Intermittent D.I.Y. music / art / life writing projects.

Month: November, 2012

Venn Rain – Bioharmonics C20 (House of Alchemy):

This is a sleepy tape very well suited for listenings deep into the night-time hours, 2-3 a.m. I’d say. There is a significant distance between the listener and the music, and the gap is filled with a soft nostalgic tape fizz which compliments the warbling aesthetics and moods of the pieces. Most of the pieces are given a backbone of a loop that sounds like it was pulled from an old tape, or something that was created and then played onto an old tape to produce the aforementioned tape fizz distance. Maybe this is just an artifact of the dubbing, and not a conscious choice by the artist. Maybe the artifacts of the dubbing are a conscious choice by the artist. Maybe nobody cares. Maybe I don’t care. It enhances the music for me and I enjoy it. The loops are crushed under a fog of degradation – genuine or fabricated – they are just a bit off from being perfectly in time or symmetrical, which is vaguely reminiscent, to me, of some of Zoviet France’s music. The music Venn Rain has put on this release is of course much different. Though there’s a thick atmosphere of nostalgia, it somehow sounds very current to me. The synthesizers used have a special muffled warmth. I’m actually not entirely sure that all of the tones are from synthesizers – the tonality might sometimes just be part of the loops. Either way, it sounds warm and to me evokes an urban landscape, and/or thoughts of fast urban life, massive human population, and high speed information exchange. I think it’s just the way the music is composed – the tonalities and the feel of the loops, that associates the music with urban environments and experiences. The delivery is unpretentious and direct, with not a lot going on over the top of the foundational loops (when used) and beds of synthesizers. Little to no tweaking or knob turning is detectable. The strength all centers around the moods evoked by the gentle clunky loops and repeating chord patterns. This is very much a simple pleasure and one to be picking from the shelf for a listen on a regular basis.

Buy it & look around at House of Alchemy:

Inter-Dimensional Music through IASOS C54 (Rotifer) –

I would qualify this as a visionary work of sophisticated, dreamy, ambient, experimental beauty. It was apparently one of the earliest examples of “new age” music, put out in 1975. It was also the first album that Iasos (pronounced ya’ sos) or his collaborator Steven Halpern had released.

From the biographical information at the IASOS site:
“In 1967, to his surprise, Iasos began spontaneously “hearing” a new type of music in his mind, which he then referred to as “paradise music”. After graduating from Cornell in anthropology in 1968, Iasos decided to move to California and to dedicate his life to manifesting this “heavenly music” he was experiencing internally, since he was convinced it would have an uplifting, healing, spiritually-invigorating and harmonizing effect on many potential listeners. And that in many cases, this music would help people to connect to heavenly realms of existence.”

The description of the music is pretty correct in my estimation. It’s comforting and imaginative. It flirts with a floweriness that is indicative of some of the cheesier elements of new age music. It seems that with later releases this flowery quality that some people (including myself) might not like too much hangs around more often. There are a number of YouTube videos available for viewing of Iasos’ video work and newer music. It’s pretty New-Agey. I did find that his instrumentation is often different that you might think, which was interesting. He seems like a very good-natured guy. I like him, even if I had to use up several packets of salt listening to some of his ideas about reality. Who knows what’s really going on, anyway? I guess I would rather listen to a person like Iasos talk about his conceptions of reality than a lot of other people. At least it’s interesting, colorful, and pretty positive.

From the video (from 1979) linked to below this article:
“…as the new age is now coming in, higher higher higher higher subtler subtler subtler frequencies of reality are coming in…”

My favorite piece on the album is the remarkable guitar (lap steel?) piece “rainbow canyon”, which uses alternate tunings, heavy doses of reverb, impeccable slide & hammer-on techniques, and highly sensitive & intelligent compositional discretion. It seems partially improvised and partially composed, but I can’t be sure because of course I wasn’t there, and I’ve never met the guy to ask him. To me, this is one of the most well done and unique pieces for guitar that I’ve ever heard. My opinion is arrived at largely, I’m sure, because of the mood; a dreamy, peaceful, transportive night-time feeling is evoked. With the aforementioned complexity of the composition showing itself in various swells, repeated miniature themes & phrases, it bears infinite re-listenings and supplies a humbling mystification each time, yet somehow the spirit of the music is very humble and genuine itself.

The whole album is like this, really. There is a lot of studied compositional maneuvers, with a modest variety of instruments played with great skill by Iasos & Steven Halpern, but the sentiments transmitted through the music are earnest and playful, not seeking recognition for flair of delivery. It’s obvious that Iasos and Mr. Halpern created this music with a pure joy of creation and with a good will. I’m really happy that Rotifer dug this up and did the work to make it known to a wider audience. They sold out their initial pressing of 200, and are in a second pressing of 200 if you’d like to get a copy for yourself.

I wasn’t there during the process of creation for any of Iasos’ projects, and I’ve not met him, but I did spend a bit of my time with him by proxy of this youtube video, which was revealing:


Iasos page for Inter-Dimensional Music (available on LP & CD w/extra tracks not available on tape):

Iasos bio page:

Electronic Cottage Compilation Volume 1 – 1990

Haven’t listened to this in almost a year. I spotted the ziplock-bagged tape in the same small odd group of tapes that has been sitting in a nook in the stereo cabinet for about two years and chose to get it out today. Electronic Cottage was a zine produced in the late 80’s and early 90’s. This was the only magazine devoted entirely to the hometaper scene, and produced by Hal McGee. What I like about this compilation as well as the magazine is that it covers the entire spectrum of music and art related to the hometaper scene at the time, rather than only a chosen corner. Creators of all types of music were encouraged to contribute and participate. There is also a marked emphasis of the community / communication aspect of the scene, with mailing addresses included as well as ample information to introduce people to new artists they may want to interact with. This is something I feel might be washed out a bit with the current scene, with emails taking precedent over written letters & exchange of physical items by mail. Having experienced a good amount of physical mail exchange in my life, I do feel there’s a distinct difference in quality between the experience of exchanging physical mail (with hand-written letters and often the inclusion of various objects in packages) and electronic mail. There was a bit more (or at least a very different) excitement when the only way you would hear from somebody other than a phone call or a personal visit was by post. The predominant use of email and websites to display catalogs, enact sales, and provide for other aspects of d.i.y. culture seems at times to discourage more personal communications and focus more on efficiency of commerce and cultivation of myth/vanity rather than earnest exchange of ideas & enthusiasm. Obviously there are numerous benefits to electronic communication and the internet that can’t be put back into the box, regardless of any nostalgic/idealistic sentiments. The cultivation of myth, obscurity, vanity, increased efficiency of commerce, and other things greatly aided by electronic distance are helpful to and sometimes central to the work of some really great artists. The internet and the many things resulting from it are key elements of present day human existence, so it makes sense that electronic communication and distance dominates. It’s cool, though, that this compilation has in its packaging an informative paragraph about each artist, including their mailing address.

The compilation is varied in a way that makes it surprising and fun to listen to, at least for those into eclectic compilations as I am. There’s some quirky spoken word pieces, dark noise, incidental music, ambient, sound collage, psychedelia, synthesizer music, folky pop, even some weird rock music. This is some very creative, fun, evocative, imaginative stuff that enlivened my day today and always does when I dig it up.

Check out Issue #1 of Electronic Cottage: