Wednesday, June 06, 2018


Cyril Bondi/Pierre-Yves Martel/Christoph Schiller - tse (Another Timbre)

It's probably fair to say that we all have our instrumental prejudices, silly as those undoubtably are. I know people who don't like flutes or  violins, baffling as those attitudes are to me. But I have to admit that it takes extra concentration on my part to get past the essential sound of a harpsichord. I do think that this is more an issue on recordings than live as just last year I attended a home concert by the very excellent local harpsichordist Andrew Appel and enjoyed it without reservation. Maybe it has something to do with childhood encounters with the keyboard in schmaltzy horror movies or as backdrop to any number of faux esthete contexts. But that jangly sound, the lack of sustain....something makes it tough for me.

The spinet is essentially a small harpsichord and Christoph Schiller, to the best of my knowledge, pretty much confines his playing to to it. Here, he's joined by Cyril Bondi (Indian harmonium, pitch pipe, objects) and Pierre-Yves Martel (viola da gamba, pitch pipes, harmonica) on five improvised tracks (I - V). On the first, the trio circumvents any foolish objections on my part as Bondi and Martel lay down long, smooth lines onto which Schiller sprinkles slivers of spinet, glinting amongst the hums. Those drones are beautifully constructed themselves, a lovely combination of timbres, and the spinet adds a wonderful texture. By the way, I'm guessing that Schiller applies some extended techniques now and then (perhaps bowing the spinet's interior or otherwise directly manipulating the strings?), though I'm not at all sure. 'II' is similar, though generally pitched higher and with somme separation between phrases. There's a stretched feeling, a bit more astringency that's piquant, a nice shift from the prior track. In fact, the variation is subtle on each of the five pieces. Given the drone0like nature of the harmoniums, harmonicas and pitch pipes and virtually the opposite aspect of the spinet, that's not so surprising; only the viola da gamba might go "both ways", though Martel seems to switch between arco and pizzicato now and then. Another predilection of mine is, with regard to anything more or less in a drone style, toward the low and grainy, so I found 'IV' especially appealing, a really delicious, calm sequence of lines, rich and complex, with deep tones from (I think) the pitch pipe. 'V' offers slightly more aggression from the spinet, at higher pitch levels and with somewhat sourer harmonies and, again, heard in the context of this "suite", works perfectly well. In fact, listening to 'tse' as a suite, and a very ably constructed one, seems to be the way to go, at least for me. Spinets be damned, it's an engaging and discreetly demanding listen; good work.

Another Timbre



Saturday, June 02, 2018

Brief words on four new or newish releases from Rhizome.s + 1. As the covers are all text, thought I'd save space and not include 'em.

Sarah Hennies/Tim Feeney - Nests (Rhizome.s)

An hour-long, co-composed work for two wood block players arranged in sections of sounds/silence that last a varying number of minutes. Often one player holds a steady (slow) rhythm while the other enters with what seems to be a more intuitive pattern, close to his/her partner but with some latitude for variation. The timbre, intensity of strike and resonance of the blocks shifts ever so slightly over the piece's duration and, several times, just when you think you've established that a given player is the "steady" one, that changes as well. The resonance of the space is pretty huge and there's also an ambience of crickets, airplane engines and what seems to be general human activity outside the performance area. The play of regularity/irregularity, together with the other subtle, varying factors, makes for an entirely absorbing and immersive experience, spare though the elements be, summoning images of rain patter, cave drips and other quasi-rhythmic ephemera. Great stuff.

Dante Boon - Düsseldorf recital (Rhizome.s)

I've been very fortunate to catch two of Boon's solo recitals, one in Amsterdam, one in New York City, where he's played pieces by composers generally associated with the Wandelweiser collective. Here he offers six works by Coleman Zurkowski, Gil Sansón, Anastassia Philippakopolos, Eva-Maria Houben, Assaf Gidron and Jack Callahan. I'm not at all sure if the works were chosen for their conduciveness to the notion, but they're presented contiguously, each merging with the next, almost indistinguishably. There is also a great deal of ambient noise including what I gather are piano-body sounds but also a background noise rather like soft drum brushes being swirled around inside a heavy metal container. I don't mind these at all, but others may be put off. The compositions do vary, of course, largely in their degree of overt tonality and relative repetition of patterns (notably Gidron's). All, however, are slow and quiet, serene or roiled to small, varying extents, all calmly searching. If none stand out so much, it's only because they're part of a unified whole and that whole is very thoughtful and insightful. Fine work from all involved.

Gaudenz Badrutt/Ilia Belorukov/Alexander Markvart, Quentin Conrate/Matthieu Lebrun/Anne-Laure Pudbut/Frédéric Tentelier - affinités sélectives, volume 1 (Rhizome.s)

A trio and a quartet sharing a disc, with no clear relationship that I can discern. As it's designated, "volume 1", perhaps we'll see a pattern emerging in the future.

Two very different approaches as well. The trio of Badrutt (acoustic sound sources, live sampling), Belorukov (alto saxophone, electronics, field recordings, samples) and Markvart (prepared acoustic guitar, guitar combo, objects) create a jagged, splintery body of sounds spread across four tracks, recalling the cracked electronics of musicians like Bonnie Jones, Richard Kamerman, etc, from some years back while also, occasionally, incorporating rhythmic patterns á la Voice Crack, etc. For me, nothing quite coheres (that may well not have been the objective) and it strikes me as an apposition of quieter but crinkly sections with violent and raucous effects for their own sake, jolting but ultimately without too much depth.

The quartet (Conrate, percussion; Lebrun, alto saxophone, electronics; Pudbut [surely a nom de musique?], tapes, electroacoustic devices; Tentelier, organ, electroacoustic devices), apparently comprised of musicians from around the Lille area, is very different. A churning stew of sound, heavy on organ and organ-like sounds but with a manner of things poking their heads through--light metals, indistinct voices, ringing high tones, radios. It's not the kind of thing that hasn't been done before but these four handle it extremely well, submerging the listener into the maelstrom, buffeting him/her amidst the swirl. It's steady-state in that sense, the same general context throughout with the details varying minimally but, as Partch said of his Bloboy, "It does exactly one thing, but that one thing it does superbly."

Morgan Evans-Weiler - iterations & environments

Two works, 'iterations' for overdubbed violins and 'environments III' for piano and electronics. 'iterations' is in three 11-minute sections with two minute-long pauses. The music, which is absolutely fascinating, falls into what you might call a "sandy drone" territory. While all three portions are similar in general nature, the overall pitch (comprised of, I think, three or four violin lines, all payed by Evans-Weiler) shifts slightly from, let's say, medium to high to lower, though the various lines range in pitch and timbre. The approach isn't necessarily new but the performance is sensitive and exacting, the minute fluctuations acquiring almost a monumental character. Really excellent.

The second work finds Evans-Weiler on electronics with Emilio Carlos Gonzalez on piano (prepared somewhat). The electronics also form a drone, at least dual-layered with a deep, smooth hum under a soft, static wash and the sounds of, perhaps, a highway. Atop this, the piano is heard offering single notes, often pitched low and clouded by the preparation. The music flows darkly, the electronics shifting subtly, incorporating other elements (the high, faint chirp of birds, natural or otherwise, maybe even a very distant dog), the piano maintaining its persistent, dour commentary until, some 15 minutes in, a brighter sequence appears briefly. Excellent.

Rhizome.s


Francisco Meirino/Bruno Duplant - Dedans/Dehors (Moving Furniture)

Three pieces sourced from field recordings, beginning inside (dedans), gradually heading outdoors (dehors). Luc Ferrari is cited in the notes with regard to the listener constructing a narrative based on the sounds heard, which are of an augmented everyday reality. "Augmented" in the sense of having waves of electronics coursing through the quotidian events. The "dedans" section begins among snores but becomes pretty raucous as it progresses, very enveloping and (pleasantly) uncomfortable. The "interstice" begins softly with whispers and bells but soon ramps up into a similar level of intensity. "dehors" leaps right in with pipe organ (Bach, I believe) before rushing out the door into the world where a heavy throb, bells, bangs and assorted noises descend. There's fine depth in all the sounds and it works very effectively overall, Ferrari's spirit glinting through thick, pulsing scrim of electronics. Well worth a listen.

Moving Furniture








I guess I should post this here as well--the bio is out, sort of. It's generally available via Amazon (June 26th), Erst distribution (now) and I have copies as well if you'd like to stop by.

powerHouse