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Cocooning

By Javier Blánquez

Cocooning   Javier Blanquez

Music taking it easy

This column should start off every month with a memorable quote from Larry David, the spiritual leader of “cocoonists”, a religion on the rise. This one, for example, fits like a glove when it comes to summarising the stress and discouragement that what we call “Christmas” brings up for some of us. Larry says: “I don't like talking to people I know, but strangers, I have no problem with.” It makes you want to applaud, to write him letters. This column should have really started out, not with a quote from L.D., but rather with a furious tirade against the change in routine and biorhythms that Christmas causes every year, but the circumstances this time were different: this time yours truly was lost in a deserted city, locked away in a Spartan room—I’ll spare you the bile. If you are the kind of person who detests dinners by decree and the hustle and bustle of people on the street in search of a useless present, you will understand that fleeing—or simply shutting yourself away—is always the wisest choice. Do you know what I asked Santa Claus to bring me for Christmas? A house arrest. There should be some judges who give them without your having to commit a crime, like doctors prescribing placebos.

Nothing like a safe place, then, for finding peace and inner balance. What you call yoga, I call sofa, bathroom –the sacred final bastion of isolation– or the bedroom. The bedroom has a lot to do with electronic music, as you already know, and therefore it is a space identified with creativity. Here, we’re fans, and Kev Kharas knows this; he’s a journalist who can be read in spaces like Drowned In Sound, NME, or The Stool Pigeon, as well as in the liner notes of “The Bedroom Club”, an album released by his label, No Pain In Pop, in which six artists: Patten, Bathcrones, Protect-U, D’Eon, Dunian and Pariah have composed a song by following the same pattern: closing themselves away in a monk’s cell—in this case, each one’s own bedroom studio—and finding an honest inspiration in absolute solitude, using self-arrest as a creative vehicle, not as an end in itself (“solitude need not be a destination,” declares Kharas). Not all of the results on the album are introspective –“Vineyard of the Sea” by Bathcrones and“This Sharpened Mist” by Patten hunt out the beat, and mental isolation is achieved in a crowded club– but there are cuts, like “Blackfriars” (Pariah), which are a nirvana: long minutes of ambient from beyond the sea, like that practiced by neo-Detroit auteurs like Arne Weinberg or Anders Ilar. In any case, “The Bedroom Club” does what is necessary: it makes both the authors and those of us who listen to them feel our inner strength and—quoting Larry David once again—it makes us feel ourselves to be the true masters of our domains. Having said that, here’s what’s new this month.

Hype Williams: “Find Out What Happens When People Stop Being Polite, And Start Gettin Reel” (De Stijl)

Although this column is an apology for domestic reclusion, Hype Williams are the exception that would make you break your vow of silence and get out there to try to understand the duo’s mystery—remember again that we’re not talking about the director of video clips, but rather an elusive boy/girl duo, one that for the moment is rather impermeable. Various festivals, Sonar among them, have confirmed that the duo will perform at their upcoming sessions, and Hype Williams, like Various in its day, looks to be the type of project that you don’t really manage to decipher until you come face to face with it, like Oedipus and the Sphinx, or Perseus against Medusa. What riddle will they tell you? They must be seen face to face, praying not to be petrified by the sight. Who is Hype Williams really? What do they really look like? How tall are they? Does she really live in Berlin? What does he do? This new limited edition artefact with evasive circulation situates Hype Williams’ sound in a different sphere than the one they showed in the 7” “Do Roids and Kill E’rything” –from a more hip hop line, with screw & chop passages among vapours of crystalline ambient– and “Untitled”, an LP that uncovered a one-of-a-kind connection with hypnotised, evocative pop. “Find out What Happens When People Stop Being Polite, and Start Gettin’ Reel” is once again a jumble of all of this, but with the addition of R&B rhythms, narcoleptic spoken word, 80’s pop, and ambient mists, in a sonic grinder for the purpose of re-contextualising psychedelics in a ghostly, decadent, urban, framework.

Mist: “Glowing Net EP” (Amethyst Sunset)

For now, there is no better way of trying to capture the essence of Hype Williams than by contrasts. That is to say, determining what they AREN’T before declaring what their music is. This is a good sign, because more elusive music is normally more alive and valuable. This doesn’t happen, for example, with “Glowing Net EP” –which is really almost an LP, since it lasts half an hour. The new venture of John Elliott, the keyboard player for Emeralds, with Sam Goldberg, whom we also know under his alias Radio People, follows the strict rules that make the record—five cuts, five trips—into an generic artefact for consumers of new cosmic music. Generic because in theory it seems to be interchangeable and indistinguishable from other albums of this kind, even the albums of Radio People and Elliott’s different solo projects: an excess of primitive synthesisers, modulation in real time, careful programming to achieve the elastic, wandering notes that have always characterised the kosmische kuriere of the Brain label. Does Mist contribute anything to the condensed history of outer space music? No. Do they add anything of interest to the krautrock revival derived from Tangerine Dream? Again, no. Nevertheless, “Glowing Net EP” is so well done –the proto-acid bubbling of “Sky High” is caviar– that it must be recommended to the legion of collectors who snatch up this type of records. Yours truly, for example, has still not tired of it.

Rene Hell / Three Legged Race: “Violin Petal (Auden) / Whipped Secrets” (Arbor)

Rene Hell, etc.: “Manoeuvers” (Kraak)

Rene Hell/Three Legged Race: Violin Petal / Whipped Secrets /Manoeuvers

More mainlined cosmos. Obviously, his hand can be seen in the latest work put out by Rene Hell: the rhythmic oscillation of synthesiser notes as if they were waves on a cosmic sea, the thick, old grainy sound, a complete devotion to 70’s German electronic music. But little by little—in that same ocean of space—the disturbing touch, the shiver perceived in the materials released by the label Type in the album “Porcelain Opera” (2010) or in his split with Pete Swanson, “Waiting for the Ladies”, is diluted little by little. We’ll spare you the easy joke about a possible parallel project under the name of Rene Heaven, then, especially because it wouldn’t be right to approach the evolution of Jeffrey Witscher’s sound in terms of contrasts like hot / cold or light / darkness. With regard to “Violin Petal (Auden)”, a long suite that includes his side of the record done with Three Legged Race, the feeling is that there is increasingly less evidence of English undertaker proto-electronic music –Cabaret Voltaire, the earlier incarnations of Coil and Chris & Cosey– while there is more of a slippery, space surf sound in which Klaus Schulze and Conrad Schnitzler flower in a more eye-catching manner. Then you listen to what comes out on cassette in places like Agents Of Chaos, and the theory starts to unravel a bit, but it’s interesting to know that Hell’s affected side also exists, and that it also shows in “Chamber Music”, a piece for the group 7” record “Manoeuvers”, where the four cuts –the others are by Bear Bones, Lay Low, Jonas Reinhardt and Jonathan Fitoussi– share the same intention of sounding like a soundtrack for a documentary on quasars.

Twells & Christensen: “Coasts” (Digitalis Industries)

Xela: “The Sublime” (Digitalis Limited)

Twells + Christensen-Coasts/Xela -The Sublime

John Twells is also not a fierce animal who marks his territory with piss, baring his fangs and showing his claws every time strangers come near. Those who remember the beginnings of his musical project, Xela, will have in mind an IDM riddled with tiny melodies that seemed like snow falling on Silicon Valley. And one must not forget that when he is in private, the man loves sugary R&B and hip hop with easy choruses. On the other hand, it’s true that he has championed arid drone on his label, Type, and that he is increasingly more concerned with primitive electronic detached from any pleasant nuance. It’s more: when he has recorded material as Xela –particularly since “The Dead Sea” (2006)– he has done so with the intention of frightening and injuring. But even hearts of ice melt, and the latest material from Twells is more like a warm sheet than an “iron maiden” –you know, that medieval instrument of torture in the form of a sarcophagus, with sharp spikes inside of it. “Coats”, with Matt Christensen, is material recorded in 2008 whose aesthetic base has a firm foothold in drone and harmonic repetition supported by guitars and whispers. It’s absorbing after a 20-minute massage on each side of the record, more spacious than oppressive–it expands, it doesn’t press in on you– and which may be the preparatory phase for “The Sublime”,which is only available on cassette, reproducing the same structure: apparently cold drones that hide an exposed heart. One senses joy in Xela.

Dag Rosenqvist & Simon Scott: “Conformists. Music For A Film” (Low Point)

This album bears the subtitle “music for a film”, and this isn’t poetic licence to give one the idea that it is music with a cinematographic intention, but without an image to be supported. The days of “invisible soundtracks” are behind us, and now people really work for film, they don’t just bluff about it. Simon Scott –former Slowdive man and a leading ambientalist, thanks to his releases on Immune and Miasmah– and Dag Rosenqvist –better known as Jasper TX– have effectively worked on a film directed by Juriaan Booji. The result of sharing these studio hours is this lovely white record on which both musicians have reached a beneficial consensus: it is neither too ethereal, nor is it too overflowing with strings, or too excessively written. It seems more like an improvised jam interspersed with found sounds, brief drones, a bit of chance, and the appropriate ambiental texture so as not to get on anybody’s nerves (there is a latent state of tension, although it never gets too exaggerated) and so as to give emphasis to images that—we aren’t going to trick anyone, we haven’t seen the film—but which must surely be as green and bucolic as the cover of the LP.

Bvdub: “Tribes At The Temple Of Silence” (Home Normal)

Bvdub: “A Silent Reign” (Styrax)

Bvdub- Tribes At The Temple Of Silence/A Silent Reign

One who always slides as if he were on ice is Brock Van Wey. Since he decided that Bvdub would no longer have evident connections with techno and that the dance floor didn’t enter into his aesthetic aims, every time he releases an album we know that the good thing about it will be that we can enter into an isolating bubble, breathe a breath of fresh air, and get high on the overdose of oxygen. “A Silent Reign” is a double 12” that at times wants to catapult itself into techno again—some things never change, in the end—but its beats are only accents on a liquid nitrogen surface, in the best tradition of his recent works. But if what you’re looking for is a clear, crystalline ambient album, cleaner than the waters of a polar fjord, in the line of “The Art of Dying Alone” (Glacial Movements, 2010) or the mini-LPs that he released himself in the Quietus series, then you’ll have to look to Van Wey’s contribution to Home Normal. “Tribes at the Temple of Silence” is the first big cocooning title of 2011, the ideal addition to the Global Communication of “76:14” –the big ambient masterpiece– and the nocturnal solitude suggested by the albums of Echospace. We need not even mention that the man must be exhausted.

Danny Saul: “Kinison – Goldthwait” (Hibernate)

Wil Bolton: “Time Lapse” (Hibernate)

Kinison-Goldthwait / Wil Bolton-Time Lapse

The year 2010 was tremendous at Hibernate: every launch added to the catalogue—thought of a year before as an exercise in contention and instrumental loveliness, a place to give voice to new composers and sound-writers whose CDs would be put out in small batches—was the proof that an interesting label was being created there. The latest references confirm it. “Kinison – Goldthwait” uncovers the semi-acoustic sound of Danny Saul, a mixture of noise, pianos, and distorted strings, managing to reflect his shining angle and to hide the more sinister side, although it is an album in which light and shadows alternate. Nonetheless, there is a final feeling of protection, shelter, even when pieces like “On Howard Stern” and “Robert Francis (Bobcat Goldthwait)” seem to want to remind us of Ben Frost. With Wil Bolton, alias Cheju, the same thing happens, although his work is not as ambiguous: the camouflaged noise is limited to vinyl loops trapped in a groove, glitches, and the occasional field recording, and the harmony of “Time Lapse” —long violin or piano notes treated with electricity, overlaid with the trilling of birds and water flowing—does the rest, which is to communicate that state of peace, abandon, and solitude that is as relaxing as a bubble bath. Or as the end of the stressful holiday season. More to come, God willing.

If you are the kind of person who detests dinners by decree and the hustle and bustle of people on the street in search of a useless present, you will understand that fleeing is always the wisest choice.Larry David

God

The Bedroom ClubThe Bedroom Club

Hype Williams: “Find Out What Happens When People Stop Being Polite, And Start Gettin Reel” Hype Williams “Find Out What Happens When People Stop Being Polite, And Start Gettin Reel”

Mist “Glowing Net EP”

With regard to “Violin Petal (Auden)”, the feeling is that there is increasingly less evidence of English undertaker proto-electronic music while there is more of a slippery, space surf sound.

Rene HellRene Hell

John Twells is increasingly more concerned with primitive electronic detached from any pleasant nuance. It’s more: when he has recorded material as Xela –particularly since “The Dead Sea” (2006)– he has done so with the intention of frightening and injuring.

John Twells AKA XelaJohn Twells AKA Xela

Dag Rosenqvist & Simon Scott- Conformists. Music For A FilmDag Rosenqvist & Simon Scott "Conformists. Music For A Film"

Every time Brock Van Wey releases an album we know that the good thing about it will be that we can enter into an isolating bubble.

Brock Van Wey AKA BvdubBrock Van Wey AKA Bvdub

Nonetheless, there is a final feeling of protection, shelter, even when pieces like “On Howard Stern” and “Robert Francis (Bobcat Goldthwait)” seem to want to remind us of Ben Frost.

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