Shots: Nova Materia, Dan Davies, Friends Of The Oval, Philip Jeck, Fading Tapes

NOVA MATERIA – XPUJIL (Crammed Discs / Made To Measure) 

Released through Crammed Discs’ rebooted Made To Measure series, Xpujil is the work of Paris-based Chilean duo Nova Materia (Caroline Chaspoul and Eduardo Henriquez). The album takes the form of a journey through the Mexican jungle to the ruined Mayan metropolis of Xpujil. Along the way, they made a series of field recordings, which were then processed back in Paris into a single 40-minute soundscape. Deeply ambient and full of inexplicable, ephemeral mystery, the overall impression left by Xpujil is one of absence – of people, of nature itself, of context, of explanation. Few recordings have managed to exhibit such an engaging sonic quality through layers of percussion, haunting wooden flutes and delicate electronic textures, while also remaining purposefully silent. The piece was rounded out by contributions from DNA’s venerable Ikue Mori and cellist Gaspar Claus. Released June 25 2021.

https://novamateria.bandcamp.com/album/xpujil

DAN DAVIES – TRUTH, BEAUTY AND GOODNESS 

Truth, Beauty And Goodness consists of 15 pieces created by sound and visual artist Dan Davies, each one a specific response to a space or piece of art in and around Milton Keynes’ Campbell Park. Taking the form of a soundwalk commissioned for the 2021 IF: Milton Keynes International Festival, Davies used a combination of field recordings, sounds produced by ‘playing’ the various sculptures, electromagnetic recordings and delicate composition to accompany each piece. The results range from thought-provoking explorations of memory to angry pulses of raw energy. Read more about Truth, Beauty And Goodness in my interview with Davies for Pooleyvile, available hereReleased July 10 2021. 

https://dandavies.bandcamp.com/album/soundscapes-complete-album

FRIENDS OF THE OVAL – ADVENTURER 

Friends Of The Oval is a New York trio of vocalist Julia Farhat, electronic musician David Mason (aka Listening Center) and film director Michael Idov, and the evocative, orchestral ‘Adventurer’ is taken from the soundtrack to Idov’s JETLAG. ‘Adventurer’ is an exercise in delicate subtlety, Farhat’s sensitive voice barely rising above an ephemeral whisper yet yielding an intense, surging emotional poignancy. The strings recall The Balanescu Quartet at their most stirring, while Mason’s production style restrains a haunting synth sequence to the role of a mere gesture, never once distracting from Ivan Abramov’s string arrangements. After a decade of sporadic film music projects together, a Friends Of The Oval album is being worked on; on the strength of ‘Adventurer’, expect it to leave an indelible mark on your soul. Released July 28 2021.

https://foto.bandcamp.com/track/adventurer

PHILIP JECK – THIS IS THE HOUR OF LEAD – (Touch) 

This Is The Hour Of Lead – is Liverpool sound artist Philip Jeck’s contribution to Touch’s second subscription service of the last two years. Inspired by Emily Dickinson’s pike ‘After Great Pain, A Formal Feeling Comes –‘. His piece is a thoughtful, reflective moment, using orchestral sounds and blocks of mournful texture to convey a sense of the weight of the world that we’ve felt bearing down in us. A noisy moment of clattering found sound at the midpoint jerks you forcibly out of your maudlin thoughts before plunging you straight back in. Released July 29 2021.  

https://touchdisplacing.bandcamp.com/track/this-is-the-hour-of-lead-2

FADING TAPES – CARTOGRAPHER (Panurus Productions) 

Fading Tapes is a Polish duo of Krzysztof Siwkowski (guitars, effects) and Marcin Lasek (percussion, radios). For the four long tracks that comprise latest album Cartographer, they are joined by vocalist Aleksandra, whose occasional vocals and chanting float, wraith-like above the symbiotic dynamic offered by Siwkowski and Lasek. Across the four pieces – ‘East Valley’, ‘Bones’, ‘Boats’, ‘Dry Red Land’ – there is an emphasis on dense layers of intense subtlety. Barrages of percussion dominate, but they are (until the second half of ‘Dry Red Land’) quietly restrained, occasionally heading in the direction of interlocking motorik grooves or wild gestures, but Lasek’s playing remains acutely delicate. Around his kit, Siwkowski floats ominous basslines and wiry, chiming guitars, but he again eschews histrionics in favour of something much more contemplative. And yet, in spite of their collective restraint, these four tracks each resolve themselves into a firm, transcendent, psychedelic euphoria. Truly immersive and ever-so-slightly mind-altering. Released August 4 2021.

https://panurusproductions.com/album/cartographer

Words: Mat Smith 

(c) 2021 Further. 

The Night Monitor – Perception Report 3

Conceived as an infrequent series of “borderland excursions into assorted strangeness”, Perception Report 3 continues The Night Monitor’s exploration of encounters and inexplicable events, presented as a sonic periodical of unfathomable Fortean mystery. The Night Monitor, one of several aliases employed by Blackpool electronic music Neil Scrivin, is here occupying territory that he has made entirely his own, featuring four tracks of spooky electronica that act as distressing anti-ambient music for unsettling phenomena.  

Previous issues of the Perception Report series have concerned themselves with tiny winged Martians and the idea of bent spoons being allegorical for twisted realities. The main feature of Perception Report 3 concerns itself with an alien encounter that took place on Ilkley Moor in Yorkshire in 1987, in which a photographer had a run-in with an archetypal green creature that later disappeared in a flying saucer. 

Scrivin has a way of presenting his pieces without hackneyed sci-fi or horror tropes. While it would be tempting to sculpt ‘An Alien On Ilkley Moor’ with brooding tones or wonky theremins, he instead imbues the track with something that falls between delicate edginess and wide-eyed curiosity. The piece opens with the sound of wind whistling across the moor, before pulses and shimmering, mystique-heavy tones take over, finally opening out into a stately, contemplative melody that feels like it belongs on Depeche Mode’s A Broken Frame

‘Raven In Tomb Land’ has a tidy jazzy swagger that slots in somewhere between fusion and wonky, while ‘The UFO And The Séance’ has a ethereal sparseness so gently terrifying that I found myself checking behind doors and generally getting freaked out by my several cats, who in turn were generally freaked out by me. ‘Pyramids Of The Year 3000’ delivers more of Scrivin’s slowly-building melodic sensibilities, affixing those to a stop-start rhythm that bristles with 1981-vintage electronic pop smarts. 

Whether you find Scrivin’s subject matter credible or think it complete bunkum is irrelevant: his music tangibly exists in its own unique dimension, one that’s well worth believing in. 

Perception Report 3 by The Night Monitor is released August 6 2021 by Fonolith. 

Words: Mat Smith 

(c) 2021 Further.   

Stefan Goldmann & .es – At A Moment’s Notice

At A Moment’s Notice collects together three pieces by Berlin-based Stefan Goldmann, a peripatetic sonic auteur for whom the loose, oft-used handles of ‘producer’ and ‘DJ’ somehow no longer adequately fit his work. Goldmann may have come to prominence through techno, and its devices may still inform his creative methods, but At A Moment’s Notice bears no resemblance to music fixed to a grid. 

This new collection for The Wormhole, the always surprising, never predictable offshoot of The Tapeworm, finds Goldmann on location at Café Oto for a solo electronic performance in those heady, pre-pandemic days of 2019, a performance from some seven years before with .es (Takayuki Hashimoto on alto sax, shakuhachi, harmonica and guitar and Sara Dotes on piano and percussion), in between which is a solo Goldmann piece for electric guitar – the latter as clear a signifier as any that Goldmann won’t even be pigeonholed into the electronica genre. 

That central guitar piece, ‘Echoes Of An Era’, takes the form of a desert-washed blues loop. The guitar loop is layered and subjected to effects that lift it out of arid predictability into sonic vibrancy, while still sounding like the perfect soundtrack to standing beside your car on the side of an empty road waiting for a mechanic to arrive from the closest one-horse town with a can of gas. 

A semblance of that bluesy tonality appears with Hashimoto’s harmonica about twelve minutes in to the Goldmann & .es performance recorded at Osaka’s Nomart Gallery in July 2012. Hashimoto is omnipresent on the performance, but it’s when he puts down the sax and picks up the harmonica that things really start to fly; inchoate piano musing and quiet electronics are suddenly replaced by industrial-strength blocks of sound and rhythm, after which the re-emergence of howling sax feels more logical. By its denouement, ‘12.07.2012’ feels like a guided tour of an illegal Osakan sweat shop, its final bass pulse and wobbly piano suggestive of a getaway car speeding away from the heat and terror of a few minutes before. 

The Oto performance (‘29.09.2019’) is more assuredly electronic, but still refreshingly unpredictable. Here Goldmann runs through a cascading array of pulses, tones, sinewaves, drones and varispeed rhythms, skipping from idea to idea without ever languishing anywhere for long enough to get comfortable. At its most structured, ‘29.09.2019’ sounds like early Pan Sonic jamming with an 8-bit video game soundtrack to a game that no one remembers; at its most free, it’s like surfing on the aura of a self-generating fractal. 

At A Moment’s Notice by Stefan Goldmann is released August 6 2021 by The Wormhole / The Tapeworm. With thanks to Philip. (This is not a Mortality Tables Product, but we probably could make it one if we thought about it.) 

Words: Mat Smith

(c) 2021 Further. 

Charlotte Keeffe – Right Here, Right Now

Right Here, Right Now collects together pieces by trumpet / flugelhorn player Charlotte Keeffe in various different formations – solo with electronics; in a duo with Diego Sampieri (guitar); in the Charlotte Keeffe quartet with Moss Freed (guitar), Ben Handysides (drums) and Ashley John Long (double bass). We also hear Keeffe’s work composing for the London Improvisers Orchestra on three adventurous and frequently unpredictable, playful pieces.

The result is a collection that draws out an immediacy of playing and an adaptable, varied tone. The pieces she conducted for the London Improvisers Orchestra veer from intricate, scratchy electronics, howling bells and ominous voices (‘Mysterious Breath / This One’s For The Bees…’) to the joyfully chaotic, cataclysmically euphoric nod to Orchestra stalwart and Flying Lizard par excellence Steve Beresford (‘To Steve Beresford’).

Quartet pieces like ‘Sweet, Corn’ are full of enticing energy, the interplay of the rhythm section and Keeffe’s wild, urgent playing reaching several crescendos before pivoting toward hook-y melodies and finally into squalling, beautiful noise. A more contemplative tone can be heard on the pretty ‘A Horse Named Melody’, even as Handysides’ drumming seems hellbent on upending the piece toward messier territory. Whether in her quartet or in a duo with Sampieri, you can hear a perfect unity between Keeffe and guitarists, leading to some genuinely breathtaking, intertwined melodic runs on the gentle, captivating ‘OM’ in particular.

Another dimension to Keeffe’s all-encompassing approach can be heard on the two solo pieces. Here we find Keefe subjecting her trumpet and flugelhorn to a series of electronic processes, showcasing yet another side to her playing completely. ‘The Melody’s In The Post’ (inspired by a melody by Alicia Gardener-Trejo) finds her horns fading in and out over a bed of restless, itchy static that sounds like an after-hours Radiophonic Workshop for an astral jazz documentary that sadly never was. Something similar occurs on ‘Noizemaschin!!’, taken from Keeffe’s first live improvised solo set in 2017. Somewhat more restrained in its processing than ‘The Melody’s In The Post’, ‘Noizemaschin!!’ instead relies on washes of reverb and stuttering, chattering, inchoate passages interspersed with rapid note clusters, leading to a ghostly, atmospheric otherworldliness.

Right Here, Right Now by Charlotte Keeffe was released June 11 2021 by Discus Music.

Words: Mat Smith

(c) 2021 Further.

Fennesz – Szampler

Where is the best place to listen to Szampler, a collection of samples that Christian Fennesz put together between 1990 and 2000? 

I chose three settings.

The first was while I was making curry for dinner. After the first, chiming sound had dropped away into silence I thought my WiFi was playing up or I’d turned the volume down by mistake; a mistake I had indeed made when I was eventually confronted by a barrage of angry, metallic noise that near enough turned my remaining hair pure white.

The second was while I was in the supermarket early one Saturday morning, where it felt strangely anarchic to be listening to this while picking out vegetables and tomato purée.

The third time was while I was walking in the morning sunshine to our local high street, dodging joggers, dogwalkers and gleeful kids on bikes with stabilisers. 

In each setting, Szampler turned out to be a strangely fitting listen. All three places and actions had a certain familiarity – a recipe I’ve followed countless times before; a supermarket whose aisles I know like the back of my hand, with a shopping list that looks more or less the same as it did the week before; a walk that I’ve done so many times that I’m fairly certain you can see the residue of my slowly-dying Converse imprinted on the pavement if you look closely enough. 

In contrast, Fennesz’s hour-long sound library is wholly unfamiliar and unpredictable. It’s nigh-on impossible to guess what might come next. His sounds veer from angular noise, to amp static, to quiet not-quite-nothingness, to fierce distortion, to dub rhythms and 90s R&B beats, to preset patterns, to found sounds, to post-rock guitar passages, to plaintive piano, to snatches of overheard conversation, to outlines of melodies, to drones, to squealing electronic tones to… well, you get the gist.

There is no pattern here, yet it is not wholly random. The sounds are united by a sense of purpose – the planned use in compositions or live performance – and they’re not just sounds accumulated with a covetous desire to store and retain, yet hearing them back-to-back without context gives the collection a certain playfulness. You find yourself on the edge of your proverbial seat wondering what joys your ears might be subjected to next. In the wrong frame of mind, perhaps this would irritate; in the right frame of mind, it has a strangely soothing effect akin to equanimity – you can’t anticipate where he might go next, so why even try? 

Szampler was originally released as a limited edition (and much sought-after) cassette by The Tapeworm in 2010. The reissue as a digital file forms part of an initiative called The Digital Archive Of Tapeworm (or DAT), which label co-founder Philip Marshall hinted at when Further. interviewed him in 2019. Fennesz’s release joins a growing number of archive gems from The Pathfinders, Daniel Menche, Philip Jeck, Oren Ambarchi and others, operating in parallel to the label’s ongoing pursuit of cassette nirvana. 

Szampler by Fennesz was reissued by The Tapeworm / DAT on April 9 2021. 

Words: Mat Smith. 

(c) 2021 Further. 

Goodparley – Delay Cycle: Becoming / Sedative Songs

Two new albums from Cardiff’s Oli Richards released over the past couple of months, each intently focussed on the dreamy qualities of drone and reverb. 

Delay Cycle: Becoming is described by Richards as using the power of delay to “mimic the feeling of the repeated and ongoing shedding of emotional skin in the cyclical process of becoming a person”. With that sentiment at its centre, the album is a transcendent, and occasionally turbulent, experience. Across five pieces for guitar and electronics, Richards rarely leaves any sound untreated – small loops of unidentifiable provenance rise up, hang around and collapse in on themselves as delay, and its long decaying half-lives warp their original sonic fabric. 

‘Just A Reflection’ is a case in point, a quiet – yet highly dramatic – rumination that feels like watching the unstoppable aging of a person through the lens of a timelapse camera, its clustered tones feeling like an accelerated heartbeat, even as they descend into a murky fog of shadowy, impenetrable noise. In contrast, the album’s opener, ‘If The Surface Is Fogged Up’, has a reflectiveness that bespeaks of fragile hope and optimism, its splintered guitar tones acting as beatific, shimmering, crystalline splinters. The album’s highlight might well be ‘As A Form Of Grace’, a many-layered exploration of guitar melody that has a lightness of touch, even as it is bathed in psychedelic fuzziness. 

Richards’ album for Wormhole World finds itself in similarly contemplative territory, containing a triptych of pieces intended to soothe restless minds, yet which are frequently punctured by unanticipated moments of feisty noise. These moments act like distractions, like the clustered, insistent to-do lists that can enter the otherwise still mind of even the most experienced meditation practitioner. 

Using a palette of electronics, processed guitar and submerged conversations, Sedative Songs is appropriately named. These pieces are like a warm, enveloping, and much-needed salve, which Richards insists should be best experienced in the dark. If anything, they are more complex than Delay: Reflection, nearing a many-layered almost modern classical state of depth. On pieces like the sixteen-minute opener, ‘Sedative In Spring’, you find yourself following sounds until they dissipate into nothingness, grabbing at the next elusive gesture until it too evaporates into quietude, moments of backward guitar and quiet organ-like drones adding a feeling of inertia and stasis. 

Not for Richards the idea of long tones that stretch a melody out over a glacial timeframe: his approach is more dynamic, using ebbing and flowing layers of sonic interplay as a way of achieving the same, and ultimately calming, effect. Listened to as whole, in lightness or in dark, Sedative Songs is a truly beautiful, thought-provoking and necessary record. 

Delay: Reflection by Goodparley was released September 18 2020 by Recordiau Prin. Sedative Songs by Goodparley was released November 13 2020 by Wormhole World. 

Words: Mat Smith 

A Can Of (Tape)worms: Jiyeon Kim – Long Decay And New Earth / Not Now – Within The Beyond

Tapeworm

Two new cassettes from The Tapeworm, one from Seoul-based sound artist Jiyeon Kim and another from industrial music mainstay Peter Hope’s Not Now.

Kim’s tape captures two iterations of the same piece from December last year, both being as similar as they are different. The source for each version – a rehearsal and then a performance the following day – was a cassette, Piano Mixtape, released under the alias 11 earlier in the year. Piano Mixtape contained various sketches, recorded using a range of devices over a three year period.

For both iterations captured on Long Decay And New Earth, Kim processed the piano recordings using two techniques – one where she sampled and looped various resonances, fragments and tape hiss from the original Piano Mixtape, and another where she repeatedly dubbed and overdubbed the original recordings on cassette to ‘age’ and effectively degrade the quality of the original piano motifs. Given that processing, the resulting ‘decomposition’ – to use Kim’s word – could have sounded harsh and uncomfortable, but the opposite is true. These pieces retain a certain fragility, the interventions Kim applying adding a nostalgia and charm through imperfection, like playing a broken 78 shellac disc in a particularly poignant dream.

Not Now is a duo of Richard H. Kirk collaborator and Sufferhead member Peter Hope (vocals / electronics) and Henri Sizaret (computer-generated electronics). The six tracks included on Within The Beyond are punishing, edgy, techno-inflected cuts, like music for the final club night of the apocalypse, most likely at Berghain.

On opening track ‘Cage Glow’, Hope’s chanted vocals are delivered with pure demonic menace, supported by an architecture of intense, thunderous beats that sound like they were fashioned from the sounds of the printing press pushing out the flyers for the aforementioned end-of-days all-nighter. ‘P8 Sister’ prowls forth on a seductive bassline, its refrain of “Go, primate” carrying a sinister, cryptic quality, while the erratic ‘Fleixh’ sounds like its remixing itself randomly through a broken algorithm, a brief flash of techstep rhythm providing some semblance of stability toward the end. Easy listening for speeding paranoiacs, the polar opposite to Jiyeon Kim’s piano meditations.

Long Decay And New Earth by Jiyeon Kim and Within The Beyond by Not Now are out now on The Tapeworm. the-tapeworm.bandcamp.com

Words: Mat Smith

(c) 2020 Further.

Rupert Lally – Visions

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I need to learn how to relax.

I know this because when I listened to the title track from Swiss-based electronic artist Rupert Lally’s Visions EP, I began to get very stressed and unsettled, and not remotely meditative. There is an irony to this – the track floats forth on beatific pads and dreamy harmonies while a soothing, reassuring voice talks you through the process of entering a hypnotic state. By rights, with the way that track is set up, you should – by the time the narrator has concluded his lesson – be feeling completely at peace, just in time for Lally to swoop in with a sequence of crushing beats that completely disrupt the peace and jerk you out of that transient state. Or not, if you’re me, but I’m working on that.

“My week beats your year,” lamented Lou Reed; in Lally’s case, his year undoubtedly beats your decade, since calling his output prolific sells him significantly short. Since I covered the Day Of The Triffids and Dune soundtracks for Bibliotapes here back in 2019, he has released albums on Spun Out Of Control and Third Kind, contributed to Wormhole World’s excellent Retrophonica – Aetheric Transmissions project, Patch Bae’s Help Musicians compilation, has an album prepped for Neil Stringfellow / Audio Obscura’s 20×20 imprint and another for Modern Aviation, as well as other albums completed and ready for release later in the year. Maybe the inclusion of the hypnotic voice on the first track of Visions is intended for Lally himself…

Visions consists of five tracks blended into one, each spinning on its own unique sonic axis. ‘Induced’ is among the more robust of Lally’s tracks, juddering forth on a grid of beats that seem to follow a restless, jerky, randomised pattern that isn’t dissimilar to how my mind was racing on the first track. ‘Veils’ occupies a similar space, only the brilliant chaos comes through electronic sequences, pulses and passages that feel like they’ve been sliced and spliced with a razor, creating a frantic sense of disquiet.

‘Mirage’ has the widescreen, cinematic grandeur that charcterised Lally’s fantasy scores for Day Of The Triffids and Dune, full of danger, mystique and unfolding drama, while closing track ‘Exit’ is less an exit and more an entry point into a glistening landscape of ethereal textures and somnambulant drifting.

Visions by Rupert Lally is released on May 1 2020 through Bandcamp, who will be waiving artist fees again on May 1 2020 to support their musician community worldwide. Access Rupert Lally’s Bandcamp back catalogue here.

Words: Mat Smith

(c) 2020 Further.

Ross Downes – Stacked Up At Zero

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London-based electronic musician Ross Downes’s latest album for Trestle Records, Stacked Up At Zero, is a deeply personal journey through a difficult year, containing twelve short tracks freighted with a fragility, sparseness, and heavily emotional gestures.

Here, rhythms are clipped, pared back to the barest impulses; sounds emerge into a void, where their slowly-decaying textures and ensuing silences are as powerful as the sounds themselves; occasional bursts of carefully-sculpted noise or a deeply resonant drone slice through the tension creating an unanticipated tension and uncertainty, like unwelcome negative thoughts arriving in the forefront of your consciousness.

Tracks like ‘Recovery’ feel like dream-like trips on a stretcher through the clinical whiteness of a hospital, as seen through eyes that are barely open, while ‘An Island Hijacked’ has a gauzy, maudlin outlook framed by murky pads and randomised sounds that could be sonic approximations of gunfire; here we find threat and danger, sidestepping some of the questing, unresolved qualities to be found in haunting pieces like ‘Face To Face To Face’ or opening track ‘The Kind Animal’.

One of the most rhythmically complex pieces here is ‘Extincting’, which commences with what sounds like shamisen melodies offset by gently swaying synth passages. There is an overwhelming, latent grandeur to this piece, like trying to contemplate the horrifying vastness of the universe on a clear night.

This is just one of the sonic parlour tricks that Downes deploys across Stacked Up At Zero, all of which have the effect of sending your mind racing into fantastically visceral spaces: on ‘A Day Without’ we hear pretty, delicate tones crested with an icy sensitivity that then open out onto a murky, barren landscape of throbbing bass and harrowing noises that sound like robotic creatures burrowing for food in a circuit board desert; on ‘Waking Pareidolia’ we hear a buried pulse and bassy motifs, together creating a platform for cycles of plaintive pads and a heavy mood redolent of eighties movie soundtracks and all their associated fear, mystery and purpose.

What Ross Downes was working through while making this album is necessarily personal; his catharsis, however, has produced a fantastically complex record, full of arresting detail and evocative atmospherics that are utterly universal.

Stacked Up At Zero by Ross Downes is released May 1 2020 by Trestle Records.

Words: Mat Smith

(c) 2020 Further.