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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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James Murray * Kassel Jaeger

Kassel Jaeger - Aster

Heavenly Waters

JAMES MURRAY – HEAVENLY WATERS  Also on Spotify

His tenth album since 2008, and the third title in 2017: James Murray is feeding us a steady flow of quality ambient music. In recent years his name became more and more familiar because of his personal style, exquisite production and recognisable sound. But this does not mean he just keeps repeating himself.

On Heavenly Waters, Murray explores a sound that is somewhat different from that on his earlier releases. Hard to tell what it is exactly, but I feel that he chose for a more -let’s say- ‘scientific’ sound (by which I mean more electronic, industrial, machine-like) as opposed to the earlier earthy organic, guitar-based (?) sound. This is emphasized by including different sound artifacts, loops and glitches  that suggest machines at work autonomously. At some point in Equuleus I even thought I heard the the usually unwanted click-glitch that you will probably recognise if you ever burnt your own CDs on the wrong speed.
But not to worry: they are all added deliberately. It stíll is a genuine James Murray album, but in a somewhat different context.

Whereas many previous album titles  almost all referred to earthly matters (Floods, The Land Bridge, The Sea in The Sky), Heavenly Waters refers to one of the astronomical constellations as described by Donald H. Mentzel in his A Field Guide to the Stars and Planets. The Heavenly Waters constellations (also knows as Cosmic Waters) are all associated with lake, river, sea creatures and ship … which in fact connects outer space to the previous earthly themes.
(And yes, I had to look all that up too, but I must confess the Wikipedia page did not explain much for me apart from the fact that there are no less than seven óther major constellations that probably each deserves its own follow-up album…).
Each track title refers to one of the sub-constellations within the Heavenly Waters constellation: Delphinus, Equuleus, Eridanus, Pisces Austrinus, Carina, Puppis, Vela, Pyxis, Columba.

Check these links if you’re interested in the astronomical details of the constellation that were the inspiration for this album.
But – maybe even better – just dón’t check these links but simply let the music on this album take you into the deep realms of outer space…


Kassel Jaeger - Aster

KASSEL JAEGER – ASTER  Also on Spotify

I would have loved to thematically connect James Murray’s ‘Heavenly Waters’ to Kassel Jaeger‘s “Aster”.
But I don’t think that there’s a connection, apart perhaps from the fact that some titles also refer to the stars (Set The Planet On Fire, You’ll Get A Star and L’Etoile Du Matin). And with a little bit of fantasy (and your eyes half-closed) the album cover (designed by Stephen O’Malley) could also be an image of some distant constellation of stars.
But however different they are, I still think these two albums fit together musically.

According to the liner notes, Kassel Jaeger (François Bonnet, current artistic director of the Groupe des Recherches Musicales) is one of the “premier explorers of electroacoustic mystical music, inheriting the wisdom of past masters (such as Pierre Schaefer) whilst forging a signature style of his own.”

The nine tracks on Aster present some recent recorded work as well as ‘works of revisits and reworkings”: “deep music replete with dark ambient sonorities swirling amongst intense buzzing tones.”
In fact I have little to add to that description…

The buzzing tones create layers of (seemingly) familiar sound environments – a distant hint of a melody slowly evolving almost hidden away in the soundscape layers. At other times there are sounds that don’t have that kind of familiar references  (like Un Autre Archipel, or Uminari), introducing an otherworldy kind of musique concrête.

Kassel Jaeger is a master of creating complex sonic atmospheres in the tradition of his earlier masters – but without becoming too academic about it.

BTW – There’s a remarkable difference in sound intensity between the tracks, which mean this album is not particularly fit to be played continuously in the background. Compare, for instance, Ner with Uminari immediately following it. This album is clearly meant for dedicated listening, not to fall asleep to!


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Stephan Mathieu/Akira Rabelais/Kassel Jaeger; Kevin Verwijmeren; Tobias Hellkvist; Tomonari Nozaki

Credence

Zauberberg

KASSEL JAEGER, STEPHAN MATHIEU, AKIRA RABELAIS – ZAUBERBERG
The idea of this trio collaborating simply was enough for me to decide to order it blindly. The unique unprecedented format (digital download + 2.5 cm Debussy pin) also helped. But with or without pin, digital or vinyl edition… in the end it’s the music that counts. And with the likes of Jaeger, Mathieu and Rabelaisit’s no surprise that it’s a big surprise.

From Jaeger‘s notes we learn that Zauberberg is inspired by Thomas Mann’s ‘The Magic Mountain‘:
“…an idea not driven by the narrativity of the book, but by the traces and the aura invoked in it. That was it: an audible auratic journey trough the memories of a place lost in the heights of the swiss mountains.
A century after the events depicted in the book, we went where the story took place, trying to capture the remaining sounds that could have been heard at the time, and the ghosts who might have still wandered around. Zauberberg is based on these captures, on recordings of the music played by Hans Castorp (the novel’s main character), on acoustic/electronic instrumentation and digital processing.

The result is a magical, almost psychedelic, journey into spheres, evoked by worn-out classical recordings (from Debussy’s Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune’, played on a a mechanichal gramophone), slowly taken over by environmental sounds recorded at Davos, Switzerland, merged with soundscapes and sparse piano notes.

A meditative, ethereal ambient symphony!
Also on Spotify


Kevin Verwijmeren - Those Glorious Heights

KEVIN VERWIJMEREN – THOSE GLORIOUS HEIGHTS
Kevin Verwijmerena 24 year old science student living in Delft, Holland, has been creating music since 2013. Since then his name keeps popping up, his work received positive reactions, and American movie director Maazin Kamal asked him to write the score for The Wolf and the Wayfarer‘.

His new album Those Glorious Heights establishes his reputation. There are eight tracks but they are continuously mixed so this feels like one single composition (or maybe two if you play the vinyl). The music was recorded in Reykjavik, Brussels and Delft

There is a beautiful storytelling flow in this ‘landscape of sound’, ‘musical cocoon’ in which to dwell a while ‘to break the daily routine and accept the dark side of life.’

The album, which was mastered by Stephan Mathieu, is a available in dark green or black edition vinyl, including a download code. Of course there is also a digital-only version.


Vesterhavet

TOBIAS HELLKVIST – VESTERHAVET
A lot of the previously released albums of Tobias Hellkvist were relatively short drone pieces. Vesterhavet is his first full length album (51 minutes) since his Home Normal releases from 2010 and 2012.
I’m not sure what the title refers to. In the Danish language it is used to refer to the North Sea, but  Hellkvist is a Swedish composer… Still I guess we can safely assume it’s about the North Sea (if not: please comment).
And it’s a pleasant and boat trip indeed! Parts 1 – 6 are seamlessly sequenced so this album can best be enjoyed in one single run.
Vesterhavet is released as a digital only release, so there’s no physical counterpart this time.

Also on Spotify



Credence  Nozaki - Decadence  Concession

TOMONORI NOZAKI – CREDENCE / DECADENCE / CONCESSION
A set of three EP’s by Tomonori Nozakiformerly UNKNOWNjp. Together the music would’ve easily fitted on a single CD but this is clearly aimed ad the vinyl-loving audience that can appreciate great artwork when they see it (created by Jakob Brondum and Hannes Jentsch)
Six abstract drones (around 12 minutes each for Credence, and 9 minutes for Decadence, 7/11 minutes on Concession) that slowly build to a noisy climax before slowly retreating again to a final closing chord.

“Dense layers of sound, morphing acoustics and chugging industrial rhythms, all while keeping his distinctive and much loved tape recorded sonics hissing and gestating away.”

Mastered by Denis Blackman, using his experience with Merzbow, Philip Jeck, Coil, Cocteau Twins and Zoviet France “to ensure the analogue epics sound their most powerful without resorting to the overly compressed ear wearing aproach that makes so many modern listens a tiring experience”.
Tomonori Nozaki uses old analog reel-to-reel gear and cherishes its imperfections and slow degradation: so the dropouts you hear at some moments are intentional (no need to check your system).

 

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