Monday, 30 June 2014

John Chantler - Even Clean Hands Damage the Work (Room 40)

Some albums are seemingly wrestled into shape. The effort required to prevent ‘Even Clean Hands Damage the Work’ breaking its bounds and melting the studio must surely have been strenuous. It feels caged, raging voltage testing the boundaries of its prison, the modular synth eager to escape.

Constructed around five movements separated into two side-long suites, it begins with ‘November Parts 1 + 2/Dismantled Cabaret.’ Thick with congealed roaring buzz, shimmering in a heat-haze, frequent sharp swipes across the sound-field appear and vanish like a low-passing helicopter; a constant thrumming, air and ears full of rumbling tactile sound. It becomes more scattered as it progresses, still loud and static-packed but relenting, peaks and troughs surfed with emotive aplomb: sombrely cooling circuits, dying electronics sparking surreal dialogues with other broken appliances, a scraping scree of bellowing machine noise, crusted tentacles of sound-data curling in fierce heat.  Blown ashes conveyed in softly gliding glissandi.  Machines in oppositional dialogue with themselves, a fever dream of process diverted from straight lines of cooperation into wonderful self-destruction.

The second side ‘Wollmar Rogan/The Knight Firth’ commences with a sustained drone, a pew clearing organ-dawn, a long rumbling yawn.  Tangential clank and insect-like chitter intrudes on the humming stasis; the drone recedes like the sun finally falling over the horizon to be replaced with insect night-chatter and the fluttering of aquatic synthetic gills.

‘Even Clean Hands Damage the Work’ is pyrrhic and hypnotically captivating music; a moment-to-moment drama.  Close concentration is rewarded with a world of sound, wires enmeshing the mind, burying it in hooting bird-like barely controlled chaos.

Get the album here.

Sunday, 29 June 2014

Various Artists - Soft Bodies Never Sleep (Soft Bodies)

‘Soft Bodies Never Sleep’ is the second compilation from Soft Bodies, a label with a diverse and open-ended roster, an approach mirrored in their club night The Electric Dog Show and this absorbing collection of music.
‘Sovereign’ by Quimper is a spooked tremulous torch song, a night ballad sung from atop a disused lock-up bathed in the orange glow of street-lamps.  With ‘The Falling King of the Oxygen Thieves’ Midwich Youth Club offer a space-prog feet-on-amps rock chugger frequently dispersing on the (solar) wind before manifesting again; losing interest in itself at the half-way point and metamorphosing into bit-crushed Nintendo-funk. A beautiful humming drone is conjured on ‘Long Enough’ By Rob Britton, chimes sparkling, synths swelling, a wave cresting in a brief beat before splashing ashore and disappearing in rivulets of sighing electronics. ‘Flea Circus’ by Gyratory System is an anarchic broken carousel of a song, close cropped reed riffs splashed with bright lurid synth strokes, maddening videogame repetition with a paradoxical louche jazz feel, cognitive dissonance in strong effect.  On ‘Cutter Street,’ Bogus Pipeline spew a frenetic punk-noise racket-rant, machine gun drum tattoo, unhinged but concisely vomitous.  This is in sharp contrast to the backwards rush of psych swirl, crisp beats, guitars, keyboards, and vocal samples wafting like sunflowers that can be found on (Episodes From) The Field Bazaar’s ‘Skywine,’ reminiscent of  Rounds-era Four Tet without the cosmic skronk. Sounding like it was recorded in its titular crawl space, Petuna Liebling MacPumpkin’s song is the aural equivalent of an eye looking out of your plug hole, a lo-fi ballad from somewhere beyond the skirting. ‘Abomination’ by Pete Murgatroyd is a shuffling velvety hammer-hip-hop mumble. ‘Help Box’ by 6&8 is the startling highlight; dizzying and hostile in large part, an aggressive mutating algorithmic ear-virus battled with calm passages of trumpeting synth blurts and mangled vocals whispering sleepy gnomic poetry; a snow-crashed brain-blast.
‘Soft Bodies Never Sleep’ is an album of oddpop emissions; inventive, lyrical, wide-ranging in tone and sound, subtle and not-so-subtle; a collection of songs charmingly and weirdly off-kilter.
'Soft Bodies Never Sleep' is available here.

Dieter Moebius - Nidemonex (More Than Human)

‘Nidemonex’ by Dieter Moebius is the latest in More Than Human’s highly desirable vinyl EP series; the label so far having released a clutch of excellent records, most recently Time Attendant’s ‘Treacherous Orb.’  Moebius fails to rest on his considerable laurels here, instead creating a sinister and dark work, as scabrous in texture as it is in tone.

‘Inmedin’ is a drifting cloud of chattering chime and singing sheet-metal, gradually burnished into a dark brassy shine by a malevolent bass line and an occasional beat like a dog coughing into a glass bowl.  ‘Zytos’ is less dense but no less arresting; reversed robot chatter and degraded field recordings of asteroid mining complexes compete with repetitive industrial hammers demarcating a primitive and crude machine rhythm.  Final piece ‘Xenos’ has drilling shrill radio frequencies scanned and discarded, a rising and falling off-waltz low-end  judder; weirdly liquid, the synths squirm and complain under congealing toxic rubbery matter; a seizure-like slap-basis interval occurs in dialogue with the circuitry of sparking android songbirds.

‘Nidemonex’ is a sparse and dark trio of communications from strange echoing spaces.  Oddtronic space music with a distinctly uncosmic intent, Ballardian in its alien sense-fractured topography; not so much bathing in the majesty of stars as shivering in some radiation-shattered derelict hulk, hopelessly adrift and crumbling, the vessel’s SOS subverted into unreadable obscurity. 
Acquire 'Nidemonex' here.

Saturday, 28 June 2014

Broetzmann / Adasiewicz / Edwards / Noble - Mental Shake (OTOROKU)

Wasting no time in getting started, Peter Broetzmann begins ‘Mental Shake’ with a harsh piercing buzz of rusted saxophone holler, the rest of the group wobbling into form behind him. Steve Noble (drums) and John Edwards (bass) are a proliferating complexity of beats and accruing rumble; Jason Adasiewicz’s vibraphone dropping small calm raindrop chimes into the thickening deluge. A condensing swirl, mass and weight gather about the players with increasing density for its opening minutes, an intense sucking undertow developing with each passing moment, a crashing wave building and dissipating into frothing broiling surf. It is at moments like this that the band display their improvising genius, momentum and darting movement appearing again from a froth of scattered parts; Adasiewicz offering soft dabs of ringing sound, his delicacy in startling contrast to Broetzmann’s scurrying verbosity; Noble and Edwards buttressing the music with their usual fascinating hive-mind clatter. 
‘Mental Shake’ is another great release from the Café Oto house label OTOROKU. A performance of exquisite confusion clarified in thunderous violence.
'Mental Shake' is available here.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Matmos - Café Oto, Dalston, London – Sunday 1st June

Matmos.  Picture by Dawid Laskowski
Arriving to a packed Café Oto with blacked-out curtained windows was a disconcerting experience.  The warm evening sunlight was left at the door, the interior an expectant gloom waiting to be filled with the scraping noise and strobe assault of Jeff Carey.  He unleashed brutal screes of sharply contoured roaring gravel from a space-noise console, an almost unceasing ear-raid, the audience strafed with digital violence, the joystick music-interface and steeply inclining tilt of his table making the performance a visceral pixel-drenched arcade dive-bombing.
Drew Daniel with Jeff Carey.  Picture by Dawid Laskowski
Setting up stall within the rubble, Matmos charmed the audience with amiable humour, their characters in warm human contrast to the often jarringly alien sights and sounds they unleash from the assorted laptops, samplers, synths and films.  The show began with a gurgling descent down rancid sewer pipes, sparkling flakes of gold flushing and scouring the tunnels; the sound of competing drones intermingling with Aeolian harp flutter and bass wobble bliss, as M.C. Schmidt declared: “shit into gold!”  The material performed was all new apart from a song from the Supreme Balloon album, its joyous melted lurid organ riffs clashing with stylobuzz grinding.  Matmos were joined by Carey for another piece, encompassing metallic ringing and bit-crumbled scrape hum while a projector screen showed a slow zoom into a piano interior, hammers falling like soft stabbing blunted teeth.  A second collaboration saw a violinist joining the group for a kitchen pot-step washing-up clatter-racket which became a beautiful lowing juddering Strauss mountain dawn-rise with squealing strings accompaniment.  The duo’s legendarily odd sound-sources came into play when Schmidt cast stones from a bag onto the floor of the venue while Drew Daniels repeatedly struck a highchair with his baseball cap.  The best was saved to last which featured Schmidt dueting with a film of himself cleaning a prepared piano, answering a mobile phone simultaneously with his projected alterna-self.  The piece was loud, chaotic,  mad, and enormous fun; a dada dialogue, a clash of sense and nonsense, two electronic wizard-savants not entirely in control of their process and seemingly happy to abandon it to gleeful accident and spontaneous creation.

M.C.Schmidt. Picture by Dawid Laskowski
 Matmos’ live experimentation couldn’t be any more engaging, they abandon conceptual rigour for the pursuit of good music when circumstances demand, never slaves to their own sharp intellects.  With Matmos, the music is paramount, as it should be.

View Dawid Laskowski's Flickr page here.