is quite literally immersive: with a background in fish ecology, she records underwater environments to bring awareness to human impacts on aquatic wildlife. The Blue Beyond collects two pieces commissioned for Art Basel events in Basel, Switzerland, and Miami Beach, Florida. ‘Du Petit Risoud aux Profondeurs du Lac de Joux’ was recorded in the Risoud forest and the Lac de Joux in the Swiss Jura and combines terrestrial birdsong and insect chirps with the waves of the lake to create a calm, meditative soundscape. ‘The Art of Listening: Under Water,’ meanwhile, features recordings from the Atlantic Ocean around Miami, the Barents Sea near the North Pole, and tropical oceans. Ocean sounds, from the chittering of small sea creatures to the groaning calls of seals, interact with those of unknown origin—at times, there are mechanical clanks and hums; at others, persistent guitar-like buzzing. While sonically fascinating, this is also an alarming demonstration of the effects on marine animals’ ability to communicate as their habitats are filled with artificial noise. [Matthew Blackwell]

Bandcamp: Best Field Recordings of 2023

Jana Winderen’s subaquatic field recordings have already produced several classics in the genre, and The Blue Beyond adds to her impressive discography. Comprising two pieces commissioned for Art Basel events in Basel, Switzerland, and Miami, Florida, it features animal sounds taken from site-specific locations in the Alps and the Atlantic Ocean. ‘Du Petit Risoud aux Profondeurs du Lac de Joux’ begins on land with sounds captured in the Risoud forest before submerging into the Lac de Joux, where we hear strange insects along with the rumbling of a boat engine. ‘The Art of Listening: Under Water’ combines recordings from the Atlantic, the Barents Sea, and several tropical oceans. Amid the crackling of tiny sea creatures is a persistent buzzing like an EBow on a guitar—evidence of man-made mechanical interference. The Blue Beyond provides a startling glimpse into environments that none of us are likely to visit, but where humans nonetheless have an outsized impact. [Matthew Blackwell]

A Closer Listen (USA):

When diving below the surface, one is amazed at the wealth of sounds and the distance at which they travel.  For decades, Jana Winderen has been exposing these sounds to ears above water.  The two installation works on The Blue Beyond serve as a celebration of marine activity and a warning about sonic pollution; if the sound of motors is unwelcome to those listening to a record, imagine how threatening it might sound to a resident of the seas. [Richard Allen]

Tone 83 Philip Jeck & Chris Watson – ‘Oxmardyke’

Artist: Philip Jeck & Chris Watson
Title: Oxmardyke
Formats: CD & Digital Download
Catalogue Number: Tone 83
Street date: 16th June, 2023

You can order this CD album here

Track Listing:
1. Oxmardyke
2. Barn’ – click to listen
3. Beetroot Train
4. Coop
5. Drum
6. AH
7. Bridge
8. Salt End
9. Spurn

Mastered by Denis Blackham at Skye Mastering
Photography by Chris Watson. Cover design: Jon Wozencroft

With thanks to Mary Prestidge, who writes:

“At the end of January 2022 Philip was taken to A&E at the Royal Liverpool University Hospital suffering from severe back pain and was admitted for investigations. In the hospital ward, with some strong pain relief, he could more comfortably rest, mostly horizontally. During the day he could be angled slightly toward a sitting position.

Over the following days, aiming to make sense of his current predicament, Philip regained a tiny level of normality. With his laptop in place he tapped into familiar territory and, when finding the most favourable times, listened to and worked with the sound files that Chris Watson had sent him.

During these brief, intense spells Philip gave all to his ear and heart to guide and shape the music forming at his fingertips. Oxmardyke is the album which resulted from this collaboration.”

Chris Watson:

“Philip’s laugh was infectious. Our conversations would usually begin with exchanges around the enthusiasm we had for each other’s work and the respect we shared for other Touch artists. However, as we were most likely to have met over drinks at the Philharmonic Dining Rooms in Liverpool the evening would gradually dissolve into convivial disarray. What did emerge from these soirées over recent years was a desire to find ways and means for us to collaborate at a place where our ideas converged.

In 2017 I was recording along the north bank of the Humber estuary and one morning driving back from Faxfleet I was stopped at the Oxmardyke rail crossing. The gates were down. After setting up a microphone array by the tracks for a passing freight train the signalman shouted an invitation to climb up into the gate box to make some more recordings.

Over the following weeks I made several return trips to Oxmardyke and gathered a broad palette of recordings. I discussed the sounds, stories and history of the site with Philip after a show and we were both excited by the potential of making a work together.

Philip was drawn to the ancient history of the area from 6th century Anglo-Saxon times to the Knights Templar and how the sounds, rhythms and textures from those periods may still inhabit the contemporary landscape. My thoughts took inspiration from ‘The Signalman’ by Charles Dickens and the painting ‘Rain, Steam and Speed by Joseph Mallord William Turner. We agreed to share ideas and exchange tracks.

Oxmardyke gate box has now passed into history.

I hope my contributions may frame Philip’s exceptional work.” [August 2022]

Reviews:

The Quietus (UK): 21/100 Albums of the Year

Boomkat (UK):

Before Philip Jeck passed away last Spring, he worked with Chris Watson on material the field recordist collected from Yorkshire’s Oxmardyke rail crossing, bringing out the region’s ancient rhythms and blurring them into the contemporary landscape. 

Watson and Jeck had long been fascinated by each other’s work, and while they collaborated here and there, Oxmardyke is their only full-length outing as a duo. It began when Watson recorded material on the north bank of the Humber estuary in 2017; he stopped at the now defunct Oxmardyke rail crossing and set up his microphones alongside the train tracks so he could capture the sound of a freight train, before the signalman invited him up to the gate box to record more detailed audio. After returning to the site to gather more recordings, Watson connected with Jeck and the two began to plan their collaboration, diving deep into the history of the region to embellish the environmental recordings. The two shuttled tracks back and forth, ruminating on its themes, and when Touch’s Mike Harding notified Watson of Jeck’s illness, they quickened the pace.

“I sincerely hope that my contributions may frame Philip’s exceptional work,” Watson writes. He didn’t have to worry – the music is a fitting coda to Jeck’s estimable canon, swaying between realism and abstraction as dazzlingly vivid field recordings transform into glassy drones and chugging engines become thudding, ancient rhythms. The title track plays like a blueprint; allowing only the gentlest drones to poke through the duo’s impressionistic haze. On ‘Beetroot Train’, what sounds like a 4/4 kick intensifies and decelerates into a painterly mess of vamps and twanging, pitch-fucked plucks. The duo nudge into horror territory on ‘Coop’, stretching bell sounds that ring out across the expanse of countryside, losing tense harmonies in billowing clouds of sonic vapour.

It’s a folk horror soundtrack that’s of the land, but also lashed to each artist’s specific set of skills. Watson’s pristine snapshots are the ideal way to broadcast a here and now that sings of our era’s post-industrial conflict, while Jeck’s contributions add a pinch of magick that’s hard to quantify. ‘Drum’ is a perfect example, all dense, industrial whooshes and hoarse whirrs punctuated by birdsong and barely-audible musical traces. On ‘AH’ the music is even more tense and foreboding, with railway signals forming incessant rhythmic circles, train horns bent into swooping melodies.

Needless to say, if you enjoyed Mark Jenkins’ recent ‘Enys Men soundtrack, or recent material from Akira Rabelais, this is gonna hit a sweet spot. But there are few other artists able to capture such a peculiar (and particularly British) mood. It’s like hearing an audio treatment of M. R. James’s most unsettling short stories – tales that leave you in a cold sweat.

The Quietus ALBUM OF THE WEEK 15.06.2023:

Across The Tracks: Oxmardyke By Philip Jeck & Chris Watson

The final album from the late Philip Jeck is a touching collaboration with master field recordist Chris Watson, focused on a level crossing near Hull.

When Chris Watson travelled by the Oxmardyke rail crossing in 2017, he found its sound to be enticing. So he returned to the place for a few weeks, gathering new tape with each excursion. These field recordings sound of industry and nature in harmony – as trains rush by and birds swarm around them, chirping through the metallic scratches and gusts of wind and dust. He later sent these recordings to his friend Philip Jeck, who took them and transformed them using his laptop, creating impressions of the place through tactile sound. Jeck’s resulting mix, Oxmardyke, finds a careful balance between the two artists’ quintessential styles, mixing Watson’s crisp field recordings and Jeck’s broad-stroked swathes of sound.

Jeck and Watson, both mainstays of the Touch record label catalogue, were longtime friends. In his liner notes accompanying the release, Watson remembers how he and Jeck got to know each other over drinks at the Philharmonic Dining Rooms, indulging in a good bit of merriment but also discussing making music together someday. After one post-show conversation about the sound and history of the area around the Oxmardyke crossing, it was clear that Watson’s Oxmardyke rail crossing recordings could be a good fit for uniting their visions, particularly blending Watson’s interest in recording the world with precision and Jeck’s curiosity about how the past may still haunt the present.

Oxmardyke came to fruition just before Jeck’s untimely passing in 2022, during moments in which his pain subsided enough that he could work on his laptop. The music he makes here reflects his classic textural sound and collaborations like 2021’s Stardust, in which he distorted recordings made by Faith Coloccia that revolved around motherhood. To make Oxmardyke, he took the sounds Watson captured – many different bird calls and metallic screeches of passing freight trains – and toyed with them, ultimately creating eerie music. Jeck’s penchant for vivid sound bolsters Watson’s keen eye for the most affecting sounds of nature, unearthing the emotions hidden inside of them.

Place feels both literal and metaphorical on Oxmardyke. When thinking about this music, Watson cites JMW Turner’s ‘Rain, Steam and Speed’ as an inspiration; the painting depicts the clash of nature and industry in sullen earth tones, not unlike the recordings he captured. Jeck cites Oxmardyke’s history of the Knights Templar of the sixth century; he imagines their ghosts still floating around the place. The music often feels reminiscent of these artefacts, playing with the push and pull between past and present and electronics and nature, but much of the album’s sounds are razor-sharp, made of pointed strokes that carve out the edges of each image they create. In an interview with Ged Barry, Jeck noted that he likes to paint with sound; in practice, his music mixes colours together to create sweeping odes. Here, the hues he chooses often feel dark, reminiscent of the long-gone history that inspired him, while pristine fragments of the field recordings pop in and out of the fold.

The balance between cinematic sound and intricate detail is most evident on tracks like ‘AH’, where a chorus of birds, trilling in high pitched calls to each other, give way to a pulsing siren. It’s an ominous track: rolling, percussive sounds give way to thunderous swathes of sound that often feel alarming. But when those electronic noises pull away, what’s left is chattering birds. You might imagine the serenity of watching them fly above you or pick at the grass nearby. Elsewhere, razor-sharp sounds slice through Watson’s recordings, disrupting the placid landscapes he captured. Tracks like ‘Bridge’, which is glassier, still features piercing metallic scrapes that slice and shock; the music is never in one place for two long, as jarring moments disrupt every silence, bringing with them a harrowing feeling.

While Oxmardyke is layered and intricate, there’s a sense of hollowness and ominousness that rings throughout. The phrases that interweave and braid together on each track often fade out, leaving a hole in their wake. Tracks like ‘Barn’ sound cavernous – the music here is made of rounded pulses and some shrill squeals that circle around them, but when they disappear, all that’s left is a sense of lamentation. ‘Drum’ builds from a glossy surface, only to fall away into a bunch of shards that splinter like broken glass. It evokes both fear and appreciation, like how beauty and destruction go hand-in-hand when outside.

But perhaps the most moving moments are those in which the music leaves space for quiet reflection. Nowhere is nostalgia stronger than on the closer ‘Spurn’, which drops us in what feels like a peaceful setting of birds and gentle breezes. In contrast, fiery drones circle around them, creating a filmy sound that almost drowns out the recordings – but not quite. It’s as if an idea is just coming in and out of focus; it’s almost complete, but a few pieces are missing. When the track cuts out, all that’s left is the feeling of a memory that’s almost close enough to grasp, yet too far away to hold. [Vanessa Ague]

and No. 28 in Best Albums of the Year so far [1st July 2023]:

Oxmardyke came to fruition just before Philip Jeck’s untimely passing in 2022, during moments in which his pain subsided enough that he could work on his laptop. The music he makes here reflects his classic textural sound and collaborations like 2021’s Stardust, in which he distorted recordings made by Faith Coloccia that revolved around motherhood. To make Oxmardyke, he took the sounds Chris Watson captured – different bird calls and metallic screeches of passing freight trains – and toyed with them, ultimately creating eerie music. Jeck’s penchant for vivid sound bolsters Watson’s keen eye for the most affecting sounds of nature, unearthing the emotions hidden inside of them.  [Vanessa Ague]

The Wire (UK):

The Oxmardyke Gate Box lies on the York to Hull railway line which bisects the East Riding of Yorkshire. Or, rather, it used to. The site was decommissioned sometime around 2018, but while it was still functioning in 2017, sound recordist and musician Chris Watson made a series of recordings, inspired by the railway imagery of Charles Dickens’s The Signal-Man and JMW Turner’s Rain, Steam And Speed. Philip Jeck died in 2022, but before his death he was able to collaborate with Watson on what would become Oxmardyke.

The album begins with the title track, the twitter and chirp of birds momentarily interrupted by the sharp alarm sound of a railway crossing about to become active as Jeck drifts cirrus-like textures across the scene. Rather than warning the arrival of a train, these translucent electronics indicate that something else, something older than the railway infrastructure is present here. On ‘Barn’, Watson’s climatic sounds are matched with a steam powered rumble, while ‘AH’ whips up the clang of old industry across chattering gulls. Rather than Dickens or Turner, these pieces evoke more closely the uncanny tales of LTC Rolt or Robert Aickman, Jeck’s additions burrowing beneath Watson’s surface residuals to find something stranger in the soil.

The most striking aspect of Oxmardyke is the sense of loss running through it – knowing that Jeck passed away after creating the record combined with the fact that the location itself is now no longer in use, that reaction is to be expected. That sense feels physically ingrained in the pieces: ‘Coop’ sounds as though its drones are seeping away into the earth, while the more caustic ‘Drum’ scours it to ensure any traces are erased. While Watson’s input catalogues a sense of recent loss, Jeck’s murky electronics probe deeper, making contact with everything that has soaked into the ground where Oxmardyke’stands. [Spenser Tomson]

Salt Peanuts (Sweden):

Oxmardyke is the final work of British multimedia artist and pioneer turntablist who passed away untimely in March 2022, and is a true homage to his exceptional sonic vision.

Jeck, while being hospitalised due to severe back pains, mixed and edited field recordings that his close friend, sound artist Chris Watson (known as a founding member of the experimental Cabaret Voltaire band) recorded at Yorkshire’s Oxmardyke rail crossing over a few weeks. This album is Jeck and Watson’s only full-length album as a duo.

Watson discussed with Jeck the sounds, stories and history of the site, and both artists found inspiration from different sources. Jeck was drawn to the ancient history of the area from the 6th-century Anglo-Saxon times to the Knights Templar and how the sounds, rhythms and textures from those periods may still inhabit the contemporary landscape. Watson took inspiration from The Signalman by Charles Dickens and the painting Rain, Steam and Speed by Joseph Mallord William Turner.

Jeck and Watson managed to create an untimely and quite tangible, cinematic story about a meeting point of nature – with many types of bird calls – and modern industry’s rhythmic patterns – the processed sounds of freight trains. This meeting point may sound at first innocent and peaceful but Oxmardyke suggests more highly nuanced, abstract, impressionist and unsettling reflections and perspectives – and, obviously, vivid sonic layers and resonating pulses – about the clash of industry and nature. Furthermore, this album focuses on how the history of this specific location still haunts its present. Especially now that the Oxmardyke gate box has passed into history. [Eyal Hareuveni]

Bandcamp (US):

Oxmardyke is the last album by the late, great Philip Jeck, completed during moments of relative comfort while in the hospital at the end of his life. The album resulted from conversations Jeck had with friend, field recordist, and longtime Touch colleague Chris Watson. Watson had stopped by the Oxmardyke rail crossing in Yorkshire to record a passing train when the signalman invited him into the gate box to continue recording. For several weeks in 2017, he returned to create a series of recordings of trains passing and of the surrounding environment. While Watson was fascinated by the trains themselves, inspired by Charles Dickens’s story ‘The Signalman’ and J.M.W. Turner’s painting ‘Rain, Steam, and Speed – The Great Western Railway,’ Jeck expressed interest in the natural sounds that persist there from the Anglo-Saxon period to today. On the record, Watson captures the modern clamour of the crossing in brilliantly clear recordings. Jeck then overlays slow-moving phantasms of hum and static, as if the area is haunted by its long history. Oxmardyke is about metaphorical crossings as much as literal ones – crossing over distances, crossing through time, crossing one another’s paths in life – making the album both a fitting farewell from Jeck and a beautiful eulogy from Watson. [Matthew Blackwell]

a closer listen (US):

Oxmardyke is both heartrending and inspiring, suffused with a melancholic character revealed only by the backstory.  The ears receive it as a celebration of life.  These are Philip Jeck‘s final sonic offerings (although we may yet hear unreleased work from the artist).  Chris Watson relays the tale with heartfelt words.  Watson had made a series of recordings at the Oxmardyke rail crossing and after some conversation had shared them with Jeck, who was fascinated by the area’s history.  In January 2022, Jeck was admitted to the hospital.  In precious, all-too-brief moments, he found relief from the pain, sitting up, working with these sounds on his laptop: remembering who he was, perhaps reflecting on his legacy, sharing his talents with the world for what would be the final time.

It is impossible to separate the contributions of the artists on this record, nor would we wish to: Oxmardyke is a collaboration of mutual friendship and respect.  Jeck’s groundbreaking work with turntables and loops has already found a place in music lore, while Watson, perhaps more than any single artist, has helped to bring field recordings to the attention of the mainstream.

One can only speculate on Jeck’s thoughts, but it’s reasonable to guess that he may have felt an affinity with the Oxmardyke gates, knowing that they had since closed, while their sonic echoes remained.  One recalls the history of the crossing through sonic prompts, in the same manner as listeners now recall Jeck, making this set all the more poignant.

Jeck slows sound, then magnifies it, like a scientist returning to a slide.  In ‘Coop,’ the loops are pulled like taffy, while the birdsong is crisp and clear: a collision of nostalgia and reality. ‘Drum’ drops hints of sonic ballroom into a mist of squawking seagulls.  Notes emerge as if from a locked basement.  A train passes, seemingly without slowing.  When the brakes are eventually applied, no one seems to depart.  Is this a ghost train?  If so, it echoes Watson’s own ‘El Tren Fantasma(2011), the attention of ‘AH’ diverted to rustling tracks and descending glissandos, like fading signals.

By ‘Salt End’ the rain has begun to fall, but life goes on, despite the title.  The clouds are closing around Jeck.  The sirens are starting to sound.  The artist says, “I still have more to give,” and he does.  A distant announcement is made.  Perhaps Jeck hears it as a boarding call: but not yet, not just yet.  There are still greetings and goodbyes, arrivals and departures.  One can imagine the artist rising from his bed, taking a last look around, and boarding the last train before the station itself is closed.  Watson enters the room, sees his final notes and completes his final elegy.  In the final piece, the train horn sounds as the waves crash against the shore.  Both fall silent; all falls silent.  But their sounds are not forgotten. [Richard Allen]

The Wire 2023 Round Up:

Electronic Sound (UK):

37/50 in the annual releases chart

Bandcamp: Best Field Recordings of 2023

Philip Jeck’s passing in March 2022 was an astonishing loss to experimental music, but this collaborative album between Jeck and legendary field recordist Chris Watson is a welcome last statement. Having planned to collaborate with Jeck for years, Watson finally exchanged recordings with him after learning of his condition in the hospital. The files he sent were recorded at the Oxmardyke rail crossing outside of Hull, England, and featured passing freight trains as well as the surrounding countryside. From his hospital bed, Jeck used moments when he felt most comfortable to focus on these tracks, transforming Watson’s crystal-clear recordings into soundscapes that hum and whisper with eerie beauty. According to his partner, Mary Prestidge, “During these brief, intense spells Philip gave all to his ear and heart to guide and shape the music forming at his fingertips.” We’re eternally thankful that he did. [Matthew Blackwell]

A Closer Listen (USA):

Stop. Look. Listen. Beware of trains. If sound waves vibrating just below our range of hearing can produce hauntings and feelings of dread, Philip Jeck seems to conjure up ghostly visitations through the careful manipulation of field recordings taken by Chris Watson at the Oxmardyke rail crossing on Tongue Lane in Yorkshire. The sense of transcendence is evident in the interplay between natural and mechanical sounds where the spacious aural environment recreated points firmly to what lies beyond. Oxmardyke is a result of sympathetic resonance between two sound artists, testament to their unique connection. [Gianmarco Del Re]

and 9/20 2023 chart in the same publication:

Oxmardyke would have appeared on this list even if it weren’t the last work by the late Philip Jeck, but that fact undoubtably lends extra weight to this collaboration with Chris Watson. Jeck edited and manipulated Watson’s recordings from his hospital bed (not unlike the production of J Dilla’s Donuts), though this is not necessarily palpable in the music itself. The long-in-the-works collaboration between two titans of the underground is, perhaps more to the point, the result of a collaboration between two friends. Beyond his work with Cabaret Voltaire and Hafler Trio, Watson has become internationally recognized as one of the world’s premiere field recordists, as comfortable recording wildlife sounds for the BBC as creating sound art installations. Watson gave recordings made at the Oxmardyke rail crossing to Jeck, who was fascinated by the area’s history, including connections to the Knights Templar.

Best known for his idiosyncratic approach to vinyl manipulation, Jeck digitally manipulates Watson tape in ways that call into question the supposed distinction between the natural and the non-. On some tracks Jeck’s touch is subtle, others less so, but Oxmardyke is a true collaboration, sounding like both and neither at the same time. The backstory of Oxmardyke the album, like the history of Oxmardyke the place, lends additional significance to these sounds, but true to the calibre of these two artists, the record stands on its own as a deeply compelling work of art. [Joseph Sannicandro]

TO:123 Bana Haffar – ‘Intimaa’

LP + DL – 7 tracks

Release date: Friday 19th May 2023 – you can pre-order your copy here on May 5th 2023

Track listing:
1. Clearing
2. Elemental
3. Ahi Al Samaa
4. Lifter
5. Save This Manual For The Future
6. Sit Still
7. All that is sometimes not considered

Survival is change

intimaa’
from a deep place of un-belonging
searching and searching

Recorded and mixed by Bana Haffar in Asheville, North Carolina between June 6th and July 18th, 2022

Artwork & photography by Jon Wozencroft
Mastered by Simon Scott @ SPS Mastering
Published by Touch Music/Fairwood Music (UK) Ltd.

intimaa’ (belonging in Arabic) is a documentation of pieces composed for Touch’s 40th anniversary celebrations in Los Angeles and Santa Cruz in the Spring of 2022.

Pulling from ongoing research in weaving and textiles, the pieces are informed by the interchangeability of the weaver’s process with the sequencing of sound – from sourcing and preparing materials to be woven (recording, editing, and formatting samples), preparing the loom (programming the sequencer), and finally, weaving the cloth (playing back, manipulating, and recording the sequence).

Reviews:

Perfect Circuit (USA):

If you’re hanging out on Perfect Circuit’s blog (which…you are), it seems reasonable to assume that you’re familiar with Bana Haffar. Haffar is a staple figure in modular synth culture, in no small part due to the fact that she is one of the co-founders of Modular on the Spot – an LA-based periodic synth picnic/concert/happening that has since taken on new life in other cities and countries.

Despite this connection to a now-nearly-ubiquitous aspect of ‘modular synth culture,’ Haffar is actually, in our estimation, quite unlike many modular synth artists. While the modular synthesiser is a primary tool in her creative process, her inspiration doesn’t necessarily stem from the instrument itself: instead, extramusical concepts inform the processes she uses to create music. As a result, her music feels like it transcends the all-too-common pitfalls of music made with modular synthesisers. It’s much more than the ‘I just got a new module, here’s my album’ approach – her music is patient, thoughtful, and controlled by an underlying process that, despite many unexpected and occasionally disjunct results, feels cohesive.

In interviews, Haffar has pointed to the art of weaving as a primary inspiration and turning point in the development of her own musical processes. In 2019, when living in Asheville, North Carolina, she was commissioned by the Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center to create a piece for percussion quartet. Ultimately, she took inspiration from Anni Albers – a textile artist and printmaker who taught weaving at Black Mountain College. By studying Albers and the process of weaving itself, Haffar was able to devise a means by which weaving drafts – grid-like two-dimensional templates for weaving – could be translated into rhythmic structures. By deepening her personal understanding of weaving, Haffar was able to develop a sense of relationship between the patterned structures of everyday objects and the music she was creating…and weaving is still a central concept in her music-making.

Her latest full-length release intimaa’ إ​ن​ت​م​ا​ء‘ (released on Touch) follows along this trajectory. Intimaa’, or ‘belonging’ in Arabic, serves as a central theme for the music. Haffar’s sonic tapestries have an evocative, gradually-evolving, searching quality –constantly changing, never settling. Dissimilar materials overlap one another; sounds rhythmically collide and stretch beyond one another’s boundaries; peaceful ambiences dissolve into effervescent textures while rhythms stumble past one another.

Powerful work from one of the most thoughtful living modular synth composers, intimaa’إ​ن​ت​م​ا’ is a series of spaces that invite contemplation. Perhaps Haffar’s most meditative and engrossing work to date, this is deeply introspective music – turn it on if you want to get lost in thought and guided gently to some not-so-certain destinations.

Alan Haselden (UK):

Bana is a sound artist in her 30’s who lives in the US and is originally from Saudi Arabia. This 35-minute LP intimaa’ is seven electronic pieces made by both digital and analogue means. The pieces are drone-based with warm yet foggy and emotive sounds. The feel is a curiously ambivalent one and thus I’m not sure whether the pieces are a yearning for a better way ahead or whether they signpost an affirmed path towards comfort and resolve. Insistent, asymmetric, skittery rhythms; shrill, squiggly noises of fine resolution, and disruptive sampled musical snippets infiltrate the second and fourth pieces; and the sixth piece, titled ‘Sit Still’, embeds languid, dreamy vocals amidst a reverberant texture wash. If there is influence by veteran electronic artists Christian Fennesz and Autechre, then all the better, but, whatever, I think Intimaa’ is a creation of Bana’s own methodology and own experiences.

Tone 80 OZMOTIC | FENNESZ – ‘Senzatempo’

-MX-4071_20230428_101924 MX-4071_20230428_102006

LP + DL – 4 tracks

Release date: Friday 14th April 2023 – you can pre-order your copy here

Track listing:
1. Senzatempo
2. Floating Time
3. Motionless
4. Movements l – ll

Recorded 19/21 November 2021 in Turin, Italy at Superbudda studio
Audio engineer: Edoardo Fracassi

Cut by Jason @ Transition
Photography + design: Jon Wozencroft

Senzatempo became a lockdown record. In 2019, a year after our last concert as a trio with Christian Fennesz, the release of his Agora and our first publication for Touch – Elusive Balance – we met in Milan. We talked about ongoing projects, the evolution of our musical language and, as is often the case when we are all three together, the more frenetic and superficial aspects of contemporary society, the difficulty of letting ideas and projects mature and how music could still play a constructive role in that context. We left each other with the intention of talking at a distance about a new project, to be developed calmly, without any hurry.

In the months that followed, after e-mails in which we continued to discuss the project, we decided to work on the perception of time and to focus our attention on those periods of life in which time tends to dilate, to lose its boundaries, dedicating ourselves to the project without the fear of resting on indefinite moments of stasis – trying to take the time of creation as an ally, making the most significant ideas ‘sprout’, distilling emotions and crystallising them slowly.

Catapulted into the first wave of the pandemic, we began to work at a distance, We exchanged different types of sound materials, sometimes raw, sometimes more structured and with Christian we tried to give musical form to a surreal calm, at the same time as magmatic, uncertain emotional states. In this phase of collective confusion and almost total isolation, the first drafts of Senzatempo and ‘Movements I’ were born. In both tracks, we tried to structure chordal waves and melodies inlaid with counterpoints with broad architectures and sinuous movements, in a sort of ‘rubato’, with the idea of creating an orchestral breath to the entire album.

Senzatempo is characterised by a dream melody with a dense and continuous dialogue between a sharp guitar and percussive sounds floating on an abstract and flexible pulse. ‘Movements I’, later transformed into a two-part suite, is airy and meditative; an initial acoustic shock leads to a melody resting on relaxed chords and enveloping sounds studded with noise, glitches and fragments of field recordings.

After this initial work, we wanted to organise a studio session, but pandemic restrictions forced us to postpone and leave the music to mature further. The following summer, thanks to a residency project for young artists centred on the Senzatempo project and conducted by Christian and ourselves in central Italy, the opportunity arose for the first time to play the material produced thus far, and to experiment and focus on new musical ideas.

In November 2021, after a concert we did in Turin, we finally devoted ourselves to the drafting of the album in a studio session lasting some days. The final versions of the first two tracks were created, with the addition of a second part to ‘Movements I’, and ‘Floating Times’ and ‘Motionless Image of Eternity’ came into being.

In ‘Floating Time’, clouds of micro-sounds envelop an iridescent, sinuous melody in a sonic space delimited by sculpted percussive sounds. Lost memories seem to resurface. The end of the track takes up the beginning in a kind of ‘rondo’. ‘Motionless’ is counterpointed by telluric percussive sounds in a complex and detailed atmosphere. It seems as if nothing is moving in this sea of sound on which the guitar floats, when in fact everything is in motion in a simmer of textures and melodies that embroider counter-songs to the main refrain.

The music of Senzatempo moves in balance between composition and improvisation. It is a symphonic work for an imaginary orchestra in which melodies, counterpoints, dynamics and sonorities define a structural breadth reminiscent of classical music.

Reviews:

Headphone Commute (UK):

…an expansive sonic architecture, balancing exquisite composition with space for improvisation…You can read the full review here

a closer listen (UK):

One day soon we may hear the last of the albums produced during the pandemic, but not yet.  In the physical sense, this period was responsible for a blossoming of music; in the psychological sense, it highlighted the experience of time distortion, which was then translated into music.  Drone seems the perfect genre for such perceptions, incorporating long, slow passages with undulating curves and incremental changes in timbre.  Over time, the listener realises that movement has taken place, although it is often unnoticed while unfurling.

Enter Ozmotic and Fennesz, who exchanged files while isolated and were able to meet in person once the crisis eased to put the finishing touches on this album.  The extension of time allowed the ideas to germinate, the notes to marinate into tones.  A profound sadness seeps into the title piece, as orchestral tones gather and dissipate.  High-pitched tones enter, heralding light percussion: time markers that distinguish this segment from others.  The guitar joins the procession, tentative at first, then assertive; but never frantic, never rushed.  Then a return to the beginning – but still something has changed: if not in the music, at least in the listener.

Floating Times seems a perfect title for the past three years.  One year of the pandemic felt like two.  Holiday and milestone celebrations were postponed.  Days, months and finally years were dislodged.  The track begins with soft static, blooming mid-piece into melody: a fragile heart still hoping to soar.  An electronic pulse quickens with expectation, then fades, the static reemerging.  For the second time, a track cycles back to the start, like samsara, providing hope of exit without an obvious path.

Is there a more drone-like title than ‘Motionless Image of Eternity?’ The title is tongue-in-cheek, since the track does move, and possesses both form and ending.  The centre may seem nebulous, but a nebula also shifts – though such movements are imperceptible to the naked eye.  The closing ‘Movements’ seems to counter the preceding title, although ‘movements’ has a double meaning.  The track is composed as two movements, but the trio shares that it is also filled with “sinuous movements, in a sort of ‘rubato’, with the intention of creating an orchestral breath to the entire album.”  Breath became a central theme of the pandemic, from those gasping for ventilator breath to George Floyd’s infamous “I can’t breathe.”  While not directly referencing such associations, in a self-proclaimed ‘lockdown record’ they are difficult to escape.  The fact that the closing tempo is the most obvious, the persuasion the most upfront, provides a sign of progress; society is again in motion, albeit wondering if it is moving in the right direction. [Richard Allen]

The Wire (UK):

Senzatempo is like meditating on the edge of an abyss. An overwhelming stillness, majestic and dangerous. [Leah Kardos] – the full review can be read here

Uncut (UK):

MOJO (UK):

Juno (UK):

Not everyone will realise it, but Torino is one of Italy’s best-kept secrets and most fascinating cities. Even less will know that, for a brief period after the country we see today unified, its grand boulevards and statement palazzos made up the nation’s very first capital. A forgotten chapter that gave way to periods as an industrial powerhouse, economic centre of the Piedmont region, and then urban decay followed by population decline, with scars still very much visible in many areas. Not least those on the outskirts, where derelict spaces still offer a glimpse of what was, and everything that came before that.

A resident of the town, Ozmotic met with Christian Fennesz down the road (well, about two hours or so by train) in Milan ahead of setting to work on their latest collaborative project, S e n z a t e m p o. There, they apparently mused on philosophical ideas like evolution of musical language and the uneasy relationship deep dive artists such as them have with a world that wants to go faster, now, and stop for nobody. Nevertheless, the final album is every bit a product of the Torino studio in which it was recorded, in one long session which –  by the sounds of it –  must have got pretty intense.

Dark, futuristic ambient would be one way to describe what’s here. And that’s precisely the point. A city that lays claim to a highly experimental grass roots electronic scene (see: industrial noise maker Bienoise, albeit he’s technically based in the rural surrounds), these sonics invoke images of quiet desolation, post-human worlds, places filled with the ghosts of machines. Strange soundscapes that are at once unnerving and beautiful, the real question is whether the images it conjures are actually of tomorrow, or simply memories of yesterday. [MH]

Sun 13 (UK):

“…Shape-shifting elusively with sonic vignettes designed for late nights and dark rooms, alongside Fennesz’s distinctive guitar noodlings, Ozmotic pivot seamlessly in what matches up to the expectations many of us had when news of this collaboration surfaced…” You can read the full review here [Simon Kirk]

Salt Peanuts (SE):

Senzatempo (timeless in English) is the second collaboration of the Italian multidisciplinary, electronic duo OZmotic – soprano sax and electronics player Stanislao Lesnoj and drummer, objects and electronics player SmZ – with Austrian avant-guitarist and electronics player Christian Fennesz. This album is described by this ad-hoc trio as a partly composed, partly improvised symphonic work for an imaginary orchestra in which melodies, counterpoints, dynamics and sonorities define a structural breadth reminiscent of classical music. You can read the full review here [Eyal Hareuveni]

Ondarock (Italy):

You can read the full review here

Rockerilla (Italy):

lee-king (Japan):

www.ele-king.net/review/album/009180/

Electronic Sound (UK):

In one intensely productive session in Turin, Italian electronic wizards OZMOTIC and Austrian guitarist Christian Fennesz birthed the majority of Senzatempo. The opening title track sets the tone for the album – synths swell with majestic, restrained power, then Fennesz glides in, a shark fin piercing the waves, before the whole thing erupts into an overdriven, reverbed-to-hell beast. With distinct, yet utterly complementary sound
palettes, on the likes of ‘Floating Time’, OZMOTIC and Fennesz have forged unique soundscapes that are by turns graceful and epic. [AT]

Headphone Commute (UK):

Out of all of the negative and adverse comes something positive and desired – a record of expansive pseudo-orchestral movements wrapped in electronic microsound and glitch. The negative bit here is the onset of the pandemic, during which many of the musicians found themselves in isolation. And the positive, of course, is the newly found ways of collaborating together and creating something beautiful along the way. Such is the case for this ‘lockdown record’, where OZMOTIC and Fennesz found themselves to be a distance apart, exchanging ideas over a period of time that became this aural conversation on the perception of time. Working remotely on these ideas, the trio proceeded “to focus our attention on those periods of life in which time tends to dilate, to lose its boundaries, dedicating ourselves to the project without the fear of resting on indefinite moments of stasis – trying to take the time of creation as an ally, making the most significant ideas ‘sprout’, distilling emotions and crystallising them slowly.” Conceptually, that’s all fine and well, but what about the music? What has been bourne out of this effort, and what’s here to love?

Over the course of just four long-playing pieces, spanning a total of thirty-five minutes and change, Austrian composer Christian Fennesz and Italian multidisciplinary duo OZMOTIC, weave a textural blanket of symphonic progressions pierced by high-pitched micro tones, deep rolling bass, and sprawling guitars. The album immediately reminds me of the sonic palette explored by the late Ryuichi Sakamoto and Alva Noto, except where the distant piano drops are replaced by amplified strings and the surgically pristine clicks are modelled by synthesised chirps. Soft frequencies and distorted sounds are joined in a union of gorgeous and raw, atmospheric and noisy, reverbed and cut, and this cohesive cacophony of all-encompassing onslaught creates an exquisite space in which one simply rests. These post-classical movements are constructed with ‘chordal waves, and melodies inlaid with counterpoints with broad architectures and sinuous movements’, disregarding all tempos like one single breath. The result can be an overwhelming kaleidoscopic experiment, but it can also be truly musical, and that’s what I truly enjoy.

The music of Senzatempo moves in balance between composition and improvisation. It is a symphonic work for an imaginary orchestra in which melodies, counterpoints, dynamics and sonorities define a structural breadth reminiscent of classical music.

This is not the first collaboration of this trio. In 2015, they released AirEffect on Folk Wisdom. A year later, Fennesz appeared on Ozmotic’s ‘Liquid Times’. Meanwhile, Fennesz last put out ‘Agorain 2019′ on Touch, which has subsequently won my praise as one of the best albums in ‘Music For Sonic Installations In The Cavern Of Your Skull,’ which he followed up with two live recordings, one ‘Live At The Jazz Cafe’ (Touch, 2019) and the other ‘Live At Empty Bottle,’ Chicago (2020, self-released). So yes, one can almost say that this is the first record from Fennesz in the last four years. This album came out on April 14th, and, unfortunately, as of this writing, the vinyl copies are already all sold out. But digital, of course, is still available, and arguably, it is just as good. I highly recommend this album, and I’m sure I’ll see it appearing on these pages again, celebrating the best music of this year.

 

TO:122 Travelogue – ‘Bali’

CD – 5 tracks – 48:37

Release date: Friday 24th February 2023

Track listing:

1. Kecak! (Sanghyang)
2. Rahajeng Semeng
3. Sekala Niskala
4. Gong Ageng
5. Ramayana Melukat

Available to order on Bandcamp

Mastered by Denis Blackham
Photography by Jon Wozencroft + Travelogue
Design: Jon Wozencroft

Recorded 6-16 February 2020 in Uluwatu, Ubud, Badung, Mount Batur and other locations in Bali, Indonesia.
Composed and mixed at the Castle in Stockholm, Sweden and at Dissimulata in Asheville, NC USA, 2022.

Travelogue [Bali] is the second in an ongoing series of collected international audio diaries (Travelogue [Nepal] was released by Touch in 2020). The premise is quite simple: the two meet at a mutually agreed upon destination along with the facilitation of something to record audio of these experiences on. The intent is to capture and augment these sonic documentaries of their travels which then are sculpted into soundtracks. This is done by sourcing the culture, environment, persons or events that make their voices available.

In February 2020, CM von Hausswolff and Chandra Shukla met in Bali, Indonesia, over the course of 9 days. Recordings were made at Pandawa Beach, Green Bowl Beach, Melasti Beach Ungasan, Uluwatu Temple, Pasar Senggol Gianyar, Pengosekan Kaja Ubud, Badung Market, Kintamani and Mt. Batur, Puri Saren Agung Ubud, Mandala Suci Wenara Wana (Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary) Ubud, Pura Tirta Empul Tampaksiring, Pandan Beach and Kelingking Beach Nusa Penida.

Special thanks to Dewa Alit and Salukat Gamelan, Dewa Sakura, Elisa Faires, Ivan Seng, Shannon Batten, Kecak Uluwatu, Made Surya and Dewa Aji Mangku. Also thanks to Ulrich Hillebrand and Gregor Krause.

Reviews:

Igloo Magazine (USA):

This album of many bits of recordings, Travelogue [Bali], in many ways, seeks to honour the original artists and these fascinating spiritual communities, as well as create an interesting world house listen… read the full review here [Robin James]

Ambientblog (Netherlands):

Travelogue (Bali) is the second release in a series of ‘collected international audio diaries’ presented by Carl Michael Von Hauswolff and Chandra Shukla, the follow-up to 2020’s Travelogue (Nepal).
‘The premise is quite simple: the two meet at a mutually agreed upon destination along with the facilitation of something to record audio of these experiences on.’

This time, all sound sources are recorded in various locations in Bali: beaches, temples, markets, forests, mountains, etc. etc.
But beware: this is not exactly the kind of archival recording to preserve a specific cultural environment. The recordings are used as source material to create sonic sculptures rather detached from the original culture. In fact, they are actively morphed into quite an otherworldly trip.

The album kicks in rather relentlessly with a sonic modification of the Sanghyang – a traditional sacred Balinese dance, based on the premise that an unseen force enters the body of an entranced performer. You can almost literally feel that in the Kecak chanting, and even more so with the ghostly modifications of von Hauswolff and Shukla.

The following tracks are somewhat more ‘environmental ambient’, but the atmosphere remains mysterious and brooding. After three instrumental tracks, a mysterious vocal chant is reintroduced. It’s unclear what this chant is about (except for Bali residents, I assume). When the album finally concludes, it may leave you wondering what exactly you were listening to.

Bali’s nature feels like paradise, I know. But if I hadn’t seen that with my own eyes, I would hesitate to visit the island based on these soundscapes. And this is definitely meant as a compliment to these soundscapes by von Hauswolff and Shukla. [Peter Van Cooten]

Anxious (Poland):

Travelogue [Bali] jest drugim z serii zebranych międzynarodowych audiopamiętników (Travelogue [Nepal] został wydany przez Touch w 2020 roku). Założenie jest dość proste: obie strony spotykają się w miejscu, które zostało uzgodnione przez obydwie osoby, wraz z ułatwieniem w postaci czegoś, na czym można nagrać dźwięk z tych wydarzeń. Intencją jest uchwycenie i wzbogacenie tych dźwiękowych dokumentów z ich podróży, które następnie są kształtowane w ścieżkach dźwiękowych. Odbywa się to poprzez pozyskiwanie źródeł kultury, środowiska, osób lub wydarzeń, które udostępniają ich głosy.

W lutym 2020 roku CM von Hausswolff i Chandra Shukla spotkali się na Bali w Indonezji w ciągu 9 dni. Nagrania zostały wykonane w Pandawa Beach, Green Bowl Beach, Melasti Beach Ungasan, Uluwatu Temple, Pasar Senggol Gianyar, Pengosekan Kaja Ubud, Badung Market, Kintamani i Mt. Batur, Puri Saren Agung Ubud, Mandala Suci Wenara Wana (Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary) Ubud, Pura Tirta Empul Tampaksiring, Pandan Beach i Kelingking Beach Nusa Penida. [Artur Mieczkowski]

Salt Peanuts (SE):

Travelogue [Bali] is the second in an ongoing series of collected international audio diaries of Swedish composer and conceptual audio-visual artist CM von Hausswolff (known by our younger readers as the father of Anna von Hausswolff) and American electronic musician Chandra Shukla, following Travelogue [Nepal] (Touch, 2020). The premise was and still is quite simple: von Hausswolff and Shukla would meet at a mutually agreed-upon destination with the necessary means to record these experiences. The aim is to capture and later augment and sculpt these sonic documentaries into soundtracks. This is done by sourcing the culture, environment, persons, or events that make their voices available.

The making of Travelogue [Bali] began in February 2020 when von Hausswolff and Shukla met in Bali, Indonesia, and over the course of nine days captured recordings of traditional and contemporary gamelan ensembles in 13 locations, assisted among others by Dewa Alit (check his recent album with Gamelan Salukat, Chasing the Phantom, Black Truffle, 2022) among others. In 2022, far away from Bali. von Hausswolff at the Castle in Stockholm and Shukla at Dissimulata in Asheville, North Carolina, composed and mixed the five pieces of Travelogue [Bali]. 

The album takes Bali’s refined and centuries-old, ritualist musical traditions and transforms them into psychedelic, fantastic soundscapes that investigate and play with our notions of sonic perception. There are only subtle echoes of gamelan music’s highly resonating and hypnotic pulses. But Travelogue [Bali]suggests a highly personal and imaginative perspective on an ancient and sacred tradition distilled through modern Western schools of minimalism, electronic and noise music. Von Hausswolff and Shukla came with a most immersive listening experience from this arresting journey. [Eyal Hareuveni]

Bandcamp:

Travelogue [Bali] is the second instalment in Carl Michael von Hausswolffand Chandra Shukla’s series of audio diaries, following their previous entry from Nepal. In February 2020, the duo met in Indonesia to record their trip through the temples, beaches, mountains, and parks of Bali. Over nine days, von Hausswolff and Shukla visited landmarks around the island including the Kelingking Beach, Puri Saren Agung (Ubud Palace), and Mandala Suci Wenara Wana (Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary). They recorded a gamelan orchestra, a Melukat purification ritual at Pura Tirta Empul Tampaksiring, and a Kecak dance – a ceremony consisting of upwards of fifty men chanting in polyrhythm to reenact a tale from the Ramayana Saga – at Uluwatu Temple. But be warned: this is not a documentary representation, as Hausswolff and Shukla edit the pieces and add reverb and delay to unreal effect for a result that’s akin to the soundtrack to a fever dream. [Matthew Blackwell]

Bandcamp: Best Field Recordings of 2023

For the second installment of CM von Hausswolff and Chandra Shukla’s travelogue series, they met in Bali, Indonesia to record for nine days. During this time, they documented key features of Balinese culture, including a gamelan orchestra, a Melukat purification ritual, and a Kecak dance. They then blended, layered, and digitally manipulated their recordings, wrapping them in a dreamlike haze. The result better represents the memory of their travels than the events themselves, with the album’s soft tones and blurred edges inviting the listener to travel through a half-real, half-imagined Bali. You’ll want to take the trip again and again. [Matthew Blackwell]

Spire 10 Ted Reichman – ‘Orgelwerke’

DL – 4 tracks – 39:38

Release date: Friday 20th January 2023

Available to order soon

Track listing:

1. fond du lac
2. rondo
3. american dream
4. geisterorchester

Photography & design by Jon Wozencroft
Mastered by Simon Scott @ SPS

Orgelwerke began when composer Ted Reichman picked up a pile of rare organ vinyl from a library’s discard box. As he listened to this forgotten music late at night, he developed a process of transformation. He digitised them, turning them into loops and gestures, then reshaped them with tape, broken amplifiers and analogue echo boxes. It became something like a ritual, an exhumation of long-unheard music reanimated as glacial drones and ghostly symphonic movements – the sound of the cathedral transmuted into an enveloping shadow of pulsation, echo and glitch.

Ted Reichman composes electro-acoustic music, open-form pieces for improvising musicians, and film music. His long career in music goes back to his first recordings with Anthony Braxton in the early 1990s and his deep involvement in New York’s music community in the 2000’s. He was the original curator at Tonic on the Lower East Side of NYC, which became one of the world’s crucial venues for avant-garde music. He has made recordings for Tzadik, Skirl, and Tripticks Tapes, and produced and mixed albums for Wendy Eisenberg, Steven Long, Lina Tullgren/Alec Toku Whiting and many other experimental musicians. His film scores include Rick (with Bill Pullman and Sandra Oh), The Memory Thief, and the award winning documentaries <> and Missing In Brooks County. He has been on the faculty of the Jazz Studies and Contemporary Musical Arts departments at the New England Conservatory of Music for over ten years, where he has developed a new curriculum on recording.

credits:

Recorded and mixed at Subtext Sound System
Thanks to Jason Coleman, Steve Long, Alec Toku Whiting, Tyler Gilmore and all at the MIT Radio Society

Reviews:

Burning Ambulance (US):

Composer Ted Reichman also has an album of organ music out this week, sort of. The genesis of Orgelwerke was a stack of organ LP’s he grabbed from a library’s discard box. He began to pluck chunks of the music out, turn it into digital loops, then warp and process and recontextualise it into new pieces. The four tracks on the CD run between seven and 12 minutes, and they have a kind of William Basinski meets Thomas Köner meets Angelo Badalamenti’s-Eraserhead-soundtrack quality. The tones fade slowly in, and hover in a kind of glimmering but also gradually disintegrating cloud. There are multiple layers of things all happening at once, so it’s like being surrounded by organ players at times, and each track builds to a kind of ecstatic crescendo before washing away like the tide going out. If you play this loud enough, it’ll probably shake your speakers off the shelf. [Phil Freeman]

Ambientblog (Netherlands):

Over the years, the church organ has become quite a popular instrument in experimental music settings. No real surprise, knowing the extreme dynamics the instrument has: it can go from whispering silence to intimidating thunder within seconds. And its natural habitat, a reverberating church, always adds an extra dimension to the experience.

But for his Orgelwerke (Organ Works) Ted Reichman took a different approach to the instrument. Finding ‘a pile of rare organ vinyl in a library’s discard box, […] he digitized them, turning them into loops and gestures, then reshaped them with tape, broken amplifiers, and analogue echo boxes,’ and you can simply trust a composer who studied experimental music and ethnomusicology with people like Alvin Lucier and Anthony Braxton to come up with something interesting!

But at the same time, this music does not sound like a usual church organ recording. The source is altered and modified to a different sonic entity, even if it still has its recognisable roots in the original instrument. In a fascinating way, these loops and soundscapes become ‘non-electronic electronic’ music.

The original recordings are looped into drones, but not the minimalist kind of drones: there is quite a lot happening here. The twelve-minute closing track Geisterorchester (Ghost Orchestra), especially, unleashes the full power a church organ is capable of, while also including the original sounds of a lightly scratched vinyl recording.

This is not exactly ‘ambient’ music: it requires active attention to be fully appreciated. So, perhaps, best file it under ‘power ambient’ – because it works best when played LOUD.

Orgelwerke is a download-only release; there is no physical edition. [Peter van Cooten]

Nieuwe Noten (NL):

En uiteindelijk hebben we die zingende klankwolken van Reichman, muziek die de drone van deze albums het meest dicht benadert. We beginnen met ‘Fond du Lac’. Eerst een stil hangende klankwolk, verderop een vaag ritmisch patroon en naar het einde toe wegebbende klanken. Uiterst langzaam komt ‘Rondo’ op gang, steeds verder winnend aan klank. Veel variatie zit er verder niet in dit stuk, alleen krijgt de muziek halverwege een wat meer vliedend karakter. En even geleidelijk als de muziek opkomt, neemt hij tegen het einde ook weer af. ‘American Dream’ is ongeveer de helft korter maar verschilt verder niet zo veel van ‘Rondo’, ook hier gebeurt dus opvallend weinig. Het meest kleurrijk is nog ‘Geisterorchester’ waar het album mee besluit. Vooral opvallend zijn hier de hoge tonen.

De albums zijn (deels) te beluisteren via Bandcamp en daar ook te koop. [Ben]

T33.21 Anthony Moore – ‘CSound & Saz’

CD – 1 track – 30:37

Release date: Friday 2nd December 2022

Available to order now

Track listing:

1. CSound & Saz

Photography & design by Jon Wozencroft

Anthony Moore (b. August 1948) is a composer/musician, now based in the UK, formerly professor in Cologne for sound art and music working on the social and technical history of sound. He operates across many genres; ambient drone, musique concrète, electroacoustic, songwriting and immersive, multi-channel sound installations. He continues to compose, perform and release work on various labels such as Touch, Drag City (Chicago), P-Vine (Tokyo) and others.

Anthony Moore recently conducted a lengthy interview with Julian Cowley for The Wire, which appeared in their October ’22 edition in the form of a 6 page feature length article.

‘Touch.40 live at Iklectik’.

“I received an invitation to perform at the 40th anniversary gathering, June 2022. Previous works for the label, Arithmetic in the Dark and Isoladrone2020  illuminated the landing strip for a new work. It should be continuous – a further play on moving and remaining. I wanted to balance the digital output of a CSound orchestra with an analogue instrument and chose the Turkish saz, a sound I’ve loved and lived with for the last 6 decades. I prepared the ground for the live performance with a graphical interface for CSound and an e-bow for the Saz (along with some short pre-recordings of picking and strumming). Then, a few days before the concert, I got Covid. On the suggestion of Jon and Mike I recorded a live performance-for-one, (myself at home) which was played back at Iklectik. Unedited, unchanged, here it is.” (amoore st leonards 220807)

Three pairs of thin, wire strings on the Turkish saz are struck, and the resulting sound is harmonised, filtered and then sustained in an infinite but gradually shifting chord of harmonics. In addition, an ebow is used to excite the strings in realtime. This sound is natural, untreated, and adds layers to the sustained chord. Subsequently, two Csound programmes running in parallel are ‘fed’ the natural sound of the saz and the output is heavily effected with filters, resonators, vocoders etc. These sonic gestures are allowed to take over as the original chord fades to leave the more transparent sounds of the Csound outputs. The organum returns with much more warm, low end. The saz transformations thin out to leave a keening call. And finally the last minutes are filled with a deep chord which fades to silence.

Reviews:

Nieuwe Noten (NL):

Aan het begin van ‘Csound + Saz’ slaat Anthony Moore zijn saz aan, een snaarinstrument uit het Midden Oosten en aansluitend volgt de drone. Veel meer klinkt er niet de eerste dertien minuten, dan deze bijzonder lang uitgesponnen klanknevel. Zo nu en dan slaat hij hooguit nog eens een snaar aan, om het geheel nog iets meer body te geven. Of zoals La Monte Young, de grondlegger van dit type muziek, waar iedereen die met drones werkt schatplichtig aan is, het uitdrukte: “Draw a straight line and follow it”. Pas voorbij die dertiende minuut verandert het stuk, dat in totaal iets meer dan een half uur duurt, wat van karakter, krijgt het wat meer gelaagdheid, iets dat zo rond de achttiende minuut nog een keer gebeurd, maar de drone blijft een constante. Drones waren in het westen halverwege de vorige eeuw overigens nieuw, iets dat geenszins het geval was in veel andere culturen. Waaronder die in het Midden Oosten. Dat Moore hier juist een saz kiest, is dan ook niet zo heel vreemd.

Alle albums zijn te beluisteren via Bandcamp en daar ook te koop. [Ben]

Tone 82D Philip Jeck – ‘Resistenza’

DL – 2 tracks – 1:02:50

Mary Prestidge writes: “I’m recalling the joy Philip had in spinning 70s disco dance music for my 70th birthday bash in 2018.

Philip’s experiments with turntable and vinyl began over 40 years ago using these 12″ singles. It marked a moment of belief that he could take these sounds further…

Play on…”

Philip Jeck’s birthday 70 years ago today, 15th November 1952

Release date 15th November 2022
Now available

Track listing:

1. Philip Jeck – Live in Torino 35:33
2. Philip Jeck & Jonathan Raisin – The Long Wave, Live at Liverpool Philharmonic 27:27

Photography & design by Jon Wozencroft

Reviews:

Dusted (USA):

Touch has never been about staying in the past, so it makes sense that the firm would experiment with new formats. Resistenza is a digital-only recording issued on what would have been the 70th birthday of the late Philip Jeck, whose passing was just one of those that has made 2022 an especially rough slog. It’s simultaneously a bit sad and quite poetic that the first (and hopefully not last) posthumous release by an artist whose work was all about the stubborn physicality of vinyl would be a non-physical edition. It comprises two live recordings, both made in 2017-18.

The more recent is Live in Torino, a fittingly ephemeral sequence of sounds snatched from old records and manipulated into ghostly scraps that spin and bob like the luminous traces left by deep sea fishes. ‘The Longest Wave,’ which was recorded in Jeck’s home town of Liverpool, is quite the opposite. Jeck is joined by Jonathan Raisin, whose piano trills augment Jeck’s already lush flow. The best moments come when the turntablist breaks out some sub-aquatic bass figures that ballast Raisin’s delay-dampened drizzle of notes. [Bill Meyer]

Avant Music News (USA):

The singular talent of Philip Jeck was a thing to behold.  Hearing this posthumous document of two live performances I can’t help but think hell… this guy deserves to stand on the same pedestal as some of the great sound organisers like Parmegiani, Bayle, and Ferrari.  The word ‘organiser’ is not enough though.  Parm, Bayle, and Ferrari were composers… composers of the highest order, plain and simple.  Jeck was too, but he just chose to do it without the typical tools of the trade of the GRM (and others) crowd.  A couple of cheap, heavy-duty workhorse turntables and a large collection of old vinyl records are all one really needs to know about Philips’ M.O.  This was the basic stuff that was augmented by an equally basic Casio sampling keyboard and other mundane delay and looping stomp boxes and… that’s it.  That’s what it took to deliver the world to his doorstep and damn…did he make full use of it!

Resistenza is released by Touch (the label that has made it possible for the world to hear his entire catalog of works) on what would have been his 70th birthday.  It grants us a front-row seat for two live performances that further cement Philip Jecks’ particular genius… not that it needs cementing as any listen to past albums would attest to.  The first track, simply titled ‘Live in Torino’ is a 36-minute sonic walk through an amorphous cloud of memory, nostalgia, triumphant joy, and deep melancholic beauty.

The first time I heard the ‘Live in Torino’ set I just let it have its way with me.  I knew I was in for some of that special kind of weirdness that only Jeck could provide, and it was there.  You know… how he drapes everything in a patina of ‘the good ole days’ where life held a certain potential… personal to each listener but common in the way that somehow, things were better back then.  It’s that hauntological future… the one that somehow got away, and you start asking yourself how in the world did I get to this point, in the here and now?  This is all a Jeck-ian trademark and it’s present in everything I’ve heard from him.

So yes, in that respect ‘Live in Torino  is new/old Jeck.  Something that a fan would expect.  Crazy that the expectation is there to begin with… like, ho hum, another typical Philip Jeck walk down memory lane and oh, have a raw emotional trigger point to mull over in the process.  Sure, that happens all the time in music, right?  RIGHT?

So, the write-up could pretty much end here by saying Resistenza is a must listen.  Music that succeeds this strongly at the ‘feelings’ level should be and IS enough… full stop.  But, after going through my own little catharsis, further listens were of a more analytical nature… I know, imagine that?  I wanted to try and disassemble the music and search for that element that makes it tick.  ‘Live in Torino’ ebbs and flows and, within its many moving parts is the walking path a listener can take that holds them all together.  The changes that the piece goes through, and there are quite a few… all work together in painting that memory-stimmed panorama I spoke about above.  Funnelling down, it’s the quiet little details, the workers within the music that are the essential building blocks.

The controlled use of the clicks, pops, and scratches in the records he uses, the choices of old, haunted ghostly sounds from those records, the speeds in which he plays them, the way he piles these sound events on top of each other as they loop into infinity, the way he fades from one motif to another… I don’t have the foggiest idea technically what he’s doing but the hard listens I’ve done were incredibly fascinating, in a mind-bending sort of way.  What makes the music tick?  Well, that’s the wrong question.  It just does… and somehow Philip Jeck has tapped into it.

The second piece on the album, ‘The Long Wave‘, Live at Liverpool Philharmonic is a 27-minute duet with pianist Jonathan Raisin.  In contrast to the many faceted dips and swerves in ‘Live in Torino’, this piece has Jeck sticking, at least for the most part to providing a mid to high-range drone as a bedrock for Raisin’s piano excursions.

The piano is placed high in the mix, certainly higher than Jeck’s electronics so it’s harder to key on whatever detail he’s bringing into the piece other than a sense of smooth smears of sound.  This sympathetic base serves its purpose because… by way of contrast, the piano seems to be the star here.  Raisin’s playing uplifts this piece into the cinematic zone.  I’m occasionally reminded of pianist Ketil Bjørnstad’s water-themed albums from the 90’s on ECM.  The Long Wave, while lacking in the ghostly, time folding within itself moments of ‘Live in Torino’ still works wonders.  It taps into the limbic system from the direction of something more… hopeful.  A sense of yearning, or longing for a redemption that just might be within grasp.  We can all use some of that!

Resistenza is a superb document showing two different, but equally great faces of Philip Jeck.  This release comes with my HIGHEST recommendation. [Michael Eisenberg]

The Wire (UK):

It feels more appropriate than ever to avoid the word elegiac with Philip Jeck’s first posthumous album, released on what would have been his 70th birthday. It always seemed a bit pat while he was alive, borderline crass with his afterimage yet unfaded. But fading afterimages of lost things were somewhat his métier – along with the poetics of surface. Resistenza calls the latter to mind, but it invites reflection on any facet of Jeck’s quiet profound and abiding influence.

Jeck’s multimedia projects reflected his fine art background. See ‘Vinyl Requiem,’ a semi-automated scratch orchestra of up to 180 rescued Dansette turntables playing locked 12″s, addressing obsolescence kinetic sculpture, the arrive, the found object or readymade, etc. But his albums were arguably more analogous to painting. A few brittle millimetres of deteriorated plastic could convey pristine shallowness or unfathomable depth, or both, depending on technique. The caveat being that said technique recognises the material’s prevailing tendency to do whatever it wants, regardless of dexterity.

Resistenza features a 35 minute piece live recording from Turin, Italy in 2018. At its most touch sensitive for roughly the first quarter, its cascading patinas of tiny reverberating nicks accrue around a minimal harmonic progression. More slated flaring sound is introduced methodically, as though feeding into a sonic loom. Subaquatic impressions ascend, stretched guitar picking teeters and heartsick strings swell, while maintaining the perfect lightness and tactility of something on or immediately below a surface.

The second piece, titled ‘The Long Wave’ and recorded at Liverpool Philharmonic in collaboration with pianist and composer Jonathan Raisin, is harder to square with Jeck’s oeuvre than the first. By necessity, he seems to forfeit his signature permeability, shoring up against the depth and resonance of Raisin’s piano, just so the piece doesn’t sound like a gale force wind conversing with a spiderweb. It’s a polite and considered exchange, but on somewhat compromised terms. [James Gormley]

Nieuwe Noten (NL):

Meer minimalisme en meer van het Engelse Touch. Twee musici die volledig met elektronica werken en dit combineren met veldopnames. Onder de noemer ‘Resistenza’ bracht Philip Jeck twee live opnames uit en verder hier aandacht voor het bijzonder subtiele ‘Evergreen’van Patrick Shiroishi. Beide albums zijn louter te verkrijgen als download.

Rustig stromende klanken in ‘Live in Torino’, een kabbelende drone. Iets verderop afgewisseld met veldopnames van stromend water en dieren die ik niet direct kan thuisbrengen. Het is vredig, maar tegelijkertijd ook spannend en abstract. En het is dat wat deze muziek onderscheidt van ambient. Qua tempo verschilt het niet veel, maar de muziek van Jeck, of van Cleared, dat hier gisteren voorbij kwam, mist dat spirituele, esoterische wat ambient vaak kenmerkt. Hier gaat het er echter anders aan toe, zeker de muziek van Jeck heeft regelmatig eerder iets chaotisch over zich, terloops en willekeurig. Dat we zo rond de twaalfde minuut van dat ‘Live in Torino’ toch ineens in een meeslepende klankstroom terechtkomen doet daar niets van af. Want rond de twintigste minuut viert de abstractie weer hoogtij en is van de ritmiek weinig meer over. Wat volgt is overigens een prachtige scene met als basis een klassiek stuk voor koor, op originele wijze door Jeck bewerkt. Op ‘The Long Wave, Live at Liverpool Philharmonic’ krijgt Jeck gezelschap van pianist Jonathan Raisin wat het stuk een volledig andere lading geeft. Terwijl Jeck een sfeervolle geluidsomgeving creëert horen we Raisin sterk verdichte patronen spelen. Een prachtige combinatie die leidt tot een bijzonder spannend en stuwend muzikaal landschap. [Ben]

Tone 81D Patrick Shiroishi – ‘Evergreen’

DL – 4 tracks – 41:56

Release date: 1st November 2022

Order from Bandcamp here

Track listing:

1. a place where sunflowers grow 11:10
2. there is no moment in which they are not with me 9:32
3. a trickle led to a quiet pool where still, black water reflected the night sky 9:06
4. here comes a candle to light you to bed 12:18

All tracks composed, performed and recorded at Orange Door in September 2022. Field recordings taken at Evergreen Cemetery, Los Angeles in 2021.

Patrick Shiroishi – synths, clarinet, field recordings, voice & tenor saxophone

Photography & design by Jon Wozencroft
Mastered by Simon Scott @ SPS Mastering

Story told by Yukio Kawaratani

Patrick writes: “I can’t recall the first time I was introduced to Touch but it might have been around 2017, right before a duo recording with Zachary Paul in the spring of the following year. I do, however, remember the winter when I dove into their catalogue and discovered artist upon artist of tremendous weight and vision who created worlds in their recordings… it was inspiring and something that I have kept with me through the years.

Since that time five years ago, correspondence with Touch became little by little, more and more frequent. In early September 2022, Mike contacted me about putting something together for the label with a deadline of a few weeks. I first thought of a collaboration with Bana Haffar, someone for whom I have huge respect on many different levels and was lucky enough to travel with and play some shows for the label’s 40th anniversary celebration in the Bay Area earlier this year… unfortunately the timing didn’t work out. I pondered about other potential partners, ultimately deciding on the idea of presenting a solo work.

Familiarising myself with the Touch back catalogue, I wanted to create a work that was unique in its own world. Someone reading this may or may not know that I have been diving into my family history and processing that through music. Last year, I took a couple of trips to Evergreen Cemetery in Los Angeles, where several generations of Shiroishis are buried and a place often visited when growing up. Sitting there with my Zoom recorder on, at what seemed like the peak of the violence towards Asian Americans, i felt at peace being close to them.

The foundations of this album are from those recordings. The first half is built upon one I made during daytime and the second half from a recording in the evening. The music took on many forms and was worked on daily in the mornings, which is something that was very different from my usual practice. As the album was getting close to being finished, I sent it over to Mike and Jon and with their guidance helped to shape the music towards its final form.

Hoping that you listen to this music in one sitting and think about your ancestors as you do – we all come from somewhere, and there is not a moment when they are not with you.”

Patrick Shiroishi is a Japanese-American multi-instrumentalist & composer based in Los Angeles. He is perhaps best known for his extensive and intense work with the saxophone. Over the last decade he has established himself as one of the premier improvising musicians in Los Angeles, recording and playing solo and in numerous collaborative projects. Shiroishi may well be considered a foundational player in the city’s vast musical expanse. [Steve Lowenthal]

Reviews:

Avant Music News:

AMN Reviews:  Patrick Shiroishi – Evergreen (2022; Touch); Colin Stetson – Chimæra I (2022; Room40)

Layers upon layers.

Previously hidden details emerging everywhere you choose to focus your attention.

Sound objects materialising against the negative space they were spawned from, establishing shape, form. Single acoustic tones making dramatic entrances and displaying their pure spectral content like Peacocks on parade.

Continually shifting and rearranging combinations of acoustic colours connecting and disconnecting.

Fluctuating waves of dynamics building, engulfing, fading.

Deep melancholic sadness giving way to jubilantly uplifting earth spirits.

All these fragmented micro-thoughts can easily apply to the excellent new albums from Patrick Shiroishi and Colin Stetson.  Take the above as disjointed, stream-of-consciousness impressions that I feel are common to both recordings.

On Evergreen, Patrick Shiroishi delivers an emotionally charged sonic movie based on recent trips to the Evergreen Cemetery in Los Angeles where family members are buried.  There are four long tracks on the album with the genesis of the first two built around field recordings in the morning, and the second two, in the evening.

The field recordings…natural sounds, thunder, a gentle summer rainstorm is also augmented by some soft radio transmissions and a narrative voice reminiscing about earlier generations of Japanese immigrants during WWII.  The terrible, no-win situation was either becoming stateless by being drafted into the U.S. Army and pledging allegiance to America while they are still Japanese citizens or, put into something very close to concentration camps if they chose not to.

These quiet sounds provide a memory trigger, a foundational base to build a rich sound world teeming with detail on top of them.  A beautifully rendered ecosphere of drones and melodies come alive as various synths and reed instruments collect en masse to fully flesh out these memories.  Evergreen is shot through with raw honesty as these structures…maybe even shrines of remembrance are built.

As the multi-faceted drones grow larger, louder…they gather force like a snowball in an avalanche.  Tension, intensity, and volume build as the sound space fills up, as the very nature of the combined sound structure morphs and changes in real-time.  Sometimes uplifting and joyful as the positive memories are grasped and held on to, other times more plaintive and longing for thoughts and recollections on the verge of fading.

On the alluring second piece, ‘there is no moment in which they are not with me’, the breathy sound of a single tenor saxophone separates itself with an assertiveness of a Grand Marshal leading the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.  It enters the sound space from a backdrop of quiet sustained textures and, from the very first notes…its majesty is revealed in absolute pureness.  A second sax eventually enters in similar fashion embellishing and dancing around the first with busier movement.  The emotional effect that is revealed is exquisitely magnified because of these contrasting spaces and, may be the highlight of this wonderful album (although that would short shrift the many other moments that reach these heights). A similar uplift occurs on the final piece, ‘here comes a candle to light you to bed’.  This time, a clarinet takes the lead with a simple and very rustic melody…a melody that evokes simpler, happier times perhaps.  Again, the reeds are vividly highlighted against a quieter sonic background for maximum contrast.

This whole aural photograph eventually fades into a gentle evening storm providing a finality that is perfectly satisfying.The emotional realms visited on Colin Stetson’s Chimæra I are much less earthbound, instead choosing to reach out into deep voids.  But, like Shiroishi’s Evergreen, Stetson’s efforts are no less evocative and compelling…especially for the attentive listener.

Chimæra I has two 20+ minute detailed and very elaborate saxophone drones along with two 8+ minute ‘reductions’ of the longer pieces.  To be honest, I’m not sure what these reductions are but I think they may be stitched together edits of the longer pieces.  I will say that they work very well as stand-alone tracks if you are inclined (or pressed for time) to experience the album in shorter doses.

As stated on the album notes regarding what mental path Chimæra I suggests, i.e., ‘imagined caverns’, ‘hidden hollows’ and ‘surging magma flows’…I had a different cinéma pour l’oreille (although I do find it very interesting to hear the composers own personal thoughts on such things).  My own personal ear flick did not have a basis in geologic structure or terra firma groundings, instead opting for a cold, dark, airless, and lifeless non-being, a canvas marching toward times end.  A nothingness that echoes…but from what?

But listen again.  Those loops and layers of long sustained bass sax tones, occasionally interrupted to form a series of short, swirling bursts…they remind me of giant buzz saws.  The extended bass sax layers themselves…I can’t help but think of the rumble of a giant generator.  A power source rejuvenating from the wreckage and remnants it was created to level.  A humongous battery driving a massive tank-like mech that ponderously crawls over the surface of a landscape, disintegrating everything in its path with an outer skin of jagged, spinning circular blades.  A berserker with no purpose other than subsuming everything in its path… but why?

But listen again.  A walk down and through a tunnel…a long one.  One that becomes harder and harder to breath the deeper you go.  Nothing but smooth, stone-grey walls…leading to what?  (I’ll pause here and admit that maybe Colin’s geologic references above do have legs to them.)

But listen again…

Ok, point made.  Chimæra I strongly beckons and compels the willing deep listener to come back, again and again.  Different cinematics, different experience.  Sometimes physical, sometimes mental, sometimes both…but always gripping and mesmerising.

I decided to do both of these albums in a single write-up, initially because of the common saxophone theme.  As it turns out, there is a much more relevant theme than just a shared instrument.  Patrick Shiroishi’s Evergreen and Colin Stetson’s Chimæra I have a more important superpower in common, the ability to transport.  They accomplish this in two very different and distinct styles, but the endgame is the same.  Touching on different emotions, different thought centres… both artists are vividly molding their own distinct narratives, creating a sense of place in their own very personal way. These sounds allow us to interact with a world of ultimately, our own making, but one we would never have found without the artists as guides.

It’s this sense of potential that is so appealing about these recordings.  Shiroishi and Stetson are not only acting as world builders but, they are also offering the listener a golden ticket… a ringside seat to share and interact right alongside them. Ultimately, the freedom and power of experience.  Both come very highly recommended. [Michael Eisenberg]

culturedarm (USA):

Track of the week – As Touch celebrates forty years of fierce resistance to the status and trappings of ‘record label’, the prolific yet never profligate multi-instrumentalist Patrick Shiroishi marks his debut for the renowned audiovisual company with an unusual approach to the genre of field recording. From a couple of trips to Evergreen Cemetery in Los Angeles where several generations of his family are buried, Shiroishi emanates from within the dotted landscape rather than skirting its borders or imposing melodies atop or alongside of an enveloping hum, the stately and plangent sounds of his woodwinds and the quivering and summoning of synths peeking between the rustle of leaves and background oratory for a stirring treatise on stillness and presence. [Christopher Laws]

The Wire [UK]:

…The most moving of the three releases is Evergreen, composed, performed and recorded in September but touched deeply by field recordings Shiroishi took at Evergreen Cemetery, Los Angeles, in 2021. The Evergreen Cemetery is where several generations of Shiroishi’s family are buried, and he conducted these recordings while thinking about the history of violence towards the Japanese American community, a history that shows no sign of abating and touches these essentially hopeful pieces with a vital patina of mournfulness and resistance. The four tracks here are beautifully measured between the green and the grey, the trees and the stones, strung out moments of reverie and reflection that come together in a deeply plangent emotional wallop that reminds me of the most moving moments of Nate Schieble’s Fairfax. Evergreen is unmissable but all three of these records confirm Shiroishi as a name to keep on your radar. [Neil Kulkarni]

popmatters (USA):

In 2020, Patrick Shiroishi released Descension, a raw, unflinching musical interpretation of his grandparents’ experiences in the stateside concentration camps of Japanese-American citizens during World War II. In 2021, he released Hidemi,a searing, cathartic work inspired by his grandfather’s post-war period following his release from the camp. Now, with Evergreen, Shiroishi continues to mine family experiences for inspiration. But this time, the experience is more meditative than primal.

Released on the UK label Touch, Evergreen is the result of Shiroishi’s 2021 visits to Evergreen Cemetery in Los Angeles, where several generations of his family are buried, and Shiroishi often visited as a child. Bringing with him a portable audio recorder, Shiroishi created aural chronicles of his experience while ruminating on his family’s dark history at the hands of their violent, intolerant adopted homeland. He combines those field recordings with synthesisers, clarinet, saxophone, and vocals.

Evergreen is neatly divided and categorized, as the album’s first half contains recordings from daytime visits, and the second half is made up of nighttime trips. It’s more than a bit reminiscent of Across Water, Shiroishi’s sumptuous ambient collaboration with Jessica Ackerley earlier this year. Combining muted musical soundscapes with field recordings has – by design or accident – become Shiroishi’s stock in trade in 2022, and the inspiration he’s garnered from Evergreen Cemetery has paid off spectacularly.

Evergreen begins with ‘a place where sunflowers grow’, as the thunder and rainfall sounds are gentle but insistent, and a light musical drone is accompanied by the distant chatter of what may be a police radio band. Shiroishi’s synthesisers mesh beautifully with the field recordings as if they’re part of the cemetery’s environment. The notes are foreboding but meditative, looming but seemingly never threatening. Near the song’s halfway mark, the music is much higher in the mix and is combined with ethereal vocalising.

True to its title, ‘there is no moment in which they are not with me’ seems to evoke the direct purpose of Shiroishi’s latest project: reflection and tribute. The instrumentation is richer and warmer, with low tones mixing with stuttering high-end notes rising above. The grand, enveloping sensation of the music is reminiscent of Brian Eno‘s seminal Music for Airports. Eventually, Shiroishi’s saxophone weaves in and out, introducing an element that fits the overall mood perfectly.

Moving over to the ‘night’ half of the album, ‘a trickle of water led to a quiet pool, where still, black water reflected the night sky’ once again combines the natural sounds of water with lush, ambient chords. The music has a more ghostly feel but is as moving as the song that preceded it. Even at the halfway mark when the synths become slightly more shrill and distorted as if Shiroishi is reflecting on specific family memories and stories that hit hard and are unpleasant to relive.

What sounds like a clarinet – and eventually, multitracked clarinets – introduces ‘here comes a candle to light you to bed’, and it’s a gentle, almost lullaby-like sensation, with the natural sounds of water replaced by the subtler sounds of crickets. An audio sample of what sounds like someone talking about their immigrant experience is paired with noisy clattering, then thunder, and eventually rain. It may be too on the nose to equate the falling water with some sort of absolution or cleansing, but the effect is gentle, disarming, and oddly calming. As crashing thunder and measured breathing sounds close out Evergreen, one can picture Shiroishi sitting alone at Evergreen Cemetery, the rain washing over him as he contemplates his family’s rich but oppressive history.

To that end, Evergreen – when framed in its intended context – may almost seem too intrusive, as if the listener is privy to an experience that is too personal to the artist. That is one of Shiroishi’s many gifts, which he has given us on previous albums and certainly provides us here: engaging in catharsis and revelation and letting us sit beside him with wide wonder. [Chris Ingalls]

Foxydigitalis – The Capsule Garden (USA):

One of the most unstoppable forces in music shows a new side. Evergreen has its roots in Shiroishi’s visits to Evergreen Cemetary in Los Angeles, where many of his family members are buried. Field recordings made on those trips are foundational to Evergreen, where they’re imbued by synths, clarinet, and voice. Shiroishi channels his woodwinds-based work’s inquisitive, emotive spirit into new sonic shapes and ideas. The same deft touch is present, though. Passages hold together with gossamer arpeggios and glassine reflections, his voice lingering in the shadows like a permanent ghost. This music feels ageless, as though it’s always existed somewhere in the ether, waiting for Shiroishi to bridge a connection and pull it into this world. Evergreen is a powerful, moving document that sits with the best of his expansive catalog. Highest recommendation. [Brad Rose]

Salt and Peanuts (Sweden):

Evergreen is a cemetery in Los Angeles, where several generations of local sax player, multi-instrumentalist and sound artist Patrick Shiroishi’s relatives are buried, and a place he often visited when growing up. The album Evergreen is based on field recordings Shiroishi made at the cemetery in 2021 and is a kind of very personal meditation on Shiroishi family history, processed through music with an urgent call against racial discrimination. Shiroishi added to these field recordings music that he composed, played on synths, clarinet and the tenor sax and used his voice at Orange Door Studios in September 2022.

Shiroishi, who investigated his family history already in Hidemi (American Dreams, 2021),  created layered, highly suggestive and openly emotional and somehow melancholic ambient drones, briefly referencing the psychedelic, synth-laden space-rock of the seventies. He plays the tenor sax in the most gentle, caressing-comforting manner possible on ‘there is no moment in which they are not with me’, and does the same with the clarinet on the last, most emotional piece, ‘here comes a candle to light you to bed’, where one of his relatives speaks about the of the oppression of Asian-Americans during the World War II. Shiroishi humbly asks the listener to reflect on his or her ancestors, as ‘we all come from somewhere, and there is not a moment when they are not with you’. [Eyal Hareuveni]

Nowamuzyka (Poland):

Zmarli są w pobliżu.

Z reguły piszę o związkach jazzu z elektroniką, gdzie ten pierwszy występuje w stopniu znacznym albo tej drugiej praktycznie nie ma. Album Evergreen przynosi sytuację odwrotną. Oto uznany jazzman Patrick Shiroishi postanowił odstawić (nie całkowicie) swój saksofon na półkę, żeby nagrać album oparty głównie o muzykę elektroniczną, a konkretnie ambient. I to nie jakiś tam przypadkowy, co mu wyszedł, gdy siedział znudzony w studio, ale taki mocarny i głęboki do tego stopnia, że porusza w słuchaczu każdy nerw.

Warto zwrócić uwagę, że artysta nagrywa bardzo dużo różnych płyt w różnych konfiguracjach, co uniemożliwia jakiekolwiek zaszufladkowanie. Pamiętny album „Hidemi” wskazuje, że muzyk często dotyka spraw przeszłości. Nie inaczej jest na „Evergreen”, której tytuł odnosi się do cmentarza w Los Angeles, na którym pochowani są jego przodkowie. Płyta zawiera cztery utwory mieszające nagrania terenowe z muzyką. Istotne jest, że dwa pierwsze posiadają nagrania terenowe zgromadzone rano, a dwa ostatnie wieczorem.

Ciche dźwięki, których pełno na płycie, uruchamiają całą paletę emocji. Wielopłaszczyznowe drony stają się głośniejsze, ale bez przesady. Liczy się przede wszystkim zbudowanie napięcia, intensywność przeżycia i próba uchwycenia ulotnego szczęścia albo podkreślenia żałobnej myśli. ‘A place where sunflowers grow’ jest pełny niewyraźnych momentów. A to słychać radiowóz, a to trzaski radiowe, a to zawieje silniej wiatr. Zjawiająca się muzyka z eterycznym wokalem jest zarówno zaskakująca, jak i zniewalająca.

‘There is no moment in which they are not with me’ przynosi najwźnioślejszy moment płyty. Migoczące ozdobniki dodają refleksyjności do rozlewającej się melodii. Całość zamyka dość nieśmiały, jak na tego artystę, saksofon, co jest zrozumiałe, gdyż mocniejszy akcent zakłóciłby nastrój. Wodny szmer otwierający ‘A trickle led to a quiet pool, where still black water reflected the night sky’ szybko ustępuje miejsca ambientowej pustce. No, ale nie jesteśmy tu sam na sam z muzyką, albowiem w tle wyraźnie słychać dźwięki nocnej przyrody, które zamiast być ‘odcedzone’ w studio stają się integralną częścią utworu. Upiorna końcówka miała nam przypomnieć, że zmarli są w pobliżu.

Stąd również żałobny ton ‘Here comes a candle to light you to bed’ tej niby-kołysanki o taj wielkiej sile rażenia, że gotów byłbym zażądać, aby mi w ostatnich chwilach towarzyszył. Wzruszenie, które odczuwam w trakcie słuchania, jest dławiące. W dalszym opisie musiałbym już pisać tylko wielkimi słowami, czego czynić nie chcę. Dodam jedynie, że moment pojawienia się burzy jest bardzo potrzebny żeby wrócić do jakiejkolwiek normalności czy poczucia rzeczywistości. Evergreen jest niezwykle osobistym przeżyciem i płytą obok której chcę siedzieć z podziwem. [Jarek Szczęsny]

NPR (USA):

Patrick Shiroishi made 18 records in 2022, all compelling; his finale, Evergreen, is the most exquisite. Using field recordings from the Los Angeles cemetery where his ancestors are buried, the saxophonist builds lush meditative spaces for considering the power that past holds over present. [Grayson Haver Currin]

Instagram post:

Patrick Shiroishi explores a full day in passing in LA’s Evergreen Cemetery, painting a rich and vivid picture through field recordings and layers of synths and woodwinds to occupy the silence as if they were spectres conversing from just beyond. Evergreen is entrancing and is a surprisingly lush piece of ambient jazz. The ‘day’ half is nurturing and sublime; the ‘night’ is eerie and mystical. Voices emerge, but they are comforting and inviting. Evergreen is magical realism while never skewing towards the pretentious. It’s really quite therapeutic. [Justin Christopher Poulin]

NPR (USA):

Interview with Patrick Shiroishi

His debut for transformative electronic label Touch, Evergreen, suspends field recordings from the cemetery where six Shiroishis are buried in a ruminative haze, saxophone glinting through the drone like sunshine through a storm. [Grayson Haver Currin]

Reviews:

Nieuwe Noten (NL):

Patrick Shiroishi vermengt op de opener van Evergreen, ‘a place where sunflowers grow’ allereerst diverse veldopnames, stemopnames en noise tot een spannend en bijzonder overtuigend geheel. Verderop voegt hij hier diverse patronen, gespeeld met een keyboard aan toe. ’there is no moment in which they are not with me’ klinkt nog harmonieuzer en getuigt van een bijna grenzeloze subtiliteit, vliedende klanken, een vage melodie en een stevige onderstroom. Bijzonder stemmig klinkt ook ‘a trickle led to a quiet pool, where still black water reflected the night sky’, meer duister van toon, donkere klanknevels vlieden voorbij, terwijl aan het einde de spanning verder oploopt. De afsluiter ‘here comes a candle to light you to bed’ heeft iets van een slaapliedje, gespeeld op een orgeltje. Bijzonder is ook de sprekende stem die zo rond de derde minuut ineens opduikt. Het maakt allemaal een wat melancholieke en als verderop de hectiek toeneemt ook een wat mistroostige indruk.

Beide albums zijn te beluisteren via Bandcamp en daar ook te koop. [Ben]

TO:119 CLEARED – ‘Of Endless Light’

CD – 6 tracks – 72:21

Release date: Friday 23rd September 2022

Track listing:

1. First Sleep
2. Of Endless Light
3. Dawn
4. Pulse
5. Blue Drift
6. Walking Field

Now available to order on Bandcamp

Photography & design by Jon Wozencroft
Mastered by Denis Blackham
Recorded by Jeremy Lemos

Cleared is the longstanding project of Steven Hess and Michael Vallera, based in Chicago, Illinois. Of Endless Light was recorded by Jeremy Lemos at Electrical Audio in Chicago and mastered by Denis Blackham. The six tracks complete the longest release to date by the duo, who were resolute in utilising the maximum time available on the compact disc format. Cleared has produced a series of critically recognised recordings since its self-titled debut in 2011. Working with the Touch label on The Key (recorded in spring 2019, released in October 2020) was a leap forward, prompting remixed tracks by Philp Jeck, Fennesz, Bethan Kellough, and Olivia Block.

Of Endless Light is noctambulant, a walk through formal sonic spaces and colours beginning with the cascading, bell-like tones of the opening track, ‘First Sleep.’ The husks of a city’s industrial past are summoned: warehouses hollowed out for condominiums, dust-covered factory floors, a distant grind of machining, clouds of metallic particles, and the persistent background hum of traffic. These remnants contrast with hints of the sterile present of a city no less cruel than its industrial past. ‘Dawn’ opens with a grey drone and scattered electronic rhythms as wiring, and extended guitar lines suggest the opening of another cycle of the day into evening. ‘Pulse’ offers a hypnotic pattern that suggests the movement of people through the city’s core, slowly overlain with cymbals evoking the shimmer of sunlight cleaving off the windows of distant buildings. The album appropriately concludes with ‘Walking Field,’ methodically moving forward via a cloud of meditative clicks and looping melodies.

Of Endless Light is a patient listen, distilled into a sonic environment specific to Hess and Vallera’s lens. Cleared created its crepuscular moods using the core methodology of their previous records while expanding their music’s range, artistry, and subtlety. Deploying careful instrumentation, sampling, and mixing to experiment with tone and atmosphere, Of Endless Light breathes and drifts through layers of sound that veil, reveal, and intrigue. The result gives a listener much to discover, examine, experience, and consider – as well as the incentive to return again and again. [Bruce Adams, 2022]

Reviews:

Electronic Sound (UK):

The latest album from Steven Hess and Michael Vallera exists in the darkened shadows of their Chicago base. An exercise in maximalist duration but easily missed minimalist detail, Of Endless Light requires extreme volume to be fully appreciated. When heard this way, the otherwise quiet, grainy textures of the 18-minute opening track ‘First Sleep’ reveals an ever-shifting landscape of low, fluttering rumbles, overlapping metallic drone splinters, elegiac tones and deeply submerged rhythms. Dramatic, exquisitely layered and hugely absorbing. [Mat Smith]

The New Noise (Italy):

La prima cosa da sapere è che amano i minutaggi lunghi e gli elementi che si aggiungono con cadenza organica. La seconda è che, per i tempi attuali e l’ambito di ricerca, è una discografia alquanto contenuta quella dei Cleared di Chicago, duo composto da Steven Hess (lo si conosce bene da queste parti per il suo operato coi Locrian) e Michael Vallera. Poche uscite ma profilo qualitativo alto e ‘sorvegliato’ sotto tutti gli aspetti. In altre parole: si sente che è gente a cui le cose piace farle bene. Non so se The Key, il disco precedente, sempre su Touch, abbia dato loro una visibilità maggiore per via del prestigio del marchio. Ma quel che è certo è che va recuperato, sia per il mood che lo lega a questo in esame, sia per la sua particolarità. Sì, perché è una specie di doppio album: alle quattro composizioni autografe del duo seguono gli stessi pezzi remixati da Philip Jeck, Christian Fennesz, Bethan Kellough, Olivia Block. Tutta gente perfettamente sulla loro linea di tiro. Che fa emergere, ognuno con la sua sensibilità e portato d’esperienza, aspetti magari nascosti negli originali o nuovi sistemi di relazione tra gli elementi in gioco. Una radiografia intima affidata agli amici e allo stesso tempo una patente d’appartenenza. Ma addentriamoci in questo nuovo Cleared. Flussi di velluto in solitudine appartata che sembrano dirci di un tempo smangiato ai bordi dal suo procedere orizzontale (‘First Sleep’); tenue linea di galleggiamento ritmico e correnti ascensionali con squarci d’emotività che crepitano (Of Endless Light); partenza drone severa che cambia gradualmente di segno attraverso l’immissione di elementi morbidi (‘Dawn’); fondali oleosi da elettronica riduzionista e pulsazioni dub fantasmatiche per una cosa vicina nello spirito alle destrutturazioni languide di un Pinkcourtesyphone (‘Pulse’); tintinnii di campane che farebbero felice il David Shea dell’ultimo disco su Room40 (‘Blue Drift’); cartolina dei saluti dove i colori sembrano prendere vita dopo tanti banchi di nebbia (‘Walking Field’). È inutile girarci intorno o sforzarsi di aggiungere altro: tra quanti trafficano in quella terra di mezzo dove deep drones, minimalismo, estetica Kranky si compenetrano, Hess e Vallera sono i più bravi e preparati. Scommettiamo che vedremo comparire questo disco in molte playlist di fine anno? [Loris Zecchin]

Otis Nugatory:

How can music be so wordless yet say so much? Evocative-grinding; spatial-condensed; drone-journeyscapes. Distant cousin of of Coils’ ‘How to Destroy Angels.’ Thanks to Bruce from Kranky for recommending; going on my Best of 2022 since no album has so aptly captured our world and its limping around the sun. Joins Touch pantheons like Fennesz and Biosphere.

Lost Tribe Sound

Absolutely love that Cleared continues to refine their snail-paced, ever-steady rhythmic mechanism. Of Endless Light is a masterpiece! My love for long-form thump and drone music has rarely felt this satisfied. It’s a sound pleasing enough for the ambient-lite folks, while leaving enough sonic grit and gristle for the fringe types. Highest recommendation!

Gonzo Karaoke:

It may seem counterintuitive, but the closer music approximates to silence, the more forceful its likely impact. It’s a fact plainly not lost on Chicago-based duo Cleared whose breathtaking new album is the turbid, thrice-distilled essence of quietude, an inchoate foam of dimensionless un-sound that enters via the pores rather than the auditory canal. At a considerable stretch, one COULD argue Of Endless Light falls within the parameters of dub techno, but only by implication, its signature rhythm-centric sparsity smeared and splayed to the very brink of breakdown. Proceedings commence with the ultra-refracted blur of ‘First Sleep’ which crests the horizon like a gust of smog across moonlit moorland. Fragments of wounded melody bleed through the blanketing static until decomposition inevitably sets in and the track slowly expires to a mo(u)rning chorus of axes being sharpened on a distant grindstone. By contrast, ‘Pulse’, ‘Dawn’ and ‘Waking Field’ are gorgeously eroded simulacra of Chain Reaction-esque avant-minimalism, dance music passed through a fine-mesh sieve to remove almost every joule of kinetic energy. Kick drums – or rather the muted metronomic clicks that pass for them – are so subsumed by grainy swathes of ambience, they barely register as rhythm. The album’s piéce de rèsistance though is the stunning ‘Blue Drift’, a darkening pall of drone and reverberant carillon bells that rivals Sarah Davachi’s ‘Hall Of Mirrors’ for stentorian solemnity. Step inside; the silence is DEAFENING. [Jordan F. Talbot]

TO:109 Phill Niblock – ‘Working Touch’

This USB stick packaged in a digipac is now available to order from:

North America – from Forced Exposure
Rest of World – from Soundohm

Music composed/created between October 2013 and February 2016

Mastered by Tom Hamilton
Photos by Phill Niblock
Artwork by Jon Wozencroft

The music is eleven minutes longer than the film length, so the last music piece is faded at the end of the film, but is complete in the music files which are on the USB memory stick in 24bit, 44.1kHz.

You will note that the music notes say – ‘material recorded . . .’ These pieces are all for one and two instruments, where the composer and musicians went to a studio and recorded (generally) mono tracks of the notes which are later used by the composer to build a multitrack environment of up to 32 tracks, and to make many microtonal extra notes which are added to the original recorded ones.

Films:

Praised Fan, for bassoon (2016, 17 min)
Dafne Vicente-Sandoval, bassoon. Commissioned for the Adelaide Festival, Australia, by Ilan Volkov. Material recorded at Marcus Schmickler’s P I E T H O P R A X I S studio in Koln, Germany.

First Out, for guitar (2015, 22:14)
David First, guitar. Completed in November 2015 in Hong Kong. Premiered on Czech Radio in Prague, Czech Republic, Nov. 27 2015. Material recorded at Berklee School of Music, Boston, MA.

DreGliss (2015, 19:15)
Erik Drescher, glissando flute. Material recorded at Marcus Schmickler’s P I E T H O P R A X I S studio in Koln, Germany.

V&LSG (2015, 21:20)
Lore Lixenberg, voice; Guy De Bievre, lap steel guitar. Material recorded at Johan Vandermaelen’s studio in Aaigem, Belgium

Bag (Sept 2014, 21 minutes)
David Watson, bagpipe. Material recorded at Berklee School of Music, Boston, MA.

A Rooks Pun (2014, 21 min)
Ulrich Krieger, soprano saxophone. Material recorded at The California Institute for the Arts, Valencia, CA.

Ronet (2014, 21:08)
Neil Leonard, tenor saxophone. Material recorded at Berklee School of Music, Boston, MA.

Octavio Perc (2014, 20:45)
Julien Ottavi, percussion. Material recorded at APO33, Nantes, France.

Vlada BC (Nov 7, 2013, 20:00)
Elisabeth Smalt, viola d’amore. Material recorded at Marcus Schmickler’s P I E T H O P R A X I S studio in Koln, Germany.

Euph (Nov 2013, 23:40)
Melvyn Poore, two-belled euphonium. Material recorded in the Ensemble Musikfabrik studios in Koln Germany

Unipolar Dance (Oct 2 2013, 25:04)
Pauline Kim and Conrad Harris, violins and violas (for two violins and two violas, recorded in stereo). Material recorded in Robert Poss’s Trace Elements studio in NYC, NY.

Phill Niblock travelled to China and Japan and other places in the world, from 1973 until 1991, specifically to film material for China88, Japan89 and other pieces. He was accompanied by an interpreter to facilitate contacts with his subjects. They did not make arrangements in advance, but travelled into the countryside in a university van in China and in a rented car in Japan, stopping the vehicle when Niblock saw something suitable for filming. At that point he immediately assembled his bulky camera and tripod and began, relying on his companions to explain what he was doing if necessary. There was little, if any, resistance or curiosity. Remarkably, almost none of the subjects in his films pay attention to or even seem to notice the camera. His explanation is that they were busy working (as we can see) and also because they considered him to be equally engaged in work.

Here I refer to the overused John Cage aphorism proposing a disconnect between composing, performing and listening. In the case of filmmaking, it is more apt to divide the three activities into conceiving as one thing, executing another, and viewing a third. ‘What can they have to do with one another?’ as Cage asks. ‘Plenty!’ is my answer after viewing and thinking about Phill Niblock’s films, but the connections are far from straightforward. In terms of conception, Niblock says that he conceived The Movement of People Working film series because he couldn’t afford to bring a dance troupe with him to his international performances and exhibitions. From this admission, a viewer can extract a hint as to what to look for – not labour in and of itself, not labour as productive and goal-driven, but labour as movement. It accounts for the emphasis in his films on manual labour, which frequently consists of trained, deliberate and even rhythmic repetitive motion. Labour as choreography.

As for execution, there is a strong match between the general title of the series and what was required to shoot and edit the films. A major proportion of the original material is in the films, with only flash frames between shots removed from the workprint, which was used for screening. So the preparation of the film for projection (find end of shot, cut out white frames, tape splice ends) was time-consuming, repetitive, and minimally creative, but ultimately productive – a corollary to the repetitive labor seen on screen. Another bout of repetitive labour was necessary after the workprints had been transferred to digital files, this time using an editing application to remove the glitches caused by the tape splices riding through the film transfer apparatus. One way to understand the project is in the labour required for its production, and identification of the filmmaker with the working men and women portrayed. But this is too simple and open to obvious objections on social and political grounds.

The People Working films rarely if ever show the result of the labor recorded: no woven baskets, no fish dinners, no ploughed, seeded or verdant fields. Laborious repetition without results is not a recipe for a great viewing experience. What then is the effect of these films? How is a viewer to comprehend them, to react to them? What mindset is it appropriate to bring to a screening? Without a temporal architecture, a development in time, without sign posts or maps real or metaphorical, without time markers, or indications of the filmmaker’s presence: they are neither a record of the artist’s travels, nor anthropological field data.

But they do mark out a specific aesthetic territory.

Phill Niblock’s music and films contravene the drive of local memory and anticipation integral to much musical and cinematic experience, the sense that each moment is conditioned by what directly preceded it and what came before that, while simultaneously pointing forward to resolutions or further complications, driving toward closure, always toward the sense of an ending in which all threads are tied, all paths satisfactorily closed. This conception of temporality is fundamental especially to pre-20th century Western music, and basic to both conventional narrative cinema and even advanced artists’ moving image works.

But the moment-to-moments of China88 and Japan89 do not point to endings. The subject of each film is consistent – recordings of the labour of working men and women, often engaged in activities that have not changed much in a millennium or two – but each shot is independent. Experiencing the films can be compared to bodily sensation, to which concepts and generalisations never quite fit. Words cannot capture and communicate the twinge or tang of pain, the flash of sudden bright light, the oomph of an explosion, the sizzle of orgasm. It is not that these felt sensations come and go in an instant – they may continue, or stop and start, but words don’t convey them, won’t pin them down, like a scrap of paper sliding off an oily pipe. Sensations stick in memory not as experience but as re-conceptualised and fixed by emotion-names, but the concepts and names never really stick to them. This may be the source of Wittgenstein’s insight that there cannot be a private language and Kant’s distinction between affect and emotion. The experience of Niblock’s film is closer to affect than emotion, more sensation than concept.

The films, I suggest, require a suspension of expectation, the viewer opening himself/herself up to an experience of delight in colour, in scale, rhythm, in the unfamiliar; in the visual arrangement of shaded planes on a flat screen surface that simultaneously depicts figures in recessive space. The films demand an embrace of a continuous presence, with future and past fading into irrelevance as they recede from and come into being. Only the present has import. Conventional cinematic concepts like closure, montage, and development are out of play. It is the joy of the moment based on the hypnotic magic of the recording of motion, of sound, of time – relatively recent achievements in the long history of human technology.
How is this sense of continuous presence triggered?

Almost all the images in the films are shot under the aesthetic demands of still photography, presenting the scene so that an entire world seems contained in the frame. Since Griffith and Eisenstein the cinema frame has been designed for the edit. An actress looks off-screen, out of the frame. What has captured her attention? Whether the following shot shows what she is looking at or not, the tension in the original frame objectifies an absence, demanding an answer. A close-up fragment asks the viewer to imagine what is omitted, the absence to be confirmed or denied by later images. An action scene is another example, assembled from rapid details, none of which makes sense or is of interest when extracted from the sequence.

The photographer’s vision is the obverse of the cinematographer’s. Everything that matters is in the frame, the frame designed so that its elements are in balance, and when the gaze wanders to the frame line, the planar arrangement of the composition returns it back into the picture. ‘A world in the frame’ is the photographer’s motto. Niblock composes his cinema frame photographically, but unlike a photograph the rhythms and motions of repeated actions are also within this complete world. A viewer switches from looking at to looking into the projection and back again. We revel in the present.

On the other hand, there is much development within an individual shot. Take for example the shot that begins at 38:03 in China.

Bales of hay randomly arranged but defined in the spatial layout of five figures roughly arranged in a receding circle in the depicted space, an ellipse on the screen plane. One is simultaneously aware of both the flat screen and the recessive space it depicts. The closest (and largest) figure is seen only as an off-white shirt back, the furthest (and smallest) a pith-helmeted head. A flash of white sky in the upper right provides a balance to the granola-coloured densities of straw bales. The plane of the screen is elegantly divided, in an almost perfect layout, and, as a model of good photographic composition, and the viewer is confined within the layout. Soon some movement: the camera moves down and left, following the white-shirted figure, to discover a rose pink-shirted back, the pink playing against the now mustard straw color of the bales, in the deliberate colour palette of an Alex Katz or Matisse. The screen rearranges itself dynamically, revealing a slotted ladder up the mound of bales. Colours and forms are in harmony, offering the purified visual pleasure of the screen plane independent of the subjects depicted. But now one is aware of the heft of the bundled straw as the man hauls himself up the ladder, one bale in his arms. We feel its weight, and now the camera has shifted subtly once more, the man, the ladder, the bale and background are isolated. The camera follows him and there at the top of the frame, against the sky, revealed in a echo of the first part of the shot, three men, tiny heads really, watch him and wait, giving a sense of the social distinctions in the scene, the single labourer and the three managers or supervisors. It is a small event-filled sequence, like a miniature narrative film, offering substantial sensual and cinematic satisfaction. The worker delivers the bale, tossing it over and over, under the eyes of the three watchers. A stand-alone 39 seconds. A cinematic aria, elegantly delivered. Bravo!

Niblock’s practice is to run to several of his films simultaneously, his music playing at the same time. The atmosphere generated is conducive to the sense of continuous presence, where sensation rather than concept, affect rather than emotion, govern the experience. Once a viewer/listener yields to this approach, the image, the sounds – the combination is deep and compelling. – Grahame Weinbren

T33.9D Behzad – ‘Myth’

Now available to order on Bandcamp

Track listing:

1. Myth 1
2. Myth 2

All arrangements of original songs are based on pre-Islamic music from the Sassanian and Achamenian eras (100 BC to 500 AD). Instruments used on this recording are: TAMBOUR – the first documentary evidence referring to this 3-stringed acoustic long-necked lute occurs in Susa, an ancient city in South West Persia. In ancient myth, Soroush (or ‘The Muses’) played the tambour to awaken humans with the sound of love as they slept after the creation of the world. Originally the lutes were called ‘star’ or ‘setar’, meaning ‘sound producer’. The sound of the tambour represents the planet Mars, or ‘The Iron Planet’. In Sufi music (i.e post-islam), a tambour is usually played with the DAF – this tambourine represents the Sun and means ‘beat’ or ‘tap’ (the same root as the word ‘tabla’), which is the sound of the heart.

Together, the tambour and the daf represent the planets revolving around the sun, and the combination of the rhythms symbolises the secret of creation. The daf also represents femininity and the tambour masculinity (as Yin and Yan). TOMBAK (featured here on Spring) is the most common drum to be found in Persian music. In the Sassanian era (the last dynasty before Islam), ‘tombak’ meant poetical rhythm, or the skilful use of the fingers to produce a wide range of sounds. It has the same linguistic derivation… more

Originally released on cassette only July 1, 1989

Recorded and engineered by Behzad Blourfroushan and Olivier Abitbol, to whom grateful thanks are due. [Kensington, Summer 1989]

V33.50 Various Artists – ‘Touch: Displacing’

Photography and design by Jon Wozencroft

Track listing:

1.  Sohrab – Kharabat 21:44
2.  Olivia Block – Wuther 15:31
3.  Bana Haffar – Intimations 17:59
4.  Chris Watson – Station Chapelle 14:35
5.  Richard Chartier – Recompletion (3-1)18:36
6.  Robert Crouch – A Drowning 09:31
7.  Geneva Skeen – The clap of the fading-out sound of your shoes 17:43
8.  Carl Stone – Namidabashi 14:36
9.  John Eckhardt – 48k 27:23
10. Philip Jeck – This is the Hour of Lead-13:30
11. Bethan Kellough – Underlying 18:58
12. Oren Ambarchi – Celeste Confit 31:52

Now available as a full album for the first time, released 5th November 2021 on Bandcamp

Following Touch: Isolation which covered the first lockdown period in the UK, Touch: Displacing was a new subscription project where the focus falls on longer-form compositions, released on a monthly basis over the coming year and featuring artists for whom duration is a key feature of their work.

This album supersedes the Touch: Displacing subscription and is now available as a stand-alone release.

Twelve exclusive tracks recorded by Touch or Touch-affiliated artists for one year’s subscription, with contributions from Oren Ambarchi, Olivia Block, Richard Chartier, Robert Crouch, John Eckhardt, Bana Haffar, Philip Jeck, Bethan Kellough, Geneva Skeen, Sohrab, Carl Stone and Chris Watson, leading with ‘Kharabat’ by Sohrab – all mastered by Denis Blackham, to whom once again grateful thanks are due. Receipts will, as with Touch: Isolation [the collection is still available], be shared amongst the artists. A time to support independent music while it still exists!

Each of the releases is mirrored by a cover/counterpoint by Jon Wozencroft – not fixed to one location, as they were with Touch: Isolation.

Touch: Displacing is necessarily a global action. Everybody knows of the water crisis facing the planet. Few may be aware that we are running out of sand, with equally dire consequences, owing to the demand for concrete…

In the current state of the world, the process of displacement has been accelerated by politicians whose techniques of disinformation, U-turning and barefaced lies scramble any attempt to form a perspective on the events taking place. In the physical realm, the fracture of once stable glaciers, the erosion of coastlines and the constant stream of migration from one state of upheaval to another consolidates the force of digital systems to amplify a maelstrom of change – but not change as we know it, rather the consolidation of power and vested interests that have seized this opportunity to raise the roof on previous systems of protection and stability.

The advent of the personal computer in the late 1980’s was mirrored by the promotion of a new way of coming to terms with the scale of the world as we knew it, though chaos theory, fractal geometry and the idea that the most delicate of actions could have massive consequences – the saying went, that a butterfly flapping its wings in Japan could create a storm front across the Midwest of the USA.

Chaos theory is now chaos practice, with the caveat that initial actions are no longer born of delicacy nor collective expansion but the non-stop displacing of any position of longer term vision.

Displacement theory has its roots in psychology to denote the process of shifting one state of perception to another, in an unconscious and generally automatic form of behaviour – shifting the blame, ‘taking it out on someone’ and on a greater scale, highlighted by the rise of nationalism and the growing intolerance of detail.

‘The devil is in the detail’. ‘The Beauty of Fractals‘ made it clear that the smallest element was intrinsic to the harmony of the whole*. Instead, the world seems to have finessed the promotion of disharmony as a form of entertainment, at the very time when artistic, musical, cultural challenges to the perceived ‘fait accompli’ are needed more than ever. To counter the policies of rapid confusion, the forward/reverse procedure, we shall endeavour to slow down the pace, turn things up and respond.

* ‘The Beauty of Fractals’, Heinz-Otto Peitgen and Peter Richter, Springer-Verlag, Heidelberg 1986

All tracks mastered by Denis Blackham, to whom once again grateful thanks are due.

Tone 32V Fennesz Sakamoto – ‘Cendre’

Artwork and photography by Jon Wozencroft

11 tracks – 51:56

Now available on vinyl for the first time, to be released 15th October 2021
Pre-order from Kudos Records (UK) or Forced Exposure (North America)

This release features a duet between Christian Fennesz [guitar/lapop] and Ryuichi Sakamoto [piano/laptop] – a continuing collaboration between two highly regarded composers. Their first, Sala Santa Cecilia, was a 19 minute overture from their live performance in Rome in November 2004 [Touch # Tone 22, 2005]. Bill Meyer in Magnet (US) wrote: ‘Cross-generational encounters are never a sure thing, but this one strikes sparks’ and Max Scaefer in Cyclic Defrost (USA): ‘a moment of much beauty, not to mention anticipation for the promised full-length effort to come.’ Tom Sekowski adds in Gaz-eta (USA): ‘We can only hope this astonishing collaboration will turn into something more tangible, more permanent.’

So then followed we have CendreCendre was recorded between 2004 and 2006 in New York City by Ryuichi Sakamoto and in Vienna by Christian Fennesz. They came together for the mix in New York City in February of that year. Fennesz would send Sakamoto a guitar or electronic track and Sakamoto would compose his piano piece. This process was also reversed – Sakamoto initiating the track with a piano composition and Fennesz responding. Meanwhile they met for live shows, or communicated via digital means to compare notes, swap ideas and develop themes… And the cyclical process continued right up until the final mix.

Ryuichi Sakamoto and Christian Fennesz blend the unstructured and imaginative qualities of improvisation with the satisfying sculpture of composition. Sakamoto’s piano, his style reminiscent of Debussy and Satie, perfectly complements Fennesz with his powerful blend of shimmering guitar and passionate electronics.

Together they have combined to create 11 tracks of satisfying and challenging possibilities…

Track listing:

1. oto
2. aware
3. haru
4. trace
5. kuni
6. mono
7. kokoro
8. cendre
9. amorph
10. glow
11. abyss

TO:118 Travelogue – ‘Nepal’

CD – 3 tracks – 54:51

Release date: Friday 13th August 2021

Track listing:

1. PharLoKora 19:00
2. Anadu 10:43
3. Annapurna 10:33
4. Sagarmatha (Chomolungma) 14:35

Now available to pre-order on Bandcamp

Photography by CMvH
Design by Jon Wozencroft
Mastered by Denis Blackham

Travelogue [Nepal] is the first in a series of collected international audio diaries. The premise is quite simple: the two galavant the globe with field–, EVP – and phone recorders and other devices where they record the essence of everything from the tiniest microcosms of nature on up to the polluted, diesel–fuelled roars of postmodern globalisation. What surfaced are soundtracks that act as sonic documentaries of their travels.

In September 2019, CM von Hausswolff and Chandra Shukla met in Kathmandu, Nepal, over the course of 7 days. Recordings were made at the Bagh Bhairav Temple and Chilancho Stupa (Kirtipur), Durbar Square, Boudhanath Stupa, Swayambhunath Stupa and Shri Pashupatinath Temple (Kathmandu) and at The World Peace Pagoda, The Shiva Cave, Devi Falls and Phewa Tal Lake (Pokhara).

Reviews:

Blow Up (Italy):

Travelogue is the first publication of a series of audio diaries in which musicians record and rework the sounds collected in some places that are on the fringes of the interests of globalised postmodern capitalism but significant for their history and tradition. The first of these sent the Swede von Hausswolff and the American Shukla to Nepal. These are basically reworked and rethought field recordings. The result is a work halfway between Genesis P-Orridge (with whom the Californian-New Yorker tablas scholar CS had to a connection) and Eliane Radigue. Hypnotic and monolithic, the pieces are more orientated to find the same atmosphere in the places they pass through than to highlight the different shades, for what appears more a metaphysical diary than a colourful devotional pilgrimage, despite the sonic triumph of the Tibetan bell. Trans.)