Apparat review by Kunsten.Nu

Posted in Documentation on October 26th, 2010 by admin

The first workshop we visited, took place at the Utzon Center and was led by the American sound artist Derek Holzer. Under the title Neanderthal Electronics went about building his own synthesizer of simple electronic components and colorful spots such as old toys. Holzer with no technical training built his own large appliances, reminiscent of an old Moog from the 1960s, and the workshop will inspire you to start from scratch and acquire the technology in a punk-esque “Do-it-yourself’ style .

Thus, he will also bring artists and engineers closer together. As he says, it is often the case that when artists need anything from technicians, they say something like “Make me something sad” while the technician will answer “How many units is it?”. It must be possible to find a common language, and you can do at the workshop over the soldering iron.

Text & photos by Kristian Handberg, translation by Google. Read the original here.

Bonus track: live set and workshop photo by Søren Skjødt:

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UH review…practice your Hungarian!

Posted in Documentation on October 11th, 2010 by admin

Derek Holzer zajzenész, aki mindenféle talált tárgyakból szeret zenét előcsalni, néhány héttel ezelőtt többek között a devecseri piacon is járt. Az ott beszerzett eszközöket is felhasználva zenélt-zajongott például a bicskei menekülttáborban. Az UH Fest Go Social programjának keretében meglátogatott több magyar civil szervezetet, és látott olyan dolgokat, amilyeneket egyáltalán nem szoktak ide érkező zenészek. Úgyhogy amikor a fellépése elején arról beszélt, látta a tévében, hogy gyakorlatilag megsemmisültek olyan részek Devecseren, ahol ő maga is járt, az nem csak a tragédia súlya miatt volt más, mint amikor az egy estére ideérkező zenészek alibiznek valamit arról, milyen Budapest…

Full review (plus the beautiful Lau Nau, a shy Kría Brekkan (ex-múm) and the ever-uncompromising Lasse Marhaug) here: Seems like they gave me an “A”!!!

I had a few words to say before my set, maybe it would be good to record them here:

As you can see from the photographs projected in the lobby, a few weeks ago I went on the UH Go Social! Tour. One topic we discussed on that trip was how all this experimental sound stuff relates to the world around us, to the bigger picture. I still don’t know if I have any answers to that question, but I do know that one of the places we visited–Devecser–has been wiped off the map since then, if you believe the pictures on the evening news.

You might want to move around the room during this set, you will find different things in it. Move around. And wait for the flood.

On the whole, the evening was fantastic from my point of view–excellent venue and PA combined with a wonderful, open-minded audience who were ready for anything. Earlier sets in the small hall by Kuupuu, Piotr Kurek and Valerio Tricoli with Robert Piotrowicz provided a more intimate initiation to the festival. It did seem like I landed on a strange planet, however, were all the women were delicate, lovely folk-birds and the men were knuckle-dragging noise beasts!

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UH Fest Go Social! Tour review

Posted in Documentation on September 14th, 2010 by admin


Over four days at the start of September 2010, I took a small tour with the intention of visiting various socially-excluded groups in Hungary. This tour was organized by András Nun in the context of the upcoming UH Festival in Budapest, and I was joined by Luka Ivanovic (Lukatoyboy, Beograd), Balázs Pándi (drummer for Merzbow, Kilimanjaro Dark Jazz, Venetian Snares and others, Budapest) and Péter Szabó (Jackie Triste, Budapest), as well as by our translator Julcsi Palkovics and two photo/video journalists from, András Hajdu and Kálmán ‘Mao’ Mátyás.

Each location visited related to András’ work with human interest NGOs, and he described the theme of our excursions as “Poverty and Exclusion in Hungary–or–What Can an International Festival Representing Peripheral Music Do About the Problem of People Forced to the Periphery, How Can It Act Against Their Exclusion?”

On Social Art I

I rarely hesitate in giving my opinion about the majority of “political” or “social” art projects I see at festivals and museums. Those that know me have often heard my joke about the Dutch media artist who reads the words “Problems of Muslim Integration” on the front page of the Volkskrant and “New Developments in GPS” on the technology page and–EUREKA!–runs off to win the Golden Nica at Ars Electronica.

The formula is simple: apply consumer gadget A to social problem B and it’s culture to absolve the middle-class guilt of the iEverything crowd, with kickbacks to Apple, Sony and Microsoft. In this European subsidized arts ecology, I have seen too many artists and institutions pay lip service to whatever the social-ill-of-the-day might be as a way of expanding their financial (and thus technological) resources from a different funding pool. And since the cultural money pools dry up quickest in times of crisis, I expect this kind of thing happens more often now than ever before.

However, while I cannot speak to the UH Festival’s organizational interests in having a theme like “Go Social!”, I can certainly point out András Nun’s deep personal interest in trying to combine the two very different worlds he lives and works in daily. So it was on those grounds that I agreed to take part.

Monor & Budapest

Besides the incredible range of groups we spoke to–in one moment we stood talking outside the run-down, windowless houses of dirt-poor Roma in the town of Monor, and in the next we jammed with young, hip Budapest 20-somethings at a walk-in drug treatment center–was the bewildering array of institutional approaches to these groups. One homeless advocate in Budapest insisted with all his naïve, youthful Marxist ideology that the solution to their problem was simply “housing, housing and more housing”. Likewise, the director of a homeless day center only focused on the necessities of food and clean clothing, without taking any interest in the individual psychic conditions which might keep people in those circumstances.

Faced with approaches such as these, the artist has little room to intervene. The artist’s work has nothing to do with policy, or even advocacy, but rather with the honest communication of human experience between one person and another. And this is an area unapproachable by those who reduce living people to demographics.

Esztergom, Vanyarc & Told

So I was much more at home in the locations where art had already found its place–places like Esztergom, Vanyarc or Told, where young people from poor Roma or Hungarian families could find the space and materials necessary for creative expression through painting, music or dance. It was a strange artistic match, however, for Luka, Péter and I to find a common ground with them.

We showed up delirious from many hours on twisting Hungarian roads at each place with loads of noisy electronic boxes, not knowing what sort of response to expect. In Vanyarc, the kids quickly lost interest in electronics and instead presented us with a program of Christian song and dance in the Gypsy style. In Told, on the other hand, the situation was beyond chaotic. Luka and I quickly agreed that we would have the children draw pictures of sounds from their village life and sing–or scream, as it happened–them for us as a conducted choir rather than try anything with his noise-toys.

On Social Art II

Early on in the discussion of this trip, I brought up some of my concerns about the typical media artist approach to social problems. They came in response to a project proposal which would see a homeless man carrying around a brand-new digital recorder, and these recordings sampled during a live set at the festival. With a nod towards Cornelius Cardew’s Scratch Orchestra and The Great Learning projects, which brought amateur and untrained musicians together into a structured improvisational setting and reflected his preoccupations with a kind of “people’s art”, I wrote:

“I think if this will really work, some strategies of how the people/groups you have chosen to work with could represent themselves–without flashy gadgets costing half an average month’s salary and ‘professional’ mediation–would have to evolve. The very nature of that kind of experiment means that the results you get may not fit the sophisticated aesthetics of your festival audience in Budapest, however. An interesting paradox, and one which I think is necessary to allow to happen.”

This paradoxical jump between poor rural families and sophisticated city music scenesters inflicted what Luka called a “social jet lag” on the tour group after the four hour drive back from Told. As we boarded the A38 ship and went below deck to see the Peter Brötzman Trio play, our usual world of stages, bands and nightclubs turned upside down and suddenly became far more surreal than the rooms full of messy, loud Gypsy children we’d become somehow accustomed to.

Lessons in Junk

Speaking with Róbert Bereznyei (Tigrics, Budapest) in his synthesizer-stuffed studio apartment one evening, we found agreement on one point in particular: to go to poor people in the countryside and show them how to make art with expensive gadgets is like dangling the keys to the Ferrari in front of them and then driving off. Any meaningful artistic intervention or collaboration must involve things they might actually have access to once we leave, whether those things are built on the spot, commonly available or provided by some institution already there. Róbert put it quite simply.

“Teach them build things from junk,” he said.

This kind of alchemical approach suits me well, and before departing to Hungary I went through many workshop possibilities in my head. All of them required far more time than we had at our disposal. The average visit to any one of these places was about an hour and a half, when in fact we could have stayed one or many days getting a feel for the situation and developing proper connections with the locals. As it was, it felt like something between a rock-and-roll roadshow and a group of camera-toting Japanese tourists seeing the Statue of Liberty one day, the Grand Canyon the next and Sunset Boulevard the third.

Devecser & Bicske

With all this in mind, we set out to the town of Bicske on the last day of the tour to give a sound workshop for young Afghan refugees. Before this, however, we took a six hour detour to Devecser, where the local Roma community run one of the largest outdoor bazaars for West European trash I have ever seen in my travels through the East. Here we picked up a few kilos of Chinese plastic trinkets, springy metal bits-n-bobs and total-kaputt-elektromüll, and then happily went on our way. If there is one thing Berlin has taught me, it’s that a great workshop always begins with a trip to the flea market!

Each of the Afghan boys in Bicske had some horrible unspoken story to tell… of murdered family members, of being smuggled en masse in the back of a truck through Iran and Turkey, of sleeping rough in mountains and forests for nights without end and–at the end of everything–of the ordeals of the Hungarian legal system. I swallowed hard, hoping none of that would matter in the moment, dumped a load of junk on the table and showed them how to use a contact microphone to get life out of these dead objects.

By the end of the afternoon, several of the boys had constructed small wooden sound boxes and one, before leaving to Budapest for evening Ramadan services, even expressed a desire to learn something more about electronics. There aren’t too many moments in life when one feels like a superhero, but perhaps this was one of them…

Photography by András Hajdu and Péter Szabó. Thanks to the various organizations we visited and who hosted our workshops, including Az Utca Embere, A Mi Házunk, Megálló Csoport, Szomolyai Romákért Egyesület, Igazgyöngy Alapítvány and the Cordelia Foundation.

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Hungarian tour/post-ISEA

Posted in Text on August 28th, 2010 by admin

Hungarian Tour

From 31 August until 5 September, I will be joining András Nun (UH Fest, Budapest), Luka Ivanovic (Luka Toyboy, Beograd), Balázs Pándi (Merzbow drummer/A38, Budapest) and Péter Szabó (Jackie Triste, Budapest) for a tour of various locations in Hungary related to András’ work with human interest NGOs.

András has described the theme of our excursions as Poverty and Exclusion in Hungary–or–What Can an International Festival Representing Peripheral Music Do About the Problem of People Forced to the Periphery, How Can It Act Against Their Exclusion? and the project has tie-ins to the upcoming UH Festival in Budapest in October.

Our trip will take us through the cities/regions of Monor, Budapest, Esztergom, Vanyarc, Szomolya, Berettyóújfalu and Bicske and will end with a sound workshop for young Afghan refugees. A challenging situation to be sure, but one I look forward to!

ISEA Disasters

On the topic of challenging situations…I just returned from my participation in the KHM Heavy Matter show at ISEA 2010 in Dortmund. I had much harsher words lined up about the way this event unfolded, which I will refrain from putting into print.

Suffice to say that, in spite of massive infrastructural shortcomings and an almost complete lack of support from the venue (an investment-wreck shopping mall) or the organizations involved, I at least succeeded in playing one half hour set of extremely loud and chaotic analog synthesizer sound in the confines of a very small elevator. Photos and sounds soon…

ISEA Highlights

Besides this glorious waste of my own time and money, the weekend there was brightened by seeing exhibited projects by Natalie Bewernitz & Marek Goldowski, Aernoudt Jacobs, Yunchul Kim, Herwig Weiser, HC Gilje, Carsten Nicolai, Sophie Bélair Clément and Joyce Hinterding at the two major locations in Dortmund.

The Arctic Perspectives show organized by Hartware Medienkunst Verein at the Phoenix Halle was also mind-blowing in its scale, and could easily consume several days of attention with its collection of videos, field recordings, literature and architectural models.

Climbing around in the beautiful rust-scape of the abandoned factory next to the Phoenix Halle was certainly worth the trip, and seeing the collection of analog synths at Institute for Computer Music and Electronic Media (ICEM) in Essen-Werden was a memorable experience, even if it meant sitting through almost an entire day of dry, cliched electroacoustic compositions (sometimes with goddamned opera singers!) to get to that point. And finally props to the Estonians for You Must Relax – A Day Without the Mobile Phone, by Eve Arpo and Riin Rõõs. If only every day could be so nice!

Thanks go out to Servando Barreiro for being Da Roadie, and to Timo Toots for being Da Man!

Now Playing

bruno madernamusica elettronica[1994 stradivarius]
common eider, king eiderworn[2010 root strata]
david tudorneural synthesis nos. 6-9[1995 lovely]
earle brownselected works 1952-1965[2006]
grouperhold-sick 7″[2010 room40]
heart museumleaf[2010 mars pyramid]
heckerneu[2010 editions mego]
jan jelinek & masayoshi fujitabird lake objects[2010 faitiche]
keiji haino & pan sonicin the studio 2LP[2010 blast first petite]
mood organcalcinatio 52 x C13, vols. 9 & 10[2010 self-released][thx timm!]
nadjasky burial[2010 latitudes]
the dan people (ivory coast)dan masks[1993 ocora]
various artistsforge your own chains-heavy psychedelic ballads and dirges 1968-1974[2010 now-again]
various artistsmata la pena-a compilation of international music[2010 mississippi]
various artistsstring of pearls_jewels of the 78rpm era 1918-1951[2010 mississippi]
von goatseptic illumination[2010 nuclear war now!]

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19-29 December = unplugged

Posted in Text on December 13th, 2009 by admin

BanskoI will be 100% totally and completely analog from 19-29 December 2009. Click the photo to see where… I wouldn’t even realize it if the internet suddenly ceased to exist during that week, so any holiday greetings should happen before or after. Have a good New Year if I don’t hear from some of y’all by then!

Now Playing

My six hours on the train from Berlin to Cologne today was “Electroacoustic Day”.  I guess the connecting link between all these pieces is a radical sensibility about sound which I think still holds to this day. None of these composers were at all interested in representing conventional sounds, nor using conventional tools to create those sounds. That, and an exciting sonic density and an almost overwhelming amount of detail at a near-microscopic (i.e. microsonic) level.

Bernard ParmegianiDe Natura Sonorum (1975 GRM)
Curtis RoadsPurity & Sonal Atoms (1994, 1998 IRCAM)
Trevor WishartRed Bird & Anticredos (1977, 1980 Electronic Music Foundation)
Iannis XenakisMycenae Alpha & Polytope de Cluny (1978, 1972 IRCAM)

And now that I’m back at the KHM with their incredible library, I can start looking up more material from all those academic journals that I could never afford before.

First stop: Dan Slater, Chaotic Sound Synthesis (Computer Music Journal, Summer 1998)

Review: Echelon Teufelsberg by Thomas Ankersmit & Valerio Tricoli

I also had the chance to hear Dutch saxophonist/synth-improvisor Thomas Ankersmit & Italian tape-loop maestro Valerio Tricoli’s Echelon Teufelsberg project last Friday night at Ausland in Berlin. Ankersmit and Tricoli spent a week recording in the acoustic strangeness of the former CIA observatory dome at Teufelsberg, on the far west side of the city. The performance was meant to showcase these recordings, however I found that most of the connection to the specific qualities of the space were lost, and the field recordings themselves could have been made in any reverberant space… or with any studio effect. The pair layered up Revox tape loops, vocals, saxophone and analog synthesizer on top of this, spatializing the sounds across four PA and two desktop monitors as well as around the room via a handheld, hyper-directional ultrasonic speaker, further transforming (and obscuring) the source material. In some ways, I would have preferred that this rather accomplished improvisational duo would have simply dropped the conceptual baggage of the recordings and focused on playing a real-time concert, however some of the bleed-through from the echo chamber did carry some interesting sonic moments.

More info here:

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Posted in Text on January 3rd, 2009 by admin

Current location =

Mooste, Estonia (photo: Pippa Buchanan)

Warning: obligatory year-end music post follows…

I decided to concentrate only on zero-eight releases, rather than catalog the expanse of my music vision quests of the last year. Some notes for future ethnographers:

AsvaWhat You Don’t Know Is Frontier [2008 Southern]
Morricone-style doom, moving through motions and moods. Excited to see them at Club Transmediale 2009!

Birchville Cat MotelFour Freckle Constellation [2008 Conspiracy]
What could be one of the (many) final BCM records as Campbell Kneale seeks self-renewal through a name change. A standout release on a standout label from one man who probably releases every minute he has ever committed to tape at some point or another…

BJ Nilsen & StilluppsteypaPassing Out [2008 Helen Scarsdale]
Third in a trilogy of dark drone drinking songs, guaranteed to put me to sleep every time I play it.

Burial HexInitiations [2008 Aurora Borealis]
Glad to have discovered this creepy drone project for the End Tymes this past year.

CoffinsBuried Death [2008 20 Buck Spin]
No surprises here, just sick Japanese doom the way I like it.

Daniel MencheBody Melt [2008 Important]
Daniel MencheGlass Forest [2008 Important]
A pair of releases for Important records, one vinyl and one CD. Menche seems to have reneged on his promise to produce only vinyl or DVD releases, but both of these stand loud and proud in their own right regardless of the media they reach you in.

DystopiaDystopia [2008 Life Is Abuse]
A few short, somewhat lackluster tracks and a very long and boring cut up of schizo voices still teleports me back to the crust haven of Oakland California in the mid 90’s. Perhaps a swansong which didn’t really need releasing so long after the fact, but it did get me digging out their first couple of absolutely powerful records again.

EarthThe Bees Made Honey In The Lion’s Skull [2008 Southern Lord]
This is what happens when doom goes country.

Ghast & YogaSplit [2008 Choking Harzard]
Ghast is screeching sandpaper on the vocal chords, heavy doom like a barbell dropped on your foot, while Yoga is odd, almost psychedelic sounding horror soundtracks. Look this one up.

GHQEverywhere At Once [2008 Threelobed]
Spacey American-style psychedelic folk-drone-rock whatever featuring Marcia Basset from Hototogisu/Double Leopards.

GrailsDoomsdayer’s Holiday [2008 Temporary Residence]
Further installment of Middle Eastern riff-rock from these Portland ambassadors.

HellhammerDemon Entrails [2008 Prowlin Death Records]
Crucial reissue of Celtic Frost prehistory! A band which was truly despised during it’s time, but went on to inspire so many others.

Isengrind, Twinsistermoon, Natural Snow BuildingsThe Snowbringer Cult [2008 Students Of Decay]
Natural Snow BuildingsSung to the North [2008 Students Of Decay]
Natural Snow Buildings are everything a “free folk” collective should be: mysterious, reclusive, a young couple in love and (most often ignored in this genre) capable of actually playing their instruments. Requisite delay pedals are at hand of course, but there is a sense of craft missing from the endless hours of Sunburned Jackie-O noodling which piles up in record bins of the world out there already. Isengrind and Twinsistermoon are solo projects of the two French musicians who make up Natural Snow Buildings. I don’t use the word blissful often or lightly, so take me serious here…

Josh LayPoison Drinker [2008 Sentient Recognition Archive]
Sick delirium tremens exorcism from one of my new fav noise/drone Americans.

Kevin DrummSnow [2008 Hospital Productions]
Another classic, in the same level of strength as Sheer Hellish Miasma, but moving in the opposite direction–from the near-indecipherable complexity, extreme frequency modulation and sheer noise terror of the earlier release to a sublime simplicity of carefully controlled feedback. And an evil punchline waiting in the wings…

Kiss The Anus of a Black CatThe Nebulous Dreams [2008 Kraaak]
I never gave much time to the neo-folk template laid out by Current 93, Death in June, Blood Axis, etc etc, so maybe this Belgian project gives the genre a special new shimmer and a sense of energy and wonder which these older projects mostly lacked. Or maybe it would be better to call KTAOABC something else entirely. Think guitar haze, organs droning, lush arrangements and sung vocals leading you down mossy garden paths.

MachinefabriekDauw [2008 Dekorder]
MachinefabriekMort Aux Vaches [2008 Staalplaat]
Another artist who probably puts out just about any little dithering he comes up with in the studio, Machinefabriek’s unending stream of releases can be very hit or miss (the indie-guitar-pop-sounding records, for example, can only be referred to as miserable) and call into question for me whether it’s always a good idea to be one’s own label or editor. Luckily, 2008 was gifted with two very beautiful sets of recordings–one a series of understated remixes done over the years and the other a studio set put together for a radio appearance on the Dutch VPRO and inspired by Oren Ambarchi’s recording in the same Mort Aux Vaches series.

NekrasovThe Form of Thought From Beast [2008 self released]
One-man experimental black metal, from Australia where apparently Mr. Nekrasov can still find a dark corner to hide in.

O.S.T.Waetka [2008 Ideal]
Electronica has become such a minuscule part of my world over the past few years, but this particular release of sliding, shifting non-rhythms, crackling fuzz and warped frequency layers is so far from the boring run of the mill IDM or polite laptop music which somehow still survives in Berlin and elsewhere (I suppose), and gave me some renewal of faith that the computer may not be a totally dead instrument yet.

RevengeInfiltration. Downfall. Death. [2008 Anti-Goth]
Normally, macho American “brutal” death metal appeals to me about as much as reading the kind of teenage hate poetry that most would-be Columbine killers might scribble on the backs of ketchup-stained Denny’s napkins. This one caught my interest for fairly mundane reasons–being featured in one of my favorite music blogs–so I kept it around and somehow the “brutality” grew on me. “Pulls no punches” might be one hackneyed music pundit phrase that applies.

RobedoorShapeshifter Slave [2008 Olde English Spelling Bee]
RobedoorShrine to the Possessor [2008 Music Fellowship]
Slithers, fire and knives. Harsher than Burial Hex but still quite spooky, and perhaps even something of a jam thrown in. Very glad to make their musical acquaintance in zero-eight.

Rudimentary PeniNo More Pain [2008 Southern]
While not nearly so brain-melting or classic as Death Church, which sent my 19 year old mind on so many black-and-white London death trips so long ago, No More Pain does prove that everyone’s favorite goth-punk paranoid-schizophrenic basket case Nick Blinko still has what it takes. (No, I wasn’t 19 when Death Church came out in 1983. This salty old dog isn’t that old and salty…)

SalomeSalome [2008 Vendetta]
Southern in the “South shall rise again” sense, Salome features the next challenger to Monarch’s cute-with-razor-scars Hello Kitty doom princess vocalist. I imagine the victims of facial acid attacks in Pakistan might sound similar to this particular lady. Guitars, drums, no bass but you might not notice. Vendetta, the label, happens to be local Berlin kids, which gives me an extra little kick.

Stefan Kushima Don’t Touch the Walls [2008 Blackest Rainbow]
Fantastically deep drone release from a fresh-faced newcomer.

Sun ArawThe Phyn [2008 Not Not Fun]
Southern California psych-folk freak-down. Fun in the desert sun.

Sunn O)))Domkirke [2008 Southern Lord]
Sorry, but I’m a sucker for church organs. Nuff said.

TreesLights Bane [2008 Crucial Blast]
I’m also a sucker for bands/artists from the US Pacific Northwest (Grails, Wolves in the Throne Room, Daniel Menche, Thrones, Yellow Swans…) so I was thrilled to discover my old stomping grounds of Portland Oregon had spawned a world-class screeching, plodding blackened doom machine. If only it didn’t cost me $30K in unpaid student loans to go back and live there…

Various ArtistsLast Kind Words [2008 Mississippi]
Various ArtistsLove is Love [2008 Mississippi]
Just about everything that (Portland again!) Mississippi Records releases is golden. They are crate diggers in the finest sense. Last Kind Words collects rare 78’s from the “other black music”… no not Scandinavian metal but classic Blues and Gospel from the 1920’s through the early 50’s. Perfect for when the devil is busy tormenting somebody else someplace else, for a change. And Love is Love charts another one of my (sometimes neglected) fascinations–African funk, rock and pop music from the 1960’s and 70’s.

Yellow SwansAt All Ends [2008 Weird Forest]
Yellow Swans decided to call it quits this year, a fact which leaves me a little sad since I never got to see them play live here in Europe or during one of my short trips to the USA. But that doesn’t mean that, like BCM or Machinefabriek, they aren’t sitting on hours of archives. Yellow Swans may be releasing well into 2009 at least, all welcome doses of droney noise, feedback, guitar and pulsey strangeness.

Some honorable band mentions, which are not 2008 releases but new discoveries this year or late last year:

Alethes, Ashdautus, Birushanah, Bone Awl, Burmese, Chaos Moon, Darkthrone, Dead Raven Choir, Double Leopards, Drudkh, Eldrig, Elk, Geronimo, Glorior Belli, Hala Strana, Hatewave, Jon Mueller, Kinit Her, Njiqahdda, Old Wainds, Sarin Smoke, Skepticism, Taiga Remains, Unbeing, Von, When, White/Light. Yes, it’s very un-kvlt to admit to just picking up a Darkthrone or Von CD in 2008, but these kind of scene credentials are pretty meaningless in the grand scheme of things, aren’t they?

And finally, some props to some of my favorite music blogs and forums for keeping my ears stuffed all the last year: Cosmic Hearse, Kick to Kill and MetalArea.


…are made to be broken. Mine mostly involve not doing more, but actually doing less. Taking on less projects, finishing the ones I’ve already started. Trying to find a few stable jobs rather than all this scrambling around for gigs right at the time I realize I’m about to run out of money. Finishing my new Buchla-inspired synthesizer. Finishing the Pure Data FLOSS Manual. Finishing a CD using the new synthesizer. Might as well throw learning to levitate or finding a demon familiar in there in the process. Happy New year to all and good luck with whatever promises you might have to break in zero nine.

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Piksel impressions

Posted in Text on December 8th, 2008 by admin

Current location = waiting at the City Box hotel, Bergen NO for my lift to the airport. I guess we can get this out of the way to start with:

Piksel vids here. I can’t figure out how to embed the [[iframe]] in MySpace, so for now you’ll have to manually look for the TONEWHEELS vid. Sorry!

Despite it’s announced interest in hardware as well as software, Piksel has a reputation as a computer hackers’ festival. Maybe last year there were more hardware-based projects and performances, but this year’s theme was “Real Code/Abstract Code” and the laptops definitely were out in full force. And with the laptops come the boyish obsessions with the usual themes, namely video games, techno beats and toy robots. If you could show me an event about computer art and music that didn’t run afoul of these teenage traps, I might be a bit more enthusiastic. Ahh well….

In spite of it all, a few performances stood out for their energy and original approach. Perhaps the most refreshing take was Jessica Rylan‘s excerpt from an opera-in-progress called “History and Future of the Solid State Entity”, based on the autobiography of Dr. John Lilly. Lilly became famous for his work on interspecies communication, and his life story veers dangerously close to that of Phillip K. Dick: excessive drug use, mind-blowing/blown spiritual realizations, transmissions from the past/future and a deep paranoia that the machines are actually taking over. Rylan’s take on it rendered Lilly’s life in a series of pop song vignettes which left some in the audience divided over her version of “consumer entertainment”.

Jessica Rylan at Subcurrent 2006 at the CCA, Glasgow, 2006. Photo by krakow81

Singapore’s One Man Nation also realized the value of physical performance in the otherwise sterile laptop world, coming across a bit like a breakbeat version of Basque noise performer Mattin as he slapped up his mic’ed MIDI controller and proclaimed that “the time is coming, the time is now, to take back what they stole”.

One Man Nation.

And Ryan Jordan from London foregrounded the body in his digital sound practice in a performance whose visual imagery of a figure hooded and wired came straight from Abu Ghraib. His sensor-activated, heavy wavetable synthesis was by far the most sonically satisfying set on offer at Piksel for me this year.

Honorable mention also goes to Mexico City’s _rrrr, a three piece laptop band who did manage to rock a bit, even if they never got up out of their chairs. Frenchman Benjamin Cadon, who works with “Spectral Investigations Collective” of Bureau d’Etudes also started out with a good premise–sonifying the visible and infrared light emissions of various kinds of household devices such as remotes and toys–but managed to lose focus with too much computer processing and a barrage of video information which seemed to have little to do with the rest of the set.

And then there’s the live coders. I’ve never been much of a fan of “live coding”. It’s always seemed some kind of wrong-headed concession to performance that only makes sense for other geeks… a kind of nerd machismo which turns the laptop inside out and shows you exactly how boring working with computers actually is rather than bringing any sort of excitement to the performance. And there was plenty of live coding here, from Alex McLean (aka Slub) streaming his terminal output from London to a late night dance party here in Bergen to the Hungarian developers of the Animata software macro-ing their way from glitch techno to Space Invaders. (Will they ever tire of video games? The opening concert of a “Second Life Orchestra” was tedious enough!!!!!) But none of it made me any more of a convert than before I arrived.

Maybe it’s because Pure Data is a bit more visually oriented, or maybe just because I’m a Pd user and therefore can speak it’s particular Greek, but IOhannes Zmoelnig’s live patching performance drew me in a bit more than the others. His floating Pd objects, which dynamically connected, disconnected, spawned and influenced each other as they floated in the white screen void at least got me thinking about other possibilities, which is more than I can say for the 8 bit shoot em up that came before.

One discussion which was heavy in the air before the festival began was the conflict between working sessions and presentations. As I mentioned before, my previous experience with Piksel was that there was very poor awareness of when to stop with the geek talk and to actually make something presentable to a non-specialist audience. This year, many of the “hackers” who previously turned up year after year here were absent and disappointed that the festival was not made up of the working sessions it have previously been. For my part, I was more satisfied that presentation aesthetics have finally become a concept. I guess there are some views which may not easily meet.

However, Martin Howse’s “Real Code” day fostered not only an incredible working spirit and a room full of spontaneously generated projects in a single afternoon, but it introduced a non-structured social space which seemed to go well with the general hacker vibe. Focused but not programmed, it apparently succeeded in providing a space for just about anybody willing to cross the threshold and get involved.

But eventually, life with the machines still becomes dehumanizing. So most of Saturday I skipped Martin’s lab and hiked up the snow and ice covered mountain which overlooks the city with John Hegre of Jazkamer. Reflecting on the simple beauty off, say… moss or the stalactites of ice flowing in slow motion down the rock faces brought me back to a conclusion I reached during a “Locative Media” workshop in Iceland a few years ago. There, along the southern coast of that volcanic island nation, I was once trapped in a bus full of computer-fanatics, blog addicts and gadget collectors whose only response to the raw power stretching out around us was to GPS tag it with Star Wars quotes on Google Earth.

Above Bergen, I was stopped in my tracks by tiny beads of water sliding under a thin sheet of ice. A mathematician like Jessica Rylan or Otto Roessler (also in attendance at the Saturday session) might have described the fluid dynamics by means of a bifurcating neural network or some similar kind of complex equation which brought them to what they felt was a better understanding of how the world works. Or a computer animator might use the same kinds of expressions to reproduce these movements in the imaginary space of the RAM and the CPU. For my part, I was just happy to see this sight was there, knowing that the next day it would be gone, replaced by yet another microscopic mystery. And more often I find these kinds of things far more engrossing than anything a machine and it’s human might make.


ABOMINATIONS live at CTM [photos, video]

Posted in Documentation on February 10th, 2008 by admin

ABOMINATIONS played as part of the Dark Alloy evening at Club Transmediale in Berlin on 30 January 2008, along with Utarm, Ives no. 1, Shit and Shine and Wolves in the Throne Room.

From the CTM catalog text:

This program draws parallels between various approaches to playing Noise and Metal. Although distorted riffs and guitar feedback play a major role in Metal, it is not generally in search of the chaotic sound signatures of Noise. The latter tend only to provide background in Metal, against which compositional rigor and the players’ precision can stand out all the more dramatically. This is quite different from Noise where the chaotic overlaying of the greatest possible amount of interference, feedback, distortion, buzzing, crackle, drone and their often unpredictable permutations is the actual material of the music. Despite this, since the advent of Black Metal’s preference for rich overtones in the high-frequencies, noise has become increasingly important in Metal – doubtless the fundamental reason why the marriage of Noise and Metal is currently producing so many exciting projects. Yet other influences are also helping catalyze new developments: the tendency to abstraction for example, or the transmutability of Jazz, or narrative elements taken from Folk and Gothic.

Differences notwithstanding, Noise and Metal are driven by many similarities: the physical sensation of sound intensity taken to the highest extreme, complete immersion in sound, aggressively confronting the audience with a massive wall of sound. The extreme tension between amorphous chaos and rigorous control, between eruptive noise and precise composition, between devotion and control fantasies, creates the special experience of both genres, in terms the sound and the absorbing dramaturgy. Above all, Metal and Noise musicians love to stage themselves as tamers of the destructive, dark forces embodied in sound.

If sound is conceived as fluid and malleable, Noise musicians embrace it unconditionally, wrestling to give it form, never resting and yet never quite able to – and not willing to – completely win the upper hand. The struggle is everything. In contrast, the Metal musician, draws slightly more authority by maintaining a degree of distance. As in a necromantic legend, the fluid forms into matter before him, writhing, spitting and spraying while he plunges violently into its innards.

Metal and Noise: each is in search of an ecstatic catharsis, of purification by sound.

¡Muchos gracias a Pablo Sanz por las fotografías y video!

Abominations [AR/US/NL]
Uploaded by pablosanz

Now Playing

Sten Ove ToftLit De Parade (Roggbiff Records)

About a week before CTM, Sten Ove Toft sent me his latest disc, Lit De Parade in the mail, ahead of his appearance as half of Utarm‘s live set in Berlin. Sten joked that this was his “pop” record, as it appears to diverge from his heavier, full-on live sets which mingle elements of noise, experimental and metal in favor of impressionist scribbles of sound and deep moods hanging in the background. He told me that Lit De Parade was based on scraps of material gathered over the years which didn’t seem to fit into his other works. The CD come across as deceptively simple, and even though I was supposed to be doing about five other things that week, I put it on several times to listen, and each listening exposed new details which crept out of the mix. A fine work, and deserving of one’s attention.

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2007 playlists wrapped up

Posted in Text on January 2nd, 2008 by admin

Dale Lloyd from and/OAR records wrote to me this week, asking again for a best-of list for 2007. Long lists of records tend to be long and boring (and mine is very, very long!), satisfaction only for the completists looking to tick off the little boxes. In 2007 I found that my unique, real-life experiences were far more interesting than disposable plastic discs or bits passed down a wire. To me at least.

Personal Best 2007

1) Kevin Drumm: live @ Maria, Berlin
2) Birchville Cat Motel, Antoine Chessex, Jazkammer & Burial Chamber Trio: live @ Club Transmediale, Berlin
3) Das Kleine Field Recordings Festival: multiple editions, multiple locations, Berlin
4) Finally seeing the documentary on Swiss “actionist” Roman Signer (“Signers Koffer-Unterwegs mit Roman Signer“)
5) Vowing to get rid of the laptop in my live sets this past year (almost there!)
6) Opening for KTL in Paris, and Paris in general which wasn’t nearly as snobby as I was led to believe…
7) Pickled Feet DIY electronics workshops, Berlin
8) Self-made analog synth modules, hell yeah!
9) The Buchla synthesizer at EMS, Stockholm
10) Art & Music with the Overhead Projector festival/workshop, Cologne
11) Daniel Higgs: live @ Maria, Berlin
12) Keiji Haino murdering PanSonic: live @ Volksbuhne, Berlin
13) Stephan Mathieu‘s collection of 78 rpm records
14) Abominations: tour through the Northern Darkness of Sweden and home again to Berlin

And now the records, in no particular order save alphabetical. Long time friends here will see that it is a summary of my “Now Playing” reports of the last 12 months. Release dates remain unimportant to me, only that I (re)experienced these little packets of sound sometime during 2007, and they left an impression on me.

Now Playing 2007

1349Hellfire (Candlelight)
A.M.Orla (Ikuisuus)
Alhaji K FrimpongKyenkyen Bi Adi Mawu (cassette rip via Awesome Tapes from Africa)
Antoine ChessexSilences (Tanzprocess CDR)
AssückAnticapital/Blindspot (Sound Pollution)
Birchville Cat MotelBirds Call Home Their Dead (Celebrate Psi Phenomenon)
Birchville Cat MotelSeventh Ruined Hex (Important Records)
Birchville Cat Motel with Anla CourtisThree Sparkling Echos (Celebrate Psi Phenomenon)
BJNilsenThe Short Night (Touch)
BJNilsen & StilluppsteypaDrykkjuvísur Ohljódanna (Helen Scarsdale Agency)
BJNilsen, Stiluppsteypa & Hildur GudnadottirSecond Childhood (Quecksilber)
Black FlagWho’s Got the 10 1/2? (SST)
Bolz’nSpalt>Funktion 12″ (React with Protest)
Burial Chamber TrioBurial Chamber Trio (Southern Lord)
Burning Star CoreBlood Lightning (No Fun Productions)
Burning Star CoreOperator Dead… Post Abandoned (No Quarter)
CircleKatapult (No Quarter)
CircleTyrant (Latitudes)
CoffinsThe Other Side of Blasphemy (20 Buck Spin)
CorruptedVasana 7″ (HG Fact Japan)
CourtisLos Alamos (Celebrate Psi Phenomenon)
Crossed Out1990-1994 (Slap a Ham)
Daniel HiggsAtomic Yggdrasil Tarot (Thrilljockey)
Daniel MencheBeast Resonator (Roggbif)
Daniel MencheBleeding Heavens (Blossoming Noise)
Daniel MencheFurnace Fucker (cassette via Daniel Menche blog)
Deathspell OmegaFas – Ite, Maledicti, in Ignem Aeternum (Ajna Offensive)
DropdeadDiscography 1991-1993 (Selfless)
EarthHibernaculum (Southern Lord)
Elaine RadigueJetsun Mila (Lovely Music)
Electric WizardWitchcult Today (Candlelight Records)
G.I. GurdjieffHarmonic Development – the complete harmonium recordings (Basta Music)
Glory Fckn SunVision Scorched (PseudoArcana)
GrailsBurning Off the Impurities(Temporary Residence)
Greg Malcolm & Tetuzi AkiyamaSix Strings (Brombron)
Grey Daturas & Yellow SwansCopper/Silver (Olde English Spelling Bee)
HawkwindSpace Ritual (Caroline)
JazkamerBalls the Size of Texas Liver the Size of Brazil (Purplesoil)
JesuConqueror (Hydrahead)
jgrzinichrudiment of two (Editions Sonore)
Joe Colley, Jessica Rylan and Kevin DrummPure (Musica Excentrica)
John FaheySea Changes and Coelacanths-A Young Person’s Guide to John Fahey (Table of Elements)
Keiji Hanio & KK NullMamono (Blossoming Noise)
Lasse MarhaugPandemonium (Touch Radio)
Logical NonsenseSoul Pollution (Alternative Tentacles)
Man is the BastardD.I.Y.C.D. (Slap a Ham)
Man is the BastardSum of the Men (Vermiform)
Marcelo AguirreRepugnant Beast Recalcitrate (Desetxea)
Mark WastellVibra 1, Vibra 2 (w.m.o/r/Longbox)
MinskThe Ritual Fires of Abandonment (Relapse)
MisfitsMisfits/Collection I (Caroline Records)
Mrtyu!Blood Tantra – Rituels de song du culte de Tantra (20 Buck Spin)
NeurosisGiven to the Rising (Neurot)
OmPilgrimage (Southern Lord)
Oren AmbarchiIn the Pendulum’s Embrace (Touch)
OrthodoxGran Poder (Alone)
Osso Exotico & Verres EnharmoniquesFolk Cycles (Phonomena Audio Arts)
Pharaoh OverlordLive in Suomi Finland (Vivo)
The Goslings & Yellow Swans Bored Fortress 7″ (Not Not Fun)
Thee, Stranded HorseChurning Strides (Blank Tapes)
ThilgesLa Double Absence (Staubgold)
UlverShadows of the Sun (Jester)
Unwounddiscography (various labels)
Venetian SnaresBlack Sabbath Dubs (Kriss Records)
WeaklingDead as Dreams (tUMULt)
White/LichensWhite/Lichens (Holy Mountain)
White/LightWhite/Light (Rebis Records)
Wolves in the Throne RoomA Diadem of 12 Stars (Vendlus)
Wolves in the Throne RoomDemo 1, Demo 2
Wolves in the Throne RoomTwo Hunters (Southern Lord)
Yoro DialloDit Tiekro Bani Vol 1 (cassette rip via Awesome Tapes from Africa)

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Macumbista runs the Voodoo down: Berlin venues

Posted in Text on December 28th, 2007 by admin

Images from Phantom Clubs of Berlin/Liverpool (1998-1999), by Nina Fischer & Maroan el Sani. This photo series, of illegal clubs shot at midday when there’s simply no real sign of their existence, reminds me of my first few visits to Berlin, wandering around Mitte and Friedrichshain until all hours with a Brazilian architect friend looking for that totally happening club we’d read about in a magazine somewhere. Seeing this photo exhibit a year later in Prague, suddenly it all made sense!

Tonight, I just finished making a fairly long–but not exhaustive by any means–list of Berlin venues for a few people I know who are shipwrecked by the holidays here. Since so few people who live in Berlin (and almost none of the people in the art & music scene) actually come from Berlin, it’s a pretty quiet place between Christmas and New Years, as those of you who live here probably already figured out. You can even find a parking space these days! I moved here myself at exactly this time of the year a while back, and it took me more than a week (of empty clubs and bars) to finally figure out what all the fuss about Berlin was for. Don’t worry, it picks back up after New Years.

But if you were looking for things to do most of the year, you might want to get on the Echtzeit mailing list for “serious” improv/experimental concerts.

Also watch the calender of Ausland (or subscribe to their mailing list) for more minimal improv and assorted other flavors.

For more noisy stuff, check the Le Petit Mignon/Staalplaat list.

Club Transmediale/DISK/General Public has lots of events and a mailing list, as well as a huge week long festival at the end of January that’s worth a look.

NBI has IDM (if you can stand that kind of shit).

And M12 has lots of electronic music (and Mika Vainio’s dubious DJ sets) on the weekends [RIP]

Lots of things are happening at the Festsaal Kreuzberg (Skalitzer Strasse 133, Kotbusser Tor) and also in their basement, but since different people run these events it’s hard to get info from one source…. Le Petit Mignon list is probably best source, although bigger events (recently Circle, Ghost, Crippled Black Phoenix, The Ex…) get postered around town.

Rinus van Alebeek runs Das Kleine Field Recording Festival as well as things in spaces I’ve usually never heard of before or again.

OHMNoise/Dienstbar does lo-fi noise in out-of-the-way places like Wedding.

Wendel (Schlesische Str.) has a weekly jazzy improv session with Andre Vida/The Instrument.

Hair Entertainment seems to favor booking the kind of North American “freak folk” that The Wire were falling all over themselves writing about a couple years back.

Battiston82 book stuff that sounds like Lightning Bolt or Ariel Pink in different places around town.

Jason Forrest/Donna Summer and some other kooky French expats runs the ultra-trashy Birthday Party series. Their New Year Party might be on my list this year for lack of anyplace better to go… [RIP?]

West Germany (Skalitzer Strasse, Kotbusser Tor, Kreuzberg) book things as well, but have no real website nor proper mailing list to speak of. Mostly, you’re left looking for photocopied posters, or if you’re lucky then one of the more outgoing promoters I’ve mentioned here might send you an email about it. In the same building (an old doctor’s office complex) are two of Berlin’s trendier/trashier lounge/bars: Monarch and Paloma. The gay/lesbian version of these places is across the road in the Moebel Olfe building.

This week only! Get your Geek on! The Chaos Computer Club has it’s 24th annual meeting at C-Base.

And lastly there’s the Salon Bruit sessions, for electronics, noise and improv. (Probably one of the easiest places to get a gig in Berlin, for those who might be looking…)

In fact, it just strikes me that this is a pretty good list for people trying to get booked in Berlin as well. Just be prepared for the Berlin performer’s cut of the Berlin door money. Is it enough for a taxi home? Another drink? Döner-kebap and the greasy fist? Hmmm…..

On the other hand, a few very good venues have shut their doors forever here in Berlin in the last year: the Zentrale Randlage, Tesla, Scherer8 and Stralau68 all called it quits. RIP. The Ballhaus Naunynstrasse and the Volksbühne will soon change their artistic leadership and/or profiles as well, quite possibly getting rid of the kind of concerts people like us dig in the process, and the Bastard will also close in 2008. Is this the beginning of the end, or the end of the beginning?

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