Thursday, October 04, 2018

Tonus - Intermediate Obscurities I +  IV (A New Wave in Jazz)

Tonus - Texture Point (A New Wave in Jazz)

Tonus - Cagean Morphology (A New Wave in Jazz)

Ok, the label name is unfortunate. The three items above are the first I've heard from this imprint and, as it happens, the music has little to do with jazz, though I take it from looking through the label's catalog that prior releases do.

Tonus seems to be a project of guitarist Dirk Serries, the personnel varying from album to album, in these cases from duo to trio to two sets of sextets. 'Intermediate Obscurities I + IV' is a two-disc release, performed by those sextets. On 'I', listed as being "based on a leitmotif by Martina Verhoeven', the ensemble has a superficial jazz-like aspect: Jan Daelman, flute; George Hadow, drums; Serries, acoustic guitar; Verhoeven, piano; Nils Vermeulen, double bass; Colin Webster, alto saxophone. If I were searching for any quasi jazz-related music to compare with this 58-minute work, recorded live, maybe I'd go with some of the sparer Roscoe Mitchell. Carefully composed, softly played longish lines overlap in ever-changing patterns, the tones ranging from clear to harmonics-laden (especially the arco bass, sometimes the alto). The flute and alto tend toward the higher registers, never harsh, the percussion arhythmic and sparsely colorful, the piano and guitar injecting slightly acidic chords as needed. The basic character and approach is maintained throughout but the interior details are constantly shifting. It only moves internally, but that movement and the choices made are engrossing.

'IV', a graphic score by Serries, utilizes an ensemble with Cath Roberts, baritone saxophone; Serries, Acoustic guitar; Benedict Taylor, viola; Tom Ward, bass clarinet; Webster, alto saxophone; and Otto Willberg, double bass. There are certain similarities with the previous work: a single piece, here about 45-minutes long, remaining in more or less the same territory for its duration, the instruments playing longish, overlapping tones. But, perhaps via the instrumentation, it's pitched lower, darker and, to no small degree, more sumptuously. When the baritone, alto (played low) and bass clarinet combine in complex harmonies, the effect is quite luxurious. There are also occasions where the intensity level surges, though not for long. Some listeners might consider the two pieces overly akin. I don't have that problem at all and hear them as related, but entirely distinct and very absorbing entities.

'Texture Point' presents four tracks, performed by Serries (acoustic guitar), Verhoeven  (piano) and Taylor (viola). There's no indication of compositional credit given here, so I'm guessing the pieces are improvised (Guy Peters, in his liner notes--he also wrote them for the other two releases--is a little defensive here, as though writing for listeners unused to this atmosphere), though the three "textural" pieces are indeed that while the single pointillistic one lives up to its title. 'Texture I' offsets deep notes from the piano, lending the music a darkly romantic, even gothic aura, with mid-range, rich plucks from the guitar, both sliding alongside rougher scratching, bowing and rubbing from the viola. 'Textures  II' is more vibrant, the piano crystalline, though the viola is more somber, with low, wailing laments. The pointedness of "Point A" resides in the piano and, especially, the guitar--the viola casting skittering harmonics that swirl around the two more stationary sound emitters, the music growing harsher as it progresses. Finally, 'Texture III', returns to the rich bleakness, both the guitar and piano plucking dry tones against sustained, darkly questioning, isolated piano tones. A very impressive recording.

The third release, 'Cagean  Morphology', is a duo with Serries and Verhoeven, a single 34-minute piece. Again improvised, this is easily the sparest of the three offerings, the single, ringing tones of the instruments allowed to hang and decay, leaving much silence. One picks up the likely influence of the Wandelweiser school here. As with the previous works, the music remains consistently within one "space" throughout and, again, manages to offer patterns, exceedingly slow as they are, that subtly vary, more than maintaining the listener's interest. Toward the end, the piano hits several high, brilliant notes while the guitar answers with more hesitant, wavering ones--very lovely. 

All three recordings carry a fine quality of perseverance, of sustaining an idea over a long time, closely investigating aspects encountered, a favorite approach of mine. Highly recommended.

Tuesday, October 02, 2018

Yiorgis Sakellariou - in Aulis (Unfathomless)

Mathieu Ruhlmann/Joda Clément - Sound Diary of Quiet Pedestrians (Unfathomless)

Jeph Jerman - Imbrication (Unfathomless)

Since 2009, Daniel Crokaert's Unfathomless label has been releasing music that, by and large, revolves around the nexus of field recordings and electronics. In one sense, you're pretty sure of the general area to be explored when first slipping a new disc into the player. In another, he and the musicians tend to do an excellent job of exploring the vast amount of potential variation within such apparently restricted environs.

Yiorgis Sakellariou brought Aeolian harps to the site of the Greek temple of Artemis in Aulis, Greece, recording (and, I assume post-producing) their interaction with the wind, in the process picking up other ancillary sounds. That contrast, between the wooly, whistling, windborne atmospherics and the rougher (though always blurred) booms and bangs, forms the basic structure of the 43-minute piece. But there's much more, many shifts in focus and mood, from quiet contemplation replete with crickets to dully roaring, grinding, somewhat threatening cycles ending with a sharp crash of glass. Subsidence, resurgence in different guise; there's a wavelike effect throughout, relatively clear or detritus-filled, a fine combination of the natural and manmade. A very well thought-out effort, overall.

Canadians Ruhlmann and Clément constructed the four pieces that comprise their "diary" in Vancouver. A photo in the accompanying sleeve shows the pair on a beach, but there's something vaguely industrial about the sound-world created here, a hint of ozone in the air. At the beginning of 'Crook of Land', deep thrums are offset by a distant buoy (?), steamy hisses and bell after-tones. 'Gore and Hastings', the longest track, is very expansive, unfurling in a multilayered array of burred, marbled sounds before migrating to harsher tones that recall bowed cymbals, then sputtering, returning to a harborlike area with softly booming foghorns and urban hums. The anxiety level ratchets up a bit on 'Point-No-Point', with higher pitched, keening whines set against (again, faraway) machinery clanks and groans; a very strong track. The  disturbingly titled, 'Middle Arm' extends this mood, a kind of inky, billowing darkness emerging, swallowing the bay. Excellent work, fine soundcraft.

I think I've only heard one thing from Jerman in the last few years ('Matterings', his collaboration with Tim Barnes on Erstwhile) and prior to that, nothing since around 2010, though I have plenty from the oughts. Even so, 'Imbrications' (yes, I had to look it up: the overlapping of edges, as in tiles or scales) fits in very well with my previous Jerman-ic listening. Recorded at various sites that seem to cluster around the American West, it begins with a long section of dry objects rubbed, rustled and otherwise gently assaulted. As ever, Jerman possesses an uncanny sensitivity and sensibility in his choice of objects, touch and sound placement, something very "natural" but also quick and unhesitant. An interlude of booming noises, sounding as though he's smacking the edge of his fist against an empty oil drum briefly shifts the focus, before the raspy shaking and rattling resumes. There seem to be machines or rotating devices in play, recalling the shaking tables used in his fantastic 'Lithiary' (Fargone, 2005) and the work closes with echoes of that, what sounds like marbles being rolled around the top of a rough, circular surface. Jerman is wonderful at extracting a nearly infinite amount of sounds and layers from the most basic of substances. He does so once again, here.