Saturday, January 30, 2010

Mike Shiflet/Daniel Menche - Stalemate (Sonoris)

Some serious dronage, on Hammond organs, no less (with electronics). This was a good example at the kind of release which, on first listen, I largely glossed over, save toward the latter third of the disc. It happens with drone work sometimes--the details, where much of the meat resides, get subsumed (by me) into the larger scheme of things, causing the music to be read as blander than it is. You have to (at least, I have to) balance the sets of elements simultaneously, the details and the whole. The extraordinarily rich, basic sound of the Hammond might obfuscate everything else that's going on but is the core, invaluable essence here. Shiflet and Menche presumably mess around with the organs a good bit (hard to tell where that messing with the organ ends and the electronics begins), steering them into distortion and static, though these sounds are always nested in that fundamental throbbing hum. The first two, of three, tracks are fine and rewarding, but the third leave no jams unkicked, a ferocious mix of rough, gravelly noise and drone, those Hammonds straining to gleam through the dust, a wonderfully complex cloud that eventually resolves into pure organ, wavering but strong. great stuff for the drone-inclined.

Jean-Michel Rivet - Á fleur de quai (Sonoris)

Interesting experience listening to this disc (my first exposure to Rivet, as far as I'm aware). My initial reaction was quite positive, just bathing in the sounds, appreciating the space interwoven around them, their timbral range, their juxtapositioning, etc. On second listen, I was somewhat dismayed by what I heard as the obviousness of the structures, the "narrative" nature that seemed a bit too pat, too predictable. Even tracks that delighted, like "Dalila I." with its mellifluous female voices wafting in and out of quasi-song, struck me as too cute, too posed. I find I'm very touch and go with this kind of post-Ferrari concrète work--it has to have the naturalness achieved in pieces like "Presque Rien", despite the amount of work that went into constructing it, for me to really enjoy it. Maybe analogous to naturalistic film making--the artificial is done well enough, with enough sensitivity to appear natural; one's sense cease to register the craft and just accept. Eventually, maybe inevitably, I settled into a middle ground, enjoying many of the purely audio elements as well as their sequencing in brief segments even if most of the tracks, as such, felt a little constrained and overly worked on, too thematically glued together. I do enjoy it, often very much, just want to hear things weighted differently; difficult to quantify. I'd be curious to get the reaction of others with more experience in this area.


Thursday, January 21, 2010

What to make of Philip Brophy's music?

I'd heard three discs of his five or six years ago, wrote them up for all music, in fact, enjoying the collaboration with Philip Samartzis (the superbly titled, "Janet Leigh (dead)") and getting something of a kick out of the others, in the sense of slick pop, well done and knowing.

So here come five more, four of which could be classified in that latter category and another, again, with Samartzis in tow. Those four are all designed as soundtracks, or at least accompaniments to films, though if the listener is unaware of that (and I've not seen any of the movies in question), he's likely to hear the discs simply as collections of pop songs. Off-kilter, yes, but most assuredly pop.

Sound Punch, the label devoted largely to the dispersal of Brophy's music, carries a design motif that actually reflects much of its product quite well: slick, eye [ear]-catching, blandly hip. Each release includes a slyly descriptive subtitle. "Au Revelateur", whose songs were written for a 1968 silent movie by Philippe Garrel (an amour of Nico), is so labeled, "softly rock-Euro foliage" which may be as good as any, as far as capsulized descriptions go. The pieces have a quasi prog-rock, 70s feel, with prominent organ and explosive, orgasmic guitar stylings. And dammit, it's catchy, soothing, succor-giving--all that awful stuff! I may have thought "Journey to White Light" was the most amazing thing I'd ever heard, had I heard it in 1969 at 15. As is, well, it's a helluva lot of fun, all glistening Rileyesque organ-chimes, sighed vocals, percolating along like nobody's business. Is it good? Of course not. But it's fun. Even the two covers of Bowie's "Heroes" one lush, one pared down, work effectively....wait, I'm feeling a sugar overdose coming on...Well, I couldn't in good conscious really recommend this to regular readers here, but what Brophy sets out to do, he does rather well, I must admit.

"Au Revelateur" is my favorite of the four more poppy offerings here. Humorously enough, it was until my second listen that I realized that "Beautiful Cyborg 2" was a second installment of one the Brophy's I'd already received back in 2004 or so. Bearing the sub-inscription, "classical, petro-chemical speedily", and created between 2000-2002, it does indeed reek of techno. Those more versed in the genre than your humble scrivener (which is to say, virtually everyone) may find this rapturous. I must have been in a fairly receptive state when I wrote up the first one for AMG; today, that area strains my patience.

2008's "Kissed", written to accompany Warhol's b&w silent series, "Kiss", ("sexing slap with labial thumps on rumble") begins very much in "Before and After Science" territory, very similar rapid-fire drums with brooding overtones. It meanders overmuch after that, predominant drum parts, which pace the cuts, interspersed with routine synth. Again, quite the pop bonbon and well executed, but (intentionally?) vapid. Um, like many a Warhol....but that could be a sidewise compliment too. I occasionally see a Warhol I've seen a hundred times before and passed over only, in a certain frame of mind, to find something of interest.

Brophy describes the score for "Escape from Andraxus" (the disc is titled, "The Planets") as space-age-bachelor-pad, not so far off. I've heard echoes of "Sextant"-era Hancock on several things in recent months and this is another, maybe with a smidgen of Wayne Horvitz-style soft, mildly funky electronica. I find myself listening to this one more purely as "soundtrack" than the others and it works ok to that extent, though when I concentrate on the actual music, well, pretty bland. Though here as elsewhere, I get the impression Brophy attained pretty much exactly what he wanted.

Thembi Soddell in 'Northern Void'

Last up is the release that, coming into this batch, clearly held the most potential: "Northern Void", a 2007 collaboration with Philip Samartzis. It's certainly the pick of the litter for me and, I'd guess, would be so for most readers of this blog, though it's a little oil and water, Samartzis' field recordings abutting Brophy's electronics, the latter varying between music not dissimilar from much of the above and harsher, more noise-oriented work. Designed to accompany a (video of Brophy's that depicts the dystopia of "banal urban peripheries", I can imagine it working well enough in context. The fourth and longest track, "3079", with additional trumpet and trombone parts, is quite beautiful, recalling Olivia Block's work somewhat, brooding, chorale-like lines entwined with abstract electronics, very stirring.

So, an odd collection. It's unusual to find music that's (overall) this slick created by someone who clear knows what's what. Think of it as hyper-Fennesz, maybe. Can't say as I'll return to it often, aside from the Samartzis collab (and perhaps "Au Revelateur" if I'm in the mood), but I'd certainly check out the films if I could, curious enough to hear the music in its proper setting.

Philip Brophy

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Activity Center - lohn & brot (absinth)

A favorite pairing returns. Something just so right about Beins and Renkel, the ratio of grit to tonal content, ringing to grinding, that tends to make their work simply sound good, which is half the battle. there's a great deal of apparent space between the sounds, very wide open. Too, the pair is quite content to play vigorously, even with abandon, imparting the sense that they're actually be enjoyable to watch. Perhaps "colorfuL' is the word I want. The five tracks are arranged rather symmetrically: Long-short-very long-short-long. On the first, "arbeit:material", they get great mileage out of some bowed strings and rubbed percussion among many other pleasures. Had Malachi avors and Don Moye been born 20 or so years later, in Germany, they might have created music like this. "zone:produkt", the central cut, begins quite agitated and includes spasms of violence; the agitation remains over it's almost half-hour but splays out into a kind of mechanical clatter, a very complex plane of sound with multiple beats and drones in various timbres, eventually settling into a furious kind of rhythmic drone--very, very fascinating. The concluding "station:prozess" is a whirling, dizzying journey via..any number of fervently bowed or struck objects, spiraling off into ever more complex eddies, loosely hanging together by a hum or drum rumbles; it's rather psychedelic, after a fashion. "Activity center", indeed. These guys manage, and it's no small feat, to be almost hyperactive yet never feel busy or overbearing (much less "gabby"), limning out a clear, highly defined space in which their sounds float about and bang into one another. Excellent recording, highly recommended.


Luigi Turra/Christopher McFall - tactile.surface (Unfathomless)

Interesting idea, well realized. Field recordings (quite processed) from two separate geographies, the small town of Schio in Northern Italy and the wide, flat plains between Kansas City and Colorado, interwoven into a sonic double exposure. Underlying hums, layered, form drone structures while echoing clangs and bumps skitter along the top. Pulses emerge, once sounding as though sourced from church bells, dissipate, get absorbed by city noise, large space interiors. There's a bit of loss of focus about 2/3 of the way through but during the final few of its 42 minutes, it flattens out nicely, those rolling plains extending in all directions, featureless yet fascinating. Recommended for fans of that area on the border of filed recordings and drones.


Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Just as a room would seem out of balance if all of the furniture were piled up on one side, a scene must be balanced to be aesthetically pleasing. This refers to

Someone typed (hopefully, pasted) this phrase into Google and my blog was the #2 hit.


Monday, January 11, 2010

Dave Barnes/Richard Kamerman/Graham Stephenson - Three Duos (Copy for your records)

Two very different releases from musicians who often overlap. This one (the above is my copy, just one of many possibilities) finds three players in three duos, recorded between February of 2008 and March of 2009. Presented in chronological order, the four track also just happen (?) to build in effectiveness very nicely. The first (Barnes/Stephenson) is some rough going, feedback electronics squeaking up against errant trumpetry like two cars scraping sides at 10 mph. Later, a few minutes from its close, it begins to gel quite beautifully, all wind-through-holes-sounding, portending good things to come. The first of two Barnes/Kamerman cuts, at a concise six minutes, is a tight storm of open circuitry and...motors (?), a chunky knot of sound with above average nutritional value (and zero calories from fat). Their second piece, though, really takes off, a very strong, dense mix of Kamerman's objects, a seeming horde of them, and strident electronics, whirling into a fine spiral, a wonderful piece. The final work, a 20-minute duo of Stephenson and Kamerman, rather sums up the disc, beginning raggedly and probing--breath and crackle--before the vibrating objects creep in, arraying themselves amidst the gusts and sputter. There's a stasis, several harsh shards. It builds and is upon you almost before you know it's coming, then abruptly collapses, gorgeously, the final couple of minutes spent in a daze, gasping for air.

Fine recording.

copy for your records

Billy Gomberg - Comme (mOAR)

If I call this disc "ingratiating", I don't intend the term with the slightest pejorative tinge. In fact, I was unable to dislodge this thing from my CD player for several days, it was that winning. At a gloss, it's oddly retro, though its points of reference are scarcely more than a decade old: the ambient glitch music of people like Fennesz from the mid to late 90s. Fennesz is an unavoidable referent, I guess, though there's more going on here than that, but Gomberg's general palette is that of rich, ringing, creamy electronics spiced with small bits of noise shrapnel. There's loose repetition, even the odd, pulsing rhythm. And it all sounds so goddamn good. Tracks like "Into", with its snaky little groove, echoing clicks and vestige of a melody just worm their way in, impossible to resist. And "Solo" is positively deadly, sauntering in with perhaps a vague nod to the rhythms in "Are You Experienced?", and tumbling through the room, all manner of detritus attached to its sides, heedless, a little boastful even, exiting in all its hilarious glory, jauntiness intact. "Comme" is the best potential crossover disc I've heard since Radian's "rec.extern". Check it out, get some for your friends.


Sunday, January 10, 2010

The Aughts

Instead of a listing of individual favorites from the decade, I thought I'd mention those musicians whose body of work meant the most to me during that period.

I think it was October, 2000, in Boston after an AMM show, that I first met Keith. I'd come (unforgivably) late to AMM first hearing their work around '95 and, largely via Jon and the then nascent Erstwhile label, had in the previous couple of years really immersed myself in post-AMM music and in what little was available of Keith's apart from AMM. Over the next ten years, no music made as deep and moving an impression on me as his, in a bewildering variety of contexts. As much, or more than, the music, getting to know Keith as intimately as I have was just as meaningful; one of these years, readers may even see the fruit of that...Virtually every year, live and on recording, he's created consistently probative, dense, severe, cogent and beautiful work, musically, visually and conceptually. As a body of work, it stands above and apart from anything I've experienced. I'll say that, among the many examples, "Duos for Doris" still stands out not only as my favorite recording of the decade but simply my favorite piece of music period. (the whys and wherefores of my experience with its creation can be read here) Contingent with that, mention has to be made of Erstwhile and Jon Abbey, without which (unless by some miracle someone else had stepped in), much of the music would either not have existed at all or would have appeared in different form. Label of the decade? Easy choice. Had I actually compiled a top 10, it would've largely been comprised of Keith/Erst releases. And Keith's still going quite strongly. I make him the early favorite for musician of this decade as well.

And,too, there's Tilbury who, at least as regards "Doris", was quite possibly responsible for more than half of its success. Being so fortunate as to witness him in action, never more overwhelming than at the "Doris" session, has been a profound joy. His recording of Skempton's "Well, Well, Cornelius", his Feldman and his Cardew were all momentous events. I think his "All Piano" appeared this decade as well? Enough said.

I'd actually encountered a few of of the Japanese crew before hearing AMM, notably some early Yoshihide work around 1992. Of all the extraordinary musicians to have emerged from that scene (and there are dozens whose work I love), none has effected me more than Sachiko M. Something about her conception of strength and beauty is absolutely in sync with me and I almost always find her music utterly entrancing no matter how severe it gets. And that part of it, her amazing willingness and persistence in limning out extreme areas, of staying with one thing for inhuman lengths of time. I love it and am thankful for it. Additionally, both I.S.O. and Filament were crucial ensembles for me. Seeing the former at Victo in 1999 opened up worlds.

I maybe should mention another thing that's been crucially important to me, an ongoing project: the investigation of the work of John Cage. I'd known bits and pieces from early on (I recall hearing a recording of Atlas Eclipticalis in college, among other things) and I'd always tried to hear/read/see more, but it was in this decade that I began to make something of a dent. He's been a huge inspiration to me, something I wish I'd thoroughly investigated far sooner. btw, the one time I saw Cage was in the audience of an Anthony Braxton concert at Merkin Hall. I've recently been reading a book on Cage's visual art, which I tend to love; his ideas continue to amaze, inspire and make me laugh.

Olivia Block's recorded output spans the decade fairly neatly and includes some of my very favorite music from that period. She's an outlier in many ways, not eai but knowledgeable of it, willing to use elements that are entirely unfashionable (always a great strength!) including bits of Americana, embedding a kind of narrative structure in her pieces, almost a programmatic one. Her work contains enormous depth and beauty, continues to expand and I greatly look forward to hearing much new music from her in the future.

A recent, most gratifying "discovery" for me has been the music of Michael Pisaro (and, to an extent, the Wandelweiser cadre generally). I've written a good bit about his work here recently so won't go into depth, but it's just amazing stuff. Again, his basic conception is, for me, so sure, so solid, that it seems like most anything that I hear has at least something (usually much more) that grips me.

The Japanese scene in general was the source of any number of tremendous concerts and recordings. Aside from Sachiko, great joy was provided by Toshi Nakamura (personally, as well), Otomo Yoshihide, Ami Yoshida, Taku Sugimoto and many more. Maybe Taku's work from the decade stands out the most, his willingness to go to extremes, beginning from his set at Tonic with Keith and Gunter Muller where he essentially did nothing...I haven't cared for everything encountered down this path but some, like the Live in Australia disc, made a big impression on me.

Speaking of regional scenes, the Iberian one was also a fount of wonderful music. Alfredo Costa Monteiro, Ferran Fages, Margarida Garcia, Mattin, Ruth Barberan and many more. And the Australian scene as well--such great music from Philip Samartzis, Anthony Guerra, Joel Stern, Arek Gulbenkoglu and others.

I'm leaving out much but wanted to include Jason Lescalleet. Among a series of fine recordings, his "The Pilgrim" stands out as one of my favorites of the decade (in some ways, for similar reasons that I love Block's work) and, even apart from that, he was involved in several of the most exciting live performances I witnessed during this time. His ear is astonishing...

All for now...this was done pretty much off the top of my head, apologies for obvious omissions. We'll see what the scene looks like in 2020....

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Jason Lescalleet played two sets last night at Issue Project Room, one with Sean Meehan, the other with dancer Pauline Monin.

The performance with Meehan, only the second time the two had played as a duo, was quite beautiful. Going in, one wondered about where the pair would situate the dynamics--would Jason quiet down or Sean get loud? Jason encamped behind his array of three or four old tape decks, three laptops, mixing boards and such while Sean sat about six feet in front of him, fairly naked behind his snare and cymbal, with a handful of thin, wooden dowels. Lescalleet, as is his wont, placed a mic on the floor in front of Meehan and clearly used some of those sounds, processed, during the set. What I didn't know until talking with Jason afterward, was that during their set-up and rehearsal that afternoon, he recorded a good deal of Meehan's output and, further, programmed his software to approximate the pitches Sean was generating, so that the vast bulk of what he introduced in the evening was sourced, one way or another, from Sean's music.

Technical details aside, it was a riveting show, beginning very quietly with taped moaning sounds and gradually intensifying, though only up to medium volume levels. Meehan, as ever, was a joy to hear, his stroked dowels emitting a huge variety of timbres and textures from pure to rough-hewn depending (it seems to me) on how closely it rests near the center of the cymbal, among other things (including which way it's oriented on the drum). More, he's a master at not playing. I'm guessing that every time I've seen him he ends up playing for less that half the time of the performance, choosing his entrances and exits with extreme sensitivity.

The set, generally speaking, operated within a drone ambiance, Lescalleet staying fairly tonal, Meehan almost only using the dowels, though at one point he loosened the snare strings, removed the cymbal and gently rocked the drum back and forth, producing abrupt rustles. He also, on a couple of occasions, brought forth remarkably gritty and loud-ish tones, enough so that I momentarily questioned the source; it seemed unlikely they'd emanate from that delicate finger-stroking.

Beautifully balanced piece, very strong, something I'd love to hear again.

We were ushered out of the space while the second set was arranged. Upon our return, into a darkened room, we espied a large pile of magnetic tape in front of Jason's gear, presumably enclosing a dancer. Indeed, the mass began to quiver, the brown tape looking like a couple hundred pounds of kelp and making slithery sounds. Monin began, butoh-like (caveat: my dance knowledge, much less butoh knowledge is severely limited, so don't take descriptions like this as gospel. Can one dance with extreme slowness and not be compared to butoh? You would think so.), to move very slowly, wrapped in tape (naked underneath), Lescalleet accompanying with generally smooth, synth-like sound. Tape slid this way and that, limbs emerged, hair, buttocks. Monin assumed several uncomfortable looking poses, held them.

When I saw Yukiko Nakamura dance with Nmperign on a couple of occasions, it was a spellbinding, even scary event. She appeared utterly committed to what she was doing and, perhaps as a consequence, there was a confrontational aspect in play, a strong sense of not knowing what she was capable of; it transcended dance. It's unfair to use Nakamura as a benchmark yet that's what I tend to do when encountering dance in improv settings since then. With Monin, there was more a sense of "dance moves", more so when the butoh aspect was displaced by more expressive gestures--as the music became louder and more violent, so did her gesticulations. Don't get me wrong--she was fine and, as far as I can ascertain, a very good dancer, it's just that the combination with the music was a bit perfunctory.

Later in the set, Jason amped things up, generating ear-splitting, high-pitched sine-y tones that had half the audience inserting finger in ear (not your intrepid reporter!). One could shift one's head only slightly and experience a surprisingly huge drop in sound level, btw. A rather bracing end to a somewhat unsatisfying set.

But the one with Meehan was outstanding.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

So, yes, my favorite music releases of 2009.

It's fuzzier than usual. In fact, the favorite thing I picked up all year was Reinhart de Leeuw's recording of early Satie piano works on Philips, but as that was recorded in 1977, I don't suppose it qualifies. However, my favorite new recording was also involved repertoire, John Tilbury's extraordinarily beautiful performance of Feldman's "Triadic Memories" on Atopos. The Skempton piece, "Notti Stellate a Vagli", also included, while perfectly fine, doesn't hold a candle to the other but I more or less ignore it in context, so powerful is the Feldman. No piece of music affected me as much on any new release this year as that, so there you go.

Then again, there was one other, another oddity, an outlier, also created by a member of AMM. And it wasn't Keith. It was Prevost's incredible drum solo on his duo recording with Alexander von Schlippenbach, "Blackheath" (Matchless). Absolutely knocked my socks off. Had it been issued as a 3", 20-minute work, it would have been right up their with the Tilbury and the following item. Strange how that works, eh? I'm guessing many readers haven't bothered to pick this one up as, in no real uncertain terms, it's jazz; well, you're doing yourselves a disservice.

Of non-repertoire new music released in 2009, one stood out among the others: "contact", by Keith Rowe and Sachiko M (Erstwhile). I first heard it in somewhat ideal surroundings, when Jon played it last December as part of his DJ set at Experimental Intermedia, and played it at volume. In fact, absurdly strong as it was, it gave me a somewhat misleading idea of the pieces, over-emphasizing the brutality of them, masking much of the subtlety. Repeated listens reveal a very self-contained, almost alien language at play, utterly uncompromising in its syntax, bewildering, fascinating and strangely beautiful. It's probably the most difficult thing I heard this past year and I anticipate continuing to decipher it for years to come. A great, great recording.

Another divergence--I'll write more about this when (as I think I will), I'll discuss my favorite music of the decade, but my single favorite new music personal discovery of 2009 was the work of Michael Pisaro. I'd actually heard a little bit before, but Michael gave me the opportunity to wallow in it a few months back and I loved every second of it. If you've not already, by all means, delve in.

As tends to happen with these things, once again Erstwhile releases filled many of the top slots. Dammit.

Soba to Bara - Ami Yoshida/Toshi Nakamura
Keith Rowe/Toshi Nakamura (erstlive)
Radu Malfatti/Klaus Filip - Imaoto

All of those were nestled right at the top, each an amazing release, although threaded in there somewhere, sometimes liking them more, sometimes a little less were:

Graham Lambkin - Softly Softly Copy Copy (Kye)
John Cage - Dream (Wergo) (review for Squid's Ear)

And just the slightest of notches below those, I loved:

Michael Pisaro - Hearing Metal 1 (Wandelweiser)
Oren Ambarchi/Keith Rowe - Treatise (Planam)
Lucia Capece/Radu Malfatti - Berlinstrasse 20 (b-boim)
Cor Fuhler - Mp (Conundrom)
Philip Julian - Low Activity Computer Solo (Free Software Series)
Radu Malfatti/Taku Unami - Goat vs Donkey (Taumaturgia)
Lee Patterson - egg fry # 2 (Cathnor)

And special mention to Theo Burt's "Colour Projections" (Entr'acte) for its unique and totally wonderful audio-visual elegance and beauty.

Other releases I thought were fantastic:

Jeph Jerman/Daniel Mitha/Nick Phillips - Ones/Hands (Palsy)
Lee Patterson - Seven Vignettes (Shadazz)
The Sealed Knot - and we disappear (Another Timbre)
Jeph Jerman - Prayer.Tactus (Semperfloriens)
Asher - Miniatures (Sourdine)
Filament - 4 Speakers (2-:+)
Anthony Guerra - 10" Lathe Cut (A Binary Datum)
Jeph Jerman - Datura (CDR)
Michael Pisaro - An Unrhymed Chord (for 25 acoustic guitars) (Confront)
Haptic - The Medium (FSS)
Jeph Jerman - Vinyl (Easy Discs)
Annette Krebs/Rhodri Davies - Kravis Rhonn Project (Another Timbre)
John Cage/Jacob Ullman - Arditti Quartet (
Dropp Ensemble - Safety (either/OAR)
(Various) - Relay Archive 2007-2008 (Manual)
Burkhard Beins - Structural Drift (Kunsthauser)
Domenico Sciajno - Sequens (bowindo)
Robbie Aveneim/Cor Fuhler/Dale Gorfinkel - Plains (Conundrom)
Paul Abbott/Leo Dumont/Ute Kanngeisser - Loiter Volcano (Another Timbre)
Cremaster - Noranta Graus l'Esquerra (Monotype)
Jean-Luc Guionnnet - Gezzurezko joera (Arteleku)
Jeph Jerman - The Angle of Repose (CDR)
Daniel Jones/Ivan Palacky/jez Riley French - Tierce (Engraved Glass)
Vanessa Rossetto - Dogs in English Porcelain (CDR)
Julian Skrobek - Double Entendre (Taumaturgia)
Loris - The Cat from Cat Hill (Another Timbre)
Phill Niblock - Touch Strings (Touch)
Joe Foster/Chulki Hong/Takahiro Kawaguchi/Ryu Hankil - vacillation oscillation (Balloon & Needle)
Lucio Capece/Julia Eckhardt/Christian Kesten, etc. - Wedding Ceremony (Cathnor)
jez Riley French - Audible Silence (Engraved Glass)
Matt Milton/Pat Thomas/R. Jewell/Patrick Farmer - Bear Ground (Creative Sources)
EKG - Electricals (Another Timbre)
Jeph Jerman - @stuk (CDR)
Novi_sad - Jailbirds (Sedimental)
Sylvain Chauveau - Touching Down Lightly (Creative Sources)
Bryan Eubanks/Ryu Hankil - 777 (Cathnor)
Jason Kahn/Ryu Hankil - Circle (Celadon)
Mark Wastell - After Hours (Cathnor)

I bought or received almost 300 releases this year, an absurd amount. There were plenty of others I enjoyed a lot. Let me list some of them

Tetuzi Akiyama/Toshi Nakamura - Semi-Impressionism (Spekk)
Marc Behrens - A Narrow Angle (Entr'acte)
Juan Jose Calarco - Darsena Interna (Mystery Sea)
Cheapmachines - Secede (Entr'acte)
Alfredo Costa Monteiro - Anatomy of Inner Place (Monotype)
Rhodri Davies/Stephane Rives/Ernesto Rodrigues - Twrf Neus Ciglau (Creative Sources)
Delicate Sen - Delicate Sen (Copy for your records)
Phil Durrant/Lee Patterson/Paul Vogel - Buoy (Cathnor)
Ferran Fages - A voltant d'un para/.lel (Etude)
Cor Fuhler - Wenen (Conundrom)
Jean-Luc Guionnet/Ernesto Rodrigues/Guilherme Rodrigues/Seijiro Murayama - Noite (Creative Sources)
Ryu Hankil - Becoming Typewriter (Taumaturgia)
Nick Hennies - Paths (Thor's Rubber Hammer)
Jason Kahn/Asher - Planes (Mikroton)
Sachiko M - I'm here...departures (2-:+)
Narthex - Formction (Potlatch)
Seth Nihil - Flock & Tumble (Sonoris)
Andres Neumann/Ivan Palacky - Pappeltalks (Uceroz)
Phantom Limb & Earth's Hypnagogia - In Celebration of Knowing All the Blues (Unframed)
Phosphor - II (Potlatch)
Bhob Rainey/Chris Cooper - Ain't It Grand (Sedimental)
Rebecca - Variation No. 12 (Esquilo)

And more besides....but that'll do for now.

Thanks everyone, for providing so many hours of wonderful listening.

Be in good health, Mr. Tilbury. Thanks for everything.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

The Sealed Knot - and we disappear (Another Timbre)

A fine live set, almost three year ago now, from a Swiss festival with Burkhard Beins (percussion, objects), Rhodri Davies (pedal harp and ebow) and Mark Wastell (double bass, bow, beaters). As in some of their previous work, one almost has the sense that the performance was composed, so cohesively does it play out. Beins is a master of injecting almost-rhythms into the mix 9perhaps abetted by the aforementioned beaters?) and the whole sound has a delightful sense of both space and propulsion, one instrument segueing into another, sending matters tumbling along. Wastell contributes some wonderful arco work, twined with Davies' ebow, getting into this luscious quasi-drone state, Beins' dry cymbals adding just the right amount of sandiness.

It builds to a brutal roar about 10 minutes from the end then subsides into a gentle ambiance of bells and soft plucks. A stunning recording and, incidentally, approachable enough to qualify as one of those you might foist on a friend who's expressed interest in the genre.

Lucio Capece/Lee Patterson - Empty Matter (Another Timbre)

Capece (soprano, bass clarinet, preparations, sruti box) and Patterson (CD players, pick-ups, e-bowed springrod, springplate, hazelnuts) are two favorite musicians of mine, so I was disappointed that this recording left me more or less unmoved. Despite the varied instrumentation, there's a sameness to the pieces--breathy reeds, sustained gravelly undertones (or feedback or granular textures) that's all well and good but maybe a bit too much of what I'd expect? Not enough of a push away from the comfortable? Any one of the eight pieces is ok (I enjoy the sruti-filled "Sostener" and the closing "Burning" the most), but together there's a sense of languishing, waiting for inspiration to kick in. I'd love to hear this pair give it another go.

Loris - The Cat on Cat Hill (Another Timbre)

The slow loris, of course, is a notably sluggish primate hailing from southeast Asia. Loris, here, is Patrick Farmer (natural objects, e-bow snare, tapes, wood), Sarah Hughes (chorded zither, piano, e-bow) and Daniel Jones (turntable, e-bow, piezo discs, electronics) and if they move slow (the don't really) they're thinking fast, pace Wolff, and the results are gorgeous. Enormous range of sounds, very open feel. How to quantify except to say that the choices made, subtle to brutal (and there's a surprising amount of fierceness in play here) seem utterly apt. The various flutterings and spare piano that begin the second cut, "Sophie", for example; the way the e-bow (?) intersects them. Each piece unfurls at its own pace, each telling a lovely, sometimes harsh story. Beautiful work, highly recommended.

Wade Matthews/Stéphane Rives - Аρέθουσα (Another Timbre)

"Arethusa" to the rest of us, a nymph from Greek mythology whose name means "the waterer". Matthews (software synthesis, field recordings) and Rives (soprano) kind of produce music along the lines I expected, the former eliciting rumbles, sometimes percolating, the latter high-pitched, rough-edged keens but it works well for the most part. Part of it, again, is the space between sounds (in retrospect, perhaps something that gnawed at me about the Capece/Patterson, that is, the lack of same), a nice sense of depth achieved. There's also a fine relaxedness about it, not something one always associates with Rives' work, a slow, steady pace that sits well. Good recording.

Another Timbre

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Cremaster - Noranta Graus a l'Esquerra (Monotype)

Super-crunchy goodness. Ferran Fages (feedback mixing board, pick-ups) and Alfredo Costa Monteiro (objects on electric guitar) return after something of an absence to assault our otic orifices with a fierce barrage of noise, channeled superbly, hurtling past our heads faster than we can hear. "90 degrees to the left", full throttle. I found myself wondering where the line is (if it is) between this and the extreme noise scene. I imagine the control evinced here might be offputting to some immersed in that area but for me, it molds the noise beautifully, allowing the torrents to surge, just installing banks and curbs that, if anything, cause the music to sound even more powerful, become more of a juggernaut. Fine, ear-scouring work. Get it.

Michel Doneda/Olivier Toulemonde/Nicolas Desmarchelier - Le Terrier (Monotype)

Sopranino and soprano (Doneda), amplified objects (Toulemonde) and acoustic guitar (Desmarchelier), from a performance at Vandoeuvre in 2005. I've only previously heard Doneda of this trio so I don't know what they do otherwise, but it was immediately interesting to hear how attuned they were to the saxophonist's harsh, whistling world. That dry, whooshing, sweeping sound is very much in evidence from the start and works well for a while. I find that it peters out a bit after a stretch, the musicians perhaps getting more active to compensate, probably not a good idea as the music drifts toward a more efi approach, i.e. a good amount of squabbling. Not bad, but it left me unsatisfied.

Franz Hautzinger/Masahiko Okura/Tetuzi Akiyama - Rebuses (Monotype)

Soft set from 2004, Akiyama in quiet, semi-melodic mode, making use of tape delay. It's a good mix of sounds and, rather as with the previous disc, it holds up for a while, here a more tenuous fabric, stretched thin very attractively, Hautzinger's quarter tone trumpet breathing and burbling along with Okura's gurgling reeds, Akiyama providing color and space with echo-y twangs and tight, Bailey-esque picks. It's fragile music, sometimes to the point of slightness, but on the whole it's a decent session, worth hearing.



Friday, January 01, 2010

Tim Barnes/Jeph Jerman - Live + Gallery Denver June 10, 2005 (CDR)

Hard to go wrong with this pair. The gentlest, least assuming kind of improvisation, presumably using all kinds of natural objects from leaves to pieces of wood and rock, to pine cones and some metal as well, allowing ample space for the room. Even when the volume increases for a short span, it's like a dust devil crossing a field, a momentary disturbance that leaves some eddies in it wake. A fine recording.

Jeph Jerman - Datura (CDR)

There's another recording by Jerman, I think, where he uses only cactus needles as a sound source (?). I'm not sure if the same goes for the datura, a spiny plant that also goes by the name, thorn apple (contact mic, mini-disc, 4-track and laptop are credited) or if, perhaps, the title simply refers to the widely known hallucinatory properties of said plant. In any case, it's a beautiful recording, placing one in a kind of hyper-amplified desert nightscape. the loose repetitions of the fluttery croaking of desert frogs, shuffling steps in the sand, birds, distant highways and planes--it's just a wonderful, immersive set of sounds.

Jeph Jerman - The Angle of Repose (CDR)

Created with all manner of stuff, from eggs in bowls to laptop, the overriding sensation of the first track is, at first, of shimmering metal, softly struck an upwelling. Some 13 minutes in, it shifts to a gentle electronic ripple, perhaps sourced from bowed or rubbed metal, very much summoning an image of the surface of a sun-struck pond. This soon morphs into a "duet" between that sound and a rolling, light percussive one, perhaps those eggs. Very lovely, more so as bell-like tones emerge. The second, shorter piece is a bit slighter, a pleasant, echoing series of quiet, percussive bangs and clinks.

In all, three more very worthwhile additions to the extraordinarily strong Jerman catalog.

Michael Graeve/Toshiya Tsunoda - s/t (edition t.)

Sourced from Graeves' banks of multiple ancient turntables (sans records--an impressive display if you ever get a chance to see it) and hydrophonic recordings by Tsunoda, interspersed with low frequency tones that "deceed" audibility, then sliced and diced via some arcane formula. Interestingly, the cessation of sound often occurs mid-track, making the disc best appreciated as a whole. That said, there's a disconnected quality, almost a randomness, between sequences here (and, as best as I can determine, some sections repeat with, if any, minimal enhancement). Some are more clearly turntable based, others water, some in between. It's a little discombobulating listening to on a home stereo, doubtless more involving in situ as an installation. Disorienting, but I enjoyed it.

tsunoda's blog

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Bryan Eubanks/Ryu Hankil - 777 (Cathnor)

I don't normally pay attention to "release strategies", the hows and whys of grouping recordings, etc. but I kind of get the feeling this one may have suffered by being in the same batch as Lee Patterson's rather more spectacular (and pretty unique) egg fry. It may have been to easy to read this as just another decent improv session, which is how I took it on first blush, only to find myself warming to it more and more on subsequent listens, appreciating the subtle structure and the very charming individual elements.

The gentle, irregular ticks that open the piece quickly slide into a buzz-saw from Eubanks, which makes its presence known only to recede, just defining the territory, letting the listener know what's out there. They settle in, slowly stirring the soup, Hankil producing a lovely seesaw of tones about midway through, Eubanks introducing a fairly tonal backdrop, the brew beginning to simmer slightly. (I wonder if people think this is too charming, the repeated almost melodic patterns? I don't. A little nod to "Evening Star" in there, maybe.) Over its last five minutes, the music swells, never boiling over but swirling and increasing in density. It's certainly more echo-y than most contemporary eai (one had the impression of a forest of coiled springs), with the quasi-rhythmic elements trodding through, keeping pace. It's kind of a calm spiral upwards, ending with a sublimation into the atmosphere instead of an explosion. Perfect length, as well. I enjoyed it a lot, listened to it often.

Paul Abbot/Grundik Kasyansky - green ribbon residue, in this case (Cathnor)

I hadn't heard much of Kasyansky's music for a while and was only barely familiar with Abbott's. However, this one, for me, falls into that area I referenced above: an ok improv set. It's very quiet pretty much throughout (each of the musicians credited with "electronics"), normally a zone I'm fond of, and it's fine as far as that goes, but I get too much of a sense of puttering about. Amiable but not entrancing. I don't quite get the sense that it works well when heard as an element of the environment as it does seem to demand attention. Hard to pin down what doesn't grab me about it except to say that the choices made neither surprised me nor fascinated me. Not bad, but not memorable.

Lee Patterson - egg fry #2 (Cathnor)

Talk about a tour de force. What can one say? A stereo recording of a frying egg made in Patterson's kitchen. And it's spectacular. I swear I hear spring peepers in there--sometimes, though, it sounds like a loop extracted from a North African pop singer, Cheb Khaled caught in the bubbling albumen. But that's just it: there's an enormous micro-world of sounds captured--and captured stunningly--in this recording, huge enough that you'll always be constructing patterns, assigning relationships, hearing themes. Among other things, I knew there was a reason I was always using food analogies in my reviews....!

Absolutely no problem putting this on repeat and playing for hours. An excellent recording (and great cover)--check it out.


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