August 2011 Short Reviews (Café de l’Enfer, Locrian, Susan Matthews & Richard Moult, Z’ev & Jason Kahn)

Café de l’Enfer - Marchant à quatre pattes au-devant de la rédemp­tion [dis­cogs]

Marchant à quatre pattes au-devant de la rédemp­tion

This debut full-length by Café de l’Enfer on Steink­lang is a typ­ical piece of martial/neoclassical as we’ve come to know it for over a dec­ade. The album seeks to con­front the listener with the dec­ad­ence of our age and ages past, draw­ing copi­ously from fin de siècle and inter­bel­lum imagery in the visual - mostly vin­tage por­no­graphy on the inside of the digi­pak - tex­tual, and aural aspects of the release.

The music doesn’t really stand out from other mar­tial pro­jects that I’ve heard dur­ing the past years. The com­pos­i­tions are soph­ist­ic­ated but pre­dict­able, the instru­ment­a­tion is a bit too syn­thetic at some points for my tastes. It’s cer­tainly not ama­teur­istic, but it is rather hum-drum. Some parts are cer­tainly worth your time, such as the end of “La forêt obscure” and the threat­en­ing marches of the title track, but over­all I didn’t find this a very excit­ing album.

It is inter­est­ing that the con­trast between dec­ad­ence and revolu­tion­ary order is such a recur­ring theme in music like this, because it some­times seems to me that genre as a whole went from revolu­tion­ary innov­a­tion to dec­ad­ent com­pla­cency and con­form­ity. A pity. [OS]

Locrian - Dort Ist Der Weg / Frozen in Ash [dis­cogs]

Dort Ist der Weg

An upcom­ing 7″ single by US gui­tar dron­ers Locrian tackles a track ori­gin­ally recor­ded by Popol Vuh. The new ver­sion updates the krautrock clas­sic to a rawer, heav­ier sound, infus­ing it with dirty and gritty gui­tars, and repla­cing the flighty female vocals of the ori­ginal with sub­dued chanted vari­ants. While I would be hard-pressed to say that this ver­sion matches the level of the ori­ginal - parts of the excel­lent riff­ing and melody are lost in trans­la­tion - there is some­thing repet­it­ive, plod­ding and typ­ic­ally Locrian about it that makes it a good listen non­ethe­less.

The single is backed with “Frozen in Ash”, another great piece focus­ing on raw drones, a bit of black metal styl­ing, and a sat­is­fy­ing con­clu­sion with rolling per­cus­sion and des­cend­ing piano move­ments. In short, Locrian’s Dort Ist Der Weg is an inter­est­ing single that will surely please those famil­iar with the band, as well as an inter­est­ing intro­duc­tion for those who are not. [OS]

Susan Mat­thews & Richard Moult - Music for Two Pianos Vol. 1 [dis­cogs]

Music for Two Pianos Vol. 1

A recent gem from the net­work of small musical pub­lic­a­tions in Bri­tain is this col­lab­or­a­tion between Mat­thews and Moult, who sat down to impro­vise del­ic­ate pieces for piano. Now, I don’t have the musi­co­lo­gical edu­ca­tion to be able to place the com­pos­i­tions that emerged from these ses­sions in terms of style or even ton­al­ity, but based on pure feel­ing they are del­ic­ate and subtle, and very sat­is­fy­ing to listen to.

A bit like many of Moult’s solo piano works, the melod­ies on this album speak a unique lan­guage that is not dir­ectly ref­er­en­tial or con­crete. Some­times they can set a mood of won­der or mel­an­choly, but always at such an abstract level that they hold on to a cer­tain mys­tic power. The seven tracks man­age to hold on to a beau­ti­ful, calm flow for 45 minutes, and are highly recom­men­ded listen­ing for any­one inter­ested in exper­i­mental piano music.

Sadly, this one was lim­ited to a mere 50 cop­ies on Sonic Oyster records, so you’ll either have to look for a second-hand or mail­order copy, or wait for volume 2, which I hope is in the works. [OS]

Z’ev & Jason Kahn - Inter­vals [dis­cogs]


This CD on Mono­type offers two live record­ings by Z’ev and Jason Kahn in Switzer­land, April 2009. While I was anxious to hear these gigs, I was some­what dis­ap­poin­ted by the res­ult. While the exper­i­mental impro­vised per­cus­sion by both artists (with some min­imal elec­tron­ics as well) is cer­tainly inter­est­ing, I feel it might have been more inter­est­ing to wit­ness it live and up close than on a record­ing. That way you can really exper­i­ence what it is they are doing and how they con­struct their abstract sound­scapes.

As it stands on CD, the abstrac­tion goes a bit too far for me, and without any visual cues or phys­ical pres­ence, the sound quickly lose their import. This is aggrav­ated by the muddy, mediocre record­ing qual­ity, which down­plays the fine detail of sound that is an essen­tial part of the value of exper­i­mental per­cus­sion and surely aud­ible when one is up close to the actual per­form­ance. [OS]