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Frans de Waard * Zeno van den Broek * Kassel Jaeger * Orphax Reframed

Orphax Reframed

Frans De Waard - Hot August Night

FRANS DE WAARD – HOT AUGUST NIGHT Also on Spotify

Perhaps, it’s a bit weird to talk about an album with a title like this, which was indeed released in August last year, in the middle of the winter season. But however, the music is a pleasure to listen to all year round, and especially in the cold of winter we long for the long and warm days of summer.

Frans de Waard is a Dutch pioneer who has been active in all kinds of experimental electronic music since 1984. Not only as a musician, but also as a label owner and reviewer for Vital Weekly, covering about every thinkable aspect of experimental music.

Hot August Night, released on Chihei Hatakeyama’s White Paddy Mountain label, was created in a sad period when his mother was terminally ill. It is basically an improvisation (or ‘tinkering’) on an iPad piano app, later transformed to this 45 minute piece of lo-fi ambient.
“It is not a work of sadness for me, but a celebration of both my wonderful parents and their support for my music over the years, even though they not always understood what it was about.”

The piece feels generative in nature, it could have been one of Brian Eno’s compositions, albeit that Frans de Waard‘s choices of sounds are less ’round’ than Eno’s, with considerable more distortion by design. Hot August Night is ambient in the classic definition of ‘music that is as ignorable as it is interesting’. It is interesting to listen to the different elements slowly shifting in and out of focus, subtly changing the sound image while retaining the peaceful mood.

I don’t know if it’s the title or my association with summer, but there’s one sound element that reminds me of the cowbells worn by cattle in the Alp fields of Austria and Switzerland.
So if anyone ever thought that Ambient music needs more cowbell‘ – try this one!


Paranon

ZENO VAN DEN BROEK – PARANON

Zeno van den Broek is a Dutch composer/multi-media artist that recently moved to Copenhagen. He “utilizes immaterial and temporal means such as sound, acoustics and projections to create site
and concept specific works. He has developed a distinctive language based on pure sound sources, often sine waves and noise, in relation to minimal visual aesthetics based on lines and grids. With these means he creates site-specific patterns of interference, which fully express the characteristics of the space.”

Paranon is released by the Moving Furniture Records label, but it would’ve fitted perfectly on the Raster-Noton label too, for its almost academical, analytical conceptual approach.
“Paranon consists of two compositions based on parameter canons of sine wave generators. […] The custom programmed sine wave generators Zeno van den Broek uses on Paranon make it possible to generate interference, shift phases and alternate frequencies with great precision.

This sounds like there’s a pretty complicated algorithm behind the two twenty-minute Canons of Paranon. But it is not a complicated work to listen to (if you’re familiar with minimalist drone music, that is. Though ‘minimal’ may be a badly chosen word for this work).
The deep drones fill the atmosphere and you can sense the interplay of the sound waves interfering with each other – which will sound different depending on the reflections of the environment it is played in. In a way, listening on headphones is the ‘purest’ way to listen to these works, and they sound absorbing this way. But then you’re eliminating the characteristics of the space it is played in, and thus you bypass one of the key elements that Zeno van den Broek investigates: space, time and physics.


Retroactions

KASSEL JAEGER – RETROACTIONS

Retroactions by Kassell Jaeger is the very first release on Moving Furniture‘s sublabel Eliane Tapes. The label is dedicated to (and inspired by) the work of Éliane Radigue, a true pioneer in the field of minimalism and drone music. If you’re familiar with her work, you’ll know what to expect from this newborn label: fascinating explorations in extreme minimalism

Kassell Jaeger presents four ‘studies’, each around 20 minutes, experimenting with different feedback setups, using 6 microphones and 10 speakers. There are two pieces (Controlled Aerial Feedbacks and Non-controlled Aerial Feedbacks), each with their own Processed version. No information is provided about the way the feedback signal is controlled.
The result is 80 minutes of deep drones perfect for ‘Deep Listening”. Like good drones should, these sounds seem to make a connection between the listener and the unknown earthly (perhaps even cosmic) frequencies. Immersive and timeless.

In line with the media used in the 60’s and 70’s, Eliane Tapes editions will be released on (limited edition of 100) cassettes. But for playback I recommend the hi-res digital files because they don’t have the characteristic hiss and distortion that cassette tapes inevitably have.


Orphax Reframed

VARIOUS ARTISTS – DREAM SEQUENCES 1: ORPHAX REFRAMED

As Orphax, Sietse van Erve is constantly looking for the perfect drone. He is a huge fan of the work of Éliane Radigue (read above about his new label Eliane Tapes), which resounds in his work. With his Dream Sequence series (currently four editions) he presents ‘experimental ambient/drone pieces with a dreamy touch.’

For this release, the Dream Sequences material was reworked and ‘reframed’ by Haarvöl, Jos Smolders and Rutger ‘Machinefabriek’ Zuydervelt. It is interesting to hear what other artists can do with sound material as basic as a drone. Of course, the artists invited are no strangers to the genre and each have an impressive body of work themselves. They’re all soul mates in this musical respect. The result 60 minutes of experimental electronic drone music in three tracks that fit together as a hand in a glove.

Haarvöl includes an explanation of their intention with this piece: ‘We wanted to make a theme in which the dream idea would somehow accommodate our aesthetics.’ This includes field recordings from a nanotechnology laboratory as well as a modified bagpipe (!). (Haarvöl are Portuguese; the bagpipe is a popular instrument in the northern region of Miranda do Douro).
“Our dream is embodied in a naturally surreal but also mechanical sequence; in dystopia seeking return to its original utopian condition at any moment: to the dream.”

Jos Smolders and Machinefabriek did not include any notes about their rework, because they wanted to let the music speak for itself. However, Smolders’ intention is given in the title: “Functional Neuratanomy Of Human Rapid Eye Movement Sleep And Dreaming.”
I guess this marks the start of yet another great series.

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Haarvöl * Svartsinn * Council of Nine

Trinity

Haarvöl

HAARVÖL – BOMBINATE  Also on Spotify

The previous release of this Portuguese collective (Indite, their second album) was released on Moving Furniture Records in May 2015, so it’s about time for its follow up. Bombinate is the first title of a trilogy that will be released on the same label, “each having a very particular sonic approach but knitted in a personal Haarvöl sound idiosyncrasy.”

The album opens with a threatening grunt, something that seems to come from an animal you would not want to meet. It immediately sets the atmosphere of the following drones: a dark, haunting atmosphere. Not of the physical ‘power-ambient’ kind, but subtle inescapable suspenseful drones with an even more frightening impact
“Bombinate combines tracks that are between quietude and a more sonic experimentalism towards the exploration of time in music […] The balance between both sides is a challenge for the album and a statement from the band.”

Haarvöl is a collective project with three (unnamed) permanent members collaborating with different artists. Artist such as the Spanish electro-acoustic composer and field recordings expert Xóan Xil López, who participates on this impressive album.  


Svartsinn - Collected Obscurities

SVARTSINN – COLLECTED OBSCURITIES  Also on Spotify

As you probably guessed from the album title, this is a collection of previously released tracks, taken from various collections and gathering different collaborative tracks by Svartsinn (Jan Roger Pettersen from Trondheim, Norway) with Northaunt, Gydja, Allseits and Psychomanteum.

Most of the music was released somewhere between 2002 and 2012 but were almost unavailable until now. That is one definition of ‘obscure’ – the other referring to darkness, the absence of light.

And indeed: this music is as dark as its album cover… icy Scandinavian “sad & dark atmospheric soundscapes that could satisfy the sombre chambers of your soul.”


Trinity

COUNCIL OF NINE – TRINITY  Also on Spotify

More darkness from the Cryo Chamber label: the third (full) album by Council of Nine (Maximillian Olivier).

Every listener will have his own personal associations listening to this album. That can be many things – but I guess chances are these deep, dark and desolate drones will probably leave you feeling quite alone.
These are no cheerful sounds.

There’s a reason for this: Olivier created this album mourning the death of his mother:
“The many stages of grief and the acceptance of loss, deeply personal, unforgiving, cold and painful. This marks the end of a chapter and the closure I was desperately seeking.”

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Haarvöl; Norn; Ionosphere; Elian

Elian - Cutting Up the Sun

Haarvöl

HAARVÖL – INDITE
Haarvöl is a Portugese experimental music collective with three permanent members. Indite refers to composing (or writing), indicating these tracks are carefully thought-out and constructed – about the opposite of the improv noise you’d probably come to expect with the combination of ‘experimental’ and ‘collective’.
Combining both digital and analogue sources with field recordings, the result of their experiments opens a detailed adventurous soundworld. A rather dark world it is, too, with titles like The Massive Downward of Greyness, Quaestio Tormentorum, The Inescapable Labyrinth.
Even without the visuals that usually accompany Haarvöl‘s music (examples of which can be found on their Vimeo page), this is very cinematic music.


Norn

NORN – USOTSUKI
From the same record label (the dutch Moving Furniture Recordscomes this equally fascinating album by Norn.
Despite his Nordic sounding name, Peter Johan Nÿland‘s album tracks all have dutch and Japanese titles.
The album title translates to Liar (it seems), but it’s not very clear what that may imply. The dutch titles all refer to foggy dreams of sadness and loneliness: Droom van het zinken naar het holst van een naamloze diepte (Dream of sinking to the center of a nameless depth), Vanuit de nevelen (From the mist), Maanmeer (Moonlake)… 
The music “recounts lingering dreams of fog-ridden landscapes, desolate, monumental cities and sweltering slumber hours in the afternoon heat”.
That may sound all somewhat depressing, but it really isn’t: Usotsuki conveys the kind of darkness one can sometimes yearn for – not threatening or frightening darkness, but seclusive and suspenseful.
All but one tracks are instrumental: Balor features a poetic spoken word contribution by Pete Simonelly, whose voice perfectly fits the ‘film noir’ atmosphere.


Ionosphere - NightscapeIONOSPHERE – NIGHTSCAPE
Not much is known about Ionosphere, except that his real name is Erik H. Sander, he’s from Germany, and this is his third album since 2004.
Nightscape is subtitled “Watch the World – Pass – Into Endless Night”, and that about perfectly describes the carefully crafted, deep soundscapes on this album of “Expansive drones, drifting melodic soundscapes, ominous sonic undertones and vocal transmissions (that) intersect with densely concentrated rhythmic pulsations that emphasize the sculptural nature and deep atmospheric scope of the 11 tracks”.


IONOSPHERE – RADIO ALTITUDE


Elian - Cutting Up the Sun

ELIAN – CUTTING UP THE SUN
Shortly after his Harrowgate release (on Home Normal), here’s another scintillating release by Michael Duane Ferrell (Elian), this time released on the Long Story Recording Company (sister label to Twice Removed).
With these soundscapes, Elian“hopes to land in that midway position between what could be called ambient music and noise.”
And he does exactly that, although there’s not many moments of ambient music in the classic sense: the album has much more references to what I’d call electronic avant-garde.
Don’t be misguided by the quiet album take-off with Totality (and don’t set your headphone’s volume too high): soon you’ll be in high gear, heading directly for the sun! A thrilling electronic ride with a razor-sharp sound (as always when mastering is done by James Plotkin).

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