Robert Heel * Stephen Vitiello/Molly Berg

King Of Groves


You won’t often find music with a steady beat on this blog: I prefer atmospheric ambient without beats mostly. But there áre exceptions, and Robert Heel‘s King Of Groves is definitely one of them.
Partly because of its ‘wide-screen’ atmospheric sounds, partly because of its reminiscence to the Basic Channel/Rhythm & Sound kind of productions (which for unknown reasons seems to blossom exclusively in Berlin).

King Of Groves is inspired by James MacPherson’s Ossian Poems“a cycle of epic Gaelic poems, said to be from ancient sources and that the work was a translation by him of that material, but it is believed that Macpherson had found just fragments of poems and stories, and then woven them into a romance of his own composition.”

If like me, you’re not familiar with MacPherson’s poetry, you’ll have to guess about the relation of the instrumental music to the original poetry, with only the titles as sparse links.
But even without a clue about the inspirational source this music is an adventurous journey into deep, spacious dub techno – a “deep mixture of ambient territory, vast spaces and placid soundscapes, with a focus on dubby textures based around own field recordings.”



In each of the IIKKI releases series, a visual artist is paired to a musical artist (or two, as in this particular case). The result is released as a physical combination of a book with a vinyl LP or CD.
This is the 10th edition of the series that started in September 2016. It presents the work of Los Angeles photographer Jake Michaels with the duo Stephen Vitiello (guitar, keyboard, field recordings, mix) and Molly Berg (clarinet, voice, triangle, phone recordings).
To be exact, ‘duo’ is not completely true, since they get the help of Justin Alexander on drums, Jennifer Choi (violin), Marcus Fischer (bass) and Mike Grigoni (lap steel and pedal steel guitar) – so it’s more an ‘ensemble’ this time.

This is not the first time Vitiello and Berg work together: they previously released The Gorilla Variations (2009) and Between You And The Shapes You Take (2013), both on the 12K label. Their music is the result of (edited) improvisations, they don’t plan ahead, but just “play as long as we can and generally find that the beginnings and endings are implied in the performance. […] We just relied on an unspoken interaction in ways that Stephen saw mirrored in the book.”
The ‘book’ is not referring to Michaels’ photos in this release, but to Mental Radio by Upton Sinclair (published in 1930), in which he studied telepathy, creating drawings based on aspects of mind reading. One of the images from this book gave this release its title.
It is up to the listener/viewer to decide about the relation from the music to Michaels’ photography, which features “explorations of aesthetics, hard lines and California color” as well as “an investigative journey through different subcultures around the world.”

A video preview of the complete book (with sound) is available from the IIKKI website.

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