The mw ensemble is the New York-based duo of Nancy Wheeler and Mike Winters. They create minimal compositions for piano and sometimes cello, and also use field recordings and electronic treatments in their work. On this 2017 release, we hear several instances of two solo piano pieces as they are broadcast over unassigned carrier frequencies and played back through a Crosby AM/FM receiver. The two short compositions begin with beautiful, repetitive, somewhat conventional playing. But dissonance finds its way in, and by the end, entire swathes of keys are mashed at once. The transmissions alter the signal in different ways, adding fuzzy distortion (T1) or noisy horror (T5). Conduct your own experiment with the source tracks (T3 and T6) or let the waves of the west rip apart what’s left of the broadcasts, and wield the awesome transformative power of terrestrial radio!
Compilation showcasing the artists performing at the 2017 SFEMF, Sept 8-10 at the Brava Theater:
01 Suki O’Kane Local composer/percussionist, performs in Dan Plonsey’s ensemble and many other SF groups. Synthetic water sounds and blurred bright drone.
02 Las Sucias Oakland industrial/reggaeton/riotgrrl duo of Danishta Rivero and Alexandra Buschman. This banger was on the Ratskin Records Sentient Solder II comp from last year, but you should definitely play it again now anyway
03 Aaron Dilloway Track from the ex-Wolf Eyes member’s new release The Gag File. Trash cans banging, distorted voices, ghostly whistling from back alley
04 Dax Pierson Bay Area underground hip hop musician/producer who hasn’t stopped making art since a car accident in 2005 left him paralyzed from the chest down. Starts out like a 70s new-agey synth theme song, but then the beat kicks in, the synths doubleback, and it all mutates into something completely and unexpectedly different. lexi g’s pick!
05 Kaori Suzuki Synth builder at Magic Echo Music and musician, Oakland-based by way of Tokyo and Seattle. Binaural waves expand, develop from smooth to sawtoothed and back again
06 JH1.FS5 Our first library entry from the new duo of Puce Mary and Liebestod (Frederikke Hoffmeier and Jesse Sanes). Waves of static, repetitive bass pulses, ropes on the verge of snapping as Puce Mary mumbles about being tied up.
07 Beast Nest Oakland-based musician Sharmi Basu. Spaceship computer, alien symbols on the control panel, blinking light bulbs.
08 Waxy Tomb Jules Litman-Cleper from SF. Mishmash of electronic sounds, warped vocals, almost recognizable elements of hip hop, huffs of vaporwave.
09 Suzanne Ciani Electronic music legend, Buchla synth master. Excerpt from a January 2017 performance in Stockholm. Layered, complex but not busy, pinpoints and echoes, otherworldly – her live performances are astonishing. See the full performance here.
Ann O’Rourke, Carlos Jennings, and Mark Pino have been performing together as Ear Spray since 2010. This self-released, hand-painted CDR collects recordings of the noise trio’s live performances from 2014-2016 at local venues The Stork Club (T1), LCM (T2), and the Second Act (T3).
O’Rourke is a percussionist, vocalist, and video artist who came to the world of free music later in life, discovering her love for strange sounds by playing drums in a free jazz group, taking operatic voice lessons, and singing in the Cornelius Cardew Choir, an SF-based experimental vocal ensemble. She brings all of her talents to this project – from the wails, yelps, and rapid-fire utterances of her voice, to the riotous tumbling percussion, to the live video projections that react to the music during the Spray’s shows. She is joined by Jennings on turntables and electronics and Pino on additional percussion (Infinite Plastic Internal, McCaslin/Reed/Pino Trio, Surplus 1980, etc etc etc and a good friend of KFJC).
Each performance is a very different experience, each an adventure. The Stork Club track (T1, ~20m) is an ecstatic meditation on the looping mantra: if a thing loves it is infinite. The LCM track (T2, ~18:30) begins with a twisted reveille – you wake up, but you’re still in the dream. The Second Act (T3, ~20m) is an underworld haunted by electronic ghosts. Together, it’s the sound of an artistic spirit finding her wild, fearsome voice. Spray it loud!
Herbst9 is the dark ambient project of Henry Emich and Frank Merten from Leipzig (they also work under the name Land:Fire). This 2011 release from Loki Foundation is a 2X CD concept album inspired by the Sumer and Akkad, the world’s first civilizations – from the cuneiform symbols and mythological imagery that make up the cover art, to the vocals in the ancient Akkadian language, to the ceremonial rhythms and instrumentation. The first disc opens with “She Filled the Wells of the Land With Blood” (T1), with ringing gongs and the chants of a vengeful female spirit (Andrea Sinclair provides vocals in Akkadian, also on T7). “Napissunu Mutumma” (T2, “Their Breath is Death”) is a 15-minute epic with a dramatic battle scene bookended by beautiful, mysterious passages with harps and chimes. “Ludlul Bel Nemeqi” (T3, “I Will Praise the Lord of Wisdom”, the title of a poem that reads like a Babylonian version of the Book of Job) is a fitting soundtrack to your upcoming solar eclipse sacrifice. “The Sage Lord Asimbabbar” (T11) is another highlight, with violin, lute, and chimes. Along with the dark ambient shadows and the acoustic instruments, loops of spoken word are used – some times well, but other times to confusing and even annoying effect (like the guided meditation spoken word on T2, for example). But that aside, there’s hours of excellent dark, mystical atmosphere on this release.
This release from NYC’s Compile, one of our first adds from the Boston cassette label Private Archive, holds two sidelong sound collages (supposedly two separate tracks, but I can’t hear the division). “Drone’s on Fire/Ten Wolves End” (A) is a collaboration with Article Collection (C. Latina of the group Private Archive and label co-owner). Chopped and screwed voices – possibly ripped from Youtube videos with views in the single digits or surveillance camera footage – describe survival on the streets and the pathetic daily life of a vlogger broadcasting for the first (and probably last) time. Underneath the samples are synth sketches, heavy bass pulses, tumbling metal, high pitched ringing, hovering drones. The piece degenerates into a finale that is both hilarious and terrifying. In “Compile/Did you really have fun tonight?” (B), recordings of domestic disturbances and an informational video about violent behavior steep in a nauseating brew of chants, drones, metallic echoes, and squirming synthwork. The cameras are everywhere, pointed at you, and the images captured are an infinitely scrolling reminder: there’s nothing in there.
FCCs ON BOTH SIDES
Ima (“now” in Japanese) is an Oakland-based electro-percussion duo who have been performing since 2013. Amma Ateria (Jeanie Aprille Tang) is a composer and artist who works with field recordings and an instrument made from electronic hardware, contact mics, and plexiglass. Nava Dunkelman is a percussionist who has performed in several local groups, including the improvisational group DunkelpeK. This live CDR recording of their performance from the 2017 Garden of Memory at the Chapel of the Chimes in Oakland was burned and released on the spot at the event.
I still haven’t been to the Chapel of the Chimes, but the sounds on this record match the image of it I have in my mind: beautiful, maze-like, heavy with the presence of those laid to rest. Echoing through the chapel’s halls are the rumbles of gongs, ringing bells, metallic clashes, crashes, whispered phrases that are looped and processed. “Notion of Time” (T1) is a short spoken word introduction (in Japanese). In “Lift” (T3) a dark, deep drone pulses throughout. The album concludes with the exquisite “Eline” (T5) with chimes glimmering in the dark. Stunning.
Tom Nunn and Doug Carroll are improvisers who have been working and performing in the Bay Area for decades. In the early 00s, the duo met weekly to make and record improvised sound art and released the results on homemade CDRs under the name Twine. This CDR, recorded in February of 2002, is the 20th volume of this project. Nunn builds his own original instruments (he has made over 200), including a series called electroacoustic percussion boards, wooden boards fitted with sound generating objects (nails, wooden sticks, strings) and amplified with pickups. We hear several of these inventions, such as the Octatonic T-Rodimba, in this work. Doug Carroll is a cellist and composer. Here, he plays a Zeta electronic cello using non-traditional techniques.
The CDR opens with a long, curious piece. Nunn’s playing is like listening to an crazy Rube Goldberg machine: I imagine twine being drawn through pulleys, marbles rolling around chutes and down wooden ramps, rows of dominoes falling, scrambled tones like a cartoon computer crunching numbers. Carroll’s playing moves through this maze of sound with plucking, bowing, and guitar-like strumming. The electronic treatments give the cello a coarse, lo-fi edge, and adds woozy slides between the notes. On the second track, Nunn introduces some questionably traditional percussion – a driving, deeper beat accompanied by an melodic, bell-like rhythm, as Carroll’s cello growls. The remaining three tracks combine Nunn’s sound effects of T1 and the rhythms of T2, and we hear the two improvisors exploring this wholly original world of sound.
Glochids is the project of James Roemer, a sound artist from Arizona currently working in Oakland. We received his new LP from Ascetic House during his Mayhem 2017 performance in the Pit, during the fourth and final installment of Teachers AIDS’ and James Livingston’s Black Horizons Mayhem.
Ni Fila explores a variety of weird, dreamlike environments over eight tracks. The A side holds five pieces that build on a central idea and with additional electronic and acoustic elements: in Mossoão (T1), a languid synth melody backdrops mechanical grinding, in “Expense One” (T2), a gently glowing drone anchors twisting, stretching electronic sounds, a looping melody underlies blooms of distorted noise in “Comma Loop” (T3), constantly blinking synths are overtaken by metallic rhythms and someone fucking with the pitch shifter again on “Washir Pulse” (T4). “Village” skips through a long-form ambient soundscape with the fast-forward dial (T5). The second side gives way to longer sound collages that incorporate unusual sounds, such as the bell-like bonang and field recordings from the streets of Guatemala (“Net” T6), a marimba mirage on “KPOCC NO2” (T7), bleary organ tones on “Net (Orgel)” (T8). There’s more Glochids in our library by way of Weird Ear, hear here.
This 2001 CD from Neurot Recordings is the sole release from Vitriol, the solo project of Ben (G.C.) Green, the bassist from Godflesh.
Vitriol is an archaic term for sulfuric acid, (the word derives from the Latin vitriolum, “of glass”, as crystals of metal sulfates resemble colored glass). The substance was central in alchemical practice for its transformative powers, its importance reflected in the alchemist’s motto “Visita Interiora Terrae Rectificando Invenies Occultum Lapidem” – “Visit the interior of the earth, and purifying it, you will find the hidden stone.” Green pursued this message, and this album is an account of his personal inward search. Recorded from 1995-1996, these tracks were made during a year long retreat to the mountains of Wales, where Green lived and worked in solitude. “Visita” (T1) opens with beautiful drones looping in reverse. Many of the tracks focus on abstract, textured noise, with additional elements like heavy distortion (T2), bell-like drones (T4), rushes of water and driving pulses (T5). There’s the sounds of the paranoia that sets in during extended periods of isolation: deep voices rising up from the mountains (T3), imagined footsteps echoing in an empty house (T6). The album ends on a (somewhat surprising) peaceful note, with beautiful reverberating guitars (T7).
Nathan Cearley and Erica Bradbury have been composing analog synth works as Long Distance Poison since 2010. Most of the releases from this Brooklyn duo are on cassette (though the only one we have so far is a 12″ single) including this 2015 tape from Prison Tatt.
Each side of Twin Lights Twin Lights holds a sidelong track. “Mosa” (T1) immediately swells into a vicious surge of sound. At the center of the piece are heavy, earth-shaking pulses, but as it unfolds, subtler details begin to emerge. There’s tones twisting outwards, insectoid flourishes, bizarre melodies that hiss, crawl, breathe. The piece includes hydrophone recordings of the East River. “Infra Viam (Live At Death By Audio, 9/19/12)” (T2, Cearley and Bradbury are joined by Casey Block on a Micromoog), a live track from the now shuttered NYC studio/venue, feels like the afterimage of the first side: we hear settling dust clouds, smoldering remains, piano-like notes blurred beyond recognition, glowing embers, droning echoes, absence. Recommended if you enjoyed getting lost in the void of Zaimph’s latest work.
Live recordings of two half-hour performances of improvised electronics and violin, released in 2000 by the New Zealand label Corpus Hermeticum (run by Bruce Russell of the Dead C). Lionel Marchetti is a French musique concrète/electronic composer who creates studio pieces and improvised live works. This release is an example of the latter, with Marchetti using microphones, tape recorders, radios, and loudspeakers strategically placed to complement the acoustics of the performance space. Jérôme Noetinger is also a French sound artist; both he and Marchetti were students of Xavier Garcia, and have been frequent collaborators since the early 90s. Here they are joined by violinist Mathieu Werchowski. The CD includes an essay from guitarist Michel Henritzi that casts the performances as radical acts: “two concerts that are imploding limits within which our listening is held by the dominant discourse of our market-led era.”
The Lille performance (T1) opens with a sweep of the tuner dial on an antique radio – sometimes the hint of a broadcast fades in for a moment through the static and woozy, theremin-like feedback. When Werchowski joins in, it kicks off an ongoing exchange between the violin and electronic sounds for a place in the foreground. His frantic, repetitive bowing builds into a fury; later, blares of microphone feedback, blotting out everything around it, dominate as Werchowski brushes on muted strings. An extended lull gives way to another build-up with long pulls of the bow on dissonant double stops and wild electronic chaos. The Turin performance (T2) has many of the same elements, but it is the darker and queasier of the two pieces, with high-pitched whistling and droning feedback creating a persistent tension. Intense listening.
Formed in 2010, Maldur Atai is a three-man industrial ambient project that comes from an emerging experimental scene in Lithuania. This 2012 CD, their fourth album, was released by the Vilnius label Autarkeia.
Borgata is a concept album that takes its title from a biography of Italian intellectual and director Pier Paolo Pasolini that explores the mysterious events surrounding his murder on a beach in Rome in 1975, just before the premiere of his infamous film Salò. I can’t find anything about this biography other than the lengthy synopsis from Autarkeia. But if it does exist, it sounds like a pretty decent read: it reveals that Pasolini was killed by operatives of a secret global conspiracy, that includes high-ranking members of the Vatican clergy, whose goal is to prevent the unfolding of ancient prophecies of an obscure Buddhist cult called the Maldur Atai, the details of which Pasolini planned to expose in his next film.
The album follows the twists and turns of this convoluted story. It opens with beautiful ambient sounds mixed with samples – grim news reports, screams of horror, discussions of psychedelics, voices of possessed children. These clues deepen the mystery, and the sounds follow, becoming darker, hollow and expansive. As we near the truth, the tracks become heavier, louder, and distorted, almost sounding like a noise record (T5, T7, T11, T12). Finally, we arrive at some kind of solution to the puzzle, with a guitar-based Italian folk ballad, Apollo 11 flight recordings, (T13) and a mystical vision appearing at the close (T14).
Frank Dommert began experimenting with tape music as a high school student growing up in Cologne in the 80s. He reached out as a fan to Christoph Heeman of H.N.A.S. (Hirsche Nicht Aufs Sofa, their early work came out on United Dairies) and soon became a collaborator. After releasing a string of cassettes on his own label Entenpfuhl, Dommert made this record, his first LP, in 1990, with Heeman as producer. The circle of musicians Dommert encountered during this period went on in the 90s to form the group Kontakta, the Sonig label and a-musik, which became the center of the experimental scene in Cologne. This 2016 reissue of Kiefermusik (“jaw music”) comes to us from the now Belgium-based label Pacific City Sound Visions, run by madman Spencer Clark (he’s calling himself Typhonian Highlife lately, also known as Fourth World Magazine, half of the noise duo The Skaters with James Ferraro, the Monopoly Child Star Searchers, and more).
Kiefermusik contains two sidelong tape experiments that warp and wind fragments of recorded sound into a seamless dream sequence. In “Neum” (side A), dueling cycles of sound, one a loop of tape static churning in a constant rhythm, and a parallel loop fluctuating in pitch and volume. Echoing conversations, a distant accordion serenade, blistering noise, a ticking second hand (I had a traumatic flashback to Clocker, now finishing up its rotation in our current bin), and end-of-the-cassette crackles all move into awareness before the tape flies off the reel. “Uwverschmuschupi” (side B) begins with a sample of sped-up circus music (perhaps the roly-poly fish heads on the album cover?) that returns like a chorus throughout the piece. Voices and their chemtrailing echoes, planes flying overhead, radio news reports rumbling underneath, comic book laser beams, clips of film dialog and violin solos. Totally demented and sublime.
Luigi Russolo (1885-1947) was an Italian Futurist composer, occultist, and designer of a family of musical instruments called the Intonarumori, or “noise intoners.” In his 1913 manifesto The Art of Noises, Russolo argued that traditional music could no longer capture the senses and imagination of the modern listener, a city-dweller surrounded by the constant cacophony of “noise sounds.” He envisioned a new kind of orchestra, composed of purely mechanical instruments – the Intonarumori – that each created a sound from one of six “families of noise” (roaring, hissing, scraping, etc.) that resembles the sounds one encounters in modern life. The first orchestral performance in Modena in 1914, perhaps the first noise show in history, ended in a riot. Since then, many of the instruments were lost over the years, or destroyed during World War II.
In 2009, Luciano Chessa (composer, multi-instrumentalist, and friend of the station – his most recent visit to The Pit was in Dec. 2016) resurrected the Intonarumori in a celebration of the 100th anniversary of Italian Futurism, in collaboration with Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center (EMPAC) and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Working from Russolo’s original designs, Chessa’s team constructed 16 replicas of the Intonarumori devices, large wooden boxes containing intricate mechanical noise generators operated by an external lever or hand crank, with a phonograph-style horn to amplify the sound. Chessa then invited his colleagues and friends to compose new works for the orchestra, to be performed alongside Russolo’s original compositions. The works were performed at several locations, including the Ex-Alumix factory in Bolzano, Italy, by the Trento Risuona Improvisation Orchestra (T.R.I.O.).
This 2X LP from Sub Rosa collects the recordings from this 2010 performance. Blixa Bargeld contributes a driving, droning piece (T1), Pauline Oliveros has the sounds scattered as they rise up from silence (T2), Margareth Kammerer offers a night-shift blues tune with female vocals (T12), Pablo Ortiz creates a wild, dissonant tango that you could almost dance to. Several pieces incorporate operatic vocals (T3, T5, T7, T11). Extensive liner notes are included inside the gatefold. In the hands of such brilliant musicians, these century-old instruments sound fresh, and somehow, from the grinding-gear sounds, they are able to generate a surprising variety of textures and moods. It’s all the more impressive that there isn’t an amp of electricity flowing. Russolo’s words resound today as strongly as ever: “Today noise reigns supreme over human sensibility.”
X Eyes is the LA noise duo of Corissa Viveros and Travis Fargher (aka rehgrafsivart, also in Bastard Noise). They’re occasionally joined by their two talented kids, as in their live performance from the KFJC pit in February 2017. This 2015 cassette from Kitty Play Records finds the pair bending circuits to generate a warped interpretation of a Deep South tent revival. Bubbling up from the muck of swampy synthesis are swarms of giant buzzing cicadas, visions of snake-faced preachers (T1), a sermon from His Holiness Ornette Coleman (T3), the relentless sound of a downpour during a thunderstorm, blasts of crackling ringing and pulsating feedback. Press play and be healed.
Richard Streeter is associated with Butte County Free Music Society, the collective of Norcal noisefreaks that brought us the Bren’t Lewiis Ensemble, the great Bananafish zine, and other local underground institutions. As The Viper, Streeter brings us his straight-to-boombox recordings saved from his teenage years growing up in suburban Livermore in the late 70s. Noisy tape doodles (T2, T3, T4), a lo-fi drum spazzout with sis on backup vocals (T1, dredged up a memory of one of my old favorite Space Ghost numbers), a truly sweet little instrumental hippy dip folk pop tune with lilting piano and violin (T5), and a band practice outtake with strange, clashing chords and bluesy riffs (T6). Former high school weirdos that burned time until graduation nerding out over music (I’m assuming that’s all of us) might be delighted by this weird little mixtape.
The Infected Mass is the first release from Matthew Patton’s project Those Who Walk Away. Patton is a composer from Winnipeg, whose previous works include the score for the 1988 dance performance Speaking in Tongues. This new work deals with the grief surrounding the death of Patton’s brother, who was killed in a plane crash. The pieces feature string and choral arrangements performed by players from Winnipeg and the Iceland Symphony Orchestra, who are credited as the “ghost strings” and “ghost chorus.” The strings are slowly bowed, creating reflective harmonies (T2, T4, T6), while distant voices echo in a mournful chorus (T1 and T7). Filling in the empty spaces, there is a quiet roar, like an icy wind, made from the sounds of circulating blood. And then, jarringly, we are presented with the black box recordings recovered from two fatal plane crashes (T3 and T5). “The recordings are very disturbing,” Patton says, “as we listen to these cockpit voice recordings, real people are about to die. I don’t know why I am doing something that feels so wrong. But I am.” Maybe it’s also wrong to drop art that is so personal and so harrowing into the middle of a dumb radio show, but I’ll leave that for you to decide.
This Cloister Recordings cassette is the second release from Sweden’s Den Arkaiska Rösten (“The Archaic Voices”), the project of Girilal Baars and Per Åhlund. Baars is a professionally trained vocalist who has previously worked with the vocal group Äijä, a composer of operas, and a sound engineer. Åhlund has several solo sound art/electronic projects and has worked with Sophia, among other bands.
This cassette holds two sidelong pieces in which the sounds of the voice, in all of its many forms, are used to create a twisted, haunting landscape. Sounds of mouths, tongues, teeth, saliva, and breathing become howling winds and falling water. Deep utterances that resemble traditional throat singing rise from the lowest register, and a chorus of droning chants builds and closes in. Individual voices can be heard singing melodies or wails of regret, but soon disappear back into the fray. While vocal sounds are the main focus, weird electronics and drum beats can be heard humming beneath. The overall effect is like the spirits of everyone that’s ever lived rising from some ancient burial site to deliver us this cryptic message: it was like you said / it was not like you said.
Blight is the first solo album from drummer René Aquarius, of the Dutch free jazz duo Dead Neanderthals, and it’s another excellent addition to our collection of releases from Milwaukee’s Utech Records. The only instruments played on these eight pieces are drums and cymbals, but Aquarius uses closely placed microphones, reverb, and an equalizer to create a varied collection of dark, unusual sounds. We hear low drones, deep rumblings, metal meeting metal, metal catching light, a dying heartbeat, the long lingering after-echoes of a cymbal crash. Even through the effects and other technical tricks, the tactile feel of Aquarius’ playing remains, giving the tracks a rich quality that I usually associate with expertly recorded jazz albums. From this material, Aquarius crafts a quiet, slowly shifting air of mystery. The original concept and skillful execution make this an intriguing listen for those of us (all of us?) that are into dark ambient sounds.
Kleistwahr is the solo electronic project of Gary Mundy, of the legendary industrial/power electronics band Ramleh; his work under this name dates back to a pair of Broken Flag cassette releases from 1983. Mundy has returned to this project in recent years to create a series of intensely beautiful noise records that share a common theme of modern despair, including 2014’s The World Is Not My Home, 2016’s Over Your Heads Forever, and now this 2017 LP from Cairo’s Nashazphone label.
Music for Zeitgeist Fighters holds two sidelong tracks, “Music For Dead Dreams” (T1) and “Music For Fucked Films” (T2), composed from relentless guitar feedback, ghostly voices straining to be heard through the distortion, hazy piano melodies, droning organ, and blistering noise. Blasts of harshness coexist with tragic beauty in a way that is so effortless and so authentic that it is immediately clear that this is work of a master. Philip Best wrote of this record: “Really don’t want to ruin the fun and generally I’m up for anything but this fucking shit cannot go on, can it?” In these deeply fucked times, music this blazingly powerful stirs the will to keep fighting.
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