Alan Morse Davies

Alan Morse Davies

Life is full of reappearances and memories. Several months ago, I disappeared from some of your social media radars. No worries, I wasn’t ghosting you, but various issues of real life came up, both with difficult and enjoyable aspects. The difficult ones have disappeared, probably different ones will reappear, and the wonderful times still remain.

Long before that one of my favorite musicians Alan Morse Davies intentionally disappeared from the free music scene. Everything on Archive.org vanished. This was his gig, I get it, everyone has got to do what is best for them at the time. His album Amusement Park Phases on 4–4–2 Music has been one of my favorite albums since it came out in 2007 and if the netlabel scene has some classic albums this would be one of them.

Over the last five months, I have been downloading and listening to lots of music. Lots. I’ve listened to over 300 albums with even more unlistened to. It gets daunting sometimes. 

As I was gearing up to write some more reviews, Alan quietly released some new work on his netlabel At Sea Music. The first was Recovery Songs. These three ambient tracks are laden with sweeping synthesizers and beautiful church-like vocals. The album feels like a requiem, but instead of death, the songs, guided by the album title Recovery Songs, point to a rebirth, “it is full of quiet joy” as Alan writes.

Alan Morse Davies’ “David”

The second release is a compendium of work that Alan completed between 2011 and 2013. How to Contact God When He’s Out of Cellphone Range is vastly different, most ambient and others out rightly experimental, but it is the loneliness of being an expatriate, a Welsh man living in Hong Kong, that ties these works together, whether it is “Ffarwel i Gymru” in this album or “Under Cardigan Bay” on Recovery Songs. Though I enjoyed the ambient works, I was more drawn to “The Adams Life Insurance Company”.

Alan Morse Davies’ “The Adams Life Insurance Company”

I’m back and, more importantly, Alan is back. We both have things to do. The free music scene will always continue to have reappearances, but hopefully we will always have the music. Alan has also released a work with Dave Seidel entitled Porch, Rain, Thunder back in March 2016.

Title: Recovery Songs
Netlabel: At Sea Music
Release Date: May 2016
License: CC BY-NC
Download mp3: zip

Title: How to Contact God When He’s Out of Cellphone Range
Netlabel: At Sea Music
Release Date: May 2016
License: CC BY-NC-ND
Download mp3: zip

Martin Rach – Late Autumn Quartets

Martin Rach - Late Autumn Quartets

The New Year as arrived and with it some new releases like Martin Rach’s self-released Late Autumn Quartets. Martin Rach, whether he’s performing under an alias (Mons Jacet or Morten Rasz or Chtin Mara) or even with a fictional band, is always innovating new ways to craft sounds. For instance Late Autumn Quartets is a continuation of his November release, Early Autumn Quartets (suRRism-Phonoetics), but with Late Autumn Quartets, Rach has added more pickups to the zithers in an effort to capture more sound.

These quartets are pieces that capture Rach at his improvisational best with a heavy touch of what he calls sound surgery, which is I am assuming Rach coming back around and adding other sounds whether a bongo (don’t wince), a kalimba, or something else. However, Rach doesn’t lose the freshness of the sound after reworking it.

Late Autumn Quartets opens with “Double Swing” which begins mainly as a percussive improvisation, but then the zithers come more into focus which is probably due to Rach’s recording set up as the recorder is not stationary, moving the sound closer and then further away. “Squared Circles” is composed of zithers, a kalimba and a bongo (hey, don’t wince; it works). But just as you got comfortable with the first two acoustic tracks on Late Autumn Quartets, Rach swivels and begins “Raving Threads” with a Korg volca bass and then quickly enters the swirling noise of electronics. Wonderful. The four track album closes out with “Root Architecture” which begins with a wall of sound as the zithers and bongos are mixed back into themselves and into the realm of sweet, sweet noise.

All the tracks of Late Autumn Quartets are full and engaging, sometimes  trance-like, but always intoxicating. If you like it you can either download it for free at Free Music Archive or drop Rach a few shekels on Bandcamp.

Artist: Martin Rach
Title: Late Autumn Quartets
Netlabel: Self-Released
Release Date: January 2016
License: CC BY-NC-SA
Download mp3: zip

Artificial Memory Trace – Reprint

Artifical Memory Trace - Reprint

Back in 1993, Slavek Kwi, aka Artificial Memory Trace, was working in a print shop in Brussels, Belgium. During that time he recorded several of the machines as he must have been captured by their rhythm and their hidden melodies. These recordings are extremely clear and precise — the noise we here is the noise of the machine. There is some walkie-talkie squawking captured periodically which doesn’t take away from the recordings, rather it adds an unknown to the repetitions.

My first few listens through Reprint, I was not bothered that I was unaware what was creating the sounds. I assumed it was a factory of some sort, but what kind of factory, I did not know. In reading the liner notes later, I learned that this was a recording of a print shop. The liner notes also provide some specificity to what we are listening to.”Part I” is one 40-minute track, but it is broken down as such:

Part I.
1. Lift for paper 0:51
2. Air (suction) 1:13
3. Ventilation 0:25
4. Printing 26:06
5. Assembling machine I. 9:26
6. Cutting of paper 2:04
7. Photo-machine 1:10

“Part II” is eight minutes of an assembling machine.

What attracts me to Reprint is the repetition of the sounds, the rhythm of the machines. And as soon as I start grooving to a particular segment, Kwi moves me to another machine with its own metallic grind and I have to readjust. Kwi licensed Reprint so that it is available for remixes.

Artist: Artificial Memory Trace
Title: Reprint
Netlabel: LOM
Release Date: December 2015
License: CC BY-NC-SA
Download mp3: Bandcamp

Onde Poussière – Silent Rain

Onde Poussière - Silent Rain

Through friends of friends, Kecap Tuyul and Doedelzak get introduced at the XtetX, an improvisational experimental group that meets up in Paris, France. Doedelzak, a synth player, ends releasing the wonderful drone album, Wandering in Dust, on Eg0cide Productions back in August 2015, and then Doedelzak and Tuyul get together and record two tracks as the duo Onde Poussière. The end result of this October 2015 session is the newly released Silent Rain.

The liner notes to Silent Rain state that the duo’s music “relies on a careful mutual listening and a quite restrained palette. It gives a particular attention to contrasts, silences, subtle shifts – but can also be quite agitated and even noisy sometimes.” Tuyul has an extensive discography of working with other musicians and is known for his playing on prepared guitar, though thinking of him solely as a guitarist would be preposterous. His journeys in sound, whether solo or others, are always quite good. After finally listening to Doedelzak’s Wandering in Dust, it was no suprise that Doedelzak and Tuyul worked well together on Silent Rain.

The first track, “Skipped Slices”, begins quietly, directing us down an ambient path. But as Doedelzak calls out to Tuyul, Tuyul responds with an answer that in itself is a call to Doedelzak, and he repeats this call wrapped in an answer. The duo quickly turn our ambient journey into the subtle and not-so-subtle noises of daily life. There are interferences, jolts, and even some pleasantness. “Silent Rain”, the second track, begins even more quietly than the first, with Doedelzak on the synth. But at this point, the listener should not be fooled by this lull, as Tuyul and his guitar scrape into the soudscape like a wounded man walking down a dark alley. Somwhere around the 4 minute mark things begin to get even more weird which is never a bad thing. “Silent Rain” comes crashing down half-way through only to regroup itself for future strangeness. Doedelzak and Tuyul’s musical wanderings may be filled with indirectness, even randonmenss, but it is their response to the other’s chaos that brings the music into one sound and makes Onde Poussière’s Silent Rain worth your time.

Artist: Onde Poussière
Title: Silent Rain
Netlabel: Eg0cide Productions
Release Date: December 2015
CC BY-NC
Download mp3: zip

Jeff Kolar – Doorbell

Jeff Kolar - Doorbell

The doorbell signals the arrival of someone or something, good or bad news, friend or salesperson, package or bill. Obviously the doorbell is not sentinent, but it’s sound in responded to so quickly that it seemingly takes on a life of its own: welcomed or unwelcomed. Our interpretation of this small electronic sound is now reworked by Jeff Kolar on his Doorbell release. Part of a permanent exhibition at the Elsewhere Museum in Greensboro, North Carolina, Kolar spent two weeks exploring the sounds of the museum’s vintage Yamaha organ. Kolar then created twelve tracks of sounds which he incorportated with a reconstructed doorbell system that museum vistors can play.

Of Kolar’s three solo releases this past year, Smoke Detector, Car Alarms and, now, Doorbell, the latter is probably his most accessible work. These tracks are bursts of 20 seconds, but usuallly are not comprised of one sound, rather they are built on a duality of organ sounds that are in opposition or accord to each other. Using this constructed sonic polarity, Kolar’s work mimics the listener’s response to our own doorbells.

In social media posts, Kolar has suggested listening to Doorbell on repeated or random loops. While writing this review that’s exactly what I did, building a huge playlist of the four-minute album and then shuffling it so that some tracks repeated after each other, other sounds became familiar, and some seemed fresh or new. For the track I include with my reviews, I decided to randomly select twelve tracks and put them together as one four-minute track to illustrate what I have been listening to and, maybe, using Kolar’s guidenance, demonstrate the preferable way to experience his work.

Artist: Jeff Kolar
Album: Doorbell
Netlabel: Panospria
Release Date: December 2015
License: CC BY-NC-ND
Download mp3: zip

Dave Seidel – Prism, Mirror, Lens

Dave Seidel - Prism, Mirror, Lens

Several years ago, Phillip Wilkerson ran a little sound series he called Complex Silence. These works, most of which are available on Archive.org, allowed musicians the freedom to explore the intricasies and development of drones as a musical statement. What set Wilkerson’s series off from other curations of ambient and drone works was his inclusion of a simple word: complex. The Wikitionary states that complex derives from the Latin complexus which means “I entwine, encircle, compass, infold”. The best of these some 40 releases never attached themselves to the simple sound, no matter how plain these tracks may have sounded, there was always an inquiry into the tones.

Dave Seidel was one of the early participants in Wilkerson’s experiment. And it was as Mysterybear, Seidel’s earlier alias, that I became familiar with his music. While many have fled the drone scene (if there ever was one), Seidel has kept on exploring the depths of these sonic murmurs. Seidel’s latest release, Prism Mirror, Lens, continues his search in the dronal environment. Seidel writes that the first track is in a “setting of continual spectral change”. Yes, that’s it! Change is the key to Seidel’s work. Boredom is not a word that comes to mind when listening to Seidel’s work, it is craftsmanship. There is an attention to detail that permeates Seidel’s sounds as he builds them allowing the listener to experience the uncertainty buried in his dynamic drones. There is no sameness of Seidel’s tracks; his work is an examination not of drones, but where the drones take us.

Artist: Dave Seidel
Title: Prism, Mirror, Lens
Netlabel: Self-Released
Release Date: August 2015
License: CC BY-NC-SA
Download mp3: Bandcamp

Windows 98の – Summer Singles

Windows 98の - Summer Singles

As summer begins its final swan song here in the Northern hemisphere, it is probably a good time to look a “summer” release and the artist Windows 98の is kind enough to oblige with their self-released Summer Singles.

If you know nothing of vaporwave then like me you’ll be fine, just go with it. If you have some prejudices about vaporwave, just stop it, just stop it now. If you know something about vaporwave, apologies. The short of it is vaporwave is more than a musical genre, it is more of a mindset or a musical feeling. Vaporwave can be cheesey and cutting-edge at the same time, it can be slow and melodic as well as being rough and noisy. Genres are nothing but labels. Just think about a genre or two that you are quite familiar with and you can see how useless it is to try and pigeon-hole any track to a genre.

What I like about Summer Singles is that Windows 98の doesn’t stay in one genre for long whether it is track by track or even with one track. The track “プラスチッククソ愛” is a good example of how Windows 98の moves from one genre, say vaporwave, and ends up somewhere in the noise spectrum. As I mentioned earlier, any pre-conceived notions about what vaporwave is viturally useless. It is never what you think and then it is. Some of Windows 98の’s tracks border on straight-up hip-hop like “Goofee Rascal – G:/ Infinite Goof” and another, “Death Grips – Two Heavens (Remix)”, leans toward breakcore. カテゴリ ラメ. 音楽 いい.

Just play and enjoy Windows 98の’s Summer Singles. Forget. Enjoy.

Artist: Windows 98の
Title: Summer Singles
Netlabel: Self-Released
Release Date: June 2015
License: CC BY-NC-SA
Download zip: Bandcamp