Saturday, July 03, 2010
Olivia Block/Kyle Bruckmann - Teem (either/OAR)
Four pieces, which I hear as a suite of sorts, recorded and rearranged by Block (field recordings, piano, reed organ, mixing) and Bruckmann (oboe, English horn, suona, accordion, field recordings, editing & mixing). Trying to parse out who was responsible for what is a fool's errand, even in sections where one of the pair is much more prominent than the other. I know Block's work far better than Bruckmann's, so I tend (unfairly, I'm sure) to hear "Teem" more in context of her oeuvre and there are certain strands of continuity. One is the up-front-ness of many of the approaches, the saturated sound, here redolent of double-reeds (and, I assume, the reed organ), a keening swirl over the clatter and rustle of taped noise, chorale-like here, strident there. Played at volume, the overtones set one's inner ear abuzz (the opening of part II could clear many a room!). The second and third sections, the two longest, sub-divide into contrasting portions, the howl of the reeds, for example, giving way to obscurely-sourced but spacious field recordings (one guesses highly post-processed, but one could be wrong). On that track, the second, I found the jumping a bit rocky and couldn't quite corral the parts into a cohesive whole, even as the massed reeds re-emerged a couple of times--not they needed to be or were intended as such, but the third track works so well that I wanted to hear more of the "same". On that one, there's a huge welling up of field recordings (I'm thinking Block's handiwork here, but who knows?), a spatially dense and rich fabric into which gasping reed organ is interwoven. Again, about midway through, the gears shift--indeed the gears seem to be grinding, harsh screeches against electronics (processed accordion?), once more multiplying plies into an exceedingly complex weave but here it's one that bears some poetic affinity (to me, at least) to the music that we'd heard just before. The sound is simply amazing, the piece very powerful. The concluding section indeed has something of a denouement feel to it, a soft, pulsating set of reed tones, again multi-layered, rich and detailed.
A fine recording, as fascinating as it is occasionally troublesome to decipher.
Ernst Karel - Heard Laboratories (and/OAR)
Like the title says. I imagine we've all been in situations where the sound environment is so overtly full and rich that we pause and linger, absorbing the waves, wallowing in the mass of sound. I recall, long before I had any notion of "field recordings", leaning against the engine housing of the Block Island ferry, imbibing the deep, complex thrum, losing myself to the vibrations felt through the metal. Generally, at least in discs that have happened my way, musicians tend toward subtler territory, sounds that tinge the aural space instead of saturating it. Not Karel.
The recordings here are unprocessed, taped in various scientific and medical laboratories at Harvard, though I suspect they're often layered atop one another (perhaps not!). I'm not sure what to say otherwise, except maybe to describe them as possessing roughly the kind of hums and buzzes one encounters in such environments, augmented with the bangs and clinks occasioned by human activity and the odd voice. It's just there, much as it would be if you were sitting in the room. I'll say, however, that I enjoy it immensely, love sitting here, in my room, vicariously experiencing the sonic nature of those spaces a couple hundred miles away. As in all fine projects of this general nature, Karel coaxes the listener into perceptions and awareness (s)he wold likely never have otherwise experienced, always a very valuable thing.