issue 23 :: June 2014

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Noise/Sound Art Reviews

Candlesnuffer and Lukas Simons, 23five Archive, Lisa Kucharski, Austin Noise 2012, Small Cruel Party, Northern Machine, Ido Govrin, Attacca, Das Synthetische Mischgewebe & RLW, Das Synthetische Mischgewebe, Akos Garai, Michael Northam, Martiensgohome, Eloine, Massimo Falascone & Bob Marsh, Ron Anderson / Robert L. Pepper / David Tamura / Philippe Petit, Venison Whirled, Undercarriage, Steev Hise
Candlesnuffer and Lukas SimonsNature Stands Aside (hellosQuare Recordings) CD

Guitars and electronics clash together in raucous collisions, focusing on scrapes, clangs and buzzes, at times hard to discern exactly what is happening. That could be a description of much of the music in this section, and it is a welcome, vital seemingly endless sea of sound. Lukas Simons is a Dutch serial collaborator (not a serialist!), having released records with Anne La Berge, Pierre Bastien and Takayuki Kawabata. The total sound made on this record suggest that Candlesnuffer is a group, but it is just guitarist David Brown; at time you will think you are listening to a quartet of dedicated noisemakers. The short closing piece, "Mermaid Giving Birth to Twins While Kissing Her Consort," changes direction by infusing the guitar scrapes and crackles into a jolly lounge groove dominated by a bouncy electric piano riff.
23fiveOnline Archive (23five) mp3s

An inevitable feature of performance art is its ephemeralness. It is meant to be experienced directly. And this makes a limited audience. How can we get around this? Audio recordings? Video recordings? Some 3D technology? Instructions to replicate it? Regardless, it would be nice to at least hear a live event, and maybe for some forms of sound art a recording will do nicely. We can enjoy these as more-or-less complete works, whatever we don’t know about the full spectrum of its performance. The 23five organization in San Francisco is just the sort of performance space I wish was much closer to me. Their web archive delivers some thirty-five performances, a majority of them from the years 2008 through 2010. You will have to start with your favorites and work your way through it all. I of course started with G*Park’s 2010 presentation at the Activating The Medium XIII festival, mainly because I haven’t heard anything from him in years, and I remember the CDs I heard in the 1990s were captivating and inspiring. He doesn’t disappoint here; covering a similar organic atmosphere as I remember from so long ago. As always with this kind of music, it is difficult to discern sound sources, but I hear things that sound like wind, like bubbling water, like leaves rustling in trees, but through a masterful electronic sheen. Illusion of Safety was interviewed in MMPP 1, so his track was up next and as you would expect, a 42 minute roller coaster going through many different sections of guitar processed by electronics exploring some, not all, of IOS’s range, including a techno section with beats and very phat synthesized bass that was an enjoyable listen. John Duncan’s “Live at The Compound, 07/21/07” takes us through a slow scan of a few different noisescapes involving drones, layers of static and electronic sounds. Listen to them all; about half of the musicians involved I was not familiar with, but everything was a worthwhile listen. And they’re just giving it all away.
Lisa KucharskiBend Ear to Hear (m.m music) 7” + CD

I’d like to think the interview with Chicago-area sound artist Lisa Kucharski in MMPP 21 had something to do with this nice, deluxe reissue of now hard-to-find material, and I hope it is not the last reissue effort. Kucharski’s sound art is based on her voice, location recordings, found sounds and simple studio trickery. The two tracks on the 7” come from the whimsical 1993 tape A Variety of Barks, Hisses & Squeals and will supposedly not be made available as file downloads as the tracks on the CD are (but shhhhhhh; here’s a bootleg version of the tape from the Alice Rabbit blog). As implied from the title, these unnamed pieces use or mimic various animal sounds. The ten CD tracks use more sound sources, including slowed-down orchestra recordings, synthesizers, found sounds, cut-ups and Kucharski’s even voice, and evokes the best of Ken Nordine. Her work is as interesting and enjoyable as when I first came across it in 1996, a noise music that springs from ideas not devices. More!
Austin Noise 2012 (Instincto Records) 2xCD

40 tracks from members of Austin’s growing noise scene(s), most of whom are much younger than me, most of whom weren’t playing in town when I started. A few of these people I’ve had the pleasure of working with through the years: Jacob Green, Matt Armistead, Jonathan Horne, Lisa Cameron, and I’ll probably work with others as the years march on. The general mood of this scene and collection is loud, harsh, electronic with everyone using numerous guitar effect boxes, but rarely any instrument or synthesizer, and it has become a highly prolific scene, with numerous very limited-edition releases, editions of twenty or forty. Jacob Green’s “I Don’t Know What’s Up” is an exception to the noise, here working manipulated electronic bubbling fed back upon itself; science fiction laser sounds and static that is very much unlike just about anything else I’ve heard from Green. “Acoustic guitar, Cymbal, and Trumpet for the Ocean” from Wunderkind Jonathan Horne, combines his instruments into a turbulent mass of crashes and drones. Matt Armistead employs media samples, drums and electronic sounds to make a huge mess, as if being in the center of numerous television sets and rehearsal sets. Korperschwache, Roy once of Dead Angel ezine and Autodidact, also uses this opportunity to do something a little different. Instead of the sludge guitar jams he is known for, “All Heads Turn As the Ass Goes By” is a very processed work that sounds like another work being fed through numerous delay and reverb effects. This is an important document of what goes on in Austin circa last year, with many loud, static-rich contributions from Power Monster, Douglas Ferguson, Peasant, Body Inflation Sequence, Aunt’s Analog and many others, and many silly faux-offensive project names (Anus Morissette, Bubblegum Shitface, Youthful Masturbation Techniques, Sex Bruises). Best noise scene(s) in Texas!

Matt LaComette (Aunt’s Analog), playing with Future Blondes, 2013
Small Cruel Partyan accident in substance (A Harbringer Sound Release) 3xCD

This welcome and magnificent release compiles some 28 7” and compilation tracks from the mysterious and withdrawn Small Cruel Party (Key Ransome). I had a few of these 7”s; Small Cruel Party was/is/will remain the pinnacle of what noise music can be for me. For the most part, the music is a perfectly interesting collage of environmental recordings, lo-fi electronics and close recordings of objects being scraped together. As much as I love the works of projects like Hands To, John Hudak, G*Park, Small Cruel Party somehow brings these common noise tropes together in a uniquely gratifying way. I suggest you get this; it is so good. Most of these pieces were originally released from 1994 to 1997, the years when I was listening to as much music like this as I could find. I would like to see another compilation of the best Small Cruel Party tapes that were released somewhat before these 7”s. At least 3 CDs. Someone please do this. Once I wrote to Key Ransome and asked if I could interview him for MMPP. His response was a postcard that just said “NO.” Years later, I realized t should print the post card as the world’s briefest interview, but I have not been able to find the archive in my archives.
Northern MachineIn Front of the Crowd (Northern Machine) CD

These recordings of industrial ambient music from this long-time duo were made in 2005 through 2009. The music is full of drones made from bass guitar, keyboards, acoustic percussion and numerous effects, resulting in a huge, cavernous sound, building in swells and dark atmosphere. Dang, look at that monster bicep on the cover. This is not wimpy New Age music.

Ido GovrinMoraine (Interval) CD

Combining processed recordings of violin and cello with rarefied tones generated by computer, Israeli sound artist Ido Govrin sculpts beautiful lines of sound, a minimal exploration of slight shades of sonic color and presence. In my mind this music accompanies movies of the Galileo and Cassini space probes orbiting Jupiter and Saturn. Entrancing, subtle and still rewarding after ten listens. It sounds like some of the sounds are being stretched out into long wisps, and other sounds are compressed, like springs, into throbbing drones. Another fine record where words cannot do it justice.


And who better to explain the title, but film maker Hal Hartley:

Dennis McCabe: I’ve never been to Long Island.
Bill McCabe: Yes you have.
Dennis McCabe: I have?
Bill McCabe: Yeah. You’ve been to Queens. Queens is Long Island.
Dennis McCabe: Queens is a part of New York City. I don’t think it’s really considered part of Long Island.
Bill McCabe: It’s part of New York City, but it’s on Long Island.
Dennis McCabe: Queens is a borough.
Bill McCabe: A borough, on Long Island.
Dennis McCabe: A borough of New York City.
Bill McCabe: Right.
Dennis McCabe: Long Island’s a terminal moraine.
Bill McCabe: A what?
Dennis McCabe: A terminal moraine. It’s the earth that’s deposited by a receding glacier.
Bill McCabe: Well, shit, what are we waiting for, huh? Come on.

AttaccaO’ the Emotions (Schraum) CD

The name of this trio sounds like a string of DNA base pairs, but their sound is far from small. It is a large, dynamic explosion of extended techniques on guitar, bass and trombone. I didn’t know whether to list this one in the noise or improvised review sections. I finally chose noise (not that these artificial distinctions matter except I have to put them in one section; if I put every record I like that didn’t properly belong into a type, I’d have dozens of solitary review pages, something I decided not to do this issue), as I think it will appeal more to noise fans. The instruments are closely micced, every little scrape and pounding made gigantic, waves of feedback, the string instruments making percussive smashes, the trombone sneaking in with white noise breath sounds. All three musicians, Matthias Müller, Dave Bennett and Axel Haller, are veterans of numerous groups, mostly from European projects I have not heard before. This was an interesting and loud exposure to new (for me) talents.
Das Synthetische Mischgewebe & RLWDie Eisenbüglerin (Aufabwegen) 2xCD

A somewhat unique collaboration between two longtime friends. This project, a trading of source material to be reworked/remixed by the other, has been a long time coming, and perhaps it was worth the wait if it means that the set is housed in an LP-sized jacket with interesting biological form artwork by DSM’s Guido Huebner. RLW’s CD, called Heart-Flatened Iron Fissures, features the extreme and stark sparseness that Ralf Wehowsky is known for. The sounds are separated in space, coming from different directions and we can hear echoes of the concrete sounds, percussion, a brass instrument (tuba?), metal being scraped against stone. It is exquisitly detailed slabs of noise. I am reminding of Massimo Toniutti’s incredible Il Museo Selvatico LP. Defait Du Faire De Repassage
Das Synthetische MischgewebeHapax (legomenon) (Phage Tape) CD

The three long, untitled tracks here have been compiled and processed from a dozen or so live performances by the trio of Guido Hübner, Rainer Frey and Samuel Loviton dating back 2003 to 2011. I cannot tell the parts from the whole here; each piece feels like a complete work, not something stitched together. The focus here is on layers of close mic’ed scraping sounds and machine noises, bringing to my mind the work of Giancarlo Toniutti or Iannis Xenakis’ “Persepolis.” The different layers here move at different rhythms, maybe as Toniutti’s work is layered in different registers. There are sounds that come and go unpredictably, mixed in with insistent tickings and fog-like drones in the background. A masterpiece of noise.
Akos GaraiBarges & Flows (3LEAVES) CD

I once had an idea for a performance art project I was going to submit to an artist group in Portugal. I would rent a small boat and float down the small river that ran near their space. In the boat, I would take photos and audio snapshots every hundred feet or so. The photos and videos would be projected at the space when the boat trip was done. But it never got past the brainstorming phase. Akos Garai’s phonography project offers a hint of what my project could have been, although he chose to record the sounds at five different locations on the Danube river near Budapest, Hungary. We hear water sounds, lapping, splashing, rowing, maybe things being dropped into the river. Crowd and motor noises can be heard in the background. Perhaps if you spent your time in harbors you would be able to tell exactly what is going on, especially the loud metal banging in the piece called “U-10180.”
Michael Northam’s Owl SongsShapeshifter ([self-released]) CD

We are not told what makes these two live performances “owl songs.” The use of Michael’s voice quietly chanting or making Indian-like tone moaning? There is a kinetic busyness here that is usually absent from Michael’s slow-moving drone epics, there are still many drones here, but also weird arrhythmic clanking, the reverbent performance space, crowd noises. Is this all Michael? Are people helping him? There are more questions than answers, but the mysteries are—as always with my friend’s work—worth the exploration.
MartiensgohomeTétraèdre (Echomusic) online

Martiensgohome is a quartet of noisemakers from Brussels. Instead of playing as a group for this project, each member records a piece for another member of the ensemble to remix. Having worked together since 1996, the four pieces sound like they belong together, drones and buzzing noises floating together in a pleasant ambient mist. The third track, “Tetraedre-C,” becomes a bit more aggressive, with a stuttering tremolo effect that sounds like two different tracks being blended together.
EloineSimpler Machine (Darbolistic Rex) CD

Bryan Day’s solo noise project involves his self made instruments that use magnetized plumb lines, metal tape measure parts, hand crafted contact mics (the Whiskerphone) and smart uses of electronic processing. The focus is sharp diffusions of metallic scrapes, tiny electronic buzzes and gamelan like tones. It’s an intense, evolving mass of noise akin to Voice Crack.
Bryan Day
Bryan Day performing in Austin, 2013
Massimo Falascone & Bob MarshNon Troppo Lontano (Eh?) CD

This record starts with Falascone’s saxophone and Marsh’s violin (he usually plays ’cello), and mixes them through electronics with voices and samples. It’s a quiet and busy mess (in the sense of a messy room is often more interesting than a clean room: what’s that over there?). Layers of acoustic instruments clash with various electronic layers, feeling like a quintet of able musicians. The voices (samples? Marsh?) add a schizophrenic air. Sometimes these voices and other noises sound like audio hallucinations that come from different parts of the room. Twice I had to check that insects weren’t scurrying in the corner of my studio.
Ron Anderson, Robert L. Pepper, David Tamura & Philippe PetitClosed Encounters Of The 4 Minds (Public Eyesore) CD

A chaotic, improvised mix of free jazz, noise, synthesizer tweaking, at times this feels like four musicians each fighting for control of the music, or four different solo records being played at once. David Tamura’s saxophone feels like the dominate instrument much of the time, but the mood is constantly shifting. I found much of the electronics work to sound cheap, especially the fourth untitled piece, and I can’t say I enjoyed much of this record, contrasting with the Falascome and Marsh record above which bears a superficial resemblance. That record sounded like musicians crafting something unique; this sounds for the most part sounds like whatever at hand being tossed together, as if they felt their shit was gold. Not everything recorded needs to be released. The quartet of musicians didn’t even care enough for these recordings to title them. A rare dud in Public Eyesore’s typical absorbing catalog.
Venison WhirledThe Many Moods Of Venison Whirled (Kendra Steiner Editions) CD

Since 2004 or so, Lisa Cameron’s Venison Whirled project has been presenting short, intense live performances of mostly a single sound source, a snare drum, a metal clothes hanger, Tibetan singing bowls, amplified and sometimes set to feedback on themselves. It is a raw, direct sound far removed from her work as drummer in the rock band ST 37. This record collects four intense, slowly-building performances, and four performances I missed at that, from 2006 to 2011.

Lisa Cameron
Lisa Cameron with four amplified snare drums, Austin, TX, 2013.
UndercarriageHomunculus (Blackest Rainbow) CD

To continue with Lisa Cameron, this is her duo with Pelt multi-instrumentalist Nathan Bowles. The music comes from bowed cymbals, gongs, other percussion and Lisa’s simple contact mic feedback drones. “Tamas” begins the disk with all manner of percussion sounds, metallic rhythmic sounds, bowed cymbals, gong crashes. “Rajas” is a deep drone with cymbal shimmers floating about, small percussion hits dotting the landscape. “Sattva” doubles down on the deep drones, obviously Lisa’s snare drum feeding back, paired with tiny flute warbles.
Steev HiseSoundscapes for Peter Young’s ’Capitalist Masterpieces’ ([self-released]) online download

After years of video and documentary work, primarily dealing with immigration issues along America’s southern border, as well providing live video mixing for Negitivland, Steev Hise finally gets back to releasing some audio work. These three sample-heavy works were designed to be played in three galleries at the Tucson Museum of Contemporary Art to accompany the work of abstract painter Peter Young, whose work ranges from tile-like dots and other minimalist themes to more recent messy works that remind me of Cy Twombly. When I think of Steev’s audio work, I usually think of sample-based work like Negitivland and the Evolution Control Committee where the sample is if not immediately recognizable, at least the original context of the sample is, such as a news anchor script or TV commercial dialog. Steev’s work in the past has also used easily recognizable classic rock samples from the Beatles and Led Zeppelin. Here, the recognitions are not so definite. “Postcard soundscape” primarily uses what seems to be people’s voices captured in public spaces, and at the beginning maybe even recorded at the museum in which they would be played back in. Steev would love that kind of self-referential praxis. There are sections of Peter Young talking about his life and a Tejano band playing on a train. Juxtaposed with this fragmented approach, “Mandala soundscape” is primarily one long loop of a processed Tibetan prayer bowl that slowly evolves over thirty-three minutes. The processing creates strange rhythms and whistle-like artifacts to the calming bowed bowl recording.
Reviews and live photos by Josh Ronsen.
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