Thursday, August 14, 2014

OK, another batch and then I'm outta here for a few weeks.

Bruno Duplant/Eva-Maria Houben/Bileam Kümper - Field by memory inhabited III & IV (Rhizome.s)

Two extended works from a score (unseen by this writer) by Duplant, realized by Houben and Kümper.

III is rendered by piano and viola. The first eight or nine minutes are all (or at least mostly) viola drones, only to be abruptly "disturbed" by a surprising piano arpeggio, like a pleasant awakening from a dream. A lengthy, non-digital silence. A similar up and down flurry from the piano heralds the next section, the viola following shortly, beginning in the same manner as he had played earlier but soon adopting a different set of approaches, sometimes skittering, sometimes swooping. If there's piano during much of this portion, it's faint enough to fade into the woodwork, until a bit later, some interior instrument noises emerge and there's an unexpected few moments of hyperactivity. It shifts a bit back and forth between these poles for the remainder of its 40 minutes. I enjoyed it pretty well, though felt there was some disconnect between the instruments. Admittedly, this reaction may well have been due to the contrast to "IV", at least partially because of the sonic nature of the instruments involved, organ and tuba (how many people double viola and tuba, btw?). Houben evokes gassy, breathy expulsions from her organ, woodenly knocking about now and then, and Kümper tends to do similarly, with obviously different timbres, on his horn; the pure sound is simply fantastic. As well, there's more continuity even as the elements slide though there are also the occasional stabs of sharpness and harshness to keep things honest. A strong work, worth the price of admission.


Jeff Gburek/Karolina Ossowska - Visitations (Catalogue of Wonders)

Gburek is a thoughtful fellow and this release arrives with plenty of text, both in the disc insert and in accompanying material. The former is poetic in nature while the latter encompasses Benford numbers, meteorological concerns (both "out there" and "body weather"), the 2012 US Presidential election and a biblical citation. I'm doubtless missing aspects of how these and other elements enter into "Visitations", but it's, in audio terms, more than challenging and sprawling enough to deal with on its own. The principals are Gburek (guitars, field recordings, bass recorder, electronics and processing) and his wife, Ossowska (violin, keyboards, penny-whistle, collages) with flutist Asia Zielecka making an appearance on one track. "Hallucinogenic" is one word that recurred in my head while listening; there's an intense, dreamlike feeling to much of the music, propelled often by Gburek's guitar (which often possesses a tone that toward which I'm not too partial) and Ossowska's violin (which I like very much) amidst a swirl of spacey keyboards and mutant field recordings, occasionally soaring along rockish heights, other times lingering amidst abstracted ambient sounds and small percussive noises. The violin lines (sometimes multi-tracked) tend to have a strong and very attractive Romantic quality, I might go as far as to say with a fine Polish or northeastern European cast; they provide some of my favorite moments on the disc. In fact, there are numerous episodes that are quite beautiful scattered throughout (the ending several minutes of the second track, for instance and all of the eighth); trying to process the work as whole, which I get the impression is what the musicians would like, is a tougher task. You pretty much have to succumb to its logic, something I couldn't quite do entirely, instead appreciating this section very much, the next not so much. But that's dreaming for you.

It's really an impressive effort though, even if I'm on the fence about it re: pure enjoyment. There's a lot to dig into. Oh, and there are thunderstorms. Loud ones. You can hear much of it at the soundcloud site below.

Catalogue of Wonders

Ryan McGuire - Civilian (Glasswing Music)

McGuire is a Boston-area bassist who has performed with many of that cities new music luminaries including Greg Kelley, Dave Gross and Mike Bullock. "Civilian" contains 12 improvisations for solo bass. It's one of those recordings that's really sufficiently outside of my current purview that I find it tough to honestly evaluate. McGuire is clearly an accomplished player with strong technique. Most of the music is bowed, almost all of it in the instrument's lower registers which yields a dark, rich atmosphere here. His approach might be said to lie somewhere between the lyricism of a holland and the assault of a Guy; I actually found myself thinking of Joelle Leandre more often than anyone else. He's not nearly as frenetic or show-offy as Guy can be (a good thing) but at the same time, I found myself wishing he'd investigate more tonal--in a word, straighter--climes; I think the results would be quite rewarding. He veers close to that once or twice here ("Delicate Creatures I", for instance) and it's lovely, comparable to primo Holland. For me, it's a tough assignment to carry an album's worth of solo bass (or anything) these days if you're not dwelling in a more contemplative framework where the sounds are allowed time to live and breathe on their own rather than rapidly being shunted aside to let the next torrent through. Obviously, that's me. Fans of post-free jazz bass will find a good deal to enjoy here. Me, I'm curious to hear what McGuire would sound like with a partner or two, especially if those persons came from a different vantage. You can hear for yourself at the bandcamp site below.


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Radio Cegeste - three inclements (Consumer Waste)

I've been wanting to hear more of Sally McIntyre's (Radio Cegeste) work since her collaboration with Lee Noyes a couple of years back and this one satisfies that desire quite well. Three pieces, each fairly short (total disc time less than a half hour)and concise. The titles make one curious about the contents. "a lagoon considered against its archival image", for instance, a series of statics amidst thunder and rain (one of the inclements), the former tearing jagged holes in the fabric of weather. Some faint beeps (shortwave? two sets of four tones, repeating) can be gleaned through the storm. A marvelous work. I get the sense of more radio involvement in "study for a lighthouse", a bristling sound essay full of both intense activity and plenty of air, the sonorities several plies deep, with a series of five, sharp, hard "taps" repeatedly establishing a harsh surface while hisses, gurgling and perhaps faint voices occupy strata beneath; entirely absorbing. In "1897 (song for Richard Henry), McIntyre unsheathes her "broken violin", wending it through wooly masses of static, birds and (there must be a better name for it) the "woo-woo" you get on shortwaves, normally a sound I'm not terribly fond of (too much baggage) but here, it just manages to fit in. The violin is dark and a bit mournful, evoking an off-tune sea shanty, perhaps, though that thought might be influenced by the preceding nautical imagery.

Fine, fine work.

Luciano Maggiore/Enrico Malatesta - talabalacco (Consumer Waste)

Recorded separately, using synths and objects (though the overall cast of the piece is percussive), recombined at a later date, with a very clean, clear sound and including a fair amount of silence. It's fine though I can't say it grabbed e especially. This practice is entering middle age, at least (I think my first file sharing exposure was Otomo and Carl Stone's "Amino Argot" back around the mid 90s) and I often to find it somewhat lacking barring an overarching, at least tenuously cohesive idea as was the case, for example, in MIMEO's "sight", at the behest of Keith Rowe. Any sounds can be molded after the fact, of course, and often, as here, the results are unobjectionable and even reasonably enjoyable on their own merits. That's one way to view them, to be sure, distancing oneself and regarding the activity in a Cagean way but after a while, I admit, this begins to be something of a chore. Not to particularly take this release to account, just mentioning the sort of thoughts that routinely pass through my noggin while listening. Things are kept on a generally low boil here, full of medium level knocks, taps, squeaks and scratches. The silences act to create a kind of episodic character but there's (intentionally, I assume) no discernible structural, much less narrative idea in play, just sequences of sounds, which is enough sometimes; other times, one hankers for a bit more.

Consumer Waste

Monday, August 11, 2014

Apologies for the even briefer than normal write-ups. I'll be away on vacation in the US as of August 15th, not back until September 4th and I have a heap o' stuff here, both physical and digital, wanted to get a batch done before I left.

The International Nothing - The Dark Side of Success (Ftarri)

"Berlin's finest in clarinet entertainment since 2000". :-)

The third release by this self-effacing duo (Kai Fagaschinski and Michael Thieke on clarinets) is very much in line with the first two, both a good and, perhaps, a slightly troubling thing. Good in the sense that what they do is so luminous and beautiful, tracing delicate lines, often with closely adjacent tones creating a panoply of ghost tones and beats, all played with extreme subtlety and sensitivity, carving out a fine area of sweet/sour tonality; it's wonderful work. Troubling, maybe, in a kind of treading water sense. I find myself wanting to hear them more steadfastly confronting song forms, something they do in one track here, "Deepwater Horizon". There, a simple seesaw rhythm undergirds some gorgeous playing, ironically, opening up (for me) wider vistas in urgent need of exploration (!). The remainder of the recording is absolutely fine and should be heard both by fans and, as ever, curious listeners just getting into the genre. It's lovely music, greatly appreciated; I just want to hear them push things more.


Also available from Erst Dist

Paul Baran - The Other (Fang Bomb)

I think it's safe to say that within in this extremely wide-ranging recording, most everyone will find a few things they enjoy a lot as well as a few tracks they could easily do without, though those would doubtless vary a great deal from one person to another. Baran is well aware of the further reaches of experimental music but chooses to pepper "The Other" (assembled between 20101 and 2012 with the participation of, among others, Sebastian Lexer, Axel Dorner, Lucio Capece, Werner Dafeldecker and Sylvia Hallett, to mention only those with whom I'm familiar) with nods in various more popular directions including electro-funk. Sometimes the music recalls early Bryars (the strings on "Himmelstrasse"), though I often found myself thinking of the shifting electro-exotica of Simon Fisher Turner (this is, for me, a good thing). A young girl elucidates chess moves, Baran sings a couple of times (evoking Robert Wyatt once). The general atmosphere is one of flux, of shadow movement; I had no problem drifting along with it, enjoying the ride. Others may find this or that episode distracting, either an over-reliance on song or, on the other hand, if that catches their ears, too much disjointed abstraction. I liked the mix.

Fang Bomb

Neu Abdominaux Dangereux - Dangereuxorcisms (CKC)

I forget exactly how it happened, but somewhere around 1990, I picked up a disc by an outfit with an unlikely name (at that time, the first word was spelled, "Niu") and had a bit of a blast, eventually writing it up at All Music Guide. So, some 25 years later, the bastard child of Roberto Zorzi and Nicola C. Salerno is back...and it's still rollicking good fun. the cast consists of Zorzi (guitars), Scott Amendola (Drums, electronics), Giovani Albertini (guitar), Pino Dieni (archlute, daxophone, guitar), Henry Kaiser (guitars), Michael Manring (bass guitar), Enrico Merlin (guitar, banjo), Mauro Ottolini (trombone, sousaphone), Marco Pasetto (clarinets, alto sax), the ROVA Saxophone quartet and Garvey Salerno (bass guitar). There remains a bit of the collage aesthetic here, though subtle enough as when the theme from Ornette's "Peace" just pokes its nose out at the end of the first track (Coleman is more fully represented by a cover of "Feet Music" later, a banjo feature, naturally). Perhaps it's unfairly assigning a national flavor but I couldn't help hearing the spirit of (a jazz-funk-rockish) Nino Rota hovering over things; the Godfather theme is also referenced here. Highlights include a lovely take of Frith's "Water Under the Bridge" (originally written for ROVA, I believe), "Europa?" (Angela Merkel on vocals--someone should sign her) and Larry Ochs' "The Shopper" (which I think I remember from a shared LP with Braxton, "The Aggregate", on Sound Aspects). Oh, and they cover "Interstellar Overdrive" and, on a hidden track, perform a moving version from the main theme of Ornette's "Skies of America".

Good, clean, slick fun, lots of it.

their Facebook page

Virilio - Signature (Record Label Record Label)

Virilio is Corinna Triantafyllidis (tympani, tamtam, synth, drum machine, voice) and Dimitris Papadatos (electronics, guitar, turntables, synth, voice) and "Signature" arrives as a 45rpm, 12"slab of creamy white vinyl.

Side A is a dark, propulsive mixture of noise and blurred industrial rhythms--cavernous, echoing with siren-like wails, creating a very paranoiac feel. Very effective at conjuring up an oppressive swirling atmosphere, dense and resonant. Not really my personal cuppa, but well realized. Side B is more threatening still and is enhanced by a bed of rich consonance behind the skittering/gravelly surface. More pulse than rhythm, this track breathes much more convincingly, hovering with menace for several minutes before evaporating into whines and bell sounds; very nice. For fans of dark electronics.

Virilio's site

Friday, August 08, 2014

Catherine Lamb - in/gradient (Sacred Realism)

Lamb has become one of my favorite composers in the new music (are we using the term post-wandelweiser yet?) and this recording does nothing to deter me from that opinion; cements it pretty firmly, in fact.

"in/gradient" is performed here by the quartet of Andrew Lafkas (doublebass), Tucker Dulin (trombone), Jason Brogan (electric guitar) and Lamb (viola, filtered/formant oscillators), a single 55 minute work. While there's something of a steady-state character to the piece as a while, within, it makes extensive travels and creates a vague structure. Lamb has a professed fascination with just intonation, very much on display here. I've not seen the score but I'm guessing a good part of it involves an instrument's migration from one note to an adjacent one over a given period of time, dwelling on the microtones encountered during the passage. [Shortly after writing the preceding, I happened to have some communication with Lamb and she was kind enough to send me the score. Unsurprisingly, there is a helluva lot more to it than I imagined. It's quite dense, in fact, and among other things, the specific pitches involved are delineated in ratios, colors and cent values--if I'm reading it correctly, never a safe assumption--, quite specifically, although other aspects of the approach are up to the discretion of the musicians. In any case, there's a huge amount of things going on] With four instruments (plus oscillators) all capable of this kind of gliding (I get the impression Brogan is using an ebow or similar sliding apparatus) the overlay of these microtones is consistently amazing and beautiful. It begins on solid tonal ground, just trombone and bass, I think, before the former veers off slightly. There's a silence, the horn reiterates its direction, the others join in, almost hesitantly and the trek continues, pathways bifurcating. The sound is quit but full, the notes tending toward the lower ranges of the instruments. The lines shift in duration so that the overlapping is always in flux and the presence of this or that instrument shifts as well, one or another always emerging or submerging. It's difficult (for me) to describe further except to say that I found it entirely mesmerizing, leaving on play for more than a day, over and over, appreciating it on its own and how it colored and interacted with the environment; at one point, the Wednesday noontime sirens were heard and fit in gorgeously.

A fantastic piece of music, one of my favorite things for a long time.

Bryan Eubanks - Anamorphosis (Sacred Realism)

Three works by Eubanks bearing a certain amount of similarity to each other, each very concentrated and interesting.

"Double Portrait" consists of brief alternating patches (four to five seconds) of field recordings and sine tones/soprano saxophone. There are two of the former, each repeated through the piece's fifteen minutes, one including church bells (which, for me, impart a kind of ominous sensation), one with what sounds like horse hooves and traffic. Actually, the first repeats in whole, the latter seems to be an ongoing process, four seconds at a time. Interspersed with these are calm held tones that more or less occupy the same area throughout but with subtle pitch variations and differing strengths of the sines vs. the soprano. Irregularity within regularity, very rigorous, like a set of shutters opening and closing, some offering the same view, some with a slowly changing scene. Toward the end, the sections begin to overlap. Eubanks requests the listener do so with an open window, something I do fairly routinely anyway, and it works fine here, adding another layer of quasi-regularity.

"Spectral Pattern", for sine tone, tuned pulse, white noise and instruments (here, Johnny Chang and Cat Lamb on violas, Eubanks on soprano) lasts twice as long and begins in a similar structural territory, a steady, light pulse with the occasional (more widely spaced than above and longer) "window" during which the strings and horn play lines near enough in pitch to engender wonderful quavers. A bit over seven minutes in, the pitch of the instruments in a more plaintive direction and you begin to detect an additional, very faint sine tone alongside the pulse. Somewhere past the halfway point, a general hiss (the white noise) infiltrates things, blotting out the pulse, entirely "other", alien in a way. The noise feathers out, commanding more of the sound field, the instruments continuing as before but unable to enter into anything remotely suggesting a dialogue. Oddly disturbing, very effective.

The final work is "Enclosed Space Phenomena" for generative sine tone patterns and interior space. Immediately, we're in a different sound world, one filled with multiple ringing, swirling tones, crystalline but also liquid in nature, not loud but insistent (the piece was recorded in a cistern). The cycles gradually come into phase, reminding me of the glockenspiel patterns from Reich's "Drumming", though looser and not overtly rhythmic. It's actually tough to discount the mental image of a number of teensy percussionists at play here, going in and out of phase, shifting the attack and dynamics. One can only imagine being in situ for this event, but it's beguiling enough on disc. The cover image is a pretty good analog for this music. Played at sufficient volume, perhaps you can approximate the cistern effect at home.

Extremely rigorous and well-focussed, each piece is substantial and absorbing. An excellent recording.

Andrew Lafkas - 1 + 1 = year zero (water/moon) (Sacred Realism)

Sacred Realism pulls the hat trick, three for three in this new batch. I've been increasingly impressed with Lafkas' work these past few year and this one extends his streak. Scored for nine musicians (Jason Brogan, electric guitar; Adam Diller, bass clarinet; Tucker Dulin, trombone; Sean Meehan (rare sighting!), percussion; Ron Stabinsky, piano; Leif Sundstrom, percussion; Karen Waltuch, viola; Barry Weisblat (another rare sighting!), radio; Lafkas, bass), the nearly hourlong piece breathes and lives, the time passing with remarkable quickness. The work sprawls, very beautifully so, the sounds generally soft and low (though there is often a burred tone buried in the mix, imparting a needed roughness) but welling up at multiple points to brief crescendi, quite dramatic. Funnily enough, given my reference to Reich above, I sometimes had the faintest glimmer of the structure in "Music for Eighteen Musicians", those bass clarinet-led surges. Those crests surface through the great, dark masses every few minutes for much of the work, often heralded by clear, striking piano notes, becoming more frequent toward the closing minutes, eventually mixing in and forming a new kind of mass, just for a few moments. Lafkas, in his last several releases that I've heard, has a way of constructing these amorphous-seeming but very solid pieces that do indeed possess a strong sense of respiration. Not as overtly rigorous as Lamb or Eubanks in the above recordings, but more mammalian (!) and also with a faint trace of brooding Romanticism. Wonderful work, something I'd love to experience live.

Sacred Realism

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Angle - Premier Angle (Nueni)

Not your standard improv outing, no walk in the park. Angle consists of Jean-Philippe Gross and Jean-Luc Guionnet (each on electronics, I believe, Guionnet also wielding his alto) engage in rough play here, constructing entirely abrasive sounds and unpalatable blocks of noise, dismissing any notion of pleasantry. And it works quite well. When, early on, Guionnet's flat, harsh, affectless alto tone is welded to an even harsher, more brutal one, it bores a clean, smoking hole in your skull, not very nice. The relatively quiet section that starts shows a fine disregard for the normal way of things, sending through opaque electronic ropes and shimmers, nothing very appropriate, events carried along by force of conviction. It plunges into digital silence at the flick of a switch, emerges 15 or so seconds later in an entirely different space, hissing steam and irregularly pounding metals that resolve into a seesawing, low thrum through which a pitiful alto whines (I've no doubt intentional), very effective. A solo alto section, highly controlled yet disjointed, followed by a quiet sequence which stands out, oddly enough, in that it does in fact conform to some areas we've familiarized ourselves with in this genre over the years; strong on its own, interesting when placed in this set. Perhaps more surprising, we then hear Guionnet playing a very soft, simple "melody" over rumbling electronics, very attractive, I daresay, more so when the tone is splintered into delicate overtones, the electronics softly prodding (I'm thinking, due to the latter's exact overlapping, they might be generated here by Guionnet as well.). That's where it ends, having travelled from blunt and awkward to faux calm. A disturbing set, posing questions. Good stuff.


Seijiro Murayama/Éric La Casa - Paris: public spaces (ftarri)

La Casa writes, '"Paris as it is"in our daily life, with its ordinary but intimate moments captured in public spaces, with its delicate nuances of atmosphere.', and that's what we get, following he and Murayama into several neighborhoods (some within a stone's throw of my desk as I'm writing), observing closely and clearly, making the occasional interjection but withholding any judgment but the most general, that this "scene" portrays something real about this city. We hear, I assume, Murayama making some discreet mouth noises now and again (quite possibly more often than I realize) though he approximates some conceivable local fauna. More pervasively, we encounter people, bustling, traffic--nothing so unusual but caught with a lovely clarity, in a beautiful "light", if you will. Each track contains some small wonder; I got a special kick from the Murayama's humming along (or athwart) the marching band heard on Part 8. La Casa has shown a fantastic ear in prior releases and does it again, having far more in common, in effect if not in mode of construction, with Luc Ferrari than with standard field recordists. (I'm not certain how much of the recording part was done by Murayama--I may be shorting him on that front; both likely deserve equal credit).

Excellent work, don't let it slip through.


Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Michael Pisaro - black, white, red, green, blue (voyelles) (winds measure)

Just wanted to let folks know about this CD issue of items originally released on cassette in 2010. I wrote about the pieces then and am reprinting the brief entry (with minor editing) below. Suffice it to say that it holds up and then some, especially "voyelles" which is sublimely sink-into-able.

""black, white, red, green, blue" is performed solo by Chabala. It's an hour's worth of suspended, individual notes, of varied tone, length and texture, generally separated by five to ten seconds [it complexifies somewhat toward the end]. It's quite lovely and thoughtful, like all of Pisaro's work I've experienced, requiring fairly intense concentration and immersion to fully appreciate. His conception is amazing at suspending time and Chabala offers a very fine, sensitive reading.

For "voyelles", Pisaro took the same recording and infiltrated into it sounds sourced from sine tones and field recordings (possibly others). As good as the original piece is, "voyelles" really brings it into its own and makes it extraordinary. As with other works (like the great Transparent Cities set), Pisaro has an unerring ear with regard to precisely what sound will most strangely but somehow appropriately compliment a given instrumental tone. By adding a single layer, Pisaro multiplies the piece's depth many fold. A great, great work, one that unfurls differently on each hearing."

[been listening to "voyelles" all afternoon, here in August, 2014--immensely satisfying]

winds measure

Monday, August 04, 2014

Robert Curgenven - Sirène (Recorded Fields Editions)

I freely admit to being a sucker for certain micro-genres and contemporary, drone-based pipe organ is surely one. Despite that caveat, Curgenven's "Sirène" is a real treat. I'd previously heard and enjoyed a bit of his music on a winds measure release shared with Will Montgomery. For this LP offering, he uses unprocessed pipe organ (recorded in several different churches) augmented in parts by turntable and other sources.

Curgenven tends toward (more or less) traditional organ tones, that is, nothing too extreme in terms of airiness, extreme grinding or other extended techniques. But he arrays these tones wonderfully, layering contrasting lines, each of them pretty much tonal but, in combination, resulting in a fascinating chromaticism. The first track engages in this while also possessing a rising and falling swell, the elements shifting, cloudlike before evanescing into less linear, more amorphous shapes, cultivating a growing sizzle of alien sputters. These extraneous, though quite welcome, noises manifest clearly on the second track, "Cornubia". Ebhind an even more sonorous skein of organ tones, one hears first some vague shuffling and sliding, soon resolved into what sound like slaps on a hard, wet surface. The massed organs well mightily before, again, faltering as they splay outwards. Side B is taken up by "Turners Tempest + Imperial Horizon", a generally less tonal, reedier work. While building strength, it nonetheless flutters and shudders; what sounds like a blurred but enormous mass of hornets hovers over the affair for a while. The first half of the piece is like some mythic, shambling beast, falling, rising and continuing, beset by swarms of static. As before, however, matters are smoothed out somewhat, as though the creature emerged onto a flat landscape even if, as it progresses, irregularities become apparent among the shimmerings. Four minutes from the end there's a cessation. When sound reappears, it's distant, almost underwater. A foggy orchestra, lost in reverberation, brings things to a close.

A unique, superb recording. Don't let it pass you by.

Recorded Field Editions

Sunday, August 03, 2014

Seth Cooke - Sightseer (Organized Music from Thessaloniki)

It's easy, probably all too easy, to draw comparisons between field recordings and photography but I do like, in certain instances to think about snapshot photography, the work of people like Garry Winogrand and Todd Papageorge, when listening the work of people who consciously veer away from anything traditionally evocative and towards sound that, on the surface, seem to have been almost randomly chosen. In the same sense that simply by virtue of its components, a snapshot photo will contain vast amounts of information--audio, sociological, what have you--so might a "snapshot" field recording.

This may be piling too much weight on Cooke's offerings here: nine tracks on a 3" disc, but there's something about their "ordinariness" that summons these thoughts. The one-second wash of sound that constitutes "Traveller's Checks (sic)" could have come from almost anywhere; something equivalent to an accidental, blurred photo. The next track's 68 second have more a sense of place, however vague and activity, assuming the bowed shell of the title is the source of the keening sound we hear. We begin to parse out inevitable, even if "undesired" specialness, more so in the ensuing clicks, soft pings and mechanized voice nestled into the indistinct, sometimes aflutter ambiance of "Window Shopping". Cooke's titles seem to vacillate between the deadpan descriptive and the sardonic; one wants to hear the muffled, difficult-to-discern groans of "Weekend Soul Retrieval Workshop" as, well, a soul being retrieved. One listens more and more closely, determined to figure out these un-figure-outable snippets. The mini-epic, "Santa Barbara Christian Field Recording Association" manages to remain singularly opaque with reference to either title or source but is a hell of a lot of fun to wallow in. We tumble through the closely miked violence of "Self-Catering/Package tour", into the wind-scoured wasteland of "Hotel for November" and, finally, for another brief second, a glimpse of Hell in that FLAC we need to hear.

Fine work! A bracing tonic to the endless stream of birds, cars and water gurgles.

Grisha Shakhnes - distance and decay (Organized Music from Thessaloniki)

Shakhnes adds yet another volume to his impressive string of strong releases, retaining ties to past work on the one hand, moving into subtly different areas on the other.

The opening track, "so close to home" ism indeed, something like that, displaying the Shakhnes we've come to know and love; dark and grainy, rumbling with multiple layers of sound, as though subjected to a rough grind, through some processing mechanism that leaves copious lumps and irregularities. There's more going on at any given moment than you can hear, causing an odd experience on subsequent listens-- the "Hey, that wasn't there before!" response. Some sounds are looped, other not (or, at least, I don't think so; maybe lengthier loops). It churns, new elements swiftly incorporated in the grimy swirl. Ingredients dissipate, the mix turns dry and choppy, re-forms into a mass of what seems like engines or generators, with looped pops, imparting a somehow wet feel, sublimates and fades;classic, if you will, Shakhnes. "air" almost sounds as though recorded near the prow of an ice-breaker for the first few minutes but it soon degrades, quite beautifully, into a sequence of dronelike sounds including, I think, recordings of Mideastern music, bleeding through the stuttering taps and pervasive hiss. Possibly a distorted recording of a stringed instrument surfaces, disappears under shuffling and the frozen wastes return. It's a lovely, even moving work and a bit unexpected in parts but the next cut, "concrete" is even more so, beginning with a quasi-tonal hum, or layering of hums, a continuo that girds the piece throughout in one form or another, beneath whistling wind and undefinable rumbles. This creates a wonderful, kind of tidal swell beneath things and Shakhnes is quite careful choosing the textures of the sounds above to allow space to form between. The undertones disintegrate somewhat when we move into some large interior spaces, but there's always a lingering trace, subtly propelling one forward. "slow life" is a mini-maelstrom that I can't begin to parse. At a mere nine minutes, it's gone before I can grasp it but it's intensely tantalizing.

The Shakhnes odyssey continues, one excellent release after another. Get this.

Organized Music from Thessaloniki

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Scott Worthington - Even the Light Itself Falls (Populist Records)

A long (87-minute) piece for clarinet (Curt miller), percussion (Dustin Donahue) and double bass (Worthington)--collectively, the three comprise the trio, ensemble et cetera. My first impression, with the clarinet's avian, swirling trills, was of Messiaen filtered through Crumb (the percussion (celesta, I think, light gongs and cymbals, among others), with the bass lines supplying a kind of sostenuto effect while also singing back to the clarinet. But standing back, as one must do with a work this size, and taking into account the self-similar nature of the music (while the internals vary a good bit, it more or less stays in the same "field" throughout), I do get a little bit of a Feldman feel. About a half-hour in, there's a slight shift to territory a bit more sparse as though the bird in question wandered into a drier garden, but the essential character continues. In his notes, Worthington writes about the work's repetitive nature, though using waves or mountain views as a metaphor. I hear it more in the sense of "repetitive" sounds in a natural environment (like birdsong), lines that exist in a narrow spectrum, perhaps, but contain much variety and beauty and, of course, are a fine source for contemplation. A bit after 50 minutes, a celesta figure enters that's quite different from anything that preceded, more explicitly rhythmic and iterative; it only lasts a handful of seconds but leaves faint traces in what ensues, again recalling work like "Crippled Symmetries". I don't mean to belabor the comparisons as I think there's much going on here that's pretty unique to Worthington. It's a lovely recording; I'm very glad to have heard it and look forward to more.

Gnarwhallaby - [exhibit a] (Populist Records)

[If I may pause for an observation--young, contemporary chamber ensembles have developed an odd tradition of possessing seriously annoying whimsical names but, perhaps unfairly, this tendency seems to be worse on the West Coast. "et cetera", above is somewhat innocuous, "Gnarwhallaby" pretty bad but "wild Up", below...erm....ok, old guy rant over, back to the music]

Gnarwhallaby is comprised of Matt Barbier (trombones), Richard Valitutto (keyboards), Derek Stein (cello) and Brian Walsh (clarinets). "[exhibit a]" collects works by eight composers (including, interestingly, two who are better known--at least by me--as instrumentalists). There's an immediate item of fascination, two performances of which bracket the selections: Morton Feldman's little known "Half a minute it's all I've time for" (1972) which as near as I can tell, has never been recorded. It's like a tiny sliver plucked from a larger composition, four beautiful crumbs, isolated and lovingly rendered; the renditions have fine and subtle distinctions. Edison Denisov (1929-1996) is represented by "D-S'C'H", which begins colorful and spiky in true mid-century, modernist fashion, but mutates into a lovely dirge, the piano still poking holes in the dark fabric. We next encounter the first of five brief works ("Fluffs") by Nicholas Deyoe, a Southern Cal composer. Four of them clock in at between 19 and 35 seconds and are little more than amuses oreilles, tough to say much except two are delicate and soft, two growlingly aggressive, but the last, at 2:40 opens a window onto a very attractive, muted sound world, rather mysterious and implying a vaster space, something I'd like to hear more fully investigated.

I only knew Mark Sabat as half of the Sabat/Clarke duo, mainly for their recordings of Feldman. Gnarwhallaby performs his "Modernes Kaufhaus", in three short movements, the first a humorous tiptoeing through sour but tonal patches, the second more of a slightly drunken stumble (in a good way) through similar territory and finally, a surprisingly strident quasi-anthem, tick-tock rhythm supporting broad unison lines that seem to vaguely reference Eastern European tonalities. My personal seemingly constant exposure to 20th century Polish composers over the past few years continues with "Pour Quatre" by Włodzimierz Kotoński (b. 1925), a six-minute essay that seems to crete its form as it moves along, nodding to Penderecki now and then (perhaps the nod was returned?), taking some fine enjoyment from low, twining, sinuous tones; solid piece. Speaking of hitherto-unknown-to-me Polish composers, here's Zygmunt Krause (b. 1938) and his "Polychromie", a soft, subtly shifting piece, smoky and reticent, again quite attractive, a taste leaving me with the strong desire to hear more from this fellow.

The other composer I previously new only from his instrumental work is Steffan Schleiermacher. His "Stau" is possibly not something you'd expect if you knew only his Cage and Feldman interpretations, the music containing harsh, declamatory lines and regular rhythmic ticks before mutating in a kind of Louis Andriessen direction. I wasn't convinced but can imagine many folks getting a kick from it. Finally, Henryk Górecki's "Muzyczka IV (Konzert Puzonowy)" in two parts, the first a rollicking and riotous affair, the quartet sounding at least twice its size, the trombone riding, bellowing atop a deep, surge, the second a somber, reflective near-dirge, grainy and rich, ending in haunting, suspended piano chords.

Interesting choice of repertoire, strong readings--a fine recording.

wild Up - Feather & Stone (Populist Records)

A very large ensemble (including the members of gnarwhallaby) playing an eclectic program of flight-related material.

Christopher Rountree's "Stand Still Like the Hummingbird" gives a kind of misleading indication of the disc's music, a bluesy jazz piece, not entirely convincing (think grand scale Either/Orchestra) that morphs into Gershwinesque pop classicism, a John Adams-y section and, eventually, Parker's "Ornithology". Nicholas Deyoe reappears with "A New Anxiety", a raucous affair with jazz affinities but in the Mantler/JCOA lineage before surprisingly, veering into grimy, drone-y electronics and more of a dark improv area filled with string harmonics; interesting piece. Messiaen's "Oiseaux Exotiques" is given a light, colorful reading, featuring good work from pianist Valitutto; a nice inclusion here. This leads top the first of two compositions by Archie Carey, "Mothlight", beginning with lush, sliding strings which dissolve into woodwind breaths and soft knocks before the strings reform; a sweet, brief piece. Odeya Nini's "Dante Quartet" is quiet and winning, gentle rustles and vibrations leading to a lovely, pastoral theme from winds and piano, unexpected and delightful though interrupted by short flurries of percussion that keep things grounded. We then range from abrasive electronics through varying prisms of rockish abstraction and massed brass in Andrew Tholl's "Still Not a Place to Build Monuments or Cathedrals", the whole sounding a bit constipated in a Michael Gordon sort of way, the music just begging for some real, unshackled abandon. The title of Chris Kallmyer's work, "This Nest, Swift Passerine" intrigued me (such a good word, passerine) and its onset entranced--bird sounds and a low string line that slowly blossoms into a cloudy field, gently meandering, picking up melodic fragments here and there, discarding them, climbing a small rise, enjoying the view; really a fine sweet/sour work that breathes quite convincingly. Carey returns to wrap things up with "Bird of Paradise in Paradise", commencing with a Mingus reference, sliding into long respirations, almost meditative, an odd melange that doesn't quite gel for me.

A mixed bag, then, containing a couple of jewels.

Populist Records

Monday, July 28, 2014

Vanessa Rossetto - Whole Stories (Kye)

I have a fond memory of the day--what, some six years ago?--when a package arrived bearing three CDs in plain black sleeves from one Vanessa Rossetto. No idea what to expect but I was pretty well knocked out. Happier still, the ensuing years have seen nothing but massive strides forward in Rossetto's work and, for my money, "Whole Stories" reaches the high water mark thus far.

It's something of a story itself, compiled in New Orleans in 2012, Side A beginning and ending with the composer explaining what she's doing to some presumedly interested passer-by, followed by wafting and hurtling through the streets, encountering tales both sonic and explicitly biographical along the way, always with a stunning spatial sense and great affinity for aural richness and poignancy. Low, obscure rumbles segue into a trolley ride with an impatient conductor that in turn dissolves into agitated water (I think Rossetto's viola makes a submerged appearance in here somewhere and again on Side B), returning to that quieter zone, back onto the street for the bracketing conversation about field recording. Theres a wonderful sense of streamlining and purpose to the work; you know Rossetto spent massive amounts of time constructing this opus but he seams simply don't show.

As fine as Side A is, Side B is spectacular. Very much a story, centering around the life complaints of a middle-aged British-sounding woman, bemoaning her marriage ("I've had many wasted years.") to a companion only heard briefly (I don't think it sounds like Rossetto, though it could be; if not, I couldn't help being curious about the nature of the recording--eavesdropping on the next table?). This narrative, though, is embedded inside a sonic wonder world, buffeted around by an awesome array of (I assume) arcade game bells and beeps, more than a little Rileyesque at times. One way or another, there's always a constant sound in effect, often a strong hum (buttressed, I think, by the viola) imparting a continuo feel that really sends the piece cascading along, a truly rollicking ride, if you will. There is a bit of a sense of an amusement park ride, not really a contemporary house of suburban horrors because one feels that Rossetto has great empathy for the woman whose story unfolds in a fractured way. The occasional crescendi of bleeps is almost operatic at points, gorgeous in both sound and in implied commentary. There's a lovely, very quiet pause for about a minute, then the calliope sounds reemerge, rather joyously, nestled in crowd sounds, and a faintly heard Nawlins trumpet leads things out, with the companion stating, "People need to hear whole stories."

A fantastic recording; I've listened over and over for several days and can't get enough. I'm eagerly looking forward to new sound searches and collaborations.


Saturday, July 26, 2014

Volumes 3 & 4 of the ongoing "Berlin Series from Another Timbre which tend toward the split disc concept although here, the second disc feature flutist Sabine Vogel.

The first half of No. 3 goes all the way back to 1999 for a recording by a quartet consisting of Axel Dörner (trumpet), Robin Hayward (tuba), Annette Krebs (electro-acoustic guitar, mixing board) and Andrea Neumann (inside piano, mixing board) all of whom, I believe, were already members of the larger ensemble Phosphor (if not at this time, soon), though here they go by the name, Roananax. Mark Wastell's Confront label has been issuing items now and then from around the same period and the result, for me, teeter between the genuinely worthwhile and largely of historical interest only. Inevitably (sadly, I guess), listening like it's 1999 yields one result, while peeking in from 15 years later provides a different sensation. I had heard Polwechsel a couple of years before this, my first live encounter with this general area of music--a major event--and, int he year of this recording, ventured to Victoriaville for the first time, hearing I.S.O. among others, also game changers for me. Had I heard the five tracks here at the time, I've little doubt they would have had the kind of impact impossible to replicate now. Well, not impossible. I.S.O.'s sounds still move me as much as then but I daresay that's because, for me, they produced music on am especially high and profound level.

The music is, generally, less reticent than it would soon become with Phosphor and many of the other projects undertaken by the musicians involved. In a similar sense to some of those Confront releases, you get the impression you're catching them in a transitional phase between a more efi-inflected approach and the more radically minimal stance that would more or less become the norm within a couple of years. Krebs and Neumann in particular, often emit metallic, stridently mechanical bursts, operating mini sound factories while Dörner and Hayward, already using largely breath-oriented attacks, tend toward the guttural and spittle-infused. That's overstating things a bit as the pieces vary in numerous ways, including intensity, but I do feel a general sense of more forthrightness,of "performance". This is all fine and the music is actually quite engaging most of the time, perhaps with a wee bit of understandable awkwardness and lack of sure footing which tilts it back to that realm of historical appreciation as opposed to a "lost jewel" kind of status. Not a bad thing at all--I think it's good for gaining a fuller grasp of what was occurring where and when.

"Obliq" is another matter entirely, a 2014 trio made up of Konzert Minimal members Pierre Borel (alto saxophone), Hannes Lingens (percussion) and Derek Shirley (electronics). Two tracks, each about twenty minutes. In an odd way, though the music sounds nothing like the 1999 session, there's a similar sense of it being more or less representative, in an unspectacular way, of the current state of a given sector of new music. Both are fairly steady state, the first filled with low, electric and reed hum that, likely due to the presence of the alto as well as the general form, remind me a bit of Graham Halliwell's work from the early to mid oughts. The latter is also a little drone-based, beginning with higher, variegated frequencies before ultimately settling midrange, with attractive flutters from the alto (I think) and a nice layering of all sources. They're both perfectly fine, if a bit hard to differentiate from many offerings treading a similar pathway. I found myself wanting the relative smoothness to be disrupted somehow, even forcibly so, just to wrench the music from the least a bit. :-) Not bad at all, just...wanting.


Berlin Series No. 4 is also made up of two sections but here, each part features flutist Sabine Vogel, first solo ("luv") then in duo with Chris Abrahams on pipe organ ("kopfüberwelle").

Solo, yes, but using a wide array of sound sources including field recordings, objects, bansuri flutes, wind harps and, in fact, recordings made with Bennett Hogg on "wind violin" and "water violin". Yes, I wondered too, hence:

If I'm identifying the sound correctly, the latter is readily discernible here, some sixteen minutes in during a lovely, otherwise very still section. But guessing games are beside the point--this is a finely constructed soundscape, rich in layers but rigorously executed, always commanding attention and appreciation. Flute permeates (including the bansuris) but the environment is very alive with sounds, some ringing, others wafting--a slight tinge of the tropical. Also, odd as it may seem to say, very human sounding; sounds aren't as disembodied as is often the case in works like this, there's a palpable sense of of a person behind the breath sounds, very flesh and blood. Excellent work.

As is the duo with Abrahams, although the sound world is something else entirely. Abrahams creates several layers on the pipe organ, from a low pulsation to sustained, high, reedy tones while Vogel darts between, birdlike. Only because of my exposure immediately prior, I couldn't help but compare this piece to the Obliq tracks from Berlin Series No. 3 (unfair, I know) as there's at least something steady state about each. But, as with "luv", there's an overt, not reticent but also not pushy, human presence here that works marvelously. While clearly heard in Vogel's swooshes, gasps, and exquisite low notes, even Abraham's organ seems to be chuckling at times, providing a deep feeling of warmth. And despite the organ's consistent emission of long lines, there's substantial variation in both his attack and, more so, that of Vogel, who's constantly coming up with one good idea after the other over the course of the piece's almost 40 minutes.

Two fine pieces, very different approaches, both quite beautiful. Recommended.

Another Timbre

Friday, July 25, 2014

Antoine Beuger - Tschirtner Tunings for Twelve (Another Timbre)

The second time I listened to Tschirtner Tunings, I turned the volume up a bit contrary to the instructions on the sleeve and then went into the bedroom to lie down and possibly take a nap. My head was about thirty-five feet from the speakers, down a hallway and around a corner but I could hear the music, at least when it swelled a bit. I lied there not only "trying" to listen, but placing myself in the situation (impossible to do) of not having known there was music emanating from the living room, wondering how I'd perceive these sounds, whether I'd somehow redefine them as issuing from various possible sources in the street or behind our building, of wind or rain. I drifted into brief episodes of sleep, awoke, listened, drifted off again. It was quite beautiful, otherworldly.

The name "Tschirtner" didn't ring any immediate bells but when I searched, I realized I'd often seen his work, though I remain uncertain (apart from, presumably, Beuger's admiration) of any direct relationship to the composition's structure. It's performed by the gradually mutating ensemble, Konzert Minimal, here comprised of Pierre Borel (alto saxophone), Lucio Capece (bass clarinet), Johnny Chang and Cat Lamb (violas), Hannes Lingens (accordion), Mike Majkowski, Koen Nutters and Derek Shirley (double basses), Morton J. Olsen (vibraphone), Nils Ostendorf (trumpet), Rishin Singh (trombone) and Michael Thieke (clarinet). Chang and Nutters provide an excellent detailed rundown of both the group and the piece on the Another Timbre site. It runs 79 minutes, and essentially consists of emergent, long lines,, each instrumentalist choosing when his or her sound appears during a given time frame--very "simple", but allowing of a huge range of variations. Not just the pitches chosen but, as is gone into in the interview, the grain and timbre of the instruments is foregrounded, yielding many, many combinations. Sometimes, one or two instruments overlap, often more. Of course, there are silences as well. As with almost all of Beuger's music, a sense of intense calm as well as respiration and appreciation of place is achieved. When not listening from another room, I've always left the door to the balcony open, allowing the sounds to freely mix with the street, weather, etc. outside.

Not sure if there's more to say. Another beautiful offering from Beuger, lovingly realized by Konzert Minimal. That's more than enough.

Another Timbre

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Laurence Crane - Chamber Works 1992 - 2009 (Another Timbre)

Sometimes I wish I had greater technical knowledge about music; often I don't. But when I read something like Michael Pisaro's excellent essay on Crane and he writes about a "major chord in 2nd inversion", I kinda wish I could summon up the appropriate auditory image in my head. But I understand him in general terms and think he's exactly on the mark with regard to what makes Crane's music so uniquely fascinating. You can hear references to the work of other composers, often subtle, sometimes not, but more, Crane creates note sequences whose essence you've heard hundreds of time yet, by paring away almost all ornamentation, they seem new and, more, one understands in a deeper way why they're so well-used and effective in the first place.

The pieces on this 2-disc set are performed by members of the ensemble Apartment House, for this recording: Andrew Sparling (clarinet), Alan Thomas (guitar), Nancy Ruffer (flutes), Phil;ip Thomas (piano), Anton Lukoszevieze )cello), Gordon Mackay (violin), Simon Limbrick (percussion), Sarah Walker (electric organ), Ruth Ehrlich (violin), Angharad Davies (violin)and Hilary Sturt (viola), with Crane himself contributing on "auxiliary instruments" for one work. The opening "Sparling" (heard in three variations) sets the tone: a two-note rising line on the reed played against three softly strummed chords on the guitar. Crane often writes lines in two, three or four note sequences. I found the former to be especially compelling, the weighing of one note against another; not really "against", but alongside, recognizing both affinities and separateness, a notion I've always found very appealing and meaningful, the back and forth between different vantages. I have the mental image of holding an object between thumb and two forefingers, looking at it with one eye, then the other, back and forth, shifting the hand slightly, noticing the varying play of light on the object as time passes. That's the kind of contemplative mood Crane's music immediately delivers for me. Skempton is an acknowledged influence and you can pick up hints of his approach on compositions like "Trio" though the allusions made by the older composer toward, among other traditions, British folk forms, have been whittled down to a "simple" three-note descending series played in gentle variations, set beside single, bright piano chords. It's gorgeous, certainly, but somehow manages to generate an aura of mystery as well, a sleight of hand so sleight you don't really register that it's occurring. I'm reluctant to just enumerate the pieces, but almost all of them are hard to pass by. "Raimondas Rumsas", so richly played by Lukoszevieze alone of cello, echoes Radigue perhaps but sped up (still quite slow), the four note sequence, shifting to three, deep in harmonics, utterly immersive, inviting a plunge into the instruments interior. I picked up a vestige or two of Bryars in the ensuing tracks and the general sound of Walker's organ in "Riis" recalls that of Riley, but the composition, with clarinet and cello as well, floats sublimely, the consonant organ chords acquiring a wonderful sour tinge now and then but also (a nod to Riley's early tape works?) coming and going in an abrupt, almost jagged manner; it's a fantastic, euphoric piece. Were I to pick a bone with Disc One, it might be that "Bobby J", for electric guitar, wanders too far into fuzzy, soft Frisellian territory for comfort, but that' a quibble.

So many other notable points: the sixth of "Seven Short Pieces"--again the series of two-notes, here against a steady background, so poignant. The sumptuous (and excellently titled) "Piano Piece no. 23 'Ethiopian Distance Runners'", whose ascending figure near the beginning is, in essence, something you've heard a thousand times in manifold songs--so familiar--but, for me, never quite so beautifully. The third of "Four Miniatures" makes a decided nod to Glass, perhaps a wry comment to those who label Crane's music minimalist; it's still fun. won't venture to speculate about the relationship of "Come back to the old specimen cabinet John Vigani, John Vigani Part 1" to the play or film we're thinking of (though I assume Crane is talking about this guy), but its a great piece with Sparling's mournful clarinet marking slow, seemingly more intuitive lines over the composer's clatter and dark electronics, though again that binary thing takes hold. Finally, "John White in Berlin" (love it) emerges from a hazy cloud with low cello drones and clear, shimmering piano chords, descends to a subterranean rumble. Soon the guitar comes forward with a similar four-note sequence (to the piano)--here, we encounter another trope Crane uses every so often: the gradual lengthening of otherwise similar phrases. There's a marvelous shifting of parts in play here, like a simplified kaleidoscope. Dreamlike, strange and lovely.

As I mentioned on an fb post recently, it's hard to imagine almost anyone, regardless of musical taste, not finding a great deal to enjoy in this recording. It's special, fine music and highly especially highly recommended for those who enjoy the more melodic branches of the Wandelweiser enclave as well as descendants of the Skempton/White approach to composing. Absolutely wonderful work.

Another Timbre

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Jake Meginsky - L'appel du Vide (open mouth)

Meginsky's music, at least as represented herein, occupies an area that's fairly alien to me and, on the surface, isn't something I'd normally be drawn to and yet I fell right into its grasp. All electronics, almost all smooth and clean sounds chosen, it references beat-driven styles with seemingly regular rhythms, but they're overlaid in non-obvious patterns and use very different textures, resulting in a fine sense of space where the relative absence of grit and inexactitude don't bother me nearly as much as is often the case in work I've heard that's tangentially related. The elements themselves are quite pure and simple, nothing you haven't heard before, but they're arrayed in intersecting patterns that at times allow for multiple levels of parsing by one's aural sensibility while also on occasion overflowing into sensory overload that just takes over as at the end of Side A of this LP, where an insanely ringing tone lays waste to one's sense of equilibrium (I feel like I shouldn't be operating heavy equipment when listening to this). On Side B, matters begin to fracture subtly; the tones get a bit dirtier, the rhythms more stuttering. Though it never quite loses the rhythmic impetus, it continues to crumble, edging over into territory adjacent to the broken electronics work of people like Bonnie Jones.

Very impressive, looking forward to more.

open mouth

Daniel Barbiero/Chris Lynn - Augmented Landscapes (zeromoon)

Another interesting recording from bassist Barbiero, here with Lynn providing field recordings. More, Barbiero (I believe) does some processing of his bass; one often hears both the acoustic sound and the enhanced one, each set among Lynn's recordings. The structures feel somewhat free, though more in a contemporary classical sense than a jazz one, Barbiero's approach stemming, to me, more from the Turetsky angle of attack, even if I pick up shades of jazz bassists hear and there as well. The forms and enhancements can be problematic as well, the former sometimes meandering a bit much, the latter (as on the second track, "A Delay in Sound") seeming to be more simply effects rather than having a real reason for being. What carries the recording is Barbiero's sensitivity and clear proficiency on his instrument; no matter what else, this is always something to hang onto and enjoy. When things work, as onthe final cut, "Prepared Chance" where the bass and recordings really seem to exist in the same landscape, the music as a whole is fine indeed.

It's a net release and you can check it out for yourself here

Strom Varx - A Cogent Heavy High-Technology Works (Agxibatein)

A new name to me and though his fact sheet sites collaborations with Yoshihide, Karkowski and others, my general impression of the music is more in line with an acousmatic approach filtered to some degree through the noise ethos of the last decade. A dense combination of multiple flutters, sloughed audio spirals and piercing zaps near the beginning, followed by a quieter, excessively (to my taste) spacey segment,though when it really dwindles down to dust, it's rather nice. The 66-minute track eventually emerges onto a broad plain suffused with organ-like tones amidst more abstract washes and vague, muffled bell tones, likely my favorite portion of the work; I was pleased Varx carried it out until the end instead of reverting to a "climax" of some sort. So, half and half for me; the initial segments fall into that INA GRM-kind of sound that I find over-processed and all surface while much of the remaining is quite attractive. Well constructed throughout, fans of this end of electronic music might enjoy the sum total a bit more than me.


Sunday, July 20, 2014

Catherine Lamb - matter/moving (winds measure)

We're presented with four renditions of the fine piece, "matter/moving", spread over two cassettes (I listened via download), the performances recorded over two days in an apartment in Jackson Heights, Queens by Andrew Lafkas (double bass), Bryan Eubanks (oscillators) and Tucker Dulin (trombone). Lamb describes the process: "The environment outside is fluctuating, yet the quality is similar. The form and tonality within the piece remains the same in the four versions, but what occurs between form and articulation changes—in terms of the interaction of elements and grains of tones in moments of time. Through repetition of sympathetic resonances, overtime these tones interact more clearly and what at first is outside/inside becomes inside/outside."

The work consists of very subtle, long tones (you can view the score and instructions here) that gently interleave, sounds from outside drifting in, though there are also some very abrupt stoppages every so often that lend a nice stuttering quality to the music's shape. The playing is restrained and, like much of what I've heard from Lamb in other work, haunting and moving. Each version lasts about 23 minutes and I quickly gave up the game of attempting to discern variations (not that I was having much success) and simply sat back and let the sounds wash over me. I found that I enjoyed taking her instructions to the players a step further and listening with the door to the balcony open, letting the sounds of the 19th Arrondisement attain a co-equal level with the music, sometimes, as with a heavy rain shower, blanketing it. Very beautiful.

As is the recording in and of itself. Lamb has become one of my favorite working composers. "matter/moving" is a wonderful addition to her already impressive oeuvre.

Phil Julian/Ben Owen - between landing (Auditory Field Theory)

One of those recordings that I enjoy a great deal but find very difficult to write about even semi-coherently, that is in the sense of distinguishing it from other low level (for the most part) abstract electronics. True, the bell-like guitar tones with which it begins are somewhat singular--soft, suspended in pools of silence. But to say it's followed by a few minutes of quiet fizziness leads one down the path of simple descriptives which, in the case of a more tiresome release, might be the best you could do. But this one is far, far better than that. Three tracks, two variations of the disc title clocking in at about 21 minutes each and a third, "a return" occupying the final 14. The music, on the whole, is somewhat more aggressive than what I've heard before from Owen, a bit less so than my previous experience with Julian, a good balance. Apart from the few minutes at the beginning, the sound in "between landing 1" is spread in a consistent manner, even with something like an implied pulse beneath the washes of static and understated squalls. The second track lies more in a dense drone with affiliated clatter state, slowly undulating, descending into a deep rumble, the clatter growing more metallic, morphing into a more pinched whine--see, this gets nowhere. Suffice it to say that each piece is effortlessly engaging and absorbing, containing a strong sense of concentration and exploration (I will say that as much as I enjoy the first two pieces, the final is especially fine, a-bristle with a large number of wonderful textures and pulses). Can't ask for much more.

Excellent work, well worth hearing. And as always, great cover graphics.

Auditory Field Theory

Friday, July 18, 2014

Craig Shepard - On Foot: Brooklyn (Edition Wandelweiser)

Shepard walks around, often traveling impressive distances, and composes music, generally playing on route. I had previously heard the excellent documentation of his perambulation through Switzerland in 2005, "On Foot", but in 2012, he chose to navigate far more dangerous territory, namely Brooklyn, doing so for thirteen weeks, penning a composition per week and organizing on-site performances of same by varied musicians which are heard here, usually along with the environmental sounds at the locations.

Shepard's pieces tend to be melodic--quite delicate and almost traditionally beautiful, as is the case on the opening track from Sheepshead Bay, played by Katie Porter (clarinet) and Devin Maxwell (snare drum), which emerges from the heavy traffic and sidewalk chatter, the drum in quasi-military roll state, the reed beautifully forlorn and wistful. Wonderful on its own, it blends with the street noise in a really lovely manner, especially pitting its calm sadness against the roiling, almost aggressive nature of the ambient sound. The exception to the works being embedded in the exterior world is the following track, via Canarsie, performed by Maxwell on glockenspiel, again a rather straightforward near-melody, with ample silence, the honeyed-metal notes allowed to suspend; you might imagine primo Bryars, but better. A trip to Coney Island brings out Jack Callahan (melodica, triangle), Erik Carlson (violin), Nick Didkovsky (electric guitar), Dan Joseph (hammer dulcimer), Larry Polansky (electric guitar) and Matthew Schumer (baritone saxophone) to play a sparser composition, various instruments appearing, playing a bit of a plaintive melody, then being submerged. We transition to Red Hook for the lengthiest work, played here by a saxophone trio with Schumer, Kristin McKeon (alto) and Erin Rogers (tenor). Here, the atmosphere is more Wandelweiserian in character, longish single-note lines floating quietly to the fore, receding. The field recordings do the same, being prominent at first (an overhead subway?), disappearing entirely for several minutes, returning with children playing, the saxophone lines gently encircling them, wafting through the games. It's a supremely calm, gorgeous work, very firm in its identity, very open to sharing that identity with its surroundings. Lastly, Callahan returns wielding bottles, ensconced in a piece written in that ancient land of hipsters, Williamsburg (field recording from the somewhat recent--though surely already passé?--scene, my ancestral homeland, Greenpoint). Much dense noise, difficult to source, the bottled, blown, entering amidst, sounding almost random, as though a vessel was at the proper angle for a stiff wind to generate the deep tone.

An altogether marvelous recording, true, pure and immersive. Hear it.


Also available from Erst Dist

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Dimitra Lazaridou-Chatzigoga/Mark Wastell - Beforehand (Confront)

A live date from late March of this year with Lazaridou-Chatzigoga on her zither and Wastell, for this session, wielding electronics, bowls and shruti box. It begins more stridently than one might expect. Long lines are in place but there are several minutes of bracing harshness amidst the buzz, an almost Rowe-ian feel to the attack. After a short time, the music settles into an interesting place that it occupies for a good while: a thin but multi-layered hum augmented by sporadic bursts (no idea as to the source) that are vaguely Morse Code-like in nature. One gets the inkling, soon confirmed, that the entire 27-minute performance (perfect length) is a decrescendo, a kind of gradual deflation. It's a very endearing, unusual kind of stasis. Eventually, we hear a few cascades of clear zither and soon thereafter, matters contract to an even narrower range, The shruti box makes its presence known, a single, drawn-out chord, accompanied by a high, sine-like tone and, a bit later, some delicate tinkling, a sort of agitated calm that's quite moving.

That's "all". But it's very fine.

Ray Brassier/Mattin - Unfree Improvisation/Compulsive Freedom (Confront)

As I was listening to the above and writing the review, this Brassier/Mattin item arrived, also on Confront. Normally, I let new releases gestate a while, get used to them, etc. But I thought I'd write about this one as I listen for the first time. Seems appropriate (the above image is simply the first that showed up when I image-googled "mattin ray brassier"--the package is a Confront metal box, as is the previous release).

So. Almost nothing, a bump maybe. A cough. Three minutes in, hints of activity, still obscure. Wondering if Brassier will play guitar or maybe read. Heavy rain outside, possibly blanketing any sounds from the speakers. Huh, there's also a low spattering hiss (from the disc) that's not entirely unlike the rain hitting the porch. I've raised the volume a good bit, reluctantly, anticipating damage to my ears within a few minutes, but that brief emergence of sound has subsided back into the occasional cough. ok, there you go. A loud-ish, electronic throb, possibly vocal in origin, appears for ten or so seconds. Back to the coughs.This was recorded in April 2013 in Glasgow. I'm making my first trip to Scotland in a couple of days, so haven't experienced the weather yet, but I'm imagining frigid temperatures and phlegmy throats. Very phlegmy. ooh, bee-like activity, maybe sampled strings, looped, segueing into dense traffic (coughers thus given license to let go, which they do). At this point, I'm enjoying what I perceive as the structure, though that's obviously still subject to change. There's a strong feeling of presence in space, as well, always appreciated. Voices embedded in the roar (which, I now think, isn't traffic at all), murky, indecipherable. As that roar ends, I'm thinking those voices are from people in the performance space, presumably "improvised". :-) A device is turned on, an engine of some kind perhaps, though it escalates into a very loud alarm-like whine. I've just located a series of photos taken at the event, some of which show a large fan, wondering if that's what I'm hearing. If the woman in the photo above is an indication, probably so. (here). Also note that the performance site is "tramway" and am not sure if that's the name of a space or an actual tramway. Something like that initial vocal throb recurs, hanging around for a while this time, maybe a minute. [out on the porch for a minute to inspect some cool looking clouds, disc sounds continued. Questioning the recording of this, as opposed to the direct experience, but that's an old one...] Wait. an electronic Donald Duck voice is reading, I'm guessing from Brassier. [took a couple of photos of aforementioned clouds]. The voice is intelligible but distorted, the content thus abstracted enough to be more easily heard as noise. It ends abruptly, the engine turns back on.

Back to ancillary noises, minimal. Wondering...oh, there you go, applause (weirdly inappropriate somehow) at the 34-minute mark. I was just going to say that I appreciate not having track timings in place as, the first time through, it imparts more of a sense of being at the concert, not knowing how long it will last. I had just been wondering, while imagining the set, how they'd choose to end it. I'm still not sure, having only audio clues to work with. Curious if they'd been off-stage for a while. No matter, I suppose.

For what it's worth I enjoyed the disc, was never bored, found it workable to both listen and pay attention to the small things around my table.


Sunday, July 06, 2014

Troy Schafer - Untitled No. 1 (Signal Dreams)

A 7-inch, 33rpm release on nice, mucous green vinyl, with speckles. Two tracks totaling only some 11 minutes, this is a case where I would have liked to have heard more, to have things fleshed out a bit but, perhaps that's part of the point. Side A was condensed from 36 hours of material, sourced from Schafer's violin (as well as viola and cello) and elsewhere (organ seems to figure in), into six dense minutes of collage not entirely dissimilar to some of Zorn's investigations into the area but much better, far less facile. Very cinematic in effect, it could easily work as a soundtrack for a dreamy/harsh video, the lush overlaying of strings near its conclusion being especially evocative. About Side B, Schafer enigmatically writes, "Out of respect for the dead, I choose not to expound". Whatever its essence, it's quite different from the preceding, a hollow set of scrapes (possibly from some mutation of a violin), with a subtle, grim plodding aspect, creating an image of a forlorn creature in some alien passageway, gamely wending its way through the dark, until things erupt. Within the brief track, the sudden welter of spiraling sound is disorienting and even unwelcome; this is one of the things I meant when I said I'd like to hear the ideas elaborated upon further, but so it goes.

My second experience with Schafer's music and another rewarding, unusual one. You can listen for ourself, below.

Schafer on Bandcamp

Grizzly Imploded - Anabasi (Sincope)

Consisting of Francesco Gregoretti on drums, Maurizio Argenziano and Sergio Albano on guitars. The six improvisations teeter between freeform noise (to me, often with an implied rock basis, with stuttering drum rhythms and vague references to rock guitar chords) and a kind of Frithian sound circa "Guitar Solos", a liquid rumble. When the former is in effect, my interest wavers; it's simply not the sort of venture that holds my interest these days. When the trio ratchets things back, as on the concluding "The vision is dancing", they find a more rewarding space, the guitars chiming against one another gently and almost randomly, the percussion causing small sprays of noise alongside, very spacious, very lovely. On the whole, a bit too hit and miss for me, though.


Francesco Gregoretti/Olivier Di Placido - Mauvaise Haleine (Viande)

Um, that'd be "bad breath" for you non-Francophones. One less guitar than above, here with Di Placido in the chair and the results, to my ears, are far superior for several reasons. One, the sound is more transparent, less oppressive, lending a fine clarity to the proceedings. Second, Di Placido is simply a more imaginative, provocative guitarist (even if I still hear some Frith now and then), finding a wide assortment of attacks tailored to his partner's activity, almost always interesting and showing a willingness to stick by and root around for a while instead of hopscotching from one approach to the next; he's very impressive here. Too, Gregoretti adapts a different approach on drums, much more in the efi tradition, evoking Gunter "Baby" Sommer or Paul Lytton now and then, but also finding his own sound word that's like a freer extension of Ronald Shannon Jackson. Even when the pair lurch into territory tangential to that explore on the trio disc ("So Do I"), things are more sharply defined and forceful, juggering along thickly and with power. Even if the overall tone of the disc remains a bit outside my real areas of interest, what they do, they do with admirable intelligence and variation, much more impressively than your standard free drums/guitar duo. Well worth checking out if you're into this side of things.


Saturday, July 05, 2014

Greg Kelley/Jason Lescalleet - Conversations (Glistening Examples)

It's tempting to use the term "epic" here, but I'll resist. There's certainly a sense of structure, even if the six tracks are culled from three different performances over roughly a year. I say "culled" because I get the idea that the pieces were molded somewhat to fit into this conversational trope. One hint is the durations of the cuts (per itunes): 11:11, 5:45, 2:22, 6:56, 33:33 and 11:11. I've no idea what this signifies but knowing Lescalleet's penchant for messing with titles and track lengths, I bet it means something. Taking the rather banal album title as a starting point, the track names all bear some relationship to personal communication, although the parenthetical addendum to the final piece, "Pechuga Cadaver" stands apart. I'm guessing the pechuga in question refers not to the chicken breast itself but rather to the mezcal that uses the pollo as an ingredient. Moreover, if there's an audio connection to the Beefheart song, I don't hear it. Indeed, I'm a bit surprised the pun wasn't extended to "Pechuga Palaver". As to the close-up of the sausage (if that's what it is) on the back cover, I have no comment...

Descrying an arc may be reading too much into things, although the music does move from a relatively smooth, tonal opening piece to a harsh conclusion, arguably charting an initially polite conversation. That first track, "Introductions", with its woofer-threatening subsonics and long, mellifluous lines at times recalls the opening strains of "Also Sprach Zarathustra" (that speech thing again) and, when some rhythmic iterations occur later in the work, some of the denser music of early Terry Riley. It's an enormously impressive eleven minutes, a great drone-like work with deep, pure lines from Kelley's horn twining through the hum and yet, as immersive as it is, there are supremely disorienting moments where this entire world, so present, is thrust into the background by hyper-real, clearly etched clicks and scratches, as though you suddenly realize that what you've been experiencing is a simulacrum and "reality" is outside it, looking on. Fantastic stuff. "Consultation" begins in the same universe, though perceptibly darker and woolier, eventually fluttering and shuddering, gaining the aspect of a turbine warming up while the brief "A Frank Discussion", which commences with intense grinding, Kelley's metals in play I think, screeching over Lescalleet's growls, but then comes to an abrupt end when the latter says, "We're gonna stop this now, ok?" and shuts things down. Again, that palpable "exterior" presence.

"La Conversación" features a welter of Kelley gabbling, both impressive and humorous and, in the context of the album, something of a breather, leading into the lengthy "Intercourse", a mini-epic on its own. It's the most recent recording, a live set from April of 2014, and is a model of controlled intensity, steaming and metallic, often sounding like a hyper-extended scrape. There's subsidence, a fine thinness in place, quiet throbs, obscure rattling, drawn out further and further, ghostly; any conversation has evaporated into the ether. But a hive-like whine recurs, Kelley's burred trumpet providing much of the color. It crests, ebbs, stutters to a stop, a fine, fine piece and, one would have thought, a great place to end the album.

But no. "Sayonara (Pechuga Cadaver)" comes forward and says, "Not so fast, not so easy". As if to comment on the futility of communicating, we get a squall of high feedback, brutal and verging on the physically damaging, whistling and spiraling near-chaotically, morphing into a despondent sounding, organ-y drone, oddly listless and empty, even alien. This 11:11 squashes the promise of the first, grinds it into sausage.

Great work, one of the strongest releases I've heard this year.

Jason Lescalleet - Much to My Demise (Kye)

The enclosed note included with this white vinyl release is salutary, advising the purchaser to allow both the disc and the cover to degrade in a natural manner over time, not to protect it as a keepsake. "There is nothing pure in your hands. let it go." Excellent, instructions duly followed. The music is as surprising as it is entrancing. Not that Lescalleet never pushes toward the (relative) quiet (I fondly recall a set of his with Sean Meehan at Issue Project, for example) but, at least in my awareness of his recent work, this level of softness and almost romantic loveliness hasn't been in play. In fact, had I been listening "blindfolded", I might have guessed label owner and frequent collaborator Graham Lambkin was responsible. Rather, Lescalleet took tapes from various sources and buried them for three months, exhuming them after some amount of organic deterioration had occurred, assembling pieces from the remains. Side One begins with "A Misinterpretation of Mispronunciation", building from its isolated piano notes hanging in dust, whispers and scratches (from the unearthed tape or the vinyl, who knows?) to the swirling, hymn-like atmosphere of "The Tragedy of Man", a dream church, a vaguely malevolent one (I'm not sure I don't hear bits of "Einstein on the Beach" buried somewhere in the depths).

Side Two's excellently titled "My Dreams Are Dogs That Bite Me" is all about the rumble. I tentatively used the term "quiet" above; I found myself playing with the volume level on this piece a bit, sometimes keeping it low and seemingly distant, other times pumping it until it became a palpable part of the room. In some ways, it harkens back to my earliest memories of seeing Lescalleet in performance, running crumpled tapes between multiple players on the floor, those impossibly complex overlays, hinting at rhythm by their iterative nature but bristling with asymmetry. The sound here is very boomy, full of muffled fluttering, grimy washes, sudden stops. Dirty feedback roars emerge, are ground to bits, spread like gravel and compressed into a dense, rough conglomerate, gradually coming somewhat unbound toward the end. The center will not hold.

Really fine work; I enjoy it every bit as much as "Conversations".

(Various) - Trophy Tape (Glistening Examples)

First, kudos to Matthew Revert for the amazing package design.

I'm not the best person to be asked to comment on videos as I have a particularly low tolerance for the form. Here, Lescalleet asked 13 people to create videos as accompaniment for the 13 songs on the first disc of "Songs About Nothing" (Erstwhile). In all honesty, I don't have anything close to a perfect memory of the album and am not sure if the music appears on the DVD as is, altered, sampled or otherwise changed. Watching through, I had only a vague notion, after the start, who was responsible for which video, assuming they were appearing in the same order as listed on the box. I admit to being a little pleased to discover, as the credits ran at the end of the disc, that my favorite was Olivia Block's car park footage accompanying "The Power of Pussy". Extended, only moderately toyed with video is more likely to nestle into my comfort zone and this one worked just fine for me. A couple of folk took the titles pretty literally ("Escargot", "Friday Night in a Catholic Home"), most less so. Contributions are from Aaron Dilloway, Ellen Frances, Annie Feldmeier Adams, Justin Meyers, Antony Milton, C. Spencer Yeh, Block, Adel Souto, Neil Young Cloaca (:-)), Todd Deal, Jubal Brown, Heidi Alasuvanto and Robert Beatty.

Your mileage may well vary. Me, I prefer my Lescalleet unfiltered.

Glistening Examples


All also available via Erst Dist