In the course of many years of listening to classical, popular, experimental, strange, semi-weird and utterly weird recorded sounds, I had come to believe that nothing could really surprise me anymore. Now I met Lukas Simonis’ Stots. It shakes my belief, and it forces me to recategorise my experiences because until today I didn’t have a group of familiar-and-weird or recognisable-and-alien records or CD’s. So, you may ask, what happened? What is so special about Stots?
Superficially, the CD is structured like a rock album (Simonis has worked with a number of bands at the fringe of the rock scene), with 16 tracks of approximately 4’, each having its own title and identity. Its material is drawn from field recordings, voice, guitar and cello improvisations, electronics and every other conceivable source. The mixes aren’t especially exceptional. No extreme dynamics, no outlandish rhythms——as far as there is a rhythm——and no spectacular tempo. Most of the score, if there were one, would show the mezzofortes and andantes of a civilised conversation between very imaginative friends. And that defines exactly the atmosphere of this music. It is narrative and descriptive, speculative and conversational. And it is like an essay in the philosophy of music, not in prose but in actual sounding facts and statements. Translated in my own words, its theorems would be:
1) Listen to hear. If you don’t listen, you will simply not hear what is on the record. It vanishes.
2) Be aware that what you hear is something else than what someone else hears and more specifically, differs from what the composer heard.
3) Construct your own meaning. E.g. do not take the meaning I assign to the sounds on this album for granted.
4) Do not feel surprised when you hear in a batch of foreign language sounds phonemes that you recognise as coming from your own tongue; as if, in the middle of a Japanese phrase, you suddenly hear a few English (or in my case: Dutch) words.
According to Lukas Simonis, the point of departure for making the whole song cycle was the conscious misunderstanding of language, coming from the idea that you can never say exactly the same thing in a different language (so ‘I love you’ means something else than je ‘t aime’). In my opinion, he has absolutely succeeded in conveying that message, even if he had to use the most ambiguous of all languages to get it across.
Stefaan Van Ryssen, Leonardo
A very interesting album, full of twists, quirks and ruptures of that ordinariness that often affects the "grand scheme of things" in improvised music (yes, there are schemes in there, too), "Stots" presents 16 pretty short sketches for guitar, voice, electronics, objects and field recordings, sometimes in the space of the same piece. Although Simonis has played with the likes of Eugene Chadbourne, Eddie Prevost and Jon Rose, his music is totally parentless, seemingly recognizing no influences; even the titles are in a "secret language", to help listeners not to be influenced by "dogmatic and misunderstood information". In that sense, the disc's high point is a track called "& Adoot", a fiendish arrangement where a fragmented voice is pitch-transposed all over the place and Simonis' guitar is, for lack of a better word, "corroded", while the rest moves according to a completely unique planetology. Over the course of the whole CD, one gaspingly waits for hooks or tunes, but all that Lukas gives is parching dissonance, arrhythmia a go-go and unpredictably fractured "melodies", whose chance of being remembered - much less sung - is nil. "Stots" is in a class of its own, it's dirty and gross but also splendidly refined (when the author wants it to be). No parallelism is possible, just relax and enjoy a very bumpy ride through acousmatic miscreancy.
Massimo Ricci, touching extremes
This artist seems to have his own literary agenda concerning the 16 short pieces on Stots, a solo outing both extremely subtle and superb. The listener whose knowledge of foriegn languages is boobish, especially Dutch, may want to create their own mental imagery for these evocative performances. In one such head came the recollection of a South Carolina beach, Edisto Island, following a severe storm.
The tiny shattered pieces of shells and other ocean flotsam, their details of shape and color seemingly too rich to fit on such a small surface, is the desired comparison rather than the cliched reference to awesome destruction quite often brought up in frustrated attempts to describe music that on the surface consists mostly of noise.
One of the most impressive aspects of this Lukas Simonis CD, pieced together over 2005 and 2006, is how skillfully he maintains this focus on small events which are dispersed so quickly that they are like visuals flashing past the corner of one's eye. There are no indulgent repetitions or puffed-up climaxes aimed at knocking over tough customers.
Melodic and rhythmic aspects do certainly emerge on tracks such as "Ippesa" and"Baljisrool", the latter allowing such musicality to slowly rise out of what sounds like backwards or digitally scanned guitar figures. Simonis certainly doesn't hide his abilities as a freaky picker, a cranky old man growling from the frets on"Jeiler V", while "&Adoot" sounds like something horrible happening to the more obnoxious cast members of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. By the end of it all, "Hirk¡", his axe seems to have developed indigestion, no surprise considering this diet of ground up sea shells and hobbits. Meanwhile the listenere who likes this kind of stuff will be ready to start all over again.
Eugene Chadbourne, All Music Guide
Does anyone here remember Ron Gysin? Or that really obscure and somewhat silly stuff on Umma Gumma?
Stots begins just like that, lots of ghoulish voices, groaning, growling, grumbling and having lots of fun bee booing into an echo machine. There is a bit of Hugo Ball Dadaism here... which would be cool... or maybe Simonis is influenced by fellow Dutch man, Jaap Blonk's ranted gurgling? The field recordings, glitch and multi levels of odd noises are neither composed, organised or improvised, just a hotch potch of overlapping tracks and it all seems a bit of a mess. However, by track 3 Dalver, things do start to come together as lo fi drones are layered with radio sounds, abused guitars, drills and bubbles.
There are some great atmospheres here, Begoulesj for example starts with clickety clicking in a large warehouse as boulders are dropped. Lorries are braking nearby and amid fluttery backwards sounds, a thumb piano provides melodic elements. On Baljisrool, space station guitar, almost Arabic in its tones, is accompanied by the sounds of watery footsteps.
and... well its all like this... mixtures of bits and pieces, all jumbled, cut up, chewed up, spat out, burned, printed and sold. Some of it's pretty good even if I was put off a bit by the zaniness of the first tracks but after repeated listening Lukas Simonis has grabbed my attention. By my third listen for example, I realise how much of this is actually "prepared guitar". quite a lot of the effects and sounds that I put down to being noise or field recording are actually quite subtley played and mis-played from an electric guitar, recorded pretty open across a room, which gives it a really live and sharp edge. I also discover, more by accident than design, that playing the tracks in reverse order is much more appealing to my ears. Which, when you think about it makes perfect sense because Stots backwards is... well?... stotS
Mark Francombe, furthernoise
Lucas is one of the finest and longest-standing artistic talents in the Rotterdam scene. He's best known for his off-kilter (read: approaching insane) songs with the Dutch bands Dull Schicksall, AA Kismet and Vril. But on this disk Lucas abandons the song-form and follows up on his early penchant for sound experimentation and improvisation, mostly utilizing guitars, but vocal utterances of all kinds and field recordings are prominent as well. An attempt of this sort under such circumstances is usually a ploy by musicians to either gain in stature or prestige to a different circle of contemporaries; but Simonis, being the gentlemanly sort he is, can only approach this territory in the most sincere of ways, and it shows. Arrogance is replaced by altruism, uncertainty by assuredness, and bombast or shock by plain musical maturity. Hence there's not a thing meretricious about this recording. It's as honest as they come. And while there may be a nod or two to the likes of Fred Frith or later AMM, they pass soon enough, leaving the great majority of this disk in a class by itself. Radical and immensely enjoyable !
Review by David Kerman, ReR USA catalogue
This is a composite production, with a guitar-based and neo-impro approach that deals also with the most recent glitch paradigms, articulating redundant sounds. This kind of sounds are rich in connections (field recordings), modulating old and new styles, a usual business for people like Simonis, with an eighties industrial music and noise rock background. This attitude has been carried away to the Rotterdam's Worm collective experience and afterwards borrowed in a more abstract way that would have included also electronic sounds, crossbreeding techniques and different stylistic methods. An excellent album, that gives a generational changeover the deserved merit of a true support to the most recent contemporary aesthetics.
Aurelio Cianciotta, www.neural.it