OF NO WAY OUT CASSETTE:
WAS IST DAS:
(Beware the poor / inconsistent audio)
The four piece Amalgamated returns. They (Bob Newell, Cory Bengtsen, Mike Richards and Phil Klampe) recorded music ages ago, which apparently nobody mixed or released and which is now being mixed by D. Petri, and released around the globe - see Vital Weekly 842, 857 and 881). here's more music from 2005, and continue with their music as we heard by now. Lots of this works with plain sampling of sounds from the environment but they also shoplift from TV, radio and other sources of entertainment, which they cut 'n paste together and create a finer than delicate piece, which one way or the other seem to be including some form of rhythm. This rhythm is now always a dance rhythm, but it will surely make your feet tap along. More krauty than four floors if you know what I mean. There is something about Amalgamated which just screams 'we're a psychedelic band', who are locked into a studio, freely jamming about waiting for say Steve Stapleton to drop by and add that surreal Nurse With Wound sauce to the mix. That happens expertly in the hands of this D. Petri. He knows how to melt this material into something that has the ongoing, psychedelic feeling and yet still is a great piece of music. It's good to hear this on a cassette which is longer then the 3" CDRs they released in the past. Here the music comes to a full boom and blooms. Very nice. (FdW)
WRITTEN OF TRUDGE/SLAP CASSETTE:
Another timely summer release, ideal for BBQs and listening from another room, Amalgamated presents two skanky, (nearly) side-long tunes which comprise the ‘Trudge/Slap’ C44. From the long, brooding intro of dark drones and darker grandeur, “Vezar Proof” emerges with a Battles-like tenacity, locking on a dub rhythm long before a beat emerges or the layers cease to fall in mounting tension. The combination brings to mind the Unwound side-project Replikants, and later, Tussle, Out Hud, and Measles Mumps Rubella – a welcomed return of form, but hardly an homage or afterthought: ‘Trudge/Slap’ is made with material recorded in 2004, meaning the latter group were contemporaries. Why the piece was shelved is moot point, as the groove still has legs. In similar form, and with even greater resemblance to this cohort, “Slap” fills the B-side with a wall-to-wall neodisco, hitting a neurotic stride with a bulbous funk and wonky counterpoints of sonic icons. Cassettes come labelled with pro-cut, collaged J-cards in the style of Phil French. In a run of 50.
Music by Amalagamated we reviewed before (Vital Weekly 857 and 842) and as far as I know this group recorded music quite some years ago, but for whatever reason is released now. The group may or may not consist of the following people Cory Bengtsen (Rebekah’s Tape on sampler, keyboards, saxophone, turntable), Bob Newell (of Headless Ballerinas Underwater on sampler, keyboards, percussion, drum machine), Mike Richards (also of Rebekah’s Tape, but also the man behind Makeshift Music and Intangible Cat on guitars, effects drums, percussion, keyboards and tapes), Phil Klampe (of Homogenized Terrestrials on keyboards and sampler) and D. Petri & Gus Kumo on editing and mixing. But none are mentioned as such on the cover of this new release. I quite enjoyed their previous two 3? CDR releases, and this new one (recorded in 2004) is no different. A fine mixture of psychedelic music, tripping on sunshine, bits of musique concrete mixed with cosmic drones and here for the first time longer pieces – hey maybe even a piece per twenty minute side – it’s hard to say. Here Amalgamated has the feeling of a live band rather than the clever doodling of samplers connected through midi. These are the grandchildren of Nurse With Wound in their best krautrock phase(s). (FdW)
WRITTEN OF SPARK II 3":
Spark II is the second installment of the Spark series from the artist Amalgamated and immediately noticeable is the link in packaging design. It’s unique yet tied to the first volume as well using a vinyl sticker on the front of the case to create negative/positive space with the inner insert artwork. It works and is striking to the eye as well as providing something different.
The music inside is of the experimental electronica variety which isn’t normally my thing but I have to say this is pretty well done. I vaguely remember the first volume but this one seems more interesting so far. The first two tracks are deep drone with some electronica influences thrown in, slow beats, glitchy electronics etc.
The real oddball here is Musst that features more of an 80s vibe. A dancy beat, pumping horns, all of which eventually fall apart into a weird convergence of experimental noise. The bulk of the disc is taken by the epic 10 minute closer Aura Siphon which is more laid back and less experimental than the other tracks. It combines the styles of post-rock and electronica featuring interweaving guitars and pianos prominently.
Spark II is a light and enjoyable listen. Creative yet playful and even somewhat accessible the album successfully presents the world of Amalgamate a place that is interesting to visit from time to time. This is one for the eclectic music fans out there who enjoy an amalgamation of various electronic music styles.
Amalgamated is pretty fucking awesome but it is a little heavy on the beats for me. This sort of twisted and warped industrial is perfect for fans of The Bug but it's not totally my bag. There are actual saxophones on this and the part of my brain that really enjoys Jim Thirlwell is really into that. I think if I sit with this a bit it may really work for me but right now I am thinking this would be the best soundtrack to the rumored Blade Runner sequel but not something I would spin too often.
The layout is beautiful. For a 3" they really went above and beyond. A die-cut vinyl sticker is attached to the poly sleeve that barely show you the full color photo of circuitry. It doesn't seem like it cost a lot of money to make but the way they put this together, it looks very expensive to make. They real hit it out of the park.
It is hard to say entirely if I would buy this or not. I wouldn't buy this if I heard the first track but on the packaging alone I would have. I am going to come back to this one...
Following ‘Spark 1′ here is now ‘Spark II’ by Amalgamated (see also Vital Weekly 842), a group including Cory Bengtsen (Rebekah’s Tape on sampler, keyboards, saxophone, turntable), Bob Newell (of Headless Ballerinas Underwater on sampler, keyboards, percussion, drum machine), Mike Richards (also of Rebekah’s Tape, but also the man behind Makeshift Music and Intangible Cat on guitars, effects drums, percussion, keyboards and tapes), Phil Klampe (of Homogenized Terrestrials on keyboards and sampler) and D. Petri & Gus Kumo on editing and mixing – just like before (I copied that bit from the old review). They have been playing for about eight years now and at long last decided to release some of their music. Elsewhere I say I love 3″ CDRs, which is true, but I wouldn’t mind getting a full length of Amalgamated (especially since their first release had lots of copying errors on my copy). They play some intelligent music, of psychedelica, exotica, weirdness, musique concrete, dance beats and even in ‘Aura Siphon’, the longest cut here, a nice jazzy/trippy drum loop and spacious piano. All cleverly sampled together, perhaps from other sources, and maybe we should call this plunderphonics, but due to the absence of voices, and the krautrock exotica of ‘Musst’, its more Nurse With Wound than Negativland. Excellent music all around, and while this is on 3″CDR, I had it on repeat for quite some time this afternoon. (FdW) (Editor's Note: Any incidence of copy errors with Intangible Cat releases are likely to be very rare, and of course immediately eligible for replacement free of charge.)
WRITTEN OF SPARK I 3":
This is one from left field. Amalgamate is a previously unknown project to me and they present a quick fix of floating ambient drone with electronica beats intermixed within in.
The sound is dreamy yet fluid with this odd combination of styles much reminding me of acts like Plaid, early Aphex Twin or Autechre while at the same time not being quite as complex or technical as those projects.
The longest track here A Wedge of Raging Cygnets is the most original with a sing-song like quality leading into a dreamy blur which brings the track to a close. While the last track on Spark I entitled Sandiest Lope actually goes into some synth-pop territory which is interesting to hear Amalgamate trying something different.
Overall this will appeal to fans of electronica, and perhaps drone. Those that appreciate some beats to their ambient music will find it’s a solid disc.
Next is “Spark I” by Illinois multi-instruMentalists Amalgamated. While pretty much as far out as “Bob Hallucination”, these guys drop the “merry pranksters” attitude, instead going for more industrial and tape music aesthetics. They mention (among others) Brian Eno, Nurse With Wound and Autechre as their key inspirations. And it can be heard: mutilated and processed vocal samples fall in and out of the ambiental murk propelled forward by cold, precise rhythms that push the music into a slightly darker area than DogHal. But there are moments of light in this dark cloud: like the bucolic, rolling piano on “A Wedge of Raining Cygnets” that gradually falls apart only to be replaced with another happy snippet of a song that goes on and on and on and grows into an almost post-rock monumentality.
When I first got a good look at Spark I, I was thrilled. It had been far too long since a piece of music has gotten me excited just from looking at it, and I was already pondering what sounds could be found inside this package. The artwork is simply a picture of some complex, mysterious circuit board, with an equally intriguing symbol cut out of vinyl and stuck atop the sleeve. Add in that this is a 3-inch CD-R (one of my all-time favorite formats), and I'm sold. But I'm still full of questions: What is this circuit? Is it one of the members mothers old fax machine, the board of a Commodore 64 or some other archaic processor, or maybe a synthesizer used on the album? Some questions are better left unanswered.
Turns out Spark I is the first in a two-part series of recordings by Amalgamated, recorded live at a venue in La Salle, Illinois, and then cut, chopped, screwed, and re-processed into two 3" CD-Rs. Now, usually knowing the method in which a record is conceived doesn't make much of a difference to me as a listener, however knowing that most of this music was improvised and not premeditated actually makes me appreciate the music more, as the level of cohesion found here is impecable. This is clearly ambient music, not drone music, though what the difference is, I couldn't say. At times I'm reminded of Phillip Glass and Tangerine Dream, and at other times I feel Amalgamated is closer to Miss Kittin and The Hacker or VNV Nation. The beats that fade in and out of the wall of synthesizers and samples are so subtle, so tasteful, so perfect, that I'm pretty sure I even caught my dog nodding her head subconsciously.
Spark I evokes stream of consciousness images of science fiction as well as futurism, and at 23 minutes long, doesn't overstay its welcome as so many modern-day ambient projects do. When the disc is over you feel neither unquenched nor over-satiated. I'd even go so far as to say I felt refreshed after hearing Spark I in its entirety. At $4PPD a disc and $3 a download, I'd say this would sit nicely on a shelf right between Brian Eno and Akira Yamaoka.(Brandon Greter)
In essence, the result of regular get-togethers by members of obscure Illinois bands and bedroom projects including Rebekah’s Tape, Homogenized Terrestrials, Gushing Cloud, Dog Hallucination and Headless Ballerinas Underwater (the latter duo recently teaming up as Bob Hallucination for the wonderful, shapeshifting mini-CD Bob Hallucination). Surprising for such smooth pieces, kind of ambient jams, is that there are a lot of instruments crowding the stage, ranging from sampler and turntable to drums, sax and guitars.
Amalgamated‘s method is telegraphed by its name: improvise, then “finess,” edit all the elements into comprehensive textures. It’s kind of a cosmic krautrock that has taken God’s advice to “just tone it down a little.”
A collage of sampled voices merges into spacious groove sense on “Invocation of Absence.” “Rot Makor” sounds more like devotional services until a steady rhythm begins bouncing up against it. The centre of focus in “A Wedge of Raging Cygnets” is a stuck-groove, country pedal steel guitar two-step against a distant backdrop strongly reminiscent of one of Brian Eno’s musics for films. And with a soft beat, “Sandiest Lope” percolates gently until the machinery breaks down.
Spark II is slated for release soon and a “full-length multimedia album/book” is due later in the year. (Stephen Fruitman)
WONDERFUL WOODEN REASONS:
An interesting little EP from this American quartet, 'Spark 1' is an amalgam (sorry) of electronics, ambiences and rhythms. It's pretty low-key and in parts fairly forbidding but, for the most part, it is content to display a cheerful and sunny disposition although that smile may have a vaguely psycho-active quality. Behind the melodies there is a distinctly hallucinogenic sensibility that gives the proceedings just the right amount of edge to keep things off balance and interesting. (Ian Holloway)