Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Klaus Filip/Dafne Vicente-Sandoval - remoto (Potlatch)

Not nearly enough bassoons in these here parts...though anyone pining for those deep, reedy tones will have to search elsewhere.

Two pieces, one ("Obscur") recorded in Christoph Amann's studio, the other ("Clair") in a Nickelsdorf church. Filip is on sine tones here, not his customary lloopp, using them for relatively long notes, though never really settling into drone territory. Instead, I have the image of thin layers of cloth, multiply-hued within a narrow range, wafting and falling, layer after layer. Vicente-Sandoval skitters between, piercing a swatch of fabric here, caressing it, subtly staining it there. Her attack is entirely outside of standard bassooning, sometimes high-pitched, often tapping the body or the bocal (a newly learned word!--the metal tube between the double reed and the bassoon proper). Part of me really wanted to hear at least a few traditional notes from the woodwind, thinking they may well have blent deliciously with the sines but it was not to be and, in a sense, I credit Vicente-Sandoval with sticking to her guns, so to speak, and doing a great deal with less. I find it difficult to otherwise describe the work. In general form, it's akin to previous music I've heard from Filip (I believe I've only encountered Vicente-Sandoval as part of Bruno Duplant's "Presque Rien" prior to this) in that there's a supple, taut but elastic flow, quiet but firm, a feeling of tonality that accepts perturbations. Even when he descends to speaker-threatening depth, there's a serenity in place, a surety of purpose. Given the nature of the sounds they tend to produce, it's difficult to avoid hearing the sines as being foregrounded though I found that, making a conscious effort not to do so (perhaps more my issue than other listeners') resulted in a fuller, very rewarding experience.

On the second track, the duo is joined quite clearly by the environs in and around the church in which they're recording. The music Flip and Vicente-Sandoval produce is more urgent and pinched at the beginning, sharp slices that become embedded in the ambiance, shrill enough that they (in my imagination) cause the abrupt falling-to-the-floor of some heavy object about seven minutes in. The sounds from both musicians are more aggressive, the sines a bit more sour, with subtle harmonics, the bassoon being assaulted with vigor, rapped at noisily and overblown harshly. But still, there's no crowding and things never get steady-state; always there's an allowance made for ebb and flow. It disintegrates beautifully.

Strong work, very challenging to deal with the fluidity and slipperiness of the structure. I like it a lot and, as ever, would love to hear the pair live--I can easily imagine the sonic repercussions.


Monday, October 28, 2013

Biliana Voutchkova/Michael Thieke - already there (Flexion)

A very subdued, enchanting duo with Voutchkova (violin) and Thieke (clarinet). Listeners aware of Thieke's work with Kai Fagaschinski in The International Nothing will have an inkling as to the nature of the music here. Soft but with insistent grain, long lines frayed into harmonics, layering, refracting and searching forward. I'd only previously heard Voutchkova once, in a fine rendition of Wolff's "Duo for Violins" with Daniella Strasvogel; I'm certainly looking forward to hearing more. There are moments when here when the music almost acquires airs of Northern European string musics, something like Norwegian fiddling, but just an echo. Elsewhere, you hear a plaintive keening that summons forth bagpipe traditions, but more wonderfully sour. There's a healthy amount of nervous anxiety here as well, some skittering and fluttering along those sinuous lines, as in the second track,, wherein Voutchkova, as she does on several occasions, speaks as she's playing, in a low tone that's indecipherable to me and all the more mysterious and beautiful for that. It's a very simple idea, I suppose, but one that I find very strong and oddly moving. Thieke manages to almost bury himself throughout, often sounding quite string-like, on point throughout, providing spine and color. Even when the sounds become fragmented, as on the third piece, there's a bubble-like flow, a kind of percolation that always has things cascading, tumbling, advancing. Great combination of the warm and the itchy--really strong, don't miss it.


(The following are items for which I was sent links, not discs. Thus, all have been listened to on my semi-adequate but by no means ideal Macbook Pro speakers. Caveat emptor.)

Frédéric Nogray - Vaccabons et Malfactours (Kaon)

I think the words in the title are intentional misspellings of the French for vagabonds and malefactors, but I'm not sure...This is a 20-minute composition using as its source field recordings made by Cédric Peyronnet of the area around the Taurion River in central France, near Limoges. The recordings themselves seem to be very straightforward, including insects, birds, rain, passing airplanes and, of course, the multiple sounds of the river water itself. As far as that goes, it's reminiscent, necessarily, of Annea Lockwood's various riverine studies. Nogray has assembled sequences into a piece, not an unusual thing in and of itself, but I get the feeling that he's generated a more interesting field than a straight reading of the recordings would have offered; Lockwood's work, for instance, often strikes me as somewhat attractive but ultimately bland as well as being something I could do for myself. Nogray begins with the fauna, moves through thunder and rushing water, moving naturally and seamlessly between sonic spaces. It's quite subtle; it took several listens for me to hear the gradations, to not just accept things at face value. The arc becomes more apparent and the sonic layers become clearer, the individual sound-types etched with precision. I still have something of a qualm with regard to the standard kind of elements in use here but, given these restrictions (this project was undertaken by 18 musicians, each using Peyronnet's recordings), Nogry has created an interesting and often captivating document.


Francisco Meirino/Kiko C. Esseiva - Focus On Nothing On Focus (Aussenraum)

A split LP. Meirino's piece, "Focus on Nothing" is a solid, dystopic, industrial soundscape, referencing noise but widely varied in dynamics and pacing. The sounds employed tend toward the harsh, replete with hollow, metallic scrapes, shudders and bangs, sometimes pulsed, casting a rich though gray pall, always sharply etched; no haze here. Near the beginning, there's much flutter of activity, like an old, creaking factory starting to churn its gears after a long period of inactivity. That burst seems to carry the remainder, taking the energy then dissipating it, the sputters growing gradually less frequent until the whole affair simply ceases. A fine work, bleak and fascinating.

I'm less fond of Esseiva's "Nothing on Focus", where the sounds, essentially not that different from those used by Meirino, are assembled in a more random, less cohesive manner, seeming to owe more to early tape collage music, that of the kitchen sink approach. Sounds often seem to have been chosen for stereo effect or spaciness. Not bad, just less convincing to these ears, less immersive, more technical. I would have liked to have heard a narrower sound range, investigated more deeply.


Saturday, October 26, 2013

Stephen Cornford/Samuel Rodgers - Boring Embroidery (Cathnor)

One wonders at the title as the music is anything but boring and, as well, "embroidery" connotes the superficial and unessential, also not qualities I'd assign to this release, which is almost overtly beautiful. The superficiality of beauty? Well, not to these ears. The label notes refer to Feldman and Tudor, reasonable points of reference, but I hear more explicitly John Tilbury. I could easily have been fooled, I think, were I told this was a construction of his for piano and electronics. By saying this, I don't mean to detract from the efforts of Cornford and Rodgers in the slightest--it's wonderful work. Slowly paced, with extreme care given to timbre, sounds that are soft but knife-edged, not ripping the space but slicing cleanly through, in complex arcs. The title continues to gnaw and forces you to think that perhaps the pair was trying to walk that thin line between the too pretty and a deeper beauty, choosing the luminous piano tones, for instance, almost on a dare, determining whether their (ahem) pulchritude could stand up to intense scrutiny on its own or slightly leavened by the (not overly) grittier electronics. Or perhaps I'm over-thinking it and it's simply very full, very warm music. It's also one of those that, as much as I love it, it seems pointless to go to deep into descriptives. Suffice it to say that if you enjoy the more contemplative portions of the Rowe/Tilbury/Prevost edition of AMM (and, really, who doesn't?), you'll have a splendid time with "Boring Embroidery". Get it.

Stephen Cornford - Music For Earbuds (3LEAVES)

As if to upset the blissful feelings engendered by the above release, one of the pair offers a roughly synchronous selection of sounds that is miles away, though no less fascinating. Five tracks, constructed from "unprocessed acoustic recordings of the feedback between a single earbud headphone and a cassette walkman tape head." Whoda thunk? Maybe consider this to be a distant cousin of Toshi's nimb with a similarly incredible audio range and here, crucially, wielded in pared-down fashion by Cornford, allowing the surprising depths of each sound field to become apparent. Each of the cuts inhabits a different world: a grating, slippery whirpool, endlessly tracing a veering ellipse; a high, transparent keen, also circling but next to impossible to discern clearly (very beautiful); a looser, wetter version of the first, dizzily careening; a splintery array of razor-like needles, rotating but also spewing acid. These four surround the central, and longest track (15 minutes), a rather astounding faunal trompe d'oreille wherein one hears all manner of birds, lizards, amphibians and insects. I can only imagine the glee Cornford must have experienced cobbling this world into existence. Does it last a tad long? Perhaps, but still you're forced to marvel at the slightly alien expanse that unfolds. Very enjoyable, often amazing stuff.


Thursday, October 24, 2013

Devin Disanto - Tracing a Boundary (Task)

The initial recording from Disanto, a Chicago-based composer and an engagingly audacious one at that. Looking at the credits, one sees a sextet of three horns (Jess Turner, trumpet; Jeff Smith, trombone; Disanto, bass clarinet) and three strings (Dan Lis, and Dan Letourneau, guitars; Max Wanderman, ukelele), summoning to mind a fairly rich small ensemble, but you'll be hard pressed to pick them out during most of the composition, something that tickles this listener. To be sure, amidst the field recording (or field recordings--I get the impression there may be several sources, layered), the instruments leak through, somewhat reminiscent of the sine tones in Pisaro's "Transparent City" series, something that seems to be a touch point. The ambient sound is urban, including traffic, the predominant noise a difficult to decipher, ongoing clatter, as of wooden boxes of hard materials being shifted about, crumpled thick paper, infiltrated by steam-like bursts which may well be the horns. No human voices though, aside from the very intrusive one (Disanto?) that periodically, prefaced by an electronic beep, announces, "Two minutes, thirty seconds", "Eight minutes", etc. at several points during the composition. As jarring as these interruptions are, I find them apposite and oddly welcome, breaking up the flow in a welcome manner that adds an unexpected, if sporadic, layer. Elsewhere, the instruments glimmer through every few minutes, sometimes gentle, faint guitar chords (reminding me, in parts, of Burkhard Stangl). Zippers are zipped, keys dropped, all in heightened, high-focus detail, the soft instrumental passages phasing through like slow, distant searchlights. Wandelweiserian in form, Disanto's composition pushes out from there into bumpier territory, maintaing the reticence on the one hand but allowing for a certain amount of rudeness on the other. It's a great balance and "Tracing a Boundary" is a bracing work. I'm greatly looking forward to hearing more.

I don't believe Task has a website of its own yet; in the meantime, check here

Miguel A. Garcia/Tomas Gris/Lee Noyes - Asto Illuno (Idealstate)

A Celtic goddess of the dawn? That was one of the rare hits I received when running Asto Illuno through Google. In any case, we have a brief (30+ minutes) trio excursion into AMMish territory from Garcia (electronics), Gris (objects) and Noyes (piano). It's much more subdued than I would have guessed going in, beginning with pointillist probing, expanding to twitters and short pulses. resisting long tones but assuredly retaining the flow. The dynamics gradually increase as does the density of the sound, the pulses growing harsher though the piano correspondingly works low and calm, gruffly anchoring things. The essential structure follows the traditional AMM arc, something that has long since become almost routine yet, when performed with a combination of sensitivity and imagination, as is the case here, still has the ability to satisfy. The (seemingly) cracked electronics offers a broken mirror to the piano, the trio negotiating that rise and fall quite well before amusingly falling to pieces in the past couple of minutes in a tangle of boops, bleeps and bangs. A solid, thoroughly enjoyable recording.


Billy Gomberg - False Heat (False)

Gomberg's music, to the extent I've encountered it, has always been overtly engaging, almost too much so, like an irresistible candy that you initially chide yourself for enjoying its excess sweetness but, dammit, it's good and you eventually come to realize the faint bitter strains that give it its power. In that sense, he often reminds me of Fennesz in his prime. "False Heat" is no exception. Released on LP (I heard a digitized version), we have two sides of Gomberg's electronics. Side A, which I think is a real-time improvisation, opens with a hyper-low tone, splaying into several layers of varying pitches, textures and wobbliness, all in an interwoven, multi-thread drone. At heart, the elements are not uncommon at all but the placement is very fine, the choices made just right. I've been (for the umpteenth time) looking at Eggleston a great deal recently and the "normalcy" of his photos--not normal at all--seem to have some resonance with this music. Talk about sweet, Side B's opening drone is chocolate salt water taffy. It unspools slowly, the piece taking on a hazier character than the first, with some welcome sour tones slicing through the molasses. Much of the second half of the work is infused with sounds very reminiscent of throat singing--visions of David Hyke's Harmonic Choir thrust themselves to the foreground but, sweet as this music is, it has none of the saccharine quality of that ilk. A sensuous bath, well worth the subsequent trip to the dentist.

if still available (limited edition of 108), you might try Experimedia

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Lucio Capece - Less Is Less-Music for Flying and Pendulating Speakers (Intonema)

A few weeks ago, having just experienced a couple of electro-acoustic performances and felt a bit oppressed by the phalanx of speakers surrounding the audience, I remarked (on Facebook) about the desirability of small, mobile speakers. Obviously, this wasn't a novel idea but, in my experience, it was all too rarely put into practice. Serendipitous, then, to receive the most recent offering from Lucio Capece consisting of two works, one for balloon-suspended speakers and one for "pendulating" ones, that is, speakers in a motion similar to that of pendulums (pendula?).

To my ears, Capece has produced some of the strongest, most consistently vital work of the last several years and "Less Is Less" is no exception. Two pieces here. The first, "Das Temperierte Berner Münster" benefits from the composer's notes which, since the label site doesn't reproduce them, I think I will (partially) do so here:

I recorded the sound of the Bern Cathedral during the previous day of [sic] the performance by placing a microphone inside cardboard tubes of differing dimensions. The resonance inside the tube produced certain pitches to the recordings. Afterwards, I built a sort of long tone melody with these pitches.

I deduced the harmonic spectra of these pitches, and selected specific frequencies from within the spectra. I also selected frequencies deduced from the room mode, and by making a spectral analysis of the recordings.

I selected freely the frequencies following my intuition and taste. The resultant ones were played by sine waves coming from three wireless speakers hanging from three helium balloons (90 cm. diameter).

While it pretty much goes without saying that one is missing a large portion of the work's substance by virtue of hearing it on disc, I get the impression that this recording does a really excellent job at capturing a great deal of the experience. There's a wonderful sense of volume and physical variation within the space, possibly enhanced by the photos included in the accompanying booklet, the three balloons--red, yellow and blue--aloft in the beautiful, Late Gothic structure, Capece seated solitary and small in one end. There's an amazing, essential buzz in the air, kind of a blurred beehive effect, through which pure, wavering tones pierce and amidst which are muffled thuds, obscure deep tones, the odd harsh bang. It's all darkly majestic somehow and for all its monolithic aspect, things are always shifting, pushing and pulling through the space. The balloons were nudged by assistants every three minutes and Capece takes a stroll with his soprano, though I'm unable to pick it out from the sine tones I'm guessing he's emulating. But the combination of spatial volume and (relative) lightness is truly impressive; you get a real sense of the air in the cathedral being transformed. A fantastic piece, would loved to have been there.

Steve Reich did an early piece for swinging speakers ("Pendulum Music") as did Gordon Mumma ("Speaker Swinging") and, I imagine, others. Capece's "Music for Pendulums and Sine Waves in Different Tuning Systems" is a subtle, lovely variation that, if anything, recalls Lucier. Capece again:

Two of the pendulums played sine waves in three different tuning systems: Twelve Tone Equal Temperament, Just Intonation, and Pythagorean Heptatonic.

The third speaker caused feedback produced by a cassette recorder. The movement of the feedback caused a sort of delicate delay that changed according to the movement of the speakers.

Capece added some synth and other sounds. What you hear is a medium-pitcehd, complex drone, very clear, glasslike. There's both a sustained basic tone (which undulates) and several other threads introduced over the piece's 28 minutes. My sense is that there's more choice on Capece's part, more use of intuition, than Lucier would normally allow himself, thereby nudging the work away from purely an example of acoustic phenomena toward, if you will, an aesthetic judgment. I suppose your tolerance for this end of the spectrum will match up reasonably well with the enjoyment you derive from works like Lucier's "Still and Moving Lines of Silence in Families Hyperbolas" (surely one of the great titles!) though, as stated, this has more give to it. Then again, I can see Fripp/Eno heads (guilty as charged) getting deeply into it as well. I enjoy this as much as either though, more than the cathedral composition, it absolutely begs to be experienced in situ.

A superb recording; Capece on a roll...

Wozzeck - Act 5 (Intonema)

OK. This seems to be the fifth effort by Wozzeck which, at least here, consists of Ilia Belorukov (laptop with synths, ipod touch), Mikhail Ershov (bass guitar, effect pedals) and Alexey Zabelin (kick, snare, hi-hat). It's the first to reach my ears. All 200 minutes of it, five "acts" of 40 minutes each, on an audio DVD. Belorukov writes:

I had the idea to compose a slow evolving (or even unmoving at all) 40 minute piece with very similar parts, difficult to grasp, and with a structure packed with unexpectedness carefully disguised as monotony.

"Difficult" not in the Malfattisian or Capeceian sense (both of whom are cited)--at least for this listener--but because Belorukov often chooses to use thin, beat-driven sounds as his stasis field, the kind of sonics that test my patience from the get go. "Act 5.1" contains a pretty basic, techno-like rhythm augmented with a gooey rising and falling synth figure atop which is, gradually, layered various plies of detritus--fuzzed blats and conversational extracts among them. It takes (me) some effort of will to relegate the beats to any kind of beige background, though it's an interesting exercise to attempt to do so. By the time screams appear, they almost blend in with the odd grayness that has formed, the gray of pillow padding where all these speck of color exist but become all but invisible. Pixilated gray, maybe. There are elaborate notes and diagrams included with the disc. For this piece, Belorukov references King Crimson, Webern and Zorn. I can't say I detect them but the next work, "Act 5.2" begins in a manner not too different from some Naked City, particularly the ultra-short pieces featuring Yamatsuka Eye, but looped, sliced and iterated in time signatures based on the first 40 digits of pi. Yep. There's a thrash metal meets the ultimate math rock geek feel to the thing. While the essential grist of the piece is more interesting (to me), the same grayness inevitably sets in. By now, it seems clear that Belorukov is positioning this kind of monotony against that (ostensibly) created by the likes of Malfatti. My problem, of course, is that I don't generally find Malfatti (even as representative of a type) to be monotonous; quite the opposite. The music at hand...almost is. But not quite and not, somehow, in the same sense as Malfatti. It's a different kind of subdued interest, not as deep as some others, to these ears, but akin.

The third act's meat is in adjacent territory--reminded me of things like Blind Idiot God at first (though that likely betrays my lack of knowledge of the genre; the piece had the working title, "Black Metal", doubtless referencing bands other than BIG)--but in alternating snatches of sound/digital silence, 30 seconds each. The least interesting section for me, thus far. Still not sure if that's the point...(caveat: I'm writing this while listening for the first time, apart from a 10-minute dip I took upon receiving it. Maybe not ideal but, 200 minutes is 200 minutes.) "Act 5.4" is the ballad of the set, all spacey ambiance and dead slow beats/throbs, much quieter than the previous tracks. The guts of these pieces are much more complicated than I'm describing and are gone into in great detail by Belarukov though I must confess, often I can't pick out the subtle variations. The final track is probably the most varied here but, oddly, I found myself hankering for the more "monotonous" pieces!

I don't know--a tough release to tackle, but tough in unusual ways, almost aggressively daring you (if your interest is in contemporary experimental music, anyway) to lose patience but in a manner different from, say, Mattin. By citing Malfatti, Belorukov seems to be arguing for a kind of equivalency, at least insofar as elements used, tat extended silence broken by low volume trombone tones isn't essentially different from beat arrangements that blend into an unvariegated whole. It's not a bad question and, if anything, isolates a strong and lingering aestheticism on the part of many listeners, myself included. I'm not sure that's a bad thing, though, moldy fig that I am.


Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Graham Lambkin/Jason Lescalleet - Photographs (Erstwhile)

The three albums recorded by Lambkin/Lescalleet were always intended as a kind of trilogy--"The Breadwinner", "Air Supply" and now, "Photographs". Were they to do another, Erstwhile could always capitalize on the classic New York TImes faux pas when a new work of Asimov was advertised as "The fourth volume in the Foundation Trilogy". Barring that, we have these works that insist on being connected though the tendrils and sinews doing so are obscure. I'm given to understand that many such interweavings exist but, puzzle geek though I am, I can only discern a few superficial ones. Each disc contains eight tracks and there's some titular correspondence between the cut names on discs 1 & 3 and 2 & 4 (3 and 4 being the new ones; you'll notice that they're so referred to on the CDs themselves). The third tracks on "The Breadwinner" and the first of the "Photographs" discs each begin with a letter/number combination, E5150 and CT20 1PS. Some routine googling reveals that E5150 is a Black Sabbath composition (who knew?) while the other are the postal coordinates of Lambkin's home town of Folkestone, England. Significance? I've no idea. The seventh track is called "There and Back Again" firstly, "Back Again", most recently. If there are other enigmatic nuggets, I can't find 'em. Similarly, "Air Supply" has three adjacent tracks, "69°F", "68°F" and "67°F" and the second "Photographs" disc contains three cuts sharing self-similar titles in the same slots, each with "Kingdom" preceding the remainder of the title. The earlier disc concludes with "Air Pressure" and "Air Supply", the latter with "Street Hassle" and "Street Cleaner". The first album's cover design overtly referred to Robert Ashley's "Private Parts", the second to a Fripp/Eno bootleg, "Air Structures". This one? No notion on my part, though there's a Jody Whatley recording by the same name... I'm doubtless missing much else, particularly if the "clues" are embedded in the music, but so it goes. I'm not sure if any of this adds appreciably to one's enjoyment of the works, but there it is. More interesting to me is the way the recordings capture a personal relationship between the pair, overtly referred to in the superimposition of their faces on the interior of "The Breadwinner", but quite explicit throughout, including the photos in the release at hand, which, for all their physical disparity (apart from their basic size: large) infer a twin aspect.

Disc Three appears to have been largely recorded in or near Lambkin's home town. It begins with the local fellow's ruminations on loss, including the death of grandparents and ends with comments about a 50₤ cast iron skillet: "yeah, they last a lifetime". Unlike the previous two releases, where I think the only vocalization was a brief snatch having to do with VHS tapes, this one is replete with scenes from daily life, a recorder apparently left running routinely, many of the discussions occurring in the vicinity of food. The sounds not from field recordings (processed or otherwise) tend towards the ambient/electronic, though I suppose it's possible the whole shebang is constructed from "natural" sounds. That there's a huge amount of construction is clear from the start, Lambkin's voice (either slightly slowed down or the result of an old cassette recorder, one gathers) is led into by a short, ringing, electronic crescendo, almost like a camera zoom; there's an almost songlike structure in play. There are Ferrari-esque, distant engine flutters, liquified animal calls (?), microphone buffeting, background hiss implying an open mic in very quiet circumstance, dozens of other elements, all imparting an implicit sense of narrative, disjointed though it is. A priest thanking a congregation for the transport of a statue of Our Lady of Padua segues into trite church organ and echoing choir--Lambkin's childhood house or worship?--dissolving into a molasses of altered pitch, quite moving and dreamy/nightmarish. That resonant hum, a little like the ending minutes of "I Am Sitting in a Room", is picked up at the beginning of the following track, allowed to throb, eventually morphing into a mildly poppy, bubbling swath of electronica, redolent of post-Riley rock bands (for all I know, taken directly from some like source), before a double-tracked female voice recites a list of seemingly unrelated words. A series of sounds like solarized waves, only certain frequencies audible, the rest masked, plays against ultrahigh sineage, reverberant scrapes, suddenly intruded upon by conversation about tea, then confusion about what day it is, a clock ticking. So it goes, much more conversation, casual and humorous...I have to say, not only does everything sound great, no matter how banal the source, but the overall flow is fantastic, richly cinematic even in Super 8. It's also very much in the mode of Lambkin's self-released work of the last few years; the choices made are similarly, though inexplicably excellent. Why and how material like this works so well is a great mystery...

The final disc was recorded in Boylston and Worcester, Massachusetts, I take it either where Lescalleet was raised and/or where his mother (guessing) now lives. I'm not at all sure if each musician was given a bit more weight with regard to the material recorded on his home turf or if it's just a listening bias on my part, but this disc seems to carry a little more Lescalleetian feel, the other more Lambkinesque. Probably in my head. Beginning with soup, concluding with a stated dislike of plum pudding... The first track, following the table chatter, contains some exquisite, near-quiet work, faint hollow bangs and thumps, like distant Partchian cloud-chamber bowls, really wonderful. It gradually blossoms into kitchen sounds, which it likely was all the time, and back into conversation. As in the companion disc, there are references to a church (its bells, its visage) and the track melts into a quasi-similar, blurred kind of pulsing dronage, quite striking. Some of the more intense moments (volume-wise) ensue, howling and screeching, before giving way momentarily to the pair nattering about, soon eclipsed by odd, pitched hums, as though distilled and then dirtied from an organ. Again, a fantastic sequence. This source continues across three tracks, the ones with "Kingdom" in their title, so presumably there's a connection. Those bell-like pots and pans (or whatever they were) recur in the closing track, melting into a thick, rising hum, very slowly winding down before surprisingly (as if anything should be surprising here) transmuting into a kind of processional, chorus and percussion, something I get the feeling I should know (Orff?), looped, iterated for several minutes, dissolving and then lurching back into the kitchen, Lambkin asking, "Jason, were you a fan of the plum pudding?", Lescalleet responding, "No." Cut to silence.

I'm not sure there's anything out there that moves like this; the combination of casualness and discreet organization is wonderful to experience. And, as said, it simply flows beautifully. Something about that nexus of sound and meaning hits the mark time and time again though I can't figure out why. Great work, even if I'm missing most of the puzzle pieces.


Sunday, October 13, 2013

Sebastien Lexer/Grundik Kasyansky - The Fog (Dromos)

One is forced to begin with the packaging, which is unusual and very beautiful. Ana Martins has created a CD case consisting of two plates of glass, each about 6 inches square and 1/16 of an inch thick, between which she's affixed a kind of pouch made from virgin wool. The gluing method is invisible and the sack is slit on top, allowing the plates to pull apart almost an inch so as to remove the disc. Additionally, the front-facing wool is drawn upon, in my case with what seems to be both black and white chalk; each of the 150 copies is, of course different. The image above is of mine. Title and other information are printed on the glass in raised white. It's all very striking--nice job!

Happily, the music is also very fine. Lexer's piano (plus enhancements) has always had the welcome knack of combining a clear classical sensibility with something quite raw and even grating; that comes very much to the fore in this 2011 set (running a bit less than a half hour), with Kasyansky supplying electronics that include a healthy dollop of old recordings. Those snatches of "traditional" musics (which are enticingly vague, sounding almost like Mussorgsky here and possibly alluding to "Moon River" there, though often residing in old-timey jazz) function as a kind of glue keeping the harsher shards in the same space. The set has a very attractive dynamism on several counts; the volume varies in a kind of rolling fashion, the generally medium-low level punctuated by abrupt violence as well as uneasy quietude, the textures ranging within a defined space, Lexer almost always managing to sound pianistic even if the keyboard is only used sporadically in the usual manner. Kasyansky's contributions are more amorphous, even viscous, the sampled music outweighed by a bagful of electronics; as with the piano, these are used both subtly and, when appropriate, brutally. As can be discerned from this mangled attempt, it's tough music to describe except in sensual terms. Thick and chewy? Something like that. It has an unusual fullness given the relative sparseness of the constituent elements, something a little bit magical. I've listened six or seven times now and I'm hearing more each go-through, always a good sign. I'm somehow reminded of the phrase, "giving good weight".

A strong effort--get 'em while you can.


Friday, October 11, 2013

Massimo Magee - Giant Worms (Array)

A complex experience, this. Magee has created a series of eight "snapshots" in three formats: audio, visual and text. The digital information for each piece, across all formats, is exactly the same. Exactly. So the audio file, if reduced to bitmap form (I think I have this right, but probably not) is exactly equivalent to the analogous visual file and each are exactly equivalent to the text file. I'm a little hampered insofar as experiencing this as seamless as I might like given that the CD drive in my Macbook is non-functional, so I looked at the images and texts on Betsy's old Imac but had trouble concurrently running the audio there, hence taking the disc back to my CD player for that. Given all of that...

I'm guessing the audio files involve some amount of feedback from the visual and text ones; to some extent, they're based on Magee's soprano sax work, but this has been overlaid and, I think, transfigured by feeding it through various electronic programs so that the final result references both while lying in the middle. So much of the "language" and inflections are reed-centered though there tends to be a pulsing, staticky element that's just as prominent (much of the electronics here involves rhythmic patterns of one kind or another) and it's often difficult to tell from whence a given sequence has been sourced. It's not easy music, possessing a kind of alien quality, though with the odd spark of surprising beauty (a rapidly repeating, high, bell-like tone in the sixth track, for instance, has a plaintive aspect amongst all the furious, machinelike ratcheting). There are even little "themes" that reappear from time to time between tracks, lending a smidgen of familiarity to the otherwise harsh and unyielding soundscape. I like it pretty well, grim as I find it to be.

I can't get so much into any kind of "following along" with the visuals and texts, more just finding it as a somewhat interesting instance of fact: that this image or this series of typographical symbols are indeed what the sound files look like when translated into this medium. One can see something of a relationship to the music in the visual files (all very interesting and attractive on their own) in that amid all the raster effects, one can see embedded "naturalistic" forms, distorted and otherwise masked though they be, which I think of as cousins to the saxophonics audible in the music. The text files are more abstract, impossible for me to "decipher" at all, though perhaps others are more adept at this.

Credit Magee with pursuing an unusual and interesting tack here. Perhaps systems more powerful than my own can present this in a true multimedia fashion; if not, I'd look forward to the time when it's more feasible to have all the elements overlapping, intersecting, etc., wherein one can get a truer sense of the underlying equivalency. Until then, give this a try.

Array Music

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Yann Leguay - Quasi Static Crack Propagation (Consumer Waster)

OK, pretty excellent title...lovely cover and interior illustrations as well. My first exposure, I think, to Leguay who, per the label press release, seems to operate on the conceptual edge of noise, perpetrating art along the lines of destroying a microphone, etc. Here, the sound sources are electronic playback machines of various kinds (the track titles equalling their model numbers), specifically the interior noises they produce while in operation, a not-unknown tack investigated (among others) by Keith Rowe when he finally added a mac to his table but, instead of using programs, close mic'd the machine's body finding the sounds produced within more interesting than those produced by software.'s pretty damn good! A Sony Walkman (D-NE1) provides the material for three pieces, much less harsh than I might have expected, a resonant hum of two deep pitches interfered with by short static bursts which occasionally cascade into a bit of a flurry. It's blunt, very matter of fact, but handled by Leguay in a manner that straddles that awkward.graceful line, something I quite enjoy. It's second appearance, far more brief, finds a different range of sound, lighter and wispy alongside several strands of rumbling static and some loopiness. More active, lending a cartoon-like quality to the affair, doubtless unintentional. Its last entry is more varied and expansive, with flutter that softly undergirds rising and falling gentle whines and the requisite squelches and knocks; quite attractive! The Tascam CD-601 is plundered once, yielding a steady percolation of metallic and plastic clicks over a faint but fascinating background hum while the same company's DAP1 DAT recorder offers a grainier substrate, more dangerous sounding, the voltage seeming all but uncontrollable; both are very fine. Back to Sony for exploitation of its TCM-5000EV tape recorder, wherein we hear the most repetitive sounds, a layering of them, somehow subtly gaining momentum, some stationary, dropping out, reappearing in altered guise. Of the product-named tracks, all of them good, this is my favorite, a fantastic, alien mini-landscape.

The disc closes with a 14-minute live work, again an excellent chunk of music, ranging from initial quasi-syncopation (just the slightest hint of funkiness), ultimately finding drone territory, but a singularly rich one, with a low, scaly throb slowly cycling beneath a pebbly, iterating coating. He then just turns of the off switch and matters quickly and rudely dwindle to nil.

Fine stuff, another wonderful release from Consumer Waste. Hear it.

Consumer Waste

VipCancro - Gamma (Lisca Records)

A vinyl release by the Italian quartet of Filippo Ciavoli Cortelli (percussion, tapes), Alberto Picchi (electronics), Andrea Borghi (bass) and Nicola Quiriconi (voice) containing seven shortish tracks that might be classified as spooky, industrial drones. "Drones" for the obvious reason that the tones are largely extended throughout the length of the given piece, "industrial" in that there's an attractive layer of grime over everything, a dark, oily, gritty sheen and "spooky" because, well, the combination of elements tends toward the harrowing, easily allowing the listener to picture him/herself in a large, shadowy, possibly vacant and threatening space. Sometimes, as toward the middle of "Molize", super-slow, rocklike death chords come a-crashing but mostly the sounds slowly ooze by in an airborne miasma, probably not safe to breathe. Though a vocalist is credited, his contributions are, to me, indistinguishable from the other instruments, probably a good thing in this context. It not my favorite sort of approach and it's a bit too much the same over its course, but if the dimmer realms of isolationism are your thing, you'll find a nice, gloomy swamp here in which to bathe.

Lisca Records

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Robert Piotrowicz - Lincoln Sea (Musica Genera)

When last heard from, Piotrowicz had taken a (to me) surprising and divergent pathway with his "When Snakeboy Is Dying", its lovely arrangement of piano, guitar and vibes very different from the heavier electronic work I'd previously known. On "Lincoln Sea" (like the previous release, issued on LP), he again switches course. The sound source is entirely (I think) electronic, though subtle allusions are made to orchestral forces. My immediate impression, though, was of an affinity to Partch's chromelodeon, a similar reed organ feel in something approximating just intonation. It's very, very thick; one senses strand upon strand, ply upon ply. There's likely much going on that's beyond the ability of my speakers to comprehend, though things clarify a bit at higher volumes.

The structure of the first track (Lincoln Sea is one piece, split between two LP sides; I reviewed from a CD rip) is amorphous, sinuous, the largely mid-level lines writhing through the space, the growling bass notes pummeling from beneath. Mark Harwood, in his accompanying notes writes of an architectural construct and you can easily imagine this piece in a large, interior environment. Sounds split off, creating several momentarily separate lines, wind back and form new interactions. There are stoppages, pauses, shifts of direction. Sometimes I found myself thinking of Branca with a more subtle sense of composition. That connection is reinforced toward the end of the first piece as heavy, end-of-the-world rockish chords are dropped, though with welcome irregularity. The second side begins less assuredly (in a good way)--similar sound but arrayed intermittently instead of steadily streamed--it's not just the buzzing, but you get a feeling of swarm, of mass clouds of insects. Big ones. It's more diffuse and less chromelodic-sounding at the start. For all the surface appeal of the electronic sounds (which appeal is high), it's rather difficult music to grasp, resisting easy compartmentalization.Once more, in the final few minutes, Piotrowicz introduces chordal punctuation but they're wheezing a bit now, tired, deflating, more Partchian. The hints of triumphalism that gilded the first piece have dissolved.

As said, hearing this in situ would be ideal as I imagine a large part of its effect resides in the physicality of the sound. Listened to more linearly, one can quibble with its structure, feeling things go on a little lengthily here, maybe too short there. But it's engaging throughout, a refreshing change from many drone-based recordings, which genre is certainly nodded to. Piotrowicz (who, amusingly, is referred to by Harwood as "despot composer"), has opened an interesting doorway, folding several disparate elements into a sometimes confounding but always plastic whole. Good work and, better, implying more exploration to come.

Musica Genera