"An arbitrary succession of more or less irritating sounds"

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Don't mock

Revisitations dept: you can't have forgotten this drowsy, blurry masterpiece - a highlight of the dizzying run of indisputable & near-classics (also including this, this, this, this & this, plus rereleases/vinyl pressings like this, this & this, & this) that made Type last year's stand-out label - already? Even when drowsy & blurred LMYE struggles to nominate a more satisfying, more perfectly shaped member of that brilliant Type relay than Persona - its flooding warmth, its tantalising slowness, its complexity of mood (somewhere beyond melancholy or yearning or resignation)...

You'd hope it doesn't, of course. But if the five years it took Andreas to follow up predecessor Album (stream both releases in full below) has now to be repeated, so be it. As a richly throbbing, scratchy sketch recently SoundClouded in his own name (also streaming below), the Mokira experiments covered earlier this year (here & here) or a relentless pre-Persona one-off all show, there'll be riches to savour whichever version of himself (including countless other guises - Sheet Fig, anyone?) he opts to display...

"A day and night in the studio with some new effects that had to be tested. I'll finish this track later on this autumn. Too hot to make ambient right now."

Photo by Jesper Berg.

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

Sunday, 29 August 2010

Attack formation

Broken20 ("releases concerned with decay, erosion, entropy, mistakes and errors, line noise and tape hiss, hum and buzz" - a first look here) seems to be gaining ever more traction. After an almost daily accumulation of potent mixes (Erik XVI's jaw-droppingly brilliant "valium-paced four to the floor" The Fading Splendour of a Technological Future setting some kind of high water mark) & welcome 'precursor' rereleases, a full-blown album from the label overlord will be surfacing any minute now - frisky excerpt below...

So too will new gear from the great Erstlaub - classic wind-blown, metallic austerity drone, but with a sweeter kernel than this most exacting artist normally allows himself (again, excerpted below...).

Meanwhile, Ruaridh/TVO & Production Unit's Rose and Sandy droney zither excursion is now called Cat's Cradle (out in a month on the fine Moving Furniture). It's hard, though, not to feel wistful for the Zither Attack Formation name that was in earlier circulation - though how seriously that was intended remains unclear.

In any case, the music remains improbable & beguiling - & a quite legitimate heir to Laraaji's Days of Radiance, the obvious comparison.

"A tiny little slice of 'The Last Few Seconds Before Sleep' which I'll be performing for the first time in public at the N-ilk festival at the Botanic Gardens, Dundee on September 11th, 2010.

The full 40ish minute piece will be released on Broken20 later in the year. Built entirely using a Nord Modular G2, recorded using a couple of delay units in one pass."

"Just before sleep, in the Limbo between the conscious mind and the great abyss, I become aware of a tiny sound. A minute burst of white noise lasting just a few seconds in linear time, this is the gap between worlds. Aware but powerless to act, I know this sound inside out, a minute piece of sonic cartography that contains all the information in the universe, the whirring of a vast organic hard-drive as the processor performs a memory dump between logic and something much bigger and weirder. delay lines feedback to Omega Point, choirs of particles stream towards event horizons, linear time holds no sway here this vast but tiny sound contains all of time and space and possibility."

"I don't know exactly what the instrument is. It's probably a kind of zither; that's how my dad described it to me when he first told me about it.I was immediately fascinated by his description: a set of strings on the left side that was blocked into eleven chromatic 'chord banks', each adjustable between major, minor and suspended fourth via little levers at the front that literally tightened the string by a semitone; on the right, three octaves of notes backed by an image of a piano keyboard for guidance.When I finally set eyes on it, I was in love; it's a truly beautiful object, about three feet wide and two deep, with surprisingly detailed religious iconography inside each of the sound holes.And then there was the sound - like plucked piano strings, but with resonance that's amazing even for an acoustic instrument.A single note can hold for a couple of minutes if there's an adequate surfeit of background noise.

It came into my father's possession as a loan from some nuns he knew through his church work.I know.One older sister at the convent had played it at times of worship, but since she had passed away it wasn't used, so they wondered if he had a use for it. It was a kind of extended loan of the sort that often occurs in the weird system of quasi-ownership that persists in these circles.I hinted heavily until such time as the freehold drifted towards me.
I was told that the usual technique was to only pluck the melody on the right hand side and let the chords on the left thrum by themselves through vibration. It was a beguiling notion, and it does work, but there are so many other options, including prepared techniques, hitting notes in different ways, and adjusting which part of the string is struck, that I tended to run the whole gamut.

Every google search I've tried brings up similar-ish things, but nothing quite like this. It could be unique, but I doubt it; I'm guessing it's just a little obscure.

As soon as I heard it, I determined to collaborate with Rose on a project not dissimilar to his Accrual venture, whereby live instrumentation (guitar, in the case of Accrual) was used as the solitary sound source and processed live.All of the work you hear was created in two impromptu sessions where we agreed a key, hit record and just started playing.The only edits are start and end points, plus a splicing of each of the five pieces together to make a single track.

We've called it 'Cat's Cradle'.It represents a few different notions:Firstly, the many strings mirror the manifold web of twine used in the child's game of the same name; second, we've both become fathers in the recent past and I wanted to reflect the multitude of joy, worry and responsibility that "the cradle" brings; thirdly, there's the air of puzzle in much of my dealings with the instrument, be they of its origin or my (at times clumsy) playing. Imperfection and the sense of an ever-evolving process seemed to dominate its aura, so the naive complexity of the tactile folk game seemed to fit well.

I had originally done something vaguely along the lines of automatic writing for liner notes, whereby I just let me mind wonder as the music was played back in realtime, but it didn't chime too well. In the end, it could be summed up in one line: "We pass the cradle back and forth.I hope I never make a mistake."

We hope that the sound could be recreated in a live environment, as that's essentially how it was created, but there's a drawback:somebody (i.e. me) will have to tune the 114 strings..."

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

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Predetermined streets

The brilliance of so much of the Comatonse back catalogue ('unusually queer releases...since 1993') tempts me to a painfully exhaustive, anoraky exploration. A no holds barred version'll have to wait for another time, but refocusing on her/his endlessly engaging music this week demands at least another quick look.

Although it also features some productions of cohorts (hoping to feature one of these shortly...), Comatonse is mainly a repository of work by Terre Thaemlitz in a variety of guises - TT, DJ Sprinkles, Kami-Sakunobe House Explosion (K-S.H.E), Terre's Neu Wuss Fusion et al. Hear a series of his/her scintillating & deeply moving - in every sense - reappropriations of deep house below.

"Today's dancefloors are wakes in remembrance of a mythological era of openness that never was. Remember where you were. See where you are.... I'm in Kami-Sakunobe."

"direct social action

is more than slogans penned on cardboard

and carried down predetermined streets

to the endless beats

of trite rhymes

spoken out of times when

a crippled left wing soars with the right"

""Stripped and minimal.... New York.... Newark.... Chicago.... Toronto...? These are reconstructed memories of the sounds embraced by late '80s underground House culture.... Particularly among Latinos and African Americans.... Queer.... Tranny.... Fierce.... Ova.... Ovaplayed...? Quickly subjected to cultural decontextualization and commercialization.... A decade passes.... Now this.... Possibly an attempt to decommodify a musical era.... Probably yet another form of communal exploitation."

(Hat tip to @NocturnalHum for the link...)

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

Monday, 2 August 2010

Born of silence

Challenging, really, to encapsulate all 30 hours of the world's first full-length MP3 album in a glib little blog post with a train to catch imminently. Never mind untangling the complexities behind the idea that "a producer coming from an anti-spiritual, socio-materialist perspective can culturally arrive at the same sound others are apt to call "soulful," and by extension many of his listeners must also secretly use those sounds for completely different ends than those commonly prescribed"...

But Terre Thaemlitz remains an LMYE hero/ine, whether as DJ Sprinkles or under what I assume is her/his given name (however unlikely, in either guise, to accept the notion of heroism). & Saturday's ugly revelations about the Mille Plateaux back catalogue demand some kind of acknowledgement.

They also provide an incidental reminder about Thaemlitz's hopefully forthcoming Soulnessless. Hear four tantalising extracts from this investigative, reflective epic, whose ambition & intelligence appears to match its immense scale, below.

"Thaemlitz investigates a series of seemingly disjunctive events and contexts - from an intense meditation on the functions of labor within academic computer music, to the social messages underlying the unusual frequency of ghosts and hauntings experienced by undocumented Filipina/o workers in Japan, to the use of electronic audio devices by nuns in their convents, to the secret anti-war function of Catholic military prep schools in the U.S. The overall story is not linear, but constitutes a complex layering of simultaneous discourses, many subjects of which gain their power from secrecy and resisting Thaemlitz' attempts at documentation. Meditating upon a massive field of recorded media, one becomes aware of critical information remaining unheard/unseen/unwritten. Thaemlitz is not interested in romanticizing or celebrating such invisibilities, nor seeking forms of empowerment; but simply seeks to identify forms of violence as they are mutually averted by and born of silence.

Stylistically, Soulnessless is often conventionally meditative and soulful - some may even say spiritual (cringe). This is, of course, an extension of Thaemlitz' ongoing critique of the socio-material processes that condition the production and reception of audio genres. This critique has informed all of his albums in the unfortunately spiritual-laden genres of Ambient and Deep House (the appeal of which, for Thaemlitz, lies in histories of socialist-inspired Constructivism from the 1910's, and the sound of discotheques frequented by members of direct-action movements from the 1980's which spawned many of today's critiques of identity politics). Drawing from her own experiences as a non-spiritual consumer culturally forced to internalize and identify with dominant spiritual-laden media, Thaemlitz seeks to show how non-believers build affinities for sounds with self-defeating associations. As a result, a producer's arrival at a particular sound is not reflective of the "musician's heart" nor any other claims of authenticity, since the producer's "heart" (or intent) may in fact be betrayed by dominant associations with the sounds at hand. While most listeners and critics would be quick to label such producers as "phoney" or possibly even "culturally exploitative," Thaemlitz asserts the real act of exploitation is the one enacted by dominant culture against the social and subjective interests of those of us who are forced to "fake it" through life...

...Over four years in production, Soulnessless promises to be more than a long anticipated follow-up to Thaemlitz' final electroacoustic album for Mille Plateaux, Lovebomb/愛の爆弾, which was quietly released without fanfare (or payment) at the verge of their bankruptcy in 2003. It shall present a real, material response to the dilemmas of contemporary digital audio production, all the while leading listeners through a multi-media series of twists and turns that takes a minimum of days to consume, and weeks to digest."

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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