Monday, March 30, 2009

Finally made it up to the Guggenheim yesterday to see the (annoyingly titled) Third Mind exhibit (the influence of Asia on American artists, 1860 - 1989). It was far more weighted to the post-1960 period than I expected. Of the earlier work, the Whistlers stood out, including this amazing Nocturne from about 1870, iirc:

There were also a couple of Utagawa woodcuts there as a reference point that outclassed the rest of the field.

Some spectacular works from the 50s and 60s, though, including a gorgeous Agnes Martin grid painting, two incredible Reinhardts (the blackest of his cross paintings that I've seen), some fine videos, a relatively small installation of the Dream House (I'd never been inside one before! Not sure how that never happened) and a whole section devoted to Fluxus.

But the highlight was a room housing some 15-20 visual works by Cage, with several of the "Where R = Ryoanji" series, one of which is pictured above. Just so beautiful, especially the pieces on smoked paper, a couple I'd seen before. Such grace, such openness, such musicality even. I know there's at least one book devoted to his prints, "To Sober the Quiet Mind". Anyone know of others? (I can't locate an image of the smoked paper piece from the show--can't quite recall the title, something like "Eknida"--but it was generally not too dissimilar from this one:

Afterward, Carol and I ambled uptown, ending up at 106th and 3rd for a fine lunch at a Puerto Rican place--roast pork, cod salad, yucca. Took a lovely stroll across Central Park up north, past the intriguing, mammoth, steam-issuing piles of compost, through the woods (found a great tree where a thick, very symmetrically unfurled vine had been barked over, creating an amazing kind of sculpture), into my old neighborhood around West 105th St. Lovely day, everything enhanced by those Cages....

Monday, March 23, 2009

Three new releases that investigate aspects of quietude.

Julien Skrobek - double-entendre (taumaturgia)

Wherein Skrobek takes a cue or two from Sugimoto but heads out in an oblique direction. On the first of two tracks, guitar strums isolated in space nod to Taku but the strums are far more colorful and the intervening space, though often silent, is inhabited by gassy rumbles and electronic bleeps. I get something of a slowly whirling constellation image, four or five elements wheeling into "view", but in a complicate manner, their rhythms not divisible into one another so the entrance of each from the darkness is a surprise. The second is sparser, made up of a handful of electronic sounds (plus the odd, pretty guitar strum), again each circling to the fore, alone or in unpredictable combinations. Something very nice, very unforced about the way Skrobek feeds the elements into the mix; the space between attains a plasticity of sorts. Very thoughtful, very good work.

Radu Malfatti/Taku Unami - goat vs donkey (taumaturgia)

A live recording from November 2008. I've been terribly remiss in keeping up with Malfatti's work the last few years but from what I gather (there's some good discussion in this IHM thread, this is a relatively rare recent example of his improvisatory work. That same thread has arguments pro and con the ambient noise that's very present here as well as the somewhat rough recording quality, neither of which bothers me in any way. Malfatti, as is often the case, blows long, softly burred tones on his trombone, spacing them out over irregular intervals, allowing substantial time to elapse between exhalations. Unami excites small items via computer (or directly?), causing buzzes, rattles, (hand-claps!) etc., also in a periodic manner. In his case, one sometimes can't quite tell which sounds are his, which are the room's. Again, no real matter. The piece flows beautifully. Unlike the Skrobek, there is a sense of a pool, of gentle ripples and floating objects jostling one another; everything is "there", it's just a question of what wafts into audible range at a given moment. I find it absolutely fascinating, serene, warm and stimulating. One of the best new releases I've heard in a while.


Robin Hayward/Rhodri Davies/Taku Unami - valved strings calculator (hibari)

In large part, this recording delivers kind of what you suspect going in, though there are rough edges to be found. It's generally quiet and sparse but explodes harshly (though briefly) on several occasions. On first listen, I was very much into it, enjoying the blobs of sound floating around--Hayward's burps, Davies' plinks and Unami's rattling. On second listen I was a tad less convinced, maybe finding the sound too up front when I wanted it to recede. Subsequent hearings find me going back and forth, probably to the disc's credit. I find it messes with my expectations regarding space--it gets a little claustrophobic at times, something I normally am somewhat averse to but here...dunno. Back and forth. Interesting recording, certainly worth hearing.

Available from erstdist

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Bhob Rainey/Angst Hase Pfeffer Nase (Chris Cooper) - Ain't It Grand/Journey to the Center of Something or Other (Sedimental)

A 7", 33rpm release, entirely unlabeled as to which side is whose responsibility, but who cares? One's Rainey, the other Cooper, both are good and both occupy dense, rapidly moving collage-like territory. Each is only 3-4 minutes long, compressed to opaline hardness but, despite some humor, without a trace of Zornian hyper-reference. If I like the one with the intense hums near the end, the one without the harmonica section, a tad better, eh, they're both loads of fun and could have gone on for far, far longer. If you have a turntable, don't hesitate. Even if you don't.

Novi_aad - Jailbirds (Sedimental)

Novi_sad is Thanasis Kaproulias, a youngster from Greece. He apparently has three prior releases of which I'm unaware but my interest has been piqued, to say the least. Two cuts of 20 or so minutes, the first a marvelous combination of field recording and dronescape (yes, in that sense, not a new approach to be sure, except this sounds like nothing I've heard recently), with elements gradually emerging along its flow, including some seriously deep bass throbs, ending surprisingly with snatches of Icelandic film dialog. Really good and rich, great track.

The second takes a very different tack and is almost as successful. Much harsher up front, with some piercing wails and an abrupt, cracking explosion, it settles into a beguiling rhythm of soft sparks over a monotone hum. About halfway through, he shifts to a grainy, complex rumble that, while enticing on its own, somehow I hear as losing a bit of focus. Still, not a bad ride. Listeners who have enjoyed work from the Asher/Richard Garet end of the spectrum (like me) should certainly hear this.


Thursday, March 19, 2009

So, at Record Club last night, leading off Round Two, Chris Cochrane plays this piece--it's kind of raunchy, bluesy rock; my initial impression was Mountain (!). Scroungy guitar, thick yowled vocals, fuzz-saturated, pretty nicely throbbing in a way that some bands were '69-'70. The rhythmic thrust reminded me a bit of "Willie the Pimp" and some of the slide guitar work reeked of Zoot Horn Rollo. I'd never really heard Mallard, but that was about as close a guess as I could hazard.

Nope, it was Sir Paul from his recent album with Youth (a person, I take it).

Could've knocked me down with a feather. Now, I'm not going to be rushing out and buying this by any means but within the genre, it was a pretty damned good number. I know that, historically back through the mid-60s, McCartney was the Beatle with by far the most adventurous tastes (into Ayler, attending AMM, etc.) but something like this, which is only fractionally along that kind of pathway, still makes me want to smack him alongside the head as it hints at what could have been for 40 years. But no, instead we get Wings...

As always, a fun evening at Record Club. Chris also brought a Henry Cow live performance from the recent 40-year anniversary box, a piece I went back and forth on, liking some aspects, finding others too mechanical. Nayland played a great piece from the Ethiopiques series, a rousing number from '71 with female vocalist and a fairly awesome sounding "police band". Julia had a couple of nice ones--a French film soundtrack from '70 or so with great funky organ work and Miles from the soundtrack to "Ascenseur pour l'Echafaud". Nina expanded RC boundaries with a tape of her younger brother, aged about 8, playacting a horror film at home in the late 70s; fantastic "field recording", actually.

I played the first track from John Butcher's "Resonant Spaces" and the Dirge from Britten's "Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings" with Peter Pears (thanks, Betsy!) which, to me, stands as a strong antecedent to Scott Walker as well as being quite beautiful in its own right.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

A few days ago, I'd been admiring a very beautiful pencil drawing Betsy had scanned onto her facebook page, a view of her feet just beyond a very pregnant belly (containing twins!), a plate with an apple, spoon and knife nestled just beyond--really an amazing drawing--and was inspired to draw a bit when I got home that day. Which I did (my feet! and surroundings), with so-so results, it's been a while. But I'd also been missing playing my vinyl having had a relative deluge of new releases around, so I picked up where I'd left off and put on Eno's "Music for Airports", today transformed into "Music for Drawing". I guess this is often cited as one of the touchstones of ambient music and, of course, in a sense it is. However, it retains its backbone.

The scores of the four pieces are lovely.

Each of them has a stream-like quality with this odd sort of semi-regularity. It's generally evident from looking at them what kind of structure the piece will take, just the bare bones, an interesting type of graphic score. And despite the dreaminess of the sonic elements here--soft piano, hornlike synth and hushed voices--there's a rigor rarely encountered in most of its purported progeny. It sounds pretty great, I have to say.

The three records here, for my money, are the last things of Eno's I consider first rate. I kept up with his output through 2000 or so and there were enjoyable releases in the later 80s and 90s but they always seemed to be a shell of the work from, say, 1972 to 1982. The price of fame, I guess, and producing vapid pop bands. I've no desire whatsoever to hear the revival of the Bush of Ghosts duo (or an approximation thereof) but the original really sounds as vibrant as ever. Take one great idea (derived in some part from the Reich of "Come Out" and "It's Gonna Rain" but taken in an entirely different direction), graft it onto the post-punk latinized funk of 1979 Talking Heads, and it just works. "The Jezebel Spirit" is a small masterpiece, beautifully constructed, the new music twining seamlessly around the paranoid radio host. I believe this is the first time I heard Laswell, as well (couldn't resist).

I saw the video from which the cover images were taken once; I forget where. It was entrancing in an alien kind of way.

I'm always a little bit surprised at how well this one holds up. For all the woozy, gauzy cotton candy it helped spawn, there's something solid about "On Land: that won't go away. Partly, I think, it's the beautiful melodic sensibility Eno still retained (don't know what became of it soon afterward); Jon Hassell being on board doubtless helps. I've often referred, when writing about contemporary musicians who straddle the boundary between field recording and more or less ambient or drone-based music, to Eno and it's usually this recording in particular. Maybe it's nostalgia talkin', but I really think that approach has rarely been handled more deftly. Wonderful sense of languid melancholy.

Always loved this cover among the several of close-up map images.

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.


Available stateside via erstdist

Went to Roulette last night to hear Carl Stone, Aki Onda and Y***** T*****. (The latter was a shamisen player who, apparently, was violating some term of her visitation rights here by performing, hence she was billed as "surprise guest" and Stone asked that this be respected, so she'll be YT here. I'm sure some perspicacious readers can figure it out)

I first heard Stone at, iirc, a New Music America performance around 1989-90 at the Kitchen where he impressed mightily. This was in the halcyon days when digital sampling was in its infancy and most any decent example of same was pretty cool. (I'm sure were I to go back and listen to some things, I'd cringe. Previte's record for the Moscow Circus comes to mind) But Stone brought to bear a lovely melodic sense as well as a willingness to calmly sit and elicit very slow strings of beauty, often taking a tiny sliver of sound and stretching it out to amazing lengths, discovering all manner of granularity within. A couple of years later, he released "Mom's" on New Albion, which was a huge favorite of mine for many years. Subsequent music I enjoyed to some degree (including a duo with Otomo) though he, at least as far as the recordings were representative, largely moved on from the delicious stasis achieved on pieces like "Banteay Srey" and "Chao Nue". I saw him 5-6 years back at the old Roulette (Jon, I think you were there?) and didn't get much from it, though his encore sample-istic version of "Axis: Bold as Love" was pretty juicy.

I hadn't heard anything of his in a good while so I only had general expectations. The evening was in two parts, the first comprising solo sets by Onda and Stone. I'm not hugely familiar with Onda's work, though I've heard a decent amount over the last 7-8 years, enjoying his found cassette music the most. His set here was disappointing. He was using cassettes (a hand-held device, connected via wire to...a mixer? not sure but it seemed to react to physical movements of his arms) generally overlaying two or three sound sources. Toward the latter half, it was a scratchy Arabic song (sounded like Mohammed Abdel Waheb, but who knows?) and some low, deep tones. But something about it just didn't connect, seemed dry and arbitrary, lacked any sort of resonance. The last minute or two, when things dwindled down to some soft, simple but grainy tones, was quite good, otherwise...not so much.

Stone, on computer, began with tiny but precise smudges of sound, ably dispersed throughout the three room speakers. Somewhat in the manner of his "Gadberry's" from "Mom's", the isolated sonic patches gradually began to coalesce into something that almost resembled cohesion but remained enticingly unformed, still swirling restlessly. One had the impression there were at least a dozen elements and wondered when/if they'd "make sense", which I don't think they ever quite did and which was one of the attractions of the piece. There was, however, a substantial lull during the set's middle where the enjoyable confusion crossed the line (for this listener) into groping for material, which wasn't found until the concluding several minutes, once again reaching that earlier state of addled bliss. Overall, some problems, but ample success.

The second half was single trio performance which was very enjoyable throughout though, in an odd way, I think this was almost entirely due to the presence of YT on shamisen. For most of the duration, she played it lying flat on a table (the shamisen, not her!) using extended techniques involving various implements, string, wire, etc. The resultant sounds were almost all high-pitched, squeaky and relatively harsh, the sort of thing that you'd normally expect (fairly or not) to serve in more of a "color" capacity. Here, however, I heard them as the true spine of the piece, bolstering and giving focus to the contributions of Stone and Onda who, on occasion, generated tones that were a bit loopy for my taste. The improv had a natural flow to it, ebbing and advancing, the shamisen ensuring that matters never flagged. Really interesting to hear how such generally gossamer sounds managed to wield such power; I'm tempted to chalk it up to YT's inherent sense of placement and musicality--I've only known her work in group contexts before; be curious to hear her own music. Toward the end of the set, she picked up the shamisen and played it in standard position, often tightening and loosening a tuning peg resulting in some fine bent cascades which Stone duly sampled and messed with.

Very satisfying set, in an intriguing area somewhere between eai and a slightly older electronics school; I'm not sure at all that type of collaboration would work out consistently--the underlying premises don't jibe enough, perhaps--but the inclusion of YT was the leavening agent that made this evening more successful than it otherwise may have been.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Dropp Ensemble - Safety (either/OAR)

Dropp broods. The Adam Sonderberg/Salvatore Dellaria-centered ensemble, here augmented with thirteen other musicians (full personnel listed here on four cuts with group sizes of three, six, eight and eight, tends toward dense, dark continuos containing layer upon layer of rich sound and they do that in spades here. Assembled by the pair from, I'm guessing, any number of performances, they manage to construct absolutely cohesive, convincing works; the four tracks totaling only a bit over a 1/2 hour feel like movements in a mini-symphony. The inclusion of instruments like bass clarinet and organ, which often hold long tones, is very moving, recalling some Gavin Bryars pieces from back in his prime. Really benefits from being played loud, exposing all the booming undercurrents; one of the fine points here, as in much of their work, is the sonic balance between the throbbing and the pointillistic or gritty. An excellent release, get it.

Jim Denley/Kim Myhr - Systems Realignment (either/OAR)

Denley (alto sax, flutes, electronics) and Myhr (acoustic guitar, "simple mechanics") here fashion capable free improv with a nod toward Australian native traditions, the latter not done overtly but more by passing references to the hums associated with the didgeridoo and dry, clattering sounds that evoke the skittering of birds and other desert fauna. Both possess an attractive clarity of sound, allowing a strong sense of spaciousness into the music at the same time avoiding many free improv routines. Myrh, who I've not previously heard, is an engaging guitarist, even more so (I get the impression) when he plays "straighter" as on a solo piece here, "Engraved and Suspended". Overall, a fairly enjoyable pathway trod between an efi-y approach and a more expansive one.

Isobel Clouter/Rob Mullender - Myths of Origin - Sonic Ephemera from East Asia (and/OAR)

When Dale from and/OAR wrote that he'd like to send me a couple of things, I asked about this disc since I'd been intrigued by Richard's mention of it recently. I'm pretty sure I'd never actually heard "singing sands" and maybe had only vaguely known about their existence period. Dale kindly obliged. The disc is a set of field recordings, the first three from Japan, the last six from China. The non-sand dune recordings don't do so much for me--I'm not sure to what degree they've been restructured but, aside from the attractiveness of the sounds themselves (which is fine) I don't pick up that extra dimension I've found in Tsunoda or, more recently, French. The dune experiences, however, are pretty amazing, even as you understand you're getting probably a hundredth the effect you would were you out in the field. Essentially, cascading waves of sand on these large dunes can set into action enormous resonance effects within the dune itself, sounding like the Earth is deeply thrumming. Even as is, you might not want to play this with your speakers too close to the shelf edge. Fascinating phenomenon, even if on disc it reads perhaps more as a cool science experiment.


Saturday, March 07, 2009

So naturally, a naked old man walks in.

I mean, I invite my friend Betsy to the event, who prior to a few weeks ago I hadn't seen for some 32 years and who expressed sincere interest in the music I listen to and write about (and who's a cellist herself), and I figure, "OK, The International Nothing should be a pretty safe option, not so off-putting, probably on the quiet side, even playing compositions." So we meet over at XI, go up to the loft. There's a pretty decent crowd on hand, many familiar faces, some I hadn't seen for a good while like Chris Mannigan (hey, Chris!). Kai had been feeling ill all day, so things were delayed a bit which was fine as excellent conversation could be had. Things are bubbling along when I notice out of the corner of my eye, back toward the entrance some 30 feet away, a gentlemen crouched over, seemingly divesting himself of some clothes. I figure I'm misinterpreting this and turn back to the talking. A few seconds later, I glance up once again, momentarily assuming I'm seeing someone in a costume of some sort that I just can't quite decipher--it's quite baggy and flesh-colored with hairy patches. Oh, it's a naked old guy.

Amazing what that does to the conversational noise level in a place. Utter silence, soon broken up by the odd snicker. I'm thinking, "Great, this is going to give Betsy a really good picture of the scene." The gentleman, who resembled an only slightly slimmer version of Sacha Baron Cohen's cohort in "Borat", wanders around, seating himself in several locations, causing others to seek purchase elsewhere, eventually, natch, depositing his carcass at the end of our row. I'd later discover that he'd graced the previous XI series with his presence, having first asked Phill if his comportment was OK with the house which, apparently, it was.

Not that all this should take away from the music, which it didn't really, but it's hard not to comment on.

Mssrs Fagaschinski and Thieke performed six composed pieces, pretty much the same program, I believe, that Robert reported on here. It was very much about control, of maintaining a lovely balance between the two reeds and within their own sounds, the split tones played with a fine combination of precision and fuzziness, allowing for accidents within a proscribed area. There was a nice breathing quality to the first couple of works, a natural kind of ebb and flow, the tones combining to form soft shimmers, then parting, back and forth, often with an implied, subtle melodic component. The second also contained a well-placed silence of a minute or so during which the loft's heating system played an excellent role, clinking away arhythmically. That melodiousness came to the fore on the very brief, but exceedingly charming third number, a bagatelle that reminded me of some of Howard Skempton's beautiful miniatures for piano.

The short second set opened with the Morse Code piece; interesting structure, one I'd like to here again, the dots and dashes bracketed by longer tones as though surfacing between periods of static transmission. The final work, "Sleep", was my personal favorite, making use of a descending three note figure, sending it through a series of relaxed, oneiric variations, really conveying a pleasantly drowsy sensation, delicately balanced between melody and abstraction, much as ones feels between sleep and wakefulness. Fine work, thanks gentlemen.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Three 3" minis and a standard, new from Cathnor:

Adam Sonderberg - say no

An archival release from 2000-01, originally issued on Longbox. Interesting for me, as I'm a big fan of Adam's work over the last several years. The first track is great, very quiet, I imagine using some field recordings overlaid with soft pops; holds up beautifully today, very impressive for the time. A trio of brief cuts, one with Salvatore Dellaria on record player, another with Boris Hauf on computer, are less interesting in and of themselves but make ok elements in the suite of five presented here, sharp and crinkly. The last and longest features Geraldine Vo on accordion and if it's not quite so successful as the first, its intriguing combination of drones, lumpiness and subtle harshness points the way toward future Sonderberg work.

Mark Wastell - After Hours

One wonders how much simpler you can get, yet I find these 15 minutes very satisfying. A tubular bell with some computer processing, apparently, sounding in waves, the bell strike having had its initial attack blurred so that it wells to the forefront every 30 seconds or so, then it lolls there, like liquid finding its place in a jostled vessel, before the next muted peal. Totally easy to imagine this, in lesser hands, descending to new-agey levels, but somehow it doesn't. Don't ask me why.

Burkhard Beins/Michael Thieke/Luca Venitucci - Roman Tics

Percussion/objects/zither, clarinet/zither and accordion/preparations, respectively. Despite the Scrabbleisciousness of the interior design, this was the one of the bunch I couldn't quite get behind. Nothing seemed to gel for me, though there were several points where things appeared on the verge of doing so as when Beins initiates one of his fine, scraping drones several minutes in. It's a disc I might have preferred at greater length with more time for development.

Phil Durrant/Lee Patterson/Paul Vogel - Buoy

One fine, solid release here, excellent from start to finish. Durrant (self-made software samplers and treatments), Patterson (field recordings, amplified objects and processes) and Vogel (clarinet and electronics) construct five marvelously varied lattices of sound, gritty and dusty here, liquid and roiling there--sometimes simultaneously--with great depth and detail and unfailingly fascinating texture and sequencing. Vogel integrates his clarinet beautifully throughout, especially in conjunction with a series of low, fluttery sounds deriving from (I think) wind/water tapes and electronics in the third track. But there's not a dull moment to be found, one evocative soundscape after another. Check it out.


Monday, March 02, 2009

Jez riley French - silence (engraved glass)

I take it for granted (though I imagine I could be wrong) that French does a fair amount of processing on his field recordings. Evaluating the results, therefore, involves balancing the degree of beauty, interest, richness, etc. of the source recordings against the use that's made of them, their positioning, enhancement, the weight they acquire. Sometimes, as in much of the Tsunoda I've heard, there's an airy expansiveness to the sounds, an irregular branching out. Perhaps due to the accompanying descriptions here, but I think/hope a quality that would have been apparent anyway, there's an enclosed effect at play with " silence", French having used building interiors, empty rooms and heating systems within walls. But within these enclosures, there's a billowy aspect, a cloud within the cube that seems to cause the walls to thrum, the house to vibrate. It's all wonderfully immersive which, when all's said and done, might be the chief quality one asks for in such music; however much it's been manipulated, it reads as real.

The third of three pieces, more than 1/2 hour long, concentrates on vibrating surfaces, some super-quiet, some throbbing enough to vibrate the surfaces of your own speakers, even at low volume. They were recorded in a building that carried strong memories for French and he evokes an eerie kind of calm, as though one has lied down on the heavy wooden floors, allowing the structure's inherent sounds to flow up through one's body. Very beautiful, very moving, difficult to otherwise describe. Could almost be a Bela Tarr soundtrack.

The disc comes with several photographs, heavily blurred images of apparently everyday scenes, not so bad a visual analogy.

More info may be found here though I'm guessing one must e-mail Jez to actually procure a copy? Well worth doing so.

R Millis - 120 (Etude)

I'm unfamiliar with Climax Golden Twins, of which Millis is a member, and had never encountered his work otherwise, so I had no idea what to expect here. Initially, the first track sounded a bit collage-ish, a (apparent) phone conversation overlaid on scratchy vinyl, but it soon segued into spacier territory, expanding out into glistening bands of minimalist psychedelia. The second follows a similar tack, but bumpier, harsher while the third dwells entirely in the ambient haze. These three are not bad, though I didn't find them particularly gripping, despite the rather unexpected and smile-inducing emergence of The Desert Band from Escalator Over the Hill at one point. The final track, however, beginning with an old, staticky argument about evolution between what sounds like two cranky, Southern black men, shifts into a lovely, forlorn guitar duo (I assume an overdubbed Millis), recalling Loren Connors, with an effective, subtle aura of hum. Arguably worth it for this piece alone.


Lee Noyes/Barry Chabala - Illuminati (Roeba)

I've only heard Barry in a handful of contexts (don't know Noyes at all) but I nonetheless surprised at how efi-y and even free-jazz-bluesy (at times) much of this music was. It varies a good bit, unspooling out into less definable areas (which, imho, work better, as in much of the second track) but seems to be drawn back into the sort of playing that I think of as related to 80s downtown NYC fringe, a mix of percussive clatter and multi-idiomatic guitar. There's a section in the third cut where Barry creates a really fine low, hum/throb but the percussion at the same time seems to "routine" in a free sense, like Jamie Muir had just teleported in. "Illuminati" has its moments, but I found it somewhat unsatisfying overall. In case you're unaware, though, Barry has an excellent free download available of his performance of Michael Pisaro's "Unter Eichen (Under Oaks)" available here "Illuminati", I believe, can be ordered through Barry's site

So there I was, five puzzles under my belt, no mistakes of which I was aware, having just sledgehammered the most difficult puzzle of the tournament and looking forward to the sixth and, likely, easiest one, a Maura Jacobson effort. I zipped through 98% of that one as well before slamming into an unexpected wall. In the upper center of the grid, there were two five-letter across entries atop a puzzle wide theme entry. The theme was kind of a Spoonerism thing, the one in question was clued as something like, "Puts away the king's seat", the answer being, "STOWS THRONE AWAY" (which I hadn't figured out yet). I had "STOWSTH AWAY" at the time. The H was the third letter in MEHTA coming down. I only had the M and E for the two five-letter acrosses, clued, "Highest peak in the Phillipines" and "Love to bits".

That's where I sat. The down clues weren't helping me. It was a case, to an extent, of having too much knowledge as, when presented with a 5-letter word beginning with M and it involving a mountain in the Philippines, the obvious answer is MAYON. Obviously! Try as I might, however, I could fit it in no more easily than I could convince myself that Zubin's last name was spelled MAHTA, allowing me to enter ADORE instead of EATUP.

So while my peripheral vision and hearing notified me of dozens of lesser solvers (! ;-)) turning in their sheets, I sat there in confusion. Eventually after an eternity lasting three or four minutes, I figured out all but one letter. I had M_APO. The blank crossed with _ARS, clued as "Men in a tub?" Frazzled enough by my snail-like pace, I thought, MOAPO/OARS, and wrote in an "O". Moapo sounds entirely (possibly) Tagalog. (I did have an extra bit of annoyance floating through my skull--that Linda, sitting two seats away, probably knew the answer off the top of her head. This proved to be utterly not the case...). "OARS" for sailors sounds good to someone momentarily without the capacity to think of TARS, which is a rather better answer. And, of course, Mt. Apo, pictured above.

So, two dumb mistakes in consecutive years, this one lowering me to 39th place (out of 685). Cost me between 20th and 25th depending how much time I should have taking whilst cruising through the puzzle. Ergghh...I found out that, last week sometime, one fellow had set up a Fantasy Crossword Draft, seeding the top 40 players, myself at 25th. Pretty good peg, aside from not allowing for idiotic mistakes on my part.

Despite this, a wonderful time, hanging with the usual great crew plus my dear friend Betsy who I'd only not seen in 32 years before a couple weeks ago. I believe a photo was take of yours truly in the company of the notorious Okrent brothers by a staff photographer, which I'll add here when it's been uploaded on the Xword site.


Ah, just recalled my favorite line of the event. The on-stage finals are accompanied by live commentary from Merl Reagle and Neal Conan (of NPR). Yes, like it's a sports event. One of the answers in the final puzzle was SWANSONG. Quippeth Reagle, "It could've been clued, 'How the star of Sunset Blvd. was listed in the phonebook.'"


As threatened:

The Okrent lads, Leigh Newman, yours truly.