Saturday, March 14, 2009


(Various) Relay: Archive 2007-2008 (Manual)

It's been a strong year thus far and here's yet another very fine release, a collection of ten improvisations from various permutations of the musicians involved with the Manual label and invited guests. Ryu Hankil seems to have shown very good judgment in culling these tracks from what I imagine to have been a substantial volume of work; almost every track is at least strong, often very compelling. The sole exception perhaps not very surprisingly, is a trio with Choi Joonying, Jin Sangtae and Mats Gustafsson. The latter is all too often intent on muscling his way through, something he's extremely adept at in other contexts but ill serves him here. It's not terrible, but when compared with, for example, the trio of Choi, Hong Bulki and Kai Fagaschinski, it's fairly clear which reed player has the deeper understanding of this area of music.

Most tracks are in this guest/residents format. Listeners familiar with the fine, fine work of the Manual, Balloon & Needle, etc. crew will have a good idea of the general territory covered here--rough-edged electronics of the open circuit kind, usually on the quiet side but with the odd explosion, etc., but there's more than ample variation to be heard. It's not "new" in that sense, just very accomplished. Other guests include Toshi Nakamura (a deliciously bumptious duo with Park Seungjun), Klaus Filip, dieb 13, Iida Katsuaki, Noid, and both Takus. Joe foster is also present in both a trio and as half of English with Bonnie Jones (an excellent cut).

Writing about it in detail is something of a fool's errand. I'll say that my favorite track may have been the trio of Choi Joonyang, dieb13 and Joe Foster if only for the fact (guess, I suppose) that dieb13 inserts a dose of viscosity into a textural area that tends toward the crackling and prickly; makes for an especially dense and piquant stew. (Though I think Filip does that a bit as well). The last piece brings together ten musicians and--of course since it's a Sugimoto composition
--is by far the quietest in the collection. More external sounds than musicianship here. I'm probably more of a fan of this aspect of Taku than many, but I found it quite successful.

A mandatory pick-up for those at all interested in this neck of the woods.

manual

Available stateside via erstdist

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

I haven't heard this compilation yet (i am still waiting to get it) but i would like to touch yr comment about Gustafsson and Fagaschinski. While i totally agree w Fagaschinski being more 'succesfull' in this sound enviroment i guess it is not a matter of 'deeper understanding' but a matter of the way Kai tends to play and a matter of aesthetic preferences of both players. Gustafsson could work well if he would be in more dense and energetic enviroment (closer to noise music- if he would play w Astronoise for example). Just a thought really which i would like to end w an anecdote i've heard from Nickelsdorf festival where Kai performed w Los Glissandinos. After the gig herr Brötzmann came to him (one of Mats's heroes) and ask/told him something like: 'So there is really no musician who can play nowadays in Berlin!?'

best LukaZ

Jon said...

what's funny is I don't think the Kai track is very successful either, but for pretty different reasons.

the Mats one is easily the lamest on the two discs, but I kind of like that it was included simply to combat the critics who think any improvisers can mesh with any others (not that this was the point in including it, I'm sure).

anyway, IMO this is pretty easily the best EAI release so far this year, even though not all of the tracks are great. it feels like music from NOW, which is quite rare these days to my ears, and it's also sequenced very intelligently (again, something that's too rare these days).

Richard Pinnell said...

I just bumped this to the top of my "To listen to" pile.

Brian Olewnick said...

Hi Lukaz,

My comment may well have been unfair to Mats. I imagine his "level of understanding" is fine but maybe he's in a period when he (stubbornly?) just doesn't hear things that way. I remember being very enthused with his Hidros project, hoping for more in that vein. I can't say I've kept up at all in the last couple of years, maybe he's pursued that a bit, but my feeling is he's opted for the more expressionist (for lack of a better term) avenue, at which of course he excels. I last saw him with The Thing (with Joe McPhee) about two years ago and, to paraphrase Harry Partch, what he does, he does superbly. It's just something I have less deep affinity with nowadays. Perhaps he wanted to jostle his companions on this occasion out of what he considered some kind of cul-de-sac. No problem there, to each his own cul-de-sacs.

Anonymous said...

I've heard Mats last year in a group Boots Brown ( David Stackenas, Magnus Broo and Johan Berthling (from Tape)) where he even plays some electronics. And while this group had it's more subtle moments i would agree with you on the term 'expressionist'. But since Mats was probably the one who was invited to Relay we could also flip the coin and say that Choi Joonying and Jin Sangtae could go more into 'joyful noise' territory- so that they could meet somwhere in the middle ... anyway i didn't think of yr remark as being 'unfair', just wanted to say that the way they played in it's very essence Kai is more suitable for this kind of music than he is ...

to Nick Cane (sic!) it is not a mismatch but lively match-up (in his words raucous stuff)

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much,

This interests me;would like to get a copy. Searched your blog(new to it)for Choi Sun Bae...
As far as I know,he's playing NYC,April 9.His solo albums(on Chap Chap/Laubhuette) are two of my favorites...

billphoria

peter said...

I kind of like that it was included simply to combat the critics who think any improvisers can mesh with any others (not that this was the point in including it, I'm sure).