Sunday, November 30, 2008

One of my very favorite bassists ever, still very much unrecognized I'm afraid, Johnny Dyani. Original member of the Blue Notes, on a couple of fantastic Abdullah Ibrahim recordings, and leader of a handful of dates for Steeplechase, two of which are among the best late 70s jazz albums, imho.

'Witchdoctor's Son', with the great John Tchicai and the incendiary Dudu Pukwana (plus Alfredo do Nascimento/guitar, Luez Carlos de Sequaira/drums and Mohamed Al-Jabry/percussion) is just a wonderful date. Joyous tunes, vibrant playing, Dyani a master at propelling the ensemble. The closing "Magwaza" is one of those South African songs with such an infectious groove, it could go on for hours. Beautiful record; check it out.

Another fine effort, from 1978, a quartet with Pukwana, Don Cherry and drummer Makaya Ntshoko. Strong tunes, heartfelt playing, just a solid album,

I have four more releases under Dyani's name (Mbizo, Afrika, Born Under the Heat and Angolian Cry, all on Steeplechase aside from "Born...", which is on Dragon). To my ears, they get progressively weaker, partly perhaps because of less interesting personnel (though Angolian Cry has Tchicai, Beckett and Billy Hart), maybe Dyani himself running out of inspiration, maybe due to health issues (Dyani died in '86, short of his 41st birthday).

Would love to hear more, especially--I get the sense--work with fellow South Africans as that seems to bring out his best. Recommendations, as always, are appreciated.


Just checked and I'm frankly shocked that I can find an image of my next LP:

I'll listen later, though. (I think it fits nicely given my recent completion of the Cardew bio...)

Saturday, November 29, 2008

I love train rides. I can sit at a train window and watch the passing scenes for hours, whether beautiful landscapes or the backyards of inner cities. The ride from Grand Central to Poughkeepsie is one I've taken countless times but never grow tired of. Did so again on Thursday. From the three or so miles of underground mystery before you emerge at 97th St. (dim lights seen hundreds of feet off into the dark--there's an enormous web of tunnels undergirding the east side of Manhattan) through Spanish Harlem, across the Harlem river into the Bronx (chop shops, banks of weeds, the basaltic rise of the Palisades across the Hudson), the landscape getting "greener" with surprising rapidity as you go through obscure little towns like Philipse Manor, Scarborough--through Sing Sing Prison (largely--totally?--abandoned, the watchtowers and barbed wire still there--for much of my youth I thought references I'd hear in movies and such were about some mythical ur-Prison; didn't know it actually existed!), the trainyards at Croton-on-Hudson, Indian Point nuclear plant, West Point across the river, imposing in a hyper-military way, Bannerman's Castle,

an object of much mystery as a youngster, the massive Storm King Mountain, it's scarred sides the result of its having been used as a "target" of cannons during the Civil War, their manufacture having taken place in Cold Spring across the river, the large number of abandoned factories and other buildings of obscure purpose, their hollow husks weathering along the banks for decades, only gradually falling to construction of fashionable townhouses--it takes a while even this close to NYC, some 40-75 miles, the ruins dotting the shore right up to Poughkeepsie and, I imagine, well beyond.

Beautiful trip, beautiful area. I'll probably do it a few dozen more times before I'm through.

[Edit: Oh yeah, almost forgot. At Thanksgiving dinner, I found out that my aunt Irene, a stunner in her youth (still, actually) dated Harry Belafonte for a year or so, I guess around 1950, shortly before he made it big, but after having shared the stage with Miles, Roach, etc. Coolio.]


Listened to my two Pierre Droge LPs this morning. I think I came to him in the mid 80s hoping for something along the lines of Bengt Berger, that is, a Northern European making imaginative use of African melodies and structures. Dorge's approach, I think, is more aligning early jazz (20s Ellington, for example) with its African roots. He succeeds on occasion (although coming nowhere near the heights of Berger's "Bitter Funeral Beer") but more often a plodding rhythmic sense drags down the pieces. He does have the great John Tchicai along for the ride as well as Harry Beckett and, on the earlier recording, Dyani (on the latter, an early appearance on record by Hamid Drake) and both albums have their moments, but overall they're somewhat forgettable. Dorge has a unique and beautiful tone on guitar, I'll grant. Picked up a CD later on, Live in Chicago, but lost interest rather quickly. I've no idea what he's up to these days.

This one's an interesting bird, a relatively successful, early-ish (1983) attempt to meld minimalism with a kind of Satie-esque tonality, in some ways not dissimilar to Ron Geesin's Patruns from the mid 70s, though less pyrotechnic. Never got around to investigating any of Duckworth's other music, though; suggestions welcome.


New listening:

Peter Rehberg - Work for GV (Mego)
Taylor Ho Bynum - Asphalt Flowers Forking Paths (hatology)
Asad Qizilbash - Sarod Recital Live in Peshawar (Sub Rosa)
Group Inerane - Guitars from Agadez (Sublime Frequencies)

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The first Mothers album I bought was "Weasels Ripped My Flesh!". The first track on Side 2, iirc, was titled "Eric Dolphy Memorial Barbeque". At the time, I figured it was Zappa's idea of a goofy name, nothing more. A couple years later, I learned otherwise.

In my mental listing of most tragic early deaths in jazz, Dolphy ranks at the top. He wasn't that young (36) when he died, but you get the impression he was poised for incredible things as regards merging several traditions into a new form (jazz, eastern, contemporary classical). Could've ended up in a proto-New Age hodgepodge, who knows? But I'd love to have heard it. Plus, he's the subject of probably my favorite punning sobriquet in jazz: The Ericle of Dolphy.

He's also somewhat unique in having been an integral part of ensembles led by three major forces: Coltrane, Coleman and Mingus. I've asked before if there's anyone else who recorded with all three (leaving aside prominence in the ensemble) and the only other one I'm aware of is Elvin Jones (minimally with Mingus and Ornette). Always a little surprised he never, to the best of my knowledge, played with Cecil.

As with many other "earlier" musicians whose music was often played on KCR, I was laggard in buying albums under Dolphy's name until well into the CD era, owning but two.

(Wonder how many "Great Concerts" Prestige issued over the years...?) 3-records, no liner notes, a date from 1961 with a sterling quintet: Booker Little (another likely in my Top 10, Died Too Young) on trumpet, the still-undersung Mal Waldron on piano, Richard Davis/bass, Ed Blackwell/drums. All longish pieces, some pretty great, especially the closing "Booker's Waltz". Dolphy close to that cusp, occasionally exploding all over the place within a fairly trad structure.

For some reason, I explicitly recall finding a $5 on the sidewalk about a block from the local record store in Poughkeepsie in the early 70s, going in and buying this:

Weird recording, third of three volumes with a Danish pick-up band from 1961. Still fascinating to hear Dolphy at the time, including working through three takes of "In the Blues".

By '72 or '73, I'd read of Van Vliet's admiration for him, though he famously said that, as much as he loved Dolphy, he'd rather hear a goose.

Tough call....

[edit: Just realized that Booker Little had only four months to live at the time of that Dolphy Five Spot date in '61. Died at 23....]

Monday, November 24, 2008

Nikos Veliotis/Anastasis Grivas - Vertical (Low Impedance)

Four drones. Veliotis on cello, Grivas on guitar. Interestingly problematic for me. I like each track--they're not so dissimilar from one another--though if I had to say why, I'd stumble a bit as, listened to non-holistically, I can't define much to pinpoint. They're engaging, but not gripping, really. They're too present to slip into the ambiance, not granular to the extent that you bathe in the sandpaper-y wash. But there's something about them that appeals. Should do a little Veliotis mini-fest, placing this alongside his other work and hear how/if it fits.

Oldman - Two Heads Bis Bis (Low Impedance)

Oldman is Charles Eric Charrier, here abetted on a few tracks by Ronan Benoit (drums), Covalesky (percussion, trumpet), Den Itzamna (samples, guitar) and Didier Richard (drums). How to describe? If the Canterbury scene had a sludge variant...if Laswell had been earthier and better...? Often fascinating, as on "Sunny Afternoon, African Charge" which blends low, booming tones (common here--speaker threatening bass abounds), ethereal plinking as from some huge toy piano and mumbled, male voices. Sometimes reminded me of Benjamin Lew (though darker). Good stuff.

Both recordings available from: low impedance

Sunday, November 23, 2008

An excellent musical change of pace last evening as I went to Issue Project Room to hear, not another eai ensemble, but the Wingdale Community Singers, an....avant folk group for lack of a better pigeonhole. Been meaning to hear them for quite a while as one member is my friend Nina Katchadourian (vocals, guitar, accordion, recorder, percussion); finally a convenient, for me, date occurred and there I went. The rest of the group is Hannah Marcus (vocals, guitar, piano, violin), Rick Moody--yes, the writer--(vocals, guitar, piano) and normally David Grubbs, though unfortunately he couldn't make last night's show and was replaced by Randy Polumbo on guitar and dobro. They were augmented for this occasion by bassist Elissa Moser and, on a couple of pieces, cellist Tiana Kennedy.

I guess you could reference The Roches somewhat, given the slightly warped but traditional song forms (almost all slow and moody) and the wry humor that abounded, though the Wingdales verbal sensitivities might be said to lie in more of a post-Laurie Anderson zone with a marked leaning toward country blues. Whatever the case, they're totally enjoyable both musically and lyrically, with a relaxed demeanor, lovely vocal harmonies and a nice habit of being able to generalize from the particular into often very moving songs. One favorite began with wishing that there was a wider ocean available to separate the singer from an ex-lover, moving on to a desire for a planet-wide catastrophe involving the asteroid belt that might do the job and, finally, opting for a situation where there were ten dimensions and "you were in the other six."

It was one of those rare events where I could, without too much trepidation, invite friends and all three, Carol, Anne & her husband Dan, thoroughly enjoyed it.

Fine work; catch 'em if you can.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Rifling through the D's last evening. I could never get very much out of this album despite the personnel, and it's still the case, only managing to play through the first of four sides. Heresy to John Stevens fans, maybe, but it's a seriously limp and vacuous effort. And as much as I love Dyani, free playing isn't his forte imho. Much of the blame sounds to me like it falls on Gjerstad's shoulders; I don't know his work otherwise but here he sounds clueless. Didn't get to it this time around, but my recollection is the same for Courtney Pine on the second disc.

Played Henk de Jonge's trio recording on BVHaast next (not Jumping Shark but the earlier one, apparently no longer available) with Ernst Glerum and...I forget the drummer, Breuker sitting in on some tracks. Totally slick and "professional" so, in that sense, inferior to what Detail was at least attempting yet far more successful on its own merits. But no, not so great.

The audio portion of the evening was saved, happily, by Toumani Diabate's 1986 recording, "Kaira", as lovely and graceful as ever. It's the only record of his I own and I take it he's gone on to bigger (better?) things but I haven't heard. Only 22 when this was recorded; impressive.

Looking ahead, I saw a few items that I know I won't have the gumption to spin: Loek Dikker's (wait for it....) "Waterland Big Band Is Hot!" vol's 1 AND 2 from 1979. I was probably looking around for Breuker-ish stuff at the time but, really, no excuse. Then Nick Didkovsky's Doctor Nerve project, "Armed Observation" and a Dirty Dozen Brass Band record (which is probably not too bad).

Think I'll skip straight to the Dolphy....

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Finished the Cardew biography this morning. That Tilbury's done a monumental, magnificent job almost goes without saying. Lucidly written, well-balanced between opinions that are clearly held by the author and a reasonably objective evaluation of reality. He had three enormous advantages of which I'm certainly jealous: having known Cardew intimately for some 22 years, having a subject who kept detailed journals and being an extraordinary musician himself. The extensive journals can once in a while result in possibly more detailed information than most readers will need but are generally used very well.

I've no desire to critically go through the whole thing (I hope someone does though), but one criticism I've heard is on the great number of words spent on the political portion of his life, his last ten or so years and almost half the book. I don't quite understand the complaint; I would think it comes with the territory if you're doing a Cardew bio. While I'm personally not that interested in the ins and outs of British communist factions (Marxist/Leninist vs. Maoist vs Trotskyite, etc.) I do find such goings on fascinating from a more anthropological point of view, as to the psychologies in play among the various actors, especially given their prior artistic activities in the case of Cardew (and, of course, Rowe). Tilbury, to his credit, doesn't shy away from comparing the kinds of psychologies encountered in political extremism (of any stripe, of course, not merely of the left) to those encountered in religious zealots. (And not just extremists, I would add; you saw the same vapid, slack-jawed, "looking for a leader to show them the way" expressions in the adulatory crowds attending McCain or Obama rallies, similar to what you might find at the most bland Lutheran church service). The Tilbury who wrote the biography, while still retaining an obvious strong sympathy for the cause, is skeptical enough to have been branded a heretical revisionist should he have voiced such opinions in the 70s.

Still, he's remarkably even-handed. There may well be matters on which those who were there, like Keith, saw things differently, maybe felt he left out a pertinent detail, overstressed another, but for those of us too young or in the wrong country, it's an invaluable document. Not that it matters, but I do come away feeling a bit sad about the way Cardew spent his final decade, wondering if things would have changed had he lived. Keith seems to have thought there was a chance, Tilbury less so. I'm not even talking about potential music (and I'm more sympathetic to his socialist and workers' songs than many--at least the musical, not lyric, aspect of much of it), more for his happiness as a person. I get the sense--perhaps I'm reading into it too much--that however he outwardly expressed that he was doing what he was "meant" to do, that the artist, the individual intelligence in him was suffering. But who knows, I could be utterly wrong.

In any case, great job, John, thanks so much.


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Turned to my vinyl last night and almost didn't feel like playing this one, a 1980 recording on ECM. But did and found it to hold up much better than I'd've guessed. Not all of it--the aptly, hyper-ECMishly titled "Pastel Morning" is about as weak as one would suspect, but much of the rest is refreshingly gritty. If I recall correctly, this was the first ECM album to feature musicians who'd cut their teeth in the NYC loft scene (Chico Freeman and John Purcell), so it was something of a big deal at the time. I often find DeJohnette-involved productions to be better than I expect for some reason, including the very fine duo with Jarrett, "Ruta & Daitya". But I'm guessing I've just been lucky....

Peter Warren's appearance here prompted some reminiscences about, of all things, Chick Corea. I was quite a big fan early on in my jazz-listening life, having heard all the early ECM things, "Light as a Feather" and his late 60s recordings (Inner Space, Now He Sings, Now He Sobs", "Is", "Sundance"). Then, of course, came the extra-sappy, extraordinarily obnoxious version of Return to Forever (Ok, ok, I liked *gulp* "Hymn to the Seventh Galaxy"--I can barely bring myself to type that--when it appeared, but soon thereafter came to my senses) and things plummeted right off the cliff. Around that time, I became aware of the existence of the slimy belief system known as Scientology and Corea's involvement in same.

One day, when I was in Boston in early '75, I was walking around downtown when I was accosted by a charming young lady who asked if I had a few minutes to take a survey/test thing. Well, she was cute and charming so I said yes and followed her into a fancy, old townhouse in the Back Bay. I took the test (administered by some less winsome person...) and was presented with the results. It was only at that time I was informed that this was on behalf of Scientology. Yecch...Somewhere along the line, I'd made mention of my love for jazz and the woman said, "Oh, you like jazz. Have you ever heard of Chick Corea?" "Yes," I replied, "in fact, his music has gotten drastically worse since his involvement with it." and I left.

I soon divested myself of virtually every LP with Corea's presence, such was the disgust I felt for the, erm, religion. The one exception I can think of is the Circle "Paris Concert" and that only because of Braxton. (I've since gotten late 60s Miles CDs) Most of these, I don't regret a bit--I'm sure some of the 60s sides are OK but I can live without them as well as the first two RTF's, the piano improvisations, etc. I would kinda like to have back the Circle "A.R.C." trio recording, though (with Holland and Altschul), despite the Scientological significance of the title.

The other one I'd like to hear, and the reason for my digression, is Peter Warren's "Bass Is" on Enja:

Dammit for Corea's presence.

Not at all sure if it would hold up or not, but I'd be curious to find out.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Anna Zaradny - Mauve Cycles (Musica Genera)

Just as we've heard certain aesthetics from the 60s--like that of Fluxus--re-mined in recent years, so one occasionally hears echoes of the tape collage work from that period (Koenig, Raaijmakers) resurface in altered form. That's what hit me first on Zaradny's fine new release. Certain colors, those metallic, ringing tones, that immediately hearken back to a specific era, not to mention a vigorous, wavelike structure you normally don't hear in laminal eai (though interpolating sound elements you do). "Mauve 1" generates an enormous head of steam, richly colored and throbbing. It might overstay its welcome a tad (would've worked better as a 15-minute piece instead of 26) but it's a breathtaking ride. The second track, "Mauve 2", is more in a throbbing, minimalist vein, maybe think Radigue. It's OK, something of a relaxant after the earlier work. Worth hearing, certainly. musica genera

College Radio - College Radio (CDR)

Jersey City's own improvisatory noise/guitar duo (Chris Landry & Sean Kiely), teetering between attractively grungy noise and spacier concerns. The referents seem to me to be more post-isolationist rock than AMM and if you like your raunch on the dark side, pieces like VBBBR serve it up well-done and gnarly. They get a bit "lost souls suffering the torments of hell" sometimes, as on the final track, "The Bad Pilgrim Room" (well, I guess so!); curious to hear how they'd sound if they tethered those impulses and just dealt with the sounds they generate, which are often intriguing and harsh. More info here

Chicago Sound Map - Performs Compositions by Olivia Block and Ernst Karel (Kuro Neko)

Don Malone conducts a ten-piece group (reeds, strings, electronics, percussion) in the realization of three ambitious pieces, only partly successful. There's no bigger fan of Block's music out there than myself, but this work, "Stop the Sound of the Big Bell" (a story there?) never attains the cohesion of most of her prior music, the ensemble rambling about in rumbling darkness. The first of two version of Karel's "Heard Laboratories", on the other hand, carries that dark sensation superbly, a tense, tightly wound work, almost filmic, slightly reminiscent of Roscoe Mitchell's "Tnoona" (high praise, from me). The second version never quite attains the same tautness; possibly the extra length works somewhat against it. It's still an attractive work, but lacks the punch of the other. Interesting ensemble, though; hope they stick around. kuro neko

Mitsuhiro Yoshimura/Toshiya Tsunoda/Taku Sugimoto - Santa (presquile records)

Trying to determine exactly why this is so disappointing. I certainly had my hopes up upon seeing the personnel (Yoshimura-microphone, headphone, book/Sugimoto-papers/Tsunoda-buzzer, brass sticks) but the overall effect is one of irritation. The overt reason would be the gnat-like whine (Yoshimura, I take it) that's so up front throughout the hour-long track. It's aggressive in a way that virtually cancels out both the activities of his companions and, more importantly perhaps, any sense of the space in which this was recorded. One doesn't normally associate the term "cloying" with eai, but that's the sense I get here. Performed in the Aoyama Book Center, one can pick up the occasional handling of reading material, but even that has a flattened, airless quality. I leave open the possibility I'm missing something, but this release leaves me unmoved.

Mitsuhiro Yoshimura/Masahika Okura - Trio (presquile records)

The other new release on Presquile Records, despite the title, is a duo between Yoshimura and Okura (alto sax), the third member being the external environment which, true, has more to offer than on the prior recording. Here, Yoshimura reins himself in and balances perfectly well with his partner (leading me to suspect a specific strategy may have been in play on "Santa"). The ultrahigh tones are wisp-like, weaving between the generally soft wafts from Okura, ample air between. Sounds like it would have been a lovely event to have attended. presquile records (not crazy at all about the label's design aesthetic, but....)

Thursday, November 13, 2008

My legs and feet are aching but the soul is satisfied after spending the last couple of days museuming and traipsing around Manhattan with Mr. Rowe. On Tuesday, we covered a decent portion of the Met, revisiting the Morandi show (even more beautiful the second time around, enhanced by Keith's commentary), making something of a whirlwind tour through the European galleries, ending up in the modern wing (also stopping in to the hitherto unseen by me contemporary photography rooms (recently installed, I think?), which had several amazing pieces).

Yesterday it was the Whitney, largely for the Eggleston show and the Frick. The former was fantastic, way too much to really absorb, especially as a large proportion of the photos could be lingered upon for quite some time as you discover all sorts of elements and relationships (formal and thematic) that weren't apparent on first glance. I spent the most time with the one pictured above which struck me as particularly AMM-ish in the sense of combining scads of disparate elements from the overtly beautiful (the chrome reflections of the tail lights) to hidden beautiful patterns (the grain in the wood of the pole, the marks on the road surface) to negative shapes (including Rowe-ian cutoffs), to intriguing shadows to societal echoes (the chain, the trash) and more. (Needless to say, it suffers in small-scale reproduction, but still...)

Worth the body pains.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

An unusual and satisfying Record Club last evening, in no small part due to my having inveigled Keith into attending.

I had missed last month's affair but brought the same two items I'd planned for that date. One was Duchamp's "Sculture Musicale" as interpreted by John Cage on my recently acquired disc of Duchamp's Complete Musical Works, realized by Petr Kotik and the SEM Ensemble. A lovely piece and, given that Keith was going to be there and that he's a pretty huge Duchamp fan, thought it doubly appropriate. Well, the first person up last evening was Gretchen, a guest of Julia and a curator at MOMA. And she goes and plays a Duchamp piece! Luckily not mine, but another, earlier, Kotik version of Erratam Musical with three vocalists (the rendition on my disc has but one, Joan LaBarbara) Shocking! So there's all this discussion about Duchamp's three musical compositions to which I couldn't respond much without giving away my hand...

Two Duchamp pieces at Record Club in one evening. Whoda thunk?

Keith brought an 1889 wax cylinder recording of Brahms playing piano, an amazing piece where you could just barely make out the occasional keyboard sounds beneath the waves of surface noise, rotating at, what, 90rpm or so? His second selection was Purcell, an excerpt from King Arthur, that sounded eerily Glassian, some 300 year before the fact. Nayland played a snippet of Ellen Fullman (which I, ahem, ID'ed) and closed the evening with a scary and bizarre 1972 song by Buffy Sainte-Marie that bizarrely anticipated everyone from Galas, to Harvey to Morissette.

Interesting to hear Keith, Chris Cochrane and Dan get into specifically musical issues on given pop pieces (mistunings, rhythmic gaffes, etc.) Didn't know Mr. Rowe was such a Steve Cropper fan...

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Werner Durand - Remnants from Paradise (absurd)

My previous experience with Durand's music (The Art of Buzzing) showed me a man and his tubes, the more vibratory the better. This set of three pieces, compiled between 2001 and 2005, continues that preoccupation, Durand using pipes of bamboo, metal and PVC, subjecting the resultant drones to electronic enhancements's good fun. The strands are rich and not over-sweet, the taffy-like textures acquiring variations via folding and pressing. Spacey? Yes, but not in a bad way.

Junko/Mattin/Michel Henritzi - Je t'Aime! (absurd)

The first time I listened to this disc, I had lied down and, about halfway through its 30 minutes, fell asleep. I woke up, slightly confused, hearing a rich, complex thrumming and thought, "Hmmm...wonder how it got from where I last remember to here?" Of course, the recording was over and I was listening to the apartment's heating system having kicked in. All well and good. As is, this disc begins with almost seven minutes of near quiet--only an subtle electric hum and faraway train whistles; very nice. Then the guitars and yelling enter. I freely admit to, generally, having difficulty with anguished, screeching vocalizations; said difficulty was manifested here. The guitar textures thicken later on, which helps, but overall I didn't find too much to sink my teeth into. That heating unit, on the other hand.....

Mouths - 3v1/3v2 (absurd)

Two cuts, the first with Jon Mueller (percussion, voice) and Carol Genetti (voice) and it's pretty marvelous. Now here's vocal work I can get behind. Slightly guttural and frayed, fairly deep held tones, one rough pitch, allowing the irregularities to interweave and form multiple patterns. Percussion enters seamlessly, smooth and rumbling, Genetti still there though recessed. It turns harsh, Genetti beginning to ululate; good, tough contrast to the earlier half of the piece, maybe hanging on a tad long. The second track is Mueller with Jim Schoenecker, an exercise in sustained buzzes and, I believe, taped vocals that doesn't have the delineation of detail I wanted to hear. Not bad, though. Good recording overall.

Matthew Sansom/Rhodri Davies - Live Uncut Vol. 1 (a question of re_entry)

Fine, almost Rowe-ian set, electronics and harp, the latter (apparently) often played acoustically, though in rubbing mode. Steady-state, both musicians contributing rich streams that merge here, unravel there. Very...mature in a way, real solid, expansive and investigatory. As with the Durand above, it sort of gets spacey toward the end of the second of two cuts, buts it's an earned spaciness and very satisfying. Seriously good work.

absurd (and aqor_e)

Choi Joonyong/Hong Chulki/Sachiko M./Otomo Yoshihide - Sweet Cuts, Distant Curves (balloon & needle)

Trying to elucidate what makes a release like this one stand somewhat apart from many other worthy recordings might be something of a fool's errand, but one thing that I kept thinking about was how the pitch range used here, high to low and in between, oddly resembled that which one might get from a "standard" quartet, rock or jazz--maybe even a vocal group, with soprano, alto, tenor and baritone. Not that these musicians stay in parts but that there's usually a fullness here that's a bit unusual in these realms. They also mitigate between dronage and short, harsh bursts, finding a juicy middle ground with regard to those choices, a fine balance among brief hums, sharp scratches and gentle pings. The music is "full" as opposed to sparse (again, relatively speaking), with an airiness between sounds more often found in acoustic settings. Whatever, an excellent disc, certainly one to hear. balloon & needle

Jin Sangtae - Extensity of Hard Disk Drive (balloon & needle)

Jin continues a recent interest of his in overt rhythmic elements, mechanical but gritty at the same time, playing amplified hard drives. Though the rhythms are static, the sound envelope around them is by turns billowy, rough, grainy, feedback-laden, making for an intriguing dichotomy for the listener to deal with. Sometimes things become almost primitively tribal, albeit a faux kind of primitivism I associate with bands like Birdsongs of the Mesozoic. It's rocky and disjointed listening, not easy, and though I'm frankly not sure if this particular avenue is going to be one I'm prone to enjoy negotiating in the years to come, I'm glad there's someone out there testing the environs. balloon & needle

Jim McAuley - The Ultimate Frog (Drip Audio)

24 duets (save for the closing piece, a solo dedicated to the late Rod Poole) on two discs featuring guitarist McAuley with the late Leroy Jenkins, either of the Cline brothers and bassist Ken Filiano. The tracks with Jenkins are improvisations, the rest based on structures by McAuley. He's clearly an accomplished player with something of a classical bent; I often heard him as halfway between A. Spencer Barefield and Ralph Towner (cuts like "Five'll Get Ya' Ten" are an excellent evocation of the latter). Though clearly not an area that intrigues me much these days, I could imagine the "me" of the early 80s getting into this and fans of dense, relatively free, melodic improv will find much to enjoy here. Always good to hear more Jenkins. Nate Dorward has a good interview with McAuley at Paris TransAtlantic from a couple years ago. Drip Audio


A personal aside: Inveterate readers may recall my wonderful trip out west last year to visit my cousin Jana and family. Jana was here last week and I had the pleasure of having a couple of excellent conversations with her. She's an amazing individual, one of the loveliest, brightest people I know. She's also the initiator of a program to teach pre-college students the rudiments of philosophy (I think as early as 12), a great idea she's been promoting for a while. There's a link to her blog at the right. If you've any interest in the area please check it out. My cousin! Whoda thunk?