Friday, October 23, 2015

Cassette Review: Absent Sound “Black Dots” (Custom Made Music)


What I would expect from a band called Absent Sound is for them to be rather minimal and even closer to the drone side of music.   These are the types of sounds I’ve been hearing on the past few cassettes I’ve listened to so it would really come as no surprise but yet still seems to just be my impression based upon the name.    However, Absent Sound is not afraid to fill up Side B with sound as it is only one song and there are two songs on Side A.    I’ve written recently about how I don’t like when artists have standard 60 or 90 minute cassettes from Sony or whatever, which you can tell were probably bought at Walmart or FYE, and then they have this twenty minute EP but feel the need to fill the entire cassette.   Luckily, Absent Sound doesn’t have this type of blank cassette and also doesn’t seem to be just trying to fill the void.

On the first song there is a back and forth spacey sitar sound.   The tape itself sounds a little bit warped and it isn’t just a matter of being at the beginning, as it can sometimes be, but throughout the entirety and I’m not sure whether it is intentional or not.    This becomes a strong Oriental/Kung Fu Panda vibe which begins to build and yet somehow maintains the same moderate tempo.      The way it retains the sound is almost like drone, but it has this feeling to it where it is changing even if it is not actually changing.   It just feels like an audio illusion.

The second song begins with a drum machine fading in and out.    In some ways, I think of the first song as being the music you might hear on the title screen in a video game and this second song has more of the straight up playing a video game sound.   Singing does come out as well and yet no matter how many times I listen to this I cannot find something to compare it with other than the song which came before it.    Knowing that this doesn’t really have that point of comparison though, not even to be able to type something as simple as “It has a bit of The Beatles in it” makes me happy for the originality.

Side B is the third and final song and it does go on for quite some time.   It begins as a happy jingle with guitar notes rattling out harmonies.    There are lo-fi vocals and a vaguely familiar indie rock feel which I just cannot seem to place.     Through the sea of distortion comes more music than vocals and even though this is obviously not instrumental I still wish there was a way to distinguish music which has a lot more music than vocals in it because that type of almost-instrumental music is definitely something of which I am a fan.

If there is another artist to compare Absent Sound with I haven’t heard them yet and that really says something because I’ve listened to a lot of music.   It seems like one week I’m typing about how I don’t want to hear a certain thing (filler music) and then this cassette comes along and goes to show you how to make a cassette that can have that length other artists seem to desire without giving up any sort of quality.    This should serve as an example to any artist out there with not enough content to fill a 60 or 90 minute blank cassette but I really just feel like a lot of this cassette is setting a standard for other artists in every way. 


Rushing Rhythmic Dreams – Beat Route


Absent Sound

rushing rhythmic dreams

By Jen Caswell
Beat Route, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Winnipeg’s Absent Sound draws inspiration from the literal wilderness of northern Manitoba to, in the words of front man Rob Menard, “a different kind of wilderness,” New York City’s urban frontier. Pushing their own boundaries, founding member Menard and a group of likeminded Winnipeg musicians and artists come together to create deeply felt, trance-inducing hypnotic tracks inspired by the pulse they feel emanating from the real and dream worlds they experience.

After wrapping up a quick two week western Canada tour that started at the end of April in their hometown and rolls in to Calgary on May 5, Rob shares that the group will head in to record an EP of new material on the May long weekend. If all goes well, a full length disc will follow up their 2005 effort, It’s All True. From there the ambient sounds and visual dreamscapes will float on with performances at the Superstarcastic Festival in Chicago, the 10,000 Lakes Festival in Detroit Lakes, Minnesota and at Dogstock in Kansas later this summer. Before heading out on the festival circuit for the summer Absent Sound will be playing June 21 at ElementSircus, a solstice celebration that they put on in Winnipeg twice every year.

In the coming year, Absent Sound will look to increase the strength of the pulse they not only feel but create with possible tours in both Europe and the United States. Returning to Calgary for the first time in over three years, Absent Sound will play the Cathedral Church of the Redeemer on Saturday, May 5, 2007. New and old fans alike will not want to miss this latest art installation of visual, lyrical and musical collaboration of rushing, rhythmic dreams brought to life in absent sound. 

Damo Suzuki with Absent Sound at ElementSircus – Uptown Magazine

Don Beat

Drums and other acoustic tricks stuck a jabber into me as I approached the Ruins via the dusty parking lot on June 21, while the Fo!ps (or something just as crazy) washed the several hundred audience members with noise. Citronella travelled on a slight breeze and got rid of the mosquitoes – which was a great treat. A more spectacular evening couldn’t be hoped for, weather-wise – and, as it turned out, entertainment-wise as well. 

Hangin’ with the costumed and very moonlit Mahogany Frog and Absent Sound guys and their face-painted pals during Tone Canoe & the Electric Paddle – the performer actually played the dry-landed floaty thing – was a refreshing way to clear my head of any city noise still beepin’ in there. 

After watching the always-entertaining Fire Pyxies juggle orbs of flame, checking out a pleasant, head-boppin’ set by High Five Drive, and taking a much-needed trek along the river, The Absent Sound started playing around 1 a.m. 

Former Can member Damo Suzuki joined Absent Sound for the resultant two-hour jam that was not without flaws but engagingly over-the-top and correspondingly repulsive and unrefined in a fabulously entertaining way. The Absent Sound plodded along as a word-possessed Suzuki rapid-fired a type of half-sung/half-spoken rappin’ scat, channeled through the bellowing spirit of Howlin’ Wolf – only there was nothing bluesy or perhaps even understood about it. 

Just when the audience thought the initial half-hour volley was done, the original ploddy tempo shifted amidst applause and Suzuki was off again – whizzing out lines of verbiage unlike anything any ElementSircus attendee had ever seen. The gig was a sonic masterpiece and a successful collaboration of what I hope will be many great solstice celebrations to come. 

The core organizers of this show: Absent Sound, Paulette LaFortune/Sweet Spot Productions, Kristen Andrews/Ragpickers, Mahogany Frog and a ton of volunteers should be thanked forever for this inspiring, amazing and totally unpretentious solstice celebration.

Absent Sound Gathering of the Clan Mothers – The Silent Ballet

The Absent Sound – Gathering of the Clan Mothers
2-Ply Collective

Score: 7.5/10

Infinite skies. Bottomless oceans. Ageless, bullying mountains. The basic building blocks of nature– showing their prettiest side– have always somehow entangled themselves with instrumental and post-rock music. The evocation of nature seems to come prepackaged with muddled tremolos and soaring buildups that smack up sound-scapes with precision and often more than not, sheer force. But why nature? Perhaps it’s as simple as the organic quality of the genre, or the fact that such potent tunes parallel with the formidable strength of Mother Nature and her offspring frighteningly well. Or, maybe it’s just the fact that wordless songs need something else to be matched with, without the bulk of lyrics weighing them down. Regardless, Winnipeg’s The Absent Sound, taking an interesting approach to their instrumental project through traditional post-rock and ambient methods, somehow manage quite well to avoid the canned post-concept, and, in doing so, dodge quite a few of the typical musical stereotypes; one being the overwrought sky/ocean allegory.

The group’s fourth record opens with “Jack-in-the-box-lullaby,” a winding 12 minute piece that sets the tone for the remainder of the disc. Hushed, tumescent melodies swim along here with the hum of a quavering chant for over 3 minutes, ending in a fade to silence. Before you can take a full breath, the vacant air is pierced with the seemingly out of place, but completely welcome sound of acoustic strings, that quickly lock themselves into a looping pattern with the since returned ambience. There is something entirely refreshing about this. The music beams without becoming blinding and manages to incorporate a number of elements into one, congealed sound that cannot be easily cast aside into one genre or another. The track eventually trails off with a stream of whispers and a dying steam engine in the background, accompanied by the gentle gleam of classical strings. In one word: complete.

With the surface of so many elements scraped in the opening track, it’s interesting to see which path the band chose to continue down. “Medicine” makes it clear, several minutes in, that if The Absent Sound must focus on one thing, it’s textures. The patterns here are even more prominent, looping and swirling around themselves, creating a mishmash of abstract sound, with guitar, strings, and percussion all joining in, splattering a wall with a variety of distinct colors. Despite this complexity, the music retains a light stoicism, phosphorescently revealing its intricacies as the song plays out.

“Raising the Heavy Veil” is again loaded thick with ambient patterns. However, instead of stashing the track with delicacies to be discovered under layers of textures, like some sort of lost treasure, the song employs a somewhat traditional buildup and payoff, complete with echoed chants and dilated drum work. Still though, it’s far from falling into some post-rock catch-all. The textures alone make it stand out, like hygiene at a Silver Mt. Zion show.

I realize “ambient patterns” is a pretty loose, freely interpretable phrase. In some ways, the techniques and atmosphere built by the band are difficult to translate. For the most part, though, they straddle a universe between tight-lipped drone projects like Stars of the Lid and louder, still passive bands, like Because of Ghosts. Unlike the former, the patterns on Gathering of the Clan Mothers don’t drift aimlessly like runaway clouds. Instead, they are controlled and with purpose, crafted with precision, yet produced with an underlying subtlety. I’m aware my job is to describe this to you, to help you understand what exactly you’re going to hear when you pop the CD into your stereo, but there is simply something about the overall feel and aim of this disc that deserves a firsthand experience.

The album closes with “If I Fall, I Will Flay,” another track that utilizes some traditional post-rockness (this time it’s the military-style drumming and Efrim-ish vocals at the end), but still plays like something curiously new. What exactly that “new” component is will ultimately be left up to subjective ears, however, I do believe it has something to do with my earlier reference to Mother Nature. Rather than create songs that are matched to pre-existing fixtures, The Absent Sound use their unique textures and fabric of sound to present the listener with a blank canvas to draw their own dreams, their own world if desired, that grow accordingly and at their will. Those that are tired of music that sets out to conquer the listener with boxed explosions, will find a happy alternative with Gathering of the Clan Mothers; a record that operates on an amicable level, engaging the listener in an uncontentious, intimate form of willowy humanism.

-Jonathan Brooks

Written By: host of The Silent Ballet, USA
Date Posted: 10/9/2007

Absent Sound Gathering of the Clan Mothers – Now Like Photographs Radio K

Absent Sound 
Gathering of the Clan Mothers 
2-Ply Collective

nowlikephotographs Radio K, Minneapolis, MN, USA
Jan. 20th/ 2008

Not officially released until March 1st, we got our hands on an advance copy of this Canadian outfit’s newest disc to get you excited for a very epic instrumental 2008. Listening to their string-laden atmospherics, juggling both neo-classical and post-rock aesthetics, finding out that they’re most notorious for their collaborations with art installations comes to no surprise. Often including everything from film projection to contemporary dancers, this is the definition of sprawling instrumental art rock. Get cultured with a track in our weekly nowlikephotographs podcast.

© 2008

Top 10 Records

1. Absent Sound
Gathering of the Clan Mothers
2-Ply Collective
2. Jonny Greenwood
There Will Be Blood: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
3. Sankt Otten
Wunden Gibt Es Immer Wieder
Hidden Shoal
4. Japancakes
5. The Yoleus
Nightmare Circle Vision
6. Akira Kosemura + Haruka Nakamura
7. Motoro Faam
…And Water Cycles
8. Olafur Arnalds
Eulogy for Evolution
Erased Tapes
9. To Be a High Powered Executive
We Don’t Want it Safe, We Want it Secret
Ropeadope Digital
10. Hermitage
As in Open Spaces

Absent Sound, present booming – The Manitoban

Absent Sound, present booming


Absent Sound stands behind a big coloured thing.
Absent Sound has been a familiar band to the Winnipeg music scene for a few years now and have been slowly but surely attracting more and more attention. Combining hypnotic sounds and unique live performances, they are not a group that is easily forgotten. Member Rob Menard describes the group as follows: “Engaging, atmospheric, dream-like ambiance are the powerful elements in the music of Absent Sound. These puppet masters wield a musical arsenal, creating huge dramatic worlds of sound with organic chants, colossal guitars, hypnotic off-time record
scratches, beats, loops, and Lesley speaker keyboard drones: ears open and eyes closed is all the flight attendant requests.”
This of course only describes what you would be listening to if you saw Absent Sound play. What you would be watching, while maintaining that engaging, atmospheric, dream-like ambiance, is something incredibly exciting. Incorporating a variety of creative elements into their live performance, the band creates a unique and beautiful world that pulls the audience in. As Menard says, “Absent Sound’s live show puts them in the realm of an art installation: employing at times performance art, multiple television sets, performance painting, film projection, contemporary dancers, and stilt-walking pantomime. Winnipeg’s creatively fertile filmmaking community has also perfectly complemented their music.”
Absent Sound are quite active when it comes to performing, and this spring is looking to be no different. They will be performing at this year’s Nuna Icelandic Festival taking place right here in Winnipeg. The Nuna Festival is a convergence of art between Iceland and Manitoba. There are a variety of artists involved who all share, in some way, an Icelandic connection, and an interest in exploring the creativity shared by the two countries. In the case of Absent Sound, they were invited to attend because of Menard’s Icelandic heritage.
Absent Sound’s upcoming April 26 performance at the beautiful Ellice Theatre, like any of their shows, will be sure to entertain and mesmerize all in attendance. Early Absent Sound performances included just two people, Dave Fort and Rob Menard, but since then they have started to expand by incorporating new instruments, people and ideas. Menard describes the group’s lineup for the performance thusly: “Playing with Absent Sound are Rob Menard, guitars, vocals, samples and loops, David Fort, guitar, bass, vocals, Josh Butcher, organs, vocals, Kelly Castle, drums, percussion, Boudicca, shamanic performance art, Natalia Zielinski, violin, and Doreen Girard, cello.” Opening for the band that evening are The Fo!ps and Philia.
After the festival, the group heads westward for a short two-week trip, shortly after which they’ll head to the Superstarcastic Festival in Chicago, taking place June 1. Then, on June 21, they will be playing at ElementSircus, a solstice celebration that they put on in Winnipeg twice every year. This year they will be performing with legendary vocalist Damo Suzuki from the equally legendary German band Can. They will also be accompanying Suzuki for a few dates on his North American tour. “Our Waterloo show with Damo Suzuki will be recorded by the infamous Darryl Neudorf [who has been a producer for Neko Case, the Sadies, and the New Pornographers] and possibly be put out by Damo himself,” says Menard.
Absent Sound’s live performance, whether it’s with Damo Suzuki or not, is a show not to be missed. With the addition of the new members, sounds, and performances, Absent Sound look more ready to blow your minds and ears than ever before. So, bring $7, go support those people with Icelandic heritage (like myself) and check out one of Winnipeg’s best and most creative bands.

Absent Sound, It’s All True – Winnipeg Free Press

Winnipeg soundscape artists David Fort and Rob Menard finally get the engineering they deserve, thanks to producer Craig Boychuk, who’s better known as a punk-rock guy. The Absent Sound’s long, slow-moving guitar-and-keyboard compositions rely on nuanced textures and careful layering — this is all about the mood, not the melody, so lean back on the couch and enjoy the trip. [Bartley Kives, Winnipeg Free Press]

Absent Sound, It’s All True – Exclaim Magazine

For the past few years, Absent Sound have been offering some of the more engaging music to come out of Winnipeg. The group’s latest shows them charting an absorbing course through diverse waters. Submerged melodies rise out of textured drones and then descend, leaving gentle echoes in their wake. The group’s playfulness is also in fine form as they deconstruct a rock’n’roll classic during “Sinking Out of Body” and turn it into a dizzying, off-kilter piece. Throughout its varied songs, It’s All True features the band’s most compelling marriage of loops, samples and digitally delayed guitars. [Rob Nay, Exclaim Magazine December 19, 2005] 

Absent Sound, It’s All True – Winnipeg Sun

STYLE: Ambient post-rock mesmerism for the sensory-deprivation tank.
SUBSTANCE: Hypnotic Frippertronic guitarpeggios. Gregorian chants. Submarine-sonar beeps. Murky aquatic sonics. A busted jack-in-the-box. Songs that move and change as gracefully and imperceptibly as clouds in the sky. And all of it wrapped in packaging that folds in on itself as elegantly as the music. If this is familiar, we suspect you have already had your little mind blown by the sonic shapeshifters of The Absent Sound. If not, seek out this sophomore set with all post-rock post-haste. Then don the headphones, douse the lights, and let them bathe you in radiation while they pen tone poems to God on the inside of your brain pan. It’s All True is music to open your third eye.
STANDOUTS: The 22-minute centrepiece The Way the Land Lay is as majestically expansive, hauntingly stark and understatedly beautiful as the prairie it evokes. The lilting Ragamuffin is a 7/4 spliff of math-reggae. And Sinking Out of Body may be the finest piece of Venusian bluegrass you hear — at least until the warp drive is perfected. [Darryl Sterdan – Winnipeg Sun – January 17th, 2006]

Soundscapes for the 20th Century – Brandon Sun

In the early 20th century, when Arnold Schoenberg devised dodecaphony – a series of 12 repeated tones – to give atonality (the absence of a specific key) some context, I doubt he ever envisioned his idea developing into what The Absent Sound has been creating.
However, it is not impossible to draw a historical link between the two musical approaches. The thing to remember is that these contemporary Winnipeg-based musicians have technology on their side as well as all of the successful and not quite so successful experimental music between Schoenberg and today’s composers from which to learn and glean – consciously or not.
The Absent Sound’s It’s All True is a happy marriage between synthesized and acoustic music, melodic fragmentation and sound manipulation.
Guitarists Dave Fort (formerly of Brandon) and Rob Menard, with guests Kristen Andrews on bass clarinet and Sebastian Podsiadlo on drums, have devised a means to produce more than just ambient noise with repeated guitar licks, synthesized rhythms, and vocal modulations.
The series of seemingly arbitrary loops and samples are each circular in nature – like their 20th-century predecessors – and through each of the seven cuts, the musicians massage these tone clusters – mini melodies in fact – making them grow and recede in dynamics, bringing each of the elements to the forefront and retiring them into the background.
Together, the cleverly independent musical entities interconnect while on their own path, creating not simply an atmospheric aural landscape, but an intense, organic, all-encompassing entity that is also circular in nature.
The seven tracks on It’s All True, the duo’s third album, are hypnotic, soothing, at times conjuring up the desolate sound of the wind, the rustling of leaves, while hinting at eastern-flavoured music.
On particularly stressful days, I know what is now going into my CD player.
[Joanne F. Villeneuve, Brandon Sun – October 30th, 2005]

Big Sounds under Bigger Skies – Ottawa XPress

May 4th, 2006 
The Absent Sound 

Big sound under bigger skies 
Steve Baylin 
Ottawa XPress, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

Help me Obiwan: The Absent Sound produce a visual cacophony 

Winnipeg’s The Absent Sound want to air out New York City

Maybe it’s simply the setting – a stone’s throw from the lush sprawl of pristine wilderness that extends in all directions for what seems like an eternity. Or perhaps it’s all a matter of perception, an underdog mentality, borne of exclusion from the media-machine hype reserved for the big three music scenes: Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal. Whatever the reason, musicians from Winnipeg tend to think big, and few think much bigger than The Absent Sound, a band whose epic sonic improvisational splendour is matched only by ambition. “We have our eyes on the prize,” guitarist David Fort says in the midst of a brief tour of Southern Ontario, where the prize leads south. In July, The Absent Sound plan on moving to New York, specifically Greenwich Village, to “try and influence as many people as possible.”
“We want to play to large audiences and have a huge sound,” continues Fort. “I don’t have any indie pride, and I’m certainly not condemning anyone who does. Not that I want to be a mass-marketed tool either. But I certainly don’t have any pride in being a poverty-stricken musician all my life. We want to try and expand, and gain exposure in a wider market.”
Formed in 1995 by guitarist/keyboardist and all around audio tinkerer Rob Menard, what was to become The Absent Sound took its first creative breath as a simple ambient solo project, a four-track and a few scattered ideas. The like-minded Fort, a close friend and work colleague, joined forces with Menard shortly after, and the venture slowly “took on a life of its own.” 

Sebastian Podsiadlo was welcomed into the group wielding sticks, as was Josh Butcher, who projects brain-bending 16-mm films during the show, and an ever revolving crew of musicians and multidisciplinary artists and performers, all of whom add an interactive, at times circus-like element to the proceedings. 
But at the centre of it all is the music, and “big” is too small a word to describe it. The Absent Sound’s latest effort, It’s All True, produced by Craig Boychuk and recorded in an “upstairs theatre loft above an old second-hand clothing store in the Exchange District,” bathes the senses in a spliff-centric aural analgesic worthy of three kings (namely Britt, Tubby and Crimson). Four, in fact, if you count the charged set closer “Sinking out of Body,” a royally deconstructed and refigured, looped take on an old Elvis nugget.
“You could call it psychedelic rock, space, ambient, all sorts of things,” reckons Fort, who swats the oft-used generic progressive rock tag away like pesky mosquitoes. 
“But often, people ask me about the music itself, and I could do the ol’ ‘It’s all really spiritual and intense,’ but a lot of times I just say, ‘It’s a rock and roll band.’ Because in my mind, it really is. But it’s big.”
THURSDAY MAY 4, 9 P.M., $5