Killer comp of traditional gong musics ranging from the central highlands of Vietnam and NE Cambodia to variants from the Philippines, Borneo, Sulawesi and Indonesia, with an introduction by David Toop.
As the venerable Toop opines, Gongs have played an integral role in the mythogeography of Asia, and this comp is a great example of the instrument’s potential to induce unusual feelings thru tonality and rhythm. Normally used for ritual purposes, encouraging unity or trancelike states of mind, the recordings impart heady sensations, and, for those who can join the dots, form a sort of distant echo of other far-flung rhythmelodic traditions from outernational techno to other regional folk traditions from African to Native American, as well as c.20th minimalism and free jazz.
Initiated by Japanese sound artist Yasuhiro Morinaga, the project documents recordings of over 50 different groups spanning the South East Asian mainland and along its thousands of miles of archipelago into the Pacific. We’re particularly struck by the clashing overtone play of Isneg Group’s clangorous ‘Rooster Dance’ from the Philippines, and likewise the mesmerising melancholy of ‘Music for Funeral Ceremony’ from the Sumba Island, Indonesia, which both contrast with the transfixingly monotone, woodcut techno-like trample of ‘Duet Gongs by Coho’ from Vietnam, and again the gently hypnotic rhythmelody of ‘Buffalo Sacrifice by Jarai’ again from Vietnam.
Again, we can’t disagree with Toop’s description of the music as “simple yet mysterious and enveloping, a sound world in which to disappear. A theory exists but this is not explained" and urge lovers of anything from Don’t DJ to Ka Baird, Harry Bertoia to Sleazy or Kode 9 to give it whirl.
Probingly bittersweet electro-acoustic investigations of online surveillance and security systems from Australia’s Jasmine Guffond, following excellent albums for Sonic Pieces with her Editions Mego debut.
Paranoid in tone and elusively spectral by nature, ‘Microphone Permission’ evokes its subject in a mix of quizzical ambient sound design and mutated techno pulses that furtively get under the listener’s skin. As one might hope from experiencing Jasmine’s acclaimed solo albums, ‘Yellow Bell’ (2015), ‘Traced’ (2017), and ‘Degradation Loops’ (2018), the sound of her new LP is also incredibly detailed and once again lures us into a hypnagogic state where her ideas about contemporary life’s liminal but ubiquitous aspects can better take hold.
"Coming from a background in composing for theatre, dance and site specific installation, Jasmine is well versed in transcribing complex ideas into sonic arrangements that reflect their subject. The material in ‘Microphone Permission’ stems from a range of these projects - from the sonification of Twitter meta data, to soundtracks for an extinct forest, and emulating the harmonic shifts of a hydroelectric dam - without referring to them directly, using them as research that feeds into her stark and brooding dystopian musical worldview.
Developed over the course of two years, ‘Microphone Permission’ takes a justifiably paranoid standpoint against the ubiquity of smart phone surveillance systems. Taking cues from the example of the Spanish football league accessing fans’ phones via apps, to see if they were watching illegally screened games, Guffond’s music has a slow creeping sensibility that emulates the now near ubiquitous psychic dread of being watched. Between the muffled voices and subtly piercing tones of ‘Forever Listening’, the warped Arpanet-like electro of ‘Dotcompound’, and the introspective descent from clammy ambient pop to jagged electronics in Jasmine’s concluding statement of ‘An Utterly Dark Spot’, she portrays an aspect of the world as hidden, subliminal as it is ubiquitous and invasive, making for one of the uncanniest, incisive computer music records of 2020 so far."
Must-check album of home brewed country and psych-soul hybrids from Melbourne’s Francis Plagne, rejoining Oren Ambarchi’s Black Truffle following a richly enigmatic 2018 outing with crys cole.
Following its tape edition of 100 copies by Hobbies Galore, Plagne’s ‘Rural Objects’ lands as a digital release on Black Truffle to evince, where needed, that the label is as adept at picking up balmy, easy-listening wonders like this one as they are covering the heaviest rock and farthest avant-garde.
Including drums by Joe Talia (another crucial member of the scene swirling Ambarchi and BT), the album’s 12 instrumental - but melodically lyrical - songs were recorded precisely a month before its release date. As such it brings a direct, one-to-one representation of the artist in his studio, working with what sounds like harmonium, organ, guitar and percussion to create absorbingly immersive, meditative interzones that recall to our minds everything from downtown NYC vibes by Gray and Arthur Russell to the ghostly introspection of Loren Connors, and even late night Miles styles.
Avant-garde composer and student of La Monte Young, Marian Zazeela and Jung Hee Choi, Ellen Arkbro renders sustained and harmonically opaque chords on her stunning second solo album for Subtext. More minimal and extended than her 2017 debut ‘For Organ and Brass’, 'Chords’ is a focussed study in a gradual manipulation of acoustic timbres, using subtle synthesis of organ and guitar through two extended pieces bound to generate uncanny sensations to anyone familiar with the conventional tone of her chosen instruments.
Although underpinned by mathematical rigour, Arkbro draws direct connections to sacred music through a strict method of reduction, stripping away elements in a process she likens to a sculptor chipping away at stone. What’s left is primed for a kind of mind-altering osmosis, where the listener gradually fills in the gaps, or as she tells the most recent issue of The Wire “…what you pay attention to will change what you hear”.
Influenced by her teachers and the spirit of New York’s 1960’s Downtown scene, Arkbro is meticulous in her process and use of unusual tunings to reveal strange, sustained sounds that seem to continuously change shape. This pursuit of a kind of sonic “emptiness” belies the often unearthly spatial dimensions she manages to conjur, making highly perception-based sounds that have an almost supernatural quality.
The results sit somewhere between sacred and industrial music, a listening experience with highly meditative, spiritual, sometimes disturbing qualities - quite a remarkable achievement.