Releases of the Month

October 2023

18 October, 2023 | Kristoffer Cornils

Ein Schrank mit Schallplatten, darin eine Schallplatte von Phill Niblock.
©Kristoffer Cornils

The Month of Contemporary Music is behind us and with it over 90 different events all over Berlin that invited us to wear out our soles and rinse our ears to stimulate our minds. We would like to thank all the musicians and those who made their performances possible behind the scenes, as well as all the composers and other artists who helped to ensure that this year's edition of the month once again demonstrated what the independent scene in Berlin has always stood for: diversity in unity.

In October we would like to congratulate Phill Niblock, who celebrated his 90th birthday earlier this month. Niblock is nonchalant like few in his profession. The first release of two of his works was called »Nothin to Look at Just a Record,« and how many other composers would admit to playing a few games of Solitaire on their phones during three-hour performances of their own works? More importantly, the accents and impulses he sets as a composer allow for space and time and are perhaps more important than ever in fast-moving times like these. Films and videos from his project »The Movement of People Working« will be shown, heard and experienced continuously for 24 hours between the 21st and 22nd of October at silent green Kulturquartier.

Quite a few of our Releases of the Month in October also take their time to unfold—quite fitting for the onset of autumn. They should make for a fine early Autumn soundtrack.

Paweł Kulczyński – Biosignatures (Pointless Geometry, LP/MC/digital)

The Łódź-based label Pointless Geometry has quite a broad portfolio to show. However, between electroacoustic composition and (post-)club music drawing on the sounds of the dancefloor zeitgeist, a common thread unfolds: This music wants to know and experience what the future could sound like. The album »Biosignatures« is part of a series of the same name, dedicated to the connections and differences between man-made sounds and the sound of a changing nature in the context of an on-going climate crisis. Paweł Kulczyński works with field recordings and sound synthesis to question the boundaries that enclose these different spheres as much as he reveals the lines of connection between them. He creates acoustic illusions, making the concrete sound abstract and vice versa. The result is an all-encompassing disorientation that is an inevitable part of what, with reference to the human experience of the climate crisis, is called solastalgia: Every abrupt change, every disruption of the experience stirs the affects. A short and yet very profound album.

Polwechsel – Embrace (Ni Vu Ni Connu, 4LP/digital)

A monumental box set might not fit such an agile group as Polwechsel, but a 30th birthday has to be celebrated properly. And Burkhard Beins, Martin Brandlmayr, Michael Moser and Werner Dafeldecker are doing it right: For a two-day festival at exploratorium, they have invited some long-time companions to exclusively perform new compositions with them or in their core formation. They are also releasing a quadruple LP that contains recordings of six new pieces as well as texts by Nina Polaschegg, Reinhard Kager and Stuart Broomer, which bears exactly the same title as their festival on the 8th and the 9th of December: »Embrace.« The four equally experienced and unbrokenly adventurous improv legends once again embrace above all the present moment and enter new spaces of possibility. The festival programme and the track listing of this massive album may largely overlap, but the results will surely differ. After all, hardly any other group is as consistently in flux as Polwechsel.

60 Seconds Each (Corvo, LP/digital)

At first, there seems to be nothing unusual about the compilation »60 Seconds Each.« It consists of 32 different pieces by different sound artists, who—as the title already says—are each represented here with a piece of about one minute in length. But the story of how this rather simple end product came into being is no ordinary one. It all started with someone not paying attention when sending an email. All of the artists featured on »60 Seconds Each« had applied for a professorship in Sound Art at a German university and received their rejection as a mass email in which the addresses of all interested parties were not hidden, but were visible to all others. At least this brought the competitors together and let them collaboratively develop this document of collective failure. Humour and solidarity—both are rarities these days. The fact that this is done in a short format has not only practical but also programmatic reasons. There are very different pieces to be heard from Budhaditya Chattopadhyay, Gilles Aubrey, Jasmine Guffond, Stefan Roigk and Tina Tonagel, among others, which in total can be understood as a concise commentary on the oversupply of eager potential teachers on the one hand and as an ironic rebuttal to the semi-public rejection of their efforts on the other.

Ah! Kosmos and Hainbach – Blast of Sirens (FUU, LP/digital)

Başak Günak and Stefan Goetsch have explored different styles of electronic music with their respective solo projects Ah! Kosmos and Hainbach, but can always agree on their love for the possibilities of analogue sound production. On »Blast of Sirens,« they used a handful of instruments whose monetary equivalent could probably buy you a house in the centre of Berlin to create an album that is equally rich in regard to musical ideas. Dense textures and gentle dramaturgies characterise the multi-layered overall picture of »Blast of Sirens.«

Alvin Lucier – Works for the Ever Present Orchestra Vol. II (Black Truffle, LP/digital)

Alvin Lucier’s absence remains tangible. The second edition of his »Works for the Ever Present Orchestra« on Black Truffle accordingly has a touch of melancholy about it—when the first part was released, the late composer and sound artist was indeed still present. »Arrigoni Bridge« and »Flips« his spirit is present in the sound of the Zurich-based ensemble Ever Present Orchestra. The two slowly unfolding and developing pieces are marked by different approaches, but at their core they are about the same thing: the immediacy of sound.

Angles & Elle-Kari with Strings – Kalypso Hypnos Drone (thanatosis, CD/digital)

»Kalypso Hypnos Drone« is only the foretaste of a much more extensive work based on a composition by Martin Küchen, which the eight-member (and here extended by four string players) ensemble Angles and singer Elle-Kari Sander want to release next year and whose production as a double LP they are currently trying to finance via crowdfunding. It must be a sumptuous main course, because already this suspenseful meditation on the myth of Calypso is over 58 minutes long. As with all good drone music, however, this performance makes time as such seem to pass in a completely different way than usual.

DDK Trio (Jacques Demierre / Axel Dörner / Jonas Kocher) – A Right to Silence (Meena, 3CD/digital)

Swiss pianist Jacques Demierre, Berlin-based trumpeter Axel Dörner and French accordionist Jonas Kocher joined forces a good ten years ago under the name DDK Trio. With »A Right to Silence,« they present a comprehensive box set on the Japanese label Meena that collects the results of a four-day studio session in summer 2021 across three CDs. Especially interesting: Each of the three put together a separate album from the existing recordings. This makes the subtle differences and aesthetic connections between these exceptional musicians audible, who here productively implement the principle of »instant composition« with masterful calm and consideration for each other.

emptyset – ash (Subtext, LP/digital)

James Ginzburg and Paul Purgas founded their project emptyset almost 20 years ago in Bristol, the capital of bass-heavy club music. »ash« is their first album together in four years, released on Ginzburg's label Subtext as its 50th catalogue number, and seamlessly continues their uncompromising exploration of the potentials of bass, noise and rhythm. As short as the album may be as such, it is powerful—aggressive and technoid, but never coarse or hedonistic. The abstractions of club music aesthetics and conventions through the hands of emptyset have never sounded more concrete.

Jean-Baptiste Geoffroy – Local Exoticism (forms of minutiae, MC/digital)

»Local Exoticism« joins a multitude of recent releases based on field recordings that provide a productive-critical alternative to the tired clichés of this genre. On this short album for the Berlin label forms of minutiae, the ever-busy musician Jean-Baptiste Geoffroy collages together recordings from the banks of the Loire, editing them more on the second side than on the first. He thus allows the familiar to become all the more foreign and hence offers his audience a supposedly familiar exoticism, although behind it is a source that is not so exotic in geographical terms—these are everyday sounds from his everyday life. A wonderful feint.

JJJJJerome Ellis – Compline in Nine Movements (NNA Tapes, MC/digital)

JJJJerome Ellis has firmly integrated his stutter into his musical practice, moving between different stylistic cosms as a genre-fluid multi-instrumentalist. Electro-acoustic music and hip-hop beats, jazz and spoken-word performance: All of this intertwines in his pieces, at times even within individual pieces. In this respect, »Compline in Nine Movements« is much more reduced than his debut »The Clearing« from 2021: These are nine piano improvisations on a theme, recorded in one go. Here, too, Ellis shows himself to be as open to style as he is open to error—small moments of imperfection become dramaturgical landmarks.

JJJJerome Ellis will perform at silent green Kulturquartier on the 2nd of November.

Nicolas Hodges – Saunders, Boucourechliev, Clarke, Riehm: Archipels (bastille musique, CD/digital)

Incessant interconnectedness, constant seclusion at the same time: The archipelago offers the probably perfect metaphor for the experience of sociality as it presents itself to us today. With an album for bastille musique—as usual presented with both great attention to detail and the bigger picture—the pianist Nicolas Hodges follows the lines of connection between James Clarke, Rebecca Saunders and Rolf Riehm as well as André Boucourechliev, whose »Archipel 5d« Hodges interprets three times. »Archipels« proves effortlessly how differences can be resolved without erasing them. This is not only exemplary on a musical level.

Petra Hermanova – In Death's Eyes (Unguarded, LP/digital)

Chamber pop, organ drone pop, singer/songwriter gothic: What Berlin-based artist Petra Hermanova does on her debut album »In Death’s Eyes« is difficult to categorise and yet easy to understand. When she brings together the most diverse influences from different eras and genres, she does so in the most intuitive and haunting way imaginable. This is an album that has to be experienced in the truest sense of the word.

Phillip Sollmann and Konrad Sprenger – Modular Organ System (Choose, LP/digial)

»I wouldn't say that we make music. Rather, it is sound in a certain space that can only be experienced in its entirety when the audience moves through it,« Phillip Sollmann described the Modular Organ System he conceived together with Konrad Sprenger to field notes before presenting the installation at the CTM Festival in 2022. Now they have recorded an album with the instruments from which they have built room-filling installations and which are merely modelled after classical pipe organs, but look and sound quite differently. Does »Modular Organ System« then offer music during its 32 minutes and if so, what kind? Drone and minimal music is probably a frame of reference for this record, however, instead of trying to categorise it, we would recommend to turn up the volume, fill the room with it and walk through it.

SG (Andrew Pekler) – For Lovers Only / Rain Suite (Faitiche, LP/digital)

Berlin-based composer and music producer Andrew Pekler has always been fond of pseudonyms. His new album for Jan Jelinek's label Faitiche is being released under a new name. As SG, Pekler dedicates himself to gentle, gently wafting meditations for electric guitar on »For Lovers Only / Rain Suite,« for which he turns himself into a kind of one-man minimal music orchestra together with his guitar and effects devices. The determining compositional (or rather improvisational?) parameters are those of movement, dynamics and tonal depth, other possible musical references would be in equal measure the blues, shoegaze, the music of Vini Reilly or post-rock of Chicago provenance.

Ukrainian Field Notes VA (система | system, Buch/digital)

The book »Ukrainian Field Notes VA,« edited by Gianmarco Del Re for the Odessa-based music label система | system, is a stunning 567 pages thick and the accompanying digital compilation featuring 86 tracks is just as comprehensive. The mammoth project was born from a series of interviews that Del Re has been conducting for the online portal A Closer Listen since March 2022, and for which he talks to a wide variety of players in the Ukrainian music scene about everyday life and art in times of war. »Ukrainian Field Notes VA« collects 170 of such conversations and is thus probably the most extensive document on the situation of artists on site and in exile. A unique project in terms of both scope and content.

  • Releases of the Month
  • Releases des Monats
  • Corvo Records
  • Alvin Lucier
  • Subtext
  • Black Truffle
  • bastille musique
  • Faitiche

For further reading

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