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Amnon Freidlin and Gordon Sharp keep pushing the musical limits
Electro-madness one-man-band Honnda is perhaps like the aural equivalent of the comedic aesthetic of the VHS-obsessed video blog site Everything Is Terrible! or Adult Swim’s Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!, with a playful strangeness that incorporates culture jamming and prankery into its sample-heavy, hard-edged beatbox-dominated tracks on its debut album Fantasy Remover. It is also, apparently, intended to be a workout album—surely, to be utilized in conjunction with some absurd exercise device seen on a late-night infomercial circa 1990. The man behind Honnda is Amnon Freidlin, also known as a guitarist for the visceral no-wave band Normal Love and a former member of the harsh Brooklyn post-everything group Zs, and his feisty, mischievous side comes out on Fantasy Remover unfettered, perhaps like a bizarro-world Girl Talk.
For about half of the album, Honnda seems content to stay on his particular level of amusement and insistent stimulation without any semblance of high-art intentions, among a blasé female’s recitation of “Honnda, Honnda” or even excerpts from a customer support phone call, where his artificially pitch-lowered voice asks a woman if it would be OK if he sampled her voice and put it over some phat beats. (She politely declined.) Fantasy Remover gets better as it progresses into weirdness, where its sonic adventures are more pronounced, like on “Stay in Line,” which features a background buzz and unnerving pitter-patters of what sounds like electric guitar fretboard taps. The final track, “Feel the Burn,” answers the unasked question of what Janet Jackson’s music in the early ’90s might sound like with sampled no-wave guitar skronking. This writer is trying to imagine the appreciative audience for Fantasy Remover, which bears the challenge of possibly being too weird for dance-music fans and being too dancey for avant-garde-leaning aficionados. Nevertheless, Honnda seems happy to writhe joyfully, on a giant pile of VHS tapes and Janet Jackson records.
A Life Is Everywhere
Scottish musician/singer Gordon Sharp’s Cindytalk, in existence for over three decades, is responsible for an overlooked post-punk classic, the debut album Camouflage Heart; Sharp himself is perhaps best known as an early collaborator with Cocteau Twins and for his alternately chilling and mournful vocal contributions for 4AD label founder Ivo Watts-Russell’s studio project This Mortal Coil, including covers of Big Star’s “Kangaroo” and Rema-Rema’s devastating and utterly hopeless “Fond Affections.” Those who haven’t been keeping track since the ’80s may be startled to find out that Sharp has kept Cindytalk going as a one-man instrumental project, as obscure as ever, but with a very different sonic approach than that used for early releases. The latest album, A Life Is Everywhere, is in line with the last few albums released on Editions Mego, and although it initially didn’t grab this critic upon first listen, subsequent listens highlighted passages that were worth revisiting.
The opening “Time to Fall” combines bells with synthetic wisps of noise, wasting no time in introducing the Cindytalk “ambient noise” approach; the wisps give way to sheets, and finally, some distinct synth notes wander through the piece, tentatively. “My Drift Is a Ghost” offers artificial sound waves, going from gentle to unrelenting, but the particular sonic quality of the electronic waves—akin to new-age relaxation tapes—are not as interesting as they could be. “To A Dying Star” continues in this vein, adding high frequency pulsating pitches, while “Interruptum” introduces space and reverberating thuds with wilting, withering notes and muffled static. “As If We Had Once Been” evokes a dystopian sci-fi soundtrack—the sound of exploring, perhaps, an abandoned space station—but by far, the album’s most compelling track is the closing “On a Pure Plane,” which has a complicated mess of noises, abrasive blasts, and some sort of odd squeaky, squishy sounds that could resemble some alien creature language, and it overscores that the rest of the album could benefit from using more ideas.