Sunday, September 28, 2008

Finally, after a number of years waiting to do so, I've seen Bela Tarr's "Sátántangó" (in three Netflix installments, spaced over a month, interrupted by vacation). It was worth the wait.

On a purely formal level, I'm not sure there's a single shot over seven hours I wouldn't be happy to gaze at for seven more. Just one unbelievably rich, gorgeously constructed image after another. Partly the sheer quality of the black and white film, partly his tendency to deal with depth by having everything in focus (allowing the viewer to shift his/her gaze round much as one does in reality), partly his unerring compositional genius, often using symmetrical shots (like the long, straight roads perspectivally attenuating into the distance) as a kind of continuo, a pedal point anchoring the others. Within almost every shot, there are dozens of elements which, themselves, contain tons of fascinating detail and, consequently, imply an enormous history. The town is like a depository of time.

The sound is also incredible; the musical interludes are fine but more the actual groans, shuffles and spatter of the environment.

And, of course, the people. Opaque on the one hand but mostly due to the grime and oppression of centuries, believing to one degree or another in their autonomy, but still essentially pawns. The sheer stolidness, but with a glimmer here and there. The awful, virtually alien Estike.

Amazing film. Jon, I know it's one of your favorites (maybe your #1) and I think I remember you gearing up a while back to watch it through it a sitting. Did that ever happen? I was picking up quite a few in-movie echoes but likely missed some due to the time span over which I watched. I'll certainly be buying the set for myself sometime soon. I can easily imagine viewing it on at least a yearly basis.


New arrivals:

Michael Rodgers, solo disco on Black Petal
Christopher McFall - This Heat Holds Snow
Kassel Jaeger - [ee[nd]]
Marcel Duchamp - Complete Music (SEM Ensemble)
Roscoe Mitchell - Nonaah
Teiji Ito - Watermill

Friday, September 26, 2008

And three more...

The Epicureans (David Gross/Saxophone, Ricardo Donoso/Drums, Ryan McGuire/Bass) - Introducing the Epicureans (Semata)

Annoying group name (a play on the fine film, The Aristocrats?), seriously irritating track titles ("Scum of the Earth" [what, Zorn circa 1988?] & "Not Produced by John Cale but Don't You Wish It Was" [erm, no]), Not my cuppa, too itchy and scratchy, but it does work well enough on its own terms; it fills the canvas as we used to say in art school, and does so efficiently. At its best when soft, though the trio runs the gamut.

Greg Kelley - Self-Hate Index (Semata)

First solo Kelley in a little while, I think pretty much unmodified (not that it's important but, if so, I've no idea how he does certain things). I'm pretty sure the first track, for instance, was achieved by attaching a contact mic to a horsefly while it was being tortured by a small child. Kelley ranges from delicacy to extreme noise here, as usual my favorites being when the former is more in play. The second track, "These are distractions", is particularly gorgeous as it navigates from abstraction to pure tones. Nice record. semata

Katsura Yamauchi - Houri (Salmo Fishing)

Odd. Yamauchi overdubs himself on sopranino, soprano, alto and baritone saxophones, between two and six reeds per track (18 of them, usually fairly short). It's very tame, kinda like WSQ at its most clean and polite, sometimes referencing Rahsaan, more often having a certain European sound, even particularly a Dutch one, hearkening to Breuker, ICP, etc. Strangely un-Asian except for a cut or two including one ("Chikushi") which seems directly derived from Korean hojok music. The other good cut is an 8-minute improvisation which is a fine confluence of soft sounds, drones and key pops. Overall, though, pleasant but bland. Available from erstdist

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Some brief-ish notes...

Joel Stern - objects.masks.props (naturestrip)

Like some Southeast Asian fever dream, Stern's constructions throb, mutate and insinuate themselves under your skin. Wielding a range of sound sources from rabid dogs to accordion to dirt, skirting the ground between noise and melody, he comes up with a really fun recording and a couple of stellar tracks ("Dead Lakes" and the closing "Fortitude End", for me). Different from what I've heard from Stern before (which I've generally liked a bunch) and very enjoyable.

Loren Chasse - the footpath (naturestrip)

Evaluating field recording-based releases is always problematic. For me, it's often a matter of how evocative the sounds are, how they cause the natural sounds to resonate a bit differnetly than I might hear them or how they're placed in relation to one another or within one antoher...gets fuzzy pretty quickly, you see. Chasse's constructions here are fine, though they lacked the kind of magic I've encountered in, say, Tsunoda. Might require closer listening on my part, however, as I get the feeling I may be missing some relationships between the sounds. As is, there's one track I really enjoy (the fourth, possibly titled--hard to say for sure--"What caused my footfall..."). Curious to get others' opinions. naturestrip

And, via Lebanon:

Mawja (Michael Bullock/Mazen Kerbaj/Vic Rawlings) Studio One (Al Maslakh)

A solid, fairly quiet improv session from 2005 with a couple of real outstanding tracks, happily the longest ones, very fine pieces that more than hold their own with the slightest elements. Good job, a nice one to pair with the Feeney/Rawlings disc on Sedimental.

Christine Sehnaoui/Michel Waisvisz - Shortwave (Al Maslakh)

Altoist Sehnaoui join the late Waisvisz (here playing his own invention, "the hands" (sensors attached to his fingers, movement of which activates sounds) for five improvisations from 2006. My first encounter with Sehnaoui and, going from this, like many saxophinists venturing into this field, her music is better the more restrained it is, as in cut two, "Preciously Empty", which, as in the previous disc, is both lengthy (17 min) and true to its title. Nice dronage on the final cut as well. Elsewhere they (well, more Waisvisz than Sehnaoui) get a bit too gurglingly gabby for my taste but given that's likely their aim, they comport themselves rather ably.

Stephane Rives - Much Remains to be Heard (Al Maslakh)

When last heard from in a solo context, Rives was turning his conceptual microscope on small slivers of sound capability within his soprano. Well, he appears to have increased the magnification a hundred fold or so, now concentrating on the molecular level. A single piece (with several substantial silences), Rives begins with very high, sinelike tones, not all that far from a Sachiko performance and gradully fans out into adjacent clusters. There are times when it perhaps falls on the "science experiment" side of things, but then, on a few occasions, you suddenly find yourself amidst great and unusual beauty. Once about midway through, before you know it, there are four or five things occurring in a complex weave. Later, a low throb does odd things to one's ears. Very dense, tough stuff. Again, something I'd love to have heard live, to experience these sounds in a live space, but...Fine work. Rives remains the one saxophonist I'm most interested in hearing these days. al maslakh

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

5 Modules V - Ryu Hankil/Choi Joonyong/Hong Chulki (Manual)

For the final entry in this generally excellent series, we're presented with three compositions, one from each participant (Ryu/clockworks, Choi/CD player, Hong/turntables). "Musicboxxx" involves all sorts of mechanical rhythms, sounding a bit like the archetypal clock factory at noon, the layers of regularly paced clatter interspersed with enamel-fracturing squeaks. Not what I wuold've expected, but oddly enjoyable. "Pieces" continues this rather surprising rhythmic obsession but in a less regular, monolithic manner, aflutter with beats of various timbres and speeds, none overtly related to one another, before breaking down into a slightly more chaotic mix, still rhythmic but less regular. A silence, further dissolution of pace. A silence, a blip. Nice work. The last track, "Feedback ring for three electric players", contains rhythm as well, though at the onset it's far more subtle and elastic, as swatches of feedback emerge and recede amidst static and clangor. Eventually, the delicate quasi-rhythm of a small, hard object being swirled about in a metallic bowl is heard, soon overcome by feedback drone and a muted alarm clock buzzer. Strong piece, my favorite of the disc.

The above was written before viewing the composition notes (here). Interesting, especially with regard to the second piece and my perception of dissolution. Considering where this series began, with some extremely fine and adventurous music situated at the hyper-spare end of the spectrum, the final installment is surprising but no less fascinating and forward-looking. Recommended!

Lee Hangjun/Hong Chulki - Expanded Celluloid Extended Phonograph (Balloon + Needle)

Two videos by Lee Hangjun with sound by Hong Chulki (turntables) plus an extra live performance.

Both of Lee's videos use a similar format: twinned screens displaying generally abstract imagery (though often infiltrated by footage from various sources) based on film stock that appears to have been treated chemically including, one guesses, by "natural" processes like heat, elemental exposure, maybe biological growth) then reprocessed digitally. The film origin manifests in that upward movement I've mentioned before, something I find a little distracting. The images are usually formally related to each other, at least by a like corroded quality, occasionally more directly via reflected, out-of-phase use of the same image. The overall tone is in the brown/ocher range with flashes of other colors and sometimes opposition of, say, bluish and flame orange aspects of otherwise similar footage (very effective). There's an enormous sense of speed enhanced by Hong's brutalist turntable, especially in the first piece, "The Cracked Share" (think Yoshihide at his most violent); Hong's work is pretty great throughout. The second piece, "Metaphysics of Sound", is somewhat more contemplative, the imagery revolving around film sprocket holes, Hong using actual records as a prime sound source (how old-fashioned! ;-)) and perhaps all the more effective for pulling back a tad.

Do I like it? Well, yes but most often when I'mm able to really immerse myself, something difficult to do via TV screen. Imagining the works performed in a larger room, the images projected on walls (perhaps being run in duplicate so one is surrounded), I think it would be quite the experience. The supplemental track gives hints of just that and, again to the extent you can place yourself in situ, it appears pretty fantastic.

balloon + needle

Both discs available stateside from erstdist

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Partially to assuage the distaste of those regular readers towards the Curran and Cuypers pix, but mostly because I'm utterly enjoying wallowing in this. Been listening to The Inexahustible Document several times over the past few days. Always loved it, of course, but wallowing in the sucker is almost too pleasurable.

It appeared about three years after AMM's previous release, "Combine + Laminates" (Treatise '84 being appended for the CD reissue) and was the first recorded example of the trio playing with a guest, Rohan de Saram. Hard to say whether it was de Saram's presence (or simply the fact of four musicians) or a leap in the intervening years (or both), but at least as far as recorded material goes, this was the first time all the dross accumulated from the 70s diaspora (Amalgam and PLO in Rowe's case, Prevost/Gare, Supersession, the Japo release) has been entirely shed. I'd been interested in listening to C+L and Generative Themes how the vestiges of those approaches could still be picked up; not throughout, but often enough. As a complete document, this is the first time in some 15 or more years AMM attained the kind of "heights" they achieved in the late 60s (The Crypt), although oriented in another direction entirely, one much more attuned to contemporary classical (not just due to de Saram). His work here, relatively conservative though it is in terms of technique and an often near-Romantic approach, also seems to free Tilbury to investigate deeper, darker areas. As much as Prevost reins in his jazzier tendency--which he does magnificently here--Rowe's just astonishing in his reticence, really signalling toward later concerns. Great, great stuff.

As relaxing and, consequently, work-inducing as it is out here in Montauk, half of me is missing being in Japan for the Amplify fest which, per reports on IHM and a couple of mails from Keith, seems to have resulted in some rather good music thus far.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Alvin Curran - For Cornelius/Era Ora (New Albion)

I'm not hugely knowledgeable about Curran's oeuvre; I have a few discs and, of course, know his work with MEV but, that said, this is my favorite, especially Side One. Two pieces for piano, the first for Cardew (played here by Ursula Oppens), written immediately after his death in 1981. A central section of whirling, cloudy minimalism recalls Charlemagne Palestine more than Cardew but is still effective. Bracketing it, however, are two stunning...elegies? Somber, graceful, moving music evoking huge loss. It's very "straight", not in essence too different than, say, a Satie Nocturne. I often find myself wondering if I give too much credit for contemporary works like this, whether composing such is "too easy" for anyone worth his/her salt. I don't think so, given the number of quasi-similar, awful, smarmy pieces one stumbles across, but the possibility gnaws at me a bit. (I think about that with Skempton sometimes as well, but usually brush aside such absurd notions!)

"Era Ora", for two pianists (Oppens and Rzewski), is a more frenetic, precise kind of minimalism; it actually sounds at times a little like the strains Jarrett used to get into in his improvisations in the 70s, just continually beating down one area of the keyboard. It closes with another soft, pensive section, a raindrop-y theme, again quite beautiful.

Not sure of its current availability (no images of this LP cover, natch), but well worth hearing.

When I first heard the Willem Breuker Kollektief, the first notes I actually encountered were courtesy of pianist Leo Cuypers, the opening chords to the piece "Ouverture, 'La Plagiata'". I've long felt that, despite Henk de Jonge's steely technical ability, the Kollektief lost a vital component when Cuypers left, a liquidity of style, a kind of eeliness, after which the band was never quite the same (despite some excellent recordings early in de Jonge's tenure). Cuypers was one of those players just dripping with musicality, who never lacked for lyricism no matter how outside he went. My understanding was a drinking problem led to his ouster; hopefully he's doing better these days.

I have three LPs under Cuypers' name (though arguably his best, 'Zeeland Suite', I have on a CD burn;). "Theatre Music" (BVHaast 017), from 1977 features a trio on Side One (with Arjen Gorter and Martin van Duynhoven), Breuker joining the group on the second. Cuypers' compositions are typical from this period, lilting, hyper-melodic riffs that probably owe a bit to Jarrett but, imho, are the equal of the latter's pieces from the mid-70s. "G.L.T." sounds like the best piece Dave Brubeck never wrote. Very pretty recording.

"In Amsterdam" (BVHaast 028) is a pleasant solo recital from 1979, pretty enough at some points to be heard as good mainstream film music. Maybe a smidgen of Abdullah Ibrahim influence in here. Not that it's my favorite area of music by any means these days, but I'd love to hear Cuypers come in and play a local jazz haunt, downtown NYC; he'd probably be quite the sensation...

Neither of the above have ever been issued to disc, to the best of my knowledge (no cover images either), so good luck finding them, but that's not the case with:

Those cover photos always crack me up.

Reissued by Atavistic a few years ago, very enjoyable date, Breuker in excellent form, Bennink in full swing mode and Gorter just so strong. Again, far more imagination and joy--while sticking pretty closely to a melodic jazz form--than heard from any number of far better known players.

Andrew Cyrille/Milford Graves - Dialogue of the Drums (IPS)

Man, can't believe there's no image on-line of this one. Ridiculous. Well, it is something of a rarity, as I understand it. A live recording from 1974, performed at Columbia University, never, I don't think, released on disc. A pretty great show, Cyrille and Graves playing a few dozen instruments including, in the former's case, his own skin. Wonderful call and response with the audience toward the end, vocally and percussively. I think, at the time I first heard this ('75 or so), I might have felt it was "too earthy", the yowls and grunts perhaps making me a bit uncomfortable. It does sometimes verge on the sort of quasi-mystical nonsense you get at your random Viz Fest but somehow, happily, never gets there. I imagine because Cyrille and Graves believed more strongly in the completeness of what they were about than many musicians these days. Just guessing, though. "The soul is the music!"

So, I've made it through the C's in my LP collection. Only took a couple of years...

As of Friday, we'll be in Montauk for a couple of weeks, me writing, reading and relaxing. Not sure if we'll have connectivity; if not, see everyone at the end of the month.

Vacation reading:

Umberto Eco - Turning Back the Clock
Will Self - The Book of Dave


Damn, just saw that Esther Venrooy and Heleen Van Haegenborgh are going to be performing at Roulette on the 26th, the day I get back. Hope I can make it...

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Keith Rowe/Seymour Wright -3D (w.m.o/r)

It's an issue, of course, that arises all the time but for myself a little more so in the past few weeks while I was dealing with the Capece DVDs--the necessary inaccuracy of a given capture of a performance that acknowledges the space within which it occurs. In that, I suppose, the majority of recorded eai discs are essentially live performances and generally of a subtle nature, this problem can be especially thorny. So it was a nice happenstance that I received this set the other day which contains three recordings from different vantage points within the concert space, using different equipment, of an event created by Rowe and Wright in Derby, 2002.

The music itself is pretty fine, Rowe in kind of post-Weather Sky mode. I'm much less familiar with Wright's history but here, he seems to travel between blown and percussive/rubbed sounds on his alto. It would take many more comparative listens to determine what's missing in one version, what's heard in another and, in all honesty, I doubt I'll get to that level of interrogation. There are salient "events" easily picked out of the sea of abstraction and I guess one could isolate them, play them back to back, note the variations, but someone else, not me.

What I can do, however, and am indeed doing as I type this, is play all three simultaneously. It so happens I have three CD-playing devices in my room: the stereo, the PC and the XBox and while the latter two aren't by any means ideal, it's worth a go. I noticed the total time varied somewhat so precise syncing seemed a fool's errand and, besides, I'm not so much interested in that as in constructing a "blurred" performance, so I just began them within 15 or so seconds of each other and am sitting back and enjoying the result. Since my stereo speakers are to the rear and the other two in front of me, I automatically get a spatial effect I don't in routine listening. Plus, it seems the events of the concert are enough out of sync that there's no real echo effect, rather gaps of 30-40 seconds between recognizable episodes. Sounds great, actually! Hard to imagine, now, listening to it otherwise. (Coincidentally, I played Terry Riley's "You're No Good" at Record Club this past week, so I have that quasi-similar experiment kicking around in the noodle as well. I was also reminded of the set Mattin did with Malfatti at Tonic a couple years back where he recorded audience sound, playing it back some minutes later, enough time having elapsed that one's recollection of a given cough or chair squeak was slightly uncertain). Just now, some 23 minutes in, Wright lets loose with four relatively clear honks; they made it from XBox to PC to stereo in about a minute, the way the discs are staggered and did, in fact, sound remarkably different in tone, richness, etc. (allowing, to be sure, for the relative deficiencies of my own playback equipment) When Wright begins (I'm assuming) jangling metal objects against his horn or within its bell, the immersive, shimmering effect is quite ticklish!

In that it's on w.m.o/r, you can readily try this yourself (or not), via free download here. I highly recommend doing so and, if you have the means, experiencing the three discs more or less at once. Very rewarding and refreshing.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Lucio Capece/Sergio Merce – Casa (Organized Music from Thessaloniki)

Over the last few years, Capece has become one of the musicians I most look forward to hearing, largely because of the fact that he seems to approach each project with several specific, wide-ranging and imaginative ideas. There’s always something going on in addition to two or more people simply sitting down and playing, as rewarding as that may be. Lucio was kind enough to recently send me four DVDs of performances in which he was involved over the last year and, while he’d prefer they not be “reviewed”, I’ll just say that each was extremely impressive in a different way and strongly whetted my appetite to hear/see more.

On ‘Casa’, he’s joined by fellow Argentinean Sergio Merce (a new name to me) for two forceful though serene pieces. On the first and longest, “Virar, virar”, Capece plays the sruti box (augmented with an electronic filter), a kind of portable squeezebox which I imagine is capable of a couple of octaves but which he lets abide in a fairly constant drone for the first half of the 30-minute work, what changes occur doing so via the filter. Merce manipulates a “four track portastudio without tape”, sounds generated via direct interaction with the instrument’s surface and use of its equalizers. The reedy sound of the sruti, wonderful in and of itself, acts as an absorbent cushion for all the prickly, clattering and whirring noises created by Merce. Midway through, they very slightly shift gears, Capece, while maintaining the drone, allowing it to mutate and phase in a more agitated manner, Merce at the same time apparently coaxing smoother sounds from his portastudio, resulting in the piece wandering into territory that, had he maintained his genius, Terry Riley might be investigating today. Beautiful work.

The remaining cut is a 7 ½ minute duet for bass clarinet (Capece) and tenor saxophone (Merce). Its structure (it seems to have been “composed”) is simple but very effective: Synchronous held tones, always softly played but not quite edging into full breathiness, held for 15-20 seconds with three or four seconds of silence between. The result has a certain loose regularity of pulse, but each “pool” is varied so one has the sense of experiencing natural phenomena, like a series of strata in limestone. Recalled Roscoe Mitchell’s wonderful “Tnoona” at points. Very moving in its concision and its poetic overtones.

Excellent recording, hear it! organized music from thessaloniki

SLW – SLW (Formed)

A veritable eai super-group with Burkhard Beins, the omnipresent Lucio Capece, Toshi Nakamura and Rhodri Davies (why SLW? No idea.) One improvisation, about 56 minutes. The first couple of times I listened, not too much was really grabbing me. It seemed to fall on the wrong side of that ephemeral line between haphazard and random (the latter being somehow more interesting). Not unlistenable, of course—not likely with these four—but a bit routine, a bit without any reason for being I could grasp. Several listens later, I’m still not entirely sold, though there are certainly parts that cohere beautifully, even if it’s only because of the introduction, for example, of throbbing low tones some 25 minutes in. Sometimes I think such deep pulse are the grooves of eai and feel a bit guilty about readily succumbing to them…From that point until the close, SLW holds my interest but I’ve yet to be as knocked out as I might have hoped. I hold out the sizable possibility that I’m missing something, though. formed

Vorwolf – Snake’s Eye (Formed)

I’m all for percussion duos. Something about the configuration triggers some excitement hairs, more so when it’s obvious we’re not talking battle royale thrash-outs, though the sumo imagery and track titles references gave me pause here. Vorwolf, as one might suspect, comprises Michael Vorfeld and Christian Wolfarth, I believe engaged in an entirely acoustic pursuit on this occasion. Far more rubbing and bowing than tapping, the pair is capable of generating some rich, expansive work as on “Illegal Technique” and several other tracks. It’s one of those recordings where I really feel I’m missing something not being in the performance room, able to move about and bathe in the sounds. I think I might have preferred longer pieces rather than the seven mid-length cuts here but, as is, it’s still solid and enjoyable. formed

Monday, September 01, 2008

Just a brief mention that, a couple weeks back, I happened across a copy of Bernhard Gál's "Installations/Installationen, a catalog of his work covering sound and light installations from the past decade. Fascinating, imaginative pieces for the most part, as near as one can tell without actually experiencing them. There's a CD enclosed with 19 tracks from various set-ups, many of which work just fine as aural art. The above image is from Klangbojen, wherein eight sound/light objects are set afloat in a lake, emitting synthetic and field-recorded sounds as well as light patterns.

Worth looking into if it's in your aesthetic bailiwick. Amazon link to what I imagine is the purely English edition (? different cover than mine, which has the image above).



Rick Moody - Right Livelihoods (just finished--three good novellas)

Natsume Soseki - Kokoro