reviews of or releases
" I am uncertain as to whether there is a particular direction or style which the label OR will be involved with, and this, their first CD is certainly an interesting debut. It is a first release on CD of some extremely good minimal techno by a person called Elin ('who also functions as Auto Repeat on SSR/ Crammed') and it first appeared on double vinyl on the label MEGO (see above). It's been digitally remastered for this re-release and is a carefully crafted experience in aural joy. There's all the right ingredients; lush, chattering delays, sprinklings of effects and explorations of those subtle layers of sound not accessed by the Starfish Pools or Riou-s of this world. The kikdrums are round, not square. Tracks 1 and 2 clock in at the 9 minute mark, track 3 is a short powerful interlude which creates a suitable space for the 15'30 track 4 which is an amazing trip, racing around a very long bend, culminating in swathes of hum after the long journey. Tracks 5 and 6, by comparison, are the sounds the overheated engine makes as it cools down, creaking and crackling ever so slightly. Very beautiful." VITAL (The Netherlands)
"A new label OR announced its appearance by re-release of "Ufo Beobahtungen" by STUTZPUNKT WIEN 12, which was originally released as a double album on the most underground Wienese label MEGO. Remastered, this today a classical minimalistic techno recording has been made in a 12th district in Wien by ELIN, whom you may know from his previous project Auto Repeat." Ptuch (Russia)
"Specialist's corner: noise, noise, noise. The same OR has put out "SPL" by MAZK. MAZK is a new formation consisting of MERZBOW's Masami Akita and a Tokyo resident Zbigniew Karkowski, who is also known for his earlier work with The Hafler Trio and Phauss. This release contains 3 tracks recorded at ICC/NTT studio in Tokyo and is limited to 1000 copies." Ptuch (Russia)
"The sound of hissing, aching, electronics dominate the long tracks on this disc. By being recorded (or perhaps just mastered) at lower volumes this can escape the harsh noise tag, but by no means is it an easy listen- perhaps one might say that the muffled sound makes it even harder to get a grasp on, as the absence of all-out distortion makes Masami's familiar tactics of physical tape recorder abuse all too obvious. Mostly this sounds like slightly cleaned up, "chilled out" remixes of old Masami tapes. Still ends up sounding as messy as the best Merzbow work. Immaculately packaged in a clear jewel case and not much else- outstanding presentation is pretty standard for the Ash / Tray / Or family of labels by now." Angbase (net)
"Of course Minidisc is another attempt to exploit the market of digitalia, after CD, DAT, DCC and of course it has added some gadgets: you can have many more track numbers on a disc, it's easier to use in loop mode, or shuffle the information. Therefore I doubt whether many people who actually own a minidisc player will have it hooked in their home stereo system, or packed next to their records for tonight's DJ set... Nevertheless this is the first official independent minidisc only release (and I'm sure it will be bootlegged to CDR by those who think that the format is just a waste of money)(Yep, you're right there, Franky - MP), and it's not hand copied, but factory manufactured. Gescom, as we all know, is one of the alter ego's of those very intelligent technoids Autechre (my favorite in this field). So far I've heard the odd piece, and a dancy 12", but this is altogether something different. The 88 tracks are quite short, and very noisy. Occasionally it hints at something, that may be a beat... but it's rare. Knowing that this is released by OR, we are not suprised it sounds like Farmers Manual or Pita - the Viennese abuser of digital media. Of course I tried looping some tracks (as the minidisc is better capable of performing that than the CD) and it worked fine. No doubt this minidisc will appeal to the adventurous DJs (I'm not) and that bootleg copies will be made to CDR (the other exciting new medium) for home consuming (Right again, Franky _MP). If the shuffle modes of previous CD's by Jos Smolders, Farmers Manual or Otomo Yoshide appealed to you, then this is another treasure-trove of sounds. " VITAL (The Netherlands)
"Autechre have a second album out this month, this time in their Gescom guise, and it's definitely the better release. As it's only available on MiniDisc, Autechre/Gescom completists will have to shell out for a MiniDisc player, too, if they want to hear it. Gescom are undoubtedly aware of the MiniDisc 'wow' factors - like the title scrolling across the LED screen while the track is playing; what next, bouncing ball singalong texts? - but they've also investigated how the MD's digital compression of information might affect the sound. You don't need to know the psychoacoustics of the thing to enjoy it, though. If some of the disc's 45 tracks (spread over 88 cue points) are little more than spare parts from the Autechre toolkit, parts of MiniDisc are as good as anything they've done: the blue hour meditations of "Shoegazer" and "Dan Dan Dan"; the compacted perforations of "Is We" and "Vermin"; the envelope folds and sugar twists of "Wab Wat" and "Squashed To Pureness". A consistently astounding range of effects, treatments and transformations here give Gescom a leg up into the realm of such studio alchemists as Coil or Luc Ferrari." The Wire (UK)
When Sony invented the MiniDisc, they probably didn`t envisage a couple of Manchester's finest noise sculptors messing around with the parameters of their shiny new technology in quite this way. Officially recognised as the first Mini-Disc-only release, this MD was released back at the dawn of consumer magneto-optical recordable media - all of two years ago now. As the Twenty-first Century shuffles into global (sub)consciousness, it does now look like MD may replace the clunky Compact Cassette after all - or until the next MPEG/DVD/crystal format appears on the market. Anyone care to recall the rich mans eight track tape, or the DCC?
What Gescom (Messers. Booth & Brown of Autechre) chose to do with the new format was not only take the limits of the compression standard of the MiniDisc as a limiting restriction, but also to make use of one of the few advantages this technology has over CD-Recordable apart from size. This lies in the read buffer, which means that when set to shuffle play a MiniDisc doesn`t skip with a noticable gap as a CD can do. Minidisc is loaded with 88 tracks of aural detritus of fairly trebly kind to suit the compression standards, designed to be played back randomly. The result resembles something akin to semi-programmed Free Noise, or a Techno take on Systems music, where the rules are a scheme for a score rather than being laid out as a series of notes. Regurgitating bursts of noise, tape rewinds, avant-skiffy Electronica and the occasional burst of overdriven HipHop breaks provide the raw material for a not-quite endless set of atonal configurations. Most people who have MiniDisc players thus far seem to favour the portable variety, so this disc is hopefully more listened to on the bus or street than at home from the settled comfort of an armchair, where experience shows its admirable suitability for meshing into the background atmospherics.
Like other discs suggested for shuffle play - Otomo Yoshihide's The Night Before the Death Of The Sampling Virus or Kaffe Matthews' CD Bea spring to mind - MiniDisc can spring some foruitous surprises on the listener, as the random cut`n`paste effects bring the Beats' tape-loop experiments into a particular digital format. Of course, CDs do allow for multiple random play on multi-disc players; but MD rubs those little gaps away! -Freq1C- (Net)
only3cd [CD format, released November 2006]
Gescom, in whatever shape or form
they take, have always caused a stir in the electronic music community. Classic
electronic records, like Keynell and
SKA002, were the cornerstones of the 90’s electronica movement. The collective
of artists released on a series of labels, such as Source, Skam and OR. It
is the last of these imprints that caused perhaps the greatest interest among
many listeners, for it was on OR that the Gescom MiniDisc was released. This
MD only project was the brain child of Alan Booth, Sean Brown (Autechre) and
Russell Haswell and was first released in 1998 and heralded by Alan Philips
of Sony Software, featured on the CD's artwork, as the “first ever minidisc
only release”. It was re-issued due to popular demand in 2001, but still
on the micro media. Now, after five years of interest and high eBay sales,
the Gescom MiniDisc, ironically, has been re-released for a third time, but
now on the much more universal CD format.
The Gescom MiniDisc project was emblematic of the media on which it was first issued. The concept behind the release could not be accomplished on vinyl, and the minidisc was a new, futuristic means of recording. The idea behind the release was that the album would forever be changing, morphing, transforming; that the composition would never be the same. The album was broken, shattered, into shard like tracks, over eighty in total. The concept was that the minidisc was to be played on random. The bite size tracks, some seconds long and others minutes, would mould together, glitch meshing with string, snare mingling with bass, noise joining with silence. The listener’s audio equipment would not so much play the music, but create the music. But did Gescom succeed in their admirable idea, or was this audio project too difficult to fully accomplish?
The Gescom MiniDisc was a winner of the Prix Ars Electronica award, but is that enough to go on? The album, or experiment, still sounds quite fresh, but does this mean that Gescom achieved their experimental aims? In many respects, the threesome did succeed with the minidisc release. The album was as much about pushing the capabilities of the ATRAC compression system as it was a sonic excursion. The album is complex, bordering on difficult. The sounds are harsh, sometimes almost too aggressive. The notion of the album constantly shifting, changing, being born again, all through the shuffle button is a novel and clever concept, but one that could never be truly achieved due to play delay. When listening to the album on random, the brief interludes of silence between tracks lead to a lack of consistency and continuity, resulting in the listener being wrenched out of the audio merging experiment and being reminded of the tracks' individuality. On this release, Gescom have left behind the melodics of Keynell or other releases and have moved more into noise. Depending on the listener’s musical preference this may be a good thing, but for this reviewer the MiniDisc release holds up poorly in light of other Gescom material.
The Gescom MiniDisc, at its release in 1998, was a true piece of electronic experimentation. Perhaps the tracks were not that nice, per say, but they did have a raw, testing element to them. The MD only project pushed technology with only the power of music to fuel it. The re-issue of the Minidisc release on CD seems to dilute what the Minidisc was, a musical trial, a stressing of sound, and an audio/media endurance test. A re-issue on CD does not fit with what the 1998 release was trying to do. However, the MD has now sadly died, and perhaps this does warrant a re-release of the material on compact disc. Now it is the CD player, and not the MD unit, that is the presenter of the music. There is an aspect of the tragic in this. The Gescom MiniDisc was released as a minidisc, not a CD. But, the minidisc, as a media form, failed whilst it's five inch competitor flourished. One truly positive thing to say about the Gescom MiniDisc (now on CD ) is that its musical content can never be fully reviewed, as the idea behind the project was to tear consistency asunder, to trample on sequence, and deny the listener continuity. On every listen, the tracks are different as they are in a different order. The tracks might not fit together very well. Square music may be bludgeoned into circular holes, but they are made to fit through the ice like tyranny of technology.
The one thing the listener must keep in mind when critiquing the Gescom experiment is that this album was not about melodics or harmonies, but about testing sound. In this respect the Gescom MiniDisc is a resounding success. Igloo (USA)
"Two CD's for the price of one; at least for the first thousand purchasers. Included with this studio CD is a live disc with two tracks. The press release (but not the packaging) suggest that listeners use the Random/Shuffle knob on their players to get the most out of the 'dead' (studio) CD, which has 60 tracks and certainly benefits from this instruction. I have listened to it a few times in as a linear composition, and must say that I really like the way it starts off, dragging itself, staggering, into unholy life. However, I found that it lacked the structural surprises of earlier FM stuff, when played from top to bottom, and it certainly works best by following the user's instructions once the beats drop in. Random/Shuffle generates a wild hysteria which I think is synonymous with FarmersManual music. As always, it's the crushed rhythm patterns that make this music such a pleasure, plus seeing the horrified expression on your best chum's face when his speakers rupture and disembowel themselves through the bass ports like so many Ebola victims. It's a bit like connecting two power cables to the same machine. Lovely, crunchy, over-excited bursts of unrestrained machines enjoying the pain being inflicted on them. Occasionally I had the feeling I was listening to the Residents after they had taken the wrong kind of drugs, or perhaps the TeleTubbies when they've had theirs taken away from them. The 'live' CD contains two tracks, which consist of masses of digital stretches layered over each other and which come across more as an electro-acoustic exercise in demolition with less attention paid to the beats. Well worth getting and shuffling loud." VITAL (The Netherlands)
"Oeuvre experimentale aux sonorites etranges Explorers_we livre une musique comme en perpetuelle expansion. Mixe de facon a ce que le volume augmente sur la longueur de la piece, l'auditeur navigue par paliers durant ce periple de soixante minutes. D'une facture plutot ambiente au debut, des rythmes s'agglutinent sur des arrangements sonores de plus en plus complexes, pour exploser enfin en bruit pur. Farmers Manual deploie un panorama sonore eclectique puise dans l'etendue des possibles de la musique electronique." Art Zero (France)
"Explorers_We, the third disc by the ever eccentric Farmers Manual, is about as strange as they come. Consisting of one constantly changing track with 60 PQ start points, Explorers_We begins with several minutes of barely audible white noise interspersed with shards of panned electronic bubbling in and out of the mix. Slowly and very deliberately the piece evolves through a series of miniature movements. Quirky, fragmented electronic rhythms rise and abruptly fade into a wash of electronic gurgling and scatter show analogue vomit. Like the work of Disinformation, this stuff is completely out of the realm of the mainstream and will appeal only to those interested in very experimental music, but given the proper time and attention, listeners will find much depth here. Indeed, Farmers Manual creates complex, often humorous sound collages of a most challenging unpredictable nature." Under the Volcano (USA)
"Care to have your short-term memory completely and utterly fucked with without the aid of mind-bending chemicals?? Keep reading... Having completely severed themselves from the usual standards of 'song structure' it seems, the infamous art-meets-music-meets-performance- meets-psycho-analysis collective from Austria known as Farmers Manual are at it again -- armed with a team of powerbooks, some messed up heads, a lot of free (inebriated?) time, and a flurry of off-the-wall aural conceptualizations that are about as clear as a murky day on the Irish Sea. It is no mystery that these boys are separating themselves from everything, but it seems they are taking off in directions far from earlier FM material as well -- 'exploring' sound or the limitations of the recorded medium, I suppose. While the Fsck (a Tray release -- all 99 tracks worth!) album was one of the wildest sonic installations of 1997 with its mangled, mashed-up, drum and bass complexion -- it marked a considerable departure from the lo-fi-yet-palpabale days of No Backup and Does Not Compute. The latest FM album, Explorers_We, however, sets the stage for a completely random sound environment with 60 one-minute tracks. Listen in order if you like, but this is a CD built with random play mode in mind. According to FM and the Or imprint (Touch's latest off-kilter recording label -- soon to feature the ever-awaited Gescom MiniDisc release), this is simply a 1-track, 60 minute experience which -- played randomly -- allows for 60! possibilities or (for those not quite up to speed with their rapid factorial calculations) 8.32x10 to 81st power possibilities. Let's just say that...ummm, that is a lot of possibilities. But what does it sound like? Well, I do not think I have to go out on limb by saying that this is easily some of the most 'removed music' (if you can call it music) from the norm that you may hear in 1998. Thoroughly deconstructionist and as random as finding the $100 million lottery winner. Even the music contained within each 1-minute sector seems completely random if there is any noise to the 'track' whatsoever -- the disc has its share of silence and distinct voids. Of course, should you (get lucky) and hear a few crunchy,warped-out, beatcrazy whirligigs in a row -- you might say this sounds like Autechre (a la Cichlisuite) with a severe stutter. And even that may be a rather extreme comparison -- at no continuous 10 second interval is this disc ever sounding completely like Autechre -- there's simply too much mutilation going on. Further keywords to consider: splintered, fractured, refractured, beheaded, bent, illogical (rather obvious keyword), enclosed, paved, static, throbbing, cavernous, cacophonous, channel-surfed, screaming, subliminal (?),attention-keeping. The first 1000 copies of this release also come with a bonus live disc ('cd live' as opposed to 'cd dead' aka Explorers_We) which contains two excerpted cuts recorded from autumn 97. The first, 'recorded on the boat', is a 36 minute piece that moves from the slow, wave-forming sounds of a digital ocean (wow -- that's almost logical) to robots doing battle in a Tekken video game to a team of locusts debating which backyard has the best plant life to the sounds of an oldskool printing press gone haywire. The second, 'recorded outdoors' sounds like Funkst*rung trying to break out of its cocoon while the wind keeps knocking about in the distance. Not that unlike one of those extremely abstract contributions to the Solar 2 compilation, perhaps -- the second track stutters and stretches and sludges forward ever-so-slightly, if at all. Again, this is music completely different from Fsck and releases prior. Overall, I would have to say that this outfit is becoming tougher and tougher to get a grip on, but in all honesty -- I am thoroughly enjoying the 'randomness factor' of Explorers_We, making for a much more stimulating listening experience than Fsck, for example. From the earlier (almost Skam-esque) material to the wild rambunction of Fsck to this -- they're getting more minimal by the nanosecond it seems. At this rate -- I'd say their next release may only be a few clicks and scrapes spread out over 200 tracks! Hell, in a few years we'll be listening to 60 minutes of silence spread out over 999 tracks(!) -- ok, I'm getting carried away here. Is this all just a bunch of discombobulated sonic drivel? Maybe for the short-attention-spanned -- yes. But for minds that are up the challenge, this is a rather historical outing for experimental sound." Internet
"Dance music for the clinically insane. This is experimentation of such mad extremes that you sometimes wonder why other lesser people in the field are even bothering. War Arrow just heard it and sat here transfixed, delighting in the fact that 'everything was going completely wrong' and that it was virtually impossible to connect the machine-driven illogical noises with anything human beings might do. It reminded him of the qualities he always admired in favourite industrial music. Personally I love every minute of it, and I like the way Farmers Manual can still annoy some people who consider themselves broadminded musically, yet they will lose patience after only a few minutes with what they hear as aimless and formless self-indulgence. Why not simply surrender to the outrageous wit and be entertained by the sheer daringness of the deranged adventures here catalogued? On the other hand, it's not hard to see why this might be construed as somehow alienating. As suggested above, its inhuman; at no point does this music ever resemble anything like the sound of a drum or programmed bass or even a comforting piano sample. Instead, rhythms (of a sort, at any rate) are generated from weird loops, or volume knobs applied to amplifier hum, skipping CDs, and great gobs of deadly reverb and echo applied like fertiliser with fiendish glee by the Farmers boys. Verily, it seems like every electronic available to the modern music-maker becomes a plaything for mischief in their hands - all part of the gigantic toy train-set that must be wrecked. The cumulative result of this is frigtening - it will undoubtedly warp many a young mind. It is a Chinese puzzle of unfathomable, evil, random-generated nonsense which strands the hapless listener in the furthest reaches of the Back of Beyond. Just right for a night of 'You Call That Music?!' with the Radio 3 Mixing It boys. A double CD set, of which Explorers_We has been embedded with 60 index points; if you have a random-play facility you can take part in the general insanity by making even more chaos from the debris. The 2nd live disc comprises two recordings from some obscure festivals in Europe, described as 'computer mediated... live Jam human triggered parameter changes'. All I can say is I'm surprised they got away with doing it in a public place without being lynched, but then its comforting for me to hear such far-flung eccentricity thriving in a world where the Normals are gaining more ground every day."The Sound Projector (UK)
"Austrian soundscapers Farmers Manual have evolved a sound of such delirious intensity and refreshing originality that listeners are not so much surfing on sinewaves as plunged into a state of total immersion. Few of their contemporaries are able to achieve such a potent seduction: Pan Sonic and ELpH, perhaps, or even early Boyd Rice. If cerebral aridity is generally perceived as a defining characteristic of computer generated sound, then Farmers Manual provide incontrovertible evidence to the contrary. Seeing them live recently I was struck by the tremendous physical presence of their sound. Explorers_We demonstrates they can pull the same thing off in the studio. A single hour-long track is divided into 60 PQ start points, and listening in shuffle mode is recommended. What emerges is a montage of fractured, febrile rhythms intercut with bursts of searing noise and disembodied voices, which fuse into a rich and radical sonology. The first 1000 copies contain a second CD of live recordings, containing two lengthy pieces that further illustrate Farmers Manual's idiosyncratic methodology. Their throbbing, pulsing, crackling structures are possessed of an intoxicating, and at times almost incoherent, power that testifies to a creativity far in advance of the over-hyped doyens of new Electronica." The Wire (UK)
"The unsettling noise of everyday life stripped of its context and logic. Explorers_We is a single track broken up into 60 one-minute segments, allowing for creative programming of the CD player or, at least, playful use of the 'random' or 'shuffle' button to unleash different permutations. Sounds utilized by Farmers Manual seem to include computer games, damaged speakers, fragments of speech and violins: it's easy to imagine these sounds being appropriated as source fodder for an Autechre-like remix: if i had time, I'd probably edit down these segments into my own perfect 10-minute track, but I'm unlikely to play Explorers_We in its entirety again. Still, despite repeated plays, I have little idea waht - if anything - Farmers Manual are trying to articulate. Initial copies of Explorers_We also feature an astonishing two-track live disc. This is music that sounds like the industrial workplace, glitches of static and unplaceable electronic noise that leave you edgy and agitated. Some of it is brilliant; some of it is unlistenable. Fans of static may want to check out Pole's releases on Kill Records first, though." Alternative Press (USA)
"Farmers Manual present their esoteric exercises on the new record called "Explorers_We". In addition to the 60 (!) tracks or buzzing, cracking and beeping there's a free CD with 2 (!) tracks of buzzing, cracking and beeping (again). Pop-music for the year 4000." Ptuch (Russia)
"Farmer's Manual (sic) take listeners on an exploration of unfamiliar sounds. Explorers_We begins slowly with the white noise of machinery humming, adding fans whirring, what might be a vacuum cleaner, and techno playing in another room. The volume and dischord rises throughout the hour, divided arbitrarily into sixty tracks. The white noise builds with feedback and interference. Soon an off-kilter beat appears over a striated soundscape, followed by pulses like the swish of a brush. The record has built up the expectation that no sound will be recognizable, so it comes as a surprise when track 19 introduces a relatively familiar techno beat, admittedly generated from bizarre sound samples. For noise aficionados, Farmer's Manual (sic) offer a more diverse palette than the usual steady stream of white noise. By track 27, the volume and discord has built to industrial noise band levels - Merzbow-style white noise at attack force, with strangulated cymbals and abbreviated percussion. The searing high frequency of track 37 sand papers the ear drums, mutating into pendulum beats and pops. Explorers_We is like tuning into radio emissions from another planet." Cover (USA)
"Explorers indeed. Farmers Manual continue their tireless trek into uncharted sonic territories on their latest release, Explorers_We, the group's third full-length CD. (A limited number also came bundled with a bonus disc containing a pair of live sets recorded in 1997.) Explorers' studio disc's, amusingly subtitled Dead to the live disc's Live, proves to be some of the finest material yet to appear from the amorphous Austrian collective of multimedia artists, DJs, and digital miscreants. I've heard rumors that the 60 tracks, each approximately one minute in length, are meant to be played randomly in shuffle mode, but after a number of listens through in numerical track sequence, I find it hard to believe that it would be as impressive in a jumbled state. There is enough overlap between individual tracks to suggest that this is meant to be a continuous journey, with the track numbers amounting to nothing more than kilometer markers. The exploring gets off to a slow start -- for the first six minutes or so we're given nothing more than studio ambiance. Once the wheels start turning, however, Farmers Manual treat us to some compelling assemblages. I find it fascinating that such a volume of unique sounds and textures can be strung together, invariably without detectable rhythm, to form an unfalteringly engaging hour-long voyage. It's truly a testament to the sensibilities of the group; the work strikes a wonderful balance between experimentalism and familiarity, never remaining too concrete nor too musical for any stretch of time. The bonus disc's live sets are not nearly as tightly constructed, tending to become a bit confused and jumbled. Nevertheless, they contain some fantastic moments, and can certainly be appreciated on a timbral level. A warning: this is no easy-listening fare. Give Explorers_We two or three good, close listens before deciding to pitch it for coaster fodder. It's easy to be overwhelmed by the incredible mass of detail presented here -- a result of the sort of microcomposing that digital equipment allows for -- so a gradual familiarity with the terrain will make this splendid disc more than worth the trip. Rating: 9.02" Urban Sounds (USA.net)
"Daniel Menche, industrial noise wunderkind, moves into new terrain on his latest CD. Gone (at least for these 60 minutes) are the blasts of creeping noise, and introduced is the field of a heart beat (of course one of the truest forms of rhythmical music - for those who thought Or was to be a dance music label). There is a lot of soft crackling going on, contact microphones are put to full use and played loud the physical experience is most definitely there. And it's as physical for you as it is for Daniel. He rubs the mikes against his body and generates a piece which is solid and organic. This is ambience, but one that is loaded with power. Probably his most sophisticated and best work to date." VITAl (The Netherlands)
"You'll have to look long and hard for this one, and you should be certain it's your bag before you do. Daniel makes highly experimental electronic stuff best described as decaying sonic weirdness. Some tracks are hung around a simple kick-drum pattern, emphasising the extraordinary noises which will fill the rest of your speakers." Bizarre (UK)
It's probably misleading to mention genre at all, however, since fsck (like the group's other recordings) bears really only a superficial resemblance to the focus of its lampoons: this music comes literally nowhere near either the dancefloor or the laboratory, ditching both lycra and whitecoat for a naked run through suburban shopping malls or luxury car dealerships. In other words, it doesn't make much musical sense at all, which is also part of its appeal; fsck, while not Mego product proper (it was released on Ash International sublabelTray), is just as wily and perturbed as the group's debut, No Backup, and will appeal to fans of that recording regardless of the fact the two albums' points of departure lie often chasms apart. Oh, and the last 82 tracks (most capping at 2-3 seconds) resemble something like the dying throws of a beyond-useless dot matrix printer, with the final five minutes a skipping choke of fuzz and line noise. Par for the course, then. Rating: 7.5" Urbansounds (US.net)
"Despite suggestions that Shirt Trax is a project somehow affiliated to Gescom or Boards of Canada, it is actually the work of Mark Fell and Jezz Potter. Mark is also one half of the Brilliant SND project who have released material on their own, eponymous label, as well as Mille Plateaux.
Shirt Trax Shirt Trax is a stripped down electronic affair. Blips and bleeps which have been placed in seemingly random sequencing programmes but which sometimes grow into delicately structured works of beauty. Recommended." Pelican Neck (USA)
"The future of dance music has already started - we've been reporting on this before. We call it Microwave, because of all the microscopic beats, minimal changes et all. The entrepeneurs behind OR do not refer to this... Shirt Trax are among the microwavers. It's one half of SND and one DJ. Their first CD is very long - the entire length is used. That is a pity, because it's a strong album, but there are two lengthy tracks which could have used a cut. Then a shorter CD of 50 minutes of very strong material would have remained. This is were industrial and dance meet. Chopped up beats, pasted with cracks, pops, hiss and noise, vividly mixed with electronica and sampled - crashed down on a laptop no doubt - if you were not in Mego's alley already, then it's the next corner. If SND was too normal for you (hey, that can be!), and you are looking for something more wild, Shirt Trax is there for you." VITAL (The Netherlands)
"Maybe an excerpt of Karkowski/Van der Heide's next CDR 'Voltage' (on Bake Records) can be used on the new compilation by OR. 'Voltage' is entirely made with sounds from a computer - rather then with a computer and would be something strange, but appropriate in the compilation. Ever since the invention of computers, they have been used in music. Cage used the calculator to set his random numbers for instance. Midi controllers came, samplers and now harddisc recording - in every form of modern music the computer is the main core of instrument (I'm sorry for those who like to believe that their rock band is strictly analog - wake up!). The 'OR Some Computer Music' is a compilation CD and booklet, but it's presented as a magazine. Well, that is disputable. The booklet gives nice biographies and information about the pieces, but is it a magazine? Not that it really matters. The old and young generations meet here. There is no hierarchy. They sit along side as friends. CD Slopper (a duo with Hecker) write their own software and represent the young ones. Trevor Wishart is some 30 years older and his long piece 'Fabulous Paris' is a more conventional work. Sounds roll over like we've heard from other work in this field, yet his work is quite nice. The hectic of a big city, actually compiled from a lot of sounds from big cities, is well captured. Aphex Twin is the big catch here and his piece is simply beautiful. Taking the serious avant-garde approach, but in a rather percussive way. The more noisy bits are from Kevin Drumm, but his collaged sounds stay on the good edge - it doesn't get out of control. General Magic speak with computer voice and hectic rhythms. Then there are five relatively short tracks by one Steven Travis Pope. They belong together and were started years ago, but apparently only recently finished. Very austere pieces of electronic (unrecognizable voices) and spoken word. Very nice. Ubik was not for me. Sampled rambling and improv things on a guitar - mmmm. Mister Karkowski is of course also present, here in collaboration with Kasper T. Toeplitz. Much like his work Datastream, everything glitches darky and is kinda (way too dark of course) ambient. The last noisy bit comes from Beautyon (whose claim to have recorded the loudest CD ever is not recognized by me) and is indeed very zero. In all a well succeeded compilation that could have been boring (given it's many serious successors), but now is a nice view. Hopefully something that lasts..." VITAL (The Netherlands)
"The large, LED-looking "1" screened onto the face of the first of the Or label1s issue-based series Or Some Computer Music underscores the quantum confusion at its core -- is it a magazine, or is it a CD? It1s certainly the latter, featuring the likes of Aphex Twin, Trevor Wishart, Beautyon, Kevin Drumm, General Magic, and Zbigniew Karkowski making a scholarly racket of their desktops. The presence of a proudly marketed "24-page booklet" is supposed to qualify it as the former, as well, but apart from Wishart1s notes on "Fabulous Paris" and all but the first few pages of Steven Travis Pope1s pitilessly detailed account of "Kombination XI," there's little here to advance the argument. So we're left with the music. It's an admirable collection of artists: a couple post-techno heads, a couple of the "old guys" -- even some artists (namely, Drumm and the James Plotkin-containing Ubik) not normally associated with digital music. And for the most part, the material lives up to the claims made for it by the title (say it with a British accent if you haven't got the joke yet). Aphex Twin's DSP bongos on "perc #6" are fun, and the bitwise chaos of Mego artists General Magic and cd_slopper (a.k.a. Hecker and Farmers Manual's Oswald Berthold) are suitably blustery. Wishart's epic stew of traffic reports, game show announcers, and FM tones successfully dodges its university roots by being both interesting to think about and interesting to listen to. The same can be said of oddball Steven Pope1s study for sound files (though he's based the whole thing on the work of an obscure German poet in case the absence of academia stereotypes was bringing you down). Kevin Drumm, known mostly for his tabletop guitar work, puts in one of the disc1s highpoints in "Feelin Hilarious" -- an austere clatter of metallic stuttering and stiff, sandpapered glitch that will make you fear for what Kevin might1ve come up with were hilarious the opposite of what he was feelin'. With all the ink spilling out over digital music of late, it's tempting to view the Or Some series as a bit of a cash-in. Tempting, except that the cultural transformations necessary to make "cashing in" on the popularity of something as resistant to casual regard as computer music are far too mind-boggling to consider. As it stands, the series could serve as a fine introductory vehicle for a range of digital aesthetes who might otherwise not find exposure beyond the thin, unforgiving walls of their bedrooms." Rating: 7 | Sean Cooper (Urban Sounds)
:awesome computer music:
Or Some Computer Music, Issue 1 is the debut issue of the first of a series of music releases that includes a booklet with artist info and/or pertinent (well, to somebody-it's an amusing mish-mash) information. Wrapped within the barbecued noise bookends of cd_slopper and Beautyon, highlights include Trevor Wishart's traffic jam on traffic radio upended by hiccuping, gurgling electronics that mock automotive movement (internet highway traffic) and into a variety of electronic disorders that always manage to captivate (wait for the primate rattle!) of "Fabulous Paris"; the insectile mutations and anxiety riddled ambience of Ubik's "Plex," ably assisted by avant-handyman on loan, guitarorrist James Plotkin; and a particularly elastic, percussive feast that stays low to the polished static ground, full of knob twisting fun, Aphex Twin's "Perc # 6." All tracks are exclusive and quite enjoyable. I look forward to the second issue, to hear what the computers (and artists) have to say next time around. (JC Smith )
Or Some Computer Music: Issue 1 introduces a new periodical series from the Or label, one of several mysterious enterprises operating from London's 13 Oswald Road. Essentially an update/expansion of Wergo's long-lived "Computer Music Currents" series, Or Some (say it fast; giggle; repeat) supplements its 73+-minutes of exclusive computer music contributions with a 24-page booklet designed in the scrappiest monochrome monitor-output style that modern desktop technology can buy. Paging through the text uncovers the occasional biographical or program note of value, but the documentation aspect of Or Some is either underdeveloped or, as in the case of Stephen Travis Pope's exhaustive entry, rather indulgent. It's not a fatal flaw, however, as the music culls from an intriguing cross-section of computer-music artists new and old and is often quite "orsome" indeed. Blink and you'll miss the opening bit of scrambled-byte GIGO by cd_slopper (Florian Hecker and Farmers Manual's Oswald Berthold). Mego associates General Magic and Irdial noisenik Beautyon later expound upon such data-crunching, laptop-jockeying concrète chaos to more satisfying effect. Sub-academic cult figure Trevor Wishart provides the disc's highlight with his 24-minute "Fabulous Paris," an idealized meta-megalopolis constructed from recordings of city sounds, television samples, and voices of historic import. This favorite concrète conceit (see also Jon Appleton's "Times Square Times Ten" or Pierre Henry's La Ville, Die Stadt) sounds fresh when realized with Wishart's customary humor and gently Surrealist flair. Aphex Twin's name will shift more units than Wishart's, though the peculiar syn-bongo filterings and DSP monkeyshines of "Perc #6" seem to catch Richard D. James basking somewhat lazily in Autechre's reflected light. Pope's contribution is a '98 revision of "Kombination XI Parts 1-6," his 1978 concrète-style realization of a Helmut Heissenbüttel poem. Though well interpreted and suitably ponderous, the piece feels like the sort of quaint, fussy academic exercise better suited to the Wergo series - especially when compared with the frayed tensile chatter and digital diffusion of Kevin Drumm's ultra-current "Feelin Hilarious" and Ubik's gushing torrent of sampled and profusely manipulated guitar. Zbigniew Karkowski and Kasper T. Toeplitz also circumvent any traces of empirical stodginess with their powerful, sustained sonic evocation of (super?)natural forces. If the quality established by Volume 1 remains a constant, and the compilers cast their nets wider to feature a more diverse selection of contributors (female and non-Western artists are particularly underrepresented here), these Or reports could serve as an indispensable digest of computer-music happenings within and without the halls of academia. (Motion)
OR Some Computer Music (OR ISSUE 1CD) is the London digi-disturbance label's issue-based series of 'audio magazines' which focuses on the rapidly expanding crop of desktop composers. Pulling from both sides of the academic-underground divide &endash; with a determined lean toward the latter &endash; the first issue packs 73 minutes of sonic pitch-weaving by the likes of Aphex Twin, Trevor Wishart, CD_Slopper, Kevin Drumm, Beautyon, Zbigniew Karkowski and Ramon Bauer, among others. But even though it has already shaped into a sort of admirably absurdist cross between Mego and INA-GRM, it's difficult to pin down what OR stands for, other than a purposefully undefined experimentalism at the level of corrupted machines. OR Some &endash; terrible pun- at least attempts to organise things. Aphex Twin is this issue's big attraction. The massively processed bongo sequences layered throughout his "perc # 6" actually amount to some of the disc's most interesting, if somewhat purposeless moments. The same goes for Ubik's "Plex", which is otherwise an exhilarating display of the seductive glory of computer processing. One of the set's least likely contributions comes from Chicago-based tabletop guitarist Kevin Drumm, who leaves all trace of his acoustic work beside the console on "Feelin' Hilarious". The track staggers a barrage of of heavily processed clacks and static against furious cycles of metallic clatter. As with much of the material collected here, the results are strangely gratifying once you get past the erratic syntax. (The Wire)
The Or Some Computer Music series combines a CD of exclusive recordings with a detailed 24 page booklet on the material therein. If Issue 1 is any indication, this is set to be a truly groundbreaking window into a form of music many know little or nothing about. The main problem associated with more experimental electronic music is that it becomes a case of "for those who know", that is, the average consumer just wouldn't have a link to move from the more known electronic acts of today into something on the opposite edge of the spectrum. Whether a conscious decision or not, Issue 1 nabs Aphex Twin to contribute a piece, and this type of 'name' artist may be the bridge needed to turn a few ears to this installment. Other contributions include UK's Beautyon (known to some for his material on the Irdial label) and Trevor Wishart, CD_Slopper, General Magic and Ubik (representing Germany and Austria), the Americans Kevin Drumm and Stephen Travis Pope, and Zbigniew Karkowski and Kaspar T. Toeplitz (declared world travellers with no set home). Though all tracks are made possible through computer-related processes, there is a great variety in the sounds produced. CD_Slopper and Beautyon unveil brief blasts of digital angst, Ubik's 'Plex' is a live performance from the Ars Electronica Festival of 1997 with James Plotkin's involvement. These shorter works are centered around the disc's longest piece, a 6 part cycle from Pope composed in 1978, realized in '88, and revised in '98, that is comprised of heavily manipulated voice samples. The exhaustive liner notes include artist bios, reflection, notes, and specifics on the pieces themselves. Whether you're familiar with this style or looking for new sonic challenges and want to explore the further reaches of electronic sound, this is a compilation you owe it to yourself to investigate. (Weelky Dig)
This is the debut issue of the first of a series of music releases that includes a booklet with artist info and/or pertinent (well, to somebody, it's an amusing mish-mash) information. Wrapped within the barbecue noise bookends of cd_slopper and Beautyon, highlights include Trevor Wishart's traffic jam on traffic radio upended by hiccuping, gurgling electronics that mock automotive movement (internet highway traffic) and into a variety of electronic disorders that always manage to captivate (wait for the primate rattle!) of "Fabulous Paris"; the insectile mutations and anxiety riddled ambience of Ubik's "Plex", ably assisted by avant-handyman on loan, guitarist James Plotkin; and a particularly elastic, percussive feast that stays low to the polished static ground, full of knob twisting fun, Aphex twin's "Perc # 6". All tracks are exclusive and quite enjoyable. I look forward to the second issue, to hear what the computers (and artists) have to say next time around. (JC Smith, Outburn)
From the much respected folks at Touch/Ash[RIP]/OR comes the first in a series of releases exploring computer music. Given that most every genre of music being released today has somehow been manipulated by computers, this concept might not carry much weight. However, the variety of artists found here, and the depth of technique in which each artist works, makes OrSome a very worthwhile venture. Those familiar with the (very digital) MEGO label in Vienna will be happy to see contributions by General magic and cd_slopper (Hecker). Also appearing are Kevin Drumm, Stephen Travis Pope, Beautyon, Trevor Wishart, Ubik, Z. Karkowski and K. Toeplitz. Yet by far the most interesting contribution comes from Richard James (Aphex Twin) who has seemingly distanced himself from the conceptual music scene of post-rave Europe. The range of audio found here, along with the most interesting 24-page insert, makes this release carry itself. (XLR8R)
The presence of an Aphex twin track on this disc suggests that some of the old boundaries are breaking down, but another long work "Kombination X1 Parts 1-6" by Stephen Travis Pope, is a graphic reminder that traditional success for a computer musician has always had more to do with an impressive agenda than a compelling result. Pope's manipulations of human speech are moderately interesting and his poetic text is worthy, but after reading his five pages of "Realization Notes" and then listening to the work, it's clear that the ends do not justify the means.
By contrast, Aphex Twin says nothing at all about his five-minute piece, "perc #6", but it commands immediate attention and appeals on many levels. It's funky, weird, witty and above all, entertaining. This collection's real tour de force, though, is Trevor Wishart's "Fabulous Paris". A sprawling 25-minute collage of traffic reports, traffic noise, TV-game-show dialogue and celebrity voices, all stitched together with ominous drones and heavily processed electronic chatter. It is an amazingly evocative immersion into contemporary Western culture. Wishat wisely refrains from turning his work into a one-dimensional nightmare vision: instead, as he comments, this is "the mysterious city of our dreams, hopes and fears". Consequently, the effect on the receptive listener will likely hover between exhilaration and terror. Remaining pieces on the CD range from nondescript (or unpleasant) noises to moderately engaging organizations of computer-generated sounds ("Plex" by Ubik - who include James Plotkin - is pretty cool). But Aphex twin and Wishart are the clear standouts. (Alternative Press)
The evaluation of electronic music over the past 10 years has witnessed the emergence of two explicitly different focal points in musical construction, the first being music created solely for the dancefloor, and the second being music not suitable for the dancefloor. To the open mind which appreciates the magic that is created, neither focal point takes precedence over the other if one simply examines and understands the roots and reasons why the architecture of the music differs so greatly.
A relatively new UK-based compilation series entitled Some Computer Music Volume 1 on the OR label has arisen to the forefront of minimalist electronic experimentalism featuring such artists as Aphex Twin, Beautyon, cd_slopper, General Magic, Kevin Drumm, Stephen Travis Pope, Trevor Wishart, Ubik, Zbigniew Karkowski and Kaspar T Toeplitz. And if the only name you recognise was AFX Twin then I'm here for a quick tutorial on music that will clear the dancefloor, alienate your roommate, and usher in a general chaos that may result in enhanced gray matter growth.
What appears on this album are 14 extremely cerebral, stimulating, and perception-twisting tracks unlike anything on earth you've ever heard. The continuity and ingenuity of the music literally is computer-based, reminiscent of the days when we were so happy to use those 5" floppy discs. To accurately characterize the music, imagine the following. Take an EBN distress signal. Throw in some whacked out, vintage German spoken tech-lingo. Mix it with the sounds of a Locust infestation, tying off the mix with some peripheral ambient atmospherics and chanting Banshees. And you'll have the basic insight into the realm where these producers play and call home. (Alkemist, Boston's Weekly Dig)
This novel compilation contains exclusive tracks from computer musicians ranging from Aphex Twin to Trevor Wishart. It is this coming together of the wide spectrum of approaches to computer-based music that makes this such a refreshing mix. While Wishart's intense 'Fabulous Paris' is far from his best work, it sits comfortably alongside some heavyweight electronica from Kevin Drumm and the Viennese duo Ubik who offer a live mix. Surprisingly, the Aphex's contribution sounds like he's had lessons with Wishart with his original digital sound processing routines.
The short first and last tracks both conceptualise the mediums they inhabit. Cd_slopper take a trip on noises in the machine while Beautyon does a good take on some actual computer audio - that lovely modern sound that finally gave computers their very own voice. Also in this category of comment on the medium is General Magic whose worrying words on technological processes are complemented by a track that reinforces the impoverished gestural surrogacy of sequencer music.
As is often the case in compilations those tracks with more programme notes and quieter sounds fare less favourably surrounded by hard-hitting tracks. This, however, is what keeps you going back to the CD: the different types of visceral electronic power that musicians have created with an ever-expanding range of computer tools. (Tom Wallace, Resonance)
[The User] above celebrates the physical nature of computer hardware. Here's another approach. The sound artists on this outstanding compilation turn themselves into virtual microprocessors, by absorbing huge tracts of found sounds and (through electro-acoustic methods) processing them in much the same way as a computer would: at hyper-speed, mechanically, and without discrimination. It's an exhilarating listen. In less than an hour, you can take a whirlwind space-ship tour of the entire planet. It can be a frightening snapshot of the hideous excesses of 20th century modern life today, but that's nothing; what's worse is the even more frightening visions of the future lying in wait for us all.
CD uses the methods of classical musique concrète - and gathers hours
of sampled tapes from real life. Mostly human voice samples, but also natural
and imaginary sounds, then proceeds to reprocess the tapes. All the composers
here do their reprocessing through computers or computer based methods, and
each achieve disturbing results in their own special way. Through reconstruction
of documentary sources, and transferring magnetic tape into digital bytes, tiny
fragments of future possibilities leak through onto the CD, and thence through
your speakers. The only drawback is how you interpret this information - it
won't help you win the National Lottery, but then it might give you the edge
your colleagues at work who are still living in the UK circa 1955.
There probably isn't anything very new about scrambling obtainable data to obtain a new spin on the present. If Nostradamus could have been bothered, he too might have used computers; all he effectively did was analyse and process the facts, moods and elements of his own time to discern a prototype for human behaviour. By restating these patterns in a certain way, he delivered plausible scenarios for the next thousand years, Actually they were completely implausible, and their appeal only arises from the threatening elements in selected verses that seem to refer to our own century, and these were mistranslated in the first place. So as for seeing the future - it's complete bunkum!
But this CD still contains a vast array of complex information, and because the sound-picture it presents is so hyper-busy and thrillingly intense, there's a sublime listening pleasure to be had from trying to listen to all of its corners simultaneously. For the most part, the trip is extremely loud and terror-inducing, with the exception of one long conceptual quiet track with lots of disembodied voices.
From the label OR, this compilation brings together people from the world of academic composition, such as Trevor Wishart and Stephen Travis Pope, with avant-techno guys like General Magic and Aphex Twin. The booklet is packed with texts both readable and unreadable, screen shots from computer screens, and bewildering diagrams - plus paranoid-fuelled observations about the inexorable growth of city life, or the impact of automation on business and organisational structures. In this case the individual contributions are secondary to the whole effect of spinning the disc start to finish, edited together as a suite of ghastly visions of the whole state of the information-overloaded, fat and lazy world that prevails today. But no ironic images of baseball-cap wearing white trash gorged on MacDonalds fries; the substrata of moral decay is far more fascinating.
(The Sound Projector)
It's been quite a while since we saw a release on Or, one of the side labels
from Touch. Originally this CD was planned as a minidisc release, but apperentely
due to downloading music as MP3s that is no longer an interesting market. One
could see this compilation as a showcase of artists who previously released
full length CDs (and in Gescom's case a minidisc) on Or before. Featured on
Or are the more radical computer music people, working in various directions.
From the world of techno we have Farmers Manual, Shirt Trax and Gescom. Shirt
Trax, one half of SND and a DJ, have been quiet since the release of their 'Good
News About Space' (see Vital Weekly 193). Here they remix parts of that CD,
which seem to me to that the emphasis is making the whole thing more thinner
and more empty. Quite a step aside from their CD. Two new pieces by Gescom,
aka Autechre, which, me thinks, is the better side of Autechre. Quite some digital
distortion taking place on what was one an ambient kind of tune. Famers Manuel
has three studio pieces and one live piece. The latter is a microphone recording
in a bar in Sheffield, and we hear lots of audience talking, who don't seem
to be enjoying the music, to say the least. The short studio pieces are much
more interesting, blending ambient and noise in a fine way.
The other side of computer music represented on this disc is noise, here represented by the finest japanese ones, Incapacitants and Mazk (Masami Akita of Merzbow and Zbigniew Karkowski). The first one puts shortwave radio signals into their laptops and process their singing to such an extend that it is no longer recognizable. A fine minimal piece that is not as boring as my description may sound. Mazk sound very much alike Merzbow here: over the top noise, but it has to be said that Masami's working his noise act on a laptop is getting better and better. A nice, but maybe standard piece. The two odd balls here are Hecker and Francisco Lopez - maybe they represent the avant-garde side of computer music? It seems to me that Hecker's pieces have been conceived with a keen eye for a minidisc release: they are short and excellent to loop on the minidisc (whose loop quality works better then on a CD, sadly enough). Radical processing of unearthly sounds, which could easily fit the noise range aswell as the techno range of this compilation - depends on where you set your standards, I guess. Francisco Lopez's Untitled #101 is a long the lines of his La Selva CD. Insect calls at an audible level, which is a rather uncommon sort of Lopez piece. I really couldn't tell if it's a pity that it's not a minidisc - me, I prefer CDs anyway and this showcase of Or talent is a pretty good one. (FdW)