A new batch from Gruenrekorder...
Andreas Bick - Fire and Frost Pattern (Gruenrekorder)
hmmm...that cover image looks oddly familiar......
As advertised, two compositions, one based in flames, one in ice. A variety of sound sources are employed, from field recordings (volcanoes, cracking lake ice, iceberg "sizzles") to what might be thought of as science lab phenomena (gas flame sin glass tubes, ignited alcohol in a bottle, snow falling on aluminum foil). The pieces are clearly assembled and strike me as having something of the character of your standard magnetic tape works of the 60s, i.e., more concerned with contrast between blocks of sound, timbre and texture than structure (I'm certainly being unfair both to those older composers and, likely, Bick). This can make for intriguing listening on one level but I come away, ultimately, unsated. I need more mystery, maybe.
Cédric Peyronnet - kdi dctb 146 [e] (Gruenrekorder)
A multi-layered field recording done in and around water sources in the Taurion Valley in western France. Water indeed predominates, backed up heartily by birds, closed out by boat engines. There's more air in play than in the Bick which gets a thankful nod of appreciation from me as well as a more natural ebb and flow, largely with regard to dynamics. But..that's pretty much it. It's pleasant; one would like to have been there, listening, lying on the banks but--and perhaps this is a problem with the genre in general--one would be able to choose what to concentrate on, to linger with as well as, I'm certain, actually hearing more. Not particularly Peyronnet's fault, but I'm beginning to think that unless one happens to be in tune with the aesthetic judgment of the recorder/assembler, one's left with the nagging feeling, in relatively straightforward examples like this, that one would rather have done it oneself than necessarily accept the choices made by the recorder.
(Various Artists) - Playing with Words (Gruenrekorder)
Admittedly, I found the prospect of a 2-CD set of avant vocal works to be daunting. Of the 41 artists represented here, I only recognized a handful of names and those (like Jaap Blonk, Paul Lansky, Pamela Z and Brandon Labelle) didn't exactly have my heart doing flip-flops. Still, I noted that the collection ended with a piece by Julien Ottavi, and I persevered. There were some highlights: Tomomi Adachi's "Oyone", a very rhythmic work for a set of singers, reminding me a bit of Partch; a fun piece by abAna (Bob Cobbing, Paul Burwell and David Toop); an intricate and rich field recording (with voices) by Cathy Lane; an enjoyable, Glassian work by Julian Weaver; a good, large room muffled crowd conversation by Charlotte White; a fine Kazakhstan-inspired vocal and violin song from Sianed Jones; an intriguing closing work by Ottavi. But you have to wade through a lot of dross to unearth these nuggets, a questionable venture.
There's also an accompanying DVD from the 2009 festival with six performances, the only non-aggravating one, for my taste, again courtesy Sianed Jones who delivers an outstanding, lengthier example of her vocal/violin stylings--really good. In fairness, Jaap Blonk fans, of which I am not one, will enjoy his outing as well.
Bettina Wenzel - Mumbai Diary (Gruenrekorder)
In which Wenzel deploys site recordings from Mumbai which are perfectly enjoyable, ranging from street sounds to musical ceremonies, but insists on threading them with her vocals which, generally speaking, are somewhere in Shelley Hirsch territory, admittedly not a destination I find very appealing. She's good at what she does, her vocal pyrotechnics impressive I guess (sometimes sounding eerily like a shenai) but the question lingers: why? Why place oneself so prominently into the mix? What have you really added? I could imagine something more along the lines of Pisaro's "Transparent City" where the composer's contributions are deferential to the recorded sounds, in this case, Wenzel's vocals being just another element in the mix. But here, it's far too much her, and what she does isn't all that interesting. Where's Ami Yoshida when you need her?