UnFolkUs
1998
Tracks
  • Cows In The Belly
  • Clap For Jesus
  • Magnolia Blonde
  • Basta Con Los Cowboys
  • Im Nimmerland
  • Toothless In Nickelsdorf
  • Hardcore DangerMusik
  • Trashcan
  • JamiesBloodyDollheadChandelier
  • The Swinging Toes

This is UnFolkUs’ first and only release. This Seattle improvisors super group featured Paul Hoskin, Bill Horist, Eveline Muller-Graf and Rob Bageant. The band discovered and explored depths of quietude as deep as their walls of noise were tall (which is not to say that they don’t retain a penchant for well-placed sonic assaults).

"UnFolkUs pushes its music through a kaleidoscope of effects, extensions, and extremeties and onto a fresh sonic terrain build out of free jazz and post-classical, contemporary concert music." - The Stranger. This disc is a joint release between Unit Circle Rekkids and the band.

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Reviews
The Seattle Weekly - 4/30/1998
Guitarist Bill Horist's expansively skewered recent debut CD demonstrated that he may be one of the most creative sound manipulators recording these days. Horist's work with contrabass clarinetist Paul Hoskin, drummer Eveline Muller-Graf and Chapman stick player Rob Bageant in the avant-improvisational quartet UnFolkUs collectivizes this ingenuity. UnFolkUs pushes its music through a kaleidoscope of effects, extensions, and extremeties and onto a fresh sonic terrain built out of free jazz and post-classical, contemporary concert music. Taking on a chamberesque feel, the group's self-titled debut CD stretches out into contrast-laden, noisy territory with much burbling, squalling, screeching. The contrasts are many: Between Hoskin's rich, dark clarinet tones and Horist's sometimes bent but recognizably gritty guitar; between Muller's clanging percussion and Hoskin's raspy alto saxophone squawks; and between the group's collective push towards seemless, cloudy rumble and its simultaneous herky-jerky juts into industrial sound. You can marvel at the double entendres of the band's name - that it ain't folk music, and that it ain't focused - but both are half-truths. This stuff is "folk" in the sense that it's grass-roots, scene-oriented, and highly collective. And the group is only "unfocused" insofar as it purposefully blurs the world of sonic clarity until it becomes atonally intense and alarmingly abstract. I'm fond of that music which sends off alarms in me. UnFolkUs does this with great economy and expressiveness. - Andrew Bartlett
The Stranger - 5/7/1998
Guitarist Bill Horist, percussionist Eveline Muller, contrabass clarinetist Paul Hoskin and Chapman stickman Rob Bageant manage to present a whole hour's worth of music which seemingly creates its own world as it progresses; its musical language becomes understandable only halfway through the first listen. Before then, the listener is justified in wondering why on earth this CD was recorded. The revelatory effect of hearing the drones, clanks, strumming, squeals, warps and scraping on this record is not unlike that of those "magic eye" images. After you stare at what looks like visual nonsense long enough, its logic locks in and rewards you with a vivid 3D picture - if you have enough patience, that is. - Trey Hatch
Sonic Boom - Issue May/June 1998
I am really wondering if the name of this band is meant to be a play on words and really meant "Unfocused", because that is certainly what the music sounds like. The entirety of the album consists of totally cacophonic noise made entirely from natural instrumentation. By natural I mean without the aid of computers, and instead via rattling, banging, tapping, blowing, humming, rubbing, and other mechanical methods on any object that makes noise. Included in the liner notes are a list of such items including sharp metal object and a battery. Need I say more? Of course, UnFolkUs use a bit of good old fashioned instrumentation as well such as guitars, clarinets and saxophones, just not in the way they were ever intentioned. The end result is a ten track album that sounds as if it was all written live in one take, totally unrehearsed and spontaneously. If so, this is definitely an unique improvisational group.
Sound Projector - Issue #4

This is from a joint review of UnFolkUs and Outhouse

Further evidence of a local contemporary improv scene on these two CDs, emanating from Seattle-based bands... UnFolkUs is quite a different affair, inward-looking and mysterious. The four players work well with a clear serious intent to performing with commitment. The internal mechanics that make improvisation work like a series of meshing gears are all here, and not just a series of empty forms learned from old records. In performance, you can still discern the odd ghost of rock music in the guitar sounds and the percussion stylings (played by Eveline Muller-Graf, on 'sharp metal objects') now and again. Some of the players are a little afraid of getting too unhinged; they occasionally yearn to retreat into areas of patterned rhythms or modal scales. But Paul Hoskin more than makes up for this, as the 'purest'improvisor of the players here, he blows a contrabass clarinet that virtually paints your speakers black. When he lets rip on the alto sax, and Bill Horist deploys his pedals, the combination can be like a low-rent Hendrix meeting an undiscovered BYG label free-jazz obscurity. This mixture extends to the recording itself, which combines a documentation technique so upfront and accurate that Hoskin is breathing right in your face - with more rockish elements like use of effects pedals at source, and permitting overdubs (which few uptight UK improvisers would go for). My advice to the team would be to let the ideas hang out even more - these tracks could have been spun into something twice their length, and might appear less inconsequential.

Hoskin is some kind of veteran and reckoned to be a founder of the improv scene in Seattle; after his world travels and sojurns in the East (NYC), he returned to Seattle to play with local combos Tactile and Bolt. UnFolkUs have performed in downtown art galleries; good to hear, with the dark and strange emotions this music generates, that Seattle has a grimy and gritty side too (something not reflected in Frasier!).

Dead Angel - issue #32

Remember that quirky, experimental Bill Horist disc i reviewed a while back? (It was SOYLENT RADIO, for those of ye who've already forgotten, and it's still well worth investigating. Incidentally, Horist is on tour now and it probably wouldn't hurt for you to go see him, either.) Well, it turns out Horist is also a member of this avant ensemble, which also includes Eveline Muller-Graf (credited with "sharp metal objects and batterie," whatever the hell that is), stick-player Rob Bageant, and Paul Hoskin (sax, clarinet). Horist remains a purveyor of six-stringed weirdness and everybody else here is just as musically eccentric as he is, which makes for some mighty unclassifiable music. What they collectively play comes awfully close to being a noisier, more textured answer to what Sun Ra used to do with his Arkestra, only with even less of a rhythmic handle to hang onto.

I'm not even going to attempt to describe the songs (there's ten of them, by the way, with names like "Cows in the Belly," "Clap for Jesus," "Toothless in Nickelsdorf," and "The Swinging Toes") track by track -- that would practically require a dissertation in demi-jazz and deconstructionist noise, not to mention an endless glossary indexing all the various mutant sounds -- but i'll say this: they aren't fooling around. Regardless of their disdain for steady beats (when they bother with beats at all), tempos, and readily discernable structures, there is a cohesion and unity in even the most chaotic of these pieces that clearly indicates the band's collective mastery of improvisation. And improvisation is indeed at the heart of this band; their approach to textures, structures, and dynamics is very much comparable to the work of AMM and similar ensembles.

Personally, i think i preferred Horist's solo disc -- there's often a bit too much going on at once for my taste, and i think his guitar trickery was harnessed in bit more direct fashion on SOYLENT RADIO -- but this does serve as an interesting counterpoint to that disc. For those who've already heard and appreciated that disc, or who remain interested in the stylings of AMM and like-minded bands, this definitely bears listening.

Throwrug - Issue #21
Karl: If some of the things that aren't important to you in music are melody, harmony, and rhythm, check these guys out.
The Seantinental: Call me old fashioned, but I like songs you can sing along to.
Nikki: It might be art, but I don't think it's music.
Nothing Left - Issue #8
The first track "Cows in the Belly" seems like it came right off the Star Wars effects soundtrack. Lots of bleeps, light sabers, and feedback. It's a conglomerated mess of gadgets and noise. The rest of the album has a bit of jazz influence to it, leaning toward the noisy acid jazz kind of stuff. It never really picks up speed, but if your into ambiance and sound effects, then this is probably right up your alley. - CR
Alternative Press - Issue #124 (Nov 98)
Improv groups can bestow unexpected jolts of briliance as well as frustrating lulls, but always there hangs the anticipation of startling developments. Any ensemble with guitarist Bill Horist merits scrutiny, and the Seattle-based UnFolkUs certainly draw you in to their peculiar orbit of sound. When they're hitting on all cylinders, myriad sonic oddities spill out of the speakers: glottal horns, arhythmic percussion, cat-torture guitar-skress, fibrillating alto saxophone, the sporadic clang of metal objects. The album occasionally bogs down with meandering melees of guitar, sax and clarinet that are noisy, but little else. UnFolkUs excel on songs such as "Clap for Jesus" and "Magnolia Blonde." The former coheres around clattering metallic percussion, sax blurts, distant flanged guitar and off-kilter drumming; the latter features a brilliant counterpoint of abrasive, Hovercraft-like guitar, pots-and-pans percussion hits and Chapman stick bellows, sounding like cartoon soundtracker Raymond Scott crossed with just-intonation composer Harry Partch. Let's hope that future releases will exhibit more of the type of inspired quirkiness heard on these pieces. - Dave Segal
Throttle - Summer 1998
I like this Seattle noise improv ensemble for a couple of reasons. They have some cool dynamics going, not unlike their Virginia counterparts, Pelt. Sharp metal objects collide slowly and then quickly over a bed of clarinet and guitar exploration. These guys have a lot of experience and education backing up their sound, including degrees in enthnomusicology and many stints on Olympia's Radio KAOS and Seattle station KCMU's Sonarchy program (where, oh where, are Virginia's versions of such great outlets for music?). Their CD is colorful, sonically as well as visually. To top it all off, I got a kick out of reading the quote in the press kit that came from Chapman Stick player Robert Bageant's interview in the International Herald Tribune. It had nothing to do with music or UnFolkUs. It was on Taiwan's business climate and regulatory practices and it gave me a clue to what inhabits the right side of this guy's brain. - Scott Burger
The Improvisor
A witty attempt to package free improv in pop fashion. The album has 10 short cuts: succinct, well diverse, and carefully sequenced. The music has a storytelling quality. The UnFolkUs concentrate their efforts on slow and slightly dispassionate and minimal; "Toothless in Nickelsdorf" sparks with good humor. Most of the soundscapes on the CD for me have something to do with a gray rainy December afternoon with no snow in sight. Bass clarinet and guitar keep the texture well balanced; metal objects and batteries sound very refreshing. UnFolkUs'music is full of subtle details and carefully juxtaposed contrasts. It can make a good late night listening. - Misha Feigin
Bizarre - Issue 11

Formed in '96 as an untamed noise-based improvisation ensemble who received extreme reactions good or bad.

Features members who've had many musical adventures, along with experiences ranging from learning Chinese to building percussion from aircraft.

With this sort of pedigree the music is certainly off kilter and out on it's own. The cacophony of sub-jazz influenced improvisations are in constant flux never staying in one place enough for you to get too comfortable.

Crohinga Well - Issue 15
[from a review of several Unit Circle releases] Unit Circle Rekkids is a new name to me and I regret not discovering this alternative label any sooner, because the four releases I got so far are challenging and excellent... Unfolkus started in 1996 as a raw, untamed noise and in the Seattle alternative scene. The four members of UnFolkUs explored a vast range of improvisational soundscapes and matured their style somewhat. Their debut CD features 10 avant-garde compositions (46') on Chapman Stick (Rob Bageant), Guitar (Bill Horist), clarinet, contrabass clarinet, and alto sax (Paul Hoskin) and drums & sharp metal objects (Eveline Muller-Graf, the Swiss female percussionist of the band). The music on this very courageous album has no real form or structure and represents a series of journeys through undiscovered musical possibilities. No commercial potential? I don't know, it will be very small anyway, but at least this is an ensemble able to express itself without any conventions. Recommended to fans of avant-garde.