Great Music, No Matter The Label

Enough said. Get this stuff pronto.

DANIEL MENCHE – Odradek

Another grand release by our favourite Oregonian, his artistic consistency impressively unswerving for almost two decades now, not to mention a style that has become instantly identifiable across the years. Odradek is divided in a pair of long tracks, essentially created via the use of unspecified “acoustic instruments”, drums and electronics. The first is classic Menche, a massively crunching pulse born from a few simple rhythmic components that grow to be increasingly violent and crushing with the passing of time, the whole underscored by the usual, indispensable throng of extremely effective subsonic hums (or Oms, perhaps). In the second segment an unclearly filtered German-speaking voice (Markus Wolff, also the author of the splendid hybrid creature adorning the cover) recites a text at the beginning and end of a more tranquil, but still threatening exercise in the hypnotically authoritative control of the listener’s brain. The dominant tone colour is one of resonant metal obtained through a synthetic treatment, sort of a tolling bell surrounded by lenitive frequencies. Think of a soundtrack for the last thoughts before getting anaesthetized on an operating table: we can imagine what’s going to happen, yet remain unable to react. Later on a static string-scented texture appears, growing in intensity with other elements such as a slightly distorted, repeated low pitch and additional obsessive ringing. This continues until the closing stages, Wolff’s accent remaining totally unaccompanied in the final seconds. Needless to say, playing the record loud augments its psychological weight, as it’s always the case with this artist’s output. (Beta-Lactam Ring)

JANA WINDEREN – Energy Field

Winderen recorded the sources for Energy Field in the Barents Sea, Greenland and Norway through hydrophones, a parabolic reflector and assorted microphones. The consistently engaging results amount to one of the most striking records dealing with environmental materials heard in years, unquestionably belonging among the finest Touch releases in recent times. In “Aquaculture”, marine sounds and voices are fused into a gigantic accumulation of resonant currents and overwhelming reverberation, becoming one and the same with our own breathing rhythm. The extremely detailed noises and squeaks opening “Isolation/Measurement” give an idea of this Norwegian artist’s ability in capturing the essence of apparently irrelevant moments, first attributing a musicality to them then contextualizing the products in a larger frame where the listener is transported on site without moving, such are the intrinsic qualities and the vividness of the details. Again, what emerges is the impression of massiveness and, contemporarily, of rarefaction that the overall textural complexion elicits. “Sense Of Latent Power” is characterized by the (unfortunately brief) appearance of an unspecified animal’s chattering surrounded by the stifled roar generated by the assemblage of underwater recordings, which in the end are splendidly enhanced by a heavy equalization and put adjacent to additional idioms by aquatic protagonists, adding oneiric nuances to the imposing final blur. The silently persistent nature of the liquid features of this track contribute to a glorious spectacle of different gradations – concrete versus ethereal – that would convince even a cold-hearted sceptic. Four listens in less than 10 hours tell it all. (Touch)

ACOUSTIC GUITAR TRIO – Vignes

Dedicated to one of its members (Rod Poole, tragically murdered in 2007), Vignes captures the very spirit of the Acoustic Guitar Trio, the remaining components being Nels Cline and Jim McAuley. This unit existed in performing shape from 1999 to 2003, year in which this set was recorded at Los Angeles’ Downtown Playhouse. As Cline himself reports, AGT were “a concentrated sampling of three microtonal improvising acoustic guitarists”, who decided “a tuning on the spot for each improvisation” before launching themselves in investigations that exalted the guitar’s dynamics and the peculiar kinds of resonance elicited by those impromptu tunings. The CD comprises three segments, which we must thank Poole for (besides producer Fabrizio Perissinotto), since he was the person in charge of keeping a steadiness in recording every single performance by the group. The music is typically shimmering, occasionally harsher; the superimpositions of off-centre arpeggios, percussive slaps and bizarre chords generate mildly warped clouds of upper partials that only those who are familiar with unconventional methods on a guitar can understand the essence of. Preparations, tools and bows are also part of the recipe, and they’re used quite cleverly (in particular during the third and final chapter). This doesn’t mean that the record is an exclusive for specialists; on the contrary, it represents an excellent chance for the uninitiated for realizing that this abused instrument is a microcosm replete with scintillatingly vibrating features. But expert hands are needed to bring them out and show the consequence: this earnest album succeeds in making us regret both the end of a creative life and the ceasing of an intriguingly “subversive” project, really sounding like nothing else. (Long Song)

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