Monday, October 29, 2012

Keith Rowe - September (ErstLive)

During the week prior to this concert, Rowe talked about the Dvorak piece quite a bit. In recent years, there has often been a work form the classical repertoire that's seized his imagination, generating a certain amount of obsession as he sought to understand it on his own terms, often to extract a kind of "commentary" on contemporary issues that concerned him.The repertoire was quite alive and one of the ways of keeping it so is to place it into new contexts, hear what new information it has to offer. For Rowe, the Dvorak Piano Quintet had come to embody certain ideas about memory, including nostalgia, loss and false memories. Knowing that he was scheduled to perform in New York, on the tenth anniversary of 9/11, it seemed an appropriate piece to utilize.

This has been something f a departure for Rowe, to at least occasionally bring in samples from the classical repertoire, knowing more or less how they'd be used. It first (to my knowledge) surfaced in the solo Tokyo set from several years ago and here, is the thread that winds through the 34 minute concert. But, also as with much of Rowe's work over the past few years, especially solo, the density of sound/ideas here is astounding, bewildering, opaque, exhausting and, finally, so moving.

Aside from the Dvorak, which weaves in and out of the proceeding (and which, I should say, is absolutely gorgeous in and of itself), the principal elements are various radio captures (including an eerily appropriate, clear snatch of EMF's "You're Unbelievable", with all the immediate echoes of Bush it conjures up, as well as some 9/11 discussion and other tidbits) and some extraordinarily brutal sounds from Rowe, possibly contact mic-generated. Imagine the harsher moments from his duo with Sachiko M and amp that up a few notches. But what impresses me from a sonic standpoint is the rough-hewn, brutalist structure of the piece, like a Twombly carved from basalt with a jackhammer. The Dvorak certainly helps to provide some degree of linearity, but it's like, if you will, a string connecting blocks of rock candy (!), and a bitter candy at that.

The explosiveness coheres naturally enough with the allusiveness of the date, though never so overtly as to be at all banal; indeed, they're less explosions than massive fields of static, implying, to these, more in the way of human communication and lack of same in the aftermath of the events. This was amplified in a contribution, unfortunately not picked up on the recording, from a drunken woman outside the venue, who was initially heard screaming, "No! No! No! No!" and then, when asked by the door-person to please keep it down, that there was a concert going on inside, "Fuck you! Fuck your concert!". It was actually the perfect compliment, the ideal "real world" reflection of what Rowe was describing in his music.

A great, great set, absolutely essential.

Erstwhile (The image up top hasn't anything to do with the Erst release--I just liked it a lot...)

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Tim Olive/Alfredo Costa Monteiro - 33 bays (845 audio)

It's been a while since hearing anything from the bale hands of Tim Olive so it's good to report that his 2009 duo with the stalwart Alfredo Costa Monteiro is a solid, absorbing effort.

Both wielding electronics and metal of various sorts (I don't pick up any accordion or paper on the part of Costa Monteiro), they fashion a thick, rough, spiny set of two pieces, the music elbowing its way through, leaving shavings and unexpected bruises. The first track is quite packed but not overstuffed, several things usually in operation at a given moment--throbbing hums with erratic static and scoured metal here; when a couple of sources drop out, the remaining one or two acquire a ghostly effect, echoing, arguing. One of the impressive things is how varied the landscape is while feeling quite cohesive and of a piece. Not groundbreaking by any means and fans of the pair will find themselves in recognizable territory, but the decision toward fullness is one fraught with the "peril" of hyperactivity and these guys never get near that particular trap.

As with much good music of this character, it's tough (for me) to offer much more than a sonic description and perhaps to give an idea of the shape or scale of the piece(s). That latter is a subtle thing, but here one does get a feeling of breadth, of compass. The sounds range widely, shrill to deep, high to low, though the volume level is fairly consistent, resting in the medium zone and, as said, active without being overly busy. But, for example, when early in the second track, when you hear what sounds like large, hollow metal bars tossed down an empty, linoleum-tiled hallway (which I'm sure is not the actual source), it connotes something more than just the aural sensation, summoning a vague story line, some plot that can't quite be discerned. It's magical moments like this (and there are several) that make recordings like "33 bays" so valuable.

Don't let it slip by.

845 audio

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Seijiro Murayama/Kazushige Kinoshita - 59:01.68 (ftarri)

Percussion/violin, with five compositions by Murayama, each lasting precisely 11 minutes. Given the titles (with the digits, 1, 1, 3, 3, and 4 arrayed in different ways), one wonders if they're oblique homages to Cage and the first one indeed begins with the ambient sounds of...somewhere, before gently plucked strings and rubbed percussion appear. The piece, very subdued and evocative, goes back and forth between these two "locations" almost as though the pair would play, then open the window, close it and play again. Nice work. The first several minutes of the second track are all but silent, eventually filled with only the hushed flurries emerging like small puffs of smoke.

This is the way it goes throughout, kind of like an improvised Wandelweiser set (even though these are apparently compositions, they sound freely performed; I'm guessing it's something on the order of actions performed within time frames). Kinoshita is always quiet, Murayama mostly so, with the odd, brief sharp attack via stick on drumhead, just enough to keep the listener on his/her toes. The disc's cover is one of those old fractal cascades (I'm forgetting the specific name for this sequence), one that, for me, retains a deep sense of randomness within order, always a very lovely image. The back cover has, if I'm recalling correctly, a related set of numbers; presumably the track titles refer to five sets within this frame; perhaps so does the grouping of sounds. In any case, the results are engaging--relaxed though with a sense of rigor, restrained but not timid.

It's a fine work, possibly my favorite thus far involving Murayama.

Available stateside from Esrtdist
Choi Joonyong - Danthrax (Trigger)

In which Choi takes his trusty old malfunctioning CD drive and attempts to impose what he acknowledges are the cliched structures of dance music which, essentially, here entails the predominance of rhythms (Trigger being a new label formed by Ryu Hankil which "focuses on rhythmic sound".

Now, by its nature, the CD drive tends toward the rhythmic due to its internal functioning. I imagine getting it to sound arhythmic entails a decent amount of work. Choi also must deal with the alredy fairly narrow range of sounds available via this device; not really narrow, I guess, in an absolute sense, but occupying a range where most ears tend to group the sounds into a definable area. A daunting task, in other words, more so with 13 tracks spread over some 50 minutes. I find that I tend to listen to the disc as a single, fluctuating work though it's still far from an easy go. The (necessarily) mechanical beats put me off somewhat so that at moments where some sheer noise intrudes, I breathe a sigh of relief. There are occasions where the music actually approaches a traditional pop song kind of feel, at least from one direction where the listener can impute what almost amounts to chord changes; kind of amusing when that happens. Still, I find myself wearying as the disc progresses, just not picking up enough of inherent interest. Given that "touch" isn't going to be in the realm of possibilities here and sound placement has taken a back seat to the foregrounding of rhythms, on either submits to these rhythms and enjoys them as they're couched in the glitchy sounds, or not. For myself, this works ok in brief snatches but not so much in the long haul and, additionally, seems not to contain the kind of depth that reveals more on re-listening or approaching from various angles. an interesting experiment and, who knows, may lead to something in the future but for now, I'm not convinced.


Friday, October 12, 2012

Edited by Michał Libera and Lidia Klein

A truly excellent compendium, assembled to accompany an exhibition by Katarzyna Krakowiak at the 13th International Architecture Exhibition in Venice, dealing with the intersection of sound and structures. The selections range remarkably widely, from Samuel Coleridge to Toshiya Tsunoda, but are almost always on point, offering historical, theoretical, political and philosophical observations on sound as it's experienced within architecture.

So there's a fascinating piece, by Karin Bijsterveld on the lineage of noise prohibitions and safeguards in Holland as cities became more crowded and industrialized and one by John Locke (not the philosopher) on eavesdropping. Brilliant works by Shelley Trower on street noises and the cataloguing of same in 19th century Britain and one by Lamberto Tronchin surveying architecture's attempts to enhance sound within. A very fine essay by David Toop, culled from his "Sinister Resonance" volume ("Architectural Sound") on the mysterious ways sound travels through building materials and the psychological effects therein has special...resonance. One could go on.

Interspersed among these are brief extracts of thoughts from sound artists including Toshiya Tsunoda, Jean-Luc Guionnet, Alvin Lucier, Eric La Casa and others, as well as very intriguing conversations with Bernhard Leitner and Mark Bain, causing this reader to become quite interested in experiencing their work.

Unlike most such collections, there's nary a disappointing entry to be found--a seriously solid volume and one well worth seeking out for anyone remotely interested in the field. Highly recommended.

Motto Distribution

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Vinyl round-up
Graham Lambkin/Jason Lescalleet - The Food Chain/Nice Ass (Glistening Examples)

A 45, one side for each (no collaboration).

Given its title, one immediately begins thinking along digestive lines at the beginning of Lambkins's "The Food Chain", starting as it does with (I think) human-generated sounds, perhaps grunted into a large tube or other receptacle, before become substantially more leonine (still not certain if those as processed big cat roars or not). It's kind of disturbing and doesn't become less so when the scene shifts to what sounds all the world like a bar fight. One imagines it spilling out onto the street whereupon a jaguar leaps in and devours the participants, establishing its won food chain--that's the image I get, in any case. A rough, fascinating slab of sound, having a bit of the feel of being extracted from a longer work but...meaty enough on its own.

Lescalleet's piece seems to shoot for a more accessible tack, starting with some kind of trigger-activsted sound, morphing through beats, muddy sludge, muted, liquified voices, eventually settling into a Fennesz-y was with gentle eelctric-piano behind washes of ambient, field-recorded material. It's all very alluring and immersive, retaining enough of an edge, both in terms of aural-harshness and the nostalgic figure played by the piano to easily carry the listener through, As with the Lambkin, he leaves you wanting a wider purview, which I guess is a good thing.

Likely available from jason on tour

Aaron Dilloway/Jason Lescalleet - Grapes and Snakes (Pan)

Not quite as wantonly noisy as you might expect...Side A (Grapes?) begins with lush, swirling synth, the odd stutter immersed within, an intriguing, harsher whine skirting the edges. This occupies the first half of the side. Just as interest palls, there's an abrupt shift to a dire mode, sight shudders, a repeated, heavy drop--all dark and damp. It's effective, though a bit reminiscent of some mid 90s "isolationism".

I enjoy the possibly ophidian B-side much more. There's a malevolent pulse, brooding, eddying percusso-electronics and an overall inky density that both inviting and slightly repellent. There'e a good deal more grime in the mix here, so the synth swirls retain grit and teeter uneasily--very nice, the loops possessing a drunken character. there's even a whiff of early, grungy Riley to be heard, buffeted by squeals that build into squalls. Lescalleet used part of Riley' "You're No Good" in his recent erstwhile disc and you get the impression it's a source of inspiration here as well, but more ferocious than Riley ever got. Humorously enough, this segues into a section that harkens back to Pierre Schaeffer's "Psyche Rock", or one of the mixes thereof. It's a delightful, surprisingly bouncy way to take out the side. Solid piece and, again, perhaps not what you were (or, at least, I was) expecting.


The pair will be in Brooklyn on November 3.
The Dogmatics - The Sacrifice For The Music Became Our Lifestyle (Monotype)

Ok, yes, it's one of the worst album covers you'll ever want to see and the title ain't much better. I harbored great misgivings until flipping it over and discovering the perpetrators to be Chris Abrahams and Kai Fagaschinski. There's hope, I thought.

And there was. Seven tracks, fairly short; I think it would be fair to say that, overall, the character of the music is not dissimilar to that produced by The International Nothing, Fagaschinski's duo with fellow clarinetist Michael Thieke--quiet, long-held tones, carrying a smidgen of Feldman and more than a whiff of some Neo-Romantic Teutons. The odd flurry of shrillness or volume emerges for a moment or two, now and then, serves notice that all is not precisely serene, then subsides, leaving a welcome, lingering sense of unease. I think there's a good deal buried here and that subsequent listens will reveal elusive layers. I like it as is and suspect there's more to it than I currently perceive. Good recording.
Michael Wintsch/Christian Weber/Christian Wolfarth - The Holistic Worlds of (Monotype)

Not heliocentric...

Wintsch (piano and synth) is new to me, I think, though I've heard a good bit of the rhythm section. On first blush, Paul Bley, not Sun Ra, comes to mind, both in pianistic touch and in the loose lyricism of the first track, "Singin' Joe". That mood holds sway and, for my ears, it's tough to pull off without the idiosyncrasies of someone like Bley; the rambling can become a self-sbsorbed eddy. To the extent that pieces succeed, it's when the rhythm exerts itself somewhat, pushing the issue, injecting some direction, though this only occurs two or three times. Everything quite well played--I still enjoy the essential sound of Weber's bass, always have--but amorphous in a way that's not as fascinating as it needs to be, at least for this listener. As is of often the case with recordings clearly nodding to the jazz tradition these days, your mileage may differ substantially from mine.

Astor - Alcor (Kye)

Released on Kye at the same time as the fine LP by Vanessa Rossetto, this one sounds to me more in line with items from labels like Unfathomless that troll the waters where field recordings bleed into ambiance. Not precisely my cuppa though this is a very handsome set of its kind and, at several moments, manages to generate the sense of mystery I value where the recorded sounds possess an edge and are underlain by electronics subtle enough to almost pass unnoticed. There's a point during 'Guns' where the music might even have been mistaken for the masterer here, Lambkin--it gets to that sort of balky, beautifully awkward unrecognizability. Certainly worth a listen if you're at all into this area. Lovely cover art as well.


Monday, October 08, 2012

I wrote some advance notes for Duplant's fine disc, which you can find here. You should give it a listen.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Michael Pisaro/Taku Sugimoto - D Minor/B♭ Major (Slub)

The tiny reproduction above, filched from the Japan Improv site (he only one I could locate in lieu of my unconnected scanner) seems to fit somehow. Not that the music here is "small"; it isn't by any means. But there is something pleasantly distant about it; listening, I imagine hearing it form across a good-sized room. Perhaps this is influenced by seeing, just last night as I write this, a performance of Pisaro's "Tombstones" in a Brooklyn church bearing the unlikely moniker, "Our Lady of Lebanon". After the first piece, I moved toward the buildings rear, where the sound seemed a bit richer (I have the feeling that's often the case in vaulted rooms like those of churches) but still very distinct.

In any case, the present work is quite different from the pair's collaboration last year on Erstwhile. Here, the Dog Star Orchestra (seventeen instrumentalists, largely strings and winds, including the composers on guitars) tackle a work in sixteen parts, eight written by each of Pisaro and Sugimoto, independent of one another. The parts, if I understand correctly, are for individual instrumentalists, each of whom is given a "10 minute window in which to play", with a good deal of latitude as to when and, presumably, how they play during that period. How those time frames overlap, I don't know, but overlap they do as the entire work runs 48 minutes.

It's fascinating to listen to the work take form, one imagines at least in part due to the ensemble, at first tentative and awkward, gradually acquiring a notion of the fragile ground that has been laid, then gently building atop it, balancing between "squandering" their allotted time and holding some in abeyance. One can guess which principle was responsible for which set of notes, but that's a rather silly endeavor. Instead, you sit and enjoy the fluctuating combinations, generally soft and often of longish duration, as they slide against one another, bump shoulders, lay atop each other forming prismatic sound-colors, stand aside and allow extrusions of silence. One does actually get something of the sense of Sugimoto of quite a while back, circa "opposite", in the spatial openness combines with the delicate, fairly tonal music. Indeed, there's a section several minutes toward the middle of the composition where there's, apparently, only ambient sound; perhaps one of the pages of the score?

After repeated listens, I find myself quite easily slipping into the sound world here, enjoying both the smoothness and the occasional awkwardness, prizing certain individual sounds (that calliope-like set of tones, I guess computer-generated, Sugimoto's dry, lovely guitar) but becoming more and more able to "stand back" and observe the process as a natural event, with sets of nested events.

A fine piece, well worth searching out.

available from erstdist

Monday, October 01, 2012

(Various) Sounds Like Silence (Gruenrekorder)

A quite crowded and noisy compilation of many performances of 4'33".

It's an odd melange, incorporating many announcements (from the radio, for the most part, I think), in German and English, about the piece. The first of the six tracks, indeed, consists of virtually nothing but these announcements, including contributions from Cage himself (once between 103rd and 104th Sts. at 3rd Avenue, an intersection I know pretty well) and a sarcastic news reporter at Harvard Square. The former includes commentary from passersby, over a faintly heard "Day by Day" (that horrid song from "Godspell"), before moving to a brief (14-second) second movement near the river. It's a fascinating listen, somehow much more alive than most field recordings I've heard these days...

There's much repetition here, in the spoken texts and certain sounds, but the works unspool in different directions. There are performances of 4'33 by, among others, Matt Rogalsky, Ulrich Krieger (a saxophone quartet version), Lasse-Marc Riek, Stephen Vitiello, Mathieu Saladin (the wonderful, full-volume rendition) and Einsturzende Neubaten ("Silence Is Sexy"). As a kind of primer that, if nothing else, lists a number of approaches and to an extent, some amount of public reception, "Sounds Like Silence" performs a small service. Personally, only the shards of Cage conversation (that live street piece, especially) were valuable. There's no other attempt at explication to any substantial degree, presuming I'm not missing too much of the German text, which could be the case.

For completists only, I fear.

Artificial Memory Trace - Ultrealith (Gruenrekorder)

Quite recently, I was having a conversation with a musician of some renown. We were discussing field recordings, the plethora thereof, many of which find there way to my abode. "If I were running things", he said, "there would be certain sounds you'd simply not be allowed to use: water, birds, traffic sounds, church bells, airplane engines, wind. I'd make it really, really hard to be able to construct a good recording from the field." I couldn't help but take his point. So many come down the pike, so many, after digesting, are all but indistinguishable. Pleasant but innocuous. I'd add something else: that they're subtly coercive in the sense of taking an environment, one that, were you actually there, you'd have your choice of areas of concentration, etc., and insisting on a certain focus. This happens all the time in "music", of course, but something about it sits wrongly with me. Exceptions abound, to be sure, especially when the field has become subtly and beautifully transfigured (Pisaro's "Transparent City" set comes quickly to mind) but all too often I end up feeling like someone who's just browsed a friend's nicely put together and shot photo album. It's fine, but....

Forgive me for using these recordings as a springboard for the opinions above (though the label, Gruenrekorder, is certainly one whose releases often occupy this territory); just needed to vent a little.

"Ultrealith" falls into that slot of modified field recordings, eight tracks assembled over much of the past couple of decades. Fairly quiet, many insectile and avian sounds, often streaked through by gentle electronics of one kind or another, sometimes soft percussive flurries, occasionally taped voices, but nothing particularly gripping or, as it were, memorable. Some of the works were conceived as installations and, as with many a release in this area, one can at least imagine a more conducive experience being had if one were permitted to walk through the sounds, divert one's attention as desired, etc. As is, it's pleasant, tickling your soles a bit, but not so much more.

Roland Etzin/Katrin Hoedemacker - TransMongolian (Gruenrekorder)

And we're off once again, this time on a six-part journey undertaken in 2010 across Russia, China, Mongolia, South Korea and Japan, Etzin making the sound recordings, Hoedemaker contributing drawings in what seems to be colored pencil or pastels.

In this case, the recordings (as near as I can tell--I could be wrong) are untreated. They're not travelog-ish, no train engines or whooshing winds, more moments that happened along and/or were chosen afterwards by Etzin (though the one from Lake Baikal is...watery). So you're more than usually cognizant of the choice factor: why this and not that. And, by and large, Etzin's choices are reasonably engaging, often obscurely sourced, bearing textures that are sharply drawn, the sonic equivalent of a silver gel print form the Adams (Ansel) school). Still, things quickly begin to pall--Baikal's waves become somewhat numbing, the nighttime in Mongolia is replete with insects and train sounds (nice contrast of the shrill and deeply rumbling), a festival here, air rushing in Japan. As is often the case, there's nothing "bad" here; how could there be? But also nothing that seizes the ears, that makes me wish I'd been there, that, essentially, I can't reproduce for myself at any given moment, with the materials close at hand.

Apologies for the griping nature of this post....listeners with a bent in this direction will surely find much of value here.