May 1999 ReviewsCopyright © 1999 Erkki Rautio. Reprinted with permission.
Deutsch Nepal: Erosion
Deutsch Nepal is an old Amon Düül II song, but I hadn't heard the act of the same name ever before. This "band" is actually only one man, Lina Baby Doll from Sweden. This one perhaps somehow reminds of the Finnish "postrock" band Circle, with its dark droney soundscapes and distant anthemic chants. The first track, "Erosion", is a bit like an overture to an opera depicting the nocturnal world of nightmares.
The sound on this album is lingering, like an orchestra tuning their instruments, prolonged to a continuous minimal sound loop and with threatening rhythm. Somewhere in the background you can sense muffled sounds of repeated radio transmissions talking nonsense. Very meditative moods, indeed: like repeating sounds of the ocean. This music is in essence an abstract piece but following certain patterns forming a larger texture with repetition. Music that keeps in the distance most of the time, always there but never coming too close for comfort. Or uncomfort. Mechanical-sounding minimalism with the constant repetition, even hypnotic; sound of a train moving on. Suddenly you notice you're in trance. Somehow ritualistic music but at the same time also very abstract.
The track "How Low..." is a kind of dream-like hymn. Then for a moment, film music from some 40's or 50's musical. After that "Static": a complete contrast to what preceded; inhuman, repeating conveyor-belt sound, like a full-automatic factory devoid of one living soul - this is a sound of total alienation. "Faint Retard": a completely bleak conclusion for the album. No light at the end of the road.
CD, Noise Museum / Oblique Soundscapes Vol. 15
Behind ElectroniCAT is a man called Fred Bigot. This album consists of abrasive analogue electro with a great deal of buzzing sounds of electricity that is distorted like the output of Rephlex Records, and with a sense of industrial. There is somewhere the 80's electro sound with analogue synths and crisp 808 drum programming, but which sounds not too retro in the process. This is good solid stuff, reminiscing a bit "Tied-Up"-era LFO. Other points of comparison could be the "sewer electro" sounds of The Hague, Holland, à la I-f and Electronome.
The track 4, "Salooncore", has in it clashing snares, bouncing bass; with some wicked lunatic sense of humour, like a stripped version of Yello weirdness. "I Love Yo So" has acidy, distorted snares and sounds panning like ping-pong balls from one speaker to another, with some pimp-like Euro whispers on top.
ElectroniCAT's sound is constructed from very uncomplex elements: simple snares which are a bit distorted, bass bouncing like a rubber ball, whispering vocal samples saying "ah" and "oh" and some acidy, even static-like sounds on top. A sound that is at the same time sparse but thick; simple but effective. I like this one a lot. And remember, this is called electro, not techno.
Jimi Tenor: Organism
CD, Warp Records
Organism is the latest album from Finland's lounge-meister, and it offers - to use the banal proverb - something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue. The album is an eclectic mixture of funk, jazz, soul, gospel, electro, techno, house and whatever.
Less entertainment and more urban angst, even apocalyptic, is present there on the album; even on the surficially light, house-y single hit "Year of Apocalypse", which repeats the endtime message of Prince's "1999": "We gotta party and have a good time / 'cos it's the Year of Apocalypse". The same theme is repeated on "Total Devastation" where Pan sonic's Mika Vainio visits briefly. Then we take a walk through the funky psychedelia of Funkadelic, Prince et al. on "My Mind" (which reminds me of the Temptations' "Take A Stroll Thru Your Mind" with its falsetto vocals) and "Muchmo" ("Much more psychedelic than any of the drugs").
Some cool outlandish jazz can be heard on "Xinotepe Heat" which is like theme music to Miami Vice as composed by Sun Ra. Jimi wouldn't be Jimi if he wouldn't display some of his deliberately corny humour on "Love and Work", which is quite charming nevertheless. Most surprising are the leanings towards bleak Detroit electro on "Serious Love", in the style of Mad Mike Banks and Underground Resistance. "City Sleeps" concluding the album is the most claustrophobic track on it, like a musical equivalent to the ending of Taxi Driver. The good guys have won, but the feeling of unease remains in the air.
Jimi goes on Organism through a wide spectrum of different moods, even stylistically, but manages to keep it together somehow. If you thought Jimi Tenor was just another hype shooting star of the mid-90's "easy listening" boom, listen to this album and think again. A feeling of discomfort seeps through every now and then.
Muslimgauze: Observe With Sadiq Bey
In February 1999, the friends of electronic music received sad news: Muslimgauze, the solo musician of endless productivity and various albums, had died on an uncurable disease. Gladly his music remains there, and this album, Observe With Sadiq Bey, is part of the vast heritage Muslimgauze left behind.
Muslimgauze was known for his strict pro-Arab opinions which were controversial for some people. Politics aside, this album consists of heavy percussion sounds taking their inspiration (and the original sound samples) from Arab music, which is interspersed with spoken-word snippets and loops, that are very refresheningly organic-sounding for someone who listens to electronic music nearly as his day job. Endless percussions that put the listener in trance. This is not that much "world music" than electronic, sampled sound that finds its inspiration in Arab and Oriental music in general. Whatever, Muslimgauze will be sadly missed. If you haven't heard any of his other output, this album might be a good place to start.
Nocturnal Emissions: Omphalos
Nocturnal Emissions is a project of Nigel Ayers, who has created music since 1979. This album has a very looped, droney and elegiac sound which is like a melting glacier: the mood of Antarctica with icebergs and chill in the air. This music could be called minimal drone symphony of tiny looped melodies. This is Zen music where nothing seems to happen but small things move on all the time: it's like watching out of your window. You can immerse into it totally, or find it completely boring. It all depends on the watcher's/listener's own state of mind.
As said, these are melodies trapped inside ice. Does anyone remember Mark Clifford's guitar drone experimentation band Seefeel? This album reaches a mood not too much unlike them. Then a sudden burst into sub-drum'n'bass ensues during the track 4, "Arbor Low". Indeed, this is an album that lulls the listener into a false, sleepy sense of security and then strikes out unexpectedly. The tension is always there under the pretty surface.
Kimmo Pohjonen: Kielo
I have to admit I was a bit skeptic, when I started to listen to this album by Kimmo Pohjonen. Accordion music with folk music influences? Uh oh. Winning one's prejudices may sometimes prove useful. Instead, Kielo turned out to be a pleasant surprise even for a sworn folk music hater. Kimmo Pohjonen uses his accordion in such ways rather to create dark atmospheres and moods than your usual polka stuff.
This music is in a sense cinematic: sinister, threatening, atmospheric, like horror film score at times, changing occasionally to sad and melancholic; with some dub-influenced soundscapes and minimal reverb. Like an explosion waiting to happen.
Only second track is a diversion to the world of usual folk music, which might stylistically go into the territory of Balkan, Turkey and oriental scales. Kielo is a bit like a dark ambient techno album but instead synthesizers, only an accordion and sound effects are used. World music this actually isn't, but what then? Maybe a kind of music that defies all categories and expectations. Soundtrack to a dark apocalyptic ethnic sci-film that was never made.
Mika Vainio, Pita & Charlemagne Palestine: Three Compositions For Machines
This album, which is a documentation of the "Masterclass" event held in September 1997, has loads of very difficult music to get into, if it's "music" at all. Instead we get from the beginning to the end experimentation with sounds that are reminiscent of howling and drilling; the sound of a generator and lorry. For example. Music created with household appliances and electric tools, with the sounds of a workshop or garage; not so much a factory (before you call it "industrial"). Mechanical sounds that are maybe enjoyed to their fullest at a performance situation, but which have more difficulties to open up when listened to from a record.
Maybe the idea here is to draw attention to how we listen to music, to the listening situation itself. Which can get a bit alienating, because disco this ain't; not so much enjoyable than giving food for thought as a kind of "metamusic". So, this is not music but structured sounds; there is a rhythm, yes, but not in a sense that you could dance to it. Maybe "antimusic" would be the most approriate term here.