Releases of the Month

March 2024

17 March, 2024 | Kristoffer Cornils

Two hands hold a red, semi-transluscent vinyl record
©Nikta Vahid-Moghtada

»Participation and sound research with young people« is the subtitle of Dr. Christiane Plank-Baldauf's article in the current issue of field notes. The term »access« is only used twice, but in this context, as in the field of music in general, it is a crucial one. What is remarkable about projects such as QuerKlang, LOUDsoft, geräusch[mu'si:k], the georg katzer ensemble and, of course, comparable efforts by the exploratorium is that they not only work across age groups, but also largely across classes—and not only school classes. Access to the musics at the heart of the coverage of field notes is always also dependent on socio-economic circumstances. Cultural work, and in particular its funding, therefore bears a more than relevant social and political responsibility, especially with regard to children and young people. It seems that in the future, even greater efforts will have to be made to secure and build upon the latter.

Access to music recordings, on the other hand, is more immediate than ever. Anyone with an internet connection and working speakers can browse the largest musical archive in the history of humankind. Access may be unlimited, but it is not uncontrolled: there is hardly a platform that does not use algorithms to influence what exactly is presented to listeners and what is not; that does not translate its business interests into code in order to control consumer behaviour in its own interests. Participation or sound research, i.e. the active engagement with the musical unknown, falls by the wayside in these contexts. In this respect, too, there will have to be increased efforts in the future, much as the projects mentioned above develop alternative offerings to conventional music lessons in schools, in order to create more egalitarian access for artists and audiences alike.

Access can only be made possible through collaboration. The Releases of the Month in March demonstrate just how this works: there is hardly an album (or book!) among them for which different people have not come together to open up spaces to other worlds. We hope you enjoy it.

Alëna Korolëva – Premonitions (forms of minutiae, MC/digital)

Sound artist Alëna Korolëva created »premonitions,« released on the Berlin label forms of minutiae, as a commissioned work for the Radiophrenia platform, bringing North American flora and fauna into dialogue with Chayka Chekhov on trumpet. What may read like a fairly conventional soundscape work on paper sounds decidedly composed from the very first second: Korolëva uses the rumbling of the wind as a basic rhythmic framework and frog choirs like shimmering organ notes, employing the cooing of birds as a canon and counterpointing it with undefined rumblings. Like a carefree DJ, she fades from one contrast to the next, allowing Chekhov's playing, which only appears late in the mix, to emerge from the rippling water and disappear again as quickly as it came. An absolutely remarkable work that ignores all conventions of soundscaping with verve. Bravo!

Bauer + Katharina Schmidt – Open Water (Moon Villain, MC/digital)

News from the tireless Katharina Schmidt: together with Bauer, the Berlin artist has entered into a file exchange between the German capital and London. The result is called—perhaps in reference to the English Channel roughly halfway between those two places?—»Open Water« and was released one Atlantic away on the Moon Villain label from the US coastal city of Boston. Undulating dynamics characterise these multi-layered, profound six tracks. They are accentuated by fine rhythms and spread across wide spectra of sound—on the surface this may seem calm or at least soothing, but there is much, much more lurking underneath. These waters are deep.

Billy Bultheel – Two Cycles (PAN, digital)

Composer Billy Bultheel is best known for his work for Anne Imhof and the duo project 33 together with Alexander Iezzi; »Two Cycles« is the belated solo debut of the artist based in Brussels and Berlin. It may not be an album in the conventional, but in the original sense: the 13 pieces, arranged in two cycles, were created independently of each other between 2016 and 2023. The »Snow Cycle« brings together electro-acoustic pieces and pieces composed for acoustic instruments, while the »Game Cycle« features electronic works through which an affinity to contemporary club music resonates to varying degrees. A sonic photo album—full of snapshots, heterogeneous and full of surprises.

Cosmin TRG – Ecstatic Data (Feral Note, digital)

Cosmin Nicolae already has a career as a producer of bassy club music under the pseudonym TRG or Cosmin TRG behind him and has recently turned to more abstract electronic music. Following the release of his meta-ambient album »Hope This Finds You Well,« he is now releasing »Ecstatic Data« for, well, the second time via the Berlin label Feral Note: the majority of the tracks were already featured on the massive label compilation »KLANGBOX III.« In the course of these eleven tracks, Nicolae, who is also active as a composer for dance and theatre as well as a filmmaker, drives his examination of the interactions between (poly)rhythm and (sonic) space even further. This results in a deeply ambivalent atmosphere that reflects our societal aporia in the age of total transparency: The unknown has been lost. »Ecstatic Data« responds to this by blurring the sounds and contours.

Cosmin TRG · Cosmin TRG - KLANGBOX III - 19 Taciturn Upon Return

Dagar Brothers – Berlin 1964 – Live & Berlin 1964 – The Lost Studio Recording (Black Truffle, CD/digital & LP/digital)

Amelia Cuni, one of the most important representatives of the North Indian dhrupad tradition in Europe, passed away in January. Two archive recordings of concerts by the artist, who lived in Berlin for many years, have been released on Oren Ambarchi's Black Truffle label in recent years. Moinuddin and Aminuddin Dagar were considered two of the greatest in this field, kept the tradition alive after India's independence and made it known to a wider audience with an international tour in 1964 and 1965 (Moinuddin died the following year). »Berlin 1964 – Live« and »Berlin 1964 – The Lost Studio Recording« document exactly what the titles promise: together with Moinuddin's wife Saiyur on tanpura and Raja Chatrapati Singh on pakhawaj, the Dagar Brothers perform various ragas in a concert situation and in the studio, with the recording quality reflecting the respective contexts—here more vividly and out of the moment, there more focused and clearer.

Francesco Corvi & Hugo Lioret – Live at Trickster (SUPERPANG, digital)

The Trickster is a small, if not clandestine club in Kreuzberg and a set like that of Francesco Corvi & Hugo Lioret in October last year right at home over there. »Live at Trickster« documents a twenty-minute improvisational dialogue between live coding in Supercollider (Corvi) and a Buchla synthesizer as well as sample processing (Lioret). The conceptual starting point was the Japanese concept of wabi-sabi, roughly: the beauty that is revealed in what remains hidden—for example in human errors in a very technical setting. Where exactly the machines (re-)produce man-made errata, however, remains an open question on this mini live album. Or it has to be discovered by listening very carefully.

Hainbach – The One Who Runs Away Is the Ghost OST (Seil, MC/digital)

Stefan Paul Goetsch is probably the friendliest YouTuber in the music tech gear sector and can not only elicit sounds from the most obscure of devices, but also make really good music with them. In March, he proved this twice over: for »Pipe Dreams,« he locked himself up in his home studio in Berlin for a few days together with collaboration partner LOOK MUM NO COMPUTER and a few synthesizers, while he wrote the soundtrack to the documentary »The One Who Runs Away Is the Ghost« single-handedly. He set the story of two sisters who spend their childhood in a huge electronics market in the Chinese city of Shenzhen to music with streaky textures that are at times reminiscent of more abstract vaporwave productions. This reflects the playfulness and ambivalence of director Qinyuan Lei's film, whose cinematic attention to detail is perfectly complemented by the music.

Hanno Leichtmann & Valerio Tricoli – Cinnte le Dia (Ni Vu Ni Connu, LP/digital) & Hanno Leichtmann – Outerlands (Discrepant, LP/digital)

Hanno Leichtmann is never not busy and welcomes spring with two new releases. »Cinnte le Dia« is his third album in collaboration with the anarchic electro-acoustician Valerio Tricoli. The duo is once again returning to the Ni Vu Ni Connu label, which specialises in documenting the Berlin echtzeitmusik scene with a series focusing on duo works. With »Outerlands,« drummer and electronic musician Leichtmann is also making his debut on the Portuguese quality label Discrepant. The starting point for this was a stay at the Villa Aurora in Santa Monica, which houses the central instrument for this album: an organ, whose sounds Leichtmann complements with those of a marimba and tubular bells. A lot of material at once, while more is already on its way: »Code & Melody,« a new album by Denseland, Leichtmann's band project with lyricist and vocalist David Moss and bassist Hannes Strobl, will soon be released through arbitrary.

Disclaimer: The author has worked on the releases of »Cinnte le Dia« and »Code & Melody.«

HJirok – Hjirok (Altin Village & Mine, LP/digital)

Hani Mojtahedy and Andi Toma founded their project HJirok at the beginning of the pandemic and initially concentrated on installation works, but with »Hjirok« (with a lowercase J), the Berlin duo is now presenting their debut album after having presented it across two concerts during the CTM Festival. It is based on recordings of traditional Sufi rhythms and sounds, which the two recorded in Iraqi Kurdistan before processing and enriching it with field recordings from Tehran and elsewhere. Mojtahedy's vocals are similarly recombinatory, mixing Kurmanji and Farsi in lyrics inspired by various poets, drawing on vocal conventions and yet going far beyond them. These juxtapositions carry a political potential: they speak of a coexistence of times, places and cultures that is decidedly utopian.

Disclaimer: The author has worked on the release of »Hjirok.«

Jad Atoui, Jawad Nawfal and Sharif Sehnaoui – Modern Individual (Ruptured, MC/digital)

The Ruptured label was founded in 2008 by two key members of Beirut's music scene, Ziad Nawfal and Fadi Tabbal, and has been documenting the developments within the local community ever since. Three musicians have joined forces for its next release »Modern Individual«: Jad Atoui is mainly active on synthesizers and drum machines, Jawad Nawfal, whose sometimes also pops up around Cedrik Fermont's label Syrphe, has done pioneering work in this very field on a local level, and Al-Maslakh co-owner Sharif Sehnaoui is primarily known as an improviser on the guitar. Over the course of these six pieces, they blend their respective interests and talents in increasingly different ways. The result is a tense, exhilarating album.

Luis Alvarado & Alejandra Cárdenas (Hrsg.) – Switched On: The Dawn of Electronic Sound by Latin American Women (Contingent Sound, Buch)

The book "Switched On: The Dawn of Electronic Sound by Latin American Women"
© Luis Alvarado & Alejandra Cárdenas

Alejandra Cárdenas Pecheco is a regular guest in this column, especially with her work under the pseudonym Ale Hop, but this time it's not really about her. Together with Luis Alvarado, owner of the Buh label and tireless chronicler of musical trends from the past and present of Peru and neighbouring countries, she has published the anthology »Switched On: The Dawn of Electronic Sound by Latin American Women« via her imprint Contingent Sound. Over just over 200 pages, various authors dedicate themselves to the work artists such as Beatriz Ferreyra and Jacqueline Nova and Oksana Linde, who were recently presented to a wider public by Buh, or Teresa Burga, who is primarily known as a visual artist. In addition, however, there are many names that are probably still completely unknown in a Western context. There is much to discover in and thanks to this compact book.

Ludwig Wittbrodt – Schleifen (Ana Ott, digital)

Edis Ludwig (laptop and drums) and Emily Wittbrodt (cello) are embedded in a wide variety of musical contexts. With »Schleifen,« which they presented at biegungen im ausland on March 2, they have released a debut album full of contrasts on the Ana Ott label. What begins with white noise and slowly takes off with undulating drones runs through the most diverse moods and stylistic aggregate states in just seven tracks. Here concessions are made to clicks'n'cuts aesthetics, there the cello is blown up into a string orchestra, then Ludwig Wittbrodt seems to perform an undiscovered Xenakis piece, only to let the mainframe run hot again immediately afterwards. A veritable grab bag.

Marta Forsberg – Sjunger För Varandra (Warm Winters Ltd., digital)

After Marta Forsberg released new material at a rapid pace during the first two years of the pandemic, the Berlin-based composer has tended to keep a low profile of late. This changed at the beginning of the month when »Sjunger För Varandra« (»Singing for Each Other«), the results of a work commissioned by the Swedish organisation Nymus, was released on her label home of Warm Winters Ltd. In addition to strings played by Forsberg and percussive additions by Bex Burch, the human voice—a leitmotif in Forsberg's work—is at the centre of this four-part cycle. More precisely, it is that of her brother Tomasz, singing under a railroad underpass in the siblings' hometown or in conversation, which is duplicated and arranged for these pieces. Forsberg has an inimitable talent for working with vocals, making them seem concrete and abstract at the same time—intimate and vivid, distant and artificial. The only shortcoming of »Sjunger För Varandra« is that this mini-album is simply too short.

Niels Lyhne Løkkegaard & Quatuor Bozzini – Colliding Bubbles (Important, CD/digital)

The Canadian Quatuor Bozzini is known for taking unconventional paths, but interpreting Niels Lyhne Løkkegaard's »Colliding Bubbles (surface tension and release)« must have presented the string quartet with a few logistical challenges: All four members play their respective instruments and the harmonica at the same time during this brief half hour. This probably fits in with the—admittedly somewhat vague-sounding—concept of the Danish composer and sound artist, who has also enjoyed writing music for 16 triangles in the past. Above all, however, it sounds less like bursting bubbles, but creates the most beautiful tonal frictions. At some point, it is no longer clear exactly which instruments can be heard. Instead, a rainbow-coloured, iridescent, fluctuating drone floats in the room.

Simina Oprescu – Sound of Matter (Hallow Ground, LP/digital)

f = K1t/d^2√E/s(1-m^2): This is the formula that Simina Oprescu used to abstract the intrinsic sound qualities of 15 church bells housed in the Märkisches Museum and the Stadtmuseum Berlin. You can hear exactly what this sounds like on her debut album »Sound of Matter.« As part of a research project, Oprescu explored the potential of the instruments not only academically, but also creatively and practically, transforming a multi-channel installation work into the two pieces on the LP. They sound both warm and cold at once, are interwoven with vibrations and yet seem to stand statically in space—comparable to some of Alvin Lucier's works, and in parts even Éliane Radigue's patient sound research.

Disclaimer: The author has worked on the release of »Sound of Matter.«

sinonó – la espalda y su punto radiante (Subtext, digital)

Together with Lester St. Louis on cello and Henry Fraser on double bass, Crespo Pardo embeds poetry in music as sinonó. Or rather, they let the two melt into each other. On »la espalda y su punto radiante« for Subtext, Pardo's restrained vocal performance and Louis and Fraser's thoughtful interplay, which is by no means at a loss for dissonance, repeatedly create moments of sonic entanglement between voice and instruments; again and again, unisonos seem to be implied between them or at least they seem to come together in a kind of song form. But whether it is the words or the sounds: Something breaks out of these regulated paths at some point, as soon as even the smallest structure can emerge. The trio thus creates maximum tension and gripping dynamics with minimal means. An absolutely overwhelming and thrilling album precisely because of its (largely) quiet intimacy.

Stemeseder Lillinger – ANTUMBRA (Plaist, LP/CD/digital)

Elias Stemeseder and Christian Lillinger have been working together for some time; »ANTUMBRA« is the follow-up to »PENUMBRA« from 2022 on Lillinger's Plaist label. While the percussionist, together with double bassist Jonas Westergaard and vibraphonist Christopher Dell, works primarily at the interface of contemporary music and jazz on bastille musique, together with pianist Stemeseder he concentrates on a kind of advanced beatmaking that among other things also incorporates the sounds of a gayageum or a banjo. Although—or perhaps precisely because—the conceptual framework is limited, the results are open-ended. Something new happens all the time, the tonality and direction of the individual pieces change every second. Food for the synapses.

  • Releases of the Month
  • Releases des Monats
  • forms of minutiae
  • Katharina Schmidt
  • Feral Note
  • Black Truffle
  • Hainbach
  • Hanno Leichtmann
  • Ni Vu Ni Connu
  • HJirok
  • Ale Hop
  • Marta Forsberg
  • Subtext
  • plaist
  • Christian Lillinger

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