Review: Lisa Cameron, Damon Smith & Alex Cunningham – Time Without Hours (Storm Cellar, Oct 14)

November 2020’s Dawn Throws Its First Knife, the first collaboration by this trio of Lisa Cameron (percussion), Damon Smith (double bass), and Alex Cunningham (violin), was not a release for which I expected a sequel. So Alex sending me a copy of Time Without Hours, as he generously does with much of his output, was a wonderful surprise—and even with any high expectations set by the excellent debut, the music on this tape itself is unsurprisingly wonderful. The session that produced the set of five tracks took place nearly a year and a half after the improvisers initially gathered, and in their playing a ramp-up of both individual technique and collective consciousness is palpable. As loose and rickety as it often is, the dialect the three weave is clearly defined and consistently infectious from the very first tangle of “Ember on My Eyelids.” Though the “drums” role is credited to Cameron, everyone plays with an ear for atonal tactility; just listen to Cunningham’s taps and scrapes flap like tattered moth wings over the lumbering half-groove in “A Wave Reborn” or the rattling, dynamic skitter-symphony of “Handfuls of Shadow.” Side B culminates with “Plentitude in the Void,” a moody masterpiece of a track complete with crunchy bow drones and a somber, dirgelike atmosphere dark as pitch.

Review: Micro_Penis – Süra Wald (Chocolate Monk, Sep 24)

In addition to having one of the most difficult-to-explain—albeit quite representative—band names, French quartet Micro_Penis are notable for being one of the finest outlets for contemporary imaginings of the art brut tradition, spewing spittle, shit, and semen across four superb LPs and a previous Choccy Monk release over the course of the past decade or so. Süra Wald isn’t “new” in that it was recorded back in 2010, but it is the first excretion since 2019’s La Maison de la Justice, and any sign that these four lunatics might still be active as a unit is just fine with me. It turns out that the CD-R, besides being an archival unearthing, does some looking-back of its own; the material was recorded over two days at the exact same locations used for Peter Brötzmann and Han Bennink’s 1977 collaboration Schwarzwaldfahrt.

Brief opener “Air Crash Bodies” not only waddles the gamut of the various tools used for the session, EYE-esque belching gullets and DIed field recordings and choked, gasping horns; it also introduces the presence of a rare subtlety in the group’s approach. It’s more reserved and gestural than usual, sparing improvisation rather than coagulant collage or pell-mell hell. An appropriate choice given the inspiration, and in fact the foursome continues to tag their inimitable forebear-pair in various ways throughout the eight tracks: Spenlehauer (I think?) rips some fierce, invigorating sax flatulence in “Soufflé”; half-assed hand percussion trades space with huffs and hocked saliva on “UNGG”; the wet gargles of “HWGCR” pay homage to Schwarzwaldfahrt’s infamous stretch of instrument-aided bubble-blowing. And then there’s “F Mortes,” which is just a fucking masterpiece—I hope any residents with the misfortune of living within earshot were compensated accordingly. Though it’s not anywhere near as terrifying or intense as the self-titled or Tolvek, just like any of their releases Süra Wald reminds me how much I love this band, how they can constantly have me spellbound and dying laughing at the same time. Ignorants and stupidos unite.

Mix: Freeze Like a Fucking Progress Bar

Glitched-out noisescapes that intentionally or unintentionally, one way or another, tend toward power/heavy electronics tropes. Not for carbon-based eardrums.

00:00. No Disc – “Paper Jam” [excerpt] from Instant Error (Liquid Library, 2019)

08:33. No Artist – “I am ill” from Dear Master, […] (Chained Library, 2022)

11:23. Cicada 3301 – “Deburan dan Dengung Bumi” [excerpt] from split with Broken Cursór (Boil Your Angel, 2021)

16:28. Eir Luna Calypso Mazur – “vb1_2.wav-samplebrain.flac” from DivX Output Parcels ​/​ Dollar Dollar C​.​E​.​N​.​T​.​S. (Fire! Fire​!​! Fire​!​!​!​) (The Vapor Vault, 2022)

20:47. Seth Cooke – A side [excerpt] of Weigh the Word (self-released, 2019)

27:52. Hydra – “Real Power” from Your Name (Everyday Samething, 2022)

28:56. The Cathode Terror Secretion – “Ascension / Purification” from Singularity (Accretion Disk, 2007)

33:27. Interracial Sex – “The Buck and the Bull” [excerpt] from The Buck and the Bull (Meaning Corrupted, 2015)

Review: Candi Nook – How I Invented Sound and Redesigned the Human Ear (sPLeeNCoFFiN, Sep 30)

The dry, frank braggadocio of the title is reaches beyond simply a fleeting joke or ironic heading for this archival double CD set. In fact, it’s the very essence of Candi Nook’s musical approach; though How I Invented Sound and Redesigned the Human Ear spans a staggering range of styles and setups from throughout the UK sound artist’s active years (1998–2003), every single track oozes the same strain of unabashed experimentation, runs pell-mell toward the bizarre with the same unhinged, slipshod confidence. Beautifully presented in a sturdy six-panel digipak featuring mesmerizing photo arrays by the artist herself, the selected discography traces Nook’s winding creative path through analog noise collages, surreal synth sketches, ambitious texture-scapes and mood pieces, plucky MIDI mash, exploratory sound art, the works.

Tracks from the project’s debut cassette release (and my personal favorite) Queen of the Swirley-Eyed Ant Monkeys (1998) kick off the carnival tour, “Clean Penis Eating” at the forefront with its deft yet appropriately crude cocktail of 90s four-track harsh and irreverent sample plundering. The rawness may be most apparent in these loud, distorted early cuts, but it’s present in all of them, the rough edges and unpolished grit only highlighting how foundational this material is in retrospect: I hear eerily accurate presagings of Women of the Pore’s otherwise singular “bunker jazz” in “Dusk” and “Hollowgram”; echoes of Arca amidst the dadarkness of “Dreamfeed”; plans to pass the playful avant-electronica torch to Dan Deacon in “Teaspoon.” Nook does some looking-back of her own as well, notably with “Highly Intelligent Witty and Elegant” from eccentric opus In the Pink (2001), which in two short minutes manages to channel Ruth White, The Residents, and Miranda July. But of course this is all just my personal mapping, because at its heart this music is fundamentally its own, the one-of-a-kind oeuvre of a woman inventing sound and having a blast doing it.