Sunday, December 30, 2012

Cremaster/Angharad Davies - Pluie fine (Potlatch)

A welcome drizzle indeed. Davies' violin is a fine choice to augment the gents of Cremaster (Ferran Fages, feedback mixing board, electro-acoustic devices and Alfredo Costa-Monteiro, similar devices, speakers, electric guitar). When listening to her music or that of Cremaster, words like "sandy" and "sere" often come to mind, but not so much dryness; there are always layers, some containing tinges of moisture, maybe a little clay...That clayey feel is front and center here in a recording suffused with fine timbres and just enough implicit structure to cohere over the long run.

How to describe? there's a kind of inexorable grind to it; retaining the desert imagery, I think of the giant sandworms of Arrakis, that they might have produced the sounds heard on "embrun", the first track here. The resonant whine, amplified down cavernous, miles-long, grit-filled tunnels. The moans could be death throes or orgasmic sighs...wonderful piece, would love to experience its like in a live situation.

"bruine" is shriller and maintains a wavering but fairly consistent tone throughout. It's strong, though, and "little" things like the short washes of brushed cymbal-like sounds (I assume electronically produced) carry great weight, swathe the piercing tone in just enough chamois until it expands outwards, accumulating mass and detritus as it does so. Again, a fine work. Things grow somewhat more jagged with "crachin", hard crystals jutting out from the side of those tunnels, gouging one's thighs, dust stinging one's eyes. As with much of this work, there's a vastness at hand, a massive volume of space created, odd given the seeming thinness of much of the sound material. I pick up a bit of the divine rawness of Xenakis' electronic work in this one.

"pluie fine"--excellent recording, perhaps my favorite from those involved, which is saying something.


available from erst dis

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Sarah Hughes/Kostis Kilymis - The Good Life Consumer Waste)

Not enough mosquito alarm in the music nowadays...

Hughes remedies that (I think I know which sound it is, but could easily be wrong, having nil experience with regard the devices) and, along with her zither and Kilymis' electronics, creates a very satisfying, serene couple of pieces. The offsetting timbres of the soft zither and bubbly crackle of the electronics, right from the start of "Fossils and things", is ingratiating, intelligent, luscious, a kind of prelude. It seeps outward from there, the zither bowed or otherwise excited, the electronics becoming more troubled, but the pair always maintaining a steady flow, careful but forward-moving. maybe it's the mosquito alarm--at any rate, there's a fairly consistent, high whine--but one gets the image of slowly poling through a hot marsh, limited sight distance, but fairly calm, with just the slightest tinge of fear.

The tone on "Pussy Riot" is cooler but no less engaging, perhaps laden with a tinge of dread at the then current travails of the Russian trio. The zither plucks a spare lament over a slightly agitated stream of electronics. There's a bleakness about it, along with the implicit melancholy of the strings, that's very impressive, very immersive.

A really strong recording overall, perhaps my favorite that I've heard from either musician.
Matt Earle/Jason Kahn/Adam Sussman - Draught (Consumer Waste)

Trio electronics from a 2009 session. It's a somewhat disjointed set. The first of the two tracks contains small sheets of sound overlaying and skidding past one another (I think "mica") while the second is denser and shifts focus more often, kind of slippery and disjunctive. It's ok but there's a routine feeling to me about this set, hard to differentiate from many others over the last few years. It reaches an intriguing, complex little pool of sound toward the end of track two, but too little too late.

Consumer Waste [Please forgive the brevity--a ton of things here, not so much time]

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Tomasz Krakowiak - Moulins (Bocian)r>

Jeepers. Listing only "percussion", I take it we're into a thicket of motorized beaters, thwackers, scrapers and, I guess, a human arm or two. Whatever the means, Krakowiak generates a pretty intense layering of clatter that's at once rhythmic and arhythmic depending where one concentrates. It almost begs for three-d immersion, of walking through several rooms populated, or infested, by these devices. On disc though, it's impressive enough. The tracks split apart from each other mercilessly and abruptly, as if, while walking, one is suddenly hurled through the wall into an adjacent, different but equally visceral sound-room. Even when the textures are relatively mild, as in "monterrey", the beats just don't let up. It's exhausting but energizing music, mono-dimensional on the one hand but dense enough, with multitudes of gray shadings, to hold one rapt. A clear highlight [SPOILER ALERT!] is a swirling, skittering maelstrom from which emerges, fragmented at first then delicately coalescing, the voice of Diana Ross singing, "Come See About Me". Worth hearing.

Blip - Dead Space (Bocian)

Blip being Jim Denley on alto sax, flutes and balloons and Mike Majkowski on double bass, pitch pipes and objects. Just realized that I've been hearing Denley off and on for quite some time now, maybe 15 years, though hardly with any consistency. That said, I don't thin I've ever encountered a session featuring his work that I've enjoyed as much as this one. Something very solid about the work here, with a strong, irregular flow to it. Not groundbreaking but managing to be fairly active while avoiding standard efi pitfalls, allowing the sax substantial leeway without dragging in all its baggage and Majkowski doing the same with the bass--much "bass-like" sound here without ever coming off as pallid or overly idiomatic. No mean feat, any of it. There's also a density in play that belies only two performers, a thickness of sound that's quite appealing. Apologies if this is overly vague but it's tough for me to give a decent description; in one sense, it's (largely) a bass/sax & flute duo, with a good bit of peripheral, generally percussive noise. There are quasi-rhythmic elements throughout, providing a strong sense of forward movement, the wind and strings rippling alongside, smooth and stinging. Check it out, you may be surprised.


Sunday, December 23, 2012

(Various) - Wandelweiser und so weiter (Another Timbre)

and so on; and so forth; etc. Just wanted to say that I love the title.

Well. The music presented here certainly merits being commented upon individually and I'll do so but the whole is worth lingering on as well. The group of composers and musicians operating under the Wandelweiser umbrella has been of just about manageable conceptual size for one to have a nice working mental category, even as one allowed that "enclosure" to bulge and subdivide. Still, it's satisfying to have, however necessarily incomplete, a graspable set like this, showing good range, encompassing better and lesser represented artists. As in any undertaking of this size (almost eight hours worth of material, some 18 composers, over 60 participants), there will be fluctuations in strength but there's more than enough here to achieve a true, deep level of satisfaction. And yeah, a few really, really great works.

So, in order of representation, by composer, taking all of his/her pieces as represented in the box set:

--Sam Sfirri has four pieces, all based on Beckett texts, with nine realizations scattered throughout the set. "natural at last" (2010) is performed three times, twice by a quintet comprised of Neil Davidson (guitar, objects), Rhodri Davies (harp), Jane Dickson (piano), Patrick Farmer (amplified objects, open CD player) and Dimitra Lazaridou-Chatzigoga (zither). Here, initially, it's a serene though rustling quiet, a string-like feeling predominant, with gentle crackling colors and the almost humorous tinge from the repeating disc player. The second version edges slightly into a more drone-filled scale, also very satisfying. I wouldn't mind hearing works like Sfirri's interpreted by the same ensemble multiple times, especially when the variations aren't necessarily drastic; very intriguing. The other version of the piece is realized by a septet of Angharad Davies (violin), Phil Durrant (electronics), Jürg Frey (clarinet), Anton Lukoszevieze (cello), Radu Malfatti (trombone), Lee Patterson (amplified objects) and Philip Thomas (piano). It's smoother, emitting something of the character of a single, resonant object with variegated surfaces. Five minutes of subtle, shimmering beauty.

"the undulating land" (2010--with the NMC Chamber ensemble: Jason Brogan, electric guitar); Bill Carson, acoustic guitar; Jared Sinclair, flute; Kim Larson, clarinet; Ron Wiltrout, percussion; Sam Sfirri, melodica) has a Japanese feel, soft stops with flute and clarinet and starts punctuated by gentle, muted metal taps and quiet guitar. Lovely piece, not so "wandelweiser-ish", which is fine. The first of two accountings given "for the choice of directions" (2010) is by the composer (melodica) and Brogan (short wave), isn't too far from what you might expect from a similarly instrumentalized improvisation from Wolff and Rowe: quiet and edgy, content to investigate a limited sound pool, in the process generating mystery and demarcating time in a probing fashion; another really strong piece. When the same quintet as performed on the first natural at last" cut sets to work on it, they offset thin, tamboura-like drones against string plucks and skittering percussive sounds, creating quite a different sound world, again vaguely Asiatic but also eerie and sinuous; I get an image of walking through a narrow, high-walled garden maze, steamy hot, with creatures flitting about. Excellent!

Finally, his "little by little" (2010) is limned three times, first by an electronics sextet comprised of Stephen Cornford, Robert Curgenven, Ferran Fages, Farmer, Alfredo Costa Monteiro and Lee Patterson, then by a septet of Angharad Davis, Bruno Guastalla (cello), Sarah HUghes (zither), Daniel Jones (electronics), Dominic Lash (bass), Tim Parkinson (piano) and David Stent (guitar) and once by the septet listed above for "natural at last". They're all very hushed, spare and crystalline, in the sense of crystals expanding into space in unexpected, discreet sequences but consistent within themselves. Beautifully realized work all around and, right off the bet, this set is well worth it if only for giving me a decent appreciation of Sfirri's music, of which I'd only heard bits before.

But wait, there's more.

--Antoine Beuger. Returning to the first disc, we encounter one of two pieces by Beuger, "Lieux de Passage" (2008), a work featuring Frey's clarinet (with the other six members of the septet above) and, in my estimation, the high point of the collection. If there's been a tendency, among some Wandelweiser composers, toward a more expansive, lush sound (occasionally, to my ears, too far along those lines), Beuger here balances things perfectly. Not to compare at all, but I found myself thinking, "This is the music Gavin Bryars should be writing now", taking his one-time beautiful melodic sensibility and paring it down, whittling away the flab, to its essence. A kind of concerto, I suppose, Frey playing with exquisite refinement, the piece (which runs a bit over 26 minutes) having the subtlest kind of arc, nothing you can place your finger on but, to my ears, possessing an implied narrative, sustained by the occasional deep piano chord or drone, kind of a continuo that imparts just a tinge of drama, a tiny but perfect amount of spice. A double-step rising pattern toward the end is particularly moving, causing me to think of another work of unearthly beauty, Messiaen's Louange a l'eternite de Jesus". The Beuger is one of my favorite things heard over the last few years.

His "t'aus 'etwas (lied)" (1995) is performed by two vocalists (Parkinson and James Saunders) though "mouthists" might be a more appropriate term. They make small percussive sounds (the sound of the letter 't'), attempting to be in unison though not looking at one another so always ending up a bit off, reminding me of water drips. The slight variance in actual sounds and even slighter one in placement are enough to carry the work, to make it just as fascinating as listening to water drops, which is to say, very.

--Manfred Werder, represented thrice, two actualizations by Annett Németh ("2011(4)" and "2008(6)") one by the Parkinson/Sanders duo ("2 ausführende (seiden 357-360)" (1999-)), this time on organ pipes. I've had my share of qualms about Werder's work, not the ideas but the recorded documentations of them, questioning their necessity (as opposed to doing it oneself), but I have to say that Németh's are wonderful combining field recordings with other sounds (I take it realized in-studio) and fashioning solid evocations of place, layered in intrigue. The duo is an odd bird, not sure I'm totally sold on it. The single pipes, possible breath-activated (?), play two pitches, presumably one per person, with substantial and varying lengths of spaces between, during which one can just pick up some ambient sounds, including (I think) birds. The tones are sounded virtually identically--I take it that was the intention, allowing the silences to account for much of the variation. All well and good but, aside form achieving a peaceful stasis, it lacks the tensile aspect that I want to hear. Perhaps a shade too accepting of things for my taste.

--James Saunders. Two pieces, the first a very brief number, "various distinct spatial or temporal locations" (2011) which finds producer Simon Reynell investigating certain properties inherent in a coffee carton, entirely pleasant if more an entr'acte than anything else. "with the same material or still, to vary the material (2011) uses the Davdison/Davies/Dickosn/Farmer/Lazaridou-Chatziigoga quintet on bowed objects. No ringing tones here, mostly dry, scratchy ones, the objects seemingly chosen for their limited resonant capacity. A nice enough track, though not so distinguishable form any number of improvisatory ventures in similar areas over the last 10-15 years.

--Radu Malfatti "Heikou" (2011), performed by the same septet as heard earlier, the one with Angharad, augmented by bassist Joseph Kudirka. The piece calls for tutti sections followed by isolated sounds, all notes chosen by the instrumentalists, resulting in a respiring quality, like some large creature, sitting, contemplating, breathing. There's something, perhaps by coincidence, of Feldman's ensemble works in the air; very "of a piece", not susceptible to minute-by-minute analysis or appreciation. Lovely sound, fine feel, good work.

Two composiitions by John Cage, in large part the inspiration for Wandelweiser, are included, the 1991 work, "Three2" and "Piece for Meditation" from 1944. The former, here played by three percussionists (Simon Allen, Chris Burn and Lee Patterson) is relatively vociferous by Wandelweiser standards, a slurry of metallically sliding sounds of various depths and timbres, very rich and unpredictable. The latter is a prepared piano work, played by Philip Thomas, soft, gentle and, as almost anything by Cage from that period, ridiculously gorgeous, all 73 seconds of it.

"Etchings", a 20-minute track by Pierre Borel (alto saxophone), Johnny Chang (viola) and Derek Shirley (bass), though structured in a manner not uncommon to the Wandelweiser collective, sounds more like a fairly typical quite improvisation one might have heard any time in recent years. It's fairly steady state, the viola staying high, the bass low, the saxophone, often (nicely) difficult to pick out, occupying the mid-range. Solid enough work.

Phil Durrant's "Sowari" (1997) seeks to replicate computer and glitch sounds with, largely, acoustic instruments (here, Durrant on electronics, Patterson on amplified objects and processes and Thomas on piano). It's quite effective, darkly droning, with rough, skittering sounds and looming groans, imparting an underground feel, or perhaps a large craft interior with stressed, torqued metal. Strong piece.

Michael Pisaro makes the first of two appearances with "fields have ears (3b)" (2010), rendered by Angharad Davies, Farmer, Hughes, Jones and Lash. As with much of Pisaro's music, I have the sense that it's far more complicated than I'm able to hear and I'd love to see the score (this applies to most music from this cadre). It fits in with one trend of his recent work in that a relatively generous amount of sheer aural beauty is allowed to seep in though not so much as to overly sweeten matters. The thin crackle of Farmer's electronics create a huge and wondrous space between it and, say, Lash's deeply bowed bass. The clear, bright piano chords act as a kind of beacon for a while, steering the more erose sounds through the darkness. Eleven minutes in (out of 30), there's a pronounced shift, as though our band of travelers has encountered an even darker, more treacherous area; the piano still rings, but more warily. It's an incredibly fine several minutes here, frightening and resolute. Eventually, after a brief snatch of Josquin des Prez (!), the piano takes on a tolling aspect, the funereal character that had been lurking all along emerging clearly. Beautiful stuff.

His "Descending Series (1)" (2009), for piano (Thomas) and sine waves is simply unearthly. It's highly Romantic, in a way; as "simple" as the chords are, they're highly evocative and bittersweet, but supplied with crucial rigor by the sine tones, which aren't cold, really, but have a kind of "stepped back" impassiveness and understanding. The concerns, as it were, of the piano are acknowledged but placed in a larger context. Heh, I may be applying a far greater programmatic intentionality to this music than is justified, but it's hard to imagine these aching phrases not having such an effect on almost any listener. Again, a fine, fine work.

Stefan Thut's "Vier, 1-12" (2010), performed by Angharad Davies, Julia Eckhardt (viola), Lash and the composer on cello, is something of a tough nut and perhaps exemplifies a certain distinction between much Wandelweiser music and other contemporary work. The structure fits in snugly--the plentiful silences, the small knots of quiet sound. But the language of the strings refers more directly to post-serial tonalities, at least near the beginning. Later on, there's a kind of expansion into a vaguely chromatic area that hints at the subtle, sublimated emotional aspects often found in these here parts. After broaching this aspect, the music recedes, almost hides. Interesting work; sometimes frustrating, other times oddly rewarding.

His "Many, 1-4" (2009), played by the Set Ensemble (Davies, Guastella, Hughes, Jones, Lash, Parkinson, Stent and Paul Whitty on harmonium) begins rather differently, with solid drones underlying crinkly percussion and electronics but also, soon, evanesces into a soft spray of elements. I do get something of the sense of spores being released from a central fount. Good piece and at five minutes, perfectly timed.

"Ensemble" (2010), by Jason Brogan, with the Canadian crew of Crys Cole, Jamie Drouin, Lance Austin Olsen and Mathieu Ruhlmann all wielding electronics. Hard to ascertain the structure; to the ears, it could be an improvisation and, as such, would fit well into what I've heard in recent years from the quartet's members in various configurations. There's a forlorn, distant horn sound dwelling beneath the scrabbly, staticky foreground that inevitably brings to mind that snowy north country...It's the sort of piece one could easily pass over thinking, "OK, I've heard things like this before" but at the cost of missing some finely etched detail (a whispered phoneme at one point, I think) that lends a good amount of mystery to the proceedings.

One improvisation is included in the collection, performed by Davidson, Rhodri Davies, Dickson, Farmer and Lazaridou-Chatzigoga, and to my ears, it's the weakest track here. It's maybe overly ingratiating in this context, not bad but somehow actually sounding more conservative when placed among this music (or, at least, as represented here). One might question it's purpose as well. Apart from acknowledging the Wandelweiser group's effect on contemporary improv, though I can't hear even that with any specificity here.

I'm not very familiar with Taylan Susam's work. "for maaike schoorel" (2009), with the edges ensemble directed by Philip Thomas, is an odd little work, burbles of chamber group playing appearing now and again as though someone's opening and closing a door to a rehearsal studio. "for sesshū tōyō" (2010), rendered by Angharad Davies, Durrant, Kudirka, Lukoszevieze, Patterson and Thomas, isn't too dissimilar, containing discrete, brief episodes, but the language used is, to these ears, more interesting, owing less to the academic classical world than the previous piece. The flow is more supple, the tonal contrasts more delicious.

"for five" (2010), by Dominic Lash, the five being A. Davies, Guastalla, Lash, Parkinson and Stent, seems somewhat akin to the Susam pieces in structure (of course, I've no idea what the respective scores indicate) in that a series of sound blocks are heard, silences between. The texture is quite different, a tendency toward dry scraping long tones here, along with the occasional bandoneon bellow. Perhaps excessively dry to my taste.

Jürg Frey contributes three pieces of his own. "Time Intent Memory" (2012), played by A. Davies, Frey, Hughes, Kostis Kilymis (electronics) Lash and Malfatti, as it happens, also initially adheres to the general structure of the Susam and Lash works above. By virtue of allowing himself more substantial time (26 minutes), however, he enables scalar effects to come into play that don't quite arrive on the others. More likely, it's that combined with the actually sound choices, mostly long-held tones, including the always luscious Malfatti, that generates such an expansive feeling. I can't say it's an exceptional work--it fits in snugly with much I've heard before--but it's nonetheless quite satisfying. (I pause to consider whether "exceptionalism" isn't beside the point here...)

"Circular Music No. 2" (2012) (A. Davies, Durrant, Frey, Lukoszevieze, Malfatti, Patterson, Thomas) is slow and pastoral, having a song-like quality, the piano and clarinet gently ambling along, buffeted by "winds" from the strings and electronics, which sigh with a melancholy air. Very lovely.

"un champ de tendresse parsemé d'adieux (4)" (2011), with the edges ensemble, comes as a refreshing change of pace, dropped objects, generally small (coins? pebbles?) though sometimes more massive, tumbling amidst what seems to be breathily whistled, gently descending wind sounds. I translate the title as "a field with gentle farewells strewn". At 20 minutes, it perhaps lasts a smidgen too long but hard to complain.

Angharad Davies, who plays on many of the pieces contained here, offers a work of her own, "Cofnod Pen Bore/Morning Records" (2011), performed by Davidson, brother Rhodri, Dickson, Farmer and Lazaridou-Chatzigoga. It's another that, to me, is hard to distinguish from an improvisation, which doesn't matter much except, maybe, to stand a bit apart from the essential gist of the collection. It's a solid piece, though, gaining interest when some strong rising tones (Davies' e-bowed harp?) emerge near the ending.

John White's "Drinking and Hooting Machine" (1971) is included here for reasons I can't quite figure out. I've heard the work before (can't recall where) and thought it was kind of of its time even then, more so now. One of those pieces that's (I imagine) much more enjoyable to experience live, where the players take swigs from their bottles, thus changing the pitches, on recording...something's lacking. Maybe it's the inherent knowledge possessed by virtually any listener having blown across the top of many a bottle. Part of the pleasure is the nearness of the vibrations, the physicality of them, which is missing here (the edge ensemble, once again)

In addition to her actualizations of two Werder compositions, Annett Németh contributes one of her own, "eine unbedeutende aussage" (2012).Hardly "a minor descriptive", as rendered by the Set Ensemble, is a ravishingly lovely piece with hushed rustles augmented by gossamer sine-like tones and accented by a sole, deep piano note. Hard to describe why this one works so, so well (again, it sounds almost like it could have been improvised) and others are more...routine. Németh and/or the players manage to capture something very special and encapsulate it with rigor and tenderness. Excellent music,

Finally, and happily, we encounter Eva-Maria Houben, one of my favorite composers in this field. Her "von da nach da" (2005), for violin (Davies), electronics (Durrant) and amplified objects (Patterson) is a marvelously subtle and somber study. That idea of fluctuating detail within a sustained, not-quite-drone is so effective here, evoking more than one expects, the "bits" acquiring fullness and flow. And the sheer aural colors are endlessly, sensually exciting. A great way to end this massive document.

Moreover, the booklet includes an excellent conversation amongst Beuger, Lash, Pisaro, Thomas and Reynell, not that you should require any extra inducement to pick this up post haste. Reynell deserves massive kudos for assembling this set. The music provides a decent, if necessarily incomplete overview of the Wandelweiser folk, is both a superb intro to the newcomer and a very valuable addition to those of us who have been enjoying this area for some time now. There are several first class works here s well as many of generally fine quality, only a handful that I might have omitted.

What are you waiting for? Listen!

Another Timbre

[the image atop this page is from one of the interior sleeves, not the box, of which I couldn't locate a sizeable enough image on-line...]

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Bruno Duplant/Pedro Chambel/Jamie Drouin - field by memory inhabited 1 & 2 (rhizome.s)

Two interpretations of a Duplant score by this trio, using various electronics, each 20 minutes long. The first evinces an enjoyable mixture of low-key and jittery, the sounds soft but active and prickly. That tension between calmness and nervousness is what carries the piece, the hums not quite serene, the rough, glitchy noises sometimes sounding very much like CD defects, in fact. Hard to describe overall, really, except that there's an uneasy eeriness to much of it that's very effective. The second realization is fuller and describes a very different character, perhaps a bit closer to a Luc Ferrari kind of feel, somehow more naturalistic. Not sure about the scores, not sure how much was recorded remote from one another (I suspect all of it) but if the score is in the nature of those done by, say, Michael Pisaro and others in the Wandelweiser enclave I think it might be a piece of evidence that such sets of instructions are very conducive to this kind of long-range collaboration. Kind of wondering about the thoughts of those involved, pro and con, on the differences between direct and indirect communication re: the realization of such scores.

In any case, yet another fine document courtesy M. Duplant.

Hugo Carvalhais - Particula (Clean Feed_

A quintet date with Carvalhais (bass, electronics), Emile Parisien (soprano saxophone), Gabriel Pinto (piano, organ, synthesizer), Dominique Pifarély (violin) and Mário Costa (drums). I should say right off that the music is well outside of my range of the last couple of decades at least but, still, it's quite well done and, even to these jaded ears, worms its way in and sits with surprising comfort. There's something of a classic ECM feel, especially with the soprano tracing catchy unison lines with piano and bass, but also hints of Anthony Davis' Episteme ensemble (the opening to "Capsule" bears more than a passing resemblance to Davis' "A Walk in the Valley") and, in Pifarély's violin, a welcome tinge of Leroy Jenkins. As well, Carvalhais' playing strikes me as owing a good bit to Dave Holland--his intro on "Simulacrum" almost sounding like an outtake from a Circle session--and Pinto occasionally recalls Paul Bley.

This can be problematic for me, needless to say, but on the other hand, the influences are well-chosen and the group manages to, to some degree, transcend them, creating work that somehow stands on it own without teetering. It may not be my current cuppa, but I can easily imagine it being greatly enjoyed by both fans of the earlier music and nascent ears looking for an attractive and intelligently played alternative to more humdrum attempts at maintaining the genre.

Clean Feed

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Andrew Lafkas - Making Words (Sacred Realism)

70 minutes of wonderful, rewarding music by Lafkas, arranged for a 12-piece ensemble (Ann Adachi, flute; Adam Diller, tenor saxophone; Tucker Dulin, trombone; Kenny Wang, viola; Lafkas, bass; Margarida Garcia, electric guitar; Gill Arno, electronics; Keiko Uenishi, electronics; Barry Weisblat, electronics, Bruan Eubanks, electronics; and Sean Meehan, snare drum and cymbals).

My first thought, my first point of reference was Feldman's "For Samuel Beckett". I heard a similar cloudy richness to the music, that sense of turbulence within a fairly steady stream. This isn't drone music but there are certain features that more or less remain constant throughout: a medium level dynamic range and a regular issuance of sound, a flow that's uninterrupted even as it fluctuates smoothly but widely in color. Overlapping lines, opening with deep tonal swatches leavened by Meehan scraped metal, begin the work, the leader's ultra-deep, bowed bass establishing a fine, loamy bottom.

There's often an opposition of the pungently globular and the scratchily raspy in play here, all of it carried along on some billowy cushion, allowing for the necessary bump and skewing but always pressing on. It bristles a lot, scouring out the church in which it was recorded, while maintaining this coiling, surging form; really impressive. Another vague point of reference: those great early Olivia Block discs; there's firework-sounding sequence over lush, organ-tones that brought her work to mind.

I'm guessing there was a score involved where the continuo was passed from one group of musicians to another, the baton never dropping, the methods of continuity always shifting but retaining an urgency that's really compelling. I'm not sure what else to say except that "Making Words" held my attention, rapt throughout. Wish I'd been there.

Catherine Lamb/Bryan Eubanks - Untitled #12 (after Agnes) (Sacred Realism)

One of the first questions that popped into mind was: Would I have reacted differently to this piece without the reference to Agnes Martin? Probably not a meaningful question as the reference is there and is part and parcel of the work. As she is, paintbrush to head, probably my favorite visual artist of the last century, Eubanks' and Lamb's release has a leg up, settling me into the (or, at least, a) proper frame of mind to experience this demanding, hyper-minimalist music.

Briefly, the hour-log piece is divided into four 15-minute sections. Each section consists of a single sound field (I say that guardedly as, to the extent it's a kind of white noise, there are fluctuations within each field, not unlike those found in a band of Martin's painting); the shifts between them are distinct but not huge.

That's it. The inside sleeve reproduces a 1984 work of Martin's (the title of the disc), a tan square centrally placed over a just slightly larger, somewhat lighter tan square (very beautiful). I tend to naturally think of some of Martin's gray wash paintings of the 90s,where the bands contain "just" a thin wash of gray paint but worlds of life and action therein. Doing so, I try to mentally excavate the same from this "thin wash" of sound. It's challenging but achievable. Donald Judd somehow comes to mind as well; there's a similar kind of subtle monumentality which, of course, dwells in Martin too. More than anything, there's a steadfast and resolute self-erasure-as-presence-enhancer that recalls work like "Bar Sachiko", a major favorite of mine.

I'm not at all sure how this was produced. A line on the sleeve states, "This is a realization of a generative work" and give a site for download on an application. Jacques Oger today mentioned seeing it performed in Paris with electronics and viola; if there's a viola in play here it's masked in plain sight and played with extraordinary consistency. If I had to categorize the general sound range, I'd say something on the order of a very breathy, burnished and burred flute, with an implied wealth of detail just out of the range of hearing.

Great stuff.

And an auspicious label debut; looking forward to more.

Sacred Realism Also available from erst dist

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Anonymous - Improkup! (w.m.o/r)

a description of events

An action is one thing; a documentation of that action is another. Within the act of "documentation", one can create something which is purely that, a record of the events, for various reasons from historical to contemplative, or one can seek to present it in the guise of an art object, which raises questions. In a more overtly art-centered world, we have items like Manfred Werder's scores which may consist of lines of found or extracted text which the "performer" may take upon his or herself to actuate, often by experiencing surroundings of choice. All well and good, but when released to file or disc, one wonders, "Why?" What has been accomplished that couldn't have been done so as effectively by the listener, the recipient of the work? More complicatedly, sometimes the release does, indeed, seem to elicit something previously unheard (unseen?).

There's the experience and then there's the compunction to elucidate it not via abstracted, edited form, but with a second by second (aural) reproduction of it, as though the importance, the meat, is inextricably bound in the smallest details, though this implies a god's-eye view of things, especially when dealing with something of this length, over 24 hours (I forget the exact cumulative time), that thought is paradoxical in that none of the participants conceivable attended to matters that closely; they slept, ate, excreted, etc. An event occurs, you weren't there but now you can, if you chose to listen in that matter, gain a second-hand experience of the activities. Or, you could (much to the dismay, I imagine of the creators of this object) listen in an abstracted, aesthetic way, something that the very nature of the pure sonics involved does tend to pull one toward, at times. There's a portion early on when Mattin and a friend or two are driving toward the warehouse in which they intend to squat and conduct their workshop, where they apparently pull over, perhaps grabbing a bite, and the tape is left running in the vacated automobile, maybe 15-20 minutes, and one "merely" hears the ambient sound, the roadway, etc. It's very beautiful, I'm afraid to say.

[A little earlier, I thought I'd turned off the recording. Was sitting here typing something else when I heard faint snores, which I assumed where emanating from our dog, Katie. Looked around, didn't see her. Took me about 30 seconds to realize that the squat had entered their sleeping phase...nice]

and then...well, I think Richard mentioned some technical problems he had with this disc and similar ones have plague me. My Macbook would spurt out the disc at irregular intervals, in between making noises that caused me some concern. I thought you could stream at the Metamina site, but it didn't work for me. So I decided to call it a day.

All in all, I listened to 5-6 hours of the activity and it's hard to say what more value I would have received listening through; the relative paucity of English was one thing and listening "aesthetically" would seem to be missing the point (though, as mentioned above, it was an easy enough trap for me to fall into). The consistently lingering question was the issue of the documentation as such as opposed to the action it was documenting. Even that--it's hard for me to know what significance squatting has at that point in time, at that particular place in Basque country--what did that signify? Did anyone (outside of the participants) care? Did it matter to the discussion that they had done so or could the same talk have been had camping out somewhere or at a bar over a long enough span? Not sure but, as with Werder (admittedly, I enjoy bringing such apparently disparate activities and approaches into some kind of tandem), my gut feeling is that this sort of text inevitably, perhaps tragically, loses much impact.

With the caveat of having missed a substantial portion of the work, it still strikes me as reasonable to say that I'm afraid you had to be there.


Saturday, December 08, 2012

Cockroach Boy - s/t (Pilgrim Talk)

40+ minutes of sounds provided by Satoshi Kanda and Nick Hoffman, live in Japan in 2010. More than that is bafflingly tough to say. Searching for referents, one might hazard to place this material in the neck of the woods recently occupied by Taku Unami. That is, for one, there's a strong impression of missing something vital by virtue of merely digesting the audio portion of the event. When glass shatters early on, I conjure up a thrown bottle, but who knows? (Kanda is known for milk bottle utilization...) And much of the other sourcing is similarly elusive and disjunctive. I'm tempted to fall back on the old "liming space" trope; listened to with that in mind, it does so quite well; there's some depth at hand, enveloping the sparse bleats, moans, taps etc.

It's often very quiet, enhancing the feeling that I'm missing important portions, but so it goes. Aurally, its get to the level of listening to a quiet individual putter around his kitchen, not such a bad thing. FOr whatever reason, I found myself enjoying more often than not though I'd be hard pressed to say explicitly why. It breathes and feels honest, best I can do.

Pilgrim Talk

Monday, December 03, 2012

Jürg Frey - Piano Music (R. Andrew Lee) (Irritable Hedgehog)

Lee, who I've previously encountered performing Tom Johnson's "An Hour for Piano", ventures more directly into the Wandelweiser fields with these two compositions for solo piano by Frey, "Klavierstück 2" and "Les tréfonds inexplorés des signes pour piano (24-35)". They manifest a certain kind of minimalism that floats somewhere beyond Gurdjieff, nestles in obscure, never-visited corners of Satie and hyper-distills the early work of Glass, perhaps via an extremely fine sieve woven by the aforementioned Johnson.

"Klavierstück 2" opens with somber, low chords, allowed to toll and hang for several seconds each, repeated for a couple of minutes before being replaced by brighter, even sprightly higher ones, brilliant but with a sour edge, iterated more quickly. The fine liners by William Robin make the claim (not contested by me) that this perfect fourth is sounded 468 times. Necessarily, even if not consciously attempted, there's a tiny amount of variation in touch and certainly int he manner in which the notes weave, smoke-like, in the air between the strings and the microphone. It's wonderfully mesmerizing, a really exquisite balance between the stringent and the subtly complex. It's bookended at first by four like chords a bit higher than the first, but just when you think you've ascertained the structure a virtual melody, brief and spare though it may be, appears, ethereal, Messiaenic. A lovely, surprisingly emotional coda to a rigorously ecstatic work.

"Les tréfonds inexplorés des signes pour piano (24-35)" comprises twelve sections ranging from about two to eight minutes in length, the entire piece running over 47. Robin describes them as vignettes, not precisely related but akin. I find myself thinking of pieces from Satie's Rosicrucian period, the Ogives and other "gothic" works, often somber and brooding. The pace, depth and orientation of the notes varies, from repeated chords at regular intervals, higher or lower, faster or slower to leisurely descending scales embedded within static frames to sets of notes that are almost melodies. I tend to have an imagistic reaction first (old church interiors, doubtless hastened in via Satie) then that's swiftly subsumed by the bath of sonics, of the rich, wet chords, these globules of sound.

Lee, to his great credit in music like this, virtually disappears. There's certainly wonderful thought, consideration and decision making at play here, but the music seems to exist apart form a performer, a fine thing.

And a fine and beautiful recording, a necessary addition for the collection of any self-repsecting Wandelweiserian.

Irritable hedgehog