Thursday, December 29, 2011

Antoine Beuger - un lieu pour être deux (Copy for Your Records)

As performed by Barry Chabala (guitar) and Ben Owen (synthesized tones, field recordings)...and gorgeously so. I haven't seen the score and I must say, a part of me would rather not, preferring to wallow in it and contemplate why on earth this gossamer construction seems to hold together so well, what the structure could possibly be that makes it seem as solid as any more densely populated piece of (fine) music. The field recordings are a constant, though at a fairly low volume level--urban, with car sounds and kids playing, but often at a distance as though heard from a high story of a building (other times voices in a large enclosed space). Chabala's guitar and, I suppose, Owen's tones appear at intervals, relatively strong, sometimes surprisingly so, though never (of course!) strident and varying in their attack. Here, it seems to strive to blend into the city sounds, there it stands apart. A place to be two. I read it as a weaving in and out, the street sounds always there, if only hovering faintly, the guitar passing now and then. Yet there's a tensile feel to it as though there's a grid underpinning everything, but difficult to perceive.

Wonderful, in any case, easily listenable again and again, totally natural, highly recommended.

Copy for Your Records

Lucio Capece/Radu Malfatti - Explorational (b-boim)

I think my natural tendency, perhaps not uncommon, when approaching a new release involving Malfatti, is to think compositionally, in Wandelweiser terms. Obviously a wrong tack in an improv session like this one. But listening to it as such is tough in one sense, though immensely rewarding--it does indeed challenge one's notions of free improvisation. There have been many comments, of course, about it's severely quiet nature and yes, it's a recording that begs to be heard in a pristine environment. The heating unit for our apartment is outside my room and, it being winter, when it activates, there's no way I hear the music. My window fronts on the street which, though reasonably quiet, is populated by vehicles whose engine hum is uncannily close to the pitch of the bass clarinet and trombone being ever so subtly wielded here. So one does the best one can's enough.

It's an extraordinary performance in ways I imagine I'll still be delving into years from now, two sets of faint, hazy (though precisely limned) lines in space that occasionally intersect, balanced beautifully. More than most, one would wish to have been there and, happily, there's a video available of the first 23 (out of 40) minutes of the set:

Going on about the control, sound placement, quietude, etc. seems silly. It's an improv, that's what I love about it. I love that Radu waits about 6 1/2 minutes before making his first sound. I love the sound of the paired horns when they coincide but also love that this happens only rarely.

Wonderful, wonderful music and ideas.


both available from erstdist

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

mpld - one more episode in between recollection and amnesia (unframed)

Six pieces from 2006 re-released (as also the one below) from an original edition of 10 via mpld (Gill Arno), most involving prepared slide projectors. After a brief, evocative inside-piano track, the projectors take over, casting an eerie kind of spell, somehow allowing for sound types that, in this world where you think you've heard everything, strike me as unusual. There's a range, to be sure, sometimes enhanced electronically (though perhaps always), tending toward a kind of rubbed hard rubber area amidst the metallic taps, maybe rubber-coated metal, the shell providing resonance, being ground against one another with serious pressure. Sometimes the projector as such exposes itself in fluttery, humming fashion--quite lovely and forceful. The 20 minute "four flashbacks" is especially evocative, helicoptering through the mist and smoke and dust. Very nice. A closing field recording merges seamlessly with the piece, drifting off. Beautiful cover image as well, culled from his live projector set-up.

Gill Arno - Nervatura (unframed)

For "Nervatura", Arno, on a visit to Chicago, drew on a map, following railway lines and traveled that route, recording along the way as well as picking up scraps of metal which he later heated and then placed on thermal-sensitive paper, one of the lovely results becoming the fold-out sleeve for this disc. Three pieces, each designated by map coordinates, which gain in strength over the course of the recording. Om the first, railway sounds predominate with trans on track and station bells, children's chatter mixed in. The second dwells in crowd noise, nicely immersive. It's the in the third that things really gel, become rather epic. Hollow sounds, water again, engines...a boat engine, I think. But then a hum enters the picture and just transforms things, elevates them. Not sure of the source, though they're reminiscent of ringing metal wires but whatever their origin, they perfectly glue together the engine thrums and distant metallic clanks. And at 19 minutes, it lasts precisely the right length.

Fine effort.


Monday, December 26, 2011

Michel Doneda/Jonas Kocher/Tao G. Urhovec Sambolec/Tomaž Grom/Giuseppe Ielasi - Udarnik (l'Innomable)

Four pieces by the first four names above and a fifth constructed from that material by Ielasi. An oddly structured recording, at least to my ears. The live quartet dates (soprano, accordion, computer, contrabass) are ok but rather routine, the kind of breathy/scratchy/rubbing improv that one expects from Doneda and with which his companions seem comfortable. For myself, there was nothing particularly special about it. But Ielasi's recombination of the material (not certain if he confined himself to the substance of these tracks or had other options) is superb, a fantastic dense, rolling nine-minute piece that has all the vigor and robustness lacking in the originals. As I said, an odd choice to stand this work on its own when it clearly outshadows its forebears. Worth it for the Ielasi alone.

Ferran Fages - Llavi vell (l'innomable)

You're never sure quite what to expect with Fages though most recently (of what I've heard), he's gone bk and forth between noisy improv and calmer, lovely acoustic work. This one's different. Essentially a long, continuous,fairly complex drone derived, one suspects, from a contact-mic'd guitar, possibly augmented by simultaneous transmission via speakers into the room. The overall effect is one of a ringing, dulcimer-like quality. It's attractive enough but, somehow, I didn't find over the course of its 44 minutes enough to sustain my interest. I suspect this is partly due to the simple fact of its being a recording, that were I to experience it as a sound installation, to be immersed in it, things might be different. As is, it's not unpleasing but ultimately unsatisfying.

Leo Alves Vieira & Pangea - Post-Sleep Paths (Marmorno)

Vierea on Bb Clarinet, flute, acoustic guitar and electro-acoustics, Pangea (Juan Antonio Nieto) on sound treatments, with additional string work. The five pieces take existing sound, often music (is that Don Cherry on track 3?) or spoken word, and alter them in a manner reminiscent of concrete and tape assemblage work from the 60s, albeit with a greater amount of ancillary sound and a subtler approach. There is indeed a sense of dream-logic in play, a misty surreality about the music. This is most finely wrought on the aforementioned third track where that sped-up trumpet flits in and out of guitar chords, masses of static and dynamic displacement; a dizzying and very enjoyable journey. I found the dis as a whole a bit inconsistent but when it gels, things are quite fascinating. Worth checking out.



Sunday, December 25, 2011

Graham Lambkin - Amateur Doubles (Kye)

I first encountered Lambkin's work, as did many, I imagine, with the brilliant "Salmon Run" several years back, never having experienced his tenure with Shadow Ring. Subsequent efforts with Jason Lescalleet, on his own and in the three or four times I've had the pleasure of experiencing his live performance, he's pretty well cemented, in my head, himself as one of the more unique musicians around. And, of course, the term "musician" is highly suspect as Lambkin certainly pushes the boundaries of what one considers musicianship. Live, it's sometimes difficult to discern exactly what it is he's contributing while on record, his use of previously existing music, often to brilliant effect, raises questions of authorship that can be prickly. I suppose that's never been more so the case than with "Amateur Doubles". Which I love.

One opens the gatefold LP sleeve to a photo of the Lambkin family seen through the window of their car, apparently a Honda Civic. Graham is fiddling with something beneath he dashboard, his wife Adris Hoyos behind the wheel, a son in the back seat. This was the recording studio. Atop the dashboard are the two CDs that make up much of the sound source for the disc: "Pôle" by Philippe Besombes and Jean-Louis Rizet and "300 Miles Away" by Philippe Grancher, both Tangerine Dream-y, fusion-y 70s discs with mucho synth/electric piano action. What seems to have occurred is that Lambkin extracted some quite evocative and lovely nuggets from what I'm given to understand are otherwise unexceptional recordings and constructed a melange of sorts (on tape? you hear what sounds like cassette insertion at several points)) which he proceeded to play and record inside the car.

It sounds almost hilarious in one sense but, dammit, it works beautifully. The recordings dominate the soundscape (bracketed by a few moments of something else, including some flute practice at the beginning of Side One--though maybe that's also part of the source recording?) though they're clearly embedded within this somewhat claustrophobic environment, this small "room". Apart from the general ambiance of the space, you hear other elements including the chatter of children, presumably Graham's and Adris', some amount of exterior sound (though I daresay the windows were closed during this operation), various clicks and tappings and what sounds to me like Lambkin's low, muttering voice.

And it somehow all works, works pretty wonderfully. As with field recordings, I have to think it all revolves around choices made and how those choices synch up to the listener's taste, sense of structure, etc. Lambkin manages to rescue these pieces, on their own perhaps a bit sappy, by fixing them in this very real setting, by imbuing them with enough grain and grit so as to make them palatable, no mean feat. I can put this on and listen all day, dwelling on the multiple possible meaning of the term, "amateur doubles".

Incidentally, I'm not sure if this isn't a feature common to all clear vinyl, but there's a very cool optical occurrence one encounters when looking down at the spinning disc, the grooves appearing to go both "forwards" and "backwards" on the turntable. Trippy!

Highly recommended...

Available via erstdist

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Patrick Farmer - Like falling out of trees into collectors' albums (Consumer Waste)

The title poses a kind of question, or observation, that I imagine often crosses the mind of those who deal in field recordings: to what extent they're "merely" the recipients of sounds that happen to fall their way. How much of themselves ends up in the recording? Does it matter? Farmer perhaps touches on this in a short essay included here when he writes "that there is everything and nothing to record, to notice, to document".

As ever, with releases as (apparently) "pure" in their substance as this one, that is, bearing little seeming enhancement on the part of, in this case, Farmer, qualitative judgment is something of a fool's errand except insofar as to simply state whether or not the sounds moved me, placed me in a different psychological space, or not. Well, these do. Three recordings: a pond's slowly melting surface--soft water sounds augmented by the occasional airplane; aower lines recorded via mic placement on a wire fence--a beautiful, oddly hollow but complex sound in which you can imagine infinite levels of detail just outside the range of your hearing; a wasp paring away layer of a bamboo cane, the subtlest of the trio and, on disc, almost as fascinating as it might have been to be inside that tube, which is to say, very.

An excellent recording, highly recommended for those with any interest at all in this area.

Jack Harris/Samuel Rodgers - What's that for, mate? (Consumer Waste)

Fine laptop/electronics session, two longish works, each traversing substantial territory in a calm and inquisitive manner. Generally quiet but with a few laser blasts and, better, some unexpected encounters in the form of voices and brief rhythmic patterns. There's an impressive intensity to the calmness, a highly tuned consideration of sounds and sequencing, and a good balance of the gentle and the severe. This grew on me each successive time I listened, a very enjoyable amble indeed.

Ben Gwilliam/Hainer Woermann - cardtape drafts (Consumer Waste)

I believe (I'll doubtless be proved wrong) that this is my first exposure to Gwilliam (tape, magnetics, amplified processes) and Woermann (amplified cardboard, preparations), hopefully not the last.

Yes, amplified cardboard. Excellent.

Four tracks, unhurried but not unbusy, carrying a strong sense of the space in which they were constructed, scurryings, tappings and rubbings buffeting against one another, almost as though blown into contact by a strong breeze. Great balance between liquid sounds and dry ones, the latter most often brought to us via the cardboard, if I'm not mistaken. Not that I expect to see such in everyone's arsenal soon, but Woermann wields it quite ably here. Dynamics are worked wonderfully, elements expand out of the room, into the open, still abristle, ebb to a rumble, wax again toward the end, everything buzzing.

Strong recording; need to hear more from them...

consumer waste

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Hong Chulki/Jin Sangtae/Kevin Parks - 音影 (Celadon)

Perhaps the translation as "chiaroscuro" is the most fitting; one of the immediately apparent aspects of this very fine recording, for those who have experienced the music of the Seoul-based musicians only on disc, is the transitioning between the harsh, more abrupt sound-word they've tended to inhabit and a smoother one, one in which long, semi-pure tones are not uncommon. It's a fantastic mix. I'm guessing the latter is largely the result of Parks' presence here; not that his own out put has been so streamlined, but that the longer tones seem more often than not to be introduced and elaborated on by the guitar, picked up by others in the ensuing minutes.

That's the impression which permeates the disc: a delicate, lovely balance between the rough and tumble of Hong Chulki's turntables (which, surprisingly in this day and age, are occasionally the brief source of some identifiable music) and Jin Sangtae's hard drives and Parks' guitar and electronics, the former seeming to adapt themselves a tad or two to the relatively clearer tones and hums of the latter. It's bby no means a complete accession and that's much of the beauty, that tension and elasticity that forms in between. As implied above, it's entirely possible that this particular area is more routinely heard at performances in Seoul than have been documented on disc (at least within my hearing), but to this listener, the music comes as a refreshing variation to what's appeared before on Manual, Balloon and Needle, etc. Parks' oyster shells to Hong's and Jin's cigarette butts? The fifth of five tracks achieves a special kind of synthesis, really beautiful.

It's quite active overall but feels entirely unforced, a very natural flow in effect, the bleats and screeches blending wonderfully with the more mellifluous tones. I don't want to suggest it's all that smooth, btw, just a more finely grained sandpaper than one might expect. Not sure what else to say except that if you enjoyed the Parks/Foster "Acts Have Consequences" release (and, really, who didn't), you love this one. Highly recommended.


Hong Chulki/Ryu Hankil/Choi Joonyong - Inferior Sounds (Balloon and Needle)

Album title of the year? Though closer in character to previous work out of Seoul, this too strikes me as having moved toward a fuller, somehow more accommodating sound. There's a kind of surge in effect throughout much of the disc's two almost half-hour tracks; one pictures a large mass of all these thorny, harsh elements "balled up" into a larger form that steadily oozes along. As in the Celadon release, the aural landscape is active, silences rare to non-existent. It's more than harsh enough for your average passer-by but less so than I might have expected, given past music.

So in many ways, including the coincidence of their fairly close release dates, I think of these as a kind of diptych. And it's just as hard to parse on some ways. Knowing the instruments involved are typewriters, turntables, CD-players and a snare drum gives one an idea and if you know earlier work from these musicians, you'll have an inkling, but there's less overt aggression than encountered in the past. I'm of course reluctant to conclude anything of a general nature from only two examples but I'm naturally curious to find out if this represents anything of a recent tendency there. Whatever the case, this adjustment, if it is such, suits really well with me, nudging the music just a hair toward a more user-friendly sound. It will still easily drive any adjacent acquaintance from the room, don't misunderstand, but the music feels more solid and focused than ever. Excellent work. (and a wonderful packaging idea)

Balloon & Needle

Both available stateside via Erstdist

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Ben Owen - Birds and Water, 1 (Notice Recordings)

I wish I could figure out exactly what it is that I routinely enjoy about Ben Owen's work that differentiates it from others plowing roughly the same territory. As before, the best I can do is posit that it revolves around choices made and that those choices, in one sense or another, coincide with my taste, with what I would do or, more likely, what I wouldn't do but would look back and think I should have done. This cassette release (which I heard on disc) contains two substantial sides, over 47 minutes each, both realized at the Experimental Television Center in Owega, NY in 2010, using A system developed by David Jones (presumably not our David Jones) in 1974 that includes sequencers, oscillators and image processors. Side A shifts from area to area, some intense and full, some all but silent, the latter often redolent, on closer examination, with hums and wooly static, here smooth, there very, very rough. What to say except that both the selection of sounds as well as their duration/sequencing sit perfectly, keeping one rapt and delighted.

Side B is a bit of a tougher go only because it's essentially a single drone, kind of a thicker variant of a Sachiko M piece. There are striations, though, and they're apparent on reasonably close listen even before the ocarina-like, wavering tones appear. The long hum. I haven't had the opportunity to really lay this out loud, though I imagine it would sound great. I enjoy it as is even if I somehow find it missing that extraordinary level of attention that Sachiko manifest. Still and all, very fine.

A strong, absorbing recording, well worth seeking out.

notice recordings

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Steve Beresford/Stephen Flinn/Dave Tucker - Ink Room (Creative Sources)

Nice title. Electronics/percussion/guitar. I haven't kept track of Beresford at all over the years, though I recall enjoying his more straightforward efforts (Signals for Tea, the film disc on Tzadik) more than his free work and this, more or less and example of the latter, confirms my prejudices. It's less Beresford that's the problem than Tucker, whose rock-referential, harsher-than Frisell (which is to say, not very), gentler than Bailey approach wears thin quickly. Combined, the trio churns out something resembling a random, less than inspired set of music that wouldn't have been out of place in downtown NYC circa 1990. Retro-efi? Not for me.

Heddy Boubaker/Ernesto Rodrigues/Abdul Moimeme - Le Beau Deviant (Creative Sources)

Now this is more like it. Six pretty incisive, thoughtfully considered improvs from Boubaker (alto and bass saxes), Rodrigues (viola) and Moimeme (prepared electric guitar). Not earthsaking but solid. Most things I've heard involving Boubaker over the past several years have shown well-learned lessons from AMM without descending into slavish imitation and this is another. The pieces are quiet and spacious, relaxed but concise. Boubaker manages to avoid both saxophonics and post-Butcher tropes, really just disappearing into the mix, no mean feat. All contribute at moments and with sounds that tend to feel exactly right at that time. Just a good, strong session, very enjoyable.

Erik Carlsson - The Bird and the Giant (Creative Sources)

Solo percussion and not bad at all. He sticks mostly to metals and bells, sometimes sounding a bit like certain prepared piano set-ups, keeps things calm but percolating, well-paced and, by virtue of the elements employed, very soothing on the ear. As with the trio release above, I can't say there's anything startling or "new", but no matter. It's an exceedingly pleasant recording, absolutely fine for creating a bubbly, meditational atmosphere. Also appreciate the more sandpapery final two tracks, nicely offsetting the prior sounds. Good work.

Marjolane Charbin/Frans van Isacker - Kryscraft (Creative Sources)

Piano and alto saxophone; don't believe I've heard either musician before. This is one of those recordings where I can't say there's anything particularly wrong but it doesn't quite grab me. Fairly quiet (aide from an annoying sax explosion toward the end), making use of plenty of extended technique, inside-piano, etc. Perfectly competent and sometimes charming, though more so the "straighter" it gets (an all-too common phenomenon in my experience; I can't begin to count the number of musicians I think would be better served to be less "avant"). Were I attending a live event and this was presented, I'd be satisfied but I'm afraid I'd forget it within hours. It's fine, just more or less indistinguishable from many.

Boris Hauf/Steven Hess/Keefe Jackson/Juun - Proxemics (Creative Sources)

The pick of this particular litter, to these ears. I hadn't heard Hauf in quite some time, though I have fond memories of the discs he used to send out, willy-nilly, about ten years ago. He's added sines and harmonium to his tenor and soprano, teaming hear with Hess (drums, electronics), Jackson (contrabass clarinet, tenor) and Juun (piano) for three lush, deep probes. Interesting how well the two reeds work in this context. While they make free use of what has come to be heard as "traditional" breath tones, they freely drift into standard sounds and even, as heard some 15 minutes into the opening track, a kind of mournful melodic line that wouldn't have been so out of place in the Garbarek of "Afric Pepperbird" (1970). And it works. The shortish second cut is even, to my ears, more directly referential to that once-fine Norwegian, sounding like it could have been an outtake from "Tryptikon"--very tasty, too, I have to say. Surprising they could still manage to make something viable from this material, at this date, though it's Juun's prepared piano, an element not heard in those early ECM days, that proves to be the winning ingredient. The harmonium appears on the final piece, a soft, semi-droning work that shifts every few minutes, from low throbs to hollow winds back to harmonium drones with semi-rhythmic, light percussion. The horns return, undisguised and again, manage not only not to irritate but to gibe before the wheezy drone returns to take things out. Excellent recording.

David Chiesa/Jean Sebastien Mariage - Oort (Creative Sources)

Double bass and electric guitar, doing a reasonable rendition of the cloud of debris between Mars and Jupiter. Spacious, and scrape-filled (much arco bass and, I suspect, bowed guitar)--I would have thought I'd like it more than I do. Something is lacking for this listener, however and I'm guessing that, however extenuated the sounds, they seem to relate back to the kind of post-serial gesturalism that often makes me itch. Less a concern with pure sound than with flourishes of extended technique, that is. Not bad but not enough air for me.

Abdul Moimeme/Ricardo Guerreiro - Knettanu (Creative Sources)

For two simultaneously played, prepared electric guitars and "interactive computing platform". Not sure what the latter does, though I assume it's something along the lines of regurgitating Moimeme's guitar as the music carries that tonality pretty much throughout. It's echoey, spacey; reminds me somewhat of Laswell's 90s explorations which....isn't a great thing to remind me of. Much resonant scraping, ringing tones, darkness. Better than that, with some welcome harshness tossed in here and there but overall, far too meandering and, well, spacey, for my taste.

[Writer's note: Last week my pc was the recipient of some malware, so I'd been working on Linda's laptop, where I did the above. When my pc was apparently fixed, I used it to write the remaining four reviews of the Creative Sources discs. Unfortunately, fixed it wasn't and none of them were saved. I just don't have the heart or time to rewrite them and, since I didn't happen to find those four discs very much to my liking, I'll let them drop. Apologies, Ernesto. The four were:

Matthias Muche/Philip Zoubek/Achim Tang - excerpts from anything
Alon Nechushtan - Dark Forces
Olaf Rapp/Joe Williamson/Tony Buck - Weird Weapons
Joe Williamson - Hoard ]

Creative Sources

Friday, December 02, 2011

Haptic - Scilens (Entr'acte/Flingco)

The band that refuses to disappoint.

As ever, tough to encapsulate short of mere descriptives. They're careful and quiet, yes, with something of a dronish character lurking about, though not so insistent as to make it a very conscious apprehension. It more involves the materials they choose to use in constructing these hums, rubbings, vibrations and how (for example, in the luscious opening track) they deposit small helpings of beautiful, clear piano, augmented by rougher, less clear string abrasion. On first blush, you (I) don't realize how much variation there is--a sign of great work: apparent simplicity made up of enormous complexity.

The fifth track gets rudely percussive for a bit, surging then receding then coming back again, before settling down. But it's a fine jostle amidst the general, wonderful haze. A "hidden" sixth cut zones out spectacularly, just a languorous throb amidst crickets and ice crystals.

Hear this.

Pali Meursault - Without the wolves (Entr'acte)

A really fascinating recording with an interesting arc. At the beginning of the first track, we hear a soft but quite detailed range of dripping sounds, reasonably dense but clear, augmented by similarly pitched glitches and cracks, with the odd metallic bang. It's very much of a piece and, in its fashion, rather steady state. I liked it very much and admired Mearsault's sticking to it for quite some time, allowing variations to creep in that didn't disturb the flow but rather focused the listener's attention here and there within the stream. Some 15 minutes in, however, it began to pall a bit. Something, something hard to pinpoint, was no longer clicking. A certain range of drops vanished, perhaps that was it, and I found it disquieting.

But this shift, relatively abrupt though it was, began to open up adjacent areas that, while quite different and becoming more so as the piece wore on, seemed somehow appropriate when the opening was reconsidered in hindsight. Bits of radio, whirring buzzes and all manner of detritus appear, eventually evanescing into the dark. Nice.

Second and third tracks have more of a field recording feel, from breathing and talking around a fire (?) with what sounds like a good bit of trudging around, to wind-whipped howls and dog yips, all, eventually fanning out into an ethereal ringing, quite beautiful.

I got pretty lost in this and enjoyed it a bunch.

Nick Storring - Rife (Entr'acte)

Storring is a Toronto-based cellist and electronicist and I think this is my first encounter with his music. It's a reasonably juicy one. The music also diverges from what might expect after the first few moments, when I was guessing at a post-modern cello set augmented by electronics, but occupying a fairly abstract area. Not so. Quite quickly, the kitchen sink is duly thrown in and the subsequent music incorporates eastern tropes, zither, lush electronica, beats and much else. If I had to make a single comparison, it would be to Fennesz, whose influence looms large, especially insofar as general tone, but Storring, in these ten tracks (which I read as a suite) is even less constrained, seemingly willing to drift wherever the "moment" takes him. This has its pluses and minuses. I find myself enjoying it in large part even as I question how much depth is there. It's sonic candy to an extent, tasty and easily digested if, perhaps, lacking in required vitamin department.

Still, well worth a listen and one of those discs that could provide a gentle avenue into deeper realms for innocent ears.