Happiness Will Befall




Lumottu Karkkipurkki (Vapaa Systeemi)

[Fonal Records,]

Freq_Out 2

[Ash International,]

Ambience is everywhere, whether you choose to acknowledge it or not. From the tiniest of sounds - a mosquito flying by your ear - to the annoying noises - planes constantly flying over your house, sound is there to wash all over you. Even silence has its place in the scheme of things. Formed in Nashville in 1986 by the duo of Dac Crowell and Jim Irwin [who has since passed on to the other side due to AIDS - 50% of profits from the release of this record are being donated to HIV/AIDS research], LVXUS prides itself on creating a slowly evolving aural landscape. Giving much credit to Brian Eno's "Music For" series, Dac and Jim utilize synths, occasional percussion, tapes and sound processing to give "Cloudland" a freely floating form. Believe it or not, this recording actually goes back to 1988. It is only now being released due to the utter stubbornness of both musicians. Sometime after it was recorded, they actually got an offer from a big record conglomerate, who offered them a ton of cash. The only issue was that they would market this music under the new age moniker, which is something both musicians felt utter disgust for. First thing that ultimately grabs me about their music are the utter nuances. Their perfect ear for details is phenomenal. Repetitive synth loops are featured prominently on both long half-an-hour tracks. These are imposed on top of other keyboard samples that just ride on and on and on. Nothing much happens in terms of climaxes or any "big" moments. Rather, "Cloudland" is all about those little glittering moments that just make sense. Sure this is calming music. Is it boring? Never! The 17 year wait to hear this record was well worth it. Lawrence English's "Ghost Towns" [Room 40] was a personal revelation to me. This Australian sound artist basically visited a number of ghost towns in the back lands of his native land to uncover sounds that are barely audible to the human ear. This time around, his newest release "Happiness Will Befall" is more concerned with the computer generated sounds. Aural landscapes he puts down here on his computer and with his guitar are stark, direct, sometimes brutal but always unnerving. On "Parallel (midgap)", he explores an extremely high-pitched squeaky sound, that by the middle of the piece exacts pain in your ears. Underneath this sound, there is lurking of a processed guitar, which in itself is an interesting juxtaposition. "Within Confines of Glass" once again repeats the process. Starting off with a wash of repetitive wash-out sounds, it progresses into a more subtle mid-section [where things calm down for a couple of minutes], ending up with a mad processed guitar onslaught at the end. Other pieces take a more laid-back approach and don't attack your ears with nearly as much force. When all is said and done, "Happiness Will Befall" is an unsettling affair from a composer who seems somewhat schizophrenic, one who is still searching for his "way". Then again, who knows maybe he's already found his way? Getting back to a more subtle approach, we get "1105", a duo project from Gaudi and Antonio Testa. Using a mish-mash of recycled instruments and percussion, both men have a tendency to favour a dense and multiplex atmosphere - one that evolves slowly. Their new record is a blend of atmospherics, ambient sculptures that don't give your mind a minute's rest. Samples of chirping birds, swooshing and spacey synth work along with a multitude of keyboards are heard throughout the CD. Organic sounds. That's what these 75 minutes are. Pure, organic flow of sculptured sounds that flow, caress and fondle with the ear drums but also get under your skin and somehow deep into your gut. What's interesting is the rhythmic passages. Mid-way through "Micro-evolution", a light percussive hollow beat emerges out of the woodwork. It lingers in the air, while a synth attempts to override it from every direction. "Dub Hypnosis" is a nine minute dub overkill that once again has a hollow reverberation. [the mix is definitely not heavy in the bottom register] That same dub feel is repeated all over again on "No Escape", though this time around it's heavily processed and sounds as if it's turned inside out. Taking you on a bizarre journey that calms and surprises, "1105" is a cure for a soothing headache. Like a ghost out of nowhere, Kemialliset Ystavat is a project by Finnish hermit by the name of Jan Anderzén. The name of his project translates roughly to Chemical Friends. Jan's influences ran the gamut - from obscure to the less underground stuff - but all of it can be put under the heading of dada-music. This guy has no formal music training. This sounds like the sort of a project where Jan goes out to flea markets and buys used instruments galore. Then he shows off their capabilities to those music freaks that need to know. Incidentally, all of this works in spades. While the opening track "Lumottu Karkkipurkki" starts off with a bunch of jarbled, water-like sounds, midway it changes directions and bursts open with an assault of poorly recorded guitar feedback with some jarbled vocals hiding underneath. From this point on, it only gets weirder and scarier. Without loosing any intensity, Jan manoeuvres his project with ghost-like vocals, strange hisses, other-worldly percussion and even lovely caressing ballads. Cheap organs, guitars, tape machines and who knows what else permeate the planet that Jan lives on. This is certainly trippy music - music that will truly turn your brain inside out. Simply put, the record challenges your perspectives on what music can be. From an atmospheric perspective, "Lumottu Karkkipurkki (Vapaa Systeemi)" turns out to be a success. Undiluted, unfiltered and unmixed, these are the sounds of Finland. "Freq_Out 2" is a bit of an abnormality. Given the fact that laptops are common music-making tools, it's still rather infrequent to see an orchestra of laptops given a cohesive performance. Swedish artist CM von Hausswolff assembled an all-star cast of laptop/electro-acoustic devotees [these people were actually artists, architects, composers, producers, sculptors, etc.] from around the world [Kent Tankred, Maia Urstad, BJNilsen, Jacob Kirkegaard, Brandon LaBelle, J.G. Thirlwell, CM von Hausswolff, Mike Harding, PerMagnus Lindborg, Petteri Nisunen, Jana Winderen, Finnbogi Pétursson, Tommi Grönlund and Franz Pomassl] and asked them to play in a certain frequency range. Everything here was live and recorded onto tape as it happened. Each member of this impromptu orchestra had a workstation of a mixing desk and a PA system. Everything was then mixed and melted to create the final results. The results are certainly not the chaos you may expect. Rather calming in nature, the sounds have a flowing quality to them. Imagine you're listening to a soft electric current with an array of fuzzy background humming and you'll get the gist of this record. Gentle piercing of bell and chime-like sounds along with this noise that resembles a howling wind are just two images that come to mind as I listen to this for the umpteenth time. Truly effective landscape that has an ability not to overpower the listener with too much "stuff" all at once, the hour of seamless music on "Freq_Out 2" is well orchestrated and perfectly programmed.

- Tom Sekowski

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+ THE TIPTONS - Tsunami / DEREK BAILEY / AMY DENIO / DENNIS PALMER - The Gospel Record: The Reference Edition
+ THE DRONES - Wait long by the river and the bodies of your enemies will float by
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