Thursday, 23 February 2023

Non-Music Roundup (Feb 23)

Greetings non-music lovers, and welcome to my latest round of non-musical recommendations for you!

If you like what you see/hear, please considering supporting these tremendous artists & labels by buying their albums and following them on Bandcamp and/or social media.


David Curington - Canon Chops 

(Difficult Art & Music, 2023)

David Curington is a classical composer, improvising oboist and abstract photographer based in Manchester (UK) whose past work has focused on noise, improvisation, failure, complexity, iterative processes, non-linear modes of listening, abstract expressionism, collage and reconceptualizing the oboe. 
'Canon Chops' is an album consists of two electronic tracks which distort recordings drawn from the classical canon, alongside two collaborative tracks with fellow artists from the Manchester experimental music scene.

When listening to this for the first time I felt that although I was really enjoying what I was hearing, I didn't think it would a fitting album to write about on this blog, but I was wrong... 
Even though there's obviously a fair share of melodic musicality strewn throughout it, 'Canon Chops' strays into undoubtedly wacky, unnerving and demented territories of broken jaggedy sound art, trippy minimalistic electronica, squalling atonal noise, manipulated field recordings, abstract sound collages and avant-garde surrealism. 
In these compositions you will hear choppy polyrhythmic fragments of classical music, haunting sound design, gargling water, oboes squeaking and squawking, reeds whistling and squealing, whispered spoken word, fractured choral singing, snippets of sweet fleeting melodies, somber organ drones, creepy vocal noises and all sorts of hypnotic bleeps and weird sonic abstractions...
The whole thing ends on a gorgeous ambient composition of improvised arpeggiated acoustic guitar played in a garden, strangely juxtaposed with a backdrop of field recordings taken from loud bustling public spaces.
All in all, this was an incredibly baffling yet extremely fascinating work of experimental sound art.

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Alicja Czyczel - Toń 

(Szara Reneta, 2022)

Alicja Czyczel is a Polish improviser, choreographer & art educator. Aleksandra Gryka is a Polish composer whose work is strongly influenced by natural and theoretical sciences, especially quantum physics. 'Toń' is their collaborative album, out now on the Polish experimental record label, Szara Reneta.

In these recordings you will hear meticulous sonic blending of outdoor field recordings and the human voice, the latter which is used to respond and interact with the former, creating intriguing atmospheric phenomena and a rich and mesmerizing sound environment.
This album begins with the distant rumbling of a combine harvester at work, mixed and merged with deep throaty vocalizations, which feels like the whole soundscape is trembling and vibrating in motor-like fashion. Later on you will hear the sound of a dog barking, passing traffic and splashing water. On Track 2 you will hear the close and intimate dripping of water, along trumpet-like vocal squeals and dry animalistic croaks. Track 3 is the ubiquitous and familiar chirping of crickets, the distant cracks of a torrential thunderstorm, indistinguishable scratching sounds, and erratic and tremulous throat the aforementioned crickets crossed with some kind of exotic bird or monkey.
On Track 4 you will hear serene and tranquil river sounds mixed with more hushed and breath-like vocalizations, with some bursts of unnerving rattles and squeaks. 
Track 5 is the longest piece, clocking in at almost 20 minutes. In this one the vocals lead the way, humming and quivering against a subtle backdrop of lovely country birdsong. Afterwards you will hear the unmistakable sounds of food being eaten - biting, crunching, chewing and squelching on something presumably delicious. This leads onto (what I think is) the sound of rain and intimate whispers, which morphes into more cricket noises and water splashing, over which the moist inner mouth sounds are heard - saliva and soft tissues squelching and gurgling. The albums eventually ends the same way it began - with the motorized humming noise of the combine harvester.

'Toń' is an intimate sound journey in which Czyczel uses the physicality of vocal acrobatics and aural tremors to mingle and merge with her natural surroundings...with the ultimate goal being to sing in tune with the various places and seasons captured within these field recordings. A unique and fascinating album of experimental sound art and free improvisation.

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 Jonathan Deasy & Tim Olive - Carpented 

(Steep Gloss, 2023)

Jonathan Deasy is a prolific experimental musician & sound artist from Cork, Ireland who has released a huge back catalogue of material under various monikers such as Quiet Clapping & Knowing. Tim Olive is a Canadian experimental sound artist currently residing in Kobe, Japan. He uses magnetic pickups, analog electronics, radio signals and consumer detritus (springs, styrofoam, metal sheets, motors, magnetic tape, wood, dental floss) to generate sound-textures which evolve, shift and mutate.

'Carpented' is their collaborative album released on the Steep Gloss tape label. Side A begins with the sound of dark mechanical grinding and low somber rumbling, which eventually fades and evolves into a metallic drone and wavering sonic dissonance. The piece ends with a clattering collage of more mechanical noise and the quiet and subtle tinkling of distant piano keys... 

Side B launches off in a more erratic and animated fashion. The fragmented sounds of electric guitar, manipulated feedback and electronic glitch fluidly morphes into a segment of gentle and fragile lo-fi organ ambience, accompanied by broken bursts of shortwave radio transmissions. The final part of the piece consists of an ominous drone, along with loops of indistinguishable noise and snippets of dancing melody.

'Carpented' is a haunting and immersive album of lo-fi sound art and dark experimental noise. It is an eerie and unsettling, yet totally engulfing and truly glorious listening experience.

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Langham Research Centre and John Butcher - Six Hands at an Open Door 

(Persistence of Sound, 2023)

Langham Research Centre are a music group of experimental improvisers that are hugely inspired by various forms of musique concrète and post-war European electronica, and make experimental sounds using resources and equipment are that are considered obsolete, redundant and outdated.
John Butcher is a reknown saxophonist whose work ranges through improvisation, his own compositions, multi-tracked works and explorations with feedback and extreme acoustics.

In this collaboration album, Langham Research Centre used cassette machines, oscillators, shortwave radio and amplified sounds to improvise with John Butcher, who considers his performance in this release to be similar to tape-splicing, so that a direct tactile connection is made between the concrète/electronic soundworld and the unparalleled acoustic qualities of the saxophone produced when he is playing.
This album has a cold and austere atmosphere, with a slightly sinister edge. Each track is an abstract audio environment in which broken radio transmissions, oscillating frequencies, cut-up wavering feedback, fleeting fragments of jazz piano, intricate pulses, erratic bursts of white noise, haunted emissions and sound waves of various indistinguishable sources all complement the avant-garde saxophone experimentation.
One of the things I find fascinating about this album is how Butcher's saxophone sonically blends with the band's electronic accompaniment so meticulously. It's only on closer listening that I could really differentiate the fragile tones and delicate timbres of the brass from the fluttering textures of the electronic backing.
Another thing I found instantly impressive about these tracks is their stark minimalism. All sounds are given such adequate time and space to breathe and either ring out or stop dead. The silences and abrupt transitions seem as important as the performed sounds.

Overall, this album is an exquisite work of avant-garde beauty and abstract musical expressionism, and a very unique listening experience.

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Diane Barbé - A Conference of Critters

(forms of minutiae, 2022)

Diane Barbé is a sound artist, poet and intersectional researcher based in Berlin, Germany. She plays with and listens to the world around. 'A Conference of Critters' is Barbé's latest album, and is the result of Barbé's travels and research within the jungle-clad region of Southern Thailand.

This album is exactly as the title suggests - it's an audio exploration of the critter community taking shape within the jungle, and the interconnectedness of all the different species of local fauna that dwell in that particular region.
In these recordings you will hear the cacophonous racket of crickets, cicadas, dogs, frogs, monkeys, rodents and a plethora of other exotic birds and insects, shrieking and howling away in this wild tropical habitat. These natural animals sounds are accompanied by (and sometimes juxtaposed with) snippets of Barbé's voice guiding us on our sonic adventure, combustion engines and spinning blades from what sounds to me like a lawnmower, the singing and light-hearted conversation of Thai women planting seeds, the passing of a scooter, the splashing of water, the distant rumble of thunder, the faint plucked arpeggios of some kind of wonderful music, fragmented radio transmissions and a variety of other miscellaneous noises and drones - both raw and electronically manipulated - which Barbé expertly blends together in these poetic audio collages.

'A Conference of Critters' is a rich and luxurious abstract sonic journey through a hot, sticky and humid sound environment - a tropical SoundWalk and wondrous excursion through a beautiful hidden world. A marvellous listening experience.

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Steffan De Turck/Howard Stelzer - Private​/​Public

(Falt, 2023)

Steffan De Turck is a Dutch sound artist. Howard Stelzer is a composer of electronic music, whose work is made primarily from sounds generated by cassette tapes and tape players. This is their split album, which was recently released through the French tape label, Falt.

Track 1 is a ''public'' performance by Steffan De Turck. This recording starts off with the lo-fi sound of humans gathered and bustling about in some kind of public space - perhaps a performance venue?... with fragments of voices and sounds, delayed and looped, which then morphs into a mesmerizing cacophony of wild machine gun-like percussive hits, pattering frantically in their syncopated rhythms. After this comes the bizarre chugging and mechanical grinding of industrial machinery, manipulated and looped in an infectious driving rhythm. The track ends with more frantic percussive pattering as the background noise dies away...
Track 2 is a ''private'' performance by Howard Steltzer. It's an immersive and hypnotic sound collage in which you will hear the busy sounds of objects being shuffled around, creaked, slammed and squeezed. I think I heard a wine bottle being popped open in there...
Throughout this recording the noise gradually builds and builds - sometimes swelling and intensifying, sometimes dipping and dwindling, but definitely moving in a determined linear fashion, completely enveloping the listener with its wonderful earthy textures and timbres, before ending abruptly.

'Private/Public' is an album of raw and riveting sounds, expertly collaged and looped. These abstract audio environments and stunning sound sculptures make for a trance-inducing listening experience.

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(Falt, 2022)

Ern(e)st is Ernesto Longobardi - an Italian sound artist. 'MUSEUM' is one 20-minute long piece of exquisite abstract sound art. Using field recordings taken from a visual-art museum in the centre of Italy on a sunny and desolate afternoon, Longobardi has created a subtle and alluring work of calm splendour.

In this composition, Longobardi explores the material aspects that redefine space and environment as a living acoustic sound environment, which in this case is the interior of a visual-art museum with few visitors around. In this recording you will hear natural reverberations of the surrounding space, fleeting moments of ethereal ambience, the distant murmur of human voices, fuzzy static noise, swirling shimmery drones, shaking, shuffling, indistinguishable scratching and other miscellaneous sonic abstractions. Another brilliant Falt release which I'd highly recommend checking out.

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Julián Galay - Eine Stadt, Ein Haus 

(Presses Précaires, 2022)

Julián Galay is a composer and sound artist from Argentina, and lives nomadically between Beunos Aires and Berlin. He works with sound, moving image and language. The two 12-minute tracks that comprise this album are an intriguing mixture of field recordings, tuning forks and sine tones, recorded live in Berlin, in the Pankow district on Brehmestrasse. 

In these recordings you will hear a variety of familiar urban city street sounds, during what I assume to be a quiet time of day, judging from the relative hushed and almost tranquil ambience that exudes from the speakers. You will hear the rumble and hum of an occasional passing vehicle, beautiful birdsong, the distant sounds of children's voices and dogs barking... over which Galay has layered over the trembling and wavering sine tones which gives the entire soundscape a wonderful (and slightly ominous) vibrating effect. 
Whilst Side A is more about the organic field recordings, and is an overall quieter and more subtle affair, Side B is more abstract...with the sound experimentations of the tuning fork being the prominent feature. Waves of dissonant tones shimmer ceaselessly, while other tones simultaneously give rise to a glissando illusion.

'Eine Stadt, Ein Haus' is a brilliant and endearing sonic study of one's relationship with their immediate environment, and the ebb and flow of sounds present within it. A great album. Highly recommended.

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Clinton Green/Ian Andrews - False Currency

(Tsss Tapes, 2022)

Clinton Green is an Australian experimental artist and performer. He works with prepared/hacked turntables and found objects as instruments.
Dr. Ian Andrews, is a Sydney based media artist and theorist working with generative sound, video and text in installation formats. Areas of research interest include aesthetics, philosophy, poetry, sound, media and film theory, semio-linguistics and contemporary art.

'False Currency' is their collaborative duo album, released on the experimental sound art label Tsss Tapes. It consists of four abstract free-form improvisations, created from a variety of percussive instruments, small objects and prepared/hacked turntables. 
On Track 1 you will hear the soft meditative banging and rattling of glistening metallic bells, wooden bowls, percussive instruments and various other hollow receptacles, accompanied by naturally-occuring subtle drones ringing through the air. A patient and calming piece.
Track 2 consists of dazzling metallic rattles and sharp clinking noises like coins dropping, ominous gong-like hits giving off a hypnotic shimmering dissonance, and some kind of slightly menacing gurgling-type sound, like something that's trapped inside a container, trying to work its way out...
On Track 3 you will a hear dark long-sustained eerie ambience, steel chiming, ambiguous distant rumblings, swirling breath-like swells of cavernous echoes, hollow sounds and other miscellaneous twinkles and clanks.
Compared to the previous tracks, Track 4 is created from mostly wooden sounds. You will hear the clacking of small bowls, the flicking of some indistinguishable object with sharpened edges, the dramatic resonance of a steel gong, and even the unmistakable wailing of a police siren.

'False Currency' is an immersive and meditative album of quiet, broody and spacious sound collages. 
These two artists turn everyday objects and natural room acoustics into beautiful and abstract sonic environments that makes for a dazzling listening experience. 


Jo Bled - Sound is a Body 

(Muteant Sounds, 2023)

Jo Bled is the percussion/electronics project of Burlington, VT composer/improviser JB Ledoux. Formed in 2018, Jo Bled seeks to create gratingly meditative trance inducing sound & industrial soundscapes.

'Sound is a Body' is an album consisting of steel tongued drums, bottle caps and singing bowls. In these recordings you will hear hypnotic and trance-inducing percussive hits, which create glistening bell-like sounds that resonate, echo and drift through the air. The tones and timbres are sometimes frantic and intense, sometimes muted and soft... creating an array of experimental drones, immersive rhythmic patterns, ambient chimes and unorthodox sound design. The tinkling and shuffling around of these unique instruments and the stark minimalism of these bizarre performances makes for an enticing and spellbinding listening experience, and a powerful display of free-form improvisation. 

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Sun Yizhou - Focus

(Hard Return, 2022)

Sun Yizhou is a conceptual artist, improviser, composer and performer that lives in Beijing, China. He mostly works with electronic equipment (internal/external console feedback systems, Max/MSP, audio signal generators, his innovative input-less preamp systems, and sometimes a mix of these ideas above) but also tends to incorporate record-less turntables, objects, vocals, and human body as acoustic instruments during improvisational performances.

'Focus' is a simple and intriguing sound experiment. It is the result of Yizhou touching the tip of a 3.5mm audio cable with his right hand while maintaining two different hand gestures - pinching and clutching. These are extremely minimalistic and bare recordings of wavering static, intermittent scratches, erratic dissonance, oscillating squeals, bizarre frequency shifts, immersive drones and long sustained tones.

This album is somehow simultaneously unsettling and soothing. It's an undoubtedly unique listening experience that requires patience, stillness and quiet focus to fully appreciate. A bizarre and brilliant sound experiment.

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Patrick Corcoran - Alight 

(self-released, 2023)

Patrick Corcoran is an Irish multidisciplinary artist, whose practice includes painting, sculpture,​ installation, photography,  print, drawing, moving image, sound & the written word. He has exhibited work both national & internationally  and has partaken in several national artist residencies. He currently lives and works​​ in Limerick City.

'Alight' is the final installment in a trilogy of albums that Corcoran has released over the past few months. Based on the idea of descension from a higher platform or plain, this album mostly consists of field recordings taken from public transport, along with dark subtle drones and abstract sound textures that makes the atmosphere of these tracks eerily haunting yet delightfully engulfing. 

In these recordings you will hear the familiar noise of everyday locomotion, commuting sounds, train P.A announcements, human voices murmuring in confined spaces, mechanical grinding and clanking, electromagnetic drones, snippets of mundane exchanges, the distant rumble of engines, the shuffling of people in motion, an amusing discussion about tea... which ends with the beautiful sounds of muted piano playing, marking the end of our aural travels. 

This album is a brilliant sonic merging of the ordinary and the abstract. It's a rich, stimulating and slightly ominous journey through mesmerizing sound environments. A subtle and fascinating listening experience.

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