Psychogeography (the term was coined by the situationist poetGuy Debord around 1950) is the study of the precise laws andspecific effects of the geographical environment, whetherconsciously organized or not, on the emotions and behavior ofindividuals. This compilation attempts to explore this concept,by presenting the listener a series of changing sonicenvironments. Field recordings would seem to be the obviousapproach to such a concept, but only the first track on this cdis composed purely of such recordings. Geoff Dugan offersbinaural recordings made near a lake in New York state. Thefirst half of the cd flows seamlessly together, and quite oftenI felt that I was listening to one long track. Its as if we havean audio version of the old Surrealist game, where on personstarts a drawing on a sheet of paper and then covers it leavingonly the edges of the drawing visible so that the next personwould continue the drawing using the visible parts as a startingpoint. No doubt this is the result of the skillful track programmingby the editor of this compilation. Artists like Francisco Lopez,Courtis (of Reynols), Jason Kahn, Andrey Kiritchenko, TomasKorber / Gunter Muller, Lunt, the Moglass, Radian, Tom Carter(of Charalambidies) & Vanessa Arn, Martin Tetreault, RosyParlane, Steinbruchel, Kim Cascone, Kotra also appear on the cd.The contribution from Kiritchenko mixes outdoor sounds withspastic acoustic guitar coupled with digital noise. The peak ofthis cd is the track by the Moglass entitled “Koktebel” an outerbody drone which levitates above your ears which would easilyput to shame any post rock or digital shoegazer punter. Thesecond half of the cd doesn’t maintain the cohesiveness of thefirst 8 tracks. Yet none of the tracks are slackers, but takenas a whole they create a work stronger than its individualparts. The CD ends with a collaboration by Kouhel & Freiband, asurprisingly noisy track, something which I would not ex pect from a Freiband work. Nothing better than going out in ablaze of glorious noise. (JS)
v/a – Rural Psychogeography
Typically, when you put a CD in the player and press play you hear some sort of music:or crap doubling as music. When I pressed play and started listening to the first track, “No Trespassing” by Geoff Dugan, my first reaction was “What the hell is this?!” For the first five minutes, the only sound is of someone walking. No beat. No instruments. Just walking!And then I realized that Rural Psychogeography is not a band, but an indie nature album. This is an album for pompous geography students, professors and surveyors for whom the latest “Trickling Water” album is too mainstream.This sixteen track compilation was recorded all over the world, from Ukraine to upstate New York to Korea. Nexsound, the distributor of this bizarre but interestingly packaged work, made this as a way to show how “rural psychogeography” can be a total “sensory” experience.Here is why this does not work: “Babai” by Andrey Kiritchenko is two and a half minutes of electronic rain. Not actual rain, but blips randomly scattered with the intent of killing music as we now know it. And it comes close. “Beijing Crossroad” by Tomas Korber and Gunter Muller is over three minutes of static. My question: What is so geographic about static?! I can get static on my radio dial. I don’t have to go clear to friggin’ Japan to record it, nor do I need to hear it on a CD!The craziest track is “DMZspace” by Kim Cascone, which, according to the back cover, is “taken from Korean spam instillation.” I know spam was good for a lot of things, but I have a hard time taking this one seriously. Not to mention the track sounds like R2D2 defragmenting his hard drive.If you want to deafen yourself, you could listen to “Lost River” by Kotra or “(Under the) Waalbrug, Nijmegen” by Kouhel & Freiband. Both tracks sound like someone took a microphone, placed it right in front of a speaker, turned the volume all the way up and walked away.Rural Psychogeography is something that must be heard to be believed. This is not music, and I really hope they were not trying to make it so. This half nature walk/half torturous gibberish and ear-piercing squeals is something that should never have seen the light of day. But now that it has, we can just put it away and fire the person who came up with this garbage.
v/a – Rural Psychogeography
Psychogeography is a term coined by the situationist poet Guy Debord, and was developed in the late 1950’s as a critique of urbanism. Defined as the study of the effects of geographical settings on the mood and behaviour of the individual, psychogeography is a field pursued on an academic level by geography researchers, but non-scientific research also emerges by way of artists and radical thinkers. One such research document is Rural Psychogeography, a compilation album of experimental pieces based on various locations around the world including Switzerland, Argentina and New Zealand. This international project features artists such as Nexsound label head Andrey Kiritchenko, Francisco Lopez, Jason Kahn, Radian, Lunt and Quebecois composer Martin Tetrault among others.Stand out cuts from this compilation include “Koktebel” by The Moglass, “Beijing Crossroad” by Tomas Korber and Gunter Muller, “Nica” by Rosy Parlane as well as “DMZspace” by Kim Cascone. Both conceptually interesting and aesthetically appealing, the resulting collection is an engaging combination of minimalism, improvisation, sound art, live and field recordings. Vitaliy Kotendgi designed the brown paper sleeve the compilation comes packaged in, which is kept together with a length of twine. For more words, sound clips and information, direct your internet browser to the Nexsound website.
v/a – Rural Psychogeography
According to Wikipedia, psychogeography is “the study of specific effects of the geographical environment, consciously organised or not, on the emotions and behaviour of individuals”. Those who study psychogeography wander (sometimes obsessively, it is said) around any given environment, to experience it in new ways. They have developed unusual methodologies for doing this, such as following their nose by chasing after smells, or navigating the streets of one city using the map of another city.
I’m not sure what specific systems the artists on Rural Psychogeography used, but this is environmental recordings of the purest variety, sometimes set to experimental electro-acoustic music, sometimes not. This is not the kind of environmental recordings featuring pleasant birds chirping or waves crashing, designed to lull and soothe the listener by floating around in the background along with some soft new-agey music. Nor is it harsh or unpleasant noise either. Sometimes it is just simply a recording taken of some acoustic environment.
Avant-garde musician John Cage did a famous piece where he sat at a piano for four odd minutes and played nothing. The idea was to get the audienced to listen to the sounds around them, to fully experience their natural sonic surroundings. The pure environmental recordings on Rural Psychogeography have this effect. By removing the other senses from the landscape, one tends to focus on just the sounds, hearing the background noise of everyday life in a new way. I’m not sure if that was the goal of this album, but it is an interesting experience. Most of the pieces, however, do feature some form of music, most often abstract, minimalist electronic music, but occasionally acoustic sounds as well.
It sounds like an old idea: marry environmental recordings with music. But the artists on Rural Psychogeography have somehow managed to make this old idea sound fresh. Though it’s by no means as groundbreaking as say, Brian Eno’s development of ambient music in the late 70’s and early 80’s, Rural Psychogeography does nonetheless draw you into its unique environment of sound.
Reviewed by Jeff Fitzgerald
v/a – Rural Psychogeography
This excellent international anthology of various artists utilizes extensive field recordings of rural atmospheres, as well as instrumental manipulations to create sixteen highly evocative soundscapes. From well known, to lesser known entities: Tom Carter & Vanessa Arn, Francisco Lopez, Radian, The Moglass, Rosy Parlane, Kim Cascone, and many others. Rain drizzles and drips, a distant airplane passes, wind and water gurgles, murmurs and roars, insects sing, automobiles pass, generators hum inside of a wintery storm, random strings are plucked in an icy grotto while alien frequencies bleed through the walls. A submarine filled with ghosts floats weightlessly through a cluster of electric eels, as codified languages of stone intone and undulate.
v/a – Rural Psychogeography
The CD comes packaged in a slender, understated yet striking, cardboard sleeve. Unfold to reveal the contents. A disc and some brief liner notes printed on greaseproof style paper. The paper type here may not be all that significant, but its potential in the kitchen is perhaps more inspirational than the text contained upon it; an unnecessarily pretentious rambling that alienates its readers and lacks even a basic critique of what psychogeography is. Here’s my explanation: Psychogeography; A study of how the geographical environment affects the behaviour of individuals and society. It is often connected to the ideals of the Situationist International [SI].
The basic concept, as personally interpreted, seems to be that sonic experiences in a rural space can be captured and imported into the city whereupon the listener can construct their own abstracted environment, a ‘constructed situation’. Sounds are relocated so that “an underground station in Paris all of a sudden becomes reminiscent of a country backyard”. Similarly, the aural characteristics associated with the city, sounds of automated industrialisation and electronic tools, might be manipulated to mimic the complex relationship between sounds in rural surroundings.
Insert the CD. The opening twenty minutes comprises four tracks of faintly manipulated environmental recordings. Beautifully captured though they are, especially Geoff Dugan’s binaural recordings near Lake Otsego, rural New York State, they’re perhaps a little deceptive of the textural architecture that comes to characterise the rest of the compilation. Indeed, it isn’t until we arrive at track five, a composition by Andrey Kiritchhenko, that we get a true insight of the CD’s nature. ‘Babai’ is the first composition that cuts and splices field recordings and combines them with anomalous sounds, here some freely improvised acoustic guitar and bubbling sine wave bleeps.
The geography of the CD, the positioning of the tracks, causes some confusion on first listening. Unlike most contemporary music albums, which give each artist’s work its designated plot of digital space, ‘Rural Psychogeography’ emphasises a continual mix from track four onwards. The experience isn’t unwelcome though. Taking the mastering process of a contemporary album to this new phase emphasises more acutely the ‘journey’ aspect of the disc. Each of the sixteen tracks states a dedication to a particular location on the planet, ranging from Arizona [USA] to Huia [New Zealand], passing through Korea and Ukraine, the homeland of the releasing record label, Nexsound.
Despite the initial troubles, this album proves itself on compositional elegance alone, with well-known composers such as Francisco Lopez, Kim Cascone, Rosy Parlane [Touch records] and Radian [Thrill Jockey records] contributing to the project. Its terrain starts at a reasonably low, minimalist level and gradually crescendo’s toward the pinnacle, to the heightening pressure from feedback and fractured connections of kouhei and freiband’s live set. Upon hearing the sound of the disc spinning down, it begs to be revisited. This won’t become a dusty shelf-filler. Sit back and enjoy another journey. Where will your ears take you?
Reviewed by DJC de la Haye
v/a – Polyvox Populi
It would seem that the Chernobyl explosion didn’t only bring to Ukraine human tragedies and huge vegetables, but some seriously mutant electronic musicians. “Polyvox Populi”, a CD brought out by two labels from this country, gives them a chance to get their sound to the outer world. Lead by the Nexsound manager and musician extraordinaire Andrey Kiritchenko, this seemingly incestuous family throws us 11 tracks of drones, experimental sounds and weird ambient from outer spaces, all served from what I would believe are either old soviet-eras synthesizers or their sequels. Anyway, it’s nice to finally have a compilation that doesn’t stand by its big names (ok, we might have Kiritchenko’s own Sidharta and A. De Montfroyd on this compilation, but they are not exactly platinium sellers, yet). Alphonse de Montfroyd starts with a gloomy and slowly pulsating hommage to the Kursk tragedy, which is followed by two similarly dark droney pieces, The moglass playing a very nice one with his twisted and deeply effect-ed guitar. Sidhartha, Andrey Kiritchenko’s glitchy click’n’cut project, put back some light on the disc and once again screams for a big innovative techno label to sign him. Past the aquatic and deep atmospheres of Filius Macrocosmi (imagine Archon Satani by the sea), we get a festival of the Nexsound acts, The Moglass pairing with A. de Montfroyd, A. Kiritchenko going back to his electroaccoustic ambient with Nihil ex Excellence before breeding with A. de Montfroyd for some deep and repetitive experimentation with noise and basses, Kotra delivering again one of their scrap-you-teeth-on-barbwire ultra gritty pieces, and Cold War Mechanizm closing the dance with a spherical track somehow reminiscent of Vromb going soundtrack-ish. Finally, two acts I didn’t know of before mark the end of this compilation, First Human Ferro with a rather harsh and noisy track, and Fragments with very dreamy and and melodic track, which features the only “classic” instrument of the whole CD, a piano. All in all rather calm, but always experimental and, above all, never sounding like anything else, “Polyvox Populi” seems to be the long awaited outburst of energy from this boiling Ukrainian scene. People seems to like drone and calm atmospheres there, but are not afraid to stir it up with noises and glitch. Here is some fresh air from the sometimes too conventional classic drone & noise sound. Time will tell if any of these acts break big, but I surely hope that this compilation will carry their sound to the right ears.
v/a – Polyvox Populi
About ten years ago a compilation came out called Novaya Stsena, featuring underground music from Kharkov and other cities in Ukraine. It was an amazing document of the creative sounds produced before and right after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Now a new compilation shows us that great music is still being made in Ukraine. Polyvox Populi, the title a play on words of vox populi and polyvox, the soviet version of the moog synthesizer. Ten groups perform 12 tracks, two of them being collaborations between 2 of the groups. What strikes me overall is how the CD flows together, as if they were produced by the same group. Some of this is due in part to groups sharing members, or collaborating, but more likely a result of the thought put into compiling the tracks for this CD. What really appeals to me is how the groups here seem to not be affected by current fashionable trends in electronic music, and prefer to operate in their own sonic realm. Yes there are some clicks and cuts (most notably in the great harsh edged track by Kotra) and laptopisms, but the music has feel of experimental music of the late 70s-early 80s, with its analog sounds, rhythms, and drones. But it never succumbs to retro fetishism, rather more a result of the years of cultural isolation under soviet rule. One of the few benefits of the old regime, was that experimental music developed on its own, with its unique take on western influences when it encountered it. The track by The Moglass could have been released on the old UK label Third Mind, with its process guitars, rhythm box and atmospheric sounds. Sidhartha presents us with a nice looping bit of electronica, swirling keyboards, tabla-like glitching, along with the accompaniment of a baby’s cries. The Moglass team up with Alphonse De Montfroyd for a track of lightly played, percussive guitars and intriguing loops and processed environmental sounds. Alphonse’ solo track is a hard edged rhythm machine, like old Esplendor Geometrico. Nihil est Excellence, which is nexsound boss Andrey Kiritchenko’s project (along with Sidhartha), creates a highly irregular pulsating piece of musique glitch concrete, composed environmental sounds. Cold War Mechanizm’s track is very reminiscent of the 80’s hometaper band F.A.R., with its sequencer lines and processed ambient sounds and tapes. The other groups on this compilation, Caste’, First Human Ferro, and Fragments are contribute strong tracks. Most of the groups contained herein have other releases on nexsound in cdr format, all of which come highly recommended. (JS)
v/a – Polyvox Populi
This compilation is the follow up to the first compilation, the difference being that volume 1 was a CD focusing on artists from Ukraine, while this second edition expands to feature artists from Russia, Estonia, and Belarus and is released in mp3 format with a pdf cover. This is a nice way to learn about artists that do not get enough exposure due to their geographic locations. For the most part the artists here work in the area of IDM/experimental digital musics, and its quite a pleasant mix. All of the tracks display strong compositions and enough individuality to encourage one to seek out more of their works. Included are artists such as Eloshnye Igruski, Klutch, Ambidextrous(who provides a pleasant track with his unmistakeable analog keyboard melodies and who just now has a release on BipHop), Novel 23, Infra Red Army (with a very effective track based on themes by Henry Purcell), and other Nexsound stable artists Kotra, the Moglass, Alphonse de Montfroyd, and Andrey Kiritchenko. (JS)
v/a – Fourfold Symmetry
Fourfold Symmetry presents us with a simple idea – four artists supplying source sounds to each other and then composing pieces. Little is explained about whether these source sounds are organic or computer derived or indeed how each artist set about working with them. For this reason it is difficult to judge what transformations have taken place and how original or well used any of the sounds are. One also gets the feeling that this is an opportunity missed and the feeling that comes across is that the artists just loaded up the source sounds into their computers and did what they usually did.
First up we have two tracks from KIM CASCONE. Using obvious processed noise and the dreary after effects of granulation, time stretching and spectral filtering Cascone creates a fairly ineffective couple of pieces. No attempt is made to engage with the spatial depth of sound and so apart from a few arbitrary auto-panning sounds, the pieces end up appearing quite flat. This may be intentional, but it sounds ill considered. Generally both compositions fail to evoke anything other than the sound of computers making sound. The pieces lack subtly, over use the cross fade as a transitional method and seem to be missing any propulsive elements. They also fail to recognise the importance of silence, space and gesture.
‘Misplaced’ by ANDREY KIRITCHENKO succeeds with simplicity and layering to create a slow crescendo. As before all the sounds are static, non dynamic and expressionless, but in this instance the blandness and flatness of the ingredients is useful in gradually heaping them on top of each other to create a charged engaging space.
The next eight tracks by KOTRA introduce a more obvious metre using fast gated repetition, loops and short percussive gestures. The sounds used are much purer in tone and have none of that overstuffed feel that makes it difficult to move from one sound to another. With this limited palette KOTRA goes a lot further in exploring the sources and composing with them. The only problem seems to be in the sonics – the harsh clipped tones of the foreground need to be calmer in both volume and equalisation. They appear sped up or have had their sampling rates reduced to create an effective harshness of texture, but they at times overwhelm the background drone sounds.
ANDREAS BERTHLING’s only track ‘First Out’ [though he contributes source sounds to two other tracks] is quite similar to KOTRA’s piece. Short harsh sounds are looped into a one bar repetition at around 120BPM. Over this percussive sounds skate and skid around in stereo using modulated bouncing ball algorithms to simulate acceleration and deceleration in both space and sound. An interesting idea, but to repeat this loop all the way through [around 130 times] is unacceptable and just plain lazy.
ANDREY KIRITCHENKO’s two tracks finish the album with clear tones and low chord like drones, creating a soft atmosphere. Unfortunately the electronic birdlike sounds, though well realised, create an atmosphere that is more suited to a flotation tank ambience than interesting composition. And once this soft atmosphere fades away all that is left is the sound of effects, not the sound of composition. The problem lies in no keeping hold of the beauty, a feat that is achieved in the last track ‘three figures’ where a simple idea is held.
Overall a well packaged and thoughtful compilation demonstrating the various methods of sound manipulation. Unfortunately the fact that much of the sound here has no dynamic expression means that compositions become demonstrations of valueless computer pyrotechnics, rather than considered explorations in sound. A lot of the work in the album has failed to realise that sound creation is nothing without composition. And composition is a skill which there has yet to be a plug-in invented for. Unless composers work on their methods of transitions and expression, listeners will be forever trapped in listening to one fairly interesting sound cross fade into another fairly interesting sound. With the limitless possibilities of computers, this is simply not good enough.
Reviewed by Mark Mclaren