Friday, April 18, 2014

Emiliano Romanelli - 333 Loops (Volume 1) (Terziruolo)

An ongoing question I've raised, here and to myself, is with regard to the evaluation of field recordings, specifically why I enjoy this one but not that one. It's perplexing and difficult, for me, to quantify. A similar quandary can arise with the area of music produced here by Romanelli, which I enjoy quite a bit: dreamy, electronic clouds carrying something of an organ-y quality that waft along with no rhythmic reference or apparent structure. There will be many cases where I'm almost immediately bored but once in a while, I'm just as immediately captivated, as is the case here. I'm pretty certain it has something to do with perceived depth of field which, in this instance, is interesting as the layers seem to be composed of elements without very high degrees of contrast (no rough rumblings under smooth surfaces, for example) but instead there seem to be multiple strands that are constricted into a reasonably narrow spectrum. Yet it works.

Three pieces that segue imperceptibly into one another, performed live in September 2013, apparently Romanelli's initial venture into live performance after having been a part of the duo Tu m' since 1998. The music is the result of a computer program he designed which is "able to generate live 110889 sound events" of which we hear numbers 148, 149 and 150. A pulse of sorts manifests on occasion, more a circular kind of sound, as though you're hearing a reduced recording of a ball bearing rotating around the interior of a metal bowl. Somehow, the kind of fluff you expect never appears; the music manages to attain a kind of hard edge despite the diffusion and "glow". There's something oddly ruthless about it. Romanelli quotes Picabia, "The future is a monotonous instrument." and something about that quotation resonates strongly. Perhaps it's that, beneath all the seeming lushness there's also a sense of bleakness. Whatever the case, it's very much worth your while.

Excellently mastered by Giuseppe Ielasi and contained in a finely designed package by Ben Owen.


Tim Olive/Jason Kahn - Two Sunrise (845 Audio)

It's funny how perceptions linger. Having heard any number of Jason Kahn recordings from early in the oughts (and seen him in performance), I still retain this dumb preconception when I see his name on a release, that it will contain some precision, even obsessive rhythmic motifs, despite the fact that the last few occasions I've encountered his work, this hasn't been the case. Tim Olive's name, of course, suggests nothing of the sort and this recording, documenting their first meeting in 2012, is redolent of the rough-hewn, splatter electronics I've known in Olive's work while at the same time somehow evoking a shattered version of Kahn's percussion music (though both here are on electronics, Olive also using a magnetic pick-up). The result is a harsh, dense and spiky ride through territory adjacent to that plowed by the fine Seoul crew but, generally, gummier, more chewy, the sounds more strand-like than prickly. Percussion is evoked as well as a range of sounds that recall strings of various kinds, gut to metal. There are a handful of relatively calm moments, but the thrust is toward the torrential, most of the elements pushing the music forward, elbowing it, even. Good, tough work, not for the faint-hearted.

845 Audio

Yann Gourdon - s/t (Drone Sweet Drone)

(I like the idea of the Romanelli and Gourdon releases bracketing the Olive/Kahn)

As the label's name implies, we're deep in drone territory here. I know nothing of Gourdon and little info is provided with the disc. What I can discern from the net as well as what my ears tell me is that Gourdon in some manner uses a hurdy-gurdy, though I take it processed to an extreme degree. It's one thing the whole way through, a veritable foie gras of a drone, layered to an almost obscene level of richness, all sorts of flavors swirling around, the overall texture silky smooth. After a while, you begin to pick out (or imagine) quasi-melodies buried in the mix but the music is so densely packed, it's hard to follow a given thread for any length of time. Though it uses nothing like the same sound-set, I'm somehow reminded of that classic of ambiance, Laraaji's "Day of Radiance". This goes on for a good 40 minutes at which point the listener will likely be either totally aggravated or luxuriating in the bath. Me, I'm somewhere in between; it's enjoyable enough but I felt I'd gleaned what there is to be absorbed halfway through and was searching for deeper levels. Very attractive of its kind, though.

Drone Sweet Drone

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Dariusz Mazurowski - Back in Time (Mathka)

Ten pieces mostly for tape from this Polish composer, hitherto unknown to me.

Over the past few years, I've had occasion to hear music from a number of Polish electro-acoustic composers, largely via the Bôłt label. Some of it has stood apart, in my ears, but I have to say that much is a kind of blur to me. This is partially, if not largely due to both my relative lack of knowledge in the genre as well as my having not a huge amount of general interest in it. Something about what tends to get grouped under the mantle, "tape music" has, for me, a certain amount of sameness, a kind of sheen that doesn't automatically draw me in. So if I say that Mazurowski's music, as represented here (and the pieces span 20 years, from 1992-2012, so I assume it's a good sampling) strikes me as just ok, you'll have to bear in mind this existing prejudice.

I can say that I find it subtler, less purely effects-driven than much other work I've heard in this territory. Even if the underlying language is similar, the tonal inflection is more muted, carries less of the ear-blinding sparkle that I find too often to be the case. Still, the elements get a bit tired: the turntables, the garbled speech extracts, the "ironic" influx of classical music snatches, the historic audio documents (WW II speeches, phone calls with astronauts) etc. Sift these out and there are very nice stretches--the lonely, metallic echoes during parts of"Aleatoric Quartet", the soft moments in "Quartet for 4 Turntables", the vaguely Riley-esque (circa "You're No Good") iterations of "Art Against Decadence" and tyhe purrs and growls of the concluding "Ice Totem". It's very well constructed work and doubtless, will serve those with real interest in the area just fine, but it remains hard for me to get too excited about.

Eliška Cílková - Pripyat Piano (Mthka)

Pripyat was once a city of 50,000 but then Chernobyl occurred. Cílková visited the deserted city in 2010, 24 years after the event, and happened upon an old piano in an abandoned apartment. She then sought out others, eventually compiling the music heard here, eight pieces for eight different pianos in various stages of degradation. The clear precedent for this approach is the work of the Australian composer/pianist Ross Bolleter, though his pianos (and accordions) had tended to be "cured" in the Australian sun whereas those discovered by Cílková necessarily have a more tragic aura about them. Unlike Bolleter, who more or less glories in the low level of "traditional" sound he's able to wring from his objects, Cílková tends to find the most conducive aspects of a given keyboard: if the low notes are fairly functional, that's where she dwells; if only the strings yield clear tones, then use them. But she also remains cognizant of the environment, so one hears the water leaking through the ceiling onto the piano in the city's Concert Hall, the resonance of an otherwise empty apartment or the ticking of a Geiger counter. She uses electronics to construct a repetitive series of interlocking patterns, including much knocking on the wooden bodies, on "Torsos of non-playing pianos", integrates a "healthy" keyboard with the found ones ("In Prague"), resulting in very poignant, fractured melody and ends with a lovely evocation of church bells, gently tolling some injured, upper register keys.

A very affecting release. This is also my first exposure to Eliška Cílková's work and I'm eager to hear more.


Thursday, April 10, 2014

Małe Instrumenty - Kartacz (Bôłt)

Małe Instrumenty translates to "small instruments" and is the name of this quintet made up of Paweł Romańczuk, Marcin Ożóg, Tomasz Orszulak, Jędrek Kuziela and Maciek Bączyk, all working in the "toy music" realm. The disc consists of one short work by the composer Włodzimierz Kotoński and six pieces by Romańczuk.

Kotoński's "Study for One Cymbal Stroke" (1959) sounds like nothing of the kind, instead a whimsical, three-minute exploration of a string of curious, even humorous sounds: whistles, whangs, tinkles, blurts and such from various sources. Very charming and setting the stage for the works that follow. As with the older composition, there's much use of disparate sound sources; indeed, each piece is like a mini-handbook for a range of them. For me, there's a balance between the sheer, sensual enjoyment of these sounds (which is significant) and their kind of episodic presentation, tending toward a string of elements, overlapping here and there, but less a "composition" than a series. Sometimes this works quite well (the title track, which means "a canister shot", with its vocal interjections is one example, creating a bit of a cartoon effect that's quite delicious), other times it feels less substantial. "Inops Ventilex", with its wonderful swells from one or more accordions (plus, I think, some cheap keyboards, maybe Casios, imitating accordions) stands a bit apart, both powerful and wryly humorous, a very strong piece as is the closing "SiToPhony", with dark pulses that, while still referring to the comic, edges toward the macabre. At the end of things, a bit hit and miss but more of the former than the latter and worth hearing.

Andrzej Bieżan - Polygamy (Bôłt)

Bieżan (1945-1983) was a Polish pianist and composer who worked in jazz, avant-classical and theater music, inventing instruments and playing unusual ones (like the marine trumpet). Seven pieces are presented on this two-disc set, Bieżan appearing on several (on piano and Yokobue flute), with the participation of Jacek Malicki (electric guitar), Zdzisław Piernik (tuba) and Marcin Krzyżanowski (cello).

"Archangel's Sword" is a tape work from 1980, filled with ringing tones and a sense of underwater mystery, managing to skirt most of the patinas that I find often coat similar music. It has an investigative feeling and tingles quite nicely, with some lovely dark undertones and knocks toward the end. "Atmospheres" and "Birds", from 1972, sound a bit like strung-together improvisations, guitarist Malicki very Frithian at times, Bieżan playing delicate, slightly abstract piano and going for a shakuhachi sound on the transverse flute--pleasant and well-done, if with a bit on ECM tang. ANother performance from 1972 is simply titled,"Improvisation" and documents a live set by the Intuitive Music Group, featuring Piernik's tuba and live sound shaping by Wojciech Chyła. Without going so far as to make a qualitative comparison, parts of it sound very AMM-like (circa "The Crypt"), though others include a satiric edge that was never in AMM's repertoire (and don't help matters here).

Disc Two opens with the title cut, "Polygamy", another tape work from 1978-79, more substantial than "Archangel's Sword",, with a thicker ply of sound, again happily edging toward the dark and dank, leaving the "humor" behind and dispensing with much of the typical tape parlance of the period--impressive. "I Was and I Was", for tuba and cello, in interesting for the contrast, Piernik staying quite low and growlsome, while Krzyżanowski treads more lightly, using the vocabulary of the classical world, from neo-Romantic to Pendereckian, though again, it seems that he can't avoid, at times, casting the low horn in a semi-comedic role. The last half of the piece quiets down and works quite well, even if the cello assumes the jester's hat momentarily. Lastly, we have "Isn't It?", an electronics piece and the final work by Bieżan before his death (from injuries sustained in a car accident). It begins with light percolations, descends into a wonderful, whirling, chaotic maelstrom, ultimately surfacing with a jaunty little rhythm, skipping on down the road. The composition seems to encapsulate Bieżan inasmuch as I can determine from his music as offered here. Inconsistent perhaps, but pretty fascinating work that I'm very glad to have heard.


Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Enrico Malatesta - Benandare (Weighter Recordings)

Not your usual solo percussion recording.

Malatesta offers three tracks, using "skin instruments and metal objects", each occupying more or less the same area but with subtle differences. That area involves a kind of dry, resonant scraping, presumably brought about by simply moving the objects over the skin=clad surfaces in a roughly circular motion. The pieces are titled, collectively, "Immersion/Artifice", the second half of which causing me to wonder if there's something going on that I'm not picking up but I'm satisfied, as is, with the apparent simplicity of the work. The first track almost sounds like muffled drum rolls recorded from a large distance, as though around the corner in a cavernous building or, indeed, a cave. There's something liquid/metal about it too; had I been told it derived from a torrent of water, irregularly pulsing, surging into a pipe, I might not have batted an ear. The second diverges from this only slightly, the sounds a bit drier, but also feeling somehow remote, listened to from afar. And the final piece seems to have made the transition to the rubbed surfaces (making me think that those "drum rolls" were my imagination), dry and resonant, the metallic element deferring to the grain of the skins. Each piece maintains its form throughout, the overall cast not shifting, just the internal movements and pulses, the latter always present, insistent but not quite regular.

A very interesting album, working fine as a recording but, as is often the case, creating a hankering in me to hear it in situ, a hundred or so feet away from Malatesta, around that corner.

Weighter Recordings

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Sybella Perry - Grey Ladies (Porta/Hideous Replica)

The Grey Ladies is the local name for an English stone circle more genrally known as Nine Stones Close. In this brief (17-minute) work, Perry brought a team of recorders and at least one vocalist, Samuel Ayre, to the site and, judging from the photos included in a fairly elaborate sleeve design, including a transparency, had them both record the environment and their own voices in various degrees of proximity to the monoliths, distant to right up in their "faces". I'm not sure if it's the case, but my impression is that the performance documented here is but one extract from that event and I'm also guessing that the vocals were more or less improvised by Ayre, with the electronic accompaniment perhaps by Perry. Maybe the site is especially quiet but one odd thing that struck me immediately was the lack of obvious ambient sound save for, I think, some buffeting of the mics by wind later int he piece. You hear Ayre, usually in a deep wordless drone, sometimes using mild vocal chording, with low, oscillator tones (close to a bass clarinet in character) and a rough crackling from an obscure source. Ayre appears to be approximating the sine tones though it's tough to say if the beats one hears are from that relationship or inherent in the electronics.

So, a couple of things. Some of us, and I guiltily include myself, have a kind of inborn prejudice against at least certain vocal stylings in experimental music and while Ayre doesn't get to Tom Buckner territory, there are enough intimations of that to cause slight discomfort in this listener. Second, listened to purely as sound/music, without regard to context, "Grey Ladies" is only moderately interesting to me. Third, most importantly, if there's any real use or reference to the stones in question, I'm missing it. I'm hoping the thought wasn't simply that nearness to the site would engender some kind of quasi-mystical transference of aesthesia. Is Ayre singing into a concavity that's shaping his sound? At the site below, where you can hear an excerpt, there's the stated goal of attempting "to resonate a stone circle". I don't know but I'm not picking up any particularly stonelike aspects here; I could easily be missing something, maybe you had to be there.

Hideous Replica

Merzouga - Live at Fluc (Attenuation Circuit)

Quite a different offering from Merzouga (Eva Pöpplein, computer and Janko Hanushevsky, prepared bass guitar), at least compared to my previous exposure to their work--a live, improvised set from 2012.

Their music somehow lies well outside the normal eai ambit, though it's hard to pinpoint exactly where. Hints of Fennesz sometimes, certainly a similarly great concern with color and Hanushevskys bass more often than not fulfills a more or less standard role, providing a bed for the computerized sounds and field recordings generated by Pöpplein, enough so that you can listen to it as a kind of severely attenuated, pastoral pop music, but there are other things going on as well. It's a very relaxed set, seemingly without any preconceived trail markers, quiet as a rule but active, occasionally settling into moments that approximate song-forms (some of the most rewarding minutes, to me, as occurs about twelve minutes in, for example), though the last minute or so enters a frenetic area and the performance ends with a sudden, harsh plunk. Up to then, we've been on a kind of amble, Pöpplein's sounds verging on the figurative (birds, insects, more) but never, happily, coming into clear focus. Once in a while, the bass grow a bit busy for my taste, but usually just provides a very accommodating cushion as well as elaborating on the field recordings. It's dreamy and beguiling, the pair maintaining interest pretty consistenly over almost 40 minutes, perhaps never cutting too close to the bone but also avoiding easy prettiness and discovering some lovely sound-worlds along the way. Worth checking out.

Attenuation Circuit

Monday, April 07, 2014

Neil Davidson/Michael Duch - Oera (Consumer Waste)

Intrigued by the unfamiliar term, I looked it up and could only find it used as the initial word of the Oera Linda Book, a tome of dubious provenance. A lovely word, in any case.

The first piece sets up a fine, continuous stream of sound, Davidson bowing his guitar rapidly (I assume it's a bow of some sort, but I could be entirely mistaken and that something else is being rubbed across the strings), Duch playing almost exclusively arco in longer, broader sweeps, creating a very rich web, sustained for some 18 minutes but with (relatively) minor variations in dynamics, tonality and harmonics abounding. There's even a point, late int he piece after a particularly deep drone has set in, that a handful of bass plucks recalls classic Charlie Haden. Excellent work. The second track is a far more astringent one, the guitar plucked, the bass bowed in high regions; ok, but the kind of thing routinely heard over the years. The third (all are untitled) is fuller, almost pastoral in a refreshing and hesitant way, deep short bowings by Duch buffeted by gentle but questioning strums from Davidson; both taut and sensitive. The last track returns to the general climes of the first, Dach bowing at a quicker pace, Davidson generating wonderful, high harmonics. Again, the tempo is maintained more or less throughout, the space completely carpeted. And again, the result is totally engrossing, time-suspending. Good stuff, likely my favorite music I've heard from either.

D'incise - Impermeability (Consumer Waste)

Apparently this is D'incise week on Just Outside, though this is a very different work from the one written about in my prior post. "Composed from recordings of sparkling liquids and gases", "Impermeability" is quite clearly just that. Most of the sounds, apparently presented several plies thick, are recognizable to those of us (everyone?) who have spent some moments delighted by the bubbling of sodas or the delicate expulsion of gases (all such recorded eruptions heard here are delicate!) from various sources. Even though the sounds derive from unrelated phenomenon, it's tough not to think of Lee Patterson's "Egg Fry #2" on Cathnor, but that had a single-minded focus which isn't the case or point here as D'incise is constructing his work much as is done routinely with field recordings. It's funny, but sometimes I even have the sense of a kind of gestural playing here, when one of the gases erupts in a bit of a flourish, like an errant saxophone...Finally, while entirely listenable, I find that I'd rather hear fewer sounds, with more concentration, than the cascade arrayed here. Still, it works well enough by its own lights and is an enjoyably fizzy quaff.

Consumer Waste

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Bruno Duplant/Ryoko Akama - Espèces d’espaces (Suppedaneum)

Four pieces, each about ten minutes long, the first two composed by Duplant, the last pair by Akama (all graphic scores, based on the work of Georges Perec), performed by both.

Though I've been given photos of the accompanying stuff that comes with this release, I admit I'd rather be able to deal with it tactilely than via download, which is how these were heard. The first work, for instance, is presented as a small jigsaw puzzle:

Well, I might have made the tiles more varied in shape, but still...It sounds great, though, a combination of ambient sounds, including some underlying bass-like tone, electrical pops and, most intriguingly, an ongoing sequence of noises that sometimes sounds like the snipping of scissors, others times like thin, smooth metal discs being rubbed across each other in one's hand. Also, unlike almost everything in this neck of the woods, there are frequent, very brief stops and starts, a feature that lends a really nice structure and, oddly, adds to the sense of rapid forward movement. At least a portion of the score for the second track shows a drawing of a tree. Here, we again hear various layers of ambience, clicks, beeps, hisses and the like, fairly muted, with Akama reading text, presumably Perec, in French and English, leaving substantial space between phrases. It's very low key, easy to listen to and/but drifting pass without making a real impression. That may be a strength, though.

Akama's fist work involves text instructions with overlays as seen below:

It seems to be the first option that's performed here, the piece divided into four approximately equal parts. We hear a series of patient, beautifully suspended bell tones, tapping, soft crumpling static, etc. with Duplant's calm voice pronouncing individual words in French. The music grows subtly more intense as it continues, a strong sine tone manifesting, but the voice remains steady. A wonderful piece. The final work involves a map (showing a portion of South Korea shoreline and sea) and text instructions presented in poetic fashion. The sounds include something of a wave-breaking aspect, though it could just as easily be torrents of steam or a lava flow. It's very full, several layers thick and, like the first track, carrying a forward surge. A high, delicate sine-like tone (or complex of tones) pokes in for a few moments, very lovely. It crumbles away, returns, sizzles a bit, then disappears.

A very rewarding venture, well realized. Give a listen.

D'incise - ILHAS (Suppedaneum)

If I understand correctly (and I *think* I do), D'incise constructed an electronic score consisting of a series of chords, 38 of them, to be played in a fixed sequence but with their individual durations to be multiples of ten seconds, at the discretion of the performers, the chords to be separated by four seconds of silence, the total performance lasting 20 minutes. Atop this, the musicians create sounds on prepared drum heads, following certain directions and preferences but allowing for a substantial amount of variation from one version to another.

The disc contains three tracks: a rendition by D'incise, one by the duo of Jamie Drouin and Hannes Lingens and the original chord sequence. I'll take the last track first. Aside from casually noting that some of the sequences don't seem to take the 10-second admonition too seriously, one notes that they do vary in length, more or less randomly (or at the non-random discretion of the purveyor}. More interestingly, the sounds usually possess an ambiguous tonality, very rich but with a wonderful sweet/sour complexion, leaving me curious as to whether or not there was a specific method of construction or if it was entirely "sensual". It's enjoyable enough listening on it sown but (admittedly, perhaps only in hindsight) you can hear how it could serve as a template or underpinning. Listening to D'incise's own full version, you immediately notice the added vibrations of skin, but the relationship between the new sounds and the original is more subtle. They have the same duration but you get the sense of space between them, the electronics underneath, a small space atop (I think of a half-inch or so for some reason) then the dry rumble of the drumhead suspended above. Another clear, yet delicious point is the contrast between the creaminess of the electronic tones and the irregularity of the addition with all sorts of pops and rattles ornamenting the basic skin-rubbing. The result is an unusual and rich contemplative space; as is often the case, I'd love to hear this in a live situation imagining a given room would only heighten the complexity. The piece as realized by Drouin and Lingens necessarily involves more sound and a consequent increase in density (not to mention range of sounds, though the pair here stay in fairly circumscribed limits), though there remains that crucial, to my ears, amount of space between layers. The base tones, by this time, have become something like old friends and produce an added point of interest in hearing how they're used and molded. I found the duo version the richest and can only wonder about variations with other musicians.

Very good work, oddly restful yet full of a kind of tension. Want more.


Friday, April 04, 2014

More from Downloadistan...

Vomir - pour monsieur Jean ou l'amour absolu (Crisis Records)

A cassette release, the first on Julien Héraud's new label, 23 minutes of uncompromising noise. Vomir (Romain Perrot) has stated, "My dedication is to no dynamics, no change, no development, no ideas. Total static harsh noise, crusting, crushing, crackling.” Fair enough and true to his word. I think the lack of dynmaic change makes the difference here. In my reasonably limited encounters with the pure noise scene, I've found far too much of a rock sensibility for my taste, a machismo that almost necessarily includes orgasmic crescendi. Here, Vomir begins at a high intensity level, as rough a slab of electric hardscrabble as you're likely to hear, and simply stays there. You tend to search, and quite possibly invent, sound buried deep in the maelstrom, sounds that shift or progress, something I imagine Perrot would rather you didn't. Experiencing it in situ would doubtless be a better option, though I'm guessing it wouldn't be too different from a Francisco Lopez-type experience (checking images online, I see audiences with gray plastic bags on their heads instead of blindfolds). Well done and resolute if not the world-shattering event Vomir has in mind.

Crisis Records

Inside/Outside - Rooms

(disclosure: Don Campau is the gentleman who asked me to host my radio podcast at KWTF. Do check it out, KWTF--airs three times on Mondays)

This is the duo of Russell Leach (synths, percussion, etc.) and Don Campau (guitar, bass guitar, field recordings, electronics, etc.), here presenting thirteen tracks, twelve of which include single guest musicians (Susan Alcorn, pedal steel; Mike Khoury, viola, tambura; James Hill, trumpet; Kyle Bruckmann, oboe, analog electronics; Amy Denio, voice; Bryan Day, invented instruments; Tom Djll, trumpet, toy megaphone; Anna Zaradny, alto sax; Al Margolis, manipulations; Jon Raskin, electronic berimbau; Eric Glick rieman, prepared Rhodes electric piano; Robin O'Brien, voice). I'd previously heard Campau on several tracks among a mass of Hal McGee recordings I received a few years back; wasn't crazy about most of it but Campau's contributions stood out. Here, the pieces, while strung together as a kind of suite (rooms), wander all over the place though they're generally of a gentle demeanor, couched in comfortable, if sometimes wacky electronics. My preferences run toward the more song-based tracks, not so much the freer ones, including a lovely country-jazz lilt with Alcorn, a funky Jon Hassell/Cherry with Codona number featuring Hill, a charming song with Denio, a jaunty thing with Djill that has echoes of Byrne/Eno, the duo's own "solo" piece, and the closing track, a lush and somber, Gaelic-tinged, with O'Brian. A fun mélange, go wallow.

Bandcamp site

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Angharad Davies - Six Studies (Confront)

(Aside from the fact that the cover is in line with all of the other Confront metal-box cases, the images I located on-line were all in some non-.jpg format and wouldn't load here. Hence the above photo instead which, anyway, is pretty nice.)

For her first solo recording, Davies chooses not to present improvisations or realizations of composed pieces but, very openly, a set of studies for violin, each titled with reference to the specific activity involved, each concentrating on one (complex) exercise, one of them with three variations. This can present a challenge for the listener more normally attuned to improv or composition. To the extent one hopes for, say, transcendence of some kind, here I think of it more as a kind of anatomy lesson, that these explorations are parts of the violin.

One of the immediately apparent aspects of the music is the amount of layers in play, often two or three distinct sound areas generated by one (complex) action that, though in fact related, sometimes sound as though issuing form two or more distinct voices. On the opening track, "circular bowing study", the rapid rhythm, insistent but never quite precise, apposes brief, guttural groans with wispy, rosiny scrapes, low and high, the phasing seeming to be somehow different though obviously made with the same sweep of the arm. As with all the pieces, Davies does "one thing" throughout; the fascination develops as the listener delves into everything that's occurring, much of which isn't apparent at first blush. "balancing spring on strings", in three versions, presumably involves just that. I seem to hear a bit of a metallic tinge in the opening, strong plucks, less when the dense harmonic bowing ensues. I should say at this point that listeners for whom the sound of harmonically played violin is the source of extreme distress will find this extra tough going. I have a bit of that feeling latent and need to consciously shift into a "pure sound" frame of mind, something I should be doing anyway of course, and all is well. Again, multiple layers are in effect, often one or two more than are obvious at first; I recommend playing at a decent volume to really appreciate all that's going on--the third variation enters especially wonderful, complicated areas. (I should also mention Sebastian Lexer's excellent recording, including the room, the sounds of which linger between tracks--found myself wondering if these were all recorded in one continuous take.)

"tremolo & plastic peg study" consists of quiet, rapid strokes, more material than tonal, that begin to wildly fluctuate in volume and bow pressure, maintaining the quick pace, again shifting across several discrete sound areas form low graininess to ultra-high whistling. There's a fine obsessiveness in play here, as though Davies is scouring the far corners of her instrument, making sure every possible crumb of sound is located. A single rich pluck begins "pizz, nail file & fingers study", followed by a stronger one and then, I'm guessing, the nail file. A similarly structured section follows, very stark, almost bitter, sort of a Beckettian atmosphere. In this piece, I do have a sense of Davies' having pushed things beyond the sound-fascination stage into something quite poignant and beautiful.

A fine recording, enjoyable on many levels. Here's hoping there are more to come.


Tuesday, April 01, 2014

The Ames Room - In St. Johann (Gaffer)

The day I arrived in Paris, in February of 2013, Jacques Oger called to welcome me and let me know that The Ames Room was performing the following evening in the cave of a restaurant near the center of town. This was my first chance to catch them live, after hearing and enjoying several albums. There were two sets, with intriguing differences. In the first, their approach seemed to become clear to me, at least on this occasion if not always: Each member of the trio (Jean-Luc Guionnet on alto, Clayton Thomas on bass and Will Guthrie on drums) would improvise a short sequence, say between two and ten notes then repeat the phrase over and over, virtually hammering it into the ground before moving to the next. The duration of these iterations would vary at the whim of the musician. The result was a fascinating kind of subtle brutalism, the naked aggression of the sounds (they were routinely loud, fast and rough) offset, to my ears anyway, by the shimmering shifts of relationships both within a given, brief time bracket and over a longer stretch as new phrases entered. It's the kind of approach you might be more likely to hear with more delicate elements, emphasizing the transparency and laminal effects. Not here. Guionnet especially imbued each phrase with a ferociously hard-edged burr. I enjoyed it greatly but, at the same time, found myself wondering if this idea )if such it was) was enough to sustain an ensemble for more than an album or a set. When they returned for the second half of the show, to my surprise and pleasure, they seemed to begin where they'd left off and move outwards, retaining the ferocity but somehow loosening the rigorous constraints of the fractured, short phrasing and allowing the music to unfurl a good bit, as though this hard-edged trio had just heard "Ascension". A strong, thrilling set indeed.

I have no real idea how typical that evening was or if it was simply one out of many approaches the trio put into play. This recording is from March, 2012, about a year before the concert in Paris and consists of one 40-minute slab o' juddering force. The repetitive aspect, while clearly present, is less obsessive than was the case in my concert experience. Guthrie sets off with a tremendously awkward figure, lurching and stumbling but knowing precisely what he's doing, generating a great staircase-fall cadence. Thomas, who often struck me as Favors-like, if so here, with a similarly "brutal" approach, dark, booming and resolutely non-pyrotechnic while Guionnet generates tight, harsh clusters of notes, separate kernels, exploding/oozing. They do seem to slide in and out of the attack I described above but with great fluidity, apparently not wedded to a given strategy. It's an odd thing. I vacillate between hearing the "moment" wherein the trio sounds more or less like a pretty good free jazz trio, not exactly my area of interest these days, albeit one with an incredible drummer (his stop/starts are always great fun), and standing back and trying to get a handle on the overall form, when things become more absorbing. Granted, this may be exactly the opposite to most folks' reactions, but there you go. It's exhausting but I gather that's one of the points--no let-up but also no real overindulgence, though some may disagree with that assessment. I hear it as a kind of block of compressed sound and in some ways relate it to Guthrie's work from several years ago, like "Spear" and, well, "Building Blocks". Part of me is curious to have known what would be the experience of hearing this trio time after time, over a long stretch. I'd feel pretty battered, I'm sure, but I wonder if I'd develop a better appreciation for the range of ideas. From what I understand, Thomas is moving back to his native Australia so there might not be many Ames Room albums in the future. In the meantime, as I've said before, if you want to term this music "free jazz", I'm not sure there's a stronger ensemble around. If you don't, it's still a major kick in the ass.


Monday, March 31, 2014

Ernesto Rodrigues/Radu Malfatti/Ricardo Guerreiro - Late Summer (Creative Sources)

A 2-disc set containing a pair of 40-minute slices from two days of performances of Rodrigues (viola), Malfatti (trombone) and Guerreiro (computer), both very beautiful. It's interesting to consider the effect of the presence of musicians like Malfatti (or Sean Meehan in the US) on any proceedings in which they take part. You know that they have a set range within which they're comfortable playing and, further, know that that's more or less what they're going to do. Malfatti's not about to go all efi on anyone. Chances are, as a musical partner, you bend his way (not an off-putting proposition as what Malfatti brings to an event is very rich and valuable). Conceivably, you set up in opposition but my guess is that Malfatti's pretty implacable--an attempt I'd be curious to hear, however. Rodrigues' range of attacks is wider but he's certainly at home with the very considered, terse realm that Malfatti inhabits (I'm not as familiar with Guerreiro) and the result here is very fine. A plane overhead is perfectly and quickly echoed by the trombone; there are a number of super-low growls that I admit loving to an absurd degree. Other exterior sounds--voices, traffic, doors, laughter-- are picked up by thin scrapings of strings, transparent sine layers, creaks of chairs. In some respects, it's a very "dach"-like experience. Activity on the second day, at least what's extracted here, bares a bit more bristle, the computer sputtering and pinging, the horn breathier. The outside world, while still present, is less of a factor, foregrounding the trio, perhaps encouraging a modicum of greater activity and dynamics, providing enough of a contrast to justify the second disc. I might slightly prefer Disc One due to that extra sense of adjacent activity, but both are quite strong, unforced and very, very satisfying. Excellent work.

Ernesto Rodrigues/Nuno Torres/Mike Bullock - Asteres Planetai (Creative Sources)

Nice title... :-) From June, 2013, a trio with Rodrigues again on viola, Torres on alto saxophone and Bullock eschewing bass in favor of his modular synth. As one might expect, quite different from the above, more visceral including the in and out usage of drones or drone-like passages effected, I think, both by the alto and the synth. It's not frenetic by any means just a few notches higher on the urgency scale than "Late Summer" as well as sporting an expanded sonic palette. Torres does a welcome job of allowing the listener to forget that there's a saxophone present while, on the other hand, Rodrigues engages in a tad more "traditional" technique extensions on the viola. Bullock seems to supply much of the material here, unless I'm confusing sources (quite possible), issuing metallic bubbles here, static there and various shades of sine-age throughout and interpolating a surprisingly loud and "inappropriate" noise on occasion which is much appreciated. It closes with watery gurgles...Not as captivating as the Malfatti trio but solid enough and well worth hearing.

Ernesto Rodrigues/Bertrand Gauguet/Ricardo Guerreiro - Early Reflections (Creative Sources)

Rounding out this trio of releases is yet another trio, again with Rodrigues and Guerreiro on viola and computer but here including alto saxophonist Gauguet, two tracks, one studio and one live, from July, 2013. It's unfair, of course, to treat these three releases as a triptych of any sort yet the temptation is there. Whereas "Asteres Planetai", in a way, balanced on the edge of the Wandelweiserian, "Early Reflections" sems to consider the matter and then to resolutely opt for a fuller expression, one that, especially on the live track, "Stone", acknowledges its surroundings but fills them to the brim nonetheless, leaving scant space unoccupied. A good decision, I think, to really thrust one way or the other and it pays off in the stronger portions here, especially in the intertwining of the saxophone (harshly breathy) and the computer, which create a seriously scouring force at times, prodded along by harsh pluckings from Rodrigues. When the music evanesces, as it does toward the end of "Stone", there's a fine sense of decompression, an earned release. This approach almost guarantees a rocky road but if and when things mesh, and they do here a reasonable amount of the time, the results carry an extra frisson of excitement. My caveat is unavoidable: that I'd rather hear this trio on an ongoing basis rather than form an opinion from a single recording. But as is, it's another one I'd recommend hearing.

Creative Sources

Sunday, March 30, 2014

download universe....It's a little strange "reviewing" things that anyone can, without spending a dime, listen to themselves. I suppose as a pointer to something it's fine, but still...Luddite about some things... also find that I'm sent, via links, many more things that fall well outside my range of interest than occurs with physical items that reach my mailbox. In any case, here a couple that I liked very much...

Lee Noyes/Johnny Chang - Never Having Been to Beirut (ISR/Digital download)

Chang on violin, viola, field recordings and Noyes handling feedback electronics. Four quiet but tough and gnarly tracks, Noyes' low-level electronics against/with Chang's minimal but sometimes antagonistic strings. "Antagonistic" in the sense that he often occupies that territory which, stereotypically, drives people nuts: for lack of a better term, "the squeaky violin", admittedly, not my favorite zone either, though it shouldn't be the case, just a matter of not being able to jettison all the baggage one builds up. So it's kind of tough sledding for a while, to these ears but also a very welcome experience, forcing one (me, at least) to readjust my preconceptions or try to do so. The first piece, "First day in Beirut - composite state - initial encounter" sort of traverses many conditions, from Wandelweiser-ly soft to uncomfortably itchy to a kind of resolution, Chang's violin (I think) settling into a brief and lovely area, almost romantic, toward the end. "Untitled 2" takes a fairly simply structure and works it out very strongly, Chang concentrating on a single bowed tone on viola (if I'm not mistaken) and putting it through all sorts of permutations, Noyes beginning alongside with high sine tones and allowing them to branch into regions tangentially related but generally with a sense of continuity. The five-minute third piece seems a bit throwaway but th efinal one pushes all the right buttons. It's very wide-open and manages to attain something of an epic quality over its 22 minutes, full of air and undulations. Huge variety of sounds here but somehow they remain almost backgrounded, very much part of the fabric. Strong piece, beautifully realized.

You, of course,can listen and see if you agree.

ISR Bandcamp site

J.C. Combs - Every Junkie is a Recording (Digital download)

Admittedly, an album title that, on its own, would not have me putting in any extra effort to hear,'s really pretty good!

A 34-minute piece for electronics, though it seems as if some percussive elements may have been sourced, The calmly paced progression that begins the piece reminds me of those slow Javanese ensembles (Jegog?). Here the basic sound is somewhere between a tap and a pluck, quickly becoming absorbed in the general, ringing haze. Very hallucinatory, very enticing. The serene rhythm disappears into the void, leaving a large, rippling eddy, reasonably interesting on its own if overstaying it welcome by a few minutes before it begins adding layers and intensity in anticipation of the recurrence of the initial theme heralded by some lovely bell sounds. But the gentle ambiance cedes way to a fine dark surge, inky water rushing by which, in turn, expands into a larger body, still agitated and roiled. The ticking of a clock suddenly enters, all else ceases.

A scenic ride, very enjoyable, hear for yourself.

J.C. Combs Bandcamp

Friday, March 28, 2014

Daniel Brandes/Andrea Young/Benjamin Brandes - Through the Window & the Wood (digital download)

A very challenging recording. Sixteen pieces, each precisely ten minutes long, each a similar construction, differing subtly in internal details.

Had I heard this blindfolded, I likely would have guessed Antoine Beuger, both in the calm temporal extension and in the quietude and repetition of a serene space. Not too far afield as Daniel Brandes is affiliated with the Wandelweiser composers and, in the accompanying notes, cites his walks and conversations with Beuger as a shaping influence. What he's done here is to take the texts of several poems by his brother Benjamin (or fragments thereof. The poems are printed in the booklet and, in my less than knowledgeable opinion about things poetic, are often quite beautiful) and has them sung by Young, softly, slowly, surfacing now and again during a given work's ten-minute span. The ongoing sonic elements are also sourced from Young's voice, though altered through samples and time-stretching enough that I think it's fair to say that, without being told, there's little chance one would recognize them as stemming from a voice. Always very hushed, my impressions would have ranged from enhanced room tones, to breezes to breath through slightly resonant metal tubes. As is often the case in my experience with the work of Beuger and several other akin composers, I find the music particularly amenable to the integration of whatever happens to be occurring in my actual environment, at least to the extent that these sounds are similarly soft and non-aggressive (there was a point, during one listen, where I thought Brandes may have introduced a vague pulse into the proceedings. No such luck, just a beat from the stereo in an adjacent apartment...). Young's voice, though seemingly quite clear, elongates the words to such a degree as to almost obfuscate any definite recognizability. When her voice surfaces it's very much in the foreground but generally appears for only a few moments, singing just a couple of words, before receding into Daniel Brandes' reconstructions of her sounds. All of which works very effectively. Again, though, as with much long-duration work from the Wandelweiser group, the music levies strong demands from the listener if (s)he chooses to concentrate instead of setting it amongst the happenstances of daily life. I found it fascinating and often beautiful but it requires some commitment.

Benjamin Brandes' poems are very imagistic and dreamlike. There's one, though, that stands out for its overtly sing-songy character, which I love I thought I'd print it here, making allowances for the inability to center the lines, as they are in the original. The title is, "How Many Were There?"

I put the ponies
in the parlor

the horses
in the cellar

I went running

up the staircase

through the doorway

just to tell her

Daniel Brandes' Bandcamp site

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Sink - [unreleased recording]

Here's something I've never done before: writing about a recording session that, at the moment, hasn't been and isn't about to be released. Not exactly sure how to go about it...

Suffice it to say that Andrea Ermke (who plays mini-discs and mixing board with Sink) sent me four music files which I've listened to and she was interested in having me write about the music. I'd previously heard a track from Sink (the other three members being Chris Abrahams on DX7, Marcello Busato on drums and Arthur Rother on guitar) on the Echtzeitmuzik collection that appeared a couple of years back. The four tracks "here", recorded in 2012, extend and elaborate that sound. Sometimes I think of a less obsessive Radian or Trapist in that the music bears pulse patterns every so often but they're more readily allowed to unspool and wander. Abrahams' keyboard is occasionally pitched very close to the classic Terry Riley tones, very warm, especially when arrayed against Busato's sparkling metals. Ermke (I think) throws in plenty of noise elements to keep things honest. It's an unusual sound, very electric--you almost expect things to break out into a fusion session, but it never does--, very insistently dreamy, meditative but active, some hints of alap in the guitar, maybe. Much of the third track is all flutters of various kinds set atop a thin drone and emerging, barely nascent drum rhythm, really fine.

Hard to describe, but there are other soundfiles at the site below to give you a better idea. Just keep an ear out for this if it ever properly surfaces. You heard (about) it here first...


Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Coppice - Hoist Spell Extensions (Quakebasket)

A selection of remixes of the track from the Quakebasket release, "Big Wad Excisions".

I have to say that the whole (by now, ancient) remix thing pretty much passed me by. I'd run across stuff from time to time, of course, but the idea never particularly intrigued me as such. So, in cases like this, I simply listen to the works as independent pieces, not referring back to the original to check my memory of it (or lack of same), not looking to hear like threads from piece to piece etc.

Not surprisingly, I suppose, my preferences in this batch run to people whose work I already know and admire. Michael Pisaro's take enters refreshingly rough waters, coasting through layers of itchy, crumbling material, strong surge beneath, sizzles above--great stuff. A longish version by Jeff Gburek is fascinating throughout, working with the drones of the original pump organs, finding a really lovely middle ground through them, using bits of iterated material and a vast array of colors within a relatively narrow dynamic spectrum; another wonderful piece. I also greatly enjoyed the contributions from Machinefabriek (Rutger Zuydervelt), a meditative essay emphasizing the organ tones and adding delicate bell-tones, and mAAs (Connor Bell and Tim Barnes), wherein a fine, scratchy matrix of noise morphs into a resonant, even melodious throb (maybe even containing Brazilian echoes). That throb works for me whereas some of the more rockish rhythms encountered in other remixes sit less well, though I hasten to point out that each track is well-constructed and sounds excellent. I was pleasantly surprised by Joachim Nordwall's closing entry, expecting something perhaps more oppressive but instead finding a darkly shuffling bit o' chill, sleek and reptilian, very fine.

But listen for yourself at Quakebasket-bandcamp. Then buy.

Zero Centigrade - Birch (obs*instrument)

A simple enough structure, well executed, results in a very attractive recording. Tonino Taiuti and Vicenzo De Luce, on acoustic guitars, send their music from one area to another and back over the course of some 26 minutes, an enjoyable and subtly complex journey. The body of the work is bracketed by two short episodes of the pair plucking strongly at their guitars but leaving substantial space around the notes, perhaps echoing Fahey at his sparest, both tonal and abstract. After five or six minutes, they then allow various forms of feedback to enter the picture, gradually at first then quickly coming to predominate. Several general characteristics of the acoustic guitars are always retained--a certain buzz, the overall tone--even as they're bent, warped and twisted, often resonating quite deeply, as though the listener is placed right beneath the sound hole. The variation within the world is captivating, ranging from smooth throbs to harsh scrapes and much between, until a single piercing note announces the return to the acoustic realm, wisps of electricity still flitting about above the proceedings, but soon evaporating, the guitars stroked lovingly to conclude. Concision within which you hear expansiveness; no mean feat and well done here.

iQ+1 - iQ+1 (Poli5)

Georgij Bagdasarov (vintage turntable, baritone sax, guitar), Kateřina Bilejová(body weather, an aspect of Butoh dance), Jana Kneschke (violin, FX), Jára Tarnovski (analog synths, theremin, kalimba, FX, percussion), Petr Vrba (clarinet, trumpet), Michal Zbořil(analog synths, kalimba) Federsel, bass guitar, Max/MSP recording, mixing).

An oddly interesting recording. You can tick off influences as the music progresses: certainly electric Miles rears up a few time and also the early Art Ensemble of Chicago; even a seeming nod to "No Pussyfooting" at the end. But the overall sound manages to slide between these reference points, not necessarily resulting in something terribly new but it does become music that sounds reasonably unique. Bagdasarov's baritone often feels as though its charting the course here, played deeply as a rule (and the source of the Roscoe Mitchell tint; the kalimbas add to the AEC vibe as well) but the synths and, presumably, other electronics, fashion a pulsing bed, sometimes almost a rhythm, that carries things along with a certain amount of smoothness and also, along with the occasional muted trumpet, is the reason that "Bitches Brew" and the like is evoked. Not to belabor the point but, towards the end of the first track, the combination of soaring clarinet and burbling electronics also caused me to flash on that old S.O.S. (Skidmore, Osborne, Surman) album on Ogun...The stew is fairly dense, always a surge of activity from several quarters, more of a free jazz than post-AMM sensibility afoot, but never really overbearing. It's not exactly up my alley, of course, but very well realized on its own terms and worth a listen if the above mélange would seem to strike your fancy.


Criticon Duo - How to get a cold (Noplyn)

Petr Vrba reappears as half of Criticon Duo (trumpet, objects--the photo insert seems to show him playing a reed trumpet and, indeed, I think I hear it often), joined by Tomás Gris, also deploying objects as well as saxophone and electronics. The music is much closer to "eai" than the above though by and large of a perfunctory sort. Gris utilizes standard extended techniques on the saxophones (alto and baritone, I think)--breathiness, key clacking, etc., doing so effectively enough, intertwined with Vrba's objects, often more or less percussive in nature, at least when the trumpet isn't in use, the pair buoyed along by cracked electronics of the kind we're entirely used to. It's fine just not so out of the ordinary. I've mentioned before what I think of as the Mullerization of a branch of eai, the more burbling electronics type, which Günter Müller refined to a point where things became far too routine and smooth. Something of the sort is my impression here as well: too much routineness in the sounds (regular sequences of taps on the sax, for instance), too little thought about placement or even the necessity of making a noise at all. Playing sparse and rarely isn't easy and, as is often the case (to my ears) when difficulty is encountered along those lines, the most rewarding moments are when the musicians essentially abandon that tack and begin playing more fully, more "normally"; that's the case here, as well. Not bad after all's said and done, but a bit dispiriting in many respects. But by all means, hear for yourself.

Noplyn Netlabel

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Coppice - Vantage/Cordoned (Caduc)

Everyone's favorite old wood organ duo is back with another highly enjoyable effort. The enigmatically titled "So Lobes Drape as Such Gills Over a Hangman's Pit" features a Kinder pump organ which is coaxed to emit super-deep thrums and throbs, a rich, wet grind. Taped sounds, fast forwarded or reversed, arise within various wind patterns that shift into an altered version of the beginning, the low tones moderated but still growling menacingly before the enormous centrifugal force collapses in on itself. The far longer (25-minute) "Soft crown", using an Estey brand instrument, necessarily takes its time to unfurl, quiet hisses turning out to be a vast apian swarm, laying waste to a field of crickets. They apparently start a fire (I'm reminded of the locust swarm scene in "Days of Heaven"); things appear to be crumbling, falling apart. Me, I'm wondering how (or how much of) this is being derived from the pump organ, poor thing. An uneasy calm settles in, the fauna circling desultorily, then a kind of tidal surge takes over, semi-regular, pulsing, covering everything uniformly and bringing the day to a peaceful end.

Good work, very satisfying, Noé Cuéllar and Joseph Kramer generating a unique and wonderful sound world.

Joda Clément/Daniel Jones/Lance Austin Olsen/Mathieu Ruhlmann - A Concert for Charles Cros (Caduc)

A sort-of-live recording from 2013 with Clément (analog synth, field recordings, objects), Jones (guitar, electronics), Olsen (tape players, amplified objects, trainer guitar) and Ruhlmann (reel to reel, cymbal, ukelin, objects) honoring, I take it, the poet Charles Cros otherwise unknown to me but, it seems, "muse to Manet and Mallarmé". I say "Sort-of-live" because, as I understand it (via a little bird), Jones' contributions came via a pre-recorded session, played into the room in which the three Canadian musicians improvised. Whatever the case, it's a strong effort, with AMM-ish tinges. The first of the four tracks especially, with low-level hums, scratchy-soft static and radio snatches, evokes that model quite well, though perhaps with more of an ongoing, connective drone-like thread than AMM would generally employ; solid work. The second cut, bearing the delightful title, "An insect tests the circle of light", is very intriguing in that on the surface, it sounds very much like an extension of the first but on repeated listens, you realize it's quite different, generating a soundscape that has an entirely other sense of grain, very fascinating, active in some strata, serene in others, altogether lovely. Both of the final two tracks, "May, is out there, three" and "Not vital" are shorter, about five and seven minutes, and never quite congeal before they're rather abruptly ended, striking an odd note. The first two make up for this, though, fine stuff there.


Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Christian Kesten/Mark Trayle - F23M-12: Field with Figures No. 1-4

Annette Krebs - rush!

(Another Timbre)

The second release in Another Timbre's split-disc Berlin series, two very challenging works.

I'm only minimally familiar with the work of both Kesten (voice) and Trayle (electronics, guitar) and had little in the way of expectations. The piece, in four parts, is very jagged in some respects, especially the earlier electronic portions, the sounds arrayed in unusually "awkward" sequences--I should rather say unanticipated as, over its course, a kind of implied pace, if not rhythm, makes itself felt. Kesten's contributions are extremely subtle; generally, the only way to distinguish them (not that it's necessary) is to infer by exclusion and assume what remains must be him--the sustained breathing sounds. Often, those sounds act as a kind of tinge on Trayle's more aggressive noise but then they'll suddenly sync up, attain equal "weight". When they do, it's a very beautiful, if icily alien effect. The work trends toward slightly quieter climes, the second part engaging in some sound-play that's a bit goofier than I'd have wanted to hear, though the latter two sections settle down into some fine areas, still prickly--sharp pings and harsh breath, for instance, morphing into rough-edged siren-like sounds--but interspersed with softer, if slightly sour moments, really fine. My own perceptions shifted substantially from listen to listen, always picking up different relationships, different senses of structure--this is a good thing! A tough, bracing piece, I like it.

Krebs, on the other hand, I've been following pretty throughly over the years and my impression at the moment is that "rush!" (two versions presented here) is her most solidly realized work yet. The elements will be more or less familiar to listeners who know her work: isolated words (or fragments thereof), urban field recordings, guitar-sourced sounds. In earlier works, there was often an intriguing and, for me, beguiling awkwardness in structure, sometimes not entirely working, other times seeming to work despite itself. Here, she's just barely smoothed the edges and, while retaining a very personal feeling of pace and progression, imparting a real, flowing solidity to the music. Her choices are dreamlike, sometimes disturbingly so. The second version includes several of the same elements but also makes use of protracted silences that somehow increase the dreamy aspect, the voices, radio grabs and other sounds appearing suddenly--and briefly--out of the dark. The scattered instances of what I take to be a deep, bowed guitar lend a beautiful, mournful cast. Really strong work, perhaps my favorite thing thus far from Krebs.

Another Timbre

Monday, March 17, 2014

Partial - LL (Another Timbre)

I've often opined that there are some folk who simply strike me as have such a marvelous, inherent (to my ears) musicality that most anything they do somehow manages to sound good. Not that I can parse out the contributions of Joseph Clayton Mills to Haptic and Noé Cuéllar to Coppice and other formations, but I have that sense here as well. As Partial, the pair made use of the kibble found in the basement of Pilsen Vintage and Thrift in Chicago to construct the two long tracks here (and the delightful coda), creating some outstanding, intimate and, well, very musical music.

"Marcel" uses material found in the store but "augmented" with other sources. It builds wonderfully from the opening sounds, crests and falls off suddenly into a more disparate world, rumbling and popping. You *do* get the feeling of a large, subsurface room, aflutter with activity. It's interesting knowing, via text, the nature of much of the sound sources (as there's no way you'd know from simply listening, in the sense of the kind of patina it casts over the piece, a subtly moving, nostalgic one. Much ground is covered; I especially enjoy the creaking and squeaking later on, a wonderful seesaw effect, very present and tactile. "Paul", built from a series of duo improvisations Mills and Cuéllar recorded when first investigating the scare is sparser, rawer, but no less captivating. Rubbing sounds predominate, adorned by metallic pings, scratches, dropped items (recorded well enough to have had me up off the couch, checking to see what happened in the other room) and a distant hum--verbal descriptions wont convey much but, as above, I hear a really fine sense of what's musical amidst these "non-musical" sounds, an acute sensitivity at play.

As a final grace note, we have "a SIngle screw of Flesh is all that pins the Soul" (great line which I shamefully admit having to look up--Emily Dickinson), a simple, gorgeous recording of a music box found int he thrift song, wound up and played as is, no more, no less. Very moving.

As is the whole disc, a a beautiful, superlatively musical document.

Another Timbre

Thursday, March 13, 2014

A quartet of new things from Copy For Your Records

delicate sen - Four Years Later (since.why not)

An unexpected point of reference surfaced in my head while listening to this altogether wonderful new recording by Billy Gomberg (synthesizers), Anne Guthrie (French horn, preparations) and Richard Kamerman (drums, junk, YouTube, Deicide)--I found myself thinking of work done by the pre-Don Moye Art Ensemble, music from 1968-69 in which there's (to my mind, anyway) a somewhat similar physicality and sense of space. Guthrie's horn takes on Bowie's role (about nine minutes into the second cut, she gives vent to a couple of startlingly Bowie-esque bleats), Gomberg perhaps Jarman (even some deep log drum echoes late on the first track!) and Kamerman a combo of Mitchell and Favors on "little instruments" (I can imagine the earlier group using YouTube and even Deicide were they available then). I take it for granted, of course, that nothing of the sort occupied the minds of these three musicians, that's it's just a function of this aging listener...Long tones of multiple kind, electronic and horn-generated, the latter sometimes strangled but always poignant, arrayed among a beautifully full yet spacious clatter, the three pieces sustained very ably, never over-meandering. There's a wealth of great stuff here--repeated surprise as one delightful passage after another surfaces, unexpected but making sense in hindsight. Gomberg's sensuous tendencies on synth are accommodated here more fully than I've heard before, not by simply an opposing stance taken by, say, Kamerman, but by choosing sounds that give those lush layers more weight, even if that element is (I take it) a YouTube instructional video on drawing a rabbit. Needless to say, the same works in reverse and more with Guthrie threading between and above. Roscoe Mitchell meets AMM may be overselling things but this marvelous session does hint at something new, even as it evokes something old. Great work, very exciting.

Jack Harris/Samuel Rodgers - Get Buried

A testy little number...EP of disembodied, thin shards inflicting paper cuts on one's ears. Well, not that abrasive but there's a (welcome) sense of purposeful discomfort in the opening minutes, the needling tones here, dryly ratcheting ones there. The lower growls that enter some four minutes in act as a salve even as further, more varied pinpricks emerge. That deep strain and a clattering/staticky higher one do a kind of intertwining dance for a while, tossing off semi-related splinters now and then, before crumbling away. Things get rough for a bit with gnarly slabs of raw, dirty noise interposed among bleak, pale sine-like tones, very arid and oddly bracing. The last several minutes offer another balm of sorts, bell-like sounds wrapped in heavy wool, battered by muffled thuds and radio interference. Strong medicine, good for what ails you.

Marcus Rubio - Music for Microphones

Rubio writes that he took as a starting point the classic (but relatively little known) work by Steve Reich, "Pendulum Music", where speakers were set swinging alongside one another generating semi-unpredictable results. Rubio takes matters a few steps further, using mics--their adjacency, contacts, abrasion, etc. to create an impressively wide range of noise. The first of seven cuts raised expectations with some great, watery pinging set amid rougher, drier soundage. To my ears, there's something of a loss in focus during the remainder of the first half of the disc; I found myself yearning for a more interesting structure to house the sounds, which have the danger of simply coming across as effects. But about halfway through, Rubio lowers the intensity level a bit and a fine, tensile lattice seems to emerge, the sounds--which continue to be marvelous--hanging in a kind of web that has its own fascination and enhances the hums, dings, ghostly flute-like tones and more. The last two tracks, including the final one where he becomes much more active but retains a fantastic sense of elastic structure, are excellent. This is my first exposure to Rubio's music (he says, cautiously)--eager to hear more.

Radioda - Rondo

As I remarked upon first listening to "Rondo": Sometimes, you just want a good, dirty, mealy, abstract throb. Radioda (Mikołaj Tkacz and Piotr Tkacz--I'll go out on a limb and guess at some kind of relation--on radios) provide this and then some. How precisely they accomplish this via radios (a Unitra Diora Beskid, which looks like a 1950s multi-wavelength mini-console and Grundig Freaxx 20, apparently a beatbox of sorts) is beyond me, as one hears a vast, rich, pulsating mess of sound, bass-fluttery, grinding and surging. I'm reminded (as I often am) of the old Partch line (paraphrasing): They do exactly one thing but that one thing they do superbly. Immersion is rewarded with plenty to experience, to almost reach out and touch, the endless plies of shuddering drones occasionally augmented by a murky snatch of voice. A fine sense of "fuck it" abandon and an excellent palate cleanser. Go for it.

Copy For Your Records

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Taku Sugimoto - Quartet Octet (slubmusic tengu)

The quartet (Kazushiga Kinoshita, violin; Sugimoto, guitar; Taku Unami, sine tones; Nikos Veliotis, cello) only lasts a couple of minutes, each player creating delicate, spare sounds of about four seconds duration, in three sets of ten reasonably similar sets though with a good amount of interior variation with regard to placement and specific pitch. It's a rather lovely miniature, a seemingly simplepoem that has more richness than is apparent on first glimpse. The octet is without Kinoshita but adds Klaus Filip (sine tones), Ko Ishikawa (sho), Moe Kimura (voice), Radu Malfatti (trombone) and Masahiko Okura (clarinet). It's kind of a looser version of the quartet, the notes' duration allowed more latitude, some instruments taking substantial time between contributions (though it never quite goes silent). As Richard mentioned in his write-up, Kimura's voice stands out a bit here, though it doesn't particularly bother me. If anything, I'd like to have heard clearer sound quality. I'm not usually an audiophile kinda guy and understand that this is a live recording, but I can't help but think a more pristine ambience would have helped matters. As is, it's a gently swaying work, almost pastoral if you choose to hear it as such, and odd combination of the sparse and the sing-songy. Repeated listens yielded different results: sometimes it went by almost unnoticed; other times, I'd pick up on a hitherto unnoticed, surprisingly melodic mini-phrase--there's an especially lovely one just before the end. About two thirds of the time, I've ended up liking the longer piece a good bit, the other third I've been not so impressed. I figure that in itself is (to me) interesting enough to recommend it.

ju sei/Utah Kawasaki - U as in Utah (meenna)

Been quite a while since I've heard anything from the fellow with the greatest name in eai and this is quite a strange one. ju sei is a duo consisting of Junichiro Tanaka (guitars, effects, Kaossilator_ and sei (vocals). I've no idea about their routine output (if it's much different than what's heard here) but on this disc, there's a wide range from drony to jpop balladry to naive hip-hop and much else, little of it, I should say, inherently appealing to me (the the song that appears as track #7 on the first of the two discs here is very charming; I have a notion that's it's a cover of some pop song I don't recognize. There's also a portion of the next section that strongly reminds my of Otomo's rendition of "Super Jetter" from the Takeo Yamashita recording). But generally, with ju sei, I hear a veneer of whimsical wackiness that rather rubs me the wrong way. Kawasaki, on synthesizer, adds adornment and I have to say, nothing that stands out as much more than coloration. Granted, this is a live recording and, per the website, Kawasaki had no prior talks with the duo, in a sense placing it within the ambit of many a free improv session, where "failure" is always an option. If this is meant as meta-commentary on pop music, well, eh, so what. I assume it's more an actual collaboration between musicians who appreciate each other's work and I suppose it works fine if your area of interest overlaps. Say, an updating of aspects of Henry Cow, Tenniscoats, noise-improv and synth-y psychedelia. Save for snatches here and there--the aforementioned and parts toward the end of the first track on Disc Two, where there exists a fine combination of noise and deep, lush synth, I was left largely unmoved. More than most, you mileage may vary.


Both available via Erst Dist

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Luciano Maggiore - Onagro

Gunnar Lettow/Gregory Büttner - Flakes

Amptext - Seeds of Erasure

This trio of 3" releases from 1000füssler arrived together and, though doubtless not intended this way, their relative (by no means great) self-similarity makes it difficult not to hear them as a kind of a suite, and an excellent one at that, all three being very enjoyable.

Maggiore's "Onagro" consists of six brief pieces comprised of field recordings, though sounding more like amplifications inside a burning Cd player, all delicate crackles, sometimes with regular iterations as of some mechanical revolutions, but also sounding as though embedded in a wider atmosphere, a haze of just discernible noises in the background. Wonderful stereophony in play here; situating one's ears between speakers is a giddy joy. The sounds vary in timbre--lower knocking ones, hollow ping-pongy ones--but the activity level is similar, active but very natural sounding, as some highly mic'd goings on in a garden, though perhaps an artificial one. Fascinating, capable of being listened to over and over.

"Flakes", two tracks from Lettow and Büttner, almost seems like a fuller, denser variation on "Onagro", although entirely unrelated. Fashioned with multiple objects and instruments, including fans, the listener is once more plunged into a quite palpable sound-world, a-boil with movement, one's ears caroming inside a more closed area, the noises a bit more oppressive. Growls, thrums, deep ratcheting--a general sense of darkness prevails, especially in the first cut, "Greyish". The other, "Ocher", is just barely lighter, airier, still twittering with all sorts of vaguely malevolent creatures. Rough and tumble, as harsh as need be, brooding and altogether fine.

Amptext is cellist Gary Rouzer's affair and this imaginary suite full circle, quite beautifully. He also uses a set of fans (air conditioner variety) for the first piece, recorded and set through a complicated series of transformations, including a final recording of four other recordings played at staggered start times. However arrived at, the result is pretty stunning, an expanse of hisses, wheezes, squeaks, rumbles and the odd roar that's totally enveloping, somehow evoking the natural world and its fauna. The title cut involves placing two unrelated pieces side by side and then "erasing sections to expose any narrative flow that might be hidden". I like that idea...The cello is more prominent here (I think it appears on the first piece, unless there are some cello-like fans) heard against an abstract slate of rubbings and soft abrasions, emerging and disappearing. Another excellent work.

Had I to choose, the Amptext would be my pick, but each is very fine. Why not collect the set?


Sunday, March 09, 2014

Sergio Merce - Microtonal Saxophone (Potlatch)

I think it's fair to say that, among labels catering to the portion of the musical spectrum with which we're largely concerned here, Jacque Oger's Potlatch has devoted more time than most to the saxophone, that often shunned instrument, looked at askance (by some) due to the amount of seemingly unremovable baggage retained from its jazz and free jazz incarnations. Perhaps the fact that Oger was a saxophonist himself in his youth (with the fine ensemble, Axolotl in the early 80s) accounts for this. In any case, a listener coming unaware to this recording, without benefit of specific knowledge or seeing the packaging, would be hard pressed to identify the sounds as saxophonic in origin--barely a shred remains, as the Argentinian Sergio Merce has entirely re-imagined the instrument, essentially producing a brand new one.

As can be seen more clearly above, Merce has taken an alto saxophone, removed all the keys and replaced them with various household plumbing fixtures. The videos I've been able to locate (like this one: are dimly lit, but I assume he simply uses his fingers as keypads, covering the open apertures. I also take it that by virtue of the devices being screwed in, he's able to adjust the resultant pitches to an extremely precise degree, resulting in the micro-tunings. Plus, I have to say, the object simply looks fantastic. What does it sound like? Well, first off, as explored by Merce on this disc, it's all soft, long-held, gently fluctuating tones; he doesn't (thankfully) take a Brotzmann approach to it--I've no idea how that would work. While it's possible to detect a reedy sensation hovering in the air, the overriding feeling one gets is of electronics. Merce uses a sustain pedal to enable multiple, co-existing lines as well as creating his own multiphonics, enabling a music that approximates some Lucier compositions wherein sine waves and an acoustic instrument are integrated. There's a marvelous shimmering effect in action almost all the time, transparent scrims of tone wafting about, interacting--really a wonderful sound.

The pieces strike me more as explorations than compositions as such, as though Merce is still negotiating his way through the intricacies and mysteries of his creation, which is entirely appropriate. The connections are ephemeral and even ghostly, perhaps with echoes of Radigue (that's likely to be more me than Merce, but I could easily imagine the microtonal sax being put to use by Radigue). He takes his time, allowing the lines to weave their own patterns, very calm, very beautiful. Four tracks, not appreciably different, just subtle variations in pathways, slight shifts in tint, all containing some level of grit that prevents things from sliding off into pastels. Very much worth hearing on its own and I look forward to hearing Merce wield his axe in context with other musicians int he future.


IST - Consequences (of time and place) (Confront)

Another in the continuing series of archival recordings on Confront, here documenting a 1997 performance of the venerable IST trio (Rhodri Davies, harp; Simon H. Fell, double bass; Mark Wastell, cello; there's a bevy of percussive sounds on the third cut, though perhaps it's Davies messing with his axe). Its an interesting set both for the music itself and for its moment in time with regard to the the burgeoning quiet improv "movement". What's immediately apparent is how attached the three remain, at this point, to the spikier branch of free improvisation that was quite prominent in England from (at least) the late 80s, not so loud but very active. There's nothing minimalist in their approach at this point and scarce few hints that it might be a direction they'd take, either as a group or individually (Wastell and Davies would make this turn, Fell somewhat less so, at least in my experience of his work, apart from VHF, whose disc on Erstwhile was recorded within a year to year and a half from this date). I must say, there's something very attractive about hearing Davies, by and large, once again pluck at the harp while Wastell often enough bows or plucks the cello in a manner, if not style, that his teachers would recognize.

For this listener, the most exciting sections are actually when the trio is at its most vociferous as in the aforementioned track (titled, "Improvised Explosive Device") and much of the closing "Broad Strokes (for Franz Kline)", where the music verges on the rollicking. They create a real forest here, great depth and a level of activity that, while quite high, feels organic and causal. There are ups and downs for me, looking back over 17 years but I found that the more I listen, the more immersive the material became. Despite stylistic attributes that are less enticing for this listener than they might have been at time, the sheer musicality of the participants ends up carrying the day more often than I would have guessed. Apart from the history, there's good, gnarly, challenging listening to be had here. "Consequences" indeed. Delve in.