Releases of the Month April 2023
»What does tradition mean when the past is tainted by crimes?,« reads the accompanying text to »Rwandan Records.« The album, released via Cedrik Fermont's Syrphe label, is based on a walk-in music theatre piece by Jens Dietrich and Milena Kipfmüller, who also spoke about the project in field notes at the time. Multi-instrumentalist Klaus Janek and word/voice artist Eric »1key« Ngangare presented it in 2019 at the Haus der Kulturen der Welt—and thus in the heart of a former colonial power, which gives the recording of the six pieces all the more urgency.
The music for the piece, conceived by Sounding Situations as a sound installation, radio play and live concert, works with field recordings and interview recordings, but is musically oriented towards the sonic and rhythm language of hip-hop, especially of the so-called Golden Age of the mid-1990s. 1key's multifaceted performance allows the project to bring together pre-colonial and contemporary narratives, a historiography of the now that resorts to surprising means, thus subverting expectations and creating its very own stories.
Isn't that what politically motivated art is supposed to do—open up perspectives? And isn't that what art in general should do, at least on an aesthetic level? Each of the following 15 Releases of the Month from April, complemented as usual by three newly published books, interpret the past in a similar and yet entirely different form. And like »Rwandan Records,« they in turn give this interpretation to their listeners to interpret.
René Margraff / Malte Cornelius Jantzen – Split 2 (Second Editions, MC/digital)
»Second Editions is coming full circle and is calling it a day,« the Berlin label writes somewhat dryly in the announcement for its latest and unfortunately last release. René Margraff and Malte Cornelius Jantzen inaugurated it a good six years ago with a split release, and now this twelfth catalogue number, once again a joint effort, is the end. Margraff works with interview recordings of singer Avril Lavigne, who reflects on what exactly punk is, that is, where subculture ends and media projection begins. In the first piece, this is accompanied by loops that radiate cosy warmth and yet always sound slightly abrasive in the upper frequencies, in the second by rather threatening drones. It’s a fine gesture of subversion that works on many levels because it takes the words of an often ridiculed artist seriously. And if the singer of »Sk8ter Boi« plays the main role on the A-side of this cassette, its flip features ... flips. Skateboarding sounds can be heard for a good 17 minutes: rolling on, jumping, collecting the board—repeat, ad nauseam. The piece is as wonderfully banal as the anti-melodramatic farewell to a label that will be missing from the Berlin scene. See you l8ter, bois!
Oksana Hritseva – Mundane Levitation (система | system, digital)
The label система | system is characterised by a great openness to style and the release of »Mundane Levitation« underlines this once again. The composer, pianist and music producer Oksana Hritseva presents eight pieces written by her in 2001. She has been part of the contemporary music scene in the Ukrainian port city of Odessa since the 1990s, collaborating with other artists across genres and art forms and writing music for art projects and films. The material on »Mundane Levitation« is characterised by her passion for electronic sound production and ambient music; even echo effects of the so-called Berlin School and British club music from techno to trip-hop can be heard in Hritseva's music. The mood is at once contemplative and subdued, hopeful and joyful. Introspection and joie de vivre are not mutually exclusive here, but complement and even condition each other. »Mundane Levitation« is a rich document from the certainly extensive archives of an artist who has finally been given a larger platform. And at the same time, it is only one of many releases by Ukrainian artists from the early noughties that the label offers for sale on Bandcamp on a donation basis.
Ruth Anderson & Annea Lockwood – Tête-à-tête (Ergot, LP/digital)
Three years ago, the Arc Light Editions label dedicated a comprehensive exhibition to the artist Ruth Anderson in the form of the anthology »Here;« with »Tête-à-tête,« Ergot now follows up with a very special document of her work. The electronic pioneer, who passed away in 2019, collaborated with Annea Lockwood several times during her 50-year relationship with the sound artist, but the previously unreleased recordings at the core of this release are all the more intimate and special than their regular collaborations. In addition to a rendition of Anderson's minimalist piece »Resolutions« for electronics, recordings of conversations between the two play a central role. On the one hand, Lockwood's elegy to her deceased partner, created in 2020, interweaves field recordings around their shared home with recordings of conversations; on the other hand, Anderson's »Conversations« captures the first telephone conversations between the two women, who were just getting to know each other at the time. The title is to be taken literally: What the two discuss with each other is rarely heard over long stretches. Instead, there is a lot of loud, carefree and uninhibited laughter—the sound of two people getting closer to each other.
Ale Hop & Laura Robles – Agua Dulce (Buh, LP/digital)
Rhythm has always been at the centre of Alejandra Cárdena's releases under the name Ale Hop. This is also the case on »Agua Dulce,« her collaboration with Laura Robles, which the two first brought to the stage last year at the festival Heroines of Sound. The project is named after a beach near Lima, where both artists grew up, and is influenced by the Afro-Peruvian dance styles that are played along the coast. With the sound of Robles' electrified cajón and Cárdenas' use of guitar and electronics, the duo attempts to deconstruct or decolonise this music.
Anaïs Tuerlinckx – Miroitements Étranges (Possible Motives, MC/digital)
Anaïs Tuerlinckx only recently released a joint live album with Andrea Ermke, and now the Belgian Berliner-by-choice follows this up with two solo recordings on »Miroitements Étranges« for the ever-reliable Swedish label Possible Motives. For the first piece, she leaves her main instrument behind and uses a stringed box made by master piano maker Henri Seiferth as well as a broken zither. For the second, she returns to the piano. No matter, however, what Tuerlinckx works with: Her approach, which is both deliberate and characterised by rhythmic intuition, gets to the bottom of the qualities of individual sounds just as much as she knows how to connect them dramaturgically.
Brian Thornton & Iranian Female Composers Association – Sirventès (New Focus Recordings, digital)
When the exhibition »Rooted in Iran,« curated by Ruth Wiesenfeld, was dedicated to the work of members of the Iranian Female Composers Association last January, the protests that followed the murder of Jina (Mahsa) Amini in September were not yet foreseeable. Nor were the recordings of compositions by IFCA members assembled on »Sirventès« by Cleveland Orchestra cellist Brian Thornton made under the impressions of the ongoing revolt. And yet the pieces by Mahdis Golzar Kashani, Nina Barzegar, Nasim Khorassani, Niloufar Iravani, Anahita Abbasi and Mina Arissian can hardly be detached from all that—the artwork alone suggests loud and clear that this music is highly politically charged.
Brìghde Chaimbeul – Carry Them With Us (Glitterbeat/tak:til, LP/CD/digital)
Brìghde Chaimbeul emancipates an instrument from all the clichés inscribed on it from the outside by unleashing its intrinsic potential. On her second album, the Scottish smallpipes virtuoso even joins forces with a kindred spirit, saxophonist Colin Stetson. The two share an interest in the intoxicating power of drones and circular structures. »Carry Them With Us« is primarily a self-confident artistic statement by Chaimbeul, who can also be heard as a singer in between, and who lets tradition and future flow into each other.
Ensemble Schwerpunkt, Lorenzo Soulès, Peter Rundel, Edicson Ruiz, Dirk Rothbrust – Iannis Xenakis: Eonta (Bastille Musique, CD/digital)
Wonderfully megalomaniac: this is how Iannis Xenakis could be described and also this release on the Berlin label Bastille Musique, for which the Ensemble Schwerpunkt, with the help of a few very different artists, reinterpreted the slim but explosive catalogue of Xenakis' compositions for brass. Accompanied by a detailed booklet, »Iannis Xenakis: Eonta« casts a prism-like spotlight on a side of the composer's oeuvre that has not always been sufficiently appreciated—until now.
Franz Hautzinger – Gomberg III-V - Airplay (Trost, CD/digital)
It is a comprehensive work with which the trumpeter Franz Hautzinger presents himself on the Viennese label Trost. »Gomberg III-V - Airplay« brings together 22 pieces that were created between 2006 and 2018 for a wide variety of occasions. Commissioned works, collaborations or improvisational sketches make up this compilation that, accordingly, sounds quite versatile, but is aesthetically coherent thanks to Hautzinger's penchant for (sometimes electro-acoustic) abstraction. Event when he resorts to instruments other than his quartertone or sings, his very special artistic approach marks all of these pieces equally.
Grischa Lichtenberger – Works for Last Work (raster, digital)
Grischa Lichtenberger has never been content to work in just one medium alone. »Works for Last Work« is also a multimedia affair on several levels. The pieces included on it were created for an acclaimed piece by the Israeli Batsheva Dance Company, directed by Ohad Naharin, and are accompanied by high-quality prints. On a musical level, too, Lichtenberger moves between different forms of expression and sound languages, but folds them concisely into one. Acoustic instruments and electric crackling find each other in ever new combinations, alternatingly moving the focus on subtle rhythms and atmospheric sound design.
Jan Jelinek – SEASCAPE – polyptych (Faitiche, LP/digital)
»SEASCAPE – polyptych« was born out of a collaboration between Jan Jelinek and the media artist Clive Holden; the Faitiche owner composed these pieces for an audiovisual software or installation work. The source material for them, in turn, was provided by the »Moby Dick« film by John Huston and in particular the character of Captain Ahab, played by Gregory Peck. As is so often the case in Jelinek's work, Peck emphasises the empty spaces and interstices of the sound material in order to extrapolate abstract sound sculptures from them that are constantly in motion. Aquatic, misty, atmospheric.
Joseph Kurdika – Music Box Music (Blickwinkel, MC/digital)
Berlin-based composer and experimental musician Joseph Kurdika has spent his lockdown days toying around kids' stuff. Or at least that’s what some would consider it to be. The album »Music Box Music« was based on compositions sent in by artist friends, which he interpreted on music boxes. It is wonderfully strange to hear the nostalgically charged sounds of this instrument and yet be confronted with very contemporary artistic approaches.
Lakiko – What To Do, How To Live?
Lakiko belongs to a young generation of Eastern European artists who deal with pre-modern traditions, atrocities of the recent past and contemporary questions of identity. The title of her debut album »What To Do, How To Live?« formulates the initial questions to which the trained cellist and accomplished singer answers in various ways with her songs, most of which are written in her first language, Bosnian. Just as the pieces formulate a hybrid aesthetic between adaptations of traditional sevdalinka forms, electronic excursions and contemporary music, Lakiko mixes histories and different forms of cultural expression.
SABIWA – No. 16 - Memories of Future Landscapes (Phantom Limb, MC/digital)
The music producer and vocalist SABIWA, who now lives in Berlin, has pursued an approach on previous albums that was clearly influenced by the aesthetic codes of club culture and now devotes herself to other folkloristic forms. On »No. 16 - Memories of Future Landscapes,« she retains her penchant for electronic methods of abstraction, but takes musical material from her native Taiwan as a starting point for the four pieces. In combination with her own vocals, staged in a decidedly versatile way through the use of extended techniques, all this creates a strangely timeless, placeless atmosphere. This music is, in short, brimming with utopian potential.
Yorgos Dimitriadis – 14-20-22 (Trouble in the East, LP/digital)
The story of each family is also always one about world-historical processes. This is also the case with »14-20-22,« which begins with the words of Yorgos Dimitriadis' grandmother, who briefly summarises the story of her double emigration from Eastern Thrace after the First World War and finally the Greek-Turkish War. The accomplished drummer makes this political narrative tangible through personal means, using various historical documents as inspiration and incorporating even old recordings of his playing into his sound. He abstracts all this into electro-acoustic compositions that are sometimes reminiscent of the works of Andrea Belfi or Valentina Magaletti, meaning they create textures from rhythms and abstract the concrete in order to be able to tell something universal.
Dieter A. Nanz (Hg.) – Aspekte der Freien Improvisation in der Musik (Wolke, Buch)
What is improvisation? Is it even possible to talk about improvisation and if so, how? The German-language anthology »Aspekte der Freien Improvisation in der Musik,« edited by Dieter A. Nanz, is intended to remedy a lack of theoretical reflection in the discussion about improvised music. But anyone expecting a systematic theorisation from these 33 contributions will instead be presented with a colourful patchwork of ideas in which mainly artists have their say, most of whom keep it comparatively short. It is—as you’d expect—an unexpected combination of personal, philosophical and only rarely academic texts, mostly written from the perspective of practitioners. After all, in improvised music, the path to abstraction always begins with the concrete.
Gilles Aubry – Sawt, Bodies, Species. Sonic Pluralism in Morocco (adocs, Buch/Open-Access-PDF)
»Sawt, Bodies, Species. Sonic Pluralism in Morocco« began with a twofold mediation, writes the artist, musician and researcher Gilles Aubry in the preface of the book, which is also available as an Open Access PDF. The subjectively filtered recordings of Moroccan music made by Paul Bowles in 1959 marked the starting point for a project in which Aubry even tracked down one of the musicians whose sounds Bowles once recorded. His tour through Morocco's »sonic pluralism« is a decidedly multi-perspective one that does not want to repeat past academic mistakes. On topics such as colonialism, corporeality or ecology in the context of Moroccan music and sounds, local and personal perspectives are repeatedly added. Aubry even goes beyond this by artistically expanding the text through images and, of course, music.
Monia Acciari & Philipp Rhensius (Hrsg.) – Politics of Curatorship: Collective and Affective Interventions (Norient, Buch)
The title of »Politics of Curatorship: Collective and Affective Interventions« already makes it clear that editors Monia Acciari and Philipp Rhensius do not only want to offer practical handouts or theoretical reflections with this anthology. It is also about personal relationships to different curatorial practices and the processes of inclusion and exclusion that inevitably accompany them. For example, Gisela Swaragita writes about her own curatorial practice as a child: she put together mixtapes by requesting the songs on the radio and then recording them to make herself independent of the radio. Acciarci comments on pictures she made, Antye Greie-Ripatti contributes a poem—both thus reflect the overarching theme in different, productive ways. In addition to that, there are reports from the field as well as essays of a more theoretical nature. As expected from Norient, the beautifully designed book brings together different perspectives from different parts of the world without ignoring power imbalances and regional-cultural specifics. This itself makes it a very engaging statement on the politics of curation.