As you should have gathered from the title of this, it is dense. This is an absolute asset to fans of Reed's music, or anyone with the slightest interest in electronic music for that matter. Unfortunately, there are only 50 copies in existence and they are all probably spoken for by now. This compendium has taken a few different forms, one being the 3cd-r set titled Celestial Mudpie, and at least one other that contained 6 discs of material! Also, some of these tracks have been reissued on vinyl. The first two, Dreamz and Blue Polz, happen to be the title tracks of Reed's Picture Disc release on Elevator Bath two years ago. I reviewed that back in March of '09, and realized just now after reading the post again that I referenced this retrospect. Took me almost two years to actually review it though. Sometimes these things just take time.
Discs one and two are of Recent Electronic Music. Disc one begins with the aforementioned Dreamz and Blue Polz, and then slips into the dizzying electric bleeps and ventilator clatter of the third movement: The Fiery Sound of Light. Eventually Reed fills in the sound spectrum as he seems to always do so effortlessly, weaving the highest of high-ends with the crushingly low. Soft focus crescendos break over the existing sound, yielding the incredibly patient concluding track, Mesmerism. The liner notes cite an accordion as one of maybe ten instruments used in the making of these tracks. Odd, perhaps, considering how overt accordions tend to be. If that is in fact what I am hearing on Mesmerism, then kudos to you Rick for using an accordion in good taste (to you and Pauline Oliveros).
Disc two begins with a quick spoken sample not unlike something from an Omit album (see excerpt below), before falling into a series of looped low-end fragments and piercing frequencies. Nice scarcity in the arrangement of sound here. The second track, Capitalism: Child Labor, is a soundtrack Reed produced for a film by Ken Jacobs under the same name. Here we see Reed getting into some heavier arpeggiations of noise and synth-drone. The track is relentless, crushing and completely captivating. The heaviness continues on Hidden Voices pt 1 and 2 where Reed deploys similar psychotropic vibes to those that have come to define the canons of Matt Shoemaker and the Hafler Trio. Reed's control of various synthesizers is tactful to say the least, revealing a continuity and attention to nuance in composition. The final two discs document Reed's recent and historic collaborative work. There is a lot of material to sink your teeth into here, and somehow it all manages to work together in sequence. This is a great compendium of work. Attention labels, more reissues of Reed's work, please.
Another sold out show at the Western Front on Friday night. This time it was for the highly anticipated return of Tim Hecker, whose last Vancouver performance dates back seven years. Hecker is appearing as a panelist for the 2010 Sound Thinking Symposium taking place at the Surrey Art gallery. Luckily, the Front was able to snatch him up for a performance beforehand.
Label mate, and Vancouver local, Scott Morgan (aka Loscil) opened the evening in good suit with his personalized blend of beat sustained minimalism. The non-existent lighting complemented the mood of Morgan's slow burning crescendos, which stemmed from heavily effected (and effective) swells of low-end intonation. However, the bass was often overbearing, effectively drowning a lot of the finer textures in Morgan's music. The diaphanous emissions of a finely plucked table-top guitar nearly saved the set, but the heavy handed bass reared its head once more, eventually giving way to an unrestrained use of piano sampling. Loscil's albums have always shown a patience and intellect to composition, and although the set had its moments, the intricacies of his craft were lost on this particular night.
It is difficult to unwrap the enigma that is Tim Hecker's music. Equal parts instrumental, noise, ambient, and electronic, Hecker smears the boundaries of these genres with a soft focus brush, then aptly blurs his movements into pixelated streams of kaleidoscopic texture. Essentially, he is able to create a music he can call his own. In good form on this night, Hecker strung together album tracks that weighed heavily towards his stellar 2006 release, Harmony in Ultraviolet . As the set rolled on it was clear that the audience was getting a lesson in transition, as the majority of the movements flowed into one another with impressive ease. Impressive when considering the multifaceted anatomy of Hecker's music. Sad to not see an encore, but it was an highly evocative and emotionally satisfying set nonetheless.
An 8.5” x 11” sheet of paper tacked to the entrance doors: tonight, Fennesz, sold out. The majority of people that would be attending already sat comfortably in their seats well before Scant Intone and Souns took the stage. The two opened the evenings events on what would only be their second real-time collaboration. Maybe practice doesn’t make perfect as these guys were able to formulate a fine set filled with miniature atonal crescendos, subdued skitter and interwoven sampling–everything played at a comfortable medium-low (sometimes it’s nice not getting your ears blasted off). The sampling ranged from environmental sounds and indiscernible murmuring to more industrial elements. Occasionally a cheesy drum beat slipped through, though never outstaying its welcome. Impressively the duo were able to restrain their sound to a fog of subdued concrète clusters, ever dynamic and interesting. A fine display of what Vancouver’s subtler side of experimental muzak has to offer.
After a short intermission, the main act was announced. Not wasting any time Christian Fennesz dove into his first number, a heavy slice of electronica and fragmented guitar. Fennesz is not your average lap-top gawking purveyor of electro-glitch soundscaping. The man actually plays a guitar, live, through an actual guitar amp. All the while digitally deconstructed white noise flows from his computer. It’s all quite remarkable to see live and the opening half did not disappoint. As the set rolled on, however, claustrophobia started to settle in. What made Fennesz’s impeccable 2008 release, Black Sea, so good was its sense of space. And that space seemed to be filled in on this particular night. Despite this fact, the heat–did I mention that the Front has a serious lack of ventilation problem?–and the sets particularly sour-note ending of Fennesz walking off after his last song, disgruntled over the sound tech’s overly intrusive use of compression, you’d be hard pressed to find someone who didn’t leave satisfied.
To conclude, a brief word on Politics.
It is but a fact that among all communities, large and small, there will always exist a palpable level of bureaucracy. Kris Charlton, a man who has facilitated past Vancouver performances of such talents as Barn Owl, Oneida, Wooden Shijps, Nadja and much, much more, was robbed of the opportunity to produce what would have been one of his most memorable productions. I’m talking of course, about Christian Fennesz, who was nearly secured as Kris’s next headliner until The Front eventually (not naming names) got wise to Fennesz’s interest in visiting Vancouver. What ensued next were a series of unanswered emails that eventually left Kris out of the equation all together. This is only one side of the coin, and yes, Kris is a friend of mine. So, I’ll grant the amount of time it takes for you to finish reading this line to impart your judgments about favoritism and biases upon me. In any regard this needed to be addressed as it is clear to me that an injustice has occurred. For now, let us take a moment and revel in the fact that great musicians, international or otherwise, still desire the opportunity to visit our fine city. For that we should all be grateful.
SF: In a past email you had mentioned that you have an insatiable appetite for music. Can you briefly talk about how you first became aware of outsider music culture and how you eventually began Mystery Sea?
DC: Since my early childhood, I've been bathed in various forms of music, as my father used to compile his own tapes from various vinyls he borrowed from friends... it's only much later than I realized how important these days were...
but the true triggering moment of my love for outsider music culture was my quasi direct experience of the punk DIY ethos (yes, I'm that old !) which seemed to meet all my hopes for change, rebellion against numbing/standard values, giving new directions... it's at that precise moment in time that I caught the “virus”, and that I became increasingly interested in all forms of non-mainstream art & music... then I had the chance to exchange correspondence with and meet some artists that turned me completely upside down, constituting some ideal model through their sheer passion, and formidable emotional impact, and all the background behind their own venture : Eyeless In Gaza ! The name Mystery Sea is a reverential tribute to Martyn Bates (half of the EIG duo)... this band has given me so much that it felt natural as a choice... the theme for the series poured out of itself...I started it a good 10 years ago, at the junction of the new century we're now in...and no end in sight yet...(endless seas...)
You've recently started a second label called Unfathomless with a focus on sonic interpretations of specific places. What was the inspiration behind this new venture? Do you see this new label as a personal opportunity to fulfill a different goal, perhaps something that could not be actualized within the scope of Mystery Sea?
If the Mystery Sea series was initially more based on “drone” as leitmotif, along the “episodes”, it gradually incorporated more works where field recordings had a paramount role... Along my years as a student in interior architecture, I had the chance to do some specific installation in an old building, the atmosphere of which deeply moved me...I've always been fascinated as well with the intimate relations we can share with environments that mirror us in a way, but also with what still seems to linger on in those...something far beyond words... it's so strange to remark that most of the places we frequent will survive us, and have been permeated with our passage...There are numerous artists who practice in that field, and who consciously or not did have a decisive influence on me... I used also to be an avid reader of this blog :http://sense--of--place.blogspot.com/
the U series has as aim to deepen the MS experience, and while still being ltd edition,it offers perhaps a bit more perennity to artists ' works since those are on CD (not CDR)...It also reflects my own thirst of expanding the act of listening - I recently acquired a Zoom h4n, and I do thus my own sound “photography”...
All the aspects of your releases, whether on Mystery Sea or Unfathomless, subscribe to a central ethos that shines through in the packaging, artwork and music. Probably most apparent is the deep-ocean-drones theme found within the Mystery Sea releases. Is it required that artists provide work that fits the theme, or is it more of a matter of accepting what they give you?
I try very much to get original works created specifically for each label, and thus probably conceptually stronger... though I'm not willing to close my door, and from time to time, I receive submissions outside of any invitation, yet more or less having a natural tie with the themes...it's sometimes nice to throw in a little anomaly, diversion to stay away from the routine... The challenge is then to find a way of linking them, and it can lead to other unexpected perspectives, I believe...
From your site and your stunning artwork, I've discerned that you have an interest in the blending of sounds with visuals as the complete package. Do you see this crossing of mediums becoming more of a focus in future label releases? any DVDs on the horizon? How do you feel about visual accompaniment during musical performance?
As much as I feel strong connections between the visual and sound aspects, that can complement each other for an enriched perspective, I've also my doubts about a forced or sometimes weak cohabitation... it certain cases it can be misleading, or simply decrease the potential of the imaginary... like a book translated into a movie : the encounter of these two spheres can be fruitful and point out new ways of appreciation, it can also be destructive...I've always done the artworks with much respect for the music, the artist, trying to be as close as possible to the mood in which the work has seen the daylight, or its emotional resonance in me...I hope it shows...For the reasons evoked in previous lines, and also financial ones, I haven't planned any DVDs so far...
You are centered in Belgium and have released work from artists all over the world. In your opinion where are some of the more interesting contemporary musical regions and why? Can you provide a written playlist of some of the music you've been into lately?
Interesting things happen all over the world really, mostly in the continents/countries where there's the luxury to be involved in such cultural activities...for economical/political/religious reasons, some people will most probably never have access to these...Nowadays, musical progress & diffusion is largely depending on the access to internet...I'm a bulimic music lover, and so my collection is always expanding, and I find myself often only listening to the latest things just in : currently spinning, and springing spontaneously to mind (a lot of usual suspects !)
Philip Sulidae “Hidden & Tied” MP3
Christopher McFall “The body as I left it” CD
Ubeboet “Archival” LP
Asher “Interference” Tape
Lasse-Marc Riek “Harbour” CD
Scott Smallwood “Desert winds : six windblown sound pieces” CD
Joda Clément “Movement + Rest” CD
Hapsburg Braganza “Hatchling” CD
Yann Novak “The Breeze Blowing Us” CDR
Anne Guthrie “Standing sitting” CDR
Chris Watson “Outside the circle of fire” CD
Simon Whetham “Restricted access” CDR
Various unreleased works from James McDougall, Juan José Calarco,
Hiroki Sasajima, Tarab, Christopher McFall, Chubby Wolf...etc...