Opaque (+RE)


The Art of Improvisation

[Mutable Music,]

Late Night Driving

[Clone Records,]

Brazilian Lounge

[Putumayo, /]

We Hate You and Hope You Die

[Devil Doll Records,]

Action Painting

[Em:t Records,]

Acid Evolution 1988 - 2003

[Logistic Records,]

Amor de Computadora

[Sonic 360,]

Dog Days


Wise person once said, "To know variety of music is a good thing. To piss on a category is ignorance".
Back in the fall of 2003, Steinbruchel was commission to produce a piece for the surround listening room at the Music Festival Taktlos in Berne, Switzerland. The original "Opaque" piece is featured as the first track on the CD. It's a mixture of gentle electronic hums, buzzes, clicks and pops, while maintaining a lovely down-tempo feel. Once this track was complete, Room40 owner Lawrence English asked five other artists to reinterpret Steinbruchel's piece based only on sound files from the original. In addition, each artist was asked to use a concrete approach when attempting their version of the track. The Neck's Chris Abrahams was asked to utilize piano when mixing files from original track, while Taylor Deupree was asked to create a track based purely on processed melody. Oren Ambarchi was asked to work in combination with guitar, while Toshiya Tsunoda had to work only with field recordings. Not to forget Ben Frost, whose main tool was to work with processed feedback. Each of the five re-interpretations has something wildly new to offer. While Chris Abrahams "Falling into Places" adds soft clicking touches of the piano, thus creating a more brisk mood for the original piece, Ben Frost's "Vedurathugan" is a conglomeration of utterly spooked-out feedback that gets denser and more opaque as the ten-minute piece moves forward. Taylor Deupree's "Forest/Opaque" is a tentative, calm study of melodic side of the piece. One of the calmest takes on "Opaque" is Oren Ambarchi's "Lost Time Not Found Again" - a brief two minute interpretation, with heavily processed guitar providing the main backbone. Finally, we arrive at Toshiya Tsunoda's "Untitled" piece. During its ten minute duration, Tsunoda's field recordings are reminiscent more of a dark, gloomy chamber recording than something that may have been recorded out in the "field". Lingering, bass tones fill the piece as it manoeuvres slowly on its way. Each of the five sound artists can proudly say they've not only matched the beauty of Steinbruchel's original piece, but have outdone it.
No wonder "The Art of Improvisation" was recorded at an AACM concert. Violinist Leroy Jenkins is a member in good standing of that fine creative organization. His quartet for the concert is one that was intentionally put together with the word "world class" in mind. Made up of pipa player Min Xiao-Fen, pianist Denman Maroney, percussionist Rich O'Donnell and Leroy Jenkins on violin, these four are revved up from beginning to end. Though all four pieces are strictly composed by Jenkins, each quartet member is allowed plenty of space to work in. Sticking to the maxim of improvisation is best, restraint is not an issue. Some of the best moments involve pipa-piano duels, where both Xiao-Fen and Maroney seem to be working in unison but yet strangely enough create enough tension to make proceedings sound interesting. Jenkins' scraping violin patterns are heard everywhere and they're especially effective when he works against an ebb-and-flow stuttering patterns that Xiao-Fen lays out with the pipa. Rich O'Donnell completes the quartet with the lightest cymbal touches. Real delicate beauty is heard in his compelling brush work. Meandering and wonderfully compelling, "The Art of Improvisation" is one of the stand out improvised records I'd heard so far this year.
"Late Night Driving" is a debut from Rotterdam based duo known oddly enough as Duplex, who specializes in warm, tender techno. To be quite frank, I've not heard anything this warm to come out of the techno genre since Psychic TV amassed their acid house experiments during the late 80's. Tender is a key word. Flawless, flow-through synth lines, supported by deep bass all entrenched in a warm sea of audio goodness. To top it all off, hi-hats are prevalent in just about every track on the release. All sounds on the record are highly organic. In fact, nothing within any of the tracks indicates any distance or far-removed coldness. Though at times they remind me of a more chilled-out 808 State or an equally lazy Kraftwerk, they retain their own unique identity. Hats off to Chris Aarse and John Matze who form Duplex, for their distilled, barely moving sounds are warmth to my cold, cold body.
It seems that Putumayo have been in the business of putting together great world music compilations forever, though in reality, it's only been more like a decade. "Brazilian Lounge" is another success story from the marketing people at the label. Blending smooth bossa-nova rhythms, with delicate d'n'b, break-beats and even ambient flavours, the compilation moves all over the map of contemporary Brazilian pop music. Stand out is BiD's "E Depois..." which features the Lou Rawls-like, sultry vocals of Seu Jorge [whom you may remember from the Wes Anderson film "The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou"]. Tenderly, the track moves in its own bossa-nova rhythm. Ambient rhythms are the flavour on "Como Vou Fazer (Remix)" by Dois Irmaos, featuring the whispery vocalizing of Mariana De Moraes. The album closes with house-like, almost trance-like number "Saudade Fez Um Samba", performed by Marissa. Tons of bossa-nova and samba goodness is spread all over the damn place. Lovely, touching and tender stuff for those that miss Brazil and for those who've yet to go. Portion of proceeds from the record will go directly to an organization that's fighting to better the status of street kids in Brazil. Noble cause indeed.
I can't recall last time I enjoyed metal as much as Ultralord's new release "We Hate You and Hope You Die" [true death metal title, if there ever was one!]. Featuring Members of Fistula, Rune, Rue, Madman Mundt, this Ohio-based outfit dishes out terror in healthy doses. Scorching guitar licks, heavy, pounding drums and these deadly, freaky vocals are key highlights of this release. Sometimes their tracks are heavy and sometimes they're just gruelling, ultra-heavy. Sludge-tracks make it onto the release well and those are the ones that work best for the band. For some reason, the ultra-fast pieces don't excite me as much. I forgot I'm not sixteen anymore. My head hurts from all this head-pounding into the wall.
Martyn Watson and Ric Peet are the core of International Peoples Gang. Those two along with a cast of dozen other musical and spiritual collaborators have been recording under this moniker for the last few years. Their latest release "Action Painting" is nothing more than a collage of ambient landscapes, softly percolating percussion, swooning winds and intermittent samples. Gentle synths appear off and on throughout the recording as do some sampled voices [and real ones too, in fact]. After an hour's worth of down-tempo beats and soothing ambience, the strangest track appears, which happens to be the closing "Stop". With a gorgeous vocal from Katty Heath, the album closes off with - weirdly enough - a full fledge pop song [complete with chorus and all]. My only wish is that some of the tracks were expanded for a longer period of time. I understand that the band wanted to fit as many ideas into the mix as possible, but overkill just makes for a messy affair at times. Otherwise, "Action Painting" makes for a perfect listen to kill the ghosts haunting you at the end of a tiring day.
When did acid-house die? After its birth in Chicago and its success over in the UK, did it actually die or did it just go underground again? Don't mistake "Acid - Evolution 1988-2003" for a real compilation. In fact, it's a faux compilation made up of tracks entirely produced by Atom Heart, where as the release states "he charts the evolution of his acid productions up to the present day." Basically, he chose sixteen alter-egos to come up with sixteen varied tracks of acid-inspired music. Uwe Schmidt [the man who hides behind the Atom Heart alias] is obsessed with latin rhythms, pounding break-beats, d'n'b and deep, pulsating bass. The most reminiscent track of any acid movement seems to be "606 Outburst" penned to an imaginary XOX Crew. Its light, flaky synth rhythm accompanies the crazed out percussive back-bone and reminds me of things that were popping out of late 80's Chicago. "Superdrive" is some sort of a lazy re-make of mid-80s synth-pop, while "An" mines the deep, pulsating, nearly dub bass level territory. Not a weak track in the bunch, which means a recommendation comes without an afterthought.
Next logical category to cover is music that is put out solely as "download release". Tammy's "Amor de Computadora" is one such download-only release. You can't buy this EP in the store. You can only purchase the files at iTunes and Napster. The music contained on this small little EP was apparently a hit in Tammy's native land of Argentina. It spews out all sorts of genres - from minimal electronic to a sensible pop-dance cross-over. It relies on outdated technology, while using the latest computer technology to dress things up. All the tunes are catchy, though none feature a vocal. The grooves and beats remind me of a funkier Tangerine Dream, though their tunes were drawn out more. Instrumental bliss for the stoned-out club crowd with a hypnotic bass. Download "Amor de Computadora" to see what Argentinean dance crew is up to.
First a confession - I've never actually been a huge country fan. The thing is it doesn't mean I'm barred from enjoying American roots music. I've been enamoured by Johnny Cash, Hank Williams and yup, even Kenny Rogers, but these are all names that somehow I was closer to in my childhood than in the present. Of course, nowadays we have a new genre of country - music that is seeped with blues, bluegrass and rock idioms. Nashville four piece BR549 [formerly known as BR5-49] take the history of country, put it in a blender and come up with some interesting results. Each song is dipped in that feel-good country blanket you'd expect from an old-time, dare I say "real" country outfit. Vocalist Chuck Mead [who also doubles-up on guitar] does a fine job in getting that Elvis snarl out of his system. I kid you know, this guy probably has hoards of fans throwing themselves at his feet. The rest of the band - multi-instrumentalist Don Herron, drummer/vocalist Shaw Wilson and bassist/vocalist Mark Miller - supports the front-man with a ton of musical zest. Lots of drawn out, sing-along choruses are featured everywhere, along with some fine guitar pickin' [as well as some fine pedal steel guitar] and the usual swinging fiddle, banjo and viola. For the most part, the mood is mellow and even lazy. Lyrically, these guys feature the usual subject - loneliness, adoration, lost love and songs on the jukebox. Though I can't really figure out what "Let Jesus Make You Breakfast" is all about? Is this really an irreverent song about breakfast, religion or how the two are supposed to go hand in hand? "Dog Days" is one of these perfect summer albums to be enjoyed while sipping a favourite brew in your backyard.

- Tom Sekowski

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+ Marble Sheep - Marble Sheep meets Circle Triangle Square
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+ Wild Mans Band - The Darkest River
+ Acid Mothers Temple & The Cosmic Inferno - Anthem of the Space
+ Ziggy Kinder - Akrobatik
+ Klimek - Music To Fall Asleep
+ Mauracher - Kissing My Grandma
+ Barbara Morgenstern - The Grass Is Always Greener
+ Phantom/Ghost - Three
+ Posthuman - The Peoples Republic
+ Izu - Going Salamander
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+ I'm Not A Gun - We Think As Instruments
+ The Process
+ Paal Nilssen-Love - Townorchestrahouse / Trinity - Sparkling / LSB - Walk, Stop, Look and Walk
+ Wechsel Garland - Easy
+ Fisk Industries - 77 And Rising
+ The Dirty Criminals - Collision Between Us And The Damned
+ Dirt Crew - The First Chapter
+ Gregor Tresher - Neon / Bodzin/Hunteman - Black Sun / Hell & Anthony Rother - German Bodymachine
+ Dan Curtin - We Are The Ones We`ve Been Waiting For
+ Steve Bug presents Bugnology 2
+ Badawi - Safe
+ Tied & Tickled Trio - a.r.c.
+ Alden Tyrell - Times Like These 1999 - 2006
+ Mr Velcro Fastener - Telemacho
+ Vessel - Pictureland 01
+ Michał Czachowski - Indialucia
+ The Year Of - Slow Days
+ Zavoloka - AGF - Nature Never Produces The Same Beat Twice
+ Planet 43/Datasette - Split EP 1

- - - - - - - - -

+ THE SECONDS - Kratitude
+ MICHAEL THIEKE UNUNUNIUM - Where Shall I Fly Not to be Sad, My Dear?
+ TEST ICICLES - For Screening Purposes Only
+ PUPPETMASTAZ - Creature Shock Radio
+ FELA KUTI & AFRICA 70 - Expensive Shit / He Miss Road / J.J.D. / Unnecessary Begging / Shuffering and Shmiling / No Agreement / The Best of The Black President
+ VOLCANO THE BEAR - Classic Erasmus Fusion
+ COLDCUT - Sound Mirrors
+ QUATUOHR - [kju:], too
+ MC RAI - Raivolution
+ BORIS - Pink
+ BOBBY BARE - The Moon Was Blue
+ VARIOUS ARTISTS - I am the Resurrection: A Tribute to John Fahey
>> STEINBRUCHEL - Opaque (+RE) / LEROY JENKINS' DRIFTWOOD - The Art of Improvisation / DUPLEX - Late Night Driving / VARIOUS ARTISTS - Brazilian Lounge / ULTRALORD - We Hate You and Hope You Die / INTERNATIONAL PEOPLES GANG - Action Painting / ATOM HEART - Acid Evolution 1988 - 2003 / TAMMY - Amor de Computadora / BR549 - Dog Days
+ DIESELBOY - Dieselboy presents The Human Resource
+ SAADET TÜRKÖZ - Urumchi / AKI TAKASE / LAUREN NEWTON - Spring in Bangkok

- - - - - - - - -


+ Inaczej niż dotychczas - wywiad z Hubertem 'Spiętym' Dobaczewskim [Lao Che]
+ W oparach absurdu - wywiad z Jackiem Szymkiewiczem i Michałem Pfeifem [Pogodno]
+ Piłujące treści - wywiad z Maćkiem Cieślakiem [Ścianka]
+ Humour is important - wywiad z Ziggy Kinder