Sunday, April 25, 2010

Comisario Hjuler & Madre Osa - Musica Experimental [Circuit Torçat]/Vlubä - Live at Erks [Circuit Torçat]

I'm catching up on the last two releases from the great Barcelona-based Circuit Torçat label.
First up is the gorgeous looking tape by Comisar Hjuler & Madre Osa a.k.a. Kommissar Hjuler and Mama Baer. Like their Feeding Tube LP from I reviewed a couple months ago, this tape pretty much defies all logic.
I tend to prefer Baer's work of the pair, maybe because I find her to be the less creepy of the two, and she delivers the stronger side with "Wegbeschreisbung zum Kühlschrank". The side starts out with distorted vowels and what sounds like Baer blowing up a balloon into a mic. There's child-like speech which I can't tell if it's coming from an actual child or a manipulation of Baer's voice. It's surprisingly listenable for unintelligible distorted speech. Apparently, throughout this track Baer is giving a detailed how-to on entering her house and finding the kitchen. This is all lost on me of course because I know about four words of German (or whatever language she happens to be speaking). There's a nice passage where Baer speaks rapidly over a mellow, stuttering loop of reversed keyboard or maybe just mic feedback or something. A second slower sing/speak vocal track accompanies the first until eventually one wins out. This section of the tape has a really nice feel. It just seems to be a touch forlorn, twisting in the wind. Baer takes a break from the vocals for a while and manipulates the various loops she's operating. For a brief couple seconds there is a fantastic melody that comes out of nowhere and recedes back into the feedback blips. I don't know if it was an accident or what but damn do I want more than five seconds of it! This instrumental passage is really nice and, from my limited experience with Baer's/Hjuler's works, very unexpected in its relative normalcy. Baer's voice returns briefly with descending coos until another shift into what sounds like a strummed guitar and keyboard played backwards. The dynamics fluctuate but the piece eventually peters out into silence.
The back story for Hjuler's side "Cy.4mm" is they are pieces for piano and voice made for his son, Cy, who was a 4 millimeter big embryo at the time. Apparently the lyrics come from Danish pornographic magazines, total lullaby material. I don't know if Mr. Hjuler actually sang these to his son after he was born, but if I was a kid and my dad was singing these songs to me I'd be creeped the fuck out. Anyhow, the side is divided into 13 songs featuring unconventional use of the piano and creepy sing-speak apparently of Danish dirty words. The first piece finds Hjuler picking inside the piano and singing while the second song, one of the stronger tracks, features a lot of percussion via knocking about inside the piano and strange atonal, fragmented melodies. All this while Hjuler drags his husky monotone over all the sonic bumps and snags. Each of the 13 tracks, ranging from 39 seconds at the shortest to 3 minutes at the longest, are all more or less cut from the same cloth. Certain tracks take on different feels such as the sixth track which flirts with late-period Birthday Party gloom. Or number ten which almost creates a walking bassline. Or the final piece which is seriously pretty in a hobbled sort of way. Definitely for fans of eerie, atonal horror movie scores, slow burning percussive piano abuse and creepy German dudes.
Circuit Torçat labelhead Juan Matos Capote also reached outside of Spain for the label's third release. Live at Erks is an hour long disc from Vlubä, who hail from Argentina if I am not mistaken. I've never really heard Vlubä before but I always wanted to because this looked so badass! Everyone's fond of talking about their transcendental/spiritual/what-have-you jams but Vlubä put their money where their mouth is:
Live at Erks by Vlubä was recorded in the Valle del Silencio, in the nightfall of one day in January of 2009, inside a precious cavern in the mountain ranges of Cordoba (Argentina), on the high. The power for the few played instruments was supplied by a solar generator, and the event was unpolluted by artificial light using only phosphorous. At the encounter, Vlubä’s vital energy gave birth to mantras, while visions followed one another and Erks sparked in light. Trance lasted until the early morning. This album is just a recording of the beginning moments. Some chants you hear on it are comechingon's psychophonies that from Sirius were making way among the stars and into Erks.

Visions? Mantras? Psychophonies? Inside a cavern? Solar generator? Phosphorous?! Vlubä win points for complete dedication if nothing else.
There's a tracklisting for 9 pieces but for some season the disc is just a single hour-long track. Thus, I don't know how accurate my delineation of the individual tracks from the whole is. "Wokytoky on Erks" is the first piece listed and it introduces the album with cymbals and effected guitars. There's a hard-to-read insert that lists the instruments but I can only make out things I've never heard of like Egyptian daff or SMK system. However, I can say with certainty there are drums and "shamanistic flute" on here. Anyway as far as the sounds go, the first piece is kind of minimal psych. It's not exactly rockin' but its continuously circular with, what I'm assuming is guitar, and the reliable clatter of cymbals. There's a change-up, perhaps the next piece "Piedrasroxas Fluos" which continues with light cymbals and shakers and a friendly melody on synth or guitar and I think maybe some vocals. That's a rather short interlude though and the trio brings you deeper into the cavern with more muted clatter and heavily effected drones. There's a jazzy guitar figure that materializes for an instant before quickly retreating back into nothingness. "Shine Gods UFO" is the next piece on the list and I think it refers to a detuned guitar-led interlude backed up by rattling percussion. The subsequent track "Kosmic Mountain Spectralis" benefits from a steady drumbeat behind it. The drums jam by themselves for a while but a flute makes a few whispers here and there. The track while quite repetitive, is one of the most listenable portions of the album. Something about the drums pounding away in the natural reverb of the cave makes it a semi-hypnotic experience. Synth pulses color the outskirts of the track but the percussion remains the main attraction throughout. "King Star Ceremonia" works more for atmosphere with a few spacey swells of sound and distant drums and what sounds like a theremin. The track drifts along in the darkness in a hazed stupor. The disc wraps with its too longest tracks, "...y Sirio se Apagó" begins with percussion a little like "Kosmic Mountain Spectralis" though it isn't the sole focus. After around four minutes, the track begins to fill out with droning guitar, nearly trance-like drums and various incidental noises curling around the edges. It's hard to make out what the sounds are coming from, could be guitar or that "shamanistic" flute or something else entirely. Though they seem on the road to a climax, Vlubä flirts with whether they want to commit or not. Shifting back and forth from soft to loud dynamics, ultimately deciding against it. The finale "Sirius Sarumah (Interstellar Chacarera Trunca)" starts with birdcalls, eerie drones and a jaunty but somehow sinister melody. The drums join up with the melody in ramshackle unison as slices of feedback and vocals swirl around in zoned out dementia. Vlubä seems a subscriber of saving the best (or at least strangest) for last.
I think, overall, Live at Erks is a little too formless for my taste, but anyone up for some smoldering, burned-out cave-psych by moonlight should check this out.
The Vlubä disc is an edition of 100, with a pro-printed CD-r, insert, and fold-out psychedelic alien landing artwork. The Baer/Hjuler tape is battling Arnau Sala's tape for the title of best looking Circuit Torçat product. It's in an edition of 50. Both are still available from the label.

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