Saturday, August 18, 2018

Melaine Dalibert - Musique pour le lever du hour (Elsewhere)

In essence, Dalibert's wonderful, hour-plus solo piano composition is a kind of process music, but one where its structural aspect can, if desired, be easily ignored, the listener perhaps choosing to simply be wafted along by the sumptuous, lingering tones.

One hears sets of single notes, evenly played. They arrive in sequences of 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8 and 9--I don't think there are any "5's" or anything greater than nine, but I could be mistaken. The sustain pedal is held down throughout. The rests between the phrases are, I believe, equivalent in seconds to the number of notes in the preceding phrase. The lengths of the phrases appear to occur randomly but are, in fact, generated by Dalibert's use of the Thue-Morse sequence, a mathematical theory well beyond my meager comprehension skills but one which, when used in certain ways, results in numbers that converge on the fractal curve known as the Koch Snowflake. There is a fine sense of repetition inextricably meshed with irregularity. The notes chosen, per Dalibert, "are only second major, third minor and fifth (or their reversal), in equal repartition so that the general color is diatonic, very slowly modulating."

What, then, does one hear? If I'm to make references, I sometimes think of it as halfway between a Tom Johnson work and the approach used by La Monte Young in parts of 'The Well-Tuned Piano', albeit without the retuning (!). There's a quasi-similar feeling of drifting, of floating while at the same time the soft rigor of the structure constrains too much wayward movement. The clearly struck notes (from a peek at a couple of pages from the score, often flatted) both stand forthright and, via the sustain, effervesce and dissolve into one another. Within each sequence, the notes tend to follow a similar pattern, enough so that it always feels familiar, perhaps previously heard, but really just slightly different; the same general environs but via differing glances. Also barely heard, but always a plus for this listener, is the distant sound of a street and what seems to be flowing water, as though from rain down a gutter; I love the sense of immersion this provides.

The music itself is watery--apparently clear on the surface, disappearing when examined very closely. One can listen to the structure, try to grasp its fractal nature or can just surrender and be borne along, irritation setting in only when the disc ends. In the interim, one floats.

Excellent, intelligent and rapturous work.


Saturday, August 11, 2018

Seth Cooke - Double B  (2015-2018) (Reading Group)

Seth Cooke has created many fantastic sounds over the past few years (see especially his 'Triangular Trade' on suppedaneum) and here's yet another set. Here, we're dealing with field recordings but not only have they been sonically manipulated (as Cooke puts it, "Five tracks of one-take pseudo-performative no-input field recording/field recording, upon which compression was piled until the structure broke under the weight."), but they carry referential weight as well. Cooke alludes to bullet holes in a sculpture, MP Jo Cox' stabbing and plans for attempts on the lives of Jeremy Corbyn and Sadiq Khan.

Even if, as I am, you're at some remove from these events, they and things of that nature are well worth keeping in mind as you listen to these five rather harrowing tracks. The sound field is abrasive, loud, skittering and clanging. Electronic scrapes collide with metallic bangs on 'Sun Tunnel (Solar Totem #1', the piece involving the sculpture (this one, I take it:)

This segues to 'The Centre Cannot Hold'--quieter but just as agitated, even more so--windy, buffeted electronics mingling with rapid scrapes and rasps, then dark, deep metallic strikes. On purely aural terms, just a spectacular excursion. In an odd way, 'The Crossing (Syria Notes #1)' ratchets up the unease, with a repeated (backward, I think) sequence of about seven grainy sounds in swift succession, over and over, with scrabbling beneath--I found myself, especially given the title, thinking of war plane fire over a city, its inhabitants scurrying for shelter. Its conclusion is even darker, summoning images of soldiers sifting through ruins in the aftermath. 'It Does Not Further One to Go Anywhere' is brief but cavernous and full of foreboding. The final work, 'Return of the Jihadi/No Platform', the longest piece here, may also be the subtlest. While the sounds are as acidic as ever, their melding is more generous, more integrated, multiple levels weaving and intersecting, maintaining very separate lines on the one hand, forming complex "balls" of multi-element noise on the other. There's a slow but steady surge, chillingly enhanced by a siren-like grind--think buzzsaw slicing metal--interrupted by blasts static? sharp fragments of other recordings?...I have no idea. And then simply crumbles.

Great work. Listen.

Thursday, August 02, 2018

Tim Feeney - Burrow (Marginal Frequency)

Percussionist Feeney seems to have been developing a new kind of minimalist approach in recent years, never before shown to as clear and excellent effect as on this cassette release. Two pieces, each 28-29 minutes long, each divided into segments sporting their own instruments. He first taps out a steady, quick rhythm on wooden sticks--I say "steady" but that's not strictly true as the pace fluctuates slightly and the tone deviates as well, presumably from the sticks being struck at various distances from Feeney's hands. Throughout, I'm unsure how much of the rhythmic variation is intentionally, how much due to fatigue or, as I suspect, there's a forgone accession to aspects of fatigue that Feeney knows will enliven the piece. After six or so minutes, he switches to a drum of some kind, maintaining both a similar beat and, again, varying the pitch by, in this instance, striking the drumhead at various distances from its center. I should emphasize that  all of these sounds exist in a very space, very pure, even dry atmosphere. It's just them and the room, quite bracing. This pattern continues with pieces of metal (loose and clangy), a hollow-sounding drum (wherein the pace becomes quite slow, the sound muted at a point), more metal (stiffer and less resonant, sometimes blurring the boundary--excellently--between "playing" and "beating") and concluding with some double-time on a drum with (guessing) some metal atop. There's a certain kind of benign brutalism in play that I love. A brilliant recording, highly recommended.

Grundik Kasyansky/Danil Gertman - Insect Angel (Llull Machines)

Kasyansky and Gertman are an audio/visual duo. Though my impression is that, live, Gertman works in a video format, he's a figurative painter, responsible for the cover image above and, as an example selected more or less at random, paintings like this one:

Kasyansky's music here is a kind of bumpy drone, winding, throbbing layers of electronics, not overly dense but resonant, all of it circling over a steady, muted beat. There's an interesting, semi-regular sound that lurks below the surface, sounding like a rotating machine that's slightly off-kilter, generating a set of soft taps when one of its sides rubs up against something it's not designed to. The main sounds shift ever so slightly over the course of the piece's 40 minutes, becoming more growly but essentially, we're in one territory for the duration. It's fine, very accommodating and easy enough to wallow in but I wanted to hear more change or depth and the pulse, after a while, begins to wear. It might well work better (for me) in a live context with imagery. But you can hear for yourself at Kasyansky's bandcamp site, linked to below.


Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Four releases involving Ilia Belorukov.

Wozzeck - Fact I (Intonema)

Wozzeck is a power trio, kind of, with Belorukov on synth and computer, Mikhail Ershov on bass guitar and Konstantin Samolovov on drums. 'Fact I' is a vinyl release comprising one 36 minute piece. It bolts from the gate with a hard-driving, lurching mass of music that strikes me as a blend of aggressive prog and late 80s thrash bands--mid-70s Crimson funneled through Pantera. The music is pounding and bracing, a disturbing siren-like whine circulating within the onslaught. Then an odd thing happens. About nine minutes in, the storm begins to fragment, the rhythms becoming blockier, the whine accompanied by others--things get (intentionally) confused. From here, the music sublimates, traveling from the initial "solid" state to an  increasingly gaseous one, all vague, quiet tones and blips, isolated bass plucks, distant, obscure voices. Some songs, a hymn. Eventually almost nothing but the  quietest of cymbal taps. A good idea, finely executed--nice job.

Phicus & Ilia Belorukov - k(nó)t (Intonema)

Here, Belorukov, on alto saxophone, teams up with the Spanish trio Phicus (Ferran Fages, guitar; Alex Reviriego, double bass; and Vasco Trilla, drums). The four pieces, improvisations' are pensive and groping, nicely subdued and investigatory. Occasionally, one of the musicians comes a bit to the fore, as Reviriego does on 'Gordian Knot', where he's brilliant and dark in a manner that recalls primo Haden. Trilla also has a fine way with vibrating bell-like tones, judiciously applied. The whole album has an aura of somberness about it but also a strong sense of curiosity, of quiet excursions into uncertain territory. Not  much else I can say except that I found it very satisfying and would recommend it highly.

Ilia Belorukov - Arzed-one (Albertineeditions)

KickGuitarSinRun - There & Back (Intonema)

Two releases, the second a DVDr with links to an online video, that showcase another very different facet of Belorukov's music: beats. 'Arzed-one' uses a 1986 Casio RZ-I drum machine and only six factory-installed sounds at that: kick, snare, open/closed hi-hat, clap and cowbell. The track titles,--for example, '170-160'--indicated the bpm range as, if I understand correctly, Belorukov slides gradually from one to the other. He writes that at high beat rates, he experiences the resultant sound more as a drone than as beats and that the gradual shifts create "unexpected relationships between sounds". Admittedly, this is a hard sell for me as I find the essential sounds and the associations with them that have built up over the years, to be more or less uncompelling. Then again, the almost entirely hidden hums that manifest (perhaps as a sonic artifact) can indeed be heard to fluctuate as the beat rate rises or falls, providing at least something of non-superficial interest (probably best experienced via headphones). More science experiment than deep sounds? You can be the judge.

'There & Back' takes the same basic idea--shifts in bpm--but a) re-locates the sounds to a distorted electric guitar (Pavel Medvedev) in addition to (lighter) computerized beats and b) adds video of a dancer (Daria Plohova in 'There' and Anna Antipova in 'Back'). They're filmed head on, in black and white, running in place in rhythm to the beats. They're intriguing exercises (also impressive physical ones as each runs about 43 minutes) and it's borderline fascinating to watch the variation in, especially, arm movements as they go from crisper at higher beat rates to more languid and, in context, almost carefree swaying during the slower periods. An odd kind of near-minimalism, somewhat hypnotic. 

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Lance Austin Olsen - Plato's Cave (Infrequency Editions)

Jamie Drouin - Paysage (Infrequency Editions)

Way back when, I received a 3-disc set on Mattin's label, W.M.O/r that consisted of a performance by Keith Rowe and Seymour Wright that had been recorded from three vantage points. At the time, I happened to have three devices on which to play CDs (stereo, computer, Xbox) so I listened to them simultaneously, not worrying much about the slight but inevitable time discrepancies involved in turning on the machines. It was great fun and, in some ways, revelatory. The idea of a more active way of listening, even at home, was an intriguing one.

For some reason, this came to mind when listening to these two fine releases, though of course they're individual, isolated sessions and don't even share anything close to a common duration. Plus I have only a single means of playing the discs at this time. But Olsen and Drouin have worked and recorded with each other often in recent years and, even as these two samples show very different approaches, there's an affinity in play that make me think that synchronous listening might not be a bad idea. Well, maybe one  of these days...

Olsen's album strikes me as surprisingly programmatic, especially in this neck of the woods. Credited (on the bandcamp site, not on the CDr sleeve) with "guitar, field recordings, amplified copper plates, stones, and assorted objects", Olsen produces sounds that indeed sound as though their source might be within a cave. The guitar is often played low and echoey and various objects that might range from ping pong balls to billiards in addition to the stones, are dropped onto dryly resonant surfaces. The sounds are vivid but spatially distinct; as in his visual works, Olsen seems to take great care with a combination of placement and texture. Seeing flickers and shadows on the wall--Plato's cave, indeed. The voices which intrude, twice--"You ready?", a grunted reply--add to the disembodied mystery, the sounds liquifying toward the work's conclusion, retaining several loud clacks. Wonderfully constructed, of perfect length (some 26 minutes) and entirely engaging--might be my favorite music I've heard so far from Olsen.

'Paysage' was recorded between 2005-2009 on a "Moog-style 5U modular synthesizer system" and occupies a pulsing, blurred world, steady-state in a sense but constantly shifting within that condition. There are several "chapters" with varying characters, some carrying eerily vocal connotations, others with brief, empty digital spaces interpolated, some where the hums are steady, others where the pitch shifts subtly, causing a small sense of queasiness. I'm tempted, given the Olsen release, to take this disc's title at its word and conjure up programmatic content here as well, particularly when, as occurs some 16 minutes in, a sounds that could be interpreted as rainfall suddenly appears; somehow, a sun shower is evoked. But the pervasive mode is the drone--always very rich, sometimes fluttering, sometimes melting into droplets, here anxious, there relentless. It's a solid, engrossing set, entirely fine and absorbing on its own, even if I still have a slight hankering to hear it mixed in with 'Plato's Cave'. 

Infrequency Editions

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Mike Westbrook - In Memory of Lou Gare (Westbrook Records)

Lou Gare died last fall at the age of 78. He, along with Keith Rowe, Eddie Prévost and Lawrence Sheaff, were founding members of the improvising ensemble AMM in 1965. Prior to that,  Gare, Rowe and Sheaff were also members of Mike Westbrook's group, Rowe since about 1958. This ensemble usually had between eight and eleven members (including John Surman, Mike Osborne and others) and,  in the context of British jazz of the time, was fairly forward-looking, Westbrook being quite partial to the denser, more complex arrangements of Ellington, Basie and Mingus as well as encouraging the musicians in his band to experiment with their own incorporations of newer music as well as that from non-Western influences. Unlike other AMM members, Gare never quite lost his attachment to jazz, particularly to the work of Sonny Rollins, Paul Gonsalves and others, forming a free jazz-ish duo with Prévost after AMM's initial split in 1972 and subsequent recordings of his own.

This disc selects performances by Westbrook's Uncommon Orchestra from 2010-2015 that featured Gare's tenor playing, sometimes complete tracks, sometimes excerpts. 'D.T.T.M.', Westbrook's lovely and moody homage to Ellington, opens with an unaccompanied solo by Gare and it's gorgeous--burred, warm, unhurried and bubbling with ideas, essentially soloing for the entirety of the track's twelve minutes; a superb performance. There's a fragment of Gare sparring with poetics from Marcus Vergette, several of him riding atop the ensemble, an excerpt from Westbrook/Rossini, improvising "his own overture to the Overture to The Barber of Seville' and much more. I especially enjoyed the two Strayhorn pieces, 'Johnny Come Lately' on which Gare stretches and pulls over some delightful arrangements from Westbrook and 'Lush Life', featuring Gare on his own, carving, once again, an extraordinarily inventive set of variations on the theme, never falling into cliché, remaining true to the source while ushering it just a bit outside its comfort zone. A second take on 'D.T.T.M.' ensues, every bit as enjoyable as the first before the disc closes with an extract from an early (1979) composition of Westbrook's, 'Graffiti', in which Gare's liquid phrasing heats up and begins to sizzle over some delightfully punchy band arrangements, recalling, to me, something of Sam Rivers.

A fine collection, ably showcasing Gare in this context. Required listening for AMM completists and simply a robust, throughly satisfying musical experience on its own merits.

Available via Westbrook Jazz

Musæum Clausum - Musæum Clausum (Umlaut Records)

This arcanely named trio (Wiki article on the source here) consists of Louis Laurain on cornet, Hannes Lingens on drums and Sébastian Beliah on bass. Laurain and Lingens were (are?) members of the intriguing ensemble, Die Hochstapler, which took compositions by Anthony Braxton and Ornette Coleman, rendering them with both astonishing precision and imaginative expansiveness. Here, the reference point seems to be Bill Dixon.

Three tracks. The first, 'A la ventura part 1 & 2', is a sprawling, pleasantly meandering piece, I assume an improvisation, with Laurain's burnished, almost woody-sounding cornet tracing considered and discursive paths over Beliah's gently probing bass and Lingens' brushes. There's an implied structure, but a loose, breathing one, fabric-like, that allows for a seemingly wide range of options. Laurain chooses an area then mines it, leaving much untouched but always locating value. 'Rarities in Pictures: a large submarine landscape/a night piece' begins with the bass leading the way, very forthright and blunt, reminding me a little of Ronnie Boykins with Sun Ra, Lingens switching to sticks on toms, the pair pushing . the music forward, leaving space in the furrows for Laurain to quietly investigate. The second half of the 20-minute track returns partially to the area explored in the first cut, but with a more regular, insistent bass, limning a firm line from which to drape the cornet explorations, lines iterated and expanded on by the drums toward the work's conclusion. 'Remarquable [sic] Books' kind of skirts the area between these two approaches. It's fine, but for me didn't add to much to what had already been presented; I think the album would have been served better by just the two first performances.

As is, Musæum Clausum is a strong, flowing and enjoyable disc, well worth checking out, especially by those unfamiliar with these musicians. I'm curious to hear what comes next

Umlaut Records

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Antoine Beuger/Dante Boon/Taylan Susam - beuger.boon.susam (Edition Wandelweiser)

I've had the very good fortune, twice, to attend solo piano recitals by Dante Boon, once several years ago in Amsterdam and more recently in Brooklyn. Each occasion was and extremely special, highly rewarding event, Boon playing works from Wandelweiser composers, transforming the space into a ind of temple. After the Amsterdam concert, I wondered if ever two hours of music had contained so few notes, yet so much beauty.

This recording is very similar to a Boon recital, consisting of a long work from Antoine Beuger, two shorter ones by Boon himself and a piece by Taylan Susam, each just so impressive, so thoughtful, so human. How to describe Beuger's 'pour être seul(e), sans réserve' (2009)? The softest of notes, high on the keyboard, individual, barely struck, more like caressed, open the work, isolated, glimmering. Some eight minutes in, simple chords, slightly bitter, more "aware", occur in sets of three, high-low-high, again hanging in small clusters, their beads reflecting something of the confusion of the earth below. It expands from there, shifting patterns, seemingly based purely on intuition rather than any system, always maintaining that ineffable delicacy that somehow remains grounded in the world. The music returns to single notes, eventually shading somewhat lower, slowly wafting to ground. Such deep, probing work, both in conception and execution.

Boon's 'years, numbers' (2012) uses a set of four tones, structured A-B-B-A where one note is constant, while another is added (or not), the duration of each varied with immense subtlety throughout (and interrupted midway through by a sequence of two-chord patterns). The combination of simplicity and slight variation works wonderfully as do the pitch choices made, imparting a melancholic, perhaps nostalgic air, as if the composer is thinking of a past bittersweet event, playing it back in his head, subjecting it to different possibilities, ways things might have gone. The brief 'nov. (piano)' (2011) contains calm sets of chords, a gentle promenade, ambling downhill, very lovely.

Susam's 'tombeau' (2014) begins with sets of four descending chords and, similar to the first Boon piece, retains the basic chord while augmenting the surrounding tones, then varies that a little, allowing the sounds to blossom like slow motion footage of a blooming flower, the pattern of petals offering regularity while the time sequence of their unfurling flows from regular to slightly less so. The basic downward trajectory is maintained for the most part, as befits a tombeau. Glints of other alternatives appear momentarily before the descent continues, no enhanced with lusher swaddling, some chords so lovely they cause one to shiver. A superb piece.

And a superb album altogether, as rewarding as those recitals I've witnessed. I can't recommend this one highly enough.

Edition Wandelweiser

I wanted to also mention three other releases in the current batch from EW, which I just don't have the time to write about at length (apologies!), but which all deserve to be heard:

Marianne Schuppe - nosongs; a set of works for voice and lute (the latter enhanced with uber-bows) that dwell in the territory explored by Morton Feldman in his extraordinary composition, "Only".

Toshi Ichiyanagi - sapporo; The 1963 piece performed here by eleven Seattle-area musicians (including our old buddy Robert J. Kirkpatrick) in 2010. Very quiet and filled with eerie, enchanting glissandi and rousing percussion.

Sergio Merce - three dimensions of the spirit; Further delving into his microtonal saxophone as well as a prepared tenor, all of them probing and fascinating. Some of the most intriguing saxophonics I've heard in years.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Johan Lindvall - giraffe (Edition Wandelweiser)

An enchanting set of fourteen pieces for guitar and occasional voice, performed by Fredrik Rasten.

It's always difficult, for me, to write about music "like" this, work that's at once spare, seemingly simple and very affecting. The choices made to arrive at that apparent simplicity are hard to determine, easy to appreciate. Apart from a set of five short works for voice and guitar, utilizing words from Marianne Moore, the music by and large consists of single notes or small, tonal chords suspended in space, allowed to glisten there momentarily, followed by another, forming a thin, transparent sheet which air surrounds and light permeates. Calling it calm or contemplative, while accurate, doesn't do the music justice; as with much of Antoine Beuger's music, there's an intimacy that's almost uncomfortable. One almost feels as though intruding on a private session, though it's plenty warm and welcoming enough to dispel the notion. It's all lovingly played by Rasten, whose approach almost necessarily recalls that of Cristián Alvear; if you've enjoyed the recordings from Alvear, you'll enjoy this.

The song suite stands apart, haunting and riveting. Softly sung, with sparse accompaniment, I was reminded a little bit of David Grubbs with the Gastr del Sol of some 20 years ago, a similar hesitant delicacy. As much as I enjoy the entire release, these five works are my favorite--a wonderful approach to song-form, a direction I'd love to hear pursued.

Very fine work overall, highly recommended.

Edition Wandelweiser

Monday, July 09, 2018

Cyril Bondi/d'Incise - kirari-kirari (Edition Wandelweiser)

Two works, each almost 20 minutes long, co-composed by Bondi and d'Incise (who are often, though not here, known as Diatribes, for a sextet made up of Bondi (vibraphone), d'Incise (metallic objects), Magnus Granberg (piano), Anna Lindal (Baroque violin), Anna-Kaisa Meklin (viola de gamba) and Christoph Schiller (spinet).

Each work is similarly structured: single notes in a regular rhythm, played roughly every four seconds. Some have rapid decays, others linger. They go in and out of strict unison, forming slightly staggered figures which coalesce now and then. Some instruments, I think, disappear for a few measures then resurface. I believe that a single pitch is maintained throughout each work, though there may be minor fluctuations and there are certainly differing techniques employed.

That's it--very little, in a sense, but it kept this listener rapt and enthralled. By isolating each set of tones within that four-second space, they're able to be "examined", sort of rolled around in one's palm, considered in and of themselves and in relation to what preceded and ensued. The combination of these particular instruments is quite...delectable. I sometimes have the impression of a string of beads, not jewels but rougher, only partially polished bits of stone and shell. The mix of contemplativeness and periodicity is very appealing, very thoughtful and thought-provoking. Another fine work from this pair.

Edition Wandelweiser

Tuesday, July 03, 2018

Matt Sargent - Ghost Music (Weighter Recordings) 

'Ghost Music' is a work for solo percussion, lasting about an hour, performed by Bill Solomon. Though not listed on the release or elsewhere that I could find, for the first half of the work, Solomon is playing an instrument that gives forth high, metallic sounds--I take it a celesta or glockenspiel, something in that family. It's largely struck (with what sounds like thin rods or sticks) but there's also sustained tones that sometimes sound bowed.

That first 30-odd minutes is comprised of sets of struck tones, often in small groups, with patterns like 3-3-5-5 or 2-2-6-5, later in short melodic sequences. I've no idea whether it's score or intuitive. The tonality at the start reminds me very much of that used  by Karl Berger (on vibes) on Don Cherry's 'Eternal Rhythm', which I believe was based on Balinese or Javanese intervals. Whatever, it's dreamlike, unearthly and gorgeous, the tones themselves silvery and ephemeral, their lingering hums...well, ghostly. There's something of a Feldmanesque irregularity in play, patterns that seem to form only to dissolve before apprehension. I also get a time-stretch effect; I think I've been listening an hour and it's only 20 minutes. This is a good thing.

About halfway through the work the sound-world shifts rather abruptly, announced by a steady rhythm of slightly deeper-pitched metals augmented by the odd single strike. Whereas earlier, the arrangement of patterns occupied a reasonably defined area, Sargent (or Solomon? not sure how much, if any, leeway is provided) now presents multiple episodes of varied approaches and attacks, often using metals of a less precisely defined pitch, perhaps bells of different types. There's more open space, more tone range, many different attacks in general, though everything remains embedded in that large space of the contemplative and observant. It'd every bit as fascinating as the first half even if (or because) the listener's footing is less assured. 'Ghost Music' closes with a return to the original instrument, now heard in a steady rhythm with accent strikes here and there and ultimately a quicker, lighter beat atop.

A wonderful work and one of the more substantive pieces for solo percussion I've heard in ages.

Prune Bécheau - Stries ton, tripes et poils (Weighter Recordings)

Like the above, also a solo recording, this time on Baroque violin, an instrument which differs from a standard violin in certain ways far over my pay grade to comprehend (but see here to understand more), played by the French violinist Prune Bécheau. Admittedly, coming into this recording (as with many solo ventures on "classic" instruments), I was hoping for any innovation, should it occur, to be more structural than having to do with extended techniques. Well, there's a bit of both here.

There are eight pieces and each demonstrates a different instrumental attack. The first, "introduction", probably carries the greatest allusion to a "traditional" sound, as a kind of melody--very lovely--circles around some grainy overtones. I should mention that the disc's title translates into "tone streaks, guts and hair, so you have a good picture of what's coming. In 'tlelel etl', Bécheau circles, arco, around a high pitch, generating a mosquito-like whine which she rapidly elaborates on within fairly narrow parameters, forming an impressive web that retains a plaintive air. Sometimes, as in "geqze tulilu", she manages to elicit a breathy sound more saxophonic than violin; if heard "blindfolded" I might have guess Michel Doneda. As mentioned earlier, part of me would like to hear this kind of approach used in service of a larger form, a more overall idea, but it's quite impressive on its own. Four shorter pieces investigate overtone manipulation that reminds me of some forms of Central African singing, a jaunty venture on a (near) single tone, a harsher, rubbery melodic line put through the wringer and a finely worried low string summoning images of North Africa. Bécheau concludes with the most complex work, 'zzffk zzffk', a swirling piece with buzzes, clicks, a certain rubbed attack that almost sounds like a chicken cluck and much more. It's an intense work, one I'd love to see performed live. As is, there's an abundance of fine material and deep, concentrated thought on display here. It's my first time hearing her work and eagerly look forward to more.

Weighter Recordings

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Alan Braufman - Valley of Search (Valley of Search)

This is a reissue (vinyl) of a recording that originally appeared on India Navigation in 1975, a quintet led by alto saxophonist/flutist Braufman with Gene Ashton (piano, dulcimer), Cecil McBee (bass), David Lee (drums) and Ralph Williams (percussion). Ashton would soon change his name to Cooper-Moore and this, in fact, Cooper-Moore's first recording.

As one might gather from the song titles ('Love Is for Real', 'Ark of Salvation', 'Destiny', etc.) this falls squarely in what one might think of as "Spiritual Jazz", following a path laid out by Don Cherry, Pharoah Sanders and others. That said, it's a very strong example of the genre. The rhythm section keeps things boiling (McBee, not surprisingly, is a huge help and has a lovely solo feature on 'Miracles'), referring to Central African music in a piece like 'Thankfulness', anticipating similar approaches a few years on from groups like Bengt Berger's Bitter Funeral Band. Braufman himself is quite a powerful player, notably on the aforementioned 'Love Is for Real'--think of a more visceral Arthur Blythe. A very fine recording, really not a weak moment to be found and an exemplary session from New York in the mid-70s, very much in the spirit of the times. I missed it the first time around, very happy to have it available once again.

Braufman on bandcamp

Stephen Cornford - Electrocardiographs of a Cathode Ray Tube (A Wave Press)

A 7" vinyl single which offers two tracks derived from the CRT of an old TV set. Without that information, I might have guessed the sounds to be coming from the jostling around of a jack in its socket, a series of sharp clicks and staticky hums. At first gloss it seems that that's "all" there is, but these are fascinating pieces. The more one listens, the more shades of color one hears, the more pattern relationships are discerned. Though both tracks are severe and reside in similar territory, there are differences, the second pitched somewhat lower and, for me, carrying a greater amount of regularity in its (quasi) rhythmic sequence, an underlying dark hum with sputters atop that erupt in a high squeak. The first has its own rhythm as well, but the texture is gnarlier. Again, listening multiple times (easier, give the brevity of the release), one parses out layer after layer of variation within a very confined stratum. This won't be everyone's cuppa by any means, but I got very much into it.

A Wave Press

Jacque Demierre - Abécédaire/AB C Book (Lenka Lente)

The folks at Lenka Lente produce releases like no other publisher I know, generally integrating text and sound in some manner. 

This one combines essays by pianist Demierre, arranged alphabetically by title, utilizing most of the alphabet. The texts are offered in both French and English, are generally a page or two in length and cover a range of subjects of interest to Demierre, including performance strategies (solo and in ensembles in which he participates, including LDP with Urs Leimgruber and Barre Philips, and DDK, with Axel Dörner and Jonas Kocher), thoughts on listening, on philosophy and its intersection with music and much more. 

The CD is something else again. Demierre's piece, 'Ritournelle' is spoken word, in a sense, the words derived from Wilhelm Müller and Franz Schubert's 'Winterreise', specifically the final song, 'Der Leiermann' ('The Organ Grinder'). Demierre extracts certain words, mostly (though not all) one syllable in length and breathlessly recites them in a fast, regular rhythm, repeating a given word numerous times before passing to the next, gulping for air on occasion. The insistency of the text, which is printed in the middle of the book, makes for extreme variations in tone as breath gives out, spittle intrudes and, one imagines, an amount of exhaustion sets in. It's mesmerizing, like a rough, raspy drone. After a while, you (maybe) stop hearing the voice/words and just let the odd sounds march by. I can't say I love it, but it's certainly intriguing.

Lenka Lente

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

I always forget that there might well be readers here who abjure facebook, so I should mention, a day late, that the Rowe biography is now officially available. People seem to like it. So give it a try. There's an Amazon link below but if you'd rather not give Amazon any business, it can be found elsewhere by googling my name and Keith's.



Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Trio Sowari - Third Issue (Mikroton)

The title doesn't lie--this is the third release from this fine trio, the first since 2008. I'm not sure if the gap is intentional or not, but they sound as fine as ever. Phil Durrant (modular and software synthesizers), Bertrand Denzler (tenor saxophone) and Burkhard Beins (percussion and objects) carve out a very unique sound area in the world of free improvisation, one that's quite full and colorful while avoiding over-satiation.

The opener, "Gravitation" lurches right into things--heavy synth, deep, clucking tenor and a range of brushes and bangs hurtle the listener into an active sound-world, filled with movement but also with significant space between objects. Denzler has never shied away from the saxophone-ness of his tenor, managing the difficult feat of incorporating it into a free-improv context without toting much unnecessary and distracting jazz baggage. He tends to keep his tomes low (by no means always) and balances reedy passages with extended techniques. More importantly, in music like this where "quiet" isn't as much an issue as elsewhere, he chooses his moments expertly. As do the others. Beins has long been a master at this and his brilliance is clearly in evidence. Durrant might be more the wild card; his subtlety is such that the non-concentrating listener might bypass him entirely, though his sounds are often the true glue binding matters. "Suspension" is about the drone, beginning with a wonderful low tone (Durrant, I think), soon joined by Denzler approximating the tone, generating flutters of interference. Eventually, Beins adds some slow, regular cymbal taps that are as perfectly appropriate as they are unexpected. This is followed by a brief palate cleanser of sorts, "Exploration", a set of almost discontinuous attacks that nonetheless manages to cohere quite well. "Levitation", the closer, tries to bring these disparate approaches into a single 9-minute pieces, utilizing drones (here, bowed metal), fluctuating tenor, and higher pitched synthesized hums. There's great elasticity here, a stretching and warping of fabric, the cloth smooth here, gnarly there. Billowing waves emanate outwards, blanketing one's ears--an excellent end to another fine, fine release from this under-recorded trio.


Bertrand Denzler/Félicie Bazelaire - basse seule (Confront)

What an amazing, impressive surprise.

While living in Paris, I was able to see Denzler a number of times in various contexts, always a joy. I was also able to hear and see Bazelaire on several occasions--I'd never heard of her before--and each time came away very impressed. Denzler's set of pieces for solo bass, with Bazelaire at the helm, is extraordinary.

There are nine tracks, seven of them "études" (numbered 7, 9, 10, 11, 14, 3 and 17) plus two works titles "3D4" and "3D1". The first five are all played arco and all occupy the nether depths of the bass. I'm not quite sure if the technical term is correct, but I'm thinking "wolf tones". Whatever, the sound is amazing. Even as the territory covered is similar, there's an enormous amount of variation and sheer gorgeousness in the sonorities. Long, low growls, endlessly rich and complex; I could wallow here forever. If you were knocked out, live or on recording, by Charles Curtis performing Éliane Radigue's 'Naldjorlak I', you need to hear this. The approach is severe, the results anything but. Be warned: your speakers may vibrate off their stands. The sixth track, 'étude 3', is pizzicato, but remains low, Bazelaire slowly, intently, strumming the depths; patient and lovely. Arco returns on the two non-étude works, but the structure and range of the bass is different. The lines are shorter, more overtly rhythmic, and the pitch range is greater, resulting in works that are perhaps more in the ballpark of solo music one may have heard in modern conservatories over recent decades, but with a roughness and rigor that remains rare. "3D1" and 'étude 17' depart even more from the previous pieces, both in the amount of open space and in the higher pitches negotiated (arco). The final work wanders into a dreamy and fine area, an almost sing-songy back and forth, very plaintive and, again, not without grit and grain.

A truly exceptional release, very refreshing and imaginative.


Friday, June 22, 2018

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

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

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

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

Tone List

Slobodan Kajkut - Darkroom (God Records)

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

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

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

God Records

Sam Weinberg - A/V/E (Anticausal Systems)

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

Sam Weinberg

Anticausal Systems

Wednesday, June 06, 2018

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

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

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

Another Timbre

Saturday, June 02, 2018

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

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

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

Dante Boon - Düsseldorf recital (Rhizome.s)

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

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

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

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

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

Morgan Evans-Weiler - iterations & environments

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

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


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

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

Moving Furniture

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


Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Anne Guthrie - Brass Orchids (Students of Decay)

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

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

Students of Decay

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Ghost Ensemble - We Who Walk Again (Indexical)

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

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

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

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


Wednesday, May 23, 2018

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

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

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


Monday, May 21, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

Marginal Frequency

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Asher Tuil - Multiplicities
Asher Tuil - Reduplications

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

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

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


Wednesday, May 16, 2018

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

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

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

Grisha Shakhnes - ARCS (Marginal Frequency)

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