Friday, November 28, 2014

Three slabs o' vinyl

Nate Wooley/Chris Forsyth - Third (Rekem)

A live performance in Philadelphia from March, 2013 with Wooley on trumpet and Forsyth on guitar, one non-stop set spanning both sides of the LP, titled "Evening Rage". Given the title, it's tempting to think of the opening, unfurling section as an alap and that fits to an extent, Forsyth tending toward some quiet, delicate chords (among other things), though Wooley ventures to the extremes of high pressure breath tones, whistles and more unearthly sounds, generally rather agitated. Things proceed in a stead-state manner, long grains rubbing up against each other, for the better part of Side A, things settling down at the end and, on the flip side, entering a different territory, Wooley engaging in a wonderful repetitive vale closure and breath expulsion (it sounds like to me), conjuring up a bellows-driven engine of sorts, Forsyth creating echoey washes alongside, kind of a steampunk situation. That only lasts a few minutes before the music drifts into an eerie, claustrophobic space, full of high, ringing strands, very icy and bleak. Eventually, Forsyth, then Wooley, begin to break out, offering shards and sustained, hard tones to pierce the gloom, the trumpet soon reverting to a kind of globular push/pull, as if that engine is winding down uncomfortably, leaving the guitar to pluck out dry, forlorn, koto-like notes (all notion of a raga gone by the boards), Wooley creating an adjacent, similarly sorrowful, very vocalized cry. A good, strong set, beautifully recorded by Kinan Faham and mastered by Bhob Rainey, producing a fine, sculptural sound.

Rekem Records

Back Magic - Chorus Line to Hell (Milvia Son)

Well outside my normal frames of reference but good fun nonetheless. Back Magic is a pronouncedly lo-fi duo hailing from Chicago who go by Hair Exp (guitar, voice) and Terror Trans (drums). My first impression was something of a United States of America vibe with a strong Beefheart tinge or, rather, Beefheart-influenced bands (Pere Ubu, for one). As Side A progressed, I narrowed that down to early, pre-Trout Mask Beefheart, that kind of grungy psychedelia with melodies at once lilting and stumbling. Little by little, though, all sorts of different strains percolated through and I gave up searching for influences (though they were there for the picking) and just enjoyed the childlike sense of play in the songs, the apparent willingness to try most anything. Do they overdo things sometime? Sure ("General Moaning", for one), but one is generally willing to ride those (intentionally?) leaden drums and chiming guitar for the duration, exploring odd, neglected areas, loping here, lurching there and having reasonable fun doing so, right up through the closing punk of "Do They Owe Us a Living". Of course they fucking do.

Milvia Son

Dinah Bird - A Box of 78s (Gruenrekorder)

This is a very unusual record. On the one hand it's a field recording/nostalgia construction. Bird inherited the titular box of some 50+ ancient records amassed by her grandmother who lived in the Gulf Islands, British Columbia and decided to take them from her home in England back to their original "home", play them in their old environment, record the surrounding ambiance and talk with people there (including her great uncle) about what she was doing. Side A, called "Trackside", documents this experience and is strangely captivating, the strains of the recordings (generally classical and opera) warble in the background, scratchy and cloudy, among the area sounds, with the voices of the inhabitants of the town of Salt Springs, who quiz Bird about her project, elaborate on their own daily activities, etc. It's very easy to put oneself into Bird's mind, to relive her own sense of family history and her rediscovery of the environs of her ancestors. All well and good.

Side B is called "Loopside" and consists of 12 tracks, titled ∞1 through ∞12, with the word "Always" appended at the end of the track listing. The first dozen or so times I attempted to play it, my needle simply skittered across the surface of the vinyl, never finding any purchase. (Since the sides aren't marked A & B, I actually played this side first and was mildly concerned that something had happened to my cartridge or tone arm!). Perhaps it's my utter ignorance of loopage on vinyl, but it took me a while to realize that the audio component of the twelve tracks could be located on what looks like the track separation groove. Therein, placing the needle down with delicacy, we hear twelve loops of material, each lasting the duration of a single disc revolution and comprised of, I think, sounds from the Salt Springs environment (maritime, largely, including that wonderful wooden knocking you get on piers) as well, on the final three, samples from the 78s. After these, there's a brief "normal" track of someone, presumably Bird, commenting on one interviewee's habit of adding an extra "s" on the word "always", thus enunciating, "alwayses" which, once stated by Bird, also loops, ending (or not ending) the side.

Also enclosed is a Listening Log for the listener, radio station, etc. to fill out (time, weather conditions, number of plays, etc.), which information will be used in an upcoming exhibition.

Something very affecting about this recording, very personal and vaguely sad. The loopside is a physical annoyance (unless you enjoy standing over your turntable) but the concept moves me.



jesse said...

"Given the title, it's tempting to think of the opening, unfurling section as an alap.."
Brian, are you aware the title is 'Evening Rage', not Raga, or am I missing something?

Anonymous said...

These are my reasons for disliking vinyl as an audio source:
Vinyl deteriorates. The quality can only be prolonged if you have an audiophile stylus and vinyl player with a finely balanced tonearm (or that ten thousand dollar Japanese thing that uses frickin' laser beams to play the sound).
Vinyl is hard to store. It must be standing completely upright in a room that isn't too warm.
Used vinyl is a huge gamble to buy. You need to know how many times it has been played, how it has been stored and what it was played on. You never know if it has been stacked, which warps it. That information is almost never available.
Finding a good pressing on an album is difficult to research, difficult to find and expensive to buy.
You're never going to hear everything it has to offer unless you are rich and have a super expensive setup (and finding what equipment is right for you takes a lot of research).
Records are either difficult or expensive to clean.
Almost every benefit to using analogue vinyl over digital can only be noticed with an audiophile setup.
It is hard to find out if a digital source was used (which is always the case with new releases and sometimes the case with newer represses and remasters), which defeats the whole purpose.
Dynamic range compression is always prevalent in albums that are over 40~ minutes long.
The grooves near the center of a record always have at least a small amount of dynamic range compression.

Brian Olewnick said...

Jesse-- :-) sure, but when I saw "evening Rage", I automatically thought of Evening Raga and assumed (perhaps wrongly) the track title was an intentional pun.