by Rafael González
On March 14th Pentiments label (http://pentiments.org/) is releasing The Viral Tempest by Joseph Nechvatal, a double vinyl LP, which will also be available in digital format on the label's Bandcamp page (https://pentiments.bandcamp.com/)
There are two suites, each of them occupying one of the discs of the edition. The audio on the first disk is made in collaboration with Andrew Deutsch: OrlandO et la tempête viral symphOny redux suite. It uses an anonymous reading of Virginia Woolf's Orlando as a type of sonic signature that a virus-modeled artificial life audio material (adjusted from the first movement of 2006 viral symphOny: the enthroning) reanimates. The second piece, pour finir avec le jugement de dieu viral symphOny plague, serves as a brother suite to the first and instead uses Antonin Artaud's recorded performance of his radio play To Have Done with the Judgement of God.
I have been able to listen to the work before its official release and I found it to be a fascinating and very compact work throughout, both sonically and visually. As previously mentioned, the pieces are based on voices (the reading of Virginia Woolf's novel Orlando and Artaud's radio performance), which are manipulated, cut and infected by the virus software and enveloped by electronic noise, sometimes very beautiful and quiet and other times like a real plague that advances, spreads and explodes. All of this is wrapped in a beautiful visual work or perhaps it is more correct to say that the audio is what surrounds Joseph Nechvatal's paintings. In fact Joseph Nechvatal held in 2020 an exhibition of his paintings at the Parisian art gallery Richard entitled Orlando et la tempête, whose catalog is included in this recording edition.
Since I started listening to these pieces, the drawings of neurons and the nervous system by the doctor and scientist Santiago Ramón y Cajal have come to mind, which are also of great beauty. The Viral Tempest has made my neurons send chemical and electrical signals of pleasure.
by Jacob DeRaadt
This is the kind of live noise sound (recorded at Moisturizer Gallery in Gainesville, Florida, on October 5, 2019) I can really appreciate, where textures and speaker crackling when a level maxes gives you the rush of being at the gig and feeling the live energy of the electrons around you frying.
As far as the nature of the textures presented over the course of 15 minutes, there’s glitching feedback seas punctuated with what sounds like circuit-bent electronics of Nicolas Collins and the tonal wandering exploration found in an old 60’s experimental electronic record aka tone generators and oscillators. There’s great movement between the transition between the opening harsher textures and the skittering test tones of the second section.
Then things start going into outer space. Movement slows down, with sounds evoking a mixture of Dream Machine strobes emptying the mind coupled with a car alarm and a robot from an old sci-fi flick. Nothing stays around too long texture wise, things keep shifting, moving into a dronier section of pulsating nothingness, which reminded me of some live Dead Machines shows. Some nice bass oscillator thumping dissolving into volcanic low-end drones.
True exploratory electronics of the crude and strange variety, a mixture of analog and digital synthesis with a unique voice and form. First new release from Andrew Chadwick’s Hymns label in quite some time. Snap up this 3”CDR from him or stream it on Bandcamp.
by Daevid Brock
Collision Stories is the San Francisco based quartet of Jorge Bachman, Bryan Day, Michael Gendreau, and Mason Jones. I’ve been a fan of Mason Jones since his SubArachnoid Space days. Bryan Day is a veteran experimental music maker and has released oodles of great recordings on his Public Eyesore label. Michael Gendreau dates back to the 1980s in Crawling With Tarts (duo with Suzanne Dycus) and probably loads of other projects I’m unaware of. Jorge Bachman is the one member who is new to me.
As a fan of both abstract sound constructions and wigged out psychedelic excursions, I enjoyed the morphing, mixing, and atom smashing of these realms that characterizes Avant L’Obscurité. The album was recorded during a pre pandemic January 2020 and consists of two side-long pieces (I have the LP).
Side A starts right off with a cacophony of high intensity, yet strangely carnivalesque delirium. It’s a lysergic cauldron of motor speedway, street corner organ grinder, gurgling lip smacks, windy drones, high tension wire unraveling, and other noisy and diddly effects. It’s a gripping roller coaster ride, though the music ebbs and flows, with relatively quieter passages that are propelled by mind-bending percussion patterns, searing, minimal synths drones, playfully zany keyboard melodies, alien insect swarms, and dashes of spectral Kosmiche. Side B expands on these themes, starting off with thudding percussion that penetrated my chest cavity, and a killer blend of intensely noisy chaos, whimsical effects, and meditative Kosmiche. But the mood again fluctuates between sonic assault and cosmically exploratory segments.
The Collision Stories Bandcamp page describes: ‘Instruments and sounds vary, including analog and digital synths, guitar, bass, drums, turntables, and homemade sound machines.’ Sounds like Avant L’Obscurité employs all of these and more.
Avant L’Obscurité is available for stream/download and on vinyl LP from:
by Daevid Brock
No, this is not some fancy schmancy reissue of Eskimo. ‘Revisited’ means I have given this classic a fresh spin after not hearing it for many years. I discovered The Residents in the early 80s when I spotted Fred Frith’s name on the back of the Commercial Album. It was their latest at the time, and after a couple spins I quickly scooped up the previous albums. The Residents were not only creating music like I had never heard before, but each album had its own identity. And the bands’ backstory schtick and eyeballed mystery surrounding their identity made them so much fun. I loved those early albums, but Eskimo would come to play a special role in the lifestyle I was living at the time.
Released in 1979, The Residents sought to… I’ll quote: “Recreate not only the Eskimo ceremonial music, but also a living context for its existence, in the form of Eskimo stories”. There’s more but that’s the nub of it. And, of course, this was all done with a singularly unique Residents spin on the idea. There are five titled tracks, but I have always experienced the album as one continuous piece.
The windswept opening, with its chants, hypnotic horn, and water splashing against the shore, makes me feel like I’m right there in the frozen tundra among the natives. When drums are introduced, they combine with the chants to create a reverent feel. Wistfully dreamy synth melodies are the song of the Eskimo, representing their lives and tales amidst hoots, cries, grunts, squalls, Eskimo language narrative and conversation, and more. A stringed instrument plucks a simple melody as the Eskimo minstrel sing- chants his song. The atmosphere is harshly cold and windy throughout, and the sense of isolation is palpable… all part and parcel of the severe environment the Eskimos live in.
The Residents did a magnificent job with the voices and chants, which are, in a way, the stars of the show. The percussion is impressive too. The Residents accomplished a lot with mostly voice, percussion, and effects, with the synths/keys playing a supporting role. The last several minutes of the album are the most purely ‘musical’ and it’s lovely.
I discovered The Residents at a time when I was working 80+ hours a week in restaurants, and I did this with few days off for about three years. My schedule shifted dramatically between days and nights and overlapping days and nights. Evenings meant getting off work around 5am, and when I got home the feeling of being completely exhausted yet still wound up made it difficult to get to sleep. My bed was a mattress on the floor and my stereo and speakers were on the floor at the foot of the bed. Many a night I would put on Eskimo when I went to bed because for me it was like New Age music (‘New Age’ being a trendy genre of music at the time). Eskimo lulled and relaxed me, and most of the time I thankfully managed to drift off before whichever side I was playing was over.
A roommate who worked in the same restaurants had a hammock over his bed. He would lie in it playing an album titled Wood Masted Sailboat, which consisted of a boat bumping against a dock in gently splashing water, over two sides of the LP. One day I handed him Eskimo and suggested he give it a try. 15 minutes later he brought it back with a ‘You gotta be kidding’ smirk on his face. In 2021 I find this album as fresh and exciting as I did 40 years ago.
by Daevid Brock
This is a new C60 split cassette from two Dayton, Ohio bands. Side A features Smiffmaff & The Salesmen, who come crashing out of the starting gate with a glom of noise and rapid-fire pulsations. But this is the briefest of intros, as they quickly settle into an oddly ambient blend of ruminating guitar, saxophone, atmospherics and effects. It’s got a calmly exploratory jazz vibe, but it’s also noisily edgy and the effects add a nice weirdness. After a brief static-drone interlude we’re treated to some tastefully melodic guitar, that is offset by fuzzed up angst from a second guitar, plus disorienting looped weirdness. The music trips along in lightly noisy La-La Land before hurtling into a rocking segment with some seriously anguished and efx’d vocals. I love how these guys are constantly seesawing between high intensity and edgily peaceful passages. Parts of this sound like Neil Young & Crazy Horse in experimental-punk mode and jamming with Anthony Braxton and Merzbow. Really cool stuff that mish-mashes a freakish variety of influences. I’ve got an LP by these guys too.
Side B consists of three tracks from Living Room. In short order they manage to smear a cacophonous mélange of noise assault, hyper-kinetic speed-punk, runaway windmilling effects, and electronic blasts. There’s no danger of being bored by these guys because they are constantly twisting and dead-man’s-curve turning on a dime. I got a kick out of the repetitive segment with a crazed rhythmic pulse, screaming, electronics, and a voice saying “This isn’t music” over and over. Parts sound like screechy noisy doom metal. Others sound like a tape collage version of Henry Cow at their most avant-garde. Another part brought to mind a noisier take on The Residents’ ‘Satisfaction’ cover (yeah, even noisier than that!). Overall, it’s an impressive and good fun blend of experimental collage, creative use of noise, wigged out electronics, and punk/free-jazz. Seat belts required.
The tape and stream/download are available at the Living Room Bandcamp site:
Smiffmaff & The Salesmen have a Bandcamp site too: https://smiffmaff.bandcamp.com/
by Daevid Brock
On October 28, the late Doug ‘Dr Synth’ Walker would have turned 68. In honor of his birthday and memory, I selected a tape to revisit from the massive Alien Planetscapes catalog. I wanted a set that showcased them in one of the ‘big band’ formats, so chose Radio Special Volume X, released in 1993 by Carl Howard’s audiofile Tapes label. Typical of the membership roller coaster that characterized/plagued Alien Planetscapes throughout its history, these two CBGB shows feature somewhat different personnel that were dramatically different in terms of instrumentation.
Side A features a humongous 8-piece band performing on December 20, 1992: Doug on synthesizers, sequencers and flute, Ernest Boyd on drums, Kevin Mapplebeck on guitar, Louis Boone on synths, LG Mair on bass, Valleri Popov on tenor saxophone, Darryl Little on alto saxophone, and Jon Cordes on violin, mandolin, and synth.
After an extended intro, the band launch into a free-wheeling blend of space rock and free-jazz. The saxophones wail, the flute sails, and the band rocks, cranking out high powered noisy, cosmic, space-jazz. I love the parts with dual blazing horns and ripping Robert Fripp styled guitar licks, sounding like Ornette Coleman and King Crimson hijacking Hawkwind’s Space Ritual. At other times the band sound like a blend of Soft Machine and Gong. These guys are tight as a knot and occupied a truly unique spot on the space/jazz/progressive axis, weaving in and out of hard rocking free-jazz and cosmically trippy passages. This is full band Alien Planetscapes at their very best.
Recorded five months earlier on July 21, the Side B performance is a 6-piece with Doug, Ernest Boyd, Kevin Mapplebeck, Louis Boone, Reginald Taylor on bass, and Mitch Markowitz on guitar.
Minus the saxophones and violin, this is a more purely space rocking performance, though with an Alien Planetscapes prog-jazz aesthetic that makes for some intricately interesting jams. The synths and electronics are more front and center, keeping the vibe firmly in space, as the guitars and rhythm section at times go molten volcanic tightly wound caustic ROCK. The second song opens with beautifully ethereal flute, soon launching into a steadily rolling deep space jazz-prog instrumental, with plenty of acidic noisy bits to keep the mood both lusciously melodic and tastefully edgy. This segues smoothly into a deliriously wailing multi-layered keyboard/synth led rocking assault, accompanied by stinging and swirling guitar licks. But there are also peacefully ethereal passages, making for a varied set of high-octane space rock and meditative bliss.
Happy Birthday Doug, wherever you are!!!
by Daevid Brock
Various Artists – Personal Space: Electronic Soul 1974-1984
This 2-LP set compiles American artists who saw opportunity in the proliferation of affordable recording equipment, synthesizers, and drum machines, to create impressive and wonderfully eccentric soul/funk/disco. These artists were not ‘homemade’ in the cassette culture networking sense. They released vinyl singles and LPs on their own homegrown or tiny regional labels, sought wider distribution, acclaim, and most likely record company attention. Nevertheless, this is a fun compilation that is chock full of cool and strange songs and is brimming with homemade charm. Here is a tour of the set. Oh yes, there will be drum machines…
Remember those old Wurlitzer stores in the malls with the cheesiest sounding music? Jeff Phelps’ ‘Excerpts From Autumn’ instrumental sounds like one of the demonstrators from those stores, but someone who really knows how to use it and takes it into soulful space. Phelps gets a second entry with ‘Super Lady’, which uses the same instrumentation, though it’s more intricately arranged and includes vocals.
Guitar Red’s ‘Disco From A Space Show’ is propelled by a tap-tap-tap-tap metronomic beat, wildly swirling synth lines, and a cool grooving space-soul vibe.
Jerry (J.G.) Green’s ‘I Finally Found The Love I Need’ sounds like it was recorded in the bathroom, and is characteristic of some of the 70s most almost-hit pop-soul tunes.
The lyrics on Key & Cleary’s ‘A Man’ is brimming with Black/civic pride, has a beautiful rhythm guitar pulse and fidgety electronic drums.
I love the darkly tense but cool grooving vibe and crafty use of dissonance and effects on Spontaneous Overthrow’s ‘All About Money’.
Cotillion’s ‘If You Give A Dance’ is pure soul for the disco dancefloor. Think K.C. and the Sunshine Band for the Motown crowd.
USAries’ ‘Are You Ready To Come? (With Me) Pt. 1 (and later in the set Pt. 2)’ is Sex-eeeeeee! It lays down a lazy strolling funk-blues vibe, sounding like The Temptations singing to the Shaft theme. Really good vocals and harmonies on this one.
Johnnie Walker was one half of the duo that comprised USAries, and his ‘Love Vibrator’ is a bouncy funk- soul instrumental. (With a title like ‘Love Vibrator’, I’m surprised there were no lyrics.)
‘Don’t Challenge Me’ by Makers is passionately sensual, with excellent vocals and carried along by a cheesy drum machine beat and Casio-ish keys. Regardless, the arrangements and sound are pretty darn good.
T. Dyson and Company’s ‘It’s All Over’ is a great mixture of disco and soul, with a cool variety of synths and keys, and more really good vocals and lyrics. I love the combination of spacey synths and jazzy ivory tickling keys.
Starship Commander Woo Woo’s entry is ‘Master Ship (excerpt)’, and the music is just as freaked out as the band name and song title. The orchestral keys are from the most celestial regions of space and the song is colored by effects galore. This is an oddball entry on this set, being more 80s space-age, experimental synth-pop than funk/soul/disco.
Deborah Washington & the Astros’ ‘Shortest Lady’ relies heavily on its mundane drum machine, but everything else about it is strangely interesting. The female lead vocals are saucy, the male backing growls are creepy, there’s a spacey edge to the song, and I love the over-the-top cheesy funk pulse.
Steve Elliott’s ‘One More Time’ is a fairly straightforward 70s styled sexy soul love song. It’s a got a nice flute solo, good lead and backing vocal arrangements, and spacey synths.
The New Year’s ‘My Bleeding Wound’ is one of the most cool and strange experimental tracks of the set. The music is dominated by a repetitive stinging guitar pattern, later joined by a minimal bass riff. And leading the way are outrageously spaced out James Brown-ish vocals.
Otis G. Johnson’s ‘Time To Go Home’ sounds like it was recorded with a shoebox cassette recorder, but it’s a beautifully heartfelt religious song with a nice melody.
Personal Space was released in 2012 by Chocolate Industries. I couldn’t find any info on the label but it was distributed by The Numero Group, who have been releasing/distributing the most esoteric of reissues/compilations for years. The songs on this set are all over YouTube.
by Rafael González
Thanks to Hal McGee I have had the privilege of hearing a preview of "Selected Sound Works (1981-2021)" by Joseph Nechvatal, which is released in cassette format by Pentiments Records and also available digitally on the label's Bandcamp page.
What did I find in "Selected Sound Works (1981-2021)"? Something really very inspiring and very precious to me!
Joseph Nechvatal is an American artist known among other things for being the co-founder, in 1983, of the avant-garde electronic art music audio project Tellus Audio Cassette Magazine. I greatly regret having never previously heard any of his sound works because of the enormous surprise and pleasure that I have experienced after listening to his sound creations contained in this wide-ranging collection, which includes complete pieces and excerpts of works from the 80's to the present time: live radio mixes, musique concrète, synthesizer and guitar noiseworks, plunderphonics and cut-ups, excerpts from cassette releases, simulated audio viral attacks, tape and computer manipulations, radio plays, and much more.
Many of the readers and friends of Electronic Cottage tend to nostalgia for cassettes, analog instruments and other old gadgets. At least this is my tendency sometimes because all of those lovely things of the past are still very funny and they provide beautiful aesthetic experiences. Listening to Nechvatal's recent works contained in this collection I have had the same pleasure and enjoyment as I might have felt in the 80's or 90's, and listening to his works of those earlier times gave me the feeling that they could have been made yesterday. Because the theme, the substrate remains today. Perhaps the very good remastering of the old pieces has helped to get this feeling, but I haven't had the feeling of listening to a relic. Now all that flow of pop music, noise, news, interference and announcements reaches us via digital, in much greater quantity, it is true, but it doesn't make much difference. If in his early works he used tapes, vinyl, radio and guitars… and in more recent times he uses software, digital information and computer viruses, the conceptual idea underlying the tracks compiled in this release is the same, in my opinion.
It is also very interesting to pay good attention to Joseph Nechvatal's visual works, since they keep a strong interrelation with his sound production, as we can also perceive in the cover of the release of which I am making this small review.
The best summary I can give of what you will hear on this cassette or in its digital edition is … Warning to lovers of cut-ups, no wave, sound collages, musique concrète, radio art, sound poetry and digital noise... you're going to love this release!
by Daevid Brock
rADio eND is the work of Ed End, an artist who is new to me, but comes by way of my old friend Charles Rice Goff III, home recording veteran and ship commander of the Taped Rugs Productions label. For Salvator Salvandus, Charles took Ed’s source material and modified it, blended in his own original recordings, plus assorted mutational fun.
‘Salvator Salvandus Alpha’ opens the set with spacey swirls, heavenly washes, and cascading bell/chime effects, all propelled by a rickety washboard kind of rhythm. In the last couple minutes, the rhythm recedes, and we float to the finale on waves of high-octane space-scapes and a jaunty cosmic toy piano sounding beat.
‘Inner Transmission’ is next and…. really interesting rhythmic work on this album. There’s a strange kind of electronic ‘drumming’ and wavering drone pulse that drives the action, and it’s surrounded by a succession of intensely delirious, spaced out sound waves. In the last minutes there’s a thematic shift as we come in for a landing with a brief angelic chorus, followed by a multi-layered glom of electronic space rocking, hippety-hoppety vibes.
‘Etheric Body’ sounds like a blend of cosmic choir, SETI alien transmissions, throbbing martial beats, and battalions of insect saucers revving their engines. Later in the track things quiet and a voice says…. “The squirrel’s granary is full!” (At least that’s what it sounds like??), and we’re now buzzing around in an eerily ambient yet head-spinning spiral of sound.
I like the combination of clattering bells and machine-like soundscape waves that open ‘Aether Particles’, before settling into a gently intense, ambient roar (with an electrode charged robot voice interlude). At nearly 12 minutes the piece gradually evolves, including traces of Berlin school electronica, various interestingly concocted rhythmic bits, garbles of voice samples, and much more.
‘luva Te, luvabit Te Caelum’ is a grinding and clattering rhythmic rant, the harsh vibe offset by playful horns, effects and voice samples.
Finally, the 10+ minute ‘Salvator Salvandus Omega’ closes the set in deep meditative space, sailing through a cosmos inhabited by spectral beings, alien transmissions, whimsical melodies, and colored throughout by a parade of freaky effects.
I’ve probably listened to this gem a half dozen already. LOTS to discover and digest over repeated listens!
Free download with detailed album notes
Contact through, but also spend time at the Taped Rugs Productions web site
For an index of nearly 300 original audio recordings available at the Internet Archive, produced by or co-produced by Taped Rugs Productions, go here:
by Hal McGee
As part of our ongoing exchange of art items through the postal mail, Heather Chessman and Roger Smith sent to me a CD copy of their recent release on the Besperech`label (Russia), Deep as a depthless pond. JUICE MACHINE break out into new territory on this release, foregrounding field recordings of natural sounds, with their minimal electronics serving as a backdrop. I was a little surprised by this strategy, but it works well and the results are pleasing. There are no doubt hundreds of albums that utilize a similar approach, but this kept my attention throughout its three tracks totaling 64 minutes. I found this audio art to be as suitable for active, attentive listening as for letting it melt into the background as I did chores and straightened up my apartment. The electronics and natural sounds blend together so well that it is difficult to tell the difference. Some of this does get very intense, and I love all of the details that keep my mind busy. It sounds GREAT on headphones!
I really do not want to say much more, because my job as a reviewer is to point you toward recordings that I find interesting that you might find interesting too. You should listen to Deep as a depthless pond yourself and make it an experience of your own, and you can do so on the Besperech`page on Bandcamp, as well as purchase a download. You can also order a copy of the gorgeous four-panel digipak CD for €10. I love the look of my copy so much that I affixed it to my mail art wall along with all of the other awesome visual art that I have received in recent months.
Please also visit Heather and Roger's JUICE MACHINE page on Bandcamp where you will find 37 of their albums of no-input feedback and minimal electronics. They have a new release, charnel ground, which is available as a C-90 cassette and download. It's all about audio adventure and going places with the sounds.