Sunday, April 29, 2012

Lucio Capece - Zero plus zero (Potlatch)

Six investigations from Capece in his first solo recording (hard to believe, but apparently true). I do often think of Capece as an investigator, someone who, with great seriousness, plumbs his arsenal relentlessly, searching out previously undiscovered aspects and, importantly, framing them within a compelling, absorbing context. He certainly does so here.

The pieces all involve different instrumentation, beginning with a sonorous and enchanting solo sruti work; admittedly, I could wallow in this stuff all day, those multiple, woody tones, so luxurious. It drones but also meanders (in a good way), leaking out fine tendrils. The title track features soprano sax with preparations. As mentioned above, this is one of those tracks that really has the feel of an in depth probing of his situation/implement. High pitches, often roughed, overlaying a kind of metallic scrabbling, ceding to hollow tones, each area or combination of areas lingered on for at least a minute or two, listened to carefully, gently elaborated on, ending with muffled, percussive bell-tones; really nice. The sruti box is brought out again for the next cut, combined with bass clarinet neck and walkmans, producing a series of low, plaintive moans like an abandoned, forlorn beast in a desolate, smoky terrain, harrowing.

Next up, a work containing my favorite hitherto unencountered instrumentation: "tuned backyard", heard in duet with "double plugged equalizers". The backyard enters late in the piece (lovely sound wherein the effect of the tubes through which the locale is recorded can be clearly heard) but prior to that the piece engenders some serious throbbage. Similar, in a way, to the first track, one can be lured into simply succumbing to the richness and losing oneself in the sheer, gooey plasticity of the sound, but there's more going on: fluctuations within the drone, many more strands than were first apparent great depth. A fairly short, simple and pristine sine wave work, kind of a very slow melody, pure and beautiful, leads to the final work, imho the most powerful one presented here, for bass clarinet "with and without cardboard tubes". Again, an investigation, her into the lower, cloudy cavities of the instrument, the fluttering, pulsed tones like some black, subterranean river. The throb dwindles to a quaver or two, gorgeously paired. You can hear someone who's gone into the Malfatti zone and emerged from the other side, enhanced and "permitted" to more actively engage, the lessons having been well-learned. A fantastic piece, one I can and will listen to many, many times and a seriously fine recording overall. Not to be missed.


available stateside from erst dist

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Andrea Neumann/Bonnie Jones - green just as I could see (Erstwhile)

Another of those releases which I enjoy very, very much but find a bit difficult to write about. Coming in, I had certain expectations about this pairing, thinking that Neumann was likely to come at things from a somewhat more gentle angle, Jones from a harsher one. Even so, though I've heard both musicians a number of times, live and on disc, I wasn't at all sure how comprehensive my knowledge of their approaches was and tried to suspend any preformed ideas. As it happens, while I suspect that each moved a bit toward the other, it's difficult enough (for me) to tell, more often than not, who's responsible for what element, really mooting the question.

So, I'm left with four tracks, each strong, each with an underlying thread of buried lyricism that recalls previous Erstwhile recordings like "eh" and "lidingo" (the latter with Neumann), releases that on a surface level are not so hard to digest but which, intriguingly, keep on revealing levels and connections on subsequent listens, betraying a wonderful gnarliness that's not apparent on first blush. It's an odd effect, as one can flip-flop between the two modes of listening, allowing the music to wash over you one the one hand, or really concentrate on it and dissect it on the other.

As to describing the music, well...the structures are thick and elastic, rarely very sparse (somewhat so in the third and fourth tracks but even there, the scrim is pretty consistently in place), more often filled with a variety of sound sources, balancing long-held tones with skitterish ones. You can pick out Neumann's inside-piano now and then and make the assumption that a given explosion derives from Jones' broken electronics, but the pieces are so cohesive that you really don't care. The sheer thoughtfulness is everywhere apparent; there's always focus, always a sense of distinct pathways being trod, tense space between them, occasional merges but two independent minds. There's a strong sense of progression, even narrative, at work. There's even a delightful little surprise tucked into the second track, one which I won't spoil here.

There a scarce few moments of even partial disinterest throughout--the disc is simply , at the very least, entirely enjoyable on a minute to minute basis, occasionally rising to wondrous moments, always repaying new visits (I've listened about a dozen times as of now) which inevitably reveal previously unglimpsed paths and connections.

Excellent work.


Monday, April 23, 2012

so, a brief report from Västerås, as we prepare to make the journey to England...The festival, like pretty much all such events, had its highs and lows vis a vis performances. But I want to say up front how enjoyable the affair was as such. Very well run, competent while remaining relaxed and friendly, self-contained, good venues, etc. Really a classily handled job.

I just wanted to briefly mention my special favorite performances from the two-day fest. One surprise (in the sense that I'd no expectations going in) was Tima Teshu, from St. Petersburg, early on the first day, in a gallery at the local art Museum. As one entered, one saw Ms. Teshu seated gallery-center, resting on a small box, not acknowledging the crowd. Arrayed before her were six or seven bottles of perfume, an old portable record player and an old, small speaker. She rose and placed the needle on an ancient RCA Victor disc whereupon a sentimental (though rather lovely) accordion-led waltz emerged. It played through, three or four minutes, ended with a rough *click* form the player. Teshu stood, selected a perfume, slowly walked to a corner of the room and sprayed once or twice. As the scent drifted to the olfactory globes of the attendees, she returned to her perch and spun the recording once more. This sequence was performed three times, after which she calmly and quietly returned the vials to the case upon which she'd been sitting (I liked the fact that not all were used) and unhurriedly walked out of the gallery. Something odd and marvelous and concise about the performance; it stayed with me throughout the fest.

On the first day, the standout performance came from Birgit Ulher and Andrea Neumann. On the preceding night, at a get-together party at the home of Johan and Lina Redin, Birgit had graced us with a fantastic solo piece (as had Katt Hernandez) and she elaborated on those ideas here. There were a couple of stretches, including the concluding five or so minutes, that were simply gorgeous, Neumann working complex, droning patterns, Ulher buzzing through metal plates and objects rubbed on her trumpet. Perfect length, beautifully realized.

On the second day, the morning venue having shifted to an amazing room in Västerås Castle, we were graced with a solo set from Sophie Agnel, who I hadn't heard in quite a while, at least on her own. She used substantial preparations and used them exceedingly well, generating a kind of rough minimalism that reminded me of things like Rzewski's "Winnsboro Cotton Mill Blues", except that this ws better. Not afraid of emotive qualities, she rumbled through, the prep sometimes engulfing the keyboard sounds. Very strong, very moving.

Later that evening, back at the main venue (two theaters in an arts complex), we had Martin Küchen and Seijiro Murayama. I had been very happy to finally meet martin, having written a couple of things for him over the last few years and had spent a good bit of time in conversation with him prior to the set. He was feeling pretty ill and perhaps this contributed to an extremely restrained quality to the performance (Seijiro would later mention that he was being extra-delicate so as not to cause Martin to spontaneously regurgitate something other than air). The entire set was hushed, often barely there. When Küchen lifted his baritone, I "feared" things would edge toward the raucous, but no. Hard to describe but very, very moving.

Oh, the discussion, my reason for having been brought there, went well enough, I guess. I'll leave that for others to comment on, but I certainly enjoyed it.And, as much as the music, it was just a great, great pleasure to meet and re-meet so many fantastic people, to have the opportunity for extended conversations, eating and drinking with them. I'd like to deeply thank Johan Redin for inviting me and Tomas Nygren for agreeing to get me there. So great to get to know or re-know Lina Gatte Redin, Lisa Ullén, Katt Hernandez, Sven Rånlund, Magnus Nygren, Birgit Ulher, George Kentros, Andrea Neumann, Martin Küchen, Milenko Micanovic, Piotr Ryziński and others. But above and beyond, my co-panelist Nina Polaschegg. Nina was a fantastic cohort and companion all weekend, tough and incisive, absurdly smart and an absolute joy to come to know. Thanks, Nina!Visited Stockholm yesterday, lunched with that old softie Mattin and his ridiculously beautiful and lovely daughter Odita.

off this afternoon for three days in the balmy clime of England where I expect to encounter, after too long, Master Pinnell, a perhaps take in some small percentage of the Tate Modern.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Off to Västerås, Sweden this afternoon where, for some reason, I've been graciously invited to sit on a panel discussing the issue of writing about improvised and experimental music, at the Nya Perspektiv festival there. Will report in as I have the chance.

From there, off to England on Monday to visit our dear friend Maria in Wivenhoe, Essex and, as well to spend a day or so in London in the company of Squire Pinnell.

Was hoping to get in a write-up of the new Bonnie Jones/Andrea Neumann Erst-disc (Andrea will be at the festival) before leaving but I keep hearing new things on each listen and it's growing on me more and more as well, so I need to give it more time to simmer.

Back next Friday. Enjoy.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Alfredo Costa Monteiro - Umbralia (Triple Bath)

Another excellent and, amazingly, very different release from Costa Monteiro, who has to have one of the most varied catalogs around. "Umbralia" is for electric organ and, most assuredly, there's more than a dollop of classic Sun Ra to be heard, but Costa Monteiro careens into several areas, almost always with a harsh,microtonal edge to the sound, a severe burr. As with most dronage I find tasty, there are multiple layers in play most of the time and those plies create great, tense space between them, using fine colors. Additionally, some of the layers depart from steady state, incorporating "stabs" of a kind that recall Reich's great "Four Organs". It shifts several times, gradually becoming less compressed but ever retaining an uneasy, quivering aspect. Sun Ra comes to mind again, as if Costa Monteiro had taken slices of those incredible parts of "Atlantis" or "The Magic City" and expounded on them. "Umbralia" is another in an increasingly long line of strong releases frm Costa Monteiro, who's establishing quite a canon.

triple bath

Goh Lee Kwang - 反之亦然 _, and Vice Versa (Herbal International)

More strange electronica for the redoubtable Mr. Kwang. Four shortish tracks surrounding two lengthy ones, totaling an hour. The initial one a 2 minute flurry of squelchy bleeps, mildly annoying, which segues into 37 minutes of the ethereal. It's all gentle echoes, a chirping (insect variety) background, soft, watery. it's...long but ok enough, very placid. We then lurch back into rollicking electronics for a few minutes, then a mere 30 seconds of squeakitude before heading off into the other longish track, about 15 minutes of low, far-off hums and rumbles, like an airport behind a large hill; my favorite track. Lastly, a slow bit of roundly popping electrics, ping-pongy, amidst metallic reverb.

Odd stuff, interesting but not for everyone, not always for me but nonetheless intriguing.

herbal international

Pietro Riparbelli - Three Days of Silence (Gruenrekorder)

I admit to some degree of trepidation when Ripardelli, in the course of describing his work, derived from field recordings made at the Sanctuary of La Verna in Tuscany, says of the place that St. Francis of Assisi "is said to have received the stigmata here". Could've used a tablespoon of skepticism, I guess. But the results are not bad of their type. Three pieces, the first a composition worked form the recordings, the next a pure field recordings and the last a "diary of the experience", though I'm not sure exactly what that entailed.

So we have the physical sounds of the structure, the opening and closing doors, the footsteps, various clangs and bangs, though all with a muted air that does very much summon to one's mind an old room with thick walls used for arcane purposes. But the organ pervades the initial track, looped and extended into an endless chord. Birds abound, engines infiltrate; it's much less ethereal than I'd feared, even as echoes of a choir are heard in the rafters. Though between the increasingly spacey organ and voices, the second tracks crosses that boundary into something a bit to Eno/Budd-y. Still, it's ok, well done of its kind. Ultimately, not my cuppa, gets a little too woozy, but your mileage may vary.


Saturday, April 14, 2012

John Cage - empty words (Edition Wandelweiser)

assembled and organized by Antoine Beuger

Words never seemed emptier than when trying to write about this. I've had the release for a few months but had only played about the first three hours of it, never having had the time to really settle in with it for the duration which, as the set spans ten hours over two DVDs, isn't totally unexpected. As well, due to lack of a DVD-to-stereo speaker hook-up in my place, means I listen over my PC speakers, normally not how I like to assess a musical release but perhaps not so detrimental in a piece like this, one that almost inevitably sublimates into the environment. Further, Richard had not only done a fine job in his analysis of it but had done so in precisely the general format I would have. It seems to miss the point to sit for ten hours, even if one could do so, concentrating on the words and sounds here, rather to go about one's business and hope to perceive how those sounds tinge the space. So, sitting hear at 8:30AM on Saturday, I'm going to play the work and see what happens, doubtless encountering interruptions along the way (I know there are groceries to be done, mulch to be applied to the front garden patch, possibly a Yankee game to pop in on). Here we go.

One thing I wonder about early on is whether or not, in the score, there's any indication of how the speaker is to use intonation when reading the chance-assembled Thoreau extracts, here atop wonderfully subtle, rustling and ripping sounds generated by the Ensemble Daswirdas. I suppose not. The speaker here, Sylvia Alexandra Schimag, uses a very melodic approach, varying the dynamics, keeping her tone mellifluous and, it seems to me, giving nods to Japanese intonation, albeit in English. A certain whimsical element is injected in this approach; I'm not sure I wouldn't have preferred a drier reading (assuming the performer is free to choose) but this one is fine and actually enables the listener to easily listen as though it's a variation on shakuhachi.

[Antoine has just "liked" my status, "empty words", on facebook.... :-) ]

[Interruption # 1 at 1:08]

[Back almost two hours DVD player, had to install...marginally successful. Did the mulching. In the meantime, Vanessa Rossetto, Jon Abbey and Hyemin Kim have liked my status...Michael Vincent Waller a bit later]

In the meantime, Part I continues to roll along, smoothly becoming a part of the room. The words have morphed, almost without my being aware of it, to syllabic "nonsense", quite beautiful.

Part I has ended, Part II begun. What to say? The length, the (in n odd way) steady-state quality renders it as difficult to write about as trying to describe 2 1/2 hours of rain patter outside one's window. It doesn't demand attention but it doesn't repulse when attention is given, quite the contrary. It's very enjoyable to concentrate upon but, inevitably, one's concentration wanders (well, mine does) but, I think, the next object(s) of my focus have been slightly unquantitatively enhanced by the foregoing. Part II, apparently, has no phrases, though I don't know that I've been recognizing phrases for a while toward the latter minutes of Part I. Overall, though, it sounds quite similar.

Took a brief nap, about 1/2 hour, the empty words wafting in from the other end of the apartment, very lulling. In and out of a light sleep, the voice, dreamy, threading in and out as well. Facebook status liked by Roy Duran and Gil Sansón, the latter indicating that he was writing about it as well...Eating pistachios, reading Elaine Pagels' new book, on kindle, "Revelations", a historical account of that last book of the New Testament, sun and a good amount of warmth streaming in the window on this lovely Saturday, along with the sounds of cars waiting at the light, couples walking by pushing strollers, walking dogs (and being vocally accosted by my own as they do so). Wondering at the fine reticence of the members of Ensemble Daswirdas, the softness, the patience. Every so often, I'll watch another video on the pc, overlapping the sounds; interviews, mostly, the voices intertwining. [Doug Holbrook entering the liking queue...]


Five hours in, there's a change, the gentle percussion giving way to Antoine Beuger's "oborozuki", performed by the Wandelweiser Composers Ensemble. The term means nothing to me (faint sounds made by the group initially sounding something like a mouth organ, like a sho, perhaps) so I image google and discover a kind of Japanese rush:

It's a lovely image (acorus gramineus Oborozuki), in any case, as is the sound created by the ensemble. Schimag continues as before, though reduced, as per the score, to syllables and letters, no more words.

Loving that oborozuki sound...except that I just noticed, belatedly, that also credited is the Wandelweiser Composers Ensemble, so for all I know those sounds are proceeding therefrom and Antoine may be softly stroking a plant...

The fragmented phonemes are becoming, in and of themselves, quite becomes surprisingly hypnotic at points, the voice developing a quasi-rhythmic character, gentle pulses of near-words, the ensemble staying so, so far underneath. The character of this section is quite different than the first half, transfixing in a different way, as though it was all recorded inside a bell. Its length makes a grasp of the entirety impossible (at least for me) but there's a sense of overall shape even as one is almost forced to perceive it (if one chooses to concentrate solely on the music) in a linear manner. It's stunningly gorgeous music.

[Breaking for dinner, going out, Katie in tow, to the Hamilton Ale House, as it's pleasant enough to sit outside.....]

[steak quesadillas, monkfish risotto, Guinness]

....and Part 4 with Jongah Yoon on piano, playing Burkhard Schlothauer's "ab tasten". When Schimag enters, it's far sparer than before, still very consonant, long single syllables, buzzes and plosives, hung in the air to glow for a moment before descending and next appears.The music has gotten progressively more difficult to consign to the room's ambiance; it's become more overtly beautiful. Is this a good thing or not? Well, it's seductive in the extreme, in any case. The piano is sounded only seldom, perhaps once a minute, maybe less, the "words" have become almost equivalent sounds, almost entirely abstracted. A "t" sound here, a "pth" there. Long silences.

Really an impossible set to write about. The visual image that comes to mind most often is one of the gradual vaporization of a liquid, the globules floating upward, denser near the bottom, more gaseous as they rise, slowly, ever so slowly thinning, disappearing.


Self-explanatory. Beautiful music.


available from erst dist

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Chris Abrahams/Lucio Capece - None of Them Would Remember It that Way (mikroton)

A really good, tough recording with Abrahams (DX7 FM synth) and Capece (soprano sax, bass clarinet, preparations, sruti box) mapping out territory roughly within the Wandelweiserian landscapes that Capece has been exploring in recent years but with a generous helping of needle sharp interjections and shards from Abrahams. I've somehow managed to acquire absolutely no knowledge about The Necks' music, so I have little idea (save from a quick glimpse into You Tube, which yielded so late 90s sessions that seemed almost proto-Radian to me) how representative his contributions are, but his sounds are an excellent foil to the harsh, breath-oriented content of Capece's reeds.

"Ring Road" is pretty much just that: the hollow whistle of a soprano embellished by tiny, sharp plinks (think "Concret pH") that occasionally broaden out into oval, elongated globs. The last few minutes of the 11-minute piece turn an unexpected corner, with a clearer sax tone and a panoply of synth ones, though parceled out with relative spareness. Sort of an L-shaped work. "Southern Patterns", more than twice as long, begins in similar fashion, albeit with bass clarinet, but soon becomes deliciously cooler, darker and sparser, the low reed taking on a sub-aquatic quality, looming in out of the depths, the synth interjections lonelier, like tiny phosphorescent creatures. Bell-like tones are also used as the piece becomes like a nocturnal pastoral, insectile, still very dark, growing progressively rougher as it winds down.

The sruti box (admittedly, I love that sound!) appears for the final track, laying its thick, rich tones in a multi-layered sheet for the consistently pinging and darting synth. It's in the same vein as the preceding to cuts, just a different color and...warmer.

A fine recording.