This is an immensely wonderful and weird duo featuring Anna Homler on voice, toys and found objects and Steuart Liebig on contrabass guitars with preparations, electronics and live looping. Ms. Homler is an old friend of mine and one of the best and most unique experimental vocalists around. She has some half dozen discs out on labels like Victo, Lowlands and NoMansLand and has worked with David Moss on occasion. Mr. Liebig is one of L.A.'s best bassists, with more than a half dozen releases on Nine Winds, Cadence and Cryptogramophone, this is his 4th. This extraordinary duo comes up with a diverse array of strange sounds. Anna often sings in her distinctively charming way with words or sounds taken from her own invented languages. Her selective use of toys and objects adds a nice child-like aura to the proceedings. Steuart manipulates his fretless electric bass also in a variety of ways, by rubbing, banging and bowing the strings, as well as utilizing some strange devices. It is often difficult to figure out how he is making certain bizarre sounds, yet each seems to work in its own odd way. On a couple of pieces, the voice is put some strange devices as well, giving those pieces quite an alien sound. Anna's wondrous voice is never too weird and often makes me smile due to her humorous and the more positive vibe that she radiates. She hasn't recorded in quite a while, so it is indeed a great thing to have her back.
(BLG, Downtown Music Gallery)
In an album that offers tracks that are recorded live, and are undubbed improvisations, this duo delivers 13 cuts that explore musical sounds, artist interplay, vocal experimentation, and more.
The best work on the CD may be the opening number "Winter Street." Here the sense is eerie and the best sound in a myriad may be the 'deer' or caribou(?) call/yell that sent chills up my back.
The two performers show lots of experimentation, creativity, and exploration musically but also play well off each other. The vocals and vocalisation are very interesting.
These two can play thoughtful music as well as just that which is plain fun and silly. Sense is often whimsical yet feels down-to-earth and even somewhat folky in places. There's both lo and hi-tech aspects on the disk and their unique talents blend well. Certainly better artists [musically] have tried this kind of stuff before but those efforts have not come off as well as this.
From short tunes like "sidpaho" 2:11, to lengthy pieces "secret heat" 10:54, these two create both strange new worlds as well as familiar ones for the listener. It is clear these artists enjoyed their playing together. I was reminded of my own musical explorations at age 9 or 10, with combs, toys, etc.
A truly creative and interesting collaboration that went off well. Recommended.
(Armando Canales, The CRITICAL REVIEW Service)
Talk about obtuse and esoteric. On this disc, Anna Homler handles voice, toys, and found objects while Steuart Liebig is in charge of contrabass guitars, preparations, electronics, and live looping. All of the compositions on Kelpland Serenades are live, undubbed improvisations...which may explain the odd, spontaneous sound of these recordings. These two folks are coming from the same basic school of thought as artists like Emily Hay . Rather than taking standard approaches to music, this duo seems to enjoy defying prior concepts and destroying conventional notions. Like Hay, Homler uses her voice in varied unusual ways...often singing/speaking in nonsensical sounds and phrases. Liebig's spontaneous explorations into sound are difficult to describe...and may scare some listeners away. Together, these two individuals create their own strange and slightly spooky universe in which anything can happen. These thirteen tracks are recommended only for those who enjoy truly experimental music. Bizarre compositions include "Winter Street," "Blasted Landscape," "Case In Point," and "Radix Vitae." (Rating: 5/6)
(babysue.com, June 2005)
Our world is small! Nachdem PfMentum schon eine Wiederbegegnung mit Emily Hay bescherte, taucht nun mit ANNA HOMLER ein weiterer Name auf, der gut 10 Jahre lang jenseits des BA-Horizontes abgetaucht war. Dabei ist Homler seit der Sugarconnection mit Frank Schulte & Axel Otto (Plays Alien Cakes, NML, 1994) mit ihren eigenwilligen Vokalisationen, Toys & Found Objects nicht inaktiv gewesen, dafur zeugen ihre Einspielungen im Trio mit Geert Waegeman & Pavel Fajt (Macaronic Sines, Lowlands, 1995, Corne De Vache, Victo, 1997) oder im Duo Voices of Kwahn mit dem Multiinstrumentalisten Mark 'Pylon King' Davies (Peninsular Enclosure, 1997, Operation Dismantled Sun, 2000, beide Swarf Finger) und zuletzt ihr Solo House of Hands (ND, 2001). Ihr personlichstes Projekt ist jedoch die Pharmacia Poetica, eine seit 1987 von Ort zu Ort ziehende 'Wanderapotheke' aus "sound, poetry, metalanguage, images, and objects, the main feature of which is a collection of glass bottles in which the hidden beauty of commonplace objects, suspended in liquid, is revealed." Inspiriert ist dieses Projekt durch die 'Okkulte Philosophie' des Florentinischen Neoplatonikers Marsilio Ficino und des Alchemisten Paracelsus, so wie Homlers ganze Kunst von der Vorstellung getragen wird, dass die Symbolik von Mythen und Traumen Wegweiser fur Rites de passage und Klange und Metasprache Pharmaka der Seele sind. Partner bei ihren aktuellen Kelpland Serenades (pfMentum 029), die passend auf dem Label erscheinen, das auch schon Jeff Kaisers Version der Alchemical Mass von Nicholas Melchior Cibenensis veroffentlichte, ist der faszinierende Cryptogramophoniker STEUART LIEBIG mit seiner Kontrabassgitarre, electronics & live loopings. In 13 Improvisationen kreisen die beiden, 'mothlike', voller 'Sehnsucht', in impressionistischen ('winter street', 'blasted landscape') und gleichzeitig symbolistischen Annaherungsversuchen ('time of great cold', 'house of mars') um den 'case in point', eine 'secret heat', die 'radix vitae'. Klangalchemistisch verschmelzen dabei Elemente der Art Brut und einer mit einfachsten Mitteln spielenden Art Povera, dem Mund, Spieluhren, Krimskrams, um zu knistern, klingeln, klicken oder pfeifen, mit Hightecheffekten, elektronischen Drones, Loops und morphendem Shapeshifting zum 'fantasma' einer seltsamen Alien-Folklore, zu Als-ob-Ritualmusik, die eigenartig vexiert zwischen melancholisch-vertraumt und launig-verspielt. Homlers (speziell bei 'sputtery') Jauniaux'esker, onomatopoetischer Singsang in Phantasiesprachen oder Renaissanceitalienisch scheint mit seinem hellen, luftigen Timbre dem eigenen Anspruch zu widersprechen. Aber Alchemie ist recht verstanden eben doch eine frohliche Wissenschaft. Mit dem Titel 'Sidpaho' wird eine Spur zur tibetanischen Astrologie gelegt, aber 'Kelpland' selbst (eine Hunderasse?) gibt mit Ratsel auf. Bad Alchemy Rigo Dittmann
[Our world is small! pfMentum had already given us the gift of hearing
Emily Hay again; now, Anna Homler is another name that had been
submerged beyond the BA-horizon for a good ten years. Despite the fact
that Homler - - with her idiosyncratic vocalizations, toys and found
objects - - has not been inactive since the Sugarconnection with Frank
Schulte and Axel Otto (Plays Alien Cakes, NML 1994); witness to that are her recording contributions as a trio with Geert Waegeman and Pavel Fajt (Macaronic Sines, Lowlands 1995, Corne De Vache, Victo 1997) or as the duet Voices of Kwahn with the multi-instrumentalist Mark "Pylon King" Davies (Peninsular Enclosure 1997, Operation Dismantled Sun 2000, both Sarf Finger) and most recently, her solo House of Hands (ND 2001). However, her most personal project is the Pharmacia Poetica; traveling
from place to place since 1987 it is a "Traveling Pharmacy" made up of"sound, poetry, metalanguage, images, and objects, the main feature of which is a collection of glass bottles in which the hidden beauty of common place objects, suspended in liquid, is revealed." This project is inspired by the "Occult Philosophy" of the Florentine Neoplatonic Marsilio Ficius and by the alchemist Paracelsus; all of Homler's art is underpinned by the idea that symbolisms of myths and dreams are road signs for rites of passage and sounds and metalanguage pharmacia of the soul. Her partner in her current Kelpland Serenades (pfMentum 029) - - which appears appropriately on the same label as Jeff Kaiser's version of the "Alchemical Mass of Nicholas Melchior Cibenensis - - is the fascinating cryptogramophonic STEUART LIEBIG with his contrabass
guitar, electronics and live looping. In 13 improvisations, 'mothlike' and full of 'Sehnsucht/Desire' the two of them circle and close in on the 'case in point', a 'secret heat', the 'radix vitae' in impressionistic ('winter street', 'blasted landscape') and at the same time symbolist attempts. Soundalchemically, elements of Art Brut and Art Povera using simplest tools like mouth, music boxes, bric-a-brac to rustle, ring, click or whistle combine with high-tech effect, electronic drones, loops and morphing shapeshifting and melt into a fantasma of a strange alien-folklore, a pretend-ritual-music, moving between
melancholically dreamy and capricious playfulness. Homler's (especially in 'Sputtery') Jauniauxesque, onomatopoetic singsong in fantasy languages or Renaissance Italian seems to contradict its own claim with its light airy timbre. Then again, after all, alchemy properly understood is a joyful science. With the title 'Sidpaho' a connection is traced with Tibetan astrology, but 'Kelpland' itself (a dog race?) creates a mystery.]
Preternatural avant-garde vociferations filtered through a post-modern digital mainframe. Improvised loop effects intertwine percussive bass tonality, deeply resonating with flanged sound art experimentalism. Ratchet cranks & clangs, chirping, bemoaned wails, found sounds and objects drench surrounding terrains with eerie ambience. Anna Homler recites a surreal language accented by impelling intonations, the likes of which are rivaled only by Diamanda Galas' staggering four octave a cappella assailments. Avant-garde improv-jazz bassist, musician and composer, Steuart Liebig , lends his considerable orchestral talent using contrabass guitar, which has 6 strings, larger scale length, and atypical tuning from standard acoustic basses, producing a deeply amplified, round "double bass" sound throughout Kelpland Serenades. All tracks are live, undubbed improvisations, appropriately released on Jeff Kaiser's pfMentum record label. An excellent release! Harry Partch would flip his lid! I know I did.
Guy Montag (KFJC)
Homler/Leibig Duo Kelpland Serenades (pfMENTUM)
Anna Homler takes care of the vocals (sometimes singing, sometimes decidedly not) and accouterments, while Steuart Leibig concentrates on contrabass guitars, loops and electronics. The results sound just like that: Two people making up some truly strange noise as they go. The improvisations here are all over the map, and not quite consistent in terms of ideas or execution. An intriguing listen for those willing to spend some time with the album.
(Aiding and Abetting Website)
Anna Homler en Steuart Liebig zijn naar het schijnt al jaren bewonderaars van elkaars werk en daarom wilden ze graag eens samenwerken. Liebig heeft z'n sporen verdiend in de kamermuziek, jazz en geïmproviseerde muziek. Hij is bassist, maar kan ook prima uit de voeten met elektronica. Homler is een stemkunstenares die haar eigen taal verzint, en daarnaast is ze ook bezig met performance- en installatiekunst. Het heeft heel wat tijd en moeite gekost, maar Kelpland serenades van het Anna Homler & Steuart Liebig Duo ligt nu eindelijk in de winkel. Dertien improvisaties, zonder gefoefel achteraf, en alles bij elkaar een dik uur avontuurlijke muziek. Daarnet hoorde je Fantasma en dit is nog Secret heart.
In improvisation there is no right or wrong; whatever happens must be accepted and, if possible, enjoyed. The pairing of Homler's voice, toys and objects with Liebig's contrabass guitar and treatments yields a multitude of results: distressing claustrophobic cages of low frequency diffidence and deformed utterances of ancient spirits contrast the "lighter" moments, where Anna intones difficult-to-decipher idioms in a totally unconventional series of song fragments reminiscent of Julie Tippetts and Shelley Hirsch's work, with the concomitance of Steuart's outbursts of nervous energy burning through reductive surrogates of undisclosed sonic earthquakes. The music is often comparable to what's commonly - and superficially - defined as "avantgarde composition," showing few openings, tending to remain in its own cold microcosm only to reveal various forms of bitter truth where gloomy atmospheres and borderline poetry ask for the permission to engulf us in their indeterminacy. Call it high-level introversion.
Massimo Ricci (Touching Extremes)
Homler Liebig Duo - - KELPLAND SERENADES: This is one of the strangest & most exciting CD's I've listened to lately . . . Anna Homler does vocals (as well as toys & found objects) over strange string sounds and electronics by Steuart Liebig. We've all heard albums similar to this before (and maybe even played on some), but none of them possess the degree of "other-worldliness" that this one does. Sorta' like improvisors who "speak in tongues," or something like that. You must be one of the "initiated" to enjoy this (or be one of the ones who wants to totally escape the "normal", thereby allowing you to become an initiate) . . . if you think your brain can somehow "convert" this into "normal" sound, think again! Very carefully crafted pieces here, with neat little nuances in, out, around & through . . . and the recording quality makes you feel like you're right there (on Venus, or Pluto) watching the performers create these strange serenades. I give this one a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, especially if your ears are already slightly "bent." Get more information at www.pfmentum.com.
Rotcod Zzaj (Improvijazzation Nation, Issue #73 REVIEWS)
The sounds of our day to day lives are not crescendos. They are not narratives. They aren't even true improvisations. They are the tired, hollow drones of our computer fans. The incessant high pitched whine of television sets left on all night. The hum of a refrigerator, the jingle of someone else's keys. The opaque, half-heard speech of someone on another side of the wall behind us. They keep going and going, but God only knows what it means. Kelpland Serenades is much the same - - and yet the album is dreamlike. Our world is dull and monotonous. Why is that?
Like the hum of the computer fan, like the refrigerator's drone, you don't hear so much as feel Steuart Liebig's contrabass guitar throughout Kelpland Serenades . (Take a second to confirm this: there is an appliance affecting your mood right now that you haven't even noticed.) And like that person in the other room, experimental vocalist Anna Homler's manic rants are, for all you can tell, absolutely meaningless. But like any human speech, they demand your attention. Isn't it interesting, the way we empathize with nonsense and feel so little for the sounds of machines? Homler might think so. Certainly you'll think about this as you listen to her perform. No matter what weirdness is going on (subtly, almost inaudibly) in the background, you'll be drawn to her like an open flame in winter. You may even find yourself nodding your head in agreement, though you won't know quite what you're agreeing with.
Homler's sense of wonder is infectious. She seems to be exploring these improvised minimalist soundscapes as we are. Without her, they would be incredibly tense. With her as our guide, though, we can achieve a certain detachment. It's like when you have a dream in which something terrible happens and you don't honestly care; you can observe the gushing blood and the crawling spiders from a safe emotional distance. And then there's the fact that Homler is responsible for much of the weirdness herself. She is, after all, credited with "toys" in the liner notes. Her toys click and crank and grind and shake. It is very, very strange. She seems to collaborate, then, with the terrible dream. As long as she has achieved this sort of distance, she might as well have her fun with ideas of awful things.
With that in mind, we can look again at the idea of Liebig's contribution and its parallels with the mundane soundscape of life. Maybe monotony is terrifying -- but maybe we can appreciate it, as Homler does, through a sense of play and from a safe distance. Then it becomes magical.
Or, to apply it more concretely: if you approach Kelpland Serenades as the terribly serious album it sometimes seems to want to be, you are unlikely to get much out of it. Likewise, if you let it fade into the background, you will miss out. A healthy playfulness is essential to enjoying these soundscapes. This can be said for life as well. If you are waiting for consciousness to make perfect sense, you're wasting your time. At least by making a game of life, you can set your own conditions for success.
Kelpland Serenades has certainly met its creators' conditions -- it is strange and magical stuff. It will take listeners some time and effort to appreciate -- which, by the rules of a lot of people we know, will probably make it a failure. It's their loss.
Mike Meginnis (http://www.splendidezine.com)
At last, Anna Homler has delivered an album that can match her fabulous and highly praised @Victo release Corne de vache. This collaboration with bassist Steuart Liebig is a perfect match. The man's Eb contrabass guitar rules the low frequencies, while his bass preparations, simple electronics and sweeping loops offer a nice complement to Homler's bottomless bag of toys and objects. And of course there is her enchantress's voice, singing in a naturally-flowing language only she understands -- somewhere between a casual incantation and an infant's babble.
Kelpland Serenades is a set of "live, undubbed improvisations," dixit the booklet, without precising when and where it was recorded. There is a handful of short tracks, one to three minutes; these feature the strongest collective improvisations, each musician in perfect communion with the other's own universe. The longer pieces tend to feature a leader. At times it will by Liebig's bass loops, as in "Sehnsucht," where Homler barely manages to place a few toy sounds (that is until the bassist cuts the loops off, letting the singer compose an instant song). Elsewhere it is Homler's turn to take the front stage, Liebig simply punctuating her phrasing and attempting to influence the overall mood of the piece unfolding.
Homler can do wonderful things with toys, be them instruments or cheap electronic gadgets, but one wishes she would sing more on this album. Still, pieces like "Winter Street," "Sidpaho," "Radix Vitae" and the aforementioned "Sehnsucht" (and so many others) will ravish fans of the too discreet vocalist. And Liebig's performance illustrates once more his versatility. Highly recommended, especially if you already own Macaronic Sines or Corne de vache and need to hear more from her.
François Couture [All Music Guide]
Homler-Liebig Duo - Kelpland Serenades. A wonderfully minimalistic improv album full of texture, here Anna Homler-voice, toys, found objects, and Steuart Liebig-guitars and electronics, create a panoramic seascape of the mind. Recommended.
Jackal Blaster new reviews
Dark, atmospheric improvisations primarily for voice, basses and effects. Some of these are even goth-poppy (given the constraints of the style as a whole), and Homler's vocals are often like that of a cross between Ivá Bittová and Diamanda Galas, sans screams. Most of the tracks have a fairly similar feel to one another, which makes compelling descriptions difficult. The vocals are sometimes occasionally song-like and compelling enough that it's hard to believe they're improvised, though since none of them are in English, it's sort of hard to judge.
Best: 6, 8, 9, 12
All tracks FCC clean, though it's possible Homler's saying really obscene stuff in Swedish.
1. Low, haunted-house reverb bass, some fumbling-with-objects sounds and whistle.
2. Primarily solo bass improvisation with an odd electronic timbre. Ends -:08
3. Scratchy sounds and what sounds like highly distorted irregular beatboxing? Second half rather ominous.
4. Voice and bass, mostly in alternation. Homler's vocals are at their least word-like here (though of course it's hard to tell)--like a female Phil Minton. Liebig's bass soloing is rather frenetic, though the track ends on a relaxed note.
5. Fairly quiet & abstract; mostly bass. Some highly distorted vocals in the second half.
6. Compelling, mournful vocal line that makes you wish you could understand the words.
7. Brief near-eastern melody starts us off, then abstract bass doodles with some found percussion (sounds like chains and reeds at parts). The bass part starting around -3:00 has a nice, slow melody; vocals enter soon after. Similar to 6 but, because of the intro, has a more "out" feel.
8. Worried vocals and ominous bass, with some creaks and distortions in the background. Creepy.
9. Music box intro which recurs at various points. Slower vocals here. The music box, when it plays, threatens to give a kind of cheesy feel, but it's not overdone. Great atmospherics; doesn't really build to anything but that's not necessarily bad.
10. Breathless vocals and trills.
11. Bass rumbling in the beginning; some of the more melodic vocals here.
12. Fake birdcall-like noises open it? Sustained overlapping instrumental tones, not unlike Frippertronics. Metal scraping and clattering. Song-like vocals come in in the last three minutes.
13. Begins with some gentle ambience, continues a lot like 6, but more overwrought.
Ben Wolfson [KZSU]
Anna Homler’s singing verges at times on the cadences of English, German, Italian and Chinese, but it’s an evocative pseudo-language of her own. On Kelpland Serenades, a duet with Steuart Liebig, her singing conveys a mix of excitability and lamentation, peppered with the occasional sounds of toys and found objects. Liebig’s minimalist soundscapes give her dreamlike resonating space to work with: it’s as if she were babbling into the void or seeking to find some healing song. Not quite enough variety to sustain and hour-plus of music, perhaps, but this duo’s distinctively eerie sound-world is well worth sampling.
Nate Dorward [Cadence, August 2006]
So manches im Leben gibt einem große Rätsel auf. Manchmal sind es auch Hörattacken, die ganz unverhofft auf kleinen silbernen Scheiben daherkommen und mich verwundert aufhorchen lassen. Anna Homler und Steuart Liebig haben so eine Scheibe gemacht. Kelpland Serenades heißt sie und sie ist eigentlich nicht zu beschreiben. Rigobert Dittmann aus Würzburg hats in seinem wunderbaren Fanzine Bad Alchemie mal probiert - - ich werde später daraus zitieren. Vielleicht erhellt seine Wortakrobatik eure Gedanken.
Doch nun zur Musik.
Anna Homler ist keine Unbekannte. Seit etwa 10 Jahren tönt sie im Zores Dunstkreis. Einspielungen mit Frank Schulte, Axel Otto, Pavel Fajt und vielen anderen belegten ihr Können und ihre Kreativität. Sie singt, lärmt mit Kinderspielsachen oder irgendwelchen zusammengesammelten Gegenständen. Auf Kelpland Serenades hat sie sich mit dem Cryptogrammophoniker Steuart Liebig zusammengetan, der mit seiner Kontrabassgitarre, mit Electronics und Loopings Homlers ätherische Stimme begleitet und die Musik kongenial vorantreibt. Hörbar nicht für jedperson aber hörenswert allemal.
Welch Worte soll ich für diese Musik gebrauchen. Ich zitiere Rigo Dittmann:
"Klangalchemistisch verschmelzen Elemente der Art Brut und einer mit einfachsten Mitteln spielenden Art Povera, dem Mund, Spieluhren, Krimskrams, um zu knistern, klingeln, klicken oder pfeifen, mit Hightecheffekten, elektronischen Drones, Loops und morphendem Shapeshifting zum 'fantasma' einer seltsamen Alien-Folklore, zu Als-ob-Ritualmusik, die eigenartig vexiert zwischen melancholisch-verträumt und launig-verspielt. Homlers Jauniaux'esker, onomatopoetischer Singsang in Phantasiesprachen oder Renaissanceitalienisch scheint mit seinem hellen, luftigen Timbre dem eigenen Anspruch zu widersprechen. Aber Alchemie ist recht verstanden eben doch eine fröhliche Wissenschaft . . . Kelpland . . . gibt mir Rätsel auf."
So Rigobert Dittmann und jetzt lasse ich wieder die Musik sprechen.
Anna Homler Steuart Liebig Duo
Kelpland Serenades eine CD die mir mit mehrmaligen Hören immer besser gefällt, die mir Rätsel aufgibt, die sich nur schwer erschließt, die ich aber sicher noch öfter aus dem CD Ständer holen werde. Sie ist bei PF Mentum erschienen. Das ist ein Label aus Kalifornien, wo Anna Homler lebt und wo es halt doch immer wieder musikalische Entdeckungen abseits des Metropolenmusikspektrums gibt.
If you want to read my notes on this album, click here.