Dan Powell’s “Four Walks at Old Chapel” reviewed by Music Map

Dan Powell è un sound artist originario dell’Essex e di stanza a Brighton. La sua produzione musicale si distingue per il ricorso a una combinazione di field recordings, frammenti elettronici autoprodotti e percussioni e per l’attività nel campo dell’improvvisazione elettroacustica.

A maggio di quest’anno, Dan Powell ha pubblicato un album registrato tra il 2016 e il 2018 alla Old Chapel Farm, nel piccolo villaggio di Tylwch, in Galles. Il concept alla base di “Four Walks at Old Chapel”, uscito per la label portoghese Crónica, è quello di mettere in musica l’esperienza in una fattoria di Tywlch, dove Dan Powell si è recato con sua figlia Bea. Lì, i due hanno raccolto oggetti vari rinvenuti in zona e li hanno radunati in una capanna di paglia situata lungo un corso d’acqua e con essi hanno registrato piccole parti musicali, per produrre una vasta gamma di brani dal sapore molto intimo, aggiungendo registrazioni di campo realizzate sempre nei dintorni, con l’ausilio di un pianoforte.

Nel suo studio di Brighton, quindi, Dan Powell ha lavorato su quei suoni nel tentativo di comunicare quel senso di mistero e di rivelazione sperimentati durante la visita, anche nell’ottica di raccontare la connessione con la terra, la natura in generale e le altre persone incontrate durante la visita. Il prodotto finale restituisce esattamente queste sensazioni, dai suoni naturali di “Walking from the Hut to the Piano” a quelli più lineari e stratificati di “Rumbled at the Gate, Escaping to the Barn”, passando per l’atmosfera a tratti cinematografica di “Emerging from the Valley into a Rainshower” e arrivando alla più breve “The Piano Grits Its Teeth”.

“Four Walks at the Old Chapel” è un esperimento parecchio coraggioso, ma riuscito. Tuttavia, per comprenderlo al meglio, è necessario conoscerne le ragioni e i significati più profondi. (Piergiuseppe Lippolis)

via Music Map

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Yiorgis Sakellariou’s “Degti” reviewed by Vital Weekly

Without giving the information too much attention, I just started playing this new cassette by Yiorgis Sakellariou. I heard quite a bit of his work over the years and the quality is quite high, so there is not much to ‘worry’ there. Also, as I know much of his work is based on site-specific recordings, I thought it would be nice to guess the sort of location. I was wrong; on both accounts, as it turned out that the two main pieces here are from various locations. The third piece is a reprise of the first, which is the title piece and here he uses recordings from a vodka factory in Vilnius, Degtiné, which lends its title to the music. I could not have guessed this was a vodka factory, but a factory, yes, I guessed that right. The other side, contains, ‘Be Pavadinimo’, consisting of environmental sounds recorded in various locations in Greece and Lithuania. In both pieces, we hear ‘traditional’ Sakellariou elements, one of which is the collage approach he applies to work with sound. Various blocks are created and within each section, he transforms the sounds little by little, until it cuts or fades to the next section. Another trademark element is the strong dynamics of the music, ranging from quite loud to very quiet. In the ‘Be Pavadinimo’, these are mainly recordings from nature and natural events, a campfire, wind and the rustling of leaves.
Sometimes the cassette has a bit of difficulty with the low-end of the music (compared to the Bandcamp download), but it works well. In the title piece, there is a great interaction between sounds recorded from some distance and very close by, space versus machines. And machines offer monotony, but in the hands of Sakellariou, this monotony works in favour of the piece. The workings of the factory, distilling and bottling are something that becomes clear once you know the sources, and it has a surprising ‘industrial music element’ to it, especially towards the end of the piece. Two great pieces, of course, once again, and I preferred ‘Degti’, because of the quite different sound material used. (FdW)

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New release: Dan Powell’s “Four Walks at Old Chapel”

Old Chapel Farm is an adventure in living which aims to bring people closer to the fundamentals of human existence: the creation of food and of shelter. It is a bridge reaching forwards into a newer, more sustainable way of being in a rapidly changing and highly populated world.

As a family we have been visiting this place every year since 2011. In 2017 I decided to produce a piece about Old Chapel Farm as part of my series which focuses on personal experience of a space.

On our trip in 2018 my daughter Bea and I collected objects we found around the site and gathered them together in a straw bale hut suspended over a stream in a wooded valley which the farm’s owners made available for us to use. We recorded small performances with them, brushing, scraping and rubbing them to produce a wide range of intimate sounds. We also made field recordings around the site, including using a piano which had been exposed to the elements for some time.

Back in the studio in Brighton, I arranged the recorded sounds into a new work. I wanted to try and communicate some of the mystery and revelation I’ve experienced on my visits, and the connections I feel with the land and people I encounter when I visit the farm.

Tracklist:

  1. Walking from the hut to the piano (11:55)
  2. Rumbled at the gate, escaping to the barn (7:13)
  3. Emerging from the valley into a rainshower (8:10)
  4. The piano grits its teeth (3:56)

Recorded at Old Chapel Farm, Wales, 2016-2018 by Dan & Bea Powell. Composed and produced by Dan Powell, Brighton, 2019. Mastering and cover by Miguel Carvalhais with photos by Dan Powell. Thank you to Fran, Kevin & Merlin Blockley, the Powell, Parker and Henderson families.

Four Walks at Old Chapel” is now available as a limited release tape, and for download or stream.

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“GML Variations” reviewed by Blow Up

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Dan Powell’s “Four Walks at Old Chapel” reviewed by Blow Up

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Dan Powell’s “Four Walks at Old Chapel” reviewed by African Paper

Dan Powell, von Haus aus Fotograf und seit Jahren auch in den Bereichen Installation und Field Recordings aktiv, dokumentiert in seinem neuen Tape den subsistenzwirtschaftlich orientierten Betrieb der Old Chapel Farm in Wales. Ausgangsmaterial waren eine Vielzahl von Objekten, die in verschiedenen haptischen Bearbeitungen zu Klingen gebracht wurden, zudem die geräusche der umgebenden Natur und Musikinstrumente, die sich im besitz der Bewohner befinden. “Four Walks at Old Chapel” ersheint Mitte Mai bei Crónica.

via African Paper

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New release: Jos Smolders’s “Submerge-Emerge”

Stéphane Mallarmé’s poem Un Coup De Des Jamais N’Abolira Le Hasard (1897) immediately fascinated me when I first encountered it during my teenage years. At the time, you could always get my attention by showing me something(anything) out of the ordinary. Modern art, unpopular music, crazy movies; all was absorbed by eyes and ears. When I first learned about Mallarmé’s poem, my fascination wasn’t focused on the words, though. My knowledge of the French language was very limited, and I didn’t really grasp (or even try to) what was written. Instead, my interest was peaked by the unusual way it was printed. I don’t think I spent more than 30 minutes revelling over it. But it was stored somewhere inside my brain.

Fast forward forty years. While researching a project on concrete poetry, I came across this poem again. This time I decide to try and understand what the words are all about. What I already knew was that the text deals with the idea that every thought leads to another one and, to Mallarmé, this can be any thought. We all know how our mind can wander like it’s a vessel drifting through space and time. Except that in the 19th century, those notions weren’t part of the thought processes of people’s minds. 

Reading the poem, one gets easily lost. These are no firm and consistent sentences. It’s not a sequence of sentences telling a story, and there is no clearly definable plot. We read parts of sentences; shards, associations, broken down sentences. Some words are printed bigger than others and, spread across multiple pages, the title of the poem is displayed. And remember, we were in the 19th century when society was organised by much more strict rules of engagement in literature, when sonnets were written using strict rules of metre and rhyme. So, what is going on here? Who is this guy Mallarmé? A bored school teacher turned poet, journalist and critic and translator of the works of Edgar Allan Poe. How did he end up writing a poem like this? 

All of these questions started piling up in my head. I began searching the web and quickly found an interesting essay and a series of facsimile prints of the final proofs. My search for more background on Mallarmé led to a short biography. And so, after more than 40 years I got a grasp of what is inside and behind that surface. To tell you the truth, it still is, for the most part, a mystery. Perhaps that has to do with the 21st-century mind that is looking at the expression of a late 19th-century mind. My brain always tries to analyse the things that I encounter and Mallarmé in his poetry more and more veered towards associative and hermetic wordplay.

At the time – early 2017 – I was actually finishing an album that focused on all of my water and sea-related field recordings. While reading the text and its background more closely suddenly, the contours of a potential musical project centred around this poem started to emerge.

So, I thought, perhaps I should not try and get to the bottom of what is actually written down? Maybe I should just let myself be taken into the maelstrom of thoughts that are presented?
After all, I wasn’t doing academic research. I was just fascinated by the poem, first by its visual presentation and then by the stream of images of vessels on an endless ocean, of tiny ships tossed around in giant storms, of shipwrecks at the bottom of the sea, of ships’ captains helplessly overwhelmed by thoughts and realisations.

The process:

Work started some time early 2016 when early on i decided that the poem was to be recited. It was going to be a work of significant proportions, representing the endlessness of the journey. And every plate of the poem gets its own track. I asked my dear friend Valerie Vivancos to recite the poem, to which she agreed, and I sent her the text with sparse instructions. This wasn’t an easy task because of the fragmented nature of the text, and her performance was excellent.

The other material consists of electronic sounds from my modular system and field recordings of harbours, beaches, ships’ motors, storms, waves breaking on the rocks, the quiet lapping of waves on a small French beach. I was already working with sea sounds right before Mallarmé came to my attention, so the poem harmonically interfered with that project.
When I look back at the notes I took while constructing the music of this album, I see my struggle to translate the poem into music. The central theme of the poem, at least what I got out of it, is that of a creator/artist (the captain) sailing the endless ocean on his ship. The ocean represents the creative state of mind. Sometimes there are prevailing winds. On other occasions huge gales toss the ship around with towering waves moving everyone off course, if not sinking the lot. And then there are the doldrums, the parts where, yes, the sea is calm, but there is no wind, and you’re not getting anywhere. Looking back at my own experience as an artist, I have seen all these weather conditions as well. Sometimes working on my music is smooth sailing, sometimes you’re getting nowhere. 

The struggle I mention above mostly deals with how strict or how liberal I should take the structure of the poem. Like I read somewhere that each plate consisting of two pages was divided into four sections where the words were spread out according to the number of syllables used. I have been thinking about how to use that structural principle in the music as well, but I concluded that it was an operation as much impossible as it was futile. Some things just cannot be translated from one art form into another without compromise or corruption. 

Anyway, this album took more than five years to record, compile, rethink, leave it alone, get back, reform, cut, add, alter, and finish this beast that at times itself became an ocean of sound and form. It is time to cut the ropes to this vessel and sail on. I hope it inspires, because “toute pensée émet un coup de dés”!

Jos Smolders

Submerge-Emerge is now available as a limited-release double CD directly from Crónica, also for stream or download.

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“GML Variations” reviewed by Silence and Sound

Miguel Carvalhais et Pedro Tudela, le duo derrière @c, offrent au gamelan l’occasion de se libérer de l’étreinte des hommes, d’évoluer en tant qu’instrument programmé en mode random, donnant à entendre une musique créée au contact de la robotique.

Né d’une commande pour une exposition à la Casa da Música (Porto), GML Variations a aussi donné l’envie à ses créateurs d’aller plus loin et de prendre la matière première pour la retravailler et en décupler les possibilités, créant d’autres propositions toutes issues de la même source. 

Six morceaux aux perspectives différentes mais s’enracinant dans les enregistrements de GML 123, chevauchant des territoires aux effets réverbérés et aux inversions de bandes, oubliant leurs origines pour sombrer dans un magma de sonorités captivantes à la matrice originelle commune.

@c continue de nous surprendre à chaque projet, entrainant l’auditeur à l’intérieur de surfaces poreuses, éprises de liberté et de dangerosité, d’expérimentations et d’incisions, coupant dans l’espace dans lequel ils évoluent, une cohorte de sonorités équilibristes. Très fortement recommandé. Roland Torres

via Silence and Sound

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Dan Powell’s “Four Walks at Old Chapel” reviewed by Vital Weekly

A few weeks ago I reviewed a CDR by Muster, a duo of James O’Sullivan and Dan Powell. Now the latter appears in a solo capacity. He’s also part of The Static Memories and Nil. I don’t think I heard his solo work before, so I had no idea what to expect. The recordings here were made at the old Chapel Farm, which is “an adventure in living, which aims to bring people close to the fundamentals of human existence: the creation of food and shelter” Powell visits the place since 2011 with his family and in 2018 he and his daughter collected objects and “gathered them together in a straw bale hut suspended over a stream in a wooded valley which the farm’s owners made available for us to use.
He recorded small performances with them, brushing, scraping and rubbing them to produce a wide range of intimate sounds.” All of this, combined with field recordings went into the computer back home and re-worked all of these into the four tracks that we find on this cassette. It is a most enjoyable release, of musique concrète proportions, but Powell created something quite playful. It is not about some strict rules of composition, nor does it rely too much on granular synthesis as his more serious peers would do. With Powell’s version we hear the field recordings as they were when committed to tape, we hear the cracking and rubbing upon objects, and we encounter small transformations of this, set in a more performance setting, which adds a delicate live electronics feeling to the music. It keeps everything with a beautiful vibrancy together. He overlays his original material with additional electronic material, feedback here, a big, fat drone there, or cut-up collage techniques using the good ol’ reel-to-reel machine, adds to the energy and variety of the music, and together with a powerful as well as colourful thirty minutes. (FdW)

via Vital Weekly

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Francisco López & Miguel A. García’s “Ekkert Nafn” reviewed by African Paper

Francisco López und sein auch unter dem Namen Xedh bekannter Kollege Miguel A. García sind leidenschaftliche Versteckspieler, stets auf der Suche nach alltäglichen Geräuschen mit interessierter Kehrseite, oder nach dem Potenzial dessen, was man herkömmlichen akustischen und elektronischen Instrumenten entlocken kann. Versteckspieler sind sie deshalb, weil bei ihnen selten Klänge in wiedererkennbarer Form ihren Weg auf einen Track finden, sondern durch mehrere Stufen digitaler Unkenntlichmachung geschickt werden.

García hat zudem ein Faible für ganz ähnlich aufgeschnappte und verfremdete Wortbildungen, die er gern als mehrdeutige (oder nur scheinbar sinnhaltige) Titel verwendet. “Ekkert Nafn” klingt wie ein Personenname, ist allerdings die isländische Übersetzung von “No Name”, der Titel eines der beiden Stücke auf dem vorliegenden Album, auf dem beide Künstler das gleiche zusammen angesammelte Klangmaterial einer jeweils eigenen Chiffrierung unterzogen haben.

Auf López’ die erste Seite ausfüllendem Stück “No Name” kann man den Ursprung der verwendeten Sounds allenfalls gelegentlich erahnen, zumindest bei dem grillen- oder zikadenartigen Zirpen, das exponiert auf dunklem Fundament die gut halbstündige Komposition eröffnet. In mehreren Anläufen bricht klirrender, rumpelnder und manchmal auch tosender Lärm ins Setting ein, und wenn es nach dem größten Bruch plötzlich sehr ruhig wird, erscheinen einem die plastischen Sounds – hallunterlegtes Hauchen, geloopte Perkussion, stylische Elektrosunds etc. – noch klarer als zuvor. Arbeitet Lopez mit der Hervorhebung klanglicher Materialität, so ist García ein großer Wirkungsästet und setzt auf etwas, das auch in Lopez’ Beitrag im Kleinen steckt: Hypnotik und Spannung. Dasmag an dem Wind liegen, der eine ganze Zeitlang durch den Raum heult und fegt und schon dadurch eine endzeitliche Bedrohlichkeit evoziert. Aber das Resultat ist – nicht nur in der wie aufgeklebt wirkenden Melodie- und Beatansätzen – durchweg monotoner und so von einer trancehaften Qualität.

Ob beide auch Sounds aussortiert haben oder ob die Resultate nur durch die jeweilige Bearbeitung so unterschiedlich ausgefallen sind, muss Geheimnis bleiben. Dass man aber auch immer wieder Gemeinsames findet, schafft eine subtile Klammer, die aus der Kollaboration dann doch eine zusammenhängende Sachen macht. (A.Kaudaht)

via African Paper

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