"An arbitrary succession of more or less irritating sounds"

Saturday, 28 November 2009

Elastic tension

The Bundeskanzlerin must be putting something into the water. Leaving aside remasters like Kraftwerk's, 2009 has brought a raft of great new music from apparently reinvigorated Old Masters of several generations of German electronica: the Moritz von Oswald Trio's Vertical Ascent, Mark Ernestus' remix of Tortoise's Gigantes, Jelinek/Leichtmann/Pekler's Groupshow (& here) & Cluster's Qua are just a few prominent examples.

Robert Henke's Monolake project belongs in this elite company too. "Monolake is about complexity, about details, about the elastic tension between beats in the foreground and textural elements in the background."

Three outstanding releases this year - Silence, Atlas Titan & Atlas T++ Remix - are testimony to its vigorous health 13 years on from those pioneering Chain Reaction 12"s (& over 20 since Henke first met Gerhard Behles via Wieland Samolak).

Atlas' energy & atmosphere take a different, more distant turn in the glistening, dense rain of T++'s version (extended by his more abstract Test#10Seed_Bit, "based on nothing"). The cavernous Titan, meanwhile, is something of a dub techno masterclass.

But Silence surprises most. Far from the wispy, ethereal set suggested by its name, its relentless, punchy motion flogs a wealth of found sounds ("field recordings of airport announcements, hammering on metal plates at the former Kabelwerk Oberspree, Berlin, several sounds captured inside the large radio antenna dome at Teufelsberg, Berlin, dripping water at the Botanical Garden Florence, air condition systems and turbines in Las Vegas, Frankfurt and Tokyo, walking on rocks in Joshua Tree National Park, wind from the Grand Canyon, a friends answering machine, a printer, conversations via mobile phones, typing on an old Macintosh keyboard and recordings from tunnel works in Switzerland") into a spare, vital whole - in which whirring zither & click-drum make a kind of continuing marker.

Silence production notes (II): "The music on this album has not been compressed, limited or maximized at any production stage. Why not? Once upon a time, music had dynamics. There were loud parts, and there were more quiet parts. Then came radio. In radio there is a technical limit for the transmittable maximum volume. As a consequence the average level of music with a high dynamic range is lower than the average level of music with a low dynamic range. The loudest possible music in radio is music where every element is constantly hitting the limit, music with no dynamics at all. Radio, and more recently mp3 players and laptop speakers influenced the way popular music is composed, produced and mastered: Every single event has to be at maximum level all the time. This works best with music that is sonically simple, and music in which only a few elements are interacting. A symphony does not sound convincing thru a mobile phone speaker, and a maximized symphony does not sound convincing at all.

Monolake is about complexity, about details, about the elastic tension between beats in the foreground and textural elements in the background. We want to preserve that balance as much as possible in the final product and this is why the music on this album is produced without applying any compression.

About the mastering: Mastering was done entierly in the anolog domain, using a selection of vintage and high end EQs running at 'hot levels'. This implies there is a certain degree of saturation going on in very loud parts due to electrical characteristics of the tubes, transistors and audio transformers involved, but that's it as far as nonlinear behaviour is concerned."

LMYE hacks of monolake.de's samples from the releases into a couple of user-friendly tasters are below. Obviously, after hearing them you'll be rushing out to buy the lot...

On the way, savour the site's many treats. Its host of free downloads include a recommended piece from former Monolake member & Atlas remixer T++ (Therefore_Version 5) & a live encounter between Henke and Hauntologist/Cheap & Deepster Jay Ahern (Termulator X Live in Belgrade).

It also goes some way to suggest Henke's considerable hinterland - his art installations, his pioneering work with software & his deep thinking about sound (check out the fascinating interview between Henke & mastering, er, master Rashad Becker).

Important: LMYE only makes music available that artists/labels have chosen to share freely. Let us know if something here shouldn't be.

Thursday, 19 November 2009


Rude not to department (continued): to sort-of commemorate an event I missed last week, guttingly (predictably great reviews here & here, though), a pair of post-jazzings in somewhat Nordic style - floaty, layered, ruminative - with delicious percussive underpinning in one case & a nicely splintering scratchy counterpoint in the other...

Giveaway also includes an edit of Vladislav Delay's Melankolia (previously covered here).

Food > Khymos (from Molecular Gastronomy, Rune Grammafon)

Eyebrow > Desire Line [edit] (from Desire Lines, self-released)

Important: LMYE only makes music available that artists/labels have chosen to share freely. Let us know if something here shouldn't be.

Monday, 16 November 2009

Old gits

In truth, I'm more engaged by Professor Scanner's compelling new Conversations with the Dead & his mesmerising iPhone Whisper than the new Githead - even after fellow Git Colin Newman's fine recent trans-generational WireTortoise collaboration.

But Landing's arrival is also a welcome excuse to revisit some classics of earlier Gittery. On form, this unlikely collision of talents sums each other's disparate parts into something distinctive & valuable - Newman's sardonic, knowing vocals freighted in a gliding post-postpunk...

Githead > To Have and to Hold (from Headgit, Swim) > Option Paralysis (from Profile, Swim)

NB: top photo by Arne Wojciechowski

Bonus: Scanner > Moscow Radio (from scannerdot.com)

Important: LMYE only makes music available that artists/labels have chosen to share freely. Let us know if something here shouldn't be.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Mogul reinvention

Now that Allez-Allez are reinventing themselves as recording artists & industry moguls, they're getting the remixers in.

You'll have heard Shackleton's epic Sometimes in Autumn Harmonia/Eno remix for their Amazing Sounds [head here immediately if you somehow haven't]. The paired Appleblim/Komonazmuk's By the Riverside completes this week's white vinyl (!)/download release & is also on Allez's recent AS mix - featured here in last month's round-up of Tweeted mix treats (& also including Allez Sam's Walls collaboration).

Now Allez's fine debut, Defeatist, is also out (via Kickboxer - a Kompakt relative, apparently). It's offered in a host of flavours on top of the fierce original - justly self-described as "a growling analogue peak time stormer". LMYE's most partial to the distantly ringing Ricardo Tobar version.

But the package excludes an awesome ambient krautronica version by Somfay - so much to admire in his sustained 10-minute Doubled Up Foldable Iona Rarity (whatever that is!) excursion : that affecting, plaintive organ line, the skittery, ultra-dry beats, the subtle tensions & sense of bare containment, the swelling clouds of noise, the bell-rung ending...

Bonus: Somfay > Bristlecone (from somfay.ca)

NB: higher-res versions available here & here. Plenty more Somfay on Soundcloud & (with his Archipel co-conspirators) archive.org.

Important: LMYE only makes music available that artists/labels have chosen to share freely. Let us know if something here shouldn't be.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Nice work

Exemplary clangfest from new Warpsters Nice Nice (MySpace) - an urgent chant flogged along by a nicely noisy brew of skittering toms, squelchy electronica & something that sounds suspiciously like a penny whistle, underpinned all the while by a big booming bass drum...

Blurb: "We really wanted to capture/reflect what we do live. We focused on trying to convey elements that we think have generally characterized our live show: high energy explosiveness, bright colorful textures, lots of rhythm, large dynamic movement, willingness to explore new directions," says Jason Buehler, one half of Nice Nice.

"A big part of what makes our live show engaging is the “freakshow” factor of watching us build the loops live and interact on top, hopefully the intensity of the recorded music compensates for that. We hope people will hear the record and think "that was a trip, I want to experience that live" - and we hope that it will blow a few minds."

Nice Nice > Ark Drum (from One Hit, Warp - & perhaps the forthcoming [April 2010] Extra Wow album too...)

Important: LMYE only makes music available that artists/labels have chosen to share freely. Let us know if something here shouldn't be.

Monday, 9 November 2009

The next four minutes...

I've heard the future. It's not even a whole track, but to these ears the second half of
s p a t i a l's 90729 (on his own Infrasonics) is the year's most forward-looking, next-level, game-changing [insert additional cliches of choice] dance record.

No, really. Forget Hyph Mngo (great though it is). When 90729's pan-galactic low-end announces itself at 3:00 precisely, we're being signalled the thrilling sound of contemporary bass/garage in mid-morph.

Flicking either side of its implacable, lurching core, flitting into & instantly out of its voice snippets again while accumulating an ever more clattering, clicky percussive momentum, the next four minutes tell us what this music is supposed to sound like next.

The plinkily swinging 90807 & brisk, blithe Creative Commons goodie 90731 aren't too shabby either...

s p a t i a l > 90731 (from infra003 EP, Infrasonics - previews of 90729 & 90807 here)

NB: s p a t i a l himself (featured previously on LMYE here) is rather more modest about 90729. In an exchange with LMYE before this weekend's Infrasonics rave, he was quick to shrug off any comparison with the more overtly ecstatic Hyph.
BONUS: Ike Release - Sonic Router mix ("an exclusive mix of his own, mostly unreleased material")

Important: LMYE only makes music available that artists/labels have chosen to share freely. Let us know if something here shouldn't be.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Blissy tricks

No, it's none too minimal - & no less delicious for that. The techno cognoscenti may not rate Luciano's Tribute to the Sun, but to these ears Sun, Day and Night is a superbly zestful, percussion-drenched treat for a Sunday: languid yet propulsive, studded with blissy tricks, claps, whacks & sparkle...

Update: as for the rest of the album, I've only heard Celestial, Hang for Bruno & Metodisma so far. Although the hang showcase never recovers from its rapid degeneration into sub-Herb Albert cheese, the other two (notwithstanding a self-consciously 'celestial' interlude on the otherwise bone-dry former) exhibit a crispness & invention that belie Tribute's fairly sphincter-clenchingly awful cover...

Important: LMYE only makes music available that artists/labels have chosen to share freely. Let us know if something here shouldn't be.

Saturday, 7 November 2009

Foothills or meadows

"A kind of formless post-stoner rock combining a limited sound palette, musical development & emotional range with a near-limitless protractedness…"

I’m an unashamed Mountains lover. But even — or especially — with an appetite for their shimmering, accumulating sound that takes in any release I can find (including both solo guises), it’s worth trying to imagine why people might not love their music.

Only for a moment, though, as those people are wrong! For me, Mountains’ limits & limitlessness are at the core of their uniqueness. Listening back across their albums before Choral & Etching, they seem always to have had this subtly self-confident willingness to work & rework their narrow but, in its sly, slow way, very intense furrow — gentle, accepting, somewhat yearning (but muted).

You could say that the newer records, the relatively vigorous Etching especially, are in more obviously Mountainous terrain: yomping up to single note-driven swollen, riffy peaks, then ebbing down to regroup below. But I’ve never found that their name fits them at all well — this is music of the foothills or meadows, one that is precisely not about soaring peaks but rather long (not arduous) journeys or undertakings.

There’s also a timelessness at work, clearly – both indifference to conventional notions of structure, of starting & ending, & in the sense of a sound out of time: not especially contemporary nor actively backwards-looking either (though fans of Another Green World-era art-rock might feel an unexpected spark of recognition at some of the textures making up Etching’s lovely murk).

Etching has a definite performance feel (though that might be down to Thrill Jockey sharing the circumstances of its making, I concede). I seem to hear more overt kinetic energy than before, though the languid, reflective tempo has hardly altered.

It’s a dense, rich sound of several boxes of tricks being emptied out & put to play – more strummed than I remember from initial listens, but also clattering, buzzing & with a darker, riffier tone towards the end.

And although there’s evidently not a vast narrative arc from something like 2005’s lovely Blown Glass Typewriter or the previous year’s more glitch-droney Tonic performance to now, there’s been more than enough enriching of the sound along the way to make want to hear where it goes next…

I mentioned there being more strums than I remembered from early listens of Etching. What I didn’t mention is how relatively dispensable a part of the Mountainscape they can sometimes seem.

Perhaps it’s just my prejudice. But granted the power to ban Mountains from their acoustic guitar (guitars?), I might be tempted – to force them to work even more with the blobbier, more viscous part of their sound, or even to dig out the bells of Melodica another time.

But then I’m back at the limbering start of Etching, where they seem integral & coherent (if not ear-grabbing). Still, some passages on Choral – the start of Telescope, for example – I’d consider purging from the record!

It’s interesting to put Mountains up against Emeralds (the closest peer?). In this light the duo’s bristly, blurred sound seems more individual & less rooted in a single influence than the excellent Emeralds of What Happened & the European tour CD…

In this light, consider the new Cluster album (Qua) too – their first studio recording in 14 years. The lovable old krautlords are now trafficking in notably short little pieces in contrast to Mountains’ languid unravelling.

NB: post stitched out of LMYE's contribution to a recent Disquiet discussion... Go here & here for typically great reviews of Mountains live in London & of Etching from mapsadaisical & The Milk Factory.

Mountains > Etching [edit] (from Etching, Thrill Jockey)

Important: LMYE only makes music available that artists/labels have chosen to share freely. Let us know if something here shouldn't be.

Friday, 6 November 2009

To the waterfront

A perfect, gleaming poptronica gem, made in a mere afternoon: Pezzner & LMYE regular Lusine throw together a handful of Seattle found sounds with breathy & regal vocals & a little Reichian plink to create the moving (emotionally & kinetically) Station to Station for XLR8R.

Pezzner & Lusine > Station to Station (unreleased)

Important: LMYE only makes music available that artists/labels have chosen to share freely. Let us know if something here shouldn't be.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Martian shoe factory

Why isn't this something more people are talking about? Perhaps I just wasn't listening, but the first studio album in 14 years from krautlords & premium collaborators - not just with Eno but, in a couple of Sundays' time, the de-hibernating Tortoise too - Cluster is a landmark that merits a bit of a fuss. I feel fanboy breathlessness coming on...

What's more, Qua sounds both as expert as you might expect with 40 years' pioneering experience behind it & way more engaged than conceivable after all this time: from the clanging, noodling So Ney & clicky Na Ernel to the lugubrious Xanesra, Cluster's textured, loping playfulness is present & correct. Oh, & a creaky door gets played too....

"After a 14-year stretch of releasing only live albums, the duo of Hans-Joachim Roedelius and Dieter Moebius — more succinctly known as Cluster — has emerged from Tim Story’s Ohio studio with another Cluster classic, Qua.

“It’s like having a cup of coffee and a donut in the middle of a Martian shoe factory,” says Story of his first experience producing a Cluster session. “Moebi and Achim always have the incredible knack of carving a bit of warmth and humanity out of the most unlikely elements. On Qua, there's a surprisingly melodic solo that Moe performed on our squeaky bathroom door, and a virtuoso performance ‘playing’ the feedback from the unplugged end of a guitar cable. Meanwhile, Ach plays a bass line on our old orange Farfisa organ — and naturally centers his riff around the one note that's broken.”

The squeaky-door solo is one of many mysterious sounds on the 17-track Qua that Cluster and Story have sewn together to make seamless, artful music out of what others hear as noise.

Story muses: “It’s what makes Cluster absolutely unique — taking the debris of life, and the sounds most other people would ‘tune out’, and turning them into supremely odd, but engagingly human poetry. A happy marriage of Dada and romance.”

That happy marriage (albeit with its on-again, off-again moments [see the glaring omission from Moebius' links - LMYE]) has continued for nearly 40 years — so it would be a natural to assume that the music resulting from Cluster’s return to the studio would have been something of a nostalgia trip. But at an age when other musicians are making bank on old ideas, Cluster is making music that is in every way new.

“When we first starting talking about making this record, I imagined a 20th-century version of Sowiesoso or Zuckerzeit,” recalls Story, “abandoning for now the long, freeform improvisations that had been a staple of Cluster’s recent live performances, and revisiting the short idiosyncratic miniatures that we would be able to achieve in a studio setting. But even I wouldn’t have guessed that a total of 17 great pieces would result — each with it’s own inner logic and personality, and all working within the framework of the whole.”

Even more remarkably, Qua’s 17 tracks aren’t just audio novelties — they have a richness of texture, tone and character unexpected in the electronic music genre. Perhaps the most surprising thing about Cluster’s sound-as-sandbox approach to music — and why they’ve inspired so many other influential musicians — is that they explore inventive and expressive potentials in electronic music seldom realized by others.

Story concludes: “With the humbling honor of being the first Cluster ‘producer’ in several decades, I felt my main duty was to give Ach and Moebi as many good options as possible, then get out of the way, and record their process as transparently as I could. Hopefully, Qua captures the richness and humor and the warmth that made the recording sessions so much fun for all of us."

Below, a taste via an LMYE-'curated' 'hack' (meaning I glued some samples together & changed their running order from the album's...).

Cluster > Qua-lude [LMYE hack] (from Qua, Nepenthe)

Important: LMYE only makes music available that artists/labels have chosen to share freely. Let us know if something here shouldn't be.
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