Sunday, December 28, 2008

Marty Ehrlich - The Welcome (Sound Aspects)

Always a little surprised how well this one stands the test of time. His playing and composing on this, his debut as a leader from 1984, owes an enormous debt to Threadgill (with nods to his teacher Hemphill and Blythe as well), but the relative sparseness of the trio (Anthony Cox and Pheeroan Ak Laff) and Ehrlich's happy reluctance to overblow, serve the music well. I don't think I ever caught him leading his own groups but saw him countless times with others, especially Muhal's bands, where he tended to be a strong presence. I think the last time I heard him live was as a part of Eric Friedlander's trio, down in a bookstore on Church St. (?), maybe a dozen years back, of which I have vague but fond memories. (As with many Sound Aspects LPs, no cover image around that I could rustle up).

(Various) Vorwärts und nicht vergessen (Eterna)

Previously mentioned. A collection of German socialist songs from 1929-1932, including several by Hanns Eisler. When I hear songs sung by groups of people in uniform (going from the photos on the backs sleeve) I get the creeps regardless of whether they're from the right or left, nationalist or classist. So I find these choral/orchestral works tough going, not dissimilar to my reaction to most PLM songs from 40-odd years later. There's the benefit of my not really understanding German, I guess, but the mere fact that it is German (forgive my years of conditioning via WWII movies) adds an extra frisson of creepitude. I think I picked this up in a used vinyl bin somewhere, probably intrigued by its unusualness. Worth having for documentary reasons, not so much for pleasure.

Either/Orchestra - Radium (Accurate)

What is it that when an avant-garde outfit (or an ostensible one) does a cover of a pop tune, it whets our interest? I can't deny that it's true (for me), though I hope less so as time goes on. That's doubtless one of the reasons many of us found Zorn so enticing back when. It certainly was the case, in '88 or so, when I heard about Either/Orchestra. Here was a largish jazz band, perhaps an American Kollektief of sorts, putting out a debut record where they not only make the potentially inspired choice of covering Roscoe Mitchell's "Odwalla" (spelled Odwallah here) but also come up with the patently nutso idea of doing a medley combining Monk's "Nutty" with Bobbie Gentry's "Ode to Billy Jo". I mean, the LP practically leapt into my little grubbies.

I was a fan for a while, three or for records (the remainder on disc) but, as with many things from that period, gradually lost interest. They always had a lumbering, shambling quality about them and eventually that slightly leaden nature wore me down. Even here, once you get past the novelty of the covers, there's not so much left of interest. Decent band, good instrumentalists but not much else. Leader Gershon, impressively and obsessively arranges the Mitchell piece basing it scrupulously on the Bap-Tizum version of the work and it's kinda fun hearing the riffs arranged for a larger ensemble, but...Even a lovely tune like "Willow Weep for Me" sounds too much like it's slogging through muddy ground.


Finished Alex Ross' "The Rest is Noise" the other day. Decent, very decent recap of the 20th century from a Euro/US classical point of view with nods (often not much more than that) to other cultures and idioms. I'm fairly sure I don't share too much taste overlap with more current work--Ross seems to love recent Reich and Adams, for instance--but the book reignited a resolution I've had off and on to acquaint or reacquaint myself more thoroughly with much "classical" music from the last century, so it had its value for me. Certainly worth the read and a good thing to offer for friends and/or young 'uns who want to get generally up to snuff.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Colin Andrew Sheffield - Signatures (Invisible Birds)

Al Jones mentioned this recording to me a little while back as one of his favorites of the year and subsequently wrote it up for bagatellen. I imagine one's reaction to it will in large part rest on one's appreciation not only of drone-oriented music, but also of that subsection which is fairly tonal, even luxurious in nature. I find it pretty fascinating even apart from those considerations.

The label appears to involve an orientation around bird song and such sound comprise one element here but Sheffield also incorporates short (obscured, stretched and otherwise manhandled) snatches of existent music, field recordings (including, I take it, birds though if so I couldn't pick it up--the release of this recording was timed to coincide with the 100th birthday anniversary of Messiaen, btw), vinyl scratches and probably much else. He makes a point to mention his non-use of software in his assembling process, preferring a turntable, an old sampler and a multi-track recording system. Whatever the technical means of construction, the four tracks share a similar character: a thick, twining strand of organ-like tones that gradually cede evidence of a huge amount of activity occurring under the surface and, surprisingly within a drone context, much of that activity is rhythmically based.

There are four pieces, two lengthier ones bracketing two of relatively short duration. The first, "Beneath the Waves" (true, his titles can be...awkward) has, I don't know, five or six (more?) lines occurring and each seems to possess its own muffled rhythm. Throbs or pulses, more accurately but somewhat akin to "Music for Airports", they flow along at their own tempi, creating lovely and subtle sonic moire patterns. Sheffield brings given elements to the fore but the listener can also isolate components, often coming to hear certain sounds only late in the work, though they've been there all along. The music can teeter a bit close to the overly gauzy but always maintains enough grit to steer clear. The two shorter pieces are more aggressive, even harsh, reminding me a bit of a toned-down version of the loud track from Rowe/Nakamura's "between".

As is often the case with work tangentially similar to this, though I find it lovely to listen to on disc, I think it might be much better served in a live setting, in an appropriately immersive environment, preferably a non-concert oriented situation, one through which the audience could wander, sit, etc.

Good stuff. Well worth the listen if the general area is up your alley.

invisible birds

Friday, December 26, 2008

Pali Meursault - un(zéro)deux (entr'acte)

I hadn't realized this was a live (solo) performance until after I'd listened a couple of times, which both surprised and impressed me. Meursault has a lot of stuff going on but, to his credit, it never feels crowded, the various textures and sounds playing very well together (like the combination of scraped tones and faunal-sounding "whoops" some 15 minutes in. I take it there are a number of off-kilter mechanical devices set in motion throughout, but however it's accomplished, the matrix that emerges is very alive and both busy and spacious simultaneously. Think a less caloric Jason Lescalleet. Fine recording, growing on me each listen.

Phroq - Half-Asleep Music (entr'acte)

True to its title, Phroq (Francisco Meirino) apparently attempted to create this music only when he was in dire need of sleep. Well, it does have a disjointed character though whether that can be laid on the doorstep of fatigue or otherwise, I can't say. There are some very nice moments, especially when things subside, but there are also too many spacey sections for my taste and the structure, as mentioned, strikes me as too scattered. One's near-sleep sensations may be kind of like the re-telling of dreams: interesting to the teller, for whom the logic retains some vestige of narrative sense, not necessarily to the hearer.

Haptic/Cristal - Velocimane/Çukurova (entr'acte)

A split 10", 45 rpm vinyl. Haptic (pictured above--Joseph Mills, Adam Sonderberg, Steven Hess) contribute dark, strong work ("Velocimane"), structured in long waves of bowed metals and electronics (prepared piano as well, I think?) that develops a fine, brooding feel; very cinematic, in a way. My only complaint is that it feels like a slab lopped off from a larger work. Everything about it screams for greater length and more delving. Exceedingly cruel to slice it off so abruptly! :-)

Cristal (pictured below--Jimmy Anthony, Greg Darden, Bobby Donne) offers a shorter (four minutes or so), less satisfying piece. Its harsh, metallic wash struck me not as inherently intriguing than Haptic's fragment but still, it expires before one can make much of anything of it. I give the benefit of the doubt that both are intentional one way or the other, perhaps intentionally providing a mere sliver of what implied larger works and are interesting if so viewed. Still, I wanted more...


Wednesday, December 24, 2008

I first encountered Richard Garet's work earlier this year in a performance he shared with Asher and Brendan Murray at Issue Project Room, one of the most enjoyable events of the year and one of my favorite music/video concerts in recent memory. His music, at least that which I've heard there and since, fits it with that part of the scene which concerns itself with a melding of field recordings and electronics. There's something inherently different, imho, about it compared with post-AMM improvisation, though it occasionally overlaps (from both directions). One, obviously, is that the recorded work is largely constructed in the studio, not created in real time and even in live performance (I think it's fair to say), many of the elements have been pre-recorded and there's likely to be somewhat more of a sense of foreordained structure, even as aspects might be altered on the fly. These are all generalizations, of course, but when I hear music from Garet, Asher, Christopher McFall and others, they seem to me to occupy a distinct area of the sound-world, at least an area that is easily differentiated from Rowe, Sachiko, etc. I think one part is more of a willingness to watch a process unfurl, to set something in motion and leave it be for an extended period. Even with work like Sachiko's extreme sine pieces, I get the sense that she's hovering intently all the time; there's a huge tension at play re: the possibility of something happening even if "nothing" does. I've only used this referent a few hundred times before, but musicians like Garet strike me as stemming more from an Eno-esque aesthetic, as first appeared in "Discreet Music" and similar work, where the creator is quite content to begin a process and then offer perhaps only a nudge here and there, sharing a listening stance with the audience, just as fascinated by what might happen next.

Again, this is a necessarily gross generalization and there are doubtless as many variants to this approach as there are musicians so engaged. Also, I'm sure many pieces that I hear this way would turn out to have been enormously worked on. Indeed, the two recordings by Garet considered here each take different tacks.

Richard Garet - l'avenir (wind's measure)

"l'avenir" embodies the more minimalist attack of this aesthetic. It's overall arc is clear, it's of a piece, it stays on roughly a single track throughout, presenting its beauty and depth and then disappears down the road. It begins with soft crackles (as with much of the sound here, I'm hesitant to guess at the original source as I've no idea how much, if at all, it's been modified, so bear that in mind) that evoke dripping water and light static. This sonic area appears throughout, that is, "natural" sounds of a lightly percussive aspect. But, as is the case elsewhere I think, there are often three or four layers of such, presenting the listener with likely more depth than can be perceived at a given time, something that makes each listen fresh. Shortly, long, tonal organ-like sounds appear. They have a slightly distant feel, as if heard through a fog, and comprise the other principal aural element. These elements fluctuate through the remainder of the piece, varying somewhat, generally together, occasionally with one advancing, the other receding. The image I get is of a dark, cool night, on the edge of an industrial area of a town, little or no traffic, steam on one's breath. Very satisfying.

winds measure

Richard Garet - Winter (leerraum)

When I first put this disc in my player, it came up as unreadable. Well, this happens from time to time with small labels, doesn't it? Happily, I'd also been sent what was labeled a "stereo version" of the same piece, so I listened to that. While doing so, I found myself thinking: This sounds more like a piece I'd expect to hear accompanied by video. There are more shifts of focus and texture that I was mentally imagining alongside similar changes in visual fields, abstract or realistic. Eventually, I realized that the original leerraum disc was in fact a DVD (no mention of such on the sleeve!). Ah, ok, I thought, let's see about my intuition. Wll, the joke was on me as the visual side of the DVD is a black screen. Its intent is for reproduction on a 4-channel and/or 5.1 sound system, which I lack. Hence the inclusion of the stereo version.....

Although some of the elements reappear, it's more aggressive than "l'avenir" in addition to being more episodic. The hissing crackles and near-sine tones recur but the former are often rougher, more awkward, elbowing their way in instead of emerging gradually. It's not violent by any means, far from it. Just more like 6AM on the same cold morning instead of 3AM, a greater number of incidents occurring. The hums are more insistent, maybe a bit threatening; some of the previously light static has turned rumbling. The shifting implies a more active hand on the part of Garet, bringing this closer to, say, what Jason Lescalleet might accomplish on a very subdued night. At the conclusion, there's no diminution, just a sharp cut. Again, very attractive, thought-provoking work, well worth checking out.


Sunday, December 21, 2008

Iida Katsuaki/Ryu Hankil - Selected poems with Clockworks (Manual)

Operating at a huge disadvantage here, as I don't understand Japanese (the enclosed booklet does provide translations), but I do like what I hear. Katsuaki speaks his works in relative deadpan and, for the first several out of the 20 shortish tracks, the result is rather nondescript. But things pick up almost imperceptibly, Hankil's mechanical rhythms and whirs becoming more and more aggressive, several of the pieces achieving an exquisite balance between the voice and clockwork devices. Good, unusual recording, even if I get the feeling I'd like it less were the words spoken in English.


Available stateside from erstdist

Gunter Müller/Jason Kahn/Norbert Möslang - mkm_msa (For4Ears)

I've given up trying to understand what Müller and company have been on about the last few years. Here we have more of the same, richly textured, yes but maybe overly so in a sickly sweet sense, almost always weighted down with vacuous beats and throbs. I imagine that if you were wandering around nearby one of the six events from which the tracks here were excerpted (that's another thing--excerpts?) and had some interest in what passes for experimental rock these days (or, better, of a Laswellian persuasion), you might be intrigued enough to pop in. If that's the motivation, fine, I guess. But for those of us who thought Müller, earlier in the decade, was one of the strongest, most vital creators out there, recordings like this one are a bitter pill.

Alfred 23 Harth/Hans Joachim Irmler/Gunter Müller - Taste Tribes (For4Ears)

Though by no means great, this offering has far more going for it, if only because it surprises a fair amount. Cobbled together by Harth from duo recordings he'd done with Muller and Irmler (of Faust), there's much greater breadth of sounds (including breathy saxophonics), interesting match-up of sonic blocks, etc. and best of all, no leaden beats! There are some loopy, overly spacey moments, yes, but it's pretty listenable throughout and solid at its best.


Saturday, December 20, 2008

Allowing that I'm coming from a position of extreme prejudice, it's nonetheless fascinating to hear new work from Keith Rowe and try to understand what it is that makes the music so unique, so more considered than the great majority of other music in roughly the same area. One obvious aspect is that he brings a wealth of ideas to any performance. Another, when it's a collaboration, is his enormous graciousness and a combination of deference and a kind of passive/aggressive manner of insinuating his ideas into the proceedings, often subtly enough that one's first impression is that his partner(s) are the ones driving the sounds, only later realizing that Rowe's enhancement of the event may have had as much or more to do with its success.

The two new releases on erstlive are fine illustrations of both his collaborative mode and, in the case of the solo recording, a rather amazing--if possibly problematic for the innocent listener--example of just how idea-packed his solo projects can be.

The discs were recorded on consecutive days at the AMPLIFY festival held in Tokyo in September of this year. Those familiar with Unami's work, at least that portion involving the deployment of small, mechanical toys, will have a decent idea what to expect. The light chittering of rapid-fire rhythms immediately evokes a childlike atmosphere (more so, I presume, if you've seen him in action, which I've only had occasion to do once) but Rowe quickly offers a counterweight with dark-tinged rumbles and crackles, a much-needed tension, throwing the toy sounds into stark relief. He makes intriguing choices throughout; several times when Unami's sound gets very dense and disquieting, even rude, on its own, Rowe plucks fairly clear, almost pastoral notes from the guitar--a very beautiful opposition of sounds [I'm informed that these notes were actually generated by Unami]. The performance seesaws somewhat between these sections where tension predominates and small pools of psychological unison wherein the musicians find momentary idyllic balance. One also has the impression that Rowe, in anticipation of his solo concert the next day, to some extent cycles through past techniques, a personal, historical inventory of approaches that he'd been thinking about recently.

All in all, it's a wonderful set, a great example of Rowe's ability to both meld and be melded by the situation in which he finds himself. This isn't to discount Unami's contribution by any means; it's more that one sense he occupies his own distinct world, one which he's happy to allow visitors into but is unlikely to alter his approach too much, which is fine. It makes for a more exciting pairing as long as the other half is able to accommodate and, as I think is often the case with Rowe, manage to get something of his own way without his partner's necessarily being aware.

Lovely, complex music; great recording.

Jon had given me an unmastered copy of the solo Rowe set in early October and a mastered version a number of weeks back, so I've lived with it for a while. I don't mind saying that I was initially a little baffled by it, even put off a tad. As most interested listeners know by now, the performance involved the inclusion of four Baroque samples over its course, several minutes of Rameau, Mondonville, Purcell and Alessandro Marcello that emerge at discreet intervals throughout the set. I was aware, of course, that Keith had a great love for this area of music--he used the Mondonville motet as an example of musical profundity a few years ago when addressing an Electronic Music class at Columbia University--but their clearly calculated appearance here had something of a "glued on" quality, a collage-like effect much different from any random radio capture. I kept thinking of the kind of faux-Rauschenberg collages one comes across where examples of classical painting are connected, as it were, by abstract elements. To be sure, there were many moments of great beauty, including the samples--which are gorgeous--as well as wonderful brutalism right through the powerful ending, but as a whole, something nagged at me.

I should know by now, I suppose, that when Rowe pieces together something like this, there's likely far more going on that might be apparent on casual--or even not so casual--listen; he works in layers that, I daresay, you just don't encounter very often in this music. Happily, when he was in town in early November, I had the chance to go over the performance with him, crucially while watching a video of same. The work opened up like a rose. I'll defer from posting about the whys and wherefores of the piece as both Keith and Jon would rather the music be in the public domain for a while without specific descriptions of its innards. Suffice it to say, that there's a lot of thought behind exactly how it was constructed.

So I find myself at an unusual advantage here. Doubtless, many listeners will have no trouble with the performance as is, in audio format. But my own appreciation was greatly enhanced by watching the video with Keith's commentary alongside, more so, likely, than someone who was actually at the concert since some of the actions (such as a steel ruler, laid in front of his guitar neck, which was stroked so as to indicate time periods) were invisible to the audience. I will say that some of it involved a recapitulation of techniques from the previous 43 years, taking a fresh look at them.

So, take these caveats as you will, but armed with this knowledge, and acknowledging that I find Rowe's music and ideas to be almost unfailingly deep and fascinating, I'm afraid the Rowe/Erstwhile combo has again pulled off Record of the Year honors. Dammit. One of these days....

[Edit: I realized, belatedly, that I didn't really offer much in the way of description of the Rowe solo; you live with something long enough and you just assume everyone knows what you're talking about! Briefly, the performance more or less alternates between Rowe in his more isolated, "Twombly-esque" mode, scratching, twanging, etc. with extreme...delicacy (the word might not spring to mind given the rough nature of much of the sonics, but it's what I sense) and the four classical tracks. While those latter are playing, Rowe often comments, quite subtly, sometimes allowing the sampled music to stand alone for a while. Various "themes" of his own come and go, often related to earlier techniques of his that take on a nostalgic aspect not altogether different from the feelings evoked by the Baroque pieces. One theme is the helicopter-ish rumble, whose head pokes up here and there, ultimately overwhelming the proceedings at the very end. There are also a few radio captures; their relative naturalness--at least as pertains to Rowe/AMM--stands in contrast to the more formal introduction of the classical music; I initially found this a little uncomfortable, which I imagine is one of the points. Rowe has probed in that direction before, I think. He mentioned that, in the four-radio version of [N:Q], he might check the local listings and see, for example, that a Brahms string sextet was going to be aired at 10PM. The strategy he'd propose to the group was that they would, over the course of perhaps an hour, very gradually home in on that station, thus allowing Brahms to emerge after an hour or so, bit by bit through waves of static and noise. Not quite improvised, therefore, in something of the same sense as this performance. btw, I listened again this morning and the thing is still picking up steam in my psyche. Very amazing and deep piece.]


Robert Kirkpatrick, who was in attendance, wrote about these shows here and here and indeed touches a bit on Rowe's motivations.

Mark Flaum also attended and posted his observations at Paris Transatlantic

Monday, December 15, 2008

(photo: hatta)

Since I spend a sizable portion of my time at home listening to recorded music, I should jump at the opportunity to leave the house and do so, yes? Well, sometimes the circumstances demand it. This was the third occasion that Jon Abbey had, so to speak, donned DJ garb at Experimental Intermedia though I'd missed the previous two. Here, it was the promise of listening to the as yet unreleased Rowe/Sachiko 2-disc set that forced me out.

By reputation (and reality, as far as I'm aware), XI has the most amazing sound system of any arena that would allow musicians like Rowe through the entrance (though, oddly, he's never played there). As a good deal of this music deals in extremes of amplitude and level of detail, it's a near-perfect venue, especially if one has the ability to incorporate the inevitable horn blasts and bass throbs from the street below into whatever's happening inside. I arrived at the onset, the only member of the paying audience for a couple of hours (Niblock and companion pretty much staying in their living area, the sound guy in his cubbyhole, Jon and Yuko up front). Jon commenced with the erstlive Rowe/Beins disc. Now, I'd imagine that there's no recording from the last few years that I know more deeply, having listened to it (guessing) 40-50 times, easier to do, admittedly, with a 28-minute disc than one that lasts 1 1/4 hours. But on that system, hiked to a volume level that would insure instantaneous divorce at home, layer upon layer of detail was revealed. Pretty amazing. Such an intensely creative performance; part of me was remarking on how rarely--if ever--one encounters that level of sustained invention especially in such a "full-on" mode, the ol' controlled chaos. Such balance, going over the brink, reining it in, impossibly fortunate radio captures, etc.

This was followed by a lovely unreleased track from English (Joe Foster and Bonnie Jones), surprising in its use of very tonal hums through much of it; I'd love to hear it again and hope it sees the light of day sometime. Then, Will Guthrie's "Spear" which, as with Rowe/Beins, sounded mighty impressive amped way up, again revealing details hitherto unnoticed.

Next, Sachiko/Rowe. The double-CD will consist of three studio tracks and the live performance from September's Amplify festival in Tokyo, the latter sequenced second, each piece ranging from about 20 to 32 minutes, which is the order they were played yesterday. It's a lot to digest. I've come to think of Rowe's music in relation to painters--his Rothko style, for example, might be represented by the drone-oriented work he was prone to in the first half of this decade, his Twombly side represented, more recently, by the more isolated, scratchy sounds, with irregular blank space, the sounds tending toward a kind of willfully awkward brutalism (not awkward at all, in essence). This is the mode he most often operates in here. But one surprising thing, at least as I heard the mix, was that it was Sachiko who seemed to be steering things. Similar, in a way, to Duos for Doris, where Tilbury often charted the path, Rowe providing support and aura, it's Sachiko (again, at least to the extent I could differentiate, which I think I was able to more often than not) who sets the framework here. She uses sine tones in much of the first track--fascinating to hear Rowe try to find his way into this potentially impenetrable wall and, while the sine reappears from time to time, dwells mostly in contact mic territory, plosive eruptions abounding. In the last two pieces, you could easily hear a remarkable coherence developing, the extreme spareness of the first studio track and the live performance becoming somewhat mollified as conversation began to flow more "smoothly", though still sparingly. In fact, more than any painting reference, I found myself thinking of Beckett. This may be very close to an aural evocation of his more austere writing, even to the extent of certain repeated sounds (a two-tone contact mic interjection especially, that Sachiko returns to often) echoing text iterations in Beckett. Way too much to get my ears around in a single hearing, to be sure, but I was happy to have experienced it once in such surroundings.

Sandwiched between the 1st and 2nd and 3rd and 4th tracks were a fine collage piece (I think?) by Bhob Rainey and the loud cut from the Rowe/Nakamura 'between' set, both sounding great.

By this time, the crowd had swelled to six or so and, sated, I cut out, missing the chance to hear the Toshi/Ami recording but...there you go.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Richard Kamerman - The Passing of Mr. Good (RAR)

New minidisc (I can't find any mention of it on-line yet; Richard?) by half of Tandem Electrics and a very nice one. Three "miniatures" in the sens of attention to small detail. On the first, the debt to Taku Unami is clear, all chattering, metallic sounds that have that same loose yet mechanical aspect. Lovely to listen to though; the listener shares Kamerman's evident fascination with the sounds. The last is a wisp-like evocation that has fine staying power. Where can people get this, RK?

Alfredo Costa Monteiro - centre of mass (Another Timbre)

There are musicians whose conception I simply enjoy, finding almost anything they do to be imbued by it. Costa Monteiro is one. This often harsh dronescape, lasting a bit over 30 minutes, was created by agitating one or more cymbals on various resonating surfaces. Simply enough idea, focusing in on a "small" area, discovering all the largeness there, finely executed. As with the Kamerman, one is initially fascinated by the sounds themselves; later, their placement, opposition and sequencing impresses greatly. Good stuff.

Sebastian Lexer/Seymour Wright - blasen (Another Timbre)

The first of the two tracks here is one of the strongest things I've heard in while. Lexer has something of Tilbury in his playing--not the obvious (no redolence of Feldman, particularly) but a similar sense of tone, touch and placement, of managing to get the best of each in one keystroke, a rare enough achievement. Wright melds beautifully here; one often forgets entirely the instruments at hand and just experiences the music, which is remarkably cohesive and, for all its spareness, full and tactile. Beautiful work. The second piece is pretty good as well, a bit more diffuse, a little less gripping.

another timbre

Interesting that the two another timbre releases, to an extent, embody two of the principal areas in eai that seem to differentiate listeners, some greatly preferring one to the other. There's post-AMM improv as in the Lexer/Wright and solo "process" oriented music (which generally also involves improvising, though obviously without the input of another individual) as seen in the Costa Monteiro. I have no problem with either (or with what might be thought a third strand: field recordings with manipulation and enhancement as heard, most recently by me, on two fine Richard Garet releases that I'll write up soon), though to an extent I can imagine that what has the most potential for getting my neurons to fire increased amounts of dopamine is the first listed. Might try to parse out the why's of this...

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Yet another new-ish (to me) space in Brooklyn, Grace Space, alongside the elevated J line, hosted an event last evening, three sets, all problematic in one way or another but all at least somewhat intriguing. The room is pretty nice and spacious, though there's a bar to the rear which engenders typical bar noise and patter, if that's a bother to some.

First up was the trio of Barry Weisblat (electronics), Andrew Lafkas (bass) and Gil Arnó [he also goes by the moniker mpld] on slide projectors. The first ten minutes or so worked fine, Weisblat in a more steady-state mode than I've usually heard him, but as is often the case, they went on too long, the set dissipating as they did so. Arnó, I figured by watching and learned more later talking with him, uses found slides, seeking affinities between them, projecting two or more simultaneously (overlapping), blurring and employing various flicker speeds. He also contact mics the projectors and feeds their sounds (as well as room sounds and those of his comrades) into a computer, processing them. I didn't pick up much sense of conceptual integration with his co-players but had the feeling that I'd enjoy his work in a solo context (which he does) much more. There's something there, curious to hear/see more.

Next was Tandem Electrics (Richard Kamerman & Reed Evan Rosenberg, electronics) with Bryan Eubanks (open circuit electronics). They put up a solid show, again more steady state than I expected, the first 20 minutes especially strong with fine textures, repeated (mechanical or digital) sounds emerging and disappearing, very engaging. The second half wavered somewhat, though it contained several luscious moments as well. The "problem" for me, such as it is, is that this sort of full-on, semi-drone-y attack almost guarantees a certain level of "success", similar to (although not necessarily in sound) the way Gunter Muller and company, in recent years, often approach a show, generating a nice, thick matrix and elaborating on it. Nothing wrong with that and, of course, it can sometimes result in great music, but I also think it can be something of a safety net. When I saw Richard a couple months ago with Dave Barnes, the music was more fragmented (not extremely so, but more), riskier re: the possibility of "failure" and ultimately more exciting. It's a risk/reward thing, maybe. So the set last night was fine, very enjoyable, but at the same time I wanted....a higher degree of difficulty.

Lastly was the duo of Mattin and Margarida Garcia. Margarida began by herself in, to me, a surprisingly rockish, even heavy metal-redolent style, doing a series of hums followed by strong, tonal strums of her bass thingy that immediately brought old Black Sabbath to mind. She did blocks of attacks punctuated by near silences. When she took the bow to the bass, she summoned forth amazingly evocative echoes of portions of Hendrix' "Star Spangled Banner" and other guitar freak-outs. Not sure if this was intended, but...These portions were a little odd; interesting in a way but kinda...non-nutritional. Better were the between moments when she subtly manipulated some humming tones by applying pressure near the bridge--that was really nice. She played for some 20 minutes, said "Thank you" and that was that. Mattin's contribution to the set was listening as a member of the audience.

For myself, there was a little bit more since, as it happened, I didn't notice him sitting there. So there was an element of tension for me, waiting for his arrival on stage. I was half-anticipating a blood-curdling scream coming from a few feet behind me, for instance. But, no.

Discuss amongst yourselves....



Roberto Bolaño - The Savage Detectives
Terry Eagleton - Trouble with Strangers