Wednesday, May 27, 2009

I mentioned a few weeks back that, at Record Club, Nina played a selection from this album. She lent it to me yesterday.

Holy crap! Amazing stuff, scaring and thrilling this atheist soul simultaneously. Congregational choirs from Alabama and Georgia, recorded in 2005-2006. My understanding (I could well be wrong) is that these aren't "choirs", just reg'lar folk, divided into four sections with a "conductor" for each and the hymns divided into parts, more or less soprano, alto, tenor, bass. Each one begins with a weird kind of solfege, as though to allow the group to find its tonal center and cadence, then they launch into the hymn proper. The untrained aspect seems to lend a rough-hewn, quavering quality that's quite stirring.

Anyway, thought I'd mention it here on the long shot that a reader might know more about the area. Just what I need, another sub-genre to investigate.

This is the soundtrack to a documentary which is also included, that I've yet to view.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Lucio Capece/Julia Eckhardt/Christian Kesten/Radu Malfatti/Toshimaru Nakamura/Taku Sugimoto - Wedding Ceremony (Cathnor)

A live recording, culled from two sets in Belgium, May 2007, and a rewarding and fascinating one.

Five pieces, four of them composed, most of the time freely admitting of the performing space ambiance. Christian Kesten's "zonder titel (schuif en ruis)" consists "simply" of lengthy sustained notes by the sextet tutti placed between extended sections of non-playing. The filled areas are made up of fine burbling with subtle, barely rising pitches. As with many works of this general form, its success relies, for me, on the natural deployment of the sound blocks, how well they "hang" in space. To my ears, this one does the trick and does it very well. It segues into a 20-minute improvisation, I assume from the same set though one of the effects of the ambient sounds throughout is to provide a tissue of sorts between the track. Quietly blistering. Nakamura (I'm guessing) inserts a few awkwardly loopy sounds, though even then if one listens in the context of the whole piece, they're more like brightly colored blips in a somber landscape--interesting to flip back and forth in one's head between the momentary irritation and broader scope. Overall, though, it's a fine and controlled piece; not dissimilar in most respects from other performances by like-minded musicians, but handled with great sensitivity. Much fun attempting, often unsuccessfully, to pick out Kesten. In my limited exposure to his work over the past year, he's become, with Ami Yoshida, my favorite vocalist in the music.

I've also been largely remiss in keeping track of Radu Malfatti's vast output over the last few years, but his composition here, "quartet + 2", seems to fit in comfortably with what I am familiar with, 27 minutes of sounds that seem more respired than played, like the breaths of some sleeping giant. There are enormously low tones in play (Toshi?), the other voices arrayed laminally, sliding in and out of unison, the background noises providing some salt. I do generally find this side of Malfatti's work to be transfixing and am again so impressed here. Hard to imagine tiring of listening to this; gorgeous work.

Listeners who've been unable to abide much of Sugimoto's recent composed music get another to chew on here, version 2.12 of his "doremilogy". A minute of room sound, a single clarinet note, three rising scale notes on the viola, three on clarinet, viola and guitar, five on another combination (I could be getting these wrong but they're additive), a full octave with everyone, etc. The salient aspect of this performance, clocking in at only four + minutes, is the timbral distortion applied to the notes in the scales, kind of like Richter doing a comfy mother and child painting then taking a board to rake the paint across the surface. I rather enjoy it.

This bleeds directly into the final and, arguably, most problematic work, an improvisation conducted by Capece based on his instructions which can be read here. As indicated, it's in two sections of equal length. The first is quite attractive, a succession of soft tones, gentle thwacks and high squeaks, having something of a ritualistic quality; very beautiful. Throughout this portion, Capece had been strolling through the audience, handing out bits of text. At the conclusion of the first section, Capece jarringly takes to the mic and asks the audience to participate (or not) as spelled out in his notes. There follows a couple of minutes of uncomfortable silence before one, then another few audience members recite the lines from Guy Debord, finally one in whispers. The awkward blockiness of this maneuver is, one supposes, an expected outcome, reinforcing perhaps the criticism of "spectacle" in the text. That tension comes through clearly; I imagine it did even more so in situ. Does it, that second section, "sound" great? No. Should the work have been included on an audio CD as opposed to having been simply experienced live? Not sure. I like very much actively involving the audience in unique ways which, I'd have to say, includes asking them to consider reading aesthetically and politically charged statements, as long as they decide whether or not to do so. The psychological pressure that may have been in play does provide tension; whether it's welcome or not or, indeed, verges on the oppressive...that's a question. Ultimately, I'm glad it's here, if only in the interests of fair representation of the musician's activities and range of investigations.

Many ideas packed in, several of them beautifully expressed.


Saturday, May 23, 2009

Allow me to indulge in a rare bit of self---well, not promotion, but just displaying my wares. Every so often, I get asked about my own paintings and, until now, have successfully demurred, if only via the simple expediency of not possessing a scanner. I also hadn't painted since about 2003, choosing to spend my limited spare time writing. Too, I'd (long since, I think) reached a point in my work that I was satisfied with; I thought I'd taught myself to see well enough that producing a painting seemed unnecessarily duplicative; I'm not sure, today, that that's not still a valid point. But recently two things changed. One, I re-met my dear friend Betsy Wallin, who I'd last seen at Vassar in 1976 and she, via prodding, encouragement and the occasional harangue, convinced me to pick up the brushes again. And two, she has a scanner.

So, about a month ago, I made my way into Pearl Paints for the first time in quite a while, purchased several sheets of 300 lb Fabriano watercolor paper, a couple dozen tubes of paint (my brushes were still in good shape) and set to work.

I'd actually had it in my head for a few years that a painting of one of the massive stone blocks that comprise the abandoned train embankment across the street could be quite wonderful. I still think it might be though you couldn't tell from the evidence provided by my initial attempt. Simply put, I bit off more than I could chew, especially in watercolor. It's sitting here (happily, too large to be scanned) awaiting final judgment; I may return to it in brutal fashion as the basic structure is ok and might bear some messing around. But I realized I should probably revert to the small format to which I had been accustomed. I'd given away a few of the (imho) better pieces to friends in recent years, but I still have a few around. I anticipate the surprised response, "Olewnick, wtf?! Here you're writing about all this abstract, noisy, hyper-modern music and you paint like my grandma!" Well, I paints 'em as I sees 'em, always have. The odd abstract work appears--I did one yesterday afternoon in fact, as yet unscanned--but generally speaking, I place an object or two or three in front of me, something that carries personal meaning, and approach it as honestly as I can. I've said in the past that, were I a musician, I'd have likely produced music not so different from Howard Skempton. Here are three older pieces I like for one reason or another, 1996, 2002, and 2001.

The last, I'm pleased to say, is in Betsy's collection.

So, scope downsized, I cast about for objects. A couple years ago, when I visited my cousin Jana in the Methow Valley, Washington, I fetched a stone from a stream bed and had kept it alongside my pc since--a logical enough candidate.

As it is black with white striations, it was a bit of a challenge insofar as investing it with some life (drawing it better would have helped) and it reached a fairly miserable condition, enough that I loosened the reins, as it were, and brutalized it somewhat, managing to bring it to an acceptable point. Maybe.

I was a little hesitant about going back to rocks, sticks and such, for a long time my favorite subject matter (that hesitancy wouldn't last long), so I turned my head left toward a plant that sits between me and the window, and limned this one:

Thought it was kind of ok (I was still at the point of questioning whether or not it made sense to resume painting at all); the small intruder in the lower left I thought of as a nod of appreciation toward Keith, an element that may or may not have appeared a decade ago.

Betsy and I had been talking about my longstanding approach, mostly in drawings, of simply turning and working on whatever happened to be in front of me, extracting interesting compositional, textural elements from what was there (I suppose I should say that this vastly predates any knowledge on my part of field recordings, Cage, etc., fwiw) and I think she said something about clothes thrown over a chair, so I shifted my gaze rightward to my shorts draped over a wood-frame chair I've had since childhood and ended up with this oddball, largely unsuccessful thing (I'm posting 'em all, good and not-so):

This was becoming a tad frustrating, so I decided to go back to an old favorite, the largish rock that appears in the third of the three older paintings above, put it on a surface and paint it. Did so four times, the third of which is at the top of this post. That one, and its successor, I think work very well, were an awful lot of fun to do and are different enough from my earlier painting to give me some urge to do more.

There you have it. Did a couple more yesterday, perhaps I'll post these periodically.

Huge thanks to Betsy, who's been a deep source of inspiration and an incredible friend these past few months (after a gap of a mere 32 years). And equally huge thanks to Carol Pavitt who for the past seven years (after only a 30 year hiatus!) has been extraordinarily important to me in all ways, including all things aesthetic. Thanks, guys.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Taku Sugimoto/Taku Unami - Tengu et Kitsune II (slubmusic)

Richard's already given about as fine a write-up as you could want here but one thing I wanted to mention was how utterly happy and childlike this music sounds. More than just the timbres of the devices in play, which admittedly are (almost) all clinky and light, clattering about like a handful of metal marbles, but the interplay between the Takus has such a sense of wonder and delight, a give and take that resembles some tots' version of tag before they knew the rules. Of course, it's far more sophisticated than that and the layers of percussion, in the first track, that well to the surface are beautifully paced as well as spaced--there's massive amounts of air between those ticks. Metronomes and computers on one, mandolins and body sounds on the other. It's very warm music. I think that warmth has been there all along, even in their sparest work but here it's overt. Like the good Mr. Pinnell said, I could listen to this stuff all day.

Does slub have a website? In any case, available via erstdist

Jérémie Ternoy/Ivann Cruz/Peter Orins - s/t (circum-disc)

I've received a number of discs from circum-disc over the last couple of years and, I have to say, most have been so far out of my alley and so uninteresting that I couldn't bring myself to write anything. So when this one appeared recently, I kind of sighed and dutifully thrust it into the changer. Well, lookee here. Kind of a power trio, I suppose, with Ternoy on Fender Rhodes (using its tonality superbly--I admit to being a total sucker for this), Cruz on guitar and Orins manning the drums, they present three tracks that sound like...well, if Corea or Jarrett had maintained the edge they had with Miles and Terje Rypdal had built on the wild dynamics of "Esoteric Circle" and "Afric Pepperbird" and you combined that with primo, Last Exit-era Ronald Shannon Jackson, you'd have something like this. If Michael Mantler had ever really rocked out...OK, you get the picture. Blistering, no-apologies jazz/noise/rock, done with the necessary amount of abandon to pull it off.


Steve Lehman Octet - Travail, Transformations, and Flow (Pi Recordings)

Speaking of things not up my alley that nonetheless find their way here. Lehman's an altoist who has taken his studies of Spectralist composers like Grisey and Murail and transported them into the jazz realm. I'm only marginally familiar with a few spectralists of note (Grisey and, to the extent they fit the definition, Dumitrescu, Barlow and Saariaho) but I don't think that's the first influence that would have come to mind. More, especially in the opener, "Echoes", of Anthony Davis with Episteme, a hint of Bobby Previte's groups and, generally, those of Henry Threadgill. The latter casts the broadest shadow both with regard to Lehman's tone on alto and the muscular knottiness of the band (which includes a tuba). That said, the arrangements lack Threadgill's melodicism and funk and strike me as more fussy than anything else; at worst it recalls late Zappa. The insistence on soloing, even if the backing is relatively complex, seems retrograde even in this context and tends to halt any flow or real pulse. Of the other musicians, drummer Tyshawn Sorey stuck out to me as the most consistently inventive. Not my cuppa by any means but I can see its attraction to a certain segment of the jazz listening audience.

pi recordings

Monday, May 18, 2009

Driving to and from Saratoga this weekend, for Tiana's graduation from Skidmore, I played through this 5-disc set, something I should do more often (the playing through, not necessarily the driving). I don't think I've written about this here before, in any depth.

My first exposure to Satie (if you don't count the opening track from the first Blood, Sweat & Tears album!) came in the art studio at Vassar in 1973, where Lewis Rubenstein (not a very good painter or teacher but a very sweet fellow) used it as ambient music during classes. I'm sure my first reaction was, "Hey, that BS&T music!" but I quickly fell under its spell. He played the recordings by Aldo Ciccolini, which had fairly recently been issued on Angel in six volumes. As ever, it's difficult to parse out whether my attraction to Ciccolini's interpretations are more or less objective or if it's tethered to the impact occasioned by initial hearing but, however it sorts out, I've never come across another pianist's Satie that effects me nearly as much. He tends to take things slowly, even languorously, which strikes me as exactly the correct approach. More, as Tilbury with Feldman, he has an exquisite sense of both touch and pacing, varying the dynamics with great subtlety and sensitivity while also, very often, not falling into a strict tempo, pausing and then tumbling, a wonderful cadence as natural as a stone rolling down a gentle hillside.

I'd pick up recordings by others but, almost inevitably, I'd find them too rushed or clipped. Something like the 4th Nocturne (still, gun to head, my favorite individual piece of music, as played by Ciccolini) utterly dies when pushed along too rapidly. I'm told, and have been meaning to hear forever, that Rienbert de Leeuw takes things even more glacially; need to hear that finally.

In any case, listening through the set, one is consistently astonished at how great virtually everything sounds, how modern, how moving, how humorous. The more static later work, things that gave me some trouble early on like the Ogives, I can now hear through a Feldman/Cage lens. I'm not sure there's a piece that doesn't have some fascinating aspect, often a beautiful one.

Just thought I'd blurt. If there are any readers who have yet to deal with Satie or, if they have, haven't heard the Ciccolini renditions, behoove yourselves forthwith.


btw, read Paul Auster's "Man in the Dark" over the weekend and enjoyed it greatly even as it hearkens back, obliquely, to John Gardner's "October Light".

Began Naipaul's "A House for Mr. Biswas". Cantankerous, misogynist, racist bastard can write up a storm.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Laurie Scott Baker - Gracility (musicnow)

Baker's role in the experimental music world of England in the late 60s and early 70s has been scantily documented up 'til now, mostly consisting of his work with People's Liberation Music, possibly leading some to think of him as "only" a politically oriented musician. This set goes a long way toward rectifying that misconception, not that the music contained herein isn't broadly political by implication but with the arguable exception of the brief Evan Parker pieces, it isn't overtly so.

The title piece alone, recorded in 1969, is cause to sit up and perk one's ears as it's the only occasion, as far as is known, that Keith Rowe and Derek Bailey performed together, here with Gavin Bryars on bass guitar and Baker on doublebass. It's a free improv work but with an interesting constraint: the amps had their volume controls set right on the edge of feedback and the musicians' instructions were only to avoid generating any such, a hazardous line that necessarily gets crossed on occasion. At it's strongest, it's a very impressive piece; Keith mentioned to me how surprised he was at how closely portions of it approximate a "Crypt"-like level of creative violence. It's virtually impossible to tease apart the contributions here; one can rarely even pick out Bailey with any confidence. Just raw amplified strings teetering on the brink of chaos, a valuable addition to both Rowe's and Bailey's discographies and to the accounting of late 60s British music.

The pair of brief solo soprano pieces for Evan Parker, "Pibroch 1926", are also something of a unique endeavor, as close to song form as I've ever heard him play. Two beautiful folk-based tunes derived from the singing of Calum Ruadh and serving to symbolize the General Strike of 1926 (they were part of a longer work of Baker's, "Will of the People"). There's a bit of overdubbing, recalling the Poppy No-Good era Terry Riley, which leads into...

...the most surprising piece here, "Bass Chants & Cues", a 1972 performance (apparently immediately after the trio, presumably with some others, had presented Rzewski's "Coming Together") with Jamie Muir (drums, voice--just before his tenure with King Crimson), Baker (bass guitar, synthesizer) and John Tilbury (organ). Tilbury had performed works by Riley before and the minimalist's influence is in full force here, the raga-inspired organ of his all-night sessions virtually taking possession of our beloved pianist. About halfway into the 51 minute set, Baker lays down a rockish bass line amidst his tape loops, Muir starts to bash away and we get an exceedingly rare opportunity to hear the wondrous Mr. Tilbury...rock out. There are moments when he presages Miles Davis from several years hence with long, spacey chords. I have to say, it's hard not to smile if, like myself, you've only seen John in relatively recent years, imagining him in action here! Much fun.

The 2-disc set closes with a 1970 recording by the Scratch Orchestra of Baker's "Circle Piece", a graphic score that evolves into a drone-like piece that recalls similar portions of Carla Bley's roughly contemporaneous "Escalator Over the Hill" (the Desert Band). It's quite rich and full of throbbing life, almost an extended orchestral tune-up, but bubbling with ichor. A fine way to end the collection.

"Gracility" is a wonderful documentation not only of a musician whose work should be much more recognized than it is, but of several exemplary instances of the kind of music that was being produced in London in that period, all too little recorded. Mandatory listening for anyone at all interested in the goings on then and there.

Available from musicnow

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Patrick Farmer - Apis mellifera (organized music from thessaloniki)

Yes, honeybees. Recorded three different ways, two of which I find very, very beautiful. These are the pair, the first and third tracks, that sound the least apian; perhaps I should appreciate the basic buzzing more, dunno. The first, "moved to", is virtually in Lucier territory, shimmers of sine-like hum but sounding in irregular waves, like sonic auroras, with almost bell-like tones underneath. Just gorgeous. I guess I prefer my bees de-buzzed as the brief second track causes me to swat at my ears more than listen; perhaps the point. The last, miking the base of a hive, seems to catch all the billions of footfalls, chewings, wax-moldings, etc., with a faint hum behind. Quite different from the first, just as entrancing. Lovely disc.

Syndromes/Kostis Kilymis - Just Another Daily Bummer (organized music from thessaloniki)

Kilymis doesn't make it easy. Two "suites", as it were, the first made up of unrelentingly irritating sound; it's sometimes as though a vacuum cleaner is being held a few inches from ones ears (bees are preferable). Electro-metallic clicks, harsh onrushes of static; all well and good except there's a shallowness at play, a lack of depth-of-field that I find off-putting. Again, perhaps that's the intent, but it left me cold. The second portion is subtler, the layers of static and the spaces between supplying some degree of atmosphere, making for an attractive, burnished wash of sound. So, half and half for me on this one.

Stasis Duo - 3 (organized music from thessaloniki)

Matt Earle and Adam Sussman weave paper thin tones, quavering, barely-there shimmers that nonetheless have significant presence and, yes, depth. Fragile, quasi-melodies and rhythms peek through (ok, maybe a bit loopy now and then) but there's always a sense of "things behind", of hearing through several layers of scrim. you encounter scattered louder scritches and the odd subsonic thrum, but we're pretty much in the high, pristine ozone and it's quite bracing, stinging the skin. Nice.

organized music from thessaloniki

Available stateside via erstdist

About a year and a half ago, maybe longer, someone in Record Club came up with the idea to execute a variation on the exquisite corpse process, well known since early Surrealist times. In our case, we'd draw lots to determine sequence, two rounds of varying order. The first person would select a piece of music, using whatever criteria he or she desired, send it via e-file to the second who would choose a track that bore some kind of relationship to it. That relationship was, of course, up to the recipient to decide--musical, lyrical, textural, whatever. He or she would then mail their selection to #3 on the list and so on, cycling through everyone twice. So each person would only be aware of the track they received and the one they chose. The person in the 10 slot would carry the additional burden of relating the piece to both its precedent and the original #1 choice, thus completing the circle.

It took a while. But the results were finally unveiled last night and, I must, say, it worked spectacularly well, in several respects. The segues were beautiful and/or exciting, the connections multi-level and the arc of the evening wonderful.

I'll attempt to reconstruct the sequence from memory, though I'll be omitting many of the specifics. More space is spent on my pieces simply because I know my thoughts about them.

1) Nina began with an achingly beautiful a capella Shaker hymn, sung by a woman with a quavery but resolute voice (I'm thinking this area is a source for Robin Holcomb). It carried a very uplifting lyric, in the "things are bad but that's all-right" vein. Very pure and spare, something I'd love to hear more of.

2) Dan chose to shift gears only slightly, picking a piece by Pentangle, also featuring an unaccompanied female voice. I think it was the traditional song, "When I Was in My Prime" from the "Cruel Sister" album. Fuller than the previous track but equally gorgeous, expanding both the sonic range and the cultural palette.

3) I was on the receiving end of Dan's piece. Of course, I didn't have any idea of Nina's choice but, in retrospect, I liked the way this worked out both because the preceding two songs were quite short and that mine, while introducing non-vocal sounds for the first time, did so quietly. For a number of years, I'd thought of bringing the lengthy "Traditional Medley" from Henry Kaiser's 1991 album, "Hope You Like Our New Direction!". It had several advantages here: first, it was, in itself, a medley of several musical styles between which Kaiser had discerned a relationship, in this case, acoustic US blues and Vietnamese danh tranh music, here performed incredibly by Ngoc Lam. I liked the idea of embedding a mini-version of the exquisite corpse procedure within the larger...body. Second, the connection between it and the preceding Irish ballad only became apparent in the last 4-5 minutes of the 13-minute track when Kaiser's band, to the surprise of most listeners I daresay, breaks into a cover of the Dead's "Cold Rain and Snow" with Robin Petrie on vocals. The song itself carries some amount of Celtic aspect and Petrie's voice isn't all that dissimilar. I thought of the echoing motif in visual terms, the model (Dan's piece) followed by unrelated forms for a space before an altered model emerges some ways away. Plus, it's simply a lovely cut.

4) Nayland, though he didn't know the details of my piece, had picked up on the US/Asia connection and thought to split the geographical difference. He then brought down the room with a song from Israel Kamakawiwo'ole and his group, Makaha Sons of Ni'ihau. I'd heard of, but don't think I'd ever heard this late, large singer, a condition soon to be remedied. Dan pointed out that the structure was fundamentally C&W but transported to other dimensions. It also featured guitar playing quite akin to some on the Kaiser (ironically, that album also contained a Hawaiian song, which I'd previously brought to RC, the sublime "Kanaka Wai Wai" with Raymond and Elodia Kane). Fantastic song, amazing voice, singing about seeing a star through night fog.

5) Julia picked up on the romantic longing for the shining star, opting to shift from spirituality to angst with a great track from PJ Harvey's first record, "Dry", "O Stella", the opening lines croaked out, "o stella maris you're my star". The volume and intensity level had clearly arched. It's a powerful number, especially the rhythm section.

6) Dan upped the ante further. An aficionado of Scandinavian pop and rock bands, he unearthed a slab of a piece, a hard-driving number by, I regret to say, a group whose name I can't recall. Arggh. [edit: "Big Time" from the group, Soundtrack for Our Lives] It turned out to represent the apex of the evening in terms of solidity, things having coalesced from the vaporous Quaker hymn to this raw bolus of sound. A pick-ax and/or acid bath might be needed.

7) Which Nayland duly provided in the form of a skittering, nervous Art Bears piece. You could almost see the trio of Frith, Krause and Cutler hacking away at and gleefully dissolving the preceding edifice while retaining the anarchic rock spirit. Frith was on violin here, sawing madly, and the piece contained a false ending or two, once of which involved tape manipulation.

8) This was sent to me. I seized on Frith's violin and the tape work and also felt the desire to decompress matters further (without knowing about Dan's piece!). At the time I received the file, I happened to have recently heard Cor Fuhler's disc as DJ Cor Blimey and His Pigeon and especially enjoyed the track, "Man-Ray-Nance", which featured Cor on his keyolin, improvising rebab-style [one of the interestingly disturbing aspects of this piece is how convincing, to my innocent ears, Cor's playing is. I'm sure I would have guessed at a North Indian source for the string work, this despite the rhythm being clearly derived from a wavering tape]. It's quite a relaxed work, languid and warm and has the added and irresistible feature of, a couple minutes prior to its conclusion, shifting gears via tape warpage, morphing into a slow dance groove redolent of Jon Hassell and including taped speech concerning pigeon breeding. This last section also provided a kind of "ledge" for the next person, a feature Julia made brilliant use of.

9) She was interested in the collage aspect of Cor's piece and chose one by The Books, a fascinating track mixing (I think) mbira playing with newsreel coverage of a public art event in Venice (Georges Mathieu?) wherein a reporter is splashed with gold and black paint as "the maestro" works on a cross figure. [Just checked--the track is "Venice", from the 2005 album, "Lost and Safe".] Astonishingly, the reporter's commentary includes the lines:

And opens the canvas and out comes twelve
pigeons! Ha ha ha!
Twelve homing pigeons have just flown out of
the canvas.
Maestro, what are you doing?


10) Latching onto the cross imagery from The Books' piece, Nina had the inspired idea to achieve the circular connection by presenting an extraordinary sample of "sacred harp" or "shape-note" singing. I don't know the precise source, but presumably it was a large congregation (not a practiced choir), likely from somewhere in the southern US, singing a harrowing Christian hymn, the dark obverse of the Shaker's light, an immense, stoic army marching resolutely toward death. Hugely powerful and scary at once. Nayland remarked that had this been a Muslim group singing in Arabic, most US listeners would be hiding under their beds. Remarkable sound, the hymn absolutely belted out in only rough consonance. Perfect yin and yang beginning and ending.

A beautiful arc, both in intensity and even lengths, going kind of S-S-L-M-M-M-M-L-S-S. Beautiful gamut of music, each piece evincing its own strengths and connecting, intentional or otherwise, to its neighbors.

It worked so well, in everyone's estimation, that we immediately decided to do another and drew lots.

Guess who goes first?

Thanks to Dan, Julia, Nina and Nayland for a great evening and for a wonderful ongoing experience.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Annette Krebs/Rhodri Davies - Kravis Rhonn Project (another timbre)

Very strong, extremely well integrated set, Krebs and Davies meshing perfectly; had I been told this was a (complex) solo set, I'd have accepted that. There's a wonderful gliding aspect to much of the music here, maybe set into motion largely by Davies, a kind of slow, up and down swoop, that's quite entrancing, all the more so when adorned with pebbles of taped sounds, gritty static, etc. Great balance of soft dronage, occasional quasi-rhythms, super-sensitive inclusion of quiet voices--next to impossible to describe to any degree of satisfaction, but that's usually the case with something as beautifully positioned as this. Mandatory.

Max Eastley/Rhodri Davies - Dark Architecture (another timbre)

[No cover image available at this time, I don't think]

I don't think I'd heard Eastley's music since the old Obscure LP. My loss and foolishness. This is an absolutely lovely and entrancing site recording with contributions from Eastley's sound sculptures (presumably mechanically induced, though as natural sounding as could be, including firework-like bangs), his arc (described on his MySpace page as "a monochord of wood and wire, which is scraped, bent and flexed into an orbit of amplified effects"--I pause to note that the music which surfaces from that page is somewhat surprising, to me, given the present recording) and Davies, seemingly staying pretty much with his ebow on the harp. Not all smoothness and light--it grows quite troubled at points--but dwells in the space very convincingly. Might lose a bit of steam in the last few minutes, but an engrossing disc overall.

EKG - Electricals (another timbre)

Kyle Bruckmann (oboe, english horn, analogue electronics) and Ernst Karel(trumpet, analogue electronics) concentrate, as implied by the title, on the non-acoustic portion of their arsenal here, fashioning five fine pieces again, as with the previous releases, balancing the crunchy with the smooth, the fluttery with the grainy buzz. I get a subtle narrative flavor here as well; much of this music would work very well in partnership with visuals. When the horns do emerge, it's often quite effective in a plaintive, melancholy manner. The structures are off-center enough that I find new facets on each hearing, always a good sign. Good stuff.

Octante - Lúnula (another timbre)

The second recording by this quartet (Ruth Barberán, trumpet. speaker, microphones/Alfredo Costa Monteiro, accordion, objects/Ferran Fages, oscillators, pick-ups/Margarida Garcia, electric double bass) if I'm not mistaken, their first since 2003. More forceful than I might have anticipated, very rich and...whatever the adjective is for the sound of rubbing on surfaces of various textures and tensile qualities. It sometimes sounds, on the first of the two long tracks, that all four are deliciously drawing bows across multiple parts of their respective instruments. The second track begins with more space, more separation of instruments and perhaps nods a bit toward efi. It gradually splays out nicely though, seeping into far, quiet corners, before regrouping for some fine, harsher dronage and skronk.

Four solid, strong releases, all of which I'd recommend hearing. Nice job, Simon.

another timbre

Available in the US from erstdist