February's Bargain Bin -- Feat. Keith Rowe, Oren Ambarchi, Tim Hecker and The Hafler Trio

About a week ago I stumbled into Zulu for the first time in a long time. With a little extra cash flow from a few consignment deals I decided to hunt down some deals of my own. I didn't have a whole lot to spend so I mostly breezed through their vinyl department, which, no longer has an experimental section. The experimental cd section was, too, rather quickly going the way of the dinosaur. It had significantly shrunk down over the last six months to about a third of the size. I'm not surprised really, as outsider tunes aren't exactly a hot commodity in the West end, or anywhere in Vancouver really. For the few albums they were carrying (mostly ones that couldn't easily be lumped into the electronic or rock/pop sections), I was pleased to find almost everything at discounted prices––I'm talking nothing over ten bucks here. Here are the three albums I ended up walking away with:

Keith Rowe, Oren Ambarchi, Sachiko M, Otomo Yoshihide, & Robbie Avenaim
Thumb (GROB, 2002)

Half hour live effort from five players that collectively run the gamut of experimental musical stylings, from electroacoustic and drone to turntablism and free-improve. Despite the chaos that all these styles together might suggest, Thumb is surprisingly restrained. The focus here is on sonic minutiae and subtle electro-feedbacking. It's hard to say what everyone's role is just by listening to this as this could easily be mistaken for a single performer sitting behind a junkbox of battery powered gear. The liner notes credit each musician with one form of conventional instrument + electronics, so that's not much clearly. As the set progresses the high frequencies become more intense. Not for the weak eared and definitely not what I was expecting, although recommended.

Tim Hecker
Norberg (Room40, 2007)

Another live document and a nice little distraction to get back into Tim's music before sinking my teeth into Ravedeath (preorder the 2lp version at Kranky). Recorded in a mine shaft in Sweden, Norberg is an outstanding twenty minute recording. Hecker opens the set with a finely executed batch of glitch work before slipping into some static-swathed tonedrift à la the more ethereal portions of Harmony in Ultraviolet and the Atlas 10" released the following year. The whole thing crumbles away in a flurry of static at the end. Lovely as always from one of the electronic genre's best practitioners.

The Hafler Trio
Seven Hour Sleep (The Grey Area, 1994)

Here is the second of three issues of Seven Hour Sleep. This one is from almost twenty years ago and the original LAYLAH LP is from before I was even born. Korm Plastics also reissued this in '06 in a deluxe glassine paper wallet with a 28 page booklet. The Hafler Trio remains as one of the true musical enigmas of all time: bizarre controversies involving specifications of releases, ideology, ambiguous and often confusing album art, titles and liner notes, an obsession with trilogies, and not to mention the music. For Seven Hour Sleep, Andrew Mckenzie ventures more into surreal collage territory rather than the "pure essence" stoicism of later albums Intoutof, Cleave: 9 Great Openings, and the Colin Potter collaboration A Pressed On Sandwich. The album is rife with static hiss, looped vocal fragments, indiscernible field recordings and noxious drones, and in my opinion, has stood quite strongly against the test of time.

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