After a handful of limited edition cassette and CDR releases, a modest contribution to the Intransitive compilation "Variious" and a split lp "Tender Wreckage" with Lasse Marhaug on Gameboy, "Flesh of the Moon" is the first full-length release from Connecticut-based Jeff Wrench's Brutum Fulmen (Latin for "senseless thunderbolt"). Billed unashamedly as musique concrète, these nine sumptuous tracks have more in common with the sensuality of Bayle and Parmegiani than they do with American electronica's arid conceptualism and/or glitch overdose. Though over half the tracks use an old manual typewriter as sound source (a beautiful photograph of which on the disc recalls the covers of early concrète albums), this is no mere exercise in nostalgia. "Mourn", like the earlier spaced out BF release "Moon Boots", uses computer data transformed into audio files, and "Haunted Space" makes use of fast-forwarded DAT recordings of live performances as well as scrap metal and plastic forks. Wrench meticulously documents his source sounds and working methods throughout, but doesn't let cute arty concepts get in the way of musical considerations. Learning that "Spore" was sourced from a heavily scratched vinyl copy of Tore H. Boe's "Serum" that had been mailed across the Atlantic without an envelope won't necessarily enhance your enjoyment. Most of the source sounds are transformed beyond all recognition - how Wrench makes an old typewriter sound like treacle flowing through an underground cave system in "Moisture" beggars belief - but occasionally he just lets the tape roll: one track documents the dousing of a camp fire with a jug of water, with astounding results. He also understands that reverb is there to add richness and depth and not merely space out the listener; the disturbing squeaking door hinges and clanging radiator pipes of "Pickle Mutation", which says more in two-and-a-half minutes than most composers manage in a whole career, wouldn't be out of place on a David Lynch soundtrack. The final "Lake of Dreams" sculpts field recordings of traffic and birdsong and a forlorn music box playing "Love Me Tender" into a surreal and touching nocturne worthy of Steven Stapleton.
While there is no shortage of sound artists who rely on field recordings for their material and delve into the often dessicated fields of musique concrète, few that I'm aware of have managed to turn them into such lush electro-acoustic compositions that actually warrant repeated listenings. The 10 tracks gathered here are carefully crafted from the sounds of old manual typewriters, hinges, metal, feedback, and other common and uncommon objects, and the booklet provides an extensive list of these sources which is always interesting to read as you listen to the end result. Consistently captivating.
noise fun fact #2: brutum fulmen is latin for (essentially) an empty threat. impress your friends/get punched for being pretentious, choose your own adventure! now, the trite facts: brutum fulmen, operating out of connecticut, is mainly the outlet for jeff wrench’s experimental work. it seems like the brutum fulmen live experience expands to accommodate tape manipulator ken pfeifer (pictured standing up). jeff’s had a couple of discs released by shiflet’s gameboy imprint, and bf also occupied a side on rrrecord’s new england 5 lp box set, which i need to buy at some point.
i loved this little bit of information about jeff from brutum fulmen’s bio: “i played the saxaphone (sic) for a few years in grade school, but i can no longer read the little bit of music i could at that time, could never keep a beat, can’t sing on key, and am probably tone deaf. i have no more than the most rudimentary understanding of music theory. none of this has deterred me from wanting to and attempting to make music.” gives a bit of hope to the rest of us, eh?
while the above passage may make it seem like brutum’s approach to music has all the delicacy of a blind giant, clearly he’s selling himself short. there is a deliberate calculation to what’s going on with flesh of the moon. jeff (pictured kneeling) likens what he’s doing to musique concrte, and i’m not going to argue with him, the disc is an amalgamation of field recordings, processed found sounds, object manipulation as well as source sounds provided by others.
the overall tone of flesh of the moon is oppressively dark. opener lake of sleep is full of eerie ambiance. now, i don’t think that jeff’s holed up somewhere muttering “i’m the prince of fucking darkness”, but the result of his work comes through as xenakis as influenced by the necronomicon. spooky stuff. haunted space continues with the theme, though, this time as the title would indicate, there’s more of a celestial coldness at its core. my favorite moment is the swell of noise which appears to be rising towards a grand crescendo until it abruptly cuts out and goes back to gravity-less ambiance. pickle mutation is full of outstanding, jarring, noises. the panning of the creaky door hinges is utter brilliance. pipe this one through your house on halloween and guarantee that no one rings your door bell.
AMG EXPERT REVIEW: This first full-length offering from Brutum Fulmen (aka sound artist Jeff Wrench, who also contributed a fine track, "Dusk," to the Intransitive compilation album Various) is billed unashamedly on the CD tray as musique concrète, but in case that appellation gives the impression that the album is looking back nostalgically to the early studies of Pierre Schaeffer and Pierre Henry, it's worth noting that Wrench also sources DAT recordings of his live performances and, on "Mourn," transforms computer data into audio files. He lists his analog sound sources, which include, amongst other things, plastic forks, campfires doused with water, vacuum-tube amp feedback, and especially an old manual typewriter (a beautiful photograph of which adorns the disc itself), but it requires a leap of imagination on the listener's part to figure out how their sounds were transformed into the shimmering, rich sound sculptures on offer here. "Spore" uses heavily scratched vinyl (sent through the mail without an envelope) as a sound source, but if listeners weren't informed of the fact it would be frankly impossible to identify the sounds as such. It's all too easy in the domain of sound art to come up with interesting concepts that sound nondescript when realized, but thankfully Wrench doesn't fall into the trap: these nine pieces are all painstakingly crafted and beautifully accomplished compositions in their own right. Be sure to listen for the Elvis quote in the final track.
Rising out of a spectral fog, 'Lake of Sleep' begins with a small resonation like Koner's Permafrost, a pure creature more of space than sound, a deep, discordant, dark beauty echoing into nothingness. Then as the crescendo builds, an apex is passed, the sound drops off, and small, chiming noises, perhaps typewriters, distant alarms and clocks twitter motionlessly on some round horizon. Like the dream or narcotic sequences in some film, these periods have a playful quality that's hard to detect. Its impossible to cipher sound sources but there are a variety of common items used. The kicker is that this artist likes to use them in uncommon situations. For instance, 'Spore' is a track where Tore. H. Boe's vinyl record 'Serum' was mailed to Brutum Fulmen with no cover, stamps placed directly on the vinyl and sent. When it arrived, he played it with the stamps and crap on it, put new stamps on it and mailed it to a new listener. Another track uses "50 plastic forks, feedback, metal garage door spring...". Another; "broken music box in a cardboard Christmas tree." And it's not just a mix of objects, its a mix of methods and ideas. Totally unpretentious. And the final record isn't nearly this complicated, it doesn't help to know these things as you listen. But it may perhaps add another dimension to the experience so that after many listens, when you are very interested in how these ambient landscapes you've been hearing were made, you can open the liner notes up and chuckle or wonder. The creativity of the artist feel contagious, and the record itself is a fantastic, dreamy listen.
Over the years I have gotten more and more appreciation of a US noise group called Brutum Fulmen. Using the most concrete sort of sound elements (listed per track, such as manual typewriters, vacuum tube amp feedback, 50 plastic forks or broken music box in a cardborad christmas tree) they have over the years refined their sound more and more. This is said to be "by my count, the fifth Brutum Fulmen release" (cover text). By my count their best so far. They (although it's better to state 'he', as they are really one person, Jeff Wrench) come up with noise pieces (processed feedback plays an important role still) and electronically processed sounds, but they are presented in a set of strong compositions. The noise element is not lost anywhere, but on the other hand doesn't play the usual annoying role. The music by Brutum Fulmen of these days can easily meet up with the like minded composers as Roel Meelkop or Marc Behrens, but usually the Brutum Fulmen have a more present sound and do not very often leap into inaudibility. At times Brutum Fulmen even go into ambient areas, such as in 'Anaerobe', which consists of the sound of a "vacuum tube amp feedback provided by D-503, mainly one 4 1/2-second clip". The result is an Arcane Device like ambient feedback piece with some rumblings below. I think that the future will see that Jeff Wrench will get rid of the name Brutum Fulmen and also the last bit of industrial music undercurrents (like the title of the CD) and will settle himself as a more serious composer. This work will be a good start for that.
i'd never heard of this ohio-based [???] musique concrète ensemble until i was asked to play a gig with them a few years back @ the (old) zeitgeist allery in cambridge. they did a kind of shoddy marchetti/noetinger-esque set with various contact-mic-ed bits and bots and whatnot.
then, fast forward to august of this year, i'm perusing the record booth @ the safe as milk festival in haugesund, norway, and one of the proprietors (maybe the apartment records huy?) starts telling me that this cd here is his favorite american record of the last 5 years. wow. so i bought a copy and yeah, damn, it's really fantastic.
anyone interested in the furthering of classic/early analogue electronic techniques in a decidely digital era should pay attention and digest this one with gusto. it's really damn good...
Very well done musique concrete tracks from this Connecticut based act. I've always admired the sounds that Jeff Wrench creates and this CD is one of the best collections of sounds I've heard so far in 2002. Great job. Definately Brutum Fulmen's best work yet. Highly recommended.
[ NOTE: Flesh of the Moon was listed as #2 (behind Negativland and before Whitehouse) on the Ground Fault top 10 best albums of the year. ]
Jeff Wrench's fascination with studying the relationships between sounds is what helps Brutum Fulmen accomplish what only a handful of experimental audio projects can: present audio (natural, mechanical, electronic, and combinations thereof ) in ways that make listeners think differently about sound. Flesh of the Moon is also a testament to Wrench's intuitive and constantly refining sense of composition. For fans of Nurse With Wound, Voice Crack.
Brutum Fulmen's who till sometime ago considered to be a harsh us noise combo, and whose work I hadn't listened to, 'till a few months earlier I had the chance to come across the impressive lasse marhaug/Brutum Fulmen split lp on gameboy records and was totally impressed by their unique soundscapes. Back then that I visited their site saw the announcement of their forthcoming debut cd on CIP and must admit that is a release to which I looked forward w/ great anxiety & curiosity. And it was a couple of months ago that did it see the daylight... I must admit that by the time I received my copy, I fall in love w/ it. See this time Brutum Fulmen use in their soundscapes also manual typewriters, an "instrument" which belongs to some of my most beloved not only because that I use it too on stage but mostly because is my personal fetish since childhood, as I always liked their sound, the way they work, whatever, and I always feel impressed at the sight of a typewriter. Se it a "classic manual" (a "remington" for instance), an electricity fed one, or a toy one. The cover artwork consisting of fantastically flabbergasting photos of the typewriter which was used in the recording, and exposes the "instrument's" mystical beauty or so at least seemed to me. Jeff also gives us a term for "musique concrete" somehow to show us the "concrete" elements of this release which is created using found sounds, field recordings but also w/ submissions of artists such as tore honore boe & andre d-503. Even used manipulated records in the way that were treated from luminaries such as milan knizak to christian marclay & so and more. But the what I find truly appealing in this project so far is their approach in their soundscapes creation and their use of techniques & effects to manipulate their sounds into completely something new and unrecognisable, showing an effort to create their own language. A "game" which so far seems that they have won and have achieved (at least judging from their releases that I've come across till now) & the results of which can be heard on this amazing obscure surreal masterpiece! definitely one of the most impressive releases to come from the what so called "us noise" scene the last years and certainly not to be missed... Curious what the future will bring us from both Brutum Fulmen but also the ever influential Crippled Intellect...