Experimental electronica on-line
and off-line reviewed
Robert H. King
Time Machines (Eskaton 010CD)
For the past fourteen years Coil
have managed to remain fresh, innovative and miles ahead of their contemporaries.
Emerging out of the confines of Psychic TV they set themselves apart from
the so called 'Industrial' scene and set new ground with Scatology, entranced
us with the divine grooves of Windowpane and confused many with the droning
eloquence of Coil vs Elph. Never ones to sit too long in one place they
move forward with Time Machines, a series of electronically instilled hallucinogenic
tones that owes as much to the work of La Monte Young as it does to the
likes of Faust. Coil have always had a fascination with drugs and their
effect on the users perception of time and place and indeed it is this
state that they are attempting to harness and induce with the pieces contained
here. Used in conjunction with the visual experiment of staring at the
black oval of the CD cover and closing your eyes, the listener should then
be able to visualise a 'gateway' to other times and possibilities. This
technique is derived from methods used by The (in)famous Golden Dawn. It
is an extremely subjective idea and a deeply personal one and whether you
can attain this state or not should not take away from what is still a
compelling work that induces a strong sense of relaxation and calm with
its floating, soaring sea of sound.
Klangfarbenmelodie (D.O.R, ador2311)
Martin Lee-Stephenson (aka Doppler
20:20) has surpassed the dub induced electro of last year's phenomenal
Art Electriqué with his latest offering of symphonic collage experimentation.
Klangfarbenmelodie is a collection of ethnically tinged smooth grooves,
enchanting minimalism and haunting melodics all suffused with Stephenson's
unique take on breakbeats and drum'n'bass. Many club and DJ magazines are
bemused with Doppler 20:20's approach and even confused as to what 'review
section' to file it under. Such single mindedness epitomises all that is
wrong with this country's so called 'experimental dance scene' in that
it misses or is too blinkered to see the bigger picture. 1998 is a very
exciting time for electronica/electronic music as the majority of those
participating and creating refuse to be grounded in any hampering genre
tagging. Within the eleven tracks of Klangfarbenmelodie we have a perfect
example of this refreshing approach to embrace and cultivate all musical
fields. Thus Stephenson shifts with ease from the serene keyboard wash
and ecstatic rhythms of 'Weird goin' down' to the Gamelan inspired loops
of 'Different waves for a paved beach'. Skip buying the fashion centric
club mags for one week and buy this instead. You won't regret it.
Digital Mantras (D.O.R, ador409)
On a recent trip to London I was
fortunate enough to meet visual artist, website coordinator and sound designer
Richard Gallon. He was in the middle of preparing some of his new work
for a show at a London exhibition space and upon leading me into his Kings
Cross apartment I was confronted with large sheets of photographic paper
attached to practically every surface in the front room, all in varying
stages of development. Gallon is obsessed with expanding and exploiting
the minutiae of his surroundings both audio and visual and his latest visual
project centres around creating a negative (in the photographic sense)
of chosen sites or objects and rebuilding these within another location.
A strangely captivating construct that leaves you feeling uneasy and disorientated.
'Urban Mantras' has that same effect on the listener and as Gallon's soundwork
is an attempt to capture the state of mind between sleep and waking, subtle
ambient tones and textures punched through with sharp stabs of electronic
breakbeats. We've all woken up at some point and had to lie still for a
few moments to reorientate ourselves within our surroundings and Richard
manages perfectly to capture this feeling here. Just as you're relaxed
with the soothing calm, half buried tape loops and analog bullroarer swirls
of 'Shimmer' a disembodied voice utters an incoherent phrase in your ear
leading you into the menacing sub terra drum loops of 'Call Sign' with
its undertow of a lone child's chant. Urban Mantras is a very fluid virtual
narrative reminiscent of Aphex Twin's more tenebrous atmospherics which
is mirrored well in the 12 page photographic documentation that accompanies
the CD. Blurred imagery, ghost-like doorways and hazy horizons lead you
through a night in the mind of Gallon, low frequency pulse loops, strains
of electronic insect drones and claustrophobic rhythms steadily speeding
up as on 'Fragile' which somehow captures that waking moment when you know
you've had an uneasy night and hastily try to recall your mind's wanderings
before they're gone forever. A soundtrack for your own sleep experiments.
0098 (Time Recordings, em:t 0098)
Another numerical entry in the impeccable
digital diary of Nottingham's Time Recordings, Natural Language is the
emit alter ego of British composer Hywel Davies previously heard on Russell
Mills' audio adventure Undark. Davies exists in a world of electro-acoustics
but is (thankfully) free of the shackles of mathematics and academic theories
that so often bog down otherwise invigorating experimentation. The opening
timbres of becalming electro ambience and temple bowls that is 'We are
learning about blue' quickly gives way to a group of jazz assassins in
'At the White House'. It's raining outside as I listen to the rainfall
on 'I am not part of Nature' which results in some strange audio anomalies
in that what I am hearing is akin to subtle tones of white noise interspersed
with echoic rumblings. Davies' forte is the cello and its arrangement (his
main contribution to Undark) and this shines through on 'La repos du sable'
a cogent nine and a half minutes of haunting, sweeping panoramic brilliance.
The instrumentation on this album is so richly varied and complimentary
that you cannot fail to be impressed by how Davies moves from the delightful
chiming of delicate bells, sharp piano interludes and searing saxophones
to the grinding rhythms of a concrete mixer all manipulated into sharp
bursts of colour permeated with strategically placed moments of silence.
Natural Language insists on your attention, it refuses to be background
music. It is an album of deep contemplation that goes a long way to defining
soothing new shades of sound.
Contacts / Distribution
D.O.R distributed by Sony/3MV.
Label contact: P.O. Box 1797, London
Eskaton distributed by World Serpent.
Coil info: BCM Codex, London WC1N
Time Recordings distributed by Pinnacle.
For more info on the em:t series
send a SAE to Time Recordings, 389394 Alfred St North, Nottingham
Pirate Radio on The Net
Back at the start of the nineties
I was a DJ with Scotland's first pirate radio station. Radio Mercury was
run from a series of locations in and around Glasgow and it broadcast (using
a two turntables and a DAT machine) to the city and outlying areas. Its
renegade attitude helped it run for several years, garnered much praise
and set a few DJ's on the track to bigger things before the accumulative
effect of raids by the DTI and subsequent loss of equipment brought about
its demise. So it was with my pulse racing and memories flooding back that
I logged onto my first taste of pirate radio on the Net.
Radio on the Internet is a brilliant
concept, at a basic level (and in theory) all you need is a computer, a
modem, a phone line, a couple of turntables, a CD player and a mixer and
the world can tune in to whatever you decide to broadcast. Several large
stations already have Net broadcasts (I refuse to give them publicity by
telling you who they are) sending out countless hours of vacuous MOR rock
ballads and third rate sports commentary, so the idea of maverick DJ's
mixing up a storm via the Net fills me with some hope. Just think--no more
sitting in cold flats waiting for the inevitable DTI raids!
In fact one of the UK's first regular
stations is broadcasting for the world to see from The Global Internet
Cafe at the heart of Soho in London. www.pirate-radio.co.uk
goes out every night from 6pm (GMT) and has already featured blistering
sets from the likes of Irdial Discs, Mixmaster Morris, Tony Thorpe's highly
recommended Language Recordings imprint, Tom Middleton (The Jedi Knights,
Global Communication) and the crew of Ambient Soho to name just a few of
an increasingly impressive roster.
Don't be misled at the thought of
broken links and slow jittery sound coming at you down the phone line.
To the contrary, via a small application called RealAudio (available for
free downloading via a link on the website) that works in tandem with your
chosen browser the sets you hear are fed into your computer and updated
by the second making for a smooth streaming broadcast. In an ideal world
it should be this easy to do, but for the present such vanguard endeavours
manage to survive thanks to the support of companies like RealAudio and
the DJ's playing for free. Let's hope regulations don't interfere and that
you can continue to tune in and hear cutting edge music that you would
doubtless not otherwise get to hear. You can access the site at any time
for an updated list of what's scheduled for broadcast. Log on, listen,
then email your words of support. http://www.pirate-radio.co.uk