Tuesday, December 11, 2018



Patrick Shiroishi - the sparrow's tongue (Fort Evil Fruit)

A very rich and enjoyable family  affair, though with dark edges, constructed by Shiroishi (alto, tenor and soprano saxophones, field recordings, snare drum), using the voice of his mother, Uzuko, to recite poems (tankas) written by his grandfather, Seiji Inoue.

The first track, the brief, 'The Footsteps of Crows' sets the mood with a chorale-like nest of saxophones serving as the bed for a short, calmly read text (all the tests are in Japanese). 'Grasshopper Tactics' expands the sound field with soft chimes and distant sounds of children's voices and, eventual chanting mixing with hoarser though still gentle saxophonics and, maybe, some bowed or otherwise rubbed snares. The saxophone gradually coalesces into a lovely sequence that recalls, for me, some of Marion Brown's more lyrical playing. 'The Crocodile's Dilemma' is more abstract still, with fluttering, breathy reed work and an increased portion of electronics (? field recordings? snare?), with the serene voice of Uzuko Shiroishi serving as a fine, steady center. The anxiety level increases with 'Be a Lion, I Will Still Be Water', a sinuous, near-repeating saxophone line creating a tense atmosphere, threaded through dark, brooding electronics, the voice peeking through, receding. Finally, in 'When the Dog Got His Cate Eyes', airy  multiple saxophones quietly observe among the birds, playing half-melodies, lovingly, then fading before a few closing words. A thoughtful very charming set.

Shiroishi's bandcamp page




Danketsu 9 - Thahraas (Never Anything)

Shiroishi also appears, on tenor sax, with Danketsu 9, in the company of Amandeep Brar (accordion), Ang Wilson (flute), Jason Adams (cello), Kelly Coats (flute), Ken Moore (double bass), Mallory Soto (voice), Noah Guevara (guitar) and Pauline Lay (violin). This releases is comprised of a single, 24-minute piece, performed live, that's basically an improvised drone, with some general elaborations offered as possibilities by Shiroishi. The players begin with a smooth, tonal near-unison, very pastoral, various instruments moving slightly off-chord to create an engaging line, like a multi-plaited rope. At several points, I was reminded of a couple of historic drone-like constructs: George Lewis' 'Homage to Charles Parker' and portions of Centipede's 'Septober Energy (!), especially with regard to the voice contributions. The music fluctuates, shudders, sends off tendrils this way and that while maintaining the central stem. About midway through, more liberties are taken, lead by Shiroishi's tenor; the drone never entirely disappears but becomes increasingly difficult to discern beneath the flurries of guitar, voice, flute and tenor especially as things grow increasingly agitated. Soon, things settle back down, the overall tone similar to, though maybe a bit deeper than, the one that began the work, deeply idyllic.

Danketsu 9 @bandcamp


Friday, December 07, 2018



Donald McPherson/Tetuzi Akiyama - The  Kitchen Tapes Vol. 1 (God in the Music)

I don't believe I've heard McPherson's work before but I've long since learned to approach anything new from Akiyama with no expectations whatsoever--they're inevitably foiled. [I see they'd released a previous recording, 'Vinegar and Rum', in 2006] What we have here is a set of guitar duets (recorded live in 2010) that teeter on the edge of familiarity--echoes of Fahey and  flamenco--while veering off into all sorts of quasi-related areas. It sounds like there's an agreed to idea in place but the playing of both is refreshingly loose and feels very unconfined, a fine combination of meandering while retaining a general sense of direction. There's also a palpable sense on intimacy and confidence in each other's choice, very well intertwined. All three tracks (they pause at moments during each) are taken at relaxed tempi, the second perhaps the most so, though with probing stabs at points of interest encountered along the way. The "language" isn't unusual at all and will, in addition to the above cited, evoke any number of other musical referents, including that of Akiyama's native country or even Derek bailey at his most fluid and languorous. The last, a rolling, sitar-ish number, is especially charming, pastoral but prickly at once, a lovely way to end a fine, very satisfying set.

god in the music @bandcamp



Tom Arthurs/Alberto Novello - cahier de petits coquillages vol. iv/v (Setola di Maiale)

I'd heard a release from Novello a few years back and had written about it , a video/music interaction. Lo and behold, in 2017 he was one of the musicians invited to the annual Art Omi music residency which takes place right down the road from us. So was trumpeter Tom Arthurs, whose music I didn't know but saw that he had worked with a number of improvisers on the London and Berlin scenes, including Eddie Prévost. They were quite an enjoyable couple of fellows and presented some fine music. Turns out they also did some recording while in town and here it is. Arthurs possesses a wonderful tone, very smooth and creamy. On this recording, he flits and writhes between glitchy electronic patterns set up by Novello, often of a repetitive nature but with much ancillary fuzziness and thorny extrusions. Arthurs' often muted horn charts a relatively sober  course through Novello's electronics which tend towards a giddy, loopy and humorous aspect  (here and there, I'm reminded of Dr. Patrick Gleeson, circa 'Sextant'), creating a very enjoyable contrast, sometimes light-hearted, other times poignant.

Setola di Maiale



Dustin Carlson - Air Ceremony  (Out of Your Head)

Not my standard fare by any means, but I could easily see a number of readers here digging this. Take late 80s Tim Berne circa 'Fulton St. Maul', combine with the propulsive machines from 'Red'-era King Crimson and leaven with a substantial dose of good old-fashioned free jazz, a pinch of Threadgill and a dash  of thrash and you are in the ballpark. A septet with Carlson (guitar), Nathaniel Morgan (alto saxophone), Eric Trudel (baritone saxophone), Danny Gouker (trumpet), the redoubtable Matt Mitchell (Prophet 6), Adam Hopkins (bass) and Kate Gentile (drums), have a jolly time with the leader's compositions, six pieces that lurch, glide and hurtle through varying time signatures and moods within the space of scant minutes. The guitar solo, 'Watherton', is enjoyably clear and lucid, kind of the 'Peon' of the album (yes, I pick up a little Beefheart, too) but there's a general heaviness of tread that others will enjoy more than I. The band is tight, Carlson's able guitar work tending to lead the way through the juicy throb. This will right up the alley of many.

Out of Your Head's bandcamp page





Thursday, November 29, 2018




Asher Tuil - Tolerances/Affordances/Initializations (self-released)

Tuil, sometimes known as simply Asher, earlier in his career as Asher Thal-nir, has been releasing very fine collections of electronic work for over a decade now, both on his own and in collaboration with artists such as Richard Garet, Jason Kahn and others. While tending toward what might be described as "ambient", they almost always contain laters of depth, perception and grainy activity that often transcend the category. At hand are three new releases, available as downloadable files.

'Tolerances' contains six tracks of swooping, fuzz-laden sounds, as though documenting the starting up and cooling down of immense engines. The tones shift from cooler and more machine-like to an emergent kind of warmth that hints at (slow) melody. As the collection progresses, it settles into deep, fuzzy, organ-like tones within a rainy environment with airy, piping voices and even, maybe, train whistles heard in the distance, like a huge creature nestling down into a cold swamp. Very evocative.

The fourteen tracks on 'Affordances' are both more pulsing and brooding though again, the basic source has that fuzz-aura. The first couple of cuts have the gentle, breathing flow that recalls some of Fripp and Eno's 'Evening Star'. Things soon veer toward darker areas: low, long throbs, deep and rich, with higher scintillations emanating out. Towards the middle tracks, the music becomes somewhat gentler, more overtly tonal, even dreamy, though with a harsh edge. It more or less maintains this groove until the very end, when the rusty static that's been lurking begins to eat noticeably around the edges and then some.

'Initializations' is bleaker still, the grains enhanced, the ambient sounds including echoes of voice and car engines and horns, the whole bathed in a sooty rain. The four tracks are airy but the air is filled with sandy particles, eroding the humming turbines, pitting their surfaces. There's not much left at the end but dry wind whistling through the streets empty of all but faint vestiges of traffic and human activity. Very strong.

Tuil remains one of my favorite exemplars of this area of multilayered sound washes, concentrated, well-considered, well thought out. Give a listen to these and other releases at:

Asher Tuil's bandcamp page


Saturday, November 24, 2018



Howard Stelzer - Across the Blazer (Marginal Frequency)

It has been about ten years since I last heard Stelzer's work ('Bond Inlets', Intransitive, 2008) so I have no idea if the music heard on this recording has been part of an ongoing progression, but I was a little surprised at certain qualities, mostly its steady, unbroken stream. Whatever the case, it's fantastic, utterly immersive and contains depths upon depths. I think I first heard/saw Stelzer in the Boston-based BSC around 2000; he was manipulating cassettes then and still does. On the first track, 'Selective Memory (You Never Know Absolutely Quite Where You Are', there's a consistent, kind of woolly rumble throughout, as though from countless recordings blurred via repeated copying, but it's a rumble that's very airy, a vast, distant volume that somehow connotes stories within--very interesting. The ground on the title track has a vaguely tonal thread running through it but even more noise is piled atop--one has the impression of driving, at speed, through an extremely long, very resonant tunnel, the combined engines forming a rough quasi-musical tone. It hurtles forward for some 27 minutes before wheeling away into the darkness. A very enjoyable ride indeed.

Marginal Frequency




Sarah Hennies - Sisters (Mappa Editions)

A wonderful and deceptively simple work for solo vibraphone, performed by Lenka Novosedlíková, recorded in a 13th century Gothic church in Kyjarice, Slovakia. Hennies sets up shifting patterns, generally  of rapidly played tremolo patterns, that are augmented--sometimes gradually, sometimes abruptly--while also taking full advantage of the overtones provided by the church's interior. The process is explained in detail by Jennie Gottschalk in her wonderfully incisive and clear liner notes to the LP. Side One both evokes earlier music (Reich's 'Drumming' and some of Rzewski's more minimalist offerings, like parts of 'Winnsboro Cotton Mill Blues' came to mind) and extends them into rich, fascinating areas. The second side (apparently part one of the piece, 'Sisters') is cooler and initially quieter, the overtones really coming to the fore midway through. Perhaps bot the writing and Novosedlíkova's naturalness of playing caused me to often hear the sounds as emanating from some "object", some stationary but vibrating thing that generated quasi-regular patterns in confluence with its environment, including the faintly heard barking dogs outside--very beautiful. It closes with a "simple" three against four pattern that I could have listened to for a long time. Wish I'd been in the room.

Mappa Editions




Tender Buttons - Forbidden Symmetries (Rastascan)

Said Buttons consisting of Tania Chen (piano), Tom Djll (electronics) and Gino Robair (electronics) and the album in question being a 12" 45rpm on clear vinyl which produces very groovy moiré patterns whilst spinning. Chen tends to be forwarded here, with Djll and Robair providing a subtle bed of squiggles, pops and bumps, kind of an oddball obbligato. Both tracks are spacious and uncluttered. Side A ('A Red Hat. A Blue Coat. A Piano') is perhaps slightly more aggressive with Chen unfurling compact nuggets, allowing them to hang briefly then flicker out, the electronics active but at a distance, circling, eventually constructing their own atmosphere that seems to force or entice Chen into acknowledgment about midway through--a very fine entanglement. The second side, 'Go red, go red, laugh white' is a bit more subdued, the piano playing tilting toward Feldman, the electronics more "conversational", interjecting quietly humorous pings and bleeps. It's an enjoyable, slightly spooky amble, immersive and imaginative, with just enough implied structure to guide one through. A good job all around.

Tender Buttons @ bandcamp




David Dominque - Mask (Orenda Records)

I wrote up Dominique's 'Ritual' a few years ago and, looking back, much of what I wrote then pretty well goes for his recent effort, 'Mask'. It's a strong, extremely tight eight piece band with Dominique (flugabone, voices), Brian Walsh (tenor sax, clarinet), Joe Santa Maria (alto sax, flute), Sam Robles (alto and baritone sax), Lauren Baba (viola), Alex Noice (guitar, electroncs), Michael Alvidrez (basses) and Andrew Lessman (drums, drumkat). 'The Wee if Us' is a kind of template for his music: a collage-like collection of themes, rapid shifts in melody and rhythm, repetitions, stretchings, leavened with some humor and jam-packed into 3 1/2 minutes. 'Grief', the second track, stands out a bit (in a good way), with a catchy, plangent melodic line that, the first time I heard it, was thinking, "This cries out to be sung" and, sure enough, a few minutes in the band (maybe Dominique himself, multi-tracked) does just that, moaning and keening for all he's worth--both funny and oddly moving. As before, I can pick up referents galore, from Breuker's Kollektief to the Microscopic Septet (the punchiness of both), with nods to Zappa and Braxton along the way. Refreshingly, there are few real solos to be encountered on the way, allowing the compositions center stage. An enjoyable romp.


Sunday, November 18, 2018



Philip Corner - Extreemizms (Unseen Worlds)

A fine selections of works from Corner stemming from the extremes of his career--four from 1958, five from 2015-2016--performed by Silvia Tarozzi (violin) and Deborah Walker (cello), with appearances by Corner (piano) on two pieces and Rhodri Davies (harp) on one.

There are three little amuses bouches from 2016 scattered throughout, grouped under the term, "wHoly Trinitye", tasty little numbers with creamy violin overtones and a rich cello base, ending with a zing. The title cut, from 2015, lives up to its name, spending the first 11 or so of its 14 1/2 minutes in a delicate, drone-like pattern, both instruments beginning mid to high and gradually separating, the violin going higher, the cello lower. After eleven or so minutes of this quiet, very lovely music, the world explodes into a raging arco attack, replete with yells and shouts, that closes out the last few minutes in a frenzy, the players gasping for breath (audibly) afterwards. This is followed by three fascinating pieces from 1958, the Two-part Monologues Nos. 1-3. Their proto-minimalism alone would be interesting enough, but their combination of steady-state underpinnings by the cello and almost Romantic, strong, piercing violin in the first, the pruned Satie-esque piano minimalism and dual string interpolations of the second and the quavering lines alternating from wavy to extreme graininess of the third--all excellent. 'FINALE' (1958), again with piano, is a delicate balance of soft violin sighs, gentle single notes from the piano and deep continuo from the cello, while a longer wHoly Trinitye ('for a "free-togethering"'), including harp, meshes together many of the approaches we've been hearing, offsetting longer high and low tones with abrupt flurries from the harp and possessing a generally more jagged character, closing with wonderfully urgent playing from all three.

An engrossing recording, expertly performed, from a fascinating composer.

Unseen Worlds




David Vélez - The things that objects can tell us about ourselves (Flaming Pines)

Vélez draws on his work teaching Foley sound production (the adding of sound effects to film in post-production) to construct a dense, rich world with various objects of metallic and other natures. The single track, almost 50 minutes, begins in woolly atmospherics only to be abruptly shattered by a huge bang, as if an enormous, heavy but fragile object has been dropped from height into the room, exploding on impact. From there, we traverse a number of "episodes", all pretty densely packed (though the dynamic range is wide, there's little in the way of silence here), all conveying a wealth of sonic information. Often, there are pulses or other subtle iterative elements that provide some forward thrust--a steady, echoing pounding here, a thin, bell-like tone, as from a distant train-crossing signal, there. The traditions are entirely natural sounding, like walking from room to room, always with a sense of the same "air", just varying activity taking place. While, active, it's never busy, conveying a sense intent and urgency but with an almost non-human aspect--very enjoyable. Items are dropped, blown into, rolled, stepped on--everything works, all em
bedded within a convincing world, one that occasionally allows the outside to seep in. Good work.

Flaming Pines



Jessica L. Wilkinson/Simon Charles - Marionette: A Biography of Miss Marion Davies (self-released)

I kinda knew something unusual was up after taking a gander at the title of this work and Matthew Revert's cover. And it is. Jessica L. Wilkinson wrote a kind of poetic biography of Davies (William Randolph Hearst's mistress and a generally tragic figure in 2012. She reads from that text here and has her words accompanied and transformed by Simon Charles' electronics and editing. The editing often involves clipping the speech at the beginning or end or individual words, which is a little unsettling. [As is not uncommonly the case, I've been informed that I was mistaken as to the source of these "editings". Simon Charles pointed out that the effects were in fact generated by the rather extraordinary vocal capabilities of Jenny Barnes. As for the the instrumental portions, Charles elaborated: "all of the sounds heard on the disc were produced by the instrumental quartet (except for Jessica’s voice, obviously). These were actually recorded in several stages; the trio of percussion-viola-piano/harmonium performing together, and the vocal parts recorded separately. In both stages materials were recorded digitally and onto tape, which was then further manipulated and collaged.
It’s important to mention this, as one of the concepts driving the overall construction of the work was the idea of a stratification of materials, which applies not only to the techniques mentioned, but also the sonic ‘profile’ of each instrumental role, as well as the fragmented telling of Davies’ story (which itself seems to exist only as fragments and broken narratives). There is a compositional strategy to the work that seeks extrapolate the text across various strata, which then sit in relation to each other to produce various kinds of tension.] Williams does "acoustic" versions of this herself at times and also imitates the stuttering iterations that Charles achieves in the studio. It's an odd effect, not really overused but appearing regularly throughout amidst passages of "straight" text. There are also occasional contributions by a quartet of Jenny Barnes (voice), Andrew Butler (piano, harmonium), Phoebe Green (viola, viola d'amore) and Michael McNab (percussion). I can't say this kind  of approach is particularly my cuppa and don't have any special interest in Davies' story, but the enterprise is solidly done and well-sustained over its course. Listeners who, for example, enjoy Alessandro Bossetti's investigations into voice and text may well like this one. 

Shame File Music

Thursday, November 15, 2018


The Dogmatics - Chop Off the Tops (self-released)

An LP release with four entrancing pieces, all improvisations, from the duo of Kai Fagaschinski (clarinet) and Chris Abrahams (piano), recorded in 2013.  It opens with the contemplative (deep breath), 'It Never Yielded Results Which They Had Failed to Discover by Other Means', Abrahams casting slow, tonal arpeggios, accented by occasional deep, soft, single notes, Fagaschinski blowing airily, softly atop and through, with the odd subtly sour overtone creeping in. 'I Am Now Wearing Surgical Gloves' (the titles are nothing if not entertaining) is darker, hollower, the piano tones suspended and uncertain, the clarinet quavering and searching, though both remain quiet--a sense of feeling one's way in the dark. The third track, 'Nobody Knew Their Reasons' is darker still, with heavy strikes at the body of the piano and balloon-like squeals and sputter from Fagaschinski. Finally, the lengthiest cut, 'Death Is Now Your Friend', which is also the most extreme musically. Abrahams restlessly probes the piano strings, banging into adjacent points unconcernedly before retreating to the keyboard, constructing a gorgeous series of hanging notes, mid-range--Feldmanesque, yes, but with a unique sense of wonder. Fagaschinski, meanwhile, has been rasping, then subtly gurgling, just tingeing the atmosphere. About midway through, he begins yelping plaintively, very high-pitched and with a painful aspect. Disquieting and impressive, as is the whole album

Dogmatics/bandcamp



Julian Abraham 'Togar' - Acoustic Analog Digitally Composed (Hasana Editions)

An intriguing offering from the Indonesian Hasana Editions label. On Side One, Abraham uses acoustic percussion to fashion rhythms that clearly owe a debt to traditional music from the area, but the sounds are more concise and clipped, seeming almost to have been carved out from their source and reconfigured. There's an odd sense of being somewhere between an exotic typewriter and Cage's early works for prepared piano (the Dances, specifically). Sometimes simpler, sometimes quite complex, always intricate and enjoyable. On Side Two, he more or less attempts to duplicate the music electronically, using magnetic solenoids. There's perhaps more of a roundedness, a sonically "cleaner" effect, but it's pretty close and every bit as engaging.



Nursalim Yadi Anugerah - Selected Pieces from HNNUNG (Hasana Editions)

These are selections from a "chamber opera" by Anugerah based on tales from Kayaan culture, a people from Borneo. There's a mix of both approach and instrumentation (including voices) between Western and Southeast Asian traditions. I found it to be an odd mixture. At times recalling Western art music of the 50s, sometimes (in a kind of odd, reverse inference) Harry Partch coming to mind, as well as embedded traditional musics featured in a way that reminded me of the filipino composer, Jose Maceda. That said, the music stands on its own quite well--some tracks, like the slow 'Ha' Liling Mataando' are quite beautiful--and I'm sure I'm missing a vital component insofar as not seeing the stagecraft. Interesting work, well wroth checking out.

Hasana Editions

Tuesday, November 13, 2018



Stefan Thut  - about (elsewhere)

A piece realized and recorded live in Huddersfield by a sextet consisting of Ryoko Akama (electronics), Stephen Chase (guitar), Eleanor Cully (piano), Patrick Farmer (metal percussion), lo wie (tingsha--small Tibetan cymbals) and Thut (cello).

In his notes printed on the inner sleeve, Thut writes, "while being together they enjoyed leaving time and space for each other". I haven't seen the score, but I'm guessing there may have been text instructions to that effect, or at least including that kind of consideration as a means of operating. The sounds throughout the work, which lasts almost an hour, tend toward the soft and percussive, beginning with a clear, crystalline bell strike (the tingsha, perhaps) and continuing with single plucks of the cello and guitar, strikings of piano keys (fairly high in the register) and discreet electronics. More often than not, they don't overlap each other, leaving plenty of space, although the silences, while common, don't last much more than 10-15 seconds. One of the intriguing things about the music is how relatively evenly spread the sounds are--thin but always within range, as though small items had wafted down from some height but managed to arrange themselves with only the barest of overlaying, something landing in all areas but leaving much ground uncovered. Some delicate clatter emerges, now and then a woman's quiet voice, here and there, a man's.  The basic character is maintained throughout, "steady-state" in a sense, very much like observing a natural phenomenon--leaves falling comes to mind. Oddly meditative.

There's not too much more to say. 'about' is entrancing, lovingly performed. I've listened to it a number of times and will be drawn back again--a perceptive, human work.

elsewhere


Monday, November 12, 2018



Clara de Asís - Without (elsewhere)

Prior to this release, I'd known de Asís as a guitarist but here she's in the role of composer. Violinist Erik Carlson and percussionist Greg Stuart offer a reading of her 'Without', a piece that strikes me as more complex and, to me, more difficult than I would have guessed at first blush.

'Without' is made up of a number of sections which, I think one could say, generally move from grainier and more abrasive to less so, though not in an obvious path and by no means always. It leaps right in with the violin offering high, needle-like harmonics with what sounds like numerous objects being roughly rubbed and tossed on a bass drum. Four minutes in, this abruptly shifts to a low vibraphone pulse; there's some other, obscure activity, probably ancillary sounds made by Stuart. Carlson enters, again pitched high but somewhat cleaner, a kind of Tony Conrad line weaving through the vibraphone cloud. This is followed by solo violin, a single note, held for about eight seconds, repeated by itself until joined by a clear, high bell, the pair heard in an irregular series with a decent amount of silence. I have the impression of an object with two main aspects being viewed from various angles, in differing light conditions. There's relatedness but a certain amount of apartness. This, for me, creates something of a challenge in hearing the piece as a whole, but it's a very enjoyable challenge, surely more an issue for these ears than anything amiss on the part of de Asís. Some 32 minutes in, there's an especially lovely sequence with vibes and lower, though still sandpapery, violin that serves as a kind of oasis after a demanding journey. This merges into isolated, low plucks on the violin, soon accompanied by clear wood block strikes, a pattern similar to that of the violin/bell sequence heard earlier. The blocks accompany a sustained violin tone very similar to that which began the work, closing it out.

Rigorous, spare, only occasionally luxuriant, 'Without' is a fine, demanding recording.

elsewhere

Saturday, November 10, 2018



Jürg Frey - 120 Pieces of Sound (elsewhere)

One of those recordings, an exceedingly thoughtful and beautiful one, where describing the elements isn't difficult but getting across the effect on the listener seems next to impossible.

There are two works presented here, structural cousins of each other, perhaps. The first, '60 Pieces of Sound' (2009), is performed by the ensemble Ordinary Affects (Laura Cetilla, cello; Morgan Evans-Weiler, violin; J.P.A. Falzone, keyboard; Luke Martin, electric guitar) joined by the composer on clarinet. I was fortunate enough to hear this group play this very piece in Boston about a year ago; I believe this recording was done just a few days afterward. There are indeed sixty sound elements: thirty tones played by the ensemble, each lasting about twenty seconds and thirty stretches of silence, each lasting about ten seconds, played alternately. That's it. But there's so much more. I gather, from having watched the fine, short documentary you can see about Frey (Part 1, Part 2) that the harmonies chosen were arrived at intuitively, in other words, what would sound appropriate after the one just played (and the silence). But the choices seem so right, so necessary. They inhabit a relatively narrow spectrum, but Frey discovers such a bounty of tones, relationships, subtle dynamic shifts, etc., that I simply sit in wonder. The unisons are tight but not overly so, like the ragged edge of good watercolor paper; the silences are full, often ending with indrawn breaths. I find myself constructing brief little shards of narrative between any two sound segments: a darker turn here, some hope there, a complication arising, etc. but any such turn very, very subtle. A truly living music.
For 'L'âme est sans retinu II' (1997-2000), Frey once again uses periods of sound and silence, though their durations (over the course of forty minutes) vary. The sounds are field recordings made by Frey (as well as, per the credits, some bass clarinet, though I admit to having difficulty picking it up for certain; there are points where I think I hear it, if it's pitched fairly high), the silences are complete. There's an overall fine woolliness to the sounds. Sometimes, it seems as though the source is exterior, sometimes inside, here with a super-deep, rumbling bass spine, there with wispier elements, now and then with ghostly vestiges of what might be human voices. As with the previous work, the sounds occupt a territory that's roughly consistent--one gets the sense they could be excerpts from a single evening's work (they do connote nighttime to this listener), the recordist quietly ambling from location to location. Again, the shifts are discreet: a mild lessening or increase of dynamics, a slightly different timbre, slight in envelope but infinitely large in detail. Perhaps it's from the title ('The soul is without restraint') but there is, in fact, a sense of exposure, of opening oneself up to the world, pausing to consider what's been heard/seen (the silence), opening up again. So human.

A wonderful recording, yet another in the seemingly (happily!) unending stream of such from Frey.

elsewhere

Friday, November 09, 2018



Sarah Hennies/Greg Stuart - Rundle (Notice Recordings)

This is a very nice surprise. Most of the music I've heard from Hennies in recent years (doubtless missing much) has been comprised of stripped down, careful explorations of very subtle sonic phenomena and rhythms, sometimes akin to some of Alvin Lucier's work. And apart from Stuart's collaboration with Joe Panzner (Dystonia Duos, ErstAEU, 2013), I'm almost entirely familiar with him via his work on the pieces of Michael Pisaro and other related composers. On this cassette, I think everything is improvised (though perhaps with some "signposts"?), the results much rougher and freer than I would have expected. On Side 1, 'Tunnel', they do a fine job alternating between free portions, with quiet rustling on various small percussion, and quasi-structured portions with piano and vibraphone, lovely swathes of slow pulse augmented with rapid flurries. These approaches are also as in a lovely section about 13 minutes in with sustained, ethereal piano and delicate scrabbling that almost sounds like dry leaves or twigs rubbed on a hard surface. 'Basin' is rougher still, with less in the way of footholds, irregular clangs of metal (perhaps thrown or dropped) amidst skitters, pops, rubbings and more. Like 'Tunnel', the track is expertly paced, with the slightest inclusion of brief, regular taps on wood blocks providing the most gossamer of structures within the fine clatter for most of its duration. A cloudy vibes figure ushers in the final section, providing a bed for abstract, lightly metallic and wooden activity, intricate and abstract. Excellent work.



Matt Hannafin/John Cage - Four Realizations for Solo Percussion (Notice Recordings)

Matt Hannafin has put together an extremely engaging and, dare I say, accessible collection of actualizations of Cage pieces. While I've heard each of the works in a number of different contexts/instrumentations, I don't know them well enough (much less the scores) to offer any comparisons, so will only treat them as...found objects. 'c¢omposed Improvisation for One-Sided Drums With or Without Jangles' finds Hannafin beginning by making loose, airy but percussive sounds (he seems to have included the jangly bits), moving on to deeper tones but everything relaxed and allowed to breathe in the room, tumbling gently, with a very natural, irregular cadence. 'Variations III' is approached with tuned wood blocks and toms (I think), Hannafin again developing very unforced quasi-rhythms--reminds me of a calmer Xenakis sometimes--, the strikes rolling and falling with the unassumedness of raindrops. Oddly, there are certain pulses and sonorities that recall parts of the great 'Dialogue of the Drums' by Andrew Cyrille and Milford Graves. The aural space is once again finely navigated in 'Variations II', with much ringing metal, breaths, jangles, heavy drum smites and more, all with a wonderful sense of air between the sounds. 'One4', a late number piece by Cage, closes things out, with resonant bowed metal spiraling out into the silence-- succinct, no more than necessary, just perfect. Really one of the finer recordings of Cage percussion works I've heard in quite a while.

Notice Recordings





Saturday, November 03, 2018





Morton Feldman - For John Cage (all that dust)

Matthew Shlomowitz - Avant Muzak  (all that dust)

Séverine Ballon - Inconnaissance (all that dust)

all that dust is a new label, run by Newton Armstrong, Juliet Fraser and Mark Knoop, dedicated to contemporary music. Its initial run consists of the above-listed CDs plus two releases available as FLAC downloads: Milton Babbitt's 'Philomel' and Luigi Nono's 'La Fabbrica Illuminata'.

The Feldman is the only work I was previously familiar with, having heard the Ter Haar/Snijders version on hat ART and the Zukofsky/Schroeder recording on CP². Additionally, I've both heard the  Sabat/Clarke duo recording and seen them perform it live. Suffice it to say, it's a big favorite of mine. I haven't done any direct comparison--I don't know how one would begin to do that with a 75-minute piece like this, anyway--but my general impression is that this recoding fits in just fine, is as accomplished as any I've heard. Orazbayeva (violin)  and Knoop (piano) are considerate and sensitive, investing their playing with just the right tinge of (necessary, in my view) emotional content, beautifully evoking the plaintive, even melancholy aspect I get from late Feldman. There are moments, for example around the 43-minute mark, where they take things at a brisker clip than I think I recall from other performances but, surprisingly, given my general preference for languidness, I find this works perfectly with no sense of fussiness or forced propulsion. It's an excellent reading, a fine recording and highly recommended.

I'd never heard Matthew Shlomowitz' work before but I admit that the title, 'Avant Muzak' put me off a bit. It sounded like the kind approach popular in NYC in the 80s, a certain snarkiness that seemed cool for a while but, in retrospect, is somewhat embarrassing. The three pieces, each with four or five parts, are performed by the Norwegian ensemble, asamisimasa (Ellen Ugelvik, keyboard; Kristine Tjøgersen, clarinet; Tanja Orning, cello; Håkon Stene, percussion; Anders Førisdal, guitar), who did fine work on Lawrence Crane's 'Sound of Horse' (Hubro, 2016). The first track, 'International Transport Chimes Reggae' is something of a mash-up of the two referenced sources, with additional Japanese recorded text, accompanied by a whimsical clarinet/guitar-led theme, with the kind of quirkiness one might have heard from Fred Frith circa 1985; ok, but slight. 'Jazz in the Park' intersperses found dialog with a nightclub-jazzy slow crawl. Here, as elsewhere, there's a sense of some kind of synthetic envelope around the sound, nods to the drum machine, sampler-obsessed music of 30-35 years ago, as well as an uncomfortable evocation of Scott Johnson; perhaps its time has come around again, but this listener isn't quite ready for the reappearance of those stiff rhythms and globular tones. There's often some nice intricacy in the writing, as in 'Muzak in the Shopping Mall', here summoning the spirit of Daniel Lentz, but--do we care? On it goes, almost always leading your hapless reviewer to recall other music--Fenn O'Berg's reworking of movie themes, Zorn circa 'The Big Gundown', etc. Well handled, yes; sonically colorful, very much so. But it feels empty. Shlomowitz' intentionality is clear enough, I just don't find it a very worthwhile target. 

'Inconnaissance' presents eight solo cello works by Séverine Ballon. They range from around six to twelve minutes and seem to straddle composition and improvisation. To these ears, it sounds like a general idea was in place for each, within which Ballon freely elaborates, though I could be wrong. In any event, the results are striking, evincing a deep concern with dark, bowed textures, rich overtones and layer upon layer of grain. Ballon demonstrates harshness, an extremely strong and riveting attack and a balanced, complex sense of form, allowing herself ventures both into frenzied storms and soft, if agitated, pools of quiet. Pulse is often implied, on rare occasions overtly stated, generally, as in 'cloches fendues 2', well mixed with interests in pitch and scales. 'Tunnel' contains fantastic, sandy growls, moans rising from beneath, slowly swirling into the depths; very impressive. Each piece has its own character, each maintains interest (at the very least) throughout, each explores the cello in a serious and fascinating manner. What more could you want?

I admit to not being the biggest fan of Milton Babbitt, but label co-owner Juliet Fraser does a very fine job with his 'Philomel' (1964) for voice and tape, her soprano liquid and bright, trickling in very lively fashion through the delicate web of iridescent, burbling electronics which also includes vocal permutations. I have no real point of comparison, but I can only imagine that Fraser's reading more than holds its own with others. Luigi Nono's 'La Fabbrica Illuminata' was written in the same year as the Babbitt and is also for voice and tape, but that's where the similarity ends. The voice (here, Loré Lixenberg) wafts in and out of a bleak, warlike series of sounds, harsh and grating--winds howling through bombed-out cities, angry mobs, downed wires sizzling. She appears, is subsumed by the tumult, resurfaces minutes later, worse for wear but persevering. Gripping, harrowing, stirringly performed, a fine piece.




Monday, October 29, 2018


Various - Sound and Stone (composer-built)

Sound stones are sonic sculptures created by the father-son team of Klaus and Hannes Fessmann (you can learn more about them via this You Tube video.  This recording, I believe the first on the composer-built imprint, collects interactions between the stones and nine musicians. The stones themselves, wetted and played by rubbing with one's fingers and hands (possibly bowed and/or struck as well?), produce a range of ringing tones, sometimes with a pleasing roughness to them, other times more pure--depending on the instrument used, the tones, their pitch range, etc. varies. But generally speaking, we're in drone territory, sometimes augmented by electronics. Depending on how they're handled, they can lend themselves to music that's a bit too close to Eno-esque New Age for my taste (Farwarmth) or wonderfully dark and ominous (Machinefabriek, aka Rutger Zuydervelt). I'd also single out Monty Adkins' contribution for special praise. Most of the the others fall somwehere between these poles, always enjoyable and compact (playing times in the five minute range) with greater or lesser graininess, not too distant from what listeners may have experienced via labels like Unfathomless. You can hear for yourself at the bandcamp link below.

composer-built @ bandcamp


Carlo Costa - Oblio (Neither/Nor)

A solo percussion effort from Costa, two long pieces and expertly handled. 'I' is expansive, flowing and very well-paced, keeping on the quiet side of things while patiently exploring a vast array of instruments large and small. Costa constructs a convincing landscape, entirely without pyrotechnics, maintaining interest with both delicacy and urgency. 'II' employs wood blocks, high-pitched bells and some swirling, metallic based attacks, more structured (though loosely enough), recalling to some extent the late Jerome Cooper's brilliants solo concerts. It "decomposes" into a section of harsher rubbing, somehow melancholy, drifting into plaintive moans. Very good work, well worth a listen when it releases on November 6.

Neither/Nor Records





Saturday, October 27, 2018



Tyshawn  Sorey - Pillars (Firehouse 12)

I need to write a brief aside about my listening experience over the past few decades. Many regular readers know it, more or less, but as I anticipate that to the extent this review is shared among those not familiar with my history and shifts in taste over the years, it might be a good idea to clarify.

Essentially, since 17, I grew up with an abiding love of jazz, particularly what one might refer to as post-Coltrane jazz; my first jazz album purchase was Ornette's 'Science Fiction' in the spring of 1972. While entirely immersed in this for some 15 years, by the late 80s, I was beginning to sense a lack of new, innovative work. I loved the music of the previous 60-70 years as intensely as ever but, even among musicians who I greatly admired (for example, Roscoe Mitchell, Cecil Taylor, etc.) I increasingly got the feeling that they had done their great work and were now just elaborating on themes they'd developed as relatively young men. This was all well and good--few people have even one great idea in their lives and these folk had a number of them. If they settled into comfortable middle age, I've no reason to complain. But I found myself devoting more of my listening time to music in the post-AMM improvising tradition, the post-Cage "classical" tradition, various music from around the world and more, at the expense of keeping up with developments in jazz (definitional issues with the term aside). I'd dip in now and then, go to the occasional gig. Sometimes, I'd be pleasantly surprised. I recall duo performances at the Vision Festival--Fred Anderson/Harrison Bankhead, Bill Dixon/George Lewis, Barre Phillips/Joe Morris--that were spectacular and hugely moving, but more often, much more often, I'd have the sense of musicians more or less going through the motions. They were good--usually very good instrumentalists, had a huge command of their chops, but the new ideas were few and far between, at least to the extent I could discern. Needless to say, I doubtless missed many a counterexample but one only has so much time and I chose to dwell in areas where my "success" rate was much higher.

All the above to explain my background with regard to Tyshawn Sorey's extraordinary release, 'Pillars', a single composition spread over three CDs, clocking in at ten minutes shy of four hours. I  only knew Sorey as a name, associating him with Mitchell and Anthony Braxton, but had never heard any of his music; my loss, no doubt. I was, in fact, surprised to find this release in my mailbox but I'm very happy it turned up.

Sometimes there are manifestations of ideas that occur, burn brightly but evanesce without incurring any follow-up investigations. Michael Mantler's 'Communications' from 1968 always struck me as a prime example. Barry Guy, with his London Jazz Composers Orchestra, attempted to pick up the banner and move it forward, with some arguable success but, in my mind, it remains fertile, untilled territory. Another area was explored by Bill Dixon, particularly in his 'Vade Mecum' sets. My first overriding impression from 'Pillars' was, "Ah, at last! someone's extending Dixon's idea." I think that's part of what in play here and it's no small thing.

Sorey's conception is immense, not simply in terms of length but in spreading a general idea across that span, music that has its composed or preset portions but moves seamlessly enough between those and the (I suspect) longer improvisatory sections that the listener quickly loses much in the way of "episodes" and goes along with the flow in a manner similar to an AMM performance (although the music sounds much different). The notable exception are the three "signposts" that conclude  each disc, ultra-low, long tones played by Sorey on the dungchen, a long, Tibetan ceremonial horn. The ensemble deployed, arrived at after several years of work on the piece, has a great deal to do with the overall sound of 'Pillars', deep, dark and rumbling: an octet consisting of Stephen Haynes (trumpet, flugelhorn, cornet, alto horn, small percussion), Ben Gerstein (trombone, electronics), Todd Neufeld (electric and acoustic guitars),  Joe Morris (electric guitar, double bass), Carl Testa (double bass, electronics), Mark Helias (double bass), Zach Rowden (double bass), Sorey (conductor, drum set, dungchen, percussion, trombone). The consistency of the group sound, its elasticity and molding of form, is one of the true marvels of this release.

Describing it in detail is a fool's errand. It's so much "of a piece" that any detailed description necessarily misses the point. A few moments: It begins with a pure snare drumroll that lasts several minutes, an opening incantation perhaps and an element that doesn't reappear. We then plunge into an amorphous zone, a cloudy, darkly rambling area with Sorey's deep percussion undergirding an intriguingly clangy guitar. As is, it's attractive if not too unusual--some of Dixon's atmosphere, the guitar maybe recalling the way it's been used in Threadgill's music. But that episode is broken off much more quickly than I'd have expected and the music shifts, smoothly, without awkwardness, to an adjacent territory, darker still. I'll pause to note the wonderful timbral differences in the percussion--the range is enormous but never seems forced or extravagant, always enhancing the general sound. There are dynamic surges and they too seem natural--none of the automatic vaulting into high energy so common among many groups, everything paced and well considered while retaining elements of roughness and surprise. And this is all before the massed appearance of the basses and trombones. From here--and we're only some 18 minuted into Disc One--we begin to approach the real meat of the matter. Throughout, the basses, arco and pizzicato, are used brilliantly, from huge swarms of buzzing to elaborately intricate plucked interweaving, often played off the deep brass (even Hayne's trumpets, etc. tend to be pitched low). Sorey writes in the accompanying notes, "Low frequencies seem under-explored in improvised music. But I wanted to go there, trying to achieve a physical depth of tone and hypnotic drone". That "drone" isn't what many listeners have come to think of; this isn't Radigue. It fluctuates far too much for that, but retains an underlying sense of flow. Not explicit pulse, but underground river flow, disappearing from overt view on occasion but leaving traces that it's still there, below the surface.

Other referents are tough to come by. There are times when I'm reminded of early Art Ensemble explorations, maybe something like 'How Strange/Ole Jed'; Haynes evokes Bowie more than once and, as mentioned, the spirit of Bill Dixon certainly hovers over the proceedings. There are also points, few and far between, when something of the typical over-busyness of many a free jazz improviser surfaces, but those episodes flicker briefly and are soon quelled. Electronics, sometimes dense and active, more often subtle, are integrated very well, growing out of the acoustic ensemble, never feeling added on or used for superficial effect. Again, trying to think of comparisons, perhaps a pointless endeavor, I come up with...Simon Fell? Maybe? But Sorey's work really stands apart.

His ability to maintain not just interest, but fascination over such long duration is amazing. Even if I had the odd quibble about a given patch of music, my interest never came close to flagging. I've listened through three times now, have found new details and relationships on each listen and expect to for a good while. I imagine 'Pillars' will provide rough sledding for listeners more attuned to music in stricter lineage with contemporary experimental jazz--there are few easy footholds. But I'm more interested in getting those listeners in the post-AMM, even Wandelweiser tradition to give this one a try. The music isn't like those, but offers possibilities, beautifully realized here, for parallel investigations that may prove every bit as rewarding.

Highly recommended.

Firehouse 12



Monday, October 22, 2018




Thrainn Hjalmarsson - Influence  of Buildings on Musical Tone (Carrier)

A very exciting release from a composer new to me, Thrainn Hjalmarsson, from Iceland. Five  pieces for varying  ensembles (and solo), all rather complex and  tough to describe. The title piece, performed by the Caput Ensemble (violin, viola, cello, bass, two percussion) skitters and dances in a light but gritty manner, pausing some fairly intense activity for soft, grainy, whistling observations by the strings, punctuated by breathy exhalations--eerie and precisely limned. 'Grisaille' finds the Icelandic Flute Ensemble (a dozen of them) navigating through a slowly swirling, misty world, the flutes creating gorgeous, otherworldly harmonies, breathed in and out in (very) rough unison, gradually splitting into higher and lower sections, gently seesawing. True to its title (a painting in gray tones), it remains in a single area and explores it wonderfully, a compelling work. Violist Krista Thora Haraldsdóttir is the solo performer on 'Persona', all ultra-high whispers, indeed often sounding  flutelike. Careful and delicate, but sinewy. Ensemble Adpater, a quartet with flute, clarinet, harp and percussion, lopes and hops through 'Mise en Scène', valves softly popping, pausing for a quiet, long flute tone, percolating along again, encountering blurry clusters of backward-sounding phrases.  Again, mysterious and very enticing, evoking image after image. Finally, my personal favorite, 'Lucid/Opaque', played by Nordic Affect, a violin/viola/cello trio. In and out breath is once more the structure, a three pulse phrase, very simple (but massive complex within the chords), low-high-low, iterated over and over with small shifts in individual duration, tone and attack throughout and occasionally punctuated by brief puffs. A sleeping dragon? Hjalmarsson again stays within a narrow territory but augments it and works it to a marvelous degree, every addition or new angle perfectly apt. It's an immensely moving piece. 

I'm very happy to have heard this, recommend it highly and can't wait to hear more (curious about the Carrier label as a whole, as well)






Jérôme Noetinger/Robert Piotrowicz/Anna Zaradny - CRACKFINDER (Musica Genera)

An LP issue by this powerful trio. As one might expect, rich, harsh electronics are the order of the day but very finely focussed, like some otherworldly, arcane machine. More swirling than harsh, betted by the unexpected wielding of an alto saxophone by Zaradny amidst the dense electronics. A good deal of structure underlying the chaos, with a fine break several minutes from the end of Side One ('The One Who Searches for Cracks') that leads to a thrilling conclusion. The other side, 'Universal Atlas of Evidence' uses a bending, elastic substrate to support more alto excursions and dozens of other bits and pieces besides. It's a bit more "spacey", perhaps a little less visceral than the previous track, but rewarding. It, too, has a pause some four minutes from its conclusion, whereupon it veers into darker, more anxious and warped territory. Good work from all involved.

Musica Genera


Espen Lund - Blow.Amplifier (no label)

Three excursions (available for download purchase) from Norwegian trumpeter Lund. When the title track begins, we're in reasonably familiar territory, Lund ably playing in the manner of any number of post-Bowie trumpeters. But soon there's a heavy flurry of electronics, aggressive and semi-droney, Lund seemingly triggering some sounds, playing through others, those waves changing character to clanging reverberations. It splinters out from there, becoming denser and more propulsive, the "normal" trumpet seeking to be heard through the walls of noise. Well done. 'White Mass' is a small, involuted knot of gurgling noise, a strong balance of cohesion and random strands, growing quite harsh toward the end. 'The Great Equalizer' begins with jagged echoes before lurching into what an innocent listener might guess is a fuzz-laden, slow guitar intro to a death metal dirge ("noise" on this track is supplied by Bjørn Ognøy). The overt rockish references I could likely do without but Lund handles them quite well, spreading the sound like dark paste over almost 15 minutes, grinding to a fairly spectacular conclusion. Good, exploratory work.

Lund's bandcamp site

Kaori Suzuki  - Conduit (Second Editions)

The single 26 1/2 minute piece begins with high-pitched, iterative electronics, kind of related to the sort of sounds you might hear, or imagine hearing, when two communications systems are interacting, except multiply layered. Alien and a bit disorienting. There's a pulse but the patterns seem ever so slightly staggered, gradually overlapping and muddying the rhythm. Sometimes the music reminded me of Terry Riley's 'In C', for a severely limited range of instruments (Reich's glockenspiels come to mind as well). A very low, very quiet and subtly quavering hum emerges as the primary tones continue to, very slowly, blur and mingle, but then recedes. The elements coalesce into a smooth but fluctuating hum, then cease. A fine, concise, no-nonsense piece of work.

Second Editions


Thursday, October 04, 2018





Tonus - Intermediate Obscurities I +  IV (A New Wave in Jazz)

Tonus - Texture Point (A New Wave in Jazz)

Tonus - Cagean Morphology (A New Wave in Jazz)

Ok, the label name is unfortunate. The three items above are the first I've heard from this imprint and, as it happens, the music has little to do with jazz, though I take it from looking through the label's catalog that prior releases do.

Tonus seems to be a project of guitarist Dirk Serries, the personnel varying from album to album, in these cases from duo to trio to two sets of sextets. 'Intermediate Obscurities I + IV' is a two-disc release, performed by those sextets. On 'I', listed as being "based on a leitmotif by Martina Verhoeven', the ensemble has a superficial jazz-like aspect: Jan Daelman, flute; George Hadow, drums; Serries, acoustic guitar; Verhoeven, piano; Nils Vermeulen, double bass; Colin Webster, alto saxophone. If I were searching for any quasi jazz-related music to compare with this 58-minute work, recorded live, maybe I'd go with some of the sparer Roscoe Mitchell. Carefully composed, softly played longish lines overlap in ever-changing patterns, the tones ranging from clear to harmonics-laden (especially the arco bass, sometimes the alto). The flute and alto tend toward the higher registers, never harsh, the percussion arhythmic and sparsely colorful, the piano and guitar injecting slightly acidic chords as needed. The basic character and approach is maintained throughout but the interior details are constantly shifting. It only moves internally, but that movement and the choices made are engrossing.

'IV', a graphic score by Serries, utilizes an ensemble with Cath Roberts, baritone saxophone; Serries, Acoustic guitar; Benedict Taylor, viola; Tom Ward, bass clarinet; Webster, alto saxophone; and Otto Willberg, double bass. There are certain similarities with the previous work: a single piece, here about 45-minutes long, remaining in more or less the same territory for its duration, the instruments playing longish, overlapping tones. But, perhaps via the instrumentation, it's pitched lower, darker and, to no small degree, more sumptuously. When the baritone, alto (played low) and bass clarinet combine in complex harmonies, the effect is quite luxurious. There are also occasions where the intensity level surges, though not for long. Some listeners might consider the two pieces overly akin. I don't have that problem at all and hear them as related, but entirely distinct and very absorbing entities.

'Texture Point' presents four tracks, performed by Serries (acoustic guitar), Verhoeven  (piano) and Taylor (viola). There's no indication of compositional credit given here, so I'm guessing the pieces are improvised (Guy Peters, in his liner notes--he also wrote them for the other two releases--is a little defensive here, as though writing for listeners unused to this atmosphere), though the three "textural" pieces are indeed that while the single pointillistic one lives up to its title. 'Texture I' offsets deep notes from the piano, lending the music a darkly romantic, even gothic aura, with mid-range, rich plucks from the guitar, both sliding alongside rougher scratching, bowing and rubbing from the viola. 'Textures  II' is more vibrant, the piano crystalline, though the viola is more somber, with low, wailing laments. The pointedness of "Point A" resides in the piano and, especially, the guitar--the viola casting skittering harmonics that swirl around the two more stationary sound emitters, the music growing harsher as it progresses. Finally, 'Texture III', returns to the rich bleakness, both the guitar and piano plucking dry tones against sustained, darkly questioning, isolated piano tones. A very impressive recording.

The third release, 'Cagean  Morphology', is a duo with Serries and Verhoeven, a single 34-minute piece. Again improvised, this is easily the sparest of the three offerings, the single, ringing tones of the instruments allowed to hang and decay, leaving much silence. One picks up the likely influence of the Wandelweiser school here. As with the previous works, the music remains consistently within one "space" throughout and, again, manages to offer patterns, exceedingly slow as they are, that subtly vary, more than maintaining the listener's interest. Toward the end, the piano hits several high, brilliant notes while the guitar answers with more hesitant, wavering ones--very lovely. 

All three recordings carry a fine quality of perseverance, of sustaining an idea over a long time, closely investigating aspects encountered, a favorite approach of mine. Highly recommended.






Tuesday, October 02, 2018




Yiorgis Sakellariou - in Aulis (Unfathomless)

Mathieu Ruhlmann/Joda Clément - Sound Diary of Quiet Pedestrians (Unfathomless)


Jeph Jerman - Imbrication (Unfathomless)

Since 2009, Daniel Crokaert's Unfathomless label has been releasing music that, by and large, revolves around the nexus of field recordings and electronics. In one sense, you're pretty sure of the general area to be explored when first slipping a new disc into the player. In another, he and the musicians tend to do an excellent job of exploring the vast amount of potential variation within such apparently restricted environs.

Yiorgis Sakellariou brought Aeolian harps to the site of the Greek temple of Artemis in Aulis, Greece, recording (and, I assume post-producing) their interaction with the wind, in the process picking up other ancillary sounds. That contrast, between the wooly, whistling, windborne atmospherics and the rougher (though always blurred) booms and bangs, forms the basic structure of the 43-minute piece. But there's much more, many shifts in focus and mood, from quiet contemplation replete with crickets to dully roaring, grinding, somewhat threatening cycles ending with a sharp crash of glass. Subsidence, resurgence in different guise; there's a wavelike effect throughout, relatively clear or detritus-filled, a fine combination of the natural and manmade. A very well thought-out effort, overall.

Canadians Ruhlmann and Clément constructed the four pieces that comprise their "diary" in Vancouver. A photo in the accompanying sleeve shows the pair on a beach, but there's something vaguely industrial about the sound-world created here, a hint of ozone in the air. At the beginning of 'Crook of Land', deep thrums are offset by a distant buoy (?), steamy hisses and bell after-tones. 'Gore and Hastings', the longest track, is very expansive, unfurling in a multilayered array of burred, marbled sounds before migrating to harsher tones that recall bowed cymbals, then sputtering, returning to a harborlike area with softly booming foghorns and urban hums. The anxiety level ratchets up a bit on 'Point-No-Point', with higher pitched, keening whines set against (again, faraway) machinery clanks and groans; a very strong track. The  disturbingly titled, 'Middle Arm' extends this mood, a kind of inky, billowing darkness emerging, swallowing the bay. Excellent work, fine soundcraft.

I think I've only heard one thing from Jerman in the last few years ('Matterings', his collaboration with Tim Barnes on Erstwhile) and prior to that, nothing since around 2010, though I have plenty from the oughts. Even so, 'Imbrications' (yes, I had to look it up: the overlapping of edges, as in tiles or scales) fits in very well with my previous Jerman-ic listening. Recorded at various sites that seem to cluster around the American West, it begins with a long section of dry objects rubbed, rustled and otherwise gently assaulted. As ever, Jerman possesses an uncanny sensitivity and sensibility in his choice of objects, touch and sound placement, something very "natural" but also quick and unhesitant. An interlude of booming noises, sounding as though he's smacking the edge of his fist against an empty oil drum briefly shifts the focus, before the raspy shaking and rattling resumes. There seem to be machines or rotating devices in play, recalling the shaking tables used in his fantastic 'Lithiary' (Fargone, 2005) and the work closes with echoes of that, what sounds like marbles being rolled around the top of a rough, circular surface. Jerman is wonderful at extracting a nearly infinite amount of sounds and layers from the most basic of substances. He does so once again, here.

Unfathomless




Saturday, September 29, 2018



Lucio Capece/Marc Baron - My Trust In You (Erstwhile)

This is the first appearance of either musician on the Erstwhile label, and, at least as far as this listener is concerned, the results are a little surprising (and excellent). I'd admit that in Baron's case, "surprise" shouldn't really be an option as the relatively small number of prior releases under his name certainly gave one little reason to expect this or that general approach--they varied quite widely. Capece's sets, in recent years at least, on record and in concert (I've been fortunate to witness events of his in both Paris and Sokołowsko, Poland) have often (not always) been very quiet affairs, both in acoustic contexts (on bass clarinet and other reeds) and with regard to his floating speaker installations. So there were at least a couple of aspects of 'My Trust In You' that were a little surprising: one is the relatively aggressive nature of many of the constructions and, secondly, how often (if subtly) drones or pulses were present.

Seven tracks, Baron credited with tapes, field recordings and various analog devices while Capece wields a vast array: bass clarinet, slide saxophone, analog synth and filter, drum machines, double looper, equalizers in feedback, regular and telephone field recordings, mini speakers in movement, the latter I take to be his airborne mini-speakers. It begins abruptly with stark vividness ('Believe in Brutus'; the recording is replete with odd track titles), recalling 60s-70s tape collage music, but with massive depth and shifts of focus, from distorted radio transmissions to mumbled (looped) verbiage to colorful swatches of synthetic tone. It's dizzying, very in-your-face like a slap, bracing. With 'Black soils - museum without statues', we seem to enter a Lambkinesque world, murky, with iterated, cyclic sounds (noise), slurred words. Midway through, beneath thin cymbals, a grimy drone emerges briefly, is swallowed by electronic flutters,  dissipating into a raft of clicks and clatters--then chaos ensues with much louder cymbals, backward tape, loud yet distortedly muted chimes and more. Very complex, extremely immersive. But things shift to a rather more approachable form in the following cut, 'Self-centered interpretation of', where we enter a relatively calm but still simmering soundscape that sounds like something Fennesz might have come up with had he stayed on track--sandy drones, multiply-layered horns--while the ensuing piece rotates around an intense, mechanical rhythm (or two superimposed), before splintering into a public space with footsteps and hazy voices. Different rhythms appear, rapid and flickering, with high-pitched squeals. Given the presence of elements such as the pulses and extended tones, the works are reasonably approachable; probably one of the better recent Erstwhiles to proffer to someone interested in dipping his/her toe into the general vicinity. The remaining tracks branch out further, though really always maintaining more than enough fabric to pull the listener along, to sustain a thick undergirding of sound--no silences to be found here, just surge (nonstop in 'Snowblind', until an odd, loopy gunshot-laden conclusion).

A wild ride, not what I expected but eminently worthwhile, a very fine addition to the catalogs of both Capece and Baron. Hop in.

Erstwhile

Tuesday, September 25, 2018



Matthew Revert/Vanessa Rossetto  - everyone needs a plan (Erstwhile)

Even without the Wynken, Blynken and Nod imagery that graces the cover and the other five panels of the CD package, any listener would be struck by the dreamlike nature of this release, though not so much in structural sense. The single track, running some 75 minutes, is a kind of steady-state construction in that its overall aspect is roughly the same throughout even as the interior details bristle and mutate. It's like a large, think slab of material, the outline defined, the stuff of it chaotic, oneiric.

There are several constants: the voices of Revert and Rossetto primarily. They're never conversing as such (natural enough given their half-world spatial separation in real life, although the illustration on the disc itself implies ears connected by wires), more like words and phrases passing each other in the ether. Sometimes, it sounds like they're reading, other times perhaps one side of a phone conversation, first separated, eventually overlaid into an all but incomprehensible density, isolated words emerging from the crowded eddy of sound. If there's any slight reference one might have to previous sound-work, it could be Robert Ashley's great 'Automatic Writing', but pretty much only in the sense of (sometimes) indistinct language embedded in a larger flux. There's also, often, a kind of electric guitar tone, fairly consonant, that weaves in and out, providing a fluid kind of spine. As dense as it becomes, the sound-world is never particularly harsh, never thin or attenuated, always thick and rich, a sweet stew. Crucially, it's never overcrowded; there's a great deal going on but the sense of depth imparted allows the events to be heard as receding from one's immediate plane, occupying  space at some distance from the listener.

How else to describe this? The music very slowly intensifies as it flows along, the words and phrases are both personal and serious; Rossetto, for instance, talking about recent writing, laughing self-consciously, saying, "I try to tell  you everything", "I've had things happen to me", etc. But these are all just elements of an overall stream. It's like trying to describe a swirl of cream in a cup of coffee. At the end, multiple voices entwine around themselves, unaccompanied, finally thanking each other.

An exceptional, deep, unusual and wonderful recording.

Erstwhile