C.W. VRTACEK: “When Heaven Comes to Town” *****

Recorded 1988

 

 

Multi-instrumentalist C.W. Vrtacek aka Chuck Vrtacek aka Charles O’Meara surfaced on the independent American scene in the early 1980s.  As a self-declared “President of the Avant-garde”, he created a stir in underground distribution networks with his first two LPs and a cassette parodying the Residents’ mannerism.  Conflicting coverage in the then trend-setting magazine Option proves that Vrtacek’s music was often misunderstood, even by his own audience.

 

He then unexpectedly turned to brief, tightly sewn, levellist rock forms.  Ever since, his musical output followed a dual path.  On the one hand, he sought to localize the perfect format for graphically transparent avant-rock ‘songs’.  Rhythmically eclectic and often fiery, his guitar-based trios and quartets eventually led in 1989 to the foundation of Forever Einstein, self-proclaimed as an exponent of ‘cubist country progressive’.  Drummer John Roulat has accompanied Vrtacek in this adventure since the beginning.

 

By contrast, in his piano compositions Vrtacek expounded uncanny flair for nostalgic melodism.  Flashes of genius cannot conceal the fact that he is well acquainted with both Eric Satie and ZNR – the legendary eminences grises of experimental melancholia.  

 

Early in his career, Vrtacek was capable of combining these nascent, apparently contradictory threads with evocative and often whimsical musical illustrations.  These figurative collages, facilitated by early versions of samplers, proved highly rewarding at a time when many other avant-garde artists were also exploring the genre with memorable effects (e.g. Motor Totemist Guild, John Zorn, Alfred 23 Harth). 

 

Since the late 1980s, Vrtacek has also been a member of Colorado-based collective Biota. 

 

 

Minus My Friend

The record opens with a Satiesque nursery melody.  The stippled piano motif is intimate, but playfully pastel in character.  It springs charitably, thanks to a pre-school left hand ostinato.  The perfectly terrestrial melodic vector plunges us into the dominant mood of acclimatized longing. 

 

History of the Heart, Mystery of the Mind

With its foundation in classical guitar, the dusky, ruminative harmony marinates in objectless nostalgia.  A harp tiptoes around, like Nino Rota’s sad marionettes from Fellini’s confessional ‘Casanova’.  Equally regrettably, what promises to take us on an odyssey is almost instantly suspended without conclusion.

 

Part of Me Here, Part of Me with You, Always

Vrtacek underwrites this vignette with a DX7 keyboard and manages to sinter through it colorful hesitations, demurrals and waivers.  The piano solo is saddled with a heavy responsibility to deliver a thematic development of Klimperei – like levity.  The composer passes the test.

 

Stone Steps

Another piece with the harmony and tempo defined by the acoustic guitar.  An aphoristic piano rhapsody will spin here with the lightness of a newborn butterfly. 

 

Preparing the Bridge (for Heaven)

From here on, Vrtacek will gradually densify the atmosphere.  Brown noise effects gnarl at a distance until highly pitched synthesizer glissando drapes over the lyrical majesty of large, open spaces.  Irregular, inarticulate cracks barely distract us from the cinematic, cloudy, non-denominationally mystic ambience.  Nor will electric discharges and thunderous backdrop prevent the liturgic metaphor from evolving inside the electric lumpen-organ.

 

Saying Goodbye to the Beauty and Complexity of Life on Earth

Accustomed now to the merger of the organic with the naturalistic, the listener wakes up to dulled keyboard chords stuck in incessant, metronomic manacles.  The Pierre Bastien-like regularity is too muffled to be directly cross-textual.  The electronic romanticism of rainy glissandos recurs, underlined by a bass line growling between its whiskers. 

 

When Heaven Comes to Town

Chuck invites us to an American diner.  What a national institution; noisy, cluttered, predictable, staffed with waitresses on the edge of poverty, rife with the busy smell of people in a rush.  The coffee is weak.  The eggs filling.  The service über-hasty.  And furtive diner recordings are just too irresistible to be infrequent.  The doors swing, the cutlery cutlers, the voices cluck.  And then?  Then a piano intones a sketchy, dangling sub-theme.  But, rather than conjugating nostalgic reminiscences, Vrtacek changes the course with static, noises, tunnel-echoed black soul singers, street din and ballroom piano poetry.  All will compete for space in the multi-layered, overcrowded kaleidoscope of sounds.  The composer of this collage will hesitate whether to confine us to the jostled eatery or to let us venture outside, where footsteps, announcements, fizzing liquids and frizzling burns coexist unaware of each other.  The piano is now replaced by a clavinet-sounding keyboard and kalimba-style idiophonic scale.   A more joyful, non-linear melodic attempt succeeds when a jangly, percussive zither solo bypasses the main spotlight.  The composer attentively regulates the spigot of the electro-burr before leading us back to the piano solo.  He betrays his preference for representational aspects, known from his first two records.  When melodica and a throbbing keyboard rhythm induce some suspense, it is instantly devastated by the fast forward of an analog tape swishing by an oversensitive recording tape.  Radio knob petting showcases meaningless shards – news in English, Spanish telenovelas, classical music, old-time jazz, resonant timbales, mariachi-type fanfares, Spanish-language commercials, English talk radio, Mexican radionoticias, soul crooners and the like.  As this pageant of auditory borderland begins to wear off, percussive effects envelop the physical space.  A triste, lonesome piano nocturne makes a comeback through the sizzling haze, a supra-imposed romantic orchestra and a humming factory.  The piano never really shakes off the man-made stridor of the industry and classical concert halls.  Although the quasi-aleatoric proceeding experiments with funk and Latin dance interferences, this last chapter is mainly marked by a bold, muscular, proud tango.  Its exalted melodrama strides on cheap piano keys, light drumstick snare and glissando electronics, sneaking around an urban landscape with its windy, wet streets, random voices, the brattle of glass and marginal ventures into ragtime and Debussy.  The leading threads decompose into increasingly pointillistic miscellany of kettles, sniffing, commuter crowds and their causeries recorded at New York’s eternal Grand Central Station. 

Vrtacek finally rediscovers the form of a suite, allowing the opening theme to return in a bout of melancholia overpopulated with the familiar sonic faces of the rude waitresses, spoiled teenagers, and all that confused bedlam from… the diner.

 

***

 

C.W. VRTACEK: “Victory through Grace” (1980-81)

C.W. VRTACEK: “Days And Days” (1980, 1982)

C.W. VRTACEK: “Now Available” MC (1983)

C.W. VRTACEK & DANCING LESSONS: “Monkey on a Hard Roll” (1984)

C.W. VRTACEK: “Learning to Be Silent” (1985-86)

C.W. VRTACEK: “When Heaven Comes to Town” (1988)

FOREVER EINSTEIN: “Artificial Horizon” (1990)

FOREVER EINSTEIN: “Opportunity Crosses the Bridge” (1991)

C.W. VRTACEK – Chris CUTLER – Thomas DiMUZIO: “Preacher in Naked Chase Guilty” (1993)

C.W. VRTACEK: “Fifteen Mnemonic Devices” (1986-1994)

FOREVER EINSTEIN: “One Thing After Another” (1997)

FOREVER EINSTEIN: “Down with Gravity” (1999)

FOREVER EINSTEIN: “Racket Science” (2004)

Nick DIDKOVSKY-Steve MACLEAN-C.W.VRTACEK: “Flies in the Face of Logic” (2006)

 

Both C.W. Vrtacek and his Forever Einstein also appear on compilation “Unsettled Scores”, performing compositions by Erik Lindgren and George Cartwright.

 

I have a particular meta-nostalgia for the first two positions in Vrtacek’s discography.

 

Published in: on October 14, 2008 at 9:19 pm  Comments (8)  
Tags: , , ,

ALVARO: “Is the Garment Ready?” ****

Recorded 1988

 

 

Chilean born pianist and singer Alvaro Peña-Rojas achieved underground fame after his exile in Europe.  Although his scandalously entitled debut was recorded in London, Alvaro based himself in Germany, cranking out outsider recordings long before European audiences heard of Jandek. 

 

Salvaged from obscurity by the Recommended Records’ distribution network in Europe, Alvaro carved for himself a new niche.  In the 1980s, his Spartan recordings became the synonyms of fiery, chaotic and often ostentatiously amateurish songcraft.  During this period, his songs displayed programmatic scorn for large instrumentation, but the structure of his compositions was always unpredictable and remained outside any musical tradition, European or otherwise.  Not surprisingly, Alvaro’s obra is usually considered unclassifiable, separated from isolationist folk by the use of piano, rather than guitar, in both the composition and performance.

 

Recording both in English and in Spanish, Alvaro offered a metaphoric social commentary on emigrant’s daily life in an epigrammatic, dispassionate manner.  A heavy, hanging cloud of Western Europe’s long winters separated him from the formidable Andean vistas and he scarcely reached out for material evoking South American musical traditions.  His staunchly left-wing exoticism was original precisely because it was deprived of declamatory and folkloristic pander that affected, for better or worse, like-minded jazz musicians from Frankfurt to New York to Tokyo. 

 

 

Part One

From the opening seconds of the record, Alvaro’s tremulous voice literally throws at us his downcast, liturgic lament.  A scattering of insulated piano keys follows.  Short silence.  The entire proceeding repeats.  The piano notes are instantly muted, heartfelt and lonesome.  By contrast, there is a slight echo attached to the voice track, enhancing Alvaro’s trademark nasal croon.  His intonation occasionally evokes snippets of a Middle Eastern Tajweed, but the association could be unintentional.  Since the chorus is limited to the piano, the spiritual atmosphere of the crooner’s calls is repudiated by the bare, skeletal piano response.  “The sweetness of this song might drift them away from me”, worries the narrator.  At this point he is joined by drummer Giorgos Notaras and bass player Jens Volk.  The march-like percussion is mixed out at a certain distance.  The bass is pitched high, even above Ferdinand Richard’s G-bass – a reference at that time.  The trio’s fast passage appears to have been just an intermezzo. 

 

Part Two

The same text will be repeated in “Part Two”, but this time with a rhythm section in neo-punk mode.  The drumming is competent, enveloped with rubbery, elastic bass figures in seemingly endless repetition.  A nine note piano piece is highly melodic, placed in major scale, but it takes at least three turns before unmasking a much more realistic (and less nasal) Alvaro.  This is his osseous opus “Tea and Toast”.  The rhythm section is so dependable in its fast-paced bass ostinato and drum reflexivity that a linear piano improvisation is inevitable.  This departure is simple, unassuming and ultimately convincing in its simplicity.  The chewy bass line invites the drummer to toy around with his snare, the tom-tom and the bass drum, but Volk never transgresses the metric confines determined by the bass player.  This bass and drum duo holds our attention long enough to welcome the return of the instantly hummable main theme.  It is punctured by single piano notes but remains indifferently melodic, stripped down to three syllables and devoid of any profound meaning beyond the denotation of a cheap European breakfast.  Finally, like an old, tired locomotive, the “tea, tea, tea, tea, tea, tea, tea and toast” wagons slow down to a crawl and finally, predictably, stop.

 

Part Three

A stern piano overture imports some bass divagation.  The slowly unfolding and folding bass is apathetic, misanthropic, low-pitched and barely audible, almost concealed in the comforting vinyl noise.  The instrument burrows, commutes, flexes and wiggles, sometimes only interrupted by the return of the scowling, upright piano overture.  The bass guitar’s low-end freedom contrasts strikingly with the rigidity of the (unchanging) piano notes.  This section recurs several times.  In later stages of the composition, the bass resurfaces more decisively into the audible sphere, but the dynamic contrast with the insistent, jagged piano line makes us too apprehensive to delve again into that avuncular, nestling, sensorial universe of the woolly bass.  Finally, after yet another piano intervention, the bass formulates its own destiny, making fidgety forays into some higher notes.  Finally the entire trio meets in an obsessive ostinato, from which decisive piano salvos break out until the life and death question is nervously asked: “Is the garment ready?  They’re already knocking”.  Could this be more than a tailor’s nightmare?

 

Part Four

“Part four” is a 1960s style rumba, and a summary collecting the scraps of the lyrics heard throughout the first three parts.  Now it all comes together, reorganized and cohesive.  It is as if Alvaro had composed and anti-suite, which began with reprises and ended by formulating the leading theme.  Half-paralyzed and sloppy, the idle rumba encodes a chronicle of stubborn identity preservation amidst a friendless world of alienation.  The singing never gets overly dramatic or mawkish and the fretless bass keeps the spine well oiled.  But the overall image exudes reluctant romanticism, prefiguring working class anti-heroes from Aki Kaurismäki’s films.  The “Garment Ready” is a metaphor for an introvert’s efforts to connect with the outside world, so indifferent to his cries for inner peace.  “I am ready” yells Alvaro repeatedly towards the end.

 

***

 

 

I am not familiar with Alvaro’s later recordings, although he seems to have continued his musical career way past his 50th birthday, sometimes venturing into adaptations of American and Latin classics. 

 

ALVARO: “Drinkin’ My Own Sperm” (1977)

ALVARO: “Mums Milk Powder” (1979)

ALVARO: “The Working Class” (1980)

ALVARO: “Four Sad Songs” (1981)

ALVARO: “Mariposa” SP (1981)

ALVARO: “Repetition Kills” (1982)

ALVARO: “Is the Garment Ready” (1988)

 

“Garment” remains my favorite. 

Published in: on October 10, 2008 at 8:47 pm  Comments (1)  
Tags: , ,

Konrad BOEHMER: “Acousmatrix – History of Electronic Music V” ***

Recorded 1966-68, 1977-78, 1984

 

Originally from Berlin, Konrad Boehmer honed his compositional skills with the likes of Gottfried Michael Koenig, Pierre Boulez, Henri Pousseur, Karlheinz Stockhausen and Bruno Maderna.  At least half a generation younger than the above-mentioned composers, Boehmer debuted in the early 1960s and has since deployed his professorial talents in the Netherlands and in the US. 

 

His very detailed approach to composition, however ‘electric’, eschews many of the trappings that defined the canon of processing in vintage electronic music – reliance on generators, sonic masses, echoes.  When Boehmer incorporated pre-recorded tape material, he did so with a fully semantic approach – a far cry from Stockhausen’s intuitive cut-ups. 

 

Despite the wealth of external inputs, Boehmer’s electro-acoustic creations sound introspective and concentrated.  The structural complexity of his work does not invalidate their seamless and pristine, entirely legible character.  In addition to his ‘electric’ and electro-acoustic works, Boehmer has been also composing for more traditional media, including piano, percussion ensembles, chamber ensembles, choirs and symphony orchestras. 

 

It is astounding that Boehmer’s talent has remained so underexposed outside the (hermetic) circles of European academia and concert halls.  There is much more in his oeuvre that could and should be appreciated among the fans of Nurse with Wound, Operating Theatre, Hafler Trio or Un Drame Musical Instantané.  The recording presented here should also appeal to those to follow the careers of Dagmar Krause, Phil Minton and Frederic Rzewski. 

 

 

 

Aspekt

This early composition opens by infusing space with an oppressive sonic register: gurglings, chuckling buzzes, non-resonant mechanistic clashes all bite our earlobes with irregular dynamic assaults.  Crescendo of liquid bubbles, staccato cricket buzz and crackling feedback come and go, obstructing our auditory access to swooshing glissando blankets.  The reigning effect here is liquidity, with some extra sibilance on topmost layers.  But the composer refuses to apply insecticide; as another liquid cascade ebbs away, buzzing arthropoda buzz by in gyrating duets and trios.  When gigawatt electronic thunder interrupts this litany of naturalistic associations, windy gusts of grey noise soon follow.  The initial impetus drops off and a fairly slow-paced sequence ensues at various textural levels.  Much space is devoted to flicker noise, but the proceeding seems subtractive, rather than additive.  On one occasion, a reverberating machinery rumble kicks in.  After a short recess, submarine bubbles reinvent the context.  Contrasts are now distributed in a balanced fashion, with much energy still channeled through some liquid medium.  Most of these sensory structures are knit together in a sequential fashion with little, if any overlap.  Stockhausen’s influence is definitely perceptible.  In the last subsection, a sputtering motor sound is being embraced by micro-bubbles and a low-range torrent.  There is some enforced stationarity in the illusions generated by the structural stasis here.  The composition does really not advance, but rather like engines circling on a race track, it alternates in energy levels and frequency.  Boehmer avoids both excessive accumulation and obvious splicing of material.  Overall cohesion relies on atemporal functions, many of which are elicited within a pre-defined range of (mostly liquid) effects.

 

Cry of This Earth

This composition – part of a trilogy composed in the early 1970s – relies largely on Christopher Shultis’s deeply-pitched percussion – cymbalic overtones, fast tympani rolls – and interjected voice-overs.  The distant mix generates a sense of a stage-like detachment.  Electronics floods the space, but throttles back, slipping down the gutter of nothingness.  When the xylophone comes to the fore, we hear the first declamation – first female, then male, punctuated by a drum roll.  Tympani and stratospheric electronics spice it up with (frustrated) melodic spices.  Finally a soprano joins (Thea van der Putten), colored by a friendly vibraphone.  The delivery is dramatic, somewhat oblivious to the continuing (also female) narration.  Tympani, xylophone and the two voices compete for influence, reminding me of the disorienting operatic effects on U Totem’s first record.  Sequences appear, only to be closed by non-resonant percussions tracks.  The ‘song’ proper is now entirely supported by abstract percussion and xylophone.  Small hand drum prepares the atmosphere for the spoken text in French.  Damning, high-pitched sounds sprout into the short breaks, bruscamente.  Then a spoken male voice in Spanish takes over – to a more defined percussive (xylophone, large cymbals and gongs) accompaniment.  Boehmer’s whispers his own part (in German) – gliding over smeared out notes teased from the vibraphone and electric organ.  Wooden percussion clucking disturbs the emerging order and so does the electronic interjection.  One can’t dispel the sensation that the drummer part requires a lot of attention in this section of the composition.  The other two voices soon return, with more conviction, making a point among the swishing electronic flyovers.  Spanish recitation (male) and French a-melodious chant (female) appear endorsed not only by the avalanches of electro-bubbles, but also by the electric organ’s condescending harmonizing and some graphic accents from the percussion.  A long dying note from a cymbal closes the trilogy.

 

Apocalipsis cum figures

Dagmar Krause’s voice scares us with cataclysmic scenes of fire and hail, as dantesque and horrifying as Bosch’s nightmarish vistas.  Petrified by agony and horror, the voices also come off as sardonic.  Krause’s voice is sometimes transposed through a chorus treatment and is surrounded not only by an anguished jumble of ghastly slurps, gargles and guzzles, but also a suitably apocalyptic and very metallic piano (Frederic Rzewski).  A refrain of male voices goes almost doo-woop (Jan Hendriks, Ernst Jansz, Henny Vrienten), when a French narrator announces arrival of other creatures.  Overall, a sense of uncertainty reigns, as in the highly improper duet of piano tremolos and unhelpful belching.  German sentences (from Hölderlin) can occasionally terminate a phrase and plunge us into a silence, but it never lasts.  The French text, on the other hand, is delirious, exorcising the images of “semen”, “angels”, the Virgin and God, all surrounded by barking dogs as if hijacked form a Psychic TV or Dali-Wakhevitch recording.  Dagmar Krause picks up some of the more deranged passages from Karl Marx and its juxtaposition with Marquis de Sade does not grate here.  Phil Minton’s plaintive crooning proclaims “I am free”.  Howling monkeys, stately Eislerian piano and a hunched German text operate between a mechanic dynamo and robotic voices – in a dense, crowded underworld where dissonance is order and tonality is hell.  A whole treasure of interjections swamps the listener – simian creatures, pianistic salvos, animalistic glorps, bird calls, French expressions of indignation and blasphemy.  Intimidating, monstrous voice growls as others attempt a conversation above this unsettling canvas.  The piano is punctual and aggressive, but it is the Hague Percussion Ensemble that occupies center stage here: chimes, closing gates, multi-voice ‘Erinnerungen an Prophets’, fast drum runs.  The French recitation is defaced, clipped at the top, molested by devilish shouts of panic, eerily contrasted with doo-woop sing-alongs (apparently a piece by Skriabin).  In this sonic mayhem, growling beasts meet oral hygiene and female scolding mocks male despair.  Some electro-percussive effects are repetitive, wrapped around fragments from an English song.  When a measure of piano-voice order returns the percussive layer reorganizes the texture with march-like snare drum and tom-tom preparation.  Many voices in French are so critically slowed that they are barely comprehensible.  Some voices are muffled, other strangled, other suffocated or vivisected into ingressive-sounding, and that despite a strong bass buttressing that annoys us so much in Hollywood action movies.  That bass phrasing contrasts here with either vibraphone or high piano notes, just when we are to hear about the last hope: “I am god I am god”.  The sacrilegious text is first spoken, then chanted, then exclaimed.  After a male recitation in French, sweeping electronics ushers us into the sinister underworld of growling, braying and vomiting.  And this menace means business: “the night, so deep that you won’t see the way, you won’t hear your own voice”.  Then, the tortured, damned voices reveal, unexpectedly, a tepid bourgeois song, sung in English with a piano accompaniment amid the spiky cacti of electronic swirl, piano arpeggios and all THAT howl. If this really is the end of the world, then this is quite fascinating and worthy living through, sonically. 

 

***

 

Konrad BOEHMER: “Acousmatrix – History of Electronic Music V” (1966-68, 1977-78, 1984)

 

Several other recordings are available, but they are not necessarily electronic or electro-acoustic works. 

Published in: on October 5, 2008 at 9:37 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , ,

Conrad SCHNITZLER: “Control” *****

Recorded 1978-81

 

Originally from Düsseldorf, Conrad Schnitzler debuted as a sound artist around 1967.  After studying with Joseph Beuys he moved to Berlin, when he was often associated with the local school of electronic rock even though his soundscapes were never “rock” and his aesthetic was always too idiosyncratic to be pigeonholed.

 

In his most successful recordings, Schnitzler showed predilection for range compression that was unusual in the early days of analog synthesizers.  It is as if he had done a careful scoping study before each session, imposing restraints on the adopted textures and energy levels.  Nor did he seem to be tempted by excessive multi-layering of additive effects.  His strength lied in poised tone colorings and controlled mood explorations.  His forays into illustration were quickly abandoned and throughout most of his career his music remained subconceptual and non-ascriptive.

 

Schnitzler’s creations went through several stages.  Beginning with Berlin-based trios Kluster (with Joachim Roedelius and Dieter Moebius) and Eruption (with Wolfgang Seidel and Klaus Freudigmann), his spacious, psychotropic work relied as much on musical instruments as on amplifiers and echoes.  He then moved on to explore in depth the modulatory capabilities of analog synthesizers, achieving much more groundbreaking and lasting results than many of his compatriots.  An artistic hiatus befell him in the second half of the 1970s, when several misguided attempts at electronic rock introduced him to accidental audiences in Germany and abroad.  But unlike the synthesized disciples of the Berlin school, he returned triumphantly in the early 1980s, penning some of the most intriguing and abstract oeuvres yet.  Ever open to experimentation, he engaged in collaborations with new generations of German musicians and then moved onto the digital age, still occasionally leaving recordings which testified his undying tonal curiosity and penchant for deft sound organization. 

 

 

Control A

Each side of the original LP is divided into several, untitled sections.  Schnitzler welcomes the listener with atonal kernels of creamy, electronic vibrato, bleeping at varying dynamic levels.  The only order in this disorder is that higher frequency chords are louder, leaving the muddier, brown frequency sounds partly concealed.  At least three layers of these independently originated, expressionist tides collate, but never coagulate.

 

In the second fragment, foggy synthesizer folds are sustained and then slowly pitch-modulated.  Unlike in the previous track, the very act of modulation generates melodic expectations.  At some subliminal level, there does seem to lurk a barely tangible theme, but it fails to appear de iure; it remains ill-defined and then re-defined by its own shadows – the multiple variations.  Each of the variation ends with longer notes, leaving behind the mood of a desolate, cloudy, open space. 

 

Electric clangs fall like raindrops hitting window panes curiously intent on rejecting the liquid particles at various frequencies.  This evanescent texture is sparse and the pitches are arranged to accentuate the mutual contrast.  Still, the overall timbral effect is almost childlike.

 

Another exercise in modulation and phase shifting.  The leading middle layer individuates both the bass line and the crisply sibilant accompaniment, each germinating with a different delay.

 

A more “industrial”-sounding track based on blender glissandos with controlled sustain.  Tone colors permutate between the illusions of take-off, landing and taxing.  Although the context harks back to the ideas first developed on LP “Con”, the selection of effects is more balanced.  Discrete pitch bending occurs around the usually avoided parts of the frequency spectrum. 

 

Rotating flywheels send out waveforms which recur in epicycles.  A less prominent sub-theme explores a frail, rounded melodic theme, as if clutching at wavecrest. 

 

Fast ‘grasshopper’ tremolo is drowned out by an alternating dynamics in doomed quest of nebulous, dormant realm.  The dominant velocity would outpace any other track on the record, but the gesticulation is imperfectly robotic.  Another stratum of glissandos brings a dose of painfully sullied nostalgia. 

 

Control B

This is an even more atmospheric exploration of chalky textures.  Sheaths of organ give rise to a rare moment of loose harmonic consonance.

 

Another electronic landscape for stagnating sheets of lengthy notes, modulated in mid-flight.  They all fade away, substituted instantly by clones whose energy dissipates in like manner.  Simultaneous sizzling and rumbling epitomizes the hypnotic character of procyclical, compressed electronics.

 

Echoey, glassy clocking and pianistic electro-chords flow through a dialogue which explores attention, dis-habituation, expectation, clearing of remorse and doubt about it all.  This is a rare, modal achievement, particularly impressive given the limited toolkit involved in its creation. 

 

An essing, oscillatory web is delicately overlaid above the leading theme-building.  The focus is on an eventless space, wide open terrain and visibility constrained only by atmospheric phenomena. 

 

The record closes as it opened – with abstract, a-melodic clusters, collected almost sequentially in search of the right nocturnal mood.  A vague sense of solitude permeates the departures towards to the top of the staff, into ever shorter notes.  Mid-range synthesizer provides some harmonic solution, but the track is cut abruptly.  Did the Revox reel run out or is it another attempt to leave us pensive?

 

***

 

The discography below encompasses Schnitzler’s output from the first 15 (analog) years of his career and does not list numerous cassettes, the material from which was later reissued on LP or CD.  Positions 1, 2, 5, 10 and 11 remain my favorites.

 

1. Konrad SCHNITZLER: “Schwarz“ (1971)

2. Konrad SCHNITZLER: “Rot“ (1972)

3. Conrad SCHNITZLER: “Con’72“ (1972)

4. Conrad SCHNITZLER: “Zug“ (1973)

5. Konrad SCHNITZLER: “Blau“ (1973)

6. Konrad SCHNITZLER: “Gelb“ (1974)

7. Conrad SCHNITZLER: “Live Action 1977“ (1977)

8. Conrad SCHNITZLER: “Con“ (1978)

9. Conrad SCHNITZLER: “Grün“ (1976, 1980)

10. Conrad SCHNITZLER: “Control“ (1978-81)

11. Conrad SCHNITZLER: “Conal“ (1981)

12. Conrad SCHNITZLER: “Conrad & Sohn“ (1981)

13. Conrad SCHNITZLER: “Contempora“ (1981)

14. Conrad SCHNITZLER: “Con 3“ (1981)

15. Conrad SCHNITZLER: “Consequenz“ (1982)

16. Conrad SCHNITZLER: “Context“ (1982)

17. Conrad SCHNITZLER: “Convex“ (1982)

18. Conrad SCHNITZLER: “3.3.83“ (1983)

19. Conrad SCHNITZLER: “1.7.84“ (1984)

 

His recordings can also be found on several compilations, such as “Three Minute Symphony“ and “Hayfever“ (in the 1990s).  There are countless other cassette, film and gallery materials from the era.

 

Conrad Schnitzler’s early (1970-72) recordings overlap with his activity in bands Kluster and Eruption.  Indeed, his first “solo” album can be considered a Kluster/Eruption record.  The recordings of these bands are highly recommended for all the fans of vintage kraut electronics.  His appearance on Tangerine Dream’s best LP was the only time Schnitzler played someone else’s music.  Although the recently unearthed positions 5 and 6 are credited to Kluster, they are actually Eruption’s recordings. 

 

1. TANGERINE DREAM: “Electronic Meditation” (1970)

2. KLUSTER: “Klopfzeichen” (1970)

3. KLUSTER: “Zwei Osterei” (1970)

4. ERUPTION: “Eruption” (1970)

5. KLUSTER: “Vulcano” (1971)

6. KLUSTER: “Admira” (1971)

7. ERUPTION: “Live Action 1972.  Wuppertal” (1972)

KONSTRUKTIVISTS: “Black December” ***

Recorded 1983

 

 

It is difficult to pinpoint the exact reasons for the explosion of post-industrial culture in Thatcherian Britain.  This was the time when Sheffield had already become a moribund shadow of “the steel city on the move”.  And within several years Arthur Scargill’s coal unions would be hoisted out of the shaft and shelved onto rarely visited shelves of communal libraries.  Only the Falkland War distracted from the monochrome character of the pre-reform UK.

 

But it was precisely during this period of the reluctant social and economic transformation that a whole generation of British musicians launched their projects emboldened, rather than hampered by the punk revolution several years before.  Among the styles which benefited from the flourishing of independent labels, post-industrialism created the most lasting of musical documents. 

 

Glenn Michael Wallis was an active member of the scene, associated with such luminaries as Whitehouse and Throbbing Gristle.  Between 1982-85, under the moniker Konstruktivists, he created dark electronic visions that somehow reconciled the technical and stylistic limits of the era with excellent sense of sonic perspective.  David Kenny who engineered Konstruktivists’ early records also deserves the credit for a healthy, selective approach to analog and tape effects.

 

Using a limited armature of tools, Wallis successfully generated illusion (but illusion only) of depth and complexity.  His manipulation of reverb density was always tasteful and his novel, particulate textures prefigured later recordings of esoteric underground.  On several occasions, he also betrayed familiarity with electronic rock of the previous decade, a potentially dangerous faux pas in the proud years of post-industrial nihilism. 

 

Miles away from the harsh experiments that dominated the center stage of post-industrialism, Konstruktivists’ records are a charming, though never infantile, testimony to the style of an era that is rarely celebrated these days. 

 

 

Nostalgia

Initially monolithic, semi-stationary waves of analog synthesizer expand their mildly polyphonic reach.  The static plane is construed entirely from high frequency sounds, nearly emulating the unnerving tension that György Ligeti had achieved in his multi-strings compositions.  Although Wallis eschews such direct quotations, the resulting tension is a far scream from the “Nostalgia” alluded to in the title.  Yes, some light-bodied melody does roam somewhere, but it is buried deeply in the downmix.  The synthesizer screen slowly begins to flow in and out.  When it ebbs away, no residuals are left behind. 

 

The Crimson Path

Dressed in short reverb, a surf guitar (Nick Clark) promenades to the passé grin of a simple rhythm box.  A second guitar, specializing in nickel-clear tremolos, is strongly reminiscent of contemporaneous DDAA.  So is the post-partum wailing of cross-breeding “feminine” voices.  The track zigzags in a directionless fashion with vocal tracks treated by varying doses of delay and contrasted against the tremolo guitar.  Sunnily independent, the surf guitar improvises freely. 

 

Shadows of White Sand

Synthesizer shales give way to deeply atmospheric, underdefined ill-bience, indirectly evocative of Attrition’s best LP and the less spacey Zoviet France.  Subterranean, larval echoes emerge slowly in waveforms determined at source by no more than three chords.  Woozy matte is spilling out gently.  There is no sense of ominous imminence here, but rather an aura of mystery and irrealization.  What could be dismissed as a case of mere illustrative electronics, bestows on the willing listener just enough freedom to fill this aural framework with liberating numinosum. 

 

In Kabul

This repetitive rhythm-box and guitar motif, so stiffly grounded within the aesthetic of the early 1980s, is worthy of an early Cabaret Voltaire or Clock DVA record.  But instead of saxophones, the simple set of guitar figures is coupled here with oud-sounding string tunings and addictive vocal echoes (Pilar Pinillos and Elena Colvée).  The tempo is leisurely, despite the notional fill-ins programmed in the rhythm machine. 

 

Extasie

The sequencer flies into the limelight with an amplitude of a machine-gun.  There is a competition between the several synthesizer sources.  On the one hand, we distinguish classicizing arpeggios, on the other, repetitive chord renewals, chiming in with the rotor-aping sequencer.  The overall climate is closer to Richard Pinhas’ work than to his German contemporaries. 

 

Decadence

Simple repetitive electro-glorping, suffused with bleeps and destabilized by processed male vocal.  Indeterminate organ clusters, metronomic machine drumming and guitar hooks determined by the simplistic structure of electro-beat recall the simplicity of the long-forgotten artists of the era – Eric Random and Bill Nelson.  

 

Red October Black September

The most memorable moment on the record is the track built around a pulsing, yet melodic bass skeleton.  Throughout this passacaglia après la lettre, illusory verbalizations adopt an almost ingressive mantle due to ingeniously mixed synthesized hyperplanes.  The voices are slotted in with dynamic jumps, and alarmingly so.  They recede at various stages of decomposure – fading, wilting or transmogrifying into metallic reverberation.  A patchy cobweb of guitars and synthesizers embroiders a denitrified tapestry, underscoring the critical role of the electric bass ostinato.  The effect is intoxicating.  It all ends too soon. 

 

 

***

 

For those willing to explore the dark corners of analog atmospherics, any of the first three recordings are recommended.  There were also many cassette issues. 

 

KONSTRUKTIVISTS: “A Dissembly” (1982)

KONSTRUKTIVISTS: “Psycho-Genetika” (1983)

KONSTRUKTIVISTS: “Black December” (1983)

KONSTRUKTIVISTS: “Glennascaul” (1985)

 

Many unique pieces can also be found on compilations, e.g. “The Elephant Table Album” and “Four Years in 30 Seconds”.  We owe the latter to the fact that Wallis resuscitated Konstruktivists in the 1990s. 

Published in: on September 9, 2008 at 9:05 pm  Comments (1)  
Tags: , , ,

HELLEBORE: “Il y a des jours” *****

Recorded 1983-84

 

 

Hellebore were initially a quartet of Jean Caël (bass), Antoine Gindt (guitar), Daniel Koskowitz (drums) and Denis Tagu (keyboards).  Initially equipped with Rhodes piano, the band expanded the sound considerably by co-opting Alain Casari on saxophones and clarinet and purchasing a popular crumar synthesizer.  This is the line-up on their only LP, decorated with art work prepared by Colorado’s Mnemonists/Biota.

 

By the early 1980s, these young French musicians were among the most talented epigones of Rock in Opposition style.  Certainly, they were too young to compete with the British luminaries of the movement.  And yet, the ex-post criticism of their output, often meted out by some of the members themselves, was probably a mite too harsh.  Even today, three decades after Henry Cow’s demise, the musical world is still receiving the dividends from that artistic investment.  There was clearly nothing wrong with this 25 years ago.

 

Soon after Hellebore folded, Jean Caël launched Szentendre, a short-lived band guided by similar searchlights.  Koskowitz and Tagu initially joined, but soon left.  Four musicians of the quintet also appeared on Look de Bouk’s first LP.  Koskowitz soon rejoined Gindt and Casari in Neo Museum – a logical continuation of Hellebore, if a little more saxophone-fronted.  But that incarnation did not last either.  Koskowitz disavowed the entire scene and made a radical stylistic move towards more pugnacious forms of modern French rock, most prominently with Soixante étages.  Denis Tagu and Jean Caël have continued to charm old and new audiences in the surviving DIY projects Toupidek and Look de Bouk. 

 

 

Introduction végétarienne

“There are those days, there are such hours”, proclaims a Reichian voice loop.  Rather than cutting up formants, Hellebore allows the entire phrases to be reproduced, and repeated.  And so, we learn about “the weight of responsibility” and the concerns regarding the financial future.  Still, “vegetarian” it is not.  The tape material is prodded by an emulsion of drums, assorted noise and vinyl crackle.  Slowly harmonic hints are being diffused by Denis Tagu’s electric organ, stiff cowbells, a Cartesian rhythm box, triste piano and leaden-footed electro-beat.  Against this pile-up of orchestration, the melody had to come in higher notes, and come it does, in the form of Antoine Gindt’s surf guitar.  He marinates the emergent theme with delicate, broadly optimistic gestures.  It all happens with a velocity of tired hoofs, allowing Alain Casari’s clarinet to entwine within the constraints of the inelastic tempo and densifying texture, rather than ad libitum.  Jingling cowbells free their partials, carried with non-descript electrified veneer.  A variation on this theme is then performed on piano, clarinet and organ.  Unimpressed, Daniel Koskowitz’s cymbals announce a new movement for a solo guitar, punctured by the axle of a piano playing exactly the same notes.  The effect is warm, and softening, which could be surprising given the difference in prefix characteristics between these two instruments.  The 25-note theme returns with avuncular clarinet.  It is up to the pianist to bring it all down to the stop line. 

 

Tetraktys

Two, lengthy ‘harmonium’ tones are quickly tamed by the cymbals and a guitar introducing another slo-mo, lazy, numbing theme borrowed from late summer.  Jean Caël’s bass is unobtrusive in its solidifying role.  When it speeds up, alto saxophone alternates with (almost forgotten) crumar synthesizer.  An electronic drapery lunges forward in short chunks, allowing the drummer to lose the metronomic precision of the opening.  Stylistically, Casari’s sax merely shadows the synthi-led staccato, even after an obligatory change of time signature.  The harmonic agreement between the saxophone and the keyboard is finally broken by prominence-reordering whispers and dry skin drumming from Koskowitz.  The final subsection is aperiodic, with a clean resolution from the synthesizer, bass and clangorous cymbals. 

 

Artefact

A bleak, plaintive intro temporizes through the plasticity of bass-organ-saxophone triad.  The eventual conflagration is sparked by the drums, a capriciously low-tuned guitar and a sandblasting alto sax.  The band zigzags through multi-guitar progressions and saxophone-led interrogations.  But this trendline soon collapses, giving way to keyboard-led blanket morosity.  It is here that an in-your-face box rattling hijacks the spotlight from the predictably a-metric drumming, lumbering bass and a mid-flight saxophone line.  Denis Tagu accelerates on his piano, faithfully traced by Gindt’s guitar mutualism. 

 

Film di Ripratoria

Fast, if commonsensical saxophone melody interrelates here with a fatalistically joyful guitar.  By comparison, satirical piano arpeggios sound as if collected from another dimension.  When heraldical drums and cymbals join in, the band can no longer fend off the accusation of Henry Cow fanaticism.  A jangly guitar gains prominence over the academically pointillist band, destabilized by arbitrary repression from saxophone blow-outs.  This is almost as good as the Muffins’ take on the British original.  Clapping, skitter, dilapidated drumming, intrusions into piano’s underbelly…  Strings are hammered, powders shaken, hands clapped, surfaces scraped until the guitar and saxophone return with a neutral variant of the opening head. 

 

Warme Wasser mit Grass

Drum and bass drive in, seemingly with little idea where the theme would lead them.  When Caël’s bass and an entire balustrade of glassy and metallic flickering finally embark on a rhythmic journey, a This Heat-type hairpin takes them down the slope through a blackened, well-oiled connubium of guitar and drums.  At each life-saving turn, a fair amount of repetition resurfaces.  The guitar meows on its own account.  Then it gets dirty, cocky, squawky, occasionally punctured by the reeds.  A drum salvo will close this rockiest of Hellebore’s cuts.

 

Umanak – Marquis de Saint Circq

Despite Koskowitz’s intelligent space drum presence, this is little more than a smoky piano solo, a lyrical nocturne, a contemplative poem.  A smiling guitar line looks on, a box ticks with soldierly regularity, and Casari’s clarinet knits its windy napkins with inscriptions from 1001 nights.  The structure tends to shift – piano and bass exchange their respective roles with the guitar.  But then a drastic wake-up call clarions: a mountain howl from the Northern Carpathians, powered by an organ squeak.  This apparent tribute to Plastic People of the Universe acts like a shock therapy to overconfident listeners.  The chunks of organ scatter around, oblivious to the saxophone and crumar in overdrive.  Only Caël’s bass still retains the ominous beat calqued from the Jan Hus’ worshippers.  The saxophone, synthesizer and multiplex percussion drizzle off till the very end.

 

Debout

Anachronistic electro-beat and acoustic piano slowly lurk out to witness perky hiking hum.  A romantic juxtaposition of piano and clarinet injects a static ornament.  A keyboard duo of organ and crumar sizzles aimlessly, with bass overdrive piercing through with abstract splashes of color.  The organization around some eternally renewable energy pays off.  When piano chords die out, the rhythm box and keyboard march out on the stepping stones to dynamic resolution.  The drum machine, synthesizer and cowbells re-anchor on the closing theme.  Tagu improvises on the modal piano, compressing the range focus.  But the moods revert.  On the back of a fatuous nursery rhyme clanked out by the piano and clarinet, a martial rhythm of drums, piano and guitar trundles through, prompted by Casari’s war calls on alto.  It is precisely the lone saxophone that survives on the battlefield. 

 

Ce sont des choses qui arrivent

What happens when a pianist, a saxophone player and a percussion virtuoso meet?  Nothing.  You need a guitarist to lead them from their abstract maze.  When that happens, the saxophone runs may be brief, epigrammatic and self-limiting but they remain structurally decisive nonetheless.  The track concludes with a sumptuous piano fragment captured in a space whose acoustics brings back the childhood memories of intimidating concert halls.

 

Eclaté / 3ème / après

Saxophones second an infantile, rhyming beat.  The organ slices chunk after chunk.  For a logical solution to the set, the ‘chalk against the whiteboard’ scrape is coming a little late.  Hoofsteps clock along.  And then, at long last, a Grande Finale is ushered by the band in full glory and in a rather melodious mood: the saxophones, mandolin, bass, and piano. 

 

(On side B, the track description on the insert differs from the one provided on the label; consequently, the comments above may not adequately correspond to musicians’ original intentions).

 

***

 

 

HELLEBORE: “Il y a des jours” (1983-84)

SZENTENDRE: “Un tour gratuit” (1985)

NEO MUSEUM: “Volume 1. Nouvelles ethnologiques de l’obscure museum” (1985-86)

 

Hellebore’s tracks also appeared on compilations: “Douze pour un” (1982), “Voices Notes and Noise” (1983).  Szentendre can be found on “Douze pour un vol.2” (1986), and Neo Museum on “Rencontres du premier type.  Strasbourg, Vandoeuvre, Reims” (1985) as well as “Douze pour un vol.2” (1986).

 

Fans of Hellebore should also seek out Look de Bouk’s debut LP:

 

LOOK DE BOUK: “Lacrimae rerum” (1985)

Published in: on September 1, 2008 at 7:56 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , , ,

P16D4: “Distruct” ***

Recorded 1982-84

 

 

Ralf Wehowsky is sonic artist originally from Mainz in Germany.  From the very beginning of his recording career, he was enamored with tape manipulation.  At a time when most no-wave bands in Hessen indulged in spitting out their nihilistic messages, Wehowsky’s first band PD chopped, stewed, grilled and mixed contrasting input sources from various group improvisations.  Having mutated into P16D4 with Ewald Weber and Roger Schönhauer, Wehowsky plunged in careful research into the tonality of the source material.  Combined with in-house improvisations, the inputs would undergo speed transpositions, unusual oscillations and re-modeling of both macro- and micro-structure of the material. 

 

At least half of P16D4’s material fused sonic inputs contributed by other artists.  Wehowsky et al would habitually rework the original material beyond recognition.  The manipulated arrangements were deemed successful whenever the corresponding parts of the source material and their contiguous sections became correlated.  Whenever the inputs were overlaid in a relatively “raw” form, the results ranged from free form abstraction to noisy, chaotic forms with very little, if any, repetition. 

 

If P16D4 constituted an a-melodic revolution, they were never programmatically anti-melodic.  Despite the apparent balance between the use of electronic and acoustic tools, it does seem that P16D4 privileged brutal contrasts in the former and rather subtle, organic shifts in the latter.  Elements of untreated (or less treated) noise were often drowned in an illusion of surrounding space.  This was a lesson of multidimensional abstract expressionism. 

 

The record presented here summarizes well the way “mid-period” P16D4 organized its work.  The source material was provided by a number of sonic artists from the early 1980s post-industrial and noise scenes (Nocturnal Emissions, Bladder Flask, Philip Johnson, Die Tödliche Doris, Onnyk, DDAA, Frederik Nilson, The Haters, Nurse With Wound, Hiroki Kocha, Harold Schellinx, Vortex Campaign, Merzbow, De Fabriek).  However, this is not a compilation.  Rather, it is a sequence of compositions using bared building elements of the original sources.  It is pointless to try to detect the threads leading back to the artists enumerated above. 

 

The band, as such, was active only for about two years, between 1981-83.  Between 1983-88 the moniker P16D4 was used for recordings realized by Ralf Wehowsky’s social circle. 

 

 

Kultstudien zu Anselm Weinberg

Flat slabs of ferritic steel respond with muzzled, chinked sound.  Burring guitar and wowing bass introduce us to semi-paralyzed, dilatory pace of AMM-like exploration.  The big difference is in the guitar treatment – not nearly half as dense as Keith Rowe’s.  Ewald Weber’s anvils, clanky plates and empty metal boxes speak with a short, tinny grin.  Drumsticks are trying to force some resonance from metallic, wooden and polymer surfaces, to no avail.  The guitar wahs numbly, note by note.  Steven Stapleton’s deeply treated voice is being played backwards as if in memory of yesterday’s slaughter.  The treatment of source material imparts a sensation of intense concentration.  Brought to reluctant prominence, some pangy, earthy cymbals choke dryly.  Canisters shake and wobbly bass scoops the notes, clipping the release.  A modicum of rhythm is unveiled when the metal box hitting is multiplied by skin drumming and distant temple shimmer.  The sonic landscape is becoming crowded: shuffling sounds, backward voices, highly-pitched feedback, a sandy cascade repeated over and over again.  This last component will become more “rhythmic”, organizing tangential intrusion from jackhammer and obnoxiously pink noise.  At its tail-end, a violin attempts a lyrical theme, all too soon lost to jackhammer’s violence. 

 

Meere Giganten und Berge

If the previous track instilled an expectation of reserve, here P16D4 are endeavoring to demolish it outright.  Skitter, rustle, footsteps, running, wooden boxes – all these sounds meet, but never mix, inside a large, resonant hall.  Electronic microtones squeeze here and there, slurring the effects of abstract percussionism and irregular metallic bangs.  Then we hear an unwelcome rhythm box (courtesy Nigel Ayers of Nocturnal Emissions), quickly undermined by another, even faster electro-beat and electric piano arpeggios.  A political speech in Russian (apparently V.I. Lenin’s harangue) interferes with references to England and France (how timely!).  It is juxtaposed against deep, hollow grey noise and voices sent through by the members of Tödliche Doris.  The beat has now long disappeared, but when it does come back, it appears as fragile, orphaned, “pure” drum exhibitionism.  A longer note from a poorly identifiable object (a horn?) closes the section.

 

Extended Symbols

A wheezing sound is dragged across the range at a breathy tempo.  The angelic vocalize barely palpable, while sequenced post-industrial tapestry juts in and out of audible spectrum.  A male chorus, a sledgehammer and jackrigs are all layered together with a disorienting simultaneity.  Onnyk’s Hedorah-like vibrating noise platonifies a standard guttural growl.  Finally, a lonesome saxophone solo dismisses the company of a skittery, a-metric drumming.  Both are dying out in a large, “factory-like” space. 

 

Aufmarsch, heimlich

Unlike on the first side of the LP, here Ralf Wehowsky’s gestures are determined, his accents are forceful and prefixes abrupt.  The snippets, he uses (Soviet marching songs and Peter Lambert’s alto saxophone) are treated with Stockhausen-like non-linear decontextuatlization.  The unnerving chop-up slowly gives way to multi-tracked saxophone lines, whose soaring runs are instantly undercut – either by the recurring snippets of the marching song, or by another sax layer, alternatively by a loose crankshaft wheel.  The alto sax finally oxygenates the atmosphere in the direction of Anthony Braxton’s intense graphism, albeit with longer notes than the master’s.  The higher range is allowed to echo and the treated stacattisimo nearly transforms the reed into an ersatz guitar.  All along, electronics bubbles and rumbles behind this frontal complexity. 

 

Svenska Förtäring

In this tiny miniature provided by DDAA, Wehowsky demolishes a tape with the lesson of Swedish.  You can (almost) hum along.

 

Kryptogramme 7-11

Although several sources are listed here (notably Bladder Flast and Onnyk), the opening does seem to be overreliant on Wehowsky’s strident cello scraping and sadistic pizzicato assaults, which, by comparison, would turn Tom Cora’s games into tender caress.  Unexpected guitar fuzz, and NWW-type retroactive electro-dust complicate the envelope.  Saxophones multiply in a most abstract manner, despite attempts to limit the thrusts to 2-3 notes each.  Although this is Wehowsky on the piano – its cold, frozen, repetitive stalactites are reminiscent as much of his Permutative Distortion as of Robert Haigh’s Sema.  Meanwhile, noisy crowds ooze in and out.  The plaintive wheeze is forced into a higher life form, further sacrificed for a prominent, monster-movie guitar in shameful overdrive. 

 

Upset Twilight

No meter and no beat here.  Just metallic skitter, hammering, clanks and such like timbral explorations.  Although some electro-buzz appears to underlie the clatter, the sequence is entirely devoted to empty metal boxes and accompanying metallic rustle. 

 

Les honteuses alliances

Phil Johnson’s voice tapes do the trick – processed, vocoder-ed, electro-beaten.  Another warmer, inviting voice in British English beckons from the other side of the universe.  High pitched sound (Bladder Flask here) goes almost hissy as the space gets populated with wobbly sources.  Masami Akita’s flute is inaudible.  Instead, it is noise distribution stuck in a rut, repeating on and on, locked in a groove, Asmus Tietchens-style.  The entire routine is repeated once again, with the noisy rut getting even more oppressive.

 

Martello Tower

Peter Lambert’s alto sax and Nigel Ayers’s rhythm box do their pentatonic thing in P16D4’s laboratory. 

 

Luxus & Mehrwert

Roger Schönhauer is responsible for this collage-like accumulation of contributions from De Fabriek, Vortex Campaign and Hiroki Kocha.  It begins with a charming, old vinyl record crackle reproducing a pre-War orchestra.  The turntable arm skips, skips, skips – like Philip Jeck’s or Pierre Bastien’s modern-day machines do.  This is followed by a frattage of environmental noises, field recordings, electronic processing, machine-type rhythms, Yasujiro Ozu-style black and white moods, circus melodies, hammering, and then back to the old, Pierre Henry-type cortical take-off.  Upon which, the vinyl record skips again.  Schönhauer’s art meets here Nurse With Wound circa “Sylvie and Babs”. 

 

 

***

 

P16D4 was strongly rooted in the early 1980s cassette culture and many of these recordings have resurfaced in recent years on vinyl or CD.  They contain some of the very best recordings from the “transitional” era, capturing the shift from PD’s post-punk electro-experimentalism to more sophisticated abstract forms.  Luckily, Wehowsky et al dwelled on that thin edge long enough to bequeath several high-quality sonic documents of their morose enthusiasm.  Most of the material recorded between 1980-82 is highly recommended, with 4, 8 and 13 being my favorites.  6, 7 and 12 include recordings of various members of PD.  Recordings made after 1982 are best explored by the lovers of musique concrète and electro-acoustic traditions (to which P16D4 does not directly belong). 

 

1. PD: “Inweglos” (1980)

2. PD: “Alltag” EP (1980)

3. Ralf WEHOWSKY: “eaRLy W one” (1980)

4. Ralf WEHOWSKY: “early Two.  Nur die Tiere blieben übrig” (1980)

5. Ralf WEHOWSKY: “early W 4.  Ajatollah Carter“ (1980)

6. ERTRINKEN VAKUUM/KURZSCHLUSS: “Ladunter / Kurzschluss” (1980)

7. PERMUTATIVE DISTORSION / LLL: “Brückenkopf / Schlagt sie tot!“ (1980-81)

8. P16D4: “Wer nicht arbeiten will, will auch nicht essen” (1980-81)

9. P16D4: “Von Rechts nach Links“ (1980-81)

10. Ralf WEHOWSKY: “Early W – Three.  Neue Deutsche Peinlichkeit” (1981)

11. PD: “Startrack / Freiheitsgeschmack” (1981)

12. P16D4 / Der APATISCHE ALPTRAUM: “Tödliche Schweigen / Der Apatische Alptraum“ (1981)

13. PERMUTATIVE DISTORSION: “Brückenkopf in Niemandsland“ SP (1981)

14. P16D4: “Kühe in ½ Trauer” (1980-83)

15. P16D4: “Distruct” (1982-84)

16. P16D4: “Tionchor“ (1982-86)

17. P16D4 / SBOTHI: “Nicht niemand niergends nie!“ 2LP (1986)

18. P16D4 / ETANT DONNES / ESPLENDOR GEOMETRICO / VIVENZA: “Bruitiste“ 2LP (1986-87)

19. P16D4 / Asmus TIETCHENS / SBOTHI / NACHTLUFT: “Captured Music“ (1987)

20. P16D4: “Acrid Acme” (1981, 1987)

21. P16D4 / MERZBOW / SBOTHI: “Fifty” (1989)

22. SLP: “SLP” (1989-90)

 

Naturally, Ralf Wehowsky has continued to record prolifically throughout the last two decades, but digitalization and sampling transformed his work since the early 1990s. 

 

Among P16D4’s recordings included on various compilations, the following ones can be considered the most significant.  Indeed, position 2 belongs to the most important monuments of monochrome post-industrial collage culture of the early 1980s. 

 

1.“Schau hör, Main Herz ist Rhein” (1981)

2. “Masse Mensch“ (1982)

3. “Sensationnel Journal no.1“ MC (1982)

4. “Ohrenschrauben” (1982)

5. “Bad Alchemy Nr 5“ MC (1983)

6. “Ohrensausen“ (1984)

7. “Strength“ (1984)

8. “Devastate to Liberate” (1985)

9. “A Gnomean Haigonaimean“ (1987)

10. “Ciguri” (1988)

 

CARE OF THE COW: “I Still Don’t Know Your Style” *****

Recorded 1981

 

 

This long forgotten Chicago band was formed in mid-1970s as a quartet of Christine Baczewska, Sher Doruff, Victor Sanders and Kevin Clark.  The first three survived long enough to leave this highly original item to posterity. 

 

The band relied largely on the combination of Baczewska’s vocal talents and Sanders’s imaginative engineering, with more than a dollop of Doruff’s compositional and multi-instrumentalist skills.  Relying on vocal polyphonies and very transparent instrumentation, the band’s relationship with melody often seemed entirely accidental. 

 

Baczewska’s and Doruff’s voices are the leading instruments here, benefiting from ingenious multi-tracking.  The vocalscapes accelerate and decelerate at will, confronting the listener with dizzying transformations of pitch, volume and energy.  This is achieved without abrupt cut-ups, which would have probably dominated had this recording been made in the sampling era…

 

Breezy female vocal polyphonies sometimes brought comparisons with more widely known Raincoats, but even at “Odyshape” the London girls were more straightforwardly ‘rock’.

 

Care of the Cow folded in 1983, and the artists’ recording activity has been rather sparse since then.

 

 

Conversation Piece

We first hear a tape recording of a child singing the 1957 evergreen “Just Walking in the Rain”.  From a swirling electronic loop gradually surfaces a vocal part, instantly subjected to dynamic swells and accelerations.  Doubled up by a second alto and a breezy guitar, the feeling is almost Lusitanian, but suffused with faulty intonation, split notes and recurrent hysteresis.  The moods, the scales and the volumes keep sliding, exposing sudden pitch changes.  The melody will advance only when the rhythm guitar and bells steady its progression, prefiguring Seattle’s Tone Dogs by several years.  Sher Doruff’s rustling twelve-string guitar is resplendescent here.  After another taped intermission (a children’s party) the voice-as-instrument treatments return.  The ascensions are portamento, but the gear shifts are so prevalent that you can’t help checking if the speedometer on your turntable does not reveal any problems with the equipment.  It is remarkable how polyrhythmic the band can get with only Victor Sanders’s acoustic guitar as the only explicitly rhythm instrument.

 

Eternally at Work

An a capella intro is delivered in Anglo-Celtic style.  Witty multi-tracking superimposes lyrical polyphony.  Still, the disturbed hierarchy between the first and second voice destroys any tonal expectations.  The chest voice belches out: “And after all these years – I Still Don’t Your Style”.  Despite all the obsessive pitch manipulation, the logocentric structure avoids melismas.  The instruments struggle with this unusual velocity distribution: a naïve, belated clarinet, bass clarinet, pennywhistle and tattered percussion are never on time.  The fractured melodism of polyphonic vocals dominates and more organized drums and guitar passages do not make this venture any more style-bound. 

 

Christinatron

Christine Baczewska’s solo recording for multiple vocal strata.  The smooth overlapping of frequencies yields a quasi-electronic, spacious feel.  The range is somewhat compressed, yet legible: the higher notes are shorter, the lower melismas are longer.  Between them, the notes circulate, rotate.  It ends naturally, projecting an elegant, stylistic challis that would define Mauve Sideshow’s sound several years later. 

 

Qué sera, Sarah

So here we go – Ray Evans and Jay Livingston’s 1956 pop classic mangled and regurgitated in a completely disfigured fashion, with droning guitar and female yodeling immersed in spacey echoes.  The drumming is isometric, crisp and elastic, the electric guitar flourishings are distinct but mellow.  Neither the waves of vocalizing, nor the space jam – style drumming prepare us for the familiar lines: “Will I be pretty, will I be rich?”, only to be blotted out by ponderous guitar thunders.  Credible space whisper and the lengthy drone, not Doris Day’s caprices, determine the plasticity of this track. 

 

The Slope of her Nose

The pivotal track on the record mixes the avant-garde structuring with satiny pop vocal mannerism.  It opens with chatting, laughter and a metallic voice reciting a poem: “I’d love to ski sometime – I’d never been skiing”, we hear.  Volume swells on the vocal parts are extreme but come in discrete packets, isorhythmically (pitch and rhythm patterns do not coincide).  Then we move into a waltz, with some electronics, bells and slide whistle, close to Klimperei’s domain.  The second voice is fine-grained and more rational.  They eventually take off – in unison first, and then burst into a totally abstract section teeming with unstable chordal textures, percussion and bells.  When it turns into a guitar hymn, harp-like articulation filters through the steel guitar’s frets.  The band’s melodic indifference is remarkable.  The continued parity violation raises a question if they had not recorded the input material first and then manipulated it by slowing and speeding the tape at will… However, the avoidance of vibrato and the softening presence of angelic chorus mask this quasiperiodic operation.

 

Downstream

A slow-decay tam-tam brings us into a Harry Partchian idiophonic intro, which is instantly discontinued.  Baczewska’s voice is produced in an echo-pop fashion, but the bizarrely tuned, energetic xylophones overreact to the melancholic vocal line.  It requires considerable ambiguity tolerance: the twain shall not meet.  Dry recitation of Bertold Brecht’s text, tepid, consolatory guitar and bass are purely contiguous with the angularity of the percussive assaults.  The twin vocals go polyphonic without any pretense of melodic goal-seeking, leaving two guitars to build a crescendo.  The inconsequential rhythm acoustic guitar operates in close-ups.  The distorted electric guitar is more distant, but too evocative of the conventional rock idiom.

 

Clippings

C.W.Vrtacek-styled guitar handled by Victor Sanders takes us back to the deceptively “Brazilian” mood of the first piece, undercut pitch jumps and vocal manipulation.  The guitars accentuate the building drama in the narrative.  The hesitating melodic line seems to be determined by, rather than accommodate, the syllabic count in the lyrics – the more vowels are there, the longer the passage.  The heaviest moment on this record follows – with chopped rhythms and punchy guitar riffs. 

 

Strophe

Music boxes bring a variety of associations.  Plush shops facing Lake Geneva.  Cute little dolls dancing.  Hat Shoes’ memorable “Saddest Train Ride”…  Care of the Cow expose us to articulatory suppression and subsequent retrieval: a whispering voice, lap steel guitar in lieu of a piano in low register and electric guitar in high register.  Delicately undulating multi-vocal texture gets some percussive help, but unobtrusive echo treatment ensures a relative immobility of the piece. 

 

 

***

 

I have vicarious knowledge of only one more recording by the band.  Apparently several years ago they taped several pieces, none of which has been published as yet. 

 

CARE OF THE COW: “I Still Don’t Know Your Style” (1981)

CARE OF THE COW: “Dogs Ears Are Stupid” MC (1983)

 

Christine Baczewska has continued to record occasionally, and I am yet to hear the music. 

 

Christine BACZEWSKA: “Tribe of One” (1993)

Christine BACZEWSKA: “X Factor” (2001)

 

Published in: on August 23, 2008 at 9:53 am  Comments (6)  
Tags: , , ,

SHOCKABILLY: “Vietnam” ******

Recorded 1984

 

 

By the time Shockabilly embarked on its first lengthy tour, guitarist Eugene Chadbourne had already traversed at least two distinct musical phases – one as a member of improvised jazz nebulae and one as a champion of mock-heroic country and western revalorizations.  His own guitar style matured, incorporating the elements of blues, bluegrass, lo-fi and (mostly acoustic) noise. 

 

Monumentally irreverent and scurrilous, the Shockabilly trio evolved out of the larger ensemble known as the Chadbournes.  Together with Lower East Side dwelling Mark Kramer and David Licht, Chadbourne was now ready to set his “free improvised C&W bebop” into a pastiche-bound, noisy power-trio.  Kramer was on the cusp of reaching temporary celebrity as a musician, producer and owner Shimmy Disc label.  David Licht accompanied him in some of the later adventures, not least in Ball. 

 

Surprisingly for a short-lived band famously doomed by personality clashes, the documents dish out astute, hyperreal covers, improvised snippets and seductively manipulated tapes.  Their brusque, pelean inroads into American song classics were often redemptive for syrupy, generic originals.  They remain excitatory and fresh a quarter of a century later. 

 

 

 

Pile Up All Architecture

A taped voice is telling us that this is – surprise – “a new Shockabilly record”.  Meaty electric guitar and hysterical falsetto crop up soaked in closed-space echo.  No sooner do we establish a set of expectations about the heavy rockin’ band when a pop parody intervenes with the piano, surrendering again to a grimy guitar assault and David Licht’s accents on small xylophone. 

 

Born on the Bayou

Californian John Fogerty wrote some awful pseudo-southern songs in the early 1970s and Chadbourne dissected one of them here, producing a simulacrum far worthier than the “original”.  It starts innocently with moronic story-telling (“when I was just a little boy”) turned into slapstick by the infantilized howl.  The ambiguously mixed-down trio trawls on, upstaging the yowing-zowing, elvis-ing, rockn’n’rolling vocal effects.  The archaic treatment ricochets against a freaking guitar and bludgeoned drums.  Before the track eventually disintegrates, Kramer throws in some muddy, looped tapes.

 

Your USA and My Face

This is most probably Chadbourne’s self-made electric rake – an instrument sounding like a cross between a tenor guitar and a taut A-string in a cello.  Ever scary sounds of neighing horses (remember Steve Moore’s “The Threshold of Liberty”?) play but an auxiliary role.  The song rocks despite its acoustic context, set against musique concrète canvassing.  The tapes are but an ornament, and fail to melt the structure of the song to follow the steps of John Fahey’s “Requia” nearly 20 years before.  But despite being merely a decorative element, these industrial sirens and animal whinnying do affect our capacity to discern the instrumental tone quality of the band. 

 

Iran into Tulsa

Oh, how topical.  From Persepolis to Oklahoma?  Dystopian, rumbling rhythm drowns out fatuously carefree beach vocal harmonizing.  Underlain, a metamorphic voice growls over a classic (pre-speed) punk ostinato and a single-channel guitar scream.  There is always an expectation of an actual melody line.  Instead only scraps fall. 

 

Vietnam

John Lee Hooker’s blues – slow, head-banging, delivered with clean drum work from  Licht, abrasive guitar screech and a multifaceted organ responsible for both bass line and harmonics.  Several voices bathe in angst-swamped proto-singing, illuminating regular guitar builds-ups redolent of Randy Holden’s anachronistic stylisms. 

 

Flying

What used to be a passable organ vignette in Lennon-McCartney’s original, flares up here on off-pastoral acoustic guitar, guiro and woodblocks.  An appropriately wavy electric guitar washes up 5 ascending chords.  Nonsensical tapes intersperse this alleged bliss with male voices and passing single engine planes.  Finally Chadbourne enters his trademark, hyper-active improvisation mode, abusing his acoustic guitar until the end. 

 

Paris

Kramer’s ratatouille begins with a call from an elderly dad.  It is closely followed by a largely inarticulate psych rock jam: a clangy “I don’t care if it fits” guitar, overdrive bass assorted rumble, plus sloughing organ.  All participants seem to just get a kick out of these non-sequiturs. 

 

Georgia in a Jug

After an irrelevant excerpt from a gig, Chadbourne intones a standardly country and western ballad: “I am going down to Mexico in a glass of tequila and then to Puerto Rico in a bottle of rum”.  The subtext could be considered comical – Chadbourne sings of travels as wide as a Georgian bloke could possibly fancy.  Kramer’s tapes speed up, all over up to an eruption of hysterical yell and heavy, booming rock.  Soon we are back to the country-rock territory and the drunken confession.  Chadbourne’s predilection for C&W themes always seemed tongue-in-cheek, but his syncretic, half-improvised style did attract following in the US South.  This song was penned by one Bobby Braddock, who is apparently considered as a Nashville institution. 

 

Lucifer Sam

This begins with a call from an aphasiac fan (?) who has trouble describing Shockabilly’s songs.  The instantly recognizable, vintage Syd Barrett’s guitar riff intro leads to sliding signifiers, light years away from the original.  The trace of Swinging London recurs only in a verse-ending whistle.  David Licht’s drumming sounds wonderfully ramshackle.  Shockabilly is here more of a futuristic jug band that a young Barrett could have ever imagined.  It gets perilously close to the edge of chaos.

 

Signed D.C.

An old ballad from Arthur Lee’s repertoire, reconfigured by Chadbourne into a wrestling acoustic guitar, plucked within the fringes of tonality.  Hand drums and wooden tapping on guitar body reverberate.  The production of this escapist, spacious folk pastiche is superb.  Were it not for the rather predictable chord progression, the echoes of worn-out squawk and guitar strings would presage some of Keiji Haino’s acoustic experiments in the following decade. 

 

Nicaragua

After a well-intentioned rant against “Jonathan and his cruise missile launchpad”, ex-Fugs legend Ed Sanders spills his ‘anti-American’ venom with all the pet obsessions of the era: “CIA surrounds Nicaragua and Reagan says yes to the death squads of El Salvador”.  It is amazing to hear Sanders’ doggerel on a record entitled “Vietnam”, with each verse accentuated by the frayed guitar.  Sanders remains a living monument of underground manifestos.  As much as I could never share the pro-Ortega naiveté of the mid-1980s, many years later I found myself chanting with Sanders “Impeach George Bush” in New York’s Knitting Factory when the Fugs returned with gusto at the beginning of the Iraqi War.  Times they are a-changin’. 

Shockabilly’s music survives.

 

 

***

 

SHOCKABILLY: “Dawn of Shockabilly” EP (1982)

SHOCKABILLY: “Earth vs Shockabilly” (1982)

SHOCKABILLY: “Colosseum” (1983)

SHOCKABILLY: “Greatest Hits” EP (1983)

SHOCKABILLY: “Vietnam” (1984)

SHOCKABILLY: “Heaven” (1985)

SHOCKABILLY: “Just Beautiful.  Live” (1982, 1984-85)

 

The last record contains the entire debut EP plus live recordings.  “Vietnam” and “Heaven” are my favorites.

 

Unless there is something entombed on elusive cassettes, the earliest Shockabilly can probably be found on Eugene Chadbourne’s double LP “LSD C&W”. 

 

The band’s recordings also appeared on several compilations.  Unique tracks were contained on “That’s the Way I Feel Now – Tribute to Thelonious Monk” and “Passed Normal vol.1”.

Published in: on August 1, 2008 at 8:14 pm  Comments (2)  
Tags: , , , ,

PUNGO: “1980-81” ****

Recorded 1980-81

 

Nobody remembers Pungo.  Tolerance?  Certainly.  Nord?  Yes.  Tenno?  Yes.  Inryofuen?  Maybe.  But Pungo?   No. 

 

Rewind.  Tokyo 1980-81.  The long-forgotten era of Prime Minister Suzuki, the Pope’s visit to Japan, Kurosawa’s “Kagemusha” and Chiyonofuji’s nascent dominance in sumo.  This was still a pre-bubble economy, fast diversifying after the second oil shock. 

 

Frequent attraction at Shinjuku’s ABC Hall, Pungo were essentially an idea of Yuriko Mukôjima (then Yuriko Kamba) and her friends, with Masami Shinoda among them.  Unshackled by requirements of musical virtuosity and critical of the stubbornly conservative Japanese society, they easily co-opted like minded amateurs.  Musically this implied the creation of austere, anthemic amalgams delivered in an egalitarian, colloquial fashion, amusingly covered up by genuine counter-culture convictions.  The predilection for makeshift pathos of revolutionary hymns corresponded, belatedly, to European left-wing sensibilities, as evinced by Stormy Six or Sogennantes Linksradikales Blasorchester.  But their musical idealism was informed by anti-aesthetics of post-punk. 

 

Akihiro Ishiwatari and Pungo’s engineer Ken’ichi Takeda went on to launch an even more straightforwardly leftist A-Musik.  They invited Shinoda.  Pungo’s subversive spirit lived a little longer in the poorly documented supergroup Fake which co-opted the likes of Tenko, Chie Mukai and Keiji Haino.  Sadly, Yuriko Mukôjima’s musical traces after 1981 were sporadic at best (Che Shizu, Lars Hollmer).  The late Masami Shinoda continued on his folk-jazz and anti-jazz pathway.  His art was to Tokyo what Curlew were to New York and Goebbels-Harth to Frankfurt.  

 

 

 

Rakutsu

After a curtain-raising sleigh bells jingle, accordion and bass intone a triste anthem.  The melody emerges slowly like revolutionaries from their conspiratorial gathering.  Painstakingly, Takashi Satô unearths his tympani meter.  Masami Shinoda’s weathered, proletarian alto saxophone carries the burden of a somber, urban ballad.  Yukio Satô’s ischaemic electric guitar fuzzes its way out of muck with adhesive anonymity. 

 

Teema

In one of collective hallmarks, Pungo launches into kabuki-like melismas ingeniously followed by galloping drumstick work.  Saxophone and guitar skronk jump in, setting the stage for Yuriko Kamba’s excoriating exclamations.  Two female dancers apparently participated in this live show.  It could be a French passepied, dependent on guitar and saxophone in latter-day Mahjun style.  But the parenthesis does not last and the band quickly reverts to the very Shintoist ascetism of howl’n’drum.  After a short silence, unconventional kabuki-like barking snaps at a cheaply romantic ballroom acoustic piano (Yuriko).  The final belongs to the shaggy, contrarian guitar.

 

Mikai no tango

Yuriko Kamba’s singing adjusts to Meguo Hisashita’s tangoed drumming.  The effort founders, torpefied by sudden hardcore blitz.  Yuriko yells the text against a raucous band led by Shinoda.  When the tango section returns, it does so in splashy, sloppy guitar chords.  Shinoda’s aylerian alto improvises lacrimoso over the choppy dance from Richueala’s shores.  Jirô Imai’s bass and Yuriko’s acoustic piano trudge wearily forward, but not for long. 

 

Shido

Rather than “playing”, Yuriko drums piano keys in a rashly muted mode reminiscent of early Reportaz (NB, the recording is of equally poor sound quality).  The performance is dramatic, barren and lackluster.  Imai’s bass landslide selectively stresses the beat.  After several austere repetitions, Shinoda intones the melody, but is quickly contested by the piano.  A rather disjointed percussion duo of Akihiro Ishiwatari and Takashi Satô scuttles around with amateurish, chronically offbeat drumming.  The racket keeps Shinoda’s lead from becoming too fluent and jazzy, but his hoarse manner continues to weave in the background, flanked by Yuriko’s irate shouting.  Satô’s minimal, truncated guitar shales evoke the Contortionists’ Jody Harris from around the same time. 

 

Yôdodo

The now familiar kabuki howling is on this track exclusively female and less audacious than previously.  When tribal drumming and bass fall into the groove, Shinoda improvises freely.  The demoniac wailing vaticinates Kwaidan imagery, unaffected by unsophisticated bass ostinato and rather basic four-handed drumming.  This is programmatically incompetent naïvism at its very best.

 

Ikenai

This memorable musical o-bento opens with a funky bass line and rotoreflective cymbal.  The chorus will swing from branches, aping an echoing, loony line: “ouah-ouah-ouah”.  A reggae-like guitar and a Pogues-type accordion give this bolero a very passé complexion.  As usual, the saxophone is more agile than the rest of the skittery band.  Yukiko keeps admonishing that we must not (“Ikenai”).  An unexpected countdown – “one-two-three-four” – and a counterblast of saxophone, guitar and violin rises from this ash heap like a step pyramid.  The band quickly returns to the funky groove, with the innocuously half-baked “ouha-ouah-ouah” and piano tremolos.  But the countdown returns – and so does the tidal wall.  The “reggae” guitar exits the scale and nothing appears in place anymore.  The alternation between the “song” and the Sun Ra-like cacophonous ziggurats in increasingly rash and unpredictable.  With each iteration, the band further purifies its exercise of deconstruction. 

 

Oiji

This is Pungo pared down to the co-leaders.  Yuriko’s accordion is tuning in slowly, abandoned in the environment of daily crackle, chores and voices.  Then, two saxophones and accordion deliver a harsh fanfare, through which Yuriko’s girly voice barely penetrates.  This track was recorded live in Kyoto and Shinoda appears to be playing on two saxophones at the same time, Roland Kirk-way.   An ocean of accordion harmonics waves gently, buoying the girly vocal.  Until Shinoda’s squeal drowns out everything else. 

 

Shinteema

After this duet, we have 14 taiko players rattling in this ingeniously entitled “New Theme”.  We can detect discrete shamisen, but before the jumpy “new” theme becomes just another Okinawa song, a megaton wind orchestra swamps it – covering a range from piccolo to tuba.  The guzzling big band emboldens the large chorus to sloganeer in the good old tradition etched in by the previous generation (early Tokyo Kid Brothers).  When the wind instruments wilter, solo chanting and piano will dominate for a moment.  The typhoon of taiko drumming and the crowded chorus wander on with their festive cheer about a traditional festival, tongue in cheek.  Pungo assembled here an incredible array of talent for mere cameo appearances – several bass players, dancers and violinists, including Chihiro Saito from avant-prog anti-melodists Lacrymosa.  This certainly was not the unique occasion.  We know that Phew also sang live with expanded Pungo.

 

Habanera

More of Iradier than Bizet, this is a farewell dance for saxophone and drum in slow, inevitable decay. 

 

***

 

PUNGO: “1981-82” (1981-82)

 

A-Musik remains the closest in the spirit to Pungo.  Shinoda’s later career blazed the trails of philosophical folk-jazz, but never lost its porous, unsettling quality.  Pidgin Combo were an international effort with Tom Cora.

 

A MUSIK: “E ku iroju” (1983)

Takuya NISHIMURA – Masami SHINODA: “Duo” (1986)

PIDGIN COMBO: “Long Vacation” (1988-89)

COMPOSTELA: “Compostela” (1990)

COMPOSTELA: “Wadachi” (1991-92)

 

For Shinoda completists, his scraggy, prismatic alto can also be found on. 

 

Kumiko SUYAMA: “Yume no hajimari” (1986)

CHE SHIZU: “Nazareth Live shû 1” (1983-1992)

MAHER SHALAL HASH BAZ: “From a Summer to Another Summer” (1985, 1989)

CASSIBER: “Live in Tokyo” (1992)

 

Yoshihide Otomo was Compostela’s fan.  His Ground Zero also sampled Shinoda’s alto saxophone with Cassiber on the unforgettable classic “Kakumei Kyôgeki”:

 

GROUND ZERO: “Kakumei kyôgeki” (1995-96)

Published in: on July 12, 2008 at 9:10 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , ,