Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Cliffsides - Lucid Dreams/ Singularity

Lucid Dreams (Digitalis Limited, 2009)


Singularity (Anathema Sounds, 2009)


Cliffsides is a sideproject of Ryan Lang of Bones of Seabirds. It gives a version of the recent synth sound that's all the rage, only with its influences drawn from more diverse and emotive corners than the usual Iasos/ Steven Halpern/ subverted Jarre fare. Cliffsides reminds more of Wendy Carlos, early Klaus Schulze at its most epic, Aphex Twin's Selected Ambient Works Vol 2, and even Autechre's seminal Amber.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Pauline Oliveros/ Stewart Dempster/ Panaiotis - Deep Listening

New Albion, 1989

Pauline Oliveros is an incredible talented musician who seeks to redefine music theory with her theories of "deep listening" and "sonic awareness" From wikipedia:

Oliveros coined the term "Deep Listening" in 1991,[1] a term which she then applied to her group The Deep Listening Band and to the Deep Listening program of Deep Listening Institute, Ltd. (formerly The Pauline Oliveros Foundation, founded in 1985). The Deep Listening program includes annual listening retreats in Europe, New Mexico and in upstate New York, as well as apprenticeship and certification programs. The Deep Listening Band, which includes Oliveros, David Gamper, and Stuart Dempster, specializes in performing and recording in resonant or reverberant spaces such as caves, cathedrals and huge underground cisterns. They have collaborated with Ellen Fullman and her Long String Instrument, as well as countless other musicians, dancers, and performers.


Von Gunden (1983, p.105-107) describes and names a new musical theory, developed by Oliveros in the "Introductions" to her Sonic Meditations and in articles, called "sonic awareness." Sonic awareness is the ability to consciously focus attention upon environmental and musical sound, requiring continual alertness and an inclination towards always listening, and comparable to John Berger's concept of visual consciousness (as in his Ways of Seeing). "Sonic awareness is a synthesis of the psychology of consciousness, the physiology of the martial arts, and the sociology of the feminist movement" and describes two ways of processing information, focal attention and global attention, which may be represented by the dot and circle, respectively, of the mandala Oliveros commonly employs in composition. Later this representation was expanded, with the mandala quartered and the quarters representing actively making sound, imagining sound, listening to present sound, and remembering past sound. This model was used in the composition of her Sonic Meditations. Practice of the theory creates "complex sound masses possessing a strong tonal center", as focal attention creates tonality and the global attention creates masses of sound, flexible timbre, attack, duration, intensity, and sometimes pitch, as well as untraditional times and spaces for performance such as requiring extended hours or environmental settings. The theory promotes easily created sounds such as vocal ones, and "says that music should be for everyone anywhere."

Beyond such theoretical loftiness, Oliveros, on this album with Dempster, one the original (and continuing) members of the Deep Listening Band and an artist I know little about, Panaiotis, succeeds at creating deeply centered, meditative music that creates evocative, powerful, dynamic, and highly tonal drones that have perhaps been explored from non-academic standpoints by the drone underground of years past. Her music reminds me highly of Organum, and the solo and collaborative work of Barn Owl distinctly echoes her/their approach. Theoretically grounded but always engaging, the recording space, a cistern, creates a wholly organic reverb which to these ears is greatly distinguished from the electronic tools of basement droners, it is reverberation on another level, where the spirits of the acoustic space are revealed not unlike in Alvin Lucier's I Am Sitting In A Room, only these are more than experiments or if they are they are to be treated as successful at creating deep soulful music, rather than as sonic artifacts fit for a museum. Academic music which works in experience.


:zoviet*france: - Shouting At The Ground

Red Rhino, 1988

Zoviet France, or the properly ornamented :zoviet*france: was one of the first truly "experimental" bands that I ever listened to. Moving onwards from my adolescent Skinny Puppy fandom, to Download (also having been a childhood, like 11-year-old, Aphex Twin/ IDM fan), Mark Spybey and Dead Voices On Air, and his previous temporary membership in :Z*F:, this is some of the music that truly opened up my world sonically. Environmental sounds, and broken incidentals of language, were no longer just incidents, they could create music, and nothing quite felt like the surrounding fields in Massachusetts like the organic, crypto-ethnic music of Zoviet France and Dead Voices On Air. With its disjointed, museum-like subtleness and vignettedness, dead languages of greatly forgotten times, like the lost sub-stratum of European and English place-names, Pre-Indo-European mystery languages, Basque, Etruscan, whatever the neolithic builders of the stones of England spoke, seemed to speak to me from this record, and my other favorite, Shadow, Thief Of The Sun, in my environment re-contextualized as the mystery of the original Native American names for my surroundings. It stoked my interest in creatively reinventing lost cultures to regain a sort of subconscious Jungian blood connection to all ancestry and culture as a whole. Listening to them years later, especially this album, the effect still holds. Especially with the melding of spaces and times that happens with the current experimental/drone alchemists, their sound does not date itself. Nor could it ever really be dated, because it is not of any time. I hope it has the same effects on you.


Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Husere Grav - Husere Grav

Stunned, 2010

Two sides on a c37 of iridescent darkness and crawling dimness. Sprawling subtle black ambient in the vein of Robe or more recent Svarte Greiner. Iridescent in that it is not pure black, there is some emerging, hallucinatory color in the nightside palette of sounds. And the occasional brighter streak of rock. A journey through cold chambers of flickering lights, bunkers, and the ghost-inhabited caverns in between. A subdued one, but another real hit for the constantly hit-or-miss Stunned label.


Friday, April 9, 2010

GHQ - Crystal Healing

Three Lobed Recordings, 2007

GHQ are (were?) an ensemble that just knew how to go there, and stay there, through pieces however long without ever losing interest. Their sound lies somewhere between a deeper, more interesting version of Double Leopards' drones (it shares a member in the wonderful Marcia Bassett), the minimal bluegrass raga-to-infinity of Henry Flynt, a little bit of Steven R. Smith drone shimmer, and the downed psych-blues of Charalambides. Nowhere does their skill shine as gloriously as on Crystal Healing. This album is up there with the greatest drone-psych albums in my book: Six Organs' Dark Noontide, Grouper's Cover The Windows And The Walls, Willie Lane's Recliner Ragas, and Lichens OMNS. I dreamt of this album, the song "Asphalt Rainbows" the theme to a vision of crackling rainbows which glowed in the night in front of a home I had just left, flying boats flew through their arches. These drones are that powerful, music of the liminal, humid, late-night-twilight times of summer, where the illuminated visions come burbling forth from the swamps.


Thursday, April 8, 2010

Stellar OM Source - Alliance

Self-Released, 2009

Stellar OM Source is the improvisation/devotional synth project of Christelle Gualdi. Seems far more enjoyable to me than the deeply sequenced new age tones of groups like Oneohtrix Point Never, Gualdi's work reminds me more of the synth backdrop of the Skaters, or James Ferraro when he is in one of his highest synth trances. New age-era in feeling, certainly, but there is a jazz improvisational element that makes what's happening intensely interesting and unpredictable. Cybernetic music, peaks and swells are not pre-programmed but come as a natural extensions of the human body into the technological realm. It may not be a stretch when David Keenan equated her keyboard work with Alice Coltrane. I'm not going to be so presumptuous to say that Gualdi is exactly that skilled a musician, though she is if anything excellent, and her music on occasion evokes the same rare states of transcendence. The album may seem (and still seems to me) like it starts on an awkward, atonal footing, but give it time. "Equalizer 2600" and "Time To Live" prove the album's worth.


Bill Orcutt - A New Way To Pay Old Debts

Palilalia, 2010

I was surprised by this LP as I hadn't ever really thought much of Harry Pussy, much less that they may have a quite skilled guitarist in their ranks, makes me want to reinvestigate. But what's here isn't really much anything like the angular refusist noise rock of his original band, what's here is a chaotic, modal, yet highly skilled improvisational blues frenzy, not unlike a less academic and more instinctual Derek Bailey. A bit like Jandek in some sense, in that Orcutt meditates on a note in that deep-blues kinda way, flies away into a tangential and brilliantly inspired aleotoric flourish and returns anew, keeping the feeling. Actually indirectly reminds me of the same kind of tactic used by Kawabata Makoto in Mainliner, and the particularly out-there moments of Acid Mothers Temple. Only this is straight earthen blues, filled with recordings of the street of whatever badly sealed loft Orcutt recorded this in. A nice contribution.


Sunday, April 4, 2010

Skullflower/ White Medal - Split 7"

Turgid Animal/ Legion Blotan, 2010

Totally fresh split 7" between Skullflower and (not surprisingly) Turgid Label co-head George Proctor (Mutant Ape)'s raw filth black metal project, White Medal. I knew of White Medal when I was way into raw black metal, didn't know the connection or expect this split to come out of the blue. The Skullflower side, "Great Hunter" is perfect, it seems like new territory for psyched-out black metal where the normal blinding storm of sharp feedback is toned back a little and instead we are in vast canopies of blackened clouds, traveling through the void. Lamentful and melancholy. It's a little bit like Bower's version of depressive black metal like Xasthur or Burzum rather than the usual Katharsis. Offers a bit more obvious depth and what seems like a wee bit of a notch up in production. White Medal amp up the filth for their side, their sound is great but nothing much to analyze there, just really well done raw blackness with more structure than riff riff riff riff.


Thursday, April 1, 2010

At the tone, 11 hours, 00 minute(s), Coordinated Universal Time.