|Turn Up / Benjamin Hekimian / Mathieu Joly||Waxx||3:17|
Marbles is Robert Schneider of Apples in Stereo's solo project, and Expo marks the first full-length album since Schneider mothballed the name with the formation of the Apples in 1993. The m.o. is very Apples-like, with loads of their trademark catchy melodies, slightly trippy lyrics, swirling guitars, and sonic textures. But instead of the usual '60s psych-pop influences and song structures, ELO seems to be the major influence at work, with tracks like "When You Open" and the pulsating "Magic" sounding like an unlikely lo-fi Jeff Lynne project. The record is filled with vocoders, electronically treated vocals, cheap drum machines, tinny synths, and robotic beats. At its best on songs like "Move On" (wait for the moving guitar/synth duet at the song's climax) and the dreamy "Out of the Zone," the electronics are added somewhat organically and give Schneider's sometimes reedy vocals and simple songs a much-needed boost. A few of the songs don't work quite as well; "Circuit"'s vocoder and the song's nagging melody give the song an overly gimmicky sound, and the record's instrumentals ("Jewel of India," "Hello Sun," and "Blossoms") aren't of much interest. These are small flaws, and the strength of the rest of the record makes up for them.
The record was mixed by Mark Linnett of Beach Boys and SMiLE revisited fame, and he shows his versatility by creating a sound almost directly opposite to the lush SMiLE sound, instead making Expo sound like it was recorded in Schneider's sock drawer. In a good way, though. Like Guided By Voices, Marbles (and the Apples) work better when they sound small and full to bursting, and Expo is no exception to that rule. Apples in Stereo fans will dig this record.
Building on the artistic success of their last CD, Rhythmix, Univers Zero returns almost entirely to their acoustic roots (no howling electric guitars here), and with a refined and tempered equivalent of the relentless, prolonged gloom of early releases such as 1313 and Heresie. Pieces are shorter and more varied, with some taking the form of almost jaunty medieval dances. The only electric instruments are Eric Plantain's electric bass, plus some discrete sampling and synth keyboards from drummer and leader Daniel Denis, who currently writes all the group's music. Michel Berckmans (oboe, English horn, bassoon) and Denis are the only remaining original members, although clarinetist Dirk Descheemaeker played on several of the later Univers Zero recordings in the mid-'80s. But even with a number of new bandmembers, the group's chamber music instrumentation (saxophones, cello, trumpet, marimba and violin), together with Denis' intricate writing and the very tight ensemble work, is enough to deliver the signature Univers Zero sound. Overt but short gothic/industrial elements, with titles such as "Suintement (Oozing)," "Miroirs (Mirrors)," "Ectoplasme," "Bacteria" and "A Rebours (In Reverse)," serve as bridges between songs and maintain the haunting, sinister edge that initially established the group's reputation. These five pieces, all roughly one-minute-long, display Denis' skillful use of sampler technology; the muted clanging, scraping, dripping, rumbling and squealing seems to emerge from obscure mechanical devices of unknown construction and purpose. A longer piece, "Partch's X-Ray" is an obvious homage to American maverick composer and instrument-maker Harry Partch It uses metallic-sounding tuned percussion, insectoid twittering from the strings and a rhythmic crow-like cawing to create a deliciously malevolent atmosphere. Likewise the shorter "La Mort de Sophocle (Sophocle's Death)," which employs mournful legato strings and percussive crashes to promote a feeling of oppressive gravity. The long closing piece, "Meandres (Meanderings)," also has some of the stabbing dissonance of early Univers Zero as it moves restlessly from one theme to another, although a middle section shows uncharacteristic restraint. The aura is hardly new age, but it is thoughtful. Other pieces such as "Falling Rain Dance," "Rapt D'Abdallah," "Mellotronic," "Out of Space 4" and the two untitled "Short Dance" tracks demonstrate Univers Zero's strong connection to medieval court music (and anyone who has listened to authentic re-creations of this music knows that it can be both melancholy and powerfully rhythmic). Another piece, "Temps Neuf," by virtue of its deep rhythmic groove and bursts of dissonant trumpet, could almost be regarded as a kind of gothic jazz-funk. Univers Zero's excellence lies in its continuing ability to synthesize medieval forms, instrumental prog rock and modern classical dissonance with a splash of jazz and a taste for the suggestively macabre. The group continues to produce creative, highly inventive music, and plays it with precision and panache. Highly recommended for the adventurous listener.
Here we have the very first Coil oil change.
The engine in question would be the pop culture of the early '80s and how performances such as this, basically an extended duet for percussion and electronics, were perceived as inspirational and cutting edge. The moody trance this piece immediately evokes and clings to like a life raft was, to the newly exposed, something of a real alternative to drowning in a wave of groovy rock bands with packaged presentations and looks. Removed from any such sociological discussion and placed in comparison with the entire history of electronic music, percussion music, avant-garde improvisation, or any other related field of activity, this EP retains a surprising charm. An obvious hurdle to leap would be the "duh" factor -- the title track is as much about banging on gongs as destroying angels, although these are actions that could be connected.
Anyone who has ever spent time making noise on a gong will have done everything on this record.
The contrasts arising instantly from the instrument's built-in dynamic range are the main motivating factor in how the music develops, rather than any creative invention of the performers. The performance requirements of bringing these dynamics into play on a gong also require very little skill of any kind, meaning that most of the praise that can be directed at this recording has to do with the concentration displayed, both intense and impressive. The B-side of the recording is blank, creating an instant and quick composition entitled "Absolute Elsewhere" that might just be the more successful conception of the two. At least the person who said "I don't have time to listen to this stuff anymore" about the first side wouldn't be able to make the same comment!
This Austrian guitarist and composer is a member of the acclaimed avant-garde group Polwecsel alongside Werner Daffeldecker, Michael Moser, and John Butcher. Here on this solo outing he performs compositions of his own for piano and guitar. These are reduced explorations of sonority that have a Morton Feldman-like sparseness. Like his colleagues, his interests seem to be in the very quiet aspects of the instrument, and only occasionally does this recording rise above a whisper.
The stretches of silence call for deep listening, and the details one can observe then are fascinating and alien. Some of the tones coaxed from electric and acoustic guitars sound more like bowed string, violin, or cello, and at other times have a modulation one would associate more with computer music.
Sometimes they scramble clusters like Derek Bailey, though the guitarist's sensibility is never as rapid-fire as the British improvising master. On "Recital," Stangl shows a great debt to Bailey's work, although it seems so contemplative it is almost like a slow-motion study.
The guitarist seems preoccupied with the resonance of single gestures, often pausing for long durations while the resounding decays. Clearly a master of the instrument, the guitarist is not afraid to explore very unorthodox and nontraditional techniques in his playing. This 1997 CD comes on the Durian label and its austere sophistication is carried through packaging and production. Those interested in Fred Frith, Keith Rowe, and Henry Kaiser could safely put Burkhard Stangl on this list of guitar experimenters.
That Cul de Sac would end up doing a film soundtrack isn't completely surprising, given the band's instrumental bent and past live work playing along with various productions. That it would end up doing a soundtrack for what appears to be an erotic thriller is another story entirely -- a thriller produced by Roger Corman at that, which, given some of the leaden music from his '50s and '60s efforts, automatically makes one wonder. But to the band's credit they find a sharp way to apply their sound to another context in enjoyable fashion -- if, for instance, Pink Floyd could (and did) something similar in the late '60s, then why not Cul de Sac? The snarling, unsettled murk of the main title sequence works as both moodsetter and statement of intent. When one considers how many soundtracks, especially for low budget films, consist of identical mock-orchestral, or uninspired copies of electronic inspirations, hearing something that is truly ominous and in current context, fairly unique, is a blessing. The band's variety gets a solid showcase throughout the soundtrack -- if there are fairly few long tracks due to the inherent nature of the work (only a smattering break, three minutes total, and a number barely crest a minute), it's made up for with the various approached tackled. "That's Great Then, Isn't It?" includes both entrancing acoustic guitar mystery, and a hint of dub echo, "Frustrated Seduction" chugs along in bemusing, almost quirky fashion before suddenly turning into a rush of drum-and-bass rhythms. What parts of the film's plot are suggested by the titles seems well in keeping with the results -- "Lovemaking/Mae's Theme" is subtle and tender, while "Tailing the Stranger" infuses a chugging motorik beat with paranoid fear.