četvrtak, 31. siječnja 2013.

Alexander Berne - Self Referentials Volumes 1 and 2

Self Referentials Volumes 1 & 2 album cover
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"With Self Referentials Volume 1 & 2, Alexander Berne and his “Abandoned Orchestra” return with their third multi-CD set in as many years. Following "Composed and Performed by Alexander Berne" and "Flickers of Mime/Death of Memes," Berne’s latest finds him further refining and deepening a tonal vocabulary that has garnered him spots on critics’ “Best of” lists and found him compared to striking artists from across multiple genres, including Kubrick, Cage, Schoenberg and Joyce. In Berne’s words, “Self Referentials Volume 1 & 2 is the latest recording from the ‘Abandoned Orchestra’, my ongoing solitary attempt to present a refined aural (+visual) artistic statement (free of synthesizers and samples) as composer, performer, instrument maker, engineer, visual artist, and producer.” The innova double CD is a limited edition of 800 units and includes an original painting with each package, plus liner notes by Maxwell Chandler, who writes, “Like daydreams or memories, good works of art regardless of medium offer an inner landscape for the audience to traverse, the work serving as the terra firma. The more compelling works allow one to revisit them, discovering previously unnoticed aspects of the work or for the general colorations of the piece to appeal and reflect the new you that has developed since last visiting the piece. Alexander’s Self Referentials Volumes 1 & 2 is indicative of the type of work which facilitates a compulsion to take such an inner journey again and again. In the tradition of the best headphone music, the work doubles as both the landscape to be explored and the Sherpa that accompanies you on the journey. The whole work represents an extended suite: Everything is interconnected not necessarily in the way we conceptualize in the (musical) Western classical tradition but there is an inherent logic once one recognizes that this is the parlance of dreams whose every sentence is punctuated by déjà vu and reveries. This work embodies a trip to be made for the mere act of pressing play and opening oneself up to the experience. In many ways no better thing can be offered up by a work of art.”

While some artists labour for any number of years over a single-disc collection, others issue copious amounts, almost as if they can't stop the music from flowing out of them. One such artist is Alexander Berne, who has just issued his third multi-disc collection in three years. In 2010 he released the bravura three-disc opus, Composed And Performed By Alexander Berne, which was followed by the double-disc affair, Flickers Of Mime / Death Of Memes, a year later; both were credited to Alexander Berne and The Abandoned Orchestra, despite the fact that the so-called orchestra is actually Berne alone. His latest outing, Self Referentials Vols. 1 & 2, is another two-disc set, and once again it's an exceptional collection. The superb musical content is complemented on visual grounds, too, as every one of its 800 units is graced by an original abstract cover painting by Berne. As a composer, creator, painter, and multi-instrumentalist, he's a rare modern-day example of the Renaissance figure.
The music's world character comes to the fore immediately when “Far Afield Recording” opens the collection with the kind of exotic dance rhythms and woodwind melodies one might hear at the center of a busy Middle Eastern bazaar. A vast array of influences and styles are refracted though Berne's unique sensibility over the course of the album. A collision between Reich-styled classical minimalism and Eastern trance music seems to take place during the alternating sequences of piano splashes, pulsating percussion patterns, and undulating string swirls in “Pulsationism (The Long Tick),” for example. Recorded in Florida, the collection also serves as a fantastic showcase for Berne's instrumental proficiency, with the musician acting convincingly as a global mini-orchestra of woodwinds (saxophones, wooden flutes), dulcimer, percussion (hand drums, kalimba, bells, cymbals, mallet instruments), strings, and piano (as on his previous releases, Berne eschewed synthesizers and samples in the making of the album material).
His music is arguably at its most powerful during its quieter moments, such as when the saxophone purrs sinuously during “Sonum Onscurum, Headphonic Apparitions Pt. I.” In keeping with that principle, the album's second volume, which Berne characterizes as “An Unnamed Diary of Places I Went Alone,” is the more potent of the two, as its seventeen pieces (titled by roman numerals only) surreptitiously seduce the listener throughout the disc's mysterious and enigmatic journey. A dazed voiceover by Jaik Miller (1970-2012) deepens the mystery of “IV,” while “V” bolsters its enchantment with wordless singing (vocal contributions by Christo and Flora Nicholoudis and Karolien Soete repeatedly enrich the second volume's soundworlds). Most are short pieces, though no less evocative for being so, especially when their stripped-down arrangements enable the instruments' individuating qualities to more clearly assert themselves. Snapshots rich in atmosphere and detail, they're as transporting as the dozen settings on disc one.
Though Self Referentials Vols. 1 & 2 oscillates between Western and Eastern musical forms (sometimes merging them within single settings), it somehow manages to retain a cohesiveness due to Berne's sensibility as a composer. As an example, “Of Fugal Melancholia” might, on paper, be a solo piano piece, but in its compositional form it's a meditation of trance-like design rather than something emblematic of the Western classical tradition. His music is also entrancing, especially during those moments when its Eastern dimension is emphasized, as occurs during “Four Instantiations” when its saxophones assemble into hypnotic, pitch-shifting masses. Like elements swimming within a liquid mass, musical patterns often flow in and out of each other, adding to the music's free-flowing character. Less straight-laced Western composer than global shaman, Berne's incantations and lamentations seep into one's innermost self and alter it as dramatically as a peyote-influenced dreamstate.- www.textura.org/

Alexander Berne is a composer, visual artist, and virtuoso musician of the highest order. Born in New York, he cut his teeth on the jazz scene—after studies with Tim Ries, John Purcell, and Eddie Daniels he began working with such luminaries as Billy Hart, Victor Lewis, Mark Johnson, Ethan Iverson, Cecil Taylor, Ben Monder, John Hollenbeck, Kevin Hays, Jeff Ballard, Larry Grenadier, Albert “Tootie” Heath and many others. During that period he taught at the prestigious Stanford University Jazz Workshop alongside Joe Henderson and Stan Getz.

Berne then moved to Belgium where he devoted himself to solo saxophone performances, to highest acclaim at Logos and elsewhere for using technical innovation to sonically transport listeners.

Returning to America, Berne became involved in film production, working on and producing independent documentaries and features for his company, Harbor Productions, including work with Nicholas Hytner and Jim Broadbent at the Royal National in London, Brian DePalma, Edward Pressman, Paul Williams, and Armondo Linus Acosta. This was accompanied by a phase of creative activity in the visual arts, where he invented a new form of painting involving the abstracts play of photo emulsion and acrylics on paper. 

Berne is an innovator in the woodwind realm, specializing in alto, soprano, and sopranino saxophones. He was involved in the creation and production of a new kind of mouthpiece, in collaboration with David Sanborn. In addition, he created his own instrument, collaborating with famous instrument maker Michael Hubbard.  Called the ‘saduk’, it is a cross between a saxophone and the Armenian duduk, and has a warm, woody tone unlike any ever heard before.

A musician with serious interest in the music of other cultures, Berne dedicated years of his life to the study of the tabla and Indian Classical Music, studying with Misha Masud and others. During this phase he developed relationships with Debashish Bhattacharya, Krishna Bhatt and other world instrumentalists such as Lu Fang and Glenn Velez.- www.ariumcafe.com/

Alexander Berne and the Abandoned Orchestra, Flickers of Mime - Death of Memes (Coincidental Music For an Unwritten Show (of the Mind)

"Alexander Berne's triple-CD collection Composed And Performed By Alexander Berne lodged itself firmly within textura's 2010 top ten list, and his entrancing two-CD follow-up Flickers of Mime / Death of Memes finds the multi-instrumentalist and composer poised to do much the same a year later. On the new material, Berne and his so-called Abandoned Orchestra create mesmerizing sound-paintings by augmenting his saxophone (tenor, alto, and soprano) and saduk (a self-created instrument that combines a flute and reed instrument) with piano, lap steel guitar, ocarina, Chinese bamboo flute, recorder, Irish whistle, conch shells, and guttural vocal effects (his other invented instruments include the tridoulaphone—another flute-reed hybrid—and the shakuhachophone, a shakuhachi-saxophone creation). There's a strong Eastern quality to his sound, to some degree because of the saduk and its inherently exotic timbre, not to mention a fundamentally natural character (Berne generally eschews synthesizers and samples, though drum loops were used on two of the first disc's tracks). Technically, one could call Berne a virtuoso but that would miss the point: instead, his energies are directed towards alchemizing sound into ravishing settings that often suggest states of feverish possession.
In opening with ominous chords and a rising snare roll, Flickers of Mime /Death of Memes begins with what seems to be either an overt or perhaps purely coincidental reference to Bernard Herrmann's Taxi Driver soundtrack. The moment is perhaps more interesting, however, for being perhaps the sole moment on the release when Berne's music, so thoroughly imprinted with his sensibility, calls to mind the voice of another's. He might at one time have been associated with the jazz scene, but the music he's making now is leagues removed from any straightforward categorization or reference.
For the first disc, Berne visualized a mime who uses his hands and flame to create flickering shadows to induce images and evoke memories in the people around him, an idea that for those familiar with Plato will, of course, remind them of the Myth of the Cave. The music exudes an ancient and primal quality, feeling as it does like material not of any one place or time. Often veiled in darkness and mystery, Flickers of Mime is nachtmusik, a shamanistic travelogue through deep psychic pathways and with a powerfully seductive undertow. Like a snake slithering through dense underbrush, Berne's woodwind melodies travel sinuously through droning and rhythm-based (“Flicker VIII”) landscapes, at times bringing echoes of classical formality into the fold (“Flicker VI”) but more often than not transmuting his pieces into haunting dreamscapes (attested to by the pealing melodies in “Flicker VII,” for example).
The two halves of the recording are dramatically different in tone. Intimating that the second disc will be considerably more disturbing, “Meme I” plunges us into a zone darker than anything on the first, after which woodwind ululations in “Meme II” conjure the image of the bereaved wailing at a burial site. An entropic quality pervades the music in such moments, evoking as it does the image of things breaking down, a civilization or culture on the verge of collapse. In keeping with that idea, tempos slow and activity levels grow subdued as the disc develops. The restrained piano-centered ruminations of “Meme III” feel like the dying embers of said civilization being scanned for signs of life, while the soprano saxophone's coiling melodies rise from the ashes in “Meme V” like plumes of cigarette smoke. Near disc's end, howls of anguish blacken the droning sixth section, and tribal percussion patterns give the eighth the feel of a funereal procession.
A few of Berne's own words about the recording prove illuminating. His choice of the word synaesthetic to describe his music, for one, begins to suggest how powerfully evocative it is, and his suggested sub-title for the recording, Coincidental Music For an Unwritten Show (of the Mind), likewise captures the sense in which his music feels like material welling up from the unconscious. Packaged in a deluxe and autographed edition, the release is as striking on visual grounds as it is aural."- Textura

Something about the album’s first disc – Flickers of Mime – feels deceptive. It toys with listener expectation as turns in the narrative emerge and collapse within seconds. It meddles with recollection as new textures fade into nothing quickly enough to feel as though they might just be figments of the imagination; momentary lapses in common sense that sneak false memories into listener retrospect: drumbeats that squelch into life then fade instantly, or clarinet sirens that whirr faintly round the edges and evaporate. Everything feels in flux – mercurial and difficult to trust – as each “Flicker” sends an eclectic assortment of sounds flying out of the fog, toward a listener naïve to every next turn.
Death of Memes feels decidedly more sedated in comparison. Groans of woodwind settle into drones, long enough for images of sweltering Arabian plains to shift into focus, as the music collapses into its landscape and merges with it instead of actively manipulating it as in the previous disc. There’s still a sense of mystique, but it’s less explicit – it lurks within the blankets of sound as a supernatural haunt, present in atmosphere rather than in the sound itself. Arguably it’s the less engaging of the two halves, lacking the dizzying bewilderment that cuts the listener off from his of her comfort zones.
The same eclectic array of components (woodwind, brass, percussion, electronics, guitars, vocals, noises, plenty more) remains a constant, and acts as the primary cohesion point between both parts. But something happens between parts A and B that makes the music switch focus from sharper, more personifiable movements into the slower sways and drifts of nature. Mime’s crisp, detailed portraits blur and stretch into expanses of landscape consisting of bigger, weightier gloops of colour once Memes settles in, and while the cause of this change exists only in the void of silence that is the disc transition, its impact sees the Abandoned Orchestra suddenly enlightened to the gravity that burdens their every movement, as each note slurs and wheezes in exasperation. - Jack Chuter

What do you get when you combine Kubrick moods, outer space, Middle Eastern vibes, clouds of metal timbre, and a lot of talent in mixing those ingredients? Something similar to a disc by Alexander Berne. How about combining the primeval, the creepily serene, and the sense of slow motion. You’ll get the same thing.
Now, coalesce both of those, and you’ll get an illustration of the arc of human nature woven into an ambient collection. Or, more accurately, you’ll get Alexander Berne’s new album Flickers of Mime/Death of Memes.
Flickers of Mime/Death of Memes is the third collection of works by Berne and his Abandoned Orchestra. Berne is a composer from New York who has primarily immersed himself in the jazz scenes of America and Belgium. He is a saxophonist and has also invented a new wind instrument, one he calls the “saduk,” a mixture between a saxophone and a duduk.
Flickers of Mime/Death of Memes is an album divided into two discs. The first, Flickers of Mime, is meant to symbolize what a mime might create using its bare movements. Many of the tracks off this disc include very 80s-space sounding, sustained notes, such as “Flicker I” and “Flicker VII,” while many others include eastern scales and timbres. However, these tracks are not obviously themed. Each is soon invaded with other ambient sounds that help the disc do what it was meant to do; through each of the “flickers” on the first disc, a different world, structure, or mood is built. Despite some of the celestial sounds, Flickers of Mime/Death of Memes does not use any synthesizers or the like. “Flicker VIII” sounds like calm, Middle Eastern-sounding club music, and can be compared to songs by Mocean Worker with its sassy wind motifs paired with loose piano phrases. “Flicker X” is a whirlwind of sounds that the listener arrives at in linear ways, like passing each one in a car.  While each track is one train of thought without much individual development, the way the flickers are lined up in the album creates one leg of the arch that is Flickers of Mime/Death of Memes.  “Flicker XI,” the last track on the disc, is eerily similar to “Flicker II,” but with faded glances back at previous flickers.
The second disc, Death of Memes, is meant to be the second leg of the arch—the one that recedes back to the ground. One would more literal apocalyptic sounds on a disc that illustrates the downfall of a society. But the pieces on the disc are mostly loosely primitive, like the aftermath of said apocalypse. While Berne’s album’s first disc focuses on the construction of aural formations, the second one is the destruction of those. The perspective is also different on the two discs. Flickers of Mime is, hypothetically, meant to come from the hands of one man. Death of Memes describes the downfall of a large mass, like a city. Many of the tracks on the disc are much more subtle, such as “Meme III,” a piece of unfettered yet serene piano accompanied by ambient drones. “Meme I” is one of the only tracks that moves slightly in the realm of more aggressive dystopia, with subdued timpani and other percussion.
Alexander Berne’s Flickers of Mime/Death of Memes is an album that doesn’t fall into the whirlpool that ambient music, or music of the sort, sometimes can—monotony. Because of the well thought-out relationships between the two discs, Berne has constructed a body of work that works together in ways not only aurally, but conceptually. It offers a new way of looking at the arch of humanity; the arch that we ourselves, as humans, might never understand. - Elena Saavedra Buckley

- Alexander Berne about The Soprano Saxophone Choir:
"The genesis of the first CD “The Soprano Saxophone Choir” came years ago as an exercise to improve my tone. I found that by creating (in studio) an accompaniment of various layered tones and phrases, in different registers and with different timbres, I could awaken hidden qualities in my sound. Vibrations are powerful, and we sometimes forget that there are actual physical changes taking place in the instrument which have corresponding aesthetic effects on the practitioner and hopefully the listener as well. There seems to be a special, even mystical quality when an instrument or voice is multiplied by itself…a choir. This first CD is an exploration of that choir phenomenon: many soprano saxophones living together, magnifying the ‘overtonal’, textural, harmonic, vibratory, ‘soundistic’ experience."

- Alexander Berne about The Saduk:
"CD two, “The Saduk” - What do nearly all instrumental virtuoso do? Running headlong into limitations, they make significant changes to their instruments or in some cases make a new one entirely. I love the saxophone deeply, but it has some inherent constraints. It is a ‘heavy’ instrument, laden down with many large keys; you need a lot of breath to vibrate its elongated conical metal tube.

Often longing for a more tender palette of expression than the saxophone would allow, – I developed flute envy.

My solution was to create the saduk, the simple open-holed flute/reed hybrid featured on these tracks. Inspired in equal measure by an inner sound – one that I have ‘felt’ as much as ‘heard’ throughout my life – and the primal, tender wind instruments found in most world traditions, this recording marries a prenatally familiar wind expression with voice, percussion, saxophone and other acoustic sounds".

- Alexander Berne about The Abandoned Orchestra:
"For the third CD, “The Abandoned Orchestra”, I did not throw in everything but the kitchen sink; I did, however, use enough plumbing materials – making new wind instruments – to fix that sink quite a few times over. Along with the saxophone and saduk I created the sadukini (a conically functioning saduk, similar to ‘world oboes’ like the nadaswaram, shenai, or zurna), the tridoulaphone (another flute/reed hybrid heard here in soprano, alto, and tenor registers), and a reeded slide trumpet.

“The Abandoned Orchestra” continues with my solitary, unassisted practice of composing, performing and recording. I have been contemplating the two senses of abandonment: to be abandoned is to be either forsaken or unrestrained – but isolation and desertion may lead to autonomy and liberty. In this self-layered orchestra, I have explored my own diverse pre- and post-ethnic sound world..."

- More words from Alexander Berne and reviews @ Innova Recordings

Mico Nonet - The Marmalade Balloon (2007)

Picture of The Marmalade Balloon

Analogni sintesajzeri, violončelo, viola, oboa, francuski rog. Klasičarski minimalizam za skidanje laka s filmske muzike.

streaming ulomaka
Mico Nonet at MySpace

Echoes Interview feature - Mico Nonet

Really excellent debut release by a quintet of young, mostly classically trained players on viola, cello, french horn, oboe and synthesizer. This manages to combine elements of contemporary classical and minimalism with electronic music in a very organic and natural way. It feels completely right and doesn't feel at all forced or like the parts are uncomfortably grafted together. Their blurb says "A minimalist layer of ambient analog synthesizers with cello, viola, French horn and oboe performed by members of The Philadelphia Orchestra and Berlin Philharmonic", and while I can't argue with that, it also doesn't adequately convey the quiet beauty and charm of this disc. If you can enjoy elegantly low-key music (think: Harold Budd, Terry Riley, some New Albion releases), then this will (quietly) knock your socks off! - www.waysidemusic.com/

Once all the synths and sequencers have echoed out and it is time to return to Earth, STAR'S END turns to The Marmalade Balloon (36'42"), a smart, artfully constructed EP by Mico Nonet. Played on conventional chamber instruments (viola, cello, oboe, french horn) plus a well-hidden synthesizer, this work combines the idea of ambient music with the sophisticated sensibilities of the classical quartet. The most difficult part of this undertaking was in directing the virtuosic talents of four seasoned orchestra musicians towards a music that achieves a sustained atmosphere - away from the familiar climax and release of their repertoire. The Marmalade Balloon succeeds in maintaining a gradual coalescence throughout. Somber thematic workings move with deliberate slowness as this group carefully strides towards a sense of quiet musical contemplation. Through a unique intuition, the musicians leave enough room not only for one another, but for silence as well. The result is an incredibly beautiful and elegant music, so fragile that at any moment it may dissolve into thin air. - Chuck van Zyl

What happens when members of the Philadelphia Orchestra, Berlin Philharmonic, Richmond Symphony, and Baltimore Symphony combine forces? Mico Nonet. Cello, viola, oboe, and French horn are guided under the hands of producer and synthesizer Joshua Lee Kramer, who shapes the band’s sound into a peaceful accompaniment while adding the slightest touches of ambience.
carrie dennis, viola
carrie is principal viola of the berlin philharmonic. she was previously assistant principal viola of the philadelphia orchestra, and a member of the chamber orchestra of philadelphia. she received both her bachelor of music degree in violin and artist’s diploma in viola from the curtis Institute of music. carrie has participated in the marlboro music festival and toured with musicians from marlboro, and has also appeared at music from angel fire, the moritzburg festival, the tanglewood music festival, the new york string seminar, and the verbier festival where she won the juchum musical award.
efe baltacigil, cello
efe is associate principal cello of the philadelphia orchestra. he received his bachelor’s degree from mimar sinan university conservatory in his native istanbul, turkey, and then received his artist’s diploma at the curtis institute, where he was the recipient of the jacqueline dupree scholarship. since then he has won the 2005 young concert artists international auditions, an avery fisher career grant, and has been awarded the peter jay sharp prize. - www.last.fm/

Mico Nonet is a self-described “ambient chamber” ensemble and their debut release is The Marmalade Balloon, a CD somewhat difficult to slot into a single genre. Essentially, it’s a classical music album featuring chamber music played on viola (Carrie Dennis), cello (Efe Baltacigil), French horn (Paul LaFollette) and oboe (Katherine Needleman). All of these four people play professionally for various orchestras from Berlin to Philadelphia to Baltimore to Richmond, by the way. However, labeling it “classical” doesn’t take into account that, layered amidst the elegant string and wind instruments, are Joshua Lee Kramer’s subtle yet evocative analogue synthesizer textures. You may not always be consciously aware of them (even with attentive headphone listening, Kramer’s washes, pads, and shadings are discrete and under the surface). Yet, however slight the electronics may be, they add a dimension to the music that would otherwise be missing. For many ambient fans, though, The Marmalade Balloon may hew too closely to “long hair” music. That’s a shame because this is a beautiful and deeply moving work, unique without being abstract, frequently suffused with tangible melancholy.
“Rüya” opens the album and here the electronic effects are more pronounced, with ponging-like noises bouncing lazily amidst the cello, French horn and viola, the latter three wending their way somewhat cheerily amidst the synthesizer effects. “Kaika” features oboe prominently at the outset, and the piece has a rural/pastoral feel, with the synth shading being textural in nature, comprised of an occasional analogue-sounding wash in the background. “Maloja Pass” morphs the recording to a more mournful or introspective mood. Cello, viola and oboe are buoyed by soft electronic effects, quiet drones and what sound like tape loops.
Most of the album’s tracks are short (between two and four minutes long, with the exception of the nearly six-minute “Darana.”); in fact, three are under two minutes, including the somber elegiac “The Woolgatherer” and the solemn “Notturno” with its deep bassy synths rumbling underneath viola. “Gloaming” opens in a dark haunting vein with subtly glistening synth tones and bass drone-like washes upon which viola and cello mournfully “sing.” “Paper Sailboat” flirts with a playful mood (but still tinted with shades of grey) as flighty oboe is juxtaposed with soft swirling synths and semi-abstract effects which jump out now and then amidst the oboe’s melody. The title track hews closely to more traditional chamber music, swaying ever so slightly and again shining with a palpable yet gentle pastoral glow, gradually increasing in volume and drama as more instruments come join in the mix.
While there are obvious similarities between Mico Nonet’s music and, for example, Tim Story’s The Perfect Flaw or perhaps Kevin Keller’s Santiago’s Dream, the prominence in both the latter cases of piano as the main instrument and the more overt use of electronics means the similarities are relatively superficial. The Marmalade Balloon is, more than anything else, rooted firmly in chamber music aesthetics yet Kramer infuses enough electronics and synthesizers to differentiate it from a straight-up classical recording (“Hammock” for a good example of this combination of the two elements). More than anything else, what wowed me about this CD from the first playing was not just the emotional power and weight of the melancholic somber music but also that it’s all exercised with such grace and subtlety. This must be credited to Joshua Lee Kramer who is the driving force of Mico Nonet and the producer of this startlingly beautiful recording, although of course the quality of the performances of the four classical musicians can’t be overstated either. The Marmalade Balloon was one of the finest albums released in 2007 and I hope that it won’t be the last we hear from these five talented people. 

Mico Nonet,Maloja Pass / Hammock,UK,Promo,Deleted,7

Maloja Pass / Hammock (2008)  streaming ulomaka

Back in 2007 Mico Nonet released their stunning album Marmalade Balloon. Without exaggerating I can state that this chamber music ensemble is one of the most remarkable modern classical projects around. The instrumentation is (to say the least) unusual: Mico Nonet is a quintet consisting of viola, violoncello, french horn, oboe and synthesizer. Producer Joshua Lee Kramer combines the talent of four outstanding musicians: Carrie Dennis has been principal violist of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra for two years until she joined the Los Angeles Philharmonic as principal viola in 2008. Efe Baltacigil is associate principal cellist of the Philadelphia Orchestra, Paul Lafollette plays third horn of the Richmond Symphony Orchestra and Katherine Needleman is principal oboist of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.
While the complete Marmalade Balloon album has been released on CD only, the two pieces ‘Maloja Pass’ and ‘Hammock’ also have been released on a clear 7″ vinyl record. Due to the instrumentation the recordings are full of warmth, but also Kramers production (and an outstanding mastering work by Bob Katz) is responsible for the subtle and intimate overall sound. Though I’m not sure whether the pieces are composed in detail or – at least in parts – the result of an ambitious chamber music improvisation, every single arrangement is as organic and dynamic as sophisticated. A polyphonic form can be found in most of their pieces and both the harmonic and rhythmic structures are often interlaced and show an also theoretical background of the musicians. Though it’s not obvious why ‘Maloja Pass’ and ‘Hammock’ made it to the 7″ instead of even more outstanding beauties like ‘Gloaming’, ‘Kaika’ or ‘Rüya’ but it could have been every single piece off the album that had been worth it to find its place on the 7″ record.
There aren’t many chamber music ensembles out there that combine talents like these without losing oneself in virtuosity. Mico Nonet dispense with unnecessary notes and put all their energy in an exquisite interplay which makes their release to a heavily underrated record that deserved much more attention. I personally just hope that they’ll meet again for a sequel of this ambitions and simply wonderful project. Highly recommended! - electroacoustictales.wordpress.com/

15 Questions to Mico Nonet

by  Tobias
article image
Hi! How are you?
Hello! I am doing well, though it is too cold to catch a fish.
Where are you?
I am in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in the USA, land of foolish politicians.
What’s on your schedule right now?
Completing Mico Nonet's second album with an expanded ensemble, an album of duets with members of Mico Nonet, an ambient collaboration with another electronic musician, and a solo album of ambient guitar, electronics, minimalist drums...
What’s your view on the music scene at present? Is there a crisis?
It is a time of rapid change, where a diverse multitude of music floats unguided through vast portals. If there is a crisis, it is the low sound quality of the MP3, but this will correct itself as bandwidth and memory capabilities increase. The technological flip side is that musicians have low cost access to hi-resolution 24 bit home recording equipment, and that freedom has led to the release of all kinds of great music that might not otherwise have been heard.
Do you see yourself as part of a certain tradition or as part of a movement?
Mico Nonet embraces both the traditions of the analog ambient minimalist pioneers and those of chamber music. There is a growing chamber hybrid movement that bridges classical, electronic and post-rock that Mico Nonet is also a part of, though we didn't realize its size when we started "The Marmalade Balloon".
What, would you say, are the factors of your creativity?
The recording studio has always been my place to experiment, improvise and interact with other musicians. In the studio, sometimes I have a detailed concept, sometimes I just wander and try not to over analyze.
What “inspires” you?
I am inspired by the combination of forms, learning new instruments, interaction, the wilderness...
How would you describe your method of composing?
I don't consider myself a composer in the classical sense. Most people think upon listening to the "The Marmalade Balloon" that it was composed, but it was actually fully improvised, and then chopped into pieces and edited to produce the final result. 11 of the 13 songs started with me improvising a long ambient solo synthesizer/electronic piece on a single stereo track about 7 to 10 minutes long. Then one by one, I had the orchestral members of the group come in to my studio and improvise on top of my electronics. I would edit after each member's session, so the next player could improvise over both my original electronic track, but also over the parts the previous orchestral member(s) had played - this way they had the open space to improvise over just the electronics, and also the chance to lay down some parts along with whatever was already edited. This gave me the ability to cut and paste multi-tracked individual parts in a layered process to create the songs. The second album and duets in progress are being recorded with an entirely different process - group improvisations in a variety of ensemble sizes, no editing.
How do you see the relationship between sound and composition?
For me, making sound is composing, as long as I remembered to hit the red button on the recording device. In addition to modular and polyphonic analog synths, some of the electronic sounds on "The Marmalade Balloon" are actually upright piano or Wurlitzer electric piano that I played and recorded and then reversed the recording and slowed it down to half speed, or otherwise manipulated - I do this with synth tracks often too - so the processing of sound is part of my compositional process also.
How strictly do you separate improvising and composing?
Not sure I would separate them completely. I lean towards music that is improvised, and performed by the people who originally created the music, over composed music where the performers must interpret another's ideas. I consider composing and improvising different yet related processes, as some composers admit to some element of improvisation in their composing process, and the creative moment is spontaneous to some extent in both methods of making music.
What does the term „new“ mean to you in connection with music?
"New" is something unheard, frontier seeking. In the past few decades, "new" electronic music has sometimes arisen from either technological advances in instruments or recording, or hybridization and deconstruction of musical forms and cultures.
Do you personally enjoy multimedia as an enrichment or do you feel that it is leading away from the essence of what you want to achieve?
Multimedia adds another dimension especially to a live music performance that includes electronics. What intrigues me the most is the potential for visuals to be connected to the music becoming another instrument in the group, used subtly not to overwhelm, but to add another dimension to the ensemble.
What constitutes a good live performance in your opinion?
When the musicians know their music so intimately that they are freed to fully express themselves in every note. The quality of the sound system and acoustics of the space also can greatly add to the experience.
What’s your approach to performing on stage?
Performing is one of life's great joys, playing music that you created with friends, hearing it together with an audience in a great sounding space - a connected experience.
Do you feel an artist has a certain duty towards anyone but himself? Or to put it differently: Should art have a political/social or any other aspect apart from a personal sensation?
I think artists should make whatever naturally comes out of them - there is room for sociopolitical art, and art that just evokes raw emotion, and everything in between.
How, would you say, could non-mainstream forms of music reach wider audiences without sacrificing their soul?
The internet is helping non-mainstream music reach a wider audience internationally, but pop music and soul sacrifice seem likely forever intertwined.
You are given the position of artistic director of a festival. What would be on your program?
Chamber hybrids presented in a tour of reverberant mid-sized cathedrals, with multimedia visuals and minimalist ambient lighting.
Many artists dream of a “magnum opus”. Do you have a vision of what yours would sound like?
An expanded Mico Nonet, recorded in Dolby 5.1 surround sound in a giant cathedral improvised with an orchestra sized ensemble, synths being amplified throughout the space for the recording from hundreds of tiny old radio speakers, no two the same, spread out all over the floor. The ensemble's sound shifting from minimalist to enveloping. The release would be on HD-DVD or Blue-ray, high resolution 24 bit 96k surround sound audio, with connected ambient visuals, and live performance video. And also released on vinyl, pressed on 180-gram wax, 45 rpm. No MP3s. - www.tokafi.com/

Picture of Mico Nonet

Vampire Rodents - Lullaby Land (1994)

Picture of Lullaby Land

Najbolji klingonski seoski industrijski bend iz '90-ih. Cijelo pleme svira na jazz-simfonijskoj rakiji (destilatu mnogih instrumenata) prije odlaska na ritualno proljetno pranje spolnih organa. 

Assimilating elements of industrial, rock, jazz and surprisingly, classical music, the quartet known as Vampire Rodents use a collective of musicians plus samples to construct their albums. The core of the band consists of Victor W. (piano, synth), Anton R. (vocals, guitars), Daniel Vahnke (composition, sampling) and Jing Laoshu (percussion).

Lullaby Land (1994) streaming

The Vampire Rodents were an experimental industrial rock group led by guitarist and singer Daniel Vahnke, with other members playing keyboards, strings and percussion. Lullaby Land was the group's third album, its direct predecessor, Premonition being a mere hint as to full scale of the greatness they could achieve. Superficially the album is just another semi-industrial collage piece, copying likes of Foetus and Nurse with Wound, but only as one digs deeper is it possible to experience the true profundity within. Though it is heavily influenced by other industrial artists, it possesses an emotional and technical expansion previously unseen in rock music. This is an epic work of rock music (both in content and length), and in my opinion deserves a review which provides an in depth look at each track.
The album opens with the tense and dramatic Trilobite, possibly the most linear (but also one of the best) tracks on the album. From the very first song, the consistent pounding rhythms found in every song are ever-present, the only real feature that holds each soundscape together. Following this jaw-dropping opening, a short duet of chaotic strings plays before a harsh drumline and melancholic vocals are introduced - Catacomb. This track lacks suspense entirely, its crescendos are sudden and unexpected; They are outbursts without warning, further adding to the nightmarish atmosphere. As soon as Catacomb has faded, the incessant drone of Crib Death comes forth, being followed by some of the most horrific (Galas-esque) singing I've ever heard. This however, is not the main feature which most would find unlistenable; Rather it is the constant disorientating rhythm changes, adding further to the evocative ever-changing atmosphere.
If at this point you're noticing that I'm making the music sound rather unappealing, it's probably not for you (not that I want to put people off), but if from what you've read you're intruiged or excited - this album is a masterpiece. For the Rodents, as it is for many Avant Garde bands, the timbre and ambience trumps over melodic genius (not that this album is without some great tunes...Well, I think so anyway). They are not just deconstructing rock music with this record, they are reconstructing it in their own twisted way.
Another brilliant feature of this album is the sheer diversity of genres found within, perfectly showcased by the next song, Dogchild. Imagine late 80s/early 90s Hip-hop blended with unhealthy amounts of noise, jazz samples and cynical lyrics that I'm sure Zappa would've been proud of. This provides the perfect antithesis for the following song Gargoyles, a metallic horror story backed by metal guitars, screaming vocals and classical samples. Grace is of a similar nature, and is probably the worst on the album (despite having the most humourous context of lyrics). That said, every song on here is worth its salt and none let the album down, its true profundity manifesting itself through being greater than the sum of its parts. Tremulous, a 55 second track which sounds like Reich's work on loops, provides the transition from Grace and Glow Worm, which has a depressing mantra combined with some harsh atonality. Lullaby Land continues this, descending further into a calm insanity, and featuring Rathausen/Vanhke's best vocal display - itself being an instrument which fits perfectly with the ethnic gamelan-like rhythm section.
The album's darkest section (I know what you're thinking, the stuff before sounded pretty dark - Not compared to this) are the six tracks running from Dervish to Nosedive. The former attacks the senses with a powerful rhythm combined with a piano melody. This, along with Rathausen's vocals is essentially the entire song, though it is important to point out that no amount of description will be able to do this music justice; there are so many samples and snippets of sound in every second that the music itself seems alive. This effect provides a very exciting aural experience, and repeat listens always rewards you with new levels of appreciation. After Dervish is Scavenger, one of the most relentlessly ruthless songs on the album, and in fact ever. It always reminds me of something biomechanical, a machine that is living and breathing, and this is just what the Rodents intend to do; They take us to another world with their album, the craftsmanship in doing so is where the talent lies, and is in my opinion more of a skill than composing catchy melodies (which I do hasten to admit is, when done consistently, a talent that is very rare). Exuviate plays like a constant crescendo that never quite reaches its climax, and when it does it is thrown away to calming synths, which smoothly flow into Akrotiri, one of the album's best. I cannot even attempt to describe this instrumental masterpiece in any kind of detail, though to give the reader some idea it consists of elements of spanish guitar, tribal flutes and baroque organs - not to mention the haunting violins, all of which combine to produce a masterpiece of the highest level. Toten Faschist is the most metal-like song on the album, with the heaviest guitar and drums, frantic shredding and occasional melodic sections give it that same variety that makes each track so strong. The darkness that has been so present in each song is fittingly ended with Nosedive, the simplest song on the album with a 4/4 beat, the repitious thudding never ceasing.
The most odd and also one of the most enjoyable tracks on the album, Bosch Erotique is a fit of giggles, renaissance/medieval melodies and sexual panting, definitely not anything like Hubba Hubba, which to me sounds like one of the more avant Kompakt releases, albeit it with some completely inappropriate (and perfect) samples placed here and there. Cartouche is an homage to the spanish guitar hinted to in Akrotiri, though taken to a much further extent. If other tracks on the album lacked suspense, the Hitchcockian marvel Awaken is the epitome of that trait, like a pin hoving above a balloon as it floats upwards. The sheer anticipation and the controlled ending give it a somewhat mixed message, though one which I respect, as it easily could've ended in a rather predictable loud bang. Another contender for the best track is the 6 minute Raga Rodentia, the perfect cross between the Third Ear Band and the Taj Mahal Travellers, with the Rodents' own blend of rhythmical delights of course. The album's finale is unlike the rest of the album entirely, it stands out as an ambient masterpiece, and is possibly the only cohesive whole within the context of the album.
So, concluding thoughts? Well, I myself believe this to be the most significant piece of music rock has to offer, a simultaneously ugly and beautiful album that involves and immerses the listener in a way very few albums can do. That said, it's not for everybody (and by that I mean most people), to appreciate it one must listen with both an open mind and open ears. One thing's for certain: After hearing this album all the way through for the first time, it won't be an experience you'll forget. -

Clockseed (1995)  streaming



The free-form industrial collective explores hip-hop and free jazz along with their brand of metal on this, their fourth album.


 Gravity's Rim (1996) streaming


Like some warped and post-apocalyptic symphony, the Vampire Rodents collective swan dives into another remarkably textured, sample-constructed exploration of what it means to make music. With the opening "Chain" setting the stage, all hollow vocals and odd jazz twists and form breaks, it's easy to see how the Rodents intend to play out their masquerade. A remarkable assimilation of sound, sonics, and scope follows, from the avant classical "Prophet Clown" to the opening cello of "Ice Borers," which fuses that intent with dancefloor beats, all the way to the late album helicopter beats on "H.M.P.," creating moment upon moment of surprise. But it's no wonder that the Rodents' core of Daniel Vahnke, Victor Wulf, and Anton Rathausen have propelled themselves nearly out of Gravity's Rim this time. Helped along by the crème de la crème of industrial's nether regions, all guest vocalists, the band has sutured its own style with those of Chemlab's Jared Hendrickson, Spahn Ranch's Athan Maroulis, and Battery's Maria Azevedo. The result, which brings some of the Residents' more musical meanderings to mind, is a triumph. And, while Gravity's Rim will be distasteful to some, it should prove to be a tasty main course for the clatterers. - allmusic.com

  Picture of Premonition

Premonition (1992) full album:

 Picture of War Music

War Music (1990)

Interview with Daniel Vahnke of the Vampire Rodents - conducted by Kevin A. Congdon & Jason J. Tar via e-mail June 1996

Kevin: Could you give a brief description of what Sample-Based Composition is or what it involves?
Daniel: Sample-Based Composition (SBC) is a new version of writing/recording music without the limitations of traditional musical training or the active participation of live musicians to produce the raw sound sources needed to produce a sample file. SBC isn't much different from the process of making a mosaic, an animated filmstrip or the avant-toon tape splicing of Tod Dockstader in the 60's. Instead of using razors and tape, for the last decade (or longer, if you were wealthy back then), the sampler has made the same process much cleaner, safer, and much more efficient. Some samplers, like most of the Rolands and Akais, are more useful than others for composition purposes. Prospective buyers should always thoroughly investigate an instrument's capabilities and limitations before investing. Many samplers were never designed for complex compositions requiring extensive sample files. In order to design the really good stuff, there are no computer shortcuts. SBC is more analogous to setting type on an old printing press. Tiring and tedious sometimes, yes, but what can be done with the final result is well worth it. At least most of the time.
Jason: Why do you bring in so many guest vocalists on your work? What first prompted you to start using guest vocalists?
Daniel: I have to give Chase credit for the vocal casting, given my lack of personal contacts in the business. My interest and curiosity especially in view of increasing the experimentation of the voices were piqued. It seemed a great idea to give completed tracks to obviously talented lyricists & singers. It gave the music's end result an entirely different shape from what I would probably come up with. My lyrics & vocals are sometimes limited considering the musical scope, so it's always a big help when I make new contacts and great talents like Athan Maroulis and Maria Azevedo.
Kevin: Are there many other singers or musician which you would like to, or are planning to, collaborate with?
Daniel: For the Rodents, at the moment, vocal-based songs are yet to be planned. A sixth V.R. album is on the shelf. I plan to release it as an instrumental-only 75 min. CD late this year or early in '97 depending upon financial circumstances (or when, like the others, 'Gravity's Rim' inevitably collides with the indie-distribution atmosphere and disappears.) So, in other words, vocal plans for what will actually be the seventh V.R. album (and most likely the last for some time) won't be made till Dec.-Jan.
I'm currently working on a separate project with Athan Maroulis called Alchemia. I don't see that out till Nov. or so. Mainly because Spahn Ranch is recording their new album now (it's killer) and a tour is surely in the works. I'm always open to working with anyone who is really curious SBC and it's possibilities, but, to be honest, I'm afraid such interest is in short supply, as usual. My P.O. box is always open to 'audition tapes' if anyone's interested. Many 'Rodentia' personnel obtained their membership status merely by sending me DATs of improvised or written figures and fragments of sounds for me to sample from and store and to mix in with the rest of the sample library (e.g.: Koci, Benghiat, Escalante, Laoshu, Geist, and for the most part, Akastia as well).
Jason: I read a post from Fifth Colvmn that you would be touring in the Summer or Fall. Is this true? If this is true, what lead to the decision to actually do a tour? What about Andrea refusing to tour, will you find someone to fill in for her?
Daniel: Well It would be nice, but as always, it depends upon funding and interest. San Diego, LA, and SF shows would be a given, but a full scale tour would require more support. I still don't want to tour a bunch of metal bars full of little boys in short pants, so alternate venues (school auditoriums, churches, universities, etc.) is a priority, but I feel comfortable now with touring as a trio: Me & My DAT, a cellist, and a guitarist. More than three would be a crowd except for hi-profile with guest vox shows. Now, all I need are those two musicians. Andrea CAN'T tour. She's not an American citizen, and like Victor, has a well-paying faculty job and stable life that could only be disrupted from the attentions of the "depressed teenager media", as she calls it. Again, if any cellist or guitarist is interested, I'd love to see some tapes in the mail box! My last cellist backed out after last month, so it's back to the drawing board.
Kevin: Since you have many side projects out, will you continue to release material under the Vampire Rodents name?
Daniel: Aside from the completed instrumental sixth album and the seventh album (w/ vox), which should be ready by mid-'97, I don't have any plans for the rodents. I will, however, re-release the first two V.R. CDs on my own VRP label late this year at a low price and including a half-hour of unreleased tracks. VR 6 may also follow on VRP if FCR decides to pass on it. Eventually, I'll re-release all seven V.R. CDs in a $40 box set just to make sure the rest of the market's V.R. inventory becomes impossible to sell. Ha Ha. It's always the fan that's getting screwed in this business (along with the Rodents and the countless others) and there will be a time when all these, uh.. 'imbalances' will be addressed and corrected. But, that's all I can say at the moment. The clock is still ticking
Jason: Any progress on the research aspect of the band (like the 28-note octaves) or any grants on continuing the research? (Also, who or what entity is sponsoring such research?)
Daniel: Oh-yes, progress is always being made, but there is a degree of 'thematic stagnation' going on in the burrow after following vocal-based song structures for so long now. The quarter-tone research can't happen till the equipment becomes available, but I see that degree of research (along with my future work in ultra and infra sonic compounds) some years away when I have the 'luxury' to spend 16 hour days in the lab.
As for finding a sponsor for SBC, that's a bit like finding a fairy godmother these days. With the 'dumbing-down' of America reaching it's critical mass phase, investment in anything linked with the phrase 'avant-garde' is impossible without leaving the country. IRCAM, are you listening?
Kevin: When was Daniel Vahnke first incorporated into the band? and why? Is Daniel now the main person behind the Rodents or is it still largely a collaborative effort?
Daniel: Well, sorry guys, but I am the 'band', basically. Just wanted to avoid that 'idiot savant' or 'wunderkin' kind of labeling from the start. Victor contributed greatly to the first two V.R. albums, but I used my alter ego/evil twin alias of Anton Rathausen simply to confuse and manipulate as well as to give my different vocal 'characters' an individual identity (I'm on medication now). Collaboration outside of the vocal guests just hasn't happened that often, even though I've invited it for years. I don't know what the clinical term for 'fear of composition' is, but MOST musicians suffer from it and in many cases it becomes more severe according to their level of 'professionalism'. Which is why I've always said SBC is feared more than anyone can know right now. It is an entirely different language that is "user-friendly" ONLY to the novice and the amateur and THAT is why it is the mortal enemy of the status quo I like to call "The Musician-Candlemakers Guild". But, the entrenchment of rap and techno into the mainstream put the first nails in their coffin. Hopefully SBC demonstrations in front of juries in the near future will finally put them in their proper place.
Jason: On the 'Gravity's Rim' insert, it states Daniel does the vocals. Why the switch from Anton? (Honestly, they sound very similar to Anton's, so I was wondering if the insert is misprinted?)
Daniel: Yes, you caught me. Now let's see how many people will believe it. I have about as much credibility as a record label saying "The check's in the mail, dude".
Kevin: What lead to the new release being on Fifth Colvmn instead of Re-Constriction? And why are there 25 tracks listed, but only 24 are actually on the CD? Does it have anything to do with the fact that the name of the missing song is called "Smartass"?
Daniel: Well, historically, it would have been pointless, since Cargo couldn't do much with the two CDs I gave them and seemed absolutely clueless as to how to respond when the press unanimously raved on the band. So, no response and no press quotes in the ads was their strategy. Since Cargo is primarily an American Rock Music label, this was expected, so I don't want to act like the innocent here. I knew what I was getting into. I've worked for cartels and organizations in this country before. No difference. Of course, this has nothing at all to do with Chase. Re-Constriction is not a financially-autonomous label, so the buck starts and stops somewhere else. Chase is an excellent PR man and my friend for life, but HE DOESN'T SIGN THE CHECKS. I'm really sick of people dissing Chase for matters that are out of his control (like money and distribution). Basically, he's just an under-appreciated and underpaid employee of Cargo, Inc., and I'm amazed that some major label hasn't snapped him up yet.
That said, the moral reason for jumping Cargo was for the simple fact that my 'Clockseed' advance was cut in half simply because I was foolish enough not to send it C.O.D. As a result, the half-check shows up three months later. Welcome to show biz, kids! To be honest, though, this happens with nearly all labels (although Cleopatra has proven to be a welcome exception). I can't say I really care. The labels serve their purpose they're capable of. The only important thing to me is that my recordings are released in a historically linear fashion. One or two thousand dollar advances are not worth delays (whether they appear or not). If I work for a department store or a record label, I just assume most American business institutions are just varied forms of organized crime (with excellent CPAs, of course). Eventually, I expect most of the V.R. albums to sell quite well, but that is easily 5 or 6 years away. Most of my potential audience hasn't grown pubic hair yet. If labels continue to treat me like a tax write-off, I should have most of the SBC catalog available cheaply through my VRP label. That's why I encourage everyone to do everything DIY through direct Internet & postal sales. The days of the 'rock' label and all it's baggage will soon be over. Most bands are signed to be some fat old fuck's boat payment, anyway. So, good riddance, I say. Besides, there's less room for good ole American graft in the future's Internet sales system. Too many eyes double-checking the people who can't count. It would be nice if people were tested for math and writing sills before the tattoo count. I hope to have my label up and running again within a year.
As for track #25, "Smartass" was a song that had to be chopped due to last minute time restrictions given by the plant. Of course, the artwork was already printed. Quite common situation, really. I'm used to long waiting periods for pressing dates, but Fifth Colvmn amazes me with how fast they can get stuff pressed and shipped. Ether Bunny and 'Gravity's Rim' both took a week each. So, next time I'll get the artwork done after the mastering.
Jason: How do you construct the lyrics to a song? To me, it is very fascinating and very intelligent, while often being very humorous as well.
Daniel: Thank you. When I write lyrics, I only write between the instrumental 'gaps', so to speak. I try to avoid repetition and the obvious, of course. But, most importantly, I try to keep the comedy quotient fairly high without resorting to propaganda (although I've heard of odd comparisons to Seuss, Vonnegut, & Nostradamus). I don't want to preach to the converted or the perverted. As I've often said, I'm only interested in reaching those few thousand (?) people out there wanting to take up SBC for themselves. V.R. was designed to be an influential tool, period. Nearly every V.R. and E.B. song is an etude or problem-soving in arrangement exercise to those few willing to learn from them. Many V.R. pieces are quite static and 'sewn' for that purpose only. But, it's the few, the proud, the workaholic that I'm really after. As for the comedy element, I believe you can focus someone's mind on a subject longer with laughter, not anger, as the catalyst or stumulant.
Kevin: The logo that appears on each Vampire Rodents release, what is its significance and name?
Daniel: Name? I don't know. A Vahnk? Ha Ha. No, it's just my name. I don't know about it's histroy. The 'uncle' who gave it to me died when I was six. It's simply an I.D. marker I use for reasons impossible to explain. Consider it a Rodent 'brand' or trademark, or something like that.
Jason: Besides Dilate, Recliner, Ether Bunny, and possibly Pillow, are there any other projects that any of the Rodents have appeared on?
Daniel: Dilate is Victor Wulf's ambient project on Cleopatra and Tracer is more experimental project he's also working on. The second Dilate release will be a double-CD out in the fall. Ether Bunny is my favored child right now and begin the second album in a month or two. I'm looking for any E.B. contacts I can make in the animated and comedy film biz, as well. Recliner was simply a name Chase used for the VR/Babyland songs on the compilation CDs. Pillow is a non-existent proposal to work with 16 Volt from Chase. I wouldn't hold your breath on that one. I will require an advance IN ADVANCE this time, of course.
As for other projects currently in the works, my twin 'adult-contemporary new-age sythpop' projects - Alchemia & Obsidian - are both completed musically ( and 90% of Obsidian vocals). I'll be wrapping up another project called Taint late this year as well. A bit more techno-oriented Rodent mutation, that. Only three songs done so far, though. I'll be needing a dozen vocalists for that one, so any volunteers? No label or release info on these three projects, yet. Ask me again in a couple of months.
Kevin: Are 'War Music' and 'Premonition' still available? And if so, how? It'd be nice to add information on acquiring them on the site since I've received several requests.
Daniel: You can get them from Chase at Re-Con. (619-483-9292 / 4901-906 Morena Blvd. / San Diego, CA 92117-3432) or from me (Box 56576 / Phoenix, AZ 85079) for $12 each. Please make the payment out to me regardless of from whom you order.I will re-release both in expanded versions when I start VRP again. 'War Music' is still out on Dossier, but it's a $25 import at Tower and wouldn't suggest buying it anyway, since Dossier hasn't paid me a cent since 1990. Distributors in America still owe me thousands from unpaid 'Premonition' shipments. Which is why, in the future, I will only sell to stores and distributors C.O.D. or pre-pay only. Let them fuck someone else over next time. A rodent never forgets a debt. It's so easy for people to forget that pay-up is always cheaper and less painful than pay-back.
Jason: Has there ever been any video work done to accompany any of the pieces? Either live performance or MTV-styled videos?
Daniel: No. It may or may not happen. Definitely not a priority. Whatever V.R. gigs we can scrape together will be filmed. So maybe something in '97, but I'm more interested in cartoons. I'd rather work with an animator who utilizes SBC techniques in that medium. The SBC principles are applicable to everything from genome mapping to astronomy. It is simply embracing a shotgun/chaos approach to research and experimentation in order to achieve greater and more detailed progress in one's work. But, that's another lecture.
Kevin: Is all the music recorded by the different artists and then sent to one main Rodent to piece together, or is this more of a "democracy" whereas all musicians get together and work on the finished product as a whole?
Daniel: There can be no democracy in SBC outside of the individual, really. At least not in the way it is defined in orchestras, rock bands, etc. Of course, the idea is excellent if it could be done. However, I have yet to see three or more composers working together become more creative or productive than a single centered composer (ie: Xenakis, etc.) But maybe it's just my historical perspective. I think my problem is that I want to work with scientists, not artists. I don't understand the meaning of art in a world as profoundly moronic and dangerous as ours. I think that the concept of a sampling " unit" is a great concept. Perhaps a trio composing of (1) Primary sampler, recorder of sound source DATs, and sample file librarian, (2) Secondary sampler, sample editor & copier, Loop & Ostinati writer, sequence editor, and a (3) Composer, arranger, sample & sequence editor. But that kind of discipline and organization is hard to achieve at present. I build my sample library solely from CDs and DATs from all kinds of sources. My attempts at training other at SBC have been pretty depressing, generally. I haven't given up, though. I still offer SBC tutoring/seminar courses to any trio of perspective composers. No different than giving piano lessons, really. A Montreal package was set up to go once, but the distance costs are too prohibitive right now. With most 'students', it's just a work ethic thing and a fear of notation problem for most. Nothing that can't be learned in a few days. But, it IS the slacker 90's. I don't want slackers for an audience anyway - I want hackers, actually.
Jason: Are there any other bands today who adhere to the SBC ideals or are you the only ones to your knowledge?
Daniel: I'm sure I'm not the only one. It's just common sense. SBC, in some form, is so wide-spread and pervasive now, that it's inconceivable that others aren't doing it. The classical music world is even embracing (slowly) the sampler as a tool of composition (and hopefully - performer). That's why my long-planned SBC Symphony #1 will be released with an SBC Cello Sonata by mid-'98. Again, IRCAM, IRCAM, I need the money, honey.
Kevin: Anything you'd like to add?
Daniel: The future of modern music depends on DIY ideals and laissez-faire methods run through the security of the Internet and a soon to be booming private secured mail franchises system (could be 5-7 years from now). The main reason I insist upon having a big mouth about everything (I am truly a rat that bites the hand that doesn't feed me) is to give honest and first hand information on what not to do in the industry. There is no industry. It is dying on the vine along with the rest of the U.S. retail economy. So I want to warn others that the future is in self-sufficiency, period. Create, make, package, and sell your work BY YOURSELF. If 3-5 of you can coallesce into a company or label, almost anything is possible. Labels in the future will hopefully be master computer programs capable of giving only honest & accurate data on sales and distribution patterns, etc. ACCEPTABLE LEVELS OF HUMAN ERROR are the primary cause for much of the vanishing merchandise in the indie-distribution network. But, let me go on briefly to another related rant.
Rock is dead and everything associated with it - producers, attorney moles, touring strings of monkey taverns, eight-song albums every two years, interviews about nothing at all, jamming, tattoos and leather, pain and aggression, whining whining whining, videos, the fat one's tax write-off, corrupt and incompetent distribution systems, greaseball bar mangers with gold chains & a Camaro, the production of movies soley to sell soundtracks, anorexia and bulimia, 250-word vocabulary for lyrics, beer commercials, and anything else that reeks of male hormone poisoning. Rock rhymes with cock for a good reason. It is the 20th-century institution for keeping the male-dominant status quo alive and well no matter how alternative or PC the lyrical and PR content is. The ape will always come out ahead in the rock world, make no mistake. The mosh pit would be very inviting at a Hitler Youth rally in '37, you can be sure. So, the point is, don't kid yourself about why anything is done the way it is in this industry. You're here to entertain the Suit's kids and that's IT. That's going to change, isn't it, boys and girls? - www.sonic-boom.com/

The Vampire Rodents, a project of Toronto guitarist/vocalist Anton Rathausen (real name Daniel Vahnke) and keyboardist Victor Wulf, were possibly the greatest composers of collage-music of the decade. War Music (1990) merely set the existential tone of their opus by juxtaposing recitals of horror stories against industrial music performed by Neanderthal men on stone instruments. Premonition (1992), featuring Andrea Akastia on violin and cello, transposed that program to another dimension, making music out of a frantic collage of sources. On one hand, the combo created a music in which sound effects, not instruments, became the element of composition. On the other hand, they retained the feeling of jazz and avantgarde chamber music. Their savage art of montage reached a demented peak with Lullaby Land (1993). Rhythm permeated this work at least on two levels: a disco/funk/house beat that propelled the track; and the pace at which snippets were glued together to form "songs". At both levels the verve was palpable. The songs were gags, and each gag was an assembly of cells. It was entertaining, and it was terrifying. The whole recalled the grotesque and unpredictable merry-go-rounds of Frank Zappa's early works and the Residents' early suites. Vampire Rodents' "lullaby land" was set in a Freudian nightmare and that nightmare played at double speed in a very chaotic theater. Clockseed (1995) added more instruments of the orchestra and more drum-machines, and offered a more linear, rational and focused take on the same idea. It was another symphony of chaos and multitude, that, indirectly, harked back to composers of urban cacophony such as Charles Ives and Edgar Varese (and composers of cartoon soundtracks such as Carl Stalling). It was still a cannibal and schizophrenic art, that continuously devoured itself and that continuously changed personality. Gravity's Rim (1996), instead, returned to the format of the pop song, thus closing an ideal loop. Layers of samples merely provided the "arrangement" for the melodies carried by the vocals. Vampire Rodents' art shared with Dadaism and Futurism the aesthetic principle that avantgarde and clownish novelty should be one and the same. - www.scaruffi.com/

Vampire Rodents was the name of an industrial music and experimental rock band formed in Phoenix, Arizona, although its core members originally came from Canada. The band was formed by singer, guitarist and composer Daniel Vahnke (aka Anton Rathausen) and keyboardist Victor Wulf. Andrea Akastia (violin, cello) joined after the re-release of War Music in 1991. The band was well known for their use of guest vocalists on many of their songs. Although almost all of the instrumentalists credited, such as Jing Laoshu and Consuelo Buenviento, were fake.[1] Daniel Vahnke was primarily influenced by classical and Avant-garde music, whereas Wulf was more focused on Ambient music, and both styles contributed to the mood of the band.
Across their five album career, they appeared on four different record labels, including Dossier, Vampire Rodents Productions (their own label), Re-Constriction Records and finally on Fifth Column.
As well as Vampire Rodents, Vahnke also had a side project called Ether Bunny, and Wulf had a solo effort called Dilate, which released two albums on Cleopatra Records. The Rodents also collaborated with Babyland to create Recliner, which released a few songs direct onto compilation albums, and later onto full VR albums.
While the band was mainly active during 1988-1996, Vahnke has expressed his desire on his Myspace page to restart the group, however there has been nothing new produced.
In January 2008, Daniel released on his Myspace page raw material from the proposed side project Pillow which was to be done in collaboration with 16volt. - wikipedia