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Bile Noire – AV 001LP
Peter Vukmirovic Stevens – piano
Strotter Inst. – prepared turntables
“[Bile Noire] really stirs the fireplace and stokes the mental boilers…”
The Sound Projector – London, UK
Bile Noire brings together piano and electronic music in this most unusual duet. Strotter Inst. creates an entire sound world using his modified turntables, while composer Peter Vukmirovic Stevens weaves in original piano compositions. Together they create a wholly unique sound.
BILE NOIRE brings together the most unusual duet of piano and prepared turntables. Strotter Inst. creates layers of sounds and rhythms using modified turntables. At the same time, composer Peter Vukmirovic Stevens blends his original piano compositions to create a unique atmosphere that defies categorization.
Prepared turntables use objects attached to album surfaces that tap an amplified wire suspended over the decks at various RPMs. The resulting signals are mixed and modified by effects pedals. The result is polyrhythmic and distinct electronic music made without midi or sequencers.
Part musical instrument, part performance art installation, these turntables/instruments, juxtaposed with acoustic piano compositions, reflects the combination of two different mindsets. Peter Vukmirovic Stevens creates original piano compositions to create a blending of atmospheres for this most unusual duet. Combined with Stevens’ transformation of a second piano part into a crunching electric guitar sound makes music that is equally fitting for the concert hall, the art museum, or alternative space.
BILE NOIRE (as referenced in the works of Baudelaire) is a term from ancient folk medicine — it is the 4th “humour,” the source of all melancholy. The album starts with a melancholic atmosphere and builds with intensity, like Ravel’s Bolero, to a climactic finale.
Peter Vukmirovic Stevens is an artist of broad-ranging activities in music and visual art. From solo piano to symphony orchestra, his distinct musical works are performed in concert halls across the U.S., Europe, the Caucuses, and Japan. Renowned musicians perform his compositions, including New York’s All-Star Orchestra musicians violinist Mikhail Shmidt and violist Mara Gearman.
Strotter Inst. holds a unique place in music. He is the premier performer of prepared turntables transformed into percussion instruments. He performs equally with rock, noise, and classical musicians, including vocalist Patricia Kopatchinskaja and Grammy-winning violinist Maja S.K. Ratkje. Strotter Inst. features continually at electronic and experimental music festivals around the world.
from The Sound Projector – London, UK
I am pretty taken with Bile Noire (ARPAVIVA AVLP 001), a vinyl item housed in a moody black cover on the label, Arpaviva. It’s a team-up between Strotter Inst. and Peter Vukmirovic Stevens – Strotter Inst. is Christoph Hess, the Swiss turntablist who can’t put a tonearm wrong as far as we’re concerned, and like most sensible folk, we worship the very belt-drive of his kit. We last heard him on Miszellen, a double LP of staggering proportions for the Hallowground label, which showed him teaming up with notables and big names from the world of art music and underground noise.
Bile Noire could be heard as more of a showcase for the piano of Peter Vukmirovic Stevens. Strotter Inst. exhibits grace and restraint with his subdued, minimal contributions to the work – almost relegating himself to a background, time-keeping role – but his distinctive imaginative moves still win through. Stevens apparently achieved certain worldwide renown already with his compositions for orchestras and orchestral music, picked up a few prizes for his mantelpiece, and still finds time to make colorful abstract and pictorial art. But his piano work here really stirs the fireplace and stokes the mental boilers, mainly by using lower-register notes to evoke dark and brooding emotions. Already I feel like we’re in a dank 19th-century salon in some non-existent European country where, due to time warps and inter-dimensional distortions, the course of history has been drastically altered. Everyone lives under the yoke of multiple right-wing regimes, yet people still find time to act the part of the decadent dandy type replete in a velvet cape and top hat. As a matter of fact, such a figure has left his gloves and cane on the piano lid and set down to deliver himself of these six exercises in grimitude and ghastlery.”
from Zipo at Aufabwegen, Germany
(Translated from German)
“It is likely this album could only be realized given the range and depth of these artists’ musical experience. The Swiss turntable artist Christoph Hess aka Strotter Inst., well respected in experimental music circles, joined concert pianist and composer Peter Vukmirovic Stevens to create a truly amazing product. This music is dramatic, organic, and tense. For us, the second piece of the A-side (all the tracks have monstrously long French names) best characterizes their efforts in which dark-melodious, rolling piano tones and pulsing bass notes are mixed with scratchy-roughened sounds. Because the piano’s tone is easier for the ear to follow, it would be easy to assume the sounds are arranged as foreground and background – but it is not that simple. The pulsing and processed oscillations created by the turntables sound in unison with the piano and combine with the piano keystrokes on the hammers. Ergo: the sound layers combine in a natural and balanced way and create a great musical experience. Terrific!”
from Baze.djunkIII – Nitestylez, Germany
“Coming in from Switzerland [is] BILE NOIRE, a limited to 300 copies vinyl pressing produced by Christoph Hess a.k.a. Strotter Inst. and pianist Peter Vukmirovic Stevens. Combining Hess’ trademark use of prepared turntables and Vukmirovic Stevens’ approach, we have six compositions on this album that can be described best as darkish, film score-like, and dramatic in their overall approach. The album brings forth a captivating amalgamation of layered, partly stumbling experimental loops and scraping, manipulated sounds as a foundation. And an expressive, moody take on piano noir reminds us of catastrophic winter thunderstorms and intense, early experimental movies shot in grainy black and white, putting the entire range of human emotion and expression on vintage display. Interestingly, the unprocessed solo piano and the electronic backing interact and complement each other perfectly. Instead of providing a harsh disturbing contrast of sorts, BILE NOIRE is a perfect conceptual addition to the collection for both fans of electronic experimental music and followers of contemporary classical music. Still, it will also sit well with collectors of scores and other dramatic music.”
“BILE NOIRE is a perfect conceptual addition to the collection for both fans of electronic experimental music and followers of contemporary classical music.”
Cover image and design by Sean Waple