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Guillaume Gargaud, "She"

cover imageThe unobscured natural photography on the cover of this disc sets up what is contained within.  While the label is usually focused on the dark, opaque droning sounds, Gargaud’s contribution to Utech is much clearer and lighter, at least in relative terms.  Mixing abstract electronics with some occasionally plaintive guitar playing, it stays relatively warm and organic throughout, with a few intentional, but compelling bumps along the way.  At its core, it feels like a more stripped down version of Fennesz.

 

Utech Records

The comparison to Christian Fennesz is not just one of convenience though.  Both artists meld the abstract chaos of electronics with some pure and melodic guitar, allowing the timbre and color of the instrument to shine through the mire at times.  However, Gargaud is less focused on the complex composition techniques of Fennesz, and the result is a somewhat less nuanced and complex sound, but more of an improvisational one that allows more than a modicum of chance to come in.

Tracks like "Le Chien De Jose" push the guitar to the margins to focus on the electronics.  The tracks is focused initially on a quiet, distant hum that slowly comes into focus, high end digital tones, gurgling noises, and ultrasonic squeals eventually come in, with what sounds like it could be some extremely unconventional guitar riffs buried in the low end of the sonic spectrum.  "Clairiere" similarly keeps the guitar at bay by leading off with some subtle static and running water type sounds, a few shards of guitar tones buzz in and out, but the electronics stay the focus. 

"La Legende Du Scarabe" does feature some soft, untreated guitar notes, though they, along with electronic strings, pings, and organ tones, are all fed through a dubby echo chamber that allows each to just bounce around the mix into infinity.  The closing "Au Bord Du Lac" is similar, letting beautiful guitar notes shine through a hazy, opaque atmosphere of lush electronic tones.  "Mer Du Nord" is perhaps the most overt, letting the clear guitar strums dominate while organic, atmosphereic ambience subtly punctuate.

While the album never gets "harsh," both "Lumiere Froide" and "Emissaire" are perhaps the most pronounced, both being focused on a swirling mess of sounds that, at least in the microscopic sense, sound orchestral, but are so jumbled as to be less than discernable, the latter adds some vaguely kraut rock guitar soloing, albeit heavily treated and somewhat obscured by the chaos.

Once again I have to give kudos to Keith Utech for releasing yet another young project that, even without a major discography, has already developed a definite and specific sound and style.  While the label is mining somewhat consistent territory, it is widely encompassing enough that I know roughly what I will get with each new release, but it’s never a faceless or generic disc at all.

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The Eye: Video of the Day

The Sea and Cake

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Review of the Day

PHILIP JECK, "STOKE"
Touch
Philip Jeck always seems to surprise and surpass expectation every time I hear him perform. I've heard him spin out haunting loops for avant garde dancers to strut about to in art spaces. I've heard him spin stickered platters alongside guitarist Vergil Sharkya and fractal videographer Gerd Willschvetz in an underground car park in Liverpool. I've heard his scaffolded ranks of old car boot turntables mash up crackly memory traces from worn needles bumping into wires and stickers in a London gallery. I've heard him go walkabout at a festival opening, cutting up dictaphone recordings with the pause button. After his ambitious quartet of lengthily (r)evolving 'Vinyl Codas' released by the Intermedium label, he returns to Touch with seven shorter live excerpts from performances in Liverpool, Manchester, Osaka, Tokyo and Vienna. With only a single sample Casio keyboard to aid the junkyard turntables spinning varispeed deteriorating vinyl, he necessarily limits his options but unlocks endless potentials from abundant alternate histories coded in the grooves. When he loops records at low speed, worn old cliches morph into haunting new textures. A phantasmal keyboard hoot that forms the bedrock of "Pax" sounds like it might've morphed slowly from a cheesy old J. Geils Band charity shop hit. "Above" cuts scratchy old vinyl into train chug clunks and chicken squawk with some slowed speech narration to explain what exactly isn't going on. "Lambing" is a home recording, soundtracking a film by Lucy Baldwyn, and wouldn't sound out of place on his previous Touch CD 'Surf,' with groaning ghost vox repeating an eerie refrain over the crackle'n'drone spin, until slowly a sunrise glow cracks dawn beneath the locked groove rhythm faultlines. "Vienna Faults" waltz around like a music box in a tumble dryer. There's some crazily mangled sitar "Below," reversing into hollow metal hammering, cut dead by a sudden descending blues guitar riff. "Open" seems to rework familiar noises from 'Surf' into a noisier delayed clatter. "Close" does just that, with some more sitar loops, more meditative but just as playful as before. Stray starry plucked fragments drop in at odd angles until a loop locks and deteriorates to a stutter as a single piano note bashes to infinity. A ghost choir of Hamaiian folk singers emerges from the vinyl crackle fog to bid a fond farewell. If you haven't heard Philip Jeck before, this is not his most immediate recording and 'Surf' or the 'Vinyl Coda' series might be better ports of entry. He has not yet left the building.

 

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