Featuring FATHER MURPHY/JARBOE, IN THE NURSERY, COMMON EIDER KING EIDER, PENNY RIMBAUD, JOHN SINCLAIR, A.R.C. SOUNDTRACKS, KRZYSZTOF PENDERECKI, BARRY ADAMSON + PAN SONIC + THE HAFLER TRIO, ASTRID AND RACHEL GRIMES, IIVII, JOZEF VAN WISSEM, PHILIPP RUMSCH, IAN HAYGREEN, SNOWBEASTS, MARIO DIAZ DE LEON,
In this blog, I explore some of the recent releases that have diverted my attention. Caused my tinnitus to scream and then possibly soothed my frayed nerves. I am catching up slowly, I have had dozens of releases passed my way in recent months which I am juggling alongside releasing several cassettes on my Sonic Entrails imprint, working on my next film and finishing up the new Flesh Eating Foundation record. More reviews coming soon.
JARBOE AND FATHER MURPHY – SPLIT EP.
Father Murphy has impressed me with his recent releases and his music has often popped up on my radio show. Jarboe is a name always guaranteed attention and you never know quite what you are going to hear when a new release is announced. A collaboration between the two (released on Consulting Sounds)is therefore intriguing. Firstly, it is a fairly brief liaison. Just two tracks amounting to around 10 minutes. “The Ferryman” pits a lilting and subdued guitar motif with Jarboe’s delicately hushed voice. Combining with other atmospheric sounds, it is quite a lovely moment. “Truth or Consequence” is somewhat meatier with sombre tones and organs setting the mood after the initial cacophonous clattering. The track is once more embellished with an atmospheric vocal from Jarboe. This time her voice has a more choral tone, with harmonies working rather nicely indeed. As the track progresses, two vocals layer up to create a folky and ominous chant. These two tracks do weave a spell, at least partially, as to hear more would have been so nice. The two tracks tease, lull and suggest an enchanting journey, but one that we are only traveling companions for the very beginning. More please.
COMMON EIDER KING EIDER – “SHRINES FOR THE UNWANTED, RESPITE FOR THE CAST ASIDE”
“Shrines” is the latest release for CEKE on the every busy Cold Spring Records. The album starts with “To Be Devoured”, a dark ambient piece reeking of cavernous spaces. It is relaxing in a way, but in other times and places I imagine it could be rather unsettling. “Dark” brings forth a subsonic eeriness which builds to a fuller sound field with a choral feel, and just an edge of distortion to roughen the mix a tad. “Elk Tongue” is next. A delicacy or a language? Either way the track ushers forth more vast sonic vistas and dream like synthetic washes. The closing track is “Litha”, a 25 minute journey, an exercise in patience and contemplation. The track features the voice of Sutekh Hexen, the latter sections contain some of the albums harsher moments with layers of feedback and voices intermingling. This is an evocative slab of dark ambiance, organic sounding at times and harshly unforgiving at others. Recommended.
PENNY RIMBAUD – KERNSCHMELZE II – ‘CANTATA FOR IMPROVISED VOICE’
The esteemed Crass front person combines spoken word with washes of ambience for this release through Cold Spring. All tracks are entitled for the digital copy I am reviewing. In truth what we have is a competent exercise combining noise and ambience to create a foundation of reverbed and expansive ambient augmented with more abrasive and expansive sounds. Layers of bubbling noise, crackles and static duel with the treated vocals of Eve Libertine. Charles Webber is the person responsible for the electronics, apparently all using vocal sounds as their origin. As the album progresses I can’t help but feel that these soundscapes do not vary sufficiently from track to track for me to consider this an essential release. As a result what starts off as an engaging sonic experience becomes less involving as time progresses. That said, once the last track had played out I felt a tension drain from me, a tension that I was not really aware of that had built up over the course of the album. The emotional impact of the listening experience can not be denied. Undoubtedly a worthwhile listen but not one I’m certain I will return to very often.
KRZYSZTOF PENDERECKI – ‘KOSMOGONIA’
First released in Poland 1974 there is little reason to doubt the caliber of this release. Familiar to most will be DeNatura Sonoris II as heard on The Shining soundtrack. Being far from an expert in classical music. I feel ill qualified to provide much of a critique on this release though I will try. At a time when I was bored of extreme electronic music I entered my local library and cornered the chap working there who was the expert in classical music. I questioned him as to what classical music someone obsessed with punk and metal would enjoy. Needless to say, Penderecki was one of the names mentioned and investigated. To that extent I am familiar with some of his works. This is probably the best way I can recommend this release. The compositions are bombastic at times and discordant at others. Full of tympanic crashes, orchestral stabs and inventive sounds called forth from the orchestra, the pieces display huge variations in dynamics and power, creattive and always engaging’ The remastered recording sounds clear ,warm and natural. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to Kosmogonia and would recommend it to anyone who wishes to dabble in perhaps the darker and more challenging aspects of classical music.4
ASTRID AND RACHEL GRIMES – THROUGH THE SPARKLE.
Recently released on Gizeh records this is a thoroughly musical album, incredibly so. Traditionally classical instruments are abundant, violin, piano, clarinet, those these are joined by guitars, bass and organs. The essence of each track is a modern classical composition, entirely suited to film soundtrack. The tracks sway and lilt, captivating and emotive. When the more classical elements are augmented with effected guitars, bass and percussion, an art rock sound ensues, reminding me somewhat of A Whisper In The Noise. I am struggling to single out album highlights as each track brings something different and wonderful to the mix, from the Lynchian shimmering M5, to the pensive Mossgrove And Seaweed, Through The Sparkle is beautiful, and while sometimes sombre in tone the album as a whole is uplifting and spellbinding.
BARRY ADAMSON + PAN SONIC + THE HAFLER TRIO – ‘THE HYMN OF THE 7TH ILLUSION’
Showing as three tracks, though the second is a 25 second intermission of noise, a collision of Pan Sonic, Barry Adamson and The Hafler Trio is certainly attention grabbing. Luckily, these two compositions are too. ‘The Hymn Of The 7th Illusion’ is the original composition by Adamson and Pan Sonic. It starts with an ominous choral motif, joined by a moody bassline and shadowy wraithlike ambient embellishments. Tension is maintained and then increased with the bassline taking on a more insistent edge while the ambiance and choral voices swell to a climax. ‘The Illusion Of The 7th Hymn’ doubles the originals 12 minute run time thanks to the rework by The Hafler Trio. Compared to the suave noir ish composition of the source track, the rework is an expansive and sometimes cold feeling journey. Ominous washes of sound shimmer and stutter increasingly, eventually morphing into gated rhythmical stabs of harsh synthetic sounding noise, glitches, scratches and pops before ending in a more textural manner. Originally released on CD by Icelandic label Kitchen Motors in 2001, now released on vinyl for the first time by Cold Spring.
IIVII – INVASION
IIVII (pronounced ‘ivy’) is the dark ambient solo project of visual artist, multi-instrumentalist and composer Josh Graham (Neurosis, Red Sparowes, Battle of Mice, and A Storm of Light) .As the title perhaps suggests, this is a futuristic take on the dark ambient genre, with titles like ‘We Came Here From A Dying World’ and ‘Tomorrow You’ll be One Of Us’ hinting at a post apocalyptic space science fiction opus. For a man typically associated with guitar music, this is an accomplished electronic release (the second for IIVII), both from a compositional and production point of view. Speaker troubling deep percussion and powerful sub synths do not rob the orchestral pads and melodies of their nuance. Every element of the sound sphere is toyed with, at times ambient and and others very musical. This feels both modern and classic, pitting electronica and orchestral elements head to head to great effect. Driving percussion, swelling synths, arpeggiated spice and spacious ambiance all combine to create an album that is both delicate and robust at the same time. Another release through Consouling Sounds.
JOZEF VAN WISSEM – NOBODY LIVING CAN EVER MAKE ME TURN BACK
Another release through Consouling Sounds and the second for the label by Van Wissem. Inspired by a vanitas painting by the Belgian artist Cindy Wright (also the cover of the album) each track explores a facet of the painting. Primarily the music comprises of the composers self built lute together with his echoey and solemn sounding voice. If this sounds like a limited sonic palette then you need not worry. These songs engage and transport you to a darkened place, perhaps a medieval setting. At times the tracks are embellished by cold sounding ambience, at others by minimal percussive sounds, and interest is held. Stand out track is perhaps ‘Your Days Gone Like A Shadow’. An earthy and pure feeling experience.
PHILIPP RUMSCH – A FORWARD-FACING REVIEW
Philipp Rumsch, born in 1994, is a composer, pianist, and sound designer from Leipzig, Germany.„A Forward-Facing Review“ is his first release on Denovali Records. Two tracks are presented on this EP, which combines minimalist classical compositions with dark electronics and soundscapes. It is deftly done and deeply atmospheric. Track one is an exercise is dynamics, gentle acoustics and piano melodies swell into something formidable while a insistent tapping percussive sound unsettles and meanders filtering into track 2, eventually being lost in ambient washes of sound. Angelic plucks, a restrained piano motif and deep percussive heavily reverberated booms abound. Sometimes melancholy and warm sounding, then cold, stark and isolated sounding.
Track one is an exercise is dynamics, gentle acoustics and piano melodies swell into something formidable while a insistant tapping percussive sound unsettles and meanders filtering into track 2, eventually being lost in ambient washes of sound. Angelic plucks, a restrained piano motif and deep percussive and heavily reverbed booms, melancholy and warm sounding then cold, stark and isolated sounding. This EP serves to whet the appetite for a full release due January 2018. I await with anticipation.
MARIO DIAZ DE LEON – SANCTUARY ‘
A modern classical release on Denovali Records composed by Mario Diaz de Leon and performed by TAK Ensemble. Others may know him from his metal band Luminous Vault whose “Charismata” EP was released on Profound Lore Records in spring 2017. Sanctuary is a bright, sometimes harsh sounding release, brash and bold, throwing together moments of prettiness and bursts of sonic maelstrom. The compositions include soprano voice, flute, violin, bass clarinet, marimba and some fat synthesizer moments courtesy of Mario himself. This is not a relaxing listen, it demands attention and then confounds it with rapid fire shifts in tone and content. I am left unsure whether I enjoyed the experience. It is certainly astounding in its complexity but perhaps a little demanding and convolving for some ears.
IN THE NURSERY – 1961.
I’ve learned something today, 1961 is a strobogrammatic number. The next year that has the same property is 6009, so pretty rare. 1961 is also the year that the Humberstone twins that form the core if ITN were born. This therefore is a special album for ITN, and they have put something together that is quite special. I have followed the band since the release of ‘Twins’ back in 1986 and I’ve lost count of how many releases and soundtracks there have been since then. It is safe to say they have a special place in my heart and I was thrilled to catch them live a few years ago. So, the album takes its cues from events and achievements of that year, from the building of the Berlin Wall, (Torschusspanik), space travel (Retrofire, The Earth Was Blue), the release of Keller’s Catch 22 (Pacify), the formation of Amnesty International (Prisoner of Conscience) and even the sounds of a car manufactured in that year (Consul). It is a sterling concept, and it works admirably as a record. Sonically I think this is ITN at its best. They use every trick in their book and weapon in their sonic palette at some point in the album and perhaps a few new ones too. The neoclassical elements are of course present and proudly so, and these are joined by guitars and bass which lend a raw and live feel to some of the tracks. Add voices to the mix on Solaris and Prisoner of Consciousness and you have a record of vast breadth and depth. So good.
IAN HAYGREEN – THE SEVENTH SKY
Quoting Ian himself, The Seventh Sky is “Three tracks of Berlin School style noodlings. A homage to mid-70s Tangerine Dream. Or a shamelessly derivative.”. I am more familiar with Ian Haygreen’s more ambient/textural work, and these elements are present also on this release in the form of atmospheric sound washes, rumbles and throbs, but attention is grabbed by the delayed and apreggiated synths on the sixteen minute ‘Dreams of Yesteryear’. The synthesizer and ambient elements weave around each other, giving each other time in the limelight before merging once again. Second track ‘The Third Wheel’ is lengthier still and is driven by a surging bass synth line and swirling retro filtered pads, a perfect soundtrack to a non existent 1970s film set on a space station. The album closes with the amusingly titled ‘The Solitary Monk of the Eternal Twilight’ the shortest track on offer here and the least dense also in terms of soni content. It is a track that perhaps Ian was pointing at when he mentioned the word ‘noodlings’ as it lacks the encompassing power of the other two tracks. Nevertheless, a thoroughly enjoyable entry into his ever growing discography.
SNOWBEASTS – SHRINE OF THE SNOWBEASTS
An interesting release, this is a reworking by Snowbeasts of Longpig’s Shrine of the Longpig. The tracks were originally released as limited CD-R edition that accompanied Longpig’s album on Annihilvs Records. The Longpigs original is a bleak clash of power electronics, drone and blackened doom noise. So what have Snowbeasts brought to the table? The resultant take on the source material shows Snowbeasts at their most abrasive yet. ‘Lead’ is bombastic and fierce, coming across as some twisted hybrid of Laibach and In Slaughter Natives. ‘Savage’ is a dub noise beast, a massive trip hop groove underlain by the glacial noises of the original. The snare is deliciously old school as it sets a marshal tempo. Hints of Scorn and Techno Animal can be heard. ‘War Chant Of The Damned’ lies closer to the original material, but sounds brighter and crisper and is embellished by additional electronics. The same can be said for ‘Heat Signature’. Whereas Longpigs aimed to suffocate with murk and dark reverb, Snowbeasts give it that a glacier would have bearing down on a ship under and eternally daylit sky. The release ends as the Longpigs release begins, with ‘Thrill Of The Hunt’ is is terrifying with its vast and pounding power electronics. A hefty and deliciously dark release.
A.R.C. SOUNDTRACKS – DERELICTION//MIRROR
Created on-residency at Salford’s Islington Mill, home to GNOD, Sacred Tapes and many other noise/experimental musicians and labels, and also a venue I have oft frequented myself and even performed in. This provides me a little additional insight into this album which is the sonic partner of an audio/visual piece. The constructed pieces easily bring to mind an image of empty industrial buildings, sunlight entering through structural breaks catching the dust that fills the air. Each of the tracks has a dual title in the same manner as the title. DUST//SURVEILLANCE and RUINS/RITUAL suggest that these abandoned spaces are being considered in duality. The resultant pieces are based in noise and collected sound, which are their own might suggest that the album would be heavy going. It isn’t, as the dissonance and abrasiveness are only facets of the compositions, with gentle rhythms, powerful sub bass, restrained spoken word passages making the experience so much more involving. The throbbing and decaying dynamics add a sense of mystery and the unknown with the passages or restraint having as much of an impact as the moments of more pure sonic power. The overall impression I am left with is that these tracks and the spaces that inspired them feel alive and warm, not just desolate and empty. This is certainly an album I will return to often, as it is so well crafted.
JOHN SINCLAIR – BEATNTIK YOUTH AMBIENT
“psychedelic old-gangster poet” John Sinclair combines his literary talent here with non other than Youth for a 4 track vinyl release containing 4 ambient tracks, two of these tracks lifted from the companion album Beantik Youth. Sinclair is no doubt a legend, a co-founder of the Detroit underground newspaper The Fifth Estate, manager of MC5, and Chairman of the White Panther Party. It is thrilling that he is still standing and delivering works like this. Sinclair’s voice is wonderful on the ears, rich and full of hypnotic tones as he recites his writings on artistic action, the beatnik movement, drug culture and the like. At times, the accompanying ambience is not strictly ambient, more like hazy free jazz improvisations, but elsewhere on ‘Brilliant Corners’ and ‘War On Drugs’ Youth conjures up some delightfully meditative tones that suit Sinclair’s voice rather well. Notably, on the latter, Sinclair is joined by the late Howard Marks. The release clocks in at around 30 minutes, during which it is easy to drift away contemplatively. Perhaps such a state of mind allows Sinclair’s words to embed themselves more deeply. Either way, it is a lovely release with artwork hand penned by youth himself..