ARANIS: “Aranis II” ******

Recorded 2007

 

Over the last three decades, Belgian musicians have filled an impressive library of frequently engrossing attempts to decontextualize chamber music from its canonical constraints.  Two generations of composers and classically trained instrumentalists have crafted a cornucopia of par excellence ‘Euro-centric’ recordings covering the whole spectrum of syncretic endeavors.  Those who forged a groundbreaking neoclassic tenebrism have been more likely to gaine international fame (Univers Zéro, Présent, Julverne).  Others opted for a genre-bending fusion of humoristic, jazz and neo-classical elements (X-Legged Sally, Cro-Magnon, DAAU).  Occasionally, Belgian neo-classicism drew on systemic vocabulary of American and British predecessors (Soft Verdict, Maximalist).

 

Since the 1990s, Belgium has literally flooded the market with Kammermusik for rock audience.  Still, the productions of Joris Vanvickenroye’s septet Aranis have soared above any expectations.  His compositions are tense and dramatic, exuberantly orchestrated for violins, flute, accordion, acoustic guitar, piano and bass.  The harmonically and contrapuntally sophisticated fantasias are cogently structured, alternating fast and slow sections and indulging in urgent shifts in dynamic (sometimes even too urgent). 

 

Even though some of themes are catchy, the band eschews the simplicity of the groove; either the keys are modulated or the motif is soon juxtaposed with unexpected nuances, ornaments or transitions that often force the hitherto leading instrument to play the proverbial “second fiddle”.

 

For a drum-less, acoustic band, Aranis exudes an astonishing sensation of power, without ever compromising its stylistic trajectory.  The band has now assumed a prominent rank in the premier league of chamber rock.

 

 

 

Kitano

The record commences with an intrepid acoustic bass ostinato, platonified by bird-like strings.  We are instantly thrown into an atmosphere of breathless drama.  Frenetic flute, sharp piano chords and hooked bowing on violins are interlocked in premature variations on the still-evolving theme.  All too soon, a trio of juicy bass, lyrical accordion and domesticated piano offers yet another twist in this complex capriccio.  After several seconds in the limelight, the accordion cedes to a reprise of the intro on flutes and a more rhythmic piano.  The accumulation of ornaments brings a rich potpourri of reminiscences.  An energetic staccato, courtesy violins of Linde de Groof and Liesbeth Lambrecht, brings back the memories of Chick Corea’s orchestrations in “the Mad Hatter”.  Then Marjolein Cools follows on her wistful accordion – never too far away from Astor Piazzolla’s Tango Nuevo style.  The violin duo becomes virtuosic, in turn subsumed by piano and flute interventions and by accordion-dominated refrains.  Throughout, the dynamic swells and ebbs, clearly conducted by the bassist.  The septet delivers this complex piece with extraordinary panache.

 

Vala

An introspective violin theme develops slowly through systemic blankets woven by surging strings and a repetitive piano figure.  Jana Arns’ flute glides romantically in search of violin fermatas.  In an aura of classicizing melodiousness, the string legatos conquer the ideal of sonic purity with agile legatos, but the quest is abandoned in the higher register, leaving us with a semi-arid détaché.  The second round belongs to the accordion, mimicked by the flute.  Joris Vanvickenroye on bass and Axelle Kennis on piano conjugate a fluent rhythmic artery.  The intensity of the thematic tail captures the entire ensemble, with the violins dramatizing over and above the holistic tutti. 

 

Looking Glass

Acoustic bass and acoustic guitar (Steyn Denys) intone a congenial malagueña.  The accordion enriches further the joyful, dancelike tune.  Violins repeat the theme, taking it barely one verse further.  A very fruity piano and effervescent flute invite the entire band to a transition and loudly reprise the motif.  One by one, the instruments fall off the cliff – leaving only the piano to pick up the scattered notes in an offbeat solo, adroitly inlaid by the metronomic bass.  The composer defaults to pizzicato and col legno, which, unexpectedly makes the piece rock.  In a sweep, the violins and flute scoop up short licks con brio, making other chamber rock competitors blush. 

 

Gona

Bass arcato introduces the piano and the flute.  This is not the first time that these instruments are scored in an emphatic, yet consonant interplay.  Eventually, the violins follow, and their ostentatious portatos suit the herringbone structure of these fantasias.  In the second part of the composition, one of the violinists paints a lyrical aquarelle with harmonic easel set up by accordion and a dazzling light cone shed by the arpeggiated piano.  The tonal pilgrimage finally reaches its destination, augmented by the second violin and rustling flute.  

 

Walk in One’s Sleep

This time the grainy arcato on bass is malevolent, obsessive and ominous.  Repelled, the slices of violin and tangential flute seek their own pathway.  Cools’s accordion is less academic and more streetwise here, keen to shake the bellows.  After a miniclimax, violins take the lead descrescendo until the dynamic craters.  Then like the Pied Piper, the strings will guide the ensemble onto the Olympian summit.  The guitar crowns some quieter passages, and the idyllic flute reveals its bipolar tendencies.  The texture becomes increasingly polyphonic – the violins return, an uncredited oboe (?) makes an appearance next to a flute vibrato, and a very determined left hand strides on the piano. 

 

Moja

A songlike track is introduced by the piano and acoustic guitar, with some brief commentaries from the accordion.  As usual, the band wastes no time to densify the structure – a duo or a solo are instantly followed by a richer, more condensed (yet still legible) orchestration.  On “Moja”, the plaintive swells evoke an old Art Zoyd motif from its classic period.  Tone color patterning operates pairwise – violin and flute to convey drama; guitar and piano to strike an Iberian nuance and accordion substratum laying the veneer of bolero-like accumulation of successive tonal strata.  Although the repetitive tendency does owe its pedigree to Steve Reich, the reiterations never last longer than several seconds.  The turns are too fast and too potent for Aranis to be labeled “minimalist”.

 

Waris

An acoustic bass figure, in harmonic consonance with the accordion and violins takes longer than in the other compositions to develop a recognizable motif.  But what sets this track apart is trumpet, courtesy Bart Maris.  His instrument, sometimes muted, has a warm, intimate, almost fluegelhorn-like surface.  In more misty, subdued moments, Maris’s playing brings back the memories of Butch Morris’s ‘breathing’, nasal style, which the American composer perfected in small formats.  Here, tense, alarmist piano part prepares the ground for another threatening swell in decibels.  Eventually, violins quiet things down. 

 

Turbulentie

A South-Eastern European dance (a gopak? A furiant?) lashes out pizzicato with vertiginous swings and a Bartokian piano.  But Aranis does not dwell on this hugely fertile ground, previously exploited by Iva Bittova, Boris Kovac or Martya Sebestien.  This is the septet at its most “rock”, with the heavy beat on piano and bass that is as sweeping and awe-inspiring as Daniel Denis’s legendary thrusts.  After a strident interlude from the violins and the flute, a different mood appears.  A slow bass walk and, two radical signature changes later, a voluble melody follows on accordion and flute, adorned with putatively Ukrainian stylisms. 

 

Trog

The only piece composed by Peter Verdonck commences with a facetious, burping vibrato on bowed bass, guitar and accordion.  After some vacillating alternance from the violins and accordion, the piano and guitar duo chisels away an unusual intro and unfolds into a jocular dance, swirling like the unforgettable Cro Magnon’s tunes in the 1990s.  Occasionally, the guitar digresses away from the piano and the bass-based ostinato.  With verve, bowed bass instigates a polymetric motif full of hilarious, uplifiting twists and jigs. 

 

Lovey-Dovey

A piano-based theme, followed by strings and a painfully lonesome accordion.  The composition is more stationary, its structure is more fractured and it develops more hesitantly than the other tracks.  In the second half, the guitar makes an attempt to resume the theme, followed by the piano. 

 

Mythra

A leisurely-paced morceau for acoustic guitar and eerily familiar violin phrasings of the Nyman-Mertens-Glass heritage.  Although the repetitive component reasserts itself, additional variety is apportioned with violin duels – dirty shreds versus pristine loftiness.  Along with piano, the strings build (unintentional?) Nymanian quotes.  Still, the track never aspires to minimalist unity and towards the end assumes the rocking potency from bass and piano, capturing the effect achieved by Far Corner not so long ago. 

 

 

***

 

 

Aranis: “Aranis” (2005)

Aranis: “Aranis II” (2006)

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Published in: on August 6, 2008 at 10:21 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Lars HOLLMER: “Viandra” *****

 

Recorded 2001-2007

 

The world would be much gloomier a place without Lars Hollmer.  The Swedish composer, accordionist and keyboard player was the key force behind the legendary Samla Mammas Manna and has over the last quarter of the century developed a unique melodist vocabulary, drawing inspiration from both European folk music and baroque.

 

Holed up in his “Chickenhouse” home studio in Uppsala, Hollmer has regularly brought to Nordic light series of highly successful accordion miniatures.  Whether in stately fugues and cantatas, jolting polkas and farandoles, rapid scherzos and capriccios or pensive lullabies and bagatelles, Hollmer’s final synthesis remained highly original and instantly appealing.  Despite his frequent references to the traditional dances of the European north, the relative paucity of direct quotations has kept him apart from the Scandinavian folk renaissance of the last 15 years. 

 

Some of Zamla’s fans reproach Hollmer for not replicating the band’s sound more faithfully.  But Zamla was always more than just Lars Hollmer.  His solo records lack the band’s contorted time signatures, contrary motions, Coste Apetrea’s guitar twitches or extended, mirthful extemporations.  Still, Hollmer’s recordings more than compensate for that with cliché-free emotional content and open minded attitude to a variety of musical traditions. 

 

 

 

Viandra

This is not the first time that Hollmer opens his record witch such an unassuming, feathery tune.  His accordion knits slow, reedy gables.  Harmonic mellotronics materializes, setting the stage for middle register, consonant melodic line.  But the gracefulness of the piece distracts from the otherwise unstable periodicity of the epicycles carrying not one, but several charming sub-themes. 

 

Mirror Objects

This time mellotronics invites us to a poignant waltz.  Hollmer’s accordion merely serves harmonics.  The piece stays afloat, eerily tinged with 1940s’ tenebrism. 

 

Sök

The track begins with a low-key glockenspiel, then moving on to a full quartet sound.  Michel Berckmans enters on stately, silicate English horn, joined by Santiago Jimenez on violin and Andreas Tengberg on cello.  The isostatic character of the piece first smacks of distant memories of a music school, save for the seasoned pizzicato.  The band burgeons in an atmosphere of serenity, later carmelizing into decorative baroque quatrefoils. 

 

Snabb

In a radical change of pace, “Snabb” introduces high volume, bass-laden digital drum setting for a melodica and accordion line.  In turn, the subsequent transition will draw on Miriodor-like, keyboard-led neo-classicism.  The rest of the piece is be filled by the contrasting alteration between the drum episode (courtesy none other than Morgan Agren of Mats & Morgan fame) and the classicizing keyboard answer.  Towards the end, the robust pummeling will be enriched by tinny, hollow kalimba touches. 

 

Moldaviska

This track was apparently inspired by a Moldavian girl who appeared in a movie to which Hollmer wrote a score.  A short divertimento for accordion, melodica and acoustic piano proves Hollmer’s willingness to constantly refresh his format with new sources of folk inspiration. 

 

Påztema

A wistful, songlike cavatina of highest caliber.  It is delivered camminando with the basic bass line from the keyboard bass, and the melody spinning through melodica.  Ulf Wallander on tenor saxophone adds some agility to lower registers, enhancing the bass line.  This is one of the most romantic moments on this record.

 

Prozesscirk

The full quartet returns with strings and accordion interplay – a format that can scarcely escape comparisons to Astor Piazzolla’s legendary dramaturgy.  Glockenspiel and keyboards are in clear lead, hosting a concordant, ashy veil of bassoon, cello and violin.  A double of violin and accordion paint a theme that hangs over like cirrocumulus.  This could easily qualify for Hollmer’s another film score. 

 

Merged with Friends

Piano and melodica open in a gentle, tender, optimistic tone.  This is Hollmer’s well-trodden format – first the exposition without the bass line and then the primary theme repeats it with the support – this time performed by Berckmans’ organic bassoon.  The piano will provide some variation before fizzling out.

 

Konstig

A trio with bassoon and violin.  The track’s rhythmic mobility converges on melodica’s excesses – well supported here by the bassoon.  Then, a surprise transition leads to an eerily familiar, ecstatic melodic adventure.  On the way down, the more prominent violin provides a welcome textural enrichment.  The non-linear seams that tie together the hummable refrain will probably exclude “Konstig” from the radio, but otherwise its bold and swinging panache would beat commercial melodists hands down.

 

Baladeis

A stately, contrapuntal fughetta with Berckmans on bumblebee bassoon.  Its glyptic polyphony is appropriately artful and elegant.

 

Strutt

A polka written for accordion and melodica.  It throws us back to Hollmer’s hard-driven folk dances from his early LPs.  Even if the intention is a little facetious, the resulting jumpy repetition is ludic and frivolous.

 

Lilla Bye

This delicate berceuse cradles us with mandolin and random cuckoo vocals from Hollmer’s three granddaughters.  The multi-focal arrangement of vocalizations and the choice of flocculent instrumentation bring to mind some of Albert Marcoeur’s more lyrical moments. 

 

Första 05

Violin and cello slog along chained in some doomed pilgrimage.  This is another baroque piece, quiet and solemn.  The initial ricercar sets the key for the bleak string development – somewhat reminiscent of Univers Zero’s metaphysical dirges. 

 

Alice

We wake up from the nightmare into a happy sunrise serenade.  Hollmer’s granddaughter officiates here in a “singing” part, thanks to the author’s innocuous nepotism.  Luckily, Zamla’s Coste Apetrea provides some assistance on mandolin.  It is full of sparkling, youthful optimism. 

 

Överdagö

Michel Berckmans’ autumnal oboe sobs slowly.  When glockenspiel and violin rejoin, Berckmans switches to harmonic bassoon.  Santiago Jimenez steps to the fore, and engages in a downcast, rueful duet with Hollmer’s accordion.  This brings back inescapable memories of long evenings en el barrio de Boca

 

Foldron Menad

Hollmer’s introspective string samples set up Jimenez to perform a love call which sounds like a Hungarian gypsy whine.  Somber, cheerless shadows are cast against an unobtrusive sampled chorus and a poignant cello line.  This quiet composition is marvelously evocative but at the same time pleasantly restrained.

 

Folkvandringslåt

This much earlier track has been added to round off the entire set on a more optimistic note.  A simple dance played by Lars on accordion and keyboards possesses parameters of a polka – the quintessential accordion dance.  Yet some of the keyboard developments are unmistakably Hollmerian and when he begins to spin around, it could just as well be Colombian cumbia.  The artist is such an emporium of themes that this array of influences turns each dance into a highly idiosyncratic proposition.  There is only one Lars Hollmer.

 

*** 

 

Until the very recent appearance of the supreme “Viandra”, it was position 4 that was most often drawn from the shelf.  However, 2, 3 and 5 are equally recommended.  Positions 1 and 8 are live performances of two different bands – extremely lively and brimming with cheerfulness to clear up any gloomy day.  Both 1 and 9 make extensive use of traditional themes.  From position 7 onwards, Hollmer spent a lot of time digging into his considerable inventory and inevitably some peripheral sketches crept into the public domain.  Positions 14 and 15 are artistic résumés transposed onto a micro-Japanese and macro-Canadian context, respectively. 

 

1. RAMLÖSA KVÂLLAR: Ramlösa Kvâllar (1977-78)

2. Lars HOLLMER: “XII Sybirska Cyklar“ (1975, 1980-81)

3. Lars HOLLMER: “Vill du hora mer“ (1981-82)

4. Lars HOLLMER: “Fråu natt idag“ (1983)

5. Lars HOLLMER: “Tonöga“ (1984-85)

6. Lars HOLLMER & the LOOPING HOME ORCHESTRA: “Vendeltid“ (1987)

7. Lars HOLLMER: “Vandelmässa“ (1972, 1983-93)

8. LOOPING HOME ORCHESTRA: “Live 1992-1993” (1992-93)

9. FEM SÖKER EM SKATT: “Fem söker em skatt“ (1987-1994)

10. Lars HOLLMER: “Andetag“ (1993-97)

11. Lars HOLLMER: “Autokomp A(nd) More“ (1982-1991, 1998)

12. Lars HOLLMER: “Utsikter“ (2000)

13. Lars HOLLMER’s GLOBAL HOME PROJECT: “Sola“ (2001)

14. Lars HOLLMER & Yukiko MOKOUJIMA DUO: “Live And More” (2003)

15. FANFARE POURPOUR & Lars HOLMMER: “Karusell Musik” (2006)

16. Lars HOLLMER: “Viandra“ (2001-2007)

 

Other recordings labeled by Hollmer or his LHO can be found on various compilations from the 1980s and 1990s: “Ré Records Quarterly Vol.1 No.1”, “Festival MIMI 89”, “Hardi brut”, “Angelica’92”, “Angelica’93”, “Haikus urbains”.  He also appeared on numerous recordings of other musicians – Fred Frith, Wolfgang Salomon, Volapük, Miriodor, Guigou Chenevier among them.  Naturally, there are also various other recordings of Samla Mammas Manna, Zamla Mammaz Manna and Von Zamla.  Sonic Asymmetry will return to these one day with great pleasure.

 

Hollmer is also a member of the international combo Accordion Tribe.  His classic compositions belong to the band’s repertoire, showcasing slightly different arrangements.  The last of the three CDs is more Hollmer-heavy.

 

ACCORDION TRIBE: “Accordion Tribe” (1996)

ACCORDION TRIBE: “Sea of Reeds” (2001-02)

ACCORDION TRIBE: “Lunghorn Twist” (2005)

Published in: on July 6, 2008 at 4:37 pm  Comments (3)  
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ELECTRIC ORANGE: “Morbus” ****

 

Recorded 2006, 2007

 

 

The juicy name and squelchy logo hide the considerable talent of keyboard player Dirk Jan Müller who since the early 1990s has been recording increasingly inspired jams in volatile constellations.  But mid-1990s he was joined by guitarist Dirk Bittner, but it took several more years before the core of the currently active band took shape.

 

Electric Orange seeks inspiration in the long tradition of rock jamming, but often straying from the well-trodden format into unexpectedly hooked arrangements and exploratory parentheses.  For all those who miss the extraordinary inventiveness of German music over a generation ago, Electric Orange brings a whiff of fresh air, albeit with an aura of healthy déjà vu.

 

Unfortunately, the musicians insist on filling the available CD space with some marginal material, which somewhat mars the coherence of the sets.

 

 

 

Einwahn

We are transported into the unconscious world of childhood memories filled with amusement park hubbub – merry-go-rounds, Ferris wheels, cheesy itinerant businesses.  Regrettably, this evocative anaphora leads nowhere…  Sudden assault comes from a tribal drumming circle that flails its way indefatigably with the hoof-like precision.  Jagging guitar sound and a Hammond-soundalike localize the ghosts of their stylistic patrons.  An extraordinary power emanates from the band – unwavering, tight and compressed.  When the organ begins to chuckle on its own bobsled ride, the Second Hand’s supreme “Death May Be Your Santa Claus” comes to mind.  The potent chug-along is vibrant and jubilant, quite unlike the title (“delusion”). 

 

Rote Flocken

Electronic hairpin serpentines open with pre-recorded, tinny voices in heraus-pronounced German.  The organ cradles us in a comfy rut allowing the guitars to explore various registers.  Snippets of distorted recitation probe the über-conventional organ & guitar riffing.  Impotent trumpet, piano strings, unidentifiable samples and percussive glimmer penetrate the herringbone structure of this track. 

 

Span 5

In a natural segue, a more resonant guitar grit punctures the trippy organ – bass – drumset perfection.  The crystal clear mix allows our senses to tune into the various guitar pitches simultaneously.  On top of the range, distant wah-wah scrambles for attention in a patchy cooperation with eerily evocative organ (Dirk Jan Müller must have grown up on young Richard Wright’s fastidious harmonizing).  Silvo Franolic’s cymbal splashes pile up layers of dense cloud formations.  The rest of the band needs to soar above these vigorous explosions.  And soar it does.

 

Morbus

The title track sounds like a tribute to Brainticket’s organ-led vortex, spinning tenaciously with the ease of “Cottonwoodhill” and taking us for a whirring steamroller ride.  Deposits of annunciatory voices are laid behind these gyrations, while a strained, pentatonic recorder bores holes in this cylindrical domain.  A full-scale guitar cum organ convulsion bursts in flames, only to reveal the unstoppable magmatic flow.  Screechy recorders will have the last word.

 

Errorman

Initially, the organ, guitar, bass and drums quartet adopts a more leisurely, trotting pace.  In a monumental entrée, the rhythm section veers off towards the ecstasy of vertigo-inducing passages.  Tom Rückwald appears on bowed acoustic bass, doubled on choir-emulating mellotron.  Silvio Franolic treats his plump drums and tinkling cymbals with measured, downy mallets.  Bittner’s voice is full of painful agony, but despite its menacing quality, the uncanny, tubular vocal carries also crosstextual messages from a long-lost pedigree (e.g. Silberbart, 2066 & Then).  Mellotron’s fake celestial strings close this pleasant déjà entendu

 

Flohfunknest

Acoustic guitar succumbs to a sound forest of hand drums, cortales, and thrown coins.  A funky interaction arises from the thumping electric bass and teasing soft rolls harvested with brushes by the drummer.  The band unleashes sonic debris – stereotyped ‘Bahnhof’ announcements, flippant effects from someone’s oral cavity, persuasive girls, manual tooth brushing, an old-time alarm clock, an electric shaver.  But underneath, this is but a circular funky rondo – a fairly conventional musical joke.

 

Traumama

We are now almost on a midsummer, Latin party terrain.  When the initial frenzy clears, a female voice adapts to the reigning climactic condition.  The hyperactive, but harmless, blithe beach guitars are reminiscent of latter-day Can’s dubious explorations into oases of rhythmic optimism.  Several isolated notes on a Spanish guitar shut this chapter.

 

Kratschock

After this 2-track parenthesis, the mood turns again, courtesy a threatening harmonium.  This catatonic instrument, rescued from oblivion 30 years ago by Univers Zero, is accompanied here by an intimate guitar, organ, drums and flute.  Electric Orange brings yet other memories of their nation’s formative Blütezeit.  The way the dispassionate recitation has been mixed in brings to mind the declamations by Walter Wegmüller or Sergius Golowin.  Acoustic bass and breathy flute frame the structure, supported by molten organ, much like early Gila – both in gesture and in form. 

 

Wald

First, vitreous sound of unknown provenience.  Next, a very international sound of a noisy schoolyard.  Then, sustained bass notes and mysterious harmonium gear the band to inchoate harmonic trajectory.  All these attempts are instantly spoiled by monorhythmic swelling and an angular organ chord.  This is a disappointing moment – the band creates anticipation that it does not live up to for several long minutes.  The prominence of the organ layer does not allow the muscular rhythm section to generate a punch worthy of Neu’s “Negativland” or Glenn Branca’s “Ascension”.  And even then, the idea would have been epigonic.  When Bittner’s singing breaks in, one is seriously puzzled – not sure if this is a parody, a dance number or a piece of failed space rock trapped in the troposphere and unable to overcome earthly gravity.  The harmonium and synthesizer fail to save the day, as the formulaic, isometric pounding is never too far behind. 

 

Reaching

This is a ballad for acoustic guitar and bass, delivered with a slightly distorted, rippling voice.  The apparent ingredients are there (mellotron, and flute), but the tune correlates poorly with the stronger moments on this CD. 

 

Schöhl

Crippling electronic intro yields to an official pre-announcement worthy of West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band.  Fast bongo runs and a pulsating bass leave much space – enough for the organ and guitar to accentuate the beat.  Each time the guitar repeats its two-chord routine, the bongo woodpecker wakes up.  Additional distortion is provided by simmering synthesizer effects. 

 

Sarau

Waves of low amplitude electronics wash on a sailboat fitted with organ and bass.  A toned down organ coupled with Josef Ahns’ ascending flute legato has many precedents: Ove Volquartz of Annexus Quam (“Beziehungen”), Herb Geller of Brave New World (“Impressions on Reading Aldous Huxley”) or Rainer Büchel of Ibliss (“Supernova”).  This engaging opening gives way to sub-Saharan hand drum and echoplexed guitar, with the organ ensuring further continuity.  In the final bars, a highly pitched guitar improvises until the final cut. 

 

 

***

 

 

ELECTRIC ORANGE: “Electric Orange” (1992-1993)

ELECTRIC ORANGE: “Orange Commutation” (1993-1994)

ELECTRIC ORANGE: “Cyberdelic” (1995)

ELECTRIC ORANGE: “Abgelaufen” (2001)

ELECTRIC ORANGE: “Platte” (2003)

ELECTRIC ORANGE: “Fleischwerk” (2004-2005)

ELECTRIC ORANGE: “Morbus” (2006-2007)

 

I have not heard the first three positions.  The general impression is that the band’s inventiveness has progressed on the most recent CDs.  “Morbus” was mastered by Eroc, krautrock’s ultimate studio joker.

Published in: on June 30, 2008 at 8:04 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Ghédalia TAZARTES: “Hystérie Off Music” ******

Recorded 2007

 

Ghédalia Tazartes traces his roots to North African Sephardic tradition. His recordings exemplify the most prosperous marriage ever of ethnic vocalizing and imaginative electronic collage. Tazartes’ strength lies in his dynamic, rhythmic and harmonic restraint. The element of surprise, while ubiquitous, does not rely on the shock of opposites. Rather, his compositions flow naturally, always apportioning tasty ingredients, but in an organic, gradualist fashion.

 

His activity now spans three decades, yet his music is hors temps. Over the years, his bequest has graced many visual performances, but has stood on its own among the most accomplished French creations. From emotional psalms to shamanic hymns, Tazartes vocal eclecticism makes his art unclassifiable and distant from the electro-acoustic orthodoxy in his country.

 

His recording output dried out in the 1990s and many feared that the legend had been silenced forever. It is, therefore, with great expectations that fans of sonic asymmetry hail his return to a more prolific form.

 

Soul 1

The recording does not “open”, but breaks through the wall, imploding and rapidly mutating into old man’s lament. Increasingly discernible and sometimes nasal, the sorrowful voice will be accompanied by a piano abandoned on the desert hill.

 

Soul 2

Change of scenery. We are in a deep tropical valley as depicted earlier Jorge Reyes’s electronic landscapes. Tazartes’ art is less linear, though, with multiple harmonies emanating from a ringing synthesizer and interrupted by a crashing guitar feedback. The static spectacle is further enriched by hollow, impersonal voices flattened through the phone lines.

 

Soul 3

An apocalyptic moan, most probably in Hebrew, emerges from a cocoon of barely audible synthesized strings and subtle bass drone. We are close to post-“Imperium” era Current 93, but when Tazartes falls into the title Hysteria, the effect is less exaggerated than in David Tibet’s case.

 

Soul 4

A stylistic mystery tour, mountain calls from the Caucasus, stern Coptic choirs, plaintive Arabian voices – all masterfully cohesive in this short sample of Tazartes’ mixing genius.

 

Soul 5

Electronic whispers, slothful electric bass, sinusoidal harmonics and dovish sobbing all return in loops of various lengths. The nocturnal quality of this fragment relies on the changing piano-forte combination of these four elements.

 

Country 1

Scraps of acoustic guitar tuned similarly to Haino’s Black Blues give way to a love poem recited with a falsely foreign accent. The poet forsakenly expresses his love for a ‘little French girl’. When several violin notes intervene, the text begins to alternate credibly between English and French.

 

Country 2

A sharp electric guitar loop cuts through the previous track’s poem. Without the sudden ruptures, this would be a blues. But again, unruly children’s voices, weather events and lost chamber quartets distract the listener.

 

Country 3

“Yes – this is a Love Song”, an old man’s voice announces. Self-ironic and very carnal song, indeed, follows. There is a marked contrast between the accompaniment by a congenial bowed acoustic bass, and the singer’s drunken, limping snort.

 

Country 4

After these short vignettes, the longest track on the CD unfolds with cinematic strings, oppressive seagulls and majestic ship horns. By the time we visualize a Titanic or Lusitania tragedy, a parody of jazz scat explodes, as if filtered through a long tube. Sustained echoes from Deep Listening tradition, electronic clicks, and finally an uncertain melody all posture in front of the cinematic theme. Tazartes sounds here like an adult impersonating a naughty kid, but not without some humorous twists. The blues guitar loops back in, briefly echoing an earlier passage in a structural formation reminding of 1970s progressive suites. It then becomes the main focus; harder, and as decisive as Albert Collins’s. The last two minutes are sent to us from another world: a falsely demure Japanese girl (Yumi Nara), a choking wah-wah guitar, an opera mezzosoprano and crashing drums.

 

Country 5

To the accompaniment of two guitars – acoustic and wah-wah, Tazartes sings out his regret of not being a Spanish nobleman. His characteristic, weeping manner, never breaks into self-parody.

 

Jazz

The title is a misnomer for a heavy guitar cum strings fresco carried over by angelic voices. Tonality is shaky. Half-uttered morphemes and electronically edited percussion reinforce the increasingly staccato guitar and it’s a relief when the fuzz ebbs away. Still, the strings will not reign on their own. The guitar hits back and the string section becomes more articulate, pushing the track to another level of intensity. Ultimately, the kettle drum adopts a function of a belated referee.

 

Bonus

A frightening virago takes it out on her entourage just as a southern comfort guitar relaxes with calculated indifference. It is up to the listener to infer the meaning… Familiar howling will close this chapter.

 

***

 

Every Tazartes’ recording is highly recommended. Nevertheless, his music requires an open mind. Electro-acoustic hardliners will frown on his vocal verbosity and experimental rock fans may struggle with the more esoteric moments. He remains an island on his own.

 

Ghédalia TAZARTES: “Diasporas” (1980)

Ghédalia TAZARTES: “Transports” (1981)

Ghédalia TAZARTES: “Transports EP” (1981)

Ghédalia TAZARTES: “Une eclipse totale du soleil” (1983)

Ghédalia TAZARTES: “Tazartes” (1987)

Ghédalia TAZARTES: “Check Point Charlie” (1989)

Ghédalia TAZARTES: “Voyage à l’ombre” (1997)

Ghédalia TAZARTES: “Les danseurs de la pluie” (1977, 2005)

Ghédalia TAZARTES: “5 Rimbaud 1 Verlaine” (2006)

Ghédalia TAZARTES: “Jeanne” (2007)

Ghédalia TAZARTES: “Hystérie Off Music” (2007)

 

UN FESTIN SAGITAL: “Epitafio a la permanencia” ******

Recorded 2007

 

The Chilean band has only recently gained recognition among wider, international audience. Multi-instrumentalists Marcelo Rodriguez and Michel Leroy, Pablo Martinez on guitars, Paulo Rojas on violin and viola and Gonzalo Diaz on percussion have developed a lavish, syncretic idiom bordering on illusionism. The atmosphere of metaphysical mystery is conveyed through a cornucopia of tonal metaphors. The story lines may be inhabited by intricate geometrical forms, but never default to a pure musical mosaic.

 

Epitafio al delirio de la permanencia Part 1

A zeuhl-like choir thrusts their trade down our earlobes, but this will not be another Magma concerto. The instrumentation is too rich and the editing too lateral to seek parallels in that direction. Broiling hammond organ will be a dominant feature. Iterative, multiples voices intervene in harsh, unexpected phrases. The 2nd part of this extended composition commences pianissimo, against a hazy, pulsating background. Rhapsodic intrusions crackle, appear and vanish. Pablo Martinez on electric guitar builds a faint line over a harmonic support from the Hammond and other keyboards. Although the 3rd part opens with easily identifiable sounds of harpsichord, guitar and drums, it will be closely followed by what is the most abstract section. Low and high-pitched grating from Marcelo Rodriguez’s arsenal collides with piano strings, shouting and a meandering alto sax. Nostalgically quaint wah-wah guitar ushers in a song hijacked from some provincial party. The guitar theme evolves for the moment, but remains skeletal, disturbed by synthesized, cello (Sebastian Mercado) and saxophone interludes. The guitar loses its wah-wah tinge, but continues to fade in and out while the indignant zeuhlish vocal separates the pithy units. A short theme circling around some devilish manège closes this composition.

 

Epitafio al delirio de la permanencia Part 2

The band accumulates effects in the first several seconds of this piece: sustained electronic note, lyrical piano chords, a growling voice, bells, finally a sudden wake-up call by electric guitar and keyboards. From now one this will be a double keyboard show on organ and piano. The latter carries a more melodious element. Somewhere, far away, a forlorn voice pretends to know how to sing. All this stops and Paul Rojas on viola makes his appearance, pursued by a morose choir. The fearful voices will now alternate with a frightening organ sequence. Some scream, others panic, still others try to reassure the shocked, cacophonic crowd. A lonely narrative piano will loom up, but on a different planet.

 

L’âge délicieux (la revoluciòn perenne)

The empty range between the tinkling and ominous ur-drone is so empty that the space is quickly filled by an electric guitar and scraps of disoriented voices. Michel Leroy’s organ will control the tone quality and Gonzalo Diaz’s fluent hand drums specify a repetitive pattern. Half-murmured incantation in Spanish and French, the returning jingle and a tortured guitar bestow on this passage a quasi-liturgical quality. The comfortable rhythmic backbone will now allow the band to exhibit its impressive versatility: morbid progression à la Trembling Strain, low range buzz reminding us of Univers Zero’s “La faulx”, natural loop evocative of DDAA. As the composition gains in dynamic, its form is earning an epic status. All the varied elements converge on the path traced by this journey, leaving acoustic beads with rosary-like regularity. The tension is relieved when the guitar and violin revisit the convoy and the organ returns with the incessant tune. Surprisingly, what follows is a progressive rock stanza: “Escucha…” The lazy, untrained voices sound almost like trio SBB. Pero no importa. This track alone deserves a 6-star rating.

 

¡No hay Coristas!

The liturgical mood continues as the choir repeats its complaint – “there are no choristers”. This mournful song will glide along with acoustic guitar, violin and harmonic guitar. Still, some phase shifting and jumpy interjections remind us that the territory is far from convention. Even the prettiest song sequence is always threatened by an intrusion in ‘la STPO’ vein.

 

La dignidad del espìritu bastia

It is quite amazing how catchy this tune can be, buried among the phantasmagoric fantasias and the overall reining complexity. The arrangement is lush, but the editing allows the rhythm section (Luis Moya) and the solo violin to dominate the scene. This will not last. Agile violin suddenly stops responding to the predictable refrain and speeds away. The change in tempo will be contagious. Overexcited voices, Julio Cortes’ saxophones and occasional outbursts of fuzz guitar will do their best to catch up.

 

Destierro

The theme – hummed and sung listlessly – is being supported again by the duet of acoustic lead guitar and electric fuzz ointment. An octave below Philippe Cauvin’s falsetto, Michel Leroy depicts the “Uprooting”. When the violin and hand drums return, his magniloquent manner invades the classic Italian territory. String trio of two guitars and violin will then conduct their explorations, without the sense of urgency that sometimes spoil contemporaneous Nippon bands. More color is applied, with recorder and didjeridoo by Alexis Soto filling the vast space behind the soloing, mellow guitar. As the theme decelerates, the strumming becomes sparse, sending us an inexorable signal of adios. Or until the next one, one hopes.

 

***

 

The band’s discography is still relatively short. The first two recordings are to “Epitafio a la permanencia” what a charcoal sketch is to oil canvas; intriguing and engaging, but with more restricted spatial properties.

 

UN FESTIN SAGITAL: Pharmakon (2004)

UN FESTIN SAGITAL: Esternocleidomastleoideo (2004, 2006)

UN FESTIN SAGITAL: Epitafio a la permanencia (2007)

 

Published in: on May 21, 2008 at 9:41 pm  Comments (3)  
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