Rapoon: Dream Circle
Birds of Tin: Motion Mimic
John Hudak: May 5
X-ZF XZF02, 03 and 04
appeared in &etc v2003_c (17/3/03)
review by: Jeremy Keens

Terry has cranked up the out put from the Pretentious label stable with three from X-ZF (reviewed with the repeat caveat that I have Pretentious connections).

I had often seen the names of Rapoon and Muslimgauze linked, but in the albums I had heard couldn't see the real closeness ­ yes there was a tribal/ethnic aspect but it was handled quite differently by the two. The rerelease of Dream Circle provides the missing link.

'Najam jikkah' throws us straight in with rubbery fast drums and bells with tones through that are a settled base ­ a structure for most tracks ­ hypnotic and shifting into which are thrown deep strings and synths and fragments of female chants and voices. The presence of synths and a more structured use of some of the loops points to the difference from Muslimgauze, while the rhythm and drums parallel him more ­ differences become more obvious though as the album progresses. A fast hand drum and loop of a voice possibly saying 'fruits of Allah' are combined with shimmering light synths and aethereal blowing, twittering synths and backwards tones in 'In light'. Quite a rocky rhythm in 'Govindahal' as a drum loop with a synth whip in it and bass push on, while building/falling organ chord is the more varying element together with longer tones and judderings.

Looser, lighter and more open, 'Dream circle's strings and echoed claps are lightly manipulated with soft whisperings. Chopped up voices are the rhythm element of 'Lotus' as shimmers and pulses slide across, ghost drums pass and longer vocal lines weave through. With 'Wind chime' an extensive distortion makes the rhythm bed into an industrial rumble over which rainstick waves and a hissy singing blow, before the loose tabla of 'Radio ganga' underscores synths and a rumble like a train.

Voices as the main instrument again in 'Imdeepah' where words and fragments dance with an over-drumming, and then 'Na jam-fal' which is based on a deep synth drone which adds a later pulsing, voices redolent from earlier tracks and more drums is another extended meditation.

The Rapoon albums I have are later ­ just by a years or so ­ and relistening (Fallen Gods/Cidar is on now) you can hear the similarities and developments of the sound palette from Dream Circle. The key element which runs through them all (up to the most recent I have), though is the hypnotic rhythmic ambience and wonderful play among the sound elements. The Indian-influenced art work of this release is based on original material designed for a much earlier re-release, and is printed on thick stock. But, most importantly, this is not merely an historic artefact but an excellent album that still works really well.

(Now, at some stage I will have to explore :zoviet*france:!)

&

There's very few disks that come to the House of Ampersand out here at Mount Macedon that don't surprise and enlighten me. Most of what comes to me I enjoy (for many reasons ­ because it is beautiful, soothing, confronting, stimulating, diverting, attractive, expands my appreciation and understanding, and more). But a particular pleasure, though, is when something comes which has a different approach (often indescribable) or direction. Often the issue is my musical education ­ perhaps there are hundreds of people making sounds the same way, or this artist has for years, but I haven't come across it. The shock of the new is exciting (not that I want to down play the overall excitement I gain from the music you-all send me ­ I am forever in your debt).

Anyway, Birds Of Tin is one of these times. The long opening title track absorbed and confused me. Mysterious fast-forward samples, whooshes and flappy music slide across the audio field, on building shifting shimmery undercurrent. Pulsing rambling, the feel of a soundtrack as machines and high tones fade to new machinery and deep organ resonances, a rocket rumbles and it eases again, burring and notes swirling pulse and spiral. It is dense but light, passing ungraspably, organic and yet industrial ­ a solid ambience. The next two tracks 'The idea of order' and 'Circumvent' continue the feel ­ the first judders and shimmers with sustained notes and samples, longer tones and beating machines followed by breathy rumble pulses and more stable waving tones, whooshy long tones, a post-apocalyptic industrial wasteland, echo pulses.

Then 'Plucked kinetic' presents a suggestion of the technique as definite sampled loops are layered and phased, panning, rattling under a foreground shimmer. The sound is an imagistic fairground nightmare, musical but edgy. The other tracks are probably similarly constructed from loops ­ manipulated and modulated, but with an emphasis on their cycling nature. The most recent album it reminds me of is Michael Gendreau's 55 pas de la ligne au no. 3 which is mainly based on recordings of turntables ­ there is the same interplay of dark and light.

'The beauty of creation' has soft loops and taping that builds slow and moody, gently mysterious. Long tones with tolling over it develops into a tonal melody and a surprise is a spoken sample at the end. We move into space in 'Kin dust' as high pinging becomes spacious spirals and rumbles of sound, bubbling sonars and voice loops. And then we are 'Eaten by teeth of flame' as a deep rumble is like a breathing monster with high tones, whipping cycles and shimmering lights over easing to scrapes and ringing that suggest samples from nature.

Briefly developed in 'Thaw' which is thirty seconds of water dripping and crackling.

This album said something new to me ­ though Birds Of Tin have been around a while, check out the Pretentious discography. The organic mechanical juxtaposition/interweaving is not new, but there seem to be new aspects and developments here. Wonderfully recommended (fore or back ground).

&

While the Hudak album is 52 minutes long, I am not going to be able to say a lot about it (that refuge of the scoundrel, the PR piece, isn't available to stretch my words). A continuously changing sequence of chimey ringing metallic tones that ebbs and flows through short moments when you think it has ended to fuller layers, an almost aleatoric feel to it. Or it could be an improv. Some of the higher notes are quite resonant, and there is a wide pitch range. I have listened to it a number of times, and can't pick the instrument (if there is one): at times it is like a carnival calliope, or is it an organ in a cathedral. But then again, the tone is very like that of a glassaphone (I once saw a program which had one of the original ones, huge disks of glass that rotated, you held your finger against them and created the same wonderful tones that can be extracted from glasses, but only more so). Whatever, the piece is a haunting backdrop that you can listen to or let drift by as it is now ­ I haven't identified a structure to it, but it¹s a wonderful atmosphere.

&

X-ZF, as with any good small label, 'resplendent in divergence'.

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