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Davis, Brian Joseph – “Definitive Host, The” – [Blocks Recording Club]

davis

A collection of recordings from Canadian sound artist and film-maker Brian Joseph Davis. Most of the songs utilize pre-recorded material from other artists, manipulated or recast in interesting ways. The album deals with themes of copyright and censorship.

Rather than being meticulously orchestrated, the works rely heavily on randomness: CD player skips, destruction by fire, and highly-fallible human memory. Unlike many other conceptual works, these are very entertaining to listen to, and cover a wide range of genres including choral, glitch, spoken-word, pseudo-punk, and the overwhelming ambient noise hell-scape that is the final track.

The liner notes on the back provide a pretty acurate description of what’s in the package, but I’ll summarize here:

Eula (T1): The Sony End User License Agreement sung by a choir.

Five Box Sets Played on Fast-Forward, Then Edited Into Songs (T2-T6): This one is self-explanatory. Metal, soul, and other indescernibles.

Ten Banned Albums Burned, Then Played (T7-T15): Yup. Beatles, Sex Pistols, Mahler, Prince, Louie Louie, and more.

Voice Over (T16): A script composed from 5000 film taglines.

Yesterduh (T17-T18): What happens when you pay people on the street $5 to sing “Yesterday”, then mix the results. The second version is a particularly inspired solo.

Minima Moralia (T19): Theodor Adorno’s Minima Moralia as a punk 7″.

Greatest Hit (T20): All the tracks on a greatest hits album, all at once.

  • Reviewed by Louie Caliente on November 15, 2017 at 9:15 am
  • Filed as A Library,CD
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  • Homler, Anna & Moss, David/ Kommissar Hjuler & Mama Baer [coll] – [Psych.KG]

    homler

    This crystal-clear lathe-cut 7″ is part of the FLUXUS +/- series of recordings put out by Kommissar Hjuler on the Psych.KG record label. One of only 25 that were produced.

    The A side features two stunning collaborations from Anna Homler and David Moss. Homler is a visual, performance, and vocal artist known for using imaginary languages to explore meaning and communication. Moss is a composer and percussionist who has also developed a unique vocal improvisational style.

    “Steel Drum Song” (A1) features Homler’s characteristic vocals, soothing and strangely exotic, coupled with Moss’s faster and more rhythmic and utterances, almost like frogs or crickets. A steel drum melody serves to bridge the two worlds.

    “Conversation” (A2) is just that — a passionate improvised conversation in two unreal and alien languages. The mood starts hectic and argumentative, but changes pace as Moss becomes low and guttural while Homler becomes more dulcet and comforting.

    The B side contains the work of Kommissar Hjuler and his wife Mama Baer. Hjuler is German sound and visual artist, film maker, and police officer.

    “Coming Undone” (B1) is a lumbering lo-fi free-folk-rock jam. Polyrhythmic bangs and whistles. Lyrics in English with German accents. Mama Baer is solo on “Mikrooganismus” (B2), a 40 second warbling screech and scream, maybe some footsteps?

  • Reviewed by Louie Caliente on November 1, 2017 at 1:41 pm
  • Filed as 7-inch,A Library
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  • Deathprod – “Treetop Drive” – [Smalltown Supersound]

    deathprod

    Deathprod is the noise-ambient project of Norwegian artist Helge Sten, who is also a member of the avant-jazz group Supersilent. Sten uses the term “audio virus” to describe the variety of sound sources used on this album, including “old tape echo machines, ring modulators, filters, theremins, samplers and lots of electronic stuff”.

    “Treetop Drive” was originally released on CD in 1994 and has been re-mastered by Rashad Becker and re-released on double LP just this year (2017). The sounds are as infectious as ever.

    The first three tracks comprise three movements of “Treetop Drive”, and share many thematic elements, although the moods are quite different.

    Treetop Drive 1 (A) is built around dramatic strings and synths, featuring the violin work of Hans Magnus Ryan. Solemn, repetitive, and trance-like waves washing ashore. Slowly shifting over times, growing more distressed and urgent as the feedback and distortion intensify, and then letting go, returning out to sea.

    Treetop Drive 2 (B) contains the same pulsing overwhelming rhythm, but now harsh and machine-like instead of organic. A call-and-response with metallic grinding shrieks and sub-harmonic bass blasts.

    The last movement, Treetop Drive 3 (C) has a faster pace, almost frantic in comparison with the previous parts. Like a windy, rumbling tornado, and equally bleak. It includes a quick clip of some anonymous conservative ranting about schools today teaching “death education”, likely a PSA for Teachers AIDS.

    The final track, Tugboat (D), is colder and more barren than the rest, like floating far out at sea. The rolling black waves are still present, more still than before but no less ominous. Over time, the danger of the situation unfolds.

  • Reviewed by Louie Caliente on October 25, 2017 at 12:56 pm
  • Filed as 12-inch,A Library
  • 4 comments
  • Extreme America 3 [coll] – [Knot Music]

    extreme america

    Compilation 7″ showcasing the wide variety of extreme sounds emanating from the West Coast (of Michigan) during the late 90s. From power electronics to skronk-rock to more power electronics, this little record has it all!

    Each song has a distinct feel, but they all track together. Good luck playing just one!

    A side.
    OO Species: Sirens, grinding metal, wailing static.
    Walled Lake: Low-frequency rumblings, train blues, Americana guitar, hypnosis. Bonus fact: Walled Lake is named for the backwoods town where Louie C used to buy alcohol, cigarettes, and fireworks as a teenager.
    Flutter: Pure electronic cacophony, oscillator scribblings, overloaded circuit bending.

    B side.
    Lockweld: More distorted electronics and machine noises. Liner notes indicate “vocals” but they are unrecognizable.
    Audible XXY: Semi-cinematic samples, electronics, and ominous tape loops. Like walking down a long dark hallway.
    Better Disease: Good old fashioned Michigan skronk-rock. The best kind. Guitar, drums, sax, and screams.

  • Reviewed by Louie Caliente on October 1, 2017 at 5:30 pm
  • Filed as 7-inch,A Library
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  • G*Park – “1983-1988+” – [Tochnit Aleph]

    gpark

    G*Park is Marc Zeier, the most obscure member of the already obscure Schimpfluch-Gruppe. His solo work is a surreal blend of field recordings, musique concret, and tape loops.

    This box set (1 of only 77) contains CD reissues of 5 of G*Park’s earliest cassette recordings, along with one CD of previously-unreleased improvisation with Runzelstirn & Gurgelstock. Also included are a glossy booklet of artwork and a bag of tea.

    Lots of loops and layers going on here, a rich collage flowing directly through the sub-conscious (or un-conscious) mind of the listener. Flittery bird calls and heavy machinery, like a field trip through an under-construction menagerie. Ominous tones, drones, and groans confuse and disorient.

    Quasi-rhythmic scrapes and clangs. Heavy breathing, snoring, gurgling. Dreamy nitrous-oxide induced bliss. The dental chair and all its drills, picks, blood, and bright lights feels so far away.

    Hazy radio transmissions pulled from the ether. Distant memories of high-school football. Crunches, crashes, and sharp staccato piano snap you out of it, and take you somewhere else, somewhere darker.

  • Reviewed by Louie Caliente on July 26, 2017 at 5:54 pm
  • Filed as A Library,CD
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  • Tolimieri, Quentin – “Prepared Piano” – [Creative Sources Recording]

    tolimieri

    This one pretty much writes itself. Eight self-describing pieces for prepared piano from NYC composer/improviser and CalArts grad Quentin Tolimieri. The piano is stuffed with various objects, then bowed (T1), plucked (T3), and hammered. Chaotic and bangy at times, smooth and melodic at others. The works each have a unique structure and pace which doesn’t dawdle and stays relatively busy, expect for the sparse one (T5). Best just to let everything flow over you, and not get too caught up in the notes. All tracks are under 6 minutes, except for the long one (T4).

  • Reviewed by Louie Caliente on June 27, 2017 at 7:42 pm
  • Filed as A Library,CD
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  • Samartzis, Philip – “Mort Aux Vaches” – [Staalplaat]

    samartzis

    Philip Samartzis is an Australian sound artist, composer, and professor in Sculpture, Sound and Spatial Practice at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology. He and Andrew Curtis formed the group Gum in the late 80s to explore broken, looped, and layered vinyl. Samartzis’s solo work focuses digital processing of acoustic and found sounds to construct abstract sound environments.

    This 2003 release — part of Staalplaat’s Mort Aux Vaches series — contains three pieces that mix synthesized and natural sounds in unsettling and often jarring ways.

    Variable Resistance (T1) begins with disorienting binaural clicks, slowly tweaked. The sounds come into focus, crisp and precise, but only briefly. Before long some comforting and reverb kicks in, and more natural noises appear. Echoey drips, gasps, and rasps, like wandering through dark wet steam tunnels with a faulty flashlight. Ends with the sounds of a rough pummeling and wailing, as the track skips and glitches to a halt. The CD is not broken.

    Deconstructed Windmills (T2) is calmer, starting with a long high-pictched buzz, giving way to sterile pulses and tones, like hospital equipment. This is replaced with ominous thuds, algorithmic blips and bloops. Brief interludes of glitchy static puncture the overwhelmingly vast drones.

    Soft and Loud (T3) draws the most on acoustic sounds and recordings. The first movement alternates between crunching, bending, scraping, screaming metal, and utter silence. Organic sounds like gurgling water and crinkling fire mix with synthetic sine wave drones. Low vibrations like bad fluorescent lights. Broken voices. Drum ratatatat. Some moments are actually musical, with rich harmonies and quick repetitive glimpse of a melodies, but there’s always something off — the instruments are not what they seem, almost a mirage.

  • Reviewed by Louie Caliente on June 13, 2017 at 8:51 pm
  • Filed as A Library,CD
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  • Bralove, Bob/Kaiser, Henry/Muir, Chris – “Positively Space Music” – [Fractal Music]

    bralove

    One synth keyboard and two guitars, in the hands of 3 close friends and master musicians. Guitarists Henry Kaiser and Chris Muir have been playing and improvising together for over 40 years (this album includes a track by the duo recorded in 1977). Here the pair are joined by keyboardist Bob Bralove who has worked as sound designer and digital music technician for Stevie Wonder and The Grateful Dead.

    “Positively Space Music” is a genre-bending double CD packed with a wide variety of influences, including jazz, funk, ambient, and prog, all done in a very psychedelic spaced-out style. The trio fully embrace the wavy synth sound, and at times teeter on the edge of an 80s kitsch vibe. However, the group’s phenomenal musicianship and almost telepathic communication keeps things moving forward, pushing boundaries and exploring uncharted territories of Space and Music.

  • Reviewed by Louie Caliente on June 11, 2017 at 2:47 pm
  • Filed as A Library,CD
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  • Grosse Abfahrt – “Luftschifffeiertagserinnerungfotoalbum” – [Setola Di Maiale]

    grosse

    Grosse Abfahrt is a project started by Gino Robair to explore improvisation with large groups or musicians. The core of the group consists of Robair, John Shiurba, Matt Ingalls, Tim Perkis, and Tom Djll. On this album (whos title means something like “airship holiday souvenir photo album”) they are joined by Frank Gratkowski, Kjell Nordeson, Liza Mezzacappa, Phillip Greenlief, and John Bisschoff. The session was recorded at Mills College in 2009.

    Given the nature of the group, and the wide variety of instrumentation (all kinds of wind, string, percussion, electronics…) I expected something pretty frenzied and cacophonous, but it’s actually quite subtle and delicate. The artists spend most of their time listening, and slowly build intricately layered soundscapes that breath and flow.

    The album starts off sparse and droney, and slowly picks up some speed as it progresses. Tracks 5 and 6 sound are more energetic and skittery (although still short of cacophonous) than the others, as if the group took a quick espresso break before recording them. There is a brief frenzied climax on track 6 that really hit the spot, and then track 7 slowly unwinds, bringing us back to the vast, wide open spaces that characterize the first few tracks.

  • Reviewed by Louie Caliente on May 17, 2017 at 6:15 pm
  • Filed as CD,Jazz
  • 1 comment
  • Barreca, Marc – “Aberrant Lens” – [Palace of Lights]

    barreca

    Marc Barreca has been creating electronic music since the 1970s. “Aberrant Lens” is his seventh album for Palace of Lights records, produced by label-owner K. Leimer.

    Mixing sampled instruments, treated field recordings, and synthesized sounds, Barreca builds ethereal and exotic musical landscapes. Most of the tracks have a pulsing rhythmic quality, slow and soothing, supported by ambient droning bells and tones.

    Barreca includes samples from a wide variety of acoustic instruments, including accordion, glass harmonica, and Indonesian metallophone, which are occasionally processed and often looped with long delays. The diverse instrumentation gives rise to many distinct textures, and provides plenty of differentiation to the album’s 12 tracks, a rare feat for an “ambient” album.

  • Reviewed by Louie Caliente on May 7, 2017 at 10:40 am
  • Filed as A Library,CD
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  • Marhaug, Lasse / Sult – “Harpoon” – [Pica Disk]

    sult

    The source material for these two side-long tracks was first recorded by Sult, an acoustic improv trio known for amplifying the micro-tonal sounds of their instruments. Sult is Havard Skaset on guitar, Jacob Felix Heule on percussion, and Guro Skumsnes Moe on the contrabass. The sounds were then destructed, chopped, blended, and reconstructed by Norwegian sound artist Lasse Marhuag.

    Have your Dramamine handy for this one. A disorienting jumble of grinding metallic sounds, like a rusty, salt-soaked steel ship battered by waves, careening rudderless through a maelstrom, helpless against forces of nature infinitely more powerful than it. Dense layers of whirring, wheezing, and sputtering. Pantry shelves collapsing, sending pots, pans, and cans tumbling, crashing against floor and walls. A few fleeting moments of repetitive bass thumps on the end of side A provide the only solid footing in the entire album, and leave you desperate for more.

  • Reviewed by Louie Caliente on April 16, 2017 at 3:21 pm
  • Filed as 12-inch,A Library
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  • Lovens, Paul/Hubweber, Paul/Edwards, John – “Papajo” – [Emanem]

    papajo

    Modern free jazz pushing the boundaries of structure and technique. Propulsive but not explosive, these three accomplished musicians find a comfortable yet still edgy middle ground between sparse and skronk.

    The songs have a tight feeling of cohesion not normally found in this kind of improvised music. It’s as if the works already exist out in the ether, moving along with their own internal shape and inertia, passing through the musicians who give them voice.

    Hubweber plays the trombone like an alto sax, with long blasts of notes in between gasps and gurgles. Edwards scratches, bows, and thumps the bass, achieving some bizarre reverberations and harmonics. Lowens provides many percussive layers simultaneously. Playing skittery textures during the more abstract moments, but not afraid to lay down a bursts of driving rhythmic beat when the mood calls for it.

  • Reviewed by Louie Caliente on April 12, 2017 at 3:12 pm
  • Filed as CD,Jazz
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  • Concern – “Caesarean” – [Arbor]

    concern

    Concern is Gordon Ashworth of Portland OR, and “Caesarean” is the second full-length release under this name.

    Three drone tracks composed with beautiful yet simple instrumentation recorded to tape (cassette and 1/4″), processed and layered. The tape artifacts (crackles, warbles, rumbles) are elevated and emphasized, forming an integral part of the rich organic sound.

    Faded fidelity, warm and weathered, like a long-lost and long-loved cassette churning peacefully in the surf, slowly finding its way ashore.

    A1 builds upon a broken piano loop, incorporating clarinet splices before giving way to a brilliant drone emanating from a shruti box (similar to a harmonium) with a glistening banjo gleam.

    A2 holds more radiant bellowing drones from the shrunti box, sharper and more focused than before. The banjos have lost their sparkle, and are now pensive and melancholy. Less of a buildup, and more of a slow cathartic release.

    B evokes a synthetic cityscape. Birds and bells, distant factories and passing cars. A mix of soothing piano and sinister hums. Building and dissolving multiple times, as if experiencing the world by train, passing through a series of foreign yet familiar towns, separated by long, dark tunnels.

  • Reviewed by Louie Caliente on March 7, 2017 at 8:04 pm
  • Filed as 12-inch,A Library
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  • Electro-Haram – “Taharrush Gamea” – [Post-Materialization Music]

    electro-haram

    From Russia’s experimental Post-Materialization Music label comes this bizarre cassette of extremely lo-fi “ethnodub”. The album name “Taharrush Gamea” is Arabic for “group harassment”, and usually refers to mass sexual assault. Very little information about this album or the artist exist. Only 31 of these cassettes were produced, and the artist’s other albums have been released on recycled soviet-era reel-to-reel tape, and 3.5″ floppy disk.

    The cassette is seemingly designed to make you wonder if your stereo is busted. It’s an hour of international pop music, played at the wrong speed through unreliable equipment, mixed with crunchy record scratches, cut-up tape loop squiggles, and spooky spoken-word. Broken electronics buzz and hum throughout, and the whole thing sounds like it was recorded underwater. Samples (actually entire songs) are appropriated from a variety of sources: Bollywood dance tunes, Eastern Orthodox chants, Thai power-pop, and (as the artist’s name implies) middle Eastern folk. The result is disorienting (to say the least), like a bad acid trip through the depths of the international library.

  • Reviewed by Louie Caliente on February 25, 2017 at 11:39 pm
  • Filed as A Library,Cassette
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  • Nurse With Wound – “Surveillance Lounge, The” – [United Dirter]

    nww

    This 2009 release featuring David Tibet was originally composed as the soundtrack to F.W. Murnau’s 1922 silent film Der Brennende Acker (“The Burning Soil”). Listening to the four long tracks is like being bound and blindfolded, thrust into the center of a mysterious occult ritual, anxiously awaiting your inevitable sacrifice.

    A begins with ominous druid drones. Melancholy pianos tinkle and horns bellow. Inner-ear whispers, possessed growlings, and manic incantations from haunted souls. Swirling ceremonial typewriters crunch under stomping feet.

    B continues with sacred scrolls crinkling, tearing, tossed piece-by-piece into the flames. Rhythmic percussion shakes, ecstatic shouts speaking in tongues — the spirit of Noddy? Tapes speed up and swirl down, distorting and disorienting. Echoing scrapes and squeaks, far-off ringing of bells.

    C picks up where B left off, with shamanistic synths and droning gongs. An explosion of voices and tape malfunctions. Motherly murmurs comfort you, guiding you through the strange unknown.

    D holds the rabid climax of the satanic ritual. Whispered incantations, choral moans, ringing chimes. Angered shouts accompanied by violin warbles, building to a dramatic crescendo of shrill piercing blasts. Chaotic interludes of department-store muzak, simultaneously mundane and sinister. The chaos breaks, giving way to a few short minutes of completely innocuous smooth jazz — the true sounds of the underworld? The piece ends with broken radio transmissions in foreign tongues, slowly fading to quiet deathly ambience.

  • Reviewed by Louie Caliente on February 21, 2017 at 8:56 pm
  • Filed as 12-inch,A Library
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  • Raymond Scott: Biography 1 [coll] – [Aural Films]

    rs

    Raymond Scott was an American composer, band-leader, and inventor of electronic instruments. Although he never composed directly for cartoons, his music is most famous for accompanying countless Looney Tunes shorts, as well as more modern cartoons like Ren & Stimpy, The Simpsons, and Animaniacs.

    Scott experimented with electronic sounds throughout the 30s and 40s, establishing Manhattan Research Inc. in 1946 to design and manufacture electronic instruments, such as the “Keyboard theremin,” “Chromatic electronic drum generators,” and “Circle generators.” He also invented the first device capable of playing a sequence of tones.

    This CD is the first of a two-volume compilation tribute to Scott’s electronic work. 28 bands offer up songs channeling (in one way or another) Scott’s music. The tracks range from blippity-bloopity recreations, to poppy songs built on samples of Scott’s music, to entirely new pieces inspired by Scott’s imagination and experimentation. All songs are short, clocking in at 2 minutes or less, and provide a wide variety of interesting sounds.

  • Reviewed by Louie Caliente on February 5, 2017 at 5:06 pm
  • Filed as A Library,CD
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  • Haino, Keiji/ O’Rourke, Jim /Ambarchi, Oren – “I Wonder If You Noticed “I’m Sorry” Is Such a Lovely Sound” – [Black Truffle]

    hoa

    Recorded live in Tokyo during March 2014, this double-LP swings wildly and repeatedly from free-form explorations of rhythm and structure, to face-melting psych-rock jams. Accompanied by Ambarchi’s explosive drumming and O’Rourke’s thunderous bass, Keiji Haino shouts and screams emotional, poetic lyrics in both Japanese and English. Haino also brings a few interesting instruments with him, including a contrabass harmonica, and a traditional Turkish string instrument called a bulgari.

    A starts with Ambarchi’s sparse and airy percussion. Slowly the bass rolls in, followed by Haino’s voice, powerful and guttural. The rhythmic strumming on the bulgari is trance-inducing. The musicians wander and explore until they spontaneously coalesce in an intense free-folk freakout, which disovles away and the cycle repeats.

    B is dark and ominous. Haino passionately shouts and groans. Soon all is overtaken in a screeching wash of guitar fury. A series of psych-rock jams emerge from the chaos only to disintegrate under their own cosmic weight.?? Eventually this gives way to the strangely soothing humms and snores of an enormous contrabass harmonica.

    C has a persistent yet evolving body-shaking drum groove, coupled with thumping bass lines, and pierced with scorching guitar tones. Probably the heaviest psych-rock of all the tracks, although it ventures in a weird acid-tinged direction about 2/3 of the way in before blasting everything down.

    D begins with soaring guitar lines, then settles into a deep plodding relentless groove while Haino delivers some of his most forceful vocals yet. The final third of the side sees the return of the bulgari, while Haino mournfully wails.

  • Reviewed by Louie Caliente on February 5, 2017 at 3:26 pm
  • Filed as 12-inch,A Library
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  • Zoulek, Nick – “Rushing Past Willow” – [Innova Recordings]

    zoulek-ss

    Nick Zoulek is an American Saxophonist and composer, pushing his instrument in new directions through his unique vocal techniques, circular breathing, and “unconventional articulation.” He uses multiple microphones to pick up different aspects and textures of the sax sound.

    The first thing you notice when listening to this album is Zoulek’s incredible circular breathing abilities. Beautiful melodic lines continually flow and evolve, becoming ever louder and more powerful. Relentless streams of arpeggios rush at you, unwavering.

    Then come the otherworldly moans and screams, as Zoulek vocalizes and blows simultaneously, resulting in some room-shaking harmonic vibrations. Thick, honky sounds bellow like from the depths of hell. The songs take on such a richness and textural complexity that they sound electronically processed. On top of all this, Zoulek smacks the keys like drums, yielding a hollow percussive sound, almost like a bass.

    The album is an exploration of harmonics and resonance, and what can be achieved with a simple instrument played in a new light.

  • Reviewed by Louie Caliente on January 23, 2017 at 8:52 pm
  • Filed as A Library,CD
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  • Stella, Rodger – “Final Programme, The” – [I Dischi Del Barone]

    stella

    Bathe in the warm sonic shower of Rodger Stella, American noise artist and founding member of Macronympha.

    Waves of static punches and shattering explosions all crashing on an electronic shore. A full spectrum experience.

  • Reviewed by Louie Caliente on November 20, 2016 at 6:28 pm
  • Filed as 7-inch,A Library
  • Comment on this review
  • Meirino, Francisco – “Surrender, Render, End” – [Helen Scarsdale Agency]

    fmereino-surrender-lg

    Francisco Meirino is a Swiss noise-concrete sound artist exploring “electro-acoustic dialectics.” His latest work, “surrender, render, end”, fuses many layers of subtle found-sound recordings and minimal ambient electronics into a deep sonic bath.

    Slowly rotting appliances rumble and rattle in hollow warehouses. Fields of electronic insects flutter. Far-off beeps and close-up squeaks.

    As the title implies, most of the sounds here are cold, uncomfortable, and a bit harsh, but they sometimes give way to warmer, more inviting moments.?? Memories of long train rides, or the static fuzz of an old television set.

  • Reviewed by Louie Caliente on November 12, 2016 at 6:07 pm
  • Filed as A Library,CD
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