petriblog

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

Month: March, 2013

Aranos – in snow on ice cabbage dances C63 (Sangoplasmo)

aranos_insnow

I was happy to find this tape by accident upon my first look at Sangoplasmo Records’ (very nice label based in Poland) website. This was Sangoplasmo’s first release, from 2011. I very much enjoy Aranos’ collaboration with Nurse With Wound, Acts of Senseless Beauty, and I’ve been curious for years to hear some of his solo recordings. I’m glad this was the first. It didn’t disappoint.

From Discogs:

“Aranos (pronounced aranyosh) was born in Bohemia (now a part of Czech Republic). He has performed as a singer and instrumentalist since the age of 8 in folk ensembles, jazz bands, rock groups, gypsy bands, ceilidh bands and as a solo artist. Written and composed in various styles from classical music to rock. He sings and plays violin, viola, cello, bass, guitar, mandolin, piano, keyboards, banjo, Chinese and Japanese flutes, santoor, drums, percussion, etc and has had collaborated with Steven Stapleton on two Nurse With Wound records, “Santoor Lena Bicycle” and “Acts of Senseless Beauty.” He currently lives and works in the west of Ireland.”

From a pretty short visit to his website I found that he has a good number of things (many are gorgeous or otherwise intimate hand made packages) available for purchase directly from him, including this present item we’re taking a look at. Over the next week or two I’m going to be digging around there watching videos & reading things. Plenty to see & listen to: http://www.aranos.org/aranos/aranos_home.html

I found this short bit he wrote on paying for (his) music to be on target: http://www.aranos.org/aranos/Blog/Entries/2011/10/12.html

A formidable artist & musician. Such artists deserve support at fair compensation for the thought provoking, evocative, and highly stimulating work they do.

Onward to the tape >

The first side, a 31.5 minute (lengths kindly provided by on-cassette labeling) piece called “Overborne Continents”, begins with some hesitant wooden percussive sounds, and what sounds like a stand-up bass, similarly hesitating to take full initiative to set things into motion. A minute or two passes by which gave me the feeling at first that maybe I was in for a jazz trio sort of thing. I knew Aranos used a violin, and the stand-up bass sound added to that knowledge pushed my imagination in the direction of this idea. He was embarking on an improvisational jazz piece, I thought. Over the next minute or two, a rain stick is added to the incidental sounds, which are all occasionally tapping in the random tempo of a wind chime barely shifting in a weak breeze. After a couple more minutes a strange, eerie backdrop of tonality is added in which ties everything together with an atmosphere that fits well with the title of the cassette, or at least the snow and ice part. Things are frozen in motion or moving slowly. The tonal backdrop is occasionally augmented by a couple of santoor strings touched gently. The note played on the stringed instrument is strangely discordant and enhances the eerieness. Cold isolated feelings are held in suspended animation using these instruments and the open spaces between them. He did not embark on an improvisational jazz piece. He did something much more enchanting and cool.

Side B’s “Therefore Autumn Therefore”

This piece is very much in the same territory as “Overborne Continets”. Beginning with a skipping record, emphasizing and focusing on the skip-blip. Quiet and strange, repeating and clustering over itself. This builds and wind chimes are added. This clustering of clicks, small obscure tones and ringing wind chimes builds but the atmosphere is still of lonely, cold, wide open arctic scape. Rumbling accumulates, and after some time this all abruptly drops dead into silence. From out of the nothing comes a strange screeching, somewhere between a record needle scratch and a baloon being rubbed. This transitions into the next absorbing atmosphere. Earthy wind instrument? tones are held steady. Here and there is pensive thumping of a small percussive device that reminds me of a jaw harp. High pitched tones, generated perhaps from a turntable being hand driven to play some record with tones at variable speeds, go up up and down a bit and up again, swooping around the upper end of the sound field. This comes and goes. There’s always space left for the elements to breathe. Delayed santoor arrives after some time, thickening the mood effectively. After some time, deep bovine-sounding creaks come at natural rhythms (at the rate of insects or cows calling) from a pair of bowed string instruments.

I was thinking that this could be called ‘electroacoustic’ music, but then realized that this is more of an acoustic-acoustic music, in that all of the sounds are of acoustic instruments, except for a sideways interlude of a violin and organ ditty (might be informed by the Nurse With Wound playbook…or just a whimsical streak of sentimental mischief…?) from what seems to be a record (might be a piece by Aranos) being played on side B. Here is where the mention of cabbage makes sense to me. There’s a taste for the odd, but it’s subtle and not over emphasized. It’s simultaneously sad, nostalgic and comical they way it comes off to me. I can see cabbage with legs dancing on ice during this interjection. Some of the sounds are possibly sampled, too. Electro-acoustic or not…maybe a couple of people somewhere care but I don’t. This is a very beautiful and emotionally complex recording; expertly arranged and conceived. Strenuously recommended, but unavailable @ Sangoplasmo, so get it directly from the best source possible – the artist himself!

Sangoplasmo:

http://www.sangoplasmo.com/

Order this tape/cdr directly from Aranos:

http://www.aranos.org/aranos/In_Snow_on_Ice_Cabbage_Dances.html

Post Script:

Thanks to Ketel for pointing out my mistaken year of release for this, which made me take a second look at what I had written. I’ve corrected a few incorrect pronouns and added some information about Aranos, which I stupidly did not include the first time around a couple days ago. I’ll be continuing to aim for improvement and thoroughness, and interaction with discerning people is much enjoyed and appreciated. I’m only trying here to help & learn.

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Chapels – Last Nights C25 (House of Alchemy)

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This is my introduction to Chapels, which I’ve seen listed and written about in many places but never heard. The cassette comes with no information, just the title of the tape, which I take as functioning as the titles for the pieces on both sides.

Side A is dark and harsh in the way that a lot of early 80’s industrial cassette noise went. Mixtures of sampled noise, synth noises, droning voice, manipulated field recordings of metals and muffled speech, bursts of static like poorly recorded industry machines doing their repeated automatic motions (this sound keeps you company at clockwork pace for the entirety of the side, comforting you like Linus’ thumb sucking blanket, but dusted with cigarette ashes and damp with kerosene and cheap whiskey), caterwauling filter screeches, ghostly droning…gives you nightmares. I think that’s sort of the point, though. There’s a bitterness and a harsh reality to it.

The second side of the tape is collaged together with no spaces between the different pieces. One mass of distorted tonal textures cuts straight into the next. In contrast to the frightening alienated soundtrack to purgatory that is Side A, the tones chosen and the treatments given to them on Side B amount to a nostalgic, dreamy, thoughtful, lonely, beautiful vibe overall. There’s a harshness, but the chords are mostly of a major key so the harsh play of noise and manipulation puts forth more of a bliss than an intimidation. Gorgeous textures of distorted tones, filtering that makes the euphoric, spasming notes sound as if your head (with cotton balls in ears) and the speakers are inside of a small metal box, maybe about 2.5′ x 2.5′. After about two minutes the box is removed two sides at a time, opening up more of the high end frequencies and exposing the tones to more manipulatory influences. The sounds become more erratic and a bit more abrasive, being snipped off at the beginning of the next segment before exploding into total aged technicolor noise. Parallel crumbling and sticky sound currents.

This is well done lo-fi noise that goes in a number of interesting directions. It’s good that Chapels likes to wander around and try different moods out. This makes for complexity, which makes this sort of material of interest to me. There are ups and downs, and lateral movements in sound environment and texture that make tension and release, instead of there being only a solid cinder block monument of tension you can’t get past.

To House of Alchemy & Chapels online land:

http://www.thehouseofalchemy.com/chapels.htm

Captain Beefheart – Bat Chain Puller CD (VAULTernative) –

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Early on in my initiatory process with Captain Beefheart, through reading about his various albums, I became aware that the album Shiny Beast (Bat Chain Puller) held a mythical status with many admirers. No record stores that I set foot in had any copies of it (or anything other than Trout Mask Replica, for that matter), and none of them could order the import for any less than something like $40. After a few years, I thought to look on Amazon…or whatever it was back in 1999…and found they had it for $30 or thereabouts, so I found the stomach to spend and acquire the sacred piece of art. I loved it of course, but to me it wasn’t amazingly superior to any of my other favorites, as so many journalists had opined. It was on par with Trout Mask, Doc at the Radar Station, and Ice Cream For Crow, which was still quite an achievement and much cause for joy.

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ImageI later learned that this 1978 Shiny Beast (Bat Chain Puller) album release was a re-creation of an album that had been recorded and shelved in 1976 and as-of-yet not properly released, just called Bat Chain Puller. There was an unofficial bootleg release of the album, called Dust Sucker, which was from a poor quality dub of the Bat Chain Puller mixes. The original album, in full-form, hi-fidelity is finally here, and we Captain Beefheart Nerds (Matt Groening included: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2JxBppgIB0w) are glad.

ImageImageOf the songs included, the Shiny Beast, Ice Cream, and Doc versions are tighter, likely…no… -obviously- due to years of rehearsal and performance. I still enjoy this a lot. The 3-dimensional fidelity is very welcome vs. the heard-through-the-wall-with-an-oscillating-fan-on-in-the-room fidelity Dust Sucker versions of these recordings. The band is vacuum-seal tight as expected. Some of the slight differences in composition the instruments are great to hear, and in some places I find them to be more interesting than the Shiny Beast, Doc, or Ice Cream versions. I theorize that “Odd Jobs” contains at least one seed of “Tropical Hot Dog Night”. “81 Poop Hatch” I think may be the same recording used on Ice Cream for Crow. “Apes-Ma” is exactly the same recording as the closing track of Shiny Beast. The previously unreleased recording of “Hoboism” is a cool cheaply recorded improvisational blues piece that I enjoy, but isn’t a huge payoff. Glad to have it but overall this disc isn’t a revelation, having (like most anybody who also bought this) heard most of it already, just in distressed lo-fi.

This is definitely for completists, and if you’re not in that category you would likely enjoy the alternate, Shiny Beast, more. Captain on many of the pieces sounds as if he hasn’t yet decided exactly where he wants to put his phrases, sort of like he’s doing a demo of the lyrics, or at least he is under-practiced in his delivery. Since I’m extremely familiar with the versions of these songs that were released on Shiny Beast, Doc at the Radar Station, and Ice Cream for Crow, I do have a basis for comparison, but regardless of this the later more rehearsed versions do seem to show him being more certain of what he is going to say and how he wants to say it. He corrects himself a couple of times, and that might not have seemed so odd if I hadn’t heard versions of the songs wherein he does not. Specific examples of songs he seems kind of shaky on are “Brick Bats”, “Floppy Boot Stomp”, and “Owed T’ Alex”. The band, however, is solidly in place. No hesitations or mistakes there. Captain is sometimes a few steps behind his own ideas as far as performance is concerned. Such quirks of his personality sometimes detracted a bit from his work and caused problems in his personal life, but this is part of the package and I appreciate it’s stark reality. Don Van Vliet was one of the greatest artists of the last 100 years. I hold his creations close to my heart and mind. I’m surely not alone in being thankful for this release.

Buy @ Barfko:

http://barfkoswill.shop.musictoday.com/Dept.aspx?cp=971_54317

Taxidermy of Unicorns 2 x C60 4 way split (Watery Starve)

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Here we see Navin R. Johnson sensitively appreciating the smell of the hand-sewn spine of the Taxidermy of Unicorns booklet.

I recognize this to be of gargantuan length, and hope interested parties won’t find it worthlessly long winded. I guess I was just enjoying myself as I analyzed each tape side and the project overall, so the thoughts and words kept flowing. It’s a unique item, and in my defense there was a lot of material to cover that somehow I ended up having a lot to say about. Do not shun me.

Tape 1: Side A: Birds of Passage

Thoughtful and well done pieces of comforting ambiance. Lullaby music. “1890 Story” and “Sunday Best” are brief dreamy ambient instrumental vignettes, and the last two – “The Brave Man With a Sword” and “Dead Flowers” are dreamy ambient multi-movement songs with vocals. Personally, I’m distracted a bit from my enjoyment of the last two pieces by the presence of singing and lyrics. The singing is very well done, and the lyrics are nostalgic, aching, sentimental, personal, unpretentious, just not in my realm of taste – whatever that is. Voice can be such a divisive thing. I do love a lot of music that includes vocals, but this sort of moody, ambient feeling music requires a pretty special approach (varying in unpredictably subjective ways from artist to artist) for me to fully enjoy it, and to prevent it from detracting from the rest of what’s going on with the music. Alicia Merz has a mastery over her equipment, instruments (including her spot-on voice – regardless of my non-voice preference here) creative technique, and I enjoy the emotional territory she covers. In the vocal pieces, her breathy, half-whispered voice is put before a distant warm blanket of keys, all coated in frost and fluttering softly in an early morning breeze with long shadows from a bright coming-up sun. The keys are played in a fashion vaguely similar to the way a hymnal might be played, with the reverb influencing me to perceive the acoustics of a big empty church. Other parts of the 4 pieces have a darker, lonely, isolated feeling. Keys are at times slightly delayed and fairly heavily reverbed, with a soft nostalgic analog tape overdrive to them. Warm, slightly rumbling textures, angelic murmuring voice alone in space, long shadows of late afternoon, dying plants, films of dust brightly lit by sunlight from windows, trees swaying in chilly breeze. Each piece is composed in its own unique intelligent way. Nothing feels rushed or half-baked. I would enjoy some of it a bit more without vocals, but as I said she knows what she’s doing, and this would surely go over well with many lovers of gentle and emotionally charged ambient experimental music. Delicate, gorgeous, whimsical.

Side B: Je Suis Le Petit Chevalier

Je Suis Le Petit Chevalier’s side here to me feels strangely sterile; almost in academic electronic music territory. Yet, there’s emotion and drama to it that connects my derived thought currents of scientific analysis with metaphysical curiosity and yearning. I actually tend to be fascinated by and get enjoyment from electronic music that to some others may seem sterile, overly analytical, harshly technological, robotic, impersonal, etc. I think in some of such music there’s a precision (in texture, timbre, tonal quality, rhythm, virtual acoustics…details…) humans just aren’t used to, or can’t understand, so it’s alienating to them. It’s a new language in bloom, being fueled as much by its own digital / electrical processes as it is by human activity, creativity and ingenuity.

The following exerpt is from a fascinating interview of George Dyson I read a year or so ago in an issue of Wired Magazine.

From Wikipedia:

George Dyson (born 1953) is an author and historian of technology whose publications broadly cover the evolution of technology in relation to the physical environment and the direction of society…Lecturing widely at academic institutions, corporations, and tech conferences, Dyson gives a historical context to the evolution of technology in modern society and provides thought-provoking ideas on the directions in which technology and the Internet might develop.”

From Wired:

“Dyson: Digital organisms, while not necessarily any more alive than a phone book, are strings of code that replicate and evolve over time. Digital codes are strings of binary digits—bits. A Pixar movie is just a very large number, sitting idle on a disc, while Microsoft Windows is an even larger number, replicated across hundreds of millions of computers and constantly in use. Google is a fantastically large number, so large it is almost beyond comprehension, distributed and replicated across all kinds of hosts. When you click on a link, you are replicating the string of code that it links to. Replication of code sequences isn’t life, any more than replication of nucleotide sequences is, but we know that it sometimes leads to life.

Dyson: What other kinds of digital organisms can we see?

Wired: Besides obvious ones like computer viruses, we have large, slow-moving megafauna like operating systems and now millions of fast-moving apps, almost like microbes. Recently we’ve seen enormous conglomerations of code creeping up on us, these giant, multicellular, metazoan-level code-organisms like Facebook or Amazon. All these species form a digital universe.”

Do read the whole interview here:

http://www.wired.com/magazine/2012/02/ff_dysonqa/

Maybe this isn’t at all the sort of thing that Felicia Atkinson thinks about in creating the sort of music that she’s contributed to this 4 way split, but the sounds she chose to utilize and the way she composed them sure makes me think of this sort of evolution of intelligence / language / life. I see thought forms not much differently than how Dyson is describing digital organisms, and I see both as entirely real in some sense. Evolution takes place in the realm of experimentation, whether intentional or accidental, and this sort of experimentation with electronic music, though not the most groundbreaking material ever recorded, is the stuff of evolution and new audio language, hybridizing human realms of thought and emotion with digital / electronic realms of computation and information structuring. Maybe this music may not be so provocative for others, but it inspired these thoughts in me. I posit that as a compliment.

On the whole, this music is more toward a creative, ambient-experimental style in the realm of some Brian Eno’s Music for Films than academic-feeling electronic music in the realm of Morton Sobotnick. It might just be some of the sounds she chooses – maybe since they sound modular and/or analog in a lot of places, and because of the use of open space in these pieces. Each is a journey with a number of sections which transform organically from one section to the next, shifting and refreshing the emotional and textural content. The subtle play of textures is stimulating and thoughtfully evoked, with plenty of space left open for the minutiae to reverberate. A good soundtrack to a long, still, quietly spent afternoon.

Tape 2: Side A: Motion Sickness of Time Travel

This is an artist I’ve seen mentioned and praised all over the place and have until now been unacquainted with. I’m aware of Hooker Vision, and enjoyed a recent batch of tapes from them. Her reputation preceding her, Rachel Evans’ input on this release does well to live up to it. “Atma”, the first, is my favorite of the four pieces on this side. A whimsically psychedelic drone item, having at first the feel of Keltic music. A synthesizer out in front plays a repeating line, sounding somewhat like a bagpipe. This is a prelude to the next segment, which goes to deeper sweeping tones and is embellished with sprinkling dots of synthesizers and blurry voice. A cosmic drifting takes place. Evans’ voice stays active in the backdrop, echoing and floating in its own obtusely oblong bubbles amidst the drifting hourglass sand of synth tones and textures. #2, “Mutable Mode”; an analog synth bass of root to fifth and back down makes the spinal column for this piece. Other synths add in their twinklings, putting detail to the soundscape. Bouncy yet drifty. I’m reminded of Kluster. #3, “Introvert Element of Existence” – A quiet dreamy piece driven by a muted low end rhythm, and mapped out by a slurred milky melody. An intimate fantasy theme, making me think of strange soft focused scenes of mythical creatures and environments from something like Ridley Scott’s Legend. #4, “Aither and Khaos”, has a sweeping synth bed with drifty ethereal voice disorientingly meandering.

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Legend – Ridley Scott film from the early 80’s, done directly after Blade Runner. Deep in my psyche from childhood. When seeking this pic I realized the connection of unicorn in the title of this release to my accidentally automatic mental linkage to this movie’s feel and imagery, caused by MSOTT’s tape side.

It’s obvious Rachel Evans has a lot of control over her instruments, and abundant sense to choose and mix elements wisely. Everything here is tightly packaged with gloss. In hearing this music I get a lot of images of fantasy; Hayao Miyazaki, Paprika, The Neverending Story, The Dark Crystal, The Lord of the Rings, Niel Gaiman’s Sandman, and other fantasy or science fiction I’m not aware of that that is likely edgier. I am aware from an interview I read with her that her project name comes from a Burroughs novel, and that she was at some time not long ago reading Alan Moore’s Promethea, about which Wikipedia says: “Moore weaves in elements of magic and mysticism along with superhero mythology and action, spirituality and the afterlife (in particular the Tree of Life) and science-fiction. Promethea is also notable for wide-ranging experimentation with visual styles and art.” …So I guess that my inklings aren’t totally pulled out from thin air. Being a librarian, as mentioned in the booklet, she is likely much more well-read than I am, and I’d love to see a suggested reading list from her some time. Evans’ work is an indispensably appropriate contribution to this collection.

Side B: Aloonaluna

This side of Aloonaluna was overall too hyperactive for me upon first listen, but on subsequent listens I found the baroque day-glow psych-electrocutiory experimentation to be energizing and refreshing. This happens with any music; different days and different moments bring different perceptions. This is a cool heap of synthesizer, noise, and manipulated voice sounds collaged and arranged freely with flair. Sometimes oddly campy and poppy. I’m reminded of the Spacemen 3 album Recurring in some places, but the sounds and approach here are more wild, loose, and playful. The arrangements are very active and multifaceted. There’s always something being tweaked, and new elements being added or subtracted. I like the copious use of voice effects, making lots of wacked-out moments. The tonalities Lynn Fister chooses to operate in are interesting, and the dense manipulations cause her voice to be more like another instrumental element than a voice standing center stage. She also experiments with her vocal delivery, exploring her range and texture through the effects, which is usually interesting to hear a vocalist do. Jarboe comes to mind, though the similarities aren’t too numerous. There is also consistent utilization of various groovy electronic beats (perhaps minimally to moderately tweaked presets from software) that pep things up in portions of the music. Though there are similarities with some other current artists (as alluded to in her explanatory writing in the booklet), there doesn’t seem to be any posturing or attempt to fit in to any mold. Aloonaluna has a distinct excitement about it that is more wiley, digital, excited, smiling and sunshiney. It’s all gushing over here, explosive and happy. The different movements stream from one to the next, each having its own palette of synthesizer sounds, space aged, vivid, bubbling. “A High Calm” is psychedelic, spacey, happy; very cool. My favorite piece of all from the two tapes. Vivid, colorful, shape-shifting, uplifting. “Angela” is a dreamy free synth pop song gushing with drifting and skittering synthesizer and voice weirdness. Some of the stuff of this track stumbles over itself in the race for the idea, but the elements are all amusingly sparkly and playful. “Electricity Between Storms” is a blurbling candy storm of sugarballs being struck by lightning. “Sun-soaked Mirage” is spaced out, with plopping and twinkling electronics running steadily in all directions, being replaced slowly by new ones as the first textures are out of earshot. This piece and the next (“Hurricane Story”) both take a long form journey approach, ending up in a place far away and different from where they began, and passing through a number of amusingly different territories before arriving. Aloonaluna’s music lives and kicks. Another literary reference:

“The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn, like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes “Awww!” -Monsieur Keroac

This music speaks as if Lynn Fister might have some of this sort of constant surge in her veins.

This 4-way split has served as my introduction to these artists, and it’s a good one. Of the four sides here my favorite is Je Suis le Petit Chevalier, for its open space, great electronic sounds and subtleties. I also give honorable mention to Aloonaluna for exuberance and creative flair, but all of the artists’ music here is interesting and quite well done, each having its own unique vision. I’ll say that I felt that the presence of voice on some of these pieces at times was superfluous or just not to my taste, but overall didn’t distract me from what I perceived to be the aim of the music. I think the overall idea these artists may share about use of their voices, conscious or unconscious, is likely that they use the voice as just another element mixed in with the music and not so much as the focal point. To be clear, there was an equal amount of usage of voice here that I felt to be interesting and e/affective. It’s clear to me that each of these artists is aiming at something unusual, which causes them to do uncommon things that may be divisive. That’s a good thing; a sign of good art.

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Navin R. Johnson is seen here enjoying the unique hand-prepared centerfold collage work by Lynn Fister.

As far as the packaging is concerned, the booklet is satisfactorily informative, well written and well designed, with the unique collage in the middle spread and hand-threaded binding. Tidy and concise. The fuzzy green yarn was a nice personal touch, tying the booklet to the double cassette encasement upon arrival. I had to scissor it off to separate the booklet from the tape case, but the kitty kats were overjoyed with the hairy yarn becoming a new play device, at least for as long as their attention span allowed.

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The case itself also has a length of yarn tied around the front side of it, which is an aesthetic dollop of cream and likely a practical measure to help hold the tree leaves in with the artwork under the plastic outer film of the case. The tapes have nice color printed labels on them, with the artist and track titles included, which is sometimes pleasingly convenient.

It’s fantastic to see energy put to a spotlight on female artists of this type, though each of these artists have done well to provide themselves with their own platforms for their own and others’ work. I’ve many times since my youth lamented the lack of female creators & interesting-culture-participants in my surroundings. They’re out there. I don’t mean to talk as if this is some seriously anomalous thing, it’s just definitely not the norm around the simple-thinking mid-western parts I’ve lived. I do think that this area is not the only area of the world where females are brought up feeling stifled / uncertain / hesitant, etc. despite possessing great gifts of talent and passion. Various environments and common experiences just tend to make some people feel incapable, or lacking in ambition for different reasons. I think this is getting thinner as we move forward in time. More people are feeling empowered, male or female, to boldly step forward and create whatever they want to create, on whatever scale. It’s great Lynn Fister has started Watery Starve on her own – out of her own ambition & will, and it’s looking like she’ll be proliferating a lot of great work. I hope more females with a passion for creating will find that they of course have the ability to do the same. This is a great example to look to.

http://waterystarve.blogspot.com/