Icarus – Misfits
Label: Output Format: CD
Icarus, AKA Ollie Bown and Sam Britton, are back with the successor to last years Squid Ink album. Misfits is ultra chilled Ambience with heavy glitch content. I didn’t see any trace of a track listing for the six tracks on the CD, so any references I make will be rather vague. That’s not totally inappropriate, though. Part of Misfit‘s charm is the vagueness of the sound.
It’s not always easy listening, there’s a tension between the dreamy, melodic, and often Jazzy ambience and the glitch rhythms. At times recognisable patterns emerge, and the music forms itself into edgy and scratchy sounding Drum and Bass. At other times radio interference and microphone noise sit in opposition to the music. The Jazz influence is quite explicit at points. A saxophone squeals out melodies above twitching electrostatic glitch rhythms, clanging guitar strings (I’m assuming it’s a guitar) bounce through some of the tracks. Unlike a lot of glitchy music Misfits has a lot of warmth to it’s meandering tracks. The album sounds heavily microphonically minded so it never becomes too abstract or has that rather clinical digital feel.
Icarus – UL-6
Label: Output Format: CDS,12″
The duo of Sam Britton and Ollie Bown seem to be having fun on this EP with their electronic music experiments – a little bit of conceptual playfulness, a dash of demarcated boundaries of what to put in and leave out of their sound. They record at night, and like to sample undergound train journeys as well as various other places around Italy and Germany. The results have been assembled into a three track EP in advance of their album, and just for that little extra touch of uniformity, they recorded it all at the same tempo.
The title track shows that tempo to be quite modest, and indeed Icarus have quite a relaxed undercurrent among the scuttling breakbeats and percussion. Through sequences of Jazzy cymbal noodlings of the more freaked-out kind things do extend off into the nether reaches of propulsive Drum and Bass solo territory by the end of its ten minute running time. All is however offset quite nicely by some subtly-shifting deployments of what are presumably those field recordings processed into something quite sonorous by the time they’ve finished with them.
Then comes the games with “Borichaen Pintack”, sampled solely from a hundred pop LPs – though frankly if they didn’t say it wouldn’t be apparent. This is much more frantic, zipping along at a rate of knots before dissolving into a noisy clatter Tom Jenkinson would be proud of. For the close, “Deutsche Oper” opts for slow synthesized strings suspended into shifting glitches, bringing everything to a gentle close.
Now this is the kind of thing there needs to be more of – heavy economic concept albums on the theme of global trade, presented by two musicians in fake NATO-ID-tagged suits and blank expressions. What’s even better is that the guitar work sounds so much like Michael Rother’s solo work on occasion it’s positively beautiful, and in fact there is much of the NEU! and/or Kraftwerk influence, and not just in the choice of transportation as subject matter, at work on Trein Maersk
Based around a posited journey on the container ship of the title from Yokohama to Halifax, the accompanying booklet contains essays on each seaport and its socio-economic statistics, all wrapped up as an academic/business report of the methodology of multinational capitalism. Every stop gets a track, from the aforementioed joyous groove of the start city via the frenetic Techno groove which signifies “Port Of Singapore” via the mellower trancey beats and Ambient twangs of “Arabian Sea Passage” or radio soundings and melodic guitar instrumental “The Long Boom” which bears a marked affinty to the swelling atmospherics produced by Cul de Sac.
Trein Maersk coasts smoothly on its port-hopping trip, and the snippets and samples collected on the ship which float low in the mix make that little extra bit of difference in establishing the atmosphere of the record. It’s very easy listening (in the literal not generic sense) status makes for a subtle commentary on its subject matter, and one which doesn’t ram either facts or opinions down the throat of the listener, preferring instead to paint a sound picture of a key aspect of globalisation within the framework which is at once entirely pleasant and in the mood of the times.
-Antron S. Meister-
I-F – Playstation #2
Label: Disko B Format: 12″
A splattery, scattered slice of multi-faceted electronica, the title track bulges with enriched analogue bass warbles, arpeggiated drum lines and a smattering of filtered sequins. The vocals are a pretty fun shout to the various numbers of Playstation of the imagination (“This is Playstation #1/We are here to overcome/This is Playstation #2/We are here to spy on you”), and as the label (probably) indicates, the whole track (including the vocals, oddly enough) sounds good at 33 or 45rpm. “Quest (Part 1)” rolls along at quite an odd Electro pace, with appropriately pitch-shifted vocals about a robot in search of an interplanetary utopia. Strange time signatures keep it fairly skewed too, the whole coalescing in a Bob Calvert meets Möbius kind of way.
“Spiegelbeeld” upsets the rhythmic applecart a bit, twittering to itself as if no-one was listening for a while before sliding a groove out of the separate parts sliding around and constructing some kind of alternate Hi-NRG universe almost in passing. I-F certainly likes the sound of virtual wobble-boards – quite a peculiar track in all.
A past master at making recording to fit the space in which they are heard, including The Millennium Dome in London, Ryoji Ikeda‘s Matrix brings the sounds indoors to a set of speakers and their surroundings near you. The sounds are set in layers to send the listener and their environment out of their current space and into another – or others as the sound field is moved around, within, across even.
Matrix [For Rooms] makes up the hour-long CD1 of the set, and really does take hold of the space in which it is listened to, riding on microtones and tails of tones. Where the stereo spectrum meets is where the action is; turn the balance one way or another and a more singular drone falls back, revealing the harmonic interplay through its absence. Immersive is the word, and for a change this is one recording which definitely doesn’t require headphones for the full (extra?)sensory effect. Wobbly, warbly, thrillingly dynamic over ageless stretches of time in a suitably Zen manner, and occasionally beautiful too. Systems music? Yes please!
CD 2 has big lowering rhythms to wade through, a veritable bath of bass and the highest of squeaks. The space between jumps with implied and real energies, making for one of the more luxuriously-imagined mathematical soundscape compositions of these times, to recombinant effect as the glitches and bleeps take hold. Who said that theoretical art can’t be fun? This is one of those pieces which takes off somewhere beyond the mere comprehension of its thirty minute running time, and demands appreciation at the volume the reproducing amplifier’s speakers and surrounding objects will allow. And the neighbours, of course – or not, if they’re unpleasant.
Matrix is the CD of ideal choice for anyone in possession of one of those cars with ultra-violet lights attached to the underside and huge great bass bins which are known to cruise city streets by night, blasting all and sundry with the appalling low-end residue of Swingbeat and Garage. Or even better, one of those quad bicycle-powered sound systems seen at street parties. Perfect revenge on anyone who has inflicted Top Ten misery on the neighbourhood – take Matrix for a spin around the block, laze away the summer daze in the garden or on the porch, experiment with the acoustic properties of the serried ranks of wind-tunnel towerblocks and railway arches, or simply pop it on in the kitchen while washing some dishes.
When I was a child I had this odd toy consisting of a large hard plastic ball supported with full rotation faculty at the end of a broomstick type handle. When the ball was pushed along or pulled behind, it made a lovely musical sound, bell like and gentle. Running about at my three year old top speed I recall the music ball sounded warped and crazy, but it was when it was rocked slowly that it produced sweet little songlike noises that I loved. “In Between Frames” on Ken Ikeda‘s Tzuki(Moon) sounds like that song.
In fact all of this CD sounds like a childhood dreamscape. Simple blips and beeps and electronically induced pings and zips compounded into near-song renderings to produce a distracting and disarming collection of very sweet noise. Far away from saccharine, this album comprises what little kid lonliness might sound like if it had a sound. Asian influenced woodwinds and chimes bring back a visual of the little boy befriended by Japanese monsters, and no one else believes him. It is a bittersweet melodic tragedy that strikes a sad chord, simply. Tzuki seems a private piece of music, a personal work of art and it is a most generous act that Mr. Ikeda has seen fit to share it. This is no piece for dancing, but more a soundtrack for wandering through urban ruins and 20th Century shatterings of what a prettier world might have been. It would take an innocent to make the imagination skip, or perhaps just the onlooking of the moon which still deigns to shine.
Ken Ikeda – Tzuki (Moon) (A Second Opinion)
Any relation to the other Ikeda? It’s rather like the surfeit of artists in this business named “Whitehead”. And the (nearly) patented Jon Wozencroft sleeve stares inscrutably into Easter Island space. A dulcet series of tones animates dead air and it’s fuck music at it’s most tender. One day there will be fields of relaxation chambers from which these sounds will emanate. A pouring-out of water tapes methodically at the tones.
A backwards reflection now, running against a grain of a lonely chime. An echoing steel sings in quicklime quick-time and is associating sound with images a kind of hysteria? Mass or otherwise? Bird sings in a reflective way and the tones procede in a devotional way that is conducive to afterfuck glowing. A chill-out. The bird’s wing moves oddly slowly and this is what it sounds like to levitate.
Miss you, babe.
“Hydro” finds Anders Ilar puming out the repetetive beats in a wintry electronic ride, the whole underpinned by a suprisingly warm sense of immanent spring thawing; pleasantly propulsive, thanks to no-nonsense programming, but the keyboard chords and other sounds are perhaps a tad generic in their niceness. “Mouthdry” bubbles with far more interesting rhythmic constructions, slipping along on a liquid sample beat laced with circuitous ambient passes and sweeps to disorienting effect.
Ilar leaves the banging to last, rippling and ripping the rhythms of “Moth”, all squirming analogue pulses and icy drips wriggling to a solid Techno loop. Filters and pitch shifters make the top and low end shiver and squawk, rumble and flit to the remorseless groove – but it’s a welcoming sort of drive, like being on the back of a racing cyclist’s bike as they careen through the lanes and crest over hills: at the rider’s mercy, but with the ultimate direction under full control.
Ill Ease is a discordant musical lurch through unsettling stories about being high, road trips, and disillusionment. It’s just beautiful. The unidentified female lead singer croons her way through these pieces like she’s talking in her sleep and saying things she’s not supposed to be saying, all against a backdrop of music just defies categorization – it’s Blues Explosion, it’s Fugazi. It’s all the good stuff about emo but not overindulgent and “why me?” depressing, combining killer, out-of-tune guitar licks and brooding bass lines with soft whispering vocals and unexpected tape loops.
Kozo Inada‘s contribution to the Material Series (he gets a white plastic grid in a yellow jewel case for his speciality packaging) drifts up from silence into a ruching hiss of decidedly unstatic static, washes of pink noise, white noise, any colour you like noise, magnifying the sea-shell sounds of the inner ear into what soon becomes an overwhelming space-filling wall of sound. As impure minimal-maximal explorations of one idea go, “d” has the effect of intense immersion in a full-tilt power shower, or a slow tumble through a waterfall and out into another galaxy of bass and click refreshment. Drenching, and even quite invigorating after a while. “d” makes do with a warbling continous tone which performs a similarly slow evolutionary routine into the higher reaches; “d” and “d” conclude the hissathon variations in deep-fat electrical frying with micro-turned glitches. Need it be emphasised that maximum is the best volume for this EP?
DJ Kensei, AKA Indopepsychics, brings forth the pumping minimalism of “5_24” on the back of a solid linear beat, shifting a squirming Nord Modular over the top, tweaking and tuning the controls until a hazy twirl emerges. After a while, the switchback shimmer becomes quite beatiful in the way only synthetic sounds can be, shivering and trillinga broad-spectrum wash over the trickling clicks which counterpoint the main rhythm.
Made in collaboration with Robert Henke, “Sah?” is altogether less straightforward and undoubtedly less likely to receive a favourable dancefloor welcome. Kensei’s bass and rhythms section are held subordinate to the streaks of electronic shuffling Henke provides, scratching and sweeping in slow motion under the sparsely-constructed weave of sussurating effects units. Glitching on a vinyl and needle riff, hissing with analogue synthesis (digitized or otherwise) and the bleep of a pulse measurement, “Sah?” breathes slowly through a relaxed set of lungs while the heart beats at a regular, controlled page. Yoga music from inside the modular filter. Inhale, slowly… and relax.
Splattering it’s way out of the speakers with commendable urgency, Hypertension kicks off with “Fuzzbomb,” a track which makes the album live up to its name. Mixing banging hardcore beats with the occasional whining guitar and sampled screams, it also has a nice hardcore Punk bassline going on, with a decidedly low-slung feel. Kicking.
It’s not all crunched mechanist electronics though – there’s a 13th Floor Elevators-sampling track up next (called “Roky Erikson,” naturally) which dubs up the old psychedelic geezer into a slo-mo clang-scape of bashed metal pipes, martial drum rolls and all the usual echo/reverb jiggery-pokery. Oh, and sirens too – there’s all the Dub parphedanlia here, but more as deployed by the likes of Coil.
Then it all gets very Drum & Bassy, at furious pace too – speedrush breakbeats and basskicks, tumble-drier sample mashes, the whole shebang. Either that or the veeerrrryyyy slllllllllloooow “Uber Dub” (great title), which takes breakbeat science for a crawl around the block, the equally treacly “Professor Barker (Dub Mesh)” for the very stoned, or the plain weird Big Beat pastiche “Sinister Street” for those with large-size feet to clodhop with. Anti-dance music? Darkwave schmoozed music? Further development of the Post-Gothic HipHop beat? For sure.
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Crafted from sundry utensils and numerous prepared record players (without vinyl) and with the judicious application of electronic effects, Penetrans finds the “Institute for Precision Motoricity” hard at work to the standards set by their motto: “To produce from almost nothing almost nothing”.
And so the sound of clipped needles sans grooves plucked, dragged and struck makes a groovy little opener in the shape of “Problem?”, which rustles (iliterally) up a throbbing pulse-beat rhythm which exudes analogue warmth through its dissected turntable arm and pickup heart. There is something comforting in the knowledge that the deep bass tones, pops and muffled clicks comes from a cartridge pushed beyond its DJ days, and further delight can be considered in the future dropping of diamond on the vinyl version of this record. There are few media for which the term “what goes around,comes around” is more appropriate than for the spiral-scratched LP after all.
The rhythms and textures which IFM extract from non-grooves into new grooves are as complex as they like: “Behalte du deinen Traum, ich behalte das Geld!” ripples with clicking dust-Funk; “Organismen!” whirrs to the tones of the close contacting pickup with all the agility of a HipHop scratch fiend whose acetates have worn right through to the platter. Just as with the manipulation of jackplugs for noisy fun and rhythmic sculpturing, “…ja das ist Kunst!” makes the low end throb boom from the cartridge with a crepitating sussurus of fractal sound underpinning it in a way that few other instruments or sound sources could manage. Yes, indeed, that is where the art lies…
Penetrans can be appreciated full well without delving into it’s methods of production – what matters is that its spare accumulating rhythms move with a fluid chug and snaggly real-world jaggedness which puts them a few notches above the click-cut-paste laptop sound while being in and of the same. Likewise, there is a fair echo of Electro’s pulsating interplay of handclap and snare to the eight tracks here which, thanks to post-beatbox quirks and turntable ultra-extremism, is neither particularly retro nor simplistic, and is rather more enjoyable for all that.
“You should tone up Bass of your audio!” The thrum of a warble mixes with bells and samples which are not immediately apparent. We need more people named “Do-It” in the charts. The heart of the matter waves from speaker to speaker. There is an immediate sense of exertion and focus intact. Woofer chases tweeter as the sounds throttle and wail.
The end is on a high note, and quite literally so.
The whole Faust experience, for me, has always been about their collective identity and spirit as well as the fact that the sounds they have become renowned for are a joint effort, inseparable from each other in fact. Whilst Zappi Diermeier’s titanic percussion may be an instantly recognisable feature, many of the other sounds overlap and blend together so well that it is not possible to distinguish their source. Now the man who is very much responsible for many of those noises, though frequently hidden behind banks of keyboards, has come up with the first solo album from the Faust enclave. It’s a bit of the whole, separated and left to see how it manages without the rest.
Life Like does this very well and anyone who has enjoyed Irmler‘s contribution to that unique aural experience will surely find this latest aspect of his work fascinating though, possibly in a different way. This doesn’t possess the thrash and grind of the band’s trademark but offers more tranquil soundscapes that merge seamlessly into each other. You have to bear in mind that this music was conceived originally as a soundtrack for a tour through a museum depicting the lives of Roman soldiers in Upper Swabia as BC became AD. But it retains its own independent identity outside of the museum artefacts, even though there are some samples of soldiers marching and chanting scattered throughout the CD.
Whilst it doesnt have the visceral attack of a take no prisoners Faust recording there is an element of violence within the opening track. “Elektroblitz”, where metallic clashes resound over the washes and drones of Irmler’s organ. I’m not certain what these tearing and wrenching sounds are meant to represent but they create an intriguing atmosphere to introduce the album. Similarly, the final track “Werft!” has sections of controlled noise that recall aspects of The Faust Tapes; in fact I’d swear there is an angle-grinder in there somewhere. However, it is more likely to be emanating from one of Irmler’s modified organs. “Atlantik” also has some echoes of Faust as the swelling keyboards rise and reverberate recalling moments from earlier band recordings. The distorted organ sounds that hover eerily through “Trepido” have a similar resonance to certain Faust excursions too but without the other, often indefinable sounds the group make. Very little happens on the track yet it is immensely hypnotic.
I‘m not sure what “The Actors Gone” refers to but again disembodied sounds float and shift through an electronic miasma in a curiously gentle and comforting way. Tiny bell-like tolling is foregrounded against softly hissing metal and, once more, not a great deal is taking place. Irmler’s intention may have been to build an unobtrusive but seductive set of sound pictures to accompany the museum display and if so it has worked. As you listen to the sometimes muted, sometimes shimmering keyboards it is possible to lose awareness of your surroundings and time. Parts of “Kleine Welt” and “Trevo” achieve this, in particular the latter, with its limpid droplets chiming and disappearing to make way for a more sinister wave of keyboard layers. Voices and marching sounds intrude before another weave of found noises and various textures of organ seamlessly expand to reveal other unearthly atmospheres.
Although the sonic violence is of a restrained nature, Irmler can create tension and unease through a minimalist use of texture on tracks like “Eis”, where the level of sound is quite low-key but distinctly threatening. It is like being led through uncharted country by a guide who says little but is entirely sure of the way the journey will progress. Those far off cries that sometimes filter through the rain may be disquieting but are simply another facet of an intriguing landscape. Life Like is, to my ears, an organic work that draws on the range of often unique sounds which the composer has developed over the years, from the early days in WÃƒÂ¼mme to more recent collaborations and remixes. It is a welcome and impressive solo debut that promises more explorations to come.