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Guy Livingston, Publisher; Dan Warburton, Editor-in-Chief

June News 2002 Reviews by Dan Warburton and Nicolas Sharyshkin:
On Ground Fault: Sickness
Nils Wogram: ROOT 70
Horatiu Radulescu: STRING QUARTET Nr 4 Op.33
Kiyoshi Mizutani: YOKOSAWA-IRI
Joëlle Léandre new albums on Potlatch & Leo
Gunter Hampel
New label: Balance Point Acoustics 001-003
On Leo Golden Years: Anthony Braxton
Songs from a Random House
On Domizil: Teleform and Marcus Maeder
Last Month
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Ground Fault 020

May I remind you that Series III records on Ground Fault are "extreme, harsh, noise, power electronic". To quote the tray notes a little: "Track 11 should be played as a loop. It contains sub bass frequencies designed to affect the body on a physical level. It should be played at a high level. Some systems may be unable to handle the output." Systems presumably meaning human physical perceptual and emotional systems as well as hi fi.. Dearest readers, I leave the decision of whether to invest up to you - to quote William S. Burroughs: "Words cannot express the vertiginous retching horror that enveloped me as I lost consciousness.." Playing this album at the desired volume will inevitably call into question not only your own personal sanity, but also your place within the community as a civically respectable citizen; put it this way, if any motherfucker in my building lets fly with this album (any track will do, not only the final track mentioned above) outside office hours I'm going round with a weapon. Promise.

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John Young
Empreintes DIGITALes IMED 0261

Ever at pains to differentiate itself from its "pop" cousin (that strain of post-techno laptop glitchery that originated in Vienna's Mego laboratories and has since spread like a veritable plague across the planet), acousmatic music - one of the ugliest nametags you're likely to find - flaunts its technology ("bet you can't do this on your Powerbook.."), sending sounds spinning round the stereo space at headache-inducing speed. Seeing spotty kids slouching over laptops at trendy festivals, clicking on few icons and heading for home with a handsome pay check must be mighty frustrating for acousmatic composers who spend hundreds of hours locked away in state-of-the-art studios to produce a mere few minutes of music. Why can't the "kids" who blow their pocket money on Fennesz albums jump over the fence and invest in this instead? The music of John Young, born in New Zealand but these days based in England, bypasses the Megoheads, seeming instead to be heading straight for Merzbow fans: it's fast-moving, abrasive, exhaustive and exhausting and, in its own way, really swings. "Pythagoras's Curtain" (2001) takes sounds of scribbling, scratching and tearing and "electroacoustically re-designs" them (i.e. scribbles over them, scratches them to pieces and tears them up). Pythagoras, so the story goes, imparted knowledge to his followers from behind a curtain. (He also apparently urged them to abstain from beans, but that's another subject.) It's a nice metaphor for tape music, which can be thrilling to listen to but in concert is utterly devoid of interest - why pay money to sit and stare at a wall of loudspeakers? Even more uninteresting than watching a spotty kid slouching over a laptop. "Inner" (dating from 1995) does the same kind of thing to source sounds of human breath, splicing, flanging, filtering and flinging them around the listener, while 1997's "Virtual" started out with source sounds of wind. Though a little less cut up than "Inner", it revisits broadly similar same territory - putting the two pieces back to back on the album doesn't seem to have been the best of ideas. Thankfully, "Time, Motion and Memory" slows the pace a little; here, the sound of a playground swing is lovingly intercut with spacious and flowing treated environmental sounds. The final "Liquid Sky" (1998, not to be confused with the techno outfit) uses rain as a source sound - once more, we're back in the high-speed spin cycle of whooshes and swishes. One wishes Young would just ease up on the special effects for a while and let the rain fall, but that's evidently not part of the game plan. I wouldn't recommend listening to this under the influence of mind-expanding drugs - it's enough of a trip as it is. It's also the best release on empreintes DIGITALes since Ned Bouhalassa's "Aerosol" a couple of years back.

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Nils Wogram
Second Floor NR 008

Dragged along in the slipstream of titanic improvisors like Brötzmann and Kowald, or drawn into the mysterious minimalism of the Berlin scene, it's easy to forget that there's a whole slew of musicians in Germany who've grown up with and fully assimilated the impact of the past fifty years of jazz (as opposed to free improv). Think Zentralquartett, Gebhard Ullmann's trio and big band projects, Rudi Mahall's Günter Adler quartet.. and add Nils Wogram to the list. The young trombonist's technique isn't in question (having proved his considerable virtuosity on recent offerings from Günter Hampel and Lucas Niggli); he can race all over the instrument with the agility of a George Lewis, squeeze chords out à la Mangelsdorff and funk it up the way Robin Eubanks used to do. After pausing to admire the exotic gongs'n'bells exterior of "Enter the Jade Palace", Wogram races through the doorway at a gallop, followed by Hayden Chisholm's alto, as supple and sweet as Paul Desmond. With a title like "Faces of the Blues", you might expect the second track to be another one of those obsequious Young Lions Salute The Tradition (with a capital M, as in Marsalis) offerings. Forget it. Despite some tasty plunger work in the intro, this is a sleek sports car of a track and not some gaudy lumbering New Orleans carnival float. The blues are in there, but fly by so fast under the wheels you might have to go back over the same stretch of road a few times if you want to spot them. The solid rhythm team of Matt Penman's bass and Jochen Rückert's drums keeps the intricate structures moving along. "DNA" is as complex as the molecule itself. After the cubist salsa of "My Friend", "Sushi High", despite its title, features a meaty bass solo from Penman. Next up on the menu is "Eat It" (not the famous spoof of Michael Jackson's "Beat It", but whose introduction is almost as crazy in its use of extended techniques) which finally kicks into action at the 1'30" mark. There's something of the athleticism of early M-Base here - Chisholm obviously knows his Colemans: Steve as well as Ornette. The smooth lyricism of "Dawn" lowers the temperature somewhat before the final adrenalin rush of "Deep and Warm". Rather predictably these days, there's a ghost track which kicks in at 13'50", a swinging flute blues which starts off like Dolphy's "April Fool" before going into a barely comprehensible half rap. Hardly essential stuff, but typical of the youthful verve and enthusiasm present throughout the album.

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Horatiu Radulescu
Arditti String Quartet
DAAD ed RZ 4002

The eminent Dutch musicologist Harry Halbreich once heroically described Brian Ferneyhough as "the new Schoenberg" and Romanian-born (now resident in France) Horatiu Radulescu as "the new Varèse". While Ferneyhough's work is becoming comparatively well-documented on disc, Radulescu's music remains relatively unknown - read through his List Of Works and, on seeing pieces for nine orchestras, forty flutes and several "sound icons" (grand pianos mounted sideways and bowed) and you might get an idea why. Radulescu is an uncompromising idealist, quasi-mystical musique spectrale researcher, and won't let a few slight technical hitches like getting hold of forty flutists (with 72 instruments) get in the way of his singular vision. True to form, the fourth quartet, subtitled "Infinite to be cannot be infinite, infinite anti-be could be infinite", calls for not one but nine string quartets (the indefatigable Arditti Quartet here pre-recorded the other eight), creating an "imaginary 128 string viola da gamba". The strings are tuned with fanatical precision to specified upper harmonics of an imaginary low C (1 hz), ranging from the 36th to the 641st partial, hence the necessity of avoiding vibrato. The 49 minute span of music is uniquely arresting, but needs concentration on the part of the listener - whether anyone other than the Supreme Being can actually hear the microtonal weave as originating in the Ur-fundamental is perhaps beside the point: as in the early music of Xenakis and Ligeti, individual surface details are subsumed into a vast seething mass of musical information. Compellingly original stuff.

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Sound of Choice

LJ Records LJCD 5227

Sound of Choice is a Danish trio (whose first release, "Triple Exposure", dates back to 1993) featuring saxophonist Frederik Lundin and percussionist Lars Juul, both of whom double on electronics - who doesn't these days?- and guitarist Hasse Poulsen. The opening title track kicks into a groove so gritty you half expect Tom Waits to come snarling out at any minute. In contrast, "Slow News" and the later "e-business" pit Poulsen's amplified acoustic guitar against snaking electronics from Lundin and high-speed brushwork from Juul. "Swamp People" is one of those impossible "what if.." tracks: what if Django had been beamed into the late 70's to jam with David Murray and Han Bennink? Similarly "Rue des Lombards", which sounds like Barry Altschul and Derek Bailey ca.1970 accompanying Stan Getz trying to impersonate Joe Henderson. On "Le Marais de Sable", however, the saxophonist seems to be heading north into Garbarek country (but Garbarek as he used to be in the days when ECM stood for European Contemporary Music), squeezing breathy long notes out of the horn while Poulsen's bowed guitar and Juul's flutters paint a hazy impressionistic backdrop. Poulsen's effects pedal and clunky attack on "Claudia in a Good Mood" (very European, a passacaglia, in fact) inevitably recall Marc Ribot - one suspects that had he, Eskelin and Baron released this, the press would have flipped somersaults. Unfortunately, it stops before it really gets going (the track length info on the booklet is wrong too: the piece lasts less than three minutes) - the fact that only five of the thirteen tracks on the album go beyond the four-minute mark may testify to the openness and diversity of the musicians involved, but it also deprives us of extended soloing: Lundin is cut off in his prime on "Claudia..", and Poulsen isn't given the opportunity to go the distance, which is a shame. It's as if they absolutely have to show you everything they're capable of in the shortest possible time: "Mr Rioso", as its title indicates, reveals a debt to and understanding of Monk (Poulsen's brilliant corners criss-cross Juul's trinkle tinkle and Lundin's hornin' in, aided and abetted by effective use of pitch and delay pedals), while "Homo" sounds like low-budget early 70s Miles, Juul and Poulsen playing DeJohnette and McLaughlin to Lundin's flanged kinky horns. The ensuing and wildly different "Sunday in the Suburbs" sounds just as you'd expect it to: Dad's in the garden felling a tree with a chainsaw, Mom's drying the breakfast pots and pans, and their precocious teenage kid is doing his own bedroom experiments with an electric guitar. After such an enormous outflow of energy, a much-appreciated pause for breath: the final "Waltz for the Past" is a simple and touching end.

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Kiyoshi Mizutani

CMR - 1

The first release on New Zealand-based CMR finds Japanese sound artist Kiyoshi Mizutani and his microphones in Yokosawa-iri, a traditional Japanese agricultural community (increasingly rare these days), consisting of "a mountain, a rice field, and a small village where people and nature coexist in harmony." Track titles such as "Japanese white eye", "Temple's gong, Japanese green pigeon" and "Siberian meadow bunting" reveal the musician's passion for ornithology, while "Money Offering box at shrine, electric saw" and "Knock of rock" are pretty self-explanatory. There is, however, a deceptive simplicity to the twelve tracks that belies Mizutani's cunning mixing and meticulous microphone placement - catching the sound of water falling from a flower takes some doing - and just in case you get carried away with dreams of pious New Age ecological purity, there are even some distant police sirens to remind you of where you are. Though Mizutani doesn't tamper with the field recordings, he isn't averse to mixing them together to create simple symmetrical forms ("Temple's gong..", "Fall of rocks, streams"). A beautiful follow-up to his recent magnificent "Bird Songs" on Ground Fault.

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Joëlle Léandre
Daunik Lazro / Carlos Alves "Zingaro" / Joëlle Léandre / Paul Lovens
Potlatch 102
Carlos "Zingaro" / Joëlle Léandre / Sebi Tramontana
Leo CD LR 340

When you invite your best friends round for dinner, you know more or less what kind of evening you're likely to have - informed, amicable, animated and enjoyable conversation. You don't expect surprises. (Your guests aren't likely to end up in a bloody fistfight over politics, and nobody's going to suddenly announce they're a serial killer or a child pornographer.) When it's all over and the washing up's done, you're left with pleasant though not necessarily indelible memories of an evening agreeably spent. So it is with "Madly You", a live set recorded in France in March 2001 (though I wish engineer Jean-Marc Foussat had edited out the applause), featuring Daunik Lazro on alto and baritone saxes, Zingaro on violin, Joëlle Léandre on bass and Paul Lovens on percussion and musical saw. The 40-minute opener begins and ends in D (which wag improvisor was it who once answered a journalist's dumb question with "We begin on D..!"?), and, like a good after-dinner conversation, changes tack every three minutes or so, the four friends forming shifting alliances within the quartet line-up, each occasionally sitting out for a few minutes before returning to the fray with renewed energy. Lazro's gritty baritone tends to play the agent provocateur, while Lovens' nifty brushwork mediates between the protagonists. The string players can't resist drifting perilously close to gipsy folk once or twice (Zingaro's flurry of harmonics recalls Grappelli on more than one occasion), and even one of Léandre's kung fu fighter vocal explosions at the 33-minute mark doesn't manage to push the conversation over the edge into argument. The second track ("Lyou Mad") stretches out a little more, but the cameo appearance of Lovens' saw keeps the idea of speech inflections to the fore.
In the more intimate setting of Les Instants Chavirés (once more taped by Foussat), Léandre and Zingaro are joined by the supremely talented Sebi Tramontana on trombone, who, sounding more like a sackbut on "Cue in Chemistry", knows just how to spice up the soup when the string players settle down for a Scelsi-style wallow. The choice of a Kandinsky as cover art is astute - the music inhabits the same world of colourful, athletic abstraction, but a world that also admits the raw, the figurative, the folk touch: "Broken Strings and Falling Hair" is nothing less than a tango, with the three players taking it in turns to trip each other up before Tramontana dismantles the whole thing and his trombone with it. On "Poorly Done in Pink" he sounds like a kazoo jamming along with a Ligeti string quartet, while on "Adesso voglio fare..." he manages to compress the entire history of his instrument from Jack Teagarden to Radu Malfatti into barely four minutes. More willing to take surprises than "Madly You", the prevailing mood here is one of exuberance, with Léandre seemingly unable to resist a rollicking good ostinato. Just as much fun as her duo outing with Tramontana ("E'vero") on Leo three years back.

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Tom Heasley

Innova 566

One of the photos inside the booklet shows Tom Heasley playing his tuba overlooking a rocky seashore, an image somehow more appropriate for his spacious and reverberant music than the quaint diagrams culled from Herman Helmholtz's "On the Sensations of Tone". Heasley (who also does a bit of Tuvan-style throat singing) feeds his tuba sound through banks of digital processors to produce a rich soup of spaced-out loops - if Brian Eno had had Melvyn Poore instead of Bob Fripp in the studio back in 1975, "No Pussyfooting" might have turned out something like this. Though it's accomplished and nicely paced work, that throat singing pushes things dangerously close to New Stone(d) Age (I'm wary of the appellation "ambient" these days, even though Heasley welcomes it with open arms), and unless you've just downed at least a dozen Italian-strength espressos, I certainly wouldn't recommend listening to this while driving.

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Gunter Hampel

Birth 059 2CDR

If you're a sucker for classy packaging and state-of-the-art graphics, you'll be disappointed with Gunter Hampel's New Millenium Series: the veteran free jazz vibraphone / flute / clarinet master has thrown his hand in with the cottage industry concept of CDRs, and Birth 059's two Memorex discs (unmarked) come loosely folded in two standard grainy A4 photocopies which provide various items of background information, the most intriguing of which informs us that Hampel was riding a bicycle 120 yards away from the World Trade Center on September 11th 2001. With hindsight, his claim that the events of 9/11 were "something as crucial as [..] the birthday [sic] of Jesus Christ" might raise a smile, and might lead you to expect something mildly bombastic from the music contained on the two discs. Think again: the music, a recording of a complete concert in Göttingen on October 25th 2001, is subtle, intimate and accomplished. Partnered by Christian Weidner on alto, and the magnificent Nils Wogram on trombone, Hampel delivers a set as coolly intense as Jimmy Giuffre. The trio line-up has existed for five years, and their interaction is magnificent (one can only regret that Jeanne Lee is no longer around to participate). Curiously though, the track titles listed on the photocopy don't seem to correspond to the tracks on the discs themselves - maybe we ought to go to to discover more.

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Balance Point Acoustics CDs
Peter Kowald / Damon Smith
Balance Point Acoustics 001
Tony Bevan / Scott R. Looney / Damon Smith
Balance Point Acoustics 002
Wolfgang Fuchs / Jerome Bryerton / Damon Smith
Balance Point Acoustics 003

Peter Niklas Wilson, writing in the notes to "Three October Meetings", is right to take issue with Derek Bailey's longstanding assertion that improvised music is (or perhaps should be) "non-idiomatic". In each of these three fine albums, distinct codes and protocols are respected, in terms of individual vocabulary - extended techniques, and the like - and overall form and structure. Seasoned improvisors like Wolfgang Fuchs, Peter Kowald and Tony Bevan can fly into the Bay Area and head straight for the studio or the gig with bassist Damon Smith and his friends and record several hours of high quality free improvised music with apparent ease. Though the conventions of a "language" are understood and appreciated by the performers (and experienced listeners), the music is fresh, energetic and appealing. Damon Smith is excellent throughout - there are some great bassists out there in the Bay Area, what with Matt Sperry and Morgan Guberman - and goes the distance with Peter Kowald most impressively on "Mirrors". It's less a battle of the bassists (it's clear that Kowald is a major influence on Smith's playing), more one of Peter And Damon Against The World. The trio with Scott Looney on prepared piano and electronics and Tony Bevan on bass sax is surprisingly agile, technically and idiomatically - Looney's eclectic style, somewhere between Benoit Delbecq, Michael Jefry Stevens and early Steve Beresford, joyously admits brief flashes of jazz as well as various crashes and wallops from inside the piano (which is, unfortunately, woefully out of tune). Culled from three dates last October, two live and one in the studio, "Three October Meetings" features the King Übü of clarinets and saxophones, Wolfgang Fuchs, and Chicago's outstanding Jerome Bryerton on percussion. It's a total triumph: the turn-on-a-dime reactivity of his younger sparring partners pushes Fuchs to deliver some of his best work for years. Check this out.

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The Fully Celebrated Orchestra

Innova 567

Recorded live at the Green Street Grill, Cambridge MA (presumably direct to DAT through mics placed upfront, which would explain why the horns are clear as a bell while the bass is somewhat muffled and the drums decidedly lacking in presence), "Marriage of Heaven and Earth" catches The Fully Celebrated Orchestra (in fact a quartet consisting of Taylor Ho Bynum on cornet, Jim Hobbs on alto sax, Timo Shanko on bass and Django Carranza on drums) in full flight. The line-up inevitably recalls Zorn's Masada, which itself invokes Ornette Coleman's classic early 1960s quartets, and Hobbs' well-crafted compositions would seem to indicate he knows both quite well. The altoist has plenty of room to stretch out in "The Kelpi", but Carranza, apparently determined to keep marking the pulse come what may, misses out on the chance of engaging the saxophonist in a real duel. (Time to listen again to "Interstellar Space", methinks.)

In "Ol' Sow Rooted 'em Up" both horns want to get all earthy and churchy (shades of Mingus), but once more the rhythm section won't take any risks - sadly, Shanko isn't Mingus and Carranza certainly isn't Dannie Richmond. "Jaya" and "A Tree is Me" feature splendid performances from Hobbs and Bynum, and would have benefited from a top-notch studio recording (though of course the atmosphere would not have been the same). "Aware of Vacuity" is, as it turns out, rather aptly titled, as the public in the Green Street Grill seem to be more interested in their noisy conversations than the music despite a concerted attempt on Carranza and Shanko's part to outgroove Cohen and Baron. The ghost of Zorn also seems to be haunting the final "Reconciliation of Heaven and Earth", which, with its high speed cartoon jump / cuts and occasional blasts of grunge, wouldn't be out of place in the Naked City songbook. It's an exuberant end to an exuberant album, but if Jim Hobbs wants the Fully Celebrated Orchestra to be fully celebrated, he might like to consider a few personnel changes and some quality studio time next time round.

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Anthony Braxton

SOLO (KOLN) 1978
Golden Years GY 17

If you thought there was only one Köln Concert, think again. Quite why this magnificent solo alto set from Anthony Braxton has remained hidden for nearly a quarter of century is a mystery (and begs the question as to how many other treasures remain to be unearthed by Leo Feigin's Golden Years imprint), but its release, especially at a time when many of Braxton's solo albums are out of print, is cause for celebration. Steve Day rightly points out in his notes that Braxton's playing still sounds "absolutely contemporary" - "Composition 8d", for instance, with its intimate exploration of sonorities (pitched and unpitched) bordering on silence is almost Bhob Rainey-esque in its use of space. The emergence on today's scene of several gifted Braxton students - Jackson Moore, James Fei, Scott Rosenberg et al.- has brought the elder statesman's pioneering work back to the fore (not that AB himself has exactly been idle recently..); the oft-discussed relationship between composition and improvisation has never been more systematically explored than in Braxton's work. True, it's often necessary to plough through acres of dense concept bordering on jargon, and very little pertinent analysis of Braxton's scores qua scores is available, specifically regarding the intricacy of their notation and strategies for their possible interpretation by musicians from outside of the composer's circle, but the nine Braxton originals and two covers on offer here provide valuable and clearly audible insight into the musician's remarkably fertile compositional procedures. Though Braxton has charted out a territory for his music somewhere between jazz and contemporary composition, his origins as a jazzman and understanding and mastery of the jazz repertoire are evident here throughout: the lyricism of "Composition 138m" is a pure delight (one wonders to what extent those generic titles might have been responsible for alienating a potentially wider audience over the years), while the racy lines of "Composition 106d" clearly have roots back in bop. Even so, when he tackles chestnuts such as Dizzy's "You Go To My Head" and Coltrane's "Impressions", Braxton never approaches the venerable standards head on, but circles round them as if they were sculptures, zooming in on angles and planes to discover tiny details of the structure that the vast majority of unadventurous and all-too respectful cover versions completely miss.

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Songs from a Random House

Random Numbers
Sargasso SCD 28031
reviewed by Nicolas N. Sharyshkin

This disc is good but doesn’t gel: it would be better without lyrics. It's all a little screechy, and needs a smoothing touch. The texts are mannered or contrived...a mixture of intellectualism and silliness... highly repetitive, exploiting the worse kind (but sometimes that's the funniest) of pun. What’s with all this restless searching?

Fortunately there are some gems: track six is my favourite: "There was gold in them there hills, then it got cold in them there hills, there was a man outstanding in his field...there were ten million men and women out standing in that field" get the idea: it's endearingly funny!

The odd sound of the ukelele among the more conventional instruments gives it all a Kentucky twang, though the music itself seems more firmly rooted in the New York downtown scene. The recording quality has locked into a very dry sound; I say it could use a tiny bit of reverb, some more room to breathe. Come on...these are good musicians!

Altogether, more innovative than successful: this group has great potential, and some fine performers. We heard they're planning another album! Can't wait.

Listen to the Real Audio clip! Random House: Born in a Barn (Sargasso 28031)

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Domizil New Releases
Domizil 16
Marcus Maeder
Domizil 17

"Cosine F" consists of 35 brief tracks (several apparently empty), which, in the spirit of deconstructivism "could be shuffled randomly by the listener's CD player". In sending shots out to trendy philosophical concepts, Teleform, aka Switzerland's Bernd Schurer, aligns his work (and his label Domizil) with the Deleuzian drift openly espoused by several European electronica labels, which seems to be a rather convenient excuse for laptoppers across Europe throwing disembodied shards of digital noise together to create what the press release here rather quaintly describes as "a jar of harddrives buzzing lonesome tunes" (!). If you enjoy vicious cut'n'splice electronics, go back to Farmers Manual's "fsck" or Ronnie Sundin's "Sleepwalk" (Ground Fault). Fellow Domizil label boss Marcus Maeder's "Quiconque" ("anyone"), his second outing, though an accomplished piece of work and a veritable showcase of what computers can do these days, also seems somewhat scattered: while happy to pop a CD into the machine and see that its total duration is just over half an hour, I would have preferred fewer tracks and greater development of musical ideas. Tantalising glimpses and glitches remain just that - tantalising glimpses - at one point an ominous illbient groove kicks in but nothing else comes along to ride it.. Maeder's enthusiasm for and knowledge of several diverse stylistic trends in electronica is there for all to hear - next time round it'd be great to see him throw his hand in with one of the factions rather than sit on the fence and benignly survey the landscape.

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Copyright 2002 by Paris Transatlantic