Demdike Stare

(Copyright © 2010 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )
Symbiosis (2009), 8/10
Forest of Evil (2010), 6.5/10 (mini)
Liberation Through Hearing (2010), 7/10 (mini)
Voices of Dust (2010), 5.5/10 (mini)
Tryptych (2011), 7.5/10 (compilation)
Elemental (2012), 7/10 (compilation)
Anworth Kirk: Anworth Kirk (2010), 6/10
Anworth Kirk: Avonwaith (2011), 6/10
Anworth Kirk: Shacklecross (2012), 6/10
Test Pressing (2014), 6/10
Wonderland (2016), 4.5/10
Passion (2018), 5/10

Demdike Stare, Manchester's duo of dj Sean Canty and dub producer Miles Whittaker (also in Pendle Coven, MLZ and Daughter of the Industrial Revolution), debuted with the brainy blend of dub, ethnic music and minimal techno of Symbiosis (Modern Love, 2009) that was basically a companion work to Pendle Coven's Self Assessment (2009) with the addition of Sean Canty's passion for exotic music (the swirling Turkish courtly dance of Jannisary, the percussive "African" ritualistic dance Conjoined) and a broader chromatic palette (the pagan dub-charleston orgy of Haxan, the pulsing surrealistic musique concrete of Extwhistle Hall, the fibrillating Morton Subotnick-ian Nothing But The Night). However, the real protagonist was the gloomy psychological depth of pieces like the gothic, glitchy, industrial Suspicious Drone the murky, subhuman, swampy, hypnotic Haxan Dub (and nonetheless contagiously danceable), the duet of sinister knocking and watery vibrations in Regressor, the acid electronica and childish android noises of All Hallows Eve, and the densely electrical Ghostly Hardware, basically a soundtrack for power lines. This album pushed the envelop of dubstep way into abstract soundpainting, expanding in multiple directions and sometimes within the same piece, while at the same time retaining an amazing degree of cohesiveness. In other words, this album belongs more to the history of avantgarde classical music than to the history of popular dance music.

The duo then delivered three mini-albums. Forest of Evil (Modern Love, 2010) contains two lengthy pieces: the 14-minute Dusk is a concerto for ethereal galactic drones, evoking celestial landscapes (alas the duo felt the need to turn it into a lame syncopated dance jam); while the the ten-minute Dawn is a polyrhythmic dance driven by booming tribal tom-toms that decays in the void of the beginning. Liberation Through Hearing (2010), their psychological peak, contains futuristic Brian Eno-esque vignettes. Caged In Stammheim sounds like an epic episode of android cinema. Eurydice is claustrophobic industrial music morphing into braindead vibrations. Regolith is a dissolute blend of crappy noise, metronymic beats and siren-like blares. The Stars Are Moving is the ultimate astronomical observatory soundtrack: a swarm of wasps and a muffled Wagnerian choir battle with a skittish beat sequence all the way into the black-hole apocalypse. The only drawback is the longest piece, Matilda's Dream, an oceanic tide that feels aimless. Voices of Dust (2010) is a more facile work, from the pan-ethnic collage Hashshashin Chant to the eleven-minute ambient techno of Repository Of Light, from the mindless dance Viento De Levante Alas, it also contains several pieces that are redundant. For example, not much happens in the ten-minute Filtered Through Prejudice and in the nine-minute Indian-tinged Past Is Past. The psychological zenith comes with the melancholy cacophony of Desert Ascetic, worthy of chamber electroacoustic music, and the foghorn sonata of Leptonic Matter.

The triple-disc Tryptych (2011) collects all three, adding to each a few bonus tracks, like the simple dance of Library of Solomon.

The double-disc Elemental (Modern Love, 2012) collects the four EPs Chrysanthe, Violetta, Rose and Iris, although many songs are offered in alternate versions. Overall they seem to form a progression towards a bleaker and bleaker vision. The double-disc album begins with the non-EP bubbling, looping overture New Use for Old Circuits. Chrysanthe contains: Mephisto's Lament, a piece of purely abstract electronica that builds a tragic tension and evokes the vision of abominable monsters; the ominous cavernous rumble evolving into cyclical factory music of Kommunion; and the ghostly vocal samples morphing into a deep funereal hissing of Unction; all of which exude a sense of impending doom within claustrophobic and catastrophic atmospheres. Classy expressionism.
Violetta is even more radical: the chaotic demented Middle-eastern dubstep Mnemosyne, the subliminal industrial music of In The Wake Of Chronos, the droning "deep-listening" minimalism of 10th Floor Stairwell, and the chamber piano sonata over skitting beats of Violetta seem to offer a panorama of avantgarde music of the last century. However, they feel like mere demonstrations, baroque replicas, cold didactic postmodernist essays; a fact confirmed by the way vocal samples are transformed into a techno pulsation in Metamorphosis and the way the multifaceted drone of All This is Ours expands into cosmic music. Fanatical form, but little substance.
Rose returns to the expressionism of Chrysanthe and with a vengeance: Erosion Of Mediocrity is a hammering whirling sufi dance with carpet bombins in the background, high-octane ceremonial dance music; Nuance, is a psychoanalytical nightmare, a throbbing heartbeat-like beat buried inside a volley of anguished electronic laments; Falling Off The Edge is a symphony of celestial "om"'s over primordial raga-like percussion and industrial metronomes.
Iris is the least coherent of the four, ranging from the electroacoustic psychedelia of Dauerlinie to the static choir of Dasein, and from the polyrhythmic loop of We Have Already Died to the pounding techno-dub of Ishmael's Intent, one of their most driving dancefloor creations.
Demdike Stare thrive at multiple levels. Erosion Of Mediocrity and Ishmael's Intent are there to prove that this is still dance-music, but Falling Off The Edge and Kommunion clearly scrape the metaphysical realm, and Nuance delves deep into the most disturbed psyche.

Anworth Kirk (Finders Keepers' Andy Votel and Sean Canty of Demdike) indulged in collages of found sounds bordering on a sociomusical form of musique concrete on Anworth Kirk (Pre-Cert, 2010), Avonwaith (Pre-Cert, 2011) and Shacklecross (Pre-Cert, 2012). Each has some intriguing sections but too much filler. The beginning of Avonwaith, after the spoken-word section, is particularly effective as slow martial beats creates an atmosphere of suspense that increases with tinkling keyboards and bells. The second side of the album begins in an austere and menacing mode but then turns too childish and erratic to hold one's attention.

Applehead, an Anworth Kirk side-project (the same duo), basically created a demented high-art mixtape of Italian disco-music of the 1970s on Applehead De Applehead (Pre-Cert, 2011).

(Translation by/ Tradotto da Giulio Bassanello)

I Demdike Stare, duo di Manchester formato dal dj Sean Canty e dal produttore di dub Miles Whittaker (membro anche dei Pendle Coven, MLZ e i Daughter of the Industrial Revolution), ha debuttato con la brillante miscela di dub e musica etnica con la techno minimal di Symbiosis (Modern Love, 2009) che era fondamentalmente un simile di Self Assessment (2009) dei Pendle Coven con lĠaggiunta della passione di Sean Canty per la musica esotica (la turca Jannisary, lĠafricana Conjoined) e una tavolozza cromatica pi varia (gli arguti passi dub-charleston di Haxan, la fibrillazione subotnickiana di Nothing But The Night). In ogni caso, vero protagonista  il cupo abisso di pezzi come lĠoscura subumana e viscida Haxan Dub, il duetto di colpi spettrali e vibrazioni acquatiche in Regressor, lĠelettronica acida e i cenni puerili di All Hallows Eve e lĠelettronica densa di Ghostly Hardware, niente altro che una colonna sonora per tralicci elettrici.


Il duo ha poi pubblicato due mini-album. Forest of Evil (Modern Love, 2010) contiene due pezzi lunghi: Dusk, da quattordici minuti,  un concerto per droni galattici ed eterei, evocativo di paesaggi celestiali (purtroppo il duo ha sentito poi il bisogno di trasformarlo in una jam dance stupida e sincopata); mentre Dawn, da dieci minuti,  una danza poliritmica guidata da tamburi tribali in crescendo che si altera nellĠabisso dellĠinizio. Liberation Through Hearing (2010), il loro picco psicologico, contiene vignette futuristiche che rimandano a Brian Eno. Caged In Stammheim sembra un episodio epico del cinema sugli androidi. Eurydice  musica industriale claustrofobica che si trasforma in vibrazioni senza vita. Regolith  un miscuglio di rumore schifoso, beat matronimici e squilli incantatori. The Stars Are Moving  la definitiva colonna sonora da osservatorio astronomico: uno sciame di vespe e una sorta di coro wagneriano danno battaglia a un nervosa sequenza di battiti completamente rivolta allĠapocalisse da buco nero. LĠunico inconveniente  costituito dal brano pi lungo, MathildaĠs Dream, unĠonda oceanica che soffre di inutilitˆ. Voices of Dust (2010)  un lavoro pi semplice, dal collage pan-etnico di Hashshashin Chant alla techno ambient da undici minuti di Repository Of Light, alla dance dissennata di Viento De Levante. Ahim, lĠalbum contiene molti pezzi ripetitivi. Per esempio, non ci sono colpi di scena nella traccia da dieci minuti Filtered Through Prejudice e in quella da nove minuti colorata di tinte indiane Past Is Past. Lo zenit psicologico giunge con la cacofonia malinconica di Desert Ascetic, degna della musica da camera elettronico-acustica, e la sonata dalla voce grossa di Leptonic Matter.

La tripla uscita Tryptych (2011) raccoglie i tre album, aggiungendo a ognuno di essi qualche bonus track, come la danza modesta di Library of Solomon.


Il doppio disco Elemental (Modern Love, 2012) raccoglie i quattro EP Chrysanthe, Violetta, Rose e Iris, anche se molte canzoni sono presenti in versioni alternative. Nel complesso sembrano formare una progressione verso una visione via via sempre pi cupa. Il doppio disco comincia con la borbottante e avvolgente overture New Use for Old Circuits, non facente parte di alcun EP. Chrysanthe contiene: MephistĠs Lament, un brano di elettronica puramente astratta che crea una tensione tragica ed evoca la visione di mostri abominevoli; lĠinfausto e cavernoso boato che evolve in una ciclica musica da fabbrica di Kommunion; le spettrali campionature vocali che diventano un sibilo profondo e funereo di Unction; ognuna di queste trasuda un senso di destino incombente entro atmosfere claustrofobiche e catastrofiche. Raffinato espressionismo.


Violetta  ancor pi radicale: la caotica e folle dubstep mediorientale di Mnemosyne, la musica industriale subliminale di In The Wake Of Chronos, il minimalismo bisbigliante da Òdeep listeningÓ di 10th Floor Stairwell, e la sonata da camera per piano forte sovrapposta a battiti nervosi di Violetta sembra offrire uno spiraglio di musica dĠavanguardia dellĠultimo secolo. Comunque, tali brani danno la percezione di mere esercitazioni, repliche barocche, freddi e postmodernisti saggi didattici; fatto confermato dal modo in cui le campionature vocali sono trasformate in pulsazioni techno in Metamorphosis e in cui il brusio sfaccettato di All This is Ours si espande in musica cosmica. Forma esaltata, ma ben poca sostanza.

Rose ritorna allĠespressionismo di Chrysanthe, e con vendetta: Erosion Of Mediocrity  una roteante e martellante danza sufi con bombardamenti a tappeto in sottofondo, musica dance cerimoniale al tritolo; Nuance  un incubo psicanalitico, un fremito simile al battito del cuore umano sepolto in una scarica di strazianti lamenti elettronici; Falling Off The Edge  una sinfonia di ÒomÓ celestiali sovrapposta a primordiali percussioni raga e metronomi industrial.

Iris  il meno coerente dei quattro, spaziando dalla psichedelia elettronico-acustica di Dauerlinie al coro statico di Dasein, e dal loop poliritmico di We Have Already Died alla bastonante techo-dub di IshmaelĠs Intent, una delle loro creazioni dancefloor pi trascinanti.


I Demdike Stare si sviluppano su differenti livelli. Erosions Of Mediocrity e IshmaelĠs Intent provano con la loro presenza che la loro  ancora musica dance, ma Falling Off The Edge e Kommunion intaccano chiaramente il loro regno metafisico, e Nuance si addentra nella psiche pi disturbata.


Gli Anworth Kirk (di Andy Votel dei Finders Keepers e Sean Cant dei Demdike) si sono concessi dei collage di suoni ritrovati avvicinandosi a una forma socio-musicale di musique concrte in Anworth Kirk (Pre-Cert, 2010), Avonwaith (Pre-Cert, 2011) e Shacklecross (Pre-Cert, 2012).


Gli Applehead, un progetto alternativo degli Anworth Kirk (lo stesso duo), hanno in pratica creato un collage assurdo della disco music italiana anni Ġ70 in Applehead De Applehead (Pre-Cert, 2011).

Demdike Stare released six limited-edition EPs titled Test Pressings (Modern Love, 2013 & 2014) that explored a sort of "dancefloor" alter-ego. This time it was all about the rhythm. Rhythm does not exist from the beginning. Some of the pieces are documentaries about its organic growth out of nowhere. Collision is about lashing electronics turning into abrasive torture slowly revealing the beats and then being dwarfed by the increasing clangor of the metallic and wooden timbres. The ten-minute Dyslogy is initially just an ominous but shapeless raga-like drone. Its heartbeat comes to the surface forcefully and bends the drone to an industrial-grade hiss. The subdued bee-like buzzing that begins Fail grows into a pow-wow dance amid strident drones. Perhaps the most virtuoso demonstration comes from Primitive Equations, whose collage of found sounds segues naturally into a drum & bass jam. When the rhythm preexists the music, the results are less spectacular: Misappropriation toys with an African voodoo-style rhythm; the frenzied polyrhythm of Null Results does little to expand; 40 Years Under The Cosh simply shows how a simple groove can be amplified into a maelstrom of symphonic grandeur; the solemn Past Majesty sounds like a parody of doom-metal; and the elastic, bouncing Eulogy sounds like a remix of Giorgio Moroder's From Here to Eternity. One of the bleakest numbers, Frontin' is a duet between power-drill vibrations and a Martian martial beat. Equally nerve-wracking is Grows Without Bound, a sort of melody repeated by flaming electrical short-circuits. And Procrastination, another African-inspired piece, sums up the underlying neurosis with a march of howling industrial zombies.

Demdike Stare's Miles Whittaker and Andy Stott were also active as Millie & Andrea, a project documented on Drop the Vowels (2014).

The "Testpressing" series of singles reworked (deconstructed?) old compositions into neurotic dancefloor jams.

Wonderland (Modern Love, 2016) focused on the beat, but too little went into the rest. The result is trivial industrial dance music like Curzon The ten-minute Hardnoise toys with a random selection of ideas but find none worthy of more than a passing mention. Sourcer picks on drum & bass and hip hop but, again, fails to cohere. There are few moments of delight here. Animal Style sets in motion a deconstructed Jamaican fanfare but they don't know what to do with it after three minutes. Overstaying warps ambient house into an almost jazz jam, but doesn't have the courage (or inspiration) to elaborate and instead ends abruptly with twenty seconds of found street noise. Too little thinking (or, for that matter, rehearsing) went into this album.

Distracted by their own DDS label (that was releasing music from Shinichi Atobe, Mica Levi, and Equiknoxx), Miles Whittaker and Sean Canty continued the "deconstructionist" program of the "Testpressing" singles. with the patchy double-EP Passion (Modern Love, 2018). New Fakes is haunted by a hurricane cloud and drifts into expressionistic cosmic music. The distorted whirlwind of the seven-minute At It Again gives birth to a deformed drum'n'bass beat. You People Are Fucked is almost psychological horror with its mix of thumping heart, grating distortions and vicious voices. The twisted march of Caps Have Gone and the stuttering ballet for bulldozers Pile Up are moderately consumable, with a peak of danceability in the slippery polyrhythm of Cracked that even displays a ghost of a melody (in the hyperbass frequency). But mostly this feels like the lightweight soundtrack for an art installation rather than profound musical statements.

(Translation by/ Tradotto da xxx)

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(Copyright © 2010 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )
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