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Hans Fjellestad - "Snails R Sexy"

Fjellestad is probably best known as the maker of the 2004 documentary Moog, based on the life and work of the (now sadly deceased) pioneering synth manufacturer, but he's also a proficient and prolific musician, and a master of analogue synthesis. Snails R Sexy manages somehow to merge the famously warm and tactile nature of the Moog (he also uses theremin) with more current-sounding elements of sonic abstraction and edgy noise. It's rare to find someone working with this kind of equipment who clearly has no truck with kitschy fetishism; Fjellestad aims for freshness rather than reverence or reference, and compositions like 'Fist' and 'Crush Goddess' show that he's no purveyor of Ambient space noodlery either. There's some of the manic energy of Keiji Haino's recent electronic work here, but at times it gives way to moments of surprising spontaneous delicacy that recall the synth improvisations of Thomas Lehn.

     - Keith Moliné, The Wire

Are snails sexy? Is Hans Fjellestad the 'Ozzy Osbourne' of experimental music? "Yes" on the latter, "maybe" on the first question. No doubt about it, Hans has grown to an internationally renowned figure of experimental music, experimental film and many other endeavors in those exciting fields in between these two so ambitious trades. His profile reflects the total dedication to art in general and he is one of those rare masters, whose enormous powerful work will maybe be recognized only generations later. But, I'm quite sure, he could care less. Since his life seems to me to be art, as well as art is his life.

Well, are snails sexy? Let me get to the point on this CD, that came out a few months ago. Responsible for this publication is once again the famous 'Accretions' label, whose head Marcos Fernandes also signs as executive producer for this work. Marcos and Hans do have an extensive history, since they created some impressive musical work together, recording and being on stage together many a time. This coherent relation translates directly to 'snails r sexy'.

Hans masters all aspects of experimental music. An accomplished pianist he also is an electronic music wizard. That does not only reflect superbly on this CD, but also in a movie called 'Moog', a reflection in pictures of the famous instrument, the moog synthesizer and its inventor. As an expert on this field, Hans Fjellestad has translated his knowledge and experience into 'snails r sexy', where he shows a wide variety of possibilities, that run up and down your spine when you listen to them and which really show you the endless ways music can follow. Often those are not the well traveled highways, but rather the dirt roads who lead into lands still undiscovered and uninhabited. And these places are the ones, where human life is put to the test: Can I or can't I survive in a place isolated from civilization? Can I or can't I find a way to my deepest, purest point of sensation, not by any means forged by those similar and repeated and a thousand and more times consumed sounds the civilized world showers us with? Please understand: this is what experimental music does for us, and this is, what Hans Fjellestad achieves on this very work of art: Music, that leads straight into the soul of human beings, without taking any detours.

But let's go back from the general to the particular: This CD is well structured as far as its experimental nature is concerned, which means, it isn't structured at all. Don't get me wrong, after listening I sure had an idea what might have been meant, but that is only true for my personal impression. And that makes this work so very exciting: It leaves all kinds of ways open for interpretation and personal reflections. My view of this music culminated in the piece 'love dart'. What had been going on before I would categorize as some kind of introduction, introduction into the world of love, meeting each other, slowly crawling to a point of togetherness, and then finally hit it off in 'love dart'. A steady heartbeat carries that piece, its speed translating into various degrees of excitement. Maybe that's only true for snails, but I am not so sure about it after reflecting on this work. It sure could be true for the relationships of human beings and all other love dependant beings as well.

But before I reveal too much about my own fantasies I will say only this: As much as I can fantasize about this work, as much can you. So be open and let these sounds wash you away from the shores of reality. Dare the dive into these waters and find out, whether snails are sexy or not. And find out, whether Hans Fjellestad is the 'Ozzy Osbourne' of experimental music. I sure think he is, and my recommendation is to buy this CD and drift away to places unknown. Great music!!!

     - Fred M. Wheeler, tokafi

The fourth solo recording by musician and film-maker Fjellestad on this label, Snails R Sexy contains freeform creativity expressed through a multitude of clashing waveforms and contrasting patterns, facilitated by the author's use of Moog synths, theremin and vacuum-tube processors. Anarchic eruptions and regular oscillations mix quite easily, while the various points of resonance of the different timbres find a way to get noticed and, in most cases, leave an indelible impression on our acoustic memory. Half-psychedelia, half-laboratory concoctions then, but never sounding like dilettantist noodling: everything is finely crafted, organized and mixed. This is humorous and temperamental music, at the same time efficient and, in some circumstance, revealing. We detect a noteworthy 'crazed homogeneity', which brings to an association with the pioneering work of the first 'mad scientist' who experimented with synthesizers and computers many decades ago, as barnstorming successions and meditative hallucinations keep us tight enough, preventing us from getting distracted and bored despite the almost 70 minutes of music. An album that will please lovers of analog sounds, but also noise terrorism (check the final track 'Que es mas sexy', then you tell me).

     - Massimo Ricci, Touching Extremes

You weren't thinking of playing this album quiet, were you? 'Cause if nothing's vibrating off your shelves, don't even bother. It's a physical thing. What the press release says and the CD package oughta is that filmmaker/musician Fjellestad generated most of the sounds on Snails R Sexy using analog Moog synthesizers, theremin and vacuum-tube processors. Unlike digital, analog has a way of getting really, really big as it gets louder before it starts hurting your ears. And Fjellestad says he tested his processes live, figuring out what made audiences squirm before he entered the studio for his fourth solo Accretions project. The result: It works. 'Calle Calla' attacks with tortured twitters and gigantic ratcheting sounds, peaking with a truly disturbing shriek like the death cry of a 10-foot squirrel dismembered on a rack. On 'Love Dart,' intense sawtooth vibrations give way to deep, muffled, oppressive reggae riddims – kind of an overloaded Maytag under attack by squealing 1950s spaceships. Most impressive are the pressured magma drones of 'Fist,' which opens with a severely harmed church organ before introducing enormous rubber balls squeezed by titanic hands; this shit will literally take your easy chair for a roller-coaster ride. Hard to believe that noises this punishing can be reproduced in digital form at all. A chest massage is included with every play of this CD, and it's also useful if you want to scare away burglars or trick-or-treaters. Some of the sounds are so harmful that they had me straining my ears. Oh no. Did I blow my speakers... again?

     - Greg Burk, MetalJazz.com

LA based filmmaker (best known for his film Moog) and musician, Hans Fjellestad has made a career out of the most free forms of cinematic types of music making. His latest opus Snails R Sexy is a 70 minute mish-mash of both the cinematic and the glitched-out noise. Barrelling down the highway with no brakes, the guy provides the listeners with enough interesting twists and turns to keep all the factions happy. Produced with a variety of analog synths, theremin and vacuum tube processors, much of the piece sound like slabs of noise thrown randomly at the listener. But this isn't some sort of a random, purely improvised album. It sounds as if there was much pre-planning that went into the recording. On the 14 minute 'Que es Mas Sexy', Fjellestad spews out a ton of squeaky feedback, synth sounds and processing into the stew and makes it all sound like a dirge fest. His sinister vocals underneath this sludge make the piece sound only more hellish. 'Fist' at times appropriates the sounds of early 80's video game clicks and pops, while adding tube processors that are more like turntables than anything else. A surprising number is 'Ex Vivo', where the musicians take a step back and gets all cinematic on us. With synth sounds appropriating a toy piano and a shady, hollow sound, the piece would fit well in an indie horror flick. Overall, quite a successful album showing the extremities of noise in a sombre, cinematic environment. Hell, don't be scared by this guy just because his head is wrapped around the harsh environments. If the sounds get too abrasive, just turn down the volume by a notch.

     - Tom Sekowski, Gaz-Eta

You know that moment when you're on an airplane taxiing out of an airport and it pauses at the beginning of the runway for just a few seconds before taking off, when all the turning and rolling noises stop and all thatÕs left is the corporeal, mechanical, strangely periodic humming of the jet engines? This album is that precise moment blown up and musicified on a magnificently large scale. Slowly swirling synthesized doppler shifts (some krafty work) combine with the pulsing, throbbing, testes-tingling vibrations. Later on, occassional control tower communication glitches and humanoid sine wave complaints invade your headphones. Even later on, things get spacier, as if your fuselage is now orbiting a synthy Saturn and the glitchy complaints coming from Houston are all the more frantic and abrasive. Can't figure out yet how the dreamy toy-piano track 'Ex Vivo' fits into this analogy...

     - Cujo, KFJC-FM

Hans Fjellestad is not simply another run-of-the-mill multi-instrumentalist. He is also an accomplished filmmaker, having received much cinematic acclaim, especially for his 2004 project entitled Moog, about the pioneer of electronic music. So it is no surprise that he also displays a great aptitude for the making of 'artificial' music. Fjellestad has an extensive discography both as a solo artist, as well as a collaborator with many legendary players on the international experimental music scene. His music, while not exactly designed to appeal to the masses, is not without its touches of whimsy. And his healthy sense of humor is readily apparent in the title of this, his newest recording. Music for libidinous mollusks never sounded so good!

     - Veronique Chevalier, Blue Railroad

É preciso algum atrevimento para editar um disco como o que Hans Fjellestad, músico e cineasta californiano, acaba de lanar na editora de Marcos Fernandes, Accretions Records, com sede em San Diego, Califórnia. Snails R Sexy é um disco a solo (o quarto de uma série) totalmente preenchido com as investigações que o improvisador tem andado a fazer com sintetizadores analógicos Moog, paixão que o persegue desde tenra idade, e que o levou a realizar, em 2004, um filme (Moog) sobre o inventor daquela máquina, Bob Moog, que viria a falecer em 2005. Ao Moog acrescentou Fjellestad apenas uma pitada de theremin e um processador de efeitos com tubos de vácuo. Através do processo de adição sucessiva de camadas de som produzido a partir da energia eléctrica, ondas sonoras trabalhadas com filtros até obter determinados timbres, Hans Fjellestad consegue estruturar composições e apresentá-las de modo atraente, mesmo quando se esgueira por caminhos afins do noise digital da actualidade, como sejam os da escola de Los Angeles, ou os que chegam de outros grandes centros difusores, como Tóquio, sem prejudicar uma certa candura e ingenuidade que entram no processo, temperando-o. Porque não se trata apenas de tarefas de base tecnológica, realizadas por um experimentalista metido entre as quatro paredes dum laboratório. Em Snails R Sexy, Fjellestad, através de sequências luxuriantes de vibrações sonoras, sobretudo nas baixas frequências, consegue sugerir uma ampla gama de emoções e de estados de espírito. A invenção de Bob Moog, a cuja memória o disco é dedicado, não deixa possibilidades acústicas por mãos alheias, e Fjellestad usa-a como ferramenta para esculpir sons e criar as nove instalações do disco, com um tempo de duração que vai dos 3 aos 14 minutos. Pessoalmente, agradam-me muito os resultados e a espantosa acessibilidade do disco, com potencial para interessar públicos diversos, como os da electrónica, electroacœstica, jazz e rock.

     - Eduardo Chagas, Jazz e Arradores

Hans Fjellestad sieht aus wie Ozzy Osbourne, seine Musik klingt wie kaputtes Stellwerk. Zu hören sind elektronische Klänge, die wie Stromspannungen klingen, die in der tonalen Höhe variieren und damit einen, ja, doch, Klang erzeugen. Im beiliegenden Presseblatt steht was von 1970er Krautrock Experimenten, von Sun Ra, japanischer SoundschrŠge und gar Heavy Metal Krassheit. Wenn man gewollt ist, sich dem elektronischen Chaos zu öffnen und die wilden, abgedrehten und völlig struktur- und harmoniefreien Klangkaskaden anzuhören, wird man mit Sicherheit einige Parallelen finden. Jedoch ist, praktisch gesagt, die Lebensdauer des Musik hörenden Menschen ebenso begrenzt wie alles andere, und es gibt genügend radikale und dabei interessante, hinreißende Musik, so dass nicht jede Idee, die wie in diesem Fall keinen Sinn für Humor, Spannung oder Extravaganz hat, eines inspirierten Musikers aufgenommen werden muss. Hans Fjellestad hat an vielen interessanten Projekten teilgenommen und beeindruckende Klänge erzeugt, dieses neue Werk ist nur für Leute konzipiert, die gern Datenautobahnen, Kurzwellenklängen oder fließendem Starkstrom zuhören. Dabei viel Vergnügen!

     - Volkmar Mantei, Ragazzi

Si presenta subito con la faccia da pazzo in copertina: un misto tra Richard James (era Come To Daddy) e Gene Simmons, con tanto di linguaccia. Immagine che sembra fare a pugni con il curriculum di Hans Fjellestad, fatto di rigorosi studi di composizione, improvvisazione e piano classico, collaborazioni ad ampio raggio (da Lé Quan Ninh a Miya Masaoka, passando per i leggendari Muhal Richard Abrams e Peter Kowald), lezioni tenute in alcune delle Univeristà più progressiste, organizzazioni di festivals, tutta una serie di progetti audio-video, presentati in luoghi prestigiosissimi quali il London Musician Collective e la Queen Elizabeth Hall, per finire con la sua attività di filmaker. Riguardo quest'ultima, sembra essere abbastanza noto e lodato il documentario Moog, ovviamente dedicato all'inventore dell'omonimo sintetizzatore (un altro dovrebbe essere in arrivo con il titolo di Synth God). Un bel po' di roba, e mi sono molto limitato nelle citazioni, non c'è che dire. Sempre al sintetizzatore analogico, ma anche al Theremin, è dedicato questo cd, che sviscera in maniera parossistica le possibilità dello strumento. Un vero e proprio rimestarne tra le interiora, alla ricerca di suoni nascosti in qualche pertugio. Suoni belli e brutti in equal misura, perché Fjellestad sembra poco propenso a darsi una qualche disciplina, e mette da parte buone maniere e buon senso. Il che tradotto significa che non mancano cose interessanti, ma che c'è anche tanto cazzeggio in libera uscita, che spesso sembra privilegiare il sensazionalismo alla forma. A tratti una sorta di carnevale del bizzarro, nel quale sfilano rimandi deformi alla cosmologia krauta, ipotesi schizzate di free jazz, mostruosità progressive, noise splatter, industrialismi ed elettronica onnivora. S'inizia con il ribollire di 'Pull Breath', il synth che squarcia l'aria con fare impietoso, e a seguire una tempesta di suoni urticanti e strambi, autentiche mine acustiche vaganti, che scricchiolano ed esplodono dove capita. Fa quasi male, provoca un senso di vertigine e nausea, oltre a massaggiare la prostata, l'allungarsi e riavvolgersi di quel serpente di suono che caratterizza 'Crush Goddess'. Ma è con 'Calle Calla' che vengono alla luce i risvolti più deleteri di questo disco: una serie di strilli, sibili, escoriazioni, francamente mal digeribili, che non sembrano avere altro scopo se non quello di stupire con quanto di più disturbante sia possibile concepire. Stranamente si ci imbatte in attimi più pacanti in 'Ex Vivo', note pianistiche che si spezzano nel tratteggiare una melodia sfumata ed intrisa di un sottile senso dello spleen. Interessante 'Love Dart', prima un fiorire di power electronics, e poi un pulsare misterioso e subacqueo che toglie realmente il respiro, a scandire momenti inquietanti e psicotici. Nel corso di questo brano ho la sensazione che qualche assurda declamazione da parte di Genesis P. Orridge, o come cavolo si chiama adesso, non ci starebbe affatto male. Rumore, follia, istrionismo, suoni da b-movie di fantascienza, qualche banalità, nel resto del disco.

     - Alfio Castorina, Kathodik


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