Various Artists — Time to Go — The Southern Psychedelic Movement: 1981-1986 (Flying Nun, 2012)
The subtitle of Time to Go purports the album to be a document of “the Southern Psychedelic Movement” —this seems to be a marketing maneuver hoping to tap into the recently reignited interest in psych and neo-psychedelia. In a decade that produced some of popular music’s/popular musics most banal, forgettable, and ultimately soppy developments, this brilliantly curated compilation (curated by Marginal favorite and Kiwi Kingpin, Bruce Russell) is neither stylistically homogenous nor does it reek of the decades’ excesses. Some tracks are raw and cutting, whilst others are more subdued. Sure, some of the cuts are unabashed in their Syd Barret idol worship; yet many of these tunes harken back to the preceding decade and demonstrate continued flirtations with punk rock’s visceral intensity, whilst also unafraid to embrace post-punk arty-iconoclasm. From the psych-weirdness of Alec Bathgate and Chris Knox’s Tall Dwarfs and the Velvet Underground-inspired Builders, to the jangly-pop experimentalism of Michael Morley’s Wreck Small Speakers on Expensive Stereos, the listener encounters artistic pluralism that runs the gamut. If you’re looking for Haight-Ashbury a-go-go from Auckland or Christchurch, look elsewhere, as Time to Go has much more to offer.
Ute Kanngiesser Geäder (2015, earshots)
Boldly speaking, musical performance reaches its apex when an artist is both able to demonstrate precision and mastery, and more fascinatingly, possess an evident ability to manipulate their instrument in such a way that negates its original functions, thus expanding its sonic capabilities well beyond those initially conceived. On her 2015 debut, Geäder, German cellist Ute Kanngiesser, brilliantly achieves both feats without breaking a sweat. Tracked at two separate locations in London, both tracks show the cellist in top form. “Project Space” demonstrates Kanngiesser’s ability to tease flute-like swirls and harmonic drones from her cello. The final three minutes of the piece feature plucked notes, the tensile strings resist Kanngiesser’s nimble fingers, making for an unnerving but engrossing performance which abruptly ends, presumably when the artist runs out of tape. “Clock Tower” initially saunters out of the speakers, recalling the works of Kiwis A Handful of Dust. Far from derivative, Kanngiesser’s approach to the strings vary wildly from those of Alstair Galbraith and ultimately demonstrate greater range, restraint, and virtuosity. At times “Clock Tower” resembles some lost form of string-based kosmische / psychedelia (far more interesting than John Cale and the Velvets, however). One notable trademark of the second piece is the soft, yet near constant tapping throughout the piece, which provides a loose sense of continuity that wonderfully compliments Kanngiesser’s open and interpretive playing. The second track also ends rather abruptly, which results in both tracks feel a bit unresolved (perhaps the desired effect). Regardless, Geäder remains a great release and would likely appeal to a wide swathe of improvised music fans from drone-heads, antipode-enthusiasts, and string-bowers, to those whose ears, as a rule, generally perk up for marginal sounds.
Listen/Download [free through Pan y Rosas]
Formally trained as a jazz musician, Hanoi’s Luong Hue Trinh, now works primarily in the realm of electroacoustic music. Her digital-only debut through Pan y Rosas Discos, Illusions, is a half-hour of power and arguably one of the most engaging and profoundly engrossing experimental releases in recent years. Startlingly (and most appropriately), the opener, “illusions,” begins with the sound of breaking glass. The track evolves into a 12 minute exploration of non-musical industrial sounds melded with traditional South-Vietnamese music. The result is emotive, captivating, and far from predictable. Whilst the opener positioned traditional musics alongside industrial sounds, the dichotomy between old and new is effectively inverted on “return ii.” Predominately “driven” by electronic musical treatments, the track employs pastoral sounds in place of those produced by industry. The denouement builds anxiously before giving way to fading strings and chants. Despite its brevity, Illusions is not to be missed. Given the strength of her debut, everyone here at Marginal HQ eagerly awaits Trinh’s next release.
C-drík — Multiples des uns (2015, Syrphe)
Here at Marginal HQ, we’ve recently tapped into the vein of non-musicality and been spinning releases from Britons Chris Watson and Jez riley French. Add 2015’s Multiples des uns, a self-described “cinema for the ears” by Congolese-German artist C-drík. Consisting of one, hour long track, Multiple features interwoven sonic phenomena from many broad, often disparate sources. Captured by the artist during travels throughout the Asian continent, the listener is treated to footsteps that intermingle with indigenous music(s), the vibrant and mysterious sounds of the jungle melding with austere heavy machinery, the sounds of children playing which overrun passing automobiles, and many other sonically rich, varied noises. C-drík demonstrates not only an ear for fascinating aural objects, but also an acute sense of cinema-like rhythm and adroitness in their editing abilities. While the continent itself possess a multitude of varying experiences, languages, cultures, topographies, histories, etc. this release fascinatingly documents a few of the sounds found throughout a diverse continent and celebrates the fundamental nature of sound itself, ever present, everywhere. One could also argue that for those with the privilege of audition, listening enables the subject to find common ground in their connection to others and to the natural world. Trains screech, insects buzz, people chatter, and children laugh all the same, regardless of whether your in Taipei, Tokyo, Toronto, or Timbuktu. In all, this is a transcendental release guaranteed to lift you out of your seat and take you on a fascinating sonic journey.
AMM / Merzbow — Split Series #4 (1999, Fat Cat)
Listen [AMM, “For Ute,” youtube link]
They’ve done it again — Brighton’s Fat Cat Records, that is. They’ve engineered yet another brilliant split release featuring two of the avant-garde’s most distinct and innovative voices: Merzbow and AMM. While we’re a bit slow and behind the times here at Marginal HQ, as this release predates the Konono N˚1/ the Dead C split reviewed in June, we’re happy to bestow upon it our glowing recommendation. “For Ute” is one part sacred ritual, one part iconoclastic sacrilege. Contradictory as it may sound, one need only slap the A side on the platter to get it. Tinkling percussion, grating guitar, and diffuse, obscure tape loops precipitate an out and out rethink of the concept of “band.” Ontologies of the musical (used very loosely in this context) ensemble aside, AMM demonstrate their ability to tap into the artistic collective consciousness in a way that remains challenging and raw. While this ostensible tribute to cellist and sometimes AMM collaborator Ute Kanngiesser is not as raucous as some of their improvised sound walls, it’s still a great spin. At a mere 20 minutes, it’s some lighter AMM fare for those just delving into the group’s work. As always, the trio render no sounds incidental. Hum, buzz, chime, hiss, chord, concord, and discord — all are engulfed and deftly channeled into their freewheeling sonic experimentation. The opposite side of the wax, features Merzbow’s “Tower of Ghost,” a sickening 13-minute maelstrom that lurches between the blizzard and the blaze. The artist manages to corral the aesthetic sensibilities of science fiction and combine it with an artistic intensity seldom matched by others artists, regardless of medium. The Fat Cat Split Series is well curated and brings together some exceptional left of center artists in a format that is incisive, palatable, and most of all, enjoyable. This release in particular, is top notch.
Jez Riley French — instamatic | aarhus (2017, self-released)
For fans of field and nature recordings and “found sounds,” Jez Riley French is a name that resides in the upper echelon of this arcane aural milieu. This latest release was captured by French whilst visiting the coastal Danish city of Aarhus. The opener “parking” features the sounds of a parking garage undergoing renovations. The sounds captured feature a heavy, cold reverberation that concrete so brilliantly produces. One hears what sounds to be the sound of a groundskeeper spraying down the garage. The sounds that the listener encounters are reminiscent of the recorded works of Harry Bertoia. The album’s second track “dLg” features a mix of creaking metal (nearby train tracks, perhaps?) and crickets in the dead of night. For close listeners and fans of this type of recording, the Englishman provides a “window” into one facet of a distant land. Unlike photography, however, the ability of audio recordings to transcend the moorings of temporality provide a level of nuance, continuity, and change not afforded by visual mediums of reproduction. As the artist is well established and respected, it likely goes without saying, but French excels in his ability to capture and effectively transformer the banal into something sublime and compelling. JrF has long celebrated how rewarding a sensory experience listening can be. Moreover, French has consistently impressed with his abilities to both identify spaces and objects where interesting sounds “happen” and does brilliantly to accurately capture these aural phenomena.
Aaron Dilloway — Live at a Museum (2016, Hanson)
Former Wolf Eyes noisenik Aaron Dilloway’s 2016 release, Live at a Museum, is a brilliant half hour of loop experimentation, well worth delving into. Comprised of a series of sets, Dilloway ventures through a universe of myriad sonic possibilities vis-à-vis tape loops, minimalism, and manipulation. “Set 1” is comprised of a hypnotic tape loop sputtering restrained panting, click-clacking, and paranoid resonances. “Set 2” is a faster, slightly more abrasive, certainly much more confrontational loop, which, despite its shorter duration, remains simultaneously soporific and aggressive. It sounds as if digital artifacting passes through the tape (or perhaps this is the sound of the A to D Transfer) before at around the three minute mark, Dilloway starts to fade the loop out. Groggy and blunt thuds intermingle with the soft swish of a hit-hat or other similar percussive sound. The loop morphs into a strange and gritty track that seems entirely apt for the end times. “Set 3” is reminiscent of Chris Watson’s later work, with the loop recalling the sounds of a windy day from inside. In all, Live in Museum demonstrates Aaron Dilloway’s mastery of analog tape delays, his patience, and his celebration of subtlety. These traits allow the artist to tap into several sonic realms at once, making for a collage-like creation of something totally distinct. Sure, Aaron Dilloway isn’t the first (or even the best) to forge a body of work relying heavily on analogue tape; he is, however, one of the few people who is capable of merging Gristle-esque discomfort with Harmonia’s pastoralism, all without committing to the musicality of either.