12k / Line Roundup

Recent – and less – outings by these labels. Thanks as usual to Taylor Deupree for the systematic support (I’ll try and analyze the DVD releases in another write-up, Taylor…)

PJUSK – Sval

The duo of Norwegian Rune Sagevik and Jostein Dahl Gjelsvik, Pjusk came to attention three years ago with the excellent Sart. This new work, despite its unquestionable elegance and the evident care applied in the functional placing of the single elements in the mix, is not on the same artistic level, resulting quite unemotional and in parts stereotyped. Mostly pulse-based, the music does show a handful of moments of radiation; yet it happens only in short spurts, also due to a compositional linearity that too often transcends to sequence-driven leniency and rather conventional electronic daydreaming – ghostly voices, interminable echoes, blurred visuals, you know the script. But there’s more than a set of well-rounded sounds to the realization of profoundness, and this time it looks like style has prevailed upon substance.

ALVA NOTO – For 2

Ashamed of himself, your correspondent must reveal that he never heard the first volume of For, the underlying notion being of course that of “homage to someone or something”. Carsten Nicolai conceived and collected these pieces over the years, each one dedicated to an artist or creative entity – this time including Heiner Müller, Phill Niblock and, of all things, The Kingdom Of Elgaland-Vargaland. I’m still under the influence of the unsurpassable UTP_ with Ryuichi Sakamoto and the Ensemble Modern, reviewed here a few days ago, therefore accepting a return to the exclusively electronic palette, uncomplicated geometries and steady pulses of these medium-sized miniatures was not the easiest task. But once we break through the real meaning of Alva Noto’s interior vision, everything suddenly connects and the minimal structures – imbued with typical refinement and connectable to a gestural rituality that make one envision the early morning activities of a lonesome individual – assume a wholly different weight in our transient reality, separating noise and pure frequency, ultimately generating a distillate of essentiality from the superfluous components of a milieu.

LOVESLIESCRUSHING – CRWTH (Chorus Redux)

Admitting one’s ignorance, part two. Not only I had never heard the first edition of Chorus, originally an extremely limited item released in Peru (!); your scribe hadn’t listened to Loveliescrushing until today, full stop. The duo of guitarist Scott Cortez and vocalist Melissa Arpin-Duimstra is active since 1991 on the basis of the extreme modification of the fundamental timbres of their sources. No other instrument is utilized except guitars and vocals, both rendered unrecognizable through heavy processing. With the above mentioned Chorus they went a step further, choosing to exclusively use and manipulate vocal snippets. CRWTH presents a complete redesigning of that work, maintaining some of the essential singing components intelligible in a slowly stretching cycle of angelic tones, subsonic vibrations and semi-real replicas (the seagull-meet-whale melodic cry in the striking “Nauv” is a nice touch). There are occasional reminiscences of Cocteau Twins (Robin Guthrie is thanked in the liners) and Eno circa Music For Airports, with a handful of episodes enlightened by contemplative majesty: the final triptych “Shemerr”, “Flrm” and “Viaux” – virtually inert harmonies directly connected to universal perpetuity – and the impressive unfathomable moaning in “Laujl Vfx” come to mind. As this writer remembers (with a sense of repulsion) Claire Hamill’s Voices – an atrocious New Age pastiche of easy melodies for shopping malls – hyped as a masterpiece many years ago, we can rest contented enough with this record, whose original version plus three fresher ones are downloadable if you buy a copy of this.

SMALL COLOR – In Light

A duo from Japan (Rie Yoshihara and Yusuke Onishi) performing overly melodic rudimentary songs on accordion, keyboards, guitar, banjo, bass with the addition of programmed rhythms. A few tunes are sung by Yoshihara (aka Trico!, we’re told) in sheer syrupy vocalization, or in Japanese. Apparently there’s a lot of people around the world who still loves this type of mellifluous oriental indulgence, yet I can’t force myself to give it enough relevance to consider it as really serious music. Some of it is half-heartedly funny, the large part is characterized by the kind of naiveté that tastes like a soft bonbon forgotten for many hours in a car parked under a hard summer sun. After ten minutes, my bitter realism suggests the consideration that there are thousands of real artists more deserving of being heard than Small Color. Initially, In Light might sound as a curiosity; in reality it lacks any sort of even slight interest, depth and inventiveness for this writer. More than a “departure” (as written in the press blurb), this is definitely a subpar release compared to 12k’s habitual levels.

GIUSEPPE IELASI – Tools

Seven brief rhythmic studies created by Ielasi with everyday objects. Specifically: cooking pan, rubber band, polystyrene box, metal rod, aluminium foil, tin can and paper lamp. The meticulous type of recording permits to catch details that a distracted listen might be missing: scratches, thumps and purrs given by the amassing of certain frequencies, intertwining sub-patterns under the basic beat and, in general, intriguing combinations of percussive resonances are all part of a recipe that results quite edible; in at least three instances – rubber, aluminium and lamp – the resemblance to real instruments is truly impressive. Some of this stuff could even cause someone to tap their foot for a while. A polite divertissement that, for our good luck and thanks to the composer’s sensibility towards the listener, is not reiterated for more than the necessary time: the record lasts in fact 19 minutes and 49 seconds.

TAYLOR DEUPREE – Shoals

As an artist in residence at the University of York’s Music Research Center, in England, Taylor Deupree found and immediately put to good use four Balinese gamelan instruments – Celempung, Gendèr, Saron and Bonang – belonging to the faculty. Shoals, his latest solo outing nearly three years after Northern, is entirely constructed upon layered loops that the composer generated by playing them in real time, but not in the expected manner. In fact, he stretched, superimposed, pitch-transposed and in general rendered more malleable the noisy features of the sonic tools, elicited by unconventional manipulations (scraping edges and undersides, or working on defects such as broken strings and the like). Once the activity was captured on tape together with the originator’s own noises as he worked in the studio, the whole was subjected to additional treatments under the guise of an Eventide Eclipse and a software called Kyma, which allowed Deupree to further develop his instantaneous intuitions. The result deserves to be warmly welcomed: in its semi-organic straightforwardness, this is a perfect paradigm of engaging reiterative music which, in the right circumstance – and even raising the volume a bit – reveals the complexities lying behind a world of subtle motion and attractive chiaroscuros while highlighting an intelligent approach to introspective improvisation. In this case, the ultimate key to a mitigating totality which works great both for active listening and for simulating an installation at your place.

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