Cultural Bulletin
Cultural Bulletin is a quarterly magazine that provides an international view of creative work. We look to film, music, design and art as signifiers of our cultural moment.
Posts in Music
In Review: Nate Young – Volume One: Dilemmas of Identity 
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Label: Lower Floor

The atonal nature of discordant electronics, lonely sounds and damage are increasingly serving as symbols for an emerging reality. Whether it is wandering around the supermarket or the post-apocalypse, there is a prevailing feeling that these places aren’t worlds away from each other. We will run out of resources, technology will enslave us, we’ll discover that we are actually software, Brexit, so on and so forth...

Instrumental music is a long established conductor of narrative form. Be it an orchestral movement or ambient sprawl, we are able to subjectively detect an emotional contingent within a piece of music and extract a story from it. The narrative can be as straightforward or as abstract as the listener feels compelled to imagine; a series of still landscapes, the arc of a globe over time or something as sedentary as a caretaker cleaning an old building at night. More dystopian stories, like Dilemmas of Identity, are monochromatic in their cynicism – a negative perspective opting instead, to convey the vividness and complexities of exactly how things might fall apart for the entirety of civilisation as we know it. 

Dilemmas of Identity presents us with a series of bleak scenarios for humanity. In fact, the song titles are the most organic aspects of the music – they provide an initial human image that is then set in opposition to an artificial counterpoint. It is not a stretch to extract a narrative from such song titles as ‘The Weeping Babe’, ‘Crumpled Body’, ‘Dribbling Insane’, ‘Flushing’ and ‘Pardon The Mess’ which already paint a picture of human suffering. Partnered with the music, it is clear that Dilemmas of Identity represents a total breakdown in the relationship between human and machine. 

This can be read in a number of ways, total breakdown of our systems, hostile A.I or some form of weaponry disaster. Whatever has occurred in Dilemmas of Identity, one thing for sure is that we are unequivocally fucked. Are these stories still science-fiction? Are we sleepwalking towards the apocalypse? Have we created systems of our own enslavement? Does anyone know where we are going? Is this music an early warning? AG

MUSIC: Heile Martens - Lips & Un Canto Della Tonnara
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Label: Edicoes CN

Roman Hiele and Lievens Martens Moana as Heile Martens released Lips & Un Canto Della Tonnara in May (2018). The record continues Martens curious process of abstraction, space building and deconstruction meaning that this record sits comfortably next to 2017’s Idylls or Dolphins Into The Future’s Songs of Gold, Incandescent.

BUY THE RECORD HERE

MusicAdam GreenhalghComment
MUSIC: Various Artists - Stilleben 052
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Label: Stilleben

Gothenburg’s Stilleben Records release Stilleben 052 – a 4 track EP featuring 4 different artists. Highlight, MACHO MACHO’s ‘EARGOGGLE OBERGMAN’ is emblematic of a distinct analogue, synth driven euro-techno that runs across the record.

MusicPlato's HouseComment
MUSIC: Svitlana Nianio - Kytytsi
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Label: KOKA

Svitlana Nianio made her debut with Kyiv's Tsukor Bila Smert. Kytytsi is Svitlana's very first solo album. The aura of her voice and simplicity of her compositions suggest folk roots. 
However, its base is in fact derived from musical avant-garde of today. Straight from the heart of ancient folk songs comes the tenderness in her voice; Svitlana frames it with sounds of pure New York minimal tradition. Deeply rooted in primeval myths, her music creates a world of magic realism, in which the temporal dimension and the other world constantly move and permeate. 

BUY THE RECORD HERE

MusicPlato's HouseComment
MUSIC: Joan La Barbara ‎- Tapesongs

Tapesongs is the second of two crucial Joan La Barbara reissues on Arc Light Editions, following Voice Is The Original Instrument (ALE005). The original artwork is an incredible shot: Joan buried to her neck in reel to reel tape. It includes two essential pieces: John Cage’s Solo For Voice 45, and a burning take-down of Cathy Berberian in “Cathing”.

Originally released in 1977, Tapesongs makes use of early electronics, and multi-tracked tape techniques to manipulate La Barbara’s signature extended vocal techniques. In 1977, La Barbara was living in NYC, playing concerts internationally and performing regularly with John Cage, who she described as a mentor. “I began working with John Cage in 1976 and we had done several performances of his "Solo for Voice 45" from Song Books in concert,” says Joan. “Cage determined the 13-minute version for this version, overlaying all 18-pages of the score so that one hears the entire work in layers. Hearing it again after all these years is wonderful and brings back many memories.”

“Cathing” uses a recording of a radio interview Cathy Berberian did during the intermission of one of La Barbara’s concerts at the Holland Festival: “She basically trashed those of us doing extended vocal techniques,” she says. “She used the interview for her own self-promotion rather than taking on the mantle of the ‘mother’ of vocal explorations. Rather tragic, I thought. So I created a work exploring extended vocal techniques and manipulating her spoken voice.”

“Thunder” is for six tympani and voice, using electronic devices (the same as used in “Vocal Extensions” from ALE005), and explores patterns through instruments and real-time composition with two jazz improvising musicians.

MusicPlato's HouseComment
IN REVIEW: loscil - first narrows
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Label: kranky
Year: 2004

Some records are ergonomic, sliding seamlessly into our lives, not requiring us to change. Instead it is as if the record is sympathetic to us, knows the patterns of our lives and vibrations of our minds. Such records become companion pieces, offering utility in there ability to amalgamate with us. They make us attentive to routine events, enhancing our daily being which is why this music can be associated with the idea of the domestic life.

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You notice the shadows of trees from the garden, cast in an angled frame of light that is reflected onto the wardrobe. Their movement, enhanced by the magnification of the shadow, is like a thick liquid, oil on water or the sequential patterns of the bacteria in a petri dish. The vibration of your body, the interface between you and the music is awakening to the otherwise imperceptible and is why ergonomic records help to elevate us towards higher ideals.

Vancouver based artist, Loscil has since released 14 other records that are well worth your time.

Music: Martina Lussi - Diffusion Is a Force
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Label: Latency Recordings

Martina Lussi’s second album fuses together disparate sound sources with a disorienting quality that reflects the modern climate of dispersion and distraction. The Lucerne, Switzerland-based sound artist released her debut album ‘Selected Ambient’ on Hallow Ground in 2017, and now comes to Latency with a bold new set of themes and processes. 

The range of tools at her disposal spans field recordings, processed instrumentation, synthesised elements and snatches of human expression. The guitar is a recurring figure, subjected to a variety of treatments from heavy, sustained distortion to clean, pealing notes. Elsewhere the sound of sports crowds and choral singing merge, and patient beds of drones and noise melt into the sounds of industry and mechanics. The track titles manifest as a compositional game of deception complete with innuendos, empty phrases and claims – flirtations with perfume names and ironic assertions. 

From the volatile geopolitical climate to the changing nature of music consumption in the face of streaming and digital access, ‘Diffusion is a Force’ is a reflection on fractured times where familiar modes and models change their meaning with the ever-quickening pace of communication.

MusicPlato's HouseComment
In Review: G.S Schray - First Appearance 
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Label: Last Resort

... a nature resort with plentiful grass, foliage and plants. Now, imagine a crystalline river that winds down a valley with trees overhanging as the sun produces portals of light on the rippling surface. Green and craggy mountainous structures stand immortally in the distance as birds arc around them. The sky is deep blue save for emergent strips of yellow, orange and pink as dusk slowly looms. You take off your glasses, you are at home, you go to the kitchen to get your toast before putting your glasses on and returning to this other VR world. 

G.S Schray’s second album First Appearance offers similar utility in its ability to transport you to another place; such is the vivid and detail with which the album is executed. However, the record goes beyond soothing assurance although expressing some characteristically typical ambient traits. The structures and instrumentation continually evolve. Tracks seemingly possess their own ecology which in turn produces a cause and effect-like dialogue between instruments and musical passages. 

Well known comparisons could include Brian Eno’s Another Green World or the roaming instrumental sections of John Martyn songs. Both present notions of the ideal as opposed to pure escapism which is also where First Appearance excels. Musically speaking, it is easier to build arid and hostile landscapes than ones which reflect abundance and life - the risk of falling into a ‘new-age’ pastiche is much higher. Schray’s evident technical ability and eye for composition see him deftly avoid these pitfalls to produce, in First Appearance, an album that will please and nourish you. AG 

BUY THE ALBUM HERE

REVISITING: Jon Gibson - Two Solo Pieces
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It seems that everything in the known universe is a vibration, an interplay of opposing forces - some refer to it as a dance. What a strange outcome it is, that this vibration should produce beings with the conscious ability to consider their own existence. Depending on whether this phenomenon of human consciousness is viewed from a micro or macro level, it could be considered that we are aliens in this world or that we are a manifestation of the universe exploring itself. 

It’s a gift to the human experience that we should be able to manipulate sound in a way that presents us with an intuitive grasp of the nature of our own place. John Gibson’s ‘Two Solo Pieces’, (released in 1977) captures the tension of this universal vibration, revealing to us the strange reality that we are, through our consciousness and form, a component of this vibration. That we look for order, patterns and the rhythm in things is in itself a strange reality.

When chaos aligns to produce a harmonious moment we stop. Something essential has occurred - what innate intelligence guides us to recognise this? There is every possible manifestation of meaning to be derived but Jon Gibson takes a step further back, creating an attentiveness of the miracle itself. That we should even be in a position to derive meaning from music in the first place is a surreal outcome. Two Solo Pieces provides the listener with a portal to explore these themes intuitively and subjectively - in any way they like. AG

MUSIC: Suso Sáiz ‎- Prefiero El Naranja
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Label: Linterna Música
Year: 1984

Lovely, fruity ambient guitar music.

Prefiero El Naranja is Suso Saiz’s first solo LP. Born 1957, Saiz studied with Spanish avantgarde composer Luis De Pablo during the 1970s, before turning to more ambient projects like the Orquestra, whose ethnic-ambient music is similar to that of Jorge Reyes (1952-2009).

MusicPlato's HouseComment
MUSIC: Agnarkea - Black Helicopters

Label: Natural Sciences

Black Helicopters is Anarkea (Keaton Transue) - a 20 year old producer from Richmond, Virginia. 

Originating out of the WaistDeep Clique (a cell of emerging hip-hop crews operating out of the Southern United States) and recorded on budget equipment, across it's near two hours and extended 23 tracks, the project seeks to un-package homegrown “conspiracy theories” (MK Ultra, Black Helicopters, The Deep State, Black Sun, Waco Texas) and use this web of extended source material to make sense of day-to-day life in Trump's America, police oppression of black neighbourhoods and the systematic suppression of mind-enhancing drugs.

BUY THE RECORD VIA BANDCAMP HERE

MUSIC: Whitehouse - Thank Your Lucky Stars
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Label: Susan Lawly Records

Thank Your Lucky Stars is the tenth studio album by power electronics band Whitehouse, released in 1990 through the newly formed Susan Lawly label. Recorded in September 1988, it was the group's first studio album after a period of inactivity during the later half of the 1980's and the first to feature contributions from writer and musician Peter Sotos and production work from Steve Albini.

http://www.susanlawly.freeuk.com/

MusicPlato's HouseComment
MUSIC: Boli Group - N.P.D.S
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Label: Posh Isolation

Boli Group is a new ensemble spearheaded by Copenhagen based composer and producer Asger Hartvig. Responsible for some of the most fearless and intriguing works to come from the city in recent years, Hartvig is as imposing as he is mysterious, and his debut release for Posh Isolation makes no concessions. 

Hartvig is perhaps best known for his work with the group Synd Og Skam. And though less known, Brynje 1&2 is just as exceptional. Taking both technology and classicism as allegories, each group charts routes in and out of pop music, somehow arriving at an observer's distance to the distinct stylistic choices in the process. The label Visage has published the best of this, and the logic has certainly been carried into 'Boli Group LP,' the latest offering from Hartvig and his distinguished ensemble of Nina Cristante, Holger Hartvig, Thea Thorborg, and Cæcilie Trier. 

MusicPlato's HouseComment
MUSIC: Camizole – Camizole
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Label: Spalax Music / SouffleContinu

"Is freedom worth more than mastery, construction and achievement? In replying yes, the utopians of Camizole clear show which side they are on. For them, musical creation must be as spontaneous as possible. To achieve this, it is better to put egos to one side to concentrate on collective experimentation, to be tried and tested in front of a live audience. Playing the card of unlimited and unhindered improvisation is Camizole's crédo, having decided to get a taste of the urgent game-playing already established by the Nihilist Spasm Band and the Living Theatre research of Julian Beck and Judith Malina." – SouffleContinu

Credits:
Charles De Gaulle Artist(s): Camizole Title: Camizole Record Label: Spalax Music / SouffleContinu Catalog Number: SPALAXCD14549 Date: 1999

Buy it: https://www.soufflecontinurecords.com... (2018 Reissue) https://www.discogs.com/fr/Camizole-C...

MusicInterzoneComment
IN REVIEW: Chihei Hatakeyama - VOID XVII
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Label: White Paddy Mountain

Much like Chihei Hatakeyama’s earlier release of 2018’s Afterimage, VOID XVII presents us with sounds and abstract imagery that glow subtly across an undefined expanse. As the name suggests, VOID XVII looks to the formless, whereas Afterimage had within it the subjectivity of the performer. VOID XVII can be understood to occupy the spaces in between, whether that be the space between the physical (objects and air molecules) or the ethereal (thoughts and memories). 

Ambient music is useful in its ability to reduce these elements and states of being onto the same plane. Continuing this line of thought, the idea of ‘the void’ is a non sequitur - inevitably any conceptualisation of ‘nothing’ will be made of something. VOID XVII speaks to that fact, embodying what conceptually is beyond what we can experience. 

So what is it and why do it? Hatakeyama ascribes the notion of the void as the humanly imperceptible order or connection of things. This could be as much a belief system as anything else, many call this god, others call it karma, enlightenment or the divine. Reading Trappist Monk, Thomas Keating’s obituary (who died aged 95 on 25th October, 2018), he dedicated his life to contemplative prayer and the power of silence. He saw this as the only way to god, citing St John of the Cross who said: “God’s first language is silence.” 

Whatever belief system the listener carries, VOID XVII dramatises the relationship to our sense of the self and the unknown. Silence is a contrivance in that it is not something we ever really experience. Much like ‘nothing’, its existence is debatable in that it exists outside the realm of human perception. Instead, it is an ideal that we strangely have such a clear notion of. Therefore, characterising these ideas with sound is a useful way to contemplate them, when immersed in the music or listening to the sound of a room, it’s as if we enter a collective portal of shared experience - a way to remember. AG

Buy the record here: https://chiheihatakeyama.bandcamp.com/album/void-xvii

MUSIC: VARIOUS ARTISTS - ABSOLUTELY WINO

Label: Wah Wah Wino

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Label/collective (or ‘unit’ as they describe themselves on their website: http://www.wahwahwino.com) released compilation ‘Absolutely Wino’ in 2017. It received a repress in 2018 but has since sold out again.

A funny and weird record that is best heard rather than read about. Needless to say it is unlike anything else, presenting a unique abstraction of electronic dance music. Below is a video that contains most of the record, which is otherwise only available on vinyl. It’s selling for £47.50 on Discogs.

MusicPlato's HouseComment