Zavoloka – Plavyna
When I was 13 my dad went on a trip to Leningrad organised by the British Communist Party (back then it was the only way to go), and brought back a vintage Soviet cheap vinyl pressing of Shostakovich’s Leningrad Symphony, complete with bold, red, fisting constructivist cover art and inner sleeves made of stiff brown recycled paper that smelt suspiciously like raw sewage. The promo copies of the latest two releases on Andrey Kiritchenko’s Nexsound label also come in plan brown paper- odourless, thankfully – and I’m inclined to wonder if they’ll age as badly as the Shostakovich (proof, were any needed, that the heroic and the bombastic are never too far away from each other). The opening track of Zavoloka’s Plavyna takes a pretty, reverberant flute melody and allows her software to morph it into a 21st century isorhythmic motet of glitches and squiggles. It’s a spanking recording, though I’m left with the uneasy feeling that, if they had the right equipment, just about anybody with a bit of sense and a good working knowledge of the Mego and Rephlex back catalogues could come up with something rather similar. Dive-bombing comb-filtered swoops and all manner of fizzes, whizzes and blips straight outta Planet Mu are perfectly listenable, but will probably sound as dated twenty years from now as Shostakovich’s crashing banality. One gets the impression that one should be applauding the software, and not the person using it.
v/a – Rural Psychogeography
If you’re looking for one compilation that truly samples the world of electronic music, and the world itself, from Arizona to Argentina, Nijmegen to New Zealand, look no further. Rural Psychogeography features a veritable Who’s Who of sound artists in a fabulously recorded and exquisitely sequenced selection of work that kicks off spectacularly with Geoff Dugan’s “No Trespassing”, an outstanding binaural recording of Lake Otsego in upstate New York (watch yo woofers when dem trucks start rolling by). Francisco Lopez provides yet another inscrutable reworking of field recordings, this time from Patagonia, and Alan Courtis, of Reynols fame, collages sounds of the wind recorded in the Atacama Desert at Antofagasta de la Sierra Catamarca. Judging by the thundering oppressive rumbles that result, neither place is particularly hospitable. Probably just as well we segue right into Jason Kahn’s “Kreis 5”, which if my Google sleuthing is to be trusted (I guess I could always ask Jason himself but snooping around is more fun) is an industrial estate in Zurich, Switzerland, where’s it’s clearly raining. Nexsound’s own Andrey Kiritchenko is up next, and from the sound of it, the label’s home base in Babal in Eastern Ukraine is a pretty wet place too.
Here the album begins to slip its moorings: Kiritchenko isn’t content to leave the field recordings alone, adding swirls of laptop and shards of improvised acoustic guitar (imagine CM von Hausswolf jamming with John Russell at a bus stop in the rain). In similar vein, back in Switzerland, Tomas Korber and Gunter Muller get busy eai-style on a recording of a crossroads in Beijing. Lunt, aka Gilles Deles, dedicates his “Double Strapontine” to Matabiau subway station in Toulouse – goodness knows how he used the recordings he made there, but the result is absolutely spellbinding. Back in the Ukraine, The Moglass have taken a trip to Koktebel, in the Crimea, and here my Googling took me straight to a Russian-only Website introducing the ex-Soviet Union’s most famous nudist beach (you think I’m making this up? Check out the photo.. seems to be the ideal place for cutting edge sound artists to hang out, if you ask me). Their magnificent and spacious track – for once not long enough! – is definitely one of the disc’s highlights. Quite what relation Radian’s “Unje” has to do with the island of Unije off the Dalmatian coast that gives the piece its name isn’t clear (nor is the reason for including the track, which had to be licensed specially from Thrill Jockey, where it first appeared on the Rec.Extern album), but Tom Carter and Vanessa Arn’s “Mojave” is a beautiful and evocative portrait of the Arizona desert. After the crackle and grit of Martin Tetreault’s “D’apres Gaycre #3”, dedicated to the valley of the same name in the Tarn department of Southern France and the album recorded there in situ by Jean Pallandre, Xavier Charles, Michel Doneda on the splendid environmental improv Ouie Dire label, Rosy Parlane’s “Nica” returns us to the antipodean poise of Huia (somewhere not far from Auckland, NZ, as far as I can make out). Meanwhile, back in Switzerland, Steinbruchel’s laptoppery is as meticulous and unfathomable as ever, as is Kim Cascone’s “DMZspace”, which is “taken from a Korean spam installation”, whatever that means. By the time we get through the Cascone to Kotra (aka Dmytro Fedorenko)’s “Lost River”, an agglomeration of oppressive piano samples, we seem to have left “geography” behind and moved firmly into the world of the “psycho”. There’s not much rural about it anymore either, especially the last track, a decidedly noisy performance by Kouhei and Freiband recorded at a festival in Nijmegen in The Netherlands. It certainly makes a change for compilation albums to go out with a bang – most of them are far too polite and play-safe – and with the feeling that we’ve really been on a journey; flip track one on again and you’ll realise how far we’ve travelled. The only mildly annoying thing about this collection is the accompanying liners, a rather pretentious (and frankly unnecessary) essay by Natalia Zagurskaya – though then again I’m instantly suspicious whenever I come across words like “schizoanalysis” and “mobile psycho-prosthesis” – who might instead have mentioned (though I guess she supposes we all know anyway) that the term “psychogeography” was first coined by Guy Debord to refer to the effects of the geographical environment on the emotions and behaviour of individuals. Speaking for myself – can’t get more individual than that – I think this is one of the most varied and thought-provoking compilations of recent times.
the Moglass/Tom Carter & Vanessa Arn-Snake – Tongued / Swallow-Tailed
Snake-Tongued, Swallow-Tailed is in fact a split CD between The Moglass, who contribute the third, fourth and fifth tracks, and Tom Carter and Vanessa Arn of psychedelic folk outfit Charalambides. The opening “Mojave” is an extended version of their contribution to Rural Psychogeography – see above – and is followed by the 23-minute “Atmananda”. Carter’s lap steel sounds as rich and strange as Arn’s self-designed “triwave generator” (that’s a home-made synth to you), and the track has something of the Edward Hopper melancholy of Loren Connors, who in the long run may well prove to be as influential to the younger generation of transatlantic free folkies and post-rockers as Keith Rowe has been to European and Japanese improvising table guitarists. The accompanying Moglass tracks are, in comparison, quite focused, especially compared to the earlier outing reviewed above. “Untitled (Tawny Owl)” even comes across as intrusive after Carter’s spectral fingerpickings. The reverb is cranked up and one half expects some deadly serious English pagan booze-addled cat-loving post punk mystic to intone some Aleister Crowley. “The Map (Webfootprinted)” takes a few jaunty strains of folk fiddle and clarinet (Ukrainian?) and what sounds like opera (hard to tell) and bombards them with radioactive fallout worthy of Chernobyl. A strange distorted guitar-like instrument twangs menacingly throughout. Toto, I have a feeling we’re not in Ambient anymore. The folk music also lurks menacingly behind the drones and babble of the closing “Kakerlakische kakerlak”, in what would make a better companion piece to Aranos’ work with Jon Mueller and Chris Rosenau on Bleeding In Behind Pastel Screens (Crouton) than the oneiric world of Arn and Carter.-DW
The Moglass – Telegraph poles are getting smaller and smaller as the distance grows
First of all there was Ambient, which freed music from the need to impose itself upon the listener – though you can, if you like, pay attention and even sing along to “classics” like Music for Airports -, then Tortoise-era post-rock (since I rediscovered Simon Reynolds’ article on the subject in Audio Culture I can use the term with some confidence) loosened the idea of structure, and nowadays more recent practitioners (post-post-rock? New Weird post-folk? what shall we call them?) from JOMF to Vibracathedral to Sunburned Hand Of The Man have more or less dispensed with material altogether, preferring straggly drones or endlessly unravelling, never-resolving melodies. There’s a little of all the abovementioned bands in the music of The Moglass, plus traces of Fripp, Harold Budd, Richard Pinhas, Tangerine Dream, the Cocteau Twins (without the voice), Mikhail Chekalin (though that might be my imagination) and, standing back in the shadows, Pink Floyd, Angus Maclise and the Grateful Dead – surely the first post-rock band, if eternal spaced out noodling is what post-rock’s all about. Get beyond the bland, watery Orbishness of track one and the spooky noodling of track two and check out the third track. Over a shuffling triple time groove, guitars and keyboards intertwine and drift off into the pale sepia horizon of the album cover (great album name too, by the way), but somehow, magically, the music holds the attention. I say “magically” because there’s no real reason why it should: the melodic shapes, though recurring, never quite stick in the mind, there’s no harmony to speak of, and even the groove seems to disappear after a while. After the fourth track a more conventionally Ambient (i.e. heavy on the reverb) gentle dip into and out of distant echoing pentatonic Cold Blue pools, track five’s rhythmic loop makes the Industrial / industrial connection clearer – though Yuri Kulishenko (guitar), Vladimir Bovtenko (bass) and Oleg Kovalchuk (electronics), were all probably in nappies when Throbbing Gristle set up shop. It’s such variety and openness that makes Telegraph Poles such a fine album, and one worth seeking out – though I suspect copies are already hard to find.
Francisco Lopez/Andrey Kiritchenko – Mavje
I recently got a rather irate email from Joe Morris complaining that only one of his many albums has so far been reviewed on this site (see the Letters section for more grief). Well, sorry Joe, but I do have quite a few and love them all, if that’s any consolation (I’m sure it isn’t). If Francisco López wanted to he could bitch just as much
Andrey Kiritchenko – True Delusion
Kiritchenko’s own True Delusion is a moodier affair, taking source recordings of guitar, piano and diverse field recordings and feeding them into the ubiquitous computer, to come up with something that sounds remarkably like Giuseppe Ielasi’s two latest solo releases on Sedimental and Hapna. Imagine lying on your back in long grass on a hot summer night and strumming a few neo-folk post-Fahey licks while small insects scuttle perilously close to your earholes. Elsewhere, ultra-minimal three-note piano melodies (both pedals down) drift through a haze of glowing harmonics as the listener is inexorably drawn into a brooding melancholy world worthy of Loren Connors. The difference is that Connors comes out naked and shivering, and doesn’t hide under a digital duvet. Kiritchenko’s music is touching, atmospheric, and undeniably well crafted, but I’m left wondering exactly how much substance there is under its beautiful surfaces.