Sunday, April 26, 2009

Ami Yoshida/Toshimaru Nakamura - Soba to Bara (Erstwhile)

From the opening, plosive pop, you know you're in for something special. Free, extreme vocalizing isn't the easiest thing on my ears; I often have much trouble getting past--not that I should, necessarily--the overt psychological aspects of it, or at least being able to balance those against their purely sonic value. With Ami's work, especially when, as here, she dwells mostly in what may be thought of as "strangulated" mode, it's tough not to picture her in some difficult-to-watch state of...seizure? But getting to the point of being able to mentally flip-flop those conditions, as I was eventually able to do here, allows one to experience an unusually powerful and, yes, emotional event. Not to relegate Toshi to the background. One almost necessarily foregrounds the human voice but Toshi is nothing short of amazing here, generally residing in the harsher, sunspotty reaches of his nimb, but varying the texture and pacing of his contributions with extraordinary touch and ear. The things that emerge from him at right about the 1/2 hour mark are just absurdly inventive.

A single track, ideally heard when played quite loud (the departing spouses and neighbors will be worth it) so the richness of detail emerges, and rich it is, like a split stone. Rough throughout, elements spaced irregularly but, in retrospect, with precision and an enormous range of colors. Rather surprisingly, the two recorded separately so that "Soba to Bara" is an after-the-fact construction; I daresay one would never have known--the balance is perfect all the way through. In fact, I even sense something of a growing cohesion as the work progresses; the last several minutes strike me as particularly exquisite.

Not sure there's anything out there quite like this, with that kind of brutal/delicate balance. Great, uncompromising recording.

Christof Kurzmann/Burkhard Stangl - Neuschnee (Erstpop)

Could we get much further from the above release? The three main tracks (Cuts one and four are kinda throwaway) attenuate song forms in a loving and obsessive manner. They go down easily, yes (this is Erstpop, after all), but like a highly carbonated beverage, with much to tickle the auditory canals, each static burst paired offset with a mellow throb, each clarinet squeal twinned with gorgeously strummed guitar. The duo uses several pop or folk pieces as touchstones, Phil Ochs to Neil Diamond, in every case paying deep and sincere respect while pulling and stretching the constituent elements into unique shapes, magnifying tiny textures or melodic kernels, always somehow maintaining the song form. Stangl has a number of stunning moments on guitar and Kurzmann's voice, for me, works far better than I've heard before. The music on the long cuts is strong and enjoyable throughout but achieves something like transcendence at the end of the last track when that eai classic "Song Sung Blue" has its dulcet genes grafted into a scratchy vinyl recording by the Austrian singer/yodeliste Maly Nagl. Why it works, I've no idea, but it's brilliant.

The sweet lemon sorbet to the bitter, powerful noodles and soup.


Saturday, April 25, 2009

Robbie Avenaim/Cor Fuhler/Dale Gorfinkel - Plains (Conundrom)

Fuhler's releases on his own label continue to surprise and delight. This 2006 recording finds Cor on two pianos, his companions on vibraphones (Avenaim doubling percussion). The trio takes maximum advantage of this instrumentation, not just in the ringing tintinnabulations (Fuhler approaching the piano most often with e-bow, it seems), but with mechanical attacks of the vibes and a healthy dose of ratcheting crunchiness. Four tracks, each with its own virtues, each having something of a layered feel, proceeding in a steady stream of keens, hums and jangles. There are times (no doubt due to the instruments involved) where it subtly recalls the Bryars of "Hommages", other times it drifts into steady-state AMM-ish territory. Excellent balance between serenity and hyperactivity. I've played it five or six times today, Saturday, and I'm hearing new stuff each run through, always a pleasure.

If they don't have it already, erstdist should have it soon.

Miguel Prado/Julien Skrobek - American Nightmare (Why Not Ltd)

I doubt it's necessary, at this point, to get into the combative aspects of this release again. Suffice it to say that while I have some general sympathies for the situation in which certain musicians find themselves (insofar as the dominant influence in this tiny corner of the world is one with which they have profound disagreements), my suggestion is to make their position evident via "better" music or, if that's dismissed as irrelevant or a implicit siding with the very hierarchical imperialism they're fighting, make the argument via words, either in conversation (as Mattin did with me a couple months back) or text.

Sometimes, that "better" music option is approximated, at least to my ears; I think I'm more amenable to much from these folks than many (am I still the only person who liked Mattin's "Songbook"?). I'm not so sanguine about the sounds on this one. Prado (prepared cello, prepared piano) and Skrobek (synthesizer) produce sparse, disjunctive sounds (done in real time, together? I don't know) that have a surface similarity to something like MIMEO's "sight" but, for me, lack that recording's extraordinary poetry-at-a-distance. In the back cover text, they lament music "upheld for aesthetic criteria only", but I think this betrays a shallow view of what "aesthetics" means for humans, relegating it to an artsy superficiality rather than fundamental fuel. Skrobek injects bubbly, annoying synth sounds quite often, presumably with an intentionality a la John White in "Treatise" performances but, for me, without a clear understanding of purpose, i.e., knowing that the text encompasses such readings, even if many of the performers don't realize it. Silly noises are fine, but when only done as a kind of nose-thumbing, wear thin.

But sure, I can hyper-aesthetize this recording as any other, and it scans ok, it sits back there puttering away pleasantly enough; track two works pretty well. I doubt that's what was intended, though. Skrobek's "Double Entendre" is a big favorite of mine so far this year. "American Nightmare" doesn't deliver the whack alongside my head that I imagine was desired.

I would have expected this to be available for free download--maybe I'm missing something but I don't see it. Otherwise, Why Not

Monday, April 20, 2009

Cheapmachines - Secede (entr'acte)

Originally intended as a collaboration with the late sound artist Helmut Schafer, the pieces here were realized by Philip Julian in contemplation of that project. It's sort of divided into two parts: the first four tracks are rough and gnarly electronics, excellent harsh tumbles along a spiky trail, full of detail and interest. There's then a brief calm, a cut full of rich hum. The next two tracks are airier, full of metallic, echoing pulses and hums, hollow and foreboding. The final combines the two approaches into a mighty burr, a roaring grind like some massive drill worming through stone. Good, tough disc, well worth a hear.

Will Montgomery [Brian Marley] - Legend (entr'acte)

A reading by Marley (from a project he did with Rhodri Davies) is worked by Montgomery in ten equal length pieces--almost 4 minutes each. They emerge as gentle drones, ringing, silvery thrums that snake through the atmosphere. Usually, even when thoroughly messed with, one can detect vocal qualities when the voice is the source but I'll be damned if I can do so here. While initially holding my interest, the relative sameness of the tracks (though they do kind of evanesce along the way) and their gradual slide into what I think of as "loopy" territory caused that interest to wane. I think I would have preferred a single, lengthy piece; not sure about the rationale to slice into equal slabs. The last track, though, expands on the sounds of the empty room wherein Marley spoke and is wonderful--just rumpled air.

Marinos Koutsomichalis - Anasiseipsychos (entr'acte)

Multiple, richly layered sine tones, often acting in concert to give the impression of perpetually rising or falling (รก la Tenney). The sonic effects, the ear drum-rattling and all, are fine but the conception struck me as too shallow, too science-experiment-y for me to find aesthetic purchase.


Saw a very good, small exhibition of Anselm Kiefer works on paper at the Met yesterday, worth checking out if you're around. Can't locate reproductions of my three or four favorites from the show, but the above is rather nice. Went with my friend Betsy; one of the (many) good things about going to a place like the Met with someone else is that even if you've been there countless times, which I have, the other person likely has her own special areas, areas you've perhaps not frequented. In Betsy's case it was a few medieval cornices from northern Spain and France, things I'm sure I've never even glanced at but which, once seen, are incredible. Thanks, Bets!


My niece Tiana had spent a couple of weeks in Mississippi a little while back, working on rehabbing houses in the wake of Katrina. While there, she became aware of a radio station (I forget the call letters) that had been more or less washed out three times in the past several years, their audio collection ruined. She joined an effort to secure donations of CDs to replenish their stock and, natch, asked Uncle Bri to contribute a few.

As it happened, several weeks ago I was running into something of an emergency situation regarding my own storage of CDs and had removed several hundred from the racks into a closet. This was done with no little pain. I've always liked being able to glance over and see, en masse, everything I have, including items I no longer particularly enjoy, for which enthusiasm had waned. But I was fairly ruthless; after all, I was only moving them several feet, placing them behind a closed door. Still, I went through, in alphabetical precision, parsing through them (inevitably encountering some causing the, "Hey! I didn't know I had this!" and even the, "Hey! I have two of these!" reactions) and culling those that, realistically, I'd likely never listen to again. Sent them into the closet already somewhat bulging with paintings and drawings and the book overflow that had long since outgrown our shelves.

So when Tiana called, I had a ready bunch of items from which to draw. At that point, it wasn't as difficult as I thought it might be. I went through the pile, pulling out things that were relatively straight ahead (ie, not things that nobody in the world, including me, would like, but more popular fare), ending up with as many as I could fit into a backpack for the journey to Poughkeepsie last Sunday, probably about 80. I'll list the casualties tonight...

nah, no I won't.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Mark Sadgrove/Anthony Guerra - Iron Sand (a binary datum/black petal)

Two guitars with electronics and some very soft vocals. I don't know Sadgrove's previous work, but this fits in nicely with what I've heard from Guerra in the last few years. Quite languid, tonal strumming with a frothy series of drones beneath, sometimes recalling tamburas, very pretty in a hazy way. Does part of me want to hear more bite? Sure. Would I like more uncertainty as to what direction the music will take as it unfurls. Yep. But there's something so restful about it and it's just prickly enough that I simply loll.

black petal a binary datum

jgrzinich - Phase Inversions (Mystery Sea)

Three pieces, which I hear as something of a suite (though there's no indication of such), lasting about 20, 20 and 10 minutes. I picked up a kind of "Bohor" vibe here, a very attractive one, though in a narrative kind of way, doubtless unintended by Grzinich. I always imagined the great Xenakis work as a massive mechanical process, perhaps a huge burr boring (burr-boring-bohor, you see) into the earth. In the first track of Grzinich's set, "dispersion trajectory", it's as though we're looking back in on the Bohor sinkhole centuries later, the tunnel having acquired a hollower tone (a wonderful one), its roughness not quite as rocky as before but still capable of throwing up the odd gnar or knot of metallic shavings. There's a underlying swell here, though one that possesses a grinding aspect that funnels back an amount of scree as it proceeds. The second, "membrane formation", seems to revisit the site a few decades hence; the detritus is still encountered, though it's taken on the tones of metal casings playing in the wind against the side of a boat, but the hum has become smoothed a bit, maybe the tunnel has been tiled. The final visit, "spectral remnants", is millennia hence, the tunnel having been thoroughly scoured, the solar wind whistling through, only echoes of its former granularity remaining.

....I like music that summons forth images like this! :-) Fine work, recommended for those who enjoy Olivia Block, among others.

mystery sea

Monday, April 13, 2009

Asher - Miniatures (sourdine)

This one raises all sorts of issues, indeed.

As is often the case, I plopped this into the CD player with no particular knowledge about its whys or wherefores. I'd, of course, heard a great deal of Asher's work over the last few years and, for better or worse, have come to expect to hear music inhabiting a general area. The two discs of this release came with no info whatsoever.

My initial impression was simply how stunningly gorgeous the tracks were. They're very much all of a piece, usually consisting of a solo piano (sometimes strings) playing music that might generally be said to be Satie-ish in character--fairly simple, very melodic, with a nostalgic or melancholy tinge; there are also a few tinged with the tango--mixed in/beneath white noise that connoted old tapes (though I'm guessing a good deal of it is radio static). No vinyl-related iteration of scratches but rather a stream of roughness. The effect was of music recorded a century ago, archaeological relics unearthed from burial in soil...

Slightly closer listening revealed that the piano parts were clearly loops of material, almost always having their ends joined seamlessly so they sounded more like a musician repeating the phrases rather than a loop. They were pensive, always very slow, as though someone was sitting at the keyboard, playing the same beautiful, somewhat sorrowful passages over and over. It's a wonderful combination of approaches: the blurry romanticism, the minimalist repetition and the abstract noise. The pieces, thirteen on each disc, are brief, thereby coming across as snatches of dream-scape.

I first assumed it was Asher at the piano. I don't know his ability or lack of same on the instrument, but none of the pieces are technically bravura in character so seemed to be within the reach of most players. Here and there though, on my initial listen, I wondered about that and, of course, the few tracks featuring strings belied this idea. So I wrote Asher, not sure if he'd be interested in unveiling the workings, but he did so. Listeners interested in hearing the pieces without such knowledge would be advised to cease reading at this point. I have my own reluctance about going into the details, but they raise enough interesting questions that I feel obliged to.

It turns out that Asher had sampled these passages from the radio, turning on a recorder when something seemed promising, extracting a short morsel and working with it. (I'm embarrassed to say I don't recognize a one of them!) This is only problematic insofar as the captures themselves, for me, have so much to do with how beautiful I find these "miniatures", and even then, only insofar as I'm concerned with assigning "credit" or authorship, a dubious venture. He's certainly transformed them to some extent by the excision and looping, as well as the decontextualizing of the given fragment, the choice of which is key. As far as a given piece here goes, I've just decided to listen to it "as is" (as much as that's possible given my knowledge) and when doing so, find the music to be extremely enchanting, mysterious and, yes, nostalgia-full. By the same token, one expects that this will be a one-off event, that Asher (or others) won't be churning out variations of this tack in the future. (Though, if that's the case, why not?)

The other quibble is with the fact of there being 26 cuts without much in the way of basic differentiation between them aside from what particular piece of music was sampled. The tape/radio hiss, as near as I can determine, varies within fairly tight parameters and sometimes seems augmented by other ambient sound, but basically you have the looped sample embedded within the hiss. Listened to as 26 pieces, this can become a bit much and one gets the sense of wishing matters were reduced to a single disc. On the other hand, it's not so difficult to listen to them as a set of multiples, like 26 prints on a wall, each different but occupying the same aesthetic territory. A kind of slide show, maybe. Heard this way, the issues more or less evaporate. Or, of course, one can hone one's ears a bit and learn to appreciate the differences.

Striking, stirring music, though, when all's said and done.


Saturday, April 11, 2009

Domenico Sciajno - Sequens (bowindo)

When I received the four new discs on bowindo, I happened to randomly choose this one to hear first. Glancing at the title and sleeve, I assumed it had something to do with the Berio set of Sequenzas though I wasn't very familiar with those at all. I'd heard different pieces over the years, but didn't own a collection of the work; my mental audio image of them was vague. So I was pretty much able, first time through, to listen to Sciajno's work with little in the way of preconceptions. I found it to be surprisingly absorbing and, by it's conclusion, I was entirely entranced and convinced. Surprising because much of the piece's language and phrasing seemed to derive from a kind of mid-60s avant music that I'm normally not so keen on, one with rather extravagant gestures and flourishes, a bravado that generally puts me off. Little did I know.

What I only gleaned via further investigation as well as, eventually, an examination of the score was that Sciajno, in this 1999 piece, had exercised a kind of plunderphonic option. He had taken recordings of the original 14 Sequenzas as recorded on the 1998 Deutsche Grammophon disc by the Ensemble Intercontemporain, added Sequenza VIIb for soprano saxophone from another recording and then included his own composition "Alla Berio..." for solo double bass. I quickly picked up my own set of the Berio, choosing the recent edition on Mode. While enjoying it greatly thus far, I'm nowhere near familiar enough with the pieces therein to easily recognize them (or parts thereof) in the Sciajno in any more than a general way. I will opine that he has a tendency to use sections that aren't so extreme in their extended techniques, arguably even portions that carry more melodic weight than their overall character might suggest.

Sciajno divides his work into four sections: a trio (flute, trombone, accordion), a quartet (trumpet, viola, harp, soprano saxophone), a quintet (voice, clarinet, bassoon, double bass, piano) and another quartet (violin, oboe, alto saxophone, guitar). Part of the genius lies simply in the arrangement of the sections, the way he not only weaves these achronous works together seamlessly enough that I daresay no listener unfamiliar with the Berio could detect that they didn't originate as such but also, erm, sequences the parts to form genuinely dramatic arcs replete with lulls and climaxes that are wonderfully paced. I lost count of the segments where the twining of instruments seem to have been made for each other, but they're legion, though I might guess that some of the bass accompaniment for the voice in Group III was designed. To be sure, someone with an intimate knowledge of these works might be able to say, "Oh, there's IX, here's II and that's a bit of XIV" but barring that, the music sounds absolutely solid and true. As evidenced in the score, there's more going on, a wider system of rules, but it's largely beyond my audible grasp.

All this would be merely technically compelling and fascinating as craft but for the fact that it succeeds so well as vital, lovely music. For myself, this is far more impressive as, roughly speaking, this area, what you might call the gesturally-oriented avant-garde of the 50s and 60s, isn't one that has had enormous appeal for me in the past. Having listened more closely now to work like the Sequenzas (and that of other composers I tended to lump into this basket, fairly or otherwise, like Ligeti, Kagel, Maderna) I'm sure it's been more my lack of understanding and, to that extent, the Sciajno has helped open my ears, for which I'm grateful. He finds a true, steely sort of Romanticism buried here, an exploratory aspect that occasionally takes a well-earned flight skyward. "Sequens" builds subtly throughout its 77-minute length; you're constantly wowed by the combinations he chooses, where he allows for repetition of given elements, the strong but flexible sense of structure conveyed, the sheer imagination in the use of "found" material. It never explodes in any gratuitous manner, but blossoms magically.

Wonderful surprises like this are one of the great things about new music. You never know.


Three other releases featuring Sciajno were issued simultaneously on bowindo. I won't go into them in depth but just mention them in passing. "Diospyros" finds Sciajno treating bass clarinet improvisations by Gene Coleman. Too often, I find the latter's work uncompelling, but sometimes they're nicely massaged here; I'm half and half on it. "Hyaline" is a very fine duo with Kim Cascone, worth much more discussion than I can give it; do check it out. "Doves Day in Palermo" is a collection of duos with Coleman, Cascone, Robin Hayward, Andreas Wagner, Thomas Lehn, Gianni Gebbia and Tez. I found it a mixed bag, but several of the pieces are fine, especially the one with the otherwise unknown to me "Tez".


Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Some thoughts on Sunday evening's performance at the Rotunda in Philadelphia, probably at least somewhat in contradistinction to the majority opinion. I'm not being really critical here, just trying to figure out why certain things didn't click for me.

The opening set was a brief one, consisting of two songs by Weyes Bluhd (Natalie Mering) on vocals, keyboard and tapes. Brooding and cloudy, her voice rising from shimmering organ-tones, buffeted by rougher taped sounds, I liked it much more than I thought I might. Struck me as honest, if operating within a small sphere. Had she played for 30 minutes instead of ten and remained in that area, it might have begun to pall, but as was, I thought it was fine; made me curious to hear more.

nmperign was up next and was where my problems began. I guess I've seen them, in one context or another, seven or eight times over the years. I've found the performances to range from extraordinary (with Le Quan Ninh and Yukiko Nakamura in Nancy) to...disconnected. The latter may well have more to do with me than them; I think there are simply occasions when I'm not hearing the sound sequence properly, not translating it into a form that registers. The same thing occurred, by and large, at this event. It was almost all on the extremely quiet, sparsely distributed side of things. Both Rainey and Kelley demonstrated wonderful control over their instruments, especially the former when he elicited very soft, yet very pure tones from the soprano. There were moments, to be sure, when matters coalesced for several seconds, where each action, near-unison or otherwise, made a kind of poetic sense, but these evaporated more quickly than I would have liked. Again, this could all be me. It's always fascinating to me how/why one makes qualitative judgments with music this spacious; it careens more into the subjective, I think, than most judgment, which is of course subjective enough. I was talking about it with a friend yesterday and saying it was like looking at a Japanese rock garden and feeling that the placement of the stones wasn't working for one. That "feeling" may be quite real (if wrong); explicating it is another matter, as is the possibility that one is simply missing the gist of the art. The general reaction in the audience, from those I spoke with, was far more positive than my own, so I'm entirely willing to chalk this up to my cottony ears.

Lambkin and Lescalleet I also found somewhat problematic, but in a different sense. Unsurprisingly, their set was pretty loud and rambunctious and, not meaning it as a back-handed compliment, but I found the loudest, most rocking parts to be the most successful. There were a couple of sections where things gelled perfectly and the duo just soared, including the point where Lambkin iterated regularly rhythmic harsh breaths into the mic and Jason ramped things up to ear-threatening levels. It was quite amusing to see him pressing his laptop keys as hard as he could as though they were pressure-sensitive! :-) He's always a pleasure to watch as he restlessly roams around the stage, planting recorders here and there, stringing wires or threading tapes. Lambkin was far more calm, wandering to an area off-stage largely hidden by a curtain, breathing into a mic, injecting only one or two (that I could hear) CD samples of classical music into the mix. So there were several very fine stretches of music, very exciting. But...on the whole, looked back upon as a full set, I wasn't sure how well it cohered. It kind of hit me like a standard rock set, a series of pieces (though there were no breaks apart from an intentional, and beautifully maintained period of silence that seemed to last about five minutes, Lescalleet poised over the keys of an old tape recorder) some of which were wonderful, some awkward, some kind of...routinely good. Not that coherence need have been the point or not, of course, that it might have been the case that I missed out on any number of aspects. The crowd roared its approval. I thought it OK, more or less what I expected, but not quite up to the level of their show at Issue Project last year or that of any handful of Jason's performances I've been fortunate enough to have seen in years past which, if nothing else, tend to have had an intense concentratedness and singularity of purpose that appeals greatly to me.

Speaking of coherence, the above might not have much. Just thought I'd put it out there as honestly as I could, aware that I was in the minority that evening.

Great to see the Philly crew and, especially to see Al Jones after far too long a time. And extra thanks to Yuko, whose pre-trip pork buns made any further enjoyment of the day mere icing on the cake. Their gustatory traces couldn't even be quashed by the dreaded cheesesteaks eight hours later....

Saturday, April 04, 2009

One of my favorite players with Mingus, such a strong musician. Under his own name, I only have the 1979 Prestige 2fer that combines the Space and Freedom Book albums, recorded in 1963 & '64 with Jaki Byard, Richard Davis and Alan Dawson. Marvelous music here form rough-edged, burr-toned post-hard bop to Coltrane-ish explorations into modal playing. Great Byard, wonderful playing all around.

Ervin died at 40, in 1970....

I'm fairly sure this was among the first ten or twelve jazz albums I ever bought, probably early '73, likely influenced by a 5-star review in downbeat. I never really got into Evans much, ending up with just this and the following record under his own name. But I've found myself humming bits from Svengali many times over the years, I must admit. And it sounds pretty nice this fine Sunday morning. All but one of the tracks are by composers other than Evans (Billy Harper, George Russell, Miles, Gershwin), all of course arranged with great imagination, even the synth work. It's a solid album all the way through but the last track, the sole Evans original "Zee-Zee" is just fantastic, true to its title, a massive, sleeping thing, chest rising and falling, soft breath exhalations, dreaming in the form of Hannibal's trumpet filigree. Really an amazingly beautiful work, one that I almost never hear talked about.

On the other hand, this might be one of the last jazz LPs I bought new (as opposed to older things I'd come upon in the CD era). It's a nice recording, very clear sounding, with the pair tackling some classic Mingus tunes. Maybe a tad too relaxed--Evans was 75 and only four or so months from death, so tough to complain.

When we were dating, I took Linda up to see a solo performance by Lacy at Environ, probably the summer of '78. She still brings this up on occasion as an example of my early aural torture of her and her astonishing forbearance in putting up with me. It was a great show, of course.

I last saw him in an odd situation, in the plaza outside the Seagram's Building on Park Avenue, playing solo. It was part of some concert series, I believe (this was 6-7 years ago?) so there were all these exec types wandering around, sipping champagne. Lacy was his gnarly self, spinning intricate lines off Monk tunes and his own hermetic pieces. The crowd paid little attention, gradually evaporating. Beautiful set.


Down to Philly this afternoon for nmperign/Lambkin/Lescalleet. Will report anon.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Richard Garet/Andy Graydon - Subtracted/Untitled (Altbau) (white_line editions)

I've been thinking about this area of music a bunch lately. I imagine we can agree that it's a different subset of new music, though related, from the post-AMM mainstream (if that phrase isn't oxymoronic). I don't think of it as "drone music" so much--though again, it is somewhat akin--but there tends to be a constant stream of sound, often straddling the border between tonal and noise, a layering of such strands and a sprinkling of shorter sounds/noises atop or betwixt. Often, field recordings might be a source for this stream, perhaps enhanced or modified to one degree or another. There's a tendency away from harshness, at least a few steps toward consonance, sometimes incorporating semi-melodic fragments. Maybe we can call it post-Fennesz.

Not to ghettoize it, but in the same way (and perhaps meeting the same amount of resistance) that some of us referred to a Swiss sound when talking about music that stemmed from Muller, Voice Crack, etc., I find myself mentally grouping Garet, Asher, maybe Chris McFall, a handful of others. And I've tended to enjoy the results very much at the same time as I get a smidgen of an inkling that, if uncritically accepted, a certain formulaic aspect could intrude. In other words, it's not "free" in the sense that "The Crypt" was; not anything can happen (so it seems to me--love to be proven wrong--but the level of improvisation involved is certainly less, sometimes apparently minimal, more of the music being carefully constructed). There's a general scope and approach that seems to be in play far more often than not.

I write the above not as a criticism, just as something I've thought about recently, and figured I'd take the occasion of this, yet another enjoyable release, to put it out there. The 3" disc contains two pieces designed with certain architectural sites in mind. In Garet's case, it's a tumble of metal well-known to Manhattanites, the ruins atop the abandoned Pier D jutting into the Hudson off the West Side Highway in the 60s. The connections, for this listener, remain obscure but the piece itself fits comfortably among others I've heard from Garet in recent months: a twining of a consonant hum with softly bristling static, gradual waves of differently timbred hum or static, keens that verge on feedback, lower rumbles, all proceeding calmly, adrift in a kind of serene haze. Though, given the subject, it is quite possible to envision fog, twisted metal and faintly hooting warning beacons at some points. The combination of variation and sameness makes it difficult to identify sonic landmarks with any degree of certainty; when some abrupt turntable noise appears right at the end of the 14-minute piece, it's rather arresting insofar as it protrudes. The work enjoyable while in process; looking back, it disappears like smoke. That's interesting; it's unmemorable but in an intriguing way.

Andrew Graydon, whose work I don't believe I've previously heard, takes as inspiration the Altbau projects of Mies van der Rohe. Perhaps even more than in the prior piece, the connections are hard to discern, but the music is quite different, with a smooth strata of extreme low tones undergirding organ-like mid-range hums which, in turn, lay beneath ozone-altitude sizzles. Those middle tones have something of the quality of the blurred sonics of Lucier's "I Am Sitting in a Room", late in that piece, while the deeper ones plumb bass depths cavernous enough to extend into individually recognizable beats. Remember those gigantic worm-creatures in "Dune"? This might be what one of them would sound like, wending its way through the earth just beyond about a foot of stone. Impressive track.


Richard Garet/Brendan Murray - Of Distance (Unframed)

The music on this disc edges perhaps even closer toward defining the territory I was referring to above. "In Parallel" is a thin strand of steely drones, many plies deep though more concentrated in timbre and range. It's somehow less absorbing to me than Garet's "Subtracted". This is an example of where, to my ears, the approach lapses a bit into the "too pat". It's very attractive and there's nothing "wrong" with it, but it's lacking a sense of risk that I want to here even in the most ethereal of work. I get the sense that both musicians know they can do this and do it well; my AMM-ish prejudice wants them to attempt something they're not so sure about. The second track, "The Tyranny of the Objects", achieves that degree of danger somewhat more, utilizing rougher sound sources (including semi-rhythmic ones) and progressing in a more forceful manner--not wafting but almost steamrolling; wonderful piece. The two tracks are close enough to what I hear as poles in this area--the overly genteel and the "contemplative but disturbingly unsmooth", if you will.

Phantom Limb & Earth's Hypnagogia - In Celebration of Knowing All the Blues of the Evening (Unframed)

I'll endeavor to ignore the noms used by Shawn Hansen and James Fennelly. Performed on Farfisa organs and oscillators, we're talking serious dronage here, augmented with what seems to be inadvertent external noises. For about its first half (there are six tracks, but the music flows unbroken), it's one welling pulsation, albeit with a dark undercurrent that modulates just below the surface, almost unheard. It's quite surprising, then, when it explodes into a fuzzy eight-note pattern in a vaguely Indian scale that, in turn, crumbles into blocks of chords, sounding like Poppy Nogood after too much hooch. The work ends with the Farfisa equivalent of a guitar feedback blowout. Odd piece. I loved it up through the explosion and initial crumbling/stumbling but thought it kind of limped home. Perhaps the point.

These two releases from unframed recordings arrived with two others, a pair of 7" vinyls (imaginatively and artfully packaged, as are the CDs). It's been a while since I've encountered something so baffling/annoying. Each record contains brief tracks by six musicians, several of whom I'm always very interested to hear. Record #1 has Lary 7, Joe Colley, busratch, Toshio Kajiwara, Tommy Birchett and Dieb 13, while the second one contains work by Ian Epps, Kenta Nagai, Annette Krebs, Chris Forsyth, Giuseppe Ielasi and Koen Holtkamp. Three cuts per side, each separated by a locked groove track. So the listener must sit there, attempt to position the stylus near the beginning of each non-locked track, automatically missing at least several seconds of same, lift it when the piece ends, rinse and repeat. Why this torture? Dunno, except as, well, mild torture. Yet I dutifully crouched over my turntable and wended my way through first the one (largely--totally?--turntable-based) then the other (guitars). The snippets weren't bad, some rather fetching (Krebs' hum/tape piece especially) but all gone before you knew it. Buyer beware.

unframed recordings