OUTSKIRTS

In an act of archival house-cleaning, I’ve uploaded volumes 2 & 3 in the “words scores” ALPHABETA series to Bandcamp.

The first is ALPHABETA 2: Outskirts. In 2011 I recorded the original ALPHABETA (released 2012), an album of music composed using the letters that spell words for the notes of each piece. For instance the melody of “Defaced” went D-E-F-A-C-E-D. A gimmick situated somewhere between artistic creativity and laziness.

The nine tracks on this EP were first sketches, demos and out-takes. Some I rejected purely for (what I now see as relatively minor) flaws in the recording or performance, some because I recorded two versions of the “word” and chose the other for the album. Ironically, I feel these abandoned takes hold together more cohesively than the original album. There’s a continuity of sound and approach (a sort of spaghetti western jazz) that was missing from the hodge-podge approach of the official album.

Interestingly, the first track ACE DECADE takes it’s name from the Scooby-Doo episode “The Diabolical Disc Demon” which possibly was the subconscious inspiration for this whole project.

Ace Decade is the nephew of the owner of a music studio. He is a Caucasian male with dark brown hair and wears glasses. Ace Decade is disloyal, sneaky, jealous and conniving. Decade was smuggling records out of the studio in trash cans in order to sell them for personal profit. When a music writer, Tony Symes, realized his actions, Ace disguised himself as the Phantom and kidnapped Symes, locking him in a cupboard in the cafeteria. Decade attempted to mislead the Scooby gang whilst they attempted to solve the mystery, leading them to a tape recorder wired to the intercom in his office in order to give the appearance he was being framed. However, Symes left a clue which was Decade’s ultimate downfall; his last piece of music spelled the culprit’s name in the first three bars: ACE DEC ADE.

The second album is one I’d posted last year to the BABEL Soundcloud under the title ALPHABETA {organ redux}.

The inspiration for these recordings was that about half the original album turned out exactly as I intended. The other half… I suppose I was never happy with it. Some pieces were too cluttered in the arrangements, others too cutesy in my attempt to tie the dictionary definition of the word thematically to the piece. Often that approach resulted, I felt, in some ham-fisted results where the music suffered as I forced it to conform to the concept of the project. Still, other pieces disregarded the literal meaning of the word altogether and because of this, it seemed, the work as a whole was disjointed. Here I returned to the concept and reduced it to its basic elements: the notes themselves.

To aid in this, I used the same synthesized organ voice for each track and used echo loops in the manner of Messrs Riley and Reich. This time, I’ve let the notes speak for themselves and ignored the literal meaning of the word. Save, perhaps, “DEAF” with its tinnitus-like ringing at the end and “BE” could be used as an aid to a meditation on simply being.

For this reposting I changed the title to ALPHABETA 3: Organizm.

Both titles are available in micro-batch edition CD-Rs.

And finally, not on Bandcamp but back over on Soundcloud, I’ve uploaded a live recording from the ALPHABETA launch party.

defaced

Since I was releasing an album of electronically manipulated glockenspiel titled Glockengeister that same night, I combined the approach of the two in a composition called DEFACED/FACADE with the help of Pavlov’s Dogs Handbell Ensemble. The performance was captured by recordist Joe Strutt but sat in his vault for a couple years and then mine for another. You can listen now, or download it (free), below.

JANIFORM-RGB
Improvised piano études recorded in January, 2015.

Janiform. adj. Resembling the god Janus, having two faces looking in opposite directions.

a0883440816_10
Happy New Year. I hope you have few fears or tears (unless you got that Tears For Fears box set for Xmas). To aid in a pleasant transition into 2015, here is NOVUS, an EP of ambient drone improvisations. It’s an interim work between OCTAL (out on Inydisk) and DECIMA (coming out on You Can’t Help But Feel Hypnotized).

It’s Free/PWYC to download and there’s still some copies of the über-limited edition hand-stamped CD-R left (I’ve been slipping them into people’s hands over the holidays).

Earlier this month cult CD-R label Inyrdisk did BABEL the honour releasing OCTAL. Quantities are very limited, so it’s not to be slept on. Or the digital is available for perpetuity.

‘XI’. A track recorded on November 11th, 2014. Solo, improvised prepared guitar.

 

Video clip for “Zwerm.04” from Zwerm/Totaal.

Zwerm04

While rehearsing for live dates in Winter of 2013 and Spring of 2014, I recorded over 11 hours of prepared guitar improvisations (direct to 2-track stereo). In somewhat of a feat of endurance, I distilled those hours down to one 79 minute album I’ve titled ZWERM. The word is Dutch for “Swarm” and is a reference to the buzzing, wasp-like sounds created by placing an electric toy insect near the pick-ups of my Telecaster which form a recurring drone motif across the improvisations.

If you’re familiar with BABEL’s Heurter and Rillingen albums, you will know what to expect from these solo guitar explorations—percussive, almost industrial rhythms blended with harmonic drones and sparse, lyrical melody lines. This time out, I’ve added to the existing recipe are elements of spoken-word cassette collages which were sampled and mixed live into the throbbing hum.

Weird Canada

Babel has been pouring out a huge number of recordings for a good many years now. This album stands as the second in a trilogy of percussively minded releases focusing on prepared guitars and bass guitars. Sturm und Drang gets its three thematic counterparts going on a psychedelically stomping bare foot, where the emphasis is certainly on the minimalism and rhythm rhythm rhythm associated with the classic krautrock sound (“Sturm.01-03”), before going shot-for-shot into more serene dreams and foreign landscapes intent on flowing out into the ambient (“Drang.01-03”).

Whereas previous Babel releases (and there are very many, mostly released on CD-R) explored notions of post-rock and doom-metal inspired textures, the “Drang” pieces pursue a purer ambience, a oneness with the void perhaps. And then there are the “Black Lodge” and “White Pine” tracks, dipping into Angelo Badalamenti and Twin Peaks waters with inspiration and restraint. A project in metamorphosis, guided by Arachnidiscs head honcho Jakob Rehlinger and recorded in brilliant crystalline hi-fi, Sturm und Drang shows that Babel is towering with talent.

Biloxi

The second installment of Babel’s trilogy where guitars are played as percussive instruments, I am criminally late in my review of STURM undDRANG. The pieces here are improvisational, but the sound seems more structured than the tracks on heurter. Babel also includes flutes and electronically manipulated vocal drones, which creates a much richer sonic tapestry. Finally, where as heurter was firmly rooted in an ambient sound, STURM und DRANG song’s vary from drone to stuff that has an unusual pop and smooth jazz undertones. With each album I hear, I’m enjoying Babel more and more.

Terrascope

I don’t know what it is about sleeve art using crude black stencilling on white card stock, but to me it always suggests a hint of the forbidden and a basic, no b.s. approach. The latest entrant coming bedecked in that stark, crate-loving lettering is BABEL‘s ‘Sturm und Drang’ (c.d.) on the Arachnidiscs imprint. This comes as a part two in Babelman Jakob Rehlinger’s trilogy and as a follow up to the ‘Heurter’ c.d. Even though I’m not that conversant with sound collagist / psychester Jakob’s modus operandi for this project, I’d suspect that this exercise in guitar gamelan would require the strings to be restrained in gaffa tape or somesuch, so as to avoid unnecessary sustain and bleed into the rhythmic warp and weft. Having had the merry hell beaten out of ’em, these tightly-bound victims seem to summon up an early period Glenn Branca-conducted unit gatecrashing a Z’ev-hosted percussion seminar, making for a surprisingly wide span of timbres, considering the fairly limited sources that were selected. And it’s not the bug-eyed clatterfest one would expect, as one or two segments; with their doctored vocalese and primitive wind instrumentation, open a portal into weird M.R. Jamesian rune-casting invocations…..Mr. Karswell…they’re playing your tune….

Raised by Gypisies

With regards to their other CD, this piece by BABEL is quite different and possibly even the opposite as far as song structures go.   It is fairly normal in terms of the quantity of songs as well as their individual lengths.  I realize that “normal” is a relative term, especially in music, so I don’t want you think that at all reflects this album as being in any way normal in the general sense of things. These songs do seem to possess a certain sense of rhythm though, which almost makes them closer to normal than not, but there are enough other qualities to pull this back down to an abnormal reality for me.

There is some amazing drum work on these songs and it even gets close to something like jungle beats at times, but doesn’t quite exactly make it there.   What will probably stick out most about this CD to me in the long run are the undertones of the western style of music. I’m not talking about your grandfather’s western though.  This is like something straight out of “Django Unchained” and I love it for that.

On a side note, I read that these songs were all improvised and I also really respect the sound of this CD for that as this is one of the finest releases I have ever heard and it’s something so much more than the noise/instrumental/experimental genres.

babel - rec1

Toronto recordist and cultural archivist Joe Strutt has posted a portion of BABEL’s April 27th show in Toronto on his Mechanical Forest Sound blog.

You can listen to it HERE.

“The four tracks seem knot together into a kind of symphonic form, the first three totaling some 25 minutes, the last 37. The general sound is of an electric drone/throb, a few parts the Fripp of “No Pussyfooting” (sans Frippertronics), a few more of a sunnier version of Godspeed You! Black Emperor. The first three sections are all about vastness, sometimes a bit overdoing it (the closing wind sounds on the third sections, for example) but generally resting in a rich swirling sound area that’s not unpleasant. Rehlinger takes the opportunity to tease out more structural strands in the fourth part, separating out various sonorities, allowing more breathing room while still maintaining the kind of simmering ecstatic output heard earlier (here, I think of Loren Connors at his most otherworldly and Branca rears his head as well).” ~ Just Outside 

 

“Haunting guitar-based ambient, brings to mind the densely layered looping of Richard Pinhas and the crepuscular moodiness of Evan Caminiti, throw in a richly textured guitar tone akin to Tom Carter and you have this masterpiece. A lot of delay, space, drones, perfect music for your third eye. Fuck me, this is beyond beautiful. I can die happy now.” ~ KZSU FM