Here are reviews of five different 3″ cdr releases from the limited series on Hong Kong-based Lona Records. The cdr series, inaugurated in late 2005, features experimental works in a variety of area of sound— drone, noise, sound art, etc– produced by label head Alok.
Seeing as how he’s the man in charge, I’ll start off with Alok’s challenging disc “C”; which follows a low sustained tone through an underbrush of piano phrases, cable crackling, and resonant hum. The single track, entitled “C for Schubert,” credits the Impromptu no.1 of Schubert’s Opus 90 as an “influence,” which it seems (to my rather untrained ear) to obliquely quote at times. Still, these would be rather free quotes– I think they’d be better thought of as half-remembered shadows of the original, and in this case, much better suited to Alok’s murky (but moving) vision.I also have to mention the fine use of implied movement in this recording. Without a reliance on ping-pong silliness, Alok imparts a strong feeling of traveling throughout his aural landscape. Regardless of whether this was his intent, or simply instinctual, the effect is remarkable and highly appreciated!
Next up is “Objects & Things,” by Lublin-based Mind Twisting Records co-founder Kim_Nasung, from the same series of 3″ cdrs. Like the Alok disc, “Objects & Things” is comprised of an odd blend of electronic and concrete sounds– static bursts reverberate in a shared space with blasts of buzzing tones, clanking metal, and something like a decaying tape of agitated choral voice. There is a sense of multiple layers of recording being present in a single time frame; attentive listeners should enjoy the mismatched spacial effects, creating a sort of “room-within-a-room” feeling.
The use of voice is also notable, both for its complexity and energetic approach. At the halfway mark, the vocal elements of “Objects & Things” become truly disturbing, guttural and cloaked in their own muttered cacophony. Due to this recording being constructed from three live performances, it has a nice live electricity to it, but is not necessarily linear. A rewarding listen, and certainly one to whet my taste for more from this artist.
There’s no secret that the split ‘O’/Moon 3″ cdr “MoonOphonique Part II” (with a companion disc on Burning Emptiness) was going to be my favorite among these Lona Records releases. I am an unabashed fan of ‘O’, and as such, will claim no journalistic objectivity whatsoever while reviewing this disc. Still, I can be truthful– I love it. In the short time I’ve had “MoonOphonique Part II,” I’ve listened to it dozens of times, rarely leaving the immediate area of my stereo. As one of the first ‘O’ recordings solely featuring Yann, it holds up well with previous work, warmly carving out a niche of understated electronic whine and puffs of acoustic guitar. It is a lazily aware recording, with the occasional embraced misstep that is the basis of so many ‘O’ works. As always, it is too short.
Helpfully, DDN (as “Moon”) steps in with two tracks of synth and bass that do a good job of departing from where ‘O’ leaves off. The contrast between Yann’s plaintive acoustic mini-melodies and DDN’s deep space swirlings is amazing; it is the difference between the using the moon to light the way toward home, and using it as a base to the stars. Great work all around– I’m definitely needing to get a copy of Part I!
Our fourth disc is “Tele,” by No One Pulse, an internet collaboration between Wong Chung-Fai and Chau Kin-Wai. Chung Fai has two previous solo discs on Lona, while Kin-Wai has released a multitude of works available through his Sleepatwork collective. Of the five discs reviewed here, this is easily the most electronic of the bunch, where chittering bits of data mixing fluidly along a pulsing series of tones provide the basis of the first track. There are some very interesting sounds I cannot begin to place, including something like the digital version of vinyl crackle that fills much of this piece. The first track doesn’t grab me entirely, though– there isn’t a lot of noticeable progression, despite the somewhat ‘busy’ background sounds.
The next track, “#4”, reminds me a little of David Tudor’s “Rainforest” composition. It is easy to imagine this as a field recording taken at dawn on a digital world. Where the first ten minutes of “Tele” are rather cold, this next ten are simply full of life– and as an experimental release, I commend the artists for including both works. As “#4” concludes, the sleepy digital forest has fully awakened– flocks of bit-torrent birds sheet across the skies, a wonderful ending to a terrifically-imaginative construction.
Speaking of evocative recordings, let’s finish off with “The Quicker Are the Encumbered,” by The Painful Leg Injuries, the main musical project of recent NYC-to-Austin transplants Bill and Suzanne Byrne. On this disc, the Byrnes treat listeners to no less than SIX tracks, all featuring their trademark looong titles– “An Ice Cream Truck Flipped Over and We All Got Some” being a good representative, and incidentally opening the disc. At about three-and-a-half minutes each, these cuts get in and out quickly, allowing Bill and Suzanne ample opportunity to throw a number of different ideas out at the listener.
On the aforementioned opener, the unfortunate ice cream truck is played by an equally unfortunate de-tuned siren, clattering into and out of existence in semi-melodic fashion, while all manners of chirping occurs just off-stage. It is simultaneously silly and disturbing, but fades out before any serious harm befalls our four-wheeled friend. On “The Broken Elevator’s Spiral Descent,” spastic drums and hyper electronic bell trees pitch wildly about the deck of a sinking carnival organ– I’m reminded quite a bit of Walter Weasel‘s eight-armed additions to Coltrane here, but again, the Byrnes change gears just before I get my comfy chair warmed up.
Then it’s on to crazed voices, toy piano, watery synths, and buzzing guitar noises! Rushes of icy synth horns! Birds in traffic! Tweaking drum machines! Robots chanting “blah blah blah,” and Harryhausen’s clockwork owl attacking an all-blind brass band! “The Quicker Are the Encumbered” simply does not let up, which is a serious feat across almost 23 minutes. Although I generally prefer mini cdrs which explore a small area in greater depth, Lona’s limited series promises genre-bending and experimental works, a concept which The Painful Leg Injuries surely deliver on throughout. Besides, listeners wanting more from the PLI have a few full-length releases available through OKS Recordings of North America, should “The Quicker Are the Encumbered” prove interesting…
All in all, I’m very happy with these discs, and looking forward to researching the Lona Records catalog more in the future. Be sure to catch my broadcast this week (9/29/07), as I will be playing selections from these discs– and don’t forget to check out the rest of their catalog– that Monitors mini and the Sin:Ned are calling my name, should anyone be searching out early Xmas presents for their favorite DJ!