Thursday, December 08, 2016

Martin Küchen/Johannes Heuer

Bagatellen de Martin Küchen/CIFRA 01 - 08 de Johannes Heue
Lenka Lente. LKL - EB3

CD in debossed box w/ five sheets of poetry by Martin Küchen + eight visual objects by Johannes Heuer.
50 copies.€25

Lenka Lente are the French publishing house with a penchant for poetry, philosophy, jazz and Nurse With Wound. Their little books of poetry, philosophy and short stories are sometimes accompanied with 3" CD’s that contain the sounds of Bill Nace and Nurse With Wound. I think Lenak Lente are big Nurse With Wound fans and have of late branched out into Andrew Liles territory. Those Nurse With Wound tentacles are still spreading. These small and delightful books are avenues of discovery where Italian anarchists rub shoulders with obscure Portuguese sound poets, outsider artists, Moondog and William Wordsworth.

The Portuguese sound poet was Alberto Costa Monteiro. His ‘Anima’ release for Lenka Lente came in an debossed box with 37 individual cards on to which was printed his poetry, words of short syllables in French slaloming their way down the page. It was a thing of beauty and a beguiling to listen boot. And he’s not just a poet but that's another story.

As with Monteiro so with Küchen and Heuer except I don’t have the full release here just odd bits that Lenka Lente have sent me knowing that such material would cheer my day. And I’m glad they did as I now have two more names to conjure with. One being Martin Küchen, a Swedish sax player with a penchant for improvisation and the other the artist Johannes Heuer. The forty three tracks on Bagatellen each run to around the minute mark all of them having track titles like ‘M.U. Entrepreneur’ and ‘O.H. Factory Owner’ which make me think we may have some kind of concept album here. But aren’t concepts just ideas anyway? Joseph Beuys would know. Küchen plays his sax in conjunction with a radio and an electric toothbrush and appears to be taking has sax apart and putting it back together again while eating a fish supper, a creative act I’ve applauded ever since I saw Alan Tomlinson do something similar with a trombone in the upstairs room of The Adelphi. This makes it sound like Küchen’s sax is actually a Henry vacuum cleaner or a distant train or fourty one other sounds that you’d probably not think were emanating from the end of a saxophone. Track sixteen [L.J. Entrepreneur] is a matchbox full of needles being shaken about, track thirty five [picked at random and running to twenty three seconds natch] is Küchen blowing down a reed free sax and taking deep breaths in between, track thirty nine has bird whistles, the track that follows it sounds like Küchen giving up his last breath.

The word ‘bagatelle’ can be translated as 'a frothy or light piece of music', not something you’d normally associate with improv but it does exist and this is further proof. I saw Steve Beresford the other week, I’ve seen Alan Tomlinson they both prove improv doesn’t have to be hard work. Küchen does the same. Don’t ask me about his poetry though as it’s all in Swedish.

Johannes Heuer is an Austrian artist. That’s all I know.

This combining of the arts in Lenka Lente releases continues to be a rewarding one. Long may they continue.

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Taming Power

Taming Power: Selected Works 1996-97
EMR 7” - 001. 100 copies.

Taming Power: Selected Works 1995-97
EMR 12” - 002. 150 copies. 

Taming Power: Selected Works 1989-98
EMR 12” - 003. 150 copies.

Taming Power: Selected Works & Fragments 1987-97
EMR 12” - 004. 100 copies.

It seems perverse that we should end our relationship with Taming Power where Taming Power began. With the first four Early Morning Record releases that despite me Campbell and Hayler raving about them still exist. Or do they? Askild Haugland sent these through a few months back where they’ve been receiving ready spins ever since. Maybe the glowing reviews have worked and Mr. Haugland has now, eventually, after years of sitting on these treasured platters finally found a home for them all. I hope he has.

For those still not familiar we have in Taming Power the ultimate motherlode of outsider drone experimentation. For years Haugland has been self releasing his work from his home in Norway into a void of virtual indifference. Until Campbell mentioned him to me and Hayler who in unison, though miles apart, both wept tears of unfettered joy. His music has that effect on people. Those of a nature who appreciate drones and sounds that can be achingly beautiful, austere, atonal, harsh and charming all within the same same release. His later work created using guitar and reel to reel feedback have a devastating simplicity to them. Its not something you come across often and to discover that someone had been creating all this in total isolation made the discovery all the more remarkable.

And so it goes with these much earlier releases. Which as Haugland points out, are lo-fi and fragmentary in nature but none the less as beguiling and compelling as any of his work.

Selected Works & Fragments 1987-97 has no less than fifteen tracks on it, most of which are short interludes [August 96 being just eight seconds in duration] all of them primitive constructions recorded using a Casiotone MT-36, acoustic guitar, harmonica, recorder, voice, percussion and a tape recorder. Wheezy and distant melodies of a whimsical nature, each track imbued with a covering of back of the cathode ray TV tube dust. Delightful in their innocence, crude but joyous.

Haugland’s most challenging work comes with the arrival of the Tandberg tape recorder. A piece of equipment with which he creates feedback and with it a test of endurance for even his most ardent fans. On Selected Works 1989-98 he utilises the Tandberg in conjunction with an electric guitar the results swinging between mellifluous and terrifying. Barring two minutes of radio on the final track of Selected Works 1995-97 the whole of the album is given over the Tandberg and as with the previously reviewed Selected Works 2000 this proves to be his harshest work. At times its not pretty with certain tracks containing nothing but the screaming of subjugated circuitry but its austereness does have its own perverse appeal.

The very first Early Morning Records release gives us no clue as to its instrumentation but from its ghostly grooves we can assume that those Tandbergs weren’t far away. Feedback plays its part on side A again building in volume over a background of scorched earth while the flip contains some bowl ring and reversed tape sounds. All very basic, all very welcome. 

Above all Early Morning Record releases are very personal recordings, not only do they contain Haugland’s own compositions they also contain his artwork, the labels are in his hand as are the glued on track listings. Whether this is the last we shall see of him or his label remains to be seen but all is not doom and gloom, videos have recently appeared on his Youtube channel and Winebox Press have recently released a twin cassette collection of his work. Watch this space as they used to say.

Taming Power Youtube Channel

EMR Web Presence

Winebox Press

Saturday, December 03, 2016

Totes Format

Libbe Matz Gang/Coldsore
Cassette. 50 copies.

Cassette. 15 copies

RST - Haikus
Cassette. 15 copies.

Cold Sore - Pollutant

Cassette. 30 copies.

Tapes come and go in the room where I type out these words and when I’m done with them I put them in a box. Sometimes I pass them on or, if I’m feeling devilish, I take them down the chazza where no doubt ladies of a certain age pick them up and look at them with a curious squint before asking a colleague if they still sell cassettes or not.

For the last few weeks and months these four cassettes from the Finnish label Totes Format have been whirring away in the background, clicking over from one cassette to the other via the wonders of a trusty twin cassette deck. If I’m concentrating on something computer wise I can often hear the same two sides of the same two cassettes all evening and when I’m hearing sounds as enigmatic and captivating as these I sometimes feel as if I’ve been held in some kind of a trance. Some people have streaming media players and suggestion algorithms, I have recycled cassettes from Finland and a JVC twin cassette deck.

What makes this all the more compelling is that I have no idea who any of these people are. I’ve had Totes Format releases through these hands before and excellent they were too with GRMMSK [I have a feeling the label head here] running around bald, naked and painted white within bridge structures making along the way some amazing sounds with a homemade string instrument and a drill. That was about three years ago now which judging from their website makes for a very steady release program. Editions don’t run to many numbers and as you see we’re in hand made recycled territory here with hand stitched, reclaimed material sleeves and the use of old circuit diagrams as seen in previous TF releases. Its a stance to be applauded.

Out of this dark sea of ambience and dark electronic sounds the last track of three by German artist Kemia got to me the most. It might have been artistic judgement, kismet or a recording made on an inspiring day when the sun just about rises over the horizon and the temperature barely budges above zero but ‘untitled 3’ [never has a track of such beauty been given such a mundane title] did for me like a Novocain shot in a dentist’s chair. A dreamy and blissful decay wrung from an only dreamt about Basinski/Prince collaboration where a series of underwater detonations reverb out to coda on bed of dreamy muffled voices and celestial treated harp. Hypnogogic pop eat your heart out. The preceding two are bleak low hertz blasts and nocturnal ritualistic electronics and something I need to investigate further but track three … let me play it just one more time.
On the flip comes Ollijohanna and two tracks of stunning black industrial ambience. Here is all cavernous drones and desolate electronic skree, hollow roars and stripped wastelands, the sounds of distant explosions and their aftermath. 

Coldsore appear twice each time creating dark and foreboding atmospheres that focus on both depression and pollution. On the Libbe Matz Gang split ‘0+0=0’ there’s mention of Largactyl and a quote by Wittgenstein and it is of course suitably wrist slitting. Pollutant’s four tracks contain various synth atmospheres accompanied by sampled dialogue, the odd disguised PE vocal and air raid sirens all leading me to think that these tracks were recorded by someone who hadn’t been listening to disco for a while. Depressing, sombre works no doubt recorded in the depths of a Finnish winter at three in the morning.    

‘Under the Chemical Cosh’ is where we find Libbe Matz Gang and a short side of swirling flanges and lower key synth blurp that would no doubt pop the woofers on cheap paper cones. A fitting flip to the Coldsore track. While RST’s ‘Haikus’ consists of two live tracks as recorded this year, the first a constant stream of low end flutter and tundra storms perforated with granular crumble, dark, random pulses and eerie ritualistic melodies, the second an empty room filled with angular resonating electronics. 

Putting these releases in a box seems criminal and the chazza is definitely out. Perhaps I’ll leave them on display for a while before giving them another outing on the JVC.