Friday, June 22, 2018

Catching up on the passel of things that have reached my doorstep over the past two months. Apologies for the brevity.



Jameson Feakes - ...until... (Tone List)

Five works performed by Feakes on electric guitar, composed by Clarence Barlow, Eva-Maria Houben (two pieces), Josten Myburgh and James Bradbury. Barlow's '...until...' is a delicately shifting set of ringing tones with a bit of reverb, gently wafting over and past one another. I'm reminded of gliding, circling hawks--very lovely. Houben's pieces, 'XII' and 'IX' are short, crystalline works for acoustic guitar, as thoughtful and deep as is all of her music, sensitively performed. 'A Window in Sicily' (with Myburgh contributing electronics) shifts gears a bit, beginning with recordings of male voices in some outdoor situation, presumably in Sicily, before subsiding into faint wisps of long, electric tones. These, in turn, evolve into a landscape of windy rushes over which pure sequences of single notes, very tonal, are plucked. It continues to morph over its 28 or so minutes, incorporating crowd noises (a beach?), voices in a market (?) and reverting to hums; delightful. Bradbury's 'Traced Over' (with the composer also on electronics), while pleasant enough, is the only track I didn't find so engaging: a set of echoey slides and burbling scrapes that's a bit too easily digestible, offering more effects than substance.

A very good recording overall, though, and well worth hearing for listeners of a Wandelweiserian bent.

Tone List



Slobodan Kajkut - Darkroom (God Records)

A single piece stretching over two sides of an LP from Kajkut, label owner of the fine God Records imprint, with the composer on electronics and programming, Dejan Trkulja on clarinet and Christian Pollheimer on vibraphone.

Side One begins with spare, dark electronics, an inviting, ominous gray tone. Soon, clarinet and vibes enter, playing more or less repeating lines of differing, slow rhythms so as to create many melodic  combinations, augmented by mysterious raps in the background, the electronics fluttering. It achieves a fine balance between static and active, melodic and non-. Eventually, some 35 minutes in, the work settles into an agitated drone with a long-held, deep clarinet tone swirled around by (think) a bowed vibes approach, though the latter has a jangly aspect to it. It ultimately returns to a variation on the earlier theme, this time with perhaps a more overt Feldman aspect.

Very calm/troubled (a nice combo), very solid and absorbing throughout--a good one.

God Records


Sam Weinberg - A/V/E (no label)

Weinberg is more generally known as a saxophonist, somewhat out of the Braxton/Mitchell tradition from what I can discern, but here he devotes his efforts toward a kind of electronic collage set of compositions using recordings apparently culled from his immediate surroundings and meshed together with an attractively rough-hewn, lo-fi aesthetic. The works are dense and crackling, motoring along under their own self-combustibility, with occasional buried loops to help propel them. Descriptors are difficult to come by, though I found myself thinking of a nest of Brillo pads more than once, with all the moist harshness that implies. The dynamics and density levels are consistent enough that I found myself wanting a greater degree of variation, which was provided in eighth of nine tracks, 'photophoric', my favorite of the bunch, where Weinberg ranges widely and extremely effectively. An interesting approach, which you can hear for yourself on his bandcamp page linked to below.

Sam Weinberg





Wednesday, June 06, 2018


Cyril Bondi/Pierre-Yves Martel/Christoph Schiller - tse (Another Timbre)

It's probably fair to say that we all have our instrumental prejudices, silly as those undoubtably are. I know people who don't like flutes or  violins, baffling as those attitudes are to me. But I have to admit that it takes extra concentration on my part to get past the essential sound of a harpsichord. I do think that this is more an issue on recordings than live as just last year I attended a home concert by the very excellent local harpsichordist Andrew Appel and enjoyed it without reservation. Maybe it has something to do with childhood encounters with the keyboard in schmaltzy horror movies or as backdrop to any number of faux esthete contexts. But that jangly sound, the lack of sustain....something makes it tough for me.

The spinet is essentially a small harpsichord and Christoph Schiller, to the best of my knowledge, pretty much confines his playing to to it. Here, he's joined by Cyril Bondi (Indian harmonium, pitch pipe, objects) and Pierre-Yves Martel (viola da gamba, pitch pipes, harmonica) on five improvised tracks (I - V). On the first, the trio circumvents any foolish objections on my part as Bondi and Martel lay down long, smooth lines onto which Schiller sprinkles slivers of spinet, glinting amongst the hums. Those drones are beautifully constructed themselves, a lovely combination of timbres, and the spinet adds a wonderful texture. By the way, I'm guessing that Schiller applies some extended techniques now and then (perhaps bowing the spinet's interior or otherwise directly manipulating the strings?), though I'm not at all sure. 'II' is similar, though generally pitched higher and with somme separation between phrases. There's a stretched feeling, a bit more astringency that's piquant, a nice shift from the prior track. In fact, the variation is subtle on each of the five pieces. Given the drone0like nature of the harmoniums, harmonicas and pitch pipes and virtually the opposite aspect of the spinet, that's not so surprising; only the viola da gamba might go "both ways", though Martel seems to switch between arco and pizzicato now and then. Another predilection of mine is, with regard to anything more or less in a drone style, toward the low and grainy, so I found 'IV' especially appealing, a really delicious, calm sequence of lines, rich and complex, with deep tones from (I think) the pitch pipe. 'V' offers slightly more aggression from the spinet, at higher pitch levels and with somewhat sourer harmonies and, again, heard in the context of this "suite", works perfectly well. In fact, listening to 'tse' as a suite, and a very ably constructed one, seems to be the way to go, at least for me. Spinets be damned, it's an engaging and discreetly demanding listen; good work.

Another Timbre



Saturday, June 02, 2018

Brief words on four new or newish releases from Rhizome.s + 1. As the covers are all text, thought I'd save space and not include 'em.

Sarah Hennies/Tim Feeney - Nests (Rhizome.s)

An hour-long, co-composed work for two wood block players arranged in sections of sounds/silence that last a varying number of minutes. Often one player holds a steady (slow) rhythm while the other enters with what seems to be a more intuitive pattern, close to his/her partner but with some latitude for variation. The timbre, intensity of strike and resonance of the blocks shifts ever so slightly over the piece's duration and, several times, just when you think you've established that a given player is the "steady" one, that changes as well. The resonance of the space is pretty huge and there's also an ambience of crickets, airplane engines and what seems to be general human activity outside the performance area. The play of regularity/irregularity, together with the other subtle, varying factors, makes for an entirely absorbing and immersive experience, spare though the elements be, summoning images of rain patter, cave drips and other quasi-rhythmic ephemera. Great stuff.

Dante Boon - Düsseldorf recital (Rhizome.s)

I've been very fortunate to catch two of Boon's solo recitals, one in Amsterdam, one in New York City, where he's played pieces by composers generally associated with the Wandelweiser collective. Here he offers six works by Coleman Zurkowski, Gil Sansón, Anastassia Philippakopolos, Eva-Maria Houben, Assaf Gidron and Jack Callahan. I'm not at all sure if the works were chosen for their conduciveness to the notion, but they're presented contiguously, each merging with the next, almost indistinguishably. There is also a great deal of ambient noise including what I gather are piano-body sounds but also a background noise rather like soft drum brushes being swirled around inside a heavy metal container. I don't mind these at all, but others may be put off. The compositions do vary, of course, largely in their degree of overt tonality and relative repetition of patterns (notably Gidron's). All, however, are slow and quiet, serene or roiled to small, varying extents, all calmly searching. If none stand out so much, it's only because they're part of a unified whole and that whole is very thoughtful and insightful. Fine work from all involved.

Gaudenz Badrutt/Ilia Belorukov/Alexander Markvart, Quentin Conrate/Matthieu Lebrun/Anne-Laure Pudbut/Frédéric Tentelier - affinités sélectives, volume 1 (Rhizome.s)

A trio and a quartet sharing a disc, with no clear relationship that I can discern. As it's designated, "volume 1", perhaps we'll see a pattern emerging in the future.

Two very different approaches as well. The trio of Badrutt (acoustic sound sources, live sampling), Belorukov (alto saxophone, electronics, field recordings, samples) and Markvart (prepared acoustic guitar, guitar combo, objects) create a jagged, splintery body of sounds spread across four tracks, recalling the cracked electronics of musicians like Bonnie Jones, Richard Kamerman, etc, from some years back while also, occasionally, incorporating rhythmic patterns á la Voice Crack, etc. For me, nothing quite coheres (that may well not have been the objective) and it strikes me as an apposition of quieter but crinkly sections with violent and raucous effects for their own sake, jolting but ultimately without too much depth.

The quartet (Conrate, percussion; Lebrun, alto saxophone, electronics; Pudbut [surely a nom de musique?], tapes, electroacoustic devices; Tentelier, organ, electroacoustic devices), apparently comprised of musicians from around the Lille area, is very different. A churning stew of sound, heavy on organ and organ-like sounds but with a manner of things poking their heads through--light metals, indistinct voices, ringing high tones, radios. It's not the kind of thing that hasn't been done before but these four handle it extremely well, submerging the listener into the maelstrom, buffeting him/her amidst the swirl. It's steady-state in that sense, the same general context throughout with the details varying minimally but, as Partch said of his Bloboy, "It does exactly one thing, but that one thing it does superbly."

Morgan Evans-Weiler - iterations & environments

Two works, 'iterations' for overdubbed violins and 'environments III' for piano and electronics. 'iterations' is in three 11-minute sections with two minute-long pauses. The music, which is absolutely fascinating, falls into what you might call a "sandy drone" territory. While all three portions are similar in general nature, the overall pitch (comprised of, I think, three or four violin lines, all payed by Evans-Weiler) shifts slightly from, let's say, medium to high to lower, though the various lines range in pitch and timbre. The approach isn't necessarily new but the performance is sensitive and exacting, the minute fluctuations acquiring almost a monumental character. Really excellent.

The second work finds Evans-Weiler on electronics with Emilio Carlos Gonzalez on piano (prepared somewhat). The electronics also form a drone, at least dual-layered with a deep, smooth hum under a soft, static wash and the sounds of, perhaps, a highway. Atop this, the piano is heard offering single notes, often pitched low and clouded by the preparation. The music flows darkly, the electronics shifting subtly, incorporating other elements (the high, faint chirp of birds, natural or otherwise, maybe even a very distant dog), the piano maintaining its persistent, dour commentary until, some 15 minutes in, a brighter sequence appears briefly. Excellent.

Rhizome.s


Francisco Meirino/Bruno Duplant - Dedans/Dehors (Moving Furniture)

Three pieces sourced from field recordings, beginning inside (dedans), gradually heading outdoors (dehors). Luc Ferrari is cited in the notes with regard to the listener constructing a narrative based on the sounds heard, which are of an augmented everyday reality. "Augmented" in the sense of having waves of electronics coursing through the quotidian events. The "dedans" section begins among snores but becomes pretty raucous as it progresses, very enveloping and (pleasantly) uncomfortable. The "interstice" begins softly with whispers and bells but soon ramps up into a similar level of intensity. "dehors" leaps right in with pipe organ (Bach, I believe) before rushing out the door into the world where a heavy throb, bells, bangs and assorted noises descend. There's fine depth in all the sounds and it works very effectively overall, Ferrari's spirit glinting through thick, pulsing scrim of electronics. Well worth a listen.

Moving Furniture








I guess I should post this here as well--the bio is out, sort of. It's generally available via Amazon (June 26th), Erst distribution (now) and I have copies as well if you'd like to stop by.

powerHouse




Tuesday, May 29, 2018



Anne Guthrie - Brass Orchids (Students of Decay)

Long one of my favorite NYC-based musicians, Guthrie has released another in a string of very strong recordings, despite having relocated to the nether coast. Largely sourced from field recordings but also personal ones including her grandfather's piano, some tap dancing and, I imagine, others less clear. Her French horn, always a welcome sound, only appears on the final track (and maybe the third?). Before then, we hear unsettling, often dreamy sounds--in 'Bellona', echoey scrapes, odd burbles, voices far away and underground, a hiss/sizzle. 'SERIOUS WATER' [sic] is similar, bit with a greater resonance, a metallic howling and, soon, more vigorous scrapes, a voice describing a Tibetan prayer wheel and its usage and the aforementioned piano; altogether transporting. Each piece expands the sound-world a bit, incorporating recorded messages, hornlike moans (on 'Red Wolf'--those are the sounds that might be Guthrie on the horn), various urban atmospheres, billiard-like clicks, much more. 'Spider', the fourth of five works, stands somewhat apart, consisting of much harsher and abstract tones, high squeaks and sharp percussives and a staticky sequence that sounds as though its ultimate source might have been a voice. That electric field, hovering and pulsing over barely heard sounds of, maybe parents and children playing in a park, creates a superbly Lynchian aura. The album (this is a vinyl release, by the way) closes with 'Glass', Guthrie's poignant horn singing over a high electric pulse. It grows into a wonderfully rich and mysterious form, the horn becoming submerged in a gaseous atmosphere full of mirroring glitches, very kaleidoscopic, ending with a street violinist performing 'Autumn Leaves'.

A beautiful, knotty, absorbing release, another in an increasingly and hopefully unending line from Guthrie.

Students of Decay


Sunday, May 27, 2018



Ghost Ensemble - We Who Walk Again (Indexical)

This is the debut recording (LP) of the New York-based chamber group founded in 2012. The ensemble, more or less headed by accordionist Ben Richter, oboist Sky Macklay and keyboardist Andrew C. Smith, has seven or so core members plus others in its ambit. For this recording the line-up includes, in addition to Richter and Macklay, Alice Jones (flute), Chris Nappi (percussion), Lucia Helen Stavros (harp), Hannah Levinson (viola), Maria Hadge (cello), James Ilgenfritz (bass), Rebekah Griffin Green (bass), Damon Loren Baker (percussion) and, on two piece, Carl Bettendorf (conductor). They perform Macklay's '60 Degree Mirrors', Pauline Oliveros' 'Angels and Demons' and Richter's 'Wind People'.

The Macklay piece, inspired by kaleidoscope patterns, oscillates between brief, rhythmically oriented kernels and somewhat stretched-out sequences, the tones in the latter engagingly sour, especially the multiphonics and microtones from the oboe. There's a certain wry playfulness to it--at times it reminded me of a calliope--and an interesting mix of modern techniques within a structure that retains an amount of classicalness. It might fit comfortably into a Bang On a Can program, but it's better than that. Olivero's 'Angels & Demons' is a text score, asking the ensemble to evoke "collective guardian spirits' (angels) and "individual spirits of creative genius" (demons). At a concert venue, I'd likely begin twitching uncomfortably in my seat upon reading this, but the members of Ghost Ensemble pull it off without any undue new-age-ishness. Low, growling bass attacks help ground the long, floating lines above; soil and mist. Very fine ensemble playing--excellent listening to one another.

The Richter work occupies Side B. A cloudy, mysterious and dark opening, low rumbles and moans with the odd sharp glint through the shadows. It throbs, pulsates, moves inch by inch, Beckettian in its slow spread. Some wonderful tonalities are generated in the shifting lines of varying lengths, the interplay of those deep tones with the soft plucking of the harp and an occasional hesitant but steady, dull beat of a drum. Matters begin to coalesce toward the end, dense lines forming, surging off into the hazy dark, perhaps offering just a bit more direction than was apparent at the start; not a light at the end of a tunnel, but maybe the faintest of glimmers. A very strong piece, my favorite on this recoding.

Very good work all around, certainly a group to keep an eye on.

Indexical


Wednesday, May 23, 2018



Philip Samartzis/Daniela d'Arielli - A Futurist's Cookbook (Galaverna)

I'd always greatly enjoyed Samartzis' music since first hearing him, if I recall correctly, on the duo recording with Sachiko M, 'Artefact', released in 2002. But I was only able to meet him and hear his work live (that is, on tape) several years ago in Paris at IRCAM. My experiences with the French academic electro-acoustic world wasn't so great--the programs and synthesized sounds tended to resemble a musical version of Photoshop as far as I was concerned, projecting a kind of sheen over almost all compositions that I found unappetizing. At the event in question, however, two pieces stood out: those of Giuseppe Ielasi  and Samartzis, which featured sounds that were very alive, very sharp and full of grain.



This recording is very much in that lineage. It was recorded during a residency in Abruzzi, Italy, Samartzis accompanied to various locations by d'Arielli, who contributes 24 photographs that arrive with the download, in addition to an essay by Samartzis on Futurism, Marinetti and the dynamism of the sounds heard in the countryside and urban settings. Seven tracks, the title of each indicating either a place or condition (each prefaced and occasionally interrupted by a female voice, presumably d'Arielli's, offering a one-word description on Italian). As with the work I heard at IRCAM, which involved sounds recorded on a ship near Antarctica, Samartzis seems to allow the sounds to speak for themselves: cowbells, wheat fields in the wind, threshing machines, grain processing, insects, water dripping, pasta being formed and cut, planes in the night, etc. (most of these documented in the photos). But I'm reasonably sure that all this hyper-verisimilitude was arrived at via ultra-subtle and careful manipulation of his initial recordings. That they appear so enveloping and of the place, unladen with any over-obvious irony or or other artifice is fine testimony to Samartzis' vision and abilities. How an Italian meal arrives at the table Excellent, discreetly imaginative and engaging work.


Galaverna



Monday, May 21, 2018



Cristián Alvear/Santiago Astaburuaga - capas de un tapiz (Marginal Frequency)

Two fascinating and compelling compositions performed by the Chilean duo of Alvear (guitar, transducers, small amplifiers, recordings) and Astaburuaga (bass, transducers, small amplifiers, recordings. The label site notes that the pair use "physical objects and in situ cues through photography and video to realize complex scores".  I've no certain idea how this eventuates, but the results are excellent.

Rolando Hernandez' 'topializ' begins with a sequence of simple, if slightly harsh, guitar chords, regularly spaced, imparting a misleading sense of clarity. After a minute, a counter-pattern, possibly from a prepared bass, emerges--again a regular rhythm, quicker than the first and composed of gnarlier material. The piece is episodic, though the sections function within a roughly similar dynamic and textural range, offering a kind of continuity. The second area is grainier, with electronic scrapes and whines splayed over a calmly repeating tone that evokes sonar, perhaps, or even a busy signal. Regular pulses of one sort or another underlie much of the piece, steadfastly wending their way through various forms of detritus. Though the work is much "noisier" than what I normally associate with Alvear, there's a kind of serenity that pervades. An extremely bracing piece.

"sin título #21", by Nicolas Carrasco also proceeds by discreet episodes, though each section is quite brief and, initially, separated by short silences. Soon, however, a thick braid of metallics takes over, perhaps generated by guitar and bass manipulations and enhancements, that churns and writhes, surging in a dense and complex wave--absorbing. About halfway through, the music reduces to a hum and a wooden click, almost metronomic. A piece of metal, perhaps a heavy key, is dropped on the floor, and will be again. Isolated guitar chords and faint squeaks, then a cessation of the knocking. Those guitar strums become the dominant element, steering a slow and steady course among gradually increasing rumbles, hisses and dull metals. The metronome returns, to close matters with some degree of balefulness and inevitability.

I've listened to these pieces ten or twelve times--each experience has revealed different structures and relationships. Wonderfully complicated, extremely enjoyable. Check it out.

Marginal Frequency



Sunday, May 20, 2018



Asher Tuil - Multiplicities
Asher Tuil - Reduplications

As near as I can tell, Asher's been releasing music more or less exclusively on-line since around 2014. The above two are the first I've heard of his music since 2009, so I'm guessing approaches heard herein have evolved over that period but I was somewhat surprised at the nature of what's here. There's much more structure in play, though it's a clear and even simple sort, none of the smoky, ghostly atmosphere of work like that heard in 'Miniatures', 'Graceful Degradation' and the like. 'Multiplicities' consists of almost an hour of small, electronic melodic patterns, each only several seconds long, repeated in sets of, I don't know, 10 to 30 times each. The patterns are relatively similar, containing two or three layers of smooth, synth-like tones, generally offset with a sandier or more staticky one (or two), very reminiscent of aspects of 90s glitch-prov. It's neither flowing nor fragmented, straddling both notions. I find it reasonably interesting to listen to intently, more so to have on as ambient music.

'Reduplications' also involves repetition, though over a much slower scale. Eight tracks ranging from 16 - 19 minutes, to the casual listener the music might sound very much in line with classic Eno of the 'On Land' or 'Apollo' period: resonant, slowly undulating and intertwining drones leavened with the odd, echoey bass droplet or electric piano bell-tone, all over a scratchy field that varies in intensity. Again, it's a little odd to listen to closely and individually as the pieces, despite some textural difference, at such a length begin to blend together. But as subtle accompaniment to one's environs, the mix of sandy washes and mellow tonality works very well.

You can listen for yourself to this and other recent work from Asher at his bandcamp site:

here

Wednesday, May 16, 2018



Grisha Shakhnes - The Distance Between a Word and a Deed (Disappearing Records)

Sounds recorded in Stockholm and transfigured by Shakhnes. True to form, the resultant sounds on the first of two tracks on this cassette are rough, rumbling, dark and gravelly, surging along line a mudslide bearing multitudes of rocks, trees, metallic items. Or like standing in a near-abandoned area at night, watching an enormous, mysterious, loud machine slowly--very slowly--make its way down the street, disappearing around a corner. The second is more open, though just as eerie, the sounds occurring in a larger space perhaps, less concentrated but, as a consequence, more clearly heard. A threatening quaver or two and banging/clinking metals take up most of the area. Various groans, squeaks, horns and buzzes seep in before spiraling away into night.

That's on the cassette. If you order the download, you get for more tracks, over an hour, "Stockholm Variations #'s 2, 2.5, 3 and 4". They're in similar territory, with a few different tacks taken (especially the last, a ratcheting, cyclic sequence) and are just as enjoyable.






Grisha Shakhnes - ARCS (Marginal Frequency)

Somewhat less grainy than the above release, inhabiting an adjacent but slightly cleaner world, still dark, still uncertain but a place where the metal-to-metal sounds are drier, the surrounding accompaniment crisper. Shakhnes' music often has an undercurrent of rotation, of tight iterations of layer upon layer of sequences. I think I've written before that I'm reminded of Jason Lescalleet's experiments with crumples loops strung between several old tape players. It's industrial, all turbines and generators, evoking the sensation of wandering through (and leaning against) vast machines operating on auto, at night, the factory deserted. Some vaguely animal-like sounds emerge on the second track, "at least as alive as the vulgar', the whole thing like a half-received radio transmission, staticking in and out of clarity. Wooly, uncomfortable and absorbing, beginning to end.




Monday, May 14, 2018

some all too brief reviews of things that have recently arrived. Apologies to the musicians for the brevity but time's been scarce.


Pascal Battus/Bertrand Gauguet/Eric La Casa - Chantier 4 (Swarming)

When I was in Paris 2013 - 2015, the second apartment in which I stayed was on Rue Adolphe Mille, which more or less ran along the western border of the Parc de la Villette in the 19th Arrondissement. On the opposite side of the park, the new Philharmonie de Paris, designed by Jean Nouvel, was nearing its long-delayed completion. Eric La Casa, a master of in situ field recording/performance, lived just up the street as well and, in 2013, ventured into the site with percussionist and objectiste Pascal Battus and alto saxophonist Bertrand Gauguet. Their sounds largely blend into those produced by the environment, which include the general, wooly urban hum, the percussive noises of construction work and the voices of the workers themselves among many others. You can pick out likely contributions from Battus (though I'm sure some I think are his, aren't and vice versa) and the occasional reed flutter or thin keening of the sax, but all is pretty much of a piece. The recordings, as always captured superbly by La Casa, were then reworked, remodeled and collaged by Battus and Gauguet. The result is a soundscape at one hyper-real and phantasmagoric, rich, deeply plied, and absorbing, densely filled with sounds both recognizable and obscure, entrenched in the city yet isolated from it. Excellent work, among the best I've heard from all three of the musicians.

Swarming


Matthew Świeżyński - The One Who Modifies Time and Light (Invisible Birds)

Two tracks, each over a half hour in length, "meditations" on Satyajit Ray's wonderful Apu Trilogy, occupying that zone between drones and field recordings, summoning images of nocturnal harbors and shadowed sylvan pathways. A subtle bell tone underlies the beginning of 'The Bird Represents Phases of Work' over which layers of voices and sounds I hear as dockside percolate. These are replaces by distant, hazy horns, perhaps made from those of yaks or other large cattle, fierce winds, low, rocky rumbles. 'Reduction, the Transmission of Light' starts with multiple ringing tones over what seems like urban sounds fading in and out, sitars from adjoining buildings. It's a bit more steady-state than the prior track, remaining in the same area while adding many varied textures, closing with a return of the horns from the first cut. The album is entirely immersive, easy to get pleasurably lost in. Good work.

Invisible Birds</>


Adrian Dziewanski - The Trail Loops Back (The Alcohol Seed/Invisible Birds)

Two pieces based on field recordings in Vancouver and Hawaii with added guitar loops and effects. In "A Common Dust", bird calls, spring peepers and an odd crackling sound that morphs into something like footsteps are heard over a thick, throbbing, fairly tonal drone, the elements mixing taffy-like, receding and emerging. When the drone half-disappears then goes away entirely, there's the wonderful sensation of the ambient sounds being released to float aboveground. The drones return with an added ringing and hints of low strings; the piece ends. 'Root Tendrils' is darker, as befits its subject, though the basic elements are similar to the first piece--insectile or amphibious trills, obscure metallic knocks, steps through dry grass, all over a swirling, creamy drone. Depending how one listens, the track arguably goes on longer than it merits but, on, the other hand, there's no real problem wallowing in it and coming out refreshed. Good, healthy dronage.

The Alcohol Seed

Invisible Birds


Thursday, May 10, 2018




John Cage - Two2  (Another Timbre)

Of Cage's so-called "Number Pieces", works composed late in his life, 'Two2' (1989) seems to be one of the least frequently recorded. It was written for the piano duo Double Edge (Edmund Niemann and Nurit Tilles) though it appears that the premiere was performed in May 1990 by Rob Haskins and Louis Goldstein; it's available to be heard on YouTube. That performance lasts just over an hour and twenty-five minutes and the two others I can locate, by Josef Christof/Stefan Schleiermacher (released on MDG in 2000, as part of the 'Complete Piano Music', volume 5) and a live video by Beata Pincetic and Christos Sakellaridis last just over 46 and 36 minutes respectively. 

On the johncage.org website, the piece is described as follows:

This is one of Cage’s few “number” pieces that does not utilize time-brackets. Being inspired by  a remark of Sofia Gubaidulina, i.e. "There is an inner clock," Cage created a composition consisting of 36 lines of music, each containing 5 measures. Within each line, 31 events occur: 5+7+5+7+7, as in Japanese Renga poetry. The pianists play a measure in their own tempo, but the next measure may only be played when both have completed the previous.

Philip Thomas, in an interview published on the Another Timbre site and partially reproduced in the sleeve of this release, mentions having heard the piece both in live performance and on recording, remarking, "...it just didn't draw me in in the way that most of Cage's number pieces do. To my ears there were too many notes, too much material in the piece such that I quickly lost interest." But reading the score himself and calculating what he thought was an appropriate amount of time to spend on each measure, he arrived at a potential duration of around two and a half hours. The current recording clocks in at just short of two hours and eight minutes. Thomas remarks, "There are no instructions about duration, so any and all durations are possible and valid, but I think that taking it at the pace we do at least brings a different perspective to it, and reveals other things about the piece that I'd not heard before".



Having listened to the three other versions, online, I have to say that, as generally enjoyable as those are to my ears, Thomas' intuition is exactly correct. The sense of pace is almost viscous without any connotations of stickiness or anything syrupy. If you can imagine very slowly flowing water, that's close. Maybe cold lava. Notes suspend in the air for a few moments, then softly fall and disappear. My impression is that there's more in the mid- and mid-low range of the piano than elsewhere, a real roundness in the tonality, a thickness. The sequences have something of a darkly Romantic character, as though extracted from a larger work, slowed way down, carefully examined and considered. As in Feldman, there's somehow a sense of forward progression though never the slightest indication of a goal. For what it's worth, I never get the impression of two pianists, just one strong, coursing river of music. It's 128 minutes of pure, thought-compelling, perception-enhancing, down to earth bliss. Can't ask for more. 

A major achievement.



Monday, May 07, 2018



Christian Wolff/Antoine Beuger - Where Are We Going Today (Erstwhile)

I've little doubt that were one to come upon this music knowing absolutely nothing about the two participants, the affection, respect, understanding and love shared between them would be overwhelmingly clear. In fact, though they met in 1991, they've only physically encountered each other a handful of times over the years, generally when one or the other was invited to an event in Europe or North America by the other. And indeed, this recording was created by each composer individually, two months apart: Beuger in Haan, Germany and Wolff on his farm in Royalton, Vermont, US. Beuger, over a period of about a month, spent 10 or 15 minutes each day thinking about Wolff, compiling a list of words and phrases he either associated with the other composer or which, somehow, embodied his feelings towards him and his music. He then put together a 70-minute recording of himself speaking some of these words, situated like islands in a vast pool, interspersed with soft whistling (one immediately recalls his superb collection, 'Keine Fernen Mehr') and the discreet replaying, never really foregrounded, of the Wandelweiser recording of Wolff's 'Stones' from 1996. Beuger sent the result to Wolff, who compiled five 10-15 minutes sessions, thinking of his collaborator (there's a wonderful moment, some 50 minutes in, when you hear the older composer, almost as though startled from a dream, say, "Antoine!"), performing on piano, objects, charango (an Andean guitar) and flute. Melodica, though not listed, is also clearly heard.  I'm not sure whether or not Wolff constructed his music so as to specifically fit in with Beuger's, but I suspect not. More likely, it seems to me (I could be wrong), he "simply" attempted to arrive at a similar emotional and fraternal territory, trusting serendipity to align things. The two recordings were mixed by Taku Unami.

The resultant music is spare but gentle; not even so much gentle as relaxed and confident enough in each others' personalities that small eruptions, generally from Wolff's piano, can occur without provoking unease. Which isn't to say that it flows, though it does, but more simply occurs. One recalls the Rowe/MIMEO project, 'sight', wherein the listen constructs many of the patterns insofar as they're perceived. Beuger's voice, calm, emerges throughout, widely spaced, beginning with, "Say, where are we going? Where?" (though, intriguingly, the discs title excludes the interrogatory) which ably frames one aspect of Wolff's work: the unforeseen or in fact unknown destination of a given piece. Wolff's melodica seems to respond, easily adopting a voice-like character for this listener. "After. Afterwards. After words", Beuger says, Wolff replying with a low piano chuckle. It's all so intimate, almost uncomfortably so (like the aforementioned 'Keine Fernan Mehr'; one feels as though eavesdropping on a quiet, private conversation, the pair perhaps lying in a field, watching the sky, talking freely, softly, only when necessary. "We have to go now", Beuger says a couple of times near the end. "As if their dialogue had never ended." One gets the sense it hasn't, yet, and that's such a good thing.

An extraordinary recording, so personal, so different, so wonderful.

Erstwhile






Monday, April 30, 2018



Kim Myhr - You | Me (Hubro)

I've been aware of Myhr's music since about 2010 though, to be sure, not in its entirety, so I've little idea how much if any this recording is a departure, but it was certainly a surprise--and an exhilarating one--to me.

Performed by a quartet made up of Myhr (electric and acoustic guitars), Tony Buck (percussion), Ingar Zach (snares, percussion, electronics) and Hans Hulbækmo (hand percussion), the first track begins in a floating, nebulous zone, all dust and water droplets suspended in air,  but after about four minutes, a strummed, rhythmic guitar figures enters the scene and we get to the meat of the matter. I have to say that, inevitably, one recalls Rhys Chatham's majestic 'Guitar Trio' with the propulsive, more or less single pitch maintained throughout, accompanied by surging percussion. It's gentler than 'Guitar Trio', possessing kind of a skimming the surface quality, very attractive, like a bird flying low over the waves on the cover image. The second track (listed as simply 'A' and 'B', but hard not to think of as 'You' and 'Me', running about 18 and 20 minutes, respectively) starts right in with that lilting groove, this time with Myhr's acoustic guitar up front. The pitches used are expanded somewhat but still lie within a smallish range, but there's more going on in the bass (however generated, but including bass drum) imparting a slight Canterbury feeling. It shifts about midway through into a quavering, bell-filled area, foggy but tingling. An enjoyable and approachable release



Michael Pisaro - Asleep, Street, Pipes, Tones (Hubro)

I'd heard the one other recording of this Pisaro piece, by Barry Chabala and Katie Porter (with organ and other sound samples from Eva-Maria Houben, André O. Möller and Burkhard Schlothauer), released on Gravity Wave in 2011. It's a stunning work, as is this performance by Håkon Stene (Godin and Moog electric guitars, bowed piano, field recordings) and Kristine Tjøgersen (bass clarinet and contrabass clarinet), for which Pisaro adapted the original score.

Though divided into 17 relatively brief tracks--unlike the earlier version, which was presented s a 63-minute whole--the piece is contiguous enough, with shifts on focus gliding from one to the next. Pisaro has apparently written eight "sleep" compositions, based around the idea of both continuing to hear events from the conscious world as well as developing our own during dreamtime. Here, he works with sounds from the street, "pipes" in various aspects (from waterworks to subways) and, more generally, tones consisting of musician-generated sounds as well field recordings and, I gather, radio captures. It opens immediately on a kind of white noise that has hollow, tubular overtones. It quickly fades then recurs, the iteration giving it something of the character of a steam horn. For the next hour, we traverse any number of sound fields that pierce the oneiric calm. It's pointless to try to describe them all, just to say that as varied as the elements are, even while noting standout moments like the luscious deep clarinets, the infiltration of choirs and a surprising "organ" section--pipes!--, the work flows beautifully, with its own internal dream logic. A fabulous realization and right up there with my favorite recordings of Pisaro's work.

Hubro


Friday, April 27, 2018



Bruno Duplant - Chamber and Field Works (2015 - 2017) Another Timbre

A very enjoyable 2-disc set of works by Duplant performed by Taku Sugimoto and the Suidobashi Chamber Ensemble. Disc One is given over to three pieces with the group, a sextet and two quintets (Aya Naito, bassoon & voice; Hikaru Yamada, electronics; Masahiko Okura, soprano & contrabass clarinet; Sugimoto, electric guitar, bow, e-bow & bowed mandolin; Wakana Ikeda, flute, harmonica; and Yoko Ikeda, violin & viola). Surely a great deal of the successful realization of these works is due to the ensemble, which plays with wonderful sensitivity and awareness of subtle modulations. The pieces share certain characteristics, most clearly slowness, quietness and long tone duration. 'all that I learned and then forgot' (2015) has slowly descending tones, bending ever so slightly downward, delicately layered and sequenced. The second track, 'where our dreams get lost' (2017) is one where I suspect that the ensemble is doing the heavy lifting. I have no idea what the score for any of the pieces is like (save for the one on Disc Two), but here the long lines are single notes fairly close together; the concept sounds simple. But the performance is so flowing, so clear and, dare I say, heartfelt, that the emergent beauty more than belies the surface simplicity. There's a shift in textural content on 'a place of possibilities' (2017), a harsher violin, a voice, the winds sounding somewhat more agitated. The long tones are retained, but the atmosphere is more doubtful, an appropriate and effective tonic for the previous two compositions.

'lEttEr to tAku (field music for guitar)', which occupies the second disc, is a different story, the "score" being a letter sent by Dupont to Sugimoto. It's a solo piece for Sugimoto (guitar, small amplifier, bow, park) performed and recorded at Hanegi Park in Tokyo. He's made recordings in a similar vein before (I'm thinking of 'Live in Australia' and others) where he's played so sparingly that it's often difficult to discern his presence. Here, his sound is clear, foregrounded from the environment yet attached to it. Children, planes, cicadas and other sounds envelop the single guitar notes, sometimes short, more often allowed to hover. Somewhere after the midway point, Sugimoto briefly switches to the bow, creating sharp but gentle slivers of sound, slicing through the park, recalling Michael Pisaro's sine waves in his 'Transparent Cities' projects. Toward the end, the notes seem to come more often, small clusters, like leaves. A lovely performance, beautifully recorded.

An excellent release all around, possibly my favorite thing heard from Duplant thus far.

Another Timbre


Wednesday, April 25, 2018


Taku Sugimoto - h (Another Timbre)

Sugimoto's winning project with singer Minami Saeki, Songs, is the source for this lovely, oddly static work, performed in tandem by the composer and guitarist Cristián Alvear. While those piece were generally short (song length), here Sugimoto takes one, 'h', and elaborates on it for more than 42 minutes. "Elaborates", however, in his own idiosyncratic style.

It's a live recording, from a concert at Ftarri in November 2017, and there's an immediate and welcome sense of the music being embedded in the local atmosphere. The notes come slowly, softly, very songlike, a gentle unhurried cascade of single notes, each player (one presumes) playing the melody at his own pace, allowing new patterns to emerge. That said, there's a kind of hovering stasis in effect, a circulation and rotation around one small but beautiful set of notes, the music never traveling very far at all, but simply observing what can occur given two extremely sensitive instrumentalists approaching the score with high regard.

It's been fascinating to hear Sugimoto's migration from the minimal but "tuneful" music first heard, by me, on 'Opposite' from 1998 to the extraordinarily spare recordings from the mid-2000s (like 'Live in Australia) to the more severe composed pieces from recent years to these current variations, which perhaps harken back to 'Opposite' but with much knowledge gathered int he interim. Not too much more I can say about it in terms of descriptives, only to strongly advise, if you've any interest at all in Sugimoto's music (and Alvear's brilliant playing) to hear this one. Very special.

Another Timbre-




Monday, April 23, 2018


Clara de Asís - Do Nothing (Another Timbre)

This is the third release I've heard from de Asís, including 'Uno Todo Tres' (Éditions Piednu) and her collaboration with Bruno Duplant, 'L'inertie' (Marginal Frequency) and each has been a delight.

Six pieces with de Asís playing guitar and percussion, titularly organized around the idea of nothing, each with a different approach. The works are very intimate, even very precise within the parameters she's apparently assigned, like carefully limned drawings where the beauty is in the close attention to detail and where the complexity emerges from seemingly simple objects like stones and twigs. The title track offsets clear, ringing notes from the guitar, sometimes doubled, with the eventual introduction of a resonant, struck object, perhaps a bell. The two sounds, plus an alternate, slightly buzzing guitar tone, share the space, exerting a subtle gravitational pull on one another, their hanging tones causing ripples of interference. Meditative, alive, shifting and lovely. 'Know Nothing' changes locale drastically, plunging into a tiny world of skittering sounds that resemble, small sewing machines or teletypes, rapid-fire but soft, something like typewriters. There are two takes of 'Nothing Lasts', I and II. The first involves sliding, metallic objects, a kind of sound that I can listen to pretty much forever, while the second uses a similar structure but with what sounds like multiple gentle attacks on a drum head, perhaps even rain--entirely absorbing. Sandwiched between those two tracks is 'Say Nothing', repeated, deep guitar tones, regularly spaced, embedded in some amount of room tone, joined after several minutes by (guessing) bowed, large bells. It's a darker variation on the first track, the bowing fairly harsh, the guitar less glowing. The final piece, 'Be Nothing', is built around what I think is bowed metal, though maybe a guitar is in play. It begins a swirl with overtones, slightly strident, the purer tones playing off the grainier ones, then slowly subsides, damping down the volume, becoming nothing.

A very impressive offering from de Asís; can't wait to hear more.

Another Timbre




Sunday, April 22, 2018

Ensemble Grizzana, here consisting of six core members (Jürg Frey, clarinet; Philip Thomas, piano; Mira Benjamin, violin; Angharad Davies, violin; Anton Lukoszevieze, cello; and Dominic Lash, double bass) performs two long works: Magnus Granberg's 'How Vain Are All Our Frail Delights' and Frey's 'Late Silence'.

On the former, the sextet is joined by Granberg (celesta), Simon Allen (dulcimer and glass harp), Richard Craig (alto flute and electronics), John Lely (electronics) and Dimitra Lazaridou-Chatzigoga (zither and electronics). The starting points for each piece are from Johannes Ockeghem's (1410/25 - 1497) 'Déploration sur la mort de Binchois' and William Byrd's (1538 - 1623) 'O Lord, How Vain'.  Granberg's piece is cloudy, amorphous. I'm not at all sure how he made use of the source material--perhaps extracting small bits and elaborating on them juxtaposing them--but having spent a few hours listening to versions of both the Ockeghem and the Byrd, I can't say that I hear much reference, direct or otherwise. Which is fine, of course. The floating aspect can work and, for me, it sometimes does here but .more so when there's at least a hint of an anchor, as when, periodically, a deep bass note is struck and slowly repeated, kind of an attenuated continuo where one can imagine a dreamy evocation of one of the earlier works. In these moments, I get a slightly Robert Ashley effect which is very attractive. Over its almost 42 minutes, though, I found my attention wandering. Granberg's music has always been a little difficult for me, for one reason or another--my lack, I'm sure.

The Frey work is very different and is yet another addition to his astonishing canon. It's much more constrained and, in a sense, linear. Single, clear lines from piano, dulcimer and strings perform a calm dance, evoking early music without by any means aping it. There's a somberness befitting Ockeghem's subject, tempered by extreme tenderness. The wonderful sound of sliding stones enters beneath the spare, solitary, grainy lines. As with much of Frey's music, the sounds themselves are transparent and "simple" but their placement and their extraordinarily subtle placement provides endless fascination. When other elements are added, harmonica and clarinet in one section, for instance, there's no feeling of overcrowdedness; they slip into the stream, enriching the sound field but never obscuring their cohorts. There are sudden shifts, as when the ensemble gives way to solo piano about 21 minutes in; one has forgotten how full the music had become. The mix of instruments shifts as the piece progresses (harmonica and flute are introduced), always retaining a strong connection to an ancient sensibility, slowed, parsed, and re-examined. 'Late Silence' fits right in to the recent run of gorgeous music by Frey, utterly enthralling.

A fine set. I'll keep working on Granberg, but in the meantime, must hearing for the Frey.

Another Timbre

Monday, April 16, 2018

Five new releases from Intonema.


Jamie Drouin/Hannes Lingens - alluvium (Intonema)

Ten tracks, ranging from under a minute to almost fifteen, from Drouin (no-input mixer, contact mic, laptop, radio) and Lingens (floor tom, snare drum, objects). The pieces, save for the longest one, are concise explorations of circumscribed sets of sounds, each one choosing a small handful of colors and making do with them. I find this an extremely satisfying approach. Even on that near-fifteen minute work, there's an episodic aspect, each portion as exacting as the remainder of the tracks. The general dynamics occupy an area between soft and mid-range, with hums, rubbed surfaces (including, I think, rubber mallets drawn across drum heads), rapid tappings and hazy sizzles featuring prominently. What more to say? It's not a sound-world that hasn't been visited before but Drouin and Lingens hear combinations and patterns unique to their own sensitivities and those sensitivities are very much in line with my own comfort zone, so I find the set ravishing and endlessly revealing of new juxtapositions and parallels on each listen. Fine, subtle, creative work. 


Horst Quartet - edged timbre (Intonema)

A Finnish quartet with Tuukka Haapakorpi (electronics), Lauri Hyvärinen (electric guitar, objects), Taneli Viitahuhta (alto saxophone, objects, piano) and Hermanni Yli-Tepsa (violin, objects), the group comfortably occupies the post-AMM improv tradition, creating five brief (5-6 minute) soundscapes. The music is foggy, jittery, sometimes eerie (heavy knocks on a table or something are repeated at various times), rich in shifting timbres, with softly chiming guitar chords played off against scratches on the violin, breaths through the alto, etc. No new ground is broken and there are occasions when I'd have liked to hear a greater sense of space and emptiness, but these are relatively minor quibbles. 'edged timbre' is actually relatively user-friendly and could serve as a reasonable entryway into this general area of music. 


Dominic Lash/Seth Cooke - egregore (Intonema)

This one's a beaut. Lash (electronics) and Cooke (cymbals, microphones) have fashioned an endlessly absorbing slab of sound, apparently from two different dates (no idea if each recorded separately or both did each time) but melded together into a drone whose surface simplicity belies a wealth of complication at its core. There's perhaps an aura of Radigue in play here (Lash has worked with her), the general organ-y tone maintaining consistency on the one hand but fluctuating with great subtlety on the other; it's difficult to tell if those quaverings are intentional or the result of acoustic interference. These waves alter in fascinating ways, becoming fairly rapid but slightly irregular pushes, jostling underneath while the tone above begins to ripple. It sometimes sounds like a muted layering of a distant multitude of church organs being improvised upon in an insane manner. Toward the end of the piece, the tides lengthen, the air becomes more subdued, though still quite active. It shimmers quietly out of existence, having provided an hour of sublime music. Very highly recommended.


Ilia Belorukov/Miguel A. Garcia/Jason Kahn/Frantz Loriot - invanskrue (Intonema)

An improv date with four strong players: Belorukov (fluteophone, contact mics, effect pedals, ivcs3--software, I think--samples, field recordings), Garcia (laptop, electronics), Kahn (drums) and Loriot (viola). Interesting to hear after the Horst Quartet above. Not that there's any reason to think of similarities or differences, just two quartets improvising, this one to my ears hazier and more mysterious, less sharply focussed, yielding a more immersive experience. Two tracks, the first very much in this vein, rubbed and abraded surfaces nestled in amongst rounded crackles and sliding 
hums. There's a very enjoyable sense of spatial volume here, with low, booming sounds getting lost in the room's corners; quite satisfying. The second cut, 'relieffestia', begins in more raucous territory, perhaps nodding to 'The Crypt', but settles down into a period of fine, giddy uncomfortableness--small, skittering sounds, chirping viola, soft fluteophone (?) sighs. No radio is listed but fragments of rockish guitar music surface discreetly now and then. The music simmers along, bubbling gently, strolling down unanticipated pathways, tinkling here, whooshing there. Good work on all counts.


Konstantin Samolovov/Alexey Sysoev - varietas (Intonema)

Interesting beginning: clear, clean drums along with somewhat similarly percolating electronics, very airy and floating. Samolovov wields the percussion (along with radio and voice recorder) whilst Sysoev mans the no-input mixer and utilizes various software. The clarity of drums as drums (no cymbals; sometimes he sounds like a reborn Barry Altschul) is refreshing once in a while, as is the jaunty, almost humorous aspect the music takes on in the first few minutes of 'moto', one of two tracks here. That transparency and sound-area continue throughout the piece, very active and engaging, the clatter and sputter of children at play. 'cycle' is more somber, the computerized clicks remaining more or less in the same territory (more bell-like tones), the percussion including some cymbals but also damped down a bit, less resonant, which is an effective approach. The interaction is quick and finely meshed, very much "of a piece", no overt give and take. An enjoyable release, light in a good way.














Monday, April 09, 2018

Brief reviews of five releases from Intonema that were issued in 2015 & 2016 which I only recently heard. Next post will be for five more that appeared in 2017-2018.


Songs - 1 & 2 (Intonema)

Songs is a quartet made up of Lucio Capece (bass clarinet), Rishin Singh (trombone), Stine Sterne (voice) and Catherine Lamb (viola, voice). They perform two pieces of Singh's, 'Six Scenes of Boredom' and 'Three Lives'. Despite a title designed to give the malicious critic an easy foothold, the first track is anything but boring. Long, staggered lines, largely in the mid to low registers, from the horns and viola lay beneath the occasional vocal which does carry with it something of a song-lyric aspect, just detached from its stanza and floating. There's a certain amount of stasis, though also some fine melancholy in some of the shorter, two-note sequences, a resignedness, maybe. 'Three Lives', while retaining many of the same general forms as heard in the first piece (the long, blurred, low lines) contains more frequent vocal passages and thus arguably connotes more of the idea of "song". Again, however, these words are sung in short clusters (here, both Lamb and Sterne) and allowed to suspend. When sung in near unison, using a single note, there's a surprisingly urgent sense of drama imparted. (The words are fairly indecipherable, at least by me, but "cocaine" is repeated). It may overstay its welcome just a little bit, but a lovely work nonetheless. I hope Songs, the ensemble, is a continuing project and eagerly look forward to more.


Michael Pisaro/Denis Sorokin - mind is moving ix (Intonema)

I'm thinking I had to have previously encountered the zen source of the Pisaro title, but perhaps not: Not the wind, not the flag; mind is moving. I believe I've heard numbers 1-5 in this series, though only in one reading each. Here, Sorokin is mostly heard on electric guitar, though he also makes use of radio, stones and whistling. To make an obvious point, the successful realization of Pisaro's scores rests squarely and with unusual weight on the shoulders of the performer, perhaps more so when the composer isn't present. I'm not familiar with this score but presume that it's one where the instrumentalist has a choice of sounds to make over a given period. The nature of the sounds, their duration, dynamics and, crucially, their placement in the time-field is to some extent at least, up to him/her. Extended silence is an almost necessary outcome, as it is here--or near-silence as amp hum and perhaps room ambience are easily discernible. Determining for oneself how well the work was realized is perhaps even more subjective than usual. I find Sorokin's choices decent enough if, somehow, not quite as incisive as I want to hear. Maybe it's the tone of the guitar, its relative forthrightness that I'd rather have somewhat muted (though, certainly, for all I know, some of this may have been indicated in the score and the "fault", such as it is, lies with Pisaro). Often, when hearing/seeing Pisaro himself performing his music, I find that the electric guitar is a little intrusive; a problem for my ears, not necessarily for other listeners (my mind needs to move more, maybe), and this recording should definitely be heard by anyone with an interest in this area of music. It's a good recording even if I'm curious to hear the piece realized by someone along the lines of Cristián Alvear. 


Stefan Thut - Un/Even and One (Intonema)

I should pause to mention that, with regard to these five releases, I was sent only the discs in plain, white paper sleeves. Not having any direct information that may (or may not) have been printed on the actual CD sleeves, I've been resorting to various accounts of the projects from both the Intonema site and other reviews. 

I write that here as I've learned that a key component, possibly more conceptual than auditory, of Thut's composition is a set of recordings made from the musicians involved "writing" various words with their fingertips on a cardboard box, which is then pushed around the performance space. The musicians are Yuri Akbalkan (electronics), Anna Antipova (box, playback, movement), Ilia Belorukov (alto saxophone, objects), Andrey Popovskiy (violin, objects), Denis Sorokin (acoustic guitar, ebow) and Thut (cello). Thut's music is always thin and dry but usually in a very rewarding way--less thin than transparent, less dry than sandy. And there's a fine sandiness in the sounds encountered here, grit being pushed aside and underneath the objects being dragged and otherwise moved across the floor. And there is a strong sense of physical movement; I was reminded at times of Taku Unami's manipulation of cardboard boxes some years back in NYC. The instruments, when they appear (which is sporadically), add the merest tinge to the general sound-world, an airy, arid space of rubbed and abraded surfaces. That space is consistent, true to itself and endlessly varied and complex within narrow parameters. I could stay for hours, wonderful work.


Arturas Bumšteinas - organ safari lituanica (Intonema)

As best I understand things, Bumšteinas, in the company of organist Gailė Griciūtė, visited some 20 sites in Lithuania as part of his "Organ Archipelago" project, where she recorded improvisations on the local church organs. Bumšteinas then developed the three compositions we encounter here from those improvisations. So the album is very much a joint venture and an enormously successful one. Others, from Eva-Maria Houben to Jean-Luc Guionnet and many between have explored extended technique and sonorities with pipe organs in recent years and this release fits in quite comfortably. The general sound-world of the organ is always present, as well as the ancillary sounds of pedals and stops. But also the kind of breathiness not heard in "standard" organ fare, unusual pitch bending and more. Still, the overall sense is one of tonality, if stretched and pulled. 

Bumšteinas achieves a kind of prismatic effect with the overlays; the varying timbres of the organs, the audible differences in spatial atmospherics and the range of attacks by Griciūtė reflecting off of and through one another with a really fine balance of transparency and substance. Swirling, sometimes calliope-like, nightmare-y; hard to describe but very engrossing music and highly recommended. 


Anne-F Jacques/Tim Olive - tooth car (Intonema)

Recordings culled from two stops on a 2015 tour by the pair, each wielding an assortment of electronics. Rotational devices are clearly in effect (more from Jacques, I think) and provide an effective throb 'n' pulse to undergird the excellent grimy, raw noise that makes up the core language. It's an area explored by many others, a generation of industrial-grade sounds that cycle in varying phases, creating an infernal-factory aura. But it's also one I'm quite partial to, easily imagining myself in such a climate, immersed in the massive sound slabs, aurally buffeted by the whir and clank of rusty gears, the groans of decaying turbines, etc. The first of the two tracks is more in this dense vein, the second imparting a feeling of an abandoned space, the machines still humming but less insistently, neglected, farther along the path to end of their functional life. Good stuff.











Saturday, March 17, 2018



Paul Khimasia Morgan - Peoplegrowold (Confront Collectors Series)

Morgan's listed on only "prepared acoustic guitar body & objects" on this short, lovely recording. One can only imagine the preparations and the nature of those objects as they seem to extend beyond the usual e-bows and contact mics. The thought of "guitar" might well not surface during a given listen. But that's somewhat beside the point as the four pieces on their own are delicate, intricate explorations, well-paced, sounds chosen with care and a fine ear.

One might say that the music meanders but in a modest, intelligent manner, seeking out small byways to investigate. On the first track, 'wtda', a guitar-string jangle morphs into a several-layered hum, very discreet, slowing deepening and splaying out, dissolving into a set of the hums alternating with what sounds like brief slices of same. There's a sense of the nocturnal, of noises in the dark, of ambling through a quiet but not entirely inactive town that percolates in a ghostly way while most are sleeping. Morgan provides just enough iteration of certain elements and occasional pulse to propel things along from sound to sound, barely enough to impart a sense of purpose, just the right amount. 'queensarc' opens with a tiny snatch of voice, perhaps from a radio, and is pricklier than it's predecessor, still offering hums but edgier, more quavery ones, offset with various pieces of static and crackling. There are short silences, like extended eye blinks, the gaze of the viewer shifting slightly each time. It's a more industrial area, tauter and more anxious. The title track starts in a crowded interior space for about a second then shifts to a buzzing drone gently reflecting glimmers of feedback. It wanders through that gritty haze, encountering the odd, muffled beat of a pop song here, traffic or a cough there; it's the most mysterious piece here, quite dreamy and effective. 'waterchimes' is perhaps the densest offering, with several layers and varieties of drone, sets of rustles and clicks and, yes, chime-like tones. As with all the music on this disc, it's less about the elements than how they're placed in context, how restrained is their usage and how surprising-yet-inevitable they appear. The gaze feels careful but distant, observing key aspects and allowing them to stand on their own.

A really fine recording, my favorite of what I've heard from Morgan thus far. Highly recommended.

Confront



Sunday, March 11, 2018


Laura Steenberge - Harmonica Fables (Nueni)

It goes without saying that there's never enough harmonica in contemporary experimental music, so Steenberge's fine recording has a leg up from the get go. She attended Cal Arts and I'm guessing studied with Michael Pisaro (she appears on his recording, 'Tombstones') and perhaps James Tenney. Not that their influence is marked--it's not--but a vague glimmer of the kind of gentle individualism they teach is apparent on this very unique effort.

There are nine tracks, in three groupings. The first two, 'Ritual for Harmonica' and
'Chant - Harmonica', are the longest pieces at about 12 and 20 minutes respectively and, as their titles might indicate, are the ones with a ritualistic aura. On both, Steenberge hums/sings at the same time as she plays the harmonica, the latter often acting as a kind of drone or pedal point. 'Ritual for Harmonica' uses long tones, burled and complex in their layerings, the vibrato of the voice offset against the subtler vibrato of the harmonica chords. When pitched higher, she almost gets a Lucier-like effect of adjacent tone interference. But the overall cast is one of solitary reflection, thoughts unfurling in strings that are emitted in a quasi-regular manner but vary--intuitively, one feels--in any number of characteristics. (I pick up a glass-like sound as well, as though she's also blowing through, perhaps, a bottle). 'Chant - Harmonica', delves deeper, a series of rich, dark, undulating lines seemingly lasting as long as a breath, the low, buzzing harmonica chord bracing the simple "melody" atop, a sung line (anywhere from 3 to 15 notes) that indeed obliquely recalls the idea of "chant", though from what culture I'd find impossible to say. Her bio references a study if Byzantine chants, but I also find myself thinking along didjeridoo lines. The piece is extremely immersive as well as demanding, developing intensity and intricacy as it progresses--you really have to give yourself up and just wallow in it. Very beautiful.

The trio of pieces bearing the title, 'Sphere' (1, 2 & 3) are quite different, tending toward the high range of the instrument and involving swirling, airy patterns, sometimes reminding me of some of Guy Klucevsek's more abstract explorations (there's some accordion kinship here, I think). Mysterious and enticing, sparkles in an ice cloud. The final four compositions are more songlike in nature, though only vaguely so; maybe the titles nudge one in that direction. On 'The Lady of Shallot', the harmonica takes on a character that sometimes resembles a recorder before splaying out in shimmering, prismatic chords. Thinking of it, maybe it's the title of the following piece, 'Pan and Apollo' that got me thinking of pipes. Here, a rapid cycle of notes alternates between a medium-high, repeating swirl and a much higher, oddly distorting one, eventually overlapping and intermingling--oddly disorienting and quite effective. 'The King's Ears' has a bit of a fanfare quality as well as great sonic depth between both pitches and timbres. It shifts from the initial "announcement" aspect to a kind of chorale, a sung and sighed paean and, finally, to a kind of fast jig. 'Rip Van Winkle' closes thing out sleepily and dreamily, billows of gentle snores, in and out, in and out, yawning and stretching.

A wonderful and unusual recording.

Nueni