Three new cassette releases from Notice Recordings (heard via download)
Ben Owen - Birds and Water 4 (Notice Recordings)
Owen's "Birds & Water" also appeared on Notice a few years back. Apparently I've missed one intervening number but "4" (presented with the connecting word, not the ampersand) has migrated a good distance from at least one of its forbears, though as the titles of the two pieces indicate ("20100509-04" and "20100509-08"), these were recorded in 2010 at The Experimental Television Center in Owego, NY. Both are drone works, both setting a pattern in motion and sticking with it for 20 minutes. The first, "20100509-04)", contains at least two lines, thick and ropy, one slightly out of phase with the other, creating a varies series of internal pulses. As an effect, of course it's something that we've all heard, probably many times. But as an example, a kind of laying out of the process, quite open and transparent, it has the beauty of an elegant mathematical drawing, say of a parabola, though one with non-standard fluctuations. I discovered that if I yawned while listening (not out of boredom!), the perceived pitch lowered slightly; interesting. I've used the Partch line before but am forced to resuscitate it here; it does exactly one thing but that one thing it does superbly. The second cut, though also a drone, is immediately different--a much more porous texture. Very quickly you realize you don't have to yawn to shift pitch, Owen is doing it for you, microtonally sliding up and down, perceptibly but subtly, throughout the work. Again, this attack is maintained for the duration, very lovely, sometimes recalling La Monte Young's high tension wires, the minute variations always focussing one's attention. Excellent work.
Haptic - Excess of Vision: Unreleased Recordings, 2005-2014 (Notice Recordings)
As I think I've also said before, I like me some Haptic. As near as I can determine despite the time span indicated in the title, there are two pieces, presumably one from 2005 and one from 2014; I may well be wrong; perhaps various recordings over the period were mixed into these two tracks? In any case, Side A, "So for the Remainder" includes the core Haptic trio of Adam Sonderberg, Joseph Clayton Mills and Steven Hess, augmented by Tony Buck while "And Otherwise" has the trio plus Salvatore Dellaria. Both pieces are, by my definition, more steady state than drone, underlaid by ongoing strata of tones through which various strands permeate and grow, calm but riding that comfort/disquiet line, something they've always managed very ably. New stria constantly enter the hum, many from exterior recording, her with mechanical janglings and a particularly plaintive kind of soft moan which may derive from something as pedestrian as a squeaky door hinge but evokes a forlorn animal. Side A is good, Side B is better. The basic structure isn't dissimilar but, for me, the elements used are a little more mysterious, provide a bit more tension. A rattling sound, like maracas filled with sand, pervades the track and the tones used are icier, more ominous. You get a glacial feel, not just of cold but of slow movement, with internal, churning vortices, filling in all gaps as it proceeds. Great ending as well, sounding like someone abruptly opens a push handle door and walks outside, encountering a different hum. Strong work, a fine addition to the canon. (I assume it's coincidental, but was wondering if the title isn't a tip o' the hat to the fine Golden Palominos album, "Visions of Excess").
Jack Harris/Samuel Rodgers - Primary/Unit 11 (Notice Recordings)
"Primary"--sounds in a room, window open, some noises being made by the pair; often it's clear that Harris and Rodgers are the culprits, occasionally one is uncertain. The musician-generated sounds are a bit more up front but not extremely so. More to the point, their emergence seems, as a rule, to be approximately as exigent as the passing sirens, that is to say, unforced, unnecessary but not so intrusive. Less the AMM-ish dictum of making a sound when it *is* necessary, more subsuming oneself or trying to--tough goal) into the environment. For about 35 minutes, this was one of the most satisfying blocks of sound I've heard this year. Around then, some particularly violent amplified object noises leap to the foreground, disrupting matters in a way I found off-putting and intrusive, though I can imagine that being intentional on the part of Harris and Rodgers, perhaps aware that things had become too comfortable. One of those cases where thinking about the procedure in one way yields a different aesthetic reaction than another, always an interesting aspect to ponder. "Unit 11" apparently uses the same approach, in a different environment, here encountering a thunderstorm near the beginning and containing distant, muffled voices, as though from a school or hospital. For a good portion it's just as successful as the preceding track, a bit calmer perhaps, with a similar "intrusive" moment around the 23 minute mark, this time a loud hum, soon followed by high-pitched, rapid squeaks embedded in static. Once more, the question arises whether this is more than necessary or whether "necessary" has anything to do with it. A kind of synthesis occurs over the final several minutes, I believe more performers than environs, where hums and rumbles merge into a very stirring aural wall.
Really fine, thoughtful music, my favorite of what I've heard from these fellows thus far.