Monday, August 30, 2010
Pogus, 1997; available
8 tracks, 73:54
The late Rune Lindblad (1923-1991) was a true pioneer, yet he's all but unknown to the majority of music fans and scholars. Actually, none of the pieces collected here were released in any form until 1988! This is a true shame, for this disc contains some incredible examples of mixed electronic music. By "mixed" I mean Lindblad used both pure electronic and concrete sources. True, contemporaries like Dockstader and (earlier) Stockhausen did the same thing; however, at the time most composers favored one technique or the other, and they tended to be outspoken against the other. Audiences and critics hated his music at the time, but now it stands as a truly astounding body of work. As the title makes clear, DEATH OF THE MOON covers 1953 to 1960. The sound quality can be murky at times, but better than expected given the age of the source material. The pieces are presented in chronological order, and they definitely do plot a progression in technique and resources. My absolute favorite of the bunch is the incredible "Evening (Op. 7)"* from 1956. It's truly difficult to describe, but suffice to say it has some startling no wave-esque guitar alongside Lindblad's unidentifiable concrete sounds. The lengthy "Optica 1 (Op. 16)", composed from 1959 to 1960, also deserves mention. Apparently using actual video tape (as sound source or recording medium, I'm not sure), this squelchy sequence of bursts and blips sounds oddly like much-later glitch! From a technical standpoint, "Party (Op. 1)" from 1953 is the most primitive track, sounding like little more than bits of conversation fading in and out of a bed of feedback; rest assured, it's still a great listen! Early industrial music is the best possible comparison, and considering the age and obscurity of these pieces, it's sadly not shocking that Lindblad wasn't hailed as a VERY early pioneer of that genre. Now that his catalog is more available, everyone with even a passing interest in early electronic music can experience true masterpieces of the genre. Pogus' companion volume OBJEKT 2 covers 1962 to 1988, while the Swedish lable Elektron put out a two-disc eponymous compilation collecting unreleased pieces from 1960 to 1980. Both of these are as highly recommended as DEATH OF THE MOON. While harder to find, the 1975 LP PREDESTINATION is also worth hearing, but be aware it favors electronics over concrete sounds.
*With rare exceptions, most Lindblad compositions end in "(Op. #)".
Saturday, August 28, 2010
Ultra Eczema, 2009; possibly available still, but this was limited edition vinyl, so expect to search
5 tracks, 35:59
Alright, folks, we're into strange territory here. Coomans is a long-time player in the Antwerp jazz scene. Not much had been released up until this compilation, but what was available showed Coomans as an adventurous sax player. This comp, however, shows that he had a secret career, making music that bears extremely little relation to jazz in his own basement. Take "Aerosol", for instance. You see that thing on the cover? That's an aerosol machine which Leo used to treat his asthma. It's also what he sings into on "Aerosol", and it's STUNNING. It starts off with the ambient buzzing of the machine, but as the track progresses, Coomans' mouth movements and singing alter the sound. Voice and buzz combine into what sounds for all the world like a biomechanical Tuvan singer. "Watermuziek" is the other A-side track, and this one is fairly out there too! For this extended piece, Coomans plays "tubes", saxophones (baritone and soprano), and his own voice..... into a bathtub full of water!!!! What's shocking about this track is how much it sounds like musique concrete or even glitch at times; actually, parts of it even sound like a muffled version of Jac Berrocal's "Bric-A-Brac". The B-side starts off with "Het Geraas En Het Gebral", another extended piece. This one really must be heard to be believed, but if you can imagine Riley's "Poppy Nogood" in lo-fi devolving into a free jazz maelstrom with vacuum cleaner accompaniment, you're close to the mark (and yes, there literally IS a vacuum cleaner in there). "Zonder Titel" is a brief harmonica-and-overtone piece, strangely pretty in its own way while completely covered in fuzz and distortion. Finally, Coomans treats us to his cover of "Louie Louie", which is perfomed on vacuum cleaner, alto sax, "tubes" again, and a "tape recorder with accessories" (and of course Coomans' voice as well). You've never heard a version of "Louie Louie" like THIS before, especially since it doesn't even vaguely resemble that standard until the track's almost over! Full of outsider creativity and jarring sounds, this compilation really should be more widely available, and hopefully it will be. Good luck finding this one, kids, but if you love avant-garde music as much as I do, you NEED it.
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
Japan Overseas, 1997 (see review for original release details); available
14 tracks, 70:06
Well, it's about time I got around to reviewing Smegma! This handy CD compiles their first two releases, GLAMOUR GIRL 1941 (1979, LAFMS) and PIGFACE CHANT (also 1979 but recorded in '74, Pigface Records) plus four bonus tracks. I'm not gong to type out everyone involved on these releases, but suffice to say Smegma has always had a fairly large and constantly fluctuating lineup and this is no different. PIGFACE CHANT takes up the last four tracks*. These are group vocal improvisations with very little (if any) musical accompaniment. Somewhat along the lines of certain tracks by Cromagnon, they're entertaining but VERY much an acquired taste. The lengthy "The End" (the bonus track) features improvised music along with the chanting, making it probably the most accessible PIGFACE track. The GLAMOUR GIRL material is mostly instrumental and covers a wide musical canvas. The opening "Difference" is fairly straight jazz improv, while lengthy closer "Half A Billion" is a fascinating organ-drenched song(!) that wouldn't sound out of place on a Can album. The brief "Die Wo-Wo" predicts Ju Suk Reet Meate's solo album (reviewed here previously), with its tape manipulations and surreal atmosphere, while "I Am Not Artist" has deranged vocals driving the title home to the accompaniment of another superb krauty jam. The other three tracks are no less intriguing, and they add up to a much more diverse experience than one would expect from a group like this. GLAMOUR GIRL's bonus tracks** are two pieces of plunderphonic/improv fusion (which, not surprisingly, use many of the same samples that Meate's solo album employed) and the epic live blurt "Flashback 79". Smegma are still making music and inspiring countless improvisational and noise bands***, but these two releases show that they were great from the start. Not just a tuneless noisefest, but nowhere near mainstream accessibility, this is the perfect introduction to one of the American avant-garde's true stalwarts. Even though this is a Japanese import, you can find it fairly easily and inexpensively. I heartily recommend that you do (even if most people won't be able to read the thick booklet, since it's entirely in Japanese).
*Well, technically, three tracks off the original single and a bonus track end the CD, but honestly, if Smegma felt the other two tracks were superfluous, I'm not going to argue.
**For the reocrd, tracks 1 through 7 are GLAMOUR GIRL 1941, and tracks 11 to 13 are PIGFACE CHANT. I'm sure you can figure out which ones are the bonus tracks! ;)
***Wolf Eyes in particular have both collaborated with Smegma members and named an album after one (BURNED MIND).