CD (ltd. 100)
We are pleased to present the debut full-length album of the Berlin-based project Notum! Despite releasing a debut full-length only now, Notum is not a newcomer to the world of experimental music. The first digital EP "Wooden Grandmother" was released back in 2015 and was followed by a series of self-released EPs, last year there was a joint cassette with Neznamo, and a while back the project’s mastermind Ikk Ygg even played a couple of times in a live line-up of Lunar Abyss Deus Organum.
It's damn hard to describe the music of Notum in just a couple of succinct words, although the author himself uses the terms "experimental / free-form". The unwillingness to follow any particular musical style creates an interesting multiverse in which the listener moves from room to room, sometimes without even noticing how this happens. Here you are crinkling from noise and shrill frequencies (one track is recorded with the drone-noise project Kryptogen Rundfunk), then you are relaxing from a soft piano, totally sinking in an odorous floral drone – and bam! – jumping from an unexpected sample, foolishly giggling, and then starting to tap your foot, sometimes breaking into a real dance.
It all sounds like a psychedelic labyrinth built by a sonic architect with a brisk imagination and a peculiar sense of humor, or a bright morning dream in which scenes are changing in an unpredictable way, completely absorbing the dreamer. The oneiric theme is also emphasized by the incredible artwork created by the Californian artist and musician Matthew Waldron (irr. app. (ext.)). The physical edition of the album is available in two versions: a CD limited to 100 copies in a glossy 4-panel digisleeve and an audio cassette limited to 30 copies. Digital version is available on bandcamp.
How best to encapsulate the music of Berlin-based project Notum? Labels are at best an inconvenience and an obstruction, as well as being pretty much useless in cases like this. The artist him/herself describes it as ‘experimental/freeform’ but it’s so much more than that. Certainly there are elements of experimentation and freeform meanderings but we also have drone, noise, ambient, and shades of both the early German experimentation of bands like Popul Vuh, Cluster, and Harmonia, and the minimalist creations of the likes of LaMonte Young, Philip Glass, Terry Riley and Steve Reich. It would be too lazy of me to say something as trite as ‘it’s difficult to pin down’ but conversely the music here stubbornly refuses to stay within the lines of conventional categorisation. Just take a look at the cover to this album – a visual description if ever there was one of what we’re confronted with.
This is Notum’s debut full-length opus and it’s about as expansive and all-embracing a calling card as you can imagine. Notum est in Intellectu (Nothing is in the Mind) brings us nine tracks, all of which play around with sound and genre freely, but all threaded through with the artist’s philosophy of not adhering to one particular philosophical outlook. More than that, and very apparent, is Notum’s playfulness and abstraction: here the musician is using sounds as if he were playing with clay, moulding, pushing, pulling, stretching, and compressing. Sometimes he creates patterns and rhythms (‘Focus’, ‘Threads’), or surprises us with a sparse ambience (‘Queen of Space’), and at others erases any notions of the orderly and accessible by the use of cut-ups and noisy chaos (‘Overreaction of the Mind’), while at yet other points a mischievous humour shines through (‘Relocate the Bear Safely’), almost as if he’s saying “I’m enjoying this and so should you!”.
The album, when seen in the round, is a mix of the phantastique, phantasmagorical, the absurd, the comical, the chaotic, and the cosmic. There’s so much to glean from these nine pieces. As an introduction to the colourful world of Notum, it’s as good as any travelogue and gazetteer you’re likely to want or need. Thoroughly recommended.
Following a bunch of digital-only releases, there now the first full-length release by Notum, of who I only know that he's from Berlin. Housed in a cover painted by Matt Waldron of irr.app.(ext), there aren't many details on the cover when it comes to instruments as such, so again we are guessing here. I'd say there are a lot of synthesizers used here, a bit of effect and some taped voices. There are lots of drones, obviously, I'd say for a release on this label, but it also seems to me that Notum is playing these drones louder and meaner than many of his eers. It is not exclusively about drones though. There is also a piece like 'Queen Of Space' with a heavy rhythm set against some processed toy piano or 'Focus' with a dark minimalist slab of techno rhythm that seems a bit out of place unless the variation is something Notum went for; I am not sure there. ‘Threads’ follow it, with eleven minutes the longest piece of the CD, and Notum goes into an all space ambient modus here, with guitar and loops. Mixed feelings are also something I have with this release. There are some fine dark ambient pieces here, of the louder variety, but he tends to overcook his meal, and also seems to think that this first opportunity for a full-length album is also the moment to display all his musical interests and ideas but not necessarily leads to a coherent album. It does, however, hold quite some potential for the future.