Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Steven Hess/Miles Tilmann - Departures (other electricities)

A set of six tracks released on vinyl (relatively brief, about 1/2 hour). The initial impression was of a take on Jon Hassell's Fourth World music and while that tinge remained throughout, the bulk of the music is far more reminiscent of Radian, Hess not quite as supernaturally metronomic as Brandlmayr but in the same ballpark. "Departures" doesn't have the same bit, though. It's lush and easy to sink into, but I wanted to hear more grit, more urgency. The final cut, "six by six" comes the closest. Hear a bit for yourself at the OE site

Esther Venrooy/Heleen Van Haegenborgh - Mock Interiors (entr'acte)

Very smooth hums and drones, verging on the "too smooth" but never quite settling there, always containing an itch here, an uncomfortable squiggle there. Van Haegenborgh contributes piano and harmonium to Venrooy's electronics, keeping things generally tonal and calm. External sounds occasionally intrude, but overall the 11 pieces bubble and flow along, never quite achieving the depth of Venrooy's prior releases on the label, but enjoyable enough. For listeners wanting to get beyond Eno, etc. (btw, my copy came enswathed in black crepe--not sure if this was a packing decision or the intended packaging but, whatever, it was coolly mysterious)

Chamber Music Concerts, vol. 1 (Okura, Sugimoto, Unami) hibarislubloadfactor joint release, 3 discs.

Tom & Jerry (Sugimoto) One is tempted to hear this as a hyper-slowed down cartoon chase and violence scenario befitting its title. Organ (or an approximation thereof) and drum and silence. Fine subtle over- and undertones in the keyboard, good use of space, inevitably recalling kabuki. Oh, and those rising scales appear, a bit truncated. It's the kind of piece I imagine I'd having a tough time sitting through if in the same room, but could enjoy from an adjacent space as one sound-element in a larger situation. Not sure if that's complimentary or not, though I think Taku wouldn't mind.

one, two, three, and many (Okura) A relative plethora of sound with Xavier Charles (clarinet), Sugimoto (acoustic guitar) and Unami (acoustic guitar). As almost everything on this production, it's spacious; here the odd twang (reminds me a bit of Partch's kithara) offsets the occasional soft, reedy cry. It's warmer than the preceding piece and I could see enjoying it live, no problem. Nice work.

4 pieces for violin accompanied with 2 guitars (Unami). Same guitarists as above, this time on electric, along with Hiroki Chiba on violin. Meatier still (while remaining lean), in four shortish sections, the first featuring lovely held tones from the violin over struck and strummed guitar--excellent piece. Next, more agitated bow strokes, a staccato feel while the third is almost playfully pointillist. The final portion dissolves almost completely into small drops and smears. Interesting little suite...

Infold (Okura) for solo harp (Yuko Uesu)
--eh, didn't much for me...bland.

Thirteen Steps (Unami) for koto (Ryuko Mizutani), bass clarinet (Okura), acoustic guitar (Sugimoto) and "contraguitar" (explanation, please) (Unami). Again, despite the coloration, didn't grab me--maybe the pacing was too regular, dunno.

Life with Gravity (Okura) for trumpet (Axel Dorner), alto (Okura), and two electric guitars (the Taku's). More interesting, somehow. The repeated trumpet tones toward the end get quasi-hypnotic and the piece carves out a good space.

D (Sugimoto) for three electric guitars (Tetuzi Akiyama & the Taku's) Quite beautiful, kind of an attenuated version of his music from the "Opposite" period.

Chamber Orchestra I (Sugimoto) A septet including two voices, gradually won me over after a dry start--the repeated (every 30 or so seconds) guitar chords provide a friendly tonal center.

Bass Trombone & Chamber Orchestra (Sugimoto) Kanji Nakao on the low horn + two altos and three guitars. A minute of silence, a deep foghorn bellow, then a series of points and a handful of held tones, over only five minutes. The trombone does get a bit scalar...not to the piece's benefit.

Kinoshita-Kun (Unami) Quintet for violin, alto & three guitars. This one works quite well, nice offsets between long drones on the violin and brief guitar plucks, with the breathy alto acting as glue. Good one.

Uesu-san (Unami) Solo harp. Very beautiful track, its spareness interrupted mid-piece by a disturbing stereotypical harp flourish, clearly achieving the goal of disorientation.

Ezaki-san (Unami) For trumpet (Ezaki), trombone (Nakao) and tuba (Takero Sekijima). OK, but failed to compel real interest, maybe due to the similarity in tones. Interesting, in this extreme context, which structures work (for me) and which don't.

xc (Okura) Solo clarinet (Charles) eh, sounds like a warmed-over Braxton piece from 1977.

Red Scarf, Red Curtain (Okura) For violin and two guitars. Like the title, not the piece so much. A little high-strung and wheedling.

Tres Amigos (Okura) Three electric guitars. Getting a bit tired maybe, but again, didn't find anything special on this track. Reminded me of parts of Crimson's "Moonchild", not a bad thing, but...

California Guitar Trio (Unami) Beautiful work to end the set with, again getting into Partchian tonalities at certain points, dreamy with a tinge of queasiness.

So overall, obviously, a mixed bag but in general, I thought Unami's pieces took the cake. Happy to have as wide-ranging a collection as this one out there and if you're at all interested in the area, pretty much a must-have. Besides, I imagine opinions will vary as to the value of given works.

I believe erstdist is stocking them.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

It's fairly rare in this neck of the woods to experience a concert made up of three different performances where each one was strong in its own unique way and where, looking back, you find yourself thinking of each of them almost equally and fondly.

At Issue Project Room this past Saturday, this was the happy situation, at least for myself--I get the feeling most there, while likely enjoying all three sets, were
knocked out by the final one and I can see their point. (Mudd, at I Hate Music, has a fine take of his own.

First up, however, was the duo of Bhob Rainey and Jason Lescalleet who are on schedule for an Erstwhile release sometime within a year or so. Taking best advantage of the long, rectangular space, Rainey situated himself more or less in the middle, Jason toward the rear though still having audience members behind him. Rainey began with a series of extremely controlled, very quiet breath tones, quite beautiful in and of themselves. Jason, I thought for a moment, was engaging in Sugimoto aesthetics, simply sitting behind his devices and listening for several minutes. Unbeknownst to me, he had placed four digital recorders on the music stand in front of Rainey and they were doing their work. Eventually he stood up, gathered in one of them, turned it on back where it had begun recording and placed it on the floor near the rooms entrance. Over the next 15 or so minutes, he did the same with each of the recorders, positioning them at various spots in the room. I thought this worked superbly, a fine example, I guess, of the sort of "process music" that bothers some fans but which I really love. Depending where one sat, I imagine you'd get varying ratios of live Rainey and taped and, for me, the piece lost a bit of focus as it went on but still hit some marvelous points, especially with Rainey interacting and blending with himself and the amplified room noise. Very fine set and sets ones anticipation at a high point for their eventual recorded collaboration

Next up was nmperign (Rainey and Greg Kelley) with Sean Meehan. You sort of know what you're likely to be in for with this particular combination and it's a testament to their deep musicianship that, even when this eventuates, there's more than enough going on that the listener can continue to hear things (s)he hadn't noticed before, pick up patterns previously unperceived. So, yes, it was quiet (I'm told Sean plays loud every so often, but I've never experienced this), the three used the kind of sounds they're known for but still, it worked marvelously, full of small peaks and valleys and never causing this listener's interest or fascination to waver. Plus, crucially, it was of precisely the right length, maybe 20-25 minutes, full to the rim and then cut off.

Graham Lambkin had wowed a few of us with his "Salmon Run", quickly followed up by the very fine "The Breadwinner" with Jason, this being something of a delayed record release event. Lambkin, until the prior evening in western Massachusetts, hadn't performed live in several years and never (I don't think) in this kind of improvising situation. He did rather well. The set had a wonderful form as a whole, even as it was subdivided into several sections; it kind of read as an album, in a way. Describing it all would be nigh impossible, but suffice it to say that Lescalleet was manipulating his noisemakers with both ferocity and sensitivity (none of the floor tape machines, btw, though two smaller ones on his table with correspondingly shorter tape loops employed) and Lambkin's feeds into that maelstrom were pointed and simply beautiful, including a recording of Ave Maria and an incredible choral piece which he later said he didn't know the title or composer of, though it was performed by the Tallis Scholars (If anyone knows, please inform me). The show climaxed--and the word is perfectly appropriate here--with Jason chanting a lyric from, I would be informed later (sorta proud not to have known) from a Kiss song, "You have such great expectations." He did this un-miked and fairly quiet at first, then made himself something of a human tape-loop, iterating the phrase at gradually increased levels of both volume and rage. Not sure if anyone was keeping count, but I'd guess that he was up over 25 times, by which point it had long since become an anguished howl, before things subsided. A little bit intense. One of the many things I love about Jason's music is his willingness to include "dangerously" emotional elements, things one could easily abuse and turn to schmaltz but with which he manages to retain a real rigor and clarity of intent. Powerfully done.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

(I know, I know, that's not the proper cover--but I can't locate an image of one more than about an inch square anywhere....)

Toshimaru Nakamura/English (Joe Foster, Bonnie Jones)- One Day (Erstwhile).

Very tough, excellent recording, hard (for me) to fully grasp--don't know that I have, yet--but I like it a lot. I often have this problem with "open-circuit" musicians, probably not for any good reason--it takes a while for things to sink in. Might also have to do with the way this music straddles and hops around the middle ground between extended sounds and isolated ones. Just when you're beginning to appreciate something on a drone-like level (more hum than drone, actually), it breaks off and just when you're beginning to enjoy the placement of small, crackly sounds in space, a hum sets in. You kind of have to aurally "step back" and reconcile the two--or I do, anyway, and that's only one thing going on here. Took me a good four or five listens to do so and I'm happily bathing in the music at this point. Really good, really challenging. After all's said and done, maybe my favorite release this year.

[Ok, here we go--it's a beautiful cover, worthy of reproduction]

I never quite understand how certain items find their way to my mailbox, though I'm generally grateful that they do. This is, by my tastes, an odd example of that phenomenon. Loïc Dequidt's "Nomade" (Kopasetic) is a quartet date with the leader on saxophones, Tommy Smith (I take it something of an ECM veteran) on piano, Mattias Hjorth on bass, and drummer Peter Nilsson. [Edit: Oy, I'm an idiot--see comments below. That's what I get for not reading the credits more closely. My general evaluation stands, however] I guess there are many of these types of musicians around, that is, Jan Garbarek disciples, but it's still a bit shocking to hear what sounds for all the world like a mid-70s Garbarek session. Odder still that, were it the case, it would be a really good one, something maybe short of "Witchi-Tai-To" (though probably at least as good as "Nude Ants"), but not unreasonably so. Now, I don't particularly understand why one would want to replicate the music some 30 years after the fact, but if that's your thing, give Dequidt a try--very strong on its own terms.

A quartet date, recorded in 2003 but just released, with Mike Bullock (bass), James Coleman (theremin), David Gross (alto sax) & Steve Roden (voice, objects, electronics) on (1.8)sec. Solid, quiet (mostly) improv recording with, occasionally, a bit of a ritualistic sound, as in the second cut (an excellent one) where Roden & Bullock (I think?) set up a slow, deep pulse, Coleman and Gross breathing above--very effective. Some of the best work I've heard from those involved.

Inveterate loon (I mean that in a good way) Tom Djll has teamed up with electronicist/turntablist/film maker Tim Perkis in a duo called Kinda Green (recorded three or four years ago), and has issued a self-produced disc that may not be available anywhere other than through the principals (try Tom's MySpace page). While my exposure to Djll's music in the past has been relatively small, what I have heard tended to contain more of a wacky component than I was typically comfortable with. While there's certainly a healthy dollop of wackitude (including some echoes of Sun Ra's goofier synth work) herein, there's also a level of restraint at play, a sense of molding the burbling hysteria, that works pretty well. The highlight is the 23-minute "Sagebrush Drip Kyrie", a cool, low-key rumination with much subtle variation in texture and color that maintains focus and commands attention throughout, with minimal joking. Strong piece.


Went out to fotofono in Brooklyn for the first time last night, experiencing a reasonably satisfying trio of performances--Will Guthrie, (great to see you again, Will!) solo, constructed an enjoyably rocky and bumptious set making much use of heavy springs strung across inverted cymbals and other amplified objects and dangling wires; he elbowed his way toward a couple of fine coalescences of sound.

Barry Weisblat (electronics) and Andrew Lafkas (string bass) played an unusual set where both stayed, for the duration, in a fairly tonal drone area, Barry playing far more smoothly than I've ever heard him before, Lafkas bowing richly. For the first six or eight minutes, it was absorbing but then something--always fascinating to try, unsuccessfully, to quantify exactly what--went awry and the remainder of the music failed to gel.

Guthrie then returned for a trio with Howard Stelzer (excellent meeting Howie for the first time!) on electronics and cassettes and Newton Armstrong on laptop. As in the opening set, it was deliciously awkward and pothole-filled with some fine music emerging from the inevitable collisions. Very nice mass to the sounds.

Nice, intimate place, Fotofono, too--something of a living room where about 20 can fit with not too much discomfort.


Just arrived and on now, sounding very good: Esther Venrooy/Heleen Van Haegenborgh - Mock Interiors (entr'acte)

Also listened for the first time to the 3-disc set, "Chamber Music Concerts, vol. 1" on (deep breath) hibarislubloadfactor), featuring compositions by Masahiko Okura, Taku Sugimoto and Taku Unami (details here). Some very beautiful stuff buried in there, generally more "full" than I expected, requiring numerous more listens, though.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

“We’re not playing to musicians alone,” Donavon said, “We are playing to the public, you dig, and it’s time for some new music. You say that the Japanese know more about our music than we do? That’s cool–but we made it.”

That was my result, from George Lewis' "A Power Stronger than Itself", when Robert Kirkpatrick, from A Spiral Cage tagged me in this round of the net version of a chain letter, wherein one must:

1) Pick up the nearest book.
2) Open to page 123.
3) Find the fifth sentence.
4) Post the next three sentences.
5) Tag five people, and acknowledge who tagged you.

Thus, I'll annoy several blogging friends, forcing them to play along. Hereby tagged guten well are: Richard Harland Smith (contributor to Movie Morlocks), Pete Cherches (Word of Mouth) and Caleb Deupree (Classical Drone).

Have at it gentlemen...don't blame me!

[edit: I'm only into the second chapter of Lewis' tome, but so far it's very engaging. He's balancing academic and street reasonably well, thus far, maybe a bit overboard on the biographical details, but conjuring up a good picture of the Chicago bop and proto-free scene in the 50s and (halfway through Chapter Two) the racial divisions in NYC in the early 60s. Fun factoid: Joseph Jarman, Fred Anderson and John Cage apparently performed in concert around '68.]