CNVR20 | 16.06.2009


Herbe Zeiten

format: 3" CDR| packaging: slipcase

duration: 18 minutes, 1 track

limited to 50 numbered copies




Herbe Zeiten (Harsh Times) is a 18 minutes piece for guitar, electronics and computer.


Tomas Korber:


Born in 1979 in Zurich, Swiss-Spanish composer/improviser Tomas Korber received a musical basic training (theory/clarinet) and guitar lessons, which he quitted after a couple of years. Self-taught schooling in electric-guitar, electronic devices and the use of the computer for musical purposes followed shortly after.


Korber has written compositions and played improvised music since the early 90ties. He has worked solo and collaborated with the likes of Tetuzi Akiyama, Olivia Block, David Daniell, Greg Davis, Dimitri de Perrot, Dieb13, Kai Fagaschinski, Bertrand Gauguet, Graham Halliwell, Jason Kahn, Hans Koch, Lê Quan Ninh, Erik M, Sachiko M, Lionel Marchetti, Mattin, Sean Meehan, Butch Morris, Norbert Möslang, Günter Müller, Toshimaru Nakamura, Otomo Yoshihide, Keith Rowe, Bernd Schurer, Yamamoto Seiichi, Adam Sonderberg, Steinbrüchel, Mark Wastell, Christian Weber, Ralf Wehowsky, Stephan Wittwer, Christian Wolfarth and many others.


He also composes music for film (i.e. under the direction of Franz Dängeli, Kaspar Kasics, Stefan Haupt, Fredi Murer and others), dance and theatre.


Tomas Korber has performed extensively across Europe, Japan and North America.


Philip Julian (aka Cheapmachines):


Philip Julian has been an active part of the experimental music underground since the late 1990's recording various works under the name Cheapmachines which operates at the interface between noise electronics, generative software, field recordings, tape music and long-form drones. Recordings are semi/improvised using contact microphones, amplified metal objects, domestic radio receivers, instrument effects pedals, environmental/found sounds, tape loops, damaged electrical devices, analogue synthesizers, feedback from various sources, turntables & "prepared" vinyl.


Traditional instruments such as guitar, organ and tuned metal instruments (gongs, cymbals, prayer bowls) have also been used as part of the recording process.


He has also created various computer based works using software environments such as Max/MSP, Super_Collider, Pure Data and also using the open source GNU/Linux operating system Debian and the related pure:dyne distribution.


He has collaborated on recordings and performances with Maurizio Bianchi, The A Band, Birchville Cat Motel, The New Blockaders and GX Jupitter-Larsen of The Haters.


Missing Sequences

This is a 3″ CD-R release that I ordered from Con-V records a month or so ago after reading this review on Bagatellen.


Tomas Korber is a guitarist and improvisor from Zurich who works primarily with prepared guitar, which involves using objects such as alligator clips, handheld fans, and pot scrubbers to draw odd timbres out of the guitar. Englishman Phil Julian, who also works under the alias of Cheapmachines, employs circuit-bent electronics as well as laptop for his contributions here.


I have recently become enamored of the 3″ CD format, as it contains about 20 minutes of music, which is ideal for me. It’s enough to sink your teeth into, but you don’t have to feel like you’re committing 80 minutes to listening when you sit down and put a piece of music on, and even if I wanted to listen for that long my attention span starts betraying me around the 30 minute mark. Plus the little discs look cute. This one is packaged in an odd mini-DVD style case, which is charming except mine got a little bit mashed up in transit so I had to repair it with electrical tape.


This release consists of one 18 minute long track, which starts out with static and high sinewave drones giving way to string rumbles and creaks. After a brief respite, the static and grain returns, bathing the listener in overtones while Korber’s strings rattle like mausoleum chains. It’s a great balance between billowing static drones, electromagnetic micro-clicks, and more abrupt incidental sounds that poke and prod the ears, demanding attention. Eventually the resonances of the room take over the proceedings, with beams of feedback peering through the clouds. Another thing I like here is that the flow of the piece is not predictable, it doesn’t start out quiet and get really loud and dramatic two thirds of the way through and then end quietly. It’s a piece that breathes and evolves, with many peaks and valleys throughout, and takes you through a lot of different spaces as it unfolds. Great stuff, highly recommended.


[ Orangettecoleman ]




Here’s a duo we should all be interested to hear — two musicians I’d suppose have to be pretty amiable, given the number and variety of collaborations with others, in recent years. Phil Julian’s among the more active musicians in Britain 2.0’s steadily growing pool of thoughtful players — and he’s been active for far longer than I’m leading to here, notably under the moniker, “cheapmachines” — while Korber seems to cross borders at the rate of daylight with all the recording, studying and performing he involves himself with. Both have sizable catalogs of solo ventures, which are about as consistently engaging as one could hope, considering the nature of experimental/improvised music.


Herbe Zeiten (”harsh times”) is the most recent cd-r release to come from the excellent con-v weblabel, and its third or fourth to take advantage of the 3″ format. A single 18-minute piece opens with staticky oscillations, presumably from Julian, lo-fi yet pronounced, where it seems the hidden details are struggling to break free of a curiously audible carrier frequency. There’s immediate connection, with Korber demonstrating that he is in fact using a guitar, though his choice of sounds move quickly from string-generated tones to percussives and manipulation of his axe’s extremities for the remainder of the piece. In the first of a couple of fades, around five minutes in, the duo dials it down and back up again, the gap between laced with high-pitched, soft curlicues. This segue marks the beginning of a transition, where Korber’s sounds become more pronounced, and Julian’s electronic undertones take on a more subtle, drone-like bent. In the continuing development, the duo doesn’t use much beyond a handful of chosen patches/motifs, all quite complimentary to another, and sustaining the general mood.


I’m reminded of some of Oren Ambarchi’s earlier meditative work, and the piece here seems to express how such music has really evolved. Making use of near-silence (or hushed lulls) and a carefully considered stereo field, the two have come up with something here that can hardly be called “harsh”. Korber and Julian have a certain mastery of nuance, and it’s interesting to hear their approaches blend. No overkill, and nicely understated, through to a slow, dramatic fade.


[ Alan Jones ]



The Watchful Ear


I also have listened a few times to a little 3″ disc handed to me the other day by Phil Julian, this one a duo collaboration with Tomas Korber released on the Con-V label called Herbe Zeiten (Harsh Times?) I don’t know much about what instrumentation is used here, because there isn’t much to go by on the cute little mini-DVD box packaging (everything written there is included in the two lines above this one!) and I am too lazy to ask Phil, but suffice to say there are electronics at work here, maybe a laptop in places but I’m not certain.


While the music isn’t as herbe as the title may suggest there is plenty of rough, crackly drone here amongst the piece’s seventeen minutes. In many ways the music is entirely predictable and attempting description would just lead me to the usual adjectives, as yes there are buzzes and hums and electronic whistles layered over each other with maybe some oblique field recordings buried in there and maybe some small percussive sounds added in real time, all elements we are not unfamiliar with. What makes this little piece interesting and worth repeated listens though is the quality of its construction, the way that its many elements are put together in just the right places, always with different sounds playing off of one another at any one time. Its hard to tell if the music was recorded in one take as an improvisation or was pieced together in post production (or maybe even through email exchange?) I can hear elements of both sides of that equation in the music, it feels “loose” enough to be improvised but the placement of sounds suggest at least some editing took place. Phil?


I’ve listened to a lot more today, though as I am currently working through the chapters of Tilbury’s book about the early compositions I listened a lot to those today. Still, plenty more mini-reviews lined up, I’ll try and write some more of them on the train into town tomorrow if the journey proves to be bareable enough. (Who am I kidding?)


[ Richard Pinnell ]



Vital Weekly 684


The title of this release is translated as 'Harsh Times' and maybe from the likes of Philip Julian, whom we also know as Cheapmachines, this might be a program title - even when these days he plays a softer tune too (and much better at that). Here he teams up, armed with his laptop, with Tomas Korber, the Swiss guitarist and electronics improviser who worked a lot with Jason Kahn and Gunter Muller, among many others. Its not mentioned on the cover, but I think this is a work of live improvisation. Some of the changes are rather crudely played and also sound wise this seems above anything else a live recording. Its however not a work of harsh noise. Below the surface there is the almighty drone (of, I think, Philip Julian) and Korber plays his guitar and electronic in a somewhat louder vein, with clang and bang here and there. A pretty nice work I think that holds the attention of the listener throughout the piece, also when it moves, towards the end to a somewhat more subdued area.


[ Frans de Waard ]