Derek Piotr – Raj

Derek Piotr - Raj

On ‘Raj’, the third release from Poland’s Derek Piotr, the music featured throughout is a very vocal set of experimental and beat oriented compositions that draws much of it’s content from the voice which is processed and arrange, sometimes acting as a part of the beat itself.

This is my first introduction to Piotr’s music but before I began this review I went back to his previous two releases, ‘Agora’ and ‘Airing’, both of which show Piotr’s subtle but nevertheless, progressive movement through his vocal practices and the digitalized aura that at all times surrounds his work, that being his heavily processed but otherwise organic approach to the broad genre that is electronic music. Throughout Piotr’s previous releases it is apparent that his music has always been hard to pin down and on ‘Raj’ it is even more difficult. In a moment of harsh glitching and hot digital distortion (Spine, Grave)  I want to call it noise, during the bits of eclectic beat-oriented madness (‘Amendola’) I am reminded of dub and minimalist techno, throughout the menacing atmosphere that fills the album I want to call it dark ambient, and even then there are so many other genre’s one could tack on to ‘Raj’ yet there is no single point in time on this album in which any of the aforementioned genre tags could fully describe it. With all of that said, Piotr’s third entry is an undoubtably complex effort, brimming with abstract beats, unexpected shifts in direction, and unusual song structures that can be as uninviting as they can be accessible.

Musicians, particularly electronic musicians of Piotr’s kind have always expressed some interest in the manipulation of the voice and the use of it as an instrument but it hasn’t been until recently, within the past few years that is, that this vocal processing, this sound shaping of the voice has become a seen and used by musicians as a tool for creating beats, melodies, and song structures. Musicians like James Blake, Vladislav Delay, and AGF (whom Derek Piotr has collaborated with) can all be heard using vocals as the primary instrument, alongside synths and the whir and glow of the computer in the post-digital age.

Unlike many electronic musicians, Piotr does not so much work within the perimeters of electronic music as much as he exploits them. The otherwise polished sheen of digital music becomes distorted; ripped free from its most “proper” uses. You can hear the static glitched out synths, pitch shifted tones, and chopped up beats all moving at varying speeds, and Piotr’s own disheartening vocal embellishments that are arranged in a rather eerie way over the industrial, menacing soundscape that fills this album. The minimalist compositions and echo of the cold beats remind me of Andy Stott’s two 2011 EPs prior to his move toward a more polished sound on his 2012 full length.  It’s a very visual type of music and I think this aspect has been made even more apparent by the two music videos that accompany the tracks, ‘Sand Defacing All Surfaces” and ‘Grave’.

Piotr’s constant vocal manipulations paired with the desolate digital atmosphere shows a lot of ambition and potential but I do feel like there are many times where these elements come off as more of a burden for the listener than a unique aspect of his work. The vocal manipulations become especially grating along with the repetitiousness of the albums tracks. I found myself thinking it would be nice to hear Piotr’s own raw voice, removed of the guise of his editing skills. While individually, most of the tracks aren’t something you would listen to as independent pieces the album does pick up on that aspect in that, holistically it works very well, perhaps because the music is so conscious of what it is, even without an established concept.

The tracks are minimal, bare, stripped down, skeletal, and sometimes repetitive; there is a strain of despair and desolation that runs throughout each track. There are moments on this album where this moodiness works much to Piotr’s advantage in that it leaves me feeling unease, never feeling content or comfortable in knowing where the next track or sudden shift in direction might take me; never a moment where I felt like I knew what was going to happen next, which proves to be one of the best aspects of this piece of music by the end of the album. In the end, as experimental and impenetrable as ‘Raj’ may initially sound, there are many moments interjected throughout where the album can feel very accessible, even for audiences unfamiliar with Piotr’s unorthodox approach to electronic music.

Have a look at the videos that accompany two tracks from the album:

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Overall Rating: 6.8

Favorite Tracks: ‘Flow Through Light’

Recommended: AGF, Vladislav Delay, Andy Stott

Released: 26 February 2013

Links: http://derekpiotr.com/raj/

-Tyler Thompson

Pete Swanson – Life Ends At 30 (Track Review)

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In 2008 the two-man noise / drone duo that was Yellow Swans announced that they would no longer be performing together which lead the duo to release their posthumous magnum-opus finale, ‘Going Places’ in 2010. As of recent, Pete Swanson, the man behind the electronic aspects of the project, proved that the title of their final effort together was not simply a title but a promise of things to come.

In 2011 that promise was met with Swanson’s return, this time with a full length solo album under his own name. Where previously, in Yellow Swans, Swanson was in part responsible for creating these lurching bodies of evolving and decaying feedback dominated compositions, these compositions he, along with guitarist Gabriel Mindel Saloman took part in creating as Yellow Swans were not completely free of melody or structure. Some releases in Yellow Swans expansive and varied catalogue even included aspects of electronic dance music within their music, most notably the duo’s 2004 album ‘Bring The Neon War Home‘ in which they exhibited their own art-damaged take on electronic music, merging the psychedelic noise they were known for with techno and dub. On the latest track from Pete Swanson, the man continues to produce the broken and eclectic off-shot of dub and minimalist techno that was ‘Man With Potential’.

When I first heard ‘Man With Potential’ I was surprised to find that Swanson had taken a turn to making techno / dub inspired music but it seems as though this has proven to be a natural transition for many noise artists, the likes of which include the famed, Black Dice, Justin Broadrick (as JK Flesh), and perhaps the most notable being Dominick Fernow who, under his Vatican Shadow moniker moved away from the abrasiveness of his work as Prurient and took a wholly musical approach to techno. On Bermuda Drain, his last major label release as Prurient, Fernow even embraced elements of post-punk, new-wave, and EDM. For fans of Fernow’s earlier, more grating material as Prurient the transition was an unexpected one at the time and was a change of pace that divided some and I must admit, much like the first time I heard ‘Bermuda Drain’ I was a bit put off by Pete Swanson’s more structural efforts in comparison to his work with Yellow Swans but given time, it all sank in and it seemed that this coming together of electronic music and noise couldn’t be more of a perfect marriage.

With this latest track, Swanson returns in a similar manner to his debut, brandishing the nearly thirteen minute long odyssey of a track, ‘Life Ends At 30’, the B-side off of his upcoming EP, ‘Punk Authority’. Brimming with the amount of contrast and texture you would come to expect from Swanson’s involvement in Yellow Swans, ‘Life Ends At 30’ is a blistering, speaker tearing approach to electronic music. Swanson’s approach to techno and dub music is simplistic yet destructive; tearing apart the structure laid out by pioneers of the genres, his latest single strips the maximalist approach of techno down to a bare skeleton and saturates it in a mess of thick overdrive, sculpted into a creation that fits the sounds he helped develop early in his career.

The track hits as hard as it ends with a pulverizing fuzz drenched beat, the deep bass fighting it’s way through masses of static and colorful synth textures only to be swallowed again and again. Swanson finds a balance between his love for noise and structure and molds them into one in a tightrope walking act of a track. Its a trance-inducing formula that at one time can feel raw yet polished, futuristic yet primitive, chaotic yet reserved. Over the span of thirteen minutes, as repetitious as the track is the amount of diversity and layering here practically begs for repeated listens, if only to hear every tortured beat alone.

On this new track Swanson took everything that was great about his debut and amplifies it, merging his love for distortion fueled noise and techno. If the rest of his forthcoming EP is anything like this new track then I can’t wait for whatever this guy decides to put out, noise, dance, or otherwise.

You can preorder a physical copy through Mexican Summer’s website.

Also, check out the visuals that accompany a shorter cut from this track:

-Tyler Thompson

Celer and Hakobune – Vain Shapes and Intricate Parapets

‘Vain Shapes and Intricate Parapets’ is a 2 track ambient drone collaboration between Japanese musicians Celer (Will Long) and Hakobune (Takahiro Yorifuji), released on the Chemical Tapes label with the catalog number HOT-2 (2,5-dimethoxy-4-ethylthio-n-hydroxyphenethylamine) on limited cassette (of which I have a copy of the first press).

When I saw Chemical Tapes post this on Facebook I was surprised to see Celer showing up on that page, but with spending money in my Paypal I decided to buy the cassette (I think I was one of the first people to buy it) and immediately afterwards listened to the album. To say the least: I was impressed. I wasn’t expecting it to be much more than a decent drone album but Celer and Hakobune both proved me wrong on that one because it put me in some meditative state and it was pretty amazing.

The first track is a kind of low-mids drone without low bass and is very smooth with nicely timed changes in sound throughout the entire track. Very mellow, very gentle on the ears. The second is more quavering and slightly more metallic, though still very relaxing, staying focused on low to high mids it reveals some highs when it gets towards the end and actually almost gets a rough wall of noise sound before fading out. Another thing is this release has definite staying power. I have logged around 90 full plays of the album (that’s almost 200 plays total), and I’m still not quite bored of it yet because it seems like such a ‘classic’, for lack of a better word, something that is just good and doesn’t really get old because of it’s uncomplicated method of being good.

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Overall Rating: 9.5

Favorite Track: ‘Merges of Hysterical Exhilaration’

Recommended: Other Chemical Tapes artists.

Released: February 8th, 2013

Links: Celer and Hakobune on Bandcamp

Pigeon Breeders – Luminous Debris

Pigeon Breeders are a three-piece band from Edmonton, Alberta who you may remember from a review I did of their first release, Nocturnal Reveries, an album that brought together minimalist electroacoustic noise and thick walls of psychedelic drone. The latest release entitled ‘Luminous Debris’, a two part epic that continues to see the band move along familiar territory while progressing and pushing the boundaries of their sound.

Noise and experimental music in general have always been about improvising, at least in some aspects and Pigeon Breeders style of noise embodies the spirit of improvised sound. The group’s style of noise is psychedelic, trance inducing even but do take note, this isn’t psychedelic in the traditional sense so put away your shitty weed, your fractal youtube videos, and forget about The Flaming Lips. Pigeon Breeders brand of psychedelic is more meditative and a lot more noisy than what the word psychedelic entails.

Pigeon Breeders approach to drone and noise is more of an organic effort than most favoring the use of the electroacoustic noise of non-instruments and the exploitation of common instruments such as the reappropriation of the guitar, turning it into something more or less a device of noise making as oppose to a tool used to create music . If you are into drone and noise and this just sounds too out there for your tastes dont worry the band still implements some musicality into their performance which I would be so bold as to say the trio possesses traits similar to that of post-rock music, not so much the sound that is but the structure. The band’s post-rock tendencies aren’t so upfront, they never have been but still, their sound is created on behalf of each members contribution even if slight, they feed off of each other in this push pull kind of relationship where many of their tracks begin as these free-form jam session-like compositions in which each member of the band tends to bring a piece to the table and slowly build up into a crescendo or some sort of community of sound. At this point it isn’t about the technical prowess of an individual musician, I was never picking out passages from any one specific instrument that I enjoyed while listening to this. It is about the indication of something much larger that each musician’s sole contribution helps to create.

If you heard and enjoyed what ‘Nocturnal Reveries’ had to offer then Luminous Debris is sure to please. Each member’s offering, even if it is a minimal contribution serves as a crucial piece in creating these noisy soundscapes and proves that the musicians that make up Pigeon Breeders are surely masters of the improvised craft.

Overall Rating: 7.8

Favorite Tracks:

Recommended: Emeralds and Yellow Swans

Released: 22 August 2012

Links:

Listen to the new album via Bandcamp

Ramshackle Day Parade

-Tyler Thompson

Mark Przybylowski – Lonely House

Recorded in Philadelphia, PA, Lonely House is the latest tape from multi-instrumentalist Mark Przybylowski, released on Galtta Media.

At the foundation of Lonely House are a collection of seven quiet and simplistic instrumental pieces that rely on it’s ambience, not in a textural sense but more so this overall stripped down nature of the music allowing the listener to focus in on one or two prominent instruments at a time putting Przybylowski’s tender and moody playing style at the forefront of Lonely House. There is never really a whole lot going on and all of the songs stay at a similar pace, each track taking it’s time, which isn’t a bad thing at all, it actually adds a good deal of consistency to the album which is necessary for something as skeletal as this is.

The songs here are primarily made up of cold acoustic guitar, serene cello, and the warm hum of the double bass. There are also a few occasions where vocals are used, albeit, they are used sparingly and expressively in the sense of another instrument as opposed to their traditional use in singing lyrics, which being an instrumental release their are none of.

Everything sounds very nice, each instrument is played delicately, never breaking free from the somber steady pacing. The sound quality has a very upfront home recorded sound about it; the shrill screeching of fingers sliding up the neck of an acoustic guitar, the natural room reverb, minimalist song structure; it all carries a sincere message, something that says: “Hey, this is some sad sounding instrumental stuff and this is what you’re going to get, I hope you like it but if you don’t that’s ok too.” In general I feel like this album would be suitable for a nice autumn night’s listen or a winter’s evening by the fire place. The tranquil gloom that is presented here evokes memories of watching the trees lose their leaves, oranges and reds raining down, painting the earth as it prepares to renew itself, to briefly die for the winter. Its a very emotive piece of music, something like a poetry of the senses, an album that doesn’t try to sound sad but just is and even so, this sadness isn’t necessarily overt; like a long sigh, the music just breathily moves, carrying itself from one note to the next, passively moving along until the album’s end.

Although I enjoy the low-key feeling of Lonely House its biggest flaw is exactly what it succeeds in doing. For some, the lines between consistency and repetitiveness will be marred; the seemingly purposeful restrained nature of every track can feel monotonous. It isn’t a huge problem seeing as this is kind of the appeal of the album but it does hold it back from what I think could have the potential to be even more emotive and touching than it already is. Lonely house is definitely a moody set of tracks, it’s all kind of cold sounding, like the first chilly winds of fall, or the cold bite of winter but at the same time, it’s just as warm, touching on the senses with every slow moving stroke of the bow or pluck of the strings and better yet, it’s just in time for the summer’s end.

Rating: 7.2

Favorite Tracks: ‘Slow Winter’, ‘Sunday’

Recommended: Prime Winter / Fall listening.

Released: 15 July 2012

Links:

Lonely House via Bandcamp

Visit Galtta Media

Jahktute – A Record of Things Gone

Jahktute is a recording artist whose sound ranges from the extreme shrill noise heard on previous albums such as ‘Epwell‘ to quieter collage-like recordings that are sparse in sound.

I’ve always had a soft spot for noise; the intensity and abrasives of it can, at times, bring us back to a reality of life that we often seek to get away from or it can make us feel alienated bringing us into a new world of creative and vast soundscapes. Perhaps the most captivating part of noise is not the audible aspect but what it means to us conceptually; the idea of making these common parts of our life seem alien, to evoke emotion or tell a story through the juxtaposition of raw sound as it may be heard in everyday life, unfiltered or restrained by the use of traditional instrumentation but instead inspiring experimentation and often times an unconventional means of execution to produce a piece of music that is as original as it is unreproducible. When we hear noise in it’s commonplace, where it belongs, it does not bother us but when stripped of all of our other senses but sound, when noise becomes the focus of a situation, in this case looked at as a piece of music it suddenly becomes capable of evoking many different emotions and whether the feelings we pull from it were intentional or not the fact remains in both cases, noise is inescapable and Jahktute makes use of this reality via use of sometimes harsh electronic feedback and collages of sound combined with recordings of people talking, cars passing, birds chirping, and a variety of noises that lie hidden outside of our subconscious with this 11 track collection of varied minimalist noise.

The first two tracks are much quieter, relying on a minimalist approach with small movements of sound; what at times appears to be recordings of old machinery attempting to finish what may be it’s last dying task, sheets of metal clashing together, bottles clanking together, people chatting with each other, low-end rumblings that ominously flow beneath the foreground amongst a slew of other unsettling noises. The sounds are often sparse yet spontaneous; at times noises will meander about before erupting into a cataclysm of abrasiveness. ‘Road Lines’ features more of these sonically intense factors as shrill high pitched metallic noises and what sounds like pieces of metal and glass being scrapped against each other make their way across highly compressed low end rumblings which continue into ‘Symphony pt. 2’. Although the focus of the sound is mostly combinations of grating noise and field recordings other forms of noise are introduced into the mix, an example being ‘I Found it Underground’ which although brief, makes use of rich and dark piano chords that are allowed to linger moments after they are played where the track ‘Of meanings’ provides the listener with a deep melancholic drone which makes for a very different feeling of unease that the noise on the rest of the album just can’t accomplish as well. These two tracks made me want to hear more of what Jahktute can create using a more atmospheric approach to noise and although I enjoyed their inclusion they just felt out of place regardless of the additional variety they add. As the album continues the inclusion of field recording becomes continuously more involved playing a major role in telling something of an audible story encouraging a disconnect between the origin of the sound and what is being heard. The listener is left to interpret these naked sounds without the visual imagery of what is creating them, the same kind that allow us to feel comfortable with them naturally.

Jahktute’s ability to pull a blindfold over the eyes of the listener is uncanny, his music forces the listener to remain attentive leaving one visual impaired yet sonically more alert to the events that are transpiring within his recordings but at the same time even with all of the variety that is offered here I did feel that there were moments on this release that just could not hold my interest. Seeing as the approach on ‘A Record of Things Gone’ is more moderated than that of previous releases in that there tends to be more control in terms of the placement of noises on this recording I found that it either wasn’t minimal enough for me to feel completely involved, to feel completely engrossed in what has been constructed and when more sounds were introduced it was not spontaneous or chaotic enough.

I feel like where ‘A Record of Things Gone’ lacks is not so much the execution of the material, the individual tracks but that the release acts more as a compilation of interesting sounds, either found or created to make something of an emotive collage rather than something more concise. While some tracks do work well with others some, although enjoyable just feel out of place. While I was not necessarily compelled by what I heard I do feel like what is here can provoke one to ask questions, think, or feel emotion and in that it succeeds because even if it were negative is that not what this kind of noise seeks to achieve, that being a response as simple as questioning the music itself?

Overall rating: 6.0

Favorite Tack: ‘I Found it Underground’, ‘Of Meanings’

Recommended: Choose to hear it.

Released: 20 February 2012

Links: Stream ‘A Record of Things Gone’

Redntoothnclaw

Teotl Expansion – P:1

Teotl Expansion is a duo specializing in minimalist piano compositions, similar to the likes of fellow purveyors of glitch based ambient music such as Alva Noto, Fennesz, and Tim Hecker their debut ‘EP’ consists of three chopped up glitchy tracks that provide the listener with a breed of easy listening that never feels boring.

The music Teotl Expansion make could be easily described as simple or minimalistic and while that may be true the description itself is too simple for its own good because beyond the clean droning washes of spacial beauty and piano arrangements is something far more vast and complex. The duo has made one of the most prominent instruments, an instrument that is associated with, perhaps lost to music of the past and shaped it into something new using instruments pertaining to a more modern identity.

The glitchy ambient compositions that musicians such as Tim Hecker and Fennesz have pioneered are present within Teotl Expansion’s sound although while similar Teotl Expansion keeps things much simpler, not so much in playing, the layered piano based patterns are fairly complex but the music is limited mostly to these glitchy piano melodies as opposed to atmospherics and textures. Although I do enjoy the idea of using a limited sound pallet, their choice to refrain from ambitious and unnecessary sounds, at times the simplicity of the music this duo creates does make me want to hear what they could achieve by implementing textures and other sounds into their work. The duo does a nice job at making an old instrument sound so modern while keeping things simple and while it is organic in a way, their were a few moments where the compositions began to grow uninteresting. While glitchy techniques do change things up and help keep my interest one can only listen to a variation on a theme for so long. The third track, “Geodesics” features much more progression than the other two tracks by breaking away from the structural layered patterns that were present on the other two tracks and featuring more synthetic tones.

We’ve all heard these sounds before; these serene piano melodies that our ears have become so accustomed to, sounds that do not pertain only to one style of music but one that spans genres. We can easily identify with them but it is only now within the context of modern times, by digital means that we can hear them take a new shape and sound, we have the ability to mold them into something new and vastly expand upon what we’ve grown so familiar with, tired of even and this is what Teotl Expansion has proven to be capable of with this 3 track EP. The name of this release suggests what I am assuming is a possible series of sorts; what that series entails I am not sure, however, Teotl Expansion’s debut EP is a nice taste for what is hopefully an exercise in a continuous pursuit to mesh classical instrumentation with a modern sound which the duo already does so well. This is definitely one of the most original EPs I have heard this year so I anticipate to see what this duo is capable of with further releases.

Overall rating: 7.4

Favorite Track: ‘Geodesics’

Recommended: Glitch based ambient bliss similar to Alva Noto, Ryuichi SakamotoTim Hecker, and Fennesz

Released: 15 June 2012

Links: Check it out on Bandcamp

Redntoothnclaw