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Chronology: 1983, 1984, 1986, 1989, 2000
Artists: Alto Stratus, Biomechanoid, Endgame, Moore/Myers, Out Of Focus, Shapeshifter, Asmus Tietchens. ZBB, various
Publications: Audion Magazine, Black Orbit Newsletter, Eurock, The Golden Age, Ultima Thule
See also: The Crack In The Cosmic Egg


During the long history of our musical endeavours: Auricle Cassettes, Audion Magazine, Ultima Thule, and more recently with our CD releases, we've amassed a wealth of interesting reviews. Some are positive, some quite superlative, whilst there are the reviews that miss the point altogether. But, whatever, having a scanner with OCR means that it's easy to transfer most printed reviews into computer HTML format, and thus present them on this page. Of course, in transferring reviews and articles this way some errors in transcription are inevitable. I've proof read it all (but keep finding little errors here and there), although I cannot account for any weirdness in the foreign language reviews, especially Dutch, which cannot really be helped. So, excuse any faux pas and enjoy this trawl through obscure fanzines, magazines, letters and web pages.

Alan Freeman [web page manager]



DARK STAR: Leicester based label who've got a host of releases mainly from Vrije and Zircon and the Burning Brains. I'm reliably informed that the music is very wide ranging - anywhere from industrial to cosmic. Latest release from Vrije is entitled, somewhat romantically I feel, 'Gravamina For Uxoricide'. This is firmly in the noise generator stable and didn't really move me too much. By contrast Zircon's 'Anam' tape is infinitely more palatable. Still pretty extreme, but the wealth of sound created, although at times a bit plodding, showed a lot of promise.
[Dave Henderson's "Wild Planet" update in Sounds, November 1983]



The two tapes I've received are sound collage works using EM, found sound, and lots of acoustical instruments, but not played in the usual manner. I found the tapes very good, they are not truly musical, but very entertaining. Nurse With Wound comes to mind. [Alex Douglas - CLEM 1984]

This is a double c60 on chrome tape and one of the beet Dark Star have issued to date. The title translates as "World of Echoes", I gather, and long entwined compositions are the order of the day.
Side A consists of a 29 mm piece "Ozveny Suita" with moods, textures and atmospheres that are many and varied. Heavily echoed voice effects (used instrumentally rather than lyrically) contrast with the quiet introspective synth sections and deep organ Like synth chords combine with a chant like vocal effect to produce majestic soundscapes, sometimes sonorous and threatening, sometimes cosmic and tranquil. A huge dynamic suite of almost symphonic proportions that will keep you enthralled throughout.
"Paradise" on side b is a massive cosmic spacious (as in "apace") drifting synth tape epic that is a veritable canvas of sounds and textures, atmospheres and contours. This is highly imaginative and awe-inspiring music that transports the listener on a rapturous voyage to alien worlds and far flung galaxies, through undiscovered dimensions and unknown times. Music to dream in and dream of. Magnificent.'
Side c is a 28 minute study in ambience, "Largo". Scored for acoustic guitar and echo machine only, the minute variations in tore, sonority and density are inevitably rich and complex. It works both on a purely ambient level and as music to listen and contemplate to. Most of the time the effect is quite relaxing, but sometimes it's tense and unnerving. A highly imaginative and adventurous experiment in sound technique. A 24 minute piece "Collage" takes up most of side d but rather than the mish-mash of sound upon sound the title suggests, this is a systemized/organized series of varied aural episodes. There are cosmic synth meanderings, dynamic pounding mechanical rhythms, dark brooding passage's and strange hypnotic drones each interspersed with short chattering/clattering percussive interludes. A well structured and provocative work.
With all these superlatives flying around I've forgotten to mention the two short "fillers":- a one minute (far too short) synth melody at the end of side b and a five minute barrage of looped and synthesized noise/sounds/effects (vocal and otherwise) going with the title "Strach" at the end of side d. Without doubt then this is a flawless collection of works that I can 't recommend highly enough to anyone interested in modern electronic music. A compulsory purchase if ever there was one!
[Outlet Magazine 1984]

DARK STAR is an experimental project run by Steve and Alan Freeman. They have a catalogue of over 50 tapes in styles varying from cosmic synth., through experimental to the fringes of "different" rock.
Until recently all recordings were by the Freemans or local friends. The Freeman's band, ALTO STRATUS, previously known as 'Vrije' has released numerous tapes, of which the best are still available. Their music reflects their many influences; Old German,(Krautrock) & Psychedelic, Cluster, Schulze, early T. Dream, Heldon, Stockhausen and many more. The tape, '1984: The End of All Songs", acts as a good introduction to their work.
Other items on the DARK STAR lists include...
REGION 5 - A band on the synth label SABEL, making atmospheric synth dominated music similar to T. D.'s ZEIT, or possibly the quieter Brian Eno music.
ADHARA - Also on the SABEL label. Though more experimental, they are also biased towards the cosmic side of things, similar to Cluster, Schnitzler, Fondation.
ZIRCON & THE BURNING BRAINS - An intense experimental band, owing much to Throbbing Gristle, but holding their own style. No songs as such, but a lot of tape manipulation as well as the usual synths and effects.
The Freemans have also released an international compilation package; A CAGE WENT IN SEARCH OF A BIRD, which includes 140 mins of music in a special package. They also release tapes by such people as; Peter Frohmader, Land of Yrx and New 7th. Music. An sae will get you more details.
[Mix magazine]


1984 - 1987 Black Orbit Newsletter

Dark Star Tapes have been around since 1980, but now a name change has taken place (apparently a legal/copyright hassle existed over the name). They now have 2 names: Auricle is the cassette label and Audion is the distribution service, as well as a new magazine.
Audion / Auricle is run by Steve and Alan Freeman, who are brothers. They also formed an electronic music duo called Vrije (pronounced Vrie-ya) which became Alto Stratus in 1983. However, they apparently still made recordings as Vrije into 1984. In addition, both have made solo recordings: Steve's are released under the name of Scorpio and Alan's tapes use the name Xylem. They have also formed yet another group with Nigel Harris, and together they are called Zircon and the Burning Brains (or ZBB). In the past there have been a few other artists with tapes released by Dark Star. I know nothing about them, but they sound like further manifestations of Alto Stratus. Their names were Electric Junk and Annonce Grotesque. Dark Star also had a sub-label, 'Säbel', with 2 groups (Adhara and Region 5) not otherwise connected with Alto Stratus except that they play similar music.
The Freeman brothers create unusual and sometimes fascinating electronic compositions, frequently harsh-sounding in the style of Merzbow, the Mnemonists, Conrad Schnitzler, Paul Kelday, etc. But at other times the music is more melodic or leans to rock. Keyboards and electric guitars are their main instruments, and Steve and Alan have never hesitated to point out their influences in early German experimental rock groups like Can, Cluster and Guru Guru. I find their experiments in music to be usually intelligent, always bold and challenging.
Because they have worked at all these various projects at once, the Dark Star catalogue boasted 30 releases after 5 years of operation. In 1985 they decided to do an overhaul: a new series of catalogue numbers was created, some tapes were re-issued, some were deleted and others remixed and/or shortened by removing a track or two per tape, so a C-60 might be re-issued as a remixed C-45, for example. They also put out compilations of deleted, remixed and previously unreleased songs. These tapes are among their best. 1985 also saw the release of an double cassette titled 'A Cage Went In Search Of A Bird' which was an international various artists compilation. This album has received a lot of attention and rave reviews in the small music press. It features Paul Nagle, Peter Frohmader, Colin Potter, Conrad Schnitzler, Ken Moore, Kevin O'Neill, Paul Kelday, Gunner Schickert, The Land Of Yrx (+ solos by both members), Bourbonese Qualk, New 7th Music, Hartmann, Aussenminister, Input, Rollkomanndo, D.D.A.A., and all the regular Dark Star artists.
In 1986, Dark Star began an 'International Series' of cassettes by other artists and began regular distribution of other labels, including private releases by Peter Frohmader and Kevin O'Neill. Once again the catalogue reached about 30 of their own tapes when a massive delete was made of most titles. The label became Auricle Tapes with a new series of catalogue numbers. At present there are only 13 tapes available, and all are Dark Star reissues including 'A Cage...' (Auricle AMC-007), all of the International Series, and a couple of the Säbel tapes. So the remaining Alto Stratus and related cassettes are only a tiny portion of their past output. A sequel to 'A Cage..." is planned.
With all this heavy involvement in electronic music, Steve and Alan are definitely worth looking out for, especially because of the new magazine. Audion has lots of reviews, a bit like this newsletter (only a lot bigger), plus articles and interviews. The first issue was 20 full pages of small type and the second will be larger. It should be available by Nov. Here are reviews of 2 Auricle tapes still available, plus one that isn't.

ALTO STRATUS: TENSION! (cassette, Auricle AMC-002)
Two side-long tracks of hard-core electronics. This album is noisy, with a bouncing rhythm throughout, which creates a feeling of excitement and energy. Electric guitars add a bit of rock, but it's mostly done with synths and studio processing. A good tape if you like excessiveness and minimalism blended together. The cover industrial collage is a good companion to the music.

'Biomechanoid' was to have been the title of an Alto Stratus tape, but the music is quite different from their previous recordings, so the title became the artist - possibly for just this one album. It's certainly a contrast to 'Tension' with 21 short tracks covering a wide range of moods. As the title says, there is melody to be heard on most tracks. While Alto Stratus have not been completely anti-melodic, they previously indulged heavily in abstract sound which is not used so much here. There are no strong tunes that will get stuck in your head because the emphasis is on 'Atmospheres' with subtlety being the aim. It's a very good tape and I recommend it, but keep in mind it's not in the typical Alto Stratus style.

XYLEM: DARK CORRIDORS (cassette, Dark Star DSC-16)
Deleted less than 6 months after its release, this tape may still be available it Audion has left over copies. I found it a beautiful experiment in minimalism. The music on side 1 builds from an infinite, gentle synth chord against a quiet background of additional electronic sounds. As the music progresses, the gentleness changes and the sounds acquire power. It's also a concept album with the track titles suggesting a story. This one gets my vote for re-issue consideration.

JOURNEY TO THE END OF NIGHT (double cassette, Auricle AMC-014)
A compilation featuring 1 track apiece from a dozen artists. If you're an electronic music fan you've probably heard of nearly everyone on this tape. Every piece is an original composition and some are ground-breaking. A good effort from all involved.
Side l's tracks are all slow and mysterious. Greg Truckell opens with the unfortunately titled 'Mousey Mousey', beginning with a lonely electric piano solo against rainfall and wind effects. This unfolds into a picturesque mood piece. A melodic sequencer and synth part follows, continuing with minor and diminished chords to evoke the feeling of lonely afternoons, when it's raining outside and there's nothing to do. Very nice.
Next comes an incredible track by Kevin O'Neill that is unlike any of the music on his recent tape ('Intimations Of mortality', see October issue). Its title Is 'Scylla And Charybdis' which is a reference to 'The Odyssey'. (Scylla was a 6-headed monster, Charybdis a killer whirlpool.) The first half begins with a mostly abstract presentation (though there are melodies and harmonies floating around it). After a mournful bridge segment, a melodic sequencer section follows (representing the whirlpool, no doubt). The .sic returns to the opening dramatic chords at the end. Heavy complex overdubbing makes this an outstanding composition, with superb production value bringing it to perfection.
Colin Potter's 'Marsh Fog' is another mood piece. It uses a slow, 1-chord sequencer pattern with very fast sequencer in the background, and echo effects. An electric guitar plays a solo over top of this. It's a quirky composition and I can't think of anything to compare it to offhand. Guess that's typical for Colin's music.
Opening side 2, another slow, mysterious number from Ron Berry called 'Tombs Of The Tortured Spirits' is a magical dream-state journey to distant lands and times. Very quiet for the most part, played with synth, ringing bass, and oddly muted percussive sounds.
'Travelling By Short-Waves 1' by David Prescott is a nice rhythmic piece, reminiscent of Edgar Froese around the time he recorded "Ages" and 'Stuntman'.
Rollkomanndo presents a 3-part track called 'Fun Shrink' which is a set of rhythmic synth instrumentals. It's a change of pace from the dark atmosphere of the tape thus far, though it might have been more outstanding if It had vocals. (But then, would that have disqualified it from inclusion on the album?)
Side 3 opens with 'Sucker For A Soft Sob Story' by the Aeolian String Ensemble. A few years ago I heard another ASR track on the 'Rising From The Red Sand' series (a set of 5 cassettes on the Third Mind label), and was impressed. As I hadn't heard anything more from them since then, I doubted they were still around. Their music is performed mainly on electric guitars, and is a beautiful and flowing sound that is maybe a bit out of place on this compilation. (It certainly stood out on 'Red Sand'.) The track is a suite of various gentle themes played by multiple overdubbed guitar with tape effects, minimal percussion, and an effective big choir synth chord near the end. Though meditative in function, it is not at all like Ashra.
Next is "The Last Peace" by New 7th Music and the Exploding Headband with a surprisingly commercially accessible track (in the purely positive connotation, of course!) It is almost a jazz piece with casual riffs on bass and electric guitars as the foundation, plus many more instruments blending nicely in the background. It's unlike anything I've heard from them before.
On the other hand, 'Soul Of The Machine' by Paul Kelday is very much representative of his other works. It is powerful abstract electronic music that has something to say!
Now the producers at this album get to do their bit on 'Voyage To The Dark Side' by Biomechanoid (Steve and Alan Freeman), a rather avant-garde offering with sparse electronics that build gradually to a maze of sounds.
Wolfgang Hertz's 'Return 9' is quite unlike his work on the Con-Hertz tape reviewed elsewhere in this issue. This one consists of a B# atmospheric synth chord that holds for 13 minutes while a jazzy saxophone with delay echo sweeps in and out.
The final track is a great choice for a closing number: 'Adding Up To 256' by Rimarimba. This is similar to the music on 'Chicago Death Excretion Geometry' (reviewed last October): Mathematically patterned notes with a happy carefree disposition performed in rigid time. The mix is even superior to CDEG, making individual acoustic Instruments more distinct, and with a more balanced tone range and strong bass notes. Footnote: I just figured out the title of 'Chicago Death Excretion Geometry': C-D-E-G - the keys f or each track: C major, D minor, K minor, G major. Death and excretion are sombre subjects, hence the minor keys. Geometry is undoubtably a favourite topic f or Robert Cox's numerically patterned brain, so it is assigned a major key. But what is the significance of 'Chicago'?

CON-HERTZ: FACE ON RADIO (cassette, Auricle AMC-0l6)
Con-Hertz is Conrad Schnitzler and Wolfgang Hertz, and this cassette was recorded in 1980 to 1982 but Is now being released for the first time. As a guess, it sounds like Conrad recorded his parts first as a base, then sent the recordings to Wolf gang to assemble and complete. Conrad's music is often sparse and minimal, easily lending itself to many possible suggestions for a choice of accompaniment. In the opening part Conrad provides occasional electronic sounds separated by long silences, to which Wolfgang has overdubbed white noise and radio sounds. The music progresses with occasional sequencers and radio dialogue, but it's mostly abstract electronics. There should be no difficulty distinguishing the Con from the Hertz.

I got this after hearing ZBB's 'Old Wounds Volume 3', one side of which is described as recordings made during the 'Cortex' sessions. If the out-takes are this good, 'Cortex' should be quite a tape, and indeed it is! It's a C-45 with one track on each side. The first is titled 'Midnight Plus Midnight Plus One', which would be either 1, 25 or 49 (oh sorry... getting back on track...) This side is a dense collage of machine/synths and tone generators, a work of multi-tracked and improvised components forming a continuum. But I preferred side 2, 'Velvet Light Trap' which was created by similar methods; however its elements are laid out more sparsely so that individual sounds gain prominence. Unlike the Audio Soup effect on the opposite side, this quieter and clearer approach (excepting occasional near-incoherent squelch voices) is more cerebral.


1986 Auricle manifesto/promo

Auricle aim to release the best in obscure and different musics, in the realms of experimental rock, synthesizer, electronic and the fringe area of the avant-garde.
We do not intend to release any 'popular or 'commercial' types of music, there's enough round already and the larger companies are far better equipped to deal with it.
Due to the minority appeal of our releases, they are only available on tape, it would be foolhardy for us to release an LP and not be able to sell it. (Though, finances permitting this is a future possibility.) All releases are on Chrome tape (professional real-time duplicated) with deluxe (Software style) library cases, some with full colour artwork.

Our current roster of artists is as follows...
Alto Stratus - Experimental synth/guitar/electronics duo. From "Cluster 71" to TG "Heathen Earth" to TD "Zeit".
Biomechanoid - Tuneful and dark brooding synth/guitar music.
Peter Frohmader - Munich multi-instrumentalist/synthesist. Haunting and melodic synth music.
The Land Of Yrx - Powerful sequencer/synth/guitar music. Recorded live in Concert.
New 7th Music & The Exploding Headband - Atmospheric improvised rock music. Tranquil yet menacing.
Region 5 - Cosmic synth music in the tradition of the early Teutonic scene.
Günter Schickert - German echo-rock guitarist, famous for his LP's on the Brain and Sky labels.
Zircon & The Burning Brains - Industrial cum avant-garde electronics! tapes/voice. From Stockhausen to TG.

We also have two compilations available - The critically acclaimed "A CAGE WENT IN SEARCH OF A BIRD", an International collection of music by 22 different artists and lasting 140 minutes. The earlier "A BREEZE OF TIME" is a more modest release, showcasing some of the best music the Leicester label had to offer in January 1985.


1986 - 1988 reviews in Eurock

Aussenminister/Model 81
These are two interrelated Berlin synthe bands that explore the realm of early Cluster. There are long, dense atmospheric tracks as well as shorter, heavy electronic snippets. The combined sound is gripping and intense without being headache inducing.

A brand new project by Schnitzler and friends that features multi-synthes, tapes and the use of "artificial head" effects ... in all three people are involved who add a broad new dimension to CON's patented style by incorporating different sounds and ideas.

GAM: 1976
This is a real treat, a live in the studio session by Gunther Schickert and Axel Struck on guitars with Michael Leske on drums ... three long tracks, it sounds like a cross between the 1st Ash Ra Tempel album and Gunther's two solo albums. Powerful music propelled along by dual guitars and driving percussion, the sound literally takes off into cosmic space.

Peter Frohmader: Jules Verne Cycle
...the two tracks here are sonic interpretations of Verne literary works. "Mysterious Island" is a cyclic exploration of synthetic territory that develops in a very eerie fashion. Synths serve as a backdrop for some surprising acoustic guitar and piano themes ... ultimately fusing with the electronics into a swirling sea of sound that climaxes with a startling apocalypse. "Nautilus" on the other hand is more purely electronic and atmospheric, like an aquatic voyage to the bottom of a sonic sea.

Asmus Tietchens: Musik Aus Der Grauzone
Asmus Tietchens: Musik An Der Grenze
These two cassettes were initially issued on the YHR/Neumusik label some years back and marked the beginning of Asmus work in the area of a more industrialized synthetic sound. In my opinion they are the best of his efforts to date in this regard as they avoid his more recent tendency to simply play with a free form mass of abstractions...

Biomechanoid: Atmospheres And Melodies
...the perfect sonic reflection of the artwork of H. R. Giger. In fact the music here was inspired by Giger's work and the surreal electronics/guitars twist and turn into an intense and enchanting tapestry of light and dark musical sound.


1989 - Syntorama #15 reviews in Spanish!

A través de los anteriores numeros de SYNTORAMA, hemos comentado ya parte de lo que la revista británica AUDION ha venido exponendo. Ellos han editado 10 numeros y siguen trabajando en uno nuevo, que pronto vera la luz.
En cuanto a is filosofia musical de AUDION (no confundir con is editora americana) es muy similar a la que tratamos en SYNTORAMA. AUDION trabaja dentro del espectro que va desde is new-age hasta is música concreta y contemporánea, pasando por el nuevo jazz, las músicas improvisadas y experimentales.
Los números de AUDION disponibles, mu contenido, el precio y las condiciones de pago estàn junto a esto que lees. La revista, naturalmente, está escrita en inglés.
Paralelamente a la edición de AUDION, la gente que lo lleva posee un catalogo de edición de cassetes llamado AURICLE. Comentar sum ediciones em nuestra tarea en estos momentos:

Through the previous issues of SYNTORAMA, we have already commented on part of what the British magazine AUDION has been presenting. They have edited 10 issues and are still working on a new one, which will soon see the light.
The musical philosophy of AUDION (not to be confused with that of the American publisher) is very similar to that of SYNTORAMA. AUDION works within the spectrum that goes from is new-age to is concrete and contemporary music, going through the new jazz, the improvised and experimental music.
The numbers of AUDION available, my content, the price and the payment conditions are next to this that you read. The magazine, of course, is written in English.
Parallel to the edition of AUDION, the people who carry it have a catalogue of cassette edition called AURICLE. Comment on our current editions of the magazine.

[Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version)]

ALTO STRATUS son ALAN y STEVE FREEMAN; ellos son los remponsabies de AURICLE 'SVET OZVENY", son sus primmros balbuceos en la música, sonido primitivo, ambiental/experimental, realizado con sintetizadores, guitarras y efectos. Grabado en 1984.
De numvo los hermanos FREEMAN ofreciendonos en este caso música electrónica ciclica, atmosférica y original. Grabación de 1984. ALTO STRATUS han utilizado para esta grabación teclados YAMAHA y CASIO, guitarras, cintas y voces.
REGION 5 protagonizan en esta casete grabada en 1984 una musica espacial y etérea, recordando a los ambientes de ENO y a los trabajos de este junto a ROBERT FRIPP.
Grabación de ALTO STRATUS en el TACHYON STUDIO de LEICESTER, su ciudad, en 1984. Esta casete esta presentada como concepto de forma para ciencia ficción y formas libres electrónicas. Es por silo màs experimental que sus anteriores trabajos.
Z.B.B. - "CORTEX' C-45 (AMC 006)
Improvisaciones grabadas en 1984 por STEVE, ALAN FREEMAN y NIGEL HARRIS. Este trabajo tiene toda la pinta ds ser una jam-sesion, con muchos efectos.La musica es principalmente oscura.
Música oscura/cósmica es la que interpreta esta banda britanica. Utilizan lo que ellos llaman "música para el sueño" aunque a veces hey algunos pasajes ritmicos.
PETER FROHMADER es uno de los músicos alemanes más importantes en la nueva escena de rnúsica electrónica. Se nota que los responsables de AURICLE (ALAN y STEVE) estan muy satisfechos de mu música. A él han dedicado multitud de erticulos y editada sus casetes. No es para menos, porque la música de FROHMADER es muy interesante. El, trabaja en ml campo de la música electrónica mas fuerte, épico a veces.
Para "ORAKEL/TIEFE", FROHMADER ha utilizado los PPG sintetizadores. Ha sido acoinpañado de RUDI HAUENREITER (bateria) y STEPHAN MANUS (violin). Grabado en Munich en 1983.
Este es un qrupo que desconozco. No tiene créditos, aunque su localizacion de grabación (el TACHYON STUDIO) no deje lugar a dudas. "ATMOSPHERES AND MELODIES ..." es un trabajo evocadore de sugerencias: el cosmos, la oscuridad, el terror, en fin, algo que hace trabajar tu mente.
Recopilatorio de AURICLE, formato de 2 C-60, con: Aeolian String Ensemble, Ron Berry, Biomechanoid, Wolfgang Hertz, Paul Kelday, New 7th Music And The Exploding Headband, Kevin O'neill, Cdlin Potter, David Prescott, Rimarimba, Rollkomando Y Greg Tuckell.
Casete de WOLFGANG HERTZ. Este músico de Berlin ha colaborado muchas veces con SCHNITZLER; las influencias de éste son palpables. La cara 1 esta grabada en directo en Berlin en 1981. La 2 esta grabada en estudio en 1980/81. Junto a HERTZ (teclados, cintas, efectos) están YAN KYCHLER (bateria, generadores, efectos), GOBO (saxo, cintas, efectos),CHRIS LUNCH (voces, teclados) y ELLEN STRAP (voces, cintas)
Grabación conjunta de SCHNITZLER y HERTZ entre 1980/82. La música se acerca a la del disco "CON" (EGG 1978). Predominan los efectos de ecos, SCHITZLER utiliza principalmente el KORG (MS 10 y MS2O) y HERTZ las grabadoras y efectos.
GAM - "1976" C-46 (AMC 017)
GAM son: SUNTER SCHICKERT (guitarra, voces, trompeta), AXEL STRUCK (guitarra, voces), MICHAEL LESKE (bateria). "1976" es una jam-sesion de estes tres músicos en el mas puro estilo de rock-aleman con electrónica. Se acerca a los momentos más sicodélicos de ASH RA TEMPLE ("JOIN INN" y "SEVEN UP")
Segunda casete de FROHMADER en AURICLE grabada en 1982 y editada cinco años después. La música de "JULES VERNE CYCLE" es más oscura que en otras ocasiones, abundando en los efectos.
De ROBERT RICH ya hablamos extensamente en SYNTORAMA 14, por eso no me extenderé. Contiene grabaciones realizadas en directo. La musica es completamente estática.
Z.B.B. - 'OUT OF THE ASHES" C-40 (AMC 022)
Como me temia Z.B.B. son ALAN, STEVE FREEMAN y NIGEL HARRIS. Esta casete em completamente experimental. Sm manipulan los instrumentos, hay muchos efectos y las voces principalmente poseen eco.
Reedición de esta legendaria casete de TIETCHENS, pubicada en 1981 por el sello YHR. "MUSIK AUS DER GRAUZONE" supone el lado más oscuro del músico de Hanburgo. Puestos a elucubrar habria que decir que supone el otro lado musical de TIETCHENS al margen de sus trabajos editados en aquellos años por SKY RECORDS.
Reedición de esta casete, publicada también por YHR en 1982. "MUSIK AN DER GRENZE" es mas ritmica y asequible que su predecesora en YHR. Se acerca mas a los trabajos de SKY RECORDS. Colabora su gran amigo OKKO BEKKER y LOOP DE VEGA.
Este trabajo cc completamente distinto a todo lo realizado por DAVID MYERS ,¿Quizá todavia no habia inventado el "FEEDBACK MACHINE'? lo cierto es que este trabajo es un potente ejemplo de rock progresivo. Personalmente no me agrada en esceso, pero he de reconocer que tiene fuerza.
CON/HERTZ - "CONTRASTS" 2 x C-90 (AMC 028)
"CONTRASTS" es una de las ediciones más recomendables de AURICLE. Doble casete conteniendo lo mejor de las grabaciones realizadas conjunta mente por SCHNITZLER y HERTZ entre finales de 1966/ principios de 1987. En total, 159 minutos de musica totalmente electrónica, grabada en los estudios de CON en Berlin. Tirada limitada de 200 copies. Embalaje de doble casete.
"INNER LANDSCAPES" es una de las casetes que os recomicndo de AURICLE. La música es completamente estática y electrónica. Està realizada con sintetizador modular, dos PROPHET, flauta de bambú y guitarra. La grabaciôn data dc 1985. Grabaciön privada de RICH, reeditada por AURICLE.
Grabación de ALAN FREEMAN en solitario, mostrándonos una de las caras de la música elcctrónica británica, totalmente oscura. Muy en la linea de C. SCHNITZLER.
Fantástica musica especial, una escalcra del clàsico a SCHULZE.
La mejor calidad en rock-fusion, a caballo entre la MAHAVISHNU y ASHRA.
Reedición de una de las casetes publicadas por el sello AEON. Quiza exponga una de los momentos más maduros en la música de TIETCHENS. Es electrónica oscura, dominada por los efectos y el tratamiento de lés sintetizadores.



BIOMECHANOID: Atmospheres & Melodies Inspired By The Paintings of HR Giger CD

It's not often you can have electronic space music in the crossover section, but the range and scope of music that exists on these CD's spans taste genres ranging from synth through psychedelic to industrial and Krautrock. All are the work of Krautrock archivists and Euro-rock fans supreme, Steve & Alan Freeman, joined on the Endgame CD by Jim Tetlow. The Alto Stratus album is what some may call the more' demanding' of the albums and I would recommend the double as a starting point if you don't want to jump in with both feet. "Tachyon" consists of two half-hour tracks plus a couple of shorter ones, and this is a world of other worldly sounds, effects and musical landscapes. First off, it's not your 'traditional' electronic space music for a start, as it is founded on a bed of exploration and discovery, producing music that takes you on a real headtrip, with echoed effects, buzzing electronics, repeated, treated passages that mutate from one soundscape into another and back. In the album you can hear elements of influences ranging from Kluster to vintage '70's Gong at one bizarre point, and the whole thing is improvised and yet has some sort of alien structure, a feel that the music really does have a direction and sense of purpose, although you focus on all sorts of different things each time you play it. The music is not what you'd call 'normal' in that there are no tunes or melodies or rhythms in the 'traditional' sense, yet at the other end of the scale, the music is black and dark, spacey in the eerie sense, almost industrial without being bombastic or overblown, but above all a real auditory experience, the likes of which have not been heard for a long, long time. The way of the force was with them on this, and you could imagine some parts being perfect for use in science fiction films. It's an enjoyable voyage to parts unknown for sure, but not for the faint-hearted.
Meanwhile the "Catalyst" double, consisting of just four ultra-long tracks, again all improvised, is what I would call 'real' space music. None of yer namby-pamby drifting or smooth flowing layers so beloved of the American fraternity these days, and also none of yer richly textured sound sculpting 'a la Klaus Schulze' that some of the Europeans seem so keen on doing. No, this is a breathtaking mix of synth, space and ambience that really has no comparison with anything from those genres and yet has an appeal just as wide. The thing you notice is that the music inhabits once again, the darker reaches of space, but here unlike the explorations on the "Tachyon" album, the music really does flow and decidedly has a heart at its centre, the atmosphere one of great feeling as the music progresses. For improvised music, of which the musicians claim that dissonant sounds play their part, this is all surprisingly accessible, created on a whole range of ye olde and modern synth and electric/electronic equipment. The thing about it all is that there is always something happening in the music, you are never allowed to just float or drift - it's busy yet cosmic, space and spacious, a harsh landscape but one that you can't wait to explore. Sure there are passages that are so far away from musical traditions as to be labelled 'challenging' but nothing that a listener steeped in thirty years of this whole musical landscape will have any trouble following. I found it all absolutely riveting , to such an extent that when disc one had finished I had to put on disc two straight away for the full, unadulterated effect. It's not a CD I'd bring out to play every week, but when you want something with no formal musical structure that is fascinating listening, this is right there at the top of its tree.
The "Atmospheres' album is easily the most accessible of the three to someone who hasn't been around the musical block for that long, but even here the music is once more firmly on the dark side, as you might expect bearing in mind the concept behind it. Here, across twelve tracks, you get a much greater range of dynamics, textures, sounds and layers presented in more digestible chunks, although the combination of synths, tape effects, devices, keyboards, electric guitar and more, often made me think of the music of Brain-era Cluster, only not as obvious and more cosmic on the whole, but a music with whose heart and soul this album shares, and possibly just as innovative, certainly capable of sounding as good in thirty years time as the 'Cluster 2' album does today. With plenty of spooky ice flow passages of electronics allied to some, it has to be said, quite beautiful yet eerily stark soundscapes, particularly the mix of tonal colours on track two that had me going through Frippertronics and Tangerine Dream only much more of an edge and heavier. Yes, there are also rhythms in this music, as well as melodies, or what they regard as melodies anyway, and that's pretty good. Overall, for electronic music fans who want something with an undoubted seventies influence, plenty happening, magical assortments of layers and textures, never boring, and really unlike most of what came out of that era, then this is one gem of an album. [By Andy G, in C&D Services catalogue]


Alto Stratus

...more electronics but this time there are more playful elements at hand. At times a deep distorted fizz coats the picture in an industrialized haze. The pieces are relatively short and variable. Good use of delay and spaces and the unclutteredness of the music is a strong asset. At times it becomes an alien soundtrack. [Outlet Magazine, 1985]

ALTO STRATUS - TACHYON (Ultimate Transmissions UTCD 002) CD 71m
Back in the days of 1984 Alto Stratus (or Alan & Steven Freeman to you and me), recorded this album, inspired as the title suggests by researches in particle physics - they tried to capture it in sound. So, starting from sounds of particles and their trails, Alto Stratus give us over an hour (split into two almost equal sections) that comes over as a cross between the spare electronic pulses of Conrad Schnitzler and the soundtrack to a 1950's science fiction film - FORBIDDEN PLANET say. There are a few heavily treated voice sections that perhaps owe more to the Nurse With Wound's of this world, (or another), and these fit in within the overall aural assault.
1984 was a busy year for Alto Stratus and this CD is finished off with a bonus track taken from their LIQUID SKY album (which presumably isn't due for reissue for some time).
(Sorry Gary but "Liquid Sky" will not be reissued. However, a further 25 minutes of choice material can be found on the "Dark Star" CDR release - ED.) So there you are. The Alto Stratus revival starts here? [Gary Scott - Audion 44]

ALTO STRATUS Psychosis (Ultimate Transmission, UTCD011): Mit diesem Album feiern A. & S. Freeman ihr Zwanzigjahriges. Der Titel verweist zum amen auf den Zwiespalt in ihrern Faible fur elektronisch-synthetische Soundkreation und dass sie andererseits gem mit Blechen, Ketten, Cymbals etc. hantieren. Aber "Psychosis" lãsst sich such dahingehend auffassen, dass es weniger urn makrokosmische Phantasien, sondern urn lnkursionen in den Grey Room, in die Labynnthe des Bewusstseins und mehr noch Unterbewusstseins geht ('lnnerhead Persuasion'). Es ist em Dreamscape, der entsprechend dunklere Regionen in Schwingung versetzt. Strangulierte Stimmen, notorische loops und wabernde feedbacks, sirrendes Metall und schrille Schraffuren uber tiefdunklem Rumoren evozieren in ihrem chromatischen Cinemascope Resonanzen der Sinnes- und Gefuhlswelt. Psychoaktive Musik with 'A Touch of Alchemy'. [Bad Alchemy 40]



Biomechanoid [UK] Atmospheres & Melodies Inspired by the Paintings of H.R. Giger

This is a cassette-only release from Auricle. Apparently taking over a year to complete, it is a synth/guitar/weird noise collage of sounds with each piece made to be evocative of a particular Giger painting. As those of you who know Giger's work will understand, this is pretty frightening stuff. Think of something like Tangerine Dream's "Rubycon" with the musical equivalence of cancer ... It tries to balance the horror undercurrent with noises reminiscent of mechanical things and throbbing machinery. Indeed, it's biomechanical music. Not a real noise jam a la Einsturzende Neubauten or minimal gut-wrenching horror music a la Nurse With Wound but pretty listenable and very powerful. Recommended for those who think EN and NWW are a bit too much. Great stuff. The people responsible for Biomechanoid are the Freeman brothers who have previously released on tape only under the moniker of "Alto Stratus." An outfit I've never heard but who are apparently in the space-rock genre. The Freeman brothers own probably the best progressive music outlet in the UK called "Ultima Thule" and do worldwide mail order. They also own the Auricle label which has put out material by Klaus Schulze and other luminaries, not to mention their own Alto Stratus and Biomechanoid stuff. They also own, edit, produce and contribute to a really good prog/alternative music magazine "Audion." Dedicated guys. [Gibraltar web site]

(Ultimate Transmissions UTCD 002) CD 70m
Regular readers to Audion should need no introduction to the Freeman brother's extraordinary Biomechanoid project. Originally released on cassette in 1986, it became one of the best sellers on the Auricle label. Now, faithfully re-mastered for CD release and with a welcome bonus track (taken from the JOURNEY AT THE END OF NIGHT compilation) to tempt old and new listeners alike.
Opening deceptively with peaceful sounds from the countryside, we soon enter the dark and disturbing world of Giger's paintings as seen through the eyes of Alan and Steve. Pulsing rhythms, dark, ominous synths, stark industrial soundscapes, menacing machine drones, deranged guitar and menacing electronic noises all blend together to give us a nightmare journey best experienced in the dark!
Sometimes frantic sequencers dominate, increasing in intensity to fever pitch, as on Under the Earth, which finishes most abruptly, giving the disconcerting feeling of being deprived suddenly of all senses or falling into a black bottomless pit, before entering the Witches Dance, complete with maniacal cackling! Disturbing stuff indeed. But then, on The Spell we get almost serene, cosmic synths. That's the beauty of ATMOSPHERES, you never quite know what's around the corner and each visit reveals more subtle twists and turns. Anyone who has studied Giger's paintings doesn't forget them easily; the disconcerting images continue to linger on in the subconscious. Similarly, long after the disc has stopped spinning, you're left with an unexplained feeling of unease.
There are noticeable similarities with some of Peter Frohmader' darker excursions (also likened to an aural interpretation of Giger's work) and also strong hints of Heldon and Cluster. Overall it's a more structured and accessible than their experimental Alto Stratus recordings, and should appeal to adventurous synth or progressive rock fans looking for that something a bit more challenging and thought-provoking.
The CD re-packaging is excellent. The insert includes short descriptions of Alan and Steve's thoughts behind their interpretations of each painting. Those of you already familiar will probably want to replace your old ageing cassette. For those of you yet to sample the unnerving delights of Biomechanoid, I can definitely recommend it. To use a well worn phrase: This is picture music Jim, but not as we know it! [Dave Griffith - Audion 43]



Den Cosmic-Egg-Brudern und AUDION-Publishern Alan & Steve Freeman kann man im Trio ENDGAME im Zusammenspiel mit Jim Tetlow Iauschen. Die Freemans machen seit den frühen 8oern gemeinsam Musik als Alto Stratus und ZBB, Alan und Tetlow haben sich 1998 als Mitspieler bei Maureen Anderson's Shapeshifter als Geistesverwandte erkannt. Für die Debut-Doppel-CD Catalyst (UTCD 004/5) weisen elektronische Soundscapes von einer halben oder gar dreiviertel Stunde Dauer mit Titeln wie 'A Strange Time for Angels', 'Evaporating Demons from the Mind's Eye' und 'Six Pathways Through the Dark~ die Richtung des vereinten Brainstormings: die gâhnenden Abgründe des Kosmos, die schwarzen Löcher der psychischen Weltinnenraume. Als 'Raum-Explorer' dienen Maschinen der Marken Korg, Moog, Yamaha und Roland, die Sonic Fiction-Tripps sind improvisiert und folgen Routen, die einst von Light-wave oder Tangerine Dream gestreift wurden, die jetzt aber mit neuer Entdeckerlaune aus der Nâhe erforscht werden: Klangflachen, ausgehaltene TOne, weite Glissandi, Ieiernde Loops, nichtharmonisohe Klanggemische und bizarre Gerãusche. Der erste Funkspruch zur Erde zeugt von der Hingerissenheit der drei Kosmonauten:
I-t-'s s-u-c-h a m-i-n-d b-o-g-g-l-i-n-g t-r-i-p!

soundcheck in brief avant rock Reviewed by David Keenan
Nothing at all to do with Samuel Beckett (although a visit to their Leicester record store Ultima Thule is certainly a Beckettian experience), Endgame is in fact the Kosmische pseudonym of the Freeman brothers, renowned Krautrock experts and authors of the ever entertaining German rock bible, The Crack In The Cosmic Egg. Catalyst, as you no doubt expect, is a double CD full of meditational, vaguely New Age synth washes, acid guitar and trimmings of cheesy ethnic percussion, all jammed out in real time. Although it never rises above the level of pastiche, it fills a neat hole in a month without any Tangerine Dream reissues. As I was just about to say, but they beat me to it with their self-description:- A step aside from Lightwave to Artemiev, 70s French electronics or Agitation Free's soundpools. [The Wire 203, January 2001]

ENDGAME "CATALYST" (Ultimate Transmissions UTCD 004/5) 2CD 141m
Formed in July last year (1999), Endgame is the latest Improvisational project of the Freeman brothers (Alan and Steve) and Jim Tetlow (late of Shapeshifter). I was a bit apprehensive approaching this release because I must admit that I find some of Alan and Steve's more avant-garde sonic explorations rather hard to get into. But I needn't have worried. Although CATALYST is definitely on the "weird" and experimental side, it is also an undeniably stimulating experience and strangely compelling. Good long tracks too, ranging from a "mere" 20 minutes to 46 minutes long.
I find it quite difficult to find a reference point to describe their music. Endgame themselves liken it to a combination of Lightwave (presumably circa NACHTMUSIK) and Conrad Schnitzler, which I think is pretty close and gives a good idea of what to expect. Other references I can think of are Kluster and Tangerine Dream's ZEIT, but much darker and with a sharper and more industrial edge. There are also hints of Faust and Klaus Schulze's IRRLICHT and CYBORG. But it really goes way beyond these into uncharted and previously unexplored territories. Vast cosmic/electronic/industrial landscapes of pulsating synths, strange, ominous noises and disembodied voices all meld together to create an indescribable fusion of sounds. It's not really rhythmic or melodic, although there are moments when a theme threatens to break through the maelstrom.
At times it is truly nightmarish in it's power and intensity and, particularly on the second disc, it also reminds me of the Freeman bothers earlier Biomechanoid work. All of Endgame's music is totally improvised on the spot and recorded directly in real time with no over-dubbing. Also, according to Jim Tetlow's sleeve notes, apart from some effects added at the mixing stage, there's only one edit and they defy anyone to tell where it is! (Send suggestions on a £10 note, addressed to...).
The CD is superbly presented featuring design and artwork by Jim, and they've come up with some great titles. Just think of the images Evaporating Demons From The Minds Eye and A Strange Time For Angels can conjure up! The years of experience gained in creating improvised sonic excursions has produced some of their best work yet. [David Griffith - Audion 44]

The Freeman brothers, (authors of CRACK IN THE COSMIC EGG, and editors of AUDION Magazine), have also made music for many years. Their newest release, which also features a third member Jim Tetlow, is the answer for all those who long for the days of yore when TD was still tuned into the cosmos. Their "music" is derived from the improvisational mode of early TD and ZEIT, along with the more modern vibe of Lightwave, a splash of Kluster and hints of Holger Czukay's experimentalism. The albums four extended tracks, on 2 CDs, combine for a total running time of 140:40, and the sonic constructs explored will have your mind reeling as the journey through the musical cosmos progresses. ENDGAME is a very impressive album, experimental in concept, yet listenable, with a great avant art presentation. [Eurock on the Web]

ENDGAME AVATAR (Ultimate Transmissions, UTCD 006/7) 2 CD 151m
From the increasingly prolific trio Endgame comes this latest double CD. Recorded over 4 sessions during October & November 1999 the 7 tracks here represent just a snapshot really of their work in progress. (Improvisation seems to me to always be ever developing, to be work in progress). In assembling the pieces for this album Endgame have labelled each disc with a separate subtitle. So let's start with disc 1. "The really deep cosmic one" - (by which I take it they mean deep as in distance rather than claiming to have found the meaning of life!) is made up of 3 tracks ranging from 12 minutes to a meagre 42 minutes! An obvious influence/similarity here is the dark semi abstract soundworlds of Lightwave. Endgame have that same sense of space & movement. But I also kept thinking of a much earlier sound, that of the improvisations of Amon Duul 2! Just in small sections, but it's there. Whatever, there is that same style of exploration going on. With a touch of danger. "The psychedelic twisted one" - is made up of 4 pieces going from 9 to 35 minutes. (I'm less sure that the subtitle works here - but never mind). The music while still having much in common with the first disc does tend to the more avant-garde, more like Morphogenesis - another acknowledged influence. But I can spot bits that remind me of Les Vampyrettes or the Moebius & Plank track SOLAR PLEXUS say. I could go on - but I think you get the idea really. This is improvised music that is well aware of where it's coming from. It's improvised music with an agenda & game plan. No it's not random noise or sound, it has a structure even if each piece didn't set out to have one. Endgame are going into it all with their eyes open - one on the past, one on the future & one on the present! [Gary Scott - from Audion 45]


The new Endgame double disc takes up where their previous effort left off. Imagine TD's ZEIT meets Lightwave, and you get the idea of the synthetic terrain this trio of the brothers Freeman (of AUDION Magazine fame) and Jim Tetlow explore. Dark, dense and spatial, electronic collages of sound and organic undulations as well as dense sequences melt down into a mélange of impressionist space music that is not only avant-garde, but also compelling listening. [Eurock on the Web]

Trance (Ofters mal verwechselt mit Tran) ist em Planet, den auch die Psychonauten von ENDGAME immer wieder gem anzusteuemn versuchen. Ausgerustet von den Firmen Korg, Moog, Yamaha und Roland (+ guitars, tapes & loops) entführen Alan & Steve Freman und ..Jim Tetlow die Anhalter in ihrer Galaxis im 2CD set Avatar (UTCD 006/7) zu 'Crashes Into Amber Liquid', sie streifen mit ihnen 'The Dream Temple', Iassen sie in 'Paranoic-Critical Solitude' stranden mit 'An Orange Pink Psychosis'. Nicht jeder, den die 'Anarchy In The System' aus der Bahn schleudert, kehrt wieder zurück 'From the Depths Of Chaos'. Der psychedelische Twist, den die kosmischen Klange von ENDGAME aufführen, lässt zuerst die Uhren zerfließen. Die Fluchten vom lch dauern entsprechend 22, 35, sogar 42 Minuten, und im Gefühl der Zeitlosigkeit beginnen sich die Knochen zu verflussigen. Der Vorstoß zum Thron des Dröhnens gelingt nur den Mollusken. AIles Feste, Widerstandige wird von mahlenden Bässen und leiernden Delaykaskaden zerrieben. Die Musik auf "Avatar" ist improvisiert. Der Geist von Lightwave, Tangerine Dream und Ash Ra Temple schwebt über der Ursuppe. Das kleine Krealuren-Ego wird ausgelöscht, Plankton im Ocean of Sound, em Klümpchen Schleim in einem warmen Meer... Schon em Libellenkopf, em Mövenflügel ware zu weit und litte schon zu sehr... (wenn soviel dichterische Freiheit erlaubt ist). [Bad Alchemy #38]

Francois Couture Writer/journalist specialized in demanding music.
Writer for the All-Music Guide Producer of Delire Actuel, CFLX.

Endgame "Surreal Ethereal" Auricle Music AMCDR 004, 2001

"Surreal Ethereal" was released as a CDR by Auricle Music. It features the prolific trio Endgame in a studio session. The disc contains two extended improvisations, "Vördet Schneet" and "A Feather Crashed Loudly," both subdivided in parts. Endgame's aim is to propose space/electronic music derived from the German electronic school that, at the same time, follows the forays of avant-garde music. It works very well in this particular case. "Vördet Schneet" is a dark, spacy synthesizer trip with voice samples and miscellaneous noises blended in. It unfolds slowly, almost menacingly, like a drums and guitar-less Hawkwind improvisation. But the treat is "A Feather Crashed Loudly," which presents a more noise-based approach. Still very slow and atmospheric, it includes more delay effects, loops, and guitar work reminiscent of Keith Rowe. It recalls a meeting between Tangerine Dream and AMM, or Tim Blake sitting with Morphogenesis. One last comparison would be a synth-based Shalabi Effect. Music is not the key anymore, but texture. Synthesizer sweeps meet with granular electrical sounds. Most importantly it does not sound forced; Endgame make it feel very natural, like it was bound to happen someday. "Surreal Ethereal" will open more doors of perception for space fans. Recommended. [François Couture, All-Music Guide]

ENDGAME Tundra (Ultimate Transmission UTCD 009/10, 2xCD): Einmal mehr im kosmischen Kurierdienst sind die Freeman-Bros. Alan & Steve unterwegs zusammen mit Jim Tetlow und wie immer mit Synthesizern und Gitarren, Tapes, Loops und Samplern bestens ausgerüstet fur bis zu 47-minütige Weltraumspaziergänge und für die frostigsten ('The big Freeze') und glühendsten Environments ('Atomsmasher / Cyclotron') bei ihren 'Forbidden planet'-Erkundungen. Immer ihrem Neugier- und Sehnsuchtshorizonlt folgend, immer auf der Suche - nach Terra Incognita, der verlorenen Zeit, dem ultimativen Kick, dem kosmischen Phönixei und ich bin mir sicher (sonst wären sie keine Engländer), sie wissen ziemlich gut, dass 'kosmisch' von 'komisch' nur em kleines s unterscheidet - die kleine Schlange', mit der aller Space und Spaß beginnt. [Bad Alchemy]


Moore / Myers

Si je prononce les mots "Rock Progressif" une moitie dentre vous sautera invuédiatement a la chronique suivante pendant que l'autre se lèchera les babines dans l'attente des melodies élégantes et raffinées cheres aux chantres du genre.
El les deux auront tort' Les premiers parus ne prennent pas ici le moindre risque de sombrer dans la guimauve et les harmonies éculées les sons sont rapeux les rythmes hachés, les progressions se font en tension, jusquà amener a un stade au seuil de la rupture oscillant entre lanxiété et l'agressjvite, proche dans lesprit de la démarche d'HELDON. Ouant aux seconds. c'est plutôt dans les marginaux du style, type SHYLOCK ou CARPE DIEM quil faut leur indiquer les rapprochements: instrumentaux a la grande complexite rythmique, pleins dune fougue et dune virulence décapantes, plus génerateurs de surprises et de tenaillements que de reveries soporifiques.. Et c'est bien mleux ainsi. GERARD DUGUAY [Notes]


Out Of Focus

Out of Focus - "Not Too Late"
(Cosmic Egg UTCE 001, 1974/2000, CD) Cosmic Egg is one of the recent CD labels of Audion magazine's Alan and Steve Freeman, acting sort of as a offshoot to their Auricle cassette line that they have run since the 80s. The following release starts off a series of Krautrock artefacts with a bang, featuring the lost fourth album by one of the best early 70s German groups, Out of Focus. This set of five songs follows on the heels of their masterpiece Four Letter Monday Afternoon, and continues their jazzy, progressive rock style in as fine form as they ever have been in. The instrumentation: drums, bass, two guitars, sax, and a vocalist! sax/flute player. Their strengths lie both in the long instrumental sections and in the adventurous structures of the songs, which contain plenty of time changes and composed, thematic parts. Perhaps the only slightly duff moment on the album is the short "The Way I Know Her," a 3 minute acoustic guitar ballad that seems a bit dull for a band who practically doesn't know what the word means. But it's an insignificant point on a map of some of the finest German rock of the 70s. With good quality sound (for an archive anyway) and lengthy liner notes by guitarist Remigius Dreschler, this comes recommended to all fans of the German rock scene, especially those who like it on the jazzy side. [Mike McLatchey - Exposé 21]

0188921 CD 31.00 OUT OF FOCUS - NOT TOO LATE!
one of the most sought after and collectable KRAUT-ROCK bands, being part of the Munich scene, that spurred Amon Duul II and Embryo. This is the CD version of their complete unreleased album by German kraut legends recorded in 1974. A jazzy psychedelic blend with 'Canterbury' touches and English vocals. (cosmic Egg) [Clear Spot catalogue week 28/29 2000]

Not Too Late Ultimate Transmissions UTCE 001 (41:01)
This is the first release from Ultimate Transmissions, a reissue label set up by Steven and Alan Freeman, authors of the encyclopaedia of Krautrock, The Crack In The Cosmic Egg. The CD comprises a number of recently-discovered tracks recorded around 1974 that are 'believed to have been for a projected, but never completed, fourth album by the Munich-based band. And given that their original albums are almost unknown anyway, this is an impressively obscure place from which to launch a new label. Unfortunately, though, it's very hard to get too excited about the musical content. Like Xhol Caravan, Out of Focus sought to integrate a number of jazz elements into their more explicitly Krautrock, prog and psychedelic stylings. But the main problem here, aside from the teeth-gnashingly trite acoustic song, "The Way I Know Her", is the limited nature of their jazz palette, which tends to prevent the brighter moments from ever truly igniting. Occasional hints at genuine fusion are all too frequently dragged down by instrumental motifs far too redolent of 70s sit-com themes. [Record Collector 254, October 2000]

Das von den Autoren der Krautrockenzyklopãdie The Crack In The Cosmic Egg gegründete Cosmic Egg-Label lãsst einen mit der Ausgrabung von "Not Too Late" (Ultimate Transmissions UTCE 001), einer bisher unveroffentlichten (vierten) LP der Münchner Formation OUT OF FOCUS, ins Jahr l974 zeitreisen. Urn den damaligen Stellenwert der LSD-benebelten Jesusjunger urn Moran Neumüller (voc, sax, flute) und Remigius Drechsler (guitars) einschãtzen zu kOnnen, sei erwãhnt, dass beispielweise Bands wie Tangerine Dream, Kraftwerk, Kraan oder Embryo für sie als Vorgruppe antraten, wãhrend sie selbst als Auftakter für Amon Düül II, Nektar oder Guru Guru fungierten. Nachdem das Kuckuck-Label - Labels hießen damals so: Ohr, Brain, Spiegelei - nach dem Doppelalbum "Four Letter Monday Afternoon' (1972) das lnteresse an Out Of Focus verloren hatte, waren die in einer Dropout-Kornmune bei Hersching eingespielten Bander - erstmals ohne Keyboarder, dafür mit zwei Gitarren neben den beiden charakteristischen Saxophonen - im Keller verstaubt. Heute weckt die (Wieder)-Begegnung mit dem von Caravan, Soft Machine und Colosseum inspirierten, in Krautland von Emergency, Xhol, Missus Beastly, Embryo oder W. Dauners Etcetera verkürperte Hybrid Jazz-Rock hoffentlich nur bei denen Nostalgiegefuhle, die durch die Gnade der spãten Geburt unbelastet sich von den verdaddelten Tranceinduktionen in neoko(s)mische Schwingungen versetzen lassen kõnnen. [Bad Alchemy 36]


Maureen Anderson's Shapeshifter

SHAPESHIFTER I Unwrapping The Familiar (Ultima Thule UTSS CD1)
SID JONES I Ju~~lin~ With 2 Balls (Hot Mustard Records HMRCDOO 1)// MATMOSPHERE / Stoned As The Crows (Pink Lemon Records PINKO I 2)// THE TILLYARD WAY / The Eclectic Lexicon (Spare Penny Productions SPCD 1)//
England is a nation of bedroom recording artists and from a huge pile of entries we selected a few of the more interesting ones. Shapeshifter is the alter ego of ethnic/spiritual poet and performer Maureen Anderson. The 'Unwrapping The Familiar" CD is a digitalized reissue of the tape album of the same name (1997 - reviewed in CW14) so I only want to mention here that Maureen's very personal lyrics, cover a wide variety of (both ancient and modem) mythology, spirituality, cults and sensitivities. She sings and recites her poetry with the backing of a five piece band (including Alan Freeman of Audion magazine) and succeeds in creating a constant tripped out atmosphere in her work, quite different from 99% of all other releases in the 'psychedelic' discipline and therefore very recommended.... [Crohinga Well 16]

SHAPESHIFTER: Unwrapping The Familiar CD £10.99
Now I don't know if this would please them or not, but the Freeman brothers, on whose new label this first release is issued, have come up with an album that could easily fit in categories from psychedelic and Euro-rock to Heavenly Voices, yet actually ends up being the sort of album you just don't readily categorise. It's fair to say that it revolves around, nay dominated by, the rich, sultry vocals of Maureen Anderson, whose brand of singing and recitation, shows her to be very much in the sound, spirit and style of the legendary Nico, and there's not been anyone else about whom you can make that comparison, for a long while. Essentially an album of poetry rather than songs, it has all the hallmarks of some parallel universe early Amon Duul 2 and really reminds me of something I heard from the Krautrock stable way back in the 70's but can't for the life of me think what. The instrumental backing and occasional forays comes from a variety of acoustic guitars, exotic percussion, electric bass and analogue synths, giving the whole thing a mix of fresh and rustic as the heady days of the '70's are revisited yet with a sort of psychedelic feel similar to some of the Delerium label bands of the '90's. Sometimes the intonation makes her vocal sound almost Teutonic even though it's English all the way. This is one of those albums to which you turn out the lights, set fire to the joss sticks and turn up real loud to let the full force engulf you, even though it's not a hard-hitting album in the rhythmic sense. The honest truth is that I played this first time and pretty much laughed at it - but something about it stayed with me and so I played it again and started to see things in there and began to get on with the vocals. Third time around and it's becoming addictive in a very mystical-meets-Kraut kind of way. Overall, couldn't really have come out on anyone else's label than the Ultima Thule guys - no-one else would dare. Bet it sells by the truckload in 20 years time - as to now, well that's up to the reviewers and the public's sense of adventure. [By Andy G, in C&D Services catalogue]


Asmus Tietchens

Somber, dark electronic music from the guy who played on the first Cluster & Eno album and the Liliental project. Foreboding music that's more like his first LP "Nachtstucke" on Egg Records, than the more rhythmic more accessible "Biotop" released recently (see review on page 52). There are shades of Schnitzler and Cluster here, even Jean-Baptiste Barriere. Experimental, innovative electronic music, exclusively for YHR. [Neumusik 5, August 1981]

ASMUS TIETCHENS "Musik aus der Grauzone" (YHR 019)
As the dying sun sets over the decaying city, strange shadow forms move between the burnt out cars. Grotesque beings search for food & shelter before the radioactive rains come, as they do every night. A fight between two rival gangs of scavengers breaks out in the remains of a supermarket, over the last tin of uncontaminated meat. Six of them are dead before the victor picks up his prize. Deep below them in the sewers & subways even stranger mutants prowl, moving through the slime, as the far off mechanical screams of the still working machines echo in the endless tunnels. Unhuman voices can be heard muttering in toe distance, while horde of starving rats attack a lone frightened figure in the ruins of an old computer room. The flashing light silently watch the carnage. This is a grey nightmare world, a world where fear & evil rule. "Musik mum der Grauzone" is the soundtrack. Hear it before you live it.
(ED: Well, it was different....). [Gary Scott - Neumusik 6, July 1982]

Everybody who has a little insight in the 'industrial' or 'noise' music means, may have noticed the following. Amongst all kind of groups and individuals making this sort of music, since 1977, we find the names of people like Conrad Schnitzler and Asmus Tietchens. Both are musically active since the and of the 60's, trying to create a new music often by electronic or electro-acoustical means ....
As said in Vital 2 AT changed his music radically after the albums on Sky Records. The first results of this new approach are 4 cassettes released between 1981 and 1983. Two of them have been re-released recently by Auricle music Tapes, namely 'Musik aus der Grauzone' ('8l) and 'Music an der Grenze' ('83). I haven't heard them yet, but I can try to describe the other two: 'Musik im Schatten' ('82) and 'Musik unter Tage' ('83) ( both released by Aeon, USA). Cassettes with mainly long pulsating tracks. Most pieces are built up by means of repetition of certain elements.
Dolf Mulder [Extracted from Vital 2 & 3, 1988]


ZBB [Zircon & The Burning Brains]

Attention Ultima Thule: Hello Freeman brothers,
Thank you for sending the ZBB CD. I like it. Because of I was big fan of TG and joined their fan club "T-GASM" and TG appeared my address on their fanzine "Report". All is early 80's story (or end of 70's). Anyway, I enjoyed ZBB. And I was also big fan of Kazuo Umezu (you used his comic on front).
Sorry poor English. Thank you, Ken (Captain Trip) [e-mail message]

Mit Cortex! (UTCD 001) graben Steve & Alan Freeman, die heute unter dam Namen Endgame immer noch musikalisch aktiven Betreiber von Ultima Thule (nein, hier trapsen keine Sebottendorffschen Nachtigallen) und Herausgeber des new-music Magazins Audion sowie der Krautrockenzyklopadie 'The Crack In The Cosmic Egg", in der eigenen Vergangenheit. Zusammen mit Nigel Harris hatten die Freeman Bruder in den 80ern ala Vrije, QSO, Electric Junk, Alto Stratus und (von 1981 - 86) ZIRCON & THE BURNING BRAINS (kurz ZBB) Tapes mit Experimentalkram gefüttert. lnspiriert - zumindest was den verkifften Namen angeht - durch die polnische Formation SBB, Zappa's 'Zircon encrusted tweezers' und 'Journey Through A Burning Brain' von Tangerine. Dream, ansonsten natürlich von TG und NWW, Krautrock und Stockhausen, fabrizierten ZBB Do-it-yourself-Elektronik, die jetzt als Ouerschnitt aus der Dark-Star-Compilation "A Cage Went In Search Of A Bird", "Cortex!" und "Out Of The AChes', also Kassetten-Material der Jahre 1984 & '86 auf CD gebrannt wurde. rn Unterschied zum krachverliebten Durchschnitt der industrialen Kassettentäterszene jener Jahre entdeckt man in ZBB ehrgeizige und begabte Elektronikpioniere auf eigenen Pfaden, deren neopsychedelischen Audioartefakte, dam Usus teuilletonistischer Kentaurusschopfungen folgend, als verzerrte, geloopte und gecuttete neodadaistische Kreuzungen von Moog-Rogue- & Octave-Cat-Brutismus, Yamaha-CS-5-Weird-ness und Sinclair-Spectrum-Sequenzen Ubers Taufbecken gehalten werden kOnnten, gesalbt mit franzOsischen Satzfetzen und anschließend durch eine Echokammer gejagt. [Bad Alchemy 35]

ZBB - "Cortex!" Ultimate Transmissions UTCD 001, 1984/99, CD)
ZBB stands for Zircon and the Burning Brains, a mid-80s electronic I industrial free-form improv project by Alan and Steve Freeman (of Audion! Ultima mule) and Nigel Harris. The sounds herein are primarily produced using synths, guitars, tapes, loops, distortion and effects, and range from low frequency rumbling with taped voices and bubbling synths blending together with synthesizers and sounds and distortion of unidentifiable origins. Perhaps a comparison with parts of Tangerine Dreams Electronic Meditation is in order, though what we have here is more effected, industrial, and non-musical - more of interest for the textures and sound manipulations than any recognizeable rhythmic or melodic content. The original cassette release is here in totality, sandwiched between extracts from other releases: the ZBB lmaginé track from the Auricle sampler A Cage Went in Search of a Bird and the title track from the Out of the Ashes cassette release. Those interested in the aforementioned TD album, early Heldon, llitchs PTM Works, and amorphous industrial stuff like Throbbing Gristle, NWW, and Cranioclast should find plenty here of interest. [Peter Thelen - Exposé 19]

Zircon & The Burning Brains, Cortex! (Ultimate Transmissions UTCD 001 CD)
Various Artists, Electroacoustic Music Volume 3 (Electroshock ELCD 010 CD)
If, Bwana, Clara Nostra (Pogus P21019-2 CD)
Back in the old days, before Ultima Thule began its mail-order empire, and before Audion uplifted the ears of countless new music fanatics, the founders of these dauntless operations had a throbbing, space-noise hobby called Zircon & The Burning Brains. Alan and Steven Freeman joined their friend Nigel Harris in the production of lo/hi-tech sci-fi landscapes that owe much to the experiments of Throbbing Gristle, The Hafler Trio, Cabaret Voltaire, Krautrock and Stockhausen. Cortex! is a reissue of a 1985 cassette with additional mixes and reworkings, and although dated, is certainly not embarrassing. In fact, this is a lovely thing that glistens with retro wonder. It could even have been recorded in the 1960s, the tones are so unashamedly 'back to the future'. The comparisons that spring to mind are the Radiophonic Workshop, (think Dr Who incidental music), the sound of John Carpenter's Dark Star, and most tellingly, the ambient unease of Tarkovsky's Solaris. The sound of outer space also brings to mind the sound of mind, of inner space. The correlation between intergalactic communication/communion, and the inner synapses of the human brain. A reflective and shimmering marvel. And ask yourself this, have you ever heard another album that uses a Sinclair Spectrum as a sequencer? [Rubberneck web page]

Zircon and the Burning Brains «Cortex!» Ultimate Transmissions UTCD 001 CD (1999)
ZBB were Steve and Alan Freeman, working with the help of their friend Nigel Harris. The Freemans have carved a rather unique niche for themselves in the world of record-collecting: they own and operate the Ultima Thule record shop and mail order service in Leicester, reputed to be one of the finest emporiums in the world for securing original vinyl copies of progressive rock and experimental music records. They regularly produce Audion, a magazine dedicated to collating facts about such music. And they issued the enormous Krautrock encyclopaedia A Crack In The Cosmic Egg which in terms of its sheer exhaustiveness manages to eclipse any other work on the subject.
I was as surprised as anyone to learn that they have a history of making their own music too. Turns out they have a fair-sized back catalogue going back to 198l, and this release represents the first CD issue of a cassette they originally put out in 1984. I was also surprised to find it's quite a creditable showing - using some very tasty analogue synth sounds, echo effects, tape collage, distorted solemn voices (some of them speaking in French, for some reason) and a fun-loving anything-goes spirit, they succeed in creating some genuinely bizarre and unsettling, minimalist electronic experiments. With their constant growling bassnotes and strange interruptions of illogical electronic blips, these long mysterious pieces don't exactly gladden a dispirited mind. They lay there in the dark and brood...like some eerie pulsating mineral from another planet The slightly irritating aspect (for this listener) is the added commentary - which is written by the Freemans themselves, very much in the inept style of their Audion magazine. They're certainly enthused, but they lapse into making lame comparisons very frequently. Now I know we do this here at The Sound Projector too. In writing, I think this technique is permissible once in a while to help orient the listener, but the Freemans do it all the time -there's no LP they've heard that can't be compared to another LP they've heard. And it's not always meaningful influences they're looking for, genuine or significant connections all they can discern is similarity of sounds. When they start applying the same 'it-sounds-like...' game to their own work. I for one become a tad suspicious. To their credit, the Freemans are not afraid of being accused of eclecticism. But I feel they're pre-empting criticism, eliminating any work the listener may have to do - all the usual suspects are trotted out in a dreary little checklist for you. This even extends to the name of their combo, a cocktail mix involving the Polish band SBB. Frank Zappa, and a track from the first Tangerine Dream LP. And this namechecking doesn't do their own music any favours. Once a band claims to have been influenced by everything from Stockhausen to Suicide to Krautrock to Nurse With Wound and Pierre Henry, their music can start to assume the proportions of a knowing pastiche of all the above. Have they learned anything from these musicians, in terms of technique, compositional methods, creative ideas' Or have they simply copycatted the weird sounds from their voluminous record collections?
Well, my advice (to myself) is to put all these doubts aside and listen to the music. Remove the mental baggage, ignore their somewhat high-flown claims, don't even think of reading the ghastly fragment of poetry - and chances are You're in for a good time. This record remains intriguing, fresh and strangely compelling. ED PINSENT [Sound Projector 7]

From: Henk Kikkert <kikkert@quicknet.nl> Dutch prog radio
Playlist Spectrum 13-08-2001
19.Z.B.B. - Midnight plus midnight plus one Zircon & Burning Brains <<Cortex>> Ultima Thule

Russian magazine review by Artemiy Artemiev...

Zircon and the Burning Brains «Cortex!»
Reviewed by Antony Burnham for Metamorphic Journeyman

"Imaginé" - "Midnight Plus Midnight Plus One" - "Velvet Light Trap" - "Out Of The Ashes"

Originally recorded back in 1984, which kinda throws you, as the first track sounds as if it had been influenced by Survival Horror games - there's something of the Silent Hill / Resident Evil to it - which, around the MJ household is reverential! Off-white noise grizzle 'rhythm' is puctuated by loud metallic bash while a foreign voice speaks over the top. The second track certainly proves itself to deserve the THROBBING GRISTLE / NURSE WITH WOUND comparison - it has a creepy, other-worldly subtlety, an altogether 'What's Wrong With This Picture' feel around which synthetics whizz and pop for all they're worth. This restructures itself, again becoming minimal and stark, cold and Industrial in a Death Factory kinda way. A later passage with upward sliding synth again reminds me of the sort of soundtrack that makes Horror games that slightest bit more un-nerving. The third track exacerbates the feeling of unease, exploring the dark streets of some imaginary town where centuries of inbreeding have created some sensationally unsavory characters. From here it delves into even more extreme fields, becoming comparable with the ANCKARSTR CD collection of some years ago - combining snatches of noise with what sounds like fax machine whirr to create non-structure of controlled events (a sort of stretched out rhythm in denial). This forms into a sort of Musique Concrete amalgam of found noise, snatched voice and machine sounds. The final track takes things even further into the realms of the extreme - where there's no obvious structure - and somehow this works even better. While ZBB are never really heavy-handed, this is almost the ambience you might find if machines underwent the evolutionary process on, say, the Moon. Unnatural as the sounds are, there's a kind of ecosystem at work here - artificial wind blowing through cybernetic trees; armys of nanotech ants scavaging from the shards and detritus undergrowth. This is synthesis at it's naked best - forget rhythms, forget presets or the pursuit of perfect harmonies - this is raw, unharnessed, pure electronica, Sci-Fi fantasia with the structure tucked away and hidden, but undeniably THERE!
They told me people had trouble with this album & I'm not surprised - but for those of you into TG, MONTE CAZAZZA and the whole early scene, this will be a treat. They've been compared to STOCKHAUSEN and CLUSTER as well, and I see no argument against whoever decided that.


Various Artists

Re: Auricle Cassette sampler...
Cette compilation due a Alan Freeman, coéditeur de 1'excellente revue AUDION, est la premiere de la série AURICLE qui possade déjà a son actif plus de 14 cassettes. Ce panorama donne one bonne idée du label AURICLE, terrain d' expression en musique électrooique nouvelle de canpositeurs et de groupes peu cxuuis. Citons "en vrac" le groupe ALTO STRATUS, bien représent~ avec trois morceaux affiliées a la musique industrielle bien rythme, parfois stressante, le guitariste allenand Günter SCHICKERT avec une oeuvre tout en finesse avec climats évanescents et des c'ans d'oeil a Deuter, REGION 5 au climat minimal et sanbre, peu original, Peter FROHMADER qui propose une musique mysterieuse aux parfois orientales, le groupe BIOMECHANOID avec des compositions on peu tones, 'THE LAND OF YRX, NEW 7th MUSIC et THE EXPLODING HEADBAND. Les compositions regroupées ici sont de bonnes qualites mis n'apportent pas de grosses innovations. Philippe BISSEBET [Intra Musiques 17, 1987]

A CAGE WENT IN SEARCH OF A BIRD (UK double cassette)
Not only is the title of this compilation cassette one of the best of all time, the music on it is equally of the highest order. Featured artists include: Peter Frohmader, Paul Nagle, Colin Potter, CON, Ken Moore, Gunter Schickert, D.D.A.A., Bourbonese Qualk + 12 more. The music runs the gamut of electronic sound, from melodic and celestial to more dark and impressionistic -- in all you will hear all manner of experimental ideas. Top it off with a deluxe software/VCR-style case complete with color art and booklet and you have an exemplary production by the British Dark Star label. [Eurock magazine]

A Cage Went In Search Of A Bird
an international compilation Dieter Cassetten Sampler bettehend aus Zwei Cassetten. Die e.m. ist sehr experimentel, wahrend die andere etwas melodischer ist. Es sind aber alles Amateurbands. Ich .icltts garnicht auf die in einen Stuck. einqehen, da diese miteinander nicht direkt zu vergleichen sind. Es sind auch einige deutsche Britanisch dabei md??. Peter Frohmador, Conrad Schnitzter und Rollkomando sowie rmach einig'e bekannte anders wie: Paul Nagle, Ken Moore, Kevin ONeill.
[Peter Kaminski - Ame Journal, Bremen 8/85] sorry for the gibberish transcription

"Bloody Brilliant" (Kevin O'Neill - 1985)
"A very good package, especially side blue. I found Günter Schickert + Paul Nagle to be the best tracks" (Clive Littlewood. - 1985)
"The presentation is impressive, and Peter Harrison's painting. I like sci-fi art and stuff." [Paul Kelday 1985]

Personally, though this is as good as any title for a compilation I reckon John Cage went in search of a bird. You see he could have invented an aeronautic contraption in search of the continental lapwing. This is actually an interesting and well put together compilation of excellent sound quality.
The packaging is novel (a video case) with an information booklet giving contacts etc. Musically there are contributions from a variety of mainly present day musicians ranging from flowing migrational tuneful synthesizer music through electronic stuff to the fringe end of the ornithologists range.
There are two cassettes, a c90 and a c60 with the more spacey, quiet twittering on the c90 whilst the c60 has the chirpings I most enjoyed. The last (blue) side, indeed, I would go as far to say, has found the cage. [Doj Graham - Audion, 1985]

Nos amis britanniques du magazine AUDION s'adonnent aussi a la production, ils ont sorti plusieurs "cassettes" (bien que ce terme soit galvaudé en ce qui les concerne car leurs cassettes sont présentées sous la forme d'un emballage luxueux et original, de la taille d'un livre et pourvu d'une illustration evocatrice de la musique produite sur les cassettes) dont celles-ci. Ces cassettes-concept représentent les oeuvres de différents artistes internationaux (anglais, américains, aliemands) qua. traitent musicalement le theme central qui sert de motif a la cassette, c'est ainsi que tour a tour, Greg TRUCKELL, Kevin O'NEILL, Colin POTTER, Ron BERRY, David PRESCOTT, ROLLKOMANNDO, AEOLIAN STRING ENSEMBLE, NEW 7TH MUSIC, Paul KELDAY, BIOMECHANOID, W. HERTZ et RIMARIMBA, illustrent ce concept. Leurs musiques s'inscrivent dans la tradition du rock électronique, tout en explorant les diverses facettes actuelles de ce style musical (new age, musique celeste musique repetitive, musique électro-contemporaine, musique electro-iridustrielle) avec un certain bonheur. Cette multiplicité d'artistes et d'inspirations engendre une grande variété de musiques et de sensations pour l'auditeur, voyageant entre les melodies délicates et celestes d'AEOLIAN STRING ENSEMBLE, celles réveuses et iréelles de Greg TRUCKELL, celles cauchemardesques Colin POTTER ou de ROLLKOMANNDO, celles toite en finesse et en suggestions du NEW 7TH MUSIC, celles lancinantes et nuageuses de W.HETZ ou celles joyeuses et virevoltantes de RIMARIMBA. Un voyage multicolore et une fête des sens. Francis Grosse [Notes 27, June 1987]

From: Jurriaan Hage <jur@cs.uu.nl>

Various Artists: The UT Golden Hour (2001; Auricle AMSCDR 003) 60m

Line up: Various line-ups.

1) ZBB - Imagin&euml; 5.28
2) Alto Stratus - Time reversal 4:00
3) Biomechanoid - Island of the dead 5.03
4) Shapeshifter - Alien 6.53
5) Shapeshifter - Celestial mirror 4:00
6) Endgame - Path 6: To the edge of the world 7.38
7) Endgame - The dream temple 2:00
8) The newt hounds - Behold the poignant device 3.24
9) Out of focus - Y 4:15

Summary of history: In the style of the Golden Hour of ... series from the seventies (I have one by The Kinks and one by Status Quo), Ultima Thule released a sampler of their own material. As you might know the label is headed by Alan Freeman, also well known as a writer on prog music. The sampler is for sale.
The album: ZBB opens the album with Imagin&eacute;, droning keyboards, a French voice and overall a very spacey feel. The music is full of effects and actually effects seem to be all we hear and experience here. Experience is maybe the keyword, because we do not hear songs only sounds, but these sounds do manage to convey something, an estrangement perhaps. Gong and Amon Duul come to mind, but taken into the modern age of electronics.
Alto Stratus has a similar approach, but definitely more spacey.
A large part of the music is taken up by estranging vocal sounds that have been warped (reversed) beyond recognition. Below it all, the drone of a spaceship (at least it could be. Whoe knows?). Again no rock on this track, but sounds and sounds. However, like the previous track the music does manage to convey something. Interesting and somewhat scary stuff. I wonder what I would think of an album filled entirely with this stuff.
Biomechanoid is next up with Island Of The Dead (I do not think this is a Rachmaninow cover, but who knows). Sparse electronics fill this one, but the recording quality is not that good (or should it include quite a bit of white noise?) Again mostly effects, but also again, quite nice to listen to. Lots of reverberation in the sounds, to the point of harrowing.
Little girls singing (vocoded) on Alien by Shapeshifter. Finally we also hear some guitar on a track here. The spoken voice is very accented. Seems to be a French band this. The female vocals, the psychedelic guitar and Indian percussion give the song a strong Amon Duul feel. I am not too happy with the thrilly vocals and the music itself is a bit too playful.
The spoken texts are nonsense though maybe not meant as such. They irritated me. The next track is also by Shapeshifter and could be their revenge.
The song opens with majestic electronics (and a rather high noise level) the feel of Vangelis very much present. Later the music becomes less majestic and more spacey. The music stays relaxed throughout and even has some piano and later on percussion starts to enter the picture.
Endgame are also present with two tracks. The first is Path 6: To The Edge Of The World, a sinister track in the style of very early Tangerine Dream and a bit more modern, Lustmord. Only keyboards and percussive sounds, mostly atmosphere building and not melodic.
Sitar like sounds pervade The Dream Temple, which is an extract only of about nine minutes. Hmmm. Female angelic vocals and an eerie atmosphere are thoroughly present. The melodies are slow in developing, as if they were stretched out. Again, the music has a strong Krautrock feel, but the more electronic side of it.
The Newt Hounds are next up with a shortish track called The Poignant Device. Weird vocals, psychedelica, but continually electronic, this is a bit too playful again.
Out Of Focus is the only band I already new. Their song Y opens with melodic and moody sax and organ. This is more like what you ordinarily hear about on this site. The mood is very relaxed and a bit jazzy. Later the pace goes up a bit and the drummer has something to say as well. The guitar then takes the role of the sax for a brand of psyche with a strong blues underground, a good groove and a bit like the rolling of the waves. On the other hand, the music gets quite intense and can be likened to Camel on their first two albums or Moonmadness, maybe a bit rougher.

Conclusion: Quite a nice sampler this, but not necessarily for the prog lover.
Although many people would consider it progressive, it is not what I generally review on this site, because that side of progressive is much more song and melody oriented. Quite a bit of the musicians on this disc go for atmosphere and not for structure or melody at all. The exceptions, Shapeshifter (more or less) and Out Of Focus are Krautrock efforts reminiscent of Amon D&uuml;&uuml;l 2 and well Out Of Focus. Shapeshifter sometimes irritated me, but I did like the sonic excursions on quite a few of the others (comparable to Tangerine Dream, Popol Vuh and newer Steve Roach and Lustmord). However, this is just a single disc with a one or two songs by each. I have no idea what I would think of an entire album.


Audion Magazine

AUDION - Es seguramente Ia re vista musical mas importante de Gran Bretaña, dedicada exclusivamente a la musica electrónica y las nuevas-musicas; su mentalidad musical 'y sus articulos coinciden plenamente con nuestras ideas. casi se puede decir que hay telepatia. Ya han -editado 6 numeros. con cantidad de informacion, entre 10 que podeis encontrar articulos de ADN, MUSLIMGAUZE, O YUKI CONJUGATE, RECOMMENDED RECORDS. RICCARDO SINIGAGLIA.... [Syntorama 13]

AUDION No4 & No5
AUDION est ang1aise: s'intéresse aux Musiques Nouvelles. Electrcniques. Industrielles. Synthétiques etc.. No4 ADN. NUSLIMGAUZE. O YUKI CONJUGATE. RECOMMENDED RECORDS. RICCARDO SINIGACLIA, SHUB NIGGURATH etc.. No5: STEVE ROACH, SYNERGY. KEN MOORE. WOLFGANG HERTZ. NIK TYNDALL, ASMUS TIETCHENS etc. [Notes #28, October 1987]

Audion. The New-Music Magazine.
Edité par Steve et Alan Freeman, entourés dune équipe de collaborateurs, c'est un journal remarquable, par La diversité de son ouverture musicale, de l'electronique classique a lélectroacoustique, en passant par lejazz, les musiques improvisées et d'avant-garde. Les critiques de disques sont de très haut niveau, sans complaisance, et ce journal est une mine inépuisable d'informations. Audion met en place actuellement un réseau de distribution par correspondance, pour son label de cassettes et aussi pour certains des labels presentés dans ses colonnes. La presse underground pourrait donner de belles leçons de professionalisme aux revues a grand tirage! [Crystal Infos, March 1989]

Audion #14... is a magazine devoted progressive music by people WHO KNOW STUFF (it leaves me gasping). This looks at the Swedish label Silence musician Jack Tamul, French progre rock, Un Drame Musical Instantane. the usual round of audio reviews. also run the Ultima Thule mail or service which can supply you with those obscure records you've been dying to own. [The Single Eye #3, 1990]

AUDION #16 (30pp A4, ...
'The New-Music Magazine" is what it says on the cover, and inside we find an uneasy melange of spacerock from the seventies and more modern experimental music. New Music it certainly isn't - Audion's roots are firmly in the electronic music of Germany and psychedelic rock of one form or another. Nonetheless, it covers a wide range of material, with reviews in this issue including people like Current 93 and Autopsia as well as a variety of avant-garde, experimental, jazz and spacerock. Poor coverage of the cassette scene, and a dislike of the more challenging, less musical, forms of sonic experimentation are offset by good international coverage, and a never-ending source of labels and bands who you are sure to have never heard of. #17 has since arrived and is similar. [EST #1, Summer 1991]

"Audion, The New-Music Magazine" Audion is een Engels tijdschrift, over "muziek die door andere media over het algemeen wordt genegeerd". ZeIf definiëren ze die muziek als "'New- Music', wat inhoudt dat het muziek is die progressief is, 'ground breaking'. formulatief of esotherisch, of het nou rock is, fusion, electronisch, avant-garde, of nergens bij in te delen. Daarom zul je in Audion (Audion betekent: een Iuisterplaats, of een plaats voor discussie) artikelen aantreffen over legendarische vernieuwende rockbands zoals Faust, maar oak stukken over synthesizermuziek van doze tijd of new age labels, independent musici zoals Ken Moore, en modem avant-garde componisten zoals Ligeti. Het gebied wat Audion bestrijkt is werkelijk erg groot en vrij moeilijk to definiëren, maar het wordt vrijwel niet behandeld door andere Engelstalige tijdschriffen." Tot zover do beide makers, Steve & Alan Freeman. Ik kreeg drie recente nummers van hen, en daarin kwam ik inderdaad een heel breed scala aan muziek tegen. Bladeren jullio even mee? Een lijstje met kort nieuws, ondermeer over KLEM, Rat Music (een cassettewinkel), en do nieuwe plaat van do groep Frumpy. Dan een interview met Look do Bouk, een bespreking van Forrest Fang, een stripverhaaltje over een rockgitarist, dan een review van do platen die op het Cryonic en Mantra label zijn verschenen, een verhaal over Emma Myldenberger, een interview met Martin Kornberger en Volker Kuhn, een concertverslag van een optroden van The Ordinaires, enkele advertenties, een verhaal over do groep Clearlight Symphony, een aantal besprekingen van progressieve rock platen, een aantal besprekingen van nieuwe Erdenklang cd's, een concertverslag van Bill Bruford's Earthworks, een aantal cassettebesprekingen (Clothearz, Rancid Poultry, Somewhere In Europe, Know Your Enemy), een overzicht van het work van Rudiger Lorenz, een aflevering uit do gene "Classic Labels" (do one keer over Ohr, do andere keer over Pilz, kompleet met korte besprekingen van platen en een aantal foto's), een aantal besprekingen van releases op het Keltia label, enzovoorts, enzovoorts. En dan ben ik pas op do helft van het eerste blad. In do tweede helft staan een enorme hoeveelheid goeie besprekingen van allerlei lp's, cd's en mc's, waaronder Nik Tyndall, Anna Sjelv Tredje, Ragnarok, Amon DuuI, Birdsong Of The Mesozoic, John Dyson, Galadriel, Peter Frohmader, Philip Glass, Constance Demby, Gong, Kenso, Machine Gun, Thomas Metcalf, Michel Huygen, Klaus Wiese, Kit Watkins, Michael Vetter, Tim Stebbing, PFS, Studio Animals, Whitehouse, Visionaries, enzovoorts. Van alle besproken work wordt vermeld waar het te koop is. In veel gevallen is dat bij Ultima Thule, het eigen postorderbedrijf wat Steve en Alan er ook nog bij doen, maar ze geven ook veel andere adressen. Er staan enkele foto's in het blad en wat advertenties van andore postorderbedrijfjes en platenlabels. Zoals gezegd doen beide heren hun huiswerk erg goed en uit alles wat je leest in Audion blijkt hoe goed ze in de materie thuiszijn. In hun "Redactioneel' las ik ook dat ze de lezers oproepen am kopij in te sturen, maar voordat je wordt geaccepteerd, moot je eerst een stuk insturen ter beoordeling van je schrijfkunst. Het blad is op A4 formaat. en telt circa 31 paginas. Het verschijrnt .... AIIes bij elkaar is het een echt vakblad voor mensen die een brede muzieksmaak hebben en die ook wel eens wat anders dan de platgetreden paderi wiIlen betreden. Via Audion kun je heel war bijzonder werk op het spoor komen. ~ Frits [KLEM 55, August 1991]

AUDION 18 Magazine
Outstanding magazine which has been running for years. Focuses mainly on progressive rock and related and is indispensable for any fan of that enormous area of music. Also touches briefly on the Current 93's of the world. Lots of news, lots of reviews, it's a pleasure to recommend this. [Music From The Empty Quarter 2, August 1991]

Audion #20 (40pp A4, ...
Still overflowing with dodgy 70s progressive rock, but still worth getting hold of if you're interested in innovative music. There's an interesting article on composer Bernard Parmegiani by Roger Sutherland, a worthwhile piece on Ash Ra Tempel, an interview with Justine, and stacks of reviews covering people like P. Orridge, Tietchens and O Yuki Conjugate in amongst the spacerockers. [EST #3, Summer 1992]

Audion #21 & #22 (40pp & 44pp A4, ...
Ever increasing in price, but also slowly improving in presentation. "The new-music magazine" still works from a heavy focus on progressive rock and New Age/synth, but also continues to cover wider areas of unusual music (not all of it "new"). Amidst the news, gig reviews, wide-ranging audio reviews (Andnessen to Ashra to Controlled Bleeding), there are interviews in #21 with Katsuhiko Hayashi I Mugen, Ron Geesin and Klaus Schulze (complete with an extensive discography and history),plus an informative article on the terribly underdocumented La Monte Young by Roger Sutherland. #22 interviews Heldon's Richard Pinhas and synth-artist Ian Boddy, discusses the pros and cons of CDs, and sees Roger Sutherland present a limited but interesting article on "Sound Sculptors', along with plenty of label spotlights etc. [EST #4, Winter 1992]

Het Britse blad 'Audion, the new music magazine' wordt uitgegeven door Steven en Alan Freeman, twee broers die samen een platenwinkel runnen en die zeer deskundig zijn op het gebied van electronische en experimentele muziek. Audion bestaat nu ruim 6 jaar en in die tijd zijn er 22 nummers verschenen. Het formaat van het blad is A4, het telt ruim 40 kantjes en is wat de drukkwaliteit betreft matig. De foto's zijn technisch gezien evenmin om over naar huis te schrijven. De kwaliteit van de inhoud is echter uitstekend. De heren redacteuren (maar ook hun gast-auteurs) bewijzen keer op keer dat ze weten waar ze het over hebben en je merkt dat ze erg veel tijd in hun artikelen investeren. Om je een idee te geven, hier een greep uit wat er zoal in hun 22ste uitgave te lezen was: nieuwtjes (ondermeer over Cuneiform, Brain, ECM, John Kerr, TD, Mark Robson), concertbesprekingen (Caravan Of Dreams, Ozric Tentacles, Hawkwind, Djam Karet), interviews (hierbij het interview met Richard Pinhas door Jan Tack, Serge Devadder en Henri Hanot wat we ook in het KLEMbIad publiceerden en een interview met Ian Boddy), een aantal advertenties van platenzaken met een ruime collectie electronische muziek, een artikel over het Voice Print label, een artikel over Harmonium, plaatbesprekingen (ondermeer van Ian Boddy, Karsten Brustad, Cathedral, Caravan Of Dreams, Deuter, Egoband, Groundhogs, Peter Hamill, Mark lsham, Hiroshi Kobayashi, Arne Nordheim, Phobos, Kevin O'Neill, Klaus Schulze, Conrad Schnitzler, Asmus Tietchens), een partij cassette-besprekingen en een rubriek met brieven van lezers.
Samengevat is Audion een Engelstahg blad wat zeker de moeite waard is voor veel liefhebbers van electronische muziek. [KLEM #62, January 1993]

If it's diversity that you're after then Audion is one possibility. Although it's favourite genre remains 70s progressive rock, it's tentacles reach out into most areas of innovative new music. Issue #23 discusses John Cage's live electronic works and the history of Richard Pinhas / Heldon, as well as providing a large quantity of reviews and news. #24's interviewees are Lightwave (with Paul Haslinger, ex-Tangerine Dream) and Morphogenesis, and has a lengthy article on Lard Free and Urban Sax, while #25's cover names include Dome, Xenakis, Franco Battiato and Steve Hackett. #26 features Arthur Brown, Peter Michael Hamel, and, intriguingly, forefather of noise music, Luigi Russolo, and #27 profiles Ozric Tentacles, Bacillus Records, Klaus Schulze and World Music Messenger Service. Audion's articles are invariably knowledgeable and well-researched, and their DTP-layout slowly improving, but it's hard not to agree with a letter-writer in #24 about critical blindspots with respect to industrial and jazz genres. [EST #5, Summer 1994]

Audion #31 & #32 (40pp A4, ...
More from the long-running synth music/prog rock/avant-garde zine. #31 interviews Jorge Reyes, and has articles on Bi Kyo Ran and Rock In Opposition. #32 interviews Fille Qui Mousse and Ame Son, with an article on Neu, Kraftwerk and Cluster and one on Todd Dockstader. Audion are at their best when providing the discographies and family trees that accompany the RIO and Krautrock articles; unfortunately, their reviews need either more open-mindedness or a greater sympathy for some of the many styles of music covered.

AUDION - Nos 33/34 - A4 - £2.00
One of the longest running new-music' mags contains this issue, interviews with Chris Cutler and KrautRock group Agitation Free. Pieces on Fushitsuaha, Hoelderlin and Shapeshifter follow with a large review section. Issue 34 contains pieces on Nik Tyndall, Manuel Gottsching of Ash Ra Temple along with other articles and the reviews section. For those leaning towards the prog side of things this is your heaven. [Impulse 8]

AUDION No 35 avec Michel Redolfi, Morgan Fisher, Mauricio Kagel, Popol Vuh, Mario Schonwalder, This Heat, des chroniques des comptes-rendus de concerts... Le magazine anglais specialisê dans es musiques progressives et electroniques fête ses 10 ans.

One of the best all-around English language publications is Audion magazine, published in the UK by brothers Steve and Alan Freeman (who incidentally also run the Ultima Thule store & music mail-order). The magazine usually runs about 40 full-size pages, and regularly features excellent articles on progressive and electronic artists, interviews, and historical pieces, plus plenty of reviews. They've been around since the mid eighties, and the current issue (# 30) features the first part of a series on the Rock in Opposition (RIO) movement, with historical pieces on Univers Zero and Present, and interviews with Roger Trigaux and the 5UU's. [Exposé #7, Summer 1995]

In KLEM 62 schreven we aI eens over dit tijdschrift. Op dat moment was nummer 22 net uit. lnmiddels zijn we ruim 3 jaar verder, en voor me Iigt nummer 34. Met op de voorkant een historische foto van Manuel Göttsching, en binnenin natuurlijk een interview met Manuel. Verder een rubriek waarin voor een aantal platenlabels (AMP Records, Spalax. Voiceprint, Fathom, AD Music, Noise Museum, Jara Discs) de belangrijkste nieuwtjes worden gemeld, deel 3 uit een serie over de pioniers bij de Franse 'Group Recherches Musicales', heel veel plaatbesprekingefl (Propeller island, Kiodyssea, Bonfire, Guru Guru, Jean Philippe Goude, Terje Rypdal, Steve Tibbetts, Zoviet France, Alquimia, Can, Earcandy, Brian Eno, Tetsuto Furidate, Gong, Harald Grosskopf, Namlook & Schulze, Holle Mangler, Rainbow Serpent, Simon Steensland, David Toop, Tonart, Volapuk, Uban Sax, Xen, en Kit Watkins), een kort overzicht van de inhoud van een aantal tijdschriften op het gebied van de EM, een verslag van een concert van Art Zoyd, een interview met Nik Tyndall, veel adressen en veel advertenties van firma's die zich met bovenstaande muziek bezighouden. Het overgrote deel van de artikelen is geschreven door Alan Freeman, die overduidelijk beschikt over een enorme kennis op het betreffende muziekgebied, plus een prettige schrijfstijl. Het blad is op A4 formaat, 40 pagina's dik en netjes vormgegeven. Enige minpunt daarbij is de slechte kwaliteit van de foto's.

In KLEM 107 Dit Britse blad over "explorations in sound and music " heeft waarschijnlijk een van de laagste verschijningsfrequenties van aIle hier besproken periodieken: in de af-gelopen 5 jaar verschenen in totaal 10 uitgaves. Dus gemiddeld 2 per jaar.... In de redactionele tekst in Audion #44 schrijft een van de twee makers, Alan Freeman, dat ze erg druk zijn met hun an-dere aktiviteiten. Dat is met name het runnen van hun winkel en postorderbe-drijf 'Ultima Thule'. 1k kan me, als maker van een tijdschrift, heel goed voorstellen hoe Iastig dat te cornbineren is...
Het muziekgebied dat ze bestrijken om-schrijven ze zelf als "Between prog and the avant-garde, via the new age to new wave, to post rock, or whatever new genre names they have come up with re-cently!". Op een andere plek schrijven ze daarover: "Audion's role is to try and give a voice to the music that many other magazines overlook, or at least give a dif-ferent viewpoint on things, to help you open up to music you may otherwise never encounter." Om je een idee te ge-yen, hier wat namen: Mythos, Ozric Ten-tacles, Robert Rich, Roedelius, Bjorn Lynne, Dieter Moebius, Sussan Deyhirn, Einsturzende Neubauten, The Flower Kings, IQ, Spock's Beard, Splattercell, Vidna Obrnana, White Noise, Third Ear Band, RUdiger Lorenz, Bernard Szajner, Brainticket en Ash Ra Tern pel.
Het blad is opA4 formaat, in zwartlwit, en telt ruim 40 pagina's. Je treft er rubrieken aan met nieuws over musici, releaselijs-ten, reviews van her-uitgaves, enkele concert- en festivalbesprekingen, spe-cials over bepaalde labels (bijvoorbeeld DiN en Electroshock), boekbesprekin-gen, een special over avant-garde mu-ziek, een serie over Franse experimen-tele muziek, heel veel cd-besprekingen en kontakt-adressen. Verder staan er veel advertenties in van labels en winkels met een grote collectie bijzondere mu-ziek. Er staan wat foto's en hoes-af-drukken in het blad, maar de kwaliteit daarvan is vrij slecht.
Al met aIls Audion een blad voor de Iief-hebbers van de wat 'vreemdere' of 'expe-rimentelere' muziek. De vakkennis van de auteurs Steve en Alan Freeman is overigens fenomenaal....

From The Golden Age (Eurock) CD-Rom

... And then along came Audion, edited by two of the most knowledgeable (and obsessive) Euro-rock fans ever: Steve and Alan Freeman. It was actually kind of inevitable; they'd written for most of the UK 'zines, started up a cassette label, Auricle, then a mail order business and finally (?) a record shop in Leicester called Ultima Thule. Renowned for their mind-boggling knowledge of the minutiae of Krautrock, the Freemans carried the crusade throughout the '80s and on into the '90s, covering not just alternative music from Germany, but also the rest of Europe, America and beyond. If I had a criticism, then I am a little mystified as to why Audion avoids the '90s alternative electronica/ambient scene that arose from club culture. Even Krautrock Granddaddy Klaus Schulze testifies to the "If you can't beat them, join them" axiom. That said, there are few 'zines to beat Audion. [David Elliott - Eurock Golden Age, 2000]

Audion answer: simple - we don't like it! Our axiom is: if we don't like it we'll say so!
This is why Audion, Ultima Thule (and the music we make) is different.


Ultima Thule

ULTIMA THULE (1 Conduit Street, Leicester LE2 OJN)

'The New-Music Specialists" they claim, rather dubiously I have to say. Vast catalogue of imported and homegrown new music; experimental, post-industrial, avant garde, New Age, synthesizer, "progressive" rock and so on. They also produce AUDION magazine (see elsewhere for review) and the mail-order service shares that zine's particular musical bias. Their own cassette label, Auricle, has releases loads of music by similar artists, from the obscure (Biomechanoid) to the not quite so obscure (Asmus Tietchens, Conrad Schnitzler). Recent catalogues ran to 60 pages including various supplements, full of excellent, hard to find music, although now that they also run a proper shop, mail-order lists are a lot less informative. [EST #1, Summer 1991]

UT divide their mail-order catalogue up into categories of Rock & Fusion (the largest), Synth & New Age, and Avant Garde & Experimental, which gives a good idea of their coverage. They have a retail shop at the same address, which I'd love to visit and their an indispensable tool for any hardened "new music" record-hunter. [EST #3, Summer 1992]

UT's 1992 catalogue is out now, and a mammoth 48 page affair it is too. It'll cost you £1 in the UK (p2.20 elsewhere), but it's well worth it if you're interested in progressive rock, synth / new age music, or (to a lesser extent) more difficult, avant-garde, post-industrial styles. Each artist is listed with at least a paragraph of comments, making it quite a handy reference guide too. UT also run a retail shop and produce the magazine Audion. [EST #4, Winter 1992]

Ultima Thule is the distribution arm of Audion Magazine, run by Steve and Alan Freeman. They publish two catalogs six times a year (one for CDs, another for new and used vinyl items), and like Wayside, have an annual catalog that lists all the tings that are stocked year round. Having dealt with them many times now, I've found the service to be good, and fairly prompt. It's best to call and reserve the items first, especially when ordering used vinyl that moves through stock quickly. Visa and MC accepted. [Exposé #3, June 1994]

This page was created in February 2002 by Alan Freeman (with only link corrections, formatting, and some translation since).

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