Catalogue

TO:113 UnicaZürn – “Sensudestricto”

Release date: 26th April 2019

LP – 4 tracks – 39:08

Composed, recorded and produced by Stephen Thrower & David Knight
Mixed at Wolf Studios, Brixton, with Dominique Brethes
Cut by Jason @ Transition
Artwork & Photography: Jon Wozencroft

Track listing:

Side One [18:24]
1. For the Dark Planets
2. Into Burning Labyrinths (Fuse-Fire-Seed)

Side Two [20:44]
3. Stems of the Shadowmind
4. A Gulp of Moss, a Breath of Stone

Has there ever been a better time to fuck off to the stars? Is a prison breakout ‘escapism’? Crisis carve some wound-space to let the dreams back in. In nights we turn to fire, in flight we burst into stone, where are the exits in this theatre of the damned? Strict luggage allocations – guitar (D. Knight), saxophone (S. Thrower) – and all the electronics your thoughts can carry. Headspin echoes, round and around, tilt wind-sails at a dark horizon, cut a stutter through the distance barrier. In to be out through the structure of the eye, encrusted with rotor-slime, pushing on through border erosions as everything melts into smoke, burning objects may be closer than they appear. Nebulae dazzle the shadows, tunnel through memories and the pulp-mass of neurons, forwards heading backwards, end of tether snapped, slide into the earth like ancient worms and breathe.

UnicaZürn’s core instrumentation blends analogue synthesiser, mellotron and electric piano with electric guitar and saxophone. Knight is reknowned for his pioneering multi-textured fretwork with Danielle Dax and Shock-Headed Peters, and his ambient guitar settings for Lydia Lunch, while Thrower’s reed playing provided rage and melancholy in Coil and turns to electro-acoustic texture in Cyclobe.

Reviews:

Bleep (UK):

Sensudestricto is the latest full-length from UnicaZürn, a duo comprised of Stephen Thrower (Possession, Coil) and Dave Knight (Danielle Dax, Shock-Headed Peters). Together they make a delightfully ghoulish avant-racket, one that fuses drone, free music, industrial techniques and musique concrete. It’s a disorientating and heady brew, one that combines art music with a sort of fairground horror feeling. Sensudestricto brings to mind Einstürzende Neubauten doing battle with The Tiger Lillies.

Freq Magazine (UK):

What a gem of electro-acousticness David Knight and Stephen Thrower have created for their second UnicaZürn release on the Touch label.

The weeviling warmth of the orchestration on the first track is erased by a Steve Reichian slip, snipping signatures ripped through with corkscrewing curls, tapering manatees full of planetary perfume and starry savannahs. A layered weave which dances your head with discovery, the curious abstraction of the second track (“Into Burning Labyrinth”) roasted over an aviary of Islamic reeds. This insistent pulse stoking its centre as tethered circulars tendril off to a cacophony then tidal comedown.

The devil’s certainly in the detail as the visual vibrations of the inverted apple tree art linger to the album’s pencilled erosions, the bruised blush of harmonics leaking through the funnelling loopage of “Stems Of The Shadowmind”, nebulously needled in dilatory exhales. Beautiful vibes reminiscent of Transpandorem’s drifting contours lounging here in the slow and even recoils of the occasional bass chord, Thrower’s saxophone slipping sinuously into the creeping multiples and choral curves. These delectables are snatched away in an acidic outro of Temporal Bends-type mischief detaching the listener from complacency.

The mechanical rub texturing the infinite mirrored surface of “A Gulp of Moss, A Breath of Stone” is an oscillatory pleasure psychedelically shifting with dark seductive details that drag you within its transformative fibre. A helix skating accelerating as this ominous yarn cloisters, dirgeful, full of jewelled serpents slithering into the caw-caws of Avebury crows , an illusion generated by FX-blighted vocals that dissipate its eventual demise.

Now this is where Sensudestricto ends, but if you purchase your wax via the label, you are rewarded with an eight-minute download bonus, a chilled-out nugget called “Frozen Scars And Laudanum”, where the electrics nestle this gorgeous Henryk Górecki-esque slip’n’slide, as the bending verdigris of the Northern Lights are candled in its inky iridescence. [Michael Rodham-Heaps]

African Paper (Germany):

Das aus Stephen Thrower und David Knight bestehende und aus dem Improvisationskollektiv The Amal Gamal Ensemble hervorgegangene Duo veröffentlicht mit „Sensudistricto“ das inzwischen vierte Album. Es ist nach dem 2017 erschienenen „Transpandorem“ das zweite auf Touch (Jon Wozencraft hat dann auch wieder das Artwork gestaltet). Thrower und Knight kombinieren allerlei (analoge) Elektronik mit Gitarre und Blasinstrumenten, um eine Musik zu spielen, die in jederlei Wortsinn kosmisch ist.

Im Pressetext zum Album wird die Frage gestellt, ob es je eine bessere Zeit gegeben habe, diesen Planeten zu verlassen und sich zu den Sternen zu „verpissen“, und passenderwiese heißt das erste Stück „For The Dark Planets“. Dennoch klingt der Track von der Stimmung gar nicht so (ver)dunkel(t), wie es der Titel denken lassen mag. Man hört ein bearbeitetes Blasinstrument inmitten dronig-flächiger Passagen. Das Stück ist, wie auch der größte Teil des restlichen Albums, fortwährend in Bewegung und entwickelt eine ziemliche Dynamik. Auf „Into Burning Labyrinths (Fuse-Fire-Seed)“ hört man flirrende Sounds und Perkussion. Sucht man Vergleiche außerhalb des UnicaZürn-Kosmos könnte man vielleicht Coils „Tiny Golden Books“ als Referenzpunkt nennen. “Stems of The Shadowmind” ist für mich ein erster Höhepunkt: erneut nimmt man diese Dynamik, diese Bewegung innerhalb des Tracks wahr und dann setzt nach einer Weile Throwers Saxophonspiel ein. Vielleicht ist das Jazz für die Blade Runner-Bar. Auf „A Gulp Of Moss A Breath of Stone“ fluktuiert, oszilliert die Elektonik. Gegen Ende erklingen verfremdete, seltsame Stimmen. Der Bonustrack „Frozen Scars and Laudanum“ fällt etwas ruhiger aus als die anderen vier Tracks, die Bewegung wird zurückgenommen und das Stück hat durchaus Soundtrackqualitäten: in der Ferne flirrende Hochtöne, Pulsieren, ein Blasinstrument lässt sich erahnen.

Vor einiger Zeit sagte Thrower in einem Interview bezogen auf die Musik UnicaZürns: „We’re fond of long-form pieces, extended trips, and I see what we do as having strong psychedelic qualities, with underlying tension and a sense of the uncanny.” Das ist eine durchaus angemessene Beschreibung dessen, was man auf „Sensudistricto“ hören kann, denn „trip“ kann immer (auch) zweierlei meinen: Die (durch psychotrope Substanzen verursachte) Reinigung der „Pforten der Wahrnehmung“ (Huxley via Blake) und die daraus resultierenden Bewusstseinsverschiebungen (worauf der letzte Titel mit seinem Verweis auf flüssiges Opium hinweisen mag) und eine Reise im eigentlichen Sinne, die diese narrativen, ausufernden, psychedelischen Tracks durchaus evozieren können. [MG]

Artnoir (Germany):

Dass man trotz viel Elektronik immer noch so natürlich klingen kann, das ist nicht ein Wunder der Technik, sondern das Talent von zwei Künstlern, welche ihre Ideen vielseitig und ohne falsche Zurückhaltung in die Welt lassen. UnicaZürn, das Projekt von Stephen Thrower und David Knight existiert seit 2009 und bietet auch zehn Jahre später immer noch wundersame Kompositionen, welche eigentlich gar nicht erklärt werden möchten.

Bereits die ersten Minuten von “Sensudestricto” sind so wundersam anders und entrückt, dass sie eher wie ein Märchen als ein experimentelles Album funktionieren. Mit Gitarre und Saxophon grundlegend eingespielt, mit Gerätschaften jeglicher Art zu neuen Möglichkeiten erweitert – das ist nicht klar elektronische, aber schon lange nicht mehr akustische Musik. Electronica mit improvisierten Jams, umgebaut zu organischen Theorien, voller Ambient-Wirkungen ohne Lähmung. “Stems of the Shadowmind” holt sich die Kraft in den Wurzeln, wie die Früchte auf dem Cover.

Vieles an “Sensudestricto” ist wie ein Gewächs, elaboriert von UnicaZürn in der Art, die es auch Klaus Schulze und andere Legenden des krautigen Electrostammes geehrt haben. Hypnotisch wandelnd, umhertreibend und doch immer wieder in der Form überraschend. So ist “Into Burning Labyrinths (Fuse-Fire-Seed)” ein moduliertes Vergnügen, das auch ein Herr Jarre gerne verköstigen würde, das Album ein Wagnis, welches immerzu belohnt. Ein Fiebertraum fast, eine Reise zu den Sternen und ein Abschied von den Ängsten. [Michael Bohli]

NONPOP (Germany):

DAVID KNIGHT und STEVEN THROWER kommen ursprünglich aus der Improvisation und arbeiten bereits seit 2001 zusammen. Zu dieser Zeit traten sie noch als THE AMAL GAMAL ENSEMBLE auf, änderten dann jedoch Gangart und Namen. Seit 2009 nennen sie sich UNICAZÜRN. Kernbestandteil ihrer Musik ist jedoch bis heute das Freie der Improvisation.

Was Name und Beschäftigung miteinander verbindet, ist der vorgegebene Rahmen, innerhalb dessen weitgehend frei agiert werden kann. Die Improvisation passt da ausgezeichnet hinein. Sie kennt das Instrument, das – durch das Taktgefüge vorgegeben – die Führung nach einer gewissen Zeit und Taktanzahl an ein anderes abgibt. Ähnlich verhält es sich mit der Lyrik. Speziell mit der von UNICA ZÜRN. Sie hat nur eine gewisse Anzahl Buchstaben zu Verfügung, die äußerlich den Rahmen vorgeben, innerhalb dann allerdings frei vertauscht und so wieder zusammengesetzt werden können, dass ein neues Wort entsteht. Die Umstellung nennt sich ‘Permutation’. Den Vorgang des Umstellens nennt man ‘Anagrammieren’. Am Ende steht ein Anagramm, das zum Beispiel so aussieht:

Dieses Anagramm-Gedicht wurde 1960 von oben genannter UNICA ZÜRN geschrieben – der Dichterin und Zeichnerin, der Frau von HANS BELLMER, die 1970 Suizid beging. Also nicht von den hier zu besprechenden UNICAZÜRN, dem Musik-Projekt, das seinen Namen (möglicherweise aus rechtlichen Gründen) in einem Wort schreibt und sich musikalisch aus Analog-Synthies, einem Mellotron (die Urform des heutzutage als Sampler bekannten elektronischen Tasteninstruments, dem pro Taste eine Tonbandschleife zugeordnet ist…), einem elektrischen Piano, einer E-Gitarre und einem Saxofon zusammensetzt.

Hört man sich die Musik dieser UNICAZÜRN an, ist man einigermaßen erstaunt – klingt sie doch deutlich weniger nach dem, was man sich unter Improvisation so landläufig vorstellt. Gerade weil hier die Hauptinstrumente die Gitarre (KNIGHT) und das Saxofon (THROWER) sind, die Indizien also Richtung Jazzimprovisation weisen, klingt die Musik keineswegs nach Saxofon-Exzess, sondern eher nach Elektroakustik – wohl strukturiert und fließend. Und weil sie so fließt – der erste Höreindruck ist dementsprechend ambient – liegt die Vermutung nah, dass das Ganze komplett synthetisch produziert worden ist. Was allerdings eine Fehleinschätzung bleiben muss. Denn nach intensiverem Hinhören stellt man fest, dass da materiell vorhandene Musikinstrumente zum Einsatz kommen, denen eine besondere Spielweise und auch Klangfarben eigen sind, die zwar reproduzierbar wären, aber sicher nicht notwendigerweise genau so eingesetzt werden müssten, spielte man sie gleich original ein. Man bräuchte also keinesfalls den Umweg über das Sampling, hält man die Instrumente in seinen Händen. Doch ob das Resultat nun synthetisch oder analog daherkommt, wichtig ist, was stehenbleibt. Das sind auf “Sensudestricto” zwei Musiker, die bereits mit COIL oder LYDIA LUNCH spielten, deren eigene Musik nicht in allgemeine Genres passt, die trotz aller Zurückgenommenheit krachig und eher so strukturiert klingen, dass mehr von Tracks als von Stücken gesprochen werden muss.
Alle vier auf dem Album befindlichen Tracks setzen von ihrer Soundästhetik dann auch eher beim (klassischen) Industrial an, also als noch Gitarren und dergleichen alt eingespieltes Instrumentarium verwendet wurden. Deutlich hörbar auf dem ersten Stück “For the Dark Planets” (01). Aber auch so etwas wie Krautrock scheint durch. Etwa bei “Into Burning Labyrinths” (02). Dann auch noch Ambient, Elektroakustik…

Ein Album, das etwas Anlauf braucht, sich dann aber immer weiter entwickelt. Es ist organischen Ursprungs. Die Stücke darauf wurden per Hand aufgezogen. Man kann bei geschlossenen Augen zusehen wie es wächst.

Eulogy (Italy):

David Knight era già stato turnista di Danielle Dax, oltre ad aver inciso qualche disco di musica industriale a nome Arkkon, quando incontra Stephen Thrower, altrettanto scafato in ambiti industriali (Coil, Posession, Cyclobe). I due, entrambi multistrumentisti, portano avanti il discorso intravisto con le loro origini tramite lunghe composizioni ambientali a nome UnicaZürn.

Nel primo Temporal Bends (2009) figurano anzitutto i 25 minuti del brano eponimo, suite in quattro movimenti che attacca con un sospiro elettronico, un pigro ma cosmico adagio orchestrale (Ship of Shadows), e si sfalda in flebili droni sopra un battito di macchina aliena (Tunnel); i riverberi allucinati del sax introducono il momento più straziante, un pigolare di cucciolo alieno in mezzo a frastuoni cacofonici che ne riproducono la mestizia galattica (Timefrieze); alla fine il sax si ritrova a ululare il suo ultimo enigmatico canto dissonante in un antro immane (Black Glass Mask). Six Fabulous Mutilations (15 minuti) nella prima metà è un delirio di elettronica progressiva degno dei Tangerine Dream, poi rimane sperso in un limbo di battiti techno-tribali, contrappunti altisonanti e fiondate di echi. Il disco è difettato da qualche riempitivo, che peraltro trova un seguito in un mini di brevi scarti, Temporal Lapse (2009).

Il loro capolavoro, Propeller Guru, 42 minuti in due parti raccolte nell’EP Propeller Guru (2010), propende per un suono più calmo e riflessivo, un lungo sfocato requiem al cosmo fatto di effluvi in controluce, scie di fotoni al rallentatore, smembramenti di corpi celesti ritradotti in lacrime, sfarfallii di cristalli stellari come versi poetici. Una sublime sospensione catalettica. Nella seconda parte le fonti sonore attingono alla vocalità umana (risate e risatine, voci e strilli), deformandola e distorcendola fino all’acuto cacofonico, fatta danzare a ritmo di presse, e infine fatta tornare al suo stadio originale.

 

Dark Earth Distillery (2013) registrato dal vivo e poi rimontato, ritorna alla narrazione articolata di Temporal Bends. In particolare Hard Dawn of the Atomic Ghost (18 minuti) si crogiola in effetti sonori tra valanga e fibrillazione elettromagnetica, trasportandosi poi in una dimensione di vagiti marziani, attorniandosi di un clima sempre più irreale e fatato (note fluttuanti di sax ne accentuano l’atmosfera). La prassi sembra più amatoriale e superficiale, ma il finale si riappropria nuovamente della loro arte di escavazione cosmica (richiama in parte la chiusa di Little Red Riding Hood Hit the Road di Wyatt). La medesima contraddizione innerva Infernal Kernel (20 minuti), indeciso tra Vangelis e Ligeti, tra fumetto e pathos, esaltazione e devastazione.

Omegapavillion (2016) contiene Extract of Eternal Conumbra, ben 32 minuti solidamente piantati in territori (cioè in spazi siderali) Klaus Schulze-iani, e Heliomantra, 21 minuti, ancor più improntata al timbro delle tastiere elettroniche, qui con i tratti di un organo di cattedrale.

Breath the Snake e Pale Salt Seam, raccolti su Transpandorem (2017) riconnettono il duo al proprio peculiare incrocio genetico tra post-industriale e post-cosmico. Il primo, 18 minuti, all’inizio suona come un coacervo di fibrillazioni in perpetua espansione, da cui traspira un clima ecclesiale solenne e sinistro; da qui comincia la disintegrazione in sciami e nebulose, come pure rintocchi riverberati e un rumore di macchinari e sirene nucleari, una ipnosi subliminale ad alta tensione; infine, dopo un numero danzante di batacchi, quasi tribale, tutto si dissolve in un nulla panico. Il secondo, 20 minuti, è ancor più irreale e ancor meno categorizzabile: droni glaciali e spettrali si susseguono a impulsi secondo una segreta legge di armonia musicale, per poi assumere una qualità lirica d’inno frastagliato post-psichedelico, tra picchi e crepacci. La dimensione fatata infine dilaga annullando del tutto quel poco che rimaneva di ritmico.

Sensudestricto (2019) contiene poemi più brevi, relativamente più semplici e talvolta anche ammiccanti alle mode del revival sci-fi. Emerge con più coraggio il ritmo, un elemento che nei lavori passati non era che un ingrediente, tra i tanti, da rimettere in discussione. In Stems of the Shadowmind, finora il loro poema più breve, vi figura quello più originale, un battito fatto di spasmi afoni, sospiri di fantasmi e un canto di sassofono. A Gulp of Moss A Breath of Stone è invece una sorta di samba androide liquefatta e sfaldata da languori e sibili. Purtroppo vi sono anche declinazioni più lineari se non triviali, come per Into Burning Labyrinths, anche se l’inizio cita ottimamente il Saucerful of Secrets dei Pink Floyd, e nonostante la temperatura dell’intrico sonico venga mantenuta incandescente. Lo stesso avviene in For The Dark Planets, un tango vitreo di dubbio successo che però ha il merito di agitare un tramestio Terry Riley-iano di radiazioni con sax diffratto, una versione romantica delle loro apocalissi. Nonostante una maggiore riconoscibilità, la loro musica continua a essere creazione maestosa.

Blow Up (Italy):

Electronic Sound Mag (UK):

Tone 67 Zachary Paul – “A Meditation on Discord”

Release date: 12th April 2019

CD – 3 tracks – 54:20

All tracks written by Zachary Paul (violin & electronics)
Photography & design by Jon Wozencroft
Mastered by Simon Scott @ SPS Mastering

Track listing:

1. Premonition (3:30PM Lake Perris) [31:50]
i Rays ii Clouds
2. Slow Ascent (9:30PM Downtown) [12:06]
3. A Person with Feelings (Original score) [10:24]

You can listen to an extract here and order on bandcamp here

Premonition was recorded live at Desert Daze, Oct 12th 2018. With thanks to Cris Cichocki.
Slow Ascent was recorded by Mike Harding at Touch presents… Live at Human Resources, Feb 23rd 2018. Remastered by Simon Scott.
A Person with Feelings; a short film by Tanner Smith.

Zachary Paul (b. 1995) is a Los Angeles-based violinist and composer interested in perception, the transportive nature of long durations, and trance states… read more

Reviews:

Bandcamp ‘New & Notable’:

Emotion and intuition guide this experimental violinist as he creates beautiful textural sound-worlds from his instrument and pedals.

The Quietus (UK):

“For Touch, Zachary Paul proves one human being alone on stage with a violin can still conjure up a whole world” by Robert Barry:

In 1968, Bruce Nauman tuned his violin to D-E-A-D. Fifty years later, and somewhat less portentously, Zachary Paul, appearing on stage at last year’s Desert Daze Festival in California, tuned his to G-D-G-D. The results are hardly less minimal and hypnotic but certainly more sensitively played.

The Californian composer-improviser’s first solo album under his own name, for Touch, starts by erecting a dense fog of swirling harmonics, building up long loops of heady drones in uncertain, shifting layers. It’s just one man on a stage, a single violin and some electronics, but it conjures up a whole world in short order.

Fans of Tony Conrad’s Early Minimalism project and the Theatre of Eternal Music will recognise Paul’s penchant for long tones and the swell of tightly packed resonant frequencies. This is music to swim in and to feel oneself swum through by. That first track, ‘Premonition’, improvised live at Desert Daze, lasts a cool half hour and probably contains less information , in the strict Claude Shannon sense of the term, than most three minute pop songs. That’s hardly the point, of course. ‘Premonition’ could last three minutes or it could last three days or three weeks. It is not the journey but the landscape.

Something in the timbre of the second track ‘Slow Ascent’ feels almost old time-y to these ears. Speed it up a few hundred percent and it could almost be bluegrass. As it is, it would sit comfortably flitting amongst dappled light in one of the dreamier sequences in Andrew Dominik’s (2007) film, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. Final track, ‘A Person with Feelings’ actually is a film soundtrack, though not to anything so mainstream as a Brad Pitt movie. Paul himself describes it as a “modern trance” film and it’s here that the electronics take precedence over the violin, resulting in something a little gloopy for my taste. He’s generally a lot more inclined towards time-based effects like reverb and delay than his east coast forebears from the 50s and 60s, tending to smooth off his own rough edges and mellow his own twists and turns. This may disappoint the minimalist purists, but it certainly makes for a sweeter listening experience.

A Closer Listen (USA):

For his debut, Zachary Paul joins a relatively long history of radical dronesters and minimalists that aim not for you to experience music differently but to alter your very perception of reality. The first two tracks are tied to a place and time (“3:30 PM Lake Perris”, for the first, and “9:30 PM Downtown”, for the second) while the third one consists of a soundtrack to a short film about an actor’s inner life: sound is a bridge extending outwards from our skin and into the world. It is, of course, not a bridge made of concrete and steel, but one that has an emotional foundation, the kind of bricks and stones that lead more than a few to see sound and hear color, a mutability that shifts with every passing second.

Both “Premonition” and “Slow Ascent” are improvised, and each depicts an emotional soundscape of a story told in vast violin harmonies. The earlier reflects a warm and bright afternoon at the back of which loomed a deafening storm, Paul’s playing an entrancing daydream able to map every moment, from the quietude of sunrays to the dissonance of the clouds that would distort them. As the storm approaches, “Premonition” grows in intensity, its tones sweeping upward, a translation in which nothing is lost – the sky rumbles, announcing the fiery paths of lightning that will roar from the ground to strike above. The meditation lays down the bridge, a communion with nature in which the mind extends into the body as it also grasps everything around it in every sweep of the violin’s bow. The rain materializes in acute, indistinguishable drones upon which fast, short, indefinite sounds ring, eventually giving way to an uncertain mass both distant and immediate. Discord flows throughout the world, but instead of ending it, discord illuminates it.

As “Slow Ascent” begins, that extension into the world snaps back towards another kind of meditation, one that traces a path within. Performed as an “inverted guided group meditation” (which I suppose means that instead of one leading the many, the many lead the one in the journey), the drones are much warmer and longer, expressing no translation of fragmented exterior phenomena but one of unity, of a peaceful inner state that is constantly in movement, constantly harmonizing every contradiction, every instinct, every rational process. The performer himself becomes a communicating vessel, allowing the objective nature of sound frequencies become the primary site of an expression beyond words and chants; the communion here is between an audience and an instrument of their own shaping. Discord seems like an event, but it instead becomes the process without which there would be no harmony at the end.

The last track, “A Person With Feelings”, points the way towards another kind of meditation: as we identify with or reject a character on-screen, we step further outside or inside ourselves, and our inner lives grow paradoxical. The drones here are less oriented by the idea of a soundscape and instead attempt to clearly push emotions and images away/into the listener, ending with a dissonant screech that will leave no one unscathed. Discord here is an event, one so punishing it will either attract or repel, leaving nothing in between.

Paul’s debut is a powerful piece of drone, worthy of those who have seen music as a field of experience. It will hopefully change and challenge your perception, but only if you listen to it at full volume, allowing you to see it completely. (David Murrieta Flores)

Chain D.L.K. (USA):

Three solo works by Zachary Paul, performing violin with electronics, are gathered here for a fairly intensive and immersive bit of solitary performance in which lengthy violin notes and sparse moments of more impulsive playing are layered up, reverberated and droned until the single instrument source has transformed into a full environment you can bathe in.

First piece “Premonition” is an exemplary half-hour exercise in slow build and transformation, as the tension and texture grows and grows, almost imperceptibly slowly, resulting in an impressive self-contained journey where a relatively narrow range of sounds can hold your interest for far longer than ought to be possible.

Second piece “Slow Ascent” is almost inappropriately named then, as it’s got a similar sonic outlay to the first piece, but dynamically it’s more of a plateau, not featureless but devoid of any major changes.

Third piece “A Person With Feelings” was created as the score for a short abstract film that hasn’t been released yet, and reflects an emotional journey that perhaps may make more sense with its associated picture; on its own, it feels more like a compressed version of the opening piece, but reaching a destination that’s more tense and discordant in the end.

Since Ed Alleyne-Johnson’s experiments with electric violin processing in the early 90’s (before he side-stepped into weak crowd-pleasing cover versions), the idea of drawing grittier tones and electronic source elements out of a violin has seemed powerful to me, and these pieces explore the idea well. They may be steeped in anxiety but the result is a rewarding listen, and the fact it doesn’t overstay its welcome is an impressive feat. [Stuart Bruce]

Brainwashed (USA):

I almost slept on this unexpectedly incendiary delight, as it deceptively seemed like just another solid drone album based on my initial and brief exposure to it.  Then I noticed that Anna von Hausswolff had described it as “This is just…. wow.”  Given that she does not seem at all like the sort to be floored easily, I revisited A Meditation of Discord for a proper listen.  I found myself sharing her sentiment by the end of the opening “Premonition,” as Paul and his violin unleash a slow-burning and breathtaking one-man apocalypse in real time.  To some degree, it is undeniably Paul’s masterful live loop manipulation that makes that piece such a beguiling and impressive feat, but even if he had a full band and a limitless studio budget at his disposal, its fiery crescendo could not be any more harrowing and visceral.  While he regrettably tones down his more volcanic impulses for the album’s second half, the squirming and psychotically dissonant final moments of the closer beautifully reignite the album’s transcendently disturbing brilliance.

There are three different pieces on this album, recorded at three different times and in three different places.   Two of the three pieces were improvised live performances and one is a film score, which I suppose makes Paul’s Touch debut more of a collection of orphaned pieces than a proper album.  The unifying theme seems to be that all of these pieces diverge significantly from the aesthetic terrain of Paul’s Poppy Nogood project (which also explains why he chose to use his own name for this release).  That said, it would be more accurate to view A Meditation on Discord solely as a document of Paul’s incandescent and darkly rapturous performance at the 2018 Desert Days festival with a couple of solid bonus tracks thrown in to flesh it out a bit.

Armed with just an open-tuned violin (G-D-G-D) and a small battery of effects pedals, Paul slowly and seamlessly constructed a complexly layered and endlessly transforming 30-minute tour de force in “Premonition.”  Naturally, the piece’s hellishly explosive crescendo inspires the most awe, yet the greater achievement lies in how elegantly and fluidly Paul is able to make the slow journey from the lushly undulating drones of the opening to its ultimate destination (which resembles a deafening and bloodthirsty plague of demonic locusts).  Every single one of the movements in “Premonition” could easily have been expanded into an excellent piece of its own, as even the gentlest, simplest drone passages are enlivened with unusually buzzing textures, vibrant harmonies, and an enveloping warmth.  It only gets better from there, as that shimmering landscape blossoms into a vivid fantasia of fluttering, shivering strings and swelling chords.  It is a sublimely gorgeous piece until it isn’t: almost imperceptibly, Paul starts curdling everything until it becomes an infernal, and gnarled grotesquerie of itself.  By the end, the piece has seamlessly become a complexly layered masterpiece of pure screeching, squirming, and sickly cacophony, and it is absolutely glorious.

I feel truly sorry for the hapless act that had to take the stage after Paul, but a worthy successor eventually materialized in the form of an intense lightning storm that stopped the show later that night.  Amusingly, even Zachary Paul himself has a tough time following the bracing intensity of that performance, as “Premonition” is followed here by the gently languorous drones of “Slow Ascent.”  Unlike its predecessor, “Slow Ascent” does not sneakily evolve into anything deeper, as Paul contents himself with lingering in a dreamlike state of suspended animation.  Given the context, however, that makes a lot of sense, as it was improvised as part of a guided meditation event in Los Angeles.  Even at his most pastoral though, Paul finds a way to make his work feel fresh and distinctive, as unexpectedly sharp harmonics squeal and twinkle amidst the heavenly soft-focus languor.  The album’s final piece, “A Person With Feelings,” is quite a bit different from the others, however, as it was composed for a currently unreleased short film.  Initially, its departures from more conventional film score fare are quite subtle (mostly strange, passing dissonances), but the bottom drops out around the halfway point, and the piece becomes a sci-fi nightmare of throbbing machinery, crackling electronics, and sickly, hallucinatory jabbers and squiggles (all conjured from a violin, no doubt).  That mindfuckery proves to be just the prelude to the main course though, as it gives way to a truly demented crescendo of nightmarishly skittering and gibbering lunacy that would not be out of place on one of Rashad Becker’s Notional Species albums.

After hearing Discord, I went back to investigate some of Paul’s work as Poppy Nogood and was somewhat surprised to find little hint of the darkness and intensity that was to come.  That project lies at the curious intersection where warmly pastoral drone, subtly experimental neo-classical music a la Sean McCann, and melancholy film score overlap.  Occasionally there is some bite, but the impact is blunted quite a bit by the more composed and produced aesthetic.  It is likable in its own way at times, yet it is nowhere near as memorable as the work captured here. “Premonition” is a fearless, raw, and completely undiluted work where Paul’s vision is directly executed with wild-eyed intensity.  It is not entirely raw, as the recording is clean and crowd-noise free, but none of the rough edges have been sanded away by production, and there is no homogenizing, fleshed-out arrangement to diffuse its focus.  It is a simple, direct, and dazzling high-wire act that Paul pulls off with astonishing virtuosity and power.  I am curious to see if Paul ever revisits this vein again or if this release captures the one perfect and glorious night in which he was unquestionably the Niccolò Paginini of loop architecture.  The former would certainly be wonderful, but A Meditation of Discord captures one hell of a memorable performance either way.

Boomkat (UK):

Stunning debut by L.A.-based violinist Zachary Paul, of Touch’s mentorship scheme, yielding an elemental, time-bending suite of studies exploring the paradox of stasis/movement, and working in a rich vein of minimalism that reaches back thru Pauline Oliveros, Tony Conrad, and La Monte Young

In three durational parts ‘A Meditation On Discord’ introduces a promising and timeless new musical voice, showcasing an expressive range and style porous to nature and the elements. The opening, 30 minute live recording ‘Premonition’ starts anxiously jagged but beautifully warms up as he channels the sun beating down on the Desert Daze festival stage, opening out into the kind of curdled tunings that make our heads fizz, and which we imagine must have sounded incredible in open space. Another live piece ‘Slow Ascent’ follows, glacially coning from wide, lo lying into a peak of looped voice and strings, before the album’s single studio recording ‘A Person With Feelings’ plays to his full range, segueing from luxuriant to atonal with discernibly electronic designs cut to purpose as the soundtrack to a short film by Tamer Smith. Trust we’ll hear more from this bright star in future.

FBIRadio,Sydney (Australia):

Contemporary violinist Zachary Paul appeared on Simon Scott’s recent album for Touch, and now releases his solo album (after a number on other labels as Poppy Nogood (Terry Riley tribute!)). There are two works for violin & electronics performed live, but this is a soundtrack to an experimental film. I love how the violin slowly emerges from the synthesized sounds – it’s impressive stuff.

Toneshift (USA):
Los Angeles-based violinist Zachary Paul is a modern addition to the line of minimalist composers such as Tony Conrad and Pauline Oliveros, whose work encapsulates the transcendent nature of sustained tones. His new album on the Touch label contains two live recordings and one original film score. The pair of live pieces here capture the artist’s expressive range perfectly, showcasing how just a single instrument put through a chain of effects can create something otherworldly and sublime. The first of the live sets is entitled “Premonition” and was recorded at the Desert Daze festival in the middle of a warm afternoon. Paul’s improvised, exploratory approach to his violin coaxes an ever-so dramatic drone, upon layers of which more tones are added and subtracted into a slow-shimmering heat haze of music. Resonant frequencies paint a picture of how that afternoon must have been like, sending the audience, and now the home listener, into a hypnotic reverie.

“Slow Ascent”, the second live recording, was captured at a Touch event in LA. The sound this time is less resonant than the preceding piece, warmer and lower in tone. Slow ebbing loops reverberate before other more discordant tones appear. So far, this is the first real evidence of discordance to my ears, as per the album title’s suggestion. But perhaps Paul’s gift is his weaving of these microscopic discordances so delicately into his improvisations. The long durations of his sustained drones are mind-altering, playing tricks on the listener’s sense of time and perception. On both of the live pieces, Paul seems to be instinctively reacting to his immediate surroundings, creating improvised sounds in response to the moment. There’s an emotional honesty here that is integral to his playing.

The final track is a composed piece, made for a short film. “A Person with Feelings” differs from the live recordings immediately as there is a sense of calm, like deep breathing before meditation. Smooth edges and vapour trail-long bows create a lush soundscape with only the slightest of discordant tones in the mix. This is until the mid-way mark, at which point everything collapses and breaks apart into jagged shards, and the effects processing really barges to the fore. Apparently the film that the music was composed for is an abstract piece that follows an actor’s internal journey, in which case I feel sorry for the character as this part of the track signals some serious psychosis!

This album clearly shows Zachary Paul as an important new member of the Touch roster. He’s an improviser whose sensitivity to both his chosen instrument and his immediate surroundings combine to deliver music that is transportive and transcendent. [Darren McClure]

textura (Canada):

A Meditation on Discord isn’t the first recording Zachary Paul’s released—the LA-based violinist has issued three albums under the Poppy Nogood alias and appeared on releases by Simon Scott, Sean McCann, and others—though it is his first on Touch. It’s also powerful, the incredible opening piece in particular, and very much a solo recording, its three single-movement settings birthed by Paul alone using violin and electronics. His bio identifies interests in long durations, trance states, and the tension between stasis and movement, all of which are borne out by the fifty-five-minute release (a 500-CD edition). That bio also draws a connecting line from Paul’s explorations to those of Tony Conrad, Pauline Oliveros, and La Monte Young, and again the connection’s very much supported by the material.

The opening two pieces are live, fully improvised recordings performed on his 1878 violin and augmented by pedals (Earthquaker Afterneath, Diamond Memory Lane Jr, Boss RC-30) and looped vocals. It’s the thirty-two-minute Premonition, recorded on Oct 12th, 2018 on the first day of the Desert Daze music festival, that is clearly the recording’s central work. Having tuned his violin in open G (G-D-G-D), Paul began, his improvisation reflecting the vibrations of the sun as he absorbed the scene around him. By his own reckoning, the moment he locked into these higher frequencies, “the instrument took control and painted the evening.” Though two parts are identified (“Rays” and “Clouds”), Premonition unfolds without pause as an immense, sprawling colossus. With layers multiplied into a towering mass, a mesmerizing swarm is generated whereby bowed strings of dramatically contrasting pitches swirl, shudder, and wail. The impact of the material when listened to at peak volume is stunning, as well as a little bit disorienting—the kind of staggering creation that can leave a performer wondering if such a moment can ever be duplicated. There are moments here where the mass ascends with such ferocity, it feels like your head’s about to be torn off, and those who witnessed the performance at the festival must have been in a state of total stupefaction by the time it reached its cataclysmic conclusion. Imagine layering Bernard Herrmann’s soundtrack to The Birds a hundred times over and you’ll have some hint as to its colossal sound.

The other pieces can’t help but be overshadowed by the opener, but they’re still very much worth hearing. Recorded eight months earlier at Human Resources in LA for an event celebrating the release of Yann Novak’s second album, Slow Ascent (9:30PM Downtown) found Paul playing before his biggest audience to date. Though he was by his own admission nervous (the anxiety manifesting itself as physical tremors in his arm that are heard in the jagged bow stroke at the start of the piece), he turned that to his advantage by feeding off the audience’s energy, and the comfort level he gradually achieved is discernible in the patience and control administered during the twelve-minute performance. Even softer (at least initially) is the final piece, A Person with Feelings, which isn’t a live performance but instead a score Paul created for a short abstract film by Tanner Smith to be released in 2019. Pitched at a hush, the material wends its melancholy way for five minutes, Paul again showing himself to be an expert at sustaining flow and weaving texture, until a turn into quasi-industrial noise explorations is undertaken for its nightmarish second half. Largely meditative by design, these closing pieces are less intense than Premonition, though not objectionably so. It’s unquestionably the magnificent latter work, however, that is the recording’s major achievement. [Ron Schepper]

Rockerilla (Italy):

Sonic Seducer (Germany):

Against the Silence (Greece):

Η τοποθέτηση μιας μισάωρης σύνθεσης στην αρχή ενός ντεμπούτου σίγουρα είναι μια τολμηρή κίνηση, αλλά ο βιολιστής Zachary Paul τα καταφέρνει περίφημα στο να δώσει από την αρχή ένα στίγμα, χωρίς να χαντακώσει την όλη δουλειά του. Είναι σαν να τον οδηγεί ένα αόρατο χέρι με την βοήθεια του οποίου η δύναμη συναντά την τρυφερότητα της, ο χρόνος την σχετικότητα του και η μελωδία την αποδόμηση της σε κάτι άλλο, θα λέγαμε, ουράνιο! Όντως, υπάρχει μια αίσθηση παραφωνίας ολούθε, όπως δηλώνει και ο τίτλος του άλμπουμ, μόνο που αυτή ηχεί περίφημα, όχι λόγω της βιρτουοζιτέ του, αλλά ως απαύγασμα της καλλιτεχνικής σφραγίδας του. Έχοντας μάλιστα, ως κλείσιμο ένα μαγευτικό άσμα, όπως το “A Person With Feelings”, μπορούμε να μιλάμε για υψηλή τέχνη ακόμη κι αν είναι ο δημιουργός της στην αρχή μιας πολλά υποσχόμενης πορείας. [Μπάμπης Κολτράνης]

Nitestylez (Germany):

Released only recently via the 1982-founded Touch label is Zachary Paul’s latest album “A Meditation On Discord” which provides two live recorded compositions and an original score for a short film, stretched out over a combined playtime of approx. 54 minutes. Starting with the albums main piece, the 32 minutes “Premonition (3.30PM Lake Perris) I Rays II Clouds” we see Zachary Paul dive deep into the sonic realm of altered, reprocessed violin play sporting a droning, off-kilter yet still Ambient-related dissonant sharpness evolving into a minor crescendo of little buzzing, squealing spirits towards the end of the composition. The follow up “Slow Ascent (9:30PM Downtown)” brings forth a more melancholic approach towards an Ambient / (Neo)Classical fusion albeit still sticking to the slightly distorted, off-kilter tuning instead whereas the concluding original score “A Person With Feelings” turns out to be a contemplative arrangement of intertwined synths pads with a Cosmic perspective, paying homage to genre greats like Klaus Schulze or Tangerine Dream before giving way to a more experimental, unsettling and seemingly improvised second half of the composition. Defo a specialists release, this.

Blow Up (Italy):

TO:115 Fennesz – “Agora”

Release date: 29th March 2019

CD – 4 tracks – 47:04

Recorded at Kaiserstudios, Vienna, August, September 2018
Rainfall: Vocals Katharina Caecilia Fennesz
Agora: Field recordings Manfred Neuwirth, vocals Mira Waldmann
Mastered by Denis Blackham @ Skye
Photography & design by Jon Wozencroft

Track listing:

1. In My Room (12:28)
2. Rainfall (11:58)
3. Agora (12:09)
4. We Trigger the Sun (10:29)

You can hear a medley of the 4 tracks, which constitute a symphony*, here

* a work usually consisting of multiple distinct sections or movements, often four.

And you can read an interview in cycling 74 here

Agora is Christian Fennesz’s first solo album since ‘Mahler Remixed’ [Touch, 2014] and ‘Bécs’ [Editions Mego, 2014]. Fennesz writes: “Its a simple story. i had temporarily lost a proper studio workspace and had to move all my gear back to a small bedroom in my flat where I recorded this album. It was all done on headphones, which was rather a frustrating situation at first but later on it felt like back in the day when I produced my first records in the 1990s. In the end it was inspiring. I used very minimal equipment; I didn’t even have the courage to plug in all the gear and instruments which were at my disposal. I just used what was to hand.”

Fennesz uses guitar and computer to create shimmering, swirling electronic sound of enormous range and complex musicality. “Imagine the electric guitar severed from cliché and all of its physical limitations, shaping a bold new musical language.” – (City Newspaper, USA). His lush and luminant compositions are anything but sterile computer experiments. They resemble sensitive, telescopic recordings of rainforest insect life or natural atmospheric occurrences, an inherent naturalism permeating each piece. He lives and works in Vienna.

Reviews:

Dusted (USA):

Austrian experimental guitarist Christian Fennesz returns with a new album Agora. Four long tracks recorded in “straightened circumstances” after Fennesz lost access to proper studio space and was forced to record in his bedroom on headphones with limited equipment. Guitar, voice, field recordings and a computer. These tracks sound like living things, breathing and swelling like an enormous dreaming cat. They tap into the alpha waves and circadian rhythms of life.

Gorgeous, meditative drones build and deepen. Surface ambiance atop propulsive rhythm, all bottom end, giving time and space to for listeners to immerse themselves in an amniotic warmth. Human elements of voice, of fingers squeaking over strings and fret board emerge from the depths. Computers are tools used here to express intelligence and emotion. Like all artists Fennesz shows rather than tells. Everything is there to feel if one allows the music to envelope.

“In My Room” builds slowly with restrained squalls over a deep heartbeat. Over 12 minutes, Fennesz layers treated guitar atop throbbing sub bass. As usual he takes his time and is not afraid of long, heavy notes. Yet this is never claustrophobic even as the walls seem to close in. The sense of space is palpable although there are no cracks through which to reach the outside world. Everything vital is in the room, protective, embracing.

“Rainfall” is likewise heavy, multi layered and detailed. Techno propulsion and rumbling bass tones, wordless vocals by Katharina Caecilia Fennesz, the guitarist’s touch across the strings. A subtle wave of static and ecstatic washes of sound with moments of quiet to contemplate the oncoming tempest that hits hard, urgent but not dread(ful).

“Agora” with field recordings courtesy of Manfred Neuwirth and vocals by Mira Waldman is a much straighter ambient piece. The energy levels drop here but there is space for quiet reflection after the storms of the album’s first half.

“We Trigger The Sun” opens like a chamber orchestra in Atlantis with submarine beeps, heavily treated strums, more sub bass. Underpinning this is an almost sacred melody that is subsumed by the weight and power of a glitch laden bass drum and crushing layers of guitars and synth crescendo.

Fennesz has produced a maximalist experience with apparently minimal equipment but this is not about the machines rather the human producing the sounds. Agora is another deep exploration of the boundaries of experimental guitar ambience in which to lose oneself. Grab your headphones, plug in and turn this up loud. [Andrew Forell]

The Wire (UK):

NPR (USA):

Even if you’ve never heard the name of Austrian electronic-music pioneer Christian Fennesz, you’ve likely heard the effect of the work he’s been releasing for two decades under his striking surname. An early advocate for using a laptop to splice, sample and otherwise subvert the sound of his guitar and field recordings — in the process forming crackling electric symphonies — Fennesz has long explored the shapes and colors taken on by clouds of static. On 2008’s Black Sea, shards of noise culminated in a crescendo as sun-streaked as the most radiant orchestral fanfare; on his early landmark, 2001’s Endless Summer, ravaged guitar chords funneled the chimes of a miniature gamelan ensemble into a chorus that felt like a surrealist hit.

Fennesz, Agora
Despite its core of accessible allure, though, Fennesz’s music remains somewhat esoteric, stuck between stations of electronic bombast and pop approachability. But his animating ideas — of sounds beautifully dissolving into the ether, like soft metals dropped into a vat of strong acid, only to resurface against all odds — have trickled toward the mainstream as if through a years-long game of telephone. That’s a trace of Fennesz you hear in the delicate architecture of Bon Iver’s 22, A Million, in the work of other Kanye West collaborators and acolytes, and even on Ariana Grande’s thank u, next. The work of experimental artists drifting toward the charts is not a phenomenon limited to Fennesz, of course. But his case remains peculiar because he’s the inarguable master of this strategy — that is, of damaging a signal not only until it’s destroyed, but until it sparkles anew.

On Agora, Fennesz’s first album in four years — and perhaps his best and most resonant since Endless Summer — he again finds harmony in hellish tones and exudes warmth by rubbing together cold sounds like kindling in a frigid clime. At a glance, Agora may seem slight, with only four tracks that each break the 10-minute mark. If not necessarily longer, his prior records sport at least twice the cuts, meaning there’s more sense of motion and transition during a similar span. But Agora is uncommonly generous, as each extended piece establishes and steadily works through its own sophisticated mood. Listening suggests shuffling from screen to screen in some aging arthouse, with a different compelling short film playing in every room. Each feeling is deep, each scene rich; by Agora’s end, when the jeweled synthesizers of “We Trigger the Sun” finally vanish at the horizon, it seems as if listeners have accompanied Fennesz on a particularly emotional odyssey.

These pieces are as open to interpretation as the underlying instruments that shape them. There’s the constantly cycling rhythm of “In My Room,” which spins with the weight of a canyon-sized washing machine. Thin, threatening fins of irradiated synths slice through the beat, countered by organ chords as gentle as deep breaths. A flash flood of sculpted noise eventually washes over everything, but its tone is somehow comforting, as if offering assurances of rebirth even as it obliterates. These 12 minutes feel like taking the time to watch a beautiful sunrise during a family emergency — or, just as easily, dreading the end of some blissful moment while it’s still happening. And, with its slowly unfurling drone and wind-like whispers of distortion, does the title track score a haunted nightmare or a perfect dream?

After briefly losing his studio, Fennesz recorded Agora in a bedroom in his apartment, jettisoning all the lavish equipment at his disposal for a simple setup of headphones and computer. You can trace that interior quality here; the sense that Fennesz is working through feelings and ideas in a fevered, extended monologue. “We Trigger the Sun” frames a real-time document of that process, with gently arcing guitar chords and intensely curdled electronics that push and pull against one another above the languid heartbeat of a tom-tom. Every time the track inches toward resolution, Fennesz plunges again into another strata of doubt, the sounds locked in perpetual conflict. It’s a very 2019 sort of unease — timely in its deliberation between wrong and right, fact and fiction, comfort and despair.

Given how Fennesz’s aesthetic has infiltrated more popular circles, it’s easy to imagine him clamoring for big-name collaborations, aiming to apply his touch to records by the famous people he’s influenced. But he seems content to respond to the world from a safe distance and in due time. He stakes out his continued relevance not through features, but by wordlessly articulating our collective tension and uncertainty. True to its name, the private conversations of Agora are his public reckonings.[Grayson Haver Currin]

El Periodico (Spain):

An interview with Fennesz here

Sherwood (Italy):

Ho usato quanto avevo sottomano, a disposizione. Non sembra plausibile leggere queste righe mentre si ascolta il nuovo atteso album del sound artist viennese, tanto maestosa e immensa è l’esperienza d’ascolto che dona. Un ritorno a casa dopo cinque anni di silenzio e la riscoperta del piccolo mondo interiore che improvvisamente può trasformarsi nel più sconfinato dei luoghi, bastano un paio di cuffie e un minimo equipaggiamento tecnico. Esiste come una leggera brina rumorosa che ricopre tutte le tracce di questo lavoro, si sposta di brano in brano e va a ricoprire con il suo brusio tutta la potenza sonora che continuamente si sprigiona dalle macchine e dalla chitarra di un Fennesz trasformatosi nel giovane Christian alle prese con i suoi sogni sonici. Agorà è un album di distanze e tempo trascorso per coprirle, costruzioni e perdite che obbligano a riprendere nuovamente da quel poco salvato, del nucleo principale di un sogno che non può esaurirsi, neanche in assenza del controllo digitale costruito per tradurlo in romantico racconto sonoro. [Mirco Salvadori]

Drowned in Sound (UK):

Christian Fennesz is a hero to fans of minimal electronic music. Since 1997 he has crafted and created soundscapes that feel euphoric and melancholy at the same time. And it’s hard to know where to start in order to explain him. The same is true of this new album Agora. At times it is ethereally forlorn and at others defiantly joyful delivering some of the most uplifting pieces of music this year. But to understand the album, you have to understand how it was created.

Shortly before Agora was recorded, Fennesz lost his studio and had to move all his equipment back to a small bedroom in his flat. This meant recording on headphones, rather than letting the music roll and cascade around him. At first he found it frustrating, but as the sessions continued he started to get reminded how he used to record in the Nineties. ‘I used very minimal equipment; I didn’t even have the courage to plug in all the gear and instruments which were at my disposal,’ Fennesz said. ‘I just used what was to hand.’ This recording process works incredibly well as Agora feels like a distant cousin to his early recordings, but still exudes the skills and balance of his later work.

Fennesz is a master at his trade and like Gian Lorenzo Bernini who chipped, sanded and delicately removed layers of marble to create something awe inspiring and ultimately captivating, Fennesz does the same with dense swaths of static and feedback. He uses lighter tones to cut through this fug of noise, thus creating elegant melodies and hypnotic motifs. There is something beguiling about these compositions. At first they feel like they are made of obsidian and impenetrable. No matter how you look at them, they offer no way in to their complex maze of sounds and tones, but after a few listens they start to show entry points and sound warming. ‘In My Room’ is a prime example. From the opening tones it feels like its exploration is pointless, but after a few listens you find a hole and enter its murky maze, which reveal one of the most life-affirming moments of 2019 so far. Agora really comes alive with the title track though. It is 12 minutes of swirling synths and droney guitars. On the surface it feels like there isn’t much going in, but just below the deep drone there is a lot happening. Tones are tweaked, pitch is lowered, bass is momentary added to create something that is moving and feels alive, rather than just a collection of musical instruments that were close to hand. Songs like this demonstrate why he has been at the fore of minimal electronic music for the past 20 years.

As Agora was created using headphones, it shouldn’t be a surprise that the best way to experience it is by listening to it on headphones, especially when you are tired, but not sleepy. This might not seem like the best time to listen to an album, just before you go to sleep, but it really adds to the experience. As you aren’t fully awake you are more in tune with the lurid drone of its four tracks and much more malleable in being gently pulled this way and that. As the luscious waves of guitars and harsh synths wash over you, you are transported to a place where popular music is completely different to the world we live in. Pop never became the dominate force that it is, instead brooding instrumental workouts are the king. This is an album that is full of glorious melodies, harsh noise and field recordings. Agora is the strongest, and most cohesive, album that Fennesz has released in over a decade, and that is no mean feat. [Nick Roseblade]

Pitchfork (USA):

The experimental musician’s sweeping, ambient album works in small, fascinating ways from moment to moment but has a cumulative force that is unlike anything he’s done in years.

Among the wave of experimental electronic music artists who came to prominence in the 1990s and early 2000s, Christian Fennesz was the scene’s great romantic. His laptop compositions were as formally rigorous as those of his peers, but his music always carried with it an element of grandeur and a touch of the sublime. Unlike many of the producers who were once gathered together under the umbrella of IDM, Fennesz’s work never had a strong connection to dance music. There were beats on early tracks like 1997’s “Blok M,” but these were the exception. Fennesz’s musical heart lay somewhere far from the dance floor.

Even in the exploratory world of electronic music, Fennesz was different. If Autechre’s music could be traced to the metallic thwack of early American electro, Aphex Twin to the machine-heart pulse techno proper, Tim Hecker to shoegaze and the high art world, Fennesz’s strongest aesthetic antecedent was the new romantic ’80s pop that followed in the wake of Roxy Music. This music flourished in an era in which productions were heavy with reverb and effects, where you weren’t sure when the synths ended and the guitars began. Fennesz’s link to the sound of this period was further affirmed by work he did with David Sylvian, the singer, songwriter, and former frontman of the ’80s band Japan, both on the latter’s album Blemish and via Sylvian’s guest spot on Fennesz’s album Venice. And then there was Fennesz’s version of A-Ha’s “Hunting High and Low,” put together for a covers comp in 2008, which showed how the lush twang of his processed guitar fits perfectly into a new wave context, its naked emotionalism worlds away from what first comes to mind when thinking of “computer music.”

This vision of the ’80s provides the thematic context for Fennesz’s new full-length, Agora, his first solo album in almost five years. These pieces are thick with luscious texture and assembled with a symphonic sweep, building from barely audible scrapes and clicks to epic climaxes large enough to blot out the sun. Each of the four tracks has its own dramatic arc, some subtle and some utterly titanic, and the record as a whole has a cumulative force only possible when those are stacked one atop the other. [Mark Richardson]

Rockaxis (Italy):

Séptimo larga duración como solista del investigador del sonido austriaco Christian Fennesz, uno de los importantes exponentes de la electrónica contemporánea, quien pronto en su carrera dejó atrás la abstracción tan propia del género en los 90, para volver a impregnarla del rostro humano que requería el ambient para nuevamente conectarse con lo espiritual, lo inasible, lo que está más allá del mundo físico. La música de Fennesz evoca los más altos sentimientos, específicamente en esta nueva placa, por medio de cuatro composiciones de entre 10 y 12 minutos de duración, que son verdaderos monolitos: campos de sonido poéticos, líricos y contemplativos, que reflejan hondas dimensiones de la condición humana.

Como es costumbre, el artista que estuvo en Chile en diciembre de 2018 –lean reseña aquí-, utiliza la mayor economía posible de elementos técnicos para generar su arte: guitarra procesada, laptop y algunos efectos. Una austeridad creativa doméstica, que se expresa en un disco en el que la intimidad es, paradójicamente, el mejor espacio para hallar lo inmenso, lo ilimitado. “La ubicación contribuyó al sonido despojado del álbum. Usé un equipo básico y ni siquiera tuve el valor de conectar todos los efectos e instrumentos que estaban a mi disposición”, señaló Fennesz al comentar sobre el disco, que destaca por ser uno de los más crudos de su catálogo.

Lo domésticos e íntimo que hacíamos alusión, se hace presente de inmediato con ‘In My Room’, la obra que abre el disco. Una composición del más puro ambient, que va creciendo exponencialmente en belleza y evocando melancolía a raudales. Fennesz combina melodías luminosas con experimentaciones oscuras, generando un diálogo de lucha entre el día y la noche, entre lo brillante y lo ominoso. Le sigue ‘Rainfall’, una pieza más densa y ruidosa, que se construye básicamente mediante tres capas de sonidos superpuestas, formando una tupida urdimbre de sonoridades que, por fragmentos, dejan lo más tenebroso en pos de paisajes más abiertos. Se trata de una lluvia que más parece un diluvio, que una tenue caída de gotas.

‘Agora’ es un constructo de atmósferas espaciales, en la que también hay un debate entre lo luminoso y lo tenebroso, que chocan y se encuentran en una eterna dialéctica musical. No se trata de un discurso sonoro fracturado y agresivo afín con artistas del IDM británico como Autechre o Aphex Twin, sino que Fennesz más bien se comunica con artistas de la electrónica como Brian Eno, Tangerine Dream, Tim Hecker, Eluvium o William Basinski. Algo parecido a la anterior sucede en la última pista ‘We Trigger the Sun’, en la que sonidos que imitan vagamente instrumentos de viento y cuerdas clásicas, se mixturan con mantos electrónicos, que van mutando en intensidad e incorporando nuevas armonías y elementos sonoros a medida que avanza.

Fennesz firma un disco que en su método creativo es cerebral y pensado hasta en su más ínfimo detalle, pero que exhibe, una vez más, la gran sensibilidad del creador europeo, acrecentando el canon de su magnífica obra. [Héctor Aravena A.]

The 405 (USA):

Christian Fennesz puts you on a guitar-shaped raft and sends you out to sea, his ambient waves cresting with distortion and hypnotic melodies. It’s hard to grasp that his 7th studio album, Agora, was made by Fennesz in a bedroom at his flat after losing studio access, as this is the kind of album that doesn’t feel like it was recorded in a bedroom, or even a proper studio. It recalls waking up before your alarm and being transplanted into a lucid dream, conscious and unconscious all at once.

Typically seen in conjunction with a -phobia (or similar) suffix, “agora” originally referred to not the outdoors but to a multi-purpose forum in ancient Greece. Fennesz’s album consists of four tracks, the shortest clocking in at ten minutes. Their titles feel far less incidental than on most ambient/drone releases. They seem to form a narrative of an individual finding themselves emerging from their isolation to a point of no return. We begin with ‘In My Room,’ with waves of guitar quickly crashing receding in time with blasts of bass. As the strums of guitar echoes for miles and the hiss mixes with tranquility, it’s like entering a new world but realizing you’ve been there all along.

While Anthony Gonzalez might have (partial) ownership of the sky, Fennesz ends Agora by declaring ‘We Trigger the Sun.’ The track lengths are never a liability, as he always finds something for his sounds to do, like when he introduces a crackling drone and heightens the tension with percussion and potent layers of guitar. It all pays off emotionally, as a deep yearning is felt in the buried melody and it grows deeper as it moves out of the darkness into an ascension.

The album’s strengths aren’t limited to its bookends. ‘Rainfall’ would go down as the instrumental track of the year if not for the vocal contributions of Katharina Caecilia Fennesz, which blend so gracefully in the mix that you might not even realize they’re a human instrument. It also highlights Fennesz strength as an experimental guitar composer in that he never tries to smooth out his instrument of choice to the point that he hides what it is. His tones clatter and wear their fuzz proudly. At one point on ‘Rainfall,’ his tones are fuzzy to the point that they sound like he’s sucking distortion through a straw.

The title track is the most ambient and, by default, the one with the least activity. But his ability to refine his textures is masterful, with each moment being one you could stay with forever, but when it does shift, it’s a shift worth taking, with field recordings from Manfred Neuwirth and vocals from Mira Waldmann granting further refinement. It also helps to prepare for the closing behemoth that is the closer.

Reviewing ambient music leaves a lot up to the interpretation of the writer, particularly when the background is as minimal as it is with this album. The extent of what’s been shared is that Fennesz made it in a bedroom with little gear using headphones. But sometimes a limited amount of information is all we need, particularly when it lets us focus all the more on the absolute allure of the final product.

Rating: 8.5/10

Brainwashed (USA):

It has been roughly five years since Christian Fennesz last surfaced with a proper solo album (2014’s excellent Bécs), though he has certainly kept busy with other projects in the meantime. For this latest release, however, he found himself in unusual straits, as he lost his studio space and had to move all of his gear into his bedroom. In theory, that was not an optimal work environment and he never ended up setting up much of his usual arsenal, but new constraints can often lead to unexpected breakthroughs. That is arguably the case here: while Agora is not quite an Endless Summer-caliber bombshell or a groundbreaking reinvention of Fennesz’s aesthetic, it is definitely a modest masterpiece of sorts, as quietly recording in his room with minimal gear and omnipresent headphones paved the way for a quartet of truly lovely, nuanced, and absorbing soundscapes.

I wish there was a way to say this that does not sound like an ambiguously back-handed compliment, but it feels like Fennesz devoted an unusual amount of time and focused attention to this album. On previous masterpieces like Endless Summer and Venice, he had a strong, coherent vision and shaped variations upon each theme into an immersive and thoughtfully sequenced arc. Needless to say, that approach worked extremely well, so there was no real need to change it anytime soon, yet Agora takes quite a different shape than its illustrious predecessors. In fact, it almost feels like four self-contained mini-EPs: they certainly all feel like they belong together and complement one another beautifully, but each seems like it could have easily been the kernel of its own distinct album instead. While I suspect at least three of those hypothetical albums would have been absolutely wonderful, I do not have any nagging sense of missed opportunity with Agora, as each of these pieces (all clocking in just over ten minutes) feels like a perfect distillation rather than a tantalizing glimpse that begs to be expanded upon. In particular, the album’s two bookends stand as particularly striking examples of Agora’s divergent stylistic threads. Of those two poles, it is the aptly titled opener (“In My Room”) that best represents the beating heart at the core of the larger song suite.

There is almost an actual beating heart in the piece as well, as a subterranean throb slowly pulses beneath its warmly hissing and undulating reverie of dense, buzzing drones. While those slow-moving sustained tones are certainly the raw material, it would be a stretch to call “In My Room” a drone piece, as it feels more like a landscape of gently shifting tectonic plates bathed in the light of an ascending sunrise: subtly amassing streaks of warmth and color quietly start to eclipse the underlying drones as the piece inexorably moves towards a gorgeous crescendo. The two pieces that follow stick to roughly the same aesthetic of quietly lovely ambient drone that ultimately blossoms into something more structured and powerful, though “Agora” does not pull off that feat quite as well as its neighbors (primarily because it starts from a colder, more formless place). The title piece is still quite likable in its own right though, as its floating, slow-moving clouds of blurred and hiss-soaked chords are blissfully meditative–it just has the misfortune of being surrounded by three slow-burning epics of focused intensity.

In “Rainfall,” for example, Fennesz revisits the languorous drones of “In My Room” with unexpectedly vivid and visceral heft, launching an oft-brilliant and churning assault of shuddering, sizzling chords and cascading, overlapping motifs. It is essentially classic Fennesz writ large and it is absolutely wonderful. The closing “We Trigger the Sun,” on the other hand, is almost entirely unrecognizable as a Fennesz piece at first, resembling the sort of deep space ’70s synth music that would be perfectly at home in a cinematic mindfuck like Mandy. Gradually, however, the heavy cosmic vibes dissolve a bit to make room for more traditional Fennesz-esque touches like washes of hazy guitar chords. It is quite a wonderful convergence of unlikely threads, resembling something like a blurred, stretched, and deconstructed Popul Vuh without sacrificing any of the grandeur.

While I sincerely doubt anyone needs to be reminded of it, Agora beautifully reaffirms why Christian Fennesz remains one of the most vital and compelling figures in experimental music: his more challenging impulses and his formidable production genius are always grounded in a strong melodic sensibility. In an abstract way, he is a legitimately fine songwriter, despite the conspicuous lack of anything resembling conventional structures, hooks, melodies, or vocals (though the latter does exist in obscured form on a pair of pieces). As such, Agora would probably be an enjoyable album even if Fennesz were not a textural sorcerer and arch-deconstructionist. Happily, however, he is both of those things and he makes full use of those powers to transform the tender, fragile beauty of his central motifs into dazzling vistas of ragged, sizzling, and artfully corroded heaven. It is certainly fair to say that Agora continues Fennesz’s lengthy hot streak and is yet another great album from a master, but that actually undersells the true scope of his achievements a bit. Fennesz has not just made a string of excellent solo albums – he has managed to do so while continually reinventing himself and making each fresh release feel like a legitimate event that opens up fresh territory for others to explore in its wake. [Anthony D’Amico]

popmatters (USA):

The agora has historically been an important physical, cultural, political and symbolic space. In ancient Greece it was a place of community assembly, a place where military, political and commercial activities would take place, alongside other events, whether recreational, religious, or otherwise. The agora is also necessarily an outdoor space, but on his new album of that title Christian Fennesz seems to suggest that this particular soundscape is neither inside nor outside (and it is perhaps interesting to note that the album was recorded on headphones in a bedroom at a time when Fennesz had lost access to what he called “proper studio workspace”). Rather, it occupies an imaginary area that refuses any spatial constraints, while acknowledging and insisting upon an acknowledgment of our own relationship to variations of temporality.

Fennesz’ Agora is neither urban nor pastoral/bucolic. It is of a world, but not necessarily this one, and as such it suggests a challenge to the boundaries of what we might normally think of as the “public sphere”. Furthermore then, the agora conjured by Fennesz in this context is by no means necessarily a communal space, and may indeed depict an entirely fractured and atomized social structure. In all of these respects, this work posits a reconsideration of what it means to interact with the world at this state of human history, far removed from ancient and established social and political structures, and yet at a time when we are all more deeply interconnected in many obvious and also insidious ways than we have ever been. It is also, perhaps more importantly for the purposes of the task before us, a really good album.

The mind games, if such they are, begin with the mischievously and counter-intuitively titled opening track, “In My Room”. We start, then, with an immediate retreat from the public forum, counter to what the album’s title might lead you to expect. The track opens with a rough pulse which gives way to an extended mid-range drone, as if we are travelling down a pipeline beneath the market square, away from any society, toward an unknown but almost surely metaphysical destination. Other drones join the originating one, and then chords are very discreetly introduced as the song enacts very subtle changes at its own moderate pace.

Once the opening pulse drops out there is no percussive rhythm to speak of, so we find ourselves in a realm without a hard beat, but nevertheless constantly aware of time passing, regardless of what kind of physical space we might be occupying, or Fennesz might be asking us to imagine. All of this unfolds over 12 rather luxurious minutes, as if one were in a significantly more pleasant version of an MRI chamber, lulled by inorganic aural materials and other sensory prompts into a place that is decidedly neither inside nor outside, although it nevertheless seems to have a certain structure, albeit one that is open-ended and unfussy. There is certainly no clutter here, so Fennesz appears, rather effortlessly, to have tidied his room according to the strictures of a state-of-the-art brand of personal feng shui.

The connection between agora and feng shui may not be inappropriately deployed here, because the notion of a public space tied both to conceptions of how we orient and organize our public spaces spiritually, and more colloquially how we organize our personal and private spaces for our own contentment and to harness certain energies, seems in its totality to resonate with the way the Fennesz conjures the symbolic space of his own aural imagination here. The balance of this album is immaculate, with each of the four songs lasting between ten and 12 minutes.

The internalized soundscape of “In My Room” gives way in turn to a more outward-facing perspective with the second track, “Rainfall”. Also almost 12 minutes in length, it is equally meditative, but takes a different reflective path from “In My Room”. Opening with a faint and delicate note, almost as of a subway train approaching from a long stretch of tunnel, the song resolves into something approaching conventionality with a very discreet rhythm track and chords that seem to blend something of the outro of Roxy Music’s “More Than This” with the burning and crackling of Sonic Youth’s “Providence” from the epic and elemental Daydream Nation. There is, by definition, something deeply elemental about “Rainfall” too, as evidenced by the more organic instrumentation at work. We even get something the resembles a gently strummed acoustic guitar chord here and there, albeit that it tends toward distortion, inevitably, and any sense of the bucolic gives way to something more post-industrial.

The title track, which is also the penultimate song on the album, compels us to consider what we might mean, at this point in the history of civilization, when we imagine a fully functioning and fully evolved public space, and what it might look and feel like, all while we feel as if we are simultaneously in retreat from it. The track opens in a way that seems to combine the modes of the two tracks that have preceded it, both with a rough pulse and a series of developing and resolving chords, as if these sounds are themselves the aural representation of an organic human and political culture, with entities interacting, coming together, separating and then coming together again, acting jointly and separately, individually and collectively, to form a constantly oscillating and evolving body politic.

The richer and more insistently sustained (and varied) chords of “Agora” seem to represent the apotheosis of the Fennesz vision for this particular sound space. It also feels, perhaps paradoxically, like the darkest of the four tracks on display here, all while it seems, on occasion, to be reaching toward the light, as morose chords open up into breezier ones, and we oscillate along with them, between poles of more and less hope, or more and less despair, depending on the fullness or emptiness of your particular spiritual glass.

On balance, the impetus of this title track seems ultimately then to tend more toward light than the darkness that appeared to be its signature, which may offer a clue as to the temperamental inclination of the album as a whole, although it is difficult to make any concrete conclusions as to the album’s disposition in such an abstract setting, particularly when it also seems to offer itself up as something rather like a mirror, if not a palimpsest, for us to see ourselves in, or inscribe ourselves upon.

As we appear to have been led toward the light on “Agora”, the full flowering of that trajectory appears to come to pass on the final track, “We Trigger the Sun”, which seems to be the closest we get to a version of the pastoral here. This song offers perhaps the richest and most expansive sound palette of the four presented to us. There is even a gesture toward melody in these closing moments even while a meditational drone continues to be the backdrop. And those might even be some kind of strings in there somewhere. “We Trigger the Sun” feels positively romantic in places, which we might not be able to say about what has preceded it, for better or for worse.

But aside from all this abstract thinking, it should be said that Agora is beautifully measured and evenly balanced, and as a result it is a very satisfying listening experience that appears to be almost hermetically sealed, as befitting an album that was made, as Fennesz himself said, “on headphones”. Part of that hermeticism, while also running counter to the idea of a practising and functioning community, also seems to resist any intertextuality or comparison with other artists, but it seems inevitable and necessary that one consider this piece of work alongside another recent release with a similar structure, that being the quite remarkable experience of After its own death/Walking in a spiral towards the house by one of Liz Harris’ many creative personae, Nivhek.

While the constitution of each album is entirely distinct, and distinctive, it is nevertheless difficult not to think of these two pieces, perhaps even instructively, as somehow analogous to each other, even if contrapuntally. One of the many quite beautiful things about this album is that, to put it in rather unsophisticated terms, it “makes you think” (for example of a comparison to Nivhek) while also allowing you not to, thereby establishing a delightful kind of utopian polity. [Rod Waterman]

Wiener Zeitung (Austria):

“Agora” ist das erste Soloalbum von Christian Fennesz seit fünf Jahren (“Bécs”, 2014), doch war der Musiker seitdem keineswegs untätig. Er spielte mit Jim O’Rourke “It’s Hard For Me To Say I’m Sorry” (2016) ein und beteiligte sich 2017 am von Ryuichi Sakamoto kuratierten Glenn Gould Gathering, das in Zusammenarbeit mit der kanadischen Botschaft in Tokio anlässlich des 85. Geburtstag des Pianisten stattfand (und an dem auch Alva Noto und Francesco Tristano mitwirkten).

Das neue Album ist quasi aus einer Verlegenheit heraus entstanden. Wie Fennesz selbst schrieb, musste er seine Ausrüstung aus dem Arbeitsstudio ins Schlafzimmer transferieren, wo er “Agora” einspielte. Die Aufnahmebedingungen waren vielleicht nicht optimal, da alles mittels Kopfhörern zu geschehen hatte. Überdies nutzte der Österreicher – aus der Not eine Tugend machend – nicht einmal alle Instrumente, die ihm zur Verfügung standen, sondern er bediente sich dessen, was gerade zur Hand war. Das Ergebnis sind vier intensive Stücke von je zehn bis zwölf Minuten Spielzeit.

Mit der Konzentration auf Weniges wird Zeit entschleunigt. Fennesz zeichnet mit seinen langsam vorüberziehenden Gitarrenwolken intime Klangfarben, die zu einer Art Yogaminimalismus einladen. In diesem Ambiente bewegen sich die Melodien wie Seelenreisende zaghaft durchs labyrinthische Dickicht und preisen sich nicht so offen an wie etwa auf dem Vorgänger.

Alles wirkt verhalten, erkundend, fast neugierig tastend und wie ein Innehalten, das gleichzeitig fließt und immer wieder Assoziationen zum Wasser hervorruft, das sehnsuchtsvoll auf der Stelle wirbelt; ein Paradox aus Bewegung und Stillstand, das sich beim Regen (“Rainfall”) ebenso gut einstellt wie auch beim Wolkendurchbruch der Sonnenstrahlen (“We Trigger The Sun”). Ein Schlafzimmer ist, wie eine Agora, manchmal ein Multikommunikationsort, an dem sich unterschiedliche Stimmen im freien Spiel entfalten und symphonisch der Muße und Muse frönen.

Cyclic Defrost (Australia):

While the last couple of years have seen him collaborating with the likes of Alva Noto, Ryiuchi Sakamoto and Jim O’Rourke, it’s been a good five years since Christian Fennesz last released a solo album, his most recent one being 2014’s ‘Bécs’ on Editions Mego. Interestingly, the circumstances surrounding the writing and recording of this latest album ‘Agora’ involved Fennesz temporarily losing access to his usual studio and being forced to work in a small bedroom in his flat with minimal gear, a situation that he likens to producing his first records in the nineties.

Despite these comparative restrictions in production style however, there’s been no subsequent lessening in the characteristic textural breadth, depth and immersive atmosphere of the four expansive tracks collected here. If anything, opening track ‘In My Room’ displays the least obvious presence of guitar elements out of all of these tracks (though given Fennesz’s characteristic manipulation and processing of that source instrument into new sonic forms, it’s difficult to be certain).

Indeed, it spends its twelve and half minutes emerging from a rhythmic throb of bass sweeps that calls to mind background machinery before treated drones trail into the foreground, their waspy resonant edges buzzing and feeding back against what sounds like blurred out and pitched-down piano keys. While there’s certainly jagged edges to the synthetic processing, more than anything there’s a sense of wide-eyed wonder that’s generated, touched with a distinct undercurrent of melancholy as soft-focus synth melodies creep into the undergrowth towards the track’s second half that marks out post-rock / shoegaze as its most immediately obvious kin.

‘Rainfall’ sees a wash of ghostly background noise that almost sounds like a distant fading shortwave transmission giving way to a wall of overdriven guitar distortion that cloaks more delicate fretwork, the presence of virtually untreated guitar tones and wordless female vocal harmonies revealing the romantic heart that’s always lurked at the heart of a lot of Fennesz’s work, before things ascend into a wash of busy synth arpeggios and bustling rhythmic textures.

If the aforementioned track sees Fennesz concentrating on filling every last inch of space with constant motion, ‘Agora’ takes the opposite route, using a pared down palette of phased synth drones cavernous reverb to create a vast cold landscapes, the resonant echoes of what sound like vocal harmonies bleeding through like ghosts amidst what’s almost a church-like atmosphere. A welcome solo return from Fennesz that as ever sees him anchoring his vast soundscapes with a sense of emotional immediacy. [Chris Downton]

TO:112 Simon Scott – “Soundings”

Release date: 22nd February 2019

CD & Cassette – 8 tracks – 52 minutes

All tracks composed by Simon Scott
Strings played by Charlie Campagna & Zachary Paul
Artwork & photography by Jon Wozencroft
Mastered by Denis Blackham

Track listing:

1. Hodos
2. Sakura
3. Santori
4. Mae
5. Grace
6. Nigh
7. Baaval
8. Apricity

You can listen to an extract from the album here:

*Additional 20 minute bonus track features a live recording from the Jazz Café in London in October 2018

Soundings, his debut studio album for Touch (he previously released the live album ‘Floodlines’ in 2016 and re-issued “Below Sea Level” in 2017), finds Simon Scott, the composer and sound ecologist, using field recordings from various cities around the globe; modular synthesizer treatments; live strings and laptop electronics to create an album of transition and shifting time zones. The recordings were edited and composed in hotels rooms across the world as Scott was constantly on tour as the drummer for Slowdive, who successfully reformed in 2014.

Hodos, the album opener, begins with 85 mph Storm Barney recordings, ending with the fading sounds of bellbirds and cicadas recorded in Brisbane 2018. “I took a home recording I made of Storm Barney in Cambridge, listening to it on repeat when I was flying from continent to continent. I wanted this to be the starting point of the process of musically documenting how much travelling I was doing”. This album was created from the US to Asia, South America to Europe and the Arctic Circle back to the UK via California. “Working in hotel rooms and on flights, listening to and editing the recordings I’d made from all of these distant cities formed the basis of the album. It’s the soundtrack to four years of my life in flux with constant change, jet lag, excitement and the seeming perpetual motion of travelling”.

The cassette version features an extended 60 minute version of the album remastered by Scott.

Reviews:

somewhere cold (net):

A prolific composer and consistently incredible sound-smith, Simon Scott has been putting out experimental music for a decade now. Yes, it is that Simon Scott, the rhythmic god who pounds the skins in the glittering progressive band Slowdive. Soundings is his newest album with 52 minutes of music combining field recordings, live strings, synthesizers, and soft synths created as he traveled across the globe touring with Slowdive. Recordings stretching over the course of four years, Scott records and produces a soundtrack to his meandering years on tour and all that means.

Soundings begins with field recordings on “Hodos” which give the album’s beginning an organic feel. Sting voices peer here and there among the shadowy and fuzzy tumult while more effulgent strings begin to hum, giving a floor to the piece. There is a patience to the opener, allowing the listener to soak in the subtleness of the moment. What sounds like birds punctuates, ever so slightly, the sonic landscape, giving this piece a living population. “Sakura” follows with an opening synthtone and bright, melodic notes. The dance of the synths becomes more intricate and then water flows as the centerpiece of that moment. As the water fades, the synths once again dance alone, sparkling in the foreground. “Santori” begins seamlessly as a subdued beat punctuates the air and deep, abiding strings ring out. A slight crackle fills the mix, giving a hint of aural texture. Vibrating electronic tones move and slide between speakers as they ungulate. There is an almost deep, beautiful mournfulness to this composition which moves the listener into a melancholic state.

“Mae” has whirling, looped synths that pour over and over one another as they circulate and then give way to more metallic and harsher tones. Birds re-appear here, grounding the track as strings take over and great a sonic river of aural light. As “Mae” fades, “Grace” arises and is textually quite different in its beginnings. Almost like the metallic rubbing of a vibrating guitar string, the tone is vibratory. It is accompanied by beautiful synth tones that feel like deep pools of refreshing water and the strings slide about, creating ease and contemplative moments. “Nigh” is meditative and hypnotic from the start. Dreamy synths and strings populate the piece as panning gives the sounds a glacial movement while deepening the textural choices.

“Baaval” is a more ephemeral piece with a deep core tone that reverberates out into a fuzzier texture. It begins a grouping of longer pieces at the end of the album. This piece is simple on the surface but increases in depth with every listen. Again, birds chirp, tying the track with former pieces. The synth work here is subtle but engaging. “Apricity” ends the studio tracks on the album and it begins with a deep, flowing tone. Textural accents flow in and out of the mix and incredibly subtle strings ebb and flow. This long form piece, clocking in at over 15 minutes, is a slow and radiant build, like high tide slowly moving in to meet the shore. The strings become fuller as the track progresses and the different variations move in and out of focus. The stings eventually fade or perhaps become a part of a larger, vibrating synth drone. The final track to the album is a live piece which is over 20 minutes long and was recorded at The Jazz Café. The piece is expertly executed and fits well with the tonality of the rest of the album. In fact, It is the perfect finale to the album, graceful and profoundly moving.

Simon Scott’s Soundings is a brilliant set of tracks that demonstrate his ability to mix subtlety with depth. This is over 52 minutes of engaging, ethereal ambience that evoke open spaces and the wandering of Scott’s last four years. I highly recommend picking up a copy of Soundings as well as diving into all of Simon Scott’s back catalog. [Jason]

Fluid Radio (UK):

The field recordings on Soundings light up the music and the world. Taken from cities around the globe, and using modular synths, strings, and laptop electronics, the recordings aid in creating music of transition and transience, shifting into many different time zones throughout its trek. Edited and composed in hotel rooms at a time when Simon Scott was on tour as the drummer for Slowdive, Soundings features 85mph winds, bellbirds, and cicadas in the first track alone, moving from its British beginnings (the winds of Storm Barney, which terrorized the UK and which unfortunately wasn’t named after a huge purple dinosaur) to Australia’s Brisbane. In the space of a single track, Scott’s music faces a long haul flight. Although it’s physically demanding, the recording offers an easy ride. Two sides of the world and two different continents are united in one recording, despite travelling a huge distance. As such, Soundings is a travel document and a sonic passport.

I took a home recording I made of Storm Barney in Cambridge, listening to it on repeat when I was flying from continent to continent. I wanted this to be the starting point of the process of musically documenting how much travelling I was doing. It’s the soundtrack to four years of my life in flux with constant change, jet lag, excitement and the seeming perpetual motion of travelling’.

Scott’s music lags without fatigue as it sails through the sky. From the USA to Asia, South America to Europe, the Arctic Circle to the UK (and with a stop in California on the way back), Soundings travels vast distances, picking up the flavors and the vibes of each place while infusing the entire album with a delicate understanding of many differing cultures and scents. Early-to-rise tones and sleepy, dusk-hidden melodies pepper the tracks, but they have an airy feel to them, high in their altitudes. The long drones never really touch down, but only vaguely circle and skirt the outlines of a city. Jet-lagged drones and darker tones gaze upon a midnight city, its glowing lights replacing the sun, its downtown twinkling like a cluster of fallen stars.

Scott’s brief stay offers an intermittent glimpse, a passing through; the music feels intentionally incomplete, or transient, in spite of it being a completed and refined work. Scott is able to bottle the journey within his tired ambient tones and electronic oscillations – which thrum against the drone and shudder like the dropping of a landing gear. The long drones of ‘Apricity’ cruise in the sky, its strings imperceptibly morphing into something more electronic as they make their way home. The exhaustion and euphoria of touring is here, but, as always, the journey is more important than the final destination. [James Catchpole]

A Closer Listen (USA):

Where were you when Slowdive was formed back in 1989?  NOT BORN YET?!!  Thanks a lot, you’ve just made Simon Scott and I feel old.  But there’s a huge difference between old and irrelevant and old and vital, and Scott lands firmly on the latter side.  Although he’s shifted styles a number of times, he’s never stopped composing or performing.  Soundings was recorded during four years of touring with his re-formed band.  The album is the product of “a life in flux … constant change and jet lag … hotel rooms, flights and distant cities.”  As such, it feels disconnected with land, often touching down but with the knowledge it will not be able to stay too long.

The first field recording is the best, and most obvious: 85mph winds from Hurricane Barney, whipping up a storm expressed here in a morass of strings.  These strings, played by Charlie Campagna & Zachary Paul, are a constant presence throughout the album, but in “Hodos” they sound foreboding, the cello unable to escape the churn.  The bellbirds and cicadas that close the piece are not from the storm, but from the safety of Brisbane, many moons later and half a world away, offering evidence that we carry our memories with us and they blur in collision with other experiences.  Scott would get as far as the Arctic Circle, an ironic mention given the fact that a famous explorer who shares his surname would perish while returning from Antarctica.

Scott’s wandering synth and electronics echo his own journey, providing few signposts along the way.  The tracks drift together like sheets of polar ice.  One would think the setup would preclude a single, but there’s actually one included here: the streaming edit of “Grace,” which Scott released in full as an 18-minute track back in August.  In our opinion, the album’s only miscalculation is that at 52 minutes, the album had room to include the full composition.  Scott opted instead to offer a 20-minute live track as a bonus cut, while extending the mix to 60 minutes for the cassette.  But don’t despair, fans of long music; the album closes with its best track, the quarter-hour “Apricity.”

On “Apricity,” all the threads come together.  The length of the piece allows one to surrender to the flow of time, an important nuance as the album references the challenge of traveling between different time zones.  While listening to “Apricity,” one feels a sense of drifting, falling (to quote The Ocean Blue’s 1989 hit).  More importantly, one also gets a feeling of coming home, of finally being able to rest, of knowing that one is safe, the ground firm and stable beneath one’s bed.  This beautiful, archaic word is defined as “the warmth of the sun in winter,” which lends itself to a wider interpretation: we feel the warmth of home, even when we are away.  Somewhere in Cambridge, world tour complete, Scott is enjoying this reassurance.  [Richard Allen]

Exclaim (Canada):

Described by the artist as a kind of travelogue, gathered, edited, composed and considered over a four-year period that included the reunion and tour of his ’90s band, Slowdive, Simon Scott delivers an appropriately dislocated collection of soundscapes that are dizzying in their swings between blurred acceleration and detailed stillness.

Opener “Hodos” serves as introduction and précis key to the album, with a field recording of 140 km winds from a storm in Cambridge that eventually cedes to cicadas recorded much later in Brisbane. The piece is laced together by a drift of strings from Charlie Campagna and Zachary Paul, who reappear throughout the album.

One of Scott’s gifts is combining layers of tone, noise and faint melody into loops whose duration and repetition invite contemplation, but with a slight uneasiness that subtly dislodges any such attempt — kind of anti-meditative meditation music.

Both “Baaval,” and “Apricity,” the two longer pieces that close the album, have a blend of grace and self-doubt, the former especially in its slightly off-centre drone that gives way to an open window onto nature and out of claustrophobia.

All in all, this is a masterful summary of the far withouts and deep withins from Scott’s period of perpetual motion. [Eric Hill]

Rockerilla (Italy):

Sonic Seducer (Germany):

Ondarock (Italy):

Dietro la leggenda shoegaze degli Slowdive sembrano celarsi pulsioni espressive parecchio lontane dalla fragorosa e sognante corrente novantiana: da un lato abbiamo Neil Halstead, avvezzo a intimismi folk contemporanei, più imparentati col fingerpicking che col tradizionale cantautorato albionico; dall’altro il batterista Simon Scott, affascinato dalle dilatazioni melodiche dell’ambient music e dalle sue recenti confluenze nella sfera neoclassica.

Dopo varie incursioni con etichette tra cui Miasmah e 12k, Scott rientra nella produzione a marchio Touch, che tre anni fa ne incluse una registrazione live al Cafe Oto nella serie “Tone” (“Floodlines”, 2016). Il recente ingresso delle emergenti Bethan Kellough e Claire M Singer ha aperto ulteriormente la strada a una poetica come quella di “Soundings”, che come si evince sin dai primi istanti è “cucito” intorno a field recordings raccolti in giro per il mondo. È il diario in forma astratta di quattro anni in costante movimento, a motivo della fortunata reunion della band, e di fatto una collezione di quiete parentesi ritagliate in stanze d’albergo sparse tra i continenti.
Si direbbe il tentativo di ristabilire un contatto con la schietta tangibilità del reale, benché tale anelito vada di pari passo con rimaneggiamenti al synth modulare e con un’armonizzazione strumentale affidata agli archi di Charlie Campagna e Zachary Paul, le cui traiettorie ondeggiano attorno al bordone portante con la stessa imperturbabile cadenza.

A tratti dimessa e malinconica, in altri trasognata e confortante, la fusione tra elettronica e acustica di “Soundings” evoca le produzioni finali degli Stars Of The Lid e le estasi cameristiche del compianto Jóhann Jóhannsson, invitando la mente a un viaggio che, anche a motivo di passaggi decisamente bruschi, ha come condizione la nostra presenza mentale ed emotiva affinché non diventi un ennesimo sottofondo funzionale alla concentrazione su altre e più trascurabili faccende quotidiane. [Michele Palozzo]

Toneshift (USA):

This is as if I have really begun to hear the work of Simon Scott for the very first time – even after listening to his work over a good part of the 2010’s, since Below Sea Level(12K, 2012). Soundings (out on 2/22) is a different approach to flash-fusing field recordings and electronic music, both sensitive and flowy, without bearing into invisibility. For many an artist who creates layered ambient work, such is the problem of allowing work to wither away and far from memory. Soundings is deeply developed collection of nine shorter pieces that all folds into a nearly hour-long work of emotionally fatigued harmonies, the cassette version runs for nearly eight minutes longer for those with decks. The work materializes into something moody and narrative with drones and strings, electronics and sounds from his surroundings as he traveled.

While Hodos, Sakura and Santori all blended so aqueously together, Mae takes off in a slightly different path, one that has an unveiled industrial side. Scott recounted “I took a home recording I made of Storm Barney in Cambridge, listening to it on repeat when I was flying from continent to continent. I wanted this to be the starting point of the process of musically documenting how much traveling I was doing.” The listener will be grateful for his lengthy journeys given the stealthy result that offer both the tender and the vacillating psyche, documenting the experience in the US to Asia, South America to Europe and the Arctic Circle and back to the UK. Travel, in and of itself, can be draining to us all, and he’s managed to capture the passage, the road and the physical wear/tear to an extent.

There are purely harmonic moments of splendor throughout both Grace and Nigh, where Scott looks upwards toward the heavens, or perhaps recalls the act of dangling in the sky between destinations. It’s all warm and free. On Baaval the paler shades begin to darken at the edges and start to run rings. A sense of apprehension is palpable in this watery mix of bass drone and minimal harmonic mutation. From this bloated vibration comes the vague chirping of exotic birds at more than twenty paces.

This was the perfect staging for the daunting outcomes via Apricity, the final track here. The bass is super low, muted, almost white-noise like, however with each cycle Scott manages to add the lightest hint of stringed harmony, exquisitely played by Charlie Campagna & Zachary Paul. This fifteen-minute plus closer has ample time to indulge in the previously foreshadowed travelogue of foibles and faultlines, and does so in a way you might imagine to delivered by a full orchestra. There is a relentless spirit moving forward on this record, and though it uncovers some fairly expected sweet spots here and there, the man behind it manages to come from behind its many layers to demonstrate a realized vision. [TJ Norris]

Das Filter (Germany):

Simon Scott ist weit mehr als der Schlagzeuger von Slowdive. Filter-Menschen wissen das sowieso, spätestens aber seit dem vergangenen Sommer, als ich hier schon mal seine Musik feierte. Nun hat er ein Album für Touch aufgenommen, sein erstes richtiges, also jenseits von Live-Aufnahmen und Re-issues. Die Geschichte ist wieder mit Slowdive verknüpft – irgendwie zumindest. Denn Scott nahm diese Platte (gibt es auch auf Tape! – mit Bonus-Material!) rund um den Globus auf, meist im Flugzeug oder im Hotel. So verdichteten sich Schritt für Schritt die Ideen zu fertigen Tracks, während er von A nach B flog, auf den Soundcheck wartete oder erschöpft an einem freien Tag im Hotel langsam wieder runterkam. Man kann dieses Album als eine Art Reise-Tagebuch hören – einen Einblick in vier Jahre Simon Scott. Denn genau so lange hat er an den Stücken gearbeitet. Vielleicht ist das genau die richtige Brille, denn so fügen sich die oft skizzenhaft wirkenden Arbeiten zu einem starken Bild der Seele eines Musikers zusammen, der rastlos durch die Welt geschickt wird, ein zwar wichtiges, aber eben nur ein Rädchen einer größeren Maschinerie ist, die, wenn sie einmal rollt, nicht aufzuhalten ist. Die Stücke sind eine Art Gegenentwurf zu dieser Schnelligkeit. Manchmal fast schon flüchtig, manchmal umso stärker und fordernder. [Thaddeus]

Groove (Germany):

Von der Überwältigungsästhetik des Indie-Rockkonzerts zur gesteigerten individuellen Hörwahrnehmung in der Stille muss der Weg gar nicht weit sein. Manchmal kommen sie sogar in einer Person oder einer Gruppe zusammen. Eine Shoegaze-Band wie Slowdive verkörpert deftige Lautstärke ebenso wie Subtilität und Detailreichtum in der klanglichen Textur. Simon Scott, Drummer der mit Unterbrechungen seit den späten achtziger Jahren aktiven Band, ist als Solokünstler zum enthusiastischen Parteigänger der Sound-Ökologie geworden, einer Leidenschaft für das tiefen Hören von Räumen, Orten und Situationen, dem auslegen und verfolgen subtiler akustischer Spuren. Below Sea Level, Scotts erstes Album mit bearbeiteten Naturaufnahmen von 2012, war in dieser Hinsicht wegweisend. Ultraleise und intensiv, fast nichts zu hören und doch Dokument eines ganzen Universums. Schon bei dieser Arbeit wurde klar, dass Scott die Sound-Ökologie nicht orthodox interpretiert. Seine Feldaufnahmen aus einer sehr stillen Natur waren digital manipuliert zu leisest möglichem Ambient geworden. Scotts neues Album Soundings (Touch) geht in der modernen Auslegung der klanglichen Ökosysteme noch weiter. Die Tracks fußen zwar alle in Field Recordings, haben aber eher urbanen Charakter, sind von Hotelzimmerkaustik und Musikreproduktion geprägt. Umspielt von Modularsynthesizerklängen und Streichern sind sie zu etwas geworden, dass sich perfekt in den engen Zwischenraum von dynamisch gespieltem Song und statisch arrangiertem Track schmiegt. Mit diesem Album könnte Scott vielleicht sogar den Erfolg seiner Band einholen, ihre Qualität hat er schon lange.

Blow Up (Italy):

Brainwashed (USA):

This is Simon Scott’s formal debut for Touch and it is such a quintessential example of the label’s aesthetic that it almost feels like a homecoming.  It is similar to a homecoming in another way as well, as Scott composed these pieces from field recordings taken during Slowdive’s extensive touring over the last few years, diligently editing and shaping them in hotel rooms during his idle hours.  Upon returning, he teamed up with cellist Charlie Campagna and violinist Zachary Paul to transform his impressionistic audio diaries into a lushly beautiful and bittersweet ambient travelogue of sorts.  In some ways, this side of Scott’s work is less distinctive than his more dub-inflected albums, but he has a remarkably great ear for striking the perfect balance between vibrant textures and blurred, dreamlike elegance.

Slowdive’s reunion touring led them to a lot of interesting and far-flung locales, but the most striking field recordings that made it onto this album originate from Brisbane, where Scott captured the sounds of a furious wind storm.  Those crashing waves and fleeing birds appear prominently in the opening “Hodos,” which is Soundings‘ most striking and evocative marriage of nature and artifice.  That is not say that it is necessarily the album’s strongest piece, but it is quite a beautiful one, as blossoming dark clouds of brooding strings slowly move across a battered shoreline.  The way the spraying whitecaps and the languorously moaning strings interact feels quite organic, natural, and seamlessly intuitive, yet Scott’s light touch works so beautifully because he was handed such a wonderful gift: the vibrant and visceral crash of the surf does a hell of a lot of the heavy lifting on its own.  On the album’s other pieces, the focus is necessarily more on Scott’s own contributions (apocalyptic storms were apparently not a common occurrence on the tour).

Most of my favorite pieces fall near the end of the album, but not quite all of them, as the success of “Hodos” is followed by another gem in “Sakura.”  I am guessing that the gently babbling stream that surfaces in the piece was located somewhere in Japan, but Scott is quite sparing with the background details, largely limiting his contextual clues to the one-word song titles alone.  There is a certain logic to that decision, as “Hodos” is the only piece on Soundingswhere nature has truly earned equal billing.  With “Sakura,” the beauty originates almost entirely from Scott himself, as the piece unfolds as a flickering and dreamlike reverie of processed guitar sheen. The album’s second (and more sustained) hot streak starts to cohere a few songs later with “Mae,” a lazily churning and sizzling drone piece that gradually gives way to a quiet coda of happily chirping birds.  Once that avian chorus takes their leave, the album blossoms into a thing of truly sublime beauty with the two pieces that follow: “Grace” and “Nigh.”  On “Grace,” a warm and gently undulating haze of strings twists and drifts across a landscape of shivering and shuddering chord swells.  It is an absolutely rapturous piece of music, but “Nigh” is even better still, cohering into a sun-dappled and lovely procession of chord swells mingled with swooning violin melodies and a dreamlike nimbus of subdued flutter and hiss.

For me, those two pieces are the true beating heart and emotional core of the album, but Scott saves a couple of other strong ideas for the album’s final act.  I am guessing that “Baaval” originated in either Moscow or the Arctic Circle, as both were among Scott’s stated recording locations and it is initially a very dark and cold-sounding piece, evoking a windswept expanse of frozen wasteland.  By the end, however, it warms into something approaching a sort of precarious radiance, like a faint sunrise chasing away some of the more menacing shadows.  That piece gives way to the album’s slow-burning closing epic, the 15-minute “Apricity.”  For the most part, it marks a warm and lushly beautiful return the terrain of “Nigh,” as rich, slow-moving chord swells surge beneath a lovely and lyrical violin melody.  As a result, “Apricity” initially seems poised to be the album’s crown jewel, but it takes a curious detour around the nine-minute mark and rides out its final third as kind of a locked-groove of gently pulsing, pastoral ambient music.

I am admittedly a bit perplexed as to why Scott chose to dilute one of his strongest pieces in that fashion, as well as end the album on such a comparatively forgettable note.  Artists sure can be inscrutable sometimes.  Still, it is not nearly enough of a wobble to derail an otherwise excellent album.  Soundings is a curious sort of excellent album, however, wonderfully exceeding my expectations some moments and leaving me scratching my head during others.  For example, the very restrained and subtle use of field recordings for much of the album feels like an exasperating missed opportunity to me, as Scott could probably have gotten all of the same recognizable sounds without ever leaving southern California.  There is nothing among the bird and water recordings that distinctively call to mind Peru, Tokyo, or Moscow, even though Scott recorded in all those places.  On another level, however, that decision is actually kind of cool, as Scott eschewed the easy and obvious path to make something considerably more elusive and abstract: a record of his own impressions during a sometimes beautiful, sometimes lonely, sometimes disorienting adventure through many of the great cities of the world.  As such, Soundings is a dreamlike procession of elusive individual moments brought to vivid life.  Granted, it is easy to imagine a more evocative, richly textured, and immersive album that might have resulted if Scott had taken a more straightforward path, but that album does not exist.  This album, however, does exist and it is often an achingly lovely and poignant one. [Anthony d’amici]

Loop (Chile):

Artista sonoro, compositor, multi-instrumentista y baterista de la reformada banda Slowdive, Simon Scott saca su nuevo álbum de estudio, después de “Floodlines” (grabación en vivo, 2016) y la reedición de “Below Sea Level” (2017).
“Soundings” incluye arreglos con sintetizadores modulares, laptop, secciones de cuerda en vivo y grabaciones de campo que compuso y editó en las habitaciones de hoteles en distintas partes del mundo, mientras Slowdive se encontraba de gira por Estados Unidos, Sudamérica, Europa, el Círculo Ártico y en el Reino Unido.
Este álbum según Scott es la banda sonora de cuatros años de su vida, en un flujo constante de cambios, de horarios y el vertiginoso movimiento de los viajes.
“Soundings” son ocho composiciones ambient cuyas líneas de sintetizador atmósféricas y los bellos acordes de las cuerdas, le dan un carácter expansivo que invitan a dejarse llevar por la imaginación. Las grabaciones de campo de tormenta, pájaros e insectos le ponen la nota de realidad que remite al medio ambiente de alguna parte del mundo.
Por un lado están las composiciones con acercamientos a lo clásico (“Santori”, Grace” y Nigh) y por otro, a la experimentación electrónica como en “Hodos”, “Mae” y “Baaval”.
Cierra este álbum “Apricity”, del que emergen lentamente líneas nostágicas de pura fragilidad y belleza.
Scott realiza un disco de gran factura con cuidadosos arreglos que muestran su incuestionable sensibilidad. [Guillermo Escudero]

Art Noir (Switzerland):

Es beginnt mit dem Meeresrauschen, so weit so klischeehaft. Denn die Geräusche, denen man bei Feldaufnahmen am meisten in der Musik begegnet, sind bestimmt die See, Vogelgezwitscher und das Knistern des Lagerfeuers. Simon Scott, welcher während eines Grossteiles seiner Zeit als Schlagzeuger von Slowdive durch die Welt reist, tappt aber nicht in die Fallen der plakativen Ewigkeit, sondern vermengt auf “Soundings” seine eigenen Ambient-Drones mit Klangaufnahmen aus aller Welt zu hübschen Neufindungen.

Ja, bei “Mae” hört man Vögel, und auch die menschliche Stimme sucht sich ab und zu ihren Weg auf “Soundings”. Doch alles wird von Simon Scott geschickt abgewogen, mit melancholischen Streichern versehen, von dröhnenden Synthesizern unterwandert. Das Album ist ein Versuch, aus dem rastlosen Tourleben einen Sinn zu destillieren, aus den unsäglichen Wechseln eine Konstante zu produzieren. Mit viel Geduld, Konzentration und dem Fokus auf einzelne Details. Ein Reisetagebuch der anderen Form also, persönlich und doch global.

Und wie geschickt Simon Scott dabei vorgegangen ist, das merkt man, wenn man erfährt, dass “Hodos” nicht am schönen Strand, sondern mitten in einem Sturm in Cambridge aufgenommen wurde. “Soundings” ist ein Werk, das mit der Wahrnehmung spielt und viele Überraschungen in sich trägt. Bis am Ende mit dem langen “Apricity” die Erhabenheit überwiegt und nicht nur die Seele des Künstlers beruhigt. Das Ziel ist erreicht. [Michael Bohli]

Etherreal (France):

Installé chez Touch depuis 2016 (ces pages s’étaient fait l’écho de FloodLines, album livesuivi d’une ressortie de Below Sea Level), Simon Scott semble s’y trouver à la bonne place puisque l’Anglais y propose, avec Soundings, un disque entre ambient et field recordings. En effet, profitant d’une sorte de tour du monde réalisé avec Slowdive (dont il tient la batterie) en 2014 lors de la reformation du groupe, le musicien a capté des sons et des enregistrements un peu partout avant d’y ajouter quelques instruments réels.

C’est ainsi qu’une guitare électrique saturée vient placer ses traits sur les nappes extérieures (Mae) ou que, dans un registre nettement moins éclatant, les cordes de Charlie Campagna et Zachary Paul enrobent avec suavité les textures du Britannique (Nigh). Alors qu’on craignait un peu (et les premières minutes ne font rien pour écarter ce léger scepticisme) que Simon Scott limite un peu son intervention à un simple pressage de la fonction « rec » de ses machines, ses apports instrumentaux viennent conférer une dimension toute autre, nettement plus riche.

Au surplus, plus le disque avance, plus la longueur des morceaux s’allonge, partant d’environ quatre minutes pour terminer au-delà du quart d’heure. Comme souvent avec pareil registre, le musicien trouve évidemment matière à déployer son propos avec cette durée étendue. Quelques bruissements et crépitations continuent de s’entendre, reflets des captations réalisées de par le monde, mais l’adjonction des cordes, des accords de synthé, de rythmiques un peu lointaines et autres traitements permettent d’aller vers des contrées plus riches encore. [Francois Bousguet]

Dark Entries (Belgium):

Naast drummer voor de in 2014 herrezen shoegaze cultband Slowdive (eerder actief van 1989 tot 1995) is Simon Scott een multi-instrumentalist en geluidskunstenaar. Inspiratie en interesses haalt hij uit klankecologie, digitale media, compositie, geluidskunst en muziektechnologie. Hij bracht eerder al een aantal albums uit waaronder zijn debuut ‘Navigare’ (2009), ‘Below Sea Level’ (2012) en in 2015 ‘Insomni’. Vanuit zijn woonplaats Cambridge vertrok hij dan op wereldreis. Een tocht die hem van Australië naar de Verenigde Staten bracht, dan via Azië en Zuid-Amerika naar Europa, om na een ommetje naar de poolcirkel terug te reizen naar het Verenigd Koninkrijk. De componist in hem zorgde ervoor dat hij naast opnames van thuis, zijn reizen van continent naar continent wist te documenteren met allerlei veldopnames. In hotelkamers en in vliegtuigen nam hij de tijd om naar alles te luisteren en die registraties naderhand ook te bewerken. Het is de soundtrack geworden van vier jaar uit het leven van Simon. De composities met als vertrekpunt omgevings- en natuurlijke geluiden zijn zowel blootgesteld aan modulair bewerkte synthesizer handelingen als digitaal gemanipuleerd. Scott maakte ook gebruik van organische, akoestische texturen en strijkinstrumenten. ‘Soundings’ is een verzameling van zeer minimalistisch opgevatte miniaturen die een beeld schetsen van de natuurlijke wereld wiens geluiden door middel van moderne technieken worden omgezet in een bezielende en belangwekkende muzikale beleving. [Paul Van de gehuchte]

Rockerilla (Italy):

Chain D.L.K. (USA):

This new release from Simon Scott, already known as Slowdive drummer, is presented as a collection of tracks composed in a four years time span so the field recordings are not a sound make up to give a sense of reality to electronic music, but a temporal tag which link the track to the place, and time, where it was conceived.
The recordings of Storm Barney open “Hodos” and introduce the listener towards a concept of music where field recordings and electronic music, mostly drone based, merge in a cohesive whole. “Sakura” is a melancholic track based on resonances upon the sound of flowing water. “Santori” has an almost dramatic tension while “Mae” has moments with impressive sound masses. “Grace” and “Nigh” borders modern classical territories with their catchy melodies on strings.
“Baaval” is instead a drone interlude to “Apricity”, the longest track of this release, where the long tones on strings evolves until they obtain a lyrical force which could be a little too sentimental but of great impact.
An example or organic ambient music which could not have those elements of originality that could charm the listener at first sight but whose impressive craft for harmony and variety will give a lasting place below the laser lens of the player. A really nice release.

Tone 66 Anthony Moore – “Arithmetic in the Dark”

Download LP – 10 tracks

Track listing:

01. Switched
02. Particulates
03. Synthi AKS waves
04. Spinturn
05. Entangled
06. A chime of psalters
07. Hoedown
08. The psaltery sea
09. A likely outcome
10. Arithmetic in the dark

I like to imagine a time and place where arithmetic is done in a natural way by simply experiencing the unique possibility offered by sound, that of distinguishing simultaneous differences; the non-displacing waves of either AND both. Despite the observations of cool cats like Bill Sethares on the subjective nature of the octave´s perception, one fact remains  unfailingly true. An octave is a doubling of frequency – the higher octave has exactly twice the number of vibrations per second than the lower. I am imagining a planet without the invention of writing, even of symbols and scratchings in the sand where, on hearing the sound of a child and an adult singing together, a listener is doing a multiplication by two in a mathematics without signs; arithmetic in the dark.

The album consists of a set of 10 works which focus on repetition and change. The pieces evolve mostly through the active perception of the listener. Saccades and oto-acoustic emissions are evidence that perception is far from passive reception. The transmitting ear determines much about what it takes in. [Anthony Moore, Arles, November 2018]

Artwork & photography by Jon Wozencroft

TO:108 Howlround – “The Debatable Lands”

Release date: 21st December 2018

Vinyl LP – 4 tracks – 32:59

Track listing:

Side A
1. Threip 11:53
2. The Black Path 5:21

Side B
3. Talkin Tarn 8:23
4. Moat 7:22

Bonus Tracks – free with vinyl purchase in TouchShop only:

5. Cloven Stone
6. Dungeon Ghyll
7. Aira Force
8. a-melt-saetr – you can listen to this track here
9. Carling Knott
10. Blea

In December 2017, Howlround (Robin the Fog) was invited to perform at “The Winter Solstice Soundscapes” event for the recently opened record store “Vinyl Café” in his home town of Carlisle, Cumbria. Inspired by the reception to his first ever performance in the great border city, he covered his parent’s dining room table with the same equipment, stretched loops of tape around his mum’s seasonal candlesticks when she wasn’t looking… and this LP is the result. The only equipment used on the album is two 1/4” reel-to-reel tape machines and one microphone. The sounds created are entirely at the discretion of the machines (much of them derived from ‘closed-input’ recordings) and all tracks were produced in a single take. There are no edits, no overdubs and no additional effects.

This marks a new, heavier direction for Howlround, a project better known for more ambient work. Described as ‘Tapeloop Techno’, thick knotty tangles of dense, pulsating bass are an echo of Robin’s early days making bad dance music, while the abrasive snarls of feedback swirling around these tracks point to his more recent embrace of indeterminacy and chance composition. Previous vinyl releases on Psyché Tropes, The Wormhole, A Year in the Country and Front & Follow as well as his own label The Fog Signals have shown a deep understanding of the possibilities of tape manipulation. On The Debatable Lands Howlround eschews the usual field recordings in favour of exploring the interior world of the machines themselves.

Cut by Jason @ Transition
Mastered by Stephan Mathieu
Artwork & photography by Jon Wozencroft

Reviews and features:

[The Present Continuous]

Profile: Modern Trends In Tape Music and Contemporary Artists in The Field

You can read a feature here

Electronic Sound (UK):

The Quietus (UK):

The Debatable Lands were where Northernmost England meets Scotland but situated in neither while local clans resisted English and Scottish authorities for over 300 years until their defeat around 1530. Broadcasting from this region in modern day Cumbria, Howlround channels its historic autonomy using two reel-to-reel tape machines to produce sounds that are “entirely at the discretion of the machines (much of them derived from ‘closed-input’ recordings) … in a single take [with] no edits, no overdubs and no additional effects”.

Radiophonic sounds framed by rural scenes often engender a sense of the occult and, with The Debatable Lands, Howlround’s aleatory process reminds of The Stone Tape, Nigel Kneale’s 1972 tale of a residual haunting recorded by a mansion’s stone walls. The results have thick streaks of analogue energies roaming the air, fluttering and pulsing, forming rhythms that palpitate and regurgitate before ultimately crumbling under an unstable tape delay. Like the cairns – burial monuments – that thread through the region, The Debatable Lands feels like unearthly audio monoliths with hidden, ancient properties. [Russell Cuzner]

Boomkat (UK):

Robin The Fog’s Howlround project takes a noisier, visceral direction in ‘The Debatable Lands’, his spikily psychoactive debut for Touch

Under a title referring to the historic tracts of land between northern England and southern Scotland, which includes his hometown of Carlisle, where the LP was recorded on his parents’ kitchen table, ‘The Debatable Lands’ also acts a metaphor for the abstract no-mans-land of noise he conjures with two 1/4” tape recorders and a microphone.

Allowing the tape recorders as much agency as possible, Robin acts as an improvising conduit or medium in the mode of a gonzo Tony Conrad or Eliane Radigue, with a modicum of Yvette Fielding and The Hafler Trio. He presents four durational pieces ranging from tremulous, plasmic immersion in ‘Threip’, to something like a pummelling, underwater Masami Akita workout in the rhythmic noise of ‘The Black Path’, while ‘Talking Tarn’ invokes imagery of animist pagans worshipping lone, lofty bodies of freezing water, and ‘Moat’ resembles some kind of EVP interception, perhaps from Roman times, or maybe the ancient spirits of Mu, located in the stone circle-littered realms to the north of Carlisle.

The Wire (UK):

Dusted (US):

Howlround has made tape-based noise experiments in one fashion or another for nearly a decade. Their first release, The Ghosts of Bush released in 2012 on Howlround’s own Fog Signals label, was an homage the BBC Workshop. It was composed using only recordings of the natural acoustic sounds of the Bush House, home of the BBC World Services for seven decades until it’s final broadcast in 2012, captured in the tucked away corners of the building in the wee hours of the night and then dubbed in the basement studio, using the last of the Workshop’s reel-to-reels. The album itself is a montage of articulated noise movements, with veiled meanings. Much of Howlround’s material since has latched onto this approach, providing a tenable foreground for the nuanced, interpretive noise that follows.

Howlround started out as the duo of Chris Weaver and Robin the Fog. Both members compiled field recordings and other sounds and moved them to reel-to-reel tapes which Robin would drape across and around various things and over long distances to increase the chance for inconsistent playback, and Chris, behind the controls of the output, tweaked levels and added drabs to the iridescent loops. But since 2015, when Weaver took on a residency in Dubai, Robin has taken the title on solo.

The Debatable Lands was inspired by Robin’s first performance in his hometown of Carlisle, Cumbria. The four tracks were made with two ¼” reel-to-reel tape machines and a microphone, with no overdubs, edits, or added effects, Draping elongated tape loops around his mom’s candlesticks on his parent’s dining room table, Robin’s set-up for the record was nearly identical to the performance in Carlisle, accumulating a mass of straight-forward sharpened sounds from a closed-input system, something Robin himself accurately calls “tapeloop techno.”

It’s notably harsher than the rest of Howlround’s output in large part due to the minimal set-up, but there’s little conceptual foregrounding for a listener to latch onto as well. Robin succeeds in plumbing depths of his closed-input system, its range and limitations feeling apparent and inhibiting, yet somehow a capable venue for creative variations. The four insulated tracks almost sound like they’re missing a dimension as Robin funnels inward. He leaves nothing to get lost in other than the contours he mines within the lone microphone and two tape machines. [Ian Forsythe]

Tone 65 Jana Winderen – “Spring Bloom in the Marginal Ice Zone”

CD – 3 tracks – 77:49

Track listing:

1. Interview with Carlos Duarte 5:48
2. Spring Bloom in the Marginal Ice Zone – Headphones mix 37:00
3. Spring Bloom in the Marginal Ice Zone – Speakers mix 35:00

You can listen an extract here

The marginal ice zone is the dynamic border between the open sea and the sea ice, which is ecologically extremely vulnerable. The phytoplankton present in the sea produces half of the oxygen on the planet. During spring, this zone is the most important CO2 sink in our biosphere. In Spring Bloom in the Marginal Ice Zone the sounds of the living creatures become a voice in the current political debate concerning the official definition of the location of the ice edge.

The listener experiences the bloom of plankton, the shifting and crackling sea ice in the Barents Sea around Spitsbergen, towards the North Pole, and the underwater sounds made by bearded seals, migrating species such as humpbacks and orcas, and the sound made by hunting saithe, crustaceans and spawning cod, all depending on the spring bloom.

Spring Bloom in the Marginal Ice Zone is a Sonic Acts and Dark Ecology commission first shown as a 7 channel installation at the Sonic Acts festival (Muziekgebouw, Amsterdam, 2017). It was supported by Art & Technology – Arts Council Norway, Fond for lyd og bilde, Tono stipendet, ARCEx research cruise on R/V Helmer Hanssen, UiT The Arctic University of Norway. Thanks to Paul Wassmann, Ingrid Wiedmann, Britt Kramvig, Berit Kristoffersen, Hilde Methi, Annette Wolfsberger, North Sailing, Arctic Encounters, Mamont Foundation & TBA21 Academy.

CARLOS M. DUARTE is Professor of Marine Science, Tarek Ahmed Juffali Research Chair in Red Sea Ecology, Biological and Environmental Science and Engineering Division, and is a world-wide leader in multiple branches of biological oceanography and marine ecology.

PHILIPP ASSMY is a researcher at The Norwegian Polar Institute, Tromsø, Norway. Current activities include species-specific studies of planktonic and sympagic communities and primary productivity in the Arctic Ocean north of Svalbard. He is also studying the impact of changing sea ice conditions and associated effects (e.g. changes in light climate and surface stratification) on phytoplankton and ice algal communities.

Artwork & photography by Jon Wozencroft
Booklet photography by Philipp Assmy
Mastered by Denis Blackham, Skye

Reviews

Rockerilla (Italy):

Ancora un esempio di soundscaping, essenziale e importante opera divulgativa. Jana Winderen è diplomata in Belle Arti con conoscenze approfondite in matematica, chimica ed ecologia marina. In questo lavoro si è occupata del fragile equilibrio cheesiste lungo la linea di confine che divide il mare aperto e ledistese di ghiaccio, un luogo che permette la creazione del vitale serbatoio di ossigeno della biosfera. Spring Bloom é un rilevante lavoro che unisce cultura ecologica ed espressività artistica grazie a due lunghi episodi immersivi nei quali è stata utilizzata tuttal’intensità e la drammaticità del field recording. NECESSARIO. [Mirco Salvadori]

Chain DLK (USA):

Layering high-latitude field recordings of the border between sea ice and the open sea into one found sound composition, this is an elegant work with a lot of fascinating detail. While there’s underwater seal and whale sounds (mostly faint), it’s never in danger of becoming a relaxation cliché, mainly thanks to the crisp and almost electronica-like noises of the ice itself, which are gentle but still slightly alienating, and which ebb alternatively with windier, quite barren sounds.

There’s a 37-minute “headphones mix” and a 35-minute “speakers mix”. I didn’t compare or side-by-side them, instead being perfectly happy with a 72-minute listening experience that didn’t overstay its welcome.

It’s framed in terms of marine science and ecology rather than art, nevertheless it’s a beautiful thing to listen to, toeing an unusual line between emptiness and grandeur that really draws you in.

Toneshift (Italy):

With this record the acclaimed biologist (Really? – ed.) and sound artist Jana Winderen adds another valuable work to the continuum of her personal research. Differently enough from her previous output, Spring Bloom in the Marginal Ice Zone engages with the political aspects of climate change in a much stronger and direct way. A strong bond from both a scientific and an sensitive link to the catastrophic effects of global warming becoming everyday much more evident (I’m now sitting in my kitchen in Oslo, it’s mid-November and the temperature of 9°C is just insane for this period of the year). While on the other side new capitalism-led far right movements getting into power worldwide pretend nothing happens, Winderen frames out a specific picture, a well-defined endangered natural phenomenon that becomes an example of the possible consequences for our society’s behaviour.

Part of her statement comes from the first document contained in the record: an interview with the professor Carlos Duarte that explains in great detail how marine spring bloom in the marginal ice zone happens and how it is fundamental for the life cycle, not only of the creatures inhabiting the polar sea, but for the entire world.

The Marginal Ice zone is that belt in which the transition between the ocean and the sea ice happens — and where the algae that in the months right after the polar night accomplish their life cycle, not only represent the main food resource for plankton and other small sea creatures, which become food for other species in their turn, but also act as the biggest sink for carbon dioxide in our biosphere.

From a visual perspective this photosynthetic blast appears like a green wave that moves between spring and summer from the lowest latitudes to the highest ones.
 The album contains then two different renders of the same track, a headphone mix and a speaker mix. This was for me a very nice surprise that I considered a natural aesthetic consequence for a sound specialist, aware of the fact that more and more people around the world listen to music mainly over headphones. The sense of presence and immersiveness we gain from the binaural mix is a feature not to be overlooked. It contributes a lot to the experience of this ever-changing perfect orchestra that nature is.

No digital granulation process could possibly ever match the beauty and the richness of the granular sounds happening in nature. The sound materials in the record, all coming from field recordings of the environment and the species inhabiting the area around Spitsbergen in the Barents Sea, provide the feeling of being part of the ecosystem that we can’t then perceive as something away from us anymore. [Giuseppe Pisano]

Touching Extremes (Italy):

Jana Winderen belongs in my mnemonic list of trustworthy researchers. Spring Bloom In The Marginal Ice Zone confirms that the Norwegian is second to none as far as releasing materials of acoustic and learning relevance is concerned. That Winderen mostly focuses her investigations on the usually disguised characteristics of marine biology is a major plus for a person – yours truly – who considers the sea as his one and only teacher. What happens in there, and in the immediate surroundings, can’t possibly be rendered by words; perhaps not even by a detailed recording like this. Nevertheless, identifying the essence of our animateness in the absence of mind-poisoning “explanations” is a motivation. All it takes is listening, leaving the narrative to the evolved segments of creation.

I didn’t pick the “evolved” adjective casually. The two versions of this piece, originally born as a 7-channel installation for the 2017 edition of the Sonic Arts festival in Amsterdam, indicate the voices of whales, seals, crustaceans, pollock and whatever is imaginable underwater as the closest thing to a technically advanced, and inevitably efficient human instrument. In this case, “human” means that – at the same time – we are kept responsive in spite of today’s sickening depreciation of anything which is really important, while remaining pitifully insufficient in regard to a multitude of bottomless meanings appearing to these ears as organic variations on hypothetical themes. The latter have to do with the inscrutable aspects of perception that, in the past, were brought out by the intuitions of genuine visionaries such as Tod Dockstader and Roland Kayn. The impact of this experience on the innermost self is often equivalent: just standing in quietness, surrounded by inexpressible beauty without dull-witted interrogatives about why, when, what comes after. Harmonic auroras speckled by a myriad of invisible lives, forever more consequential than the arid loquaciousness of many a deleterious nonsense huckster.

The music’s therapeutic effects are striking, especially in “full immersion” mode (no pun intended). A brief explanatory interview with Professor Carlos Duarte, a renowned luminary of biological oceanography, represents a fitting preamble. However, what Winderen managed once again to extrapolate from the apparent obscurity is a current of awareness that defeats any activist’s speech. We keep witnessing natural disasters on a daily basis, but the energy of those creatures remains. Mute choirs that still sound marvellous, thanks to a woman who keeps reminding us of their lessons. The real ones. [Massimo Ricci]

Czech National Radio:

Hudební abstrakce může být někdy úzce spjatá s konkrétním a naléhavým tématem doby. Můžeme tomu říkat hudba, nebo zvukové umění, nebo jakkoli jinak: Na každý pád novou nahrávkou Norky Jany Winderen pokračuje její dlouhodobý průzkum podmořských zvuků. Album Spring Bloom in the Marginal Ice Zone (Jarní květ v marginální ledové zóně) lze zároveň poslouchat jako komentář k diskusi o budoucnu Země.

Posluchač tu vnímá zvuk kvetoucího planktonu, vlny a praskot ker v ledovém Barentsově moři kolem Špicberků směrem k severnímu pólu, a také podvodní zvuky tuleňů vousatých, migrujících keporkaků a kosatek, stejně jako zvuk táhnoucího hejna tresek. Všechno tohle dění podle Jany Winderen souvisí s jarem v moři, oním kvetoucím planktonem. Marginální ledová zóna je termín pro pohyblivou hranici mezi otevřeným a zmrzlým mořem, což je ekologicky velmi zranitelná zóna. Fytoplankton přítomný v moři produkuje polovinu, celou polovinu zemského kyslíku. A na jaře je tato sféra nejvýznamnějším likvidátorem oxidu uhličitého v naší biosféře. Takže zase: odposlech skutečného světa jako svědectví o prostředí, na kterém budoucnost země závisí těsněji, než si připouštíme. Jana Winderen píše: “Na nahrávce Jarní květ v marginální ledové zóně se stává zvuk živočichů hlasem v aktuální politické debatě na téma oficiální definice této zóny na pokraji ledovce.” [Pavel Klusak]

Music Map (Italy):

“There’s no way we can stop that”. Queste sono le drammatiche parole di Carlos Duarte, ecologista esperto di vita marina e di biologia oceanografica, riferendosi allo scioglimento dei ghiacciai nell’Artico. Estratte da un’intervista, dove si parla di diossido di carbonio, ecosistema, neve che scompare, Duarte ci avverte che il processo del riscaldamento globale è ormai irreversibile, e quello che possiamo fare oggi è solo imparare a convivere con l’imminente cambiamento climatico. Questo si sposa con la filosofia della Dark Ecology, un movimento ecologista “decadentista” fondato da Timothy Morton. Il suo approccio, più che razionale, vuole portare i propri lettori e seguaci ad una partecipazione emotiva, nell’affrontare il punto di vista ecologista. E fa qualcosa che va oltre (o accanto) l’attivismo concreto. Per questo scopo emozionale, la Dark Ecology assieme a Sonic Acts hanno commissionato questo lavoro di sound art a Jana Winderen, intitolato “Spring bloom in the marginal ice zone” ed appena uscito per Touch. La quale, già esperta di ambienti freddi (vedasi “Interrupting the surface” del 2014), si è diretta nel mare di Barents, che sta fra Norvegia e Russia, appena sotto il Polo Nord. Ha posizionato i suoi microfoni sott’acqua, facendoci scoprire un mondo di suoni a noi sconosciuti. Per noi l’oceano è silenzioso, poiché percepiamo i suoni spostati dall’aria. Ma sott’acqua, gli animali comunicano con vibrazioni che ricevono nelle ossa. E così, grazie alla tecnologia acustica si apre un mondo di rumori sconosciuti, racchiusi in “Spring Bloom in the Marginal Ice Zone”, che è costituito da tre tracce. La prima è la sopracitata intervista a Carlos Duarte. Il succo sta nell’unica titletrack, sdoppiata per far sentire due differenti mix: “Headphone”, e “Speakers”. In totale si tratta di quasi 72 minuti in apnea, immersi nel mare, dove ascoltare il ghiaccio che gradualmente si rompe, l’acqua che gocciola o che trasporta i rimbombi, e le comunicazioni fra merluzzi, crostacei, balene ed orche. I pesci non arrivano a intervalli regolari, non c’è struttura musicale. Quando passano vicino ce ne accorgiamo, altrimenti restiamo soli fra le onde. Se finora i “canti delle balene” potevano essere una battuta ironica rivolta a certa “musica per installazioni”, ascoltando questa ci si può ricredere, e scoprire che gli oceani sono molto più rumorosi di quel che avessimo potuto pensare. E Jana, con il lavoro in post produzione, non snatura le peculiarità naturalistiche delle registrazioni, ma gioca con i rumori di fondo per renderli come fossero inquietanti drones. E così, rendendoli una sorta di minaccia verso questo vivace mondo blu, ci fa riflettere. [Gilberto Ongaro]

Bad Alchemy (Germany):

The Wire (UK):

CLOT Magazine (UK):

The marginal ice zone is the dynamic border between the open sea and the sea ice, which is ecologically extremely vulnerable. The phytoplankton present in the sea produces half of the oxygen on the planet. During spring, this zone is the most important CO2 sink in our biosphere. An algal bloom or algae bloom is a rapid increase or accumulation in the population of algae in freshwater or marine water systems and is recognized by the discolouration in the water from their pigments. The proliferation of algal blooms likely result from a combination of environmental factors and the rise of temperatures in spring is one of the driving force.

Field recorder  Jana Winderen has been documenting the sounds of underwater life in our seas and oceans – from the warm waters in the Caribbean to the cold and nourishing waters around Greenland, Norway and Iceland-, creating the most beautiful compositions out of them. She researches the hidden depths with the latest technology with her work revealing the complexity and strangeness of the unseen world beneath.

Spring Bloom in the Marginal Ice Zone is Winderen’s latest instalment in the series of works exploring these underwater sounds. A commission by Sonic Acts and Dark Ecology it resulted in an installation for the Sonic Acts festival in 2017.  The listener or viewer experiences the bloom of plankton, the shifting and crackling sea ice in the Barents Sea around Spitsbergen, towards the North Pole, and the underwater sounds made by bearded seals, migrating species such as humpbacks and orcas, and the sound made by hunting seithe and spawning cod, all depending on the spring bloom.

The work was produced with help of  Carlos M. Duarte, a Professor of Marine Science, and a worldwide leader in multiple branches of biological oceanography and marine ecology. And Philipp Assmy is a researcher at The Norwegian Polar Institute, Tromsø, Norway. Currently studying the impact of changing sea ice conditions and associated effects on phytoplankton and ice algal communities.

And in November 2018, an edit of the recordings was released in Touch. The album starts with an introductory interview with Carlos Duarte, where he explains with some scientific details the occurrence of the algae blooms in the region. The  2 other tracks are long meditative pieces, with the chirps, drips and squeaks of marine life and the shoosh of waves and wind. In this piece of work, a most timely release in view of the recent UN Climate Change report, Winderen is offering another compelling reflection on the fragility of these delicate marine ecosystems and somehow as well, the sounds of the living creatures become a voice in the current political debate concerning the official definition of the location of the ice edge.

Rockdelux (Spain):

Gonzo Circus (Belgium):

Nordische Musik (Norway):

Tone 64D – Simon Scott “Grace”

1 track EP – Download only – 18:39

Tracklisting:

1. Grace

Now available to pre-order on Bandcamp (release date 10th August 2018)

Grace begins with a 12 string acoustic guitar fed into a modular synthesiser that spits out beautiful grains of sound that rise and fall like the sun. Textures build up and then slip away leaving a pipe organ playing and the church room recordings sonically revealing passing cyclists, rainfall and Cambridge bus station. It shimmers like an oscillating river until the strings fade and the final third section slips in and a deep organ tone leads the tapestry of sound into field recordings, strings and processed instruments. The contact mics on the organ pipes are heard, floorboards and unidentified human sounds appear and the alarm call of a blackbird seeps into the piece.

Simon Scott’s forthcoming new album, “Soundings” will be out later this year on Touch.

Written recorded, mixed and mastered by Simon Scott at SPS in Cambridge. Strings performed and recorded in Glendale, California by Charlie Campagna (‘cello) and Zachary Paul (viola and violin). Pipe organ recorded at The Unitarian Church, Cambridge, UK.

Thanks to Charlie Campagna, Zachary Paul, Andrew Brown and Jeannie Witty.

Published by Touch Music/Fairwood Music UK Ltd
Photography by Jon Wozencroft

Reviews:

Up to Speed (UK):

Simon Scott has released a single track EP.  The EP, Grace, which came Friday (August 10), was released via Touch on their Bandcamp page.  It also features the expertise of Charlie Campagna and Zachary Paul.

The Cambridge sound ecologist and multi-instrumentalist has combined electronic ambience with more conventional instrumentation to create soundscapes truly unique, hence the necessity of reviewing this EP.  He already has albums Floodlines (Touch),  Insomni (Ash International) and Below Sea Level (Kesh/TouchLine) under his belt.

“His work explores the creative process of actively listening, the implications of recording the natural world using technology and the manipulation of natural sounds used for musical composition,” explains his website biography.

He also plays the drums in Slowdive and has recently collaborated with artists James Blackshaw, ‘Spire’, Taylor Deupree (Between), Isan and many more.  Simon Scott’s forthcoming new album, Soundings, will be out early next year on Touch.

Sole track, “Grace”, rings in powerful and cyclical.  Like an overhead fan big enough to cut you in two. Strings lend a certain graveness to proceedings. The ringing sensation is almost overpowering, a sonic assault that makes you sit up and take notice, inspiring deep thought and contemplation.  Pulsing, futuristic and maybe even dystopic.  What seems chugging helicopter blades gives way to grumbles, earthy and organic.  Ascending to the air, only to have your feet back in the dirt.

A prolonged ringing with grave strings propping it makes itself known.  The latter build in majesty but are too proud to embellish their tearful strains.  By this time, it honestly gets to the point where it feels like a spiritual experience, evocative of Eastern influences.  Glass effects are imbued with the strength of cutting diamond, the shattering sounds strangely cathartic.  A rousing change in proceedings, now more alert and grave than ever.  A conflict, it seems, has come about and needs resolution.

It rings foreboding, an occasional squeak making you feel as if you’re not alone.  Not in a particularly benevolent way, neither. The ringing pitch increases, the tension is building and you feel something of utmost importance is about to unfold.  A carousel of sound spins, sometimes sounding far and distant and sometimes sounding too close to home.  Is that massive, chugging fan closing in to cut?  It seems like the drum of a washing machine has been launched into space, its churning of clothes high pitched as it propels into oblivion.  It becomes distant as the song fades out.

This was a very ambitious release.  Some people genuinely try to get away with releasing single and double track length EPs, sometimes barely deviating from the approximate three minute structure. This, however, is bold and could open Scott to far more criticism than, say, splitting this piece into three to six separate parts.  It’s because of this that he’s definitely bold putting it out as one.  It was definitely worthwhile not splitting the whole narrative into separate parts.

Following his gut arguably saved the EP from sounding very disjointed if split in say the conventional way that, daresay, concept pieces are put together.  This is almost besides the point to what the music actually achieves.  Whether split into one, three or six this EP is a journey into sound, and different listeners will interpret differently depending on the power of their varying imaginations as everyone is unique.

TO:106 – Ipek Gorgun “ECCE HOMO”

CD & full album download – 11 tracks – 47:06

Release date: 7th September 2018

About the Album

Ecce Homo explores the lighter and darker shades of the human psyche, behaviour and existence, and humanity’s ability to create beauty and destruction. What lies in the essence of such complexity has become a core idea for the album, while Gorgun seeks to figure out if there is a true meaning to being human, and human being.

Starting with “Neroli” as a human fascination with nature and finalising with “To Cross Great Rivers”; the album reflects the contemplations of a spectator being exposed to the human civilization, and witnessing human activity, including his/her own.

Trying to acquire a glimpse of the various layers of human flesh and bones, the sound of the album aims to present a diversity of the sonic spectrum, with tracks varying between ambient and noisy landscapes.

Track Titles:

1. Neroli – you can hear this track here
2. Afterburner
3. Tserin Dopchut
4. Le Sacre l
5. Le Sacre ll
6. Bohemian Grove
7. Seneca
8. Knightscope K5
9. Reverance
10. Mileva
11. To Cross Great Rivers

All tracks recorded and mixed by Ipek Gorgun, Istanbul 2016 – 2018
Mastered by Denis Blackham @ Skye
Photography & design by Jon Wozencroft

Artist Biography

Ipek Gorgun is an electronic music composer currently enrolled in the doctoral program of Sonic Arts at Istanbul Technical University’s Center for Advanced Studies in Music. After graduating from Bilkent University with a degree in Political Science, she completed her Master’s studies in Philosophy at Galatasaray University.

As one of the participants of the Red Bull Music Academy in 2014, she performed in Tokyo as an opening artist for Ryoji Ikeda’s “Test Pattern No: 6” and joined Otomo Yoshidide for a collective improvisation project.

​As a bass player and vocalist for projects and bands such as Bedroomdrunk and Vector Hugo between 2001-2013, she also performed in an opening gig for Jennifer Finch from L7 and Simon Scott from Slowdive, as well as performing live with David Brown from Brazzaville. She has released two EPs with Bedroomdrunk, entitled “This is What Happened (2003)” and “Raw (2007)”.

​Besides group projects and solo performances, she also composed the soundtrack for the documentary ‘Yok Anasinin Soyadi (Mrs. His Name) directed by Hande Cayir in 2012, portraying Turkish women’s struggle for keeping their original surnames after marriage.

​Her debut album Aphelion was self-released in February, 2016 and is reissued by Touch in December, under the TOUCHLINE catalogue. In 2017 she released a collaborative album from Halocline Trance, with Canadian producer Ceramic TL (aka Egyptrixx) entitled “Perfect Lung”, and a mini-album with the Italian electroacoustic duo, Alberi.

Aside from many performances following these albums, she also performed in Sonar Istanbul (2017), BBC Radio 3’s “Open Ear” at LSO St. Luke’s (2018) and opened for the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in Oggimusica Acousmonium with an electronic rework of Igor Stravinsky’s “The Firebird” (2018).

Ipek Gorgun also practices performance, street and abstract photography. She won the IPA honorable mention award in 2013-14 with her work entitled “Bubblegun Daydreamer” and in 2013, she worked as the advertisement photographer for Contemporary Istanbul Art fair.

Reviews:

Boomkat (UK):

Highly impressive new full-length from Ipek Gorgun. Eschewing any notions of easy-to-consume ambient music, Ipek instead orcestrates an ambitious mass of sound indebeted to musique concrète but also taking in field recordings and a documentary style that lends the album its winding narrative structure. If you’re into anything from Lenka Clayton’s collage work to Ilhan Mimaroglu’s pioneering electronic works – we wager this one will rule your world.

“Ecce Homo explores the lighter and darker shades of the human psyche, behaviour and existence, and humanity’s ability to create beauty and destruction. What lies in the essence of such complexity has become a core idea for the album, while Gorgun seeks to figure out if there is a true meaning to being human, and human being.

Starting with “Neroli” as a human fascination with nature and finalising with “To Cross Great Rivers”; a never ending hopeless dream of the mankind to conquer and control the world, the album reflects the contemplations of a spectator being exposed to the human civilization, and witnessing human activity, including his/her own.

Trying to acquire a glimpse of the multiple layers of such narrative, the sound of the album aims to present a diversity of the sonic spectrum, with tracks varying between ambient and noisy landscapes.”

The Wire (UK):

Beach Sloth (blog):

Wild, weird, and whimsical, Ipek Gorgun goes for a disorienting experience with “Ecce Homo”. Time becomes indiscernible for the way shifts in tempo and texture changes means no track has a recognizable center. Rather, the whole of the work goes for something that becomes truly all-consuming, possessing its own peculiar logic. Close analogues to this particular approach might be Oneothrix Point Never’s equally befuddling style, yet Ipek Gorgun’s take feels rather fresh. Everything about it radiates with a sense of life. Compositions have a sun-soaked disposition to them while they carefully amble about.

By far the most beautiful and optimistic piece comes first with the opener “Neroli” which conveys a mysticism of sorts. Far harsher thought still somehow giddy with anticipation “Afterburner” conveys a different sort of light, one of intense heat as the piece virtually melts into “Tserin Dopchut”. Gentle fragile structures return on the duo of “Le Sacre I” and “Le Sacre II” which at times recall Tim Hecker’s delicate take on ambience. Totally unclassifiable “Bohemian Grove” serves as the very confusing maze of it all while samples skitter through revealing a sort of paranoia that seems to permeate so much of the news lately, the conspiracy theory fringes that have moved closer to the center. Unhinged to its core “Knightscope K5” at times feels akin to similar sonic explorer Madalyn Merkey, with the vocals becoming their own melodies humming to themselves. Ending things on a surreal note is the impossible to place tones of “To Cross Great Rivers”.

A truly unusual and downright beautiful intersection of the experimental and emotional, Ipek Gorgun’s “Ecce Homo” is a true triumph.

Toneshift (USA):

On her third record (released this week), her second with Touch, Turkish electronic/electroacoustic composer Ipek Gorgun explores humanity on Ecce Homo from the inside-out. Currently she’s a doctoral student at the Istanbul Technical University’s Center for Advanced Studies in Music, and I find that making your studies public in this fashion just may be one of the greatest tests of all, especially in our virtual times. She’s been working on this particular recording for the last two years, so the blooms of late Summer (like Jon Wozencroft’s lovely coverart) are about to arrive (along with the early Monarch migration here in TX). Though the Bandcamp page is not active until the release I managed to locate a few postable soundclips for your ears, so please take my words for it, and anticipate the delivery of something quite special come this Friday. If you cannot wait that long you can listen to the album’s opener, Neroli, here.

The track immediately dazzles the ears with a magical uplifting melody, a tangle of bright punchy synths. Neroli is the natural essence of bitter orange, its oil. And the piece comes off like a mystical fusion, a floral pasture as seen through a kaleidoscope. In the second half of the piece the atmosphere shifts into a more subdued affair, more still with a luminous drone like a long note played on a church organ, into a gray fade out. With all the unrest in her home country there’s no escaping the current environment, both physical and/or political, cannot be diverted from her creative voice, however restrained. And this rises in Afterburner, a cascading and course atonal work of ambient/industrial quiet fervor. The muffled roar and partially erased voices speak of our challenging times. It’s a fiery reminder of the human condition and it’s fragility. This leads into the layered, spacey distortions on Tserin Dopchut which are bathed in reverb.

Le Sacre I + II are both two short extractions, up next and filled with a whole range of sound effects, and atmosphere, looped and de-constructed bird whistles. Though these sort of act as intermediate music in the context here, they are worth noting for the complex structure and balance between the natural and the plugged in. Bohemian Grove edits soundclips from a ‘religious’ radio program which is twisted into a windy drone peppered with all sorts of wry effects. If you’ve ever heard the sound collage work of Ultra-Red or Mark Van Hoen you’ll be in a similar ballpark here. Expertly edited.

Seneca can only be described as abstract edgy ambient with its queasy and emotive tone, all wound down, forlorn. But it’s on Reverance that I hear her passion play for the first time. Gorgun delights with an imbalanced, discordant core, but takes the liberties the take mystery to bed  with an eerie dalliance on the piano. It’s as gorgeous as it is idiosyncratic, and that hybrid is rare.

On Mileva an impassioned drone has this essence of inner light burning through, one that goes from quiet to racket in a bit more than sixty seconds, though manages to keep the chaos finely quarantined. The white noise sears on through in this short but sweet noise work.

And finally, on To Cross Great Rivers the atmosphere once again shifts darkly to an ambiguous clang, muffled and dragged. Though after a few minutes the tone softens with the partial light we heard in the beginning. A whirring vortex of sci-fi synth creates an audio/visual scope, breathy with a bit of a hovering sensibility in its defined warble. As a whole these eleven parts are a patchwork of short stories, and I can only want to imagine them being overlaid and mixed into one long-playing work with a light show set in a planetarium, or some such spherical space. Take the trip. [TJ Norris]

Pitchfork (USA):

The Turkish sound artist balances technical precision, emotional potency, and trenchant cultural critique on an album whose individual sounds are as compelling as their widescreen narratives.

In the work of Ipek Gorgun, small moves and grand gestures are equally important. Before she molds her instrumental electronic music into massive shapes, the Turkish sound artist infuses it with precise detail. “I work with milliseconds in the beginning, then I switch to seconds, then to minutes,” she once explained. “At the end, I think about the whole arrangement of the structure… So I zoom in, zoom out, and try to find a way to fit everything in place.” As a result, her compositions connect on the micro level of individual sounds as well as on the macro level of widescreen narrative.

On first listen, Ecce Homo, her second solo album, seems more about the micro. It opens with the tactile chimes of “Neroli,” a track that gets progressively denser but never loses sight of the sonic molecules that comprise it. Gorgun has a talent for spinning fine-tuned sounds that stay resistant to blur no matter how thick her mix becomes. It’s easy to get lost in those textures, the shiny whirrs and low rumbles and drilling noise. But as the album moves forward, Gorgun’s ever-deepening forests prove to be just as compelling as the trees they encompass.

As technical as all of this may sound, Ecce Homo can be quite moving. On pieces like the creeping, piano-echoed “Reverance” and the expansive, atmospheric “To Cross Great Rivers,” Gorgun uses both natural sounds and utterances that feel alien to create habitable worlds. She can sustain these attention-commanding arcs over long stretches, too; on the consecutive tracks “Le Sacre I” and “Le Sacre II,” extended tones and pointillist stabs seem to echo the cycle of calm and nerves that so often characterizes the mood of a momentous occasion. The emotion in Gorgun’s music is sneaky, though. Her technique is so fascinating that you might not notice, at first, that the music is working on your mood as much as on your intellect.

What makes Ecce Homo even more compelling is that, though her music is generally pretty abstract, Gorgun doesn’t shy away from pointed statements. This is most apparent in her use of vocal samples, which ground her open-ended sounds. The most stunning example is “Bohemian Grove” (a reference to the California campground that hosts an annual retreat for an all-male cabal of political elites and the ultra-wealthy), which blends quotes from fearmonger Alex Jones into a hellscape of metallic horror sounds. It’s a risky move; trying to make meaningful art out of cartoonish grandstanding could easily result in a simplistic critique. But by applying the same techniques she uses throughout Ecce Homo, Gorgun creates a work complex enough that it can take multiple listens to fully appreciate.

Most of Ecce Homo is not that literal, however, as Gorgun proves adept at making music that feels universal while retaining her very specific signature. This talent helped make Perfect Lung, the collaborative album she released with Toronto producer Ceramic TL last year, sound unique without throwing out any compositional rulebooks. But it’s when she’s patiently stitching together whole sonic universes on her own that Gorgun’s musical identity is at its most potent. On Ecce Homo, each tiny step reveals the will to run a marathon. [Marc Masters]

Cyclic Defrost (Australia):

Istanbul-based electronic composer Ipek Gorgun last made an appearance with her collaborative album alongside Ceramic TL ‘Perfect Lung’ earlier this year, and now a few months on, this latest collection ‘Ecce Homo’ on Touch offers up her second solo album. Recorded over a period spanning two years, Gorgun describes the eleven tracks here as “exploring the lighter and darker shades of the human psyche, behaviour and existence, and humanity’s ability to create beauty and destruction.”

As with ‘Perfect Lung’, there’s an emphasis on maximalism and total sensory immersion here, with many of the tracks here shifting between serene ambience and intense noisy textures. It’s certainly an apt sonic metaphor for the full spectrum of human nature being explored by Gorgun. ‘Neroli’ opens this album with a sparkling ambient wash of melodic notes, the tones seemingly to hang suspended in mid-air as they wash back and forth between the speakers, phasing and glistening like chimes, before more brooding bass chords bass chords arrive during the second half, taking things out into a void of droning harmonics.

‘Afterburner’ meanwhile lives up to its title as layers of what sounds like reversed vocals in different languages give way to rushing walls of noise, the phased frequencies seemingly to intertwine into a thundering vortex before suddenly dropping down into ominous dark ambience as eerie noise sweeps whisper against chattering contorted vocal samples.

Elsewhere, ‘Bohemian Grove’ sees samples of a US televangelist getting cut up into surreal non sequiturs (“they are coming”) against icy washes of bass ambience, pitched up cartoon vocals and glitchy bursts of digitally treated noise, before ‘Reverence’ takes a completely different turn as delicate minimalist piano arrangements get reshaped into howling harmonics and ping-ponging ricochets.

Personally though, I found that closing track ‘To Cross Great Rivers’ was easily one of this album’s biggest highlights as glowing walls of ambience trail like an aurora against glittering keys and vaporous textures, the entire blend of lush, immersive textures offering up perhaps this album’s most fully realised work. A gorgeously sensual album, ‘Ecce Homo’ continually reveals more with each subsequent listen. [Chris Downton]

FACT (UK):

Istanbul sound artist Ipek Gorgun knows our search for meaning manifests in all we do

FACT Rated is our series digging into the sounds and stories of the most vital breaking artists around right now. This week Adam Badí Donoval speaks to Turkish sound artist Ipek Gorgun about her new album Ecce Homo.

The title, Ecce Homo, of the latest solo endeavor from Turkish sound artist and producer Ipek Gorgun  translates to “Behold The Man(kind).” Gorgun wants to shine a light on our individual and collective search for meaning, on whether there is “anything meaningful beyond flesh and bones.” Her music, full of abstraction, looks to reflect human civilization and its ability to create both beauty and destruction, its tendency to progress and to then decline. “I didn’t focus on one specific aspect of the human,” she says. “There are so many layers to human behavior and human nature to be explored and discovered.”

Gorgun took up solo production after playing bass and singing in bands like Bedroomdrunk and Vector Hugo for over a decade. In 2016, she self-released her debut, Aphelion. Her latest follows a collaborative LP Perfect Lung with Ceramic TL fka Egyptrixx, performances at Sonar Istanbul and BBC Radio 3’s Open Ear and opening for the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in Oggimusica Acousmonium with an electronic rework of Igor Stravinsky’s ‘The Firebird’.

This outward quality of Ipek Gorgun’s music is new, and especially stark when compared to her “more introverted” debut which she says she wrote only in the solitude of night. Ecce Homo isn’t a nocturnal noise album, but rather a deeply insightful observation, and a reflection of our collective reality. Full of contrasts – bright and dark, heavy and light, glistening and dim, gentle and harsh – the album sounds holistic, open to many interpretations, and aware of its context and purpose. The glistening chimes of ‘Neroli’ tackles our fascination with nature; closer, the ominous ‘To Cross Great Rivers’, she says is an ode to mankind’s “never ending hopeless dream to conquer and control the world.” In between, she explores everything from capitalism to royalty and religious practice.

These contrasts are certainly also connected to Gorgun’s instruments and sound sources. “In our lifetime we are exposed to millions of sound events, so why restrict ourselves by choosing a few components and stick to it in every single album?” she says. On Ecce Homo, Gorgun worked with guitars, piano, field recordings, samples, pedals, Ableton Live and MAX environments. The results play with our expectations of what is loud and harsh as opposed to gentle when it comes to sound. “We can still hear a mockingbird sing when the neighbors go crazy with the hammer and the drill,” she says.

And similarly, while the past few years in Gorgun’s homeland have been very dark she regularly reminds herself of “what a blessing it is to be alive and to be able to perform.” In the next few months, she will perform in Istanbul alongside Christian Fennesz for the Red Bull Music Festival, contribute to Berlin’s Dystopie Sound Art Festival with a multichannel audio installation, write a piece based on some of the landmark sounds of Istanbul and work on a photography project to be exhibited sometime by late 2019 or mid-2020. And if that weren’t enough, she has a Ph.D. thesis to complete, “hopefully before becoming a very old woman.”

Ecce Homo has the feel of a grand statement about sound, for Ipek Gorgun it is the first of very many. “It’s been 200 thousand years, and we are still looking for that which could explain the reason we are here,” she says. “This search of meaning seems to manifest itself in everything that we are doing.” [Adam Badl Donoval]

Twittering Machines (blog):

****Album of the Week (in September 2018)****

Ecce homo, “behold the man”, are the words spoken by Pontius Pilate as he presented a bound and crowned Jesus Christ to the angry masses before the Crucifixion. It has been referenced throughout history by painters, writers, poets, and philosophers. I owned a copy of the work by Nietzsche, a first printing from 1908 with decorations by Henry van de Velde, so you could say Ecce homo and I have some history.

“Carnicvale” Ipek Gorgun. Beyond music and photography, Gorgun is currently enrolled in the doctoral program of Sonic Arts at Istanbul Technical University’s Center for Advanced Studies in Music. She holds a Masters in Philosophy.
Turkish electronic music composer and sound artist Ipek Gorgun takes on this weighty theme in her new album for Touch.

Ecce Homo explores the lighter and darker shades of the human psyche, behaviour and existence, and humanity’s ability to create beauty and destruction. What lies in the essence of such complexity has become a core idea for the album, while Gorgun seeks to figure out if there is a true meaning to being human, and human being.
Sound art makes sense to me as the music contained in Ecce Homo is cinematic in scale, richly textured, and chiaroscuro-like in its handling of light and dark. As such, there’s great beauty to be found here, both super-micro and mega-macro, coupled with real horror. On “Bohemian Grove”, Gorgun samples the dangerously unbalanced fearmongering self-serving preacher-of-hate Alex Jones, allowing his words to set off a cacophony of madness. I don’t know about you, but I need artists to take up the good cause and Gorgun does so deftly.

This is a record that takes repeated plays to take in—the sound-world Gorgun creates is as rich, dense, lovely, light and dark just as, you know, life. Highly recommended.

The New Noise (Italy):

Dopo aver preso parte alla Red Bull Music Academy del 2014 e una volta dato alle stampe l’autoprodotto Aphelion (2016, poi ristampato da Touch), lo scorso anno la musicista e fotografa turca Ipek Gorgun ha collaborato con Ceramic TL, meglio noto come Egyptrixx, alimentando l’elettronica in alta definizione del canadese con un appropriato lavoro di sound-design: il risultato si apprezza nelle otto tracce che compongono Perfect Lung, un disco che, a partire dall’ironia pungente e amara del titolo, affronta temi contemporanei nell’ambito di narrazioni oramai consolidate, che vanno dalla dark ecology alle distopie bene introiettate dalla produzione culturale di questi anni.

Oggi la Gorgun, intenta ad ultimare il dottorato in Sonic Arts presso l’Istanbul Technical University’s Center, sposta l’asse concettuale verso un quesito parallelo – ma questa volta di estrazione ontologica, diremmo – alla riflessione eco-politica manifestata in Perfect Lung. Con Ecce Homo, edito ancora da Touch, Gorgun interroga sé stessa sui diversi aspetti della psiche, sul comportamento dell’Uomo e sulla sua esistenza, facendo leva sulla tendenza umana a oscillare tra bellezza e distruzione, progresso e declino, Bene e Male. È questo l’universo concettuale che innerva l’intero Ecce Homo e lo rende spiazzante, vagante, sospeso tra abrasioni avvelenate (“Afterburner”, “Tserin Dopchut”, “Knightscope K5”), illusorie stasi ambientali piene d’inquietudine (“Neroli”, “Seneca”) e registrazioni trasfigurate (il cinguettio sotto aggressione nel doppio atto di “Le Sacre” oppure l’audio-meme di “Bohemian Grove”, che distorce la voce del complottista Alex Jones). Menzione a parte va fatta per la conclusiva “To Cross Great Rivers”, un drone che congiunge e disgiunge le sue componenti; ma anche, nelle parole dell’autrice confidate alla rivista Fact, un’ode all’infinito sogno umano di controllare, capire il mondo e agirvi dentro.

Ora astratto come un esperimento di musica concreta, ora definito al dettaglio, traslucido quasi fosse una variazione sul tema dell’elettronica high-tech dei giorni nostri, Ecce Homo è un album dispersivo e disorientante, tanto che sarebbe lecito intravedere in Ipek Gorgun, e in questo suo ultimo parto, un’eccessiva incertezza tra i vari poli su illustrati. Di certo, che sia o meno un punto a favore, non è il solito disco marchiato Touch. [Davide Ingrosso]

Sentireascoltare (Italy):

Originaria di Ankara, Ipek Gorgun si è sempre interessata alla musica, tanto che le sue prime apparizioni risalgono addirittura ad una decina di anni fa in alcune band della scena locale: Ecce Homo è invece il suo secondo disco solista e arriva mentre la producer e compositrice completa il proprio dottorato in Sonic Arts alla Istanbul Technical University’s Center. Sviluppato nel corso degli ultimi due anni questo sophomore-album esce per Touch dopo che l’esordio del 2016, l’autoprodotto Aphelion, aveva acceso i riflettori sull’artista turca, portandola anche a collaborare con il canadese Ceramic TL (meglio noto come Egyptrixx) per l’oscura psichedelia elettronica ispirata ai cambiamenti climatici dell’acclamato Perfect Lung.

Questa volta però Ipek Gorgun si concentra non sull’ambiente ma sull’uomo, sui diversi aspetti della sua psiche, sulla sua capacità creativa, per cercare di scoprire cosa si nasconda all’interno oltre alla mera anatomia: un’impresa non semplice, ma anche il pretesto per addentrarsi nelle più diverse soluzioni soniche. È infatti Ecce Homo un album che, pur muovendosi sempre tra ambient elettronica, field-recordings e diverse intuizioni dell’avanguardia novecentesca (su tutte il lavoro coi nastri di Pauline Oliveros, omaggiato chiaramente nella vorticosa Afterburner e in una Bohemian Grove che rielabora, distorce e moltiplica addirittura un discorso del complottista americano Alex Jones), si dimostra decisamente vario: l’iniziale Neroli esplicita sin dal titolo l’omaggio all’Eno più placido, mentre Tserin Dopchut e la pulsante Knightscope K5 si avvicinano più al noise elettronico del luminare Carlos Giffoni; ma sono le due brevi parti di Le Sacre (dove registrazioni del cinguettare di volatili sono progressivamente infettati da striduli fischi elettronici) e soprattutto la conclusiva e profondissima To Cross Great Rivers a rappresentare i momenti più alti dell’opera.

C’è un leggero slittamento percettivo in Ecce Homo: dall’inchiesta sull’umanità dichiarata inizialmente, l’opera muta in un viaggio di scoperta, un percorso anche tormentato, ma che sorprendentemente si conclude con note di speranza. [Nicolò Arpinati]

Truants (net):

Ipek Gorgun has featured here before, so there’s little need to go deep into her history. In brief, she has played in rock bands, taken part in the Red Bull Music Academy, made music with Ceramic TL and completed a PhD in Sonic Arts. Very brief. She recently released her second album, Ecce Homo, and it’s a crystallisation of her efforts to date. Opener “Neroli” – named either for the essential oil of the bitter orange tree or a 1993 Brian Eno album (or both, or neither) – flourishes like a bright organ song on a spring morning, somehow both joyful and insidious in how it offers its welcome. Looped glistening harp notes feed terror and uncertainty, forward and reverse, like the time-lapsed opening and closing of the flowers that appear on the album’s cover.

Tracks feature strange vocals in unknown languages, unknown to this writer at least. “Afterburner” moves from pitched-up male sounds into the building drone of the titular flight. “Tserin Dropchut” (more unknown words/languages?) features beautiful sounds that are undermined by distorted clipping, as well as throbbing bass that kicks down into your chest. Like being at a show where the levels are off in every direction, but in a good way. “Bohemian Grove” features the voice of right wing-fantasist Alex Jones, speaking about the supposed occultist tendencies of the eponymous campground. His words are repeated and looped over dark and muted bass tones. The word “Satan” is played over and over, Jones’s voice stretched and squeezed in tape-like format. It’s darkly comical, his paranoia rendered parodic. His almost prurient interest in this “twisted behaviour” becomes twisted itself, any demon worship rendered seductive and intriguing opposed to his conservative finger-wagging. This is an art piece, and his voice sounds many decades old, when in fact the recording is from 2000. It’s a heightened take on puritanism, reminiscent of Mylo’s “Destroy Rock & Roll”, only less danceable.

“Seneca” features muted melodies that could be built from old-timey jazz records, while “Reverance” pits beautiful electronic bells against unsettling piano themes. “Mileva” – potentially named for Mileva Marić, a Serbian mathematician who studied under Einstein and later married him – continues the thread of dark tones, strange distortion, deep bass and overall dread. Gorgun’s work is fascinating in that it can leave a startling impression without lodging specific memories in your head. It’s a feeling. Bar the opening notes of “Neroli” and Jones’s deranged ranting in “Bohemian Grove”, it’s hard to think of single elements once the music stops playing. Whether that means the work is successful – in that it forces you to return and pay attention – or not – because it’s not memorable – is a question of perspective. Ours is that it works.

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Resident Adviser (USA):

The Turkish artist opens new temporal and textural dimensions on this immersive ambient LP.

We’re often drawn to ambient music for its fluidity. Compositional guidelines can be broken down to create soundscapes in which the listener is able to detach from ordinary understandings of space and time. As a Ph.D student in Sonic Arts at Istanbul Technical University, Ipek Gorgun is intimately familiar with this phenomenon. “I enjoy hearing sonic components that open up to new temporal dimensions,” the sound artist, poet, and photographer once said. “And I’m still obsessed with the idea of a never-ending present tense that we keep chasing while making music. No matter how hard we try to hold on to a musical gesture, it always ends up being past.”

On her second album, Ecce Homo, Gorgun explores sonic and theoretical motifs she’s only touched upon before, to striking effect. 2016’s Aphelion was comprised mostly of ominous tones. Last year’s collaboration with Ceramic TL, Perfect Lung, was a maximalist full-length that riffed on environmental degradation. Ecce Homo falls somewhere between the two LPs. Its electroacoustic compositions drill deep into your brain, always with a creeping sense of physical and existential pressure.

Ecce Homo is tense and dynamic, changing from the micro (clicks, brief samples, single notes) to the macro (organs, concentrated filters, tenuous changes in melody) at a moment’s notice. But the macro moments are where Gorgun really thrives. The grating strings and chaotic vocal ambience of “Afterburner” are terrifying in their intensity. The subtler “Tserin Dopchut” feels like a windstorm, moving suddenly from piercing frequencies to heavy static chaos. “Bohemian Grove” samples an Alex Jones film from 2000, in which the right-wing conspiracy theorist tries to sneak into an elite Northern California gentlemen’s club to prove the existence of occult happenings. The track gradually becomes more glitchy and unhinged, to the point where Jones transforms into the satanic demon he’s warning us about.

The LP’s calmer moments are still heady. “Seneca” drifts with a glacial beauty. “To Cross Great Rivers” re-contextualizes the brightness from “Tserin Dopchut” and “Le Sacre I” into music that soothes and surrounds. Throughout the course of Ecce Homo, no sound consistently holds the same space, mood, or tone. Gorgun asserts this as her method from the outset—the album opener, “Neroli,” refracts multiple facets of sound, like a slowly rotating crystal catching the light. Throughout the record, there are gestures toward what has already passed and what will eventually come. With its constant shifts in energy, Ecce Homo succeeds in opening up new temporal and textural dimensions. [Nina Posner]

Exclaim (Canada):

In the Christian New Testament, when Pontius Pilate presents Jesus Christ to a mocking crowd just prior to his crucifixion, he utters the words “Ecce homo” (“Behold the man”). Throughout the ages, an endless list of artists and intellectuals have turned to the scene and Pilate’s words to interpret its complicated depiction of human judgment and understanding, and on her sophomore follow-up to 2016’s Aphelion, Istanbul composer Ipek Gorgun invokes the phrase as a means to plumb “the lighter and darker shades of the human psyche, behaviour and existence, and humanity’s ability to create beauty and destruction.”

It’s a uniquely anthropological pursuit, but as with Gorgun’s debut and last year’s collaborative release with Toronto’s Ceramic TL, the subject of this record is an ontological one, with Gorgun endeavouring to “figure out if there is a true meaning to being human, and human being.” Answering those questions with an expressionistic palette that oscillates gently between noise and ambient music, Gorgun plugs into the landscape while harking back to philosophy, science, mathematics, and current events to place these consuming compositions in a variety of emotional contexts.

After taking a sound bath in the lapping, glowing tones of album opener “Neroli” — think Eno’s iconic Windows startup sound struggling to assert itself through the fragmented lens of the pastiche digital present — “Afterburner” thrusts the action into overdrive, a subtle grinding noise growing to overcome a series of voices to manifest in an awesome, supersonic crescendo, the sheer spectacle of its force implying the jet fuel injectors for which the track is named.

That display of man’s brazen dominion over nature is sharply contrasted with the anxious searching of “Tserin Dopchut,” where what sounds like it could be a field recording of a nature scene turns dark as chirps and croaks are abruptly manipulated into something menacing and violent, blurry squalls of snowy noise flooding your ears. It’s a reminder of the essentially tenuous position we occupy in the world, but with the track’s reference to a Siberian toddler that grabbed local headlines when they wandered coatless into the frigid, wolf-filled taiga, subsisting for three days only on a small supply of chocolate and the protection of a dog and two puppies before — amongst search parties of hundreds — his uncle found him and brought him home, there’s a nod to the persistence of the human will.

For Gorgun, being human is to hurtle headlong into conditions we cannot control, but with a propensity to adapt, affecting and incurring external trauma along the way.

The juxtaposition of these tracks with a collection of pieces addressing the corroded coexistence of humanity in the album’s latter half provides a compelling look at how we define ourselves in relation to others through class, ritual and technology, reducing the inflammatory conspiracy mongering of Alex Jones into a brain-melting collage on “Bohemian Grove,” while “Knightscope K5” — named for a Silicon Valley security droid — paints an increasingly hostile portrait of regulation, surveillance and data collection with oppressive blasts of noise.

A challenging listen full of shifting, ephemeral environs marked by harsh, disrupting events, it’s a deeply unsettling record about our ongoing becoming, and perhaps the science fiction soundtrack our brave new world deserves. [Tom Beedham]

indierockmag (France):

Héritière des expérimentations microambient foisonnantes de Cindytalk chez Editions Mego dont on retrouve ici le goût pour les stridences oniriques et radiantes (Neroli), la musicienne d’Istanbul s’intéresse aux rapports entre musicalité et chaos, humanité et destruction sur ce deuxième album dont la beauté semble se désintégrer à même nos tympans, comme sur Tserin Dropchut aux sonorités cristallines phagocytées par une noise analogique vorace ou Le Sacre II avec ses réminiscences bucoliques en déréliction. Incorporant des field recordings, notamment sur l’étrange Afterburner qui en fait une cacophonie de fin de monde ou le dystopique Bohemian Grove aux monologues triturés, Ecce Homo impressionne par un sens du contraste qui culmine sur Knightscope K5 dont les nappes éthérées sont comme assaillies par des tourbillons bruitistes et bourdonnants, tandis que sur Reverance l’électronique déstructurée laisse soudain place à un piano néo-classique atonal et hanté.

TO:107 – OZMOTIC “Elusive Balance”

CD – 7 tracks – 41:44

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

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

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

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

Mastered by Denis Blackham
Artwork & photography: Jon Wozencroft

Track listing:

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

CONCEPT

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

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

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

THE ALBUM

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

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

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

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

Reviews:

FBI Radio:

On their new album Elusive Balance, the Italian duo of Riccardo Giovinetto & Simone Bosco (known for collaborations with Fennesz and Murcof) explore the dividing line between human and nature, with ambient sounds colliding with frenetic stuttery beats, high-pitched electronic interjections and melodic saxophone… Elusive indeed, but utterly compelling.

Toneshift (USA):

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

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

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

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

sherwood.it:

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

pastemagazine.com (USA):

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

Clash (UK):

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

Blow Up (Italy):

Bad Alchemy (Germany):

Chain D.L.K. (USA):

The balance of “Elusive Balance” lies in blending bold, slow soprano sax playing and some percussive elements against rapid electronic glitches, cold sci-fi synth atmospherics and drone pads in a way that works and doesn’t just sound like two styles of music trying to occupy a single space. And by and large, it’s a balance well struck.

At times, it’s very familiar synth-ambient material. “Hum”, with its cool choral-vocal ahhh sounds, muted melodic strings, and digital clicks like distant radio signals in deep space, is well-worn territory, but handled very smoothly. “Pulsing” has shades of moody sci-fi gameplay soundtrack, especially when the subbass pulsing in question comes in after three minutes and adds an irregular-heartbeat-ish sense of mild tension. “Lymph” adopts a warmer mellower ambient flavour which then throws the spontaneous drum hits of its second half into a different style of relief.

Final two tracks “Being” and “Insecting” are both strong track and slight anachronisms, driven by some more rapid pulsing that catches you unawares just as you’ve begun to think of this as a going-to-sleep listen, as though creeping- slightly- towards the finale of a sci-fi horror affair- bht the dramatic denouement isn’t included here.

It’s a nicely packaged short album of sci-fi, soundtrack-y electronica with a great deal of polish and atmosphere. It maybe likes the unique elements (or the game tie-in licensing deal) that would bring it a great deal of attention, but nevertheless it’s very strong. [Stuart Bruce]

Westzeit (Germany):

Amusio (Germany):

Auf Glitch folgt Richard Wright. Und dann wird „Wirkungsgleichheit“ erzielt. Was ist das denn?! Das neue Album des italienischen Electro-Duos Ozmotic, das auf seinem neuen Album Elusive Balance (Touch/Membran) noch mehr auffährt (Chöre etwa), als ihre ohnehin berückenden Klanglandschaften benötigen würden, um sich der ungeteilten Wahrnehmung eines auf emotional wirksame Feinheiten erpichtes Publikums zu erfreuen.

Ob und inwiefern diese Freude von Dauer sein wird, lässt sich indes noch nicht prognostizieren. Doch die gekonnt unmodisch gewahrte Balance aus in leibhaftig ins Leben gerufener Bläsertätigkeit und auf Unaufdringlichkeit gepolter Digitalität lässt Überdauerung erhoffen.

Besonders gelungen erscheint der ans Nachtlicht gebrachte Impetus von Riccardo Giovinetto und Simone Bosco seine proaktive Ungezwungenheit und sachte Dezenz. Ohne dabei ins Seichte zu geraten. Nein, man hört gerne auf und reibt sich die Birne, wenn Ozmotic ihre liebenswerten Stiche setzen.

„Beauty is a rare and fleeting thing; it often correspondons to those phases where we can grasp that unstable equillibrium which exists between us and the world at large“, meinen die Macher. Der Hörer sollte sich Elusive Balance für entsprechende Momente aufbewahren. So sie sich auch unverhofft einstellen, ändert dies nichts an der Güte eines traumhaft gültigen Albums. [Stephan Wolf]

Groove (Germany):

Der Wendepunkt, an sich dem Wohlklang in Noise und Schönheit in Schmerz umkehren, hat eine ganz eigene Faszination, die besonders Künstler*innen aus dem Dark Ambient-Genre magisch anzieht. Das Duo Ozmotic aus der norditalienischen Motorcity Turin spielt besonders gerne auf dieser Kippe. Ihr drittes Album Elusive Balance (Touch, VÖ 13. Juli) verwebt elegische Klänge, dunkelblaue Note aus dem Sopransaxofon, nach GAS– oder Celer-Rezept verwehte Klassiksamples und gewittrige Abstrakt-Beats mit mysteriösem Krach. Das Ergebnis ist wunderschön, aber nie zu schön. Es verbleibt immer ein Stachel, etwa Trommelfell wie Lautsprecher strapazierende hochfrequente Glitches und dunkel knuspernde Störgeräusche. Auf der Ebene von Sound und Produktion ist das wohl eines der besten (Dark) Ambient-Electronica Alben die je gemacht wurden. In all seiner nie vollständig befreit aufspielenden Schönheit wirkt das Album als Ganzes aber auch ziemlich ausdrucklos und inhaltlich beliebig. Eine Aneinanderreihung toller Sounds. Leidenschaft ohne Liebe.

Brainwashed (USA):

For their third album, the duo of Stanislao Lesnoj (saxophone, electronics) and SmZ (drums, electronics) work effortlessly to achieve the state described by the album title:  a precarious mix of vastly differing instrumentation and genres that end up complementing one another quite effectively.  The final product largely straddles that unlikely line between jazz and abstract electronica, but in a way that comes across as unique and fresh.

There might be two organic instruments listed in the credits—saxophone and drums—but the former is utilized much more alongside the electronic performances, which vary drastically from conventional synth work to dissonant, noisy textures.  The title piece that opens the album exemplifies this:  a bit of captured electrical interference sets the stage as the duo later meld their work into a skittering electronic sound, all of which remains rather non-organic for the most part.  However, Lesnoj’s saxophone soon glides into the mix, with an unabashedly jazzy tone to it, and also an organic addition  The performance is a restrained one, more restrained than I would have anticipated from a horn/electronic combination arrangement, but it works well.

The sax performance on “Pulsing” is even calmer, at times leading the song into a cyber-smooth jazz hybrid that stays on the right side of tasteful with the inclusion of lush synth strings and light metallic percussion.  Similarly, “Whisper” is built largely on traditionally jazz influenced horns and what best resembles a digital vibraphone, with a bit of static-heavy, distorted production to ensure a unique final product.  Electronic detritus and sax also figure heavily into the rather stripped down “Being”, but the limited amount of instrumentation is produced so well as to bring out every detail of what is going on.

Ozmotic do not simply stay in this specific framework of jazz and electronics, however.  For “Hum” the duo work within a nicely spacious mix, blending a mixture of twinkling synths, naturally captured bird songs and other less specific organic elements.  The elongated strings and treated choirs that appear later flesh out the song even more, bolstering the organic side of the elusive balance.  At first, “Lymph” has a similarly open space that leads to a lighter, more chilled out mood, but that shifts as the duo adds in multiple layers of twittering electronics and even some erratic, distorted drum beats (which could be organic or synthetic) come stammering through to give an added dimension to an already complex work.  The album closer “Insecting” has the pair pushing their sound into even more distorted and slightly harsh territory.  Shimmering sounds and a minimalist arrangement set the stage at the piece’s opening.  Soon crackling passages and disjointed electronics blend in, giving a more chaotic and roughened edge to the composition.  Eventually rich synth pads are added to the equation, contrasting the dissonant stuff with a bit more pleasant tone before ending the piece abruptly.

Elusive Balance is a fitting name for this record, because that is exactly what Ozmotic manages to strike within its seven songs.  Their sound is all about equilibrium, with clean tone and distortion, organic and digital, and chaos and order all appearing equally throughout the album, sometimes all within the same single piece.  Those combinations are just what makes the album so great and memorable though, because while it is a beautiful work from first listen, there are so many more facets to it that can be heard with each subsequent spin.

Gonzo Circus (Belgium):

Het Italiaanse duo OZMOTIC wilde voor hun derde album, ‘Elusive Balance’, de complexe relatie tussen mens en de natuur onderzoeken. OZMOTIC beweert, en ik haal aan, ‘dat de stabiliteit die we als vanzelfsprekend beschouwen in de wereld om ons heen in feite een onstabiel evenwicht is’. Misschien dat het leven zonniger is in Italië –ik betwijfel het– maar ik ken helemaal niemand die van mening is dat de wereld om ons heen stabiel is, hoe je het woord ‘wereld’ ook wil lezen. De natuurlijke wereld, waar het OZMOTIC om te doen lijkt, is in het anthropoceen een in rap tempo veranderend systeem dat de tijd niet krijgt om een nieuw equilibrium te vinden. Hoe dan ook, OZMOTICs concept vindt uiting in de combinatie van de natuurlijke flow van echte instrumenten –klarinet, percussie, gesampeld koor– met de extreme, niet-menselijke precisie van glitch. Ook spelen uitgesproken technologische geluiden als ruis, microtonale blips en digitale synthesizers een belangrijke rol –al denk ik dat de ijzige, melancholische pads van de synths juist bedoeld zijn om de wijdheid van de natuur uit te drukken. Meer dan die elementen naast elkaar zetten doet het duo eigenlijk niet, ik neem aan in de hoop dat er vanzelf een spanning ontstaat. Van wederzijdse beïnvloeding lijkt nauwelijks sprake, en met name de klarinet lijkt onafhankelijk van de rest te bestaan. Ook proberen ze nergens wankelen of schuiven van dat voornoemde onstabiele evenwicht voelbaar te maken. Het blijft bij het spanningsveld, dat meer bestaat binnen de puur elektronische ruimte, dan tussen organisch en synthetisch. Dat neemt niet weg dat ‘Elusive Balance’ op zich een mooie plaat is, zij het niet erg uitgesproken of bijzonder; en zeker de nummers zonder de blazer zijn het proberen waard voor liefhebbers van ambient in de stijl van labels als 12K of Glacial Movements.

Dark Entries (Belgium):

De subtiele balans tussen mens en natuur is volgens mij persoonlijk al lang geleden definitief om zeep geholpen. OZMOTIC lijkt daar een andere mening op na te houden en probeert dit precaire evenwicht muzikaal vorm te geven. Concepten zijn vaak een recept voor oeverloze saaiheid, maar OZMOTIC werkt dit gegeven op een zeer mooie manier uit.

Zien we een industriegebied na de oorlog dat opnieuw is overgenomen door de natuur? Of is het veeleer de zelfverklaarde ecologische meerwaardezoeker die in zijn pokkedure trekkerskleren bacteriën gaat achterlaten op onontgonnen grond? Of hebben we effectief leren samenleven met de natuur en zijn onze hoogtechnologische huizen ook een integraal deel van het ecosysteem? Eén ding is zeker, OZMOTIC schept beelden die beklijven.

Het duo maakt gebruik van heel wat contrasten in zijn muziek: die tussen rust en drukte, die tussen akoestische instrumenten en zeer aanwezige elektronische geluiden, tussen detail en grove schets. Wie enigszins vertrouwd is met atmosferische idm zoals Beefcake, Architect, µ-Ziq enzovoort zal geen vooruitstrevende geluiden horen in dit album. De glitchy geluiden en de pads zijn vrij typisch voor het genre maar wel enorm knap gedaan. Ze weten echt te beroeren en je mee te nemen in een dromerige wereld. Prachtige koorsamples en vooral de saxofoon maken het effect zelf nog sterker en zorgen ervoor dat OZMOTIC uitsteekt boven de rest van het genre.

Als we dit album vergelijken met bijvoorbeeld Liquid Times, valt wel op dat het duo een pak braver is geworden. Bij de eerste beluisteringen stoorde ons dit echt. Dit album hapt misschien net iets te gemakkelijk weg. We moeten echter toegeven dat we het toch telkens opnieuw in de lade van de cd-speler schuiven en het steeds weer zalig genieten is. Net dankzij het gebrek aan weerhaken, is het makkelijker om diep in de sfeer te zakken en even te ontsnappen uit deze wereld. Misschien moeten we dus even onze drang onderdrukken om telkens weer vernieuwing en experiment te willen horen.

Dit is mooi!

nieuenwoten.nl (net):

Je zou ‘Elusive Balance’ van OZMOTIC, dat vorig jaar verscheen bij Touch zo maar actueel kunnen noemen. Het verkent de relatie tussen de mens en de natuur, alsook de balans tussen die twee entiteiten, aldus het begeleidend schrijven voor de pers. Dat die verhouding flink onder druk staat is inmiddels voor vrijwel niemand meer een verrassing en dus komen musici die hier op deze wijze aandacht aan geven als geroepen.

‘Elusive Balance’ is het derde album van het uit Turijn afkomstige duo, bestaand uit Stanislao Lesnoj en SmZ, na ‘AirE ect’ uit 2015 en ‘Liquid Times’ uit 2016. Op hun website zijn ze uitgesproken over hun inspiratie: “OZMOTIC is a multidisciplinary artistic project, deeply fascinated by the dynamics of contemporary society, by architecture, cities and vast uncontaminated spaces.” In dit licht moeten we dus ook dit ‘Elusive Balance zien.

De muziek van deze twee Italianen is een combinatie van akoestische instrumenten en elektronica. Een intieme melodie op sopraansax van Lesnoj verrast ons direct in het titelstuk, ‘Elusive Balance’, te midden van elektronisch geknisper waar waarschijnlijk SmZ voor tekent. Hiermee is het zoeken naar balans eigenlijk al verklankt: het diepmenselijke, natuurlijke versus alles wat wij als ‘verbeteringen’ hebben doorgevoerd. In ‘Hum’ trekt het duo lange ambient lijnen; subtiele, gelaagde klanknevels. Aan het eind worden we bovendien nog getrakteerd met een kort koormoment.

In ‘Pusling’ is de stemming melancholisch. De elektronische klankwolken worden hier vermengd met natuurgeluiden en hebben over het geheel genomen een vrij duistere ondertoon. Het kan ook bijna niet anders als je de verhouding van de mens tot de natuur wil verklanken. Dan priemt ineens de sopraansax van Lesnoj door het wolkendek, een straaltje licht. In ‘Lymph’ weet het duo eveneens te overtuigen met een fijnzinnig klankpatroon, waar gaandeweg het ritme van SmZ doorheen breekt, er een zekere spanning aan geeft. ‘Being’ is een wat vreemde eend in de bijt. Hier krijgen we ineens een soort van dansritme, al valt het wel telkens in brokjes uiteen, dat Lesnoj’s sopraansax ondersteunt.

Toeval kan het niet zijn. ‘Whisper’, we zijn bijna aan het einde van het album’ heeft zo waar iets hoopvols. Alsof die nieuwe balans is gevonden, waar we al de hele tijd naar op zoek zijn. Deze tonen smaken in ieder geval naar meer. Op ‘Insecting’ trekt het duo deze lijn echter niet door. Daarvoor is de sfeer te veel beladen, de stemming te mistroostig. Eén zwaluw maakt dan ook nog geen lente. []

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

Download only – 1 track – 15:20

Track listing:

1. Longitude

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

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

Artwork & photography by Jon Wozencroft

Tone 62D – Philip Jeck “Arcade”

Download only – 1 track – 32:56

Track listing:

1. Arcade

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

Artwork & photography: Jon Wozencroft

Reviews:

Bad Press (web):

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

textura (Canada):

Fennesz: Station One
Touch

Philip Jeck: Arcade
Touch

One mark of a true artist is a singular and instantly recognizable voice. By that measure, Christian Fennesz and Philip Jeck both qualify—no more than seconds of their respective material needs to be played for identification to be made—and if the world can be split into innovators and imitators, the Touch artists undoubtedly belong in the first group.

Though the single totals but seven minutes, Fennesz’s Station One indelibly captures the guitarist’s style in its two tracks, the first of which, “Tom,” first appeared on a 2014 Modeselektor compilation, and the second, “Silk Road,” (previously “Silk Lane”) was part of a 2016 installation in New York City. For the new release, both were remodeled, remixed, and remastered in Vienna earlier this year. A thing of luminous beauty, “Tom” sweeps in surreptitiously, its guitar strums shimmering within a drifting, synthetic mass before morphing into a fuzz-enshrouded swirl of guitar and electric piano radiance. The more aggressive of the two pieces, “Silk Road,” which apparently was played once in a loop for a whole day, buzzes and roars with machine-like insistence, alternating as it does with a loud, rippling thrum. Much like Fennesz’s work in general, neither of the pieces adheres to a rigid structure; instead, the two unfold like living organisms whose movements seem unpredictable yet nevertheless natural.

A long-form piece recorded live in London in early 2018, Arcade is quintessential Jeck. Using old vinyl discs and record players salvaged from junk shops, he crafts woozy soundscapes where ghostly loops push their way to the surface through thick fields of crackle, static, and vinyl surface noise. One might liken the experience of listening to a Jeck piece to drifting lazily on a barge and viewing the rusty ships and decaying industrial buildings ashore as they appear during the half-hour trip.

Strings figure prominently in this case, with the first violin flourish arising three minutes in and others swarming to the surface thereafter. As expected, nothing so conventional as a recognizable string quartet melody appears; instead, groans, corroded phrases, and high-pitched squeals ebb and flow within the slow-moving, undulating mass, while guitars twang insistently amidst clattering noise at the twenty-five-minute mark. As emphatic as Arcade is in such moments, it also includes passages so gentle and subdued they could induce sleep, and, in fact, midway through, breathing-like sounds emerge that could be mistaken for signs of light slumber. The setting never stays in one place for too long but rather shape-shifts with almost clockwork regularity, and consequently one’s attention never lapses during the thirty-three-minute presentation.

Anyone seeing Jack’s methodology and gear choice as gimmicky would be wise to attend more carefully; Arcade is as transfixing as anything else in his catalogue and attests to the singularity of his vision. [Ron Schepper]

Tone 61D – Fennesz “Station One”

Download only – 2 tracks – 7:04

Track listing:

1. Tom
2. Silk Road

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

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

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

Artwork & photography: Jon Wozencroft

Reviews:

Textura (Canada):

Fennesz: Station One
Touch

Philip Jeck: Arcade
Touch

One mark of a true artist is a singular and instantly recognizable voice. By that measure, Christian Fennesz and Philip Jeck both qualify—no more than seconds of their respective material needs to be played for identification to be made—and if the world can be split into innovators and imitators, the Touch artists undoubtedly belong in the first group.

Though the single totals but seven minutes, Fennesz’s Station One indelibly captures the guitarist’s style in its two tracks, the first of which, “Tom,” first appeared on a 2014 Modeselektor compilation, and the second, “Silk Road,” (previously “Silk Lane”) was part of a 2016 installation in New York City. For the new release, both were remodeled, remixed, and remastered in Vienna earlier this year. A thing of luminous beauty, “Tom” sweeps in surreptitiously, its guitar strums shimmering within a drifting, synthetic mass before morphing into a fuzz-enshrouded swirl of guitar and electric piano radiance. The more aggressive of the two pieces, “Silk Road,” which apparently was played once in a loop for a whole day, buzzes and roars with machine-like insistence, alternating as it does with a loud, rippling thrum. Much like Fennesz’s work in general, neither of the pieces adheres to a rigid structure; instead, the two unfold like living organisms whose movements seem unpredictable yet nevertheless natural.

A long-form piece recorded live in London in early 2018, Arcade is quintessential Jeck. Using old vinyl discs and record players salvaged from junk shops, he crafts woozy soundscapes where ghostly loops push their way to the surface through thick fields of crackle, static, and vinyl surface noise. One might liken the experience of listening to a Jeck piece to drifting lazily on a barge and viewing the rusty ships and decaying industrial buildings ashore as they appear during the half-hour trip.

Strings figure prominently in this case, with the first violin flourish arising three minutes in and others swarming to the surface thereafter. As expected, nothing so conventional as a recognizable string quartet melody appears; instead, groans, corroded phrases, and high-pitched squeals ebb and flow within the slow-moving, undulating mass, while guitars twang insistently amidst clattering noise at the twenty-five-minute mark. As emphatic as Arcade is in such moments, it also includes passages so gentle and subdued they could induce sleep, and, in fact, midway through, breathing-like sounds emerge that could be mistaken for signs of light slumber. The setting never stays in one place for too long but rather shape-shifts with almost clockwork regularity, and consequently one’s attention never lapses during the thirty-three-minute presentation.

Anyone seeing Jack’s methodology and gear choice as gimmicky would be wise to attend more carefully; Arcade is as transfixing as anything else in his catalogue and attests to the singularity of his vision. [Ron Schepper]

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

CD – 14 tracks – 63 minutes
First edition of 500

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

Mastered by Denis Blackham
Artwork & photography: Jon Wozencroft

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

Track listing:

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

The bird was stolen because the donkey was sleepy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There is vanilla fudge in the coconut trees.

Reviews:

Musique Machine (UK):

5.5 – Veteran sound creators Strafe F.R (“Strafe Für Rebellion”) have existed since 1979, with a sporadic release pattern. Their music exists on the boundary between industrial and musique concrete/avant-garde. The Bird Was Stolen is their first album since Sulphur Spring in 2014.  This is my first exposure to the group’s music. The album has the rapid, gestural quality of musique concrete, in the sense that there is a series of sounds in succession rather than any kind of meter.  Many brief glimpses appear and quickly go, possessing unique timbres and brief melodic ideas.  This fragmentary structure is also used in Nurse With Wound’s most haunted classic works, Homotopy to Marie or Spiral Insana, one of the closest comparisons to the sound of this album.

Generally, The Bird Was Stolen feels more live and filled with punky aggression than NWW’s solitary studio creations, and denser with sonic activity.  While there is no conventional guitar playing per se, grimy swells of amplifier distortion are used to sketch dim nocturnal and subterranean environments.  Clearly doom metal influenced tones date this as a current creation amidst the call-backs to vintage industrial music.  Several of the tracks feature emphatic, theatrical narrations with heavy effects processing.  It is a rare, more ambient flavour of ‘power electronics’ as created by Coil.  It is not unlike some of the more abstract improvisations by Throbbing Gristle (such as “Kreeme Horne”); in the way it will sway and bob in marshy disrepair, movements heat-addled and lazy, only for the calm to be punctured now and again by a distorted wail.

The texture is unmistakably analogue, from the beefy low-mids of the gated noise oscillators in “Pianosmoke”, to the various examples of tape looping/manipulation and dub delay.  This group has been especially inventive and focused with these vintage techniques and machines.  The modular synth work has a particular visionary impact, particularly in the secound half of the album with songs like “Medusa”.  As a huge fan of Coil and albums like Worship the Glitch, this album feels like a lost work from the past, and it’s wonderful to hear quality new music being created in this niche.

This must be one of the best ritual industrial/ambient albums I’ve ever heard.  Attention to detail and fierce, enthusiastic creativity is what sets this album apart from the rest.  These are musicians who do not release an unfinished piece of work; every crevice of this album is filled with bio-luminous micro-organisms.  Each moment is infused with meaning. Stories and events have been thoroughly layered. This recording is a symbol, a magic talisman, the perpetuation of a kind of holy tradition.  A wondrous surprise to hear such an album…

Toneshift (USA):

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

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

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

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

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

Chain D.L.K. (USA):

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

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

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

Silence and Sound (France):

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

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

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

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

Nonpop (Germany):

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

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

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

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

VITAL (Netherlands):

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

Amusio (Germany):

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

Blow Up (Italy):

Touching Extremes (Italy):

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

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

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

Bad Alchemy (Germany):

Sonic Seducer (Germany):

Music Map (Italy):

Dal 1979 il duo tedesco Strafe F.R. (Strafe Für Rebellion) è artefice di allucinazioni sonore che traggono linfa da uno spiccato senso della sperimentazione, che porta a dei collage di rumori controllati. Dopo una pausa dell’attività e un ritorno nel 2014, il 2018 vede la luce il nuovo lavoro “The bird was stolen”, appena uscito per la Touch Records. E come accadeva in “Lufthunger” (1991), il pianoforte viene ancora una volta rovesciato e preparato in ogni maniera che ispiri a Bernd Kastner e a S.M. Syniuga, con esito quasi da danza malata (“Pianosmoke”). Come accade spesso nella musica sperimentale, diverse idee arrivano da un imprevisto, o da un errore creativo. Ad esempio, per la traccia “Himmelgeist”, alcuni rumori sono ottenuti dal registratore analogico Uher, che aveva avuto un problema. Qualunque disturbo, qualunque graffio solitamente non voluto e nascosto, qui diventa materiale centrale. L’effetto è a tratti allucinogeno, a tratti pauroso. “Jovian Tempest” è una continua modulazione ondeggiante di stimoli sonori analogici e digitali mescolati. “Prepper’s Home” ospita una sequenza di due note d’allarme (o di suoneria, chi può saperlo) che erano presenti anche in “Jovian Tempest”, creando una continuità da incubo, come quel brutto volto che non volevi rivedere in sogno, e ti si ripresenta. Ci sono anche voci umane, rese disumane, come in “Aconite”, dove il parlato ripete le frasi inerenti al titolo dell’Lp dietro un effetto di forte tremolo. Tra distorsioni di chitarra messe in loop e rese indistinguibili dal noise, ci sono concesse delle note di archi synth. In “Anophelis” le vibrazioni più basse ottenute dal pianoforte raggiungono il subconscio, al pari di certi toni lugubri di Trent Reznor. Qui la voce di Caterina Da Re canta stralunata in mezzo a questi rumori dal timbro d’acciaio. Dal solido si passa al gassoso (ed elettrico) in “Cap de Barbaria”, costituito nella prima metà da soffi ed aria quantizzata, e nella seconda metà da scosse elettriche, che scottano come le scintille di un flessibile fissate senza protezione. Dal solido al gassoso, manca lo stato liquido; ed eccolo in “Flare”, con rumori resi melodici (e di nuovo tornano quelle due allarmanti note udite a inizio album, che non vogliono abbandonarci, neppure in “Megalitic”). “Medusa” invece, tramite fischi presi in prestito dai Kraftwerk e un tappeto di rapidi input, sembra rappresentare fotoni di luce che viaggiano più veloci della luce. Esperimento analogo, più lisergico, in “Dictator” e “Violet sun”. Altre trasformazioni della materia si possono apprezzare in “Golden stomach”, dove le note intonate di un vibrafono vengono tenute nascoste, sotto la prevalenza dell’aspetto rumoristico. In coda all’album, “Towton” ospita una batteria; anch’essa non sfuggirà alle manipolazioni del duo di scienziati pazzi. E qui torna anche Caterina Da Re, con le sue note libere (anche perché impossibili da collegare ad una qualsivoglia armonia). Il ritorno degli Strafe Für Rebellion li fa ritrovare ai propri ascoltatori pressoché immutati, nella loro costante ricerca di rumori sempre più agghiaccianti ed affascinanti. [Gilberto Ongaro]

Rockerilla (Italy):

Dark Entries (Belgium):

Strafe Für Rebellion werd in 1979 opgericht door het duo Bernd Kastner en Siegfried Michail Syniuga. Vanaf 1991 opereerden ze onder de naam Strafe F.R. Na het in 1995 verschenen ‘Pianoguitar’ verdwenen ze stilletjes van het toneel om in 2014 een onverwachte comeback te maken met ‘Sulphur Spring’. Een hernieuwde samenwerking die smaakte naar meer, want nu is er de langspeler ‘The Bird Was Stolen’. Het tweetal staat bekend om zijn persoonlijke stijl en visie wat betreft abstracte en surrealistische instrumentale muziek. Een belangrijke ontwikkeling waren en zijn de zelfgemaakte instrumenten, het aanwenden van ‘gevonden voorwerpen’ als muziek speeltuigen en een zelf opgebouwd arsenaal aan veldopnames. Je kan het zo gek niet bedenken of ze gebruiken het op de één of andere manier. Werktuigen van dienst zijn bijvoorbeeld een helemaal gestripte piano waarmee ze van alles uitproberen via onder meer luidsprekers en de resonanties van de pianosnaren. De uitwas er van kreeg als titel ‘Pianosmoke’. Of het mankement aan hun oude, draagbare Uher opnameapparaat. Het defect kreeg een functie en het resultaat noemden ze ‘Himmelgeist’. Ook vocaal wordt er op ‘The Bird Was Stolen’ druk geëxperimenteerd. Naast beide heren zet ook Caterina De Re haar beste beentje voor. Onder meer in ‘Flare’, het springerige ‘Towton’ en het hitsige ‘Anophelis’. Een paar tracks zijn deels gebaseerd op klassieke muziek (‘Prepper’s Home’, ‘Megalitic’) Meest intrigerend is het pulserende ‘Dictator’ waarin heel wat van voornoemde facetten aan bod komen en tot een intens geheel worden gesmeed. Ook het cinematografische ‘Violet Sun’ en het metallische ‘Golden Stomach’ zijn nog een vermelding waard. [Paul Van de gehuchte]

Rumore (Italy):

Kryptische Botschaften aus einer dunklen Moderne sendet das Düsseldorfer Duo Strafe Für Rebellion (bzw. Strafe F.R.) seit vierzig Jahren. Sie sind seither kontinuierlich aktiv, obwohl in ihrem Veröffentlichungskatalog eine fast zwanzigjährige Pause klafft. Seit kurzem mehren sich die Lebenszeichen jedoch wieder und mit The Bird Was Stolen (Touch) geben sie nach all der verlorenen Zeit ein ziemlich definitives Statement ab, dass die verschiedenen Phasen ihres experimentellen und jegliche Formatierung scheuenden Wirkens Revue passieren lässt und nahtlos weiterführt. Das Album sammelt vorwiegend filmisch dräuenden Dark Ambient mit aggressiven und disruptiven Sounds, aber auch avantgardistische Sound-Collagen mit eingefrorenen Industrial-Beats und -Dubs.

Blow Up (Italy):

Kathodik (Italy):

Attivo dal 1979 (con una pausa produttiva da metà anni novanta sino al 2014), il duo Strafe F. R. (abbreviazione del più esteso Strafe Für Rebellion) formato da Bernd Kastner e Sigfried Michail Syniuga, torna a farsi sentire con quest’ottimo “The Bird Was Stolen” che segue il loro ritorno sulle scene “Sulphur Spring”.
Un suono alieno di questi tempi, che raschia e ingloba ruggini, lamiere, distorsioni, voci e vocine (spappolate, tritate e stirate), ritmi sghembi e strumentazione homemade, fiati e sfiati, corde in azione trasfigurante, registrazioni d’ambiente, nastri e un certosino lavoro di taglia e cuci in fase post.
Materia ondivaga che inquieta e non s’addomestica come carta da parati acustica.
Ci sono parecchie nevrosi urbane diluite su sfondo/collage ballardiano in “The Bird Was Stolen”.
Stridenti rotative ingrippate/dialoganti e notevoli intestardimenti ritmici.
Apron delle porte che probabilmente non interesseranno più a molti, ma attenzione, perché il colpo d’occhio offerto, è unico nel suo genere (quasi da sacred music tipo Factrix per intenderci, ma con minor tasso ansiogeno).
Aggiungo soltanto: daje!

The Sound Projector (UK):

Dusseldorf combo Strafe Für Rebellion started life in the late 1970s as the duo of Bernd Kastner and Siegfried Michail Syniuga, who made a series of records under that name for Soleilmoon, Staalplaat, and Touch. I never studied any of their 1980s-1990s work, but I’m getting the impression it was mostly voice/text based cut-up work, heavy on the distortion, and with something of an “industrial” undercurrent. There’s certainly something a tad foreboding about a record called A Soundless Message of Death, but that was in 1984 when such weighty matters were occupying the minds of many neurotics.

They’re here today in a new-ish incarnation, appearing as Strafe F.R., and joining forces with a female vocalist named Caterina De Re. On The Bird Was Stolen (TOUCH TO:110), their first release since their 2014 “comeback” album Sulphur Spring, you can enjoy 14 examples of their studio craft. Evidently they have become highly proficient with digital technique and evolved their edgy, alarming musique-concrète style into the area of avant-techno and deep-dark ambient, all undertaken on their own highly individual terms of course, to produce some deeply ugly and unsettling abstract noise episodes. The voice elements are distorted and transmutated into all sorts of new and terrifying shapes, extreme enough to give Henri Chopin permanent cardiac arrest; in places it’s only barely possible to recognise a human being’s larynx at work.

The more alarming cuts are front-loaded at the start of the CD; ‘Aconite’ for instance, is like hearing absurdist poetry recited by merciless robots from the future, while on ‘Anophleis’ the voice of Caterina De Re is remade by extreme studio digital-malarkey into some grotesque evil hybrid of Bjork and Clare Grogan, swimming for dear life in a vat of green acid. Other tracks, like the highly evocative ‘Golden Stomach’, seem to downplay the voice components in favour of contemporary industrial noise-experimentation, scads of digital delay and reverb, and mysterious instrumental passages floating in among the heavy hammer-blows of percussive sounds. So far this is like an update on H.N.A.S. – it’s got the same streak of cruelty and sardonic absurdity, and a Dadaist touch of mischief that makes the creators want to poison every sound they touch, infecting it with unnatural cancers and shape-shifting properties.

This strong meat will take a bit of digesting; better line your own ‘Golden Stomach’ before you partake, but it’s superbly crafted and I have a feeling it’s possible to acquire a taste for it. [Ed Pinsent]

TO:104 – Mark Van Hoen “Invisible Threads”

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

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

Track listing:

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

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

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

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

Instrumentation/sound sources

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

Reviews:

Loop (Spain):

UK artist Mark Van Hoen is producing electronic music since 1981. He played bass guitar and synthesizer on the superb Seefeel’s “Polyfusia” album, one of the seminal bands of the ’90s. He works under his own name and worked as well under the Locust moniker. Now he lives and works in Los Angeles. This record was composed and recorded in Los Angeles in 2016, inspired by Philip Jeck, Simon Scott, Daniel Menche, Lee Bannon, Kara-Lis Coverdale, Pye Corner Audio and Marcus Fischer, who were on tour west coast in the USA, alongwith Van Hoen.

In the meantime our protagonist was recording the album he was editing and making sound design for films, which influenced the structure to the album. Several of the titles on the album were influenced by the reading he made in those days of the apocalyptic Edgar Allan Poe’s short story “The Conversation of Eiros and Charmion”.

Van Hoen with his modular synthesizers, sound design software, piano, guitar, organ, field recordings and library sounds, is the instrumental and sound sources that make up the seven pieces on “Invisible Threads”. The strong cinematic nature of the music suggests images at all times. Ambient atmospheres transport to intimate and cozy spaces. “Opposite Day” is a good example of this, where the organ notes are suspended in the air and keep resonating. On “The Yes_No Game” emerges a female vocalist whose singing emerges from the background. “Aether” with its subtle melody conjure up composer Angelo Badalamenti.

“Flight Of Fancy” and “Instable” show a disturbing aspect in which a dark plot is woven. Mark van Hoen undoubtedly produces one of the best albums of 2018. [Guillermo Escudero]

Brainwashed (USA):

Mark Van Hoen’s latest album is the result of a series of live performances with other Touch luminaries, such as Simon Scott and Philip Jeck, that he participated in all throughout 2016.  This experience manifests itself in a somewhat different than expected way on Invisible Threads, because this final result is purely a solo work.  However, it was these previous collaborations and performances that lead to Van Hoen approaching the record from different perspectives and with a variety of instrumentation, resulting in a diverse, yet overall uniform sounding album.

While he intentionally avoided using one of his staples on Invisible Threads, vintage analog synthesizers, Mark did utilize modular synthesis throughout the record.  Right from the opening of “Weathered” this can be heard:  a rich bed of layered electronics set the stage as he patches in some occasionally shrill tones and a pleasantly dissonant crunch, but with a tasteful level of restraint.  For “Opposite Day,” he follows a similar pattern, blending mostly elegant ambient electronics with just the right amount of heavy low end vibration.

Even some conventional piano sounds appear on “Aethēr,” culminating in a melodic progression that continues and builds throughout the piece.  The combination is one that, once a bit of dissonant ambience comes in as a contrast, makes for a rather conventional, song-like sounding piece of music.  The shimmering, sustained electronics that are the focus on “Dark Night Sky Paradox” also have a nice pleasantness to them, and fits in with Van Hoen’s experience doing sound design for films given the end result’s film score mood.  Later, a bit of drama comes from the heavy electronics that enshroud “Flight of Fancy” and, with the piece’s dense and brittle electronics have a cinematic quality as well.

Like any good album, however, Invisible Threads has some more sinister moments to balance out the more pleasant light ones.  The varied electronics and processed field recordings on “The Yes/No Game” make for a different sounding piece of music, one punctuated by a sense of bleakness in its light drift.  Compared to many of the others here it is a more sparse mix, but what is there carries a significant amount of emotional weight.  The album closer “Instable” also especially stands out with its ghostly haunting sound.  There are some large electronic swells throughout, but Van Hoen blends transient layers throughout like passing spirits, resulting in a spectral, ghostly closing to the album.

There does not seem to be any specific conceptual theme linking the seven pieces of Invisible Threads, other than his intentional use of different instrumentation, but Mark Van Hoen’s latest work definitely has a cohesive feel to them sonically.  As an album, it has a great sense of variation and diversity from song to song, with a strong blend of pleasant, ambient electronics and heavier, darker passages.  Consistent from beginning to end, Invisible Threads is an excellent record of electronic music. [Creaig Dunton]

I Heart Noise (USA):

Mark Van Hoen, veteran of the electronic music scene as a visit to his web site will attest, has had an extensive career as both a solo and band (Locust) member. Now entering his 50’s, he continues to explore sound and texture to create some unsettling pieces of music. Invisible Threads is his latest solo work. Informed by a love of Edgar Allen Poe and the experiences of touring with other Touch artists (see the interview below).

This is a dark ride. An absorbing soundtrack to a rather hesitant night of self-examination. Cinematic in scope, claustrophobic in execution, the album opens with “Weathered” – a wide-screen wash of dark expectation set against a vast ebbing pulse of keyboards, half-heard voices and static interference. This mood is perpetuated by second track, Dark NIght Sky Paradox, a sound constantly threatening direction but perpetually on the edge of collapse. Anxious music.

“Opposite Day” reminded me slightly of TG’s “Exotica”, water and bird sounds mix with chimes to gently soothe. The Yes_No Game is suspended tones and a lone, lamenting female voice. Think Eno, with a Beth Gibbons being recorded at the far end of a very long corridor. Aether is a simple keyboard (not synth, Van Hoen is at pains to point out) that reminded me of Japan’s “Voices Raised in Welcome, Hands Held in Prayer” , but heard through a fug of low-level sonic interference.

Again, at no point can one relax with this music. At least, I couldn’t, It’s not Ambient. It is suffused with an unyielding, unrelenting dread and demands to be faced head-on. Reckoned with, almost. Flight of Fancy is anything but. Nothing is playful and all of it unsettles. Don’t play this to chill-out to or mollify dinner guests. It will set people’s teeth on edge and may actually make people a bit angry. I love it.

This is an excellent release from Touch and despite my anxious emotional reaction to it, I’ve found myself returning to it frequently over the past few days, perhaps finding within its structure and sounds a suitable soundtrack to these dark, strange and frightening days. Bravo, Mr Van Hoen. Bravo.

You can read an interview with Mark here

Toneshift (USA):

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

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

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

Das Filter (Germany):

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

Silence & Sound (France):

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

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

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

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

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

DLSO (Italy):

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

Aural Aggravation (web):

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Norman Records (UK):

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

and a staff reviewer wrote:

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

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

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

VITAL (Netherlands):

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

Blow Up (Italy):

Ondarock (Italy):

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

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

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

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

Bad Alchemy (Germany):

Cyclic Defrost (Australia):

Mark Van Hoen, quite renowned under his alias Locust and a founding member of Seefeel, returns with the first release under his own name on the legendary label Touch in more than 20 years.

Invisible Threads is a cohesive collection of tracks made after touring around the West Coast of USA with artists like Philip Jeck, Simon Scott, Daniel Menche, Lee Bannon, Kara-Lis Coverdale, among others. It’s also inspired by other Touch artists and by his collaborative project Drøne with Mike Harding. The album is deep and emotional, with sustained strings and textures floating around in a shady, spectral way on the opener ‘Weathered’. A more drone aspect on the echoes of the fading ‘Dark Night Sky Paradox’, and the layered and meditative ‘The Yes_No Game’.

You can also feel nostalgia on the evoking ‘Aether’, one of our favorites, which also includes hints of a piano and makes you want to play it again and again. But then it can also get darker and more heavily loaded, like on ‘Flight Of Fancy’, which is reiterative, expanding and rising on its intentions. But same as the last mentioned song might sound thicker, the closing title ‘Instable’ can also feel thin in a way, with recurrent wind-like sounds unleashing digital howls that yearn for a time that might have not existed. A more oneiric vibe can be perceived on the calm ‘Opposite Day’, which forms melodies over a bass sound that roots back to the earth. Field recordings of what seems to be falling water and outdoor sounds complete the palette. No analogue synthesizers were used on this album, which is a rare circumstance on Van Hoen’s recent recordings.

Invisible Threads is the type of album that, similar to other notable releases on Touch, must be heard with a serious soundsystem, or at least some decent headphones. The experience might turn trascendent. [Paranoid]

Against the Silence (Greece):

Και τι είναι η μουσική αν όχι ένας μαξιμαλιστικός τρόπος απόδρασης από τα βασανιστικά οχτάωρα της καθημερινότητάς μας; Μιλάμε για αυτό το σύντομο ταξίδι που λέγεται μουσικό άλμπουμ, το οποίο, ενώ διαρκεί συνήθως λιγότερο από ώρα, αφήνει το σημάδι του μέσα σου για αρκετό χρόνο παραπάνω. Η απαρχή του ταξιδιού, όμως, γίνεται από την πλευρά του πομπού-δημιουργού και εδώ ο Mark Van Hoen διαθέτει το know how με βάση και την πολυετή και σημαντική πορεία του, η οποία περιλαμβάνει μεταξύ άλλων τη θητεία στους Seefeel, τους Scala, τους drøne και το προσωπικό του σχήμα Locust.

Ο ήχος πάνω από όλα, θα λέγαμε κοιτώντας τα παραπάνω ονόματα, και ομολογώ ότι το νέο του άλμπουμ στην Touch σε μεσαία ή χαμηλή ένταση περνά ως αδιάφορο, χαμένο στον σωρό παρόμοιων φαινομενικά μουσικών κυκλοφοριών. Σαν να βλέπεις μια παραλία από μακριά και να λες μέσα σου ότι, εντάξει, μοιάζει σαν τόσες άλλες που έχεις δει. Όταν την πλησιάσεις, όμως, ανακαλύπτεις στοιχεία πανέμορφα και πρωτόγνωρα, τα οποία ήταν καλά κρυμμένα από την αρχική απόσταση. Όταν μάλιστα βουτήξεις στα νερά της, είναι ακόμη πιο χορταστική η εμπειρία, ανοίγοντας όλες τις αισθήσεις σου μπρος στον βυθό της.

Πιο συγκεκριμένα, το Invisible Threads αν και φαντάζει αρχικά ως κάτι στατικό, εντούτοις είναι ένα ξεκάθαρα μελωδικό και πολύχρωμο άλμπουμ, όπου υπάρχει ένα υποθαλάσσιο ρυθμικό στοιχείο που δίνει μια ενέργεια στο υλικό του. Κάπως σαν να δημιουργείται ένα ρήγμα ενδιάμεσα των σφριγηλών ήχων και να αναδύεται ένα μπουκέτο ανθών. Με δυνατά την ένταση και κλειστά τα μάτια, η ονειροπόληση είναι δεδομένη. Είναι τόσο δε γεμάτο το άλμπουμ με τα αόρατα samples, τις γλυκές αφηρημένες νότες και την άμπιεντ αιθαλομίχλη του, που είναι δύσκολο να περάσει απαρατήρητη η νοσταλγική του διάθεση. Νοσταλγία με δυναμικές, θα την έλεγα, καθώς οι ήχοι σε πιάνουν για τα καλά και το όριο μεταξύ σκότους και φωτός προστατεύεται ευλαβικά προς όφελος άγνωστων από τα πριν συναισθημάτων.

Υπάρχει μια σκηνή στο Naked του Mike Leigh όπου ο πρωταγωνιστής, καθώς περιδιαβαίνει τους δρόμους στη νύχτα, κοιτάζει σε ένα μπαλκόνι την ελκυστική σιλουέτα μιας γυναίκας, η οποία ανταποδίδει τη ματιά. Όταν φτάνει στο διαμέρισμά της, αντικρίζει μια μεσόκοπη, κουρασμένη και μελαγχολική γυναίκα, η οποία καμία σχέση δεν είχε με το προηγούμενο είδωλό της. Αυτό μερικές φορές συμβαίνει όχι μόνο στη ζωή, αλλά και στη μουσική, αλλά εδώ συμβαίνει ακριβώς το αντίθετο. Κι αυτό είναι τόσο σπάνιο στις μέρες μας! [Μπάμπης Κολτράνης]

Etherreal (France):

Présent très épisodiquement sur ces pages (deux albums chroniqués ici, parus en 2010 et 2012), Mark Van Hoen en retrouve le chemin par ce nouveau disque, publié sur Touch et pour lequel il nous indique avoir été influencé par plusieurs artistes avec lesquels il a fait une tournée : Philip Jeck, Simon Scott, Marcus Fischer ou Kara-Lis Coverdale. Avec ce compagnonnage, on se trouve logiquement face à un album plutôt ambient, marqué par un travail de qualité sur les nappes, allant chercher des matériaux à la limite du field recordings, et des apports vocaux féminins un peu évaporés.

Pour celui dont on connaissait des travaux plus electronica-pop ou plus rythmés, il y a là l’exploration d’un univers autre dans lequel il opère avec une belle allure. Comme souvent avec ce registre musical, la superposition des plages de synthé confère une dimension très lumineuse, proche du scintillement (Dark Night Sky Paradox). Signe du talent de Mark Van Hoen, ce même aspect lumineux et scintillant, tel un miroir dans lequel se refléterait le soleil, émane d’un morceau nettement plus dépouillé comme Opposite Day.

À un autre bout du spectre, la granulosité saturante de Weathered remplit parfaitement son office, emportant l’auditeur dans une forme de vertige dont l’extrait les vocalises féminines déjà évoquées. De même, le caractère plus obscur et inquiétant de Flight Of Fancy se dévoile à mesure que les strates sonores s’empilent. Alternant ainsi morceaux plus riches et titres moins instrumentés, extérieur chatoyant et tension plus sombre, l’États-Unien démontre une véritable aisance. [François Bousquet]

Dark Entries (Belgium):

De in Croydon, Londen geboren Mark Van Hoen resideert vandaag aan de Amerikaanse westkust, meer bepaald in Los Angeles. Van Hoen is een veelzijdig muzikant en actief sinds 1981. Naast werk onder zijn eigen naam, bracht hij door de jaren heen platen uit als Locust en was actief in acts als Autocreation, Black Hearted Brother, Drøne, Scala en Seefeel. Deze ‘Invisible Threads’ kwam tot stand in 2016. Mark liet zich inspireren door een aantal artiesten waarmee hij toen een korte tournee ondernam. Van de partij waren onder meer Philip Jeck, Daniel Menche, Lee Bannon en Marcus Fischer. Ook Touch label genoten als Claire M Singer, Jana Winderen en Chris Watson (Cabaret Voltaire, The Hafler Trio) zorgden voor de nodige stimulansen. Het feit dat hij in diezelfde periode bezig was met het bewerken en ontwerpen van filmmuziek had eveneens zijn weerslag op ‘Invisible Threads’. Net als het herlezen van ‘The Conversation Of Eiros And Charmion’, een kortverhaal van Edgar Allan Poe. Voor het eerst sinds ‘Aurobindo: Involution’ (1994) maakt Van Hoen geen gebruik van analoge synthesizers. In plaats daarvan bestaat het instrumentarium uit orgel, piano, gitaar en door verschillende merken aangeleverde synth modules en software. Dat alles aangevuld met zelf geregistreerde veldopnames en ‘gevonden’ geluiden op vinylplaten en videowebsite YouTube. Elk van de zeven tracks is specifiek van aard met talrijke, maar soms kleine nuances. ‘Invisible Threads’ is verre van een pure ambient plaat, doch dient zich eerder aan als een transcendente belevenis. In zijn totaliteit is het een verontrustende en intense langspeler. De verscheidenheid aan ingrediënten zorgt voor een sluimerend effect van onbehagen, dreiging, angst, maar ook van nostalgie, romantiek en de eigen muzikale identiteit. In het geval van Mark hebben artiesten als Karlheinz Stockhausen, Brian Eno, Kraftwerk, Tangerine Dream, Can, Cabaret Voltaire, The Human League, David Bowie en later LFO hun stempel gedrukt op zijn werk. Ze maken nog steeds deel uit van Van Hoen zijn muzikale expeditie. ‘Invisible Threads’ is een plaat die ook vraagt en uitnodigt tot een intensieve wijze van inleving. Hetzij ofwel door middel van wat wij verstaan onder de betere geluidsinstallatie of toch op zijn minst met een goede koptelefoon. Want de schoonheid en afwisseling zit hier in de gedetailleerde uitwerking. [Paul Van de gehuchte]

Rumore (Italy):

Gonzo Circus (Belgium):

New Noise (Italy):

I legami invisibili cui rimanda il titolo – Invisible Threads – del nuovo album di Mark Van Hoen, uscito a fine maggio su etichetta Touch e ispirato al racconto di Edgar Allan Poe Conversazione di Eiros e Charmion, fanno riferimento ai rapporti stretti e agli scambi intercorsi tra il musicista e produttore inglese e un buon numero di colleghi, nuovi o ritrovati, la cui musica ha indirettamente contribuito alla sorprendente intensità emotiva dei sette brani qui presenti. Infatti, nel 2016 Van Hoen – conosciuto anche nelle vesti di Locust, progetto avviato negli anni Novanta dopo la subitanea dipartita dai Seefeel, che aveva co-fondato – ha fatto un tour della West Coast assieme a Philip Jeck, Simon Scott, Lee Bannon, Kara-Lis Coverdale, Marcus Fischer. Oltretutto cita ulteriori influenze identificabili nella musica di altri artisti di casa Touch: Mike Harding (con cui condivide il progetto Drøne), Claire M. Singer, Jana Winderen e, ovviamente, Chris Watson. Inutile, durante l’ascolto, andare alla ricerca di questa o quell’altra corrispondenza: è bene ricordare che di legami invisibili, appunto, si tratta. Stiamo inoltre parlando di un ascolto totalizzante, di quelli che non lasciano spazio alla riflessione; può sembrare ambient, ma va da sé che non lo è.

Già con le stratificazioni sostenute e tese dell’iniziale “Weather” e della successiva “Dark Night Sky Paradox” si dà l’immagine più o meno coerente dell’intero album: drone spettrali, evanescenti, ma allo stesso tempo ricchi di corpo e grana, che Van Hoen erige principalmente grazie al suo banco di moduli (accanto a software e plugin, Fender Rhodes, chitarre Jaguar, organo Farfisa e suoni trovati / field recording), tanto da poter accostare questa musica, in buona parte almeno, a quella di un Brett Naucke, tanto per rimanere nel mondo dei sintetizzatori modulari facendo un nome apparso recentemente su queste pagine. Le basse frequenze intermittenti e i carillon al ralenti di “Opposite Day”, la terza traccia, virano verso toni interlocutori, poi meditativi nella successiva “The Yes/No Game”, tra inganno dei sensi ed emozioni a fior di pelle. Le stesse che irradiano la malinconia nostalgica di “Aether” e le sue note di piano, almeno questa volta ben riconoscibili, lente e reiterate. E cosa potrebbe essere un brano intitolato “Flight of Fancy”, se non, appunto, un volo della fantasia che nella fattispecie conduce verso lande oscure e lievemente minacciose?

Poco importa che il titolo Invisible Threads prefiguri l’idea di un disco ottimista: poste in chiusura di un lavoro a suo modo difficile (ma che cresce nel tempo), le increspature oniriche di “Instable” azzerano ogni certezza già precaria. E ci ricordano di aver ascoltato o, meglio, vissuto un album che invece tratta di mutabilità e di metastabilità. Come assistere ad un cielo sereno che ad un tratto si annuvola; oppure camminare sulla superficie insicura di un lago ghiacciato, o ancora osservare inermi la bocca di un vulcano sempre attivo. [Davide Ingrosso]

Blow Up (Italy):


Salotto Culturale (Italy):

Dopo un tour illuminante, collaborazioni importanti e l’intermezzo di due album con lo pseudonimo Locust, Mark Van Hoen fa finalmente la sua ricomparsa a distanza di 6 anni, da quell’ultimo lavoro “The Revenant Diary” (2012) che lasciò un po’ tutti con la bocca aperta.
Durante, Mark ha incanalato tutta la sua ispirazione dentro 7 pezzi che somigliano molto di più ad uno stato di meditazione. Stratificati da una massa di sintesi modulare, si avvalgono di varie strumentazioni e elaborazioni al computer, creano un mondo sonoro estremamente coinvolgente, tutto suo.
I tagli techno del passato si sono evoluti in una sorta di granulosità molecolare e l’asciutto design dell’opera portano ad una necessaria volontà di ispezione al microscopio. Non è un semplice disco drone con oscure correnti sotterranee. Ci sono molte profondità sotto la sua superficie: una nuotata sicura e piacevole nonostante i segnali di pericolo (‘Danger’ e ‘Hidden Currents’), perchè Mark è un bagnino addestrato ormai, che sa curar bene ogni forma di claustrofobia.
Le onde sonore di “Invisible Threads” – sia letterali che metaforiche – sgomberano la mente dell’ascoltatore creando una continua sensazione di flusso e riflusso quasi catartico. Un ascolto fluido, coinvolgente; un viaggio dentro una foresta che non nasconde insidie. Il brano ‘The Yes No Name’ è un buon esempio in tale senso: la voce di una donna, precedentemente oscurata, emerge mentre le onde si abbassano. E’ una chiamata, un invito a tuffarsi nelle acque fluviali che abitano questi luoghi paradisiaci e misteriosi.
Un’oscurità dolce e rassicurante. Pericolosamente rassicurante. Le nebulose soniche e agitate sono altrettanto rapide e distraenti, infatti.
L’ispirazione dell’album è impostato principalmente sul racconto di Edgar Allen Poe: “La Conversazione di Eiros e Charmion” che ha riletto durante il tour. L’album è in qualche modo, quindi, concepito come la sua colonna sonora. Considerando che si tratta di una sorta di storia dal sapore fantascientifico, che mescola mitologia e catastrofe indosserei – prima di polliciare sul play – le cinture di sicurezza.
I toni bassi, ronzanti e aleggianti ondeggiano attraverso le sette composizioni sottili dell’album. Strisce, intrecci, frammentazioni di danza leggera attraverso queste distese fredde e desolate che spesso si confondono. Anche il silenzio sembra fornire una parte integrante dell’esperienza di ascolto e contribuisce alla forma dell’intero arco dell’album.
L’ho ascoltato di sottofondo e con le cuffie: in entrambi i casi ha soddisfatto quei criteri di atmosfera che influenzano e colorano l’umore piuttosto che essere una carta sonora da parati che scompare nello sfondo inosservato.
Devo ammetterlo, quindi: il ripetuto ascolto di “Invisible Threads” non lo ha sollevato, il mio umore; tutt’altro. Prima scherzavo. Ora mi sento claustrofobico e teso, appesantito da un’oppressione indefinibile. Mi arrendo: il mio vocabolario critico è esausto quanto il mio stato mentale di fronte a questo album in questo momento. Faccio una doccia. Rifletto. E accetto che forse questo lavoro è così coinvolgente che sono, nel frattempo, annegato. |Wes Xiv]

I Heart Noise (net):

Mark Van Hoen, veteran of the electronic music scene as a visit to his web site will attest, has had an extensive career as both a solo and band (Locust) member. Now entering his 50’s, he continues to explore sound and texture to create some unsettling pieces of music. Invisible Threads is his latest solo work. Informed by a love of Edgar Allen Poe and the experiences of touring with other Touch artists (see the interview below).

This is a dark ride. An absorbing soundtrack to a rather hesitant night of self-examination. Cinematic in scope, claustrophobic in execution, the album opens with “Weathered” – a wide-screen wash of dark expectation set against a vast ebbing pulse of keyboards, half-heard voices and static interference. This mood is perpetuated by second track, Dark NIght Sky Paradox, a sound constantly threatening direction but perpetually on the edge of collapse. Anxious music.

“Opposite Day” reminded me slightly of TG’s “Exotica”, water and bird sounds mix with chimes to gently soothe. The Yes_No Game is suspended tones and a lone, lamenting female voice. Think Eno, with a Beth Gibbons being recorded at the far end of a very long corridor. Aether is a simple keyboard (not synth, Van Hoen is at pains to point out) that reminded me of Japan’s “Voices Raised in Welcome, Hands Held in Prayer” , but heard through a fug of low-level sonic interference.

Again, at no point can one relax with this music. At least, I couldn’t, It’s not Ambient. It is suffused with an unyielding, unrelenting dread and demands to be faced head-on. Reckoned with, almost. Flight of Fancy is anything but. Nothing is playful and all of it unsettles. Don’t play this to chill-out to or mollify dinner guests. It will set people’s teeth on edge and may actually make people a bit angry. I love it.

This is an excellent release from Touch and despite my anxious emotional reaction to it, I’ve found myself returning to it frequently over the past few days, perhaps finding within its structure and sounds a suitable soundtrack to these dark, strange and frightening days. Bravo, Mr Van Hoen. Bravo. [Ascetist]

bothostraussian (Netherlands):

Ik ben geen volger van Mark Van Hoens werk. Hij was een oorspronkelijk lid van het ongeëvenaarde Seefeel en heeft mede gestalte gegeven aan hun unieke sound. Hij is toen snel solo gegaan en heeft een indrukwekkend groot œuvre opgebouwd (onder zijn eigen naam en als Locust), dat helaas grotendeels onopgemerkt is gebleven door de popgoegemeente. Invisible Threads is een uitstekende plaat om aan deze Vernachlässigung een einde te maken. Over de achtergrond van de opnames kun je lezen op de site van Touch. Waarom ik deze plaat zo goed vind is een kwestie van subjectieve impressies die haaks staan op de Zeitgeist: het is een warme, gloedvolle ambient-LP die vergeleken met wat tegenwoordig onder ambient (vaak zuivere drone-based muziek) wordt verstaan, ietwat ouderwets aandoet.  Invisible Threads doet zowel aan het werk van Lawrence English als van Biosphere denken, maar herinnert ook—zij het dan ontdaan van alle pop- en rockreferenties—aan gold old shoegaze.

De sustained organ sounds van de eerste track geven meteen de sfeer van de plaat aan: een bas ostinato tegen de achtergrond van een bed van synths en geabstraheerd vocalese, met lichte noise-interferentie. En dat herhaalt zich. Vervelend? Geenszins. Dark Night Sky Paradox, de tweede track, lijkt op een Brian Eno ripoff circa On Land en Apollo, en zo’n ripoff mag je me elke dag voorschotelen—als ie zo goed is als dit. Net als op Apollo Eno en Daniel Lanois een op zich duister klankenpalet met mock-country elementen van een vrolijke noot wisten te voorzien, werkt Dark Night Sky Paradox ondanks de wazige klankkleur toch uitermate transparant, en heeft het een opbeurend effect. Dark ambient dus zeker niet—en dat is toch wel wat waard, want tegenwoordig wordt  in de ambient al te gemakzuchtig naar de troop van zwartgalligheid en romantiek gegrepen.

De lichte belklanken op Opposite Day in combinatie met de field recordings doet wonderen. The Yes_No Game zou met wat meer vaart en drums eronder zomaar van Seefeel kunnen komen: Seefeel uitgekleed, zeg maar. Meer gedrogeerd, minder ecstatisch.  Flight of Fancy daarentegen is dan weer beduidend donkerder van toon. De invloed van film soundtracks—tijdens de opname was Van Hoen ook bezig met het sound design voor films—is hoorbaar: wijds en gemoedelijk bulderend. Instable, de afsluiter, is mijn favoriet. Grootse Köner-achtige klanken die in al hun open dynamiek een omineuze bijsmaak hebben. Te kort maar prachtig.

Mark Van Hoen heeft met Invisible Threads op zich niks nieuws onder de zon gemaakt, maar dat doet niets af aan het feit dat ik dit cd-tje maar blijf afdraaien.  Reden genoeg om ’n in mijn lijst van 25 voor 2018 te zetten.

Spire 7 – The Eternal Chord “Semper Liber”

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

Track listing:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reviews:

Reviews:

weblog (UK):

Spire is a long-running flexible pool of musicians and sound artists who explore the capabilities of church organs in a non-traditional way. This 79-minute CD comprises four long pieces where different sustained notes, chords or note clusters are sounded simultaneously and gather momentum as drifting strata. Novel secondary patterns emerge and sparkly, shimmery, whining tones weave threads of fabric in and around sheets of deep pitched drones. It’s weighty though not asphyxiating. Back in 1998 the cult electronic trio Coil achieved similar results on their 73-minute four part ‘Time Machines’ using analogue synthesisers. Whereas Coil attempted to suspend listeners’ sensation of time, ‘Semper liber’ with its cover image of 5,000 year-old cave art, marvels at the immensity of historical time and the mystery of time itself.

Coincidently, US philosopher Robert Crease writes bravely on page 18 in this month’s Physics World (a UK Institute of Physics publication) that “you can’t explain time by putting physicists in charge of what time really is”. Here, he is calling for scholars of humanities to ramp up their voices on matters where scientists appear to have the upper hand. Perhaps sound artists should ramp up their voices too? [AH]

Ambientblog (Belgium):

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wreck This Mess (France):

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

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

DL (Bandcamp only) – 8 tracks

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

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

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

Touch Presents…

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

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

Photo: Jon Wozencroft, Kew Gardens, London

Reviews:

Art Culture Jazz (USA):

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

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

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

CD – 4 tracks
Limited edition of 500

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

Track listing:

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

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

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

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

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

Reviews:

Touching Extremes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Boomkat (UK):

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

VITAL (Netherlands):

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

Nitestylez (Germany):

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

Fluid Radio (UK):

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

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

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

ambientblog (UK):

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

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

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

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

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

Sodapop (Italy):

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

Souterraine (France):

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

Igloo (USA):

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

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

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

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

Blow UP (Italy):

Sound and Silence (France):

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

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

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

A Closer Listen (USA):

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dark Entries (Germany):

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

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

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

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

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

Neural (Italy):

Ear in Fluxion (net):

Los Angeles-based multidisciplinary artist Yann Novak recorded this work of characteristically droning minimalism as his second release for esteemed UK label Touch. In contrast to the single track of his previous Touch release Ornamentation, The Future Is a Forward Escape… is comprised of four shorter tracks. (Short for Mr. Novak is in this case around ten minutes, admittedly a fraction of his usual hourlong excursions.) In Touch’s press release, Novak elaborates in his own words on the album’s title and concept: “For this album I was interested in expanding into a more emotive compositional style and palette. In doing so, I was reminded that this was territory I had covered early on in my career — the whole process became a way to reconnect with my own past and history.” That tipping of his hand toward a more emotive style will come through more obviously for seasoned listeners of Novak’s œuvre, but that does not mean that The Future Is a Forward Escape… is not still largely shapeless and droning. It is both of those things, and Novak does them here as effectively as ever.

“Radical Transparency” manages to be serene and yet bristles with a tension that feels palpable, like a Rothko painting in aural form. “The Inertia of Time” feels like a flipside to the opener’s flared temper, a gloomy chord anchoring it for the duration. Some of its minor chord drones feel like a purification and sustained still from the 20th century minimalists, a second suspended in time. The same can be said about “Nothing Ever Transcends Its Immediate Environment,” whose droning chord also feels like a dense cloud, unmoving in space. But some of the most interesting sound design of the album is in its layering of these more evocative tones with field recordings and acoustic sound. Those often serve as the bridging elements between the more overt tonal segments, whether in the form of light bird chatter or a tiny Geiger-like crackle. The entire album feels like one continuous work, despite its discrete tracks and titles, and that is a plus for this listener. It features some of Novak’s most emotionally immediate material that I’ve heard, but feels like a lateral extension of his strengths and ethos rather than a diversion. Recommended.

A Closer Listen:

Top ten drones of the year

One could wax philosophical on humankind’s propensity to ignore the lessons of history or its insatiable need for progress regardless of cost. Ultimately, Novak may just be encouraging us to be mindful of the now. These four glacial pieces certainly afford the space for such meditation. Synthesized drones are focused on the mid and high registers, while scratching and rumbling textural irregularities emerge as though from the primordial soup – nature’s music that is both fascinating and easy to ignore, unless you take a moment. [Chris Redfearn-Murray]

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

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

Release date: 11th December 2017

Track listing:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Track listing:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reviews:

CUT AND RUN (UK)

Chain D.L.K.:

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

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

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

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

ArtNoir (Germany):

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

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

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

Loop (Spain):

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

Ondarock (Italy):

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

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

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

Touching Extremes (Italy):

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

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

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

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

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

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

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