Biota / Mnemonists

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search all destroy nothing, but we say the nice things here about the music that is hard to describe

My favorite probably remains Tumble for Biota and Horde for Mnemonists

(Jon L), Monday, 7 February 2005 23:22 (fourteen years ago) link

It's all about the "Gryomancy" lp by the Mnemonists.
It has that zoviet france-ish soft fuzzy indistinct cloudy thing going on. Good drawings too.

Drew Daniel (Drew Daniel), Monday, 7 February 2005 23:58 (fourteen years ago) link

i've heard Horde, Some Attributes of a Living System and Invisible Map. from what i remember, SALS is more out and scattered and free-jazzy than the very dream-ish Horde, but still really good. Invisible Map is great, way different than the early stuff -- it has an old-world semi-mystical folk-pop sound with some experimental moments and some full-on short songs.

fauxhemian (fauxhemian), Tuesday, 8 February 2005 01:20 (fourteen years ago) link

Gyromancy sounds TOO indistinct to me--it's barely there. I much prefer Horde, which is sonically richer and more disorienting.

Biota--it's all incredible, but Tumble and Bellowing Room/Tinct are my favorites.

Dave Segal (Da ve Segal), Tuesday, 8 February 2005 02:33 (fourteen years ago) link

Gyromancy is the mellowest I've heard, the only album of theirs I can read or check e-mail to without getting swallowed whole. Horde opens up into that unbelievable chattering sound forest halfway through, that "I hope they're friendly" feeling

Zoviet-France not a bad comparison point although the Mnemonists pre-date and I find their records much more mysterious, defined, timeless. No synthesizers or overt electronics, just radically processed acoustic instruments... it's obviously being _performed_ by a band, real peoples, it's just that you can only barely tell what the instruments even are... so much stranger than 95% of all other 'electronic' music.

(Jon L), Tuesday, 8 February 2005 02:52 (fourteen years ago) link

Well put, Milton.

Dave Segal (Da ve Segal), Tuesday, 8 February 2005 07:25 (fourteen years ago) link

I've got "Rackabones", how does that rate in the grand scheme of things? Must listen to it again.

Dadaismus (Dada), Tuesday, 8 February 2005 12:34 (fourteen years ago) link


Also, the live Biota/Mnemonists recording on Anomalous Records(r.i.p)
is pretty stellar.

Stephen Boyle (SBoyle), Tuesday, 8 February 2005 18:12 (fourteen years ago) link

Am I crazy, or wouldn't Biota sound cool if Fennesz remixed them? Or even someone like...Matmos or Wobbly!

Dominique (dleone), Tuesday, 8 February 2005 18:22 (fourteen years ago) link

I think all they'd have to do is ask, their sounds are absolutely incredible, and flexible. though the idea of a Biota remix album seems slightly besides the point, might make more sense than oh say remixing the Art Bears

(Jon L), Tuesday, 8 February 2005 21:54 (fourteen years ago) link

nice discography here, I have to admit I've only heard the ones that have been reissued on CD, so haven't heard Rackabones or Awry, or the first two Mnemonists...

from the early records to the recent, there seems to be an unbroken line away from pure uncarved sound abstraction & wild noise towards the gradual introduction of written riffs & folk song-like things.

Tumble is the first album entirely made from concise, differentiated tune-like things. Object Holder is the first one with songs, "Private Wire" is fantastic. Invisible Map I'm not sure about. The effects & manipulations have gone largely missing, the melodies brought to the foreground and yet none of them are sticking in my head anymore?

But the Biota / Mnemonists 1990 live album that came out last year, it's so incredible to hear them play a show (esp. circa Tumble)-- even if it's been slightly recomposed, merging the rehearsal with the actual show, it still obviously a live set, the group dynamics very clear, they rock out much harder on this one than they have since the early records, some great bursts of violent noise too...

Gyromancy just made it to CD, the first 100 mailordered copies from ReR USA came with full vinyl-sized reproductions of the artwork inserts that came with the original vinyl... they might still have some copies.

(Jon L), Tuesday, 8 February 2005 22:00 (fourteen years ago) link

three months pass...
Hey, thanks for the discography link, Milton!

I really love the "Awry" 10" and all of the new CDs. "Living System" is definitely fractured and almost jazzy, "Rackabones" is quiet and has yet to reveal itself to me. Most of the others are noisier, and that new Anomalous CD has a blistering volume jump that scared the living shit out of me the first time I heard it.

sleeve (sleeve), Tuesday, 24 May 2005 04:20 (fourteen years ago) link

ten months pass...
So Eric from Anomalous sent me a bunch of corrections and extra info and I have updated my informal Biota/Mnemonists discography that Milton linked to above. There was an early tape, but I got the name wrong. I missed two compilation tracks. That sort of thing... and the Mnemonists "Gyromancy" is now out on CD with the Tic/Nailed 7" as bonus tracks, good dark drone as someone said upthread.

sleeve (sleeve), Tuesday, 4 April 2006 05:45 (thirteen years ago) link

thanks for that discography

that volume jump on the Anomalous live record -- even after you learn exactly where it is and when to expect it, you still jump when it happens

milton parker (Jon L), Tuesday, 4 April 2006 18:04 (thirteen years ago) link

horde really is an incredible piece of music

gyromancy might not be the best starting point -- it's a good ambient record, but a little indistinct and out of all their records it's the one where I can tell the most what they're doing -- the sound of pitchshifted feedback all over everything isn't unique to Mnemonist records, unlike almost all their other sounds. on horde it's really hard to even ask questions about what they're doing, you're just completely lost.

milton parker (Jon L), Tuesday, 4 April 2006 21:22 (thirteen years ago) link

OK, that one's next on my list. Thanks.

sleeve (sleeve), Tuesday, 4 April 2006 23:34 (thirteen years ago) link

one year passes...

who's heard the new record?

Milton Parker, Tuesday, 18 December 2007 20:50 (eleven years ago) link

not me, didn't even know there was one. yet another 2007 release to track down late in the year.

is this a Recommended release?

sleeve, Tuesday, 18 December 2007 20:56 (eleven years ago) link

i actually have this, but haven't had time to open yet!

Dominique, Tuesday, 18 December 2007 21:03 (eleven years ago) link

ah yes on Recommended, title is "Half A True Day".

sleeve, Wednesday, 19 December 2007 06:43 (eleven years ago) link

three weeks pass...

Nice. Perhaps a slight step backwards in terms of the use of vocals. I am on my 2nd listen to the first half of the CD and there is a lot of vocal material but it has all been run backwards or altered in that typical Biota studio processing fashion. There are no audible words, I'm not sure if I've even head a phoneme yet. But the vocals are there, bubbling under the surface. Since I STILL haven't heard Invisible Map I'm not sure if Kristianne Gale did vocals on that one, she is a new(er) name in the expanding Biota/Mnemonists camp. There are 15 musicians and 9 visual artists credited! Tom Katsimpalis has some gorgeous guitar runs here, I think his deft acoustic guitar work has always been my favorite aspect of Biota. Good booklet of artwork as always. There are some drastic volume shifts at times a la the 1990 live CD talked about upthread. I could easily peg this in a blind test, but they remain unique in their sound.

sleeve, Tuesday, 15 January 2008 03:23 (eleven years ago) link

bump for Milton and Dleone.

sleeve, Thursday, 17 January 2008 04:52 (eleven years ago) link

ah, didn't see

I love the new album. Liked it much, much better than Invisible Map, though I can't say why exactly -- only they make music like this but the last one seemed to wander in parts and this one just holds the spell. Actually maybe I can make a guess -- they've been getting more judicious in their processing with every album since 1991, you can actually _hear_ the instruments and tell them apart more clearly now. But the thing I missed was the bizarre tunings & scales -- Invisible Map was almost too straightforward, but this new album is back to strange

folky bands with weird production like Animal Collective having become so mainstream, it really strikes me just how unique a band like Biota still sounds, they're on their own planet and I can barely imagine someone getting this new album and realizing they've been doing this for almost 30 years. no one sounds like them. I think the reason most people don't bother to review them is because it's so difficult to write about this music, you can't refer to any influences, you can only describe people who came afterwards

about the vocals being a step backwards -- they've definitely given up on songs -- 1995's Object Holder is the only one that includes a few tracks with actual lyrics instead of hummed blurs. If they put out a pop track like "Private Wire" today now that more people are accustomed to folky weirdness with eccentric production, they'd get more attention, but I'm happier they're back to making absolutely insane 70-minute immersive beasts you can't find your way out of

they're the real thing

Milton Parker, Thursday, 17 January 2008 20:19 (eleven years ago) link

two months pass...

Just playing this for the first time now, it's definitely a step "backwards" in some ways in that they're not making any great stylistic leaps here. Then again, it couldn't be anybody other than Biota. And why would they need to change when there's still so much space to investigate within their existing sound and compositional methods? Kind of a shame they haven't got any hipster cache at all, the world seems to have caught up with them a bit now and I think a lot of people would like them if they got to hear them. I guess they're associated with avant-prog (the ReR connection) rather than whatever-they're-calling-freak-folk-now, which seems a pity, especially as it'll probably be about 5 years before their next record. Oh well.

Matt #2, Saturday, 12 April 2008 09:31 (eleven years ago) link

Which Biota album should I start with? Or should I start with the Mnemonists?

RabiesAngentleman, Saturday, 12 April 2008 12:22 (eleven years ago) link

start with Tumble for Biota (if you like tunes), Horde for Mnemonists (if you like sound)

Milton Parker, Saturday, 12 April 2008 13:42 (eleven years ago) link

Looks like I'm getting both.

RabiesAngentleman, Saturday, 12 April 2008 13:51 (eleven years ago) link

Excellent choices.

sleeve, Saturday, 12 April 2008 16:31 (eleven years ago) link

two weeks pass...

the new one is a real grower, no joke, I sort of shelved it after the first few spins but now I'm really getting it

it's not hooky or catchy in the way that 'Tumble' is -- tons of riffs and melodic interweaving patterns but nothing you can really hum along with, but in the end that is the strength, it's a return to Mnemonist texture & flow but with Biota-era arrangements (i.e. you can recognize the instruments they're using even if they occasional do unlikely things)

fantastic 2AM music

Milton Parker, Friday, 2 May 2008 08:43 (eleven years ago) link

I got both tumble and horde and I've been loving both, the Biota album especially. It's like some fascinating, obtuse machine where none of the parts look like they're made to fit with any of the other parts, and there are gears just spinning free, but if you removed a single piece it'd stop working altogether. It's hard to imagine how they conceptualized this.

Kind of a shame they haven't got any hipster cache at all, the world seems to have caught up with them a bit now and I think a lot of people would like them if they got to hear them. I guess they're associated with avant-prog (the ReR connection) rather than whatever-they're-calling-freak-folk-now, which seems a pity, especially as it'll probably be about 5 years before their next record. Oh well.

I wish I had heard this x number of years ago when I was first getting into the No Neck Blues Band and all the free folk / New Weird America stuff. I remember going to that Pasture Fest in Wisconsin years ago with Pelt and Black Forest/Black Sea, MV + EE, a bunch of that stuff, one of the few opportunities I've had to see any bands like this live. I enjoyed nearly all of it, but afterwards there was sort of this feeling of, okay, weirdly tuned acoustic instruments + lots of delay, sure cool enough. (I'm over generalizing here.) But had Biota been there I think a lot of those bands would have been left cross eyed. Easily more bewildering, mutated and distinct than any of that stuff (nice try Valentine).

RabiesAngentleman, Friday, 2 May 2008 10:54 (eleven years ago) link

nice writing there Rabies, thanks for the viewpoints. I think you really caught a lot of what their music does with that machine analogy.

and yeah the new record is seeming more and more like one of their best.

sleeve, Friday, 2 May 2008 17:21 (eleven years ago) link

hey thanks :)

That Mnemonists is taking longer to really sink in, naturally, which is probably a matter of not giving it enough listening time, (which is probably a matter of work and living situation not lending itself to listening on anything but headphones), but I'm fairly certain I'm on the path to love.

RabiesAngentleman, Friday, 2 May 2008 17:32 (eleven years ago) link

four years pass...

oh hey look at that, I have been listening to them a lot lately and today I see

BIOTA: Cape Flyaway CD (RER BCD8)
"After 5 years of extensive and careful work, the new and much anticipated CD by this extraordinary collective, who have no parallels, no rivals and no peers, is at last complete. It's a dense and indescribable orchestration of electric and acoustic guitars, clavioline, trumpet, Hammond organ, micromoog, biolmellodrone, electric and acoustic violins, bass, mandolin, accordion, piano, rubab, kit percussion and sometimes voice, layered and radically processed in the unique Biota manner. There is a leitmotif of folk elements in this piece that emerge from the roiling, swirling quicksand of sound we now expect from Biota, with texts by WB Yeats and snatches, arrangements and influences floating by way of Christy Moore, June Tabor, Judy Collins, Sandy Denny, Bert Jansch, the Bothy Band and older traditional sources. Biota craft sonic worlds that relate to, but are not built like, the music with which we are familiar; for them time is a continuum rather than a seque nce of events; a simultaneous present in which past and future possibilities exist conterminously. With a 24 page full colour art portfolio from the Biota collective."

sleeve, Monday, 11 June 2012 22:06 (seven years ago) link

one month passes...

Got this yesterday and it will probably be spending the next couple of weeks on the car stereo. Sandy Denny and June Tabor samples! Top-notch as always, nudging ever closer to traditional song forms but still retaining a telltale glimmer of weird swirly sound.

sleeve, Thursday, 26 July 2012 04:50 (seven years ago) link

New one is seriously great

As if they ever come up short, but this one makes a particularly strong first impression

Milton Parker, Friday, 3 August 2012 06:30 (seven years ago) link

waiting on this one in the mail

arby's, Friday, 3 August 2012 16:00 (seven years ago) link

the use of 'samples' in this one is pretty extreme, I mean these are basically Judy Collins/Biota & June Tabor/Biota mashups and they sound unbelievably strange and amazing

Milton Parker, Friday, 3 August 2012 16:32 (seven years ago) link

or maybe it's Kristianne Gale doing the singing in a folk mode? what in hell is even going on here

Milton Parker, Friday, 3 August 2012 16:34 (seven years ago) link

yeah I was initially very disoriented by those, they aren't even really samples, more like plunderphonics. Also, there is loud electric guitar from time to time!

sleeve, Friday, 3 August 2012 16:38 (seven years ago) link

yeah! sellouts!

maybe I don't know my Judy Collins well enough, but trying to find what I thought was the Judy Collins sample that opens this Biota record I'm finding that her version of Innisfree is completely different, so maybe that is this new Kristianne Gale vocalist and not a sample

so many fantastic little songs on this album just flying by, they do not catch in your head on the first listen because there are so many different melodic lines flying around but today the tunes are sinking in

Milton Parker, Friday, 3 August 2012 16:52 (seven years ago) link

two years pass...

Funnel to a Thread [£12.50] ReR BCD8
Since the late 1970s Biota has ploughed its own furrow, producing a body of work that resembles nothing anyone else has done or is yet doing. Their compositions evolve in long, constantly shifting timbral blocks filled with fragments and echoes of quasi-familiar musical languages and sounds – or none - and use instrumental resources that span half a millennium and two thirds of the planet to create unique combinations of timbral colour in constant motion; this is a music in which everything is in flux, constantly dissolving and reforming and mutating while, from a distance, there is calm. It’s a music in which movement and stasis share a single endless moment. And although we arrive nowhere, the path beguiles, both familiar and strange and – on this record – strangely comforting. As always it’s meticulously recorded, with layer on layer of subtle processing and mixing. Like all their earlier releases Funnel has been some five years in the making. You can hear why. Comes in a lavish package with copious artwork by the Biota/Mnemonist collective.

sleeve, Saturday, 29 November 2014 03:24 (four years ago) link

>You sent a payment of £12.50 to ReR Megacorp

Milton Parker, Wednesday, 3 December 2014 06:30 (four years ago) link

Been listening to a download of the first Biota album quite a bit recently. They're basically still sounding like early Mnemonists at that point - I like it as much as I like 'Horde', totally worth reissuing that one

Milton Parker, Wednesday, 3 December 2014 06:33 (four years ago) link

hope I get one of the 30 initial copies

sleeve, Thursday, 4 December 2014 01:01 (four years ago) link

two weeks pass...

So, so, so good this new one. Again, pulling back from the overt processing in a way, but not in the service of songs or normal tunes; all the instruments are frequently unadorned, but all the parts are all so loosely and strangely interrelated that in some ways this is even more unanchored and disorienting than usual. Someone who's familiar with modern extended electronic pop music production might hear the old records and now just identify it as 'electronic music' but a new listener would probably be hard pressed to figure out what in the world is even going on with this, especially with the vocals.

Got me on a tear listening through to every single thing they've ever done. I hadn't heard 'Awry', that was an oversight, that is like a little punk jazz peyote candyshop of an ep.

This band is such a treasure

Milton Parker, Monday, 22 December 2014 03:22 (four years ago) link

hello all -

i was very happy to learn of this site from fellow Biota member Gordon Whitlow. It's an honor to be part of this group. Every album is wondrous thing to me. Keep listening!

charleso'meara, Saturday, 27 December 2014 01:40 (four years ago) link

hello! it's an honor to hear from you!

This new one is quite something, I've listened through twice and can't get a handle on it yet, which is a compliment. Milton's take sounds about right (P.S. Awry is amazing, glad you caught up to it)

love the artwork as usual, although I did not get a poster I did get four color prints in a separate embossed sleeve. gorgeous.

some kind of terrible IDM with guitars (sleeve), Saturday, 27 December 2014 16:47 (four years ago) link

Long live Biota!

Call the Cops, Saturday, 27 December 2014 20:55 (four years ago) link

Caught up with the first two Mnemonist Orchestra albums this week. Even if things didnt really click in until Horde, still something unique and very organic / social about those records. The real surprise is hearing the Roto-Limbs cassette and its focus on long evolving minimal electronics, I enjoyed that one very much

Found this while searching for more info on the Orchestra albums:

Milton Parker, Sunday, 28 December 2014 22:55 (four years ago) link

Have to say though, listening to Horde again for the first time a while on my new car stereo, and... That album just does not waste one second of anyone's time, less than a minute in everything around you turns itself inside out

Milton Parker, Sunday, 28 December 2014 23:21 (four years ago) link

I finally bought the CD reissue of Horde based on this thread revive, I especially like the last long piece

some kind of terrible IDM with guitars (sleeve), Sunday, 28 December 2014 23:32 (four years ago) link

five months pass...

xxp finally got to that link, thanks Milton

sleeve, Saturday, 6 June 2015 02:46 (four years ago) link

three years pass...

New album 'Fragment for Balance' finally arrived last night

Continues trajectory of pulling back on the processing. The sound is still far away from literally acoustic but closer than ever to Americana ensemble music. It's telling that I could now actually reference other things like the Marc Hollis solo album or Rachel's or Jim O'Rourke or Linda Perhacs to describe the territory on this record instead of just being stuck saying 'well it's a Biota record' but even saying that doesn't really describe how they got here. Without the treatments, the chamber arrangements suggest folk music but the tonalities wander off at the exact moment you normally expect them to land. The weirdest note in the clearing becomes the bedrock for the next song.

Not much processing on the drums! What is this?

Packaging softer than ever

Milton Parker, Wednesday, 24 April 2019 00:38 (four months ago) link

Thanks for the heads up, didn't know there was a new one

Emperor Tonetta Ketchup (sleeve), Wednesday, 24 April 2019 19:15 (four months ago) link

one month passes...

oh for fuck's sake:

This box collects five representative releases that span their discography and track the radical evolution of their crystalline aesthetic – with added documentation, a band history, insights into their work process, and a full-length bonus CD embroidered from their archive of rare and unreleased material.

Contents: Funnel to a Thread, Half a True Day, Invisible Map, Object Holder and Gyromancy (recorded as the Mnemonist Orchestra), and the box-only bonus Counterbalance.

bonus disc is under 30 minutes :(

Ambient Police (sleeve), Tuesday, 4 June 2019 22:57 (three months ago) link

what I wish the box had:

1. Attributes Of A Living System
2. Mnemonist Orchestra
3. Roto-limbs CASS
4. first S/T Biota LP
5. CD version of the Awry 10" plus compilation tracks (from ReR Quarterlies, the No Man's Land comp, etc)
6. bonus disc

Ambient Police (sleeve), Wednesday, 5 June 2019 16:54 (three months ago) link

well I ordered the box anyway, I guess I can sell the CDs I already have if they are the same

searching around and found some interesting references to interviews where members of the group talk about how they didn't feel the vinyl format of Rackabones or Awry translated to CD releases

Ambient Police (sleeve), Monday, 10 June 2019 15:44 (three months ago) link

Milton you absolutely need the booklet that comes with the box set bonus disc, it goes into great detail about their history, gear, and working processes.

Ambient Police (sleeve), Tuesday, 11 June 2019 20:12 (three months ago) link

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