reviews & publications


Classical Drone article on the album :coyot:

Sound Projector nr. 11 – interview

Revue et Corrige nr. 47interview

Monk Mink Pink Punk nr. 15 – interview

Article from TEHELKA (Indian newspaper)

“history of avant guarde music” – listing


“Musique fragile, qui ne cesse de s’émerveiller devant la complexité et la richesse du sonore, et se veut une
réhabilitation de l’expérience et de la perception comme catégories légitimes de la création musicale.”
– (interview introduction) Frederic Claisse, Revue et Corigee, France, Spring 2001

“…these pieces are compelling and mesmeric – the small changes in texture or timbre, the development over time (whether real time or due to seamless editing) are earcatching and maintain your interest.”
– (review of :coyot:) Ampersand Etcetra, Vol. 3, Nr. 8, Australia, Winter 2000/01

“…if I didn’t know better I’d venture to guess that the entire genre (or genre-like animal) of experimental textural music is just an attempt to mimic the kinds of sounds found on this disc.”
– (review of ‘breathing towers’) Eric Prindle, on-line review, USA, Winter 2000/01

“…this is a dramatic and incredibly listenable work. It is surprising what objects can provide musicality, and an engrossing soundscape.”
– (review of ‘breathing towers’) Ampersand Etcetra, Vol. 3, Nr. 8, Australia, Winter 2000/01

“…aural space folded back to little more than a limpid pulse of shiver and crackle: a low watt hi-tensile balance between fuzziness and clarity…these artists use patient studio manipulation to sculpt sound far from dead matter, like quizzical angels calling from the air. To engage with each of these tranches/trances of deft experiment is to attune your day to a silence of truly heightened listening: to win back live time out of ‘dead’ sounds. Germinal.”
– (review of the E.R.S. lps) The Wire, Issue 192, England, February 2000

“Drawing from a tremendous bounty of root sounds, ranging from field recordings and amplified objects to vintage electronics, the resulting inventions display a true penchant for creating an engaging environment that is ceasingly evolving, engrossing and delighting.”
– (review of ‘the absurd evidence’) Halana, Vol. 1, Nr. 4, USA, Winter 1998/99

“Une musique très riches en détail et en long mouvements quasi immobiles. Une réussite!”
– (review of ‘the stomach of the sky’) Metamkine catalogue, France, Summer 1998

“The artists seem to be exclusively interested in micro-processes, that is, the way matter hums, whispers, crackles and moans.”
– (review of ‘the stomach of the sky’) Bad Alchemy, Nr. 30, Germany, Summer 1998

“There is a sometimes a deep and grippingly minimal effect, as though time were frozen.”
– (review of ‘the stomach of the sky’) N D, Nr. 20, USA, 1998

ENTRELACS Cynorrodhon (Drone Records) 7″ 7.50
Here’s one of those few instances in which I would have to scold Drone Records for their adamant adherence to releasing this sort of music on 7″s. The debut recording of Entrelacs — a collaborative effort between dronologist Michael Northam and field recordist Yannick Dauby — is too good for just a 7″. The parallel between Entrelacs and Organum are so profound as to bring back to me all of my frustration with Organum’s insistence upon releasing just 3 minutes of the most sublime chorales of screeching metals when those sounds want to extend toward infinity like LaMonte Young or Phil Niblock. Entrelacs presents a similarly dynamic sound, that is so perfectly self-contained with its timbral massings from long-stringed instruments and clamorous details of various rocks and leaves. Perhaps no media can really contain these sounds, and I would be making a similar critique even if this were released on CD. This highly recommended single is limited to 300 copies, with this first edition pressed on clear vinyl. VERY FEW OF THESE IN STOCK!!
[ Jim’s favorites ] at Aquarius Records

mnortham: a great and riverless ocean (Mystery Sea – 2003)
With his kelp horn, 20 string zyther and ‘walfisch’ computer, mnortham pours forth a sea of ambiguously droning harmonics in one single track (53:58). Faint, keening streams seep in from far away, simply hovering in vast mistiness as far as the ear can hear… coarser, though not really scathing, textures begin to boil into the mix as gleaming metal vapors churn. At 25:30, the rising tide stutters and fades back… but resolutely continues its everflowing energies. In the the disc’s final minutes, viscous tones elongate over the currents, blurring into their everyway motions, fading to a sunset-state of beauty. If you’re looking for a distinctly indistinct ambient expanse where your ears may
travel freely, set them afloat on a great and riverless ocean… but hurry, this is a limited edition (100) cd-r from Belgium’s Mystery Sea. A-

MNORTHAM: A Great and Riverless Ocean
Mystery Sea | MS05 | CDR
With A Great and Riverless Ocean, Michael Northam takes you to the centre of nowhere, a place of resolute stillness, where, in its opening moments, a soft buzzing reaches your ears, moving in slow circles, while another, higher tone reaches you over the vast expanse opening up before your senses. The swirls continue, always subdued, as if muted, mastered at a low volume so that it might perhaps be played at a level that would compliment the room tones of the listening environment, creep in slowly, inching its way ever closer and working its subtle magic, even if we’re not completely aware of it. Sharp transitions, static interferences, punctuate the piece and open passages for new directions, yet we never seem to get anywhere, still the vast expanse before us, lost in the sand, in the sea, in the emptiness all around… this is truly a desolate space. Northam (who has worked with John Hudak, John Grzinich, Michael Prime and John Duncan, to name a few) has often created pieces that are both empty and rich at the same time, long drones that evolve slowly, places where travel seems almost impossible. For these recordings, Northam has used a kelp horn, a 20-string zither and a ‘walfisch’ computer as his sources, and even if we’re never entirely sure which instrument is contributing to what vibration or tone, in the end it doesn’t seem to matter, what we have is a fabulously immersive dronescape, an rich, evocative sound work in which we as listeners are left suspended, always moving but
travelling nowhere. [richard di santo]

The title of this disc with four tracks (varying in length from 10:05
to 12:32 minutes) is quite suggestive of course. It is easily assumed
that the source material for these tracks was recorded from four
different objects (there are some printed on the inside of the
digipack, most of them seem to be metal). The tracks are not very
different from each other: all have a great sound design and more or
less the same composition, which is actually hard to define, floating
somewhere inbetween ambient and structured noise. The general
atmosphere is pretty quiet and relaxed and asks for attentive
listening, but the music is not entirely able to keep the attention
span tight all the way, although it is not far off. A very well done
work of new music. (MR)
Copyright 2004 by Paris Transatlantic

Joel Stern / Michael Northam
Ground Fault GF 027
Utah-born Michael Northam is often associated with what might be described as the maximalist tendency in electronic composition (along with Seth Nehil and John Grzinich, with whom he has often worked), building complex systems out of basic sonic molecules; for his 2001 Absurd release From within the solar cave he superimposed recordings of his source material up to 512 times to create one of the most extraordinary soundscapes of recent years (good luck hunting down a copy, though). The textures on Wormwood are just as rich and mysterious, though as not as dense, and the sound sources occasionally reveal their identity (fragments of birdsong, bells, amp buzz..). Sourced from a single late night recording session in December 2002 in East London, where Australian electronician Stern had been living for three years, these five (untitled) tracks use diverse objects and instruments, environmental recordings and feedback systems, manipulated electronically to produce a complex sonic web, generally slowmoving and reflective in character. “What interests me is remembering that as human beings we find ourselves constantly involved in complex and hyperviolent systems,” Northam told Frédéric Claisse in an extensive and fascinating interview in the French magazine Revue & Corrigée 47 (March 2001).Wormwood isn’t exactly hyperviolent – mildly disturbing at times, perhaps – but it’s certainly complex. It’s also eminently listenable, and another fine addition to expanding Ground Fault catalogue. —DW
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Joel Stern & Michael Northam, “Wormwood”
Ground Fault
Stern and Northam are far from an incompatible pair. Both artists have been actively confusing environmental (or “natural”) sound and electronic composition for many years, becoming prominent practitioners of an incredibly tactile, dimension-bending style of electroacoustic music. The success of their output is as much a product of new technology as it is the result of the artists’ willingness to plumb the depths of the world’s rubbish bins, forest floors, and highway shoulders in search of “new” sound devices. Northam, in particular, has assembled a dense body of work based largely on the rejection of instruments with any kind of outside referent, including keen efforts to avoid sound which gives evidence of even the most primitive forms of musicianship (i.e. strumming, beating). The artist gathers sound from a table of indiscriminant objects, where man-made refuse, natural forms, and all combinations in between enter the microphone field and feed the gloss of cracks, scrapes, and sandy shivers that become the basis for his alienating contributions. Northam’s music reveals itself as organic but untraceable; by simulating and warping “natural” sounds, he demonstrates an interest in examining the process by which environmental sound is internalized, filed away for easy, often unreliable reference. Northam’s sophisticated process of manipulation allows for something like a “telescoping” of sound events to occur, in which certain details are blown up within the already intricate assemblage. Microscopic wrinkles and chirps turn, with surprising fluidity, to craggy landscapes and squealing waveforms, creating subtle dislocations of distance that compound the initial disorientation brought on by traceless noises. The effect is like passing a magnifying glass over a mossy creekbed and watching as small green worlds leap into unexpected life. Wormwood’s situation is made more complex by the chorus of high-pitched drones and gentle, processed feedback that rise from each piece, giving the disc’s sharper points a soothing undertone and, at times, lifting the surface noise toward snarling crescendos. Based on my knowledge of the artists’ previous work, I’m guessing these extended tones are Stern’s, though it’s possible that he’s equally responsible for the disc’s grittier textures. Whatever the case, the synthetic quality of the backing sound provides a nice contrast to the mad scramble that remains the music’s primary focus, working to create many fine moments of expertly exploited detail and interesting contrast. And while Wormwood hardly rivals some of Northam’s grandiose solo works like :coyot:and From Within the Solar Cave, the disc also feels unique and is no easier to pin down. – Andrew Culler STYLUS

Joel Stern & Michael Northam
Ground Fault
The clicking, clattering, scraping music of sound artists Joel Stern and Michael
Northam opens up a subterranean, microscopic world of incredible mystery. Their
sounds are by turns metallic, organic, electronic, and simply unidentifiable, and the
cumulative effect of all these insectile clicks and theremin-like whines is something
akin to the sensation of the first men confronting the massive nuclear-fueled ants from the
cult horror classic Them. Northam and Stern’s sounds are towering, intimidating—the tense
metallic scrapes of the second track are downright terrifying—but there is still something
intimate and small-scale in this music that contrasts with its sometimes overwhelming aura.
The terror in this recording, more often than not, exists inconspicuously beneath your feet,
rather than looming above your head.
Within this insular world they’ve created, Stern and Northam seem completely at home,
unperturbed by the disorienting, unsettling noises they’re making. Their contributions, needless
to say, are inseparable from each other, and the whole has a completely natural and
constructed feel, as if each detail is exactly in its proper place.
Wormwood is classified in Ground Fault’s Series I (of the three divisions within the label’s
catalogue, this one is reserved for “quiet” and “ambient” music), but that hardly implies that
this music could ever exist neutrally in the background. This is an atmosphere record that
truly infects and infiltrates the natural ambience of anywhere it happens to be playing. Played
quietly enough, Wormwood’s sounds hover sinisterly just on the edges of perception,
poisonous fumes hanging invisibly (but fatally) in the air. With slightly more volume behind it,
however, the album becomes oppressively dense; the music is all sharp edges and tiny
charged particles, vibrating, electrified, buzzing with energized static that seems to crackle off
the end of each sound pulse.
The five tracks all end abruptly, with a momentary pause between each, but the differences
between the individual pieces are not so great as to make this a jarring transition. Rather,
each track creates the impression of looking at the same scene from a slightly different angle;
the busy underfoot chattering is always present, and the droning overtones and periodic
interjections of noisy feedback as well, but in each new treatment of this basic material, the
mood is subtly altered. On the fourth track, metallic pings form a more coherent rhythmic base
than on any of the other tracks. There’s a clear sense of forward drive here in the halting,
exotic-sounding rhythm, and it nicely complements the buzzing turned-backwards hums,
subtle guitar-like tones, and high-pitched whines that make up the track.
The intensity of all this is in sharp contrast to the simplicity and general unobtrusiveness of
the individual sounds; this is noise that breaks down the listener with subtlety and subversion
rather than outright annihilation.
Reviewed by: Ed Howard
Reviewed on: 2004-02-16