Some time ago Nexsound have added PQP to their sublabel routine which marked the leave from the harsh and extreme noise experimental side and the introduction of what might be called pop in the overall context of Nexsound. This release by Bluermutt marks a sort of slight return or rather connectivity to the dynamics and chaos of earlier times, but not in extremity or harshness of sound. Mostly probably just because Bluermutt is not song-structured, but track-structured. On the other hand, disturbing dynamics, weird collections and juxtapositions of sounds and structures and a shifting of expectations has been a basic framework for Bluermutt on older releases as well, and within the roster of nexsound the Italian one man multiple helpers project has been the softest but in no way tamest artist.
Perlonex/Keith Rowe/Charlemage Palestine – Tensions
Why does it take over two years to release such a record? Starting a review with such a bold question may sound angry, but it is actually a solid form of puzzlement from my side. In 2004 the electroacoustic trio Perlonex celebrated its fifth birthday with two performances in Berlin to which they invited Keith Rowe and Charlemagne Palestine respectively. These sets have been recorded and now put out on a double CD without overdubs or any kind of editing. Does that mean the tapes from this show were sitting in a box somewhere for over two years? Or did it take that long to find a label willing to release them? The latter reason would puzzle me even more, because all the people involved are well known in the field of electroacoustic free improvisation, have toured and made connections globally and most importantly, the two long tracks are impressive and evolve dilligently and dynamically, in other words, they are great music. Maybe I just don’t know how some things have to work to be worked out and after all, Nexsound is a perfect place for this album and I should be happy that the album is out at all. Thinking too much about structures and the powers that lead to certain decisions and actions will get me into trouble sooner or later, or so it has been prophesized to me. CD one contains three quartes of an hour of Perlonex with Keith Rowe playing tabletop guitar. Within a few minutes layers of distant sounds, rising hissing and noises getting denser and denser evolve from about nothing, opening spaces, building walls and rooms and halls and roofs. Staying away from building a monolithic brickwall of sound, the four musicians gradually grow a stream of sounds that swells, becomes bigger and bigger and starts to incorporate more and more space. At times a simple small bellsound forms the only constant rhythmical measure while the level of noise rises. Bitstreams of digital noise as well as looped cut impromptu recordings. After some time the soundstream has reached its culmination and starts to ebb down again, just as slowly but also just as headstrong as it grew. While listening you think that this point has come over and over again, but when it actually has come you will only have noticed when it already has gone by. More often than not you’ll be wrong. You’ll be amazed at the power this track can form without going to the extreme and harsh attack of, for example, Merzbow. Suddenly all that is left is a humming, vibrating bass sound that seems to live inside the walls rather than inside the boxes. And from there it starts again. Ebb and flow, the most eternal structure of sound there is. CD two seems more lively and diverse, but nobody would judge if there wasn’t the comparison to Keith Rowe on the first CD. Everything seems to be more on the surface as well, the movements and changes in the music not as hidden or subdued. Signified eloquently by the introductory speech of Palestine to the audience. Electroacoustics seems to live from dynamics as well as from the diversity and curiosity of and in sound. If the track with Keith Rowe is a prime example of controlling dynamics then the track with Charlemagne Palestine is a prime example of incorporating and discovering sounds from the subconscious. On the matter of dynamics on the other hand the second CD in this package suprisingly seems even more monosyllabic and woven along a singular line than the first. But since Palestine could do wonders on a piano that has only one key left, that just adds to the full vibrating drone-atmosphere of the event. A glistening, crackling fourty minutes of sound. Tension indeed. The most basic examination of the dynamics of tension, analysed by strengthening the density over a long period of time and then releasing it just as slowly. The true fascination of this movement is impossible for me to describe, and maybe I shouldn’t so as not to kill the organism that sound can become if treated right by manipulation and the right way of listening. Probably just a modern form of zen-breathing? Well, breathtaking it is. Caution: if you are aware of adverse organic reactions to high frequencies, better stay away from this record.
Zavoloka – Plavyna
With “plavyna” Katja Zavoloka has managed to put an interesting and admireable piece of work in the large empty space that exists between harsh noise and free form avant-garde, between glitches and minimal. Though most of the other projects I have heard, which attempted to do the same, turned out boring, but this CD is lively and full of humourous dynamics. Moreover, she introduces a few surprising elements and shows that there is still a lot of potential hidden.
Beautiful surprises await at the end of the road for those able to walk them out. Like almost something like a melody halfway through this record and an almost “folk” song at the end. But let’s take it one after another.
Zavoloka is actually Katja Zavoloka from Kiev, Ukraine, who has been around the mostly virtual world of mp3-posting on various places for some years now next to her occupation as a graphic designer. More important, though, she has modelled her very own, unique universe of sounds, mainly bleeps and feeps with a little glitches here and there, held together by her more than unique feeling of structure and rhythm. Inspite of all the unexpected events, the unknown and strange surroundings and the sudden changes, the atmosphere of “plavyna” is warm, gentle and playful. Which is not at all bad for a “debut”. Since I don’t regard proper mp3-albums as inferior to regular CDs, I can’t really call this a debut as such. If anyone of you reading this wants to discuss the importance or ranking of music-storage formats with me, I’d politely decline and casually mention, that I’d rather talk about the music on them (especially when judging the global importance of electronic avant-garde music on an objective scale.)
The movements of the sounds to be found on “pavyna” reminds me of the dance of butterflies or the way the wind may swirl a piece of fluff over an empty place, with all its seemingly random yet hidden control of directions. The kind of stop and go in aesthetically motion that makes you wonder, if they are based on accident, on a set of rules, or on the random interplay of rules? So it is like the old postmodern mathematical science put into sound. Or is it just a special female touch that is invading noise-avantgarde? Songtitles translate as “little flower” or “painted berries” among others. If compared to Kotra’s “dissillient”, to choose an example from the same label, “plavyna” seems to be a walk in the park with a couple of little children. But only to people, who have never tended to small kids, an occupation most people would describe as “beautiful but exhausting”. Such a female influence would be very much welcome, though I don’t care if the actual, biological gender of an artist is male or female.
The music is mainly single notes and sounds, that fly across the aural scape in random movements. It takes Zavoloka into the middle of track five, “plavyna” to introduce something like a melody and to track six, “Kosytsia” to start something as a steady rhythm. Both dissolve into the rest of the sounds quite quickly or get osmotically sucked into a new dimension. The vocals in track seven, “Kolyskova”, come as a surprise. First there are some spheric noises and discordant bells, interferences and so on. Suddenly that lulling voice sets in, which sounds like an aged, old voice at first. So much that I started to doubt it was Zavoloka’s. It also sounds like a very old melody, maybe even a traditional song of some kind. The title of the track translates as “Lullaby”, so that spawns more suggestions toward old songs. The incorporation into her almost free form sound-scapes is to me one of the highlights of this record.
Now get this: the next track, “teche voda ledov” or “cold water flowing”, starts with pure and simple flute sounds as beautiful as might be found on any new age CD. Even the melody is soothing and simple, almost like that coffee advertisement on tv. The glitches and noises in the background soon destroy that impression, though they are in now way disharmonic or nerve-killing on the listener. The effect is startling nevertheless. The flutes are soon displaced by metallic sounding percussions that heat themselves into a desperate frenzy. Is it meant to be an up-to-date rework of the “Moldau”? With the flutes signifying the beautiful spring of the water and the metallic percussions the lead pipes of its industrialization? If so, why do the flutes return in the third part of the track? Maybe because Zavoloka is relaxing in a hot bath: The flute will return again later as well, so there is no need to inhibit your connotations and thoughts to any small confinement. There actually never is.
Kotra – Dissilient
High pitched frequencies cutting into your neuro-electronic system, destroying any conditioning available and tuning you into a sender that comes from within your core and from the depth of the universe at the same time. Personally, I prefer bass-noise, heavy and thundering subwoofed bass-sounds. Kotra prefers making run chills up and down your spine and into the back of your neck like syringes being stuck into your central nervous system. “Dissilient” takes some getting used to, but as soon as you’re hooked, you’ll be hooked for good. If you found Alexei Borisov and Anton Nikkl
Critikal – Graphorrhea
As far as the theoretical framework of collaborations are concerned, Critikal is one of the most intersting due to its strict logic and consequent performance. And this carries over to the music as well. Critikal is the bonding of four renowned noise-experimentalists and the main condition is, that with each release one of the four constructs music from the sound material provided by the other members. This logic makes for quite diverse array of music that always clearly shows the handwriting of the person in control, but also has heavy and clear routes in the interests of the other three. This time around it is Dmytro Federenko
Courtis/Moglass/Kiritchenko – s/t
Anla Courtis provides sounds for Andrey Kiritchenko to work on. Anla Courtis also provides sounds for The Moglass to work on. And both provide sounds for Anla Courtis to work on. Obviously, this three way global interchange of sounds and noises has Anla Courtis at the centre (this time), though Kiritchenko starts off followed by the Moglass and ended by Anla Courtis. So much for the basics of this release. What is missing to fill the matrix are the interchanges between The Moglass and Andrey Kiritchenko, but there are no reasons to fill a matrix aside purely formal ones and formality is something that you should forget about completely when confronting this release. Or any release on Nexsound for that matter, because they are all challenging your senses, your hearing restraints and the status of fringe music. What combines the three artists is that they tend to take on sound as something physical, elevating it to a tangible level that works not only through the auditive sense but also via the skin. Even though The Moglass are the most.
Bluermutt – When I’m Not
Bluermutt is one part of Crashbonsai, all of Mickey eats plastic and proprietor of Skyapnea, after all only one person though, but with many personalities and he comes from Italy. Next to sounds and sound discourse there is also visual arts and remixing and what no, and if you are thinking now: T
Ballroom of Mars – cédre
Two strategies define the work of Ballrooms of Mars on this release: hiding structure behind walls of seemingly disorganized noise and hiding the noise and chaos behind a resemblence of structure. The effect is the enforced and welcome disjunction of moments of pristine beauty and chaotic dissonance that keeps the listener in upright tension for the whole of the tracks, ever expecting a harsh attack of ripping noise while trying to relax to gentle appregios on an acoustic guitar or finding the inner pulse in a chaotic collage of random noises of either and or electronic instruments of manipulation or electronically or manually manipulated instruments but waiting for moments of relaxation. The dynamics are challenging and exhausting. A minute of harsh digital noise pulsed might be followed by a slew of ragtime chords on the piano straight from the Jacksonville Twenties. A young women
Andrey Kiritchenko – Stuffed With/Out
This release by Andrey Kiritchenko came as somewhat of a surprise, but then again it shouldn
Andrey Kiritchenko – True Delusion
The illusions start at the most physical level. Some medics argue that hearing is the first sense an unborn baby develops. Nothing is for sure and nothing is granted. But this CD is a true beauty. Intricate in the best sense and impressive even though – in contrast to what might be expected – there are no full force noise attacks here, but exactly the opposite. Based on piano and guitar notes, combined with organic sounds of the biggest creature known to mankind – the ecosystem – such are the connotations of this true piece of art. Did I never use the word enlightening or enriching because I don’t like superlatives and don’t want to wear off words for profane reasons? Maybe I should think about it.
Andrej Kiritchenko is the most prominent avant-garde musician from the Ukraine I know (which, I admit, are not so many after all), and he is the founder of the very interesting Nexsound label (which he now runs together with Dmytro Federenko aka Kotra). Releases on Nexsound are always worth listening to, because as far as music is concerned, which challenges the way you listen on an everyday basis even weeks or months later, as well as challenging your expectations of live and society, every release on Nexsound I have heard so far served more than ordered. (Check the reviews to Kotra and Zavoloka for more info.) Kiritchenko also has an enormous range of music he is working on and “True Delusion” is a great testament to that. I rarely ever do this, but this time around I want to copy-paste the info on this record to give you the artists idea of what he did: “The very idea was simple at first. I meant to play the guitar experimenting with minimalist harmonic overtones. Meanwhile I tried to take deep rhythmic breaths timed with guitar sounds. The result was almost meditative, as the guitar buzzing sound was slowly fading out and the body felt close to hyperventilated. : Later the album progressed in terms of the similar use of the piano. It was not exactly harmonic overtones, but the sound was slow, melodic and minimalist, so the album can be conventionally divided into two parts.”
The result, actually, is a lot more than the meditative minimalism hinted upon in this description. It would be doing great injustice to this music to describe it solely in the terms of slow, longwinding, meditative drones with parts that use instruments in simplistic ways and others that use gentle noises and the washing sounds of atmospheric disturbances. Because this record can really get a grip on you, or at least it got on me, when I listened to it first and then repeated listening to it for the rest of the afternoon. The last time this happened to me was with Marsen Jules “herbstlaub” and both records share an atmosphere of consisting outside the constraints of time in a near complete static balance, which to me defines at least one part of true beauty. But Kiritchenko’s work lays importance on two sides of the human spectrum, hinting at the dark as well as at the light. “True Delusion” is a lively discussion with tonality and harmony about the most essential aspects of life. The echoes of field recordings mixed with the sounds of breathing, aesthetically modified and elevated by the harmonious sounds of the piano or the guitar build a complete whole of surrounding sounds which at the same time soothes and frightens the listener. An environmental sound installation that flows and sparks with life, reverberates the tension that (conscious) existence brings along. The ambivalence of human lifes, with all its threats and joys, pain and happiness is reduced to the most basic level or existence – breath in / breath out – which like tidal movements still retains that certain ambivalence.
Using acoustic instruments is a new and maybe dangerous path for avant-garde-musicians, but new and dangerous should be the obvious choice for anything calling itself avant-garde (otherwise it’d end up as status quo). There seem to be more and more avant-garde artists taking that way and they have nothing to do with the settled avantgardists on these instruments (like Fred Frith, Eugene Chadbourne, Marc Ribot, to name some I still like) but using these bitparts together with the results of the electronic experimentalists from just around the corner of musical history, be they from the harshest noise sides or the ambient drone sides. That makes for an interesting mixture. First glimpses could be seen with Sylvain Chauveau or David Balula, but now I have the feeling that there is more and more of that, which exchanges the interest into the gigantic soundwalls with an interest into the more subtle and smaller differences. Maybe I am wrong and only deluded by my own perception, which is solely based on the music that comes my way, which of course is only a miniscule part of all the music around. Which brings me neatly to mentioning that there is a lot more to “True Delusion” than music.
The second side of this record is the very interesting theoretical background. We here at Cracked Headquarters know and have always put forth the thought that the whole world is actually an illusion. Not so much in the solipsist way of imagining everything out there but in the way that our sense shape the way we perceive the world (phenomenology), our minds shape the way we create the world on an individual basis (constructivism) and how our relationships to other people shape the way we behave in this world (sociology). In other words, we consist of ratio, emotion and socio and don’t you ever forget that. From the little blind dot in your eyeball, whose left out visual signals get interpolated and calculated by the brain very much like CD-error-programms have algorithms to calculate the missing sounds and you never notice, to the way our current social position and pressures make us behave (good example: George W. Bush, what power and drugs can do to the perception of the world), this is not at all a new thought. But an exciting, startling and haunting one each time I think about it. Most people live their everyday lives feeling they are in control of their lives. Of course, those are small lives with petty problems, especially in a rich and well-fed country such as Austria, but it is an illusion nevertheless. It takes only a few minutes and the coincidence of some far away factors to make you completely lose everything you ever had. Some CEO in another country decides to restructure the strategic direction of some side-parts of the global company he works for and suddenly your job is gone. A cardriver slides off the street and hits you or your partner straight with full power. A lightning strikes an electric pole which sets of a chain reaction and a whole city goes dark for hours. Warren Buffet decides to earn a few million dollars by a little currency speculation and destroys the economic system of a small country. And to think about the vast logistical system working on market forces and governmental forces it needs to feed a city of a million people, most of them working office jobs. “Illusion of Safety” for sure. Most people have no idea of what is really going on and why some things are working the way they do. I wonder if there is a single person at all. Our society, from the economic basis to the fashion trend surface, from the milk delivered to the supermarket to the designer iPod bought via the internet, is so unimaginable complex. And we wallow through this complexity with our ancient mammal brains trying to find known dots and lines within the chaos that help us along, all the while telling ourselves that we have a grip on everything, when actually we should be screaming, banging our heads and run back to our primeval caves to hide in.