24.12.11

Phaserprone :: Back from the Dead, Part 2

As expected I present to you part 2 of this vastly incomplete label profile, the music in question, of which, I've greatly enjoyed deconstructing. Sitting here at my dimly lit desk looking out at the drabness that is typical to Vancouver this time of year, I brood over the near and distant future of the Scrapyard Forecast. Overdue reviews of stray tapes and cds from 2011 will see the light of day in January, along with the irresistible year-end feature (something I prefer to leave until early January even though most of us are sick of lists by then). I'm still working on the details of the year end thing, though I've recently narrowed things down to 20 or so albums. Keep an eye out. As far as the distant future goes, I have no plans on stopping, so all I can say is, time will tell...

Thought Broadcast - Up-Maker 7"
(PPR21)

First I've heard from Ravi Binning's eccentric post-punk Thought Broadcast outfit, this 7" marking the project's third official release after two cassettes on Darren Ho's Gel and Hierodule labels. I've recently been delving into some 80's minimal synth from Japan, namely Sympathy Nervous and releases on Vanity Records, and I'm definitely hearing some similarities, mostly in TB's use of calculated percussion and inertia-driven mechanics. The format renders this an all too brief window into Thought Broadcast's dystopian sound world, the A side opening with the hyper-rhythmic "Noted Guerillas" before settling into the cantankerous "Pocket Planetaria". The flip sees a cracked ragtime missive coupled with the closer "Satisfiers of Alpha Blue" that's stuck in a middle eastern-tinged feedback loop. Great all around, impeccable packaging.


Ampax Catalog - Dsr.Slit C40
(PPR23)

The most recent of Phaserprone's releases comes by way of the virtually unknown Ampax Catalog. Dsr.Slit marks AC's debut release, though frankly, on a blind listen I would have pinned this as at least a sophomore record by any of a handful of contemporary stalwarts exercising their respective minimal-synth aesthetics, be it Christopher Forgues, Jeff Witscher or even Carlos Giffoni (his arbor ep from two years ago came to mind).

Using an array of retrograde electronic gear such as a mono synth, tape delay and rhythm box, Dsr.Slit manages to achieve a sound that a heavy percentage of underground acts are striving for, all the while sounding distinctly modern despite its backward leanings. The tracks here are succinct, unmuddied and poised in their terseness, yet never shy away from making a statement; alien synthlines become grounded in simplistic rhythms throughout, holding their structures through the bulk of these works. "Identification Card", with its amassing and all encompassing analog buzz and Godspeed-esque megaphone vocalizations is up there as my jam of the year (Listen to the sound sample), while the rest of the tape follows very nicely in suite.

A brilliant release, and definitely one of the best cassettes of the year. Wonderfully presented in a two coloured letter pressed j-card and cool black and white schematic-type cover art.


16.12.11

Phaserprone :: Back from the Dead, Part 1

Jonas Asher and Jochen Hartmann's Phaserprone label returns in a big way after almost three years of inactivity, churning out six immaculately put-together releases over the course of 2011. The Brooklyn based label has in the past been an inspiring resource for little known, off-kilter techno, noise and synthesizer music, and this new batch only sees more austerity injected into Asher and Hartmann's ideology. Pro-dubbed cassettes, letterpressed J-cards, and stunning two-toned (occasionally two-coloured) printed artwork. Really beautiful all around.

Dust - Ballet C26
(PPR17)

You may know Daniel La Porte's work under any one of his ever changing guises: Earth Crown, Copper Glove, Door. With this release he's managed to adopt-and-drop yet another. I'm not entirely sure of La Porte's motivation to switch project names so often (someone should ask James Ferraro!). I could see it being an obvious move if a change in moniker also meant a change in direction, but in La Porte's case, the Dust sound is very reminiscent of music he's made in the past – albeit many notches mellower than the Copper Glove material I've heard.

Ballet, his first for Phaserprone and first under the Dust nom, waxes and wanes between apathetic and overambitious. The opener "Pass" doesn't find its groove until half the tape's already passed over the play head, a distorted almost-rhythm eventually swallowing all the swirling bleeps and bloops in its mass. Things do take on more structure from this point, although it feels like an afterthought in these tracks, at least on the A side that at best can't decide if it wants to zone you out, annoy you, or make you awkwardly dance. The flip is stronger, but overall the work doesn't push forward the already over saturated "experimental underground" commonwealth.

Dust - Transfix Mutate (excerpt) by ScrapyardForecast

Roe Enney - Damnatio Memoriae C42
(PPR18)

An apparent ode to the New Romantics, Roe Enney's Damnation Memoriae is far more of a downer's surrealist trip than anything the blitz kids conjured up. Yet, deep down beneath the strange and sunken vocal reveries, bubbling noisescapes, and lonely flickering dance hooks, I can almost feel the connection. Somehow, the link lies with the fact that Enney's music seems to be coming at you from all angles, in one track feeling like a perfect piece of new wave that never was, in another embracing little more than sonic abstraction, while in another unfolding uncannily like an early Grouper or Inca Ore song.

The B side's "Rhythm" is a stand out, along with some of the more poppier cuts from the A side. The album feels like the Roe Enney 'entity' is still trying to find its style (I say entity because I'm not sure if that's her real name or simply a guise). It's a very experimental album, not just in style but in the attempt to find a voice. My advice: stick to the beats, develop the vocals further and the rest will fall into place. I sense some great work in the near future from this mysterious musician.


Hsdom - No Title C31
(PPR20)

If there are two things I find extremely off-putting in the so-called post-industrial field, it's the overuse of delay and nondescript vocals as mainstays. The first of the four tracks that make up Hsdom's latest tape only solidifies my disdain for this music's emotional reliance on these tricks; that and an all-too-obvious attempt at build-up via a lack of control on the volume pedal (listen to the sound sample). However, the second of the two A side tracks practically has me eating my words, as it's rather brilliant, exhibiting a quixotic but cohesive raucous that's equal parts arcane techno, synthesizer throwback, and cyclic noise – very Throbbing Gristle, and I think the vocals actually work on this one. There's a slow transition near the end of the piece with some cymbal washing and simple beat cross-over that's especially good.

The flip sees more of this German expat's good side, where he utilizes his bizarro self-written digital synthesis language to spew more of a free form beat structure rather than a soup of noise. "Maschine" has an almost 8-bit feel with its streamlined rhythm, bleeding into the closing track. Some definite moments of clarity to be found, though there's a lack of austerity that I find so rewarding in select 80s synthesizer music and particular artist re-envisioning the stuff nowadays.

Hsdom - Am Graben (excerpt) by ScrapyardForecast

8.12.11

Winds Measure Matters – Part 2

And here we have another charming variation in Winds Measure's unprocessed field recording rubric. As the title suggests, Phonography Meeting 070823 saw these five featured phonographers get together to create a unified work. To keep things interesting–as wm releases often succeed in doing–the album was recorded in the context of a live performance, in 10 minute chunks, and consecutively form artist to artist. Upon digging a little deeper it appears there were actually a number of phonography meetings that took place between 2003-2007, as part of the Seasonal performance series in NY. Other meetings included such stalwarts as Richard Garet, Patrick McGinley and Chris De Laurenti.

Scott Smallwood, Sawako, Seth Cluett, Ben Owen and Civyiu Kkliu
Phonography Meeting 070823

I imagine that on this meeting these gentlemen were particularly on their game, as the disc that's made it into my hands is a very fluid and naturally progressing succession of acoustic snapshots. And although it's tempting to follow along and match up each recording chunk with its corresponding phonographer, that task becomes superfluous in the light of this being the work–and sounding like the work–of a collective, and not a bunch of individuals.

To dive in is to soon acquire an understanding of how the recording chunks fuse together. Although there tends to be a simple cross-fading that happens as a piece is "handed off" to the next artist, each performer is free to bring in their personal touch while keeping in mind, of course, the whole picture. The transition near the 4 minute mark is perhaps my favourite part of the entire piece, as an astonishingly compelling recording of water (astonishing because, well, water, like planes, tends to get into almost every field recording session) suddenly cuts to the rattling of wind chimes. The cut is so perfect I missed it the first time, and was soon wondering how and when the sounds shifted so much from the opening phrase. Later, in what I believe are Seth Cluett's and Ben Owen's sections, the sounds really start to gel as layers of contact mic'd micro-noise fluctuations and distorted wind recordings steadily carry the work forward; sounds like some footsteps in there too.

I've only outlined some of the finer sounds, but really there is a whole world to explore within these recordings, some sections melding better than others, and the fidelity varying with each new sound -- something I came to really appreciate about the work. As with all wm output, I recommend this for those seeking more boundary-pushing work in this field.

Scott Smallwood, Sawako, Seth Cluett, Ben Owen and Civyiu Kkliu - Phonography Meeting 070823 (edit) by ScrapyardForecast

5.12.11

Winds Measure Matters – Part 1

I hope to meet Ben Owen in the flesh one of these days to personally thank him for the existence of Winds Measure, easily one of my favourite labels, and no doubt the one that's made the biggest impression on me this year. I also feel the need to mention that he's one of the only people (that I know of) putting field recordings out on tape.

In a way I understand the desire to steer clear of cassettes when releasing field recordings, mostly for reasons of fear in losing the structural subtly and texture that the style / method / practice can be known for. At the same time, however, I feel Owen uses the format to his advantage, picking and choosing work that seems well suited to the warmth and mechanics of analog tape. It doesn't hurt that the tapes are pro-dubbed either. Here's a little catch-up of two cassettes from early August.

Stefan Thut and Taku Unami
am wind, d±50


"What we call the sound of rain or wind we could better call the sound of plant leaves and branches." – Francisco Lopez.

It wasn't long ago that I came across this quote by Lopez, and I find I'm often bringing it to the fore of my mind when listening and critiquing. It is easy to forget that the sound of rain, wind or snow are directly dictated by the objects and surfaces they strike, and where one may be actively listening in that given space. In relation to Stefan Thut's "am wind" recording, it makes me think of all the possible outcomes of this piece, all the millions of variations that could have surfaced given countless factors, and it makes me realize that it's not about trying to record wind, that's impossible. It's about recording a location that is being activated by wind, and thus dictates that no two recordings of the same weather process can stand alike.

The first of Thut's two wind recordings is a particularly good representation of the sound of low to high velocity winds, while the second is far more settled, with intermittent bursts carrying the sounds of creaking fences in their wake. Wind recordings are hard to do, and Thut does a good job at it, a fine example of the unprocessed field work that Winds Measure goes above and beyond to endorse.

Side B sees Thut's other musical facet, the cello, come to life in an extended drone piece with Taku Unami (sinewaves). The recording has a very 'open room' feel, with a plenitude of movement and shuffling. In many ways it acts as a mirror piece to the wind recordings, especially in it's near-silent-to-quite-active articulation. I'm not convinced that actively listening to this piece for 37 minutes is the best way to go, as that should probably be reserved for the outshining A side.


Angharad Davies and Taku Unami
Two Hands

Taku Unami strikes again, and this time with London based violinist Angharad Davies. This near hour endeavor finds Davies in further arcane exploration of the violin, her instrument of choice, while both musicians are credited as playing "clap". The clap heard here refers not to some baroque instrument you've never heard of, but to the kind of common activity you might hear after a recital, though far less intrusive. Two Hands takes the predictable associations of clapping, the common wall-of-sound applause that always follows a performance or recital, and flips it on its head, utilizing clapping in a far more nuanced manner. Part one also finds the ever-so-slow clap interlaced with a delicately handled violin by Angharad. This one definitely grew on me.

While mimicking the clapping I heard through the speakers at home, and including the long silences in between, I found I had to consciously think about not clapping twice or more times in a row. It was like relearning to ride a bicycle. It's interesting that clapping in succession, that is, repeating the same movement and sound over and over, feels more normal than expending less energy and only doing that thing once. I suppose it's the fault of conditioning. Do try this at home.

Angharad Davies and Taku Unami - Two Hands (excerpt) by ScrapyardForecast